Tag Archives: leadership

Leiderschapslessen van Rock Werchter


Rock WerchterAfgelopen maandag was er in het programma Bel Pop op Canvas een documentaire over het ontstaan en de groei van het wereldberoemde festival. Rock Werchter zit al sinds de oprichting onder leiding van Herman Schueremans en uit de reportage blijkt al vlug dat deze organisator alles goed op een rijtje heeft. In deze blog enkele lessen die we uit de ervaring van Herman Schueremans en zijn team kunnen leren.

Heb geduld

In de begin jaren krijgt de organisatie niet de gewenste artiesten op het festival. Het festival is te klein en daarvoor komen ze niet uit Engeland af. Herman geeft het niet op en zoekt minder bekende artiesten. Hij rekent op groei en wacht zijn beurt af.

Herken opportuniteiten

Buitenlandse artiesten in België krijgen voor één optreden/festival was niet gemakkelijk. Maar ze passeerden wel allemaal via België naar de andere landen. Herman zag dit en ging samenwerken met een organisatie in Torhout en zo ontstond Torhout/Werchter. Een tweedaags festival waardoor het voor de buitenlandse artiesten wel de moeite werd om eens te stoppen in België.

Later wordt samen met een partner het bedrijf StageCo opgericht dat podia bouwt voor wereldwijde tournees van topartiesten zoals U2 en Metallica.

Hou een hoge kwaliteit standaard

Eén van de verwijten die de organisatie krijgt, is dat er te weinig Belgische groepen op het podium staan. Herman is hier echter heel duidelijk in: Rock Werchter kiest voor kwaliteit en als de Belgische groepen op dat moment dit niet kunnen waar maken, zullen ze geen plek op het podium krijgen. Eén van de eerste Belgische groepen die er wél in slaagt, zijn The Scabs. Later worden ze snel opgevolgd door Channel Zero en dEUS.

Respecteer je personeel

Rock Werchter staat er voor bekend om zijn artiesten goed te behandelen: er zijn betere accommodaties en het eten wordt gesmaakt. Alle artiesten zijn zeer tevreden over hun behandeling en promoten het festival.

Investeer op lange termijn

Herman heeft altijd de kans gegeven aan jonge groepen om zich te bewijzen. Zo stonden groepen als Simple Minds, U2, dEUS en Placebo in hun beginjaren al op het grote podium. Door de bekendheid van het festival worden de artiesten internationaal gelanceerd. Een investering die zich later goed terug betaald omdat de artiesten deze aangeboden kans niet vergeten zijn. Midden jaren ’80 doet de nummer 1 band Simple Minds opnieuw een bezoek aan de wei te Werchter.

Durf beslissen

In de beginjaren is er de combinatie Torhout/Werchter omwille van logistieke redenen: er zijn bijna geen festivals in België en ze willen de artiesten toch op hun podium krijgen (zie “Herken opportuniteiten”). Wanneer de festivalmarkt in België groeit tot één van de grootsten ter wereld, is de competitie hoog en Torhout/Werchter verliest bezoekers. Er geen nood meer aan de samenwerking en Herman neemt de moeilijke beslissing om enkel verder te gaan met Werchter.

Neem risico

Mag een rock festival synthesizer bands toelaten? Deze vraag is zeer actueel wanneer Depeche Mode op het podium staat. De media zeggen nee, maar de menigte zegt ja. Het tijdperk van de elektronische muziek wordt ingeleid door een moeilijke beslissing om zulke bands van een club naar een festival zoals Rock Werchter te verplaatsen.

Durf differentiëren

Door de jaren heen is de affiche van Rock Werchter gegroeid van een echt rock festival naar een gedifferentieerd festival met vele soorten muziek. Er is voor iedereen wat wils en een breed publiek vindt haar weg naar het festival.

Luister naar wat de klant wilt

Rock Werchter heeft altijd nauw samengewerkt met Humo. Deze samenwerking heeft vruchten afgeworpen en het bezoekersaantal vergroot. De redactie van Humo heeft echter een bepaalde visie over wat tot muziek gerekend wordt en wat niet. Herman is hier niet mee akkoord en besluit om de vraag van de klant te volgen door bands zoals Metallica te programmeren. Het wordt een ongezien succes. Met de intrede van het danstijdperk bewijst Herman voor een tweede keer dat Humo er langs zit en maakt een belangrijk besluit: wij programmeren wat de klant wilt horen.

