Leaders should take us to new spaces through their vision, passion and desire for positive change. They rarely take no for an answer and open doors where others simply cannot; the world needs more leaders like this.

With today’s workplace such a melting pot of generational perspectives and outlooks, why is it common place for the younger-generations’ modes of leadership to be left untapped? Does it somehow threaten those of us who have the title?

I was recently approached to be a mentor to a young lady – a role I felt honoured to take on and an invitation I readily accepted for no financial gain.

Her approach gave me no choice really. I consider her a leader already, not only from the personal traits I had observed for some time but also the innovative way she went about gaining my buy-in for this commitment. These included:

1. A positive outlook; “no” was not an option for her

She reached out anonymously a while ago through LinkedIn. Although a mentoring agreement seemed unlikely at first because of my commitment to a large project, she was not to be deterred. She remained focused and forthright, keeping the relationship active until I could have no possible reason to say no. Perseverance matters.

2. She made her move in a fashion I respected

With rejection not even a remote possibility for her, she craftily embedded points from previous discussions into a “mentoring agreement” invitation, placing the ball in my court. It caught my attention. However, what really grabbed my focus was the document’s underlying “way of thinking” placing a high priority on mutual gain, something that rarely exists in business today. What a great way to view the world – placing connectivity as well as how I would benefit along with her at the core of all business decisions. For this to be made explicit in a written document was so refreshing. Fresh approaches and mindsets matter. The removal of financial reward was counteracted by the inclusion of “what matters most” to both of us. This agreement reinforced a need for both of us to experience growth through the process. The document also had blanks, where I was encouraged to add my priorities. Flexibility and collaboration matter.

3. Her leadership qualities

a. “What matters most” was consistently reflected in her actions. Credibility comes from doing what you say you will do.

b. Her balanced approach: many variables drive influence for me, none more so than a balanced outlook. What this woman wanted from our business relationship was detailed as equally and clearly as what she did not want from it. Many see the latter as being the elephant in the room, and prefer to scarper away from the dangers that are associated with revealing it. Her strong commitment to airing the negatives and positives showed sound judgement. Transparency matters.

c. Her understanding of our relationship: a relationship should exist in the space between a mentor and mentee, something she continually focused on. How many current leaders totally ignore the importance of relationship and lead through being right? While awaiting my reply to the invitation to be a mentor, my potential mentee was systematically adding components to facilitate a stronger trust between us such as the referral of some business my way. In my mind, this was not to try to win my mentorship but clearly to honour and strengthen our existing relationship.

d. Allowing fear to be conquered by passion: this woman lives her life “on purpose”. Every decision must feel good. Little did I know she was quite fearful of how I might take this approach (we discussed that later), yet when she shared her fears, I marvelled at her conscious choice to push that fear to the side, overpowering it with her “this has to be” attitude. Tenacity matters.

There’s a lot that matters in such a great example of leadership, an example in a person with at least two decades less experience than myself. Would I have had the courage to do this 20 or 30 years ago? Definitely not. It was not deemed to be my place to rock the boat, or to impinge on others’ time.

And that’s why new-gen leadership must be tapped into; it is their place to change things up. They are throwing the rule book out the window, allowing fresh, dynamic approaches to bring value to today’s mixed-up world. When will “we”, the other side of leadership, the ones who wrote the book all those years ago, recognise that mutual perspectives and mutual gain can and will drive the world. There is simply no other choice.

Debbie Nicol, based in Dubai, is the managing director of business en motion and a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture.

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Change is the domain of leaders. It brings shifts and turns, some more seismic than others.

Recently, I witnessed a performance management review session delivered by a person “blessed” with the title of leader – a title clearly not deserved. Conflict ensued, potential was ignored, non-evidenced judgement was made and “blanket assumptions” were integrated. Any potential healthy relationship, engagement, learning and opportunity for change as well as factual feedback were completely buried. And any potential productivity was laid to rest in a coffin, with this manager also throwing away the key.

True leaders, on the other hand, should create shifts in conditions, situations, mindsets and resources for positive outcomes in others.

