Sustainable OD

A blog dedicated to the wonderfull field of Organisation Development

Welcome to my blog – Sustainable OD

First of all welcome to this blog! This blog is dedicated to the field of Organisation Development (OD for short). As a practitioner I will be picking one topic a month to blog on and share with you my thoughts, concerns, and experiences in this field. I will also explore some theories I have found useful, how to use theoretical models in practice, and touch upon sister social science fields such as: psychology, employee engagement, economics and how they link to my idea of Sustainable OD.

So as a start I will start by explaining my idea of sustainable OD and how this blog has come into existence.

Sustainable OD (in my head) looks at using OD in organisations to help them focus their energies on people centred change to create long term sustainable organisational success. It transfers the knowledge to clients and helps develop their organisation, it doesn’t create sustainable change (as in just one cycle of change whose objective is to then stabilise an organisational issue)… it creates continuous learning within the client’s organisation and capability for cultural changes that will drive long term success.

With this in mind… why did I feel I had to write about this in a blog? Well, there are many reasons which I will share with you in 2014, but to start of with is I am passionate about this field. I recently got myself a mentor who heard me talking about why I so firmly believe in looking at OD interventions not as short term actions, but focusing on the long term plans of organisations, and he in his wisdom recommended to start writing a blog with my personal thoughts, ideas and concerns of consulting in this area.

The passion? Well this is what this 1st post is about not only introducing the blog, but also telling you my story of how I came to be so passionate about the field. Back in University one of our modules was OD, we had this subject over the course of a year. My teacher, Vicente Fregoso, was a practitioner himself. He taught us the theory of OD, the ethics behind such practice, the core values and humanistic principles behind it, and got us to go out into the field and see the power of this discipline at work. He was so passionate it was contagious! We never missed a class, not even the 2nd semester when it was on a Saturday at 7am, which for any university student is really early. For me, a lot of what I learnt made sense, I always loved the clinical side of psychology and OD was a nice mix of clinical and business psychology put together and it was being able to help leaders, people, and organisations to become successful.

In my experience so far, I have come to label myself as a “traditionalist” ODist. Sustainable OD is not new. The focus has always been on the long term, however, times have made leaders many times focus on short term gains… and this is why and how this blog has come to be. I hope you enjoy it!

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Relevance and ODNE: This year’s conference and highlights

It wasn’t really Bolton, but a 5 mins cab ride from a station called Bromley Cross. I was staying at a friend’s house in Manchester so commuted up both mornings to connect with my OD tribe. This year the review may seem slightly biased as I was part of the organisation committee but in reality I feel you never really know how things are going to turn out. Plus I had used Mel Robbin’s 54321 method and had put myself forward to do an offering from the field session; scary and exciting all at the same time.

The theme of this year’s conference was Relevance. All the talks were thought provoking, challenging and even if not all get a huge mention within this blog post. To begin with Dr. Carolyn Wilkins sharing some insights, it was great to have someone from the local community talk about change. My favourite quote from her presentation was when she was telling the story about when Sweden changed some of the roads in 1967 and some of the failures around it, the phrase “Telling people to change isn’t usually enough” really stuck out. This is so true in organisations, relationships and our own individual journeys. I always say that we rarely do what we are told to do, our teenage self comes out, rebels itself against it even if it is a good idea where we may come around later, but in a bit of a hissy fit. Telling people about change isn’t going to drive the behaviour or engagement you want from them. What will? Inspiration, engaging with them (in other words involving them from the get go) and keeping the lines of communication open and truthful.

Then there were some challenging propositions from Naomi Stanford’s Sacred Cow talk. This provided a lot of debate within my butterfly home group. Although we didn’t always agree it was fascinating to see the different perspectives. I personally think a Sacred Cow we must keep is the one were OD is based in humanistic values.

My favourite thing by far was the client session. Why? Because I was so amazed at how much value we could deliver as a community in a space of 40 minutes and without all the facts. Anyone who has ever worked with me knows I quite enjoy the digging deep, finding what’s really underneath the surface, are we talking tip of the iceberg or the really chunky bit at the bottom of the water? I wasn’t sure how we could go deep, and provide some brainstorm solutions to anyone in that period of time, but we did and it worked and from the feedback of the clients they really got value out of it! So yes, the feeling of contribution, pride and amazement were definitely my highlight!

