Leadership = Influence (Dr Paul Hersey on “Situational Leadership”)

In a stunning display of endurance and personal effort, faced with the world’s worst microphone, but powered by an enthusiastic exhibition audience, Dr Paul Hersey (one half of the famous Hersey-Blanchard duo) explained at ASTD2012 ICE how…

Leadership is basically one key skill: Influence


Good leaders exert influence by adapting their style on the basis of two main things: Task result/goal-driven leadership or Collaborative/relational dialogue-driven behaviour. In my experience, most people have a natural preference to lead and be led in a way that sits somewhere on the continuum between these two things…


Depending on the current development level of the people you are trying to influence (with regard to the task at hand) one of 4 styles will therefore be required


When using these different styles, it will be important to pay attention to simple guidelines:

  • If “telling”, it is important to explain how things should be done (LIKE THIS)
  • When “proposing”, to OFFER your own idea means you ask for and accept feedback
  • “Asking” (which the rest of the world calls “coaching”) is all about getting the other person to find solutions for themselves (NOT MAKING PROPOSALS) …if they are not able, the leader may go back to proposing
  • “Delegating” implies handing over a task with NO CONTROL
  • A good leader is able to observe the development levels and needs of the person to be led (with regard to the task) and use the right leadership style. Development levels are defined in terms of commitment to the task (understanding and motivation) and ability to do the task.

    By adapting styles according to the development level of the person (for the task), we increase and maintain motivation and develop people toward high performance… ..until ultimately, they don’t need any more leading and we can let them go!

    For more information and to learn the relevant skills associated with Situational Leadership, check out www.klu.be and follow the course “Working with People” ….with me 🙂

    Outside the box (part 1)

    Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived in a box. It was a very nice box, with good solid walls and nice smart corners. She had everything she needed: Food, a bed and lots of nice things to look at. And she had her Mummy and Daddy, of course.

    The little girl didn’t know what was outside of the box and for most of the time, she never really thought to wonder. Everyday, she would go about her little girly business and everything was just fine.

    One day, however, when Mummy and Daddy were out of sight, the little girl spotted a small hole in the wall. Slowly and carefully, bravely but fearfully, she crept up to the wall and pushed her face against the small crack. But before she could see anything, just at that very moment, her Daddy’s voice came booming out: “Come away from there”. So she did.

    Later that day, the little girl asked her Daddy coyly: “Daddy, what IS outside of the box?”

    Daddy replied: “Nothing you need to worry about.”

    And that was that. She didn’t.

    Leadership competences (as noted by recent trainees)

    Here is the post-it note list my recent trainees made about leadership competences over my 4 day course with Kluwer. Split into knowledge, skills and attitude…


    Knowledge – a good leader should know..

    • His own style of communication
    • ..and those of the team
    • How people on the team feel
    • The team’s strengths and weaknesses
    • What gets her own people in FLOW
    • What is reasonable and what is not
    • The mission
    • About different personalities (eg: red monkey lovers)
    • Boundaries
    • Which tools and resources are available, where and how to get them
    • Different working methods
    • The working environment, business, key players etc..
    • Where we are in relationship to the mission
    • The big picture


    Skills – a good leader should be able to..

    • Be clear in communications
    • Communicate assertively
    • Give regular constructive feedback, including good examples
    • Adapt feedback frequency to the needs of the people (like with situational leadership)
    • Make good decisions
    • Moderate conflict
    • Create strategic action
    • Set expectations well
    • Influence and convince people
    • Build trust
    • Use active empathy
    • Avoid (or at least be aware of)  assumptions
    • Be objective
    • Adapt leadership style to the needs of the people
    • Evaluate performance with a blend of objectivity and subjectivity
    • Build a good network
    • Set priorities
    • Create a good environment in which he can gather input from the team
    • Stimulate problem solving
    • Coach people (when it is right to)
    • Mentor people (when it is right to)
    • Delegate
    • Direct people and hold hands when neceesary
    • Deal with own stress and the stress of others
    • Inspire the team
    • Solve problems
    • Adapt to different situations
    • State objectives in a clear and motivating way
    • Keep distance when required
    • Think outside of the box
    • Negotiate
    • Play purple (see Gavin Kennedy’s book on “Negotiation”)
    • Admit when things go wrong
    • Proactive
    • Create effective teamwork
    • Assign the right people to the right tasks
    • Empower people
    • Deal with change
    • Use google 🙂


    Attitude – a good leader should be ..

