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Leadership by Design is Rebranding to Mantle!

As part of our cunning plan  for world domination Leadership by Design is rebranding as Mantle.

Hi Everyone,

As valued readers and clients, Graham and I wanted you to be the first to know about an exciting development at Leadership by Design.  
From the 28th of April we will be operating under the new brand name of Mantle, while maintaining Leadership by Design as our tag line.  The main change for you will be the opportunity to tap into our fresh new website, where we have lots of free resources and food for thought – check it out at
What won’t be changing is our commitment to provide you with an interesting and thought provoking read . And of course our Consulting Clients will continue to get the very best and value and support in our continued relationship.
Many thanks for your interest and continued support
Graham and Denise



Wellington and Auckland One Stop Update for Accountants Conference Update

Leadership by Design was asked to speak at the above conference on “Taking the Leap Career Strategies for the Finance professional.” We knew we had taken the right angle NOT to talk about Career Plans when we asked the 150 delegates how many of them had a Career Development Plan?  We don’t seek out to highlight Finance professionals as being any different from any other work groups  to although of course they may be.  Those that indicated they had a plan numbered less than 10 and even allowing for those that have a plan but were reluctant to  raise their hands by any stretch of the imagination  it was a small minority.

Perhaps not surprisingly what research there has been seems to support this view that the majority of mid-career managers do not have a career plan.

It is interesting when you consider these two perspectives:

1. The world is volatile, complex, changing and full of ambiguity

2. Despite endless restructuring and significance job losses in the last few years there is still a talent shortage

The latest Immediate NZ Skills Shortage List from the Ministry of Business Information and Employment has close to a 100 occupations on it. The Long Term Shortage List  for NZ is even longer.

Our angle was to talk about how our brains respond to change, work pressures and increases in complexity. Most of us prefer to spend more time bolstering our current perceptions (or bias)  of the world rather than meeting the challenge of  being disciplined and finding quieter  time in order to reflect on the current realities.

In many work places it feels to us that we feel we are just too busy to think and we tend to get distracted by both detail and urgency. Something we describe with the metaphor of the clock and the compass. The clock represents our task, deadline and activities the compass our values, purpose and direction. It is our view that our brain biology moves us more on autopilot  towards the clock whereas an act of will is required to  reflect and focus on the compass.

Any way we hope you enjoy the slides and our thanks to Daniel Pink for his 6 Career Principles for a changing world.


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The Power Of Habit

Thought you might find this interesting folks Charles Duhigg has deconstructed the process of habit forming and the impact that has on organisational culture.  Interestingly Dughill started a recent study of students at Duke university that distinguishes decision making  from habit and found that the test subjects were using habits about 45% of the time during the day.

I like the definition of a habit something you made a decision on in the past and still demonstrate the behaviour but no longer feel the need to think about. For those of you familiar with a little neuroscience we use the Pre-frontal cortex for decision making whilst we use the basal ganglia for more habitual thinking. So we may not be conscious or overly clear on our own habits unless we reflect upon them.
Every habit has 3 components a cue, a routine and a reward ( sounds a lot like ABC of behavioral analysis:  Antecedant, behaviour and consequence)  There is some useful concept and useful illustrative stories.

Video: Good Life Project: Charles Duhigg – Power of Habit

The cue and reward are the critical parts of an habit that can empower you to change your habits. We can manipulate the cues or the reward. A nice example if you are struggling to get into  exercising then trick your brain and give yourself a small piece of chocolate as a reward.  Apparently your desire for that reward will diminish after a week or 2 or be replaced by other rewards such as  dopamine.

I like the identification of the  different types of cues (other people, an emotion, certain time, certain place,)  to behavior and how to influence that process to create constructive habits.

It endorses the view that instead of trying to stop a habit ;building a new habit to replace an old one is the best way to go.

Anyway we hope you find the video interesting.

Back to leadership by design


Change Thinking

I was looking up a change management methodology the other day which was full of excellent advice and checklists  like “create a change coalition, complete a change readiness assessment,  and align HR practices etc.”. and coming to the conclusion that this all too typical change methodology tells us almost nothing about how to help people change.

