Flourish or fail?

flourish

Working in the field that I do, an analogy has often been used comparing the success and development of people to the growth of a plant or tree  (yes, yes I know it sounds a bit ‘hippy’ but stay with me 🙂 ). That is to say, within certain conditions we will thrive and flourish and in others we shrivel up and shrink away. The idea of ‘greenhouse organisations’ in which staff are provided with the right conditions for growth, development and expansion is not a new one but I am reminded recently of how rarely our leaders and managers try to understand our individual level ‘greenhouse conditions’. The tragedy that subsequently results, is the shrinking and confinement of otherwise excellent staff.

As ever, I’ll start with a little context and perhaps a personal anecdote or two. Usually I choose to write about topics outside of a work environment but as I started thinking about this, it struck me that ‘greenhouse conditions’ and ‘nurturers’ are just as relevant to our personal lives as they are to work. We are talking about understanding our conditions for success and the people who support and encourage that.

I have been fortunate in my life (or unfortunate depending upon how you look at it!) to experience a very wide range of people, personalities and styles – most of them incredibly positive and inspiring but a fair few I have to admit unfortunately fall into the ‘soul shrinking’ category. As my experiences grow and I talk more and more with people of similar-ish life circumstances, ambition and outlooks it is becoming less and less the case that I hear somebody say ‘I love my job. My team are great, the work is interesting and fulfilling and my manager is fantastic. I feel valued and recognised for my contributions and I can see myself staying here for a long time. Better still, I look up to and admire our leadership and I’d like to aspire to be like that some day”.

Some people may look at that statement and say “huh? that’s idealistic thinking right there – no job is like that” but I can tell you, I have been lucky enough to live that job and thrive in that environment – it does exist! Perhaps I am now ‘spoiled’ forever more as a result 😉 One of the main issues is, we’ve all become accustomed to just ‘putting up with’ the quite frankly mediocre (and in some cases toxic) environments we find ourselves in – in many cases even thinking ‘perhaps it’s my own fault, I expect too much’. So what (in my humble opinion) is at the heart of this outbreak of unfulfilled, down-trodden, unheard staff? Bad management and bad leadership. And linked to this, an idea I am calling the ‘enemy within’ for many organisations of today. That is, a glut of bad managers and leaders who are poisoning the organisations from the inside out and bringing down many bright, passionate staff with them.

One of many issues with the ‘enemy within’ is that people are unaware it’s there and / or are unwilling to accept it’s existence. Bad managers and leaders are allowed to crush and shrink their staff like the proverbial plant shoved into a dark corner. This can be for a number of reasons – it might be because those people are good at ‘politic-ing’ and maneuvering away from scrutiny or that the organisation doesn’t care enough to honestly reflect in on and challenge itself. The most common thing I’ve heard (and seen) a lot of is the genuine belief of some leaders and managers that they are great at what they do, but the reality is a far cry from their perception.

This situation I think raises so many questions for the modern day workplace (and could be extended out to our personal lives too) about how we understand our people, value them and ensure the very best performance that comes from the heart.

I can’t (and wouldn’t want to) tell others what to do, as I am far from perfect and have much still to learn. But as usual I will share my thoughts on what works – as a manager and leader and as someone who has been managed and led. These are the killer questions I ask of myself:

  1. Have you sat down in a relaxed environment and asked your people about themselves, their interests and ambitions? This sounds basic and common sense but I believe this is where many managers and leaders are going wrong – they haven’t really invested time in getting to know their people so how can they genuinely care for and understand them.
  2. How clear are your expectations? Do your people know what you expect of them in terms of delivering specific things and the kinds of behaviours you would hope to see? This is another important thing for me, as a manager or leader there is no getting away from the fact that you will have expectations of your people – for me I think it’s about clearly articulating these but then allowing people the space to decide for themselves about the approach they take to meeting them. Goal and objective setting together is a great way to understand each others’ expectations and aims.
  3. Have you developed trust and openess with your people? This doesn’t just happen because you say it does. Actions speak louder than words so how do you really show people that you are to be trusted and that you truly welcome honesty.
  4. Do you regularly ask for feedback with a genuinely open approach? Are you prepared to hear the ‘bad’ things as well as the good? Nobody is perfect and hardly anyone gets things right first time. When someone is new to your team (or wider life) how do you find out how you’re doing and whether you’re hitting the right note? It’s by asking regularly and being prepared to listen to ways in which you can do better.
  5. Have you spent time reflecting on what things might feel like / be like for that person? Empathy is a hugely important part of connecting with someone, so being able to think about how you might feel if you were in their shoes goes a long way to helping them to feel understood and supported.

