Category Archives: strategy

Want to be a great leader? Be more popular

Welcome to my blog, one in a series looking at leadership characteristics. Here I draw on my own leadership experience and my work as an executive coach to share with you my thoughts on what makes for a great leader. This blog builds on my earlier blogs and in particular my last blog on LOVE. If you are short on time look at the lovely graphic  illustration from @engagevisually

popular

Scott Peck in his book The Road Less Travelled starts with:

“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

I would add to that “people are difficult”. Many of you know that as a leader you have to work at engaging your workforce and it will not be easy. You need to develop strategies and grow yourself to be an effective leader. My blogs help you consider and develop those skills.

So to add to the themes so far, being popular is an important skill to cultivate. Unless you run a business employing robots then you need to find a way to be more popular with staff. I have wondered about the balance between effectiveness, efficiency and popularity in leadership for a number of years now. I also know it is something those I coach often ponder as they lead teams and face business challenges.

At the beginning of my career a mentor told me to concentrate on being effective not popular. They suggested that if I wanted to be promoted I should not get involved with the staff and the detail of the organisation. I should try instead to remain focused on my/ my team’s targets and deliver the results. This was seen as particularly important if I wanted to be spotted by more senior managers and to progress in my career through the corporate hierarchy.

Surely, I thought if you want to deliver results they are delivered by teams, through others and with others. I think that we have got this wrong and we have in business schools swallowed the efficiency and strategic purpose mantra at the cost of staff engagement and organisational resilience.

To run an organisation effectively you need the motivation and engagement of ALL your staff and most importantly the contribution of their skills and their will. I started to realise that what was needed was a way to engage the discretionary effort of the workforce. That discretionary effort is like fairy dust and when engaged can increase individuals effectiveness dramatically.  Staff have to WANT to work with you and if you are a leader then they must WANT TO follow you. Not just follow you in the good times but TRUST YOU to lead them in their/the company’s best interest in tough times also. You cannot be effective and will never be effective in leading change and transforming the business without the will of the staff to work with you.  They have to like you enough and so you have to be more popular with them.

Now popular is an interesting word and I don’t mean the sort of popular leader who will not upset the status quo. Nor do I visualise a leader who does not really drive change and definitely not the leader who is nice but is seen by staff as ineffective. We need instead to be popular on a deeper level and this will lead to engaged staff, effectiveness as a leader and success for the business. Popular and efficiency do not have to sit as opposites as they actually balance the best leaders.

So, I am intrigued by the word popular and its root is in the Latin word popularis.  Two definitions of the word jump out at me and they are:

“Being regarded with favour, affection or approval by people in general” and

“Relating to or representing the common people”.

Many of us are not in favour with our staff as GALLUP analysis of US Employee Engagement suggests less than a third of workers in Washington DC are engaged in their jobs. Leaders need to make a difference here as I think we have a leadership popularity crisis that is leading to poor staff engagement.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/181289/majority-employees-not-engaged-despite-gains-2014.aspx

I saw some graffiti recently which I thought summed this problem in business up:

“You pretend to give us satisfying work and pretend to pay us a proper wage and so we turn up and pretend to work for you.”

We know what staff want to be effective at work and it’s not more money. Instead they want autonomy – to be left alone to do a good job, they also want mastery thats the skills and support to do that job. They also want a sense of purpose, I would describe this as hope. And you as leaders can help them with all three of these areas. They want great leaders and they tell us they would rather have no leader than a poor one!

DDI did a fabulous and comprehensive study of what employees think of us as leaders and it is not comfortable reading. They think we are so busy trying to be effective and running efficient organisations that we don’t notice them and do not lead them well. So if you want to be effective and efficient then start thinking about being more popular with the aim to engage your staff. You can practise and learn some of these skills and this can start by just understanding what the impact of your current behaviour is having:

https://www.ddiworld.com/DDIWorld/media/trend-research/lessonsforleadersfromthepeoplewhomatter_mis_ddi.pdf

If you want to work actively at being more popular cast you mind across your organisation, your people and yourself and the leaders you work with and start to ask some questions:.

  • Do your staff regard you and your fellow leaders with affection and approval?
  • Would staff say you relate well to them?
  • Are you seen as “of the common people” and do you know what interests them?
  • Who has had a marriage, a baby, kids go to college, anniversary lately? did you notice it? did you acknowledge it?
  • Do you survey your staff on what their aims and goals are for the next year or five years are in work and in life?
  • Are your business goals aligned to the staff goals for work and life?
  • When you go walk about do you ask staff what are their thoughts on how the business is doing?
  • Do you ask them for ideas on how to improve things?
  • Do staff tell you they know what’s expected of them from you and their manager?
  • Do you reward effort as well as results for the company?

Now spend some time listening to what you hear and reflecting on what it says to you. Be honest and challenge yourself as you ponder the questions above. You will need a great coach to help you sift what you are hearing and to think about what you will do with the data this exercise provides you as a leader.

I can promise you efficiency without the people will fail. I have failed myself when I was in an organisation that caused me to put efficiency and targets above taking people with me. When the organisation hit hard times I was not popular enough to survive the cut backs.  I learnt a lesson that a key skill of a leader alongside developing the business strategy is to facilitate cooperation. People NEED to want to be around you.

I think the avoidance of popularity is particularly problematic in women who seek leadership roles. They may fear their feminine side, often seen as “the soft skills”. But these skills are so valuable in leadership as staff like REAL and POPULAR leaders. Though I am a passionate advocate for gender equality in the boardroom I am a realist when it comes to women still being judged harder than men if they appear too ruthless.

There will be many leaders in your organisation and they do not just operate in or around the boardroom. So why not give them a chance to do this development work also. John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

And if you need one more reason to work on and develop the skills of being more popular it is to balance your own ego as a leader. You don’t want to end up like Aesop’s wolf do you?

A Wolf, who was roaming about on the plain when the sun was getting low in the sky, was much impressed by the size of his shadow, and said to himself, “I had no idea I was so big. Fancy my being afraid of a lion! Why, I, not he, ought to be King of the beasts”; and, heedless of danger, he strutted about as if there could be no doubt at all about it. Just then a lion sprang upon him. “Alas,” he cried, “had I not lost sight of the facts, I shouldn’t have been ruined by my fancies.”

Do contact me for executive coaching, mentoring and leadership speaking. I can travel to you or I offer high quality Skype coaching. I might be able to help you become more popular and I would love to work with you on your leadership journey.

http://www.amandareynolds.org

BITESIZE LOVE

 

Welcome to my bite size. One of 12 blogs in a new series looking at leadership characteristics.

I want in this blog to focus on the theme of LOVE.

 

150928 LOVE.under 2MP

I’m sure that you didn’t learn Love in Business School and we never talk love in the boardroom.  But, I think we need LOVE in business as we need to love our products, our customers and to love our staff.  If you are in a business or a team you don’t love I think it shows. If we look around at the businesses who are successful, especially the great entrepreneurs. We see that they love their products and they want to share that love with the world. They love their customers and they get a huge sense of satisfaction with the customer’s pleasure and positive experience. This sort of business leadership is rare.

Deloittes 2015 HR survey suggested culture, employee engagement and retention is now the most pressing challenge for business. http://d2mtr37y39tpbu.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/DUP_GlobalHumanCapitalTrends2015.pdf

So, throw LOVE into your next team meeting with a couple of questions.:

  1. Tell me about the risks and challenges we currently face?
  2. What or who do you each love and how does that make you feel?
  3. Think about our business and tell me who or what do you love about this place?
  4. Think about our products and would our customers say they love them and why?

I tell you, the reactions will astound you, we are desperate to love, we look for love and we are brought alive by love. The opposite of fear is love and the ancient Greeks had 30 words to describe love.

