A baker’s dozen of valid and practical leadership actions – part 2

Following my two earlier articles about Northern Power Women’s excellent report, “Levelling Up by Powering On”, here is the second half of my baker’s dozen of foundational principles that I continuously rely on in my work with leaders across a broad demographic spectrum. 

My first article in this series concludes with a model that highlights the need for concepts to possess rigorous research underpinnings and to be practical. It is vital these can be implemented. It may not necessarily be easy to do this. However, through diligent endeavour they can be learnt, understood, practised, and competence deepened by ongoing coaching.  Combined, rather than any one in isolation, these faculties represent the hallmarks of great leadership. 

When exercised, these principles deliver a humane, compassionate, and purposeful style of leadership.  This imbues organisations, large and small, for and not for profit, with a fit and healthy climate.  Employee engagement and well-being will rise, the customer and citizen experience will improve, the environment will be protected – the triple bottom line is maximised. 

The sustainable outcome is that we won’t just level up, we shall power forward into a new and better community.

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Northern Power Women – Levelling up by Powering On

Introduction

I commend this excellent report, which I read it between Christmas and New Year.  It is available at https://www.northernpowerwomen.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Levelling-Up-by-Powering-On-Report.pdf.  It is required reading to help us all to sharpen our leadership focus at the start of this new decade (assuming you subscribe to the view the decade starts this year not last).   

Through both fortitude and good fortune – “Diligence is the mother of good luck,” remarked Benjamin Franklin – the paper should be regarded as being like the blue touch paper on a firework.  When lit it should ignite a dazzling blaze of considered and considerate action to change the composition and competence of organisational leadership across the Northern Powerhouse, as well as everywhere else. 

In an article entitled “The pandemic has eroded democracy and respect for human rights” published in mid-October by The Economist, see https://www.economist.com/international/2020/10/17/the-pandemic-has-eroded-democracy-and-respect-for-human-rights, Freedom House, a Washington DC based think tank, says their research exposes growing pressures being imposed by many, male populist leaders around the world to stifle democracy and constrain human rights.  It is on that taut, global canvas that NPW has chosen to paint its brighter, rosier more compassionate picture of the future. 

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Mindset shifts

Introduction

I came across this illustration on LinkedIn a few days ago. It claims to offer a fresh recipe for the mindset shifts required to transform organisations.  It stimulated much thought and reflection about the practicalities of the ideas it imparted.  While the best ideas are often simple, is this too simplistic?  Does it ignore the realities of organisational and wider societal life? This is morphing at warp speed under the impact of Covid-19. What the end state will, no one is really sure.

Without doubt, change needs to occur. Are the alternatives so firmly locked at the opposite ends of the five linear scales?  In other words, rather than “Yes, but…”, don’t we need a “Yes, and” approach?  Walt Disney was alleged to answer questions by saying, “Yes, what if we did this…?”. By doing so, he responds positively to the principle of the idea while “reviewing and refining” it. This remains an organisation habit across the entertainment conglomerate.

Is the optimal case for organisational leaders to cultivate the cultural flexibility to display aspects of all the attributes of the labels?  The article does not need to be read in one go.  Consider each of the five “shifts” separately over their own mug of tea or coffee. 

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Leadership and the role of aligning organisational and personal values

Defining and agreeing on ‘values’ in strategic planning and subsequent behaviours in daily routines.

Two recent events in working with clients have been an interesting reminder of the need for defining and agreeing on organisational values in strategic planning and subsequent behaviours in daily routines. 

Both businesses are in engineering, with similar sizes of staff levels. Both were overhauling and re-writing strategic plans.

Company ‘A’ was writing the plan because, amongst other things, of an imminent customer – and industry approval – audits. On a different tack, company ‘B’s reason was it wanted to set the ‘True North’ direction of the business for the next three years – and beyond.

A key point here is that values are both current ‘the way we act do now’ and future, or espoused values and ‘the way we will act in the future’. Or the collective behaviours in pursuit of the strategic goals.

The process and outcome of the respective ‘Values Alignment’ for company ‘A’ and ‘B’ could not have been further apart…

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An ABC of Leadership and Management (part 3)

This is the third and final look at the ABC of Leadership and Management.

T is for training

Does training (or L&D) activity add value?  Is there a return on the investment, if, indeed, the C-suite regards it as such rather than an expensive, preferably avoidable cost?  An article entitled “The Great Training Robbery”, published by Harvard Business School, merits reading during the festive season, see https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/16-121_bc0f03ce-27de-4479-a90e-9d78b8da7b67.pdf.  It says US firms spend something like $165 BILLION on “development” of which 90% generates NO performance uplift within 12 months. 

The new vogue of e-training commoditises learning into read this, watch this, listen to this, do this tick-box exercises. This may satisfy compliance but the learning cycle of acquisition, assimilation and application of new knowledge does not complete a full cycle.  The old practice of discussing expectations of performance uplift before undertaking any training, reviewing and committing to them immediately afterwards then subsequently tracking progress appears to be a redundant managerial practice.  Is it all too humdrum?

Might that have something to do with the job descriptions including leading the team and growing its capability as the last in the list of objectives – see my previous blog (letter S)?

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What if Greta is correct?

Is Greta Thunberg the beating butterfly wing that could cause the necessary chaos of revolt throughout her generation that forces change to occur?

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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My 2018 Coaching Journey: Finding the Path to Me

How I discovered three great principles in a challenging year with the help of my Coach: Intent is Everything; Play to Your Strengths; Know Yourself.

With the end of the year approaching fast, I’m sure I’m not alone in taking a moment to reflect on the past 12 months and what it’s meant to me both personally and professionally.

Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those terrible articles titled “10 things you need to do to be a success in 2019” but I did want to share something that’s helped me, with the hope that it will help you too.

By way of context, 2018 has been a challenge. I work in a traditional industry, that faces a severe skills shortage and, if I’m honest, a distinct lack of imagination about how to solve it.

My own organisation is not without its frustrations, and our own attempts to be creative and innovative in the way that we approach the development of our people – I’m Head of Learning – can often feel like they just aren’t impacting quickly enough. It always feels like we should be doing more.

And on a personal note, earlier in the year my mum was diagnosed, quite unexpectedly, with an aggressive form of brain cancer. After a short illness she passed away in May.

As the year continued I think it’s fair to say that all the above started to take a toll. I began to “leak” as a result of my frustrations.

So, what to do? Well, as someone fortunate enough to have both a coach and a mentor, I thought I should practice what I preach and look for some support. Continue reading “My 2018 Coaching Journey: Finding the Path to Me”

Organisational values in the 21st century – laminated or lived?

Have our values deserted us?

I don’t know about you but opening the papers, watching the news, reading a blog (hopefully not this one), scanning the web is really rather depressing these days.  There seems little going on where decent human behaviour is being exercised. It seems everyone is trying to get one over someone else. This is seen at the most macro level of geo-politics, business being conducted in a less than honourable manner and sport being “played” by bending the rules beyond acceptable limits. Why is this, what has happened? Have we lost our moral compass, do we no longer have any guiding values or principles unless it is tagged with some currency symbol? Or is it that not much has changed apart from everything being so much more on show courtesy of 24/7 media?

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