I was reminded of  a change management training course I attended 25 years ago ( yes they also had change management back then) . The topic was how to be  flexible and change agile and the advice back then was to deliberately change your daily routines in order to remain mindful rather than being on autopilot .  For some reason this really resonated to me at the time to the point that” mixing it up” is something I still do just about every day a quarter of a century later.  Be it so trivial as starting my shaving from a different place each day to finding an ever more varied route  driving home.  My teenage children constantly berate me for taking sudden turnings down unfamiliar streets instead of taking the most familiar and quickest way home.

I have no idea if this practice has in any way made me more change agile over the years but I do think the designers of that original training had a point. So much of how we deal with change or support others is related to the types of thinking we do and what we think about.

You could say that a lot of change leadership is trying to facilitate the right sort  of thinking in others. This is problematic as we now know all our brains are different  and we have varied individual perceptions of how the world works. It seems that change really does need to happen one brain at a time.  Ironically our brains are wired for learning and change even if we are out of the habit of reflecting on our practice.

Our brains hold our potential to change however we will tend to resist being changed by others. A key operating principle of how we think  is self direction.  If more leaders understood the implications of this they might benefit from trying  less hard to “sell” change to their people and think about how they could help them “buy in”  .

It does take more effort in consultation and dialogue up front so change initially appears slower however in my experience the pay back and pace of change later on can be breath taking.  Surely an estimated change success rate of about 30% for large scale change projects  is in itself a compelling reason for changing how we do change?



Learning from Psychopaths

Are you serious? We can learn something from psychopaths?

Well according to Kevin Dutton a Oxford University Research Psychologist we can!

When we use the term psychopath we are not talking about the Hannibal Lector  serial killer cliche .  In fact the typical traits of a psychopath as recognised by Clinical Psychologists are rather interestingly  : charm, focus, mental toughness, ruthlessness, mindfulness and action orientation.  Psychopathy is apparently  better described as a continuum rather than a simple you are one or not the difficulties arise if you are high on all the named traits.

In moderation I think you can see how they could  be helpful in a business context.

Take living in the moment and not worrying about tomorrow or mindfulness as we might call it a  common trait in people with psychopathic tendencies. Well this can be an amazingly effective  strategy to reduce mental rumination, anxiety and boost resilience.  It is not unreasonable to assume that an  appropriate mix of charm, focus and a smidgeon of ruthlessness could predispose someone for long-term life success.

So what about the prevalence in Business?

The British Psychopath Survey is the first survey to designed to assess the prevalence of psychopaths in the entire workforce. Participants completed an online Levenson Self report Psychopathy scale  and then received their score.  The sample size was 5400 and it was grouped into 50 individual professions and then these were ranked against each other.

So the top 10 least and most psychopathic professions in the UK were… drum roll please

Most Psychopathic Professions     Least Psychopathic Professions  
CEO Care Worker
Lawyer Nurse
Media TV and Radio Therapist
Salesperson Craftsperson
Surgeon Beautician
Journalist Charity Worker
Police Officer Teacher
Cleric Creative Artist
Chef Doctor
Civil Servant Accountant









We can only speculate about how similar or different New Zealand’s results might be however there is a stronger prevalence in so called “high achievers” .

You can find out more at the authors rather” racy website” here   and even take the test yourself if you are interested.

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leadership and management skills

Investing in Leadership and Management Skills

We know how important Leadership and Management are to sustainable growth don’t we?  So why aren’t we listening and doing something about it?

Not for the first time, we are reporting on research, this time from the UK, that supports our belief in the huge impact effective leaders and managers have on the success of any organisation.