I know much of the above sounds simple and common place but having recently seen too many fantastic, intelligent and ambitious people be adversely affected by bad managers and leaders it struck me that perhaps more sharing of experiences and ideas wouldn’t go amiss. More challenge aimed at organisations to really assess whether they are good at leadership and managing their people.

So in finishing, here is my question to everyone out there…What will be your choice for 2016 and beyond? Do you choose to support people to flourish and grow or will you knowingly or unknowingly fail them, leaving them to shrivel in a world of disengagement and frustration? Will you choose to help your people to thrive and innovate or are you going to thwart ambition and change in favour of comfort and control?

An organisation is only ever as good and successful as the people working there and in investing time, effort and care in your people (much as that may require a cost to you in the short term) you will be successful beyond your greatest dreams.

“Success is a team sport. It requires dedication, inspiration, and passion; and one can never get that without cultivating the culture of trust, mutual respect, and empowerment.” Forbes 

 

What’s new pussycat?

What's new

Happy 2014 one and all! This officially marks a year and a half of blogging for me so I’m starting the year feeling good for persevering…when I started this, I didn’t even know if I’d make it past post one but clearly I’m a gal with a lot to talk about 😉

I am also a gal starting the New Year feeling different, something has changed.

Let me begin with tackling the ever contentious topic of New Year resolutions since it sets the context of this post nicely. The range of responses to this topic can be (generally speaking) summarised into two camps – those who don’t DO NY resolutions and those who use it to kick start something they’ve been putting off doing for a while. Personally (just to be difficult some might say 😉 ) I like to approach it slightly differently. I set myself NY aims with the understanding that although I want to have a goal(s) for the year ahead, if for some reason I don’t quite reach it or I let it go, I won’t waste time giving myself a hard time over it. For example, my aim this year is to do at least 12 hikes of varying difficulty and length (starting at 8 miles and working up to 18). I’ve already begun positively but if I get distracted and don’t reach my goal I won’t be too hard on myself. As a result of this, the pressure is immediately lifted and my goal becomes something I WANT to do rather than something I feel obligated to do.

This way of seeing things is a new perspective for me…I used to fall into the ‘all or nothing’ camps above. Each year December 31st would come around and I’d do my usual reflective thing and wonder why I felt a bit rubbish, even when the year had been full of achievements. After reading some excellent and insightful books, I realised that when I didn’t set any NY goals I felt as though I hadn’t strived to achieve anything for the year. But, when I did set the goals, I had set the wrong goals and therefore set myself up for failure…resulting in constantly giving myself a hard time for not achieving what I’d set out to achieve! Basically a ‘lose-lose’ situation. This is when I arrived at the small (but significant!) idea to set goals but to make them guilt free and fun to do.

But why is this significant enough to be writing about I hear you ask (or more accurately, I imagine you ask because hearing voices would just be plain disturbing at 10 o’clock on a Sunday eve!:) ). Well it’s significant because it’s part of a whole new way of approaching things for me and as ever, when I have these changes I like to share them for my own clarity and also in the hope that it might help / stimulate ideas for someone else in the world too 🙂

So, what’s new? Over Christmas in particular and through some of 2013 I decided to read more – I love psychology and therefore I picked out books that specifically look at exploring and changing ways of thinking. I am currently about a quarter of the way through a book on how to bring about positive change. What this book (and some great ‘Psychologies’ magazine articles) has changed for me is my ability to understand the things that drive and motivate me. In doing this, it has changed both my ability to bring more positive things into my life and has also taught me how to deal with the negative a little better. Let me give two examples to illustrate my point:

  • The positive – I used to bounce between fitness drive after fitness drive, never understanding why I would keep flaking out after a matter of months. The reason, I discovered, is because I focussed on the wrong motivation – outward physical benefit rather than inner mental well-being benefits. Once I decided that the way it made me feel emotionally was more important than a physical reward, it changed what I wanted to do in order to achieve it…hence my switch to hiking rather than gym. Hiking gets me outdoors and I feel great after every walk completed – better still, it’s free, I can do it independently and I can do it whenever I feel the need day or night. And guess what? I can already see some physical benefit too! Bonus!
  • Dealing with the negative – when someone let me down I used to find it all-consuming. I’d keep thinking about all the things that could have gone better, all the things I blamed myself for and ultimately, tie myself up in knots working out why things went wrong. The worst part was, I beat myself up for even having these thoughts! The trick to dealing with it now is simple. I allow myself to feel whatever naturally comes to me, acknowledge the way I feel and then consciously decide whether I have the power to change it. If I can’t change it, I tell myself to put it to the back of my mind and think of something else. I’ve cut out the self-criticism and just accepted that sometimes you can’t control your thoughts but you CAN control what you do with them next.

Because this is a relatively new way of seeing things, I am yet to be really tested on it and so I can’t say whether it’s something that can be maintained through the toughest moments and times of greatest ‘wobble’ – I guess we shall see! The bottom line I suppose I’m getting to, is that from what I’ve learnt, it is entirely possible to change your thought patterns and way of seeing things – the key is mostly about understanding yourself, and in particular, understanding what motivates you. We all strive to be happy in life and to me, that’s about how you maximise the positive and limit the negative.

So, top tips of what I’ve learnt thus far (and I’m sure there’ll be plenty more to share as I read and grow!):

Start with the basics and get to know yourself. Strip back things to the absolute basics and ask yourself what motivates you. What gets you out of bed in the morning? Think of a time when you really persevered with something or achieved something great, what was it that sustained you and gave you the drive to keep going? I bet if you look at a few of these times in your life, you’ll see a theme start to emerge.

Don’t be unkind to yourself. If you don’t achieve a goal or have a thought cross your mind that you don’t like, don’t beat yourself up about it. If you beat yourself up, you are only doubling the pain – something has happened that you don’t like AND you’re giving yourself an ear bashing!! By all means acknowledge and reflect but just accept that whatever it is has happened and it’s time to focus on something else more positive. Trust me, the conscious acknowledgment of a thought or a situation is half the battle – upon acknowledging you then have control of the decision to either dwell or ‘put it away’.

Be determined to feel positive. Yes I know this is easier said than done, particularly in some really crappy situations, but you really ARE in control of your own feelings and so you can decide to find something (or better still a few things!) in a day to feel good about. More importantly, never go to sleep feeling bad – do something before bed to clear the mind and replace it with the good thoughts. You might laugh, but I even have a book of mantras I like to read when I feel rubbish – just positive sayings I’ve noted down to help me smile about things 🙂

As I say, there is still so much to learn but these are the three things I currently use to feel good and it’s working. Just as the saying goes that you ‘count the pennies and the pounds look after themselves’, I like to think that you make small steps and have mini epiphanies and the bigger picture will fall into place!

My final thought to end on before I hit the hay to get some beauty sleep, therefore is this… I am hoping so much that the new perspective lasts and by putting it into writing it also rubs off on some of you lovely people. It has really helped me to stress less and be kinder to myself. But do you know what? Even if it doesn’t last and you all think I’ve gone slightly mad, I’m not worrying as I’ll dust myself down and I’ll just start again…that’s the beauty of what I’ve learned, you can always try again and you can keep striving for happiness however many shots it may take to get there 🙂

I have a dream…

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What do you want to be when you grow up? The million dollar question we continue to ask ourselves even when we have by definition ‘grown up’ a very long time ago. But just recently I think I may have found my answer…(and no, sorry to disappoint it’s not to become a blog-writing, tap dancing, burlesque queen 😉 ).

