Wishing you all a very jolly Yule

Last week I did a talk for 80 bankers.

What image does that bring to mind?

We all have prejudices, biases, preconceived ideas and generalisations we apply to each other.  Some are just plain wrong and others are out of date.

With this particular group of bankers I was talking about the future and about the need for authentic leadership to create an environment of psychological safety and trust.  In fact virtually everyone in the room other than me was wearing a Christmas jumper and the atmosphere was very relaxed, open and engaged.

It was not so long ago that corporations in general and perhaps banks and oil companies in particular, were seen by many as a sort of global Grinch, exploiting everyone for their own ends.  While there was some truth in that, many of these organisations have learned tough lessons and today are seeing that the best results are delivered by people who feel trusted and who feel safe to be themselves.

Amid all of the evidence of sexual harassment and abuse in politics, entertainment and tech sectors these stories are not really coming from more conventional corporations.   Today these corporations are hotbeds of diversity and empowerment.  Of course there is still room to learn and improve, but the shift over the last 10 years has been substantial.

The key to success in any endeavour is collaboration and the key to collaboration is being able to build trusting and supportive relationships with those who are different to ourselves, those we might find a little annoying or those we might be tempted to exploit.

In this season of goodwill to all, how can each of us create that authentic safe space around us where everyone feels free to be their authentic self?  How can we hold our families, friends,colleagues and most importantly ourselves to complete inclusivity?

One of the tensions of “liberalism” is the intent to be tolerant of all views and to give all of them equal air time.  However, I read an interesting perspective recently, which is that the only thing it is right to not tolerate is intolerance.  If we want a community, society or world where everyone feels psychologically safe, we must all be intolerant of intolerance.  We must take it upon ourselves to call out bias, prejudice, abuse and bullying.  We must learn the skills to do this effectively and we must work hard on our own biases and prejudices.

Perhaps a good way to start is by identifying one person in our circle that we fail to include equally.  I am sure we all have one. And making a deliberate and consistent effort to include them.  Not just for the next few weeks, but all of the time.

Or perhaps there is someone in our circle who says or does things that make other people feel uncomfortable about themselves and maybe you can find a way to help them to understand the effects of their behaviour and help them to change it, skilfully.

Or perhaps you feel that you are excluded of find it difficult to be yourself in some situations.  Perhaps you can find a way to express your truth to those you feel excluded by or focus your time on environments where you feel safe and are included.

Over the last few years we have seen the effects of polarisation on the global stage.  If we do not want to live in a polarised world is is up to all of us to create an integral one.  We wish all of our readers and colleagues the most joyful and peaceful festive season and every happiness however you choose to celebrate.

Holos helps make change easy. We help organisations develop their leaders, map out and deliver the changes required to achieve sustained success even in a highly disrupted environment.

At Holos we have been studying change leadership and leadership training in the crucible of reality for years. We know what great leadership looks like and we know the journey to achieve it. We have developed a suite of diagnostic tools to understand where companies and teams are on this journey and how to take them from there to sustained success.

Holos has a wealth of specialist leadership and culture coaches and consultants with decades of experience working with a huge variety of leaders. Holos can help you or your organisation to upgrade it’s leadership to flourish even in a challenging business environment.

Please share your ideas, comment and discuss here – click on the blog title and scroll to the bottom to find the comment box.

You can subscribe for free at http://www.holoschange.com

neil

Neil Crofts
Co-Founder
Holos

+447803 774239
neil@holoschange.com
http://www.holoschange.com

 

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Posted in authenticity, society | Leave a comment

Great Leadership 101

One of the most needed skills at the moment in both business and government is leadership.  In more stable times management tends to be prioritised because management delivers reliability.  In stable times leadership is often annoying as leadership is fundamentally about change, so it is de-prioritised.  Also leadership is seldom encouraged at schools as it often perceived to challenge the authority of teachers.

There are myths around leadership: That it is an appointment, that leaders are born, the “loneliness of leadership”, leadership is hierarchical.

There are errors in our approach to leadership, for example having people specialise in operational tasks for the first 10 years of their career and then expecting them to be able to lead others in their operational speciality.

Over decades these factors have combined to mean that there is a very widespread lack of competent leadership in society.  In fact the only place in our society that takes leadership seriously is the Military, partly by offering real leadership experience from a young age.  So let’s debunk some myths and build our understanding of the nature of leadership.

Leadership is a skill that has to be learned, it is not something we are born with.  All of the best leaders that you will ever meet have worked hard at it.  The myth that leaders are born comes from the fact that “Boss Style” leaders are by far the most common in human history and that they use bullying and coercion as their primary mode of leadership, their primary motivation is their own status.  Boss Style leaders can be effective in the short term, however they only create value by stealing from the future.

