The A to Z of OD (Part III conclusion): C is for Change

Today, we finalise the letter C in our A to Z of OD.  We have seen C is for Culture, and C is for Creating the right Climate for Culture to Flourish.  Today, we consider the big one.  Today, we consider Change itself.  It is a huge topic and I have considered it from the perspective of OD as a humanistic, systemic approach to achieving sustainable change.

This post was in part inspired by my former colleague Francis Lake.  Francis is Head of OD at Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banking Group; he reminded me of the importance of the emotional response to change and the need to think long-term when planning change.

C is for Change

It strikes me, from my experience of facilitating transformational change in many different organisations, that change often appears to be driven from the ‘outside-in’.  Typically, this is in response to the external environment, economic considerations or technological developments.  This is clearly rational; however, it can lead to short-term changes being implemented that do not last long.

More sustainable, long-term change requires changing from the ‘inside-out’.  This requires consideration of the whole organisational system.  It starts by looking internally at how different parts of the organisation are aligned to meet its primary purpose (see the A to Z of OD Part I) against those external factors, i.e. understanding that the whole system includes the external stakeholders and operating environment.

Motivation

Earlier in Part III of the A to Z of OD, we explored culture and the importance of creating the right climate for culture to flourish.  There are three core factors that combine to motivate employees to take on change: feeling safe (adequate reward and psychological safety), social factors (working relationships and recognition) and self-actualising factors (autonomy and personal development).

As I outlined in The A to Z of OD: C is for Culture, managers’ and leaders’ behaviours – such as more participative management styles, colleague engagement, recognition and rewards and encouraging personal development – both enact and symbolise the culture by stimulating motivation so that organisations access discretionary effort from their workforce.

Past-Present-Future

That notwithstanding, people fear change.  They are apt at romantically reconstructing the past through rose-tinted spectacles, editing it to create myths of a glorious bygone age.  This is organisational nostalgia.

Organisational nostalgia is often at odds with the case for change, which is expressed optimistically, yet rationally, in formal business cases and enacted through tightly-controlled project disciplines.  This future-oriented approach explicitly hides emotions.  People get the message that emotions are bad; nostalgia is bad.  And like some movie of a dystopian future where the (emotional) humans battle against the (rational) machines, “Resistance is Futile!”

You can see how this might represent a major (psychological) problem.

By recognising both these opposing positions, I believe OD must build a case for change by taking a different perspective; revealing rather than denying the nostalgics’ stories from the emotional past, the reality of the present and the optimistic journey to the future.  This requires a process-centred approach to change, rather than a destination-focused project plan.

Outside-in vs inside-out

OD can:

  • Help individuals recognise and challenge their natural responses to change
  • Adopt a process-centred approach to change
  • Select a change strategy to promote motivation rather than tackle resistance
  • Tap into emotional nostalgia to better understand the past and how the organisation got to where it is today before visioning the future and how to get there.

This, I believe, is how long-term, sustainable change is delivered.

OD Thought Leader: Stephen R. Covey (1932 – 2012)

Based on his PhD research into world religions and other codes of practice throughout human history, Covey synthesised a list of seven habits that encourage people to live principled lives, and to choose to change from the inside-out rather than decide to change purely as a response to external influences.

The first three habits encourage people to move from being dependent to being independent: (1) be proactive, (2) begin with the end in mind and (3) put first things first.  The skills that underpin these three habits are often described in organisations as positive behaviours and offered as personal development interventions, i.e. (1) taking accountability, (2) aligning activity to an overall mission and (3) prioritising important work over work that is simply urgent.

The next three habits are about moving from independence to interdependence: (4) think ‘win-win’, (5) seek first to understand, then to be understood and (6) syergize.  These are often offered in OD as team development, e.g. (4) collaborative working, (5) coaching skills and (6) teamworking so that more can be achieved than working alone.

Habit 7, Sharpen the Saw, aims to promote the concept of continuous learning.  In OD, this aligns to the concept of the Learning Organisation.

Whilst written from the perspective of personal development, there is much to learn in Seven Habits from an organisation development perspective.  I particularly like the way Covey draws from fundamental principles of what is to be human as taught be elders throughout history, across the world, and makes it relevant to today’s organisational context.

Recommended reading: Covey, S. (2004). The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. London, Simon & Schuster.

