Save your energy for the “right” battles!

I have seen too many people fighting battles, wasting resources and impoverishing the end results, just for the pleasure of winning. In other words, engaging in “lost” battles. And what are “lost” battles? You are asking. Well, lost battles are all of those situations that one cannot change and that are not critical to achieve the end goal. Imagine the following situation, you are implementing a project and suddenly something that puts the project at risk happens. How do you react? Would you prefer to fight to revert the situation although you have to spend more resources; or would you prefer to “lose” that battle by not engaging in reverse it but instead use your time and resources to find an alternative way so that you can be able to deliver alike results with no additional “pain” (higher costs, miss deadlines, etc) ? As a manager, I have seen too many situations where people fought just for the sake of winning, ending up with a missed Goal and higher costs. I also know that not engaging in a battle it is not as straightforward as we would like it to be. Securing the “war” it is much more important than winning a battle, unless that battle is critical to winning the “war”. Thinking in the long-term and focusing on the big pictur are, at least for me, “right” moves if you want to achieve goals, otherwise you may be wasting resources and increasing the likelihood of missing the goal.

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How fast is your “world” changing?

The World is changing fast, and in new directions! How about your own world? Is it changing sufficiently fast to keep up with the “surroundings”? And, what should you do to keep it alive and kicking? Honestly, I do not know! However, what I do know it is that stand still in denial will not help you, you need to keep up with change proactively.

Although I have written before about this subject – being the most recent Backwards or Forward? -,  I keep assisting to crucial mistakes, and good companies going out of business. Keeping doing business like you did last century will, sooner than later, putting your company out of the business. Therefore, I insistinnovation, uniqueness, creativity, talent, and diversity are all key words on keeping a company striving and excelling, however, I would like to add alertness, adaptation and adoption to the list; – Please read the article Adopt, Adapt or Adios! by William Powell –  The solution passes by working hard, creating new trends, being unique, and taking advantage of what is happening around you. Ignoring or closing your eyes to changes will lead you nowhere, and only make you lose time and competitiveness.

Some ideas! Stimulate brainstorming around trends inside your company, have a special team working on future trends (even if in part-time), and link them strongly with your R&D and Innovation teams, and try out innovative projects. Ah, and do not afraid new technologies, instead use it at your service! Recruit the talent that makes the difference, people with a vision, eager to learn, and open to change.

Although Innovation is everywhere, also a post I once wrote, you will not be able to do it if you keep exaggerating on your skepticism to change and new trends. Please, do yourself a favor, stay wired to the real world, be inquisitive, and follow what is happening out there.

What “change” has to do with understanding and communication?

I risk saying, everything! Although change is part of life, people keep running away from it, and showing high levels of anxiety and resistance. Why is that so? Well, uncertainty is the answer!

People is highly afraid of uncertainty, and change is all about uncertainty. Unfortunately change can ruin team spirit, impact negatively motivation levels, and risk years of team building. In times of tough competition, and a tight war for talent, having people motivated and working well in teams are a must. I must say that the better companies know how to deal with change, the more prepared they are to face rough times and strong competition.

So, how can anxiety and resistance associated to change be avoided, or at least reduced to manageable levels? My experience tells me that if you are able to reduce uncertainty, you will be able to keep the most adverse effects on the low side. And to reduce uncertainty you need to communicate well with transparency, and show true understanding with all the people involved. By understanding the fears associated with change you will be able to communicate more efficiently avoiding negative behaviors, keeping everybody committed, and on-board.

Reduce uncertainty implies a strong understanding, and clear communication creating a strong sense of community and commitment. However, I must confess that there is no such thing as “the right approach” or “solution”, and that each case needs its own approach. Therefore, if you are in charge of change you need to show true understanding toward the people involved and be able to perform different styles of communication accordingly to the situation at-hand.

Key words in Change management, uncertainty, anxiety, fears, resistance, understanding, communication and transparency. Avoid the first four through the latest three. Your leadership style, the situation at-hand, and your team’s maturity will influence the way you face change. Ah, there is no right or wrong approach, only trial and error and a sensibility! Good luck, though!

Criticism is good for competitiveness!

