Archive for category Development

Six Griefs of Good Leadership – (6) LONELINESS

In the sixth part of this series looking at the importance for leaders of working effectively with your emotions we will examine LONELINESS.

  • Who can I talk to about this?
  • Am I the only one seeing this?
  • Nobody understands me.

By definition, if people are following you, they are not alongside you. Even if you don’t do anything to distance yourself from your team, just taking on a leadership role means that people will put you in a different category. Even the most authentic leader cannot afford to burden their team with all of their innermost thoughts and feelings. You have to shoulder the responsibility.

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Six Griefs of Good Leadership – (5) DISILLUSIONMENT

In the fifth part of this series looking at the importance for leaders of working effectively with your emotions we will examine DISILLUSIONMENT. How does the emotion that prompts us to let go of inaccurate expectations help us to become better leaders?

  • How could I have thought that?!
  • I thought I was better than this!
  • This is not how it should be!

As with disgust, the word disillusionment is often used to describe people’s reactions to a leader rather than the experience of the leader him/herself. Religious writer John Ortberg has said that ‘Leadership is the art of disappointing people at a rate they can stand‘ but it is also about disappointing yourself at a rate that promotes growth.

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Six Griefs of Good Leadership – (4) DISGUST

In the fourth part of this series looking at the importance for leaders of working effectively with your emotions we will examine DISGUST. Is your willingness to engage with activities that you don’t like the sign of a potential leader? How often do you use your leadership position to offload the jobs you hate? How much does corruption or incompetence offend you?

  • Do I really have to do this?!
  • How could they produce such shoddy work?
  • This behaviour is unacceptable!
  • I don’t want to be associated with these practices!

There is a pithy saying often credited to Mark Twain but which probably originated with a French writer Nicolas Chamfort.

Eat a live toad the first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.

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Six Griefs of Good Leadership – (3) ANGER

In the third part of this series looking at the importance for leaders of working effectively with your emotions we will examine ANGER. Is displaying anger as a leader always counter productive? Will it help or harm your leadership development?

  • How could they do that to one of my team?!
  • Don’t they see how important this is?!
  • I’m not giving up that easily!

Anger is one of the few emotions that bad leaders are often willing to embrace – venting their frustrations on their team in order to make themselves feel more powerful. This is why so much that is written about leadership and anger focuses on how to control it and remain calm.

However, feeling anger is a sign that you care about something and want to protect that thing from a potential threat. In our evolutionary past the thing we were protecting with our anger might have been our own survival or the safety of our family.

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Six Griefs of Good Leadership – (2) GUILT

In the second part of this series looking at the importance for leaders of working effectively with your emotions we will examine GUILT. How does your response to feelings of remorse determine your ability to develop as a leader?

  • By not acting in time I’ve just made more work for my team!
  • I should have made sure she knew what was at stake before giving her the project!
  • How could I have been so stupid as to miss that?!
  • I really don’t want to hear that feedback!

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Six Griefs of Good Leadership – (1) FEAR

For decades in the field of leadership development, human emotions were just inconveniences that you had to avoid in yourself and ‘deal with’ in other people so that you could get on with the rational business of leading. However, developments in neuroscience, behavioural economics and evolutionary psychology are explaining why human beings just aren’t very good at being purely rational. Emotions are an essential to being a fully functioning human being, especially in a role that involves working with other human beings. If you couldn’t experience emotions, you would be incapable of making even the simplest decision.

If you are a fully functioning leader, you will experience a wide range of emotions as you develop your leadership identity. Whether you seek to embrace or avoid these emotions will determine how quickly you develop and how effective you can become. This is especially true of the negative emotions.

In this series I will discuss six important negative emotions that you are likey to experience as a developing leader, what they mean and how to work with the emotion successfully in order to grow into your full leadership potential.

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Fail Road by fireflythegreat

Hmmm… I’ve been down this road before.

