2023 Leadership Unconference

In November 2020 we held a Leadership unconference (click here for a blog from then about unconferences).

The intention was to do it again, but life hasn't been that straightforward has it? The question we were asking way back then - what is the new normal going to be?- is similar to what we are asking now. Except now we are exploring how to deal with issues related to changes in the way people are approaching their work.  Phenomenon like "quiet quitting" are getting a lot of air time.

We are developing solutions and adapting to changes on the run. Wouldn't it be great to get in a room with like-minded people and explore the issues and solutions together?

So let's do that - May 1, 2023. 

An unconference is a participant led event, where we will decide the questions we want to discuss and learn from each other.

I will confirm a venue at a later date - it will be in New Plymouth.

Investment for the day  (9.30 to 3.00) will be $475+GST with an early bird special of $375 + GST if registered before March 31.

Get in touch if you would like to talk more.


Bringing your best self to work

When I work with leadership teams, I often ask, "What are you doing to help people bring their best self to work?"

It is a question that I think is pertinent whether we are talking about staff engagement, bullying, diversity, or just good management and leadership. There is no doubt that many organisations are struggling at the moment with staffing issues, whether is related to their ability to recruit, absenteeism, or building capability in their team. I think it is a pertinent question in this context as well.

We are seeing a fundamental shift in workplace dynamics. A situation that has been exacerbated by the past few years of Covid, lockdowns and isolation, but which, I think, is basically a generational shift in thinking about the place that work occupies in our lives.

I am sure there will be academic and researched studies about what is happening - there is already much written about the "great resignation" and "quiet quitting."  My view is anecdotal - from watching, observing, interacting with people working hard to make things work for their businesses. I also believe that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

People want to feel valued, they want to be able to finish their day with a sense of achievement and pride in a day well spent, to be able to have a sense that they are moving forward towards something bigger. That hasn't changed, people have always wanted that.

What may have changed though, is how work fits into that sense of achievement. I am hearing the same refrains from managers and team leaders about the challenges they are facing. Staff turnover is up and recruiting new staff is difficult, absenteeism is high, "good attitude" and "work ethic" is missing.

A number of things are at play. Firstly, team leaders and managers are under a lot of stress and are focussing on these issues, while not seeing the positive things that are also happening. That stress is also limiting their capacity to adapt and change their approach to minimise the negative impacts.

But thinking differently is what is needed.

As a first step, ponder the question, "What are you doing to help people bring their best self to work?" 

  • Do they feel valued?
  • Are you helping them to grow and develop in their job and as people?
  • Are they free from harassment and bullying?
  • Do they know how they contribute each day?
  • Are you helping them to get on with their work and achieve a good result?
  • Are you touching base with each person regularly to check in with how they are feeling?

Some simple things for managers and team leaders to try...

  • Say "good morning, how are you?", every day - and mean it.
  • Say thank you at the end of every day
  • Check how confident they feel in their tasks and give them the tools to be confident
  • Provide timely and constructive feedback about their work, regularly and consistently
  • Take time to find out about your team as people - their likes, dislikes, values, strengths and challenges
  • Be considerate, kind and fair

The important thing for longer serving managers and team leaders to remember is that things have changed, and you need to be able to adapt your style and approach to work for you, your organisation and the people who work with you. At the core, though, are the fundamentals of good management and leadership, unchanged from what they have always been - take your management role seriously, be consistent, be fair and, most of all, believe that you need to treat people well in order for them to bring their best selves to work.

Team Leader Management Programme

This is a brand new programme that is the culmination of many years mentoring and delivering training to aspiring managers and leaders. The programme is organised around three key groups of skills and attributes that good managers and leaders need:

  • Managing themselves
  • Managing others
  • Managing processes

Participants will develop their management and leadership skills at the same time. The programme will help them to fill their management toolbox with practical and useful tools, overlaying that with an appreciation of what is is to be a good leader.

There are eight weekly workshops, supplemented by on-line pre and post work to reflect on learning and apply what is learnt.

Facilitator and course creator, Shona Glentworth will ensure that each person on the programme receives support along theway to ensure they are prepared for the next step on their management or leadership journey.

