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A leader’s most important job

A leader’s most important job

Discovery leaders explore new ways. New business and markets are created because someone found a better way to do something. Discovery is an adventure. Imagination, design and creativity are the lexicons of discovery. It is fleet of foot, nimble and athletic. Discovery is where value is born, nurtured and grown.

If discovery leadership results in success, delivery leaders follow, most certainly if the business takes on outside investors. The delivery leader’s job is to make business more efficient, more rational and take the costs out of it. Numbers and accounting is the language delivery leaders. Delivery is where value is extracted.

Getting more efficient is seductive; it’s targetable, quantifiable and delivers quick results. But as the delivery strengthens, it overwhelms the discovery gene, pins it down and mutes discovery’s voice. The discovery muscles grow weak, untrained and unfit. Then business wakes up one day asking the question: How come we don’t know how to compete any more?

The most important role of the leader is as chief discovery officer, because that is where the value is created.

Financial success is a by-product. Leadership’s aim should be to focus on competitive advantage. The leader’s job should be to get the company ready for the future, keep the discovery gene fit, well trained and amplify its voice.

Protecting discovery by understanding what matters for customers and community. Explore new ideas, experiment, fail fast and tell stories of the future that inspire people –  The French poet and explorer Antoine de Saint-Exupery  said, “If you want to build a flotilla of ships, you don’t sit around talking about carpentry. No, you need to set people’s souls ablaze with visions of exploring distant shores.” – that’s your job.

Discovery, that’s how to be a successful leader, that’s your most important job.

 

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The Mindfulness Circle

Mindfulness CircleConceptually understanding the Cycle of Self is key to maximizing our potential.  It explains our “why”. Why we believe what we believe, why we think what we think, and why we do what we do.  We can leverage Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle to help illustrate the “why”, “how” and “what” of mindfulness.  Simply put, Sinek’s Golden Circle is based on the principle that great leaders take an inside out approach.  Starting with the “why”, then the “how”, before getting to the “what”. More commonly leaders focus on the “what”, which does not motivate or inspire us to act.  The “what” informs people with rational, logical information but it is the “why” that ignites purpose, emotion and instincts that motivate us to act.

By applying the same inside out approach to ourselves we can mindfully design our life experiences.  Starting with our “self”, then tuning into our “awareness”, before trying to “change” ourselves.  Most of us set goals to change or add habits without understanding why our habits exist.  Few of us examine what false beliefs we have that are keeping us stuck.  Trying to change ourselves without understanding our motivations assumes we are rational and logical, but the fact of the matter is we are not.  We are human first.  That is why most New Years resolutions fail, along with all the other attempts we make to start or stop our habits.

My last post examined “self”.  But how do we move beyond conceptually understanding the significant of self?  We do this through “awareness”.  Awareness is tricky business.  It has cyclical complexities similar to the Self Cycle.  It takes discipline to become and remain aware and it takes kindness to ourselves to own ourselves with empathy and without judgement.  And we need to accept ourselves as we are, unconditionally, with the discipline to pay attention to when we act on our false beliefs.  And when we do, we must be kind to ourselves.  Meditation, yoga, golf, walking; essentially any activity that brings us closer to nature and our spirit will help us mindfully navigate through awareness.

Then as we become aware of the parts of self that do not serve us, the parts that get in the way of what we want, we can begin to explore how to create meaningful change in our life.  Our “self” + “awareness” will inspire our intent.  And our intent will take lots of practice.  Quite frankly we will fail (many times) before we succeed.  Which is why we need to reward ourselves each every time we succeed.  This will reinforce the value of our new habit(s). We must keep reminding ourselves or our intent, with discipline, kindness and acceptance, trusting our beliefs and thoughts will design the experiences we desire.

This journey will feel a lot like taming a wild horse.  We need to have patience with the parts of ourselves that like to run free, fast and wild.  But we will also need focus and concentration to  have the discipline to resist distractions that are not aligned with our beliefs and intentions.  This is a life long journey, not a destination.