If you remember the movie Jerry Maguire you will remember the character played by Tom Cruise. Jerry loved work with a passion, he loved his business that’s why he wrote that mission statement, that is ultimately why he got sacked. No one else could get it, engage with it or pull down the façade of business and professionalism they had created. So, they thought Jerry was crazy. Jerry shared the love he had for his only player:

“I am out here for you. You don’t know what it’s like to be ME out here for YOU.”

But, for most of the movie Jerry never brought that out in the open into his leading or the way he led. He talked under pressure, in a wash room and angry about never fully telling it. Are you that leader? The one who loves? The one who wells up when a customer tells you how a product disappointed them or how brilliant it was? The one who loves but can’t share it?

If we focus on how we can experience and grow love in an organisation rather than leading by fear and control how would that change us and those we work with? I think we need to imagine our customers as our family and friends. What would our business be like if we loved our customers and our staff like we love our friends, our family or ours sports team? Making it good enough for your mum, sticking with them, going the extra mile, getting it right for them and staying with it.

Unfortunately we are too familiar with leaders who are self-serving, egotistical or narcissistic. We cannot change these corporate issues overnight but we need to think about a different approach.

Try a poster on your wall: if this business were loving its customers what would it be doing?

Remember this is a journey, a mind set shift and you can’t do this overnight. Get a coach yourself and a facilitator for your team to discuss this and start to think about having these conversations with staff.

Let’s finish with The Velveteen Rabbit :

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are real you don’t mind being hurt.’

Do contact me for executive coaching face to face or SKYPE, mentoring and leadership speaking.

Want to be a great leader? Learn to Love

Welcome to my blog, one in a series looking at leadership characteristics. Here I draw on my own leadership experience and my work as an executive coach to share with you thoughts on what makes for a great leader. I consider there are a number of leadership characteristics you need to display and work on to be more than average.  I want in this blog to focus on the theme of LOVE.

Short on time have a look at this fabulous graphic provided by @engagevisually

150928 LOVE.under 2MP

Love is a strange and potentially difficult concept for some of you in the context of buisenss. I’m sure that you didn’t learn Love in Business School and we never talk love in the boardroom.  Well not in the boardrooms I have been a member of that’s for sure.

I like many of you went to business school and my MBA taught me useful skills and strategies for developing, running and growing business. It also taught me the latest thinking on leadership and management and I think with hindsight it acted as a badge of honour to validate my climb up the slippery corporate pole. It taught me particularly to assess and manage risk and ultimately it taught me that we lead through controlling and sometimes by instilling fear in the workforce. Boardroom talk is so often”meet your targets, keep the project on track, assess risks and avoid failure at all costs”. When you do fail then blame the business context, blame the workforce or worst blame the customers for being too demanding or for wanting something else.

If you love someone do you behave like that though?

Business school didn’t teach me how to really engage customers or staff beyond the business norms. I learnt that instead in business settings, from working with senior colleagues, through my reading and through my own experience of leading. I learnt that we need a radically different approach to succeed.

We need the opposite of strong and tough leaders and leadership by fear. We instead need to build business based on LOVE. To love our products, our customers and to love our staff. There is of course a paradox here with what we are taught in business school, practised in our work and how we do business in the west. Business settings often make us think that love is weak and inappropriate in business as it’s not defined by seeking power or control over organisations or others.

If we focus on love we also face a challenge if we are associated with teams and products we don’t or can’t love and don’t believe in. But, if you are in a business or a team you don’t love I think it shows. So, it’s in all of our interest to find ways to love our work and our staff or leave and find the work and people we can love. Unfortunately our approach to business is more often one of shutting down feelings, emotions and connectedness. I have worked for CEOs who have even said:

“No emotions in the boardroom please that makes me uncomfortable.”

Those sorts of business leaders have always troubled me and they often see me as trouble too. As I just can’t lead like that and I don’t think that’s the way to lead either. I’ve been told at times I’m too connected to the staff and customers and I should hold it all more lightly. But, if you want people to follow will they do it if you don’t take their needs seriously? If you don’t commit to them and the business? I don’t think they do and I think that’s why staff engagement is so poor in many of our businesses.

We instead look around at the businesses who are successful, especially the great entrepreneurs. We see that they love their products and they want to share that love with the world. They don’t grow their business to make money. Money is a by-product of a great offer and a great staff team always reside behind that offer. They love their customers and they get a huge sense of satisfaction with the customer’s pleasure and positive experience. They also go to the ends of the earth to fix problems in their business if customers and staff are dissatisfied. This sort of business leadership is rare and I fear becoming rarer in a world of cost cutting, competitive advantage, professional image and regulation.

Deloittes 2015 HR survey suggested culture, employee engagement and retention is now the most pressing challenge for business. So, my summary of their report is we need to find ways to love staff, even if loving is hard and sacrifices something of ourselves on the way. We need to find ways to keep staff and find even better ways to love them back to us if they are disengaged.  http://d2mtr37y39tpbu.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/DUP_GlobalHumanCapitalTrends2015.pdf

If you don’t believe focusing on love would make a difference to you or your team? Just throw into your next team meeting a couple of questions. Ask each team member to take five minutes and write down their responses and then to stick them up on a board.

  1. Tell me about the risks and challenges we currently face?
  2. What or who do you each love and how does that make you feel?
  3. Think about our business and tell me who or what do you love about this place?
  4. Think about our products and would our customers say they love them and why?

I tell you, the reactions will astound you, we are desperate to love, we look for love and we are brought alive by love. Whereas power and fear shut us all down and scare us out of innovation, creativity and motivation. In her book, Freedom from Fear, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Burmese opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi said, “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.”

The opposite of fear is love and the ancient Greeks had 30 words to describe love. Yet we have diminished love to just a few things.  We have often reduced love to erotic love, familial love and friendship love…..but what if we had a broader view of love and brought that to our workplace, our staff, our bosses the business we do,  our customers…how would that change the way we work?

If you remember the movie Jerry Maguire you will remember the character played by Tom Cruise. Jerry loved work with a passion, he loved his business that’s why he wrote that mission statement, that is ultimately why he got sacked in the opening scenes. No one else could get it, engage with it or pull down the façade of business and professionalism they had created. So, they thought Jerry was crazy. Jerry shared the love he had of his only player when he said:

“I am out here for you. You don’t know what it’s like to be ME out here for YOU. It is an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege that I will never fully tell you about, ok?”

But, for most of the movie Jerry never brought that out in the open into his leading or the way he led. He talked under pressure, in a wash room and angry about never fully telling it. Are you that leader? The one who loves? The one who wells up when a customer tells you how a product disappointed them or how brilliant it was? The one who loves but can’t share it?

I am that leader and I know many of you are too. But why are we scared to show that love and that connection with our product, our customers and our business. Why can’t we talk about love, celebrate it and mean it in business?

We have been shut down by a western view of leadership being about control, holding onto power and success being equated with strength. But deep down we feel a fraud as we know it’s something else that is needed isn’t it?

If we take a minute to reflect on these feelings of connection with staff and customers and our product we start to delve into agape which is the love of and for humanity or  philia, the love we feel from a shared experience. Then we are in touching distance of the space where we need to get to be great business leaders.

If we focus on how we can experience and grow love in an organisation rather than leading by fear and control how would that change us and those we work with? Well I think it would change everything. But we so often don’t do it because it is risky. We are not open in business as we fear that protectionism, envy and power are stronger than love. But look to history and tell me did fear and power and envy ever last in the end or was it eventually overturned by love? That’s why we need to love ourselves, our staff, our customers and our organisations. If we love them they will start to love us back.

