Articles and Commentary

CIPD Ireland survey identified leadership development as the key organisational and HR priority in 2023.

In our current VUCA environment the importance of leadership is elevated. When uncertainty abounds and big complex problems require solving with multiple inputs the culture of the organisation must lend itself to trust, agility and operate a “team of teams” type of low hierarchy structure. This is a leadership issue. Setting, communicating and demonstrating the purpose and vision while supporting and resourcing capability is not just desirable but necessary for survival.  This is about leadership rather than management.


Attraction and retention of talent is another key issue and leadership must support the engagement of that talent – where talented people with key competencies are empowered and motivated to do their utmost in pursuit of a purpose.

 According to the 2023 survey of HR practices in Ireland:

“Investment in leadership and people management skills is immediately required to build capability to lead and retain employees.”

 Of the HR members of CIPD surveyed 90% experienced skill shortages and identified leadership development as the skill area of greatest concern in relation to attracting and retaining employees.

So why is leadership development, identified as a key need in organisations by HR, not being addressed? I see several reasons in my interactions here in Ireland but also reading reports and garnering feedback from around the globe.

Lack of resource priority

Unfortunately HR can be positioned in an advisory role rather than a decision making role so access to budget and the resources to develop leadership may be restricted. As the watchers for all things people, including leadership, the role of HR can be reduced to administration and dealing with employment problems. While HR are aware of problems they may not be authorised to resolve them. Award winning and high achieving organisations include HR as equals in decision-making because the talent, and the leadership that engages them, are more of a priority than ever and HR can identify and fix the low performance and blind-spots of both.

Resistance to change

Culture or the expression of how we learned to do things around here can be like glue, stopping change or adaptability. Models of leadership in more static organisations belong in the last century and are not suitable for our current environment. Hard to see, like a fish in water that doesn’t know its in water because that all it knows, culture includes the type of leadership (the leadership culture) being practiced. One can find a lack of urgency in many organisations in adapting to the current environment due to a lack of competition.

Fear of exposure

I have met leaders who go pale at the idea of aware authentic leadership as although it will bring out the best in them and their people – they fear it will expose them or disempower them. Imagine the leader with impostor syndrome or who have been faking it until they make it for years now and how they might deal with HR requests to develop leadership. Likewise those who think looking like a leader is a priority. Good leadership development programs improve not only the organisation but can have huge benefits personally for leaders who are brave enough to engage.

Teaching Management or the wrong Leadership

So many programs are management programs rather than leadership programs. Managers deal with things and processes and Leaders deal with people. There is a big difference. Further to this point are leadership programs from the last century designed for a different world and different people. One I see a lot is “Transformational Leadership” which was first brought into practice (by Bernard Bass) in the 1980’s. Yes the 1980s. With the idea of changing the organisation. Today the organisation changes by itself and we have to keep up, a huge paradigm shift. This is why trust underpinning adaptability and agility are key competencies and why leadership training must include personal competencies to empower the leader to cope, and succeed, and support the team. In Harvard Business Review, Deborah Rowland (2016) wrote “Our primary method of developing leaders is antithetical to the type of leadership we need.” and quotes numerous studies that say the same. Some thought needs to go into selecting and developing your leadership programs – they must not be just another tick-boxing exercise. Something to think about?

To finish, here is a final quote from the CIPD HR Practices Report 2023:

 “With Leadership development emerging as the key organisational and HR priority for 2023 now is the time to take action to address this.”

We can help

Aidan Higgins BE MBA MSc (Psych) is the founder of ADEO Consulting Ltd and a Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Teamwork specialist and Coach, who has worked with leaders and teams at all levels of the private and public sectors for the last 15 years. He is the author of LeadFromYou – We need aware, authentic and emotionally intelligent leaders. – now available in Paperback and Kindle on Amazon and in audiobook form via Audible and iTunesTwo recent podcasts are available here on Coaching and on Leadership.

2023-11-02T11:28:52+00:00October 25th, 2023|Discussion|

Authentic Andy – Ireland Rugby’s head coach on leadership and performance.

An excellent interview with Andy Farrell, the head coach of the Ireland men’s rugby team, before the first game of the World Cup commenced, was very interesting and informative in terms of his leadership style and the engagement of his team. This team have performed so well and have attained and retained a world number one ranking.

Andy’s first comments were about purpose and our desire to “inspire the nation”, something that is “bone deep in us” including not just the fans in the stadiums but “the people watching at home”, making everyone, including those living in other countries “proud to be Irish”. This illustrates nicely how he sees the importance of purpose in motivation and performance. One has to point out that saying something like this is easy but his face and his eyes tell you he believes it.

