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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Quick Coaching Tools – Remote Coaching

Don’t stop coaching because you are working from home. Remote Coaching will be more important than ever during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Remote Coaching is one of my Quick Coaching Tools. They are exactly what the title suggests. Short snippets of coaching tips, tools and ideas for you to use on a just-in-time basis. Use them as an update and to refresh your coaching practice and professionalism. You could call it coaching in a hurry!

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Lent Leadership Lament: Top 5 things to give up for Lent

What are the negative leadership traits you will give up for Lent? Maybe the ‘luxuries’ of error, laziness and omission. I’ve found five, inspired by recent articles by Guest Authors on this Blog. What are your top 5?

Today is Shrove Tuesday. It is the traditional feast day before the start of Lent. Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter. This was traditionally a period of fasting and on Shrove Tuesday, Anglo-Saxon Christians went to confession and were ‘Shriven’ (absolved from their sins). Lent is also a time when people commit to giving up certain luxuries – hence the question “What are you giving up for Lent?” As you can see, I know today’s feast day as ‘Pancake Day’. And my plan is to give up pancakes for a year – until Shrove Tuesday comes around again in 2021.

Once again I have to remind myself this is a leadership blog, not a culinary one. So what can leaders give up for Lent? Maybe the ‘luxuries’ of error, laziness and omission. For inspiration I looked back at recent articles from our merry band of Guest Authors and came up with five negative traits leaders might consider giving up for Lent.

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Listening Leadership: Getting Down on the Shop Floor

Leaders – get down on the shop floor. Walk and talk and listen. You’ll be surprised what everyone can learn.

There seems to be no shortage of books, articles, advice and wisdom on leadership styles and the characteristics of good leaders. Yet it seems that one small, but valuable, behaviour is often missing – or at best limited in practise. Particularly during organisational change and development. Getting down on the shop floor.

In using an analogy : when our son was small he often demanded that at playtime we, his family, ‘get down on the floor’ and join him on the family-room carpet in whatever he was playing with at that moment: making castles from wooden bricks, building Lego or Brio trains or simply drawing… 

Of course a small child’s world operates at that level and that we, as grown-ups, in encouraging play, fun and learning engaged with our son in his world, at his level.

Is there a parallel to ‘getting down on the floor’ with staff in the workplace? From experiences over the years it seems there is. Its getting down on the shop floor!

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Engaging with feedback

The regular interactions between leaders and team members are what form the foundation for an engaging workplace and yet it is an area with room for improvement.

In our team we will soon receive our annual employee engagement survey results. This a regular exercise in many companies and one that sheds light on dynamics of team performance, culture and wellbeing.

It is however only providing a snapshot. A moment in time with limited scope for understanding nuance, personal differences and context. The feedback is highly important and the initial response rate also provides an interesting insight, yet this data must be used as part of a wider approach to engagement if we are to truly create aligned & high performing organisations.

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Stop washing fish!

Your engagement strategy isn’t working!

Your engagement strategy isn’t working…I don’t know what that strategy is, I just know it isn’t working!

Don’t take my word for it though. Google it.

The numbers vary depending on which article you read but the headlines are fairly similar – about 70% of the UK workforce feel disengaged, which is costing UK Plc about £70 billion a year.

If the number of disengaged employees is that high, then it’s not difficult to imagine that some of those people are in your business, or your office.

Let’s be honest, if I gave you a piece of paper you could name them.

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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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The Politics of Space

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.

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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Movement or progress?

Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse moves. Ask yourself: are you going to chose the path you walk, or be blown by the winds of circumstance?

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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Work hard, work harder

The leadership demands on people transitioning into senior roles are considerable. Resilience and stakeholder management are often key to a successful transition.

Moving into Leadership

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.

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