Johari Window

The Johari window was created by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham in 1955.  It can be a really useful way of understanding relationships with others and with the organisation enabling:

  • Increased self-awareness
  • Identifying areas for personal development
  • Improving communications and interpersonal relationships
  • Managing group dynamics
  • Developing the team and improving inter group relationships

It has a clear  focus on  behaviour, empathy, co-operation, inter group development and interpersonal development, the soft skills often overlooked.  It is a simple model that can be applied in a variety of situations and environments.

 

There are two factors at work within the Johari window. The first factor is what you know about yourself. The second factor relates to what other people know about you.

The model works using four area quadrants. Anything you know about yourself and are willing to share is part of your open area.  Individuals can build trust between themselves by disclosing information to others and learning about others from the information they in turn disclose about themselves.

Any aspect that you do not know about yourself, but others within the group have become aware of, is in your blind area. With the help of feedback from others you can become aware of some of your positive and negative traits as perceived by others and overcome some of the personal issues that may be inhibiting your personal or group dynamics within the team.

There are also aspects about yourself that you are aware of but might not want others to know, this quadrant is known as your hidden area. This leaves just one area and is the area that is unknown to you or anyone else – the unknown area.

The balance between the four quadrants can change. You might want to tell someone an aspect of your life that you had previously kept hidden. For example, maybe you are not comfortable contributing ideas in large groups. This would increase your open area and decrease your hidden area.

It is also possible to increase your open area by asking for feedback from people. When feedback is given honestly to you it can reduce the size of your blind area. Maybe you interrupt people before they have finished making their point which can cause frustration. Alternatively people may always want to talk to you because you are a good listener. Sometimes you don’t realise these aspects of your character until it is pointed out.

By working with others it is possible for you to discover aspects that neither of you may never have appreciated before.

Some examples of unknown factors can be as follows:

  • an ability that is under-estimated or un-tried through lack of opportunity, encouragement, confidence or training
  • a natural ability or aptitude that a person doesn’t realise they possess
  • a fear or aversion that a person does not know they have
  • an unknown illness
  • repressed or subconscious feeling
  • conditioned behaviour or attitudes from childhood

From a practical point of view in implementing the Johari window you need to look at two steps.

Step one:

The place to start in the Johari window is in the open area. Make some notes about yourself.  What are your strengths and your weaknesses? What are you comfortable with and willing to share with others? Try and be honest and clear about what you know about yourself already.

Step two:

Involve other people and ask for feedback about yourself. Be prepared to seriously consider it. That doesn’t mean that you have to do everything that’s suggested, but you should at least listen and think about it. Then give the person who provided the feedback some acknowledgement or thanks for making the effort.  Depending on how confident you are you might prefer to do this as either a group exercise or on a one to one basis. Remember that giving effective feedback is a skill and some people may be better at it than others. When receiving feedback, be respectful, listen and reflect on what has been said. It may be on receiving feedback you may want to explore it further that can lead to discovery about yourself.

The Johari window as a tool does have its drawbacks:

  • Some things are perhaps better not communicated with others.
  • People may pass on the information they received further than you desire or use it in a negative way.
  • Some people or cultures have a very open and accepting approach to feedback and some do not. People can take personal feedback offensively so it’s important when facilitating to exercise caution and start gradually.

There are many ways to use the Johari model in learning and development. It very much depends on what you want to achieve in your training or development activities? What are your intended outputs and how will you measure that they have been achieved? How can the Johari Window theory and principles are used to assist this.

Johari is a very elegant and potent model, and as with other powerful ideas, simply helping people to understand is the most effective way to optimise the value to people.  When people really understand it in their own terms, it empowers them to use the thinking in their own way, and to incorporate the underlying principles into their future thinking and behaviour.

The Self Awareness Diagnostic is a great accompaniment to the Johari window model. It helps people to explore the qualities that make them who they are. The simple online questionnaire provides instant feedback to the participant that they can positively use in understanding their personal strengths and weaknesses, what belongs in their open space. It can also objectively help the participant to start to process some of those attributes that reside in their blind spot and can encourage discussion amongst the group without being confrontational or causing contention.

What is unique about the Self Awareness Diagnostic is it explores not only an individual’s ‘soft skills’ and working style preferences but also how participants like to learn; their learning styles.  In an education or business environment this can be a great enabler for a teacher or trainer to ensure all the members of the group are motivated and able to achieve their full potential

How do you Add Value?

Understanding How You Contribute to the Bottom line

You were hired to achieve results. These results must contribute to the bottom line. If they don’t – directly or indirectly – then how can your company justify paying you?

Just because you’ve been with an organisation for a long time, or you don’t make mistakes, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re adding real value. To add value, you need to make a significant positive impact on your organisation’s success, and, for most companies, this success translates to profitability.

Some organisations, especially in the not-for-profit sector and in government, measure success in other ways. Success may include things like helping people or improving the environment. Here, to add value and prove your worth, you must focus on the way your organisation measures achievement.

