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leadership expectations

October 19, 2016

Why is it that so many of us find it so hard to believe that other people might see in us something other than the incompetent imposters we convince ourselves we are?

In my last post I shared a story about Jim and how he created a lasting culture in his team even though he led it for a very short time. I wonder though if when you were reading that post you gave any thought to what it might have been like to be the person who had to step up and take his place?

It’s something that happens all the time. A leader that everyone admires moves on and someone else has to step in and take their place. Succession planning and smooth transitions are preferable but rarely achieved. Despite that, people will always have expectations.

Leah knew she was Jim’s second-in-command and that she could find herself thrust into the leadership role at any moment but she could never have known it would happen so quickly leaving her with  no control over the situation, no way of predicting the future and the added weight of delivering Jim’s vision for their team!

The moves that Leah made didn’t seem to bring the results that she was looking for. They were not “winning” so she thought that “losing” meant failure as a leader. The tighter she tried to hang on to something the more it got away from her. I think there came a time when, because she had no point of reference, no solid ground on which to stand, she could only be present to whatever was arising and respond from that place of not knowing. All she had was who she was and in her mind that was never going to be enough.

During the debrief Leah was reluctant to speak. She knew she was not the leader she thought she was and she was certain that everyone else knew so I guess there didn’t seem to be much point in saying it out loud. She certainly didn’t need to hear it from others. She was right.

And, she was wrong.

Leah was not the leader she thought she was. Her team started to tell her that and she didn’t want to hear it. But they felt she needed to hear it so they kept telling her.

At her heart Leah was a leader, it was just that her style of leadership was not what she thought it had to be. It wasn’t a chest-out-shoulders-back-barking-commands-tough-rouse-the-troops-out-in-front leadership and perhaps that is what she thought her team expected her to deliver. What she thought they required her to be.

But that wasn’t what her team was looking for or needed.

Leah’s what-can-I-do-to-support-you-being-your-best-are-you-ok-gentle-serving-behind-the-lines leadership was effective and supported the team in delivering the outcome they had agreed as a team they would. That is what they needed to tell her and they had to say it a couple of different times in a couple of different ways before Leah could start to hear them. Even then it seemed difficult for her. Understandable I guess when people want to tell you that who you are is enough.

Today, as I started writing the first draft of this piece we were informed that our eldest daughter will receive an award in one of the ceremonies that will bring to a close her time at high school. Neither we nor she knows what she is receiving the award for. After reviewing the criteria for each of the awards she might receive she told me she doesn’t see how she could be considered for any of them. This from someone who before leaving high school has established an export business with an enviable forward order book and has secured for herself multiple paid gigs for next year in a field that is incredibly competitive. As her parents our only real claim to contributing to her success to date is that we wised up relatively quickly just how incredible she is, stopped telling her what “she should do” and got out of her way.

But like Leah, she isn’t yet able to see in herself (or perhaps to accept) that which is clear to those around her. And here perhaps I can offer some advice for you if you find parts of Leah’s story resonate with you. Let go of who you think you are, stop judging yourself against what you think others want you to be and get out of your own way.  If you can do that you will exceed everyone’s expectations of you – especially your own.

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the benefits that come from my work in the theatre and the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

Here is what some participants have said about their experience with me:

The real world is never straightforward, and it’s seldom clear what the right answer is for many of our major decisions – especially if there’s some moral aspect to those decisions – and we have to dig down to our core values to make the decisions we can live with afterwards. It’s not often we […]

Ken Livingston (Senior Business Analyst)

The Samurai Game was a 1-day workshop (open to the public) that I attended (upon recommendation) in February 2015. The game was delivered in a safe workshop setting – and Paul’s facilitation allowed attendees to learn the rules and values of a 16th century Japanese Samurai warrior. Attending the Samurai game workshop gave me the […]

Michael Sheridan (Business and Process Improvement Specialist & Data Scientist)

For more on the Samurai Game you should start here and here.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

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leadership above (and below) the line.

October 13, 2016

I have had the opportunity in recent weeks to reflect on the extent to which an individual can make a difference to an organization. It was prompted by a conversation with a friend who was sharing with me the changes they had observed in their organization since it had been placed under the leadership of a particular individual – let’s call him Dave.

