Yesterday’s post on: “The Power of Subtlety” made points that I come back to over and over on this site, fundamentally that a core aspect of leadership is how you show up, the energy you bring to any conversation.
Managing your energy is therefore key. Part of this is first knowing what gives you energy (and what takes it away) and managing your diary accordingly. However, there can be too much of a good thing, and that is today’s lesson – for me, and perhaps of value to you.
Last Sunday morning I got back from an amazing week in Cayman, full of both many (over 20) one to one meetings (these give me energy – check!), then a full day leadership facilitation (again, gives me energy – check, check!). That said, I knew I’d need rest when I got back, so it was only a little surprising that I then slept for nearly 11 hours the first night back!
So, back to yesterday, Monday. Methinks I overbooked myself. From when I started looking at work to after I’d finished my fifth meeting/call of the day, then finished other written work planned, twelve hours had passed on my first full day back after long haul travel.
So, a reminder to self. First, be aware of what gives and takes away energy. After that, even it is mostly or even all the things you love to do, don’t overdo it.
I’m told sometimes I have as much energy as the Energizer Bunny, but even he can run out of charge sometimes!
Subtlety in leadership is in your presence and your being. It is in how you make people feel, at least as much as what you say or you do.
I write often in my daily posts about topics such as Presence and on “being” a leader, not “doing” leadership.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
The movie still above is from “1917”, which I watched yesterday. It is a simple story about two men sent to deliver a message on the front line in World War I.
It is a quite brilliant combination of storytelling and directorial as it uses a single shot and the lead characters are in the frame for every second of the movie.
At the end of the movie the full theatre emptied slowly and quietly, the whole audience deeply moved, having been immersed in that feeling of what it must have been like to be there.
What it did not do was a) spell out how that would have felt, b) lecture the audience on the horror of war, nor c) use violence to shock or d) artificially use shock tactics.
Sometimes being direct and radical in approach is needed, but often there is great power in subtlety. In leadership, it is in your presence and your being, it is in how you make people feel, at least as much as what you say or you do.
Over the years sometimes I’ve been asked to lead client meetings in hotel conference rooms in basements with no natural light. Sometimes “needs must”, but when a group is looking at brave and transformative ideas, always find a venue away from the office that has lots of natural light and space. It can only make it easier to create the inspiration and shifts you are looking for!
So as this publishes, I’m back in London after another great week working in Cayman. The photo above was of the venue chosen for a full day facilitation for a leadership team. Nice, but now look at the video from the balcony of the venue.
Wow… and this is really one of my favourite spots in Cayman to work with clients.
PS one I love even more is the studio at Flow, so let that be a hint for leaders in Cayman too!
On Thursday afternoon last week in Cayman, I had two hours to sit and prepare my notes for facilitating a full-day meeting on that Friday for a client leadership team. I’ve had a great week in Cayman on so many levels and at the same time by Thursday afternoon I’d had over twenty meetings that week.
So, when I found this perfect and peaceful spot and a seat in the shade with a cool breeze and before I gathered my thoughts to write up my “run sheet”, I simply sat quietly for a few minutes, listened to the silence punctuated only by birdsong, focussed on gratitude.
On an individual level it is always worth taking time to pause to be grateful.
On a leadership level, one meeting this week was with a friend and client who is a CEO. They had just had their annual 360 feedback and, as a humble, open and vulnerable leader, they immediately looked for ways to grown and learn.
One takeaway they will take action from is to take more time with their team to celebrate and be grateful for achievements instead of almost immediately moving on to the next project, goal, target.
I admire this leader greatly and love the lesson they took.
Last Sunday I was Refereeing a swim meet in Cayman at this pool. As one heat was ready to start and the ten-year-old girls were in the pool ready to start their Backstroke race, the starter made an error and announced the race as a Breastroke event. Fast as you like, one of the ten-year-olds looked over and said, firmly and calmly “it is Backstroke, not Breaststroke”. That was us corrected! I looked at the heat sheet, recognised her surname, looked across the pool to the parents and spotted her mother. Last time I had seen that 10 year old she was a few months old and in her mother’s arms.
