That special place…

I had a special moment last week.

I had to take a boat trip from the end of Pittwater, across Broken Bay, up to Brisbane Waters.

For those who don’t know Sydney, Broken Bay is the large waterway about 20km north of Sydney.

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It’s one of the very special places on this earth. Beautiful. Serene. Large. Very Large.

I was in my inflatable tender and I was on my own. (I had all the right safety gear, so no need to fret!)

As I passed Barrenjoey headland heading across the mouth of Broken Bay, I stopped.

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I turned off the engine.

There was little swell, little wind, and a lot of sun.

It was warm for a winter’s day.

It was quiet.

It was magnificent.

I was in awe.

I had a “stop the world” moment.

I have been busy, and I have not been on the water for a while.

And I realised what I’d been missing.

We all have that special place, or that important activity, that we connect with; that takes us out of the hustle and bustle; that re-energises us; that touches our very essence.

For me it’s the water.

And Broken Bay is a large part of that experience.

I videoed the moment and will use that video to remind me of what I need to do more often.

What’s your special moment and are you using it?

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What I see…

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I love facilitating.

Lots of clever people coming together to discuss and change something.

There’s energy, frustration, different levels of understanding and skills, but generally an aligned purpose and a desire to do the right thing.

What inspires me most is seeing the different styles of leadership in a dynamic group environment.

So I’ve thought about some of the leadership styles I see and here are some of my observations:

  • I see people who just seem to have a natural ability to attract “followers”, that important element of leadership. Let’s face it, a leader without followers is probably not a leader but an isolate, right? Those who attract followers tend to have a leadership advantage.
  • Because leaders have followers, the sustainable, successful leaders tend to think about teams and teamwork. And they use language associated with teams, not individuals. As Lao Tzu indicated, “when the best leader’s work is done, the people say, ‘we did it ourselves.’”
  • As great leaders tend to empower their people to success, there’s no surprise they are often asking their people 3 simple questions to help them and build and strengthen relationships:
  1. How are you?
  2. How are we (i.e. how’s our relationship)?
  3. What can I do to help you (achieve your potential)?

They know people, and more than just at a superficial level.

And they tend to personalise the way they engage – they remember key personal facts and circumstances.

  • They tend to be open and not concerned about exposing themselves as REAL humble, vulnerable people. They have an ethical or moral compass which guides their approach. Don’t get me wrong, they also have an ego, but it’s controlled and in check.
  • And they are simple and effective communicators. The message received by the people to whom they communicate is the real message. So, they explain things in a way that people can understand. And they tend to tell lots of stories. Cultures are built around stories and these leaders are great at the skill!

Always learning!

A curious mindset

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Ever met one of those people who knows everything?

We all have.

How do you feel when you encounter them?

  • Hmmm?
  • I’m more focused on how the person makes you feel than their delusional perspective.
  • Maybe they do know everything, but I doubt it….

Contrast that to someone who demonstrates they are genuinely curious.

They ask a lot of questions.

They find out about you, and what you know and think.

How do they make you feel?

  • Different, right?
  • Pretty good I suspect!

So, here’s the deal – in dealing with other people, be curious.

  • Treat them with unconditional respect, irrespective of history.
  • Ask lots of questions.
  • At a personal level about their life, their hobbies, their interests, their ideas.
  • And at a professional level about ways to improve the business, the customer, the next big thing.
  • Build a 1:1 relationship.
  • Encourage them to explore their ideas; empower them to take some risks, to do things that stretch them. And you.
  • Allow them to make some mistakes, and have success. Ensure they explore their boundaries, and help you do the same.
  • Recognise their differences and allow them to be themselves. Learn from them. Teach them.

It takes some strength of character to be vulnerable; but seeking to learn is actually an implicit example of vulnerability.

It means there’s plenty you don’t know. And you acknowledge it!

And people feel closer to someone who is vulnerable and strong enough to share their vulnerability, right?

A few questions, a curious mindset.

Simple, actionable.

It’s harder for young leaders

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Super Hero Boy

I had the honour, on the weekend, of speaking at two events.

One was on a panel at University of NSW at the 21st Century Leadership Summit on Saturday afternoon.

