You’ve got 8 seconds to get my attention!

“The average attention of a “millenial” is 8 seconds”.

Who said so?  Well, a “millenial” of course!  Not just any “millenial”.  This attention-grabbing claim was made by an impressive young man who was a presenter at a conference I attended this week in London.  Billed as a ‘disruptor’, (credit: Ilias Vartholomaios, Co-Founder of Owiwi) he spoke about the realities that those of us who identify with the 20th Century (I’m one) will have to come to terms with as we live out the remainder of our lives in the 21st.

Young people born after 1995 have not yet become part of the mainstream workforce. He informed us that, by the time they reach the age of 21 they will have spent (on average) 10,000 hours playing online games. As a comparator, that is pretty much the same amount of time an average US student will spend in high school between fifth grade and graduation, assuming a perfect attendance record.

So what?  Continue reading

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What if people just don’t care?

You are a manager. You are responsible for getting the best from your team. You will be held to account if deliveries don’t happen, if deadlines are missed and if budgets overrun. But of course, you are a good manager and those things rarely happen.  You know how to engage, motivate and inspire your people. Don’t you?

We’ve all had those conversations with people where you’ve had to lay out what’s on the line.  Why it’s so important this time – again!  And, on the whole, those cosy chats work. People walk away from those sessions, and they get on with it. They pull out all the stops and you can all go down the pub and enjoy a few drinks to celebrate the team’s (and your!) success once again.

But, what if it just doesn’t matter to them that much? What if they don’t care?  Or, they just don’t care enough?  What’s the right conversation to be having with that person now?

Continue reading

The Quiet Power of Selflessness

To me, teamwork is the beauty of our sport, where you have five acting as one. You become selfless ~ Mike Krzyzewski

Much continues to be written about what marks out successful teams from those that fail. Most of us can think about our own experiences of both, and, no doubt, recall factors that contributed to both positive and negative experiences.

source: thevalleys.co.uk/

source: thevalleys.co.uk/

The Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro have been providing us with thrilling achievements, but while they shine a light on athletic stars and big names such as Usain Bolt, Simone Biles and Laura Trott, I am fascinated by the armies of unsung heroes. Team members who are vital parts of the success but who do not receive the same media attention. This can be coaches, trainers, physios and sometimes fellow athletes, who sacrifice themselves for the greater good. They may not receive the Olympic medal or the adulation, but their contribution is vital, often displaying a level of selflessness that appears extraordinary. I have touched upon the role of the ‘domestique’ in team cycling in previous posts, which illustrate this point further.

But, let’s take a closer look at this. The mental state required to achieve this is one of ‘selflessness’. And, to exist happily in this state, one must be more concerned about achieving the eventual outcome than about personal recognition for it being achieved. In other words, the outcome is the most important thing, not your own psychological state.

Let’s think Continue reading

Mining for Treasure

You could be excused for wondering whether leadership has gone out of fashion right now. Whether it be politics, business or sport, wherever you look, there appears to be a vacuum at the top, and much discrediting of those leaders who remain.

What could be going on?  Well, I think one of the problems is that we are mixed up about
what we want from our leaders. Perhaps we expect too much of them. Should they have all the answers? Should they be all-seeing and all-hearing? Is it reasonable to expect them to set strategy, direction, plan, implement, review, report and make key decisions, as well as dispense wisdom to all who seek it?   Of course not.  But, despite recognising this as impractical, and even unhealthy, as a society we are still encouraged to demand unequivocal and unwavering surety from our leaders.

Pirate_map

At this time, perhaps more than at any time in the past, we need a different set of skills from our leaders. We live in a VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) world where knowledge is distributed more widely than ever, where more information is instantly available than at any time in history, yet despite all that information, decision-making has never been more difficult. Those who come out of the charismatic ‘all-knowing’ school of leadership present us with dangers. Continue reading

Collusion of Confusion

People do not go out of their way to seek data that contradicts their existing beliefs. On the contrary, they will select any data they find that supports existing assumptions. We may like to believe that we are open to having our minds changed, but the reality is that we are quite fixed when it comes to our mental malleability.

Evidence for this assertion is being played out daily on our radios and televisions, as people debate the pros and cons of Brexit. There is an uncanny collective agreement amongst the public that they do not get enough facts to help them arrive at a logical and balanced position. We hear this refrain in panel discussions, question time and vox pops. “How are we supposed to know what the truth is? One lot give us a load of statistics, and then the other lot come along and tell us that is all wrong and hit us with another load of statistics.”