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Then came the 1st offering from the field, I decided to jump into the intergenerational discussion with Steve and Lenz. First it proved one of my points and beliefs that we all really want the same thing out of work and life. Second, it opened my eyes even wider to some of the issues of age in our profession. When we talk about being OD professionals I always feel that us, the younger ones (below 40), are still seen as “new”, “less experience”, and sometimes even potentially get questioned about the value we can bring (I know I’ve had that look when looking for contracts as I look younger than I am anyway). It was great to hear the whole set of perspectives of the diverse group we had at the discussion think of the value we do bring and some of the beliefs people automatically have about the millennial ODers. However, apparently in the last few years the other side of the coin has been developing where OD professionals that are reaching a certain age are also finding it hard to land clients and/or jobs due to age because of the “energy” perception. This got me thinking around all the stereotypes we hold in the workplace and how age is not really talked about in such an open way as gender or race or any other characteristic…but from what we discussed is clearly an issue. (kudos to Nick for the pic!)

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The Maydays brought energy back in the room with fun, hilarious insights of how to use drama in the workplace and how some lessons of improvisation translate to OD work. My acting self really enjoyed this and of course got on stage!

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The next day was my opportunity to share the offering from the field with my new friend and peer Alex Poppleton. Alex and I had never met and from our first meeting it was like we had known each other for years! We talked the same OD language and held such similar beliefs that we chose to mash up our original ideas and see what we could come up with. Our topic ended up being about the creation of a Hyppocratic Oath for OD. The session created amazing debate, ideas and a 1st draft of what this could look like. (Will share soon, but it is still work in progress) I was really proud and happy I had pushed myself out of my comfort zone and found a group of people interested in what I wanted to explore! Can’t wait to see where it takes us.

As the theme was relevance I think out two keynotes really focused on this. Glenda who joined us via ZOOM was interestingly quite interactive. I mean she was on ZOOM and we were all in the room so wasn’t sure how it would plan out in such a big crowd…but it did! She really simplified things, and reminded me so much of the nice and simple Action, Research model and its application in this more constant moving world.

I also made many new connections, which is one of my favourite parts, connecting really connecting with others. We will see what the rest of the year brings. For now that’s all, thanks to the ODNE and everyone who helped put this together.

 

People at the Heart of Business

This was the brilliant title of the conference that was held by Engage for Success last week. It was truly a great event filled with inspiration, tips and nuggets of knowledge from a variety of perspectives. Those who follow me on Twitter would have seen me Tweeting my top end of the talk nuggets for each speaker so I will not replicate everything onto this blog. I will share some of the things that were touched upon, but also as an attendee what I left with.

To begin with I left with a much needed re-energising feeling that I am in the right field and focusing on the right things when it comes to the impact I want to create with Change Differently and in my wider life. I am more than ever passionate about people at work, and this feeling in my gut that says that nobody should “have to” go to work, but instead “choose” to do what they love, driven by purpose and the impact the job can make in the rest of their life (even if they are not what people tend to describe as career driven). I very much found a room full of people who understood me, and that belief that people should not feel like their life is just wasting away, clock watching and waiting for the weekend. Engagement is a two way street but there is still so much to do out there in the world to get 100% of the organisations creating the environments where people will choose to engage with them.

Would you get naked for your company? I think I would have put Post-its all over my body… that sounds like fun! However, it was not the witty brand video that made me think of how brilliant Absolut were doing their job (quite a few of their employees get undressed, a must watch!). What I think was brilliant was the idea of storytelling. I feel companies need to make more of embracing their history, the founder history and the symbols, values and beliefs that started them out. It is this that instils pride of being part of the community. The values the founder of Absolut had continue today (updated to this century) but it is what makes this brand so very special… and like another speaker in the conference said, you got to steal with pride!

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Financial wellbeing and engagement, well that was an eye opener and in a more way than one. Now here is a slight disclaimer and pronouncing my own personal bias like a good OD practitioner that I am (a modest one too)…. I’m not a particular fan of pensions, but I still think people who work should have them. However, the myth that they will take care of you forever is a lie, mainly because jobs for life are a lie… however for people who do not wish to take the risk of investments, big business or becoming an entrepreneur, pensions are still a good way to put your money to work for you. Two big take aways from this: your employees are worrying about their finances and this affects how they perform at work, please make their lives and yours easier by explaining things in simple terms. The last contract I had, I received a letter from my new pension provider first thing I heard about it (I knew I had been auto-enrolled), never got told what to do with the paperwork, called and chased, and well let’s say, it’s back on my to do list because after not getting a response haven’t called back. It would just have been easier if we had some of the fancy digital aids that Francis was showing off, make it fun for people! So that’s one thing, the other thing which got repeated in different ways throughout the whole conference was that thing called language, the words we choose to talk about things. Some of you who know me on a personal level know I’m a big believer in the law of attraction, and I believe the words we choose will focus our energy in different ways, and this applies to the way we talk about change, pensions, employees, strategy and life.

