The line between the individual and the organisation is becoming increasingly blurred, as organisations move away from a mechanistic, bureaucratic structure, towards a living community and individuals strive, for a balanced life, where they feel that what they do matters and that they matter too.
The skills required in our brave new world are changing - we are living in unpredictable, volatile and unprecedented times of change, disruption and opportunity. As such, we need creativity, resilience and empathy in bucket loads.
”Creativity is the last legal, competitive advantage." Edward de Bono
Below, I have shared some challenges to disrupt, challenge and motivate organisations to do things differently. Every change starts with action - no matter how large or small, it just needs to start.
I have also shared some of my personal stories that have taught me some critical life skills. I'm still learning everyday - that's the beauty of our time. I believe the opportunity to truly be ourselves and reach our potential, is unrivalled in history. Everything in within our reach and nothing is out of bounds.
The future is today, we are the change we are waiting for.
Encourage, enable and motivate every employee to take time out every few months to go and volunteer for a 'cause'.
They are free to choose the cause but it must adhere to the following criteria:
1. No less than 1 day
2. Involve a vulnerable part of society
3. Be at the 'front line' of the cause
And why you may ask should an organisation do this? What value will it bring? What is the ROI?
This practice will ensure three critical outcomes:
1. Bring humanity and compassion to life throughout the organisation via tangible action.
2. Help people retain their sense of perspective, focus on their strengths and reach their potential.
3. Encourage people to judge less, listen more, share more and therefore connect far more effectively with their colleagues.
The ROI - it's priceless, simply priceless
People feel good about themselves when they can help others.
People thrive when they are in a community built on shared values.
People need meaning and a purpose.
It is within the gift of the organisation to enable all of this so let's just do it!
Bin the plans, take a fresh approach - 'the mission'.
The aims of your mission, should you choose to accept are to:
1. Articulate in no more than 2 sentences your raison d'etre - ask everyone in the organisation to write it down. Analyse the results, you will either have your answer or you are lost, in which case pause for thought and agree your raison d'etre with those who matter - your employees.
2. Define your key values - ask everyone in the organisation to name their top 3 values to be adopted in pursuit of the raison d'etre. Analyse and compile a majority - if that is not possible, dig deeper, do you need more than 3? If so then choose more than 3 but not more than 5. Why 5? Because you have to stop somewhere else it becomes impractical.
3. Ask each team to articulate a) what and how they will contribute to the raison d'etre b) how they will bring the values to life c) what budget they require and d) what requirements of leadership and the organisation do they require to deliver their part of the 'jigsaw'.
Viola, your planning is done.
Next step - deliver the mission, review outcomes real time and change what needs changing when it needs changing, based on information from those who know.
Build an environment capable of inspiring and caring for your community.
It's important never to under-estimate the impact our environment has on our ability to be happy and to be content.
The working environment is the physical representation of the organisations culture, meaning and commitment to its community.
So, the challenge is to build that environment - put a library at the heart of it, to inspire the constant pursuit of knowledge, human connection and discussion. Create quiet, private spaces for inner thought and reflection. Build that trim track, get people outdoors to re-invigorate their bodies and minds. Provide a restful and alluring place to eat. Ensure daylight floods in from every angle so that mother nature can be seen and perspective retained. Give people the space and quiet they need to work but also the proximity to talk and reach out for help when they need it. But most of all, keep it classless - value everyone's contribution and don't play to the optical illusion of greatness being defined by the size of your office.
Rome wasn't built in a day, this will take time so, start today.
In one sentence write down the core goal of the organisation, it's raison d'etre.
It has to be captured in once sentence - if you are not able to do this then you need to go back to the drawing board to understand your raison d'etre.
Share that sentence with every team in the organisation and ask them to respond with three sentences.
Those three sentences need to succinctly describe how each team adds value to the core goal of the organisation.
The output from this challenge will tell you three things:
1. As an organisation, do you really understand your goal?
2. Do your teams understand the goal?
3. Do you teams add value to the overall goal and how?
You will be amazed at some of the answers you might get!
Ensure that you have all of the ingredients required within your organisation to create creativity.
Creating something new or coming up with a new idea is made possible by taking pieces of existing knowledge and combining them together to create something new.
"No one is able to have new ideas. You are only able to make new combinations of two or more existing pieces of knowledge." Fuster (neuroscientist)
On this basis simply recruiting creative people is not enough in its own right. The organisation also needs to be play it's part in two critical areas:
1. Create new knowledge: recruit and create diverse groups of curious people to enable the development of new knowledge
2. Combine that new knowledge to come up with creative ideas: Provide an environment that provokes and encourages the combination of knowledge to come up with new ideas - one way to do this might be by sprinkling change agents across the organisation.
