Don’t forget where you are in your hurry to get to where you want to be.
We are living in the Renaissance of Work. Just like great artists know that an empty canvas can become anything, great leaders know that an entire organization — and the people inside it — can become anything, too. Master Artists and Mastering the Art of Leadership draw from the same source: creation. In this series, we’ll meet masters who are creating the future of work and painting a portrait of lasting leadership. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Tilling.
Andrew Tilling started out in theatre but found himself heading on a spiritual journey of discovery in his mid twenties. This journey helped him reinvent himself and reassess his purpose: He discovered that he was truly passionate about, and highly addicted to making an impact. Andrew is the creator of The STORM Process® which is a complete transformational leadership and team coaching methodology for creative thinking, problem solving and getting things done. Andrew founded The Hive in 2008 and since then has formed and trained a highly skilled group of purpose-led associates who work with The STORM Process® alongside their own expertise. Andrew is an engaging, charismatic and highly intuitive soft skills specialist with a track record of helping people turn their organisations around, delivering long lasting results in challenging circumstances and inspiring innovation that makes an impact.
Thank you for joining us. Our readers would enjoy discovering something interesting about you. What are you in the middle of right now that you’re excited about personally or professionally?
I am currently reworking the transformational leadership methodology that I produced 12 years ago into a book ready to be published. We’ve been developing the Storm Process(R) and putting it into practice for more than a decade now. With the feedback that it has received and the impact it has already made, I am excited to finally get it to a broader audience.
We all get by with a little help from our friends. Who is the leader that has influenced you the most, and how?
When I was working in the fundraising world I was deeply inspired by my Managing Director, Owen Watkins. Owen made a bold, ethical choice that ended a valuable contract but that inspired incredible loyalty from his workforce. Whenever I’m faced with a difficult decision, I think back to that day and the power of doing the right thing.
Sometimes our biggest mistakes lead to our biggest discoveries. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a leader, and what did you discover as a result?
Before I became a leader in business, I was a youth leader. I was working with a group of teenagers that I’d inherited from another youth worker and I was trying to get some kind of focus in the group but it became a constant battle. I found myself trying to discipline them into compliance but never managing to make any progress. Eventually, after a few weeks, one of the members of the group said to me ‘Look, Andrew, this isn’t the way to lead us.’ That was a huge moment for me, because that young person’s courage really did turn the tide, not only for the group, but for how I have approached leadership since then. After he had dropped this bombshell, we all sat down in a circle and I asked the group ‘Well, tell me how I do need to lead you then?’ It brought up such incredible insights about these amazing young people that I was fortunate to be able to work with. It bonded the group and taught me a life lesson: Meeting people where they’re at and striving to understand their world is crucial to building the influence you’ll need to lead people and to not only develop their strengths, but to also make a positive impact in their communities and the world at large.
How has your definition of leadership changed or evolved over time? What does it mean to be a leader now?
Like many people in my generation I grew up with an awareness of the role business plays in shaping our society. In many cases, the wider impacts of business have proven to be catastrophic. Coming into the workplace, many leaders that we see are deeply committed to the bottom line, autocratic in their approach and (recent research has shown) bordering on sociopathic in their lack of empathy for the people that they lead. However, the world’s workforce has moved on and become wise to this and as leaders now, my generation knows that we cannot carry on this way. It’s time to be the kind of leader that people want to follow. I have a lot of responsibility to keep my team focused on the vision and the goal of the organisation. But my role, more and more, is about enabling the people around me to be the best they can be, to thrive in a collaborative environment and to help people to see the power of their own influence.
Success is as often as much about what we stop as what we start. What is one legacy leadership behaviour you stopped because you discovered it was no longer valuable or relevant?
I like to get stuck in, so when a problem comes up, I’m often quick to take action. However, one CEO I worked with recently taught me an approach to leadership that I’ll never forget:
“Don’t just do something, stand there!”
It’s a fantastic twist. When a challenge comes up, rather than stepping in, I try to step back and allow my team to do what they do best. This has made a real difference.
What is one lasting leadership behaviour you started or are cultivating because you believe it is valuable or relevant?
When my team started working remotely, I thought it was Important to keep the formal office structure in place as much as possible. In fact, I found the opposite to be true. My team and I have really valued going for a virtual walk together away from screens and desks and simply speaking over the phone. So many inspiring moments have been shared in this way. It lifts the spirits and deepens connection immeasurably.
