Leadership and engagement – keeping it simple

Some people say that you can’t teach leadership in a classroom. In some ways I agree, because learning leadership should be like learning to walk – something a baby finds difficult and scary, but evidently possible as there are so many role models doing it.

I have been teaching leadership for five years and one of the benefits of teaching, is that your “radar” is on continuously looking for real-life examples of theory. In my class I use two models from Dr Peter Cammock’s The Dance of Leadership. I love these models for their simplicity. My students have road-tested them and found them to be powerful and easy to use.

The heart of leadership

This model harmonises the two core fundamentals of leadership, knowledge of self and concern for others. Great leaders, from parents to more public examples of leadership are exemplify this. I think of Sir Peter Blake, who was so confident in his own ability, and so caring of his crew. Or my mum, who I never heard speak ill of anyone.

Surrounding the heart of leadership are four “qualities of character”. Peter Cammock has chosen integrity, faith, courage and passion. We could just as easily choose other qualities of character as I suspect that they all link to one another.

The envision, engage, enact model (3 Es)

While the “heart of leadership” models who we should be, the 3 Es model shows us how to lead.

At its simplest it is a three-step model: envision – engage – enact. This is easy to remember and relate to. Peter Cammock weaves these three core leadership roles into a prescription for leadership and change that is applicable to most human endeavour.

The three-step model elaborates to 10 steps. Good leaders follow this process naturally. They know when to talk, they know when to roll their sleeves up and get involved, and they can zoom out and zoom in to see the big picture as they need to. This is reminiscent of Ron Garan’s “orbital perspective” and Muhammad Yunus’s “worm’s eye view” from an earlier post.

The link to engagement

Engagement is at the heart of the model through the processes of connecting, listening and engaging, team building and networking and communicating.

Notice that Peter Cammock uses “envision”, rather than “vision”. This implies that the vision evolves through engaging and enacting. The vision may have originated with, or been adopted by the leader, but it is an organic vision that can grow an adapt as the engagement process happens. It is said that people own what they create, and if they have input into the vision, they are more likely to engage with it.

If you imagine “knowledge of self” as an aspect of an organisation’s engagement ethos, “concern for others” balances the organisation’s needs with stakeholder needs.

Leadership and change

The 3 Es model exemplifies leadership of change. The leader is in there helping people to create shared vision and working with the willing.

These models are simple and accessible. People understand them quickly and are able to implement them in simple leadership roles. It is preferable to quickly learn simple models such as these and put them into action, rather then take on lots of theory. The corollary of this is accepting that everyone can lead and the need for leadership is everywhere, from leading oneself to global change.

Do you know someone who exemplifies these models, or do you have an example of how they align with your leadership?

Stakeholder mapping – for threat or opportunity?

To map stakeholders, AccountAbility’s approach is to rank each stakeholder with a number of factors. This approach provides some scaffolding to enable a more objective assessment. Here is a summary of these factors from an earlier version of AccountAbility’s AA1000SES. 

  • Responsibility – the organisation has, or in the future may have, legal, financial and operational responsibilities in the form of regulations, …etc.
  • Dependency – stakeholders who are dependent on an organisationʼs activities and operations in economic or financial terms
  • Influence – stakeholders with influence or decision-making power (e.g. local authorities, shareholders, pressure groups).
  • Representation – stakeholders who through regulation, custom, or culture can legitimately claim to represent a constituency
  • Proximity – stakeholders that the organisation interacts with most, including internal stakeholders …etc
  • Policy and strategic intent – stakeholders addressed through the policies and value statements

Threat bias

Notice how the bias in these factors is towards threat rather than opportunity? Sustainability initiatives, such as stakeholder engagement have developed in the context of threat. Corporates adopted social responsibility initiatives in response to criticism of their social and environmental performance. These were rearguard and defensive actions. Programmes such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) are an example. In this century, corporate are exploring sustainability initiatives as a source of innovation and competitive advantage. I described this shift in an earlier post – What is Sustainability 2.0?

If your organisation wants to express its sustainability initiatives as an opportunity, it would pay to change the factors used in stakeholder mapping to, at least, balance opportunity and threat.

This can be achieved in a number of ways:

  • creating a higher weighting for opportunity factors
  • reducing or combining threat factors
  • adding opportunity factors.

For example, you might combine threat factors such as responsibility and dependency, thus halving their influence in a final rating. Adding an opportunity factor, such as “potential for creating shared value” will further shift the balance. The “shared value” factor identifies those stakeholders the organisation can work with to create shared value. An example could be using a waste product from a stakeholder as a raw material, or supporting education initiatives to upskill the local population as a potential labour force.