The day before I had flown down from Miami to Cayman on Cayman Airways. The co-pilot was young, so young that perhaps his full beard was there to make him look more mature. He is 25 and was in the same class at school as my oldest son!
I guess what has been coming to mind more and more, then, is that I’m embracing the passage of time and watching others grow. Sometimes I’ve played a part on that journey too, which adds another lovely layer to the role of elder.
Today curating a post by Chip Conley on the subject, called:
What does it take to make major changes in group behaviour, whether it be a shift in what is societally acceptable, or perhaps for a company introducing a new product to a market when customers are rooted in using the old and established offerings?
..in the 1970s, people lit up almost anywhere, smoking away in other people’s houses, in pubs and on buses. Today, smokers congregate outside. In the 1980s, drink driving was common. It was regarded as a bit iffy but we did it.
Today, for nearly everybody it is a complete no no. Some older drivers are still at it, but socially, drink driving is completely unacceptable. Had you told my late father – a lifelong dog lover, owner and walker – that he’d be expected to pick up his own dog’s droppings in a bag, he would have laughed you out of the park.
Yet all these behavioural changes have come about and are now accepted to such an extent that people can’t imagine going back to the old ways. This is what societal change looks like. Something that was once accepted as normal becomes an affront to respectable folk.
I’ve worked in well over 30 countries and my natural curiosity around two particular areas, societal behaviours and economics, have always meant that any time I go somewhere I tend to ask questions as to why certain things are the way they are. Often the first answer is what I call the “six most dangerous words in business”:
“we’ve always done things this way”
So, what does it take to make major changes in group behaviour, whether it be a shift in what is societally acceptable (such as smoking in indoor public spaces), or perhaps for a company introducing a new product to a market when customers are rooted in using the old and established offerings?
Today I’ll look at my home country of Cayman as an example of seeing opportunity and what it could take to effect such change.
Often when we are in conversation with someone it is a two-way thing, we share thoughts, ideas with each other and bounce things around. In short, both people are looking to share what is on their mind, they are there to both listen and talk.
However, sometimes we simply want to share our thoughts, to get them out of our heads, to “download”. This is so much easier and flowing when we are with someone who we know is there wholly and completely for us, in service of whatever you need to “talk out”.
One other layer is where the person listening does simply that, listen. They don’t give advice, they only listen, then listen some more. Often we work out what we need to work out simply by sharing our thoughts out loud with someone, we may have sat down with them thinking we may want their advice, but then find we’ve worked it out for themselves by some magic!
This is my professional role, that of sounding board, sometimes I am there to share my advice after listening to them, yet often being present and deeply listening is enough, the person works it out for themself.
Am reminded of this as I experienced it myself this week in a conversation in Cayman where I am a client of a professional service provider. I downloaded my thoughts as to the matter at hand, looking to brainstorm solutions with them. However, as I finished the download, I suddenly realised the solution simply by having shared the situation out loud with them!
So, when you have a challenge or opportunity to work out, find someone to listen to you.
Writing this at 10pm on Monday, my first working day on this one week trip to Cayman. I’ve just finished 10 meetings/calls/catchups spread over 14 hours. By midafternoon and meeting number 7, I was asked: “doesn’t that tire you?” My answer was that no, it energises me. Cayman is home and I love to be back to visit. Also, my context for Cayman is CONNECTION, so connecting to people when here is deeply energising.
With another context, different meetings, different place then sure, 10 meetings in 14 hours could be de-energising. However, I know that back to back meetings day after day in Cayman charges up my batteries, so I am loving it!
Know what energises you and plan and operate accordingly wherever and whenever you can.
