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Leadership Today Podcast

Leadership Today Podcast

Author: Andrew Beveridge

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Weekly research-based tips and advice to tackle today's biggest leadership challenges, all in under 8 minutes. Hosted by leadership development specialist and psychologist Andrew Beveridge. Go to leadership.today for more information.
25 Episodes
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Episode 22 - Goal Setting - New Year, Same You
Summary As the end of the year fast approaches, we take a look at goal setting - something we all know a lot about, and yet we’re lousy at it. Here are four ideas that might help. Transcript Welcome to episode 22 of the Leadership Today Podcast where each week we tackle one of today’s biggest leadership challenges. If I was to ask you “Tell me about the best approaches to goal setting?”, you’re pretty likely to mention SMART goals. We all know goals work best when they’re Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based. And yet as human beings we are still pretty lousy at setting and following through on goals. Today I want to focus on four quick tips for setting better goals.  A few years back I set a goal for myself - I said “I want to become a better cook”. So I dutifully picked up Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute meals book - that sounded pretty achievable. I picked out a meal and got to work. Well, 90 minutes, one fennel and three fry pans later, the meal still didn’t look anything like the photo in the book. Plus I discovered that Jamie hadn’t factored in cleaning up time to the 15 minutes. I gave up. Around the same time I set myself another goal - “I will go for a run every day of the week except Sunday”. Now I had tried running before, even setting a goal to run three times a week. But the inevitable happened - Monday it was a little cold, Tuesday I just wasn’t feeling it, Wednesday there was the sound of rain on the roof - and so on until Saturday. To make up for the lost days I would then run three times as far on Saturday and injure myself, knocking out running for another week. In contrast, my “run every day except Sunday” strategy has held up for over a year. So what made that goal stick, unlike my goal around becoming a better cook? The first difference is word choice - there’s a big difference between “want” and “will”. If you say you want to do something, you’re indicating a preference. If you say you will do something, you’re stating a commitment. Commitments trump preferences any day. Always make sure you express your goal as a “will” statement. Second is the middle part of SMART goal setting - Achievable. This is partly about setting a goal that you think is possible. But it’s also about setting goals that you can actually mark off as complete. The beauty of the “run every day except Sunday” goal is that I either completed it in a particular week, or I didn’t complete it that week. Test the wording of your goal to make sure it is something you can actually mark off as complete. The third key for me was clearly picturing how the process of completing the goal would make me feel. The reality of starting a run on 46 year old knees is not pretty - the first few steps never feel great. But one minute into the run I always feel great, so I focus on that moment as I roll out of bed.  And the fourth key is identifying why the goal matters to you. If you set a goal that doesn’t matter to you, just cross it out - you’re never going to achieve it. For me, running is about keeping fit for my family and my work, both of which I love. Running was part of a broader purpose. As you set goals for yourself, remember to say “will” not “want”, make it something you can mark off, picture the benefits of the process, and identify why the goal matters to you. That’s our final Leadership Today Podcast for 2018 before we take a break. We’re on track to sail through 10,000 podcast downloads around about Christmas Day. And I really appreciate the feedback people have provided about the podcast, and for you taking the time to listen. I hope it has been helpful in your leadership development.  Over the remainder of December and into January we will be featuring four of our most popular episodes, before we kick off again in February. Best wishes for you and your loved ones for 2019.
