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

Past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance… but it is a good place to start

We are told that past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance, especially when making personal financial investments.  That’s why, in organisations, we write business cases to prove to ourselves we will get a return on investment.  How does this apply to transformational change, when it’s not just finances, but relationships between people that need to change?  We are told that past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance… but it is a good place to start.

 Past – Present – Future … where do you tend to start?

“I want to change the culture,” is something I hear a lot from potential clients.  They have an idea of what is NOT working and a vague notion that “empowerment”, more accountability” or “better collaboration” are the ways to change things.  They then immediately set about defining what the future will look like and writing their business case.  If this sounds familiar, chances are you are already on the path to failure.  That is because you have over-rationalised it and are trying to make a purely financial case for investment.

 The Future is unwritten

I’m not going to bore you with facts and figures about the failure of change programmes.  You’ll know yourself that organisations often choose to invest in tangible things that can be measured in financial terms.  Thing like restructuring, new systems and business processes.  They tend to spend less effort investing in building truly collaborative way of working, innovating and problem-solving.  Because these are hard to do.   Also, writing business cases forces you down that path.  It is often a logical place to start, but it is not the whole story.

 Let the Future remain unwritten for a little longer

In my experience, organisations that over rely on these rational aspects of change tend to achieve limited success, smaller business benefits and alienate their people.  Those organisations that consider the softer, relationship-orientated, people aspects of change achieve better results.  Sometimes.  A major issue, even when culture is properly considered, is that those seeking the change only look forwards to envision a brighter future.

 Opportunities lie in the Past as well as the Future

This is, I fear, only half the story.  By looking at how your organisation got to where it is today, you will understand what aspects of your current culture are already working well and need preserving.  Reflect on the journey taken to get to where you are today, the successes, the failures, what has been learned (and what has not).  This will give you a better understanding of what makes your organisation tick, and what might be holding it back.

 Now is all there is

By achieving a deeper understanding of the Past, you allow yourself, collectively with your people, to let it go.  You will become more intently focused on the Present.  I believe the Present is really all that truly exists.  Looking to the Past helps us understand the Present.  Looking to the future tries to hi-Jack the Present and force it into something it is not ready to be. 

 Be right here, right now with your people and allow your Future Intention to emerge collectively from collaborative sense-making and reflecting on learnings from the Past.  Pay attention to the Present to make your Future Intention a reality.  There are a few simple, practical techniques and ways of working that can be applied every day to do this.  The result is transformational.  The result is the culture change you are seeking.

 Jeremy J Lewis, committed to making a difference in embedding sustainable change

Discover the wisdom of the streets

Street Wisdom, November 4, Leeds, FREE, booking essential

Discover the wisdom of the streets

“[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.

Book now for FREE.

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.

The trade-off between interpersonal tension and task tension

The trade-off between interpersonal tension and task tension is not that well understood in organisations.  And yet it is a fundamental equation that can help improve productivity, the quality of work relationship and outcomes.

Interpersonal tension is a sad thing.  It occurs when people simply don’t get along.  This could be a personality clash or residual tension from previous encounters.  Oftentimes, people simply avoid others they don’t get along with, and that’s fine if it doesn’t impact your work outcomes.  But what if your job requires you to work with someone with whom you have interpersonal tension?  I’m not talking about a saboteur who actively tries to stop you doing your job – that would require escalation to a more senior manager or the involvement of HR.  no, I’m talking more about the persistent naysayer who you just don’t get along with well enough to be able to focus on the task at hand.

Task tension is a happy thing. According to taskmanagementguide.com, task tension can be described as a positive feeling that a person or a group feels when they have an interesting work to be done. Task tension includes feelings of zeal and enthusiasm that encourage people to intensively research the task, seek for ways to complete it, build their collaboration around these aims, and overcome many interpersonal problems for the sake of common goals.

