Weathering the Storm

Leadership is in the news. First, in the US Barack Obama has been re-elected to serve a second term and in the UK George Entwistle has just resigned from the top job at the BBC. One has been endorsed as the leader of a major economic and political power and the other has lost the mandate to run a broadcasting organisation. They seem to be completely unrelated stories, yet both men’s stories could so easily have been swapped.

There are more similarities between the two men than at first seems likely. Both have serious intellectual capacities and had spent their earlier careers in relative obscurity before being thrust into the limelight: one of the roles Entwistle had had before becoming Director General of the BBC was controller of knowledge; Obama had been a teacher. Entwistle was uncomfortable being interviewed, particularly the fateful one with Radio 4’s John Humphreys, and the normally eloquent Obama disastrously lost the first debate in Denver. There’s just one year difference in their ages. By all accounts they are decent men who were determined to do a good job and yet only one of them is being allowed to carry on.

Both men’s jobs come under a great deal of scrutiny and after just 54 days at the top George Entwistle had faced two crises and been judged not to have responded to them appropriately. Obama had four years in office to establish his credentials: amongst his achievements is his healthcare bill which he will now hope to nurse (sorry!) through to a meaningful implementation despite continuing Republican opposition. But on the other hand unemployment increased significantly during his first term, causing suffering to so many families.

Unlike Entwistle though, Obama has been given a chance to finish what he started and to put right what he hasn’t fully acknowledged yet. Amongst the latter category I count climate change which commentators have pointed out was hardly heard about during the campaign. Obama mentioned it in his victory speech however:

‘We want our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.’

I’m sure we would all echo those sentiments for our own corner of the world and hope he demonstrates by his leadership, his willingness to collaborate and his determination that he really is the man for the job.

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Who’s in your meetings?

Think about the last meeting you attended, perhaps with your team – who was there? And how did that affect the outcome of the meeting? Our guest blogger, Lesley Tulley poses this question.

Before pretty much every meeting you attend you will, consciously or unconsciously, have played a lot of it out in your mind already and would probably confidently bet a reasonable amount on the outcome. And it’s not just you doing this. Everyone else going to the same meeting has more than likely done the same thing. The first question might then naturally be, why have the meeting at all? And in many cases that would no doubt be a fine question and asking it would save a lot of time and hassle and increase productivity. Those are the meetings when you feel like you are going through the motions and having a meeting because, well, it’s what you do, isn’t it?

However, reducing the number of meetings is not what I am interested in here. What interests me is how you can view the members of your team, or the participants at any given meeting, in a way which will drive successful outcomes and make meetings a valuable use of your, and everyone else’s, time.

I believe that one of the keys to a successful meeting is to consider what drives the individual participants. This will inform their immediate behaviour, their perspective, where they want to focus their attention, how they like to present and receive information and their attitudes towards others.

We are most used to thinking of meeting participants in one of two ways – either as named individuals (“ Bob’s going to be there”) or by their role (“The heads of HR and Finance will be there”)
I’d like to suggest that there is another way you can view the members of your team that will drive more successful outcomes from your meetings. Think about the individuals and their relationship with the following:

  • Information
  • Time
  • Risk Taking
  • Visibility
  • Other team members

Do they need a lot of information? Do they like to take time to make decisions or are they quick to get into action? Are they cautious towards projects they perceive as high-risk? Do they need to be visible, to express themselves in front of the whole team? Are they concerned with making sure everyone is onboard with a decision before moving forwards?

These attributes reflect what drives an individual and what they need to be in place to be comfortable with making a decision and moving forward on a project. If these needs are not met then you, and others in the team, may experience this person as awkward or unhelpful, or simply getting in the way. Yet, a simple understanding of how to meet these needs can remove a lot of obstacles.

Tensions are created within teams when people lack an understanding of others’ needs. Two people may have the same end vision but if one is driven to be in action and move quickly and the other is driven to research and information gathering to reduce perceived risk they can work against each other despite the shared goal. In these situations, the end goal can easily be forgotten and tensions become personal as they each view each other’s approach as ‘wrong’.

It may seem depersonalizing to examine the way someone operates, through their relationship with information, time, risk, visibility and other people. However working with what is, rather than just wishing people were more like you, takes less time, is less draining and is more likely to achieve the results you all want.

In other words, know what’s important to others in order to achieve successful outcomes.

Guest blogger, Lesley Tulley

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Teamprofile tool

How well do you know your team?

A key part of Leadership is communicating with and motivating people you work with and it’s worth spending some time thinking about who you work with and how they respond to situations.

What drives others?
Think about how each member of your team behaves particularly when decision making under tight deadlines, or when the stakes are high:


  • Risk – are they a risk taker?
  • Time – do they need lots of time to think or do they prefer to act?
  • Decisions – are their decisions based on consultation or instinct?
  • People – how important is consensus to them in moving forward?
  • Projects – are they process oriented or do they favour relational aspects?

The differences in these behavioural preferences reflect the individual’s key drivers and what is important to them to be in place to move forward.  Recognising and responding to these can have a big impact on how the individuals respond. It aids you in planning communication strategies both with them as individuals and collectively as a team.

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