Blijf vernieuwen

Elke tien jaar wordt het festival herbekeken. Onder het moto “stilstaan is achteruit gaan” probeert Herman met zijn team telkens zichzelf heruit te vinden.

Durf jezelf in vraag stellen

Als je het beste festival ter wereld wilt blijven, moet je jezelf ook in vraag blijven stellen. Rock Werchter hoort toch in Werchter door te gaan hé? Niet als het aan Herman ligt: elk jaar bekijkt hij opnieuw of de terreinen in Werchter nog steeds de beste keuze voor zijn festival zijn.

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Empowerment rocks!


Foo Fighters drummer - Taylor Hawkins

Foo Fighters drummer – Taylor Hawkins

Six empowerment lessons from the rock industry by looking at the history of the Foo Fighters.

The Foo Fighters are a rock band that got popular in the nineties, made it through the two-thousands and still are popular in the two thousand and tens. During the years the setting of the band changed and a lot has to do with how the lead singer, Dave Grohl, changed his leadership style.

Dave Grohl came free from the popular band Nirvana after dissolution after the tragic suicide of lead singer, Kurt Cobain. In Nirvana, Dave was as drummer responsible for the heart beat of the band. But Dave had more talents than only drumming: he also could play the guitar and bass. He even could sing very well! After some solo (re)work, he started the Foo Fighters band with him as lead singer.

In the first set-up with the band, the drummer was William Goldsmith. When recording the album “The Colour and the Shape” in 1997, William was responsible for all drum parties. Dave Grohl had set a high ambition level and wanted only the best for the new CD. Because of his drumming experience in Nirvana, he knew very well how to play the drums and was not satisfied with the current recordings of William. When William was away for a while, Dave picked up his old drum sticks and redid all the drum parties of the CD in the way that he wanted them to sound. When William came back and was notified of this, he was very disappointed. Not very long after this event William decided to quit the band.

Dave made a typical leadership error when delegating which is taking back/over the work that was delegated and doing it himself. Because it was better, faster, tighter, etc. Instead of discussing the (mediocre) quality of the recordings and having supported William, Dave chose the shortest path and took the delegated work back.

Drummer William was replaced with Taylor Hawkins, which still is the drummer of the Foo Fighters, and we can see that Dave learned a valuable lesson. He now lets the drummer, Taylor, free to use his creativity and imagination when recording the drum parties. They have established a real cooperative relationship which even can be seen during the live performances of the band: the drummer (and also the heart of the band) is in sync with the lead singer. During their performance at Pukkelpop 2012 I was really impressed by how attuned they were to each other.

Six tips for bringing empowerment to your work floor

  1. Discuss what empowerment means to you and your team.
  2. Learn to really delegate.
    1. Explain the “why” and the “what”.
    2. Set criteria for the output and steer on these criteria.
    3. Do not get involved in the way works needs to be done. Leave the “how” for the delegee.
  3. Create a feedback loop.
    1. Give feedback on results.
    2. Discuss the problems, not the person.
    3. Discuss about facts, not assumptions or personal interpretations.
  4. Start with small assignments, give bigger ones when successful.
  5. Delegating assignments means also delegating the benefits that belong with it.
  6. Give recognition to your employees.

Additional reading

Foo Fighers @ Wikipedia

Top 10 Principles of Employee Empowerment

Top 7 Self Empowerment Tips

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Team barometer – some examples


Do you know if everybody in your team is happy? How would you measure team satisfaction? 

I get a lot of questions and search hits for team barometers and to my opinion there are several options. But before you read further, I must warn you: there is no one solution for measuring team member satisfaction. Go through the list and pick the one that’s most likely to be successful in your current situation. After a while evaluate and see which one might suit better. This is no attempt for an all-encompassing list!

Please mind: all team barometers are just ways to get your team talking, to get them to start sharing their feelings. Only when this happens you can expect team relations to improve. At first the team members might be reluctant to share this (rather personal) information, but you can start and give the example. If they see everyone doing it, they’ll come loose. Make sure you discuss team mood at least once in every week (eg. during your daily huddles) to be proactive, rather than reactive.