Next time: D is for Design

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

The A to Z of OD (Part III): Cis for Culture; C is for Change

This is the third part in a series of articles that will set out the A to Z of organisation development: the principles and practices, the tools and techniques and the past and present thought leaders that have shaped the field.

In fact, this part is itself in three parts.  Today, I’ll cover Culture.  The second part to follow is a beautiful blog post by freelance OD practitioner Lucy Thompson, who will reflect on creating the right climate for culture to flourish.  Finally, later in the week, I’ll turn to change, which was in part inspired by my former colleague Francis Lake.  Francis is Head of OD at Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banking Group; he reminded me of the importance of the emotional response to change and the need to think long-term when planning change.

Many other people have commented via LinkedIn or by contacting me directly on what they would like to see included in the A to Z of OD.  Big thanks to all – just like Lucy and Francis today, you’ll get a namecheck when your ideas come up in the alphabet!  And if you want to guest blog a topic or thought leader, then let me know.  You’re more than welcome to get involved in the conversation.

C is for Culture

“Is this the real life; is this just fantasy?” so a certain Mr Mercury asked the world in 1975.  At some point in the Eighties, organisations started asking themselves the same question about their own existence, their own cultures.  Academics argued that organisations could have their own distinct cultures, their own shared values, beliefs and norms, and that there would be competitive advantage from aligning these with the needs of their stakeholders.  What followed is a global change consulting industry now worth in the region on US$250bn per annum.

A fair chunk of the consulting industry is about changing organisational culture.  I shouldn’t really complain as I am a very small part of this industry myself. Changing the culture is only possible if culture is real, or in other words that you believe the way people live, work, interact with each other and come together to achieve something jointly creates and re-creates the “ever-changing world in which we’re living” (McCartney… apologies, I seem to be stuck in some sort of 70s pop music frame today).

If we believe that is the case, then culture is real and if it is real, it can be managed.

How do you change culture?

Like any other change, a common approach to managing culture is to diagnose the current state (using tools such as the Culture Web), envisage a desired state and plan to move from the current reality to the new, future reality.  Much of a culture change plan tends to surround influencing the role of leaders to develop the culture through symbolic means, most notably through their behaviours (see: B is for Behaviours).

And so, many OD practitioners encourage organisations to set standards of behaviours through scripting them (“this is what we are looking for”; “this is what we are not looking for”; that sort of thing) and embedding them into individual objective setting, performance review and personal development planning.  Managers’ and leaders’ behaviours – such as more participative management styles, colleague engagement, recognition and rewards and encouraging personal development – both enact and symbolise the culture.

This approach has become pervasive across all sectors.  It uses culture management as a tool to advance organisational effectiveness, to stimulate motivation and to create linkages between the organisation and the employee – a sense of belonging, often referred to as a sense of family.

And when used purposively, it seems to work; it benefits both the employee and the organisation; and hence the customer and other stakeholders; and hence the primary purpose of the organisation.

What could go wrong?

If culture can be managed, it can be manipulated too.  I’m not sure organisations are like families. Organisations still tend to favour tasks over relationships, they still discourage emotional expression.  And membership of organisations is less permanent than in real families, particularly during periods of organisational change.  Power and leadership differ significantly, and family members are less likely to mistrust each other.  Also, families are predicated on Parent/Child relationships.  Many organisations work like that too, whereas the culture we seek in organisations is Adult.  Oftentimes, ‘Family’ is a poor metaphor for the organisational culture we seek.

To make things worse, employees who believe in the team-family metaphor can become colonised by their organisations.  The very same organisations who may then have to announce redundancy programmes in pursuit of benefiting one stakeholder group (shareholders/governors) over another (employees).

In the face of these conflicting messages, employees become ambivalent: on the one hand believing the organisation is adding value to their lives beyond their salary, whilst harbouring fantasies of autonomy and other forms of escape from the psychic prison in which they have become trapped. This manifests as worsening performance, lower motivation, and a desire for Work-Life Balance.  Work-Life Balance has become a socially acceptable form of dissent.  Organisations that espouse Work-Life balance can inadvertently make employees anxious.  I suspect Work-Life Integration is the antidote to anxiety.

The only way to avoid this risk is to ensure the espoused culture is real, which means it must be lived day-to-day.  You must favour relationships as well as tasks, encourage emotional expression, flatten power hierarchies to become more democratic, build trust through Adult relationships and encourage Work-Life integration.  This creates the right climate for culture to flourish.

