How many reputation ‘beans in the bank’ have you got?

Hundreds have played Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders around the world – and we like to check in with people. Earlier this year, in conjunction with the Partnering Partnership and Richard Goff, we launched the new version of our workshop, starring Hugh Mann, Globocorp’s HR Director. This workshop is aimed at HR Business Partners who want to make an impact with senior leaders. 

Michael Berry

One of the participants was Michael Berry FCIPD, a Senior Human Resources Business Partner at HM Revenue & Customs. This is his story, as told to Stephen Welch.

Stephen:       Hi Michael. Thanks for participating in the début of HR Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders. Please can you tell me a little about your work?

Michael:        I’m a senior HR business partner at HMRC. I support the Customer Services Directorate. I’ve been in the Civil Service 17 years in various roles and locations including Sheffield and London before returning to Nottingham where I’m from.

Stephen:       What are the key challenges in your role?

Michael:        I need to balance our long-term transformation goals with short-term actions and political uncertainty. It is hard for some people to look beyond the short-term; and this makes it sometimes a challenge to involve people in a discussion about the long-term.

Stephen:       Why did you decide to attend the Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders workshop?

Michael:        I’ve been in my current role just over a year and wanted the chance to step back and think about my stakeholder relationships in a new way, and how I need to flex my leadership style in different situations. The Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders workshop helped me do that, and gave me a chance to consider new approaches.

Stephen:       What was the highlight for you?

Michael:        Taking the time to think about my impact. It was also good to work with people from other organizations and consider things in a different context; learning from other people’s experience and their different approaches to similar situations. It helped me think differently about my key stakeholders and how I can build credibility with different groups of leaders as my stakeholders change.

In the game we had to consider our reputation with different stakeholders, and keep track of how many reputation ‘beans in the bank’ we have with each fictional leader / character. I’ve now started to apply this concept in my real-life relationships and think about how I can put beans in the bank with key people.

Stephen:       That’s good to hear. We developed the concept of the simulation and fictional characters to enable exactly that: the translation of the concepts from the game into real-life situations. So I’m glad it’s been useful. Thank you for the feedback.

Michael:        I’d like to see if we can find a way to bring the simulation to HMRC to support our HR Business Partners. I think it’s a great learning experience for people who are working with senior leaders in the business.

Stephen:       Well, as you know, we do run frequent in-house workshop tailored for specific clients and their challenges, so let’s keep talking. In the meantime, please tell me a little about Michael outside of work.

Michael:        Well, I like sports: especially cricket, hockey and fencing.
I’m a member of Chilwell Blades Fencing Club. Spending time with these clubs, my family and my friends is crucial for me and helps build my resilience, balancing the books —so to speak— with a busy job.

Stephen:       I agree. Thanks for your time and let’s keep in touch.

If you would like to learn more about HR Snakes and Ladders, and see if it is right for you, get in touch.

Image from https://www.chilwellblades.co.uk/

 

What would Carmen do?

Guest post and feature photograph by Sharon Hunter.

What would Carmen do? Well, that depends on your point of view.

Carmen Spinoza profile card
Follow Carmen

Hi, my name is Sharon and I’m addicted to Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders. It has been seven days since I last played the game…

Seriously, I was hooked the first time I met Carmen Spinoza at an IABC conference in 2017 – so when back-to-back workshops in Toronto and Montréal cropped up last week, I jumped on a plane to explore how the experience had evolved in the last two years.

The Toronto workshop Sept. 19 was organized by Contact Monkey, and the Montréal event Sept. 20 by the local IABC chapter. Each attracted a diverse mix of professionals and students from across PR, marketing and communications, spurring interesting discussion. I enjoyed reconnecting with a few @IABCToronto members, which sparked a little friendly competition between the cities.

The compelling thing about this game is the immersive learning environment it provides. As participants, we step into the fictional world of Globocorp and its cast of executive team characters. Working in teams, our role is to guide Carmen Spinoza, Globocorp’s Director of Communications, to navigate a tricky landscape as a newly appointed member of the executive team. To advance her career successfully, she must stretch beyond her comfort zone as a strategic adviser to the C-suite to become one of its business leaders. She must also step back to reflect on the best course of action within challenging scenarios, while considering the different perspectives of the other characters when making choices that affect them.

