All posts by David

Times of great stress anxiety

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For many business leaders the current crisis is a time of great stress and anxiety.  It is important to recognise the negative impact this can have upon your decision making.  As well as this, people look to leaders to be calm and deliberate in their decisions and actions. Leaders who react to stressful events in highly emotional ways can add to people’s stress and anxiety. Leaders can start by slowing down, taking stock of their stress and understanding what is causing an emotional reaction. Even when facing the demands of a high-profile crisis, leaders must take breaks to reset and refocus.

Being able to talk things through or getting a different view of a challenge is vital. 

Being a leader is one’s natural self-expression

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Being a leader is one’s natural self-expression. It does not come from learning and trying to emulate the characteristics or styles of noteworthy leaders, or learning what effective leaders do and trying to emulate them (and most certainly not from merely being in a leadership position, or position of authority). If you are not ’being’ a leader, and you try to act like a leader, you are likely to fail. That’s called being inauthentic (playing a role or pretending to be a leader), deadly in any attempt to exercise leadership.

Advice for those working from home

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As employers close offices in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, here’s advice for how to work from home more effectively during this time.

With people now under social isolation in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus, employers are struggling with the new reality of establishing protocols for working from home. Productive home workers will be necessary to keep the economy going as companies strive to maintain business continuity. And, staying engaged with daily work could be an important source of stimulation for isolated individuals. But the lightning-quick transition to a remote-work economy will not be easy for everyone.

Even for people like myself who have worked from home for many years, there is the challenge of no longer having the house to myself and having to share resources with other family members working from home.  The first thing to recognise is that work itself may well feel different than before. You may have children or other family members at home that require attention. They might be worried about their health, the health of their parents and grandparents, or the security of their income. If they’re confined to their home, they might feel restless or frustrated.

Business leaders need to recognise that their employees are going through a lot. It isn’t just work as usual but done from home, it’s work carried out within the home environment which normally isn’t an environment conducive to working with its many distractions. Throughout this sudden transition, psychological studies offer insights on how to work from home, both for first-time and experienced remote workers juggling new demands.

Here are tips to help you work from home effectively while social isolation measures remain in effect.

Minimise distractions

Start by choosing a workspace separated from household noises and activity if possible,  ideally a room with a door you can close. Next, work to mentally distance yourself from those disturbances so you can fully engage with work tasks. Communicate to family members that this is work time and as such they should treat it like any normal day at the office and to as far as possible avoid interruption.

Of course, the stress around the Covid-19 can make it tough to stay focused. Creating news-free times to disconnect from the crisis and recharge, for instance by reading a book or taking a walk outside (your once a day exercise). You might also spend a few minutes at the start of each day thinking about why the work you’re doing matters to your clients, co-workers and your organisation.

For those juggling work and childcare responsibilities, it is always best to have a conversation with colleagues so you can best arrange your day when distractions are minimal, such as early mornings or late evenings, to do your most important work, and coordinating with a spouse or partner on childcare duties when possible.

Set outcomes and boundaries

Set daily outcomes for actions you wish to accomplish or project milestones to reach, working through your outcomes with your organisation when needed. Consider sharing those outcomes with co-workers or family members to help you focus. Making public commitments to others about what you will accomplish that day helps hold you accountable.

Studies have shown that remote workers experience a blurring of boundaries between their home and work lives. When you’re working from an office, there’s a natural start and stop time. It’s important to have similar boundaries and routines when working from home. Routine is key, aim to stick to the same schedule each day and if possible, stop checking messages and email when your workday ends (a good practice to keep when things return to normal).

Make a communication plan

Both the organisation and the employees should communicate what the expectations and any difficulties that may arise are. If you’re having trouble executing tasks because of technology or equipment issues you should communicate this to your manager/boss straight away so that everyone is aware of the situation.  Not communicating may give the impression you aren’t working productively. One of the most often overlooked aspects for business leaders and managers living in this new world of working from home, is that they do not work out specific arrangements for when and how communication will continue to flow. If you’re sharing information, reports or analyses, email may be the best way to correspond. But if you’re working with a team to make sense of complex shared information, schedule a phone call or video conference to discuss. For some leaving the video link running might help with both communicating and giving the illusion of a “normal“ workplace, especially if you are use to bouncing ideas off others.

Seek social connection

When working from home, people can experience social and professional isolation compared with employees who work in a company office. Those feelings of loneliness will likely be worse now, as “social distancing” measures cut workers off from their in-person social support systems outside of work as well.

“Staying connected to other co-workers, managers and customers is therefore paramount. While it might be tempting to think of yourself as an island working from home, we need to provide a social and professional support system to each other so that the social fabric that occurs in the corporate workplace is replicated as much as possible when working remotely.

Managers might provide opportunities for informal conversation during phone or video conferences so employees can continue to build healthy and supportive relationships. A company may also create a designated online messaging space for coronavirus-related and other chatter, including news and office updates, personal stories and requests for supplies or guidance.

I do hope this proves useful.  Should you wish to talk through any challenges you face, please drop me a line.

 

Workshop – Immensely challenging and reflective

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I signed-up for the leadership re-invented programme expecting a typical workshop-type experience involving theoretical analysis of what leadership should be, cliche stories and passive engagement from most attendees. Instead, I was presented with a immensely challenging and reflective group of sessions in which David regularly pushed the room to think more about the personal influence they could have, challenged our understanding what success means and focused us on how we could perform better through action. David was passionate throughout and able to connect personally with all attendees, not easy in a group setting. Having a one-to-one alongside these workshops enabled deeper exploration in to the trends identified, and despite only having known David for a few hours prior he immediately understood my key opportunity areas and was able to provide helpful and accurate insight. I can’t recommend this experience more highly to anyone aspiring to become a better leader.  

