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March 2014




Do You Want to Lead People?

"You cannot manage men into battle. You manage things; you lead people."

… Grace Murray Hopper (1906 - 1992) US military leader and mathematician


More often than not, the topic of each month's newsletter surfaces in a recent conversation with someone. This month is no exception. The topic arose in a conversation with a colleague where we were discussing our work and ended up on the theme of why do organisations continue to appoint people to leadership roles, who are not well suited to leading people. We even light-heartedly discussed making offers to businesses to use our skills in leadership development to help them select better leaders!

This conversation got me thinking again about how organisations could better approach the appointment of people to leadership roles.

You may recall from some of my previous articles that we distinguish between managing and leading in a simple way. Managers put outcomes before people and leaders focus on how people will achieve outcomes. Visit The HubAlthough this may sound like a simplistic distinction, the implications it brings can be profound. Based on the idea that human beings live in a continuous stream of experience, we deal with one thing before the other and the way in which we do this will tell us what is more important to us. In our work we find that most of the breakdowns in the workplace are found in our relationships with others. This is exacerbated when we give more priority to outcomes over the people who are expected to achieve these outcomes. Now it is certainly possible to think of outcomes first and then seek to find a balance with the people aspect of the situation. There are certainly many people who can do this. Unfortunately many cannot and they ignore or wish they could ignore the people involved. The key to effective leadership lies in a balance between people and outcome.

One of the questions, I have asked many people in leadership roles over time is "tell me in just a few words, what it is that you do in this role?" The answers I have received are illuminating and point to what a person sees is their primary function in that role. Remarkable as it may seem, it is rare for someone to say that "I lead people". Mostly the answers have been related to aspects of what they do such as "I am a problem solver" or "I improve productivity" rather than their overall charge. This approach of asking people to distill down to a few words just what they think they do can provide some great insights.

For example, the "problem solver" will tend to focus their energy on looking for and solving problems. This leads to a reactive approach to their way of leading. After all, problems usually result from something unexpected. The "productivity improver" will tend to focus looking for improvements. Now I am not saying that these things should not be part of what leaders do. They have their place. However, if someone sees a narrow aspect as their primary focus then this will undoubtedly create a blindness in which other issues will arise. They tend to become task managers, rather than people leaders.

By the time, I get to work with people in leadership roles, their belief about their leadership style is well entrenched and can take some time to shift to a more people oriented approach. Ironically enough, I have found when coaching people who are temporarily filling a leadership role that they can be much clearer in what they can do in that role, particularly if it is outside their main area of expertise. In these situations, people must focus on what they can do and it often becomes more of a facilitating, rather than a directing, role. With this clarity, these people often far exceed the expectations of themselves and others in these temporary roles.

So one way of getting better people leaders into leadership roles is to ask them the two simple questions:

  1. "Tell me in just a few words, what it is that you would do in this role?" and
  2. "Why do you want to lead people?"

I am sure you will get some interesting answers that will give you some insights into the sort of leader you may be appointing.

We invite you to explore more in the articles section of our web site.

Play Create Elevate

Some thoughts from Jacqui Chaplin

"This is a crazy culture. Absolutely nutty. You see it reflected everywhere you look, the desperate search - who are we, what are we, can we ever make it in the hip world? On the scene, on the go, in the know."

… Judy Collins (b. 1939) US folksinger and film maker


Good Crazy, Bad Crazy

There’s a post doing the rounds on Facebook with a couple of Despicable Me characters smiling effusively at each other. The line reads “If you have crazy friends you have everything”. I like the image. I like the line. I shared it. And if I knew how to tweet it easily I probably would’ve done that too.  This is the good crazy. It’s the kind of crazy that I like to be associated with… a bit different, a bit loud, a bit prepared to do a lot of things that many others may not feel so comfortable with.

