Let me be part of the big stuff
I have made so many mistakes in leadership that I have lost count. In the main, I have recognised them, owned up to them and learned from most of them. Mistakes are great learning tools. I must confess though to one error that almost cost me a business. In my eagerness to release people to be inventive in their roles I made a vital mistake – I left them to do so in a vacuum. Ideas abounded. But, they bore little relation to purpose. I found myself having to reject people’s hard worked plans and morale plummeted as a result. I recalled many years earlier starting on a building site in London and being greeted by a Welsh Foreman who wrapped his arm around my shoulder and took me into a small shack to show me the plans for the building.
I want to live the dream
“This is the dream, he said. “You are building a palace and I want you to come in here every morning and remind yourself of that.” I sweated buckets in that job. I felt part of the big picture and a vital player in the future. Years later, I had learned one part of the lesson but failed on the other. I wanted to avoid task driven leadership at all costs – it doesn’t get buy in and suits the very people that are least likely to deliver real success. But, I had failed to share a clear vision of the future – what does it look like, feel like and smell like for the customer and for each individual in the business? Nowadays, almost every organisation has a business plan – often driven by banks and regulators. These plans reside in drawers and filing cabinets and are rarely referred to in global terms – they offer objectives and measurements. They are far from motivational calls to action.
Please release me
There is still the whiff of the industrial model in too many workplaces. We are given a prescribed role in a department. “I am in finance. I don’t meet customers” That’s not my job.” We create servants to a process rather than a cause. When I worked in the steelworks in the early 70s, I was part of a production chain that produced camshafts for Ford Motors – It was heavy, hot and sometimes treacherous work. At the time, I had no notion of where this product fitted into a car or of its purpose. I was merely a link. Never mind the destiny just do you job. Fine, as an earner. But, while money alone makes our pockets bulge it doesn’t make our heart sing.
Audacious and extraordinary – yes, me
Now working with clients large and small it is all those mistakes and experiences that make me better at what I do. I have worked in many industries and at all levels. I know what it feels to hold the ultimate responsibility and to be part of a lowly production chain. It is this lifetime of learning that has taught me how to create excitement in the most moribund of settings, engage staff at every level around a clear vision and then create a business plan that raises the pulse, gets people to be creative, have fun and go make things happen. But they do so around a collective understanding of an ambitious destiny. What can then follow is a business plan that is visual, simple and ubiquitous around the workplace – reminding each member of staff why they get out of bed in the morning. It has taken me years to assemble a team of real, lived in associates who now help deliver our “Ideas to action” programmes. When an organisation can say that they have been ‘Thinktasticked’ they have truly entered the extraordinary zone.’ It starts with a fresh wind and finished with a changed climate. Their number is growing.
Thinktastic’s Vision Plan to show what drives my fantastic team of Associates and I – each and every day. To see a section: