Posts Tagged ‘Influence’

Is Leadership all about Performance?

Oct 30, 2010 // 6 Comments » // Leadership Infusion | Stories Retold

Picture source: pigskinliquor via Flickr

Picture source: pigskinliquor via Flickr

A friend (let’s call him John) who’s a Sales VP of a MNC organized a sales retreat conference for his team of 20 staff members. I was engaged as a facilitator to provide teambuilding workshop on the second day after the first day of long presentation amid the hill top of a luxurious golf resort in the southern part of Johor, West Malaysia.

Like always, the teambuilding ended in high spirit. During dinner, John seems troubled as he was unusually tranquil.

“How do you think the day went?” I asked.

“Oh, I think it went well…the folks seems charged up for the year ahead…but…” His tone was tapering to a whimper.

“But you think…?” I sensed a great concern lurking.

“Every year’s the same…we end up highly motivated, charged-up but it don’t seems to last the race…” He lamented.

“But you know the problem?”

“I don’t know…I mean I know but not sure if it’s true…” John was getting hype up in confiding…

“Try me. I am keen to know what you are not sure about…” saying while staying with him at eye level.

We took our drinks and walked towards the balcony over-looking the golf course, we leaned against the edge of the balcony ledge; as if we are afraid of anyone might eavesdrop on our conversation, John said:

“Allen, frankly, I am not sure whether all these teambuilding works for my people anymore…Don’t get me wrong, I think we need such motivation and coming together from time to time, moreover, my guys enjoyed it and it’s good to reinforce the importance of mutually supportive relationship. But I am sensing that we are missing something…some critical intervention…maybe something to do with our sales leader.. . ” He was referring to his six sales directors who work very closely with the sales managers and associates that are accountable to about 15% of their group revenue.

“I am keen to learn about your observation…” I realized the opportunity to have him tell me more of what he does know.

He look over his shoulder twice as if to make sure that no one was behind us, he went on to said: “Having work with them for more than 3-4 years, accept for Paul who joined us early this year, I can confidently say that they are good with driving numbers and making sure that the folks perform to expectation.” Referring to the sales directors who eventually will step up to take his mettle.

“So what’s your concern?” I threaded carefully and continue to look into his eyes…

“My concern?! Yes, I am not sure this is a concern but I am in fact less worry of them performing in terms of driving numbers per se but more worried for them relating and leading their direct report and people…” He was fiddling with beer mug on his right hand while sharing…

“Is that truly your concern?” I took risk in probing deeper.

“I am quite sure…in fact, many of my second tier managers had threaten to walk out just a few months ago…and the HR report shows that compensation wasn’t the main culprit.” John’s tone turn from serious to flat deadpan.

“So how do you intend to address this?” I somehow knew he might have an idea.

“That’s where I am not sure…you?” somehow he thought the same.

We spent sometime talking about coaching and leading people. We thought may be it would be timely to help the key leaders to identify their critical roles in leading the people to not just perform to their maximum potential but learning to lead others.

“Let’s organize a morning jog tomorrow before the nine-hole outing.” I suggested but to John’s amusement.

“Morning run?! What for?” he responded with suspicion.

“Trust me, you guys are going to enjoy the golf game afterwards…” I said confidently.

I remembered we spoke further on the idea and he still wasn’t sure the potential of bringing the message across to his people, but relented anyway. The next morning, we gathered as planned. The team was grouped in 3 with a fair-mixed of sales director and managers. A planned route of about 1.5km bordering the scenic view of the course garden wing. After some stretching and warming-up, the team was briefed on the route and I said:

“Go ENJOY the run TOGETHER and we shall gather for breakfast after this…” with tonal emphasis on the bolded.

As they set-off, John and I was heading toward the cafe set amid the garden wing awaiting their return. Not to my surprised, an athletic-looking sales associate arrived under 10 minutes followed by others in ones or pairs. Paul’s group was the only group of three that stayed together throughout the course. After some quick warm-down and water to quench thirst, we sat down in circle to have a debrief.

“Damien, you came in first. Tell us how was it for you.” I guessed Damien would be the most ready to share.

“I enjoyed the run. The air’s fresh, cool, nice surrounding and 1.5km is no problem for me, you know.” Damien professed with a wide grin.

“I am sure you do, thanks Damien. Who’s with Damien’s group?” I turn the attention back to the group.

“We couldn’t catch up with him…he’s too fast!” a lady by the name of Steff half-protested…”Luckily, Tony wasn’t!” referring to a senior sales director perhaps in his early 50s in the same group.

“I am an old man you know…” Tony followed-up with much laughter from the team and some nodding of heads…

“How about you Paul? Your group came in last but seems to be having fun and not breaking a sweat…” I turn to Paul’s direction.