Quite simply, my purpose and passion is this: (If and when I grow up :)) I would like to be happy and I would like to make the people around me happy too. There, that’s it. I realise it’s not exactly a trailblazing ephiphany but bare with me and please keep reading as I explain more…if for no other reason than the fact that I also need you, my lovely reader, to step up to the mantle and help me out with a little something 🙂

Okay as is usually the way with my entries, I want to explain where I’m coming from on this. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking (no change there then!!) in an effort to understand myself better and get properly focussed upon what it is I’m doing here (that’s ‘here’ as in planet Earth, not ‘here’ as in Arnold which is a different question entirely 😉 ) and also giving thought to how I want to leave my stamp on the world. In spending some time thinking about it, I realised that from a young age we are all striving to find our purpose / our focus /  our talents / our calling / etc in life. A lucky few happen to find it easily and early, some seem to have a whole path already laid out for them, while others (the majority I would say) keep struggling through, continually trying to clear the fog and reach the refuge of clarity. All of us have to know we have something to ‘be’ in life because without knowing that, it’s hard not to wonder what the hell we are doing to make full use of the short time we have on Earth.

But in trying to ask myself all these ‘big’ life affirming questions, I just found that I was getting more and more confused and annoyed. So then I decided to strip things completely back to basics and simply ask myself this – what is the most common thing I am seeking in all that I do? In work, play and all the things inbetween what do I want? Is it money? Is it respect? Fun? Fulfilment?

A few mugs of coffee and multiple doodles later and the answer jumped out to me plain as day…I just want to feel happy. In work, love, friendships and all the other important things in life I’m looking for that feeling of happiness and satisfaction. The one simple (and often forgotten) answer to the ‘what do you want to be’ question is really just to be happy. It’s something we all have in common and it’s something we all deserve to feel. But sussing out the feeling is the easy part…the tough question after that becomes….yes, but how do I do it??

I won’t go on to bore you with all the details of what I decided to do next but essentially, I reached a point where I made a great long list of all of the things that make me happy and make me unhappy. I then started drawing up a plan as to how I can bring more of those happiness inducing things into my life and minimise the things that sap it. It won’t be an easy (or short) process but at least there’s a starting point now.

One of the biggest features on my list (if not the biggest) was the area I am now starting to think of as as my purpose / mission / focus: I am going to begin directing my life more towards helping people to be happy and satisfied. I want to spend time with people to find out what makes them tick and ultimately what makes them happy… I then want to give them the tools to ruddy well go out there and make it happen. There’s no qualification I’m going to study for / no professional name / no titles for what I’m suggesting, I am keeping it as simple as calling it my ‘happiness project’. All I know is that for me to be happy, I have to know that I’m helping others to achieve their own happiness and ambitions in life. Cheesy, cliched, idealistic and perhaps even somewhat self-satisfying it may sound but quite frankly, I don’t really care – I believe in it, so I’m going to do it. Me, you, a comfy chair, some coffee and a conversation – it’s as simple a starting point as that.

So now is the point at which you, lovely reader, can help me to realise my dream! My first stage is to bring together lots of pieces of brilliant advice / inspirational sayings / motivational stories / learnings etc. etc. and start to build up a sort of ‘brilliance bible’. I have an ambition to work with young adults in the near future (particularly young women) on uncovering their happiness drivers and sources of self-worth and looking at how this can help people to become confident, well-rounded, satisfied people capable of achieving great things in the world… It’s a developing idea but all ideas have to begin somewhere 🙂 So, if you are still reading this I would love to hear your thoughts and pieces of advice – I’m looking for the things that you’ve heard in your lifetime that have truly made a difference to you. Ask a bunch of your friends too and keep adding! Here are a few of mine to get the thinking juices flowing if it helps:

  • Know yourself and you’ll know happiness. When you love and accept yourself, so too will others.
  • Always try to find time in the day to remember your achievements, however small they might be
  • Be the change you want to see in the world
  • Dissatisfaction is a symptom of ambition
  • Inaction is the enemy of thought
  • Be a friend and you will always find me yours
  • Treat others as you yourself would like to be treated (respect, dignity & honesty should be a given)

Not only will your thoughts and ideas be incredibly interesting to read in their own right but if my plans take off and one day go in the direction I hope they will, you can feel good that you’ve contributed something towards helping others to be happy. I can’t make any promises as to how this ‘project’ might progress – it could be the start of something simple but successful or it could just be another silly idea from an idealistic over-thinker 😉 Either way, all I know is that half battle in achieving your dreams is getting started on them so *deep breath* – here goes!!

