General Archive

NEW: Mark McKergow talks to ‘Kindness Chef’ Harpal Dhatt about ‘welcoming the stranger’

A new podcast about hosting has been released by Harpal Dhatt, the ‘Kindness Chef’. Harpal is interested in how to build kindness and has been going through the alphabet seeking different people to talk to about how we can make kindness more of a part of our own lives, and of those around us. Harpal introduces the episode:

Inclusion recipe – Welcoming a stranger – Sitting with Dr Mark McKergow

The Kindness Chef

Episode Description

I sit with Dr Mark Mckergow to talk about his work over three decades, has been about humanising organisations in learning, changing and leading. He is the co-author of six books including The Solutions Focus and Host: Six new roles of engagement.

We talk about the old Arabic proverb, “the host is both the first and the last: first to arrive and last to leave” and how this applies to leading. This idea of host fits perfectly with kindness.

I wanted to encourage people to be kindness hosts.

Some of you may already be doing this. The idea of a host stepping forward and stepping back when necessary and creating the conditions for guests to feel comfortable.

One way to do this, is to explore how you welcome people. We create a recipe for how to welcome a stranger.

Practical ways that you can observe and pay attention and help someone in a moment of need.

One of his latest ideas combining his experiences is The Village In The City as a post-COVID initiative to encourage people to build on the micro-local communities which emerged during the pandemic.

As a response to the local connections which appeared in his own street during the pandemic. Neighbours talked, email and Whatsapp groups started, people ran errands for each other and even entertained one another from their front steps.

He thought that it would be good to build on this connection, by moving up a level from the street to the ‘village’.

Using his background as an organisational and leadership consultant, Mark devised the Village In The City Manifesto to set out the benefits and building blocks for connection.

Listen on Spotify or Apple.

New video: Mark McKergow on Hosting Generative Change

Mark McKergow’s new book on Hosting Generative Change: Creating Containers for Creativity and Commitment is out now. In this video, Mark is interviewed by Prof Gervase Bushe, leading dialogic OD expert and co-founder of the Bushe Marshak Institute, about the book. Mark reveals some of his own back story here along with the single most useful thing hosts and facilitators can do to tip the scales in their favour when organising a dialogic event.

You can find more videos featuring Mark speaking about the power of hosting and host leadership in our Video resources page.

Report on the Host Leadership Gathering 2019 – momentum towards our new Field Book

Host Leadership Gathering 2019

Front-line report from Dr Mark McKergow

The third international Host Leadership Gathering was held in Oberschleissheim near Munich on 27-29 June 2019. This town is well known in Germany for its castle (more like a huge palace) and the sun shone throughout with June temperature records falling during the event. Participants came from around the world – Asia, America and right across Europe. Connexxo were our hosts for the whole programme, and their team led by Pierluigi Pugliese, Katrin Seger and Cecilia Maria Zannini did a great job in making sure everything went smoothly.

The first day comprised an introductory workshop led by Pierluigi Pugliese. This was a fascinating experience for me, as it was the first time I have attended a workshop/training in this topic; I am much more accustomed to being the presenter! Pierluigi kept everything moving well and did a great job of balancing his inputs with group discussions and activities. I particularly enjoyed the section he introduced about ‘Charlie and Jane’. Charlie is Charlie Chaplin in the film Modern Times, which shows a particularly grim view of assembly line work in the 1930s. Jane, by contrast, is a modern knowledge worker.

We had a very interesting time thinking about the managers of ‘Charlies’ and ‘Janes’, the many ways in which these were very different contexts and the different needs and desires of both parties in each situation. Of course, while both could benefit from host leadership, the benefits and fit of the approach stand out immediately for Jane and those like her. A lot of interesting cultural differences also appeared – even within Europe there are substantial differences between the Nordic countries where group participation is broadly a given, the northern European countries including Germany, Belgium and the UK where these things are becoming more familiar, and the south of Europe including Italy, Spain and France which still have a long way to come. The day concluded with a beer in the castle’s own beer garden, warm and shady after a busy time together.

The second day was the Conference itself. I gave a keynote about the development of host leadership so far, my journey with it, and some of the next steps that might come out of this gathering including more connection between practitioners, more development of practical tools and helping people discover the richness and multi-dimensional nature of the host metaphor for leaders at all levels of an organisation. The idea of a Field Book had already been proposed by Pierluigi, and those present were excited to get involved and contribute. Bjørn Z. Ekelund from Norway followed with a talk about using hosting methods including all the six roles in a project about connecting families living in poverty with housing agencies and social services. It was fascinating and inspiring to see how connections were built and engagement was promoted in this very tough context.