When asked about difficulties with change he responded “doing something different takes time – when something is ingrained it just takes time to change” and he said that “when players believe in what we are trying to preach” it helps and “the more they believe it and the more they understand it the more they can own it themselves.”

Andy went on to describe how previous experiences (as a player and a captain) have shaped who he is and

“as far as Leadership and the way I go about things I am just being myself – you have to be authentic in the way that you are every single day.”

Previous experiences, he maintains, gave him an understanding of that point. “I never asked to be a captain, but because I was never a star player, I was always a galvanizing player – I loved the jigsaw and making players come together.”

On controlling his players he replied “You give them some guidelines and you give them the way that you want them to behave. Then you give them examples and make sure the examples work and then give them legs to make their own mistakes.”  So coaching and trust all seem to be part of his mix.

“Then they grow together. They turn up every day with an attitude of not just joining in but wanting to help and wanting to help each other. The knock-on effect for players and coaches alike is pretty powerful.”

“The camaraderie is second to none and is a point of difference for us”

“You can’t just say mistakes are ok or there would be carnage but what you look at and judge is the decision making, to be ahead of the game.”

More on purpose and vision finished up the interview. “We want to be the best we can and when you reach number one its irrelevant because we still want to get better as a team.”

“Its all about being the best version of ourselves. Chasing that potential every day is key for us. We know perfection doesn’t exist. If we know what we are aiming for we can go after that.”

Some great and honest words from a world class authentic leader. What wouldn’t you give to get your team or organisation working like this? If you want to take these words on board and turn them into actions, how do they challenge you? Can you be authentic? Can you give your people the freedom to make mistakes and learn to make better decisions? Can you develop the sort of environment where everyone is a teacher and everyone is a student? Do your people support one another rather than compete?

Perhaps it’s best to start by take a leaf from Andy’s book and setting your purpose and your vision for your people before enrolling them in helping to achieve it and just trying to improve every day.

Aidan Higgins BE MBA MSc (Psych) is the founder of ADEO Consulting Ltd and a Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Teamwork specialist and Coach, who has worked with leaders and teams at all levels of the private and public sectors for the last 15 years. He is the author of LeadFromYou – We need aware, authentic and emotionally intelligent leaders. – now available in Paperback and Kindle on Amazon and in audiobook form via Audible and iTunesTwo recent podcasts are available here on Coaching and on Leadership.

2023-11-02T11:26:58+00:00October 12th, 2023|Discussion|

The Leadership Podcast: Lead From You: We need aware, authentic and emotionally intelligent leaders. Leading from their best selves

The Leadership Podcast

Podcast is here: Aidan Higgins Lead From You


Aidan Higgins is the author of “Lead from you: We need aware, authentic and emotionally intelligent leaders. Leading from their best selves.”  Aidan shares his insights on the importance of self-awareness, authenticity, and emotional intelligence in modern leadership. He discusses how childhood can shape the definition of success and the value of humor in leadership. He also shares practical tips on observing oneself to detect changes in emotion or behavior and finding a balance between productivity and calmness. The episode ends with a reminder to change one’s awareness of oneself in order to bring about personal growth.

Key Takeaways

[00:05] Aidan Higgins, is a leadership coach at Adeo Consulting and the author of “Lead from you”. He believes that personal awareness and leadership awareness are the same thing and that leaders need to be conscious of their thoughts, emotions and how they act out, so their beliefs, thoughts, and emotions become their actions.

[12:07] The conversation is about leadership and the need to adapt to changing times and technologies. There is a focus on the need for collaborative leadership rather than a top-down approach. The issue of control is also discussed, with the suggestion that some leaders need to learn to let go of control in order to achieve better outcomes.

[16:10] Effective leadership is not just about having good intentions but also about understanding one’s definition of success and the impact of childhood training. Many leaders strive for succes and may not even enjoy their achievements. Self-awareness is essential to achieving a balance between productivity and calmness.

[20:49]  Aidan also covers the importance of work ethic and discipline in the past, the role of having fun in bonding and interjecting humor in the workplace, and the challenges that leaders face in creating a good atmosphere for their team outside of work.

[33:39] Aidan talks about the importance of overcoming addiction to being busy and finding a balance between productivity and calmness, which allows for more powerful and productive work.

