Eight Educational Experiences with Emotions

  • I am feeling joy.
  • I am feeling encouraged.
  • I am feeling… grateful.

The above three emotions were the result of a short future focused self reflection for me, using the Emotional Culture Deck (ECD). How are you feeling today? How are you really feeling? What emotions are you connecting with today?


I have been on a six-month learning journey and I’m reflection and future spying on the impact of the ECD to me and my approach professionally and personally. I have played the game many times now, with individuals and teams and I’m about to share its approach with a group of individuals who are not a team, but I want to see the ECD and the opportunities for it. As I prepare for this session – and I think there may be more – I thought it would be good to summarize my discoveries.

  1. People confuse their real emotions with those expected of them by others. There is often a belief that people are expected to show a certain emotion in a situation but want to express something else. Consider the challenge of a person who wants to laugh when fearful, or does not want to say how challenged they feel, for fear of belittling by others.
  2. Leadership teams often struggle to understand their organization because they lack the empathy to address the emotions present. This causes disconnects and a challenge to be successfully aligned.
  3. It is equally important to recognize the emotions you readily embrace and the emotions you don’t want to see but know are there. When you look at both sides of the coin, its easier to understand the why and how of the emotional responses.
  4. A focus on emotional responses to a situation, give you the power to accept, manage and direct that situation to a desired outcome. Emotion based action planning can be highly effective.
  5. Emotions are the fuel that energizes the culture of an organization. Culture is driven by the how and why of the relationships within an organization and understanding this network of pushes and pulls are part of the construct of the culture.
  6. Giving space to talk emotions can help build a psychologically safe space where it previously doesn’t exist. When people can talk freely about emotions, in front of others, in collaboration with others, and gently challenge choices with meaningful and respectful dialogue, then they are prepared to move to the more difficult conversations.
  7. Its ok to draw a blank! Sometimes you can’t find the right words to express an emotion and so going with the closest or more resonating can help to fine tune. Sometimes, you just can’t get the right words to express yourself and I’m ok with that.
  8. Never be surprised how much can be achieved in a short time when emotions are in play! I’ve undertaken 60-minute sessions and over half day sessions and found myself always surprised at the pace and amount of discovery happening through the time.

The ECD is an incredibly powerful tool that helps you build a great action plan, canvas or strategy for development of a whole range of areas. The past 6 months have been an amazing journey – great to connect (and reconnect in some cases) with some amazing people who think so cleverly about the human centred situation. I look forward to many more journeys with this little game, and fun times exploring its potential … now to hack the pack!

If you are interested in experiencing the Emotional Culture Deck, see our page here

Here are a few ways you can learn more about The Emotional Culture Deck:

  • Visit www.theemotionalculturedeck.com
  • Download a free Lo-fi PDF version of the deck at the website, click here
  • Complete The Emotional Culture Deck Online Masterclass course like I did here
  • If you still have questions, feel free to contact me here for a chat

#emotionalculturedeck #proelephantrider #ridersandelephants #emotionalculture

Misaligned Leadership & the Passive Resistor

Ever wondered how it would feel if you could box up all your emotions and hide them away? It’s strange how we are driven, led or even coaxed down pathways we wouldn’t normally travel, just because of an emotion? We can decide the excitement of the new is greater than the fear of the unknown.  We move the limits of confidence because of commitment, and we peer into the uncomfortable because of the joy the result may bring.

The Emotional Culture Deck (ECD)

If you have read my previous blogs, you will know that I am currently undertaking a deeper exploration of emotions and their role in achieving workplace cultural success. This journey is prompting me to go through a range of different activities with individuals and groups, playing with the Emotional Culture Deck (ECD) to discover and develop a range of activities.

I recently undertook one of these ECD workshops with a leadership team at a purpose driven non-profit organization.  They are not a large team, with a variation of skills and experience. I was exploring their leadership capacity and focus for the organization achieving its potential. As I prepared for the workshop I reflected upon recent conversations that had taken place between myself and the executive director. I had undertaken some leadership assessments as part of the bigger professional development journey for them. I was confident that all this insight into the team would make me fully prepared for the few hours we would spend together. I was very wrong!

ECD in Action

When it comes to emotions and discussions about their presence, not even I was prepared for the variation of responses within the group on the day. There were those that leapt at the chance to share while there were those that were a more reserved. Fortunately, I have many years experience in facilitation, and I was able to judge the group dynamic pretty fast, even with this being online. It quickly became apparent that one individual was out of step with the rest of the group and what I first thought was reserve was actually a passive resistance.