Recently I asked random people two questions, based on leadership research from the executive educators James M Kouzes and Barry Z Posner. The first requested them to recall the worst leaders in their career while reflecting on what percentage of talent and performance they facilitated. Conversely, the second question asked them to recall their best leaders. The answers lined up perfectly with research, with the worst leaders bringing out 0 to 40 per cent of talent and performance and best leaders 40 to 110 per cent.

Now there’s a shift in performance levels. Imagine: the highest level of talent and performance that one person facilitates in a workplace is equal to the lowest another achieves. Additionally, the “best leader” achieved over and above full performance at 110 per cent, which really could be 110 per cent more than the worst.

Another body of research from the change management research company Prosci indicates that providing structured assistance for people influences the likelihood of achieving objectives by six times.

Recently I also interacted with a team in distress, a team with no synergy, commonality, trusted dependency, understanding nor cooperative willingness as they drowned in dysfunction, suspicion, stagnation and desperation. It was obvious that CV’s were flowing to external recruiters at the rate of knots. When I spent time with the head of the team, what quickly became evident was a total lack of interest and involvement. When the discussion moved towards facilitating a team initiative, the first reaction was for it to be held during his holiday. Astonishment was evident when I suggested that leaders were a major part of the “cause and effect” factor, and that no initiative should proceed without his involvement.

If change is really the domain of leaders, how much are those with the title willing to look at themselves? Do leaders also require personal development and transition? The answer is a resounding yes.

Would you consider the following inventory as a checkpoint on your leadership?

• How accessible are you for your people?

• How “real” are you to the people?

• How consistent are you in actions?

• How clear are you on where you are taking them?

• How much do you believe in the changes you are proposing?

• How capable are you of sharing reasons why?

• How patient are you, recognising that everyone processes differently?

• How reliable are you to enable trust to flow?

• How easily will you share your experience with others?

• How much do you welcome mistakes as a learning opportunity?

• How much are you willing to let go?

• How interested are you in recognising individual wins and rewarding these?

• How much do you build community spirit?

Your people’s engagement levels are directly correlated to how your people perceive your behaviour. Actions speak louder than words and the mirror simply doesn’t lie. It can be tough to accept that we may be part of the problem, yet once awareness exists, it provides opportunity to move towards action.

Rumi, the great philosopher, professed: “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” Making the transition into leadership and change can be bumpy, yet the great news is leadership is a set of learning, teachable and measurable behaviours. When will you be putting your hand up for that?

Debbie Nicol, based in Dubai, is the managing director of business en motion and a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture.

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As summer is upon us, why not make some time for an up close and personal look at your leadership, while reflecting on a group of frogs? There are 12 of them sitting on a log. Seven frogs decide to jump into the pond. How many frogs remain on the log? The correct answer is 12. Why? The seven frogs only decided to jump; they didn’t actually take the leap. In James M Kouzes and Barry Z Posner’s latest book Learning Leadership, they state five fundamental concepts, considered as essential actions to becoming a better leader. How are you incorporating these into your daily leadership “leaps”, at work, home or community?

1. Believe you can

There are many opinions, voices and inputs around us all. Leaders choose to buy in or opt out, according to the relevance of the topic, degree of authenticity in the discussions and the possibility to influence. Belief is high in great leaders, demonstrating hope and forging outcomes. Without self-belief, the chatter around could easily derail dreams and dilute conviction. I can recall so many instances where I could have lost focus on change and growth along my path. With qualifications and basic work experience in hand, I dreamt of the expat life. It was time to gain independence and move from the family home. Disappointingly so, my parents rejected the dream, demanding I start concentrating on a future of substance. However, conviction reigned strong, and soon thereafter my 30-year expat journey began. 

Believe you can and you will.

2. Aspire to excel

Throughout those 30 years, I have always had an appetite to excel. Mediocrity was never an option for me, yet had I not defined clearly what was and was not important to me, there would have been no benchmark to use as my compass. It’s at that stage where aspirations to excel may start dwindling and measurement of progress quickly fades.

How tapped in are you to your aspirations and efforts?

3. Challenge yourself

No pain, no gain. No stretch, no interest. Let’s not be mistaken – that does not indicate that leadership requires pain and stress – yet choosing a healthy dose of curiosity can facilitate change and growth. When the task of writing a book came my way, I was wading through a quagmire of unknowns. How to publish? Where to distribute? How to make it? What format should I choose? Does it need illustrating? Was a licence required? The list was never-ending, yet taking each question step by step, the jigsaw fell into place.

