The A to Z of OD: Q is for Questions

Is consulting about offering your own solutions, or working collaboratively with clients to generate solutions jointly? The former involves telling, advising, recommending. The latter involves asking, diagnosing, exploring possibilities. I guess the answer depends on what sort of consulting you are offering. Perhaps you are an IT expert and there really is one best way of implementing a solution. More likely, you are engaged in collaborative consulting. OD is collaborative consulting. The A to Z of OD continues. Q is for Questions.

The Paradoxical nature of change

The paradox of change is that if you push too hard, it resists. If you let go, often it comes more easily. It’s the same with OD. If you seek tightly-defined solutions, elegant models, rigorous frameworks or SMART outcomes, people can become sceptical and resist.

OD is the planned approach to change, and yet it is equally invested in the process-centred journey as it is in the destination-focused goal. “What we need is better practice,” muses management guru Henry Mintzberg. “Not neater theory.” What he is saying is, “What we need is better questions, not neater solutions.”

Self as instrument of change

The practice of OD is the practice of asking questions. And it seems we’re in fashion: mansplaining is out, humble inquiry is in. It requires offering our vulnerability that we do not know the answers and that we might just find a path toward change by working together.

And by asking a question, the OD practitioner is intervening in the system – he is using himself as an instrument of change. OD scholar Ed Schein offers suggestions for some opening questions in his 2013 book Humble Inquiry:

“So…” (with an expectant look)

“What’s happening?”

“How are things going for you?”
(Note: not “Hi, how are you?”, which is likely to elicit a closed response, “Fine.”

“What brings you here?”

“Go on…” (or my personal favourite version of it, “Can you say more about that?”)

“Can you give me an example?”

The critical point here is to remain curious. To “seek first and then to be understood” as Dr Stephen Covey would have it. Yes, have an opinion, and yet at the same time hold it lightly. Explore everybody’s ideas equally, sincerely and with humility.

Some types of questions

There are good uses for open questions to explore issues, “What is keeping you awake at night?”, closed questions to focus, “So you are saying…, is that right?”, and choice questions, “on a scale from 1-10, how would you rate the current situation?”

There are several useful facilitative questions, used by people chairing or facilitating meetings to generate accountability in the other people present and move the conversation on, from, “What happened?”, to exploring root causes (why?) and possibilities, “How can we improve?”

There are also some very special types of questions, such as Nancy Kline’s incisive question, “If you know that you are [positive assumption, e.g. highly regarded by your client], what will you do differently?”, or the agreement frame from NLP, “I appreciate you want to [insert other person’s desire], how can we do that and [insert your own desire]?”, e.g. “I appreciate you want to dramatically increase sales; how can we do that through influence rather than pushing our clients too hard?”

Of course OD practitioners need to have insight too. There is a time to inquire and a time to advocate your opinion. Usually in that order.

OD thought leader: Robert E Quinn (b. 1946)

Robert E Quinn is a professor at the University of Michigan School of Business, specialising in HR management and organisational behaviour.

He believes organisational change cannot happen without deep individual change. He believes everyone in an organisation has the power to change the organisation. These ideas are set out in Deep Change, in which Quinn articulates a set of principles for personal transformation.

He suggests too many people are living their lives out as a version of ‘slow death’ for fear of rocking the boat. He suggest you choose deep change over slow death. This requires courage, sacrifice and hard work. It requires reflection and self-inquiry, looking inwards to ask yourself what you really, really want, what you believe, and how you will find the strength to begin to change. You might well need the support of a coach yourself. It is worth it. Avoid slow, creeping death and discover the new you through deep change. The new you can change your world.

Recommended reading: Quinn, Robert E., (1996) Deep Change: discovering the leader within, Wiley, NY.

Next time: R is for Reflective Practice.

The A to Z of OD: L is for Leadership

People get awfully confused about leadership.  What is it?  How is it different from Management? Can anybody be a Leader?

At the risk of adding to the confusion, here’s my deceptively simple definition:

“Leadership is the power to organise ideas into action.”

