Outstanding performance? It’s all in the mind

How would you define “performance”? Getting stuff done according to plan, cost and time is usually the answer. Management theory used to be based on the practical, measurable outcomes of a job – getting people to produce as much as possible, as quickly as possible and with as little expense and as much accuracy as possible.

But today we make greater demands on people’s creativity. The routine roles have been delegated to machines with a far greater capacity for repetition and accuracy than humans. We now constantly ask people to be imaginative, to think outside the square to be innovative and agile. We expect them to dig deep and to perform at their maximum whenever they are at work. Problem solving, creative thinking, critical analysis are on-going activities in the workplace and they place high demands on people.

But what does it take to perform at maximum capacity? How can leaders support their teams to deliver consistently above expectations? Massey’s Dr Patricia Bossons explains that research into the workings of the brain have revealed some interesting facts. “The brain, though not a muscle, has the ability to develop through use. For example, in order to improve one’s memory, one can train the brain to develop its memory zone (the hippocampus).” Repetition helps to carve out neural pathways and extension exercises helps to define new pathways. Most areas of the brain can be trained to improve, or to shut down, as needed.

Although the brain is a wonderfully flexible instrument that can adapt and grow, it also has some very primitive functions and in many cases these functions still have an impact on human behavior. We still refer to “fight, flight or freeze” reactions when faced with a threatening situation. Although there may no longer be sabre-toothed tigers on the prowl the brain initiates such reactions when faced with highly stressful situations from any source – even in the workplace, even from your boss or your colleagues.  Bossons explains that the “panic reaction”, in neuroscientific terms, occurs when one’s amygdala lurches into action and overpower the activity of other parts of the brain. Under such circumstances people revert to the most primitive instincts, and none of “fight, flight or freeze” encourage productive workplace performance. Those three instincts have subsequently expanded to include “tend and befriend” which is a more typical female reaction to external stressors. Either way the person in a state of stress needs someone who can help them to put their amygdala into neutral and work with them to contextualise the situation and re-focus on the solution, not the problem.

Only when the amygdala is under control and the person has access to their whole brain can they be expected to perform optimally. They need to be in a position of psychological safety, they need to feel a sense of well-being and confidence. Agility comes from a base of stability.

The brain, though wonderful, cannot simultaneously tolerate activity in its emotional and its task-focused areas. We have to prioritise one or the other, we cannot pay attention to both at the same time. But this does not mean we need to be victims of our socio-emotional cortex or be slaves to a task-focused orientation, convenient though that may be. Agility in action requires agility in mind, where people can switch quickly and frequently between the task and the emotional content of a situation in order to maintain a perfect balance and to achieve the best possible outcomes.

Leaders have an important role to play in ensuring that their demands for innovation and excellence are matched by an environment in which people feel confident, secure and able to perform at their best. Executive coaching is one of the best techniques for identifying and solving performance challenges in the workplace. Through coaching (and in particular through creating a coaching culture) we can help people to become unstuck in tricky situations, to feel that they are able to perform well and to give them the tools to better use the power of their whole brain to excel at what they do.

Listen to Dr Patricia Bossons discussing Neuroscience and Coaching, a user’s manual to the brain.

Well Formed Outcomes Use this tool to help define better outcomes for yourself. Outcomes help you think beyond goals to the ultimate ahcievement.

Patricia Bossons is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, and has worked in Executive Education as a leadership development specialist, business psychologist and executive coach throughout her career.

She has recently taken up the role of Director of Executive Qualifications at Massey Business School, Massey University, NZ. Before this, she was the founder, and Director, of the Henley Centre for Coaching and Behavioural Change at Henley Business School, UK.

Patricia is currently designing and developing qualification programmes in this field at the professional master’s level for delivery in New Zealand through Massey Business School.

 

 

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When flexing helps with connecting

What happens when rigid structures are set in place to manage fluid situations?

The concept of hierarchies is as old as human civilisation itself. In any tribe, there is a pecking order, a boss, a lesser boss. There is deference to age, wisdom, experience, title, salary, suit. This rigid hierarchy was applied to early businesses too and has served corporations well since the first industrial revolution.