A leader’s wisdom develops through the willingness to jump in where others may not dare to go.

4. Engage support

Leaders cannot and do not walk alone. You are only a leader if others think you are. Support cannot be commanded yet will be willingly offered if firstly the messenger is considered to be credible and secondly the message is one that will forge hope for better circumstances.

Don’t be afraid to engage support, even ask for it at times. You may be amazed at the powerhouse you attract.

5. Practice deliberately

Just as tennis shots need refinement through deliberate practice, so too does leadership, a learnable set of skills and behaviours. Yet choose the context wisely, as it needs to encourage active, consistent practice with mistakes along the way. Some decades ago in my years of “developing leader” status, I continued my quest for hands-on learning. Unfortunately, I was governed by a rather reactive and didactic boss, and my learning quickly turned high risk both for myself and the trainee. I quickly saw the value of deliberate leadership practice in consistent, empowered and transparent environments.

The comedian Steve Martin once provided some insight into his rise to fame. “Be so good that they cannot ignore you,” he said. That does, however, take time and intention. Are you clear on what to practise? How are you prioritising that into your daily schedule?

This age-old question never tires: are leaders born or made? Kouzes and Posner state that everyone is born, and believes the answer about leadership is more about what we do with what we have. What actions do you have under way currently?

Debbie Nicol, based in Dubai, is the managing director of business en motion and a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture.

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As summer is upon us, why not make some time for an up close and personal look at your leadership, while reflecting on a group of frogs? There are 12 of them sitting on a log. Seven frogs decide to jump into the pond. How many frogs remain on the log? The correct answer is 12. Why? The seven frogs only decided to jump; they didn’t actually take the leap. In James M Kouzes and Barry Z Posner’s latest book Learning Leadership, they state five fundamental concepts, considered as essential actions to becoming a better leader. How are you incorporating these into your daily leadership “leaps”, at work, home or community?

1. Believe you can

There are many opinions, voices and inputs around us all. Leaders choose to buy in or opt out, according to the relevance of the topic, degree of authenticity in the discussions and the possibility to influence. Belief is high in great leaders, demonstrating hope and forging outcomes. Without self-belief, the chatter around could easily derail dreams and dilute conviction. I can recall so many instances where I could have lost focus on change and growth along my path. With qualifications and basic work experience in hand, I dreamt of the expat life. It was time to gain independence and move from the family home. Disappointingly so, my parents rejected the dream, demanding I start concentrating on a future of substance. However, conviction reigned strong, and soon thereafter my 30-year expat journey began. 

Believe you can and you will.

2. Aspire to excel

Throughout those 30 years, I have always had an appetite to excel. Mediocrity was never an option for me, yet had I not defined clearly what was and was not important to me, there would have been no benchmark to use as my compass. It’s at that stage where aspirations to excel may start dwindling and measurement of progress quickly fades.

How tapped in are you to your aspirations and efforts?

3. Challenge yourself

No pain, no gain. No stretch, no interest. Let’s not be mistaken – that does not indicate that leadership requires pain and stress – yet choosing a healthy dose of curiosity can facilitate change and growth. When the task of writing a book came my way, I was wading through a quagmire of unknowns. How to publish? Where to distribute? How to make it? What format should I choose? Does it need illustrating? Was a licence required? The list was never-ending, yet taking each question step by step, the jigsaw fell into place.

A leader’s wisdom develops through the willingness to jump in where others may not dare to go.

4. Engage support

Leaders cannot and do not walk alone. You are only a leader if others think you are. Support cannot be commanded yet will be willingly offered if firstly the messenger is considered to be credible and secondly the message is one that will forge hope for better circumstances.

Don’t be afraid to engage support, even ask for it at times. You may be amazed at the powerhouse you attract.

5. Practice deliberately

Just as tennis shots need refinement through deliberate practice, so too does leadership, a learnable set of skills and behaviours. Yet choose the context wisely, as it needs to encourage active, consistent practice with mistakes along the way. Some decades ago in my years of “developing leader” status, I continued my quest for hands-on learning. Unfortunately, I was governed by a rather reactive and didactic boss, and my learning quickly turned high risk both for myself and the trainee. I quickly saw the value of deliberate leadership practice in consistent, empowered and transparent environments.

