I coach and develop individuals and businesses, in the private and public sector, Internationally and in the UK at board C-Suite and operational levels. Acknowledged outstanding results delivered through bespoke individual and team coaching, mentoring and leadership development to enable performance and productivity improvement with positive team dynamics and sustainable enhanced morale.
It seems a really important question to answer: “Why trust and not engagement?” We at Entrusted Consulting (www.entrustedconsulting.com) believe in reframing the way we work together and are often asked this question.
Turning to a wonderfully written report from the CIPD (Where has all the trust gone. March 2012), I would like to share an extract on why trust is so important in business and our personal lives, now more than ever.
This has been a central question from practitioners, yet conceptually trust is quite a different construct from engagement. Emerging as it has from the positive psychology movement, the term ‘engagement’ has become for practitioners an umbrella concept for capturing the various means by which employers can elicit additional or discretionary effort from employees – a willingness on the part of staff to work beyond contract. Different employers apply different outcome measures to demonstrate its efficacy as a management activity (Vance 2006; Macey and Schneider 2008). Engagement is about giving of one’s energy to an organisation, whether that is on a cognitive, emotional or physical basis (Kahn 1990), almost like an exchange relationship.
On the other hand, trust is about accepting a certain amount of uncertainty but being willing to trust the other party that they will act in a positive way towards you. Trust is about a willingness to make oneself vulnerable in the face of uncertainty or insecurity. Trust is a more personal relationship based on a perception of mutual and reciprocal aims and purpose. It is part of employee engagement, as the MacLeod Task Force ‘Engaging for Success’ acknowledges, but it is a distinct concept in its own right (MacLeod and Clarke 2009).
One simple way of thinking about the difference between trust and engagement is by comparing it with the relationship of marriage. Some days marriage partners can really love each other and some days love each other a bit less. Love is a little like engagement. It is an energy which can have fluctuating levels but for most marriages to work over the longer term each partner needs to trust the other to always have a benevolent and positive disposition towards the family, their home and their relationship. Very often when one party has an affair within a marriage it is often possible for the aggrieved party to love them again but they will report trust is more challenging to repair. Trust, therefore, can be seen as the basis by which people together create sustainable long-term relationships which see them through difficult or uncertain times.
The importance of trust at times of uncertainty is perhaps why we are more aware of it as a concept right now. People are feeling more uncertainty at a societal level and, in some cases, in the workplace. Those organisations which can maintain good trust relations or repair trust relationships will reap the business and operational benefits of trust, of which there are many. One distinct benefit of trust is its link to innovation. Some economic commentators argue that for UK plc to return to growth, restore job opportunities and find ways in which to deliver public services with reduced funding provision, innovative approaches will be key to these three activities within the workplace.
Another reason why a focus on trust is more relevant at the moment is that trust has a moral dimension to it. Engagement does not necessarily carry a moral dimension. In contrast trust does concern a firm’s moral and ethical principles (Becker 1998, Mayer et al 1995, Schoorman et al 1996). Perceptions of trustworthiness include the organisation’s competence (or ability) and predictability (Dietz and Den Hartog 2006), but also focus attention on two ethical dimensions (Searle [forthcoming]). One is benevolence, which emphasises the positive intent towards those who are trusting in them. Another is the integrity of the organisation, which concerns the degree to which they and their managers adhere to general moral standards. Research both conceptually and empirically illustrates that employees prefer to trust organisations that uphold moral and ethical standards (Gillespie and Dietz 2009, Searle et al 2011a).
As you know, I’m keen to explore further Trust and what lies behind achieving this mercurial ‘faith’ in your abilities as a leader. Please do share your thoughts on the subject – I am sure we can all learn something from each other.
A recent article by Sarah Amani, Senior Program Manager at Oxford Academic Health Science Network, beautifully distils a view on what makes for a good leader.
