Thursday, 16 September 2010

What's your excuse?

This is a bit different.  Powerful & challenging.

Thanks to Neil Cocker   for bringing it to my attention and to Sean Mullens for the artistry.

BIRTHRIGHT from Sean Mullens on Vimeo.

So, now for the challenge:

What is it that's stopping you from doing that thing which you know is of crucial importance to you?
What is the dreadful disability that superimposes "Can't DO" in big bold letters over our aspiration?
Whether it be something in our personal life, or a fundamental belief that there's a better way of doing things at work, most of us are great at expending loads of energy finding reasons not to take the risk!

Our global economic and environmental conditions are screaming out for us to find new ways, radical approaches, different outcomes.  I don't believe we're short of creative ideas and innovative delivery - but we do seem short of the courage to do what really matters to us.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Lessons in Leading Change from the Dancing Man

I came across this clip whilst researching for a team-building event for a new client. Take a look it, it’s just short of four minutes long but please don‘t try to take a short-cut, watch to the end!

To me, this presents a great metaphor for the leadership of change and I’d like to offer the following thoughts to those of you who are working hard to create excitement and momentum for change:

  1.  If you’re really committed to achieving your change goal, go for it big-time! A bit of self conscious hand jiving just won’t do, - you have to get stripped down and put your soul into it! We don’t know if the dancing man felt embarrassed, but he certainly didn’t show it! Note too, that you don’t have to be a fantastic dancer – but you do have to commit, - and to show everyone just what great fun dancing is!
  2. Don’t intellectualise too much. I don’t suppose the dancing man crafted a compelling PowerPoint explaining the features and benefits of dancing. Nor did he commit too much time to persuading others to join in (he tried but it didn't work too well!). Yes, talking and explaining is good – but active demonstration is much more powerful!
  3. Find the right dance-floor.  Yes, you want to be visable so you can have an impact, but dancing all over someone else's picnic is not going to make you many friends!
  4. Don’t give up. I suspect most of us, if we had been brave enough to start dancing on our own, would have given up after thirty seconds or so. It takes a long time for someone to grow the courage and enthusiasm to join in. While you’re dancing, and while you’re showing your commitment and enthusiasm is not easily damaged, you’re building up ‘trust-credits’, you’re showing yourself as the sort of person who it’s safe and good to follow.
  5. Make a big fuss of your early adopters! “Wow! You are the best dancer ever! So tasteful! So classy! You are so much better at it than me!” Allow your new-comer to enjoy the experience on their own terms and don’t try to control them too much. This is often difficult for a ‘change leader’. After all, it’s been your dance for so long it’s only natural you will want to show people how to do it and make sure they do it in the way you’ve been dreaming about for such a long time. Sustainable change needs to be organic. As soon as someone joins in it stops being ‘yours’ and starts being ‘ours’. Welcome the new creativity and energy and if you hadn’t envisaged handstands? – well get over it! Of course in practice there will need to be some rules but try and keep these to a minimum early on emphasising values and commitment instead.
  6. Don’t let up. It’s a great feeling when one turns into three and three turns into six but remember that these early adopters will probably not have the commitment or staying power that you have demonstrated. A less experienced dancing man might have stood back with delight and pride, taken a well earned rest….. and watched the support disappear! Notice the successes but be aware that change takes time to bed in. Others will not be as resilient as you have been. They need your inspiration and example, they need to see that you are just as committed to the change and just as passionate as you always were.
  7. Finally, can you imagine how our dancing man felt at the end of the sequence? That’s going to be you someday – maybe sooner than you think!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Making a difference - and getting on with it!

For a couple of years I've been wanting to find a way of making a difference in Africa in relation to poverty, social or economic exclusion. This was given more immediacy by the fantastic "Wales to Africa" programme conceived and run by the Welsh Assembly Government.  I really wanted to take the opportunity to take a short secondment and spend some time supporting an African development project.  But it didn't happen, the time was never right with work and family commitments, - it would have been a selfish thing to do.

Since then, I've become more aware of other opportunities to help, notably micro-finance loans which support entrepreneurs to create their own wealth and to find sustained growth for families and communities.