The comedian Steve Martin once provided some insight into his rise to fame. “Be so good that they cannot ignore you,” he said. That does, however, take time and intention. Are you clear on what to practice? How are you prioritising that into your daily schedule?

This age-old question never tires: are leaders born or made? Kouzes and Posner state that everyone is born, and believes the answer about leadership is more about what we do with what we have. What actions do you have under way currently?

Debbie Nicol, based in Dubai, is the managing director of business en motion and a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture.

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You don’t know what you don’t know. Those words have been bandied around forever. They are, at times, a great excuse for organisational inaction. Increasing competition and decreasing market share with diminishing exposure can create a need for businesses to move through these words and make things happen in a whole new way. In the words of Dee Hock, the founder of Visa: “The problem is never how to get new thoughts into your mind but how to get the old ones out.”

Nobody can certainly know everything, yet when it comes time to being “unplugged and reprogrammed”, as this demanding corporate world requires us to do, what are some actions that can be taken with the aim to “now know what you didn’t know” or even “now know what the future doesn’t yet know” – how does one find ways to move beyond the known?

Leaders seek to make a difference. “Same, same” will produce more of the “same, same”. To know what is unknown, as leaders do so well, suggests the need to move beyond the same. So what can anyone do, those with leadership accountabilities or not, to venture into a land of discovery and open up new business opportunity? After all, leadership is everyone’s job.

1. Change the people you surround yourself with

With different people come different perspectives, influenced by their experience and background. Take, for example, a millennial, who now refers to their “friendship group”, a term that reflects the integration of social media practices into everyday life, assisting the filtering process of who deserves their focus.

How can we access people who can infuse difference into our lives?

a. Embed varying ages or demographics into regular interactions – for example, visit families with teenagers, companies with exciting social clubs, sporting events that support causes.

b. Mix with those of differing socio-economic circumstances to you – after all, they address life differently.

c. Join clubs or social gatherings; the first few minutes will always be awkward yet beyond that, who knows what will happen.

Of importance here is that this list does not include industry networking. The virtues of business networking are indeed vast and should not be scoffed at, yet often the best ideas to challenge our thinking can be found from outside the workplace.

2. Identify what the world is prioritising

The world around us constantly demonstrates what is popular and in demand yet it will do so in whispers. To change, maximise the possibility of capturing new whispers and minimise the same old broken records from being heard. This can be achieved by answering a set of questions at the end of every day such as:

• What did you see today that piqued curiosity and excitement?

• Why did that bring new energy to you?

• How could that be applied in your job, product or future dream?

Another aspect to keep an eye out for is new and differing fusions, with “fusions” being defined as two entities that were designed in isolation of each other with their own purpose, yet now have come into relationship and support each other. A great example of fusion is Google and automobiles, in their possible future contribution to driverless cars.

What two forces did you observe come together that facilitated an unexpected shift?

To be able to able to pick up on these whispers and identify the fusion of two unrelated entities, you need to be tuned in. To be so, we need space in our minds and hearts. Busy people can be the poorest creators, inventors and leaders, caught in a vacuum of focus within the colouring-in lines. Improvisation standup comedians are some of the best with “newness” because their senses are alive and uncluttered, their imaginations are wild and their willingness is wide open.

Open your eyes and mind to difference and you will find it, and sometimes if you are lucky, it will even find you.

3. Question everything that was right at a previous time in your life

Colour within the lines. Why? Is the world going to fall apart if colour goes beyond the lines? In my world it wouldn’t, yet could it also open us to experiencing things we’ve not done before?

Every evening, why not identify three fixed opinions your day encountered and, once identified, take an action that would show them who’s boss. Or take it further by asking “What if …” to see what your imagination is capable of. What if it was twice the size and half the price? What if the result could be opposite? What if the customer wasn’t always right?

For a business to be competitive, it needs to be grounded in its core services yet able to connect with changing market demands. Businesses have a great opportunity to blend, twist, shake and fuse current thinking and approach. When this is done with the customer’s needs in mind, magic truly can happen.