Why is Value Important?

Life at work can be unstable, so thinking about the value you add is perhaps one of the most important things you can do. Experience is important, as are loyalty, dedication, and a strong work ethic; but none of these alone is enough to ensure that you continue to be employed in the future: after all, you can work long and hard at counting paperclips – but unless counting paperclips somehow adds to your organisation’s bottom line, all of that effort is likely to go unnoticed.

So, keeping your job is a key reason why you should be concerned about adding value. Particularly now, organisations need to be lean and efficient, so make sure that what you’re doing creates value. And if it doesn’t, figure out what you can do to contribute more directly to your organisation’s success, and do this urgently!

When you assess your job in terms of adding value, you also gain a better appreciation of your real priorities, meaning that you spend as much time as possible on daily activities that contribute directly to the bottom line. With this valuable knowledge, you can set goals and prioritise with much greater efficiency.

Determining Your Value-Added Contributions

Adding value to your organisation’s bottom line is both simple and complex. Essentially, you can do two things to do this:

  1. Increase revenue.
  2. Decrease cost.

You have a responsibility to contribute to the bottom line, because this is what allows you to get paid. Developing an awareness and desire to help your organisation run as efficiently as possible is key to your long-term success.

For salespeople, it’s relatively simple to measure how their work translates to financial success – but for others, it’s not so clear. So, even if your work is far removed from directly generating revenue or decreasing costs, you should have a profit-and-loss outlook.

Start by analysing your job description. What is your job’s overall purpose? State this purpose in a way that relates to an element of the bottom line.

A project manager’s purpose might be to bring projects to successful completion on time and on budget. The relationship to the bottom line is obvious. However, a receptionist might struggle to find that relationship. On the surface, the receptionist’s purpose might be to answer phones and to receive and direct inquiries – neither of these shows “why” the receptionist position is important to organisational success. But if you state the purpose as “To receive and direct inquires, enabling staff to respond to customers in a timely manner and improve overall service,” then the connection to the bottom line is easier to see. If the receptionist doesn’t perform well, efficiency and service will suffer.

Once you link your purpose to the bottom line, evaluate all of your activities to determine their value potential. Focus on the activities that have the most direct connection to profitability: these are the activities you need to support and promote. Think about how you can complete these activities and add more value, and make sure that the people around you – and the people you report to – understand how valuable your work is!

Also, consider this job’s impact on cost control: if products are improperly packed and there’s spoilage or breakage, replacements must be sent, thus increasing costs. If orders are filled inaccurately, goods are returned and costs increase as a result of restocking items, and then shipping the correct ones. And if orders are mismanaged, this will lead to customer dissatisfaction and a loss of revenue.

EG: When a warehouse manager focuses on order accuracy, his or her value increases because waste – cost – reduces.

Tip:

Determine your approximate hourly cost to your company. It’s usually a lot higher than you imagine, particularly once you include payroll taxes, office space, and equipment costs! Knowing this actual figure can really help you focus on value-adding priorities.

Key Points

There are often many ways that you can add value within your organisation.

Start by thinking about profit and loss, regardless of your position, and question the value you add on a regular basis. Don’t assume that merely showing up for work and doing what’s expected will be enough to secure your success: with cutbacks or restructuring, you need to show that your work is well worth your compensation.

By taking a financially responsible approach to your work, you’ll feel much more confident about your position and purpose.

 

What is Reflective Practice and how does this fit with CPD?

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There is a lot of discussion on reflective practice and how this fits with Continuous Professional Development  (CPD).  We often get asked not only what it is but also how do you do it.  This post is an attempt to de-mystify reflective practice regardless of which profession you belong to.

We all reflect on a range of everyday problems and situations all the time without really giving it a second thought.  However converting this into formal reflective practice often falls in the “too difficult” bucket.

By tapping into what we do naturally reflection can be used in a structured way to review events, practice or learning events.  A good starting point is to use a few basic questions as a framework to help you to structure your reflections.  We would suggest using the following questions:

  • How did it go?
  • How do I feel about it?
  • What went well, or OK? Why?
  • What was not so good? Why?
  • How could this have been done differently?
  • What should I change or work on for next time?
  • What would be the first step?

The Gibbs model of reflection  can be really useful in making you think through all the phases of an experience or activity.  Enabling you to relatively quickly capture the information needed for effective reflection.

How can reflection help you?

Reflecting on learning or events can enable you to acknowledge your immediate feelings, then to stand back from them to be able to see things in perspective.  This helps you to make a balanced judgement, seeing what went well and focussing on the positive side of an event as well as the negative.  SOmetimes it is easier, on reflection to acknowledge things that may be difficult to admit in the normal course of events.

Reflection can bring greater clarity, like seeing events reflected in a mirror, developing a problem-solving approach rather than seeking blame or avoiding thinking about difficulties.  It involves drawing conclusions in order to move on, change, repeat or develop an approach, strategy or activity.