As communicators, we can all identify with Carmen’s challenges. As her advisers in this engaging business simulation, we are challenged to question our own habits: to pause before falling into conditioned behaviours, to consider different points of view and perspectives before offering solutions, to rise above our perceived rank to make strategic contributions that impact business results and, ultimately, demonstrate our worth to the organizations we serve.

The richness of this learning experience is reaped from the diversity within the room. Teams with participants representing all stages of the career journey must reach consensus on the advice they give Carmen to move forward. This sparks dynamic debate and evokes various degrees of emotional intelligence – much like in the corporate world.

To explore our own behaviours and preferences, Stephen Welch took us through exercises on the types of advisers. He also explored different influencing styles to help us identify our own recipes for success. Tip: If you can’t admit you’ve been Yannis the Yelper at the wrong time – you’ve got a long way to go on this journey!

What I love most about Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders is how adaptable it is. Countless simulations can be played within the Globocorp universe, and not just for communications scenarios. The game can be tailored to suit a variety of learning outcomes for teams across business functions. We played the role of a communications leader, but variations for other business functions like HR exist for those who want to advance from technical expert to strategic adviser.

So, here’s my final tip: Don’t wait for a public event to try your luck at this strategic thinking game. Get in touch and we can bring it home to you. I think that’s what Carmen would do.

The sky’s the limit!

Sharon Hunter, SCMP is a past chair of IABC international executive board, former IABC/ Montréal chapter president, independent consultant and a Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders facilitator in Canada.

Buttons or Zippers?

Here at Globocorp we strive to be at the leading edge of fast-fashion, coupled with a dose of tech. After my previous trip in June, I’m back in New York this week as part of New York Fashion Week to see some of our latest designers strut their stuff. Watch out for our consumer versions in a store near you … very soon.

In case you missed it, the big themes this year were buttons and zippers. Together, sometimes. Apart: definitely.

Rihanna
I’m not allowed to tell you what happened at my friend Rihanna’s show – as you may have seen they took our phones away. But the break from email did get me thinking about buttons and zippers in a different way ….

… as a strategic adviser to my colleagues, part of my job is to make connections, and button or zip things together so that we see the whole picture.

No, I’m not talking about the clothes strategic advisers wear (that’s for a different blog), but more about how those two items connect in a different way, and what that means for business partnerships with your key stakeholders.

Adding value in three ways
If you are operating as a business partner or a strategic adviser, either in a functional role in a large organization like me, or as an external consultant, the value you add will depend on three things: 1) the skills and expertise you have, 2) the organizational understanding you have so that you can translate expertise into results, and 3) your consulting skills to build and develop relationships.

In many relationships the fulcrum is the personal chemistry between the receiver and the giver of advice. We can use the terms ‘adviser’ and ‘client’ whether the adviser is in the same organization, or a different one. The ‘client’ has operational responsibility for a large group of people and their job is to take the adviser’s counsel and operationalize it. The adviser’s job is to harness and marshal the expertise of their own team and mobilize to face the client. In effect the two individuals are acting like a button and button-hole, holding everything together. All the connection is held by the button.

For some types of relationships, this can work fine. But in other situations, the button at the centre – represented by the relationship of the two individuals – can get stretched and pulled, and sometimes pop (yes, Buck Greenback, I’m talking about you!). And if the button is too tight, it’s painful, circulation gets cut off and the relationship falters.

Zippers
A zipper relationship, on the other hand, is generally much stronger. The zipper has lots of connection points with lots of people working together in partnership across the ‘seam’. The connections might be hierarchical: I advise my CEO and other leaders; people in my team tend to work with middle management. Or it might be functional or expertise-based. But the key is multiple connection points. If one link fails then the zipper still holds.
If you find yourself in a button relationship – either as the consultant or the adviser – here are some things you can do to start building your zipper:

  1. Create a relationship map to explore what the future connections might be. Who are the key players on the other side? What can you do to involve / connect with them? Please get in touch if you would like some examples.
  2. Try to identify the main reasons for ‘button-ness’; is it convenience, lack of trust, people being protective of their own personal power or position? Once you understand the motivation you can start to make changes.
  3. Look at your own behaviour and see if you are inadvertently encouraging the wrong type of behaviour among your colleagues. What can you change?

