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Need more Work/Life balance? Achievable Advice

Nobody on their deathbed regrets not spending more time at the office. And in almost twenty-five years of working with some of the smartest business executives, I’ve never met a single one that reckoned to have achieved a perfect balance in their life. Not one. Ever.
FlowIrelandAdmin
18th August 2020
News

Do you suffer from Imposter Syndrome? It’s a thing

Tom Dunne paid tribute to the late Leonard Cohen recently on his Newstalk show by inviting listeners to share their memories of the artistic legend. One fan recalled sneaking backstage after a concert in 2009 and, eluding security, found herself unexpectedly and suddenly face-to-face with her icon. Frozen, physically and verbally, the best she could manage somehow was to sheepishly bleat out the line “I shouldn’t be here”. To which Cohen after a pause calmly replied: “Should any of us?” The spontaneous fusion of witty existentialist melancholia in the riposte is classic Cohen, but its broader implication tallies with a phenomenon I observe increasingly in my professional encounters – Impostor Syndrome: in other words, the feeling that I have no right to be here and that any day now I’m going to be exposed as a fraud. Leonard Cohen I was initially taken aback a while ago at an admission in Forbes magazine by Liz Bingham OBE, who I spent time overlapping with during a programme at EY (UK). In the article, she admits thinking to herself “What are you doing here? What do you think you are doing? You’re going to be found out”. Named in BBC4 Woman’s Hour Power 100 List and amongst Cranfield’s 100 Women to Watch as well as the FT Top 50 Outstanding in Business at roughly the same time as the Forbes admission, somehow contrasting the private struggle with the public approbation seemed as totally at odds as a rose amongst thorns. However, since then, having paid close attention to the phenomenon there are a few conclusions I can draw: Impostor Syndrome is rife throughout professional life It afflicts the highly successful even more It appears to affect women more than men (although I’m not so sure!) The term “impostor syndrome” was first coined in 1978 by a pair of clinical psychologists and research done subsequently in the 1980s discovered that 40% of successful people consider themselves frauds and that 70% of all people feel like impostors at one time or another. And it’s not as if in the intervening 30 years society hasn’t become ever more obsessed with fame, success and achievement in a world where people now risk instant depression simply by flicking open what their friends are up to on Facebook. The executives I encounter are increasingly crippled by the feeling “I am not worthy”. In many cases, it is having dramatic consequences on personal life. One VP recently racked by the sense that “I shouldn’t be here” gave himself the lowest possible rating in a well-being assessment on the four foundation items of family, personal relationships, life balance and health. Another CEO admitted how the strain of “wearing the mask” on a daily basis was becoming almost unbearable. The feeling is predicated on that most villainous comparative mind - and a hopelessly unfair one at that – that looks around at others and compares your insides with their outsides. Candice Brown’s on-the-spot emotional reaction when she was announced the winner…
FlowIrelandAdmin
18th August 2020
News

Unconscious Bias: The Silent Hijacker

A teaser A father and son were involved in a car accident in which the father was killed and the son seriously injured. The father was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident and his body taken to the local morgue. The son was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital and immediately wheeled into an emergency room. A surgeon was called. Upon arrival, and seeing the patient, the attending surgeon exclaimed, "Oh my God, it’s my son!". The question of course is, who is the surgeon? 40% of the population fail to resolve the fact that the surgeon is the boy’s mother. Why? The reason is simple: when they picture the surgeon they automatically picture a man. The simple explanation, based on a perception people are not even conscious of, is just the surface of a complex labyrinth of underground biases (in this case gender bias) that go along with the meal ticket of the human condition. Yes indeed, we all have them. Did you get it first time around? Conscious or Unconscious? The formation of a government here may have been both tedious and interminable but at least it was fought out on the battleground of political biases that were spoken, manifest and out there (even if it did include water charges and turf-cutting!). The truth is that many of our daily disputes, decisions and judgements – those that are shaping our future - are based on biases we carry that we are wholly unaware of. Unconscious biases are a fact of life and countless studies since the 1980s confirm that people harbour unconscious bias even when they explicitly believe that prejudice and discrimination are wrong. Research has unearthed as many as 150 types of unconscious prejudice which makes the task of tackling them all the more daunting. However, make no mistake, unconscious bias is a powerful force in business as it silently influences strategy, hiring, promotion, work allocation, performance reviews and organisation culture. Those biases can occur around gender, age, skin colour, height, weight, education, accent, marital or parental status and these represent just some of the more obvious ones. Digging deeper you discover that if you can name it there’s probably an unconscious bias around it. When world-famous violinist Joshua Bell posed as a busker at L’Enfant Plaza in Washington during rush-hour he managed to collect $32.19 in a solo performance that lasted 43 minutes and was heard by over 1000 people. Yet just three days previously he had sold out Boston’s Symphony Hall at over $100 a ticket. Is this a commentary on our unconscious bias towards street musicians or did people simply not like the music? Either way, how many talented people have been rejected by organisations owing to the unconscious prejudices of the interviewers? Unconscious bias silently influences hiring Bizarre impacts The business impact of unconscious bias reveals itself in some bizarre statistics including the fact that 58% of Fortune 500 company CEOs are verging on six feet tall. This compares to…
FlowIrelandAdmin
18th August 2020
News

