So what about leadership? – new episode

March 27, 2020

I haven’t got to write today but I have been speaking with my college Roisin from LMI Ireland and we recorded a new episode of the podcast. Great talking with her about all the inspiring leadership stories that are emerging in difficult times. Hope you enjoy it.

 


Live deeply. Lead well.

March 26, 2020

In clearing things out yesterday, as many people are doing these days, I came across this plaque that my dad received in 1986. He worked for the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) for all of my childhood, I think about 25 years in all, starting his own businesses just a couple of years before he died in 1991.

Dad_DEC In our home I remember we had DEC towels, DEC pens, DEC bags and we went on DEC holidays! Occassionally we still come across some old DEC merchandise in an old cupboard!

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, my goal is simply to write each day, not knowing exactly where it will go but practicing the discipline and building routine. I see this post going down two distinct paths.

Firstly, the personal one. We lost my dad when I was 16, he was 49. Not ill, just gone suddenly due to undetected heart disease. There are many times over the years when I would have especially loved to be able to chat to him, this being one of them. My response it to be grateful. My family are well. We are restricted in what we can do but the five of us are well and in the same house. We can talk. Let’s make sure we do that. Live deeply. Connect. Don’t just exist in the same space and look back one day wishing we had lived deeper. The very precious gift of time and proximity is not to be unappreciated.

The second is the Leadership pathway. DEC is a tragic story in many ways, from the world’s second largest computer company when I was a kid, to rapid decline and extinction in a very short space of time. There’s a good review of the story here.

Simon Sinek also talks about the DEC decline in one of his books. I can’t remember it was Start With Why or The Infinite Game (both are excellent reads by the way). Fundamentally, it seems, that DEC leadership failed to adapt to a changing world with a clear vision of their part in the future. I would love for that company to still be around and to feel proud to own DEC stuff – a tangible connection to our family history. They had the opportunity and resource to be a key player in the new and emerging digital world, but they failed. It reminds me also of the Wright Brothers story compared to their well-funded rivals at the time to launch the first successful manned flight. Passion, purpose and commitment trumped ‘corporate wealth.’ In my business now, as with every other, as leaders we need to lead well. Be clear. Inspire. Take brave decisions. Communicate clearer than ever. Be human. Empathise. Set direction. Exude passion and purpose.

That’s all for today. More tomorrow. Have a great day.


New Podcast: Goals & Goal Setting

October 18, 2019

Yesterday Roisin and I recorded episode 3 of ‘So What About Leadership?’. In this edition we talk about goals and goal setting.

I used to not like goal setting at all. It felt forced and restrictive when I prefer to be relaxed and spontaneous. Turns out I was just not using goals very well! Goal setting is simply the practice of deciding what’s important to you (in all areas of life) and setting a course in that direction. I love it! Hope you enjoy our conversation.;


Get out of the way, Nick!

October 16, 2019

A short but important learning…

Yesterday I was leading a meeting with two members of our team via Zoom and I was having some connection issues as I was out at a client site. After a while trying to make it work I decided to bail out and leave the two others to continue the conversations themselves.

Guess what? I had messages later in the day from both about how great their conversation had been, how inspired they both were and how some great ideas had been hatched as they spoke. It was clear they had connected and opened up to each other in ways that wouldn’t have happened if I’d been leading that call.

It’s great to play a role and contribute where required…but sometimes the best thing you can do as a leader is get out of the way and let people get on with it!

I’m challenged by this. How many occasions are they where my involvement may hinder or stifle others? I’ll definitely be thinking lots about this. When is it best for me to get out of the way, trust others more, empower them fully…and be there to hear about the great results that ensue?

I think the answer might be ‘often’. How about you?


Keeping it regular

January 25, 2019

Do you use phrases like these with the people you lead? Does your manager use these with you?

“My door’s always open”

“Come and find me anytime you need help”

These are great sentiments, genuinely appreciated and, for sure, sincerely meant…but I do regularly encounter some problems with this approach. Here are three common ones:

  • team members don’t seek out their leader as often as they should, wasting time and effort ‘working it out themselves’ when they could have really been helped (we don’t want people to become leader-dependent but regular effective guidance can help a lot).
  • when the leader has to instigate a conversation about some kind of correction / refinement / improvement, it feels like a big deal, akin to being called into the headteacher’s office!
  • opportunities to praise, encourage and recognise progress and victories are missed.