For the last 2 years I've had the web address for Kiva, an American micro-finance charity. For the last 2 years, I've been waiting for the time when work is secure, when the business is established, when...... when..... when the time is right to make an investment.

This last weekend I looked back at my last blog entry:  Whilst it's rarely the perfect time, it's rarely the wrong time either.  I might want to commit huge sums of cash to support a vision, but what's wrong with starting with a few quid.

I believe that whatever you do, it has an effect.  The same does not apply to dreaming about doing something!

So, I've taken some action.  Now I need to make sure that people know about it.  Lets see what we have to do to create some momentum!

I have taken the decision to:
  • support female entrepreneurs - because I believe that women remain systematically disempowered
  • support groups - because I believe that communities offer support and sustainability
What should I do to get others involved?

Friday, 4 June 2010

The key to achieving change

"The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The next best time is today" Lao Tse

Organisations seem to spend weeks, months, years planning change.

Here in Wales, our government has spent at least 18 months preparing to levy a charge on the purchase of single-use plastic carrier bags and has just announced that it will implement in 9 months.  I applaud the initiative, but I'm pretty confident that we have to get much much quicker at implementing change. Whether we're thinking environmentally or economically, we just don't have the luxury of time anymore!

OK, I accept that some things need very detailed programme and project management.  Big IT systems being the obvious example (although isn't it well evidenced that nine out of ten of these projects fail to deliver their intended outcomes despite all the planning?) I suppose I'm thinking of initiatives designed to change behaviour - whether it's re-using plastic bags or the subtleties of behaviour that accumulate to form an organisation's culture.

My 'Top Tip' for behaviour change is as follows:

The way to create change is to do something different

-Well there it is - 'bit obvious really!

"Do something different" is not the same as "talk about Change" (although talking is good too).  It's not the same as "write a strategy" or "produce a Managing Change procedure". Do something different means just that, - actually do something, - and do it as publicly as possible.

If you're the boss of a small or medium sized organisation, just doing stuff yourself might be enough.  People will notice, they will use you as an example of how to behave and your 'Do' you do will start to cascade through your organisation. (But do whatever you're doing consistently and genuinely, if you mess up just once, it will be noticed).

If you run a larger organisation, you might need to brief others to do the change too. The key influencers, whether they be your management team, the receptionist or that guy who's always there whenever there's a group of people having fun are your allies. You don't need to ask them to persuade others though, - just get them to do the Do.

If you're not the Big Boss and have less exposure, you might want to be a little more sneaky. Create a little 'geurrilla movement' of doers and get them to create little pockets of 'Do' around the place.  It takes a little longer but if you're doing 'Good Do' others will catch on.

Most of us seem to have this resistance to Do.  Is it just inertia, or perhaps it's learnt behaviour, - we've become defeated or found that stepping up is quite dangerous.

I find myself in a place where, as my own boss, I can do just about whatever I want. Yet I have a list of great things I want to do that has been hanging around for a year or more. Why haven't I got on with it?  The time will never be perfect, but does it need to be perfect?

(I've been thinking about writing this post for a couple of weeks now, but it didn't get any closer to becoming reality until I started typing!)

Next time I get a spare half hour (which will be over the next few days) I'm going to Do something on that list. The Do may not be perfect, it may not be as big as I really want, but 'behaviour breeds behaviour', so if I Do something, other Dos will follow!

Monday, 17 May 2010

What about Followership?

In the UK we’ve been focussing obsessively on Leadership for the last couple of weeks. But there’s no leader without a follower and as, in relation to the UK political environment, most of us have little option but to put ourselves in the ‘follower’ camp perhaps it would be worth thinking about followership for a while.