[35:08] Aidan shares a story about a successful leader who initially resisted change but eventually embraced it and brought the whole organization along by creating posters and explaining the “why” behind the changes.  Aidan finds joy in seeing the leader’s transformation and success.

[40:02] According to Aidan, commitment, openness, and trust were the three independent words that allowed the team to be successful in achieving their goals.

[41:50] Aidan challenges us to be more self-aware and authentic in leadership by observing one’s actions and thoughts, questioning why things are done a certain way, and being mindful of self-talk. The goal is to understand oneself better to achieve personal growth and avoid being controlled by external factors.

[45:43] Closing quote: Remember, what is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself. — Abraham Maslow

Quotable Quotes

“Control was always an illusion.”

“If the pressure is on so much, or you’re in an environment where you cannot fail or you cannot take a risk, you can’t move forward.”

Character is who you are. Reputation is what people think of you, which you have no control over.

Not everybody has good intentions.

Appropriate humor in the right place at the right time is very useful, and having a sense of humor about things and about people and all that is very helpful.

“Those without a sense of humor are not liked as leaders.”

The truth without compassion is cruelty.

Stop and observe yourself.

You are not your thoughts.

If you’re in the middle of a fog of anxiety or depression, you’re not in the present.

You can’t see opportunities because you’re not in the present.

Watch the self-talk as well as another good indicator of the sort of mindset you’re having.

What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.” — Abraham Maslow

Aidan Higgins

These are the books mentioned in our discussion with Aidan

Buy now!
Lead From You: We need aware, authentic and emotionally intelligent leaders. Leading from their best selves.

Resources Mentioned

2023-05-26T11:25:03+00:00May 26th, 2023|Discussion|

If you really want fairness, inclusion and diversity check your worldview.

Anyone interested in or studying the economic environment of today’s organizations knows that future performance requires innovation and the attraction of the best talent, which requires inclusion and diversity as part of the mix. Different thinking is key to challenging old ways of doing things, and coming up with new ideas, and so it is key to agility and innovation. Fairness and equity in decision making is also well known as a huge contributor to the essential trust in an organization needed for innovation and agility to thrive.

It is interesting then that even well-meaning managers and leaders can still skew their thinking when it comes to the decisions they make about hiring and promoting, giving opportunity to and working with, those who are different from them. For example a leader choosing a team to work with them on a new and interesting project, often chooses the team based on who they are comfortable working with, who they have worked with before and people whose expertise they trust. But this is often based on poor information.

Looking under the covers, one finds often that these leaders or managers can be unknowingly unfair to those who are different from them. By different I mean gender, culture, background, or even education. What can be shocking is when we discover that we use stereotypes regularly to make decisions like these. What can also be surprising is that we have a number of other biases of which we are unaware. So in decision-making we are unaware of all the facts, we are not seeing clearly, and our decisions are subject to our (unknown) worldview and our previous experience.

Because of our basic ingroup-outgroup cognitive behaviours we tend to see those in our own group (class, education, gender) as better than they are and those in an outgroup as less than they are. Stereotypes apply too, when for example we think one ethnic group or gender are less suitable, committed or less hard working than they could be. We are often not aware that this is how we think and need to understand that in life we have been categorizing and grouping things, people and events into groups and assigning characteristics to them as a survival mechanism. Our experiences are subjective (ours alone) and so too experiences – so in fact experience can sometimes be a disadvantage.

Tony DeMello once said that “Once you name a tree as a tree you never see a tree again.” What you see from then on is your image of the first tree and you forget that each tree is different and unique. This mechanism frames and underpins how we see the world. Self-awareness is key to getting to grips with this. When you see what you are doing as part of your thought process you can make better decisions. If you become aware of it your decisions become better and fairer. Check your worldview folks.

Aidan Higgins BE MBA MSc (Psych) is the founder of ADEO Consulting Ltd and a Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Teamwork specialist and Coach, who has worked with leaders and teams at all levels of the private and public sectors. He has over 30 years experience working in various capacities with individuals, teams and organisations of all sizes. He is the author of LeadFromYou – We need aware, authentic and emotionally intelligent leaders. – now available in Paperback and Kindle on Amazon and in audiobook form via Audible and iTunes.

2023-04-08T09:41:15+00:00March 8th, 2023|Culture, Discussion, Employee Engagement, Leadership|

Young people these days …

The wrong mindset is causing organisations to fail.

