The South Pole Energy Challenge

Rob and Barney are on Day 3. Check out their video and follow their journey:

Daily Audio Account

You Tube Video

Posted on

Julian Stodd: Social Leadership: My First 100 Days

Here is my straight up confession: I am not very good at books which tell me to do something in a linear order. This one takes the reader from Day 1 activities,  to Day 2 activities and so on in a logical progression to Day 100. My natural instinct is to start at page 56 or Day 56, then leap across to find out what the first day tells me to do, and then maybe have a sneak peak at Day 100. Then I dip in: working from something in the 10s to something in the 20s.

Having made my confession, I am pleased to say that  I was absolutely delighted with Julian Stodd’s “Social Leadership My First 100 Days”. If you can imagine half an A4 page on its side, in landscape format and wiral bound, with nice big chunky wires, so that each page can sit flat. Then imagine opening the book to a two-page spread. On the right-hand side is the activity for the day in question, on the left-hand side one of Julian’s famous illustrations drawn specially for the book to explain and illuminate as well as illustrate the process in hand.  So for example Day One  tells you to look at the organisation around you and asks if you are you content with what you see.  Is it fair? Is it equal? Is it innovative and successful? Is it ready to face tomorrow? There are more prompt questions,  and then the activity.  What would you change? You are nudged to ask the same questions of someone else, in order to see if their responses are similar or different.

The next day:  Day Two is about power. It asks you to reflect on what power you have to make the changes you felt were necessary in the Day One reflection. On goes the handbook building day after day. The Day’s activities are not random but lock together into a kind of scaffolding where you build a firm foundation, and then you start to reach into more and more complex and nuanced areas. Without knowing it (almost) you begin to dig into the heart of  social leadership and organisational change. Not simply for insight but mainly for action. If you want to understand social leadership, then read the Handbook. If you want to actually DO something then the 100 Day challenge is for you.

This book helps you think and organise your thoughts and ideas.  There is a huge advantage to going with Julian’s flow, and letting him get the blocks in order and allowing him to narrow your focus down before you build up to something bigger and more detailed.  And in this way the book turns into a really good action plan.

One of the additional beauties of it is that you should start at the beginning, (note to self) but you can stop at any place,  once you have got some actions to implement. For some people the first five days will give them months of activity, for others the 100 days will yield the best master plan.  It is really up to the reader to decide. So it works for the curious beginner, as well as the Stodd loyalist (and there are many of them).  This really is a book like no other.  It is attractive, and beautifully designed in an artisan way, but also intensely practical. So this is a book to have on your table, rather than on your shelf.

And my favourite day? It has to be Day 36, reciprocating and saying thank you. A moment of pause and reflection, and a time to express gratitude. And my expression of gratitude is to Julian for producing such a compelling book, and proving its value by crowdsourcing the production costs!

Posted on

Why Good Leadership Development is Important

There is something rotten in the state of leadership development. It is a colossal industry; often the biggest budget line in any L & D programme. The Corporate Research Forum estimates annual expenditure on leadership development exceeds $50 billion. It is a massive worldwide operation and is growing strongly. Yet discontent with what that investment in leadership delivers is rife. Both that CRF survey, Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends ( 2015) and the Marshall School of Business ePulse survey reveal a widening gap between the investment, the expectations that the investment promises, and the overall confidence of CEOs in the leadership capability in their organizations. It would seem that as investment grows, so does dissatisfaction with the quality and durability of those leadership development programmes. The enduring value in organizations seems to be hard to find and poor leadership abounds at every level.

So, if most leadership development does not work and it is too hard to put your finger on the criteria for success, perhaps, ultimately, it is better to save your money and make investments elsewhere? There are dramatic consequences, however, if you do nothing. I also witnessed at first hand the ruinous waste of human talent caused by leadership incompetence, and the unhappiness and frustration of staff who felt marginalised, ignored and brutalised by the regime that they worked under. I hated the self-seeking leaders I met who nakedly demonstrated to the world that it was all about them and their compensation. They took a really short-term narrow view of their role and their performance, and then moved on, leaving the chaos for someone else to sort out because they had a distorted idea of what leadership meant which focussed on delivering short-term targets whatever the long-term consequences. What made the difference? Were there any common factors that made some leadership programmes work whilst lots of others failed to deliver? I discovered that there were a whole raft factors leading to the success or failure of leadership development. If you read Building Leadership Development Programmes that Work, they are all there.

