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Surviving and thriving at the top: current challenges for CEOs


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Surviving and thriving at the top: current challenges for CEOs

  1. 1. NCVO Evolve 2014, ACEVO Workshop (AM8) June 16th 2014: ‘Surviving and thriving at the top’ Martin Farrell (get2thepoint) and Richard Chapman Summary note prepared after the workshop This note, prepared by Richard and Martin serves as a reminder for those who were there throughout and to give a flavour of the second part of the workshop for those who missed it because of the fire alarm evacuation Some general context introduced by workshop participants during their introductions: • Crisis is a normal part of what happens… • There are significant ongoing funding pressures…. current re-structuring…. • Government cuts are generating crises in many areas Working in pairs to identify and describe some significant other relationships. Some general words and phrases to describe these relationships: • Llonely, hierarchical, not like a partnership, complex, positive, defining who does what, firefighting, empowering, operating under huge pressure, fight and flight, challenge of working together, changing relationship Plenary discussion • Introduction to the ACEVO crisis counselling service • The ‘point of maximum learning’ model (incl. comfort / learning / panic zones) • Workshop interruption: Fire alarm! Everyone had to evacuate the building Re-engaging with the workshop after the fire alarm - reflecting on the experience. Points raised in discussion about what happened when the alarm was raised: • Uncertainty, absence/clarity of of leadership, strangely all stayed calm, a bit of denial, we all became sheep very quickly, followed instructions, then transfer of leadership, strong feeling of déjà vu - reminded of a similar situation before. Summary of points raised in discussion re leadership qualities and practices that may be of help during a crisis: • Being fair, engendering trust • Having the time to recover in the way you need to - having a moment to scream outside of the workplace if needed • ‘Choc-ice therapy’ - taking a break, having a walk, enjoying something • Being dependable is at the heart of being a world class organisation – trust is the foundation • Honesty and transparency, declaring when you don’t know • Willingness to listen • Not trying to control everything - focusing on what the problem is • There’s only so much listening you can do before you need to move on – knowing when to move from listening to speaking / deciding / making a decision • Investing more time in relationships with trustees so that when a crisis situation arises – have relationship foundations to build on established before the problem • Knowing the truth…. To help navigate through crazy times.
  2. 2. NCVO Evolve 2014, ACEVO Workshop (AM8) June 16th 2014: ‘Surviving and thriving at the top’ Martin Farrell (get2thepoint) and Richard Chapman • Never known a session (i.e. this workshop….) with so many interruptions – normal boundaries interrupted…but we keep going • Mentoring and emotional support - family, friends and a strong network of colleagues. • Honouring the past – avoid danger of obsessing over it. Find the positive in the past • Consistency, be consistently respectful. • Leadership list: 1 – 24 very appropriate. Not a big enough team to do No. 25. • 80:20 one speaks to me, even 50:50…. • Accepting that we are not invincible… • Being committed to doing your best in rapidly changing circumstances • Deal with the snake which is closest to your foot. • How would you know that it is a crisis – if you are in a leadership position how do you smell smoke – how know reading the signs accurately - How get in early enough to prevent it • How create time to think – stopping, taking time to assess the situation – pressing the pause button before rushing into action (set own tempo) • Accepting that (difficult) things happen… and staying positive • Knowing that we are in it together – other people experience similar things – maybe a little less hard on oneself • Everyone else in similar positions – reassuring, comforting to be fallible, finite, imperfect • When you are at the top the support is no longer in the organisation, comes more from outside of it • Communications – going to phone the Chair before a meeting coming up. • How it’s possible to keep doing something in spite of all the interruptions • Keep your mind focused on what you are trying to achieve – it will work out. Workshop leader reflections after the workshop:  It was important to transfer of leadership to NCVO representative and then venue personnel so there was clarity about who is in charge at any moment  Get to the point – the point was delivering some learning and knowing that the form this is achieved is secondary. So those who wanted to reconvened after the alarm and we continued initially in the room then in the plenary room until 1.55pm  It can be done – even if kicked out of the room, can still deliver stuff for those who wanted it…  Needed to let go of the initial programme in its method but not its aims. The aims were constant, the way and place of working and the workshop group was constantly changing.  Safety – cannot learn if not feeling safe. Usually psychological safety, on this occasion physical safety was challenged. This became primary driver from 12.15 -1pm
  3. 3. NCVO Evolve 2014, ACEVO Workshop (AM8) June 16th 2014: ‘Surviving and thriving at the top’ Martin Farrell (get2thepoint) and Richard Chapman Workshop handout on leadership which participants reviewed: ‘Some leadership qualities and practices that may help to avoid a crisis and be of help during a crisis’ 1. Take ownership of the issue. Take charge. Be seen to be in command. 2. Engage with / facing up to / confronting reality. Denial is ultimately disastrous. See things for what they are. Work out exactly what is going on. 3. Connect, communicate, share the issue, bring people into your confidence – engage the help, intelligence, expertise of the whole organisation – ask for help, ideas. Co-ordinate connect link between different players 4. Lead by example – accept the greatest sacrifice yourself 5. See the big picture, the system, take the wider, longer term view, hold a sense of perspective 6. Develop a detailed knowledge of the issues that matter 7. Be decisive – balancing real time tangible data with gut instincts. 8. Have the courage to take decisions believed to be right, regardless of their popularity 9. Listen to views different from your own and be open to differing perspectives 10. Find your own ways to handle stress so you can (at least) appear calm, stable and focused. Know you’re not invincible – look after your health and wellbeing 11. Settle for 80:20. More often than not, an imperfect 80% decision is better than an endlessly delayed decision thought to be nearer 100%. 12. Humility – admit mistakes (which are inevitable). Share your learning from them 13. Build trust through integrity, transparency and truthfulness of your leadership communications 14. Interact in person or on the phone – minimise email 15. Holding a steady focus on the vision / remembering who / what it is for. A focus on what is best for the organisation and community as a whole, not your own personal gain 16. Listen as powerfully and deeply as you speak. Steadiness, even temperament, courtesy and respect 17. Learn to be agile and to adapt your leadership style to changing circumstances 18. Less haste, more speed. Be prompt but don’t hurry. 19. Have an appropriate sense of humour 20. Show appreciation for what is being done around you 21. Develop resilience and realistically optimistic (!) – there is always a way. Try to see the order in apparent chaos 22. Practice empathy – put yourself in the shoes of other players affected by the crisis 23. Personal and physical stamina and ability to stay on the case for extended periods 24. Develop emotional intelligence (‘the key point of crisis leadership is to lead in such a way that the emotional [and human] impact of the crisis is reduced….”)
  4. 4. NCVO Evolve 2014, ACEVO Workshop (AM8) June 16th 2014: ‘Surviving and thriving at the top’ Martin Farrell (get2thepoint) and Richard Chapman 25. Anticipate the worst and get out in front of it. Have a crisis action plan and crisis team, so when it hits you’re not totally surprised  Be open to seeing a crisis as an opportunity to change - yourself, your team, your organisation …