I watched one such programme recently, where a member of the public made exactly this
point. He levelled his accusation at one of the ‘experts’ on the panel. His complaint centred around the costs of running the EU along with an assertion that Britain should not be run by unelected bureaucrats. The expert spent a reasonable amount of time patiently 141201.unbiasedexplaining the facts. He explained that calling all of the EU machine unelected was not accurate.  He pointed out that the EU Parliament, which is made up of elected national representatives, does in fact have a veto over recommendations put forward by the EU Commission. And that the EU Council is also made up of one member from each state in the EU, each of whom will have been elected as part of their home nation’s general elections.  This was all delivered in a tone of neutrality, and with a genuine desire to help alleviate concerns and misunderstandings.  At the end, the person who had raised the original issue was asked if the information provided had helped. His response was not positive. Exasperated, he accused the ‘expert’ of simply adding to the confusion and misconceptions, and “just who was he supposed to believe?”

I suspect the data provided Continue reading

Climate Control – The true role of Leadership?

“I believe this passionately: that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out if it.” ~ Ken Robinson

We live in a world that favours conformity over diversity, despite the fact that no two people are the same.  I guess we do this because it seems easier. How could we build a health system, prison system or education system individually tailored to the needs of each and every person who passes through it?  That would be impossible wouldn’t it? Well, yes, at the overall organization and administration level that is undoubtedly true, but what about at the point of delivery? Is it really impossible to see each recipient of education, health care or custodial reform as individuals, with different needs and unique histories?

Enjoy this immensely funny, but deadly serious, talk by Sir Ken Robinson, as he warns against the dangers of an education system that favours compliance over individuality, standardisation over creativity.

We need curiosity for learning and for human growth. Intelligence is not simply measured by how many facts you know, but about asking great questions, being endlessly curious and making, breaking and re-creating neural connections, constantly, even into old age. A great education system will provoke, stimulate, challenge and harness people’s innate curiosity.

Creativity is being stifled in far too many of our education regimes around the world. It is, after all, what drives human evolution and cultural development. It is what has made our society what it is today. We are the beneficiaries of our audacious and creative ancestors who dared to dream big, gifting us our transport systems, our medicines, our computers and communication networks, our architecture and our libraries of information. Who will deliver the next generation of dreams?

Unfortunately, and too often, our systems drive cultures of compliance, which ignore the value of the individual in favour of the ‘hollow success’ of the system. Hollow, because no system can be deemed successful, unless the people it is intended to serve are thriving and benefiting from how it is being run.  We treat education like an industrial process which can be tweaked and tuned till it is operating like a well-oiled machine. But education is a about humans, individual people, and not about the system.

It does not have to be this way. The countries of northern Europe have been daring to do things differently for some time. Robinson, in his talk, points out that Finland has no standardisation in its schools. They individualise learning, attribute high status to the teaching profession and have no pupil drop-out rate.  The Finns are regarded as having one of, if not, the best education system in the world, yet their pupils do not start school until the age of 7, and are not obsessed with exams and standards. Pupils do not sit any formal exams until the age of 16.  And it is not only in education that they lead the way. Finland and Sweden can measure the number of under-18s that it hands out custodial desert_flowers_-_death_valley_2008_op_800x535sentences to each year on the fingers of one hand. They prefer to deal with young offenders individually by providing treatment, rehabilitation and support, rather than throwing them into the criminal justice system, where they become a statistic and are much more likely to re-offend after release.

Like the rare flowering seen in Death Valley after occasional rainfall, dormant talent can
be reinvigorated. We just need to create the right climate and conditions, and focus on nurturing individual creativity and curiosity. Leaders in education, and in all of our major institutions responsible for harnessing young people’s talent, need to practise less command and control and more climate control.

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About the author: Louis Collins enables people to operate more successfully. You may be struggling to implement corporate strategy, you may want to get more productivity out of yourself or your teams but don’t know where to start, or you may not be having as effective conversations as you could be. I will work with you to enable you to formulate more effective ways of leading, to raise awareness of blockers to successful ways of working, and ultimately to help you and your managers to lead more successfully.

Could your organisation benefit from raising the leadership skills of its people? Would you, or members of your management team, benefit from exploring ways to make significant improvements in personal and/or collective effectiveness and productivity? Coaching around the rich field of leadership will help provide the edge that you are seeking in 2015. Coaching has been proven to directly impact the bottom line. Simply drop me your contact details on the Contact Us page and I will be delighted to have an initial discussion.

 

 

 

Emotional engagement enhances Productivity

A previous post I wrote around “how emotion shows up for coaches” (click here to read that article) attracted considerable attention, and prompted further questions about how to handle emotions in clients.  The first thing to be said is that having clients talk openly and with curiosity about their emotions is precisely where most coaches dream of their coaching sessions being conducted.

source: acutakehealth.com

source: acutakehealth.com

It is rarely that easy however. We are a kind of “bunged up society” when it comes to discussing emotions. Not everyone of course. Some people are highly attuned to their own and other’s emotions, and are able to use that awareness to understand, manage and influence relationships very effectively. This is not the norm, however, particularly in traditional cultures where expressing emotions has not been encouraged and even frowned upon (this has been true in youth culture, corporates, within families, and even in schools).

