Comments from ‘Your Gifts as a Leader’ Workshop

Here are just a few more of the comments from our recent “Your Gifts as a Leader” workshop:

“It has been a really wonderful experience. [It] helped create an awareness of leadership and the effect that it can and has had on other people.

A very personal and honest reflection. Thank you for a truly worthwhile experience: one that will certainly stay with me.” – Kellie

“Thank you Peter: A great morning spent reflecting on leadership and how it affects who we are and how we manage. You have helped me understand the broader meaning of leadership and how to become a better leader.” – Michele

“A great opportunity to reflect on personal experiences and gifts. Particularly valued the ‘activating incidents’ perspective for reflecting on deriving meaning, and the personal stories about leadership in the family/personal context.” – Nick

“I was pleasantly surprised in that I found the morning very informative and fun to be part of. Peter has a great way of getting the information out of everybody, and presenting it to the group … definitely worth getting up to!” – Dave

“The workshop with Peter has highlighted other sources I can use as inspiration in developing my leadership skills … This has helped me solidify my understanding of how to identify my gifts and talents and given me a path for determining which to hone and enhance. Thanks Peter!!” – Gry

“A very worthwhile workshop.” – Steve

“I have found today very insightful.” – Mark

“Peter McLean’s Lamplighter workshop was both useful and insightful. I have been to many leadership workshops before which I found lofty or impractical. Peter was warm, honest and his workshop helped me gain insight on what drives me as a leader, as well as how to use my gifts, talents and skills to further myself towards the goals I have set. Peter was an engaging and motivating speaker. I can now walk away knowing my own leadership point of view. Thank you.” – Mieke

“The Lamplighter leadership program was both insightful and empowering. Peter brilliantly delivered a…program that captivated the audience and he provided you with incredible tools for success in leadership. Thank you Peter” – Calvin

The “Gifted Leadership Resort Experience” will be held in mid 2012. Visit here for details. Scroll down the page to read the workshop description.

Your Gifts as a Leader

A couple of pics of participants in our ‘Your Gifts as a Leader’ workshop:

Your Gifts as a Leader Workshop

Your Gifts as a Leader Workshop

Typical of the comments I received were those of Brian, a senior business advisor and partner, who said:

“It was a great refresher … with numerous new thoughts, information and processes. I will be a better leader and person as a result of this session and it will enhance my overall life.” – Brian

Activating your gifts as a leader is about using your own personal gifts in a positive manner to enhance leadership with a purpose. We covered a lot in a short period of time and there was much more to cover.

I’ll be running a two and a half day leadership experience mid-2012 that will use some of the information from this workshop, plus much much more … :)  In coming posts, I’ll be asking some questions to help you reflect on your leadership experiences. I appreciate your comments and reflections at any time.

If you attended this last workshop and are reading, please keep interacting through this blog and share your experiences and development.

That Ain’t No Way To Treat a Country

The Australian Federal Labour government’s ongoing leadership tussles are a prime indicator of when a leadership team is clearly dysfunctional. In this aspect, Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is quite correct.

Due to the nature of the leadership ‘hit’ that removed Kevin Rudd from power almost two years ago, there were bound to be ongoing repercussions. I wrote about this at the time, warning that newly appointed Prime Minister Julia Gillard would have to be watching her back for the blade come to attack her. Sure enough, her ongoing poor polling (another matter that would have to be separately written about) is merely the excuse needed, once again, by Labour party members to express their dissatisfaction with her leadership and seek to remove her.

Kevin and JuliaUnfortunately for Kevin Rudd, most Labour party members (and government personnel for that matter) were so traumatised by his leadership that his re-ensconcement at the helm would probably result in outright revolt and abandonment of all manner of posts. Not merely autocratic, Mr Rudd was chaotic, unfocused and downright abusive when in power. I know people in high levels of government who were quietly delighted that Mr Rudd was removed and were not sorry to see the back of him. Unfortunately for Ms Gillard, I also know people who have directly worked with her who are equally disdainful of her leadership and character for different reasons.

To paraphrase an old song, “That ain’t no way to treat a country, no way…” Australia deserves better leadership. Whether or not there is another federal election to come immediately, the federal government needs to sort through this and focus on serving the people, not their own family squabbles.

But how about your own leadership (either how you display it, or those over you)? Is your leadership treating your organisation badly?

Research indicates time and time again that high performance is induced by positive and powerful leadership that fosters, encourages and recognises positive effort from staff – not glory-hogging, not abuse, not demanding with a whip over someone’s heads. These kind of aberrant behaviours may deliver short-term results, but that is all. After a while, particularly in a democracy, people really do move on – either actively, or passively – and don’t give their all. Why would they?

