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Phil’s Picks for January: Growth Mindset resolves a leadership paradox

1. We are not alone!

I have been a bit worried, I have to admit. I mean, 10 years after setting up the world’s first online global community of practice for leaders, and eight years of running one inside a FTSE 100 company, winning awards and all that good stuff, a big bit of me was thinking … If this is indeed the future of leadership development, why are we the only ones doing it?

Growth Mindset

And now we’re not. Phew. I’ve been talking at length with Jen Alexander at Specsavers and they have created a very clever global leadership community of practice. Which has re-convinced me (if that’s even a word) that we are right to have started this.

And the rest of the leadership development world is just taking its time to catch up.

I’m writing an article about Specsavers’ community and the transferable lessons. Watch this space.

2. Authentic means ugly

Wonderful talk on ‘The Ugly Room‘ and how authentic leadership means embracing the ugly, and how to do that, spotted by my colleague, Danny.

3. Nice reminder of the work of Carol Dweck

in this article spotted by another colleague of mine, Clement, ‘The Impact of a Growth Mindset on Employee Engagement’.

The ‘Ugly Room’ and ‘Growth Mindset’ need to be taken together, if possible, as they help resolve a leadership paradox.

I’ve stuck 2. and 3. together here, as they help resolve the apparent paradox between positive psychology (where you can end up ignoring the blemishes in the drive to keep everyone motivated and upbeat) and negativism or over-criticality of individuals, team or organization, which can go under cover as a ‘sub-culture’ for lack of any other outlet, and/or can undermine the team or organisation

Jim Collins’s Stockdale Paradox and Gramsci’s ‘Pessimism of the Intellect and Optimism of the Will’ are, neither of them, a solution to the tension between optimism and pessimism or positivism and negativism. Confront reality, as Larry Bossidy said. Warts and all. But remain inspiring and keep people inspired.

Hey, no-one said this leadership stuff was easy: it involves taking apparent opposites and reconciling them in many cases.

Phil Dourado

Phil’s Picks for December: New articles for HR Director, and an impressive leader…

1) Online leadership communities: where are we at?

I’m writing a series of three articles for HR Director on the state of play in using in-house online leadership communities to develop leaders in a ‘community of practice’, as an alternative to, or to supplement, existing leadership development.

The articles are based on eight years of running such a community of practice for one of the largest companies in the world.

Article One: Open Source Leadership – The Future of Leadership Development?

Article Two: The Problem – And Possible Solution – With Leadership Development

2) A leader who really impresses me

One of the joys of running an in-house leadership community is you get to spot wonderful leaders who may not be known as such to the outside world.

These are every day leaders who do it right, in the moment, consistently, and lead by example.

After eight years of running IHG’s Leaders Lounge – their leadership development platform that we built and facilitate for them – I am so impressed by this leader and want to quickly share, as I think she models 21st century leadership for the rest of us.

Emily Chang, Chief Commercial Officer, Greater China, IHG

Emily Chang

Here’s what her colleagues said about her in the community when I asked them to identify great leadership within IHG and describe what it looks like:

“I would like to nominate Emily Chang, the Chief Commercial Officer of Greater China.

I think she is the only female CCO in our company as well.

Five reasons why Emily is an example of how to lead at IHG:

1. She is a smart learner. She joined IHG China from another great company (Apple) last year. She has worked for P&G before but IHG is her first hospitality experience. She learned very fast not through others but her own first hand experience. For example she went to “sleep with the enemy” herself for our competitor hotels. She set an example of how we can develop insights quickly from doing ourselves, not only listening.

2. She is a bold change agent. The first task when Emily started her current role was to tackle the decline RGI/market share challenges in July last year. She has implemented a new organization structure in sales marketing and put together an integrated action plan. She is daring to implement the changes under the performance pressure. The result? The whole team has turned around the RGI after 4 months in November. No risk, no gain. Courage is the first step to build a high performance team.

3. She is a great teacher. Despite her busy schedule, Emily organizes regular “Lean in Lunches” with the women in the office to talk about various topics on how to help them advance their career and life. She will collect the topics and put together the content by herself. Some topics cover, for example, “how to manage your energy to achieve work life balance”, “How to enter the boy’s club?”etc. She shared her knowledge and experience and I was often inspired by the conversation. She also set up a little library beside her office to share great books with us.

4. She brings energy. Energy is the new leadership. I was amazed often by how she can be a caring mother for 2 babies while managing such a big team and responsibility. She brings laughter and injects energy into every single conversation. It takes energy to inspire, motivate people during the change process.

5. She is a creative storyteller. Emily communicates in a very effective way. She can make complicated things simple, make simple things meaningful, and make meaningful things fun. She can not only explain well, but also draw well!

