Creating A Culture Through Good Leadership And Role Modelling

I am sure that if we all looked back on our career there are people who we have encountered who stay in our psyche for both good and not so good reasons. We look at those who have inspired us as positive role models and take the good lessons from them and remember how amazing they made us feel and apply those actions and traits to our own situations now. Also, unfortunately as a counter, there are some people who teach us how not to do things ! Sometimes these lessons on how not to do something are the most valuable.

A Role Model is a person who someone admires and whose behaviour they try to copy. They serve as an example of the values, attitudes and behaviours of a particular role.

Be Inspirational

There are many theories around organisational culture, but my experience has shown that the culture is driven by the personality of the leaders and how their teams respond. My Linkedin timeline is full of articles and blogs that talk about how people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.

One of the biggest reason why a good talent leaves your company is poor management. In a survey of over 7,000 employees – 70% of respondents have said that their manager’s behaviour is responsible for how engaged they feel at work and 50% of respondents reported that they had to quit their job because of ‘bad managers’

Gallup poll Employees Want A Lot More From Their Managers

Personality Led Leadership

We all have personality types and there are lots of theories discussing how our natural leadership style correlates to our personality type e.g. introvert vs extrovert, sensing vs intuition, thinking vs feeling, judging vs perceiving.

There are a lot of characteristics that help you succeed and be relatable as a leader including

  • Have integrity, loyalty and show ethical and moral standards and lead by example.
  • Be honest and transparent and be able to communicate and listen.
  • Be self motivated, positive, encouraging and supportive.
  • Be humble, likable and have some charisma
  • Love what you and the team do and earn the respect of the team

There are some people in my career who have really influenced who I am as a leader. They probably don’t even know it ! It’s easy to identify what good looks like by the way situations make you feel. Here are some of the lessons I have learned from some great role models…

  • Praise and Recognition… If you see something amazing or even slightly good, let people know. Every one feels good when they are recognised for a good act, piece of work, effort or result.
  • Don’t criticise… help people learn lessons. We don’t do a post mortem when things go wrong, but look at how to do things better next time. Never humiliate or shame anyone for making a mistake, especially to their colleagues and peers.
  • Be positive… Positivity is contagious (so is negativity). If you find yourself surrounded by negative people, it can be very difficult to keep a positive outlook. Don’t get sucked into other peoples issues that aren’t yours. Don’t stew over things that are slightly annoying or upsetting and manifest them into something that they are not.
  • Be passionate… If you want to make a difference show passion for what you are doing. Passion is also contagious and encourages others to be brought along on the journey. When you do something half hearted, it shows ! Enthusiasm and passion have resulted in some amazing things, just be careful to not get carried away.
  • Be nice… This is not a sign of weakness. When kindness, compassion and niceness are missing then all we are left with is a toxicity and bitterness. Don’t mistake niceness for being a walk over. You can be firm and fair at the same time.
  • Don’t be scared to disagree… You can push back on bad ideas or actions that don’t make sense. Just remember to be respectful and willing to listen, but make sure you are listened to also.
  • Be Inspired and Inspirational … Sometimes you encounter people that give you the energy to be creative, productive and fully inspired. Try to bring that out of others by encouraging creativity and ideas and considering others point of view.
  • Listen.. Take advice and inspiration from others. The people in my team know so much more than I do about their own role and what they need to be successful. Listen to what they need and enable them to succeed.

Do you Zap or Sap?

Some years ago, a member of my team mentioned a book they were reading about whether people were ‘zappers or sappers’.

Zappers – encounters with zappers filled you with energy and gave you positivity, make you feel stimulated and enhance creative expression.

Sappers – encounters with sappers sucked the energy and life out of you and made you feel negative. They reduce motivation and make you feel drained.

We can all be both zappers and sappers at any time, but as a leader or team member you need to be very conscious on which one of these traits you bring to the surface. The impact can be huge either way.

I know this is a very simplified way to look at personality styles and the impact they have on you and the reactions they bring, but it is very easy to relate to. I expect we can all think of situations where we have been zapped or sapped or been zappers or sappers! A few years ago I mentioned this book to my own manager at the time, and he very recently spoke to me about how this had stayed with him many years later and that it was inspiring for him to think of things differently.

Even when we try to be good role models, we often have our off days. One of my team recently noticed that when I was stressed and not my normal self this affected the team around me. Note to self… chill out and don’t get too stressed by what I can’t influence! Be a zapper, not a sapper !

