A Leadership Tale from Current Events

Today I am going to relate to you a tale. This is fictional tale regardless of how familiar it may feel or how much it may remind you of recent events.

We are going to look at the events that involved three men John, Arnold and Barry who all work for Trinity Tailors.  John is the HR Manager. Barry lives in as poorer area and Arnold lives in a more affluent part of the country. 

The company recently announced a new company wide dress policy, which stated that red must be worn on a Monday.  From that announcement date all staff abided with the policy, even though HR did not translate the policy into a formal procedure that stated the WHAT and HOW of the policy 

Neither Barry nor Arnold are rule followers, they both do their own thing,  They dot’t think that the company is serious because they have made many past infractions that went unnoticed  They thought What’s one more? They didn’t think that the company policy applied to them because they were low down on the totem pole and they never got  caught

One Monday, Barry wore a blue shirt to work. When the HR Manager spotted Barry he became incensed.  How dare Barry flaunt a clearly stated policy? The HR manager severely berated Barry in front of the entire company. Barry felt embarrassed since some of his colleagues laughed loudly at him and teased him long after the event.  While Barry agreed that he did the wrong thing he felt that the HR Manager could have treated with him in a more humane manner.

The company was split on the issue since most people didn’t appreciative the manner in which the HR Manager treated with Barry. Some employees thought that the HR Manager acted as a bully and could have acheived the same result without demeaning Barry.

Those who agreed with the HR Manager, said that some people need to be shamed to do the right thing.  What was certain was that persons both for and against the HR Manager actions agreed that shame was  used as a disciplinary tool.

A month passed and the policy about wearing red on a Monday still prevailed without being translated to procedure.  The staff including Barry continued to comply.

One Monday Arnold was working from home. He was hosting a Zoom call attended by a client and his work colleagues.  Midway through the call, his colleagues noticed that Arnold was wearing a purple shirt. This was brought immediately to the attention of the HR Manager, the company policy was breached.

The HR Manager took the complaint, called Arnold and had a long discussion with him. 

Staff waited to see what would happen next. They waited for Barry to be reprimanded yert nothing happened. Staff slowly accepted that nothing was going to happen. 

By Wednesday, the rumblings started at the bottom of the organization and swelled to the top.  People were disappointed, they were mad and they were uncomfortable. Why were the two same offfenses differently treated? 

Debates were being held. Did Arnold break policy? Did he not wear a purple shirt on wear red Mondays? Was the HR Manager going soft or did they just witness blatant discrimination?

As the noise grew so did the mistrust for the HR Manager.  Things got so bad that the Manager issued a statement that read as below

Dear Staff

I am aware that there is growing discontent about the policy of wearing red shirts on Mondays.  Please note that the CEO has not given HR specific instructions about how this translates into procedure. Further more Arnold was having a Zoom meeting at his private residence, albeit with clients and colleagues. Because of the great respect that I have for the privacy of one’s residence I could not impose the wear Red Monday policy. Please note that wording of the policy states that red must be worn on a Monday and purple is red and blue mixed. Regards The HR Manager

That statement caused even more havoc. Team members began to question the HR Manager’s credibility. They shouted that the Manager was not to be trusted since he used a technical loophole to explain why Arnold received no reprimand.  Some explained that the HR Manager was correct while others claimed the Manger was a trickster. Comparisons were made about the bullying of poor Barry and the defense of Arnold. Staff noted that while the HR Manager denigrated Barry he allowed Arnold to have his dignity intact.

The debate raged on as staff took sides.  They took to social media and accused the HR Manager of discrimination, unfair treatment. favoritism and having different rules for different people.

Eventually the CEO was compelled to put his voice in to the fray.  His statement was short and to the point.  He said, “Company policy is company policy and is to be applied the same across the organization”.

The HR Manager was not happy with the CEO’s statement.  He felt exposed for he knew that with every passing minute he looked less and less credible.

Once again he went on the offence.  He sent an all staff email that said that the CEO had thrown him under the bus and that he was not being supported.

The last I heard of it the CEO and the HR Manager held a meeting to trash things out.

What do you think of that story? 

The main issues for me are 

  1. Inconsistent application of policy
  2. Differential treatment of staff members
  3. Loss of trust and credibility
  4. Public airing of issues among senior staffers.

The dynamic between Barry, Arnold and the HR Manager play out in organizations many times. While this is a fictional tale we can learn a lot from this. 

We all have unconscious bias.  Our unconscious bias is at work when we prejudge persons based on our assumptions. Leaders we are asked to rise above our bias. We need to ask ourselves.

What is the evidence to support my conclusions? Whose voice am I speaking in?

Most times the voices that loudly shout our assumptions are often not our voices. Our assumptions usually reflect what we never questioned, the things that we grew up hearing or saying or the things that we learned from people whom we trust. Unless we question where these thoughts came from we may never find our own voice as leaders.  Once we understand our bias we will act differently.

Companies need to think deeply about policy and the far reaching impact of these. Policy is a broad statement that needs to be translated into procedure so that all employees understand What it means and equally important How to ensure that the policy is not breached.

Whether policy or  procedure, leaders need to apply these in similar fashion across the board. Policies and procedures need to be consistently applied. Breaches also need to be dealt with in the same manner.

If the HR Manager was consistent he would have reprimanded Barry and he would not have the issued that statement defending Arnold’s shirt. When leaders do not apply policies equally they suffer a loss of credibility and trust in their leadership is diminished 

Employees who identified with Barry, as well as those who identified with Arnold took sides on the issue. This led to overall disharmony within the ranks of the organization.  Consistent application of policy allows greater harmony amongst staff as team members believe that they are being treated the same. 

The HR Manager did not understand precedent. When he publicly shamed Barry he signaled to the rest of the organization that this was how he would deal with breaches of the Wear Red Monday policy. Granted the HR Manager may have learned after deep reflection that the way that he treated Barry was less than desirable and adjusted his approach. However, his written statement indicated that he gave Arnold a full pass. His lack of action cast serious doubts on his decision-making capabilities as well as his ability to see clearly the issues on hand.

Leaders with each action and decision we set precedent and the expectation is that we will operate similarly whenever a similar situation raises its head. We need to pause and think. What is the message that I am sending with this action? Is this fundamentally different from what I did last time? How can I do it differently while ensuring that I treat the issue the same?

Leaders need to be consistent because staff are always looking and comparing.  This calls for leaders to be transparent in the application of policies across the organization. 

The HR Manager aired his disagreement with the CEO for all to see. How can a leader who is disrespectful to his superiors expect to be respected by his subordinates?  Through his action, the HR Manager is showing persons in the organization how to treat him and how to treat other leaders. This I consider unacceptable.

The HR Manager’s behavior also aised questions about the leadership of the organization and brought the HR Manager and the CEO under scrutiny. Leaders need to provide a united front if they want to promote harmony within the organization. When leaders seem to have a united front, harmony is promoted. When leaders squabble, staff squabble.

Going forward all is not lost for the HR Manager.  The HR Manager needs to get to a place of humility and seek feedback from his peers and others whom he trusts. This is one way in which he can get another perspective on his behavior and the way that he treated with both Arnold and Barry.

One the HR Manager understands how he offended persons he can then make amends for his part in the dissent. Ideally the manager should apologize to Barry but everyone knows that this will not happen. 

The HR Manager needs to work with the other leaders to translate the policy into procudeure. Staff need to be informed of the proceudere and how breaches will be treated with. After this all leaders need to consistenly apply the plicy and deal with breaches in similar fashion.

Here ends my tale.  

Tell me what situations have you seen at play out in your organization?  How were these resolved if at all?

 If you have any topics that you want discussed or any questions answered then visit my website http://www.maxineattong.com and send them to me 

We are running our Women’s Program – Enhance U for women. Awaken to Your Truest Self  -reclaim your passion and rekindle your joy

Covid-19 has affected all of us. We have been disappointed, frustrated and stressed.  Yet, we still have desires, dreams and hopes. 

The pandemic makes us wonder if we will ever achieve our goals. How much longer will you wait? How much more will you sacrifice? 

Deep down we know and feel it – we were each created for an unique purpose, beyond our roles as aunts, daughter’s friends, lovers, partners, mothers, wives and sisters.

How do we find and live our purpose in these new times? What steps can we take to do so?

I have lived with these questions and luckily found some answers, which I would love to share with you. Since 2010, I have helped over 100 women to find and live from their purpose.  Covid is another reason for us not to live our fullest life and the very reason why we need to live our fullest.

If you are interested then contact me. I would love to share these with you.

Thank you for reading 

Leadership is Promoting Racial Equity

The last 2 weeks have been particularly difficult for me.  I don’t know about you but whenever there is turmoil in the wider system I feel it in my body as well.

