Friday, November 23, 2012

Becoming an effortless leader

A wise person once told me that great leaders have great mentors or coaches.  I am currently on a journey with my Leadership coach to become an 'effortless leader'.  The though of what this might be sends tingles down my spine!  I can't imagine what this might mean.

My view of an effortless leader is dreaming of coming to work and things just 'happen' around me as I have lead my team so well, they know the goals they need to achieve, these align with the company and their own personal goals and beliefs.  We have trained them at the right time, given them the chance to both fail and succeed and created an environment where they are able to grow and prosper and feel safe to ask the unstructured questions.

My own personal journey with my Leadership coach is removing effortful barriers and taping into 'insights' and recognising as a leader, when we do our best thinking.  Mind power is an interesting thought in itself and the approach of trying to tap into a different area of the brain and recognising it through out the day has been an interesting challenge in itself.

I'm not sure how many leaders out there currently take the time to recognise that 'light-bulb' moment.  For me, its when I have a lot going on.  On holiday I turn into a cabbage and my brain goes to mush.  I have learnt however when I go to Microsoft HQ in Redmond, USA every-year, although I am still running my business via my iPad and phone, and sit through meeting after meeting and session after session, something special happens.  I am stimulated with new thoughts- I am in a different place and time, with different people and different perspectives from leaders in other countries.  Being a Leader in a global environment is significantly different to just leading your own team or company.

This year, we were recognised as a company for our Global Leadership in this area and became a finalist for Worldwide Public Sector- Education, picked out over 3,000 other companies in over 100 countries.  I think I have only just come to realise the enormity of this achievement.  Our team have achieved more than they even realise and as a leader, I have taken them there.

My journey to becoming effortless is a new challenge for me and I'm sure other leaders or managers would love to feel the same.  So 4 weeks in, how do I feel?

Bruce, my Leadership Coach has stated he feels I am speaking slower and pausing more and I am taking more time to reflect, this is a great achievement for me, over-coming 'foot and mouth' disease is something I have been aware of for many years and have always been wary of!  One of my goals is to also remove the level of 20% frustration that I hold each day- this will be an interesting one to remove as I also feel that perhaps its 'ok' to run with a small amount of this each day.

Ironically just before my last coaching session, I opened a fortune cookie given to me by the famous 'Wah Lee' on Hobson street I visited yesterday.  It simply said "A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials".  I am sure this is what my constant levels of frustration is all about!

Leadership reflecting and tapping into insights has already helped me 'take the pause' and reflect on a situation as its unfolding and using the questioning technique of 'asking questions' of me team, rather than reverting to my old style which would simply have been to 'tell them' how to fix a problem has been a mammoth shift in my style.  I discovered the 'questioning' technique from Jo Healey, Managing Director at Fujitsu.  I was the Keynote at a Woman in IT Conference in Christchurch a few weeks ago and Jo was on an IT Leaders  panel after my talk, she was asked about her own style of leadership and she stated her Mentor was getting her to walk through the 'questioning approach' with her team and she also mentioned how she was using this approach. 

I challenge other Leaders out there- were you are in a meeting or discussion with your teams, instead of 'telling them' the way something will be done, simply ask them things like "why do you think that might work?", "what could you have done differently?", "How might you approach this next time?", "What will you do to make sure you achieve the/ result or goal"?.

As leaders, I believe it is out moral responsibility to create succession plans for those beneath us, we have an obligation as leaders to share our knowledge and to teach others how to lead.  I welcome any thoughts, comments or feedback on this topic...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Expose yourself- it feels great!

Usually its Labour Weekend when I bare my white pins and throw my tights in the draw for a few months, but this year, its taken me an additional month to get there.  I saw a post last week from my Wellington cousin saying she had done it, so I figure being in Auckland I no longer had an excuse.
Rummaging through the back of the cupboard to find the fake tan did bring a smile to my face too, although not so much when in my haste to apply it, I had some rather interesting new designs on my thigh that I had not intended- someone needs to invent a fake-tan eraser pen.