What I appreciate about Emily: she will always make the efforts to share her thinking from those senior meetings with everyone in her team (normally it’s live broadcasting as she does it right after the meeting; see below for example).  She prefers to build a flat, transparent communication instead of following the hierarchy.”


Here’s a link to Emily’s micro articles on LinkedIn, which are brilliant. You can find them here.

Look at how simple drawing can be used as a powerful leadership tool, not just words, in Emily’s micro-articles.

Congruency: Do you experience this every day? >>

Phil’s Picks for November: The Greatest Leadership Speech of All Time?

The level of speechmaking and public pronouncements in the US election by one of the candidates in particular has been breath-takingly unpresidential.

Which reminds me of this wonderful, moving speech by a nearly-President who was lost to us too early.

Now, THIS is what being Presidential and Statesmanlike (or Stateswomanlike) is really about:

Robert Kennedy

Robert Kennedy: The greatest leadership speech ever made? 

On April 4th 1968, Robert Kennedy stepped off a plane and gave an off-the-cuff speech below, from the back of a flatbed truck in a poor black part of Indianapolis. He knew, but the crowd didn’t, that Martin Luther King had been killed that night.

There were riots in 100 US cities this night, in outrage at Dr. King’s murder. But, there was no riot in Indianapolis, where Robert Kennedy gave this speech…

Phil’s Picks for October: Defensive Behaviour / Behavior

“Leaders should want to be wrong.”

I love that, from this TED Talk by one of the new breed of up and coming young workplace psychologists who are making us all rethink how leadership actually works.

Preview for TED Clip

Click Here to watch this essential 60-second clip >>

Phil’s Picks for September: The God Complex (Do you have it without realising?)

Podcast: The God Complex

We’ve been experimenting with podcasts in the online leadership development community we run for a FTSE 100 company, but most of them are too long and rambling.

Make or curate?

We don’t see the point in making them if we can ‘curate’ them: find great ones that are relevant to the organization’s leadership competencies and what the community tells us they want to focus on, and point them at the podcast.

Our proposition is ‘micro-lessons’ for leaders who don’t have time; so they come into our community for just a few minutes to pick up a ‘micro-lesson’ several times a week.

Enough 70/20/10 already: it’s old news!

We think 70/20/10 is ridiculously old news and describes what was not what should be. This is the new way to go: picking up lessons a few minutes at a time several times a week, then trying it at work on the fly.

We need to break the barriers – the lean-to-the-right slashes – in 70/20/10; not assume you have to work with those barriers.

We use a development approach of ‘pick up a new thing, try it, see if it works, add it to your leadership toolkit and tweak it if it does, reject it if it doesn’t and try something else tomorrow or later in the week’ .

This approach busts 70/20/10 and consigns it to history, where it belongs.

Stop trying to work within 70/20/10 confines: that was last century for crying out loud.

Anyway, enough preaching.

The great short podcast segment I’d recommend – and we’re using it for our online leadership community we run in an intranet for a FTSE 100 company’s global community of leaders – is economist Tim Harford’s ten minute segment on…

Complex systems thrive on trial and error

It’s perfect for the community we facilitate, as Harford leads in with describing The God Complex : the inability of leaders to admit mistakes or say ‘I could have done that better’.

Until leaders can openly do that, the people they work with won’t either. And it has to happen if Senge’s old Fifth Discipline – the constantly learning and improving organization via Systems Thinking – is to be achieved.

We use tabloid-style headlines like “The God Complex: Do you have it without realising?” to grab the attention of busy executives and get them to buy into spending a few minutes examining that thought, reflecting on how they lead, and testing it.

That’s the key first step – grab their attention for just a few seconds, pushing everything else aside – in an ‘Attention-Based Learning Model’, which is what we use in our online leadership development communities of practice.

So, thank you Tim Harford!


The most pointless label in the world?

The Most Pointless Label in the World?

This label is on the ’emergency contacts’ page of my new passport.

Actually, it’s very clever.

It’s ‘nudge theory’ in action.

How to change our own and others’ habits is a big theme in leadership.

‘Changing behaviour’ is the goal of any leadership development work.

And of all ‘change programmes’.

But, most work to change behaviour or win hearts and minds or whatever, doesn’t.

Because most change work is too apparently intent on communicating “Look, I’m doing change work” or “Look, I’m developing leaders” rather than actually triggering a shift in behaviour.

Most change work is more concerned with raising awareness of its own existence, of its own process – with being seen to be doing something – and is then surprised at its lack of actual output.

And then has to make up metrics – all in good faith, I’m not suggesting conscious deception – that appear to show the desired change happened.

But don’t really.

As Allan Leighton once said of communicating change (not his actual words, I’m paraphrasing):

“Saying ‘We spent x amount of money on making and distributing a video to champion the change. We made everyone sit in town hall meetings and watch it. It was watched X,000 times by X,000 people…”

… may give you an A for effort. And a lot of input activity to report upwards: metrics or measures.

