Spark the Change

It is not so much a funny old world – more that we live in curious, challenging and exponentially changing times. It’s a time where the UK working population is about 38 million, and of these only about 6 million would answer “Yes” to the question “Are you engaged at work?” Around 32 million working people in this country today do not feel a strong positive connection to their work and are unlikely to be making a positive contribution! In fact, some 10 million people are “actively disengaged,” unhappy and unproductive at work and liable to spread negativity to co-workers. In 2016, job satisfaction in the UK has hit a 2 year low. Recent figures published by the Chartered Institute of Personal Development, a professional HR body, showed that almost one in four workers are looking to leave their jobs because of the failure of managers to engage and retain staff.

So is it any surprise then that stress, depression or anxiety account for over 11 million working days lost each year?

It is a time in which only one in eight of the original Fortune 500 companies are still up and running – and these are continuing to drop like flies. Not only that, new competitors are emerging from nowhere – competitors that no one saw coming that are taking away our customers. It’s a time when the majority of large corporations fail to achieve even modest growth in sales and revenue, despite having really detailed strategic plans with much higher targets. And in those same organisations, 95% of their employees are unaware of, or do not understand, its strategy.
So what is it like trying to be a leader today?

Well, our expectations of leaders has never been higher and yet our tolerance of them has never been lower. Recently, two thirds of executives identified leadership development as their number-one concern. Yet today we have never known more about what motivates us, drives us, connects us to our work, inspires us.

We know so much about the inner workings of our brain. So with all our understanding and knowledge how do we tend to go about tackling these problems? We send our managers and leaders on training programmes! But do they work?

The Financial Times only recently declared that “Money spent on training is often wasted”. They went on to say that in just one year we spent “almost £40bn on business training in the UK alone, pointing out that this is slightly more than the annual UK budget for education. The US spends far more.”

Clearly it doesn’t bring the value that we hope for.

So is it hopeless? Well, no.

We still can find fully committed, fully engaged, happy workers who bring all of themselves to their work, enjoy the ride and achieve fantastic results? Who are they? The small business owners, entrepreneurs who work in one or two employee companies. Who leads them, inspires them, motivates them, rewards and recognises them?
No body! They lead themselves of course.

We increasingly see these people operating in small, younger companies too

So what if we all saw ourselves as a personal company?

Regardless of whether we work for an organisation or for a small business.

What if each and everyone of us spent time thinking about our own vision, mission, values,.

Our own research and development.

Our own products and our own business development.

What if we each had our own HR and L&D?

Think about your personal company. If 3 years ago your company was worth 100, what is it’s value today? Why? What have you done to warrant that value?

We have to upgrade our view of leadership and we need to do this in four distinct areas of focus.

Firstly, we need to think about the part and the whole.

A long time ago, in a previous life, I worked at a pharmaceutical manufacturing site. It was a site with a long heritage and a proud history. One particular year, back in the late 1980’s we won the Chairman’s Award. This was no mean feat and was a prestigious prize to receive. The announcement and the subsequent receiving of the award were treated with great pomp and celebration.

We had won!

This was entirely justified as we had pulled out all the stops as a manufacturing site. We had broken all records to produce huge amounts of a particular raw material, achieving efficiencies and output levels never seen before.

There was one slight hiccup though.

Apparently no one had checked with the sales teams to see if there was a demand for the stuff. In fact, all around the site you would see blue tubs containing tonnes of the material. Any where there was space, you would find a cluster of these blue tubs.

I left the site in the mid 1990’s and the blue tubs were sill sitting there. A testament to a herculean effort and a complete lack of sales and operations planning. The part (manufacturing) had won but what of the whole? Well, within a few years the business was acquired through a bloody takeover and within a decade that site was closed. Now it is becoming yet another housing development.

Around about the same time, a consultant called Jan Bostrom was pulling together a conference for leaders in Sweden. His topic was seeing new perspectives in leadership and he wondered who could help him achieve this. Jan was and still is very connected as he was Supreme Commander of the Swedish Army. So he contacted Mother Teresa to see if she could help him. She was interested but unable to join him.

So then he got to thinking who else might have had some kind of epiphany and see things differently as a result. An astronaut who has traveled to the moon and looked back on our little planet must have a new way of seeing things. So Jan contacted Edgar Mitchell. Edgar was the lunar module pilot of Apollo 14 and he was the 6th man to walk on the moon. This experience changed him – it changed the way he saw mankind and the way he saw our planet.

When he saw the Earth rise above the lunar surface, Ed was struck by how he could see no borders separating individual countries. What he could see was just the one single beautiful home to us all. We are all simply small parts of the same single entity. Individually we can have no future without the success of the whole.

Ed titled his talk Gaia and from this inspiration a consultancy was born!

Another Astronaut Frank Borman, had a similar change in perspective. Frank was the commander of Apollo 8, the 1st mission to fly around the moon.

Reflecting on this time Frank said:

When you’re finally up at the moon looking back on earth, all those differences and nationalistic traits are pretty well going to blend, and you’re going to get a concept that maybe this really is one world and why the hell can’t we learn to live together like decent people.

The experiences of these extraordinary human beings combined with every experience from history and from life tells us that we are always stronger, more able to thrive and to succeed when we come together. At the most basic level, we are a small bunch of humans on a tiny island sitting in a vast sea of emptiness. As complexity increases, we need to take a more holistic perspective to solve today’s problems

We have to stop working in silos, looking after ourselves at the cost of others, our self interest.

So long as my garden is ok, it doesn’t matter if I throw all the rubbish over the fence into your garden.

As Angelia Jolie said at the recent World on the move event “If your neighbour’s house is on fire, you’re not safe if you decide to lock the doors”.

