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

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

 

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

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

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.

 

A rage about leadership

The group I was in the other day was asked by the facilitator “are you for or against Trump?”.  Yes, I replied, I don’t think you can be benign about him. Some people feel angry, not just in America, but everywhere.

Anger creates reactions and high interest when we see it. It has a place when our ethics are seriously undermined, or behaviour around us deliberately sets to undermine us or our organisation. It can create fear and further anger if not contained. But anger is not rage which is uncontrolled, scary and shouldn’t be in our toolkit.

iStock-930597440.jpgWhat to make of Trump I often think. He seems like he’s in an uncontrolled rage much of the time, although we don’t see it directly expressed, other than in the middle-of-the-night texts. The administration he leads seems fueled by rage – rage at minorities and those that support them, at political opponents, at other countries, the FBI and Special Counsel – and so on.

You could argue that he’s standing up for what he believes in. Despite that proposition being very difficult to determine (I originally wrote laughable here!), it’s not authentic leadership by any stretch. Authentic Leadership requires empathy, a strong ethical compass, firmness when needed, and nurturing those that need support. Not abandonment and undermining.

That’s my rage about leadership!

Stephen