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October 2016

No Mas! It’s Time to Make a Stand!

No More 123rf.com_23101498_sYou could count all the words of Spanish I know on one hand, but “No Mas!” is a phrase I remember well (thanks to an historical boxing match last century.)  But it took on a new relevance this past week.

This stemmed from a TED talk, “How to Save the World (or at Least Yourself) from Bad Meetings” in which David Grady coins the phrase “Mindless Acceptance Syndrome” or “MAS.” As you might expect from the talk title, he is referring here to an unthinking acceptance of attendance at meetings, something he definitely sees as needing to stop.  If, like most people, your life is plagued by meetings, you will find it worth the less than 7 minutes investment of your time.  For me, though, it had a deeper significance than just meetings.

There were two primary, ultimately inextricably linked, reasons for this.

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The Great Training Robbery

Robbery 123rf.com 53073401_sMuch as I would like to take credit for (what I think is) a catchy headline, it is actually inspired by an October 2016 Harvard Business Review article: “Why Leadership Training Fails – and What to Do About It.” The article justifies the phrase by saying that, globally, companies spent $356 billion on employee training and education in 2015 but are not getting a good return on their investment, as “learning doesn’t lead to better organizational performance, because people soon revert to their old way of doing things.” If you contributed to that global figure, I suspect you already know that!  

Nevertheless, the “What to do about it” aspect makes the article worth reading. Beware, however, the “leadership training” focus. Its undoubted relevance to leaders ensures it inevitably applies to all organizational training. Any narrower focus, unfortunately, is limiting. As it is, I think it perhaps constrained the writers and led them to omit points that would increase the return on all training investment. Let me share some.  

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Engendering & Embedding Engagement for a High-Performance Culture

Own worst enemy 123rf.com 60747082_s

It often seems that people stand in the way of their own success. They get so focused on whatever they are trying to achieve that their thinking becomes habit, they fail to see, let alone consider, other options and their thought patterns and consequent behaviours become shackles. This inevitably limits outcomes and inhibits their own success. That is why there is more than a little validity to the old cliché, “You are your own worst enemy.” It takes an outsider to identify their issues, and even then they may not always change.

So perhaps, rather than a cliché,  we should consider it as a statement of fact. Doing so immediately makes it universal and demands remedial action. Particularly if you recognise the implication that it also applies to any CEO or business leader! Then you are compelled to take a closer look at yourself and your role, and ask yourself, “How am I impeding my success and that of my organisation or team?”  

Opening yourself up to this possibility is only the beginning. It does not provide any answers in and of itself. Furthermore every situation is unique and different which makes it unlikely that there is a single solution. Yet, much of our rigid thinking is the result of inadvertent acceptance of collective thought, whether it is called ‘conventional wisdom’ or whether it is simply unconscious influence. Recognising that provides a good starting point in the quest for solutions, not least because it suggests that your issues might not be as unique as you think.

Let me illustrate what I am getting at.

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Truth, Trust & True Leadership

Blame 123rf.com 56142883_s“At any level of management, you took the job knowing that the role put you in charge and on the hot seat for every success and failure on the team — no exceptions.” Those words from Liz Ryan pack a powerful punch and certainly grabbed my attention. I don’t know whether you will agree or not, and in any case you need to read the whole article “Stop Blaming Your Employees for Your Leadership Mistakes” to appreciate all the lady is saying. I do hope, however, that you will agree it is food for thought.

That is definitely the case with her later line that “If you blame people for your stumbles, you won’t see your own part in the incident.” This had me wondering whether a failure to understand this is perhaps the root cause of the science-practitioner gap in leadership that I described in my last blog.  With trust increasingly becoming a major topic in management and leadership circles this is definitely a question worth following up.  

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