Leadership Styles Explored

In this video clip, Itay Talgam explores leadership styles with illustrations from great conductors.  I believe his message is deep and subtle.  You’ll see here ‘leadership’ in many guises and I think it’s truly worth taking the time to reflect on how Itay’s illustrations can translate to our experiences of leadership, both as provider and recipient.  Enjoy ….


My website contains further resources that may be of interest …


Screen shot - Home Page


Turning around negative attitudes – the line manager’s perspective

Turning around negative attitudes – the line manager’s perspective

People demonstrate their negative attitudes in many different ways, but here are some general coping strategies.

  • Recognize that an attitude problem exists.
    The first step is to recognize that someone is expressing negativity in the workplace. Do not ignore it if it is affecting that person’s performance, your performance, the performance of others or relationships with your clients or customers.
  • Acknowledge any underlying causes for the negative attitude.
    As we know, negativity has many causes. The factors could include personal problems, work-related stress, a difficult boss, job insecurity, loss of loyalty, lack of growth or advancement opportunities and so forth. It helps to get the person to see the causes for their negativity. Ask honest but non-threatening questions of colleagues like, “You look stressed. Is there anything I can do?” It is also important to recognize that what is causing the negativity is often justified and that the person showing the negativity has the right to feel that way.
  • Help the person take responsibility.

It is ultimately the responsibility of the person expressing negativity to change their negative attitude and behaviours at work. Even though the person may have every right to feel the way they do, it is still not appropriate for the workplace. As a line manager, you need to help your colleague recognize this and to have them take ownership. Address the problem privately with them in a way that demonstrates concern for both their problems and the well-being of the team.

  • Replace negative, inappropriate reactions with different, more acceptable ones.
    Even though I just said that it is the job of the person expressing negativity to change their actions, you may need to help. They may not know what to do differently to come across as more positive. It will often be up to you to specify exactly what that is. You can suggest that other people aren’t aware of the person’s other (positive) qualities or that their contributions are being eclipsed by the negative behaviour.
  • Instill positive attitudes in others.
    Be the role model for the person expressing negativity through your actions and behaviours. You can prevent their negativity by instilling in them a positive attitude. If you do that, they may never catch the negative bug again.

Most of all, it’s important to start a dialogue with colleagues that are behaving in a difficult way so that issues can be addressed.

My website contains further resources that may be of interest …


Screen shot - Home Page

Turning around negative attitudes – the organizational perspective

Turning around negative attitudes – the organizational perspective

At one time or another, organizations develop an over-abundance of “negative energy”.  Sometimes this can be linked to organizational trauma such as down-sizing, budget restraints or workload increases, but sometimes it evolves over time with no apparent triggering event.  The ‘negative organization’ is characterized by increased complaining, a focus on the reasons why things can’t be done, and what seems to be a lack of hope that things will get better.  It feels like the organization in stuck in mud!  And, it’s contagious.  Negativity will affect even the most positive employees.  But here are some actions that can help.

  • Ensure the management team models positive behaviour

It is obvious that if management is adopting a negative stance and using negative language, staff will follow.  Don’t allow the management team to do it!  Ensure it takes an explicitly positive approach with staff by showing confidence in their abilities.   Expect a lot, support staff, hold them accountable, confront them and be clear and honest.  Have the management team set standards for their work and relations with employees and ensure they set an example of positive behaviour.

  • Acknowledge negativity

An organization can’t ignore negativity and expect it to go away.  If it does not acknowledge it, then staff will feel that the managers are out of touch, and will not be confident in their abilities.  Managers should acknowledge frustration and negative feelings, and not try to convince people that they  shouldn’t have their negative feelings.  However, when acknowledging employees’ negative feelings, there needs to be a mechanism for asking for suggestions regarding what to do about them.

  • Identify the ‘positives’ in all situations

Sometimes we forget to find positives.  When an employee makes an impractical solution, we are quick to dismiss the idea. Managers should be identifying efforts while positively discussing people’s ideas.  Small victories should be sought and talked about.  Turning a negative organization into a positive one is a result of multitude of small actions.

  • Provide positive recognition – often

The management team should provide positive recognition as soon as, and whenever, good performance is identified.  And positive strokes recognition should not be coupled with suggestions for improvement.  Separate them.  Combining them devalues the recognition for many people.

  • Refrain from collusion on negativity

It is easy for managers to get caught in the general complaining and bitching, particularly in informal discussions.  When faced with negative conversations, managers might consider changing the subject, commenting directly on the negative content or ask plainly what can be done about the situation (move from negative to positive slant).

It is not uncommon for organizations to go through periods of negativity.   Management teams play important roles in determining if that negativity will increase, or whether the trough is relatively short.  Above all, it is important to remember that it is the little things that are done, day in and day out, that make the difference.

My website contains further resources that may be of interest …


Screen shot - Home Page

An overview of performance leadership

An overview of performance leadership

Performance leadership, for the most part, is an active process.  There is evidence that the most successful leaders of high performance individuals and teams spend a large part of their time in brief informal meetings.  By doing this, they can gather information, facilitate action when something is wrong, let everyone know that they’re aware of what’s happening and that they care and will help make sure things go well.  Although formal meetings and reviews are a necessity in the workplace, effective leadership doesn’t depend on them.  Effective leadership takes place between these formal sessions and consists of informal and supportive gatherings in which performance is openly discussed, positive reinforcement is given, and problems are discussed and addressed.  Here are some guidelines.

1. Keep in touch with reality

This may mean walking around, or it may mean arranging brief one-to-one or team meetings from time to time.  In any case, when people work for you it’s your job to be aware of what they’re doing, how they’re doing it and what you can do to help.

2. Explore situations and only state the facts

This is about using your observation and listening skills to best effect.  When exploring issues of performance, in the first instance adopt an accurate descriptive stance rather than an evaluative one.

3. State the variance.  Compare progress against objectives

Regularly remind yourself and your team of what your objectives are.  State them as clearly and precisely as possible using numerical measures when you can.  This helps you determine whether you have a problem and, if you have, how big it is.  It also lets you see when the work is going well.

4. Encourage input

Make sure you listen carefully to your team members’ interpretations of what’s happening and what the causes are.  You may have your own opinions, but they shouldn’t diminish your ability to hear others.  Above all, don’t take a stance before you’ve heard all sides.

5. Provide ongoing support

In many cases there won’t be any problems but you still have a job to do here, i.e. to give an honest pat on the back when it’s warranted.  Thereafter, see what you can do to ensure continued success.  You may also want to look toward the future and plan for coming changes.  If problems do exist, your support is needed.

6. If there is a problem, encourage ownership

Most people are reluctant to see themselves as a cause of poor performance.  The problem always lies with someone else, some flaw in the system, or an unlucky break.  Fortunately, however, people do usually play an important role in causing their own troubles.  This is fortunate because it’s easier to correct our own behaviour than that of outsiders.  Therefore, you need to encourage team members to see their own contributions to presenting problems and so create the conditions in which they may develop a strong motivation for self-correction.  Of course when circumstances outside of the team contribute to causes these should also be recognised and dealt with.

7. Give corrective feedback

It’s invariably helpful for team members to hear a dispassionate and external view of performance.  Unfortunately, it’s usually harder to give feedback about problem situations than to praise what’s going well.  As leaders, you’ll have an easier time if you make your feedback:

Behavioural – Remember that your aim is to make sure the work is done well.  Therefore, keep the focus on the work behaviour, not on what you imagine are the underlying personality characteristics.  For example, if James is arriving late to work, you should say, ‘James, you’re twenty minutes late.’  Don’t say, ‘James, you’re clearly not committed to your job.’

  • Specific – The more specifically you can talk about behaviour, the more helpful it is.  For example, it’s only partially helpful to say, ‘James, you’ve been coming in late for the last few weeks.’  It’s more helpful to say, ‘James, you were twenty minutes late to work last Tuesday, and fifteen minutes late on Thursday and Friday.  Today you’re twenty minutes late.’
  • Recent – It’s of little help to recount behaviour that happened long ago.  The team member has probably forgotten all about it and, in any case, can’t do anything about it.  Focus on what’s happened recently.  Don’t say, ‘James, I’ve been meaning to tell you that I didn’t like you coming in late to work during January.’  (It’s now April.)  Do say, ‘James, you’re twenty minutes late this morning.’
  • Feasible – There’s no point in berating a team member about something they have no control over. Don’t say, ‘James, you were late again today!’ if you know that there was an unexpected and massive traffic jam on the road that James travels to work.

8. Brainstorm and negotiate solutions

Once you’ve come to a consensus on the nature of a performance problem, brainstorm together with the team member for possible solutions.  By giving the team member a share in the responsibility for coming up with solutions you encourage ownership.  Negotiate something that makes sense to both of you.

9. Clarify responsibilities

Once you’ve decided on a course of action, clarify your responsibilities.  Make sure that the team member has as much responsibility as is reasonable given his or her ability and experience.  Remember that you also have a role in the solution.  It may be nothing more than monitoring to see that the situation is corrected.  Or, it may involve more substantial activity that only you have the authority or expertise to carry out.

10. Summarise

Finish the session by summarising what the problem was, what solution was chosen, and who is responsible for each part of its implementation.  Stress the positive outcomes you want, not the situation you want to avoid.

My website contains further resources that may be of interest …


Screen shot - Home Page