I have just spent the last two months analysing a complex crisis leadership exercise I am running later in the year. My research has indicated that in virtually every case of crisis the causal processes involved are both complex and multi faceted, put another way, crises invariably do not originate from simple root causes, but from the interaction between multiple issues and processes. I have learnt through experience that it is very important to identify the purpose you want to achieve before leaping in and trying to solve the first problem you find. It is one of the areas that I have to constantly work on with high performing teams. They are generally so good at problem solving that they forget to find the cause of the problem.
I have therefore been looking at key strengths and limiting weaknesses of the system I am exercising over a two day period and identifying how the working parts/teams will come together in an interdependent way to minimise potential fault/pressure lines. The other key aspect of this preparation is that I have done this by consulting the teams as well. With the correct questions and good rapport the teams will identify the key areas far more quickly than anyone else. I have also been working with a very good team who have assisted me in this area as well. This process of finding the key start point and understanding the vision allows me to then develop a training and testing programme that puts leaders/decision makers in difficult conditions and also better prepares those teams that work for them to deal with normal daily business and in most cases prevent the crisis in the first place. Or if a crisis does take place the leader and team have a set of principles that are totally flexible and allows them to make decisions that are quick and well thought through because each department knows its roles and responsibility and follows them. The main aspect is that people are TRAINED before being tested to deal with pressure and decision making in complex and multifaceted environments.
SELECTION OF YOUR GOAL/DREAM/DESIRE The starting point for any activity in my opinion is to know what success/purpose for that project looks like, I like to know how it will feel, what it will sound like and what it will look like when I have achieved it. I also like to have a clear time scales to achieve it by. WHY? A clear and unambiguous goal allows the mind to have clarity (in the military it is the first principle of war “selection and maintenance of the aim”). It ensures that you have direction for your project which is uncluttered by competing demands. It ensures that if someone tries to take you off track or stop you, you don’t allow it to happen. It also enables you to ensure that the majority of your activity/work is directed to achieving that aim. Dreams and ambitions are important things to us when we are young. We forget this sometimes when we are adults, we forget to dream and push the boundaries of our potential, we can convince ourselves that our dreams can’t be achieved; we accept things for what they appear to be. I have also listened/seen too many people try to destroy people’s dreams because people will only support you to the level of their own expectation. If your own expectation is very low you will certainly achieve it. SO DO NOT FORGET TO DREAM (Note! PARENTS BEWARE): Your children love you as role models and watch your behaviours. You are the most important people in their lives. Do not let them down or they will look for more talented role models to aspire and listen to.)
In the case of the two day exercise my purpose is that they will have identified exactly the processes that they need to be in place for clear communication between departments, they will have identified who is the leader for each of the main areas of responsibility and know when they are supported as a leader or that they must support another leader. I know this will happen when I see a level of trust in the room and people are able to describe their weaknesses as well as their strengths, I will see open discussion and people will place all difficulties on the table for discussion, I will see people commit to action and become accountable for their actions. My expectations are always very high.
MY VISION I have also been looking at my purpose or goal in life and have been working through that model with the assistance of some great questioning from some friends of mine. Some of the questions have been along the line of, what do I really want to achieve in five years and can I give clear indications as to how this will happen, what is my approach to coaching going to be? Have I identified strategies that work for everyone or just a select few, how am I going to remove the mumbo jumbo from coaching? There were many more questions but you get the message/gist. (The most important thing about the questions is that they are open questions. Asking the right question is at the heart of effective communications and information exchange. By using the right questions in a particular situation, you can improve a whole range of communications skills: for example, you can gather better information and learn more; you can build stronger relationships, manage people more effectively and help others to learn too.So here are some common questioning techniques, and when (and when not) to use them: A closed question usually receives a single word or very short, factual answer. For example, “Are you thirsty?” The answer is “Yes” or “No”; “Where do you live?” The answer is generally the name of your town or your address. Open questions elicit longer answers. They usually begin with what, why, how. An open question asks the respondent for his or her knowledge, opinion or feelings. “Tell me” and “describe” can also be used in the same way as open questions. Here are some examples: What happened at the meeting? Why did he react that way? How was the party? Tell me what happened next? Describe the circumstances in more detail?) After spending time thinking about the key purpose to my life over the next few years. I am now clear that my wish is to give people a real understanding of themselves and the key elements of behaviour that enable balance and high performance and that are within their control. I want to provide people with strategies/principles/tools that will allow them to maintain control of their behaviours even in extreme pressure so that they can perform to the best of their abilities when it matters. It is also important that we have the ability to understand what we do not control but how you can still influence these situations and operate to your maximum. I now have a model to do this, which I will outline in later blogs.
I recently revised myself of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and his assessment of highest level of attainment. “What a person can be, he must be. This level of need pertains to what a person’s full potential is and realizing that potential. Maslow describes this desire as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming. This is a broad definition, but when applied to individuals the need is specific. For example one individual may have the strong desire to become an ideal parent, in another it may be expressed athletically, and in another it may be expressed in painting, pictures, or inventions, in order to reach a clear understanding of this level of need one must first not only achieve the previous needs, physiological, safety, love, and esteem, but master these needs. I am not going to discuss the merits or criticisms of Maslow’s theory at this juncture but simply use this as a guideline to define my thoughts for you in a little more detail.
I believe that if you have the correct tools and strategies and they become part of your habitual thoughts you can operate at the highest level of performance even if you are in a survival situation and at the bottom of the pyramid. This is possible because you are in control of your actions and thoughts and even though the situation around you may be chaotic you can maintain your own balance and performance. More for the book I think……… Monday of this week was spent working in Canary Wharf with a banking institute, and meeting with someone to discuss another exercise on crisis leadership I am running next year. Tuesday was working with the nuclear industry which was interesting as well as working with a very talented individual and friend of mine on Wednesday. He was one of the people that had spent time looking at my area of work and giving me his thoughts on the business model I may need in the future. Thank you S for all of your support and wisdom (and direct approach). Thursday was spent working with an investment banker who was simply outstanding. He really showed his true colours in adversity. He was prepared to sacrifice his bonus (do not want to discuss the merits of bonus as in this area it is slightly different to the main banks) for his values also putting his resignation into the system in order to remain true to his beliefs. I will not go into any more detail except to say that his values are about being fair , decent and challenging to the work force in a highly pressured environment. The most important point of this story is that his CEO found out about the situation and has now promoted him to an even more senior position where he will be an inspiration model for others and the company. Friday was a wonderful day meeting a talented leader who has a great approach to leadership, I also learnt a lot. I also met with a brilliant negotiator who has just finished his PhD and has a remarkable insight into human dynamics. A subject I love. Have a wonderful week ahead.
I LOVE THIS POEM.
Out of the night that covers me, Black as the Pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul. In the fell clutch of circumstance I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeonings of chance My head is bloody, but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the Horror of the shade, And yet the menace of the years Finds, and shall find, me unafraid. It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll. I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.