Tag Archives: Leadership

People Artists

In April 2015 I received a lovely note from my friend David Zinger, asking if I would like to make a contribution to a forthcoming book, titled People Artists. With a title like that – how could I refuse? David asked me a handful of questions which I answered as follows:

How would you define a People Artist at Work in your own words?

I believe we are all born artists, so we all have the potential for people artistry. Here are a few things I practice which can help define a people artist and ensure your artistic flame can flourish.

Being open to possibilities
Accepting your own vulnerability
Showing your work

We Are All Artists

What makes you or the person you are thinking of a People Artist?

Developing a habit of awareness and presence helps make someone a people artist. A willingness to suspend judgement when new ideas are forming helps too, as does being kind. Never underestimate the artistic power of simple things.

Can you offer one or two specific examples of where and how People Artistry was demonstrated?

Follow this link. It takes you to a series of images cocreated by learning and development professionals invited to think about the future for their profession. For me – this collection represents a facet of people artistry.

What do you see as the results of the demonstration of People Artistry?

When I see people artistry at work I see smiles, I see people getting to know one another better, I see people supporting and encouraging one another and making work better, together. I see people…simply being people.

Is there anything you would like to add about the topic?

People artistry is partly about encouraging creativity, and creativity isn’t something you just switch on. It ebbs and flows according to the environment and attitude around you. I like to invite people to consider this question. What levers and dials do you need to be aware of and be able to adjust, to help bring out creativity and people artistry in yourself and those around you?

I sent my response to David and got on with my life. Yesterday morning there was a knock at the door and a large parcel was delivered. I had no idea what I was signing for…

People Artists

Inside the package is a signed copy of the new book, and a wonderful signed, framed print of the painting used for the book cover. People Artists is a beautiful collection of thoughts, feelings and ideas about how to make work better, twinned with a series of images painted by Peter W Hart.

People Artists will be available for sale very soon and I’ll update this post with more information, and share details of how to buy it on Facebook, Twitter et al. For now, thank you David and Peter for putting an excellent book together and for such a lovely way to appreciate the contributors.

 

Leading From Anywhere

I’m currently developing some work with Richard Martin, which is giving us cause to examine what leadership is, and how it differs from management. Richard has articulated something helpful which I’d like to share with you.

Leadership can come from anywhere and anyone, whereas management is usually an assigned role. Or put another way:

Leadership: Articulating a vision, setting strategy, inspiring others. Qualitative and outcome-oriented. Whole system.

Management: Focus on delivery, and the organisational and resourcing elements that enable it. Quantitative and output-oriented. Measurement and process.

When I was sketching out the current version of Principles of Work, I got stuck thinking about a suitable image to represent ‘Lead by Example’. Carole suggested I Google ‘leadership’ for some inspiration, so I did, and here’s some of what I found.

Leadership Google Search 1

What an underwhelming response. I kept scrolling and things didn’t get any better.

Leadership Google Search 2

Image after image of anonymous bubble shaped cartoon men pointing, conducting, megaphoning, and striding forth with their legions of dutiful followers. This is not the leadership I’m looking for, and it certainly doesn’t fit with the idea that leadership can come from anywhere and anyone.

I diversified my thinking, starting to include other words into my searches, and I discovered some images of aerobatic display teams at work. I was struck by the many formations these teams adopt, and how frequently, there is no single leader out in front.

Lead by Example copy

I chose this formation to demonstrate leading by example. It speaks to me of trust, and of the possibility that leadership can come into play from any position on the team. As we look at the formation here, it may be that the leader is sitting in the plane at the back – the only position where this whole formation can be viewed from. And as the group switches places, the role of leader can shift too.

How do you define leadership – and what images does it conjure up for you? Let me know your thoughts and I’ll see if I can draw something for you.

Keep It Simple

I doubt myself sometimes, and I know from experience that you do too. It’s OK, no one is listening – this is just between you and me. My own doubt is partly driven by the fact that I believe so many of the things we need to do to make work better are so utterly simple, that when I think them, let alone propose them, they, and therefore me, seem somehow ridiculous.

I believe we work better together. Some of the things that help us do this are:

  • Giving, building and having trust
  • Noticing ourselves
  • Noticing one another
  • Getting to know ourselves better
  • Getting to know each other better
  • Keeping things simple wherever possible
  • Accepting that small things can and do make big differences
  • Having open access to information, which means we can cocreate power with each other, not exercise power over one another
  • Recognising that creativity is not binary. You don’t just switch it on, you adjust the dials and tease it out. Don’t fear it, play with it, iterate.
  • Having meaningful conversations
  • Taking breaks
  • Finding out what brings joy to one another, and then – try to cocreate the conditions to make that happen
  • Agreeing that respect is not a zero sum game. I want to lift you at the same time as you lift me, or put another way, my success is not dependent on putting you down.
  • Being coactive – that is to say doing things with, for and by each other, not to each other
  • Smiling
  • Practicing – our work is our art

That’s enough for now. Oh, and one more thing. Don’t forget to doubt yourself from time to time:

Nervous

Footnote #1

Thanks Sharon, Julia, Meg, Gareth, John and Richard for a crescendo of compelling conversation yesterday. I’ve had this post in draft for months and you all helped contribute and free it up.

Footnote #2

For every pack of Stop Doing Dumb Things ordered in December I’m making a small donation to Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity. If you’ve been meaning to order some cards for yourself or as a gift to others, now might be a good time? Thanks for your support.