Why Performance Management is broken

Telling fish about water Since before we can even remember, beginning with our first staggering attempts to crawl or walk, we are surrounded by evaluation of our performance. Estimates suggest that students have undertaken more than 2,500 tests or exams by the time they complete secondary education. And domestically, we all get plenty of (often unsolicited!) assessment from many quarters at home. Opinion polls, player rankings, league tables, grid position, or the national happiness index are all mechanisms to assess performance. I am currently working with five clients from five different industries – drinks, retail, investment banking, gaming and software – totally diverse sectors all with one common singular aim: How do we drive performance? Performance, it appears, is the wallpaper of life. The challenge of managing organisational performance dates back as far as the enactment of the first US corporate statute in 1811, but it is currently in a state of chassis. The old rules are no longer valid for the new economy. A state of chassis It is not without good reason that companies like Microsoft, Adobe, Motorola and Accenture are choosing to abandon traditional performance management methods. Managers have traditionally relied on the crutch of the traditional performance management system with its accompanying calibration ranking as a means of driving performance, but as one senior HR executive at Microsoft recently observed: the system simply results in “capricious rankings, power struggles among managers, and unhealthy competition amongst colleagues”. Good employees are on the move as a result of some current management practises According to a recent Bersin survey, 58% of organisations believe the annual appraisal is a waste of time yet, up until recently, 100% of companies insisted on doing it. In the same survey of 2,500 companies across 90 countries, a meagre 8% believed their performance management process drove high levels of value. Adobe calculated that annual reviews required 80,000 hours of time from their 2,000 managers each year - the equivalent of 40 full-time employees. After all that effort, internal surveys revealed that employees felt less inspired and motivated afterwards—and the departure of good people actually increased. Unfit for purpose UCLA’s Sam Culbert went so far as to say recently that if the performance review was a drug, it would not be approved today by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). The reason for its dramatic fall from grace is that the context for work has evolved far beyond what the existing system of performance management was initially designed for. The current creaky system has its roots deep in an Industrial Age characterised by stability, predictability and slow change. A time when Henry Ford once declared: “How come when I ask for a pair of hands around here it comes with a brain attached?” Back then the mostly manufacturing-based workers simply needed to follow direction and performance could easily be calculated in measureable outputs like widgets and hours. Today, by contrast, 70% of the labour-force works in service or knowledge related roles where performance is centred…
FlowIrelandAdmin
18th August 2020
News

Kick-start your career

At a time of year when organisations are naturally taking stock, employees are being appraised, objectives are being set and business strategies reviewed, it seems that enterprise isn’t the only one on the change offensive if the US report that 67% of the work-force are actively considering a change in their career is true.
FlowIrelandAdmin
18th August 2020
News

Having-all-the-answers Leadership?

The relationship between leader and orchestra conductor returned to mind this week as the world celebrated a century since the birth of the great Leonard Bernstein. One of Bernstein’s protégés is a colleague and international associate of Flow – Itay Talgam.
FlowIrelandAdmin
3rd June 2020
News