Get our free 22 page E Book: Leadership Strategy Demystified here

A new evidence paper for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) highlights why good leadership and management is so important to organisational performance and productivity.  The paper Leadership and Management in the UK:  The key to sustainable Growth brings together a significant body of evidence to emphasise the business benefits of investing in leadership and management skills and capability, but the reality of what is actually happening in the UK makes pretty depressing reading, for example:

  • Employees waste 2 hours a day through inefficient management which is costing the UK about $19 billion a year – no wonder they are in trouble!
  • A poll by insolvency experts found that bad management or incompetence of company directors causes 56% of corporate failures

Another report mentioned in the same paper, the Learning and Talent Development Survey, published by the CIPD this year made just as depressing reading in light of what the evidence is suggesting:

  • Nearly three quarters of organisations in the UK identify a deficit of leadership and management skills
  • About two thirds of respondents reported that senior managers lack leadership and management skills, while 85% identified line managers as lacking these skills

One of the key problems in addressing leadership and management skills deficit which we also encounter with our own Australasian organisations is that most Managers think they are better at managing than they actually are.  The CIPD’s 2012 Employee Outlook Survey found that 8 out of 10 Managers think that their staff are satisfied or very satisfied with them as a Manager, whereas just 58% of employees report this as the case.

This ‘reality gap’ was borne out in the recent findings by a Right Management survey which compared engagement levels in Australasian organisations between 2008 and 2012.  One of the key findings was that there is a very clear link between employees who say that they are satisfied or very satisfied with their Manager and those that are engaged – that is , willing to go the extra mile.  This ‘reality gap’ had increased over the period, where Managers had a much higher expectation of engagement of staff which did not exist.

So when are we going to wake up?  How many more surveys and research papers will it take to persuade organisational leaders that building the capability of their leaders and managers is not a ‘nice to do’; but is essential to sustainable growth.  In a subsequent article, we will take a look at what all of this recent research is suggesting in terms of the key levers of leadership and management in order to build sustainable growth and what that means for leadership capability.

If you would like help in making sure that your Leadership and management skills are being developed and are helping you to Shape the ‘right’ Future for your business, why not download our free ‘Leadership Strategy de-mystified’ book by clicking here

or give us a call to set a complimentary coffee and white board session with one of our Leadership consultants. You set the agenda (and supply the coffee) and we’ll bring some good collegial discussion and an idea or two why not contact us right now?

Back to leadership by design home


Forget about training— let’s motivate learning!

motivate learningCheck out our feature article (co-written with Ruth Donde from The NeuroLeadership Group) in this months Training and Development Magazine.. It is entitled “Forget about training -let’s motivate learning “

It is another one of our “What science knows and what business does.” series and this time we discus what science knows about  the impact of extrinsic and intrinsic rewards on our brains.  Here is a little extract to whet your appetite.

We can access most of what we now need online by condensing the wisdom of the world’s best brains from their latest business books. So how come we aren’t all gurus in negotiation, leading others, conducting appraisals, strategic thinking etc? And come to that, why do we often fail to put into practice all the things we learn during training?

Well in the article we believe that one of the reasons is an outdated paradigm on workplace motivation and a failure by training designers to tap into the real  motivators that support learning transfer.

The jury has been out for a long time on the impact of performance pay and bonuses on workplace priorities and productivity, but neuroscience is suggesting there is another negative impact of these extrinsic conditional rewards, in that they often destroy creativity and broad problem solving, and  have a negative impact on motivation and learning transfer.

Get our free 22 page E Book: Leadership Strategy Demystified here

The secret to high motivation and learning transfer performance isn’t through external rewards and punishments, but by tapping into that unseen intrinsic driver—the drive to do things for their own sake and to get the approval of others in our tribe. It is about the drive to do things because they have meaning, and matter to us.

Training is not happening in a vacuum and trainees are generally busy juggling competing priorities. If we really want to get out of this economic mess, and if we really want higher performance and better learning agility on those definitional tasks of the 21st century, the solution is not to do more of the wrong things such as enticing people with a sweeter carrot, or threaten them with a sharper stick. We need a smarter motivational approach hardwired into our learning interventions and a greater attention to learning transfer.

Read the article in full right here

Could your organisation could do with an increase in leadership impact? Does your leadership team needs help in working more effectively together to deliver on stakeholder expectations? We are happy to offer you a free no obligation white board and coffee session to help you get clearer on your thinking.You set the agenda (and supply the coffee) and we’ll bring some good collegial discussion and an idea or two why not contact us right here?