I heard a story about a discussion amongst management and senior staff in an organisation recently (a true story and i’d say more common than you might think). I know of the organisation for a while and consider their management practices as from somewhere in the 1950’s. It’s completely hierarchical, sometimes abusive and controlled by unseen stakeholders who couldn’t be less interested in the welfare of their employees. Leveraging a great brand allows them to function – but even that isn’t helping now.

If they actually took time to understand their culture (which is awful) and its impact, they would still resist change to their last manager. Even the impact on clients doesn’t seem to matter so long as the revenues keep coming in. Currently (post-covid) they are haemorrhaging staff and are unable to get replacements – so the the organisation is imploding as the strain on existing staff is intolerable and increasing the rate of the numbers leaving. Newer staff doing internships have no intention of ever working there when their time is up – preferring other organisations. Suddenly (!) those all important revenues are under threat.

Recently their management discussions start with something like “young people these days” and one or two managers that have been on google mention “Gen Z” and “Quiet Quitting.” They blame the new generations for their current travails. The transcripts of exit interviews are sneered at. Typical comments are “They fancy themselves as a bit special.” “They just don’t work as hard”. “Such an attitude”. Nobody with enough autonomy has yet turned around and suggested “maybe we are doing something wrong?”.

Three main points to understand:

1. The newer generations mindsets are different but not necessarily wrong.

2. The companies who evolve their leadership. management and their culture will attract and retain these highly trained, techno-literate, multitasking and competent people. These people have the competencies your organisation needs – they are no longer at the centre of your organisation but at the edges facing clients.

3. Those organisations that do not evolve will fail, go extinct, or disappear as the changed/changing environment puts serious evolutionary pressure on you.

The idea that people should be happy to have a job should be consigned to a theme park of 20th century thinking. Instead of whining about attitude, think about leveraging the mindset and looking for the opportunities. The more agile and flexible your approach the more likely your organisation can evolve – and for many organisations right now, it’s evolve or die.

Aidan Higgins BE MBA is the founder of ADEO Consulting Ltd and a Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Teamwork specialist and Coach, who has worked with leaders and teams at all levels of the private and public sectors. He has over 30 years experience working in various capacities with individuals, teams and organisations of all sizes. He is the author of LeadFromYou – We need aware, authentic and emotionally intelligent leaders. – now available in Paperback and Kindle on Amazon and in audiobook form via Audible and iTunes.

2022-12-05T12:14:11+00:00December 5th, 2022|Culture, Discussion, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Motivation|

Podcast: ‘Lead From You?’ Tara Nolan interviews Aidan James Higgins

Also available here on Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.


Aidan James Higgins is the CEO of ADEO Consulting. He is a Leadership Consultant, Emotional intelligence & Teamwork specialist and is passionate about getting people to be at their best. He is the author of the book Lead From You, which launched at the end of 2021 and is now in 7 countries.

Podcast Episode Summary

This episode speaks to three concepts, awareness, authenticity & emotional intelligence. Aidan employs the psychometric The Enneagram to support leaders understand themselves and others better and to Lead from You.

Points made across the podcast episode

Fish Slap story explored and why it resonated with Aidan. He was woken up at a Management Training Program where he realised, he was living from one world view. The training had shocked Aidan that the world he had been inhabiting was only one point of view.
Most of us are asleep. We are working on our programming without interrogating it to improve our self- awareness.
Aidan wrote the book Lead From You because of the appreciation clients & friends held for the work and their interest in learning more.

Feedback from the book suggests readers are appreciating the importance of self-awareness and how it is contributing to clarity of decision making, trust building, empathy & compassion.Aidan points out that we must have self-compassion to appreciate we have grown up to be & do in a particular way and until we come to be aware we think it is the only way.

Aidan has attempted to author a book that helps a person be a more complete person, to be happier and to lead. Aware, emotionally intelligent & authentic Leadership is what is needed in the 21st century People & Leaders need to wake up and pull back what is referred to as the veil of illusion.

To become self-aware, to be authentic and emotionally intelligent requires of a leader or team member to wake up. Once people wake up, they generally become curious to learn more. Resistance is often present in this work, too many of us are trained to avoid emotion, being soft and being empathetic or compassionate.

People do not realise they are unaware. Aidan shares a story from Anthony de Mello to help explain what he means by being self-aware. Tich Na Han says “people will not change until they are sick of suffering”
We are subject to a programming that was brought into us early on in our lives. We make all kinds of assumptions about the way we are to lead or act. Example: Must remain in control.