Sarah says; After surviving the milestone of working 10 years in the NHS, I thought I would reflect back on one of the most pivotal factors that has influenced my overall experience: Leadership. I approached the selection of this topic with some caution – I am sure most people are probably sick to death of trendy topics like leadership and the various psychosocial theories that have come out over the years. So I thought I would try to approach the topic from a slightly different angle by looking at the chemistry of leadership (bear with me here).
There has always been a debate about whether good leaders are born or made. In a recent video by Simon Sinek titled ‘Why Leaders Eat Last’, he makes a compelling argument that good leaders are made, not born. In a compelling 45 minute video, he lays out some of the biology underpinning great leadership:
So what is it that drives good leadership? Well apparently its more scientific that I thought. Bear with me as I try to explain:
This is the reward chemical which makes us feel good from crossing off tasks as achievements. We feel good when we cross off set goals and plans because our brains release dopamine. This mechanism is used in business and industry to motivate performance via targets. It feels good to get 100% achievement against targets and the buzz from this achievement makes us want to do it again and again to get that same buzz.
However, dopamine comes with a warning as it can be highly addictive. This would explain why the banking crisis occurred – like with all addictions the rewards for achieving targets overshadowed everything else. Bankers were willing to sacrifice everything and everyone to get that next dopamine rush from reaching targets. I can’t help but wonder what implications this has on the use of targets in our healthcare system.
Moving on to another chemical and one which is coined THE leadership chemical: Serotonin is said to be responsible for feelings of pride and status. It is why public recognition makes us feel good. All those awards and public acknowledgements of achievement release Serotonin. This explains why an e-mail with a certificate attachment saying ‘Well Done’ doesn’t have quite the same effect as standing in front of your loved ones, peers and team as you are given an award.
The interesting thing about how Serotonin works in this situation is that at the same time that you get a rush of that Serotonin and fill up with confidence, your peers/boss/team also get a rush of that Serotonin and share your sense of pride for being part of that achievement. This strengthens connections, raises confidence and status but also sets into motion a cycle where we want to repeat that feeling of pride and achievement. So we seek other opportunities to get other awards – to get another rush of Serotonin. This might explain the multi award winning streaks we see with some individuals and teams…
However, the expectations laid out by the actions of Serotonin can also lead to a loss of confidence and trust in our leaders. As demonstrated above, Serotonin strengthens the social contract between a leader and their team. We have no issues with our leaders getting the bigger office or more pay. In fact, the promise of a repeat of another Serotonin rush from a team win, means that most followers voluntarily give their leaders the best of whats on offer and some special treatment too. This is not on the basis of teams believing the leader is necessarily better than the group, but on the premise that the team believes that the leader is there to shield them from danger. Serotonin (and the confidence boost it gives) drives good leaders to run towards danger in order to protect the team. The group invariably grows to believe that they are all in it together and are looking out for each other with the leader at the helm.
However, when this social contract is broken – when the person we believe to be our leader sacrifices our safety for their own gain or we feel they have failed to protect us, then this trust is lost. The result of this is a new focus on self preservation. With the trust broken, individuals feel unsafe, they stop going that extra mile to get another Serotonin boost and connections weaken. At the same time, another chemical kicks in and initiates the fight or flight response.
That other chemical is Cortisol – the stress chemical which has preserved our species from the stone age till now and probably for centuries to come. Simon makes the important point that humans have not outlived dinosaurs or the saber tooth tiger because we are stronger or smarter but because we protected each other by working in groups and knew when to fight and when to run. Cortisol is great if there is an imminent threat as it helps us run or fight the danger. As part of our response to danger, Cortisol shuts down systems that are unnecessary for fighting or running e.g. our immune system and the system responsible for growth. This enables our body to focus on fighting or running. Once the danger passes, our Cortisol levels should subside.
However, in organisations and teams where the trust is broken and staff feel unprotected, levels of stress and Cortisol remain high. This means that our capacity for growth and immunity remain low. The result is what we see in teams with people who can’t seem to take anything in or learn anything new. This goes hand in hand with plummeting performance and a rise in sickness. It is not by coincidence that this happens, it is an indication that the environment has become too consistently stressful with no reprieve and no chance for Serotonin or indeed Dopamine to rebalance the trend.
