Professional Development – Community Roundup

Our exchange sessions connect, enable and inspire

At the end of 2021, Sionic’s leadership experts created a community on LinkedIn. It’s open to everyone interested in people development. Our goals are simply to bring people together, to connect and interact on topics of common interest around the people challenges of today. Through our regular Friday Exchange Sessions, social media posts and videos, we strive to expand thinking, energise people and shape new ideas.  Join our LinkedIn community here

 Our next event is on Friday June 24th:’Handling Difficult Conversations with More Ease‘ – register here

And if you’d like to catch up on our discussions to date, here’s a round up of key thinking from our first five Friday Exchange Sessions.

Power, Influence & Workplace Dynamics 

At the heart of this issue is the need to better equip people to influence others.  In this Exchange, people shared how their own internal conflict around speaking out in complex situations held them back and limited their ability to influence. What’s important for a healthy workplace dynamic is for more people to role model how listening and being curious opens up better pathways to influencing, relaxing people and reducing tensions. This in turn facilitates speaking up, which builds confidence.  

This sounds simple but it is so often forgotten in the heat of the moment. Leaders at all levels need to listen more, be more curious and invite people to speak up and in so doing build the confidence in people to influence others and create a more positive workplace environment.



Ignite Your People to Love Their Work  

A key problem in the workplace today is the obvious lower levels of motivation in many. This is an undoubted consequence of the impact of COVID on where, and how, people work.  It is also fuelling the higher staff turnover many firms and whole sectors are currently experiencing. At this Exchange, we discussed how work has becoming more transactional, lacking spontaneity, and how team cohesion has suffered as people have had to work more independently. And, while simplicity of focus can translate into getting the job done, the downside of this transactional way of operating can lead to feelings of emptiness. Social awkwardness was also mentioned as an unexpected consequence of returning to the workplace.

The concept of leaders at all levels facilitating ‘leadership spaces’ was seen as a  timely and productive intervention in enhancing motivation. Hosting personal reflection conversations which shift the focus to thriving, and better connect people to their work by asking: “What is the impact they want to create?” and “What will give them the excitement to be part of things again” empowers clarity of focus and starts to move the motivation dial and performance. Combining this with team voices and making time for your team to get together and go back to basics to rebuild their purpose, how they want to best connect, how support each other and have fun; and you really start to ignite people to love their work!

Green Shoots of Trust Based Leadership 

Classic command and control is out as the transition to trust based leadership is now well underway across Financial Services. Leaders are “doing a lot right”. This is important in helping this sector stay in line with other more employee friendly sectors. 

What is clear is that when times are challenging and leaders are under pressure more attention is needed on the process of effective trust-based delegation. Put simply: 1. Share the desired outcome. 2. Invite how will you do this. 3. Set boundary conditions. 4. Regularly check in and support. Thinking about these steps not just builds effective trust-based delegation but also prevents trust being destroyed by a slip back to elements of command and control. And we are not all perfect all the time – so what is important in trust based leadership is: 

  • Honesty as a leader in empowering others. And when you do slip into control mode explain why and talk about it. 
  • Being open to experimentation and failure. Create a genuine environment in which people fail fast, learn and succeed. 
  • ‘Adapt and admire’ the fruits of delegation. Embrace how people are different, so there is no one way to delegate to all. And use regular feedback to nurture the people working for you. 

Put the Spring Back in Your Sponsorship 

There was a consensus view that “at times it is more luck than judgement when a sponsor delivers a successful programme”. And yet confident & capable sponsors can have a disproportionately positive impact on the success of business, technology, and regulatory change”.  

The main conclusions of this Exchange were that training and mentoring have a significant role to play in developing sponsor capability and upskilling in: 

Understanding the full breadth of the role and how sponsors can have the greatest impact in challenging 1) Where the project is. 2) Where it is going and 3) Making decisions 

Adopting the No 1 behaviour: Be curious. “If a sponsor is not hearing anything then that is the signal to go and find out what is really happening, or they will go deaf.”  

  • Being an expert in making people feel comfortable to speak up. “If no one challenges the sponsor then they need to invite challenge or they will go blind”. They need to create an environment in which people feel comfortable to speak up as an equal.  
  • Using a “Back 2 Green” mindset as part of Active Governance and challenging why items are being reported green rather than focusing on the red items so that the whole team have a more open dialogue about real progress 
  • Managing bias to avoid compliance bias and group think, two of the most obvious biases sponsors encounter. 

Where’s the Real ROI on Learning & Development? 

For those concerned with learning and development spend, budgets are getting tighter. Across all sectors including Financial Services training spend and number of days away from ‘the desk’ on skill development is decreasing. There are a number of reasons for this: 

  • People are too busy to take time off to attend training.
  • There is a vast array of alternative learning packages, from You Tube learning to organisations’ own self-directed packages. 
  • People don’t always see the need for training other than specific technical/knowledge acquisition to do their immediate job. 

And the big issue is that training is not closely integrated enough into immediate opportunities to do work better, manage people better and be a more impactful leader. 

But people do want to grow. The absence of exciting training opportunities compounds rising attrition rates. And organisations need people with different technical and behavioural capabilities to achieve today’s and tomorrow’s outcomes.

The main conclusions from this Exchange were: 

  • Whatever the focus of training it needs to be designed to deliver specific outcomes 
  • ROI is not just a budget holder concern. ROI for attendees also needs to be clear if people are to be encouraged to sign up/be nominated to take part. 
  • Curriculums need to cover a broad menu of consumable learning components including facilitator led and self-directed learning. People want to “dip into self-development.” 
  • People need a learning journey across their career and to work with their organisation to jointly agree the main learning events they need at specific development stages and to detail how they will use this enhanced learning. 
  • Some governance is needed so that training can be provided as cost effectively as possible and core capabilities are rolled out to a critical mass to make a visible difference in the organisation.  

The concluding comment that was well made was if you personally have not been on a training programme in the last 3 years what does that say about your ongoing self development and being the ‘best you’! 

Calendar of Future Events 

We have an ongoing calendar of events addressing more of the people challenges impacting organisational success.  We post all the details to our LinkedIn community, so if you’d like to get involved, please join us here.

Meet the expert

I specialise in developing high performing organisations, helping businesses unlock how their talent can shape the future.