How do You Rate Against the 9 Characteristics of Secure Base Leadership?

The concept of ‘secure base leadership’ is taken from Bowlby’s work on attachment theory, which describes the dynamics of long term interpersonal relationships.

I first came across it in the context of leadership when I was reading George Kohlreiser’s Care to Dare.   Kohlreiser talks about how important it is for the leader to offer a secure base to those he/she would lead and to have secure bases for themselves.  A secure base is a long term personal relationship that provides us with enough ‘care’ that we can choose to ‘dare’.  The strength of the relationship allows us to take risks, knowing that whatever happens we will not be judged badly.  Cultivating secure bases then becomes a critical feature of leadership.

Secure base leaders display 9 key attributes:

1. Stay Calm

Especially under pressure—when other leaders may respond impulsively and unreasonably.

2. Accept the Individual

Acceptance and acknowledgment of the basic worth of others as a human beings—beyond being employees or embodiments of job descriptions.  Secure Base Leaders show caring for the human being before focusing on an issue or problem. They separate the person from the problem. As far as possible, they avoid  criticising people.

3. See the Potential

Secure Base Leaders see potential talent rather than current functioning or “state.” This goes beyond acceptance of the person’s inherent value and may go beyond what the person expects from him/herself. This is not about short-term potential. Instead, it is about a deeper vision for the person’s deepest potential—not in one year, but in 10 or 20 years.

4. Use Listening and Inquiry

Secure Base Leaders listen and inquire rather than “telling” and advocating. They ask open-ended questions and engage in a dialogue to seek a greater truth.

5. Tell a Powerful Story

They affect people deeply with single sentences or gestures that carry tremendous power and often are remembered for many years. Short, inspirational stories give people direction at times when fear, uncertainty, and doubt permeate the environment.

6. Focus on the Positive

Secure Base Leaders are good at helping people to focus on the positive rather than the negative. They focus on benefits, create images of hope and possibility, and help people visualise goals. They set positive expectations that contribute to improved performance. They help others to see their potential and inspire learning, even in a crisis or time of difficulty. They can give critical feedback while retaining a positive perspective.

7. Encourage Risk Taking

Secure Base Leaders give people opportunities to reach their potential, often with some personal risk attached.  Secure Base Leaders dare people to explore their potential by providing opportunities for risk taking. They support autonomy and provide a minimum of control.

8. Inspire Through Intrinsic Motivation

Understand the importance of “intrinsic motivation” to get the best out of people rather than relying on extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation refers to doing something because it is inherently interesting, enjoyable, or fulfilling. Extrinsic motivation gets something done because it leads to an outcome that are not inherent in the task. When intrinsically motivated, a person acts for the learning, enjoyment, or challenge involved rather than because of external pressures or rewards.

9. Signals Accessibility

They remain available and accessible, not appearing ‘too busy for a conversation’.  They recognise that supporting others is both urgent and important.

So how do you measure up against these 9 characteristics?

What Can You Learn from Netflix?

There is some great content here!  This is not to be presented, but read.

And thought about.

Look at how this information is communicated.

Performance on this in the private sector is often poor.

Performance in public and third sectors is usually worse, in my experience, because the disconnect between espoused values and reality is often wider.

In very small businesses it is not a big issue.

But as things scale up, as middle managers and team leaders start to appear this type of issue can become ‘make or break’.

Everyone is clear on what works at Netflix.  Employees, customers and shareholders.

  • How do you communicate about culture?
  • Do words and actions match up in your organisation?
  • What can you do to improve things?

