Undefended Leadership: Challenging the Now to Create the Next

Knowledge / Inspiration

Undefended Leadership: Challenging the Now to Create the Next

Enabling the Team

The momentum is now moving more towards work becoming vocational, aligning to the passions inherent in an individual’s life. .The truth is the organisational paradigm hasn’t been challenged since Henry Ford. This results in wide spread untapped potential, lack of innovation, choice bias and herd mentality. The behaviours that made us successful in the last 100 years are not those that will bring us forward and we need to work against our naturally disposition to only think in terms of our own lifetimes. , Paul discuss the challenges of being one of the first neurodiverse hires into a company, how we now need to think of ourselves and what we’ve learned in overcoming stigma and legacy working practices.

  • A Framework for understanding an organisations personality
  • The convergence of entrepreneurism and corporatism
  • Teal organisations and empowering generalism
  • Crossing the divide and staying same in the interim
  • The results you can expect
Paul Prior

Paul Prior, Head Of Digital,Three

Hello UXDX. And thank you for clicking on my video. I'm not going to lie to you. I've spent the last 20 minutes playing with the filters on Skype. I've had everything from more stashed to big ears to an avatar. And but I've managed to settle on just a normal view of poor you looking at me. So I like coffee in hand. And I figured with this one I literally just talk about this concept of undefended leadership which has probably been on my mind for about a decade and really is a concept to describe modern organizations visa vie where they've come from the past and anytime I speak to people about this phrase undefended leadership I typically find it's good to tell them a quick story about how it came about or how the realization came about and that you'll see where we go from there. So it was around the tail end of 2010. I think Andrea was in yet another boardroom and talking about yet another transformation program. We've all been there. And my mind was wandering between watching this little bird. I think it was a Robin that often is a Robin for some reason picking away at a leaf and a rosebush outside the window and trying to decide between a toasted cheese sandwich and salmon and brown bread for lunch. But I digress. Let's go back a couple of weeks first before this meeting. So about three weeks earlier in the program management office, this fantastic pm called Emer began her journey towards the 50-page slide deck that we're now looking at in front of us. And I'm not even going to start on the common trend of using Microsoft PowerPoint as a documentation device. Hopefully, we won't be using an enormous amount of it. And today. So after Amer spent about two weeks moving boxes around a page and trying to compress really complex language into the most succinct messages that you possibly could. It was last week that was really interesting. So starting Monday she began the journey of bringing each of the five board members including myself to Puck repeating the same narrative five times before the meeting itself. This is often described as no surprises or alignment. And it speaks Indicatively to a lack of transparency, trust, and vulnerability in the boardroom. Let's all be honest. So let's go back to the boardroom that was the emerging journey truest. Although those that know me would suggest I have the attention span of a three-year-old eating a chocolate bar while jumping on a trampoline. This is slightly different. I couldn't help but notice that the two most obvious questions were never coming up in the room. And actually, when I look back over my career to date they rarely do so first what was the return on investment in the last transformation program? And the second one is why are we doing another one? And don't tell me you haven't thought of it. And the truth is if anyone had asked they would have opened Pandora's box of political responses based on choice bias protection opposition faded show vulnerability or my personal favourite gas lighting. An example being I don't think that's appropriate at this time let's remain, positive love, that phrase. And all designed of course to project accountability outwards and stop the feeling of discomfort that comes from admitting any type of mistake. This is obviously an extreme position and sounds quite cynical. But think of it as observational and often completely unconscious to those involved. The boards are fantastic. And those individuals that were in it and are fundamental to the success of every organization being completely honest. But there's a whole industry that's built around keeping us this way in the boardroom. And the consulting industry is a perfect example of this. And I've come from it. So I have to admit that this is me as much as it is anyone else. So they hedge their bets and create long-term relationships with clients, basically selling them iterations of the same thing repeatedly knowing that they're going to encounter this kind of challenge as an organizational board. Let's not blame them. In fact, they're incredibly competent at putting forward solutions that create the momentum we're not forcing the issue. I think that's the best way to describe it. The people we need to blame are ourselves.