The changes have been perceived almost universally as negative. Of the greatest concern was a declaration by Dave that what was required for the organisation’s success was “above the line thinking”. This was listened to by the team members as a prohibition by Dave and his leadership team against the expression of any views that might be seen as critical, pessimistic or negative. This is especially true for them when it is declared as “below the line thinking” and as such not consistent with the vision and aims of the organization. Dave communicates with the team regularly via email and reminds them of what is required if the organisation is to succeed.

Now I have nothing against using metaphors (like “above and below the line thinking” – whatever that is supposed to mean) to help people conceive of alternate futures, but silencing dissent in an organization doesn’t bode well for their long-term business sustainability. It isn’t difficult to imagine the effectiveness of, say, an audit and compliance function if you require the members of that team to only be supportive and positive in relation to the organisation’s activities.

Dave is certainly making a difference and is ‘leading’ that organization. The question is, to where? What is clear is that the beatings will continue until morale improves.

The kanji for bushido

Bu-shi-do

Contrast Dave’s leadership to that of Jim – a participant in a Samurai Game I recently facilitated in Singapore.

One of Jim’s earliest responsibilities as a leader was to share his vision for his team and how he wanted them to conduct themselves in the pursuit of that vision. I can’t tell you what he said or what metaphors he used. It is not that it is secret or confidential – I just didn’t hear anything of what he said to his team nor how he said it. I did however see the lasting impact of his words.

I think when he was appointed as their leader Jim would have been pretty happy to learn that there was someone in his team who had not only previous experience with the Samurai Game, but experience as a Ninja as well – and a fairly effective Ninja at that. (All you need to know about the role of a Ninja for now is that they do not have to play by any rules. While others are bound to participate according to Bushido and embody values like respect, honour, courage, integrity and honesty (nothing there about ‘above the line’ thinking…) – the Ninja do not. The only rule for the Ninja is that there are no rules.)

Whatever Jim’s words they resonated so strongly with the members of his team that it wasn’t until some time after his Ninja had voluntarily accepted the consequences for breaking the rules and taken himself out of the game that he remembered the rules didn’t apply to him!

Think about that for a minute.

Here is a role description that says sneakiness, deception, trickery and dishonesty are core competencies for the position. Yet, Jim managed to so inspire his team that when their was a slip in their concentration honesty and integrity became their default behaviours.

Now all of that sounds pretty impressive. You can imagine Jim, hands firmly clasped on the team rudder, watching the wind, issuing instructions and reminding his crew where they are headed and how he wants them to get there.

It is even more impressive when you know that Jim had handed the organizational rudder over to someone else just a few minutes after setting out his vision. He had led by example and accepted the consequences for a lapse in concentration in his own concentration that caused him to break one of the rules of the game.

During their debrief the team said it didn’t matter that Jim was not physically present as their leader for 95% of the experience. He had made his presence felt within their organization and it was a lasting presence that continued to guide their thoughts and actions until the game concluded.

Both Jim and Dave have left a legacy.

Jim created his in just a few principled and values driven minutes and his team worked to realise that vision despite his absence and the challenges that followed.

Dave? Well he has created his legacy as well. I wonder what will happen to his organization when the day comes for him to leave?

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the benefits that come from my work in the theatre and the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

Here is what some participants have said about their experience with me:

The real world is never straightforward, and it’s seldom clear what the right answer is for many of our major decisions – especially if there’s some moral aspect to those decisions – and we have to dig down to our core values to make the decisions we can live with afterwards. It’s not often we […]

Ken Livingston (Senior Business Analyst)

The Samurai Game was a 1-day workshop (open to the public) that I attended (upon recommendation) in February 2015. The game was delivered in a safe workshop setting – and Paul’s facilitation allowed attendees to learn the rules and values of a 16th century Japanese Samurai warrior. Attending the Samurai game workshop gave me the […]

Michael Sheridan (Business and Process Improvement Specialist & Data Scientist)

For more on the Samurai Game you should start here and here.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

 

Um, I am not sure what to say….

September 28, 2016

“Um” and shuffling from one foot to the other as I spoke were two of my bugbears early on. Key thing (and it is paralleled in my advice to people who say they could never act in a play because they could never remember the lines) is that people can’t tell how nervous you are or what you are going to say, or supposed to say, next.

