I’ve been working with a lot of professional services firms recently and have been struck by the leadership demands being made on people transitioning into very senior roles. Particularly those making partner.
The step up to partner is a huge one and the pressure people
are under is immense.
Getting to partner means you’ve been a superstar on your way
up. When you get there, however, you move from being at the top of the tree, to
being back at the bottom. Like the new kid at big school, you are now having to
fight for yourself as the buck now quite literally stops with you.
I coached someone today who has a personally very important
speech to deliver and wanted to get it as right as possible.
As I listened to him speak I was struck by the demonstration of leadership that he was embodying in both what he said and how he said it. For me, it also was a brilliant example of how to solve the strategy/execution conundrum that is the source of so much leadership scholarship.
I’m not sure about you but I’m better at giving advice than receiving
it. My privilege as a trainer and performance coach is to be able to fall back
on “do as I say, not as I do”. This is not something I’m particularly proud of
and nor is it something I want to admit to those I work with. I console myself,
professionally at least, with the fact that my diagnostic skills lie in helping
others and not myself. It also can’t be very helpful for anyone with the unenviable
task of being my coach.
Recently, however, I was offered some advice and in spite of
my habit, I took it. Surprisingly, to me anyway, the shift in awareness it
provoked has rippled through my whole life. My own coach is a mindfulness expert
and while we don’t spend too much time on this topic she set me a related task.
I was to take an everyday activity and be fully in it as I perform it, noticing
the sensations provoked by the experience.
Now, I’m not good at doing what I’m told. I will find ingenious ways not to do the homework I’ve been set (the French “devoir” always seemed a much more appropriate name). But over the Christmas break I had little excuse not to do one of the two very simple requests made of me.
I work at a world leading drama school and as you would expect, it’s an institution full of stories. Which is lucky, as for some time now, storytelling has been at the forefront of countless organisations’ learning needs.
So much written about Millennials suggests that they are turned off by the way generations before them have done things. As someone engaged in professional learning this interests me.
Millennials, it would seem, are more civic and community minded than their predecessors. Lacking the financial security from which their parents have benefitted they are not as interested in a career path as generations before them. Instead, meaningful work, creative outlets and immediate, interactive feedback mean a lot. One only needs to look at a random selection of start-ups to see this behaviour in evidence.
What does this mean for those of us now who work in more traditional institutions, based on and run by baby boomers or Gen X-ers? It’s an important question because bigger and slower moving organisations still need to employ, engage and retain millennials.