The barometers are split up in high and low frequent measurements: not every measurement is useful every day or week.

High frequent

Team member feelings barometer – Simple

Let’s start simple with a barometer that expresses the mood of the team. Every member picks a smiley or avatar that expresses his/her mood. Team members are free to use the smiley they want. I’ve also seen teams that use an avatar instead of the names, which can be fun and also removes a tip of the (personal) cover.

On the work floor, I’ve seen genuine interest of team members when one team members picks a sad smiley.

Team barometer simple

Team barometer simple

Team member feelings barometer – Advanced

This barometer is just a little more advanced, but adds one important aspect to it: explanation, but more important: action! OK,  they are not feeling fine, but what are they going to DO about it? It make your team members reflect and not just report. We used this team barometer in my previous team at work and must say it was a real added value!

You might react: “But why don’t they just tell each other and ask for help?”, but I must say: even though you’re sitting next to each other almost every day, you cannot take if for granted.

Team barometer advanced

Team barometer advanced

Moodbox

A moodbox are actually two boxes where you let people “vote” on how their day or week was. Every day/week the team members get one vote (which could be a ball, a red or green card, etc) and which they can put in a box.

The advantage is that the mood is anonymous, and visible to other teams and management. The disadvantage is that you cannot help the team members which posted, nor can anyone else. I’ve also heard of a digital version of this: sort of a “Did you had a good day? Yes/No” question when you log off your PC. Don’t give anything eatable as voting items. They will eat it instead 🙂

The big question remains: what will you do with the results? Certainly if the “bad” box is growing, there a call for action needed and you need to open the discussion.

Moodbox

Moodbox

Move work

This team barometer is based on the moodbox (see above) and gives an idea about how much work is “moved” that they. You can use as a task accomplishment follow-up tool (like eg. the kanban board), but you can also use it as stimulus for idea generation (eg. we needs 10 improvement ideas each week which lead to efficiency).

A team compass

Recently I saw a team compass which uses the theory of the “4 rooms of change”. While it’s best used in big change projects, it expresses how team members feel about the current situation there in: happy, confused, busy, … You can use a pawn or pushpin to express where in the house you’re currently are. Again, the goal here is to discover and discuss non-expressed feelings of team members and help them (and the team) through it.

The Change House

The Change House

A team barometer for customer interaction

What do you get when you combine visual management and a team barometer applied to your internal customers? An opportunity to improve your team member’s and customer’s experience!

We already described this barometer in following blog: “A team barometer for customer interaction“.

Team customer barometer

Team customer barometer

Low frequent

Team dysfunction assessment

With a question list of only 15 questions with answers on a scale of three you can assess your team effect-ability on  the five characteristics of highly effective teams (trust, conflict, commitment, accountability and attention to results).  The process is described in blog “Team dysfunction assessment“.

This is a measurement what you can only every once in a while (eg. every quarter) because to get to the results it takes more action than the previous barometers. Eg. you cannot build trust in a week.

Team dysfunction assessment

Team dysfunction assessment

Key Performance Indicators

Key Performance Indicators can of course also be used as team barometer, but they mostly aimed at what the team needs to accomplish. If you have a KPI that expresses team feeling/mood, well, than you have your barometer, I’d say 🙂

Examples are number of positive vs negative compliments or feelings for that week.

Team motivation barometer

If you know which behaviour is expected from the team lead, but also of the team members, you can create a team motivation barometer. Create several main topics which matter, like eg. coaching, feeling of purpose and empowerment. Describe the expected behaviour in questions which the team members can score on a scale of one to five (with five being the ideal state). When team members fill in the survey, you get an idea of the hot spots in your team. Compare it with a team survey.

An example:

Rate on a scale of one to five with one being bad and five good.

Coaching – My team leader invests time in really listening to me and helping me find out a solution myself.

Empowerment – I feel empowered to take the decision needed in the project I’m accountable for.

The output of the assessment can be grouped like in the example in the “Team dysfunction” barometer (see above).

If you don’t know how to start, you can use a generalized (leadership) assessment like Hay or Barrett, but a custom made assessment is easier to align with the strategy of your organization.