I had to make several decisions when writing. Do I write about it? Do I just press on and pretend that it’s not a problem?  In the end I decided that I have an unique opportunity to have my voice heard so I have a responsibility to share a perspective about what’s happening.

Trinidad and Tobago held its 5-year general elections a week ago.  Both the lead up to and post elections have been problematic as supporters of political parties took to social media to spew insensitive and derogatory comments that reflected long held misconceptions and false beliefs about ethnicity.

This name-calling and insulting behavior doesn’t bother me at one level., since I understand the disappointment, hurt and anxiety that is present at this time. People are free to express themselves and they are doing so on their personal pages and personal posts.

What worries me is that most users have worked or work within organizations and this behavior may have spilled over into their teams, .

What worries me more is that some of the users maybe or have been in leadership positions as supervisors, as team leaders as managers or as executives and negatively impacted the lives of team members they think of as on the other side of the political divide.

Beyond the people who made their feelings and thoughts known there are many who share the same sentiments and do not post. 

Social media misleads some of us into thinking that we are invisible and invincible, some freely type the things that they wont dare say. Some have alter egos that are fearless, opinionated and know it all, 

While it is possible that we can act differently from the way that our social media posts suggest no one can sustain a façade for an extended period, the mask often cracks, and the alter ego shows itself when we least expect.  There is truth in our social media representation of ourselves.  

We each belong to affinity groups, which means that we more or less involve ourselves with people whom share similar outlooks and perspectives.  In these relationships it feels that we are speaking to ourselves, our beliefs, our opinions and our world views are never challenged and our groups confirm our beliefs with every interaction.  

You are wondering if this is true for you. Lets do a quick exercise.  Outside of your immediate and extended family write down the names of 5 to 7 people whom you trust. For each characteristic that you share with them put a tick next to each name that bears the same characteristic as you do.  For example if I say same sex then tick all of the people who are same sex as you are on your list. 

Lets give it a try.

Tick for same background i.e. way of growing up, 

**Give a tick for Same Religion, 

**Tick for Same educational level, 

**Tick for Same sexual identity,

**Tick for Same ethnicity or race, 

**Tick for same school 

**Tick for similar geographical area

**Tick for same manner of speaking – accent, language 

Now look at the list. Do you share 3 or more characteristics with the people on your list?  Yes that’s because you share the same affinity group.  This is normal for us, the people whom we trust most are the people who have similar backgrounds and think like us and act the same way as we do.

This is not a bad thing.

It becomes a bad thing when we believe that only people from our affinity group have positive qualities and that people from other affinity groups have negative qualities,  

It only becomes dangerous when we determine that taking care of our affinity group is to be done at the expense of persons external to our affinity group or when we deliberately exclude or treat badly persons from other affinity groups. 

So what does that look like in organizations and why does it perturb me?  

In the recruitment process we may give preference to people who went to your alma mater. The interview panel may ask discriminatory questions to ensure that only people who share the same beliefs and experiences enter our organizations 

It may mean that team members believe that if they don’t look or speak a certain way that they will never be promoted or will never be a manager. 

New hires maybe readily embraced by some leaving others uneasy, the promoted may be celebrated by some leaving others fearful.

This negativity is unfair to the new hires or promoted as they are also left feeling uneasy. To ease their hurt feelings some recruits/ promoted may hurt others external to their affinity groups fostering even greater divide with their teams  Eventually everyone pretends that is has faded away while leaving a bitter tastes in mouths.  These actions builds mistrust in the workplace.  It promotes an us vs. them environment and leads to discord.  

Who can trust a leader who promotes or hires people based on his/her affinity group?

Who can trust the leaders who notice these patterns in teams and do not speak up about them?

 What is the leaders role in ensuring that there is fairness and equity?

How can we trust an organization that turns a blind eye to actions like these? 

And what do we do if the leaders are the perpetrator of these offences?

When we do not choose the best for the job then we are not serving the organization we are serving our selves. When we don’t promote on merit or have a transparent process then we set up our organizations for failure. 

I’m sure you are thinking about other actions that have been perpretarted in  your organsations.

Who gets or does not get  selected for projects, who is praised or vilified, who receives priveleges or reprimands, who feels this is the best place to work and who describes it as the worst place to work with the relevant examples.  

Leaders.  What is your role either by your silence or thorugh your actions in perpetuating these behaviours at the workplace?

How do we limit the occurrence of this phenomena?

Leaders we need to stop this behavior at the gate and do not allow this behavior to enter our organizations.  

Check out the social media profiles of potential recruits and review the profiles of people whom they follow.  We use psychometric tests to evaluate aptitude and capabilities; we need to expand these tests to determine tolerance or bias for persons external to their affinity groups.

I am not saying do not hire. I am saying increase our awareness of whom is entering our organizations and the potential impacts they may have on our organizational culture.

Ensure that the workplace has policies and procedures that speak to equality, equity and the limitation of affinity group biases and that there are stated consequneces for not adhering to these.

How may offices have a written policy and procedure around derogatory behavior whether within or external to the organsaiton? How many organsaitions have consequences for behaviours like these?  

I know that you may be thinking that my social media posts are my business. And you’re right let me ask

Did you use your company issued phone or other equipment to access social media?

Do you have your place of employment listed on your social media profile?

Do people know where you work?

If you have answered yes to any of these then you can be called to task and suffer consequences of your behavior, if your organization was serious about having zero tolerance for this behaviour.

Our policies and procuderes also empower any staff member to hold others accountable for derogatory behavior in the public domain. 

Courageous Leaders can host conversations about differences in affinity groups. These will offer team members different view points from those touted within their affinity groups.

We can start with the stories of how people grew up, the primary schools they went to, how they succeeded, what their hopes and dreams are and celebrate how well they are doing.  In doing so we need to ensure that we keep an open mind and not let persons external to our affinity group feel ashamed of where they have come from and the challenges they have faced. When these stories are shared we will realize that though our contexts may be different our issues are the same.  

Think about it gambling addicts from all walks of life attend Gamblers anonymous and share their stories.  There stories are always different since they are from different backgrounds, and take different risks. In the sharing the addicts realize that they are all the same in their addiction, their stories allow them to identify their shared humanity.. They are different and yet the same

How many of us undersatnf the words cedula and concordat, how they came to be and how these two words have impacted our history?

I’m thinking that instead of dressing up and sharing food for ethnic holidays we can use these holidays to remind people of the history of our countries. How it is that people from the 5 continents all came to be on this small islands.  We can tell the historical and factual accounts of how various groups came to this country and the contributions that they each made to this nation. 

In so doing we will begin to see value in other than our affinity groups and we can intelligently and rationally challenge some of our long held beliefs.  Over the long term we will see clearly the myths and falsehoods that we hold on to as a conduction of our affinity groups.

My personal belief is that affinity groups and differences are part of a capitalist agenda.  

The few will contain the majority by pitting them against each other.  

It is an old playbook that we continue to live without questioning, we are playing our roles in a very old script and benefitting others by the suspicion we have for anyone external to our affinity group. Understand that when the majority is set against each other so that the few can stay in control 

Our organizations are not functioning optimally and we lament that our nation has not achieved its true potential. If only everyone acted behaved and believed as the people in our affinity group did, then this would be a wonderful and magical place.  This is a naïve and simplistic viewpoint that holds limited truth.

Without the benefit of various affinity groups Trinidad and Tobago would be a myopic place, short in Vision and stunted in tits growth potential because all affinity groups are limited in their thinking.  From the viewpoint of our affinity group we only see one frame, we need the impute of other groups to capture the whole picture. When we embrace and include our rich diversity we can spawn true innovation and creativity.  

Leaders what do you want for your organizations?

How can you ensure that the diversity in your workplaces is used to propel your organization and our country forward?

How can you limit your natural urge to serve your affinity group and instead serve all?

The first step is to be aware and the second step is to always be aware of our potential to behave this way

Our responsibility to the organization is not to your affinity group. We are to provide leadership to all members of your team regardless of their affinity group

In our communities and our families how do we treat the persons who are not within our affinity groups?  What assumptions do we make about their intentions?

What are you going to do differently?
This is a big question that we surely need to consider.

My intention is to fuel your leadership spark so that together we can bring change to the systems that we live in.

 If you have any questions or want me to speak on a particular topic then visit my website maxineattong.com and send them to me.

Leadership is Promoting Work-Life Balance

As Community spread continues the possibility of us returning to work from home with varying scales remains high.

We have spent 3 months practicing work from home and most of our teams are now ready and equipped for this reality.

As I continue to host group coaching sessions with leaders and teams, most teams are concerned with the their work life balance and ask how to maintain this as they go forward. 

As work from home becomes institutionalized, it may be difficult to actually perceive a separation  between our work and our personal lives.  Our workplaces have now encroached our lives.