I’m not universally saying “buttons bad, zippers good” but it is important to recognize when the relationship is the wrong shape. And maybe the next time someone tells you to “zip it!”, you’ll interpret that as constructive advice, not an insult.

Now that Rihanna’s people have given me my phone back I can take lots of photos of our up and coming designers. Look out for the hashtag #globocorp on Fashtagram!

If you would like to hear more about how to build and strengthen relationships, and improve the quality of your connections, get in touch and we can come to your office and share ideas. We can’t promise Rihanna but we do have John Lennon and Bill Gates as ‘guest speakers’ at our events.

Purpose, profit and Bieber

It’s amazing what makes the news these days! The top US CEOs redefined the purpose of their companies to look beyond profit to be profitable, they exist not only for their investors, but for their employees and stakeholders. 

Last year, purpose got an unlikely hero: Larry Fink, BlackRock’s CEO. “Purpose” he explained “is not the sole pursuit of profits but the animating force for achieving them. Profits are in no way inconsistent with purpose — in fact, profits and purpose are inextricably linked.”

Game. Set. Match. It’s time to move the conversation from “what are we here for?” to “how do we make it real”.

Simulations can help bring a purpose to life.

I’m at the helm of the purpose journey at Globocorp. We started a couple of years ago. For me “success” will come when my employees quote not Larry Fink but that well-known Canadian wordsmith, Mr. Bieber, the “other” Justin. As I lead our purpose rollout, I imagine all our people singing as they walk into the office or plant:

…you’ve blessed me with the best gift
That I’ve ever known…
…You give me purpose

OK, that might be a stretch.. but it warms my heart to imagine it. It helps me to visualise us giving our people a reason to keep keeping on.

Gartenberg and Serafin, point to three hurdles that might block a company’s journey: 

  • the short-term outlook of an investor base, 
  • incentives – putting value creation in the right place
  • leadership and the culture you establish through unwritten rules.

They are absolutely right, but let me add one more, misalignment on how to “live” the purpose. (ps – follow them on Twitter, their work is amazing! @cmgartenberg  & @georgeserafeim)

I don’t know of any company that has managed to embed their purpose through a snazzy campaign or by engraving it into every door. It only happens when living up to your purpose is measured in everyday wins. 

Living the purpose, means employees – at al levels – consider the impact of their choices on the whole spectrum and how they align to the company’s ultimate goal. Last year, we started running purpose presentations at Globocorp. I saw how, time and again, people left our purpose “workshops” and then went on about their business in the exact same way. Nothing had changed. So I worked with our head of People, Hugh Mann, to change our incentives and with our CEO to help be a star role model. Still… I didn’t see the change I needed. Changing the routine is much harder than rising to meet extraordinary challenges, because we always tend to return to the norm. This much I’ve learned. 

And then… 

we introduced simulations

and archetypes, 

through a game,

and I watched our teams flourish.

I saw them have facilitated discussions about the choices they made, their motivations and impact. The teamwork, the fun, the real-life scenarios and, voilà! The learning sticks. 

We are still on a journey, cultural transformation is a long process but I am starting to hum Mr. Bieber as I go into work. 

If you want to know more about the Globocorp journey and how we can bring this workshops to your company, get in touch!

 

Two lessons on a Snakes and Ladders workshop

Hundreds have played Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders around the world – and we like to check in with people. Early in July, Stephen Welch went to Bristol to run a session for the UK Government Communications Service. One of the participants was Sophie Mason, Head of Key Themes (Strategic Priorities Communications Team) at UK Research & Innovation. Here’s her story.

Stephen:          Hi Sophie. Can you tell me a little about your work?

Sophie:            I’m a senior strategic communications manager at UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). We have a budget of £7billion to provide funding for universities, research organisations, businesses, charities and others. My job is to lead teams working on specific projects.

Stephen:          UKRI is a fairly new organization. How has your job changed since you took on this role?

Sophie:            Earlier in my career, I worked in small organizations and UKRI has 7,500 people. So influencing and advising is completely different. I’ve had to learn to stop ‘doing’ communications and do more ‘leading’ and ‘advising’. The real challenge is learning how to influence people who you don’t know. In small organizations you are more visible to people at the top – you can bump into the CEO in the kitchen – but in large organizations you need to be more systematic at building relationships and influencing people to get the job done.