View and download course outline here  Team leader programme

A successful unconference

On Wednesday this week, November 25, an idea that had been bubbling away for quite a few years, came to fruition. Instead of just thinking about it, earlier this year, I decided to organise an unconference to discuss changes in leadership.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, an unconference is a free ranging participant led discussion. I canvassed participants prior to the event and received a range of things they would like to discuss. From that I developed four themes, much like a regular conference. The themes were: Leading in a Changing World, Leading for Diversity, Being a Leader and Developing Leaders.

I set four starter questions per theme and we had four rounds of discussion to generate another level of questions to tease out a bit more.  We then spent the afternoon discussing those and coming up with some more ideas, answers and concerns.

The final 16 questions were:

Leading in a Changing World

  • How do you lead others in a changing world when you are not being led?
  • How can we evolve in a changing world without losing who we are?
  • How do we use the lessons of the government leadership during Covid going forward?
  • Is the future that you envision one that you hope to bring to life?

Leading for Diversity 

  • How can we make diversity more than a box ticking exercise?
  • How do we develop leaders to embrace cultural diversity?
  • A need for change- what is the cost? How can we create the change?
  • How do we create an environment for all to flourish?

Being a Leader 

  • How has leadership changed in a post-covid world where people are working separately?
  • How do you create change?
  • How do you balance your own personal success and the required success of your organisational measures?
  • How do we honestly, fearlessly and accurately assess our own performance in order to continuously evolve?

Developing Leaders 

  • Who in your field would you mentor? Who is your successor?
  • How do we sell being a leader?
  • How do we find and support the hotspots where future leaders develop their voice?
  • How do we create a culture where mistakes are OK?

Over the coming week I will be pulling together the outcomes from these discussions for the participants to reflect on.

The unconference was a success, it was the first one and there are areas to improve on, but the experience was great and I will definitely be organising some more.


The benefits of engaged employees

Employee engagement is defined as the emotional commitment the employee has to the organisation and its goals.  There are many benefits of engaged employees.

What makes an engaged employee different from a "good employee" or a "happy employee"?  An engaged employee is working for more than their pay or their own career. they are actively and proactively working towards the organisation's goals. They are loyal and emotionally committed to their work, they are enthusiastic and are more likely to emerge as leaders, staying with the organisation for much longer.

There is a lot of research that shows that engaged employees result in lower turnover, higher productivity (some research says 21% more productive and 22% more profitable) and a positive reputation.

An engaged employee doesn't happen by chance, you don't just recruit one and then sit back and relax. Organisations must have practices in place that create the right environment for staff engagement. To have an environment for engagement your practices should add up to your employees:

  • Knowing what is expected of them
  • Being able to access all the resources needed to do their job well
  • Accessing training and personal development to extend and refine their talents and skills
  • Being able to do what they are good at, and excel every day
  • Knowing what they are doing well or could do better
  • Being able to speak up and be heard

Key are good communication processes, management processes that allow staff to thrive and feel empowered, clear and consistent values and goals to work to.

It is worth the effort to create the environment for your team to thrive.

To develop practices to encourage engaged employees, book a Masterclass for Employers with us.

It worked for me.... (but did it?)

Many of today's managers, even relatively young managers, were taught how to manage people by "tough" managers from the past. The degree of "toughness" depends on industry and era. You could have been trained in a restaurant kitchen by a chef who idolised the Gordon Ramsay style of teaching others - belittling, shouting, throwing things. You may have worked under a gruff foreman who only communicated the things you did wrong, told you that you were stupid and that they may as well do the work themselves. Or you may have worked for a woman trying to make her way in a man's world, who believed she had to "out-tough" the toughest.  These, and similar styles, are not styles of management for today.

These styles of management still exist, but often because the manager is struggling with being firm, demanding performance and high standards but doesn't know any other way.  You sometimes hear that "It worked for me" But did it really? It is time to learn a new way of leading and managing.

How can we manage for today and still achieve high standards of performance? 

Firstly we need to separate what you want to achieve from how you do it. It is OK to require high standards and levels of performance (so long as you are not being unreasonable), but it is not OK to bully people into doing it.