What’s the Return on Investing In People?

 investors in people So how are our Australasian large companies stacking up against Global Best Practice in terms of putting people at the heart of their business?  That was the question that we put to one of our strategic partners, Stuart Burgess, the MD of Investors in People NZ & Australia.

One of our key principles at Leadership by Design is to keep abreast of latest thinking and research that helps us to challenge our clients to be world class from a leadership, learning and change perspective.  We all know that the research over recent years has highlighted the payoff for any organisation of investing in its people and developing leaders attributes  but how many are listening?  A recent survey  released by Right Management in Australasia identified that less employees are engaged with their organisation than were 4 years ago and there is a distinct difference in engagement scores between Managers and the members of their teams, so what’s happening out there?

Stuart has the unique opportunity to check that out every day through benchmarking organisations against an International Standard of best people practice, Investors in People – check out what the Standard looks at in detail & who is involved through this link

At its heart, it’s about making sure that people are aligned to the vision and goals of the organisation; that they have effective leaders and managers to support them to get there and that they have the skills, knowledge and motivation to achieve success.  Stuart doesn’t survey staff; he interviews a cross-section of the organisation and gets to the heart of what’s really going on.  So what is he finding?

Q. Stuart, you have been interviewing staff in organisations over the last 6 or 7 years at IIPNZ.  You must have noticed some key trends over that time and I am sure there is some great practice out there.  Where do you think organisations have improved over the last few years?

“Absolutely; everyone seems to focus on the bad news, but I am definitely seeing the benefits of the focus on Vision and Values over the last 2-3 years. The organisations we work with are much clearer about where they want to be in 5 years time and how they want to be in delivering on the vision.  That has been a key improvement

One of the other things I have come across a lot over recent years is many more organisations being involved in getting feedback from their teams on engagement levels and culture.  This is a great principle, however, it would be fair to say that when I actually talk to people, many of them say that they are not sure anyone is listening to them/doing anything with the information before they get another survey!  This highlights the key leadership attributes related to fostering engagement. Leaders need to  looking to get people involved in improving things, and part of that is feeding back some tangible outcomes”

Q.  Great point; I am sure lack of focus and communication on what’s happening at the strategic level will be actively disengaging people in that situation.  Interestingly in terms of your point around Vision & Values,  one of the things we find and that global research suggests is that Leaders still find it hard to translate that vision for the rest of the organisation – what would you say to that?

“Absolutely. Whilst organisations have done a much better job of setting the vision, I still find every day that staff have little understanding either of the vision, as it has often changed so often, but more importantly what it actually means for them on a day-to-day basis.  The only vision that’s worth its salt is a shared one.  That doesn’t mean people have to be involved in setting the overall direction, but they must be able to translate it in a meaningful way.”

Q.  You have talked quite a lot already about the Leaders & the ‘top table’.  There is an abundance of research around what Leadership attributes are critical in order to be effective and how they should be doing it.  We believe that Leaders have to be themselves but they need guidance and support to develop at each level in their career.  What are people looking for from their Leaders based on your discussions?

“I am delighted to say that there are some great examples of individual leaders and managers doing a great job. This is however still inconsistent and expectations are not always being clearly defined or made accountable. One of the biggest issues I have to feedback to Leadership teams is that there is not enough discussion amongst them about what their organisation needs its leaders and managers to be able to do or how they are going to support them to do it.  Too often it is left to HR or Learning & Development as a functional task, rather than understanding that having a Leadership strategy and a clarity on important leadership attributes to prioritise will support engagement and successful change”

Check out our free 22 page E Book: Leadership Strategy Demystified

Q.  So what about the Leadership team Stuart?  There is a huge body of research that suggests that too much time is spent on working with the individuals in a Leadership team rather than focusing on getting clear on what the team is there to do and how they could be doing that more effectively as a group.  Would you agree with that?

“ Definitely.  It is amazing how many times I actually ask the members of a senior team what they believe they are actually there to do and they just can’t answer the question!  If they aren’t clear about their sense of purpose, what chance have they of really working together to drive the business forward.  I find there is still too much focus on defending areas of responsibility rather than thinking about what’s best for the whole organisation”

Q.  Almost finally Stuart, we are seeing very low levels of satisfaction reported in learning programmes in a number of global surveys – is that your experience?

