How to earn your team’s devotion

I’ve just read a great post by S Alexander Haslam (University of Queensland) and Stephen D Reicher (University of St Andrews in Scotland). They wrote the best sentence I’ve ever read about leadership:

A leader is not ‘the special one’, but ‘the one who makes us special.

True words. Who were your best leaders, the ones you would have walked over hot coals for? The ones who made you feel special. The ones who ‘polished your gold’ and brought out the best in you.

Here’s another great line from that post:

The task of leaders, then, is not to impose what they want on their followers,
but to shape what followers want to do for themselves.

To me, that’s about having a clear vision that people can buy into.

Haslam’s and Reicher’s research into leadership concludes that when you’re a leader, you need to communicate three things:

  • That you are one of us — you share our concerns and our values, and you understand us.
  • That you are doing it for us — your efforts are to advance us as a group.
  • That you are making us matter.

Back to servant leadership, eh?

Leadership isn’t about ego. We all know that. But sometimes, when you’ve been a leader for a while and your group is doing well, you start to believe ‘your own PR’. Bad move.

Instead, concentrate on showing that you are one with your team, that you’re advancing your team and that you make them matter.

Emotional labour

Here we are in the service and knowledge economy. On the upside, it means less dangerous, demeaning and dirty labour than work in the agricultural and industrial economies. On the downside, it means more emotional labour (Arlie Hochschild’s term, in The Managed Heart). One can hurt your back; the other can hurt your psyche.

Two thirds of Australians are at risk of psychic hurt due to emotional labour. This is work that requires employees to hide emotions seen as unwanted and manufacture wanted emotions.

  • Retail and hospitality workers need to be cheerful to gain repeat business.
  • Health care professionals need to remain empathic yet neutral to ensure objectivity.
  • Police officers often need to seem angry to gain a confession.
  • Judges need to appear emotionally neutral so as not to influence the jury.
  • Office workers may be having a bad day but still need to be cordial and pleasant to their colleagues to grease the wheels of teamwork.
  • Customer service people need to be patient and helpful even to the biggest pains in the neck.

The difficulty is all this emotional dishonesty can be bad for employees and bad for organisations. For employees it can mean burnout, loss of job satisfaction and even damaged family relationships (when you’ve been pleasant to people all day, it can be tempting to drop your mask of sweetness when you walk through your front door). For organisations it can mean high staff turnover and disengaged employees.

Before moving on to possible remedies, or at least ameliorations, we need to distinguish between two possible ways of putting on the organisationally required ‘face’: surface acting and deep acting.

Surface acting is when you only disguise your feelings. It’s superficial. You paste on a smile and say ‘Yes, certainly, M’am’ through gritted teeth. But you still want to put your fingers snugly around M’am’s throat.

Deep acting is where you consciously control your feelings. You might recall a happy experience to put you in a cheerful mood. You might see the difficult person you’re dealing with as a frightened child to boost your empathy (reframing). The desired emotions follow naturally.

With surface acting, you don’t kid yourself about how you really feel and most of the time, you don’t kid other people, either. It demands more energy and effort and leads to more health problems, too–greater emotional exhaustion, feeling like a non-person, depression and anxiety, to name a few.

With deep acting, you actually feel the emotion you’re portraying and because it’s more genuine, it’s more believable, both to yourself and to others.

So, given that you’re likely to carry out emotional labour yourself and to be leading and managing people carrying out emotional labour, how can you lessen its negative effects while still displaying the behaviours and attitudes demanded by the organisation? Here are five steps you can take.

  • Recruit the right people. Look for people who share your organisation’s values and whose temperaments and attitudes lead them to naturally display the desired behaviours. Look for people who don’t ‘wear their hearts on their sleeve’ and who have a track record of successfully regulating their emotions.
  • Train people in deep acting. Trained imagination, role play and reframing are three techniques that work.
  • Let people de-brief after a hard day or a hard encounter. Recovery short-circuits burnout, leading to increased performance. People can also learn from each other this way, too.
  • Encourage healthy off-the-job activities (exercise, sport etc.) and a healthy life style (healthy eating, work-life balance etc.) to further replenish depleted resources.
  • Recognise the value of emotional labour.

Get your photo right

Do you know that people draw conclusions about you in just 1/10th of a second of looking at your photo? Most of that first impression is based on whether you look competent and trustworthy. So you want to put your best foot forward to all those people you’re probably meeting on line every week.

To help you out, researchers have been looking into what you can do to make a good impression the next time you put a photo on your digital resume or on social media, or submit a photo for a conference you’re speaking at.

