Conversations about leadership, learning, coaching and change.

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Reflections on Working Out Loud:  Getting started

Reflections on Working Out Loud:  Getting started

by Moyra Mackie on June 11, 2016

“It’s as if we’re teenage boys who want to ask a girl for a dance.  There are no guarantees she’ll say “yes” but we won’t know unless we try…”

So began our check in on Week Two in my Working Out Loud Circle.

It seems that we might not have been teens at the school disco this past couple of weeks, but we’ve certainly been dancing with our inner critic to the tunes of vulnerability and risk.

For those of you who are not familiar with the concept, a Working Out Loud Circle is a guided, structured process developed by John Stepper. It’s a peer support group of four or five people which meets for an hour a week for 12 weeks to address these questions:

  • What am I trying to do?
  • Who is related to my goal?
  • How can I contribute to them to deepen our relationships?

Simon Terry explains more in his WOL Week posts:

“Working out loud should be directed to some end.  Working out loud cannot be a random broadcast of activity. We share our work visibly and narrate our work so that others can benefit, whether through a greater understanding of our work, through opportunities to collaborate or have input or through learning about the process we take when we work.

Working out loud challenges us to think of the role these networks play in our work and the role that we play in our networks….[it] does not demand that we engage the whole world all day. Working Out Loud asks that we share with those in our networks for whom our work matters in a meaningful way.”

The power of structured purposeful discovery

I felt that three people I trusted and respected in my network – Lisa, Joy and Abigail – would all enjoy the process of being connected together and that we could all do with a structured way of thinking about our networks, our role in them and what we had to contribute.  So last month I asked them to create a circle with me.

Let’s meet the dancers (in Berlin, London and Kuala Lumpur)

First there’s me.  It’s not as if I haven’t been making my work visible or practising generosity.  I’ve been writing blog posts on leadership and coaching for two and a half years and sharing my thoughts and those of others across LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.  Although I felt awkward and self-conscious at first, I soon grew to enjoy the acts of Liking, Sharing and Commenting.  And connecting other people.  I love connecting other people.

There’s Lisa and Abigail, with long successful track records in HR in banking and law respectively. Both took the big step to leave the safety of corporate life for the riskier path of being independent change agents.  They’re looking for new ways to use their energy and experience to change the way organisations think about change, business development, innovation and leadership development.

Then there’s Joy who like Lisa, Abigail and me believes in making organisations meaningful, humane places. He works at the Global University of Islamic Finance, which wants to make its own particular dent in the universe.  He has a way with words and ideas and is looking for other ways to share what he is passionate about.

We all believed in this stuff; it was going to be fun!

This is what I have learnt so far: 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 is coaching?

What is coaching?

by Moyra Mackie on June 4, 2016

Coaching can be a powerful catalyst for personal and professional growth.  The challenge is that there are so many people calling themselves coaches, and probably as many definitions of coaching as there are coaches.

What is the purpose of coaching?

Coaching encourages deep thinking and strengthens self-awareness and insight.  It’s a form of courageous, high quality conversation.

So what is coaching?

As an Executive Coach, who has worked with individuals and teams for over eighteen years, here is my definition. 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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That’s what vulnerability feels like according to Brené Brown.  She also says:

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to the feeling of worthiness….The intention and outcome of vulnerability is trust, intimacy and connection.”

The problem is we all have our naked in public memories

This is mine:

When I was at junior school I loved to spend school break times on the climbing frames in the playground.  I grew up in Zimbabwe and my memories are that climbing trees and building forts were equal opportunities activities – we weren’t locked in a pink ghetto back then.

However, being a girl did present some challenges.  This was the seventies and school uniform was a very short blue and white checked dress.  The answer was that we all also wore school issue matching “knickers” to preserve our dignity, if not our sense of style.  This allowed me to indulge my eight year old passion for hanging upside down or swinging round and round on high parallel bars.

Except one day, as I flung my legs over the bar and let myself fall upside down, I realised something felt different. 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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It should come as a surprise to nobody that work can stress us out. Stress isn’t always bad; stress can motivate us, and help us prepare for the unexpected.