Exploring the emotions that leaders lean into and shy away from brings to the surface some interesting observations. There are people willing to sacrifice their own wellbeing for the greater good of their organization. Others, only want what is good for them. These latter people are often square pegs trying to fit in the proverbial round hole. They may lack a certain authenticity and watching their team dynamic is a confirmation of this. Unfortunately, the situation I was in today, showed our passive resistor to be disingenuous and lacking authenticity in supporting the purpose of their organization. A situation that I had to navigate, while still allowing the others to contribute in a safe way.

This was not an easy session, but it was a valuable discussion. The outcome of the experience was that the team discovered they were not the team they thought they were. The follow up required some difficult conversations and the resultant self realization was acceptance of poor fit and eventually a resignation by the misaligned individual.

This was the outcome of playing a card game. Yes, it was an emotional card game but an important one of reflection and candid conversation. The result of the commitment statements I concluded the game with, is a better organization, with a more cohesive and stronger leadership team. I’ll take that as a good result!

If you are interested in experiencing the Emotional Culture Deck, see our page here

Here are a few ways you can learn more about The Emotional Culture Deck:

  • Visit www.theemotionalculturedeck.com
  • Download a free Lo-fi PDF version of the deck at the website, click here
  • Complete The Emotional Culture Deck Online Masterclass course like I did here
  • If you still have questions, feel free to contact me here for a chat

#emotionalculturedeck #proelephantrider #ridersandelephants #emotionalculture

The Future of Change Management Lives Outside the Box

This ever-growing portfolio of transformation needs change professionals to keep adding capabilities to their toolbox, developing deeper intervention practice and broader approaches to engage in these new and exciting spaces. I do not use the word exciting lightly. I think that we are in exciting times for change, but this means that the way many people successfully deliver also needs to evolve.

Are you ready to see what’s outside?

There was a time when the primary focus of change management practice was rooted activities surrounding technology implementations. Times have changed. The focus for change support has broadened with an increase in activity for culture shifts, strategy development, organizational design, and workspace reorganization, to name but a few new spaces of change.

It has been many years since I did a technology implementation, but I speak to many in the change community who are still primarily doing this work. It concerns me that the desired approach of their organizations is a template driven project managed change management. This style doesn’t create a good fit for the change but rather forces a fit to an approach. I know many of these practitioners are frustrated by the confines this expectation places on them. There is a time and place for document driven change, but its not the panacea to all change. These practitioners want to give so much more than a few documents inside a project delivery. When you work in supporting people’s responses to the new, different, and strange, you want to have meaningful engagement with them that delivers solutions to their pain points. This means expanding the offerings you give to meet the greater needs and expectations being placed.

It was approximately 4 years ago that I was at a change management conference and I said organizational design is part of change management. I pushed for someone to come up with a case study or paper at the following year’s conference, I think I even offered to buy them a drink if they did. However, it did not happen, and I am still to see an organizational design reflection at a change conference. I have taken an organizational design journey of discovery these past few years. Adding to my existing knowledge and bringing myself up to date with current practice and approaches in the organizational design space; I found the commonality is significant. The activities needed for organizational design is definitely overlapping and complimentary to change management and no more or less than I see with project management or organization development. I do strongly believe that change professionals need to add the organizational design skillset within their portfolio to better meet the needs of their clients or leadership expectations. There is no gain to be had in helping to implement a change with the confines of a badly shaped organization.

I have been a coach for many years and have been utilising the skills throughout my change engagements. I truly find that taking a coaching approach helps me to build trust, find the true cause of responses and understand the needs of anyone experiencing change. In the past couple of years, I’ve seen more connection between coaching practice and change delivery, but its still evolving. I recommend that coaching skills are developed for every practitioner to understand their communications style, language choices and engagement techniques. Coaching is often seen as a 1-1 arrangement, but every organization is made up of individuals and the best way to change an organization is to change the individual’s relationship with that organization.

Where will you find your next tools?

I am fascinated to see how other disciplines and areas of practice influence the future of change delivery in the coming years. I’m intrigued by the potential for ergonomics and physiotherapy are going to influence the how we approach changing workspaces, particularly given the impact of Covid-19.  I am excited to see the evolution of Agile and agile within change, the links to process improvement practices and continued connect to the learning and development space. Neuroscience and psychology have long played a part in explaining change responses, but now we seem them being flipped to work on supporting others through the change. There are more than just these area that can connect to change management, but these are just the few that come to front of mind.