Today a story as a reminder to consciously look for new perspectives, literally and figuratively. All too often we get stuck in what we know, what we are familiar with. In our businesses, we do the same, we also recruit and choose to work with those who fit our familiar and comfortable choices. What is lost if we only go with what we know instead of allowing ourselves to wander, to discover new things, new ideas, new people?
“Perception constitutes our awareness of what it is to be human, indeed what it is to be alive.”
This week I visited the Hayward Gallery to see the Bridget Riley exhibition. Her huge abstract paintings of stripes and colours must be experienced live, and wow are they alive. They have a truly psychedelic effect, giving the viewer the experience of expanded and altered consciousness.
I was there to experience all of that, but I was also there most of all to see for myself one painting, Riley’s copy of Seurat’s “The Bridge at Courbevoie”, which she regarded as her greatest tutorial, using what Seurat coined as pointillism, painting with coloured dots of oil paint, to both create an image and also receive and alter the perception of the viewer.
I was alone in that room and able to stand very close to the painting and take time to see the dots, then stand back at varying differences, each of which altered my perception.
So, I titled today’s post “The Art of Perception”. The heart of my work is around people and actively and deeply listening to and observing them. Perception is reality and reality is perception and I am always looking for new learnings and ways to listen, to see, to perceive.
I encourage you to seek out new ways that are outside your normal spheres, your comfort zone. It could be art, music, movement, spiritual practice. Anything and everything we learn has the ability, should we allow it to, to shift our perception. I wish you curiosity, growth, and shifting perceptions.
Today let me tell you a story about a time when I nearly paid the price of focussing solely on lowest cost rather than investing in value until I had a sudden moment where I realised that investing an extra $25,000 would actually be of priceless value.
I hope from this you can consider when to pay the lowest price and when do focus on the value of investing in more.
A further thought is to be clear on your WHY to invest in value rather than focus solely on the lowest cost option.
#OpenLeadership is simple.It is a practice of embracing change as constant, encouraging individual thought, relying on intuition more than data, fluidity more than hierarchy, trust more than fear, and putting the common good ahead of profit.
What does it mean to be this type of leader? Such leaders have core qualities that drive them. Those are to: Be Brave, Be Hungry, Be Open, Be Humble.
Keeping it simple is powerful, yet only if you’ve done the work before you simplify, or have someone you trust to do it for you!
As an example, the other night I was out for dinner with a dear friend, one of the most highly educated and brilliant people I know. They talked through an initiative they are co-leading that can (and, I believe will) drive massive change in business to greatly enhance the lives and careers of millions of women.
Having absorbed their ideas delivered at firehose volume and pace, the next morning I woke up simply reflecting on the brilliance that, at the end of the day, what will engage those with and in power to act on their idea is one story that leads to taking three simple actions. That is all.
In 2020 I will be writing regular posts featuring businesses that are truly Purpose-led and are highly and sustainably successful. This is all part of a mission to build bridges to CEOs, and specifically to address the doubters that believe that Purpose as the core driver for Leadership is only “window dressing”. Whilst I agree that there is more and more “Purpose-Washing” that goes on from cynical CEOs, Boards, Shareholders, by writing about the success stories I hope to open eyes and hearts and reduce some of that cynicism.
Purpose-Led – Redemption Roasters
Our business is successful because our customers and clients buy into our ethos, not because we have no costs.
This week I was invited to meet a friend at one of the locations of the London-based coffee company Redemption Roasters. I gave no thought to the name until I walked in the door and their purpose was clearly shown on boards on the walls.
Redemption are: “a specialty coffee company who believe that we can reduce reoffending in the UK through coffee.”
Redemption roast their coffee in UK prisons. Their FAQ is a wonderful read and the quote at the top here leapt out at me from the FAQ. Oh, and from roasting coffee in ONE UK prison, they now have five coffee shops in London, a training centre, and are in a total of NINE UK Prisons as well as Brook House Immigration Removal Centre. I repeat their quote:
Our business is successful because our customers and clients buy into our ethos, not because we have no costs.