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Now, Sir Eric Peacock followed. I believe his interview will be up on the website at some point so keep an eye out. He was the one who said steal with pride, and what he meant was that you don’t always have to be the smart one that comes up with the ideas, but what you do have to be good at is adapting them to fit your culture and organisation. Try them out, if they work, yey! My take away however is one simple question that can be applied in every single situation and not just at work.

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Chieu quoted one of my favourite thought leaders named Simon Sinek, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. He was talking about us the millennials, and the fact that we are in search of purpose at work and don’t believe in the divide of work and personal life. Beside the fact that I think we are definitely more vocal, I think all generations are in search of meaning, purpose and impact. Which is why the old style command and control is so outdated and to be honest should have never existed… but besides the why he touched upon another concept that was later repeated especially during the Mumsnet presentation, flexibility at work. With the borders between work and life now blurred, why not be more flexible, whether you are a parent, a carer, or just have more things to do like sign for a delivery package or go to the bank (who only open at office hours!). Flexible working can exist in any job, we just need to design them that way (one for my org design and policy colleagues).

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Then the panel! Wow! So many things were said by Tony, Dame Carol Black and Neil. Although not new there were three things here that I tweeted about which I WILL repeat:

  • “people are not the problem, they are the solution”
  • “no matter what sector or age, we are human beings, so if we are not treated well we all will respond in a similar way…”
  • “the risk is in the next year … employees could be left further behind”

I know right? That last one was not just talking about the big B but about all the changes we will need to do for the UK to remain competitive as a country as it faces it’s productivity issue… that risk… is very very scary (to not say another word).

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I love honest stories and the two business cases showcased had just that, an honest story of having quite challenging circumstances and how working with everyone they were able to overcome gigantic obstacles. Disengagement is also a mindset within an individual I believe, they get knocked down and once in a while they no longer get back up, they become the victim. They blame their boss, their company, their whole surrounding for their misfortunes…without knowing it is only a self-fulfilling prophecy. But to be honest, we have all been there, and to get out you need someone to show you there is another way. Paula from the Post Office had to do just that, the mindset was so collective after they had to shut down over half their branches, the culture was a victim culture. Her job was to help re-ignite the passion, the confidence and the aspiration within such a varied organisation, because as she said “coping is not good enough”. They did this by storytelling, by as a leadership team being honest and transparent, but also not shying away from hard decisions, and yes sometimes even having to hold on to the truth if it was better for the humans within the organisation. They worked on helping their people through a tough time, and supported managers to deal with these hard decisions and conversations. If you explain why then they will still understand. I know this to be true as I haven’t always agreed with some decisions within organisations, but I do remember once thinking “I don’t agree with this, but I appreciate x or y”. The way leadership handles these decisions shows a lot about a company. In my opinion, it is in the toughest of times when you will see if those values written upon a wall are true or just tick box.

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Do you have an engagement survey? What do you do with it? Listen to your response. As an OD person I know the responses are only as good as the question being asked. I have spent a few extra years learning how to ask better questions, my idol, Edgar Schein mentions this, to be a true helper one must be a humble inquirer. It comes back to language… are you asking the right questions? Do they give you what you really want to know? And then what are you doing with the information. Qlearsite’s whizzy tech can only really help if you’re not setting yourself up to fail by then not taking action on what you’ve received.

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Good Work…ah! I just actually completed a survey about what meaningful work means… it was a connection’s dissertation. Mathew Taylor from the RSA spoke greatly about the political aspect of this. Going beyond organisations into governmental policy… This is exciting as it does matter beyond our organisations, if more people were engaged and productivity rose, then the economic landscape would look different. Good work matters, because as Matthew put it bad work is bad for you. Shit jobs don’t need to exist and there is absolutely a need for a new social contract.

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Then Katie from Mumsnet spoke. No surprise a lot of it was around family friendly workplaces… however what was more eye opening for me was her story of going from an awesome career to feeling frustrated, demotivated and tired when she was “convinced” into going back and working without flexibility. The pay gap exists in my opinion because of the stats shown in this presentation, 84% of women believe that having a child makes advancing in your career more difficult. Many are still scared to ask for their legal rights around requesting flexible work…at the end of the day, it’s not a legislation problem; it’s a cultural and societal one.

