27 November 2005

Leadership and intervening

Leadership means having to intervene. In all kinds of situations leaders are asked to be judge, police officer, motivator, coach etc. And there is more than one kind of intervention that can be used. You could act to protect the order. You could intervene to motivate someone of help him find his own inspiration. It can also be necessary to control the direction of a conversation. In the case of a conversation it can be handy to use an intervention model, that takes the different elements of a conversation as starting point.

The intervention model

Every situation in which humans communicate with each other, you can find four elements:
content, procedure, relation and emotions.
At certain moments during a conversation, one of the communication partners can make one of the four elements more important than the others. You could say, the partner wishes to change the subject of the conversation. Suddenly the procedure, the relation or the emotions are the subject of conversation.

The intervention wish

Often the leader is expected to answer the wish of his conversation partner to discuss one of the other three elements instead of the content with was the subject of conversation. And to answer that wish the leader has to address that wish, even when it is not expressed openly. Most of the time the leader has to read the wish from the reaction that is given by his conversation partner. For example: his partner reacts emotionally or shows behavior that is related to a certain position, that is not appropriate for the given conversation. Those are the moments that a leader should intervene. Often to prevent the conversation from escalating into an emotional battle. Sometimes to answer the others wish to address one of the elements. Which element should be addressed for the best result, is often however unclear.

A guideline for intervening is to react as soon as possible on a level of least importance. The goal is to prevent the need to intervene at a level that will be emotionally hurtful.
This means, that one could ask the other to follow a certain procedure during the conversation. P.e. when giving feedback use the following guidelines:
  • to tell first which behavior one has seen, without being judgmental.
  • secondly give your feelings, caused by the behavior.
  • then tell how the other can behave in such away, that it give you a positive feeling.
  • last you can also say what will happen if the behavior does not change.
If putting the procedure central does not work, it can be useful to talk about the relationship. This element is important to both parties and could lead to loss of face for both sides. It can be necessary to agree on the fact, that during the conversation both parties are equal, where outside of that situation there is a clear hierarchical relationship. For example during the conversation there is a coach/coached relation, where afterwards it is manager/employee.
If in the end the talks escalates out of the reach of a procedural and relationships intervention, one must address the emotions shown. It is important to take the emotions serious and not ask the other to stop being emotional, because it hinders the conversation. It will be necessary to give the emotional party the possibility to work through his emotions, which can be helped by expressing what you see in your own words. After that it probably will be possible to make procedural proposal. Especially if the emotions went deep it can be necessary to make a new appointment.

Intervening is not the easiest thing to do. It takes tact and empathy to make it work well. However not intervening and letting things snowball, will often hurt the relationship more in the long run, then trying the wrong intervention.

16 November 2005

Strange developments

Differences and similarities
The government of Norway is planning a law, that forces companies to have at least 40% women in top management.

Their motivation is, that research showed, that diversity leads to successful organizations. From this point of view, this action by the Norwegian politicians is rather smart. It shows guts to force others to think about diversity.
It is only a pity that it might not be diversity that is the factor that leads to success. It could be a hidden factor, that creates as well success as diversity.

The Norwegian governments behavior is similar to behavior based on the following thought.
I will put on as many garments as I can, because that will keep me warm. That it is not the clothes you wear, that keep you warm, should be clear when you look at the Tuareg. They live in a hot climate and put on a lot of layers of clothes to keep cool.

So the danger is, that your conclusion is shallow and hastily taken. To prevent is this, it is necessary to research your situation thorrowly and take into account that what you think is normal. This last part is rather difficult, as you will need comparison material, to see what is normal to yourself and different to others. So diversity does not only breed success, it gives you the opportunity to understand what is invisible to you in your own situation, because its normal.

07 November 2005

Leaders, fear and anger

I wonder how many leaders think, that their emotions are useful instruments. And how many focus on their emotions and use them to assess a situation. I wonder how many leaders are aware, that two emotions should never be left unknown and unheeded. I mean anger and fear.
Neither of these two emotions should be allowed to run free or even sneak around in the leaders emotional arsenal.
When one of these two emotions appears, a leader should be aware of it and understand what it has to tell.
Fear is probably the worst advisor a leader can have, if it is left to do what it wants: run. By the way, anger is not much better at advising, as anger only wants to fight and so brings the leader in perilous situations.

Mankind had found several cultural solutions to cope with these two emotions. Some of those solutions are:
  • suppression
  • denial
  • freedom to act
  • limit to certain members of the group
  • manage
  • control
  • make rules for use

Organizations also have their way of coping with these two emotions, fear and anger. Some forbid employees to be afraid or show anger when inside the walls of the organization. However, when they leave the building, both emotions can be used the way best seen fit. An example are aggressive sales organizations. The behavior of those organizations led to the government making laws to protect citizens against them.

The government itself is off course an organization itself. The government is even an organization, that uses fear and anger as a means to achieve its goals. Most rules nowadays are based on the fact that people can be scared into doing what you want them to do. You could say, that the government creates anger in a controlled manner. It does so through laws, rules and regulations in which citizens are told what to do or what they are allowed to do or not to do. And it makes it clear that sanctions are available for those who break the law or do not follow by the letter.

Experts, mostly psychologists, often propose the use of rewards for proper behavior instead of punishment as a better way of achieving the wanted goals. The problems arise as one tries to write down such a reward system in laws and regulations. It seems that paper rules only are capable of regulating anger and fear.

This leaves us with the question: how can a leader use fear and anger to his organizations benefit without having to use paper to write down the rules?

06 November 2005

More questions for a future leader

In my previous log about leadership development Preparing to be a leader I put forward several questions a leader could ask himself to analyze his surroundings. A future leader can also ask himself questions about himself before he takes on his role as leader. Those questions could be:

- Why do I want to lead?
  • Because I want to control?
  • Do I want to be noticed or do I want security?
- How do I want to lead?
  • Am I going to be leading or supporting?
  • Will I keep my distance or will I cooperate?
  • Do I want to be the best or do I want to create cooperation?
- How do I see the employees, I am going to lead?
  • They are independent, mature employees.
  • My employees still need to learn a lot and I will have to teach them.
  • I will need to support my employees to learn their skills and responsibilities.
  • Do I want to order and let them do their job or do I want to tell them how they should do their job?
- What do I want to achieve with my leadership?
  • Should it make the organization successful?
  • Should I be successful?
  • Should my department be successful?
- How do I see myself?
  • Am I the master and are my employees the pupils?
  • Am I the only one who knows how everything should be done?
  • I am only the messenger, not the maker of policy.
  • I am like a father to my employees, who should protect them against the unknowns from outside the department.
- What do I feel, when thinking of leading others?
  • It feels good.
  • I feel insecure.
  • I am afraid.
  • I have bad premonitions.
These questions can be expanded.

- What are my strong points?
- Why was I chosen?
  • I am the best in my field.
  • I adjust my behavior to the organization policy.
  • I adjust myself to my colleagues.
  • I do what I am told, without asking questions.
  • I ask questions about orders and the policy of the organization.