Not going to plan

I thought it was the overworked muscles from the gym workout. On Tuesday I hobbled a bit, Wednesday was much better and by the time we started Module two of the Authentic Leadership Programme on Thursday the pain had gone from the legs. But it had moved. Something didn’t feel right though. But I had to keep going – stepping in, in fact – as my co-facilitator was rapidly going downhill with a virus!

By the time I got to the Doctor after the first day it was obvious that neither of us were going to make day 2.

So what to do? What will the participants think about this? And the client? What about all the plans and bookings for the next day?

iStock-639359406.jpgDoing experiential leadership development requires context. We use locations, draw on our and the participants’ experiences, and let it flow.

As in all leadership, sometimes it doesn’t go to plan and you need to be ready to move on. Fast. And make the most of what follows.

We’ll find out in a week  whether a new location and different exercises will work.

I’m pretty sure it will, especially if we don’t try too hard and be open to what flows.




Struggles with change

Man character need help. Vector flat cartoon illustration

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.

Ironic Satirical Illustration of a Retro Classic Comics Woman Being a Drama Queen

Change can be scary and leaders should be ready to understand, confront and allay fears. Especially now.



Decisions that change

We all have them in life. The decisions that change the course of your life, whether that be a personal decision or maybe a career change. Twenty-five years ago last week on 26 March 1990 with twenty others I gathered at 120 Mayoral Drive, Auckland as a new employee of the newly-created Serious Fraud Office.

We had an office, desks, phones and some basic computers. Parliament hadn’t passed the SFO Act so we had no statutory powers. But we did have quite a lot of energy and diverse skills and got on with the task of investigating allegations of fraud that had been collecting dust in other government departments. Some we took over from other agencies.

Our minister was the Attorney-General, the late David Lange who attended an opening ceremony and lived up to his lively reputation and healthy appetite. Charles Sturt, a police detective turned lawyer was the Chief Executive and Director. He got into quite a few tangles with other departments and politicians, one of which saw him retire from the role, much later. He had the vision to see that the SFO should not just be statutorily independent, but that it should operate independently of the police and others.

The cases were challenging, and the powers the SFO was given with the passing of the Act in July 1990 made the obtaining of evidence relatively straightforward. The powers were controversial, some not requiring judicial oversight, and it took until quite recently for the police and others to get similar investigation tools.

I knew that the decision to join was large but like all decisions, you can never know where it will lead you. The large part comes later, as life’s direction is altered irreversibly. There’s no going back to the former state. That is gone.

We might think carefully about these sorts of decisions, but do we know where they really lead? Of course not, even with a goal in sight.

Sometimes a decision to change is needed to break the old open and allow change.

Some of us twenty on that day would have fitted into that category, some, like me, slightly starry-eyed looking forward to a new thing without too much thought about where it might lead.

Turned out to be not a bad call.


p.s. Test of a big decision: remembering the date I reckon!

In the mood for a cyclone

Apparently there’s a cyclone here, or is that an ex-cyclone?  So far not much bar some gusts and welcome rain.  Running from Titirangi up to Arataki this morning, it only took 500 metres, then I didn’t get any wetter.  One good thing about running in the rain is that once you’re wet, that’s it, you don’t get any wetter.


If it’s cold that can matter, but this morning it was not too bad at all.  

For some reason it reminded me of being in Paris a year ago next month. Suddenly, the trip was fresh in my mind again and Hotel Coste was playing in the (now infrequently used) car. I feel a re-play of Midnight in Paris coming on.

It’s been exceptionally busy lately at work, with hardly a moment to reflect or for that matter, write a blog. And I’ve missed it. There’s something about writing down thoughts that is both therapeutic and insightful to me. A change in weather is like a change a pace, a chance to do something new, or in this case old, again.

So the outdoor umbrellas are down, the windows all closed but frankly, the cyclone hasn’t really (so far!) come to much that matches all the preparation and anticipation. But what it did do is makefor a change of pace, a chance to change direction, even for a day.

Thanks to a cyclone that put me in the mood. To write a blog.