Next time: C is for Creating the right Climate for Culture to Flourish

The A to Z of OD (Part II): B is for Behaviours

This is the second part in a series of articles that will set out the A to Z of organisation development: the principles and practices, the tools and techniques and the past and present thought leaders that have shaped the field. Today, we look at B.  B is for Behaviours: Organisational behaviours.

I still don’t know exactly what will be included under each letter.  That is starting to emerge.  If you have any thoughts on what you would like to see included, get in touch and we’ll discover where this goes!

Many people have already commented via LinkedIn or by contacting me directly on what they would like to see included.  Big thanks to all – you’ll get a namecheck when your ideas come up in the alphabet!  In fact, if you want to guest blog a topic or thought leader, then let me know.

First namecheck goes to Inji Duducu, for suggesting Assumptions, as in, “What assumptions drive the culture?”  Good question Inji.  The assumptions manifest as a set of behaviours that in turn define the culture, as we will see when we explore B.  B is for Behaviours.

B is for Behaviours

The way an organisation operates can be seen by people inside (staff, managers, etc.) and outside (customers, commentators and other stakeholders).  The way the organisation behaves represents an unwritten set of assumptions that are tacitly and commonly understood by those people.  The behaviours represent their collective experience: past, present and, without intervention, future.  These behaviours, good and bad, define the culture of the organisation.

Oftentimes, organisations write down their values and discuss them in external publications such as financial statements and investor briefings.  They may also be discussed internally in objective-setting, performance appraisals and personal development planning.  In an ideal world, the behaviours and the values marry up!  In the real world, there are usually gaps between what is espoused in vague, aspirational values statements on posters around the workplace and what happens day-to-day in work routines, meetings and customer interactions.

Surfacing implicit, often undiscussable assumptions that inhibit performance is a key goal of organisation development. We do that to encourage discussion, reformulation and articulation of behaviours that bring the values to life day-to-day.  If you think this sounds hard, well it is.  Institutionalised defensive thinking and behaviour (see OD thought leader: Chris Argyris) mean that not only are unhelpful assumptions undiscussable, but the fact they are undiscussable is itself undiscussable.

A word of caution though: OD practitioners are not trying to change people.  Rather, our goal is to invite people to choose their own more positive behaviours that align with the values of the organisations with which they choose to associate themselves.

OD thought leader: Peter Block

Peter Block (b. 1940) is an author and consultant whose focus is on empowerment, accountability and collaboration.  He believes that people working within organisations who are trying to change or improve a situation, but who do not have direct control over that situation, are acting as consultants.  Let’s face it, that is pretty much everybody working in any organisation.  The problem is that many people working in organisations behave as if they believe they need to control other people to get things done.  The paradox is that you can achieve the results you want without having to control other people around you.  You do this by focusing on relationships as well as tasks, agreeing (or ‘contracting’) to do things jointly and always being authentic.  This approach establishes collaborative working relationships, solves problems so that they stay solved and ensures your expertise (whatever subject that expertise is in) gets used.

Block’s best-selling book, Flawless Consulting, sets out practical tips on how to complete each stage of influencing others to get your expertise used, pay attention to the relationship as well as the task at each stage, and hence ‘consult’ flawlessly.  It is, without any exaggeration, the bible of consulting.  And that applies whether you consider yourself a consultant or not.

Don’t take my word for it, Barry Posner, Professor of Leadership at the Levey School of Business in Santa Clara, California puts it succinctly, “The first question to ask any consultants: Have you read Peter Block’s Flawless Consulting?  If they say no, don’t hire them.”

Recommended reading: Block, P. (2011). Flawless Consulting (3rd Ed.): A Guide to Getting Your Expertise Used. San Francisco, Wiley.

Next time: C is for Culture; C is for Change

The A to Z of OD (Part I)

This is the first part in a series of articles that will set out the A to Z of organisation development.  The series will consider the principles and practices, the tools and techniques and the past and present thought leaders that have shaped the field.  I don’t know exactly what will be included under each letter of the alphabet.  That will emerge.  If you have any thoughts on what you think should be included, get in touch and we’ll discover together where this goes!

But first, we must discover what is OD.  And to do that, we must first decide what is an organisation.

What is an organisation?

An organisation is a group of people who come together to achieve a common purpose.  They establish a collection of systems and processes that produces more together than the sum of their parts.  These components continually impact on each other, depend on each other to thrive and collectively contribute as a ‘whole system’ towards achieving the organisation’s purpose.

