"Frank's skill in asking the right questions is un-mistakable, and is at the core of his leadership philosophy.

The power of these questions cannot be underestimated, especially if you want to lead and not manage."
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Archive for the 'Motivation' Category

Life Work Balance

A recent meeting of the British Psychological Society enjoyed a talk from American-born British psychologist Sir Cary Cooper.

You won’t have needed to have read too many of my blog entries to know that Sir Cary’s subject—’Social media damaging our work-life balance’—and particular topic—’Mental capital and wellbeing at work’—are both close to my heart.
  • In his talk Sir Cary stressed the need for:
  • control or autonomy for employees in their jobs
  • management through praise and reward rather than fault-finding
  • manageable workloads and achievable deadlines
  • work life balance.*

*(funny how we all tend to put the word ‘work’ before the word ‘life’!)

Sir Cary highlighted the usual suspects. Long hours and their damaging effect on health, electronic mail overload and how the downside of email and social media now outweigh the benefits.

Finally, Sir Cary alluded to a John Ruskin (British social reformer) 1851 quote which I will reprise here:
In order that people may be happy in their work, these three things are needed: they must be fit for it, they must not do too much of it, and they must have a sense of success in it.

Don’t just take my word on these issues … eminent workplace psychology specialists are making the same points!


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Some folks need special approval to wear pink in honor of their loved ones that died of cancer; or display their respect in any other way.

That’s not leadership but micro-management at its worst.

Check the NFL or Hillsborough County FL

PS: My dad is a cancer survivor


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Distracted from Learning

Another student managed to get in the news after being suspended for highlights in her hair: “Other students are distracted from learning”

What really distracts from learning is the stupidity of “adult” bureaucrats running schools.

Any thoughts? Or are you too to distracted?


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Blame Culture

My last blog entry prompted me to reflect, once again, on different types of organization culture.

In particular, I have to say that in my experience, no matter how positive and forward thinking an organization’s culture might be, there is often an unfortunately rich seam of ‘blame culture’ to be found.

And, believe me, blame culture is really bad news.

A blame culture leads to fear in even the most robust members of staff. Fear that if they get something wrong they will be subject to at best, humiliation, and at worst some kind of disciplinary process which might cost them their job.

This fear is incredibly inhibiting. Organizations need to have individuals who are prepared to take risks and to explore new ideas and areas. If people aren’t doing this then the companies they work for will stagnate. Those companies will also suffer because staff will be spending an inordinate amount of time and energy documenting what they are doing or even covering their tracks rather than getting on with their roles.

And in a worse-case scenario, people won’t speak out where they feel that things aren’t being done right for fear of blame. This has cost lives in care homes and hospitals.

So, dear leader, is a blame culture or sub-culture stifling the operation of your business? Ask your senior managers what they think.

If they seem reluctant to talk, by the way, then you already have your answer!


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Undercover Boss

I have reflected in this blog before about the lessons one might learn from watching an episode or two of ‘Undercover Boss’.

I recall writing …

‘Armed with this first-hand experience, the CEO was able to return to her management team fully versed in the key issues facing their business …and quickly set about making the necessary changes.’

…and encouraged all leaders to diarize time on the front line.

I caught up with this series again the other day. On this occasion I was struck not so much by what the boss learned about his business – but what he learned about his staff.

He learned about the people working for his organization who were taking personal safety risks to clear jams on conveyor belts. He learned that people were working hard for his organization then going home in the evening and looking after their children and trying to put themselves through college. He learned that people on the front line were brave enough to take difficult decisions (he was ’sacked’ by one of his staff when trying out for a job!).

And while he was learning all this, I learned that his organization lacked a proper process for recognition and rewarding people appropriately.

This is not the first time I have thought this watching ‘Undercover Boss’. When, at the end, each employee is called in to see the CEO you get the shock of realizing that this is a man who they had been working with ‘on the shop floor’. And then you get those who impressed being rewarded in some way.

But what about a leader’s several thousand other hard-working and dedicated individuals?

All leaders need to reflect on the hard working dedicated members of front line staff they never meet and whether more needs to be done to recognize their commitment.


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An extract from a new book by award winning scientist, musician, author and record producer Daniel J Levitin caught my eye. His new book, ‘The Organized Mind’, talks among other things about a subject dear to my heart—the modern world’s increasing tendency to overload us with information and the impact this has on us, our physical and mental health and (of particular note to leaders), our efficiency.

Discussing information overload with Fortune 500 leaders, top scientists, writers, students, and small business owners formed an important part of Daniel Levitin’s research for ‘The Organized Mind’. Unsurprisingly, he says that email was repeatedly reported as a problem. People mistakenly think that their apparent multitasking… handling a huge volume of emails as well as the other modern technology associated stimuli we are constantly bombarded with… is a good thing.

Turns out it’s not. As Daniel Levitin says:
‘Even though we think we’re getting a lot done, ironically multitasking makes us demonstrably less efficient. Multitasking creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus and for constantly searching for external stimulation.’

This is phenomenon that leaders really need to get a handle on if their leadership is to be effective. Show me a leader with hundreds of people unable to concentrate on key tasks and driven nuts by email volume, endless meetings, open plan office noise, countless new initiatives and the unending addition of other tasks previously done by now defunct functions like HR and Finance…

… and I’ll show you an inefficient organization unable to achieve its core objectives.

Daniel J. Levitin’s book is called ‘The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload’.


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When Too Big To Fail Is Too Small

HP made the news this week for selling cloud services to Deutsche Bank.

Anthem made the news for their involuntary sharing of SSN, income data and—one has to assume—health data.

Take a deep breath and read the first paragraph again.

Doesn’t it make you feel uncomfortable to read about those companies that insist on getting more and more personal data to perform even the smallest of service—yet can’t don’t protect anything?

How long until we hear about the even bigger cloud breach?

And if you are too big to fail—how much of your fucking shit is covered up—because those cover ups “leaders” don’t like to stink?


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Many of the blog entries on this website relate to health. And when I say ‘health’ I am thinking of its broadest definition. The WHO (World Health Organization) is helpful here, defining health in 1948 as: ‘… a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’

I think it’s fair to say that life is not as enjoyable if health is compromised. So it must also be fair to say that our health should be a priority for those who lead us.

However, a report out in the UK analyzing drug prescription patterns suggests that if health is among the ambitions of our political, corporate and other leaders, then they are failing miserably.

Researchers found that:
  • 50% of women and 43% of men in England had taken at least one prescribed medicine in the week before interview
  • 24% of women and 22% of men had taken at least three prescribed medicines in the week before interview
  • 18.7 prescription medicines were dispensed per head of population on average in 2013
  • Nearly 20% of women in economically deprived areas took antidepressants.

Some commentators have said that this isn’t necessarily all bad news. Some of the drugs taken reflect an aging population (people are living longer) and the fact that medicines are now available which tackle previously untreatable conditions or which do things like lower cholesterol (statins).

I accept that. But I am shocked that the UK’s healthcare system (the National Health Service) has a cost from its total £100bn budget of £15bn on prescribed drugs.

I am also shocked by the fact that the report found 11% of women on antidepressants. This surely reflects a society and culture where people do not have the education… or culture… or time and money… or incentives and motivation to fulfill their potential and - at a more basic level - to eat and exercise properly. A society which puts value on the wrong things, like material wealth rather than spiritual well-being.

This is something all leaders need to think about. Otherwise, what’s the point?


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