But fear not, this gloomy set of circumstance can be turned around with good leadership involving yet another chemical. Oxytocin is the chemical of love. It is a feel good hormone resulting from human physical contact and connection. It makes us feel safe, valued and loved. We can get a rush of oxytocin from touch – something that explains the feeling of trust we get when we shake hands on a decision and get nervous if someone refuses to shake hands, or from simply sitting together and feeling like we are near someone who gets us.
We can also get a dose of oxytocin from doing good deeds. However, trying to game the system by simply giving money to charity or doing something that takes little time and effort doesn’t work. We don’t get the same rush of oxytocin if we try to game this system and it doesn’t feel as good. This is because the money we give is replaceable. But if we spend time – something we will never get back – then we and the person on the receiving end of that time and effort get that warm good feeling as Oxytocin is released.
The above applies to all organisations – simply telling a member of staff that you will pay money to solve a problem doesn’t make them feel valued. Responding to a call of help or distress with an e-mail saying ‘I care’ doesn’t make the recipient feel valued. However, picking up the phone or walking to that member of staff to ask ‘How can I help you?’ makes them feel valued. This is why I am a firm believer that walking the floor can never be underestimated – it puts the leader in and amongst the team and releases oxytocin – making both the leader and the team feel good. As it turns out, over time, the build-up of Oxytocin in our body protects against Dopamine addiction and improves immunity too so it’s a win-win in my humble opinion.
So what is the above trying to tell us about leadership? The messages I personally take away are:
So a big thank you to Sarah for sharing this insight. Interesting in the opening personal perspective and thought-provoking in the use of chemical drivers as a core medium.
Chris MacDonald Business Ethics Blog @Canadian Business - "Valeant Pharmaceuticals has suffered a crisis of trust over the last few weeks. More specifically, the trust that investors had in the company was substantially diminished in the wake of revelations that Valeant had an unclear but apparently too-cozy relationship with specialty pharmacy called Philidor. The loss in trust in this case was quite concrete, measured by a substantial drop in the company’s share price.
The source of this loss of trust was, as is generally the case, a question about the company’s ethics.
Doing business in the long run absolutely requires ethics. At the very least, doing business requires a degree of mutual respect, embodied in our commitment to getting things from others by offering them what we think they want in return. It also requires a commitment to basic honesty, and a commitment to honour our contracts. These ethical basics are essential because they are the foundation of trust. And if you don’t trust someone—at some level—you’re just not going to do business with them.
If trust enables business, then trust has a real value, in real dollars and cents. So what, then, is the dollar value of trust? I estimate the dollar value of trust, within the global economy, at roughly $102 trillion—in other words, the entire nominal Gross World Product for 2014. Without trust, all commerce on the planet would literally grind to a halt.
The fact that trust is crucial in markets is evidenced by the fact that businesses have come up with such a dizzying array of mechanisms designed to generate trust—everything from brands (which carry reputations) through to warranties, return policies, endorsements and third-party guarantors.
But what exactly is trust? What does it mean to trust someone? Functionally, it’s an expectation that someone will behave in certain ways. Trust is also an attitude—part calculation, part emotion—that involves an expectation of goodwill, or at least good behaviour. It is an expectation that the other party to a transaction will not do us harm. As my friend and fellow philosopher Daryl Koehn once put it, trust is a mean between paranoia and foolish faith.
But what happens when trust is broken? How can a company like Valeant (or Volkswagen, for that matter) regain the trust of consumers and the investing public? There are many ways to rebuild trust, and none of them is quick.
