Tag: Vulnerability

None of us is bulletproof – advice for founders

bulletproof

I had lunch recently with an investor who expressed frustration about founders of startups and scale-ups.

They are not a fund partner, nor VC or from the Private Equity world. No, they actually built a business of value and lived it for the whole journey through to an ultimate sale and cash out for a significant sum, thus giving them space and funds to invest in other businesses. Cards on the table, I prefer such investors as they’ve been through it personally, rolled the sleeves up. Experience brings empathy at a level that is irreplaceable. This gives them a powerful edge in mentoring founders, who often are sorely lacking sounding boards on the roller coaster ride.

So, why was this investor so frustrated when I met them? Could it have been that they wanted to vent along the lines of my own common frustration with founders focussed on raising round after round of funding without actually building a business that generates revenues? Not that day, though certainly something I may write about another time!

No, they were frustrated with founders pretending they are bulletproof. (more…)

Leadership, vulnerability and how to apologise

tory-blog-sorry

In “Good to Great“, Jim Collins talks of five levels of leadership, the highest being Level 5.

Level 5 leaders have all that it takes to be at the first four levels, but in addition, have a unique blend of humility and indomitable will.

My writing at this site is aimed at leaders either at Level 5 and seeking to keep growing, or truly hungry for being at or beyond Level 5 and committed to the path.

You’ll, therefore, see post after post talking about self-leadership, vulnerability, awareness, empathy, listening and more.

As Socrates said “Know Yourself”, or, more humorously “Be yourself..everyone else is already taken!”

So, today some simple tips on apologies from leaders. (more…)

Elite Lessons – Making failure possible

Exclusive-insight-cate-campbell

In order to make failure possible, you first have to try, to commit, to go where it may scare or even terrify you, to be vulnerable, to say “this might not work” and do it anyway.

Very recently I was disappointed to witness this first hand in someone. They were presented with a real opportunity, yet my sense is that it felt too scary to them to try, so instead, they creating a rationale for them to choose to back away and shut down. Rather than risk failure, they chose not to commit, to make the effort, to try.

By making the choice not to try, as Cate Campbell notes (see letter below) that person “let the fear of failure destroy the possibility of success”. We all have our own journey to go on, our own choices to make, and reflecting on that experience, today I’ll riff on this with lessons from two leaders. (more…)

Open Leadership – Being Human

being vulnerable bob marley

This is a repost and update of one of my earliest posts on this site, “Presence…and Vulnerability“. Why a repost?

My current musing is on Romance, Beauty and business. Yesterday’s post, inspired by the “Business Romantic”, Tim Leberecht, had me think about being human and building a business around that, and I finished yesterday with:

“Business can be beautiful when it embraces what it means to be human. Appreciate beauty for beauty’s sake, be vulnerable, open, intimate, curious, authentic. Such qualities in humans are beautiful at a deep level, as they are with a business.”

Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk is my favourite TED talk of all time. Every time I watch it I well up with tears towards the end. Why? Simple, such humanity is truly beautiful.

As Bob Marley also notes above, vulnerability is essential if we are to take true pleasure in life. Oh, and it also risks it all too, so vulnerability is indeed brave and a gift to ourselves and others.

Be Human. (more…)

Stretch but don’t break – and watch Nanette

“A leader is someone others choose to follow” ~ (me)

People follow leaders who are “keepers of the vision” and who create and maintain a space where people feel inspired and also stretched to be their best to be part of achieving that vision.

What if, however, a leader stretches things too far? It is always a risk, and should you stretch too far, the container, the space, can be broken and you can lose your audience.

So, who can leaders learn from who do this masterfully? Who stretch but don’t break that bond with their audience, their followers ?

Yes, many business, political, societal leaders. Who else? Actors and Comedians. (more…)

Onlyness and Chip Conley

Nilofer Onlyness

In the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to several thought leaders, speakers, writers who I have very much admired and respected for many years.

Two of those people are Nilofer Merchant and Chip Conley.

Nilofer I just talked to for the first time recently, Chip I first connected with via my writing on this site late last year, then I followed the energy and spent time with him and an amazing cohort of Modern Elders in Baja, Mexico this past April.

Now, from talking to Nilofer, today I simply will connect her concept of Onlyness to what I see that means for Chip Conley.

In her book, she writes about this word she came up with:

“You’re standing in a spot in the world that only you stand in, a function of your history and experiences, visions, and hopes. From this spot where only you stand, you offer a distinct point of view, novel insights, and even groundbreaking ideas. Now that you can grow and realize those ideas through the power of networks, you have a new lever to move the world.”

“Through the power of onlyness, an individual conceives an idea born of his narrative, nurtures it with the help of a community that embraces it, and, through shared action, makes the idea powerful enough to dent the world.”

Nilofer and I recently had a wonderful “virtual walk and talk” call (after all, she did a wonderful TED talk on walking meetings!). On that call, among other things, she helped me see my own “Onlyness”, for which I am deeply grateful, and as the call progressed I also witnessed and had insights around hers.

