Tag Archives: leadership

Working with Gen wotever

30 Aug

dobell

Quite recently I have had the privilege of working with a team of Gen Y’s. I think that’s their gen name (as opposed to genome) anyway. Their a bit older than Charles Lloyd Jones in this William Dobell portrait. They’re younger than me anyway. 

We have been working on a huge and creative project – something I couldn’t do on my own. These gens have been working with me and I have been managing them and their output. 

And yes … it’s true, they do work differently. They are definitely not your old time bank clerk types. They have different clocks and they can drift off but never too far.

What I have enjoyed is telling them stuff. It’s creative and we do a lot of writing. I tell them about The Confederacy of Dunces and the Catcher in the Rye. About original writers who also wrote and thought about freedom and how it dwells in the mind a lot of the time.

I give them tasks and I check up on them with a ‘how’s it going?’ lame style of management. I don’t get too concerned when they wander off and they do from time to time but I do keep track on deadlines.

We get along fine and they are producing – and more often than not, they surprise me with their work.

So I say Gen wotever. Show people respect and listen to them. When you delegate tell stories and have a laugh. 

Oh yeah … and say thanks.

Often

Avoiding Captain Queeg

5 Jul

The Caine Mutiny (1954)  Directed by Edward Dmytryk  Shown: Humphrey Bogart

The Caine Mutiny is a 1954 Oscar nominated movie starring Humphrey Bogart as an erratic US Navy disciplinarian posted to the U.S. Navy destroyer minesweeper, the USS Caine.

The crew is undisciplined but perform their duties well.

Bogart plays the role magnificently, depicting Queeg as a ball-bearing rolling paranoid sociopath with little self knowledge. He makes authoritarian decisions that have negative impacts on the vessel, crew and missions.

My past few blogs have been about putting up with bad leadership and management – focusing on the team and just plain ‘getting over it and on with it.’

Bad boss personality a fact

But this week an article was published around a Norwegian business school research project identifying that people with narcissistic personality disorder often assume leadership positions through their strength of personality, self confidence and willingness to make tough decisions. In fact these types are destructive and “don’t think twice about using others to achieve their own goals.”

It’s fair to say that not all human beings are high minded. People can act badly and unconscionably and hurt others in the blink of an eye. It’s a fact. There are also great people who lead and inspire. Who are open to innovation and creativity and work well with others.

Should you suffer under the stewardship of a Captain Queeg and hope that things will get better?

No.

Speak up. Move on and find a place where you can flourish and create.

Like cornered animals they will fight and manipulate with amazing ferocity.

Life’s too short.

resilience and taking it on the chin

14 Jun

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This is the Alcántara Bridge in Spain, built by the Roam Emperor Trajan between 104 and 106 AD. That’s almost 2200 years ago. It’s not modern engineering but it’s lasted. It’s prevailed. Can you imagine the hordes of people and animals and vehicles that have crossed it. The fights and battles. The life and death it has seen in that time.

The bridge has resilience built into it. That’s why it’s still here. It has strong foundations.

People at work work together. Sometimes they’re called teams. Teams support each other if they’re functioning. It’s a necessary element in all teams including sporting and in families. That’s nice isn’t it?

But guess what. S%$t happens (I censored that for you!)

But it does, even in the most highly functioning teams because people are people and we have moods, emotions, short comings. We’re not all nice all the time.

I heard about a man who was known as a man of god. That was his life. Doing good things for people who others shunned. He was also a boss. I heard that every morning he would walk into his offices and lose his block. He would systematically fire people and then an hour or so later re-hire them (or something like that.) This was devastating to his team of kind hearts and do gooders. But they stayed with him. Why?

Because they allowed him his childish behaviour because they recognised that he was angry and stressed. It wasn’t them.

It’s hard dealing with difficult people. But when you do and the sky doesn’t fall, then you build your understanding and resilience so the next time the boss loses it they know what to do. It’s called emotional intelligence.

Great teams have this resilience and it allows them to build trust and understanding one block of stone at a time.