Followership in not as sexy as leadership of course, so there are not so many academics working on it and no bookshelves groaning under the weight of Followership hardbacks. However I will refer to Barbara Kellerman's "How Followers Are Creating Change and Changing Leaders"
Kellerman identifies 5 types of follower :

– these are people who care little for their leaders and will rarely respond to them regardless of who they are. These people tend to keep a low profile, they want to stay out of the way and just get on with their job without ‘interference from above’.

on the other hand are the sorts of people who will offer little support to any leader. They will follow passively and really just observe things from the side lines, rarely getting involved in very much. They differ from isolates in that they tend not to hide from being led or managed nor do they resent it like the isolates can do.

do care about the organisation and do usually want to make an impact. If they agree with the leader they will actively support them, however if they think that the leader is wrong they will actively oppose them, sometimes behind their backs.

have strong beliefs both about the organisation and their leaders. They will actively engage depending on how they see both. If they like what they see they will engage and help create even better conditions. If they don’t they will actively try to get rid of the leader.

have the highest level of engagement in the organisation and with the leaders and have high passions. If the leader is going (in their opinion) in the right direction they will dedicate all to them and become a disciple. If they think that a leader needs some help to develop they will engage with them, however if they think that the leader is destructive they will set out to destroy the leader.
In the Political context, it’s interesting to speculate what kind of follower is most valuable. Ordinarily we value the highest level of engagement, - but these people come with their challenges. I suspect a government would be pretty satisfied to have most of us Isolates and Bystanders – so long of course there are sufficient more engaged followers to actually get something done!
What politics does do is polarise thinking. Those of us who are a bit more engaged will either love what’s happening in the UK or hate it, - not too many half measures! That strength of feeling brings its own risks. If we enthusiastically follow, delivering on any expectation without questioning or challenging, are we not simply abdicating our responsibility to the society in which we live? On the other hand, if our venom for the Coalition is unchecked, are we denying any opportunity for change? If we assume the worst, we create the worst!
A truly great follower treads a middle ground. We challenge, suggest, remind, nudge, - learning and using the skills of managing upwards as we do.
But we also have to swallow hard sometimes and just give it a go!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Speak like a Pirate Day

I was running an event on coaching and mentoring the other day for Cartrefi Cymru, a fantastic social care organisation which works across the whole of Wales. Their desire is to work towards creating a coaching culture in supervision and throughout their organisation.

Hats off to Stuart who came up with a great idea for raising awareness of coaching and of the core skill of effective questionning:

Some people will be familiar with the concept of the "talk like a pirate day", - for the whole day, e everyone in the office is expected to fill all of their usual conversations with '"ARRh"s and "Me Hearties" and "Shiver me timbers" - and what ever pirate-like phrases and accents come to mind.

The coaching variation is the "Ask open questions day." With penalty donations to charity for anyone who forgets themself and asks "Would you like a coffee?" or any other closed question.

Wonderfully silly idea, - what a great way of raising avareness of coaching behaviour and the use of open questions to promote learning and developmental conversations.

What's even better, is Cartrefi Cymru are going to give it a go!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Still no Planes!

What's happened so far?

Willie Walsh has flown his plane through the dust and survived, and several other companys have done similar.

From an industry which proclaims that safety is paramount, we are now getting "It's all a big overreaction" type statements. Decide for yourself, but it seems strange how quickly the corporate mind has changed.

Meanwhile, the UK government is sending in the Navy, a flotilla of small boats has 'rescued' travellers Dunkirk-style, European football teams are driving to fixtures and the Channel Tunnel is having a really good April!

So you can take your choice about what's most interesting and revealing about the reactions:

Airlines: "Let's pretend it's not an issue and get back to normal"

Ferry Companies: "Whoopee!! we can clean up using our existing business model"

Government: "Send in the Navy!!!"

Individuals / small operators: "We can do something new & find a different way"

I wonder if any of the emergent solutions will sustain once the crisis is over.

I wonder what the reaction will be if summer travel were to be threatened.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Volcanos, Ash and Thinking Differently!

Looking out of my window this morning I noticed an apparently clear sky. Yes, I know that actually there are a whole load of tiny volcanic ash particles with the potential to cause havoc, but I can’t see them. Nor can I see the vapour trails from aircraft that I usually don’t notice – but I notice their absence.

So how long will it be before we’re all back to normal? I’m sure we’re able to suspend this way of life for 24 hours, but 48 hours? 72 hours? How long would it be before, rather than simply closing everything down and waiting, we all decided that we needed to do something completely different? We do what we do because we’ve always done things that way. Or at least, our “doing things that way” has crept up on us over time so we didn’t notice getting into the habit.