Stephen:          Is that why you came along to our Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders event in Bristol?

Sophie:            Yes, I wanted to find out how to build and develop relationships in a different context and learn to be a strategic adviser. A lot of my previous jobs have been short-term contracts; in this one I want to build relationships and reputation for the long term. I wanted to learn how to be a business partner to senior people which is why attended Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders.

Stephen:          What was the key learning for you?

Sophie:            The Snakes and Ladders workshop taught me two key things. First: as a strategic adviser you need to work to see the long term. The benefits of your advice may not always be apparent in the short term and you need to be ready for this – sometimes you need a tough conversation (and lose some reputation points with a key stakeholder in the short term) but they will thank you in the end when your advice turns out to be right later on. Second: I found the ‘stakeholder mapping your career’ exercise really useful.

Stephen:          I’m glad to hear that. A lot of communication and marketing professionals know how to prepare and use a stakeholder map for their campaigns, but relatively few use the concept to help plan their career. To support this process, we are currently developing a ‘promotions pack’: a toolkit to help people going into a new job think about what they need to do to be successful in a new role.

Sophie:            That’s good. In my case, I had a mentor to help me with the transition. In my career until now, I’ve always had ‘outputs’ to measure my results. Now the challenge for me is to measure my results through others’ achievements.

Stephen:          Mentoring is great! I’ve been involved in the IABC Mentoring scheme for a few years… Do keep us posted on your progress. As we discussed, we would be pleased to come and run a Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders workshop for UKRI, at your convenience. In the meantime, tell us about Sophie outside of work? What do you do when you are not working?

Sophie:            While I love my job, I’m very much a “work to live” person and I put the money I earn to good use having as many adventures as I can. My main passions are travelling and scuba diving – my partner and I are child free, so we get to go on lots of holidays and explore over- and under-water. We recently spent three weeks in Panama, diving around wrecked pirate ships and exploring the jungle. Last year we were island-hopping in Thailand and next year we’ll be diving in Malaysia and driving across the States. I also love cats and I’m about to adopt two new ones, which I intend to spoil rotten!

Stephen:          Ah, we can compare notes on cats some time. I have two. Meanwhile, thanks for your time, and perhaps see you at the next GCS event.

Learn more about the work of UK R&I and the GCS. And you can connect with Sophie on Linkedin. And if you’d like to try Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders: see if it is right for you.

“Ask not what your career can do for you, but what you can do for your career”

Presentation1

(Pictures courtesy of Life magazine and the London Evening Free Press.)

Yes, here at Globocorp we are not afraid to channel our inner JFK. It therefore seems appropriate to use the 50th anniversary of the moon landings to think about the roles we play in business. Although the moon landings were of course an ultimate team effort, the individuals involved each played a different role. If your team were to go to the moon, which archetype would you be?

Neil Armstrong

The reclusive hero. You work hard and achieve a lot. You are the most successful and an icon for others. Through skill and effort, you achieve the pinnacle. You are lauded. But success comes at a price. Your modesty and sense of teamwork means you want to deflect the hero-worship.

In business, this is a perennial challenge: how do you balance individual vs team achievement? Our brains are wired to laud a hero. So being the figurehead of a team can sometimes be tricky. But Eoin Morgan shows us the way.

Buzz Aldrin

Maybe you are not the first man. But you are happy to take the credit for a team effort. We all know people who are happier in the limelight than others. This is not about deception: you are totally honest about your role. But, through your behaviour, the credit and the limelight end up in your orbit, and you become the face of the team’s achievements.

We’ve all seen managers and teammates like this. On paper they have done nothing untoward, but yet they end up with the lion’s share of the limelight. If you get a buzz from being in the spotlight, great, but be sure to give others their just reward.

Michael Collins

Are you the unsung hero? Do others get the glory and the worship? Were you instrumental in helping the team build the foundations for success but, for some reason, not there at the final triumph? If so, then you are the Michael Collins of the team: the third member of the Apollo mission who never did land on the moon.

While the others are the focus of attention, you work quietly in the background, ensuring the foundations of team success. Today your work helps others get the glory, but your time will come when, in later life, you are made Director of the National Air and Space Museum, and then the Smithsonian.

