Leadership lessons from Gary Gower – a wire fox terrier

Gary

I was worried about money, the huge responsibility of keeping something alive and having to change my lifestyle – no more last-minute trips or evenings out on a whim. Close friends and family gave me an ultimatum ‘set yourself a deadline and either get a dog or stop talking about it’ Fair enough if I was bored it’s no surprise that everyone was too.

I remember having a dog as a child; a black Labrador called Barnaby (I was proud to have named him after my favourite TV programme Barnaby the Bear). I remember him being a best friend (especially in my early teenage years). Barnaby knew all my angst and he was an excellent listener, never judged, completely trustworthy and was just ‘there’. I felt safe when Barnaby was around. I remember long walks, day trips to the beach, how he forgave me for painting his nails, how he’d know when you were sad and lick your hands (or feet) and he was a lovely, well-behaved gentle soul.

I wanted a dog to hang out with, to go for long walks with, to give me a distraction from work. When you work for yourself and love what you do it’s very easy to work all the time and I was falling into that trap.

When I told people I was thinking about getting a dog they’d say ‘you’ll have to walk him every day’.  No problem. Walking is how I get my thoughts together, plan my day and keep my sanity in check. I felt like I was the only person walking around Alexandra Palace every day without a dog.

Introducing Gary

To be honest I wasn’t quite prepared when Gary arrived aged 12 weeks in March 2018. The first thing he did was a poo under the kitchen table. I was only a puppy myself when Barnaby came to live in my house so I missed the hours of standing in the garden in the rain toilet training, non-stop play, leg humping and the chewed shoes, books and laptop cables.

Gary is a wire fox terrier. He is now one year old. Here he is.

Gary the dog
Gary the wire fox terrier

The fox terrier breed is known for being curious (when Gary arrives anywhere new he needs to check everything, and when he goes somewhere he’s been before he needs to check everything is still in the same place). They are independent – all the other puppies stuck close to their owners in puppy training class, if I’d let Gary off the lead he’s have headed out to explore for himself on his own terms. They are also stubborn, if they decide something, it’s a cunning game and a battle of wills to get them to come around to your way of thinking.

Let’s face it, If I was a dog, I’d likely be a Wire Fox Terrier.

I’ve never apologised so much or felt like such a giant failure as when I’ve been training Gary. He’s taught me a lot about dogs and inadvertently has made me think more about human behaviour and how to get the best from people. This is what Gary’s taught me;

Patience and perseverance – people don’t necessarily understand what you want first time. It’s not because they’re being obstructive.  Is up to you to try different tactics and to keep going until they understand.

Reward good behaviour – if someone does a good job tell them. Make it abundantly clear that they nailed it so they are more likely to do it again.

Tone of voice and body language is more important than words. Professor Albert Mehrabian‘s research cited that 7% of communication is in the words that are spoken, 38% in the way that the words are said and 55% of communication is in facial expression. If I get the tone of my voice and my facial expression right, the words are less important. If Gary’s running off and I call him and I sound and look cross he’s not likely to come back in a hurry. If I call him like he’s missing out of the best party of the decade if he doesn’t do a U-turn, I have more success.

Forward plan and avoid bad situations – it’s possible to minimise bad outcomes, for example, I’ve learned that if there’s a children’s party in the park with lots of small people waving chicken twizzlers that we go a different route and avoid the likely chaos of Gary being an unwanted guest. Can you simply avoid some of your potentially bad situations?  

Other people’s treats are nicer than your own – Gary wants something because someone else has it. My human example of this is when you are employed to do a job, you present your expertise/business case to the board.  They are not sure. You call in the consultants to do the same presentation. The board agree and are delighted. If you get the result you want it doesn’t matter how you get there. (even though it’s annoying)

See the situation from someone else’s perspective – no one sees the world in the same way that you do – and even if they do how will you ever know? Not to get all philosophical here, but you have your own unique lens on the world, never assume that anyone else sees a situation in the same way that you do. Gary sees me running about trying to put him on his lead as enormous fun. I see it as massively annoying, embarrassing and inconvenient.

Keep it simple – humans are excellent at over-complicating things. When things are getting too complicated and I’m trying to make it simple I ask myself ‘What would Gary think?’ It might not get the right answer, usually it’s  ‘if its fun do it, if it’s not don’t’ but it helps put my mind in a different train of thought.

Ask for help – if you ask for help people are generally kind and will offer it. You don’t have to take all the advice, but listen, and make the best decision for you in your unique situation with your unique perspective.

Dogs bark at things they don’t understand – and so do humans. It can be easy to become anxious or defensive when we don’t understand. If you don’t understand be brave enough to ask for clarity.

There is no one right answer – you just have to take the information you’ve got and do what you think, do the best you can, learn and keep going.

