Obligation in Leadership – Does it Serve you Well?

Obligation in Leadership – Does it Serve you Well?

There’s a motivational state that has been evident around me the last few weeks and months – and in myself sometimes – obligation.

Do you know this one? It’s the state of mind we can get into with a commitment that sounds like:

  • I have to go along, see this through, keep going…
  • I can’t say no – or what I really think…
  • I’m bored…frustrated…tired…distracted
  • This isn’t working…this isn’t what is should be…this should be…
  • So-and-so doesn’t know what they are doing…
  • I’ve tried to change it but it doesn’t work, if I say anything it won’t make any difference
  • Here we go again…
  • I have no choice…

So you show up for a meeting and this is your state of mind. ‘Going through the motions’ comes to my mind as I’m writing this. I have done this many times! Something at some point may peak my interested, but other than that I’m 50% – sometimes – 25% in.

At some point I said YES to this commitment and now I’m acting out a NO.

And then what most likely nicely piles up is resentment and/or resignation. We then go about (consciously or unconsciously) playing this out with some of the following behaviours:

  • Distracted, disengaged, not giving our full attention (playing with our phone is a popular one)
  • Withholding of information, knowledge or contribution
  • Acting bored or indifferent
  • Not really fully participating or speaking up about what one is unhappy or frustrated about
  • Moaning, complaining – we do like to do that don’t we!
  • Colluding with others outside of the meeting to diagnose ‘what’s wrong’
  • Mentally justifying one’s own disengagement, inactivity or lack of attention

We are literally rejecting or resisting the situation right now – AS IT IS. Well we have tried haven’t we?

The thing is when we show up in a state of obligation, not only are we not taking responsibility for our part – we have also already condemned the situation as ‘over’.  We have closed the door our willingness to see possibility, get creative or be open to the conversation as it is happening. There is nowhere to go after that. Obligation is the path we are on and there’s a perceived self preservation in that – and a nice familiar place to hide out – being a martyr or a victim or ‘knowing better’.

There’s a big fat NO in us and the essence of that will trickle out affecting the atmosphere.  And of course the ensuing resentment is like poison, slowing sucking the life out of everything. This may sound dramatic but it’s very real when it happens and can be extremely toxic in an organisational culture.

As Nelson Mandela said:

‘Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die’

My question is: Would you really want to keep this going? We all play a part in the context, what’s created in any given moment. You have the absolute power – at any time – to choose something different.  To choose a different way to BE and behave.

Don’t underestimate how much one person’s willingness – yours – can affect the atmosphere and outcome. As a very wise person once said to me ‘your way of being, your behaviour are like perfume – people can smell it’.

People in high performing, empowered cultures show up much more in a motivational state of willingness. A willingness to be open, to say what is so for them – even if this is uncomfortable. There’s a willingness to be honest, fully participate, focus on the quality of their own experience and that of the team. There’s a willingness to be uncertain, creative, uncomfortable, collaborative. They take personal responsibility for the part they play and how this contributes to the bigger picture.

So here are five suggestions and insights that I’m hopeful will support you (and indeed the bigger picture in your own organisational culture):

  • Purpose – what’s your purpose for being there? For saying yes in the first place. Is your purpose still valid or true? Are you and/or the team getting what you came for? Is your purpose big enough to see you through when things don’t go how you would like? Sometimes admitting to ourselves that we don’t want something anymore or it’s not working out is tough. And letting go can take huge amounts of courage…however it can also create room for discourse, something else, other ideas, people or possibilities…
  • Choice – Is it really true that we have no choice? There may be consequences to making a different choice – however I put it to you that this is not the same as not having a choice. What we can always choose is how we are with the choices we make. There is a big psychological difference and impact between and attitude of ‘obligation’ and ‘willingness’
  • Are you IN or OUT – in light of your or the team’s purpose, do you really to keep going? Is it serving you, others or the purpose to keep going? Are you contributing in the way you want to? Are you creating the results you want? What needs to happen for you/the team to be more engaged, committed…fully IN…100%
  • Tell the TRUTH – if you are not happy or don’t what to be there. Speak up, leave, say no, let go. Tell the truth about how you are feeling and what you’d like to see change. No guarantee of course that you will get what you want! Have your voice though, even if it is not what others want to hear. You do yourself and others a disservice by not speaking up. I can’t count the times I have been fearful to say something and then when I do there are countless others who say ‘yes, I thought that’. And then we have course corrected or cleared up what was in the way. Your willingness to be open and truthful creates the space for others to do the same
  • You – by being in a state of obligation the person who loses out most is YOU. You diminish your voice, you minimise your wants and needs, you minimise that fact that YOU matter and your contribution matters. Avoiding taking responsibility for yourself in this way also diminishes the part YOU can play in creating something different – whether that’s staying where you are or not. Contexts shift constantly – you can choose to change yours proactively and consciously or ‘ride along’ in obligation.