The company manager sat at the top of a pyramid with a set of senior staff responsible for each business function. They, in turn, had their mini-empires of staff, structured in pyramids which represented the hierarchy of decision-making and communication. These function-specific silos were constructed to serve the primary purpose of management in those days: control. Organisations of a certain size threatened to become unwieldy if allowed to operate without a rigorous structure and lines of control. Workers delegated decisions upwards, and lines of responsibility were cast in stone. Many companies saw the military as the perfect example of how to ensure that an organisation ran according to plan. That is why we still have military terms such as “Officer” in some job titles.

The need for governance was immediately clear. Corporations required oversight from a group of people who knew enough about the business but were sufficiently removed from its daily operations to make unbiased decisions and to set a strategy that would be for the long-term benefit of the organisation’s shareholders. The duties of board members were described in legislation, and the relationship between board and management became enshrined – solidified, immovable, fixed.

Rapid Acceleration

As the second, third and the fourth industrial revolutions took place, the speed of change accelerated beyond anything experienced before. Communication became more fluid. Opportunity lay not in formal planning but in exploiting fleeting confluences of circumstance. Planning and control became less important than carefully considered action that resulted from rapid, real-time communication across various layers of the organisation and between people with the necessary skills rather than the highest rank. The military approach to “defending the bastion against onslaughts from competitors” gave way to concepts such as “frenemies” and “co-opetition”.

The hierarchies changed shape. They became flatter, and the notion of a network started taking hold. A network with its multiple nodes allows for more efficient communication and decision-making. A network defies hierarchy and promotes nimble movement. The opportunity could take any range of shapes and success depended on how different networks could collaborate with each other. While collaboration was taking place and while networks in different companies were humming one aspect remained static and immovable: the company’s governance.

Still rigidly structured to manage a hierarchy the board is becoming a dinosaur in the fourth industrial revolution if it insists on setting the strategy and approving the actions of the organisation on a microscopic level.

Network of networks

“What has developed,” says Malcolm Fraser, Executive Director of The Collaborative, “is a network of inter-connected networks that morphs constantly.” Where interoperability, virtualisation, decentralisation and modularity become the pillars of business, the overwhelming need is for a responsive organisation with a responsive governing structure. Collaborative networks form, thrive, deliver rewards to all involved and then fade over a short time span. The governance structures that were initially set up when the business had a more predictable format seem irrelevant now.

“What we need is empathetic governance,” says Fraser. “We need boards that are attuned to the flexibility in the environment and can understand the need for design thinking in the organisation. While collaborative teams in the organisation empathise, define, ideate, prototype and test products as well as relationships, the Board needs to follow a similar approach to remain flexible and valuable.” For the organisation to succeed executives will require fluid action and rapid thought without a rigid governance structure.

To find out more about Digital Transformation and Collaborative Innovation watch Malcolm Fraser’s webinar here. You can also download his PowerPoint slides here.

Malcolm works as a Collaborative Entrepreneur, acting as the catalyst for forming multi-party collaborations across organisational boundaries to ‘join-up’ organisations, identify solutions to problems and support sustainable social and economic growth for all.

This work is based on his international development experience gained from operating in over 30 countries where he has worked with technologists, local communities and scientists to build collaborative programmes and their associated governance models in partnership with local/regional governments, the World Bank, Asia Development Bank and global networks of innovation centres.

 

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Good research means better business decisions

I’ve taught a business research methods course to MBA students for many years at two New Zealand universities. These students are all experienced business managers or owners. And one of the challenges I have is convincing them that research competencies are not “academic” skills that are irrelevant to their workplace but are basic to making good business decisions.

Business, research

Managers rely on carefully conducted research for understanding market opportunities, for evaluating campaigns, and for testing initiatives, among other things. And managers need to understand good research practices to get the best value from such research. I recently had as a guest speaker Tracey Bridges, co-founder and director at the Good Registry (and formerly Managing Partner for Senate SHJ). Tracey emphasised the importance of managers not just letting the experts plan and do the research, but instead getting involved and carefully scoping the project to ensure you get the outcomes that will be useful. I couldn’t agree more. Managers should work to explain carefully and clearly their aims and objectives for the research, and the questions they want answered. And if others do the actual research for them, managers should ensure the research plan – even down to the questions to be asked on surveys – is likely to produce credible answers.