Role Models, Mentoring and Coaching

The terms role model, mentor and coach are often used to cover the same or similar areas, however there are differences.

A mentor is someone usually more experienced than you who knows and cares about you and tries to help you succeed. There is a two way relationship with a mentor.

One of the best ways to help others to be better is to be a mentor. Being a mentor is a great opportunity to bring out the best in others and help them progress or overcome difficulties. I’ve mentored many people over the years and have always gotten a lot out of the relationships as well as supporting others through their challenges, development and issues.

Good mentors show empathy, have good listening skills, give encouragement and sound advice. They have good rapport with their mentor and shares their experience and wisdom. The mentor and mentee relationship should be confidential and built on trust.

Mentoring is relationship oriented, long term and development driven.

Coaching is a form of development where the coach supports a learner in achieving a personal or professional goal by providing training and guidance.

Coaching is usual focused on a specific task or activity. For example, you can be coached on how to deliver better presentations. The coach should be able to show and guide the person on how to develop their skills. Sometimes they use techniques to get the person being coached to reach the answer to a problem through guiding them through so they can make their own decisions.

Coaching is task oriented, short term and performance driven.

My Inspiration

I have lots of role models, both those who are in the public as well as at work and personal. Here are some of them…

  • Michelle Obama… I received her autobiography for Christmas and was fully inspired by her story of coming from a relatively poor area of Chicago and worked hard to become a successful lawyer, then obviously she met and married Barack and became one of the most influential women in the world. She took her position of influence and used it to wonderful effect whilst at the same time being thoroughly nice!
  • Jane Austen… I just love a good period drama! Austen was so ahead of her time in writing about strong female characters who had personality, strength, courage and passion. Even if her stories were about young women looking to find husbands, the characters brought that era to life. I could lose days to watching re-runs of Pride and Prejudice or reading Persuasion.
  • Martin Luther King… I was privileged to visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis last year, the site of MLKs assassination. To see the inspiration he brought to millions around the world in standing up for the rights of everyone and how much of a difference he made will stay with me forever. Also, last year I stood on the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on the very stone where MLK said his ‘I have a dream’ speech and got to visit his Memorial in Washington where a line from the speech is cut into the stone “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.’
  • Dame Stephanie ‘Steve’ Shirley… I was very lucky to attend 2 talks given by Dame Shirley in recent years, where she relayed stories of how she came to Britain as a child during the 2nd World War and later started her own IT company giving opportunities to women with children who needed to work from home with flexible hours. This team of predominently female coders (3 male programmers in the first 300 staff) produced some critical IT solutions including Concorde’s black box flight recorder.
  • My Mother… She caught polio when she was 6 months old and spent most of her childhood in hospital having multiple surgeries. She is the most tenacious women I know. Despite her disability, she never lets this stop her, has the most positive outlook on life and always tries to help those who need it never thinking twice about her own disability.
  • My Sons and Daughter… My daughter has the most amazing zest for life than anyone I know. She is bold, daring and can make anyone feel good about themselves. We have so much fun together on our travels. My 2 sons both have been inspiring to me.. one of them had to deal with health issues when he was younger and overcome missing long periods of school and has since achieved great academic results at university. My other son is the most caring and thoughtful person I have met. He will help anyone and is incredibly kind.

Who is your role model?

Boiling The Ocean

There is one phrase that we quote regularly in the Digital Transformation Centre when speaking to clients and that is “Don’t Boil The Ocean“. Usually it is in the context of promoting the use of Agile as a delivery methodology, so we can demonstrate the value of breaking down large scale transformations into smaller problem statements, which can easily be tackled – hence addressing lots of small puddles rather than oceans.

Are You Ready?

The phrase “Don’t Boil The Ocean” has been popping into my head more and more recently around change in general and keeps drawing me back to thinking about the importance of change factors such as scale, maturity and readiness for any change, not just software or digital transformation.

I’ve recently been involved in a corporate wide initiative that impacts all levels of the company. To make this a success we need to avoid using one strategy or approach to manage the change for everyone at the same time. We should look at the different variables in the various levels and ecosystems we are changing e.g global, region, country, campus and immediate team. We also need to consider where each group are on their transformation journey.

At the same time as the corporate wide changes, a number of teams are about to move into my organisation and I’m excited about helping them on their transformation journey and support them using the benefit of mine and my teams experience, methods and frameworks that have proven successful.

Not forgetting my current teams who I can’t leave to stand still and not keep continuously improving and remaining relevant.

In any one day I need to consider all of the different groups above thinking about where they are on their maturity of digital change and taylor the plans and actions to meet each unique area so they get the right support and enablement to be successful.