The reality of leadership is that it is a choice not an appointment, that is it a skill that we deploy when change is required and that it is not hierarchical.  We all lead in that moment when we recognise the need to change something, once we have reached a point of stability we shift to management to maintain reliability, when we see someone else doing something great we might follow them, turning them into a leader.  Great leadership is dynamic, it flows to where it is most relevant in the moment, it is not fixed in an individual or a hierarchy.

Whatever style of leadership we adopt the thing that turns us into a leader is when one or more people follows us.  Boss style leaders create loyal followers by conferring status upon them, boss style leaders have their status conferred on them from “above”.  Authentic style leaders make the choice to lead and create loyal followers by pursuing a purpose that they and others believe in.

Great leadership is a complex and subtle skill that takes decades of diligent study and practice to master, however there are some core attributes that can help any of us get started on the journey to mastery, For example:

Create mental and emotional bandwidth.  Even in extreme situations we must be capable of creating the space to think strategically, to confer with stakeholders and followers and work out what the next steps are and to collaborate to execute on them.  To do this we must take responsibility for our time, continually delegating and deleting activities that don’t add value to the pursuit of the vision.

Articulate and embody a vision that inspires all stakeholders.  A vision is a memorable description of a future state that followers are inspired to achieve.  A vision is a definable destination that is beyond what we currently know how to achieve.  If we know how to achieve it, it is an objective rather than a vision. Great leaders will continually inspire followers with the ideal of the vision.

Great leaders are expert at their own emotional regulation, even in highly stressful situations or when receiving bad news they are able to compartmentalise their own emotions to stay calm and focussed, rethinking the approach to stay focussed on the vision.

Related to our own emotional regulation is a focus on creating a culture of  psychological safety.  Psychological safety is that experience when we feel completely comfortable being ourselves, sharing ideas even if they are different and raising concerns even if they have consequences.   Teams and cultures which experience psychological safety are proven to out perform other teams (See Google’s Project Aristotle).   Only authentic style leaders create an environment of psychological safety by making it safe for everyone in the team to also be authentic.

Holos helps make change easy. We help organisations develop their leaders, map out and deliver the changes required to achieve sustained success even in a highly disrupted environment.

At Holos we have been studying change leadership and leadership training in the crucible of reality for years. We know what great leadership looks like and we know the journey to achieve it. We have developed a suite of diagnostic tools to understand where companies and teams are on this journey and how to take them from there to sustained success.

Holos has a wealth of specialist leadership and culture coaches and consultants with decades of experience working with a huge variety of leaders. Holos can help you or your organisation to upgrade it’s leadership to flourish even in a challenging business environment.

Please share your ideas, comment and discuss here – click on the blog title and scroll to the bottom to find the comment box.

You can subscribe for free at http://www.holoschange.com

neil

Neil Crofts
Co-Founder
Holos

+447803 774239
neil@holoschange.com
http://www.holoschange.com

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Get out of crisis in 5 steps

We have worked with many individuals teams and organisations that are in crisis.  Sometimes the crisis is public, corporate and unavoidable.  Sometimes they are subtle, drawn out and unrecognised.  Sometimes they feel personal, individual and lonely.  Within all of this and acknowledging the personal trauma involved there are two truths about crisis that are worth understanding before we start:

1 – Any crisis will get precisely as deep as deep as it needs to get for those involved to learn the lessons required to solve it.

2 – Any crisis provides the alternatives to transcend or succumb.  In most cases it is the choices we make that decide which we do.

Crisis is one of the areas where leadership emerges.  Those who choose to step in and take responsibility in a crisis, define themselves as leaders.  However simply being good at leading in a crisis is not great leadership.  Being good in a crisis can lead to “pyromaniac firefighter syndrome” where people deliberately create crisis, for the buzz and satisfaction of getting out of it.  This is not the way to sustained success.  Sustained success demands not only the skill to lead out of crisis, but also the skill to lead innovation, growth and development.

Below is a simple playbook for those who would choose to lead themselves, a team or an organisation out of crisis.

Step 1 – Declare a crisis 

One of the most powerful steps we can take is to acknowledge that we are in a crisis.  Sometimes this is not necessary, the crisis is so dramatic that no one is in any doubt.  Far more crises are stealthy, they creep up on us, until we find we are struggling to cope.  Without a declaration of crisis, those involved are all dealing with the stress and anxiety in isolation, and we will all pull in different directions focussed on solving our own personal inner conflict. Once crisis is declared we can all pull together.

