Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Greetings

Christmas eve! Where has the year gone?

Leadership has been an interesting study in 2009. I've observed lots of management, lots of manipulation, lots of the seeking and using of power and authority, lots of posturing, lots of politics: very little leadership. I see in this morning's papers that the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney says we are too hard on our political "leaders". I don't think we're hard enough on any of them whether they are political, religious, business, or societal. The result is that we get the leadership we deserve - largely operating in the 'red zone' (see rather than the 'blue zone'.

The Copenhagen Climate Conference is a case in point. Most people there were more concerned about the medium term impacts on their economies by any firm targets rather than on the good of our planet and what we will bequeath to our grandchildren's grandchildren. Talk about "the sins of the fathers.."

But Christmas is the time for peace and goodwill so I'll stop critiquing.

Thank you for reading my blogs. A special thanks to those of you who have taken the trouble to contact me directly to talk about things I have said.

I wish you a very merry Christmas and a wonderful 2010.

More information about Doug Long and how I may be able to help you at

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Right Thing

The Copenhagen Climate Conference is now over and a predictable outcome - ie no real agreement - is the result. As is to be expected, both those who want action on climate change and those who oppose it are leveraging from the result to bolster their position.

Its a real dilemma for national leaders. On the one hand there is abundant evidence of climate change - the huge snow storms in the USA and Europe are not in accord with established weather patterns; glaciers are melting in the Arctic and Antarctic; droughts and fires continue to ravage Australia. On the other hand debate rages as to whether these changes are caused by human action through such issues as CO2 emission and the argument is made that countries will suffer economic problems if industries are forced to change established habits. Do our national leaders pay attention to long term environmental issues or shorter term economic issues?

A few years ago Professor Warren Bennis, a leading leadership researcher and writer, said; "Managers do things right: Leaders do the right thing." His argument was that sometimes leaders need to be prepared to break the rules in order to bring about the desired future.

Elliot Jacques (Requisite Organization, 1998, Cason, Hall & Co, VA) talks about the need for people at different levels of organisations to have increasing degrees of competence to handle complexity. He argues that people with responsibility for major organisations with very complex goals and strategies need to be able to deal with potential issues some 50 years hence. He makes the point that many problems arise because people making decisions do not have the competence to deal with the levels of complexity involved - in that case they over simplify or opt for the status quo because they are out of their depth even if they are not aware of it. Other researchers, Don Beck and Chris Cowan (Spiral Dynamics, 1996, Blackwell Publishers, inc) make a similar point when they argue that most of today's problems arose from yesterday's decisions.

I want a world for my grandchildren and their grandchildren that is even better than the one in which we live today. I am concerned that our "leaders" - political, business, religious, social - all too often are unable to deal with the levels of complexity they encounter.

More information about Doug Long and how I may be able to help you at

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What is your intelligence?

Today I note that, in New South Wales, Australia students who have completed their secondary schooling receive their academic ranking - that which will determine what universities and courses they will be able to access in 2010. There'll be a lot of very happy young people: I suspect there will be more who will be unhappy, and some who will be devastated.

Yesterday on ABC FM I heard a repeat of an interview with Sir Ken Robinson of England - an educator of some renown. In the interview he made the point that one of the problems today is that we place undue stress on IQ. He said that there were many different types of intelligence and that, very often, people have to recover from the hurt done to them in school (the emphasis on IQ with the corollary that unless you are academically good you are a failure) before they can fulfil their potential. Some people, of course, never get over this hurt. Robinson suggested that the question we should ask is not : "What is your intelligence?" but "What intelligence are you?" Vastly different questions.

In my mentoring I encounter many people who have been hurt by life events yet have managed to recover from that hurt and go on to make a difference both in their own life and in the lives of those with whom they interact. Very often it is because the people who have been key influences in their past have assessed success or failure by some unitary measure - money, academic results, fame etc.

Recently I have been involved in an on-line discussion on the subject: "Why, in a multi-dimensional world do we continue to rely on single-dimensional measures?" The general consensus seems to be that we use single-dimension measures because they tend to be quick and easy and it enables us to pigeonhole people and organisations very rapidly. The consensus also seem to be that effective leaders use multi-dimensional measures.

What measures do you use to assess success in your life and that of those with whom you interact? What measures do you use to assess the success of your organisation?

The issue may be more one of what you measure rather than the results of your measurement.

More information about Doug Long and how I may be able to help you at

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Loss of control

What do you do when your business reaches the point where more capital is required for further growth? This is the question that has been worrying one of my clients recently. He asked me; "Is this a leadership or a management issue?"

Its both.

On the surface its a simple management issue - focus on your vision, develop appropriate objectives/goals/strategies (including capital raising), and implement. But underneath is the emotional/leadership issue of power/control/ownership. There are many examples of entrepreneurs dealing with the money issue successfully only to fail because of the underlying emotional one - "I have (or am about to be) losing control!"

