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All things good

What caught our attention this month

Employer of the Year 2013

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We’re feeling pretty privileged to be working with an inspirational organisation, Richmond Housing Partnership (www.rhp.org.uk), who have been awarded Employer of the Year at the prestigious European Call Centre and Customer Service Awards. Even more impressive is that this was not housing industry specific but across all sectors with some really stiff competition.  It doesn’t really surprise us though because as soon as you walk through the doors of their building you get a sense of their creativity and energy. A huge well done to them.

Emotional highs

Through our connections with Women in Retail (www.womeninretail.com), a vibrant network of like-minded women operating across a range of roles and retail sectors we met Anna Pangbourne and her wonderful charity, the Fashion and Textiles Children’s Trust (www.ftct.org.uk). We’ve known about their work for a number of years through our pervious associations with Topman and Topshop, so it’s been great to have the opportunity to connect with Anna more directly.

The Fashion and Textile Children’s Trust is a small charity with a long history of supporting families in the UK fashion and textile industry. Founded in 1853, FTCT supports children aged 0-18 years who are coping with sickness, disability or special needs, whose families are in financial crisis, or where parents are unwell or cannot work. By providing grants for extra-curricular costs, clothing, uniforms, school extras, therapies and more, FTCT support hundreds of children every year.

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It’s also been good to see ‘emotional intelligence’ hitting the headlines again in the form of Lady Ashton and her work in brokering a deal in the Iranian nuclear issue. EI underpins so much of the personal awareness and self- development work we engage with. Daniel Goleman’s belief in the differences between how men and women operate emotionally is always an interesting one to debate; women tend to excel at sensing emotion (empathizing) while men tend to be good at managing emotion (i.e. compartmentalizing or, sometimes, ignoring it. Discuss!

Leadership as art – what’s in your skip?

The recent Reith Lectures delivered so eloquently and wittily by Grayson Perry appealed to Maier’s more arty side (it’s not just shaping organisational cultures that we love you know) His sense of values and the original take he offers on the apparently mundane or ordinary encapsulates a lot of what we aspire to in our own work. The links we naturally made between his style and words to aspects of leadership included; humility, inner confidence, bravery, risk taking and the ability to articulate and share good stories in an individual and unique way. We’re spoilt for choice with his many sound bites, but we particularly like this one;

‘A skip outside an art college is like a pot pourri of broken dreams’.  

Could be our next new leadership exercise…What’s in your skip?

Dancing to the top

Continuing to draw on leadership lessons from more unlikely sources, another hero of ours in the arts world has to be the supremely talented dancer Carlos Acosta. His autobiography ‘No Way Home’ offers enlightening parallels between the determination to succeed against all odds and the resilience we sometimes need to acquire as we dance our way through the organisations we work in.

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Sometimes as leaders we can become too narrow and trapped in a vacuum of the business press and books ‘on leadership’ when the most enlightening and enriching lessons can be drawn from more unexpected sources. Be curious, look in the hidden corners of life!

Lighting the way

Our final thought comes from one of our German clients working in a complex global business where internal competition between the separate business streams can make the ownership of shared goals challenging;

‘I see the corporate business as bringing light and soul to our smaller businesses, the core value needs to be one of competing with trust.’

We liked these words- it’s the joy of coaching when a chosen phrase and set of beliefs stay in your head for a long time after the meeting.

Oblique Strategies; dancing to different beat

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Not that we’re obsessed with Radio 4 here, but a recent programme brought ‘Oblique Strategies’ to our attention, an intriguing deck of aphorisms designed to stimulate lateral thinking. You can imagine just how much we loved this idea at Maier. It’s almost like they were made for us.

Setting creativity free

This little black box of beguiling snippets (which we immediately purchased of course!) was created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt way back in the 70s – originally with the intention of helping artists, particularly musicians (David Bowie and Coldplay are both huge fans), break through creative blocks.

“Oblique Strategies evolved from me being in a number of working situations when the panic of the situation – particularly in studios – tended to make me quickly forget that there were others ways of working that were in many senses more interesting than the direct head-on approach. If you’re in a panic, you tend to take the head-on approach because it seems to be the one that’s going to yield the best results Of course, that often isn’t the case – it’s just the most obvious and – apparently – reliable method.” (Brian Eno)

Pick a card

Not that we work with teams who are easily panicked you understand, but Brian Eno’s words rang out to us nevertheless. We’re already pretty good at this thinking and working differently business, but when magic like this is on tap who are we to ignore it? In fact OS cards are already one of our most favourite things to use – we’re often in the midst of hugely important and deeply complex discussions about future directions, conflicting priorities and emotionally charged decisions all of which, as you, know can overwhelm even the most stoical and rational of minds.  And this is when we whip out a card, or having already handed them out, ask delegates to share their particular pearl of wisdom.

A new angle

They’re called ‘oblique’ for a reason – some of them can seem pretty left-field at first glance, but with a bit of encouragement ideas and solutions soon take on a whole new dimension. Such is the legend of these cards they’re now available as an app, so if your creative juices seem a little sluggish, help is only a few clicks away,but for now here’s a few OS thoughts to set you going;

  • Discover the recipes you are using and abandon them
  • Give way to your worst impulses
  • Only one element of each kind

See where it takes you.