Winning at Life

Today is my son’s ninth birthday. I mention that although, curiously, we are the only mammal on the planet that either counts or cares for time. Even the teddy bears chose a picnic, not a birthday party. I don’t remember much about being nine but I do remember two things clearly – The Minstrel winning the Derby under Lester Piggott; and a strange fascination about why some adults were more happy, kind and "successful" than others. Anyway, what did success really mean? (as plenty of rich people seemed pretty miserable to me). Fast-forward forty-one years and I’m now about to turn fifty (in February). In the intervening years, I’ve had the good fortune to translate those childhood preoccupations into two compelling parallel careers – writing for the Sunday Independent on horse racing for 20 years whilst growing a company (Flow Group) specialising in people and organisational development, also for 20 years. happy, kind and "successful" Why are some adults more happy, kind and "successful" than others? Many have asked how I intend to celebrate the half-century – big extravaganza? Dip into the bucket list? Instead I’ve decided to indulge in the reflection time necessary to record my life-to-date reflections and insights on the key to turning this game of Life into a game worth playing. And life has all the hallmarks of a game – defined physical boundaries; many levels (physical; psychological; emotional; spiritual); a starting point (lottery of birth); and a time limit (although sneakily we never know how long). The trouble is we are born without the manual of how to be successful or happy and, therefore, are left to figure it out usually on a trial-and-error basis for those with a mind to do so. As mentioned, I’ve had that mind for as long as I can remember and have wrestled with making sense of it all through a combination of mindful personal experience, working professionally with over 20,000 leaders in over 300 organisations internationally, whilst growing a business and helping raise a family. bucket list "Many have asked how I intend to celebrate the half-century – big extravaganza? Dip into the bucket list?" So whether this is a vanity project or an invaluable service to mankind (did I mention humour is a valuable de-toxifier?), the plan is to serialise 50 life lessons distilled through 50 years over the next 12 months through posts and podcasts although – may I add – the standard health and wealth warnings apply. Without giving the game away, every insight into what makes us happier or more successful in our brief encounter with humanity is ultimately rooted in just two elements: how we think how we interact Finally, I was once working with an Italian client and arrived at Milan’s Linate airport during a taxi strike. Eventually, finding a thronged bus to transport me to the client’s office in the centre, I was steadily approached by Salvatore, a manager who was part of the leadership team I had worked with some…
FlowIrelandAdmin
18th February 2018
News

Resolution Dilution? Here’s What to Do.

Ok so its the first day of 2018 - and if you need some help with those resolutions already, Ian McClean is all over it. White Rabbits aside, humans (curiously) are the only mammal on the planet to worry about time. We alone created the calendar. In this regard January is a peculiarly unique time of year: characterised by the two faces of Janus simultaneously looking both backwards and forward. Curiously, Christmas and New Year break is the only time of year when work stops for almost all of us simultaneously. With the finger removed from the dam and the cadence of life’s relentless unconscious sub-routines broken, for once only in the year there is proper time for reflection and self-evaluation. January, surely, is the cruelest month but by now at its end, we have some idea how well those New Year Resolutions are faring. New Year Resolution If the University of Scranton’s research is accurate then 92% will fail at accomplishing our choice of weight loss; kicking the habit; eating healthier; exercising more or improving our significant relationships – the five most common resolutions. There is plenty of data out there on why people fail and what the 8% do that succeed. After all, as one prominent psychologist put it "how many times do 50% of the population undertake a behaviour change programme all starting on the same day?" Most interesting is that there is no correlation in those that succeed between success and the choice of resolution - it is just as likely to be reducing body fat as it is improving relations with the mother-in-law. Contemplation Vs Commitment New Year Resolutions are like a global movement involving nearly half of the population, so for many their motivation is more to follow the crowd than to seriously entertain personal change. Resolutions become an act of compliance, rather than commitment. Most people never actually stray outside the realm of contemplation. Unsurprisingly, those who write down their commitment are ten times more likely to succeed than those who don’t. Common to all who succeed is a bias for action over intention. Resolution Dilution? Here's What to Do… Resolving Symptoms or Causes? A further complication around why many efforts at healthy eating fail for example, is that much unhealthy eating has a much greater personal malaise at its core (anything from poor self-image to being bullied or harassed) so that even if you succeed in dealing with the symptoms in the short-term, it will never sustain if the root cause is not addressed in conjunction. Will Power We all understand that will power is critical to sustaining any change but with latest research suggesting it takes on average 66 repetitions to either make or break a habit we might underestimate quite how much will power is actually involved. It used to be believed that will power is like a muscle that got stronger each time you used it. However, more recently research concludes (for now!) that will-power simply amounts to the…
FlowIrelandAdmin
18th January 2018
News