However, the really creative thinking arrives when something happens suddenly. Whether it’s a terrorist attack or a natural disaster, a driving ban or a dreadful trauma that leaves us without the physical capabilities we had yesterday, these are the times where our
creativity and ingenuity have no bounds.

There’s an interesting exercise for any organisation facing a challenge!

“So we are faced with a 10% reduction in revenues. What would we do if we had to manage a 50% reduction?” (and giving up and going home were not an option!)

“Our prisons are bursting at the seams. How could we respond if the another 50,000 people were given a custodial sentence next week?”

“Fuel prices are rising past £1.20 a litre, what if they were not £1.20 but £12.00, or £120.00”

We have that growing realisation that the way we run our lives and our society has got to change, but we can still pretend that the moment’s not yet here. If we couldn’t keep up the pretence maybe we’d come up with something really exciting – or perhaps the obvious solution that’s been staring us in the face for ages. Well, there’s a whole load of thinkers sitting in airports and hotel rooms just now going nowhere and with nothing much to do. Which of them will be brave enough and creative enough to find a different way?

Friday, 19 March 2010

The Fear Factory

Two decades of politicians playing the law and order ‘arms race’ have brought a criminal justice crisis to the UK.

Especially when it comes to our young - where we're ultimately creating more of the very thing we fear... criminals.

Despite an all-time high for re-offending rates, despite prisons at bursting point - we plan to keep on building and continue to incarcerate more young people than any other country in Western Europe.

The public's fear of youth crime bears little relation to reality and the young are more demonised, more alienated and more easily caught in a self-fulfilling prophesy of our own making...

….The Fear Factory

With funding from The Nationwide Foundation, three Third Sector agencies came together to commission this film, Safer Wales Ltd, Construction Youth Trust and Addaction. We all work intensively with young people who are either offenders or at risk of offending, to break the cycles of vulnerabilities, and prevent re-offending.

As Chair of Trustees of Safer Wales Ltd. I am really proud of this film which is uniting a range of otherwise very diverse agencies and becoming a catalyst for long-overdue action.

Please take a look at The Fear Factory Website and Blog

- and add your weight to the campaign either by simply following the blog or, if you represent an interested organisation, by joining the Coalition.

We are currently discussing the broadcast of The Fear Factory with UK National Broadcasters.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Thoughts on Leadership - Martin Luther King Day

Last Sunday evening I was driving from my home in South Wales to the North in preparation for delivering a learning programme on Monday.

Amongst the many programmes I heard on the radio (it's a long drive!) was the BBC's Americana In the final segment, a group of Chicago primary school children imagined that Martin Luther King was still alive. What would they ask him if they had had the opportunity?

I'm not sure why this segment made such an impact on me, - but it did so, to the extent that I have transposed the audio from BBC i-player and reproduce it here. (Sorry BBC for reproducing without permission - but it's all good marketing!)

"How did you feel when you could not play with your white friends anymore?"
"How did it feel when people were mean to you?"
"When you were marching, did you think you might get killed or arrested?"
"Was it hard for you to protest against all the unfair laws?"
"Out of all the unfair things, if you could pick one, which one did you dislike the most?"
"When you were a child, did you know you were going to change the world?"
"Do you think that some laws should still be changed?"
"Why did you tell people not to ride the bus?"
"Do you think fighting with words is better than fighting with fists?"
"How did you get so many people to follow your example?"
"What was your very first speech & how old were you?"
"What was your favourite speech you wrote?"
"How did you get to make your speech in Washington DC?"
"When you marched in Washington, what did it feel like to be in front of millions of people?"
"How did you feel..."
"Were you afraid..."
"Were you nervous when you were out there?"
"What went through your head when you gave your 'I Have a Dream' speech?"
"What part of your 'I Have a Dream' speech do you think got people to listen the most?"
"After the speech, where did you go and what did you feel like?"

"What else are you going to change?"

Americana, BBC Radio 4 Sunday 17th Jan 2010