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Last, but certainly not least the second of the case study presenters…Land Registry. OMG the transformation! What I loved was the raw honesty, the recognition that the churn in leadership did not help and that willingness to let go of control and really embrace digital and CEO blogging without “rules” and allowing for “self-moderation”. This bravery paid off! Employee voice is the solution, and also thank you for showing that to change a culture and reconnect the broken parts and mould them into something new isn’t an overnight success, and that there is still much to do… but just wow! You should be proud of what you have achieved so far.

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As you reader can tell, this conference left me feeling all gooey inside. For years we have said it’s not rocket science. It really isn’t…but as Jeff Olson author of the Slight Edge says, what’s easy to do is also easy not to do… and like with the rest of the life does daily actions compound into our company cultures.

Thank you if you got to the end. Stay tuned for April’s blog after the ODNE conference.

 

Why I volunteer for Engage for Success

It was December when I first thought about writing this post… and yes like it sometimes happens I had productively procrastinated until today. I sit here, with exactly one month to go for our conference and am thinking back to the very first one in 2012.

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As a human in the workplace I always have had what others consider an idealised idea of what life at work should be. I thought it should be fun, fulfilling, have an awesome boss who wants you to thrive, work colleagues that support you and maybe even friends, and where you could be yourself. I thought leaders should be visible, approachable, but most of all compassionate and human. However, very early in my career I discovered that this is more the exception rather than the rule. I many times hid parts of me at work because I wasn’t sure I could show them, other times I spoke out and challenged leaders just to then be shut down and told I was “too young” or even worse received passive aggressive behaviour. All along the way thinking, surely there are people who do things differently out there.

And yes, I have always worked in the people field, whether that has been in consulting, HR or in change programmes…so I guess I was expecting that if I was working in this field people would naturally get it…but I guess not.

However, there is one company who made me see that this “ideal” people told me I had was actually possible… and the funny thing is that I wasn’t structure in the people side of the business. However, I always went to work with a smile, felt challenged, learnt and even when I disagreed with something felt like I could voice it. It wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely showing me that it was possible.

That is 1 out of 5 workplaces I have had the privilege of working in… I have learnt a lot in all of them but I feel my experience of the workplace has made me even more passionate about what we call employee engagement. For me this way of working, where people come to work for more than a pay check and not like zombies, just makes obvious sense. Can you imagine a world, an economy, a country, where everyone who goes to work, gets up, doesn’t press the snooze button, goes to work with a smile, faces challenges straight on, wants to learn, will be open, will be themselves, will innovate, create, thrive, and hence, help their organisation achieve whatever purpose it has will look like? I get goosebumps just thinking about it. That is why I volunteer, I wear my heart in my sleeve and a vision of a world that views work differently, not in a “I have to” but “I choose to” kind of way. I believe (and this may sound corny so get ready for it) that an engaged workforce is not only a vehicle to a successful organisation but can and would make the world a better place to live in. So yes, this is why I am so grateful I volunteer for this great cause and why I will continue to do so.

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I hope to see you all at the conference this 22nd of March, and if you haven’t yet booked, go on… here is the link: http://engageforsuccess.org/2018-conference-people-heart-business

It’s the little things

This phrase sums up my key takeaways from the inspiring line up of speakers at the ORC International Employee Engagement Conference, “Engaging People, Enhancing Performance”. The stories told by senior leaders within their organisations really brought the simplicity in most cases of getting engagement right. Many notes were taken on the day and I have been sharing all the tips, learning and inspiration in different ways.

So here are the top bits to remember from the different speakers! Notice some of them repeat what the other said… as someone I know says…success leaves clues!

Lesley Titcomb, Chief Executive, The Pensions Regulator

She was an absolutely brilliant speaker! Funny to the bone, and with a lot of wisdom, she spoke about their journey. Here are the lightbulb bits:

  • You achieve success by focusing on people.
  • It’s easier to take people with you when you explain WHY.
  • As a leader you need to walk the floor and be visible. Book those briefings in and do not move the date.
  • Use humour, the important bit is to be genuine and come across as another human being.
  • “Let’s enjoy work while we are there!”
  • “It’s too easy to blame the past, you undermine your chances of success if you just do that”.
  • New challenge, maintain the great engagement levels.

Beth Stallwood, Head of Colleague Talent & Development, Lawn Tennis

Besides showing me I know nothing about tennis… Beth talked about one of my favourite topics, values! Funny that was just our last webinar! Anyway, key points:

  • They launched their values in an organisation wide event
  • They used employee voice to review values and used focus groups as a tool to create the framework
  • Emphasised the importance of senior leaders role modelling values
  • Expect more from your leaders, create a second version of the behaviours for them, set the bar high.
  • Recognition doesn’t have to cost much. They have postcards that peers can send to each other as a way to recognise them, but also quarterly and annual awards.

