The Search for the Single Right Answer

We currently live in a world which can be defined by two things its complexity and the need for wide scale change. The world is complex – the accelerating pace of change, globalisation, new technology and the blurring of traditional boundaries all contribute.


The need for change is also apparent.  Even before we faced this economic crisis issues such as climate change and over-population were pressing governments (and us as individuals) to try make radical changes to how we think and act.


These issues however major and however theoretically important often seem a long way from the tough challenges of day-to-day life.  The hardest of these are those that involve other people and as soon as people are involved problems become really difficult to solve.


In my experience regardless of the scale of the issue faced, there is also a common blockage – the search for single right answer.


The hunt for the mythical one right answer seems to dominate so many conversations and more worryingly get in the way of things being done.  Complex problems will never have a single right answer so we need to stop wasting time and resources trying to find it.


Instead we need to find solutions that will help the situation and that we ourselves can implement.  Then we need to just give it a try – it might not work but it will always be work effective than searching for the single right answer that does exist.


Where is the hunt for the Single Right Answer getting in the way of you actually doing something?



Leadership, Difficult Conversations and Coaching

Through our bespoke work we have recently noticed key themes emerging for our clients as they respond to the challenging market conditions. In response to this, we have developed a core suite of workshops that we are   able to offer  at  reduced rate.

Difficult Conversations – Many organisations have the right tools and processes in place to deliver successful people management. In our experience managers lack the skills and confidence to use these processes as well as they could. This programme uses the principles of having difficult conversations to ensure that the organisation makes the most of these tools. A recent programme focussed on Absence Management contributed to a 20% improvement in attendance rates.

“A key strength of Kynesis is their ability to tailor a development event or programme which not only focuses on the ‘real time’ key issues to be dealt with but which, more importantly, also encourages practical actions for dealing with them”

Frontline Leadership – Developing the Frontline leaders in an organisation is vital. Whether they are your emerging talent or your well-established load bearers this group have a clear influence on the service and performance of your business. Our 4 day programme develops the leadership skills of these individuals in a way that is engaging and impactful.

“Thanks for a great couple of days. I found the course to be challenging, thought-provoking and very inspiring”

Coaching Skills for Managers – A coaching culture isn’t about being supportive and caring instead it is about leaders challenging and developing their teams in a way that increases accountability and engagement. Most of all it is about performance improvement. This two day programme develops coaching skills for managers of all levels. Giving them the skills, experience and confidence to coach their teams to improved performance.

“Coaching for Success has helped increase the capacity of the organisation by creating a culture of supporting managers to think through issues and options to make informed decisions themselves”

Women in the Boardroom

On Sunday, Caroline was on BBC Scotland’s flagship Business programme discussing if there is a glass ceiling for women in the workplace? Follow the link here to hear the prgramme.

Real Change or Rhetoric?

There’s a lot of rhetoric around doing things differently across the public and voluntary sectors. The current and increasing budget challenges are supposed to make everyone think of new ways of delivering the same or better outcomes with fewer resources.

The reality is rather different. 1970’s industrial re-engineering seems to be the order of the day. Take three departments, merge them into two, strip out management costs and ask people to do more work.

Now there is scope for this. Undoubtedly there is management overpopulation and, while it’s a complex world, does it really have to be so complex? There is also a lot of activity that is unproductive in terms of good outcomes or inefficiently delivered.

So, yes there are opportunities for traditional efficiency drives and these are being taken. The real prize is something different.

The key is in the phrase “ask people to do more work.” We need to shift people from concentrating on how they do the same things with fewer resources. At all levels, people need to focus on how they can have a bigger impact, how they can make a difference. And they need to do this in a tight financial framework. Shifting plans and accountabilities from activity to impact will be a massive cultural shift with a need for radical internal and external collaborations. The payback will be equally massive.

While the prize will be won when we get a critical mass of people thinking and operating differently, it starts at the top. The leadership of our public bodies need to show the way. Let’s not underestimate the personal and professional challenge for them, but do it they must.

Are you in the middle of all this? Are leaders – and that may be you – genuinely up for it?

Is Cultural Matching the missing ingredient in collaboration?

I was recently brought in to help a partnership where the honeymoon period was well and truly over and it was proving hard to achieve all that looked possible while “courting”.  Some things were going well but there was still a lot more to be gained.  We certainly helped, but some hard thinking and honest evaluation earlier in the partnership could have avoided a lot of anguish.   Sometimes we are involved in the early stages, facilitating the initial joint discussions, however the real work of making collaboration work starts even before this.

You need to be asking two critical questions before any formal discussions:

  1. Is Collaboration the right answer?
  2. Are these really the right partners?

I’ll address alternatives to collaboration later.  So dealing with the second point: choosing the right partners can be very difficult.  The numbers seem right and the opportunity is clear so what can go wrong?  Resources, Shared objectives, Governance and Leadership all matter a great deal but not considering the impact of different cultures is one of the most common mistakes.