What advice would you offer to other leaders who are stuck in past playbooks and patterns and may behaving a hard time letting go of what made them successful in the past?
Hey, remember when you were the new best thing? By doing things your way you helped make the business that you were working in more relevant. Well, you are no longer the next best thing. And while that’s hard to accept, what’s even harder is accepting that you represent the thing that now needs changing. But by allowing yourself to drop the armour and learn something from the people coming up under you, you’re going to stay relevant and useful for a lot longer. They need your experience, but you need their perspective.
Many of our readers can relate to the challenge of leading people for the first time. What advice would you offer to new and emerging leaders?
Don’t be afraid to lead with heart. It doesn’t mean ignoring your rational head or your instinctive gut or your pragmatic, ‘hands-on’ approach. But it does mean taking the time to consider what matters to everyone around you and making the compassionate choice your go-to option. Because when people look to you, you will set the tone for how they treat each other when things get difficult. Don’t be afraid to take the compassionate choice regardless of what behaviours you’ve seen in those who have led you in the past.
Based on your experience or research, what are the top five traits effective leaders exemplify now? Please share a story or an example for each.
When something goes wrong, it’s tempting to just voice what you know to be the right thing to do. When you hear conflicting points of view, it may be obvious to you that that person hasn’t understood something, but by taking the time to understand how somebody may have arrived at their *ridiculous* point of view, you will only inform and deepen the power of your insight. When you lead in a complex stakeholder environment it doesn’t matter how well you argue your point of view, it’s about how many different points of view you can hold in your mind at the same time and still function. The most effective way to do that is to simply take the time to empathise.
2. Sharing Stories:
‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’ said Peter Drucker. If you want your strategy to succeed, then you need a culture that will support it and to embed a culture, we need to do what we’ve always done as human beings and share stories of best practice and what we know that works. When I see a good result from an action or decision that one of my team have made based on our values, I like to tell that story far and wide so that others can make that connection. But if you’re not looking, then you won’t see those examples. It takes a real investment of time but it’s worth every moment.
I’m a bit of a *Trekkie* and I loved the first season of ‘Strange New Worlds’ on paramount because of its exploration of the power of leaders to inspire hope in teams when all seems lost. To be able to keep that hope alive even if you don’t know what the solution is, can keep your team looking for that solution. That’s often enough to turn a sure loss into a win.
4. Inspire creativity:
If you want to kill creativity in your team then the fastest way to do it is to ask everybody for an idea. When *Joe* makes a suggestion, go ahead and try it out. Then, when it goes wrong, bring everyone back together and say ‘Thanks to Joe, that was a complete failure. Has anybody else got any other ideas?’ I guarantee you that you won’t hear another idea from anyone ever again. However, if you ask the question again in an organisation that removes blame and takes failure as feedback — if you thank people for coming up with the ideas and acknowledge the learning that came from trying them out, then you’ll find that people are much more forthcoming, much more willing to learn and much more determined to give you every bit of effort they’ve got to overcome the challenge.
5. Don’t forget where you are in your hurry to get to where you want to be:
We all know that leadership is about holding the vision but unless you also help people understand where they are on the journey it’s going to be hard to build engagement and momentum. If I look for directions on my phone without my location marker on, every direction I get is useless. By helping people understand the current situation you can find hidden efficiencies that will greatly accelerate your journey. In my experience, the best leaders keep that balance between the here and now of where we are, and the inspiring vision of where we want to be.
American Basketball Coach John Wooden said, “Make each day your masterpiece.” How do you embody that quote? We welcome a story or example.
So the saying goes ‘If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, then you’re always going to get what you’ve always got.’ Even if I’m good at what I do, I’ll never achieve mastery by achieving perfection, because arriving at perfection doesn’t allow me room for growth. So every day I try to learn something new. I try to listen, reflect and make small course corrections, keeping an eye on the impact that they make. That way, even if I didn’t do things as well as I did yesterday because I messed up, I’ll be wiser for the experience.
What is the legacy you aspire to leave as a leader?
I want to enable others to become the best they can be, so that they can make
their world a little bit better for future generations.
How can our readers connect with you to continue the conversation?
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!