When a team is struggling to connect, a bit of courage from everyone involved can make all the difference.
On some recent leadership development work, instead of the participants recording their reflections in private notebooks, everyone put their reflections on flipcharts in the open area.
It took courage and having courage can mean taking a risk. This new process was not without risk and even one team member not being ready could have derailed it.
But this team plainly was ready, and so we took it a step further and had the team members record feedback on each others’ flipcharts.
In doing so, a permanent and meaningful record of a crucible event was created.
I heard after the session that the team has already made great strides.
I’m calling this new process ReflectBackᵗᵐ. I would welcome the opportunity to use it with your team to cut through challenges you’re having. Yes, you do need to be brave and I suggest not using it without supervision.
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It’s trite to say that there’s a lot of change right now. I’ve told myself to stop reading Trump news but I can’t. It’s seems every day brings more deconstruction, as Stephen Bannon calls it, of a democratic government. He seems to be quite reclusive, probably an introvert and if you read what he has to say about the state of the Western World he’s very hostile to immigrants, trade agreements, non-Christians, non-whites, the LGBTQ community. Anyone unlike him.
According to Wikipedia “Bannon was a founding member of the board of Breitbart News, an online far-right news, opinion and commentary website which, according to Philip Elliott and Zeke J. Miller of Time, has “pushed racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic material into the vein of the alternative right“.
I’ve been wondering how a person ends up that. You might also wonder how he ended up as the right hand person to the US President. But that’s not what this is about.
Fear. Bannon is scared. Living through all that change and feeling forced to accept progress and equality when you believe they are poisonous. So now it’s revenge and trying to change the world to stop being scared.
And you thought that Trump feeding his insatiable ego was bad enough.
Change can be scary and leaders should be ready to understand, confront and allay fears. Especially now.
We finished another Authentic Leadership Programme this week with presentations to the participants’ Executive Leadership Team. It was a time of some anxiety: Presentations! Public Speaking! Jerry Seinfeld says that public speaking is the number one fear of most people. Number two? Dying. So if you’re at a funeral most people would rather be….
But what happens when you decide to have a conversation in lieu of a presentation? Participants speaking about deep experiences from a journey of discovery.
It was really quite simple and at the same time very complex. An authentic conversation is easy, and sounds easy. In leadership development it only comes from a shared experience, a deep examination of self and exploring and identifying one’s leadership strengths and challenges.
Everyone on the programme should feel proud of where they had got to and for taking a risk with their vulnerability. It paid off and will bring dividends in the years to come.
This programme couldn’t have happened without the enduring wisdom of David Carter who recently moved on. He won’t be stoked that we’re talking of yet another journey, but it was, and a powerful one for which he had a significant role. Thank you.
Ryan Lochte has won 12 Olympic medals, making him the second highest US swimming medal-winner behind Michael Phelps. Lance Armstrong ‘won’ 7 consecutive Tour de France races although he was stripped of the awards after he was found to have cheated. Lochte is not a cheat and this blog is not about being a cheat or not.
As best as I can ascertain Lochte and others caused some damage to a bathroom in Rio. A security guard who was armed (and may have pulled his weapon) demanded that Lochte and his friends pay for the damage. Lochte fled and complained to the police that they had been robbed at gunpoint. When the actual facts surfaced, Lochte had left Rio.
He apologised to his teammates and said he was “hurt” that they were left in Rio to deal with the consequences. He says he “over-exaggerated” the situation and insists he didn’t lie.
I heard an interview of Armstrong on the radio the other day. If you listen to him talking about his doping, you quickly pick up that the man has not really come to terms with what he did. Armstrong struggles with acknowledging what he has done: “I view this situation as one big lie that I repeated a lot of times,” he said. “I’m sitting here today to acknowledge that and to say I’m sorry for that.”. That’s pretty clear but he also says that without his winning all the cycle races he wouldn’t have raised the profile of cycling to where it is now, nor raised all the millions for cancer sufferers. True.
At our last Authentic Leadership module we talked about the goldfish bowl effect: leaders are magnified the higher up they go.
The weasel words and justification, abstract apologies to select groups or about things you’ve said, do not properly acknowledge the wrong. They are simply part of trying to minimise what you got caught doing.
If you’ve stuffed up, then acknowledge it and apologise. Leave it for others to find the good in what you did.
On Monday we’ll continue an Authentic Leadership Programme for 18 leaders. There’s a good chance that many of the group coming back together will have been busy – especially busy because of the time out from work on the Programme – to have spent much time focussing on the development work ahead.
I’m feeling a bit like that too. I’ve turned my attention to make sure that the mechanics of the module will work, as you might expect, but getting my head in the right space has had to wait until now.
So will it work to front up on Monday morning good to go? Probably. The key is to be present in that moment, for that moment, during the two days.
A bit like leadership. Being present is incredibly important. And we don’t always get the luxury of time to prepare for that moment. It just happens, and authentic leaders are able to adjust their focus and presence as required.
I’ve been thinking a lot about large shifts. Times are changing. In politics, health of our planet, inequalities, global power shifts and terror events there seem to be large changes happening. Many of these changes won’t be apparent until after….. looking back it’s clear ….but looking forward it’s not clear where the landing is.
How do you feel? Anxious, excited or optimistic perhaps? Or a bit of all three. Some of it makes me anxious. The politics of division worry me. Find a grievance, identify the culprits by ethnicity say, and promise the fix.
In leadership development it used to be popular to “break you down” so you could be built back up again. A great feeling on the day and even for a week or two afterwards. You could have branded it “Let’s make leadership development great again!” and in a less enlightened age you’d be onto a winner.
At least that nonsense didn’t have an entire nationality or ethnicity branded as the enemy. I wonder what the people who follow this idea think the fix will actually look like. It cannot look good. It’s a catastrophic failure of leadership. A psychopathic appears at the helm and some people either haven’t noticed or worse go along with it.
Authentic leadership is aspirational, building on strengths, working together in community to find solutions to the most intractable problems, recognising we are one small group of people in smallish planet in an otherwise unremarkable corner of a galaxy. There’s no one else looking out for us. It’s us. All alone. Only we can do what needs to be done.
More than ever authentic and courageous leaders are needed. Leaders who connect, give hope and guide us through the big changes we’ve entered into. Because they’re not in the future. They’re now.
Very few of us can be global leaders. But we all have a voice.
Be heard and make leadership great again, for good.
We started another Authentic Leadership Programme this week. Eighteen senior managers with eighteen sets of unique strengths.
It was foggy during the day and quite difficult to see much into the forest. That brought our focus inside.
As we move forward throughout the rest of the Programme our managers will learn a lot more about their strengths and their unique authenticity.
Real leadership development comes from a deep understanding of self, including strengths (especially) and blindspots. It can be challenging work examining ourselves but it’s not only worth it, it’s essential for leadership development. As tempting as it can be, you can’t fake leadership development with make believe exercises to put you under momentary stress. Examining and exploring inside yourself is real leadership development work. It can be hard work too, and things won’t necessarily be clear to begin with.
With the right tools and time for deep reflection our managers have all they need to clear the fog for themselves in the coming months, and they’ve made a great start.
Later in the Programme we’ll spend some time out and about exploring the forest as our managers take their insights and learnings back to their organisation.