Episode 21 - Resilience and Optimism
Summary This week we explore the links between optimism and resilience, using the example of a terrifying real life hang gliding experience.   Transcript Welcome to episode 21 of the Leadership Today Podcast where each week we address some of today’s biggest leadership challenges. This week we are looking at optimism and resilience. Have you ever had a travel experience that didn’t quite go to plan. Chris Gursky certainly has. Chris recently travelled from his home in Florida to Switzerland. He was particularly keen to have a tandem hang gliding experience over the picturesque Swiss countryside, so he booked that in for the first day of his holiday. The YouTube video of his first flight (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLBJA8SlH2w&t=9s) shows an excited Chris and his pilot running towards their take off from high on a mountainside. As soon as they took off though Chris and the pilot realise something has gone horribly wrong - the harness Chris is wearing is not actually clipped on to the hang glider, leaving Chris to hang on for dear life. Chris has one hand on the steering bar and one hand on the pilot for most of the flight, not sure of how long he could hold on. The pilot tries for an early landing, but is unable to control the steering while also trying to hold on to Chris, leaving the hang glider to travel over an even greater drop - some 4,000 feet from the ground. After an excruciating two minutes, the hang glider finally nears the ground travelling around 45 miles per hour, with Chris letting go just before it lands. Chris walked away with a broken wrist from the landing and a torn bicep muscle from holding on so hard. Amazingly, despite the ordeal, Chris said “I will go hang gliding again as I did not get to enjoy my first flight.”   Chris’ story demonstrates the two main elements of resilience - holding on and bouncing back. On the one hand, resilience is about your ability to withstand difficult circumstances - to hold on despite the odds - which Chris literally demonstrated during his hang gliding experience. And resilience is also about your ability to quickly bounce back from setbacks - much like Chris’ desire to go hang gliding again, despite his near death experience.   So much of our experience of life is shaped by the lens through which we view events, rather than the events themselves. Shawn Achor in his book “The Happiness Advantage” says that if researchers knew everything about your situation, they can only predict 10% of your happiness levels. Around 50% of our happiness is determined by a so-called genetic set point, with the remaining 40% being determined by our thoughts and actions which, of course, we can alter.   Our resilience links closely to our level of optimism. Martin Seligman describes this in his book “Learned Optimism”. As the title suggests, Seligman has long argued that optimism can be learned, just as early behavioural experiments with animals demonstrated that helplessness and pessimism can also be learned. Seligman outlines three ways in which optimists and pessimists differ when seeking to explain the causes and impacts of events - personalisation, permanence and pervasiveness - the three P’s.   Let’s look at these three P’s using an example of a setback. Alan is reversing his car into a tight spot in the city when he hears breaking glass and the hiss of a tyre going flat. It turns out he has backed over a glass bottle, badly puncturing a tyre on his car.   Consider the three P’s if Alan took a pessimistic view of this situation: Personalisation - Alan immediately blames himself - he should have noticed the bottle and been more careful while parking the car - it’s all his fault. Permanence - these kinds of things always happen to him - this flat tyre is going to take ages to change and then repair - it’s ruined his whole week. Pervasiveness - now he’s going to be late for the show tonight, which means his girlfriend is going to be unhappy with him - he’ll be grumpy at work all week, and he just can’t be bothered going to the gym in the morning now. What about if Alan took an optimistic view of the same situation: Personalisation - this could have happened to anyone, and whoever left the bottle there was pretty careless - it’s not really Alan’s fault at all Permanence - Alan will be able to change the tyre quickly after the show - it’s a 15 minute job at the most, and doesn’t really impact his evening or week Pervasiveness - it’s just a flat tyre - things in his relationship and at work are going well and the rest of his life is pretty positive - it’s no big deal   You can see how an optimistic mindset would make Alan more resilient, both in the moment with the punctured tyre, but also in bouncing back from a potentially negative situation.    Interestingly, when positive things happen, the thinking styles are reversed. The optimist will be more likely to take credit for the positive outcome, to see it as another sign of things to be grateful for, and will let the positive experience flow into other areas of their life. The pessimist, in contrast, will tend to put the positive outcome down to luck or the efforts of others, limit its impact in time, and see it as a small and contained part of their life.    You can learn to be more optimistic in the moment. Just understanding these differences in thinking styles will make you more aware of your own thought patterns in both positive and negative situations. You can then treat your initial thoughts as opinions rather than facts. For example, if something goes wrong, you might tell yourself “you’re an idiot - you can never get anything right”. Instead of just accepting this negative thought, treat it as an opinion which can be challenged. Is it really your fault? Do you always get things wrong, or are there examples of things you do well? What are some other explanations or ways of viewing the situation? Train yourself to look at alternative explanations rather than just accepting the first negative thought that comes into your head.   