Debbie Nicol, based in Dubai, is the managing director of business en motion and a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture

In times of economic slowdown, we often hear of budgets being slashed and projects being put on hold, waiting for a more appropriate time.

On the surface, all this is well and good, demonstrating compliance with directives from above. However, it is simply impossible for a leader to let change go, because leadership is a way of life, a mindset and an inner drive that has no bounds. It never goes away.

A great leader will always personify a future they see, being compelled towards change. Whether that leader is the Syrian farmer who wishes to re-establish the Damask Rose (used for perfumery and Turkish Delight) once the war is over; the mother who campaigns for the compulsory use of child safety seats in cars; the teacher who supports and enables reading habits for disabled children, or even the chief executive who sees a more convenient way to service a customer, there is no doubt that these people care for a cause, whatever the reason.

Perhaps they’ve seen the benefits of plentiful roses and aromatic townships, can intuitively see a better world with greater reading or are feeling the frustration of continuous negative feedback from customers.

Regardless, their efforts and focus is relentless, and negative conditions simply spur them on harder. They beat all odds and just keep going because of sheer belief, grit and determination.

Organisations often put projects on hold because of economic slowdowns. When this affects a true leader, time and focus will simply be redistributed. The time spent on the project may now well be devoted to attracting more followers and supporters for when things get better, or spreading the word without digging into financial resources. A dream does not simply stop because financial resources dry up or new laws are introduced to sanction certain behaviours.

A true leader never becomes bogged down by the detail of “how”, yet stays with the outcome that brings greater efficiency or effectiveness.

So why do we see performance wax and wane in organisations during downturns, budget cuts and law changes? Why don’t organisations just “keep on keeping on”? Does it mean that we don’t have true leaders holding the leadership titles?

This could be one possible reason – sometimes people hold positions purely for the package and prestige rather than caring for the job and its requirements. Yet as organisations mature and accountability emerges, it’s questionable how much longer this will last. Another possibility may be simple overload, yet the adage “if you want something done, give it to a busy person” may well apply.

True leadership will always exist across boundaries. Leadership demonstrates amazing resilience to just keep going, with this influence spreading beyond the confines of job descriptions and organisational hierarchies. So this is what a true leader will do to ensure performance across all levels of an organisation to retain maximum opportunity for results in the darkest of times:

a. They will be even more visible and active

People find solace in those who are there for them at any and all times. This allows them to be seen, their belief to be felt and their never-ending positivity and determination to be experienced. A true leader is never locked away for long and recognises not only the benefit of their public profile for the cause, but also the benefit of hearing the perspectives of others in harsh times.

b. Their message will remain consistent

This is key. People believe those who perennially personify a future, rather than believe “this” one day, and “that” another. The message will remain the same, and a great leader demonstrates how it will still be possible even in the current reality. Even if revenues are down, even if trends are against us, the dream is one that will still serve. Dreams drive reality.

c. They will be offer hope by painting the picture of the future

A great leader is often a storyteller. Powerful stories allow the audience to see the story in their mind’s eye, as the imagery and hope compel. Leaders find ways to emotionally connect a person to a future, by allowing that person to become a character in the story as they relate to it.

True leadership can never be diluted, nor can it go away.

Debbie Nicol, managing director of the Dubai-based business en motion, is a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture.

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Intently listening to a chief executive’s input at a recent senior forum, I flexed as his words caught my attention: “systems build complacency”. Is this a true statement and if so, what is the leader’s role when it comes to systems in the workplace?

Take an organisation’s common systems: they include the procurement, training and the maintenance systems. These are a compilation of practices, standards, touch points, entry and exit points. Some systems are global in nature, incorporating international best practice, while others are home-grown, built to purpose and fit one establishment only. Some are automated, while others are manually administered. When built well, systems reduce negative side effects of inefficiency. So with all these positives, can complacency really creep in?

Complacency is a behaviour that occurs when the senses shut down, the mind and actions are on automatic pilot and the outlook for “possibility” shrinks into oblivion. Complacency exists when we accept “what is” as the only possibility. It has the highest chance of existence with roles based on keeping things the same, such as the majority of management roles.

In contrast, a leader’s role regarding systems is to destabilise, challenge and find ways to take a system beyond, to the next level of “what can be”, driven by need or desire. Most leaders flourish in the land of change and hence would, by nature, be searching for opportunities to upgrade systems at all stages.