Psychologically there are 3 stages of conflict. Stage one is the kind of day to day conflict we might experience every week, at stage one we are able to care for the others involved in the crisis, the problem itself and ourselves.  Stage two conflict is the kind of conflict most of us only experience once a year or so, at stage two we can only take care of the problem and ourselves, we loose sight of those around us.  Stage three conflict is the sort of extreme conflict we might only experience a few times in our life, at stage three we lose sight of others and the problem and can only care for ourselves.

If a team are already in stage two conflict, they have already lost sight of each other.  We often see teams where everyone has been in stage two conflict for some time.  Collaboration to solve the problem cannot occur while everyone is in stage two crisis.  If this is the case the first thing to do is for everyone in the team to acknowledge the crisis, realising that we are all in the same crisis (usually) brings us together.

Step 2 – Create Bandwidth

Crisis is a state where our emotions take over, even more than normal.  Depending on our personality, our emotions will drive us to do different things to solve the problem.  Some will be driven to take action, some will withdraw to assess the situation, some will need to check in on the feelings of others or bring the team together.  Each of these drivers can be valid and helpful responses, however if they are pursued in isolation they will irritate those who react differently. For example, someone whose reaction is to get into action will be frustrated by someone who prioritises assessing the situation and vice versa.

After the very initial phase of a crisis we must move from reaction to response.  To do this we must create the mental and emotional space to think, both individually and collectively.  Having declared the crisis, we must now put other things aside and just create the space.  This works at an individual level when something threatening occurs and we need to respond rather than react as well as at a team or organisational level.

Step 3 – Create a Vision

Perhaps running a visioning session in the middle of a crisis is a bit of a stretch, but the word crisis comes from the Greek “krisis” meaning “decision”.  And as the saying goes “never waste a good crisis”.  Crisis is also an opportunity to galvanise effort towards remaking a situation for the better.  What a vision gives us is a destination of hope and optimism that inspires people towards a better future and not only away from an uncomfortable present.  Without a vision there is no direction in our escape from pain other than away.  With a vision the collective effort will not just take us away from the crisis, but towards something positive, together.

The future is not fixed.  The future is always created by those with a vision and the determination to make it happen.  

A vision is a defined destination that is inspiring for all stakeholders, that is not limited by what we know how to achieve at present.  So make use of the bandwidth you have created to align the key individuals in pursuit of a future destination that all are inspired by.  Initially that might just be for everyone to get out safely, as it was for Shackleton on the ill fated  Imperial Trans Antarctic Expedition of 1914.  A vision simply to escape the crisis can be powerful and motivating however as soon as the crisis abates, the vision must be revisited if you want to avoid the team or organisation splintering.

Step 4 – Create and curate the culture

Having started with something as ambitious as articulating a vision, we must now get into the granular detail of habits.  If you managed to get the team to work through a vision, most of them now will be raggedly impatient, desperate to get into action and get away from the crisis.  Any leadership will be tested at this point to keep the team focussed on a more abstract approach to solving the crisis, so this is where leadership really counts.

In many cases it is our habits and behaviours that get us into crisis in the first place.  If we escape from crisis and avoid splintering as a team and we have not changed our habits, it is only a matter of time before we get into crisis again.  It will also take good habits and behaviours to get us out of the crisis.

For example, we can agree how we are going to:  communicate,  care for each other, check in on progress, listen  and so on.

Step 5 – Small steps

Having dealt with the arcane we must now get practical agreeing small and very doable steps for each member of the team.  One or two steps at a time – no grand plans – just simple doable things.  As soon as the actions are complete the team needs to regroup and quickly agree the next set of actions using the protocols agreed in stage 4 and always in pursuit of the vision agreed in stage 3.

Keep repeating this cycle as frequently as is needed until the sense of crisis abates.    Be aware that as soon as the crisis diminishes, you may need to come up with a new vision, before you achieve the previous one.

Crisis crews. like firefighters already have protocols for stages 1 to 4, which is what enables them to be effective in a crisis.  If we don’t have these already we need to create them in order to succeed.

Holos helps make change easy. We help organisations develop their leaders, map out and deliver the changes required to achieve sustained success even in a highly disrupted environment.

At Holos we have been studying change leadership and leadership training in the crucible of reality for years. We know what great leadership looks like and we know the journey to achieve it. We have developed a suite of diagnostic tools to understand where companies and teams are on this journey and how to take them from there to sustained success.

Holos has a wealth of specialist leadership and culture coaches and consultants with decades of experience working with a huge variety of leaders. Holos can help you or your organisation to upgrade it’s leadership to flourish even in a challenging business environment.

Please share your ideas, comment and discuss here – click on the blog title and scroll to the bottom to find the comment box.