Here are four idease to help your leadership – whether you are at the top, in the middle, or right down at the bottom end:

  1. Focus on a single purpose that will drive others to achieve. If you don’t know what it is, get help to find it.
  2. Remove the possibility of a sequence of power plays from your vocabulary and systems. (This is something the Labour Party could do by setting more rigid guidelines for leadership spills – at least in other democracies, once the President is elected, he or she is there for 3-4 years unless the world collapses around them.)
  3. Get a grip – you’re not the most important thing here, your customers/clients/constituents are. History shows that most revolutions provoke counter-revolutions and so on and so on. If you’re that keen to stab someone in the back, then join the mafia.
  4. Be a good follower. If you want loyalty and people who are committed to a cause or goal to come with you, then to attract those people you need to demonstrate the same qualities you seek. Otherwise, they’ll find somewhere else to go. In this case, opposites do not attract. Being a good follower also teaches you how to treat people as a leader, what motivates them, what is entailed in the daily work, what is needed to make things happen.

When 360 Degrees Just Heats You Up

I was in a discussion with a senior person at a large legal firm, who mentioned that they had used 360 feedback assessments throughout the organisation, in an attempt to improve leadership, management and overall organisational effectiveness.

I immediately raised two of my key problems with 360s:

  1. In a highly charged political environment (as many law firms are), who is going to give accurate or appropriate feedback? Juniors will be looking at those negative ratings and know that when the results get back to their senior, that the senior will go on the lookout for those who had ‘betrayed’ them, will find out and will eventually dispense punishment and seek retribution.
  2. 360s only tell you what you are already looking for. 360s are usually a list of predetermined attributes or behaviours – all totally subjective, of course – that someone in HR or an HR company has decided are the necessary traits of good supervision and management. Rarely do they adequately address the real drivers of success and even more rarely are they based upon behaviours and traits that have been identified over time to be critical to success within that organisation.

This senior leader nodded in absolute agreement. The 360s really had not been effective for these reasons and more. Despite the use of 360s and other processes, only a small amount of change had occurred at the firm.

Nothing much may change at your organisation through the use of 360s. Worse, with an indiscriminate use, much damage can occur.

360 feedback has now become a standard response to staff development – “Let’s do 360s!” – without adequate consideration of the dangers and specific potential rewards.

In addition to the above, what are some potential drawbacks of using 360s?

  • The political climate can heat up, not cool down. I was working with an organisation where I saw the senior leadership turn around and berate staff and begin to hunt down “perpetrators” once negative feedback came their way.
  • A ‘rating’ of your performance in an area you thought was a strength – based merely on a subordinate’s subjective opinion – can be demoralising. I’ve seen leaders whine and cry because they received negative feedback.
  • All of the indicators required for true performance improvement can be lacking from the tool.
  • Without appropriate support or follow-up, the whole exercise can raise and dash expectations in one fell swoop. How often have you seen people who are difficult change because they received negative ratings on a survey? This kind of outcome breeds greater cynicism amongst staff and turns the 360s into the annual “Let’s just get HR off our back with 4s and 5s (I’ll find a better job somewhere else rather than put up with this place).”
  • What are you really going to do with that senior partner who turns out in the first place to be absolutely horrible according to the feedback? And why didn’t you know that in the first place?
  • What about groups that merely “have it in” for someone who’s actually made positive changes or doesn’t cave in to the crowd? This can be a tremendous problem in entrenched bureaucracies and where cliques abound.
  • Many who may have legitimate feedback may not give it for concern of how the information may be used. Despite the promise of anonymity, a deputy may not want to give copious (and spot-on) feedback about their senior, knowing that they will be immediately identifiable and that this may cause unnecessary friction or other potential problems – especially when the senior is the one giving the references when other firms come calling.
  • How many more do I need to mention?

Does that mean that there is no place for the 360? Of course there is. For individuals who are positive and open to the feedback it can be an enlightening experience. They can also provide tremendous data (intelligence) when investigating organisations, positions and individuals. But in general 360s should be a measured part of one’s overall assessment and should be very sparingly used in troubled environments.

The reality is, asking for frank, holistic feedback from others is actually very courageous. If you want people whom you trust to tell you what you’re like, ask them; face-to-face if possible. For high quality feedback, you can also use a third party who knows how to inquire with people and clues to look for in seeking feedback. To do it solo, there must be these minimum conditions:

  1. There must be a mutually trusting relationship.
  2. There must absolutely be no negative repercussions towards the person making any negative comments/ratings or points.
  3. There should be allowance to inquire further and clarify, but the person giving their feedback must be allowed to have their say without interruption.
  4. There must not be condemnation or blame reflected back towards the person providing the feedback.

The best way for you to personally gain feedback is not with an holistic, “here’s everything you can possibly ‘have a go at me for'” assessment, but to simply be open to others coming to you when they have a specific problem, accommodating that and reasonably discussing it and to ask – specifically – for feedback related to a specific event, incident, period or quality.

