Gartner ITxpo Gold Coast

nexus of forcesDuring the past 4 days I attended the annual biggest Gartner conference ITxpo.

I haven’t been here for a number of years and was really looking forward to it. My program was not aligned to any of the pre-defined streams and had a good selection of mobile, big data, business intelligence, cloud and enterprise architecture with a sprinkle of leadership and management aspects.

Gartner always has multiple sessions in parallel and I find it difficult to choose at times. Nonetheless I was happy with my schedule that looked ram-packed with exciting stuff.

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Destructive Cooperation

Last week I attended a short workshop. My expectations were more on the curiosity side than anything else. The workshop’s premise was

  • people are happiness seekers
  • people are social
  • people want to be good

That resonated with me well as I strongly believe people are inherently trying their best. Now after an introduction by Niki Harre (University of Auckland) she organised an impromptu role play. There were 3 groups of 4 people and they were asked to come up with ideas for a birthday party for a 5 year old.

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ad hoc team challenges

At times teams are formed ad hoc. There is not much planning possible and you as a leader have to work with who ever is there. The same goes for the team – they have to work with everybody else.

It doesn’t happen too often in a “normal” working environment unless you work in a matrix structure where project teams are often different. During my time in the army it happened a number of times. And I remember quite vividly when during officer training our team of 8 got mixed together and over a period of 3 days we had to work our way back to base camp with different leaders and challenging tasks on the way. A number of times we were not united and had strong words with each other. Some coped better than others when they were in the leadership role.

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The one thing we really do well

At work we had some visitors last week. They did a workshop in parallel to guiding a project team through a week of change. I was fortunate to be part of the “peripheral” and observe.

The project content and deliverable at weeks end was not the main thing as you may expect from a project. At least not for me. No, the result of the week was actually summed up during a presentation in the middle. Joe Justice of Wikispeed said:

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With Intention!

I’ve seen people busy themselves with reports, spreadsheets, documentation, and meetings. I’ve heard it a thousands times “Gosh, I don’t know how you do it, I don’t even know where to start so much work is in front of me.”

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This sounds to me like the rabbit in front of the snake, unable to move a muscle and petrified. The rabbit is quite capable of outsmarting the snake. But some instinct doesn’t allow it to do this. It’s like the person who is hording seemingly important tasks and not getting any done. In that case it’s not instinct but habit. Nonetheless, it takes an outside nudge to jump out of it.

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Is Leadership dangerous?

Associate Professor Jan Ketil Arnulf’s research at the BI Norwegian Business School deals with what leadership is and how it is exercised. 2 months ago Audun Farbrot from the same school wrote about his findings. The statement

“There are few things more dangerous than leadership.”

stood out and made me read the article. Jan explains the dangerous aspects of leadership can be divided into three areas:

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Active Listening

A leader has got 2 faces. The most common one is associated with the word itself: to lead. Quite a few  years ago I got asked, “What is your definition of leadership?” I still remember this because I focused strongly on the “to lead” aspect. My answer was: “To have a vision where we should be and guide the people I’m leading along the way.” This must have impressed the person as he hired me later 🙂

However, I realised later that my answer was just covering the obvious. To make that actually happen a leader must discover the “why”, “what” and “how”.

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