Category Archives: Leadership

Lessons from the Tour de France

On 29th June 2013 the Tour de France set off on its 100th edition.  There is no doubt that this is one of the greatest sporting events of the year and undoubtedly one of the hardest.

How the cycling teams prepare for the Tour gives us insights that we can utilise to achieve extraordinary performance in our teams.


 The Tour de France is three weeks of bike racing with most stages over 100 miles in length over some of the highest mountain passes in Europe. I’ve ridden up some of them recently and can vouch for their severity. The race in itself is extraordinary.

Team Sky Sky Professional Cycling Team is closely associated with British Cycling and their concept of improving performance through finding marginal gains is well documented.  Too many organisations however focus on marginally improving the wrong things.  Dave Brailsford the mastermind behind the team’s success starts by ensuring every member of the team is clear about what they want to achieve.  Not surprisingly the nine man cycling team of domestiques, climbers and Chris Froome their leader and favourite for overall victory in the race, know their roles.

All the support team including the mechanics, soigneurs, bus driver, director sportive, and chef are crystal clear about what the team wants to achieve and what they need to do for the team to achieve this dream.  Quite simply their job is to put Chris Froome on the podium in Paris at the end of the race.

To achieve the extraordinary, your leaders, managers, team leaders, supervisors and front line people have to be crystal clear about their role in achieving your organisation’s podium finish.  If I asked them what this was would they all give me the same answer?  Are they working together as one winning team?

To find out more book Dave Bradley’s  Become extraordinary for your next conference or team meeting.

New Tent, New Circus – Achieving More for Less

Firstly a little homework; you may want to read our initial article entitled ‘New Tent, Same Circus’before embarking upon the following flight of fancy!
We often refer to organisations shifting to the next level from the assumption that they will maintain their current level of resources to achieve more.  As we move into a new era it seems that the level of resources most organisations will have available will decrease.  Yet achieving the ‘next level’ has become even more important to stakeholders who don’t want less.  There is no reason why an organisation should reduce their level of production, customer experience and the like simply because they have less.  Now is the time to move to a ‘New tent, New Circus’.
The metaphor of ‘New Tent, New Circus’ focuses organisations on two key elements of change.  Change mindsets and change the rules. Here are five factors of uncertainty which argue there has never been a better time to do this.

1.      Although there is a desperate rearguard action being fought by many to hold onto a status quo which deep down everyone knows is unsustainable; we all expect our lives to be different in the next few years.

2.     We don’t know what the future looks like.  This means that the future is there to be moulded.  There is an acceptance that there is no longer a ‘right way’; best practice is now only good practice; expert? – expert in what?

3.     Changes in resource mean new ways of delivery have to be found.  Some organisations are busy trimming people, service, infra-structure and the like.  Others are asking more fundamental questions about what purpose their organisations serve.

4.     There is a shift in power occurring.  Not just the rise of China.  Nor people asserting democracy by holding MPs to account, holding the newspapers to account and wanting to hold financial institutions to account. Those who had power can no longer expect to keep it. 

5.     Technology can create a new world in moments.  Giants like Kodak Eastman filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection demonstrates how quickly organisations can be left behind.  Google, Apple and Social Media rule the roost… for now.  This means three things:  1. Social Media is making our world more sensitive to the views of ordinary people 2. Markets can change rapidly, and 3.  What is great today could be unwieldy tomorrow.

This is why we live in such an exciting time.  The barriers to improvement are coming down. Organisations can take a fresh look at their purpose and how they deliver it. Imagination and creativity will become a much sought after currency, freeing people’s minds to the possibilities these five fundamental factors of uncertainty will bring.

How Do We Disengage People?

It’s great to visit an organisation and hear the leadership team express the desire to improve morale, to have everyone in the workforce engaged and to keep their people motivated during a time of uncertainty.  Why?  Simply because the answer to the question is so easy to find.

How quickly we forget those times when we were starting our careers, when we were on the front line, or in the back office, learning the ropes.  Did you ever gather around the water cooler with your work chums to practice low morale, disengagement and general can’t-be-botheredness?   How often were you lured from your positive state to joining in with your more disaffected colleagues?  What pushed you onto the slippery slope?

1.       The classic reason cited by nearly every piece of research into the matter is a lack of trust in leaders.  The problem here is that this means different things to different people. Is it determined by your actual or perceived experiences, or is it fuelled by the experience or perceived experiences of others?

2.       Not surprisingly a lack of communication will also be high on the list.  So often leaders report that ’we told them’.  Did you tell ‘them’ in the way they wanted to be told, so that they perceived they were being communicated with effectively?

3.       ‘We don’t feel valued’ ranks highly.  This is an emotional response. You may value your people very highly but what have you done that would reinforce this?

4.       Uncertainty is usually a root cause of people leaping onto the bandwagon of disquiet.  At least we can be certain that everyone we talk to on this vehicle to despair will share, or at least sympathise with our views.  When leaders tell us that the only thing we are sure about is that things are currently uncertain is hardly reassuring.

5.       Other stuff which seems trivial but isn’t.  My child has mumps, I’ve got a bad back, I’m going out tonight and I haven’t got enough money. These are all the things that leaders cannotcontrol yet they have great pertinence to the individual rehydrating for the third time this morning. 

This (more or less) means that the answer is very simple.

Go and stand by the water cooler.  Hear what ‘they’ hear, see what ‘they’ see, feel what ‘they’ feel.  Remember when you were standing here with your chums and what made you want to join in these conversations.  Now, ask what would I have wanted my leader at the time to say to me, to reassure me that everything will be ok?

To find out more about how Paradigmantics can help your UK organisation to engage with its workforce contact andy@paradigmantics.com for a brochure or further information.