Leadership is not the same as Management

Let’s start by contrasting Leadership with Management.  Management is the act of overseeing a process.  In an organisational context, the processes managers oversee are often referred to as business processes.  In manufacturing, business processes turn inputs into outputs.  This concept can be extended to business processes in other sectors – there will always be some form of inputs (data, designs, resources) and business processes turn these into outputs that customers want (information, products, services).

Leadership, on the other hand, is the power to organise ideas into action; the power to change.  World-renowned wellbeing guru Deepak Chopra argues the power to change derives from a combination of creativity – the seed of an idea for the future – and the desire to enact it.  The desire to enact it requires organisation.  Such organisation requires you pay attention to the present to make your intention a future reality.  This is the essence of organisation, the essence of leadership.

Anybody can be a Leader

I believe everybody can be thought of as a leader.

The desire to enact a future intention, coupled with the capability to make it happen is all you need to be considered a leader.  You do not need a job title.  In an organisational context, the future intention is sometimes called a vision.

I believe there are really only three levels of hierarchy in any organisation: strategic leaders, operational (or service) leaders and individuals (who to some degree lead themselves).  Everything else is ‘fluff’ to justify job titles, pay grades and HR functions.

  • At the individual contribution level, you are a leader if you choose to do something that aligns to the vision, then make it happen
  • At the operational/service leader level, you are a leader if you organise others to deliver the activities that deliver the vision.  You probably have ‘supervisor’ or ‘manager’ in your job title, or perhaps ‘head of…’
  • At the strategic leader level, you are a leader when you – collectively with others – organise the whole system to deliver the vision (the whole system comprises things like strategy, operations, people, structures, planning and performance mechanisms, engagement and team culture – see The A to Z of OD: J is for Joint Diagnosis).

Leadership development at any level is about developing the Four Cs of Leadership

The skills and experience you need at each level are different, and depend on the organisation, the nature of its activities and the scale of the activities in which you are involved.

However, the leadership behaviours are uncannily similar across organisations, industries and sectors.  And they relate to the power to organise ideas into action.  Four elements must be present:

  • Commitment to the idea itself – the commitment to a vision
  • Competence, i.e. the ability to act – the leader must be good at some aspect of the activity in which they are engaged, and must be able to organise themselves to make progress towards that vision
  • Communication – the vision and the steps needed to move towards it must be articulated to influence and mobilise others.  Even at the individual level, turning thoughts into actions involves saying what you are going to do (even if you only say it to yourself inside your own head)
  • Change orientation – whereas management is about overseeing a defined process, which is fundamentally about stability, the leader must embrace change to make the vision a reality.

These are the Four Cs of Leadership.  You can build your leadership capability by considering the extent to which each of these is fundamentally embedded and working effectively within your organisation.

OD Thought Leader: Kurt Lewin (1890 – 1947)

Through conducting field experiments in social science, Lewin proposed many models and techniques that formed the bedrock of early OD practice and endure today.  He created an action-oriented approach to his research into everyday social problems and drew from Gestaltism and psycho-analytics to create the new academic (perhaps ‘pracademic’? i.e. both practical and academic) field of Social Psychology.

On individual behaviour and group dynamics: Lewin’s equation

Lewin proposed that how individuals interact with each other create the world in which we’re living.  In turn, the world we have created shapes individual behaviours.  This proposition strikes at the heart of the nature/nurture debate, demonstrating that both nature and nurture interact to shape who we are as individuals.

He coined the term ‘group dynamics’, meaning how groups of people interact to survive and thrive in changing circumstances.  He suggested that groups unify as a whole system and cannot be understood by only studying individuals.  The whole is different (and greater) than the sum of its parts.

On Organisational Learning: Field Theory and Action Research

He excelled at turning everyday problems into psychological experiments, which he termed Field Theory.  An early observation revealed, “intention to carry out a specific task builds a psychological tension, which is released when the intended task is completed.”  This was the foundation of social psychology.

Action research (another Lewin-coined term) involves participating in resolving a social problem, whilst simultaneously conducting research into that problem and how it is solved.  It is inherently reflexive.  It is related to Action Learning (see the A to Z of OD: A is for Action Learning).

