September 12, 2016 § Leave a comment
Imagine you’re with your work colleagues, during a day-long annual looking-back-looking-forward review and planning session together.
In turn, each of you takes a few minutes to speak, reflecting on your professional performance over the last year or so, referring to your values, the nature of your commitment to the work, your achievements and challenges, and your hopes for the period ahead.
You’re listened to carefully by your colleagues, after which each of them takes time to affirm what they’ve seen of your participation in the team over the year, and to validate the claim you’ve just made about yourself – including pointing out where they think you’ve undersold or oversold yourself!
The spoken contributions come from places of inquiry and curiosity, not blame or condemnation.
The atmosphere of the session is calm, reflective, honest – and safe enough for everyone to feel they can challenge themselves and each other. The outcomes: deeper trust, greater self-awareness, and a greater sense of accountability to and reliance on each other.
Sounds implausible? Could any team trust each other so much to run such a process, let alone being interested enough in each other to do so?
Well, recently I had the privilege of supporting a senior leadership team to take themselves through this process. And they were in the public sector, amidst all the pressures of delivering a service in a highly-regulated environment.
For the past two years I’d watched them work out for themselves, and for the teams they managed, what they believed was needed in terms of greater leadership and leaderful behaviour within the service. They had communicated this to their teams, and endeavoured to live out this new form of leadership, which prioritised accountability, greater autonomy, stronger accountability to self and to others, and a much fiercer loyalty to the overall vision and values of the services.
The leadership development interventions I devised with them, and my coaching, were aimed at supporting them fulfil the resulting commitments they had made to each other and to the staff. The Head of Service, fully part of the process, had inspired them and supported them over the previous few years, to reach a place where they now knew for themselves the importance and the genuineness of the work in hand.
This form of self review which they were now engaged in, with feedback from colleagues or peers, is a powerful alternative or addition to formal appraisal and 360 feedback processes. It requires a good measure of individual skill and confidence to participate in, and enough levels of trust (though there are introductory processes for less-resilient teams as a way of helping to build deeper trust over time).
The specific opportunities of the process are four-fold:
- Participants are encouraged, within the scope granted by the organisational context, to set their own standards and aspirations – knowing that these will be heard and tested by their peers
- Participants lead the processes of assessment, again knowing that gaps between aspiration and achievement explored from the perspective of how things could be better in the future
- Participants learn from this self-awareness how to identify, choose and practice new behaviours and set new, more stretching, standards
- Accountability is inherent throughout the processes – aspirations for the future will be remembered, and each can hold themselves responsible for upholding (not destroying) their colleagues over the coming months, on the basis that best performance is what’s needed to enable the team as a whole to succeed.
If any of the above has stirred your interest, do be in touch to share your experience.
January 26, 2016 § Leave a comment
“I don’t want revenge on the Taliban, I want education for sons and daughters of the Taliban.”
I went yesterday to see the film He Named Me Malala. The documentary shows Malala Yousafzai and her family making their new life in Birmingham, England, and also provides a compelling account of the rise of the Taliban in the Swat valley and the events that led to the attack on Malala and her school friends.
Here is the trailer for the film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cug1-eTOVS
I hadn’t realised how active Malala’s father had also been in protesting against the misapplication of Islam by the Taliban; though that only drove home the importance of Malala’s assertion in the film that it was she, and no-one else, who chose and who chooses how she acts.
Most significantly, of course, the question arises What would I do in such a situation?, if the rights of myself and those I love were being so comprehensively violated. I hope that I would take a stand, despite the risks. So many people around the world do take a stand; and too many are threatened, harassed, or are killed, unrecorded and uncelebrated.
So I was excited, on returning from the film, to see a University of York e-mail notification of an Extreme Values Research Masterclass. “That has to be worth going to”, I thought, imagining the application of core human values in extreme situations. Imagine my disappointment, on opening the e-mail, to read “Extreme value modelling is a well-established area of statistics, motivated by problems in hydrology, the environment, drug safety, and other fields…”.
A different meaning of values. But still a useful framing for encountering Malala through the film – her values in practice, in extreme situation; and an extreme and wonderful example of courage and leadership.
More information here on Malala Yousafzai.
November 4, 2015 § Leave a comment
As more and more of my practice develops into working with leaders – in formal or informal leadership roles – I thought I would put together some definitions of leadership which clients have found helpful so far.
I’ve chosen definitions which I hope are useful, and which are also offer a take on the realities of leadership in the early twenty-first century.
There are only four! – five, if you get to the end and find a comment on the difference between management and leadership.
Let’s start with the basics. This first definition is a favourite of mine because it’s comprehensive, and does not restrict the principle of leadership to a chosen few.
“Leadership may be defined as the capacity to influence people, by means of personal attributes and/or behaviours, to achieve a common goal. … It is important to recognise that most people, at some points in their lives, are leaders. Leadership is not just about the qualities of an elite few, and is not always associated with a formal managerial role, although the leadership skills of chief executives and their teams are of fundamental importance for organisations.”