Chart: the trade-off between interpersonal tension and task tension

The chart shows that, over time, interpersonal tension decreases as interest in the task increases.  The challenge is to work on techniques that overcome interpersonal tension quickly so that teams can focus on the task.  This moves the interpersonal tension line from A to B, and hence saves time, increasing productivity.

And so, the workplace challenge is first to ensure there is a stream of interesting team-based collaborative work available so that task tension has a fighting chance of overcoming interpersonal tension.

And then, the workplace goal is for task tension to overcome interpersonal tension as quickly as possible.

This requires:

  • Self-awareness of our own behaviours and how those impact others (“Knowing me…”)
  • The ability to ‘let it go’ and work with others as you find them (“Knowing you…”)
  • So that you can get on with the task at hand (“Aha!”).

Knowing me, Knowing you, Aha!

It is important to bring people together to reflect on their own behavioural style, recognise that of others with whom they work and begin to understand how to collaborate.  It helps team members and their leaders play to their strengths, overcome their weaknesses and work collaboratively together for the benefit of the organisation. This is of fundamental importance in today’s complex workplace.

And so, I have three questions for you:

  • Do you have the reflective practice in place to be able to do this?
  • Do you have the right behavioural insights to facilitate the discussion?
  • Do you have the right facilitator to bring people together in a way that values differences, seeks common ground and builds collaboration without the session falling apart?

I can’t help you find a stream of interesting, team-based, collaborative work.  But if you’re searching for your “Aha!” moment, I believe I can help with expert facilitation supported by leading edge psychometrics.

 

Jeremy Lewis

Committed to making a difference in building collaborative teams that get the job done

 

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.

Why you don’t need outside help to develop your organisation

I offer outside help to develop your organisation.  I do sometimes wonder whether organisations need my help at all?!

I attended a rather excellent sales masterclass recently.  Among other things, we discussed the emotional reasons people buy our services.  People buy things for one of three reasons: pleasure, fear or pain.

My wife just bought a Kindle Fire.  She’s delighted with it.  She bought it for pleasure, and to stop her playing games on her work laptop.  She can now switch that off and play Sim City or whatever with impunity.  With discipline, I’m sure she could have kept her existing arrangement, but hey!  What do I know about work-life balance?

A friend of mine recently bought a new child car seat, fuelled by the fear that her existing restraint is not good enough to protect her toddler, given new laws came in from March 1.  I’m curious why the existing restraint was perfectly okay in February (even under the new legislation), but is no longer good enough?  But hey, what do I know about wellbeing?

I realised on the masterclass (if I didn’t already know) that I am in the business of selling organisational pain relief!  But are organisations in pain?

How are you experiencing organisational pain?

I’ve developed this short questionnaire to help you assess the level of your organisational pain.  I suspect you’re in pretty good shape, but here goes… give yourself one point for each statement that is true.

  1. Our corporate strategy is fully embedded into the way we operate
  2. Our local business plans are all completely aligned to the overall corporate plan
  3. Our customers all find it easy to do business with us
  4. Our people are completely engaged in the vision and live our values day-to-day
  5. There is no silo-mentality here – people work well together across organisational boundaries
  6. The last organisational restructure we did is totally embedded and working like a dream
  7. All our managers take full accountability for their team’s performance
  8. In fact, we don’t have managers, we have leaders
  9. We have a “right first time” customer-focused culture
  10. We all support and challenge each other to role model the right behaviours

Scoring

8-10 points

Well done, you have achieved significant organisational alignment.  I told you that you didn’t need any outside help, didn’t I?

4-7 points

Not bad.  Any slight organisational pain you might be feeling will probably go away on its own.  Keep doing the things you’re doing, things are bound to improve soon.

0-3 points

Never mind.  You’ve got used to working like this.  I guess things will always be this way.  You probably do not have any budget to invest in organisational development anyway, right?

 

But hey, what do I know about organisational development?