Debbie Klein, CEO Europe and Asia Pacific, Engine Group

Although Debbie was there to tell us more about the Engine Group as ORC International now form part of it, I wanted to share a quote she said, “The role of a leader is to give a chance to luck. It’s not about them, not about you.”

Glenn Tunstall, Chief Superintendent, Metropolitan Police

I can see how he can be such an engaging leader, great and inspiring speech about persistence and starting from the top. Also, loved he referenced the four enablers of engagement as the way he looks at things within his organisation. Key takeaways:

  • Be persistent, during his first parades, as he calls them, no one showed up, but he kept going.
  • Vision should give hope of the future and you have to talk about it.
  • Make sure you are developing but also persuading/ motivating leaders to be engaging. Talk to them, but also make sure you manage those that will never buy in to your vision.
  • “All good decisions have been made by our employees”.

David Hilll & Paige Cahill, Employee Engagement, Morrisons

As they both described it, they are still on a journey but know they are moving the right way. Some of the key things they are doing in line with their emphasis on “key to listening is responding”:

  • 5 day development programme for all managers (now that’s commitment!)
  • You say Forum – made up of a variety of staff which meet monthly to solve problems
  • Use social media as a tool to listen and respond

You really can’t say these are not simple things we can all do within our organisations to keep improving. Most of these are scalable in any sector, across industries and even geographies. From big budget to small, take one of these tips into your world and experience the benefits of a more engaged workforce.

That Friday Feeling

It’s been interesting reflecting on employee engagement lately. A few weeks ago my status on LinkedIn was, “Do you have that Friday feeling? Do your employees have it too?” which was meant to start drawing attention to two things: 1) how engaged a leader is will reflect also in their workforce and 2) reminding leaders that they also need to feel engaged to enjoy work and perform better. Interestingly enough, this week I also read an interesting article on this very topic!

However, there was nothing as poignant as my Friday last week to actually put this all into perspective. As I’ve been on the path of entrepreneurship I have been doing quite a few things out of my comfort zone, one of these is doing little side jobs to create cashflow as not to drain my businesses too much, as they are in their early days! So as I was flyering on Friday morning at a major London station the truth hit me like a bucket of cold water. There I was smiling and happily trying to hand out flyers promoting an amazing summer festival, whilst 90% of the population where heading into their 9-5 job. Out of this 90%, another 90% looked like grumpy zombies who wouldn’t even respond to a good morning, let alone take a flyer! This left me thinking about how many of these zombie like employees would then go into work and perform at their best… the sad truth is probably none. I know that when I’ve personally loved my job, Friday doesn’t feel like I have to drag myself in for one last day before I am finally free, Friday has been as enjoyable as every other day because I’m going out there and doing what I love in a place that loves me back.

The second realisation was later on that night whilst I was doing some bar work. I had the amazing opportunity to see both extremes of the Friday feeling. The second one being the absolute bliss and excitement of the start of the weekend which in some cases were quite extreme! So that over the top celebration that the weekend was finally here also got me thinking…

We like to say employee engagement is a two way relationship and I believe both have a part to play:

  • As an employer – creating a place where people can thrive, the right environment, processes, technology and tools to be available, but also to help make the connection between minds and hearts by providing the employee with a feeling that they are valued, giving them a voice and recognition for a job well done no matter the level.
  • As an employee

So this latter one is slightly more controversial, as I know the economy isn’t what it used to be and job security is a thing of the past, however, I find that a lot of people find themselves stuck at a job and won’t do anything themselves to be “unstuck”. This is awful for an organisaiton because it means you have an office full of zombies who will just do the minimum to get paid and go home. However, I have to admit part of me did think as I saw the zombies coming out of the station, so “why do you work where you work if you clearly don’t enjoy it? Why not save yourself the pain and the company money and find somewhere where you can excel, be yourself, and just love every minute of it?”. Not only would we have a better economy as we would have more engaged employees all round, but people would generally be healthier as they would be taking responsibility for their own wellbeing as well.

I believe if both the employee and employer did their part in taking responsibility for themselves we would be at a much better place. I am not only talking about individually, but also collectively as an organisation and even more as a country and as a planet. Let’s find a way to get rid of the Friday feeling and say yes to a better future.

