Don't you wish you created the iPad, Uber, AirBnB or any of these disruptive businesses?

Not for the money (well, that would be great) but for being part of making enormous positive change to the lives of people around the world. 

Or, maybe not. Maybe you prefer the status quo? 

Airbnb the classic 'disruptor' - only 10 years old and they have put the accommodation business on it's head.

Airbnb the classic 'disruptor' - only 10 years old and they have put the accommodation business on it's head.

I consider myself to be an 'Uber' type of person - I was an early adopter to the iPad, I've had my family home on AirBnB for five years and I work for myself helping people lead others into a more effective and productive future.

I came across this 'Uber Moments' term when I decided to learn more about Agile and Agile Leadership. If you're interested to learn more yourself, I highly recommend the following two books which I discuss in this blog.


The expectation of our leaders today is becoming a challenge to define.

We have businesses, communities and societies operating at different speeds, some behaving as if it’s still 1980 and those who are prepared to travel to Mars in 2030.

Whether you like it not, we are being disrupted every day; we might not know it, we might be ignorant, but we are living in an era which is seeing norms being challenged, competitors changing rules and the rise of a generation who are seeking flexible and evolving ways of working.

Gone are the days of waiting patiently – we can almost guarantee if we don’t keep up with people’s expectations, we’ll be out of business whilst the competitor pivots and responds quickly to fresh ‘uber moments’ threats.

So, here’s something to consider: if you don’t speed up your leadership, and be what is expected of you, you will become a redundant leader. The language we are speaking about is the requirement of being Agile; an Agile Leader.

Whilst the term Agile isn’t new (it’s a teenager), the need and demand for ‘agile leadership’ is becoming more common. Given the shenanigans in Australian politics these past two weeks, I wonder if we could consider that our politicians need to be agile (Oh my Lord, this is an oxymoron – an agile politician!!!)

I’ve taken my curiosity to a few books, TED Talks and Podcasts to explore how Agile Leadership fits into and expand my breadth of Leadership Intelligence. I wanted to determine if it’s a new term or just a synonym; is it a phase which easily replaces what we’re currently doing, or should we be on high alert to another reason or need to change, the need to feel uncomfortable, take our socks off and speed up our action.

Agile is and will be a mindset change for many. And to be an Agile Leader, it’s a mindset flip. A flip! The question is, “How do you flip if you’re flexibility is limited?”

This is the perfect opportunity for the digital natives out there to take the lead and show us folk representing other ‘generational ages’, what it means to work agile-ish and how they lead people in the amazing new businesses in this busy complex world.

Lynne Cazaly, author of Agile-ish – How to create a culture of agility has been working with people in the Agile space for years and in her easy-to-read book, she has served us the entrée to the meal of being Agile. Easy does it, not too much, just the right amount of information to determine if we could apply for the jobs which want: Agile Leaders.

In our fast-paced world with changing contexts, transformation is the new norm. However, we are stubborn social beings and often believe we don’t need to change. Sorry to tell you, you do. Well, actually, Lynne tells you that you do need to change and one of her processes will swiftly get you into gear: ask, listen, talk, think, practise and change again. That’s your newly created daily mantra to be a worthwhile contributor to this agile movement.

I love the simplicity of this message from Lynne and I don’t think we follow this process. Lynne’s agile-ish model includes four phases. So, this is a good start to determining how agile you might already be:

Involve – you need to start thinking about the customer, empathize how they feel and think, want and need, to get your mindset right – it is all about them, not you!

Ideate – when you know what your customer values, you then need to come up with ideas, not just you, the team that you involve as we know that more heads are better than one.

Implement – now here is where the rubber hits the road, start doing stuff with the ideas, create activity and test it out with the customer, quickly – is it what they want or not? Gone are the days of waiting a year for the finished prototype or product – you’ve got to do this super speedy and then …

Iterate – have another go at producing what you thought the customer wanted, change it up, it’s OK if you stuffed up the first batch. As Lynne says, are you tinkering or transforming … the latter is your goal.

By experimenting with this approach, you are demonstrating the behaviour which creates the culture of agility. Unless you are a start-up, it’s highly likely that you’ll need to work on your culture which fosters this linkage to the customer and speed to being of more immediate value to them.

