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Five signs of an effective leadership team

May 9th, 2017 No comments

Five signs of an effective leadership team

a leadership conversation

How do you know when a leadership team is effective? What are the signs of a healthy executive team?

I’ve just begun working with an executive leadership team. The eight team members are collectively responsible for an organisation that generates £900m in turnover a year. And it’s early days – we are still in the ‘ritual sniffing’ stage, as one of my first line managers memorably called it. We’re getting to know each other.

What I am paying attention to

I’ve been reflecting on what I am paying attention to as I meet them one-to-one, and as I see them at work as a team. Here are some of the things that seem significant to me:

What happens when a team member says something odd, unexpected or controversial? Is there a pause and a silence, and does the conversation then carry on as if nothing has been said? Is that view squashed or dismissed, or do other team members show curiosity: inquiring into the reasons behind the unusual comments?

Why this matters: leaders working in complex, fast-changing environments (and who is not these days?) need to keep their ‘antennae’ open to signals from the outside world that all may not be as it seems. Leadership teams can easily filter out information that does not fit with their assumptions and plans. Team members who say something that sounds ‘odd’ may be noticing one of these signs. In drawing it to their colleagues’ attention, they are doing a service to the team as a whole, and improving the evidence base on which it makes its decisions. But if no one else notices, their service has no impact.

Would an outsider walking into the room know immediately where the power and authority lies? This shows itself by where people sit, who people look at before they speak, the order in which people tend to speak, or who they defer to when they have spoken.

Why this matters: by itself this is neither good nor bad: it depends on the purpose of the team. If the team exists to bring key information from across the organisation to the attention of the Chief Executive, then it is clear where authority needs to lie. But if the purpose of the team is to collectively shape strategic decisions and lead the whole organisation, then authority will need to be more fluid.

To what extent do team members challenge each other? In particular, to what extent do team members challenge the Chief Executive?
Is conflict openly expressed? Or once the Chief Executive has spoken, is that the end of a discussion?

Why this matters: questions about the strategy of an organisation are never black and white – there will not be just one right answer, but several answers each of which will be partly right and partly wrong. For this reason, teams need to explore and test the range of possible answers; they can’t do that if some of those possibilities are never named or thoroughly explored.

Does anyone admit they don’t know the answer to a question? Or express vulnerability or uncertainty, or ask for help?

Why this matters: the foundation of all effective teamwork is trust. And trust comes about when a team member makes themselves vulnerable, and then discovers that their colleagues do not use that vulnerability as an opportunity to hurt them. If team members struggle to be vulnerable with each other, they will have low levels of trust.

Does the team spend any time at all reflecting together on how well they are doing as a team, and what they are learning? Do they make decisions, or do the same issues come back to the table? Are they too busy fighting fires one by one to prevent the fires starting in the first place? Finally, what ‘stuck patterns’ might they be stuck in?

Why this matters: this is what makes the difference between a team that is coping at best, and a team that is raising its game. Teams can only improve by investing time in the present to improve their performance in the the future.

What am I missing?

We see what we look for, and I’m no different. I wonder what I am not paying attention to? What signs and indicators might I be missing? If you know of other signs of an effective leadership team, please let me know by emailing me, or if you are reading this on my blog, please leave a comment below.

Approach

February 2nd, 2017 Comments off

How I work

What’s it like to work with Stuart Reid?
Here I’ll tell you the kind of results my clients achieve, and I’ll also give you a sense of my guiding beliefs, my approach to working with clients, and how I’m different to most organisation change consultants.

 The results you can expect from working with me

We develop a strategy together that drives your business forward. This is a strategy that cuts through the noise, and gets right to the heart of your business. You get the right people involved in the process, so it’s based on solid information. Crucially, it is a strategy that all of your people can remember – not a document that gathers dust on a shelf. So it guides every decision in your business – big or small.

You have a leadership team that works like a team. Team members participate more actively, conflict is more productive and results come with a lot less struggle and effort. Team meetings are focused and lead to clear decisions – and team members follow through on them. Your key leaders share resources and collaborate across their functions, instead of acting like independent barons.

You transform how your leaders lead change and engage their teams. Your leaders now feel confident and skilled in influencing others. They know how to listen and they are confident in holding difficult conversations. Your people understand why your business is changing, and their part in it. And they get involved, and make the change work by contributing their unique knowledge and their energy.

You finally make progress on those business problems that just wouldn’t go away. Your customer service team and your sales team are suddenly working together instead of complaining about each other, and sales take off. You find new ways to cut costs in the business without harming quality. Your workplace starts to feel like a good place to be, instead of a place you dread going to on a Monday morning. Things just start to click into place.