So why do some leaders still not do this? Perhaps it’s a case of having no authority to do so. Some systems may be centralised at a headquartered or controlled location. Safety and security systems are a great example. Or perhaps the innate behaviour of the leader has an overriding trust level, where continuous improvement is not sought as the system is trusted unconditionally. Regardless of the reason, becoming complacent with systems is a dangerous way to operate, inviting lost opportunity and allowing increasing inefficiencies.

For leaders who may be seeking ideas to chase away even the most remote chance of complacency, the following tips may help to destabilise current thinking:

Engage with your customers

Systems are built to serve businesses, which serve customers. So why not revisit the root of your business, the customer, and explore their wildest dreams? If they had the magic wand and could have anything they wanted in the services they buy from you, what would it be? What would it look like and how could you provide that?

Be a mystery guest with your customer system

A mystery guest is one that uses your products and services for an indication of the user experience. It’s not uncommon to hear around operational meeting tables comments such as “how did he get to that with our system?” or “why did he choose that option and not the correct one?” or even “how silly can a customer be?” Whether you like it or not, people will use systems according to their own capability.

Be a customer with an inquiring mind and see what your system allows a customer to do, that may result in wasted time or even a longer process than necessary. You may just be surprised by what you find. Even better, seek a team of volunteers to use it and observe their interactions. You may be blind to what is really going on.

Do some research – use other systems that provide the same service

We all have competitors. Research their systems and pretend to buy. Discover products and services out of your industry. Keep a notepad for each time you read about something that impresses you elsewhere to see how that idea could be adopted for your product.

Complacency is a dangerous state of affairs in the business world – so too are outdated and redundant systems. Challenge yourself and challenge your system; sit back and watch a whole new world of efficiency and effectiveness evolve.

Attend an international course within your area of operation

Some may feel they are beyond learning anything new, yet when we attend these courses which highlight best practice, it may well open minds to new ways. We don’t know what we don’t know, and the only way to know it is to seek it out, ask questions, listen and explore.

Leaders look for opportunity from every angle. Start with the end in mind and to avoid complacency, explore how your system serves that outcome Stay alert, stay focused, stay connected to ensure your systems proactively evolve, rather than change reactively.

Debbie Nicol, managing director of the Dubai-based business en motion, is a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture.

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The French language draws us into the sensuality of the French people while also lifting the veil on a way of life. To become involved with the language is to have respect for the culture, behaviour and practices, encouraging speakers to experience France first hand. So why does language of the corporate world have the opposite effect, not only unnecessarily cluttering the business space but also casting a burdensome shadow over its inhabitants, convincing them to disengage, walk away and disrespect corporate evolution?

The answer is clear: executives today have so much on their plate. The skill of operating a business seems to be sliding down the ladder of importance, overpowered by:

• new and deepening regulations

• increasing yet essential intangibles of social media, quality and loyalty measures

• unexpected events such as sudden economic downturns or terrorism rise to the top through reactive necessity, and even

• the ever-increasing corporate terminology and lexicon.

If a leader is to take the people to the future, how can this be achieved when corporate terminology is not understood? As a true and credible leader would never ask someone to do something they are ill-equipped to do themselves, how can leaders continue to provide direction without assistance and terminology colliding?

To connect your people with the business, a leader will need to use a language of relevance and simplicity. Applying terms above the people’s heads will only serve to separate and confuse, making them feel powerless. We need to be flexible in our approach and style.

For example, what could be the difference between:

We are launching our performance management system this week.

A new priority in our company will be an awareness of how we do our jobs

The term “performance management system” sounds quite evolved yet evokes vastly differing definitions, depending on who you ask. Clarify your intention first and then perhaps even give your own performance management system a unique and customised name to ensure it does not get swallowed up into the land of generic definitions.

What could the difference be between:

We will be engaging with a change management vendor to drive the process during the next level of installation

With our new system, we will have to adopt different practices and work in a new way.

The term “change management” provokes visual images of million-dollar consultancy projects, yet this does not need to be the case.

What could be the difference between:

You need to show more resilience.

Why are you allowing conditions to leave their mark on you?