Simon Hayward, author of Connected Leadership (2016) – How to build a more agile, customer-driven business forewarned us that we must be more agile to lead businesses in this complex world. He produced a model with five distinctive spheres which his PhD research identified, with one sphere being agility. I have used Simon’s connected leadership model with many clients to transform how they were leading their businesses/teams.

Simon has taken this Agile component to the next level and produced, hot off the press, The Agile Leader – How to create an agile business in the digital age, to explore this practice as a style of leadership.

In his ‘main meal’ offering, Simon promises to differentiate the leadership required of leaders who’ve been in the game for a few years.

The first clear distinction which kept me reading was the untraditional focus on Trust. I am a huge advocate for Trust and I suppose I naturally gravitated to the mere mention of a leader needing to ‘give trust’ opposed to someone earning their trust. (Read that again please.)

We have a society of bright well-educated individuals who need to be given the opportunity to run with ‘that project’. It’s rather easy for them and more likely challenging for you to ‘let go’. Having an agile foundation, giving trust, checking in daily briefly, is the start of being an Agile Leader.

The ‘command & control’ style of leader, who still populate our world, will struggle to imagine how this can operate given the risks and governance which squeeze the life out of people. It probably makes sense why so many ‘start ups’ start up – they want to cut the bureaucracy out of the plan and get direct to the customer quickly.

The agile leader behaves like this:

·       Clearly articulates the main thing done as a business – one-page vision, mission, strategy

·       Hosts daily huddle meetings to: check progress, give support if necessary

·       Proactively understands digital – seeking out digital natives to ‘get it’

·       Has a Learning Mindset continually reviewing progress and doing it better

·       Thoughtful decisiveness by pausing before decisions are made

At the heart of this Agile Leadership is the Agile Paradox - helping people collaborate and be involved yet at the same time disrupting them to think and operate differently. Simon emphasises that to lead agilely, you need to enable and disrupt at the same time.

Another aspect of agile leadership stood out for me, ‘put people over processes and tools’ which is the first of several Rules of Agile. With what would appear as a ‘management style of working’, this refreshing statement is paramount to be a leader, well before the Agile Leader description was coined.

What kept me reading, were the many case studies Simon shared. These stories brought the whole Agile Leadership alive. These included: Zara, AirBnB, CDL (UK), Three (UK), Facebook, and a little closer to home, The All Blacks. Probably the most famous rugby team, the All Blacks team were analysed for their agile approach. Two strategies were identified which they employed which set them apart from other rugby (sports) teams – they win and work as a team.

An agile team - if you get the chance, watch the movie - Chasing Great

An agile team - if you get the chance, watch the movie - Chasing Great

Firstly, Double Gaze with its Japanese Samurai heritage, taught the members of the All Blacks to: keep one eye on the individual situation and one on the bigger picture. Or as one of Simon’s clients put it, ‘the ability to look around corners’. This capability enables them to thoughtfully make great decisions, at the coal face, which impacts the success of the whole team (and organisation.)

And the other notable practice is their ability to self-manage as a team. Having the skills and confidence to define together how to deliver the outcomes for the next ‘sprint’ oozes responsibility for their performance. They have transparent tough discussions about individual and collective performance which is anchored by respect and trust to enable them to continually ask: How can we do what we do better?” This is an enabler (leadership) and a disruptor (agile) – challenging behaviours and not settling for a comfortable level of co-operation.

This is all about choice. I have gathered so many insights after reading these two agile books and I have made a choice to share this information with you and several of my clients. I highly recommend you choose to learn more about agile leadership or share your agile practices with your clients, colleagues and dare I say, competitors. It’s for the greater good and who wants to be left behind – let’s design together, how to see around corners!

MEETINGS - an investment or a waste of TIME?

I really appreciate a meeting which is effective. By that I mean one which when I leave, I think – ‘that was an investment of my time’ and not ‘a waste of my time’.  As a sole practice operator, every minute and hour is an expense – I need to be able to account for my time.

When I calculate a client invoice, the solution and outcome are achieved involving many hours of design, preparation and delivery – and meetings – so, it's important ensure the meetings are a value-add.

So, when I do receive a request to attend a meeting I encourage:

Chairmanship – someone who is the ‘Guide’ - to look to for signals, to change the speed of discussion, to arrive at decisions, to direct our questions to and to encourage some thinking.