Different parts of any organisation perform different functions and can become highly specialised.  This specialisation creates a need for coordination at a ‘whole system’ level, i.e. the need for more and more sophisticated leadership and organisation.

What is organisation development?

Organisation development is an ongoing, systematic process of implementing sustainable change that recognises and draws on this ‘whole system’ thinking.  It also uses applied behavioural science to understand organisational and team dynamics.  After all, organisations are human systems – they only exist as a collection of people coming together to achieve a common purpose.

The goal of organisation development is to maximise the organisation’s effectiveness at serving its purpose.

A is for Action Learning

Action learning is a process whereby participants study their own actions and experiences to improve their performance.  You do it in conjunction with others in small groups called action learning sets, typically using the services of a facilitator.

Action learning propels your personal development further and faster in the real world.  This is because your peers are helping you reflect on your interactions with other people and the learning points arising.  This guides future action and develops real-world wisdom rather than traditional educational processes that focus purely on knowledge.  It is particularly suited to leadership development in organisations, where participants are working on real problems in the real world that affect real people.

OD thought leader: Chris Argyris

Chris Argyris (1923-2013) was a founding father of organisation development.  He is known for seminal work on developing learning organisations.  He pioneered Action Science – the study of how people choose their actions in difficult situations.

Action Learning and Action Science are related.  There is a risk the former may inadvertently encourage ‘single-loop’ learning: you act, you reflect on the outcome of that action and then make practical adjustments so that you revise the action you take next time.

Argyris argued that humans are overwhelmingly programmed to act based of defensive thinking.  Organisations reinforce this defensive behaviour through institutionalised routines.  Such routines prevent individuals expressing concerns, encourage avoiding behaviour and promote a lack of authenticity.  It is hard to break this vicious cycle.

Argyris proposed a double-loop of learning.  Double-loop learning means to be reflective in-the-moment, to continuously pay attention to the present to make your positive future intention a reality.  We must continue to learn, and we must continually relearn how to learn.  For me, reflective double-loop learning is one of the cornerstones of organisation development.

Recommended reading: Argyris, C. (2000). Flawed Advice and The Management Trap: How Managers Can Know When They’re Getting Good Advice and When They’re Not. New York, Oxford.

Next time: B is for Behaviours

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

Street Wisdom at Leeds Wellbeing Week, March 24, 2018 – FREE (booking essential)

Discover the wisdom of the streets

We are running Street Wisdom at Leeds Wellbeing Week, March 24, 2018 – FREE (booking essential)

“[People] must necessarily be the active agents of their own well-being and well-doing… they themselves must in the very nature of things be their own best helpers.”

–      Samuel Smiles, author of Self Help , 1859

What is the purpose of being if not to discover truths and insights that are obscured by day-to-day concerns?  Street Wisdom gives participants the skills to see the urban environment in a new way, ask a question and use the answers they discover to move forwards in life with a greater sense of wellbeing.

“The concept of creativeness and the concept of the healthy, self-actualizing, fully human person seem to be coming closer and closer together and may perhaps turn out to be the same thing”

–      Abraham Maslow, Psychologist

What is the purpose of being if not to be happy and inspired in our own lives?  Street Wisdom is a global, not-for-profit social enterprise with a mission to bring inspiration to every street on earth.

“Recognising that you are not where you want to be is a starting point to begin changing your life”

–      Deborah Day, Author of Be Happy Now, 2010

Led by Jeremy Lewis, an experienced coach and professional Street Wizard, Street Wisdom will enable you to find inspiration by wandering through the City’s streets.  Why wait for escape to exotic destinations when inspiration can be found on your own doorstep? Street Wisdom shows you how.

How it works

It’s very simple – that’s because Street Wisdom have been refining the process for years.

Tune Up. Quest. Share.

  1. First, your Street Guide helps you and your group tune up your senses so you can pick up much more information from the urban environment that you would normally.
  2. Then you’re off on a journey by yourself – your street quest – where you ask a question and see what answers present themselves.
  3. Finally, you gather together again to share what happened and, more often than not, wonder at how magical an ordinary street can become when you’re really aware of those hidden messages, chance meetings and unexpected discoveries.

 

The whole event lasts three hours.  Meet on the steps of Leeds Art Gallery, The Headrow, at 13:00.

Book now

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/street-wisdom-at-leedswellbeingweek-tickets-42527718551

http://streetwisdom.org               www.leedswellbeingweek.co.uk