The first proper piece of career advice I got was from my Father just before I started my first job.
I was 16 years old, and about to start working as a glass-collector in the local golf club where my Father was an active member.
The Bar Steward, Mr Jones, was a notoriously abrasive man, and I think my Father sensed trouble. Mr Jones was hard work, but he wasn’t the only one: I was an awkward argumentative know-all with all the social skills of a wasp at a picnic.
To him, and to most people I suspect, I looked like I was aloof or arrogant, but actually it was more about my lack of self-confidence and my social clumsiness. My personality is the sort that doesn’t do small talk and doesn’t crave human company for the sake of it, and this means it’s all too easy for me to stumble, as a bull may stumble its way through a china shop, when faced with uncomfortable social settings.
Continue reading “Don’t flick switches if you don’t know what they do”
Leaders are constantly being told about the importance of being authentic, and then being taught lists of key things that great leaders do.
They’re told to have vision, to lead “tribes”, or “be up to something”, and be passionate about what they want to achieve, to engage with people authentically and at the same time to apply prescriptive models and theories to inspire people and empower them to deliver results.
For all the breathy appeals to individual authenticity, training is often based on leadership techniques that mean asking leaders to behave in an inauthentic way.
When I train people on these skills and behaviours, I am often challenged about this tension between being authentic and true to oneself on the one hand, and using behavioural models and leadership skills on the other.
How can I be me, yet behave in a way that is not me?
Many answers to this question feel wishy-washy and undermine the inspiring message of developing the self, or they let aspiring leaders off the hook, letting them get away with not developing skills that are unnatural to their personality type.
Continue reading “YouPlus: authentic(ish) leadership”
All you need to do to create a group is get some individual people and shove them together.
There is no additional ingredient required, no further information, just a bunch of individual people … and yet when that group forms, it is quite different from the sum of the individual parts.
The individuals within the group are different animals than when they’re on their own, they have different needs and will tend to try to satisfy those needs in different ways.
William Schutz came up with the Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation (FIRO) theory (way back in 1958) to look at this very question.
Seeing as most training is done in groups, I wanted to see how this applies to training and what specific concrete tools we can use to help with the group-identification needs of training delegates.
Continue reading “Social learning: three things we need when learning in groups”
Overly masculine leadership styles are under siege like never before these days. Yesterday’s hard driving, high achiever with a sense of urgency and a ruthless streak has just two options – change or take cover.
(Mitch McCrimmon in How to Tame the Alpha Male Leader)
OK, I may not be the best barometer on this one, but I reckon there are few things more annoying in the workplace than other people trying to dominate and control.
It drives me nuts.
I don’t like being told what to do at the best of times, but least of all by an egomaniac enthralled with the cult of their own personality.
I am talking about the workplace alpha: an individual who needs to dominate and control other people at work.
That’s my definition, not the official one.
Continue reading “The (overdue) death of the (unreformed) alpha”
According to Daniel Levinson, I’m in a transitional phase.
In his theory of life structure, adulthood isn’t just one big blob of stability between childhood and old age, it’s a phased period with islands of stability separated by chunks of transition.
I’m in one of those chunks.
I’m in the “midlife transition“. This happens to people my age, people forced to tick the 40-45 age bracket on forms. Sometimes the word “transition” is changed to “crisis” when discussing this phase.
Continue reading “Leadership in a time of (midlife) crisis”