March 4, 2016
A month after we’d covered a module on “The Manager as Coach” one of the participants was feeding back on the impact his new skills were having in his team. He ruefully admitted that he’d become acutely aware of how he’d been doing the work of one particular team member. The team member would say he was stuck to which the manager would say “give it here” and, in this case, mostly write the proposal for him.
His learning from the coaching course had been that coaching is not just a way of being “nice” but of getting accountability. So instead of just taking on the work he began to ask questions: “where’s the problem?” and that question lead to other questions: “what have you done so far?” “how have you tackled similar problems before?” etc. The manager said it was a struggle to change a long-standing dynamic but he’d fundamentally changed his own view that coaching was too long-winded and a luxury – he realised that solving his team’s problems for them had created a tendency for his team to lean on him and that made him, and them, less effective. Default problem-solving mode had somehow kept the team static.
Coaching is about connecting people with their resourcefulness and about developing that resourcefulness with every interaction. Rather than fixing one problem you multiply the ability to deal with many as you leverage learning through questions, action and feedback. The question, “what will you do differently next time?” gives us all a chance to become smarter, repeat what’s worked well and avoid what hasn’t.
February 4, 2016
What if greater connection is in part the answer to greater complexity? Watching a programme on the infinite possibilities of life in the universe, there was one of those telescoping out shots that zoomed from a recognisable bit of the earth ever outwards into an expanding, seemingly boundless universe. You’d think that this vertiginous journey from known to unknown, finite to infinite would make you feel small and insignificant, but for me it had the opposite effect. I could see that I was part of something really big, complex, beyond my understanding, and I thought why worry? My anxieties are part of my small world and my small self. In a way, these anxieties are what really undermine me.
From time to time, I will consciously expand my perceptions outwards to feel connected to something that is so much bigger than me but of which I am still a part. It seems in organisations, we need to do the same thing. Connection with a big “C”. Meaning something beyond the immediacy of what we are doing to knowing what it’s all for. The more connected to a bigger purpose, the more engaged a work force. Think of that cleaner in NASA who told the visiting JFK he wasn’t cleaning a room, no, he was helping to put a man on the moon.
What does it take to pass on and obtain that sense of connection to something bigger than you, the team, or the organisation? And isn’t this the part of the puzzle we each need to find in order to have a sustainable business in the 21st century? What if your acknowledged stakeholder network included not just the shareholders, the clients and the staff but also suppliers and the surrounding community? What would that do to drive engagement, resilience, understanding, knowledge, performance and ultimately results?
Seeing the bigger picture of our connections may help us manage greater complexity!
December 18, 2015
I was talking with my son about selfie photos and false smiles and the need to practice your public smile (or not). We decided that a genuine smile is so much more attractive than any posed one – even if it’s wonky and shows your facial flaws. A smile is the shortest way to bridge a gap between people and what we need more than anything else today is connection. We all operate in a virtual world. If you think you don’t, consider for a minute whether you contact people by texting, by phone or by email – because that’s the definition of communicating virtually (using electronic means). Now think about what connects us most of all. It’s spending quality time together, preferably in person or at least by visual means. What a difference Skype and Facetime have made, not just to our working lives but also to connect with loved ones back home when we are travelling or not co-located. If we feel a greater attachment with family and friends by seeing them, then why not use video more to connect at work? In this festive season, let’s remember to take the time to celebrate with colleagues near and far. If you can’t get together for the office party, then at least hold a virtual BYO party. You bring your own drink (alcoholic or not) and join your (remote) colleagues for some festive time together. It’s a social occasion – no agenda needed, treat yourself and leave all work-related items aside for once, smile and have fun. It’s something I have practiced with fellow consultants spread across the world at special times, and it’s a wonderful way to stay connected.
October 21, 2015
Transformation is everywhere! In personal development literature, transformative programmes abound- the inference being you may turn up a caterpillar but once you’ve done the course, old skin, will be left dry and inert while a brand new you flutters off into the distance.