Take a good look at your organisation, do the ingredients exist?
Plant your change makers. Change doesn’t just happen, like anything in life it requires passion, motivation, commitment and focus.
Create new roles across your organisation - the change makers.
Allow them to roam freely, work alongside teams, attend meetings but most importantly, make relationships based on trust.
Their job is to encourage and mentor people to embrace their creativity and change. They will question and provoke - ‘yes that’s s good idea let’s see if it works? Have you thought of looking at it this way? What about if we started again? Why can’t we do that?’
Give them budgets, empower them, trust them.
Plant the seeds of change by sprinkling your change makers across the organisation to actively support and enable your teams to reach their full potential and build a culture of change.
How real are your initiatives? Is your organisation 'philosophising' or 'walking the talk'. Ticking boxes on the latest hot topics such as well being, diversity and innovation, to name but a few is no substitute for the 'real deal'.
In fact raising the hopes of people in anticipation of a fundamental shift on a topic that is important to them and then not delivering can cause more harm than good. So, don't do it - yes you heard correctly, one of the few challenges where I am saying 'not to do something'. Only promise change through initiatives if you are really serious about actually doing something different that will positively impact people.
Test yourself. Choose an initiative, one that has had senior backing and a big 'noise' associated with it. Then go out there and see if you have really 'walked the talk'. Analyse whether the anticipated benefits have been achieved, conduct interviews, carry out surveys, observe behaviours - seek out the truth and be honest with yourselves about whether you have been philosophising or really creating change. If not, why not? Take it on the chin and then really take action.
Understand the passions that your people have and give them some 'off grid' time to experience them.
Whenever a new employee is taken on, organisations generally make it their business to understand the persons experience, skills and ambitions. Usually, in very small print right at the bottom of someone's CV are a couple of lines outlining their hobbies.
We need to turn this on it's head. One of the most important things we need to understand about people is what make them passionate, what really makes their heart sing. So, make it one of the key things you get to know about them and also share your passions in return.
But then take this a step further - find time for people to indulge their passions. Give them 'off grid' time - say 1 day per month as a trial. Allow them, encourage them to use that time to do something that 'makes their heart sing'. When they come back into work ask them whether it has helped their motivation, inspired new ideas, contributed to their happiness but most importantly, has it enabled them to experience being 'whole' in their professional life?
Bring the organisation to life by bringing the people to life.
This is a very specific challenge to any of the FTSE 350 companies who gave a negative reason as to why there are a lack of women on boards. Do a role swop with me - a working mum of three children for one day.
Just to set the scene, my day starts at 5.30am. I wake up and spend a few minutes 'just being', seeing what comes into me head, browsing the headlines and identifying my priorities. By 6.30am I have fed and watered the chickens, ducks and feral cat, emptied and re-loaded the washing machine, run the bath, made pack-ups and set the breakfast table. By 8am I have responded to all of my emails and social media comments, written a challenge of the day, story of the day and thought of the day. My to-do list will be done, children bathed, fed, dressed, listened to and ready for school.
Sadly Linkedin does not allow enough words in a post for me to outline the rest of my day which ends at about 10pm. But this should give you a flavour of what to expect.
This is a genuine challenge. The question is not whether I am capable of getting through your day but are you capable of getting through mine?
Inspired by all of the women out there juggling everything and still capable of so much more.
Walk in each others shoes. Once a month have a 'role swop' day. That means that each leader within the organisation gets randomly picked (good, old fashioned names out of a hat) to swop with a randomly picked person from a team.
Then just for one day they each have to do the others job. For the leaders, it will inform, develop and bring more empathy as they start to truly understand what needs to happen in the organisation to make it work at 'grass root' level. For team members it will do exactly the same but from a different perspective, allowing them to understand the competing priorities and difficult decisions leaders sometimes have to make.
At the end of each 'role swop' day both the leader and team member have a meeting, facilitated by a third member - from another team for objectivity, to analyse and feedback to each other on what they saw as the key challenges, strengths and potential to improve.
Give it a go, looking at things from a new perspective can be truly inspiring!
Let go of the budgets - yes you heard me, just let them go.
Allow your teams to be responsible for their own budgets - how much do they think they will need? How much do they think they will generate or enable others to generate? Let the team manage their budgets and discuss progress with their leaders - in a positive and constructive way.
If things go wrong, have a back up plan - an 'oops didn't see that coming' pot that teams can access with the help of their leaders.
