Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Why Teams Don't Work

Back in the 1970's the concept of "teams" started to become a major emphasis. By the 1980's the vogue was very much an emphasis on "teams" and much time and money was invested in team building. It was argued that "teams" would revolutionise the organisation through the synergy that can occur when people work together. The ideal, according to many, was that teams should become self-directed with managers playing a largely supportive role. Of course what happened in practice was that, in the majority of cases there was a shuffling of the deckchairs on the Titanic - the terms changed but everything functioned largely as it always had.

"Teams" are still a major emphasis today. The problem, however, continues to be getting "teams" to actually work as they are intended.

One team of researchers and practitioners from the 1980's (Organizational Psychology Kolb, Rubin & McIntyre) placed the emphasis on "goal issues, role issues, procedural issues, and interpersonal issues". Another team from Harvard University in The Wisdom of Teams (Katzenback & Smith) made similar findings but they added the point that "high-performance teams are extremely rare". Other researchers endorsed this and made the emphasis that the key to effective teams lay in defining what had to be done, clarifying roles and responsibilities, involving team members, and empowering people to act.

Organisations with First Generation Leadership and/or Second Generation Leadership (ie today's dominant organisational model) face a conflict of interest in relation to teams - especially if they try to introduce self-directed teams. By definition these organisations have a defined power structure and those people who want career advancement know that, no matter what the rhetoric, the fact is that the team needs to fit in with what is really wanted by "the boss". This can easily lead to competition between "team members" with (as often happens in sales teams, for example) the prime emphasis being on individual performance rather than on team results.

High performing teams need to operate in an environment:
  • in which the team leader is collaborative
  • there is unconditional respect for every team member
  • questions are openly and frequently invited
  • in which the leader sees him/herself as a fellow team member and a facilitator
  • decisions come from multiple viewpoints and are team based

They need Third Generation Leadership and a 3G Leader.

For more information, see http://www.dglong.com

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

The worst of all possible worlds!

I have just been contacted by someone who has been the recipient of some "interesting" human resource management practices.

"Edward" (not his real name) applied for a senior position with a national organisation and eventually made the short list. At this point he was asked for referees and supplied the names and contact details of people for whom and with whom he had worked over the past 20 years. Several weeks passed and, at the start of March, he was contacted and offered the position. He was thrilled. He believed the organisation to be very reputable and professional.

"Edward" had been surprised at the extent to which background checking had been made (it was not a security-orientated position) and felt that, as he put it, he had been "laundered and drycleaned". However this very factor was a key one in making him want the position - "any organisation that is that thorough has to be a good one to work for," he told me.

He had no hesitation in accepting the offer and, at that stage, he was told that a contract would be drawn up for him. Last Friday the contract arrived and he got his lawyer to check it. The consultant's covering letter said how pleased everyone was that he had accepted the job and nominated a starting date. His lawyer suggested some minor changes and the contract documents were back to the company by Wednesday.

On Wednesday evening he was contacted by the consultant who was acting for the company and told that the offer had been withdrawn "as it is too complicated to negotiate the contract". "Edward" is devastated and I suspect that his lawyer may now become a little more involved.

"Edward" has been caught up in a very bad manifestation of what is probably Second Generation Leadership and with the antics of a 2G Leader. Clearly this is an organisation that demands conformance but it may have regressed to a First Generation Leadership approach of demanding obedience. Whatever the generational stage, it now appears clear that they never had any intention of negotiating and that, from their side, the contract was offered on a "take it or leave it" basis. The problem is that they never made this clear to "Edward".

There can be little doubt that the company's "red zone" approach has infected "Edward" and has engendered a red zone response ("red zones" are contagious.) Across Australia, he's got a lot of friends, family and contacts - I have little doubt as to whether or not he will share this experience with them. And neither the company nor its consultant are likely to have their reputations enhanced in those discussions! "Edward" now sees both the consultant and the company as being toxic.

Third Generation Leadership and 3G Leaders don't play these sorts of games. They are honest and transparent. If they make a decision then decide that they made a mistake they are open about this: they explain the what and the how: they seek to minimise the impact of their mistake on everyone involved: and then they move on. Because 3G Leaders show respect to those with whom they interact, they receive respect in return. 3G Leaders are never found in toxic organisations.

More information about Doug Long and how I may be able to help you at http://www.dglong.com

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Monday, March 15, 2010

3G Leader Characteristics

In the Harvard Business Review's book "Leaders on Leadership" (1992), Jimmy Carter, past President of the USA, says: "[a leader requires] the ability to work with other people, the capacity to expand one's mind and one's heart as the years go by, and to see the broader dimensions of the future. Most important, it's necessary not to fear the prospect of failure but to be determined not to fail. If a leader is not willing to attempt things that might not succeed, then he has little faith in himself or the goal he seeks to achieve."

In my book "Leaders: diamonds or cubic zirconia" (1998) I quote the people interviewed as stressing the first building block for a leader is for a person to recognise that they have a leadership responsibility and, coupled with this, to have the self confidence to acknowledge they are not always right and so a preparedness to enlist help from others and to apologise when they are wrong.

Both of these are activities that are possible because the leader has moved away from the red zone of anxiety to the blue zone of courage (see http://thesuccesszone.com/). They are characteristics of Third Generation Leadership and of 3G Leaders.