So, as always the choice is yours…

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Leadership Development – What do YOU stand for?

Leadership Development – What do YOU stand for?

I’ve worked with many clients, particularly public sector, who want to transform their stakeholder engagement results, predominantly staff engagement. They want a higher performing culture – a culture where staff are much more empowered, forward thinking and engaged. They want this to transform their organisation, solve their retention or HR issues and lead to significant improvement of services. The ‘golden alchemy’ if you will.

What I’ve noticed is that there’s a big piece missing for me in how this goal is tackled or even debated. I see a kind of flatness, blandness, sometimes a lot of resignation and particularly individual leaders with-holding their individuality. I rarely see a leader truly engaged in their own strategy – where’s the passion, where’s the emotionally compelling vision for a transformed future? For me sometimes there’s a big disconnection in HOW the vision and strategies are put forward.  I want to see leaders take a stand.  I want to see leaders authentically sharing what they stand for and engaging me into a compelling vision for the future – because they are engaged and fired up themselves.

As with all hopes for change, this starts at home – in all of us as leaders. How are you being? What do you stand for?

In the same respect, I have huge compassion that this may not be the ‘done thing’, showing one’s self in this way. It takes courage and the willingness to stand out. It’s more common to portray a ‘persona’ or a culturally accepted norm – to maintain a conscious or unconscious consensus. Completely understandable .

My question is, how can you as a leader expect your teams to BE something which isn’t role modelled in your own behaviour?  Isn’t that confusing and incongruent? The most powerful way we can engage and transform is to role model the courage and willingness to do this ourselves.  Engage yourself first, transform your attitude first.

I hear a lot about different organisational development strategies, all brilliant initiatives that will be part of this or improvement journey.  I am a passionate believer however that creating a coaching culture is one of the most effective and sustainable ways to transform cultures, particularly for organisations that are going for higher performance, empowerment or engagement.

This is something I have a great deal of experience in. Some years ago I created a ‘coaching for culture’ programme with an awesome educational client. This was a powerful way to not only develop leadership and teams but also create a more purposeful, open, empowered culture where the emphasis shifted from ‘telling’ to ‘learning’. The starting part of course is to role model this through the executive team – through their own journey of empowerment and development. Who knows what’s possible after that!

So here’s my four key steps to creating an empowered coaching culture:

– Live it – have your own coaching, be empowered, see how this transforms your own performance or engagement. This could even be the purpose of your coaching

– Creating a Vision and Purpose – intentionally create a powerful, compelling vision and purpose that engages YOU and sets the context for coaching

– Coaching Strategy – underpinned by your vision and purpose, create a strategy or framework that is going to bring about your coaching culture

– Tipping point – be clear about the ‘how’ in your strategy, how are going to create a tipping point in coaching culture? Who are you going to enrol into your vision, how are you going to engage internal and external stakeholders, how are you going to create the context which will bring about your results (particularly how staff will keep practising and keep their learning going).

There you are. Go create!

 

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Legal Leadership – Visionary or Vacant?

Legal Leadership – Visionary or Vacant?

