Chapter 4: Leadership, How do I go on this journey?

Yo Christmas fiends!

Here’s the third and final section that makes up this chapter on Leadership.

Please do share your feedback – instructions below.

Will.

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How do I go on this journey?

We can boil all of these elements down into seven practices which can help any leader learn and adapt.

1.    The Open 360 degree survey
2.    Experimentation
3.    Sharing personal failures
4.    Practicing being emotionally congruent
5.    Publishing a personal rewards log
6.    Using flow tools to share and listen to your team/organisation
7.    Building a progressive support network

Let’s rattle through the practicalities of each practice:

1. The Open 360 degree survey

This one is awesomely simple and awesomely effective. Take your role description, and put it into an online survey platform like Survey Monkey (or your internal equivalent). Set it up your survey to have a Quantitative element and a Qualititive element.

In the quantitative section, configure the survey so that questionees can grade your performance on each area of your role by giving a score (I use 1-5). Results in this section will give you a clear personal benchmark on how the respondents evaluate your performance.

In the qualitative section, ask wide open questions designed to give your valuable insights into your performance, your strengths and vitally, your weaknesses.

I use questions like:

1. What do I do that enables positive performance in the team?
2. What do I do that impairs or reduces performance in the company?
3. What should get more of my time and attention?
4. What 3 things – if sorted – will substantially improve the company’s performance?
5. How can I serve the company better in the next 6 months?
6. This is just in case there’s something extra you want to say or share. You don’t need to, it’s just for those compelled to say more. I know I’m confusing you now. Sorry.

Before sending this out, you need to talk (ideally face to face) with the people who will be responding. Tell them why you are doing it (clue: to learn!), tell them that you have set it up anonymously because it is about you learning, not about you addressing individual concerns or carrying out a veiled witch hunt, but if anyone feels compelled to they can say in the survey who they are. And promise that you will share the high-level results and key takeaways with them – give them a prize and satisfy their curiousity too!

Then send it out, and let the learning begin! You will learn so much about yourself. You may recognise many things, but you may also be shocked or unsettled by others. The important thing, as my colleague Lasy always says, is ‘to not swallow the feedback whole’. No one person is ‘right’ – these are all just many-faceted collages or perceptions of you at work. But overall, the aggregate will tell you some valuable things.

I recommend doing this once or twice a year. I’m doing mine right now after an 18 month gap due to a shift in annual review cycles at our company, and I am alive with and challenged by the brilliant, gritty, intelligent, on-the-button responses coming back. It’s like I’m awake again. Do it. Start today.

2. Experimentation

Particularly in the area of Styles – which we looked at above – you will need to experiment. You may find through your 360 survey that there are styles you have which create great performance in those around you, and others that you have which bring the team down – this is normal.

The goal of experimentation is to expand your range. Try some of the below for size and see how they feel to you and how your people react:

•    Relentlessly detail oriented
•    Laid back, bigger picture, dreamy and visionary
•    Energetic and bouncy ball of sunshine
•    Quiet and pensive professor
•    Shouty desk-slamming hardballer
•    All-conquering warrior-heroine
•    Cheerleading supporter-in-chief and championer of others – ‘you can do it!’

Again, where possible it may help to be open about this – to let your people know that you are learning and developing and part of that is about experimenting with styles that are different to your usual two or three default modes.

By the way, what are your default modes? And which styles would you like to add to the range?

3. Sharing personal failures

Simultaneously the easiest and the hardest practice to do. It really is this simple: tell your organisation about it when you screw up. You can start small if that helps – might help the people around you to adjust too! Using the Church of Fail practice outlined in the People chapter will also provide a powerful and shared platform to do this in.

You can also use some of the platforms that we look at in the Technology chapter to regularly ping out failures (and successes!) without too much pomp and ceremony. In doing so, you normalise failure. This is not seppuku (or it shouldn’t be) – it is about demonstrating that failure is normal, that it is a huge learning opportunity, and that if the organisation and individuals in it are not failing, then they cannot be doing their jobs because they are not learning and not taking risks. Keep that in mind: you’re doing the right thing and it will help the organisation.

4. Practicing being emotionally congruent

Another challenging practice that is easy to say and very difficult to do sometimes. The benefits of being more congruent more of the time are that you will create a more empathic culture, which will lead to less stress for all (including you) because people will not be bottling up their emotions, a more robust and resilient workforce thanks to healthier inter-relationships, and greater performance and productivity due to the flow of more-honest feedback around the team(s).

