Category Archives: Leadership

The Adaptive Skills and Behaviours Required to Succeed in Future Work Environments

There is a lot being said about the future of work, and what this means for the type of skills, attitudes, and behaviours we will require to succeed.  With this future already upon us, it is important that we pick up our pace  of change, and look to build capability that helps us to adapt, thrive and succeed within an ever changing world.  Best selling author, Jacob Morgan, describes in his latest book ‘The Future of Work’ five trends shaping the future of work;

  1. New behaviours
  2. Technology
  3. Millennials
  4. Mobility
  5. Globalisation

These trends are bringing a dramatic shift in attitudes and ways of working; new behaviours, approaches, and workplace expectations.  Whilst many of us are sensing these rapid changes, we aren’t necessarily sure why these changes are happening, what they mean, or how they will impact us.

As Jacob Morgan says:

“The disruption of every industry is also causing a bit of unrest as people struggle to define where they fit or if they will be obsolete.  It’s forcing us to adapt and change to stay relevant while giving rise to new business models, new products, new companies, new behaviours, and new ways of simply existing in today’s world”.

So, the burning questions are:  what exactly do these changes look like for employees, managers, and organisations?  And, what skills, attitudes, and behaviours do we require to succeed?

What we do know is that modern employees are more self-directed, collaborative in their approach, and want to shape and define their own career paths instead of having them predefined for them.  They are continually seeking out learning opportunities that fit with their personal purpose and professional aspirations, and are looking for development opportunities that benefit them holistically as a ‘whole person’.  They seek the skills, confidence and healthy mind-set to challenge the status quo, to think on their feet, and to continually adapt within highly fluid and ever changing organisational environments.  They are looking to learn and develop emotional and social intelligence;  to work within increasingly networked communities;  to lead, collaborate, innovate and share.

Consistent with the above is five crucial behaviours, identified by Morgan, as being required by employees in the modern workplace;

  1. Self-Direction and Autonomy – to continually learn, and stay on top of important tasks within manager-less organisations
  2. Filter and Focus – to be able to manage the cognitive load associated with increasing amounts of pervasive information
  3. Embracing Change – to continually adapt to new working practices whilst demonstrating resilience and healthy mind-sets
  4. Comprehensive Communication Skills – to support collaborative work practices, and to communicate ideas and provide feedback succinctly
  5. Learning to Learn – to be willing to adopt a pro-learning mind-set; to step outside comfort zones, reflect, and make meaning of experiences.

Organisations also need to adapt to the future of work to support these trends and demands, and ensure they are attracting, developing, and retaining top talent.  A good place to start is by fostering and embracing the principles of organisational learning.  Peter Senge suggested in his book ‘The Fifth Discipline: The Art of the Learning Organisation’ that in order for an organisation to remain competitive within the complex and volatile business environments that we find ourselves operating they must build their capacity for continually transforming.  This involves developing cultures that;

  • Encourage and support employees in their pursuit of personal mastery (the discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, and seeing reality objectively)
  • Encourage employees to challenge ingrained assumptions and mental models
  • Foster genuine commitment and enrolment through shared visions.

Here at OPRA we are developing a carefully selected set of best-of-breed, soft skill learning and development programmes to help individuals and organisations embrace these current and future trends. Our programmes are designed to equip professionals with the emotional intelligence, healthy thinking, learning agility, collaborative team behaviours, and motivation required to demonstrate exceptional performance within the modern workplace environment.  We have grounded our programmes on the principles of positive psychology, and an understanding that REAL learning and engagement only occurs when self-awareness, participation, and a tangible sense of progress are present. Therefore, and in light of this, all our programmes are designed to;

  • Develop self-insight and raise awareness of individual and collective strengths
  • Utilise proven research based content, delivered by expert and accredited practitioners
  • Provide access to on-going professional coaching opportunities to further deepen learning
  • Incorporate social learning methodologies to encourage and enable collaboration and sharing
  • Provide applied on-the-job challenges and reflection to embed and sustain behavioural changes.

