Exploring the central principles of resilience through the portrayal of PoW Louis Zamperini in ‘Unbroken’

Resilience is a theme we have probably all been thinking about over the last year as we have been delivering in extreme circumstances with the additional pressures of home schooling and without the relief of being able to see family and friends.

I’ve been thinking about writing a piece on resilience since Covid hit and whilst I have given it a lot of thought, the inspiration to write would not come to me.  Until last night. 

If you follow my blog, you will know that inspiration for my musings often comes from film or television and the source of my motivation today is a result of the film ‘unbroken’. This true story of World War II veteran, Louis Zamperini, provided a raw demonstration of resilience which has moved me to write this piece.

The film shared the true story of a young airman who survived 47 days in the ocean after the bomber he was flying, crash landed and left him and two others stranded at sea. Only two of them survived the ordeal when they were captured by the crew of a Japanese war ship and taken to a prisoner of war camp.

Zamperini had been an Olympic athlete and, having not read the reviews, I had been expecting an uplifting film, focused on his triumphs and achievements.  Instead, this was a film about one man’s courage and his fight to survive through the darkest of days.

This extreme example has enabled me to sum up the central principles of resilience which I have observed in others and have been crystalised for me through the telling of this story. We are lucky that many of us will never have to face such an extreme test but many have over the history of time and here are some fundamental principles that can help us to get through challenging times.

  1. If you can take it, you can make it – Louis had a mantra that was instilled in him by his brother.  This mantra gave him focus and strength to endure through the most difficult of circumstances.  We know that negative self-talk is defeating so at all times, especially those which we find most testing, we need to repeat a positive mantra in order to overcome and keep going.
  2. One day at a time – when you are faced with a major challenge and no end in sight, you need to hunker down and face one day at a time. Louis was in the very worst of conditions, where thinking about how long he might be trapped in those conditions would only make the ordeal impossible to face. Instead, he concentrated on what was immediately in front of him and lived in that exact moment with the central belief that ‘this too will pass’.
  3. Values & purpose – being true to his values and purpose in life, gave Louis strength to face his tormentors.  There was a point where he was offered the chance to escape the horrors of the prison camp but what they were asking him to do went against his values and so he refused.  His character shone through, and whilst it angered the prison commander, it made him truly ‘unbreakable’.  As long as you know what you stand for and keep the reason for your being at the centre of your work, you will have a driving force that keep you going, no matter how difficult you find it sometimes.

Does this article resonate with you? Do you have a story to share about resilience? Let us know in the comments below.

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Image by Pavlofox from Pixabay

Humanity, courage and integrity: how Winters inspires values-based leadership in HBO’s Band of Brothers

From the very first episode of Band of Brothers, I have wanted to write about the leadership theme within the series and this need has grown ever stronger as the series has progressed.

In Episode 1, ‘Curahee’, we meet Captain Sobel, Commander of Easy Company whose drive for excellence makes the group of paratroopers stand out from the crowd.  The way Sobel achieves this though is through misuse of power rather than respect.  The soldiers of Easy Company think he hates them because of the way he pushes and tests them to do better all the time.

It’s also clear that the Captain is useless in the field, putting the lives of the men at risk and trying to cover up for that by exerting his authority.

An early scene shows Winters’ values, courage and integrity as he is unfairly disciplined by Sobel and rather than accept a punishment when he has done nothing wrong, he requests trial by court martial which leads to the platoon demonstrating strong support for him and really is Sobel’s downfall.

As the series progresses, we see a contrasting leadership style in Winters who starts the series as platoon leader and finishes as a Major which is demonstration of his skills.  It is the values of Winters and how they inform his actions that have inspired me to write this post. 

What you can see in Winters is that he cares about the men he is responsible for, so much that he is willing to put his own life on the line.  From the beginning, he demonstrates great courage and as a result, they trust and follow him.

In Episode 2, ‘Day of Days’, Winters charges ahead and tells them to only follow on his command.  In Episode 7, ‘The Breaking Point, he can see that the Officer in charge – Officer Dyke – is being completely ineffective and putting lives at risk so he starts to run towards them to take over only to be reminded of his post at which point he promptly orders someone else to go and takeover.

