Friday, 22 July 2016

Sense and Nonsensibility: The Labour Party Leadership

Observed from afar, the Labour Party, in its current Leadership skirmish, looks like a very large dysfunctional family.

There may be some shared values somewhere, but what we on the outside are viewing is a fascinating degree of bad communication and loads and loads of finger-pointing which seems de rigeur in politics.

This large unruly ‘family’ is doing just what real families do when the truth isn’t being spoken.

Oh, it may look as though the truth is being spoken:  on the one hand, the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party wants Mr Corbyn to resign because he no longer has their vote of confidence; on the other hand, the majority of Labour Party members appear to want Mr Corbyn to remain as party Leader.

That’s surface honesty and political parties, families and of course organisations will have a degree of surface honesty to hide behind, while what’s really going on remains hidden.  Right now the whole leadership ‘struggle’ feels like a giant red herring to keep the attention focused on one of the bad eggs in the party (“naughty Jeremy for not standing down when we want him to”) so that the real issues are ignored and swept under the carpet.

Using the example of the Labour Party, this is what happens in dysfunctional families and organisations: 

  1. What’s really going on is ignored in favour of finger pointing at the ‘obvious’ problems that can be seen
  2. The ‘rules’ get changed to suit ‘the powers that be’
  3. If one family member says something that isn’t liked, that’s a signal to gang up to try to eject them
  4. Family factions get formed as lines are drawn in the sand
  5. The deeper those sand-lines are drawn, the deeper the dishonesty is imbedded
  6. The deeper the dishonesty is imbedded the worse communication gets
  7. The worse the communication gets the more riven the family
And so on.

Pretty much all dysfunctional organisations (including families and political parties) need a scapegoat.  Whether you do or don’t like Jeremy Corbyn, or do or don’t believe he should be Party Leader, he is, indeed, the perfect scapegoat to pin the blame on.

Take a look at any dysfunctional organisations you know and see if you can spot the scapegoat and identify what purpose they serve and how the spotlight on them deflects attention from where it belongs.

Over the years we’ve worked with a few companies like this and the real challenge is getting everyone to identify the elephant in the room or rather, by the time we appear, the herd of elephants in the room.

Although it can be a painful process, when those pachyderms get identified the relief can be enormous.  Yes, there will be fallout and of course things have to change in order to accommodate the level of honesty required.  The end result, however, is a fully functioning organisation where people aren’t afraid to say what’s on their mind for fear of reprisal and are more eager to offer their creativity, imagination and suggestions for developing the company.

People do not have to agree:  healthy organisations can contain loads of differing points of view and conflict isn’t something to be avoided, but encouraged so that feelings don’t fester and resentments build.

Healthy organisations don’t point fingers at the bad egg/s and attempt to chuck them out.  Healthy organisations work to sort out differences but also accept that it can often be the grit in the oyster that produces the pearl.

At this point there’s really no way to predict what will happen to The Labour Party in the next couple of months (does anyone dare predict anything these days??), but they could well do with some Family Therapy!

As for other dysfunctional organisations, we love working with companies that want to make a more positive impact and want the best for everyone who works for them.  Give us a ring – we’re happy to come in for a chat.

Check out Impact Factory’s range of Communication, Conflict Management and our EliteFive Day Communicate with Impact Courses.  We also offer organisation consultations.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Leadership Top 7 Tips

There are so many directions to go when thinking about Leadership Development and I've narrowed it down to a few simple things anyone at any level of their development can take on board.  You may already be doing a few; together they form the basis of what I consider humane and thoughtful leadership.

1.  Seeing.  Take a step back and really see what's going on.  At Impact Factory, we believe the ability to observe and make connections is one of the key skills all leaders require.

2.  Listening.  Take time to listen to those around you and once you've listened, listen some more.  Look for the subtext of what people are saying, summarise what you've heard and reflect that back so that others know you've understood.

3.  Acknowledging.  Acknowledge the day to day not just the above and beyond.  The more aware you are of all the little things your team does every day, the better you'll be able to give positive feedback for their efforts.

4.  Collaborating.  Invite the input of your colleagues at all levels.  'Your people' will be full of ideas that might turn out great or simply be the catalyst for new ideas to emerge.

5.  Being vulnerable.  It's OK to be human; actually, it's imperative to be human and let others know you don't know it all.  However much you think you can do it alone, you can't.  Seeking and using support makes you and your team stronger.

6.  Allowing mistakes.  Giving people space to make mistakes and helping them find a way of managing them is a great leadership trait.  This includes allowing your own mistakes and accepting other people's help in finding a way through.

7.  Keeping a sense of humour.  Life is filled with absurdities, nonsense, ridiculousness and 'I can't believe this is happening' moments.  Being able to see the humour instead of sinking into despair is a fantastic leadership strength.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director and Founding Partner of Impact Factory

Monday, 11 July 2016

What The Tory Leadership Race Can Teach Us About Leadership?

Months of disinformation, dodgy promises and dubious claims on both sides of the Brexit argument, led to a vote to leave the EU.  That was swiftly followed by the main Brexiteer 'leaders' (sic) doing a vanishing act to rival the best conjuring tricks of Harry Houdini or David Copperfield.

All of that led me to write my previous blogs on Brexit and Leadership and most recently on Brexit Fatigue.  I didn't really believe that there would be an improvement of any kind in terms of what was going to happen next, so I'm not terribly surprised at the manner of the current Tory Leadership race (keep your eyes peeled for a soon to be written blog on Labour - no one's getting away with unsavoury behaviour in my book).

