Visible leadership is great – can we have some please?

I hear a lot of talk about the importance of visible leadership, I expect you do too. My experience shows me that’s about as far as it goes. I don’t see much of it. Talk visible, be invisible. How might we address this? Here’s a short note you can copy, personalise and send to a senior leader in your organisation. I’m trying it out on a few people, and have had some positive reactions and some silence so far, will let you know what more happens when it does. It would be great if you use this and share any feedback with us.

Visible Leadership is Great! Can we have some please?

Survival and growth will come from positive mindful, awareness connecting people to each other and to the good things we can do together. Barack Obama conveys the idea of positive realism in a very tough environment.

It requires great leading to accept the problems we face, to stay positive and to keep engaging others. It demands sincere interest in what is happening to those around you and outside your circle. It means asking your colleagues good questions and listening respectfully to their answers and showing them you heard. It means that you must choose to notice the positive achievements and possibilities in every situation as well as the difficulties. It means that we must remember the real social value that the firms we work for bring to people and we must be grateful that we have the strength and capability to achieve greatness again.

Most of all it means repeated, positive action. It means you and me, and others who care, now, together. It would be fantastic to see you around.

Have a great day.

I've had a terrible vision…

…it started when I was digesting the latest communication about the latest round of musical chairs where a few more chairs have been removed and the rest re-arranged in a neat “get a draw away from home” formation.

It had to do with shrinking pools – and the vision that flashed up was one I had seen on television in one of those fascinating nature programmes that both amaze and worry you.

There was a drought coming – the waters were receding, and in the deeper pools the shallower channels that connected them to the main flow were approaching dangerously low levels – effectively cutting them off.

Some of the cleverer little fish spotted what was happening, put on their metaphoric pumps and with a deft flick of their tails “legged” it across the channel in the style of Indiana Jones. They made it to a deeper pool and eventually out to the main stream – scary, but surprisingly invigorating!

The older, more “experienced” fish expected to “sit” it out in their old pond despite the diminishing amount of water (and therefore oxygen) and determined to carry on regardless. They accepted that it was good for those upstarts to leave and make more room for the serious boys in the good old pond.

The upstarts would never make it out there, if we lie still and don’t breathe too heavily we can stay here until it gets better and the new water comes in again and then we can carry on from where we were.

Guess what – the water levels continued to drop, the channels to the rest of the world dried up completely cutting them off, and the big fish got into more and more difficulty. They could no longer get out, nor could they all fit into the reducing water and had to fight it out amongst themselves to see who could get to the bottom of the pond fastest (and stay there) and therefore, literally, survive. The ones who couldn’t get to the bottom and stay there keeping their heads down out of sight, away from the sun’s heat, were slowly enduring an agonising death as they suffocated, which in turn was poisoning the pool and affecting everything in it, even those hiding out at the bottom.

Do we need to put our pumps on and get our little feet out there in the main stream and leave the overcrowded, big, but shrinking, pond?

Are we being poisoned by the stagnation in the big pond?

Perhaps I need to stop eating cheese just before I go to bed…

Fear – The Chronic Curse

Candour – or the lack of it.

How many people walk away from meetings and have actually bought into the agreed actions? How much candour is there in most meetings? I find that the people with the least candour in a meeting are often the ones that complain most after the meeting and never really agreed on the actions. This behaviour causes dysfunctional teams, and dysfunctional businesses.

I think that lack of candour is usually caused by fear. For too many people, fear is a chronic curse on their lives. When you see someone rushing, it is because they fear they will be late or miss something. When you see someone interrupting, it is often fear that they may miss their chance to make their point or forget what they were going to say that causes the interruption.

Fear shuts down people’s receptors.

  • When you see people not objecting to bad behaviour, it is fear that constrains them
  • When you see people saying yes when they want to say no, it is usually fear that is driving them
  • When you see people staying silent when they should be speaking out, it is fear holding their tongues
  • When leaders ask, “Is that agreed?”, they often take as agreement the silence that is most people’s greatest protest.
  • When you see senior management not sharing their concerns with junior staff because it might harm morale, it is fear that is causing them to keep their secret. That fear denies them access to the creative minds that may help them solve the problems causing their fear.

And when I say fear, I also mean dread. It goes under other guises too: anxiety, worry, doubt, nervousness, concern, sometimes even sensitivity.

Occasional fear in small quantities is handy. The adrenalin helps you run, fight or hide until the danger is past. But chronic fear cripples and shrivels you. It reduces your mental capacity and your creativity. It isolates you. It disintegrates organisations, teams and people. That is why Roosevelt said, “You have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” We can learn to diminish our fears and focus our energies more positively and engagingly. We can learn, and good leaders do, and help their people to generate the confidence and openness that brings the connectedness and resilience that enables teams and organisations to succeed in the most difficult times.

A practical thing that one can do at any meeting is to ask, “What have we agreed to do?” and in turn, “What are you personally going to do to help us achieve what we have all agreed to do?” Then listen for a SMART objective. Anyone is more likely to deliver what he or she hears themselves commit to aloud in front of their peers than to fulfill someone else’s draft of the minutes of a meeting long after the discussion. That commitment and delivery builds positive trust very quickly. Lead the way!

I think this is the first time I’ve gone back and updated a previous post. I want to add a link to a powerful talk I’ve just watched on TEDx. It’s by Jonathan Fields and it’s called, Turning Fear Into Fuel. I encourage you to grab a cup of coffee and invest less than 20 minutes enjoying this liberating and interesting talk.