Tag: Coaching and Leadership

How to Build a Strong Leadership Team

In a constantly shifting landscape, businesses need agile and resilient leaders. Leaders who are able to stay on course and assist others in the face of adversity are infinitely valuable. It takes work to create a leadership team, but when testing times hit, businesses that have strong leaders are better equipped to navigate challenges and stay the course towards success.

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Sparkling from Within

I was speaking to my 13-year-old niece the other day and she was telling me about a situation where she was fearful of putting her best self forward as she was worried about what others could think or say. She reminded me of myself at that age – not only in looks – but also in thinking.Fast forward a few decades (quite a few actually) and while the 13-year-old version of myself sometimes emerges – this behaviour thankfully, has (mostly) long gone.

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Being Malleable

Malleability and Adaptive Leadership

While it is a very long time ago, I still remember being in my year 8 science class and first learning about malleable metals (e.g. gold, silver, copper, lead and aluminium) – those metals that can be hammered, pressed or rolled into thin sheets without breaking.  This was around the same time the Periodic Table became my friend as I learnt a “song” to help me to remember all the elements.  (As an aside, a cute modern day version of a song can be found on YouTube)

Since that time I have always been attracted to the word malleable (particularly now that I can spell it).  This interest further peaked as I moved into leadership roles combined with the discoveries in neuroscience (the study of the nervous system and the brain).  Neuroplasticity is the term used when referring to the malleability of the brain. Neuroscience has proved that it is possible to change the way we behave with the motivation and support – due to the brain’s malleability.

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Belief really can make a difference!

Creating a Culture of Belief in the Workplace

What a treat for our sporting nation – the two key codes of football celebrating grand final wins with the underdogs getting up on both occasions. Having grown up with an almost obsessive love for AFL, I am absolutely delighted that the Western Bulldogs are the 2016 premiers (even though I am a passionate and long-suffering Carlton supporter)!

How does a team come from 7th on the ladder to win the flag? How do they overcome a 62-year premiership drought? How do they manage to play as a high performing team week after week even though their beloved and highly skilled captain was injured early in the 2016 season?

My observation – they believed they could do it. They were 100% focused on the outcome, they had a shared goal, a goal which was largely shared by the entire western suburban population of Melbourne.

So often we use sporting analogies in the business world; it seems apt, in a sporting team everyone must know their role, commit to maintaining and building their skills, always be there to play their role in the game, recognise the strengths of others and provide opportunities for them to be optimised, operate selflessly, communicate continually, reflect on performance and opportunities for improvements and always remain focused on the goal, in this instance the premiership.

While the analogy works we are rarely treated to leadership and teamwork such as that demonstrated by high performing sporting teams. There is no doubt that the busy changing world we operate in creates challenges for teams to remain aligned or high performing, but surely they should never lose sight of the goal?

If we believe in what we do, why we do it and our role in it, then regardless of the rapidly changing environment we are faced with, alignment, high performance and ultimately achieving the goal is more likely.

How do you create ‘belief’ in the workplace?

  1. Share the ‘why’ – ensure every person knows why the business, service or team exists; it builds engagement, ownership and belief, it creates the story which employees can place themselves in
  2. Be clear on roles so each person knows how they can contribute to the goal
  3. Keep everyone informed, celebrate successes and share learnings from mistakes
  4. Encourage ideas from all parts of the business, listen, consider and give feedback
  5. Invest in skills and behaviours of your team so they are equipped to achieve the goal
  6. Recognise that leadership can emerge from anywhere at any time, encourage it!

The ecstasy of the Western Bulldogs win will easily carry them through the off-season while they enjoy a well-earned break. But first, they will take a deep breath, they will celebrate, they will reflect on their role in this momentous event and they will demonstrate thanks to every supporter who shared in their belief that anything is possible!

Nine Habits to Embrace Ambiguity

Recently Change2020 launched the Embrace ambiguity movement. This movement is about firstly acknowledging where your tolerance of ambiguity sits and then taking action to Embrace ambiguity – both at home and at work.

At Change2020, we believe that Embracing ambiguity is imperative if you are to remain relevant as a leader.  Research also identifies that “leaders who are comfortable with uncertainty and competent under ambiguous conditions might very well provide a competitive advantage to organisations”[1].

So, if relevancy and having a competitive advantage are important to you, is it time to jump on board and join the Embrace ambiguity movement.

Joining the movement is simple, the first step is to complete our survey by clicking here to determine your tolerance of ambiguity.

We have developed nine habits that will assist you to Embrace ambiguity.

