Meaning From Your Work

Much of my work centres on enhancing and leveraging the meaning that my clients derive from their work – both individually and organisationally.

It is too easy in the modern economy to focus on anaemic ‘value adding’ and ‘shareholder value’ without focusing on the meaningfulness of the work one actually performs.

One of my clients, CEO of a major publicly listed company with over $250 million annual revenue, found himself trapped in a situation where the board and shareholders were focused on maximising shareholder value. He confided to me that share prices had risen 10-fold since his appointment and that he was regarded therefore as a superstar, but that analytically it was a mystery to him why the share price had risen so high. It was equally a mystery why the share price had dropped so low before his tenure, excepting that market ‘confidence’ was the prime reason and that there were problems with the management of the company. I noted that it was equally market confidence in his ability that had led to the share price rise, but we agreed that this would be unsustainable.

One of the key problems was that the short-sighted ‘shareholder value’ view did not focus on the organisation’s central mission for its clients. And that meant that they weren’t doing what they needed to in their management, long-range planning and capacity-building to ensure that they were competitively placed in the market and ensuring growth. He knew there was so much that needed to be changed and he was the man to do it. Unfortunately, it was the board that suffered from a lack of strategic and operational courage and blocked him left, right and centre and reacted spontaneously with panic to market forces, undermining his role as the CEO.

To cut a long story short, I suspected that his frustration – and the board’s intransigence – might lead to his departure from the position. Sure enough, just a couple of months after we ceased working together on a major presentation, he decided while on vacation that he’d had enough of this game. It wasn’t what he wanted for himself, his family, or his career. Financially, he was wealthy enough to never ‘work’ another day in his life and still have a lot left over. He wasn’t in it for the money. Never had been. He was in the game to do something meaningful in an industry that he loved.

Therefore, he quit and a short while afterwards started a new company under his banner. Within a few months, many in the industry he served flocked to his company because they knew that his name meant high value, quality product and service. They trusted him, because he sought the intrinsic meaning and value from his work, as did those who came to work with him.

A couple of years later, his new company continues to do well. He puts in the effort where he wants and has a team of people delivering great value for their clients. And they have an outstanding, high value enterprise that benefits everyone with ‘value’. It’s just not listed on the speculative, mystery-laden, confidence-swindling, hedge-funding stock exchange dominated by ‘numbers men’ who don’t understand the inherent value of the enterprise.

The public company for which he was CEO never did revert to building the right management and quality and has become a sad byword in the industry as it slowly dwindles away. It currently has revenue less than a third of that from just a few short years ago and is engaged in a protracted asset sell-off as it loses more and more capability and more and more contracts due to poor execution. Its share price has to be measured in decimal points – a mere fraction of the value it once held.

Steve Jobs famously demonstrated time and again that ‘maximising shareholder value’ was not his focus – it was creating great tech that people loved. And he and his team at Apple built a fabulous global company that certainly has delivered tremendous shareholder value.

Too many CEOs don’t take that approach and wonder why their lives and the execs around them are shallow and deprived of meaning. It is through their external lives – not their companies – that they find meaning, if at all.

It’s past time for those CEOs to look to find the inherent meaning and value in their work. Focus on the customer. Focus on your people. Focus on a great industry with exciting product and innovations, the joy of creation and the delight of winning at your work. Focus on using your gifts & talents and those of your people to achieve something worthwhile – and profitable. But don’t focus on the $$ above all else. Down that path lies moral and spiritual destitution, depression and despair.

Whilst it is difficult for CEOs and Boards, particularly those publicly listed, to focus on the meaning of what they are doing, it is essential. It requires courage. But it has never been denied that great leadership does not want for courage.

You can find the meaning in your work, but you need to take the time, the effort and the counsel to do so. I’ve made it a speciality to do so in all my work, as have many people I have worked alongside throughout differing careers. I’ve had the pleasure of helping and coaching people in finding theirs. It is not only feasible, it is entirely possible and practical to do so. The result is exhilarating and liberating.

Whether you are a CEO, a chief executive, a business owner, or a poor ‘shmuck’ on the bottom of the totem pole, you can find meaning. Give it a try.