Set guidelines, there is only so much money available in total so when all of the budgets are in, analyse the over or underspend - yes you may find an underspend believe it or not and then go back and talk to the teams, as grown ups about how to resolve the deficit and manage priorities.
And don't just ask teams to think about £'s, that is only one aspect of a budget. £'s are incurred by people and activities required to generate outcomes.
So, encourage your teams to think about that too - how are the outcomes going to be achieved , can they afford if, if not what other options do they have? Empower them to manage their resources, be creative about how they use them and provide support not punishment if the plans go awry - that's life.
Allow people to choose their team. One of the reasons why so many people are unhappy at work is that they simply do not enjoy what they do. What if we allowed our teams to 'play' (within the realms of reality).
Try running a small experiment, take 3 teams each focused on different aspects of the business. Get each team to choose an anchor - the person who will not rotate to another team as part of this exercise. The anchor then presents the raison d'etre, working protocols and outcomes of their team to everyone involved. All of the other team members are then empowered to choose which team they would like to join for a trial period of 1/2 weeks. Now a level of common sense will be required, i.e if everyone only chooses one or two of the teams there may be some deeper issues you need to address first!
Can we make people happier and more engaged by giving them a chance to try something new, that they are naturally more drawn to? How will it affect the longer term quality and outcomes of the team? After an initial period of training and familiarisation, can the new level of energy and motivation outweigh the upheaval of creating the change in the first place?
I don't know the answers but we won't find out unless we try!
Don't have full or part-time jobs, simply have jobs that deliver outcomes.
Don't ask for recent experience and employment, ask for relevant experience and life skills.
Don't ask for a CV ask for a biography.
Don't ask people to come to interview, ask for a conversation.
Don't set a location, discuss a journey.
Don't talk about salary levels, discuss value and agree a fair 'deal' for the outcomes required.
Don't offer a number of days holiday pa, talk about the level of 'time out' required to replenish, refresh and re-engage people's being.
Most importantly, don't talk about being at 'work' - talk about where and how people create and innovate, what the community can offer, how you will be empowered, what is your contribution to the overall purpose of the organisation and how can you shape it.
Don't have a start date, have a 'try it and see' period so that both the organisation and individual can experience each other and validate/tailor/change how they can contribute to each other's development.
Be a part of of your organisation not only a leader of it - be brave enough to see where you end up which may well be so much better than where you had planned to go.
What would happen if you looked at your organisation using this as your template?
1. Redefine the organisations purpose, profit is only as good as the value it can create.
2. Keep the strategic goals simple and directly driven by the raisin d’etre.
3. Develop a community rather than a workforce.
4. Ensure that change co-exists alongside BAU.
The common goal will drive the community, which will deliver the outcomes, which will deliver the value, which will create the profit.
Are you ready for a daring and gutsy approach to managing your organisation?
Welcome to 'Organised Chaos'.
'Organised Chaos' - these 2 words are profoundly important and the balance between them is the key your success.
Too much structure stifles creativity, restricts the development of employees and ultimately, reduces the value to clients.
Alternatively too much 'chaos' and freedom can lead to dis-connected ideas, budget over spends, employees focused on their needs not that of the wider community and a culture of confusion.
So, the trick is designing an organisational model loose enough to be flexible but strong enough to hold the vision, community and outcomes together.
That model will be different for each organisation but the critical success factors against which is should be rigorously tested will be the same:
1. Can it create and bring to life a common, purposeful vision?
2. Can it attract and constantly develop employees to be their 'whole self'?
3. Can it enable new ideas and value creation for it's customers in a painless manner ensuring that people understand who is responsible for what by when?
But remember the foundation upon which it must be built has to be trust.
What would happen if organisations actually stopped themselves becoming 'too big'.
Sometimes, being too big can harm rather than help an organisations purpose, culture and ability to deliver.
Now being big is different to being accessible or reaching people.
In our digital age organisations don't need to need to be physically big with 1,000's of employees - they need to be smart, agile and accessible.
I genuinely believe that organisations can get too big - people become numbers, customers become transactions, communication becomes a labyrinth and the core purpose is obscured by process, bureaucracy and PR.
Be ambitious, be seen, be heard but be conscious of your raison d'etre, caring of your people and serving to you customers.
Spilt yourself up into self managed entities, work with partners, look for smart ways to achieve your purpose, that avoid the pitfalls of size.
Randomly choose 10-15 people from your organisation.
Ask them what their hobbies and interests are, then invest in them.
Buy them a day, an experience, something where they can go off for a day or two and immerse themselves in their passion.
Ok, it needs to be practical so maybe not a space flight!
When they return, run a session with them. Find out what they learnt, how it made them feel, who they met, how it developed them.