How to Get to Agreement when you Disagree

Disagreement Wonderland Is it simply my imagination or are events even more heavily shaded with disagreement than usual? The post-election fall-out is an obvious starting point. The electorate has spoken, yet those elected cannot agree on who should govern us. The various political entities are frantically speed-dating in a snug just beyond public view in an effort to stitch together a plausible patchwork in sufficient quantity for government – with those whom they sometimes fundamentally disagree. In Britain, disagreement is in full swing on whether they should opt in or out of Europe. A chorus of disagreement is echoing all around Europe concerning the migrant crisis. Whilst in America the republican nomination candidates can’t agree on practically anything. Including hand size. Meanwhile closer to home the Workplace Relations Commission is earning its corn at present hosting disputes amongst Luas workers and management whilst simultaneously providing the same forum for resolution at Cadbury’s. Disagreement is not simply confined to politics or commerce as Shane Lowry found himself in a face-to-face wrangle with the PGA over his choice of words off the tee during the Honda Classic at Palm Beach Gardens. 200 Millenia and we still haven’t figured it out You would imagine that by now, after just the 200,000 years of human existence, we might have figured out how to resolve our differences. It’s not as if we lack the opportunity to practice. Most managers spend 80% or more of their time daily interacting with people to get the job done (and if they don’t they’re probably not managing very well). Within that time, a significant portion of the effort is spent getting to an agreement of one kind or another – either reaching a decision or solving a problem. That’s actually what managers get paid to do. However, as one manager admitted to me recently: "This job would be easy - if it weren’t for the damned people!" Employee & Employer: The perfect match To advance in their careers people spend hugely on education and qualifications. Corporations, meanwhile, fall over themselves to attract the best and the brightest. After the perfect match is made, companies then invest heavily in guess what? Technology, processes, systems and structures - all done in the name of increasing productivity in a world where (according to a 2013 Harvard survey) smartphone-connected employees are now routinely working 72 hour weeks (13.5 hours on weekdays and 5 hours on weekends). Yet nowhere can I find any data on how much is being invested to equip people to find agreement where there is none. Without which of course all the state-of-the-art technology, systems and processes in the world simply falls over. The look says it all - see The 5 Deadly Sins below Cultural Blind-spot It is assumed that if a person has a high IQ, then it follows they will automatically have the smarts to manage the people side of productivity. Most, in truth, really struggle and there is plenty of research out there to suggest that…
FlowIrelandAdmin
18th November 2016
News

RTE Guest Post: GE16: Are leaders’ debates really debates at all?

It was Pat Leahy from the Sunday Business Post who inadvertently prompted the reflection. In the RTÉ Spin Room programme that followed the University of Limerick leaders’ debate, the panellist’s opening remark began "You’ve still got to pick out a winner…" Really? The very assertion begs the question: what are the leaders’ debates for and what is their purpose? Is it simply (as Pat would imply) a beauty pageant where there is a winner and losers? I’ve tried the question amongst colleagues and associates over the last fortnight and elicited almost as many variations as I did responses. So then, is it true the topic that has generated most noise on the airwaves lately has no clear or common purpose? To those involved, however, there is clarity. For each political party the object is clearly to enhance its chance of winning in the election. For the broadcaster, its hope is to boost audience ratings. Suddenly we are faced with conflicting wants we now need to reconcile. Cue the format: let’s have a debate! That way political leaders can attempt to bolster their campaign and at the same time it may yield up some entertainment in the process. Yet the very title is misleading. When I punch the word “debate” into my iphone dictionary app I get the definition: 1. Discussion involving opposing points; 2. Deliberation; 3. Consideration; Obsolete: fight or quarrel. Curious then how the element that is now obsolete about debate is the very thing that characterised the pedigree of all three TV editions of the leaders’ “debate”. Indeed if we had a euro for every time the host had to intervene to prevent leaders shouting over, interrupting, or directly avoiding the question we would be half-way towards repaying the national debt. At many points the whole affair resembled your worst Christmas family nightmare. It is the breakdown of order amongst our most senior politicians that veers towards entertainment. It reminded me at times of the once famous Frankie Goes to Hollywood Two Tribes video that pitted Reagan against Gorbachev in a sand-wrestling pit. Little wonder then that Simon Cowell threw his hat in the ring in Britain last year with an offer to produce the next round of party leaders’ TV debates saying “I would love to do that. I’d do it in a heartbeat. 100% I’d have walk-ons, music, fire…and a trap door if people didn’t like what they said. And I’d definitely have a clapometer.” On the subject of the clapometer, at one particularly anarchic nadir Claire Byrne threw her hands (literally) in the air and chided the contestants (er, leaders) “All we’re hearing now is nothing”, which drew the loudest audience applause of the night. The whole affair was very symptomatic of what routinely happens in business meetings. Smart, often senior people coming together frequently without a clear or common understanding of why they are there. Some attempting to monopolise airtime with their own agenda whilst neither listening nor answering the question they were asked;…
FlowIrelandAdmin
18th November 2016