We’re delighted to say that Host authors Mark McKergow and Helen Bailey have been invited to be the keynote speakers at PublicFunk’s conference Sensommerdage. The event will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 5-6 September 2019. Information (in Danish) at https://publicfunk.dk/sensommerdage/.
Plans for the Host Leadership Gathering 2019 are coming together. We have already received some excellent workshop proposals from around the world. These include:
- How to host a successful agile stand-up meeting (Rod Sherwin, Australia)
- Using the Diversity Icebreaker to explore host leadership roles with a team (Leah Davcheva, Bulgaria)
- Hosting ‘Change’: what if we treated ‘change’ as a guest, alongside the people (Rolf Katzenberger, Germany)
- Attentional practices for hosts: how to step into and out of the flow more naturally (Stephen Josephs, USA)
As you can see, the offerings so far range from the practical to the personal to the conceptual. We are very keen to hear from as many people as possible in all these domains (which all have some kind of practical element). And we would like you to come along and join us. Please send in your proposal by email to email@example.com with:
- 100 word abstract
- Participant take-aways
- Your biographical details
- Desired time slot (20/60/90 minutes).
Deadline for workshop submissons is Tuesday 30 April 2019. If you’d like to test out an idea, please email Mark McKergow (firstname.lastname@example.org) directly and he’ll get back to you. Now’s your chance – go on, take it!
The Host Leadership Gathering 2019 is officially on! We invite anyone interested in the future of engaging and participative leadership to join us in Munich, Germany on 27-29 June 2019. The event is focused on learning together, sharing and building the new Host Leadership fieldbook which will be published later in the year. With content from introductory workshops to more advanced sessions and an Open Space, there will be room for contributions and participation of all kinds.
- Thursday 27 June 2019: Host Leadership workshop with Pierluigi Pugliese
- Friday 28 June 2019: Host Leadership conference
- Saturday 29 June 2019: Open Space for Host Leadership Fieldbook.
- Workshop proposals – 30 April 2019
- Early bird booking deadline: 15 May 2019
- Gathering: 27 – 29 June 2019
Full details and booking information are at http://hostleadership.com/host-leadership-gathering-2019/. There are discounts for 2 and 3 day participation. Make sure you get your workshop proposal in early and register by the early bird deadline of 15 May 2019. See you there! Any questions, please contact Mark McKergow (email@example.com).
The philosophy of host leadership is based, of course, around hospitality – the welcoming and caring for guests. In ancient times this was something experience by all; in a world without hotels, travellers relied upon hospitable householders to accommodate them. This still happens in parts of the world which are sparsely populated and where the going is tough, such as the steppes, the desert and so on.
In the modern world the basics of accommodating travellers has become the ‘hospitality industry’. Hotels large and small, guest houses, B&Bs all cater for guests. And of course some of those operations are very large and employ many staff in their quest to host their visitors. As part of the research for the Host book, we interviewed some leading hoteliers and discovered that there is an awful lot to running a successful hotel, a great deal of detail, and many hours of effort every day. After the book was published Philip Newman-Hall, then General Manager of the famous Le Manoir Au Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire, UK, was kind enough to say that:
“Having been a host and leader for nearly 40 years, the insights in Host were as refreshingly relevant to me as they will be for any young manager, be they in hospitality or anywhere else where results through others are needed. These easy-to-apply principles will last you a lifetime.”
We recently heard about how one hotel, the Hampton Inn in Woodinville (Washington state, USA) is using these ideas behind the scenes, in particular in their housekeeping department. They are applying many of our six roles of a host leader in the running both of the hotel and of their own unit. We particularly like the key question posed by the manager: “What to focus on today?”. That’s a great way of reducing our ‘User’s Guide To The Future’ into one sentence!
Read the whole story at https://sway.office.com/BEEsHZgMnIEHooNk.
One of the six roles of a host leader is the Gatekeeper; the person who watches over the ‘gate’ (or door, or threshold), welcomes people in, lets them know what’s happening and what their expectations are, negotiates about the boundaries and – potentially – excludes people who don’t play by the house rules. It’s a very rich and important element of leadership which is not always captured by the other metaphors and approaches.
Our good friend Chris Corrigan wrote a blog recently about the many ‘nested thresholds’ which might apply when thinking about a workshop or event. It’s easy to see the way that the idea of thresholds works on the day – people arrive (though the threshold), they work together (inside the threshold) and then they leave again (out of the threshold). Chris has identified a full fifteen ‘thresholds’ – not all of then physical – which may be considered when entering and leaving a conversational space.
These start from the instant that people notice and start to engage with an invitation to join. In our experience that’s a really key moment – after all, deciding to move along and not enter at that point will pretty much rule out any subsequent benefits or possibilities (though it may be the right thing to do for the individual). We spend a lot of time and effort on working up great invitations to our workshops and talks; when people arrive in good heart and with worthwhile expectations, then a useful session is in sight. If people show up with misaligned expectations, then difficulties immediately begin to encroach.