It’s what happens after that really matters

19 Apr

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Things can go wrong. Like they said in the army SNAFU. Situational normal all f*&^%$#@ up! Leaders, managers, teams and individuals make plans, follow programs, address well thought out strategies and then … 

My family had a successful retail business that operated for almost 80 years. It was established during the peak of the Great Depression and it grew. It traversed WW11 and Vietnam. There were fights between siblings and a whole heap of problems both personal and professional. 

Not everyday was a good one > but the wheels kept on turning somehow. 

RESILIENCE

Recently, in a workplace, I was involved in a great effort. The place was electric. There was lots to do in my team. And each day brought lots more. It wasn’t business as usual at all and tempers flared more than the pants I used to wear. 

My last post (I’ve heard that somewhere before!) was about artichokes and the art of managing. Watching individuals unfold like the leaves till you see the heart.

During this testing period an amazing thing happened. Amid the stress, long hours and emotions the team spirit kicked in.

Esprit de Corps.

The team supported each other. There was as much laughter as there were tears (and there were some.)

It was a small thing maybe but also amazing to see a group of people act like a well oiled machine. We got through the situation and the results were excellent.

The team had more in the emotional bank account to draw upon later.

That’s when teams work really well. Before, during and after a crisis.

That’s what makes life great.

When you see that happening.

Meet Dr NO

12 Dec

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When my son was a toddler my dear mother in law happened to mention that it was sad that little kids heard the word NO a lot of the time.

NO you can’t do that.

NO don’t be naughty.

NO. NO. NO.

Workplaces can be like that too.

Have you worked with a Dr NO? I know I have.

NO, too different.

NO, you can’t do that.

NO, NO, NO.

What makes a Dr NO?

Fear of change

Insecurity

Resentment

Risk aversion

All of the above. The only problem is that the world is changing. Industries are disappearing. Just this week our iconic car, the Holden, announced they were ceasing manufacturing here. Horror. All those people losing their jobs.

What will they do?

They’ll do something else.

Creativity is the enemy of Dr NO

Change is like Ju Jitsu … when you are attacked you step aside and push your attacker past. Going with the flow.

Scary but ultimately satisfying.

BAT CEO = CREATIVE + STRATEGIC

15 Nov

bat maskA young guy I know well has recently been appointed as CEO of a large not for profit organisation. He’s a very clever person and I have watched his career unfold.

When he was first appointed, I know he struggled as to how to be the CEO. He doesn’t wear suits. He’s not a fan of corporate speak. He’s a blend of creative and strategic. He’s an entrepreneur, a musician, a story teller but probably not an administrator.

He knows how to network and he does so at very senior levels. His passion for the good deeds and the clients his organisation serves are what makes this guy so compelling.

He utilises the media and has clear objectives for the publicity. Often it’s to inform policy makers on what’s happening ‘on the ground.’

But what astonished me is a video he sent me: BAT CEO

He filmed himself with a Bat Mask on going around the office enquiring how the team was going but in the gravelly, vigilante voice of the new BATMAN. The reactions of many of the staff was unmitigated glee at seeing their big boss being so light-hearted and well, damn funny.

It was a master stroke in my opinion as it disarmed and calmed while introducing a different mode of leadership.

It’s not always appropriate being BAT CEO. There are difficult strategies and difficult conversations leaders have to have but why not engender some fun.

Humour is a strategy in itself and it breaks all kinds of ice.

Here’s to BAT CEO. Long may he serve!

Percy Bysshe Shelley … Ode to a Control Freak

3 Nov

ImageI had an amusing english teacher at High School. He had a loud voice and a pompous manner. He liked to peer at the more rebellious among us and proclaim quite stentoriously ‘shut up son or I’ll belt you!’ And back then, he did and they could. Under this man’s iron fisted rule I learned about certain poets and poetry. The only poem that I can still recite is Ozymandius:

‘I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert…’

The poet was that great pioneer of pop star literati poet loser Percy Shelley. He also wrote Ode to a Grecian Urn amongst other treasures. But Ozymandius has always fascinated me. A monumental king of kings > all gone, boom! Just a pile of dust.

Which brings me back to the blog. Control freaks. I kind of love them.