There’s also the ‘boring but important’ aspects of a healthy life that help to build resilience and optimism, namely diet, sleep and exercise. Connections with friends and family also matter. As does taking the time to slow down and be grateful for all the positive things in our lives - noting down three new things each day to be grateful for is a simple and effective practice that helps us to focus on the positives in life.   This week, think of Chris Gursky and his terrifying hang gliding flight. By holding on and then quickly deciding to give hang gliding another try, Chris provides a powerful demonstration of resilience in action.   References Martin Seligman - Learned Optimism Shawn Achor - The Happiness Advantage
Episode 20 - Avoiding the Blame Game
Summary As leaders, there’s always a risk of blaming people rather than processes. This week we look at a technique that helps us to avoid playing the blame game.   TRANSCRIPT Welcome to episode twenty of the Leadership Today podcast. Each week we provide practical advice to address some of today’s biggest leadership challenges. In this episode we’re looking at ways to avoid playing the blame game. As leaders, there’s always a risk of blaming people rather than processes. Something goes wrong and the first thing we want to identify is who is to blame. After all, we’re responsible for the processes, so there’s a built-in desire to protect ourselves by blaming some incompetent or malicious individual rather than our wonderfully crafted systems. Blaming people is a pretty natural way of defending ourselves and maintaining our self esteem. However, it’s not a great way of building trust, getting to the root cause of problems or improving performance. If a leader is constantly blaming their people, you have to wonder - who hired these people, and who has been managing their performance? It’s the same leader who’s now playing the blame game. When leaders play the blame game, it leads to fear, and fear leads to cover ups, and cover ups lead to increased risk. Who would raise a concern when they know there’s a risk of being blamed and all the negative consequences that come with that? The team quickly learn the importance of sweeping things under the carpet. And that seems fine in the short term, until the issues mount up and are impossible to ignore. So, as leaders, it can be helpful to have a technique that allows us to get to the root cause of problems without automatically blaming people. One simple tool is called 5 whys, originally pioneered by Sakichi Toyoda as part of the Toyota Production System. While it was initially conceived as an engineering method, it works equally well on any sort of problem you’re likely to encounter in the workplace. As a result, it has been incorporated into a broad range of continuous improvement methodologies. To use the 5 whys approach, you start with the problem, then look for the preceding cause of the problem by asking ‘why’ - why did the problem occur. The idea being that after you’ve worked backwards by asking ‘why’ five times, you should be at or pretty close to the root cause of the problem. One of the principles is that you can’t have human error as the root cause - instead, you need to focus on the process, not the people. 5 whys is fact driven and logical - it’s about evidence rather than opinions. This takes a lot of the heat out of the approach. Let’s look at an example to bring the 5 whys approach to life. You hang up the phone from a disgruntled customer. They’ve just visited your local store to find their favourite item was out of stock. To make things worse, they had actually called the store the day before to confirm the item would be in stock, and were told new stock was arriving overnight and would be there the next day. Now they’re going to take their business elsewhere. Your natural inclination is to ring the store manager and tell them off for letting the customer down by not keeping enough stock and overpromising to the customer - a classic blame game response. Instead you call the store manager and try to figure out the root cause. Why was the store out of stock? Because the scheduled order hadn’t arrived. Why did the scheduled order not arrive? Because the delivery truck broke down on the way to the store. Why did the delivery truck break down? Because of a broken fan belt. Why did the fan belt break? Because the truck hadn’t been serviced. Why hadn’t the truck been scheduled? Because there wasn’t a schedule in place for truck servicing.   The lack of a schedule for servicing our fleet of trucks was the root cause for the stock outage. It turned out the root cause didn’t have anything to do with the store manager - the problem was in an entirely different part of the organisation. The risk now is that we try to track down who is responsible for truck servicing schedules and blame them. Instead, a much more constructive approach is to look at this as a shared problem, and something that can be avoided in the future through continuous improvement. In fact, fixing the truck servicing might help to avoid a whole range of other problems in the future - ones that wouldn’t have been avoided if we had just berated the store manager. Now, 5 whys as a technique is not perfect. For example, it tends to uncover one root cause, when there may be several. And there’s nothing magical about 5 whys - it might only take 3 whys, or perhaps 10 whys to get to the root cause. And sometimes the problem is a person. But the principle of looking at processes and systems first before blaming people is one that any leader can bring to their approach.