You can subscribe for free at http://www.holoschange.com

neil

Neil Crofts
Co-Founder
Holos

+447803 774239
neil@holoschange.com
http://www.holoschange.com

 

Posted in Business, Leadership, personal development | Leave a comment

5 simple steps to Influence

One of the things that comes up over and over again in working with individuals and teams in all organisations and at all levels is influence and it’s cousin empowerment.  Influence and empowerment are related because it is the ability to influence that empowers us.  Empowerment is not something that is conferred on us it is something that we gain through our ability to influence others.

Far too many people that I work with believe that they have no ability to influence situations or people, especially more senior people.  They tend to believe that even trying to influence a situation will be “career limiting” which is generally code for a fear that saying anything that is in any way controversial might expose them to humiliation or some sort of reduction in status.  For the most part these beliefs are unrelated to the present situation and have far more to do with childhood or adolescent experiences.  Of course there are genuinely toxic organisations or situations where these fears are very real, if we find ourselves in situations where we genuinely have no influence we should look to exit them quickly.

I always think there are three types of fear:

  1. Helpful fear, that can keep us safe
  2. Unhelpful fear, relating to a previous experience, that limits us
  3. Somebody else’s fear, that we have accepted from a parent or other authority figure, that we do not need to own at all.

The question I often ask is, would you prefer your team members or colleagues to tell you what they really think or what they think you want to hear?  If the answer is the former (which it always is), then, don’t you think senior people also want to hear what you really think too?

So, supposing we are in this situation where we want to change the way things are being done, the way people are behaving or take advantage of an opportunity, but we fear the consequences of speaking up.  What do we do?  Here are 5 simple steps to influencing others.

  1. How much does it matter? The very first person we need to influence is ourself.  We need to calibrate exactly how strongly we feel about the situation.  Is this something that really matters, that will bother us if we don’t act, or is it something that we can let go of lightly.  If we do feel strongly we need to got to step 2 – if not just let it go.  As we make this calibration we must be careful to only consider how much it matters and to avoid factoring in our perception of the risk or cost of dealing with it.
  2. Practice. For most things we might want to achieve in life the first step is a conversation.  All we have to work out is who we need to have that conversation with and what we need the outcome to be.  So who is it you need to influence and what do you need the outcome to be?  If having that conversation with that individual seems daunting – who can you practice that conversation with?  Find someone you trust who would understand the situation and practice with them until it seems easier.  Most worthwhile things in life need some kind of mixture of courage and skill – the more skill we have the less courage we need.  Through your practice work on the mode and timing of how you will raise the issue – will it be written, face to face, in a meeting or by phone, when is a good time to raise it.
  3. Your commitment. It is precisely because things that matter, matter that exposing them to challenge or ridicule is so hard.  So it often seems easier to rationalise away why we cannot do them or say them than it is to get on with it.  Once we have calibrated how much it matters and practiced the conversation until we are skilled, we are ready to take the next step and expose our thinking.  If that still feels too daunting, we may just need to practice some more.  Committing ourselves can really help us to move forwards.  For example by setting a deadline and telling those we have practiced with.  Or by asking for a meeting or a conversation with the person we need to talk to.  Sometimes the route to the final person we need to persuade will be to persuade other stakeholders first, so that we can arrive at the final conversation with something of a consensus in our pocket.
  4. Tone.  Very often when something is important to us we can misfire and  come across as angry or inflexible.  On the whole we all respond better to charm and friendliness than to anger, although anger absolutely has it’s place depending on the situation.   We need to deliver what we have practiced in the most suitable emotional tone.  If it is something to be angry about – be angry.  If it is something to be charming about be charming.
  5. Ask and their commitment. Be very clear about what an acceptable outcome is.  Make sure that you ask for that commitment at the right moment.  You will want to steer the conversation so that you lay out the context first, then lay out the solution before you ask for whatever it is you need from this individual.  As soon as they agree, stop trying to persuade them and move to a commitment, such as what they will actually do and by when.  As soon as you have this commitment, you will need to move the conversation on to avoid any renegotiation.   One little truth that you may want to bear in mind is that very often if you are looking for “money” it is better to ask for advice and if you are looking for advice it is better to ask for “money” (“money” being anything that will cost the other party in some way including time or effort).

This kind of approach is effective whether you are delegating tasks to peers or those you are responsible for or when you are asking something of someone senior to yourself.  Whether it works or not will always depend on how skilful you can be in your approach and skill always comes with practice, so start practicing, initially with things of less significance and challenge and build up.