Benefits of becoming self-aware & other awareness means clearer decisions, clearer emotional awareness and therefore information, access to creativity and innovation. We evolve a view of the world until we see it from where it has come and how useful it is to remain. For example, the child who learns to please people to get attention or a person who is ignored if they do not win can be programs that thwart successful leadership in the future.

Becoming self-aware is not a thing you do it is about understanding. Knowing what water is doesn’t make you wet.
Aidan helps clients become aware by first creating a safe space to be together and then by sharing how people are likely to have come up through the world. He shares his framework and gives people space to reflect on their beliefs, habits and patterns, ways that have informed up until now.

Aidan shares another example where he asks a client how is feeling when he is not working. The client responded “trapped” and felt the rise of anxiety when he wasn’t doing anything. This client then became aware that underneath is drive to get things done, there was an anxiety driving this way of being. Understanding changes behaviour not a set of things to do.

Sometimes you ask someone how they feel, and they do not have the words or language to tell you. It can often be about giving clients words.

According to a Harvard Business Review, improved self-awareness on teams doubles decision making capability & doubles the ability of a team to deal with conflict.

The Enneagram is a system that has been around for years. Authored by the Greeks who divined that there were 9 ways to look at the world. These world views begin around the time of a child where object constancy is understood. It is similar but deeper than MYERS BRIGGS type indicator.

The Enneagram employed on teams helps team members understand each other better. Understanding in turn leads to emotional intelligence. Working with a team, Aidan will start by building the self-awareness of the members of the team, often by using the Enneagram tool. Then he moves to create awareness of the other members of the team, which often brings a team to compassion and fuller sharing.

Team Emotional Intelligence explores nine norms. 3 Team Fundamental Norms: Roles and Responsibilities, Meetings and Goals & Objectives. 3 Individual Norms: Understanding Team Members, Demonstrating Care, Addressing undesirable behaviours, 4 Team Norms, Review the team, Support Expression, Build Productivity Proactively and Build Optimism, 2 External Norms; Build external relationships & Understand Team Context. These nine norms lead to three outcomes: Psychological Safety, Team Identity and Constructive Dialogue.

Aidan is amazed at how often the team fundamentals have not been worked. In an example Aidan shares how a Team Leader confused sending a team memo about the purpose of the team and their roles meant that they had been communicated with and would therefore understand.

Other examples of where teams get stuck include conflict avoidance believing “we are too nice” can mean bringing new ideas is risky.
Addressing team norms early on can mean a team becomes more effective early on and can in many instances take on bigger projects.
Team resistance comes from being too quick with the change and not allowing buy-in over time, not explaining the “why” for change & not taking care to identity willing enthusiasts who could tip the team into working with the change.

With some teams all you can expect to get to is professional respect. Personal conflicts can mean enmity for years.
Resistance can also present from a formed organisational culture. Teams need to remember that changing the composition of a team means that previous shared understanding is temporality lost, requires a period of mourning and then a willingness to induct new members. Teams must move back to Norm and storm where they had originally moved through all the four phases of team development: forming, norming, storming and performing.

Aidan explains that understanding is a holistic phenomenon.

Team Emotional Intelligence requires that a team deals with emotions, and we deal with them as they arise. Some people are terrified of emotions, or some of the 9 types are terrified especially in a high-pressured business that needs to get things done. There is fear that emotional expression will slow the team down. Instead, the team needs to generate appropriate boundaries, self-regulate and self-correct.

The evolutionary mind suggests that teams are tribal, require a purpose and a Leader is appointed by way of certain needed tasks.
Notwithstanding that Aidan has already littered this conversation with anecdotes and stories he was asked to share a story of a team that illuminates his work.

He chose a large team that was asked to go through extraordinary change, to cut costs while simultaneously improving productivity. This team was not provided all the information available, and they were not allowed to communicate the required change to those on the ground. Luckily the team were already self-aware, were IQ, EQ savvy and had each taken the Enneagram survey. Aidan had been working with the same team for two years. The situation demanded an understanding on the self of ambiguity, the impact of mindsets they needed to influence and the impact of culture. That project was about teaching the team to focus on Purpose, decision making, trust and resilience but also about their own personal issues with control & trying & failing that needed to be managed.

Organisations today need to think in terms of Teams of Teams to be able to deal with the pressures & demands of today’s business. Complexity and expertise at the edges makes the case for this way of thinking.

Teams need to be agile and have a peer structure where everybody contributes and where the Leader is a servant or at a minimum a supporter of the team.