    • Open-minded
    • Adult-minded (ego state)
    • Good-tempered
    • Trust-worthy
    • Trusting
    • Think win:win
    • Positive
    • Consistent
    • Structured
    • ..but flexible
    • Confident
    • Inspired
    • Focusses on results
    • …but not forget people, emotions and feelings
    • Calm under pressure
    • Analytic
    • “Can-do” minded



    “Coaching is a luxury we can’t afford”

    The title of this post is a direct quote from a recent training participant. This person works in a scientific environment and was taking part in leadership training in order to prepare for a new role as a cross-functional team leader. Let’s explore….


    Defining coaching
    “Helping other people to find their own answers to their own answers to their own questions”

    …vs mentoring
    “Giving answers to questions asked by people”


    According to the literature and my own experience, coaching has several clear benefits:

    • Mike Noble, in T+D Magazine (March 2012) says that coaching leads to sustainable long term results and accelerates development towards higher performance
    • In my experience, retention and satisfaction or staff in an organisation improves due to personal development + motivation
    • John Whitmore (founder of the GROW model for coaching) argues that people will learn to think for themselves, taking responsibility for their own solutions
    • Coaching is in line with Dan Pink’s 21st century view on motivation and the human need for autonomy, mastery and purpose


    In training, the argument against coaching (supported by several participants) was that “we don’t have time for coaching people. Our job (as team leader) is to ensure the work is done on time and to quality. We are assigned people to work on the project and it’s not our role to develop them.”


    Coaching IS an investment on the long-term…

    A directive non-coaching approach to leadership is right when people are starting up with regard to a task and don’t have the necessary knowledge and skills to help themselves. BUT when people have the ability to figure things out for themselves, coaching can be an excellent approach to build responsibility and initiative.

    BUT it takes time!




    In the above figure, we see the non-coaching approach to helping employees perform. In a given time-frame, many deliverables are achieved quickly.

    In the following figure, a coaching approach to supporting employees is used:




    This image (not literally) of coaching is what led to the initial trainee reaction on coaching: “We dont have time for that. We need to get all TEN things done, now.”

    It is clear that the non-coaching approach give more “results” than a coaching approach in the same time-frame . BUT ONLY IF WE ONLY EQUATE RESULTS WITH ACHIEVING TARGETS.

    If we equate results with motivation, responsibility, initiative, development, job-satisfaction…. The non-coaching approach doesn’t deliver much at all.


    In addition, it is important to note 4 things (in addition to the benefits noted above) that will happen if we continue to coach our people:

    • They will get better in their jobs (develop)
    • They will learn to think for themselves (even applying self-coaching methods)
    • The number of times they come to ask for help will decrease
    • The time to coach will get quicker each time


    In this sense, there must be a point at which the investment in coaching starts to pay-off. And THAT is key to this blogpost: Coaching is an investment in long-term development, not short-term results.


    In his T+D article, Mike Noble suggests that if you really want to get managers onboard for coaching, convinced of its value and ready to invest, you will need to do 5 key things:

    • Help them understand the value of coaching, by showing them the benefits
    • Develop the coaching skill in the organisation
    • Set clear expectations with regard to coaching (sharing best practices, leading “from the top” with managers that “walk the talk”)
    • Assign people a coach
    • Reward the best coaches with the best jobs


    Good luck!



    5 ways to really piss me off when you give me feedback

    (And yes, the title is rude because I’m annoyed!)

    (And didn’t someone once say you should add some personal-flavour to blogging and social networking?)


    If you really want to annoy, demotivate and alienate people, follow these 5 simple feedback “un-rules”:


    Give it without warning

    Throwing out feedback without asking can be horribly surprising for the person getting the feedback. Even feedback-givers with good intentions can screw up by jumping into their message without first asking (or at least warning) the other person. What was a simple conversation or meeting suddenly turns into one person telling the other what they do or don’t like about their performance….

    You might be tempted to think this is only an issue when giving feedback on negative performance, but my experience tells me otherwise. I once told a fantastic colleague “out of the blue” what and how I found she was doing well –> she became very shy and uneasy about the rest of the meeting. Try to avoid the “Where did that come from?” effect.