Paul, looking rather embarrassed, responded: “I actually asked Steven and Judy to go ahead without me so that they finish the run early. But they decided to keep with me and we really ENJOY the run TOGETHER.”

“Did you?” Now facing the group to garner their response.

“WE did. It was fun running at an easy pace and being supportive of each other. We chatted along the way and enjoyed the company. In fact, we did so with much ease that the distance seems too short when we arrived…” Judy shared with obvious agreement from Tony and Steven.

“Yeah, for someone who’s hardly out in her jogging shoes…” Steven was jibbing at Judy pointing at her very new looking bright yellow sneakers.

“Thanks for the insight Judy and Steven. I would now like to invite you to note down three questions for your reflection later during your nine-holes…” I urged the team to take note.

“Firstly, what could we miss-out when Personal Performance took precedence?”

“Secondly, what else is important besides Performance?”

“And not least important, is Leading meant just Performing? If so, why? If not, how?”

John told me later they have one of the most enjoyable round of nine-holes that morning after a hearty breakfast. The folks continued to stay with the same group during their golf rounds and some of them even skip golf just to continue their sharing after breakfast. He wanted me to continue the work that we have just started with the sales leaders. As for the team, I was told that they organized bi-monthly run every alternate Friday evening – Together.

Points to Ponder:

1. Leading from behind, the view can be quite astonishing.

2. Guiding from the wing, the conversation can be quite engaging.

3. Coaching from within, the sense can be quite satisfying.

INFLUENCE – beyond just Doing but Being

Aug 11, 2010 // 3 Comments » // HR Insights | Leadership Infusion

Picture Source: Alex_Bates via Flickr

Picture Source: Alex_Bates via Flickr

Two Sundays ago, after our Sunday worship at a local church; and after fetching my second boy Eiffel from Sunday school, I was waiting for my eldest boy Timothy from the children worship hall two levels down from the adult worship hall. He is always full of enthusiasm after his bible study; armed with many questions prepared to ask me…

“Dad, you throw a pebble into a still pond and caused a ripple…the ripples spread out beautifully through the surface of the pond. What causes the ripples?” He speaks with his usual clear and  a wee bit mature voice for a 11 year old.

“Hmm…the first ripple.” I was trying to be scientific about it and was prepared to explain the law of physics…

“Nope!” came a immediate negative ascertain from Tim.

“Uhhh…the pond! Without the pond there won’t be any ripples…” sensing there might be some riddle-like trickery…

“Noooo…that’s an obvious Dad…Think!” Tim was half laughing and staring at me.

“Oh…I know, I know…THE PEBBLE! Without the pebble there won’t be any reaction in the first place.” I thought I got it at last and saying in much confidence and matter-of-factly.

“No Dad, its YOU! You caused the ripples by throwing the pebble into the pond…” He replied with a tad of ridicule and as he finished, he ran away looking for his brother Eiffel down the hallway.

I stood there thinking and still smarting away from the implications of what my son has ‘taught’ me…and the whole of Sunday I was still thinking about the meaning of INFLUENCE.

A recent conversation with a client lead us to explore the notion of Influence; they recognized the importance of people managers being in the position of accountability and positive impacts on their people…

“So would you like to share with me about your leaders in this organization; especially the managers.” I asked.

“Oh, we have about 15 senior to junior managers across the functions, they are in their early 30s to mid-50s…” She lamented matter-of-factly.

When she has finished, I asked: “Who do you think they are to others?”.

“What do you mean?” she responded impatiently.

Sensing a window of opportunity to dwell deep…I asked: “As a manager, what would you say about your influence to others that matters in this organization?”

“Umm…I guess I am very much a positive influence especially to the younger colleagues and new staff.” She continued: “I for one is pretty new to this organization; therefore I have no historic baggage with me here…for example…”.

“That’s great! I am glad you did. So how do you think I may help this organization?” I asked in earnest.

“My colleague will agree with me that one of the biggest challenges for our managers in general are the willingness to take accountability so that they will influence others to do so…We hope they can be more responsible beyond their scope of work.” she responded spontaneously.

“Tell me more.” I sensed the flow…

“Don’t get me wrong. Our people are very good in what they are supposed to do and they are experts in their respective field…But we also happened to believe that we have great products that will change the well-being of people around the world, but we also understand that we need people that are willing to bring this organization to where we should belong…”

Cave Ripples_Donald Noble via FlickrWe have a wonderful conversation sharing and understanding observations, examples, behaviors and assumptions that gives me great insight to the probable challenges the people in this organization may face. One of the key message when we meet with the team next month, is to help them be aware of their behaviors and action that may influence others and how they may want to commit to change that may impact others around them and the organization.

Have you ever ask:

‘What is my influence to the people around me?’

‘What is the implication of my thoughts, feeling and my action to my colleagues?’

‘How can people that I care or people that I have yet know could be in the realm of my influence?’