These are:

  1. Take a deep breath
  2. Take the reins
  3. Focus on what matters
  4. Rewire expectations
  5. Hatch butterfly moments
  6. Open the floodgates
  7. Challenge idea killers
  8. Be courageous
  9. Let go and move on

Over the next nine weeks will be releasing a blog on each of these habits. Watch out for these to build your tolerance to Embrace ambiguity.

[1] White, R.P. and Shullman, S.L., Acceptance of Uncertainty as an Indicator of Effective Leadership, Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 2010, Vol 62, No 2, 94 – 104


Did Charles Handy have a crystal ball?

In May 2001 I had the good fortune of attending a well-known conference within the UK HR industry on board the Oriana. This event is an annual tradition and held on the ship for three days during which time delegates are able to attend a variety of discussions on emerging people issues and, of course, network like machines with an assortment of suppliers, peers and organisations represented.

That year the keynote speaker for the conference was Charles Handy, a great thought leader who, with Irish wit and charm, did not disappoint in the clarity of his view points or challenging the status quo. I got to meet him briefly with this wife Elizabeth as they had chosen to remain on board for an additional three days of the conference (other speakers had scurried off before setting sail on Friday night).

Handy introduced a rapt audience to his latest book at that time, The Elephant and the Flea, which proclaimed the rise of ‘fleas’ – or individuals who would work independently, flexibly and creatively across a number of organisations in their career – versus ‘elephants’ who remained stable in their careers working for a large corporation. Amongst the many ideas that he puts forward in the book Handy identified four key challenges for organisations over the coming 20 years:

  1. how to grow bigger, but remain small and personal;
  2. how to combine creativity with efficiency;
  3. how to be prosperous but socially acceptable; and
  4. how to reward both the owners of the ideas as well as the owners of the company.

Fast forward to 2016. Bombarded with the rising impact of the freelance economy, numerous reports on the future of work – including one from the World Economic Forum – the rapid acceleration of technological and social change and the words of Charles Handy are once again ringing in my ear.

We have been talking a lot about the future of work in the Change2020 hub, particularly as we pursue our vision to Embrace Ambiguity. Today we live in a VUCA world – volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous – and the pace of change is relentless and rapid. It requires news ways of thinking and a new mindset to gain competitive advantage and deliver impactful leadership. Moreover, the greater connection between people and organisations is changing the language of work and the expectations of the customer or client. It’s entrepreneurial meets big business in the face of massive disruption. Charles Handy was both right and way ahead of his time.

However, the most humbling recollection of hearing and meeting Charles Handy at the HR Forum is not only the relevance of his words but the timing of them. In May 2001 the world was breathtakingly different. There had been no 9/11, 7/7, Lehman Brothers collapse, technological revolution, GFC or Facebook (or any other social media) to accelerate the pace of change as all of these events have. A few short months later and we were staring at our TV screens (no tablets then people) for days – in my case at our local in London – as we grimly watched the events of 9/11 unfold.

Putting this into perspective for me in 2016 reminds me of three things: how far we have come, how far we have to go and how embracing new ways of thinking – and views about this issue – is going to be the key to building a sustainable future in business and as leaders.

Accelerating Teamwork

Optimising a Team’s Potential by Accelerating Teamwork

Workplaces depend on team effort more than ever.  What’s driving this?  In part, it’s the frenetic pace of change, redundancy was once an infrequent occurrence, now it can be a weekly event.  This creates ambiguity and uncertainty, which can be both exhausting and threatening at the same time.  One certainty amongst this uncertainty is that teamwork comes to the fore.  A united team, underpinned by its collective knowledge and experience, is going to better weather adverse situations.  A silver lining in this is that mutual effort accumulates and makes the next challenge easier to handle, a win/win for the organisation and the individual.

A challenging statistic from a survey by the Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL) indicated 86% of leaders surveyed believe that the capacity to work across demographic, geographic, stakeholder and other boundaries is extremely important.  Yet only 7% of these leaders described themselves as “very effective” at working in cross-boundary teams.

The consoling fact in this figure is there must be huge potential for organisations to harness this upside potential!

So how can this process of working as a team be accelerated?

Self-awareness is the starting point for accelerating teamwork.  Feedback is key to self-awareness.  Feedback should come from multiple sources including assessment tools, colleagues, third-party business parties (suppliers, customers), associates and friends. A high degree of self-awareness allows each team member to excel and exploit his or her full potential.  What this includes is identifying each person’s skill potential; their operating style; and where they may need development.