I think the last of these points is huge and is a major reason why I am a huge advocate for ‘keeping it regular’. There is so much to be gained by the simple act of setting up regular, routine communication both one-to-one and with the whole team.

And what should be first item on the agenda….every time?

  1. Progress & Victories

Both the team member and the leader can contribute to this agenda item. Team member shares what they think they’ve achieved, has gone well and moved things forward positively. The leader also shares from their perspective the progress and victories they’ve noticed, tangible results-wise as well as attitude and behaviour.

If you’re not already doing this, I’d urge you to try it and see what impact it has. I’ve seen many managers and leaders instigate this as a regular practice and report back staggering results in terms of trust, motivation, positivity and productivity.

If you’re the leader, make it happen. If you are the team member, suggest to your boss that you give it a go.

It doesn’t have to be hours out in meetings. 20 minutes once a fortnight might be enough!

 


Review your definition of success

July 11, 2018

We easily get into ‘getting on with it’ mode. Days and weeks go by. Months pass in multiples. Suddenly we’re more than half way through the year, it’s nearly (or already for some) the summer holidays, then September and we rush headlong towards Christmas.

I’m in the ‘relaxed and positive’ rather than the ‘doom and gloom’ camp when it comes to the passing of time, with one caveat. Am I doing worthwhile things with all these hours or am I just busy with activity that, on review, will count for very little.

Success

It all comes down to whether we have clear definitions of what success is and how to measure it. Answering this question is a crucial aspect of leading yourself and leading others. Once that’s done, here’s a few questions that can help keep us on track:

  1. What progress & victories have we achieved today / this week / this month that are in line with our definitions of success?
  2. What have we done that’s contributed most to those victories that we can do more of?
  3. What new things can we try to achieve more?
  4. What have we done that’s not contributed to our success that we can do less of, or stop doing entirely?

 

All seems a little bit simplistic when we put it like that, doesn’t it? Regardless, it works incredibly well. It’s often the simple things that do.

If it’s been a while since you reviewed what success means to you, can I strongly encourage you to do so? And not just at work or in business by the way. At home, with your family and friends, your health, your contribution to society and your giving to others. Your success needs defining for all of these. I’ve got plenty of simple tools to help you do this so please do get in touch if you need a hand getting started.

 


Everyone loves Gareth!

July 5, 2018

Right now as England face a World Cup Quarter Final against Sweden in two days, the talk of the town is not the players – usually the focus of most of the hype when it comes to football (Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar etc) – but the England manager, Gareth Southgate. It seems that everyone loves him.

I am very firmly in that camp too – Gareth Southgate comes across as an absolutely top class man. He conducts himself with humility, grace and calmness. He doesn’t make it all about him (take note Jose Mourinho). He encourages his players to fulfil their potential. He speaks honestly. He obviously cares deeply and understands that so many others do too; whether that’s the fans in the stadium whom he takes time to acknowledge after a match, the press corps, the English public etc.

One extraordinary photo, published after England beat Colombia on penalties in the previous match, shows Gareth embracing the Colombian player who missed their crucial penalty. In light of the particularly spikey nature of the on-field contest, this is especially remarkable. Contrast this with the German coaches who invoked the wrath of the Swedish manager earlier in the tournament by celebrating their last minute winning goal wildly right in front of the Swedish bench in an act of gross unsportsmanship which saw then banned by the German Football Federation.

Who knows what will happen in the rest of the tournament but there’s no doubt that the England manager has shone as an outstanding leader and his players (those on the inside) and the rest of the country (those on the outside) are firmly behind him in wishing him every success.

Leadership is about having clear goals, vision, communication, strategy, KPIs, performance measures and the like, but (and it’s a really big but!) it’s at least as much (I would argue more) about character – being a leader others trust and will gladly follow.

It’s why Personal Leadership is step 1 in LMI’s Total Leader process – it comes before Productivity, Motivational Leadership & Strategic Leadership. Leadership is influence through relationships. It’s a people thing. Gareth has got this part of it spot on and, best of all, it seems entirely genuine. He is being authentic, true to himself rather than following some leadership playbook. All leaders take note – the world’s a much happier place and results are much more likely to be good when you have this level of goodwill towards you.

Best of luck Gareth and the team. YOU have won us over and we would be delighted to see you succeed (not sure I could have said this about your predecessor).

P.S. If you’ve not seen it yet, check out the Twitter feed #GarethSouthgateWould for some light entertainment!