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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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

 

The look of leadership

I used to take time out from my day job once a year, suit off, and drive a truck delivering telephone books for a week. It was refreshing, great exercise, and I got to know parts of the city, especially Parnell, very well. It was slightly jolting at first to realise that your attire (and the job that went with it), had a big impact on how people treated you. “Put them over there”. Fine, and good morning to you too.

iStock-912664056.jpgFive or six years ago colleagues would check in as to whether to wear a tie. Casual Friday was once a month. It soon moved to once a week and then it was “dress for the day”.

Today you’ll see male and female colleagues in smart jeans, shirt in, shirt out, smart suits, open shirts, hoodies, and the occasional tie.

So what is the look of leadership? Is there a look of leadership? What should a leader look like?

Are there really clothing expectations of a professional leadership position? There’s some places you don’t have much choice for formal clothes – a court lawyer, or member of parliament – but almost everything else there’s a lot of flexibility. If you take it.

I do. Some days a suit, others jeans, the occasional hoodie. I’m not sure it makes much difference. Maybe I should try being a delivery person for a day and see if the world has changed!

Stephen

I see it’s New Zealand Fashion Week later this month.

High up leadership

I’m writing this high up, on a Dreamliner to be precise, heading away for a few days. It’s been a frenetic week and getting away was a challenge but a flight departure time is compelling, even for those who like me, enjoy being pressure prompted.

This morning we ran a PwC Fraud Academy event where I interviewed a whistleblower to help our clients understand what they might need to do to encourage a “speak up” culture and protect the whistleblower.

This work sits at the nexus of my forensic and leadership work and I’ve blogged about it in also on LinkedIn.

In my dealings with high-up leaders they’ll usually say that they are approachable and open to feedback and concerns from anyone. And the people around them will often agree.

But what we heard from our whistleblower today was stark. “Why would those higher ups listen to me? What do I know?” she asked.

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What our whistleblower had to say went right to the heart of the trust, integrity and culture of her organisation. Her organisation was and is a great place. Open, trusting with good systems and processes.

But nonetheless she felt disempowered.

Someone asked me at a “laser coaching” session recently how they might improve their social awareness. I said that leadership is most often seen in those micro-moments: on the spot feedback, time to say thanks, a meeting with mechanisms for everyone to be heard, and constant engagement and communication. It seems to me that it’s these leadership behaviours that are also needed to develop the trust for a “speak up” culture too.

If it all sounds like it’s quite a lot to pay attention to, well, actually, it is.

High up leadership sounds grand, the rewards can be significant, but to be effective for your organisation you need to be always on, everywhere you go.

Stephen

Our PwC Leadership Development page went live today thanks to the work of Sarah Guerin in my team.

 

Lifted up by Uncle Stan

On his 80th birthday in 2009 Uncle Stan played an impressive violin piece for the guests.  It was an uplifting experience. Somebody made a recording and we heard and watched it again at his funeral service last week.

Uncle Stan was one of a kind. Forever youthful in his outlook: learning, reading, discussing and playing and enjoying music all his life. He took brave steps in the seventies, changing his family’s immediate projectory and took his own course through life in many ways. He gained great respect and love.

Growing up we all had music in our family, but for some of us – especially me – it was a chore and although I still have my violin it’s not been out of its case for many years. But for Uncle Stan it was a life-long passion through orchestra, solos and sharing it with us all, just as he did at his 80th.

I was struck by the uplifting I felt at his funeral. I wondered whether this was right. Should I feel good at a funeral? Looking around on the day, I don’t think I was the only one. Of course there is grief – especially by his immediately family of course – but joy too.

Uncles Stan uplifted us at his funeral. That’s a feat of leadership.

Stephen