The Busy Leader’s Guide to Building Skills Fast: Break Down the Walls

 19th September 2017 by gihan

In a research study reported in the Harvard Business Review, chefs in a restaurant made tastier food when they could see their customers. This wasn’t because the chefs felt like they were being watched (because the same result occurred when the customers couldn’t see the chefs), but because they could see how their product would be used. Just seeing their customers gave them a more personal connection and a more meaningful role, and that translated into a better product.

Can you do the same with the people in your team? It’s not very inspiring if they beaver away in isolation, day after day, and never see the way the customers use what they produce. Look for ways to let them step outside their own little work bubble and see what’s going on around them.

Here are some ways to show them what’s happening elsewhere in the organisation and also what’s happening outside it.

Step into a co-worker’s shoes

As a leader, you can see how each person’s work fits into the overall project, but it’s not so easy for the people doing the work itself. Give them the chance to understand what other people in the organisation do, especially those directly connected to them. You can do this through informal job-swapping, letting them shadow somebody else for a day, or inviting co-workers to give a short presentation about their job.

For example, if you lead a sales team and rely on leads from the marketing team, invite a marketing person to make a short presentation to your team. Similarly, if you’re the marketing manager, send your people on sales calls with the salespeople who receive your leads. This process not only brings the two teams closely together, it also means they might identify ways to improve the process.

Show them some real customers

Bring your team members closer to customers, even just to observe them. According to one study from Harvard, chefs make tastier food when they can see their customers. This is not because the chefs feel like they are being watched (the same result occurred when the customers couldn’t see the chefs), but because they could see how their product would be used.

This is valuable even for people in a support role – such as finance, administration or human resources – so they can see how their work contributes to the value your organisation offers.

This helps people understand how their work is meaningful and lets smart people suggest improvements.

Show them how their work has meaning

If you can’t expose them to real customers, find other ways to demonstrate that their work has meaning, either to others in the organisation or to external stakeholders. People are motivated by knowing how their work plays a role in delivering an important service or creating a valuable product.

Highlight something to be proud of

If meaning is about their internal motivation to do a good job, pride is about something your organisation does that they can boast about to others.

Your organisation might be the biggest, smallest, oldest, youngest, fastest, brightest, or better in some other way. It might pride itself on its remuneration, working conditions, management structure, social conscience, mentoring programs, paid parental leave, or something similar.

Even if your team members aren’t working in areas directly related to these features, they can still take pride in being part of an organisation that supports them.

Take away resources

Sometimes the best way to encourage cooperation is to remove resources rather than adding them. For example, a lunch room that’s shared with other teams might spark more interesting conversations than a private lunch room for your team.

However, be careful of the unintended consequences of your actions. Removing the lunch room might encourage people to eat lunch at their desk instead – and that defeats the purpose (as well as reducing productivity).

People also tend to resent losing resources. Rather than actually taking resources away, you might apply this principle by simply not adding new resources.

Use the hierarchy

An important part of your role as a leader is to bypass the hierarchy in order to get things done, but the organisational hierarchy can be useful if you use it to your advantage. Avoid the hierarchy if it causes friction (that’s called bureaucracy), but use it if it facilitates your goals.

For example, if the CEO has publicly stated her commitment to collaboration, you can quote her when asking your peers about job swapping, creating a mastermind group, or any other initiative you want to implement.

What are YOU doing to break down the walls for your team?

Don’t wait until “we’re not so busy” to put these ideas into action. There will never be a perfect time, so make time for these ideas in your regular work days. Most of them don’t take much extra effort, but they can make a big difference to your team’s motivation and engagement.

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How to Lead From Everywhere – Free Webinar Next Week

 14th September 2017 by gihan

The workplace – and what employees want from it – has changed over the years. The standard workplace of the past was an office with everybody working the same hours, at the same time, in the same place, focussed on the same goals. Modern workplaces are different, with distributed teams working from different places, in different time zones, and with different motivation. Leaders who understand the needs of their distributed teams members will increase productivity, retain the best talent, and achieve their personal and professional goals.

Join Gihan Perera, futurist and author of “The Future of Leadership”, as he shares the key principles for nurturing talent in a distributed team.