We no longer have to leave home to go to the workplace and we can no longer close our doors on the workplace.  Our dining room table is now an office desk, our kettle is the work coffee station and our co workers noisy radio is replaced by the sounds of the children’s cartoon.

Those of us who have sworn never to take home work, now have work as permanent and prominently features at our homes. It seems that the balance has been tilted on the side of work since it now resides with us at home.

There are two aspects of this for me.  There is the work and the life, that we are being asked to hold in balance. I want to separate them before I rejoin them so that we can deal with either as a separate piece before bringing them back as a whole .

Lets deal with life

What was the quality of your life before the Coronavirus?

Were you happy, proud, disappointed with your life before the Coronavirus?

The stay at home and the other effects of Corona would have compounded and shown you exactly what is the quality of your life.

A lot of us live our lives with distractions, which  is not a bad thing. They may look different from person to person and they keep us going. For some of us it may be the exercise, for others liming, for some travelling.  What’s yours?

During covid we had to stay at home without distraction and face ourselves. We had to look at the man/ woman in the mirror and we got a long hard look at our reflection.  For the first time in a long time, we saw how we related to ourselves and to our families and our loved ones. Maybe we liked what we saw, maybe we didn’t. We were forced to acknowledge our way of life and not all of us wanted to keep looking.

Part of our lives is also the relationships that we share. Cabin fever is a real thing and for some of us we learned that we didn’t know and in some cases we may not like the people with whom  we lived.

We realized that with the bustle of life that we were not spending quality time with each other and we needed to relearn each other.  This may have been rewarding to some.

I saw a hilarious and horrifying tweet thread that suggested that people were horrified at their spouses workplace ego.  Some people recognized that they were living with the office bully or living with the brownnoser.  We have never seen how each other work and now we may have had to recalibrate our opinions of others based on their work behaviour

That’s a lot of reveals in a short space of time, which did not always help our life.

In response to the messiness of life very often we turn to work. It makes perfect sense.

As humans we do what brings us pleasure and for a lot of us our work is joy. Work is also predictable we more or less get what we put into the job. Life on the other hand is messy, involves other people and plans often go awry.

It’s a no brainer about where to invest our time, work gives us a more immediate and  much higher return on our time investment.

At work, we realized that there is a difference between accessible and available. Team members may be accessible and they do not need to be available at all times.

Most leaders confused the two thinking that because they knew where team members were that they could call on team members whenever they wanted. For most leaders this was a teething problem, they were new to managing teams remotely and thought this was the best way forward. over the last 3 months some leaders realized that staff were in fact being responsible and doing as they required and eased up on this behaviour.

Yes I am aware that there are some leaders who are still closely monitoring their teams.

I don’t think this is a phenomenon of working from home. I think that in those teams there was always a lack of trust and the remote working is highlighting  the situation.  These leaders either have no trust in themselves as leaders, or don’t trust that their teams will follow their lead or don’t trust their team members.

I have not heard any leader complain about the lack of productivity during the work from home and most team members have said that they have achieved more than their expected results.

Lastly leaders, What is the culture of your office around work?

Some workplaces celebrate long hours and think that people who put their personal or family life first are losers.

Some offices promote missing family events as signs of loyalty to the office not realizing that life is being destroyed.

Some team members sacrifice family time and relationships on the altars of high performance and leaders applaud these decisions as evidence of dedication.

At these workplaces long hours, weekend work and tight deadlines are considered hallmarks of success. 

Now that we have examined work and life dear reader what do you preference your work or your life? What is the reason for your preference?

A 2001 study in the UK said that work life imbalance was more likely to be reported, by those working longer hours. It was also more likely to be reported by those in managerial positions and on a higher income; by women rather than men and by those with dependent children; and by multiple-job holders.

On the positive side, those who reported that they worked in an organization with a friendly climate, where more human resource practices are in place and where they have more scope for direct participation and autonomy, reported less imbalance. 

This report gives us some tips

Lets start at the top and be deliberate about the culture that we are building around work and life. 

What do our cultures promote? We need to ensure that our workplaces do not penalize fathers for wanting to see their children being born or that women don’t lose their spots because of maternity leave.  We also need to have a culture that does not penalize people who want other things.

Leaders we need to  encourage team members to take their holidays to attend family functions and to take breaks from work.

We need to stop thinking that if I can do it they can do it as well and understand that each individual has different needs and different levels of contribution to make.

We need to be flexible.

We need to highlight the need for routines with our team members. Encourage them to plan and take scheduled breaks.  Retain the morning 10-minute coffee break, the lunch break and the bathroom breaks. Remind them that the breaks offer a good time to check in on their children. We should be monitoring for those exceptions as well.

Lunch-time can offer opportunities for socialization through lunch and learns and families can be invited in.

Leaders encourage team members to find their rhythm and point out when their routines are also not working. 

We can demonstrate what routines look like by scheduling meetings at the same time each week and having work deadlines .

We also need to ensure that team members work a certain number of hours a week. 

As community spread widens, we need to be physically distant  and we do not have to be socially distant. 

Leaders reach out to team members and and check in both with those who live alone and those who live with others.

Some clients host zoom hangouts during which team members have a coffee together and shoot the breeze.

Leaders we need to plant the seeds and remind staff that there is more to life.

This may seem like a ticklish topic since we often think that Money is the main factor to the quality of life. Before I go on let me ask. Have you ever gotten a raise and 6 months after expenses just seem to rise to match the raise? Yes that happens with most of us.

What’s the quality of life that you are allowing yourself? What are you doing that takes away from or adds to your quality of life?

This is not about how much money you have it is about the people who are around you, you doing the things that you love unapologetically and the amount of happy or sad in your life.

What makes your heart sing? When last did you do that?

Many of  us at some point in time we give up the things dearest to us in pursuit of the career and then we are left feeling that something is missing.

As I progressed in my career as an accountant I gave up my love for writing and I felt the imbalance in my lifeIt is only when I restarted writing and published my two books that I felt resonance in my t became balanced life, since I operate daily with what makes my heart sings. 

Those who have regained your heartsong you know what I mean. For the others who haven’t take some time to think about that one thing that you did that you were just happy doing and reintroduce it into your life.  A sure way to maintain some balance.

On an individual level, let’s get help in every way that we can. It could be something as simple as buying frozen dough instead of making bread or ordering groceries to pick up instead of going to the stores or getting help to clean the house.  In whatever way we can lets make our living simpler and easier.

We also need to take care of our emotional mental and physical states by being aware of how we are doing. We need to slow down and pay attention to ourselves since it is ourselves that will bring us through. 

We know that work from home is in our future.  The second wave of covid will see many team members retreat to their homes. Beyond covid some employers will  realize that there are cost savings and promote work from home as the way forward.

Work life balance suggests that we hold the two in balance on a daily basis.

I have the image of a seesaw with work on one side and life on the other. Some days the seesaw tips in favor of work and on other days it  tips on the side of life. Think of the fine balancing act to hold the two sides of the see-saw at an equal level. It feels almost impossible to do so and this is what we struggle with. There is an unseen tension in holding the two sides even, it is difficult to maintain the balance.

Let’s try another image.  Think of the sea saw and move the life and work away from their separate ends and bring them together in the middle of the see saw.

Now work and life together become the pivot on which the see saw easily swings.  Feel the release of the tension. I know it sounds too easy.

Consider that life is a continuum in which there is a feature called work. It’s not either or it is part of our life. It’s just one of the multiple realities of our life and we hold it in perspective and in context to our lives.

I would love to know how you manage your work life balance.

Drop me a line at my website www/Maxineattong.com or via linked in or ig.

My intention  is to fuel your leadership spark so that together we can bring change to the systems that we live in.

 If you have any topics that you want discussed or any questions answered then visit my website and send them to me

At this time I am hosting free 30 minute online sessions with teams to discuss how to promote work-life balance. If you want to host a free online session for your team then Contact me on on my website at maxineattong.com, linked in or Instagram at Maxine Attong.  You can call or send me a whats app to 8687247642 or an email at maxineattong@gamil.com

Thank you for reading

Leadership is Transparency

Business Dictionary defines transparency as a “lack of hidden agendas or conditions, accompanied by the availability of full information required of collaboration, cooperation, and collective decision making.”

There is an indelible link between accountability and transparency.  Accountability produces transparency; transparency promotes accountability.  You cannot have one without the other.

Can a leader be accountable without being transparent? No

Can a leader be transparent without being accountable. NO.

Realistically, no leader can be 100% transparent.   Any leader who is 100% transparent will be irresponsible. Leaders must use wisdom to choose when to be open and transparent.

As leaders, we often know the strategic plays that the organization is going to make and we cannot tell staff about them. We can say the what’s of strategy we can’t say the how. We can share that we want to double income in the next year but we can’t say that we are buying a company to achieve the target. The deal will be dead in the water before the agreement is made.

