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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 23-Aug-06

 


Wednesday 23-August-06

Promotion and leadership

I got promoted today. Woohoo!! It's a good feeling and quite a rare experience these days. I now manage change in the UK government agency that, amongst other things, implements the school SATs system. It's a responsible role with an objective of ensuring we spend the taxpayer's money with constantly increasing care. It's not just a cut-and-reengineer operation as we are also safeguarding the educational standards of the country.

Even though I have a very significant interest in changing minds, I took nothing for granted and felt tense in the interview (internally, at least, as I struggled to maintain an externally calm air). When asked about leadership, an important element of change, I talked about three styles that I use.

With employees, I am generally transformational. Change requires intelligence and courage and is not a job for the faint-hearted. I want people who are ready to extend and grow as a part of the job. This is not an offline place where people can retire on the job.

The unusual, variable and project nature of the work also means that I employ consultants on a regular basis. I don't expect to spend time developing these people (although motivation is still important with them). For these, I use a more transactional style, making their goals very clear and ensuring clear commitment to agreed goals.

And for the many other stakeholders who are involved in change (and at national level there are many!), I use an influential style. I neither work directly for many of these nor do they report to me, yet their support and collaboration is essential in much of what I do. I thus spend significant time in understanding them, both professionally and personally. They have work to do and have individual hopes and fears, which I must take into account in the changes I drive. They have power that they will used on my behalf or, if they do not like what I am doing (or just do not like me), to subtly or overtly deflect or destroy my work.

Influential leadership requires care, although it is not about pussy-footing around in seeking ultimate consensus for everything. It seeks to minimize resistance to change but will marshal power to overcome the laggards who oppose all reasonable efforts. It is not particularly political and I have no interest in furthering my own career -- my focus is in achieving legitimate and agreed goals.

Influential leadership also has to be based in integrity and trust. Deception may gain short-term goals, but the effects of betrayal make it a poor long-term strategy. You have to genuinely care about others, keep your promises and be properly honest.

This discussion about leadership was perhaps one of the key periods in the interview, when I felt I was influencing the interviewers in the right direction. What else did I do that perhaps helped my case? Here's a few things:

  • I kept my feet firmly planted flat on the ground. It is easy to hide tension in your lower body, but this leaks upwards and canny interviewers will watch for it.
  • I paused before answering many questions, showing respect for the questioner and the question, as well as buying a little more time to think.
  • I used regular eye contact with all interviewers and used my hands to express and shape ideas.
  • I watched body language, theirs and mine, reading signals as to how engaged and connected we were in effective communication.
  • I spoke to each interviewer, showing that I understood their position and how I would help them in their work.
  • For the main interviewer (who is now my boss) I indirectly indicated that my job was to make him successful.
  • I used examples ranging from things that had happened that day back to previous jobs.

So now tomorrow will be a different day. I've got a great new job. Now all I need to do is deliver...


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