Northern Power Women – Levelling up by Powering On

Introduction

I commend this excellent report, which I read it between Christmas and New Year.  It is available at https://www.northernpowerwomen.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Levelling-Up-by-Powering-On-Report.pdf.  It is required reading to help us all to sharpen our leadership focus at the start of this new decade (assuming you subscribe to the view the decade starts this year not last).   

Through both fortitude and good fortune – “Diligence is the mother of good luck,” remarked Benjamin Franklin – the paper should be regarded as being like the blue touch paper on a firework.  When lit it should ignite a dazzling blaze of considered and considerate action to change the composition and competence of organisational leadership across the Northern Powerhouse, as well as everywhere else. 

In an article entitled “The pandemic has eroded democracy and respect for human rights” published in mid-October by The Economist, see https://www.economist.com/international/2020/10/17/the-pandemic-has-eroded-democracy-and-respect-for-human-rights, Freedom House, a Washington DC based think tank, says their research exposes growing pressures being imposed by many, male populist leaders around the world to stifle democracy and constrain human rights.  It is on that taut, global canvas that NPW has chosen to paint its brighter, rosier more compassionate picture of the future. 

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How to trust and be trusted – a healthy behavioural vaccine

How to trust and be trusted. What behaviours do you need to deploy consistently and constantly to strengthen trust?

Back in October last year, I wrote a blog about trust, see https://www.tsp-uk.co.uk/general-leadership/trust/. As we embark into a new year, I thought it would be helpful to provide a few observations on how trust can be earned, given and sustained.  

What behaviours do you need to deploy consistently and constantly to strengthen trust and act as a vaccine against its mutated forms of distrust (usually based on experience) and mistrust (a general sense of unease)? 

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Trust

Introduction

Last week, my good friend and business colleague, Gary Winter (see the post script to Harvard Business School article, “The Great Training Robbery”, which concerns the famous turn-round at Asda during the 1990s in which Gary was deeply immersed), told me about a programme he listened to on BBC Radio 4. In this, a prominent CEO spoke about doubting the necessity for their employees to remain working from home (WFH).  The CEO felt they should be “keen and willing” to return to the workplace and their fears and concerns about Covid-19 were both mis-guided and misplaced (so singing from the same song sheet as President Trump uttering, “Do not be afraid,” upon his return to the White House from hospital).  To us, it sounds as though this CEO does not trust their employees’ commitment. 

Is this a widespread sentiment?

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Mindset shifts

Introduction

I came across this illustration on LinkedIn a few days ago. It claims to offer a fresh recipe for the mindset shifts required to transform organisations.  It stimulated much thought and reflection about the practicalities of the ideas it imparted.  While the best ideas are often simple, is this too simplistic?  Does it ignore the realities of organisational and wider societal life? This is morphing at warp speed under the impact of Covid-19. What the end state will, no one is really sure.

Without doubt, change needs to occur. Are the alternatives so firmly locked at the opposite ends of the five linear scales?  In other words, rather than “Yes, but…”, don’t we need a “Yes, and” approach?  Walt Disney was alleged to answer questions by saying, “Yes, what if we did this…?”. By doing so, he responds positively to the principle of the idea while “reviewing and refining” it. This remains an organisation habit across the entertainment conglomerate.

Is the optimal case for organisational leaders to cultivate the cultural flexibility to display aspects of all the attributes of the labels?  The article does not need to be read in one go.  Consider each of the five “shifts” separately over their own mug of tea or coffee. 

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Knowing me, knowing you (part 2)

In part 1 of this blog, I raised some questions about the need to change our approach to leadership during and beyond this coronavirus crisis to nurture and sustain the quality of organisations’ climates. In so doing, I revisited some of organisational psychology’s foundational theories, notably the work of Kurt Lewin. In this second part, focusing on Lewin’s seminal environment formula that avers behaviour to be a function of personality and situation, I explore why understanding one’s own and your employees’ personality is so important to creating a healthy climate.

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Knowing me, knowing you (part 1)

Are you relying on the “scientific evidence”?