The ultimate example for me was in Episode 8, ‘The Last Patrol’, one of the later episodes when he effectively disobeys orders to prevent needless deaths.  At this point in the series, they are extremely close to defeating the Germans and ending the war.  The night before, they had been asked to send a patrol to capture German soldiers that they know have based themselves in a building the other side of a river in the French town of Hagenau. 

A patrol is chosen and they complete the mission with just one life lost.  Because they achieved a good outcome, Lieutenant Colonel Sink commands that another patrol be scheduled for a second night.  All are dismayed and Winters cannot see anything further to be gained from sending a patrol for a second night.  They have taken prisoners from the first mission and capturing more would not give them any additional intelligence.  When Winters brings the men together, he gives instruction of the mission in line with his orders. He then goes on to tell them to get a full night’s sleep and report to him in the morning that they went on patrol but were unable to take any prisoners.  This to me is evidence that he cares about the men and values their lives.  So much that he is willing to risk his own career by disobeying what they all thought were unnecessary orders. 

Many of the men at Hagenau had been on the frontline, in battle, many times and Winters believed it was a high price for them to lose their lives so close to the end of the war when there was nothing to be gained from the mission.  To me, this act showed courage and integrity, saving the lives of his men.

Whilst I’m sure there may have been some artistic license used in making this series, the characters portrayed are from true life and provide narrative around the drama.  Richard ‘Dick’ Winters was recognised many times through awards for his contribution.  Despite this, Winters remained humble about his military service.  At the end of the series, Winters quotes a passage from Sergeant Myron “Mike” Ranney: “I cherish the memories of a question my grandson asked me the other day when he said, ‘Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?’ Grandpa said ‘No…but I served in a company of heroes’.”

Whilst I read extensively about human rights and the effects of war, I was unsure about whether this series would be for me.  What I discovered was an inspirational story of humanity, courage and leadership which I felt compelled to share with others.

END NOTE: This blog post marks Remembrance Day 2020 and is published in memory of all those who gave their lives so that we can be free.

This year, as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, the Royal British Legion is relying on digital donations to support their annual Poppy Appeal which supports members of the armed forces and their families. If you have something to spare, please donate here.

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How to avoid ‘car crash’ conversations and make sure your feedback lands well every time

Have you ever received feedback that you reacted badly to?  Or tried to give someone else feedback and found they have flown off the handle? 

Feedback can be something people avoid because it can go in lots of different directions with so many of them not the route you wanted to take!

And yet, timely, constructive feedback is essential for the successful management of teams. It is also be critical for professional development so it is important that we create an environment where we can have open and honest feedback conversations which lead to better performance and development.

After a few car crash feedback discussions, I decided to find out more about the theory of good feedback and how to make sure I can deliver this effectively each time for the benefit of those in my team.


Types of feedback

The first thing to notice is that there are 3 different types of feedback.  All are important and you need to know the appropriate type to use in different situations and ensure that in your leadership practice, you are employing a balance of all types on a regular basis.

  1. Coaching – this type of feedback aims to help the receiver ‘expand knowledge, sharpen skill, improve capability’.  If you want to have a conversation about how an individual can improve, then coaching is a good way to go.  Beware though, a coaching approach is about asking questions (and the right kind of questions) to support the individual to explore the issue for themselves and come up with their own solution.  You can guide, you can support but you cannot ‘tell’ in a truly effective coaching conversation.
  2. Evaluation – this is to ‘rank against a set of standards’.  An example might be the classic performance review conversation where you are discussing how the individual has delivered against what was agreed.  It requires someone to rate an individual so for this to be effective, there needs to be agreement at the beginning about the measures they will be assessed against and support to help the individual meet expectations.  If you don’t provide this clarity and the individual scores badly, they will feel angry and frustrated which will lead to a difficult conversation and probably more to follow.
  3. Appreciation – this is feedback where effort, commitment and achievement is recognised.   You might also call this type of feedback ‘praise’ or ‘gratitude’.  Some leaders find this uncomfortable but it should be used often to motivate.  Appreciation encourages the   
    release of oxytocin which is important for connection and vital for building relationships and strong teams.

