Dream Your Next Job

Wondering whether it’s time to move on from your job? Thinking about what it takes to step up into a leadership role? Is there a way to prepare for your next role, ahead of time?

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 20.27.12

Don’t just day-dream, imagine yourself successful in your dream job 2 years from now and ask yourself these 10 questions:

  • What are your role purpose and priorities?
  • What do you do differently?
  • What have you stopped doing?
  • How do you behave differently?
  • Who is in your network?
  • How have you built new relationships with colleagues?
  • What do your colleagues think about you?
  • What has been your biggest achievement this year?
  • What have you learned?

And finally…

  • What insight does this vision give you about how you can begin today to develop your skills, networks and leadership behaviours?

To bring anything into your life, imagine that it’s already there.
Richard Bach


The Ten Demandments

Came across this recently and really liked it so thought I’d share – Kelly Mooney’s Ten Demandments: what customers want, without all the nonsense of setting measurable targets.

  1. Earn my trust through respect, integrity, advocacy and quality.
  2. Inspire me through immersive experiences, motivating messages and related philanthropy.
  3. Make it easy with simplicity, speed and usefulness.
  4. Put me in charge of making choices and give me control.
  5. Guide me with expert advice, education and information.
  6. Give me 24/7 access, from anywhere, at anytime.
  7. Get to know me — listen, learn and study me, the real consumer, not just data.
  8. Exceed my expectations with uncommon courtesies and surprising services.
  9. Reward me with points programs, privileges of access or other worthwhile extras.
  10. Stay with me with follow through and meaningful follow-up.

Being Right Isn’t Enough

I used to think being right was the most important thing.

You know, that pleasure in the precision of resolving a complex problem into an elegant and correct answer  Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 18.29.51 (Maths was my favourite subject at school:-)

But I soon learned at work that being right is almost of no consequence – unless you can convince others to believe in your great idea, and then persuade them to help make it a reality. And that is much harder than you’d think.

A Business Development Director colleague of mine is currently trying to come to terms with the fact that, after a year of number crunching, market research and business planning, his great idea for a new, profitable, sports facility is not being taken up. Does this sound familiar?

“Why won’t they agree? it’s obvious! the proof is all there!”

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 18.43.52Well, there’s timing… and budget cycles… and vested interests… and personal preferences… and petty jealousies and disputes… and politics… and short-termism… and jumping to conclusions… and confirmation bias… and competition… and lethargy… and stupidity… and egos… and fear of the new… and… it’s a wonder any decisions get made at all!

So, if being right isn’t enough, what else can you do?

Find the decision-makers
Find out what their interests are, what is their angle, what aspects should you highlight to them, what information do they find persuasive? savings, or profits, or a deserving cause, or publicity? What other similar decisions have they taken, or turned down, recently?

Build support
Engage influential colleagues who can benefit from your proposal, or because they believe in similar principles. Talk through your proposal before decision-time, resolve any queries, get their input and their buy-in, and hopefully get them advocating for you.

Talk to the blockers
Sometimes the blockers are the best people to talk to early on, because they will be the first to find fault – thus giving you vital information about how to make your counter-arguments.

Sell it
What’s the best way of making the argument? Some people love weighty tomes packed with financial scenarios! others a punchy presentation; or a heart-tugging personal story from a potential beneficiary; or to be there and experience something for themselves. The big sell? or ‘drip-drip’ the idea until everyone believes in it.

Give it away
Maybe best person to make the case is not you! Who is well-connected, well-respected, and might win over the decision-makers more than you? Is your idea important enough to give to someone else to make a reality without you getting the credit?

Be patient.
And opportunistic. Wait for the right time to present your idea – when a business problem crops up that your idea can fix, or a new round of funding becomes available, or another initiative is on the skids and we need a quick win…

Be a bit wrong
Or at least allow others to be a bit right. Compromise. Incorporate other people’s ideas into your own. Aim for the win:win

Too cynical? How do you get your best ideas adopted at work?

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.
Peter Drucker

Back to Rachman ?

If anyone was in any doubt before 8th July, it is now crystal clear – the Tories just don’t like social housing.

The gradual erosion of building subsidies and piece-meal benefit changes of the last decade have been absorbed by social housing providers, in the belief that this couldn’t last and that we would adapt, get more efficient, use more private funding, but essentially carry on as before. Not any more….

The latest budget and policy directives send a clear message: the Government vision for a low tax, low wage, low public-spending economy means the end to grants to build affordable housing and limited benefits to make rents affordable (except for the most vulnerable). Coupled with the start of a negative media campaign, and hints about de-regulation and de-registration, I am in no doubt that the Tories would much rather Housing Associations dropped their pseudo-public personae and joined the ranks of big business – borrowing and building at scale for market and sub-market rent, with the sole objective of increasing supply, and ‘let the market take care of affordability’.

We are witnessing the start of a revolution as big as any of the last Century – the start of Council housing, the growth of home-ownership, and bigger than the right-to-buy of the ’80s. As much as I am fearful of the turmoil that will result, and resent the disregard for the poor people who will be hit by the changes, there’s a little bit of me that reluctantly thinks (dare I say it?) maybe it’s right….

I’ve long thought that subsidising home ownership simply drives up house prices, and that social housing has been wrongly obsessed with eligibility and access – forgetting that whereas you might need affordable housing at some stage in your life, this may change, and why should you hang onto this scarce and valuable social resource to the detriment of the thousands of others who are homeless or on waiting lists?

At it’s peak in the 80’s, social housing comprised almost 1/3 of the stock, and was a tenure of choice – unimaginable today and in a future where low-cost ‘safety-net’ housing might be available only for the minority of people most in need. Home ownership has started to decline and this trend will continue for the foreseeable future, as average house prices continue to outstrip average wages. Private renting has been on the increase since the early 90’s, with more than half the households in London now renting at exhorbitant market rents. Recent figures show the UK as having the highest housing costs in Europe with an average monthly rent over £900 compared to just £600 in Germany. We are building less and our scarce housing supply is being eroded by investors, rather than providing homes.

We’ve known for ages that the housing system in this country is broken – just blaming the Government and carrying on as before won’t fix it. Maybe the Tories will bring about the revolution we need to shock the system into a new paradigm: to rebalance supply and demand, to reset prices to meet affordability, and to have a healthy mix of home ownership and rented housing, with a social housing sector that is valued by all.

As well as stepping up and building more mores to rent, maybe Housing Associations have another role to play – no longer solely trying to maximise access to social housing, but to provide homes for people when they are most in need, and to protect the most vulnerable from the excesses of the market – otherwise who will prevent the exploitation and appalling conditions that prevailed when the private rented sector was last king?

Secrets and Lies

Secrets and Lies –
a birthday surprise

“A boy’s own adventure –
Sailing round the world
To visit rare islands and creatures
And people from different cultures
To have some fun,
While I’m free and young”

“I miss my boy, my joy and pride,
18 months he’s been away,
out of touch for weeks at sea.
a map and pen to work out where.
And now he’s reached the other side
maybe we can visit him there”

He’s hatched a plan
to catch a plane.
24 hours he flies
for a birthday surprise.
Sshh! keep Mum
and tell no-one.
Countless times we lied
the secret to hide,
and all worthwhile
for hugs, and smiles
and tears of unexpected joy,
and see my sister
hold her boy.


Good Business Sense and the End of Innovation

You see, we experienced managers have learned over the years how to organise resources, manage risks and finances, record progress, set targets and report performance data. Honed and standardised over decades, our well-established practices provide comfort and control.

But do they respond well to the challenges of a fast-moving, digital and complex workplace? – No!

“That’s a good idea! Can you write up a business case setting out the predicted costs and measurable outcomes, for the Management Team to consider?”
“Hmmm… No”

“Great suggestion! Let’s get more people involved by setting up a Working Group”
“Pfff… No!”

“Good news, your proposal has been agreed. We’ve set up a Project Board to oversee delivery”
“Oh No!”

“Can you let us have a project plan with key milestones and resource requirements?”
“Just No!”

“Yes! it’d be great if you could do that. And while you’re at it can you do this, this and this as well?”
“No, No, NO!”

“Focusing is about saying “no”. And when you say “no” you piss off people”
Steve Jobs
“The difference between successful people & very successful people is
very successful people say “no” to almost everything.”
Warren Buffet

Can you encourage your teams to say “no”?

And what should you say “no” to?

Tate Modern and the Art of Listening

A great idea for a break out session on a leadership development day – an hour at the Tate Modern with an art expert!

Picture this – a small group of senior executives gathered at the Tate Modern, waiting, with some trepidation, for the curator to take them around an exhibition of 20th Century portraits. Knowing nothing about art (other than what they like:-) they are out of their comfort zone and wondering: will this be fascinating? or a load of pompous blather? will I seem ignorant? what will we learn?

We listened carefully to the expert describing the portraits in their historical context, the techniques used by the artist, and how the pictures were received at the time. We shared our own impressions – the impact each picture had on us, the skills which we most admired, and our imaginings about the person captured in the paintings. We took our time, were thoughtful, looked at things in different ways, and listened to each others’ ideas. That included the curator – who seemed just as interested in listening to our comments about the paintings, as sharing her expertise. She helped create an atmosphere of openness: no rush to judgement: no right or wrong. We learned about the artists and their subjects, but we also learned more about each other, and valued each others’ opinions. The more we shared, the more we saw, and enjoyed, the pictures. We reflected on how different this experience was to a typical meeting at work.

Too often, work meetings are an exercise in one person, or group, imposing their ideas on another, in order to make a decision. We prepare for the meeting, by bringing facts which support our position. We might have a discussion paper which proscribes the extent of the debate and sets out a recommendation which must be supported, or argued against. We might rely too much on our experience and knowledge, or alternatively place too much emphasis on the experts’ advice. We are often rushed for time and quickly close down exploration: not REALLY listening, but waiting for someone to finish talking (or worse, interrupting!) so that we can move things along. Do we learn anything? make more informed decisions? or just get our own way v lose the argument?

The art appreciation experience at the Tate Modern reminded me of some key lessons in listening.

The Art of Listening

Listening is a positive act: you have to put yourself out to do it.” David Hockney

  • Don’t start with a fixed position, suspend judgement, just for the moment
  • Consider different perspectives, to understand what matters to others
  • Don’t make assumptions about what others think, or why
  • Ask open questions to find out more, and clarify, instead of making definitive statements
  • Instead of thinking “you’re wrong”, think “why” others might have reached a different conclusion
  • Observe and listen to the whole person – body language will tell you a lot (so keep an eye on your own!)
  • Pay attention and listen actively – make it your goal to ONLY listen (not to judge or decide)
  • Making a few notes can help to recognise, focus on, and remember key points (and is an easy distraction if you’re tempted to interrupt:-)
  • Allow enough time to think, as well as listen
  • Remember everyone in the room wants the best outcome

I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.
Larry King