How should I record my reflection to meet any CPD requirements?

Each professional body is different in terms of demonstration of CPD, however keeping a reflective diary , a written record of your reflections can be very helpful.  This diary does not have to be lengthy but has the added benefit of enabling you to include examples as part of your CPD record.  It can also be used in your appraisal to provide examples and evidence of what you have done and how you have developed.

It does not need to be a shopping list.  You need to be selective about what you include and exclude.  Hard copy or electronic copy is fine.

Your diary can be used to identify new objectives and any further training needs reflecting on your experiences and skills as a learner and providing a structure to help you plan your personal, professional and career goals effectively.  It will build your evidence portfolio of your development and can be used both for reflection and as evidence in the future, such as when you apply for a job.

How do I become more reflective?

You will be reflecting in the normal course of events it is about building on the way you reflect already.  Here are some top tips:

  • Become more aware of how, when and why you reflect on things
  • Put time aside to reflect, even if only for a few minutes, on a regular basis
  • Use a structured approach, use some of the questions above as a starting point for developing your own methods
  • Keep a reflective journal, read it over ona  regular basis and look for themes
  • Consider whether your reflection is enabling you to reach any short term goals
  • Find an approach that suits you.
  • Look for changes in yourself, your actions, attitudes and confidence
  • Recognise your achievements, however small they may seem

 

Learning Culture & Compliance – Blog 1

I spoke to a group of Compliance Officers, Managing Partners and Finance Directors from the legal sector yesterday on the topic of “how a learning culture supports compliance”.  My talk was about the legal sector, but the issues raised are relevant to any business which needs to preserve a technical edge and also move with the times.  I have captured my thoughts in a series of short blogs.

Blog 1

Learning is not merely a matter of compliance, but it helps!

Making a business case for learning at work brings us up against some fundamental questions:  Why learn?  Is it merely to satisfy a regulatory requirement?  Is learning solely to support expertise or is it for something else?  Do wider business skills require development?

Establishing purpose

All of these questions lead back to one thing, business purpose.  Being clear about what the business is trying to achieve is a pre-requisite to developing strategic plans of any kind, including learning strategy.  Once you have clarity about purpose then it is possible to make an assessment of the knowledge & skills people will demonstrate when that purpose is realised.  Are they the same as the ones they have now?   It is unlikely that they will be purely based on technical expertise; expertise is “a given”.

Muddling through

In professional service firms it can be fairly easy to establish wide-ranging learning needs, because historically there has been a tendency to promote people to managerial and leadership roles on the basis of technical expertise or even time-served.  Often those promotions have been made without preparation or development support.  And that approach has, broadly speaking,  been adequate to-date, but the gaps and tensions it creates are becoming increasingly obvious.

Expecting people to muddle through their responsibilities as leaders and managers in a business is possible when there is plenty of work about and plenty of people to do the work.  However, when there is less work, or when that work needs to be done more efficiently by fewer people, the system, and the people within it, becomes strained.  Add to that dynamic a demand to deliver big intangibles such as “client-focussed service”, issues of “retention” or “succession planning” and the old approach is found wanting.

Using compliance to get “buy-in”

So we do not need to rely on compliance to make a compelling business case for investment in learning, but considering the barriers that exist, it gives the argument leverage.  The truth is that a lot of firms want the benefits of great knowledge and skills – in terms of delivering things like client service standards, efficiency and profitability and retaining staff – but when push comes to shove, the organisation really values and recognises fee-earning.  When making the case for investing time and money in learning, compliance provides a regulatory rationale for a change in approach.  It can be the foundation on which the steps towards effective learning strategy and business transformation can be made.

Learning means business!

The shift from hours-based CPD to competence to practise presents an important opportunity for firms to reassess their learning strategy and ensure it contributes to their business needs. 

This article is based on a feature first published in Managing for Success, the magazine of the Law Society’s Law Management Section

In November 2017 all solicitors had a new experience; they applied for their practising certificate on the basis of a declaration of “competence to practise”.  This is because the concept of a “cpd hour” is now long gone from a regulatory perspective. The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) moved to a competency-based model the year before.    Despite this seismic change in the way professional development is regulated, few in the profession are aware of the potential benefit to business which the new approach to learning & development makes possible.

Removing the comfort blanket of CPD hours brings firms up hard against the cold reality of the business purpose of learning. Some have dropped it like a stone, glad of an excuse to cut costs. Others see it an opportunity to take a new approach to learning at work and to ensure that professional development serves their business needs.

The rationale for change

Any learning provider will tell you that learning is not something that can be measured in hours.  Best practice in professional development now is all about delivering learning close to the work activity.  Learning at work is, after all, intended to change behaviour.  Everyone reading this article will know of the phenomenon of individuals turning up for irrelevant training sessions, just to get the hours.  Whilst the old system gave people who needed it a cast-iron reason to spend time on learning, it did nothing to address the quality of learning or the importance transferring skills into practice.