Credibility of research results is the key. There’s little point in point in doing research that can be picked apart for having used shoddy data or analysis. Another guest speaker I had recently in my MBA course was Dr Andrew Peterson, Head of Data Science at the Warehouse Group. Andrew focused on avoiding being fooled by random variation – that is, thinking we’ve found something significant when we’ve really just gotten certain findings by chance. For example, you may think your new pricing strategy produced an increase in sales, when in fact the increase could be due to seasonal fluctuations or some other factor unrelated to your pricing strategy. So, Andrew says it’s critical to carefully construct experiments and use controls that give us confidence in the answers we’re getting from research.

Beyond carefully designed, formal research initiatives, good research competencies instil a discipline in evaluating available evidence in making good business decisions. Managers often lack the resources – including time – to commission all the market research they may need or to conduct careful experiments to test initiatives. But even so, good research practices teach us to be disciplined in questioning the available evidence and constructing careful arguments to make better business decisions.

Learn more about the Massey Executive MBA here.

Prof Ted Zorn is the head of Massey Executive Development and he teaches Applied Research on the Massey Executive MBA. A professor of organisational communication for nearly 30 years, Ted held positions at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Waikato University before joining Massey University in 2012. His research in recent years has focused on the use of dialogue and other forms of communication in leading change.

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Finding out “What’s right with people?”

Have you ever seen a rugby prop doing ballet? Was Shakespeare any good at algebra? Could Einstein sing well? Is Bill Gates any good at carpentry?

In business today, our first instinct could be to question how people differ from what we consider the norm. This person is louder than we are comfortable with, that one does not speak as eloquently as we expect, another is too quiet and does not make eye contact, and the guy from marketing does not understand how to read a balance sheet. Not one of them matches our personal definition of “normal”. They are not like us, so there must be something wrong with them. Any leader who adopts this approach is sure to mould their team into miniature clones of themselves. The leader will hear what they want to hear (as opposed to the truth), the team will behave like the leader (rather than in the most appropriate manner), and precious talent could be lost while obedient avatars replace them and strive to do nothing more than “keep the boss happy”.

There is strength in unity, but that is not the same as suggesting that there is strength in uniformity. In any successful team, there are players who contribute to the victory with a variety of strengths. Some are fleet-footed sprinters; others are rock solid immovable objects; all of them need to work together to bring about a triumph. Business is no different. Diversity provides the greatest chance of success because it builds in the combined personalities and strengths of a group of people.

Tim Kloppenborg, Emeritus Professor at Xavier University in Cincinnati and an expert in strengths-based leadership, explains that the work done by the Gallop Corporation was significant in the area of identifying peoples’ strengths. “Following a very comprehensive study Gallop identified 34 different thought patterns in people across organisations, at different levels of management and in different cultures.” These patterns were grouped into four domains, namely executing, influencing, relationship building and strategic thinking.

Once the strengths have been identified the next step is to construct the team’s roles in such a way that complementary strengths are grouped together. A studious introvert may need someone to engage with customers on their behalf. A verbally confident influencer may need someone to look after the written or admin parts of the job. A strategic thinker may need someone to implement their grand plans and ensure that the detail is taken care of. Such actions enhance the diverse strengths of a team to construct a formidable engine, capable of responding to a variety of circumstances and resilient in the face of unpredictable challenges.

And what about the strengths of the leader? What does the team expect of them? The four elements identified by Don Clifton (the father of strengths psychology and inventor of the Clifton StrengthsFinder®) as crucial to all leaders supersede their personality. The four elements are trust, compassion, stability and hope. No matter what your strengths as a leader these aspects of character are important for your team to observe in your words and actions. While the team can contribute a wide range of skills, knowledge, behaviour and talent, they will look to you for honesty and trustworthiness; for understanding and compassion; for predictability, trust and stability; and for hope through your ability to generate a vision and steer the vision.

To find out more about Strengths-base Leadership watch Tim Kloppenborg’s webinar here. Tim will also be presenting two powerful workshops in Auckland in April. Find out more here.

