22 11, 2018

Why Putting Technical Specialists in GM roles doesn’t work

By |2019-01-04T14:59:55+11:00November 22nd, 2018|Blog|Comments Off on Why Putting Technical Specialists in GM roles doesn’t work

Whilst we have seen many patterns of management failure over the last 20 years, one standout is the frequency with which technical specialists get promoted into general management type roles without any diagnostics to understand if they are ready for this transition and without any individualised support once they are put into the role. In order to understand this transition better, let’s briefly look at what is different in a GM type role that technical specialists are going to struggle with.

First and foremost, in a GM type role the person will have to make decisions outside their core area of expertise. This is a real problem for technical specialists, as their self-concept is built around their mastery of an area of technical expertise. The second consistent issue is that technical experts rely on doing ‘actual work’ to get job satisfaction. When they step into a GM type role, the expectation is that […]

24 07, 2018

Organisational Politics

By |2019-01-06T21:41:31+11:00July 24th, 2018|Blog|Comments Off on Organisational Politics

We have come across an extremely wide range of beliefs about organisational politics in our coaching, most of them surprisingly antagonistic to the very idea or erroneous in relation to why politics exists, and what it is good and necessary for. A large percentage of managers and even senior managers we have worked with reject politics, and the people who engage in it, outright. In our experience, technical experts, perfectionists and a high percentage of female managers are standouts in relation to rejecting organisational politics.

Yet there are very good reasons why organisational politics exists and why we can’t do without it. In order to understand those reasons, we need to examine what politics is first. The essence of organisational politics is the reciprocal exchange of information and favours to negate or bypass the inherent inefficiencies of large hierarchical structures, which includes the power structure. In this broad meaning politics is anything that […]

26 06, 2018

A Strange Shift

By |2019-01-04T16:24:49+11:00June 26th, 2018|Blog|Comments Off on A Strange Shift

If you have been reflecting on your job or work recently and maybe compared it to what it was like say 10 years ago, you may have noticed that it feels quite different now. At least that is our impression from talking to lots of people and observing those who we coach.

We believe that what has changed significantly in the last 10 years are the levels of noise and complexity in office-based work. The increasing level of noise is a direct consequence of an ‘always-on’ mentality enabled by smartphones and encouraged by social media (both were in their infancy 10 years ago). There has been a lot of reporting on this problem and what it is doing to our brains – reducing our ability to concentrate, compelling us to chase meaningless rewards and increasing levels of stress and anxiety are all confirmed side effects of this trend.

It is obviously not unique to […]

16 05, 2018

Leadership and Unethical Behaviour

By |2019-01-04T16:30:49+11:00May 16th, 2018|Blog|Comments Off on Leadership and Unethical Behaviour

Thanks to the royal commission into the financial services industry we are currently getting detailed insights into what happens to an industry when extreme demands for profit growth combine with poor regulation and poor leadership. Whilst we had plenty of isolated ‘villains and victims’ stories in the media before the royal commission, these were continuously excused with the old ‘bad apple’ theme to deflect attention from the systemic abuse and breaches of laws and regulations.

Of course, the financial services industry is not on its own, we can see similar patterns in the franchising sector and more. The only concern is for profit growth and boards and executives are complicit in throwing customers, employees or franchisees under the bus.

How did we end up in this situation? It required the coming together of a number of recent trends:

  1. Decline in trust in institutions
  2. Myopic view of business purpose
  3. Regulatory capture
  4. Lack of moral hazard
  5. Underinvestment in leadership

23 06, 2016

Managing Superstars

By |2018-02-18T07:06:36+11:00June 23rd, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

I wrote about high performance in sport vs. business in my last post and promised I would follow up on talking about how to manage superstars. Superstars are exceptional performers, a long way down the tail of the power-law curve that shows the distribution of performance across skill set in question (playing football, writing code or selling houses etc.).

Superstars perform many times better than average members of the same profession. This is not always easy to ascertain and may seem unwarranted based on the measures available (e.g. number of acting awards won vs. money earned by movies they appear in). The exact nature of the measure and its suitability in comparing people is not the point, though. The fact is that performance does vary enormously along a power-law curve.