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Leading in books – Leadership lessons by Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon


Jeff Bezos Fortune

Jeff Bezos Fortune

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, was recently announced by Fortune as Business person of the year 2012. Further, statistics show that 95% of new entrepreneurs are looking at Jeff as example. Reason enough to take a look and see what has got to say. This blog entry describes some leadership lessons shared in an interview published in the Belgian #Vacature magazine (quoted from Fortune Magazine, 2012-11-16).

It would be a lie to state that Jeff Bezos is the one perfect leader (he too has good and bad habits), but I would like to focus on the positive aspects from the article.

Everything with a reason

While it looks like he isn’t coherent to outsiders and stock brokers, Jeff is driven by a coherent vision and bright ideas: everything he does has its place and reason.

We learn the same in literature about leadership: create a vision, a dream that inspires others, and then see how you can make it real.

Customer feedback is key to innovation

Unlike the more common CEO, Jeff spends part of his time processing customer feedback and complaints. It’s surprising that somebody that high in the organisation is studying customer complaints, but Jeff’s argumentation is that one complaint at his desk, represent many other complaints that happened, but didn’t make it to him.

Innovation starts with the customer

You often hear that great ideas are created while in the shower (also described in a previous blog about creativity: Creasophy – the teachings of creativity), but Jeff advises to start thinking about solutions for customers, and not on beating the competition.

I recognize a similar remark in the interview Simon De Cuyper, Belgian triathlon champion, gave in an interview: focus on doing the process and process targets, not only on the end result (more information here: Lessons from triathlon for corporate athletes).

Cost saving and role modelling

Amazon saves costs on stuff like desks, TV commercials and also employee wages. While Jeff probably has a wage that many of us envy, he only earns $ 80 000 a year as CEO of Amazon. This counts for role modelling.

Personal bonuses kill team work

To avoid an ego culture, Amazon does not rewards its employees with bonuses.

Further, the wages may be low (as described above), but employees are paid with stock market options, with as goal stimulating long-term commitment and team work.

Create a pull on the job market

Future employees are eager to start at Amazon and when employed are extremely loyal.

Spread innovation by diverse product line

Amazon offers several products which are not related to each other, at all. While it might be considered as no good selling strategy, Jeff allows it as long as the products are in line with company strategy. The different entities of Amazon are empowered, as it were.

Innovation is key

Jeff considers Amazon as discoverer and other companies as conquerors.

Who writes stays, who copies is promoted (NL: wie schrijft die blijft, wie kopieert promoveert)

Look around for successes and see what you can learn from them. Bezos is not ashamed to admit some product strategies are bluntly copied to the Amazon model, with success (eg. Amazon Mom, MyHabit, etc).

Additional reading

Business person of the year 2012

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Change culture by changing behavior – part 2: distributed networks


Change is a process. Change is a journey. Change is exploration, thinking, mistaking, learning, testing, accepting, supporting and struggling. Change is emotion having an argument with reason. You cannot change culture if you want your employees to change their behavior. It’s the other way around: you need to change behavior to change the culture of your organization.

Big change projects have the tendency to change processes, organization, structures and training to change culture. But that’s only an illusion. New studies, like “Accelerate” by John Kotter and “Viral Change” by The Chalfont Project have arguments against this tendency which are very compelling and make sense.

There are several ways to change behavior, but I would like to discuss three topics with you in separate short blog entries: role modelling, distributed networks and story telling.

Part 2 – Distributed networks

Accelerate by J. Kotter - Distributed networks

Accelerate by J. Kotter – Distributed networks

In each organization, no matter how flat, there is some hierarchy. The role of leadership in this hierarchy is already discussed in part one, but studies show that with a new style of distributed leadership, change efforts can accelerate and have a better effect on the culture.

With distributed leadership you make use of the informal network that your organization has. Distributed leadership build on not only the typical change team, but on many change agents, distributed over the organization. These change agents are popular profiles who are highly interconnected in the organization.

These change agent will form an army of motivated believers who will radiate the desired behavior to the rest of the organization.

In a previous blog post “Dance your way into change we discussed the one lone dancer who gently creates a pull from the rest of the crowd and after a while all of the crowd is dancing along. This theory works perfectly fine if you can witness the action happening. But in large organizations it is more difficult: you need more than one central group starting to dance and which cannot be seen by the majority of employees. To get the organization dancing, you need leaders, spread over the entire organization doing a dance. A dance which is so authentic and catching that it appeals to the ones close to them and gets them to start dancing.

