General Archive

Encouraging people to create their own space helps productivity

I’m a big fan of economist and writer Tim Harford’s work.  Tim has a column every week in the cleardeskFinancial Times as the ‘undercover economist’ and has written several excellent books about how economics applies in the real world. 

His recent piece on ‘Why every office should scrap its clean desk policy’ for TED caught my eye.  Most of us have experienced a clean desk policy at some point – where the company insists that everything is removed from desks at the end of the day and personal effects like photos are limited or even banned. Harford reports on experiments at the University of Exeter in the UK which study the connection between productivity and workspace. 

It turns out that people who are allowed to decorate and personalise their workspaces can be some 30% more productive than those where a clean desk policy is enforced.  That’s a HUGE figure – like an extra day-and-a-half a week!  Harford writes about the difference between ‘hard’ spaces where clean standards are rigorously enforced and ‘soft’ spaces where personalisation is permitted encouraged. 

This connects with the Host Leadership concept of the Space Creator role.  One of the key elements of leading as a host is to take care in creating spaces which support the kind of interactions you wish to encourage between people.  The work reported by Tim Harford shows not only how environment and space really makes a difference in how people work, but that an giving them a role in creating it, decorating it and maintaining it can add to its effectiveness.  

The importance of space and creating an effective space is hardly ever discussed in most leadership work – but from the Host Leader perspective, it’s clearly vital and a key element for the leader to consider.  Now – read Tim Harford’s piece and even get hold of his book ‘Messy: The power of disorder to transform our lives’ from which this work is taken.   

 

Acting WITH people: Host Leadership and Restorative Practices

I was contacted recently by Sonia Mayor, who was interested to combine host leadership ideas with her work in the area of restorative practice.  I wasn’t familiar with that field, and have been investigating – and it looks like a very interesting connection with great potential. 

I had heard of restorative justice – my friend Lorenn Walker in Hawaii uses Solution Focused therapy ideas in the furtherance of this, which is about getting offenders to get involved in repairing the harm done and building relationships with victims and others, rather than simply being punished.  These ways of working echo practices from many indigenous traditions, including native American, African, Asian and many others. 

In an extension of this philosophy, restorative practices are about applying similar thinking proactively rather than simply reactively – acting before offences are committed, to build community and connection in ways that reduce offending. 

One key element of restorative practice is shown by the ‘social discipline window’.  This model reflects the work of Australian criminologist John Braithwaite, who argues that conventional punishment stigmatises offenders and pushes them out of the community, rather than drawing socialDisc_windowthem in.  The social discipline window (right) shows four different ways of acting with offenders (and indeed with people in general) based on varying levels of control and support – not acting, acting for, acting on, and acting with.

Restorative practices are very focused on doing things WITH people – combining high degrees of support and control.  It’s easy to see how there are dangers of slipping into the neighbouring quadrants – by acting paternalistically and ‘doing things for’ people (attempting to support them, but in your way rather than theirs), or slipping into punitive mode and ‘doing things to’ people (where they become the object of action rather than an active subject). 

I see Host Leadership as working towards a very similar objective.  Hosts and host leaders strive to reach out and engage people with their active co-operation, rather than compelling participation.  Once engaged, though, the developing relationship allows structures to be used which help all involved to know where they are with each other.  In the same way, accepting an invitation to visit someone may mean using their ‘house rules’.  These structures can serve a controlling purpose, but they are entered into as part of a bigger process rather than as a means of obtaining submission. 

This idea of acting WITH people, rather than for them or on them, is central to host leadership.  And yes, occasionally we might want to do things for people (when they can’t do them themselves) – but with their permission and agreement, rather than from our own assumptions.  It’s nice to help an old lady across the street, but first check that she wants to go! 

I look forward to building on this initial connection with restorative practices in future blogs and articles – it’s an exciting prospect.  Please add your reactions, comments and connections below, as well as thoughts on particular angles and connections between these fields. 

Host is turning into a favourite leadership book!

On our twitter account @thehostleader recently we had a tweet from Barry Overeem. Barry has listed his six favourite leadership books – and Host is one of them!  Thank you Barry.

My 6 favourite leadership books. Thanks @james_m_kerr @ldavidmarquet @thehostleader! What are your favourite leadership books? pic.twitter.com/IovXxyRY29

Barry’s six favourites also include!