You can get feedback on your photos with PhotoFeeler. Here’s what they found when they analysed over 60,000 ratings for competence, likability and influence:

  • Don’t block your eyes with sunglasses (which lowers likability), or with your hair, glare or shadows (all of which lower competence and influence).
  • Define your jawline to increase your likability, competence and influence.
  • Men score points for competence and influence when they’re wearing a dark suit, light shirt and tie.
  • It’s the same for women, but drop the tie.
  • Show head and shoulders or head to waist; full body shots and head shots don’t do too well.

Other experts advise:

  • Leave out family, friends, dogs, etc. This seems to affect credibility.
  • Let your photo fill only 2/3 of the frame and be slightly off-centre.
  • Face into the light and avoid direct sunlight and overhead light.
  • Smile and show your teeth.
  • Avoid ‘wide eyes’, which can look frightened or uncertain. Try a ‘squinch’–ever-such a slight squint. (I prefer to think of this as making sure your eyes smile, too.)
  • Women: look at the camera.
  • Men: face towards the camera but look slightly away.
  • A photo at least 600 pixels wide looks good whatever it’s viewed on.
  • Be conservative, not edgy, sexy, or trendy.
  • But have a bright background colour, one that suits your personal brand. Green is said to be healthy and peaceful, red bold and exciting, orange confident and friendly, yellow optimistic and warm, blue authoritative and strong, purple creative and wise, grey balanced and calm.

And I know I don’t need to remind you that whatever images of yourself you put up are going to be there forever!

 

 

Changes in the business environment and how they affect you

I was asked the other day how trends in the business environment are affecting managers. Where to start …

Business complexity is increasing exponentially, so understanding the big picture and using systems thinking are becoming more important. Risks are increasing, too, so you need to know how to build a sound risk culture to protect your organisation and its assets. And the pace of change is quickening.

Each of these three factors mean that you won’t–you can’t–always know the answer. Many problems you face and will face are new and many are unpredictable. You probably can’t do what you’ve always done, or even what you did before in a similar situation that worked, because so much will have changed in the meantime.

This means you need to be good at problem solving and coming up with unique and unexpected solutions to problems and situations, ways to meet customer demands, and ways to respond to a changing marketplace. This has three implications:

  1. You need to know how to ask the right questions, questions that help you explore and analyse situations.
  2. You need to know how to apply the scientific method and use data so you can get a good grip on situations.
  3. Learning to think in scenarios is probably a good idea.

New and disruptive business models, share price volatility and diminishing corporate profits may all put your organisation at risk. Therefore, you want to protect your career and see yourself as ‘Me Inc’:

  1. Develop solid, wide and deep networks.
  2. Build a professional image (on social media, with your professional bodies and networks, in your organisation, with suppliers and customers, etc.).
  3. Keep your skill base up-to-date.
  4. Broaden your experience base.

Organisations are likely to increasingly move to capabilities-based competition: creating value and competitive advantage through capabilities in processes rather than through capable functions. We’re likely to see more strategic alliances, too: collaborating with non-competitor organisations to combine strengths to produce a better product or service. And the supply chain is becoming more important.

These three factors mean:

  1. Big picture and systems thinking is important. Get in the habit of considering the upstream and downstream implications of every your action and decision.
  2. You’re likely to find yourself working in cross-functional teams, so hone your people and team-working skills.

Cheap wages are moving from China to Cambodia, Eastern Europe and South America. This means you can benefit from polishing your cultural intelligence, learning about other cultures and learning to work, virtually and actually, with people from other cultures.

Employees and the way they work are changing. Baby Boomers are moving out, Generations X and Y are taking over and Generation Z is entering the workforce, making it age-diverse as well as culturally-diverse and life-style diverse. People’s motivations for working, what they want from work and how they work are vastly more diverse than was the case even 10 or 15 years ago.

The changing workforce means we’re seeing more team-working, more flexible working and more virtual working. Jobs themselves are changing: we’re seeing more cross-functional team work, as mentioned above, more projects and more fixed-term contracts. We’re seeing roles, more than jobs–roles are looser and more open, not as prescribed and rigid as jobs.

This means the way you lead and manage people is changing. Here’s what I think is really important:

  • skilful leadership
  • skilful communication
  • engaging with team members in terms of motivating and coaching
  • flexibility in your management and leadership style
  • clear, logical thinking informed by an understanding of the big picture issues of the environment you’re operating in externally and internally.

Since industry isn’t spending a lot of time and money on learning and development, you’re probably left to your own devices to keep upgrading your skills and knowledge. All while being, no doubt, mind-bogglingly busy in your day-to-day role. A big ask.

This means applying the learning cycle is a good idea, lest you get caught up on the treadmill and fail to improve yourself, your performance or your work procedures.