If you are interested in learning with me to gain deeper skills in change delivery, organizational design and coaching for change I have a number of advanced courses coming up.

The Certified Change Leader includes agile, strategy, culture and more – read more here: https://capillarylearning.com/qualifications/certified-change-leader-ccl/

Understanding Organizational Design provides a foundation in the practice and good examples to gain the fundamentals – read more here: https://capillarylearning.com/workshops/understanding-organizational-design/

The Delivering Organizational Design Program guides you through the practical requirements with assessment tools, formulating plans and real time activities to practice – read more here: https://capillarylearning.com/workshops/delivering-organizational-design/

Developing Coaching Skills for Change is a robust workshop that helps align change and coaching practice with an easy to follow approach and plenty of opportunity to practice – read more here: https://capillarylearning.com/workshops/developing-coaching-skills-for-change/

The Change Community needs to take a step forward now!

This is a very personal take on the current state of the world. I do not apologize for its content but respect differences of opinion. However, those different opinions are not excuses for ignorance. Please think on these comments and observations and recognize what you can do to make a difference.

Change is tough for anyone. Changing your behaviours, beliefs or values is really tough. The current state of the world is asking people to take on these really tough changes. We have spent 4 months navigating the Covid-19 physical distancing, mask wearing, isolation and restricted contact in public. This is a huge behavioural shift, and as a someone with an understanding of cultural and behavioural change challenges, I can see why its been so hard for so many people. The world has been undergoing a global change management experiment and I’m not sure what we are truly learning.

Compounding the impact of Covid-19, the last week or two, my emotions have been challenged even more seeing the disintegration of society on the grounds of skin colour and the ideocracy of law enforcement to play power and trust games without care for consequences.

When a significant proportion of a community are seen to be demonstrating a certain behaviour, there comes a point when the whole of that community is seen to be acting that way because the tipping point has been reached. In North America I am seeing that tipping point passed for police forces and the way they interact with people of colour. Too many instances of outright wrongdoing have now made the whole be seen that way. Institutionalized is the common word, because these attitudes and behaviours have embedded themselves within the culture so much so that they are seen as the norms and expectations – in effect giving themselves the confirmation to be right in these beliefs because they have been there for so long.

I want to diverge from the passion of those words to give a little reference piece or two. During my teen years I lived in Zimbabwe and Botswana for 3 years and at the time to go to Highschool I was given the option to go to school in South Africa. A country which was still embedded to apartheid rule where the ideology was that white was superior to all others. This was a belief system I could not condone, support or live with and I refused. I could just not bring myself to live in a space that separated me from people based on how they look – the colour of they skin – their ethnic background – who they are. The outcome was that my parents arranged for me to move to the UK for schooling and stay with family, but my time living in Africa and my strong held beliefs of equity and values of diversity as a strength have stayed with me throughout my life.

Fast forward many years and my reference points to other backgrounds were limited. I remember as a team leader in my early twenties having the conversation with the rest of the team because one member was observing fasting for Ramadan. The comments I won’t repeat here, but sufficient to say it was not the nicest of responses. I dealt with this as best I could, but I was working in a white dominant organization that just didn’t get why I was “making a fuss”.

I moved to Toronto just over 10 years ago. One of the key attractions of moving here was the diversity and acceptance of difference. Yes I am part of another minority as one half of a same sex couple, but I still have privilege, white privilege that on the surface I am seen as being part of the “norm” the “usual” the “typical” the “expected” and I am able to live my life with very little fear of others perceptions of me, unless I choose to let them into that part of my life. My time in the country has also allowed me to recognize that just because its done with an apology or a smile, it doesn’t mean that racism isn’t presence here. It is present in Toronto and Canada. White privilege still prevails and treatment of others is less.

It makes my stomach turn over to see the way that Black people are perceived, treated and thought of by many. A recent example brought it home to me the most. A guy loses his keys and can’t get into his car, so tries to jimmy the window to get into his car, parked outside his own house. The guy is black and is now reported for breaking into a car, warnings sent around the neighbourhood and police alerted. If that guy was white, he’d have probably had 3 neighbours ask if they could help! I watched BlackkKlannsman for the first time last weekend and the saddest part of that movie was that it was set 40+ years ago, yet the content was as relevant today as ever.