When feedback goes wrong…

We have to give feedback at times and even in the very best relationship, it can sometimes go wrong.  If you find that the receiver reacts emotionally, you can be sure that one of these triggers has been activated:

Truth trigger – it may be that the feedback appears untrue to the person on the receiving end. Maybe they think you don’t know what you are talking about and if this is the case, you could perhaps consider whether they are right and what you could do to build your own knowledge (being honest about your own weaknesses can also improve the conversation). 

The other possibility is that you have hit on a ‘blind spot’ which means they genuinely don’t see that the issue you raise is true of them.  It is not in line with their perception of reality and in this instance, a coaching approach could be beneficial to support them to explore the issue for themselves and allow yourself to understand it from their perspective.  If you are the receiver, you could test the feedback on people you trust which may help you to understand your blind spots in a safe space.

Relationship trigger – have you ever been in a relationship that has turned bad and everything you or they say leads to a negative response?  This can happen in work too. Having a good relationship is critical for successful feedback conversations.  If there is an issue with the relationship such as a lack of trust and respect, it is likely that the feedback will not land well.  Relationship triggers can create ‘switchtrack’ conversations where the receiver will retaliate by raising another issue they feel is related.  In this instance, it is important to recognise all issues and discuss them separately.  This will ensure both parties feel heard and respected.  If you notice this trigger, it might be worthwhile taking a step back, acknowledging the problem and taking steps to address the relationship issue.

Identity trigger – in this instance, the feedback is not in line with the individual’s perception of ‘self’ and challenges how they are wired.  For example, the receiver may be told that their actions were unfair when they believe that fairness is their core value.  An identity trigger can cause real distress so needs to be talked about openly to find out all points of view and help the individual understand how their actions have been perceived and if there is anything they could do differently in the future.   


How can you ensure feedback lands well every time?

Firstly, for feedback to land well every time, you need to have a good relationship where both parties feel comfortable to talk openly about their thoughts and feelings.  It is important to create a safe space for discussion where there is no judgement, only acceptance and constructive intent. 

Few people want to create conflict but sometimes the thought of giving feedback can lead to a situation where those involved enter the discussion already on the defensive.  The best attitude for a difficult conversation is a positive and constructive one which allows the problem to be discussed, addressed and resolved in partnership.

Whist a good relationship is important for feedback, so is feedback important for good relationships and strong teams so should be something we engage in at all levels on a regular basis.  If you create an environment where this can be shared constructively at all levels, you should have a space where everyone can thrive.

Do you have examples of good or bad feedback?  How have you ensured an environment where constructive discussions can take place?  Share your experiences in the comments below.


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Photo credit: Gary Scott from Pixabay

How praise and positivity can make your organisation fearless

When I was growing up, I remember my mum having difficulties with the head teacher in the school where she worked.  He was mean and enjoyed making people feel intimidated which stifled creativity and made everyone miserable.  My mother would come home stressed, depressed and wondering how she could go back to work the next day. 

Sadly, there are many bosses like this in the workplace and far too many employees who are unable to reach their potential because they are held back.  This means that organisations are limiting their own capacity.  To survive and thrive, especially in the current climate, employees need to be given space to deliver to the best of their ability.  They need to be encouraged and supported to make a full contribution and grow from their experiences.  If we can achieve this, organisations will truly know success.

If I asked you what makes a good boss, you certainly wouldn’t respond with the qualities displayed by the head teacher in my story.  More likely, you would say a good boss is someone who is trusting, supportive, listens to your views, believes in you, shows appreciation and so on.  Which boss are you likely to go out of your way for?  And therefore, which would you say is able to get the best out of people?

In his work on ‘fearless leadership’, Richard Varey explores the importance of kindness in leadership.  It isn’t about the leader being brave which is what I thought at first, but about creating an environment where people feel safe.  The foundation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is security. Individuals will not reach the lofty heights of self-actualisation if the organisation’s culture is based on blame and fear.

Varey says ‘if you are kind, people feel safe; if they feel safe, they can grow’.  And actually, it’s better for everyone because kindness increases the levels of oxytocin for all involved which increases optimism and makes everyone feel physically better.