Social media displays countless articles about managing teams dislocated from their normal, intact work location to working from home. Many offer novel suggestions to deal with the novel virus. However, do they fall into one of three less effective categories of “science” (or research), namely popularist, puerile or pedantic, see Figure (1) below[1].

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COVID-19: the sequel

The curse of the virus

“May you live in interesting times,” states the Chinese curse.  Courtesy of a global pandemic that arose in Wuhan in the Chinese province of Hubei, we certainly are.  (Conspiracy theorists may counter that America introduced the virus covertly into China, see https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/12/conspiracy-theory-that-coronavirus-originated-in-us-gaining-traction-in-china.)  The world is in lockdown.  Even President Trump has had to backtrack from saying it was a non-event and all would be sorted by Easter to saying things are going to get far worse.  The picture of the huge US navy hospital ship, USNS Comfort, entering New York harbour is deeply dispiriting.

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An ABC of Leadership and Management (part 3)

This is the third and final look at the ABC of Leadership and Management.

T is for training

Does training (or L&D) activity add value?  Is there a return on the investment, if, indeed, the C-suite regards it as such rather than an expensive, preferably avoidable cost?  An article entitled “The Great Training Robbery”, published by Harvard Business School, merits reading during the festive season, see https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/16-121_bc0f03ce-27de-4479-a90e-9d78b8da7b67.pdf.  It says US firms spend something like $165 BILLION on “development” of which 90% generates NO performance uplift within 12 months. 

The new vogue of e-training commoditises learning into read this, watch this, listen to this, do this tick-box exercises. This may satisfy compliance but the learning cycle of acquisition, assimilation and application of new knowledge does not complete a full cycle.  The old practice of discussing expectations of performance uplift before undertaking any training, reviewing and committing to them immediately afterwards then subsequently tracking progress appears to be a redundant managerial practice.  Is it all too humdrum?

Might that have something to do with the job descriptions including leading the team and growing its capability as the last in the list of objectives – see my previous blog (letter S)?

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An ABC of Leadership and Management (part 2)

N is for nature or nurture

Have you ever heard a midwife say, “Congratulations, you’ve given birth to a leader / manager”?  No!  It suggests leadership is almost entirely nurture than nature? 

Research about the psychology of leadership is extensive, yet still there is no one single model.  David McClelland writes about personalised and socialised power. Sadly, I see far too many personalised powered, autocratic leaders .  Where are the servant leaders that Robert Greenleaf writes about, see https://hbr.org/2015/09/new-managers-need-a-philosophy-about-how-theyll-lead

As our understanding grows about the workings of the human brain, will we see more biological, physical and chemical processes identifed to have causal impact on leadership potential and subsequent practice?  I’m holding my breath regarding any cogent conclusions concerning politicians! 

Many people like putting letters after their names, e,g. honours and educational qualifications.  Perhaps we should limit the choice to the following two options.  As a colleague of my late father remarked of him, “He was the best effing bastard I worked for.”  What are you, an organisational climate bolstering BFB or merely an FB who sucks all life out of the room they’re in?

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An ABC of leadership and management

Inspired by teaching his 18-month old granddaughter new words, here is the first half of is David’s leadership alphabet with his thoughts about the real meaning of some of those vital words we all use; more next month!

I am enjoying teaching my 18-month old granddaughter new words using wonderfully colourful Dorling Kindersley books .  It’s marvellous as we go for walks around our village and she spots cats, dogs, horses, cows, birds and butterflies (pronounced blies).  Using the word “despondent” to describe Eeyore is beyond her pronunciation ability yet, but I succeeded in getting my eldest daughter to describe herself as obstreperous (“optrous”) by the time she was two.  We’ll see how my granddaughter’s eloquence progresses over the next six months. 

This joyous activity gave cause to this Grandad to consider how some of the keystone words from the lexicon of organisational leadership are used… and abused.  Accordingly, here is the first half of the alphabet with my thoughts about the real meaning of some of those vital words; more next month!

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