So coming into work with bare legs made me feel slightly exposed, but also super good as I was able to wear a stunning dress I had not been able to all winter.  Exposing yourself does feel good!

A further dilemma was met this morning about exposing myself .This evening Wayne and I are to meet his step brothers new fiance.  This is a dilemma mainly in one area- not that we have never met her, but more that she owns a major woman's clothing label in NZ with stores all over NZ.  So what does one wear to work that will be suitable to go right out to dinner afterwards that can be scrutinised by a fashionisita?

Tearing madly through my wardrobe, I decided exposing my now blotchy legs from fake tan is no longer a good idea, this means trousers are a must.  I ran around trying to decide on what to wear with it and finally decided on my skinny black pants with a fitted jacket and Super High Heels purchased in Oz, this conclusion was reached after about 7 costume changes which has now left me running late for work...arrggh.

So now I am left with a further dilemma- and I have to expose myself in a work sense.
I've be having leadership coaching recently which has been a fascinating journey so far.  Bruce from Ignite is putting me through my paces.  Its quite odd to have someone to account to for homework, certainly not something I'm used to or have had to do for a while!

I have to come clean on this one and expose my self further.  I was given a Reflection Journal in last weeks session, I am supposed to sit quietly at the end of each day and write in it to reflect on the day and how it went.  Its been an odd sensation, firstly, writing on paper is not something I do much of these days, so this was an odd experience.  The second was to find a quiet space to do the reflection.  This has been rather challenging as we have an open plan office as I am a firm believer in this style of open and approachable leadership.

This means two choices- in the car or in the loo.  The later did not really seam that appealing and given by the time I have reached into my handbag this morning for my keys to see my Red Reflection Journal poking out, it has reminded me I have not done it and I am now in my car, running late for work.

So realising this dilemma I did what any intelligent multi-tasking girl would do- drove off down the driveway and realised that I could not drive properly in Super High-Heels selected for this evenings dinner, darn.  My super skinny pants have also restricted me from taking off my shoes- I can only reach to take one off while sitting in the traffic.  I am now driving with one shoe- at least no one can see.  So here I am sitting in the traffic waiting at the lights, I search for the Reflection Journal amongst the piles of tissues in my bag (paranoid I won't have one from being ill last few weeks).  I find my pen and start Reflecting and noting down my thoughts about the prior day.  I managed to get almost to the end when the light changed.   Darn.

I had to drive one shoed all the way across the harbour bridge until the lights in Union Street where I could have another go at updating.  Managed to get the last bit finished and turned the page over- shoot- Fridays has not been done!

Now at work I am sitting in the car park 'Reflecting'.  I am writing down how I felt about how the day went and what thoughts I had during the day.  I think people think I am weird, but I don't care, I am going to get this done!  What I have neglected to tell you is that our neighbours are renovating their building and there are a pile of builders cutting concrete just meters away.  So much for my quiet space!

I race through Friday's reflection, and felling pretty good, I grab my little red book and then realise I have to put my shoe back on while in my super skinny pants for my evening out.  I unfold as graciously as I am able and put on my Super High Heel with all of the buckles on, holding the car for support.  Once I start walking away and push the remote to lock the car, I hear a wolf whistle from the building site next door.

I just smiled when the builder (who I have not met) next door actually came over about 30 mins later to speak to me after receiving an email yesterday from Wayne about building safety concerns we were having after I rolled my ankle on some building rubble sprayed from out their windows yesterday. 

The odd thing was he seamed to have no idea I was about to grill him about the safety issues his workers were causing to our staff and property from the glowing hot re-bar sprayed over our car-park.  I think he thinks I must have been a wolf in sheep's clothing!  He did apologise at least 8 times in the conversation. 

Yes, I wore the correct outfit today- I have Reflected on this and how I felt.  Exposing myself more than I would normally with my Leadership Reflection journal and my dress today has been a positive experience.  I am still to have the dinner this evening and my Leadership coach will be 'checking my homework' so lets see how the day ends and what Reflections I may have after the days wraps up!