Then ask what, if any insight and ideas it gave them that could be applied in their working environment.
You might just be surprised by what you get.
Who is up for the challenge?
Change the way you view change.
We talk endlessly about change - getting people to accept it, agree to it, own it, deliver it, make it effective etc etc.
Let's change the way we look at change and stop trying to do the big things.
Focus on small change instead, build confidence, empowerment and a culture of change by making it a choice, accessible and do-able to all.
Choose a team, any team - ask them what small change they would like to make in the organisation or within their team.
Empower them to set the scope, shape the change and deliver it. Make sure the change is within their gift, actually doable and preferably not to big.
Build a culture of change through small steps of achievement, getting your people to drive the change and rewarding the success of it when they do.
Are you really doing what you do to the best of your ability?
Challenge of the day for leaders and managers. You don't need to make or sell 'funky' products & services to be a great organisation to work for. What matters is that you do what you do, to the best of your ability and that of all of your people.
Take the '8 point test', to see whether you are getting all of the potential out of all of your people including yourself.
1. how much of your time do you spend responding to complaints/issues as opposed to hearing about new ideas?
2. on average, how many applicants do you get for a job vacancy?
3. what is your attrition rate?
4. what is your sickness rates and do you understand what the main contributing factors are?
5. how much time do your people spend on doing their 'day' job as opposed to learning/development, team building and socialising/playing at work events?
6. Do you have any way of measuring/understanding how 'happy' your people are?
7. Describe your culture in 5 words and conduct a survey to see what % of your people agree or disagree with it.
8. Conduct another survey, ask your people to list their top 3 priorities in life - not at work but in life, thats really important. Analyse the results, work out how or if the organisation contributing to them?
Stop leading and start being.
All of my role models, without exception, have inspired, empowered and developed me, not by explicitly leading but by being.
Being with me, spending quality time with me - very often our meetings would purposely by away from the office so that the environment was 'classless' and I was free to talk about both professional and personal concerns and achievements.
They would often look at my work with me, give constructive feedback but always made me see and understand my true value.
They shared themselves with me - they were human too. We had a relationship, we had genuine respect for each other - they saw me, they heard me, they helped me to help myself and they let me into their world too.
So, leaders - open up, make relationships with people, empower them, mentor them, believe in them, trust them but most of all teach them to lead themselves.
For every person in an organisation - forget grade, seniority, experience or skills, just do this one small thing everyday, preferably to people you don't know that well or do not know at all .
Ask someone you are stood next too, sat next too, walking next to or within talking distance - "how are you today? how is life going?" When they answer, look at them, give them your full attention. Do not interrupt or start talking about yourself, just let them have their moment. Just as you will have yours when someone else returns the favour.
That's it - nothing complex or big just small, subtle changes to show people that you have seen them, heard them and care enough to ask about them.
Amazing the difference it will make to someone, somewhere.
Everyone has a story and behind that story lies the key to unlocking their true potential.
At an organisational level we focus on the superficial stuff - experience, jobs, education, skills etc. We need to get behind this, to really unpick the threads that lead to the passion, motivation and ultimately, the way to unlock that potential.
So, the challenge is to find a way to understand the person behind the CV.
What is their background, what are their hobbies, their passions, the things that really motivate them, what is really of value to them? Find a way to see the 'whole' of the person not just the part they think or you think that you need to see.
Consider changing your on-boarding process - take it outside, for a day or more not just hours. Make it about so much more than the role and the immediate team. Widen it to include people from across the organisation including leaders. Multi-task, use on-boarding as a way to have frequent, cross-function events and time out. Think outside of the box. The best way to get to know people is to spend quality time with them, not just when they start with you but throughout their time with you.
It is only the only way to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts
Start being a leader by showing your vulnerabilities, failings and weaknesses as well as your strengths, experience and skills.
Mark Manson writes this about Charles Bukowski, an German-American writer and poet, womaniser, alcoholic and gambler “The genius in Bukowski’s work was not in overcoming unbelievable odds or developing himself into a shining literary example. It was the opposite. It was his simple ability to be completely, unflinchingly honest with himself – especially the worst parts of himself – and to share his feelings without hesitation or doubt”.
Read his book and then think about what being a leader really means.
For me it's as much about showing your vulnerability and weaknesses as it is about your strengths and ability to make decisions.
True leadership is about inspiring me, igniting my passion and belief in a cause or goal, making me feel valued and but perhaps most of all, giving me the space and honesty to support you when you need me to.
Mental health is the number 1 threat to an organisations productivity.