Acknowledgements to http://lifehacker.com/use-this-quick-reference-to-eliminate-um-s-from-your-s-1736896624 for the infographic below.

 

um

 

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the benefits that come from my work in the theatre and the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

Here is what some participants have said about their experience with me:

The real world is never straightforward, and it’s seldom clear what the right answer is for many of our major decisions – especially if there’s some moral aspect to those decisions – and we have to dig down to our core values to make the decisions we can live with afterwards. It’s not often we […]

Ken Livingston (Senior Business Analyst)

The Samurai Game was a 1-day workshop (open to the public) that I attended (upon recommendation) in February 2015. The game was delivered in a safe workshop setting – and Paul’s facilitation allowed attendees to learn the rules and values of a 16th century Japanese Samurai warrior. Attending the Samurai game workshop gave me the […]

Michael Sheridan (Business and Process Improvement Specialist & Data Scientist)

For more on the Samurai Game you should start here and here.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

if you don’t have anything nice to say…

May 27, 2016

It has been a long time since I have posted anything here. For a while I told myself it was because I was busy – with work, with family, with all manner of things. But what I have come to realise is that I write when I think I have made sense of something and I believe that something is worth sharing.

The truth is that for much of 2016 I have struggled to make sense of what is going on around me. In my city, in my country and in my world. One thing I have either heard or read recently is that times of tumultuous change brings out the worst and the best in us.

What life looks like on the other side of that tumult depends on whether we choose to respond out of fear or out of hope.

That much makes sense to me and I believe that message is worth sharing.

How to do it? I haven’t figured that out yet. But I am hopeful.

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the benefits that come from my work in the theatre and the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

Here is what some participants have said about their experience with me:

The real world is never straightforward, and it’s seldom clear what the right answer is for many of our major decisions – especially if there’s some moral aspect to those decisions – and we have to dig down to our core values to make the decisions we can live with afterwards. It’s not often we […]

Ken Livingston (Senior Business Analyst)

The Samurai Game was a 1-day workshop (open to the public) that I attended (upon recommendation) in February 2015. The game was delivered in a safe workshop setting – and Paul’s facilitation allowed attendees to learn the rules and values of a 16th century Japanese Samurai warrior. Attending the Samurai game workshop gave me the […]

Michael Sheridan (Business and Process Improvement Specialist & Data Scientist)

For more on the Samurai Game you should start here and here.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

 

what would Jack Sock do?

January 25, 2016
tags:

During the Samurai Game we spend some time exploring the concept of Bushido – a set of values attributed to Samurai and other warriors that we invite people to use to guide their decision-making during the experience. Values like: Honesty. Integrity. Honour. Respect. Courage. Benevolence. Rectitude.

The workshop provides an opportunity for people to see what it means to truly live and die, win or lose, by a set of values.

It can be difficult to find contemporary examples of what Bushido might look like and what it means to live your life guided by it.  We often see courage in the face of adversity and natural disasters. We see respect shown for those who have served us or perhaps respect shown for those we believe have earned it. We see benevolence in the giving of money or clothes to those who need it more than the giver.

They are nice but they are not Bushido.

If you want to see Bushido and its values being lived in each moment take a look at this video of US tennis player Jack Sock in his game against Lleyton Hewitt in the Hopman Cup in January 2016. Watch it a couple of times and keep in mind Jack is one point away from set point when the first serve is called out.

I offer it for you to use as a reference point as you go about the days that make up your life.

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the benefits that come from my work in the theatre and the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

Here is what some participants have said about their experience with me:

The real world is never straightforward, and it’s seldom clear what the right answer is for many of our major decisions – especially if there’s some moral aspect to those decisions – and we have to dig down to our core values to make the decisions we can live with afterwards. It’s not often we […]

Ken Livingston (Senior Business Analyst)

The Samurai Game was a 1-day workshop (open to the public) that I attended (upon recommendation) in February 2015. The game was delivered in a safe workshop setting – and Paul’s facilitation allowed attendees to learn the rules and values of a 16th century Japanese Samurai warrior. Attending the Samurai game workshop gave me the […]

Michael Sheridan (Business and Process Improvement Specialist & Data Scientist)

For more on the Samurai Game you should start here and here.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

 

 

putting your life in someone else’s hands

December 18, 2015
Daimyo Armour from Seki, Japan c. 1600 AD

Daimyo Armour, Seki c.1600 AD

Life was not cheap then, but lives were often given and easily spent.