Paul Weaver

Leadership Re-invention Workshop

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Testimonial 1: from Prasit Shah, Portfolio Director, Royal Mail

The leadership workshops led by David were far broader than just tools to use in the workplace. They forced a level of sometimes uncomfortable introspection based on how we are conditioned to think, so challenging long held beliefs, behaviours and habits. An immediate impact was a career decision I made after the first workshop. My decision was counter to my usual ‘strategy for success’ as I truly felt I had a choice and therefore considered my options objectively, jumping in the opposite direction to where I would previously.

Testimonial 2: from Clare, Head of Service Delivery

I decided to try this after being offered an opportunity and spending very little time over the past couple of years developing my leadership skills. I was a bit apprehensive at first and didn’t really know what to expect, but I found the group coaching sessions and individual coaching session very useful. David is a great coach, his approach and the techniques he uses work very well. He pushes you out of your comfort zone and I found the sessions challenged me to really reflect and look at situations through a very different lens, which has been hard at times but is already starting to have a positive impact for both me and my team. My focus is now on taking control back, contributing, and making a difference, to become the person and leader I strive to be. I would highly recommend David and coaching as I feel it can make such a difference to you in all aspects of your life.

David is a great coach

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David is a great coach – his insight is authentic, invaluable and challenging, whilst supporting me to become the best I can be, in my work life and personal life. I considered being coached as I was keen to get some help to ‘take myself on’ and realise my untapped potential as a leader in a challenging new role. David is a really good listener who has taken the time to understand me and the areas to work on; I am looking at things differently and doing things differently, whilst growing in confidence. I can’t wait to see where we go next and how I can continue to push myself to the next level. I would recommend David’s coaching to anyone who wants to become more fulfilled in life.

Rob McNally
Head Of City ICT Strategy & Solutions

Being a Leader : An Ontological Model

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While ontology as a general subject is concerned with the being of anything, here we are concerned with the ontology of human beings (the nature and function of being for human beings). Specifically, as a coach, I am concerned with the ontology of leaders and leadership (the nature and function of being for a leader and the actions of effective leadership). Who one is being when being a leader shapes one’s perceptions, emotions, creative imagination, thinking, planning, and consequently one’s actions in the exercise of leadership.

Being a leader and the effective exercise of leadership as one’s natural self-expression does not come from learning and trying to emulate the characteristics or styles of noteworthy leaders, or learning what effective leaders do and trying to emulate them (and most certainly not from merely being in a leadership position, or position of authority). If you are not being a leader, and you try to act like a leader, you are likely to fail. That’s called being inauthentic (playing a role or pretending to be a leader), deadly in any attempt to exercise leadership.

Douglas McGregor’s XY Theory

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In the 1960’s, Douglas McGregor, an American social psychologist, formulated his famous X-Y theory in his book ‘The Human Side of Enterprise’. His theory suggests two aspects of human behaviour at work, or in other words, two different views of individuals (employees). One of which is negative, Theory X and the other is positive, Theory Y. McGregor’s XY Theory remains central to organisational development, and to improving organisational culture.

McGregor’s X-Y theory is a simple reminder of the natural rules for managing people, which under the pressure of day-to-day business are all too easily forgotten.

Theory X (‘authoritarian leadership’ style)

Theory X leaders tend to take a pessimistic view of their people, and assume that they are naturally unmotivated and dislike work. As a result, they think that team members need to be prompted, rewarded or punished constantly to make sure that they complete their tasks.

Work in organisations can be repetitive, and people are often motivated with a “carrot and stick” approach. Performance appraisals and remuneration are usually based on tangible results, such as sales figures or product output, and are used to control staff and “keep tabs” on them.

This style of management assumes that workers:

• Dislike their work or looking for the easy option.

• Avoid responsibility and need constant direction.

• Have to be controlled, forced and threatened to deliver work.

• Need to be supervised at every step.

• Have no incentive to work or ambition, and therefore need to be enticed by rewards to achieve goals.

According to McGregor, authority is rarely delegated, and control remains firmly centralised. These leaders are more authoritarian and actively intervene to get things done.

Theory X can more often than not be the default for many organisation.  There is little understanding of the impact on employees and the organisation itself.  For some organisations, this is the easy option due to the number of employees and the tight deadlines that they have to meet.

Theory Y (‘participative management’ style)

Theory Y leaders have an optimistic, positive opinion of their people, and they use a decentralised, participative leadership style. This encourages a more collaborative, trust-based relationship between the leader and their employees. 

People have greater responsibility, and the leader encourages them to develop their skills and suggest improvements. Appraisals are regular but, unlike in Theory X organisations, they are used to encourage open communication rather than control staff.

Theory Y organisations also give employees frequent opportunities for self-development.

This style of leadership assumes that workers are:

• Happy to work on their own initiative.

• More involved in decision making.

• Self-motivated to complete their tasks.

• Enjoy taking ownership  of their work.

• Seek and accept responsibility, and need little direction.

• View work as fulfilling and challenging.

• Solve problems creatively and imaginatively.

Theory Y has become more popular among many of today’s successful organisations. This reflects workers’ increasing desire for more meaningful careers that provide them with much more than just money.

It’s also viewed by McGregor as superior to Theory X, which, he says, reduces workers to “cogs in a machine,” and likely demotivates people in the long term.  This has an impact on employee’s productivity and ultimately the profitability of the organisation.

 

 

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