Timothy J. Kloppenborg, PhD, PMP is a Professor Emeritus from Xavier University. Tim has over 100 publications to his name including 12 very successful academic books on various aspects of Project Management.  Tim has worked closely with the authors of over 30 books including Stakeholder-led Project Management: Changing the Way We Manage Projects and Developing Strengths-Based Project Teams.

Tim has worked in manufacturing, construction, and research, as well as being a retired USAF Reserve officer. He has lead thousands of people in consulting, training, and university classes on six continents, many of these assignments dealing with project management and/or strengths-based leadership.

He holds a BS in business from Benedictine College, an MBA from Western Illinois University, and a PhD in Operations Management from the University of Cincinnati.

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“Do you really belong here?”

Take a look at the foot traffic at a railway station in any of New Zealand’s main cities and the multi-cultural nature of our workforce will become evident. The diversity is astounding and encouraging. The variety is not just about gender or about ethnicity. It is not uncommon to find four generations, five languages, many ethnicities and a spectrum of worldviews in any workplace today.

diversity

For Shireen Chua this diversity is not only interesting, it forms the key focus of her career. Born in Malaysia of Chinese ethnicity and raised in New Zealand, Shireen is acutely aware of the challenges and opportunities facing the diverse workforce. “There is no doubt that the differences are greater than ever before,” says Shireen. “This leads to a complexity which can be daunting for the individual and for the company as a whole.” At the core are the individual’s personality, beliefs and values. These factors influence their perceptions of the primary human characteristics such as age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, race, gender, physical and mental ability. To a large extent people in the workforce have become accustomed to diversity of these characteristics and have at least a basic understanding of how to react appropriately.

When it comes to secondary characteristics such as marital/parental status, social status, nationality, language, accent, appearance, location, hobbies, educational background and religion the fluency with which the “average person” interacts in the workplace is placed under some strain. All of these characteristics influence how we behave and respond in our interactions with each other. However, take this to another level: if we move from diversity (encouraging the hiring of people of diverse backgrounds and diverse primary and secondary characteristics) to inclusion (making all people feel part of the organisation) then the challenges are significant. In an inclusive organisation the opinions, worldviews and values of all the employees, no matter how different, are respected.

Compromise or negotiate?

Some may frown at the concept that interactions (and in a sense values and norms) are not fixed but negotiated. “It does not mean that we need to compromise on what determines our identities or our personalities,” adds Shireen. “On the contrary, these diverse ways of thinking are very valuable to the organisation and they all need an opportunity to be heard.” But we need to acknowledge that the best solution to any problem can come from any source and that our behaviour should encourage all employees to feel comfortable enough to share their insights and to contribute to the best possible solution.

As Csaba Toth, Founder of ICQ Global and developer of Global DISC™ put it, “Diversity is the mixture of differences; inclusion is the right mixture of people managed with cultural intelligence. One is a minefield and other one is a gold mine.” The movement from one to the other requires building the necessary skills not only among people in the workforce but within the very core of the organisation. Cultural Intelligence means having the ability to interact effectively in any culturally diverse setting.  It helps us understand the impact of organisational characteristics such as hierarchies and the placement of people at different levels, how different functions of the business interact (because, after all, marketers and engineers are diverse breeds), how one location deals with another (for example head office and a branch office).

Tolerate or belong?

What is the ultimate proof that we have successfully included people in the way we run our businesses? People feel they belong. Belonging is what happens when the level of cultural intelligence (CQ) in the organisation is high and pervasive. When people feel they belong, they have ownership of their work and they contribute at unprecedented levels.

Success comes when CQ influences how we communicate, how we see ourselves (both as individuals and as groups in the workplace) and what we focus on (i.e. the balance between task and relationship). People feel they belong when they are heard, included in the problem-solving processes (where appropriate) including how we process and share information, how we give explanations and the conclusions we reach. The highly effective organisation is attuned to its composite workforce and its growing diverse markets. This influences the decision-making cycles including the locus of control, how we interpret time, and how we distribute or constrain power.

Interacting, problem-solving and decision-making are the most subtle measurements of inclusion and the most effective companies strive towards constant improvement of these behaviours.

Watch this webinar where Shireen Chua discusses various tools which can be used to measure and improve the CQ of your organisation.