Human nature and our struggle with objectivity are antiquated views of organizational design and archaic approaches to leadership being perfectly honest. On the ladder pointers, this brilliant guy called Charles Spinoza who I had the pleasure to work with efficient consulting. And he identifies this concept of existentialism which is the point at which we all realize and I've been there and are not that the behaviours and skills that have made us successful in the past are not those that are going to create success in the future. And at this point, we really only have two choices to build the skills that are completely ignored. A lot of people choose the latter. And that is unfortunate in the context of organizational success. What I should say at this point is nothing about this is about being right or wrong. In fact, strictly speaking, There's no such thing as most things that we say as individuals being about right and wrong depending on the context that they're in. But let's talk about an organization for diminished and use that matter formerly known as Facebook formerly known as death Facebook is formerly known as facemasks mash only prints and Puff Daddy has had more iterations of its name in recent years but man has about 7070 titles sorry 7000 70000 employees. I imagine a lot less soon considering Zuckerberg just recently announced the first circuit's in their history. Anyway, off I went again for 70k. I think about 6k working hard and maybe some of you will be congratulated if you do that. Think about that for a second. Is there any other aspect of our lives where we were forced to spend 90000 hours Amish with 70000 individuals that we may not even want to hang out with in any other circumstance or bring into our friend group? Not only that, we're told to roll in the same direction and an incredibly complex set of directions that were forced to conform to take on those organizational values. Of course, we can choose organizations that are close to our values and also our performance and doing so as evaluated against common objectives. Like it's never possible to find common ground between 70000 individuals in the first place. Of course, I'm being deliberately incendiary here and it's a very extreme position. Bush, let's get a bit bored for a second and look back at the start of modern organizations because it's a good place to start. So, Ford is an organization that we're all familiar with. Many of us have studied it in our MBA programs, etc. It was established in 1905 I think and besides Henry Ford's disappointing support of Nazi Germany at the time it was heralded as one of the most innovative organizations in terms of organization design Taylorism came from Russia and Lean Six Sigma and all these cool terms that I've made a lot of money off. And before we go further we need to understand the world of the 20th century. So it was a period of real progressive reform, particularly in the United States. It's actually with Woodrow Wilson's appointment as president you may remember him from The Simpsons episode where Bart used his name to write love letters to Aetna. That's my personal favourite memory. But this time resulted in more regulation particularly the Administrative Procedure Act or APA. In 1917 Great Britain France and the United States challenged domineering Germany and Austria Hungary which at the time was a precursor to strong economic growth incomes began to improve along with living conditions and working conditions in factories automobile manufacturers started to explode as America fell in over the car got still the case I think on that side advantage. So the 1930s were optimized by this silent generation a really determined and resilient workforce with a strong work ethic the majority of the world the workforce involves some form of manual or industrial labour self-sacrifice and the centre of the workforce mentality I'm not sure that stops right up to it certainly my parent's generation and most notable there was a level of financial precedence. So we have these two worlds colliding: the optimistic and the conservative.
And are we still awake? Great, does this sound like the word of the day? No. And so why do we design ourselves on organizations around a theory from the 1930s? Wouldn't that explain the friction in combining a workflow or soon recent generations I've lived in a world where titles are not synonymous with tenure where we have the likes to call us and the rotor is ruining highly regulated massively successful organizations a turkey and where we are finally grown to freedom to be ourselves with a structure that presumes the behaviours of the past will predict the success of the future? Now I'm not quite finished channelling Tom Cruise. You can't handle the truth monologue from a few Gods man. And let's work through to spit together and bring it back to what it means in the context of your job and experience design. So I think I could share a little cool whiteboard here in like Tada look at that. I was going to use Figma jam but they didn't pay me enough. So I'm going to use the whiteboard instead. Okay so let's talk about that friction that I spoke about in terms of organization. So let's take a balance and forgive me with my drawing and build here. Oh, that's the straightest one I've done yet. I'm quite proud of that one. And where the steel equilibrium is in the centre. Luckily we're all used to that type of view. And there's an extreme right and extreme left. Now if you were to describe the common behaviours of Nick stream right of most corporate regulated organizations what would you say? So you'd probably say conservative risk-averse. My spelling in college is definitely not spelled right. What else would you say Oh subordinated son subordinated and highly hierarchical? Let's stop there, we can come back to it. Now if we look at the strong left which is a lot of new generations coming into the marketplace risk-taking direct vote and how to speak action orientated. This is a hilarious series. Listen to me play this. I don't know what's going on there. action orientated. Flat. I think that's probably fair to say. And we'll talk a bit about that in a second in terms of teal teal teal organizations with a massive amount of resilience. I'd probably say there's resilience on both sides. Different types of resilience and a level of entrepreneurial Oh here the entrepreneur