What if you knew that…

You’re ok.

Early morning sun shining through the trees next to a lake with ducks on it.
Image by Bianca Mentil from Pixabay

You always have been.

Just increasingly hidden by clouds of conditioning as you’ve aged.

To the point where now the conditioning no longer makes sense.

The rules have begun to conflict too often.

The experience isn’t matching the dream that was sold.

The responsibilities to be juggled seem increasingly likely to drop. read more

Lightening the load of leadership

Leadership development: an industry worth over $3.4bn. Are we seeing the results of that? I don’t think so and here’s why.

Do you remember the days when Head & Shoulders was one shampoo?

Old fashioned bottle of head & shoulders shampoo

I was online shopping last night and was struck by the fact that in one shop there was a choice of 32 different variations of this once lonely bottle. 32!

OaaaKaaaay, and what’s that got to do with leadership development?

Volume!

Not hair volume. Volume of content, information, concepts, theories, models, ideas. Your personality alone can be tested by hundreds of different tools to tell you which animal, colour or collection of letters you apparently are. read more

Emotions : conditioned to find a cause

From a young age we’re taught our experience can’t just be experienced. There must be a cause. This piece explores how we got here and why it trips us up.

I see it from raising my own kids. When they were babies and were crying – poop, food, burp, sleep checks all done – still crying. What’s wrong? What’s the problem? How do I fix this?

Already assuming there was a problem with this experience of crying. With a small baby you can’t tell if there’s a ‘real’ problem or not, they obviously can’t tell you. Sometimes there is — maybe the onset of an illness, or reflux, or… — but sometimes there isn’t. They were just crying. read more

What you most resist is what shows up

Sounds annoying doesn’t it! But really it’s the best design in the world.

Have you ever been that driver who drives right up close to someone on the road because they’re going sooooo slowly?

Done, obviously, in the hope of making them go faster.

Have you ever then seen that person in front slow. right. down?

Winding you up even more!

Until you stop and see that what you’re doing is actually making the situation appear in this way. The solid-ness of the story ‘I need to go faster’ and ‘annoying slow driver’ has loosened. Space and lightness. Ease and clarity have returned. You hang back and then they’re off. Possibly even driving faster than before! read more

Emotional intelligence made easy

Think of a time when you were in flow. Either on your own, or in a group or team. One of those times when things just seemed to happen really naturally and easily. When you didn’t have to put much effort in and yet you were making great progress, or getting great results.

Now compare that to the definition of emotional intelligence:

“the capability of individuals to recognize their own emotions and those of others, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately, use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior, and manage and/or adjust emotions to adapt to environments or achieve one’s goal(s)”

When you were in flow, to what extent were you doing any of the things in that definition?

My guess would be not very much, if at all, and certainly not consciously. Not with intellectual effort.

This is because when we’re in our natural state, we don’t need strategies and tactics. We don’t need breathing and centring, or visualisations of the best version of us, or mantras about listening to understand not to reply.

And this is because, in our natural “flow state”, we aren’t paying attention to the thinking going on in our heads. We’re not grabbing hold of thoughts and believing them. We’re not analysing why someone’s said what they said, or why we ourselves are getting frustrated by something, and crucially we’re not trying to manage ourselves out of an emotional response we think we shouldn’t be having in that moment. We’re keeping our intellectual, egoic, personal thinking out of the way and we’re accessing a much deeper space of wisdom and intuition.

Why aren’t we in flow more?

For years we’ve been teaching people (me included until recently) that we need to intellectually manage what’s going on for us emotionally. That we need to use our brain muscle to fix ourselves, that we need to practice and repeat to build new habits and new neural pathways, all so we can be better versions of ourselves more of the time because we’ve been led to believe there’s some version of us which is not good enough and not acceptable to society right now.

The trouble is, the application of our intellectual capabilities to these emotional management tasks, takes valuable energy away from our ability to generate fresh new thoughts and ideas in any moment, from our ability to listen and hear others, from our ability to connect and collaborate.

Remember that flow state? All those things just happened naturally there because you weren’t stuck, caught, or getting tangled in your thinking. And I’m not saying that in flow everything is about positivity and full agreement, with permanent grins on everyone’s faces – but you and others will have felt able to express any frustration or concerns without it seeming like a big deal. In fact the complete opposite. Any such insights will have been gratefully received and discussed, leading to an even better way forward.

So if we’re not “managing” our state through emotional intelligence tactics, how do we get to this state of flow more of the time?

We understand how our human system really works.

What we’ve been doing with emotional intelligence is explore:

the “what” – the content of our thoughts, labelling the emotions we’re feeling,

and

the “why” – what’s triggered you to get to that response. Often then examined to be re-framed or replaced with a more helpful thought.

