May 31, 2018
We are currently undergoing a house renovation and it’s driving me nuts. It’s an old house with all the associated problems. We’ve chosen to right as many of these problems as our budget will allow. One of the benefits my husband is especially looking forward to is the multiple-level connectivity the house will be wired for. Even in the attic! And it will appear miraculous as wires are tucked behind walls like veins under the skin. I think I have never been as admiring of my husband as I have been during these past months. He has engaged in conversations which scatter my brain cells with mentions of letters and numbers and cables. Sometimes he relays these conversations to me, and my little secret is that I do not listen. I cannot listen.
And yet I am co-writing a book with my colleague, Anne about the power of connection! The kind of connection we’re writing about is like the blood in your veins. It’s what, I believe, as human beings, we’re wired for. Without it we wither and fade.
What we are not connected to, we tend to treat as a commodity. We do this with things, nature and people. If you turn this round, the more connected we are, the more mindful we are of things, nature and people: from what we consume, how we treat our environment to how we treat others. The degree to which we feel connected will determine the quality of that relationship.
This is important in many spheres as resources dwindle and we realise that many items we considered commodities are part of a living cycle that can also wither and fade. The natural world is a good example of this. It is only now that when we see the results of this arms-length carelessness we notice the damage wrought by it. Look even deeper and we may recognise that our own health and well-being is also connected to the flourishing of seemingly unconscious matter such as our oceans, or lower-life forms such as insects and worms.
We can even fall into the trap of treating our staff, our clients as commodities and we all know what it feels like to be on the withering end of that transaction. This is not healthy for individuals or the collective organisation. We simply do not think at our best, create at our best, perform at our best when treated as a commodity. Organisations want to create the best environment for their people to thrive. So how can they do this?
At GBL we believe that true connection comes from having a near and long perspective. The long one looks beyond the boundaries of the organisational threshold to consider as stakeholders the communities and the planet it serves. The near one is to consider the people of the organisation and to connect with them through purpose, values, promises and legacy. This is important for people we see and meet on a daily basis and even more so for those who are remote, where the connection is digital and virtual. The near and the long are themselves connected, for whom we serve is closely aligned to why we do the things we do with love and passion.
I am sorry not to be passionate about the wiring in the wall but I am, with all my heart, passionate about people and organisations making a difference in this world.
April 16, 2018
Here’s a story of two new starters on the same day – an intern at a tech start-up and a new CEO for a medium-sized listed tech company, both in the City of London. I was interested to hear reports of their first day and the promises they made or were made to them.
At the internal company briefing the new CEO promises his staff “small” things that make a big difference like listening and asking questions and plenty of big things, like a new corporate culture and strategic direction. He has already worked out, by talking to people in advance of his arrival, what the company needs, which is outlined in his strategic focus on building a customer-centric organisation with greater staff empowerment and pride. This comes with responsibility and he will hold people accountable. He envisages better customer relationships and higher growth. His tone is confident and his manner is one of optimism and high engagement. After all, this final move in his long international career means that his lasting reputation is at stake.
February 16, 2018
Never before have we needed more true and honest leadership to manage the complexity of our current business world. We need 21st century leaders! The reality is that leaders in organisations today have to cope with so much – not just long days, never-ending to-do lists and fighting the balance between short term demands versus longer term strategic direction but also the fragmentation of their teams, virtual working, dis-connection, the unpredictability of their marketplace, their business, the insecurity of their jobs. We often note how the public sector limits the potential for leadership. Many leaders are frustrated by their lack of real executive power and spend endless hours coordinating agencies, trying to eke out limited resources due to lack of funding and dealing with the next government initiative. Press reports for the private sector are often no better, with headlines of self-serving executives being completely disconnected from their stakeholders, both internal and external. (more…)
January 11, 2018
At the start of the New Year we may consider our resolutions – do we remember what we promised ourselves last year? How great was our intention to act on our promises to ourselves and others? Maybe we achieved some shift and we can congratulate ourselves if so, since the vast majority of resolutions do not reach fulfilment. So what’s makes the difference?