How have you found meaning in your work? What value has that added to you, those you serve and your organisation? LEAVE A COMMENT.

If you would like to become the best leader, team or organisation you can be, Get in Touch for our world class consulting, coaching, development and speaking services. You can also subscribe to one of our online video series at www.lamplighter.com.au/viewStory/Video+Seminars or avail yourself of our other resources to help you grow and succeed.

Copyright 2013 Peter J. McLean. http://www.lamplighter.com.au, http://www.authenticspeaking.com.au and http://theleadershiplamplight.com

Stretch

A lot of the strengths-based literature and programs stops at: “utilise your strengths and don’t concentrate on weaknesses”. This leaves people with the impression that all you have to do is work solely with ‘what you’re good at.’  Unfortunately, as far as most of that literature is concerned, many in management and many in personal development, people actually take this advice seriously and end up with narrow parameters of individual and organisational capability. To put it another way, people and organisations are actively discouraged from growing.

One of our clients has said to us that when she took the “Strengths Finder” she found it depressing, because of the constrictions it seemed to place on her, the way it was phrased and the fact that, according to the strengths finder, she couldn’t do the kinds of work she had been doing very well for a long time and should not aspire towards the further growth she was aiming for. (By contrast, she felt very positive and encouraged when taking our Harrison Assessments work preferences profiling – which is strengths oriented, but doesn’t straightjacket people – and found it extremely productive and targeted for her workforce.)

In life, work and leadership we should aim to STRETCH: Stretch our abilities, our knowledge, our understanding, our compassion, our leadership, our connection with others and our ability to perform at our highest levels in our chosen endeavours. We can do this organisationally as well – endeavouring to further the capabilities, reach and impact of our teams and organisations.

To stretch, instead of merely identifying your ‘operational’ strengths, seek to understand the nature of your underlying gifts, talents and resources and what you need to bring to bear to reach a higher level. These may be internal or external resources. On a personal level they may be physical, intellectual, emotional, social or spiritual. On an organisational level, they may involve your people, processes and organisational resources – again, both internal and external. Find your reason, your purpose and then stretch towards achieving that purpose.

And don’t forget ‘serendipity’ in this process. Sometimes the opportunities will come because you have been stretching – without seeing what is up ahead and above – but once the opportunity comes, then you see how your new talents and skills can meet the opportunity.

In education, it has been well established that one of the primary enablers of high achievement is learner expectation – that is, what a learner expects to be able to accomplish and being pushed beyond that by a capable teacher, trainer, coach or mentor builds ever-increasing levels of expectation of achievement. One’s intrinsic motivation is critical to one’s achievement. If you expect to exceed your abilities and are pushed to, then you will achieve higher levels. If you expect to achieve little, then guess what: you will achieve little.

This is where leadership – your self-leadership and your leadership of others – is so important. As a leader, you can help people to create a success loop of achievement beyond normal expectations that can build to increasingly higher levels of performance and achievement.

I was fortunate to have a boss who was also a mentor to me when I was a young man at University in the US. When asking him about some opportunities that I had and was applying for, I sought his advice on what I should do. Should I stick with what I knew more, or challenge myself and try something that was far more scary? His response was simple, “Which one will help you grow more?” The answer was equally simple. Although I wasn’t accepted into the opportunity I was applying for, I kept aiming for what would help me to grow and have borne his question in mind throughout the years. By doing so, I have very personally been able to help thousands of people to also grow and achieve, have served and led in numerous industries, have had experiences that the vast majority of people only ever dream about and have shouldered the enormous challenge of leading and caring for my family through our trials with our disabled daughter. It wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t stretched myself over many years.

You can do it for yourself. Don’t accept that ‘this is where you will always be’, but challenge yourself – STRETCH – grow and achieve.

If You’re Serious About Improving Your Leadership and Communication

Here’s a new message regarding the Performance Power-Ups” video series. Subscribe at www.lamplighter.com.au if you’re serious about improving as a leader, a communicator and as a professional. We’re up to Episode 17 of each series this coming week!