This different approach understands the “how” of our underlying system. Think of making a car go. There is no benefit in commenting on the shape or design of the bodywork (the “what”). And there’s also no benefit in polishing the paintwork to a high shine to make it look nicer (the “why”). Neither of these approaches is going to get the car going. You must first understand “how” all the parts of the engine work and fit together to make the thing move forward.

The exact same here.

So how does our system work?

There are two areas where we can see the system working the way it always has and always will.

  • Everything works inside-out. Everything you’ve experienced, ever, in your whole life has been experienced through your thoughts. There is no other way. Nothing on the outside can “do” anything to you or “make” you feel anything. It’s all seen through the movie projector of our experience. “We’re the writer, the director, the producer – and in fact the audience”*.
  • Our system rights itself. Without intervention from us, our thinking moves on, our feelings change and we move to a different state. Automatically. In fact, I might go so far as to use the new word I recently learnt “automagically”! We “think” we’re so clever and we’ve been taught all our lives to be clever: in education, by parents, and in work. The message we’ve received is that intellectual capabilities are THE most important capability we have. And it’s not that intellectual is unimportant, but it’s the fact that this is not all there is. In emphasising our intellectual, we’ve denied and hidden the rest of what makes us whole; the true source of our brilliance and innate wisdom. We’ve been so busy fixing ourselves to be better we forgot that we didn’t need fixing in the first place.
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    Why people disengage

    First day in the new job….
    I’ve never been responsible for so much before. I wonder what the new boss will be like.
    Better make a good impression or they’ll think they’ve made the wrong hiring decision. Better make a good impression or they’ll think I’m no good at my job.
    Must look like I know what I’m doing and what I’m talking about. I’m meant to be in charge of all this. Must look like I know what I’m doing and what I’m talking about. I’m meant to be in charge of this department.
    OK, let’s do this. OK, let’s do this.
    [Step into the office, shoulders back, head up, eye contact, confidently greeting people] [Steps into the office, looking around]

    Is he here yet?

    [Conversations in flow – listening deeply] [Conversations in flow – speaking passionately]
    Wow I’m learning loads. Wow I know more than I realised, and he seems to be really listening. This is going well!
    I have so many questions. These questions are really getting me thinking. I love this!
    These people really know their stuff. I feel like I know my stuff even better than I did before this conversation!
    They seem so engaged with what they’re doing and keen to change things for the better. I love this job and this new boss seems great!
    I’d better show that I know stuff too [adds knowledgeable stuff to conversation]. And he has insights to add. That’s so useful to have a new perspective.
    A few months later…..
    [Amount of knowledgeable stuff added to conversations grows….] [Amount of knowledgeable stuff added to conversations is dropping, confidence is dropping]
    Hey, I’m doing great!   Look at all this stuff I know now. I’m not sure I’m as good at this as I thought I was.
    I can add so much to conversations. I don’t feel I can share anything he doesn’t already know.
    I have so many ideas.  I’m thriving on sharing them with everyone! I don’t know where to take this next.  I can’t get a word in edgeways anyway.
    6 months later….
    I get all this now. I’ll wait to be told.
    I’ve got a clear plan of what we need to do and how we’re going to get there. It’s always his opinion first so no point thinking first.

     

    Why is this person saying this again? We went over this already? If he’d only listen he’d hear what I’m really saying. He doesn’t get it. He doesn’t care what I have to say.
    I asked for that last week. What are they doing? What’s the point, it won’t be exactly what he wants anyway.
    I have this amazing idea – I’ll go and tell the people who need to make it happen. It must be done yesterday! Instructions received.   Robotic task-completion mode engaged.
    Nobody has anything to say around here. …..
    I wish people would just get on and do instead of seeking permission from me! Given he knows it all I need to check this first or it’ll be wrong.
    Why does nobody interact in our meetings or bring ideas?

    It’s like they’ve all just disengaged.

    …..

    We’re taught our whole lives – from school and through work – to show our brilliance.  Have the ideas.  Show you know things.  Demonstrate capability.  Do stuff and do it well and quickly.

    All through school, university and work we’re rewarded and praised for knowing and doing.

    Then we reach leadership and we keep knowing and doing.  And people disengage, switch off their brains, and do the basics or go elsewhere.

    We need to just be.  To listen.  To allow space for others to grow into.  And yes to add insight.  To provide a broader context or set a vision higher than anyone might believe can be reached.  But all the while involving and listening to others.

    How are you doing at being?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    #cipdldshow – Developing line managers for coaching conversations

    Final session of the show!  It’s been a ball!!

    This one is with Sandra Nixon of QVC and Rhonda Howarth from Nestle who are talking about how to develop line managers to have effective coaching conversations.  A coaching leadership style is essential to operate effectively in today’s world and for a line manager it can’t always be about sitting for hours having in-depth coaching sessions but about making it a fluid part of your everyday way of working.  I’m interested to see what QVC’s and Nestle’s takes are on it.

