Conversations about leadership, learning, coaching and change.

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Team work isn’t optional.  Management theorists tend to over-complicate things by differentiating between groups and teams, but I like to keep it simple.

I frequently work with leaders and teams who ask me a version of this question:

“What if we’re not a great team and we don’t all really trust each other?”

Which is a necessarily honest and courageous start.

In my work I encourage my clients to consciously re-think what we mean by “teams”; to go beyond the idea that a team is only the group of people who report to one manager or one project lead.

We all belong to multiple teams

If you need other people to contribute to your output at work, then you’re part of their team.  Their contribution might be time, advice, encouragement or materials and the contribution may be big or small, consistent or intermittent.

Team work is about co-operation and contribution

Great teams work well when the individuals have the mind set:

“What can I contribute?”

Not:

“What can I get out of this?”  or “How can I get other people to do what I want them to do?”

Don’t obsess about trust

Of course, trust is a fundamental aspect of a high-performing team, but the reality is that we all have experience of belonging to teams where trust might not be optimal.

Virtual teams, matrix organisations and a tendency to promote managers without formal training; mean that politics, turf wars and competing agendas are bound to get in the way of team work.

Teams don’t have to be perfect

I think that we have a tendency to romanticise the ideal team, when “good enough” is sometimes a lot better than average.

Instead of waiting for some magical time when trust will emerge or crossing your fingers that you’ll get some budget to hire an outside coach to help you strengthen those bonds, you could just do five things.

The  real world guide to “good enough” teams

Five things any team can (and should) focus on to get great results 

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Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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What’s the greatest gift you could give?

What’s the greatest gift you could give?

by Moyra Mackie on September 19, 2016

The other day my twenty-year old son baked a cake for the 18th birthday of his girlfriend’s sister.    This was the first cake he’d made since he was little and we used to bake together – him standing on a chair, with a grown up’s apron folded over to fit him.

Suddenly, like it was yesterday, I see him learning to break eggs that are as big as his toddler hands. I can hear him laughing as he turns the electric whisk to High on purpose just to see the resulting cloud of flour and sugar.

Moments together AND the subsequent memories are great gifts

Along with kicking endless footballs and counting and categorising dinosaur and train collections, I took up baking as a way of spending quality time with my son. But as he grew out of needing a chair to stand on, he outgrew the desire to spend time doing this and I lost the chance to spend that time, just him and me.

Sometimes we mistake a gift for a burden

Whilst I can see those moments as clear and precious gifts now, I didn’t always appreciate them.  I turned down moments because I was too busy, too tired and – yes sometimes –  just a little bit bored.

Great gifts last for a long time

I was surprised that after more than a decade my son was choosing to go back to baking.  It wasn’t an easy choice as he had to borrow everything he needed.

Instead of Google, he rather touchingly turned to me for a recipe and advice; phoning me half way through beating the cake mixture to check what it should look like.  He was using a wooden spoon, so it was demanding patience and elbow grease.

What impressed me most was that this was not necessary

He could have easily bought a cake or some other gift.  But he chose to give his time and his effort.  In the process he pushed himself to try something outside his comfort zone.

What gift could you give?

read more…

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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Since 1830 farmers have been trying to protect their sheep from parasites by dipping their whole flock in troughs of fungicide and insecticide.  At the time it was innovative, quick, compulsory and cost-effective.  Over time, however, it’s become clear that this well-intentioned process has not eradicated the targeted diseases and has proved toxic to many of the people working with it (not to mention the costs to the environment).

Are modern companies stuck in 1830?

I see the connections between real sheep dipping and the metaphorical sheep dip approach so many companies take to training and organisational change.  Every year organisations spend billions on top-down culture change initiatives and on large scale training programs.  Over half of them fail to achieve their aims. 

There’s money in sheep dip

You just have to see the offices of the world’s most “successful” consultancies.  The sheep dip approach  appeals to the command and control impulses that linger in many boardrooms.  These programs show the outside world that “something is being done,” whilst being a lot less scary than addressing how leaders are leading through one to one executive coaching.

The sad truth is many organisations – and by that I really mean the people in charge – don’t really want to change.  I have a check list here for you to see if you are inadvertently working for an organisation like this.

Many companies have dumped the dip approach for something better

Fortunately, there are courageous, far-sighted companies out there who know that dipping is not the answer.   read more…

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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What advice would you give your best friend?

What advice would you give your best friend?

by Moyra Mackie on August 21, 2016

Most have us have known that feeling when we’ve got a lot on our plates; challenging targets, multiple demands (often a combination of work and home) and tight deadlines.

Yet sometimes this just helps us focus; makes us resourceful, creative, efficient. We’re resilient in the face of pressure.

Sometimes it does the opposite. We feel stuck; as if we’re going to fail at something (possibly lots of things). The pressure overwhelms us.