Positive conflict is encouraged along diversity of opinion & an appetite emotional discourse within boundaries.
Finally, teams need time to reflect & improve.

Thankyou Tara.

This podcast and information was collected from the original page on Tara Nolan’s website here.

2022-12-15T12:02:26+00:00November 15th, 2022|Discussion|

Quiet Quitting: Just a new term for an ongoing problem.

Quiet Quitting is a leadership issieQuiet quitting, recently popularised in the media, is defined as “not abruptly leaving a job but starting to do the minimum amount of possible work while keeping the job”. The Wall St journal ran an article “If Your Co-Workers Are ‘Quiet Quitting,’ Here’s What That Means,” on August 12th, the New York times on August 22nd “Who Is Quiet Quitting For?” and the The Guardian (UK) on “Quiet Quitting: Why Doing the Bare Minimum at Work Has Gone Global.” This feeding frenzy has spun up from a viral TikTok video on the topic. Like a lot of media coverage these days, an opinion on social media gathers momentum by attracting interest and eventually the more respected print media will make it mainstream by talking about the controversy – making the issue “real” news. Especially in the silly season.

The is no doubt that “Quiet Quitting” has been going on for years. The way its defined it is just about being disengaged or not fully engaged at work. Not giving your 100% best. This is most people btw. Gallup has been measuring this for over a decade (check out this 2013 poll)  and have been finding that most employees are not fully engaged by their work. Recent global results are still poor. The challenges relating to this for leadership and management have spawned much commentary and column inches. The bottom line is the more of your people are engaged the better will be your organisations performance, and stakeholder or shareholder value. So, leadership and management get to it!

There is a little bit of Generational bias here too. “Oh what are young people like these days!” I wrote about this in my book “LEAD FROM YOU” that the Millennials and Gen Z’s are often motivated by different things. One of them is work-life balance. One of the many reasons for this is these generations watched the behaviour of some larger organisations and lack of regulation and wonder “Why would I give my life over to those people?” They watched many of their parents ruin their health after disappearing from their families for 40 years and they think, “no not for me.” They really are not interested in getting the corner office.

I remember watching a CEO describe to a mostly millennial audience his 25 years at Honeywell and the gold watch they gave him on retirement. They were in stitches laughing at the idea that he could work for one company for 25 years. As most of them did not wear watches (they have phones) this made it even funnier.

Many of the people in the generations aged from 18-45 (ish) years want to work with teams, with the latest technology (with which they are brilliant) and they want work with PURPOSE. Purpose is what gets these people engaged. “Why are we doing this?” They want leaders to help them understand their “Why” and guide them. Leaders who work with them and give them autonomy and trust them to get their jobs done. They want to develop personally and upskill as much as possible. All of this too, aligns with hybrid-working and many of these people can see this. Can leaders?

It is often the case that organisations try to motivate their people by offering promotions and power and desire their people to be cut-throat and ambitious. But what sort of teams do you get with this culture? What sort of collaboration? The complex problems we face today require motivated teams, sometimes self-organising, to solve. We are struggling to attract and retain good people. One positive step might be dropping the idea that people who think like this are “less than,” or “getting away with it” because they see the world differently. The question we should be asking is how to we create the environment to allow these people and these teams to engage and prosper? It starts with leadership.

Aidan Higgins BE MBA is the founder of ADEO Consulting Ltd and a Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Teamwork specialist and Coach, who has worked with leaders and teams at all levels of the private and public sectors. He has over 30 years experience working in various capacities with individuals, teams and organisations of all sizes. He is the author of LeadFromYou – We need aware, authentic and emotionally intelligent leaders. – now available in Paperback and Kindle on Amazon and in audiobook form via Audible and iTunes.

2022-08-24T12:36:24+00:00August 24th, 2022|Discussion|

Three big contributors to the Irish Rugby Team’s triumph in New Zealand.

Emotional Intelligence, Trust and Systems Thinking - Ireland v New Zealand rugbyI was overjoyed last week at the triumph of the Irish Rugby Team in New Zealand and having had a little time to think on it I see there is an opportunity to learn from it. The main elements that contributed to it are also elements needed in the organisation and the teams within it.

Looking at the size of the challenge and the enormity of the success one has to understand that this was only the fifth test series win in New Zealand in 60-something attempts in over one hundred-plus years and the first since rugby went professional. It was a huge mountain to climb for any team against the most successful international team ever and three times world cup winners. The result was akin to the Lord of the Rings (filmed in New Zealand) – it’s as if our lads went over there and managed to destroy the one ring in Mordor. New Zealand is a proud country about the same size as Ireland, and similar in a lot of ways, but everybody plays rugby (in Ireland it’s the No3 sport). The New Zealanders are not lessened by their loss on this occasion – as we shall see – the mountain remains.

