Saturday, September 8, 2012

The three circles of leadership

I continue to be inspired by John Adair and his Action Centred Leadership theory. Although I am a facilitator and teach ACL frequently, I find it incredibly inspiring because the theory and model is so simple. At first I thought it was too simple, but as I heard John say in March, the model is simple but never simplistic. What I have learned is that simple means easy to understand and most of all easy to implement.

Being rather practically-minded, I like to test theories in real life to see just how good they are. ACL is represented by 3 Circles – Task, Team & Individual – and John suggests that the model represents the common needs that are present in all groups. The trick for the leader is to be aware that these needs could be present at anytime, in varying degrees, and must know how to meet them, as best he or she can, within the constraints of their organisation. I chair a local businesswomen’s network and when I first became its leader, it was quite tough. No-one knew me, the group was past its heyday so membership numbers were falling and the group was made of up very different personalities, some stronger than others. I was also replacing a very popular Chairwoman, so the jury was out!

With my eye on the 3 Circles, I realised that needs associated with all the circles were present in this group. Within the task circle there was a need for me to create my vision of how I wanted the group to develop and for us to have some sort of direction. I also needed to communicate that out to the group and to engage their support. But I could sense that the team & individual needs were more pressing. I knew I had to get to know these ladies, one by one, if I was to re-unite them as a team, behind me as their leader, bearing in mind we meet only once a month and all run our own businesses. Our only commonality is the network group.

Some ladies were quite unhappy about certain aspects of the group and asked to speak with me. I met with everyone who asked and listened to all their advice and their dissatisfaction. I took on board some points and let others quietly fade. But by listening and acknowledging the greater experience of those ladies, the bonds grew stronger. I decided we needed a stronger group identity to meet the needs of the team circle, so we developed a new website, encouraging our members to profile their businesses. I also ran marketing sessions, asking everyone to contribute about our group and what we stood for.  The total inclusion and involvement of our members brought us closer together as a team and the needs of that circle began to be fulfilled. Some 18 months later, our group has grown from 6 to 30 members and I’m proud to say we are a thriving group again. I continue to keep an eye on the 3 Circles and ensure that all our members are treated with respect and treated as individuals. Any voluntary contributions are always acknowledged.

I’m not sure if this is what you are looking for but I found the practice of John’s model invaluable to my leadership of this group and it worked!

Sarah Christie

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Inspiration from General Slim

Slim’s Story

“Anyone can be great in victory: it takes defeat to test character to the full.”

Slim held the ragtag Burma Corps together in 1942 for 800 miles of constant fighting and almost constant defeat. He was driven northward losing soldiers to death and disease all the time. After 3 months and 13,000 casualties the battered remnants of Burma Corps reached India, to reorganise, regain strength, to train harder and to recover the will to fight. The Japanese were defeated at the Battle of Kohima and the 14th Army swept south to retake Burma.

Slim on Leadership

Slim’s story sets the scene for the foundations for the fight-back. He focussed on Morale, that quality which will move a group of people to give their last ounce to achieve something. It has, he suggested, three foundations:

- Spiritual: there must be a great and noble aim in which the team believes
- Intellectual: all must be convinced that the aim is attainable and that the leaders have earned the confidence of the team
- Material: the team must have the tools for the job

Impact on me

I have never been in a situation as testing as those that Slim experienced. But the foundations above have informed my own punier attempts at leadership. For me, three things were vital to get right: the Aim, the right Skill Mix and the Commitment to Communicate.

Meeting the Aim

Everything should flow from the Aim. It will need questioning and testing. At the end, you as leader must own it and all your people must be confident that they can achieve it.

Getting my own aim right became important when I was asked to form a new military communications unit with 200 men and a hangar full of vehicles and radio equipment. The aim was to be an effective unit..

I told the team on 2 January that we would take our first trip into the field as a fully equipped and trained unit on 1 February. The team was horrified, said it would be a mess and indeed it was just that. But we learnt from that and exercised for a week each month for 6 months until we were good. We could do that because at the start we saw what we had to achieve.

Getting the Skills Mix right

When I ran a newly formed unit, I chose my top team. I made a great mistake by choosing people like me, with the same weaknesses. So ideas that should have been questioned at the top went unquestioned until they hit irritated people on the ground.

The leader must choose people who will challenge and test initiatives.

Committing to Communicate

I joined up two teams of several thousand military and civil servants in MOD. The amalgamated team was then halved. The civil service suspected that I would favour “my” military.

So we focused on communication: a top team meticulously balanced between military and civil and constant feedback to all on what was happening.

Anonymous by request