    Give it without permission

    Letting people know that feedback is coming is one thing, but I always find it better to actually ask permission to give feedback first. It can be as simple as saying “I have some feedback to give you. Would that be OK?” Asking this question will also help you to avoid the first issue, maybe even deferring the feedback to a moment that is more comfortable for the other person.

     (Of course, if you are in a position of hierarchical authority and you feel that the other person does not have to give you permission, go ahead – I am rarely in this position now, but I don’t say it’s impossible)


    Give it via someone else, rather than yourself

    There are 3 good reasons to pass feedback to someone via a third party:

    • You have no guts
    • You are manipulating
    • You are the n+2 and feel that all feedback must come via the n+1

    Personally, I think the last reason is pretty lousy – actually often a form of gutless corporate manipulation made possible by hierarchy and organigrams. But hey, I suffered a lot once from gutless corporate manipulation, so I may be a little biased…

    I am also aware that some cultures can be more direct than others with their communication style, but as a general principle, I think that if you have something to tell someone, it should be YOU that tells them.


    Create no dialogue, even though you are dealing with a competent human being

    I think it’s a good idea to link the “next steps” or “here’s what you could do” part of feedback-giving to a situational leadership style.

    I won’t go into too much detail here and I am ignoring S4/D4 here (read Leadership and the One Minute Manager by @kenblanchard), but the principle is simple for today:

    • If the person is incompetent, you need to tell them what and how to do better
    • If the person is competent, you may not NEED to tell them what/how to do: Discussing, involving and asking may be a better option


    Be wrong

    I just did this to one of my daughters tonight. I told her I wasn’t very happy that she said “XYZ” to her mother. In fact, she said X and Y, but not Z. Fail!

    Nothing sucks more than inaccurate feedback.

    When it comes to objective vs. subjective feedback, it’s important to note that accuracy is possible in BOTH cases:

    • If you are talking about measurable performance “facts” collect and cite them well
    • If you are talking about your own feelings and opinion (with regard to the other person’s performance) then make it clear that it’s your opinion – don’t make the mistake of pretending (to yourself or others) that it’s a fact


    All of these 5 fails were achieved by someone giving me feedback last week

     How do I feel?

    • Angry
    • Misunderstood
    • Vengeful

    Now, I add one final thing: My wife has just read this and says “Hey DAN, the last part is very strong and not very business-like”.

    Do you really think that business people don’t feel these things when you give them lousy feedback?



    Thanks for reading.

     Follow me on Twitter

    Leave a comment

    Visit www.infinitelearning.be


    Where are all these Enterprise 2.0 companies?

    In a recent conference with @_Synergo in Mouscron I spoke at about Innovation at work. I gave a talk on the New World of Work and Infinite Learning possibilities. You can see the Prezi here:



    During the presentation, a lady in the audience asked “But where are these Enterprise 2.0 companies DAN?” I was extremely pleased that a neighbouring audience member said his company was a good example.


    Check out this 1 minute film of that man, Luc Lammens, CEO from Centric Belgium talking about how Flat Collaboration and Constant Learning helps his company mutate into something resembling Enterprise 2.0


    Thanks for reading

    See you on Twitter?



    Who loves red monkeys? (survey)

    In his work on organizational innovation, @JefStaes talks uses the analogy of red monkeys to describe a new idea. These 2 blog posts outline that idea and deliver results of my recent online survey of 71 people to see who loves red monkeys themselves, in their teams and in their organisations…

    I suggest you read the supporting theory first – follow this link.

    For a related blog post on how leaders can help bring change to the organisation, check this link.


    In my survey, I asked people to choose between sets of phrases that describe either the Creator, Pioneer, Follower or Settler change personality. I asked them to choose what best suits themselves, their team/department/close colleagues and their company from the following:

    • I love change! I tend to create change and new ideas myself. When faced with new ideas, I brainstorm to create even more. I throw new ideas and change into the organisation with enthusiasm.
    • I am open to change and take it seriously. When people come to me with new ideas or initiatives, I will help them to test the idea to see how it can work. If it does work, we can introduce it into the organisation.
    • I don’t really like change and new ways of working. I don’t come up with ideas myself. But if its best for me, I’ll do it. Just show me good examples and proof and I’ll do what needs to be done.
    • I am against change. I don’t like changing things, or new ideas. Things would be best if they just continued the same way. Don’t come to me with new ideas!