Look at these videos to learn more about the Four CQ Capabilities that lead to individual success, and more about the CQ Wheel and how it can be applied in your business.

Then have a look at these TED Talks for more on CQ:

diversity; inclusion; cultural intelligence; CQ

Shireen Chua is the Director of Third Culture Solutions Ltd.  She is a Malaysian-Chinese Kiwi who has been educated in New Zealand completing her degree at Massey University (MSc Nut.Sci) Her MBA from Southern Cross University, Australia included a research project focusing on Culture Matters: How NZ Organisations develop Intercultural CompetencyShe is a certified Professional Coach, gaining her ACC with the International Coach Federation and is also certified by the Cultural Intelligence Center as a CQ Trainer (Advanced).  This allows her to facilitate the Developing Cultural Intelligence workshop using the Cultural Intelligence (CQ) assessment tool.  She is also certified to train using the Global DiSC. Shireen is a lecturer on Massey’s Master of Advanced Leadership Practice (MALP).

 

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Alumni taking the reins, building the network

Massey EMBA alumni have taken the reins of their network and are facilitating reconnections across the country.  The movement was kicked off by a small group in Auckland which ran an inaugural breakfast late last year.  A number of alumni featured as presenters, giving insights into the exciting projects they were working on and some of the changes they had made since graduating.  Two of the four alumni presenters connected with the event from abroad.

Massey alumni, network, connections

The event also featured an insightful and inspiring industry speaker – Dorenda Britten – who gave a positive perspective on how the current MBA programme was being received by industry and how the new programme features aligned well with current industry needs.  Dorenda also challenged the EMBA alumni to reflect on their approaches, perspectives and assumptions as the business landscape is changing at a rate at which old thinking won’t cut it for much longer.

The alumni community have long recognised the value of their network, but have had difficulty extending their reach beyond their immediate cohort.  Massey is working to enable all EMBA alumni to find and leverage each other by developing an expertise database in which alumni will be able to search and find others who have had the Massey EMBA alumni experience to do business together more readily.

The Massey EMBA alumni community are invited to contribute to setting the EMBA alumni agenda for the next 12 months and beyond, to ensure that Massey continues to contribute to their professional needs and development in a relevant way.

A follow-up event is being planned for late April 2019 in Auckland with another event being planned for Wellington in May.

If you have any questions or want to get in touch, contact Meshweyla Macdonald at M.Macdonald@massey.ac.nz and register on the Massey EMBA website https://alumnionline.massey.ac.nz/mba

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Coaching to boost Exec MBA students

 

The revised Executive MBA at Massey will now feature one-to-one Executive Coaching as part of the new Applied Personal Leadership course in Part Two. Students will be able to team up with a personal mentor, should they so wish, from the MBA alumni, or a broader group of experienced business leaders from a range of sectors. The coaching will be delivered through a new Register of Coaches and Mentors, which students will be able to search through to find an appropriate individual. The members of the Register are personally recruited as people who have the appropriate experience and skills to provide relevant assistance to Executive MBA students.

To develop and maintain the necessary skills to be an effective coach and/or mentor, we are setting up a Coaching Hub within the Executive Education centre at Massey Business School. This hub will provide supervision, networking opportunities and coaching skills training to members of the Register – ensuring consistency of approach and quality assurance. Massey Executive Development is also working on a formal coaching qualification which could be available later in the year for those who want to take their practice to the next level.

Why are we doing this?

There has been a huge increase in the use of Executive Coaching in organisations, and by individuals, in the last decade. Coaching has moved from being seen as a remedial activity, focused on poor performance, to a developmental process used by the most successful managers and leaders in all kinds of organisational life. When used in conjunction with other development activities, such as an MBA, or an in-house leadership development programme, the additional value gained from the course can be enormous.

Coaching allows the individual to reflect on their learning and experiences from a course, and apply this to their own context, with consideration of their personal perspective in their role. The coaching relationship is confidential, and focused on the goals and desired outcomes of the person being coached. There is no other agenda from the coach apart from enabling their coachee to become more effective. Often, helping a person work out what their goal is can be a large part of the work undertaken by the coach.