Watch this space for further announcements about OPRA Develop over the coming months. In the meantime, if you would like to discuss how OPRA can support your learning and development with proven, researched based soft-skill development programmes, then please contact your local OPRA office:

Wellington: 04 499 2884 or

Auckland: 09 358 3233 or

Christchurch: 03 379 7377 or

Australia: +61 2 4044 0450 or

Singapore: +65 3152 5720 or


Emotionally Intelligent Leadership

Emotionally intelligent leadership:

Game changing for business, life changing for people.
By Ben Palmer

If you are a leader in business looking to improve your organisation’s performance you might want to consider improving your capacity to identify, understand and manage emotion, that is, your emotional intelligence. A wide number of research studies over the last decade have shown there’s a direct link between the way people feel and they way people perform in the workplace. For example, research conducted by the Society for Knowledge Economics here in the Australian labour market, found people in high performing workplaces typically feel more proud, valued and optimistic than those in low performing workplaces. Conversely, people in low performing Australian workplaces people typically feel more inadequate, anxious and fearful. Leadership is fundamentally about facilitating performance. Research on emotional intelligence has proven that a leader’s emotional intelligence is key to their capacity to facilitate emotions in employees that drive high employee engagement and performance.

To illustrate this point Genos International, part owned by Swinburne University (a human resource consulting company that specialises in the development of leaders emotional intelligence, together with Sanofi (the worlds fourth largest pharmaceutical company teamed up to investigate whether the development of sales leaders emotional intelligence would improve the amount of sales revenue generated by their sales representatives. In order to control for market influences Sanofi randomly placed 70 sales representatives (matched in terms of tenure and current performance) into two groups:

1.The control group, this group and their managers received no emotional intelligence development training) and
2.The development group, the managers of this group participated in Genos International’s award winning emotional intelligence development program.

The Genos development program involves an emotional intelligence assessment for each person before and after the program (to create self-awareness and measure behaviour change) together with a number of short, focused development sessions over a six month period on:

  1. How to improve your capacity to identify emotions, and 
  2. How to improve your capacity to effectively regulate and manage emotions

Development in these areas makes leaders more self-aware, more empathetic, more genuine and trustworthy, more personally resilient, and better at influencing others emotions. Ultimately it helps leaders make their employees feel more valued, cared for, respected, informed, consulted and understood. On average, the emotional intelligence of the sales managers improved by 18 percent. As can be seen in the graph below this helped facilitate, an on average 13% improvement in the Development Group’s sales performance in comparison to the Control Group’s. There was a 7.1% improvement in the first month following the program, a 15.4% improvement the month after and 13.4% improvement the month after that (as measured by retail sales revenue by territory). The revenue of the Control Group stayed flat an in the same revenue band during this period.


The improvements in revenue generated by the Development Group returned approximately $6 dollars for every $1 Sanofi invested in the program. The findings of the study have been published in a peer-reviewed journal which can be downloaded from the Genos website (

Feedback from the participants showed the program not only helped improve the sales performance of reps and their managers. It also helped them improve their relationships with each other. At the time employees were navigating a difficult time within the business as bumps from a merger were ironed out and two different company cultures integrated. As one participant put it I have seen improvements in behaviour that have increased the bottom line with sales reps. From a management perspective, increased skills that have lead to more buy-in, acceptance, spirit improved, and better communication. However the greatest benefit I received from the program was an improved relationship with my 14yr daughter”.

This participant feedback highlights the added benefits of improving your emotional intelligence. Your capacity to identify, understand and manage emotions contributes to your life satisfaction, stress management and the quality of your relationships at home and at work. That’s why developing your emotional intelligence can be game changing for your business, and life changing for you and your people.

 To improve your skill at identifying and understanding emotions you can:

  1. Stop and reflect on the way you feel in the moment. Take the time to label the feelings you are experiencing and reflect on the way they might be influencing your thinking, behaviour and performance.
  2. Become more aware of other characteristics that interplay and indeed cause you to experience emotions such as your personality, values and beliefs. By understanding these you can become better at identifying different emotional triggers and they way you (and others), typically respond to them. This awareness is key to adjusting the way you feel and respond to events.

  To improve your skill at managing emotions you can:

  1.  Eat better, sleep more, drink less and exercise (if you aren’t already).
  2. Adopt a thinking oriented emotional management strategy, like Edward Debono’s 6 thinking hats, use it when strong emotions arise.
  3. Adopt a relationship strategy, someone who’s great at listening and helping facilitate perspective on events.
  4. Search the app store, there are some great emotional management apps out there today. For example Stress Doctor, a revolutionary mobile app that helps you reduce your stress level in just 5 minutes via a biofeedback technique to help sync your breathing rate with your autonomous nervous system (ANS).