I think we need to imagine our customers as our family and friends. We know how to love them don’t we? What would our business be like if we loved our customers and our staff like we love our friends, our family or ours sports team. Making it goo denough for your mum, sticking with them, going the extra mile, getting it right for them and staying with it, admitting it when getting it wrong also.

But be careful as for a start it starts with you as an individual and it will be costly as it would mean changing how you engage. You have to be open, authentic and vulnerable as love hurts. But without love you will slowly die and your leadership and business will not thrive as it might. CS Lewis said in his book The Four Loves:

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

Our public services and businesses and our staff need love and leaders who love them. We are so familiar with leaders who are self-serving, egotistical or narcissistic. We read of care scandals, over whelmed and exhausted staff and rules after rules and we know they are not the answer. We cannot change these issues overnight but we need to think about a different approach.

A few years ago I was working for the UK government and had the privilege of organising a study tour to Sweden to look at their model of Dementia care. I took about 20 senior leaders. Civil servants, Public health doctors, social services directors and general practitioners. We visited a number of care settings and met staff and leaders of those services. One day we were in a dementia day centre and the staff member was affectionately holding the hand of an elderly lady with dementia. She had her dog in the unit and would kiss her dog then spontaneous kiss the staff member. Another lady was cutting up apples for a pie (badly and slowly I must add). The place was happy and there was sense of calm, love and affection in it. We asked about lunch and were told they would eat when the pie was ready and that might be later than 12 noon. They operated like your family would, lunch came when lunch came and all contributed.  So very unlike any units you expect to see in this sort of care setting.

Later as a visiting group we discussed what we found and all concluded rather jokingly that based on what we saw we would like Swedish citizenship so we could be cared for that way. But sadly we reflected that in our system that model of care would not be tolerated as the professional boundaries and regulations were challenged by this approach. But we all agreed that they had love and that’s what we wanted if we needed care in old age.

We asked the leader later over dinner with us why the staff interacted this way and how they maintained professional boundaries when staff did this. Horrified she had misheard our questions she asking our interpreter to translate again. She then took a deep breath and replied:

“We love these people, we can’t do this work without love. We help them by being alongside them, they are not calm, happy or cared for without our staff loving them.”

The next day our meeting with another senior leader was delayed as there had been an incident overnight and she was being interviewed on TV  by local media. We assumed it was a death or a patient had disappeared from the unit. The sort of issues we would go to the media about in the UK. We were genuinely shocked to discover she had called the press in herself. To tell them the service had failed a lady by leaving her unattended and alone on the toilet for an hour and the staff were upset they had let her down. The sort of reaction you would give if you left your own toddler in the supermarket by mistake but not as a business leader. She was the leader of this service and crying on local TV about this incident as if it had happened to her own mother. That looked like love  to me.

So, how do we start to bring love into the business where you are? Start that personal and business journey today. Simply start to love and you will be loved by your staff, your team your customers. Ask your colleagues the questions I outlined above.   Put on your wall in your office a sign saying: if this business were loving its customers what would it be doing? Wait for your visitors to notice the sign and make suggestions.

Remember this is a journey, a mind set shift and you can’t do this overnight and it will hurt at times. Get a coach yourself and a facilitator for your team to discuss this and start to think about having these conversations with staff. When it hurts and is difficult you will need a safe place to take that pain and frustration and to keep working on it so you don’t shut down under the pressure to be open and real.

Let’s finish with that great book The Velveteen Rabbit – as this is how love really works:

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Do contact me for executive coaching face to face or SKYPE, mentoring and leadership speaking. I might be some of the difference you need and I would love to work with you on your leadership journey.

http://www.amandareynolds.org

Want to be a great leader? Learn to Love

Welcome to my blog, in this series I explore leadership characteristics. Here I draw on my own leadership experience and my work as an executive coach to share with you thoughts on what makes for a great leader. I consider there are a number of leadership characteristics you need to display and work on to be more than average.  I want in this blog to focus on the theme of LOVE.

Short on time have a look at this fabulous graphic provided by @engagevisually

150928 LOVE.under 2MP

Love is a strange and potentially difficult concept for some of you in the context of buisenss. I’m sure that you didn’t learn Love in Business School and we never talk love in the boardroom.  Well not in the boardrooms I have been a member of that’s for sure.

I like many of you went to business school and my MBA taught me useful skills and strategies for developing, running and growing business. It also taught me the latest thinking on leadership and management and I think with hindsight it acted as a badge of honour to validate my climb up the slippery corporate pole. It taught me particularly to assess and manage risk and ultimately it taught me that we lead through controlling and sometimes by instilling fear in the workforce. Boardroom talk is so often”meet your targets, keep the project on track, assess risks and avoid failure at all costs”. When you do fail then blame the business context, blame the workforce or worst blame the customers for being too demanding or for wanting something else.

If you love someone do you behave like that though?

Business school didn’t teach me how to really engage customers or staff beyond the business norms. I learnt that instead in business settings, from working with senior colleagues, through my reading and through my own experience of leading. I learnt that we need a radically different approach to succeed.

We need the opposite of strong and tough leaders and leadership by fear. We instead need to build business based on LOVE. To love our products, our customers and to love our staff. There is of course a paradox here with what we are taught in business school, practised in our work and how we do business in the west. Business settings often make us think that love is weak and inappropriate in business as it’s not defined by seeking power or control over organisations or others.

If we focus on love we also face a challenge if we are associated with teams and products we don’t or can’t love and don’t believe in. But, if you are in a business or a team you don’t love I think it shows. So, it’s in all of our interest to find ways to love our work and our staff or leave and find the work and people we can love. Unfortunately our approach to business is more often one of shutting down feelings, emotions and connectedness. I have worked for CEOs who have even said:

“No emotions in the boardroom please that makes me uncomfortable.”

Those sorts of business leaders have always troubled me and they often see me as trouble too. As I just can’t lead like that and I don’t think that’s the way to lead either. I’ve been told at times I’m too connected to the staff and customers and I should hold it all more lightly. But, if you want people to follow will they do it if you don’t take their needs seriously? If you don’t commit to them and the business? I don’t think they do and I think that’s why staff engagement is so poor in many of our businesses.

We instead look around at the businesses who are successful, especially the great entrepreneurs. We see that they love their products and they want to share that love with the world. They don’t grow their business to make money. Money is a by-product of a great offer and a great staff team always reside behind that offer. They love their customers and they get a huge sense of satisfaction with the customer’s pleasure and positive experience. They also go to the ends of the earth to fix problems in their business if customers and staff are dissatisfied. This sort of business leadership is rare and I fear becoming rarer in a world of cost cutting, competitive advantage, professional image and regulation.

Deloittes 2015 HR survey suggested culture, employee engagement and retention is now the most pressing challenge for business. So, my summary of their report is we need to find ways to love staff, even if loving is hard and sacrifices something of ourselves on the way. We need to find ways to keep staff and find even better ways to love them back to us if they are disengaged.  http://d2mtr37y39tpbu.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/DUP_GlobalHumanCapitalTrends2015.pdf

If you don’t believe focusing on love would make a difference to you or your team? Just throw into your next team meeting a couple of questions. Ask each team member to take five minutes and write down their responses and then to stick them up on a board.

  1. Tell me about the risks and challenges we currently face?
  2. What or who do you each love and how does that make you feel?
  3. Think about our business and tell me who or what do you love about this place?
  4. Think about our products and would our customers say they love them and why?

I tell you, the reactions will astound you, we are desperate to love, we look for love and we are brought alive by love. Whereas power and fear shut us all down and scare us out of innovation, creativity and motivation. In her book, Freedom from Fear, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Burmese opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi said, “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.”