Having the vision of success is key – what will the new me look like? How will my relationships be changed? What plans will reach fruition? Can I picture this, not just as a still but as a movie clip in my head – what will I be doing, thinking, feeling, experiencing differently? (more…)
December 13, 2017
Today in Sweden we celebrate Lucia Day. This is a celebration about light: it’s the darkest time of the year and the start of Swedish Christmas festivities. Santa Lucia is borrowed from Syracuse in Sicily from where this saint of light, patron of the blind, originates. The Swedish words are not a translation from the Italian lyrics but rather an ode to Santa Lucia who walks with candles and lights up the dark. Since the daylight hours last only 6 hours and 10 minutes today in Stockholm, candles are a very good idea. But do they do the job in all our darkest hours? Perhaps there is something here about acceptance of the darkness too? In fact we may need to lean into the darkness in order to appreciate the light even more. (more…)
October 16, 2017
At Pilates we do this exercise called the cat. Imagine being on all fours, like the animal. In neutral, our teacher tells us our backs should be like a table top on which a drink could be placed without spilling. From there we curl in to stretch the lower back and then go into a dip to stretch the shoulders, then back to neutral. Neutral is the position in which your core is strong, and you are completely in balance. Sometimes it can take a bit of time to feel your way into this position – we’re so used to either hunching or tensing that we forget that state of balanced relaxation.
I think that being “authentic” is like that neutral state – natural, strong and balanced. This state is free from the sunken feeling – the victim mindset where we give away our power and apologise for our existence. It is also free from the need to appear bigger than we are, imposing our presence in a way that is strained, forced and unnatural.
Sometimes people shy away from changing any aspect of themselves because they feel this would not be authentic. When we coach, we challenge this assertion. To become more of our real self means daring to show up more. This may mean finding out things about ourselves that are hidden – to others as well as ourselves. It doesn’t feel comfortable to push the boundaries of our normal behaviour, since we mostly operate in a limited range, narrowed by years of conditioning. We need to stretch in order to grow, just like in Pilates. We can broaden the range of what is relaxed and strong by breathing through what is tight and tense. A conscious stretch warm-up on a regular basis makes all the difference – daily!
Try it out – stand, grounded and strong! Feel your personal power – a stance that is neither less or more than you are. Nothing can be more than the real you. The real you, neither shrunken or puffed up from fear, is enough.
April 25, 2017
March 9, 2017
It all started over a scrambled egg lunch when a friend asked me what I thought transformation was. A group of us had been contemplating the local New Year Swim and for some, it was the first time and a scary prospect, hence the turn of conversation.
Recently a participant asked me the same thing in a leadership development course and I was reminded of that discussion. You won’t be surprised to hear that I’ve blogged about transformation before (Transformation – really?). Positive, sustainable transformation is at the centre of our work: connecting the current to the potential whether that’s the current you to the potential you, the current team to the potential team, or the current organisation to the potential one. (Potential, I believe is always one step ahead of your current position).
I define transformation as a shift in perception that renders the previously impossible, possible. I believe it is deep courageous work which in its wake brings humility and compassion since as we strive to stretch beyond current limits we surely recognise the struggles of others and the path that still lies ahead of us.
Some of you may be wondering about the relevance of humility and compassion in the work place? My contention is they are elements that both produce and are the products of transformation. Without them you will not see the need to look beyond what is to what’s possible or inspire others to do the same. Still others may be questioning the value of change that goes on around them- change for change’s sake. I would argue if it keeps you in the same small spiral, or takes you to an even smaller one, it’s not transformation as we define it: something which connects and moves to the greater potential.
Finally, you may say that you don’t see examples of people exercising the type of leadership which inspires and exemplifies transformation. Well we need them. The result of the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world we inhabit is that “senior roles now demand a portfolio of skills and human capacities little short of the miraculous.” (p41 Dancing at the edge: Competence, Culture and Organisation in the 21st Century: Maureen O’Hara and Graham Leicester). Included amongst those “miraculous human capacities” are humility and compassion.
As a result of the conversation around that table, and with continuing encouragement and support, our friend believed that she could be the kind of person who could dip in the sea on New Year’s Day. And so she did. It has been the spur to many achievements and her potential keeps on expanding.
We’ve come a long way from scrambled eggs. What’s possible for you?
December 21, 2016
November 23, 2016
Connecting your inner voice to action
We can all have a vision but the key to transformation is acting to make that vision become a reality. Often our inner voice is quietened by feelings of impotence or fear when instead of a true source of strength the inner voice becomes a nagging sense of lost potential.
A powerful example of the positive connection from inner voice to Action is the UK charity, WellBoring, that grew from the decision made by two British engineers to fix a Kenyan school’s water problem. Big things can develop from starting small with the urge to make a difference. Since 2013 WellBoring has provided many water solutions that improve the lives of thousands of young Africans and strengthen their schools in Kenya and beyond.