In his book Give And Take, Adam Grant describes three types of people :
- Givers: Those people who give with no thought of reward or reciprocity;
- Matchers: Those who will only give if they feel they will get something back in return;
- Takers: Those who take and do not give back.
Grant points out, according to his research, the style that is the least successful are the Givers. Takers can take advantage of Givers’ generosity. Givers may also burn themselves out by giving too much.
So, who are the most successful people?
Givers thrive when the following conditions are met:
- When they are sheltered from burnout;
- They work in a culture where giving and asking for help are encouraged; and
- The Takers have been weeded out.
I believe another important aspect is appropriate.
You cannot give to everyone.
It is still possible to give, with no thought of reward, within carefully defined and managed boundaries. Understand what you can achieve and what you can’t and realise that it’s vital to look after yourself if you want to be able to keep giving over the long term.
If you’re asked for something and you can’t help, be honest. Tell the person who’s asked you’re unable to help them. Then point them in the direction of someone who can. That way, at least you’re still giving in the best way possible.
 Grant points out that we all have Giving, Matching and Taking traits and will behave with a mix of the styles over the course of our lives. We do, however, have a predominant style that aligns with one of the three.
Today marks my first full day back at work after a relaxing two weeks of leave.
While I was away, I turned off all my alerts for social media, email and other apps on my smart devices. The only notifications I left on were for personal messages from friends and family.
Do you know what I discovered?
I don’t need to be alerted every time someone tries to get in contact with me.
I also discovered that I could control my intake of data. I can choose the times when I check my emails. I can choose the times I check my social media. I can choose the times I read and reply to emails.
I also discovered (or, perhaps, rediscovered) that no one gets upset if you don’t reply to their emails or messages straight away.
Over the last two weeks, I learned (or, perhaps, relearned) to use my smart device the way I want to use it rather than being reactive to it.
For more interesting thoughts on this topic, I recommend Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport.
For thousands of years, we have communicated with each other through stories. We’ve told stories about our history, our successes and our failures.
Leaders need to take on the role of storyteller. I think they should become the Chief Storytelling Officer.
As the Chief Storytelling Officer, the leader looks for real and valid stories connecting the work their people do with the higher purpose of the organisation. Why does this matter? Because one of the basic psychological needs that motivate humans to do great work is a sense of purpose. A feeling that what they are doing matters.
Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take and creator of the WorkLife podcast, describes a call centre in the United States. The call centre operators had the thankless task of making cold calls to seek donations to support disadvantaged students. Performance in the call centre was flat, and morale was low. As you can imagine, making multiple calls every day asking for money can be a difficult job psychologically, especially when the rejection rate is high.
Then the manager of the call centre had an idea. He found two of the disadvantaged students who had benefited from the fund and asked them to come into the call centre and meet with the phone operators. They revealed how they had received a good education and achieve success, all because of the money the operators had elicited from donors.
Performance and morale in the call centre improved when the operators could see what they were doing was making a difference.
Closer to home, I recently worked with a leader looking to motivate his team of data analysts. He embraced the role of Chief Storytelling Officer. He showed the team how the numbers they crunched formed the basis of a report that positively changed the way the company interacted with its customers. Showing those data analysts the results energised them for the next task.
Many people work for us, with us or around us that may not be able to make the connections between what they do and a more significant positive outcome. Often, this is because they are too close to their work and are unable to see the longer-term effects.
As leaders, we can provide people meaning to the work they do through real and valid stories and motivate them to perform at their best.
Yesterday I wrote about the concept of competing with your own team.
Today, I want to take it one step further and talk about how competitors can collaborate.
As it happened, yesterday I listened to Andy Penn, CEO of Telstra, address the National Press Club. He was discussing the future of the telecommunications industry in Australia.
One aspect addressed was the issue of cybercrime. What resonated for me was when he talked about working with the industry, including his competitors, and the Government to combat this threat:
“The only way to look at cyber is as a team. Large enterprises, small enterprises, medium business, Government, we all have shared platforms, common customers, and we’re all the target of the same attacks. We all, therefore, play a role in keeping Australian’s safe. It’s a shared accountability. It’s not a competition. If one party loses, we all lose. As the online landscape continues to expand, we cannot afford to operate in silos, and we must work together.”– Andy Penn, National Press Club Address, 31 July 2019
There is any number of ways for competitors to work with one another. They just need to find common ground, which is an essential first step. That requires us to look at our competitors as having something to contribute rather than as a foe to be vanquished.
Imagine what you could achieve if you were to work with your competitors towards a common goal.
Competitive people have a desire to win. On the surface, you might not think there is anything wrong with that. But what if the person they are competing with is someone in the same company or organisation?
This happens more often than you realise.
- If there is a culture that recognises individual performance, there will be competitiveness;
- If there are rewards or bonuses for getting higher sales figures, there will be competitiveness;
- If the company promotes the person who gets the best results, there will be competitiveness.
The competitive person sits across the table from the people they are ‘competing with’ and says, “I need to be better than you.” This approach promotes an adversarial relationship which may not encourage cooperation or collaboration.
The culture will have a part to play in this. The system may be set up to promote it. You may not be in a position to change the system. You may not be able to have a significant impact on the culture. If, however, you find yourself thinking competitively, a simple mindset shift can help you move into a better space.
Rather than say, “I need to be better than you,” shift your frame of mind to, “What can I learn from you?” This perspective will put you into a growth mindset rather than an adversarial one. It will offer you opportunities to work with your team rather than against one another, and it will promote relationship building rather than competition.
Yesterday I wrote about control and influence. A few more thoughts on the subject …
Think about the unhappiest or angriest people you know. What are they trying to control that they can’t?
In my experience, the unhappiest people of the world, (including me at one point), are those trying to control every aspect of their own and other people’s lives. They are seeking certainty and predictability. They are looking for safety and security in their certainty.
The happiest people have let go and are more curious about their lives and the world in general. They understand the limits of what they can control, and the randomness of the world allows them to be surprised and amazed.
What are you controlling that you can’t?
What would be the impact on your life if you let go?
“Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you’ll understand what little chance you have of trying to change others.”– Unknown
A myth I often dispel with clients is that we have control over people. We don’t. The only person we have limited control over is ourselves. We can control what we say and what we do. To a limited extent, we can control how we think.
We cannot, however, control others.
“But, I can control what my people do at work”, I hear you say.
No. That’s influence.
We can influence through punishment and reward. However, in his book Drive, Dan Pink discusses how the carrot and stick as a method of motivation is no longer viable. It works ok when people are doing routine, mundane and repetitive tasks, however, as soon as the job requires any type of cognitive effort, it becomes less effective.
People are capable of assessing whether they are motivated by the promise of reward or the fear of sanction. They then choose if they work or not. If the reward means nothing to them, or they don’t mind the consequences, they may decide not to complete the assigned work.
It’s their choice.
We can also influence through referent power the power that people believe we have through the position of our authority or the respect they have for us. Or, we can influence through our relationships. People will do things because they know us because we have built a relationship with them.
Again, it’s their choice.
If we want to get the most from people, we need to understand what motivates them. We all want to be treated like human beings so, spending some time understanding our people’s human motivations can help you build that relationship with them, and thus, your influence.
In 2012, the University of Melbourne Centre for Ethical Studies produced a report entitled Resilience: Women’s Fit Functioning and Growth at Work: Indicators and Predictors. At the time it was published as part of the Gender Equality Project.
The report aimed to:
“analyse indicators that are typically considered when assessing gender diversity strategies and then analyse the personal and organisational factors that predict these different outcomes.” 
The report is detailed, comprehensive and made five recommendations for improving gender equality in organisations.
Of these five recommendations, there was one that resonated for me quite strongly. Recommendation number 4 read as follows:
“Target low-level sexism through a range of strategies, such as a “no just joking” policy.”
In the discussion of this recommendation , the paper highlights how low-level sexism through jokes makes women feel uncomfortable and that they do not belong or are not welcome. When challenged, perpetrators of this behaviour would respond by saying they were “just joking” as if this made their behaviour acceptable because it was just a bit of fun with no harm intended.
The problem is there is harm committed.
Firstly, this kind of behaviour creates a “stereotype threat” which increases the potential for bias (perceived or real, conscious or non-conscious) in those making the jokes.
Secondly, the study found, there are negative impacts on women’s health and retention. Retention is important because when women leave an organisation, they take away the unique skill sets they offer as individuals, and this impacts the capability of the organisation.
It would seem, on the surface, a straightforward idea to create a “no just joking policy”. The report recommends the simple act of an apology, when challenged, should be enough to resolve this behaviour at a low level before it escalates.
I will leave the final comment on this matter to the report writers:
“…the point needs to be made that the loss of one source of humour is not the death of humour. It merely indicates that it is time to learn a few new jokes.”
- Page 6
- Page 20
In his book Deep Work, Cal Newport talks about Jerry Seinfeld’s simple system for getting work done. It involves putting a cross on the calendar each day he writes a joke and not placing a mark when he doesn’t. As Jerry tells it, once you get a row or two of crosses, you get to a point where you don’t want any blank spots on the calendar. So you keep writing jokes every day so you can keep your run of marks going.
This is how we can keep ourselves accountable.
I recently used this method to achieve my own goal. I wanted to go 100 days alcohol-free. On day one I started and put the number 1 in my calendar and then I put a box on where day 100 was. There was that box calling me to write 100 in it. I couldn’t let that box down. I had to do it.
And I did.
How can you use your calendar to keep you accountable?
“Perfection is not when there is no more to add, but no more to take away.”– Antoine De Saint-Exupéry
“It is vain to do with more what can be done with less.”– William of Occam
“Simplify. Simplify”– Henry David Thoreau
“The nature of creativity is to make space for things to happen … We can drive it out with our busyness and plans.”– Iain McGilchrist
There has been an increase in commentary recently on the culture of ‘busyness’. Being busy is seen as a badge of honour. If I am not busy, then I must not be productive.
“How are you?”
“I’m so busy?”
What if, however, being busy was another form of laziness? By being busy, we are potentially ignoring other parts of our lives that require attention. Our thoughts. Our emotions. Our health. Our relationships. Our wellbeing.
If you struggle with time management, start thinking about what you can cut from your day, week, month, year or life. Time management isn’t about finding ways to pack everything in. It’s about prioritising what’s important.
We’ve all got them. That one person or that group of people that we find difficult. 
I’ve written before about how people have a “right thing” and how taking others’ perspectives can help you understand motives.
What if we were to take it one step further?
Maintaining a curious mindset (check the voice in your head for tone) try to understand what is going on around the person with whom you are interacting.
Here are some questions that might help you do that (I am going to use a fictitious protagonist named Morgan here): 
- Who is Morgan’s boss or manager? What pressures are they under that Morgan might be picking up on? How could that be informing Morgan’s behaviour or thinking?
- What policies, procedures or legislation is Morgan using to inform his decision making? What effect might that be having on him?
- Has Morgan dealt with a similar experience to the one we are discussing today? What happened last time? How is that informing Morgan’s thinking and behaviour?
- What other influences are there on Morgan at the moment that could be impacting our conversation?
These questions are not exhaustive, but they do help you see some of the other forces of the system at play. As you take a step back and view different aspects of the system, test out your questions.