In this live, interactive webinar, you will learn how to:

  • Build a team culture, even when team members don’t work in the same office
  • Increase productivity and collaboration in your distributed team
  • Align everybody’s personal and professional goals
  • Involve remote team members fully in day-to-day operations

When: Tuesday 19th September 2017, 11am BST (U.K.), 6pm Perth, 8pm Sydney/Melbourne

Register Now

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Strong, Smart Mentoring Moves

 12th September 2017 by gihan

For most organisations, traditional training courses have two big weaknesses: They teach skills rather than experience, and they tend to be “one size fits all” processes. You can address both weaknesses with a simple but highly effective way of accelerating the experience curve for your team members: mentoring.

Mentoring is a one-on-one relationship, where each learner (mentoree) is paired up with a more experienced person (mentor). They meet regularly for the mentor to share their experience and guide the mentoree, who asks questions and uses the mentor as a sounding board for their ideas.

The benefits for mentorees are most obvious: They learn new skills, fast-track their development, identify new areas for growth, access new networks, have a sounding board for ideas, explore issues in a safe environment, and develop their career path.

Mentors get benefits as well: They develop listening and coaching skills, enhance their leadership skills, understand people better, stay in touch with other parts of the organisation, and give back to others.

Even if you don’t have a formal mentoring program in your organisation, mentor your team members anyway. But don’t just stop there – encourage others in the organisation to use mentoring for their own teams’ growth and development. It’s in your best interest as well, because it opens up the range of potential mentors for your team (and you). Here are some practical things you can do:

  • Offer your service as a mentor. Be a role model and ask peers and colleagues if you can mentor any of their team members.
  • Invite them to be mentors. Discuss mentoring with your peers and colleagues, and invite them to offer their time as mentors.
  • Share success stories. Showcase stories of your team members who have benefited from mentoring.
  • Conduct “career days”. Invite others in the organisation to present their work to your team members, to bring potential mentors and mentorees together.
  • Invite Human Resources to participate. Invite an HR person to be involved with your team from time to time, so they get to know the team members, and vice versa. Your team members are their “human resources”, so a good HR person should welcome the opportunity.

Finally, look for existing mentoring programs – either within your organisation or elsewhere – so you can tap into them, rather than doing everything yourself. However, if you do need to do it all yourself, do it! It’s not a difficult and time-consuming task, and it can bring great rewards for you and your team.

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Disrupt Yourself

 8th September 2017 by gihan

We hear a lot about businesses and entire industries being disrupted, but smart leaders don’t wait for somebody else to disrupt them. That’s a reactive approach, and you’ll be starting off on the back foot. Instead, these leaders take a “If it ain’t broke, break it!” approach, and find ways to lead the way in change, innovation, and disruption.

You can watch the recording here:

After the webinar, I asked participants “What was the most useful thing you learned today?” Here are some of their answers:

“The need to disrupt yourself before others disrupt you”

“Risk Analysis ie reviewing perceived strengths (& the potential threats) “

“! and other up to date real world tips/disruption/apps…”

“Great insights into disruption — personal check about my own readiness for disruption — getting on the front foot to become an innovator — Start Before You are Ready”

“To be more aware of the changes in my world and how I can be the one who disrupts. Two years ago I didn’t see the changes coming so now I’m reinventing. “

“Having to look at my strengths and being ready for distruptions”

“You need to get ahead of the curve or risk the reality of disruption”

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Boost Innovation by Taking an External Perspective

 5th September 2017 by gihan

Break out of your standard thinking style by taking an outsider’s view. Use this exercise with your team and you’ll generate more ideas and better ideas.

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Disrupt Yourself – Free Webinar On Tuesday

 31st August 2017 by gihan

We hear a lot about businesses and entire industries being disrupted, but smart leaders don’t wait for somebody else to disrupt them. That’s a reactive approach, and you’ll be starting off on the back foot. Instead, these leaders take a “If it ain’t broke, break it!” approach, and find ways to lead the way in change, innovation, and disruption.

When: Tuesday 5th September, 8-8.30am WA time, 11-11.30am AEST, 1-1.30pm NZ time

Register Now

This webinar will be recorded, and the recording will be available at

The Future Proof Webinar Series

The Future Proof webinar series will keep you in touch with our future - what's ahead, what it means for us, and how to stay ahead of the game.

In each webinar, I'll cover an important topic about the future - for example, the shift of power to Asia, the changing workplace, healthcare technology, the shift to customer-centric business, big data, and more. This is not just theory; I'll also give you practical examples and ideas for you to future-proof your organisation, teams, and career.