The role of a leader in helping people to understand, approach and cross thresholds is an undervalued part of what creates engagement and therefore performance. When it goes well, it seems almost inevitable. When it goes wrong, it’s a mess.
Host co-author Mark McKergow’s TEDx talk about host leadership is online today! Mark was invited to speak at TEDx Kazimierz in Krakow, Poland earlier in the year, and the resulting talk is now online for all to view! In the course of his talk Mark connects with the SOLWorld community and Sunday Assembly, both of which he played a role in developing, as examples of host leadership in action. Watch it, like and share please!
As England make somewhat unexpected progress in the World Cup, it’s interesting to take a look at the part played by manager Gareth Southgate. Southgate is unusual in terms of national team managers/coaches in that he didn’t have a long and distinguished club management career – he only coached one team, Middlesbrough, in the Championship (second tier) from 2006-2009. He came into the England job having been under-21 coach from 2013, and inherited the top role after Sam Allerdyce ‘left by mutual consent’ following allegations of malpractice. So, Southgate is not the usual England coach – he’s younger, he’s less encumbered by expectation… and he turns out to have elements of host leadership in his style.
This interesting and uplifting story was posted on Twitter recently by Jake Humphrey, sports commentator and currently host of football on the BT Sport channel. I reproduce it here – it bears close examination:
“Back in 2007 I was working on Sportsround on CBBC. I spent my time interviewing all kinds of sports people, plenty of whom were footballers. I quickly got used to being kept waiting 2-3 hours past the time the interview should happen, interviews being cancelled at the last moment, or doing interviews in nondescript rooms to keep us away from seeing training or interrupting players.
Some of the stories you wouldn’t believe!! I didn’t mind it, no worries, it was part of the job, and a kids TV show is hardly the top of everyone’s list!! However, our trip to @Boro about a decade ago couldn’t have been more different.
10 minutes after we were due to chat to Gareth he came running down the small hill from the training complex to the pitch where we were standing, apologising profusely that he got held up in a meeting. He immediately knew my name…and the name of all the crew I was working with!
Straight away he said ‘come and meet the players’ and took us right into the centre of the training pitch, stopped the players working, and told them about us and how crucial he believed sport was on children’s TV to inspire the next generation.
We were then asked what WE wanted to do. Which players WE wanted to speak to, whether WE wanted to stick around for the whole of training. Nothing was too much trouble. At the end of training, and our filming, he was the one shaking hands, thanking us for coming, seeing us out.
And 10 yrs later he leads his country into our biggest game in a decade. I’m so pleased a good guy is getting what he deserves, & from what I’ve seen of his press conferences, his relationship with the media, & how open his players have been, he has stayed true to his principles.”
It’s worth looking at this through the host leadership lens. Southgate is clearly treating his visitors as honoured guests. He welcomes them over the threshold (Gatekeeper), he knows who they are and introduces them to others (Connector), he offers them choice and possibilities (Inviter), he takes care of the space (Space-Creator)… so many aspects of great hosting and host leadership on show in this one short story. Following England’s last-16 win over Columbia, he was widely pictured consoling opposition players (right). Whatever your allegiances in footballing terms, it’s fascinating to see a new generation of leader who also brings a new generation of leadership with him.
One of our six new ‘roles of engagement’ is the Space Creator, the role of creating, maintaining and enhancing the space where interactions take place. In many organisations this is synonymous with the workplace – the space where many of us spend 40+ hours every week and which can have a sparkling (or indeed crushing) affect on how we work, feel and perform there.
We came across Neil Usher some years ago when he was working to transform the workspace at global mining giant Rio Tinto’s London office. This move, from a traditional City office with wood panelled corridors and many individual offices to an innovative space near Paddington station, was a real masterclass in 21st century thinking about space and contact, with different kinds of space, kitchens, conversation areas, reading points and a café (a key meeting place between inside and outside the organisation, kept outside the security cordon for maximum convenience). Neil was generous in his time and ideas when we were writing the chapter on Space Creator, and his contributions are prominent in our book.
Neil has been writing on his WorkEssence blog about how work and workplace are intimately connected. Now he’s gone one step further and authored his own book The Elemental Workplace: 12 Elements for Creating a Fantastic Workplace for Everyone. Starting from the rallying cry that ‘everyone deserves a great workplace!’, Neil builds the Why (the case for great workplaces), the How (to develop a great workplace) and the What (the 12 workplace elements themselves). Interestingly, he includes two How sections – the second being how to flex, adapt and redesign the workplace as people use it and discover their own ways of being in it. Change is happening all the time!
This book is absolutely overflowing with great thinking and practical points about workplaces. The opening manifesto shows the breadth of wisdom contained within the book:
The Elemental Workplace: A fully inclusive, sufficiently spacious, stimulating and daylight-flooded workplace, providing super-connectivity and localised environmental control, while allowing individual influence over a choice of comfortable, considered settings, offering convenient and secure storage for personal and business effects, affordable and healthy refreshments, and clean well-stocked washrooms.