There is always a risk that this sort of advice and behaviour comes across as cynical and manipulating, as “selling”.  This is a risk and whether it is cynical or not depends very much on your answer to step 1 and the extent to which the other party might be loosing out.  Wherever possible do your best to work out what the win/win/win.  You may well be asking for something that benefits you, but what are the benefits to the other party and what are the benefits to the wider community as well?  Be sure to include these benefits in your proposed solution in  stage 5.  Where the other party is actually likely to loose out you will need to put additional effort into the context setting and the benefits to the wider community will have to be sufficiently persuasive.

Holos helps make change easy. We help organisations develop their leaders, map out and deliver the changes required to achieve sustained success even in a highly disrupted environment.

At Holos we have been studying change leadership and leadership training in the crucible of reality for years. We know what great leadership looks like and we know the journey to achieve it. We have developed a suite of diagnostic tools to understand where companies and teams are on this journey and how to take them from there to sustained success.

Holos has a wealth of specialist leadership and culture coaches and consultants with decades of experience working with a huge variety of leaders. Holos can help you or your organisation to upgrade it’s leadership to flourish even in a challenging business environment.

Please share your ideas, comment and discuss here – click on the blog title and scroll to the bottom to find the comment box.

You can subscribe for free at http://www.holoschange.com

neil

Neil Crofts
Co-Founder
Holos

+447803 774239
neil@holoschange.com
http://www.holoschange.com

 

 

Posted in coaching and training, Leadership | Leave a comment

Power Dynamics and Sexual Abuse

It seems relevant to explore the issue of power dynamics right now.  Power dynamics  play an enormous part in abuse and harassment, in corporate crisis and in our various on-going political traumas.

Where there is power asymmetry, ie one person or group has actual or apparent power or authority over others, there is an absolute dependency on the integrity of the dominant party.

The key words here are “apparent” and “integrity”.  Very often we give away our power when there is no need to and even when the dominant party does not want us to.  It is also important to say that there are very many people who act with complete integrity when they are in dominant positions and actively avoid abusing that power.

Most of us learn the lessons of power dynamics at a young or even very young age.  We are taught about them by our parents and it is one of the key lessons we take from school.  What we learn is that those with apparent power can get us to: do arbitrary things,  punish or humiliate us if we don’t comply and get us to do things with promises of status in some form.  Of course not all teachers or parents follow this playbook, but enough do that it is unusual to find adults for whom both sides of these lessons, as the junior or the senior, are not deeply embedded, especially amongst those who were successful at school.

These power dynamics are not fixed but are situational.  The teacher who exploits power in class, might be meek and submissive with an authoritarian head teacher.  The class bully might have their status conferred on them by an older bully to whom they submit, but terrorise their peers.

In the terms of the brilliant work of Barry Oshry – we are all “Tops”, “Middles”, “Bottoms” or “Customers” depending on the situation.  In Oshry terms the Tops suck up the responsibility and feel burdened.  The Middles feel torn in trying to satisfy both the Tops, the Bottoms loose their own independence of thought and end up not saying what they think.  Bottoms feel oppressed and powerless, they might respond by acting up or more likely waiting to be told what to do and doing the minimum.  Customers are ignored and might go and seek alternatives.

Boss and Ruler style leaders (see previous blog) are primarily motivated by status and that status need can be satisfied in a variety of ways.  It might be sexual, obedience, wealth, violence or it might be all of these and more.

Where a Boss or Ruler who is also a Top and uses sexual power to confirm their status the likelihood of Middles or Bottoms (no pun intended) being abused is high.

Where they use obedience to confirm their status the chances of disaster are high, because Torn Middles will suppress their own principles to do what they are told and oppressed bottoms will not be willing or able to raise the alarm (see the movie Deepwater Horizon for an example).

Where they use wealth to confirm their status the chances of tax fraud and other forms of theft are high.  Again Torn Middles will suppress their principles and Oppressed Bottoms won’t blow the whistle.  (See the movie Wizard of Lies, about Bernie Madoff for an example).

As a less extreme example,  I spoke to a senior manager (CEO minus 2) in a global organisation last week.  His role was as a market expert to predict trends and guide strategy.  When I suggested he include data that went against the industry norm he started by challenging the data, but after a little pushing admitted is was not that he disagreed with the data, but that he did not feel able to put counter orthodox ideas forward out of fear.  I am not sure he knew exactly what he was afraid of because he had never tested it, but he was adamant that putting such ideas forward at all was career limiting.

The antidote to all of these situations is authenticity.

Authentic leadership very specifically enables and encourages others to also be authentic.  To have and express their point of view, to raise concerns and explore alternatives.  Authentic leadership creates the kind of psychological safety that builds trust and enables everyone to contribute their own unique value and skills to any situation.