The difference between Coaching and Mentoring

There can be much discussion about the similarities and differences between these two activities. We are taking the line that Mentoring depends upon the mentor having personal experience of the work context, business sector or technical specialism of the person they are mentoring. They can share their own experiences, give advice, provide resources and connections. Coaching is a process of enabling a person to gain awareness of their behaviours, be invited to take different perspectives and to be assisted to come up with their solutions to whatever problem they might be facing.

It is the case that the best mentors use coaching skills as part of the way they offer mentor support. A good coach can work with a coachee from an entirely different business or life background to their own, without this making any difference to the quality of the outcome from the coaching.

The Massey Register of Coaches and Mentors will show the various specialisations of the individuals listed. This will include who coaches, and who has specialist coaching skills such as Careers Coaching, Performance Coaching, Team Coaching etc. Mentors will be described according to industry sector, personal experience and individual focus. Some people, of course, will be listed under both Coaching and Mentoring, and the initial conversation for all relationships will be to clarify what the individual is looking for in this process.

For more information, or if you might be interested in becoming one of our Coaches or Mentors, please send us an e-mail.

Find out more about the Massey Executive MBA.

Patricia Bossons is a Chartered Psychologist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, and has worked in Executive Education as a leadership development specialist, business psychologist and executive coach throughout her career.

She has recently taken up the role of Director of Executive Qualifications at Massey Business School, Massey University, NZ. Before this, she was the founder, and Director, of the Henley Centre for Coaching and Behavioural Change at Henley Business School, UK.

Patricia is currently designing and developing qualification programmes in this field at the professional master’s level for delivery in New Zealand through Massey Business School.

 

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Making innovation core to your business: Necessary but not easy

Innovation | Marketing Donut

We hear all the time that companies must be constantly innovating or else risk losing to better resourced or more aggressive competitors or to disruptive technologies and business models. And the reason is clear; there’s evidence all around us. Blockbuster, Kodak, Blackberry and Compaq are just a few iconic brands that went bust from a failure to respond to competition. Yet there are also many examples of companies that have not only survived, but thrived, innovating their way to success. Apple, McDonald’s and Lego come to mind.

Dr Marcus Powe has been helping leaders implement and embed innovation systems for many years. His research, teaching, mentoring led to him being awarded Australia’s Best Entrepreneurial Educator a few years back by then Prime Minister Julia Gillard.  Marcus shared his thoughts on what it takes to introduce and sustain an innovation system in an organisation in a recent webinar for Massey Business School.

“The first thing you should do is have a look around your company,” Marcus says. “Do you see a focus on best practice and quality? Aggressive uptake of leading edge technology? Continuous incremental improvement? Or, the development of new capabilities and original ideas? If not, you’ve got a problem.”

To be successful, innovation systems have to have commitment from the highest levels of management. Marcus argues that, “CEOs don’t necessarily lead innovation, but they do drive it. They have to get involved at key points, especially at creation and launch.” An innovation champion and innovation team are critical, but everyone must be involved. “You can’t just delegate innovation to the innovation department.”

A related principle is that innovation is not a separate strategy, but must be core business, linked to corporate goals. That means that all management must get involved in creating the vision for innovation and it means that developing a learning culture in the organisation is vital.

While there are identifiable steps to guide an organisation’s journey in implementing innovation systems, there are also many roadblocks along the way to overcome. Barriers to creativity include habits, fear, prejudices and blind acceptance…with fear being the most destructive of these. And some of the barriers to innovation are insecurity, tribalism, politics, and an unwillingness to take risks – with politics being top of that list. All these can be overcome, of course. But if it was easy, we wouldn’t have the Blockbusters, Kodaks and Blackberrys of the business world.

Marcus is working with Massey Business School to enhance our MBA programmes and to help us to help New Zealand businesses contribute to a thriving, prosperous and sustainable future for New Zealand.

Listen to Marcus explain his 8-step plan for implementing successful innovation systems, along with the main barriers that get in the way to success.

 Marcus Powe, PhD founded EIC Growth Pty Ltd to help CEOs and leaders implement, embed and measure creativity and innovation systems that result in enterprising behaviours. He specialises in the growth of for-profit and not-for-profit organisations that operate in the turbulence of national and international market places.