Anthony Robbins identifies pleasure (opportunity) and pain (threat) as two motivating forces. Avoiding pain may be a stronger motivator than moving towards pleasure. Is this the case with sustainability and stakeholder engagement? If we are responding to perceived or potential threat we will probably develop a compliance mentality – and I don’t think compliance is that motivating. I would like to think that an aspirational approach based on pursuing engagement opportunities with stakeholders is more motivational. What do you think? 

Engaging stories: rebuilding Christchurch

The City of Christchurch, New Zealand was devastated by a series of earthquakes. The largest, on the 4 September 2010 wrecked havoc in the central city, but the second quake on 22 February killed 181 people and all but destroyed the central city. The response of the people of Christchurch is an inspiring engagement story. On 11 August, the Christchurch City Council released it draft Central City Plan.  The plan was immediately received with acclaim.

From an engagement perspective, the plan embodies three foundational strengths:

  • inspirational leadership
  • inclusion of the indigenous Ngāi Tahu
  • comprehensive public participation and community engagement

 Inspirational Leadership

From the day of the first quake, the indefatigable Mayor, Bob Parker fronted up and communicated clearly, exuding a aura of compassion and hope. As in the image below, he was often seen on camera with a person translating his words into sign language, an unspoken symbol of inclusion. When the Council released the draft plan there appeared to be an evident sense of celebration and unity in the council – not that common in local body politics.

 Inclusion of the tangata whenua

The Mäori tribe Ngāi Tahu are the indigenous people of the Canterbury region. In formal occasions, it is common for Mäori to acknowledge tipuna (ancestors) and those who have died. The draft plan beautifully incorporates words authored by Ngai Tahu to set an appropriate context for the plan. Here is the English translation:

This mihi is given by the Ngāi Tahu Rūnanga – Te Ngāi Tūāhuriri- to acknowledge and respect the people who have been lost and those whose hearts are grieving them, and the sorrow of this .  It also acknowledges the losses and pain of all people in Christchurch and Canterbury who have suffered as a result of the earthquakes.  Ngāi Tahu recognise their atua/god Rūaumoko as having pulled his umbilical cord and caused so much to break, including land from the mountains to the sea.  While acknowledging the pain, Ngāi Tahu see us uniting us as one people – the survivors (morehu) of Christchurch and Canterbury.  The mihi is a call to Christchurch to rise up, and together to rebuild Christchurch brighter and better.

Public participation – share an idea

Following the second quake, the City Council launched Share an Idea, a public engagement campaign to lay the foundations for the rebuild. In six weeks, the website, www.shareanidea.org.nz generated over 58,000 visits. Ideas were also harvested through facebook and twitter. Virtual engagement was complimented by a two-day community expo (attended by over 10,000 residents) and a series of public workshops. These are two of the larger examples of over 100 stakeholder meetings. (See the draft plan for more detail of engagement).

A total of 106,000 ideas were shared during the six week campaign – that is one idea from every 2.2 residents. Share an Idea generated a level of community involvement that has never been seen before in New Zealand.

The fruit of the engagement process

The thousands of ideas clustered into 5 themes:

  • green city
  • market city
  • city life
  • distinctive city
  • transport choice

The plan includes contributor’s comments to directly link the ideas generated to the completed draft plan (click on the thumbnail for a larger image).

Mayor Bob Parker described the new Christchurch as “a safe, sustainable, green, hi-tech, low-rise city in a garden”.

Out of adversity comes an unprecedented opportunity. We are embarking together on one of the most exciting projects ever presented to a community in New Zealand, perhaps the world…This is our city, it will rise again

Bob Parker

This is just a taste of a truly inspirational document. Anyone interested in stakeholder engagement, community participation or organisational development will benefit from a closer look.

Engagement stories: Kaipara tidal power

Crest Energy has won approval to install turbines in the entrance to the Kaipara Harbour in northern New Zealand. But when lengthy compliance and court processes position stakeholders as adversaries, there will inevitably be losers. How might we find a win-win?

Crest Energy plans to install up to 200 turbines in the mouth of the harbour, to generate up to 200 mw of electricity. The Kaipara harbour is the largest harbour in the southern hemisphere of 947 km2 with a 800 kilometre shoreline. About 8 billion cubic metres of water flow through the harbour entrance daily.

