Thursday, December 7, 2017

Developing Great Leaders: The Human Workplace Perspective

Guest post from Andy Swann:

To develop great leaders, we need to develop everyone. In the modern world of work, being a leader doesn’t require a job title, it’s something any or all of us can take responsibility for. Sure, some of us agree to be tasked with it, but that doesn’t mean those are the limits of leadership in any given organization.

Over the years, I have discovered many examples of instances where individuals and teams had taken the initiative to do something they believed was in the best interests of the organization, even when it put their jobs at risk. It’s this kind of entrepreneurial spirit that needs to be nurtured in all workplaces and forms the basis of great leadership in leading by example. Whether through giving permission explicitly, or creating the freedom for people to thrive in their own way, great leadership often just needs the organization to get out of the way and allow it to happen, rather than try to actively develop it.

Because organizations today are different.

In an age where increasingly, we can get robots to do the robotic jobs, what we really need people for is what they are great at – being people. It’s individuality that unlocks the future of great work and by unleashing people, we allow them to create impact in very real ways – through creativity, collaboration, communication, compassion and other human traits. These things are the basis of innovation, which in turn is the basis of a successful future, so by enabling people to thrive, we enable organizations to succeed.

Removing all restrictions and creating a free-for-all where anyone can do anything with no accountability will always fail, but by starting from a position of freedom and implementing only the absolutely required parameters (#1 don’t break the law!), people are given license and opportunity to try things in the interest of the organization. There is evidence of this working within organizations as simple as the software startup Rarely Impossible, through to the most complex global players like Schneider Electric and Microsoft. The question is about responsibility and empowering the individuals.

Our organizations are platforms for people, because for an organization to thrive, it only needs three things – the right people, in the right places, doing the right things. Leaders, both those tasked with the responsibility and those who assume it, are the guardians and enablers of that platform. Think of them as the helpful pointers that pop up when you use an app to show you how to get the most from the interface and use it properly.

This may seem like a simplistic view, but time and time again, the examples I encountered showed that when acting as a platform for people, organizations can achieve great things. When the basis of the organizational platform is the right people, everyone and anyone can be a leader, because the platform is set up to allow them to act in the interest of the organization at all times. Leadership becomes natural!

If an organization wants to actively develop leaders though, it needs to guide them as platform builders and skill them to:

·         Listen to user feedback objectively.

·         Provide solutions to problems (fix bugs in the platform).

·         Meet the needs of the user base.

In short, they need to be human.

Leadership expert Chris Barez-Brown believes that leadership should be refocused in two ways. If leaders are both creative and conscious, they become aware enough to understand what is required and do what it takes to remove that barriers to their colleagues (and the organization) thriving.

Developing great leaders is about enabling people to thrive and ensuring that in turn, they enable others. It’s simple, better and more human.

Andy Swann, author of THE HUMAN WORKPLACE, leads the development and delivery of people-focused transition management at BDG Architecture + Design.  He is also the founder of Simple Better Human, a creative organization development consultancy. Swann runs the All About People conference and speaks around the world on the benefits of taking a more human approach to organizational development.
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Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Key to Productive Relationships: Honoring Separate Realities

Guest post from Larry Senn:

Think about the last argument you had with a colleague or even a loved one. Chances are, it was because you saw, experienced, or truly believed something that was different from the other person. Most confrontations, arguments, break ups, and irritations stem from seeing things differently from others.

Many of this day-to-day irritation, anger, blame, and self-righteousness can be avoided by a simple concept called Honoring Our Separate Realities. A lot of needless conflicts can be avoided and time saved if we just remember certain truths about life:

- Things are not always the way they appear to us

- Others inevitably see things differently

- Our views and judgments are shaped by our backgrounds and experiences, as are the views and judgments of others

- It’s generally impossible to say who is “right” or “wrong” when matters of opinion and perspective are involved.

Everyone lives in a separate reality – and the only reasonable thing we can do as mature individuals is to respect those realities. If we don’t respect other’s realities, we risk living on the judgmental/blaming floor on the Mood Elevator* -- in this stage you will be much more argumentative, irritable, and angry. In addition, if you truly believe you are right and others are wrong all the time you will experience much less growth and learning because you believe you have all the answers and won’t be open to new ideas. This stagnates your personal growth as a leader.

How do we honor other’s realities?

As with most things, the first thing is to be aware that every person sees the world through their own set of glasses and their viewpoint has been determined by their beliefs, and professional and personal experiences. What they see is what they see. It’s not right or wrong; it is what it is.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t eventually have a conversation with them to understand how they see things, but the conversation will go much smoother if you first understand that what they see may be very different from what you see and that’s OK.

The next step is to pause when we hear a colleague saying something we disagree with.

Then ask yourself the following questions internally:

- What is their thinking? Why do they see it differently?

- How has their background, their experiences, or their education shaped their worldview so that they perceive something I don’t perceive?

These questions shouldn’t focus on who is right or who is wrong. These questions serve to open your mind to understanding how that person sees the world. It also expands your perspective to new  information, perspectives, and even relationships, if you allow yourself to try to see something from a different perspective

Another way to honor others’ realities is by being conscientious of how you communicate with others. If you make it clear that what you are saying reflects your personal point of view rather than implying to others you know the absolute truth, you’ll come off as less dogmatic and certain. Use phrases like:

- It appears to me....

- The way I see it…

- From my point of view…

- I think…(versus I know)

- If I’m not mistaken…

- I may be wrong, but…

By taking the time to listen and communicate in a way that will help guide you to honor other’s realities you will experience more time up The Mood Elevator. As with many pointers out of my book, use your feelings as your guide.

When we are overly certain about our opinions and ideas – being too bossy, in some ways – we tend to experience such feelings as defensiveness, judgment, self-righteousness, and impatience with others. As a leader, it helps to become acquainted with these emotions and learn to recognize them when they pop up. They are signs that you have stopped listening and learning, and instead are shutting out people and possibilities. When this happens, stop talking, sit back, take a deep breath, and try to shift to a mood of curiosity and interest.

* The Mood Elevator is a concept and awareness tool Senn Delaney uses to describe our moment-to-moment experience of life. It encompasses a wide range of feelings and together, these emotions play a major role in defining the quality of our lives as well as our effectiveness.

Dr. Larry Senn pioneered the field of corporate culture and founded in 1978, Senn Delaney, the culture shaping unit of Heidrick & Struggles. A sought-after speaker, Senn has authored or co-authored several books, including two best-sellers. His newest is The Mood Elevator, the follow up to his 2012 book, Up the Mood Elevator. You can learn more About Larry and his work at his website,