Every Ocean Is Different

Don’t Boil The Oceans

Going back to our boiling the ocean analogy, not every ocean starts with the same climate, maturity, readiness or ecosystem.

If we think very literalyl… Let’s boil some of the oceans of the world taking the same approach of using a big fire to heat each ocean to 100 degrees…

Arctic Ocean … Starts at -zero degrees. Take much longer to warm up, can’t get to the right place to start the fire due to the build up of ice, then melts the ice caps and causes global warming.  Result…  Total disaster! The environment isn’t ready, causes huge impact to current state and impact runs wider than local environment.  Oops!

Indian Ocean … Starts at 35 degrees. Already pretty hot, doesn’t take long to heat up and wastes time waiting for the fire to be hot enough to start making a difference. Result …  Sees increase in temperature as a waste of time, as it’s already warm and doesn’t need to go through a large part of the heating up, but could do with a the fire starting at a hotter temperature to make any difference.  Why bother ! Disengaged and disinterested ocean.

Atlantic Ocean … wide range of temperatures from 13 to 35 as it is so large and covers many different environments Varying degrees of success, as some of it is already hot, some of it is freezing and creates an unfair unequal environment.  Can’t please everyone and could cause resentment with different parts of the ocean.

Approaching Transformational change is exactly the same. If we apply the same technique across the board, we will have different results due to readiness for change, maturity of existing change programme all specific to the different environments or ecosystems (or change programmes).

Ocean TypeMaturity and ReadinessDon’tDo
(Indian Ocean Groups) High Maturity Transformation OrganisationsReady for Change. Already undergoing change. Want to improve not keep moving backIgnore what they have already done. Drown them with retrospective impacts where they see them as a waste of timeLearn lessons from their experience – both successes and failures. Keep them engaged, so they motivate others by being good role models.
(Arctic Ocean Groups) Resistant and Feeling Vulnerable OrganisationsNot ready for Change. Need incremental change at a steady pace. Need to build trust that change is good and things are getting better. Tell them what to do without listening to their point of view. Rush change and have multiple change programmes running at once. Get their perspective of what a successful change looks like to them. Get and give regular feedback. Show progress and give evidence that you are taking notice of their view point.
(Atlantic Ocean Groups) Multiple levels of resistance and maturity to change Mixed levels of readiness and maturity. Hold back those who are already highly change mature. Ignore those who are feeling vulnerable due to the changes. Assume that everyone is the same. Show what good looks like for everyone. Demonstrate that change is a journey and people are at different stops of the journey. Utilise good support and mentoring as well as role modelling from those more mature in the transformation journey.

It’s About People

Whether you are changing technology, process, direction, infact anything the biggest consideration is the People.

Even in the digital transformation space, everything still impacts people whether it’s learning new skills with the dev ops tooling, programming languages, agile delivery methods, application or platform solutions or even changing roles due to automating repetitive tasks so people end up changing their job.

There are many theories around change management out there that give us advice on how to manage and handle change. The table above does show some of the do’s and don’ts based on my experience, but there are some other things that we can do…

  • Good communications are critical and this must be 2 way between those making or introducing the change and those who are impacted by the change
  • Identify your change agents. These are the people who can help support their colleagues on the journey. Usually very positive, encouraging and supportive colleagues. These are needed at all levels of the business.
  • Make change relevant and relatable. Don’t forget the questions “What’s in it for me?” and “So what?”.
  • Realise that change will never stop and now things change at a much faster pace than at any time in our history. We are now in the Fourth Phase of the Industrial Revolution and each phase since the days of steam power and rail to where we are today with artificial intelligence, robotics and fast internet is getting shorter and faster.
We are now in the Fourth Phase of the Industrial Revolution

Changing Your Ways

Change is never easy. Digital organisations need to be incredibly mindful on how we make change happen for ourselves and our people. Sometimes it feels like we, as digital leaders are between a rock and a hard place where we can find change difficult ourselves and at the same time need to enable and support our people through the journey. We need to remember that today’s change, will be tomorrow’s lesson learned and something else will be queuing up waiting to be changed.

Stephenson’s Rocket

Stephenson’s Rocket at Discovery Museum Newcastle 2018

Since I mentioned the industrial revolution, I just wanted to finish on a picture I took of Stephenson’s Rocket – the very first steam locomotive. The Rocket was on display in the Discovery Museum here in Newcastle upon Tyne as part of the Great Exhibition of the North last year.