The opposite of fear is love and the ancient Greeks had 30 words to describe love. Yet we have diminished love to just a few things.  We have often reduced love to erotic love, familial love and friendship love…..but what if we had a broader view of love and brought that to our workplace, our staff, our bosses the business we do,  our customers…how would that change the way we work?

If you remember the movie Jerry Maguire you will remember the character played by Tom Cruise. Jerry loved work with a passion, he loved his business that’s why he wrote that mission statement, that is ultimately why he got sacked in the opening scenes. No one else could get it, engage with it or pull down the façade of business and professionalism they had created. So, they thought Jerry was crazy. Jerry shared the love he had of his only player when he said:

“I am out here for you. You don’t know what it’s like to be ME out here for YOU. It is an up-at-dawn, pride-swallowing siege that I will never fully tell you about, ok?”

But, for most of the movie Jerry never brought that out in the open into his leading or the way he led. He talked under pressure, in a wash room and angry about never fully telling it. Are you that leader? The one who loves? The one who wells up when a customer tells you how a product disappointed them or how brilliant it was? The one who loves but can’t share it?

I am that leader and I know many of you are too. But why are we scared to show that love and that connection with our product, our customers and our business. Why can’t we talk about love, celebrate it and mean it in business?

We have been shut down by a western view of leadership being about control, holding onto power and success being equated with strength. But deep down we feel a fraud as we know it’s something else that is needed isn’t it?

If we take a minute to reflect on these feelings of connection with staff and customers and our product we start to delve into agape which is the love of and for humanity or  philia, the love we feel from a shared experience. Then we are in touching distance of the space where we need to get to be great business leaders.

If we focus on how we can experience and grow love in an organisation rather than leading by fear and control how would that change us and those we work with? Well I think it would change everything. But we so often don’t do it because it is risky. We are not open in business as we fear that protectionism, envy and power are stronger than love. But look to history and tell me did fear and power and envy ever last in the end or was it eventually overturned by love? That’s why we need to love ourselves, our staff, our customers and our organisations. If we love them they will start to love us back.

I think we need to imagine our customers as our family and friends. We know how to love them don’t we? What would our business be like if we loved our customers and our staff like we love our friends, our family or ours sports team. Making it goo denough for your mum, sticking with them, going the extra mile, getting it right for them and staying with it, admitting it when getting it wrong also.

But be careful as for a start it starts with you as an individual and it will be costly as it would mean changing how you engage. You have to be open, authentic and vulnerable as love hurts. But without love you will slowly die and your leadership and business will not thrive as it might. CS Lewis said in his book The Four Loves:

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

Our public services and businesses and our staff need love and leaders who love them. We are so familiar with leaders who are self-serving, egotistical or narcissistic. We read of care scandals, over whelmed and exhausted staff and rules after rules and we know they are not the answer. We cannot change these issues overnight but we need to think about a different approach.

A few years ago I was working for the UK government and had the privilege of organising a study tour to Sweden to look at their model of Dementia care. I took about 20 senior leaders. Civil servants, Public health doctors, social services directors and general practitioners. We visited a number of care settings and met staff and leaders of those services. One day we were in a dementia day centre and the staff member was affectionately holding the hand of an elderly lady with dementia. She had her dog in the unit and would kiss her dog then spontaneous kiss the staff member. Another lady was cutting up apples for a pie (badly and slowly I must add). The place was happy and there was sense of calm, love and affection in it. We asked about lunch and were told they would eat when the pie was ready and that might be later than 12 noon. They operated like your family would, lunch came when lunch came and all contributed.  So very unlike any units you expect to see in this sort of care setting.

Later as a visiting group we discussed what we found and all concluded rather jokingly that based on what we saw we would like Swedish citizenship so we could be cared for that way. But sadly we reflected that in our system that model of care would not be tolerated as the professional boundaries and regulations were challenged by this approach. But we all agreed that they had love and that’s what we wanted if we needed care in old age.

We asked the leader later over dinner with us why the staff interacted this way and how they maintained professional boundaries when staff did this. Horrified she had misheard our questions she asking our interpreter to translate again. She then took a deep breath and replied:

“We love these people, we can’t do this work without love. We help them by being alongside them, they are not calm, happy or cared for without our staff loving them.”

The next day our meeting with another senior leader was delayed as there had been an incident overnight and she was being interviewed on TV  by local media. We assumed it was a death or a patient had disappeared from the unit. The sort of issues we would go to the media about in the UK. We were genuinely shocked to discover she had called the press in herself. To tell them the service had failed a lady by leaving her unattended and alone on the toilet for an hour and the staff were upset they had let her down. The sort of reaction you would give if you left your own toddler in the supermarket by mistake but not as a business leader. She was the leader of this service and crying on local TV about this incident as if it had happened to her own mother. That looked like love  to me.

So, how do we start to bring love into the business where you are? Start that personal and business journey today. Simply start to love and you will be loved by your staff, your team your customers. Ask your colleagues the questions I outlined above.   Put on your wall in your office a sign saying: if this business were loving its customers what would it be doing? Wait for your visitors to notice the sign and make suggestions.

Remember this is a journey, a mind set shift and you can’t do this overnight and it will hurt at times. Get a coach yourself and a facilitator for your team to discuss this and start to think about having these conversations with staff. When it hurts and is difficult you will need a safe place to take that pain and frustration and to keep working on it so you don’t shut down under the pressure to be open and real.

Let’s finish with that great book The Velveteen Rabbit – as this is how love really works:

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Do contact me for executive coaching face to face or SKYPE, mentoring and leadership speaking. I might be some of the difference you need and I would love to work with you on your leadership journey.

http://www.amandareynolds.org

Bitesize Leadership & Gratitude

Welcome to my bite size. One of 12 blogs in a new series looking at leadership characteristics.

This week is likely to present you as a leader, or someone others call a leader with many new challenges. What if instead of being tough-minded and focused, firing off directives from the executive floor you went out and around your organisation saying thanks to people? What if at the end of each day you wrote down what you were thankful for in your day and also write down who you had said thanks to?

Research shows gratitude works as an effective leadership intervention. It will help build your presence and will help you specifically over time;

Change your perspective – as your mind will focus on the positives and the possibilities. Energy –You will  lead with more energy and commitment turning setbacks into opportunities. Outward focused you will find creativity to deal with the challenges your organisation faces. Resilience you will become stronger with greater psychological reserves.

Your team will feel valued – You will draw your team around you as they feel attended to. Getting it back – gratitude draws others in as when they start to experience your genuineness. 

Discretionary effort emerges – Staff start to know their efforts get noticed and work harder.

Morale will improve – The morale of your workforce will improve as they feel valued.

You become more self-aware –Gratitude given and received slowly opens genuine feedback. 

You will integrate your life – Being more at ease talking to the PA, post room staff, your kids. 

You will become a leader who has followers. 

So, how do you start? Start small, start private and start genuine.

Get a notebook keep it by your bed or in your work bag. Write down each day no more than five things you are grateful for.

Even on a terrible day when the trains late, a key buyer pulls out or your team misses monthly performance you still had a great cup of coffee.  If you are a real leader you are deep in the muck and bullets so a great coffee might be the best you can do. But, start there it will get better and bigger if you do this genuinely and for at least a month.

Once you have got the hang of the GRATITUDE LIST then start a second THANK YOU LIST list. Think of the people you said thanks to today, the bus driver, your PA for a great cup of coffee, your deputy who pulled off the deal for the team.  Notice this list, you might struggle to put one thank you down at first. You may notice you are rubbish at saying well done or thank you. So leave it blank and tomorrow commit to say one thank you to someone, and mean it.

Keep these two lists for a month then review yourself against the characteristics I listed above. Notice how the lists changed and developed and what  you learnt about yourself.