I was in East Malvern this week. It is where the ArtWorks@ Mr Percival gallery space I curate is located. Having parked my car on the opposite side of the road I was waiting for the traffic to pass before crossing. While I was waiting a rather large and very vocal woman was standing at the tram stop. She was telling anyone within shouting distance about her haircut. How she just got it. Where she got it done. How good it looked. This is the type of behaviour that has many of us stay on the other side of the road until the tram comes. Or we walk to the tram stop before and catch the next tram. It’s the “crazy” label many of us use when we are uncomfortable and don’t know how to deal with someone outside what we think is ‘normal’.  My take on it was that she had a mild intellectual disability and clearly happy with her hair cut.

And then there is mind health “crazy”… those of us whose brains will just not behave in the way we, you, our families’, or society would like them to behave… even when medication is used.

Crazy… It’s a word that is easy to throw around. It can be humourously self-deprecating, it can be indicative of how we feel about the world of work or the world in general, it’s a term we use when we’re uncomfortable with the ability or mind health, brain functioning of others.

Given my aim is to have us all be OK to speak openly and comfortably about mind health matters – the good, the bad and the ugly – what can you do for yourself to step outside your known zone and get to know more about what happens with those of us who are in the your unknown zone.

And for those of us out there in the unknown zone what could you consider doing to let others know a little be more about their unknown zones?

I’d love to hear how you go…  May your days be resilient ones!

We invite you to read Jacqui's blog here

You can visit the Play Create Elevate website here

More on PCE next month!

Hey, did you know?

On Monday 31 March 1-3pm,Chris Chittenden will be interviewed on the topic of "Moods and Emotions: What they are and how you can more effectively manage your moods and emotions as well as those of people around you."

Did you know that since November 2013, Jacqui has been hosting a weekly radio show called ‘But I Feel Good’ …talking about pink elephants and black dogs. Radio Show

The show is dedicated to speaking openly and comfortably about the ‘black dog’ of mood disorders from a lived experience perspective and the ‘pink elephant’ strategies and practices that build emotional resilience and inner fortitude.

It covers a range of topics related to mind health and plays a great mix of music in between interviews with subject matter experts and related content.

The show goes live to air, streaming on www.wmafm.com so it can be heard AROUND THE WORLD every Monday from 1-3pm AET. Its official broadcast base is WMA FM 94.9 – the Voice of the Goldfields and extends across the Mt Alexander Shire in Victoria on the wireless.

From Monday 7th April, WMA FM is being renamed to MAIN FM and the new web site will be www.mainfm.net.

The Monthly Diversion

One courtesy of Jacqui Chaplin..

Some more golfing humour!

The Eight Iron

Off the seventh tee, Joe sliced his shot deep into a wooded ravine. He took his eight iron and clambered down the embankment in search of his lost ball.

After many long minutes of hacking at the underbrush, he spotted something glistening in the leaves. As he drew nearer, he discovered that it was an eight iron in the hands of a skeleton! Joe immediately called out to his friend,

"Jack, I've got trouble down here!"

"What's the matter?" Jack asked from the edge of the ravine.

"Bring me my wedge," Joe shouted.. "You can't get out of here with an eight iron.

To Put or Putt

The schoolteacher was taking her first golfing lesson.

"Is the word spelled p-u-t or p-u-t-t?'' she asked the instructor.

"P-u-t-t is correct,'' he replied. "Put means to place a thing where you want it. Putt means merely a vain attempt to do the same thing."


My five-year-old nephew wanted to caddy for my brother.

"You have to count my strokes," my brother told him. "How much is six plus nine plus eight?"

"Five," answered the nephew.

"Okay," my brother said, "let's go."

"The earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself."

… Chief Seattle  (1780 – 1866) of the Duwamish Tribe

Join Us Online

LinkedInDo you want to explore some of these ideas in more depth? Then, we invite you to join our LinkedIn and share any insights you may have. You can find us on LinkedIn by clicking here.

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Since the formation of Talking About in 2005, we have published our e-zine every month. Before that, Chris wrote regular newsletters and e-zines with Gaia Consulting dating back to 1995. If you would like to explore more of Chris' ideas then you can access our e-zine archive and view any newsletter written since 2005 by clicking here or to look at all the articles Chris has written over the years simply click here.

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