My blog has moved

I will do what I can to migrate people over, but for those of you who are following me using the Follow button I can not easily migrate you.

You can find my website and blog at www.loafandlearn.com 

You will find that it looks  very similar. The major change is the address. I have appreciated your following me and your comments and I’d love to continue the conversation so please click the link above.

I have set up the “subscribe by mail” option and it is visible at top right too, to make it easy for you 🙂

No doubt I will be adding more functionality to my site as time permits

See you there

Sarah

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Leadership: An easy silence?

In an earlier post I was considering the difference between Feedback and Criticism.   If you are interested you can read about it here:

feb 2012 feedback-or-criticism

I was reminded of it a week or so back when I was with a few participants on a  short course. We were discussing some aspects of blogging. I am in a phase of very intense learning which I expect is going to last a long time.  A pattern of learn consolidate, learn consolidate, seems to work best for me.  I have to experience and play with what I am learning. I have to TOY with it. I appreciated the feedback I received, it was part of the learn consolidate cycle.

Giving and receiving feedback is essential to learning change and growth, for individuals personal relationships, as well as in teams and organisations.

You tend to find that there is more learning from the consolidation phases than you can easily quantify or imagine.  The feedback is unexpected and more powerful. The learning itself becomes much broader learning, as discernment comes into play. What started out as practising the skill you learned becomes something bigger when you DO IT  in real life. You start to generate different questions than when you were doing something in the simple process of learning it.

If you are curious many of those questions will be internal.  Whilst you learn in isolation you learn to accept silence. As you start to practice what you are learning in context – which means in public –  you start to experience feedback.

This feedback can come in many forms, from how your body feels as you start to change your diet, to how well your clothes fit when you stop exercising. The impact of your actions has an effect.
The effect you have is feedback.

When you change your actions because you have learned something new, there will be a reaction of some sort from the wider system. The same applies in teams and organisations. If you change the way you do something, hopefully it will have an effect, an impact on others, in the way you planned. It is also likely to have an effect in unexpected ways. Feedback will arrive. It might be in conversations to you, it might be with suggestions or complaints.

It also might be silence. Silence is a special sort of feedback and your job as a leader is to be sure what that silence means.

Acceptance: are people thinking “well yes that works, nothing to say, let’s get on with it” ? On the surface this could be a great thing, people are ” aligned” and “professional”. It could be a deep appreciation for the reasons and the context behind the changes and a realisation it is a good thing to do. If you work with a team like that the chances are you have spent time building up that level of awareness. People are getting on with it because they are 80-100 per cent behind it.

Have you spent that time? Are they 80-100 percent behind it?
If the answer to both those questions is an honest yes, the changes you are making have a very good chance of being successful.

My opinion isn’t important / what do I know: If you are working in an environment that requires “intellectual  capital” this is an attitude that MUST be explored. Is it a new inexperienced team member? Is the person losing confidence?  What factors might be at play that has led the person (or people)  you are leading to think their opinion doesn’t matter? How have you demonstrated their role is to think about and comment on what is happening because that is how THEY  and YOU and the ORGANISATION learn?

Apathy: This is evident when people  no longer provide any verbal feedback of any sort, no comments, no questions, no adjustments, no counter suggestions. Has there ever been a time when you did get commentary, questions and observations but it has all stopped?
Chances are the silence  is apathy. Apathy is very limiting. For the people affected it can be soul and career destroying. If you want your changes to have long-term positive impact, apathy is something that has to be investigated in its own right. What are the causes? Take the time to understand how and when the apathy arose. Don’t assume that the silence of apathy will still give your changes a good chance of success, it won’t. Apathy has a close neighbour.

Fear: People can be fearful for all sorts of reasons. Permanent fearlessness is a rare and potentially dangerous attribute. Even the most forthright people have times when fear sets in. Observant, intelligent people  ( the sort you want to lead right?) consider the consequences of their actions in advance. They learn from what has happened in the past too. Both of these qualities are essential for any success to happen. However if fear is the root of the silence and you don’t explore it, failure is likely. There is nothing inherently wrong with fear. This is evolution at work.  The emotion of fear is behind freeze, flight or fight responses. If Fear leads to silence anyone  of those responses could ensue. Silently

Not being able to function well – Frozen.

Not wanting to hang around, leaving early, doing the hours, resignations – Flight

Being angry, unhelpful and presenting obstacles that don’t need to be there – Fight

Silence is at best the result of conversation and deep mutual understanding. Which takes commitment and time and honesty. Only then will  the silence be an easy silence

Taking the time to reflect on the feedback you are getting, particularly if it is silence becomes essential when leading and making change happen. Investigate where the silence comes from before making assumptions.

And if you find you don’t like continued silence, give some of your own, in a generous and helpful way.

Feedback is the life blood of change. Donate

 

What effect does silence have on you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

LIBOR rigging and a Few Good Men

This morning there was a fascinating article  in the Daily Telegraph from an “insider” about the deliberate and open way misinformation was carefully supplied as they went about manipulating the bank borrowing rate.

A first person account. I think that it is a first person account from an individual is important.

