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Monday, 27 June 2011

Springsteen and Deviant Success

 Re-organisation, reconfiguration, call it what you will, there is a lot of it about. This week I am off to work with a team in the East of England. They are a new team, formed from four separate teams, as a result of public sector re-organisation.

Over the week-end I went back to re-read Kim Cameron’s book ‘Positive Leadership – strategies for extraordinary performance’. It summarises research and teases out the elements of positive leadership that help to create teams that dramatically succeed beyond the norm.

It is an easy read - I first read it whilst waiting for Bruce Springsteen to play in Hyde Park in 2009. The book provides assessment tools to help you gauge your style and impact and strategies to implement.

In summary the four elements for success are:

 A Positive Climate – encouraging acts of compassion,  collective forgiveness,  and expressions of gratitude.

Positive Relationships -  enabling people to give and receive support; fostering positive energy and effectively managing people who are energisers in the organisation; helping people to become aware of and capitalise on their strengths.

Positive Communication- communicate a ratio of five positive messages for every negative message; provide employees with ‘best self’ feedback; distribute notes and cards complimenting performance; provide negative feedback in a supportive way.

Positive Meaning- All human beings search for positive meaning in their lives. Where work is meaningful and has positive outcomes it has a powerful effect on individuals and the quality of their work.  Leaders can capitalise on this by highlighting the value connected to the organisations’ outcomes which go beyond personal benefit of individual employees.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Tether your camel

An excellent example at a workshop I was running of why it is important to engage the right side of the brain as well as the left when trying to find innovative solutions. 

The task was to imagine it was 2020 and we had succeeded in reducing the number of people with diabetes who suffer sight loss. In 2011 people from the particular community we were thinking about, told us that they don't really understand prevention in relation to some health issues. 

The participants were asked to draw a picture to illustrate what would be happening to enable this success. One participant came up the Q'ranic verse 'Trust Allah but tether your camel' i.e. God needs us to take action as well. This provided the group with a great visual image.

That image and the text of the verse might well provide us with a prevention campaign that will engage people heart, mind, body and soul.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Imagining the future

Human beings are always imagining the future. Abraham Lincoln said: ' The best way to predict your future is to create it'. 

Here is a great example from the comedian, Sarah Bernhard speaking in 'The Observer Magazine' :
'As a five year old I would lie in bed fantasising about performing on stage in big musical comedies. You could say I knew what I wanted from a young age.'

If we cannot imagine a positive future, we cannot create it. The way in which we imagine the future (our own or that of the organisation we work for) affects what we do today. 

Here is what a Bradford child in the documentary 'Poor Kids' (broadcast by the BBC on 7th June 2011) has to say about her future (as reported in 'The Guardian Weekend'):
'I think my future is gonna have loads of bad things in it. And then a few good things. I'tll just get everything my mum got except for bedrooms that have ripped wallpaper. I've just got to wait for my future to come.' Courtney (Bradford)'.

What both Sarah's and Courtney's quotes tell us is that if we want people's life chances to improve we need to be working on the dreams of our children.

Inspiring Performance

 What is it that inspires the best performance, even under the most stressful conditions? On the final day of the season for the Premier League, four teams playing their final match, were playing to stay in the league. Two of them would be joining West Ham in being relegated to the Championship. One of the Sports sections in the Saturday papers asked a player and a manager to reflect on what that experience feels like and what helps teams succeed under extreme pressure.

This is what the player said: ‘The most effective thing I have ever seen for a group of football players was to sit them down to watch a montage of their best pieces from the season. There was no negativity whatsoever, just highlight after highlight of skill, goals, inch-perfect through balls, crunching tackles, goal-line clearances, and great saves, all punctuated with shots of players hugging, high-fiving, smiling and laughing. Each player felt valued about his value to the team. So simple, but so effective.’

It works for the rest of us too!

Big Society - Right Stick, Wrong End


All three major political parties have grasped that the state alone cannot deliver the best quality of life for citizens, especially those living in the most disadvantaged communities. It requires a partnership with their citizens. The Labour Government had the first go with the ‘Communities in Control’ policy. Now the coalition government is running with ‘Big Society’.

They are all grasping the right stick but I suspect it is being grasped by the wrong end. In all my years of working with communities and neighbourhoods, I have never met anyone who wants to take over the running of public services. Rather people want to do those things that only they can do - taking action that is complementary to, and enhancing, that of the state.