I encourage you to take a broader view of your difficult conversations, understand what else might be happening, and how that could be playing out in your interactions.
 Lately, I have moved away from the concept of “difficult people” to “people I find difficult. It puts the onus back on me to develop my empathy and understand others better.
 You don’t have to ask these questions out loud. Asking the question about your “Morgan” primes you to see events and behaviours to help you answer the questions. Of course, nothing is stopping you from asking the questions out loud either.
If you peruse the business literature, or even just business posts on social media, you will eventually come across the phenomenon of “meeting bashing”. It seems no-one likes a meeting and every commentator has a three, four or five-step process to address what they see as the downside.
I offer one step.
Frame the outcome of the meeting as a question that needs answering.
“In today’s meeting, we will seek to answer the following question: What / Who / How / When”?[i]
I once had a boss who was a great guy. He had a heart of gold and was always trying to do what was best for our stakeholders. The team loved him. He would, however, walk out of team meetings frustrated because there were very rarely any clear outcomes.
The problem was he always started the meeting with, “I want to talk about issue X”.
And so, we would discuss it. We would offer our opinions and our version of solutions. We would agree and disagree based on our perspectives. In the end, exasperated, the boss would say something like, “So what? What’s the decision?”
My sense always was, nice guy that he was, he was rarely clear on the question he was trying to answer. If he had, he would have been able to shape, guide and facilitate the discussion to answer that question.
What’s the question you’re trying to answer? Understand that question and you may be able to make meetings useful.
[i]And, very rarely, “Why?”
In his book, Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari talks about how we, as human beings, have invented social constructs so that we can create order and certainty for ourselves. We have called these social constructs ‘companies’ and ‘organisations’.
The problem is that these ‘companies’ and ‘organisations’ don’t exist. Not physically. You can’t touch them.
You can touch the buildings in which the people of those ‘companies’ work. Moreover, you can interact with the people that work for those ‘organisations’.
Physically, however, these ‘companies’ and ‘organisations’ only exist as inventions of our collective imagination.
This becomes a problem when people say things like:
- “The organisation made a decision”; or
- “I need to influence the company to …”.
No. The organisation did not make a decision. Someone who works for the organisation made a decision. That decision was made, by that person (or group of people), based on their interpretation of policy, culture and their relationship with the ‘organisation’.
Also, because the company doesn’t make decisions, you cannot influence the company to do so. Because individuals, or groups of individuals, make decisions, however, you can influence them.
So, if you’re having trouble influencing the organisation or company at the moment, give some thought to who the specific decision-makers are. They are the people you need to influence.
How you do that is a whole other story.
Consider the following scenario …
A close colleague comes to you and asks for feedback. “Give it to me straight” they say. So you do. Far from being grateful they get defensive. You can see it in their body language. You can hear it in their response of, “Yes, but …” or, “You don’t understand what else has been going on.”
How will you feel about giving your colleague feedback next time they ask?
My guess is that you will probably feel less like providing that support.
Now, have you ever done that yourself? Be honest.
“Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.”– Andy Stanley
If you want to have a team with a voice you will need to give them one. So, if you’re asking for feedback from those around you here are a few rules to consider:
- Rule 1: Shut up and listen. You will be tempted to speak and defend yourself. After all, you are potentially getting information that conflicts with your sense of identity or your status. ‘Fight or flight’ or amygdala hijack will kick in. Prime yourself and stifle the impulse to open your mouth.
- Rule 2: Break Rule 1 if, and only if, you’re going to ask a question. It’s okay to ask questions to get clarifying information to help you understand what you’re hearing. A rule of thumb is only to ask questions you don’t know the answers to. Also, before asking the question, test it in your head. If it sounds like a genuinely curious question, then it’s okay to ask. If not, if it seems judgemental or condescending, revert to Rule 1.
- Rule 3: Take notes to demonstrate to the other person you are taking their feedback seriously and will give you something to refer back to later.
- Rule 4: Once the other person has finished, use the following script (or something similar): “Thank you. I appreciate you taking the time to provide this feedback. You have given me a lot to think about. Would it be ok to take a day or two to think about what you have said? Maybe we could catch up in a few days if I have any further questions?” Taking this pause will allow you to stifle the impulse to defend your position straight away and allow any emotions you are experiencing to settle. You can then look at your notes with a more objective view later and make less subjective decisions about whether the feedback is valid or not.
Giving feedback is challenging but receiving it is integral to our growth. Don’t switch off a potential source of valuable information by inadvertently telling people you’re not prepared to listen.
You can read more of my thoughts on feedback here
“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”– Herbert Simon
There are a lot of highly successful people out there that have achieved great things in their fields of endeavour. For each one, there is someone else who wants to interview and deconstruct them in order to unearth the key ingredients of success.
As a result, there is a wealth of information available about how to be successful.
The problem is, if you were to do everything every successful person did, you would never get anything done.
Having been a connoisseur of many of these interviews and articles over the last few years, here are a few of the key themes you need to follow to be successful:
- Wake early, so you’re up before your competitors.
- Go to the gym as soon as you wake up.
- Go for a walk at lunchtime.
- Exercise before bed. (Or don’t exercise before bed)
- Meditate twice a day for at least ten min/20 min/1 hour each time.
- Write in your journal.
- Write your blog.
- Publish your podcast.
- Eat a healthy breakfast.
- Fast until lunchtime.
- Fast for 2 or 4 days a week.
- Get eight hours sleep a night.
- Adopt biphasic sleep.
- Get all your meetings done in the morning.
- Spend the morning alone in your creative space.
- Etc, etc, etc.
- (Insert advice of your choice here.)
The point is, there is a lot of good information out there about the tactics that certain individuals use to be successful. What those people did was found techniques that worked specifically for them.
And you can do the same.
Listen and read widely to gain ideas that might work for you. Then try them. See how they go. If they don’t work, discard them and try something else. Keep going until you find something that works for you, then adopt it. Check in every now and then to make sure it still works and if it does, great. If not, change your approach.
What works for one person may not work for another.
What makes some successful, may not do the same for you.
The word ‘need’ comes up quite a lot in conversation with my clients.
When it does it is usually followed by the question, “What would happen if you didn’t meet that ‘need’?”
Most of the time, after some discussion, we discover there are consequences, and being aware of those consequences is an essential component of any decision-making process.
Meeting that specific ‘need’, however, is rarely a matter of life and death.
I am often curious as to the pressure that we put on ourselves by using the word ‘need’ unnecessarily.
For those who watched Insiders on Sunday, 14 Jul 19, you
may have seen a brief discussion on Australian federal politicians’ Electoral
Allowance. This is an allowance of
between $32k and $46k for sitting members of parliament to spend in their
electorate as a discretionary fund.
There are a couple of key features of this fund, as highlighted in a Sydney
Morning Herald report on 3 July 2019:
- The allowance is paid directly into the bank
accounts of the sitting members;
- The sitting member is not required to declare
how the fund is spent;
- At the end of the financial year, any unused
funds may be retained by the sitting member as additional taxable income;
- In 2017, the two major parties blocked a move by
one of the minor parties that would have required politicians concerned to
prove how the money was spent.
The SMH article highlights concerns by some that this money
is being misused.
I make no comment on whether the reports in the SMH are
accurate and I want to outline there is no political bias here. I want to use
the case-study above to talk about systems.
I suspect that when the electoral allowance was originally
instituted it was done so with good intentions.
It was designed to allow money to be spent on areas in the electorate
where a need was seen but where existing policy did not meet that need.
Culture, however, is built by what the system rewards, recognises or rejects. In this case, there is a potential personal financial reward to the politicians concerned for not spending the money as it was intended; on the electorate. The system has also rejected the need for accountability around how this money is spent. This means the system is potentially set up to build a culture where corruption is rewarded or, if not present, there is a perception that it is.
Other examples where the system creates second or third-order effects on the culture are:
- When people are rewarded for higher sales figures over their colleagues a culture of completion may develop;
- In a call centre, if the KPI is quick resolution times for callers, then there is an incentive to get customers off the phone quickly rather than a focus on resolving the problem properly;
- A focus on people being at their desks for defined working hours, rather than focusing on getting the job done, may lead to demotivated employees;
- Assigning funding to schools based on test performances may encourage teachers to the test rather than the curriculum.
What is your system rewarding, recognising or rejecting?
“I would rather work with you on the one thing we agree on than fight with you over the nine things we disagree on.”– Cory Booker, U.S. Senator
No-one comes to work each day to make your life hell. (Well, almost no-one. Granted there are a few psychopaths out there but they are in the minority.)
No one gets up in the morning and says, “Today I am going to be the most difficult person at work.”
However, I’m sure it feels like that sometimes.
What, then, might be a better explanation?
Consider this instead; Everyone comes to work each day trying to do ‘the right thing’. It’s just that the right thing for you might be different from the right thing for your ‘belligerent’ colleague.
Take the scenario of Amy and Peter (1). Amy has a value set aligned with leadership and people and personal growth. She recently stepped out of her role as a Director in a global firm where she led a team of 160 people. When she initially took the position five years ago, she did so with the belief that 4-5 years in the role would be enough. Staying longer, in her mind, would run the risk of her becoming stagnant and blocking progression for other employees. Stepping out of her role demonstrated Amy’s integrity and commitment to her values. She believes that stepping away is the ‘right thing’ to do.
Peter is Amy’s manager. He is an Executive Director and, in a time when the company is going through significant change, and some uncertainty demonstrates his value of loyalty and stability and achievement by driving hard for employees to meet KPIs, reduce costs and promote certainty. He sees Amy stepping out of her role as a threat to all of those things. Peter is getting significant pressure from his boss at the moment to meet budget and increase compliance, and this is taking much of his energy. The company, experiencing a state of flux, has no defined role for Amy to move into at the moment so there is uncertainty around where she should be employed and, indeed, her future in the company. Peter believes that it was wrong for Amy to step out of her role and that, now, the ‘right thing’ is for Amy to take whatever position she is offered so Peter can get back to focusing on meeting the demands of his boss.
Needless to say, Amy and Peter are currently experiencing some tension and having some interesting conversations.
In my role as Amy’s coach, I have listened to her lament how ‘short-sighted’ Peter and the company are, how they don’t seem to understand what she is trying to achieve here, and how the overly heavy focus on metrics and compliance is driving morale of the company down. I have encouraged Amy to try and understand what Peter’s ‘right thing’ is so that they can find common ground from which to work together. We have discussed how, from Peter’s point of view at the moment, the number one priority is to provide as much stability and certainty at the moment. With that view, and a low ability to see things from others’ point of view, Amy’s move out of her role is a decision he doesn’t understand.
Seeing positive intent in people’s actions is a useful way to find common ground from which you can start working together. Remember, people don’t come to work every day with the specific intent of getting it wrong. So, if we can begin to understand what other people’s ‘right thing’ is, we can start to see what they are trying to achieve.
If you’d like to test yourself, try these scenarios (2):
- The finance person sends you back an invoice that needs correction when they could have easily corrected it themselves? What might be their ‘right thing’?
- The person on the train that pushes in front of you and seems to be in a hurry? What might be their ‘right thing’?
- The manager who initiates ‘performance management’? What might be their ‘right thing’?
One point to note: Sometimes, the right thing might be about survival rather than flourishing, growth or surviving.