You can read it here

There are some phrases in that article that made me think of one of my favourite films a Few Good Men.

In that film everyone has a good argument for what they are doing, they have rationalised it. The General preserving the American way from the  Communist Cubans, the prosecution asserting martial authority over the junior marines who had accidentally murdered another and bringing them to book. The defenders arguing that they were obeying orders, but somehow not in the Nuremburg way. The murdered marine’s story of bullying and wanting to leave. It is a brilliantly scripted piece, demonstrating the incongruence of pretty much all parties, even when argued tightly.

I love that film and I think one of the quotes that is often missed and should be lifted high  is the exchange between the Tom Cruise character Galloway and his number 2  Lt Weinberg. Weinberg is disturbed by the case in a way that most of the others are not. Most of the other characters have their interest intellectually driven in some way. Later Galloway becomes engaged in a more emotional way about how the Marine’s are using a double standard to condemn people for doing what was asked of them. It is Galloway’s version of The Truth.

Weinberg’s version of the The Truth even as he defends them is more raw, less sophisticated, less cynical and clever and as such for me, more trustworthy.

Galloway: Why do you hate them so much?
Lt. Weinberg: They beat up on a weakling; that’s all they did. The rest is just smokefilled coffee-house crap. They tortured and tormented a weaker kid. They didn’t like him. So, they killed him. And why? Because he couldn’t run very fast.

Clearly what little we have seen of the unfolding scandal emerging here is not about life and death in such a basic way. But the structure of the group think behaviours are very similar.

The American Marines , as portrayed in the film, intent on building and defending one picture of how life is, what their purpose is and what needs to be done to defend it at all costs, in the name of honour. The General and his senior officers colluding and the hierarchical structure of the military meaning the marines will follow, because believing the words of honour, they trust that their officer’s are acting in their best interests. And therefore do not question.

The lines in the article that had that effect on me were these.

“What I was explaining was that the bank was manipulating Libor. Only I didn’t see it like that at the time.”

And more particularly:

”  “everyone knew” and “everyone was doing it”. There was no implication of illegality. After all, there were 20 to 30 people in the room – from management to economists, structuring teams to salespeople – and more on the teleconference dial-in from across the country.”

They were defending the bank, this was their rationalisation and as a rationalisation it had a logic to it.

“Looking back, I now feel ashamed by my naivety. Had I realised what was going on, I would have blown the whistle. But the openness alone suggested no collusion or secrecy.”

And in the  final paragraph there is a phrase  which has a direct parallel with the film

“to hide the true issues within the bank.”

The individual perspective is important here because it is as an individual this insider has looked back and made his own judgement using rationality, morality and I guess a whole bunch of different things to arrive at the final conclusion. It is as an individual he  (assuming it is a he)  has thought it through, rather than unconsciously taking the lens that the group are viewing things through..

The collective is a great thing when working well. Individualism is not a bad thing either both for the individual AND the collective.  Each person has an opinion to add to, not just to join in with.

 

 

The LT Weinberg actor is Kevin Pollack, easily overlooked in the company of Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise, Demi Moore and Kevin Bacon. YET the script writers put for me, the pivotal  reality checking phrase, into HIS character’s mouth.

Why your insignificance matters, speak up, act.

This week on hbr.org blogs there is a short post  referencing  a high school commencement speech that went viral in The US a week or so ago. The speaker tells the class that they are not special, in an amusing, wise and still inspirational way.

You can find it here Hbr.org  In it, Sarah Green makes reference to another much older commencement speech I had not read before today. I won’t publish the two links here because they deserve to be read within the context of her “get to work” article.

I had not read or heard of  the older one by John Chapman until I read that blog post this morning. Why would I, I am a Brit and we didn’t do commencement speeches or graduation from school. I just walked out of the door on the day of the last public exam happy in the knowledge I would never have to return there again.

I think we missed a trick, maybe it happens now.

Stirred on by her quoting the final few words I followed the link and read.  Simple, unambiguous.

Speak UP.

 
It is a hard argument to balance.  We learn early that discretion is the better part of valour.  We learn to weigh that up against not being silent when you can see something that is not right.  We wait for others to speak because they know better, are better connected, perhaps are braver ( you think?) . Then there is the exhaustion angle, sometimes if you have been speaking up it becomes tiresome for others and tiring for yourself. What to do then? The classic/biblical when to speak and when to be silent dilemma.

Who are you to question? What is your significance,why should your opinion count?

What does it feel like to remain silent when you should have said something? I bet you can think of occasions looking back when you wished you had found the words, any words, to say something. Say Something.

It doesn’t have to be about a hugely significant thing, though it is easy here to think of Martin Niemöller

and his poem:

First they came for the communists
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

It can be as seemingly insignificant as “please stop making me eggs they make me feel ill”, or “what are you trying to achieve by doing X”.  Chapman is saying question what you are seeing and imploring everyone to do so.

It is the  insignificant things that add up to your life being your own, or someone else’s. He is saying don’t be passive.

Insignificance is underrated, and yet it is the insignificant who in so many ways change the world. Either because they have no caring about who they are and go about things that seem important to them; some view this as humble, others might conclude arrogant. Or because they don’t care what happens to them. The Cause has become bigger than them, more important to them.