is very close enough. So right fascinating and entrepreneurial and thinking. Now, what would you say about the fire right behind the back of the far left I would suggest staying to see them at times reckless. Aggressive and the reason that they probably see them as for two G's and aggressive three is great. Aggressive and the reason for Dash is usually you'll find the left not just direct but also assertive. Sort of definitely not right. But anyway they're also quite purpose-driven. Anyway, I digress. So the right mic looks at the left as reckless and aggressive and the left might look at the right as dinosaurs. Dinosaurs are close enough and lacking innovation. Okay, nothing wrong with either side of this. In fact, I'd argue the right-hand side is more important for the sustainment to profitability in any organization whereas the left-hand side is more rote and growth orientated. However, it is worth exploring a little bit more about what you think this symbol might be. Let me see. Okay, so miles Legacy corporate organizations pretty much lean toward the right. So you might have risk and compliance along here. And long-term workers here you'll have the heritage. I'm going to get back to why I'm calling them the heritage all around here. And then you'll typically have some kind of breakaways individuals who are trying to move towards equilibrium. And I should say to start the perfect for any organization I'm not sure if anyone's achieved it is obviously to have an even review of resourcing around here. Now in the last five years, most of these organizations have realized that their growth is saturating the marketplace; they've been incredibly successful to date and are now looking to hire new types of individuals into the organization. That's why we're seeing the woke movement neurodiversity has spoken about a lot more within organizations but the first couple of hires are very far removed from the heritage. So for example if you were to first hire in an organization that's like that you're probably going to be right on the extreme here. And then what happens is some people follow and some people move up to that. And then you might have a couple of stragglers that are across each.
Now when you're talking about the haired man type mentality which is all this grouping on the right-hand side you can think of them like sheep right? So when one particular sheep has a particular opinion about something that's different they self-validate. So they look at the other sheep in the group and say well that sheep aren't moving like that or that sheep aren't thinking like that. So I must be correct because I'm thinking like the other sheep while the people on the left-hand side here are predisposed to think outside of that herd or outside of the norms. So what typically happens there is Knock cases. If you look at this like a tug-of-war scenario the amount of force that this side of an organization needs to exert to move the head even 1% is a lot less than the Herot hostage exerts for the person on the left to move 1%. And that's what creates this friction between the organization it's incredibly rare to find those first five hires on the left that have the resilience and perseverance to keep talking on that rope until the organization starts to come starts to comb with us and probably the best thing we could do as leaders when we do this is to realize that they need a support structure around them to do that and also give them the space and to introduce some of these new behaviours. And within it I often see individuals on the left deemed you know lacking in emotional intelligence when in fact they're already reading the room but they're just making a different choice. And equally, these individuals are looking at the right-hand side and do not necessarily always understand the importance of the heritage in the context of the overall organization. So the simple takeaway from this is I don't even put this in the right place oh I can make that great that the perfect equilibrium point is to have most of your staffing in around and the centre of it and having some kind of aligned respect across both sides while the organization is coming into equilibrium. So this is something I was taught very early in my career before joining organizations and exercises to understand where your place might be. So now that we've done that let me see if I can share this. That work. Great. I think that worked. So that's all fascinating. So we've had a quick story about organization and Everly's evolution or to the current times a realization that a lot of organization structures haven't changed all that time. And the realization that we're currently at this friction point between innovative thinkers and profit centres to be very honest within organizations and how do you create a balance around both of them. So to understand that a bit further let's talk a bit about teal organizations and what that actually means. Okay, so here we go. If these moves forget you saw that because we're going to come back to that now straight after this. So I can't remember the guy who wrote the book around this and I'll find a way to get it here or reach out to me. And if you're wondering and want to learn more about these organizations over time depending on their composition in the domain that they currently lie in have different characteristics that are associated with us. And once we understand this we can actually identify the brands with these characteristics really really quickly. Personally, I don't necessarily agree with so many terms in this but let's walk through it. So you have your red organizations and incredibly emotive colour almost like most of us. The story that I told you at the start used to be commonly associated with large corporations. I don't know if that's true anymore. Because like the big alphabets and the Googles and the Facebook's these words are really innovative companies stripe being another one. But under large corporations, I often hear regulated entities when they look at my background talk about, you know, you've worked with a lot of start-ups, they don't realize that actually most of these companies in the Fortune 5010 are twice the size and I could probably bite him about six times over. So I think sometimes the judgments that we make towards organizations can be equally as prevalent in the context of this conversation.