Have you ever disagreed with someone, only to discover later that their heart was in the right place? Feel free to comment below so we can all learn from each other.
Do you know someone who is struggling with seeing the positive intent of others? Perhaps you could share this article with them.
If you are finding some of your working relationships difficult, and you could use some support to understand the right thing of others, contact me at Campbell Leadership Solutions, and we can discuss what solution is best for you.
If you want to discuss this, or any aspect, of leadership, personal or professional development, please contact me at Campbell Leadership Solutions.
- This story is based on a current real work scenario. Names have been altered to ensure confidentiality.
- Sometimes we may never know what other people’s motivations are or our assumptions might be wrong.
Image Credit to Gerd Altman on Pixabay
“When we make progress and get better at something, it is inherently motivating. In order for people to make progress, they have to get feedback and information on how they are doing.”– Daniel H. Pink
If you have a growth mindset, you are probably looking for useful feedback from your manager on your performance. This approach can be difficult especially if your manager is someone who always says, “Just keep doing what you’re doing”, or, “You’re doing great”, or if they are a “no news is good news” type of person.
If your go-to question for getting feedback is to ask “How am I going?” or “Could you please provide me with feedback on my current performance?”, maybe it’s time to frame the problem differently.
Rather than ask, “How am I doing?”, or, “Could you provide feedback on my performance” perhaps its time for a different approach. Maybe it’s time to ask different questions.
Pick a task you recently completed or an issue you have freshly tackled and take your manager through your approach. Preface the conversation by telling your manager that you’d like to take him or her through your thought process and get some ideas on how it could have been approached differently and to validate your thinking on the matter. Then get into specifics.
In whatever level of detail you consider appropriate for your feedback needs, start by outlining the issue or task, what you were aiming to achieve, your decision making processes, what stakeholders you engaged, what resources you called on, and what obstacles you faced and how you overcame them. You may also like to describe what is still need to do.
As you go through this process invite your manager to ask questions and provide comment on the specific details as you cover them. By doing so, you take control of your performance conversation and remove it from the realms of the general and into the specific areas that you find useful. You also provide insight to your manager on how you think and what your strengths are. Finally, you may find some areas where you require development and can provide useful evidence to your manager to support you in that development.
How do we know if something is good or bad?
I would like to relate a parable that may shift your thinking on this question. I first heard this story when I watched a Ted talk by Heather Lanier a few weeks ago. Since then I have been pondering the meaning behind the story. I’ve even told it to a few coaching clients when they were talking about things in their own lives that were good or bad. The resulting discussions revealed new insight for both of us.
In researching this parable, I discovered many variations; however, the version I first heard goes something like this …
The Parable of the Farmer
One day a farmer went to inspect his paddock only to find that his only horse had escaped. The farmer’s neighbours came to console him. “Your horse escaped. That’s bad”, they said. The farmer’s reply, “Good or bad? Hard to say.”
The next day the farmer’s horse came back followed by seven wild horses. The farmer’s neighbours were very happy for him. “You have seven new horses now. That’s good”, they said. The farmer again replied, “Good or bad? Hard to say.”
On the third day, the farmer’s son tried to ride one of the wild horses. After a few attempts, he fell off and broke his leg. Again, the neighbours visited the farmer. “That’s bad,” they said. Again, the farmer replied, “Good or bad? Hard to say.”
On the fourth day, the army marched past the farmer’s land. They were drafting young, able-bodied men for an impending war. Seeing the farmer’s son with a broken leg, they passed by. The neighbours commented, “That’s good that your son will not have to fight.” The farmer again replied, “Good or bad? It’s hard to say.”
What does it all mean?
Sometimes we are very quick to label the events in our life as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. What I think this story is trying to tell us is that we need to let events unfold before we make a judgement. I have previously written about taking the longer term view when looking into the past and measuring our achievements. Perhaps now it’s time to take the longer view forward.
We all have a lot of complexity in our lives. ‘Black or white’, ‘right or wrong’, or ‘good or bad’ thinking may limit our ability to understand the nuances of that complexity and deal with it effectively. On any given day there will be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ things that happen to us. When this happens, perhaps we should take a moment and ask ourselves, “Good or bad? Hard to say.”
Do you tend to think of events in your life in terms of ‘good’ or ‘bad’? If so I would encourage you to reflect on what this story might mean for you. Please share your reflections in the comments section below.
If you know someone who tends to think in concrete terms, please feel free to share this story with them. Think about how you might use this story to coach them through a particular issue they are struggling with at the moment.
If you would like to discuss this or any issue relating to leadership, culture or being human in a complex world, please feel free to contact me at Campbell Leadership Solutions.
Until then, thank you for reading and leading.
Image courtesy of Alexas_Fotos on Pixabay
I would like to tell two very different stories about customer service that have helped shape my own philosophy.
Story One: Steve
In January 2018, I took my son to Lismore for a cricket carnival. Most of the families who had travelled from the Illawarra stayed at the one hotel. As it was January, it was hot. At the end of each day, we would return to the hotel, and parents and kids would get in the pool to cool off. The last day of the carnival was no exception with regard to the weather. It was well on its way to 35 degrees as all the families checked out of the hotel, filled up their eskies with ice and headed off to the final match. We knew the game would finish around 2 pm, during the heat of the day, and we all knew we had a long journey back to Wollongong that afternoon, a prospect we were not looking forward to. As the match got underway, I received a message from the owner of our hotel inviting us all to come back to the hotel for a swim in the pool to cool off before we started our journeys home. This lifted our spirits considerably, and after the match, some of us took the owner up on his offer.
Thank you, Steve, from the AZA Hotel in Lismore. You are a champion.
Story 2: ‘Trish’
Story two goes like this. A couple of years ago, based on a recommendation, I enlisted the services of a web designer. For the sake of this story, let’s call her Trish. While my initial engagement with Trish was positive, I soon found myself chasing her for updates on progress. She was very quick to send invoices and indicate that she wouldn’t commence work until I had paid the invoice, but not as fast to respond to support requests. At one stage Trish admitted she had forgotten to complete some work for me as she was about to close down her business and go and work for someone else. She then finished the job and sent me a note advising I had one-month after-sales service, after which I was on my own. I did have a couple of issues with the site and contacted Trish. To one of the inquiries I received a short response with a link to a tutorial and to the other I received no answer but eventually observed the issue had been resolved.
Needless to say, I do not recommend Trish and at one point actively discouraged a peer from using her. I now recommend someone else when it comes to web design.
For Steve, it cost him nothing other than a little bit of his time, access to some change rooms and the laundering of a few extra towels to make a bunch of kids and adults very happy. The effect is that he has people recommending him and his hotel for many years to come and repeat business.
For Trish, she closed down her business to work for someone else. Time invested in knowing what her clients needed, rather than seeing them just as a source of income, could have generated the same effect as Steve’s action.
If you are in the business of providing a service to customers, there’s a good chance a cost-efficient, or even cost-neutral way exists of ‘going the extra mile’ for them, demonstrating you have a true customer focus. For me, as a coach, that focus is demonstrated by being available. If my clients want to talk to me in between formal sessions, then I allocate time to do that. I also check in with them when I know they have something important going on that we have discussed in the session. The feedback I get is that they appreciate knowing they are supported and that I am there for them when they need it.
How do you value add to your customers? Please leave your comments below and share your tips for making your clients feel valued.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of leadership, coaching or mentoring, or maximising your potential, then please feel free to contact me at Campbell Leadership Solutions.
I turned 47 during the weekend just passed.
I’ve decided to take a leaf out of Matt Mullenweg’s book and post a ‘Birthday Blog’. I’m aiming to share a few of the lessons I’ve learned over the last 365 days; some of the books, podcasts, apps and gadgets I’ve discovered and what my focus will be for the next 12 months. Having a birthday three weeks after New Year has given me two chances to reflect in close proximity and overall, I would classify the last year as one of the most enjoyable in recent memory.
47 has always been a significant number for me. Growing up, I lived at number 47, my phone number had that number in there … twice, and it seems to be a number that appears in my life at regular intervals. For that reason, I made the decision to have a 47th Birthday Bash instead of a 50th in three years’ time. Now that I’ve mentioned it, I’ll get you all to hold me accountable for that. NO Big 50th Anthony!
I achieved some significant milestones in 2017. Perhaps the most significant was the completion of my Masters in Coaching Psychology at the University of Sydney after four years of part time study. The final session covered applied positive psychology in executive coaching and it has proven to be a force multiplier with my own coaching practice. Helping people to understand their strengths and how they can use them to overcome their challenges has been incredibly rewarding.
It was great to see my son awarded age champion in the Illawarra for his cricket last year. We have both had to learn that success can be a double-edged sword. The expectation to repeat the same high performance, both for himself and others – including me – can place unnecessary pressure on young kids, and probably adults too. We have both had to learn how to enjoy the game when we’re having highs and reset our expectations and learn from the lows.
I’ve continued to refine my own theory on leadership into the new year. The short version is that I believe that a healthy curiosity about ourselves, the environment and others, along with a dose of vulnerability, allows us to build meaningful relationships with people. If we have relationships then we can influence and if we can influence, we can lead. Leadership is a set of behaviours that anyone at any level of an organisation can practice. Leadership is not a position. I am looking forward to continuing to revise my thoughts during 2018 and beyond.
There have been a few books, podcasts and apps that I have really enjoyed this year. I’ll write a bit more in detail about them in a future blog, however, here are some of the key highlights:
- The Audible app has been invaluable. I have done a few kilometres in my car this year (faithful Harry Honda) and while some people like to listen to music, I have grown to love listening to books. Some of the best ones will be listed below.
My actual Audible play list … well some of it.
Actual Harry Honda
- If you’re looking to take up mindful meditation Headspace is the app for you. The first ten hours of mediation is free, so you can try before you buy. For more information you might want to check out the creator, Andy Puddicombe’s TED Talk.
- Books! Where to start on books? I’ve read and listened to so many this year. Perhaps the first one I would recommend is Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. If you want to know how we got to where we are today, this book will open your eyes and challenge some of your assumptions. I also discovered Neil Gaiman as a writer last year (later than some, I know). He is such a creative story teller and I recommend you listen to Gaiman read his own books. You will become lost in the story very quickly. Finally, I would recommend anything by Malcolm Gladwell. He challenges the way we look at modern society in a very eloquent manner.
- I’ve continued to listen to the Tim Ferris Show as he continues to interview an eclectic mix of people about what tricks, tips and techniques have worked for them. There are so many to choose from and not every interviewee will appeal to everyone. A good start would be Conquering Fear and Reducing Anxiety with Caroline Paul or How not to be Evil with Dr Phil Zimbardo.
- When I am after something a bit lighter, and deeper as it turns out, I turn to the Infinite Monkey Cage. Professor Brian Cox and Robin Ince provide a fun and informative way to look at science and help us understand the physical world we live in a little better.
- Finally, I would like to give a shout out to The Bullet Journal. I discovered this method of journaling about twelve months ago and I have not looked back. It has proven to be a great way to keep a record of my day and my thoughts and how I use it continues to evolve.
My actual Bullet Journal
Of course, all of the opinions above are my own and you should feel free to have your own. I would enjoy your comments on the Campbell Leadership Solutions Facebook page or on my website.