Like my approach? then do contact me http://www.amandareynolds.org to talk at a key event or to coach you or your team. Pictorial of the blog thanks to @engagevisually

Want to be a great leader? Leaders love difference

Welcome to my blog, one in a series exploring leadership characteristics. Here I draw on my own leadership experience and my work as an executive coach to share with you my thoughts on what makes for a great leader. I consider there are a number of leadership characteristics a leader needs to display and work on to be more than average.  I want in this blog to focus on the theme of difference or diversity in leaders and leadership teams.

Please don’t think this is for someone else in your team or that I will make a moral or quotas argument about board diversity.  I want to talk instead about the business, rational and logical case to love difference. This is really NOT an add-on to your business or something that your human resource team can lead on for you. You need to pay attention to this yourself to be more successful than your competitors.

LOVE-DIFFERENCE.with-shadow.SFW

I love to coach leaders as they identify their challenges, their business goals and grow their capability, confidence and self-awareness. I had the honour recently of coaching a leader who was looking to expand his team. When exploring what he needed in his team he boldly said:

I need to bring in someone with a very different profile and skillset to me and the rest of the team. I know it will be challenging and the organisation might find it uncomfortable. But, this place will only grow and develop a really engaging vision if I recruit difference.”

He is a leader with a clear goal, he is after DIFFERENCE and he knows why it matters to the growth of the organisation. I think he knows something about the vital role difference plays in top teams and organisations. I know from my own career and personal life how difference can be challenging. I, like others am always more comfortable with those like myself. Then when I look back my greatest achievements in life they have come when I led teams of difference or worked with those very different to me.

But why would a leader go out of their way to look for very different skills, skills they do not have or understand themselves?  Having the hassle of welcoming someone into the team who will not fit easily and may jar with colleagues and the organisation/team culture? That is madness isn’t it? You want people who complement each other and create team harmony for a great team, surely?  People who share the same values and ideas as you. People who will work with you easily. You want people like you surely; no you do not.

The evidence is mounting that loving difference is what you need to do if you want your business to rise above the mediocre and win over its competitors. It is also definitely what you need to do to engage the discretionary effort and maximise the morale of your workforce.

This thinking of mine is not new, in fact Stephen Covey said “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.”  It’s been around awhile but I think it is still not taken seriously enough. Many Boards are still not making it core. Businesses and leaders are falling behind because they are ignoring it or worse deliberately avoiding difference in their teams or belittling its importance.

But, meanwhile a minority of businesses are seeing the benefits. They will overtake you if you do not get DIFFERENCE into the core of what you do and how you do business.  And that’s exactly what Mckinsey in their recent research found. More diverse boards do equal more profit and have a more successful impact in their market segment. Mckinsey do not say categorically why that is but they suggest some reasons.

I agree with Mckinsey that the CEOs and chairs they found who are open to, value and seek out difference in people around them and in the strategies pursued are then leading more successful companies. Mckinsey go as far as to say they are putting diversity as a core business goal and there is best practise here to watch. These are boards it seems where gender, race, sexuality, varied social backgrounds, belief, age and disability are seen as valuable assets not barriers to success.  You can read the full summary here:

http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/organization/is_there_a_payoff_from_top-team_diversity

And of course you want to lead the most successful team in your field don’t you? You do not put in the hours and heavy lifting to come home and say I was average today or my team was mediocre do you? If you want to be the most successful business in your field then you need the best team. Many CEOs and Chairs spend a great deal of time with coaches and recruitment agencies considering how to achieve this. But what if they are looking in the wrong places and working with coaches and recruiters too like them? It seems you only get real success by seeking out difference, not the same. Maybe the first thing you could do is fire your recruitment agency or your coach and find a DIFFERENT one!

Patrick Lencioni in his New York Bestseller “The five dysfunctions of a team – a leadership fable” starts by stating:

“Not finance. Not strategy. Not technology. It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.”

Patrick writes convincingly and with much real expertise from coaching executives and teams. But his 5 dysfunctions needs the addition of a 6th dysfunction avoiding difference. Yes we do need to build trust, engage in conflict, build commitment and accountability and focus on the results. BUT we must also seek the different, the divergence, the new, the unusual the downright weird. As in this place is the breakthrough you need in your business and to avoid it you are likely to be a breeding ground for the horrors of Group Think. Group Think is not another new concept either. In fact it was first coined by psychologists in the 1970s. In my work with organisations and leaders I still find it far too prevalent four decades on. Irving Janis in his work at Yale described Group Think and its real dangers as:

“The more amiability and esprit de corps there is among the members of a policy-making ingroup, the greater the danger that independent critical thinking will be replaced by groupthink.”

So the crazy idea I suggest is you need to build a team that will make life more difficult, more different to you, less harmonious and more conflicted at times. Through this difference you and your business will become more successful in your field.

Malcolm Gladwell in his latest book “David and Goliath” sums up how assumptions and current paths to the top table do not get us diversity in thinking, approach or strategy and he says:

“We spend a lot of time thinking about the way that prestige and resources and belonging to elite institutions make us better off. We don’t spend enough time thinking about the ways in which these kinds of material advantages limit our options.”

We know leaders and business are less trusted now than ever before and we know when we look up at the top table they don’t look much like the rest of us. So, advantages as we measure them, the right school, college internship and CV aren’t advantages. They potentially stop you connecting with your organisation and your customers. You need difference in your team to see different and be different to the rest of the field.

And teams need this difference as teams that are full of people who are too alike often are not harmonious. They can breed constant internal tension and focus turns to individual status, ego and MY results instead of the whole organisational success. Difference stops the internal competition and comparison that is always so tempting to fall into in top teams. In teams where difference prevails the focus shifts to competing together against the world and to grow and succeed together. A good analogy would be to fix a door you need wood, hammer and nails, three of one won’t do it.

We need to go a bit further than just recruiting difference in our teams and organisations we also need to be different ourselves. I recently interviewed a CEO of a very large public sector organisation. He had taken on an organisations that was in a mess and one that has had high profile interest for its many problems from government and regulators in the UK. He was past his retirement age and shared with me how he was leading the organisation back onto its feet and to be a leader in its field. His background was not traditional CEO as he had spent a number of years in research, strategy and policy development. He did not fit the bill for the shortlist. He wasn’t a current deputy CEO, chief operating officer or finance director.  He said to me in describing the rationale for his approach which was different to his peers:

I am not like my CEO peers in other organisations. I have not come through that route and I don’t have status and belonging to that group to hold me back. I’m going to turn this organisation around the way it needs to. It will not be comfortable for me or the Board. But I’m past retirement age so what is the worst that can happen to me? They might fire me.  Then I will say thanks for giving me a try and I will go home to the cottage by the sea and put my feet up!”

He is an outsider with the passion, vision and energy to make the change. He is not reckless and he is building a very clear strategy to develop his organisation. Because he is not part of the pack he can challenge and change things without fear of what he will lose. He does not need the approval of peers and he is not looking for it either.

Malcolm Gladwell sums this quality up as being disagreeable, and my CEO friend, lets call him Ted is clearly disagreeable in his approach:

“Crucially innovators need to be disagreeable. By disagreeable I don’t mean obnoxious or unpleasant. ……They are people willing to take social risks – to do things that others might disapprove of.”