Other characteristics of Third Generation Leadership and 3G Leaders are:
  • they engage with others rather than seeking to obtain obedience or compliance
  • they are collaborative and facilitative
  • they encourage growth and self directed learning by everyone
  • they respect other people even if they are not receiving respect in return
  • they invite questions and discussion
  • they ask questions with a view to helping others find their own solutions
  • they listen to help others engage with their own or shared solutions
  • they are totally non discriminatory in thought, word and action

Because of these characteristics, 3G Leaders are able to create environments in which people feel:

  • emotionally safe
  • unconditionally respected
  • believed in as individuals
  • listened to

and these are the critical conditions for people to be engaged not only with what they do but also with those they are doing it with. These are the optimal conditions for organisational and personal success.

More information about Doug Long and how I may be able to help you at http://www.dglong.com/

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Third Generation Leadership - Developing 3G Leaders

Over the years there has been recurring discussion relating to leadership development and right now one of the on-line discussion groups I am involved with is looking at the question: "What traits do you think our next generation of leaders should possess?"

There are certain things that seem to be self-evident. My research that lead to the 1998 book "Leaders: diamonds or cubic zirconia?" indicated that knowing yourself and recognising that you do have leadership responsibilities in at least some areas of life is at the very core of any group of essentials. Most leadership development programs address this issue.

But there is another issue that is less often addressed - and even then, often not very well. This is the issue of "creating an environment in which everyone can be successful".

With First Generation Leadership (G1 Leaders) and Second Generation Leadership (G2 Leaders) this was not so much of an issue. However with Third Generation Leadership (G3 Leaders) it is critical.

One of the key researchers of value to G1 Leadership and G2 Leadership in addressing this issue was Elliott Jaques who, in books such as "Requisite Organisation" (1998, Cason Hall & Co), made the point that leaders needed to have greater conceptual and complex information processing skills than their followers if they were to provide an environment in which others could be successful. Jaques' work is still absolutely vital for G3 Leadership.

But G3 Leadership requires another element - it requires the ability to manage down those areas of the brain that are not helpful in leader-follower interactions while simultaneously managing up those areas of the brain that are helpful. I refer to these as "Red Zone" (not helpful) and "Blue Zone" (helpful). Where the leader has his or her brain's locus of control is critical because only G3 Leaders are able to engage everyone with whom they interact: a G2Leader can engage only some and a G1 Leader can engage only a few.

This is the area of leadership development to which I will pay attention in coming blogs.

For more information about Doug Long and how may be able to help you, see http://www.dglong.com/

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Monday, March 8, 2010

The three generations of leadership - G1 Leadership, G2 Leadership, G3 Leadership

We are all used to hearing about generations of mobile phone technology and G3 is now dominant. Similarly we are used to hearing about the various versions of computer programs - terms like V1, V2, V3 are commonplace.

But what about leadership?

When you read the leadership literature it seems as though there is an underlying assumption that the basics of leadership have remained the same for countless years. I am as guilty as anyone else of allowing this view to continue.

But not any more.

One of my major recent learnings has been that there are at least 3 generations of leadership - we can call these "G1 Leadership" (or "Leadership v1.0"), "G2 Leadership" (or "Leadership v2.0") and "G3 Leadership" (or "Leadership v3.0").

G1 Leadership is characterised by a command and control mentality. It has its origins in the world prior to the Second World War. Leadership in this generation is predicated on the follower being obedient and at all time showing respect for their leaders. Followers are not expected to question the decisions of and/or instructions from their leaders and any questions made by the leader are primarily for the purpose of enabling the leader to make a decision. Followers obtain security and certainty by following the rules in a reasonably predictable world. Hierarchy is seen as natural and essential for the smooth operation of society.

G2 Leadership is a development from this. The key difference is that "conformance" replaces "obedience" although the follower is still expected to show respect for the leader at all times. G2 Leadership arose in the 1940's and 50's out of research by management theorists and humanistic psychologists who showed that rewarding people for compliance to instructions was more productive than blind obedience. Most current leadership development programs are based on the belief that followers will act in consistence with what the leader models and that providing positive reinforcement for appropriate behaviour ("operant conditioning") is the most powerful means of motivating people to achieve results. Access to or isolation from information is a key power base in this approach. Again in this model, some form of hierarchy is accepted as a core tenet of society and upwards questioning is often discouraged while questioning from the leader is generally for the purpose of helping the follower solve his or her problems.

Today's Generation Y tends to have considerable difficulty with this approach. They know that with access to the internet and social networking there is very little information that can remain hidden for prolonged periods. In addition they prefer to work out their own solutions to problems rather than relying on others to provide them with answers. There tends to be a significant disconnect between Generation Y followers and G2 Leaders with G2 Leaders often bemoaning the work and social attitudes of Generation Y.

Which brings us to G3 Leadership.

G3 Leadership is all about engaging people with both what they do and those with whom they do it. A G3 Leader operates in an atmosphere of mutual respect between leader and follower and in which the leader has the maturity to distinguish between the person (who is always acceptable) and their actions (which might not be acceptable.) Where G1 Leaders and G2 Leaders have their brain's locus of control primarily in the red zone (basic/reptilian - limbic areas), G3 Leaders have their brain's locus of control in the cortical areas of the brain - the blue zone.

The really good news is that we can all learn to become G3 Leaders.

More information about Doug Long and how I may be able to help you at http://www.dglong.com/.

Please let me know what you think about this. Click on the comment link below.