A big thank you in advance… I’ll keep you ‘posted’ (no pun intended) 😉

The great escape…

My mind has been wandering recently. It’s been on adventures far and wide to crystal blue waters, dramatic mountain views and lush green forests. To those places where both literally and metaphorically you could get lost for days. For some, when their mind wanders to such places (and lets admit it, we’re all daydreamers to a certain degree!) it would be an imagined place in the mind’s eye full of tranquillity and calm…but for me my daydreams take me to an amalgamation of all those beautiful places I’ve been lucky enough to experience already in my lifetime. Those breathtaking views I’ll always have emblazoned in my memory like some sort of mental collage or picture book.

Travel and escapism is the theme for this post as I’ve come to realise recently how important having those moments of pure awe and inspiration are to truly enjoying life and finally realising the beauty of the world that surrounds us. That last bit sounds pretty naff, I know it does, but I just can’t think of a better way to describe it. For me, the feeling that comes with standing over a beautiful mountain view or a wild, untameable waterfall just can’t be beaten and it truly makes me feel like a different person. Like all those everyday niggles and worries might just fall away with the cascade of the water or evaporate into the fresh mountain air, leaving behind only admiration and enjoyment of the amazing sight around me. That feeling of ‘just being’ I suppose is what makes travelling so addictive – it’s so rare to experience it in everyday life we often need to physically be taken away to do it.

As I’m writing, I realise this post has gotten quite deep very quickly… I hear 50 Shades does the same actually (ooops sorry couldn’t resist popping in a cheeky innuendo somewhere! ;))
I can’t (and don’t really want to) apologise for the slightly different tone to this, such is the way that ‘escaping’ makes me feel. But to give it some context, I’m personally at a point in life where I’m working out which things truly matter to me and when are the times when I’m at my happiest and most inspired. One of the top three ‘happy times’ for me has to be the experience of travelling to the national parks around America over the past 5 years… The other two? Well I’ll let you muse those over 😉

Travelling and experiencing the new has always been a passion of mine, I suppose because adventures and beautiful places capture the imagination and I’ve always been very well endowed on that front! Even when I was younger my favourite Disney films were Alice in Wonderland and Pocahontas and my favourite TV series, Dreamstone…all of which are an exploration of dreams and adventures with a slight bit of ‘wackiness’ thrown in for good measure 🙂 But I always remember thinking that one day I’d get out there and seek my own adventures…

And so, a little less than four years ago I decided to embark on a tour of America from the East to the West as far as my limited funds would take me. To say I fell in love with the country would be an understatement…the diversity of opportunities, landscapes and people just felt great to me. But my most amazing memories, the ones that form my mind’s collage, are from all the beauty of the national parks along the way…my words simply won’t do them justice. Something just ‘clicked’ for me as I went from one beautiful place to the next, it was amazing to me that one country could hold so many stunning places…so much so I also decided to return two years later. And I still only feel I’ve scratched the surface…

My mind constantly flicks back to those memories of beautiful American landscapes – from dramatic Wild West Navajo country to Grand Teton mountainsides and the lush shores of Yosemite. The indescribable feeling of watching an earth shattering geyser bubble up and shoot from Yellowstone’s lands out into the sky to being just feet away from bears, buffalo and wolves. Watching the sun set over the orange sands at Arches to looking out at snow capped mountains over Grand Teton. Floating out on a boat through the vast, clear blue, peaceful expanse of Lake Tahoe… I just can’t find the words to describe in full how these experiences make me feel and how they have shaped me as a person…and trust me, words are not something I would usually struggle with 😉

Looking out from the top of a mountain, from the forest floor and desert covered lands to such incredible landscapes you just feel like a different version of ‘you’. Like all of a sudden you think ‘okay…so this is what life is all about’. If I could just spend my life looking out at this view forever more I would be a happy lady (probably pretty bored and hungry once a year passes by mind you!:) ). It’s no wonder people nowadays are so desperate to travel…the cynics among us muse that it’s because people are never satisfied with what they’ve got, no matter how much they have – well TRUE! I’m certainly not satisfied when I know what a brilliant world there is out there for us to explore and experience.