John F Kennedy

Sometimes the leader isn’t really part of the team. You are the inspiration, the enabler, the cheerleader. Others are doing the work. You set the goals and provide the resources. Your big picture thinking inspires others to achieve and do more than they thought they could. This is an important point about team leadership: the leader’s job is to lead, not do. In my experience too many leaders think they can also ‘do’; and interfere with the work of the team. No: if you are the leader, let the team do their work.

And in some cases, you don’t even get to be there at the end.

Gene Kranz

Ah, the technical genius. The one who sets the team standards and the doctrine. Failure is not an option. You make it happen when things go right (Apollo 11). You make it happen when things go wrong (Apollo 1). Indeed, his words after that disaster are worth quoting in full as a mantra for all successful teams.

“From this day forward, Flight Control will be known by two words: ‘Tough’ and ‘Competent’. Tough means we are forever accountable for what we do or what we fail to do. We will never again compromise our responsibilities. Competent means we will never take anything for granted. We will never be found short in our knowledge and in our skills. Mission Control will be perfect. When you leave this meeting today you will go to your office and the first thing you will do there is to write ‘Tough and Competent’ on your blackboards … These words are the price of admission to the ranks of Mission Control.”

What version of these words will you use to hold your team accountable to the highest standards?

JoAnn Morgan

The only woman in the control room 50 years ago. As a trailblazer, you put up with a lot. You are a core member of the team but I bet the others don’t appreciate your input or guidance. Maybe even condescend you. You – and others like you – are hidden figures.

If you find yourself in this position in your team then your challenge is to make your mark and make it well. The JoAnns of this world are often at the beginning of their careers and get to play a supporting role at first. Later you will get to be Head of Communications for Kennedy Space Center. Patience: your time will come.

The Janitor

No blog about NASA, JFK, and the moon can pass without a reference to the hackneyed story of the janitor who sees his job as not to wipe the floor but to help put a man on the moon. This story may be apocryphal, but it does remind us of the power of purpose and the role a leader can have at motivating all team members in the organization.

If are working in a team with a great sense of vision and passion that motivates you to do that little bit extra, if you can see the direct link between your job and the ultimate goal, if you take pride in the small things: then you are that the lucky janitor who is inspired by a JFK-esque leader.

In any team, people come together to play different roles. Some are visionaries, some are leaders, some focus on standards, others quietly get the job done. Each has their role to play, and each has strengths and weaknesses. A great team acknowledges these differences and lets each person play to their strengths.

In your team, which role do you play?

Wimbledon’s life lessons for a business leader

It’s that time of the year again. July has come along and I have the delight of hanging out with some of our top clients in SW19.

I am one of the very very lucky few, not only do I love tennis, but I am fascinated by the human spectacle that the yearly strawberries and cream pilgrimage offers.

Now, I write as I’m waiting for another flight, and so far, I have been musing about what some of the players are going through in their careers. Such wealth of human experience!

In my usual style, I have identified five career moments personified in my favourite players.

Coco Gauff – Let’s start with my favourite find: the rookie! This extraordinary fifteen-year old showed us all the powerful combination of hope, grit, talent and hard work. I have a couple of Cocos on my team. Their talent must be challenged and nurtured, they might not win it all the first time around, but they need us – their leaders – to tell them how much they can and do contribute to our overall success. We also must hold their hand through their first defeats. If you get the chance to mentor or supervise a Coco, do not underestimate the influence you will have in her career. Handle with care!

Roger Federerthe seasoned champion. The #GOATs of business come along every once in a while. At Globocorp, his name is Michael Ambrose. He is clever, fun and consistently delivers great results even when faced with the toughest challenges. My approach to him is let him fly, correct him gently because his ego is fragile, and learn to deal with the very human difficulty of having an employee that outshines you.

Andy Murraythe lateral mover. Every life has its moments of reckoning. Sometimes by choice, sometimes for health or personal reasons, we take a step back and are invited to reinvent ourselves. If he wasn’t ready to come back to singles, he found joy and comfort in doubles and in the marketing miracle that is MurRena (the Serena/Andy pair). Give the lateral mover in your organization a chance to come back and find his or her place, they might deliver unexpected riches!