And if that wasn’t enough Gary makes me laugh every single day, sometimes joyous laughter and sometimes in frustration, but thanks to Gary I’ve made some new friends, walk my daily 10,000 steps, switch off from work more often and have a different perspective on many situations.  And something surprising happens every day.

You can check out Gary for yourself on Instagram – he’s Garygowerwft

Why this octogenarian is engaged

1942 photo of Genevieve (age 7) leading "Molly", the pony with two evacuees on her

At a Lucidity Network meeting, a member asked me directly why I am still so energetically engaged at age 83. I did give some reasons, but recognised that the answers are complex and that other people are surprised or puzzled at the level of my engagement. I decided that for my own and others’ sakes I should reflect on my motivators.

In Japan, in the 1970’s, I realised that I should record my personal observations about health and other experiences and that could be valuable to other people in the future. My accumulative and updating journal ‘Resources: sources and resources for occupational health’ in the 1980’s was indeed a practical attempt to make my professional observations available widely.

When I was elected as a councillor, in the London Borough of Hounslow, I decided that rather than health and education “which I know about”, I would do planning. Open House London offered excellent training as did TfL (Transport for London). Their training and ‘councillor‘ status gave me the confidence to contribute in other professional groups where I was often the only ‘political elected’ person or representative of local government.

Resulting from my research for Resources and beyond, I have followed threads on health, environment, third sector (for example NCVO), and others. I have done biblical translations and Bible-related content, and created a dictionary, that is to be available as open source, and is suitable for teachers and students of English as a second or additional language. I’ve followed KTN and Innovate UK from the early days. Since becoming a councillor, I have also engaged with local government and national government information sources.

After a long period of illness, pneumonia and sequelae in 2009-10 I started to engage or re-engage within something like a five-mile radius. I had moved to Hillingdon after selling my maisonette on the day that I had been elected as a councillor in Hounslow, so had not built strong local roots. The social worker at the hospital suggested that I join the U3A, an Age UK social group and activities at the local Leisure centre. I did those things.

To facilitate my rehabilitation, my church leader wanted me to re-order the church library and voluntarily work in the office each week, which I did. Supervision, feedback and related engagement were invisible. When the church’s new office and community room were being refurbished last year – that stopped. In spite of enquiries, the library is still in boxes, and there has been no discussion about possible resumption.

After being with the Age UK social group for over a year I moved to being a volunteer in an ‘Aging well’ group where I was able to express my creativity. I joined the U3A Science, Geology and Digital photography groups but gradually discontinued after about three years. Physical distance and the exclusive social climate discouraged me. After about three years I gradually desisted from both in favour of walking, especially in a short-lived walking group, that went outside my normal range.

As I regained confidence I cruised, to enjoy a Christian history theme, around the British Isles and eighteen months later cruised, with the same captain, to biblical sites in the Mediterranean. Both cruises were very personally affirming with great personal engagement.

I did attend some professional meetings, as earlier, and have continued that engagement that is growing again now. I started to attend some London Borough of Hillingdon meetings. However, still being a newcomer to the borough made engagement difficult.

I hosted a highly qualified nurse from Papua New Guinea for the six-month duration of her one day a week course in tropical medicine. We exchanged experiences and knowledge. We walked miles together and she was amazed as my ‘dead’ vine and other trees gradually displayed their full glory in the especially long spring. I saw our beautiful natural environment through new eyes.

While attending an older people’s consultation group at the Civic Centre I signed up to BORG (Brunel Older People’s Reference Group). That engagement has been very personally rewarding. BORG invited us to an event to discuss a research project (and they fed us). A few weeks later we get a letter describing the research project and participant requirements. If eligible, we were encouraged to sign up. When the study was finished we got an invitation to the report day. Several universities or other groups may get involved (and they feed us!). As the most proactive BORG member, I now attend lots of other events at the University and am gradually being rewarded by growing engagement and recognition.

I participated in a Brunel research study on loneliness in the elderly. I noted that digital photography was increasing the quality, intensity and interest of my observations, especially of the natural and built environment. That allowed engagement with the environment but not proper engagement with people, which was becoming more difficult.

I lost my closest female friend, my adopted brother’s wife, in 2009, and after five or so years in various care homes, my older sister and my former room-mate, in early 2018. So, the people who really knew me have gone.

When the Age UK ‘Aging well’ group closed I moved to a group of mainly Punjabi speaking women. where I join in the exercises, move lots of chairs, and usually play Rummikub ‘open handed’ with one to three group members.

There are sometimes two or more weeks in the summer and at Christmas when engagement stops. Yes, one does get invited out on Christmas Day. I usually carve the turkeys at St John’s, West Ealing for the ‘soup kitchen’ Christmas dinner but then go to a home for the rest of the day. I also call available people together for a muddy walk between Christmas and the New year, ploughman’s lunch and board games afterwards.