Compare this with an environment where people are scared to do anything wrong.  In a culture of fear, people shut down because the stress response is triggered when they sense danger.  When this happens, cortisol floods the system which creates a fight, flight or freeze response.  This literally shuts down the rational mind and short term memory.  In a culture of kindness, no conversation is off-limits because people feel secure and are more open to discussing whatever you need to address.

In this work, I really like the idea of ‘emotional collateral’ and it reminds me of something else I read in relation to ‘difficult conversations’.  It’s basically about the emotional bank account.  This needs to have enough in it for some to be taken out of the account.  If an individual’s emotional bank account is depleted, they are unlikely to receive any ‘constructive’ feedback positively.  It’s a bit like getting your bank statement and seeing it in the red… especially if you have just been paid!! You feel panicked immediately and that is not a good place from which to deal with the problem.

So what do you need to do as a fearless leader?

  1. Offer praise – if you want to inspire people, you need to tell them they are good. In a study of praise and effectiveness, the most improvement was achieved through praise (71%) compared with criticism (19%) or being ignored (5%).
  2. Focus on the positive – make sure you get the ‘balance’ right with at least 3 positives for every negative. Basically, every time something good happens, say so.  That should give enough credits for when you have to talk to them about improvement.
  3. Praise for effort rather than ability – telling someone they are good at something is not effective. The trick is to praise for effort rather than ability so notice when individuals try hard and tell them they did well.

 

Praise builds people up and makes them resilient.  Resilient people lead to resilient organisations and we have never needed that more than now so go ahead and tell everyone you work with that you see them and they are amazing.

Have you created a culture of kindness? Have you experienced the limitations of fear?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Understanding ‘happiness’ as the secret ingredient for successful teams

In the teams I lead, the happiness of individuals is something that matters to me and the reason it matters is because people spend a lot of time at work and I want that time to enhance their lives in some way. 

In a previous blog post, I wrote about helping people to experience ‘flow’ and I acknowledged that we would all probably prefer to be at home, in a sunny garden, with our friends and family, enjoying our time.  Instead, we probably all spend more time than we would like at work with many of us racing the clock to get everything done and the sad fact is that too many people have jobs and managers that make them miserable.

Figures show that ‘over half of the British workforce are unhappy at work which is both a tragedy and a waste of potential’.  The stress that unhappy workplaces create seeps into our personal lives, leaving us in a situation where, even at the weekend, that time with friends and family cannot truly be enjoyed.

So often, I have talked about the importance of happiness in the workplace and I know that many senior leaders misunderstand why this is important and think happiness is a ‘nice’ thing rather than something critical for success.  They see happiness as a concept that is too soft and fluffy for a serious working environment.

It’s understandable that they think this to a certain extent but if they fully understood the concept of happiness, they might well take a different view.

Happiness and Change Coach, Samantha Clarke, describes happiness in the workplace as being something which allows people to ‘bring their whole self to work’.  When I speak about the importance of people being happy at work, this is what I am referring to.  It isn’t happiness for happiness’ sake, it’s about making work satisfying so that they are not stressed and miserable for a start but more importantly because if they are happy at work, then they are likely to be loyal, committed and productive.

In measuring staff engagement, one of the indicators in the Gallup q12 index is whether people ‘have a best friend at work’.  This doesn’t seem like an important question for satisfaction at work but Gallup say their ‘research has repeatedly shown a concrete link between having a best friend at work and the amount of effort they expend in their job’.  Really, it’s about connection.  We spend so much time at work that when individuals feel a greater sense of belonging, it makes them feel more engaged.

What we need to realise to understand this fully is that happiness has two components:

Hedonic well-being is the feeling of pleasure in the moment.  It’s the kind of happiness you might get from going to a party.  It’s a feeling of heightened enjoyment which is sensory and short-lived.  It’s like a dopamine hit – a high that feels immediately satisfying but quickly fades away.

Lasting happiness is what we gain from having meaning and purpose in our lives. In positive psychology, this is known as eudaimonic well-being and is about fulfilling our potential and feeling we are part of something bigger than ourselves.  It’s about having a purpose and links to a range of work on leadership and motivation such as Dan Pink’s ‘Drive’ and Simon Sinek ‘Start with Why’.