What are YOUR favourite leadership books?  Host author Dr Mark McKergow is a fan of Obliquity by John Kay – not totally a ‘leadership book’ but a very good look at what to focus on and what to approach sideways.   Add your suggestions and comments below – and we’ll tweet about it!

Building team spirit for Team GB at Rio Olympics 2016 – the host leader way

team-gb-medal-winnersTeam GB (as the UK national team is rather oddly known at the Olympics) have had an extremely successful games in Rio.  A record medal haul, success in an unprecedented number of sports, London 2012 winners defending their Olympic titles, new stars emerging – it’s all gone very well.  And why?  This Guardian article by Owen Gibson lists five factors: Lottery funding, a no-compromise culture, the high-performance system, new stars emerging,… and team spirit. 

From the perspective of host leadership, building team spirit is a key element – engaging these rugged individuals together is not straightforward, particularly when they have spent years training either alone or with team-mates from their discipline.  It seems that one key is the experience of the patriotically-named Mark England, the ‘chef de mission’ (head of the whole delegation) since the Salt Lake City winter games in 2002.  England has been working to engage the larger numbers in various ways, such as making more of the pre-games training camp to help the athletes meet and bond.

From a host leadership perspective, two things are mentioned that are particularly interesting.  Firstly, all the team members are now given their official Team GB kit at special ceremonies.  This is an excellent example of using the Gatekeeper role in host leadership, defining boundaries and welcoming people across them.  If you want to be part of the team, you participate in the ceremony of joining it.  This kind of event can be seen as a sort of ritual, a marking of transition, where both the person concerned and the rest of the team can see them publically joining and committing to the team.  Host leaders know the power of these welcoming events and take care to organise and execute them well. 

Rituals like this have until recently felt a bit alien to the British sensibility.  We have watched other nations like the USA and Canada swearing allegiance to the flag and that sort of thing with a sense of ‘oh come on, don’t take yourself so seriously’.  However, it’s becoming increasingly clear to even the self-deprecating Brits that there is a value in marking transitions seriously and publically – we started welcoming new citizens the country at ceremonies in 2004.  Although many of my fellow countrymen and women still find the idea toe-curling, the ceremonies are popular with the new citizens and their families who feel welcomed and included.

Along with this, Owen Gibson mentions that senior and world-famous athletes like tennis star Andy Murray, top golfer Justin Rose, cycling hero Sir Bradley Wiggins and rower/nost decorated female Olympian Katherine Grainger all get involved, be there, talk with the younger athletes and set a good example is also vital.  In host leadership we call this Co-participation; if you want to lead something, you need to find ways to join in with it as well.  It’s not good telling everyone to participate (in for example, a ceremony of welcome) and then not doing it yourself – one rule for the leader and another for everyone else won’t build the kind of engagement and relationships that are important. And this goes for the team in the office or the factory floor as much as in the Olympic Games.

Come and find out more about the leadership roles of Gatekeeper and Co-participator, as well as many other aspects of leading as a host, at our first Host Leadership Gathering in London from 14-16 September.  The main gathering is on Thursday 15 September, preceded by an introduction workshop and followed by a day of Open Space where everyone is welcome to raise questions and topics, as well as getting live help with leadership challenges.  Details at http://hostleadership.com/gathering, booking at http://hostleadership.eventbrite.co.uk, download the programme at http://tinyurl.com/hostgathering2016

Host Leadership and boundaries: The power of being near the front door

One of our six ‘roles of engagement’ for host leaders is the Gatekeeper – the one who sets boundaries, welcomes newcomers over the threshold and perhaps (in extremis) ushers them out when they’ve overstepped the mark.  One strong tip which emerged in our research was the power of leaders being located near the front door; being aware of comings and goings, being in a position to say hello and goodbye, being able to meet people are they arrive, engage with them and help them understand the ways things work here.  These are all key elements of leading as a host, and being near the door makes them much easier to achieve. 

Mark recently visited Abbotsholme School, where he was educated (some might say) in the 1970s.  Founded in 1889, Abbotsholme has always had a reputation for educating the whole person rather than focusing exclusively on exam success.  Then and now, elements such as music, art, drama and outdoor education played key roles, with the whole school heading off (not all together!) for hikes and expeditions  on a regular basis.  The school has always had its own farm, run in part by the pupils, which Abbotsholme doors2recently featured on the BBC Countryfile programme.  Part of the visit was a tour led by Headmaster Steve Fairclough (pictured below, in front of a portrait of Abbotsholme founder Cecil Reddie), and Mark was intrigued to notice that the Head’s office was no longer in its secluded location upstairs and at the end of a long corridor but is now right next to the front door (see photo). 