Looking from the dunes to the  wild and magnificent Kaipara Harbour entrance

The Minister of Conservation, Kate Wilkinson, announced on 17 March 2011, approval for Crest Energy’s turbines. Local stakeholders, including local Mäori, farmers and fishers responded by organising further meetings in protest. The Indigenous people of the area are Te Uri o Hau, a hapu (subtribe) of Ngati Whatua. Along with local farmers and fishers, Te Uri o Hau are concerned about the environmental impacts of the turbines.

Stakeholder engagement?

Projects such as this have multiple community stakeholders. The people of Northland and Auckland will benefit from a renewable energy supply, and New Zealand’s supply of electricity of renewables will be further enhanced from the current 74%. But the big unknown is the environmental impact of 200 turbines spinning in the depths of the harbour entrance. The Environmental Court supported Te Uri o Hau’s request for environmental monitoring – but the hapu is still concerned.

When engagement processes get to court, it can hardly be called engagement. Positions tend to become entrenched on both sides. Is there a third way? Is there will to explore a third way?

Riparian planting at Whaingaroa Harbour

The good people at Whaingaroa harbour near Raglan further down the west coast of New Zealand have planted over a million trees on the margins of the harbour and the rivers and streams that feed it. After a decade, the result has been a dramatic reduction in the amount of silt and animal waste entering the harbour. Seagrasses have returned to the intertidal zones and marine life, from tiny invertebrates to fish species, have a better environment and populations are rapidly increasing. Here is a link to a  video demonstrating the improvements.

A win-win?

What’s the connection? I’m guessing that any negative environmental impact of the turbines would be dwarfed by the positive impact of environmental improvements resulting from a riparian planting project on the Kaipara. Of course, the massive Kaipara dwarfs the Whaingaroa harbour – but over time, replanting is achievable. Crest Energy has a great opportunity to divert a small percentage of power revenue to support replanting projects, and create a positive association between the company’s renewable energy production and harbour restoration.

It will be interesting to see if the various stakeholder aspirations can be achieved to create a win-win.

More links

Introducing engaging stories

I’m convinced that stakeholder engagement is the leading edge of sustainability, and that those organisations most skilled at engagement, are more likely to survive and thrive. Engagement isn’t a new practice; good communicators have been engaging for centuries – but with stakeholder engagement emerging as a discipline we have a better understanding of both the importance of engagement, and the processes required to formalise it.

 The scaffolding

I’m also convinced that formalising stakeholder engagement shouldn’t be too complicated. As with any new discipline, it will require specialised resources until it becomes second nature – patterned into the organisational neural map.

 The role of stories

People will engage more effectively if they are able to navigate the engagement universe. I call it a universe here, because it is so broad and diverse. If we can understand the myriad possibilities for engagement, we are better equipped to engage.

This is where stories are useful. I will be scanning for examples of engagement locally and globally, and hopefully getting leads for stories from you. Companies make considered statements about stakeholder engagement in annual reports and sustainability reports, but they are typically “high level” without revealing what people actually do in their engagement.

The examples I have in mind represent a tiny sample of the diversity of engagement. They range from global community and government level, right down to individuals making a difference in the local community. For example there are the agencies set up to bridge the divide between health clinicians and indigenous people, the oil refinery that provides a secure habitat for an endangered bird species, and a teacher engaging in new ways with parents in the first week of a new job.

 Engaging the heart

James Kouzes and Barry Posner’s great book Encouraging the Heart told us how stories were so important in motivating and inspiring people. Stories also help to create emotional bonds. When we hear the stories of others we empathise with them and new possibilities can be awakened in our hearts as we learn of their lives and achievements. And engagement involves understanding and appreciating the world of your stakeholders. When you have that appreciation, you are far better equipped to find areas of mutual interest and potential collaboration.

Your stories

My stories will follow soon. I would love to hear your stories of engagement. Who were the stakeholders? Was there a gap to be bridged? What was learned? What were the gains?

Stakeholder mapping part 2

Part one of this post featured the stakeholder map. For those who want to cast the net wider when identifying stakeholders two possibilities are online surveys and email data mining. But it may be more useful to just get started and regard the stakeholder map as an iterative process.

Stakeholder mapping is one of the first things to do when formalising your stakeholder engagement. A stakeholder map as outlined in an earlier blog, is central to this process.

I recommend that you keep the process as simple as possible and avoid over-planning or over-complicating the stakeholder mapping process. It can be initiated by a small of group of people, ideally with some external facilitation to ensure that the focus is on external stakeholders. Your initial attempts at a stakeholder map (or matrix) can be shared with others and updated accordingly.

