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‘Being in the moment’ for leaders

Jul 17th

Being in the moment is a popular theme at the moment – but how does this apply to leadership? This issue also includes: feeling the strain of change fatigue?; the risk of coaching; and communicating with impact.

Editor’s view

Being in the moment

‘Being in the moment’ is a popular theme at the moment – but how does this apply to leadership? Julia Pritchett looks at how strategising and future planning can get in the way of action.

Leaders are constantly challenged to think long term, be strategic, consider the big picture and even ‘get up on the balcony’ (Heifetz). There is a risk, however, that this broad, planning mindset may turn into future gazing or worse, that it becomes an excuse which masks addressing what is happening, here and now.

‘Being in the moment’ is a popular theme at the moment, with sports men, agony aunts and yogis alike reminding us that to forget about now is to forget yourself – but how does this apply to leadership?

Coaching a start-up business recently, I observed how much time and energy was going in to forecasting sales plans. A useful activity! But what balance of your energy do you put into planning for the future, and indeed analysing past performance, and how much do you spend in doing what has to be done now – well, and with your full attention. In this software company’s case, putting team energy into developing an excellent product was the priority activity now – not talking through plans. How often does strategising get in the way of being in the moment?

Take for example, an organisation introducing culture change. Senior teams of leaders invest time and energy planning the vision, values, and communications; but how do they behave in that meeting? And how do they behave when they leave the boardroom? Or take performance management. How often do we wait for an annual appraisal before giving feedback, or invest in processes, structures and systems that should improve things in the future.

The value is in being in the moment; having the conversation you need to have now, behaving like the culture you want to see – now.

Being in the moment requires a constant choice to do just that. Ask yourself, what am I putting off? How can I break my normal habitual drift through the day and notice what is really going on here, and now? You’ll certainly find out more about your organisation, and who knows you might find some inner peace too!

In the news

Feeling the strain of change fatigue?

You’re ready to roll out a brilliant change programme that will clearly benefit your organisation – so why the palpable lack of motivation from your people? and what can you do about it?

With election choices looming, we find ourselves face to face with more promises of ‘change’. Perhaps the most over used word in political campaigns we find ourselves asking: ‘What will be different this time?’ Slogans seem tired and little seems genuinely new. Faced with this we sometimes struggle to know what to believe, what to follow and what to get excited about.

The same is true in organisations. Change programmes and business transformation projects are common place. Often there is genuine work to be done, objectives are sound and the organisation would benefit from moving in the planned direction. However, for employees the latest change programme may be one in a long line of change initiatives and they can struggle to maintain any enthusiasm or focus.

What can organisations do to make this change programme relevant and achievable?

Employees need to answer ‘yes’ to the following questions: “do I get it?”, “do I like it?”, and “do I trust the people who are leading it?” Messages need to be clear, simple and repeated; employees need to see the benefit for them personally in the changes proposed, and leaders need to act in ways that engender trust and confidence. I’d vote for that.

Tip of the month

The risk of coaching

Executive coaching is often characterised by listening and asking coaching style questions. Often though, it is a dose of straight talking dialogue that will have the biggest impact.

Working with senior managers in a large organisation recently who were practicing having ‘difficult conversations’, it struck me that coaching, when used badly, has got firmly in the way of effective dialogue. Dialogue requires both effective listening and effective speaking. Too often, it seems, asking coaching style questions has got in the way of saying what needs to be said.

For example, take formal or informal performance conversations that start with “How is it going?” or “How are you feeling about X?”. I am the biggest advocate of open questions and coaching, and yet sometimes this leads us into an inauthentic ‘dance’ of a conversation.

  • Take responsibility; it’s hard to say “You are underperforming” but sometimes, once a clear message has been voiced, ongoing dialogue can be much more effective
  • Make a clear decision about when it is most appropriate to coach. Some management conversations require you to be more directive
  • Remember, sometimes it is important to let your team member know what you think!

Your questions answered

Several members of my team are technically excellent and deliver well, but lack gravitas particularly in larger meetings. I’m concerned that this affects how others perceive them. How can I help them have more impact?

Firstly, it is important that you do not fall in to the trap of simply assuming ‘shyness’ or a lack of confidence here.

There are a number of things that you could do to help them become more aware of the impact they are having and what they can do to have more:

  • Have a conversation with them about what you see: Do they make their points clearly? How do they enter the room? Are they too accepting of other’s ideas?
  • Give them a chance to talk about what is going on for them: there could be any number of causes for their behaviour
  • Notice how your behaviour and the behaviour of others helps or hinders them, e.g. Can you be clearer about the role you expect them to play? Can you ask them explicit questions to encourage their contribution, or listen more?
  • Let them know regularly how they are doing – giving authentic praise here will make a big difference.

This article is filed under: employee motivation, , executive coaching, leadership, people, strategic change management, strategic communication, strategy development, transformational leadership

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