A company that has lost the trust of the investing public is likely going to need to show a consistent pattern of trustworthy behaviour over a substantial period of time. And the focus, here, is on the showing. CEO Michael Pearson has said how important ethics is to the company. And—present appearances aside—that may well be true. But in the light of the current wave of mistrust, the company is going to need to do more. It is going to need to engage in substantial disclosures, far beyond detailing the nature of its relationship with Philidor. In the face of a failure of disclosure, the company may well find that that it needs to engage in more disclosure than any company—even one with nothing to hide—would be fully comfortable with."
The question is, how do organisations diagnose where it has gone wrong in the first place and have specific insights into how the organisation and individuals within them feel.
Having 'consulted' for many years in a plethora of organisations from commercial through to public service and charity on areas from leadership, through team working and subsequently high performance cultures, I am left with some common threads that seem to always be present in those that work most effectively.
What actually are organisations (whether from Commercial FTSE 100s or Church)?
Perhaps it's better to look at them as a 'system' constructed by its members through the interaction of its members. So to be a bit off-the-wall, an organization is just a thought, not a thing. An imaginary construct of what is happening. Fundamentally it works because on the whole people come to work each day to do tasks that, should they agree locally it is right to do and this extends out throughout the whole group, it all works as a whole rather than by 'divine direction' from the physical top.
If leaders do decide what we do and set the vision, then why are we here now? Would they have designed the current position for any one of their organisations? NO.
So, the organisation emerges. The effective partnership emerges.
Ultimately, if individuals interact positively and agree what they do is right, this affects others near them and the overall thing creates patterns that appear coherent and effective – known therefore as emergence – though one has to accept somewhat unpredictable.
Ethics and the critical role it plays in leadership success.
One critical facet to include of course is the issue of ethics – not so much ethics of the whole organisation, but the ethics of each person in the individual decisions at the most local of levels (1-2-1) through the individual actions we take.
Let's face it, ethics form the basis of trust, and trust is only gained through actions (I see what you do – so you mean it, but only believe you when you repeat it consistently over time).
So the big question is, what do you do if you know this or understand this construct and want to influence and effect good leadership or leadership for good?
Leadership therefore in our context is NOT a 'heroic figure', but more all about the local interactions between human beings. Too many people are pre-occupied with the 'game' and not thinking how to decide what is best, so are engaged in 'politics, persuasion and negotiation' rather than what actually the whole thing is aiming to achieve. So for effective leadership we should stop thinking of pre-designed solutions or ultimate master plans, but more how to influence the 'group' in the 'right direction'.
Excellent leadership (which is in my mind a social phenomenon arising through the interaction between people) is where others recognise you lead and you recognise their roles. Leadership is therefore co-created.
Ethical Leaders therefore must:
Ethical Leaders therefore have to:
So, I agree with those that say selection and training of leaders is essential. That same training should open leaders' minds to all these insights and help them understand how to manage this uncertainty, while finding the way forward for themselves and for the group as a whole. We have a portfolio of products and services that can affect leadership for good in your organisation. Should you wish to know more, or even put something in place for your leaders, Entrusted can help you put the right things in place.
Thursday, 01 October 2015 13:03
Changes conjure up many feelings and emotions - excitement, anticipation and happiness, but change can often herald reservation, concern, even fear.
While many leaders extol the benefits of change, not everyone shares that enthusiasm.
A client outlined the challenge he saw in taking on his new role as CEO. This challenge revolved around the level of fear he sensed throughout his new organisation. Phrases like "I can see the fear in their eyes" and "deep reservations about the future ahead" were quoted. There will be many reasons for these behaviours a nd this leader faced them as his prime challenge. Without commitment to the journey of necessary change throughout the organisation, he was "on a hiding to nothing".
Poor leadership can give rise to fear. Leaders define, affect and influence the culture of an organisation way beyond their own imagination. Some have no idea of the level of influence their behaviour has on others, not only on their direct reports, but through them on the whole organisation.
Resistance to change can also be due to;
Every organisation must evolve, adapt and remain sensitive to changes in its industry and others which can undermine what was once a stable and sustainable market. Often leaders read the situation correctly, but then act to bring about change in a way that destroys the very foundations that brought success to the organisation and would have served it well into the future, if only channelled correctly.