The key to understanding happiness is noticing the difference between pleasure and satisfaction.  Most probably, those who have been less convinced about the importance of happiness at work, connect the concept of happiness with that of pleasure.  The concept of satisfaction however, is what you need to consider for this to make sense.  For an engaged workforce, these feelings of happiness need to be encouraged.

If you are asking yourself now how you can create this in your organisations?  This blog is founded in positive psychology so if you look through, you will find lots of ideas for motivating and engaging individuals.  My top 3 articles to read next if you want to increase the levels of happiness in your teams would be the 80/20 balance, results-only working environment, how ‘warm and fuzzy’ motivates teams.

If you have successes to share or questions about how to raise the levels of happiness in your teams, please add them to the comments below.

 

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Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Does the Humble Inquiry have a place in a culture of collaboration?

This is a guest post by @Gemma_Lelliott


I joined the
@Doers_Improvers in Autumn 2019, after connecting with some amazing, passionate and engaged people at GovCamp Cymru. The group are interested in ‘wellbeing, sustainability, doing things differently & improving stuff … learning & sharing together’.

When the group chose Humble Enquiry as their December read I had no opinion on the book – I haven’t read any of Schein’s other books and I am always interested in learning and improving my communication skills, so I was happy to get stuck into it.

I was surprised to find I had quite a visceral reaction to the book, almost physical. I found the language and tone of the book a challenge – words like subordinate, respect, and hierarchy litter it throughout. I am lucky to have experienced very few examples of an autocratic, dictatorial management style of what Schein refers to as ‘the culture of tell’. Being managed by people who use this approach has universally left me feeling like I need to find a new job!

I found it quite hard to make myself read beyond the first few chapters. I felt that Schein was encouraging readers to use Humble Enquiry as a way of manipulating relationships, to feign an interest in the other person’s point of view in order to complete a transaction – if I humble myself to you then you will feel more positively disposed towards me, you will feel more inclined to help me/do what I want/tell me what I want to know.

Speaking to those working in more process-driven environments I find that my reaction to the language and the approach is not universal – other people don’t have the same visceral reaction to the word ‘subordinate’ for example, seeing it purely as a descriptor rather than as a pejorative term. While I find the implied power dynamic problematic, for others it simply describes a chain of command which makes clear where the responsibility lies and who allocates tasks.

Living and working in Wales, there is much more of a culture of collaboration, of community, and of shared purpose than the author describes in America. I am also very fortunate to have largely worked in environments and for managers who have seen and expressed the value of collaborative approaches to tackling problems, and have worked with me in a way which recognises my knowledge, experience and value. Perhaps part of their strength as managers was down to their effective use of Humble Enquiry?

On reflection, once I had discussed the book with the group and others I was able to pull out some useful things to think about – if nothing else, I have taken some time to reflect on my preferences around language and how that might differ for other people. I also took some time to think about how I could use some of my natural curiosity in a more purposeful way, to help others feel more comfortable and to ensure I understand their perspective – potentially even improving relationships along the way.

Finally, would I recommend the book? Maybe, if you work in a very process-focused role or traditional hierarchy model. I’m not sure I would go out of my way to read Schein’s work again personally. I might, however, revisit an old favourite, Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits – I feel like ‘seek first to understand, before seeking to be understood’ might have tackled this question in a way that sits more comfortably for me and could help me in my quest to communicate more effectively!

 

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Warning! Working differently can seriously improve the environment (and well-being)

In Cardiff and everywhere, there has been a lot of talk lately about clean air and reducing carbon emissions and indeed, in Wales, the Government has declared a climate emergency which suggests they are finally taking this seriously and we are going to see some critical action.

As ever with this conversation, the ideas and actions for tackling carbon emissions tend to be focused on getting people to switch their mode of travel from the car to cleaner, greener forms of transport such as electric cars, bike or train.

What I notice though is that those responsible for solving this problem rarely seem to ask themselves the very important question: ‘What if people didn’t need to travel?’

We are so entrenched in an industrial model that work is still seen as a place we go rather than something we do and so rarely given the consideration it deserves as one of the tools in the box when it comes to tackling climate change.

As someone with a long history of promoting flexible working, I can see a lot of opportunities not only for the environment but for individuals and employers too. So why are we not talking more about this and how working differently can reduce carbon emissions whilst also increasing community cohesion and overall well-being?