What a panel! Phil Crenigan, Vanessa Wolfe-Coote, Lynn Wood and Andy Hedges. Out of my league but a great honour to meet these wonderful people and the attendees at the event!

The other was at Mark Taylor Oval at Waitara in Sydney talking with the captains of the Northern District Cricket Club.

NDCC was the club I played for all those years ago…

Both were great sessions.

And both took me back many years.

I studied at UNSW when I left school as a part-time student…AND….at that same time, I was playing grade cricket for Northern District CC.

Now, I can’t honestly say that they had the same impact on me in terms of memories! 🙂

My memories were far better at Mark Taylor Oval!

Although it wasn’t called Mark Taylor Oval in those days.

Mark Taylor hadn’t graced the scene at Waitara when I first started playing, though he ended up becoming a great team-mate.

Although I am sure that my poor wicket-keeping was the reason Tubby ended up becoming such a brilliant first slip fieldsman!

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The Club has a leadership program to assist the various team captains.

It was just sensational to spend some time with the Club’s captains and talk about leadership and its challenges.

I have to admit that it also brought back memories with some of the great photos on the walls in the Club room – I did look so much younger in some of the (ageing) team photos on the wall!

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But here’s the challenge.

In my playing days there were very experienced, older players captaining teams.

As a young player, I served on the club committee but with people like Tim Caldwell who was then Chairman of the Australian Cricket Board, Austen Hughes who went on to be Club President for 30 years, and on the NSW Cricket Association with Alan Davidson who was president for half a lifetime and a test-great himself.

I played under retired Test and Sheffield Cricketers like Ross Edwards, Kerry Mackay, Mark Clews, and Neil Marks who, some people say, played youth cricket with Bradman (That was joke Harpo! ).

Experienced and wonderful people who had a big influence on young people.

However, the captains of today don’t have the experienced guys playing in the same teams any more.

Life is busier. Players retire and move on to the next stage of their life. They tend to have families later; children’s sport is played anytime form Friday to Sunday; it’s a 24/7 lifestyle.

It’s harder.

Which means the captains are young.

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And they will generally not have had the role models I had in my day – deeply experienced campaigners in life and cricket.

Hence the wonderful work done by the Club to have leadership development as a program. Is it little wonder that NDCC won the NSW Club Championship in 2016/17?

So, what’s my point?

First, I learned so much about life playing cricket. And I learned a great deal from the experienced “elders” I was privileged to play with. About cricket, sure, but also plenty about life.

Our wonderful young leaders need support, mentors, guides.

Secondly, I wonder whether, as a society, have we dropped the ball in staying part of the great institutions which added so much value to our lives? Our schools, unis, sporting clubs, social clubs, RSLs, PCYC, churches….

Perhaps a call to action – how can we all take the responsibility of contributing something back to the young people who are following in our footsteps, but in a different time?

Our leadership of the future need us.

Food for thought….

Release the potential !

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As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honour and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate. When the best leader’s work is done, the people say, ‘we did it ourselves.’ – Lao Tzu

I was talking to a director of a company recently about the situation inside a company they were involved with.

They were making some interesting observations about the company and, surprise surprise, the core subject was leadership.

What was interesting was the discussion about style of leadership.

You see, it’s easy to think that the best leaders are the loudest ones, the most confident ones, the ones with all the ideas.

But that’s not the case.

A true leader is one who has people on the journey with them.

Being the dominant leader works in some situations, for a period of time.

But not everywhere. And not for ever.

So, thinking about being the long term, sustainable leader involves a few framing structures:

  • Make sure people know the path forward in terms they understand. If they can’t explain it to their mates at a BBQ, is it really understood?
  • Make sure there is genuine trust in the business. Not words on a poster, and not nodding agreement and actually feeling the opposite. How do people actually operate when no one is watching?
  • Make sure the old 2:2:1 (2 ears, 2 eyes, and 1 mouth) ratio applies. Is input sought and valued? Is it ok to provide constructive criticism, even of the leadership? Or are people scared of providing input?
  • Make sure values are espoused and lived. No point in having values that are good for posters, or good for everyone else, but not lived by the leadership, right
  • Importantly, make sure the perception of leadership is what other people say, not what the leader thinks.

So here are the key questions:

  • As a leader, are you really sure that your views of your leadership align with what other people think?
  • Or are you too arrogant to ask?
  • And, if you did ask, would they tell you the truth?

