Jacob Morgan - author of “The Future Leader: 9 Skills and Mindsets to Succeed in the Next Decade” says one of 4 key leadership mindsets is to be a Chef.
I love this idea.
In my leadership book 'Help! What's the secret to leading engineers?' I talk about avoiding black-and-white thinking. A critic of my book said they don’t think black-and-white thinking is a big deal in the workplace and should probably have been left out of the book. I disagree. Black-and-white thinking is rife in so many technical leadership scenarios I get involved in. Black-and-white thinking is the opposite to the mindset of a Chef.
The skill of a good Chef is to provide a balance of ingredients. Take the most common ingredient - salt. Imagine if you had a binary choice of ‘salt’ or ‘no salt’. Say no, and you get zero salt. Say yes, and you get the whole salt cellar. Does the question reflect the mindset of a chef?
The addition of salt is not a black-and-white choice. I want a pinch of salt and I only want it on my eggs and potatoes, not on my bacon.
I see so many work examples where we ask OR questions, instead of AND. Is training valuable? Yes or no? Is this the right or wrong decision? Is this a good or bad employee? Should I focus on customers or staff? Or should I only focus on reducing expenses to increase profits? These situations do not benefit from black and white alternatives. It is much more helpful to think of our choices as a balance of ingredients. Too little salt and the food is bland. Too much and the delectable taste of the meal is ruined.
Black and white thinking dumbs down the complex richness of leadership and compromises the benefits of working with smart, rational and intuitive human beings.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinion below.
Yesterday I ran a leadership session for a group of technical experts and managers in America. We explored the reality that the old master craftsman model and the supervisory management model of industrial revolution times is over. Management guru, the late Peter Drucker, talked about ‘knowledge work’, where it is the workers, not managers who are the experts, back in 1952.
So why has it taken us so long to ditch this old idea of supervisory management, and for those who have ditched it, why do they often find there is still a role for managers in even the most technical environments? Mainstream management thinking seems to have moved the pendulum to the opposite extreme, where it suggests that managers of technical workers do not need to have any technical skill at all, in this knowledge era.
My question is whether it is possible to be an effective leader of experts if you have no appreciation or passion for what they do? I would be interested in hearing your view.
Click here to eCommenting on how to heal the deep divisions in American society, as well as the trend for conspiracy theories to become mainstream, ex-President Barack Obama said, 'I think at some point it's going to require a combination of regulation and standards within industries to get us back to the point where we at least recognise a common set of facts before we start arguing about what we should do about those facts.'
This comment is at the heart of the model I discuss in my book 'Help! I need to master Critical Conversations.' I point out that it is important to start a conversation by sharing objective facts, without at that point sharing what you THINK about those facts. Thoughts are based on analysis and conclusions, or judgements about the facts, and can only be safely shared once there is an agreement that 'my facts' are also 'your facts'.
My opinion is that Obama endorsed the message that runs through my book, but the fact is he did no such thing. The fact is he made his own statement about the situation and I would have to find out from him if he in fact endorsed the message in my book.
Mistruths and miscommunication arise from confusing facts with opinions.
What do you think? Would our communication with each other improve if we separated fact from opinion?dit.
Easier said than done, isn't it?
We easily confuse our strongly held opinions with facts. Any discussion on politics or religion will quickly highlight this point.
As intelligent and emotional human beings, we embellish facts with opinions and feelings. In the context of having helpful, truthful conversations the skill is to differentiate the facts from our opinions. We can also create empathy at the start of a conversation by addressing how we feel about the situation, without blaming the other person for our feelings. In my Critical Conversations course, I provide a model of how to do that!
In it's most simple form, it involves accurately labelling what we are communicating:
- I noticed [insert fact]
- I feel [insert emotional response to the fact]
- I think [provide your personal opinion]
How often have you seen people mix these three things up in their conversations?
- I noticed you don't like my idea .....(that's an opinion)
- I feel your idea won't work (that's also an opinion)
- I think I'm going to explode (that's a feeling)
I'm keen to hear from you.....have you seen examples of people claiming to be sticking to objective facts and yet mixing them up with opinions or emotions?
I am sitting in my home office in Australia and reflecting on how my life has changed in 6 short months. I run an international training business and have family in the UK, as well as South Africa. My old norm involved travelling on gruelling long-haul flights at least every 2 to 3 months. Late in 2019, I did 16 flights in 6 weeks.
I have a serious lung condition and when COVID hit Australia, I became housebound. Like so many people around the world, my life changed radically, and it changed overnight. I had to adapt and now run all my training online.
What surprises me is so many people see this as life hitting a pause button. ‘When are things going back to normal?’ I hear people ask. Yet what is normal?
We cannot go backwards, the world has changed and will be changed forever. Yes, we will go back to flying again. Yes, we will be allowed to go to restaurants and attend large public gatherings. But the world will be different. The world should be different, if we are to apply what we learnt from this experience. To survive the new world, we will have to accept change.
I resisted doing online training for years. I had tried running my usual face-to-face courses behind my desk on video conference, and the experience was awful. Yet, by reworking the content to an online format, I have seen amazing benefits of the online model. And my clients seem to agree.
To see the opportunity, I had to unlearn what I thought was ‘fact’.
