Testing your leadership and team in rougher seas

I’m always amazed when I do the work that I do, how many leaders are not stretching and developing their teams. They are only in my words ‘sailing their ship around the harbour’, tweaking the sails and mopping the decks. No risk and no learning – their teams are only learning how to work in calmer waters. The analogy of the leader taking the ship out of the harbour and deliberately seeking rougher seas, evokes a mix of fear and exhilaration in leaders and their teams. Why would we want to stretch ourselves when we are quite happy where we are?

The work that is being done in psychological safety is characterised by the concept of the leader creating a culture where their teams are willing to put their foot on the accelerator or gas, whilst also taking their foot off the brake. How can we test whether the team individually and collectively are willing to amplify their voice and speak up under tough conditions?

As I was going under anaesthetic for a knee operation, I was chatting to the anaesthesiologist around the big arrow drawn by a marker pen on my leg pointing to the knee that needed surgery. He had already asked the key question “Is it the right knee that needs surgery?”. So many errors are caused by the patient, nurse or the co-pilot in airlines not able or willing to speak up. Now they have a system and habits that are trained in low-risk environments, so that in real time it works. He told me about a conference called ‘Risky Business’ that had been set up to expand the work that airlines and surgeons had started to apply in their high-risk jobs. The aim was to pass on the learning to minimise human error in the rest of the world including financial services and technology. Why would they do that? You can understand that the concept of human error in surgery and in the cockpit can have a serious impact. But other industries?

The fact is that as all industries need to compete at speed, especially with innovations and changes happening all the time. Therefore, we need to be quicker to launch new products and services. The risks that leaders and their teams are taking is increasing, and so are the possible consequences. Combine that with the concept of failing early, failing often and failing forward means that teams are learning how to deal with failure as a good thing. The problem is that we are conditioned to see failure as a thing not to own up to, and therefore errors and failures are being hidden. We need to get our teams to amplify their voice and share their mistakes and their concerns quicker and without fear.

So we head back to the leader taking the ship out of the harbour and heading into rougher waters. If a leader is to test and develop their teams, they need to stretch them and make the learning environment based on testing extremes. The only way to ramp up their ability and resilience is through purposeful practice and developing psychological safety. In the concept of being anti-fragile, Nicolas Taleb talked about the Roman Emperors ingesting little bits of poison to increase their resistance to poisoning. So, leaders need to make their teams anti-fragile by developing their systems, habits and most importantly their resilience under pressure. The best way is to plan to purposefully sail your ship out of the harbour, breaking down the key parts of the systems and the habits that will be essential for success and practicing them. When you see the surgeons performing life-saving surgery, the pilot of the massive airliner landing in gale force winds, and special forces saving the lives of hostages under extreme pressure – it looks almost easy. The fact is that the harder they practice, test themselves under extreme conditions and debrief their practice, the better they get.

I was fascinated meeting a mother of a Top Gun Instructor in a course recently. For those who have not seen the Tom Cruise movie, Top Gun is a place where Naval Aviators are taught dog-fighting skills to hone their flying skills. She recounted stories her son told her. The one that resonated to me the most was that, yes, they do fly to extremes to test and develop their skills. The fact that they do that for an hour at a time and then spend up to ten hours debriefing each hour, tells you that the analysis of their performance and the learning they derive from that, is even more important.

When was the last time you took your ship and team out of the harbour and tested them in rougher waters? How are you developing a resilience and an anti-fragile nature within your team?

The Pi2 model – help your leaders thrive

We know it’s hard to engage and excite your leadership teams during these unusual times. Not only is there the challenge of economic factors, but also the logistical and stylistic change that has been thrust upon us all. Leaders no longer have the in-person touch points such as 121’s and team huddles. They need to be able to inspire their teams from a distance.

Can you honestly say that the transition has been fully effective? Do you feel you have given your leaders all the tools they need to succeed? If the answer is no, let’s walk you through our Pi2 Leadership approach, it is designed to focus on leadership behaviours which enable the team to thrive.

The Pi2 model injects fresh insight and motivation. Leaders’ actions and habits are viewed through the lenses of:
1. THE HOST – the ability to bring people together, engage them to build psychological safety.
2. THE ENERGIZER – through compelling stories and personal energy leading others towards a vision.
3. THE DISRUPTOR – delivering fresh new ideas that have impact through experiments and challenge.
4. THE CATALYST – raising performance and potential through coaching and mentoring.

The Pi2 model gives leaders an LNPS (Leadership Net Promoter Score). Much like the NPS scoring system, one questions is asked, ‘How likely would you recommend this leader to a friend or colleague?’. The scoring uses a 0 to 10 scale where 0 = highly unlikely and 10 = highly likely. It gives leaders a numerical score presented on a -100 to +100 scale.

The programme also gives in-depth analysis and 360’ insight into your leaders’ styles. Purpose, Identity and Presence are the 3 drivers of leaders’ actions. They fuel leaders’ ability to be a Host, an Energizer, a Disruptor and a Catalyst. Your leaders will come away with tangible long-term plans of action. They will be encouraged to embed systems and habits that will keep them on an upwards trajectory. These programmes can be fully tailored and aligned with your organisation’s values and leadership frameworks. We can include topics such as:
1. Psychological safety
2. Leadership narratives
3. Storytelling and strategic conversations
4. Mentoring and coaching

Pi2 is adaptable and scalable. Our Leadership Academies use immersive simulations, blended virtual platforms with measurable results – so you can clearly see the impact.

Let us design you a programme for success. Speak to our team, book a call below.

Unlikely Leaders

The most amazing stories I hear in my journeys as a leadership consultant, are those of people who never thought they would ever be a leader, and now they are. From a Chemical Plant Supervisor who, after participating in an assessment centre we had run, gets promoted overnight to a Head of Site. To the leader who has been thrown into an unexpected role during a crisis. Most of these people will have struggled, as I have, with imposter syndrome. They worry that they either don’t have what it takes to lead others or that they will fail to deliver.

What gets in the way of us seeing ourselves as leaders? I have spent most of my career feeling that I needed a business partner to help me lead my company.  That imposter syndrome gives you the constant negative voice in your head.  A voice of doubt around our capability to lead. But, when we look back in history, the world has been changed by unlikely heroes.

In uncertain times it is incredible who steps forward to lead others. No matter whether they want the role. I feel most inspired when I read about those unlikely leaders who have set out to make a difference to those who are disadvantaged. Those who run boxing gyms or clubs for young people in deprived areas. Recovering drug addicts who now bring their wisdom to lead others out of their dark place.

Unlikely leaders can also be those who selflessly start a campaign or movement that changes the way we think. For example, the #MeToo campaign was started by Tarana Burke telling her story. It was then sent viral by Alyssa Milano attaching the #MeToo. Now the change is happening, and the campaign has led to greater awareness, but they had not set out to be the powerful leaders they are now.

If you are reading this as a person who is a leader and has huge confidence in their ability, you are very lucky. For the rest of us that feel the title of ‘unlikely leader’ fits, we need to find a way to get a grip on our role.

By developing helpful habits, leaders block out the negative voice and learn to thrive. Some leaders thrive by being thrown in the deep end – however, others may need a framework and purpose. Either way, good habits can lead to a better mind set which can help leaders find their strengths. No matter how we come to the title of leader, better systems, habits and behaviours can allow us to excel and make a difference.