The LeadershipZone for better leadership

Get into the leadershipzone – practical tools and ideas you can use to improve your effectiveness as a leader or manager


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leadershipzone fundamentals 4 & 5: your ‘Project Control’ room

One of my coaching clients took me to see his new pride and joy: a gleaming control room to monitor every inch of a regional railway.  The flashing lights, overhead computers and intensely focused engineers was a joy to behold: it brought out my ‘inner control freak’ in a big way.  It also reminded me of being privileged to be shown around an Air Traffic Control centre one evening, when Concorde passed through the airspace just before entering it reached the speed that creates a ‘sonic boom’ over the Atlantic Ocean.

These control rooms had three key purposes: to oversee activities within certain geographical areas, ensure the smooth running of activities within those areas and optimise the safety of the people working in them.  When we’re drowning under a sea of paper and a range of complex priorities, having space to set them out improves working conditions. 

I’m not going all ‘feng shui’ and New Age here; being able to define the zone within which your leadership takes place is one fundamental requirement of your leadership.  It will lead to better definitions of  your vision, mission and values – because it’s clear what’s in scope and what’s out.

A dedicated ‘Project Control Room’  where the WHOLE project can be laid out and left out – visually or physically, has a range of valuable uses.  People can see what’s happening and –

  • Progress can be monitored
  • Visitors can be briefed and ideas presented
  • Issues and challenges can be debated
  • It improves communications and decision-making
  • Delegation and decisions are easier

It doesn’t have to be just transport systems that use control rooms; complex IT systems or projects, hospital services, projects that rely on a number of people across technologies or departments.  Imagine walking into a hospital and seeing the flow of patients out of the Emergency Waiting Room into treatment areas; reducing bottlenecks and saving lives.

Having a control room within which to keep track of these key purposes is an undoubted luxury, but when I saw the Network Control Room, it brought home to me how valuable this space would be to other leaders.

Control rooms don’t have to take up physical space: they can be shared on the internet, reside on flip chart paper or similar temporary methods.  I’ve just bought some rolls of reusable magic flipcharts which stick to any wall.  I’m going to use it to map out my next book, laying it out at eye level around the room I’m using in Italy to achieve the best flow for my ideas.  My plan is then to capture the final version on the computer, roll up the charts, bring them back and re-use them.

By providing technologies which allow your team to map out their ideas, they can share and debate them with colleagues – whether in person, or via a host of modern telecommunications channels.

What has this to do with leadership?  By providing our people with the tools they need to do their job we’re delivering on the fundamentals of engagement: people trust us more when we provide what they need to be successful.  they’re better equipped, both in practical terms and emotionally, to deliver on their role.

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Five Fundamentals for creating your LeadershipZone

Following on from last week’s blog about ‘responsibility’, I’ve been reflecting on what this really means for leaders.  My vision is that LeadershipZone tools pro-actively support leaders to lead, achieve and succeed – by which I mean:

  • Lead: fully take on board your responsibilities, for what you do, how you do it and who you are as a leader.  This also means taking responsibility for communicating well, motivating and developing your people. These last three are not optional extras, by the way.
  • Achieve: together the team accomplishes its goals, such that every project, programme and initiative is attained at a reasonable pace.
  • Succeed: everyone thriving on the challenge they face, taking individual responsibility for their goals,  such that every member receives recognition for their contribution and works in an environment of success and celebration.

My organisation, The Forton Group, has a definition of leadership which is that individuals are personally successful; they enable success in their teams and their organisations, as well as appreciating their wider leadership impact on society.

This week’s theme is about creating that ‘zone’: the environment in which leaders can enable their people to thrive and be successful.  And if you’re a leadership or executive coach – you can use these tools to bring out the best in your clients.

There’s a theory gaining pace that willpower is a finite resource: the more we’ve drained our energy and determination in one field, the less is available for others.  For people who need to exercise more, expecting them to be restrained with the chocolate bars or high-sugar drinks afterwards is asking for too much: they’ve already used up their willpower.

Similarly the role of the leader is to make create the environment for success and make it as easy as possible for team members to be successful and achieve their objectives.

So how do we make it easier for people to succeed?

Here’s five fundamentals; starting with the physical environment, beyond the desk/chair/computer/phone basics (which all need to be in tip-top condition).  Create an environment where

  1. The team can focus on the task in hand: this may mean agreeing –
    1. Set times when they work in silence
    2.  Places where they can go to concentrate on a task
    3. Flags or other ‘Do Not Disturb’ indicators
  2. By contrast, does your team have times and places where they can actively interact – share ideas, chat and chill out?
  3. Do team members have a place – away from their desk – where they can eat and drink?
  4. Create a dedicated ‘Project Control Room’ or similar space, where the WHOLE project can be laid out and left out – visually or physically – and progress monitored.
  5. Finally, enable access to technologies which allow them to map out their ideas, share and debate these with colleagues.  This might be
  • Whiteboards or flipcharts
  • Digital technologies for virtual sharing
  • Or good old fashioned pen, paper and sticky tape…

Now I can hear people out there talking about slashed budgets and no spare money for expensive extras.  My challenge to you is to be resourceful and find ways of achieving what you and your team need to be successful – without adding to the bottomline.  Who says a ‘project control room’ has to be an office at high-end rates for example?  Many silicone valley projects were born and raised in peoples’ garages.  I look forward to hearing what you, or your clients have done to create the fundamentals of a LeadershipZone.