The competency-based approach

The SRA has provided a “Competency Statement” outlining four areas in which a solicitor may need to demonstrate “competence”.  It is important to note that the SRA’s version of competencies is NOT mandatory.  Indeed, it is not great!  I say that, because it is not commercially focused and the competencies are not especially well expressed.  Many firms have adopted the SRA version, but those firms are not the ones who have thought about what their businesses really need in terms of competencies, or what works for individuals; not everyone has to be able to demonstrate all the competencies.

Also worth noting is the fact that the SRA will only look into how an individual meets the competencies if there is an allegation of incompetence.  Were that to happen, both the firm and the individual solicitor would be required to produce evidence of competence, including what learning needs were identified, what learning was undertaken and how the learning was transferred into the work-place.  This reactive regulatory approach puts continuous learning at the bottom of the compliance priorities list.

In my view, however, learning is much too important to be a matter for compliance alone.  Getting people engaged and equipped to rise to the challenges of immense change is far more important.

The business case for change

It made be difficult to believe, but the SRA has done a good thing by freeing up the learning agenda.  We do not need to rely on pedagogical arguments to defend a competency-based approach.  The change brings very real business benefits for firms.

First, sustainable growth can only come from a strong internal base of well-managed, highly performing individuals; otherwise, there is an ever-present risk of failure to deliver consistently, or at all.

Second, market pressures and the ever accelerating pace of technological development make the ability to change an imperative. Adaptable people working in agile organisations will be more likely to survive and thrive.

Finally, law firms of the future will need to be creative about the way they deliver services. An organisation which values people who are willing to be creative must embrace the attendant risks and be able to manage and mitigate failure. That can only be achieved in an atmosphere of openness, dialogue and commitment to constant improvement. Creating that kind of culture requires a genuine commitment to skills-training as well as technical expertise.

Being released from the need to clock up CPD hours in order to comply with regulations enables firms to use professional development to rise to these challenges.

Managing the new regime also has the potential to bring positive change. Building an understanding of the purpose of learning ensures it is relevant to the strategy of your business and contributes to business need. Using a competency-based approach provides an excellent mechanism to make performance management genuinely meaningful and significantly increases the possibility of enhancing day-to-day performance.

Bringing a competency-based approach alive

Below are some tips for firms wanting to improve the quality and impact of learning, for their people and their business.

1

Take a strategic view

A good learning strategy defines the purpose of learning for the business; it is, by definition, ‘outcomes-focused’. Developing or reviewing learning strategy will provide evidence of a proactive approach to ensuring competence at an organisational level. It is also the first step in working out how to plan and prioritise training and measure return on investment for any learning initiative.

2

Use competencies

 Competencies are widely used across business and commerce. Put simply, they describe ‘what good looks like’. For example, it might be thought desirable for a lawyer to possess intellectual flexibility and technical knowledge. A competency-based approach would put some detail behind that statement to describe the desired behaviours, such as;

  • demonstrates intellectual curiosity in a variety of ways;
  • shares relevant information with colleagues across departments;
  • quickly and accurately grasps key issues in any legal problem; and
  • reflects and develops own thinking including discussion and debate with colleagues.

For some law firms, this kind of approach is well established. For others, however, it opens a Pandora’s Box of issues, including accountability for behaviour as well as financial output, ruffling the feathers of established expertise by shifting the focus to performance management.

Mark Briegal, partner at solicitors Aaron & Partners, ran a highly successful learning and development business before moving into the law; he describes the competency-based approach as a “no-brainer” in the legal sector, since “performance is not just about legal knowledge; it’s about competencies as well”. He describes competencies as fundamental to the performance management process: “If you cannot describe the behaviour you want to encourage, how can you begin to assess development needs?”

Providing evidence of competence throws a spotlight on the performance management process. Many lawyers who are required to manage appraisals are too busy or lack the skills to make them really effective. Yet giving individuals the opportunity to think purposefully about their development needs is an important starting point in the process of determining “competence”. Setting people up for success means getting to grips with performance management and making it work well.

3

 Capture learning in the workplace

 People learn most when they are doing their jobs, day-to-day. Arguably, lawyers do this more than most, as the law changes constantly and the work gets progressively more complex. But often, little is invested in maximising the opportunities to capture learning at work:

CILEx moved to an outcomes-based approach to CPD long before the SRA.  They require their members to capture a wide range of learning activities. Barbara Hamilton-Bruce, Head of Client at Slater & Gordon (UK) and a former council member at CILEx, says found the experience of recording learning outcomes to be a good one, “It made me think about my learning and, probably more importantly, about where I was unconsciously learning through the tasks that I was completing.”