Short Termism – The new plague

I wrote about this topic a while back (http://wp.me/p4guGT-m) . However, after being a full time entrepreneur for these last 2 weeks, I have come to realise how much this way of thinking is conditioned into us. It is almost like a disease that is really hard to cure, unless we do something about it.

I always have considered myself to have a long term vision. However, I had never been (until now), in a position where I have “risked it all” to follow my dreams. I no longer have that security blanket in a form of a job to fall back on, nor do I have huge amounts of wealth (yet!) to see me through. Some may say I have gone completely insane whilst others will realise there was really no other option for me.

So, if I know this to be the case, why have there been moments in the last two weeks where all I could feel was a tight stomach, emptiness, and right down fear and yes, even doubt?

The answer: short term thinking is engrained into us since young age.

When we are at school we are taught to study hard to get good grades. The emphasis is usually in results rather than learning.

When at work we are taught to get quick results. Your boss wants results now, for yesterday, not for tomorrow. Things need to be done quickly and correctly. We think about profit, turnover and now money especially if the organisation has shareholders. Results, rather than how.

Within society we get sold everything that makes us feel good now. “Lose weight in 15 days”, “Buy now pay later”, temptation of cake vendors outside gyms or dentists, “Low down payment”, one night stands, upsize for just 10p and many more.

Instant gratification is the name of the game. We are not used to taking steps with faith that something will work out or sticking to habits although we know they will be good for us in the long term. We want results NOW! We are not willing to take little baby steps that will eventually compound into something greater. If we can’t see it, it doesn’t exist.

However, by doing this we miss out on so much more. What do real leaders and visionaries have? Long term vision, passion and the pure belief that if they keep going they will get there. Success isn’t a straight line. It isn’t even a destination. Success is working day in and day out on following your vision, whether personal or professional, and enduring the hard times, challenges, the uncomfortable feeling of being outside your comfort zone, and taking one step at a time to getting there, but always going forward.

So what can we do to help ourselves as individuals or organisations to keep their vision alive? Here are some tips that have helped me throughout these two weeks:

  • Find out why this vision is important to you. Work on your why. My last LinkedIn post talked about purpose, have a look if you need further help on this. (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/whats-your-purpose-cinthya-quijano)
  • Vision Boards. Yes, even for organisations! A great way for an organisation to do this would be through Appreciative Inquiry or a Whole System in the room intervention. Then put the board somewhere all employees can see it. Believe me, it is a powerful tool.
  • Affirmations. A lot has been written about affirmations or setting your intention. Saying it out loud and with feeling really helps me start my day right, and if it is powerful at an individual level, imagine what it could do for collectives!!!
  • Setting yourself (and your team) goals. Nice, simple ones, that are achievable. I’m not going to write about goal setting, we all know why it’s important. However, sometimes we don’t make it easy on ourselves. Having stretch goals are great, but sometimes you just need an easy win to help you get started. So when you are feeling down, pick one easy thing you can get done, and celebrate the success like a crazy person. Your brain doesn’t understand the difference between a small or big success. So just go nuts!
  • Celebrate success. If within an organisational setting, be inclusive and celebrate big and small successes. I’ve already explained why… neuroscience at its best!
  • Read! Not just novels or free newspapers, but books on developing yourself and your vision. If you are really have an ambitious vision, know that you are going to have to keep learning about the subject matter and about yourself too.
  • Most of all to keep your long term vision alive find people who believe your vision as much as you do. Use them as the group you go to when you need a bit of help, or feel like your sliding into “instant gratification” mode. Surrounding yourself with people who believe in you and your vision is vital.

From tradition to experimenting new approaches

untitledThe second day of the ODN Europe conference was definitely full of food for thought. It was really hard to pick on topic but like a good OD practitioner I found a theme in the thoughts that were going on in my head.

I think it was like living the OD journey, honouring the foundation of the discipline to its evolution. The day started with a talk titled “On the shoulder of Giants” that focused on purpose. What was our individual reason we came into the field. Basically, it got back to the basics of our founders, what was it they really cared about and those values that are so unique to OD, working with purpose (this was an amazing talk which I will later talk about). This continued through the Community Workshop were we used Future Search to look into our past narrative and see where we as individuals, the world and the practice of OD have been through until the present.

Personally this Future Search exercise brought a lot of personal insight for me. It showed me what I have achieved not only as an individual but as an OD practitioner, but also brought to light some of my “blind spots” around the practice. I love OD but all the history I know about OD is American, so when it came to write about OD in Europe all I knew was about its conception within the Tavistock Institute which coincided with its conception in NTL in the US and how both work parallel during that time. The rest… was new for me. It was interesting to see the Universities, Institutes and organisations that championed OD in Europe. The rise of ODN Europe in 2013 (for the second time) and that need for us as practitioners to get together which has enhance the sense of community I felt during these two days.

