Catherine Howe, Chief Executive of Public-I, continues her reflections on leadership in the 21st Century Leadership context.
Over the last few years, I have used my blogs partly to hold myself to account. In the same way as I might broadcast the fact that I am going for a run in the morning (I’m not by the way – just to be clear) I would use the blog to confirm and communicate my intent to cover a particular topic in my thesis writing.
I am pretty sure no one else took notice but the act of making this public makes a difference to me in terms of firming up my resolve to do something.
Blogging here at Mayvin is slightly different in that I am trying to understand in some detail what my personal public/private boundaries are with respect to my management practice and also the document how this affects my organisation.
I have written recently about the need to understand ‘open by default’ as referring to more than just data and I personally have concluded that we need to accept that discretion is something that we can no longer rely on and so we need to be very clear about what we want to be private about.
Consequences of being more open
One consequence of having less privacy is that your mistakes are out in the open. This is something many of us are already aware of and also, to be frank, afraid of. Another consequence is the fact that smaller inconsistencies start to show up as well. For example, saying you are going for a run and not doing it.
I’ve been thinking about inconsistency a lot recently as I have been on something of a tear in my own organisation about quality. Consistency is, needless to say, being a huge part of quality. However, when I reflect on my own consistency I find myself lacking. Not in terms of the personal promises – the stuff that I publicly commit to – but in terms of how consistent I am about following up and asking about work I have delegated.
Discipline and respect
I am not consistent about thanking people and I am also really bad at being consistent at acknowledging the dull stuff – the stuff that has to get done every month but doesn’t need a huge amount of imagination to deliver.
How can I expect people to keep doing this if I can’t do them the courtesy of asking how’s it going? I am not going to use the blog to try and help me do this – this is other people’s openness and not my own. What I am doing is bringing back that old favourite the 'bring forward’ file, and writing lots and lots of lists. I think this is about discipline and respect and I want to demonstrate more of it in my own work.
Giving other people the space
Which brings me to my second point. Anyone who has come across me will know that I have a monstrous urge to be in charge of most situations I find myself in – I can’t help it. Sometimes this is a useful skill, but within my organisation, I really want to dial it back a bit and provide other people the space to assert leadership over situations and problems.
I have thought a lot about why I do this (with help from my coach) and most of my conclusions currently fall behind the privacy line so I will be keeping them to myself. However, I think it’s important that I acknowledge this as something I want to have more control over (rather than a mad urge for world domination that comes over me!) and start to put some steps in place to address it.
So, I’m going to work on finding out other people’s agendas and ideas before I share my own, and I am going to try and fill conversational spaces with the question, not the answer.
Some of you reading this won’t meet me but the fact I am putting this out in the open means that I may meet you and that knowledge helps strengthen my resolve to do this - it’s become part of my personal digital footprint and so something that can be audited.
We have all been told that effective leaders show vulnerability - but often this is in the form of being rubbish at using the photocopier or failing at DIY. I think openness demands we show real vulnerability and that we use this openness to try and improve. Of course, you may not consider this to be much of a vulnerability but I am not much of a sharer so this is as good as it gets from me for now.
Does this sound hopelessly pollyanna? Perhaps. But having stated this weakness publicly I think I am more inclined to address it and if I do, I think I will have more authority with my team if I challenge their behaviours.
Next time perhaps I will blog about how this openness business makes this easier rather than harder.