The SRA’s approach to learning allows lawyers to utilise work-based learning (WBL) principles. Instead of losing the learning value of work activities in the noise and pressure of daily life, WBL takes a structured approach:

  1. identifying learning opportunities, such as making a presentation to a client or senior partners;
  2. recording the challenges faced and what it is hoped will be learned from the experience (this is a way for the learner to set their own learning outcomes); and
  3. once the task is completed, recording reflections on what was learned and identifying ways to build on the experience to further improve knowledge and skills.

There is significant scope for producing evidence of the application of professional ethics in this way – for example, by using WBL principles to learn from a forthcoming negotiation, transaction or proposal.

4

 Harness technology

 Learning technology is now key in learning delivery, offering both innovative learning opportunities and tools for tracking and evidencing learning.

It may come as a surprise to find that the number one online learning tool for personal & professional learning, and for work-place learning, in 2017 was YouTube (see Jane Hart’s survey at www.c4lpt.co.uk), because it provides a way to tap into a huge range of expertise in an immediate and engaging way. All kinds of online learning can be translated into recognisable units of activity, and captured through platforms such as the Learning Locker (www.learninglocker.net ).

Lawyers evidence their learning, for example, by using a training record. There is no reason in principle why that record should not be in pen and ink, or individuals can use an online record such as the one provided by the Law Society’s CPD Centre (www.lawsociety.org.uk/cpdcentre). The opportunities for capturing a range of learning activity, as well as the benefits of having a centralised way of tracking learning in the firm, will also make a centralised, and also potentially online, recording system attractive.

5

Focus on quality

The SRA no longer accredits CPD providers and it now recognises all sorts of learning activities. This throws the onus onto firms to be discerning about investing in training which delivers real impact.  Here are three things to look out for;

  1. Use purely didactic learning judiciously – many lawyers are comfortable being lectured, but that approach does not lend itself to transformational learning which changes behaviour
  2. Look for how much experiential learning is on offer, e. learning by doing, not listening – learning is an activity; it is not passive
  3. Always use providers who identify learning outcomes and, ideally, provide opportunities to consolidate learning after a face-to-face events with coaching or online resources

Firms with a clear understanding of the learning process will be able to provide the motivation, resources and support for individuals to progress their own professional development in a wide range of ways. The competency-based approach is intended to move away from rigid measures of learning, and towards a focus on the quality of learning and the potential to change behaviour as a result of training.

The wider context

There are excellent business reasons why a robust approach to individual and organisational performance should involve more than just metrics, whether those are learning hours or monthly budgets. If the move to an outcome-focused approach to CPD brings that prospect into focus, then I for one count it as a blessing.

Implementing learning strategy

  1. Make sure learning strategy is aligned with business goals
  2. Assess learning needs – what knowledge, skills and attitudes do you need in place to deliver on your strategy?
  3. Communicate the learning strategy
  4. Check there are no other organisational issues which will prevent people from using their new knowledge and skills –such as an unclear line management structure
  5. Prioritise learning activities in the light of business need
  6. Make a business case for learning activity – learning should always be more than “a good idea”
  7. Identify desired learning outcomes – these should accord with business need
  8. Consider a “blended learning” approach using different learning activities over time to establish and embed ideas and promote the transfer of learning to work
  9. Decide how and when to measure the impact of learning activities
  10. Measure the impact of learning activities in terms of hard and soft outcomes
  11. Generate evidence of success and use it to support the business case for future learning
  12. promote and support the integration of new knowledge and skills into day-to-day work to embed learning and create evidence of competence

Athena Professional is an award-winning consultancy which can help you to get the best value from your investment in learning.  Do get in touch if you would like to have a chat about your organisation’s needs.

Stand-out moments from the LawNet Conference 2017

Yet again Jane Armytage and I had loads of fun exhibiting with Athena Professional at the brilliant LawNet conference which ran last Friday, 10th November 2017.  The calibre of the speakers was outstanding.  I felt it was a day that raised awareness; there is a burning platform and the its starting to get warm under foot!

Many excellent things were said.  Twice I practically jumping out of my seat and cheering and once I was just fascinated to watch the audience open up and engage.  Here are my three stand-out moments:

#1

Keith Coats made it plain that CONTINUOUS LEARNING is where it’s at.  Oh Yes! Music to my ears!   I was inwardly jumping up and down.  Why?  Because, there is a huge opportunity to leap-frog over the sheep-dip training mentality and jump straight into equipping people to embrace change, to drive it, because they are permitted to think, to be creative and try out new ways of working.

Coats’ rationale was compelling; exponential change is only just getting under-way.  In other words if you think the world is complex and fast-moving now, you ain’t nothin’ yet!  The pace of change will become so ferocious that the ability to respond, to be adaptable and nimble, is going to be more important than robust strategic thinking and detailed planning, “You cannot plan your way into exponential change – plans give the illusion of control”.  Ouch!  That’s a powerful message for a room full of people who are used to being in complete control.