The thing that people also tend to forget about travel is that not only do you see some pretty darn amazing sights but you really do learn a lot along the way. What I’ve learnt through travelling is that I know what inspires me and makes me tick – it’s looking out across a vast, lush landscape and realising how much inspiration and ‘just being’ can make me feel re-energised to really, wholeheartedly live my life. When going about everyday tasks, it’s just so easy to forget about the rest of the world still yet to see and to get bogged down with frustrations and disappointment. I just wish I could bottle the feeling and sell it on ebay – I’d make my fortune and go set up house in Yosemite 😉 But in my usual style there are also other things I would share as learnings / musings:

1. Inspiration is as unique to us as a fingerprint. What makes us tick and what moves us within will undoubtedly differ from person to person. I know that dramatic mountainsides, lush green forests, wild waterfalls and crystal clear waters are some examples of scenery that inspire me; another person may be just as inspired by a sparse desert ridden expanse. The point is you have to know what ‘it’ is and try to experience as much as you possibly can in life.
2. Don’t let those brilliant memories fade – use them in times of frustration to re-energise and reinvigorate. Whether it’s through photos, painting a picture, writing it down or whatever, try to keep your memories alive and use them to remind yourself of how you felt at those points in time.
3. Stay hungry for more – the world is ridiculously huge. I just happened to stumble upon America as my dream destination in terms of having all the parks I could possibly want, but I also loved Croatia and Spain before that and I’m also well aware there is a much bigger world out there to pay attention to. When I look back in 50 years time, I want to be able to say I saw all I wanted to see. To have some brilliant memories that comfort me when my physical body is unable to fulfil my adventurer spirit’s demands.

And so ends a short reminisce of the wonderful places I’ve had the privilege of experiencing to date – I could have gone on for pages (my first novel perhaps!!:) ).
Little more than a few years have passed since I was out there exploring my beloved American landscape yet it feels like a lifetime ago, better yet that perhaps it hadn’t even happened at all and I’d dreamt it all. Exactly like that moment in Alice in Wonderland when she wakes up and realises she was asleep the whole time. But that’s also how I know it’s now time to get back out there, get re-inspired and start seeing the brilliant world we live in – it’s those moments, those adventures, those memories that help to make us ‘us’.

I already know where my next adventures will take me (Chimney Rock NP North Carolina and Banff NP Canada if you must know!) – do you know where yours will be? 🙂

How to lose without becoming lost…

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I’ve come to the conclusion over the past few months that I have a lot to learn and that by writing about these important life lessons it may somehow help me to process / develop / accept. And so begins my first blog…You guys are the poor b*ggers who have to read this drivel 😉 I’ll be blogging about anything and everything…essentially whatever has been on my mind that day, week or month!

So I found out today that the leader of my current place of work is to leave. For many, this wouldn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary – organisations chop and change CEOs all of the time. But for me it has left me with a sense of loss and a slight feeling of panic. Our leader you see has been an inspiration to me – an example of someone who can work at a very high strategic level while keeping his feet firmly on the ground, someone who remembers the names of all those who work for him and always has a warm smile for them. The type of person who you know what his values are because they’re written all over his face, you know he’s genuine because his eyes and demeanour say so – there is a real feel of authenticity about him and you can’t help but warm instantly to that. This is a person who has managed to get the balance between leadership and staying ‘in tune’ with his followers right…something I am led to believe is a real rarity.

I think part of the reason I am feeling this particular change so significantly is because I came from a place of work before this where even the departmental leader didn’t know your name, let alone the Chief Exec. In fact the reason he didn’t know your name is because quite frankly, he didn’t really care what you did. You were just a tiny little cog in a big machine. Granted, my previous workplace was a much bigger organisation and it would be nigh on impossible for the CEO to know everyone but it was about much more than that. I never got a sense for who he was and what really drove him and hence never felt a particular affinity with him or the organisation he was leading. And that became the hallmark of the people who worked under him too – there was no real sense of curiosity or moral purpose in the corridors but rather a stale stench of cynicism and feeling unappreciated. A toxic atmosphere that if you stayed too long, would slowly eat away at your soul until you crumpled into a shell of your former self. Of course there were odd exceptions, most of whom I was lucky enough to work with in my immediate team… but one by one we left or moved elsewhere before the toxicity became too much and our careers became a lifetime of moaning and unfulfillment.