Episode 19 - Intent Versus Impact
As leaders, we almost always have great intentions, but our intent isn’t always the same as our impact. In this episode we explore three principles for leaders when thinking about intent versus impact. Transcript Welcome to episode 19 of the Leadership Today podcast - it’s great to have you join us today. I really appreciate those who have taken the time to share, rate and review the podcast. Here at Leadership Today our mission is “Enabling thousands of leaders to achieve results through people”, so it’s great to see the global reach of the podcast continue to grow. Today we’re looking at intent versus impact.  As leaders, we almost always have great intentions - our intent is typically positive. However, if you’ve been leading for a while, you will recognise there are times when people might misunderstand your intent - that your intent is not the same as your impact. And that creates problems for us - it leads to miscommunication and can create distrust.  Joseph Luft and Harri Ingham were studying group dynamics in the mid 1950s - exploring how we see ourselves versus how others see us. They developed a process that involved individuals choosing words they thought best described themselves from a list of 56 adjectives. Their peers did the same.  Not surprisingly, they found that some words overlapped between the individual and their peers and some didn’t. They could then sort each word into one of four quadrants, based on whether a characteristic was known or unknown by the individual, and known or unknown by others.  When the words lined up, this meant the characteristics were known to self and known to others - Luft and Ingham described this quadrant as the arena - others have called it public or open.  Then you have words people chose for themselves that others didn’t choose - these characteristics were known to self but not others - this quadrant was called hidden, like the person was wearing a mask.  Finally, there were words others chose to describe someone that the person didn’t choose for themselves - this is known as a blind spot. It’s also where intent versus impact gets interesting. When there's a misalignment between your intent and impact, you could argue that it’s just others’ perceptions, but those perceptions are their reality whether we agree with them or not. And a blind spot can be positive or negative - you are just as likely to be blind to a strength as you are to be blind to a weakness. When we think about intent versus impact, there are three principles for leaders: If you want people to understand you, make your intent clear If you see people doing strange things, take the time to understand their intent Use feedback to let people know the impact they’re having Let’s look at the first principle - If you want people to understand you, make your intent clear. I was working with a leader who had received some feedback that his team saw his leadership style as highly directive, and almost never coaching. As I worked with him, he just couldn’t understand this feedback - he thought he was coaching his staff all the time. I asked him for an example of how he coached his team, and he said “Well, I coached one of my team members earlier today. I was walking past his desk and noticed he was doing something in Excel in a pretty inefficient way. I knew a much simpler way, so I asked him to move across. I pulled up a seat in front of his computer, and then showed him the easier way. I then suggested he do it that way next time. I coached him.” It was pretty easy to see where the impact of being directive was coming from. I asked him to replay the story, but this time from his team member’s perspective. What would it feel like to have your boss move you to one side then start working on your computer in front of your colleagues? How might the team member have interpreted the situation? He soon saw how his positive intentions could have been taken in a negative way. Even if he had done exactly the same thing, but shared his intent - that is, that he actually thought this team member was doing a great job, and wanted to help him become more efficient so he could go home earlier - the impact would have been entirely different. It’s important to make ourselves known to others, to let them into our head, and to share our intent. This will lead to greater alignment between how others see us and how we see ourselves. Now the second principle - If you see people doing strange things, take the time to understand their intent. Our home used to have vinyl floor tiles in our living room. I walked in one day to find about a square metre of these tiles had been lifted up and placed in a pile by a combination of our three sons. They had managed to get under the edge of one tile, lifting it up, which then gave them access to several other tiles that they could then pull up, and it quickly escalated from there. Several of the tiles had cracked in the process. Now, clearly, I was pretty frustrated by this wanton destruction. It seemed like the kids were trying to vandalise and destroy the house. But I asked them - what were they trying to do? They told me that they were simply trying to build a tower out of the tiles. Understanding their intent helped me to explain their behaviour. It didn’t remove all the frustration, but it did help me to understand why they were doing what they were doing. The same is true in the workplace. People are typically logical and rational in the behaviour - it’s the perceptions of situations that often differ. So when people are doing something strange - failing to get on board with an initiative, focusing on the wrong things, whatever it might be - that the time to explore their intent. Often you will find that it’s actually a miscommunication or misunderstanding that lies at the root of the issue. The third principle is - Use feedback to let people know the impact they’re having. As a leader you’re in a unique position to help others to decrease their blind spots. And I would encourage you to particularly focus on helping people to uncover their strengths. One of the greatest satisfactions I’ve had as a leader is encouraging people to do things that they initially didn’t think they could. I could see strengths in them that they couldn’t see in themselves. Intent versus impact is a powerful way of improving your influencing, understanding others, and helping others to develop. Try these three leadership principles this week and let me know what impact you make.
