Leadership and Technology

The Poole Business Women’s Lunch Club were fortunate enough to have James Sale as guest speaker this week.  James’ presentation on leadership was highly engaging and relevant, discussing the differences between being a manager and a leader.


James has been generous enough to write this post for us on the same theme of leadership.


Leadership and Technology

“Leadership, as I often like to say, is the number 1 factor bar none that accounts for organisational success. Even if everything else is set-up to work, to be effective and to be efficient, a bad leader can screw up every advantage, natural or contrived. Nowadays we talk about the big three things driving organisations: People, Processes and Technology, and clearly leadership is in the first category.


My own company relies heavily on technology for its outcomes and its success. It would be true to say that even 15 years ago it would be difficult to conceive of how my company could have worked and functioned without the outstanding technological innovations of the last twenty years. So do I like technology? You bet! And yet I feel too that technology is becoming far too widely accepted without the scrutiny and critical analysis that properly belongs to a leader’s function (or one that the leader would and should commission). Put another way: there are at least three major problems with technology that leaders – in their rush to be successful – seem to conveniently ignore, and I would like to outline them here.


First, that technology has a dreadful habit of sponsoring co-dependence and ultimately servitude. We see this in the street or on the train: the men and women who cannot stop barking into a mobile phone; and those who cannot prevent themselves accessing their emails wherever they are, including at family socials. The great French writer Proust magisterially foresaw this as early as the late Nineteenth Century when a friend asked him to acquire a telephone and Proust asked what a telephone was. The friend patiently explained – it sat on your wall, it rang, you picked it up, you spoke with somebody miles away. But for Proust it was enough to know it rang – ‘I am the servant of that!’ he exclaimed. When bells rang, servants were summoned. He had no intention of being a servant to a bell ringing on his wall; he realised the essential infringement of his liberty that was contained in the very concept of a phone.

Which leads to the second point: the law of unintended consequences. We see technology as being a solution; but always with the solution there seems to be an accompanying deeper problem. After all, only thirty years ago the new technology was supposed to liberate us; we were only going to be working 2 or 3 day weeks as the technology and the robots took the strain. (Not much talk of that now, though, is there? – all conveniently shelved). But of course the precise opposite has happened. Now, with all this technology abounding, both partners HAVE to work, hours of work are massively extended, Sundays or days or rest barely exist in some sectors, and so it goes on. The technology that sets us free has enslaved us (and it has done other things as well when we consider the state of the Earth). What has the leader to say about this?


Finally, technology has subtly led to a belief system that is almost certainly false: the belief in ‘progress’, and in the utopia just round the corner. Just around the corner people will live to 150, just around the corner cancer will be cured, just around the corner there will be a better world in which everyone can chat on Facebook and they won’t need to fight anymore. Yea, just around the corner. As I said before, this belief has been going on for two hundred years, and it is a ‘belief’ – in the sense that it has no more substance than a dream. In many respects the Twentieth Century was the most horrific century in the whole history of the world – it’s difficult now to imagine it perhaps in the comfort of our Western armchairs – and technology played its full part in making it so horrific: the guns of World War One, the gas chambers of World War 2, the atomic bombs, the napalm and so it goes on.


Thus it is that leadership is about discrimination: the discrimination of ideas; of not accepting the prevailing wisdom and contemporary cant that passes for thought but is merely magazine fodder; of challenging the powers of orthodoxy who are bit by bit (and one may say, byte by byte) enslaving the world. We need leaders who harness technology on behalf of the people to empower them. So we are back to a fundamental distinction that many overlook who see technology as being an unlimited ‘good’: technology is good when it genuinely serves the interest of all the people, and technology is bad when it does the opposite – when dictators, plutocrats, oligarchs, ego-driven CEOs and MDs use it to exploit the last farthing out of people.”

We need leaders who understand this.”

Read more from James via his website http://www.jamessale.co.uk/



Seven Questions to Stimulate Motivation

Seven Questions to Stimulate Motivation

by James Sale

James Sale is a Europe’s leading expert on the power of motivation, and has exclusively contributed to the Engage Executive Jobs blog.

 The issue of motivating staff will not go away; in fact, with the rise of technology and the increasing levels of distance and impersonality, the how-to-manage-them question gets larger and larger. In such a context Motivational Maps are essential since they do supply on-line so much of the information that an effective manager or leader needs. But in the absence of the Maps, what should managers do? Here are 7 questions to get you thinking about next steps.

 One, think about the quality of your leadership. How good is it? What you do speaks much louder than what you say! At its simplest level, do you walk the talk, or are you an armchair critic locked away in ‘important’ meetings the ‘plebs’ can never understand? If you want to improve your leadership skills, get feedback – quality feedback from those who experience your leadership, from those working alongside you, and from those who lead you. What do they say – what points of improvement are there for you to pursue?

 Second, have you set achievable targets? You know the formula: SMART, but do you use it? I have been a trainer and consultant in hundreds of businesses and I am always staggered by the sheer number of managers who do not seem to understand what a Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Relevant and Time-trackable target is. So much target-setting is wishful thinking.

 Third, does training figure strongly in your company? As the say in the USA, want to earn more? Then learn more! One cannot stress enough the importance of ongoing learning, development and training. Even if your organisation does not invest in you, you are well advised, as Brian Tracey recommends, to spend at least 3% of your income on yourself – you will reap the rewards, as every organisation who invests wisely in their employees does.

 Fourth, are you stimulating people by varying their tasks, by involving them, and by improving the environment in which they work – in which they operate on your behalf? One fundamental need of human being is for variety, and too much ‘sameness’ stifles creativity and also leads to more errors as a result of boredom. Furthermore, improving the environment says something about how much you value and respect them – and about your real values too. Are you really people-centric or is that just mission mish-mash?

 Fifth, do you give people ample recognition for their contributions? Especially their creative contributions – the points of innovation are particularly where recognition is required if you are to have a thriving company. One only has to think of certain IT companies and their celebration of individuals’ creativity to begin to realise what is possible. The sad truth is: so often someone’s bright idea becomes their manager’s, and this is so de-motivating. Staff treated in this way tend not to innovate again; they tend to just do their job instead.

 Sixth, do you allow real responsibility without constantly interfering? Another way of putting this is: stop micro-managing staff, most hate it! Micro-management always disempowers staff. Naturally, if staff ask for help, give it freely. But the avoidance of micro-management involves the following steps: set clear objectives for members of staff – tell them WHAT you expect them to achieve, but – unless they ask – do not them HOW to do it. You may feel important, they won’t.

 Finally, seventh, is there a realistic career path for your people? What systems are in place to help people develop? There is a strange, unspoken belief that somehow people working in a company are there forever – as if it were a marriage! In today’s world, especially, what could be further from the truth? People move on, people want careers, and unless your organisation is geared to provide optimum satisfactions, then it is highly likely staff will move on sooner rather than later. Bizarrely, providing them with good career support is likely to slow down their exit strategy, because it is an optimum satisfaction to know that one is going ‘somewhere’ – which is what realistic career paths articulate.

 Give yourself a score out of ten – ten meaning this is done excellently well by your organisation and one meaning this is a mess – for each of the seven motivational ideas. How do you rate? Which one area is your lowest score? That is where you need to get to work – one piece at a time. And if you do, you will find motivation of staff starts increasing, and so will performance – and performance gains lead to productivity gains, and these lead to … more profit! Go for it.

To find out more about James Sale and Motivational Maps, check out the website or call 01202 513043