On the other hand, if you want to cast the net more widely a couple of suggestions follow.

1. Surveying staff

You can quickly set up an online survey using a website such as Survey Monkey. Ask staff to identify two or three external stakeholders for a series of perhaps five questions. Here are some ideas:

  • Identify two or three stakeholder groups that have some legal or regulatory influence on the work you do.
  • Identify two or three stakeholder groups that you think are impacted by our operations.
  • Identify two or three stakeholder groups that you believe we could create shared value with.
  • Identify two or three stakeholder groups that might share our aspirations.
  • Identify two or three individuals, external to our company, who you believe are most important to the sustainability of our company.

The collated results will help to populate your stakeholder map. But avoid making the map too big. Use the same ranking system as outlined in the earlier post to identify your most relevant stakeholders. The beauty of using a tool such as survey monkey, is that the information will be collated for you. If possible, supply three text fields for each question, so the responses are easier to sort.

2. Mining email data

Your techies should be able to provide a means to identify the domains most frequently used by your staff when emailing externally (hopefully its not ebay or Facebook :-). For example, which government department do we have most contact with? Or which of our suppliers do we generate most email traffic with? And a ratio of internal to external email will provide a raw indication of how externally orientated the company and its departments are.

Can anyone suggest software that might achieve this?

Remember, these two methods may give you a more complete picture for stakeholder mapping, but if they slow the process down, their value will be minimised. Make your stakeholder mapping an iterative process – its more useful to get out there and encourage other staff to get out there, and engage and revise the map as you go.

Engaging the engagers

Your staff are potentially your best ambassadors. If they are positively engaged, both at work and outside work they will be leading your stakeholder engagement. Improving staff engagement is a win-win that will improve internal processes and strengthen external engagement.

Ideally, your staff are great ambassadors for your business. When they are at work, they interact with a range of stakeholders, and outside work they interact with the wider community. We know from the 2010 Hay Group Report, that the best leadership companies harvest knowledge and best practice from wherever they can, and staff, and contacts of staff are sources of this knowledge.

Fostering better staff engagement has great synergy with external stakeholder engagement. If staff are feeling good about the company, they will project that goodwill into both their workplace and social interactions. Both activities require the same skill sets – so by improving staff engagement capacity, external engagement improves.

But staff engagement is not in good shape. For example the Tower Perrin 2007 Global Workforce Study, based on nearly 90,000 employees worldwide found 21% of staff engaged, 41% enrolled, 30% disenchanted and 8% disengaged – a total of 38% in a negative space.

The Hay Group reported that 59% of employees in the UK started 2010 resolving to find a new job.

Identification, citizenship and engagement

Another dimension of engagement is how staff identify with the organisation. The following diagram illustrates four different types of identification. Some staff as in the second column, will identify strongly with the organisation. Another possibility is ambivalent identification as illustrated in the fourth column; in this situation the staff member identifies strongly with their work team, but not with the organisation itself. An example might be engineers or health clinicians, who identify strongly with their professions, but are disenchanted with the organisation. They might be technically engaged, but not engaged as corporate citizens. Thus, while they are happy in their work, they may not be good ambassadors for the organisation.

Having disenchanted or disengaged staff costs. I think of it as the company never quite managing to shift into top gear. The Hay Group found that “employees who are both highly engaged and enabled are 50 per cent more likely to outperform expectations”. So when times are tight, while the cost cutting game may yield a few percentage gains, raising engagement has greater potential benefits.

The Towers Perrin research identified drivers of engagement:

  • senior management sincerely interested in employee well-being
  • opportunities to improve skills and capabilities
  • the organisation’s reputation for social responsibility
  • employees able to input into decision-making
  • the organisation quickly resolves customer concerns
  • the organisation sets high personal standards
  • excellent career advancement opportunities
  • challenging work assignments to broaden skills
  • good relationships with supervisors
  • innovative thinking encouraged

In the previous blog, leading engagement, I shared the Hay Group findings about best leadership practices for engagement. The companies with leadership worth emulating, are good at reaching across boundaries to learn from people and to connect people. They help people to find meaning in their work and link their tasks to a greater good. The story of the stone-cutters illustrates this: A traveller encountered two stone-cutters and asked them what they were engaged in. The first said “I’m cutting a stone”. The second said “I am building a cathedral”. For effective engagement, we need more cathedral builders and fewer stone-cutters.

[1] adapted from Kreiner, G. & Ashforth, B. (2004) Evidence toward an expanded model of organizational identification. In Journal of Organizational Behavior 25:1, 1-27.