If you would like more information on Enduring Impact Leadership Training please contact

You, lead? You don’t even know where you’re going!

At OPRA we spend a lot of time thinking and talking about leadership. We work to help people become more effective leaders, enabling them to better understand their staff, relate to them, guide them, motivate, and influence them. Likewise, literature abounds with theories and models of what makes an exceptionally effective leader. However the majority of these theories, and the interventions you’ll see discussed on LinkedIn or tradeshows typically fail to address one key component of being an effective leader. What’s missing is that in order to truly, effectively lead other people, you first need to be leading yourself.

Leading yourself – it sounds simple enough, set SMART goals that will stretch and extend you, and exercise self-control to keep you on-track and motivated, right? In reality, it’s even more straightforward than that. While self-discipline and long-term objectives no doubt help you shape and guide your life, it’s important to make sure that your goals and the path towards them involve the things you value most. Doing things for their own sake because of the enjoyment, pleasure, or fulfilment they bring us is referred to as ‘intrinsic motivation’, and it is this intrinsic motivation that leads us to love our work.

In his book “The Spirit of Leadership”, Dr Peter Cammock, a leadership and management academic/researcher at the University of Canterbury, explains that for work to be truly meaningful and deeply (existentially?) satisfying, we need to match an external call (the opportunities) with an internal call (things we appreciate and value). Once these are in alignment, we move from simply having a job or career to finding our calling. Now, ‘calling’ is one of those terms that makes me grimace every time I use it, but it’s important to recognise that while ‘calling’ is usually associated with people who make huge sacrifices to chase some higher cause, it doesn’t always have to be this grand or audacious. In “The Spirit of Leadership”, Cammock discusses 16 ‘ordinary’ people who made changes in their lives to ensure that every day they were working towards or involved in something that they loved, and the hugely positive impact this had on their lives and ability to perform their jobs. Admittedly, some of these people made massive sacrifices, however others ‘tweaked’ a few key things and in return have found their lives become immensely fulfilling.

Sure, this seems like simple advice, and it is likely easy advice to give that’s hard to follow. But even just thinking about what you could change is the first step towards improvement. Don’t let guilt get in the way of happiness and fulfilment either. Instead, realise that this is not selfishness – it’s taking care of yourself so you can better perform your role, or fulfil your calling (grimace). Think of this post as being like an airline safety briefing – you should put your own oxygen mask on first before you attend to others!

Finally, it is important to remember that leading yourself is merely the foundation for exceptional leadership. However with this foundation is in place, then you can tend to the other important leadership components, like strategic thinking, motivating and engaging your team, and being emotionally intelligent, comfortable in the knowledge that you’re already a great leader.

Reference: Cammock, P. (2008). The Spirit of Leadership: Building the Personal Foundations of Extraordinary Leadership. Christchurch, New Zealand: Leadership Press Ltd.

How Does Emotional Intelligence Relate to Teams?

How does emotional intelligence relate to teams?

Emotional intelligence (EI) can be defined as the ability to recognise, understand and manage the emotions of oneself, of others and of groups. The concept of EI and its contribution to the effectiveness of organisations is now well researched and supported. However, as Druskat and Wolff (2001) point out this has generally been discussed in terms of the impact at the individual level and the reality is that most of the work we do and the decisions we make is in teams. Because overall performance relies so much on team cohesiveness and awareness, enhancing emotional intelligence across the team is crucial but what does this look like and how does it differ from strategies aimed at enhancing individual emotional intelligence?

The key differences between the concepts of individual and group emotional intelligence as defined by Daniel Goleman suggest that someone with high emotional intelligence is aware of emotions and able to regulate them both inwardly and outwardly. However, just because a team is made up of emotionally intelligent people does not make for an emotionally intelligent group. A team must not only consider the emotions of the individuals within that group, but they must also be mindful of the emotions of the group as a whole, as well as the emotions of other groups in a broader context. According to Druskat and Wolff, establishing emotionally intelligent group norms where specific attitudes and behaviours become habits that enable trust, group identity and group efficacy is the answer for creating emotionally intelligent groups and ensuring functional team performance.