You road-test your thinking and your ideas before exposing them to others. You sharpen up your thinking by talking things through. You gain new insights by thinking out loud. And you can rehearse and strengthen your arguments before you take them into a high-stakes meeting. You feel safe because you’re working with someone whose only interest is to help you develop your very best thinking.

You find out what’s really going on in your business – before it’s too late. You no longer find yourself blind-sided by problems that ‘come from nowhere’. Now you see them coming: your people warn you about them while you still have time to act. So you spend less time fire-fighting and more time on your strategic role as a leader. Your Board members have more confidence in you, and you feel less stressed and more in control.

My guiding beliefs and values

I am always working to develop my knowledge and skills. I am constantly reading books and blog posts on business, psychology, communication, organisation change and innovation. I set up a ‘Business Book Club’ in my home town just so I could find other people to talk to about the books I was reading! The benefit for my clients is that I read all these books – so they don’t have to.

It’s important to me to have autonomy, and to make informed choices about the things that matter to me. I extend the same courtesy to those I work with. I will provide you and your colleagues with my views, my knowledge and my experience, but I will never forget that the choice about what action you will take lies with you. No one can be forced to change.

I believe that everyone has something of value to share and that most people genuinely want to make a contribution. So in my work on organisational change, I involve as many people as possible who will be directly affected: they all have knowledge and views that matter. This includes employees at all levels in the organisation, and often includes partners, suppliers and customers.

Organisations can and should be great places to work. Your organisation exists in order to make a profit, or to provide a public service. But if your employees dread coming to work every day because of the way the business is managed, you’re going to have serious productivity problems. Most of us spend a large part of our lives at work. A workplace should be a fulfilling and satisfying place, where human beings can bring the best of themselves to work, and develop as people.

 My approach

I’ll really get to know you and your business. When I work with any new client, I will invest time up front in getting to know your business and your people. I will typically have one-to-one conversations with a range of different employees at different levels in the organisation. You will always find me well prepared for any meeting or event that I attend.

My work is tailored to your specific needs. No two organisations are exactly the same, and one size does not fit all. So I will develop a plan that meets your unique needs.

I help you have more honest conversations. Failing to address workplace conflict, poor performance or other issues creates a dishonest culture that blocks change. Crucial conversations are avoided. The elephants in the room just pile up. These issues are avoided for a reason – they are difficult to talk about, and can make people anxious and embarrassed. I create the conditions where an honest conversation can happen – sometimes for the first time ever. That’s when change can suddenly be unlocked. And the sense of relief is palpable.

I will be there when you need me – and only when you need me. It’s important to me to work with a small number of different clients each year – typically around 3 or 4. And I normally work part-time with no more than one or two clients at any one time. I enjoy the variety, and I learn more this way: so I can bring my learning to bear with more clients. I will be there when you need me to keep a project moving forward, but I won’t be a full-time permanent fixture in your business.

What makes me different

I work with the reality of change, not an abstract model. Many consultants who work in organisation change will offer you a simple five-step or seven-step process for changing your organisation. I don’t do that, because in my experience it doesn’t work. You don’t change how people think and behave by following a flow chart.

I support you through the messy business of real change in a busy organisation. Sometimes you take two steps forward and one step back. You try things out (some of which will work and some won’t). You often realise that the change you really need is different to the one you thought you needed. This is normal – and I help you to accept that, and keep going.

I believe that organisations change one conversation at a time. This is a key feature of how I work. Fundamental change comes about because of a series of conversations over time, which lead to changes in mindsets, beliefs and behaviours. When enough people change how they behave, the culture starts to shift. These conversations for change can be one-to-one, they can happen in small teams, or in company-wide meetings. If you want to change your organisation, you need to change the quality and content of the conversations that are taking place there.

 

Where does all the time go?

February 18th, 2015 No comments

Recently I have been returning to some comfortable and familiar books [1] on productivity (what Euan Semple) refers to as ‘productivity porn’ :). I last read them a year ago, and each time I re–read them they help me sharpen up a little on my current practices: I get better for a while at getting to inbox zero, seeing the bottom of my in-tray, and getting things done. The books are comforting to read, contain a lot of common sense, and they help me.

This time around when I read the books I had one of those ‘big-little’ insights: an insight that on the one hand feels like a little thing and a bit obvious, but on the other hand is quite profound if I can only act on it.

