Ideas and Insights


Hades organizations: joyless and in the throes of dying?

From a 2014 Ideas & Insight article,  the Unconscious Organization I commenced a series of articles about organizational archetypes based on the Greek Gods. I have drawn on much of the material in the book I co-wrote with Bernie Neville – Olympus Inc.  We described 16 unconscious patterns of behavior (archetypes) that describe some of the dynamics of organizations, exemplified by the characteristic behavior of 16 Greek gods and goddesses.  It is through an understanding of these patterns in organizational dynamics that we can better understand and influence organizational culture. Read more…

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New book on the art and science of leading well

Our colleague Ian Sampson with Ben Baldwin, both of the Queensland-based Leadership Foundation, have recently produced a valuable and readable addition to your e-book leadership and management library. The Etiquette of Leadership: The art and science of leading well,  by Ben Baldwin and Ian Sampson. Read more…

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Lessons from geese

Life is not a solo activity. It is an act of co-creation with all those with whom we interact over the course of a life time. No less in organizations with those with whom we work, as in any other sphere of life.

As we were reflecting on the learnings we have collected over the years, a number stand out and one is the metaphor based on geese flying in formation. An oldie, but a goodie, as they say. We share this again for the messages and learnings are timeless. The source is unknown.  They are simple truths which resonate with our experience and that of many of our clients

“As each bird flaps its’ wings, it creates an uplift for geese following. By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.”

Lesson: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because the are traveling on the thrust of one another.

Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to fly alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stay with those who are headed in the direction we want to go, and be willing to accept their help as well as to give our help to the others.

When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back into formation and another goose flies at the point position.

Lesson: It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and share leadership. People, as well as geese, are dependent upon each other.

The geese in formation honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

Lesson: We need to make sure our honking is encouraging, and not something else.

When a goose gets sick or wounded or shot down it honks for help and two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help protect it. They stay with the sick goose until it is able to fly again or it dies. Then they launch out on their own, or with another formation, or catch up with the flock.

Lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, we too will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong …. and honk when we need help!”

Unknown source

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Strategic planning: Evolution of a process

Evolution of strategic planning and management

Planning is an act of formulating a course of action. It is in fact a process!  Strategic planning, it is argued, began with the ancient Greeks who developed a planned approach to warfare, but it was in the 1920’s that the Harvard Business School, developed one of the early strategic planning methodologies for the modern industrial age.

Strategic planning reached its peak in the 1960’s and 70’s as a core management tool characterized as “management by objective”. It was about control and efficiency within an industrial age mind-set, but by the 1980’s and 90’s, a different view was emerging. People tended to think of strategic planning as a product or thing – that the focus was on producing a document called a Plan.

Experience has since told us that with this mindset ‘the Plan’ was destined to gather dust and be ignored. Read more…

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Creating psychological safety in teams

I get to work with teams and groups of all shapes and sizes; from dusty mining crews, to cool urbane executive teams and all in between.  You do not need to be with them long to get a sense of how well the members of the team gel. In other words, the level of trust in the group.

Back in 2013, Steve Zuieback wrote an article, Trust: Cause, Effect or Process, building on the work of Jack Gibb. His Trust Cycle shows 6 steps or actions, that if repeated builds trust in teams. These include,

  • Sharing critical information
  • Experiencing openness
  • Experience more trust
  • Commit to common work
  • Learn as you go
  • Create and document results

In addition to these, my colleague Tim Dalmau often talks about “creating safety” in groups. By this he means psychological safety.

Psychological safety means that there is certainty (in terms of behaviors and decisions by those in power) and people feel safe. Read more…

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Bold Herakles: An heroic organizational archetype

The Greek myths are full of heroes, men and women who lived a long time ago and dealt with the gods directly – often, it appears, on equal terms. The most popular of the hero stories were the stories of Herakles the hero who was not only a man but a god.

There are many tales of Herakles. Picture, if you will, a man of great energy and drive, plenty of good will towards people and a tendency to take the most direct path to any goal. He is good-humoured, generous and courageous. On the other hand, compared to other heroes like Odysseus, Perseus and Jason, he is not very clever, nor particularly charming. His lack of subtlety is symbolised in his choice of the club as his preferred weapon. He has a violent temper and an enormous appetite. He is macho man. Read more…

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Breathing 101

Often it is the simple things that make the most difference…and breathing is one of those things.

Breathing is something we do not need to learn – from the moment we are born to the moment we leave this life, it is for most of us, an unconscious part of our lives.

Breathing and communication

In addition to the fundamental purpose of taking air into our lungs and exhaling carbon dioxide from our lungs thereby allowing for oxygenation of our blood to keep us alive and removing the ‘waste’ gases from respiration from our body, breathing is also fundamental to communication.

Breathing allows us to communicate through speech, and allows us to enhance our communication skills and to influence others enormously.

So… there are definitely things about breathing that we can learn, practice and deliberately use to improve our communication skills. Read more…

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Go visual! – the most important tool to improve communication

The guru of non-verbal communication, Michael Grinder says that “go visual” is the most important non-verbal tool you can use to be an effective communicator

Efficient and effective communication of messages and improved ability to influence is vital. Often as communicators if we just give information verbally we need to repeat the message, or the message is not heard or lost. For example, this is especially the case, when medical practitioners communicate with patients. The doctor who shows the patient the result on a computer screen, draws a diagram on a whiteboard, or notes a few words on a scrap of paper will produce much higher comprehension and retention of that information in the patient. The patient whose doctor simply tells or explains the diagnosis will retain at best about 10% of the information. Read more…

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Athena organizations built on consensus and involvement

Athena eventually emerges in classical times as a goddess of civilization, of household arts and crafts, especially weaving, and of the defence of civilization against those who would destroy it. More than any other god, she represents a point of balance between the male-dominated and autocratic culture of the Greek invaders and the concrete, matri-centric culture of the people they conquered and assimilated. She represents normality, consensus, balance. In political terms she is democracy. Read more…

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Vive la difference: when creativity and leadership flourishes in the mining industry

Iluka Resources Ltd has, like most resource sector companies, struggled over the last few years. It has kicked many successful goals and had its setbacks as well.

As a consultant, I looked forward to any work I did with Iluka – I knew it would be a delight, something that would make an impact, deliver a result, and I knew it would be supported all the way down.

As a consultant I knew that, in many respects, Iluka was no different to other similar companies employing a range of personalities occupying sometimes anomalous role structures within a rational, analytic male culture with the strengths and limitations that attend to such. Yet it felt different, it felt alive, it felt compassionate, it felt supportive, it felt energetic, it felt effective, it had a “can do” sense about any strategic or operational issue it faced. Put simply, it worked – its culture worked: there was real alignment among the critical three of culture, external demand and corporate strategy.

Read more…

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