So, back to my client. What could he have done? In this instance it was a case of acknowledgement. Acknowledgement of what has passed, how his predecessor in attempting to do the right thing – did wrong. Not wrong in realising that change was necessary, but rather in misunderstanding how to deliver change.
History plays a part in defining the behaviours of an organisation "the way we do things around here", and some recognised capability for change. The very success built into the DNA of the organisation that brought it to the current position, that same DNA would if handled correctly, deliver future success in the 'brave new world'. Listening to those who have seen the journey to this point and asking them the right questions such as "What have you learnt when facing this or that challenge in the past"? and "Which solutions worked, which didn't and why was this the case"? Getting under the skin of the what, why and how the organisation responds to the new, what constitutes the resilience amongst the teams and capability to adapt, change and renew - this is key.
Having listened, questioned and understood, it is as vital to acknowledge that history - the strength that has helped so far - and open the dialogue about what the future holds, what part each person thinks they can play and what do they see as the evolution necessary to meet the future.
None of this should detract from the crucial role any leader plays in doing his or her own strategic thinking, market analysis and all the other critical 'outward looking' actions. The real talent comes in performing the merger of listening and acknowledging within, with diagnosing and refining the challenges and opportunities without. This results in change for good, lessening the fear.
Fundamental to overcoming resistance to change is the building of trust. We can help with this. Contact – firstname.lastname@example.org
Within the film industry, George Lucas had a great reputation, built partly on his success with Star Wars. As the story goes, wisely he outsourced the original Star Wars sequels to a capable group of screenwriters and directors. Despite the massive success of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, ego and reputation meant he then opted to fly solo as a writer, director, and producer of the prequel trilogy. The resulting films proved that the director had absolutely no understanding of what audiences wanted from the franchise and by neglecting to reflect on what audiences loved about the franchise, Lucas created three boring films that barely qualified as action figure commercials nor made any return on investment.
There are strange, but often repeated outcomes that appear when the board of an organization appoints a leader with a known reputation, who fundamentally isn't up for the challenge itself, but rather approaches their role with total selfishness.
Reputation is a mercurial aspect of perceived successful individuals. Such is the nature of reputation it prompts a discussion and blog in itself... for another time. Suffice to say, in such instances as this it rests on delivering an outcome, often change, that a board considers the holder is able to bring to their own challenge 'at home'. Of course this presupposes the conditions both internal and external match theirs at that time and place, which of course can, and never will, be the same. Yet here they are appointed to the role.
So what are the outcomes of such actions? Firstly, single-minded, selfish individuals are only fuelled in their excess through each and every move, appointment and often increased reward package. Their power knows no bounds. So, to their actions and the long term effects: Change is brought about and while short term leading to perceived success, long term a change takes place in the soul. Soul of individuals, mores and culture.
Short term EBITDA, profit, growth and value appear enhanced, yet underneath a deterioration is happening. Deterioration is the ability of the organization to continually deliver cost savings, increased individual and group productivity and most of all limited creativity.
While these outcomes do not show up in the near horizon of 3-5 year plans, this does not seem to matter either to the incumbent leader nor the board. The inevitable results: Change in the leader. They move on to another challenge, fuelled by their own perceived self-worth and in many instances a knowledge that it is the 'right time' to move on (perhaps before being found out).
For a moment though let us consider what happens inside the organization. A common conversation revolves around 'sitting it out, change is inevitable and while this is the current way, hopefully the soul will prevail'. Of course this is seldom the outcome and instead another change takes place as those that have ability and resolve chose to find employment that offers values and beliefs similar to their own. Others fight to survive by adopting the prevailing behaviours in this 'new order' that can provide them short term success, but actually, in long term, affects their own sense of balance and fulfilment. In terms of delivery, whether achieving targets, results and sustainable creativity and innovation, sadly efforts, campaigns and initiatives fail. Not immediately, but rather they end up being sub-optimal and limited in their sustainability as mentioned. This is mainly as a result of staff not really being committed heart and soul to what the leader really wants, as demonstrated by his or her actions and selfish intent.