Coats prayed in aid the case of Netflix who sold billions of DVDs in the 1990s before recruiting a couple of former Amazon execs who told them the future was streaming film.  The business turned on a sixpence.  Within months they stopped making DVDs and began streaming.  It just so happens that Netflix was the topic of conversation in my house recently.  At one point both my teenagers chimed, “Mum! Everybody’s got a Netflix account!”

Surely the idea of ditching a brilliant business model must have seemed ridiculous to Netflix at first. However, Keith Coats related the words of Jim Dator, “Any useful idea about the future should appear to be ridiculous”, although the rider to that is, “not all ridiculous ideas are useful”!! That idea was captured in the cartoon record of the day created by Chris Shipton..

Are we willing to learn, to take risks and engage with ideas which might seem ridiculous?

#2

To my absolute joy, THE RULE OF LAW got a mention from Sophie Adams-Bhatti.  She asked the audience to raise their hands if they thought it was important.  Most did.  Earlier in the day Keith Coats had concluded by suggesting that people need hope and the world needs a shared sense of a higher purpose.  Well, well!  The legal sector does not need to look very far for its higher purpose.  As Adams-Bhatti observed, the Rule of Law is a crucial pillar of a democratic society.  Amen to that.

#3

Dr Brian Marien drew us into the subject of “Emotional Literacy” in the afternoon.  It was fascinating to see this room of senior lawyers given permission to think about their feelings and behaviours.  It has been my repeated experience that established professional people feel deeply concerned, vulnerable, even ashamed, about revealing that they do not know everything, that there are some skills they have not mastered, or that they or their colleagues demonstrate some behaviours of which they are not proud.  And yet I am certain that acknowledging the truth of that sort of sentiment is the starting point for so much that is so necessary to the profession.

If you would like to see the Twitter feed of the day go to #LNConf for lots of quotes and observations.

It is worth saying that the event is beautifully run by Helen Hamilton-Shaw and her team.  The venue, Heythrop Park in Oxfordshire is magnificent.  The whole day has such friendly, good vibe, its real pleasure to be there.  This was our fourth year of exhibiting.  I think we’ve worked with about a dozen LawNet firms now, so there are lots of people it is good to see and to catch up with, and plenty more to get to know.

I should also thank Chris Marston for giving Athena Professional a name-check during his introduction for our experiential approach to learning about performance management.  It is one aspect of continuous learning which is important and there is so much opportunity for more!

 

Report Writing – Top Tips

  1. Make it easy to read
    1. Format the report to make it easy to navigate and refer to; use page and paragraph numbers
    2. Use headings and sub-headings to help the reader understand your text
    3. Use 1.5 or double spacing
  2. Use simple language; leave out jargon and explain acronyms
  3. Refer to data and cite your sources; numbers are convincing!
  4. Use tables, bulletin points and diagrams where possible in order to represent information; it will make your report quicker to read and more compelling
  5. Plan to write at least two drafts. Writing is an iterative process.  Get your ideas out and shape them up, then shape and polish them some more!

 

A Standard Report Format

  1. Title Page & Table of Contents

Give a short explanation of the purpose of the report if necessary e.g. “Hanging on the Line.  A discussion of current telephone resources and potential new approaches to internal communication”.  Include authors and date your report.

  1. Executive Summary

Keep this short; no more than one side of A4. Outline the purpose of the report, give the most important information from the report, and state briefly your recommendations.

Make this section really easy to read by using bullet points and clear headings.  Someone coming to the report “cold” should be able to grasp the rationale of your report instantly from the executive summary.

  1. Methodology

State what methods you used and why you chose them.  Identify any challenges you faced, e.g. in collecting representative data, how you over-came those difficulties or what impact they have had on the report findings e.g. if you were not able to collect data from the night-shift, then be clear about the limitations of any conclusions about the whole workforce.

  1. Introduction

Signpost what the report is about and how it will be presented.

  1. Main Body

Structure the body of your report; make it a “story” which the reader can follow easily.  Give your strongest points first.  Use tables, bullet points, diagrams etc. to make it punchy.

Being overly selective about the data or being overtly biased in your argument will weaken your report over-all and leave you open to criticism.  So, make sure your argument is rounded, and acknowledge key weaknesses or challenges.

  1. Conclusion

Synthesise what has gone before.  Bring your argument together and state your outcome. Be brief.  Someone skim-reading the report should be able to comprehend your conclusion quickly and easily.

  1. Recommendations

Make it easy for a decision-maker to commit and take the next step by setting out clearly what you recommend.  Here is where your research and the strength of your argument play out.  If you know your argument is weak, you may feel nervous about this section; you are assuming responsibility for directing a decision.  Make it count!

  1. Appendices

The appendices are an essential reference for future use.  Include your data here.  Give your sources.

9. Glossary

If required, include a glossary of key terms or acronyms or abbreviations (although you should always give the name/reference in full the first time you use it in the text too e.g. Construction Design & Management Regulations (“CDM” Regs))

Forget the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe…..

How about the Wand the Whip and the Carrot?

How do you manage performance in your organisation?