The impact of Control, Choices and Competence – or lack of it

I held an interactive webinar for the Time to Think group on Facebook to find out what caused them stress and how they dealt with it. Reflecting on the experiences and wisdom, I asked myself what they all had in common.

This is when those three Cs seemed significant.  Pressure is a form of stimulation, which we can use to help us, just as long as we think we have at least one (preferably two) of those elements.

I think that unconsciously we ask ourselves:

  • Do I feel as if I’m control?
  • Do I think I have choices?
  • Do I believe I have the skills to complete the multiple demands being thrown at me?

Notice the role of our emotions, thoughts and beliefs

read more…

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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Go barefoot:  8 Tips for more mindful living

Go barefoot:  8 Tips for more mindful living

by Moyra Mackie on August 14, 2016

I always worry when HR departments seize on a fashionable idea as the panacea that may not cure all ills but will certainly tick this year’s boxes.

Andy Puddicombe, the co-founder of a terrific mindfulness app called Headspace, wrote a great article on LinkedIn criticising the vogue for “Mindfulness at Work,” given that this slightly misses the point of mindfulness.  As Andy says:

“Mindfulness simply means to be present, undistracted, no matter where we are or what we are doing at the time.”

Or like being barefoot, instead of wearing our comfiest footwear

Going barefoot – especially outside – brings instant awareness of our relationship to our surroundings.  It uses more muscles and strengthens our ankles but it also makes us think just a little bit more about where we are treading.

Mindfulness is a practice that you never perfect

There are many ways to become more mindful; more focused, attentive and present.  One of the best ways to build this ability in an increasingly distracting world is through meditation.  There is a ton of evidence emerging to show the wide-range of physical and emotional benefits of regular mindfulness-meditation.

It’s not a quick fix

Indeed it’s not a fix at all, because we can never say we’ve mastered mindfulness.

If you want to know how to get started with mindfulness-meditation, this is a great little video.  Instead of repeating those tips, I’d like to focus on eight simple things that I think really help to introduce more mindful moments into our everyday lives.

Although there is science to back many of them up, I’ve chosen them because they work for me.

#1 Stop those TV dinners

read more…

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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How much are you worth?

How much are you worth?

by Moyra Mackie on August 6, 2016

If I asked you the question “How much are you worth?”  what would you take into consideration?

Would you think about how much you earn or how much you own?  Would you think about what’s in the bank, or how much you owe the bank?

Or would you dwell on what other people might think you’re worth?

How long did it take you before you valued yourself?

Not just in this exercise above, but in your life?

The trouble with external valuations – like everything in a market – is the value can rise or fall without really having anything to do with you.

We’ve been judged and labelled all our lives 

Sporty, smart, arty, eccentric, funny, beautiful, introvert, extrovert, people person, shy, bossy, go-getting.  These (e)valuations are set by other people, or agreed by us in some kind of unconscious negotiation with other people.

 http://www.coachwiththegreenhat.com/growth-mindset-how-much-you-worth/After a while we may even take on that label; wear it like a suit of armour.  You might begin sentences with:

“you see, I’m an X kind of person.”

We limit our worth by overlooking our value

Being an “X kind of person” makes sure that we limit ourselves before someone else does.  It’s a bulwark against rejection.

It’s why I think psychometric tests are such comfort blankets for corporations; they’re grown-up labels where it’s ok to put people in boxes.  The focus is on a fixed point. Nowhere are we considering our value; what we’re offering or what we have in common.

Most of the coaching conversations I’ve ever had – whether I have been the coach or the one being coached – has begun at the point of being frustrated or comforted with a label.

The biggest value of coaching or therapy is that it allows us the space to examine our own assumptions and unpick the tapestry of labels and self-limiting beliefs we’ve stitched together over time.

How to set your own value

Setting our value, establishing our own sense of worth, is not an easy task.  Especially when we’ve got used to other people doing it for us.

We could all value these things more:

read more…

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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The promotion precipice

The promotion precipice

by Moyra Mackie on July 17, 2016

In simple terms, we can usually divide our careers into two parts.  Before we managed people and after.

The first part of our career is usually spent building and honing our skills.  We may start off as generalists, but gradually as we get recognised and rewarded for what we do well, we focus on our strengths.  Perhaps without realising it, we become an “expert” in a particular area.

After a time, if we do this well enough we usually get given people to manage.

Promotion and progress are linked to managing others

Without knowing it, we’ve arrived at the Promotion Precipice.  It’s a place of great opportunity, but also one of great unknown and potential risk.

Why?

Because in the eighteen years I’ve been coaching leaders and their teams, I’ve met only a handful of people who received any form of training BEFORE they were given people to manage.

Yet everything has fundamentally changed

http://www.coachwiththegreenhat.com/emotionally-intelligent-management/From now on a manager cannot just focus on developing skills related to their task – the WHAT.  Now they have to focus on the HOW, on building the skills of others.

Of course our Before Management career has involved people skills, but it’s different.  Let’s take the example of an orchestra.