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The Self Cycle

July 16, 2014 dawna Change, Leadership, Strategy No Comments

self cycleI like taking notice of the patterns of my thoughts.  It’s not coincidence that my thoughts draw me towards experiences that reflect my thoughts.  Which also means that what I think about , both consciously and subconsciously, shape my experiences.  So why then would I ever entertain thoughts of fear and insecurity knowing that I would be manifesting experiences to reflect my worries? To answer this we need to first explore what shapes our thoughts.  Our thoughts are a  reflection of our beliefs and each and every one of us have numerous false beliefs that can sabotage our mindset.  Our false beliefs usually reveal themselves through our biases and irrational choices.   And our beliefs are mostly shaped by our life stories which in turn develop from the beliefs we form from our previous experiences… which are formed by our thoughts, which are formed by our beliefs.  The cyclical nature of this is what forms our patterns of thought. It’s a challenging cycle to deconstruct and change.  If we focus on awareness of our beliefs and ensuring they are aligned with truth and our core values then we can begin to re-architect our thoughts, including our thoughts about our past experiences.

Patterns of thoughts are reaffirming which then strengthens their hold on us.  This reoccurrence becomes our comfort zone, even if it is a negative pattern, the familiarity of it feels comfortable.  This is the nature of being human.  The challenge is to both embrace being human and to develop the self awareness to grow beyond the limitations of our patterns.  A big part of this is becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable by challenging and mindfully choosing our beliefs.  I would like to propose that there is nothing more important than developing our self awareness.  The fact of the matter is that the only thing in the way of what we want in life is ourselves.

The affects of this are pervasive.  The most challenging pattern I see with every company and leader I work with is the lack of recognition that the biggest thing in their way is themselves.  Companies are made up of humans and it is our collective beliefs, thoughts and experiences that shape our ability to prosper.  Smart leaders recognize this and invest in self awareness for themselves and their associates.  There is no more powerful competitive advantage than self awareness.  I dream of a world where kids are explicitly taught about self awareness both at home and at school.  A world where companies explicitly invest in developing the self awareness of their leaders and associates.  And my dream is more attainable that you might think.  You do not need to be a leader to be a part of making this happen, you just need to begin to invest in your own self awareness and encourage others to do the same, it really is that simple.

“Be the change you want to see in the world” Gandhi

 

 

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The greatest challenge facing the future of business, requires your attention now.

The greatest challenge facing the future of business, requires your attention now.

Peter Menzel, is an award winning photographer, takes photographs of people posing next to their possessions taken out of their home and piled high on the pavements. The pictures paint a vividly clear picture – we live in a Material World, also the name of his book. You do not need to look at the pictures for long before it becomes clear that around the world, the industrial system has been immensely successful. Our parent’s parents bought into the system, our parents bought into the system and so have we because it has given or promised to give us a lot of cheap stuff. But here is the catch; whilst capitalism has served us enormously well – it has helped reduce property, improved standards of living around the globe, there are a number of perversions and the system  come at an enormous cost: unsustainable levels of public and private debt, excessive consumerism, and, way, too many people who are left behind. As Paul Poleman explains in a recent Mckinsey article: “Any system that prevents large numbers of people from fully participating or excludes them altogether will ultimately be rejected. And that’s what you see happening. People are asking, “What are we doing here?”

The facts of the situation are alarming:

  • we currently use is 1.5 times the world’s resource capacity.
  • Over a billion people still go to bed hungry.
  • The richest 85 people have the same wealth as the bottom 3.5 billion.

None of this is sustainable. If the post industrial capitalist system does not change itself it will be changed through the power of protest. Just because we are living in the 21st Century does not mean that the power of protest will not result in another “French Revolution.” As digitisation and the Internet give consumers enormous abilities to connect and aggregate their voices,  we will see the impact of power being dispersed and the pressure in the system will rise while wealth remains concentrated. Further development and population growth will put a lot more pressure on our planet and more and more people will ask why so few do so well when so many suffer. We are sitting on a powder keg of disruption like no other ever seen in the history of our planet.