What can be done? In truth, this conundrum is best resolved through a combination of decisions and actions, namely;
Board members define what they want from a new CEO. This definition has to include;
Notwithstanding all the above, it is fair to say that these core insights not only apply to the appointment of CEOs, but equally to Directors and leaders throughout organisations. It is simply that the scale of risk and potential long term damage to the organization is greater the higher 'up the food chain' one goes.
I remember when the Bee Gees released the song "Jive talkin'" in 1975. Oh those halcyon days as a teenager with no cares in the world, enjoying school (I actually really did!), and that enjoyment in life extended to most things including sports and playing football that summer in the streets of north London where I lived. Good times indeed. Truth is that at that time I didn't realise what the words really meant to the song, but sensed it was something about double talking and being misunderstood.
Anyway, it was only the other day while working with a client I asked a question to explore further with her why an excellent initiative to bring about innovative solutions to enhance business performance and productivity had floundered. It transpired she had taken the lead in offering to co-ordinate the work we had begun with her team and draw together their support – offered publicly at the time – to return to a final event and share the outcomes. Sadly she announced the initiative had not delivered as expected, although on the original day everyone was both enthused and enjoyed the work. Indeed, they came up with many robust ideas and potential ways of delivering the solutions, but when it came to working with her to bring them into practice she found everyone had a reason not to either reply, commit or even take their level of responsibility, declaring in most instances that they were either too busy or felt their personal priorities took precedence.
While this short synopsis spares any further details to save exposing anyone, it is fair to say these sorts of outcomes are not uncommon. Why do so many initiatives, plans and stated actions, whether around cost-savings, increased productivity or simply improved customer service, flounder?
What is it about making promises when the spirits are high only to back down, finding excuses or simply avoiding doing what we said we would do? It all sounds like "Jive talkin'" to me.
Truth is it doesn't have to be that way. By developing real trust within a team through open dialogue, conversations and discussions that really say what we think and think what we say, followed by doing what we say, consistently, things can be different, promises fulfilled and success achieved beyond the norm. All these simple, yet necessary actions will fundamentally serve as the true building blocks to sustainable trust in relationships, teams and organisations.
Have you had similar experiences? What worked and what actions complement the fundamental principle of trust?
For this “Thought for Today” I felt a new approach was needed, so I have taken the liberty of providing you first with a short synopsis of a much wider and enjoyable article written by Sally Helgesen. The full article follows later.
First, a leader needs to create opportunities to build and connect with alternate constituencies in meaningful yet powerful symbolic ways in order to counterbalance vested interests nearer to hand.
Second, rather than telling others that they need to change their ways, a leader seeking transformation must instead personally model a radically open style of leadership that sets the tone for what he or she wants to see happen.
“Transformed people transform people”. St. Francis
Organisations can only be transformed when the people who comprise them are transformed, and people are changed by individuals who engage them at the level of spirit.
“Only people of the spirit change things. The rest of us just rearrange them.”
The insightful quote wasn’t uttered by a religious figure, or by a touchy-feely New Age philosopher. Rather, it came from one of the most wilful and domineering figures ever to strut across the human stage: Napoleon.
The conqueror of Europe, whose dominion did indeed prove short-lived, was sufficiently clear-eyed to recognize the transitory nature of his military and political triumphs. But leaders today are often less astute. Although transformation has become a kind of Holy Grail in many organizations, it’s often viewed as an engineering or structural challenge that can be executed from the top: Get all the design elements right, and transformation is sure to follow.