So how do you develop a team that is difference or disagreeable? and how do you work on your own difference? There are a few thing you could try and they build on my Curiosity and Gratitude blogs. If you are serious about being different and loving difference get a coach and a team facilitator if you don’t have one already. Get a coach who isn’t like you but someone who is different to you and your team. Here are some thoughts on what you could do and you will need your notebook again:

  • Go out and about and notice people in your organisation “the ones who are most unlike you”. Take time to talk to them about the business and get their feedback.
  • Who comes to mind as trouble when you implement a new plan at Board? The one who won’t like it or complains about it. Go see Joe, Fred or Betty ask them to explain what’s wrong with your plan, say thanks and just write it down.
  • Who is the quiet one in your team? Take them out to coffee and ask them to tell you what they think about how the business is doing and what could we improve.
  • Look at your top team psychometrics again or get them done. And see what skills and preferences you have lots of and what is missing in team.
  • Go visit a successful business in a completely different field and reflect on what they seem to be getting right.
  • Find out all you can about the main competitors in your field and ask where they are different to you in team and approach.
  • Ask yourself and your team if we made diversity core to our business what would we do differently?
  • Ask yourself if I could recruit any business innovators past and present and from any field to my team who would I pick and why?
  • Reflect on when you last had someone very different in your team, how did you feel or how did you react to them? What have you learnt from this experience.
  • Find out from your team: what is the worst job they ever did? And what was a big event in their childhood? Tell them yours also.
  • Now take some time out to reflect on what’s in your notes and what it is saying to you? Reflect on what surprises you.
  • Set up a top team day and tell your team what you are hearing from outside, ask them to share what their reflections are on this feedback.
  • Start to devise your refreshed business strategy with your team based on what you have learnt
  • Ask your top team one by one and privately to buy in to the new refreshed strategy and direction. Offer them an opportunity to step aside if they don’t want to do the tough work in a DIFFERENT team.

This will not be easy, it will be harder work but you WILL get better results.

So, in summary difference is what you need in your team and your organisation and different is what you need to be also. Maybe you are more different than you let on and maybe on your journey to the top you have hidden your unique attributes and difference? Don’t hide yourself anymore,  be authentic and it will make you a better leader if you share your difference.

“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
― Nelson Mandela

Do contact me for executive coaching, mentoring and leadership speaking. I can travel to you or I offer high quality Skype coaching. I might be some of the difference you need and I would love to work with you on your leadership journey.

http://www.amandareynolds.org

Can you be a great leader? Experience failure

Welcome to my blog, one in a series on leadership characteristics. Here I draw on my own leadership experience and my work as an executive coach and share with you my thoughts on what makes for a great leader. Did you try to be more curious ? I do hope that you did. Because if you are trying to be more curious then your brain is already growing in strength and size as it forms and deepens connections. Don’t forget to write down what you are learning and discuss it with your leadership coach. This will really help you grow in your self-awareness also. Growing self-awareness is a nice link in to my next topic, failure. I’m sure you are feeling both intrigued and maybe a little uncomfortable right now. Short on time then take a look at the great graphic by @engagevisually

3.-MAR.-FAILURE.SFW-1600high

We don’t talk about failure in leadership much do we? In our fast paced business environments with many challenges we focus instead on performance and delivery. It all about success and more success, leaders can’t be allowed to fail, can they? So, what happens to the leaders who do fail? We know in our hearts and from research that many of them do? I think they go quietly out of their role, in hushed tones, ashamed to talk about what went wrong in a world where success is so prized. We talk about them though don’t we? not to them but we do talk and wonder about their failure and how on earth it happened. And, how we can avoid it. Because deep down we may suffer from imposter syndrome, am I good enough? Will I be able to hold the performance of my team together? Will my company grow and survive this market? How will I navigate the choppy waters ahead? How the heck do I keep my life in balance and be great at work and at home also?

Don’t kid yourself  the odds are stacked against you also. With 40% of CEOs failing in their first 18 months and even more failing to live up to their company board expectations in the medium term. But, you don’t have to be on a leadership track based on the statistics. You should though start to expect failure and learn from it. Even get to a  place of embracing the failure.   I am not wanting you to become pessimistic and disabled by the thought of failing. I know that failing as a leader can be a catastrophic life event but it does not have to be. I want to suggest a new way of approaching failure. I believe that we all fail as leaders and we will go onto fail more as our careers progress. Even if we don’t make it out of the door, box in hand as the next big firing, if we are leading then we will fail at some point. In fact I suggest we need to experience failure to get success. We need to engage with the failure and learn from it. I also don’t actually think we will succeed unless we fail.

Crazy but true, look at some of the great business leaders over the life of their careers. Take Walt Disney, failure after failure but that’s not the story we remember is it?  His first animation company in 1921, he had to dissolve it as distributors didn’t pay him.  Then Universal took his cartoon rabbit and claimed ownership and stole his Disney artists to work on it!  MGM told him Mickey Mouse would terrify women on the big screen. He was told Three Little Pigs & Snow White would not sell. Pinocchio production was shut down due to spiralling development costs. When he did premiere it, his publicity was a disaster as the 11 people he hired got drunk, then stripped naked and ran around New York!  He experienced failure upon failure, but he learnt from his failures. Failure brought him insights and wisdom that success would not and so he then went on to great successes.

The ones we really need to worry about in business are those leaders who think they never fail. I know you have met them and recognise them. You definitely cannot fail around them as failure is seen as a moral failing. Then there are those who hold the badge of CEO but are not leaders but managers. You recognise them also as they were recruited for their technical skills. Maybe a finance or chief operating officer by background. They carry on like they did in their previous role and subtly use power and processes to coerce their organisation and staff. These are people that John Kotter (1990) would describe as transactional and not transformational. You work for them and ache to discuss vision, purpose and the impact that your organisation is having on the customers.

Or worse still they are failing and have no idea of the failures they are presiding over or the impact of those failures on their staff or their organisations performance. They lack insight into the role of  leadership and do not have the antennae leaders need to spot what is really going on. They have not developed their antennae because they never engage their team, do not look at themselves, they never ask for feedback and they never look at wider industry and its advances. Recognise that boss?

So why do leaders fail? Are there some common characteristics. In a fascinating book   “Lead like it matters because it does” published by McGraw Hill (2014) Roxi Hewertson, CEO of Highland Consulting Group and AskRoxi.com lists five reasons why leaders fail: Over or under confidence – not leading confidently and so not taking people with you or being over confident and rather too big for your boots. Approaching leadership with the wrong expectations – many leaders have a limited idea of what they are getting into when they take on a leadership role and don’t realise that growing and leading their team is key to success. Lack of training in the skills of the leader – leaders fail when they try to apply the technical skills they acquired on the journey to the role of the leader. It requires different skills now and they need to be learnt and mastered to succeed. Ignoring the need for a healthy team – leaders need a team around them, they need to build that team and develop healthy interpersonal relationships with and within that team,. They need to build trust and the will to follow them in others. They have to keep working at this listening and growing themselves on the way also. Failure to listen – leaders often feel they need to be directive, to have all the answers and tell not listen. They need to learn to listen, not to jump in, to reflect, to engage and develop the organisation to find the answers.

So, why is failure important, something to engage with and not run away from? As I stated earlier if we are truly leading we will fail, we will sometimes push too hard.  We may be in a culture that does not fit well, not take people with us and not get the change happening. Leader don’t operate in a vortex so we might be failed by the business context or by our own organisation. We may have a vision and values not aligned or we might have an innovation or idea ahead of its time.

Do not run away from your failure instead let the failures be your teacher. This is difficult I know as with a sense of failure often comes despair, guilt and a sense we are inadequate in some way. Those emotions are normal but failure is not an end, it can and often is instead a beginning. It just requires us to look at ourselves.  Ask yourself, with the support of your coach: Where did I fail? Were the examples above speaking to me? Were there signs of impending failure that I missed? Were people trying to warn me and did I not listen? What have I learnt? How did this failure impact my values? What is my leaders vision and how do I stay on track? What can I do next time? Who should I have working alongside me? How can I turn this lesson into a success in the future?

