Ideas and Insights


Becoming The Best You: the objective science and subjective techniques of highly functional people

Rattlesnakes, rabbits and rollercoaster-riders all have an autonomic nervous system: that is the part that keeps your heart beating and causes you to blink when a fly is about to hit your eye. Whilst much of this nervous system serves each group similarly, the really interesting thing is that each of these groups use this nervous system very differently.

Indeed, if you have ever taken a look around the reptile enclosure at a zoo, you’ll be lucky to see one of the reptiles do much more than barely move. They are behaviorally-challenged exhibits. Notice there’s never usually a flock of snakes or a swarm of iguanas: reptiles are not known for their pack mentality. And you’ll be conscious of the fact that, in the reptile world, herbivores are rare; and bigger reptiles tend to eat smaller ones, regardless of whether lunch is a member of their own species. Read more…

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The sphinx

The airline attendant greets you at the door of the aircraft, with a warm smile and says welcome aboard. Throughout the flight s/he is pleasant, attentive and responsive. As a passenger you have no idea of their trials and tribulations, nor for that matter do many of their airline colleagues.

Nor would you expect to know such things.  The person is “in role”, as are each of their colleagues and the flight crew together operate as a team. They have a job to do. So it is with teamwork. When you are a member of a team you contribute not only to the joint task but you do so in role as a team member. And you do this no matter your personal temperament or the life issues with which you may be dealing.

High performing teams in manufacturing plants, mine sites, hospitals, professional service firms are no different. Invariably they are well formed and high functioning, they have the relationships and ways of working that allow them to be so. And well-formed teams have certain characteristics including active participation and contribution from all members with one another and to the task. But teams can’t form without this participation. Read more…

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The leader as a source of contagious destruction

Much has happened in the last two decades to re-shape our understanding of the effect we have on one another. There was a time when we used to think we were independent, autonomous agents who chose to react (or not) to another’s behavior. Those days are well and truly gone.

Read more…

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Going beyond information exchange: good questioning skills

As far as we are aware, humans are the only creatures that ask questions. This shows a level of self-insight: that we don’t know or understand everything about a situation. Questions take us beyond the obvious.

Generally, questions are seen as ways to elicit or exchange information, but much more importantly questions can,

  • unlock learning
  • fuel creativity and innovation
  • reveal how another person ticks, and
  • build relationships

The use of carefully framed questions is an undervalued tool in organizations and teams. Unfortunately, our education system does not seem to recognise the value of questions or the skills required to construct and use questions. Questioning is a skill to be honed. Our education systems emphasize advocacy at the expense of skilled inquiry.

Read more…

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When institutions go bad

Tim Dalmau has written a thought-provoking paper, based on his reflections on governance and leadership arising from the recent revelations in the Australian banking industry. He explores parallels across a range of settings. Click here to download your copy of this paper.

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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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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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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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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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The right frame – person or position?

Cathy  Taylor provides an example of where choosing the wrong frame to operate from as a leader, reduces performance and functionality of groups and people. The frame relates to ‘ways of being’  – either from role (or position) or on a personal level.

In the workplace to operate and lead effectively we need to operate both in role (or position) and on a personal relationship level. It is when we confuse these two ways of being that we create confusion for the people we work with. One of the important roles of leaders is to provide ‘psychological safety’ for our teams.  This mean that people feel comfortable to say what is on their mind without fear of negative consequences.

Click here for additional information on the  ‘Person and Position’ frame.

 

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