Addressing the perversions of capitalism needs to become a strategic priority for all companies. Virginia Rometty, the Chairman of IBM cucintley puts it in her message to shareholders “How will we engage with an emerging global culture, defined not by age or geography, but by people determined to change the practices of business and society?”

I believe this is the single biggest threat facing the world of business today. By 2035, a single person, through a bio-pathegen will have the ability to end it all. But that should not be the motivating principle to find a solution. Capitalism on the whole is a very good system, but it can be made better and in doing so business can make a lot of money and society can prosper. So, I’m on a quest, to change the future of capitalism. It’s a big quest, and ideological one but it is a quest worth fighting for. Let me make this clear, I am a capitalist, it is a system I believe in, but…and this is a big BUT, capitalism needs to change if it is to be the relevant economic system propelling economic growth and prosperity into the future. I fear for society if it does not. But there is good news on the horizon because increasingly a number of hard nose business leaders and successful businesses are positioning themselves for the changes that will redefine capitalism as we know it. We are entering an exciting time and whilst there will be naysayers and people who want to protect the current status-quo I’m optimistic that business leaders will find solutions. Want proof? Here’s a starter-for-ten. Unilever chief executive Paul Polman explains why capitalism must evolve, his company’s efforts to change, and how business leaders are critical to solving intractable problems.

 

 

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Three ways to deal with failure, by Seth Godin

April 10, 2014 Graeme Codrington Change, Innovation, Leadership, Personal Development No Comments
Three ways to deal with failure, by Seth Godin

Seth Godin is one of my favourite authors and business thinkers. I find his daily blog inspirational and insightful.

Here’s one from a while ago that has really stuck with me. I think Seth is spot on with this insight, and it could really help you to deal with failure and think about your corporate culture.

Accuracy, resilience and denial


… three ways to deal with the future.

Accuracy is the most rewarding way to deal with what will happen tomorrow–if you predict correctly. Accuracy rewards those that put all their bets on one possible outcome. The thing is, accuracy requires either a significant investment of time and money, or inside information (or luck, but that’s a different game entirely). Without a reason to believe that you’ve got better information than everyone else, it’s hard to see how you can be confident that this is a smart bet.

Resilience is the best strategy for those realistic enough to admit that they can’t predict the future with more accuracy than others. Resilience isn’t a bet on one outcome, instead, it’s an investment across a range of possible outcomes, a way to ensure that regardless of what actually occurs (within the range), you’ll do fine.

And denial, of course, is the strategy of assuming that the future will be just like today.

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People connect with a sense of purpose, says Markus Kramer

People connect with a sense of purpose, says Markus Kramer

In this Video, TomorrowToday associate, international keynote speaker and ex-marketing director of Aston Martin, Markus talks about the importance of companies having a purpose that is appealling and relevant for their target market. Without an applicable purpose you can not win the hearts and minds of your customers.

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The four horsemen of mediocrity, by Seth Godin

January 30, 2014 Graeme Codrington Change, Leadership, Organisational Development, The workplace No Comments
The four horsemen of mediocrity, by Seth Godin

Seth Godin’s blog today is superb. He is identified four key reasons that employees are disengaged, that productivity is declining or stagnant, and that companies struggle to innovate and develop.

The four horsemen of mediocrity

by Seth Godin

Deniability–“They decided, created, commanded or blocked. Not my fault.”

Helplessness–“My boss won’t let me.”

Contempt–“They don’t pay me enough to put up with the likes of these customers.”

Fear–“It’s good enough, it’s not worth the risk, people will talk, this might not work…”

The industrial age brought compliance and compliance brought fear and fear brought us mediocrity.

The good news about fear is that once you see it, feel it and dance with it, you have a huge opportunity, the chance to make it better.

Source: Seth Godin

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The Year of the Employee: Forbes’ predictions for 2014 talent, leadership and HR tech

The Year of the Employee: Forbes’ predictions for 2014 talent, leadership and HR tech

Ian Turner, one of Duke CE’s top MD’s and leadership development programme experts gets credit for finding this interesting article and sending it on to me. There are some fascinating thoughts in Deloittes’ predictions for 2014, published in Forbes, as they suggest that this will be an important year for talent, leadership and HR.