New Video Seminar Series

I’m announcing a new development opportunity that I believe will benefit anyone and everyone. I don’t harangue people with endless sales pitches on useless products. I provide high level consulting, coaching and development opportunities for clients and have no intention of turning away from the integrity and “class” that I’ve demonstrated through the years, but this announcement is about an addition to our services that will be available around the world 24/7 via the internet.

I’ve created several online video seminar series to help people grow as leaders, as communicators and as individuals. These are based on my original doctoral research, my years of consulting and executive coaching and my studies and business experiences across more than two and half decades on three continents.

Each series is centred on the themes of leadership, communication and performance. Up to 50 five-minute videos will be delivered straight to your inbox every week throughout the year. That’s just enough length for the modern attention span and our busy schedules. View them anywhere, any time, on any device, until the internet expires.

The Different Series Are:

  1. Gifted Leadership: Bring out your gifts and talents and those of the people around you to create extraordinary performance – all while actually enjoying what you do. Lead in your business, family and community. Topics include: Your Driving Leadership Purpose™. What are your Deepest Gifts? Developing High Performance. Strategic use of your gifts. Leading the ‘Unleadable’. Learning from great leaders. Being ‘in the zone’. Collaboration. Communication. And much more…
  2. Authentic Speaking: Be a persuasive and inspiring communicator who leads others to great results. Communicate in a genuine way that truly connects with people, in all kinds of situations. Topics include: The 3 Cs of Authentic Speaking®. Connecting with your audience. Speaking to persuade. Building Confidence. Overcoming fears. Building Presence. Using powerful narratives. Avoiding ‘Death by PowerPoint’. Object Lessons. Great speaking models. Commanding the room. Integrity. The heart of the message. Power vocabulary. And much more…
  3. Professional Service and Sales: What do clients really need and want? How do you connect with your clients to build greater professional relationships and more business for the both of you? Topics include: What clients want. What you have to offer. Being proactive. Nurturing clients. First impressions. Power questions. The Commitment Matrix™. Negotiation. Marketing analyses. Time management. And more…

These will be relaxed, enjoyable and informative videos, set in my home office. No fancy graphics. No fluff or fads. Just pure content that will actually make a difference.

Why am I doing this? We are all so busy these days. I often talk with people who say, “I’d love to come to a workshop or have you come to my firm, but there just isn’t time.” Well, this is as flexible as you can get and presents a low level of investment for great return. If you’ve already been a client of mine, or have been to one of my workshops, you will still find great value and new ideas, or  old gems that you had forgotten. If you’re new to my services, this will provide you with a wealth of practical ideas and insights that will help you. Don’t worry: you can still hire me or attend a workshop to gain more value.

Your Investment: Each series only costs $250. To be frank, just ONE idea that helps you would be worth 20-1000 times that. I’ll give you hundreds. There’s no excuse not to sign up.

Early Bird Discounts: Pay only $200 (get $50 off) if you buy by April 25, 2013 (Australian ANZAC Day). If you can claim your expense on your taxes, it may cost you as little as $108 dollars over the year – that’s less than 30 cents a day. You couldn’t buy water with that money, or even air! (Make sure you choose ‘early bird’ in the course option while the offer lasts.)

Further Discounts: If you refer a friend or colleague who subscribes before June 1, I’ll give you $25 credit per referral, for use towards other video series, workshops or consultations. Sign up 10 or more friends or colleagues and I’ll give you $350 credit towards any video series, workplace profiling, workshop or consultation. Just make sure they mention your name when registering.

Fair Use: I am happy for you to personally show a sample of a video to others and of course you should use the ideas in your own work and development, but note that this is all my original IP. I am trusting you to keep your video links private and to respect copyright. They cannot be shared, tweeted, facebooked, or otherwise published in any way to other people. I don’t want to have to restrict your access. Besides, the lawyers in my family would have a field day and they have enough work already.

When: The videos will commence broadcasting in early May. They will arrive at the start of the day (West Australian time) once per week. Each series will be broadcast on a different day of the week.

