Are PMQs a good demonstration of Authority?

By | November 14th, 2013|Authority, Blog, Body Language, Leadership, Perception|

“PMQs are basically a modern form of cock-fighting, and not a show of great leadership”

So said Stein Ringen last week in a very lively Royal Society of Arts lunchtime lecture entitled “What is Power”. His talk centered on the misconception that power gets things done and reminded the audience that “there is more to the doing than the bidding it be done”; that power actually lies in the ability to persuade and authority is contained in the willingness of those who are led to be persuaded.

Stein’s talk was so good I even bought his latest book  “Nation of Devils – Democratic Leadership and the problem of Obedience”(nicely available outside the talk with a chance to get it signed). But the last mention he made before the end of his talk was the one that made me think the most.  He wondered aloud if party leaders ever looked back at the footage of PMQs after the Wednesday debate. If so he stated that they must be embarrassed to see themselves as two grown men shouting at each other. He likened it to a modern form of cock-fighting: a good spectator sport but hardly an impressive show of real authority.

We sometimes watch PMQs as the body language employed is fascinating.  It is an excellent barometer of leadership confidence and the swagger or display of the leaders can often look like two cockerels before a fight.  But in some ways that reminds us that the power of these leaders lies in the hands of those who carry out their decisions.

We would never advocate some of the bellowing and braying tactics as valuable transferrable skills to use in the boardroom. Shouting over others opinions and derisory guffawing at another’s suggestions are unlikely to increase your authority at work and thus will diminish your power of persuasion to get things done.  Are PMQs another reason why voters are often said to be losing faith in politicians because what it actually demonstrates is a lack of authority and control?

Thanks to the RSA for organising such a fascinating debate, looking forward to reading the book.

Stein Ringen’s book “Nation of Devils – Democratic Leadership and the problem of Obedience” is out now.

Neil Woodford: why Rock Star investors show we should focus more on the rest of the band.

By | October 16th, 2013|Asset Management, Marketing, Perception, Presentation skills|

Time to concentrate on the whole of the band, not just the frontman.

Investment news is buzzing with the story of Neil Woodford departing after 25 years with Invesco Perpetual to set up his own fund next year. It has prompted consternation on forums with investors worrying if they should leave without him at the helm.

His announcement has even had a negative impact on the FTSE with several of his large holdings being adversely affected.

Invesco is full to the brim with talented investment professionals so why should this outfall be happening? The answer lies with the marketing technique often used by major funds. Despite the actual strength of a well performing investment trust being in the complete team behind it: back office staff, chosen analytics systems, analysts and sector specialists the personality driven approach has been the quick win for marketing teams in this world.

A better approach is to define a core investment philosophy and ensure that everyone in the fund, from top to bottom demonstrates this to investors. It may be less edgy and appeal less to the ‘get rich quick/beat the market investor’ but for investors looking for a long term gains a sound and reliable investment philosophy (no matter who is at the figurehead) it is a better strategy.

Coaching all of the team to present it in a consistent and confident way is the next step towards making this come alive. It is a longer process and daunting for fund managers who shy away from presenting, preferring to leave that to the superstars with the ‘gift of the gab’. But it is the best way for the industry to avoid these costly ripples when one of the superstars leaves.

In the spotlight,expect your body language to be under scrutiny

By | August 2nd, 2013|Blog, Body Language, Featured, Perception, Performance|

We were lucky enough to get tickets to the Anniversary games at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Stadium on Saturday. It was an amazing day, with great weather and a festive atmosphere as the entire stadium leaned forward to make sure the athletes felt our support.

One of the highlights of the anniversary games, especially for my young daughters, was a chance to see Jessica Ennis-Hill in action. Her achievements in 2012 and the positive role model that she presents make her a media favourite and with that comes pressure. On the run up to the Olympics the pressure was immense. She was after all ‘the face of the games’ and the whole country wanted her to win. Which she did. But does that release the pressure? No, it can make it worse as long as you are still desperate to win.

When you are in the spotlight you can’t avoid your body language being scrutinised.

On Saturday inside the stadium the giant screens showed the athletes being presented before their races and on a screen split showed parts of races being completed. However for Ennis-Hill her every movement seemed to be projected onto camera. Whether she was chatting to the other competitors under the awning during the long jump or coming over to chat to her coach there was a camera focusing in on her every move. So we saw smiles and waves but we also saw giant screen shots of a bottom lip being bitten or a concentrated frown after an attempt. I’m sure this added to the coverage that came the day after such as this.  Someone else who knows what media scrutiny after success is like, Usain Bolt, almost seemed to court the camera as he was warming up back stage, joking with the presenter and sending the message with his body language that he was relaxed and ready.

You couldn’t help but wonder how things might have gone if the attention had been better shared around. Katarina Johnson-Thompson won the Long jump but her jumps were barely on the big screen, with her last being during one of the men’s track races.

As you start to do better in whatever discipline, be it sport or presenting at work you will naturally be under more scrutiny. For leaders this means you will be watched by your team even when you are not ‘on stage’. Appearing calm and assured for the annual meeting and then acting slouchy and slumped at a direct reports meeting can cause your team to suspect all is not well. 24/7 scrutiny is not pleasant and nor is it fair. But people do make judgment calls based on how your body language yourself so be ready for it. This is just as important when we are offstage as on.

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