Differing organisational cultures (fundamentally the way things are done) can be big barriers to a successful partnership. It is very easy to trust “it will all work out” but once the unwritten rules that make up a culture come into play it is very easy to start to misunderstand or even doubt each other.  This then impacts on your mutual trust the cornerstone of good collaboration.

Once you are committed, changing the culture of either partner is very difficult, if not impossible. So before you reach that stage you need to be asking – “Can these cultures work together to deliver value for both of us?”

This is a really challenging question to answer involving unquantifiable cultures, sub-cultures, artefacts and layers.  The temptation is to ignore these challenging “soft” issues especially while caught up in resolving the other easier “hard” issues but doing so can put your whole project at risk from day one.

Initiated, designed and delivered  professionally, genuine collaborative working can offer both partners many advantages.  In fact, in the current economic environment collaboration can be the only way for organisations to thrive (or even survive).

Leading through Adversity

During a recent workshop on Leading through Adversity people spoke of how difficult it is to keep focussed through hard times.  I find that, as a coach, I am often helping executives, both experienced and less-experienced, navigate their way through uncertainties they have never come across before. Fortunately there are frameworks and techniques to help, as adverse times require a different sort of leadership and mental state.

For example, controlling only what you can now, and letting go of what you have no influence over, prevents you from getting stuck in the problem. Deciding what impact you are going to have on what happens next and how you can maintain this keeps you thinking of your positive reactions for the future. These all contribute to being a more resilient leader; but you can’t do it all on your own and you need to keep working on it.   Beating the downturn takes good health, mental resilience and focusing on your inner strengths.

Over the last decade Coaching has become a real success in people development, both for top level people to hone their performance and as a powerful way to shift cultures from within the organisation. The recent downturn has seen a shift in the need and style of coaching – coaching for resilience is far more likely to be the theme. The context is often one of survival as well as keeping going in these tough times, where it can be difficult to keep yourself and your teams motivated.

Mentoring and why we need it!

Boards are still not properly reflecting the growing diversity of their markets and employees.

There have been several reports written about a shortage of women in boardroom positions, particularly over the last 2 years. We know from the International Centre for Women Leaders at Cranfield that only 12% of the FTSE 100 companies have female board members. On a positive note, there is an increase in companies with more than one woman board member, which research shows increases effectiveness substantially.

More recently, there is a growing belief that the economic crisis has increased the need for more women in the boardroom as rebuilding the economy requires a different emphasis on leadership. An Ernst & Young report from January this year concluded that it is time to use the resources of women to rebuild the world economy and made specific recommendations on how board practice needs to change, particularly in giving more scope to encouraging female candidates for new board positions.

All too often there are too few women in the pipeline gaining the relevant experience needed in the top executive roles. We need to be more proactive in the recruitment process, and although there are a number of voluntary initiatives underway, it seems more has to be done.

Following a range of discussions with a number of you over the last few months and the IOD Scotland’s women’s leadership event last September, we see an opportunity in Scotland to drive a “Women into the Boardroom” initiative through mentoring. Traditionally, mentoring is the long term passing on of support, guidance and advice. In the workplace it has tended to describe a relationship in which a more experienced colleague uses their greater knowledge and understanding of the work or workplace to support the development of a more junior or inexperienced member of staff. This comes from the Greek myth where Odysseus entrusts the education of his son to his friend Mentor.

Much of the existing evidence has been both positive and encouraging as mentoring is a distinct activity which has become a widespread development tool. We all know of famous sports mentoring relationships such as Ian Botham being mentored by Brian Close, Kevin Keegan by Bill Shankly. There are many business mentoring relationships, notably Chris Gent and Arun Sarin at Vodafone and there are many more examples from politics and other fields.

Our own experience at Kynesis in designing and managing mentoring programmes has shown that mentoring has developed a huge amount of talent that otherwise may have left the organisation. Our programmes have been designed to support global culture change, mergers and acquisitions, talent management and in particular, succession planning for key roles –  key priorities for any growing business.

A number of vibrant women networks are alive and well in Scotland and the IOD is interested in how Mentoring in particular may be helpful in encouraging female executives to be ready to head for the Boardroom! What better way than to learn from someone who has done it?

To this end the IoD and Kynesis are currently driving this forward in Scotland.  Connecting the best of our rising talent to our those with proven experience.  The project is already delivering excellent results from some really interesting partnerships.

This is just the beginning. We know even more  top women will want to be involved in growing our next generation of female directors. Creating organisations with a senior team that reflects their markets and employees, fully equipped to lead into the future -what a difference we will make to Scotland!

So if you are keen to be involved either as a mentor or mentee – let us know.