Author Archives: Mark

The dialogic mindset and host leadership

gervaseI was recently delighted to be contacted by Gervase Bushe (pictured right) and Bob Marshak, widely known for their work on ‘Dialogic Organisation Development (OD)’.    They have made a key distinction between ‘diagnostic practice’, which is about diagnosing and curing problems, and dialogic work where the focus is on convening and generating change in conversations.  My own work over the past two decades in building Solutions Focus work in organisations is a part of this general dynamic, and has been listed alongside more than 30 other schools of dialogic work on the http://www.dialogicod.net/ website.  Bushe and Marshak have also published a new book on Dialogic OD – a must-read for those interested in this topic.  I will be reviewing it soon.

Gervase was in touch as he had been thinking about what ‘dialogic leadership’ might look like recently.  He was very excited to discover our work on leading as a host, and was immediately excited at the possibilities offered by this metaphor.  Hosts focus on bringing people together around a topic of joint interest and making sure that the conversations/interactions are supported in ways which help everyone to give of their best, so the connection is a very apt and useful one.

Gervase and Bob have produced a very interesting paper this year on The Dialogic Mindset:  Leading Emergent Change in a Complex World (pdf download).  It’s very well worth reading.  They start from the ‘visionary’ leadership tradition, where someone (usually a ‘great man’) shows the way and sells their vision to the organisation.  They connect this model with a Performance Mindset – the idea that leaders provide targets, resources and motivation to others to move their organisations forward.  They comment:

The Performance Mindset isn’t necessarily opposed to a Dialogic Mindset. It recognizes that organizations cannot continue to perform without learning. Stuff happens, things change, and people have to adapt, yet in the dominant leadership narrative, learning depends on experts, wise teachers, and heroic leaders who can show us the way.  It does not know how to deal with situations where no one knows the “right” answers or where ”best practices” are not applicable.  The Performance Mindset knows very little about how to inquire into collective experience in ways that catalyze the emergence of new ideas, processes, and solutions by aligning with and amplifying the untapped wisdom in the organization.

They then contrast this with the Dialogic mindset – the idea of a leader who focuses on the power of narratives and conversation as the fabric of social and interactional change.  Particularly in complex and VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environments, nobody – not even the leader – can know enough to solve all the problems.  Rather the leader’s role is to bring together those involved, so they can make better progress than they would have done separately.

This leadership works to enrich social networks so that people with similar motivations and ideas can find and support each other in order to take on complex conditions and adaptive challenges through self-initiated actions and small experiments.  Rather than vet ideas, manage projects, check implementation plans, and so on, the Dialogic Mindset wants to encourage the emergence of new ideas and possibilities fostered by different narratives and meanings that challenge the status quo.

In this rich and carefully structured paper, Bushe and Marshak look not only at seven key elements of a dialogic mindset, but also at the key element of holding anxiety in uncertain environments and also the ‘ego development’ needed by leaders to embrace this concept in practice and set aside their need to be the controlling centre. They quote research on this which aligns with the work of our own Stephen Josephs (co-author of Leadership Agility) that show that only 15-20% of adults develop to a stage where they may be prepared to work in this way.  I propose that the powerful-but-everyday metaphor of leading as a host may offer a mindset expanding route not only for those already at such a level, but also those on the way.

The paper is very well worth careful study – download it now.  I am hoping to get together with Gervase Bushe on his next visit to the UK – it will be very interesting to see what further connections and possibilities we can produce in our dialogue.

BUSHE, G.R. & MARSHAK, R.J. (2016)  THE DIALOGIC MINDSET: LEADING EMERGENT CHANGE IN A COMPLEX WORLD. ORGANIZATION DEVELOPMENT JOURNAL, 34:1, 37-65.

 

How to be a good host – in English and German

jakobsweg-wegweiser-jakobsweg-tvb-tannheimer-tal-dI was approached a little while ago by Jan-Dirk Rosche from Switzerland.  Jan is connected with the Jakobsweg path – the part of the famous pilgrim trail to Santiago de Compostela that passes through Switzerland.  There are many people wanting to walk this trail – but a problem in convincing locals along the route to open their houses to offer the walkers accommodation.

Jan is a fan of Host Leadership, and asked me if I would write a short guide on ‘how to be a good host’ for the Jakobsweg – to give encouragement to new and existing hosts about how they can support the walkers and also get some interesting new contacts and perspectives themselves.  I agreed, and the piece is now up on the Jakobsweg website in both English and German.