A few things you can implement into your management processes to help people to achieve your standards and goals are:

  • Integrate your orientation, personal development and performance management processes so that they support each other to communicate expectations of performance levels and to develop the skills and attributes of your team. They should empower staff and provide motivation to achieve.
  • Communicate in a meaningful way. Ensure that your communication processes allow for two way communication and feedback; that ideas are sought, captured and acted on, and that messages reinforce the culture of performance in a positive way.
  • Coach people to do better, provide regular feedback, reinforce the good and correct the not so good. Give people the benefit of the doubt that they want to do well, are capable of doing well, but have not yet learnt all they need to know.
  • When it becomes apparent that there is a serious performance issue, deal with it at the time. Implement fair and consistent consequences with the goal of improvement.

Every organisation, every team member will be different and things may not always go to plan; but if you are firm but fair, consistent in your approach and treat people with respect, it will work most of the time.

If you would like to discuss management and leadership further, get in touch for a chat, or register to come to our Leadership Unconference on November 25.



Tips on effective facilitation

The definition of facilitate is to "make an action or process easy or easier". Much of what I do can be described as facilitation. When I am in front of a classroom of adults, chairing a meeting, coaching one on one, or guiding a discussion; my main purpose is to facilitate the free flow of ideas to help people learn or reach conclusions for themselves. I add my own experiences as appropriate, but the prime purpose is to allow people to develop and structure their own thoughts.

A good facilitator makes it look easy, but there is preparation before the event and a lot of analysis and adapting on the fly to ensure the session runs as planned. I have achieved my goal if you, the participant, don't notice the process - you should be able to enjoy the discussion and see the results at the end.

  1. Preparation is key - what do you want to achieve, who will be there, what is the best way to gather ideas, to keep discussion flowing and keep to time?
  2. Be adaptable - (Have a few tricks up your sleeve) On the day, things might not go to plan. Participants may have a different understanding of the topic that what you anticipated, bigger questions may be uncovered, time may get way - be prepared to adjust and bend the day as you go to still achieve what you intended to achieve.
  3. The day is not about you - the facilitator is there to keep the session flowing, to create a safe space for discussion and to help participants find clarity. There may be times when your wisdom and experience is useful, however you are not there to teach or to add your own thoughts to the mix.
  4. Remain calm - to a certain extent, the session will go where it is meant to go. That doesn't mean you give up on the process you planned, but if things don't go to plan it is important that the facilitator calmly assesses the situation and brings it back to where it should be.

Facilitation is a process that requires concentration and thinking on your feet - it takes a lot of energy. But is is also fun to see an idea take shape, the participants find clarity and discussion flow freely. Effective facilitation is the key to achieving a worthwhile result.


So, what is an unconference?

Implement hosted a Leadership Unconference on November 25, 2020, and is planning another on May 1, 2023.

The idea began as I mulled over leadership styles, the changes that people are saying they want in a post covid world, and how people are reacting to leaders in the public sphere.

I get a real sense that many people are no longer happy to accept the way things have been, but at the same time, views around what is acceptable and what is not, are becoming increasingly polarised.

How could I have a wide ranging conversation about leadership in a changing world, and develop some conclusions that could inform my work and the work of others as we navigate our way back to "normal"?

The idea of an unconference was born!

So, what is an unconference? 

An unconference is a participant led discussion, centred around the theme of the event,  but of specific topics raised by the participants. It is a facilitated, structured process to create a very organic day for participants. The best explanation I can come up with for those who have never been to one, is that it replicates the feeling you have at a formal conference when you come back and say that the best learning was the networking over a cuppa or drinks.

I am observing lots of people telling me what the "new normal" is going to be- but the truth is they really don't know. We all have a feeling about the future that is based on our own view of the world - I would like to create a forum of diverse people, and diverse views, in a safe place to air those views, and come up with come conclusions about a leadership model for the future.

Of course there are core truths of leadership that we will continue to teach, but how will those be applied in a world where some people are fearful, where more people want to work from home, where our world has shrunk to our own borders.

We began this discussion in 2020 - let's develop solutions in 2023.



transformational leadership

What will Transformational Leadership Look Like as we Recover?

Has there ever been a time when world leadership has been under so much scrutiny? There probably has, but you have to agree it has been fascinating and horrifying in equal measure to see how different leaders have taken their countries through (or not) the pandemic of COVID19.