Being in nature gives you a sense of insignificance, your place in the universe. At times this is a good measure to decide whether your concerns are proportionate and how to respond. Delve into the dilemma of speaking up or staying silent,  contemplate this whilst emersed in the enormous.

Nature can remind us of our insignificance in other ways too.

Recently I was in a forest on a hill-side. There was a path I had seen but not taken before, previously I’d just enjoyed the serenity the green light gave me. That evening, without my fully understanding why,  I decided I wanted to see how this path went up. It got steeper and steeper and wetter and wetter as a storm suddenly came in.I could hear a new waterfall nearby and realised my moment of enthusiasm was NOTHING in this place of trees, with a torrent of rain coming and a sky full of relentless black clouds indicating more and more.
At that moment I probably had less to help me than the insects that were under leaves just waiting for it to be over.

I did not have that option. I couldn’t wait. I had to get up there because the way back down from there was certain. I knew what the path lead to if I could get there, something solid and wide from which I could descend. Whereas turning back was now impossible to do safely.

My knowing my insignificance against the elements told me, I had to get up there, I had to complete.

To lead one’s life

Have had a guest blog post published.. very excited..

What a lovely way to start the week 🙂

It is about leading your life.

You can find it here

It is the blog for a very  marvellous UK company called ContactPDA which always remembers people are individuals

You can find out more about them  here

Meanwhile in other news, work on a permanent website begins in earnest this week and I shall be delving into the details of CPanel and channelling a former me when I liked doing that stuff.

What did it for you?

This post stems from a conversation had in a coffee break over a year ago now, in the land of the Red Rose. I had the answer then ( for me) but I’ve played with it a bit in my head ( and in reality since)

We’d been talking about Hands and the enormous amount of brain connectivity  that is given over to the hands both for sensory function and motor function, proportionate to other parts of the body..

There is a superb One minute Twelve second video about it here take the time and watch it. You will smile!

Homunculus

Two initial examples cropped up in conversation. Despite the person concerned being highly educated and still having “insatiable curiousity” about the world, and dedicating time to learning new stuff as well as mastery old stuff, despite having  travelled the world, met interesting people and listened to them:

The skill named?  Touch Typing.

Because no matter what job, role or business they were in whether typing up notes, reports, writing marketing materials, searching the  internet, developing thoughts and ideas. Having the skill to touch fingers to the keyboard gave a fluidity of thought.  Practical? Of course.  Much better than that: a freedom of mind because the fingers could move swiftly to recording..without paralysing the thoughts.

For me, it was a different example. I can sort of touch type, I am looking at the screen as I do this not the keyboard and I am relatively fast. I am not in the same league as a touch typist. We discussed how in some colleges this certainly used to be a mandatory skill everyone was taught, and what a great idea. A sort of driving test for the fingers, giving freedom of thought movement.

Discussing this with other writers subsequently there has been an interesting response. Some need pencil and paper to think to get their ideas down. Some can send their thoughts straight to their fingers via the keyboard. Personally if an idea is clear, it will come out whole using a keyboard. If there is still some work to be done on the thoughts, in the end the swiftest way to get there for me, is completely manual. A hunt will ensue for a writing implement and the back of an envelope if no sheets of paper are around.

I’ve blithly summarised what must be an exhaustive set of things that being able to Touch Type has made a  significant difference to. I know because it was not my personal experience that I have massively understated it.

The person I was talking to is a highly visual person.

Initially my thoughts went to literacy. Being able to read early gave me transport into other worlds, and minds. Being able to read means the internet is an infinite playground for me. Literacy is the passport to so many things without which life in the 21st century would be permanently hobbled. Literacy it seemed  wasn’t the right answer for me. It didn’t sound right. But it was close to it.

As a highly auditory person, I listen for HOW things sound. Even when reading it is a sort of combined  auditory and visual experience. Of course typing adds in another sensory experience and one using the hands so a lot of neuro connectivity there.

In the end it became startlingly obvious what it was for me. Learning to read music.

Learning to read music as a child was useful in the moment, because I could start to play music with others because of it. And I LOVED doing that.  But later in life the realisation has come that so many things that feel innate were developed from that time, were given some magic boosts.

Learning to read music gave me:

An understanding of symbology

An understanding of rhythm and tone

An appreciation of harmony and dischord

Because I could read music, I learned a few instruments and sang. Because I did that, I developed more brain hand connections. Because I did that  my music playing ( as  child!) developed. Because my technical skill developed, I learned to play in groups. Because of that I learned to Listen to HOW things sounded. Because I did that I learned to work in a team for something unimaginable and greater than me. Because I learned that I learned about responsibility to the group and to myself. Because I played in wider groups I was exposed to all sorts of different people, through the music and through the people I played with I was exposed to different cultures and different stories. Because I learned that …

List goes on.

What Pivotal thing, what skill was it that you learned early on, that when you look back  you know was the foundation and the stepping stone to things you have done subsequently?

What was it?

And are you actively using and honouring it today?

Comments are enabled so I would love to hear, please chime in.

What did it for you?