There are many decisions that we cannot share so that our business remains stable and continues to thrive

As leaders we need to state when we cannot be transparent. My standard answer is, ” I am not at liberty to answer because of the need for confidentiality”.

As with all things transparency calls for leaders to hold a balance and think about what they are accountable for and to whom they are accountable.

I have worked with leaders who preference their teams’ need for transparency over the organizational need to keep matters confidential. These leaders announced decisions to their team members to build loyalty while hijacking the organization.

When one team has information that other teams cannot access, it sets up an imbalance in which the team in the know is seen as more important or receiving preferential treatment. Other leaders who are holding confidence are viewed negatively by their teams as they seem to be withholding information.

The leaders who spill the beans need to come clean. Do you tell all because of your ego? What else would be worth breaking confidence?

Leaders need to think of where their obligations lie – is it with staff or the leadership team – at any point in time. This is not about us vs them it is about recognizing the sensitivity of issues that needs to be disclosed.

The meaning of transparency does not shift, the leader has to make the call about the purpose that is being served.

Now that I have placed that caveat, we can talk about transparency in terms of providing information that will allow accountability.

I will talk about  transparency as it relates to the leader, in relation to the team that they lead and in relation to the organization.

Leadership Transparency

Leaders what is your intention for your leadership? When we are clear about what we want we can tell team members about it. Our intention shows in everything that we do or say. So instead of team members guessing what we want ,we say want we want.  This helps everyone to get aligned. The leader has put his cards on the table and everyone is aligned.

Transparency in Teams

What would it be like if we understood the agenda of each team member? It would go a long way to building transparency for your teams. This conversation will

  • Allow a common understanding amongst the team.
  • Build trust between the team members
  • Lead to understanding motives and behaviour.

When team members are clear on each other’s agenda they may step up and support each other. I have seen team members volunteer for extra duties to allow persons to spend time with family members or allow people who needed the money to work the overtime.

All team members must understand the targets, the roles and responsibilities of other team members for transparency to exist within teams. Work processes are understood and efficiency is promoted. Everyone understands how what he or she does fits in to the team’s contributions and how others contribute as well.  Team members should be aware of each others qualifications and certifications. Sometimes team members are contentious about bonuses or salaries when they have no idea of what each other is doing or has done.

Transparency in the Organization

At the organizational level I welcome the day that salaries and salary ranges are common knowledge for all roles. This will go a long way in promoting transparency and accountability.

Most organizations cannot reveal this information because leaders are aware of the disparity in earnings that are not always backed by credentials, or years of service or  performance. Until your company is comfortable with stating salary and salary ranges of all employees then you know that there is no parity and no transparency.

To be or not to be transparent is a dilemma that many leaders face.  My rules of thumb for disclosure to both internal and external are

  1. Will revealing this information remove the organization’s competitive advantage?  Answer Yes then don’t disclose
  2. Will withholding this information cast doubt and confusion or be viewed as a cover up? Answer Yes then disclose
  3. If 2 years from now a reasonable man looks back on this situation,  will he understand the reasons for non-disclosure as ethical or rational? Answer Yes, then don’t disclose

Leaders, unless it is a strategic decisions that will be revealed when the pieces fall in place we need to think about it.

Team members want to hear bad news about the organization from the organization. They do not want to read about it online or hear about it from others.  They do not want be shocked as well as they want to save face.  While leaders are deciding what to disclose, they need to think about team members and how they will feel by being blindsided by negative press. Some questions to consider during these situations are:

  • What is the impact of not telling the staff?
  • How can we build trust if we do not state what happened?
  • Who are we obliged to speak to when situations like this occur?

Sometimes the loyalty that we have for the organization and each other as leaders makes us want to draw a fence around issues and keep the situation under wraps.

We are pretending that the need for us to come clean, to internal and external stakeholders goes away it doesn’t.

So leader What are you pretending not to know?”

No one worries about transparency until something goes wrong.  To make it easier to build the transparency muscle we can practice being transparent with positive things that are happening.  It will make it easier when we have to be transparent with negative situations.

When leaders set a tone of transparency then the organizational culture becomes more open, communication becomes easier and it supports accountable behavior for both employees and leaders.

Some ways to build transparency are

  • Allow team members access to you to ask questions and understand what is going on. Yes it requires constant communication.
  • Conduct regular meetings with your team. These meetings are to follow up on work and deadlines. This way everyone knows what is going on what everyone else is responsible for.  Team members begin to appreciate each others contributions.  Give feedback on performance in these meetings – congratulate and help team members to work through challenges that come with failures.
  • In these meetings allow time for questions from the team members about what is going on in the organisation. Give information that is sanctioned. Distinguish when it your opinion vs the company’s decisions.  Be responsible and do not break confidentiality.
  • Encourage honest feedback about the company, its strategies or actions or whatever you may consider important. Online surveys can be used.
  • Have regular communication tools – newsletters, email from the CEO that will keep all team members on the loop
  • Practice stating intentions out loud, so that others on your leadership team and team members begin to understand what transparency looks like. Then do as you say. For example, My intention for giving you feedback is to reduce the errors.  This assumes that you are clear on your intentions.
  • Take the time to get to know your team members and meet with them one on one. This helps you to understand their personal agendas and promotes openness.
  • Host regular town halls to report on the company’s progress to everyone at the same time. This is best hosted by the CEO or top leader.  In this forum state challenges and opportunities with the caveat being that some things are confidential and cannot be shared. Take questions and comments from the floor.  Do not reprimand persons for asking difficult or challenging questions
  • Help persons who struggle with transparency by holding them accountable for being transparent.

Transparency builds and fosters better relationships since trust is present.

As always this is part of your leadership journey.

Becoming a more transparent leader takes time and effort. It will also take time for the benefits to spread throughout your organization.

Reader what about you? What do you need to be transparent about so that others can hold you accountable?

My intention is to fuel your leadership spark so that together we can bring change to the systems that we live in.

At this time I am hosting free 30 minute online sessions with teams to discuss how to deal with accountability/ transparency in their organizations. If you want to host a free online session for your team then Contact me on my website at maxineattong.com\, linked in or Instagram at Maxine Attong.  You can call or send me a whats app to 8687247642 or an email at maxineattong@gmail.com

Leadership is Accountability

Leaders are called  to be accountable especially when things go wrong.

Sometimes the responses to the call indicate that leaders don’t quite understand what accountability means.

Leaders are great at taking responsibility. They are great at fulfilling their ongoing duty to complete the task at hand directly or indirectly.  That is the end of responsibility.

Accountability is what happens after a situation occurs. It refers to the leader’s response and her/ his ability to take ownership of the results of a task.

So quick way to remember. I am responsible for completing the task, I am accountable for the outcome of the task and I take ownership of all that follows after.

There are 4 levels of accountability

Level 1: No accountability.

No one takes ownership of any results good or bad and there is no consequence for any behavior.  People can come to work late, deadlines are missed and customer service sucks and nothing happens.  Leaders turn a blind eye or stand by and watch.

For example, Patrick comes to work late everyday.  No one speaks to him about it and he keeps coming to work late

Level 2: Top-down accountability

The leader is responsible for the performance of the team members and holds team members to account for what they have done and what they have failed to do.  For instance, when Patrick was late it was my responsibility to talk to him about his late coming and hold him accountable for it.

Leaders need to hold all team members to the same standards. There may be a tendency to hold some team members to a higher or lower standard of accountability because of relationships shared, or sympathy or an ambition for another. When the standards are different for different team members this sets up dissonance in the team as the seemingly preferential treatment does not go unnoticed

Level 3: Peer-to-Peer Accountability

Peer-to-peer accountability occurs when the leader shares responsibility with the team. Ideally when Patrick is late, I as leader will not be the only one to address him. His peers will remind him about his late coming and the impacts of it on the team.  They may also help him resolve the issue. The assumption is that this feedback will mean more to him since it is coming from his peers.

The leader’s job then becomes ensuring that the tone of these conversation promotes the team and does not devolve into a negative or toxic situation

This is a form of peer pressure and as with peer pressure it can backfire. Team members may pressure others not to complete tasks, or volunteer for projects or accuse others of being a brownnoser.

Level 4: Self-Accountability

Leaders and team members both accept personal accountability. There is no peer pressure, team members  can look after themselves instead of each other, and leaders do not have to bribe, beg or cajole for persons held accountable for outcomes.

Persons who accept personal accountability do so because that is who they – accountable human beings, and they have a higher standard for themselves.

In this scenario, Patrick comes to work on time because he has adjusted his schedule, to ensure that he comes to the office on time.

The truth is that no one can make another person accountable.

In the short term reprimands may seem to work but over time team members will revert to the way that they want to be.

When I held Patrick accountable for his late coming he promised to come to work early.  After 2 weeks Patrick was back to his usual trick of coming late.  Until he accepted personal accountability for his late coming nothing would change.

