Q&A: An Interview with Lynda Folan

1. Describe your personality
I think if I were to ask others they would describe me as an outgoing, energetic person who generally has an opinion about most things. The person that I have become has been hugely influenced by the fact that I have lived on three different continents and have travelled to over 85 countries. Personally I would describe myself as someone with a love of life and a strong belief that we make our own success.

2. What are your strengths as a consultant?
Having spent most of my career in international executive roles I believe that I have the ability to offer broad based strategic thinking coupled with pragmatic realism of what works and does not work in business. As a consultant my strength lies in energising and enthusing individuals, teams and organisations to go beyond their own expectations and to look for new possibilities. With an academic background in Organisational Psychology I have a strong leaning towards a deeper psychological perspective on business issues.

3. What's the most memorable workshop you've conducted and why?
I guess the most memorable workshop I can recall was one that was conducted on an ocean liner out to sea. The workshop happened to take place in the middle of a massive storm. Delegates were turning green and running from the conference room at regular intervals. This was rather off putting to say the least. We were asked to continue with the workshop through the storm so it was just as well that I did not give in to sea sickness. The final straw was when someone did not make it out the room in time, at which point I called it a day.

4. Where do you see Integral Development in 5 years time?
My vision for the business would be for it to be unique in the market place providing leading edge development that enhances business outcomes for its clients. I also personally value being part of a strong united community of people who are leading the way in relation to holistic business and individual development.

5. What are your thoughts on Leadership for the future?
The more I work with leaders, from diverse cultures across a range of organisations, the more I realise that the issues that they face are fundamentally the same. The message that is loud and clear is that leadership comes from within and the future of leadership will be more and more focused on the internal aspects of leadership. As people across the world awake to the knowledge that they are the owners of their future ,they will start to focus on what really makes a difference, the ‘I’ underneath the job title or the label that they are know by.

6. If you could invite 5 people to dinner who would they be?
Nelson Mandela for his ability to forgive unconditionally and inspire a whole nation.
Charles Handy for his incredible insight into organisations and the people within them.
Steven Covey because he has managed to capture a whole generation with his teachings on Leadership.
Maharishi Mahesh for his gift of Transcendental Mediation.
My five year old son Matthew because he keeps me grounded and has the amazing ability of a child to say it as it is.

7. Who is a leader that inspires you, and why?
Richard Branson is a leader who I admire immensely. He is a massively successful entrepreneur and business man with an energetic and inspirational style. The reason that I think he is inspirational is that alongside this huge success he is down to earth and exudes a genuineness and respect for all. Having been lucky enough to meet him on a number of occasions I have had the opportunity to observe his natural ability to enthuse others and draws people with him.

8. If you were stranded on a desert island, what book and 2 items would you like with you?
My journal to help me stay sane, a surf board to enjoy the waves and my camera to capture the beauty of the island.

Developing Leaders by Ron Cacioppe

With the W.A. economy accelerating, many companies are moving rapidly forward with energy and resource projects. Organisations are hiring new people and pushing their managers to complete projects on time and on budget. Dealing with technical challenges, letting of contracts, hiring manpower, managing costs, maintaining safety and environmental standards and meeting project deadlines have become their main priorities. But the factor that most results in success is often left out: developing leaders who inspire, motivate, plan strategically and manage performance of the workforce.

During this rapid growth, frontline workers are being promoted to supervisors, supervisors are promoted to middle managers and middle managers are given higher levels of responsibility often without the necessary training and support to be effective leaders. As a result, good staff leave because of poor leadership. A survey by the Australian Institute of Management found that the biggest cause of people leaving their organisation was not salary, poor work conditions, or other organisation factors but was poor management. The results were summarised as; “People don’t leave their organisations, they leave their managers.”

A study of outstanding leaders by Jay Conger, a well known expert in leadership development, showed that good leaders developed in three major ways:

1. Working for an outstanding leader provided a role model that successful leaders emulated.
2. Working for a poor leader provided clear guidelines of what not to do.
3. Being placed in a challenging situation gave leaders responsibility that moved them out of their comfort zone and tested their stamina, intellectual and emotional skills and spiritual strength.

The City of Joondalup recently ran an intensive leadership development program in which every manager was placed in challenging situations that simulated real organisational situations. Trained observers gave each person feedback at the end of each day on how well or poorly they performed and what skills they needed to become successful leaders.

