employee ownership

Why leadership is imperative, and how you can unleash it in your organisation.

Leadership not Management 123rf_25893740_s“Management is not leadership.”  Those bald words are from John Kotter’s 2012 updated preface to his 1996 book “Leading Change.” He makes the statement to highlight the theme of the second chapter. Yet the whole sentence reads, “The simple insight that management is not leadership is better understood today, but not nearly as well as needed.” This begs the question, “Why not?”

That question may be easier to ask than answer. After all, “Leading Change” is a worldwide best seller. A book that, in 2011, Time Magazine described as one of the top 25 most influential business management books of all time. Yet, despite its seminal significance and this ostensible influence, it seems that its lessons have not been learned.

But Kotter himself says, “That does not mean executives have learned nothing in the past few decades. They have. But the challenges have been growing as fast, or faster, than their skills.” I wonder.

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Slip the Surly Bonds of Misguided Management Theory

You cannot help wondering what management lessons need to be learned from the Grenfell Tower Fire disaster. Undoubtedly the Inquiry will highlight many. Yet it appears that there also plenty to be learned from the post-fire management.

Uncuffed 123rf_16888401_sIt seems that every day a fresh incident raises somebody’s ire, and outrage and fury abound as those dealing with the consequences are portrayed as callous, unfeeling or bungling incompetents. In all likelihood some of the criticism is justified, but there seems to no allowance for the unprecedented nature of the catastrophe. For example, is it really realistic to expect all victims to be in permanent new homes just three weeks after the fire?

Goodness knows, identifying and acquiring a new home is difficult for most of us at the best of times. It certainly isn’t something that we normally do in a matter of days. So, why would we expect these poor people to be any different, especially given the difficulty of finding homes in London? So, would you or I do better if we were responsible for dealing with the aftermath of this tragedy?

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Who Didn’t Voice Their Concerns?

Grenfell Fire - Daily Telegraph 4If you think about it, no organisational failure of any magnitude can come as a surprise. Someone, somewhere, was aware that things were not right. Yet those people either did not say anything or their concerns were ignored.   

For instance, remember the Deepwater Horizon disaster? There concerns about the equipment had been raised, but simply ignored by management. Now we have another example.

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A Key to Optimising Your Human Capital

The perpetual balancing act between selfishness and selflessness, or self-interest and group-interest, is evolutionarily fundamental. So much so that it has been described as “The Paradox of Being Human.” Thus, while I have written about it before, I have not stopped thinking about it and it remains integral to everything I do. Recently, I have been seeking a way to portray it more effectively, and, in the spirit of “a picture being worth a thousand words”, more graphically.

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Strategy and Your People: How to Sustain Success

Striding towards success 14815469_sRecently I came across an article in the July-August 2015 Harvard Business Review entitled, “People before Strategy.” (I am not sure the link will work, but you can try clicking here to read it for yourself.) I was particularly struck by the sub-title, “A New Role for the CHRO”, for my immediate response was “How many organisations have a CHRO?”

I guess to some extent that is the intended response. Certainly the useful summary table provided in the article infers this.

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The Power of Ownership

Ownership 33960354_s“Mine!”  Who hasn’t heard a young child say that? The concept of ownership is one of our most primitive senses.  Indeed, I once read that the difference between North American and South American history, (both colonised around the same time) could be attributed to the encouragement of land ownership stimulating the greater development of the North.    

Be that as it may, you would have some difficulty arguing against the idea that ownership is an integral part of capitalism. The concepts of limited liability and the lasting, legal persona of the corporation would not have been possible, or nearly as successful, without distributed ownership and the amelioration of risk it created. So much so, that you might even argue that ownership is the heart of capitalism. Which is why it is strange that so little has been done to make employees owners. Even stranger – and certainly ironic – is that efforts to encourage this are sometimes seen as socialism!  

In fact, making your employees co-owners of your business has to be the ultimate in capitalism. Why? Because it also gives them a stake in the outcome. This makes it more personal. It gives them the pride of possession. Now, instead of simply being ‘servants of the organisation’ they become ‘partners in our organisation.’

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How Love at Work Transforms Performance

“Fortune favours the bold.” Or, perhaps Queen Elizabeth I’s legendary rendering of the sentiment as “Faint heart never won fair maiden”, may be more appropriate here. But, whichever statement you prefer, it’s true. After finally unveiling 'Love at Work' after hesitating for several months, I now question why I did. The response has been entirely positive.

That is not to say it has been overwhelming, but perhaps that is hardly surprising, if you fail to see the benefits immediately apparent. So let me take this opportunity to try to explain 'Love at Work' in a way that I hope will get you as excited about it as I am. The diagram should help, even though it does take some explaining.

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Why You Need Love at Work

The idea was novel.  It had promise. It was exciting. Yet part of me still baulked. “People won’t take me seriously.” “I will be ridiculed.” “It is too alien: no businessman would be interested.” Those were just some of the doubts that paralyzed me.

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Pursuing Good Business Leadership

Lie detector 123rf.com_11185398_sImagine, right now, that you are attached to a lie-detector and you are asked, “Are you a good business leader?” How would you answer?   

If you are supremely confident, you might respond quickly, “Of course!” If you are more modest or less confident you might say, “I think so.” Either way, the likelihood is, like most executives and senior leaders, you are accustomed to empirical performance measures and will therefore have a reasonable basis for your answer.  Accustomed to being in control and, perhaps unwilling to come across as unsure, you would be unlikely to stall by asking, “What do you mean by good?”

Yet, ‘good’ is a subjective term, and you would be quite within your rights to seek further clarification, or even to pull out that old consulting chestnut by responding, “It depends.” The fact is, your answer might well depend on who is operating the lie-detector and what lies behind the question or where the emphasis lies. Hopefully, however, the pressure derives from the lie-detector and this is a question you regularly ask yourself anyway. (If it isn’t, you definitely have little right to answer positively. A good leader will always be questioning their performance and looking to do better.)

So let’s move on to take a look at what you are doing to assess your leadership, and perhaps identify pointers for improvement.

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How do you view change?


Evolution 123rf.com_23759152_sChange is an integral part of life. So much so that we are often completely unaware of it. We simply wake up one day to the realization that something familiar isn’t quite the same as we thought it was.

We experienced a good example of this over the Christmas holidays, visiting our young grandchildren for almost a month. As you would expect, the children we met on the first day were very different from the young children we had last seen. More surprising, however, was how much they changed during our time with them. It wasn’t only that, even after a couple of weeks, they were so proficient at things they couldn’t do when we arrived. Nor was it just the delicious festive food that made them feel heavier. We were sure that they also grew physically!

The fact is change is continuous. In the 21st Century, however, we are perhaps more aware of it than ever, and the fact that – due to the massive technological advances – the pace seems to be faster and the demands on us more urgent. So much so, that ‘change management’ has not only become part of the lexicon, but a recognized skill and much sought after competency. But are we being misguided?

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