Read the full article here.

As they point out, based on a Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends survey they’re just completing, “the top two people issues facing organizations in 2014 are leadership and retention. These are the problems we face in a dynamic, growing global economy…. This year, for the first time in more than five years, employees are in charge. Companies have reduced costs, restructured, rationalized spending, and pushed people to work harder than ever. More than 60% of organizations tell us one of their top is dealing with “the overwhelmed employee. This year the power will shift: high-performing employees will start to exert control.”

Their top ten predictions are:

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Booz & Co’s Strategy+Business Best Business Blogs of 2013

Booz & Co’s Strategy+Business Best Business Blogs of 2013

The editor of Booz & Co’s Strategic+Business magazine and blog site selected his favourite business blogs of 2013. I like this list a lot – there’s some really valuable articles here. It’s an eclectic list, but well worth taking some time to read through and share with your team:

Susan Cramm: Retaining Top Talent: Yes, It Really Is All about Them
If you want to retain your high-potential employees, you have to get involved in helping them plan their careers.

Ken Favaro: Is Strategy Fixed or Variable?
Successful strategists understand that their role is to manage a process fraught with contradictions.

Sally Helgesen: The Three Habits of Highly Effective Demotivators
Surefire tips for stamping out morale and making sure you get the least out of your employees.

Nick Hodson and Thom Blischok: What if Clay Christensen Is Right about the Grocery Business (and Amazon Is Wrong)?
The disruptive influences of e-commerce may finally be setting their sights on the grocery industry.

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Five New Year’s Resolutions Every Leader Should Make (HBR Blog)

As we head into a new year, an article on the Harvard Business Review blog network caught my eye. It went beyond those pithy list type emails and Facebook status updates you get at this time of year, with some real insight backed by research. The focus is on five key actions leaders can take to make a real difference in their organisations, especially with regards to talent development.

We all know how vital talent development is: finding, attracting, nurturing, developing and retaining talent are absolutely key to success in the world of work right now. More than ever before. The author of this article in HBR, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, correctly argues though that the emphasis at the moment should be on DIVERSE TALENT. A good talent pool is not enough: a good, diverse talent pool is essential. This is especially true for multinational companies. You can read her full article with all the additional research included (it’s worth well it!) at the HBR blog site here, or a summary of her five leadership actions below:

1. Be more inclusive. What does it take to consistently drive growth and innovation? The answer, according to CTI’s latest research, is a diverse workforce managed by leaders who cherish difference, embrace disruption, and foster a speak-up culture. Leaders have long recognized that an inherently diverse workforce “matches the market” and confers a competitive edge by recognizing the unmet needs of consumers and clients like themselves. But ideas from outliers too often are ignored or squelched because their originators don’t resemble the paradigms of corporate power — Caucasian, male, heterosexual, and from a similar educational and socioeconomic background. Leaders who promote a culture of diverse talent — whether in their team or throughout their organization — where everyone feels free to volunteer opinions or propose solutions that contradict convention unlock the full spectrum of innovative capacity.

2. Create pathways for sponsorship. What can help talented women, gays, and people of color spread their wings and succeed? The answer is sponsorship — a strategic workplace partnership between those with power and those with potential. Unlike mentors, who act as sympathetic sounding boards, sponsors are people in positions of power who work on their protégé’s behalf to clear obstacles, foster connections, assign higher-profile work to ease the move up the ranks, and provide aircover and support in case of stumbles. Sponsors have a significant impact on the career traction of their female and multicultural protégés: 68% of women with sponsors say they are satisfied with their rate of advancement, compared with 57% of those without sponsors; 53% of sponsored African-Americans and 55% of Asians are satisfied with their career progress, compared with, respectively, 35% and 30%. Those numbers add up to employees who are more committed, more engaged, and more likely to attract similar talent.