    When dealing with this model in training (in the wider context of introducing change management), we first learn about the red monkey model, then I ask: Which do you think you are most like, your team and your company? Almost every time in training, I get a distribution like this:

    …and I would have bet money on the survey giving the same results (fortunately, no-one offered to bet!)

    My explanation of these results is something as follows:

    • People like to think of themselves as more creative than they actually probably are
    • No-one wants to think of themselves as anti-change, as a settler
    • People imagine their company to be slow with change, overly bureaucratic and not open to new suggestions. Note that I tend to work for a lot of large corporations and I suspect this could be different if I worked with smaller less structured organisations.
    • There is a mentality of “us against them” in many companies – this leads to the idea that “they” stifle “us”


    In my online survey of the 4th November 2011, the 71 results I got give the following impression when stuck on to the red monkey model:

    What do I think of these results?

    • I didn’t see the major “my company is a settler” view I expected (good news in my opinion)
    • Maybe asking the question without training/learning doesn’t give people the same feeling of the model as in a training room
    • Individuals still rate themselves quite creative and open to change
    • ..and more so than other people in their organisation


    According to @JefStaes the Creators and the Pioneers make up only about 10% of the population. If we imagine my survey respondents (“ME”) to be “the population” of an organisation then we have no followers! This could make for an extremely (read “overly”) dynamic organisational culture!

    What are my thoughts on this?

    1. Maybe by chance the people who took the survey are actually part of the 10% in their own organisation
    2. Since I asked via Twitter, maybe I didn’t get so many “Followers” and “Settlers” answering – they are not on the Twitter train yet..
    3. Or, as I already noted: People tend to “mark themselves up” as more creative or pioneering


    I’m glad people rate themselves as creative and open to change. I only add (rather cynically, I admit) the following paradox:

    • If you ask me if I’m honest, I’ll say “yes”
    • If you ask me if other people are honest, I’ll say “not always”
    • Everyone replies the same to these 2 questions
    • …but I don’t believe everyone is honest
    • ..but I still say I am! 🙂


    Please leave me a comment if you read, took part or enjoyed this survey. Ienjoyed it a lot, but I don’t pretend to know everything here – I’m interested to keep on learning and would love your feedback. I’ve added to the comments myself with 2 email replies already received over the weekend…

    For a related blog post on how leaders can help bring change to the organisation, check this link



    Follow me on Twitter

    Visit www.infinitelearning.be

    Leave a comment


    Who loves red monkeys? (theory)

    In his work on organizational innovation, @JefStaes talks uses the analogy of red monkeys to describe a new idea. These 2 blog posts outline that idea and deliver results of my recent online survey of 71 people to see who loves red monkeys themselves, in their teams and in their organisations…

    To read the survey results, follow this link.

    For a related blog post on how leaders can help bring change to the organisation, check this link.


    The Red Monkey Analogy

    Imagine 2 different ecosystems: a forest and an ocean. In the forest, there are brown monkeys. In the ocean, red fish. Suppose a brown monkey were to meet a red fish. Out of their mating (discussion, creation) would come a red monkey. @JefStaes calls red monkeys new ideas and says that they are created where borders and ecosystems collide.


    Creating Innovation

    If you want to innovate, says @JefStaes, you need two elements: Creativity (the red monkey) and Entrepreneurship (implementation). If you don’t implement things, nothing happens with the new ideas. But what is more interesting is to find the right way to implement new ideas in the organisation. Otherwise, the red monkey will die.

    Example: Drop it in the middle of the forest and the brown monkeys will kill it (they don’t like it, they don’t understand it, “it won’t work around here”); drop it in the ocean and it’ll drown (it’s not fit for the environment yet).


    Who love red monkeys?