However, chronic stress can have a dire impact on our personal well-being — which can in turn impact the performance of our business or organization. This is what we call organizational stress, and it should come with a toll big enough to grab the attention of employees and managers alike.

The high costs of high stress

When we’re stressed out, it can tax our bodies and minds to surprising lengths. Organizational stress has been demonstrated to increase costs through higher health benefit payouts, more absenteeism, higher turnover, and increased workers’ compensation claims.

Researchers estimate that the combined cost of employee stress in the United States rounds out to around $300 billion per year. Regardless of your workplace’s management style, this fact alone should make stress management a priority for everyone involved in your organization — and this begins with effective management.

Management strategies to reduce organizational stress

Managers have the power to reduce stress in a number of ways, and it all starts with open lines of communication. (And this means much more than a passive ‘open door policy’.) Leaders need to regularly reach out with employees to share ideas, concerns, and constructive feedback.

They should not only measure and facilitate performance, but also resolve obstacles and other everyday stressors that might impede an employee’s workday. Employers can also reduce stress by offering greater flexibility, ample rewards, and motivational strategies.

The infographic below, produced for the Online MBA Program at Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management, illustrates the impact that organizational stress can have on businesses, and what we can do about it to make employees happier and more productive at work.
read more…

Tim Wayne

Tim Wayne

Tim Wayne is a digital content marketer and contributor to several healthcare blogs. He is interested in healthcare, education, and small business management. Since graduating from USC with a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature, Tim has worked with websites across a wide range of industries in writing website copy and promoting content online.

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How do we get to trust?

How do we get to trust?

by Moyra Mackie on April 23, 2016

“I don’t trust you”, she said.

A colleague and I were working with a group to understand more about their responses to an employee engagement survey.  We’d been hired by the management team because we had coached them and they, well yes, trusted us.

So how would you respond?

When it comes to trust words don’t work

I could recite the code of ethics I sign up to as an Accredited Coach.  Or I could point out that we wouldn’t last very long in this business if we couldn’t keep what we were told confidential.

I begin with the truth.

“Thank you.  That must have taken  a bit of courage to say that to us and in front of the group”

Don’t get me wrong, as she had said those words, I feel a sharp pain in my stomach, as if she’s physically punched me.  I’m aware my chest is tight and my palms are sweaty.

This person, who I will call Verity, had struck at the heart of who I believed myself to be.  As a coach, building and maintaining trust are essential for my work.

Yet feedback is always a gift.

What gets left unsaid is more toxic than what is brought into the open. Raising tough issues, especially about negative feelings, takes courage.

As I say those words of thanks I can feel my stress reducing.  I now process the thought that something about how we are as coaches and how the group is, has allowed Verity to take a risk and speak out.

Trust requires personal risk

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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Leaders : Being controlling won’t stop you crashing

Leaders : Being controlling won’t stop you crashing

by Moyra Mackie on April 17, 2016

It’s a bitterly cold day and it finally begins to snow.  I’m due to take my four-year-old son to an assessment afternoon at what I hope will be his new school, which is ten miles away and in the middle of the countryside. I phone to see if the event is still on and an officious sounding school secretary declares it’s not snowing over there.

As far as the school is concerned it’s this day or no day

I strap my son into his car seat.  Once off the main road and onto the twisting country lanes, snow covers the road and is getting thicker all the time.  I try to balance the anxiety of getting there on time with the need to crawl along in second gear.  I try to keep my mood calm and light for the sake of the little blonde boy in the back seat, whose trusting face I can see in the rear view mirror.

At every twist in the road the car wheels lose grip and it takes successively longer to regain control.  Then there’s a corner where the road dips away sharply and I have no choice but to brake.  That’s when the car starts sliding.

It’s true what they say about scary events happening in slow motion, as I’ve got plenty of time to register the steep bank on one side of the road and a row of trees on the other.

When we’re fearful and in a hostile environment our instinct is to control

Somehow I resist the urge to brake.  Instead I let the engine stall and the car continues to glide, turning around and coming to a halt facing the way we had come. We’ve avoided hitting anything and I eventually get us to the school by over-riding any instinct to brake.

