The Wisdom of Pooh (or, Seth Godin is OFF my Christmas list!)

24 01 2009

Finding myself turning into a Seth Godin fanboy I have had two recent disappointments. Firstly, the man himself is coming to London to give a seminar. That’s not the disappointment. The disappointment is the price of £115! Heck I’m going to see Bob Dylan (major hero of mine)  and the tickets are half the price. I have a spare one so if you’re interested, drop me a line!

The second disappointment is that Seth dissed Winnie the Pooh! (another hero of mine) and I thought it was time that the Bear of Little Brain got a bit of decent pr on a leadership blog.

In “The House at Pooh Corner,” there is a chapter “In Which Tigger Is Unbounced“. I won’t spoil the story for you but essentially Pooh, Piglet and Rabbit are lost in the mist in the middle of the Forest. Rabbit leads the way, as he does, but despite walking a long way the friends remain resolutely lost.

They were having a rest in a small sand-pit on the top of the Forest. Pooh was getting rather tired of that sand-pit, and suspected it of following them about, because whichever direction they started in, they always ended up at it, and each time, as it came through the mist at them, Rabbit said triumphantly, “Now I know where we are !” and Pooh said sadly, “So do I,” and Piglet said nothing.

Pooh then makes the radical suggestion that if they were to head off and try, once again, to find this same sand-pit, then surely they wouldn’t find it, instead they would find something better “and that would be a Good Thing.”

Predictably, Rabbit scorns the idea and heads off to prove its error. Pooh and Piglet instead accepting that they don’t quite know where they are going but listening for the twelve pots of honey calling out to Pooh from home, set off and are soon having tea with Christopher Robin. Needless to say Rabbit remains resolutely lost until Tigger finds him.

My work situation hasn’t been the best for quite a while now and as a group we have been going round and round in circles still finding the same sand-pit. Eventually, I decided that things were going to be different. I don’t know the right answer or the right direction but I did decided to take the initiative and do things differently.

A lot of people recognise that their course appears more circuitous than direct. Leadership is not necessarily about knowing the end destination and plotting a detailed and true course but simply deciding to take the initiative and do things differently. After all, whether the rewards are honey pots or something of lesser value, they are probably more rewarding than that sand-pit.


17 01 2009

Sheep aren’t particularly clever animals. They gain safety in their herd as they have no means of self protection and spend most of their day ambling from one bit of grass to another.

Seth Godin coined the phrase sheepwalking to describe this sort of behaviour in our work places. A placid acceptance of the way things are, recognising that stepping out of the herd is both dangerous and unlikely to be successful such that following each other around, almost aimlessly, will get the job done to a moderate degree of satisfaction all round.

Shepherds (and managers) like this sort of behaviour as they know that if they leave the sheep out on the moors one day and comes back the next, the sheep won’t have gone far but will have achieved what they needed to have done. If a sheep wanders out of the herd either the herd bring it back in or the shepherd and a bit of implied threat from a sheepdog restore normality. Occasionally the sheep are rounded up and directed on to a new task or better pastures. When the weather is particularly bad the shepherd brings the sheep in and make sure his flock are protected.

It’s not compulsory you know?

Tribes – we need YOU to lead us.

12 01 2009

I’m currently reading the book, “Tribes” by Seth Godin a prolific writer, blogger and free thinking type. He has a refreshing style and importantly a challenging approach to ideas of leadership and management and how the two are intrinsically different.

Management he says, is about manipulating resources to get a job done.

Leadership is about creating change that you believe in.

Unfortunately I think that we have been misled and in some cases forced into believing, particularly in the Health Service, that the only ones who can make changes are Managers and without their support or authority nothing can be done.

Well now it’s time to be heretical, to be revolutionary and radical, to get things done our way because, we know it’s better that way. We have the ideas, we have the commitment and we are waiting to make the difference. We are a tribe. And everywhere we work there are tribes waiting to make the difference but waiting because they need leaders.

So where do these leaders come from? Should we look to our established hierarchies to provide them or elsewhere?  Seth makes the point that  such radical leadership, almost by definition begins outwith officially allocated roles of power and authority. Ultimately, what we as “tribes” are looking for are leaders from the tribe who will then move into roles of “management” and rather than just getting the job done, make it something that the “tribe” believe in.

I think there is a lot more to explore in terms of what the leader provides but initially it must be the starting of the idea, the gathering of like minds and the sharing of that interest, the conforming that desire into a drive towards a common goal by effective communication and ultimately allowing that small group to grow and develop into a tribe. Leaders aren’t elected, they definitely aren’t selected and interviewed from a shortlist, they just are. You know who they are. We know who they are.

Are you in a tribe? Are you going to be the leader?

(Am I?)

update: a free ebook from Seth and his online friends is here

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