Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’

on good and bad

I am an avid reader. I have been since I learned to read and have always got a book on the go. At the moment I have three; one a technical tome that I read on the dining table, and e-book biography that I read on my ‘phone over breakfast and breaks at work and a paperback biography for bedtime reading. From two of this trio comes some thought on good and bad in people.

There was a man who was prominent in a field that I know a lot about. He was, in many ways, a pompous ass and was not quite as good at what he did as he thought he was. I would have loathed having to work with him in that respect, but on the other hand he did a lot of good things. Overall I have always though of him as a decent enough bloke, but one of the books that I am currently reading alleges that he was far from good.

It is a common enough theme; Rolf Harris gave a lot of pleasure as an entertainer before certain facts became known and he went to prison for his actions. Jimmy Savile did a lot of good for various charities, but was also found to be a bad lot after he had died and no doubt you can think of your own examples.

Over the years I have worked with people who have been lovely as individuals, but a nightmare to work alongside. There have been others who have been a delight to work with yet were not people that I would have wanted to know outside of the office. My view is that I have a job to do and it will get done regardless of how I feel about the people around me and I am sure that there are people who have known me who did not like me at work or would not have wanted to socialise with me. It matters not to me.

There seems to be a view these days that people should be perfect, but we aren’t. There is always the possibility that there will be something about us that would offend others. For most of my life that didn’t matter; I have always had friends who had different political views to me, supported sports stars or teams that I can’t abide, were deeply religious (I am an atheist) or whatever. Our differences often cemented the friendship as we argued our respective points of view.

My friendships have also survived where the other party has done something that they should not have done. I am not going to abandon a pal lightly; if you are my friend and you are in trouble you know that I will be there for you. This is not something that I was directly brought up to, more that it is how my attitudes have evolved.

I do not expect perfection from anyone, let alone politicians and business leaders. Yes I would like them to behave to a standard that I would find acceptable, but why should my standards prevail? There is good and bad in us all and I can live with that.

on decisions

A perennial topic this one, but the current criticism of the government here in the UK prompted my thoughts because one of the most usual causes of decision paralysis is getting it wrong; if you don’t make a decision you can’t make the wrong one.

I am talking here about critical decisions because there are unimportant things where doing nothing is often the best corse of action, but when there is something important to be done you should do something so not doing it is most certainly wrong.

A favourite quote of mine is from Yogi Berra the American baseball star; “When you come to a fork in the road, take it”. Decision making in business or government is more complex than the 50:50 chance of getting it right or wrong, but you are working with three parameters; time, knowledge and resource. Of those you cannot control time and you may not be able to control resource or knowledge before time runs out.

You have to go with the best that you have and accept that you might not get it right. Be decisive and, once it is over and you can see what happened, look at whether or not you could do it better next time. An investigation is essential, but it should never be about blame, always about learning and improving.

Every decision you make will have consequences, but doing something is both an opportunity to learn and it puts experience into the pot for when you have to make the next decision. Fear of failure is an instinctive response, but one that you need to push past if you are to grow. The more you do the more experience you have and experience helps you respond to the consequences of your actions.

Another sporting hero provides an appropriate response here. Eric Carlson was one one the finest rally drivers of the late 1950s and early 1960s, a time when rally cars were simply tuned up versions of road cars and safety equipment minimal. He was asked what went through his mind when he approached a blind brow in the forest at night whilst driving at over 100mph. He thought for a moment and said; “Well, the road must go somewhere”. That is experience talking. It gives the confidence to be able to deal with whatever comes. Like Yogi’s advice to take the fork, whatever choice you make your experience will help you deal with whatever comes your way.

There will always be someone who will tell you that you have got it wrong and these people will almost always be those who did not have to make the decision. Pay them little heed for these are the Monday morning quarterbacks who have the benefit of hindsight and had no skin in the game. They might be right, they might be wrong, but as long as you made the call as best as you could with the time, knowledge and resource that you had then at least you did something. Learn and move on.

on other ways of making things happen

I mentioned recently the EFQM model, another tool that, when used well, can serve a useful purpose. For me the great benefit that I got from it was understanding the linkages between ideas and results, the enablers. I have been reading a succession of political biographies and commentaries of late and there are many instances where promises made at the hustings have not been delivered. There are many reasons for this and, in general, it is not because the politician is telling lies. Certainly sometimes they do relying on the fact that we are too gullible to see the truth, but there are three other key barriers.

Read more…

on times when thinking is a bad idea

Sounds daft to propose that there are times when thinking is not too clever, but I firmly believe it to be true. I would not advocate it as a blanket strategy, but there are times when being able to block certain thoughts will pay dividends. Read more…

on opportunities to learn

Last week I was chatting on line with a former colleague who I first met when he was in one of the Belfast offices of the firm we both worked for. Amongst our reminiscences the Scottish office also came up and our conversation has sparked many memories of working with the top men in both locations. Read more…

on a question of trust

I have been reading a lot of political commentaries lately, not as a form of self-flagellation, but out of interest. A common thread has emerged from this that brings to mind parallels from my business experience down the years and I will call it The Curse of the New Broom. Read more…

on implementation

Almost anything that you change can be a project, so from simple things within the office to nationwide rollouts I have seen a lot. Some I have been on the receiving end for, in others I have been part of the roll out team and for some I have been the sponsor. Not all have gone well, so let us have a look at why. Read more…

on motivation for leaders

The ability to motivate is one of those traits that we expect in a leader; keeping the team positive, productive and, for at least short bursts, galvanised should be bread and butter to a good leader as should the ability to keep the team’s collective heads up when things are not going too well. Read more…

on why good teams can  emerge around bad leaders

There is a lot written and taught about good leadership being behind the development of good teams and I have contributed my fair share. But is a good leader essential to the creation of a good team? Read more…

on knowing your team

Something that I learned, the hard way as usual, early in my management career was to know my people. I don’t mean that you need a dossier on them, but being aware of what makes them tick and something of their history and hopes gives you something to work on. Read more…