Personal authenticity (when we are not also leading) enables us to maintain our independence and be true to our values, to raise concerns or to exit troubling situations.

Authenticity is a journey of self discovery, first to understand who we are and then to learn to be true to that self in all situations skilfully, in ways that enable the authenticity of those around us.  For the avoidance of doubt authenticity is not, as some commentators appear to think, spewing whatever random bile comes into your head the moment it does, regardless of the impact on others.

At Holos we have a leadership assessment tool (Holos Leadership Behaviour Assessment) that creates a detailed map of our leadership style.  It clearly articulates how we lead at our best and how we react when triggered.  It also gives detailed feedback on how to develop as an authentic leader.  Typically Boss style leadership is not a pathology, it is just a style and a habit that can be changed (though not in all cases).

As you might guess from the above we would only recommend electing, appointing or promoting Authentic or Visionary style leaders to positions of authority, whether in business, education or politics.  While the quick results and assertiveness that Boss style leaders show can be attractive the results always come at a cost to the future.

Please let me know if you would like more information on taking or using the Holos Leadership Behaviour Assessment.

Holos helps make change easy. We help organisations develop their leaders, map out and deliver the changes required to achieve sustained success even in a highly disrupted environment.

At Holos we have been studying change leadership and leadership training in the crucible of reality for years. We know what great leadership looks like and we know the journey to achieve it. We have developed a suite of diagnostic tools to understand where companies and teams are on this journey and how to take them from there to sustained success.

Holos has a wealth of specialist leadership and culture coaches and consultants with decades of experience working with a huge variety of leaders. Holos can help you or your organisation to upgrade it’s leadership to flourish even in a challenging business environment.

Please share your ideas, comment and discuss here – click on the blog title and scroll to the bottom to find the comment box.

You can subscribe for free at http://www.holoschange.com

neil

Neil Crofts
Co-Founder
Holos

+447803 774239
neil@holoschange.com
http://www.holoschange.com

 

Posted in authenticity, Leadership, society | Leave a comment

Spiritual Crisis

There has been another long hiatus in my blogging, I am sorry.  Two readers have recently and separately told me how much they have appreciated these blogs and have helped me analyse why I stopped writing.

It is always easy to use the excuse of being too busy, and while there is some truth in that, it is not the reason.

The reason I have not been writing is that my view of my blog was always that it was not meant to be political.  Occasionally I would stray into politics and that was OK, but mostly they would be based on the leadership lessons that I had learned or observed in working with teams or individuals.

The political turmoil since June ’16 meant that the only lessons I had  in my head on a Monday morning were political.  Since my view of the blog was that it was not meant to be political, I would usually skip a week if the only thoughts I had were political.  Then weeks turned to months and months to over a year.

Today I would like to explore the experience since June ’16 and maybe it will resonate with a few of you and maybe it will offer some lessons in leadership and life.

Like many, the day after the EU referendum I was devastated and furiously angry, which is not an emotion I am familiar with.  I took out my anger on millions of innocent blades of grass while listening to punk.  I didn’t know how else to deal with it.

More recently I saw a video of Russell Brand describe the state we collectively are in as a “Spiritual Crisis” and that resonates with me.  My whole world view has been shaken by these events and I am still struggling to come to terms with it.

I observe myself wanting outside forces (like Russia) to be behind it, because that means it is not how people really think.

I observe myself turning to sports news to avoid dealing with the realities.

I observe myself turning to satire to be reassured by their skewering the “villains”

And in amongst these displacement and denial activities I try to make sense of it all and I think there are some insights.

1 – New Media – There is an interesting parallel with the Third Reich (I am always careful about invoking that one, so please bear with me).   One of the things that enabled the Nazis was their clever use of new media, particularly radio and cinema.  Joseph Goebbels the propaganda minister was one of the first to really utilise these technologies powerfully to program a population.

Is it possible that humans can be more vulnerable to messages that come through a new media channel?

Radio and cinema reached huge new audiences in the 1930s, people who had never been avid newspaper readers became radio listeners and cinema news reel watchers.  It is likely that newspaper readers had the antibodies to protect them from the propaganda, but those who were consuming news for the first time were vulnerable should someone choose to manipulate them, which is exactly what happened.

Scroll forward to 2016/17 and the new medium is smart phone based social media. People who had previously contented themselves with gossip and sports news, could suddenly be reached by propagandists as they scrolled through Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.  These news newbies had not built up their propaganda antibodies and were easily manipulated.

It now seems plausible that the Vladimir Putin was one of the first to see this opportunity when he was able to create convenient political turmoil in the Ukraine.  He then expanded the process to devastating effect in both the UK and the US.  He was not the only one.  Aaron Banks and Robert Mercer also seem to have funded substantial propaganda campaigns.