This article is based on my latest book called: “Building Leadership Development Programmes: zero cost to high investment programmes that work” The book was published at the beginning of November 2016. For a 20% discount and free postage. please order from Kogan Page ( adding the discount code: FRIENDSOFNIGEL at checkout.

Posted on

Leadership Programmes That Work

Leadership development has to be profound and inclusive and reach deeply into the workforce. It is clearer than ever, now, that what leaders do is seen by everyone. This means that good leaders can build great organizations. And good leaders emerge from great organizations and what they do is share insight, and attempt to make sense of the world in a way that others can understand and react to. Here are six conclusions about how to build leadership programmes that work.

Context is critical

Leadership development does onto occur in a vacuum or in isolation. It requires context, in other words, what do you do in this organisation, with these issues and these people. Vanilla leadership simply does not work.

Leadership is not an event, but a process

As soon as you see leadership development as an inoculation which people queue up to receive – that hurts a bit – but is over soon, you create an illusion that the effort involved is timed. It may be intense, but it will finish relatively quickly and is, therefore, quickly forgotten.

A Blended approach works best.

Research would seem to indicate that a blended process, that combines on-line with face-to-face, delivers the optimum outcomes. This allows time to think quietly on your own, and time to engage with others. Both are important.

Make sure you transfer some responsibility for good leadership to the leader

If your leaders react to leadership development as someone else’s problem, they will resist taking on both the responsibility and the effort to put things right. There must be consequences for non-participation, and not making the required changes.

Top Leadership has to be behind this, and give it time to take effect

All the most successful programmes have the total commitment of the highest levels of leadership in the organisation. And that commitment means more than authorising expenditure, or attending a launch event. Commitment means active involvement and participation from the very beginning.

Not stop/start but a continuous process

Everyday at work represents a leadership challenge; every day gives leaders the chance to practice new leadership skills or simply a different way of approaching the leadership task. If the process of learning about leadership is in some way disconnected from the practice of being that leader, nothing much happens.

The next blog post will continue the discussion with six more factors that lead to successful leadership development.

This blog is based on my book called: “Building Leadership Development Programmes: zero cost to high investment programmes that work” The book was published at the beginning of November. For a 20% discount and free postage. please order from Kogan Page ( adding the discount code: FRIENDSOFNIGEL at checkout.

Posted on

Successful Leadership Development

This blog piece continues the discussion around those factors that tend to lead to successful leadership development. And success is defined by permanent behavioural change in organisations and individuals that is consistent across the organisation. Here are a further six factors for you to take on board.

Models Are not the Defining Factor

My research indicates that it does not matter much what model of leadership you select. The people who market those models want you to believe that what they offer is completely different from anyone else. The truth is that the competencies are similar, and if you get people on the path towards leadership development, they will find what they need for their own purposes and move forward rapidly.

Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence Endure

Leaders need support as well as offering support to staff. There is an increasing body of research, which indicates that emotional intelligence and mindfulness development, can positively impact on an executive’s ability to deal with stress and cope with uncertainty.

Co-Creation is Vital

The leadership programme that is developed without any consultation whatsoever with the people on the receiving end, is far less likely to succeed than a similar programme which has done its homework. You should take your time to make sure that your conclusions are right and work with the participants to build the programme.

The Line Manager can make or break a programme

It is hard to deliver successful change in leadership practice without the active participation of the relevant line managers. It seems obvious, however, many programmes still assume that the line manager will offer some support without actually detailing what that support should be.

Learning should be part of the Workflow

It is clear from research undertaken by Charles Jennings, as well as his interventions in a large number of significant companies, that learning is reinforced by being part of the workflow, not outside it. Leadership is a critical area where learning in work, and learning as work, reinforces the formal structured learning that is delivered.

Individual change occurs when both the Group and the Organisation are involved

The idea that a leader is an island separate and self-contained is increasingly naive. All of the great thinkers on leadership talk about leading in context, and about followership. You have to develop leadership in organisations not just leaders.

This blog shares some of the conclusions from my book called: “Building Leadership Development Programmes: zero cost to high investment programmes that work” The book was published at the beginning of November 2016. For a 20% discount and free postage. please order from Kogan Page ( adding the discount code: FRIENDSOFNIGEL at checkout.

Posted on

Leadership on the Edge

Learning Technologies 2017 in Olympia London Video of the session: Warning over an hour in length.

Discusses how discomfort, disconnection and dislocation lead to discovery.

Posted on

Why Do We Need Learning Professionals?

I think I have a few answers to that question.  Read the blog post  here and come along to WOLCE to hear me speak next Wednesday pm.  We should be asking that question and answering it!!

Posted on