 

Jeremy J Lewis

The Organisational Fool

April 1, 2017 😉

Silence: there is now a Level Zero

I had the pleasure of exploring silence with a group of fellow coaches recently, facilitated ably by my colleague Ian Smith.  We concluded silence can be a gift, as it is received and understood by different people differently.

We experimented with silence to reflect on what silence meant, and then shared our thinking.  For the most part, the participants in this reflective discussion viewed silence as a positive thing, as it gives others time and space to think and reflect.  I was curious.  I see certain instances of silence as being quite destructive; those uncomfortable silences, when something needs to be said, but no one is saying it.  Like the silence that is taken as acquiescence in a meeting, but as soon as the meeting is over, people rebel and do not follow through with what was “agreed”.  Like the silence that leads to Groupthink.  Perhaps like the silence that ignores the ‘elephant in the room’.

Three levels of silence

This inspired me to research the current thinking out there in the blogosphere about silence.  I only found positive interpretations of silence.  Silence is often categorised into several levels.  I found examples of up to 12 levels.  This I find excessive, although I also find it excessive that the Eskimo-Aleut languages have 50 words for snow.

Sensible categorisations of silence appear to fall into three levels:

  1. The absence of sound
  2. A disinterest in external activity, where the mind is focused inwards
  3. A deep inner silence brought on through meditation, in pursuit of oneness and total contentment.

There is now a Level Zero

[Children’s movie spoiler alert]

Po: Lets just start at zero; Level Zero.
Shifu: Oh no. There is no such thing as Level Zero.
Thus starts the scene in Kung Fu Panda, where our hero, the overweight panda Po, begins his journey to enlightenment.  After Po hits a children’s punchbag and is sent flying into moving ropes and swinging pendulums, he endures being deposited into a tilting bowl, where he hits his head several times until the bowl tips over and sets off a chain reaction that causes swinging arms to smack him in the groin and then knock him violently into a fire pit. He slumps over next to his Sensei, Shifu, burned and charred.

Po: How did I do?
Shifu: There is now a Level Zero.

I propose four levels of silence for your consideration:

0. Uncomfortable silence

1. Comfortable silence

2. Reflective silence

3. Deep silence.

Level 0: uncomfortable silence

Uncomfortable silence arises through fear of being isolated because you have a different opinion from the majority.  This is closely aligned to Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann’s ideas in the Spiral of Silence.  People tend to remain silent for fear of social exclusion when they have a minority opinion that might challenge the group’s dominant idea.  They must constantly use energy to assess the climate in a social group and may choose to remain silent or ‘lose their voice’, especially if they have been criticised in the past.  This does not apply to those (at the top of Noelle-Neumann’s spiral) who are hardcore nonconformists or who represent the Avant-Garde.  Such people are less likely to remain silent.

The advent of the Internet has also arguably lowered this type of silence online, where people with minority (often extremist) views are likely to seek out others of similar views and use chat rooms to find their voice.  Such folk can also benefit from the anonymity of the Internet, which lowers the fear of reprisal, and has led to an uprising in airtime for controversial views.

In a workplace context, uncomfortable silence represents a denial of responsibility, allowing undiscussable topics to remain undiscussable, and ultimately degenerates into a ‘snakepit’ organisation, where people retreat into their silos and protect themselves against attack from each other.

Level 1: comfortable silence

The main problem with silence is that we do not know what it means when it happens.  Is the silence uncomfortable: a denial of responsibility, or comfortable: a true agreement to what is being discussed?

Comfortable silence happens when we are happy together, perhaps lost in our own thoughts and not needing to fill the silence with words.  We are comfortable with the people we are with.  This is a passive silence.

I suggest this is only possible if there are no hidden assumptions.  Very close friends and life partners can achieve this level of silence.

In the workplace, achieving this level of silence requires good facilitation to reveal hidden assumptions, discuss the undiscussables, explore the elephant in the room, etc.  This is necessarily not a silent activity and such facilitation may well move people quickly to level 2 silence.