Make A Request: The first set of video series will start in May of 2013 (further series will follow in time). Although each series is fully planned out, I want to provide some flexibility and responsiveness, so the episodes will not all be filmed right away. As a founding subscriber, if you have a request for specific topics or questions you’d like addressed or answered under the series’ theme, then send it through. If I think many of the subscribers will be interested, I’ll include an episode on your topic.

To buy, simply visit our website now at http://www.lamplighter.com.au/viewStory/Video+Seminars and click on ‘Buy Now’ for the relevant series.

If you would like to sign up for more than one series, simply return to the website after buying and order more.

Here is the series information if you don’t want to visit the website yet:

THE ONLINE VIDEO SEMINAR SERIES – Starting May 2013

Gifted Leadership Video Seminar Series I. 40 online videos on the most important skill you can build: your leadership. Learn how to use your gifts to bring out the gifts of others for high performance.Topics include: Your Driving Leadership Purpose™. What are your Deepest Gifts? Developing High Performance. Strategic use of your gifts. Leading the ‘Unleadable’. Learning from great leaders. Being ‘in the zone’. Collaboration. Communication. And much more…

EARLY BIRD deadline: April 25, 2013

Authentic Speaking Video Seminar Series I. 50 online videos delivered straight to your inbox every week throughout the year. Each video has 5 minutes of great information, tips and boosts to your speaking and communication – just enough for the modern attention span! Become a more powerful and authentic speaker.Topics include: The 3 Cs of Authentic Speaking®. Connecting with your audience. Speaking to persuade. Building Confidence. Overcoming fears. Building Presence. Using powerful narratives. Avoiding ‘Death by PowerPoint’. Object Lessons. Great speaking models. Commanding the room. Integrity. The heart of the message. Power vocabulary. And much more…

EARLY BIRD deadline: April 25, 2013

Professional Services Client Relationships & Sales. 40 videos for professional services providers, based on our research and work improving customer service and sales for professional services firms: what clients really want, how to connect with your clients, how to provide great services, keeping up with fees.Topics include: What clients want. What you have to offer. Being proactive. Nurturing clients. First impressions. Power questions. The Commitment Matrix™. Negotiation. Marketing analyses. Time management. And more…

EARLY BIRD deadline: April 25, 2013

Don’t wait. Buy now and be part of the founding subscribers. You won’t regret it.

Visit at http://www.lamplighter.com.au/viewStory/Video+Seminars, scroll down the page and click on ‘Buy Now’ to make your choice(s).

Please note: There are NO refunds, but we will happily resend any lost links.

All material Copyright 2013 Peter J. McLean

Email me or contact me through the blog if you have any queries .

If You’re Not Passionate About Your Work…

English: en:Julie Bishop, Deputy Leader of the...

I met with the Honourable Ms Julie Bishop shortly before Christmas. She is the current Australian Federal Opposition Deputy Leader and, if polls are a good predictor, possibly the next Deputy Prime Minister of Australia later this year. I and a number of other business-people in Perth had an informal and very personal breakfast with her in this, her hometown. Ms Bishop was charming (an advantage for any politician), unguarded and totally engaging with everyone around her. She responded very personally and frankly to our discussions and questions and came across as disarmingly genuine. Everyone was suitably impressed and delighted.

I was most impressed, however, with her response when someone asked why she gets up every morning to do what she does under the spotlight and glare of national and, as the shadow minister for foreign affairs, international media and pressure. Her response was unequivocal and emotional: “I really love what I do. I love serving my area, my state and my nation and I get up with an intense passion and drive to do that every day. There are bad days and moments, but on the whole I love what I get to do to serve the public!”

I define passion as being devoted to something to which you believe you can apply your talents and skills in such a way that you can enjoy the process and, if you’re active in the field, make a difference. It’s an alignment between your interests, your purpose and your gifts, enabling you to devote your whole self to something.

