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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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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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.

Strategy is Rehearsal

Strategy as Rehearsal

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.

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Why Not? A story about those who dare to be different…

Over the years I have had the wonderful opportunity of facilitating brainstorming sessions.  One of my favourite tools to use, is Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats Method.  Our behaviour, not our words, is the reflection of who we are.  Six Thinking Hats is a brilliant tool to structure in an objective way to include the input from the individuals participating in the session and can give insight into the reflection of their personalities.  The method refers to six hats that when we “wear them” we are obligated to think in a specific way.  The blue hat is the leader hat that will control the discussion and the ground rules (only the facilitator will wear this hat during the entire exercise), the white hat requires pure objectivity and data driven comments, the red hat is our emotions and how we feel about the exercise, the yellow hat is for positive thinking, the black hat is for negative thinking or challenges we encounter during the solution process and the green hat is for innovative thinking or often referred to as “out of the box thinking”.

What follows are a few social conclusions that I have found in this exercise that relates to the teams’ general behaviour.

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An audience with Charlie Walker-Wise: even more about Space and Time

Charlie Walker-Wise

I had been waiting for this opportunity for some time. To meet up face-to-face with Blog Guest Author Charlie Walker-Wise and get his first-hand account of how attention to Space and Time can create more effective communication.

Charlie had written two articles a year ago on this Blog about space and time – the links are in ‘further reading’ below. Since then I have referred my coaching clients a number of times to Charlie’s wisdom on this subject. When they needed to make a landmark presentation to a number of people. Or when they had a forthcoming significant one-to-one discussion – a so called ‘moment of truth’ or ‘crucial conversation’. Either way, Charlie’s articles kept bouncing back to me as part of my coach’s toolkit.

For me the space was on Tuesday last week at Balthazar’s French Bistro in London’s Covent Garden. The time was lunch time. I originally intended to call this article ‘Lunch with Charlie Walker-Wise’, but didn’t think it would really grab your attention dear reader!

I have known Charlie since he was 12. His parents had a home in our village when we moved in 28 years ago (you do the maths). It’s so very gratifying to see him now. Married with two young children. A successful career as Client Director with RADA Business. It’s this combination of acting and business that fuels my imagination and drives me to seek out his views.

So here we are meeting for lunch and I announce to Charlie I have an agenda. I want to pick his brains about space and time.

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It’s the Story, Stupid

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.

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Words Matter. It Is Not What But How We Say It.

It’s been a while but today I am gladly resuming my publications. Today I will share something about feedback and how the selection of our words is important.

I once read somewhere that around 250k people die in the US every year as result of medical mistakes. Investigations found that more than a third of these fatalities could have been avoided if doctor’s assistants had spoken when noticing that something in the procedure was incorrect. The fact, apparently, was that most of these assistants don’t speak because of the negative reaction (even aggressive) from doctors.

Have you ever experience a situation in which you were in doubt whether you should speak or remain quiet afraid of being shut by someone who believe to ‘know-it-better’?

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Astroturfing

I intend to keep this blog short; I hope that is a pleasing first sentence.  I want to toss you a tough piece of meat to chew on or, rather, give you a piece of astroturf to lay…

Last Week Tonight

 

 

Are you fans of UK satirist, John Oliver, and his HBO show “Last Week Tonight”? It is broadcast in the UK on Sky Atlantic.

For me, it is required viewing on a Monday night.

 

This week, after his usual verbal fusillade at President Trump, Oliver does a lengthy piece about something called “Astroturfing”.  You can watch it here, https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6rxztfThere is an ad for a web-site building business fronting the piece. 

As ever with Oliver, his soliloquies contain some strong profanity.  His frustration at the legal advice constraining him from saying what he wants to remark is palpable and a joy to watch. 

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The curse of the accidental manager

On July 12th, the FT published an article headlined “The UK’s productivity problem: the curse of the ‘accidental manager”, you can find it here – https://www.ft.com/content/b96ce8f2-5dd9-11e8-ad91-e01af256df68.

Are pork pies good for you?

It is somewhat disquieting to read that the “Peter principle”, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_principle, continues to thrive in UK business.  Our poor productivity performance arises because too many people gain promotion into managerial roles beyond their level of natural competence.  However, in the firm featured in the FT article performance is improving.

It strikes me, however, that simply hanging up figures of Superman (is this unconscious bias by the firm’s leaders?), and doling out pork pies are rather superficial practices.  The only likely outcome of this epicurean approach is hardened arteries.

The firm’s performance growth is due to its managers doing something much more profound, i.e. the way they “serve” their employees, see Robert Greenleaf’s Servant Leadership, https://www.amazon.co.uk/Power-Servant-Leadership-Robert-K-Greenleaf/dp/1576750353/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1531821205&sr=8-3&keywords=robert+greenleaf.

At the simplest level, they should be talking to their employees as equal partners striving for success.  When this is achieved, I hope they’re rewarded with more than cholesterol laden pies!

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