“ It amazes me that in these tough economic times, I still have conversations with senior people who don’t know how much they are spending on Learning & Development, why they are spending it and what difference any of it is making!  At the core of the Investors in People Standard is the principle that learning and development is aligned with the overall objectives of the organisation; that its impact can be measured and is!  This is a huge gap in most organisations and I still find a lack of strategic thinking around “what do we need the people in our organisation to be able to do for us and them to be successful”

Q.  And finally, I am sure we have some organisations that are right up there in terms of global best practice.  Are you able to share a success story with us?

“Delighted to.  Why wouldn’t any organisation be proud of making that particular grade?

We all know TNT – we see their courier vans every day, but did you know that they are the first organisation in the world to have every site around the world meet this global standard of best people practice.  What do they do well? – here’s one example:

  • They have a fantastic strategy called No 1.  To be No 1 is the overall vision but what No 1 means to all of the areas of the business is defined by them.  This has really brought clarity to everyone in the business and they understand where they fit in the big picture
  • Each part of the business defines No 1 in terms of a set of behaviours and people are rewarded based on demonstrating them.
  • Staff feel involved, engaged and ‘valued’ in every sense of the word in delivering the vision for TNT”

Thanks so much to Stuart for sharing his insights with us – great to hear it from the ‘horse’s mouth’.

In summary, how often do we hear the phrase ‘our people are our greatest asset’ or ‘we believe in Investing in Our People’.  There are clearly some organisations out there who ‘get it’ and a future post will focus on looking at a Kiwi organisation which has just won a global award for its Leadership & people practices.

If your Leadership team needs help in working more effectively together to deliver on stakeholder expectations. We are happy to offer you a free no obligation white board and coffee session to help you get clearer on your thinking. Click here to contact us

Stop Wasting Money on Leadership Development and do Something Different:Part 2

collborative leadership learningIn our first article we put forward the view (supported by studies)  that much leadership development isn’t working . I just came across yet another study this time from from Direct Dimensions International (DDI)  conducted in 20111from 2500 organizations where only 34%  of leaders indicated their leadership development was effective and a rather small 18% of organizations thought they had an adequate leadership pipeline.

We have already discussed the importance of self directed learning and creating the conditions that foster intrinsic motivation. ( If you missed it you can read part 1 of this article right here)

In this article I want to talk about the triumph of process over content. So what do I mean by “process over content” in the context of developing leadership programmes?  Simply I think it is the assumption that great content packed into a short as a time as possible is how we create transformation in our leaders.

Check out our free 22 page E Book: Leadership Strategy Demystified

What we sometimes forget is that human beings are complex and developing leadership capabilities is not the same as delivering a project on time or launching a new product. Human beings  learn in different ways and  not only that they don’t always learn what we expect them too either. We are still surprised after many years what learners highlight as their takeaways when we do a learning review on a leadership programme. It is a great reminder that neuroscience informs us all our brains are different, more than that they are unique.

The process of human learning and development is not linear , a bit messy and still somewhat mysterious.

Being content led and force feeding ideas runs the risks of disengaging the learner. We are organic beings and not putting enough attention on creating the learning processes that support a rich and nurturung  learning environment leads to sub-optimal learning and leadership development. So here in our view is one of the  most important supportive learning processes to balance the content on your leadership development programmes.

Get People to Collaborate and Grow Together:

Our brains are heavily wired towards social connectiveness with others. There is some truth in the saying “it takes a whole village to raise a child”   and it applies equally to adults and their learning. In a supportive community where trust allows the safe sharing of ideas and access to different perspectives the rate of learning can be exponential. It is also potentially a place where you can talk about things that you just wouldn’t feel comfortable in discussing with your boss or immediate peers.

Leaders grow best in a leadership community. There’s an exponential impact when people have the opportunity to share and learn from one another in a safe environment where they can be open and authentic. One of the most frequent comments we receive  from participants is how much they appreciate the opportunity to discover “I’m not the only one facing a particular challenge.”

