The Executive Roadmap to Self-Reflection

Strategic self-reflection can help a leader expand their viewpoint and decision-making capability, acknowledge alternative beliefs and create a bridge between information and wisdom.

As stated by Talmud, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talmud

“We do not see things as they are; but as we are.”

 

This doctrine from the eighth century speaks to our perceptions and questions our ability to understand people and situations accurately.

In a competitive and fluid corporate environment, executives make decisions based on their experiences and ability to navigate complex change situations. But many leaders fail to look through the lens of the opposing viewpoints and limit their decision quality by projecting only their own thoughts, insights and experiences into a situation without acknowledging alternative angles or beliefs. Strategic self-reflection can enable leaders to create a bridge between information and wisdom.

Executives rarely receive direct feedback, and some may develop a distorted vision of the corporate reality. They likely don’t test their ability to understand organisational behaviours. Consider the following scenario. It’s the last executive team meeting, and everyone agreed to implement a new process. Six months pass, and there is still resistance and limited progress on that process.

During the original meeting, heads nodded in agreement; the new process would streamline processes, but leaders may have missed organisational behavioural cues that indicate disagreement, covert resistance, or a misalignment of agendas.

Leaders should not be surprised at this common symptom of a failed change management attempt. Understanding organisational behaviours is a nebulous task. Employees can see, interpret and understand situations differently even when everyone experienced the same event. Many things influence a person’s perception and how they experience the world around them, such as personal experiences, memories and beliefs. These experiences help formulate how we interpret external stimuli, which develops our personality, perceptions and viewpoints.Continue reading

Book Reviews: The Master Coach

Leading with Character, Building Connections, and Engaging in Extraordinary Conversations by Gregg Thompson

Great leaders are great coaches. They understand that developing the skills, talents and mindsets of their people is a vital part of their jobs as leaders. However, the concept of coaching can also be confusing. Early in his excellent how-to book, The Master Coach: Leading with Character, Building with Connections, and Engaging in Extraordinary Conversations, executive coach and trainer Gregg Thompson explains what coaching is not.

They Don’t Need a Friend - A coach is not a friend, he writes. Although coaches can be friendly, the purpose of coaching is to challenge those they are coaching — the Talent, in Thompson’s terms — and hold them accountable. A coach is also not a therapist. As Thompson explains, “Coaching is not the antidote for deeply troubled and significantly distressed individuals.”

Thompson also differentiates between coaching and teaching. Teaching is a unilateral exercise, with the teacher imparting knowledge to the learner. In coaching relationships, both the coach and the Talent are learning together.

Continue reading

Be Inspired: Social Entrepreneur Teresa Scott

Teresa Scott is helping candidates secure sustainable employment.

Company: Kennedy Scott Ltd
What it does: Highly regarded supplier of training and employability services to Government
Founder: Teresa Scott OBE, MBA
Founded: 1989
Size of team: Total staff 70
Your name and role: Teresa Scott, Founder and CEO

How did your entrepreneurial journey begin at Kennedy Scott?
I had been working for another organization designing and managing training schemes for young people and blue chip companies and had been pretty autonomous in my role for a few years. I was more or less a one-person operation and thought- you know what? I could do this for myself! So, with the help of friends who backed me financially, I started the company in 1989. Kennedy Scott is now the highest performing provider of Employability support services to people most marginalized from the labour market in the UK.

How is your business challenging the traditional recruitment industry?
Using a bespoke and ‘revolutionary’ assessment process, Kennedy Scott’s trained caseworkers quickly identify the real issues affecting an individual’s rehabilitation and work together to address the barriers impacting the individual’s ability to secure sustainable employment. Through this ‘Circle of Support’, the individual is supoorted with a suite of interventions designed specifically to create a routemap to rehabilitation and employment.

What problems are you trying to solve?
I want to bridge the employability gap for people with disabilities or mental health challenges. We are soon launching a new service for the corporate sector providing advice and guidance to companies wanting to recruit candidates from such backgrounds. We are a catalyst between the candidate and the company, bridging the gap by supporting both parties to get the best from the working relationship. We aim to help candidates in the workplace if they have a health challenge or mental health concerns.

How do you make money?
We run Government-funded contracts, and offer independent advice to companies for a consultancy fee.Continue reading

Are You Telling It Like It Is, or Covering Something Up?

Next time you defend your blunt candor as something noble, consider what you might be covering up and what it’s costing you in terms of trust, authenticity and integrity.

Is it just me, or have you seen a surge in the popularity of “telling it like it is?” Whether it’s a brash, in your face CEO — many of whom boast about their direct, no-nonsense, unvarnished telling of the truth — many leaders wear it like a badge of honor.

But when people learn more about their personalities, their communication preferences and their distress patterns, they progressively back off on their bluster about telling it like is. Why? Because they gain insight into some important, and sometimes uncomfortable, truths.