Although it is undoubtedly contentious (and potentially smug), there is some evidence that Brexit and Trump voters were somewhat less well educated than those who voted for the alternatives.  This might support the argument that those who were less well read were also more susceptible to the sophisticated propaganda that was reaching them repeatedly for the first time through these new channels.

2 – The First Maturity War

Inter country wars tend to be about conquest, whereas civil wars tend to be about the system of governance.   Partly as as result of the above propaganda, but the roots may be traceable back to 9/11 and the causes of that tragedy, we are now in a very different kind of conflict.

The conflict we are in can be interpreted as a conflict between maturity levels.

Slightly more than half of the adult population are at an “Independent” level of maturity.  At this level of maturity we tend to see life as competitive and every individual has to fight every other individual for success, recognition or status.  These individuals may band together into “tribes” or nations of people “like them” against people not like them.  Trust and vulnerability are rare experiences at this level of maturity.

Slightly less than half of the adult population mature from Independent to Interdependent.  This occurs through experiences of trust and vulnerability such as a high functioning relationship or team or traumatic experiences such as injury or accident. At this level of maturity trust and vulnerability are commonplace and deep collaboration is possible in relationships, teams and between organisations and countries.

Before the twin electoral shocks of 2016 it was easy to believe that we had reached a point where developed countries were largely run by people at an Interdependent level of maturity.  They proved that this was not inevitable.

The tension exposed by these elections, however they may have been rigged, is the conflict between those who believe in a deep and complete way in diversity, collaboration, interdependence and complex systems thinking and those who believe with the same intensity in mono culture, conflict, independence and linear cause and effect.

No one cannot see or understand the levels of maturity they have not yet reached.  As a consequence our working assumption is that they are like us.   An “Independent” individual would believe that others as are just as competitive as they are regardless of their maturity and, since they disagree, they must be on the opposing side.

For the most part this is not true.  We are not on the opposing side to those who want a fulfilling life with a sensible income, with security and safety and a responsible government – we are on the same side.  If we have different views about how we get there, we need a dialogue not a conflict.

And this perhaps, is the spiritual crisis.  Having spent our lives feeling that we have been working and contributing towards the greater good,  a chunk of the world’s population just threw it right back at us and said “NO – we have no interest in collaborating with you, we disagree with you on a fundamental level.”

So – what now?

We remind ourselves that every crisis gets precisely as deep as it needs to get for a critical mass of people to learn the lesson it is teaching us.

We remind ourselves that every country gets the leadership they deserve and that if we don’t like it, it is up to us to do something about it.

We act.

If any of my patient readers has access to a forum where I can speak to politicians about leadership, I would be very interested to explore it.

Holos helps make change easy. We help organisations develop their leaders, map out and deliver the changes required to achieve sustained success even in a highly disrupted environment.

At Holos we have been studying change leadership and leadership training in the crucible of reality for years. We know what great leadership looks like and we know the journey to achieve it. We have developed a suite of diagnostic tools to understand where companies and teams are on this journey and how to take them from there to sustained success.

Holos has a wealth of specialist leadership and culture coaches and consultants with decades of experience working with a huge variety of leaders. Holos can help you or your organisation to upgrade it’s leadership to flourish even in a challenging business environment.

Please share your ideas, comment and discuss here – click on the blog title and scroll to the bottom to find the comment box.

You can subscribe for free at http://www.holoschange.com

neil

Neil Crofts
Co-Founder
Holos

+447803 774239
neil@holoschange.com
http://www.holoschange.com

 

 

Posted in Leadership, society | 5 Comments

Maturity in the age of Trump and Brexit

Generally speaking there are five levels of maturity available to us as we grow up.  Most of us make it to either the third or fourth level, a tiny minority get stuck at level one or two or make it all the way to the fifth level.

The political landscape in many countries right now is defined by the tensions between those at the third level and those at the fourth level of maturity.

The levels are:

Level 1, Self – For most people this is the time when we are infants, when we believe that the whole world exists to serve us – because for most of us, at this stage it does.  Parents, grandparents and others take care of our every need and desire, we have no responsibility. A tiny minority of people fail to mature beyond this stage and we might use special terms to describe them such as narcissist or psychopath.