Option 1 the Wand – Using your magic wand to sprinkle a little pixie dust over the people in your organisation; make them all feel good for a while. Lovely!

Option 2 – the Whip – Using a whip or a big stick to threaten and scare people to work harder. It’s always worked in the past hasn’t it?

Option 3 – the Carrot – Encouraging the right behaviours and discouraging unhelpful behaviours.

All of these approaches have an impact on performance, but only the carrot creates a sustainable change in behaviour.

Performance management is a bad thing though isn’t it?

Very often the mere words, performance management, instil dread; a sense that something bad is going to happen to someone (hopefully not you!!).

It doesn’t have to be like that.

Defining what ‘good’ looks like, enables you to acknowledge good performance, encouraging desired behaviours to be replicated by others.

“Thank you” for a job well done is welcome, but doesn’t help the person understand specifically what it was that they did which was particularly helpful, or made a difference.

“Thank you” on its own is pixie dust. It has an immediate feel good factor, but does not always translate into continuing performance.

How do you manage performance?

Define Performance Starting with the end in mind.  Defining the   outcomes you are looking for, or what ‘good’ looks like. Performance definition, on its own, is not always enough, however, It does not clarify the expected observable behaviours.
Set up for Success Defining   what ‘good’ looks like.E.g. A professional who continually over-delivers, constantly agreeing to extra work.  As their manager you be pleased, but the impact on the organisation and the individual may not so positive.If  good performance is defined as ‘to deliver xxxx outcomes’, this could lead to a the individual feeling that they need to deliver no matter what the personal impact on them is.  However, if performance is further explained by….- deliver the outcomes in a way that does not impact other commitments

– ensuring that any obstacles or issues are dealt with in a timely way, and

– keeping your manager informed at all times

The professional can then understand how they  achieve the performance required.

Monitor & Review performance For improved performance you need to monitor performance and provide clear, structured feedback that enables the other person to stop, start or continue the behaviours or activities observed.If the behaviours expected have been clearly defined, it is much easier to give meaningful feedback at review stage. The individual can then take responsibility for their actions and adapt their behaviour.
Respond Engendering sustainable change by the over-deliverer stopping, starting or continuing the   desired activities or behaviours

Conclusion

Whether you use the wand the whip or the carrot, there will be no change unless you are clear about your expectations, not just the ‘WHAT’, also the ‘HOW’.

For help and support to introduce a positive performance management culture in your organisation contact:

Jane               07977 932551          jane@athenaprofessional.co.uk, Nicola             07799 237479          nicola@athenaprofessional.co.uk

www.athenaprofessional.co.uk

Mentoring: Take another look

At first blush mentoring looks like a safe option.

  • It’s usually based on an hierarchical relationship (Odysseus gave his trusted servant “Mentor” responsibility for the development of his son, so the idea has been around a while)
  • It’s about passing on good practicePartnership
  • It’s not too demanding

If this view concurs with your impression of mentoring, then you have got the wrong end of the stick!

Certainly, mentoring is not a threatening activity, but its more than a quiet chat.  Mentoring can help unlock potential, engage long-serving staff and generate ideas.  All things a modern, progressive business will have on its “to do” list of people development.

Who benefits?

Mentoring results in hard, quantifiable benefits, like staff retention, or new staff being able to be productive rapidly.  Examples of less tangible, but highly valuable benefits include, staff engagement, inter-generational & inter-department communication, and support for line management.

 

Benefits of Mentoring for Stakeholders

Mentor Mentee Organisation
  • Recognition of experience & value to organisation
  • The opportunity to contribute to development
  • Time to reflect
  • A chance to stay in touch with colleagues
  • The possibility of learning something new from them
  • Learning new skills which will serve them in all walks of life

 

  • Access to experience outside line-management
  • Support
  • Guidance
  • Advice
  • A listening ear
  • A sounding board
  • Another perspective
  • Someone who can challenge them to be their best

 

  • Staff engagement
  • Increased staff retention
  • Motivation & commitment from all parties
  • New staff productive earlier
  • An additional source of support for line managers
  • Communication between different levels of staff
  • Cross-department working
  • Transferable skills for both mentor & mentee
  • A flow of ideas about existing practices

Mentoring: Getting started

It is essential that there is clarity about the purpose of your mentoring programme; otherwise any initiatives will fizzle out in the face of operational pressure.  Here are some key steps:

Step One

Identify who might benefit from mentoring, how that fits with business need and how you might measure the benefits.  You might consider;

  • your least experienced staffTaking the first step
  • new comers
  • people hoping for promotion

Think about existing formal and informal mentoring or mentoring-type activities in your business and make sure you are not over-burdening either the potential mentees or the potential mentors.  Do you need something new, or do you want to improve an existing arrangement?

