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…)
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.
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.
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.