When coaching, I often find that people have lost their passion at work or find it being overwhelmed with the trivialities of the daily grind. I understand that. I’ve been there too. When I last changed my career, I found that the barriers to performing well and to feeling that my talents were being used and appreciated (whether by me or by my clients) were too great to overcome. So I changed course in order to use them more. My wife commented instantly on the change: I was “back” to “her” Peter. I was energetic, engaged, creative. I was happier and more talkative at home. Less grumpy. You know the drill…

For years now, I’ve been helping people to rediscover that passion in their own work or to branch out to find new ways to develop a passion. There are ways to overcome the barriers within your workplace. Often, my organisational work involves restructuring or removing barriers to performance within the workplace. Even working on bringing in more money for the business can have a profound impact on your ability to perform well.

It was Abraham Maslow who pointed out that, in an organisational context, people’s need to provide for their own basic security was a prime driver and motivator. But high levels of performance come at the much higher levels of need – belonging, respect, accomplishment, self-actualisation and the actualisation of others.

In my studies of gifted professionals, I found that they were wholeheartedly engaged in their profession and achieved great success as a result. When their passion wavered, so did their results.

We are just starting 2013. There’s no time to waste. If you’re not passionate about your work, then you have to make efforts to find, rediscover or re-orient that passion. Don’t allow your life, your family and your career to languish, because there is so much that you can do to utilise your talents to their greatest. If you’re in a capacity to do so, you can make sure that the people around you are able to do likewise. Like Julie Bishop, we can be excited and thrilled with the work we’re doing and really “love it.”

Motivation through Meaningfulness

I was ruminating today on an experience earlier this year, when I attended a presentation by an individual connected with The Hunger Project. It’s an initiative to help communities (particularly through women) in the developing world to start successful programs to relieve hunger and poverty. This often takes the form of advocating for those communities, educating and training local people in business, and liaising with relevant authorities to enable positive action. It is highly successful and very inspiring work. For relatively small inputs, some tremendous results have been created. (You can learn a lot more on their website. You may even wish to support them.)

The presenter made an interesting comment that I immediately recognised as reality: she said that the Australian head of McKinsey & Co. (global consulting firm) had marvelled at their results and wondered how they could possibly be so effective and pondered that if McKinsey, for all of their MBAs, PhDs, models and matrices and armies of consultants, could get such similar results it would be unheard of. (He then promptly joined the board as I understand it.) And there, folks, is why it does not pay to trust in the McKinseys of the world to generate change: they just don’t understand people, organisations, communities and causes. I would not hire that guy.

I knew immediately why it was so far beyond their experience. That’s because you really need to understand what is meant by something being “meaningful” to people. The Hunger Project work is driven by life and death situations, the drive to truly rise out of a desperate situation, the need to form communities that try to build up their people, not tear them down. For all of their analyses and charts, the global consulting firms are not about truly changing their clients’ situation. They are there to “manage change” or conduct a strategic analysis and, more often than not, end up billing hundreds of thousands of dollars writing a series of glorified reports. Even when such consulting firms approach large-scale transformations, their results are patchy. It’s partly because the cause itself has to be meaningful to you and to the people with whom you work.

We should want to lead for change, to add real lasting value, to create something truly meaningful for people. That’s where true leadership lies. But it also requires deep observation and appreciation of the environment, appropriate allocation of resources that really aid the cause and the activation of the motivation of people and institutions willing to help.

Here are two simple questions to help guide your initiatives:

  1. How is this meaningful to me and others?
  2. Am I making that meaning integral to how and why we do the work?

Some Roads are Twistier than Others

Mick Collis is one of those cheeky Aussies – one who has done something that most Aussies guffaw at but cheer aloud.

You see, Mick wanted to be an Australian Rugby player. He wanted to play for the green and gold, all his life as he was growing up. But it wasn’t the rugby that he was most concerned with, it was representing his country that he was most passionate about. When he realised that he would never be one of the top players in the country, sent abroad, listening to the national anthem while he stood in front of a crowd of thousands, he started to see if there was another way to represent his country.

Mick tried a lot of sports. He tried being an iron man, but got lost at sea. He even tried lawn bowls, but couldn’t beat others of any age.

One day, Mick happened on Sudoku and a dream was given shape. Mick would form the Australian World Champion Sudoku team. The only problem was that he had never played it.