Roughly half of the UK population are unhappy with their jobs. Management is seen as dis-connected and remote. Customer service is still a dream versus a reality. Organisations are judged on their ability to generate profit rather than meaningful value.
Not sounding like a particularly attractive proposition, right?
The solutions are part of human nature, they don't need to be invented. Let’s start with 5 basics and work from there:
1. Create meaningful goals with all of your people not just the senior leaders. Measure the success of your goals in value created not purely profit.
2. Put culture at the top of the agenda, create a senior role to ensure your organisation has a 'heart' and operates as a 'live community' not a hierarchical machine.
3. Physically and emotionally move management to sit, work and play with the wider organisation so they can both see and feel how it really is.
4. Bring back passion and self-motivation by creating space in people's day to play and be involved with something they love, link the creative output to what you do.
5. Create working space that is a destination you choose to go to not a prison you have to be in.
Change your destination - just change it.
This can happen in more ways than one.
Give your people the freedom to work from a place that plays to their strengths, put your roots as an organisation in a place that inspires and attracts people, set your goals to achieve a destination that you haven't been to before.
Get off the beaten track, discover the undiscovered location - if it hasn't got commuter links, make them. Use the enormous savings you make from not paying for over-priced, over-crammed offices to create alternative places of work with alternative models of work. Maybe it's one place, maybe it's more than one, maybe it's by the seaside, maybe it's in the countryside. The UK, in particular, is tiny compared to many countries, it is not that difficult to get 'out there' if you really want to.
Your workspace speaks volumes about your ethos and desire to embrace and care about your people.
Get off the beaten track and create a destination work space.
If you are a CEO, CIO, CFO, COO, Director, Manager or generally anyone with some power, influence or responsibility and have the desire and guts to see things done differently, then please use your influence to transform your organisation and try giving this a go.
Put your employees names in a hat (ok it may not be practical to do that for all employees depending on your size, geographical layout etc so take a pragmatic approach to this exercise), pull out 15-20 names at random. Employ an experienced, high-energy and alternative external facilitator. Get yourselves in a room with a view or in a place with a view (weather dependent) for a few of hours. Re-think your goals and 'raison d'etre' as an organisation. Do not allow constraints or boundaries, they can come later. Just allow yourselves to create with people who may a) not have worked together before b) not have been encouraged to create before and c) not ever have experienced being empowered within the organisation before.
See what comes out of the process. You might just surprise yourselves.
"No man is an island" This phrase expresses the idea that human beings do badly when isolated from others and need to be part of a community in order to thrive.
Leaders can often be isolated - sometimes by choice, sometimes by circumstances and sometimes because people just don't get to know them as they are not always accessible.
For anyone in a position of leadership your challenge today is to take 'all of you to work' and share that with your employees. Do they know your passions, your dislikes, anything about your life outside of your professional persona? Do they understand that you have great strengths but also areas you need help with? Get out there, talk to people, eat lunch with them, have a conversation, share stories, work next to them - find your common ground.
Bringing people together achieves far more than the individual parts - let your employees know that you are human too, let them in.
You might just be surprised by what you can achieve together.
Be honest with your employees, share your top 3 current management challenges, with everyone. Ask them to feedback on 3 areas:
1. Ideas they may have on how to address the challenges.
2. What they think would be required to deliver the solutions.
3. If their solution is progressed would they like to play a key role in taking it forward.
Ask everyone in the organisation no matter what their role level.
Creativity transcends boundaries. You might just find what you seek.
Three great questions for an organisation to be able to answer, succinctly and clearly.
1. What product would we be really proud of, that would create real value for people?
2. Can we do it?
3. If not, why not?
The critical test for how agile and open to change your organisation really is:
1. How many conversations do you need to have in order to do something differently?
2. How accessible are resources and funding for new ideas?
3. How many steps does it take to test and implement a new idea?
4. When you present your new ideas, how many negative, positive or constructive questions/ comments do you receive?
5. What percentage of your meetings on new ideas are spent on persuading, developing, testing or implementing?
In all honestly, I see lots of organisations philosophising about new concepts, being agile and embracing change but it remains EXCEPTIONAL to see those that actually ‘walk the talk’.
I was a young child, maybe 6 or 7 years old. We were on holiday in Wales. Two guys were arguing by the roadside - about a near miss between them. One of the guys flagged us down. My dad stopped. He wound down his window and one of the guys said to my dad "can you help me please as I'm sure he is going to hit me". My dad instinctively went to help, my mum held him back. She said, "you can't get involved, we have 4 young children in the back of the car". My dad hesitated, torn between doing what he instinctively wanted to do and my mum holding his arm, begging him to drive on. He drove on. I'm not sure he ever forgave himself for that. I don't know what happened to the guys and neither do I know whether my parents called the police when we got to our destination. I never raised it as I instinctively knew that it would make my dad feel bad. To this day, I do not know who was wrong and who was right. I just learned that sometimes in life, tough decisions have to be made and they don't always make you feel good about yourself. That's it.