So if you can accept that there are always superstars in each profession and if you can see that their exceptional performance […]

25 05, 2016

Rules Enforcement and Performance

By |2018-02-18T07:07:55+11:00May 25th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

I have touched on high performance in some previous posts, but I want to revisit the topic from a perspective that is very popular in Australia – believing that organisations can learn about achieving high individual or team performance from sport. Given sport here is a national obsession and that so many motivational speakers or leadership events make use of sports analogies or former sports people, it really needs to be looked at what, if anything, is transferable into the business or organisational context.

So how do you know a team is high performing in sport? They are winning games. And how do you win? By scoring goals, tries, points etc. So far, quite simple. But it’s not the whole story. In sport, you can only score if you play by the rules. If, say, a foul precedes a goal, it doesn’t count. This is absolutely crucial, as it makes up for the […]

18 05, 2016

Poor Process by Design

By |2018-02-18T07:17:10+11:00May 18th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

Have you ever wondered why there are so many instances of poorly designed processes? We certainly have. Processes that seem overly complicated, cover too many special cases, exemptions and god knows what in their desire to be all encompassing and be all things to all people. Or processes that are so customer unfriendly that it makes you wonder how they ever saw the light of day. But why?

The first hypothesis might be that the people designing and implementing the processes are all incompetent, but we have never seen evidence for that. It’s more the opposite – they tend to be too competent, which enables them to make things complex and still make it work. If you were indeed incompetent, you couldn’t make the complexity work.

So if we entertain the notion that the people who design our business and government processes are mostly highly competent, why are we so often saddled with processes […]

11 05, 2016

Language, Numbers and Resilience

By |2018-02-18T07:18:22+11:00May 11th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

You may have heard the common myth that spoken words make up only 7% of the communication between two people. Whilst this number has never been substantiated in a credible research paper, the underlying fact is indeed that today we pay way too much attention to words and way too little attention to the other modes of communication – tone of voice and ‘body language’.

This is quite expected for the context we created – our late-stage industrial society is built on language (written documents such as rules, laws, regulations, standards etc.), numbers (measurements) and algorithms. In contrast, previous societies were mainly built on customs, rituals and implicit and explicit social contracts. This means in our society there is an over-emphasis on cognitive processing at the expense of unconscious processing, emotional bonds and social interactions (which maintain customs and rituals). Whilst this has enabled amazing technological progress, it has also come at a […]

30 03, 2016

Too Much

By |2018-02-18T07:19:22+11:00March 30th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

We live in age were for most of us in the first world the main issue is ‘too much’ and not scarcity. Yet we are supremely adapted to deal with scarcity, not abundance, as the latter is a rather unnatural (and usually short-lived) state of affairs. In conditions of scarcity your mind and body respond by shutting down non-essential functions and changing your focus to the single-minded pursuit of what you are lacking – at the most basic level food and water. That’s why we regularly see tales of heroic survival in difficult circumstances, we have been equipped with the right programs to deal effectively with scarcity.

So what about the flipside – abundance? It would appear that evolution saw little need to invest in programs and automatic responses to abundance, it probably just didn’t happen often enough to matter and when it did happen it didn’t last long enough to have an […]

22 03, 2016

Would You Like to be Led by You?

By |2018-02-18T07:20:28+11:00March 22nd, 2016|Blog|0 Comments

This is a question any manager should ask themselves periodically. The reason is quite simple – we have inflated expectations of our leaders yet remain stubbornly blind to our own shortcomings once we are managing and leading people. The fact is, we prefer to look up, not down.

Many leaders we meet vowed to do things differently before they were given the opportunity to lead others. Few have the tenacity and willpower to follow through once they are in the role. Businesses continue to reward work on tasks, not leadership skills and developing people. Whilst some organisations have a Balanced Scorecard or some level of leadership related KPIs, they are often given much less priority than the hard business results and are generally much harder to measure anyway.

In our coaching we have to consistently remind managers and leaders we work with how important the leadership and staff development side of their […]

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