A big call

We elected a new government last weekend. That was a big call. By collectively voting to return a National-led government we had to give some things away – the prospect of keeping our government-owned power companies in full public ownership, a tax system that taxed earnings on all capital profits, and raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, for example.

So selecting something always requires giving up something.

First time for me into the Victoria Park Tunnel

Jasbindar Singh who  I often work with, reminds me from time-to-time: “Stephen, if you going to do that, then what will you give up?” A good but sometimes difficult question.

On Friday I made a big call personally. It will involve change including giving some things up. It wasn’t easy and there is a certain amount of grief that goes with the giving up part. For me, I felt that quite a lot, but in life we need to make big calls sometimes – no change happens without change! And when we get the opportunity, it won’t always been when you’re ready for it – in fact there’s a good chance that no change for growth will occur when you’re ready.  If you were ready it probably wouldn’t be much of a change.

Tomorrow we start the final module of the Innovative Leader’s GM Programme.  It’s a really busy time of the year and those on the programme have to give up something to be there. That’s the nature of preparing for growth.

As for me even though I like change I still find it hard to let go. Logic vs the heart. That’s a big call!


Expecting the same

The definition of insanity is expecting a different result by doing the same each time. Or so said a business associate of mine when discussing some contracts she is involved with. It was the movies again last night for me:  Larry Crowne was a lifer at Umart who was sacked because his lack of college education meant that there was no prospect of promotion. Larry went off to university in an effort to make a step change in his life. He found a girl and you can guess what happened.

Not everyone likes a step change.  Some people want gradual change  and believe that step changes, especially if the team make-up changes dramatically, do more harm than good in the end.

Larry had originally trained as a navy chef and started courses in economics and in public speaking to make his step change. As the public speaking course progressed it looked more and more like story-telling (sorry but can’t resist putting a plug in for our brand new website at CIL!). Larry wanted to make a change by gaining a university education. In the end the biggest change he made was the people he met. And in the process he discovered that he didn’t need any theory about public speaking – all he needed was to unlock the authentic story of his life. All of that was a big step change.

The thing about change is that we never really know what the end result will be – what we do know is that when it’s started it won’t be the same again – which for Larry Crowne was the main thing.

Do you want a different result? Then you need to do something different, sometimes we won’t even know where it will end and the most important thing is that change has begun. I quite like the concept of a change from a burning platform. There’s a saying that you have one month to make a change for a significant life event. Unless you want the same, go for it!

Although it’s a predicable feel good movie, it’s funny and off the wall in places. I enjoyed it.


Same change

Season 1 Disc 1. By the time you read this (if I’m that lucky!) I will have had my breakfast with the IAP2 group. The topic is authentic leadership and I know that most of the people who are coming along have had to deal with a lot of change over the last year or so. I sometimes use a photograph of a major motorway under construction and for a bit of fun, get the people present to see if they can identify it. Then later, I show a photograph of another motorway under construction. It’s odd, because it looks familiar but not quite right. Actually it’s the same motorway, first construction 45 years ago and then the reconstruction, right now.

My Pohutukawa going through change – either becoming variegated or not variegated. Time will tell.

I’m revisiting the first few episodes of Seinfeld in preparation for the presentation in the morning (good thing they won’t read this first!). The most successful television series of all time and watching the first disc after quite a few years it certainly appears to be the show about nothing. Or is it?  They look a little younger, the set is dated, the humour is slightly more obvious. There’s constant change to be dealt with from an endless pit of shallow human interaction you might think, somewhat cynically. They are stories though.

I’ve a feeling that in the morning we’ll have some stories about change – some that hurt, some that’s exciting and some grudgingly accepted. We can learn a lot from the change that we’ve had in the past. That’s not exactly new of course although we can easily overlook past experiences in dealing with the current change.

So how to tap into the change learnings from the past that might be buried? Think about where you go for your authenticity stories? What’s your Season 1 Disc 1? The more you practice your authentic stories with your teams, the more change you will uncover further and further back, that  is the same as what you’ve got going on now.

We’ll be there in the morning. Happening right now if you’re reading this first thing.