“It’s quite deliberate”, says Steve Fairclough.  “The old office was very quiet. Being by the door means that everyone knows I am there, those who want to see me can find me, and I can keep engaged with what’s going on day to day.”  Steve is a keen supporter of servant-leadership, and was very interested to discover the additional concept of leading as a host.  “I make tea for Abb Steve Fabout fifty people every day”, he says.  “People criticise me for doing it, but I can get so much, find out so many useful things, by engaging with people in this way.” 

This kind of involvement has been a key to Abbotsholme’s ethos over the past 125 years.  Right from the start, all the school was involved in activities such as hay-making, with lessons suspended while the precious hay was gathered.  Mark was left wondering that his recognition and development of host leadership might owe something to this remarkable educational establishment – not well known, but the world’s first ‘progressive’ school and still a beacon for balanced education where all – pupils and staff – are encouraged to do their best for others. 

So – where is your office?  How do you know who’s coming and going?  How can you meet them, engage with them – even make them tea?

Dr Mark McKergow is an international leadership speaker and teacher, and is co-author of ‘Host: Six new roles of engagement for teams, organisations, communities and movements’ (Solutions Books, 2014).  He was a pupil at Abbotsholme from 1972-77. 

The first international Host Leadership Gathering is happening in London on 14-16 September with a packed programme, speakers and panels, open space discussions and much more.   

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.

 

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?

 

From Board to the Ward: Engaging nurses in leadership White Paper

Two experts from the fields of nursing and leadership have joined forces to produce a whitepaper to help educate leaders at all levels in the NHS on the importance of moving away from traditional forms of leadership in favour of a more host-based approach.

Nursing white paperDr Mark McKergow is an international leadership speaker and consultant. He is co-author of Host: Six new rules roles of engagement for teams, organisations, communities and movements (Solutions Books, 2014). Annessa Rebair MSc BSc(Hons) RMN is Senior Lecturer of Mental Health at Northumbria University, Trustee of UK charity PAPYRUS (prevention of young suicide) and leadership coach.

In the whitepaper, McKergow and Rebair discuss the various issues surrounding leadership and nursing and provide practical suggestions on how to move away from the traditional leadership styles that are simply not compatible with the evolving requirements of 21st Century nursing management.

Download the white paper (pdf)

Mark and Annessa decided to produce the whitepaper after a number of recent reports and statements from within the industry cited better leadership at all levels of the NHS as being a crucial point.

The Kings Fund report ‘No More Heroes’ (2011) specifically challenges the notion of how leadership is used in a contemporary National Health Service:

‘The old model of ‘heroic’ leadership by individuals needs to adapt to become one that understands other models such as shared leadership both within organisations and across the many organisations with which the NHS has to engage in order to deliver its goals.’

This suggests that the idea of individual leadership appears to be unfit for purpose in the current climate of health care and rather there is a requirement to ‘focus on developing the organisation and its teams, not just individuals, on leadership across systems of care rather than just institutions, and on followership as well as leadership.’

Mark McKergow says:

“Modern leadership writing shows a broad distinction between ‘hero’ leaders who get results by authority, hard work and expertise, and post-heroic leaders who see their role as being about getting results though bringing others together in a way which allows maximum contribution from the others, not treating them as foot soldiers.

This is a journey of development and increasing awareness. Most people start out assuming that hero leadership is the way to do it – after all, the idea is woven through our culture, our movies and our stories. The nursing context reinforces this starting point.  However, leaders who want to succeed at higher levels will need to learn to develop their style, to get the most out of others in terms of creative and constructive input, as well as hard work.”

Annessa Rebair adds:

“It is necessary within the nursing profession for us to move forward from a heroic leadership style to one where the leader is responsible for their team’s success. The long-term challenge is for the NHS is to build engagement throughout all levels of nursing, and the development of nurses capable of such a shift is therefore even more vital given the prevailing promote-from-within culture. Host Leadership offers an accessible yet rich and flexible notion to help leaders to quickly expand their skills and mindsets in this direction.

The need to be able to take command in an authoritative way is clear – the wider question is whether that is always the best thing to do, and how this option can sit within a wider coherent set of leadership behaviours.”

The full whitepaper report “Host Leadership from Board to the Ward” is available to download here.