Level 2: Reflective silence

Reflective silence is when you have the space and time to think.  As an individual, you would be well-advised to carve out time in your busy schedule to do this, or perhaps to use the services of a coach to gift you such time and space.

Level 2 silence becomes timeless, lost in your own thoughts.  You become disinterested in external activity, your mind is turned inwards.  You achieve a quietness inside, regardless of the external sounds.  It requires stillness, and yet is an active silence.

In the workplace, a good facilitator or group coach can gift you time and space to think as a team.

Level 3: Deep silence

Deep silence has its traditions in several ancient world religions, such as Zen Practice and Monastic Silence.  It is a silence that can be achieved through deep meditation.  You may well practise mindful meditation already, focusing on what is happening right now.  This does not require external silence.  In fact, deep silence is the pursuit of total oneness, total contentment and inner silence, regardless of any external sounds.  It is also possible regardless of what you are doing.  Deep silence does not require stillness, and yet is a passive silence

Conclusion

I tentatively suggest the following framework:

In the workplace, issues arise when silence is misunderstood.  When people push their own views, they demonstrate a ‘stay in control’ or ‘win, don’t lose’ mindset.  When silence follows, they may incorrectly assume agreement.  A more purposive mindset is to stay curious, adopt the ‘and’ stance (rather than the ‘but’ stance).  This can help to surface hidden assumptions, and allow people the space and time to find their voice.

The workplace goal is to move silence from being an active pursuit of denial, towards awareness of the silence and active pursuit of renewal.  This moves people’s energy from denying responsibility to surfacing hidden assumptions, to discussing the undiscussable.  It requires meetings to include the space and time to think, so that people can engage in the meaningful activity aligned to the organisation’s purpose.  It means people can find their voice and take more accountability.

Silence can help you make every meeting matter.

Jeremy J Lewis

Committed to making every meeting matter

Calling all SMEs and Charities in Yorkshire

We need your help to shape a programme of skills development for Yorkshire-based SMEs and Charities.  We’re asking you to complete a short survey that will only take you a few minutes.  The findings will help to build a value-for-money programme of workshops aimed at developing the leadership skills needed to grow your business.

Where do you turn when things get tough?

There is a famous story of a woodcutter who was sawing wood for several days straight.  The process of cutting naturally dulled his blade and the job became tougher and tougher.  He was far too busy getting the job done to realise a better solution would be to stop and sharpen his saw.

Leadership development for SMEs is a tough challenge.  In terms of investment in skills development for staff, managers and leaders, there is a large and widening gap between larger businesses and SMEs.  Training and development is a resource-hungry activity.  It is hard for SMEs to engage their people in upgrading their skills – there is just too much to get done today, in the business, every day.  Right?

Short workshops that build into a leadership development programme

CMdeltaConsulting specialises in developing leaders and building collaborative partnerships.  We have sketched out a programme of short workshops.  We intend to build it into a comprehensive programme of leadership skills development for SMEs and Charities.  And so, we need your help to shape the content of the programme.

Please complete our brief questionnaire

What workshops would interest you and your teams?  How long should they be?  How frequent?  What would you be willing to pay for this type of leadership development, or perhaps you think they should be free?  What have we missed?

Please click here to complete the survey.  It will only take you a few minutes.  And there’s a chance to win a half day of consulting, coaching or facilitation if you sign up to our mailing list in March (optional).

Take the survey

Thank you

MiRo Practitioner Training and Accreditation

Relevant to anyone interested in getting the most out of people at work, this one day intensive workshop will give you a working knowledge of personality and human behaviour in the workplace.  A rewarding and interesting day with the added bonus of accreditation as a MiRo Practitioner into the bargain.

I thoroughly enjoyed the session,learned loads and feel optimistic about integrating MiRo into my practice – Auriel Majumdar, Creative Business Coach

Accredited Practitioner Training Dates

29 March 2017

28 June 2017

27 September 2017

Further information and booking

MiRo Practitioner Accreditation Flyer

Call Jeremy 07766 420550 to reserve your place