Encouraging individuals to share something about themselves is a good step towards accelerating team development.  It’s important to provide an environment conducive to this that promotes openness. A simple team building exercise is to ask people to select a photograph or symbol that means something to them, they then share what it means to them and why, invariably you learn much more than where they went to school or their favourite food.  Once people start to talk about their photo/symbol you can ask more questions and understand whom they are.

A shared purpose will accelerate teamwork.  At times the conversation around purpose is missed if the team assumes they have a shared understanding of the “why”. A real conversation, with no ‘super chickens’ (a term from Margaret Heffernan’s TED Talk – “Why it’s time to forget the pecking order at work”) around the team’s purpose, followed by the underpinning behaviours achieves this objective.

Being conscious of the desired team behaviours requires relentless focus (we are only human!). If the team selects behaviours such as curiosity; challenge; listening; and optimism then a strategy may be to focus on one behaviour until it becomes “how we work”, then progress to the next.

Optimising a team’s potential takes time and effort.

So what can you as the leader do right now?

  • Get people talking – face to face, over the phone, Skype – whatever media is available
  • Have some fun together – this doesn’t mean the team has to climb the high ropes – this can be simple: individuals share a Dilbert cartoon that appeals to them; using an abstract image ask individuals to identify what they “see”; have a ‘cook-off’ and ‘break bread’ together, humour and fun is a key ingredient in highly satisfied teams
  • Buddy up individuals – this is a great idea until you are able to get the team together (either physically or virtually)
  • Collaboratively establish a team charter – these are the norms that you and the team establish to ensure efficiency and success.
  • Role model the behaviours you expect from your team – the team will take cues from the leader about what is expected and acceptable behaviour – discuss these expectations as soon as possible with the team

Accelerating teamwork is possible.  The benefits will be worth the effort.

Curiosity – The New IQ?

Curiosity and a Leadership That Creates a Workplace Culture of Learning and Growth

Building resilience and overcoming resistance are integral to the delivery of successful change. They embody very human and emotive issues and, as a result, create a critical need to focus on mindset in order to establish a foundation for acceptance of change. This involves constantly breaking down mental barriers in order to establish trust and genuine connection, necessitating emotionally intelligent leadership and an adaptive approach to engagement. Adopting an agile mindset within teams will drive high performance underpinned by collaboration, innovation and diversity within an organisation. Curiosity is the foundation of an agile mindset; it is a shared way of thinking that drives both personal growth and organisational development by focusing on the ‘why’ in different and often unexpected situations.

One of the principle reasons curiosity is integral to the agile mindset is that often organisations operate in a state of ambiguity. The adage that past behaviour predicts future performance is increasingly outdated. Performance, including commercial success, is not straightforward as many organisations currently working towards new business models would recognise; however, it can still be tempting to interrogate outdated data or hold strong beliefs based on old assumptions. The mind is powerful, and the way in which we frame our perception or expectation from a situation is heavily influenced by our past patterns of thinking and behaviour. Curiosity is a trait that can be learnt, applied and practised in order to be open to new possibilities, allowing progressive change and evolution in an organisation to unfold.

Demonstrating Curiosity as Part of an Agile Mindset

Leadership which supports the creation of an environment that is open and transparent in their engagement and encourages debate leads to a culture of learning and growth. This builds curiosity, the willingness to ask ‘why’ and foster new ways of working or thinking. So how can leaders demonstrate curiosity as part of an agile mindset? Here are our top tips:

  • Listen and be present.
  • Seek to understand the things that may otherwise induce a judgement.
  • Avoid assumptions, ask questions that start with “why” and say things like, “tell me more about that.”
  • Accept that it feels messy. The creative process is rarely neat and tidy.
  • Being wrong is OK. It’s ok to say I don’t know.
  • Take time. The world that’s asking for order is demanding speed as well. Pause, slow things down and take time to look at things for longer, generate lots ideas and options before making a plan of action.
  • Try things on. Play with questions and ideas and concepts, try them on for size. Give yourself permission to explore. Seek surprise.
  • Give up perfection. This doesn’t mean quitting. It means you need to let go. Perfectionism is a false construct. There is no end. You never get to perfect.

Curiosity is integral to building an agile mindset and increasing tolerance of ambiguity.

Accepting ambiguity and appreciating that as leaders we do not always have the answers is the first step in this journey. The key challenge is to develop a shared sense of curiosity within teams to increase resilience, to embrace ambiguity and to see the opportunity within change.

