360 degree feedback, organizational trust, change & sustainability
Social Leadership takes off
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Saturday, 29 November 2008
I hadn't really much idea of what to expect when I attended the launch of Social Leadership at a conference at UNSW in Sydney. The day was truly remarkable. The presenters first threw overboard all the tried, touted and failed definitions of Leadership as the strong man (usually) promising the rest of us that he has the Vision of where we should be headed, and he will be sure to lead us there.

They then redefined Leadership as the rediscovery of who you (the Leader) actually are as a human being, and where we (the Followers) actually want to go, and your support in getting us there. The active process they termed Adaptive Leadership (not 'innate'), which also takes account of the patience with which you may have to modify the culture as you take it forward. I am not so sure about the language - I prefer the name we have always used in our work: Facilitative Leadership (based on the work of Thomas Gordon) - but never mind, the approach is similar and it is a delight to see these ideas professionally promoted, with corporate support, and with a legion of alumni from the Social Leadership program, well trained in courses over the last ten years.

By the way, this is an extension of the Sydney Leadership program, which is now on the national scene and already with international reach. One of the speakers (or facilitators) was Dean Williams of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government (not the Business School!), a riveting speaker. And he's an Australian. The other was Amanda Sinclair of Melbourne Business School - she held the stage brilliantly and actually brought yoga into the day!

All of the this is the product of The Benevolent Society (BenSoc), 195 years old , aiming to help the disadvantaged since its inception. The success of its methods is becoming interesting to the Corporate Sector, some elements of which are beginning to realise that the lavishly overpaid CEO is no guarantee of any kind of future. Similarly, they have seen that Tom Peter's In Search of Excellence companies fell badly within 15 years. BenSoc is offering a solution, honed for the Not For Profit sector but perhaps eventually having much more widespread application. Their approach, in seeking first to know the future that people want, has much in common with Roger Kaufman's MegaPlanning. By the way, Kaufman and associates have a new blog at:
I should add that this caters to the experienced MegaPlanner and is much too detailed for anyone else. For the latter, look at his main site, which is newly built and separate from the blog:

If you go to the BenSoc website you will notice that they also use a Strengths Based approach, as in how they help children and families (this links to Appreciative Inquiry - AI).

To sum up, MegaPlanning remains the overarching structure within which just about everything else fits. Social Leadership most certainly does and offers us a very powerful process for reaching Mega Level objectives.

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posted by Dr Ron @ 20:58   0 comments
Murdoch says techo or die
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Friday, 14 November 2008
You may or may not agree with Rupert Murdoch's view of the Luddites, but sympathy for them shouldn't stop us from aiming to be the masters of technology rather than the slaves - because that's the choice we have.

Murdoch argues that the person to take us into the future must be flexible and resilient in the face of change. It's a position we have advocated for a long time. As soon as we stop coping with change, we drift off into a backwater - which may be OK in its own way, if it's your choice.

We have always argued that it's healthy to face life as it comes, learn what you need as you go, and ride the wave, directing it where you can. Not to get so comfortable that you can't bear anything to change!

Murdoch argues that we must educate our children if they are to succeed in the coming world, and that the absolute minimum acceptable should be the 3 'R's. We don't buy that! Conventional learning theory states that children will perform on a 'bell curve', some out to the right, the 'top students', some to the left, the 'low-achieving students', and most in the middle, doing OK. This is a nonsense. Of course, any school and most teachers can assure you that it is their experience, so it must be true.
What the bell curve actually measures is: the 'top teaching methodology for some students', the 'low-achieving teaching methodology for some students' and the average methodology for most students (in the middle).
What I state here comes from Accelerated Learning, as espoused by Colin Rose in the UK and Howard Gardner at Harvard, and many others, including Tony Buzan and Edward De Bono and, of course, Leaderskill Group. The teaching of children should actually aim to achieve a 'step function' - it looks like a step, not a bell - where all children succeed (and succeed very well) and none are left behind, because every child is addressed in the way that catches their individual passion for learning - a natural part of everyone's make-up, often obliterated by conventional schooling.
As to the 3 'Rs', they are taken in the child's stride because they are necessary to the pursuit of learning, and easy enough to pick up once the child has the motivation and the context for learning them. The 3 'Rs' are just a small step in the path to lifelong learning and achievement.