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An agile organisation needs a nimble mind

Here’s the scenario: You work as a consultant for a very large company. Your client has just blown their project budget. After spending two years and $74 million, the project team have delivered nothing, and they need another $74 million and another two years to try again! What would you recommend?

Erika Barden studied the situation carefully and knew that the client had to change the way they managed their projects. Unable to watch them waste another pile of cash she recommended that the management team implements an Agile approach. Although the concept of Agile project management is not new, some people are hesitant to implement it. Many believe that Agile involves throwing out the rule book, plunging into projects without a plan, avoiding commitment, dodging accountability and buying many pretty Post-it® notes!

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the more Erika learnt about Agile, the more she understood that it was not about avoiding accountability but exactly the opposite. Agile does not avoid processes and tools; it merely places them in the right priority with individuals and interactions. Instead of piles of project documentation, the customer gets working software, and they have been involved in every step of the development process. The customer feels as if they are part of the production process, not merely a passive observer. Instead of rigidly following a plan that daily becomes less relevant as circumstances change, Agile allows people to adapt quickly to change and mitigate big risks along the way. They do go through a fair amount of Post-its®, though.

There are plenty of controls, lots of lean governance and a very clear line of accountability, but the pace is different, and it requires not just a change in process but also a change in the way people think. Erika learnt that the success of an Agile project depends on top executives adopting an Agile mind-set and then transmitting this to everyone in the organisation. A rigid organisation that tries to operate just one aspect of the operation in an Agile way is bound to experience disappointment. Spark made headlines when it adopted an Agile approach not just for its development projects but as a way of doing business.

Erika was in the first cohort of Massey’s Master of Advance Leadership Practice, and her A+ dissertation looked at the way leaders need to change (by adopting an Agile mind-set) in order to ensure that the process is a success across their organisations. She has been an energetic advocate for Agile Leadership and is working on a range of projects with companies in the private and public sector throughout New Zealand.

Listen to Erika explain what Agile really means, how to use it as a business-as-usual process and what you need to do to ensure the successful transformation of your business.

Erika Barden is Head of Agile for Frank Innovation & Transformation, a company committed to delivering value-enhancing change. She is also a graduate of the Master of Advanced Leadership Practice (MALP).

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Are you living a well-lived life? 

Most of my work is to encourage people to “be all they can be”.

On many of the leadership development programmes at Massey, people ask me what they should do in their job or career to get more from their work. My reply, “Don’t ask me what you should do but what you could be”. Wouldn’t it be great if everybody wanted to run into work on Monday mornings? It would not feel like work then, would it?

To do this you need to find a job that you love; it is not too difficult to find “A job” but to find “THE Job” now, that is a different challenge.  The first part of this challenge is to find out as much about you as possible:

  • What are your values?
  • What would excite you enough to get you to go in on that wet July morning?
  • What are your strengths and limitations?
  • What are your emotional skills; your “emotional intelligence”?
  • What form of resilience will keep you on track and believing in yourself when the going gets tough?
  • How will you manage your relationships with others?
  • How quickly do you adapt to transitions?
  • Can you manage your own stress and anger?
  • What mood do you take into a room with you?
  • Last, but not least, how will you deal with failure and success?

Once you have a clear understanding of who you are there is another set of hard questions to answer – matching who you are to what jobs are out there.  “How would I match up to the jobs on offer?”

  • What jobs would really describe me and my sense of purpose?  But perhaps another way to ask this is “Where would I fit in?”
  • Which organisation aligns with my values?
  • Where would I be allowed to use most of my strengths to a purpose that I believe useful for all my life energy?
  • Where would my limitations be accommodated rather than cursed?

These are just a few of the questions that everyone who has a job they love has answered.

So if you want to make a start on that, the related pages in the links below will give you an opportunity to look at some of your values, understand and start developing some of those emotional skills,  review how you approach interviews against a checklist that you have made and a quick guide to success at work and in the new job.

Watch Mike’s career Webinar here.

Author, Mike Fiszer, heads up the Master of Advanced Leadership Practice (MALP)

FURTHER RESOURCES

Values link: values
Emotional Intelligence Link: EQscales
Interview Link: interview
Success at Work: success

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