On Change: Force Field Analysis and the Ice Cube Theory of Change

Lewin found that people, teams and organisations tend to become frozen by a combination of driving forces that are propelling them forwards towards their goals and restraining forces that are holding them back.  By analysing these forces, individuals, teams and organisations can prioritise the actions to remove restraining forces and encourage driving forces so that they unfreeze and then can move forwards towards their goal.  See also The A to Z of OD: I is for the Ice Cube Theory of Change.

Recommended reading: Jay Marrow (1977), The Practical Theorist: the Life and Works of Kurt Lewin, New York, Teachers Press.

Next time: M is for Metaphor

The A to Z of OD (Part III continued): C is for Climate

Earlier in the week, I covered C is for Culture.  Continuing the letter C, this beautiful blog post about organisational climate is contributed by freelance OD practitioner Lucy ThompsonLucy is a creative OD Specialist, Changemaker and Coach.  She typically leads the people aspects on major transformational change programmes, focusing on delivering organisational effectiveness and team performance.

Creating the right Climate for Culture to Flourish

I was reminded today of the simplicity of a flower in nature – when you see a flower growing beautifully and thriving, the last thing you do is pick it.  You leave it to be nurtured by nature-  safe in the knowledge that this flower had found its place in the world and the climate it was growing in was enabling it to be the best version of itself it can be.

A climate in an organisation is often referred to as its culture.  You only need Google ‘culture’ and ‘organisation’ to find a raft of insight, models and diagnostics that can help put labels on what is happening at any one time in the organisation and its system.

Many an OD practitioner will tell you that culture is a direct descendant of the team at the top.  Leadership shapes culture.  It’s the way leaders walk, the way they talk, the messages they send and the way they bounce back when things might not have gone as planned. 

Creating high performing leadership teams

Taking this a step further, the leaders in an organisation are a team in their own right – they might be members of several teams but their ‘first’ team is their peer group and the purpose of their roles is to work together to steer their ship to success (whatever that might look like for them).  Therefore, if this team shapes culture, then creating high performing teams must start with the top team.  This creates the right climate for OD – simple enough? Yet why do many organisations struggle with this concept?

Patrick Lencioni is a true hero of mine.  He really puts out in to the ether a simple construct of a high performing team and its characteristics.  No long-complicated words or theory, no model that requires you to follow a tube map of arrows to understand the end goal.  Quite simply the five behaviours of a cohesive team are Trust, Conflict, Commitment, Accountability and Results – simple when you know how, right?

 For OD to flourish in organisations, the culture needs to be right: it needs to enable OD practitioners and their practice to be the very best version they can be, and this means the work starts at the top.  Enabling the cohesive team can be the gamechanger for the success of organisation development and its interventions.

Next time: C is for Change

What do we mean by “New Ways of Working”

This blog is contributed by Shirley Wakelin, Wisework Partner. It is based on a discussion amongst the Partners on new ways of working held in December 2017.

The past decade has seen increasing noise around new ways of working. Concepts such as agile, flexible, activity-based working, employee engagement, company culture, etc. are ever more commonplace.

It’s a big topic.

As a group of consultants sharing an interest in supporting organizations through transformational change, the Wisework partners network reflected on what we mean by ‘New Ways of Working’, and what’s driving companies to invest in making these changes.

The following summarizes highlights emerging from an initial round table in December 2017.

New ways of working, by definition, are not the old ways of working. Much of what we see in organizations today grew out of the industrial age, and many companies are still operating in ways echoing the 19th century. New ways of working is about designing systems fit for the 21st century and beyond.

Time, place and contract are all important

The concept of time is a key shift. Going to a place of work 9 to 5, or for set shifts, and time being a measurement, has changed considerably. Now the focus is more on output, with the emphasis moving toward the individual choosing how and when they deliver on expectations.

Another difference is place of work. With technological advances, people no longer need to be in the office to deliver their work. The introduction of flexible working practices appears to be growing trend. That said, the group observed that the effectiveness of these policies varies significantly, all too often ‘flexibility’ is, in reality, extremely limited.

