A scarf

A scarf

I posted my last blog “I just wanted to hug her” at 12.48pm on 15 March, after boarding a regular flight from Wellington back home to Auckland. It talked of the events of that morning, and I felt satisfied that we’d had a good event, and that I’d been able to blog so promptly.

The doors then closed and by the time the flight landed in Auckland over 40 innocent people had been murdered at the Al Noor Mosque, and as I mounted my motorcycle to head up Highway 20A to the city, several more people were killed at the Linwood Islamic Centre.

Just over the road and around the corner at Linwood Avenue Primary School in the early seventies our class wrote to the then prime minister, Norm Kirk, to suggest that we have a holiday on his birthday. I have no idea what inspired us to write the letter, but I do recall we received a gracious reply, thanking us for the suggestion. I’m not sure what he thanked us for actually, but with the benefit of hindsight, it must have been something about his leadership that we had noticed.

Someone said to me today that because our prime minister wore a scarf while mourning with the Muslim community these last two weeks, she feels differently about Muslim women. It’s made quite a difference, she said, something she said she can’t clearly articulate but it’s been very healing for her. And she hasn’t been a fan of the prime minister at all.

I can’t remember what we saw in Norm Kirk, but my impression of him was a great leader, who sought change for good.

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Leadership is about bringing people together for a common purpose.

To me the scarf was as simple as that. Powerful.

Stephen

 

I just wanted to hug her

I just wanted to hug her

When Mary spoke at our PwC Fraud Academy event this morning she shared her personal experiences of “blowing the whistle” on her boss some years back. What struck me and others in the room was the very real and powerful effects on her.

At one level she simply did the right thing, having found evidence of invoicing fraud. But it was much more than this. The sense of disbelief – could my boss have really done this? The agony of not knowing who to trust. The suspicion that others might be involved. And the fear. Fear of consequences for herself – “maybe people will think I’m involved” – or at least culpable for not having picked it up, and the fear of what her boss might do.

As it turned out, after her boss was confronted by senior management she was confronted by him: “What have you done? They’re accusing me of all manner of things“.

Nasty stuff and not things we hope we’ll ever face in the workplace.

iStock-994164986.jpgLeaders will typically prepare for crisis events: spring into action for natural disasters and man-made events. Preparing ourselves for confronting the worst aspects of the human condition requires drawing on our innermost resources and life experiences.

Mary left and we wrapped up the session with a few words about the importance of transparent and visible whistleblower services.

As our audience left one woman came up to me and asked me to ensure that we properly thanked Mary for her bravery “I just wanted to hug her” she said.

Stephen

Not all black and white

When Mum and Dad were married, the end of WWII was just seven years earlier. That’s like it had ended at the end of 2011, looking back from now. Or, if we look at the Armistice for WWI, the 100th year of which we commemorated yesterday, that was thirty-four years prior, say 1984 from today’s lens.

Photographs from that era were all black and white and the first one included in this blog is the “meet the parents” trip taken outside 125 Queen Street, Auckland.  Until recently this was the Bank of New Zealand building, the bank that Mum and Dad have been with for all that time! (although I’m pretty sure Mum has some funds hidden away elsewhere).  The photograph was taken by a street photographer and collected from the store an hour or so later on payment of a small fee.

Mum and Dad 1952.jpgIt’s tempting to look at a long marriage as a specific time period and consider it a great achievement (which it is), or a good effort (perhaps like a prison sentence – “hey it’s more than David Bain did and he was innocent!”), or assume what is there today is what was there all along.

Here’s the wedding day  – them on the right with one of Dad’s brothers as best man with the bridesmaid.

Mum and Dad Wedding

Unlike the photographs it’s not all black and white. Mum and Dad are quite colourful actually – check out the recent photograph below. They’re parents, grandparents, great grandparents, brother and sister, uncle, aunty, cousin and friends to many.

So on this day it’s a celebration of a couple who have lived together as an example of love, persistence, humour, faith and actually, the most important thing of all: just doing good. Some of that even washed onto me!

Nice. Congratulations. You’re a legendary couple.

Stephen

ps 66 years!

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Grab it!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about micro-moments. Those moments in leadership when we have to make a call or react to circumstances. When our EQ is truly put to test. And our leadership defined by others. Harsh, but true.