The following 200 pages of entertainingly written and thought-provoking text shows all the ins and outs of moving towards an elemental workplace, with lots of personal (and hard-won) experience to the fore. There are so many great points. Just one random example (produced by flipping the book open and starting to read) on page 172, Neil talks about the relationship that facilities management people have with their workspace users. He says this should NOT be thought about in terms of ‘customer service’, but rather as a collegiate relationship – we are all ‘in it together’ when it comes to the organisation delivering to its external customers, we all use the space, and therefore we want to make the workplace as positive as possible – for everyone. In host leadership we think of this as the ‘Co-Participator’ principle – yes, we’re providing for our colleagues, and we’re also providing for ourselves and metaphorically eating the same food, working in the same space. This balance between serving and participating is key in host leadership and it’s great to see it coming over here too.
In short, this book is a must-read for anyone interested in creating better workplaces and interaction spaces. And if you’re reading this blog, that probably means you.
Plans for our 2018 Host Leadership Gathering on 28-29 May 2018 are firming up. Some of the workshops and topics on the agenda include:
- Rolf Katzenberger on the dynamics of moving between roles and positions while hosting
- Helen Bailey on the latest work on a Host Leadership behavioural questionnaire – we’ll be sharing the latest prototype and discussing how to use it
- Alistair Cockburn on ‘guest leadership’ – his latest idea and an intriguing take on the host-guest relationship
- Mark McKergow on how the use and application of host leadership ideas is spreading around the world
- Géry Derbier and Laurent Sarrazin on using host leadership as part of their approach to agile projects and trainings.
There will also be experienced host leadership practitioners from across Europe, open space sessions so you can bring along your own challenges, topics and questions, plenty of time to be together in an exciting and developing part of Paris, and a wonderful opportunity to get some new ideas and practices. We’re hoping you will join us!
For more information: http://hostleadership.com/gathering.
For booking: https://www.weezevent.com/host-leadership-gathering
For information and questions, contact Mark McKergow himself at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A recent article from Dr Colm Foster, Director of Executive Education at the Irish Management Institute, sets out the idea that, particularly in a fast-moving VUCA environment, leaders might start to aim to ‘be like water’. Foster points out that a lots of leadership education is still done on the basis of ‘great men’ such as Jack Welch and Steve Jobs. These guys, and many others, sought to impose themselves on a situation and definitely influence people, pushing them to exert control in difficult times. Interestingly, research from Richard Boyatzis at Case Western Reserve University showed that these influencers’ ended up a lot less happy with their lives and careers than others.
Foster wonders whether, in more turbulent, close-to-the-edge times, it might be better not to push people but instead to be more adaptive. He writes:
“This will require a cadre of new leaders who are less ego-identified with success and winning, who don’t see problems as opportunities to impose themselves and demonstrate mastery of the environment.
“Rather we will see the emergence of leaders who can go with the flow, adapt to new realities quickly, work through and with others as either leader or follower and pivot gracefully as cherished paradigms fall away and hard-earned experience proves ineffective as a guide to new problems.” (Foster, 2018)
Foster notes that this is reminiscent of martial arts legend Bruce Lee’s instruction to his students to ‘Be like water’. This idea of ‘going with the flow’ and adapting quickly is built into the Host Leadership paradigm; a good host both makes a (good) plan, and is prepared to let go of the plan when needs arise. In this piece I would like to focus on one particular element of Foster’s selection above – working through and with others either as leader or follower.
Once of the key aspects we’ve discovered in our research about what great hosts (and host leaders) do is the act of stepping forward and back. Sometimes we want to step forward, set the scene, make people aware of what is going on, direct attention and set out what might happen next. Then, we might step back – leaving people to get on with it, giving them space to respond to what’s going on. Then we, having stepped back, can take a look around, see how things are going, what needs attention, who needs to be engaged, before we step forward again.
One of our ‘six roles of a host leader’ is the Co-Participator role. When we step forward in this role, it is as one of the team, doing what needs to be done whatever the status of the job. This might be taking a turn at the customer service desk, helping out on the shop floor, or even just doing the photocopying – there’s a great story in the book about a very senior director helping out in just that way during a late night rush to get things ready for the morning. He did what needed to be done – and what there was no-one else to do at that particular moment.
This willingness to join in, throw our shoulders to the wheel in whatever way is necessary, is a practical implementation of switching between leader and follower and back again. Note that doing some of the team’s work, being a follower for a while, doesn’t mean relinquishing the leadership role overall. In fact, when the team members see the leader helping out in this way it very much strengthens the relationships and respect, so that when the leader steps back into a their leading role once more it is with a new degree of awareness from all parties. Trying it tomorrow – where can you be a Co-Participator and help your team out for a while? What difference does it make for you? For the team?
The international Host Leadership Gathering 2018 is in Paris, France on 28-29 May 2018. Come and join us for workshops, keynotes, open space discussions and social time with some very interesting leaders and leadership developers.
Hat tip to the Alan Lyons in Dublin for pointing me to the Colm Foster piece online. Thanks Alan!
Dr Mark McKergow is the co-author of Host: Six new roles of engagement for teams, organisations, communities and movements (Solutions Books 2014).