This is the view that I get up to every morning - along with ducks, chickens, dogs, rabbits and, of course, kids. This is why I no longer earn a 6 figure salary and jump with joy when I find Aldi selling a Jo Malone like product for £2.79. Value can be experienced in many ways, the size of a salary is just one of them. And yes I know that bills still have to be paid and food put on the table but there are different ways of achieving this. When I earned 6 figures, I employed an army of people to help me - I needed approx £4k per month just to keep the show on the road at home. I didn't have a relationship with the people who kept the 'show on the road', I wrote them long 'to-do' lists everyday. I didn't really know my children as I saw so little of them. And I couldn't work out why I felt so empty when I 'had so much'. But of course, it was like filling up on sugar - I was consuming empty calories. My work no longer inspired me, there was no real purpose to it other than to generate money and that was soulless and soul destroying. The point to this post is that we have to have a purpose, something that makes our hearts sing. Sometimes that means a 6 figure salary and sometimes it doesn't. That is not the measure of success having a purpose is.
I was in Nottingham shopping with my 7 year old daughter. As we walked towards the entrance of the shopping centre we saw a man shouting and wielding a needle. He was shouting "if anyone comes near me I will stab them with this needle, it is infected with Hep C". People were scared, they steered clear of him. But I saw him, I saw someone who was beyond desperate. No-one would have gone near him with or without that needle. He was shouting for help. I asked the security guards whether they had contacted the police, they had not. So, I called the police. I said to the operator "come quickly, he may hurt someone or himself, he is desperate". I couldn't go over to help him, I had my daughter with me. I had to make a safe decision. But neither was I going to leave him there at risk to others and himself. The police arrived within minutes, calmed him down and then arrested him. I was asked to be a witness. Despite there being hundreds of people walking past that day, I was the only one that called the police. I was the only one who asked what would happen to him. I was the only one who provided a statement - because I wanted him to receive help with his drug addiction and this was the only way. When did we stop 'seeing' people?
A true story that changed me for the better. I was 13 years old. I was forced to make new friends as my old ones had deserted me (oh the fickleness of youth!!).
I tried to hang out with a new group, but one boy in particular was having none of it. When I asked him why, he said "because you are not very nice to people." Harsh but fair at the time. The group that I had just been ostracised from, was the 'cool' group, who generally treated others outside of that group with disdain.
That boy set me a challenge. He said "when you are nice to people, you can hang out with us." And so I set about being nice to people. Eventually I got to hang out with that group. The boy became one of my closest friends. He was one of the few people at school who truly understood mortality and had an adult perspective on life - his mother was dying of cancer.
He saved me from being someone I wouldn't have liked and was not meant to be. I learnt that being able to face and accept honest feedback can sometimes be difficult but necessary. I also learnt that life takes courage and means you need to be able to take the knocks, but that doesn't need to take away the kindness that lies within.
My first leadership lesson, inspired by that boy.
A true story that moved me on.
I was 18 years old. I used to hang out with my mates at a place called 'Brisbane Court' on a Friday night. We had nowhere else to go as the Youth Club was closed.
One night the police came and told us to move on. The residents had complained, we were too noisy. "But where to?" we asked. The police replied "just move on."
So the next Monday night we told the story to our youth leaders. We asked them to open the Youth Club for more nights. They said there was no funding available. But one youth leader thought for a moment and then said "but there are no rules to stop you running the club as volunteers."
And so we did. We created a committee, we opened our own business account, we went on a team building weekend, we successfully ran our youth club every Friday night for over a year.
No one else ever did this again. I received a National Youth Award for it.
Looking back I now realise that this was my first taste of being a leader and I loved it. I loved it because I love people - I love being with them, laughing with them, crying with them, seeing them develop and being there for them when I'm needed.
And I learnt that being a good leader was really all about two things: loving being with and caring for people.
It might appear bizarre, morbid or arrogant to write your own Eulogy. Even so, I've had a go at mine, to give me something to work back from while I'm still in a position to actually do something about it.
Life is a tricky programme to plan, you don't have a 'go-dead' date or pre-agreed milestones.
It's a lesson in 'organic planning', setting a direction, mapping a course, being brave enough to allow the programme to evolve and agile enough to respond to the unknowns. You need to test your outcomes quickly, identify and ditch the failed ones and implement the successful ones like your life depended on it - as it may well.