Society needs to change its belief systems, behaviours and attitudes and the “law enforcement” culture needs radical overhaul. Its not going to be easy, but I think change practitioners have a responsibility to help move the needle on this stuff and work to help shift this forward. If there is anyone in my community who would like to educate me on their experiences I want to learn and if I can help you learn about making behavioural change happen, get in touch. This is a conversation we need to have in the open and not be a game of ping pong until one side remains.

The points expressed in this post are my personal views and I hold myself personally responsible for this content – Rich.

2019 was my VUCA-filled Culture focused extravaganza of change!

I’ve started this blog post 3 times already but playing with the ups and downs of the year is a big challenge. We are now halfway through January and I am ready at last to reflect objectively on the year… A year of first time awards, recognitions and achievements but also a year with the unexpected thrown my way and some true VUCA (more about that below) experiential learning moments.

I want to start with my observations of the change space in 2019. Some of this is manifestation of stuff that started in 2018 and earlier years but there are two areas that have bubbled to the surface for me this past year – Culture and VUCA.

Culture I saw come back into the change space properly after many years of being a sidebar or peripheral consideration. Occasionally a topic talked about by the strange touchy-feely people and not those “driving” change forward! The idea that change is only “driven” successfully when following a process or set methodology has always been an anathema to me! Now I must confess that the work on Toronto Change Days has prompted the culture conversation to come to greater prominence. The 2019 theme for the event was Living Values and so it really encapsulated a lot of culture focus. Now the idea, that the way people behave, will influence the success of a change initiative, is finally taking root and I’m pleased that the bigger, more holistic views are taking shape around this. There’s still a lot of work to be done in the culture space – shaping, changing, even identifying it style, needs to gain some maturity but like so many other aspects of change it starts with a willingness to bring it to the centre of the conversation is fantastically important. Hat’s off to evangelists in this space like Jeremy Dean, Hilton Barbour, Jackie Lauer and Tynan Allan

The other subject is VUCA (Vulnerable, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) which as a term is finally having a renaissance moment these last year or two. After a rise to prominence several years back, the term went into the lower levels of conversation for several years. I think that the increasing pace of the unpredictability of technological evolution and the continuous flux of society this past little while has brought a need to label and after some early reference to disruption and disruptive change – and attachment to the 4th industrial revolution, describe this state of existence seems to have settle on the VUCA term. Now it was 2 years ago I was fortunate enough to engage with a deep dive on this work and my thanks to Rik Berbé for the great work he’s been doing in promoting the benefits of recognizing and working in the VUCA space. This has been my theme of public speaking engagements in 2019 and with a little help of some Lego® , has been a great sharing experience over the past year.

The year also included some great learning for me. I set myself the challenge of learning at least one new thing each year and 2019 was the Emotional Culture Deck early in the year. This was a great experience that made me realise that we have so much potential from understanding the nuances of human interaction and the emotional drivers for everything we do. I had a busy year professionally and was fortunate enough to attend the ACMP “Change Management 2019” conference in Florida – and captcha some R&R time too! I was thrilled to be included in their Ignitors group of “experts, gurus and luminaries”, moving the needle on the discipline of Change Management, with many good friends and heroes of the space in that group too. I’m also pleased to be part of the community reviewing the Standard for Change Management.

My learning continued with a trip to the amazing Berlin Change Days which was a precursor to us hosting  the second Toronto Change Days non-conference. With a theme of Living Values we knew it was going to be a challenge for participants to feel safe to explore their values and I tip my hat to the honesty of the participants, facilitators and volunteers who jumped in to make this an amazing experience for all. I was particularly thrilled to see the event be featured by Forbes Magazine as one of the top 5 conferences in 2020 for educators and entrepreneurs.

Although the start of the year was bumpy for Capillary with clients suddenly ending engagements and continued fall out from the government changes in the province.  I’m thrilled that we roared back in the latter half of the year. Its personally very reassuring to see people embrace the learning style and content we offer and provide great feedback on the experiences. We delivered in new locations – taking the experience to Sudbury and Ottawa as well as delivering in the UK, all places we will return to in 2020. I also finally addressed some of the challenge pieces posed by Certified Change Agent Attendees – where do I go to next? 2019 saw me launch 2 new  workshops – the first was a connection of Lego Serious Play and the change space, with my Certified Lego Serious Play Change Facilitator credential, but the second was perhaps even more impactful as I launched the Certified Change Leader credential – a deeper exploration of change management, leadership, culture and more!

I wanted to end my reflection of the year on a high. This was the first year I was invited to pitch the company at an international conference, having been nominated for an award. In September I was invited to the International Trade Council Go Global Awards to give short overview of the company as we were shortlisted for an award. And yes, we won the award for 2019 Business of the Year – Professional Services a truly amazing achievement for us!