Before management you played the trumpet.  You needed to be good at playing the trumpet, but also mindful of how you kept time and tune with the rest of the brass section.  You also had to pay attention to what the rest of the orchestra were doing.

You keep your place by being a good solo contributor and by fitting in with the rest of the team.

Management requires you put the trumpet down and move to conducting the orchestra.

Once you’re a manager you’re responsible for co-ordinating multiple relationships – down, across and up the organisation.  In fact, getting things done requires that you increasingly look up; that you develop a bigger picture view.

Without training or coaching new management can feel precarious

read more…

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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Beware the victim…and the rescuing hero

Beware the victim…and the rescuing hero

by Moyra Mackie on July 10, 2016

What happens when you experience conflict at home or at work?

If you’re directly involved, do you feel helpless and put upon; pretty certain that there’s nothing you can do?  Or do you feel angry; blaming the other side for everything that has happened?

Perhaps you’re slightly outside the direct conflict – a concerned friend, family member or manager.  Do you jump at the chance to help solve the problem?  This might mean taking sides or taking responsibility for coming up with a solution that seems right to you.

If any of these sound familiar, welcome to the Drama Triangle

Conflict is something that very few of us feel comfortable with.  Our emotions – whether we acknowledge them or not – are heightened. Dr Stephen Karpman,  a psychologist as well as an amateur actor, observed in his research that people in emotionally charged situations often feel they have only three positions open to them.

Karpman called the framework that emerged from his research the Drama Triangle, when it might well also be called the Conflict Triangle.

We choose an approach that feels instinctive but is learnt

Karpman’s research showed that when we feel under pressure we step into the triangle, rather as an actor steps onto the stage.  We play a role.

We may be entirely unaware it’s a role that we are choosing, because it’s a role that we feel strongly attached to.  It’s hard to recognised the choice we have because we’ve likely been responding to challenging situations in similar ways since we were very young.

The Victim

Victims believe they are not in charge of the speed or direction of their own choices.  They feel oppressed, helpless, hopeless, powerless and ashamed.  They seem unable to make decisions, solve problems or achieve insight. They are stuck.

Significantly, if Victims are not being persecuted, they will seek out a Persecutor and a  Rescuer who can save the day. This serves to preserve the Victims’ negative feelings and give them some kind of unconscious reward for staying stuck. read more…

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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What children can teach us about change

What children can teach us about change

by Moyra Mackie on July 3, 2016

Yesterday was a big day for our family.  My twenty-year old son moved into a flat.  With his girlfriend.

He’s studying Economics and Finance at university and his third year is a placement in industry.  Tomorrow he starts work in the Finance department of an international car manufacturer, whilst his girlfriend looks for work in a new town, knowing no-one.  They’ve yet to get a broadband connection or work out which utility companies they want to use or even where they will shop for groceries.

That’s a lot of change

Yet, as we spent the day unloading boxes I noticed how easily all of this seemed to sit with them.  This is when I was reminded of the work of Dr William Bridges who makes a key distinction between change and transition:

Change vs Transition

These two twenty year olds had already made that psychological transition, before they’d even packed a box, let alone unpacked it.

Our youth is full of involuntary change

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Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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From the outside it looks as if the majority of organisations are in a mess.

Surveys tell us that only a third of workers bring their A-game to the office.   More and more time is spent at work, or working via the umbilical cord of our smartphones, yet productivity is stuck in the pre-digital era.

Stressed and overwhelmed

To make things worse,  more people at all levels in organisations are reporting excessive levels of stress.  Both  employee and company suffers; when we are under stress our brain prioritises survival, and reduces our capacity to think clearly or creatively and to make rational decisions.

Grand initiatives haven’t made a dent in the discontent and disengagement

Everyone seems aware of the problem and a whole industry has sprung up, with million dollar consultancies and business schools clamouring to fix the problem.

However it isn’t working.  Three quarters of those expensive change initiatives fail and it doesn’t seem managers with MBAs can transform the way their teams feel about work either.

So where’s the real problem?

When we at Mackie Consulting listen to people in organisations through our Clarity Survey, and through our coaching work with teams and individuals, people tell us that they are not having the conversations they should be having. What we hear supports the Ken Blanchard Leadership company’s research that shows the extent to which conversations are avoided:

  • 81% say their boss doesn’t listen to them
  • 82% say their leaders don’t provide appropriate feedback
  • 28% say they rarely or never discuss their future goals with their boss
  • only 34% meet with their boss once per week

While people talk a lot, they have lost the habit of having meaningful, quality conversations 

In all too many organisations, meetings are long and formulaic. People come to meetings either to transmit information or receive it. Dialogue seems to have been substituted by the “let-s-read-this-presentation-together” practice.

Meaningful conversations are frequently avoided, and the more challenging conversations are saved up for those zinging e-mails or vented to the wrong person at the coffee shop or water cooler.

Is it time to get back to being human?

read more…

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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