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.


Tough love

Getting feedback can be tough. As leaders we welcome it, embrace it, even ask for it, sometimes via formal systems like a 360.

But sometimes it’s not easy. Working with a new team, a different boss or chair, or, unfortunately, not exhibiting the behaviours others expect of us, can lead to some unpleasant reading.


I always encourage people to prepare for written feedback by preparing for reflection, ensuring they have the context in their head, have some support available, but above all, seek to find the real “juice”. Most people who give feedback do so with the best of intentions to help us. Not everything said will calibrate, but there’s almost always something in it that you can find and own.

Yes, own. Own that feedback, return the love, thank the givers and start planning on making changes.



Mixing up Reflection and Feedback

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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Unofficial start

One of the blogs that came up this week on the WordPress site where this blog is posted was headed “Unofficial start to Summer”.  Driving home this evening late the outside temperature reading was 9.  Not what I’d call the unofficial or any other type of start to Summer.

Winter can be a beautiful time – this is near Whakatane

Of course it’s all about perspectives and living south of the equator – a fair way south – our perspective is very much Winter calling.

Recently I had a bout of chest infection with coughing that seemed to go on an on.  Perhaps all that flying and mixing with strangers in the compressed environment wasn’t so good for me afterall!  Winter is definitely on the way and I notice myself feeling ever so slightly morose when it’s dark early and cold.  Why is that? I have heating, and it always gets dark at some point anyway.  So why should the blackening sky blacken the mood.

I’ve noticed it in the past, but for some reason been more conscious of it this year.  Perceptions can greatly impact how we feel about each other and often those perceptions are right.  If I’m told I appear stressed (like I was today!) then there’s a good chance I was. Or the perception might be wrong, but it’ll be a good excuse for a conversation between colleagues.

So how about an unofficial start to feedback with a comment about perceptions?  You don’t need to accuse or state anything.  Just “My perceptions is that you appear……..” – you fill in the blank which might be happy/anxious/overworked/mindful/unfocussed – and see where it takes you.  If it doesn’t fire, it’s unofficial, so no harm done.

But I’d say probably a lot of good will be done.


What will you do now?

We want leaders, we demand leadership and we expect a lot from leaders. But sometimes leadership fails. Unless you’re able to exercise coercive power, when followers lose confidence for whatever reason, then your leadership is probably over in that role. And that’s what happened to the CEO of the EMA this week.

Being a leader is like being a fish in a bowl – you’re magnified – everyone is watching, but very little information is getting into the fish. The fish doesn’t even know it’s wet I guess! My experience is that the bigger the role, the harder it is for leaders to get feedback from those in their organisation. As you gain more freedom, more profile and access to more people, you are told less by those that support you. If leadership is there to serve then isn’t that wrong? Don’t we all have a responsibility to our leaders to ensure that they are fully informed by what we notice?

The political price of leadership is the greater standard that gets applied. Authentic leaders don’t switch their leadership on and off – they are what they are 24/7. Which must mean at times being wrong, being vulnerable and stuffing up. The higher the standard the easier it is to make a hash of something and that’s what’s happened here. Which disenfranchised so many who need to be connected for that leadership to thrive. And so it ended.

Let’s learn something. What I’d like to ask of you is this: Do you have a leader where you notice things where you could help with feedback? Are you doing anything about it? Or are you sitting there waiting for failure? If you are, I say that’s wrong. Leadership is a relationship. A leader exists not for him or herself, but for a community, a team or a group and serves for that group. In every relationship there is a responsibility to empower and grow each other. Leaders don’t have all the answers and don’t always get it right. When leadership fails, so do the followers and the organisation.

I’m not saying this is the case with the EMA, but it strikes me that there’s a lot of people wanting blood. Wanting blood is a sign of failure for everyone. Those in a relationship don’t want blood. There’s a feeling of no winners in this leadership failure. Which is a shame, as leadership is so important.

Learn something from all of this and do your bit in Leadership Week by supporting your leader. We all have one somewhere. I’ll be on TVNZ Breakfast at 7.10am in the morning talking about this. Hope I make sense!


Coaching the boss

Lots of my time with leaders is spent not on leading others who report to them, but rather dealing with the board or the group CEO or similar.

Ambiguity of expectations, lack of clarity on results, conversations that leave the leader wondering at best, confused at worst.

Yes we need to get clarity and ensure that the board or our boss make their expectations clear, as best can be for senior people.

But it’s also an opportunity to coach the boss. Working closely with someone gives you a unique opportunity to observe. Knowing when and how to give the feedback and not to, is vital of course for everyone, but especially so for your boss.

So here’s the first of my daily tips – this one adapted from Amy Gallo “How to give your boss feedback”:

  • Wait or ask permission: ask if they’re open to feedback, rather than launching.
  • Focus on helping him or her: Not what you would do, but what would be best to grow your boss.
  • If you’re not sure, don’t say it: No point in damaging the relationship if the feedback is not going to be well received. Use other methods, such as a 360 feedback process.