Serena Williams – the comeback queen. Returning is always tricky. Returning from maternity leave is particularly difficult. Over the years I have changed my approach to supporting those in my team who have families, both men and women. Nowadays, I hire them a transition coach to help them and us adapt to their new selves. They have added skills and a newly found focus. As I watched pictures of the Queen of tennis cooling down with her toddler in arms, I’m reminded of how businesses who provide space and time for employees with caring responsibilities to fulfil them and fulfil their career dreams, reap benefits time and again. It just requires us to shift gears a little.

Johanna Konta– the consistent performer that suddenly disappoints you. Oh Jo! You-broke-our-hearts. Again. Her case is a tricky one, her talent and hard work shouldn’t be questioned. But something happens that when the stakes get high, she freezes…. Now,  I have a confession to make. At the very early stages in my career, I suffered from this. I was a 90% deliverer… and then I dropped the ball. I had an enlightened manager that noticed it and paired me with a “finisher”, to keep me motivated to the end. Not only did it save my career and make me a lifelong friend, I keep using that technique. I always have a finisher in my team and someone who delights in detail, they are there to help me hold my serve until the end.

Each one of these situations comes with its own challenges and opportunities, and they present leaders like me with special chances to inspire, motivate and elevate.

Because, as a leader, my success is defined by my ability to make my team succeed. And I love it!

What do you think? Any other Wimbledon stories that mirror real life for you? I would love to hear them.

As usual, if you would like to know more about how I can come and help you and your team, just drop us a line.

Hugh Mann makes his mark…

…or how to gamify your career in HR.

Last Wednesday, as part of the “Experts at Work” events hosted by Richard Goff of The People Director Partnership, we played Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders with a group of Human Resources professionals.

Hugh Mann - HR DirectorThrough our business simulation we gave them a chance to experience what it is like to be a senior HR Business Partner in a large organization. We ‘played’ the role of Hugh Mann, the archetypical HR Director, and helped him navigate key challenges as a business partner, while managing his relationships with other stakeholders, and using influencing skills to achieve their desired outcomes.

In small groups, they had to solve a series of business challenges, thinking about their own behaviour. Naturally, different teams had different answers, so we had a good debate to understand their points of view and how the ‘right’ approach to being a business partner is situationally-driven.

As one participant said, “Really innovative way of learning and getting you to think while making it fun.” Another said, “Fun with real meaning behind it. Lots of learning.”

In between rounds of the game we also explored specific tools to improve business partnering relationships, such as the different advisory roles and influencing. We learned the RECIPE for influencing, and the six styles you can use.

Asset 8

You can find out more about the six styles and when to use them here. We also discussed how great influencing – by strategic business partners — happens when three things are aligned:

  • Your personal preference and preferred style.
  •  What the situation requires: in other words which approach is going to have the most impact?
  •  What is most likely to persuade the other person: in other words what influencing style will your interlocutor most likely be swayed by?

Take a few minutes to think about this. Or maybe next time you are talking to a leader, have an exploratory conversation before you start trying to influence, to identify these three elements and which approach you need to use.

As “Hugh” discovered, sometimes the best approach isn’t the most obvious.

For more information on how you can use Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders as a learning approach in your organization, contact Richard or drop us a line.

New York State of Mind

Last week I was in New York. I kicked my trip off with a meeting at the Fashion Institute of Technology; then a leisurely dinner with an old friend who was in my team, oh I don’t know how many moons ago. Then I went out to New Jersey to run a Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders workshop with the IABC NJ chapter.

In a couple of hours, I will board a Cathay Pacific flight (Isobel insists!) to Hong Kong where will be putting a few new ideas to the test in that important market. So I’m sitting here reflecting on meetings with old friends and new. Is there such a thing as a “New York state of mind?”. Or was Billy Joel completely wrong?

Of course there is the archetype of the typical New Yorker, but let us of focus on the “new”. Is there a mindset or an approach to life that can make a difference in your career? Can you be purposeful? I think the answer is ‘yes’. Let me give you two examples, without giving too much away.

Exhibit one: my ex-team member, Kelly Anson. Moved to NY after a failed marriage and wanted to rebuild her life. She took positive steps to fix a few things, and made it happen. Now she lives in a great house, with a great job, and a great family. She’s got it all! But only because she took some active steps to make changes. Yes, luck is important – or, for Isobel, cleromancy – but you do make your own. And she did in spades.