In other posts I will discuss other assessment methods – reliable self-ratings, third party feedback processes, observations, true outcomes and other qualitative methods. In the meantime, be careful with those 360s.

What experiences have you had – either positive or negative – with 360s?

Staff Turnover Hurts More Than You Think

A friend was telling a group of us last weekend that he found out after starting work for a national company that the head office has an annual staff turnover of 56% and that in the few short months he has been at his office, the ‘leaders’ from Head Office have been more involved locally and have instigated the same kind of turnover statistics in short order. This turnover is having a devastating effect on the business, staff morale and the outcomes that they can achieve. My friend is reasonably sure his time may soon be up and I think he’ll be happy for it once it comes.

I was also told recently by a senior manager at a global retail focused business with over 14,000 staff around the world that their staff turnover was hovering around 30% annually and that they had calculated the financial loss of any one of their frontline personnel at $30,000 per person. Do the numbers – that’s a staggering annual loss.

Many managers make light of staff turnover – “that’s just the way it is”, “it’s always been that way”, “people attracted to our industry are drifters by nature”, “it’s gen x, y, alpha and omega”. The list of excuses is endless.

Here’s a brief exercise to calculate how much staff turnover is costing you or your business: on the bottom line.

  • Recruitment Costs                               ________ (advertising, recruitment agent, interviewing and reviewing times, etc.)
  • Induction Costs                                    ________
  • Time to productivity as a % of salary   ________  (e.g. 3 months to become fully productive = .25 x $80,000 per annum = $20,000)
  • Time to productivity as a % of revenue _______  (e.g. .25 x $400,000 sales = $100,000)
  • Lost knowledge                                    ________
  • Training – direct and indirect costs       ________
  • Loss in team productivity                     ________ (% of team salary, plus loss of sales/outcomes)
  • Loss of reputation                                ________
  • Manager’s time                                    ________
  • Exit interviews and/or arrangements   ________
  • Severance benefits or payouts            ________
  • (Minus % salary of time position vacant) ________

TOTAL    $_____________

PLUS, other intangibles, including

  • Lost contacts/network
  • Headaches for other team members and managers
  • Time wasted in the entire process
  • Lower morale
  • Uncertainty in business
  • Loss of direction
  • Personal distress
  • (minus the pain for disruptive employees)
  • And more …

The Australian Federal Government’s Equal Opportunities Agency lists a few studies relating turnover costs at their website:

(The site also has its own turnover calculator.)

One of the studies the EOWA cites is from a national Australian legal firm who estimated that losing a lawyer with 3-5 years’ experience cost a minimum of $75,000 each time! The American Bar Association estimates the loss at $100,000 per lawyer – probably a more realistic estimate. Consider as well that the client often has to pay by spending more time and money explaining things to new or alternate staff, getting projects going, clearing up errors in production or services and more.

Staff turnover is a significant and legitimate business expense and should be treated as such. Therefore, good employers invest in developing systems, culture, leadership and purpose-driven organisation that works to build and develop the best people – and keep them.

Add a comment and tell me: How much and in what ways does staff turnover affect you?

Are you re-enacting the Disaster on the High Seas?

Costa Concordia sinksThe world was recently rocked by the news that luxury mega cruise ship The Costa Concordia, had run aground, with many lives lost. The reviled captain has been accused of a great deal of cowardice and of abandonment of passengers and crew.

Although it may be some time before more facts are known and the captain’s guilt confirmed or denied, it is clear that duty was neglected in this tragedy, but what was actually happening on that boat?

Lord Robert Winston, a Professor of Science and Society at Imperial College London, wrote an interesting piece for the UK’s Daily Telegraph, asking “What Made the Captain Panic?” You can read it here at

Lord Winston covers some basics on the science and history of panic, as well as some interesting first-hand experiences. He doesn’t excuse the captain, but does make a vital point: panic can induce absolute paralysis and irrationality.

I’ve dealt with this issue of panic with many clients in both executive coaching and workshops – particularly regarding public speaking, the World’s No 1 Fear. Some have been absolutely incapacitated when faced with their own people – friends and family no less – because they have to say something. How much more so would that be happening if (without proper training) you were faced with your ship suddenly starting to sink and the prospect of lives lost? There are steps you can take, but there needs to be proper education, support, training, exposure and conditioning to the kinds of events that can invoke this response.

But what about your boat – whether that’s your career, your business or your leadership? Is it sinking, or steaming full ahead with all hands and guests on deck and enjoying the ride?