This blog post is the first of a series of three January entries, reflecting on the past year, past decade and future of the community we serve!

Be Agile, Be Ready, Be Bold and Change!

For some time, I’ve been having this conversation that an agile organization, is an organization that is much more resilient and ready for change. Although I’ve had my Agile journey’s of discovery, I must admit that I’m surprised that, so few people get this. Being agile is about a mindset. Its about culture. Its about people. Its about having the presence of mind and personal self awareness to flex, bend, move and work with a change and not try and snap.

When we consider determining how ready an organization is for change that’s coming, we often think of readiness for a planned change and revert to out tried and tested process. We get “that template” printed off and start ticking boxes and assessing change readiness with some magic formula that then presents us with the planned activities we need by some systematic gap analysis. Its all very dry and functional in approach but it’s the best we must work with. At the start of any change event, we have to assess change readiness. But what if we didn’t?

How about an organization that never needs more than a confirmation of change readiness? An assessment that is nothing more than a short conversation? And no need to create a change readiness plan of action. It may sound far fetched but its not. When you build agility into the workplace culture, you build readiness into the DNA. Now there may be a little work to confirm specific details of each change, but Agile organizations flex to accommodate the changing needs and the people who work in them are up for the challenge, with higher levels of resilience and capacity.

Are we being agile?

Now what about unexpected change, you know the disruptive kind of change? Yes, the changes we face living in a VUCA world! Building organizational agility supports the successful negotiation of these types of changes too. In fact, being agile, supports the resilient mind that doesn’t panic when the unexpected arrives, but stays calm and carries on when it is presented to them.

Now becoming an agile organization requires dedication and hard work as that is a change in of itself.  However, the hard work pays off time and time again on all future change initiatives. So my challenge to you is to find a way to develop your organization’s agility and make all those future changes less painful.

This article is part of the 2019 #ChangeBlogChallenge on the topic of Change Readiness in Quarter 3. Click here to see what other change thinkers say about this topic.

My Agile Awakening – an Adventure towards Cultural Agility

About 6 years ago I first starting consciously noticing the Agile word coming up in many of my professional social feeds. I think it had been popping up before then, but the volume of its presence became more noticeable to me at this time. In total honesty the word scared me for several reasons.

Fear

I was afraid

The first reason was my fear of the unknown. I didn’t really know what it was, and I’ve always been someone who prides myself on being current and up to date on terms, approaches and the like. This was something I didn’t really know a lot about and what I did know added a secondary fear. I knew it was something from software development and back in the dark ages when I was a Mathematics undergrad student, I never got on well with my software development courses – I did what was required but it wasn’t the same comfort zone as the rest of my courses. Thirdly I have never wanted to be at the back of the line for something new, and I physically felt myself slipping back on this Agile thing! In reflection I was afraid of the unknown and yet I was also afraid of the known, or at least my known. Not a good place to start.

During 2013 my curiosity began to get the better of me. I was working at a location anchored in a traditional waterfall project management mindset, in fact they weren’t doing that very well, and I was frustrated by this among other things. So I started exploring and spent the next 12-18 months trying to get my head around this Agile thing that people were talking about. My rapid learning was fueled first by the musings of Jason Little and his Lean Change Agent book, then my mind double flipped with the 2015 Spark the Change Conference in Toronto, and a particular shout out to Riina Heldström who was at that Spark conference and made me ignite my mind to Agile beyond software and PM where she talked Agile HR and my thoughts raced through “of course, isn’t it bleeding obvious” through to “why am I stuck fighting against what is so f**ked up here”?

a gauntlet

the proverbial gauntlet

Anyone that knows me well, knows that this is throwing down the gauntlet to me. And my Agile adventure began. An accelerating learning curve over the last year or two has brought me to the place I’m at now. I’ve learned about elements of the practice, from scrums and huddles, to product-based ownership and customer centric drivers. I’ve learned how people practice it in a way that some think is wrong, and others think is right (isn’t this true for every business practice?) I connected my background and experience in the lean six sigma activity and operational excellence. I looked at the manifesto and then researched the multiple operational translations of the manifesto. I dug and dug until my brain was ready to go pop!

I discovered that there is a kind of hard Agile focused on project management, product development and all things connected to physical delivery. Then there is a softer, almost “agile agile” anchored in mindset, values and behaviours. This latter is where I emphatically gravitated, demonstrating agility in the workplace, with people and their thinking, no doubt heavily influenced by my change management background. I guess I would call it cultural agility in my head and I felt happy in this space.

