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August 2019

September 2019

Beyond the Politics: Getting to Real Leadership

Launch whole room view crop

Leadership in the UK, and indeed in many other parts of the world, is in crisis. Whatever your political allegiances, it is clear to all sides that no one really seems to know what they are doing, or how to do it. Most of us are eagerly awaiting a figurehead to rise out of the chaos; but sadly, that is often how dictatorships are born.

 

On the 4th September, Motivational Maps hosted its book launch for Mapping Motivation For Leadership, the fourth instalment in the Mapping Motivation series, co-written by James Sale and Jane Thomas.

 

It is no small irony that a launch about leadership was hosted at One Great George Street, not a stone’s throw from 10 Downing Street and Westminster. And to further the irony, just one-hundred meters down the road, there was a protest going on, specifically against the Prime Minister.

 

One Great George Street is the home of the Institute of Civil Engineers, and it was one of their key security personnel who opened proceedings. He made the profound observation that: “Most people I meet say that ‘your building is your key asset’…” – and one can see why, it is a magnificent structure, particularly the Great Hall – “…but I tell them, they’re wrong. My people are the key asset.” He has been using Motivational Maps to invest in his people. Without them, the building is irrelevant, for all its grandeur.

 

Now we live in a time where uncertainties require even greater leadership capabilities than we have had heretofore. A time when we are crying out for effective, dynamic leadership; as, undoubtedly, we are in a period of psychological, political, and economic crisis, and now, more than ever, is the time when we need to develop the skills to nurture and motivate others.

 

James and Jane established themselves as leading experts in leadership through their talks and a later Q&A session, led by Mark Terrell, himself an exponent of leadership with his podcast The Reluctant Leader. Both James and Jane have worked in teams and with them. Both are running businesses that are not only reliant on extraordinary personnel, but also working with others on improving their motivation. Motivation, according to Jane and James, is one of the oft-overlooked aspects of a leader’s role.

 

There were many great questions from the floor, but one thing that came up time and time again in James and Jane’s answers was that the Maps differ from many other tools out there in that they are part of the process, not the whole process. Many psychometrics, surveys, and ‘tests’ offer data without action or deeper insight. The Maps are a way in to a conversation with a coach or trainer. They are a starting point, a way of creating a shared language, that then can become therapeutic. In our modern age, we tend to look for a complete solution. There is also a tendency in our modern era for digitisation of virtually every process (there’s even an app for menstrual cycles). Therapy is now being delivered by chatbots and AI apps in some UK mental-health institutions. Many organisations also like the idea of tackling problems of motivation or engagement via technological methods, because they seem metrical (how we love numbers); they allegedly remove human ambiguity; and they mitigate the onus on speaking to employees individually, which to give large organisations credit, is time-consuming. But Motivational Maps is going against the trend. Less technology, more human face-to-face interaction, and more “negative capability” – sitting with and embracing the ambiguity of human emotions. The Maps are just that: maps. You then need someone to sit down and show you how to navigate.

 

Isn’t that what leaders are for?

 

To listen to Mark Terrell’s podcast interview with James Sale, click here. To listen to his interview with Jane Thomas, click here.

To purchase a copy of Mapping Motivation for Leadership, click here.

 

 

 


The 5 Key Aspects of Leadership from a Motivational Perspective

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After working in education for 15 years and reaching the level of deputy head teacher, in my 40s I wanted to control my own future and do things 'my way', as did my wife. So, we established a business together which eventually lead to over 500 consultants, trainers, and coaches whom we licensed with our products. The ability to self-determine my own destiny is what attracted me to this kind of role. Over the years, I have been asked many times about leadership: what is a leader, following that what constitutes a good leader, and how can we improve our leadership skills. This has led to me authoring an entire book on the subject with my colleague Jane Thomas. The question of leadership pervades. So, here are what I believe to be the 5 key aspects of leadership from a motivational perspective.

 

1. Holding to account

 

Over the last 13 years of running Motivational Maps Ltd, we have had extensive experience of holding people to account, including employing one manager whom we had to let go for failing to perform. The essence of our approach is motivational. In the first instance, clarity of expectation is essential: our licensing contracts have been drawn up using commercial solicitors, and whilst 'fair' to both parties, define what constitutes unacceptable behaviours from our perspective.