I was just reading a Forbes article about the top 3 burning issues in law firm’s – highlighted in 2017. I’ve worked with a number of legal professionals and this top 3 really resonated with what I’ve been experiencing and hearing. Here’s my take on the key challenges:

  • Vision and Strategy – gone are the times when being the top fee earner was all a firm is strategically focused on – or indeed extremely reactive leadership which only reacts to day to day events. MORE is required these days to engage firm staff, clients and other stakeholders in a meaningful strategic vision and aspirational brand values.  More forward thinking firms are moving into this evolving paradigm because they recognise the world has moved on. People want a more common purpose, inspiration and fulfilment. Being technically excellent is no longer enough
  • Succession Planning & Developing Talent – many firms are in a new era of leadership transition. They are looking at one or two years ahead where managing partners who have been in the firm for 10-20, sometime nearly 30 years are about to retire. Reflection on the old paradigm of this kind of term is bringing about a realisation that in order for firms to grow, their leadership needs to be more fresh, creative and forward thinking. The old paradigm of long serving partners may be consistent and solid but can also create stagnation and client silos. Firms need emerging partners, associates who have the strategic engagement skills to deliver client development AND bring about a compelling strategic vision
  • Cultural Congruency – the practise in many law firms has been to segregate departments and recruit laterally based on industry groupings or areas of law. However cross cultural alignment can be a big issue across firms. Employment law departments can foster a very different culture in comparison to say conveyancing which can be far more transactional. Firm leaders need to have the aptitude and adaptability to engage and serve clients across the firm. It’s a real challenge for firms to create a common culture when head of departments may be at odds in both their leadership style and their willingness to invest in the firm’s strategic leadership development

I’ve recently been doing some research for a leadership programme – with varied feedback from legal firms of different sizes and complexity. The themes I’ve pulled from this so far, plus feedback from clients, has reflected similar challenges. I think it’s immensely positive that some firms are aware of their barriers to growth – the next step is doing something about it! And of course engaging their firm is key – enrolling themselves, teams, clients and other stakeholders to ‘get on the train’ as it were.

Here are 3 top tips then to reflect on…

  • Leadership Capacity – invest the time to look at where the firm’s leadership is in relation to both current growth and challenges, where’s the gap? What are the challenges telling you? I’m a great believer in challenges being the biggest opportunity for growth. Is the leadership resisting challenges or getting aligned with the reality of change – and most importantly what clients needs are
  • Pro-active Leadership – engage partners and stakeholders in developing a vision for the future – one which is not just about technical or financial growth but HOW this vision is going to be lead. What is it going to take in the existing (or up and coming) leadership to build the firm’s evolving world? Making the time and investment to consciously choose how to lead is very different from batting off challenges as they arise
  • Collective Leadership Vision – invest in the development of both existing leadership and emerging talent. Review how the firm can commit to empowering and harnessing talent, those who are going to be leading the firm into the distant future. Create openness and honesty about the existing capabilities and barriers of current leadership behaviours. Develop both individual leadership visions and a collective leadership vision which inspires, creates clarity and ambition

So there you go! I’m passionate about individual and collective self awareness in firms, mostly because self awareness = choice. The choice to respond differently. The choice to be pro-active rather than reactive. How powerful would your firm be if you were consciously choosing how to behave? Wow!

Want to create that vision or proactive leadership in your firm?

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I can’t wait to hear from you…

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Empowering Leadership – the Three T’s

Empowering Leadership – the Three T’s

Hmmmm what a challenge eh – being an empowering leader. Many amazing leaders I know have become so because of their direct style and ability to ‘get things done’. Great! And quite often this style is perfect for an organisational context that needs a strong, clear direction.

What if the context though – and more importantly the feedback – is now saying something different?

I’ve had many conversations over the last few weeks with clients and others who have totally understandable challenges in making this transition. Especially those who work in a very politicised and/or heavily regulated industry. The reason I say this is because these environments tend to thrive in rigidity, fear and resentment – empowerment however doesn’t – and thus lies on the other side of this.  So how does one find the balance between effective corporate governance and creating a truly empowered organisation?

For me empowerment is the freeing up of myself and others to self solve, step forward, speak up, participate, create – essentially knowing we are free to BE ourselves. Thus it’s vital an organisation can create a context of openness, trust and courage. Only then will people learn to trust their capability, capacity and ability to handle whatever comes up – and get creative.