Rich looking happy

I felt happy

I have continued my learning journey in Agile and discovered some really cool people with thoughts and ideas in the space – my thanks go to recent contributors Sarika Kharbanda and Evan Leybourne (do check out the Business Agility Institute) As with all disciplines, I’ve unfortunately found some people who have an arrogance about the practice – unless you have this cert or that qualification, you don’t know what you are talking about – but I’ve had that in every area I’ve been exposed to over time and let it slip by. I’m now reflecting on so much activity I’ve done over the years that has had an agile ethos about it, leadership styles, HR practices, business improvement activities, even my strong desire to only do what is needed, not what people would like… I think I’m a convert, I just don’t think I have a label for what I’ve converted to … I think I’m going to go with cultural agility as a label, for something I don’t think I really want to label.

Eight Lessons Learned as I Reflect on 2017

As I come to the end of the year I have chosen to reflect back on the journey I’ve navigated, the people I’ve engaged with and look to adventures that await me in 2018 as part of a series of learning opportunities that have presented themselves to me.

Professionally it’s been an amazing experience. I’ve continued to engage with great clients, locally and abroad. Some with a purpose close to my heart, finding their potential and supporting them through their own change journeys. My first learning moment of the year came when I realised that although I need financial reward for my endeavours I place equal value on making a difference and releasing other’s potential. This part of the value I place when deciding to begin an engagement.

My first learning moment ... I place equal value on making a difference and releasing other's potential

It was only in 2015 I launched the Capillary Learning offerings. My desire to get people thinking change, rather than just regurgitating a process, led to the Certified Change Agent (CCA) credential that has now been experienced by over 200 people. Learning point two came this year as I reaffirmed my desire to share knowledge with others hungry to learn.

Learning point two ... I reaffirmed my desire to share knowledge with others hungry to learn. Curiosity has continued to be a part of my very existence. Thanks to my sparring partner, Nik Beeson, I've kept challenging and questioning and we've done some great workshops this year with curiosity and now have a Meetup group of over 500 members. My fourth learning came from these, sometimes less is more. I learned that small workshop groups can have the most profound discussions and it truly is more important to have quality over quantity for workshop attendees.

My third learning came on the back of this, I have to take my enthusiasm and the CCA to new people in new places, so London, England is on the 2018 list and more Canadian cities too!

My third learning ... I have to take my enthusiasm and the CCA to new people in new places

Curiosity has continued to be a part of my very existence. Thanks to my sparring partner, Nik Beeson, I’ve kept challenging and questioning and we’ve done some great workshops this year with Curiosity Culture and now have a Meetup group of over 500 members. My fourth learning came from these, sometimes less is more. I learned that small workshop groups can have the most profound discussions and it truly is more important to have quality over quantity for workshop attendees.

My fourth learning ... small workshop groups can have the most profound discussions and it truly is more important to have quality over quantity

I’ve been coaching a number of great executives and leaders in their organization. I love to get the “aha!” moment and I’ve truly heard it and seen it with many of these clients. Learning number 5 came directly from these experiences – you should always be learning! I have committed myself to learn at least one new tool, technique or skill every year from now on.

Learning number 5 ... you should always be learning! I have committed myself to learn at least one new tool, technique or skill every year from now on.

I began applying this learning point, when I finally got to do the big Lego® Serious Play® course I’ve wanted to do for some time. I did a short course several years back but it never lit a spark in me but now I’ve done the 40 hour version I have been inspired to reconnect and 2017 certainly saw me involved in some great Lego inspired actives including incorporation of it into the CCA. Learning item six is not writing something off because it didn’t work in one format or style, everything deserves another chance.

Learning item six ... not writing something off because it didn't work in one format or style, everything deserves another chance. 

I’ve had some great speaking gigs in 2017. In Texas and Chicago I let loose with the Lego and Berlin Change Days was a performance I shall remember for some time! I’ve presented to 200+ and 15 in a room and thoroughly enjoyed both extremes. My key learning here, number 7, is to remember self care. Surprising to most I’m a natural introvert and I need to remember that these events take a lot out of my energy bank, so I should find the time to recharge and recover.