Just recently I was involved at a workplace. The minute I arrived and set up, a person was there, next to me.

Not to be at all sexist here, but it was a lady. A women. You know, the other sex.

She fixed me with her glaring gaze and started to let me know how things were done ‘around here.’ I nodded and smiled and occasionally muttered a phrase of complete understanding like ‘yeah sure.’ But I could see that she (who could have easily been a he) was lost somewhere. Maybe she was in the desert looking at the gigantic monument and trying to make out the visage. All I know is that she was on her own planet and i was only docking for a while.

Now, I’m experienced. I’ve been around the block a few times.

To be honest, I could have been a waiter at the last supper.

I’m skilled and reliable and people relate to me. When I teach they might not learn everything, but they have a good time, which makes for good learning. I use humour a lot to bring people back into the room and off their Iphones. It works for me. I get great feedback. All you have to do is tell me where and when, the topic/subject, any materials and leave me to it.

But this person, lets call them Ozzie had to control me. Why?

Well I thought about it later. What drives a control freak? Insecurity? A need for power? Recognition? Panic? Fear?

All of the above.

Control freaks should read some Shelley and start with Ozymandius.

‘I met a traveller from an antique land who said …’

Working with a genius

15 Sep

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I have worked for a couple of people who could be termed geniuses. They are unique in the business world and like fire, often can’t be tamed.

Geniuses are innovators who continually change whatever it is their doing in their business, even when it would appear to us normal people that things were going well.

Geniuses are restless and highly inspiring.

They can also be maddeningly difficult. They do things that drive the process driven among us quite crazy. They can be downright demanding and sometimes over critical. I believe that Picasso wasn’t easy going. Look at his eyes.

But geniuses change things. They also take risks that can be un calculated.

How do we manage a genius (we manage both up and down?)

Can we tailor our personalities and expectations so that the future will come and we won’t go crazy in the process?

In the presence of real genius we do just that. It takes time.

But don’t worry … there’s not many around.

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Can you let go of the wheel?

13 Sep

Encourage disobedienceEncourage disobedience and other dangerous concepts

I came across a blog with an ebook attached entitled The Happy Manifesto written by Henry Stewart (manifesto@happy.co.uk.) It is about workplaces, people, processes, innovation and creativity. One section is entitled Encouraging disobedience, which got me thinking about a lot of the workplaces I have been and am involved in.  Which ones were ‘open’ and which ones ‘closed.’

In the west (as opposed to the east and eastern philosophy) we have been pre-occupied with HAPPINESS possibly because it is often a fleeting emotion and not at all about possessing ‘stuff,’ or prestige and power. HAPPINESS comes from within. Well that’s what I tell my son when he’s looking at the latest gaming device.

Encouraging disobedience is a powerful concept in workplaces if it’s embraced and understood. Translated into leadership, it’s about encouraging input and innovation, thoughts suggestions ideas. Workers at the coalface know their jobs and know how things can be done better. If they are in a micro-managed environment where things have always been done like this; where it’s silently frowned upon to re-invent the wheel, then it’s disobedience not to blindly obey.

Trusting your people and encouraging thought about new ways of doing business motivates people more than money.

Everyone wants to be loved, appreciated and recognised. That’s at least part of what makes people happy.

Advice to micro-managers: Let go of the wheel sometimes and hop in the backseat.

Then watch your people grow.

It’s lonely at the top

2 Sep

CEO’s, business owners and managers have to do a lot of things ‘in’ their jobs.

Leading is just one of them.

To be a leader a person must be someone that inspires people on a daily basis whilst taking care of business everyday. A quick nod to Elvis here!

Add to that the skill of acquiring a ‘helicopter view’ of the relevance of the products and services offered to the marketplace in a fast paced global environment.

A leader must understand his/her people and what makes them tick and possibly hardest of all … understand themselves. Almost Zen-like, this is known as mindfulness. It takes skill to master it, but once mastered it is the difference between real leaders and line managers.

Leaders build teams that perform. They inspire creativity and innovation even when it’s dangerous. Leaders look for better ways of doing things, building resilience and optimism.

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