Episode 18 - Don't Ask for a Mentor
Having a mentor provides a wide range of benefits beyond development, including higher pay, more promotions and greater career satisfaction. But asking for a mentor isn’t always easy or the best approach.    Transcript Welcome to episode 18 of the Leadership Today podcast. Today we’re looking at finding a mentor, and why asking someone to be your mentor may not be the best approach. Let’s start by defining mentoring. In a mentoring relationship the focus is on development of the person being mentored in a particular set of skills or capabilities, by engaging with a mentor who has demonstrated experience and expertise in these areas. Sometimes the individuals arrange the mentoring directly with each other, and at other times organisations either support or drive these pairings. Reseach suggests that the benefits of having a mentor go beyond the individual’s development. When compared to those without mentors, those being mentored had higher remuneration, were offered more promotions, and they demonstrated greater career satisfaction and commitment. And mentoring also has benefits for the mentor as well. Mentors report feeling more positive about the organisation and their senior leadership. Mentors also experience greater levels of job satisfaction. Given mentoring is such a win win, why don’t we see more mentoring in the workplace? Here are some reasons: People are often afraid to ask for a mentor - plucking up the courage can be hard, particularly when we recognise it’s such a big commitment from the mentor Mentors are reluctant to commit time - the traditional model of mentoring often soaks up a lot of time, sometimes outliving its original usefulness Mentors may already have someone to mentor - they may therefore be reluctant to commit to a second or third person   So my advice - if you want a mentor, don’t ask for one - at least not straight away. Here’s a process I recommend: Identify the areas you want to develop - be really clear about what mentoring is going to address Identify a range of mentors that could help - it may be more than one person, and you can draw on your networks to suggest people Request brief meetings with the potential mentors of around 20 to 30 minutes each - be clear that you have an area you’re interested in developing, and would like a conversation about their advice and guidance in this area - being willing to use phone or video calls will broaden the potential range of mentors you can access Assuming they’re okay to meet up and the meeting goes well, ask if they would be open to another meeting in two months time Don’t waste their time - turn up prepared with questions, take notes and stop asking for more meetings once you’ve learned what you want to learn   Mentors are great. And, while it sounds counterintuitive, if you really want a mentor, don’t start by asking for one. As always, I’ve included the references used in this podcast in the episode notes.   References Allen TD1, Eby LT, Poteet ML, Lentz E, Lima L. (2004) Career benefits associated with mentoring for protégeé: a meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology Feb;89(1):127-36 Rajashi Ghosh & Thomas G. Reio Jr. (2013) Career benefits associated with mentoring for mentors: A meta-analysis. Journal of Vocational Behavior 83 (2013) 106–116 Sange, Rabiya; Srivasatava, R. K. (2012) Employee Engagement and Mentoring: An Empirical Study of Sales Professionals. Synergy (0973-8819);Jan2012, Vol. 10 Issue 1, p37
Episode 17 - Prisoners and Performance Ratings
What can prisoners teach us about performance ratings? And how can we better measure performance and support development as leaders? Check out the research and some ideas that will help improve the way you lead.   Transcript Welcome to episode 17 of the Leadership Today podcast - let’s dive straight in. There’s a great piece of research out of England that involved people who had been jailed on violence and robbery offences rating themselves on a range of traits. Initially they were asked to rate themselves against the ‘average prisoner’. As we see in many studies of this sort, the prisoners rated themselves more positively than their peers - they saw themselves, for example, as more kind, dependable, honest and law abiding that the average prisoner. They were then asked to rate themselves on the same traits when compared to the average member of the public - and it’s here that the results become even more interesting. The prisoners saw themselves as more moral than the average person. They also saw themselves as more kind, more self-controlled, more compassionate, more generous, more dependable, more trustworthy and even more honest than the average person in the community. The only trait they didn’t rate themselves so high on was how law abiding they were, which makes sense given they were imprisoned for breaking the law. However, even then they rated