It’s a bold claim but I believe that it’s because so many managers are scared to let people get on with it and unable to tell if they are actually working if they can’t see someone at a desk in front of them. Too many organisations manage people on the basis of time and presence in the office. Just think what we could achieve if that switched to trust and outcomes instead?

Part of the issue is the number of limiting beliefs around different ways of working so here are some common myths and realities that will hopefully help to open up some new ways of thinking about how we can reduce the need to travel for work purposes, reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality.

Myth: When we talk about working differently, we mean people working from home on a permanent basis.

Reality: Working in an office and working from home are just two options in a broad spectrum and also not mutually exclusive. People could maybe work one day a week in their local community which could be at home or in a community hub or café or anywhere they feel inspired. This would reduce the need to travel and increase feelings of connections in the community.

Myth: If people are at home, they will have more distractions.

Reality: When people are working from home, they might put the washing out or get the dinner started and that is actually ok. When they are in work, they might be talking about what happened last night on Coronation Street or making everyone a cup of tea which is also ok. Regardless of whatever household tasks get done when at home, most people would say that working remotely is great for getting on with work projects because there are fewer distractions.

Myth: Working remotely has a negative impact on well-being.

Reality: If you work alone, at home, all day, every day, this can have a negative impact on well-being for some people. However, working from home sometimes can be beneficial because people can concentrate on a piece of work and save time travelling to the office which they can then spend getting jobs done or playing with their children. This can have a positive impact on well-being.

Myth: Supporting remote working requires expensive video conferencing platforms to allow people to remain connected.

Reality: We are better connected than ever before so utilisation of the wide range of free channels available to us means that teams can remain connected regardless of location.

Myth: Managers are automatically equipped to cope with any working arrangement.

Reality: Technology has transformed what is possible in the workplace, allowing people to work whenever and wherever is best to get the job done. Ensuring staff performance when managing remote workers is something that many feel less confident about so training should be built in to organisational development programmes to ensure managers have the necessary skills to cope with all situations.

 

Do you think working differently has the potential to help reduce carbon emissions? Do you have thoughts on how we can build confidence and skills to manage different ways of working? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

If you like this article, you might like to read this one too: Want greater staff retention, less sickness absence and increased productivity? Join the results based revolution and unleash the power within.

 

 

 

 

 

Perfecting an 80/20 ‘balance’ that nurtures talent and celebrates success

Recently, I was speaking at an internal session on managing performance and explained why I believe the role of a leader is to help people be the best they can be.

The discussion began when we were asked to identify measures of staff satisfaction and organisational success.  One of the first things that came up was staff retention with many believing this this is a sign of problems.

Now, I accept that if staff start leaving in numbers then it can indicate that there is a problem which needs to be addressed but I asked them to consider a different possibility: perhaps it shows that people are being managed well, developing skills and progressing to the next level.

When asked, I explained to the group that I strongly believe part of my responsibility as a leader is to develop people.  This means that they should grow professionally during their time in a role, gaining new skills and enjoying a boost in confidence.  Ideally, they would then rise through the ranks and feel the satisfaction and fulfilment of working for an organisation that nurtures talent, utilises this appropriately and rewards people for their success.

However, in a small organisation, it can be hard to do this and so it needs to be OK to develop people so that they can move on.  If people move on to better things as a result of what they learnt with me, then I consider that a good outcome for the organisation.  I also find that it means we have champions in the wider world and many of my staff are still working with us in their new roles.

Doing things in this way creates ambassadors who can raise awareness of our work with their new colleagues and partners.

 

The 80/20 rule

In terms of how I ensure people are able to develop, I believe in an 80/20 rule.  Put simply, this means that individuals should spend 80% of their time doing things they feel they are good at and 20% stretching themselves.

To help me identify their strengths and development areas, I ask staff to complete a personal development plan which allows them to list their skills, achievements and goals.  We then sit down and have a discussion about what they have included and I might make further suggestions about anything I think is missing.  People don’t always see something as a strength or a talent so I might explore certain things with them to highlight any skills I think they have but don’t recognise.

This provides a framework for which they can develop an action plan to push themselves forwards.