The contractual relationship is also evolving. The conventional way has been a fixed job, full-time, permanent, whereas the new way is seeing an emergence of a looser contractual relationship, the ‘gig economy’, where people own their time, and are paid for the product, services or outputs they deliver.

Subtle changes to management and leadership

So time, place and contract were noted as three major shifts, and there are other perhaps more subtle changes emerging; the nature of management and leadership for example.

Management historically has been about overseeing the work. This ‘taskmaster’ mindset is about knowing what needs to be done and directing employees to deliver. The word control emerged; controlling time, controlling what, controlling when, controlling where.

A different mindset is emerging now: it’s about helping people to do what they need to do, where they need to do it, and when. It’s about facilitating performance excellence, learning and growth. It’s about enabling employees to adapt. And it’s about bringing the best out of people.

The group acknowledged that this shift in mindset is creating challenges for some; the fear that without control, chaos will ensue. In many ways, the new way of working is asking managers to become leaders; to engage people in a shared vision and guide them along the way.

Importantly, the group recognized that there’s no ‘one size fits all’. A new way of working will be informed by multiple facets; the heritage and history of a company, the people employed, the infrastructure and resources available, the customers, competitive environment etc. Each of these has a role to play in defining the way a company needs to operate to thrive in the future. It’s an evolutionary process.

Are you ready to lead a robotised workforce?

The next generation are ready to embrace robots into their lives.  The future is now.  Are you ready to lead a robotised workforce?  Strengthening your leadership skills can help you navigate the new digital landscape. 

The digital revolution will not be televised

Whether you are digitising post-sales customer support, introducing robotic process automation (RPA) into your back-office, or enabling customers to self-serve through online portals or apps on their phones, it is likely you are feeling some anxiety and stress from the ever-increasing exposure to digital technology on your business.

Today’s leaders are expected to empower their teams and deliver digital transformation at the same time.  The digital revolution will not be televised to be re-run later, so you can pick over it and learn the lessons in hindsight.  The digital revolution will be live.

What is the need for human leaders?

Commentators suggest we are drowning in new ‘always on’ technology that pervades modern life.  At work, this is not simply a technology matter, but rather an issue that goes to the core of what it means to be a leader.

In his most recent book, Conquering Digital Overload, Wisework’s Peter Thomson examines the effects on core activities that were once the preserve of human leaders: providing support, focusing on results, seeking different perspectives and solving problems.

Thomson and his co-authors explain how the digital revolution is stripping away the need for expert human leadership.  When the internet can provide knowledge and empower groups of people to find their voice, they ask, what is the need for human leaders?

Could a robot become a leader?

The leaders who survive and thrive the digital revolution will work across organisational boundaries by putting their customers at the heart of their business processes.  This means that businesses can best embrace digital transformation by using technology and artificial Intelligence to help prioritise customers’ needs and directing them towards appropriate services 24/7.  Research by Oxford University suggests 47% of UK jobs will be lost to digitisation by 2050.  Thankfully, you’ll still need ‘the human touch’ to coordinate – or ‘lead’ – the delivery of those services.

This means we need more and better-quality collaboration, and the ability to lead the whole system.  Robots cannot do that, not yet anyway.

Whole system leadership

Whole system leadership tams collectively attend to strategy, operations and relationships.  To do this effectively you need to develop a collaborative mindset and skillset in your leadership team.

I’ve helped several leadership teams in different sectors strengthen these skills through coaching and set-piece development.  Agile leaders are already deploying live strategy frameworks and investing in efficient shared services and digitisation to ensure their strategy remains flexible and responsive to emerging customer needs.

The most effective leaders I speak to are also explicitly working on their relationships.  This investment includes developing value-adding relationships with key customers, suppliers and other partners by becoming truly collaborative .  It also includes engaging colleagues in a vision of how digital technology can improve their working lives and the quality of the services they provide and investing in skills to deliver those services excellently in a digitised world.