But it gives you no evidence that you have communicated properly or achieved any change at all.

Virtue signalling

Most change efforts are what is increasingly called virtue signalling – “Look at what I’m doing to further the cause.”

All you do with most change programmes is pass on the latest language or slogan. People, who aren’t stupid, pick it up and start using the new language, to virtue signal back to the organization that they have got the programme and are with it.

But, what I love about ‘nudge’ ways of changing how people behave is it doesn’t care if it looks stupid.

It isn’t trying to impress anyone.

The clue that the label, above, isn’t stupid, is the black on yellow. That’s what attracts the eye in marketing or advertising, psychologists tell us. So, someone put thought into that stupid-looking label.

Think about it for a second or two and there’s only one reason it can be there;

too many people don’t fill in this page with next of kin details.

Remove the label and you see the word ‘Emergency’.

You are reading the top of the page and you have already started doing something with that page – interacting by removing the label. You are engaged.

They’ve got your attention and made you do something. You are ‘in’ the page. And therefore more likely to pick up a pen and fill in the details.

They’ve changed how we behave. Without worrying about looking stupid.

No, I haven’t filled in the next of kin details: I wrote this instead. But, I will now. Honest.

More on using Nudge Theory to make change happen

TED Radio Hour: Nudge theory 

Phil’s Picks for August: Nathan Lozeron on Deep Work

Things I noticed this month that look useful for leaders …

Nathan Lozeron on Deep WorkDeep Work, Cal Newport

I continue to be impressed by Nathan Lozeron’s animated book summaries. And the one-page pdfs he creates to go along with them.

Unlike the big, corporate, paid-for book summary services, which appear to be written by robots, Nathan’s strength is in engaging with the ideas and highlighting the most powerful stuff AS HE SEES IT – using his judgement.

Read the rest of this entry »

Phil’s Picks for July: Break out of the metaphors

A couple of leaders I work with and respect (thank you Lincoln Barrett and Joerg Boeckler) sing the praises of this book.

I had a quick look at an interview with the author, Liz Wiseman, that John Mattone’s team did. And bought the book, based on Wiseman’s explanation of how leaders are either ‘multipliers’ or ‘diminishers’ in their impact on others.

No surprise there, but there’s real learning in how she explains that we can go around thinking we are multipliers when we are actually unintentional diminishers.

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

'Multipliers' Book Cover

I loved Essentialism, and Greg McKeown, author of that, is involved with this book, too.

What particularly appeals to me about Liz Wiseman’s thinking is that it focuses on unintended consequences. Most leaders, in my experience, haven’t yet got to grips with complexity (though they think they have) and still see a clear ’cause and effect’ mechanism in place with themselves, usually, being ‘the cause’.

‘Make it so’ is a myth

This ‘make it so’ assumption in leadership (Jean Luc Picard, the captain in the later incarnations of Start Trek, remember?) is a fallacy and always has been.

But, the need to show that ‘yes, indeed we made it so due to you, dear leader, telling us to’ is so strong in most corporate cultures that it generates a kind of mythical story about what is happening, which runs alongside reality and slightly separate from it.

Until reality wins.

Think ‘acts of leadership’ not ‘leader’

Leadership is in acts that people do within complex large systems. Those acts of leadership emerge and are directed by and within a web of common purpose. Leadership does not sit in a person ‘at the top’ of the organization, making decisions, which the rest of the organization enacts.

Even ‘the top’ is a mental construct. There is no ‘top’. There is no physical height.

When Stephen Covey said “The leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, looks around and shouts down ‘wrong jungle'”, he wasn’t making a literal height-based point; the top of the tree equating to the top of the organization.

Our minds are so full of metaphors and constructs about how organizations work – pyramids, top of the organization, front line, middle managers – based on imposing physical shape – verticality in particular – on something that doesn’t have a physical entity, that we start to act and think in those metaphorical terms.

Break out of the metaphors and be real!

Wiseman’s book helps us break out of this tired (but persistent: take away the ‘vertical’ model of thinking and people get scared and want their ladder-like framework back) old view of structure – where the analogy becomes ‘real’ in our heads, with bosses somehow at ‘the top’ of something.

Another thing I spotted this month

Well, actually, it was the tail end of June, but it had its impact on me this month.

Words of wisdom on leadership from Queen Elizabeth II, aged 90, who said this last week: Phil'sBlogQueen

“One hallmark of leadership in a fast-moving world is allowing sufficient room for quiet thinking and contemplation, which can enable deeper, cooler consideration of how challenges and opportunities can be best addressed.”

Wow; smart woman our Queen 🙂 . The faster markets move, and the more overwhelmed with ‘incoming’ information we are, the more we are tempted to respond with ever-faster decision-making.