The Challenge of Becoming an Outstanding Manager

I work with managers who are trying to get better at their craft.  Much better.  They want to be the kind of manager who supports a team to do amazing work.
To help others to really deliver to the best of their potential, both individually and as a team.
There are several reasons why making a transition to being a significantly better manager can be difficult.
  • Firstly you have to be prepared to be obsessed by high performance, improvement and making the most of potential. Organisational rhetoric will always advocate this. However, in practice the rhetoric of excellence is often dropped in favour of more pragmatic and easily achieved compromises.
  • Secondly, people centred management practices can feel very uncomfortable, especially to begin with. They are usually not our default management style. Our default management style is an expression of our deeply held, often subconscious, values and beliefs. And sometimes these are driven by more traditional management concepts of power, control and task focus than on developing the potential of the team to deliver excellence. So there is always a little voice saying ‘Just give a few orders, crack a few heads and get things done’. Only if we persist with person centred management will we recognise that relationships are improving, more initiative is being shown, teams are performing better and genuine progress is being made. Only then will the nagging voice encouraging us to revert to more directive ways start to fade away. And this is a process of substantial personal development. It is the process of becoming a different person with different attitudes and beliefs about what ‘excellence in management’ is all about. Now the tools and techniques of ‘person centred management’ feel much more congruous with who you are as a person.
  • The third difficulty is the response of your team and the wider organisation to your changing management style. You start to use regular 121s; you give and seek feedback – frequently. Furthermore you expect it to be acted upon. You start coaching – everyone in your team – and expecting things to get better on a weekly basis. And you delegate consistently and well – not from a place that says ‘I can get some of my work done by others’ – but from a place that says ‘giving people the opportunity to take on these challenges will help them to develop and keep them interested and fulfilled in their work’. And what response do you get? Often it is a combination of surprise, discomfort, antagonism and disbelief. Usually there is a hope that if we can just keep things quiet for a while you will get over whatever training programme you have been on and things will get back to the mediocrity that passes for normal.
So the challenge of becoming a better manager is not an easy one. However it is not about mastering tools and techniques or acquiring new skillsets (although there maybe a little of this stuff). It is actually about recognising that there is a better way to manage and having the commitment and the discipline to pass through the discomfort of putting it into practice.

What the heck is ROIR?

Return on Investment in Relationships of course!

Tom Peters encourages managers to obsess on R.O.I.R – the Return on Investment in Relationships.

Usually what has to be invested is not cash – but time. And the challenge is to invest that time effectively.

For me, without doubt, the most effective tool for ROIR with employees is the 121. These are structured, documented 30 minute meetings held with each member of staff, every week. They provide the most effective ROIR with employees that I know.

ROIR through 121s comes in many forms:

  1. increased staff retention
  2. improved productivity
  3. recognition and acknowledgement of progress
  4. appreciation of those who are performing well
  5. identification of under performance and early resolution
  6. promotion of behaviours that reinforce strategic goals and values
  7. increased pace of coaching to develop potential and performance
  8. deeper professional relationships
  9. increased trust
  10. increased influence
  11. increased responsiveness
  12. better support of team members in their work
  13. conduit for ideas from the front line to be heard and acted upon
  14. management support for every member of the team – every week
  15. improved communication and focus on what matters
  16. progress made and recognised on a weekly basis
  17. increased sense of urgency in the team
  18. encourage individuals to think through their contribution to team or organisational objectives
  19. increased initiative and enterprise
  20. planning remains flexible and dynamic
  21. documentation makes performance reviews simpler and less contentious
  22. barriers to high performance are removed
  23. factors contributing to poor performance are identified and resolved
  24. formal opportunities for delegation are created
  25. more feedback – both given and received
  26. increased employee engagement
  27. improved knowledge management and knowledge sharing
  28. better talent management and development
  29. increased creativity
  30. more innovation
  31. more responsibility taken voluntarily by more people
  32. reduced absenteeism
  33. more diversity as 121s recognise that ‘one size fits one’

Perhaps some of these are things that you as a manager need to work on. If you are already using 121s then think how you can use them more effectively for the things that matter most to you and your business.  You can find out more about 121s here.

If you are not already using 121s then you have a tremendous opportunity to improve your management practice.

Additions to the list are very welcome!

Insights (Nobel prize winning) to improve your judgement and decision-making

I have been reading Kahneman’s book – Thinking Fast and Slow and have found it to be an amazing experience!  This 29 minute video is well worth the time!

(in my judgement!)

PS: If you think that was useful, or even if you didn’t, please sign up using the form on the right to make sure that you get more updates from Be a Better Manager!

Mike

:-)

Trends Impacting on NHS Leadership

On Friday I got to spend the morning with some very senior NHS leaders looking at the future of leadership development.

As part of the exercise we developed a mindmap of the trends impacting on leadership in the NHS at the moment.  I managed to record the trends in the map below. I have probably missed some though.

I hope you find it useful.

If you think of a trend that is not reflected in the map please mention it in the comments below, and I will get it added to the map.

Daniel Goleman on Learning to Be A Better Manager…or anything else

I have been teaching managers for almost 30 years, and for the last 10 or so I have been teaching managers and leaders the art of self directed leadership development.  How you can take control of your own leadership development and base it in your everyday work, and your aspirations for how you want to be.