This evolution showed more in my concurrent session which was around “Contrafactualization” which was led by Cliff Oswick. Trialling new approaches to interventions, using a different perspective to understand organisations and seeing as practitioners what we could draw upon the experience and whether we felt it would lead to a possible new approach. Cliff explored finding similarities among opposites, and differences between equals as a way of questioning themes in organisations. It worked as it created insight and new ways of thinking about different topics, so it will be interesting to see how we can develop this further.

The interesting thing as we moved through the timeline of OD during the day, was that what we talked at the beginning with John Scherer, Purpose, was present in all of these. The mission of OD to help create inclusive, people centred, change at different levels to provide organisations with a better way and reach success was at the heart of it, helping organisations become a better version of themselves.

It reaffirmed once more why I am so passionate about Organisation Development and what we do with our clients day in and day out. It is much more that what happens in the four walls in the organisation, is how those four walls can impact so many more lives beyond it.

Digital OD

digital

Today has been another great day at Roffey Park at the ODN Europe Conference. We had a great keynote speaker and all the sessions definitely had light bulb moments. I had a bit of reflection time of what I wanted to focus this blog post on, and I decided to focuses it on a very current topic in the business world which is that of digitalisation.

Within the conference there were two sessions based on digital OD. The first workshop was led by NHS Employers who explained their own journey of using digital as a way of creating conversations through an app under their project DO OD. The other one was a reflective session on whether Digital OD is a new wave and whether we as a profession are ready for it.

These two very insightful and provocative sessions have led to this blog post so thank you Paul Taylor, Karen Dumain and Steve Hearsum for sharing.

I personally don’t think you can ignore the digital world, it is just part of who we are. However, I do think there is a big question as OD practitioners on how we use technology within our work. It was interesting hearing the debate point out some of the similar polarities I hear in the corridors everyday:

  • Is digital dehumanising the workplace?
  • Does it have a darkside (i.e. cyberbullying and holding 0 accountability for your voice)?
  • How about digital procrastination?
  • Social Media is it a tool or “evil”?
  • Will it replace the way we communicate?
  • The advantage of digital for a disperse workforce being able to reach many people at one given time
  • Having the ability to communicate in real time
  • Being thought provocative and a tool/ catalyst for change
  • And as the DO OD app showed, being that initial inquirer that leads to conversations

This last point I found fascinating. How do we in OD integrate digital within our interventions when at the core we are about having conversations, a relationship discipline, based on social sciences, and need for interaction with the system? How do you ensure that when you digitalise OD you do it from a place of purpose rather than a place of just to do digital for the sake of it?

We as practitioners discussed this within groups, but I thought I’d share some of the insights and reflection points from the day.

  • Digital is here to stay
  • As practitioners we have to decide what tools work for our client for their particular context, purpose and need
  • This includes thinking of whether we want to use digital as a way of collecting data or just being a catalyst for conversations.
  • Digital can enhance learning, engagement, and change if done properly
  • Digital does accentuate the need for real good leadership skills from being able to be confident at managing ambiguity, vulnerability, being resilient, comfortable with the change of power dynamics and being out of control. I would add the whole integrity piece to this list of accentuated qualities for leaders within a digital setting.
  • Digital can enhance innovation and different ways of thinking
  • Digital changes are just part of the whole systems change when you look at the socio-technical sub system.
  • Digital can be diagnostic as well as dialogical.
  • At the end of the day even with digital organisations are built up and are just people
  • Like culture change it is long term and the real benefits of doing interventions through digital will be told in stories not in numbers
  • Digital is just another tool within our tool box

From a personal perspective I think that when used right whether it is social media, apps, wassap, LinkedIn, Blogs, special forums, etc. Digital does not replace face to face, but it provides another way to do things. For example:

– one more extra communication channel

– a way to connect with likeminded individuals and share best practice

– a way to provide a one stop shop to resources and helpful material

– an instant feedback mechanism

– potential for real collaboration with very diverse teams

– a safe environment to experiment and share ideas

– a way to start conversations

– a possible tool for engaging with staff and customers

– a way to help manage a project team

The list could go on. So the next question becomes are we ready to completely embrace this in OD? I think the answer is it depends. I think for us to get there 100% we have to see the humanisation of technology and a way to create accountability in a digital voice, but leaving the degree of freedom to have emerging conversations take place and really form individual digital personalities that are true to the self. The theme of does digital provide an inclusive workplace is one which needs to be looked at deeper for it to really work for OD interventions. However, I think we are in the journey now of discovering what Digital OD could look like.

