Sunday, November 1, 2015

Try, try and try again

That is how you win a game.

That, and with a few Daniel Carter kicks.

Saturday’s Rugby World Cup win by New Zealand’s All Blacks is a rich(ie) (I can’t help it!) stomping ground for sports mad metaphors and lessons for leadership and team development.

Here’s a starter for 6.

Creating the right environment:  All Blacks are created by the system and environment, not just when they pull on the jersey”. From the grassroots level at school, through to the provinces and to the top team, development is coordinated, talent is nurtured and coaches consistently share knowledge. 

Leadership:  Captain Richie McCaw and Coach Steve Hansen embody what Good to Great author Jim Collins called Level 5 leaders. Leaders whose extreme personal humility blends paradoxically with intense professional will.  Richie is the most capped test rugby player of all time and since his debut in 2001 he has led by example both on and off the field.  

Strength based:   All shapes and sizes have a place in the game of rugby.  For instance, there is the fast winger who typically scores tries, the tall lock who can rise above them all in the line out, the beefy prop who will power it in the scrum.  Each has their own role to play but equipped with a deep understanding of the game, organisational capacity and the ability to communicate,  All Blacks are extra clever in flexing to intuitively find opportunities.

Simple excellence:  They are constantly perfecting their technical skills and tactics – and they balance this with keeping things simple. 

Body and mind connection:   What gives them the edge is their physical and mental fitness.   They are superbly fit, as rigorous in exercise as they are in mental skills training to stay focused and resilient.

Persistence:  After their World Cup winning debut in 1987, it took them 24 years to win back the Webb Ellis trophy even if they were always mooted as favourites. Watching them play the game as a relentless eighty minutes, moment by moment applying pressure on their opponents reflects their persistence at a larger scale in that they are now the only team to win the World Cup back to back.  In the words of American writer James Whitcomb Riley “continuous, unflagging effort, persistence and determination will win. Let not the man be discouraged who has these”.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Start worrying: details to follow

Tara Brach, meditation teacher tells of an old joke whereby a man gets a message from a family member, with the words, “Start worrying: details to follow.”

You might recognise similar messages, whether they be from a parent, partner, friend, boss or perhaps every news broadcaster. 

Depending on our pre-disposition, we can perceive change as something negative or seemingly be on constant alert for danger ahead. In this way, our reptilian brain starts going into survival and protection mode and then we begin to speculate about a future. A future, which might or might not transpire in the way we imagine.

Our beautiful minds are clever in helping us to think ahead, prepare and plan for different scenarios logically, rationally and creatively.   But we can overrate such capabilities because we fall into the trap of believing that by thinking about things, we can control them.   We delude ourselves that our pre-emptive strikes in thought or action are managing our lives and will help us avoid failure or pain.   

Any meditation teacher will tell you the same – 95% of our suffering is in our minds.  While we are pondering, contemplating, thinking, judging, assessing and evaluating, we miss the richness, fullness and peace of the moment. And we create dramas, which are made entirely of thoughts we believe are true instead of being what they are, just thoughts.   As Mark Twain famously wrote,  'I've lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.' 

In worrying, we destabilise our minds and hearts. We move far away from our own presence and resourcefulness. We project our own neediness.  In worrying about others, rather than it showing up as care, it denies the other’s self reliance.  It is dismissive of their resourcefulness and ability to cope or thrive. 

In worrying, we negatively affect our own health.  It makes us tired, stressed, speeds up the ageing process and can lead to depression.  And it takes us away from the gifts which uncertainty and ambiguity can bring.  Poet John O'Donohue observed, "We’re so busy managing our life so as to cover over this great mystery." 

As leaders we need to pay attention to our own tendency to worry or of those we lead.  If we learn to observe our mind, we can become more skilled at choosing the state that serves us well.  We train ourselves to be more skilled at being in the present and sitting with the unknown, than worrying or controlling. ‘Catching’ ourselves when we worry, becoming aware of it, is itself curative.  From this awareness, we open ourselves to possibilities about what to do next.

Mind you with Halloween coming up, you may have reason to worry. Just joking.

image: via google images

Thursday, October 15, 2015

What I learned in film school

The film industry may hold a stereotype of being full of moody creatives, divas, wannabes and overpumped egos. And yet maybe it is the best example of collaboration there is.

Interestingly, two competing consultancies I work with have both recently written about collaboration.  David Williams from Impact International identifies it as a key organisational differentiator.   Indeed we are all keen to know how to do it and do it well.

Dipping into a film course as a hobby, I couldn’t help but observe it from my leadership consultant perspective.  It was a fascinating insight into giving and letting go, and contrary to popular opinion, egoless leadership.

I’m one of those who will sit and watch the credits roll at the end of a movie.  It impresses me how many people it takes to bring something to the screen.  There they are, listed one by one.  Numerous people with various roles and responsibilities who have come together to create something more than what the individuals themselves could ever achieve alone.  

Anyone of us can appreciate that movie making requires an economic and powerful creative symbiosis of pictures, sound, light, words and action. 

Each individual, from behind the scenes, to those we get to see on the screen, contributes their gifts whatever they may be and then steps out of the limelight to let another build on what has been done. Each person comes with their skills, talents and aspirations, prepared to engage in a creative process of sharing, debating and accommodating..and then of letting go and stepping back.  Such individuals are, as Lane4 writes in terms of what is required for collaborative behaviour, both assertive and cooperative.  They are confident about what they can bring to the party and have a willingness to work with others.  Work to such an extent that they are prepared to ‘kill their darlings’, sacrifice their precious attachments,  to serve the bigger picture (pun  so intended).  You have the likes of the screenwriter sweating over the crafting of their script who then has to stand back to allow the Director to give their vision.  The Director in turn has still to negotiate with all the other skilled contributors, including the actors whose role is to breathe life into the lines, in order to mould the characters and story further.  Finally, there is the drama of the cut-throat editing process where things can change in a snip. 

A movie is only possible through the diversity of knowledge, skills and expertise of all the collaborating parties.  And so is sustainable development.

In the spirit of improving collaboration, to what extent are you creating the right environment for each person to make their unique contribution for the collective good?  


Lane4 Management Group (6 October 2015)  Collaboration to Perform (White Paper)

image: via google