Element 1 – Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is often about keeping control of emotions, sometimes under great pressure. Rugby requires the players to be “up for it”. You have to be mentally ready to put your body on the line, to run into and make hard contacts with the opposition. Its not a place for slow thinking except during restarts and when the game is full on then emotions and instincts come to the fore described by Kahneman as system one thinking. Keeping the emotional intensity at the right level without getting penalised or making errors was a huge part of the success. It’s a learned skill. As is keeping your head when you’re winning and the cognitive dissonance kicks in (“We cant be beating New Zealand!”). Ireland over the years always had the bravery and the bottle. Sometimes too much. This was cooler and calmer and playing away from home and using the pitch just as if you were playing at home – this required a very positive mindset. Think of the benefits this kind of emotional Intelligence can bring to the workplace especially in times of change.

Element 2 – Trust

Farrell is a direct and honest coach and leader. He is described as caring for his team, he leads the way and watching his media interviews he neither gets overexcited with the wins or too down with the losses. He did have a certain glint in his eyes after the New Zealand win though. I was struck by the Keith Earls story of Farrell stepping in at a team meeting when he thought Earls might be embarrassed by something. To protect his man. When a leader is authentic and you feel he or she has your back you can focus on what’s in front of you. When trust and honesty is there then it frees the mind to make choices in real time. If it works it works, if not try again next time – there is no fear of failure.

Think about getting the ball and having to make one of four decisions in 1-2 seconds. Meanwhile a 20 stone man who looks like he’s made out of granite, wants to cut you in half. If you don’t make the decision, he will. There is no time for fear of failure, thinking, or strategy. Its system one all the way. Mike Tyson once said that the plan goes out the window once you get the first punch in the mouth. Field Marshal von Moltke said similarly that “No plan survives contact with the enemy”.  Trust brings agility (quick response) and often innovation (try something different). Think how this applies in the workplace.

Element 3 – Systems thinking

Systems thinking is about the interaction of parts and this is what leads to outcomes and to success. So the Ireland team were using systems and interchanges that were precise, accurate and which led to success. One example is the formation of runners when taking the ball up. I have seen it before when Pat Lam’s Connacht won the Pro12 and runners would come together only making decisions in real time as the defence adapted. So Ireland, running up the ball don’t have a plan to give it to one player or the other – the decision maker can see where the gap is in the defence and in the last half second gives the ball to the right player on his shoulder or keeps it or spins it wider. Systems are used for rucking, set pieces, becoming available for a pass etc and different systems achieve different goals in different parts of the field, as part of the greater whole. All these little systems are focused upon, in real time, rather than the overall outcome. If something fails, they go back to the appropriate system in real time. Reset. Start again. No blame. We are all in this together. They also retain the flexibility to change systems if opportunities opened up.

So I am still delighted by the performance and the win. Incredible odds and incredible sportsmanship by New Zealand after the event. Their consensus is that Ireland were very good we need to get better. Another great mindset.

Aidan Higgins BE MBA is the founder of ADEO Consulting Ltd and a Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Teamwork specialist and Coach, who has worked with leaders and teams at all levels of the private and public sectors. He has over 30 years experience working in various capacities with individuals, teams and organisations of all sizes. He is the author of LeadFromYou – We need aware, authentic and emotionally intelligent leaders. – now available in Paperback and Kindle on Amazon and in audiobook form via Audible and iTunes.

Equality and inclusion requires leaders to be aware of their subconscious bias.

Diversity in the modern organisation is regarded by management theorists and academics alike as a positive for performance and financial results. After a diversity literature review Marquis et al (2008) observed that the business case for diversity was strongly supported adding that a diverse workforce does improve performance and boost the bottom line”.

However, diversity is impacted by the biases we all have, some conscious and some unconscious. Even the most egalitarian of us use stereotypes to make our way in the world. A complex world, getting more complex daily, requires us to breakdown and categorize things and people around us. This is OK so long as we are aware of what we are doing. Many are shocked to find that they are operating under the illusion that they have no biases. These biases can be unearthed using psychological tests where congruence and reaction times are measured.