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, UK
Even shorter – but also here an emphasis on practice, and spelling out that leadership is indivisibly associated with working with others:
Leadership is “taking initiative in relationship”. George Lakey
In other words, not only working with others, but using as a platform the relationship that has already been built. So a leader’s priority is to build trust. This means a leader developing respect for those who might be expected to follow them, and providing opportunities for those ‘followers’ to understand why and how the leader is acting.
So we can take another step:
“Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.” Kevin Kruse
Here we see three elements of leadership – influencing change, through coordinating (or at least inspiring) others, with a purpose.
And what is that purpose? We could call it the Why of leadership – leadership, but towards what end?
So the fourth quote:
“It is time for all the heroes to go home, as the poet William Stafford wrote. It is time for us to give up these hopes and expectations that only breed dependency and passivity, and that do not give us solutions to the challenges we face. It is time to stop waiting for someone to save us. It is time to face the truth of our situation — that we’re all in this together, that we all have a voice — and figure out how to mobilize the hearts and minds of everyone in our workplaces and communities.” Margaret Wheatley
In other words: leaders can no longer expect trust or followership simply because of their seniority. Leaderful behaviour (or leadership if you prefer – I use the terms interchangeably) needs to be encouraged at every level, because the complexity of the majority of work roles require initiative and accountability at all levels of organisations.
So I hope those definitions are interesting and thought-provoking. I will say more about twenty-first century leadership in my next post.
In the meantime, if this reflection on leadership has got you thinking about where does management come in, then here’s my fifth definition:
“It is incumbent on leadership to ensure that the organisation is effective in what it does; that its strategies, and the way in which it gives effect to these, are appropriate and have impact. It is incumbent on management to ensure that the organisation is efficient in what it does; that its internal systems function logically and smoothly. To put it simplistically, it has been said that while leadership ensures that the organisation does the right thing, management’s responsibility is to ensure that things are done right.”
Kaplan, Allan (1994), Leadership and Management, CDRA Community Development Resource Association. The full text is available at http://www.cdra.org.za/uploads/1/1/1/6/111664/leadership_and_management_allan_kaplan1994.pdf.
So we might see management as head down/’desk’ horizon; compared to a leaderful head up/’world’ horizon; or management accepting the status quo whereas leadership aims to challenge the status quo. Again, I’ll be writing more on this aspect of leadership in the future.
Any thoughts/comments? Please post below, I look forward to hearing from you.
October 27, 2015 § Leave a comment
I will be chairing the third lecture in the series of ‘Talking of Peace’, this Thursday 29th October 2015 at 7:30pm in York.
The speaker is Kat Craig, and her topic is Britain’s War on Terror at home and abroad – making the world a safer place?
Kat is Legal Director of the Abuses of Counter-Terrorism team at the human rights organisation, Reprieve.
The full program for the series is listed below.
7.30am, Thursday 29 October 2015, Quaker Meeting House on Friargate (off Castlegate).
Please Note: due to extensive building works in the neighbourhood of the Meeting House, the bottom end of Friargate is closed for a considerable period. It is therefore necessary to approach from Castlegate rather than Clifford St. Also the cycle rack in Friargate has been removed by the builders so cyclists will need to use one of the other racks in the Castlegate area.
Invitation to a series of Peace Talks: Thursdays in Autumn 2015
1st Oct: Faith, Power & Peace – Creating peace by peaceful means
Diana Francis, Trainer in Conflict Transformation, & Past President of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation
15th Oct: Security and the Dispossessed – How the military & corporations are shaping a climate-changed world
Steve Wright, Reader in Applied Global Ethics at Leeds Beckett Univ
29th Oct: Britain’s War on terror at home and abroad: making the world a safer place?
Kat Craig, Legal Director of the Abuses in Counter-Terrorism team at Reprieve
12th Nov: Reimagining Security: an alternative approach to the UK’s national strategy
Celia McKeon, Assistant Secretary, Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust
Quaker Meeting House, Friargate, York, YO1 9RL
7.30 – 9.00pm
For more details: tel 01904-624065
December 18, 2014 § 1 Comment
It seems appropriate to post a seasonal reminder of some positive things that are happening. It’s a personal collection, of course, and for some of the stories the good news is the shining of light on the forces which oppress or undermine human fulfilment.
Thank you to all those I’ve worked with over this year, it has been inspiring to see and support your work and your aspirations for the future. One shift in professional development is to move from seeing yourself as the hero, to instead seeing your clients as the real heroes of the piece; and that more and more seems my experience in the work that I do.
So, those positive news stories:
Naming the past: the secrets of Brazil’s military dictatorship. How fitting that the report should be introduced to the media by Brazil’s current president Dilma Rousseff, herself a torture victim under the country’s military dictatorship
But of course we don’t need Truth Commissions in the UK, surely? Find out here about the work of Scotland’s Poverty Truth Commission.