Resilience – referring to the ability to recover quickly from difficulties – is a great example of a corporate term that may not even directly translate into other languages. Ensure the corporate language you adopt can be understood by all.

Is corporate terminology becoming so complex that in itself it is playing the role of “separator”? Is there an expectation that each and every person should be familiar with today’s corporate lexicon, and if not, they are labelled as behind the times?

Well, to examine this further, let’s look at what today’s successful leaders do when terminology lands on their desk.

a. They research it, feel it, explore it; they slice it apart, digest its intention and re-craft it to suit their needs

What this means is that a leader should at least know what language is being used in today’s corporate world, and should honour it by giving it the recognition it deserves. At the very least, take note of how the new terminology is being used and where it is showing up. Beyond this, try using it to see if employees can gain from its use.

A past leader of mine once read the latest leading management book, which spoke of people taking a conscious decision if they are “on the bus” during change. He was keen to use the new term, and even though we knew he had borrowed the term from somewhere, we understood his message, as it aligned with the simplistic nature of his current lexicon.

b. They release it slowly, piece by piece

What this means is that a language will organically grow if it feels right for the environment, and it’s the people who will decide. Just as a baby chokes if he eats the whole cake, new corporate terms need to be drip-fed, piece by piece.

When resistance occurs in corporations today, it’s an open invitation not to eradicate it, but rather jump right in, understand what it needs or wants and provide that. For those at the head of organisations – the best tip for survival today is to welcome new terminology and practices initially, understand the intent behind them and then simplify, customise and use your own version of a corporate language freely. Now is not a good time to put heads in the sand; the weight of increasing corporate terminology may become all too burdensome.

Debbie Nicol, managing director of the Dubai-based business en motion, is a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture.

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During an intense verbal debate between a group of Emirati participants at a workshop I was hosting, Arabic-to-English translation apps suddenly appeared. The group were attempting to agree on the best translation for an English word I had just uttered: “credibility.

It appears that while there are close substitutes, there is no one exact translation. Quite a pity really, because “credibility” deserves vast airplay as it brings with it such great value. Credibility, a form of believability, is really about “doing what you say you will do”, which in turn yields understanding and trust. Which team member wouldn’t relate to that and which leader wouldn’t prioritise that?

Credibility is earned through both simple and complex means:

• Simple

Leaders are undoubtedly busy people, yet never too busy to remember. The saying “if you want something done, give it to a busy person” goes a long way here in the stakes of credibility. Forgetting is perceived as but an excuse.

– Credibility is banked when a leader remembers to do what he says he will do, even if it takes until late in the evening. That action may be to track down a resource, link up two people or even read and reply to an email of interest; whatever it is, it simply does not slip through the cracks.

– Credibility is banked when names are recalled and family situations are honoured. Recently I witnessed a high-flying senior executive take time out to honour the life of a past employee who was taken from this Earth way too soon. The executive could have sent condolences or flowers, yet did not; priorities acted upon build credibility.

– Credibility is banked when respect for others is evident. If meetings are required, be on time; after all, time is a shared commodity. When mistakes are made, show vulnerability and admit you were wrong. It is not rocket science, but rather sound fundamentals that drive decisions and actions based on respect and human need.

• Complex

Leadership is not always easy, yet leaders are the best learners. They often come face to face with decision points and emotional quandaries. The world may not always offer solutions, yet beg a leader to choose the “least bad” option, delivering ultimately a “bad” action. It may be difficult in this case to earn credibility, yet with full communication of the reason why choices were taken, based on the achievement of “least bad” consequences, trust will slowly seep through.

– Credibility will never be earned from doing nothing on a long-term basis; credibility feeds on action, not inaction. When tough choices exist, and others are still not believing, ask them one simple question: what would you do if you were me?

– Credibility is earned when the reality of “behind-the-scenes” is scrutinised and squeaky clean insights emerge. Take, for example, a business that is extolling virtues of exponential business results, yet many discover achievement was at the expense of resources or people. Team members may have been overworked and underpaid, taxes may have been paid by creating loopholes in the system or thriving communities may have been decimated and become obsolete. Surface level results will no longer earn instant credibility by default.

