Hope and Trust

kayack night

I was talking with my mate, Max, last week.

Max is a fascinating bloke.

We worked together many years ago. We were both younger, and he a little younger than me.

He wasn’t called Max back then.

He made a decision to go off into the army as it suited what he needed in life at that point.

He did well.

Without going into details, let’s say Max moved from regulars to commandos and into the intelligence parts of the military.

That’s how he became known as Max.

When he left the military, he chose a new industry and went on to become a recognised expert in his new field of endeavour.

We’ve worked together a few times since those days and talk almost every day now as we often commute together.

Max is a special guy.

He has some very simple philosophies on life.

For example:

  • there’s people he loves, people he cares about, and then there’s everyone else. He believes we only have so much capacity to care in our life and we should focus it judiciously.
  • He doesn’t believe in political correctness. He argues that an offence can’t be given, only taken, so people need to shift their mindset rather than complaining.

Once we were doing some kayaking together for fitness. We usually drank a few beers afterwards as well.

After 4 trips out, he tells me he’s entered us into a race.

I’m flabbergasted. I’d kayaked 4 times in my life. I wasn’t doing a race!

The race happened to be an overnight adventure from Windsor to Brooklyn along the Hawkesbury River north of Sydney.

110km, 2 tide shifts, dark, lonely, hard. 15 hours.

I crewed for Max, which meant I drove my car and met him at the various pit stops along the course and fed him and watered him.

After stop 1, he was gutted. Against the tide, bloody hands, exhausted. 4 hours in.

He kept going.

Anyway, he finished the race.

And won his class.

Army philosophy: no matter how tired you are, no matter how bad the situation seems, you can always take one more step. And then another. And things can improve when you do. Simple, true, and obviously very effective.

Max said something last week that inspired me.

We were talking about a difficult situation and he looked at me with his intelligent eyes and said:

“Making a commitment provides hope, delivering on a commitment delivers trust”.

What a wonderfully simple statement.

Talk isn’t necessarily cheap as it does provide hope.

And hope is important. Hope provides motivation, inspiration, reason.

But it becomes cheap if it isn’t followed by action.

Following through, doing all that’s needed to deliver on the hope. Being sincere and not leaving anything in the fuel tank in pursuit of the hope.

That’s really important. Because delivering on the commitment provides trust.

And from trust comes self-belief, knowledge, courage, confidence.

Those multiplier effects that drive even greater achievement.

Make a commitment to drive hope and do so carefully and with conviction.

Conviction, not just in the statement of hope, but in the drive to implement what is required to achieve the “hope”.

Because delivering on the hope, delivering on the future state, delivering on potential, is what creates trust.

And trust drives synergy, and synergy is what drives outstanding sustainable performance.

Remember Max when you next make a commitment to other people that gives them hope. And “hope” that he’s not hiding in a bush outside making sure that you deliver on your commitment!

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Leadership and humility – a match made in heaven

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Are leadership and humility mutually exclusive?

Think about it.

The stereotype leader is a confident, driven, out there person, right?

Good communicator? Absolutely! Mandatory!

Talks a lot about their successes, right?

Yes!

And No…

I reckon the leaders that most people follow are the ones to whom they can best relate.

The ones that are most human, that kick goals sure, but also have a genuine humility about them.

How do you re-enforce your humility?

Try these techniques:

  1. Become a master story teller – your good experiences, your not so good experiences. Demonstrate that you are fallible and successful. Just like other people.
  2. Become the master of the insightful question – we all have 2 ears, 2 eyes and 1 mouth – make sure people know the ears aren’t painted om – listen to people. Earn their respect and learn from their insights.
  3. Innovate incessantly, but do so by allowing other people to come up with the ideas. Let’s face it, the job of a leader is to facilitate outcomes, not have all the ideas. Share the ability to ideate with other people.
  4. Walk the talk. If you want people to do certain things, make sure they see you as someone who does what they say. That means sometimes letting other people lead and role model being an awesome team member.

Food for thought

Being a leader is about being impregnable, right?

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Perhaps not.

The stereotype for a strong leader is someone who has all the answers; has a “shield of steel” level of confidence that just can’t be breached.

But that’s actually not the full story.

Sure, being confident is important.

People will follow a confident leader.

Let’s face it, it’s hard to inspire people to come on a journey with you if you don’t fill them with confidence that you know what you’re doing, you believe in the mission, and you are skilled in overcoming the inescapable problems that will arise along the way.

But we have all met the impregnable leader as well, haven’t we?

You know, the one that you just know is putting up a front; a façade that that they will not allow to be breached.

Why do they do that?

It strikes me that people relate to real people and we all have our vulnerabilities.

You know, the ones that niggle away late at night, the ones that shout at you when you are standing on stage about to give a speech; the ones that actually make you think twice before acting; and the ones that have saved you on many occasions.

Actually, being vulnerable is an important element to be authentic and successful and grounded.

And people follow authentic leaders.

So why hide a great strength?

It doesn’t mean that you become a blubbering ball of uncertainty or an amoeba!

But it does mean acknowledging that you have some areas where you feel the same as everyone else – vulnerable, exposed, knowing that you have a weakness.

People will help, they will complement you and compliment you. They will better understand you. They are more likely to come on a journey with you.

So being impregnable might not be providing you the benefit you think it is. Because your brand is what other people think of you, right?

My question is this – are you brave enough to be vulnerable?

Observations on Transformational Leadership

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I read this fascinating article on the weekend in the HBR.

You can read it HERE

I have my 10 rules of Transformational Leadership, so it was interesting to get a observational perspective from an analysis of 2017’s ranked top transformational leaders.

The analysis focused on the leader’s ability to re-position their organisations. Interesting, as Transformation is all about the re-positioning when it’s all said and done.

So, rather than just looking at simply revenue or a subjective measure like “innovativeness”, the assessment looked at:

  • New Growth generated – that is new products, services, and business models
  • Core Re-positioning – the adaption of a legacy model to change and disrupt, and
  • Financial Performance against best in class benchmarks.

Good stuff!

The summary of the findings is:

  1. Transformational leaders tend to be Insider Outsiders – they don’t come from the traditional core of the business, rather from an emerging business within the organisation or from an adjacent business. This helped drive transformation with an understanding of how to do so in the organisation.
  2. They strategically pursue TWO separate journeys – they look to re-position the core business whilst at the same time actively investing in new growth businesses. Just changing the core doesn’t drive real transformation and, arguably, doesn’t reflect a real journey to change (think Apple with the re-invigoration of the Mac coupled with the new iPhone).
  3. They use culture change to drive engagement – they move from the traditional risk-averse (we have to protect the core) approach to one where they are nimble and fast and able to produce small increments all the time – this changes the risk appetite in the business and therefore its culture.
  4. They communicate a powerful narrative about the future – they become the story-teller-in-chief and they tell different aspects of the story to different stakeholders to make it relevant to them. Consistently.
  5. They develop a roadmap before disruption takes hold – transformation can take a long time, so that means getting started fast is important, sometimes without a really clear vision of the end state. Developing the milestones and roadmap is therefore important but so is ensuring that it is adaptable as it will evolve as lessons, technology, and other things change.

Fascinating perspective – not theory but observations.