Time Conscious – start at the scheduled time – (I'm reminded of this at my kid’s school – if you’re one minute late – you need a Late Pass!!!!). The duration should not be onerous and pre-reading/viewing completed prior to attending.

Purpose – 3 questions: What’s the purpose? How do you expect me to participate? What’s to be achieved? **

Agenda – to be received with copies of reports and presentations - some people need to read and view information a couple of times to enable their contribution at a meeting.

Brain & Body Breaks – a meeting of 45 minutes or longer requires a break to allow for calls/texts, amenities/refreshments.  Don't fight nature – the brain will wander and the body rules!

Digital Attendance – we live in a digital world – Skype & Google Hangouts are simple mechanisms to attend meetings.

Record – it’s great to receive notes/minutes from a meeting, however I like to audio-record my meetings or components which require my attention. 

What do you expect and encourage at meetings?

**Meetings generally seek a decision. If you're canvassing ideas or to share a concept you may want to consider a forum, a facilitated discussion or be innovative. 

Leading in a Digital World

I liken my Digital World to my kid’s BIG Beach Ball. It has lovely coloured stripes interspersed with clear plastic enabling you to see through to the other side.  The colour represents the visual nature of our world – the ability to see and be connected with anyone or anything instantaneously. The clear plastic is how we are seen – we have never been so visible to our world.

What does your digital world look like? Are you moving in this world, are you being moved or are you immovable? Benjamin Franklin once said that we can be classed into one of these three groups. Which group do you belong to?

If you’re leading today, then I suggest you’d better be moving. In a recent McKinsey Quarterly article “Six Social-Media skills every leader needs”, it succinctly prescribes that leaders who master this new literacy will be more creative, innovative and agile … who will be rewarded with a new type of competitive advantage.

These skills involve being creative, producing your own open raw stories which can be viewed immediately and shared enabling the receiver to co-create and contextualise the information i.e. this is how viral messages begin. Kevin Rudd’s shaving mishap has been a hit with young people – his Instagram photo being retweeted amongst friends quoting 'how cool' he was!

With so much noise going on in the Digital World, the leader must be able to filter the information and understand what to share with whom. The decision making involves tutoring social media literacy with a focus to orchestrate, enable and empower networks.  

Cognisant of the risks of irresponsible use, a social architecture providing meaningful space must be created with the leader’s task to marry vertical accountability with networked horizontal collaboration. For example, matching media-savvy millennials with senior leaders, to discuss the latest tech buzz and practice.

Leading in a Digital World may require cognitive, cultural and climate changes in your space but it’s possible to start immediately. By simply ‘retweeting’ this Blog sends out the message to your people that you agree and possibly intend to follow. 

If you're designing a presentation ... ditch the PowerPoint!

I'm speaking at a conference next week which I've known about for several months and I've spent more time than usual designing it in my head which is ringing alarm bells.

I usually do my best creative work in 24 hours leading to the deadline, however the PPT deadline is today and I've only now decided to ditch the PPT! I had only prepared 3 slides and outlined 12 others – but even doing that and receiving the conference template did I start to feel uneasy!

I've asked if the speakers prior to me are using PPT, if so, I'd feel that I was doing the crowd a favour, giving them a rest – but haven't heard back.

Maybe I'm incompetent and embarrassed about my ability to incorporate fancy images and put only one word on a page or my faith in the PPT machine thingy not cooperating is causing my anxiety. Or am I thinking as a confident Facilitator, preferring to engage the group with my whiteboard and flipchart usage?

I'm assigned 40 minutes, including question and introduction time to share my thoughts on ‘Leading in a Digital World’ – self-imposed title!

What I do know is 40 minutes is a long time to stay seated – that the room is large and I can’t help myself by planning on getting them to play Four Corners and get them interacting. This will make it easier than looking at raised hands. We know that the ‘mind will only absorb what the seat can stand’ so getting them to move on two or three occasions should keep them awake and focused on me.

Designing a presentation can be simple. I have a meaningful story to start with, three areas that I will cover off on, three sharp messages within each area and three ‘call to action’ points for the conclusion. Not too much information and an arsenal of questions to pose to the group if I get stuck.

What do you think? What killer presentations do you still remember? Have I made the wrong decision?