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posted by Dr Ron @ 20:33   0 comments
Australia tramples with the best (or worst)
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Saturday, 8 November 2008
What do you think of this:

"As global financial markets learn difficult lessons on the consequences of unregulated spending, a new report issued by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) warns of the danger to future prosperity if the reckless over-consumption of the Earth's natural capital is left unchecked. WWF's Living Planet Report 2008, produced with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Global Footprint Network (GFN), shows more than three quarters of the world's people now living in nations that are ecological debtors, where national consumption has outstripped their country's biological capacity. Presently, human demands on the world's natural capital measure nearly a third more than earth can sustain. In addition, global natural wealth and diversity continue to decline, and more and more countries are slipping into a state of permanent or seasonal water stress."

Yes, it's from the Wall Street Journal. The article continues:

"The findings of the Living Planet Report 2008 reinforce WWF-US's "Greenprint" agenda, a policy road map for the next U.S. administration, which was provided in mid-October to Senators McCain and Obama. Commenting on the "Greenprint" at its release, Carter Roberts, president and CEO of WWF-US noted "Global consumption of natural resources far exceeds the Earth's regenerative capacity. We are borrowing from our natural capital at an entirely unsustainable rate... To raise the stakes even further, there can be no bailout if the Earth's systems collapse." "The world is currently struggling with the consequences of over-valuing its financial assets, but a more fundamental crisis looms ahead -- an ecological credit crunch caused by under-valuing the environmental assets that are the basis of all life and prosperity..." said WWF International Director-General James Leape, in the foreword to the new report.

"...The United Arab Emirates, the United States, and Kuwait have the largest national ecological footprints per person. On the other end of the scale are countries such as Haiti and the Congo, with a low ecological footprint per person, but facing a future of degrading biocapacity from deforestation and increased demands from a rising population and export pressures.

"The Living Planet Report, published by WWF every two years since 1998, has become widely accepted as an accurate analysis of the earth's ability to remain a "living planet". In 2008, it adds for the first time, new measures of global, national and individual water footprints to existing measures of the Ecological Footprint of human demand on natural resources and the Living Planet Index, a measure of the state of nature. The Living Planet Index, compiled by ZSL, shows a nearly 30 per cent decline since 1970 in... 1,686 species. These dramatic losses in our natural wealth are being driven by deforestation and land conversion in the tropics and the impact of dams, diversions and climate change on freshwater species. Pollution, over-fishing and destructive fishing in marine and coastal environments are also taking a considerable toll.

"The Living Planet Report 2008 includes a new water footprint measurement which illustrates the significance of water traded in the form of commodities; for example, the production of a cotton T-shirt requires 765 gallons of water. On average, each person consumes 327,177 gallons (about half an Olympic swimming pool) of water a year, but this varies from 654,354 gallons per person a year (USA) to 163,325 gallons per capita annually (Yemen). Approximately 50 countries are currently facing moderate or severe water stress and the number of people suffering from year-round or seasonal water shortages is expected to increase as a result of climate change, the report finds. For the single most important challenge -- climate change -- the report shows that a range of efficiency, renewable and low emissions "wedges" could meet projected energy demands to 2050 with reductions in carbon emissions of 60 to 80 percent. Bringing an ecosystems approach into consumption, development and trade considerations would go a long way to protecting the world's vital living resources. "These Living Planet measures serve as clear and robust signposts to what needs to be done," said WWF-International's Leape. "If humanity has the will, it has the way to live within the means of the planet, but we must recognize that the ecological credit crunch will require even bolder action than that now being mustered for the financial crisis."

As to Australia, our Footprint only gets worse, we've moved up into sixth place!

Note that Ecological Footprint is one of the many measures used in Leaderskill Group's Start-up Mega Planning to help organisations discover how sustainability can become the driver for greater success.

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posted by Dr Ron @ 22:42   0 comments
Murdoch tells Australia where it's at
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Monday, 3 November 2008
On Sunday, 2 November, Rupert Murdoch told Australia its place in the world. This could be the straightest shooting we've ever had in this country and I would urge everyone, whether Right or Left, to listen to ABC radio or get a recording from ABC television and watch this. I say this based on a sample of one - the first of the six annual Boyer lectures.

One of the most critical issues he took up was the fact that while we need a highly educated population to compete in the coming world, we exclude so many children from the opportunity of a great education. This is because we simply don't address the needs of a big section of our child population. He didn't say in detail what he meant but it has been obvious to many of us for a long time that the learning styles of children are the key to involving them in education. And a large section of our population has a kinesthetic learning style. In other words, you connect with them through activity, actions, games, movement - things that the desk-bound child is deprived of.