Turning now to 2018, I have to admit I haven’t set any concrete goals as yet. Strange for an executive coach, you might think, however, I personally have not found them useful in the past. I would say my focus points for this year are more values based. With confidence these will contribute to success and learning (which in my book is the same thing) over the next twelve months.
One thing I have started to do is to look after my mind and body more. I have been focusing on building my physical strength through lifting weights at the gym with the amazing support of my partner. With her support, and the assistance last year of the 30-Day Sobriety Solution, I’ve changed my relationship with alcohol and have reduced my consumption significantly. I’ve also improved the way I eat. All of these factors have contributed to having more energy and feeling better about myself. My aim is to continue and realise compounding benefit over the next 12 months. In addition, I am resuming my meditative practice using the Headspace app, mentioned above.
Another focus for this year is to continue to build my curiosity about people in a non-judgemental manner and try to take other people’s perspectives. This will help with relationship building and with my own coaching practice. It is something that is difficult to do, as we all have our own biases ingrained from birth that we need to become aware of, so curiosity about self is something I will be focusing on too.
Finally, I want to take a leaf out of Mark Manson’s book and choose more carefully what I ‘give a fuck’ about. Last year I would become so frustrated that the neighbours couldn’t pick up their dog’s poop off my front lawn. This year, I’m realising there are more important things in the world to worry about and choosing where to focus is reducing my levels of stress and increasing my ability to place my energy where it’s needed.
Actual poop on my lawn.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading. Thank you also to all of those people who have been an influence on me over the last twelve months. Sometimes even the smallest interaction can mean so much.
If you would like to read more then please head to my blog page or any of my social media accounts which can be accessed through my website.
Oh, and thank you to everyone who came to the celebrations on the weekend. It was your presence that made it a great night.
Actual friends with me at my birthday celebrations.
At the time of publishing this it is the last day of 2017 and tomorrow will be the first day of 2018*. It’s about to be the start of a whole ‘nother year. And that means New Year Resolutions …. Right?
Well, it can if you want it to.
If New Year’s resolutions are your thing then, please go right ahead. If, however, you’re a little like me and most of the rest of us out there and resolutions don’t or haven’t worked then perhaps you’ve been looking for a different way of approaching your reflections on what you want to achieve this year … I mean next year …. I mean over the next 365 days or so … I mean in the future … You get what I mean.
I’ve been conducting my own reflections of 2017 and what I want to achieve in 2018 so it was no surprise to see a few things pop up in my email inbox and my Facebook news feed suggesting how I could do it better. Is that confirmation bias, magic or Big Brother watching over me? I’ll leave you to decide.
So, if you would like a different way to approach goal setting in the New Year then here are three methods that have resonated for me.
Reflecting the Bullet Journal Way
In 2017 I started using The Bullet Journal method for planning, daily goal setting and recording important information. It’s a simple and effective process that you can use with any blank journal and it can even be adapted for use on line. I was using Notes Plus but there are plenty of other options out there. Please feel free to share what you have used in the comments section below.
Ryder Carroll, founder of Bullet Journal describes his method for migrating from your completed journal to a new journal. Of course, the New Year is a great time to do this. In the first part of this particular blog he describes the reflection process that he uses before migration. It involves going through your old journal from the previous year (or this year if you are doing it before the end of this year … let’s not go down that path again) and reflecting on all your entries. If you’ve been disciplined in your journaling you should have a good history and narrative for the year. Then in four sections of a blank page capture the following:
- What worked for you.
- What didn’t work.
- What you want to do more of.
- What you want to be doing less of.
Ryder makes the point that it is just as important to reflect on what you didn’t achieve as what you did. We will learn just as much from our failures (possibly more, I would say) as we do from our successes.
Going through this process helps you prioritise what is important for you going forward in the new year and to set some priorities.
Tim Ferriss’ Past Year Review (PYR)
For those of you who have been following me for a while you will know that I subscribe to Tim’s blog/podcast The Four Hour Work Week. In his interviews Tim ask questions of people successful in their field about the tactical level tips and techniques that helped them achieve success. It is very rare that I go through an entire podcast and I don’t hear something that I feel could be useful for either myself or one of my clients. The podcast is one I recommend on my own website.
Tim also sends out a short email every week called Five Bullet Friday in which he shares the latest things or thoughts that interest him and he feels might be of interest to his followers. In his email of 30 Dec 17 he reveals his system for past year review. For accuracy, I have copied directly from Tim’s email below:
- Grab a notepad and create two columns: POSITIVE and NEGATIVE.
- Go through your calendar from the last year, looking at every week.
- For each week, jot down on the pad any people and activities that triggered peak positive or negative emotions for that month.
- Once you’ve gone through the past year, look at your notepad list and ask “What 20% of each column produced the most reliable or powerful peaks?”
- Based on the answers, take your “positive” leaders and schedule more of them in 2018. Get them on the calendar now! Book things with friends and prepay for shit now! That’s step one. Step two is to take your “negative” leaders, put “NOT-TO-DO LIST” at the top, and put them somewhere you can see them each morning for the first few weeks of 2018. These are the people and things you *know* make you miserable, so don’t put them on your calendar out of obligation, guilt, FOMO, or other nonsense.
There will be those of you reading this who will be saying “Well, that’s great if you work for yourself or are an entrepreneur. I don’t have control of my diary or who I work with. I have no choice.” I offer a few of points on this.
Firstly, you always have a choice. You don’t have to go to that meeting and you don’t have to work in that job. You do have to live with the consequences of your choice, however, and should make your choices being aware of those consequences.
Secondly, if you make the decision to attend these meetings and work with these people, what can you do to either make the experience more enjoyable or learn something from it? I’d suggest adopting a curious attitude rather than a ‘woe is me’ one. There is always something you can learn from any experience, positive or negative.
Finally, there will always be elements of your diary that you can control; social engagements, family outings, gym sessions, what you do when you get home at night. Which of those did you enjoy and which would you like less of? Take control of the elements of your life within your power.
Mark Manson’s Five Rules for Giving Less F**ks in the New Year.
Mark Manson has a different approach, although there are some similarities. He talks about focusing on the outcome you want rather than the activity you are engaged in. Here is a summary of Mark’s rules:
- Find something important to care about. Mark asks us to consider what are the goals or issues that we are prepared to endure pain or discomfort to achieve or resolve.
- Solve problems. Happiness comes when we solve problems. It’s something we have to work for and not something we are magically given. This is why people who have money aren’t necessarily happy.
- Prioritise what you care about. Stop caring about the trivial, like the guy who parks to close to you or the dog that craps on your lawn. We have limited energy. Choose where you want to spend it.
- Align your efforts with your values. Be comfortable with the choices you make and stop trying to live by other people’s values.
- Understand you have limited time. We have a limited amount of time on the planet. Think about what you want to be remembered for when you’re gone. Align your actions with that vision.
Mark, in his style, tells the story in a much more colourful way. If you would like to read his version you can here.
Common themes and Next Steps.
There is a common theme in all three of these approaches. Analyse where you spend your time and do more of what you want and less of what you don’t want. There is no surprise this theme resonates for me as it is something I talk about with my clients all the time; focus on what you want. All it takes now:
- Make some time to sit down with your diary, journal, or to reflect on what’s important, what do you want, and what do you want to do less of.
- Commit those thoughts to paper and share with a friend. You are more likely to follow through if you do.
- Monitor your progress and repeat at routine intervals (it doesn’t need to be yearly).
Of course, this is just three of many methods you can use to set goals and achieve in the New Year. Any basic Google search will present you with a range of options. I’m more interested in what has worked for you. Please share with the Campbell Leadership Clan in the comments below.
If you’d like any help setting goals or working on your professional or personal development goals, please feel free to contact me at Campbell Leadership Solutions.
Until then, thank you for reading and leading.
Happy New Year.
* Applicable anytime. 😉
I would like you to think back to a time where you felt you were in the best job in the world. One where you felt motivated to come to work every day. If you’re lucky enough, you may even be in that job right now.
What was it that made it the best job in the world?
Was it the pay?
Was it the location?
Was it the hours that you worked?
The odds are that it was not any of these things but a combination of three distinct features of your job or work environment that contributed to that feeling of satisfaction.
Understanding what these factors are, as an employee might help you to identify what it is about your current role that you are enjoying or missing. As a leader, it might help you to create the environment for your employees to achieve job satisfaction.
Want to know what they are? Read on.
This is the first blog since March this year (2017 if you’re reading this in a few years time). During this period I have been completing my Master’s Degree in Coaching Psychology at the University of Sydney. I made a conscious decision during this time to hold back on my writing and focus on my studies, not for better marks – although that’s always nice – but because everything I learned had a practical application for coaching my clients.
My aim over the coming weeks is to recommence my writing and impart some of the knowledge I have gained over the preceding months.
Self Determination Theory
I want to start, in this article, with a small element that was common to both the subjects completed this semester (Positive Psychology and The Psychology of Peak Performance) called Self-Determination Theory (SDT). SDT discusses human motivation and, among other things, suggests that people will feel more motivated towards their endeavours if they can meet three basic psychological needs.
Those three needs are Autonomy, Competence and Relatedness.
Let’s look at each of these in detail.
Autonomy is the degree to which people have agency or choice in what they do. They feel empowered to make decisions, and they act in accordance with their values and self-image.
Competence is the ability to use strengths to produce valued outcomes. People who feel competent believe what they are doing is making a difference. They can see how they are growing and developing from their experiences.
Relatedness relates to how much people believe they are part of something bigger than themselves. They feel connected to others in their social groups.
In the words of some respected researchers on the subject (see further reading below):
“People are expected to do well and feel their best when the socio-cultural conditions of their lives (i.e. family relationships, friendships, workplace culture, political systems, cultural norms) support the inherent needs for freely engaging in interesting activities (i.e. autonomy), producing valued outcomes through the use of their strengths and abilities (i.e. competence), and feeling closely and securely connected to significant others (i.e. relatedness).”
What does it all mean?
People may start off doing what they are told because they have been told to do it. They expect either a reward for doing it or a punishment if they don’t (extrinsic motivation). As they are empowered to make choices about how they achieve the task (autonomy) and see they can do it, and what they are doing is making a difference (competence), and work alongside people they value and form connections with (relatedness), they will start to internalise the value of what they are doing and become more motivated (intrinsic motivation).
It may be useful at this point to discuss the importance of these basic needs by examining what happens when we don’t have them. Think about when you have been micro-managed at work, have felt that you were unable to achieve your goals or that you couldn’t find anyone with whom you connected. If you were in this environment you wouldn’t feel very motivated to come to work, would you? Workplaces like this experience high absenteeism and presenteeism, high separation rates, low productivity and low discretionary effort, and high complaint rates against other members of staff. At best in these environments, you will have team members who display no innovation or initiative. At worst you may have a workforce that experiences psychological distress and mental health issues.
As leaders, we need to take a critical look at our workplaces and our cultures and understand if they are supportive of our teams meeting their basic psychological needs or if they are disruptive of them.
Facilitating the basic needs
The following is not meant to be an exhaustive list of how to increase employees’ perceptions of autonomy, competence and relatedness. It does, however, provide a starting point and if you are interested in learning more, then there are some resources at the bottom of the page you can call on.