The reality is that meaningful, lasting change occurs only when a critical mass of people throughout an enterprise — not all of them, but a sufficient number — begin to approach their work and commitments in a whole new way. Sustained transformation requires transformed people, as Lou Gerstner recognized when he noted that a reborn IBM could not be run by “the guys in white shirts” who had long defined the company’s culture. Gerstner, who ran Big Blue from 1993 to 2002, began the necessary work of supporting and engaging different people and the same people in different ways. By doing so, he was able to transform IBM from a complacent manufacturer of computer hardware into a more nimble and profitable provider of computing solutions, including services.
Such engagement does not happen by fiat, by a leader decreeing it must be so, although we continue to see leaders who stubbornly go down this path. My own favorite example, is former Hewlett Packard CEO Leo Apotheker’s sudden August 2011 announcement that the entire company — all 300,000-plus people — would on one specified day in September abandon their traditional business model, seize new terrain, and alter their modus operandi. Apotheker’s own tenure lasted about three weeks after this grandiose “Day One” declaration, which sowed confusion and despair in the ranks. The annals of business failure are littered with similar disasters. In the real world, people don’t change because the CEO tells them they must do so overnight.
Sometimes leaders do try to broadly engage people in a change effort, only to find their efforts stymied by entrenched interests or silos at senior levels. One classic example from business history was New United Motors Manufacturing, Inc., (NUMMI) an ill-fated partnership struck in 1984 between General Motors and Toyota. Based in Fremont, California, NUMMI was an effort to help frontline GM workers and supervisors learn the principles of lean manufacturing and the legendary Toyota production system (TPS) first-hand. Though the venture proved transformative for individual participants and resulted in vastly improved quality for the vehicles coming off the assembly line, GM didn’t change much as an organization as a result. The reason? Positional leaders outside the plant saw NUMMI’s innovation as a threat to their way of doing business. The Fremont plant was ultimately shut down in 2010, a year after GM filed for bankruptcy. (In a wonderfully ironic footnote, the old NUMMI site is today owned and operated by Tesla Motors.)
I’ve been thinking a lot about how transformations succeed and fail as I follow the fascinating efforts of Pope Francis to reinvigorate one of the few 2,000-year-old institutions on earth. The Catholic Church as an organization has provided the very prototype of top-down hierarchy since the early Middle Ages, so opening it up structurally is a particularly daunting task. What’s remarkable is the agility with which this Pope, who assumed his post in 2013 after the unprecedented resignation of a long-time Vatican power player who had become paralyzed in his role, approaches the difficult-to-reconcile tasks of re-engaging a broad spectrum of grassroots believers at the level of spirit and imagination while also seeking to curb the power of an entrenched bureaucracy that views itself as the true arbiter of church culture.
In moving on both fronts simultaneously, the Pope reveals his understanding of the two-step methodology required if sustained transformation is to flourish. First, a leader needs to create opportunities to build and connect with alternate constituencies in meaningful yet powerful symbolic ways in order to counterbalance vested interests nearer to hand. This approach was most vividly demonstrated in Francis’s drive to canonize Oscar Romero, the murdered bishop of El Salvador; the move had been blocked by the Roman Curia, the administrative arm of the Vatican, for 35 years. Soon after his installation, Pope Francis — the first South American to lead the church — embraced the effort, creating a groundswell of support across Latin America that included peasant villages, political allies, and advocates of liberation theology who had been marginalized or even banished from the church. In doing so, the Pope created a counterweight to those curial princes in Rome who had viewed the effort as a threat to their personal fiefs and positional power. In May, Romero was beatified — the penultimate step to formal sainthood.
Second, rather than telling others that they need to change their ways, a leader seeking transformation must instead personally model a radically open style of leadership that sets the tone for what he or she wants to see happen. In this spirit, the Pope remained in his modest Jesuit rooming house during his transition instead of moving into the palatial apartment prepared for him. He insisted on personally paying the fee at the desk upon leaving instead of having a retainer take care of it. He wore simple white robes and a skullcap at his investiture instead of the elaborate brocaded cape expected, and he rejected the scarlet slippers that had become a papal trademark. And most famously, he washed the feet of prisoners, including women and Muslims, at his first Holy Thursday service.