This call then saw me muse back to spending time with Chip a few months ago. (more…)

Leadership – Being alone with our thoughts

“tout le malheur des hommes vient de ne savoir pas se tenir en repos dans une chambre”

“All of humanity’s misfortunes stem from man’s inability to stay at rest in a room”

From Pensées by Blaise Pascal, written in the 1600s

blaisepascal1-2x

A search on this “My Writing” page currently returns twenty articles referencing the  keyword “silence”.

If you’d like a quiet hour or two to muse eclectically on this theme, I offer you the search here.

I keep coming back to silence as a theme, so why is that ? (more…)

Coaching Skills – Asking is about Connecting

Today I sit on my terrace early in the morning, preparing in my own way for coaching calls with two new clients from an organisation I am supporting as they bravely transform.

While sitting quietly as I tend to do before such calls, I opened my online notes of “things to read, watch, listen to” when I have this kind of space, somehow serendipitously choosing to watch a TED Talk by Amanda Palmer called “The Art of Asking”

 

So, a “Tom-ism” is: “A leader is someone others choose to follow”

If you make someone follow you, you are a boss, not a leader. If you ask them to follow you and they choose to, things are very different. In addition, those first followers are truly important, as once they follow you, others join them. The more enthusiastic your followers, the more others follow you, and then you have a movement.

Asking people versus making them is more powerful, but why would people choose to do what you ask? The answer is because you have connected to them and we all crave connection.

Amanda Palmer’s superpower is connecting with people, she has done this her whole life, it is her supreme gift. (more…)

Smashing Paradigms – Why Be Humble?

This week a note. I like to choose to have only enough Structure to allow #Flow, and it feels to me that having set themes for my posts on Fridays (Smashing Paradigms), Saturdays (Writing I love) and Sundays (Movies with Meaning) is now too structured, so after this week I’m dropping that structure and such posts will be more sporadic and come as things #Flow !

Latest in the series on Smashing Paradigms. 

For my story-telling explanation of the definition of a Paradigm, see “What is a Paradigm“. 

One way of defining a paradigm is “we’ve always done it this way”

humble

Recently I was talking with an author and thought leader I admire and had exchanged some thoughts with online before we decided to have a “real life” conversation (rumour has it they are coming back into vogue!). As we talked, they noted that of late they have found a theme around leaders saying to them: “my people just don’t get it, what am I doing wrong ?”.

As she listened to this, again and again, she recognised: “they don’t have a communication problem, they have an arrogance problem”.

When she has candidly told them this, sometimes they responded to her “how do I be humble?”.

She asked me my advice, based on my experience with leaders, on what to say in response to such a question.

My answer?   (more…)

Writing I Love – Malcolm Gladwell – Outliers

Having and stimulating your Growth mindset  is key for leaders, and so investing time to read widely as well as deeply is one way to give focus to this.  With that in mind, each Saturday I post “Writing I Love”. Sometimes a business book, sometimes a leadership quote, often something more esoteric, such as a poem, novel, song lyric. 

outliers

The other day I posted “Ben Hogan : Deliberate Practice” and referenced in it the “10,000 hour” rule from Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

I was a little shocked at myself to realise that in all the many daily posts on this site, so far I had not actually mentioned Malcolm Gladwell in my weekly “Writing I Love” posts. Time to remedy that.

Gladwell’s books have been wonderfully catalysing for me over many years. After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, for over a decade I focussed almost entirely on financial and other metrics as the answers to building value in a business. However, I then came to realise that people and culture within organisations are also massively important, so I started studying widely and deeply to understand how “people and profit”, “commercial and cultural” elements of business, in combination, drive value.

Of course where I am now is that I feel I have a pretty deep understanding of both, so now focus on leadership and working with leaders, and one part of that is to eclectically look at what makes a great leader, hence the very varied nature of posts on this site !

So, to Gladwell. He is a master story teller, not an economist, not a psychologist, not an academic. He is also massively curious and so takes passionate interest and lots of time and research into finding and diving deep into what drives people. HIs books smack of wisdom, my personal definition for wisdom being: “something concise that, once you hear it, you feel you always knew it”. (more…)

Writing I Love – Eclectic Lines

Having and stimulating your Growth mindset  is key for leaders, and so investing time to read widely as well as deeply is one way to give focus to this.  With that in mind, each Tuesday I post “Writing I Love”. Sometimes a business book, sometimes a leadership quote, often something more esoteric, such as a poem, novel, song lyric. 

murakami

This quote from Murakami speaks to these weekly posts, and today, inspired by a Tweet from Matt Haig a few weeks ago, simply sharing a number of opening lines of books, closing lines of movies, quotes, sayings, song lyrics.

Am also musing on classicism and romanticism and where I sit on that spectrum. From the lines below, one can see that I am certainly somewhat of a romantic, yet I can also be highly practical and rational. All things in balance !

Innovation is as simple as “doing things differently and doing different things”, so I’d love it if one or two of these inspire you to google the author, the line, pick up a book, watch a movie, listen to a song.