The insight was that there’s an endless supply of this kind of work: emails, requests to connect, interesting articles to read, links to follow… So it’s no good me just becoming more productive at processing this stuff: that will only leave me with more capacity to process even more of this ‘administrivia’. The real challenge is for me to use the time I save by being productive on the high value tasks in my businesss: keeping in touch with clients, developing new services and workshops, taking the ‘helicopter’ view. That means shifting my focus and attention from administrivia to higher-value work.

But it’s really tempting to stay at the level of administrivia. It’s satisfying to tick easy items off my ‘To Do’ list (have you ever added something you’ve already done to your To Do list, just so you can tick it off right away? I have.) And by doing that I can avoid the tough work that really adds value to my business and stretches me. It’s resistance subtly disguised by keeping busy-busy.

Sound familiar?

[1] Mark Forster, Get Everything Done and Still Have Time to Play, and Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management

Categories: Coaching Tags: ,

Clients

February 26th, 2010 Comments off

Who I work with – about my clients


I help leaders achieve positive lasting change in behaviour: for themselves, their teams and their organisation.

I typically work with Chief Executives, Chief Operating Officers, Executive Directors for People and other Executive Directors in all kinds of organisations. My clients are responsible for implementing significant change in their organisation – change that will address a problem that really matters to them – and want external help in making that change.

My clients have achieved success in their careers, which has brought them to senior leadership positions. But the skills and experience that brought them to the top are not enough to help them make the change they need. They may be feeling ‘stuck’. They know that they need to try something they haven’t done before, and they are ready to do that now.

I am a sought-after consultant, and I work with only 3 or 4 consulting clients a year.

Are any of these statements true for you?

Your organisation’s strategy isn’t working. You may have an organisational strategy, but no one ever looks at it and it makes no difference to anyone’s day job. Or the world has changed and your strategy needs to be renewed. Or you are not satisfied with how you have developed your strategy in the past, and you want something more engaging and more effective, that produces a strategy that changes your business for the better.

Your leadership team doesn’t work together. When your team meets, it gets side-tracked and wastes time. Key decisions get postponed. Decisions get ‘unpicked’ or fail to be actioned, and you waste a lot of your time ‘chasing up’ actions. Team members act as independent ‘barons’ in their own areas, and don’t work together as a team.

Your leaders don’t lead change effectively. Successful change depends on influencing and changing people’s behaviour, but your leaders use methods that don’t work. People resist change, wait for the change initiative to blow over, or just keep their heads down. You lose the people you most want to keep, and the promised benefits of change are never fully realised.

You have a problem in an area of the business that just won’t go away. You might have a persistent problem in a particular part of the business, like your customer service team. Or your annual staff survey tells you every year that ‘communication’ is a problem, despite trying one initiative after another. You are not ready to give up, but don’t know what else to try.

Being at the top can feel lonely. All those around you have a vested interest in influencing your decisions: they want a particular outcome. You may report to a board chair or a political leader, but there are some problems that you want to work through first by yourself, before taking them ‘up the line’. You know that talking things through is helpful, but you don’t make enough time to actually do it, and aren’t sure who you can trust.

People don’t tell you bad news until it’s too late. No matter how open you are, those who report to you can be reluctant to give you bad news. You find out about some problems when it’s too late: you could have fixed them with less effort if you had found out earlier. And you suspect that your leadership role means that people don’t always give you the feedback that you need, especially where you might be contributing to a problem. They don’t tell you what you need to do differently, so how can you change?

Who is most likely to succeed with the approach I take to organisational change?

You are more likely to get success in working with me if you:

  • Are committed to personal development. You know that what got you here won’t get you there. You want to continue to grow, learn and apply your learning.
  • Are willing to get help. You expect others to ask for and accept help when they need it, and you expect the same of yourself.
  • Are willing to invest in yourself and in your organisation. You will commit the time, effort and resources into improving your organisation. This includes committing your own time: you are willing to working with me as a trusted advisor, making time to meet regularly.
  • Are open to trying something different. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get the results you’ve always got! You are willing to try something new, even if it feels awkward or uncomfortable at first.
  • Are willing to share your thinking and reflect on your actions. You are willing to examine your own contribution to problems, and take action on them.
  • Are committed to mutually supportive relationships. You know that your success has come in part from the long-term, supportive relationships that you have developed.

If you fit the profile above you are in a good position to approach a critical change. I help leaders like you through exactly that kind of change.  Find out more about how I work.

Your body is always in the present

November 8th, 2009 No comments

Noticing

Noticing

Steve Davis has some good advice for speakers who want to really engage their audiences. Rather than treat people as passive listeners, Steve identifies ways to involve them instead.

One phrase in Steve’s post particularly caught my eye:

Your body is always in the present moment. It can’t be elsewhere.

This is not just true for presenters and trainers, but is also helpful advice for mediators.