By acting as a simple, even humble priest from Day One of his papacy, the Pope demonstrated his understanding of the basic insight of the saint whose name he took upon investiture: transformed people transform people. This is a truth leaders miss when they imagine their positional power alone can compel lasting change. Organiz ations can only be transformed when the people who comprise them are transformed, and people are changed by individuals who engage them at the level of spirit.
This particular transformation effort isn’t finished, of course, and the forces of resistance can be wily and patient. As one senior curial official recently confided to long-term Vatican correspondent John Allen, “Bergoglio [Pope Francis] won’t be here forever, but we will.” That’s an extraordinarily bald and confident statement of faith on the irresistible nature of positional and bureaucratic power in an institution whose purpose, as Francis reminds us, is supposed to be pastoral. But if Napoleon is proved right yet again, the triumph of inertia is likely to be brief.
Recently I've been sharing with a number of successful individuals I coach, the whole concept of "managing your chimp". This all comes from a book called 'The Chimp Paradox' by Dr Steve Peters. Dr Peters works in elite sport and has been the resident psychiatrist with the British Cycling team since 2001 and also the SKY ProCycling team. Sir Chris Hoy, Bradley Wiggins, Victoria Pendleton, Craig Bellamy and Ronnie O'Sullivan have all spoken publicly about how Dr Peters' unique Chimp Model has helped improve their performance. He has also been involved in 12 other Olympic sports and has recently been hired by Brendan Rogers at Liverpool FC!
His theory is that everyone has two personalities - a human and a chimp. You the human thinks logically and works with facts and truth. You the chimp thinks emotionally and uses impressions and feelings. The Chimp is an emotional machine that will hijack you of you allow it to. It is not good or bad ; it is a Chimp. It can be your best friend or your worst enemy - this is the Chimp Paradox.
This book is well worth reading if you find yourself wondering why things are happening that you would like to change. It makes you think about how you react to situations.
Here is one excerpt that some of you might be able to identify with - it made me think for sure
Imagine that you have gone to sleep with something on your mind that is really concerning you. You wake up in the night and your mind starts racing. At this point, the Human is fast asleep and the Chimp is in total control. Therefore your thinking is irrational and emotional. The Chimp will think and see things catastrophically and worry you for however long you are "awake". Eventually you will fall back to sleep and come round again in the morning. You now get out of bed and wonder why you were thinking so emotionally during the night.
The answer is simple : during the night your brain changes its functioning and the human no longer gives any check to the chimp. In the morning the human is now rational and puts things back into perspective. Nothing seems as bad once you return to human functioning. There is a simple lesson to learn and a golden rule to follow.
The simple lesson is that, unless you are a night shift worker, between the hours of 11pm and 7am you are in Chimp mode with emotional and irrational thinking. You rarely think with perspective and this will only return after 7 in the morning (I accept this isn't a good thing for someone like me who get s up at 5.30am, but I am working on it, or at least not doing too much focused thinking!). The golden rule therefore is :
If you wake during the night, any thoughts and feelings you might have are from your Chimp and are very often disturbing, catastrophic and lacking in perspective. In the morning you are likely to regret engaging with these thoughts and feelings because you will see things differently.
Try to develop an autopilot that says I am not prepared to take any thinking seriously during night-time hours when the Chimp is in charge.
One key point I take from this short extract is that it is worth thinking about if you ever find yourself worrying or stressing about something and then a few weeks later you wonder why on earth you ever allowed yourself to get so worked up over something relatively unimportant.
When working with others – perhaps share this knowledge while encouraging them not to stress too much outside of working hours, Let's face it, you need them to be fully switched on and positive at work, worrying late at night when often it's not rational will diminish their personal productivity.
'The Chimp Paradox' is indeed well worth reading for those of you interested in how the mind works, and for those who prefer audio, the best bit is Steve Peters is British (i.e. unlike many audio books it's not coming with an American accent!).
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