As you can see, I use our six roles of a host leader to offer practical guidance for Jakobsweg hosts.  These ideas can of course be used elsewhere too – by anyone offering shelter and accommodation to strangers.  When we lived in Cheltenham, SW England, Jenny and I used to offer bed & breakfast to racegoers coming to town for the National Hunt Festival every year, and the same things applied.

Do please share this with everyone you know who is perhaps thinking of opening their houses.  It’s very worthwhile, there is richness for both host and guest, and it is excellent leadership development too!  If we are leading with engagement at work, then engaging with strangers at home is a marvellous learning resource.

Brexit: An opportunity for host leadership

brexit hand-holding-brexit-sign-eu-referendumWell, what a week it’s been with the UK voting narrowly for Brexit following a confused and heated campaign generating more heat that light from both sides.  So many things have changed at a stroke – aspects of live which were formerly assumptions have been brought to uncertainty, taken-for-granted freedoms like the right to love and work anywhere in the EU are in question.  Sadly, racist attacks are reported to have increased by 500% since the vote.  As I write this on Friday 1 July both main UK political parties are having leadership crises, the winning Leave campaign has no plan, and the only British politician coming out of it with any credit is Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon.

Nicola Sturgeon seems to me to be showing excellent host leader qualities. She knows which direction she wants to go (Initiator role).  She has reached out to others in the EU and gained important meetings and conversations (Connector role).  And above all she is stepping forward with confidence at a time when most other British politicians are acting like rabbits in headlights, knifing each other in the back and generating huge uncertainty. Acting confidently – even when you don’t know what’s going to happen – inspired confidence in your ‘guests’ and followers.

It has been said that the result of the Brexit vote came as a shock to both sides, and may even be generating a mental health crisis as people have their realities rocked.  What can we do at this time?  It seems to me that wherever we are in the UK or in the wider world, this is a moment for small acts of kindness and reaching out to others in ways great and small.  This excellent list arrived in my inbox from Sunday Assembly founder Sanderson Jones. Sunday Assembly is a network of secular congregations that meet to celebrate life, and this list could be used by anyone – of any faith or no faith – in the days ahead.

  1. Smile at someone in the street. They probably want to know they’re in a world of love and kindness.
  2. Don’t hate people who have different opinions. They’re just humans who want the best in a complicated world.
  3. Create connections outside of your tribe. Tribalism enflamed the passions we’re feeling now.
  4. Hearing people that agree with you is great but more important to listen to those that don’t.
  5. Remainers, if you’re feeling pain after the vote, remember this is the pain that many of the Leavers felt before.
  6. Leavers, the result has shocked a lot of Remainers, don’t kick them when they’re down (and out).
  7. If there’s going to be a ‘culture war’ it is better to find peaceful solutions than to take up arms.
  8. Be grateful: you live in one of the richest, most peaceful, most advanced countries the world has ever known. 
  9. Be positive: we got through two World Wars, the Suez Crisis and losing Eurovision. We will get through this too.
  10. Sure, get politically active but you can be apolitically active too. The new knitting group can be more powerful than the sword.
  11. Find spaces where you can be with difference, live with difference and listen to difference without judging. #JudgyMcJudgeFace
  12. In every borough, county and street in the country there are people who disagreed with you. Make their world better however you can.
  13. Come up with a new cultural, social and economic vision for Britain that everyone can get behind (this last one’s a biggie).

And for those of a more activist bent, Host author Mark McKergow has started a campaign and website at http://projectfarce.uk.  He is asking questions, looking for answers, holding people to account and trying to find ways forward in the emerging confusion.  Please check it out and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/projectfarceuk.

Invite and share: Jeremy Nicholas hosts better speaking

jeremynicholasI first met Jeremy Nicholas at a Professional Speaking Association London meeting at the end of last year.  The PSA brings together speakers and those who (like me) make their living on their hind legs, and the meetings are a packed mix of great and would-be great speakers, business and marketing tips and networking.  Jeremy, whose business tag line is ‘Keeping conference delegates awake since 1994’, was the host of the meeting, linking everything together in a relaxed yet very skilful way.  I happened to sit next to him at lunch, and we swapped business cards as one does in this kind of setting.