My key learning here, number 7, is to remember self care

My final, eighth learning point builds on the self care. Appreciate the communities you are part of and let them be there for you. 2017 saw me end my time leading the Toronto Chapter of the ACMP and letting go can be hard, as Bill Bridges will confirm and I’m definitely embracing the new zone now. I have many great connections in the change space and I thank you all for the great conversation, thought provoking comments and insights into the field I’d never normally think. Learning point 8 is be grateful for the support of others – Thank you!

Learning point 8 is be grateful for the support of others - Thank you

Leadership & Change – Part 3: The Personal Journey

What the heck does it personally mean to be a leader? To be someone who demonstrates leadership? How do you get there? What are the leadership behaviors that could impact a team in a negative manner? Is leadership a natural born trait or a developed skill? Can anyone be a leader? In this third part of the series, I want to explore the individual leadership role.

Let’s begin with confirming my definition of a leader. A leader is someone who demonstrates leadership qualities. That may sound “damn obvious” to many, but it needs to be said. Let me explain. In many cases the leader role is labeled to indicate its position and the owner’s level of organizational power that aligns with that label. The role may say Director, Senior manager, Vice President or Chief Operations Officer; and there are many more labels you could probably name; and the expectation (often just a hope) is that the person in this role demonstrates leadership qualities. As we all know, this is not always the case!

Manager vs leader

I use this cartoon when I do my CCA® program to demonstrate the difference between leadership and management and it has relevance for this post. Although I don’t agree 100% with all the statements on either side, it gives a good essence of each area. Take a moment to reflect on the words you see and how you might interpret their presence within each side.

The title of the cartoon leads me nicely into the core of my discussion: Manager vs Leader – which is your best position or role? Have you taken a self evaluation moment to consider which is your better role? You can do this simply by considering the things you enjoy doing (which are usually where you are willing to invest time). Where do these sit in the graphic or the general essence of each of these roles above? Be honest, are these management or leadership activities?

  • Do you prefer to be task focused or people focused?
  • Are you someone who provides guidance or likes to instruct?
  • What is your natural tendency and comfort space for risk taking?

I want to make one thing very clear – ITS OK TO BE A MANAGER. Without great managers, many things would never get done. We need managers. Although I personally prefer leadership to management, its not about there being a competition to be a leader and not be a manager. The goal is not that everyone becomes a leader. Too many organizations are making this assumption and giving greater credibility to leaders and belittling the manager role, placing expectations on the manager to be a leader without the support, competence or basic alignment to the role.

Lego LeadershipWe’ve all had those eye rolling moments, when a new and/or ill-fitting leader is trying to demonstrate their forced leadership skills. It often comes via control, fear, threats and other equally negative activities. This demonstrates that they are probably natural managers who are not doing well in their new leadership position, but because of the bureaucracy of the organization around them, they are now cornered into taking this role on, whether it’s a good fit or not. They may have a myriad of leaders that also use these techniques so the only example available to them is to follow suit.

Now this is where my challenge to individuals and organizations comes into play. I ask you as the person, or you as the employer to assess leadership capability in an accurate way.

self awareOn an individual level, this means demonstrating your Emotional Intelligence or EQ and being honest again. If you can develop sufficient self awareness you can recognize when you are doing a bad job as a leader. Recognition is not the same as responding to it. This is the time for courage, to say “this isn’t for me” and find a pathway back or forward into the managerial role you are best suited to undertake. If its not for you, then don’t go there, you will regret it. If your organization is encouraging you to go there, consider if you have the potential to move there, but need the support to get there. Which takes me to …

On an organizational level, if you recognize potential or want to move a manager into a leadership role, then you need to give them the support systems to enable their competence to grow accordingly. If they are not “leadership competent”, continuing to push forward down that pathway will make them and all around you more and more emotionally instable. Its not a good place to be and both physical and mental health will likely suffer! Develop leadership mentoring schemes, educational support programs and competency frameworks to enable the new and developing leaders to realise their potential.

My final summary comments for this post are these two statements.

  • Recognize yourself as a manager or a leader and recognize each for their contribution not as a competition.
  • Encourage organizations to develop their leaders, not just anoint/appoint them!

Capillary consulting offers a number of leadership development opportunities – robust programs and focused coaching opportunities. Get in touch to see how we can help you and your organization.

Leadership & Change – Part 2: Leadership teams, egos and humblebragging

I’ve faced several challenges writing this second article in the series about leadership and change. To fully explore this next area, I’m going to need to say some things that many “leaders” don’t like to hear. However, I think its right that I pose these challenges as recognition is the first step in a cultural movement away from these failings. I will try an put positive light where I can but you can be the judge on the balance I’ve given to each side of this equation.