Mick CollissMick is another of my fellow speakers with ICMI. You can visit his website at www.mickcolliss.com . He has written a book called Full-Contact Sudoku (link to the Amazon site) which is a pleasant and humorous semi-autobiographical recount of his formation of the Aussie Sudoku team. Mick’s got a great story to tell, but the interesting thing is this:

Over a two decades’ period, Mick never gave up his dream of playing for Australia. And so he travelled down a road with lots of twists, turns, obstacles and attractive parking spaces that would try to prevent him from reaching his ultimate destination. Mick kept at it and saw chance encounters as a way to re-orient his travels and pick up speed toward his achieving his goal. He just had never dreamed, as a young man, that it would end up happening the way it did.

It’s a cheeky, but warm-hearted story, filled with great anecdotes, friendly self-denigration and a respectful look at what makes champions of all sorts – Sudoku included. It’s fun to listen to him tell his story too and inspiring in a “I could never be like an Olympic athlete, but I could certainly be like this bloke” kind of way.

As Mick says in his book, “I didn’t cover myself in glory, but I had a go. And, to me, that’s what being Australian is all about.”

Education is Not Enough – Motivation is a Key

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just tell someone how to fix their work or their lives and they would just do it? Governments and leaders often seem to think this when they say that we need more education programs to help people stop smoking, to stop people drink driving, or to help us feel better about carbon taxes.

While it would be great if education solved all of humanity’s problems, it won’t. Change does not come merely through education – one must be emotionally motivated to committing to and following through on the attitudes, values and behaviours that will create lasting change. I know, as an educator and a coach, that telling people the right information only gets them part-way there. It’s why rehabilitation of criminal offenders is so difficult. You can tell them the information and the logic and show them the effects, etc. etc. etc. until you are blue in the face, but that doesn’t mean that they will change.

Here are two principles to consider in creating change:

1. Finding or creating the emotional and motivational triggers can be fundamental to helping yourself or someone else develop and grow. In my coaching and organisational development programs, I create experiences that will prompt this. But it’s not a matter of taking someone on to a plane, dropping them off at 10,000 feet with a parachute and then saying, “Look, you did that! Now go and stop hassling your colleagues at work.” As I have written before in some of my newsletters (there’s an archive on the www.lamplighter.com.au website), there needs to be analogic congruity between the learning and the activity/behaviour to be performed. You need to find a motivational trigger and learning experience that is closely aligned with the nature of the result you wish to create.

The same is true of teams and organisations as a whole: if there is not a motivational trigger – something that makes achieving the results more important and worthwhile than the effort required to achieve it – then people will find it difficult to change.

2. Having said that, sometimes it’s important, as Nike used to say, to “Just Do It!” The mere act of behaving in a certain way, changing behaviours and systems and then reinforcing that can sometimes induce the change in attitude and motivation as one sees the results and becomes used to the new way. You’ve seen it when people say, “Oh, I don’t feel motivated to do that”. And so it never gets done. But once they start, then the motivation starts to kick in. Or, hey, they never appear motivated but at least they’ve finished what they needed to get done.

Don’t allow motivation, environment or behaviour to become an obstacle. If it’s important, do it. But consider that motivation in the long-term will be necessary to sustain individual effort, especially once the “boss” has left the building.

I had a client who wanted all of his staff promoting the business more and “selling” more of their services. He kept telling them again and again and asking them what they had done. No results. I came in and enhanced their skills so that they knew what they were doing but, importantly, engaged them in determining WHY they should do it and how it would help them individually and organisationally – I canvassed a range of their own internal motivations – and how it would help the clients. Staff then put in much greater effort, changed the way they performed and got results, because they had a personal reason and they had built the capability to perform. The results finally started to happen.

If you are engaging in long-term change, motivation will become an important factor – whether it’s at the beginning, middle or end of the cycle. If you’re leading for change, you MUST consider what motivations, capabilities, attitudes and values are driving yourself and your people.

How Not to Drive High Performance

High performance doesn’t get much higher than Formula 1 racing. These people push their cars, drivers and teams to the limit to win.

