How to receive second-hand feedback

Anna is a confident senior leader with seven people reporting to her, and Jo, one of her direct reports, is a trusted colleague.

Last week, Jo asked Anna if they could have a chat about something “sensitive”. Anna agreed.

Here is their dialogue from the start of their meeting.

Anna: What sensitive issue would you like to discuss with me?

Jo: It’s about Jason. He has asked if I can share some feedback with you on his behalf, but he doesn’t feel comfortable telling you.

Anna: Why doesn’t Jason feel comfortable telling me whatever he wants you to say to me? As you know, I have an open-door policy, and anyone can give me feedback. I always tell everyone they can say to me whatever they like, and I will listen. I thought I had a good relationship with Jason, which is disappointing news. And he has been part of our team for nearly a year now. I can’t believe he can’t tell me what is wrong. What is it that he wants you to say to me?

Have you ever been in Anna, Jo or Jason’s position? All three are tricky, aren’t they?

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The differences between 20th Century and 21st Century Leaders

Last Thursday evening, I delivered a speech that was a first-time for me. I had never started a talk at 11 pm!

The speech was delivered to Paris, France, for L’Orèal as part of its Luxury Lab – a conference for developing senior leaders.

One of the topics I covered was the difference between a 20th Century Leader and a 21st Century Leader.

I commenced the speech with a quote from Russel Ackoff, Professor Emeritus, Wharton Business School.

“Ages don’t stop and start. One fades in, while the other fades away.”

To understand the characteristics of a 20th Century Leader and how its underlying thinking persists into the 21st Century, it is essential to understand its evolution.

The Industrial Age commenced in Britain in 1760 when ‘machines’ were used to replace handheld tools. Early examples included looms and steam engines.

One-hundred-forty-eight years later, in 1908, Henry Ford hired Frederick Winslow Taylor to work with him to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Ford’s production line. Through their relationship, Taylor formed and released his Scientific Management Method theory.

The core principle of this theory is that humans are ‘part’ of the machine. From this thinking, concepts such as human resources, human capital, and human assets were created.

Resources, capital and assets can all be owned.

On 12 April 1861, the American Civil War commenced over the idea that humans could ‘own’ other humans, yet, the Scientific Management Method had that principle at its core and was adopted throughout the 20th Century.

It is little wonder that 20th Century Leadership is flawed when at its core is the belief that humans can “own” other humans.

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It is time to recognise and celebrate innovation

Recognise innovation

There isn’t a single client of mine that doesn’t value innovation. Helping the people in your organisation recognise the innovations to which they contribute is essential for cultivating an innovative culture.

Below is a simple yet effective technique you can use in under two hours to recognise and celebrate innovation in your organisation. The method can be applied to on-site, online or hybrid delivery techniques.

Following the principle of keeping things simple, I define innovation in two categories. The first is Disruptive Innovations which are the first of their kind anywhere in the world. They produce benefits that disrupt the way we communicate and work. For example, Apple created the world first in the early 2000s when they created the swipe function for the mobile phone. This innovation disrupted everything from social communication to music, the way business is conducted, and more. By definition, disruptive innovations are rarer than the second form of innovation.

Incremental Innovations occur when you take something that already exists in the world and adapt it to your context where it didn’t previously exist. If the outcome benefits your organisation, then it is an incremental innovation! Technology is a significant driver of these types of innovations. A simple example may be the use of technology to increase the ease of an online application so that similar fields are auto-filled, making it easier for the applicant to complete the form. Please note that incremental innovations are not limited to technology.

Below is the outline for an innovation workshop you can modify for your purposes. Feel free to contact me if you require any clarification on the process.

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How to use Collective Inquiry to take effective action

Collective Inquiry is the name I use for the process to help people manage complex challenges and identify practical actions they can apply to either resolve or lessen the impact of the challenge.

The process enables the collective wisdom of the participants to be surfaced, which builds trust and facilitates ownership of the eventual actions. Please give it a go and let me know what you think in the comments.

Collective Inquiry is summarised in the following seven steps, each of which are explained in more detail, below:

  1. Get the “right” people in the room
  2. Identify existing challenges and select the one that will create the most significant benefit if resolved or lessened
  3. Consider why the challenge exists
  4. Consider “what if...” scenarios and select the one that will have the most significant positive effect on the challenge
  5. Identify how you will bring your preferred “what if…” scenario to life
  6. Identify actions
  7. Take action

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A counterintuitive plan for 2022

There are many names for what is described as The Great Resignation.

Michele Hunt from DreamMakers.Org calls it The Great Soul Searching. Employees are asking, “Is this organisation worthy of my commitment?” When the answer is, “No”, they are leaving (up to 50% of these folk are doing so even if they don’t have a job to go to). A record 3.98 million Americans per month quit their jobs in 2021, up from the previous record of 3.5 million per month in 2019. This figure does not include redundancies or people “sacked” from their job, and many other countries are experiencing a similar phenomenon.

 

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Why do we continue to use the term, “human resources”?

Why, in 2022, do we continue to accept the terms “human resources”, “human capital” and “human assets”? The last time I checked, we are all human beings.

You may say, “They are only words and aren’t you getting a little too politically correct!” The fact is, words have meanings.

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2020 – The fork in the road: make it count

In 2004 actor Ewen McGregor and TV presenter Charlie Boorman created a tv series called Long Way Round, where they rode motorbikes from London to New York, covering more than 31,000 kilometres in the process.

Half-way through the trip, they were in Mongolia. Riding conditions had become extremely difficult and one of their support vehicles was involved in a serious crash where, thankfully, the crew only sustained minor injuries. They had a decision to make. Do we turn left and escape Mongolia for better roads in Russia, or do we proceed as planned? They literally faced a fork in the road and made a decision that would change Ewen McGregor’s life, forever.

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Enabling organisations to be worthy of the commitment of employees