In the final analysis, when the programme ends and it's review time, there are 6 key things I would love someone to be able to say:
1. She loved and was loved unconditionally
2. She responded to adversity with courage, resilience and care
3. She identified and admitted her weaknesses and failings without doubt or fear of judgement
4. She took responsibility for her actions and the impact they had on others
5. Whenever she got knocked down by life, she got back up and tried again
6. She extended the hand of kindness and genuinely cared
And there is my strategic plan for the rest of my life.
Inspired by my dad
I am one of the many 1,000's of women who stepped of the career ladder to focus on their families. But now I've returned, the children are getting older, my brain aches for stimulation and I am bursting with ideas - although sadly not energy whilst I move slowly through the menopause. Even so, my brain works perfectly well whether resting or working. In all honesty my career break has enabled me to learn more than when I actually worked. I want to inspire and help move the world of organisational transformation on - to deliver truly effective change. But make no mistake, I'm still a mum and homemaker - these roles will always be my top priority. I have no desire to return to a 60 hour working week, build an empire or be that important. I just want to use my brain, to do what I do well, without compromising the very heart of me - my family. I don't think that this requirement is gender specific nor only for parents. I think that this is just a basic need that we all have to make the very best of our lives. We are in the midst of the Fourth Revolution - we are looking at how to create life on Mars, surely we can create a more meaningful way to work? I believe that we make our own reality, anyone interested in joining mine?
I'm a 46 year old, menopausal woman who has recently returned to work after being a stay at home mum for the last few years. I'm not done with my career yet, in fact I'm just starting and I've learnt a few things along the way:
1. Motherhood does not have to be the end of your career. Taking time out, becoming a mother allowed me to discover parts of me that I did not even know existed. It developed my logistical and multi-tasking skills to a whole new level and allowed me to return to my career more focused, more creative and with a much clearer purpose. You know what, I think that everyone should take time out, it's critical to make space, to think new thoughts and discover new parts of you
2. The menopause is crap but it makes you focus on your health, create time to rest and set some much needed boundaries
3. Grief can break you but then you get back up, truly understand your mortality and start to focus on what matters
4. Being a good parent is so hard it's untrue, no work challenge comes close so everything becomes achievable
5. Age is liberating, you learn not give too many fxck's (brilliant phrase Mark Manson), finally acquire some wisdom and ditch the ego.
Seize the day, it's never too late to be who you are meant to be.
I used to be the classic entrepreneur.
I had a successful business. But it was all consuming, with no time left for my family.
It was based on 'rocky' foundations. I told myself it was my passion, but the reality was, it was all about my ego. I hadn't got the promotion I wanted at work, so I set up my own business instead - to show everyone just how great I was and to heal the dent in my armour.
That ego drove me to employee people, rather than stick with a more effective associate model, pay for expensive offices, so we 'looked' the part and waste resources, by travelling first class. The financial crash came, our reserves disappeared. I had to make people redundant. close the posh offices and travel economy. I had to swallow my pride, deflate the ego and get real.
I took a career break afterwards - to lick my wounds and face some truths.
I have now returned.
I guess you would still call me an entrepreneur - I love to create and follow my instinct.
But it's different this time. Their is no room for ego, entitlement, first class travel or posh offices.
I'm only interested in being intellectually stimulated and making the world a better place, by showing up and owning up as me, each and everyday, so we can define a more true and sustainable reality for us all.
A true story that stopped me.
It was year end, performance review time. I had been allocated a new counsellor, he didn't know me nor did he really want to. He came out of the year end review process and presented me with an average rating, no bonus and no shot at promotion. This was the first time in my whole career that I had not received a top performance rating. To say I was gutted was an understatement.
Another counsellor took over my career to stop this happening again and to keep me from leaving. The next year I got the top rating, the bonus and a shot at promotion.
But I was bitter with a dented ego. I didn't get that promotion - not because I wasn't good enough but because I was arrogant and rude. I felt that I was owed the promotion for the cock-up the previous year. I took my 'bat and ball' home and handed in my notice.
All of my bad decisions in life have been driven by 3 things: a sense of entitlement - I have earned this, an over-inflated ego - I am more than good enough for this and a lack of humility - I should have this.
The reality was that I was hurt - my hard work had been ignored and I felt under-valued. Best to be honest with yourself and others about how you really feel or you might end up being arrogant and rude to.