Unfortunately, criticism is still not being totally recognized as a powerful tool on helping people, and companies, being more competitive. In times of tight competition and a world that moves at an incredible fast pace, every single tool that can help people, and companies, becoming better prepared for the challenges ahead should be taken into account. And what I am saying here is that criticism, as part of evaluation, is a tool that due to its easiness of use and low need for investment can be highly interesting to SMEs, but not only. Every company interested in gaining competitiveness should invest in human resources, and evaluation (assess competences, criticism and feedback) is a good way of doing it. Well, I must say that only positive criticism is relevant, and that evaluation should be based on factual aspects and real past events, rather than subjective and judgmental aspects. An evaluating system should be based on face-to-face evaluation and 360º assessments, and can be done through formal and informal mechanisms. I believe that even if you do not have a formal evaluation system put in place but you understand the value of having people evaluated, you should start doing it.

What are the key aspects to pay attention to while evaluating? First, define what to aspects must be evaluated and how; Second, define how many times a year and by whom should the team be evaluated; Third, decide what kind of feedback you want to give, when and by whom (do not skip this step because it is key to the whole process); Lastly, inform people of what is the goal, and coach the evaluators on how they should do it. Criticism and feedback are highly important and should contain the future goals to be achieved by each individual.

Evaluation can act as a positive factor to increase motivation and improve competences!

Can Team Spirit Be a Competitive Advantage?

In a world that is changing fast and facing amazing challenges, namely a war for talent or globalization, Team Spirit can work as a Competitive Advantage! I am one of those people that believes that having a strong and engaged team can make the difference. So, I prefer to have a team committed to a common goal, and working together, than a group of amazing stars working individually. When choosing your team members, what kind of people would you like to have? I know that a lot of aspects must be equated before going on choosing members for your team. Nevertheless, I believe that to build a real Team, one needs to have people who are able, and willing, to work above their egos, individual agendas, and anything that inhibits a truly open and sharing environment. I am not saying that you should not have the best of the best (stars) in your teams, or that stars are not able to work as truly team members. What I am saying is that having a team it is much more than having a group of stars. And that team spirit can work as a competitive advantage, helping companies being the leaders of their industries or niches.

In order to ignites team spirit it is important to have a corporate culture that enables openness, sharing, cooperation, recognition, and motivation. Although all of these aspects are important, motivation is specially important to create the right environment and conditions, and contrary to what is believed, it is not only about money! Several studies mention that above a certain wage level, motivation is mainly about challenge, recognition, opportunity to master, ability to share, work-life balance, autonomy and responsibility, rather than cash prizes and bonus. Therefore, I believe that team spirit and corporate culture can have also positive effect on motivation levels.

Having the right people it is not enough, a “head” is needed to coordinate and motivate them. Hence, companies must have more than just talented people with team spirit, they must have a leader to shape them into a team. Stir people toward a common goal and to excel it is not easy but is crucial. If companies do not have the right Leader, they are missing a strong source of competitive advantages, team work.

How many times haven’t your boss asked you: “Hmm, this team of yours is not working! How about changing it?”. Only a couple of months after you have started working with them? Too many, right? Practice it is the last ingredient I would like to mention. By practice I mean routine, time working together, and experience. In order to have the best out of a team time is needed, time to experience, to adapt, to learn how members work, think and behave. Like a sports team, a team needs hours working together to reach their best.

Summing up, Team Spirit can be a competitive advantage! In times of war for talent and highly competitive markets companies cannot forget to keep investing on having people working together. and the why is easy, Teams work better and achieve more than individuals. A company with a culture that stimulates team spirit, people performing at their best and to master, to share and cooperate, are much better prepared to face successfully the 21st century. Although Team Work and motivation are linked and must be seen as the two faces of the same coin, it does not suffice. A company needs to have a corporate culture that helps cooperation and openness, and Leaders to ignite the right behaviors. Last, but not least, “practice” must be also present in order to have a team working at their best and creating real competitive advantages! Teams need time to work together and fine tune internal dynamics.

Are You Ready to Fail?

Are you ready to fail? No? Well, even if you have everything the business manuals say you should have to be a success case – an amazing product/service, a flawless business plan, competitive advantages, and qualified resources -, please, be prepared to fail! When I say this I am not being pessimist, I am rather trying to be ready and keep my alertness levels high. I am convinced that by acknowledging that I might fail, I am being proactive toward trends and challenges, and better prepared to anticipate them with innovative and creative solutions, therefore, keeping, or even improving, my competitive advantages. And I believe that this will help companies staying in business longer and in better shape.