Now is the time to develop your leadership skills

To be ready to lead the digital transformation of your business, it is more important than ever to develop a collaborative mindset and keep your leadership skills current and relevant.

We can’t afford to wait for others to show us the way.  And so – if not you, then who will navigate the complexity of leading a digitally augmented workforce?

 

Jeremy Lewis, March 2018

Jeremy is a Wisework Partner http://www.wisework.co.uk/partners

This post was first published on Wisework’s blog http://www.wisework.co.uk/content/robots-versus-humans-battle-leading-future-work .

 

How to make a fruit salad: the difference between knowledge and wisdom

There is a difference between knowledge and wisdom.  Knowledge can be picked up in the classroom, by reading a textbook and – to some extent – through experience.  Real world wisdom, ‘capability’ if you will, can only be picked up through experience.  Leadership can be understood through gaining knowledge, but leadership capability can only be developed through experience, applying that knowledge in a range of situations.

A tale of two leaders

I’m going to demonstrate this idea by showing you how to make a fruit salad.  Not a hard thing to do.  So, let’s do it from two different leaders’ perspectives, each with the assistance of a five-year-old child.

Leader #1: let’s call him Father*

“We’re going to make a fruit salad.  You’re in charge, I’ll help you,” said dad.

“Okay, what do we do?” replied Sam.

“Chop up some fruit and put it in a bowl,” continued Sam’s dad.  “I’ll chop, you mix.”  Then, nodding towards the fridge, “Get the fruit.”

This is going well, thinks dad, and the task at hand progresses.

“Tomatoes are fruit, aren’t they daddy?” Sam suddenly exclaims.

Leader #2: Let’s call her Mother*

“We’re going to make a fruit salad.  I’ll lead, and you can help,” said mum.

“Okay, what do we do?” replied Sam.

“What do we want in our fruit salad?” continued mum.  “How should we get started?”

This starts a conversation.  Sam feels involved and excited that they are doing something new together.  This is going well, thinks mum, and the task at hand progresses.

“Tomatoes are fruit, aren’t they mummy?” Sam suddenly exclaims.

Key leadership tasks

Our parent-leaders have taken different approaches to five key leadership tasks: visioning, translating the vision into a plan, defining the task, communicating the plan and deploying their resources.  And they both seem to be getting on with the task, and with Sam, reasonably well.

There are three other things leaders do: motivate the team, control and evaluate team performance and lead by example.  Let’s look at how mum and dad might deal with these aspects of leading Sam.

1. Leaders grasp opportunities to motivate their team

How will the leaders now respond to the killer question?  In other words, how will they motivate Sam to maintain performance?

Laugh?

Ask Sam to explain her thinking?

Just say “no”, without explanation?

Say, “Trust me, I know what I’m doing”?

Brush the question aside or even brush Sam aside?

Get angry?

Plans are not set in stone.  Questions from the team are a great opportunity to motivate… or to demotivate!  What would your response be?  What would your boss’s response be if you or someone else in the team were to ask what may seem to be a silly question?

2. Leaders control and evaluate performance effectively

Here are two ways our Mother/Father leaders could control the task and evaluate Sam’s performance:

  1. A coaching/nurturing style. The parent might question Sam on her* progress, probing where necessary and guiding her to adjust her approach: “How’s it going?”
  2. A directive/controlling style. Performance expectations are set unilaterally by the parent, who is more concerned about when deviations from the plan will be rectified than how this will be achieved: “You’re not doing it right!”

Ask yourself honestly, which sort of leader are you?  And is this always appropriate?  It might be some of the time.  Flexing your style only comes with experience.

3. Leaders lead by example

Sam’s attitude to the task of creating the fruit salad could go one of two ways:

She might get particularly excited, “This is going to be the best fruit salad ever!”  The leader has built capability and kept motivation high.  The leader might even ask how we can make the salad even better to elicit further growth and innovation in her* team.

Or, Sam might become frustrated, “I can’t do it!”  In which case the leader has a tougher challenge on her hands.  She might choose to take over, or might suggest an alternative role for Sam.

