Enabling lies

Enabling lies

I drafted this blog a week ago after it bubbling for quite a while. I couldn’t quite get it right. I thought I had something to say that I felt was important but I couldn’t frame it quite right – maybe that’s another blog! So here goes.

I’ve been thinking a bit about lies lately. We hear cries of “fake news” nowadays, sometimes by politicians under pressure. In George Orwell’s 1984, the “truth” is re-written to reflect what the government wants its citizens to believe. And at a certain level, it seems they did.

At a much more granular level, for many of us, facing lies, or even telling lies, won’t usually be about momentous events. But in leadership, it can matter a lot.

But maybe there’s two people in that lie. The liar, and us, the enabler?

How often do we accept things said to or around us, that we know to be untrue, possibly then even advancing a conversation on the basis of the lies? Reasonably often in my observation.

iStock-479774396.jpgI’ve been on an invigorating three day course with PwC in Melbourne these last three days. It’s been a course about bringing the best of humanity, technology and business to life for our clients.  One of the speakers was Kirk Docker, the producer of an Australian television series “You can’t ask that”. He showed us a clip of interviewing a random man at a mall. The man started off joking about eating “past use by” chicken, then quickly talked about his traumatic upbringing which had lead him to a life on the streets.  “When did you lose your innocence” Kirk asked. “When I was about 8”, and was let down, said the interviewee. “What did the hard life as an 8-year-old teach you?” asked Kirk.

“That everyone lies. That’s what I learned. Everyone lies.”

A lie that is ignored runs the risk of being a platform for action or inaction. In leadership if you are authentic with a clear moral compass, it should be unacceptable to lie. It should also be unacceptable to let it pass.

Do you enable?

Stephen

 

 

10 years on

10 years on

Jas and I launched the Authentic Leadership Programme on 15 November 2009. It feels very cool to be back where we started with that “night before Christmas” feeling before the last day of the latest cohort, 10 years on, almost to the day.

There’s plenty that different – it’s modular, we focus more on our Ethical Compass and Legacy than we did at the start, some things have gone, plenty has been refreshed – but one thing has grown real legs this time around.

Authenticity. The deep level of engagement and self reflection has gone to another level this time. The participants have done so much good work on themselves over the months since we set off. At tonight’s dinner it was incredibly rewarding to us as facilitators to see the changes and growth in each and every one participant.

iStock-498310812.jpgI’ve always felt we have a great leadership programme. From today, I’m certain we have a great authentic leadership programme. Facilitating in leadership development is a mirror of our own leadership (well at least I hope so but others can judge!). We ask coaching questions, we role model, we’re attentive, we don’t micro-manage, we go where we need to go (called agile of course but I like the clarity of the many words version), we try new things out, but most importantly on this programme, we hold the space.

The activity on a programme tilts from time to time, participants question themselves and the content, stakeholders want more or different content, and new materials are asked for in a constant search for refinement. And much of that happens, but the magic of this Programme I reckon is holding a firm, but relaxed course throughout and not letting anything faze you.

So, in the morning, there’s a unique opportunity for the participants to interact with senior leaders to share their insights and engage in an authentic leadership conversation.  Managers and others will be watching on. The description of it all sounds tense and built up, like a show. Something that could faze you.

But it’s not, and shouldn’t be based on what we’ve seen so far.  What we saw on the Programme today was an extraordinary display of leadership up close and personal in the group. Everyone has been just like we all are with someone you trust – vulnerable and authentic.

Jas and I reflected this evening that our work is done for this group. They’re ready to look to the stars and fly. And we’re looking forward to seeing it on display tomorrow, together.

Afterwards, our leaders won’t be the participants on a programme any more.

And with great satisfaction, they won’t need to be.

Stephen

The Mule

The Mule

The Mule is a 2018 film directed, produced and starring the 88 year old Clint Eastwood. He plays an older man called Earl Stone, a horticulturist who specialises in Lily cultivars. I couldn’t help but think of my Dad, of similar age, healthy and energetic and life-long horticulturist.

But there, fortunately (!), the similarities end. Earl has a problematic relationship with his family – he’s focussed only on the Lilies and related events – and sacrifices family and family events for his passion.

Earl becomes, unwittingly a mule, running cocaine across country for a Mexican Drug cartel. Any more information and I’ll have to put a spoiler alert out, but it’s beautifully filmed, and very tense.

iStock-491697130.jpgHe’s a man without the filters of needing to prove anything which is why he’s such a successful mule.

In the end, the film is about family, time and paying attention to the relationships that matter to you. You can buy anything almost, but not time.

I wonder if the film is intended to be cathartic for Eastwood – he reportedly has eight children from several relationships – and one of his daughters plays his on-screen daughter.