Failure is part of life! Today’s “best” companies can be tomorrow’s failures. It is not because a company it is a “strong” one today that it will stay that way in the future, failure can happen in between. A more proactive behavior regarding failure can bring a higher level of readiness and help facing the challenges ahead. Failure should be more present in the business lexicon, and faced as something that happens!

Be ready to fail, it will help you anticipating changes rather than copping with them. Innovating and creating are key to competitiveness in the 21st century market, and failure is part of both.

Leading is About Knowing People, And Never Forgetting The Goal!

After writing Do You Want To Be a Leader?, I am coming back to the Leadership topic! I believe that only with a strong Leadership we can unlock [people] talent and creativity to develop the great solutions we need to face the challenges ahead. So, if Leadership is so important, why insisting in the same old and irrelevant question of What is your Leadership style? Instead one should try to find a good answer for, How do you lead your teams?, the real question that deals with behaviors and acts, rather than trying to find a box to put people in. Asking for a style is nothing more nor nothing less then asking for a label, reducing all the Leadership topic to boxes and labels. Like I have mentioned before, in The Bad Habit of Labeling Everything!, I do not like labels! Labels harm creativity, inhibit innovation, and reduces leadership to a style. Instead of labeling Leadership, I would rather learn more about the why a Leader behaves and acts the way she does. The difference between a good and a bad leader, it’s for me related to the way a Leader reads reality, learns about it, and acts accordingly to meet her goals, without defrauding her company’s vision. What kind of information does she take into account to act? How does she adapt? Does she faces the day-to-day situations, and the unusual situations same way? All these question are related to the decision-process, and their answers will all depend on the situation at-hand. Therefore, I believe that each situation needs a strong assessment before going on deciding how to handle it! Like in a chess game when the players read the chessboard before going on defining strategies and tactics, and never forgetting the end goal: reaching check mate. Likewise, a Leader should be able to read the situation at-hand in order to choose the best approach possible also without forgetting her ultimate goal.

So, what are the key variables to be assessed?  I would like to propose 3 main group of variables: team’s maturity (degree of readiness, experience and knowledge), nature of the situation (form a day-to-day routine, to a brand new challenge), and timeline (from a short, to a long deadline)! By learning all this info about her team, a Leader is not only readier to face challenges, but also better able to design a career advancement strategy, and keep a higher level of motivation. The situation and timeline are aspects to be accessed in the moment, and can change in some way the team’s readiness, by leveraging or not on their knowledge and experience. Therefore, knowing one’s team is the halfway through to be a good Leader, the other part (no less important and crucial) is about having the ability of learning the situation and timeline correctly, design a plan, and be able to execute it – by acting and adapting! I would like to highlight the importance of knowing the team well when looking for those among the team who can, regarding experience and knowledge on that specific situation, help designing and executing the plan.

Regarding these aspects, and acting accordingly to the maturity of the team, the Leader’s behavior changes, and evolves*, so if the team’s maturity increases the leader’s behavior should evolve from a) Directing, Guiding; to b) Coaching, Explaining; to c) Supportive, Collaborating; to d) Delegating, Observing. The decision making process evolves also along the process, and from being the leader’s full responsibility in phase a, to being the team member’s full responsibility in phase d. Along this process, the leader encourages and empowers the team members to make decisions, more specifically by coaching in phase b and empowering in phase c.

As one can see it is important to know the team in order to decide which behavior or mix of behaviors to adopt, it is also important to say that there is no fixed style when leading and that will always depend upon team’s maturity, situation and time frame. However, it is important that each leader follows is own way! Leadership is all about people, knowing yourself first, your company and its goals second, and your people last, but never the least. In order to be a Leader and achieve your goals with a  strong and motivated team, one needs to invest in guidance, have the best coaching and training programs available, know when to delegate and support, know their potential and limitations, but never forgetting your mission and goals.

Have your own vision regarding your team and talent management, a vision that enables you to achieve great things and do amazing stuff! Be a Leader! 😉

*Inspired by the “Situational Leadership Model” by Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson – 1996.