Autonomy is not about doing what ever you want. That would be anarchy. Autonomy is about providing choice and respecting the choices that people make. It is about allowing people to feel in control. This can be accomplished through agreeing on goals and then allowing individuals and teams to make decisions about how they achieve those goals within agreed constraints. Use of coaching or coach style questioning to help individuals and teams to make decisions about what they are going to do conveys task ownership.
As stated earlier, people will feel competent when they feel they are making a difference, are using their strengths, and can see how they are growing and developing from the experience. Leaders can facilitate competence by ensuring that their teams have the right training and that they get to use that training to achieve the goals that they have set for themselves. Additionally, as leaders, we should help our people set goals that stretch, but not break, them. As they achieve those stretch targets, our team members will come to realise they have skills they didn’t know they had and, in turn, want to apply those skills.
Fostering teamwork, breaking down silos and promoting collaboration will all contribute to being part of something bigger than the individual effort. Leaders, also, however, have a role in understanding what individuals within their teams value at a personal level. While organisations have espoused values, these are not what gets their employees out of bed in the morning to come to work. As a leader, you can help your team members feel a part of something bigger than themselves. Get to know them, understand what is important to them and assist them to link their values to the organisational outcomes.
So, now what?
Take some time to reflect. If you are a leader in your organisation, do you feel like you experience autonomy, competence and relatedness? If you do, great. Does your team? If not, then, as a leader, you have a role to play in creating an environment where they can. The research suggests that both the organisation and its people will both benefit.
If you don’t think you’re experiencing these basic psychological needs, then there is a chance your team isn’t as well. Ask yourself, what’s within your control to facilitate those needs within your team. Perhaps, you could set yourself a stretch target of having a constructive conversation with your boss about this concept. There is some further reading below if you want to learn more.
What tips do you have for fostering a motivation rich environment in the workplace? What have you seen that works? Please, share your ideas with us so that all of us in the Campbell Leadership Clan can learn from your experiences.
Is there someone who you feel could benefit from the information contained in this blog? If so, please feel free to share it with them and, even better, sit down and discuss with them the way they could help facilitate autonomy, competence and relatedness with their teams.
If you would like more information or would like to discuss any of the concepts mentioned above, please feel free to contact Anthony at Campbell Leadership Solutions so that we can see how we might be able to help you.
And, as always, thank you for reading and leading.
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68-78.
Spence, G. B., & Deci, E. L. (2013). Self Determination Theory Within Coaching Contexts: Supporting Motives and Goals that Promote Optimal Functioning and Well-being. In S. David, D. Clutterbuck, & D. Megginson (Eds.), Beyond Goals: Effective Strategies for Coaching and Mentoring (pp. 85-108). London: Gower Publishing.
I was talking to a client this week about taking the perspective of others.
I’ve written about this before … twice.
At one point he gave me an example that drove it home for me. It was such an obvious example of the importance of taking other’s perspectives that I can’t believe I hadn’t heard it, seen it, or thought of something similar before.
He told me the story of the airline hostess and the passenger.
If you’ve heard or read this one before then bear with me, please.
I don’t know how many flights in a day a member of an airline’s crew does but the way the story was told to me this particular hostess was not on her first. She was tired. She had been dealing with passengers all day, and she was a little irritated.
The customer had rung the attendant call bell and asked for something. Not being completely on her game the hostess had been a little short with the customer.
For the customer, this was her first flight … ever … and she was very excited about it.
Take a moment to put yourself in the shoes of both those people. How would the behaviour of each have impacted on the other?
Imagine the enthusiasm and expectations of the passenger.
Imagine how much the hostess must have been longing for home after a long day at work.
What might you have done in either of their situations?
There are many interpretations of this story and many different scenarios you could apply this type of situation too:
- The experienced lecturer and the eager student.
- The restaurant waiter and the patron who has had a booking for a month for this particular restaurant.
- The tired parent and the excited child.
What examples do you have?
For me, this brought home, again, the importance of taking other people’s perspectives. We deal with people every day, and we have an opportunity to leave a lasting impact on people. This was reinforced as I listened to the Tim Ferriss podcast interview with Adam Robinson this week. They talked about how “Suffering is an excessive focus on ourselves.” When we focus on others, we are the happier for it. And when we take other people’s perspectives we learn, and we develop our ability to deal with complexity by expanding our world view.
We make interpretations of events based on our experiences. Those experiences shape how we judge others. Once we have formed judgements, it then becomes difficult to suspend those beliefs and see things from others perspectives. But it can be done.
I’ve talked before about being curious about people. What does that look like? Ask yourself things about the other person like what jobs they’ve had, what their family circumstances might be like, what’s important to them, what might have just happened that has shaped that behaviour.
What other questions would you ask?
There are a couple of points to note when doing this.
- Firstly, come up with multiple options. Your first answer may or may not be correct. A variety of answers gives you more information with which to form your understanding.
- Secondly, consider options that are radically different to your world view. Allow yourself to be inclusive. Have new ideas.
- Finally, prepare to be wrong.
If you follow the steps above you have will have a hypothesis and a mindset that will allow you to engage with people, learn from and about them, and increase your ability to connect.
Curiosity will lead to connections which can increase our ability to build relationships. If we have a relationship with someone then we can influence them. If we can influence them then we can lead.
And leadership is the key to thriving.
So, that is my ramble done for this week. What do you think? Do you agree, disagree or does your opinion lie somewhere in the middle? I would love to get your feedback and your thoughts.
If you would like to discuss the concepts discussed in this article, or any topics relating to leadership, please feel free to get in contact with us here at Campbell Leadership Solutions. We would like to talk to you about how we may be of assistance.
And finally, thank you for reading and leading.
Does your to-do list keep you up at night? Many people I have spoken to suggest having a notepaper and pen beside the bed is a good way to stop this. If there is something that is on your mind, get it out of there and onto a piece of paper. Sounds easy, right?
Okay, so what about this scenario: Have you arrived at home after a long day and struggled to focus on the moment? You know, your kids or partner want your attention, but your head is still in work mode thinking about what needs to be done back in the office. What suggestions have you had from others about how to address this?
Previously, I’ve written about having your head and your body in the same place and today I’d like to take it one step further. Today I want to amalgamate some ideas from a couple of different sources, and I want to call it “Book Ending Your Day.”
So, what does that look like?
Well, it looks like this …
- For ten minutes at the beginning of the day, look at your to-do list and name the one or two (at a pinch three, but no more) things that, if you get them done, will mean that you’ve had a successful day, and
- Then, at the end of the day, sit back and take stock of the day and acknowledge what you have achieved.
What are your initial reactions to this?
If you get the concept and are thinking, ‘I can do that’, then great, skip to the last paragraph where I will ask you to share your experiences.
If you would like some more detail, then read on.
These two simple ideas (and yet again, I will emphasise that simple does not mean easy) come from a couple of different sources. Firstly, Tim Ferriss in his blog talks about choosing the 3-5 most important things that need to get done that day. He asks himself these questions:
The key here is to decide what is important to get done that day and make it a priority. Everything else then becomes secondary.
Secondly, Cal Newport in his book Deep Work talks about his shutdown ritual. The aim of this is to end the day by making sure all the tasks on his to-do list are in the right place and there is a plan in place to achieve them over the short to medium term. The key here is not to leave anything hanging but make sure that there is a plan in place, even if only a rough plan, to get done what needs to get done.
Personally, I would then add another step. At this point, I think it’s important to reflect on what you achieved that day. Taking just another couple of minutes to do this you will gradually build your sense of accomplishment and satisfaction with the work you do. You will begin, and continue, to see what you are getting done. I have written before about the benefits of reflecting and taking stock of your achievements. A short period doing this at the end of the day can have multiplying effects.
Once you have completed your end of day routine, and this is vital as Newport suggests, do not “go back” to work. Do not pull out the laptop or tablet and think to yourself, “I’ll just check e-mail,” or “I’ll just get a couple more things done.” By doing this we are not allowing our brains to recharge. We are not allowing time to rest our attention. By not respecting the end of day routine, we are distracted from focusing on our home lives and we reduce our ability to remain focused during the next day at work. This can adversely affect the next day’s output.
It may also help you sleep better that night knowing that you’ve had control of your day and that you have a plan for tomorrow.
So, here’s what I’d like you to do …
Consider the concept of bookending your day. I have given you a few ideas here about how to do this. Even if the particular techniques here don’t work for you, what do you think of the idea? Are you prepared to try this or some routine like it?
If you like the idea, what tips or techniques do you have that you are willing to share? Please, leave appropriate comments in the section below.
Do you know someone else this approach could work for? Please, share this blog with them. Better yet, sit down with them and have a discussion with them about it. Coach them through the issue. I am a firm believer in the power of human connection. Again, your experiences can help others, including me, so please write about them below.
If you would like to discuss this, or any leadership related concept with me, then please feel free to get in contact with me here at Campbell Leadership Solutions. I would be happy to assist in any way I can.
And, until next time, thank you for reading and leading.
As a kid, I loved reading fiction. Specifically, I liked science fiction and fantasy. Ever since I picked up a copy of ‘The Hobbit’ I devoured anything like it I could find. That habit started to change about 15 years ago. While I would still read a little of this genre, my attention turned to books on military history, strategy and leadership. This was not unexpected noting my recent career. Regular followers of my blog will recognise that this time coincided with my newfound insight on leadership.
Over the last year, my attention has returned partially to the mystical and magical. I now actively try and read a few pages of something that I call ‘chewing gum for the brain’ before I go to bed at night. There are a couple of benefits. Firstly, it stops me looking at a computer, laptop or phone before I go to sleep. I’m sure we can all put our hands on a study detailing the benefits of ‘switching off’ before turning in for the night. Secondly, it takes my mind off work and allows me to immerse in an imaginary world. The neuroscientists will tell you there is a benefit to allowing your conscious mind to have a rest and your non-conscious mind to process all the important things that happened throughout the day.
Please, if you can think of other benefits then share them with the rest of us. I don’t own all the expertise here. Remember, this is just my ramble.
Lately, I have been reading a series of books that you will most likely find in the young adult section of the bookshop. It’s the “Ranger’s Apprentice” series by John Flanagan. My eldest daughter read the first of the series at high school. I read it also so I could discuss it with her. It’s an easy and entertaining read with some good lessons for teenagers along the way. I enjoyed it so much I continued to read the sequels.
A few nights ago, I read the following passage from book six of the series:
It’s certainly had me thinking over the last few days. I’m meant to be working on a blog about bookending your day with planning and reflection, but this thought had my attention, and I decided I needed to get some ideas on paper (or a screen).
When I start with a new client, and I ask them what they think coaching is, we tend to get into a conversation about the difference between coaching and mentoring. The purists will tell you that mentoring is about someone who is on the same path as you, though further ahead, offering advice about their journey in the hope that it might inform yours. While coaching, on the other hand, is about asking questions that allow you to surface new levels of insight and self-awareness to make better decisions about what your goals are and how to achieve them. There is one branch of thought that argues if you are a coach you should never give advice.
For those of you out there who have been coaches and mentors, either formal or informal, I wonder what your thoughts are on this subject.