A gripping, at times funny, film with a strong message and a typical Eastwood ending that isn’t feel good but kind of is.

Enjoy*.

Stephen

*Time with those that matter.

Relaxed new leadership

Relaxed new leadership

We started with twenty new leaders on the Authentic Leadership Programme a few days ago.

By the time the first lunchtime rolled around it felt like we had already made great progress. We’d learned some new insights about each other and the three teams put together had developed a charter for the work they will do together over the coming months.

In the afternoon we focussed on ourselves. We learned quite a bit about ourselves from the leadership tools used, including powerful 360 feedback.

Not all feedback is easy to receive, but all the leaders on our Programme received very positive comments as well as work ons. Most people focus on the work ons without paying too much attention to the good stuff.

iStock-947115926.jpgThe two days felt quite relaxed but you can never underestimate what’s going on when you put aside two days to start of journey of discovery. At the conclusion of the two days there were lots of commentson how special it is to have time out to reflect.

It’s very tempting to keep piling content into leadership development. The art is to have sufficient for stimulus, but leave plenty of time for reflection and self-work.

When it’s relaxed there’s a good chance you’ve got the balance about right.

Stephen

201

201

I appear to have picked up some more followers, or at least followers who have noticed, because I’ve blogged about walking and related adventures, such as Cornwall Park.

The most common subject I hear in the leadership world right now is about well-being. It’s a broad subject and seems to cover physical and mental health when it is referred.

We all know it’s important to be in good health, so why the increased consciousness about well-being now?

I did my 201st walk last week for 2019. I probably won’t make 400, but they’re longer now, so maybe 365 is a good goal!

iStock-950716438.jpgWell-being is really about satisfaction, happiness or contentment. You chose the word that suits.

I’m not particularly satisfied that I’ve completed 201 walks, but I am increasingly happy and content from the energy, space and health that those 201 walks have provided me with.

And you can do it almost anywhere.

Stephen

 

Sustaining development

Sustaining development

I was privileged recently to interview a number of participants of past programmes for a short video. We didn’t know what they were going to say, although it’s fair to say that if you agree to go on video you probably have positive things to say!

Be that as it may, it was amazing to hear the ongoing benefits from authentic leadership development being embedded long after the work on the programme had concluded. As I’ve said in the past, leadership development can get a bad rap for adopting a “sheep dip” and/or “break ‘em down to build them up” approach, something we do our best to avoid.

The answer is to give the development time. Time on programme, time back at work to practice and reflect, more time on programme, time to embed an ongoing reflection habit, and then allow sufficient space for participants to own the development opportunities presented to them.

iStock-1039315630.jpgOne of those I interviewed referenced the Leadership Walk as being one of the most powerful parts of her development. She didn’t call it by our anointed name, but the meaning she took out of it and then applied back at work was very gratifying to hear. Another said that the most powerful feedback moment he took was, well, about feedback. He has adjusted how and when he gives feedback to his team and said it’s made a material difference to his team leadership.

Whether we’re on a programme or just genuinely focussed on pushing our own development, giving ourselves space between learnings to reflect, try new stuff, embed and try again, is vital.

That creates a sustained leadership development journey, whether that be a formal or informal process.

Stephen

 

Bringing nothing

Bringing nothing

I recently ran the Leadership vs Management public workshop series again in Wellington and then Auckland. Don’t tell anyone, but the title is a bit of a misnomer. The workshop is more about what key leadership attributes are, with story-telling at its heart.

We don’t have a slide deck, and very minimal written resources. The few slides that there are, are laminated and affixed to the wall, mainly as prompts for a story I might tell.

It occurs to me that someone will (and should!) challenge me on the model or models of leadership that are to be learned on the workshop and then followed by the participants. At the conclusion at one of the workshops in this series we did a final round of learning nuggets. One participant, who had been reasonably quiet, said that it was a highlight that we had not come with leadership models for us to learn and apply. She expressed relief. I was somewhat relieved too – as facilitator you try your best to match everyone’s needs in the room – but you don’t always know whether you’re hitting the mark.

The thinking behind my approach is actually built on what I think it a fundamental truth of leadership moments. What you have in the room at any given moment is it. When you embrace that premise, you will gain the best of those present for any decision or leadership challenge that needs to be met. Don’t imagine that there’s a mysterious person who has the special insight, the ultimate responsibility, or the magical solution.

Close-up on discussion.What you have at that moment is it.

So in our workshops we bring very little. You have to believe that the people that attend have all the leadership insights, stories and motivations to make a great success of this particular moment in their leadership journey. And they always do.

You just have to trust.

Stephen