Stanford professor Carol Dweck wrote a book called Mindset where she describes the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. A fixed mindset assumes the world, and my abilities, are set in stone and judges all feedback as criticism. A growth mindset accepts that things change and that we, and the world, can adapt. Someone with a growth mindset sees all feedback as useful for challenging what they think they already know.
In my experience, unless someone has a growth mindset, any attempts at training or personal coaching have limited benefit, especially in the complex world of leadership development.
What do you think? Please comment below.
The world is holding its breath as the Covid pandemic plateau’s in many places around the world. As many of us are confined to home base, our computer screens have become our window to the world.
I run a training business and as all my face-to-face course were cancelled I have been frantically working at converting them to online. Virtual OnLine Training (VOLT) is the new buzz word.
Here are some lessons I have learnt.
These days it seems there is only one thing on the news, and top of everyone’s mind. COVID-19.
Locked down in our houses we huddle around our PC screens in video conference mode and discuss the number of infections, the number of deaths and what the new rules are to give us back our freedom.
Many executives I speak to were very concerned about sending their workforce home. Would people get up in the morning? Would anyone do any work? Would morale be affected?
Most people I speak to who are still working, tell me how much better they find working remotely, and many don’t want to go back to being in the office 5-days a week.
I am fully aware of the number of people who have lost their jobs or who are going through a living hell as a result of COVID-19. As one of the 1% minority that is seriously at risk if I catch it, because of an underlying lung condition, I am the last person on earth to say COVID-19 is anything but awful, scary and terribly tragic. The quicker it is eliminated or the faster we find a vaccine, the happier I will be.
My observation is an unintended blessing has emerged through this crisis regarding leadership.
Stay safe everyone.
"I wish I had developed this insight earlier in my career. I could have avoided a whole lot of frustration" This was the comment from one of the senior technical experts who was attending the In-House leadership program I have just completed for a US-based insurance company.
Many technical people look to their management to fix the things that are inhibiting their performance in the workplace. They escalate these problems or just complain about them, both resulting in on-going frustration. In most cases their management do not understand the complex problems they face and even if they did, they are even less likely to resolve them than the team members themselves. Technical staff need to understand what the real role of their line manager is and to realize that their line manager does not have a supervisory role over them, except for the very core part of their role. The old management structure that created efficiencies in the Industrial Revolution worked because the tasks people were doing were not complex. Managers could enforce work processes and procedures and achieve compliance to the goals set by the company. This required the manager to know more about how to do the job than the worker. In most environments today where smart workers are employed this is no longer the case. The technical staff themselves are expected to be the leaders of their own world. Leadership requires a deep understanding of the "why" - this creates buy-in and explains to those around you why what you have asked them to do matters. Leadership also involves taking ownership and committing to the desired outcomes without using excuses as a justification for failure. To make a meaningful difference in activities outside the core job role, technical staff need to learn to influencetheir key stakeholders as they are unlikely to have any authority to change things outside their core role.
Technical experts must understand the leadership role expected of them and change their mindset to being part of the solution to fix things outside their core role. So long as they also understand the limits of their influence, instead experiencing frustration from challenges, these challenges become energizing and helps them become engaged in the company without feeling frustrated!
More ideas on this theme are shared in my latest book "Help! What's the secret to Leading Engineers" which has sold hundreds of copies and is available from Amazon (both Paperback and Kindle versions).
#engineers #leadership #teams #management
Donald Rumsfeld famously talked about known knowns versus unknown knowns at a Department of Defense news briefing in February 2002, when responding to criticisms about the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. While it spread like wildfire on social media sites for it comedic content, it actually is based on a mainstream concept, called the Johari window. Developed by two American psychologists, Luft and Ingham in the 1950’s, it is very useful to help with leadership development.
The matrix defines four states: The first are things that are known by both parties – your common understanding (arena); the second are things known by you, but not by others – unshared information (facade); the third are things known by others but not by you – your blind-spot; and the last are things unknown by both parties.
My biggest insight in coaching people in leadership development, is that it is people who are acutely aware that there are known unknowns, who learn the fastest. Conversely, people who think they already know – people who focus too much on their known knowns – end up being defensive when challenged about seeing things differently, and therefore, do not learn or grow.
I have just finished a leadership program in the US, with a group of people who were already highly skilled in leadership. The audience included managers at director level and academic professors. Ironically it was this group that learnt the most and scored the program very high for learning new things, and gaining new insights. Other groups I have trained, who are not very experienced in leadership have commented afterwards that there was nothing new to learn, and that they didn’t really gain many insights for themselves.
This concept was actually studied by Kruger and Dunning in 1999. They discovered that the expertise to judge performance in a domain is actually the same as to produce the competence in the first place. In other words, people who are not very good at something, also lack the cognitive skill to assess how bad they are. When someone thinks they already have acquired a skill adequately, they are no longer motivated to continue learning.
I wish I could discover the antidote to this. My observation is that people who are already good at leadership seem to get better and better. They seek to attend training courses and respond well to coaching. Those who are not as good, avoid training where possible, and claim not to need coaching. It seems to me that, just having the insight that there are lots of things I don’t know, produces a continuous learning mindset, that is a major predictor of success in leadership!
TMC Global has been established to provide real-world training and consultancy in wireless technology and technical management.