Archives for posts with tag: Leadership Development

ImageI’ve spent the day deep in conversation with the Chief Executive of the Wilderness Foundation UK designing the course content for a leadership development programme we’re delivering later this year.

It was great to start with a blank sheet of paper – and a big pile of post it notes! – and brainstorm what we think would be the key areas for the leaders of tomorrow to focus on. As the programme is being delivered by the Wilderness Foundation, there is a heavy emphasis on nature based learning – using a variety of outdoor exercises to explore leadership skills and abilities. You might have seen in an earlier blog the fun I had hugging trees in an exercise on trust, teamwork and observation – it’s activities of that sort that we’ll be weaving into the programme.

After spending the day up to our armpits in post it notes and felt tip pens, we had an overall plan for the structure of the programme. We’d come up with some great thoughts for the detailed activities that will make up each day of the course.

Tomorrow we’ll be putting some meat on the bones of that structure, designing sessions and outlining activities. I can’t wait to use the opportunity to be creative, finding new and exciting ways to help the participants to discover the leadership potential within themselves.

Have you undertaken any leadership development training? What sorts of activities, tools, models or techniques really resonated with you? Are there any that you put into practice in your life and how effective have they been? Did any involve the great outdoors? I’d love to hear your experiences.

ImageIt’s been a training-heavy week for me this week! I love learning new things so it’s great to be able to participate in so many different programmes and courses. Today was day one of a training course about mentoring young people that I’m attending in preparation for some voluntary mentoring I’ll be undertaking later this year.

It was a really enjoyable, interactive day, with plenty of activities and group work so that I got the benefit of learning from other participants’ thoughts and experiences, not just from the taught content delivered by the trainer. It was great to meet a range of different people with a variety of skills and experiences, all there because of their desire to volunteer to help support young people from vulnerable and disadvantaged backgrounds.

The element that I benefitted from most was the time we spent putting ourselves into the shoes of the young people, trying to understand how the world appears from their point of view. It was really interesting once we started to come to some realisations about the negative behaviours that adults perceive from young people, and how they could often be a reaction to the sorts of behaviours that they perceive from adults.

I think it’s true to say that young people in general tend to get a raw deal these days in terms of their reputation – newspapers etc. seem to start from the base assumption that they’re lazy, out to cause trouble and roaming the streets in gangs like pack animals, and any young people doing some good with their lives are positioned as the exception to the rule.

That’s a really unfair picture to paint and – even worse than that – the more that this view is propagated throughout media and society, the more that young people themselves will start to believe it. Perception, as they say, is reality. Before long, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and young people will start to think: everyone has this negative view of us… we may as well live up to it! Not helpful.

So today has reinforced for me just how important it is to not judge a book by its cover or to assume that we know what makes someone tick or why they behave or respond in a certain way. Instead, we should all find time to walk a mile in their shoes: think about the external influences on them and how we would react if they were applied to us. Maybe, just maybe, that will bring us some increased understanding of that person and help us to connect with them more effectively on an individual level, rather than making assumptions based on the group they fall into.

After all, it is never a pleasant feeling when we feel that we are being judged by others based solely on generalisations about our race, gender, sexuality, age, disability or any other aspect of our own personal book’s cover. So let’s don that individual’s proverbial shoes and get marching that metaphorical mile!

virtuous circleYou know those meetings where everything seems to go according to plan? No? Well I have to admit that they don’t always come around quite as frequently as I might hope! But today, I had one of them. My lovely wife and I were meeting with a prospective candidate for the leadership development programme for young women that we’ll be delivering later this year.

In response to yesterday’s blog about the importance of allowing your personality to shine through in an interview, a wise woman (hello, Suzy!) commented that she had found that the interviews where she was “prepared to wing it a little actually go a whole lot better”. I think that the same is true in many situations in life, including in meetings.

Don’t get me wrong, we were prepared for the meeting in that we knew the information we needed to convey and why we felt that she would be such an excellent candidate, but we hadn’t planned it out in such a level of detail that we were unable to read the response we were getting and adapt our approach to match. So, for example, giving more or less detail about a specific element of the programme depending on her reactions to certain things.