There are a range of potential strategies for enabling emotionally intelligent behaviour in teams at these three levels. Interpersonal understanding and perspective taking were two strategies that Druskat and Wolff discussed as ways that people can become more aware of their team members’ perspectives and feelings at the individual level. Interpersonal understanding refers to a team’s ability to pick up certain behaviours of its members and recognise the cause of them.  Perspective taking refers to the way teams stop and take the time to consider the perspectives of everyone as opposed to simply going with the majority. An emotionally intelligent team would query if there were any perspectives they had not yet heard or thought through fully. Therefore, a group norm of interpersonal understanding and sensitivity is established and helps to nurture trust and a sense of group identity among its members.

While establishing these norms at the individual level is important, many teams can struggle to recognise emotions at the group level. In a study of effective teams, the authors found that having a group awareness of the team’s strengths and weaknesses and means of interaction were critical in facilitating group efficacy.  Group emotional intelligence is about bringing emotions to the surface and understanding how they impact the performance of the team, then facing them in an open and honest forum. The last type of emotional intelligence that any high performing team should have is the ability to understand emotions outside of their team. Sometimes a team can become so caught up in their objectives and ways of working they can struggle to understand why other groups in the organisation don’t share their viewpoint or enthusiasm. Successful teams are not only aware of others’ perspectives but are capable of influencing outsiders simply by how they frame their own needs and perspectives.

While emotional intelligence at the individual level has been well supported, emotional intelligence at the team level is critical to ensuring the success of a team. Through establishing norms for emotional awareness and understanding at all levels teams can create a culture of trust, group identity and efficacy resulting in high performance. Training courses can be hugely beneficial in increasing emotional awareness and helping people to regulate emotions. Many companies are now choosing to invest in leadership development courses and team building workshops which can inform teams of the importance of establishing emotionally intelligent norms and provide strategies in doing so. What norms exist within your team and what does your team do to encourage a supportive and trusting environment?

Druskat, V., Wolff, S. (2001). Building the Emotional Intelligence of Groups. Harvard Business Review, 81-90.

Leadership: Introverted does not mean ineffective

People often say that employees don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. While there could be some truth in this, is this phrase more reflective of the difficulty in finding the right “fit” between a leader and their team? What are the qualities of a good manager? How do these differ depending on the team? One of the Big Five personality factors that HR and I/O  practitioners often look to for answers on leadership “fit” is Introversion-Extroversion.  For those of us who are less familiar with these terms, introverts and extroverts draw their energy from different sources, either internally from reflection, or externally from other people (respectively). People from all walks of life can be either introverts or extroverts, and both styles have an equal proportion of strengths, and development areas.  Historically, Western society tends to favour extroversion, with a US study finding that 65% of Senior Corporate Executives perceive introversion to be a barrier to effective leadership (Grant, Gino and Hoffman 2010). Furthermore, there appears to be more individuals describing themselves as highly extroverted in executive level roles (60%), than in supervisory level roles (30%) (Ones and Dilchert 2009). Regardless of this social bias, every working style has strengths it can bring to leadership, as well as potential barriers to performance. There are situations where introverted leaders can make good bosses and can be more effective than their extroverted peers. 

Grant and colleagues (2010) suggest that while extroverts may be good at leading conversations, they may also strive to be the centre of attention and may dominate a discussion with their ideas. On the other hand, introverted leaders tend to be more skilled at managing the engagement of proactive or vocal teams as they tend to display more active listening skills and are more receptive to suggestions (Grant et al. 2010). Recent research by these authors assessed the impact leadership style (introversion/extroversion) and employee working style had on profits across a franchised organisation. They found that when employees weren’t proactive, extroverted leadership was associated with 16% higher profits compared to the franchise average. However, when employees are autonomous, or provide their own ideas, introverted leadership is associated with 14% higher profits than the franchise average.

These findings suggest that introverted leadership can directly influence bottom line outcomes, which contradicts the notion that only extroverts can be good leaders. It may indicate that introverted leadership is actually more of a competitive advantage than extroverted leadership in organisations relying on creative, proactive, and driven employees.   An introverted leadership style may encourage employees to provide their opinions and ideas for innovation. With a greater preference for listening and reflecting, introverted leaders may also make good coaches and may develop greater connections with employees by listening to their concerns, hopes and dreams. Their more reserved style may also suit more independent employees who like the autonomy to make their own decisions. While an extroverted leadership style has its benefits, developing innovation, assertiveness and accountability may be best facilitated by a more introverted style.  Introverts can rejoice (quietly of course!), that their introspective nature can be a competitive advantage!

What strengths do you think introverted leaders bring to the table? Given the choice, what leadership style would you prefer?