What are you good at?

This is the first instalment from my inspiration and learning points whilst attending the ODN Europe conference here at Roffey Park. They are not just for Organisation Development (OD) practitioners, some of these learning points apply to different aspects on life. Today’s post is a great example of it.

Today before the conference we had the privilege of hearing from Mee-Yan Cheung Judge, Jean Neumann and John Scheret at the Fireside Chat. One of the questions that our panellists were asked was about what are they good at. As much as I found their answers very interesting there were a couple of things that came to my mind about how very important this question is for anyone helping organisations in their journey to success.

Another great question asked by one of the panellists as a self-reflection question was “what am I called to contribute to this world?”

These two questions left me wondering as an OD professional what do they mean to me? What do they mean to other people? I think working from a place of purpose is so powerful and I think these two questions are key to that. As a practitioner I would recommend anyone in any field to ask themselves these two questions, and not just today, but check back every 6 months or so as the answers may have changed.

So what am I good at? Well when talking about OD and working with my clients past and present I think I would describe myself as good at being quite vocal of what I think, and trying to do the best for the client even when they are not sure it’s the best thing for them. I am good at questioning the status quo and providing thought provoking insight.

What am I called to contribute to this world? Ah, a fundamental question. Not just about OD, but about life. I have been on a personal journey the last 12 months on discovering or rediscovering my purpose. I want to help people live better lives, whether this is through my OD work by providing them a better organisation to work for, or by inspiring people to be the change they want to see or just by inspiring people to dream again through my other hats (I have many).

It was interesting to hear one of the panellist talk about legacy and the type of legacy we want to leave, they also referred to OD people as idealist and I think these two statements are very true. I think it is something most OD people I know have within them, a sense of purpose behind their work that is part of what makes this field so special.

So whether you work in OD or not, I challenge you to ask yourself these two questions. Figure out if you’re in alignment with yourself, this is always a great step to self-awareness, and to any future changes within yourself to reach your real potential and achieve the life you desire.

For more information about ODN Europe please visit: http://www.odneurope.org/

The problem with authentic leadership

authentic

It is the time when people want leaders they can trust. This means leaders who are genuine, human, open, vulnerable and visionary. This all sounds great right? Of course it does! Who wouldn’t follow someone who they could trust and inspired them to a great vision? I know that is what I would love to see in leaders.

So what is the problem with authentic leadership?

That they are hard to come by in the world and not because leaders don’t want to be authentic, but I don’t think they necessarily know how. I will generalise for the sake of this blog post, but fortunately enough I have also come by the great authentic leaders in my life time so I know they exist. But why is it so many leaders find becoming authentic leaders difficult?

  • They come from a generation that was taught that knowledge is power. Their entire career they have functioned in this way making it to the top because their USP was their knowledge, whether specialised in a field or a certain company. This may mean they are not so great at delegating or trusting others with information.
  • They were told to leave their personal baggage at home. I know this as I remember still being taught this at university. However, this no longer applies. Mainly because research has shown how this is impossible to do. What happens at home affects work and what happens at work affects home, there are no clear boundaries when it comes to stress, emotions, and therefore performance. Nevertheless, as they learnt that this was the case they have spent time creating a “safe façade” for times of stress to look as they have it all under control.
  • Leaders for many generations have been told that they are fully responsible for their organisation. Can you imagine this kind of weight over your shoulders? No wonder they keep their distance, act authoritarian as if the organisation is their property, and try to pretend to be calm when something is going wrong and hide information may damage them.
  • From a gender perspective, female leaders were told that the only way to be a leader was to go to battle with “the top white men” to fight for those positions in power, imitating their way of being instead of embracing their self.
  • Power = leadership idea. They were taught that you had power if you were at the top and you had to command respect. This is very different that saying, you must earn the respect of others and this will make it easier for people to believe in you and work with you to reach mutual goals.

The problem is things have drastically changed in the business world, not only because the newer generations want and know that work is an extension of the self and therefore want to work somewhere they believe in (they are more focused on purpose rather than money), but also because of media and a sense that we, as Maslow well puts it, as humans desire to fulfil other needs (esteem, self actualisation). The advances in technology and media help us uncover the truth and people will always be searching for the truth, so it is time to create a new paradigm within organisations, a new culture, a new way of working that will enable us to have the authentic leaders we are all hungry for.