Take one example. Try for a moment to think about a regional accent that you are aware of, and the characteristics that you associate with that accent, either good or bad. If you list those characteristics, you might find that you have a belief or an assumption about people who speak with that accent. Do you think that this could influence your hiring practices or your promotion practices within your organization? Taking the regional accent as one example of bias try to think of similar examples. Many leaders, often with the best will in the world, have biases about gender, race, skin color, nationality, age, or educational background. Sometimes we are positively biased, but this can also lead to an imbalance as the leader unquestioningly behaves more positively towards the individual or individuals in a group towards which he or she is positively biased.

Remembering that when people think too similarly then groupthink is a challenge (blamed by many for the financial crisis of 2008), leaders must continue questioning their biases about those with whom they surround themselves. Diverse opinion leading to positive conflict is very good for leveraging the best from leadership teams.

According to Hofhuis et al (2016) what is termed a positive diversity climate (culture) does enhance outcomes in the workplace through improved trust and more honesty in day to day team communication. Van Knippenberg et al. (2004) observed that diverse teams are better able to access a greater resource of knowledge and experience, which also enhances team effectiveness. In terms of your biases, moving them from subconscious to conscious through awareness helps a lot especially for the trustworthy and morally minded leader.

Its ok not to like some people of course but try to be aware and try to be fair.

2022-06-27T12:19:26+00:00June 27th, 2022|Discussion|

The great resignation: three leadership blindspots

Four million resignations in the US in July 2021 and 10.9 million jobs unfilled. One leader of an international US business says 55% of his workers refusing to come back to work. Similar problems have appeared in Ireland and the UK.

If you’re a leader sitting there wondering about why people are resigning or leaving your organization, consider these three things. Check in with yourself.

Your issues with control

Why are so many leaders insisting people come back to the office? Why so much resistance to allowing the continuation of remote work? A leader who insists on an unnecessary office return has issues with trust. In some cases, it’s a practical requirement of getting the work done, but there are many cases where the pandemic has proved that remote work is workable and yet these people are being asked to return to the office. That’s adding back the necessity and stress for child-care and of course the horror of the commute.

When your people know that they can get their job done as well as or even better than they used to while in the office, and you continue to insist that they return full time to the office, this makes no sense to them. So it’s a control issue, with presenteeism your focus, do these people feel that you trust them? Do you?

I have worked with leaders who nearly faint at the idea of being out of control. And funnily enough it’s really only the illusion of control. Leaders who get to grip with the idea that being out of control is not the end of the world, succeed as they allow agility and flexibility and innovation to prosper in their organization. But many leaders are not aware that they need control to feel safe. How do you feel about control?

Your assumption people should be happy to have a job

It wasn’t so long ago that there was a celebration when somebody got a job in a bank or a similar large institution. They were set for life. In the modern environment the idea of spending 25 years working for one company is often seen as a “boomer” thing. Certainly the later generations with their high tech skills and their ability to work very well in groups and remotely, realize that loyalty to organizations is a thing of the past. They consider this truth to be self-evident having watched the layoffs, corruption, and environmental terrorism taking place over the last two decades.

Success in this modern world and in the future relies on winning the war for talent. That talent resides in the hands of the people that actually do the work for the organization, and is a key organizational capability. A harsh truth is that without the ability to attract and retain the available talent your organization will not survive. So, the idea that people should be happy to have a job, particularly the key talent in your organization, is long past its sell-by-date. Leaders need to stop thinking like that and so stop acting like that.

Whether the leadership style you use is current or inherited from a different world.

So where did you learn your leadership? Did you learn it over the last 20 years and base it on a model which was developed and used in the last century, or are you up to speed with the fast moving, ever changing environment we all now operate in. In this environment leadership is always leadership of change. Here we are stuck in the middle of a huge change driven by global events. Some are trying to go back to the way things were. To put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Innovation, agility, flexibility and adaptability are words that have been in free flow in management and leadership theory for the last 10 years. So now here we all are, and when all of those capabilities are needed our tendency to is to resist change, to go to the old ways of doing things or to go with what we know. When all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail.

There’s a lot going on, and many of us feel like we’re trying to right the boat and get it up and sailing again and then get it moving. But the boat has changed and the wind is coming from a different direction. You need to recognize this and deal with the ambiguity, while being agile enough to try new things as you feel your way forward in this new environment.

Aidan Higgins BE MBA
Leadership and Teamwork Specialist and
Founder and Director at Adeo Consulting Ltd
Author of Lead From You

2021-11-16T14:04:31+00:00November 16th, 2021|Discussion|
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