The true character of a leader is often revealed under stress.

Perhaps, being dependable under pressure is more important than being charismatic or in control?

What is leadership anyway?

Think of a great boss you’ve had; and an awful one.  What words would you use to describe the awful boss, the worst you’ve had?  And how would you describe the greatest leader you’ve worked for?  Write a description of that person’s behaviour.

Regardless of your answers, consider this definition of leadership:

Leadership is the power to organise ideas into action; the power to change.

Leadership is not management – processes need managing, organisations need leading.  This is because organisations are (by definition) collections of people achieving something together.  These collections of people create a collection of systems.  As that system becomes more complex, subsystems emerge, each specialising on one aspect of the organising activity.  These subsystems develop different objectives and can be in conflict in terms of what they consider most important.  Hence, they need organising in pursuit of the common objective.  This is the essence of organisation, the essence of leadership.

And, finally…

Let’s hope the fruit salad came together for Sam and her parent(s).  Sam has built her knowledge and experience.   She and her parents have, in their own way, built organisational capability.

Knowledge x Experience = Capability

You need both knowledge and experience to generate leadership capability too.  You can get knowledge by attending courses, reading books or being shown what to do.  When it comes to developing leadership capability, some classroom training may help.  Learning in the real world through experience will propel you faster and further.  This requires other support such as 360-degree feedback, psychometrics, coaching, mentoring and action learning to reflect on your leadership impact in the real world.

Some call it wisdom.

Or in other words,

Knowledge understands a tomato is a fruit.  Wisdom understands not to put it in a fruit salad.

 

* It is not my intention to suggest a gender divide in leadership, or indeed in followership, styles.

 

Jeremy J Lewis
March 5, 2018
Committed to making a difference in building organisational capability

Tips to maintain your energy for change

I had the very great pleasure of working with a large group of CFOs this week, who are coping with some gnarly transformational changes in their organisations.  We were looking at how to lead change so that it sustains.  We were looking for tips to maintain your energy for change.

In one session, we considered how people move through the change curve – from everything being okay, through denial once a major change is announced, into a confused state as we work through what the change means for us and finally towards renewal.  This follows Claes Janssen’s simplified change (curve) model – the Four Rooms of Change – Contentment, Denial, Confusion, Renewal.

The four rooms of change

I invited the group to come up with their own words to define each of these ‘Rooms’ in which we live; each of these four states of mind.  States of mind that everyone goes through when working through change.  Here’s some of their thinking:

  • Contentment – confident, creative, cerebral, fun, sociable
  • Denial – stubborn, apathetic, intense
  • Confusion – unpredictable, lonely, narcissistic, moody
  • Renewal – individual, free-spirited, kind, enthusiastic, spiritual, rational

It strikes me that leading change starts on the inside.  We all react to change when it happens to us from the outside-in.  Learning to recognise our own emotional response means we can make more active choices in how to respond, rather than react.  How we can maintain our own energy for change, so we can help others cope with it too.  How we can internalise the change, so we work with it from the inside-out.  This, I believe, makes us better change leaders.

The way we are working is not working

It also reminds us of the words that describe working in different zones we operate in as described by Tony Schwartz in The Way We work Isn’t Working.  Schwartz suggests we work in one of four zones:

  • The Performance Zone, when our energy and activity is high, and we feel optimistic
  • The Survival Zone, when our energy and activity are high, but we are running around doing so much. In this Zone, our emotional state is negative, we become pessimistic about work, we retreat into silos, protecting ourselves from the outside world.  We are just about surviving
  • The Burnout Zone, when our energy drops too and it all becomes too much
  • The Recovery[1] Zone, when we find time to recover from the pressures of work, energy remains low (we are recovering after all), however we regain our optimism, and become ready to move back to the Performance Zone.

So, what?

I suspect these two models are saying very similar things.  Here they are overlaid onto one another:

When the pace of work and change becomes too much, our performance slips, we can find ourselves operating in the Survival Zone.  This is like the Room of Confusion, we might find ourselves feeling lonely or moody.  We may become narcissistic and unpredictable.  We might also stumble through the doorway to Room of Denial and become apathetic, appearing to others as stubborn or intense.  These are the signs we are moving towards the Burnout Zone.