Then encourage yourself to try again, be easy on yourself, and others when you fail and keep talking about it. Surround yourself with “life enrichers” who will help you to rebuild and move forward. Walt Disney learnt to recognise business people around him. He described three types: “There are three kinds of people in the world today,” Disney said. “There are ‘well poisoners,’ who discourage you and stomp on your creativity and tell you what you can’t do. There are ‘lawn mowers’ – people who are well- intentioned but self-absorbed; they tend to their own needs, mow their own lawns and never leave their yards to help another person.

Finally, there are ‘life enrichers’ – people who reach out to enrich the lives of others, to lift them up and inspire them. We need to be life enrichers, and we need to surround ourselves with life enrichers.” So, in summary we leaders need to develop mastery of ourselves and be around life enrichers. We need to become self-aware to our strengths and most importantly our weaknesses. We need to spend time reflecting on where we got it right but more importantly where we got it wrong. We need to admit the failure(s) and we need the support and affirmation of a great coach or mentor to do this with us and to avoid us falling into negativity or despair as we reflect. We also need to be aware of others in the team, how they also will succeed and fail and how we must help them move forward on their journey also. We need to be transparent and show some humility and humanity to those around us knowing that we all fail but we can succeed also. Only if we are open to failure and to learning from it  as a continuous circle of leadership improvement, only then will you be effective as a leader. Do contact me for executive coaching, mentoring and leadership speaking. I can travel to you or I offer high quality  Skype  coaching. If you want to learn then I would love to work with you on your leadership journey. http://www.amandareynolds.org

Can you be a great leader? – Try CURIOSITY

Welcome to my blog, where I explore leadership  characteristics. Here I draw on my own leadership experience and observations from my work as an executive coach.  I hope you tried out gratitude after reading my last blog. If you did, I am certain you are already seeing a difference in your self-awareness, your resilience levels and your energy levels. You could say I am curious about leaders and the qualities of the best leaders. But, I am curious about many more things and I want to encourage you to develop your skills of curiosity also. In addition to gratitude I think curiosity is an important and under developed skill for leaders. So, do read on, but if your short on time do have a look at this graphic that captures the key messages.

2. FEB. CURIOSITY. Graphic. SMALL

Some of you may at this point want to close my blog thinking, oh yes curiosity if only I had time for that! I am too busy running this place, dealing with business and financial strategy to take time out to be curious. You may be thinking about the other dictionary meanings of the word curious and conjure up in your mind strange, unusual peculiar, bizarre, freak or deviant. Or maybe a parent or teacher comes to mind telling you to FOCUS,as “curiosity killed the cat!” All of those views on curiosity are limited.  For starters the proverb was never originally intended to be “curiosity killed the cat”. The original form of the proverb, now little used, was “Care killed the cat” and is attributed as early as Shakespeare. In this instance, “care” was defined as “worry” or “sorrow.”  It got changed in the 18th century to “curiosity killed the cat” as feminine and feline characteristics were deemed unproductive.  We can agree that worry and stress are disablers for leaders in complex organisations. So, it’s conceivable to think worry would kill the cat also. So, if curiosity didn’t kill the cat but worry did then you might just be seeing curiosity a little more positively now. The other interesting thing about curiosity is it leads you in all sorts of different directions. Curiosity is where we have a strong desire to learn or to know something. Evidence is mounting that learning something new grows your brain functions. That’s where the concept of brain neuroplasticity comes into play. Scientists are discovering that the adult brain can still grow,change and develop and can actually be trained to improve. The flip side if you don’t keep growing your brain or its functions it will diminish. The best way to grow your brain is to learn something or do something new. When you are learning a new skill and you repeat it, or access a memory you grow your brain by making new neural connections. As a leader with all the business challenges you face every day, wouldn’t it be great if your brain was bigger, reasoning quicker and your ability to solve problems more effective.  Some of you are already curious and this blog will be a relief and reinforcement to you leaders. Practising curiosity can help you as a leader but I bet curiosity has not been top of your list as a leader maybe FOCUS has. With your education, your parents and teachers, your college, your organisations they all encouraged FOCUS. Focus on the grades, FOCUS stop day dreaming, FOCUS on getting into the best college, and be FOCUSED in the interview to get the job and boy do you need to be FOCUSED to succeed in business too. I’m not suggesting you toss out focus. Curiosity is not the opposite of focus. If practised curiosity will encourage your brain to change and grow and it can enhance and develop your focus, it will develop your self-awareness, you will think quicker as you make connections across new and sharper neural pathways and your skills and tools will grow. You will spot opportunity, new people, new contacts, and new ways to do things also. This is not magic it will require work and practise just like developing your focus required time effort and practise. Focus has developed the skills and depth of experience that got you to the top table, didn’t it? Well yes it did, but on its own it will not help you now you are there. How do you grow into the 70% of the job of a CEO that your experiences and qualifications never prepared you for? You need to develop yourself and awareness of others, develop radar for what might be, what is out there, what and could be different and what is coming over the hill. You need the ability to lead and engage your staff to follow the company journey. No business survives if it does not grow, change or take its staff with it, especially the diverse thinkers. SAID Business School in their recent CEO report described in their review of leader competencies a new type of leadership intelligence that is needed in addition to emotional and contextual intelligence. From their research the best CEOs seem to possess something they call ripple intelligence. It helps them do the job and continuously adapt and grow personally to keep succeeding as a CEO. Quoting Dr.Michael Smets, Ripple intelligence is described as: “The ability to see the interactions of business contexts like ripples moving across a pond.  It enables CEOs to envision how trends and contexts may intersect and change direction, so they can anticipate disruptions, make time to plan, and protect against being blindsided by unexpected events. Ripple intelligence also makes CEOs aware of their own impact and how it may influence contexts that might otherwise seem remote and unconnected. ” http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/sites/default/files/Press_Office/Docs/The-CEO-Report-Final.pdf Practising curiosity is a tool that could help you develop ripple intelligence. Start small and like with gratitude do not try anything too ambitious initially. Your brain will need some training here. I know you don’t have much time and with all these years spent focusing you might just find being curious strange and a little tough. Here is a possible small exercise. Find somewhere quiet and undisturbed and set a timer on your watch or phone just for 2 minutes (it will seem like an age). Now get your mind to FOCUS on the present. Think of a small baby, how it uses curiosity to develop its focus by staring at its hand. Just staring at it, and the curiosity and the focus sit together. The curiosity over time when practised develops in the baby the focusing of the optic nerve. So, your curiosity will develop your skills, remember that as it feels strange, your Brain is a muscle and practise will start to stretch it. So now like a baby just look at your hands really look at your hands. Notice their size, their colour, your nails are they short or long? Are they in need of a manicure? Are they grubby from gardening, or are your fingers stained with ink from the pen that leaks? Maybe your skin is a bit dry, is the skin ageing, are the veins noticeable? Do your hands have a light tan from a week skiing maybe? What story do your hands tell you? Time up….just leave it there for today. Tomorrow I want you to notice the hands of others. Glance at them when you shake hands, look at your partners hands, look at your kids hands, let your eyes settle for a moment on someone’s hands on the train or the bus. Look around your board table to see colleagues. What do their hands tell you? Anything just think anything?  Ignore the thoughts in your head telling you this is rubbish and get back to the day job. Just be curious have a look and a little reflection. Keep practising this for a week and see what and who you start to notice, you might want to jot those thoughts down to come back to later. Please ignore the negative thoughts. You will not get immediate external results as this is inside work. You are growing your brain and it takes a little time and practise.    If you want inspiration think of a creative who solve problems, who bring great ideas into play and determine to remain curious yourself.  Read about business breakthroughs like Virgin Airlines and Richard Branson. He went on a delayed and disrupted flight and became curious about how to fix it. He didn’t run airlines, he had no experience in that field but he became curious, questioned and now we have Virgin Airlines. If you found this exercise intriguing you will probably want to move on to something more taxing. Just remember this isn’t a competition.We are building new connections and sharpening those neural pathways so you can move onto some bigger stuff now. You could:

  •  Take something apart, look inside see what’s there and how it all fits together and then try and put it back together – make sure it’s belongs to you first or family and friends may not thank you.
  • Buy a magazine on a subject you do not know about and take time to read it.
  • Take an elder out to lunch (a neighbour maybe) ask about their life story.
  • Ask someone different to you what the latest movie was they saw, go see it.
  • Take up a hobby, not one you’ve done before though, or, learn a language or try painting.
  • Go to a different restaurant, pub or holiday spot.
  • Join a group or volunteer.