The following week, I received Jeremy’s email newsletter.  Reaching for the delete key, I started to read and discovered that rather than a hard-sell, this email was packed with interesting, topical and practical tips on speaking.  It really was a masterpiece of thought-provoking content, with several sections and inspired by talks and TV interviews, some recent and some less so, with Jeremy’s comments about how the speakers achieved (or not) their desired impact.  It also mentions his workshops and coaching services, of course.  Over the months I have come to eagerly look forward to Wednesday morning, when the next instalment arrives.

A few weeks ago, Jeremy offered an invitation to his readers – “Buy me a coffee and we can talk about speaking.”  Being in London and with an hour or so to fill, Jeremy invited the first four respondents to join him at London’s funky Groucho Club and ask questions about speaking and speaker-biz.  I responded instantly, and last Friday Angie, Cyril, Sean and I went along to the Groucho.  Jeremy was excellent – he was interested in what we did, shared his experiences, gave us insider tips, responded to all our questions, and actually even bought the coffees as well.

I took a couple of minutes to describe Host Leadership to him, and between us we figured out that he was being an excellent host leader!

  • He has stepped forward and initiated an opportunity for this discussion to happen
  • He had invited us, let us know where to be and when, and been clear about what we could and couldn’t do in the club
  • He had found a nice space where we could all sit together and talk without interruption
  • He was the most experienced (and so shared that experience) but was also interested in us and our experiences – all in a generous way, with few preconceptions or conditions
  • He introduced us to each other, got us talking, sometimes let us take a lead and then bringing the discussion back together
  • And he joined in as ‘one of the group’ as well as being the leader.

I was rather surprised when Jeremy told us that this was the first time he’d done a meeting like this with four people – his previous forays had been to invite one person, but it was clear to me that having a small group meant that everyone benefited from a variety of views, that other people’s questions were just as interesting as your own, and that the time flew by.  I had to leave after an hour and three quarters, but the others were still going.

So, I would rate Jeremy as a good host leader as well as a very skilful speaker and speaking coach!  If you are interested in speaking, so sign up for his weekly newsletter at http://jeremynicholas.co.uk/newsletter/.  Who knows where it might lead?  And thanks to Jeremy for an excellent morning in London.

Solution-Focused practice: links to host leadership

sol_logo_liverpoolI am just back from organising the international SOLWorld 2016 conference in Liverpool.  This is the annual gathering of Solution-Focused (SF) practitioners who work in coaching, management and organisational contexts.  The SF tradition derives from the work of Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg in solution-focused brief therapy, and offers a powerful and energizing way to build progress, even in tough situations, by focusing on what’s wanted and what’s working.

As part of the conference I hosted a discussion on the connections and links between SF practice and host leadership, particularly around the relationship of host and guest (which in the host leader metaphor is leader and others). The group produced lots of great ideas – here they are:

  • The host metaphor is an excellent source of resources for leaders and would-be leaders – we already know at some level what a host does, and can start to put that into action right away
  • A good host will want to please their guests – so finding out what the guests want is a key piece of this.  (Note, simply giving the guests what they want is not necessarily possible, but it’s an important piece of the equation.) And it’s very good to have an idea of what the host wants too – they are also participants in this interaction.
  • A host can get good at ‘being lazy’ – in other words, stepping back and allowing others to act, work etc.
  • A link with teachers who work with students in helping them to learn when they are comfortable and stretched at the same time.  This means moving in and out, adjusting all the time (and is connected with the ideas of the 20th century educational pioneer Vygotsky).
  • Host as facilitator – making connections, with a focus on the interactions in the group.  A good question to ask all the time is “How does this contribute towards our goals?”
  • The six roles of a host leader give a nice route to leadership development.  In particular the role of the ‘Space-creator’, focusing on the space and environment, offers a new and relatively overlooked angle on leadership.
  • The roles are quite easy to link to behaviours, and therefore to put into action.  They are also dynamic – there are possibilities for action in any situation, and the development of leadership is all about getting better at choosing.
  • Attention to detail! Good hosts focus on detail, and good SF practice is all about discussing and noticing details.
  • “What you invite is what you get.”  There is a bigger picture here in terms of how we live and develop our own lives.
  • Hosts focus on the resources which the guests are bringing.  These may not be obvious at first, but getting better at noticing, inviting and engaging will help to tap into these resources when the time is right.
  • The guest has a role too!  Steve de Shazer always used to say to his therapy clients that ‘there are not guarantees – I’ll do my best, and I hope you will too…” (and would look to see if they were nodding at that point).  Good hosting is about developing guests expectations about their role and how they can help create a successful interaction.
  • Clear invitations are a key part of creating expectations – and as such are a very useful tool for leaders and anyone else wishing to engage people.