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How to be a better leader – practical steps and exercises

December 12, 2013 Graeme Codrington Leadership No Comments
How to be a better leader – practical steps and exercises

Last month, our colleague in South Africa, Keith Coats, started a series of blog entries aimed at helping people become better leaders. He has labelled the series “how to be future fit” and is providing daily, practical tools and exercises that will help you shift towards being an adaptive leader, ready for success in turbulent times.

If you missed the start of the series, don’t worry: you can begin any time. It is designed to give you 5 to 10 minutes of reflection, some activities and a little work in order to help you develop your leadership skills. You can start now by going back to the first leadership skill and working through all the entries thus far. We recommend you pace yourself and do no more than one per day.

Use this end of year season wisely to take a step up in your leadership ability. The list of entries thus far can be found below (we will keep it updated, so this is a good index for you).

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Humble Inquiry: The art of asking questions and why it’s a crucial leadership discipline

Humble Inquiry: The art of asking questions and why it’s a crucial leadership discipline

“If you leave today asking more questions than I give you answers, then I will consider today’s session a success” says Dr Graeme Codrington, TomorrowToday’s founding and international partner during his presentation on The TIDES of Change.

An important leadership skill during times of turbulence and relentless change is the ability to ask important questions – Questions that shift organisations and if not shift organisations shift the important conversations in organisations. However, the art of asking questions is a rarely used leadership skill and one that needs to be learnt, it’s that important for success in the connection economy, that we’d encourage every leader to spend time every day reflecting on the questions they should be asking rather than the actions they should be taking.  Leaders have been taught to tell, taught to command. But in today’s fast paced, complex, volatile, interconnected world hierarchy means nothing. Technology and the flow of information now means that anyone anywhere could have vital information that could mean the difference between success or failure. By telling and not asking you would never know. The free flow of information and the ability to motivate and inspire people to act by asking questions is crucial. Command and control shuts down the conversation, it makes people feel inferior and locks out the view of what they may be seeing and what you may be missing.

Personally the skill of asking important questions has probably been the most important lesson I’ve learnt this year. I have Prof Nick Barker t, one of our associates to thank for that. We were discussing some of the aspects of TIDES (our frameworks on the impact of disruptive forces) that we deliver and we got onto talking about the imprtance of asking questions rather than telling. It was profoundly simple and powerful concept at the same time. It’s not an easy skill to master, but by thinking carefully it’s a skill I aim to master in 2014.

So when I came across Ed Schein’s book titled Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling I immediately downloaded it onto my Kindle. Booz & Co also lists this book as one of its Best Business Books for 2013

Humble Inquiry builds the kinds of positive, trusting, balanced relationships that encourage honest and open interactions in both our professional and personal lives. Schein defines Humble Inquiry as “the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.” In this seminal work he explores the concept of humility, looks at how Humble Inquiry differs from other kinds of inquiry, offers examples of Humble Inquiry in action in many different settings, and shows how to overcome the cultural, organizational and psychological barriers that keep us from practicing it This is a major new contribution to how we see human dynamics and relationships, presented in a compact, personal, eminently practical way.

I’m looking forward to reading this book and will share insights as I do, evidently it is packed with great practical examples, my reading over christmas is sorted! :-)

 

 

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Primary Blog contributors

The main contributors to this blog are:

Dr Graeme Codrington, co-founder of TomorrowToday, author, speaker and expert on the changing world of work
Dean van Leeuwen, co-founder and CEO of TomorrowToday UK & Europe, speaker, consultant and Chief Intellectual Adventurer
Keith Coats, co-founder of TomorrowToday South Africa, leadership development guru, speaker and author
Professor Nick Barker, director of the Asia Pacific Leadership Program at the East-West Center in Hawaii, leadership development expert
Markus Kramer, marketing director for Aston Martin and brand building expert
Keith Holdt, Visionary Enabler of business growth and change, currently works for LDC as an investment executive.
Dil Sidhu, Chief External Officer, Manchester Business School; Executive education specialist.
Dawna MacLean, expert on fostering meaningful change and creating authentic experiences through transparent and trusted partnerships.

Click here for a full list of contributors


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