Conversations about leadership, learning, coaching and change.

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Change

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 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

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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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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Change:  who’s faking it and who isn’t?

Change: who’s faking it and who isn’t?

by Moyra Mackie on May 14, 2016

Each time I write about leadership or change, I get notes from readers that go something like this:

“I love what you write – it makes sense and it’s backed up by research – but how come I don’t see it put into practice?  Is it the case that managers don’t read any of this stuff?”

Why is change so hard?

Change management is a huge failure. More than 70% of change initiatives are still not delivering, despite the billions spent every year.

As a coach I’ve seen that it is possible to help leaders and teams achieve real change, but why does this happen so rarely?

The answer came in a brilliant post on the subject by Diane Dromgold who, in her no-nonsense Aussie way, got straight to the heart of the matter in her post Culture Change. Seriously? We’re still talking about that?

Change isn’t happening because many leaders don’t really want change

Diane recounts how consultants who tell clients the truth about change management meet resistance.  These consultants present a case based on simple behaviour change,  yet the client rejects this solution for a much more expensive “program with metrics and levers”.

This is how Diane puts it:

“A thought comes to [the consultant], and a moment of clarity. The client doesn’t want change at all. The consultant had answered the wrong question. The question being asked wasn’t how to make change happen but how to get people to love the way things are.

The whole change management conversation could turn on a pin. It’s not that hard. Real change takes modelling from the top and reinforcement of wanted behavior and outcome. It’s not hard, it’s not expensive and change starts immediately. Acceptance of what is requires marketing, and that’s easier and less expensive than one of the full blown change initiatives we see.”

We’re really talking about acceptance management, not change management

I’m guessing Diane’s post was the result of a real-life conversation. Heck, I’ve had so many of those conversations myself, but never been able to pinpoint the fact that all this time I’ve been asking the wrong question.

So now I feel duty bound to help those readers who have faithfully followed my writing.  Let’s address the right question.

Five questions to discover if your company is faking it or not

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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Vulnerability AND strength: The walls we build

Vulnerability AND strength: The walls we build

by Moyra Mackie on March 21, 2016

I’ve been thinking a lot about defensiveness this week. About how and why we build the walls we do and what the impact of this is on ourselves and our relationships at home and at work.

We build walls because they protect us

The town I live in has a castle dating back to the 11th century and spending some time there yesterday it struck me that groups of people have been building metaphorical and actual walls for centuries.

Before I continue, you might be expecting a castle like this:

Vulnerability, the walls we build

When Berkhamsted Castle actually now looks like this:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Berkhamsted_Castle_Jan_2007.jpg

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons. Attribution: Winstainforth at the English language Wikipedia

Its current state belies a muscular history that began when the victorious French king, William the Conqueror, accepted the English surrender after the Battle of Hastings.

We build walls out of a desire to both control and protect

Yesterday, as I stood against the rough flint exterior, I noticed the cold in the shadow of the high stone wall, eclipsing the view of the sky above. These walls, together with the moat and the other earthwork defences were designed to keep people safe at a time of great doubt and insecurity.  And it must have been formidably difficult to attempt to attack this place.

The trouble is your protection can become your prison

Which is what happened in Berkhamsted in 1216 when the castle came under siege for two weeks and eventually the occupants had to surrender.

As I sat on the hill overlooking what is now a rather benign scene I remembered a client – who I will call Daniel – who came to my office for coaching.

Change and insecurity trigger defensiveness 

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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Is real change possible if we can’t forgive?

Is real change possible if we can’t forgive?

by Moyra Mackie on March 7, 2015

Recently a coaching client told me:

“I’m really trying to be more collaborative but I can see it in their eyes; they don’t trust me.  They remember the old me – how can things get better if we can’t get beyond this?”

This is not the first client who has found it hard to change because others still remember the past

Which brings to mind my favourite Tony Robbins quote:

“Everybody’s got a past.  The past does not equal the future unless you live there.”

It strikes me that any kind of change – whether inside you, within teams or even between whole nations – involves the ability to let go of the past.  I think change requires forgiveness.

What I learnt about forgiveness by going home

It was April 1989 and I had been looking out of the airplane window, ever since we crossed the Zambezi River from Zambia into Zimbabwe.  It was autumn and the bush below was losing its summer green, revealing small settlements, the occasional herd of elephant and long, straight gunmetal grey roads breaking up the red earth stretching all the way to the horizon.

As the plane bounced down onto the runway, I realised that I had been away for half my life.