Though there is much more the Church of England could do (for example, joining the disinvestmnet from fossil fuels movement), here’s the Archbishop of Canterbury speaking up about hunger in the UK; and news of the Church’s first female bishop.
Amnesty International UK is highlighting the UK’s complicit role in torture and illegal rendition; and here are some of Amnesty’s own good news stories.
Two images to finish with:
First, a stunning info-graphic on the numbers which make up the internet – such as the number of tablets and smartphones sold each day around the world, the number of e-mails sent, the number of sites hacked…
And second, all the water in the world is just a tiny drop on the world’s surface; no wonder it’s such a precious resource, if only we knew it.
With best wishes for 2015,
November 18, 2014 § Leave a comment
How often do you use Wikipedia? Once a month? Once a week? Once a day?
I make a donation once a year, recognising its invaluable contribution to our working and social lives (if only to get us started on an inquiry or research topic!), and in honour of its mission of making available to everyone in the world all the information in the world. I thought others might be interested in donating too.
I don’t get deluged with e-mails as a result, just a brief thank-you and an invitation next year to donate again; and it feels good to support this piece of the global commons.
June 18, 2014 § Leave a comment
I’m speaking in York on Monday 21 July.
Quakers, Slavery and Climate Change
Learning from 18th Century American Friends’ journey to abolitionism: parallels for our responses to climate change
This is as a result of some personal research I’ve been doing over the last couple of years. My aim has been to examine how an organisation and its communities made a fundamental internal change over an issue which every member was connected to, directly or simply as a citizen of a society in which slavery was embedded. I hope that there is enough similarity between the two contexts to draw some useable suggestions for approaches and ways forward, today, in responding to climate change.
Chaired by Danielle Walker, Director, Friends Provident Foundation
Monday 21 July, 7.30 pm, Friargate Quaker Meeting House, Friargate, York, YO1 9RL
Copy of my paper here: Quakers, Slavery and Climate Change.
Contact me for more information or to respond to the paper: 07986 016804, firstname.lastname@example.org
February 11, 2014 § Leave a comment
I’ve been looking at how American Quakers changed from condoning slavery, and some Quakers being slave-owners or slave-traders, to in 1758 making slave trading an enforceable breach of Quaker discipline. I was inspired by a quote from Bill McKibben: “Since all of us are beneficiaries of cheap fossil fuel, tackling climate change has been like trying to build a movement against yourself – it’s as if the gay-rights movement had to be constructed entirely from evangelical preachers, or the abolition movement from slaveholders.”  (my emphasis)
October 15, 2013 § Leave a comment
I was privileged to hear Piers Forster give a talk in Leeds last week – he is one of the lead authors on the recently-published Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 5th Assessment Report http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/#.Ul0ZkNJwq3s.
This two-size Summary for Policy Makers makes for easy reading: http://www.ipcc.ch/news_and_events/docs/ar5/ar5_wg1_headlines.pdf
From Dr Forster’s presentation, I took away the awareness that the carbon emissions to date are such that there will be little difference, regardless of the short-term steps we take, in warming in the next 30 to 40 years.
On that basis, adaptation (responding to the immediate effects of climate change on people and communities) need to be as equal a priority in the short term, as our efforts to mitigate future change.
Beyond those 30-40 years, however, the predictions change wildly based on whether we continue with business as usual or whether we can move successfully towards an economy and lifestyle low in carbon (and also low in methane and nitrous oxide emissions, two other atmospheric significant drivers).
So the more we strengthen now our capacity to mitigate future emissions, the more manageable the future will be.
The quotation in the title of this post refers to carbon emissions. The Summary for Policy Makers states:
“Cumulative emissions of CO2 largely determine global mean surface warming by the late 21st century and beyond (see Figure SPM.10). Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions of CO2 are stopped. This represents a substantial multi-century climate change commitment created by past, present and future emissions of CO2.”
In short, as regards carbon emissions, the legacy of the future is already set for years to come.
But I’m also struck by the phrase “a substantial multi-century climate change commitment”.
What if that phrase was used to describe our collective response: substantial enough and relevant enough to meet the scientific and social evidence, with a two-hundred year timescale in mind, and the commitment, energy and resources to match?
July 3, 2013 § Leave a comment
Newcastle Conflict Resolution Network, with whom I’ve had the privilege of working with over several years (facilitation, Management Group support and development, and carrying out an evaluation), has just published their latest Newsletter which I recommend to you.
In particular it looks at the impact of cuts and of the bedroom tax on communities – forced moves, reduction of services for young people, greater community divisions, and an increase in crime – especially shoplifting, and not theft of valuable electronic goods: nowadays it’s meat and baby foods.
Their newsletter also includes news of their projects to support constructive community building and capacity for conflict resolution amongst Newcastle’s residents and agencies.