I shall begin exploring “the leadership team”. In most organizations, this will be those at the top of the tree in the power and influence hierarchy. The ultimate team in charge – typically the “C-suite” or similar. This “top team” as I shall call them, are easily defined using the phrase “the buck stops here”. Now that last quoted phrase takes me nicely into my challenge with such leadership teams – Accountability.

true leadershipAs stated in my previous article, the position of leadership and the attributes of leadership are not one and the same. Many want to have the title but don’t want to take the accountability or responsibility that it requires. Discovering that they are expected to act strategically, make important decisions and retain a level of organizational authority can be a surprise to many; frequently rejecting such requirements or at a minimum, taken with immense reluctance and not very effectively. Recent news about leadership style at Uber, may be good evidence of this inability to take on this professional leadership role successfully, but I don’t want to spend paragraphs on that disaster!

In my opinion, there are three types of leaders and they are all present in the top team.

  1. Those that have taken the role because they want the importance, to stroke personal ego and feel special on a personal level. Let’s call these blimps – puffed up, sitting high in the organization but with no real ground lines.
  2. Those that are lost and frightened by the role, jumping aimlessly from one thing to another, hoping not to look too stupid and praying to have something click sometime. We can refer to these as puppies, jumping about without meaning to harm anyone, but not capable of being a fully functioning adult and understanding the expectations of the role professionally within the organization (think Uber again).
  3. Those that embrace responsibility, lead by example and understand how to empower and enable their organization to succeed through clear and considered direction. These are the true leaders, who demonstrate leadership in every way possible.

What is the balance of each in your leadership team? If there are more combined blimps and puppies than true leaders, its won’t be the best performing leadership team – and you will most definitely know it! Sometimes the sheer determination of true leaders can overcome the drag of the others to push forward what is needed, but emotionally this is very draining on the energy levels of said true leaders. If not it’s a constantly disagreeing group that never does anything productive enough to take the organization forward and may drive out the true leaders to seek alternative roles with other organizations.

blimpsBlimps are difficult leaders to work with. They inflate themselves with self importance, feeding a need to feel vital to the organization, but see their role as more about who will do the job for them rather than doing anything themselves. They are figurehead leaders who probably have instinctive command and control approaches, and readily farm out all their real work to others, badly using delegation and empowerment as cover words for their dumping. In organizations where promotion and professional expertise is measured by appearance, sweet talking and externalized displays (peacocking) then these people quickly rise to the top. They are those that talk the talk but never walk it. There is very little that can be done to educate these people and prevention is the best cure. Preventing them requires the culture of the organization to change and that can be a whole scale change initiative in itself.

puppiesThe puppies are those that somehow landed in a leadership position. They often refer to themselves as managers or senior managers because this is where their approaches lie. They landed in a leadership position because nobody else would take it, or they got rapidly promoted within the organization, potentially because of technical or managerial skills but never assessed on leadership competency. These people can be seen as victims of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes they are victims of lazy managers and leaders who rather than work to develop their skills, want the quick fix of “if in doubt, promote them out”. In a leadership position, they are a fish out of water. They may have some management capability, but that’s as good as it gets.  Unfortunately, puppies are poorly supported, and although they may have the potential to become really great leaders, they are not given the development, mentoring or other support mechanisms and just expected to “hit the ground running”. Without true leadership development programs, these people are destined to fail.

Now beyond the “top team” we can see leaders throughout the organization fitting into these three groupings and demonstrating success or otherwise within each category. The team led by each of these types, become a microcosm of the leadership style. The blimp, does little work, delegates everything and reminds everyone how important their position is. They may even do this with the humblebrag approach “I don’t know if it was my leadership, but we really got the results on that sale….”; “its not for me to say we are amazing, but the results speak for themselves” – you get the idea. The puppies are just trying their best to perform and hoping that they can fake it till they make it.

We really need to have a better way of getting the right people into these positions and supporting those that are placed here. We hiring structures to reflect leadership competence as a demonstrated behaviour – not assess it by a list of titles previously held. To have truly great leadership in organizations, we need to have development and support mechanisms to enable those in leadership roles to truly release their potential while embracing the responsibilities that go with that role.

Capillary Consulting offers a range of leadership development opportunities that can be tailored to the needs of your organization. Let’s discuss how we can help your puppies, prevent your blimps and support your true leaders.

Coming next … Leadership & Change 3: Stick or twist? Navigating the personal journey.