We felt that she’d be ideal for the programme and hoped that she’d be as excited about the opportunities it will present her with as we are. But you never know how somebody else will view something; whether it will be what they are expecting, whether it fits in with their priorities, etc. On this occasion, what do you know, she exceeded our expectations! She was positive, excited, and raring to go!

In response to her positivity about the programme, we gave her lots of information about all the aspects we could, which reinforced her keenness to be involved. A real virtuous circle in action!

In turn, this re-fuelled my own enthusiasm for the programme and its possibilities, and excited me with the thought of what she will be able to achieve by entering into it with such excitement and commitment. She was even excited about the prospect of, after completing the programme, continuing to be involved in it by working with and/or mentoring future cohorts of participants. Now that’s the sort of candidate I like to attract!

We’re getting ever closer to the start of delivery of the programme and I look forward to being able to share with you more details of what it will entail and, I hope, some success stories from the participants’ point of view.

ImageToday I’ve decided to embark upon a new challenge – the Ultimate Blog Challenge! It basically entails blogging every day for the whole month of April. What lucky readers you are! A new blog post every single day! And sadly for you that’s not an April Fool!

I have to confess to feeling a little overawed by the thought of coming up with new content that is of interest to more people than just myself every single day, especially as such a new blogger. But I’ve decided that the fact that this challenge has come along while I am still a very new blogger is a blessing and I will take it as an opportunity to learn more about blogging and gain some feedback from bloggers far more experienced than I.

Forming new positive habits is one really helpful way to make a change for the better in your life. The more you do something, the more it becomes second nature. Think about the first time you did something that you now do often. Maybe it was baking a cake, for example. That first time, you probably read the recipe carefully, made sure you had all the ingredients in that you needed, got them all out so that they were all to hand before you started, and then followed the instructions step by step until you had created something that looked pretty close to the picture in the recipe book. Success!

Then maybe next time you were slightly more relaxed, getting ingredients out as and when you needed them rather than lining them all up on the counter like you were presenting a cooking item on a daytime television programme!

The time after that, perhaps you paid slightly less attention to the recipe, remembering in what order to combine the ingredients and the length of time the cake needed to be baked for and at what temperature.

Before you know it, you’re no longer looking at the recipe at all, combining the ingredients instinctively. Weighing scales? Pah! No need! You can now sense how much flour is needed just by looking at it! Perhaps you find that you’ve run out of one ingredient that you would usually use. Maybe by now you are so confident in what you’re doing that you’re even able to conjure up a suitable replacement from available supplies. (Out of butter? Chuck in a couple of bananas! Wrong type of sugar? Let’s try the type that’s in the cupboard!)

And now you get to enjoy a delicious, home baked cake without the previously high level of concentration and, in some cases, anxiety. And what could possibly be not to like about reaching that situation?

My point is that perhaps by the end of blogging every day for a month, it’ll be second nature to me and you’ll have the pleasure of more regular blogs from me than have been forthcoming to date. I hope that I will also have gained the by-product of some new friends from the blogging community along the way.

If there is something in your life that you’d like to get more competent at than you currently are, why not take the plunge and just start practising? Form that positive habit and change your approach. If the thing you’d like to improve is blogging, why not sign up to the challenge yourself?

It’s not too late to sign up – you can always do two blog posts on the 2nd and you’re all caught up and good to go for the rest of the month. Go to http://ultimateblogchallenge.com/ for more information and join in the fun! Now, all this talk of cake has made me hungry, so I’m off to find a midnight snack!

boomtown ratsFrom The Boomtown Rats (I Don’t Like Mondays) to The Bangles (Manic Monday), via the Mamas and the Papas (Monday Monday) and New Order (Blue Monday), countless bands have tapped into a seemingly universal theme that Mondays are best avoided.

Meanwhile, a trawl of my musical memories and numerous list-based websites don’t turn up much in the way of positive Monday themed songs. The possible exception of Monday Morning by Fleetwood Mac starts off so well with “Monday morning you sure look fine”, but turns out to be about a doomed relationship so, in hindsight, it sits firmly in the gloomy pile.

“Every other day of the week is fine, but whenever Monday comes you can find me crying all of the time”. Ring any bells? Do you get that familiar Sunday evening dread washing over you as time moves relentlessly towards the morning and that first alarm of the working week, signalling that your waking hours for the next five days no longer belong solely to you?