There is no question that my client will be able to raise the money he needs - the question relates to the source of the money and the impact that this will have on his role. Will it result in a change of organisational culture so that economic indicators become the total focus rather than the "how' things are achieved as well as the "what" is achieved?

Right now we are exploring the following questions:
  1. how do the sources of finance fit with my vision and goals?
  2. what role will the sources of finance expect to have in the business?
  3. what are the implications of this on me and my staff?
  4. what are the risks and how do they measure up against the returns?
  5. what preparation will I need to make with my staff and clients/customers if changes are going to occur?
  6. what is my "gut feeling" about this source of finance and what are the implications of this?

Leadership and management are not distinct disciplines. In this instance there is a very clear overlap and serious attention needs to be paid to both sides.

More information about Doug long and how I may be able to help you at

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Leaders and the brain

Christmas is traditionally a time for happiness, relaxation, and 'the family'. But for some people it can be a time of utter depression and despondency.

Over recent weeks this has been brought home to me again.

I am not a clinical psychologist - my doctorate is in organisational psychology - but I did train as a counsellor and, over the years, I have found that training invaluable. I don't run a counselling practice - I'm a mentor, coach and facilitator - but there are times when mentoring, coaching, and counselling have very blurred lines separating them.

In these blogs I have (with permission) referred to people having problems and I have indicated the ways in which they are dealing with these - in my experience, helping people deal with personal problems is a not uncommon part of mentoring and coaching. But I have made reference, too, to some people who have been unable to cope - their problems reached the point where they felt that death was a preferable alternative. Last week this again came to the fore but, this time, the person involved was prepared to talk with me and find a way forward.

In today's society we are bombarded by so much information and are forced to confront so many competing issues that leaders can get distracted from "people issues" to "a bigger picture" - the organisation overall. The result is that, just when our people need us most, we are 'missing in action'. Sometimes the more senior a person is in the organisational hierarchy the less likely it is that he or she will ask for help from their leader or even acknowledge to their leader that a personal problem exists let alone that they are having trouble coping. Too often we seem to expect our managers and executives to be 'super people' who can deal with work, personal, and social issues efficiently and effectively without help. The result is burnout, inappropriate behaviour, declining productivity, or all the above.

Andrew Mowat (, John Corrigan, and I have just had our new book published ("The Success Zone", in which we explore our learning in neuroscience and the way in which changing the locus of control in our brains can have significant positive impact on our leader behaviour and on leadership overall.

We use the term "red zone" to explain behaviour where a person feels their survival is threatened and they see themselves as under attack or inadequate. In extreme cases this can lead to depression and feeling of total hopelessness. We contrast this with the "blue zone" which is where people have learned to shift their brain's locus of control to the neofrontal cortex - a situation in which change can be contemplated without feeling threatened and in which creativity and innovation can occur. In the "blue zone" there is no miraculous, deus ex machina changing of the situation with which we are confronted - but there is a significant shift in the way we deal with the situation.

Fortunately, last week, the person with whom I was working was prepared to learn how to change the locus of control in their brain. They still have a long way to go - but now they can see some way forward and are prepared to work on this. There is now a reasonable chance that Christmas might be a lot more positive for them and their family.

More information about Doug Long and how I may be able to help you at

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Values and the Leader

Last week I spent several hours with a person who is feeling very frustrated. He was running a very successful business but, in February last year, two key customers started experiencing difficulties - suddenly revenues dropped significantly. Initially he thought this was a minor hiccup but then the global financial crisis hit and, almost over night, other of his customers were also affected.

My friend has a value set which believes that you should look after the people who work for you and, when this issue first erupted, he had 14 people employed. After a few weeks he realised that, in the short term, revenues were not going to grow back to even close to where they had been (and forget profitability!) so he sat with his people, gave them the facts, and asked for suggestions as to the way forward. He made it very clear that dismissals were an option but not one that he wanted to take. A range of solutions were suggested and implemented and no-one was laid off.

Unfortunately things haven't yet improved. Customers are buying the bare minimums they need and crunch time has come. He is grappling with taking actions that will ensure his survival but which will hurt people about whom he cares and who have given him years of service. How can he reconcile his concern for his family with concern for his employees - all of whom he also considers to be friends.

Sometimes leaders are confronted by situations which challenge their values. They find that values which they thought were very simple are actually conflicting - as is the case with my friend. Like many people I know, my friend had never before confronted the question of his core values - he simply took them as granted and thought that everything would work out ok.

Right now we're going through the exercise of really understanding and enunciating both "what are the values?" and "what does this mean in practical everyday behaviours?"

When did you last really think about your values and how they impact on behaviour whether it is at work, in the home, or in your social life? What happens when there's a clash and survival becomes an issue?

More information about Doug Long and how I may be able to help you at

Friday, December 4, 2009

Effective Leadership?