This is where high performing teams can powerfully emerge – teams knowing the importance of honesty and openness. Teams who recognise relationships are vital and make time to clear up clashes and misunderstandings so they can get back in the game – together.

FEAR is at the essence of this empowerment challenge, the basic reality of human condition that wants negate the fear of failure and protect oneself. The tragedy is that this mindset closes down openness, trust and courage and thus opportunities for higher performance, innovation and growth.

I put it to you my friends that these fears are an illusion. A lens through which we choose to see the world – and then act accordingly, reacting and behaving as if it’s true.

More often than not I see these fears played out by leaders wanting to create solutions or policies behind closed doors that create empowerment. However, isn’t this disempowering? Isn’t this another way to repeat the same fearful behaviour? How are stakeholders, teams included…engaged, PART OF the creation – rather than back to the old form of ‘consultation’ where the conversation may likely be already closed.

Of course it’s important to have clarity about the purpose, context and barriers. However for me the spirit of empowerment is much more than this. It’s an attitude of trust, openness and a willingness to be uncomfortable with one’s fears. To risk, to have the courage to role model a different way – even if it doesn’t work or create our hopes. I’ve found that being willing to trust the process and ride this rollercoaster takes courage and builds resilience! The great thing is that we will always get feedback, in one form or another, as to what’s working and what isn’t.

One of things I learnt last year about my own leadership (which quite honestly I have found extremely frightening at times) is that not I, nor anyone else, know the future. I can hope, dream, aspire, predict – give it my all – however I have no idea whether any of what I want will transpire. So I’m mostly feeling the fear and going for what I want – willing to risk never knowing the outcome. There’s a big difference between hoping and expecting. The former is open to possibility, the later a demand on the outcome.

Here’s my three T’s then, the qualities I’ve learnt and I’m continuously developing:

  • Trust – patience, patience, patience…willingness to let go and trust myself, others, the process. A willingness to risk NEVER knowing the outcome. Hoping vs. Expecting
  • Tenacity – the determination to keep going, keep the faith, trust that all is not lost if things don’t go my way. Including if there’s A LOT of course correcting, diversions, difficult choices to be made
  • Truthfulness – being honest with myself and others when we have a success (yey!!) or something isn’t working. Telling the truth is the most liberating, freeing experience I find and the one that keeps me connected with myself and others. And in terms of empowerment is key to creating openness and courage – to be with things as they ARE not as we’d like them to be.

I’m aware too that we all have a personal responsibility in how we show up, interact and engage. Through the amazing coaching tools I have, I know I have the ability to empower myself and others – I don’t need to wait or be given this by some other person or circumstance. I am also aware that sometimes for me it can take a large amount of courage to do so – to trust, be tenacious and keep telling the truth.

Want to empower yourself to tell the truth and build a high performing team?

Join me in a FREE 1hr 1:1 coaching discovery session to discover how your greatest challenges can empower your greatest growth.

I can’t wait to hear from you…

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Authentic Leadership – the Three C’s

Authentic Leadership – the Three C’s

What is authentic leadership? That sure is an interesting question isn’t it? I’ve just spent the last 30mins or so reading the definition on Wikipedia. Here’s the crux of the definition…’consensus appears to be growing that authentic leadership includes these distinct qualities:

  • Self-awareness: An ongoing process of reflection and re-examination by the leader of his or her own strengths, weaknesses, and values
  • Relational Transparency: Open sharing by the leader of his or her own thoughts and beliefs, balanced by a minimization of inappropriate emotions
  • Balanced Processing: Solicitation by the leader of opposing viewpoints and fair-minded consideration of those viewpoints
  • Internalized Moral Perspective: A positive ethical foundation adhered to by the leader in his or her relationships and decisions that is resistant to outside pressures

It strikes me that there’s a big paradox to this…if we go some way to defining a set of qualities that means one is an authentic leader, wouldn’t that be inauthentic?