As a mediator I will sometimes be aware of a tension in my body, or a sudden coldness, or a feeling of fatigue. When I notice this, for a short while I will take my main focus away from the parties in the mediation and be curious and interested in what I have noticed.

Is something happening in the mediation that is reminding me of a past experience of mine (something from childhood, or as recent as the row I had with my partner this morning?) Am I feeling tired and bored right now because that is how the parties are also feeling? How is this feeling affecting my ability to mediate right now and to serve the interests of the parties? Do I need to do anything about it, or just notice that it’s there and let it go?

If I decide I need to do something about it, I may just centre myself, breathe in and out and let the feeling wash away as I return my attention to the parties. Or I may choose to mention out loud how I’m feeling and ask whether the parties are feeling something similar.

This checking in and responding to a feeling usually takes just a few seconds, and is also something I do as a facilitator. If I’m feeling puzzled, tired, confused, excited or angry while I’m facilitating, it might just be me, or that feeling might be telling me something that’s going on in the room. I can choose to check out these clues, but I have to notice them first and pay attention to them before they can help me.

About

October 9th, 2009 Comments off

Stuart Reid

Hello. I’m glad you found me.

My name is Stuart Reid. I help leaders achieve positive lasting change in behaviour: for themselves, their teams and their organisations.  I believe that change happens one conversation at a time.

The focus of all my work is the people side of change: I work with human beings when they are being human at work. I spend a lot of my time helping managers and leaders have the key conversations they really need to have – with themselves, with their colleagues and with the people who work for them.

I help people to notice and pay attention to what is really going on in the here and now, because that is when change happens.

I am based in the Midlands in England, and work throughout the UK, continental Europe and beyond (I have run workshops in Sweden, Denmark, Finland and South Korea).

In practice my work involves:

  • developing leadership teams;
  • supporting change and transformation initiatives;
  • facilitating large group events; and
  • coaching individual leaders and managers

Developing leadership teams

I work with leadership teams at board level and elsewhere in organisations. I help those teams to clarify their purpose, reflect on how effectively they work and communicate together and make decisions, and review the impact they have on the wider organisation.

Supporting change and transformation initiatives

I help leaders and managers to try out light-touch ways of building greater capacity for change in their organisations. This includes disturbing established habits and patterns of behaviour, introducing novelty, granting permission to experiment and innovate and creating new connections inside and outside an organisation. For me, change is a natural, creative and on-going process in organisations: it happens all the time. It can’t be stopped and can’t really be ‘managed’ or controlled.  I help leaders to keep their nerve when they’re not in control.

Facilitating large group events

I have a particular skill in designing and facilitating large group events. These events can include strategy development awaydays, team-building, post-project reviews and project launch events. I use a range of methods, including Open Space, Appreciative Inquiry, knowledge cafes and more.

Coaching individual leaders and their teams

I provide coaching support to individual leaders one-to-one and their teams as a group, sometimes in combination with developing leadership teams and supporting strategic change. I help leaders to face head-on the issues they find themselves avoiding, and help them to slow down, notice more, and support them in making adjustments to the way they work with other people. People I coach feel well listened to, find me very curious about their perspective and their situation, and get a lot of support from me in trying out new ways of working and behaving.

Recent work

  • Facilitating awaydays for the Permanent Secretary and top team of a central Government department to build the team and help them to develop new ways of working.
  • Designing and facilitating an awayday for a senior leadership team to launch a review of their three-year strategy.
  • Running workshops with staff at all levels – managers, consultants, nurses and porters –  in three London hospitals to embed new values and new ways of working.
  • Working with the management board of a local charity to create a new three-year strategy.

A bit more about me

I have an MSc in Organisational Change at Ashridge Business School. This brought new ideas and approaches into my work, including Gestalt psychology, complexity theory and relational working.

Before running my own consultancy, I worked for twelve years at the Audit Commission, initially in policy and research roles before moving into senior management. In my time there I was personally involved in the merger and de-merger of departments, the launch of new products and services, and coping both with fast growth and with rapid budget cuts. I worked closely with the Chief Executive and Managing Directors on change projects and strategy development. My final three years at the Commission were spent as an internal consultant.

Before working at the Audit Commission I worked in a range of policy and research roles, mainly in the public sector. Prior to that I did some post-graduate study in political philosophy at the University of Arizona, and spent some time as a trainee auditor. My first degree was in Philosophy, Politics & Economics at Oxford University (2:1).

I play bridge, read voraciously, and go geocaching with my children aged 14 and 11. I am learning how to perform magic with playing cards. I avoid gardening.