But definitely, public universities and the military are very red. And usually, they're looking to innovate right? So we spoke about that in the diagram that you would have seen previously and just five different colours. But let's just keep to the tree. So the third one or the second one is the likes of Ben and Jerry's which is all around delighting customers. delighting customers is a really interesting term I think we talked about when customers moments of truth delighting customers in the context of experience design when a lot of our products that we have are quite commoditized so I can't remember the last time I jumped up and down on my chair I buying a pair of underpants for example. So I don't really want to be delighted when I'm Penny shopping for those types of things. But having a nice frictionless experience is good. Ben and Jerry luckily for most tastes quite good. So maybe we do get delighted through that. But there is one organization to talk a lot about shared values: engagement and stakeholder balance culture over strategy and impairment. Now what I would say is the red and the Greens have become very much blended in today's organizational system but it's the top ones that are really interesting. And Patagonia is obviously competing as many of you are hearing in the news at the moment. So it's perfect timing for me to talk about that. And this is really About flat multidisciplinary teams that are empowered to make decisions for themselves. So distributed descending decision-making and much higher purpose in the context of what they're doing. And certainly, the generations that we're now hiring into trees purpose is one of the largest considerations for them to come to us as an antifragile organization. So assertive people tell the truth and people are very comfortable with feedback. You know they're not afraid to have the challenging conversations that need to need to be hard to move towards success and wholeness across the organization self-management and an evolutionary purpose which is and I often talk with members of my team around what do you want to be written on your gravestone the day you die? And how are you? How do you ensure that these 90 Tails and errors such as spending in work align as much to date as possible? I mean typically hit about 60 to 70% of our time when we're actually working on something that's fantastic and that we're excited about. And then the other portion of the time it's something that we have to do as part of our jobs but are not necessarily excited about. So these teal organizations are really generally gent are really aligned to the new generational tasks of having purpose-driven organizations and the way they work. And the way you hire is you know the previous concept of a UX designer was somebody who only concentrated on the visual elements for example of an e-commerce website I don't even hear from my own team now but wait there and my role overlaps with lots of older people in the teams. And that's a really nice thing for me to hear. Because it means then that they have a vision for moving towards this tail organizational structure as well while UXDX now has become synonymous with so many order skills you know KPI frameworks financial management and management accounting understanding how much it's going to cost to make that change versus the benefits of the business understanding customer journey mapping understanding Omni channel approaches and understanding at the best theories in terms of design and interaction design. And What's always interesting. And I suppose the reason that I'm talking about a subject that typically could be seen as digressing from the concept of the UXDX conferences. There's nothing that is currently known in the world around UXDX design that isn't already written down or that you can't meet someone and speak to them about. So how do you differentiate yourself in the future? You need to have multi-dimensional thinking around us. And a lot of that comes from the culture that you create and how you empower people to have those conversations on people becoming a lot more self-actualized.
Like really understanding what it is they want and the person they want to be. And having they're having the commitment to be that person in the context of an environment that hasn't always been supportive. But they're definitely getting more supportive towards achieving that. And then the resilience to do that at times where you know there's a great phrase by one of the famous I think was Kobe Bryant who said just before I do a slam dunk I get lots of views. And it's a beautiful metaphor for somebody who has really good self-actualization being comforted by the discomfort of knowing that not everyone's going to want you to actualize yourself. So that moves us on to the next thing which is many of us talk about value propositions in the context of the organizations we work for. Certainly, when I see seed pitches or series A pitches that's one of the first things you see is our value proposition. It's always customer-facing. And it's never about the individuals within the organization. So I would implore you to pull together your value proposition in the context of what you want to achieve as an individual because that helps you make really good choices in the context of the organizations that you work for but also what your brand proposition is in the context of the UX and DX work that you actually do. So does it really do a simple, complex way of doing this? I'm not going to lie at all about doing it the complex way. But I didn't feel I had the patience to try and explain it all in the timeframe that was available and I might have lost you all through it. So let's keep it simple right? So the way to write it down is I help your most promising prospect that needs help with the pressing concern you address. And I don't think I need to explain where you have these brackets you're meant to fill them in and I'll show you mine in a second the context of work so you can get an example of what it looks like succeed by providing material improvement you will deliver on like the alternative solution and describe the