Faced with such lofty promises skeptics roll their eyes with weary stoicism at being sent on yet another transformational course. The phrase seems to set itself up for over-promising and under delivery. So used are we to tripping over this miracle-packed word that it can also be discounted or un-noticed. As we go into that transformational leadership course our expectations are muted and measured. The subtext seems to be “transformation” is just the language that goes with the territory- don’t worry, change is not necessarily forthcoming.
September 4, 2015
Why would one hundred leading executives from the Life Sciences in Sweden dress up as knights and compete against each to gather the most treasure and win the appreciation of the crowd and King? This is what happened at the annual Biotech Builders* event, held this year at a medieval venue outside Stockholm.
The idea behind this informal gathering is that by giving people the opportunity to connect and build friendships, new hope will be breathed into a sector undergoing massive shifts in its global competitive landscape and crippled by regulations. Increased collaboration across businesses can power creative approaches and accelerate growth.
May 23, 2015
Thinking about how to reinvent your organization? Frederic Laloux’s book “Reinventing Organizations” is rapidly gaining critical acclaim as an in-depth commentary on how radically soulful, pioneering organizations are beginning to emerge all across the planet. In this ground-breaking work he outlines the three major breakthroughs shared by these organizations: self-management, striving for wholeness, and listening to evolutionary purpose.
One of the organizations that Frederic researched was Dutch healthcare non-profit Buurtzorg. Founded in 2006 by Jos de Blok and a team of 4 nurses as a new nursing care delivery model, Buurtzorg has become the largest neighbourhood nursing organization in the Netherlands, with over 9,000 employees. There is no management structure and a head office with just 40 people. The results are: highest quality, lowest cost and best employer of the Netherlands.
May 2, 2015
I bought a designer shirt without buttons. It was a bargain! I just needed to sew some buttons on, and make some button holes … And it remained, buttonless, in my wardrobe for some months, until I travelled to a country where tailors are in abundance at the local bazaar. It was a short and easy piece of work for the tailor, who is accustomed to all kinds of much more complex orders from more demanding customers. I was very happy to have this new shirt to wear, finally. The tailor did not want to name a price in advance. (more…)
April 1, 2015
When MD for a company in a then male-dominated industry I was interviewed in the industry magazine, along with a handful of women, and we were asked the incisive question of what it was like to be a woman! Never having been anything else, I found this quite a difficult question to answer. I had the sense that what was said was taken as representative of all women, which of course is reinforcing prejudice (they all talk the same, look the same, feel the same). I noticed some things that were different however. When people met a young, female MD they wondered what was so special? Why is she in this position? Whereas a man commanded immediate respect (it was his to lose) it was a woman’s to gain.
March 4, 2015
My husband replied to a party invitation that he couldn’t go, he’s moving to Qatar. But maybe Anne can? That’s great I think and reply myself that yes please, I would love to come. And by the way we are not separated, well yes we are going to be living separate lives, but we are still together, just not in the same country. For a while, for longer. Who knows. The first weeks are not at all easy. I’m busy, I miss him. He misses me more – he has all the time in the world when he’s finished work in a new place without family and friends. We share our lives now virtually. I take him along in my handbag to evening meals with friends. When they ask “how’s your other half doing?” I prop up my iPad on the table and say “ask him yourself”. The virtual marriage. How odd. (more…)
January 8, 2015
You’d know something was wrong with your eyesight if you kept bumping into the furniture, and yet we all have metaphorical blind spots that impede our path. Instead of looking at the reasons for our stumbling we tend to carry on with the madness Albert Einstein described as “expecting different outcomes while continuing to do the same thing.” This is why any development programme worth its salt must begin with raising awareness of who you are, how you lead yourself and your impact on others. Jung said, “Where we stumble, there’s the gold.” Our blind spots are perversely more evident to others than they are to ourselves, so the courage to ask for feedback is one way of mining for the gold that will enable us to see ourselves as others see us. (more…)