In this 2 minute video, Daniel Goleman (the pioneer of emotional intelligence amongst other things) talks you through a 5 step process to take control of your own leadership development.

  • What did you think?
  • What was your top take-away?

Please do leave me a comment or question in the comment box below!

Mike

PS: If you liked this video and you aren’t already signed up to Be A Better Manager then please take a moment to register with us!  That way you will keep receiving great free content from Be A Better Manager!

Free Video: How to Become an Outstanding Manager

Please enter your name and email address to watch this FREE  11 minute video that will put you on the right path to becoming an outstanding manager…

Can we learn to be more fully ourselves? The search for authentic…

Much of my work is about helping people to become better managers and leaders.

Sometimes this is about teaching new models, theories and skills.  This can help develop better managers and leaders.

But most of the time the real work of developing managers and leaders takes place at a different, higher level.

It is about helping people to be more, or even better versions, of who they really are.  To be more vulnerable and authentic in their work.  It is about the ‘emergence of identity’.  Helping people to be themselves with more skill, power and honesty.  This means working with managers and leaders on their:

  • sense of purpose,
  • sense of self, and
  • the values attitudes and beliefs that they hold that help or hinder their practice.

This can be especially hard for those in management and leadership positions who mistakenly believe that their job is to be the protector. The one who carries all the baggage on their backs so that others can get on with their work.

At the heart of authenticity is the courage to be judged for who we are, and what we think, rather than our willingness to conform to the pressures and norms of our peers.  To hold an opinion lightly but with confidence.  Holding the right balance between advocating a belief while holding it open to inquiry and development.  Once we can learn to find and hold a leadership position that encourages curiosity, inquiry and challenge, the we have taken a major step to improving the culture of our workplace.

If this sounds like the kind of development that you would like to experience then please do get in touch.

And in the meantime, if you are worried that you may be experiencing just a little too much conformity in your workplace take 10 minutes to watch this video.

What Does it Mean to be a System Leader?

There is a lot of talk at the moment about being a system leader.

But what does this actually mean?

That it is not enough to ‘just’ lead an organisation or a team, but one has to make a leadership contribution to the wider system of  which that organisation, or team, is a part.

  • It is not enough for a head teacher to lead a school well, they also should make a contribution to the leadership of the wider education system.
  • It is not enough to be a good CEO of an NHS Trust.  Your leadership has to be exercised in the wider health economy – including other providers, commissioners, adult social care, children’s services and so on.

So, what is this ‘system’ in which we are expected to exert our system leadership?  How do we find its edges? How do we define our scope?  Is it more than leadership across a value chain?

I think so, yes.

Questions like this bring me to a second meaning for a ‘system leader’ – which is more about a worldview, philosophy and practice than just about expanding the dominion of our leadership.  It is about a different way of seeing and acting as a leader.

A system leader recognises that complex adaptive systems (and any system with a human being in it IS complex and adaptive) will not respond compliantly, or as we might wish or predict, to top down leadership, management by objectives or board room strategies.  They understand the need for participation across the system in shaping the future.  They know that this is best achieved by following some guidelines which they allow to shape their practice:

  • Keep the shared purpose for which the system exists up close and personal – for everyone.
  • Make sure that the purpose of the system is primary to the purpose of the units (organisations or people) that make up the system.
  • Inclusion and participation in the process are essential – but cannot be mandated.
  • Organisations and people are free to choose.  They want to associate in pursuit of purpose – but they also seek self-expression
  • Leadership works to the extent that it provides the platform for association around purpose and honours self-expression
  • That to help the system to get better at serving its purpose you must connect the system better to itself.  Especially those parts of the system that are usually excluded.
  • It is through these connections in the system, these improved relationships,  that information and innovation will flow, accelerating the rate of progress
  • Listening and building relationships are therefore the catalyst for progress – not the imposition of a blue print, policy or ‘vision’.
  • Systems shape themselves around meanings and relationships. Change the meaning and the relationships and you have changed the system.
  • That you can’t control the development of the system, as it reacts to directives but rarely obeys them.
  • We may enforce compliance – but only by paying the price in what matters most – loyalty, commitment, passion and intelligence.
  • That there is only one system.

So for me, system leadership is a very different way of leading, that is served more by humble enquiry and the facilitation of people and organisations that care than about the imposition of change.

If you would like to develop your own practice in system leadership then please sign up here:

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