Personally, I think that, as a coach, I need to work with my client. I need to “meet them where they are at”, a line any coach who has done any level of formal training will have heard. Coaching and mentoring is a collaborative endeavour. It’s about working together with your coachee or mentee to achieve whatever developmental goals they have set for themselves. The thing to remember is it’s not my journey. While I might, indeed I do, learn a lot from working with every single one of my clients, I have to remember, I can only ask questions and help guide. I can’t make decisions for them. Sometimes, the toughest part of being a coach, mentor or parent is about letting your “client” go through individual experiences themselves. It’s our job as coaches and leaders to have the discussions that allow our people to learn from those experiences.
Anyway, ramble done for now. It’s over to you. What do you think? Do you agree, disagree or fall somewhere in between on these thoughts?
So that we might all learn together, please feel free to leave your comments below. If you would like to discuss this, or any concept around leadership or behavioural change, then please feel free to get in contact with us here at Campbell Leadership Solutions.
Thank you for reading and leading.
p.s. Thank you very much to my nephew, Sam, for the loan of your books. I promise I will return them soon. 😉
I am excited about this series of blog posts called Campbell Rambles. Someone close to me has commented about how she likes the way I ramble on when I am trying to get my thoughts straight around an idea. I’m sure many of you have done the same.
Well, I thought it time to put a ramble or two (or three) into print. These posts are not designed to be the solutions to all your problems, although there will be suggestions along the way. They are merely a collection of thoughts about a particular topic that I have been pondering. My hope is that something in these rambles will generate new thinking and new questions for you.
Disclaimer up front: They won’t be as well structured as other posts, and the grammar will be ‘less than ideal’ to quote a friend of mine. My aim will also be to keep them short so that they are easily digestible. This one will be a bit longer as I introduce the concept.
So, let’s begin.
I saw this quote the other day, and it resonated with me:
I’m sure it’s not a new quote for a lot of people but it was the first time I had seen it, and it’s been present in my thoughts for a few days now. It’s certainly changed my attitude as I go to the gym or for a walk along the beach at home. I am now curious as to what my body can achieve rather than focussing on just “getting fit” (Whatever that looks like).
I don’t know who was the original author of the quote. I’m not sure if they intended any additional meaning behind the message but, if there was some subliminal text it might look something like:
“Celebrate the life that you have. Enjoy it. Don’t beat yourself up for every little mistake.”
What do you think? Am I reading too much into it?
What if we were to apply the quote to our careers? It would then read:
“Your career should be a demonstration of what you can achieve, not something that you do because you have to.”
As I write this, I am aware that many people don’t feel in control of their careers:
- “My boss is a control freak. I don’t have any autonomy.”
- “I have a mortgage to pay. I just can’t go and work for myself.”
These are common objections I hear when I am talking to clients about taking control of their lives. These are the people for whom it’s about “going to work because they have to.” They don’t enjoy what they do, and they feel like slaves to the machine.
I say to my clients frequently that many things are simple but not necessarily easy. I also talk about “growing pains” – the discomfort that comes with change. If you want to “celebrate what you can achieve”, some growing pains are necessary.
There are no easy answers. Approaching the controlling boss takes courage. Quitting what you’re doing and doing what you love involves risk. That said there are some small steps to help you get started and build momentum:
- Engage the services of a coach or seek out a mentor to discuss what your current issues are. You don’t have to make any changes at this point, but another perspective can help;
- Do the sums on what you need to live. Ryan Holiday, author of “Ego is the Enemy” and “The Obstacle is the Way” says “If you don’t know how much you need, the default quickly becomes ‘more.'” When you know how much you need, you can make more informed decisions about what you can do;
- Get curious about what others in your situation have done. Perhaps there are some lessons you can learn from others you can apply;
- Think about where you want to be ten years from now. 20 years. What do you want people to be saying about you when you’re gone? What do you want your legacy to be? Then look at where you are now and figure out what the first small step is that you need to take. Remember, any small step in the right direction is a step in the right direction.
There is another quote that has just come to mind as I write this …
“Freedom is on the other side of fear.”
Get curious about what is holding you back and investigate that. You might find that there is a whole new world that opens up once you can put a name to your fear.
And then celebrate what you can do. If we want to find meaning in our lives, I think we have to get out of survival mode and reflect on what we are capable of achieving. Let’s stop punishing ourselves for the decisions we have made up to this point or the mistakes we might have made. Let’s change the mindset. Let’s show others (and ourselves) what we can do. Let’s start making decisions, that while difficult, may prove rewarding.
I’ve rambled long enough. What do you think?
I hope you enjoyed the first of these Campbell Rambles. At this stage, they won’t be a regular post. I will publish as something I feel important comes to mind. If you don’t want to miss out on them, then head to the Campbell Leadership Solutions web page and sign up as a member of the Campbell Leadership Clan.
Do you feel like you are drowning in information? Are you struggling to see what the second and third order effects of your decision making might be? Are you baffled by the reasons behind why people make certain decisions?
Chances are you’re suffering from ‘complexity.’
“Complexity?” I hear you ask. “What is complexity and what is the cure?”
Well, there is no real cure. Complexity is here to stay, and there is no simple answer to it. You cannot make it go away.
What you can do, however, is manage it, navigate it and learn to understand the effects of it. Want to know how? Then, read on.
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”
– Jon Kabat-Zinn
The introduction above is a little flippant. However, the truth is that these days there is a lot of talk about complexity. You may have heard of the term VUCA. VUCA stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. It’s a term originally used by the U.S. military following the end of the Cold War. It has gained more common usage in business circles to describe the challenges of an interconnected and globalised society. We now have access to information more than we ever had in our history. The data feed, however, is not linear or straightforward. The number of channels by which data can be accessed, or pushed to us, has multiplied. The world is far more interconnected and what might seem like simple decisions can have wide-ranging effects.
In their book ‘Simple Habits for Complex Times’, Jennifer Garvey Berger and Keith Johnston discuss three techniques, summarised below, that can help you start to understand complexity. They do this through a mix of theory and parable, telling the story of an organisation dealing with a complex issue and describing how they go about dealing with it. The three techniques are:
1. Ask different questions. Typically, we look to our leaders for answers. The stereotypical view of a leader is someone with the solutions to all our problems. This view implies a certain amount of predictability. However, in a complex world uncertainty is one of complexity’s bedfellows. The other issue with this image relates to what happens when the leader leaves. If the leader has all the answers, how do the junior leaders learn? Garvey Berger and Lawson offer that we should start asking questions about things we genuinely don’t know the answers to and try and generate questions we haven’t asked before. Doing this with a curious and growth mindset allows us to see opportunities for problem-solving. It also gets others thinking and developing their capabilities.
2. Take multiple perspectives. A complex environment means you will, most likely, have multiple stakeholders. How those stakeholders react to your decisions will depend on the pressures applied by and the diverse influences of their respective stakeholders. You are but one. Additionally, most people are not coming to work each day with the sole intention of making your day worse. Like you, they are likely trying to do the best job they can. Clashes occur when your view and theirs about what the ‘right thing to do’ differ. When we start to see where the other person is coming from our capacity for relationship building increases as does our ability to work together and achieve goals that are mutually beneficial.
3. See systems. We don’t work in a vacuum. We come together in teams, or teams of teams, to achieve goals and outcomes. At the very least we interact with different organisations, customers, cross-functional groups, our families and the public. All of these elements form a “complex system of policies, people, relationships, experiences and histories.” If we can start to look at the system and see how the interrelated parts are interacting and influencing one another we start to see how the conditions are being created to either succeed, fail or achieve something in between.
A different application
When I work with clients attempting to deal with complex issues I will sometimes use a modified approach to Garvey Berger and Lawson’s work. The aim of the exercise — and this is an important point — is not to come up with answers. In most situations, the client is wrestling with an issue and has hit a brick wall. Or maybe they’ve tried to come up with a solution, and it hasn’t worked. What this activity is designed to do is to expand the thinking and open up the mind to seeing opportunities.
To get started, find yourself a blank piece of paper and a clear space. Allow yourself about 30 min to run through the exercise for the first time. As you practice it more and more, you should be able to reduce the time. Indeed as you become further practised, you won’t need the paper, and you will find this process will become a habit.
Step 1: Draw a Network
Think of a project you are currently working on and where you feel that you have reached a dead end. Perhaps there is a particular individual who is being obstructionist or oppositional to your task. On your piece of paper start mapping out all the stakeholders. It does not need to be a work of art and it does not need to be entirely accurate. It just needs to be a rough map that includes as many of the stakeholders, policies and other relevant factors that you can recall. At this point, it is not necessary to analyse the connections but just draw lines between those factors that are related, those stakeholders that are influencing one another and those factors that are impacting you, others and the issue.
Once you have completed the diagram ask yourself, “What do I see here that I was not aware of before?” What connections have you made on paper that you hadn’t been aware of previously? It could be a relationship between two people or two groups of people. It could be a link between an organisation and a policy or market factor. The important thing is to approach the activity with an open mind.
Step 2: Take a Different Perspective
Take a look at all the stakeholders on your network map. It is now time to put yourself in their shoes. What is driving them to do what they do? What are their priorities? What is influencing them? On your network map place one to two words that describe your perception of their perspective around each stakeholder, node or relationship line.
There are three notes of caution around this step:
- Your comprehension doesn’t need to be perfect. Just come up with a couple of options for perspectives that make sense based on the person’s behaviour. For example, you might say something like “Person X opposes the idea of Y because he fundamentally believes that Z is the best outcome for all concerned.”
- Don’t limit yourself to just one perspective option. Try to come up with 2-3 possibilities that make sense. Maybe even try one or two that don’t.
- Make sure the mindset you use when adopting the perspective of others reflects the belief that person is genuinely trying to contribute in the best way they know how. This is especially important for someone you see as oppositional. Most people are generally not being a pain in the … just for the sake of it!! Remember, everyone is trying to add value in their own way.
As you complete this step, again, ask yourself, “What information is new here? What patterns am I seeing?”
Step 3: Ask Questions
Here comes the fun bit. Look at the diagram and challenge yourself, “What don’t I know and what am I genuinely curious about?” Assign a question to each node, person, relationship or link. Preferably this is a question that you haven’t asked before. “Why did they do that?” is too cliché. Sorry people. “Noting this team’s possible perspective, what are my opportunities to engage with them?” is getting closer to the mark. Challenge yourself to come up with a different question. For more about asking different questions, please see my blog here .
The significant thing during this step is that you don’t need answers. You have a couple of options here. You can finish your reflection, approach the people on your diagram and engage them in conversation specifically around the questions that you have. Or, if that’s not appropriate and a bit too confrontational, just ask yourself the question, allow the question to sit with you a moment and trust that in time insight will come. By doing so, you prime a section of your brain called the Reticular Activation System to see opportunities and answers as they arise. You can now approach your tasks and conversations alert to new knowledge and ways in which you can work together to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.
The aim of this complete process is not, as I’ve said, to come up with answers or immediately solve problems. Complexity doesn’t work that way. What it is designed to do is to start to broaden your view of a situation and allow you to recognise opportunities to work together and achieve common goals as they emerge.
So, what I would like you to do is …
Over the next week, identify some issues that you are finding troublesome. Are they complex problems? Do they have multiple stakeholders? Does your current list of questions remain unanswered? If so, try out the process above. You might just start to see connections and opportunities you had failed to see previously.