What level of accountability do you see in your organization?

What would you like to see?

I think we need to be make a distinction between internal and external accountability especially when the failure to be accountable has impacts beyond the boundaries of our organization.

The Catholic Church, is a well known example of an organization that failed to hold its team members accountable to external stakeholders.  The Church held priests accused of wrongdoing internally accountable for misconduct.  It reprimanded the priests, sent them to lesser parishes , stripped them of title and paid fines.

The Church erred in not extending its accountability to the wider population that was impacted by the crimes. The crimes that were committed were beyond the boundaries of the organization,  as a result, external parties needed to be involved in any resolution.

The error was in limiting the offending priests’ accountability to within the confines of the church

Unfortunately the church’s actions has been mirrored in many organizations – internal accountability and no external accountability.

I have seen this play out when team members who have embezzled funds are told to pay the funds back, without interest, and are kept on the job without ever facing  criminal charges.

I’ve seen this play out when senior executives are asked to resign with a promise of a sterling recommendation and without a blemish on their records.

We hold the accountability within the organization but we are unwilling to involve external parties. We think about protecting reputations by not having public disclosure or involving the legal and statutory framework.

As a result, when these events become public the organization loses credibility and its reputation is sullied. The leaders are seen as promoting bad behavior, protecting  people and are accused of  having a boys club that takes care of its own.

If  we want to build accountability at the lower levels then the organization  must demonstrate that there is zero tolerance for breaches at the highest levels.

We need to hold people accountable both within the internal framework of the organization and within the external legal and other frameworks of the larger system that the organization exists within.

What leader is brave enough to break with tradition and stop the cover ups?

What leader will ensure full accountability even when this involves external frameworks?

In organizations with loosely defined core values, haphazard policies and procedures  it is difficult to hold people accountable.  If there are no rules then people will create their own.

Leaders make assumptions that team members understand and can apply the meanings of core values, and that they should know what behaviors are acceptable. Leaders need to state explicitly the behavior, the standard of behavior and the values that team members will be held accountable for and then enforce it.

Things will always happen and when they do leaders need to deal with them immediately.  The call for accountability must be swift and as close as possible to the event.

Things take time.  If this is a new habit then it will only come with constant reinforcement. Leaders need to communicate the need for accountability and the duty for accountability.  This is an ongoing discussion that should be repeated when tasks are assigned.  Patrick I am assigning you this task and you will be held accountable for the outcome.

The words won’t mean much without consequences so ensure that you as leader are willing to go the distance. If there are no consequences for the breaches then no one will be bothered to be accountable. Patrick was unwilling to change his late coming, even with flexi-time he was still late. Eventually  I had to report Patrick’s late coming to Human Resources to ensure that I went the distance to hold him accountable.

As leaders we need not cover-up or protect the breaches of accountability. We need to expose them and let the remedies take their course even though the outcomes may be unpleasant for all.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

We must be willing to expose the lack of accountability to get accountability.

The call is for leaders to hold all team members accountable.  We do this through our internal policies and procedures and having constant communication around the issue. We also need to ensure that the consequences are also matching to the events. We need to commit to involve external parties when events are outside the boundaries of the organisation.

Dear reader what about you?

What are you covering up to protect the family or the community?  

What needs to be aired for people to be held accountable?

My intention is to fuel your leadership spark so that together we can bring change to the systems that we live in.

At this time I am hosting free 30 minute online sessions with teams to discuss how to deal with harassment in the organizations. If you want to host a free online session for your team then Contact me on on my website at maxineattong.com\, linked in or Insta gram at Maxine Attong.  You can call or send me a whats app to 8687247642 or an email at maxineattong@gmail.com

Thank you for reading.

Leadership is Zero Tolerance on Harassment

I’ve spent the last year working with some brilliant entrepreneurs who literally started their company in a bedroom.

Working with them has been a learning experience for me since I work mainly in corporate.  As I worked with that client I concluded that regardless of the environment, the leadership needs are the same and all leaders are faced with the same challenges. 

One of the first revelations with this client is that they did not see themselves as leaders hence they did not act as leaders.  Even though they, made decisions, set direction and executed strategic plans.

They resisted the word leader. As a result, they did not lead. 

There were no policies and procedures stating what was unacceptable and acceptable and  no one understood their boundaries.

The result was that while the organisation was successful, the staff felt that they were in a whirlwind and everything was topsy turvy.  I’ve seen this many times in organisation. Managers don’t see themselves as leaders, executives don’t see them as leaders, supervisors don’t see themselves as leaders. Therefore no one leads.

Leaders have a responsibility for the tone of the organisation and do this via code of ethics and standards. Sadly the words often don’t quite resonate.

Leaders when we allow jokes that discriminate about gender, race, identity sexuality or any topic that is derogatory in nature, it says something about our organisation and a lot about our leadership.

Yes I understand that we love to joke and that we are just having fun, but let me ask you this.

  • How did you feel when you were the subject of a little joke ?
  • How did you feel when you are at the receiving end of derogatory joke?

I’m pretty sure that you either got defensive, faked a smile or went on the attack.

Why then do you allow this toxicity in your organisation?

Yet we wonder why some team members don’t speak up – it’s because they don’t feel safe.

We wonder why some team members never achieve their full potential – it’s because they feel battered.

And we wonder why some team members that we have big plans for resign – it’s because they could not grow in your environment.

When we ignore the winces, the sudden retreat of people from a room, the quietening of voices, the fact that only some people always have the floor we need to start observing and asking questions about what is really happening in the team.

  • What makes the quiet people not talk?
  • How is it that these brilliant people whom you hand-picked have nothing to say?

And most importantly What does my silence as a leader condone?

Of course it goes without saying if you leader are the one always making jokes and teasing, then you are part of the problem.  If all of your jokes tend to be personal in nature then you are the problem and your team does not feel safe with you.

Of course team members won’t complain, of course they all laugh, of course they mimic your behaviour but while you are throwing your head back and laughing because you are so funny, you may be missing the body language that indicates that not everyone is having fun.

It’s not that team members can’t take a joke. It’s that that’s not what they came to work to do.

Leaders often ignore complaints about harassment of any type. 

Leaders often say that there is a zero tolerance for sexual harassment yet predators are promoted and enjoy perks.

I have heard leaders say, “This boy wouldn’t change,” when referring to a 40 plus year old man who has had multiple relationships in the office.  I’m never sure if they are shaking their heads in awe or  with a sense of pride in the male prowess, it never seems to be in disgust.  Leaders we need to stop and think about the message we are sending to the wider organisation.

Simple questions to change the narrative.

  • Is that man / woman so hot that every woman or falls for him or her?
  • Are the people in the office so desperate that they all date this one person?
  • Is he/ she lying?
  • Is he/ she sullying the character and reputations of others?
  • Is he/she forcing him/ herself on others?

Leaders tend to turn a blind eye to these persons who date multiple persons in the organisation because the other narrative is not pretty. 

Yet this is what we MUST do.

We have to  consider the possibility that the multiple daters are not always on the straight and narrow and there may be questions both about the veracity and the permissions in their relationships.

It is sad the extent of sexual harassment that goes on in office places.  It is appalling the number  of leaders who have slept with team members  .

We know the narrative of people sleeping their way to the top, but it takes two to tango.

Leaders take a cold hard look at yourself.

That young man or woman could not sleep his or her way to the top unless a leader slept with them.

Power is a real thing and power makes everybody sexy.  Let’s not be fooled.

We may not be attractive, our power makes us very attractive.

Do you really think the best use of your power? Your position is not for you to try new positions.

My personal belief is that any leader who has sexual relationships with anyone who directly or indirectly reports to him or her  is at fault, especially when these relationships have started in the office.

The higher this leader is poised in the organisation the more unethical and wrong I view the behaviour.  Let me explain why.

The power dynamics of the situation will make most people say yes to the leader’s advances. 

A team member’s livelihood, may depend on the income.  A team member may be flattered by the attention, this is a stroke to the ego – the big leader likes me. So many thoughts swirling and they can’t get it straight.  Most will say yes to the leader.

I’m sure by now you are thinking of the serial daters, the multiple offenders and the professional harassers who reside in your organisation.

Leaders you may think that whom people date in the office is  not your business but if not yours then whose is it.

(Caveat – We all know that couple whose office relationship blossomed into marriages and children.  Most times, the members of that couple did not serial date people in the organisation.)

What as a leader can you do to limit this behaviour in your organisation?  

Here are some actions that leaders can take to limit this behaviour

Many years after joining a company, I was sharing time with a senior leader. He asked “Did Jerry ever bother you?” I replied, “No. I’ve heard about his reputation but he never bothered me”.