If so, is it inevitable that the rest of your working life will be defined by a dislike of at least one day of every single week? I say, no, it doesn’t have to be this way. Bob Geldof pleads for someone to “tell me why I don’t like Mondays”, so why not give it some thought for yourself? Perhaps you feel that your current job doesn’t make the most of your skills, or that there is no room at your organisation for your career potential to be fulfilled, or your boss simply doesn’t appreciate you.

I have certainly had all of these negative feelings – and many more! – at least briefly during my career and I know just how soul sapping it can be when you are unable to see a way out of that situation. That inevitable curtain of gloom descending gradually over you as time ticks down towards Sunday evening seems to be unstoppable at times. But it just doesn’t have to stay that way. There are lots of things that you can do to help reclaim a positive Monday morning feeling.

Some things can be done for yourself relatively straightforwardly. For example, if you have reached the realisation that your current job simply isn’t for you anymore, it is entirely within your control to start the process of seeking a new one. But it can be difficult to reach this point alone, or to identify things that you can do to improve the situation within your current role. Sometimes talking things through with a friend or family member can be invaluable. A third party is very often able to bring a new perspective to a situation that seemed to you – from your position underneath that gloomy curtain – to be irresolvable.

Sometimes, though, that friend or family member may be too close to the situation to feel able to help or indeed for you to want to ‘dump’ all of your woes onto. So what else could you try? One potential solution is coaching. Some people think that coaching is something that is only useful for those right at the top of the tree, but that is no longer the case. More and more organisations are introducing coaching programmes to support staff at all levels because they recognise the value that it can bring to everyone.

Spending time with an independent party focused solely on you might be the edge you need to take you from The Boomtown Rats to Happy Mondays. So why not invest some time in yourself and your Mondays? Just don’t go twisting my melon, man.

For more information about the services provided by Miller & Miller Consulting Ltd please visit our website at http://www.millerandmillerconsulting.co.uk

ImageIn recent years, there has been a tendency for people to assume that, because there has been so much positive progression in the UK since the days of suffrage, there is no longer a need to focus on supporting women in reaching their full career potential.

Women can have any job they want – surgeon, pilot, soldier, lawyer – nothing is off the table.

Women can have a career break to have children, receive maternity pay while they do so, and return to their job with full protection.

Women (and men) are protected within law from being discriminated against at work based on their gender (and age, pregnancy and maternity status, marital/civil partnership status, race, religion or belief, disability, sexual orientation or gender reassignment).

So what’s the problem? Why the continued discussion of positive discrimination, enforced ratios of women in certain roles or at certain levels, etc.?

Well, to start with, although women can now enter as many fields as men, their average pay remains 19.7% lower than men’s average pay. I hope it goes without saying that until average salaries are not distinguishable based on gender, there is still work to be done.

Secondly, it is still the case that there are far fewer women in senior roles in most industries than there should be. As women make up approximately 50% of the population, they should make up around 50% of the work force at any given level, right?

Currently, the gender make up of far too many organisations in far too many sectors shows that the vast majority of the lower paid roles are women, and as you go up the organisation this ratio reverses until in the top tiers the vast majority are men. The so called “glass ceiling” is still well and truly in place, preventing many women from progressing as far as their equally qualified male colleagues.

For example, there are only a handful of female Chief Executives of local authorities in the UK and only 2 female Chief Executives of FTSE 100 companies. Across the 200 or so world states, there are just 12 female heads of state (excluding the world’s 3 female monarchs).

Unsurprisingly, then, I feel passionate that more should be done to encourage and support women to reach their full career potential. And it’s for this reason that Miller & Miller are working with the Wilderness Foundation UK to deliver a leadership development programme for young women. The programme aims to support participants not just in developing tangible leadership skills, but – just as crucially – in developing their expectations of themselves in the workplace. For this reason, there will be as much emphasis on coaching and mentoring the participants as there will be on delivering taught content.

We look forward to carrying out more programmes of this sort, working with more young women and other underrepresented groups within leadership. Let’s smash through that glass ceiling and see that the sky is truly the limit.

For more information about the services provided by Miller & Miller Consulting Ltd please visit our website at http://www.millerandmillerconsulting.co.uk