The title of this article has a dual significance. First, it’s an acknowledgement of my failure to keep this blog up to date. My new role means that I have less time and less headspace for the reflection needed to write this stuff.

A lot of my learning at the moment is around how to be a good manager (or possibly how to be less of a bad one).

Currently, my learning is following it’s usual pattern. I’m learning through doing, reading and trying to teach others. At some point the trying to teach others bit will probably extend to writing more about my learning, but at the moment it is mainly limited to the various bits leadership development training I’m delivering.

One of those bits of leadership development training was the CMI Level 5 module I taught recently on managing ideas and innovation and in my usual domain-hopping way I have started to think about how the theories and models applied here could be useful in career development work with clients and in the development of careers professionals.

It’s not just businesses and entrepreneurs who have to be innovative. In the current economic climate, individuals have to be increasingly innovative with their own career development and job hunting. Similarly, as career professionals, we have to develop more innovative approaches to address the demands of our individual and institutional clients.

And this is where the second significance of the title comes in. Wherever there is a need to innovate, there is an accompanying need to be able to deal with the possibility of failure. In career terms, this is often linked with the idea of resilience. But there is more to dealing with failure than just the ability to bounce back and stay optimistic.

Failure is an integral and unavoidable part of any truly innovative process (unless you are incredibly lucky!). Preparing for innovation requires you to anticipate failure, accommodate failure, plan to recover from failure and learn from failure.

In a recent coaching session with a client, we were discussing options for embarking on a freelance career. The issue of possible failure came up and I struggled to find a way to help her think about failure constructively. Then I remembered a concept I had introduced in the CMI module: 4F – Fail Fast, Fail Forward. She immediately got it and responded enthusiastically. This isn’t so surprising (despite the name) because it actually reflects a growth or incremental mindset and an approach rather than avoidance motivation.

Fail fast – be ready for things to go wrong, know what early indicators of potential failure to look out for and be ready to act quickly.

Fail forward – don’t spend time on recriminations and wishful thinking, focus on solutions and focus on learning lessons so that your next attempts have a greater chance of success.


Monmouthshire County Council's Fail Fast, Fail Forward initiative

Fail fast. Fail forward

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The tree of life

It’s a while since I introduced a new guidance or coaching model. Here is one I came across fairly recently. It appeals to me because it is quite simple and has a strong metaphorical visual image which makes it easy to remember.

The Tree of Life model from Positive Acorn

Where are the squirrels?

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Cultural or universal

dharma wheel by Michael Hartford (mhartford)

Universal concepts

In The East and West of Careers Guidance, my colleague Saiyada talked about the Jiva project promoting career development counselling in India.

A recent paper by G. Arulmani (2011) expands on some of the cultural concepts that underlie this approach to careers work. I have my reservations about the research presented in the paper which claims to demonstrate that grounding career education in a culturally relevant framework is more effective than applying more universalist approaches.

This may well be true, but it’s really hard to tell from the details give of the differences between the two approaches used in the research whether the greater effectiveness is down to the cultural relevance or just down to providing a more coherent conceptual framework for the career development activities.

Aside from these concerns about the research methods, I do find the concepts derived from Asian spiritual traditions very thought provoking, especially when comparing them to equivalent concepts from Western career development theory.

Apologies in advance for my over-simplification of these concepts.

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Identity crisis

My Identity

Finding your identity

One of the most influential thinkers in the field of developmental psychology was Erik Erikson. Originally a pupil of Freud, he made a name for himself with his work on the development of human social identity.

I read about Erikson’s theories when studying for my professional qualification, but most emphasis on developmental theory in careers is dominated by the work of Donald Super. However, Erikson’s ideas of identity formation in adolescence has provided the basis for much thought and exploration around the transition from childhood to adulthood.

A couple of recent posts (Playing a role and Non-stop action) have jogged my memory about this, so I thought I would blog briefly about this classic theory and some recent developments related to it.

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