The question I ask myself is why in politics it is believed that the best way to win is to aim potshots at your rival/s.  I guess because it works!  I would love to see a campaign of any nature that did the following:

1. Articulated a vision for the future
2. Presented a plan of how that vision would be realised
3. Engaged with people on how they would specifically benefit
4. Listened to people's concerns and addressed them realistically
5. Offered immediate small steps whose tangible benefits were clear
6. Explained their own experience and how that would enable them to put the plan into action

The campaign would not:
1. Diss the competition on any level
2. As a matter of fact, barely mention the competition at all
3. Make unrealistic promises backed up by fantasy and exaggeration
4. Tell us how wonderful it will all be once they win
5. Use scare tactics

Dream on Jo Ellen.

If ever there was a golden opportunity for people to step into the increasingly-widening leadership gap and demonstrate their capabilities to steer the UK ship out of its current post referendum chaos, this is it.

Dream on Jo Ellen.

Instead we get calls for a 'clean campaign' on the one hand and cries that their words were misquoted and misconstrued on the other.  It's still all about finger pointing and doing down the opposition.
Another set of disappointing role models one of whom is set to be our next Prime Minister.

Please! Put your attention where it needs to be and not on what's wrong with the other side.

Some time ago when we were doing a pitch for a big piece of work, the potential client asked us who our main rivals were and how we dealt with the competition. We answered that we didn't pay attention to the competition. Indeed, we have said on many an occasion that there are terrific training companies out there and terrific trainers. We don't need to bother ourselves with what other companies are doing because it's the wrong place to put our attention.

Our attention must be on what we have to offer, our ethos and ensuring that it aligns with what we do with our clients, our behaviour and integrity, our experience and expertise and most importantly, our people, in whom we are asking our clients to place their trust.

Focusing on what someone else is doing and then throwing brickbats at them, in our view, is not the way to do business.  I want us to reassure our clients what we'll be able to do for them, how we can realise their briefs and give them the confidence we'll be able to do what we say we'll be able to do.

This basic philosophy has enabled us to ride out some extremely difficult times when we have tottered on the brink.  Did we jump ship and throw in the towel?  Did we slink off to lick our wounds and point fingers of blame when things were tough?  Did we spend copious amounts of time bemoaning our fate?  No we did not.

We sucked up whatever was going on, gathered our strength and got on with planning the next steps. We made mistakes, stumbled and fell; we admitted our mistakes, got up, dusted ourselves off and made another plan. We've been doing that for 25 years and it works.

This is good leadership.

Will we be seeing this in the run up to the Tory leadership election?

Dream on Jo Ellen.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director and Founding Partner of Impact Factory

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Brexit Fatigue

Just about everyone I know is suffering, like I am, with Brexit Fatigue.

During the months prior to the Referendum we were bombarded continually with scenarios of doom and gloom from both camps. And during the final week it amounted to a degree of hysteria I’ve not previously witnessed in British politics. There was a veritable frenzy of exhortations.

Once the vote was in (or rather, out), the hysteria didn’t stop.  Calls of foul play, campaigners back-peddling from promises made, endless (and I mean endless) post-mortems on why Leave won and Remain lost. Endless disputes on whether the Referendum was actually binding, was there enough of a percentage of eligible voters who voted to count as a true reflection of the nation’s views, and on and on and on.

And suddenly Article 50 made a belated appearance, like someone very late for a party just as it was breaking up.  I’m a fairly informed voter and I didn’t know about Article 50 and the boundaries it places on those who choose to leave the EU. All the reassurances that there was no rush and Brexit could take up to 10 years, quashed in an instant.

Then, of course, the drama of resignations (bye bye David and Nigel) … withdrawals (bye bye Boris), calls for resignations (bye bye Jeremy???), calls for a second referendum, calls for no second referendum.  The noise has been unbelievable and continual.

More hot potatoes!

Brexiteers just want to get on with it; Innies want to stall.

It’s fascinating to listen to people from both ‘sides’ speaking now – feelings are running extremely high.  Brexiteers often seem defensive, justifying their decisions in an angry and defiant way; Innies are equally passionate, angry and accusatory.  Actually, both sides are still finger-pointing; that doesn’t seem to have stopped at all.

The leadership gap I wrote about in my last two blogs isn’t getting any narrower; as a matter of fact, it’s getting wider as Conservative hats are being flung into the ring while Labour MPs are mounting a broadside attack on their leader.  Now it’s all about who’s best equipped to run the country which means more mudslinging and a lot more noise.  More diversionary tactics and there's still no one driving the train.

On Thursday’s Question Time (30th June) one Brexiteer said something along the lines of “I feel I’ve been had.” We’ve all been had.  Over and over we were reassured the Referendum was a simple yes, no question.  It was never simple.  Simple is asking us what our National flower should be; not what the economic and cultural future of Great Britain is to be.

I believe a great burden of responsibility was placed on shoulders (mine included) ill-equipped to well and truly understand the deep and complex implications of leaving the European Union. That burden feels very heavy right now and because there is still no clear plan, no clear leadership, no clear understanding of the long-term implications, nothing for people to hold onto that explains in accessible language exactly what’s going to happen next, I believe there is a collective exhaustion.

I feel like a child on the verge of a tantrum or maybe it’s more like Lord of the Flies – if we’re left to our own devices for long enough we’ll become feral.

It does feel as though all of us, whichever way we voted, are the losers this time 'round.

By Jo Ellen Grzyb, Director and Founding Partner of Impact Factory

Check out Impact Factory’s range of Building Resilience courses and Leadership courses.