reason why you is a better choice than someone else. So this company piece is probably less prevalent in the context of your own personal value proposition as demonstrated by what behaviours do you put in place that will deliver on your Promise. So I was really excited to do this. And I literally did it while I was playing with the filters in Skype before coming on and speaking to you all. And this is what mine came out as maybe it'll come out differently if I try it again tomorrow. But I would like to feel I help people that are constrained by inertia. So you know, not really sure what to do next, maybe hitting existentialism in the context of Charles Spinoza's success by provoking their minds. And provoking is an incredibly important tool that's at your disposal. There was a fantastic phrase and I can't remember who I should be attributing to that says we're all in therapy because those that won't go to therapy. And it's very very true. Typically you find the people that are most adjacent to the feedback that you provide are the people that need it the most. And just while I'm on feedback a really interesting way to think about it is when someone's giving you feedback they're making an investment in yourself. And I think when you change your mindset towards that you're much more open to what the feedback might be and also the feedback that you're giving. So provocation is an incredibly important tool to create space in someone's mind to allow the inception of a new possibility. Yes, it might piss them off. Yes, it might make them feel uncomfortable. So there is a repair that you need to put in place after the conversation. But I've yet to see where a provocation with the right intention doesn't create a new possibility for that person and therefore a new possibility for everyone. So it's only like the traditional approach dictated by social constructs such as our convoluted understanding of emotional intelligence as keeping your mouth shut. And don't say something that might hurt someone else in the room. I don't think anyone unless you're Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy comes into a room with the intention of hurting someone else it's usually a by-product. And so it's either a by-product of the words that you chose and absolutely have to put your hands up in that case or it's a by-product of the fact that maybe you've just touched upon something dosh is very close to the truth and the context of that person. I would hope that this is demonstrated by an ability to create a significant step change performance improvement within the organizations that I work with and also empower organizations and individuals to succeed and exceed their goals.
So I'm very much interested in the advice that I got which was I asked the CEO a one-time how'd you become a CEO and they said I gave 110%. And at first, the 110% doesn't exist. So let's say 100%. The truth of the matter is even when we're thinking we're giving 100% we're probably giving 100% in the context of the hours that were given to the task that we're doing we're not necessarily applying 100% of thinking towards that task and 100% of dedication and to do so. So if I can help someone including myself move one or 2% beyond what they thought was possible then it will not just work for them on what they can achieve as a UXDX capability but also helps me in the context of dosh. So hopefully that was sharing it while sharing great. So let me bring all this back together. So at the start, we spoke about the evolution of organizations and the fact that a lot of organizations are on the cusp of change but haven't changed since the Ford factory. And the second piece I briefly introduced a model that allows you to understand the friction of the organization between these new people you're bringing in and that are innovative thinkers the existing heritage within the organization and why they may be giving certain feedback to each other which is really around a misunderstanding the intention below beneath and also having respect for each side. And then we spoke about different types of organizations, in particular, whether organizations may be an answer to this problem. And then finally your value proposition as a DX and UX designer suppose what's interesting to you is I didn't mention I'm talking about design skills in the context of my value proposition maybe it would make sense for you to do doc but in the context of what I want to achieve as an individual it wasn't as pertinent. So just say finally right? And every time I speak there's at least one of what I call a John in the room. Now I know lots of lovely John. So don't get too carried away with the fact that I've used that name which is if you kind of scan across the room and most speakers do because they're trying to get feedback as to do you have a room that's pretty much split into two types of people people who are indifferent to what you're saying and they're probably on their phone or half asleep or at the conference because they're trying to get a day off work. And people are really excited and attentive to what you're saying. And then there's a group typically in the middle of people that spend most of their time tossing and throwing their eyes so that to happen. And particularly if you're taking a position that is converse or quite direct in the context of the positions you typically see in a presentation as style. For me, it's really important that you take a position. Unlike I said it doesn't matter whether it's right or wrong but we as leaders are equally as responsible for teaching people how to think as we are what to think. And actually what to think is a lot less important than how to think. So hopefully today has given you some empathy in terms of how you're going to think and going forward. And please do reach out to me if you have any questions or concerns or if you want to explore these types of topics and topics further thank you for your time. I know it can be sometimes difficult to look at these things over a laptop or over a form and I really hope that you're enjoying the UXDX conference. Thanks, everyone, and take care of yourself.