If your need to set the organization on fire, these communities are your oxygen. The task of the organization’s leadership is to orchestrate this pull of connected individuals, but also set boundaries for initiatives that grow without killing the enthusiasm behind it.

In part 3, we will discuss story telling and link it back to leadership and distributed networks.

Additional reading

Changing the way we think about change by Leandro Herrero

Accelerate by John Kotter

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Change culture by changing behavior – part 1: role modelling


Change is a process. Change is a journey. Change is exploration, thinking, making mistakes, learning, testing, accepting, supporting and struggling. Change is head and heart, not just head. You cannot change culture if you want your employees to change their behavior. It’s the other way around: you need to change behavior to change the culture of your organization.

Big change projects have the tendency to change processes, organization, structures and training to change culture. But that’s only an illusion. New studies, like “Accelerate” by John Kotter and “Viral Change” by The Chalfont Project have arguments against this tendency which are very compelling and make sense.

There are several ways to change behavior, but I would like to discuss three topics with you in separate short blog entries: role modelling, distributed networks and story telling.

Part 1 – Role modelling

Role model material

When you would discuss the necessity of role modelling with anybody in a management or leadership position, they will quickly confirm. Still we see role modelling being kept as a promise, maybe even like a new year’s intention. We ask the work floor to change (the reason often stressed enough with expressing the “why”), but leadership is not taking up its role. This sends conflicting messages to the work floor which undermines trust and faith in the change effort and it’s leadership.

Since leaders have a key position in the organization, it is needed, even crucial, that they exhibit the wanted behavior.

Behavior is contagious, but it is not spreading if leadership isn’t taking up its example role.

It’s the role of the change team (or guiding coalition or whatever you call it) to make leadership aware of this and support them. Change efforts need leadership that inspires, rewards, sets boundaries, motivates, and not management that will follow-up budget and reports.

In part 2, we’ll discuss distributed networks and link it back to leadership.

Additional reading

Changing the way we think about change by Leandro Herrero

Accelerate by John Kotter

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What is your primary team?


No matter how high or low you’re up in the hierarchy, you will always come to the point where you are a member of two teams. Cluster or domain responsibles have their own domain team and are member of the overall team above. Team leaders have their own team and are member of the leadership team for their department. Department heads have their own department and are member of the leadership team of their division. And so forth.

Primary team

Unless you’re at the entry point of the hierarchy (to avoid the negative connoted word “bottom”), you always belong to at least two teams. But what should be your primary team? The primary team is the team which gets priority regarding meetings, decisions and long-term strategy.

In some cases we see that team leads or department heads consider their respective team or department team as their primary team. Which means that at the respective department or division meetings they will take up this role and defend their interests in their own team and department.

When leadership is only interested in the interests of their own department, it leads to “silo thinking“. As a result, the interest of the “bigger goal” of the company is neglected and transversal cooperation between the different entities will deteriorate.

An indicator for silo mentality is (achieving) personal success of persons and teams/departments, but failure for the organization.

Another indicator that leadership is giving the wrong team priority, is when they are not present in meetings with their primary team. For team leaders this applies that they will give priority to a team meeting rather than to the department meeting.

Overcoming silo thinking

Silo thinking

Silo thinking

You can overcome silo thinking by:

  • Explain the concept of the primary team and the link with the common goal of the company. This is also referred to as systems thinking: see the sum instead of all the parts.
  • Emphasize on team work and cooperation. Make sure your team members know what is expected from them and what cannot be tolerated.
  • Measure team performance: pick KPIs which are the aggregated result of the sum of the parts. Avoid (unhealthy) internal competition and (only) personal performance. Let the best in class help the others succeed.
  • Reward transversal (between teams, departments, divisions, …) improvement initiatives, best practice sharing and other team behaviour.
  • Walk the talk: the same is valid for those up the hierarchy!

Taking up these tips will result in high performing teams and long-term success.

Additional reading

“The four obsessions of an extraordinary executive” from Patrick Lencioni

“Silos, politics and turf wars” from Patrick Lencioni

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