One of the most effective leadership development programs is to place a group of potential leaders in a rugged natural environment which requires using their combined individual and team skills to achieve a challenging and complex mission. Just like the workplace environments, the natural environment spontaneously changes and leaders must adapt to unpredicted changing events and conditions. These outdoor adventures test and extend the limits of a person’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual development.

Simon Priest, a Canadian researcher showed outdoor programs can lead to lasting benefit for the individual and the organisation if they are ‘framed’ into real issues relevant to the workplace. For example, instead of using a ‘spider-web’ problem, the outdoor challenge should be framed as the distribution problem they face at work. If a person receives feedback about themselves and guidance in learning useful leadership lessons during the adventure program, it can lead to a life changing experience. Participants often remark years later that when faced with huge barriers, challenges or adverse conditions at work, the lessons learned in these programs helped them to persevere to achieve personal and organisational success.

Does investing in leadership development matter? Does it lead to organisation benefits? Professor Barry Posner, author of The Leadership Challenge indicates that the results of over 250 studies show that outstanding leadership results in:

• Greater levels of commitment
• Greater teamwork and empowerment
• Increased productivity
• Higher performance and effectiveness
• Reduced turnover and absenteeism

A 2006 study by leadership development expert Richard Roi showed that companies with excellent leadership skills had income growth of 841% compared to companies with poor leaders which lost 49% of their income. Roi also showed that the stock price growth of companies with better leaders was up 204% versus only 79% for other companies. Another study showed that companies that invested in leadership training were more profitable during a downturn than those that didn’t.

Venturing into leadership development, therefore does matter.

* As published in WA Business News on 18 March, 2010

Share Your Voice by Ron Cacioppe

Research has shown that 70 per cent of airplane accidents are caused by human error. An even more startling fact is that 50 per cent of these mishaps happen when crews are together for the first time.

In 1977, KLM Flight 4805 collided with a Pan Am 747 on a runaway on the island of Tenerife. More than 580 people were killed when KLM’s Captain Jacob Van Zanten, a highly experienced captain with an impeccable safety record, took off without runway clearance because he was running late.

The flight box recording showed that his co-pilot warned him that they did not have runway clearance but he did not challenge Van Zanten’s decision because he was hesitant to challenge the captain’s authority. This crash has resulted in many airlines putting in place Crew Resource Management (CRM) training to help staff constructively question decisions and actions made on the flight deck.

While most companies have systems in place to check and recheck actions that could lead to accidents, people often find it hard to question their supervisor or manager’s behaviour, not only in regard to safety but also in business decisions and actions that affect customers, staff and the success of the business. Often people who have lower positions; are younger; women; timid or from minority cultures are less likely to speak up.

We like to be liked and it is very hard to tell our co-workers that they are doing something wrong. It’s even harder to tell our supervisory manager that he or she doesn’t have it right.

Here are some ways to help staff gain the confidence to constructively question decisions:
• For important decisions bring in an external objective facilitator who will encourage open communication between all levels of staff.
• Encourage those who aren’t comfortable challenging leadership by praising them when they put up a good argument. I once worked with a very competent but shy lady who would refrain from challenging others when she didn’t agree with them. Over time she was encouraged and praised for contributing ideas and she gained enough confidence to win arguments, some with the CEO.
• Encourage staff to ask questions when managers give them tasks such as: “Can you clarify that for me?” “When do you need this by?” Do you want me to decide on this without checking back with you and if you want this by tomorrow; are you ok for me to delay the other project you have given me?”
• Have your staff or management meetings conducted by somebody other than you. You can also ask a group to explore an issue without you and come up with a final recommendation to present to you.
• We have modified three steps from the CRM airline training process that can be used by staff to question and challenge another person:
1. State a fact that is causing concern: “The project will not be able to meet the November 15th deadline at this rate.”
2. The second step is to ask a question. Use a person’s name to get their attention: “Jim, do you think it would be useful to check that the other alliance partners can make their commitments on this date?”
3. These two first steps may need to be repeated but if they are not successful then a third step is necessary which states the consequences and suggests tangible solutions, such as: “Jim, I am sure that we are not going to meet the November 15th date and the clients need to know this. If you don’t inform them by next Tuesday, we will incur substantial penalties and more time delays.”

While these are not easy conversations, they can help avoid crashes due to poor management decisions, project problems and many every day problems. As our businesses begin to take off again in the Australian economy, it would be useful to teach yourself and your staff, flight corrections skills.

* As published in WA Business News, 25 February 2010