Keep alert and after each activity make a note of what you saw, felt, did, and what is happening? What am I seeing? Who am I meeting? what am I learning? what is different here? Share these reflections with your leadership coach as they can help you process, reflect and help you grow that brain function a bit more. I promise that practising curiosity will help you as a business leader as it will unlock different perspectives. You will start to solve problems because you are open to new ideas, experiences and finding solutions in the less obvious places. You might find improvements in your energy, motivation, business innovation and taking people with you, especially those different to you, in age, gender and race and background. You might just hear a great idea in your organisation and be curious to find out more. Most of all when your organisation hits uncertainty and choppy seas you will remain positive. You have not been here before, but you know you can find a way through because your brain has learnt and is still learning to make new connections and think more. the unusual is not scary its is a new opportunity to learn and to grow. So go on, have a little try at being curious and remember what Albert Einstein said; Never lose a holy curiosity. Contact me for executive coaching, facilitation and keynote speeches at http://www.amandareynolds.org

 

Cats, power and building barriers in the NHS

well my cats territory now well & truly invaded and 5 year plan suggests move to patient power will personal budgets & self care not just black cat power !!!

blendassociates

In the last year or so we have talked a lot about NHS culture in the media, blog posts and in the Francis inquiry. How the culture is wrong, how we need to change culture. I think we use “it’s the culture” as an excuse to keep doing what we have always done and so we get the same results. Saying it’s the culture is also a way to quieten down those who might challenge the status quo.It all then becomes about keeping going and survival. Some NHS managers and leaders act like my cat when another cat enters her territory.

In the garden today I can see my cat on the fence in a “Mexican standoff “with a black cat. Hissing and howling and just sitting, balanced on a fence refusing to shift. My tabby just digs in and exerts her power on the status quo. I’m not shifting…

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sick of group think and set backs in progressing equality in the NHS

This weekend I have read my way through a challenging and important report for the NHS by Roger  Kline.

“The snowy white peaks of the NHS: a survey of discrimination in governance and leadership and the potential impact on patient care in London and England.” Middlesex University.

If leaves me troubled at the situation we find ourselves in, with data going the wrong way on numbers of Black and minority ethnic staff (BME) and women leaders in the NHS. It not just the NHS either. Statistics tell us in the top teams of the Whitehall civil servants, those who chair national committees and MPs in Parliament numbers of black and ethnic minority staff and women are reducing not increasing. This is at the same time as our country becomes more diverse and dynamic.

How long will Theresa May hold on as the token women in cabinet I wonder? She may just need those kitten heels to stamp on those trying to push her out of her cabinet room chair. How long can Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer Keep putting up with “being the only woman in the room.” Yes, there has been outcry in the news and reinforced actively via social media.  That’s important and talk amongst current leaders including NHS Employers and the NHS Leadership Academy about needing to do something urgently is happening.

But, talk quietly and off the record to those who lead board development and undertake executive coaching in the NHS and they will tell you the sad facts.  Women who apply for CEO roles are taking 4 times longer than men to get their first post and for the rest of the board appointments look at the colour pictures on websites. 80% of the time you will guess the ethnicity and its mostly white, middle aged and male. We need action and its urgent now and Rogers work puts a loud hailer to the problem.

This isn’t just about numbers and complying with the Equality Act. Though being lawful is the first step and an important one. This is much more about the sort of NHS we are growing and developing. Can this NHS that we have been so proud of for 66 years survive the future if it does not reflect the population it serves?

How will we be truly patient centred and help people from different communities manage their own long term conditions? Where will we begin to help patients stay independent into old age and work with the capacity and capability of their families and communities to support them? That’s before we turn attention to how we maintain the morale of the staff we employ. If we do not have diverse leadership teams then we do not have people who have walked in their shoes and understand their challenges.

One of the most striking things ever said to me more than 8 years ago was a plea from a psychologist when I left a role as a provider director. She said:

“Amanda keep working full time in senior roles and keep progressing upwards in your career. Because when a mum works full time with small children at a senior level and talks about it then we all believe we could do it too.”

This is one of the problems I suspect our BME staff face, lucky to make it to an 8 grade post then they look up at the white peaks populated by tiny numbers of BME staff and many more men than women and don’t believe it could be them.

Beyond rending our garments what can we do? Well I think it has to start with all of us who are leaders and who are coaches in the NHS. As we are there at the top of the mountain and the BME staff are not. We have to make this as important as financial balance and quality of care. Monitor and CQC need to challenge us and themselves to do that too. As successful private sector companies have realised for a while now board diversity does breed success.

But, do we sit quietly in dark corners and think yes we need to do more, but surely the best people are the most talented and ambitious and they apply and secure promotions. Maybe men and white people are just better – we would not dare say that in 21st century multi-cultural Britain would we? We know it’s just not true, more than 50% medical school students are women and numbers of BME doctors continue to increase. Ability deficits are not the issue here, its opportunity and the unconscious bias or group think of the status quo leaders at the top – all of us.

My teenage son, still on his 3 weeks Easter break attends a state boarding school that holds International school status with the British Council. He therefore lives and learns with many black and Asian children (around 30% of the boarding students are Black or Asian and in rural Norfolk!) I asked my son to describe what he knew about the careers his friends wanted and he reeled off lawyer, architect and lots wanted to be doctors. It’s a hard working, high performing school. I then asked him about all the staff in the NHS and asked what does he think is going on if the leaders are not more mixed he said ITS NOT ABOUT THE LACK OF ABILITY MUM.

I’m proud my son lives, learns and grows up within a diverse community as I hope he will be someone comfortable to work and progress alongside other ambitious people of all backgrounds.

But back to the NHS, as Trust Boards finalise their corporate plans and objectives I suggest you take a look at the NHS EMPLOYERS website and their 10 top tips for diversity;

http://www.nhsemployers.org/your-workforce/plan/building-a-diverse-workforce/equality-and-diversity-in-practice/top-ten-tips

There is lots more great advice via the NHS Employers website on equality and diversity we just need to decide to act on it as leaders and ask for the help to make a difference.

Finally, in 1966 a White Irish Catholic US Senator went to South Africa, the first white US politician to do so during apartheid. While in South Africa he challenged the status quo, right there in South Africa, in the height of apartheid while Nelson Mandela was locked up on Robin Island. He didn’t see it as the responsibility of the BME community to address this, he did something himself as a privileged white leader.

He directly challenged thinking on apartheid and the organisation of life in South Africa by saying in a speech:

“But suppose God is Black, what if we go to heaven, and we, all our lives, have treated the Negro as inferior, and God is there, and we look up and he is not white? What then is our response?”

And of course the irony this Easter is that God is black, white, Asian, male, female, fit, disabled straight, gay, old and young. Because He made us all in his image and guess what, the NHS is that diverse too.

I urge us as leaders to do what we can to change this situation. Challenge ourselves, challenge our teams, and challenge our organisations to let others in, even if that means no place is left for us on the not so snowy peak.