 

Second, when we need to enforce or hold accountable, we have relentlessly pursued a deliberate policy of never 'blaming' or 'shaming' any individual. Instead, we always tentatively seek clarification on a specific issue and then ask the licensee to comment on their interpretation of the event.

 

Finally, we consistently stress that in resolving any issue we want a 'fair' solution or a win-win for both of us. In this way, many troublesome people have had issues resolved with us without the need for litigation. Indeed, we attempt to allow even people we regard as 'wrong-doers' to save face and walk away from transacting with us with dignity.

 

2. Vision for those you lead

 

My vision for all the individuals I lead is for them to be successful in business and for them to realise their full potential as individuals. To this end we have communicated via coaching, mentoring, training, in the first instance; via conferences and events in the second; via email, Skype/Zoom and social media in the third; and more latterly, via the creation of a series of management books published by Routledge: The Mapping Motivation series.

 

3. Lead by example

 

I try to lead by example. Firstly, since the people we lead are mainly trainers and coaches, it is by being outstanding in these disciplines, which more latterly appears in personal presentations and talks. The essence of this is to be so practised in the art that when one presents, on any subject, it seems to be natural or spontaneous. In other words, the greatest art is when there appears to be none. That is highly compelling to followers. And aspirational too.

 

 

4. Tackle weaknesses with collaboration

 

Leaders need to create systems and processes which automate 'everything' as much as possible; such systems can become a powerful source of leveraging the monetisation of product/services. I am, to be frank, less good at this. We brought somebody into our business in 2010 whom we thought could do this for us, but eventually she left. This issue still needs resolving, and one way we are now considering addressing it is consulting more closely with our more senior associates.

 

Motivational Maps Ltd, though about the more difficult to define human-to-human relationships and our relationships with our selves, is also data-focused and we need to process great swathes of information. This too is an area where we need to improve as we are such a data-rich organisation. Some 60,000 Motivational Maps have now been completed by various individuals at all levels of organisational life, and we have barely scratched the surface of analysing this 'big data'. Further, we are always being asked by someone in our system for a case study on this or that, and although we have dozens, we never seem to have enough. So, what we have here is an 'emergent strategy'! It is not a priority, but on the other hand it is not going to go away, so we are on the alert for ways we might improve this area of our business.

 

5. Be ready for surprises & embrace ambiguity

 

What surprises me, although it shouldn't, since I experienced it as a deputy head teacher for 7 years, is just how needful people are for direction and leadership: the pressure of followers on one is like a stone chip in a shoe - wearing away all the time. It appears that highly intelligent people can't make a simple decision; that highly qualified people don't know what to do; that people 'experts' don't understand the first thing about people; that common sense is not so common, and that you have to make decisions for people most of the time. And what this all means is that leadership is not mostly about logic, but about managing emotions: your own, first and foremost, but helping others make sense of their own. Underlying this problem is the fact that people are in a state of fear: they wish to avoid making mistakes, they hate to be blamed, and despite evidence to the contrary they lack faith in themselves. Everybody, everywhere, is secretly crying out to be led, for the leader in any situation is the one who relieves the existential angst and uncertainty that is life. And that is why the role of the true leader is so revered. People, on the whole, prefer to be dogs working together in a pack than wild cats!

 

Thus, the key advice I would give anyone taking on a leadership role is to understand, embrace, and saturate your whole being with the idea of ambiguity: to live with ambiguity, or what the poet John Keats called 'negative capability', is the essence of leadership, and of greatness too. Negative capability, which Keats claimed great poets had, is the ability to live with uncertainty without that irritable reaching after facts. Which means, to go from great things to less, that it is the avoidance of the tick-box mindset where we think we have solved a problem because we have ticked the box.

 

What this does is allow the 'no-thing' space to live within the subconscious and so produce a really creative result instead. Of course, what I am saying is not incompatible with a leader being decisive: the difference is that in the traditional view of leaders as 'strong' and decisive, this strength and decisiveness tends to be ego-derived and self-aggrandising; what I am advocating is a decisiveness that comes from a deeper layer of being, and recognises that 'being' itself is inherently paradoxical. So there can be no surprise because there is no certainty.