In New Zealand we are seeing a range of leadership styles as we head towards the national elections and in my region of Taranaki, we are seeing community leaders stepping up to make a change in how our community is represented at local council level.

My sense is that we are looking for a different style from our leaders than we have in the past. I am not an expert in political leadership, so I am not going to attempt to analyse things in depth. I will simply talk about my observations.

I am observing a stronger voice asking for leaders who are empathetic, kind and fair, who are also decisive, firm and clear in their views.

There is much written about Transformational Leadership – a term for the type of leadership that may be just what we are looking for as we chart a new course post the pandemic.

A transformational leader is described (among other things) as someone who:

  • Manages their own ego
  • Makes difficult decisions
  • Manages themselves well
  • Calculates and take the right risks
  • Works for the greater good
  • Is adaptable and open to new ideas
  • Has empathy for others

I am keen to begin a discussion within the business community about leadership as we move into 2021 and beyond. I believe our world will not go back to how it was before the pandemic, we will be faced with change to the way we do business, the way we live our lives and the way we interact with others.

What does this mean for us, our staff, our clients, our families, our communities?

I believe we need be a society of resilient people. A society of people who can adapt, who can manage uncertainty, who can respond to a changing environment with confidence.

To be part of the conversation read more…


16 Misunderstood Facts about Leadership (Part 4)

In this final instalment of the 4-part blog, I bring you the final 4 "facts" about leadership. There are many more cliches and beliefs that shape how we lead and how we view our leaders.  The important thing to remember is that we each bring our own style to our leadership roles and we can only lead if we have people willing to follow us.

My personal view is that we each have an opportunity and the ability to be a leader ; some will do it with a public profile, some will quietly be leaders in their own lives. We are all members of a community (sometimes many communities),  each of us has a responsibility, in our own way, to help make our communities function well - that is my definition of leadership.

13. It is lonely at the top

I think this comes from an old-fashioned view that you need to keep yourself aloof from your team. As I mentioned earlier, as a leader, you both lead the team and are part of the team. A team is created to support each other, including the leader. As a leader you can nurture the culture of shared responsibility, of helping each other out and of everyone stepping up as needed.

14. Leaders are visionary

We all talk about a key attribute of being a leader is their ability to develop and articulate the vision. An inclusive leader will inspire the team to develop their shared vision. Once developed, they will have the ability to hold that vision and to maintain the momentum to strive to achieve it. The key to success is that it is shared.

15. You need to be an extravert to lead

An extravert is someone who gains their energy from others, they are often louder and talk more than their introvert colleagues. Talking and thinking are the same action, so they will often begin talking before they have a fully formed thought.

Introverts recharge their energy when alone; they think before they talk and can therefore be thought of as being shy and quiet.

Either personality type can be an effective leader.

16. The team must like the leader

As with many of the previous 15 “facts”, there is some truth in this statement - it is much easier to be in a team when you like the leader. However, this should not drive the actions of a leader. Sometimes you must make a hard call; one that people will not like. A team must be able to understand the context of decisions, they should be able to hold their respect for the leader regardless of whether they like the decision or not.

16 Misunderstood Facts about Leadership (Part 3)

In the 3rd instalment of this blog, we look at more misconceptions that can set a leader up for failure. Holding on to beliefs that your way is the only way can create issues for team performance and the leader's effectiveness.

9. You can’t give an inch

There are times when compromise is important, and an effective leader will know when to compromise to create a solution that meets everyone’s needs. Leaders of high performing teams have learnt the art of managing the needs of the individual as well as the needs of the team. Being too dogmatic in your approach to individual needs will negatively affect team morale and productivity.

10. Leaders are born with charisma

There are many variations on the “Leaders are born, not made” mantra, thankfully for the most part we no longer believe this to be true – we know that leadership can be taught. It is important also to not look at superficial attributes associated with charisma and believe they signify good leadership. A leader does not need to be charismatic to be effective.

11. There is no-one to take my place

This is a common misconception. How often are you on a committee where the chair has been keeping the seat warm for a long time because no-one has put their hand up to take their place? The truth is that if you step down, someone will step up to take your place. They will likely build on what you have done and take the organisation to the next stage of development. Knowing when your time is up is the sign of a good leader.

