Nothing new under the sun

I realised a couple of weeks ago that I haven’t had a proper break from my work for two years.  Suddenly, I felt wearied.  Accordingly, I furled in my sails and allowed myself to float about on the waves of content concerning leadership, organisational design and development, culture, purpose, values, and finance that flood into my Inbox. 

All the big consultancies and individual practitioner experts like myself issue so much stuff from articles to webinars to videos to memes to animations to… well, nothing new.  In writing my essay, I’m conscious I risk adding to the cacophony. 

However, my aim is to identify some “crotchets of note” that will scythe through the noise. Hopefully, these will provide a clear tempo for healthy organisations to create the conditions that raise rather than harm the well-being of the individuals who work there.

I’m old enough to remember the Irish entertainer Val Doonican singing about O’Rafferty’s motor car, “… used to be as black as me father’s hat, now it’s forty shades of green”.  This seems to fit with all I’ve been reading, watching, and listening to.  Material is cited as being distinct, discrete, and differential in its hue, yet so much appears to be another Pantone shade of grey (rather than green).  

All this got me thinking about whether the principles of leadership that I first encountered in a book from 1968 called “Motivation and Organisational Climate” written by George Litwin and Robert Stringer contain the golden threads on which we should not lose our cognitive and physical grasp.  Their work was informed and influenced by that of David McClelland, Kurt Lewin, and Robert Blake and Jane Mouton amongst many. 

McClelland’s work on motivation identifies people having three main motivational drivers, achievement, affiliation, and power.  The latter has two faces, personalised and social or institutional.  Are we mistakenly celebrating some leaders’ personalised power?  What risks arise from their “must win, me, me, me” drive?  For instance, how much is the pandemic crisis and our world standing on the brink of climate catastrophe due to this self-centred rather than selfless leadership (see later)?  As we combat the global climate challenge, what must be done to nurture and sustain healthy climates in organisations? 

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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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We don’t need no education

So sang Pink Floyd in 1979 on their Christmas number 1 single Another Brick in the Wall Part 2 from their album The Wall.   It was a protest against rigid, didactic education. 

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A High Tide

Anyone can identify the talent that shouts, we want to find the talent that whispers too.

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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Millennials – plus ca change, la meme chose

It is very interesting to read recent posts from Frank Clayton and Charlie Walker-Wise about millennials’ attitudes and values.  Their remarks make valuable contributions to the rolling discussion about this demographic, which seems to me to be often unfairly slighted for being work-shy, recalcitrant and pessimistic.

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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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Leadership is wearing high heels shoes and stepping strong.

Do you classify jobs by gender? What is your first reaction when you learn that the General Manager of a Regional Marine department is a female? Continue reading “Leadership is wearing high heels shoes and stepping strong.”

The “H” Factor

The H factor stands for HUMANS and we cannot forget this factor when going digital.

 

The Journey of Digitalization

In the last six months, I have been involved in the journey of digitalization. I am very passionate about it as there is no limit to what can be achieved when a large group of professionals get together and commit themselves to do things that have not been done before in the shipping business.  However, this journey also brings an opportunity to start thinking about the role of humans in this process.

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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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