When you do try it out I would love to hear about how it went for you. What worked? What didn’t? How would you modify the process? I have a few ideas about this and, as members of the Campbell Leadership Clan, we are all learning together. I want to learn from you as much as you learn from me. Please leave your comments and suggestions in the appropriate section below.
Is there someone that you know who could use this tool to deal with a complex problem or issue? Please feel free to share this article with them or challenge yourself to coach them through using the process I’ve outlined above. Again, I’d love to hear how that went.
If you would like to discuss this, or any leadership related issues, please feel free to get in contact with the team at Campbell Leadership Solutions (link).
Thank you for reading and leading.
As we begin the new working year I thought we’d kick it off with a brief summary of the leadership thoughts published by Campbell Leadership Solutions in 2016. If you continue on with these behaviours and tips that you started with last year, you’ll be sure to make an easy segway into 2017. If you want to revisit the concepts in full, just click on the link to go straight to the article, or feel welcome to contact us here at Campbell Leadership Solutions for more information.
From The “What I want you to do …” Series
It is so important to allow members of your team to make mistakes. You can create an environment where experimentation is encouraged and your team know that they are supported at all times. Providing this environment allows your team to learn from mistakes, removes the fear of having a go and builds trust between your team and you.
Progressing from building trust by creating a safe to fail environment, awareness of two key factors will help in building successful relationships with others. The first, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of various working styles can help constructively develop team dynamics. This will help you understand how others want to be treated, so you can then apply that knowledge. Secondly, how you see yourself is not necessarily the same as how others see you. Seek feedback and hear it without judgement, you’re sure to learn a few things about yourself!
Remember, leadership is not a position. It is a series of behaviours. Anybody in any role in any organisation can demonstrate leadership behaviours. If you are working toward something you believe in, you are a leader, whether your job description says so or not – you already have the ability to motivate others to follow, so believe in yourself and continue to refine your leadership skills.
This article provides a simple, four-step, problem-solving process to help you overcome those times when you have a block. It helps you identify what you already know (it’s usually more than you think), what questions you need to ask and how to build a plan to tackle the next steps of your project. It’s an easy way to continue to move forward and re-energise that challenging mindset we all get when we’re seemingly stuck with something.
Inspired by one of my clients, this article puts a different spin on the work/life balance discussion. Rather than aiming for more time at home and less time at work, what if you were to pay attention to where you are, right now? At any given moment, this technique would go a long way to improving the quality of your time rather than trying to change the quantity, which is something not always possible. Mindfulness is a great way to take control over what you can, rather than being frustrated at what you can’t.
Work with another client inspired this post as well. You may be surprised to know that I learn as much from you as you from me! Taking time to reflect on your achievements over the longer term can reduce the frustration we feel in ‘not getting anything done.’ In fact, revisiting this blog is helping me do this by allowing me to see what I have achieved during 2016.
Competitiveness with people in your own organisation is counterproductive. Rather than trying to “win”, or be “the best”, adopting a learning approach can reduce the pressure you place on yourself, help with achieving results and allow you to enjoy work more all while developing your skills.
This one is simple. Get out from behind your desk and go and talk to your people. Have an easy, informal conversation and find out what’s going on for them. You will learn things about them you didn’t already know and you will build relationships with them. Building relationships allows you to establish trust and influence, which in turn allows you to lead more effectively.
Asking the same questions will get you the same answers. Challenge yourself to ask different questions, ones you may not have asked before, or have been afraid of asking. Doing so will give you access to new information and provide opportunities for better decision making. If you really want to set yourself a leadership task, get through the day without asking the same question twice. This will allow you to really analyse your thinking and questioning techniques and help you find out what you really need to know.
This article proved to be one of the most popular. It provides ideas on how you could influence those in a position of authority when you may not be in that position yourself. There is a simple framework for getting your voice heard within your organisation, and is another great demonstration of how anybody in any position can lead effectively.
Dealing with workplace conflict is not something we necessarily enjoy doing but is an essential skill for leaders. Adopting a curious mindset can help. This is another way to challenge your thinking and questioning process and establish positive relationships through leadership.
We’ve all been told to ‘live your values’ but how exactly do we do that? The answer is simple. Find some small actions that you can do each day that accord with those values and communicate to people what you think is important. Values identification is an effective way to get people on board, chances are, there will be at least one value that is common to everyone in your workplace.
It’s easy to be frustrated by things that are outside of your control, and it can take a daily toll. Understanding what you can control and what you can only influence can go a long way towards reducing those frustrations. So if you can’t control it, let it go and find another way to manage, so you can put your energy and focus into something that will reap a positive outcome.
Are you having difficulty convincing others of your ideas in the workplace? Taking their perspective might just help you understand why. Understanding others can help you to be adaptive and flexible, which in turn, can help you to influence and lead. It’s important to be able to see a situation from a number of different perspectives and understand the impact a single decision can have on a range of people.
From the “Interlude” Series
This article describes the meaning behind the Campbell Leadership Solutions logo. The lighthouse is symbolic of guidance. My role as a teacher, coach and mentor can help you to develop your leadership ability and achieve results in the complex environment that you operate in. You are already the subject matter expert, but even the Australian Cricket Team has a coach. Who is yours?
I love coaching, mentoring and helping people provide quality leadership. This final article for 2016 describes a little of my own leadership journey and how I came to be where I am today. I believe in growth and I believe in change, and I am ready to support you through your own personal journey.
I believe 2016 was a great year, despite what social media might have us think. I see 2017 as a further opportunity to engage with clients, friends and followers to achieve even more goals in the leadership space. If you would like to receive early access to the new releases on leadership, mentoring, performance and other related topics then head to our website to join the Campbell Leadership Clan.
Please feel free to share any or all of these articles with your colleagues, friends or followers. There is, I believe, something in here that is useful for everyone.
Also, please continue to share your leadership experiences on the website or social media (links to various social sites are on the website). We all have great stories to share and can all learn from each other. We have a great opportunity to build a community of leadership learners.
If you would like assistance with your own leadership journey or would like to discuss any of the concepts detailed in these articles, please contact us at Campbell Leadership Solutions. We stand ready to assist you.
“…change occurs when one becomes what he is, not when he tries to become what he is not. Change does not take place through a coercive attempt by the individual or by another person to change him, but it does take place if one takes the time and effort to be what he is — to be fully invested in his current positions.”
– Arnold Beisser, The Paradoxical Theory of Change
Do you believe that people can change? Actually, here’s a better (or perhaps just different) question; Do you believe that you can change?
Take a moment to think about it before you read on.
Growth or Fixed
Carol Dweck, in her book Mindset: Changing the Way You Think to Fulfil Your Potential, talks about the fixed vs growth mindset. Someone with a fixed mindset believes they have a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality and a certain set of character traits that are fixed and can’t be changed. For reasons she explains in her book, a fixed mindset can lead to “an urgency to prove yourself over and over.”
Then there is the growth mindset.
“[The] growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things that you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way —in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments — everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”
I’m a firm believer in the growth mindset because I know I am a very different person to the one I was 15 years ago.
My Leadership Journey
Angry Young Man
In my blog about taking different perspectives, I alluded to the fact I used to be a far angrier person than I am today. In 2002, as a 31-year-old warfare officer in HMAS Newcastle, I was what you might call a tyrant. A perfectionist, controlling and highly competitive, I expected very high standards from my people. If they didn’t live up to those standards then I would belittle them in front of others. The mission was more important than my team’s feelings or development. Perhaps my one redeeming feature, when it came to my team, was that I was fiercely loyal. If they needed my support I would give it to them. When it came to their professional performance, however, I was excessively demanding and forgave little.
If you knew me as a child you would perhaps wonder where all this had come from. I was always considered a happy kid. Once, as a teenager, an elderly couple I was matched up with on the golf course one competition round commented on how relaxed a demeanour I had. You would think if frustration, perfectionism and aggression are going to manifest itself anywhere the golf course would be the place. But no.
So, what happened between the age of 18, when I joined the Royal Australian Navy, and the age of 31 when I find myself one of the senior ranking officers of a frigate in the Northern Arabian Gulf? Who knows. Discussions with mentors and trusted advisors since have pointed to the role of culture, maturity and development (and a need to prove myself). I don’t want to focus too much on that here but it might make an interesting topic for future discussion. My point in highlighting how I was then is to set the scene for what happened next.
And then this happened
One day, I was berating (loudly) a junior officer, in front of her team, for what was probably a minor mistake. I happened to be doing this just outside the Captain’s cabin. At one point, during my tirade, he came out of his cabin and asked to see me when I was done. I respectfully said, “Aye aye Sir” and completed my rant. When I entered his cabin afterwards I expected him to raise some issue of the ship’s operations with me but he simply said six words that have rung in my ears ever since:
“You can’t treat people like that.”
I know there was a short discussion afterwards about appropriate leadership, everyone having a job to do, and respect for others, but those six words are the words I remember. Whenever I relate this story to friends, colleagues and clients I always say, “He was the first person to tell me that the way I was leading was wrong.” In hindsight I know that statement was not true — many people probably told me that before — but he was the first person to cut through the noise and state it so simply.
I left that short conversation initially confused but with a burgeoning awareness that there was something I was missing and something I needed to do. Over the coming weeks and months, I started tracking down books on leadership and devouring any information I could find on the subject. Not long afterwards I was lucky enough to be shown how it should be done.
Oh, so that’s how it’s meant to be done
I left Newcastle and transferred ashore to a staff position working for two of nature’s gentlemen. While these two officers exhibited the same demand for high standards and professionalism, they did it in a much more respectful way. They coached, they gave me stretch assignments and they supported me in achieving those developmental goals they help me set. They exhibited a calm confidence that meant that when they spoke, people listened to them. Even very senior people. Thinking about it years down the track, they were, in my opinion, what Jim Collins in his book Good to Great calls Level 5 Leaders; People with a force of will to get the right things done but who do it with a sense of humility. It is never about them.
Putting it into practice
Over the next eight years I had the chance to put what I learned into practice. I had the opportunity to command the patrol boat HMAS Bendigo, lead training at Navy’s Officer Training College HMAS Creswell, spend time at staff college learning about leading in the operational and strategic environment, and then, finally before I retired, command of HMAS Newcastle, the ship where this story commenced.
During this period I would continue to read as much on leadership as I could. I approached mentors and asked them what they were doing, what they had done and what they had learned. I would put things into practice and I would get them wrong. Yes, wrong. Of course I made mistakes. In fact, I made some very significant leadership blunders. The important thing was I didn’t see this as a blight on my character. I saw them as lessons that I could learn from. I continued to grow as a leader. By the time I handed over command of Newcastle in 2012, I was a very different person to the one that I was 11 years previous.
Learning to coach
One day, I happened to tell this story to the officer responsible for establishing the Navy’s Leadership Coaching Program. For those non-Navy readers out there, you may be surprised to learn that the Royal Australian Navy has it’s own internal leadership program designed to support Navy’s leaders in their own leadership development. (This is something I would very much have liked access to as 15 years ago. Sadly, at the time, it didn’t exist.) After relating the story to him he asked me if I had ever considered being a coach. His view, one I now support, is that people who can exhibit such change and develop the self-awareness to realise their own growth path make good coaches. He pointed me towards the first step, I took it and now I have the best job I could have following my lengthy naval career:
“I support leaders to develop self-awareness and generate confidence to lead better.”
