Future Leaders Scheme: Leadership under pressure

What it was:

A talk and interactive session on leadership, held as part of the Future Leaders Scheme at Ashridge in November 2017.

We also completed a ‘leadership dilemmas’ exercise that looks at choices under pressure.

What I learned:

A simple model for how the brain works:

  • “Brain 1”, the autonomic nervous system; Sympathetic nervous system, works fast. Controls fear, fight, flight.
  • “Brain 2”, Parasympathetic nervous system; Controls rest and recuperation.
  • It’s essential to balance sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. Without balance, we lose cognitive function, become tired and stupid!
  • “Brain 3”, the conscious thinking mind. Brain 3 has not evolved fast enough for us to cope with modern world.
  • Under stress, brain 2 perceives threat, activates brain 1, brain 3 shuts down.

Sweet spot between challenge and threat is “correct thinking under pressure”- this is what you should always aim for.

My leadership values, according to my guesses (!?):

  • Future leaning
  • Integrity
  • Honest and open
  • Engagement
  • Innovation
  • “Excitement, adventure and really wild things”

My leadership values, as evidenced by the ‘leadership dilemmas’ exercise?

  • Integrity
  • Honesty
  • Openness

What will I aim to do differently as a result:

  • Consider an exercise to reconcile what team say about me and what I said about myself
  • Develop and write a “why should anyone be led by you statement”
  • Keep momentum on learning and development
  • Write this all up!

Who are you? Exploring the intersections of identity

What it was:

Day of talks and discussions with Richard Heaton, MoJ permanent secretary and civil service race champion, plus other speakers from across Whitehall, held at the MOD on 11 October 2017.

What I learned:

Intersectionality is typically when people are a member of more than one minority group e.g. someone who is LGBT+ and a member of an ethnic minority.

Some of the hardest challenges are faced by people at these intersections – but  these intersections are also opportunities to embrace and enhance diversity.

“Diversity is being invited to the party… Inclusion is being asked to dance”

Different aspects of intersectionality may manifest in different contexts e.g. in a room full of men you are a woman, but in a room full of white people you are black.

What if you bring everything that you are to the party?

Authenticity is key.

What I will aim to do differently as a result:

Think about my ‘micro behaviours’ with my own team – do I use exclusive language / make exclusive judgements without conscious awareness?

Be more inclusive – for example, make sure team events are inclusive.

Ask new team members about their background.

Think about my privileges, what they are, and how I can use my privileges to help others.

Leadership Brand

What it was:

Session on Leadership and personal brand at Ashridge as part of Future Leaders Scheme residential module one. August 2017.

What I learned:

Your real leadership brand is what other people say about you when you leave the room.

Leadership brand has various Attributes:

  • Contacts (judged on who you associate with)
  • Story
  • Appearance (image you project)
  • Presence
  • Behaviour (collaboration)
  • Purpose
  • Values
  • Talents (what are you famous for)

To consider:

  • What is the source of your authority? Why should anyone be led by you?
  • What do you expect of others?
  • What stories do you want other people to be telling about you?
  • What type of leader do you want to be remembered as (legacy)?

If you’re not constantly evaluating these sorts of things, you are potentially dangerous!

In the book “Why should anyone be led by you” they examined “what do followers want?”

  • Community (feel part of something)
  • Authenticity (not a robot leader)
  • Significance  (something that matters)
  • Excitement (new and interesting)

What I will aim to do differently as a result:

  • I will try to develop (write down) my leadership brand
  • I will read: “why should anyone be led by you”

DMSD Agile Foundation and Pracitioner

What it was

A week-long course with tests and certification in London, on Agile project management techniques. February 2017.

What I learned

This is a comprehensive introduction to the practices of project management as set out in the industry-standard DSDM (“dynamical systems development model”) framework – more commonly known as “agile”.

Born from bitter experience in the world of enterprise software development, “Agile” project management can be applied widely, but is most suited to scenarios where the final product is malleable and can be iterated, where requirements and estimates are fluid or unknown at the start, and where the project must respond quickly to business change.

These are scenarios where traditional PRINCE2 / “waterfall” project management approaches often fail.

Agile is broadly applicable to PR practice – in particular event planning, producing publications, web development, and evolving campaigns which respond dynamically to feedback and external change (e.g. social media campaigns)

The DSDM framework is complex and comprehensive and covers key roles, products etc but can be summarised into eight key principles:

1. Focus on the business need
2. Deliver on time
3. Collaborate
4. Never compromise quality
5. Build incrementally from firm foundations
6. Develop iteratively
7. Communicate continuously and clearly
8. Demonstrate control

Two key techniques in Agile are:
1. MoSCoW – this is a way of prioritising requirements into Must/Should/Could/Won’t so that the project focuses on delivering the “must” requirements, using the resource for delivering the others as contingency to guarantee that the “musts” – at minimum – are delivered. Thus agile projects, unlike other approaches, act to fix time, cost and quality but vary *feature set*
2. Timeboxing – this is a rigid discipline in which the project is divided into fixed time intervals of iterative delivery, with built in co-ordination, review, acceptance and retrospective sessions. Fixing the time frames of an agile project ensures that whatever is delivered is delivered on time, with no prospect of delay. Combined with MoSCoW this is a powerful tool for ensure projects deliver what the business needs, when it needs it.

What I will aim to do differently as a result:

I will seek to apply Agile methodology and techniques to my team’s working.

CIPR webinar: What’s new in social media?

What it was:

An online seminar from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, accessed on 27 February 2016

What I learned:

Various insights from the annual OfCom report:

  • 72% of adults have a social profile, including 28% of 65 and over
  • Facebook has highest reach and engagement
  • 16-24s have breadth of social media e.g. instagram, snapchat
  • Twitter often used to air complaints or frustrations
  • Almost a fifth of adults say they are hooked on social media

Other insights

  • Twitter published a “Government and Elections Handbook”
  • Twitter analytics console has updated and is now powerful e.g follower analysis
  • Highest engagement with a tweet does not happen neatly on the hour or on the half hour
  • Facebook video overtaking Youtube video?
  • IFTTT has growing useful recipes e.g. when someone edits a wikipedia page
  • PR stack project looks at e.g. workflows to manage PR processes
  • CIPRSM hack days seem interesting; generate content on the fly

What I will aim to do differently as a result:

  • Ensure anything targeting younger demographic considers e.g. snapchat
  • Remember that older demographic are strong social users, too.
  • Re-examine Twitter analytics and use of Facebook video
  • Consider innovative uses of hacks e.g. to generate learning content on the say of an event
  • Look at what engagement, insight or analytics processes can be automated e.g. through IFTTT