At Gaia we have a very clear view on what is going to take for us to have any long term future – in our organisations, our nations and on this little planet. The part must take responsibility for the success of the whole in order to secure its success. The whole must invest in the part to develop itself.What happens when we come together and commit ourselves fully to the success of the whole? And in return the whole invests wholeheartedly in our development?
Lets look at a case study.

“The idea; that the part must take responsibility for the success of the whole to secure it’s own future is right on the spot! I liked to challenge my team to become pro-active suppliers in order to create dramatic growth in the Chinese market. We saw remarkable results helping us to reaching our short term vision – triple our revenue. In 2009 very few believed it could be possible.”

Jyrki Enho, Atlas Copco General Manager in China

We also need to revisit the relationship between the manager and their co-workers.
In my work over the past 10 years or so, I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked to help organisations address a perceived leadership gap.

This gap most often shows itself between the senior team and their direct reports. Where the management team of the organization seem to have some clear leadership agenda, but those reporting to them just don’t seem to get it.

Mark, they say, how can we get our heads-of to step up, take more ownership, be more proactive?

So what do they do? Send them on a training course – and we have seen how that turns out.

I think we have to upgrade our view of leadership here to.

We have to move away from the old version of leadership and management where the Leader has the monopoly on information, knowledge and skill

Where the Leader is in control and holds all the cards

Where the Leader gives orders and motivates co-workers

We need to move from the manager being the motivator to the manager being the one who sees and challenges every individual to develop their own leadership.

Each person taking the responsibility for their own motivation and development

When the coworker becomes an entrepreneur and a supplier, the manager suddenly becomes a customer.

When we see ourselves as suppliers in our own organisation, this creates a natural desire to help solve both the manager’s and the company’s problems and to see the needs of the organization.

So what does this look like?

For the past 6 months or so I have been working with a charity in the UK. In this charity there exists a team dedicated to designing and developing new and innovative ways for people to donate using technology.

The Director of this team described them as being smart people, many of them commercially focused too, but most had become reactive and a bit beaten up. This leadership gap was rearing its head!

So we worked with the team to see their Director as a customer, rather than their boss.

She in turn shared with her team her personal vision and goals. Not just her KPIs and metrics – but what success over the next 3 to 5 years would look like for her in her role and in her life. Now the team became curious about her as their customer and started to explore where they could be the answer to some of her challenges. How could they help her to succeed and be her proactive supplier of choice. Each member of the team made a personal offer to her answering the following questions:
•This is how I see your situation, your opportunities, challenges and needs
•These opportunities, challenges and needs I want to be the solution to
•Here is my specific proposal
•This is my price – these prerequisites I need in order to deliver

Not only that, they started to see their peers in the team as their customer too and started proactively exploring where they could support each other to be successful in supporting their Director.

So what has happened so far? Well, the Director reports that the team have become much more proactive and she said there is a tangible positive change in the quality of leadership that is being shown.

In fact, she says it is the 1st time she has had people come knocking on her door offering their time, effort and support and asking what more they can do to help her be successful.

Now lets move on to the idea of inner and outer growth.

Can we only achieve great results at significant cost to us personally?

I am convinced the vast majority of people want to make a contribution in important issues.

We believe that inside every human being, there is a motivated entrepreneur.

It is up to those around to coax it out.

The right leadership creates an environment in which everyone unleashes the strong-willed entrepreneurial spirit within themselves and connects this energy to the company’s vision.

That sweet spot when we grow as a human being and our business grows too – not at the cost of one or the other.

So we can each live out our dreams and achieve fantastic results.

A pipe dream?

No. This is happening right now.

We have been working with a global high street fashion business for the past 2 years.

In this organization, there has been a strong desire to create a culture of sustainable leadership. Leadership that doesn’t burn out people, cause people to vote with their feet.

This organization is growing unbelievably fast. Currently they have over 4000 stores across the world and they are opening 2 new stores every day.

So how do we create sustainable leadership in this fast moving, results business?

By helping every leader to spend time dreaming!

Dreaming about the future they want to create for the organization – yes of course. What kind of business do they want to build, what kind of results do they want to achieve?

AND what kind of person do they want to be. So when they look in the mirror in 3 years time, who will they see that will make them feel proud.

Because if we can achieve both – grow the business we want and grow as the human we want to become – then we can achieve amazing things.

Our dreams and our life intentions become manifest in our work.

So each leader across the organisation is creating their own personal vision and sharing this with their colleagues.

Lastly we need to integrate culture and structure

What does that mean? Buurtzorg Nederland was founded in 2006 by Jos de Blok and a small team of professional nurses who were dissatisfied with the delivery of health care by traditional home care organizations in the Netherlands. Together they created a new model of patient-centered care, focused on facilitating and maintaining independence and autonomy for the individual for as long as possible.

An empowered nurse-led team approach, as well as an empowered patient.

Patients are encouraged to participate together with their Buurtzorg nurse in finding solutions to their home care needs, and that many of these solutions can be found right in the community.

A team of 4 nurses in 2006, has grown to nearly 8,000 nurses in 2014, with teams in the Netherlands, Sweden, Japan and now, the United States.

This approach has led to savings of roughly 40 percent to the Dutch health care system, and a 50 percent reduction in hours of care, improved quality of care and raised work satisfaction for their employees.”

What does all this mean?

Our current approach to leadership, this hierarchical up/down view is no longer fit for purpose. We need to upgrade our view of leadership.

In fact, we need to see leadership in 5 dimensions.

We need to lead ourselves, we need to be proactive suppliers to our bosses, to our peers and our teams and we need to lead in our relationships with our external partners, customers and suppliers.

We need to see our bosses, our colleagues, our peers and our co-workers as our customers.

Everyone is a leader!

Mark Manley, Partner Gaia Leadership

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