But there are other micro moments too. Those moments when to do nothing might not be noticed, but to do something could make a big difference to others and our leadership. When we need to grab the moment. I’ll call this the Leadership Grab (kind of grabs me!).

We had some of these moments on the Authentic Leadership Programme today when the participants sat with senior leaders in a series of leadership conversations. Rich and empowering stuff for all concerned. There were Leadership Grabs up on offer.

I’m pretty sure I’ll have one or two on offer later this week when I facilitate an internal session on leadership and culture. Even so, I’m doing some planning.

iStock-640287942.jpgBut what to do to prepare for the unexpected Leadership Grab? I’ll be trying as best I can to use some wise leadership and tools that go with it – my ethical compass, appreciative inquiry, stories, coaching and vision – and ignoring the ordinary voice in the head that tries to tell me to not step forward.

It needn’t and shouldn’t be loud or confronting. Just an authentic act of leadership delivered calmly and firmly to empower others and grow yourself.

Will you be ready for your next Leadership Grab?

Stephen

 

Joy

noun a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.

It’s a word that’s been top of mind lately. As authentic leaders we strive to provide an environment where those we lead can perform, grow and reach their purpose, or meaning.

I have had an internal debate about whether I look for purpose or meaning. Whichever one it is I strive for, lately I’ve noticed that unless something brings joy, I’m hesitating.

A colleague and I engaged in a coaching conversation today. We challenged each other on blocks that people have to finding joy. It is the nature of the work? Is it too much work? Or is it just a mindset.

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Work won’t always bring us joy. Sometimes it’s just hard. Our personal objectives won’t always bring us joy. Getting there can be hard.

But on the way through I reckon we should be finding some joy. Not just from reaching a purpose, finding a meaning, or even reaching a goal. But on the way through.

Reminding ourselves “these are the good old days“.  Making it a daily challenge to find the mindset that brings joy to us is not easy, but worth a try for our own sense of purpose or meaning, and our teams.

 

Stephen

Would you do that?

We visited the Erebus memorial at Waikumete Cemetery yesterday on the Authentic Leadership Programme. Then we travelled back to Waitakere Estate through the beautiful Scenic Drive and watched a powerful movie of corporate greed and fraud.

Our natural instincts are that we wouldn’t get involved in that sort of activity – we wouldn’t cover up the mishandling of the flight path that might have caused a plane crash – we wouldn’t sacrifice our values and integrity for money, would we?

We’d hope not. But circumstances can make people do things that they wouldn’t think they are capable of. I know, I’ve seen it in multiple fraud cases over the years. When I was at the Serious Fraud Office, most of the people we prosecuted didn’t start out as crooks. But a combinations of circumstances (pressure or greed), opportunity (no one can see) and justification (I deserve it or it’s mine) can turn ordinary, honest men and women into criminals.

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So what to do about it? I think of my values as my valuables – I try not to leave them lying around, I protect them and I know where they are at all times. Of course there’s a lot more to it but that’s a good start.

We should also pay attention to our lies. Sound confronting? Wise leaders are intentionally clear about their communication and don’t use weasel words that allow for mis-interpretation.

As I write this the leaders on the Programme are recording those five ethical considerations that they won’t allow to be compromised. Then they’re drafting a legacy.

One goes with the other.

Stephen

A different perspective

There’s a lot going on at work right now. Probably too much and I’m sure the team agrees.

So when I booked an afternoon in another city to work and connect with others it seemed a good idea, but not so good this morning.

Nowadays a lot of work can be done anywhere – have laptop and phone – location matters less and less (more on this another day).

After a conference call which sounded like an echo chamber in the airport lounge, I was off. The man next to me was reading the flight manual for the Boeing 777.  Maybe he should have had the aisle seat.

The air was crisp and the sky blue on arrival. Bluer (is that a word?) than home.  It felt quite productive for me although I may have fired off one or two many emails with ideas, thoughts and instructions.

Then some conversations.  Different conversations giving me a different lens on issues and challenges.

IMG_1833.jpgWhen I boarded I realised I had just slightly more perspective than yesterday. A different place, different views on a vexing issue, and some introverted thinking time.  I needed that. You might too.

 

Stephen