At some point, I realised that when I went to a meeting ‘in town’ (London), I built in exercise including cardio exercise by walking up the escalators and stairs. I also realised that organisers were glad to welcome and engage with attendees. Also, that at London meetings one often met with and could engage with leaders, especially, the professors at the BCS Women and related meetings. I use my Freedom pass and started to look for more frequent events ‘in town’.

Knowing that one will have one or more meaningful engagement in which one can offer some useful contribution brings me deep pleasure.

Thank you, Lucy and Lucidity Network, for enabling such purposeful engagement even between the physical meetings!

Genevieve is the oldest (and one of the most engaged!) members of Lucidity Network, if you need a hand reawakening your mojo come join our free Facebook community dedicated to clearer thinking for better results. You’ll also be privy to upcoming events and find out when the network is open to new members.

Genevieve M Hibbs former: nurse (general and occupational health), midwife, Christian missionary, lecturer, elected councillor, mayor and a member of the Lucidity Network.

Top tips to innovate with confidence

Innovation - the anxiety gap

I first met Roland when I was participating in a workshop that he was running in the early days of 100%Open. Then I was a client when they helped the NSPCC (where I worked) with some new thinking and later I went on to work as a freelance associate for 100%Open.

This is how stuff happens. Work gets done when you know people, understand what they do and trust them. Relationships can shift and change over time, but I’ve found that when you want something done you start with going to your trusted network and if you don’t know how to do something you go to your trusted network and find a person that can. So it’s important to build your networks before you need them.

I wanted to share my top take-outs about innovating with confidence from the webinar with Roland.

Not everyone is an extrovert

Innovation workshops where the most extroverted person gets the most air space and the workshop goes in the direction of their ideas aren’t great. That’s why having a good facilitator is important, to ensure that everyone gets to contribute. Roland introduced us to ‘brain writing’ where people write down their ideas to solve a problem on their own first. Then the ideas are shared and discussed. Often there are similar ideas which indicates a shared direction and it means that everyone gets to input from the start.

The 2 pizza rule

Jeff Bezos is accredited with this simple rule to keep groups working on new ideas and projects small. If your group of innovators can eat more than 2 pizzas (assuming that you are dealing with average appetites) then it’s too big!

Innovation is a ‘U shaped’ process

At the start of an innovation process, everyone is enthusiastic and excited. The same happens at the end of the process where a product gets to market. In the middle it can be a whole different story, organisational treacle and antibodies get in the way and we can run out of momentum, budget and energy. (I sometimes refer to this as the curve of doom). The point is, if you know this when you embark on an innovation project it’s helpful, as when you are at the bottom of the U shaped curve you know that there is hope! And that if you persevere that you will come out the other side.

The anxiety gap

This is when expectations don’t match delivery. Usually, in an innovation project the flurry of tangible activity happens near to the delivery date, so reporting on progress can feel slow until the launch. It’s the same feeling as cramming for an exam at the last minute, or pulling an all-nighter to meet a deadline. You deliver but it’s not until the end that delivery can match expectations.

Get people to vote with their feet

In a workshop people are often asked to vote on their favourite idea. Sense check this by asking people what idea they would like to spend time in the workshop developing. If no one wants to work on it there is a disconnect. The idea will struggle to get off the ground if there is no enthusiasm to develop it at the start.
Go as fast as you can. It’s better to get something into the market and test it quickly than keep tinkering around until something is perfect. The best way to make improvements is to get real feedback from real customers.

The ‘How to innovate with confidence webinar with Roland Harwood is part of the exclusive content available to Lucidity Network members.

The Lucidity Network is designed to help you build your networks before you need them and take the lead in getting the results you want. It’s a pick and mix of online and offline practical tools and advice as well as access to a dynamic network of expertise.We’re open for new members a few times a year. Sign up to the waiting list to be the first to know when the Network is open for new members. In the meantime you can join the Lucidity Community free Facebook group  for clearer thinking and better results.  

 

Do you know what your old classmates are up to?

School classroom, apple resting on top of some books

Think back to when you were at school. What do you remember? The smell of the school hall (kind of musty gym kits and disinfectant) cross country in the freezing rain or drinking warm milk out of a glass bottle with a straw?

What about the people? Did you have a favourite teacher? We all loved Mr Sykes (I wrote about him before) none of us did very well at French with Ms Schmidt and we were all a bit scared of Mr Callard.

What about your classmates? That time when Daniel Savage shaved half his eyebrow off in geography class, when Stephen Perkins did a loud fart in a maths exam or when Sharon Taylor got caught smoking behind the bike sheds?

Are you still in touch with any of them?

Who you know matters

I’m still in touch with some classmates from school. Some I still see regularly, others I’ve not seen for years but we know what each other are up to because of the wonder of Facebook.

There is a saying that ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’. I do think you need to know some stuff, and I do agree that who you know is more valuable.