Here are a few ideas to calm the ride:

  1. When you run into problems, take a few deep breaths and observe the situation before acting.
  2. Sometimes perfection is demanded, if you’re a brain surgeon cleaning out a tumour, but even then there is usually wiggle room as to how you achieve your goal. Aim for the goal and do your best, but don’t panic if it’s not perfect.
  3. Ask for help – from sources who can provide it. If your business’ finances are a mess, it’s best to call in the professionals. If you want to dramatically improve your results, don’t rely on the same old, same old.
  4. Realise you’re not the only one. All through history people have panicked and made mistakes. You’re not the first and you won’t be the last. Accept that and do something about it if you can.
  5. Calm others around you. If you’re a leader (even if you’re not “the” leader), you can influence others towards clear thinking and positive action. Don’t let the waters overtake all of you.

Are you re-enacting the disaster on the high seas, or confidently steaming towards a beautiful tropical island?

Making 2012 a Better Year

Here are a few ideas for achieving better results in 2012.

  1. Focus on What’s Important – This is why New Year’s resolutions frequently fail. People say without much reflection that they are going to get new clients, get a promotion, lose weight, be a better dad, but don’t take the time to sit back and reflect and determine a specific course of action to achieve what is most important. As with any strategy, your goals for 2012 will only be fulfilled if it makes sense and you arrange the environment and your resources appropriately to achieve those goals.
  2. Use Your Strengths to Build New Strengths – Marcus Buckingham is wrong. Your development is not just about identifying your current strengths and then living with them forever afterwards. I help build new strengths in people all the time – it’s what I do in my leadership coaching, my public speaking coaching, my consulting and other work. It’s what I’ve done for myself constantly over the years. Resting on your laurels and saying “This is the sum total of me” and never trying to better yourself is just a silly way to exist. The trick is to not to fall for someone else’s version of what you “must” be, but use what you are good at to create new growth and new results.
  3. Partner With Great People – If you have found great people who are service oriented, smart, have integrity and achieve positive results, DON’T LET THEM GO! If you like them, all the better.
  4. Clean House – I used to work in a job where the business cycle matched the calendar year so that every new year as a new raft of work and clients. It was good for allowing you to clean house and start afresh. I would take what was good about the previous year and incorporate it into the new one, while seeking creative ways to forge new opportunities, try new approaches and focus on some different challenges and results. We frequently do it with our businesses at the end of each financial year. How about cleaning out all the junk (both physical and metaphorical).
  5. Don’t Let Fear Of Failure Guide Your Actions – Fear inhibits the brain’s executive functions, making it difficult to think clearly or rationally. It is, instead, driving a fight or flight response. Fear is an enemy of good thinking, so don’t let it determine your path.
  6. Put Aside Time And Money To Relax – Don’t let every day be taken up with demands, but take the time out to smell the roses, or prune them even if you must. But set aside that time right now – book it into your calendar and set aside the money to do it.

How do you plan to achieve better results in 2012?

Does It Really Matter?

We are well and truly into 2012 and, for many with young children, yesterday’s return to school for the majority of students in WA means the real start of the year.

I had written an article during the month of January on how to achieve goals, setting accountability, resourcing, etc. in light of the kinds of New Year resolutions people make, but I felt there was something dreadfully wrong with the article. All of the things I was writing about are good (and I will post them on the blog), but it was missing the key point: Does it really matter?

I find so often people make New Year’s resolutions and set goals and targets and either drop them like a lead balloon or work frantically away without properly considering how important it is to them, to their business, career or to their loved ones. Like a mouse running in the wheel, there’s a lot of activity but they’re not really getting anywhere. I mentioned this in a couple of presentations to business groups during 2011, giving the example of how people’s resumés (and I have frequently observed  many in government doing this – I’m sure my government readers are excluded) are often padded through with all of the activity they have been involved in – committees, standing groups, involvement in sales and marketing campaigns, budgetary oversight, positions held and more – but no real sense that they have actually achieved anything that made a difference.

There is an episode of the brilliant BBC satire “Yes Minister”, where Sir Humphrey Appleby, a highly positioned UK civil servant, animatedly defends a brand new hospital that was completed 15 months prior, has over 500 staff but no medical personnel and no patients. He argues:

Sir Humphrey Appleby“We don’t measure our success by results”

“We don’t measure our success by results, but by activity, and the activity is considerable – and productive. Those five hundred people are seriously overworked…”

(After inventing this absurdity, the writers say that they discovered before finalising the script that such hospitals and hospital wings actually existed in Britain at the time). I’ve written previously that this has in the past been one of the downfalls of Australia’s present federal government.

Here is a definitive prediction for 2012: There will be economic upheavals and “downheavals”, doomsayers and optimists, there will be difficulties and challenges placed before you and opportunities (sometimes heavily disguised). But unless you work towards something you believe in and are passionate about, unless you strive to create positive results, unless you work with others who equally want to see these results achieved, then only blind luck will make something happen that makes a difference.

Is what you are doing really making a difference that matters to anyone, to you especially?

Are you measuring your success by activity, or by results?

Here’s to a great 2012!