A key learning here is to get really clear about the story you want to tell and what action you are seeking from that then think about how best to present the information so that when people make meaning they are more likely to come to conclusions in line with your own.Using visual language creates clarity and understanding Communicating with others visually is highly effective in creating greater clarity and understanding. One familiar aspect of visual language is using graphs in presenting financial information. This simple visual way of presenting data is often helpful in supporting the story that we see in the data. In getting the story we want to tell across more clearly to people there is a higher chance the meaning taken from it will be more consistent. There are many other options in visual language and you absolutely do not need to become a great artist to use them either, trust me, I know this! For example, when working with a European finance team who needed to improve their month and year-end close processes having implemented SAP I used a very simply drawn arrow on a large sheet of paper on the wall and a lot of post-it notes and we mapped the process together. This created much greater clarity and understanding of why things needed to be done when they did to meet reporting deadlines. It also allowed the team to identify opportunities to make improvements that made the process more efficient and effective. Another approach that has worked well for me is to use a simple drawing to represent a metaphor. So for example communicating a three-year revenue target using a picture of a mountain with the target at the top and camps along the way to illustrate annual progress. Really simple and very effective as everyone knew what we were aiming for. The choice over what type of visual to use comes down to what outcome is sought, or to put it another way, what story do you want to tell and what actions or behaviour do you want as a result? Creating clarity and understanding when working with a group is one factor in building trust and improving performance. Visual working is a great tool to use in achieving this and a great way to demonstrate the creativity and innovation that our roles as finance professionals require.
Today is International Women’s Day and this year’s strapline is #BeBoldForChange. This got me thinking about what is bold and what stops us being bold. My simple view is that bold is ‘doing something even when you are sh***ing yourself!’ and one of the things that prevents us from being bold is when we feel ‘down’. Here is a lovely parable from Robert Terry about Ups and Downs
The Parable of Ups and Downs by Robert TerryWhat makes an UP an UP and a DOWN a DOWN is that an UP can do more to a DOWN than a DOWN can do to an UP. That's what keeps an UP UP and a DOWN DOWN. The UPS tend to talk to each other and study the DOWNS, asking the DOWNS about what's UP, or what's coming DOWN, for that matter. The DOWNS spend a lot of time taking the UPS out to lunch or dinner, to explain their DOWNNESS. The UPS listen attentively, often in amazement about the experiences of being a DOWN. They contrast one DOWN'S experience with another DOWN'S experience and usually don't worry too much about what the DOWNS are UP to because the DOWNS never get together. If they did, the UPS would have to shape UP. After a while, the DOWNS weary of talking to the UPS. They tire of explaining and justifying their DOWNNESS. They think, "If I have to explain my DOWNNESS one more time, I'll throw UP." And so they form a process which they call "networking and support groups." This act makes the UPS nervous. Three UPS together is a board meeting; three DOWNS a pre-revolutionary activity! Some UPS hire DOWNS, dress them UP, send them DOWN to see what DOWNS are UP to. We sometimes call this "personnel and affirmative action." This creates a serious problem for the DOWN who is dressed UP with no sure place to go. That DOWN doesn't know whether he or she is UP or DOWN. That's why DOWNS in the middle often burn out. Sometimes what the UPS do to smarten UP is to ask the DOWNS to come in to a program one at a time to explain their DOWNNESS. UPS call this "human relations training." OF course, the UPS never have to explain their UPNESS, that's why they're UPS rather than DOWNS. There's good news and bad news in this parable. The good news is, we're all both UPS and DOWNS. There's no such thing as a perfect UP or a perfect DOWN. The bad news is that when we're UP it often makes us stupid. We call that "DUMB-UPNESS." It's not because UPS are not smart. It's that UPS don't have to pay attention to DOWNS the way that DOWNS have to pay attention to UPS. DOWNS always have to figure out what UPS are UP to. The only time UPS worry about DOWNS is when DOWNS get uppity, at which time they're put DOWN by the UPS. The UPS' perception is that DOWNS are overly sensitive; they have an attitude problem. It's never understood that UPS are underly sensitive and have an attitude problem. I used to think that when DOWNS became UPS they would carry over their insight from their DOWNNESS to their UPNESS. Not so. Smart DOWN—dumb UP.
What I love about this tale is that it is amusing and yet it makes a serious point.
In organisations it is often the ‘Downs’ who have the finger of the pulse of what’s going on, who probably have the insights about what is key to staying ahead of the curve, and yet it is often ‘Ups’ who are the leaders.
