Tag Archives: leadership development

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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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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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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The Leader-Learner-Trap

Successful people regularly report they are lifelong learners. I want to think that I am a lifelong learner too.

Shayne Elliott, CEO of the ANZ Bank recently shared in a LinkedIn video post that he is “#always learning“. In it, he speaks about a book that has provided great value over many years, Execution – The discipline of getting things done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan. It is a terrific book and worth the read.

The ability to learn is essential for success. I argue that today, oxygen and learning are equally important for humans. Without them you are physically dead, or your career is dead. However, are followers tolerant of leaders who are learning? I’m not sure they are, which creates a significant problem for leaders.

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High-Quality Workplace Conversations Matter

Here’s a formula.

High-quality conversations lead to high-quality decisions, which lead to high quality actions and ultimately, high-quality results and performance. The reverse is also true. Low-quality conversations eventually lead to low-quality results.

Achieving high quality results and performance are worth the effort to learn how to conduct high-quality conversations.

The point of leverage in this model is high quality conversations. But what is a high quality conversation?

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What are you not saying to your boss?

One of my executive coaching clients is extremely successful. He regularly receives six-figure bonuses and is constantly approached by head-hunters.Gary Ryan

Earlier this year he was flat. He was frustrated with his boss. Despite his success, he wasn’t sure if his boss had his back or understood what frustrated him.

“Have you told him?” I asked.

“No, not really.” he replied.

“Why not?” I implored.

He had a lot of reasons. The biggest one was that he didn’t want his boss to see him as being paranoid. As we explored this issue, he shared that his frustrations were affecting him at home, and he had been less motivated than usual about his exercise and health program. This issue was affecting his entire life.

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How to lead a growing team

You know how it works. You are good at what you do, so more people keep being ‘given’ to you to lead. Not only that, but you are relocated to corporate headquarters and most of the people you lead aren’t co-located with you anymore. You have more meetings than ever to attend, yet you genuinely care for the people you lead but don’t have anywhere near the time you used to to lead them.

What do you do?

This dynamic is very common for the people I coach. Flatter organisations means higher spans of control, which means more direct reports to lead. Below are three tips for leading a growing team that isn’t co-located.

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Lessons about mateship from a 7yo

This Sunday it is Father’s Day. When collecting my two youngest sons from school yesterday, my seven-year-old son, affectionately known as ‘D-Man’, was covering a paper bag with a drawing he had just completed in class.

“Dad, you can’t see what’s inside the bag because it has the presents I bought for you from the Father’s Day Stall.”

 “Okay, don’t worry I promise I won’t look.” I said.

He then went on to say, “Dad, when we get home, can you give me ten dollars?

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