Conversations about leadership, learning, coaching and change.

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change

Do you know someone at work who isn’t performing as well as they could?

With nearly three quarters of people reporting that they are not engaged at work, I have many clients asking what they can do to change this.

“How can I get rid of low performers or poorly engaged staff?”, is a refrain I hear a lot.

Then it’s time for a bit of tough love.  So I say, there are two reasons for that:

  1. Someone hired the wrong person – who is that someone and what are you going to do about their recruiting and interviewing skills?
  2. You hired the right person and something has changed since your hired them.  What are you as a leader going to do about it?

Leaders need to think like gardeners

Gardeners don’t blame the plant when it fails to thrive.  True leaders, like effective gardeners, look at themselves first and then the environment.

As a keen gardener, I’m struck by the thought that if you are a leader, you can do a lot to help those around you withstand the cold winds of shrinking budgets and increasing targets by thinking about it from a gardener’s perspective.

Gardening is about both leading and managing change. Here are three leadership lessons from successful gardeners.


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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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Is real change possible if we can’t forgive?

Is real change possible if we can’t forgive?

by Moyra Mackie on January 18, 2017

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?

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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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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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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

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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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Room for reflection: How coaching leads to real change

Room for reflection: How coaching leads to real change

by Moyra Mackie on January 12, 2014

“In coaching the client learns and grows through reflecting on their own experiences and intuition via thought-provoking and insightful inquiry from the coach in a trusting and supportive environment.” 

~ Coaching Relationships: The Relational Coaching Field Book

In order to be consistently effective, it helps if coaches first go through the same process “reflecting on their own experiences and intuition”

And that is just what I have been doing for the last 12 months;  Year 1 of my MSc in Executive Coaching at Ashridge Business School, a program that aims to “develop your ability to respond to, initiate and enable change through the coaching process.”

In addition to attending a series of two-day experiential workshops, I have also been writing a 12,000 word personal reflection journal, answering a series of questions that require me to apply psychological models to specific coaching cases and to my coaching approach.

It’s not abstract, it’s highly personal

The assessors are not looking for evidence of someone who can understand and recite reams of academic theory and research, they want to see how deeply I can inquire into what makes my clients tick and how self-aware I am about my own patterns of behaviour.

Coaching is all about the relationship

Research shows that the most important factor in determining whether coaching is effective or not, is the quality of the relationship between coach and client.

And if this is the case, then it is vitally important that I understand what baggage I bring to the coaching room – what are my triggers, my drivers, my biases?

Effective coaches are always learning and reflecting

As Mary Beth O’Neill says in Coaching with Backbone and Heart:

“If you do not develop yourself enough to withstand a client’s stress, you default to actions that handle your own discomfort but are not useful to your client.”

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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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The hippo, the salesman and the significance of shoes

The hippo, the salesman and the significance of shoes

by Moyra Mackie on November 8, 2013

This week I’ve been asking myself how bad things have to get before we ask for help.

I’m thinking of all the people who struggle with a relationship without seeking counselling. Or those who wrestle with a problem at work and try and solve it on their own, rather than ask for help from managers or peers, or even a coach. Brené Brown, in her research into relationships, discovered we have a strong social imperative to appear strong and avoid feeling vulnerable.  Yet she believes:

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”

Which reminds me of an extraordinary day I spent back in Zimbabwe

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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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This is my favourite picture of me at work.  I love seeing every single one of those people, smiling, engaged, fully present.

What’s more, it’s taken in the middle of a challenging and competitive activity where everyone present has experienced unexpected loss and disappointment.

What you are looking at is resilience

Here’s what the CIPD has to say on the importance of resilience:

“A consistent theme among the range of definitions of resilience is a sense of adaptation, recovery and bounce back despite adversity or change” 

And what does this mean for organisations?

“The greater the diversity of resilience strategies available to an organisation, the greater its ability to respond to challenges. Having a number of strategies provides a bigger buffer to survive larger crises, or the cumulative effect of frequent crises.”

The picture you see was the result of a request from a global COO who could see that his teams were finding it hard to give up projects they were working on, were always searching for the perfect solution, causing cost overruns and a backlog of work.

He asked me if I could come up with “an interesting presentation” so that his senior team, and their teams would “know that this is harming the business, our balance sheet and our reputation.”

But here’s the thing.

People don’t do things because they don’t know what the “right” thing is

They do the thing that carries the least personal risk. Which is actually the right thing in personal survival terms.

To change requires experience of future pleasure that will off-set the imminent pain of doing things differently

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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 Tolstoy could teach us about change

What Tolstoy could teach us about change

by Moyra Mackie on October 4, 2013

How many times have you tried to change something in your work or personal life, only to find yourself drifting back to your old habits?

Even when we know that the change we want to see makes logical, rational sense – giving up smoking, exercising more, balancing work and life – we often fail to make the change.

Why do we act against our own best interests?

Well the answer came when I was handing out these postcards this week.

Change Ninja, making change happen

The Tolstoy quote has resonated with most people, but one conversation in particular stands out.  On seeing the quote one of my clients said:

“small changes…that’s so true.  Except that I usually make big changes.”

“And how does that work out?” I asked.

“Well sometimes it works, many times it doesn’t and sometimes it’s chaos.”

Which is an answer Tolstoy, a master of observing the small details of peoples’ actions and attitudes, could have predicted.

So how can we make change stick?

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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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If Yoda can take a vacation, so can you. So can I.

If Yoda can take a vacation, so can you. So can I.

by Moyra Mackie on August 3, 2013

“Switching off.  Getting away from it all. Having a holiday. Taking a vacation.”

However you phrase it, it’s that time of year again.

Daily there are articles about Americans not taking all their vacation time, and just as many asserting what the dangers of not letting go of the office might mean.

As a small company owner, I’ve found myself justifying my constant connections with work, wherever I am in the world, as necessary to the survival of my business.

I’ve developed a habit that comforts me that I’m indispensable

Until my indispensability was challenged by infrastructure.  Or rather the lack of it.
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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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Coaching and consulting:  Corporate “C” words?

Coaching and consulting: Corporate “C” words?

by Moyra Mackie on July 8, 2013

Have you or your company ever used management consultants?

Every year in the US alone, more than $396bn is spent  on management and IT consulting, so the chances are there is a consultant somewhere near you, right now.

Spending on consultants is now back to pre-credit crunch levels, yet the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business is only one of many to point out that:

“disenchantment with the value delivered by consultants has grown.”

So companies are spending a fortune on consultants with unclear ROI

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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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