In the words of Robert Terry himself…The tests for leadership are: Are we grasped by the injustice of the issues that need to be addressed? Are we in dialogue in up-down relationships so that we do not have blind spots? Are we in motion to address issues in collaboration with others? Our goal is to get rid of arbitrary up-down power relationships. We should not have up-down relationships based on color, gender, or anything else that is arbitrary and capricious or has to do with how we’re born. Rather, we need to find ways to stand side-by-side, so that as we look out at the world together, we can eliminate any of the barriers that keep us from building an authentic, vibrant, human community. The Parable of Ups and Downs exists in several versions. It appears in two books by Robert Terrry: Authentic Leadership: Courage in Action (ISBN 1-55542-547-X) and Seven Zones for Leadership: Acting Authentically in Stability and Chaos (ISBN 0-89106-158-4). Robert Terry was the President of Zobius Leadership International (formerly The Terry Group) and his work is now carried on by The AWL Group. You can find a shorter version of the parable at http://www.actionwheel.com/parableofupsanddowns.html Thankyou also to Walt Hopkins, for helping me find the source of this parable.
- Five 2½ hour meetings at each campus, supported by a website and informal drop-in sessions.
- Journey-through-time meeting design, highlighting the assembled experience in the room by creating a physical circle of participants ordered by their length of employment at the university.
- Creation of a large-display history map drawing on the wealth of experience in the room, supported by live graphic recording.
- Graphic representation of influences impacting the university now and in the future, to spark off ideas for the future from each group. We used a large-display mind-map format to graphic record inputs.
- Summaries of ideas generated at each meeting, in spreadsheet form, to make it easy for the strategic teams to assimilate quickly.
- It wasn’t a pecking order – fresh thinking came from all parts
- Passion isn’t based on length of service.
- There needs to be chaos before profound change. Just think about when you tidy out the garage at home – no, really, it’s the same thing! The garage has to become a scene of chaos, as boxes become unpacked and decisions are made about what to keep and what needs to change, before a new order can return. It’s the same with human systems – groups need to get all jumbly and chaotic before they can settle on a new way.
- There is a change in the conversation. One of Margaret Wheatley’s principles for profound change is, ‘When the conversations keep going round and round, we should change who’s in the conversation’. We seem to have been going around and around, superficially talking about the state of our nation, without addressing the real issues at stake. The intervention of this vote seems to be changing the conversation – changing the nature of the conversation and getting different people involved.
- Paying attention to the shadow side in all of us. As people have been grappling with the decision to Remain or Exit Europe, some extreme views have emerged. Racism towards immigrants, and Contempt for less educated views are just a couple that I have seen. The positive that comes from these views being aired, is that we are forced to really see the range of views in our country. However unpalatable we might find then, they are in each and every one of us, in some form, and it is only maturity that means we don’t act upon them. By paying attention to the breadth and depth of views about the issues facing our country, we are much more likely to surface the complex polarities that drive our system.
Creating a mutual relationship with outsourced suppliersThere has been a theme in the conversations I have had this week. The theme is about customers, outsourced suppliers and how we go about buying services into organisations. This has got me thinking about the the paradigms and pitfalls of B2B services buying that I have experienced as both customer and supplier. Organisations place a big emphasis on the management of suppliers of raw goods and products. There is a clear link between these tangible suppliers and a company’s ability to deliver. However, I think there is a lot more ambiguity in the area of services buying and I see the need to shift, as organisations evolve into new ways of working. (more…)
- Collaborative Leadership: supporting management and directors who understand that harnessing group working creates a stronger, more focused organisation with rewards for all stakeholders.
- Vision to Action: our unique formats for creating vision and understanding how to take the vision off the shelf and into committed action.
- Team Performance: an in-depth exploration of how to sustain trust, commitment and momentum in groups of all types and in all sectors of an organisation.
Some really interesting research released today by CIPD in their Employee Outlook 2015 Survey got me thinking...again!
In the survey, "around 50% of the 2,226 respondents described their organisation culture as 'a formalised and structured place to work, where procedures govern what people do and hold people together." (more…)
This article by Katherine Woods first appeared in January 2013.
I like to make my articles practical and helpful for our readers. My most recent experience of new leaders has come through my work in supporting clients whose roles have changed. So, for this article I've enlisted the help of Chris Shepherd, an established client of mine. We first worked together when he was at Mars. Last summer, Chris became the Global HR Director for Edwards Vacuum, a leading global supplier to large technology firms such as Intel and Samsung. (more…)