Research into human networks show that large and diverse networks can bring benefits to both your professional and private life. However, it’s not necessarily in your immediate network that the magic lies. It’s in the weak ties. It’s the people that you know less well, that are outside of your immediate circle that are more likely to facilitate your next promotion, your new job or even your next relationship.

And your weak ties include those classmates from school – those people that at one point in your life you had much in common and spent a great deal of time with. What are they up to now?

Often I’ll ask Facebook for help and advice, for example recommendations for places to visit or expertise on a topic (you may have even helped with jogging memories from school in this blog). I’ve asked my friends to buy my book (thank you) and back a crowdfund (thank you again) and whilst I’ve not done a detailed analysis of which friends help out, it does feel that there is a disproportionately high number of classmates that have helped (thank you). For example:

When I was writing the Innovation Leadership Report I was looking for innovators; those doing something new and I remembered my old school friend Neil Cloughley was working on a hybrid aircraft. I asked if I could interview him. No problem. We did talk about guinea pigs for a bit because that is the main thing he remembered about me, but once we’d discussed Biggles and Fergie I got to learn about his vision for his aviation company. You can check out the original article here.

When I launched my book to get my Amazon ranking up which (sadly) is important I promoted it everywhere. If you are my friend on Facebook you’ll already know this. One friend from school said, ‘I’ve not seen you in 25 years, I only know you through Facebook and you want me to buy your book?’

‘Of course I will!’

One classmate worked at a marketing agency that the organisation I was working with had been trying to get an introduction to for a long time. When I asked it was no problem to introduce me to the right senior executive and arrange a meeting that I’d never have got without a personal contact.

And when people help you out – you step forward to do the same back when asked. And that’s how networks and weak ties work.

I’ve talked about school, but you’ll have weak ties from many different parts of your life, for example college, university or a Saturday job. Who are those friends who you’ve lost touch with and what are they up to now? I encourage you to get in touch and find out. You just might be able to help them too.

Who you know is so much more important than what you know, yet many people don’t nurture their networks. So I’ve created a ready made Network for you. Its called the Lucidity Network and its a pick and mix of real life connections, online resources and inspiration to help you get better results.

We’re open for new members a few times a year. Sign up to the waiting list to be the first to know when the Network is open for new members. In the meantime you can join the Lucidity Community free Facebook group  for clearer thinking and better results.  

Who you know is how you get stuff done

Business people connecting puzzle pieces - who you know is how you get stuff done

Think about how you usually get stuff done. I mean the important stuff, how you will get your next job, find your next exciting holiday destination or make your ideas happen?

I believe that important stuff gets done because of the people you know as well as the people who know the people you know. It’s all about networks.

Consider this. Someone asks you for a favour. How do you decide whether you do it? From my experience there are three key factors;

  • What’s in it for you? – for example, will you enjoy it, will it be a good experience, will you learn something new, will it raise your profile, fill empty time, make you feel good?
  • How they ask – have they thought about what’s in it for you, have they asked you, well ‘nicely’, have they overcome and obstacles that might prevent you from doing the favour?
  • Do you know, like them and trust them? – how well do you know them, are they credible, do you like them, would you feel good to help them out?

When these three factors are in all place stuff gets done. If one or more factor isn’t quite right stuff stalls.

Think about it, someone you know like and trust asks if you would meet a colleague to give them some advice. They know your time is limited so they offer that the meeting is near your office at a time that suits you. They know you like coffee in the morning, so they suggest your favourite local coffee shop for breakfast as the meeting place. They are appreciative that you would consider helping them out. They also suggest that the colleague might have skills and experience that could help you with a project you are working on.

You are busy.  You are more likely to do the favour because you know, like and trust the person, they asked you well and they spelled out what could be in it for you.

All the factors compound, if someone you didn’t know or like, or didn’t ask well or didn’t make it clear what was in it for you you’d be much less inclined to say yes.

So, it makes good business sense to get to know your colleagues, because more stuff will get done.

And when it comes to innovation having a diverse network is important. Research shows that humans tend to gravitate to other people like them, people from similar backgrounds, with similar viewpoints. When we all have a similar experience, we start to think the same. We start to operate in an echo chamber of our own similar ideas. If innovation is about thinking differently and developing new ideas then we need people in our network that are different from us, that will challenge and build on our ideas. And because we naturally gravitate to people like us we need to be deliberate about seeking out a diverse network made up of different experiences, perspectives and thinking. That’s where, I believe, successful innovation lies.

One of the reasons I’ve set up the Lucidity Network – a pick and mix of online and offline practical tools and advice as well as access to a dynamic network of expertise. Already we have members from a mix of sectors from around the world. We’re open for new members a few times a year. Sign up to the waiting list to be the first to know when the Network is open for new members. In the meantime you can join the Lucidity Community free Facebook group  for clearer thinking and better results.