themselves as on par with the average person on the street. This over-rating isn’t just limited to prisoners - people in a work setting are also notoriously poor at rating their own performance. Of the hundreds of people I’ve surveyed in my own research, the same pattern comes up again and again - 85% of people think their performance is above average, with 15% of people seeing themselves as just average. Not a single person I’ve surveyed has ever rated their performance as below average. This creates a range of challenges for leaders. If the vast majority of people over-rate their performance when compared to others, how do we manage their performance? Do you want to be the leader that runs around shattering these self-delusions that are so common? Probably not. Let’s take another angle. I want you to think back over your own career, and identify some points when would you have rated yourself most positively. For me, I have been most positive about my own performance when I wasn’t being stretched or challenged. I felt confident and on top of things. I felt like I was really delivering for the business. Interestingly, that probably also lines up with the times when I wasn’t as engaged in my work - now it’s not like I didn’t like my work, but it was just easy. I felt like I was contributing and doing my part, but didn’t need to try too hard. In contrast, as I think about the times when I stretched and challenged myself, my views on my performance dropped. It was in those moments that I doubted whether I could deliver what was being asked of me - did I have what it would take to perform? It was in these moments that I needed support and encouragement, because development feels hard. Having a leader that challenges you, but also supports and encourages you, is a great way to take your performance to the next level. But it’s not just individuals that have trouble accurately rating their own performance. Other research shows that leaders aren’t that great at rating people on performance either. Researchers found two factors led supervisors to rate individuals more positively - one factor was if they thought the person was similar to them, and the second factor was when they liked them. So as a leader I’m likely to rate you more positively if you are like me, and if I like you. And there’s an associated risk of under rating people that we feel aren’t like us, or that we don’t like.  Here are some ideas to help with these challenges around providing feedback on performance: Get out of the habit of rating your own and others’ performance relative to others - instead focus on the requirements of the job, the objectives and the progress the individual is making. This will help maintain that challenge to keep progressing and improving, rather than getting caught up in comparisons. As a leader, make sure you are combining challenge with support - work with your team to set challenging goals that keep people moving forward in their performance. But also recognise that when people are learning something new or challenging, their confidence is likely to drop. It’s in those moments that they need extra support and encouragement. Invite and provide feedback - having a culture where feedback is encouraged will help people to more accurately evaluate and refine their performance. Thanks for listening and for supporting the podcast. It has been great to hear how the content has been helpful.If you do want to keep in contact, go to the connect page at our website, leadership.today. There you can join our email list, and connect via LinkedIn and Facebook. I look forward to speaking with you next week.   Research Sedikides C, Meek R, Alicke MD, and Taylor S (2014). Behind bars but above the bar: Prisoners consider themselves more prosocial than non-prisoners. The British journal of social psychology / the British Psychological Society Sandy J. Wayne and Robert C. Liden (1995) Effects of Impression Management on Performance Ratings: A Longitudinal Study. The Academy of Management Journal Vol. 38, No. 1 (Feb., 1995), pp. 232-260
Episode 16 - Operating in Uncertainty
Summary In this week’s podcast we explore what leaders can learn from the way surgical teams manage complexity.   