For me authentic is being real, being yourself, showing one’s humanity – whatever that is – and this will be different from one leader to the next. For this is humanity, we are all different and bring our own uniqueness to the table. How can a set of pre-defined behaviours or values be authentic?

Funny things is, as I type this I’m thinking am I being authentic in writing this article? The truth is I read ‘balanced by a minimisation of inappropriate emotions’ and I thought no way!  How would that ever be authentic if one is minimising their emotions? What’s inappropriate, isn’t that subjective (especially to the context)?   I felt incredibly sad as I read this – for my hope is a world of leadership where leaders show more emotion, more humanity – not less.

I say this because my hope for leadership is a greater realness and openness – not where leaders are subscribed to a ‘model’ but where they are self-empowered to be themselves more of the time.  Each of us knows what this is, because only we can know in our hearts when we are being truly authentic.

The biggest challenge I work on with clients and in my own leadership is dropping the pretence, the personas we carry or get into that prevent us from showing who we essential are. When we do this, it’s our pretence that is in a relationship with others, our team or our stakeholders and thus in many cases to maintain the relationship means maintaining the facade. I know for myself there can be a lot of loneliness in that arena.

I say this my friends as I have learnt through many years of transformational development that when I get back to being who I am, more and more of me grows, comes forward, get released, energised, creative. It’s fucking amazing!! How’s that for authenticity?!

Here’s my three C’s then, the qualities I’ve learnt and been developing (a never ending journey):

  • Confidence – it takes esteem in one’s own skin, purpose, self value to develop the confidence to show authenticity, more of the time…especially when others are not. I can role model authenticity by being willing to be myself no matter what and forgive myself when I forget
  • Courage – oh yes, it can take uncopious amounts of courage at times for me to be authentic…show my humanity, especially vulnerability. Every time I do there’s another level to go for…
  • Commitment – it takes a solid, powerful purpose to commit to being more authentic more of the time. Especially when the going gets tough, when old thinking and behaviours are challenged.

I wondered as I’m coming to the end of sharing my thoughts – if authenticity is a bit like art (I remember reading a quote once in one of my coaching theory books)

‘Once we define art, it isn’t art anymore.’

In some ways being authentic seems to me to be how I am at any given moment, with or without a mask, just as I am right now…

 

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Mark, Director of Commercial Development, FE Sector

Mark, Director of Commercial Development, FE Sector

‘I have worked with Nicci to develop my Leadership skills- I have enjoyed our sessions together and the style of developmental faciltation that Nicci developed. The training has enabled me to become a more reflective individual and increase understand my strengthens and weaknesses from all perspectives – mine and others. I strongly recommend Nicci’

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Charlie, Director/Analyst at Panmure Gordon

Charlie, Director/Analyst at Panmure Gordon

‘Superb coach. I work in a technical role and engaged Nicci to help me develop my client skills. Over a 6 month programme, she gently helped/pushed me to identify and address my tics and issues enabling me to build my client skills. She has a great sense of timing – knowing when to and when not to push. She tailored her approach to my needs. I would recommend her to anyone.’

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Sue, Business Owner, The Resource Centre

Sue, Business Owner, The Resource Centre

‘Nicci has made a positive and valuable impact towards helping me to change my way of thinking and is like a breath of fresh air. I have enjoyed talking to Nicci on a wide variety of subjects would recommend her coaching skills on both a personal and professional basis.’

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James, Chartered Financial Planner

James, Chartered Financial Planner

‘I can thoroughly recommend Nicci and the coaching process that she takes you through. At times, especially in the beginning, it can be a difficult process as you have to discuss how you currently behave and face the truth of what you are doing. However, with time and practice, Nicci shows you how you can change your behaviour and its great when you see it working.’

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Paul, Senior Tax Director at Beavis Morgan LLP

Paul, Senior Tax Director at Beavis Morgan LLP

‘I approached Nicci with a view to developing my leadership skills to make the move to partnership. Nicci’s approach to assisting me changing my behaviour and the thought processes that carry me through the working day. This developed my focus on what I wanted to achieve, raised my self esteem and had instant results in my professional relationships.’

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