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July 22, 2019

5 Observations about Leadership + Management

Business people group at modern office having fun

I have worked extensively across the fields of leadership, management, project management and coaching with companies from startups to global multinationals – in Australia and Internationally. It is amazing the similarities I see across industries, organisations and countries.

I am often asked to share my observations, so I thought it was time to share them more widely. Here are 5 to kick it off. These are observations of common themes relating to management and leadership that I believe are keeping organisations stuck.

1 – Your Situation is not Unique. There are common challenges across businesses from start ups to global multinational across all industries and countries. The scale of the challenges may differ but the commonalities are staggering and regularly include at least one if not more of the following; ineffective and outdated performance management, disengaged staff, poor communication, lack of team work, toxic relationships, poor foundation systems and processes, failing projects and a general lack of financial literacy and business acumen among managers at all levels. The common denominator? No surprises here. The skills, capabilities and experience of the management team have a profound effect on your organisation and its’ culture.

2 – Everyone Wants Leadership Training. There seems to be a generally held belief that leadership training is a ‘one stop shop’ to fix everything. It isn’t. Management is not a dirty word, and unless we start worshiping great managers (who tend to embody great leadership, entrepreneurial and execution capability) as much as we worship the concept of leadership, we are never going to truly transform our organisations.

3 – Worshiping Strategy at the expense of Execution. You are probably starting to see a theme developing here. I continuously observe great effort, time and money being put into strategic planning and vision sessions and not so much into developing the skills and focus required for effective and energised execution/outcome achievement. Why? My theory is that it starts with our outdated management education. Schools and institutions educate managers and leaders to think and plan strategically. In fact, a Professor from Oxford recently stated that “when it comes to MBAs, 95% of the time is spent on the theory of strategy, while at best 5% is spent on execution. While in the real world, the exact opposite is true.” Great execution skills are rare. Let’s reverse this trend! After all if you really want to motivate and energise your staff – they love seeing progress toward meaningful goals.

4 – Fear of Micro-Management. Don’t get me wrong, no one wants to be micro managed, but it would appear that the term ‘micro management’ has made its way into pretty well every ones vocabulary. Especially staff who just love using this term to deter managers from checking up on their efforts, after all, no one wants to be labeled as a micro-manager. My observation – more and more managers are so scared of micro-managing that they fail to manage. In fact, sometimes I get the feeling that managers think it is HR’s job to manage their staff. It’s not. It’s time we develop management capability with a focus on achieving outcomes and energising staff at the same time. Yes, it can be done.

5 – Work/Life Balance Is An Add On. I don’t know of any organisation that is not talking about work/life balance, yet, it is not leading to developing new, fully integrated management and business practices. To me, the concept of work/life balance pits work and life against each other. I believe it is time we start developing new management practices that focus on work/life integration. Where we, as managers, learn to guide ourselves and our staff to consciously align who we are, what we love, what we are good at, with what we do. Goodness knows staff around the globe are crying out for more meaning, engagement, energy, fun and sustainability at work. Let’s step out of the industrial revolution style of management and into this millenia.

I have many more observations but that is a start. People have always fascinated me and there is no more fascinating place than a work place. A melting pot of people from all walks of life, with all levels of education, beliefs and experiences. We spend a lot of our life at work, so I believe we owe it to ourselves and our teams to see what we can do to improve our workplaces to the benefit of the business, the staff, the community and beyond.

This article was also published on linkedin.

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