Enjoy this selection. (more…)

Writing I Love – The Stolen Child

stolen child

Leaders are often encouraged to be selfless, to be servant leaders (and other such descriptors).

However, our egos are very stubborn. They resist the idea of being selfless, as that means dissolving the ego so as to be of greater service to others, to shift and transform from one state to another.

It is very hard to “think your away” from one state to another, to get “out of your head”. In order to do so, shift from thinking to feeling, create an experience for yourself that is out of your norm.

That can be a walk on the beach, meditation, exercise. It can also be listening to music, dancing, even whirling and spinning as dervishes do for just such a purpose.

I love music and poetry, and the combination for me can be powerful. An absolute gem is “The Stolen Child” by Yeats, put to music by The Waterboys, from the Fisherman’s Blues album recorded in Ireland, and featuring the incredible voice of Tomás Mac Eoin, a local singer of Sean-nós unaccompanied singing. (more…)

Smashing Paradigms – Trains without Timetables ?

{latest in a developing series on Smashing Paradigms}

For my story-telling explanation of the definition of a Paradigm, see “What is a Paradigm“. 

One way of defining a paradigm is “an unconsciously held belief that limits us from fresh thinking” or “we’ve always done it this way”

Smasher_logo_cracked+black

(c) smasherofficial.com

Today I’ll talk about two paradigms to smash. One is the idea of abolition of railway timetables, the other that of revolutionising rail ticket pricing.

First, timetables. Trains run on time. Well, most of the time. The driving force behind this since the very early days of rail travel has been the railway timetable. All systems and processes centre around it.

In fact, in 1840 the Great Western Railway introduced the concept of “Railway time” in order to have uniform times at each station, all on “London time”, co-ordinate from the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, from where all time around the world is still set.

So, since 1840 trains have run based on consistent times and from railway timetables.

It was therefore hugely refreshing this week to hear Sir Peter Hendy, Chair of Network Rail, foreshadow the end of the railway timetable. No more railway timetables ? What does he mean ? “We’ve always done it this way” (paradigm alert !).

You see, before his role with Network Rail he headed up Transport for London, home of the “Tube”, the London Underground. As he noted in his speech for the George Bradshaw address (pdf here), the Victoria line on the Tube has 36 trains per hour at peak times. Anyone who rides the tube knows there are no timetables, nor would we want one. Instead, on each platform there is simply a display that indicates how many minutes until the next trains arrive.

(more…)

Be Brave, Own It ! – Keala’s “This is Me” Moment

Yes, #itsyourfault Keala….

An oh so powerful story of owning your genius, of being brave, of stepping up, of inspiring others and yourself.

The story of one woman, one song. Read my words, then watch the video. You WILL laugh, you will cry (lots!), you will jump up and dance !

So, living in the UK, I find so much “deflection” of our genius. People are complimented and say “oh, it was nothing”. As Nick Hussey noted (I agree!)

What do I mean #itsyourfault ?

Well, (plot spoiler alert!) the Oscar for best song this year will go to “This is Me”. Ok, so I’m predicting the future, but it is the surest thing in the history of surest things !

The success of this song is down to the woman who sings it, the amazing Keala Settle.

The thing is, in every interview, she starts out by saying “its your fault, Hugh Jackman”, giving the lead in the movie the credit for supporting her.

In response, Hugh has held the mirror up to her consistently, acknowledging her brilliance, and on twitter he does it with the hashtag #itsyourfault.

Watch the video of the first time he heard the song at the workshop that gave the movie the “green light”. Watch Keala hide her brilliance, then let it shine. Watch the moment where she holds Hugh’s hands and he gives up fighting back the tears of joy.

#itsyourfault @Kealasettle, #thisisme #andtheoscargoesto

 

 

Smashing Paradigms – “I was wrong”

{latest in a developing series on Smashing Paradigms}

For my story-telling explanation of the definition of a Paradigm, see “What is a Paradigm“. 

One way of defining a paradigm is “an unconsciously held belief that limits us from fresh thinking” or “we’ve always done it this way”

Smasher_logo_cracked+black

(c) smasherofficial.com

 

The world we know is based on the “command and control” method of leadership that leveraged the post Second World War return to the work force of millions of men used to following orders without question.

Out of this paradigm of omniscient and all powerful leadership came the orthodoxy of the MBA and Business School training that to some level still persists, and certainly has formed much of the understanding, knowledge and beliefs of many of the CEOs, Politicians and other 40+, 50+, 60+ leaders that guide our world now.

In the last week we have seen yet another school shooting in the USA, yet all around the world the sadness is amplified by the sense that nothing will change (though let us hope that the likes of Emma Gonzalez will change that. More on that tomorrow in a positive and life affirming post.. I am an eternal optimist who believes love will triumph over fear!).

I thought about what needs to change in leadership in the USA for gun control to really happen in the way it did in the UK and Australia in recent decades. My simple conclusion ? Our “command and control” leaders in the USA and around the world simply need bravery, the bravery to stand up and say “I was wrong“.

i was wrong

(more…)