Bjørn is perhaps best know for his work in developing the Diversity icebreaker, which was presented by Leah Davcheva from Bulgaria in one of the morning workshops. Leah took us through the Diversity activity, which is about preferences in interaction, communication and problem-solving styles. The idea, of course, is that people work better together when they value the preferences of others as well as their own. We looked at some common ground with host leadership in this respect. In the other morning workshop, Rolf Katzenberger expanded ideas about hosting by looking at what happens if we treat ‘change’ as a guest, along with people. This was a popular choice and really expanded thinking about how host leadership can play a key role in leading change.

The parallel workshops continued after our vegan (Thai vegetable curry) lunch. Pierluigi led a group in applying host leadership ideas in some very different contexts, which is always a great way to stretch and build understandings about the approach. In the other room Athena Dadiz from San Diego wowed her audience with her experiences of being a host leader on a construction site – not on the face of it one of the most promising places for this idea, but Athena impressively talked about her ways of including the idea along with kaizen and other continuous improvement methods. She has been very bold and brave in taking host leadership into this very male and traditional environment, and deserves much applause and support. I loved her talking about her task at work as ‘extreme Sisyphus’ (see the picture!).

After tea another series of workshops saw Olga Kiss and Gabriella Peuker from Hungary bringing host leadership to bear on agile retrospectives. We have been finding quite some interest in the agile world which has been accustomed to working with servant-leader ideas, and many agile folk are finding the host metaphor a better and more productive fit for what they do. Jessika Jake energetically shared her VICTOR model as being six things which the ‘host with the most’ should be focusing on today, including Value Co-creation, Intersections and Continual improvement. The day concluded with a talk from Stephen Josephs, all the way from Santa Fe NM via Zoom, about the importance of developing attentional practices for leaders to, in his words, ‘get over themselves’. Moving beyond the post-heroic boundary in leadership agility, past relying on the individual power of expertise and effort, requires the leader to put themselves after the others, not before them.

The third and final day of this Gathering was an open space hosted by Cecilia Maria Zannini around the topic of creating the first host leadership Field Book. Pierluigi showed us examples of ‘mob-programming’ in the agile world and encouraged us to do mob-writing together around a computer and projector (see the picture on the right). This was a very rich day indeed! I convened a discussion on ‘hearing what is being called for’, the necessary precursor to initiating action and connection. How do we choose or at least beging to notice the next potential focuses, for our teams, our organisations and indeed our own lives? A rich discussion produced some great ideas, which I then turned into a 1600 word draft chapter! Other groups produced work in various states of completion from simple bullet point notes to quite complete texts, which those involved will continue to develop over the coming weeks. There will be more news about this coming soon, as we are seeking wider contributions as well – might YOU be interested to contribute something based on your experience?

As we gathered at the end of the day there was even more exciting news; Ralph Miarka and Veronika Kotrba from SinvollFUEHREN in Vienna offered to host the 2020 Gathering! We think it will be around June 2020 – more news to come when the dates and venue are confirmed. My huge thanks go to Pierluigi and the Connexxo team for hosting this gathering with such care and imagination, for keeping us all going in the record-breaking heat, and for suggesting the Field Book idea as a focus for the discussions. There was a lot of energy around continuing with the project, so expect more signs of progress in the days and weeks to come

Gareth Southgate – host leader!

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.

Host Leadership Gathering update – lots of great topics and people!

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 mark@sfwork.com.

HL Gathering 2018 pic crop

From Heroic to ‘collective and collaborative’ leadership – new Henley report

Research report HenleyPeter Hawkins, one of the most experienced and respected voices on the leadership and transformation scene in the UK, has just published a new research report for Henley Business School.  Tomorrow’s Leadership and the Necessary Revolution in Today’s Leadership Development brings together interviews, surveys and leading edge thinking in a succinct summary of the state of play in leadership – an important and very approachable read.

One of the key sections (p 18) is about the need to move from Heroic to ‘collective and collaborative’ leadership.  Prof Hawkins writes about how much we hear about the end of heroic leadership, and yet how much leadership development activity is still focused on producing individual heroic leaders.  He quotes a couple of very nice quotes from the research:

“Leadership will increasingly become the skill of enabling a collaborative co-creative process amongst peers.” Mark Drewell, Senior Partner, Foresight Group

“Leadership is becoming less about being the smartest in the room and much more about how we collaborate, work with diverse stakeholders, inspire and bring the best out of others. Being more inclusive and collaborative. It’s about developing our ability to be curious; our ability to explore new approaches, new perspectives, engage different stakeholders and view points, and empathise with diverse perspectives.” Interviewed global HR director

Both of these look to us like reasons for building host leadership into leadership development processes as soon as possible!  We’ll be in touch with Peter Hawkins to discuss this.  In the meantime, the report is an excellent read.

Download the report here.