Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bardsey Adventures

I recently had the chance to get on the water with Justine and Barry along with other Bardsey Island 'virgins' like myself - Pete Astles from Peak UK and Jeff Cochran. This may be a terrible admission to some but this is a trip I've wanted to do but had not yet done till Barry gave my an inspired phone call and serendipity played its part. And in case your wondering, we left the sixth member of the team behind! 

The open crossing itself, whilst having an air of commitment about it, was uneventful on this occasion but one can appreciate the complex nature of the tides and the need for thorough planning, even in the best of conditions. If a paddling team wanted to ensure not only a successful crossing but a rounding of the island also, then some thought needs to go into the undertaking.

Landing on Bardsey enabled us to enjoy the hospitality of the Porter family who have been living and working on Ynys Enlli since October 2007 and amongst other things run a superb tea and gift shop. The other things consist of farming 400 Welsh mountain sheep, 20-30 Welsh Black cattle and various poultry, as well as managing the land and performing monitoring duties for the RSPB.

In all, a wonderful day in great company with superb scenery and paddling conditions. And as with any jolly outing, it was rounded off with fish and chips then home made scones - food of champions :o)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Leadership and Emotional Intelligence (2)

Emotional Intelligence (EI) has become an intellectual antidote to how today's leaders might meet the significant challenges they face. According to Childs (2004) EI does not fit the classic historical models of leadership. The latter are usually associated with great figures of military history and conjure up charismatic and sometimes despotic images. However, people often use the same language for leadership today - bold, brave and tough with a strong sense of purpose and resolve. It could be argued that EI can help leaders in an evermore difficult roles, one that fewer and fewer people seem capable of fulfilling.

Daniel Goleman and his colleagues (2003) identify four emotional intelligence 'domains' which bridge they consider 18 leadership 'competencies'.

Self Awareness includes the competencies of emotional self-awareness, accurate self-assessment, and self-confidence.

Self-Management includes the competencies of emotional self-control, transparency, adaptability, achievement, initiative, and optimism.

Mastery of domains one and two, which Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee (2003) describe as personal competence, depends heavily upon listening to one's self, becoming aware of one's emotional state, values, standards, and impact upon others. Self-examination and gathering feedback about oneself through coaching and 360 reviews assist with the development of personal competence.

Social Awareness includes empathy, organisational awareness, and service.

Relationship Management includes inspirational leadership, influence, developing others, being a catalyst for change, conflict management, and teamwork/collaboration.

Mastery of domains three and four, which Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee (2003) describe as social competence, flows from empathic listening and resonating to others' thinking to develop one's thoughts and actions, which enables a leader to provide both unified and individual senses of direction for his or her group.

Finally, the authors set forth a five-step process for learning better leadership skills. These steps also focus primarily on listening skills, once again requiring both listening to oneself and to others (including through self-awareness, empathic listening, 360 feedback, and coaching).

Step one is identifying one's ideal self, which is to say, uncovering and listening to one's core values and beliefs to draw a picture of the person one aspires to be. What's important to me? What am I passionate about? What does my "gut" say to me?

Step two is identifying the real self, which is to say, discovering how one appears to others, regardless of how one sees one's self. (For the uninitiated: people who have tried this sometimes find the two views startlingly different.) This is done by listening to one's self (self awareness) and others (empathy) to gauge the effect one is having, as well as through coaching and 360 feedback from peers, subordinates, supervisors, customers, and others.

Comparing one's ideal self to one's real self is a powerful tool because it helps identify strengths (where one is as capable in areas as one expected to be) and gaps (where one isn't as effective as one desires to be). For example, a leader might think that he is strong in both listening and in follow-through, while the people the leader works with might find him strong in listening but desire improvement in his follow-through.

Step three is to make a plan to build on strengths and reduce gaps. One obviously needn't be strong in every area, realistically, no one is but one may choose to improve in respects that one considers important.

Step four is to experiment deliberately with and practice new skills to bring about change according to one's step three plan.

Step five, which the authors note should take place concurrently with steps one through four, is to develop trusting, encouraging relationships that provide support during the learning process.

As a result of professionals continuing to embrace what they consider to be the importance and relevance of emotions to work outcomes, research on the topic continues to garner interest. See also work by Eysenck (2000); Locke (2005); and Landy (2005) whose examinations of the subject challenge the underpinning assumptions behind EI and offer up a number of criticisms.

Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R. and McKee, A. (2003) The New Leaders: Transforming The Art of Leadership Into The Science of Results. London: Time Warner Paperbacks

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Leadership and Emotional Intelligence (1)

In simple terms, Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the intelligent use of emotions (Weisinger, 1998). According to Weisinger (1998) this allows one to use emotions to guide behaviour and thinking in ways that will enhance results. According to Caruso, Mayer and Salovey, (2005), successful leaders should possesses the ability to be aware of their own feelings and emotions, but also to accurately identify the emotions of the group and of individual followers. 