The trick is to find ways to move freely between the Performance Zone and the Recovery Zone, so that we remain optimistic and enthusiastic, whilst slowing our energy and activity to recover, and then using our renewed energy to keep our performance high.

And so, the question becomes: what can you do to maintain your energy for change?  To find time in your routine to recover from the pressures of work – where the pace of change is ever-increasing – and keep your performance high?

Three tips to maintain your energy for change:

  1. Find your own words to describe the four Rooms or Zones. Then, notice when you are feeling that way, it is probably an indication you are already in that Zone, or moving towards it
  2. Work out what renews your energy – this might be mindful meditation, sport or exercise, social activities, hobbies or clubs. At work, it might simply be finding time to leave your desk and go for a walk or have your lunch with others away from the office.  It might be finding time to #JustBe.  Outside of work it might be reading, listening to or playing music, painting or simply have a long soak in a hot bath.  This tip helps you discover your own Recovery Zone.
  3. Mindfully choose to spend time in your Recovery Zone. Schedule it in your diary if needs be.  For example, I have time blocked out in my diary entitled #JustBe.

You might find you start to spot the signs of the Survival Zone or Burnout Zone in others.  If so, you might want to encourage them to think about their own Recovery Zone.  You should also find you can spot the signs of the Performance Zone or the Recovery Zone in others and choose to celebrate their achievement!

 

Jeremy J Lewis

Committed to making a difference in leading sustainable change

[1] Schwartz calls it the Renewal Zone.  I have changed the name so that it does not become confusing when comparing with the Four Rooms of Change model

Robots versus humans: the battle for leading the future of work

Book review: Conquering Digital Overload, edited by Peter Thomson, author of Future Work and Director of Wisework, the leading authority on the Future of Work

Conquering Digital Overload is a fascinating inquiry into the stress caused by digital technology on businesses and society at large and provides some practical tips for leaders to navigate the new digital landscape.  It suggests we are drowning in the new ‘always on’ technology that pervades modern life and that for governments and businesses, this is not simply an ICT issue, but rather an issue that goes to the core of what it means to be a leader.

With useful research findings on the effects of digital technology, the book examines the impact it has on every facet of our lives, surfaces the anxiety and stress caused by digital overload and highlights the effects on core activities that were once the preserve of human leaders – providing support, focusing on results, seeking different perspectives and solving problems.  Thomson and his 15 co-authors explain how the digital revolution is stripping away the need for expert human leadership.  When the internet can provide knowledge and empower groups of people to find their voice, they ask, what is the need for human leaders?  They go on to suggest expert human leadership is needed to prevent the tyranny of crowds making populist and yet poor decisions.  And to preserve the health and wellbeing of organisations.

We can’t expect governments to regulate effectively.  And so – if not you, then who will navigate the complexity of leading an artificially intelligent workforce?

Jeremy J Lewis

Committed to making a difference in developing leaders

January 16, 2018

Coaching others

Coaching others to improve performance

Coaching others improves performance

In SMEs and charities, coaching others is probably the most cost-effective thing you can do to improve performance.   It helps identify solutions to specific work-related issues.  It allows fuller use of people’s talents.  And it demonstrates your commitment to the individuals in your team and their personal development.

This half-day workshop will help you develop coaching skills as a management style.  It is ideal for anyone interested in understanding how to use coaching or a coaching style to improve performance and help people develop in their own organisation.

Learning outcomes include:

Δ       Understand what a coaching style means and how it might be used every day

Δ       Review some key frameworks and tools so you can start managing people differently

Δ       Practise the skills needed to coach effectively at work.