Asking someone ‘how they feel’ about something, is often met with a blank expression, as if the question has been asked in a foreign language.

If an answer is provided, it is often expressed in terms of thoughts, rather than feelings (i.e. the answer will often begin with “I think….”).

Even when someone has understood the question and is attempting to get closer to what they do feel, it is not unusual to hear them say something like, “Hmm, let me think about that, yes, what am I feeling?”

In other words, people usually have to intellectualise, through thinking and language, in order to get to what they are feeling. It is as if our emotional layers are hidden away, Continue reading

Employee Engagement and the Half-Time Team Talk

Employee Engagement. Hackneyed phrase or holy grail? Having recently read the MacLeod/Clarke report to the British Government (Engaging for Success: enhancing performance through employee engagement) on the subject, I am convinced that a) there is currently no better way of describing it and b) it is fundamentally important. To quote from the opening section, “If it is how the workforce performs that determines to a large extent whether companies or organisations succeed, then whether or not the workforce is positively encouraged to perform at its best should be a prime consideration for every leader and manager, and be placed at the heart of business strategy.”

I will leave you to delve into the rich findings, recommendations and case studies in the report, and I do recommend it to anyone with a passing interest in the subject of employee engagement. Here, I will simply draw out some of the barriers organisations feel inhibit effective engagement, together with the key principles highlighted that are imperative for successful implementation.

Barriers

  • Lack of Awareness.  Some leaders are not aware of employee engagement and what it can do for them. Others are reluctant to get involved, concerned that it may be seen as too ‘soft or fluffy’.
  • Uncertainty about Starting.  Some who are interested are unsure how to get involved and started, sometimes fearful that it has to involve ‘buying a product’ and therefore entail expense.
  • Culture.  The prevailing culture and working practices get in the way of delivering engagement, even when leaders place great emphasis on it. Managers may not share the belief, and attempts to implement can be resisted.
  • Underestimating engagement. Some see employee engagement as another job on a tick-list that is achieved when the annual staff survey is completed.

Enablers

  • Leadership.  The importance of a Leadership vision (or ‘strategic narrative’ as it is described in the report) cannot be overstated. A widespread understanding of purpose, and each person having a clear view of how their role contributes to that purpose is paramount.
  • Engaging Managers.  While it is key that Leaders set the purpose, vision and direction, it is the engaged manager who is at the “heart of success” in any workforce.  As one contributor to the report said, “the line manager is the lens through which I see the company and the company sees me.”
  • Voice.  Providing employees with a voice – so that they are listened to, are not fearful of raising issues, know that their views will be heard and could be used to help define and change the direction of the organisation.  This is, of course, a cultural challenge for many organisations where ‘token gesture’ attempts to implement ‘speak up’ policies have failed to penetrate the DNA.
  • Integrity.   Consistency across the organisation between stated values and behaviours. “If an employee sees the stated values of an organisation being lived by the leadership and colleagues, a sense of trust in the organisation is more likely to be developed, and this constitutes a powerful enabler of engagement.”

Regular readers of my posts will know that I enjoy looking to sport for leadership lessons and parallels. So, this week, my attention turns to Continue reading

Why do we bother with Employee Surveys?

When corporations wanted employees who did only what they were told, employee surveys may have served some purpose. They were rooted in the traditional command-and-control structures, and, no doubt, provided management with a barometer for employee feeling. They may even still provide useful information on improvements to the staff canteen , or how to better manage the car park.  But, can employee surveys provide anything useful in businesses that espouse employee empowerment and forward-thinking organisational learning? I am not convinced they can.

They encourage behaviours that leave employees and management in their traditional places. They do not encourage accountability by employees, and they compel management to feel that they need to fix the things that employees tell them need fixing.  Neither of these results is healthy and neither does anything to transform businesses or organisations into genuine learning systems. In fact, what we get is individual defensive reasoning and

Continue reading

Stuck in the Middle with you

The words of the late great Gerry Rafferty are ringing in my ears today.  The ‘squeezed middle’ is constantly being talked and tweeted about. Whether in relation to the controversial NHS bill, or the impact of rising University fees, or proposed changes to Child Benefit,  people argue that the most poor and needy have safety nets to protect them, while the richest in our society can afford to pay whatever changes are imposed. It is the poor people in the middle that suffer most.  I’m just not sure who is in this ‘middle’ (or should that be muddle) and who is not.  Is the middle a narrow slice of our society, squashed between haves and have-nots, or is the middle actually a massively thick wedge accounting for the vast majority of us?

What I do know is that Continue reading