But I felt that I was coming home 

Walking across the tarmac I wondered what lay ahead. I was a white woman with a British passport – I potentially represented colonial white privilege.

Was the past another country?

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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Turning two, something new

Turning two, something new

by Moyra Mackie on February 21, 2015

Two years ago I published my first post as the Coach with the Green Hat.

Well, being an anxious over-achiever I launched with two posts, one about the beginning of my studies at Ashridge and the other about the (non-existent) differences between Leadership and Management. That latter article is still one of the most read posts on this site.

Since then, I have been grateful for the support of three other great writers and friends, Paul Jenkins, Abigail Hunt and John Stepper, who have encouraged me to “keep shipping” and keep putting myself into my writing.

It is always fascinating to see which posts garner the most support and where they get shared.  I’m also humbled that three of the other top five most read posts – on feedback,  listening and presenting  – have found an enthusiastic audience, despite the presence of millions of other articles on the topic floating around the web.

The other post in the top five, is the one I feel the most connected to and that is one I wrote  in September, following a trip back to Zimbabwe, the place my soul still calls home.

This post was inspired by a real-life story of courage, leadership and emotional intelligence when a Zimbabwe guide called Nic Polenakis stood his ground in front of a very agitated elephant.
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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It’s estimated that around 75% of change initiatives fail. A failed or interrupted change program is really just disruption. Disruption is costly –  to the bottom line and to the emotions, energy and engagement of all involved.

Change fails because we start in the wrong place

Most change programs start with a reaction – to the market, to what is happening “out there.” Senior management or HR departments see other companies doing this or that and decide, “that’s where we need to be. Let’s get a plan together, let’s add some targets – some carrots and sticks – and let’s get our leaders to sell this vision.”

Wikipedia summarises the literature more formally:

“Regardless of the many types of organizational change, the critical aspect is a company’s ability to win the buy-in of their organization’s employees on the change. Effectively managing organizational change is a four-step process:
1. Recognizing the changes in the broader business environment
2. Developing the necessary adjustments for their company’s needs
3. Training their employees on the appropriate changes
4. Winning the support of the employees with the persuasiveness of the appropriate adjustments”

Change fails because it’s reactive and focused on selling a vision

Vision is incredibly motivating in getting us to move from where we are to where we really want or need to be. But you need to know EXACTLY WHERE you are starting from.

Imagine finding yourself in a strange city where you can’t speak the language, or read the signs, and you’re hungry. You find a wonderful restaurant on Google maps but GPS can’t locate where you are. Knowing where you want to be, and being highly motivated to get there, is not going to help.

For lasting change you have to start with the present – where you are right now

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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Coaches are not cheerleaders

Coaches are not cheerleaders

by Moyra Mackie on August 9, 2014

Disappointment is never a great emotion to experience.

A week or so ago I signed up to a webinar by a rather famous author and “life coach”.  More about those inverted commas later.

For $39 I was promised that I would find out what might be holding me back in my goal setting and career direction. O,r as she put it, “how to steer my career with purpose and passion”.

Whilst the realist in me knew that sitting listening to a motivational talk was highly unlikely to help me steer anything, the coach in me was curious about her promise that she would coach people on that call.

The chance to experience another coach – especially such a high-profile one – working with someone’s hopes, fears and doubts was tantalizing.

What kind of questions would she ask, how would she use silence and reflection, and what kind of presence would she bring to the encounter?

Most importantly, how would this coach help people to gain new insights to their familiar problems?

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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Coaching encourages courageous conversations

Coaching encourages courageous conversations

by Moyra Mackie on May 10, 2014

What kind of coach do you aspire to be?

What kind of coach are you?

How can you close the gap between the ideal and the reality?

 

So began an exercise on the last day of my second workshop in year 2 of my Masters in Coaching program.

The tutors took advantage of a suddenly sunny break in the weather and suggested we worked in pairs whilst we walked around the grounds at Ashridge.

This is what I felt – and only half articulated – as my answer to those questions.

Companies are human

For me, organisations are not sets of reporting lines or processes or hierarchies, but groups of people who need to talk to each other.

The quality of those conversations will dictate how motivated, innovative, productive and profitable that organisation is.

“Organisations are interpersonal places and so necessarily arouse those more complex emotional constellations that shadow all interpersonal relations: love and hate, envy and gratitude, shame and guilt, contempt and pride…the emotional choreography each of us weaves, consciously or unconsciously” – David Armstrong, Emotions in Organisations

Trust is the key

I believe the secret to efficient organisations lies in reducing FEAR and increasing TRUST;  in improved leadership and open, constructive conversations.
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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