It’s actually the power of the team that follows the leader that makes the organisation successful.

And it’s the focus on them that really is the spark that drives success for every team, right?

Food for thought.

To get the slingshot effect of Synergy…

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As you know, in my view leadership is very much about creating followship.

And once you have followship, you have a group of followers, right?

I’m not a great fan of groups.

“In mathematics, a group is an algebraic structure consisting of a set of elements equipped with an operation that combines any two elements to form a third element. The operation satisfies four conditions called the group axioms, namely closure, associativity, identity and invertibility.”

Que?

Ok, ok. I’m making a point.

I like musical groups. And I guess a group of ducklings is cute!

But an effective group must become a team. And when you have a team, you can have synergy. Let’s face it, Coldplay is an amazing team producing magnificent music.

So, it’s logical that leadership is also about building a team.

But how do you make that team cohesive?

Here a re a few simple tips on making sure your group becomes a COHESIVE TEAM:

Be close to the members of your team

  • Take the time to get to each member on a personal level; know them very well
  • Be a listener and ask lots of questions
  • Encourage innovation and some individuality
  • Celebrate with them
  • Recognise their personal and professional success and achievements
  • Be hands alongside your team members on when you need to be

Get the balance right

  • Encourage everyone in your team to have a great life balance (I dislike the term work-life balance…) and make sure you do to
  • Recognise and encourage extra-curricular activities for everyone
  • Make sure everyone learns from what they do outside work, including you

Be open, honest and transparent

  • People sense BS when they hear it and see it. In Australia and New Zealand in particular, people are cynical and see through cheap talk very quickly
  • So, be upfront and direct
  • Give people the news, good or bad, quickly
  • And expect that in return
  • Make sure you take bad news well

Adopt a curious mindset

  • Constantly seek new ways and experiences
  • Keep in touch with changing demographics
  • Stay up to date with technology
  • Understand what’s happening in other industries and business
  • Listen to your people with an open mind, and always hear them out
  • Be supportive, and do not be overly critical

Be passionate and consistent about the Purpose

  • To create followship, people need to know where you are taking them and feel confident you are passionate about getting them there
  • And if you say something, mean it.
  • And if you commit to do something, do it.

Begin with the end in mind, and curate

  • Stay the course on your plans
  • Sure, curate along the way to adapt and improve
  • But, only change radically when you have to, and when you do change, change fast and very effectively
  • Confidence in the plan is important to followship

Expect more of everyone’s leadership

  • And make sure everyone knows what that means, and what is expected of them
  • Remember, everyone needs some ground rules
  • But focus on what’s important, not everything
  • And here’s a novel idea, if you add a new focus area, take one away
  • Delegate authority with accountability and responsibility

Synergy doesn’t come from individuals. It comes from teams.

So to deliver the slingshot effect of synergy, build cohesive teams!

Innovate your brand!

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One of my Rules of Transformational Leadership is that “Your Reputation is Everything, So Protect it!”

Another of my rules is “Innovate Incessantly”

Now, what happens if the two don’t align?

What happens if your brand isn’t one that is associated with innovation?

Houston, we have a problem!
Because our brand isn’t what we think it is; it’s what other people think.

Ok, so when I read this article on the weekend, I found a solution.

Here’s the ARTICLE

And here’s what it says (I’ve adapted it slightly but the core principles are spot on):

  1. Associate yourself with the concept of innovation – read extensively, write a blog, send emails to lots of smart people every week. Day to day incidents will bring the anecdotes to life and you will start BEcoming the innovator.
  2. Take the time to practice innovative thinking – set aside some time each week – it’s a skill, and it is something you get better at with time. And spend time innovating with other people – shared experience and shared learning.
  3. Think about past life experiences and learn from them – what would you do differently next time? Why didn’t it work? What did you learn? You innovated and can do it again!
  4. Learn how successful innovators execute. Ideas need execution and execution is critical. Research it; ask questions; be intensely curious.
  5. So are people critical. Hang around with smart people who execute brilliantly. Engage them early.
  6. Look the part. Ok, seems glib, but people do judge a book by its cover. The book still needs to be a good read but looking the part helps.

Travel well!