Booking

Venue:

Hurol Ozcan Enterprise Centre
Leeds Trinity University
Brownberrie Lane
Horsforth
Leeds
LS18 5HD

Date:                      1st November 2017

Time:                     09:30 – 12:45 (arrival from 09:00)

Price:                     FREE

Directions:

Use LS18 5HD for SatNav, free parking if attending the Leeds Trinity Business Network, otherwise pay and display charges apply

Book now on Eventbrite

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/coaching-others-to-improve-performance-workshop-tickets-38280574228

Click here to read more about our coaching offer.

Understanding the public service leadership challenges

The challenges

The public service leadership challenges of cuts, confusion and change have become the norm.  The basic elements needed to lead through this ever-changing landscape are: clarity over direction; adequate support to adopt change (preferably in the form of budgets for resources and development) and positive consequences for delivering the change without damaging services.

There is now a growing realisation amongst public sector leaders that each of these elements is irrevocably threatened: confusion has replaced clarity; cuts have replaced adequate support and negative consequences have replaced any semblance of positivity.

For too long, individual leaders have sought the answers unilaterally, while the pressure to retain accountability mounts daily.  They have done this while struggling to have influence that the right things get done within an evolving democratic Political process.

Individual leaders cannot be expected to have all the answers.  The solution requires whole system leadership.  This means that learning to collaborate is essential, both within organisations and between partners in other public organisations, and in the private and third sectors.

Evidence-based recommendations

Recent research supports the need for leaders to balance collective leadership and accountability with changes in the Political process:

In The 21st Century Public Servant, the University of Birmingham  asked questions around what is the range of different roles  and requirements on  those responsible for delivery 21st century public services and what are the support and training requirements for these roles.  In a 2016 report, the Institute for Government undertook a study on the impact of elected regional mayors on ministerial and local accountability, reporting that “success of local collaboration and innovation will depend on the strength of local accountability.”

The latest leadership research, Leadership: all you need to know, (Pendleton and Furnham, Palgrave, 2012), suggests that individual leaders cannot be expected to have all the answers.  Leadership requires strategic focus, operational focus and a focus on developing relationships.  Leaders are probably strong in one or two of these and very rarely all three.  The answer is of course to develop collective leadership where the top team has access to all these capabilities.

This evidence points to the need for public sector leaders to understand more deeply their own leadership strengths and development areas and consider how to build collective leadership to face the challenges of cuts, confusion and change.

Supporting leaders to rise to the challenge

In 2013, in association with the LGA and Skills for Government, Solace published Asking the right questions following consultation and a number of interviews with serving CXs to understand the key challenges they faced and the skills and behaviours they believed were required by their peers and those aspiring to such roles.

Working with CMdeltaConsulting, Solace have now adapted the thinking from both sets of research to suit a broader leadership population and develop collective accountability for public sector leadership – the Leading in Context Framework

The framework can be accessed by individual leaders taking a free self-assessment diagnostic questionnaire, available here.  The tool works by presenting you with 30 statements relating to your experience at work.  Once you have selected the responses that most closely represent your experience or usual way of working, you are immediately presented with a brief report that shows your strengths and development areas against the Leading in Context Framework

Next steps

We can build the solution to the current challenges together.  Using the free diagnostic questionnaire and report, individual leaders can deepen their own understanding of their leadership strengths and development areas, build a shared understanding of the leadership challenges and perhaps increase their collective accountability to develop as leadership teams and across multi-agency partnerships.

 

Trudy Birtwell – Head of Leadership and Organisational Development at Solace

Jeremy Lewis – MD at CMdeltaConsulting and Solace Associate

Note for editors

Solace (Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers) is the representative body for senior strategic managers working in the public sector. We are committed to public sector excellence. We provide our members with opportunities for personal and professional development and seek to influence the debate about the future of public services to ensure that policy and legislation reflect the experience and expertise of our members.

CMdeltaConsulting is a specialist consulting, coaching and facilitation firm that focuses on whole system leadership and collaborative partnering.  We are committed to making a difference in helping senior leaders and the teams they lead thrive.  Working directly with public sector leaders, we support and challenge them to ensure the changes they need to make stick, partner and coach them throughout their change journey and build the skills they and their teams need to face tomorrow’s challenges.  We support public sector organisations in Local Government, Health and the Police.