Level 2, Dependent – Most of us, who are challenged to mature from Self to Dependent, do so between about three and five years old.  The adjustment is traumatic for all involved and is often called “Terrible Twos”.  It is a time when our sense of absolute entitlement is challenged.  When it is, many of us react badly, lying on the floor of supermarkets screaming because we are not allowed a cheap plastic toy, for example. Once through the transition most of us are dependent on parents, teachers and rules.  Typically we have only very limited ability to take responsibility for anything other than our own immediate needs and wants.  Most of us move beyond this stage, those who do not are adults who are unable to take the initiative and fail to take much responsibility for anything other than themselves.

level 3, Independent – Typically we make the also traumatic journey from Dependent to Independent through our teens and puberty.  It is a time when many of us clumsily break away from our dependence on parents and teachers.  Unwilling to take advice, we embark on an error strewn journey to Independence.  Once fully Independent we are able to take responsibility for ourselves in a longer term kind of way.  Our world view is that it is competitive out there and we have to fight our corner every step of the way.  As a result we find it difficult to demonstrate the kind of vulnerability and trust required for collaboration.  Independent leaders in organisations will often form silos, Independent leaders in politics will prefer isolated “greatness” over widespread international cooperation.  Less than half of us mature beyond Independent, those who do not would typically believe in zero sum competitiveness and might find it hard to form deep, trusting relationships with others.

Level 4, Interdependent – The journey from Independent to Interdependent is far less common than the previous two.  Many who make the journey will do so through an experience of deep vulnerability, perhaps through being part of a great team, finding true love, having children or a physical, psychological or emotional challenge that enforces trust.  These experiences on their own are not enough, only those who are able to see, understand and accept the new level world view will make the transition.  The world view at this level is one of interdependence and collaboration between individuals, organisations and nations. It also includes a system wide sense of responsibility for all those affected by our decisions or actions.  And the acceptance that everyone, even those you find annoying have value if relationships are skilfully managed.  Very few mature beyond Interdependent, perhaps 0.1% of the population.

Level 5, Integral – For the tiny minority who think and live at an Integral level the concept of Interdependence is now universal and not restricted to the narrower system we happen to be in. The sense of responsibility spreads beyond humans to all of life and not just for the present, but also for the past and future.  Actions align behind beliefs so that lifestyle has integrity and authenticity. The journey from Interdependence to Integral is a long one of gradual growth finding and adapting new ways of being Integral in all situations one layer at a time.

The differences between these levels is not just about ideas, as we mature from one level to the next the structure of our brains also changes.  Dr Clare Graves who was one of the authors of the Spiral Dynamics map of human development, first noticed structural differences in the brain, before associating them with different world views and political beliefs.

The ageing population in the global north has set up a profound political conflict between a typically older Independent population and a typically younger Interdependent population.  The Independents believe that their best interests are served by taking care of themselves and those most similar to themselves, often nationality is used as a proxy for similarly in this sense.  The Interdependents believe that the world’s best interests are served by collaboration, compromise, trust and vulnerability.

In our work with leadership and culture change for large organisations we know that the Independent level mindset creates systemic risks when it is over represented at a leadership level.  Independent bosses will typically compete with one another for status and regard their subordinates as either loyal cronies or traitors.  Either way this sets up a culture with limited psychological safety where people find it difficult to speak honestly about issues.  Every corporate disaster you can name includes a culture where people are unable to effectively raise concerns.  Independent bosses are good at getting things done quickly, but there is always an unsustainable long term cost.

Interdependent leaders are much better at creating psychologically safe environments where everyone performs at their best and can truly collaborate.  Often it takes longer to achieve results, but the value always lasts longer.  We have been deeply involved in two of the largest corporate cultural transformations over the last seven years by helping leaders develop.  The difference in reduced risk, increased performance and enhanced culture is palpable.

If we aspire to a world of sustained prosperity where the worst of conflict and climate change are avoided, we must all skilfully follow and ourselves be Interdependent leaders.

The description for the maturity levels described above are inspired by the work of Nick Petrie at the Centre for Creative Leadership and by Spiral Dynamics.

Holos helps make change easy. We help organisations develop their leaders, to become Interdependent and to map out and deliver the changes required to achieve sustained success even in a highly disrupted environment.

At Holos we have been studying change leadership and leadership training in the crucible of reality for years. We know what great leadership looks like and we know the journey to achieve it. We have developed a suite of diagnostic tools to understand where companies and teams are on this journey and how to take them from there to sustained success.

Holos has a wealth of specialist leadership and culture coaches and consultants with decades of experience working with a huge variety of leaders. Holos can help you or your organisation to upgrade it’s leadership to flourish even in a challenging business environment.

Please share your ideas, comment and discuss here – click on the blog title and scroll to the bottom to find the comment box.

You can subscribe for free at http://www.holoschange.com

neil

Neil Crofts
Co-Founder
Holos

+447803 774239
neil@holoschange.com
http://www.holoschange.com

Posted in Business, Leadership, society | Leave a comment