So when I joined my current place it was literally like a breath of fresh air. The building was brilliant and light, the people were friendly and there was a real buzz about the place. The sense of commitment and moral purpose was palpable and best of all, there were none (or realistically I should say ‘less’) of the hierarchies. Here was a place willing to give a relatively inexperienced person like me a real chance with my career and as a result I feel I’ve grown from strength to strength and confidence to soaring confidence. I wondered to myself what made this place so ‘different’ and I now attribute it to two main factors:

1. The setting of high expectations, the development of a ‘nurturing’ environment and the air of informality from the current CEO

2. The objective positioning of the organisation away from too much government control or politicising…

Both of of these things are about to change…And it fills me with a sense of trepidation… 

People within the organisation often talk of it as pre-xxxx and post-xxxx as if he came in and created some new era or new world. Certainly the resounding opinion is that he came in and made it a much better place and I know from being out in the field a lot that many external people attribute the success of our organisation to this person too. However, I now feel I’m going on as if he is some kind of god on earth and that’s not my intention nor is it true – no leader is ‘perfect’ or infallible and I’m sure there have been times when some have questioned decisions made at the top.

In fact the real test I believe of how well his vision and values have been instilled will be when he leaves… Only then can a true judgement be made on leadership skill. You see I’ve reached the conclusion that if someone truly is a great leader, then they will leave a legacy within their organisation that continues long after they are there at the forefront. Those around them will have been so affected and inspired by their drive, purpose and approach that they aim to emulate that and help to sustain the positive environment created by their leader…I know I certainly will be aiming to do just that but the real question is, will others want to do the same?!

However, the leaving of this great leader is also made worse by the change of the organisation to a more politicised, government driven environment. This worries me hugely as I felt that one of the reasons my previous workplace became so toxic was in part because politics and ‘agendas’ got in the way of the fundamentals…i.e. having an organisation that actually cares and nurtures its workforce. Everything became about point scoring and what the government wanted (or would give funding for) and not actually about what the person using the service wanted or needed. We became seen purely as servants of the government’s agenda, disinterested in what the person at the heart of it all wanted – the media gave us all a bad name and tarred us with the same brush and the leadership of the organisation wasn’t strong enough to fight back and stick up for us. So we (and the government) began to believe the hype – the workforce began to think ‘well if I get all this flack for actually doing my job, why bother doing anything at all?’ and then the media would give us (rightly so this time!) another going over… And so began a vicious and toxic circle of rhetoric and self-fulfilling prophecy.

So what does all of this tell me about leadership? What lessons can I take away from my current feelings of fear and anxiety? Well quite a lot actually…

1.   No matter how high you climb, always stay true to your values and keep them plain for people to see – stay true to who you are as a person even when others try to change you. Showing emotion and the ‘real’ you is never a weakness and should be something to be proud of.

2.   Remember the people you lead are ultimately the ones who help you to achieve all you achieve. If you don’t have time in the day for anything more, the least you can to do is to remember their name and throw a warm smile in the corridor.

3.   If you truly want an organisation to succeed and grow, ensure you instil your vision and values in those around you. And when eventually you do leave, be confident that when you are no longer there your legacy will continue.

4.   Try to find the balance when working within a government focussed environment between politics and keeping the people you serve at your heart – if one of the two has to slip, well then let it be the politics…perhaps you’re not cut out for that kind of environment anyway! You can continue to live life knowing at the very least you kept the ‘people’ interest firmly in your sight.

5.   Always strive to have a motivated and what I’d call ‘curious’ workforce and if you feel that slip, make it your number one priority to address. A toxic work environment is not good for anyone and it’s amazing how it can slowly creep up on you bit by bit…

6.   Finally, when you lose someone who inspires and motivates you – then you have a duty to find someone else to fill that gap. Sitting here feeling a little lost is not going to help me, I need to look for my inspiration elsewhere! And if I can’t find it…well, that ultimately will tell me something about the environment within which I work.

So as a closing remark at the end of my yabberings…Whichever way I look at it, the person to rely on is me. As much as I feel a little abandoned and lost right now, I do have faith that I’ll find a new path and a new person(s) to admire. The fact that I can still be incredibly inspired by someone and motivated to do well is a good thing in its own right – it shows I still have more to achieve, learn and strive for. So I’ll take a small comfort in that thought while I ride out the storm of an organisation in change…keeping my fingers crossed for better weather ahead and a remaining legacy of a vibrant and inspirational leader 🙂