To which he replied good, because when you joined the organisation I warned Jerry, Jack and Jill to leave you alone.  What would it be like if all leaders told the serial daters to  simply leave new hires alone?  That would go a long way to delimit that behaviour.

We have seen the pattern.  We know who the serial daters are in our company.   When I joined a new team I was told several times to watch out for certain guys.  While I did not initially understand why, I paid particular attention to those guys.  When they made advances I knew it wasn’t about me it was about them

Leaders limit the harassment and jokes. This is an easy fix.  Let it be known at your next staff meeting what is unacceptable.  Yes people may groan but there will be many persons who will breathe a sigh of relief.

Develop policies and procedures around harassment.  This  includes– bullying, name calling, sexual and issue a zero tolerance statement.  Host discussions on what is harassment so that people understand what it means.  Allow time for reflection and encourage team members to use the language and tell others when they are being offensive.  In the first instance, everything will be offensive as people are learning about it.  Eventually it will normalise and everyone will learn what it means,

Leaders listen and accept complaints. We tend to make excuses for the offender and often ask the aggrieved to grin and bear it.  Our language is never so plain but when we put the burden of tolerating on the aggrieved that is exactly what we are doing.

We are not to ask the complainant to justify or explain why she or she feels that way.  We can engage both parties in conversation and set limits on what is acceptable and unacceptable to the aggrieved. At the same time stating that any form of victimisation will not be tolerated.

Set up an anonymous harassment reporting channel that is monitored external to the organisation.  Put the management and decision making about these issues in the hands of a neutral third party that resides external to the organisation.  This will give people the confidence to make complaints

Leader you may be going against the grain of the organisation to have these conversations with your team. Some leaders will disagree with you and not want this raised.  You know that sweeping it under the rug will not make it go away.

Leaders have courage, your team members are depending on you to create and maintain a stable environment.

Leader of course the lens falls on you.  You need to self-examine and determine when you may have been the offending party.  We leaders need to reflect on how the path we have walked may have negatively impacted others.

Leaders we need to have zero tolerance for any type of harassment.

For too long we have harboured multiple offenders, serial daters and professional harassers within the walls of our organisation.

We may not privately condone their behaviour but we have never publicly denounced it.

This is one of the little things that we do not talk about that deeply and negatively impacts our organisation ability to move forward.  How do we create a great future without addressing this?

Dear reader what do about you?

Who in your family, in your community,  in your church have you seen displaying these behaviors or have heard whispers about?  What are you doing about it?

When we stay silent we are aiding and abetting the persons who perpetrate these offenses.

My intention is to fuel your leadership spark so that together we can bring change to the systems that we live in.

At this time I am hosting free 30 minute online sessions with teams to discuss how to deal with harassment in the organizations. If you want to host a free online session for your team then Contact me on on my website at http://www.maxineattong.com, linked in or Instagram at Maxine Attong.  

Check out the podcast Leadership Unlearned 

8 Leadership Tips from BLM protests

It’s more than 2 weeks since George Floyd was murdered on the streets of Minneapolis. It’s been a week since protests have taken place all over the world.  Black lives matter. The facts can no longer be ignored

White people have had to confront their racism while people of colour have had to confront our internalised racism.  Social media is ablaze as people try to make sense of the actions and words of their families and communities that they grew up in and acknowledging that they are part of the problem.  And there are those who continue to be in denial.  They don’t see colour and therefore will never understand why black lives matter.

This last week was even more difficult that the previous week I cried I was hurt, I was angry and I was hopeful

Whenever I am overwhelmed by multiple emotions, I ask myself what can I learn? What I can share with others so that they can have a reframe of the situation?

While it won’t remove the turbulence of the times, I can share with you 8 leadership tips that I gleaned from looking at the protests for the murder of George Floyd.

1  Make amends with your apologies.  Over the last week we have seen a number of celebrities, athletes and organisations make statements that were insensitive to the Black Lives Matter cause.

After being called out they touted out the same overused apology, “I am sorry for the insensitivity of my words. I have the greatest respect for African descendants”. And on they go.

The result is that no one believes the apologies,  since we are aware that the offenders also fear economic backlash.  While “I’m sorry” acknowledges the guilt of the offender, the words have lost their efficacy. It also switches the focus to the offended party since that person now has to accept the apology.

Leaders I’m asking you to make amends along with your apologies.  Correct your mistakes or a bad situation that you have caused.

For example, if I publicly offend a team member then apologising in the quiet of my office is ineffective.  My apology must be public to correct my mistake or lessen the embarrassment that the team member felt.  I cannot just apologise I have to make amends.

2.. Understand before you speak  On Black out Tuesday a number of persons felt compelled to use the hashtag All Lives matter.  After being schooled they admitted that they didn’t understand that All Lives Matter was a troll of Black Lives Matters.  Without understanding the nuances of the words, these persons jumped on a bandwagon and make pronouncements.

Leaders we do not have this luxury. We cannot make decision based on conjecture.  We need to understand the facts before we make decisions.  We need to ask What and How questions to get a clear picture of the issue before making statements.

Leaders it is much better to say “What do you mean?” than to jump to conclusions based on half bake assumptions

This is an easy fix.

3. Don’t forget where you started – During this time I learned the term white adjacent. This refers to people who are not white. These non-white people “pass for white” and assume the privilege that goes with whiteness, distancing themselves from the socio-political struggles of their race so that they can enjoy the privilege.

I worked with a leader who came through the ranks and had the utmost contempt for this previous team members. When he ascended to management he used his prior knowledge of his team members to victimise them. He forgot all about the problems that he had when he was a team member. I

am sure that you have seen it as well. No one was born leader and most of us would have had a started at some lower position in the organisation and worked our way up. Yes I’m speaking about the majority of us not those who have benefited from cronyism or nepotism.

Yet when some of us get to leadership we conveniently forget what it was like to not have power. 

Just as our adjacent white friends we forget and adopt the stance that we are separate from our peers and do not use our adoptive power to make change.

4 Resolve issues as they occur The protests didn’t start because of the death of George Floyd. They started because of  Breonna James, Botham Jean and a long list of people going right back to Emmett Till, and beyond.

The same issue has surfaced in different ways, without real action to bring about real change. The protests are the effects of lack of resolution of long standing issues.

The same is true in your teams.  When team members raise issues deal with them. Don’t sweep them under the carpet they won’t magically go away. It’s like a kettle without a spout. When the water boils it will erupt.

Whenever I do interventions in teams it is often because of this. The team has a problem that is not immediately resolved and then everything goes belly up.  Unresolved issues do not go away they stay and they fester 

5. Take action . People may ask why protest. The answer is that if you do nothing will happen.  Action brings about change.

Since the protest Confederate statues have been taken down and chokeholds have been banned in Minneapolis.

Nothing is impossible, Anything that you want to change in your organisation you can.  It may not be overnight and you will have to be determined.  It requires action, strategy and commitment to see it through

5. Use your privilege – Leaders we are in positions of privilege and we can use that privilege to give a voice to the voiceless, to bring equality equity and justice in our workplace.

White people joined the protests and in New York city and their bodies as shield for the black protesters. Black men formed a wall around a cop who was separated from his unit. 

Leaders you can also do this on a daily basis.  You can hold the space for people of less status and privilege to enter.  You can support the people with less opportunity or the wrong address.  You can have the courage to use your power to truly level the playing field, and to nullify the effects of the isms that exist

7. Be aware of the state of your team – Team members are still dealing with the anxieties and uncertainties of COVID. The protests and all that has erupted has no doubt affected them in some way. For some it has triggered their own experiences of being discriminated against while others may be going deeper downs the rabbit hole of denial.

This may be a polarising time for your team.

Therefore this is the time for great compassion and lots of listening.  Leaders set the tone, demonstrate the behaviour that is needed at this time so that team members know what is expected.

8 Leaders take care of yourself   This is a difficult time. We are still suffering from the effects of COVID. We are slowly trying to stimulate the economy, get things going and restore jobs.

You as a leader have a huge role to play in this economic recovery.  We are relying on you, your experience your expertise and your leadership it is a lot that is being asked of you.

Ensure that you get enough rest, get some exercise, find a way to de-stress at the end of the day and do what you must to move forward.  Most of all be gentle with yourself

These are the 8 tips that I have received from the BLM protests.

  1. Make amends with your apologies
  2. Understand before you speak
  3. Don’t forget where you started
  4. Resolve issues as they occur
  5. Take action
  6. Use your privilege
  7. Be aware of the state of your team
  8. Leaders take care of yourself

What tips did you get from watching the BLM  protests and all that ensued thereafter?

My intention is to fuel your leadership spark so that together we can bring change to the systems that we live in.

At this time I am hosting free 30 minute online sessions with teams to discuss the way forward and how to get ready for the future. If you want to host a free online session for your team then Contact me on Linked in or Instagram at Maxine Attong.  You can call or send me a whats app to 8687247642 or visit my website http://www.MaxineAttong .com.