Exhibit two: a completely new friend, Casper Toms. He came to my workshop at the Vanderbilt residence (more on that later). As you know, our workshops are generally designed for people in comms who want to advance their career. Casper works at a wealth management company, having studied Economics and Sustainability in Europe. So why did he come to my workshop? He wanted to expand his horizons, play outside his comfort zone and meet new people.

This got me thinking. There was a lot of excitement for the IABC world conference in Vancouver last week. A lot of communicators I know where there. I couldn’t go, alas. But I couldn’t help but wonder, are comms professionals over excited about playing in their own professional sandbox? Or should we be more like Caspar and attend things outside our natural home … to learn more about business. Maybe we all need to be a ‘bit more Caspar’ and have a different state of mind when it comes to networking and professional development. After all, if a finance person can come to a comms event, why not the other way around? Dare to be new, I say.

Oh, I promised something about the Vanderbilts. We did our workshop in one of the rooms of their old house: Florham. About an hour west of NYC. An echo of a golden era – I was reminded of West Egg but of course it is really modelled on Hampton Court in London.  Now of course, the house is part of a University and is focused on creating intellectual wealth, not financial. And I bet you didn’t know this: there’s good evidence that Cornelius Vanderbilt started his life as a technical expert (ferry captain in New York) before becoming strategic adviser (to his business partner in the 1810s) and then … famously … business leader.

That, to me, is the true New York state of mind!

From May to June, of butterflies and caterpillars

In our Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders Workshops, we talk about this concept all the time: how do I transform myself from technical expert to strategic adviser? The underlying questions participants are trying to answer are: “How do I grow into my next self? How do I transform myself to the person I want to be?”

Today, let’s look at nature for the answer: the butterfly. That’s the goal. The majestic creature that inspires children and grown-ups alike, attracts all kinds of attention. She shows the way with panache, elegance and sometimes even a bit of whimsy. 

Yet, our imagination rarely focuses on what it takes to make a butterfly: the three stages before.

First, the egg. We are all this at the start of our careers: full of potential and often indistinguishable from our peers in terms of know-how and experience. The employee.

Next ….

Second, the caterpillar. She’s starting to develop a personality, so let’s call her June. She knows her task, she follows her plan, she executes. Think of her as the manager. The one that has spent time in perfecting his or her craft and is a true expert. She is hungry, ambitious and on a growth journey.

And then….

Third, the chrysalis. She stops. She reflects. She transforms herself. When ready to be a butterfly, she takes a step back and looks inward to build a new self. She forms herself into a pupa and, while it looks like nothing is happening internally, she is transforming. She is changing her motivations, her style and her approach to life.

Finally, she becomes…

Fourth, the butterfly. The leader. She’s made it and is the queen of all she surveys.

In this story, nature provides the chrysalis stage, the chance for metamorphosis. But in the real world, too often we see June the caterpillar-manager, jump straight into the butterfly-leader world and are disappointed to see that she hasn’t flourished. June goes about her business in the same way, with no pause and no transformation. And then, inevitably, the caterpillar who didn’t invest in becoming a butterfly fails at flying. Caterpillar behaviour is inappropriate in the butterfly world.

In nature this would make no sense, it does not exist. Transformation is required not only for success, but for survival. In business, we often forget the pause, the chrysalis stage, and then are surprised when the transformation does not occur.

In the UK today, we have watched another political leader fail because — although widely recognised as a pretty successful caterpillar — there was no transformational stage before she got picked to be a butterfly almost three years ago. Being a very hungry caterpillar brought her success. She built her craft, did the hard work. Succeeded where others had failed. But caterpillar behaviour doesn’t work in the butterfly world.

If you are ready to transform into a leader, recognise that a radical transformation is needed and that the unsung hero is the chrysalis stage. When the time comes, leave your craft, your hunger, your systems and approaches behind and embrace the journey of becoming a butterfly. 

This is how leaders flourish, and successful careers are built. One natural state at a time. If you try and ‘hack’ the chrysalis stage, others might not think you can hack leadership. Your colleagues will gang up on you and force you out of the corner office. 

With Corporate Snakes and Career Ladders, we provide a fun, meaningful space for you to pause, learn and get the tools you need to transform yourself into the next version of you. If you want to find out more, drop us a line.