In July 2009, the Society for Knowledge Economics published a report titled: Workplaces of the Future. In this they quoted a report from Gallup Consulting stating that, in Australia, around 80% of people are "not fully engaged at work" and that this was costing Australian businesses some $33Billion a year.

In November 2009, the Australian Government released the results of an international benchmarking study comparing Australian practices with the rest of the world. This report showed that Australia compared favourably in relation to performance and operations management but was less effective at people management. (,aspx)

The recent turmoil in the Australian Parliamentary Liberal Party and the NSW Labor Party are prominent illustrations of the problems associated with a failure to lead organisations in such a way that people are engaged. They illustrate a type of leadership, unfortunately all too common, in which there is no real attempt to create an environment in which people can be successful. The result is dysfunctional organisations which cater for factional interests and in which individual agendas take precedence over organisational priorities - and, in these examples, over national and state interests as well.

Group 8 Management's work in the education field ( has shown that schools can be transformed when teachers engage students both personally and with content. For this to happen, the leadership team in the school needs to create a culture in which everyone feels safe and in which there is unconditional respect for every person - in other words, people can distinguish between "the person" who is always acceptable and "the behaviour" which may not be always acceptable. When this happens, academic results rise and antisocial behaviour reduces.

In my work of re-creating leaders and organisations, facilitating engagement of everyone involved is critical. As the Gallup Consulting Report makes clear, this has very significant economic benefits for the organisation - and tremendous personal benefits for the individual.

More information about Doug Long and how I can help you at

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

When Leadership Fails

The current disarray in the Liberal Party of Australia illustrates the problems that occur when a leader fails to fulfil one of his or her most critical functions.

In my mentoring of leaders I stress a lesson learned by me many years ago: unless a leader develops at least 2 (and preferably 3) people who are able to step in when the leadership becomes vacant for any reason, that leader has failed. The true measure of whether or not a leader is successful depends on what happens to the organisation after he or she is promoted or moves on. If the unit or organisation degenerates into chaos then, no matter what happened during his or her incumbency, the leader has failed.

Over the years I have seen this scenario reenacted time and again. Think of the businesses that grew and returned good dividends and stock prices under one CEO, only to be broken up within a short time of a "strong leader" leaving - for those of us old enough to remember, IT&T under Harold Geneen is but one example. Of course political examples when a party leader retires or is "retired" are even more frequent.

One of the problems we face today is that, all too often, success is measured by the wrong things. If a person is perceived to have fame, power and/or wealth then they are portrayed as being "success stories". The cult of personality or power takes precedence over long term effective and successful leadership. This is readily seen by a simple examination of people to whom the media afford high visibility - many of them have done little or nothing for the betterment of any organisation let alone of our world. Such a scenario encourages "leaders" to be ego driven and to place more emphasis on "how" they are perceived rather than that for "what" they have done to grow their organisations or to improve things around them. The result can be an emphasis on style rather than on substance - we get "show ponies" rather "race winners".

As a mentor, I challenge the people with whom I work to answer the following questions:
  • What is your vision - in other words, what is the ideal state for your organisation in, say 10 years?
  • What are your compass bearings - in other words, what are the very specific strategies and objectives you have set for the next 2, 5, and 7 years?
  • What are the current capabilities of your organisation?
  • What are the capabilities needed in your organisation for your dream to be realised?
  • What do you need to do in order for these additional capabilities to exist?
  • Who are the people you are developing in your organisation so that these capabilities can be optimised?
  • How effectively are you communicating all the above to those involved?

You might like to answer these for yourself. They are keys to creating an environment in which people are set up for success.

More information about Doug Long and how I may be able to help you at

Leaders and Communication (2)

During the 1950's I cannot remember much emphasis being made on "how" people communicated. I'm not sure that "Public relations" even existed as a discipline back then. Then, in 1957 we had Vance Packard's 'The Hidden Persuaders', and William Sargant's 'Battle for the Mind', and, in 1964 came Marshall McLuhan's 'Understanding Media: the extensions of man' in which he introduced the phrase 'the medium is the message'. Without commenting on the content of these, it seems to me that much of the current emphasis on 'how' rather than 'what' can be dated back to works such as these. When today I look at "leaders" on television, hear them on the radio, or read of them in the written press I often find that it is really difficult to ascertain what they really believe and what, if any, is the goal they are trying to achieve other than massaging their own egos.

One of the problems that I see in relation to much leadership today is that there can be more of an emphasis on "how" things are presented rather than on "what" is presented. This often results in very shallow, populist approaches that are designed for 'sound bites' rather than for edification. People seem to want to keep themselves in forefront of mind rather than inform.

I was pondering on this over the past couple of days - Federal Parliament is back in session and "spin" will again take precedence I fear. This is a real problem as we entger an election year.

I wonder how much "spin" compensates for content in your organisation - and in your communication as a leader.

Just a thought!

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