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Claim Your Expertise

 29th August 2017 by gihan

Successful leaders stand for something – and are known for it. This is your personal brand. Many entrepreneurs and business owners recognise the value of a personal brand because they can leverage it for their business. However, a personal brand is valuable for internal leaders as well:

  • You become the “go to guy/gal” in your organisation for your expertise.
  • You guide your own career path.
  • Your work becomes more meaningful and rewarding.
  • Decision-making becomes easier, because you use your personal brand as a guide.
  • You attract and retain the best people (those aligned with, and inspired by, your brand).
  • It’s easier to approach people outside your organisation for help.
  • You become a role model for team members who want to build their own personal brand.

Your personal brand is not based on a logo, clever slogan, or your personality. It’s based on two things: your expertise and your network. In other words, it’s about what you know and who you know.

As a leader, you already have expertise, knowledge and insights that others value. By sharing it, you help others and build your own credibility.

To establish your authority, put a stake in the ground and stand for something. If you haven’t yet decided on an area of expertise, here are some clues to help you identify it:

  • Leaving aside your role as their manager, what else do your team members ask you about?
  • What do peers and colleagues ask you about (again outside your formal role in the organisation)?
  • Do you have an external profile – say, with the media or public?
  • Are you passionate about something in your industry?
  • Are you passionate about something related to your role (for example, marketing, customer service, or finance)?
  • Are you passionate about something related to your work as a manager or leader (leadership, teamwork, talent retention, or goal setting)?
  • Are you passionate about some other aspect of your professional life (networking or media relations)?
  • Are you passionate about something bigger than your organisation but related to it (corporate social responsibility, climate change, Generation Y in the workplace, working away from a traditional office, female leaders, or outsourcing)?

Although it’s important to know your expertise, this isn’t essential for everything else. Even if you’re not sure of your expertise yet, accept whatever feels right now. For some people, this is a lifelong journey, so start the journey anyway.

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How to Up Your Mentoring Game

 22nd August 2017 by gihan

Even if your organisation doesn’t have a formal mentoring program in place, offer mentoring to your team members. Because mentoring can be done informally and with few resources, it’s easy to take the initiative yourself.

Find the right mentor

The old-fashioned view of mentoring was that you should not mentor your own team members, but that’s no longer the case. You can – and should – mentor your own team members, but also consider other people who can mentor them as well.

This is where you can draw on your network. Identify potential mentors, discuss them with the mentoree, help the mentoree choose one (or more), discuss the mentoring opportunity with the potential mentors, and facilitate a three-way introductory meeting to “launch” the mentoring program.

Look for mentors who can help your team members expand beyond their current “path”, whether it’s their role, expertise or experience. Mentoring allows them to expand their thinking and look further, testing and exploring in a safe environment.

Mentors can also help with the mentoree’s personal goals and ambitions. Think creatively about which mentors could bring the organisation’s resources to bear to help mentorees with goals like relocation and travel, being seconded to another department, taking unpaid leave, having flexible working hours, and so on.

Don’t limit them to just one mentor, either. The old mentoring model recommended one mentor at a time, but they can have mentors for different areas in their professional life.

If you can’t find a suitable mentor easily, consider the growing supply of paid mentoring services, usually provided by external consultants with specific experience and skills.

Be flexible with the format

Traditional mentoring is done in person, with a one-on-one meeting in an office, boardroom, or external location like a café or restaurant. As online collaboration technology has improved, mentoring no longer needs to be physical or just for one person at a time.

Videoconferencing in particular makes it easier for mentors and mentorees to conduct their mentoring sessions from different locations. It provides many of the benefits of in-person meetings, and sometimes even more – for example, recording of sessions, ability to share documents electronically, and more productive use of time. Of course, the biggest benefit is that it allows mentoring that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.

It’s also possible to conduct effective mentoring in small groups. This is different from a training course because the agenda is driven by each mentoree’s needs. Although it appears to be inferior to individual mentoring, group mentoring offers some advantages (apart from the obvious efficiency of time and resources):

  • Mentorees learn by listening to the mentor’s advice to others.
  • Mentorees engage with each other, not just with their mentor.
  • Mentors can call on mentorees to provide their input and feedback into issues raised by others.
  • Mentorees can connect with each other outside the mentoring program, either to “buddy up” with each other to help with the mentoring or for other reasons.

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