As I watched the New Year’s fireworks this year, it was hard to celebrate. Talk of plans for 2013 seemed far away. My dear friend and colleague Chris Walton had been killed two days before Christmas when a structurally unsound awning fell on him. Chris who had grown up on construction sites heard the crack and pushed three people to safety before the impact hit. He was 54 years old.
What is it that makes Woody Allen so jumpy? Why do we laugh? What is it we recognise about ourselves in his crazy and illogical antics?
Woody Allen or at least the characters he portrays is a little afraid of his own shadow. Just as he is about to act he pulls himself back. Whilst he poses questions he rarely answers them. I think we love his characters so much because we recognise something of ourselves in him.
The status quo is seductive. When we take it for granted, we find ourselves under its spell, often without knowing it. When change comes along we resist it, acting as if life or work as we have known it is our right.
Former US National Security Advisor Colin Powell recalls his reaction when Mikhail Gorbachev advised him that he would need to find a new enemy. Powell didn’t want a new opponent. He had committed twenty-eight years to the one he had. After an initial struggle with his ego, Powell detached from his investment in the Cold War. As Gorbachev’s message sank in he realised not only that America’s relationship with the USSR was in transition, but that the nature of war itself was changing.
Leadership is an act, as much as it is a role. While popular notions of leadership emphasise the position of CEO, politician or chairperson, our obsession with positional power clouds our capacity to notice and learn from many ordinary and extraordinary moments of leadership - and potential leadership.
Sadly, our reliance on the identified office of the leader, causes us to overlook important leadership opportunities that lie within reach for each of us.
In my view leaders are people who see a problem, a need or an opportunity and choose to speak and act in service of what they believe to be right.
At some point, as a leader or manager you will have to provide performance feedback, handle complaints and manage grievances. Mastering the ability to give difficult feedback and keep dialog constructive and open is essential.
When asked to train managers in complaint handling recently, I prepared by exploring what helps individuals to engage with feedback and complaints. I also reflected on a powerful personal experience, that helped me understand just how difficult staying open to feedback can be.
The Grit In The Oyster is an exploration of the challenges in organisational life that most of us find testing.
These challenges range from so-called negative experiences such as conflict, complaints, dealing with staffing issues or the spectre of failure, to more tantalising endeavours such as achieving our organisational vision or connecting deeply with our mission, bringing the best out in our staff and realising our own personal potential.