Absenteeism, Presenteeism & Stress… Taking its toll on the UK workforce

Here we go again. 

The headline screams: Absenteeism on the rise amongst British Workers.

Shock, horror, a news item that reveals short term unplanned absence due to ill health is rising.  What do we expect?
Uncertainty abounds.  Even if your organisation is secure, there is always an underlying threat of change.  The news reports problems in Greece, Italy and the Eurozone.  You are told prices are rising and your wages will remain the same.  You will be worse off.  So many issues that could affect you and your family are outside your control. You are helpless, your influence over your circumstances is getting weaker; your level of stress is rising.
Then you go to work.  Here you meet other people who are quick to add to your burden.  They reinforce the rumours.  Ask anyone in the organisation what the biggest issue is and they point the finger at a perceived lack of communication.  When your manager informs you that they have told you everything they know ‘at the present moment’, you want to know more.  What is it you are not being told? 
However hard you try the uncertainty grows.
Eventually this tips others over the edge.  They take time off.  This puts pressure on those that are working who have to cover; customers are met with stressed people or a less responsive service.  And through all this, managers become convinced that they are not being kept in the picture, the leadership team puts their collective heads in their hands and despair at why the level of trust is evaporating.
What do you expect?
How can you empathise with ‘John Smith’ whose call you are taking; one which is simply adding to your level of stress? It’s time to manage the situation.  Start with yourself.  What are you doing to take control over your level of stress? 
Too often we come across managers and leaders who keep taking other people’s stress on board and take no action to reduce their own levels.  Leaders in particular keep going until they suffer a catastrophic breakdown which will take months to recover from.  Leaders have to set an example to everyone else and show how individuals can look after their own wellbeing.  If we can get everyone in the organisation to recognise that they can take control and accept personal responsibility for their wellbeing, then any action taken by teams and the organisation to make this uncertain world more certain will have a far greater effect.
For further information on ‘Altogether Better’, Paradigmantics’ Attendence Management Portfolio, please don’t hesitate to contact: andy@paradigmantics.com

Leaders as the custodians of ‘The way we do things around here’

Rules evolve from the need to control. Often people governed by the rules have no idea where they came from. Why 30 mph as the speed limit in a built up area? Why does the shooting season start on the 12th August not the 11th? Why is 9:00pm the TV watershed? Why do I need a licence to have a radio station?

Once the rules are established we get custodians of the rules; usually the leaders in an organisation. People who have a stake in maintaining the rules and identify with them. They become emotionally attached to the prescribed way. Their function is to continually limit what can happen. As people start to push the boundaries, so new rules are created to stop this. We find rules prescribing ‘best practice’ which means that any other good practice is not allowed. And so a patriarchal mindset prevails: ‘we do it this way because we know best’.

Interestingly if you read the above paragraph again from the perspective of your own personal rules it becomes easy to understand why people find it hard to break from the norm. We create our own set of immutable legislation to which we become emotionally attached.

The odds are stack against making a step change in performance. The rules are set either formally or informally. They are governed by others and ourselves. They are also used as a credible excuse for inertia, so even when we can see that something is not functioning as we want we claim our hands are tied; there can be no more.

‘Cos everybody has sometimes broke the rules’ (Status Quo – ‘Legendary?’ Rock Group)

Where are the brave Leaders who recognise that this is a time of opportunity? How often does a genuine challenge to the way we do things arise, giving us the chance to question the rules we work within and those we set ourselves? Maybe this is the time for Leaders to change from being custodians of the rules to become promoters of innovation.
To find out more about our Training and Development Programmes focused upon Transformational Leadership contact: andy@paradigmantics.com

Follow the Leader (The ‘Sir Alex’ Method)

The football season is well underway and it won’t be long before some teams are failing to match the dreams of their fans and owners. As is the tradition at these times when your  team is doing badly, they have had some poor results and your expectations of Premier League success are fading fast, it’s the manager’s head that is called for. Is changing the leader the answer or is it a need to do something differently.  How many of these teams actually recover from a manager merry go round? 

Academic evidence (Bridgewater 2010) shows that a short term honeymoon improvement over the first 12 games of a new manager’s tenure is replaced by a level of performance below that of before the change.  The highest performing organisations are those that develop a winning culture, where everyone understands their long term vision, beliefs and values.

More interestingly, how many leaders are able to change their approach, mindset and behaviours to bring about a better performance?

I was particularly struck by the reaction of Sir Alex Ferguson after Manchester United were so comprehensively beaten by Barcelona in the Champions League final 2011.  Just looking at his demeanour suggested that he recognised that even at their very best his team wouldn’t have won.  The standard of competition had been raised and a new approach was required in order to become world-beaters again.  There was no call for the leader to be changed, after all this was an outstanding team.  It was the leader that recognised the need to change in order to compete with the best in the business. 

It’s a brave person who changes a successful team; there is so much to lose, so little to gain.  We often see successful businesses stagnate, afraid to do anything different.  We find good managers reluctant to adopt different practices because they might give poorer results.  What brilliant leaders like Sir Alex have is a clear vision of what they want to achieve and they are not afraid to challenge their own ways of doing things. 

Their vision does not change, everyone understands the goals, they share the values of the organisation, and they are not afraid to challenge their approach in order to get a better result.  If our market, the economic environment, our competitors, or even our team changes then sticking remorselessly to the way we know may well leave us heading for relegation or for the crowd baying for our heads. Great leaders are always prepared to change their rules.

Are you able to follow Sir Alex’s example?
To find out more about our Management and Leadership development programmes, or for a no obligation conversation about how we help businesses achieve measurable improvements, please drop us an e-mail at: andy@paradigmantics.com