There’s lots more to this topic that we do not have time for and that is way out of my expertise, but an appropriately straightforward entry point to doing this that we have found very useful in our company is to preface statements with “I feel….”. It’s like a hack for the mind, and gets you straight into accessing some of the feelings related to the topic of discussions rather than the emotion coming out accidentally through the other 99% of your communication (i.e. your body language).

So you say:

“I feel disappointed”
“I feel amazed”
“I feel delighted”
“I feel incredibly annoyed”

5. Publishing a personal rewards log

The British journalist and activist George Monbiot recently began publishing his own Registry of Interests completely voluntarily. As he says himself, ‘I have opened this registry because I believe that journalists should live by the standards they demand of others, among which are accountability and transparency. One of the most important questions in public life, which is asked less often than it should be, is “who pays?”’.

Is there a way you can do the same? It may be impossible. It may in fact, for you, be a sackable offence! So it’s probably worth checking your contract, but if you are an entrepreneur or the CEO, you can make this happen.

6. Using ‘flow tools’ to share and listen to your team/organisation

In the Technology chapter we look at platforms including those we call ‘flow tools’. These are the same kind of tools that CEOs Cristobal Conde and John Chambers referred to earlier in this chapter – things like Yammer and blogging – which are less formal and much quicker than other traditional communication channels available to a leader or manager.

This is not technology for technology’s sake. You don’t have time for that. Using these tools is a powerful way to demonstrate to your team or organisation the need to and value in moving in realtime. The benefit is that by participating you not only make it OK for others and show the way, but also yourself gain access to a realtime pulse of what is happening inside the organisation.

7. Building a progressive support network

Finally, you cannot do this alone. You need a support network, and one made up of people that get all of this. As a leader, no matter at what level in an organisation, there are times when you inevitably feel isolated or need the support of those outside your team. If the only kind of support you have is the slash and burn or command-and-control management 20th century style, then it will be hard to see these challenging personal changes through.

Find people to support you. Put yourself in places where they may come out of the woodwork. Share these ideas so that others might come on the journey and so become part of your network too. Get involved with organisations like WorldBlu, The Employee Ownership Association (UK), National Center for Employee Ownership (USA), and others.

It will be much easier with the right kind of support.

Summary

In this chapter we have looked at the role of leadership in the 21st century business, and broken that role into two lists of seven: seven components of leadership in a social business and seven practices to help develop your 21st century leadership muscles.

This journey towards better leadership is absolutely a journey. It requires change – and change is incredibly demanding. It demands you to get out of your comfort zones, to experiment and necessarily fail, to do things that the people around you find counter-intuitive or even downright odd. And during this journey and especially at times of stress it will be normal to default to old ways.

But the prize is magical, poetic, so brilliant. To become a better leader. To be the change you want to see in the world. To help others see different and better ways of behaving in business.

If you can lead in this world, you will be providing a powerful service to more than just your organisation – you will genuinely be helping make the world we live in better. Because it is only through significant change, led by leaders at all levels, that we will solve the problems that need solving in the world.

Join us. Come on the journey, and bring your people, your organisation. Let’s burn yesterday and make a better future for all!

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Whaddayareckon? Please provide feedback: via comments on this post, via email to wmcinnes@gmail.com, tweets @willmcinnes #cltrshck.

Next extract: We move on from Leadership and start the chapter on Openness…

Thank you for your support.

With mince pies and mulled wine at the ready, Will

4 comments

  1. Pete Burden

    Yes, all good sensible things. Can’t fault those.

    One thing I would add is that for me congruence isn’t just about saying what you feel. It is about knowing how you feel and deciding what to say when.

    Not in a manipulative way. But in a way that is most respectful, empathic. And also most congruent – in the sense of allowing something to be said that needs to be said (sometimes this is called ‘voicing’).

    Again, just to say, for me leadership is really about practice. It is about practising what we preach. Doing it day to day. Living our values. The rest is all fluff.

    Gandhi subtitled his autobiography “experiments with truth” (or something like that). It is about his own inner journey. His own challenge to relate to his experience of the outer world. Some pretty serious challenges in there.

    Same for Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Victor Frankl, Havel.

    Perhaps long periods of incarceration are necessary to become a real leader?

  2. Pete Burden

    I think what I am really trying to say here is that focussing on the shadow side of leadership is probably the most valuable practice in developing as a leader.

    Finding out what drives one to control for example. Finding out why another seeks fame, or riches. This is the inner journey I am referring to.

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