You can achieve this leadership community by creating cohorts in you leadership programmes   and purposefully creating opportunities for people to become more at ease with each other. You can also design in processes to allow others such as peers. line managers and executives to become at least part time members  of that leadership community as they step in and put of the leadership programme at different times.

You can support the effectiveness of these leadership communities with targeted communication skills training on questioning and clarifying and coaching and mentoring skills. One specific example of this is when Leadership By Design partnered with  the New Zealand Coaching & Mentoring Centre to provide group mentoring skills training as part of a larger leadership development programme we designed.  The evaluation data clearly told us that this had been a great learning support to the vast majority of the leadership learners with most  of them continuing their peer mentoring sessions after the end of the formal leadership programme. It has been a great reminder to us of the importance of collaboration in learning programmes.

And it is actually getting easier to support collaboration! 

Many leaders are becoming more familiar with social networking and now there are lots of options to create collaborative distance learning spaces that encourage reflection and connection.  If you are not already using your intranet or thinking about developing internal wikis, blogs and other forums where people can ask questions and share useful information you are missing out on  valuable learning opportunities.

The modern work environment is busy and continuously changing. To learn best leaders need to find time to reflect and integrate their knowledge and practice and talking with others might just turn out to be one of the best possible ways to do that. Another benefit is that  in order to share our own experiences with others we have to find the words to summarize and capture our own meanings; this by itself can lead to greater clarity and self awareness.

Learning is at least in part social and it turns out listening to others views and ideas gives us  a wider range of experiences to reflect about and gain insights and motivation.

Unclear on your best leadership development approach? We are happy to offer you a free no obligation white board and coffee session to help you get clearer on your questions and possible solutions. Click here to contact us


Who’s Responsible for Motivation the Leader or Team Member?

leadership and motivation Is it every staff member’s responsibility to be self-motivated or is it the leader ‘s obligation to encourage their workers? It is an intriguing question and gets right to the heart of the “struggle for employee engagement” going  on in an organization near you.  This question reminds me a little of the nature against versus nurture debate, who is mainly responsible for individual and team motivation?

If you  look up at the dictionary definition of the  word responsible:

“Having a responsibility to do something as part of a job or function. Being the primary source of something and so able to be blamed or credited for it.”

Will certainly I do not think either party has a responsibility, although the leader can plainly impact on a persons motivation as can the staff member on their very own motivation. I don’t feel you could possibly say the Leader  is the main reason for a persons motivation either.

So on balance certainly it must be weighted towards the employee?

Instead of an obligation or a duty surely motivation is more of a discretionary option? We all have a choice where we can select exactly how much effort, how difficult we work, exactly how passionate and imaginative we might be at work. Some people can easily tap into their personal motivations even  in the most extreme of scenarios or hard atmospheres. Plainly others respond more acutely to their environment and will certainly have a tendency to blame circumstances and other people for their feelings. They may not feel they are knowingly opting to be demotivated but I still feel they have opted  out of or not felt empowered enough for what ever reason to decide to be motivated.

Check out our free 22 page E Book: Leadership Strategy Demystified here

On the other  side of the coin wise companies can purposely attempt to foster the atmosphere, select the right individuals and create the relationships that “stack the dice” in the favour of their employees being more motivated . However there is no guarantee of success in any specific individual instance but we know enough about good workplace and leadership practice to comprehend the actions and leadership behaviors that will certainly support team motivation and most individuals’ self motivation.

Or do we?

Possibly the appallingly low average engagement  scores we see in studies form many countries  indicates that in fact there is not a good grasp of the fundamental principles of human motivation?

Personally I suspect some companies put far too much reliance on pay and rewards as motivators and think they have ticked the boxes by paying people well.  However we know that many  “people leave bosses rather than organisations .” so there is still a fundamental disconnect on the  individual leader’s role in facilitating a “win:win”  between the employee and company’s desires and outcomes.

Until we get a grasp of that reality we will continue to waste the productive potential of our people in our organizations.
Unclear on your best leadership development approach?  We are happy to offer you a free no obligation white board and coffee session to help you get clearer on your questions and possible solutions. Click here to contact us