Viva la revolution!

The last time I blogged, I introduced you to “The 100 Year Life” a fantastic book, introducing a brave new world of longevity. Its theme being, that today’s youth can expect to live beyond 100 years of age – the key word there being expect – which in turn means our current three stage model of education, work, retire, is outdated.

The aim of my last missive was to ask how this impacts on our current leaders and what they need to do in order to flex their style and fit this new world order, focusing on an increase in empathy, the introduction of “strategic altruism” and the application of “beginners mind” to their thinking – if you missed it here’s a link.

But what about those who find themselves at the beginning of this journey? Can you imagine being an 18 year old faced with the prospect of living for another 80+ years? How do you even begin to think about planning to prepare for that?

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Leading for Longevity

I’m reading a fantastic book at the minute – and by fantastic, I mean terrifying! It’s called “The 100 Year Life” and as the title suggests it deals with the fact that our every increasing longevity, whilst a gift, will only be so if we seek to challenge our preconceptions about how that life is structured.

In short, and I really am paraphrasing, the authors explain that anyone in their late teens/early twenties can expect to live to the ripe old age of 106! This means that our current three stage “life model” of education, work and retirement is no longer valid or realistic.

It’s a great read, and one I’d highly recommend. The terrifying part came when I started to think about what that meant for me – and the challenge for business and how it approaches leadership – when I think about “my” generation and the space they inhabit.

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A High Tide

One of the greatest things about working in learning is the boundless curiosity of those around you; unfortunately it can also be one of the worst things about our profession too. We are, far too often, enamoured with the latest shiny thing and, as such, open to the accusation that we’re “fluffy” rather than commercial.

Yet our role in business is simple: to make it better. Our job is to improve the quality of our people and make the organisation better at what it does. As Sergei would say “simples”…

So why do we often get it so wrong?

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Change, not chaos…in five steps

I was listening to a podcast recently in which a prominent CHRO commented that “the world has changed, it’s chaotic and unruly and our leaders need to be able to operate effectively in chaos”. Surely we want change not chaos.

Now I don’t know about you but that’s not a sales pitch I’m warming to. I’d agree that things certainly seem to be heading that way; I’m not sure we’re enjoying it…is anyone getting a kick out of Brexit? Somebody else once told me “never hire anyone who tells you they’re good in a crisis – you’ll always be in one”.

And yet it seems to me that all we need to escape the chaos is a little process, and some structure, to help us find our way out of the darkness. What’s frustrating is how bad we are at doing just that.  I work for an engineering business and we love a process – we just love following them less!

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My 2018 Coaching Journey: Finding the Path to Me

With the end of the year approaching fast, I’m sure I’m not alone in taking a moment to reflect on the past 12 months and what it’s meant to me both personally and professionally.

Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those terrible articles titled “10 things you need to do to be a success in 2019” but I did want to share something that’s helped me, with the hope that it will help you too.

By way of context, 2018 has been a challenge. I work in a traditional industry, that faces a severe skills shortage and, if I’m honest, a distinct lack of imagination about how to solve it.

My own organisation is not without its frustrations, and our own attempts to be creative and innovative in the way that we approach the development of our people – I’m Head of Learning – can often feel like they just aren’t impacting quickly enough. It always feels like we should be doing more.

And on a personal note, earlier in the year my mum was diagnosed, quite unexpectedly, with an aggressive form of brain cancer. After a short illness she passed away in May.

As the year continued I think it’s fair to say that all the above started to take a toll. I began to “leak” as a result of my frustrations.

So, what to do? Well, as someone fortunate enough to have both a coach and a mentor, I thought I should practice what I preach and look for some support. Continue reading “My 2018 Coaching Journey: Finding the Path to Me”

They’re not Millennial’s they’re people!

Let’s be clear from the outset, I love technology – it’s exciting, cool (two things I’m not), saves time, keeps us informed and offers us unbridled access to the accumulated knowledge of humanity at the touch of a button.

My worry is that we’re developing such a thirst for the speed of interaction, like a hit of adrenaline that we’re missing out on the richness of the experience and the value it can bring.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to launch into a diatribe about the evils of Facebook – although I do think there’s a case to answer – what I worry about is this trend for “liking”, “tweeting” and “sharing”, rather than reading and understanding!

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An end to altruism

A colleague of mine recently shared an article by MindGenius titled “Poor Management Training is Holding Back the Economy”.

It focusses on the results of a survey carried out amongst senior decision makers working for small businesses in the UK and contains the usual plethora of damming statistics and hyperbole about the lack of management development available and the quality of that which is.

Of those surveyed 87% thought employers should be doing more to develop management and leadership skill, 91% thought schools and universities should do a better job preparing students for leadership roles and only 3% thought that UK companies had world leading managers.

Add to this the oft quoted $14 billion that our cousins in the US spend on leadership development each year and it’s a wonder anyone who works in L&D ever gets through a performance appraisal!

And yet, if you asked those same senior decision makers what were the most critical roles in their organisations, the ones absolutely vital to its success, what would they say – and could they support the statement with evidence?

My guess is they could not. In fact, I’d suggest that most organisations, large and small, are in a similar situation. Do they have an opinion? I’m sure they do. Do they have any data to support it? That remains to be seen.

So, to the 87% who think employers should be doing more to develop management and leadership skill, I commend your altruism. I also wonder if you invest money in an equally haphazard way when paying to develop other key resources and infrastructure.

We need to stop banging this particular drum and create a more focussed approach to development – and that approach starts not with the people but the organisation.

Learning leaders everywhere need to help their organisations be more measured and strategic in their approach to development. Here are five steps to get you underway.

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It takes a village…

‏In the short time since I last submitted a blog it seems the world has taken another step along the path to crazy. The scandals of Weinstein, Westminster, and Spacey et al say nothing good about the world in which we live…

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Construction: it’s learning to be better…

I chose a career in learning because people fascinate me.

We are unique as a species in our capacity to develop and grow and I’m privileged to have been a part of that journey with many amazing individuals. I get paid for doing something that fills me with joy.

I couldn’t imagine doing anything else, and yet, I have a dark secret – I work in construction! As we all know this is an industry with a reputation for training people, not developing them. A place for you to carve out a living if you weren’t quite good enough…

Well dear reader, I humbly beg to differ; my experience has been of an industry striving to innovate and improve, one aware of its shortcomings, operating in the toughest of circumstances and doing all of that with a smile on its face and a steely determination at its heart.

Changing that perception will be tough but it’s not impossible and if we continue to focus on the areas below that change may happen sooner than you think…

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Vive La Difference

My Grandmother, may she rest in peace, had a saying: “If everybody liked the same thing, everybody would have fancied your Grandad!”

I mention this only because I’m struck by the continuing belief that in order to be a great leader you must treat all your people the same – and a fear that if you don’t you’ll be castigated in the name of equality.

This was brought sharply into focus for me recently whilst watching a training session where the group was asked if it was ever acceptable to discriminate in the workplace. After a slightly awkward silence the group responded dutifully that it was not – only to be told by (the fantastic) Chrissi McCarthy, of Constructing Equality, who was leading the session that, not only is it okay, but that they’re already doing it…

The shock was palpable…clearly this was some kind of mistake. This was a group of seasoned professionals with many years’ experience and a great deal of success under their belts. We wouldn’t – we couldn’t – possibly discriminate…except that we do. As professionals we are paid to make discernements and differentiations all the time.

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