The theory of 'learning styles education' has been developed over many years as Accelerated Learning - by Colin Rose in the UK and Howard Gardner at Harvard. A system was instigated in NSW schools based on the work of Eric P Jensen. It was working so brilliantly and the kids were enjoying it so much that it was lampooned as an obvious waste of taxpayers' money by a popular TV show and immediately cancelled by an incoming government - guess who.

It still remains the best way to get kids excited about learning just as it does managers. Leaderskill Group, one of the initiators in Australia of Accelerated Learning in Training and Development has used it since 1978. Many are those who would bear testimony to its effectiveness.

To quote Murdoch: we must get ALL our kids involved - because we need their genius, their capability in creating the future.

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posted by Dr Ron @ 06:19   0 comments
Introducing the Leader/Manager: No. 8 - No Emotional Intelligence?
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Saturday, 1 November 2008
Leaderskill Group has a history in Australia and several other countries of teaching communication skills to managers. These courses amounted to getting managers to identify their own feelings, pick up on the feelings of others, learn a constructive, non-aggressive way of expressing them, defining the issues that come up in terms of their own needs vs the needs of others, and getting a Win-Win outcome. The workshops were transformational for many. How do you know? On Day three, you could hear managers communicate differently - it had become natural to them. On follow-ups they told of their successes with their teams, their colleagues, their customers - even with their bosses! Oh yes, and even with their children! Now that's evidence enough!

Funny things happened along the way - like the manager who, in total frustration, yelled out to the group in the workshop "What's so important about feelings, anyway!" Many found it hard to make the change, but all of them did - perhaps not always to the same degree.

Then along came Emotional Intelligence. Goleman popularised it, some organisations ran programs to raise EI or to measure EQ, and everyone had some idea about what it was. And yet, still you could find (and can still find) many people who doubted whether EI even existed!

One thing that seems likely is that if anyone doubts the existence of EI, they are probably low EQ - in fact that would be a fair rule of thumb. Why? Well, anyone with a reasonable level of EQ knows very well that there a lots of people around who don't respond well in a world of feelings and emotions. These don't notice emotions, they don't express them constructively, and they don't deal with them well.

But emotions are around, always have been. Our close mammalian relatives have them, and in humans they have been shown to correlate quite well with success. Why so? Well, those with a reasonable EQ can read others much better and make themselves understood better. That increases their chances all round - unless they're a hermit (some managers are, you may have noticed, they don't have to put a sign on their door - they just keep it closed).

[Which reminds me of the woman whose manager walked by and made his usual comment "Remember, my door is always open" to which she replied in a low voice "And your mind is always closed". Oh how we shut out the uncomfortable wisdom!]

Next time: how EI shows up in the Leader/Manager Model and tells you what you can do.


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posted by Dr Ron @ 14:09   0 comments
Health Freedom a threat?
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Is it possible that there could be threat involved in the freedom of individuals to choose how they look after their health? It might seem that that is innocent enough, given that we do have the freedom to make choices that will ruin our health (cigarettes, junk food, grog, lethargy ...)! So why can't we have the freedom to improve our health?

We are allowed the freedom to ruin our health because major companies make their profits from that. Stopping it could put them out of business.

Around the world, we are increasingly being denied the freedom to take care of our own health (see the US situation) because major multinational companies (known collectively as Big Pharma) make their profits out of that, and they don't want to lose any part of the market - as results when people turn to natural remedies and avoid their drugs when possible. Big Pharma has taken over the UN's Codex Commission where it has the power to limit, dilute or ban every health food, herbal product, vitamin - the lot. Under other circumstances, wouldn't this be considered a conflict of interest? With pharmaceuticals, apparantly not.

In Australia some 18,000 people die every year from medical error and prescription drug side effects. We keep hearing and forgetting this statistic. Why don't we remember it, talk about it - and put our money where our wellbeing is! But instead, Big Pharma always reminds us that someone once died from an overdose of vitamin A (although the findings were not conclusive)! They are now conducting statistically flawed reviews to prove that vitamins don't help - and can even hurt you! Well they hurt someone (your guess who).

And what does this have to do with strategy? Please recall that the first step in MegaPlanning is to define the ideal future - the World for Tomorrow's Child. The next step is to aim that anything we do as corporations or individuals contributes to that and doesn't violate it. Gradually our society is moving towards a situation where people expect companies to 'think Mega'.

Now, we might ask: did Lehman Brothers have a Mega Plan? Don't think so! They had a plan to get rich, that's all. Do you think we have a right to ask for more? I think so. Would it have saved us from some of the financial turmoil currently affecting the world? Definitely!

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posted by Dr Ron @ 10:31   0 comments
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