An ABC of leadership and management

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.  Accordngly, 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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The Politics of Space

If you live in Britain at the moment it’s completely impossible to escape the turmoil of Brexit. It’s become a national obsession and regardless of which side of the camp you sit on, the crisis unfolding is frustrating and embarrassing to witness.

Last week was an extraordinary week of news and yet it’s amazing what manages to capture the national attention. One of the biggest talking points wasn’t a matter of policy, it wasn’t arguments about the proroguing of the UK Parliament, it wasn’t even about whether you support leave or remain: it was about body language. Specifically that the way we sit should say ‘I’m ready‘. Readiness means we can respond from a confident and assertive place and maximise our personal impact.

This is great news for me as it exemplifies the power of non-verbal communication and how aware we need to be of the messages we broadcast.

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Grow… A story about building a personal brand

Several years ago, I was undergoing a coaching certification training course that had an important and continues to have an important impact on my continuous evolution. During this time, I was introduced to a statement that took me some years to digest: We are responsible for everything that happens to us. Then I realized that for most of my life I have been playing victim and making other people responsible for my own tragedies. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that we can control everything that happens to us, but I do believe that we have more control over our lives than we acknowledge. One crucial part of attracting good into our life is to develop a personal brand. Over the years, I have been reflecting on this and found words that are commonly associated with a good personal brand. Words like driver, leader, reliable, efficient, effective and getting things done. I would invest great effort into adding these words to my personal brand.

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What if Greta is correct?

Acres of hardcopy material and megabytes of softcopy content have been written about Greta Thunberg.  This 16-year old Swedish girl started the Friday school strike phenomenon to protest against what she regards as government and corporate inaction to combat climate change.  An article in the Sunday Times on August 18th suggested she is being manipulated by others taking advantage of her Asperger’s syndrome, see https://www.thetimes.co.uk/past-six-days/2019-08-18/news-review/greta-thunberg-and-the-plot-to-forge-a-climate-warrior-9blhz9mjv

Putting that aside, however, what if Greta is right and our planet is standing Tom Daly-like on its tiptoes on the edge of a very high diving board and could all too easily plummet into some catastrophic climatic cauldron?  As coaches, mentors, managers or leaders, are we providing destabilising counsel that cumulatively will increase the likelihood of that fall occurring?  Or, are we exerting enough influence upon those we work with to cause them to start to think differently or, cliché warning, to think outside the box?

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How to Communicate

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a “how to”-style article and I thought it might be helpful to have a quick look at some tools that can help with one of the most challenging part of anyone’s job. The title is of course tongue in cheek but there are small things we can do that will make a transformative difference. Things no one told Phil Davison in the video above. Don’t be Phil.

It’s funny, as sophisticated communication is the one gift humans have that surges us far beyond all other intelligent life; yet it is the cause of so much confusion and uncertainty in both our professional and personal lives.

As an actor, I love communication. Like anyone, I don’t always get it right but when I was 17, performing in a Shakespeare lead for the first time at school, I discovered that the relationship between me and the audience was one I inherently understood. I felt powerful in that space. I had found where I belonged. My journey to Coach has been a long and winding one (politics degree, actor training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, professional actor, professional theatre director, coach, business leader) and I am passionate about sharing the thrill I felt as that 17 year old with others. I hope I can help them, if not love the dynamic created when speaking to an audience, to at least approach it without fear or trepidation.

So here are 10 perspectives on successful communication. Where I’ve italicised I am referring to a skill or technique to implement.

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Movement or progress?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about longevity – its impact on the modern workplace, our leaders, our health. All thoughts prompted by a great book called The 100 Year Life by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott.

And it’s funny how, as I’ve allowed this particular thread to lead me hither and thither, I’m increasingly struck by the sense that this brave new world perhaps isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I embrace my inner “grumpy old man” a little to easily, but bear with me.

Well being or being well?

As someone who works in learning, I’m very aware of our propensity, as learning professionals, to be taken in by the latest “shiny” thing, and I think it’s fair to say that wellbeing, mental health awareness, mindfulness and resiliance training are the sparkly new kids on the block…

And whilst I’m unconvinced by the claimed benefits of these “interventions”(which, by the way, is something only the UN should do) there’s a serious question to be asked about why, it would seem, people are so unhappy? According to the Trading Economics website, the average weekly hours worked in the UK are 32 – so we aren’t working ourselves into an early grave – and whilst we’re being sombre, the suicide rate is at its lowest for 30 years according to the Samaritans.