    @JefStaes describes 4 change personalities, starting from the edge of the eco-system and moving inwards:

    • Creators: They create new ideas. They cross borders. They love change.
    • Pioneers: They are open to change. They will take a new idea and test it to see if and how it can work. They can help you to create examples, which you need for the…
    • Followers: They wouldn’t necessarily like to change, but if they can see that the red monkey (new idea, change) is in their favour, they’ll do it.
    • Settlers: Don’t want to change. You need settlers in an eco-system to keep it safe and secure. But they don’t like doing things differently. I compare this to organisational functions like “financial controller” and “compliance”.  Without them, you have no stability. But they don’t like change. They have to be forced to change. Or, like the dinosaurs, they will die when everything around them eventually changes.


    With these personalities in mind, you can imagine what happens if a Creator brings his red monkey to one of the other people:

    • C –> Creator: They enthusiastically brainstorm, creating lots of wonderful new ideas that may or may not work. When they are done brainstorming that idea, they will move on to others. Not the best people to actually get things implemented…
    • C –> Pioneer: The Creator has found an ally. The Pioneer has willingness, time and resources to check out the new idea. He will test it, shape it and if the idea is feasible, find good strong working examples of how it can benefit the organisation.
    • C –> Follower: If the idea is not proven, the Follower will not follow.
    • C+P –> Follower: If the Creator tests his ideas with the Pioneer first, now the Follower will accept. He can see how it is useful, he understands the benefits. Its proven, so he accepts.
    • C + P + F –> Settler: Overwhelmed by the force of Creators, Pioneers and Followers, the Settler will give in. Or be forced to change. Or move out. Or die.

    Don’t forget: Drop your red monkey into the Settlers and they will kill it. They don’t like it, they don’t understand it, “it won’t work around here” or it’ll drown (it’s not fit for the environment yet). In my experience, the Settlers even sometimes try to kill the idea before it can be taken any further. They will lobby against it, either openly or behind the back of the Creators. In this way, the Settler can be the enemy of red monkeys.


    With my online survey, I asked people to choose from 4 sets of phrases describing either Creators, Pioneers, Follower and Settlers. Which ones did they think best described them, their teams and their companies? You can see the results by following this link.


    Follow me on Twitter

    Visit www.infinitelearning.be

    Leave a comment


    Leadership resources from a recent Kluwer training

    Having just completed delivery of a 4-day Leadership Training with @KluwerOpleiding (thanks @MiekWouters for the chance to have a small group :-)) I thought I’d share the email stream that built up from me to participants over the 4-days. Loads of references here…


    References DAY 1


    Homework / Preparation DAY 2


    References from DAY 2


    Homework in preparation for DAY 3

    • Think of a problem you have (professional or personal). This will be used in day 3. You will be asked to state your problem and ask for help…
    • Think of a difficult communication situation or difficult person you have had to deal with (personal or professional)


    Here are the references from training DAY 3


    Homework in preparation for DAY 4

    • Prepare a 1 minute presentation of yourself – anything is fine, we just need some data to use for a feedback exercise, so no stress!
    • Please think about additional topics to cover in group coaching session in the afternoon of Day 4


    References DAY 4


    Hope this was interesting

    Leave a comment!

    Follow me on Twitter

    Visit www.infinitelearning.be

    18 tips for managers to bring change into an organisation

    If you are a manager trying to bring change into the organisation, here are 3 main things to think about:

    1. How do people react to change?
    2. What are the different personalities you can see when introducing change?
    3. How can we as leaders do a good job of dealing with change?


    This blog-spot lists my training participants’ answers to the 3rd question only…
    (For more info on “2”, check out Jef Staes’ work on Red Monkeys here… or follow him on Twitter)


    What can I do as a leader to ease change into the organisation?


    Maintain good relationships with your people
    • Involve people …if possible, let people have an influence on what is going on
    • Make no assumptions (about them)
    • Be patient
    • Treat people as adults (don’t “parent them”)
    • Be respectful


    Communicate well
    • Listen to people
    • Take time to answer questions
    • Explain vision/strategy/purpose/reasoning etc…
    • Discuss things with people
    • Underline the benefits for the other person
    • Share stories and best practices


    Walk the talk and take time for quality change processes
    • Be convinced yourself, be honest and lead by example
    • Make gradual change – not necessarily slow, but step-by-step
    • Find champions and ambassadors
    • Identify change-opponents
    • Put a feedback process into place
    • Give recognition and credit to “helpful change-agents”
    • Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!


    For other ideas on how to introduce change, check out Peter Senge’s book “The Dance of Change”


    Leave a comment
    Follow me on Twitter