Lessons from Dr Who

Lessons for Leadership from the Classic TV Series, Dr. Who

The iconic Dr Who first hit the screen in a BBC broadcast in 1963.  It’s now the longest-running program in TV history.  Its longevity is due to its clever format that allows it to refresh with new scenarios and periodically new doctors.  Like many TV shows, there is a subtle message built into the show – good over evil, success over failure, risk-taking over risk avoidance, collaboration over isolation, to list a few.

Each episode offers a different scenario and they are quite ambiguous, meaning the viewers really don’t know what to expect from episode to episode. Bouncing around through history, from the past to the future, allows many themes and concepts to develop, it really is like a free (and entertaining) education on how to engage and build creative workplaces – critical elements of great leadership.

What are the takeaways from the show, particularly for leadership?

  • First up, hopping into an ex-police phone box and appearing in a new era that throws out new challenges should be like our modern day work environment. Imagine a Dr Who where every time he landed he found himself in the same place and era; it simply wouldn’t compel viewers to ‘stay tuned’. A stifled workplace with no buzz of excitement simply does not compel employees to perform! This is a challenge for leaders.
  • Next, Dr Who depends on his helpers to get him out of tight jams. He’d have been long demolished by a Dalek or Cyborg if he’d been going it alone. What is the nature of the help? It is collegial and independent.  By collegial I mean working together for the overall good; by independent I mean it’s distinguished by allowing the helpers to use their initiative to get out of jams.  Dr Who doesn’t have all the answers and needs the help of others to survive.  Imagine a show where the ‘star’ told everyone what they had to do; it would be boring, a bit like a command and control workplace.
  • Then, the show doesn’t just focus on history it jumps into the future. It allows the imagination to roam about ‘what could be’.  Does your workplaces lack imagination?  Imaginative and creative leaders think about the future and embrace the ambiguity of future events.
  • Dr Who is a calculated risk taker. Whenever he hits the button in the Tardis to a new adventure, he does it in the confidence that risk is not unhealthy; it is the essence of being alive.  If the shows’ viewers knew where the next adventure was it would be boring, turning up to work every day with a scheduled and configured routine makes for boring work.  Great leaders aim to make the workplace interesting; it increases productivity!
  • When a Dr Who runs out of steam, interest or hits the time to go and smell the roses, the producers cleverly introduce a new Doctor. Always resplendent as a new character and different to the previous Doctors.  A clever way to maintain viewer interest and to refresh the show; some workplaces need to institute a ‘Dr Who replacement program’, particularly when things begin to flag. This could mean new faces or a new style and approach to leadership; regardless, variety is an imperative!
  • Dr Who never forgets the importance of lightness and humour, while he faces tense situations he always paints a positive view and optimism for a successful result; he’s also comfortable with self-mocking and not taking himself too seriously. We the viewers know he’ll be back next week with another dose of optimism and self-deprecation.

What are your takeaways from Dr Who?   How can this formula be implanted into the workplace?

Join the Movement

One of my favourite TED Talks is Derek Sivers’– How to Start a Movement.  It is a great resource that is often used in leadership development programs to start a great conversation around the role of the leader.

At Change2020 we sometimes start “dancing by ourselves” particularly when we commence partnering with businesses to transform and transition. This soon changes as the “first follower” joins the dance and then the second until the movement has started.   We love this element of our work.

Recently we started a business changing movement – and while there was limited dancing – we officially began the movement for leaders (and subsequently organisations) to Embrace ambiguity. (Change2020’s vision)

Joining the movement to – Embrace ambiguity. –  will result in leaders remaining relevant.  The skills that leaders have are excellent and will continue to remain relevant but this will not be enough in a world where change is the way of life.  Embracing ambiguity will also enable opportunities to be seized, complex problems to be solved, creativity to be released and stress levels to decrease.

BUT, how do leaders Embrace ambiguity?

Leaders will need to do things differently. We have developed 9 habits that will assist leaders to Embrace ambiguity:

  1. Take a deep breath
  2. Take the reins
  3. Focus on what matters
  4. Rewire expectations
  5. Hatch butterfly moments
  6. Open the floodgates
  7. Challenge idea killers
  8. Be courageous
  9. Let go and move on

This movement is not going to happen overnight and it is going to be challenging for leaders to “flip” the way many currently operate.  It will require focus and support from colleagues and friends.

A starting point for embracing ambiguity is working out your tolerance of ambiguity – low, moderate or high.  Change2020 has designed a survey to assess your tolerance of ambiguity.

To be part of the movement, take our survey by clicking here and we will provide you with your tolerance of ambiguity score and some tips on how to join the movement to Embrace ambiguity.

Be a first follower and join the movement…..