So you would think, when looking at their team performance, they would have all kinds of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to measure success, yes? A colleague of mine, Andrew Seinor, is the MD at Incommand. He provides corporate advisory, accounting and financial services and business analysis software that includes tools for implementing and measuring KPIs. So he’s right into them and has a very keen interest in companies using them. Yet, Andrew was telling me the other day that he agrees that you can take your eyes off the ball by insisting on KPIs that don’t matter.

McLaren-Mercedes have consistently hit the top 3 every year they’ve run a team for the past 8 years and started off the 2012 season with a win in Australia and are currently in 1st place. That’s an exceptionally high record of performance – better all round than any of the other teams. So that KPI is certainly a winner for them.

I will write in another post about ways that formula one teams have been used to learn some things about high performance, but it bears saying:

Are you sure that your KPIs are the ones that matter? Don’t overload yourself or your people – focus on what’s important and drive relentlessly for it.

Too many managers and professions think that they create higher performance by measuring a whole raft of KPIs. I am not suggesting that KPIs should not be considered in detail and decided on with proper investigation, but too many organisations literally miss creating results and meeting deadlines while they’re busy measuring the minutiae. See the start line, know the course, know how to push your car and how your team can cope and then race for the finish!

That Ain’t No Way To Treat a Country

The Australian Federal Labour government’s ongoing leadership tussles are a prime indicator of when a leadership team is clearly dysfunctional. In this aspect, Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is quite correct.

Due to the nature of the leadership ‘hit’ that removed Kevin Rudd from power almost two years ago, there were bound to be ongoing repercussions. I wrote about this at the time, warning that newly appointed Prime Minister Julia Gillard would have to be watching her back for the blade come to attack her. Sure enough, her ongoing poor polling (another matter that would have to be separately written about) is merely the excuse needed, once again, by Labour party members to express their dissatisfaction with her leadership and seek to remove her.

Kevin and JuliaUnfortunately for Kevin Rudd, most Labour party members (and government personnel for that matter) were so traumatised by his leadership that his re-ensconcement at the helm would probably result in outright revolt and abandonment of all manner of posts. Not merely autocratic, Mr Rudd was chaotic, unfocused and downright abusive when in power. I know people in high levels of government who were quietly delighted that Mr Rudd was removed and were not sorry to see the back of him. Unfortunately for Ms Gillard, I also know people who have directly worked with her who are equally disdainful of her leadership and character for different reasons.

To paraphrase an old song, “That ain’t no way to treat a country, no way…” Australia deserves better leadership. Whether or not there is another federal election to come immediately, the federal government needs to sort through this and focus on serving the people, not their own family squabbles.

But how about your own leadership (either how you display it, or those over you)? Is your leadership treating your organisation badly?

Research indicates time and time again that high performance is induced by positive and powerful leadership that fosters, encourages and recognises positive effort from staff – not glory-hogging, not abuse, not demanding with a whip over someone’s heads. These kind of aberrant behaviours may deliver short-term results, but that is all. After a while, particularly in a democracy, people really do move on – either actively, or passively – and don’t give their all. Why would they?

Here are four idease to help your leadership – whether you are at the top, in the middle, or right down at the bottom end:

  1. Focus on a single purpose that will drive others to achieve. If you don’t know what it is, get help to find it.
  2. Remove the possibility of a sequence of power plays from your vocabulary and systems. (This is something the Labour Party could do by setting more rigid guidelines for leadership spills – at least in other democracies, once the President is elected, he or she is there for 3-4 years unless the world collapses around them.)
  3. Get a grip – you’re not the most important thing here, your customers/clients/constituents are. History shows that most revolutions provoke counter-revolutions and so on and so on. If you’re that keen to stab someone in the back, then join the mafia.
  4. Be a good follower. If you want loyalty and people who are committed to a cause or goal to come with you, then to attract those people you need to demonstrate the same qualities you seek. Otherwise, they’ll find somewhere else to go. In this case, opposites do not attract. Being a good follower also teaches you how to treat people as a leader, what motivates them, what is entailed in the daily work, what is needed to make things happen.