TRANSCRIPT Welcome to episode sixteen of the Leadership Today podcast. Each week we provide practical advice to address some of today’s biggest leadership challenges. Last week we dipped our toes into the waters of complexity, looking at how the storming stage of team development is better thought of as an ongoing process to be managed. This week we are extending on that theme of operating in uncertainty, seeing what leaders can learn from the way surgical teams manage complexity. As leaders we operate in a complex world where we are constantly presented with opportunities and threats. Some describe it as a VUCA world - an acronym that characterises modern conditions as volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. The term VUCA can be traced back to the 1980s where it was used in US Army War College training to describe the conditions faced by soldiers - where the enemy is not always clear and traditional approaches may not work. In this VUCA world we still need to manage tasks, processes and people within our teams. But we also need strategies that look beyond our team if we are to survive and thrive. The operating room where surgical teams work is a complex environment. The human body itself is complex and variable, and we’re still learning more every day about how our systems work and interrelate. There’s complex equipment being used, and emergency situations to be managed. There’s input from various specialties - surgeons, anaesthetists, nurses and doctors - people who are highly qualified and full of opinions. Often times there are new teams performing surgery that may not have worked together before. This can lead to a lack of consistency, assumptions and disagreements. From a group dynamics perspective, this sounds a lot like the conditions for storming - and you don’t want storming during an operation. As a consequence of this complexity, surprises occur, things are missed and mistakes are made. This leads to variable outcomes for patients. A World Health Organisation initiative sought to address these concerns. They tracked the outcomes of thousands of operations across eight hospitals in eight countries, gaining an initial baseline. They then implemented a 19-item surgical safety checklist - just 19 items that the surgical team would work through a check off. It was an initiative inspired by how pilots and ground crews manage the complexity of air travel through checklists. So how does a checklist help? One example is the risk of people not speaking up during a surgical procedure, even when they see something going wrong. After all, they may not know everyone in the room, and may not see it as their role to intervene. As a result, the checklist includes a step where all team members introduce themselves to each other by name and role. Further down the checklist, the surgeon flags how long the case will take, anticipated blood loss, and any non-routine steps. This all helps to bring everyone together, building clarity and helping to preempt issues that might emerge. The results of implementing the checklist were dramatic - the rate of death was reduced by over 40%, and complications were reduced by over a third. So it would be natural to assume that this 19 item check list would be mandated for use everywhere. However, the researchers stressed how Important it was for local hospitals to tailor the checklist to meet local needs. That could include adding or removing items from the list.  They recognised that risks, resources and cultures differ from hospital to hospital. Despite the dramatic results, they were quick to recognise that the true value of their findings was in the principle of having a checklist, rather than the exact checklist procedure itself. And then there’s the people factor. Given how dramatic the results were, you would think people would be thrilled to use the checklist. However 20% of surgical staff thought even a 19 item check list took too long. Interestingly, of that same group, 93% indicated that they would want the checklist used if they were having surgery. As with any change, there’s always opportunities to streamline by engaging people in the process - helping to address their concerns and involving them in refinements. It’s important to help people to appreciate the principle, rather than being obsessed about the procedure. There are a number of lessons for leaders from this study in how we navigate through a VUCA world: Always improve - even in the world of modern surgery there was still an opportunity for dramatic change, and even 1% improvements add up over time Look outside your field - in the research surgical teams applied lessons learned from air travel - maybe there are similar lessons that apply in your industry Identify principles - these provide ways to operate in the grey, and should be developed by incorporating input and feedback Principles not procedures - rather than rolling out more and more procedures, we are usually better off communicating a principle that applies more broadly When communicating a principle, start with the reasons why it matters - if people don’t understand the reasons for a new way of working, they will often block the change or just avoid it I hope you found that helpful. Let me know what you think via our website leadership.today, or feel free to leave a review wherever you get your podcasts.   Reference A Surgical Safety Checklist to Reduce Morbidity and Mortality in a Global Population - January 29, 2009 N Engl J Med 2009; 360:491-499 https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsa0810119
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