– Credibility becomes even more complex when an intention is explored. Take, for example, a leader who shares information and trains the people well, in which case it is likely for a win-win common interest of development for all; credibility flows. Another leader may share, yet not openly or fully and may train, yet not consistently, possibly for the intention to attract external validation for himself. Corporate intention is often questioned with some of the more shallow Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives that act as a facade to distract, so unscrupulous corporate behaviour will not be uncovered. Will the investment of time, money and effort shine for a short time or sustain and propel both parties into more opportunity?

A legend of credibility

In life and in death, David Bowie was a performing arts guru, forging credibility at each and every turn of his career. He promised ubiquity and omnipresence and delivered ubiquity and omnipresence. He promised innovation and delivered innovation. He promised a life full of surprise and embedded that right to the very end. His message was clear, his reputation solid and millions around the world came to trust, understand, depend upon and follow him.

To coin some famed Bowie wisdom: “the truth of course is that there is no journey. We are arriving and departing all at the same time”. Corporate credibility is not about arriving at leadership, departing from leadership, it simply is the foundation of leadership. How much credibility do you have banked?

Debbie Nicol, managing director of the Dubai-based business en motion, is a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture.

business@thenational.ae

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“That’s the way we’ve always done it.”

These words send shivers down the spines of leaders – or do they? One success factor of true leaders and change specialists is an appre­ciation of differing perspectives that are displayed across everyone. When the leader’s path collides with one that displays a reticence to change and take new directions, these words are simply an opportunity to explore three important questions:

What is hidden behind the words “that’s the way we’ve always done it?”

Why does that hidden reality have power over an individual’s performance?

Do these words determine the degree of willingness of that person to “co-produce” a differing future, one of hope?

What is indeed behind these words?

Words remain words alone unless they are considered along with an emotional intensity and context.

In organisational settings during periods of change, these words spotlight a concern that is likely to have resulted from a lack of understanding. This may or may not have already morphed into resistance. These words may be shared as a means of gaining attention or subconsciously uttered, providing insight into a pain festering within. They may even be intended to open a general discussion showing a curiosity to know more.

What’s behind these words is an emotional reaction to a suggestion of change; destabilisation is a real option for those who utter these words. It’s at this stage an individual’s context will become evident, as throughout a leader’s efforts to work with this situation, what is driving the resister will become apparent. Is it something physical that will be exposed, challenged or depleted through the change? Is it something mental where limited cognition is perceived as a barrier or disruptive factor? Is it a concern based on socio-economic reasons that has the person worried?

Ultimately, a need for “more” is present. For the current behaviour to convert to a new norm, an individual will require more awareness as to the reasons for change which then should feed into more of a desire to make the change happen, and even more need for knowledge of how to change.

Why does that possess power over personal performance at work?

Emotional responses are charged with energy. That energy is invested in the tightening of a person’s grip around “the tried, true and trusted”. Survival mode kicks in and while the “need for more” exists, it will be secondary at this stage; workplace performance, counselling or assistance has no place on the agenda.

When energy is channelled into the survival mechanism, flight or fight syndrome is activated. For those who choose flight, the reaction is swift and sudden. For those who choose fight, the journey can be long, worrisome and arduous. Both negate any chance of workplace performance, as the template of the “known” is all-important; even if there was an interest in work, the effort going into “hanging on” is exhausting and depletive. Stability is at risk and there’s great likelihood for loss.

Human beings by instinct choose to be forward-facing, rejecting any form of loss, deprivation or reduction of benefit and self-worth.

What is the degree of willingness to “co-produce” a future of hope?

“Co-production” is about a willingness of both parties to be involved in a situation. The leader who sees opportunity in reticence can reduce the chance of fear, increase the opportunity of “the known”, increase the probability of some form of stability to return as soon as possible and reduce the chance of loss. By doing so, they will appreciate the age-old Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, providing for the foundation of safety, security and self-esteem before expecting creativity, problem solving and a willingness to contribute.

Leaders in touch with their senses should not miss indicators of inner misalignments and negative influence. Indicators exist in the spoken word and in overt and covert body language. Let’s celebrate negative indicators as an opportunity, recognise the vulnerability that comes hand-in-hand with reticence and take it into the land of greater understanding.

Debbie Nicol, managing director of the Dubai-based business en motion, is a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture.

business@thenational.ae

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