I was learning and adapting quickly.

Many times survival is about controlling our response to, rather than seeking to control, the environment

Neuroscience shows us that fear makes us irrational; our amygdala takes charge and short-circuits our capacity to reason and think clearly.

fearful controlling leadersControlling our fear, shortening the amount of time our amygdala is in charge, is the only way we can respond effectively to the environment.

Companies are acting as if they never got the fear memo 

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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Senior executives have never been so well rewarded.  In the UK it now takes the average CEO only three days to “earn” what the average employee takes home in a year.  On top of this, lottery-sized exit packages and gold-plated pensions give those at the top unprecedented material security.

And yet… Not everything feels secure

According to The Economist, the average life expectancy of public companies shrank from 65 years in the 1920s, to less than ten in the 1990s. Public scrutiny is increasing and innovation is a source of both creativity and disruption. Whilst a golden parachute might break the fall, life in the C-suite is becoming ever more precarious. In just ten years the average CEO tenure has fallen from 8.1 to 6.3 years and is getting shorter all the time.

In an uncertain climate, good leadership matters more than ever

McKinsey has published numerous papers linking organisational health with profitability, innovation and shareholder return.  So every year the spend on leadership and management development training and change and culture consultancy increases.

And yet…  Lack of good leadership is costly

Dissatisfaction with the results of all this training and development is on the rise.  Employee engagement numbers remain stubbornly low and, depending on the survey you read, between 50 and 60% of staff would fire their managers if they could. According to Deloitte Shift Index American companies are 75% LESS productive than in 1965.

What should leadership achieve?

Erik de Haan in his book The Leadership Shadow summarises decades of research:

“Leadership is the function devoted to harnessing the organisation’s effectiveness”

This speaks to the fact that everyone in an organisation has a leadership role in order to harness that effectiveness.

However, many studies point to the crucial role of senior management teams:

“The prize for building effective top teams is clear: they develop better strategies, perform more consistently, and increase the confidence of stakeholders.  They get positive results and make the work itself  a more positive experience both for the team’s members and for the people they lead”   – McKinsey,  “Teamwork at the Top”

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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Leadership and lying down to photograph elephants

Leadership and lying down to photograph elephants

by Moyra Mackie on April 1, 2016

It’s a beautiful spring day in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.  We’ve just got back from our early morning safari drive. We began in the barely-light crisp cold, swaddled in fleece and thick woollen blankets.  We return under clear blue skies, our faces upturned to the emerging heat of the sun, our hearts full of the raw beauty of the landscape and animals we’ve encountered.

With the smell of lunch in the air and the sound of the crickets starting up in the bush we spot a dozen or more elephants making their way in a graceful line to the waterhole, fifty or so metres away.  The professional photographers in the group, grab lenses and tripods to capture the playful babies and the protective mothers gathering at the water’s edge.

I’ve come armed with only a smartphone, which I’m realising is not at all equipped for long distances.

There are many ways of seeing the same thing

So I lie on the wooden decking, near the fire pit.  I tune out the other guests who are amused by my photographic technique.

As I am in Africa to research my leadership retreat, Campfire Conversations, capturing the fire and the seats around it is also important to me. It’s not a perfect image – I miss the fact that a tree branch cuts through the herd and the camera can’t pick out the individuality of each elephant.

Yet we have a choice as to how we see things

From where I’m lying I can get a sense of perspective about how close the animals are to us; I can show the relationship between them and us.

I would never have become aware of this – never thrown myself down on the floor – if it had not been for my friend, and professional photographer, Rebecca Fennell.  Before leaving for Zimbabwe, Bex had given me a crash course in how to get great pictures with a smartphone.  One of the biggest lessons she passed on to me was:

“Most people just point their camera at the subject, they don’t think about how they should best relate to what they’re photographing.  Get down level with your subject.  Think about angles and light and what you want to show with that image.”

She showed me how different the bottles and glasses on the table in front of us looked, if taken from a more thoughtful height, paying attention to where the natural light was.

Photography is the art of paying attention

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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