Obviously that’s appropriate sometimes to avoid missing a fast-moving opportunity or to sidestep a fast-moving market threat.

But, we are in danger of losing the discipline of taking time to think properly, and making fast knee-jerk decisions to clear the modern equivalent of our in-tray.

“You call it procrastinating.
I call it thinking,”
– Aaron Sorkin

Phil’s Picks for June: Well done, Nathan!

So, my pick of leadership learning resources on the net for June 2016 is…

The brilliant Nathan Lozeron.

Nathan Lozeron

Nathan describes himself as

“Student. Teacher. Engineer. Project manager. Aspiring entrepreneur.”

He’s also taken the rather tired discipline of personal, team and organization productivity and injected dynamic learning into it with his smart use of animated book summaries.

You’ll remember the RSA started off this combination of drawing (it’s not really animation is it; it’s images drawn while the learning is being narrated to reinforce the learning) and voiceover a few years back.

Perhaps the most effective use of animated book summaries (read on this occasion by the author) was the RSA’s animation of Dan Pink’s reading of the main learning points from his book Drive.

Dan Pink's Drive Video

As with my gripe about infographics (see May’s post below), the RSA’s powerful ‘invention’ was then followed by hundreds of tedious copies (including some of the RSA’s own, to be honest) that never hit the heights of Pink’s Drive.

So, the new medium became devalued; populated with overlong animations with tedious voices and animators who sometimes didn’t quite get the core learning points.

So, just as I was jaded with this promising new medium (again, as with infographics, below), along comes Nathan with his consistently entertaining, focussed, inspiring, high quality version of this medium, complete with a one-page pdf delivered to your inbox if you subscribe, to help cement the learning.

Grit: this is beautifully done

Here’s the latest great distillation from Nathan: Angela Duckworth’s brilliant book Grit, which helps explode the myth of talent that McKinsey’s The War For Talent has foisted on large organizations for the past two decades.

Here’s Nathan’s brilliant animated learning summary. I say ‘summary’ but part of the strength of Nathan’s approach, I think, is that these videos show HIS take on the main learning points in new books. He adds value with his own insights – pointing at the learning ‘golden nuggets’ hidden in any book that he notices himself.

Notice how Nathan respects people’s time: That was a six-minute clip. Fits right into what my team and I have been championing as the only way to effectively engage people to develop their leadership today: keep it short and sharp!

As with all other ‘Phil’s Picks’ of web-based leadership learning, I have no commercial connection with Nathan at all. I just stumbled across his You Tube Channel, then subscribed to his website, thought “What a brilliant young man” and wanted to share the learning with you.

Here’s his website:  productivitygame.com

Here’s Nathan’s You Tube Channel: Productivity Game YouTube Channel


Phil’s Picks for May: Help! No more longwinded infographics please

This month I finally got fed up with INFOGRAPHICS as a medium. 

When infographics started to emerge, as short, sometimes instant-hit (as in the impact seared into you in milliseconds) picture-led information/learning/insights like this, I loved them:

Boss Leader Infographic

In fact the above is my fave infographic on leadership so far.

If anyone finds a better one, do send it to me 🙂 .

As my approach to leadership development is all about ‘micro-lessons’ and “Learn a little every day” – which originated with The 60 Second Leader book – distilled learning ‘bites’ of leadership for time-poor leaders and would-be leaders – I thought the new breed of infographics would enhance our approach.

But, as with all new media, the form got confused with the content and I’m now besieged with a series of “infographics your website users will find essential” from the new breed of online marketers or ‘native advertisers’ with titles like

27 ways to engage the workforce

15 Things leaders get wrong

The Top 50 things leaders do

And they go on and on and on and on. You have to scroll endlessly to read. You know the kind of thing.

But, I do love the emergence of SKETCH NOTES

So, I’m heartened at the emergence of sketch notes, which feel more ‘real’ and peer to peer and rough and instant, now that ‘infographics’ have been taken over by the new marketers and trashed.

Here’s a great sketch note from a great practitioner of this new communication/learning art form,

5 Disciplines Sketch Notes

The above teaches us in condensed form – and provides a handy ‘aide memoire’ to allow us to recall the learning – the Five Disciplines in Peter Senge’s book The Fifth Discipline, which any aspiring learning organization needs to embed and practice constantly.

Hats off to Tanmay Vora, creator of the above, who distils important but bulky time-consuming leader learning into sketch note form to save us all time and to focus us in on the essential learning. That link takes you to his blog, where you can find more neat sketch notes like the above.

Sketch notes, and in particular Tanmay’s example of how to do them, is my pick of the month for May, as a form of leader learning that fits neatly into the ‘distil and inspire fast’ – little and often learning – model that I use with clients.