Grant, A. M., Gino, F., and Hofmann, D. A., (2010). The hidden advantages of a quiet boss. Harvard Business Review, Dec 2010.

Onez, D., Dilchert, S., (2009). How special are Executives? Industrial Organisational Psychology, 2009.

Leadership Development: Have We Cut Off Our Nose To Spite Our Face?

With an interest in NZ’s upcoming leadership week I read an interesting article suggesting that some organisations have inadvertently reduced their future leadership pool over recent years. In response to a changing economic environment, a need to reduce costs, and the tendency to follow stringent leadership models, organisations may have reduced their ‘leadership pipeline’ by:

  • Downsizing and removing potential leaders from the organisation
  • Allowing potential leaders to become de-motivated by lack of investment or recognition of their skills
  • Promoting people into leadership based on narrow criteria, or no criteria at all.

While times may have been tough for many organisations, the “war for talent” is gathering momentum and presenting organisations with challenges around securing key talent and leadership. So, how can organisations recognise and rebuild future leadership? What makes a great future leader?

The article suggested that organisations need to strategically focus on identifying leaders.  Research cited from the recent CE/Hewlett leadership study indicated that 91% of Top 20 companies for leadership have clear processes for identifying future leaders. Such programmes enable people with potential to be developed and nurtured. It also sends a clear message to potential employees that talent is recognised and rewarded within the company. The article also suggested taking a much broader focus when identifying future leaders, particularly finding employees who have ‘LIVED’.  The ‘LIVED’ Leadership acronym outlined in the article identifies a broader criteria for leadership potential:

L – Learning:  the ability to adapt and develop based on experiences

I – Intellect: the ability to reason at strategic level and have commercial and common sense

V – Values: having values and motivation that align with the organisation

E – Emotion: showing high levels of emotional intelligence and ability to understand people

D – Drive: the ability to engage and motivate others into action, including passion and tenacity.

Are there employees in your organisation who are flexible and adaptive? Do you know employees who drive their colleagues to ‘walk the talk’? Are they able to engage and motivate others? You may have potential leaders who have LIVED!

To read this article please go to:


A thought for the day: ‘What do we really know about leadership?’ Having looked at research on leadership, I have concluded that current writing indicates more about traits that lead to effective work practices, and timing one’s entry and exit to successful situations then it does about leadership per se. Much of the work is cliché and focuses on how one creates engagement or a pleasant work environment. Moderating effects such as economic climate, ease or attractiveness of industry, and calibre of those being led is rarely discussed. Research that relates leadership to long-term outcomes, such as a sustainable business model over 10-15 years, is rare.

The result of this is that we get to know, for example, how someone helped a company at a given point in time, but the cause and effect of that behaviour is not necessarily substantiated. Reviewing the literature, good leaders are often those with impeccable timing and the resources (both people and profit) to look good.

This is not to say that there is nothing in leadership as a concept. On the contrary, leadership is the most important factor facing most businesses today as they try and negotiate these tough times. What makes someone a good leader, and how this can be learnt or at least predicted (moderating for current time and place effects, and avoiding the capture of cliché concepts), is still unclear.

I’m not unique in seeing leadership as one of the most important issues faced by organizations today. Developing strong empirical models that are independent of the moderator of context and time will be needed before I’m convinced of a solidified model of leadership. The starting point is, as always, research. With this in mind, the January 2007 issue of American Psychologist is a good starting point as it is devoted to the topic of Leadership.

1. Foreword to the Special Issue on Leadership.
By Sternberg, Robert J.
American Psychologist. 2007 Jan Vol 62(1) 1

2. The Challenges of Leadership in the Modern World: Introduction to the Special Issue.
By Bennis, Warren
American Psychologist. 2007 Jan Vol 62(1) 2-5

3. Trait-Based Perspectives of Leadership.
By Zaccaro, Stephen J.
American Psychologist. 2007 Jan Vol 62(1) 6-16

4. The Role of the Situation in Leadership.
By Vroom, Victor H.; Jago, Arthur G.
American Psychologist. 2007 Jan Vol 62(1) 17-24

5. Promoting More Integrative Strategies for Leadership Theory-Building.
By Avolio, Bruce J.
American Psychologist. 2007 Jan Vol 62(1) 25-33

6. A Systems Model of Leadership: WICS.
By Sternberg, Robert J.
American Psychologist. 2007 Jan Vol 62(1) 34-42