8 Leadership Lessons from Minnesota – RIP George Floyd

I’ve been watching the protests in the United States and thinking.

I’ve watched the events that have been unleashed in retaliation to a man whose neck was kneed upon by a cop.

I’ve been watching as #JusticeforGeorgeFloyd started trending with over 3,000 mentions per hour

The effects of one knee on one neck has become a symbol of oppression. I can’t breathe adding fuel to the Black Life matters spark that sets our consciousness on fire.

In the midst of all the confusion, terror anger and hurt there is the hope.  The hope that is bolstered by cops kneeling with protestors in a show of compassion.  The hope that is felt when seeing a line of black men shielding a cop separated from his unit and the hope when cops join protesters to continue a peaceful march

What a time to be alive when in the worst of fear we see great symbolism for hope and of hope.

It is with this hope in mind that I am thinking about leadership.  The change it can create and the difference that our leadership can make, whether in our communities, in our families and in our organisations.

I have hope that as we leaders recognise our privilege we will leverage our power to be the change that is needed in our societies.

I sincerely believe that leadership is the 5th wave of production and that which can really propel our countries forward.  Therefore when I look at what is happening in the wider world I look for the takeaways for leaders.  As I looked at the Minnesota protests I asked myself, what are the lessons for leaders from this scenario?

Today I will share with you the 8 takeaways for leaders from the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder,

1. Leaders let teams breathe. There is no one best style of leadership. Leadership is contextual, we change our style to suit the demands of the situation.

We make split second decision that this is the way that we are going to be at this time.

Whatever your style leaders only know their impact by listening to the feedback from our teams. We listen to both the said and the unsaid.  If your team never puts suggestions on the table then ask yourself. “Am I giving them room to breathe?”  Thinking requires oxygen.

Leaders who are larger than life and have a know it all attitude, can literally suck all the air out of the room. They leave little room for the team members to think, to participate to share or to be creative.

“I can’t breathe” could very well be what your team is saying when being micromanaged, treated badly or not allowed to bring ideas to the table or  participate in decision making.

2. Leaders take your knee of team members’ throats. Some leaders are really great at letting voices be heard and seeking opinions and feedback from team members. Others not so much.

Some leaders get no resistance to any plans that we make. Team members are all compliant and do just and only  as they are told. They share opinions only amongst themselves, never with the leader.  Check yourself.

If not one ever gives negative verbal or nonverbal feedback, if it’s your way or the highway, if you do not value the teams’ opinions then chances are that your knee is on team members’ throats and they do not or cannot speak freely.

You can choose to be the leader who supports difference of opinions and thoughts, discusses ideas, and encourages creativity so that you can get the best solutions to problems. All it takes is a shift in your position.

3. Leaders hold other leaders accountable. I personally know some great leaders.  I’ve interviewed some. These leaders respect, encourage and motivate team members.  These leaders believe that they work with adults and enjoy learning and sharing with them. Most leaders are like this. We think about team members in a way that honours their humanity and gives them the benefit of the doubt.

Yet on leadership teams there is always that one leader.

You know the one – The leader whom we mince past.  We barely speak to Leader X because we disagree with his disrespectful tones, his awful comments, and his hideous gossip all directed at team members.  We try to not talk to Leader Y we avoid contact and rush off.  What we do not say to Leader X and Y is that their behaviour is unacceptable.

The entire leadership team gives consent to leaders X and Y when we are silent about their ill behaviour. 

We become culpable in our silence just as these leaders who display terrible traits.

Our teams look at us bewildered and plead why leaders let Leaders X and Y behave like that.  And as these leaders carry on our leadership suffers as we lose face and credibility with our teams. We become the other 3 cops standing by doing nothing. We are part of the problem,

4. Leaders promote equity justice and equality in your teams and organisation. Equity demands that we treat team members fairly and impartially. Apply policies and procedures the same way to each team member especially when the interpretation or application is at the leaders’ discretion.

Know when you are setting precedence and don’t give to Peter unless you are willing to give to Paul.

Equality asks leaders to ensure that team members have equal status, equal rights and equal opportunities. The leader is to create opportunities for all.  This means that sometimes we have to stop and hold the hands of the less experienced or less competent to help them build their muscle.

Equity and equality are backed up by justice which assumes that the leader is a reasonable man or woman and so can act in a way that is fair to all parties at all times.

5. Leaders remove all isms. There is always that one person on the team who we are drawn to, more so than others.

We tend to trust people who share our background and experience more so that others who don’t. We know that people who attended the same school as us, people who grew up in the same religion or people with similar socioeconomic backgrounds are just like us and probably hold similar beliefs and values.  We may lean toward hiring, helping, supporting these person more so than others.  We may be more patient, with these, give them a listening ear and want the best for them.

Leaders be careful we can’t afford to go with these feelings, we can’t treat these team members differently from others it’s called favouritism.

When we promote these people beyond their experience and qualification without regard for others we are practicing cronyism.

When we ascribe qualities to people because of their ethnicity or racial composition it’s called racism. 

When we identify characteristics in others based on the shade of the skin or texture of their hair it’s called colorism /shadism. 

Stop and think for a minute. All of this is related to slavery and colonialism.

Leaders if you are falling into these old traps set by slave or colonial masters more than 400 years ago get a grip.

These isms rob your organisation of diversity, new perspectives and much needed change.  It also may be the  reason that you are losing your talent, why team members are frustrated, or have lost enthusiasm  and seem to have no interest in the company’s longevity

6. Leaders Check your assumptions.

  • What do you assume about the people that you work with?
  • What do you assume about their intelligence and their interests?
  • What do you assume about what they deserve, or the quality of lives that they should live?
  • Do you think that they have enough and should want nothing more?
  • Are you thinking that what is available for your family should or should not be accessible to team members?

Leaders we have a responsibility to the people that we work with to assist them become the best version of themselves that they can be and inspire them to go even beyond their ambitions.

If we assume the worst of them guess what we get – the worst of them.

What we assume that others deserve is what we will inspire others to achieve. 

7. Leaders check your self – I cannot forget the nonchalant face of that cop as he knelt on the neck of George Floyd for 8 solid slow minutes. That cop did not move, he did not flinch even as he knew he was being taped.  He was being a cop.  He was right and George Floyd was wrong.

This was not the cop’s first rodeo. He had other infractions and complaints made against him which went unchecked. George Floyd’s death was the natural trajectory of the cop’s previous behaviour.

What about you leader?  How many complaints were brought against you?  What is the turnover like in your team? What did the employee engagement survey suggest about your leadership?

There are many data points both internal and external to the organisation that give us feedback on a daily basis about the state of our leadership.

We all have to stop, check our behaviours and determine if the way that we are is the way that we want to be.

Our emotions our gut feelings and our hearts and souls are our internal compasses that tell us when we are wrong.   Externally we have family and friends who point out our shortcomings,   Whatever our feedback mechanisms we each have the ability to self-examine, to admit when we are wrong and to make amends and self-correct  We cannot be tone deaf to our  impacts on others.

8. Leaders you can create the spark. We have seen how the murder of George Floyd inadvertently is creating both havoc and hope. This is a great question for our leaders.

Are you creating havoc or hope?

Imagine for a moment that everything that you do creates change.  Is the change havoc or hope?  I am inviting leaders to lean on the side of hope.

Think for a minute of one thing that you can do today to create change in your organisation.

It could be something that promotes equity, or equality or justice.  It could be something that removes an oppression or suppression or something that limits the isms that exist.  Maybe you can finally give Leader x or y honest feedback.

Imagine that every leader in this country can create acts of hope that tell team members I want to work with the adult that you are and celebrate your humanity,

Those are my 8 lessons from the murder of George Floyd and all that ensured after

  1. Leaders let teams breathe
  2. Leaders take your knee of team members throats.
  3. Leaders Hold other leaders accountable
  4. Leaders Promote equity justice and equality
  5. Leaders remove all isms..
  6. Leaders check your assumptions
  7. Leaders check your self
  8. Leaders you can create the spark

What about you what were your takeaways from the Minnesota events?

I challenge leaders to be the change that you want to see. Your leadership is what we need to make a positive change in our communities and our countries,

My intention is to fuel your leadership spark so that together we can bring change to the systems that we live in.

At this time I am hosting free 30 minute online sessions with teams to discuss the way forward and how to get ready for the future. If you want to host a free online session for your team then Contact me on Linked in or Instagram at Maxine Attong.  You can call or send me a whats app to 8687247642 or visit my website http://www.MaxineAttong .com.

 

 

 

Leaders, Create the Best Possible Future for Organisations

In this blog, we continue to examine the best possible future. 

We looked at the best possible future for leaders at an individual level, and we spoke about the best possible future for our teams

In this blog I look at the best possible future for our organisations.

