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?
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”…
Nothing brings me more of a sense of accomplishment than looking at one of our blue vessels sail out of Cape Town Terminal just in time before the storm comes. It just feels right!
I am a proud Panamanian. We are happy people that generally like to have a good time. We usually tend to disconnect from our reality by partying over the weekend. We are in essence, positive by nature. Recently, Panama qualified for their first FIFA World Cup. Our performance during this tournament was more than disappointing, but we were the happiest fans in Russia! Other countries lost in the semi-finals and it was considered a national tragedy. This Panamanian way will definitely make our lives more enjoyable but won’t create radical changes needed to take us out of a third world mindset and stop the corruption cycle that has been the trademark of our governments going back decades.
There are a great many awards schemes that businesses and organisations can enter nowadays. But which ones are worth winning? My experience as a judge highlights two schemes that are genuine and represent a true accolade of excellence.
What does success in these awards say about the organisation, its leadership and the team and/or individual who has won? And what should critics of business and our public sector organisations take heed of?
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.
We never stop being an individual contributor. Being a leader of others or leaders of leaders, we will still have peers. And, as member of a management team, we need to collaborate with them so our teams can deliver results which will support the overall business strategy. Yes, leaders are individual contributors.
We very often see and publish articles about leadership and what is expected from us in such roles. Less common are the articles about individual contributors and what is expected from them (us) in general. Do you consider yourself being a good Individual contributor?
Being an individual contributor doesn’t mean that we should act individually. It is empirically proved that we achieve greater results when we peer up and collaborate. Basis on that, we never stop being an individual contributor. Being a leader of others or leaders of leaders, we will still have peers. And, as member of a management team, we need to collaborate with them so our teams can deliver results which will support the overall business strategy. Yes, leaders are individual contributors.
So, what is expected from an outstanding ‘individual contributor’?
A committed individual contributor is constantly asking how he/she can support management in succeeding on the overall business strategy. A committed peer focus on the team overall goal and collective success. A committed manager works actively and genuinely in unison with management to bring outstanding results for the business, develop its people and help others to succeed too. A committed business partner thinks Win-win.
I like to share stories in my posts and on today’s post I start by telling a short one about a constructor called Lucas.
Lucas worked for several years on a company specialized into building houses. After a decade within the organization he reached management level. In different dialogues with the owner of the business, he expressed his desire to grow, earn more and to take higher responsibility.
Different opportunities appeared and he was not selected. The owner explained that he was not ready for some of them and that took a toll on him. Lucas didn’t cope well with setback. At some point, disappointed, Lucas decided to leave the company and explore new pastures.
As you lead your organisation through turbulent times; reorganising, repositioning and reframing, how willing are people to follow your lead?
Having spent a fair amount of time over the last couple of weeks in the air I’d like to ask you a question: how many times when you fly on a plane do you ask yourself, “might this be my last flight?” I know for me it’s at least four. Not including turbulence. Now I’d like you ask yourself how many times you ask the same question when you get behind the wheel of your car, or for those of you who don’t drive, when you sit alongside someone who is? Virtually never?
I drive a car far more than I fly, and while I know the statistics say that I’m far more likely to die in the car than the plane, logic and rational thought make no difference. No matter how many times I fly I still have the thought, this might be it. It’s illogical, it’s pointless and yet I can’t help it.