Samurai were required to publicly pledge their lives into the service of their Daimyo Lords. The Samurai understood that such a pledge gave the Daimyo control over their days and the authority to command them: to charge into battle, to stay behind while others charged or to stand by and do nothing. It wasn’t a pledge to be made lightly nor was it a pledge that was received lightly. With the authority to lead others comes the responsibility to lead them well and the power to change lives in an instant. The power to create lives and to end lives.

Putting your life into someone else’s hands sounds like an archaic sort of thing to do. Something best left in the 16th and 17th centuries perhaps and surely not something we need in more enlightened times?

Think for a moment though of the last time you first met the person who would be your “boss”. The person who has control over much of your days. What sort of conversation did you have with them? You probably signed an employment contract with someone from HR that outlined your commitments and theirs. But did you have a conversation with your boss?

Did they explicitly request that you give them the authority to lead? Did you explicitly give them the authority to lead you, acknowledging that even though you might not agree with their decisions you commit yourself to executing them to the best of your ability?

While I have made that pledge before as a participant in a Samurai Game, I have just done just it for the first time in my corporate life. It is not that I have never granted anyone that authority, it is just the first time I have told them that I am. When you do it explicitly it makes you think carefully about who you are making that commitment to and what you are prepared to give. You are putting a large part of your life in their hands after all.

I know from my experiences with the Samurai Game that receiving that commitment also changes people. Many are reluctant and many cannot initially understand what their team see in them that allows others to pledge their life into their service.

Good leaders know that with the responsibility comes accountability and that can feel like a heavy weight to bear. Without it I don’t think there can be real leadership. With it, so much more is possible.

Think about it the next time you put your life in someone else’s hands…

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the benefits that come from my work in the theatre and the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

Here is what some participants have said about their experience with me:

The real world is never straightforward, and it’s seldom clear what the right answer is for many of our major decisions – especially if there’s some moral aspect to those decisions – and we have to dig down to our core values to make the decisions we can live with afterwards. It’s not often we […]

Ken Livingston (Senior Business Analyst)

The Samurai Game was a 1-day workshop (open to the public) that I attended (upon recommendation) in February 2015. The game was delivered in a safe workshop setting – and Paul’s facilitation allowed attendees to learn the rules and values of a 16th century Japanese Samurai warrior. Attending the Samurai game workshop gave me the […]

Michael Sheridan (Business and Process Improvement Specialist & Data Scientist)

For more on the Samurai Game you should start here and here.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

 

death is silent but insistent in its demands

November 30, 2015

Death is silent but insistent in its demands – that we choose how we will live.

In each moment death stands silently by and insists that we choose.

“How will you live? In this moment? And in this moment?”

Our lives are the result of those choices.

 

Death is silent but if we are fortunate before death claims us we may speak on death’s behalf.

Not with death’s voice but with our own, not of death’s choices but of our own.

What we chose not to do. What we chose not to say. Where we chose not to go. Who we chose not to love. Perhaps even why…

… but never of when.

We may never speak of a time when we did not choose.

 

Death, despite the silence, remains resolute, insistent throughout our life:

“You must choose!”

In that you have no choice because not choosing is also a choice. It is the choice that gives death a thunderous voice.

Those who avoid making a choice will be the ones who speak the loudest when death approaches and wordlessly demands:

“Speak of your choices for they are the measure of your living and of your dying.”

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the benefits that come from my work in the theatre and the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

Here is what some participants have said about their experience with me:

The real world is never straightforward, and it’s seldom clear what the right answer is for many of our major decisions – especially if there’s some moral aspect to those decisions – and we have to dig down to our core values to make the decisions we can live with afterwards. It’s not often we […]

Ken Livingston (Senior Business Analyst)

The Samurai Game was a 1-day workshop (open to the public) that I attended (upon recommendation) in February 2015. The game was delivered in a safe workshop setting – and Paul’s facilitation allowed attendees to learn the rules and values of a 16th century Japanese Samurai warrior. Attending the Samurai game workshop gave me the […]

Michael Sheridan (Business and Process Improvement Specialist & Data Scientist)

For more on the Samurai Game you should start here and here.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

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