Perhaps you are a solution-focused practitioner?  What do you think?  Which of these is particularly important for you?  And what else could you add?

 

New review of Host book from Ashridge Executive Education

Host - Six New Roles of Engagement by Mark McKergow Ph.D. & Helen BaileyOur book Host has another review – this time from Kevin Barham of Ashridge Executive Education, one of the leading business schools internationally and now a part of the Hult group.  The review is on an internal website for Ashridge people so I can’t link to it, but here is what he says:

“Host offers a genuinely original approach to leadership which, while it is new to contemporary management, is based on a philosophy with ancient roots. It is founded on the metaphor of the leader as host – someone who receives guests. Rules will not deal with the complexity and uncertainty that face leaders today. There are no simple answers, and no one individual can possibly know what to do. Engagement is key – getting people together to work on the issues. This demands a shift of mindset from the leader as hero to the leader as “engager” – someone who engages fellow participants in a worthwhile endeavour. Instead of rules we need to think of “roles of engagement”. Six roles for the Host Leader are described: Initiator, Inviter, Space Creator, Gatekeeper, Connector, Co-Participator. Host Leadership may become one of the most pioneering concepts in 21st century management. The book is definitely inspiring reading.”​

Reviewed by Kevin Barham

Move forward by stepping back – Host Leadership in the NHS

sarah_morganSarah Morgan, Director of Organisational Development and Strategic Lead for Leadership for Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, has been writing about her explorations with Host Leadership.  Not only is Host Leadership a good response to the challenges of leading in a VUCA world, it’s also a way to help her achieve her overall aim of bringing more love into the workplace.

Sarah’s blog series is proving very popular both inside the NHS and with those interested in new ways to enhance effectiveness. Read the full post now at:

https://sarahmorgannhs.wordpress.com/2016/03/28/move-forward-by-stepping-back-how-to-get-more-love-into-the-workplace-part-4/

Host Leadership for school principals – new article online

PrincipiaThe Australian teaching magazine Principia – published by the Queensland Secondary Principal’s Assocation  – has published a feature about host leadership.  The article, by Nick Burnett and Jason Pascoe is entitled ‘Getting the balance right – a new metaphor for school leaders’.  You can read it as a pdf by clicking on the image or via this link.

 

Host Leadership at the Game Changer Global Summit – starts 7 March 2016

GGS MARK MCKERGOWWe are very excited that Host Leadership has been selected as one of the topics for the Game Changer Global Summit 2016!  The event is online and starts Monday 7 March.  Many of the world’s top human potential and development speakers will be presenting online sessions – and it’s free to register.  Mark’s session on Host Leadership will be online on Saturday 12 March.  And in the meantime you can hear from the likes of Jack Canfield (himself a big fan of host leadership), Marci Shimoff, Martin Rutte, Roger Hamilton, Arjuna Ardagh, Michael Neill (who taught Mark some NLP decades ago) and many more – in fact over 100 speakers are lined up.

You can check out the speakers and the schedule, and register free for the event, at http://gamechangerglobalsummit.com.  Check it out now!

 

The first International Host Leadership conference is coming! London 14-16 September 2016

Conference_2016_01cThe first international Host Leadership conference is coming!  We’re very excited to announce that there will events in London from 14-16 September 2016. The broad outline is:

  • Wednesday 14 September 2016:  Pre-conference workshop: Meet Host Leadership with Host authors Mark McKergow and Helen Bailey
  • Thursday 15 September 2016:  Host Leadership conference 2016 – featuring international speakers, activities, networking, and an open space session so you can host your own discussions
  • Friday 16 September 2016: Post-conference workshop:  Developing your awareness as a Host Leader with Stephen Josephs (USA) and Mark McKergow

You can find more Information about venue, hotels etc on the conference page.

Booking details will be available soon.  In the meantime, get the date into your diary!  We’re looking forward to welcoming you to London for a fantastic event.