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

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

Acting with integrity

Acting with integrity

Last week my team shared a dinner out to celebrate promotions. We celebrated everyone there and those that were promoted were invited to say a few brief words.

Acting with Integrity is one of PwC’s stated Values and it’s critical to building trust, part of PwC’s purpose. The great thing about true values is the richness that comes bringing them to life. Psychology Today’s discusses the 7 Signs of People with Integrity which calibrated with me.

Firstly, parents who apologise to their children for over-punishment. As a parent, if you overstep the mark, then your children deserve an apology and for you to set aside your pride.

Secondly, bosses who acknowledge their team members’ achievements and downplay their own.

Thirdly, romantic partners who boycott name calling etc.  You’ll know when you’ve acted without integrity by how badly you feel if you resort to name calling to anyone actually.

Drivers who almost never drive aggressively. I’ve started extensively using adaptive cruise control even in the city. It takes almost all the stress from driving. So someone is a few kms slower in front? Breathe. It’s great for wellbeing too.

iStock-938113718.jpgPeople in positions of power apologising for keeping people waiting. It gets easier the more senior you are to keep people waiting, and sometimes it happens because of your role. But don’t get ahead of yourself – whether you’re a specialist or a manager interviewing prospective employees –  that you’re so important you don’t need any humility and humanity.

Coming in sixth is giving someone the benefit of the doubt, when the circumstances are unclear. In my forensic work this is a must. Anything else is an attack on the rule of law, whether that be the law of the land or the work rulebook.

Finally, volunteering. People with integrity help others without a need for reciprocity.

So with that criteria in mind, how do you stack up? We can challenge ourselves on these, and notice these behaviours in those around us. I think you could use some of these to see how prospective leaders stack up.

At our dinner, one of our team who was promoted only referenced the team who had worked with him, and got him to where he was. It was a sure sign of integrity and left a warm feeling all around. This frame is surely the reason why it felt good.

Stephen

 

Do we need leadership?

Do we need leadership?

It’s surely worth asking the question, especially on a leadership blog! Maybe it’s an age thing, but I find myself questioning more frequently whether I need anyone to “lead” me. I think I’m pretty good at getting on with work, life, a career and looking after myself without any sense of another person or persons leading me.

It might be a function of the lack of leadership globally right now that is part of this thinking. In the United States, past Presidents, who compared to the current incumbent, appear in hindsight to have been great leaders. But they’re mute right now.  In the United Kingdom, a Trumpish front runner looks like having a good chance of making it to the leadership of that country. Neither of these two individuals are leaders to me. Yes they might have that mantle, but if leadership is about vision, values, an ethical compass, respect and inclusion, I think we need another word for these sorts of individuals. Quite a few come to mind, but they’re not repeatable in this forum!

So, in my smug little world where I don’t think I need leadership can that be right? Probably not. Leaders around me have and continue to create the environment for me and my team’s success, with strategy, vision, purpose and an environment for personal and professional growth.

iStock-926404310.jpgSo you might not feel leadership all the time. But good leadership doesn’t need to be in your face, just providing the appropriate context is often sufficient.

Poor leadership, including ruling by division and clinging on to power at all costs, we definitely notice.

And rather than seek to just remove ourselves from the influence of such behaviour, as leaders this is the time to step up, be noticed, drive inclusion and values.

More than ever it’s needed right now.

Stephen