Yet, all I hear is how stressed people are, how much they have to do and how little time they have to do it in.  So, clearly, there’s a disconnect somewhere. The key question being – where? Which made me wonder if our problem is one of quantity over quality?

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Leader: A Master in resolving conflicts

Have you ever heard or met “a Master in resolving conflicts”? No. Well, you might be one yourself.

We are all Master of something

Like in every other aspect in life we can become experts in any field, by doing something right for a long time, changing your wrongs into rights to a point where you can give advice, create awareness, provide recommendations, or even give instructions on subjects that we master.

When it comes to conflicts, especially in the working environment, a leader should not become a Master in resolving those conflicts but rather a Master in avoiding, stopping, reducing the possibilities for such conflicts to occur.

Now, please don’t get me wrong, they will always be conflicts but in the same way a leader is prepared to resolve them his concern should be creating a team environment where conflicts are less.

I had leaders who created conflicts and that is even worse. They say it allowed different ideas to be known and keeps team on their feet. In my opinion that could not be further away from the truth, such leaders are only creating several momentums that will unavoidable end up in good valuable members of the team to leave and restrain new eligible ones to join.

A serious disagreement or argument if not handled on time, can linger to the point that it blocks creativity, participation and obviously there goes teamwork through the window. For me the biggest and most important part of resolving any conflict is not in how good communicator you are as how great listener you are.

When you really listen others is when the magic starts. The conflict might not be generated by what is being said but by what is not being said and in that case, if you are not paying attention you will always face the same issue no matter how well you think you handled it.

Listening will also allow you to find the root cause and eliminate it once and for all making you a real Master in resolving conflicts.

Work on strengths or weaknesses?… A story about finding your passion.

I grew up in a big family and our mother worked during the day and at night she went to college.  A true example of dedication and passion for what she believed in.  So, you can imagine that there was little time for her to investigate what each of her 4 sons were passionate about. We all went to baseball summer league, boy scouts, karate and were part of the swimming team.  I did not enjoy most of them but staying at home in front of the television was not an option.  My mom believed in hard work and if you were not good at something, hard work would pay off.  And it did but I did not enjoy it. As I got older and started making my own decisions, I did not pursue any of those activities. I only realised years later the benefits of my mother pushing us to be dedicated to everything we did.

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Political Leadership: Revisited

political leadership

The political leadership question is back on the agenda again. In June 2017 we had a General Election in the UK. I published an article at that time, ‘Leadership: Your Vote Counts’, inviting readers to decide which of our would-be political leaders best matched eleven business leader characteristics.

The winner of that Election was Theresa May of the Conservative Party, albeit it with a reduced majority. Since then she has struggled to implement the result of our 2016 National Referendum and take the UK out of the European Union. Mrs May resigned in early June and since then there has been frenzied activity in the Conservative Party to select a new leader. This person will not only be the leader of the Party, they will also be our new Prime Minister. Are you with me so far?

Leadership Election

The initial selection process was in the hands of 313 Conservative Members of Parliament (MPs). They took ten initial candidates down to two. In the final stage the Conservative Party membership select a Leader and Prime Minister from the final two. As I write, there are estimated to be 160,000 paid up members who are participating in this final selection. Who will they select to be the new resident of that famous address: 10 Downing Street?

Leadership Characteristic

For this election I’ve come up with a different set of characteristics with which to judge the political leadership capability of our two candidates. I looked at research on the political leadership characteristics of two of our most notable post-war Prime Ministers: Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. This is not just a random choice on my part. A YouGov survey of the greatest Prime Ministers since 1945 conducted in May 2019 placed Margaret Thatcher number one with 21% of the votes just ahead of Winston Churchill with 19%. Read more to see what I discovered …..

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TSP-UK: Celebrating 25 Years

Today we are celebrating 25 years of being in business. The company was formed on 1st June 1994. We’ve had a great journey over the last 25 years. We’ve met and worked with some super people. We’ve done some interesting and innovative work. Thanks to everyone who joined us and stayed with us for the journey. Here’s to the future.

TSP-UK is celebrating 25 years in business. Its been a great journey. Thanks to everyone who joined us. Here's to the future.
TSP-UK

To see what we do check out my LinkedIn Profile.