May 31, 2015

Separation anxiety

I was talking to a good friend yesterday about my son’s departure for England today. I went through all the things he had done to prepare and all those who support him have done too. It all sounds logical, rational and for for my son, it’s no doubt very exciting. A great adventure. After a while my friend declared that I simply had separation anxiety. I’m pretty sure he’s right. Bugger, something I can’t just manage though doing things.

My father told me years afterwards, that when I left home at (just) 18 to join the police, he felt much the same. I can remember the leaving, feeling pretty confident, excited and wondering why my parents looked somewhat serious! Now I know. I said my goodbyes and strode to the aeroplane.

Finding your own feet and being responsible for what happens, and dealing with it, is probably the first (and arguably the most important) leadership step.

So as he sets off, it’s a tear in my eye for sure, but those broad shoulders will confidently walk through to immigration and off he’ll be. I’m certain he’ll have a great time. I miss him already and he hasn’t quite gone. Lovely young man he is. But he has to look forward. I did.

Stephen

May 25, 2015

A testament to our own choices in time

In the movie Testament of Youth young men enthusiastically head to war in 1915 to “do the right thing”, for a bit of an OE and to join their mates. When I walked out of the cinema the phrase Testament of Stupidity came to mind.

Most of the people I know are fortunate to have choices in life. Some people don’t because of restricted society rules, war, cults and other tragedies of humanity.

The young men in the movie appeared to be making free choices. No doubt those who survived would agree that they had far from full information.

We start the Authentic Leadership Programme this morning with 18 managers embarking on a journey of discovery about themselves and others. We’ll start by learning about individual preferences and what others say about us. It won’t be exact information, but time, space and resources will be freely given to enable all the participants to interpret the information and plan for their individual next steps.

Taking new information on board to develop our leadership requires deliberate actions to be made by leaders to ensure the new insights are properly understood, interpreted and acted on. It can’t just be accepting someone’s interpretation of “the right thing” or what our mates are doing.

On the first day of the Programme, and in the ensuing months, our managers will be encouraged to make deliberate choices and changes in their leadership based on full information, reflection and planning. What will matter will be what is best for each leader to grow his or her leadership potential, their teams and their organisation.

Pressure will come for sure, it’s not always easy making changes, but the pressure will be based on honest and full information.

Stephen

Despite my post-movie reaction, Testament of Youth is a powerful story and a great movie.

April 21, 2015

A community of men

Going back to help set up the Pathways to Manhood programme at Te Arai Point was a homecoming of sorts. Getting the tent out (hoping all the bits were there), checking the camping gear (I’m not waking up at 2am with no air in the lilo this time!) was all part of the experience.

There’s a lot of stuff to pack for a couple of days camping. For a couple of city guys, my son Tim and I felt a little bit anxious about what to expect. We’d been there before as participants, and then it was challenging, even hard at times and I had felt the pull to return in some capacity. But we didn’t really know what to expect.

The main thing that stuck with me about being there last time was acceptance. No one judged, everyone was accepted.

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Finding our own Teepee

It was just the same this time. Although we were there to help we helped in whatever way worked for us. Tim and I were in the kitchen for quite a bit of the time, helping set it up, and that morphed into preparing meals for the men present. Some unloading of firewood during a downtime in the kitchen got the back moving (now maybe that was the start of the bad back that arrived on Sunday!).

In the evenings we all retired to the giant Teepee with dug out fire for light and heat. Jokes, poems, songs, music, stories and reflection. Tim didn’t seem in any rush to head to the tent, preferring the community of man around the fire.

Acceptance. It’s incredibly powerful and giving. Soon we’ll be on the Authentic Leadership Programme again, and with it I hope we will bring a sense of acceptance to those a little anxious at the beginning.

We all need our own teepee. A place where we’re accepted without judgment. A place to reflect.

Stephen

April 2, 2015

Decisions that change

We all have them in life. The decisions that change the course of your life, whether that be a personal decision or maybe a career change. Twenty-five years ago last week on 26 March 1990 with twenty others I gathered at 120 Mayoral Drive, Auckland as a new employee of the newly-created Serious Fraud Office.

We had an office, desks, phones and some basic computers. Parliament hadn’t passed the SFO Act so we had no statutory powers. But we did have quite a lot of energy and diverse skills and got on with the task of investigating allegations of fraud that had been collecting dust in other government departments. Some we took over from other agencies.

Our minister was the Attorney-General, the late David Lange who attended an opening ceremony and lived up to his lively reputation and healthy appetite. Charles Sturt, a police detective turned lawyer was the Chief Executive and Director. He got into quite a few tangles with other departments and politicians, one of which saw him retire from the role, much later. He had the vision to see that the SFO should not just be statutorily independent, but that it should operate independently of the police and others.

The cases were challenging, and the powers the SFO was given with the passing of the Act in July 1990 made the obtaining of evidence relatively straightforward. The powers were controversial, some not requiring judicial oversight, and it took until quite recently for the police and others to get similar investigation tools.

I knew that the decision to join was large but like all decisions, you can never know where it will lead you. The large part comes later, as life’s direction is altered irreversibly. There’s no going back to the former state. That is gone.

We might think carefully about these sorts of decisions, but do we know where they really lead? Of course not, even with a goal in sight.

Sometimes a decision to change is needed to break the old open and allow change.

Some of us twenty on that day would have fitted into that category, some, like me, slightly starry-eyed looking forward to a new thing without too much thought about where it might lead.

Turned out to be not a bad call.

Stephen

p.s. Test of a big decision: remembering the date I reckon!

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