We will answer the questions – What is the best possible future for our organisations?

This is a real important question for me since it can make a huge impact on how we move forward as a country. Regardless of the unemployment rate most of us are employed or partly employed in some public or private sector institution. Those of us who run our own business rely on contracts from these organisations and others rely on the disposable income of these employees to purchase our products and services.

The choices that organisations make will impact all of us. Their choices will have a ripple effect on the economy and the rest of us. The answer to this question will tell us what jobs are available, what services are needed and the quality of life that we can enjoy.

To answer this question let’s start at the top.

Does you organisation have a Vision Statement?  How old is it? When last did you check it for relevance?

I walk into many organisation and in most I see a well-crafted vision statement prominently displayed in the reception area.  

Yet when I ask teams what’s the vision of the company, the question is always met with silence.

It’s true few know their company’s vision  What about you? Can you easily recall your company’s vision?  Does it really matter?

The truth is that most organisations are not driven by Vision on a daily basis. For most people the vision of the organisation is remote, a thing of the past, something created by a few most of whom are no longer in the organisation, t that is no longer relevant,

Vision statements do not have to be this way.  One of my clients literally starts each meeting with a statement about its Vision.  They are embedding that vision on a daily basis. And of course you can as well.

If your company has not looked at its vision for the last 5 years then its time for a relook.

Think about it if it was irrelevant before corona then it’s s pretty much a thing of the past and facing extinction after Corona

Now is the ideal time to think about what is really the way forward for this company.?

Some organisations are already embracing the opportunity,

On Monday a client called and said Maxine at this time we really need to figure out what we stand for as a business.  I agreed with him.  The last 6 weeks introduced that company to a different way of being, a different way of serving clients and a totally new way of working. 

Most of us are in similar positions.  In the last 6 weeks, we have gathered new information and data, we have situations that played out and we still exist.  We are in a different game, we changed our mind-sets to survive, we became flexible, we made decisions on the spot and kept adjusting until we got things working and kept them working .

Now we can examine and institutionalise the things that worked while scanning for new opportunities.

This is also a great time to review strategies, objectives and goals that were set for the year. Are these what we need going forward and of course what relevance do they have?

I know a lot of organisations are considering work from home / remote working as the way forward

I have been told that home-schooling and taking care of younger children do not go well with working from home, since parents have to do double duty at the same time.  This will not be a permanent situation since schools will reopen in 3 or 6 months time. It isn’t that far ahead

It is easy to calculate the millions of dollars that organisations will save in rent, infrastructure and providing amenities like tea, coffee, toiletries and uniforms by having more staff working from home. Staff are not without savings as well, as they don’t have to commute and they can do more work without the distractions that are in the office.  

 The most common complaint I have heard from persons who work at home is that there are too many meetings and that they are constantly being interrupted and inundated with immediate meeting requests or phone calls.  They are not being left with enough time to attend to tasks since they are always on call.

If organisations want to reap the full benefits of work from home going forward then they will need to figure the management of resources remotely and not micro manage and place unrealistic demands on workers.

Some tips for leaders to manage remote staff are

For staff that return to the workplace we have to reconfigure spaces to ensure physical distances are adequate and that open spaces are modified to allow for safety.  We have to devise our internal protocols for safety from sanitisation to the wearing of masks and the use of common areas.

 

  • Set deadlines and objectives
  • Schedule regular meetings to follow up and to monitor the progress of work. 
  • Limit the random calls
  • Use the technology to track log ons and log offs,
  • Leave staff to do the work.
  • Trust that staff are working
  • Give them the time they need to deliver.  . 
  • Check yourself and your behaviour towards staff.

Remote work or working from home also called for a re-definition  of business processes and highlighted the state of our technologies.

There is the opportunity for

  • Every product or services to be sold via a full online store, complete with automatic stock updates and inventory ordering and estimated delivery times
  • Every company that writes cheques to embrace online banking. 
  • Every company that saved money by not purchasing all of the modules in the technological solution that runs your business to invest in the full solution to optimise your business.

Beyond the technology we also got a chance to look a the process by which we take inputs to convert to outputs.

  • We regret that some roles are redundant
  • Some job descriptions need to be modified, 
  • Some organisational structure does not promote efficiency
  • There are bottle necks and other non value added activities in many areas.
  • Some necessary skills competencies are missing
  • We don’t need supervision for the process to work.

I love processes because they

 

  • Identify the limits that we put on the team members
  • Reinforce the way things are done here
  • Reveal the structure of the organisation
  • Show how we allow or don’t allow for creativity
  • Show the assumptions that are made
  • Tell about the culture of the organisation. 

(Processes are also the subject of my first book – Change or Die the business process Improvement manual.  Check it out on Amazon when you have some time.)

I know that changing the process can change the waythat staff is deployed, the structure of the organisation and the way that it operates.

To break it down I recommend that we

  • Institutionalise work from home for the jobs that are a natural fit and adequately resource these jobs
  • Invest in the technology to have business online or digitise the business.
  • Relook at our Vision statements.  They may no longer be relevant
  • Review business processes
  • Set new objectives and goals for the rest of the year

These are some of the building blocks for organisations going forward.

We still need to consider what is the possible for our organisation

I am inviting you to fix the things that are fixable a to get ready to enter this new wave and new time where the focus is on the people within the organisation. 

We used to think about organisations as mechanistic entities, the sum totals of many parts moving to create this big machine that churns out products or a services.

The invitation is here for us to look at organisations as relationships.  Adults who constantly relate to each other as they solve problems and achieve objectives

Researchers have also noted the shifts in leadership over the last 40 years.  Leaders were thought to be more directive, and adopted a command and control approach.  They told us what to do.

Now leaders are being asked to be inspirational

 As Kevin Roberts of Saatchi and Saatchi puts it, “We already moved from management to leadership. And we are about to go beyond leadership to inspiration. In the 21st century organisations have to achieve peak performance by creating conditions that allow them to unleash the power of their people- not leading them not by managing them but by co-inspiring them.

Leaders then extended a more participatory approach to leadership.  In this way they began inviting others to decision making .

Now leaders I am inviting you to the blank canvas and asking you what future are you creating for your organisation.

My suggestion is that we create the future with our team’s with open heart, open mind and oipen will,

We are required to have Open mind

At this time we have to consciously let go of the past, let go of what is no longer needed or no longer working.  We begin to ask new questions and paint new scenarios.  We review the lessons of the last 6 week and be brutally honest about our future.  We invite all levels of staff into the conversation so that we can get new perspectives to begin to think about the future. 

We know that we can adapt as situations emerge.  We have a prototype of how to deal with the unexpected and how to create opportunities when everything has changed.  From reviewing the way that we did it, we can learn and be ready for the next time. .  We are to take a look with fresh eyes at what is happening around us and keep the flexibility to take advantage of situations as they occur.

We can set aside our limiting assumptions about ourselves, the people that we work with and our companies to embrace the new

We can lead with an Open Heart. 

What do we need to change about the company so that people will be inspired to be creative and to adapt innovation?

Perhaps we need spaces or chat rooms dedicated to with conversations about change, creativity and innovation where there is open dialog without criticism.  Maybe want to create scenarios to get new ideas going.

Whatever our plans we realise that need to judge less and be slower at drawing conclusions. We need to be more present and be authentic in our leadership. We can be vulnerable stating what we don’t know and inviting team members to create with yus.

We can begin to develop the adult to adult relationships.  We can relate to the humans that work with us and lead from places of humanity.

With open hearts we begin to think about leadership not as a position that we hold but as a privilege that we hold for the upliftment  of others.

Open Will – We focus in on the people that we work with since they are our biggest resource. 

 We begin to move beyond our company to the larger idea of the greater good.

This goes beyond the parameters of the organisation and allows us to think about the ecosystems that we impact upon. We see the difference that our leadership can make to the lives of the people that we work and the communities and families to which these people belong.

We begin to see the enormity of our task and as Bernard Mitchell says the divinity of our task   

We are now  being asked to step into i, .to step consciously and intentionally into leadership. 

We collaborate internally and externally to create the best possible future for our world.

Open mind, open heart and open will. 

This idea raises the sense of loss – What am I being asked to give up and of course what will others gain

Yet for us to move ahead our companies, just as our our countries, can no longer be seen as operating in isolation. .  On this blank canvas we are invited to co-create with others, co-inspire others and be what is missing in our wider systems.

Many of us work and rely on organisations on a daily basis, therefore organisations are the perfect place from which change begins. 

Our leaders are men and women of influence who can intentionally create better lives for the persons who work with them, 

Your leadership can determine the way ahead for families for communities for organisations and for countries,

Think  about it – What is the best possible future for your organisation?

My intention is to fuel your leadership spark so that together we can bring change to the systems that we live in.