Step Two

Get management buy-in to:

  • the strategic purpose
  • the operational impact (e.g. training need, communication effort, time away from the work-place)
  • how the process will be monitored and its impact measured

Step Three

Mentors have to be volunteers.  Identify who is interested in being a mentor and get them together to discuss their motivation and expectation.  Remember, mentors do not have to be people from the top of the organisation.  Experience, knowledge and skills worth communicating will be found at all levels.

Giving staff ownership of the mentoring project will increase its impact on engagement and is likely to be a positive factor in its success.   So get the potential mentors to think about;

  • The purpose of mentoring
  • The resources they need
  • What skills, knowledge and attitudes mentors need; do they have them?
  • What and how they would like to learn.

At this point you will have the basis for a planned approach to mentoring.

Essential Principles

Mentoring is natural for some people; they instinctively know when to encourage, or  when to advise and when to stand back and let someone work something out for themselves.  Even so, there are some basics which need to be part of the framework of mentoring, however lose it might be.

  • Boundaries need to be agreed at the outset
  • The ethics of the process need to be clear
  • Expectations need to be managed for all parties concerned, including line-managers, HoDs and at an organisational level

Reaching the parts other initiatives do not reach

High-flyers benefit from being mentored by excellent role-models, of course.  However, mentoring is a great way of engaging long-serving staff who may not have any other mechanism to communicate their knowledge and experience.  It builds-in that buzz word; sustainability.

 

 

A quiet performer

Introducing mentoring, or reviewing an existing programme, is an easy win.  Its low risk and relatively cheap.  Its a great way of demonstrating business values such as commitment to development, strong communication and recognition of experience.  And it opens up other avenues, like using developing low key coaching skills in senior staff, collaborative working,  and the potential to use online systems as a platform for mentoring.

 

Team Dynamics

Team Dynamics are how individuals within a group or team interact with each other.

The phrase was coined by Kurt Lewin, a social psychologist and change management expert in the early 1940s.  He observed that individuals in a team often take on particular roles and behaviours (See also Belbin’s work on team roles).  He defined Team Dynamics as the effect of these roles and behaviours  on the other team members and the team as a whole.

A team with a positive dynamic is very easy to spot.  There are high levels of trust, there are collective decisions, there are clear accountabilities defined and the team hold each other to account.  These teams tend to be very creative.

Poor team dynamics are demonstrated by disruptive behaviour within the team, poor decisions or a lack of of decision making and a lower propensity to be creative.

What Causes Poor Team Dynamics? group, poor decisions or lack of decision making and a lower propensity for creativity.

Negative team dynamics can be created by any of the team members, including the team leader.  Some of the most common problems that occur include:

  • Lack of leadership: without a strong leader, a more dominant member of the team may take charge. This can have many effects including infighting, change of focus or a  lack of direction.
  • Blocking: when the behaviours in the team disrupt the flow of information. These behaviours are driven by individuals adopting blocking roles such as:
    • The aggressor who continually disagrees with others, or is inappropriately outspoken.
    • The critic who is constantly critical of others’ ideas.
    • The withdrawer who doesn’t participate in the discussion.
    • The recognition seeker the boastful individual who dominates the session.
    • The joker who introduces humour inappropriately.
  • Groupthink:  when a desire for consensus exceeds the desire to reach the right decision.  This is often referred to as the Abilene Paradox. This prevents people from fully exploring alternative solutions.
  • Excessive deference to authority: this can happen when there is a very dominant leader with whom the rest of the team want to be seen to agree.  This leads team members holding back from expressing their own opinions which in turn can lead to the best solution not being adopted
  • Free riding: when some team members start to coast, and leave their colleagues to do all the work. Sometimes these free riders can work very hard on their own, but do not contribute to team situations; this is known as “social loafing.”
  • Evaluation apprehension: when people feel that they are being judged by other team members, and hold back their opinions as a result.

How can you improve Team Dynamics? 

Know your team You need to guide the development of your team, helping them progress through Tuckman’s stages of team development.  Understanding that progression through these stages is part of the process of developing an effective team will improve your team dynamics.Using Belbin’s Team Roles can help you understand the value that each person brings to the team, and help you deal with potential problems early.
Tackle problems quickly Nipping problems in the bud is the key here.  If you notice inappropriate behaviour act quickly to challenge it.  Give effective feedback to ensure the team member understands the impact of their actions, and to enable them to change their behaviour
Define Roles and Responsibilities Without focus or direction poor team dynamics quickly emerge.  Use RACI or a similar tool to help you clarify Responsibilities, Accountabilities Consult and Inform requirements early on.  Hold people to account
Break down barriers Ensure that attention is paid to the forming stage both at the outset and if new members join.  Team building exercises or using the Johari Window model can be very useful here
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate Communication is vital to effective team dynamics.  When you define the roles and responsibilities ensure that the Consult and Inform are also defined clearly and stick to it.  If you need to make an announcement let all the team know as quickly as possible to ensure all have the same information
Pay Attention Be continually aware of the signs of poor team dynamics and take action as soon as you spot them