Saturday, 22 March 2008

Business Leadership

What's your leadership style?

1: Just do it.
2: Do it, then inform me what you did.
3: Tell me what you are going to do, then do it.
4: Tell me what you want to do and wait for a decision.
5: Don't do anything without my approval.
6: Don't do anything unless I tell you to.

If I were to mark these styles for efficiency, 1 would be the highest and 6 the lowest. Styles 5 and 6 are very common in business. The employees priority is payday, closing time and holidays. Leader priority is power, control and keeping things as they are. Getting things done and serving the customer is not important to anyone. Once basic skills are mastered, employees follow standard procedures, and any deviation from these procedures is to be avoided at all costs.

Nowadays, the mantra should be change, change and more change. Change is the challenge, which can motivate us and secure our futures. Because of fast-changing customer requirements and technology, we all have to evolve on a daily basis. To maintain flexibility, responsibility has to move away from senior leaders to the front line, otherwise our businesses will stagnate and die out. Following orders without question is efficient in the short term, but costly in the long-term.

Leadership and training must work hand-in-hand. If we want our colleagues to assume responsibility and make quality decisions, we must create environments that encourage the opportunity to learn. 

So when one of your colleagues comes over and asks you for a decision. Rather than spoon-feeding them, consider how you can help them to make the correct decision. Your colleague might be frustrated that they have to keep coming to you for decisions. Give them their control back, so you can concentrate on moving the business forward.

So don't control.... Coach!

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Putting yourself out there

For a long time now, it has been unfashionable to emotionally connect to people - particularly in business. There are many theories about this, but my guess is that for a long time, businesses have neglected emotions in favour of more left-brained activities like analytical reasoning and objective thinking - notwithstanding various illicit emotional entanglements and sexual harassment cases that have damaged businesses since time immemorial.

There is also a perception that emotions can 'get in the way' of objective work. But these are only the negative emotions. People who do not connect emotionally and positively, are missing out on a fantastic aspect of business. They also risk isolating themselves, which can really inhibit vital lines of communication. 

To avoid all these complicated emotional issues, business has evolved an emotionally neutral language that negates all feelings in an almost victorian manner. This has led us to a place where we are all terrified of acknowledging our feelings and unwilling to make any decisions. 

Unable to express our true feelings, we have become so risk-averse that for every step forward, we take two steps back. To make matters worse, the only business areas that allow us to acknowledge the way we are feeling is 'Health and Safety' and 'Risk Mitigation'. How many times have you not been allowed to move the business forward because the so-called experts won't let you because it hasn't been triple-checked and signed off by three committees?

Business and the wider society is in serious danger of becoming a terrified, emotionally crippled consumer - desperately needing to move forward, but terrified of the risks it has to take and the sacrifices it has to make in order to get there.

The best way to guard against negative emotions is not to suppress all emotions in the workplace. As I have said in previous articles, negative feelings are natural, but the best way to deal with them is to focus on the positives. 

So let's focus on LOVE.... Oooh scary!

Love is not sex - so unless you are otherwise inclined, start with the friends/colleagues of your own gender. And as the song suggests - love is a verb - a doing word. Soften your dress habits - i.e. don't power dress. Smile more and make eye contact. Find opportunities so mix more. Have lunch with people outside your usual social group. Look for reasons to praise and compliment your friends. Ask them about their lives. Find out what their passion is. Try a hand placed briefly on the back or shoulder (appropriately).

If such behaviour scares you, remember my previous article about risk, and move out of your comfort zone. The more you do it, the better you will get at it. Remember, you get what you focus on.  If you give love in the spirit of respect and mutual cooperation, you will be rewarded in ways you never imagined.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Pushing the envelope

When Bruce Lee travelled from America to Hong Kong for filming, he did not pack clothes. All his luggage was taken up with training equipment. When asked where his clothes were, he replied that he could buy clothes in Hong Kong.

I always communicate to my Tai Chi students the importance of regular practice. However, there is a more important quality - the ability to go regularly beyond your comfort zone.

The first time you step outside your comfort zone can be a daunting thing. It does not have to be physical. You might have to address a large group of people, or operate a new kind of computer program, or start a new job. Whatever challenges you might face, moving out of your comfort zone on a regular basis makes you grow at a fantastic rate. You also learn to relax more, because your comfort zone will be extended beyond it's previous capacity.

So going back to Bruce Lee's filming. Not only was he traveling abroad to film, but he was also prepared to leave his familiar clothes and family behind. Comfort was the furthest thing from his mind. Self-improvement was his priority.

So go on...... push yourself.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Worried?... Good!

Believe it or not, your brain is not designed to make you happy. In fact, if you were deleriously happy all the time, you would be very ill.

Your brain has evolved this way to keep you alive. So when you are unhappy, your mind is trying to tell you that something is wrong. In fact, a perfectly working brain will make sure you identify all problems, potential worries and potential dangers.... And it engages fear to make sure you avoid them.

Let us be quite clear, I am not talking about clinical depression or any other physiological problem. I am talking about day-to-day stress and strain.... Yet if you do not deal with the day to day misery, it soon becomes a habit that is hard to break.

So how can we deal with this fear-based reasoning? One of the best ways is to live with passion and purpose, rather than fight-or-flight. Become more physical - deep breathing, exercise, go for a run.... Be physically positive. Learn Tai Chi. Meditate.

Or as I say... do good, and you'll feel good.


Friday, 7 March 2008

More Taoist Philosophy

"Master others and you possess force.... master yourself and you will have true power."

We are multi-faceted beings. That is, we have lots of differing desires and personalities, all competing for supremacy. Very few people can say that they are truly living up to all their desires. The pressures of modern life, and our obligations to others mean that we constantly have to make choices between what we truly want, and what we actually go for. This lack of harmony between desires and environment can cause deep feelings of unhappiness and resentment. 

Taking time out to discover what you want, and making plans to get it can be useful way of self-mastery. Working logically through what you desire and what is truly important can resolve a lot of issues. 

Goals are important, but forbearance is equally so. There is no true gain without hardship. Iron must undergo tempering in a furnace before it becomes steel. Dough must be kneaded, pounded and baked before it becomes bread.  Earth must be ploughed before seeds can be planted.

Be happy,