 
The theory part

One of the key theories that underpins my leadership style is Dan Pink’s work on motivation which argues that the three things people need to be successful at work is autonomy, mastery and purpose.

The 80/20 rule means that they spend 80% of their time utilising their strengths and working towards mastery.  If their time is spent mostly on things they enjoy and feel they are good at, then they will feel good most of the time and will be doing things that fire them up, satisfy them and allow them to feel confident.

From that place, they can focus on the other 20% which should be about things they either don’t want to do (we all have those things) and things that they want/need to learn to be the best they can be.

The key to success with the 20% is to have a clear action plan which identifies skills and competencies that need to be developed in order to achieve career goals.  This should include steps that will be taken to ensure that individual can push forwards and make tangible progress towards their goals.

In terms of monitoring, I hold individuals to account for completing their actions by making sure progress is discussed on a quarterly basis and then on an annual basis, I ask staff to reflect again and complete a new plan for the year ahead.

 

Achieving ‘flow’

If you look through the stages, you can see that the method is based on the high performance cycle – Plan, Do, Review and Improve.  In following this process and ensuring the 80/20 ‘balance’, I believe people can be supported to achieve ‘flow’ which, in positive psychology, is:

‘The mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity’.

This has to be the state of optimum performance and exactly where we surely would want our teams to be so I challenge you to try a different way and see the difference it makes.

 

If you can see the value of this approach or have similar methods yourself, share your thoughts in the comments below.

Why Brexit needs leadership based on kindness and compassion not soundbites and rhetoric

This morning, I am in a hotel room in Manchester watching commentators discuss the latest humiliation of UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, after every option of her Brexit plan was rejected by MPs.

As you will know, the news from last night is that she told her party she would step down if her Brexit deal is passed which seems like a desperate plea for support so that she can finish the job she took on. When this all started to blow up, I had some sympathy with May because it seemed like she didn’t stand a chance from the beginning, maybe because MPs from across the UK are afraid of what a British exit from the EU will actually mean for the country.

The longer things have gone on, the more embarrassed I feel as I watch the pantomime that our parliament has become and with recent events in New Zealand, it’s hard not to wonder where we might be if we had a different kind of leader at the helm.

It is clear that Brexit is divisive – it divided families and friends overnight with passionate views on both sides, often under one roof – so it needed leadership that could recognise all opinions and bring people back together, moving towards a shared vision for the future.

After the referendum in 2016, it seemed to me that what was needed was a cabinet of the best people from across all parties. Ok, this isn’t common but a coalition Government was in place under Churchill’s leadership during the second World War and working together now for the good of the country is just as important now as we negotiate our way out of the European Union as it was in wartime.

Evidently, May doesn’t share that view (or doesn’t have the skills) and she has missed the opportunity to unify, instead, widening the divide and creating even more conflict. The greater the challenge, the more determined she seems to become.  She has stuck to her guns but she clearly hasn’t inspired confidence and is now paying the price.

In a stark contrast, we have just seen New Zealand face their own man-made crisis in the Christchurch terror attack, with a leader who has reacted entirely differently; not with soundbites and rhetoric but with kindness and compassion. She has brought people together across New Zealand and been clear that she will take action to protect people and make sure this tragedy doesn’t happen again.

We have seen Jacinda Ardern with her people, sharing their grief, showing support and role modelling behaviours. She has shown people how they can join together in solidarity. She hasn’t just said it; she has done it. She has led a nation in mourning, not by standing out but by blending in and showing that she is part of the community too. She has shown emotion, empathy and humanity, standing out to the world as a modern leader who many would do well to learn from.

So how could May have followed this example to bring together a not so United Kingdom? Maybe she could have listened harder and shown some care for those who have found themselves in conflict instead of ploughing on without support. She perhaps could have tapped into those heightened emotions and spoken to the people instead of robotically trotting out tory lines that sound too cold for comfort. And she certainly could have found some humanity to show she understands the anguish that is out there on all sides instead of ignoring those dissenters and carrying on regardless.

Britain needs to be united behind a shared vision for the future and I hope that the next leader can recognise this and deliver success.
What do you think of leadership in relation to Brexit? Do you agree that a different style might have yielded better results? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Image by Stefan Schweihofer from Pixabay

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