AIM Leadership Conference 2017

AIM logoAs you may be aware already, for the past year or so I have the privilege of leading a passionate committee in the Canberra region to help inform and promote the local program of events and member engagement that is aimed at cultivating excellence in leadership.

But I’ve also been involved with several of AIM’s national program, and was one of the National Networking Week’s National Ambassadors in 2016 where I could draw on my deep understanding on how to leverage that crucial skill and activity as part of the week long program, including being interviewed for Business Insider and the Huffington Post.

So I was thrilled to be invited to be one of seven expert guest speakers at the upcoming national conference, Leadership Matters: 7 Skills of Very Successful Leaders.

This major conference will be held in Melbourne on the 24th March and I’ll be showing how to integrate professional networking into a contemporary leadership setting.

To learn more about the program, and how to register your place, please follow the link.

I hope to see you there!


AIM Conference logo

Thoughts on the Absent Leader

IMG_0836Delegation, autonomous teams, self-directed work, are they a cop out?

In 2015 the idea of directing every detail of a team’s work reeks of micromanagement and a sign of a poor performing team.

Of course each workplace and role is different, some positions require more direction that others, workplace organisation differs, and the experience of the person in the role will impact the level of management support required. In a knowledge economy the ideal is a team that gets on with the job to the required standard without the need of a supervisor, along with the expectation of a work-life balance culture.

In theory if you recruit well, and have good systems in place, then shouldn’t the appointment be perfect for the role and apply themselves with diligence? Of course its not that like in the real-world, we all being imperfect creatures and variable on a daily basis.

How far done the ‘hand’s off’ management road do you go before the leader is so absent that its every person for themselves in the workplace?

Having consulted across all sectors, there is no particular ethos for the public, not for profit, association or private sector. Sometimes the management style is laissez faire because the manager is simply too busy doing their own job to manage their team, other times its the culture of the workplace, sometimes its intentional and nearly always well-intentioned, but the results can be the same.

A few years back in conversation with a director of a a very busy commercial SME I was told that their management style was to allow their staff to get on with their job without their input, as to direct them daily would reflect a lack of trust on their professionalism.

There was no overall direction, no pulling together of the team on a daily or weekly basis,  no reflection on a job well-done or not, no vision or goals described, no motivation or accountability conversations unless asked.

There was just the annual performance review, or the opportunity to grab them for a decision or input on the fly.

The director applied the same approach to themselves, the result being the team not knowing if they were going to be in the office, and needing to manage upwards to get the input or decision point required, with a lot of energy second guessing what may be required on a daily basis. This resulted in a lack of relevance + authority of the leader to the team.

There was also a strategic impact on the organisation: with the workers acting independently, the potential of all the teams intellectual and professional capital being harnessed collectively to a goal was a missed opportunity.

The upside of this scenario was that the workers did collectively form a sort of accountability over several years. They made up for the lack of strategic + tactical direction themselves, with a token reference to the leader, which was admirable.

There was also a strong team culture formed by a core group – solidarity you may say.  The work ethic was strong, and this was just as well, for the workplace flexibility could as easily been abused.

But there was no overarching goal being worked toward, the focus was tactical, daily, weekly or project driven.  Like most organisations, I think, the only time anyone referred actively to the business or strategic plan was for governance reasons as a tick the box exercise.

It is said that most people want just a few things from their work:

  • Clear boundaries of what’s expected of them
  • What the professional standards required are of them: so they know when they’ve done a good job
  • Pride in their work and recognition
  • A positive work culture and association with their work
  • The opportunity to develop their careers and professionally
  • Reasonable work conditions, flexibility and renumeration.

Without an active and present leader in the workplace these norms cannot be established or applied consistently, and the vacuum is filled by subjectivity, personalities and short-term fixes, albeit often well-intentioned.

To my mind, its great to have professional autonomy in one’s work-life, and be treated as an adult who know’s what one is about. But without a collective vision of what the team is working towards on a daily, weekly or longer term basis, plus the accountability to ensure standards, the multiplier effect of a well-led team is lost.



Leadership in the Pharmacy Setting

This post was authored for the Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s Pharmacy Business Network.7220857

What comes to mind when you think about leadership? A risk taker, a role model, a sound manager, an innovator, a trail blazer? Perhaps a combination of some of those attributes.

To search the web on the subject you can quickly drown in information and videos on the shopping list of qualities that make a great leader, but a list doesn’t make for change, nor convert you into an exceptional leader in a flash.

To know that a leader needs to be a visionary, inclusive, trustworthy, communicative, emotionally aware is all fine and well, but one aspect that is often overlooked in this well-intentioned advice is the context of where this leadership is to be exercised.

The qualities of a leader in one profession may not be appropriate in another. For example, what the military looks for (and they spend more time, money and effort than anyone on the subject) and cultivate may not be what a small business needs, no matter how admirable those standards may be. A TED talk may be very inspirational, but not everyone needs to be the next Steve Jobs or similar.

In the Pharmacy setting the qualities of leadership can be applied in several ways: as a staff manager, a clinician, as a business person, in the community, and involvement in the professional generally. So for each ‘leadership mode’, different qualities may be required or perhaps ‘dialled-down’ so their intensity is lessened and more appropriate for the team member or situation.

But one thing that is constant in the application of leadership is self-awareness and a commitment to ourselves to learn, improve, self-reflect. Just like any professional skills, being a leader is something that has been cultivated, learnt, and practiced.  A job title doesn’t make us a leader, and in different moments staff members can shine as it allows their own leadership qualities to express themselves.

If we want to be an effective leader, then we need to seek out those opportunities and stretch ourselves and reflect on the experience. If you’re in a role that can delegate authority, then perhaps part of that role is to create the space for your team members to test their own leadership skills.

We all bring a range of strengths and areas of lesser ability, and different modes or situations can help those to come to the fore.  To the old question of whether leaders are born or made, I would say they are made, and we each have the capacity to be leaders in different ways and circumstances.

In the Pharmacy profession a commitment to leadership isn’t just about trying to stand out from the back or being the boss, it is part of the ongoing work of being the finest professional we can be.