    First up is Sandra from QVC who’ve been going through a 10 year programme including investment in line manager skills which are being delivered in a sustainable way.  She’s going to talk about embedding a coaching environment, some of their lessons and how they’ve made it sustainable to keep it alive.

    They’ve followed the McKkinsey 7S change model and at the centre has been the focus on shared values.  they believe in investing in their people for success.  They bring their values into performance management, reward, recognition, a 2-day culture programme that everyone attends.  They believe in creating a great employee experience to deliver a great customer experience – woop!!!

    When they started the change they were getting good feedback from employees and customers, sales were in growth, new tech was being introduced, things were feeling very positive so to take the next step they started thinking about the future.  They had a lot of senior people who’d been promoted from technical roles without any development and without clarity of what leadership means in QVC.  They started to shape leadership as a role where you’re there for your team to help support, develop and grow them – woop again!

    They did their first employee survey in 2007 which cemented an opportunity to focus on skills of frontline leaders.  they has about a third of responses sitting around neutral they could see moving to positive.

    They decided they wanted to move to a coaching culture to improve employee experience – although without any idea what their strategy might be – except that they saw it as enabling a great relationship and a skill that transfers across any employee-manager conversation – absence, performance, career….

    So they thought about what they wanted to achieve – what does it look like if we have a coaching culture, what will be different, how will we know we’ve got there, what will we see, hear & feel, what do we want to keep hold of and what are we not doing.  Then what do we want to achieve in Year 1 and by Year 3?

    Sandra’s using the analogy of white water rafting to explain the start of the journey.  That was how she felt and also that’s how their managers approached it.  Do I have the skills? What if I fall out the boat?  What if I lose my job? And others were raring to get in the boat – give me the paddle, I’ll give anything a go.  they recognised they needed everyone on board before they started out so the business was clear about what the expectations were of the future and that their opportunity would be to learn towards that and make mistakes along the way without losing their jobs.

    There were lots who already thought they did coaching – what they were actually doing was giving them feedback (this is a common experience of mine too) so they needed to first of all be clear about coaching, mentoring and giving & receiving feedback – with constant reiteration of the definitions to be clear what they were talking about as an organisation and to shift mindsets.

    They developed coaching skills (see photo) – first of all doing this with the HR team so they could be ambassadors and role models.  Senior leaders were involved to set the scene at the start of the learning programme to set expectations of the learners and emphasise this wasn’t going to be a fad or the latest thing. some leaders chose to leave – which is fine.  It wasn’t for them.

    They found that leaders weren’t aware of their skills gaps or weren’t prepared to be vulnerable and admit they had gaps.  this led them to move into developing leaders into emotional intelligence, self awareness, self regulation, liming beliefs….Refer back to earlier session.  the depth and quality of coaching is enhanced by the strength of relationship and so this work really needed to be done first.

    Sustainability – workshops, e-learning, have used every opportunity to reinforce.

    They wondered how they could assess how effective their leaders were being.  They decided to get Ops Mgrs to observe Team Leaders when they’re coaching their team members to see in real time the way they’re behaving together.  Scary but a great way to get real feedback, raise awareness, learn and improve.  (Our best learning comes from discomfort.)

    They had feedback that they had too many models so they decided to become masters of 1 or 2 models.  Giving too much was clouding things for them.

    They introduced Lean 6 Sigma – another opportunity to use coaching to say How do you do things on a day to day basis, how could you improve that.

    ROI – employee survey – improvements year on year, improvements in attrition, in business results.

    When they started in 2007 they were QVC UK and other countries operated separately but now they’re a global, matrix org so looking to how to be more effective and productive in that new world.  Many of the leaders chosen to lead the matrix org have come from the UK and you can see a significant difference in their capability compared to their global colleagues because of their greater emotional intelligence.  So now they’re back to strategy – how can we influence the global agenda and how will that look?

     

    Next up, Rhonda from Nestle who’s going to talk about the role of a manager in their business and how they’ve supported leadership development through coaching networks.

    Nestle already has a global approach to coaching and a strategy. Rhonda & her team’s job is to make sure managers are equipped to coach to ensure a coaching culture throughout.  They’re a business created by lots of separate businesses that have been acquired but they’re looking to standardise expectations and standards across.

    Expectations are that they engage and inspire their people, grow and develop their people, support their career.  Variety of ways people join the programme : Apprenticeship, Graduate programme, Existing workforce, Direct entry – so leaders need to flex to different needs and priorities.

    Their anchor for leadership programme:

    As an individual – Know yourself

    As a line manager – Coach and Develop

    Senior leader – Develop org capability

    They also have NCE – about driving improvement, consistency, quality, safety, lean – done lots here around coaching to engage operators in solution finding.