12. Leading one team in much like another

Oh no it isn’t! Every team has a different dynamic, every team has a different history, every team has a different purpose. Leadership skills are definitely transferable from team to team, but if a new team leader thinks they can do exactly the same as they did for their last team and it will work – they may be in for a rude awakening.

There is a saying for new team leaders and managers – Breathe through your nose for the first few days- in other words, keep your mouth closed until you have seen how things work.

Final instalment tomorrow...

16 Misunderstood Facts about Leadership (Part 2)


Here are the next four misunderstood facts about leadership. A leader is a person who has taken on a responsibility to provide direction, they take the initiative, provide confidence in the path ahead and ensure the team is inspired to take action. They are also human beings and we need to be very careful we don't make the role of leadership a lonely place to be.

5. As the leader you must know all the answers

No-one knows all the answers, as a leader you are setting yourself up to fail if you think you do. As a leader it is important that you are open about what you don’t know, seek to find the answers when you need to, and surround yourself with good people who do know the answers.

A good leader should, however, know which questions to ask.

6. Good leaders are not afraid to get their hands dirty

How many times do you hear this as an attribute of a good leader? There may be times when there is a need for all hands on deck, but as a general rule, the leader does not need to “get their hands dirty”. Their skills are best used leading the team, providing direction, and developing the relationships needed to keep work in front of the team.

7. You can’t always be yourself

There is often a belief that you have to have a façade, a professional image, to uphold as a leader. That you can’t relax and be yourself. To be effective, you need to be authentic, you need to show people who you really are, let your guard down occasionally and show your human side. The proviso to this is that you still have to be there for the team, sometimes it might mean suppressing your own emotions about a situation in order to remain calm and in control for your team.  You may need to “take one for the team.”

8. People must know that you are the boss

As a leader you are both in charge and part of the team. In some situations, you may delegate a leadership role to other team members because they have more skills than you or are the right person at this time. You do not always need to be “The Boss” and be in charge. There are connotations to “let them know who is the boss” that are not attributes of a good leader, a leader is never a bully and does not need to stamp their authority to make a point. Their authority is earned by their deeds and their manner.

Part 3 tomorrow...

16 Misunderstood Facts About Leadership (Part 1)

What do you think of when you think of a good leader? Do you think about that strong, charismatic person, who doesn’t get too caught up in the detail but can clearly articulate what they need you to do?

Or do you think about that quiet person who just gets on with things and who somehow manages to inspire a team to do the things they want them to do?  Or somewhere in between?

Leadership is an important attribute. We need to be careful though that we don’t mythologise leadership to be a gold standard of perfection. Leaders are people, with all the flaws, foibles, and insecurities of other mere mortals.

Why do we put leadership on a pedestal? Here are the first of 16 misunderstood “facts” about leadership. I believe that these facts serve to create an unrealistic expectation of leadership.

1. A leader must always be strong

As a leader it is important that you show your vulnerabilities and ask for help when you need it.  Your team will step up and help you when you ask, they want to support a leader they trust and admire.

2. Good leaders are humble, they don’t have egos

No-one likes someone who is overly arrogant, and being humble is a good attribute, but we all have an ego.  Ego is a person’s sense of self-esteem and self-importance  - I think these are necessary for someone who is going to put themselves forward for a leadership role. It is important however, that a leader’s sense of self-importance is not used to make others feel less than them.

3. Being a leader is better than being a manager

This is one of my biggest bug-bears! Leadership is an important attribute to have in many situations, it is good to aspire to gain the skills needed to be a leader. It is not, however, more important than being a good manager. A manager is responsible for the organisation of the business or team – a manager can be a leader and a leader can be a manager. You can also be a good manager without strong leadership skills. A high performing team needs a person, or people, who can provide both leadership and management.

4. A good leader is always articulate

It certainly helps your leadership if you can articulate clearly what is needed to the team – an articulate person inspires confidence and the sense that they “know what they are doing”.  We can all call great leaders to mind who were also great orators.  There are also great leaders who are quiet and not as comfortable giving well crafted, insightful speeches. They will utilise other communication skills to gain the trust of their team- they will be open, honest, straightforward. They will be human. They will have people in their team who can help them to get their message across clearly to others.

Part 2 tomorrow...