  • You can be direct without being honest.
  • Telling it like it is often reveals more about our own distress than anything else.
  • An “in-your-face” approach to leadership undermines effectiveness in the long run.
  • Being blunt often reveals lack of skill to use a more effective approach.
  • Healthy conflict with another person is a learned skill that few people acquire naturally.

So, where’s the confusion? The problem comes from failing to distinguish authentic emotions from cover-up emotions.

When people are in distress, they mask their authentic feelings with cover-up emotions. For instance, emotional displays can be deceptive and cunning, appearing legitimate, but they’re often just diverting attention from the real issue. Four cover-up emotions are closely associated with an attitude of telling it like it is.

Righteous Arrogance: Righteous arrogance is often expressed through opinionated, judgmental pushing of beliefs. These people believe it’s okay to tell others what’s right and wrong, and push their pious beliefs. Statements like, “You should know better,” or “Clearly you lack the moral character to be a leader” cover up their own fear of not being up to the task. If these people were truly honest, they’d share their fear that they might not always be right and might not be able to perfectly live up to their responsibilities. This fear keeps them up at night wondering if they are worthy. Instead of owning it, they question everyone else’s worthiness, claiming they are just telling it like it is.

Continue reading

How to Lead Through Uncertainty

All leaders, regardless of sector, are facing unprecedented levels of disruption and uncertainty about the future reports HR Director Lucy Adams.

In the following article, she shares her thoughts on how to lead through these difficult times.

When running various organisational change sessions with leaders and managers one question would often come up – “when are things going to settle down?” It was understandable, if unrealistic. These leaders were often exhausted, having had numerous complex and frequently competing changes dumped on them from on high. Their people were anxious and they felt unable to reassure. They were trying to manage through the disruption of digitisation, new competition, or the need for greater collaboration, while not letting current quality levels dip and having to reduce costs. Sound familiar? All leaders, regardless of sector, are facing unprecedented levels of disruption and uncertainty about the future.

It used to be so much simpler. Remember the days when you had a 'change management' plan and you could plot it out on an Excel spreadsheet? It had a beginning, a middle and, most importantly, an end, and change was seen as a sequential linear activity. Not anymore. These days change is unending, unpredictable and as linear as a bowl of spaghetti.

So how can leaders gear up to cope with the levels and pace of disruption that is now required of them? We used to believe that if leaders worked more, knew more, planned more, controlled more then they could manage better. The truth is that just trying to do more no longer works. Leaders have a finite amount of hours, energy and resilience and trying to stay on top of, and control, the changes they are required to lead is ultimately futile.

Continue reading

Did You Send Work Emails Over The Holidays?

Companies expend untold energy building culture-defining their values, revamping their office space, organising holiday parties and volunteer outings.

And yet many leaders and managers don’t seem to realise that while company culture can be really hard to build, it’s incredibly easy to destroy. And you may unknowingly ruin it in just two steps.

 

 

Step 1: Go on holiday.

Step 2: Continue working like you never left.

It is common practice for American managers and a growing practice amongst UK leaders and managers too.

Latest research at Project: Time Off shows that just 14% of managers unplug when they’re on holiday. At the most senior levels of leadership, a mere 7% do.

The majority check in with work at least once a day.

If you’re in this camp, there is a good chance you are thinking about maintaining your own peace of mind either while you’re away (what if something crucial happens?) or when you get back (if you truly unplugged, how would you ever catch up?).

But before you hit “send,” think. All emails are not created equal, and when you’re on holiday, you’re sending more messages than can be contained in the contents of your note.

Continue reading

Book Reviews: Uplifting Leadership

Uplifting Leadership - How Organizations, Teams, and Communities Raise Performance by Andy Hargreaves, Alan Boyle & Alma Harris.

From Schools To Beer and Much More: Emotional and spiritual uplift, write authors Andy Hargreaves, Alan Boyle and Alma Harris in Uplifting Leadership, is at the heart of effective leadership. “It raises people’s hopes, stirs up their passions, and stimulates their intellect and imagination,” they write. But there’s also a social and community component to uplifting people - helping people to rise above difficult circumstances, to raise their prospects, the authors write. And combining all this emotional, spiritual and social power, uplifting leaders can help people improve their performance and results, inspiring them to do better than ever before and outperform their opponents.

Both Soft and Hard: According to the authors, the process of uplifting leadership involves six interrelated factors. “Each of these factors,” the authors explain, “also exhibits some inner tensions between what people conventionally consider to be “soft” and “hard” parts of leadership and management.”

Dreaming with Determination. The uplifting journey begins by defining a dream, but that depends on determination to overcome the inevitable setbacks.

Creativity and Counterflow. Uplifting leadership inspires creativity that often goes against the mainstream.

Collaboration with Competition. Part of the counterintuitive approach of uplifting leadership is the willingness to collaborate with actual and potential competitors.Continue reading