The central finding of EI research is that emotions are essentially contagious, and thus a leader's attitude and energy can "infect" a workplace either for better or for worse. With this in mind Goleman, Boyatziz and McKee (2002) stress the importance of "resonance", which is the ability of leaders to perceive and influence the flow of emotions (including motivational states) between themselves and others they work with. The fundamental importance of resonance, which essentially rests in part upon a leader's ability to put into practice the skill of empathic listening, is explored throughout their book The New Leaders (2003). 

Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee (2003) describe six styles of leading that have different effects on the emotions of the target followers. They go on to identify four domains of EI and five steps towards learning leadership skills.

Six Styles of Leadership 

The following are classed as styles, not types. Any leader can use any style, and a good mix that is customised to the situation is generally the most effective approach. 

The Visionary Leader: leadership that inspires people by focusing on long-term goals. An effective visionary leader listens to the values held by the individuals within the group, and thus can explain his or her overall goals for the organisation in a way that wins their support. The visionary leader moves people towards a shared vision, telling them where to go but not how to get there, thus motivating them to struggle forwards. They openly share information, hence giving knowledge power to others. 

The Coaching Leader: this is in essence management by delegation, describes leadership that helps people assume responsibility for a stretch of the road that leads to the organization's success. An effective coaching leader listens one-on-one to employees, establishes personal rapport and trust, and helps employees work out for themselves how their performance matters and where they can find additional information and resources. Delegation of decision-making authority to the employee within his or her area of responsibility, including the power to make and learn from mistakes, is crucial to the effectiveness of this leadership style. Coaching leadership not only frees leaders from doing work for others, but fires-up and accelerates innovation and learning at all levels of the organisation. 

The Affiliative Leader: this describes leadership that creates a warm, people focused working atmosphere. The affiliative leader creates people connections and thus harmony within the organisation. A very collaborative style that focuses on emotional needs over work needs. An affiliative leader listens to discover employees' emotional needs, and strives to honor and accommodate those needs in the workplace. The danger of affiliative leadership is that it focuses on the emotional climate while ignoring the work itself, and thus should be used in combination with other leadership styles such as the Visionary style. 

The Democratic Leader: leadership in this style obtains input and commitments from everyone in the group. When faced with uncertainty about how to proceed, a leader elicits fresh ideas and renewed participation by faithfully listening to everyone's opinions and information. The listening may be challenging, particularly in a diverse group and when sensitive issues are raised. Dangers include "dithering," as when meetings drag on for weeks without making progress.

These four styles are described by Goleman et al (2003) as "resonance builders" and contrast these with the next two styles that they call "dissonant" styles because they don’t emphasise listening. Goleman et al (2003) caution that while the next two styles are essential under some circumstances, effective leaders use them sparingly because of their potential side-effects. 

The Pacesetting Leader: this illustrates leadership that sets ambitious goals and continually monitors progress toward those goals. (This style is sometimes referred to as "management by objective”) The pace-setting leader builds challenge and exciting goals for people, expecting excellence and often exemplifying it themselves. They identify poor performers and demand more of them. If necessary, they will roll up their sleeves and rescue the situation themselves. They tend to be low on guidance, expecting people to know what to do. They get short-term results but over the long term this style can lead to exhaustion and decline. Although this is a superior motivator for certain types of followers and under certain situations, the unrelenting pressure it creates over long periods of use can result in burn-out and loss of both creativity and productivity. 

The Commanding Leader: the commanding leader soothes fears and gives clear directions by his or her powerful stance, commanding and expecting full compliance (agreement is not needed). They need emotional self-control for success and can seem cold or distant. This style of leadership issues instructions without asking for input about what is to be done or how: "do it because I say so." Goleman et al (2003) caution that while this style is invaluable during exceptional circumstances; over the long haul it erodes motivation and commitment, leading to massive follower turnover and a downward spiral of morale and productivity.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Anglesey Symposium 2010

Once again, I was privileged enough to be asked to be a tutor for the 27th Anglesey Symposium held over May bank holiday weekend at Anglesey Outdoors, hosted and co-ordinated by the indomitable Nigel Dennis. Day one for me was spent in and around Trearddur Bay putting attendees through their paces with open water rolling and rescues. Despite it being May, and for the most part sunny, the spring temperatures felt unseasonably low and I was very grateful to be wearing my Kokatat expedition drysuit.   That evening saw the formidable Freya Hoffmeister talk about her amazing achievement of circumnavigating Australia, a distance of 13790 in 332 days.

Day two had me heading out to Penrhyn Mawr in the company of Phil Clegg, aspirant Level 5, with a group of paddlers keen to improve their rough water handling skills. While the tiderace wasn't on epic form, after warming up between the Fangs, everyone found several good waves to surf in the outer races. Lots of smiling face at the end of the day. Day three was more formal with a number of participants wanting to be assessed for their 3*, and all of whom were successful.

As with all such events, its a mixture of work, play and networking. A chance to snatch rare moments with sea kayaking friends who have been in your life for a long as memory serves but whose paths you cross more and more infrequently. There are also newly formed friendships which may become the  foundation of adventures to come. Either way, an annual visit to Anglesey to pay homage to the great and the good of sea kayaking is one of those rituals that needs to be performed. Almost as if without it, the season ahead on the water, either coaching or personal expeditions, goes unblessed.