A true story that moved me on. At the tender age of 22 years old I found myself in a crap job, bored senseless and earning a pittance. I saw an advert for a job in Nottingham. It sounded exciting - business consultants required, minimum 5 years experience, performance management skills essential, salary tbc. I had no experience and I met none of the requirements listed. But I wanted that job so I applied anyway. My letter started like this “Dear Sir, I am genuinely excited by the opportunity you are advertising. I do not meet any of the requirements you have specified but I can offer the following.......” The CE was so impressed by my courage he decided to interview me. After the interview he said “you are high risk, inexperienced and not what we were looking for but I love your personality and spirit. You are me 30 years ago”. I got that job, it was the first day of the rest of my life. Within 2 years I was running the largest department within the business. Thank goodness for leaders like this, who are brave enough to take a chance and confident enough to trust their gut instinct.
A true story that moved me on. I was 18 years old. I sailed through my GCSEs so expected the same with my A ‘Levels. Silly me, I virtually failed them. There was no sympathy to be had at home – I’d spent the last 2 years partying, snogging, smoking and drinking. My dad said “well you get out of it what you put in and you have got out of it what you put in”. Harsh but true. So, what to do. I was rearing to go, another year to re-sit my A Levels was highly unattractive and not going to University was unthinkable. My dreams of attending Liverpool University and becoming a World Class Barrister were no longer within my grasp. Instead, I got the UCAS hand book and my parents telephone and shut myself in our lounge for 2 solid days. I started at 'A' and worked my way through every University in the UK asking for a place on a course – any course, anywhere. I arrived at T when I hit the jackpot. A place on a new degree course at Teesside University – International Business and Information Technology (IBIT). I took it in a flash. I made it to University, I transferred in my final year to Leeds Met and graduated with a 2:1 BA Hons in Business Information Management. Sometimes you just have to play the odds and hope you get lucky once in a while.
A true story that moved me on.
It was my big shot in the city. Working for a boutique consultancy and developing new services. Being part of the leadership team. Selling directly to clients. I had made it.
But it wasn't to last. The company lost a large client. They tried to replace them but to no avail. Initially we all took a 20% pay cut to weather the storm. Then we all moved to associate roles where you only got paid if you were working on fee earning work.
I was one of those few. But it was too soon for me to be self employed. I wasn't ready to go it alone. I was still learning my trade and needed a structure and mentors around me.
I took action and contacted head hunting agencies. Within 2 weeks I had an interview and 24 hours later a job offer.
When I told my boss he was charming despite being in a position where his dreams lay in taters. He said to me " That organisation will help you see how good your really are and give you the confidence you need to grow". He was right, my next job was the pivotal phase in my career - they developed and empowered me. Ultimately, they enabled me to become the entrepreneur I was always meant to be.
Sometimes you need to 'roll with the punches' and see where it takes you.
Inspired by @Joe Zizza
A true story that challenged me.
I was 13 years old. I had been away for 3 weeks visiting my sister in Gibraltar.
Immediately upon getting home from the airport, I ran to the school gates to greet my friends. I had missed them and I was full of exciting stories to share with them. The 'ring leader' of our gang came out of the gates - beautiful, tall and so very popular, we all wanted to be her.
I shouted her name and ran over, she ignored me. The rest of the gang walked out, they ignored me too. I ran after them all the way home - asking, pleading, begging to know what I had done, to be ostracized in this way. I was simply met with blank, stony faces. I went home sobbing.
I was 'sent to Coventry' for months. I never found out why. I established new relationships with new friends. It was hard work and lonely. The new friends were wary of me at first - after all I had been in the 'gang' who basically took the piss out of them.
My heart was broken that day, but it mended. I learnt what true friends looked like and I learnt that the only place of real safety is inside yourself.
Those skills have stood me in good stead my whole life. Look for the authenticity in people and if you can trust in yourself then others will too.
Inspired by Johnny Reinsch again!! Thanks Johnny
I was 10 years old. They were selecting players for the school netball team. I wanted to be on that team. At the trials I got told that there was only one place left and there were two of us that wanted it. We were told to share the position, playing one half of each match until the teacher decided who was good enough. The first match came, I waited patiently on the sidelines. Half time came and went, I was not brought on. I spent the whole of the match stood on the sides lines, stifling my sobs of disappointment and hurt. Afterwards when I told the teacher, tears of disappointment rolling down my cheeks, she said "well you should have said something". So after that I did. I spoke through my actions. I played netball every day and played every match like my life depended on it. I got the place on the netball team and then the hockey team and then the swimming team. But that experience never left me, the realisation of how easily we can be forgotten and how casually our disappointment and hurt dismissed. I learnt to respond with action, competence and resilience. That stood me in good stead for many years but it cost me my 'gentleness' and took away my trust and that was sad. Inspired by Kath Knight and Brené Brown