    They’re about to launch Purpose and Values.  Their new global CEO wants to anchor people to this.  Purpose “Enhancing quality of life and contributing to the future.”  Sso now with coaching they want to bring people back to these and to the values.

    People Development and Performance – in Nestle they’ve fine tuned their appraisal process rather than removing it – but they have made it more frequent so people have check ins through the year.  They have a holistic assessment at year end – the overall goals & performance of day job – and feed that into reward.  Coaching is essential in check ins so people are having quality conversations which feeds satisfaction with end of year outcomes around reward – they intend this at least as they’ve not come to the end of the first year of this new cycle yet.

    Their coaching is based on GROW supported by skill development in listening, questions, giving feedback, providing challenge.  they’re also helping leaders with mindset so they go into conversations with employees clear about how they want to be and therefore the impact they want to have.

    The senior leadership have also taken coaching on board, have developed their skills and are co-coaching each other as well as using a coaching approach more in day to day.

    Nestle have a Global Coaching Network, Peer to Peer Coaching that can happen on factory floors and in the next level of supervisors, Coaching Groups connected to the Accreditation Pathway so they learn to be a coach and alongside that are these groups to continue learning.  They’ve gone with ICF Accreditation for their formal qualifications.

    Some Q’s:

    How does being a coach marry with them delivering their operational job? > In Nestle it’s been a behavioural shift by helping them stand back from problems, find a different way of solving by enabling the team to learn and self-solve through coaching so next time they self-solve with more confidence next time.  Creates more time / less pressure for the long term.

    QVC have learnt that leaders need to recognise when they need to coach, when to mentor, when to give feedback.  You can’t coach all the time as a line manager.  Also needed to help with how to performance manage with this coaching approach – it didn’t mean we aren’t doing that now, it’s just we’re doing it with a different style.  And it takes time and practice because when the pressure’s on we revert to control and tell.

     

    This post has been live blogged from a session at CIPD Learning & Development Show. I’ve shared as I’ve heard it so there may be typos and I won’t have captured the whole thing but the intention is to give you a good sense of what was shared.

    #barefootwinterconf Reflections

    Last week I attended the Barefoot Winter Conference at Prestwold Hall (beautiful location – and yes I’m slightly biased because it’s where I got married!).  This post is a collation of my thoughts and reflections from the day which I know will help me learn and absorb, and which I hope will have some nuggets of interest and insight for you.

    On the practical conference front, it was a brilliantly run event with good amounts of time for each workshop – all of which were interactive, learning sessions – no sages on stages chalking & talking.  And a good long lunch for quality network time.  A definite focus on quality not quantity all day.

    Keynote – Prof Roger Steare – on values-driven orgs, leadership and ethics

    Since the 2008 crash stories have continued to emerge of unethical practice in organisations.  Read about Roger’s keynote in my Storify and how we helps organisations back to ethical decision-making.

    Prestwold

    Workshop 1 – Clean Language – Revealing Mental Models through Metaphor 

    This session was with Sue Sharp and Tamsin Hartley from Clean Learning.

    I chose this session for what might seem odd reasons.  I’d once been coached by someone who’d just done a Clean Language course and I really hated it.  So, because I believe it’s good to challenge our assumptions, I went along with the intent to learn more and open my mind to the possibilities of how I could use it in my practice.

    What was great was that the session was involving and interactive from the start.  Lots of play with the approach, group discussion and conversation.

    To give some context, the purpose of Clean Language is to find out how people work and think to raise their awareness to that and understand themselves (and others if a team thing) better.  Its purpose is also to remove assumptions from our own language which could (inadvertently) influence a client’s response.

    A (made up) example of a clean language interaction could follow this flow –

  • For this meeting to go as you would like, it will be like what? > It will be fun and interactive and we’ll get through everything on the agenda.
  • And you will be like what? > I’ll need to keep an eye on the time while also checking everyone’s OK, and I’ll need plenty of energy.
  • What kind of [energy] is that [energy]? > It’s the kind of energy that bubbles away. It doesn’t spike up and drop down, it’s infectious and consistent.
  • Bubbles. Infectious. Consistent.  And is there anything else about that [energy]? > It’s natural.  It’s not forced.  It’s a natural result of wanting to be there in that conversation with those people.
  • Natural. Not forced. And where is that energy? > It’s in my heart and my head.  A sense of happiness and a buzz.
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    Some Guest Bloggage – including that mis-posted one!

    I’ve been really enjoying having some space to blog recently and I’ve written for a couple of people I guest blog for.

    This one for The HR Director magazine which is about how we can get stuck in our emotions and thoughts, and how we can move out of that place.

    And this one (the one I mis-posted a draft of the other week!) for Bray and Bray Solicitors about the challenging world of workplace relationships, and shifting those from the playground to an adult world.

    I hope you or someone you know finds them useful.

    This is me……….www.wildfigsolutions.co.uk

    WFS Tree