So, why do I do what I do?
I am a firm believer in the growth mindset. I believe that people can change if they adopt a willingness to learn and a positive attitude towards change. Not everyone knows how to. Some people have blind spots like I did. They need to have the right push and the right guidance to help them change. As a coach and mentor, I get to do that for people. I get to see the results as they develop their own leadership and see the positive impact their development has on others.
It’s not a one-way street either. I learn just as much from my clients as they do during our interactions. The same can happen for you as you interact with your people if you adopt a mindset of learning and growth.
If you’ve made it this far through the story, thank you for reading. I hope what I have written stimulates you to think a little about your own leadership journey, how you have changed over the years and what you have learned. I would welcome any comments you might have, any experiences you would like to share, any questions you might like to ask. Just leave them in the comments section below or contact me directly.
If you would like any assistance with any aspect of your leadership then Campbell Leadership Solutions would be willing to help. Please don’t hesitate to get in contact.
Thank you for reading and leading.
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
Dr Wayne Dyer
In 2002 I was one of the warfare officers in HMAS Newcastle, a ship I was privileged enough to go on to command eight years later. The warfare officer’s role is to ‘fight the ship’ on behalf of the Captain. Situated in the Operations (Ops) Room, you have an array of inputs to make sense of in order to make decisions about who is a friend and who is not. Inputs include radar, sonar, electronic intercepts, intelligence reports, linked pictures and voice reports from other ships, verbal reports from the Officer of the Watch on the bridge about what he or she can see out the window — there are none in an ops room — and environmental data. There is also information received from the ship’s helicopter.
You might think with such a vast array of information being received decision making would be easy. Such is not always the case. Intelligence reports can be time-late and wrong, environmental conditions may play havoc with the effectiveness of your radar and sonar, the Officer of the Watch may not be as experienced as you would like and be reporting the wrong thing, and all the information could be coming in sporadically, or all at once, making processing difficult.
In 2002 the ship was in the northern part of the Arabian Gulf enforcing United Nations sanctions against Iraq. Primarily our role was to intercept illegal oil smugglers trying to leave the country. In an area of dense shipping, sometimes identifying the small smuggler was difficult. One of the best assets we had to make sense of the confusing picture was the ship’s helicopter which could launch from the back of the ship, move out into the area we needed to be surveilled and, literally, give us a birds-eye view of the situation.
Now, the subject of a future post will be my own leadership journey, however, suffice to say that in 2002 I was a little angrier than I am now. I was more controlling, less trusting and more impressed with my own abilities than I had a right to be. As a result, I tended to clash with people. At the time that didn’t matter to me. I had a job to do and the mission was the most important thing, not necessarily the people I worked with.
One of the clashes I had was with the crew of the helicopter and specifically the pilot who also happened to be the Flight Commander, the head of the flying department on board. The clash came about because, sitting in a small, dark box in a ship with multiple electronic and verbal inputs I often tended to second guess what the aircrew was telling me. If what they were telling me didn’t accord with what I saw on my computer screen, or what I was ‘hearing’ from other sources, then I tended to discount their information. As you can imagine, this tended to upset the pilot and his crew. One day, after a heated argument between us, he went to the Captain and demanded that I accompany the flight crew on the next mission. The Captain’s decision to agree to the flight commanders request, over my objections, was one that changed my perspective.
We launched that afternoon and immediately my eyes were opened. I could now see how clear a picture they had. From the aerial perspective, I could see how wrong I had been to lack trust in the information I was receiving from the helicopter. This fundamentally changed our working relationship for the rest of the deployment as trust was re-established.
A different perspective can help.
Taking the perspective of others can help you deal with complexity. Jennifer Garvey Berger and Keith Johnson, in their book Simple Habits for Complex Times, talk about three habits for operating in complexity; asking different questions, seeing systems and, relevant to today’s article, taking multiple perspectives. They write:
“The very best leaders don’t think in terms of us and them; they don’t think in terms of enemies. There are people who want different things, but each person tends to act from a place that she considers an honourable and rational approach, no matter how horrible it seems to you. There is power in knowing the other perspective, not to use it against a person in some way but also to learn from it.”
Often, I ask my clients the following question:
“Do you think that Person X (your boss, your peer, your subordinate) comes to work each day wanting to make your life miserable?”
After we get over the usual banter of, “It feels like it” they usually come up with an answer of, “No”. This is when I ask the next question:
“What do you think Person X (your boss, your peer, your subordinate) is trying to achieve every day they come to work?”
The usual answers at this point are something like, “They are just trying to do the best job they can, the best way they know how.”
Normally, early on in my articles, I ask you to think about situations as they relate to the topics we are talking about. I haven’t done that yet and I am asking you to do it now.
Who, in your workplace, do you have a difficult relationship with? Is there someone with whom you always seem to have a difference of opinion? Have you thought of someone? Good. Read on ….
Now, ask yourself, what is that person is trying to achieve at work? 99 times out of 100, I expect that your response will be similar to the one I highlighted above. They are just trying to do their best, make a difference and achieve what they perceive is the best outcome. Now that you are looking at them in that fresh light, how can taking their perspective help you?
Here are a couple of examples of the benefits of taking others’ perspectives from clients I have worked with:
- A client in a large transport organisation decided it would be a good idea to spend some time in another department in order to understand why that department was opposing the introduction of a new IT system. He came to realise that the opposition came from the belief that the new system would add additional steps to an existing process while incurring a cost in an already tight budget. By working with them, he was able to modify the project and communicate to allay their concerns.
- A director was constantly frustrated at the demands of her executive director. She took the opportunity to step into her bosses role when the boss took leave. This gave her an understanding of the pressures of that role. She told me she said to her boss, “I’m looking forward to handing your job back to you when you return from leave with an understanding of how I can better assist you in your role.”
What examples do you have where taking a different perspective has helped you? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
So, what I would like you to do is ….
Over the next week, take some time to notice those around you. Don’t limit this activity to those you have difficulties with. Look at those who you interact with every day. Put yourself, as best you can, in their shoes. Ask yourself, “What are they trying to achieve today?” and, “What can I learn from understanding where they are coming from?” Then, notice what answers you come up with and how it impacts on how you deal with the complexity of your job.
I look forward to reading your thoughts on how it worked, or didn’t, in the comments section below.
Do you know someone who has trouble understanding others’ perspectives? Please feel free to share these thoughts with them. I encourage you to open up a conversation in your workplace about taking multiple perspectives and the benefits of doing so. Again, we can all learn from your experiences so your comments about your insights are welcome.
If you would like to discuss the concepts discussed in this article, or any topics relating to leadership, please feel free to get in contact with us here at Campbell Leadership Solutions. We would like to talk to you about how we may be of assistance.
And finally, thank you for reading and leading.
“Basing our happiness on our ability to control everything is futile”
– Stephen R. Covey
I use the train system to get to work. Why? I see driving as a waste of time. On the train I can sleep, I can read, I can meditate. I have attempted all three while driving with no success. So, I spend a little bit of time standing on train platforms waiting for trains. Sometimes the train is late. It could be one minute, five minutes or it could be a lot longer. I am always interested in people’s reactions when this happens. I see people looking at their watches. I see pacing. I see fidgeting in their seats. I see angry words exchanged with the station staff. All of these behaviours are signs of frustration over something that these people have absolutely no control over.
(By the way, in the interest of full disclosure, I am guilty of this on occasion as well. This is especially true in periods of high stress or time pressure.)
These frustrations occur due to a lack of control and a lack of certainty. There is nothing that we can do to make the train move faster or arrive at the platform earlier. Even the station staff has no control over this. We have somewhere to be and now we are not certain that we will make it there on time. Yet, people seem to think that becoming agitated, frustrated or angry will somehow improve the situation.
We know, rationally, that this kind of reaction doesn’t help.
Now, as you are reading this, put yourself in that situation and say to yourself, “What is within my control?”
Stephen Covey in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, talks about Circles of Influence and Circles of Concern. His premise is that proactive people understand what they can do something about and what they cannot, and spend their time focused on the former. Whereas reactive people, to use Covey’s words:
“…. focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern. They focus on the weakness of other people, the problems in the environment, and circumstances over which they have no control. Their focus results in blaming and accusing attitudes, reactive language and feelings of victimisation.”
Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence
So, let’s now move from the train station to your work environment. Think about a situation at work right now over which you are feeling a measure of frustration. Go on. Take a minute…
Have you got something? Good. Now ask yourself ….
What is within your control?
I ask this question of my clients a lot. Often I notice that their language appears victim-like and they focus on the actions of others. Let me give you an example.
One of my clients – let’s call him John – was talking about how one of his peers was always coming to work late. “I’m always on time and complete my work and he’s always late. There are no repercussions for him. The CEO doesn’t seem to care that he’s never on time. The CEO should hold him to account and make him be here when he is supposed to be. It’s not fair for the rest of us.”
Firstly, I’d like you to notice the language that John is using here. “It’s not fair for the rest of us.” This language is self-victimising. John has given his peer the power to affect his emotions and enjoyment of work. So, after highlighting this to John I asked him “What is within your control?” Here is some of what we came up with:
- You can’t control other people. John realised he couldn’t make his colleague come into work on time. If he wanted to influence his peer he could try by having a courageous conversation with him (that’s a whole different article), but ultimately, there was no way to force him to be there early.
- Spending time worrying about things outside your control increases stress. Focusing on what you can control increases your sense of achievement. John came to understand that worrying about his colleague was causing him levels of frustration that were impacting on his own ability to complete and enjoy his work. When he refocused on his own work and what he could control he started to find satisfaction in his job again.
- You can control how you think about the situation. John came to the realisation that if he adopted a curious mindset to the situation, rather than a judgmental one, he felt better about the situation. (For more on using curiosity in the workplace check out one of our recent blogs here). With curiosity, John started asking questions like, “I wonder what is going on for him that’s causing him to be late?” This allowed John to take a different perspective on the situation. He was now able to feel a measure of concern for his peer rather than feeling a level of annoyance.
Asking yourself the question, “What is in my control?” is a powerful way to bring you back to what is important. It allows you to reduce your stress levels and re-engage with work. The benefits of this approach can also be applied to other areas of your life, not just work, where you may be focusing on things outside of your control. The Centre for Creative Leadership recently published a related article on reducing your stress by letting go of rumination and “controlling your attention”.
So, what I want you to do is …
This week, notice when you are feeling frustrated. Whether it is on the train platform, sitting in traffic, at work or at home, notice when you are starting to feel increased stress. This may be evidenced by a rise in heart rate, increased sweating, lack of concentration, a general feeling of being angry or annoyed, or even the use of colourful language. You will know your own warning signs.
When you notice these things, ask yourself, “What is in my control?” You may be surprised by how your feelings of frustration and annoyance reduce when you focus on what can do and let go of what you can’t.
Do you know someone in your network that has trouble understanding what is within his or her control? How does it manifest itself? Please feel free to share this article with them and talk to them about it. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.
Have you yourself ever experienced feelings of annoyance at something outside of your control? How did you deal with that? I’d love to hear about your experiences so that we can all learn together.
If you would like to talk about this or any leadership related topics, please feel free to leave your comments below or get in contact with me here at Campbell Leadership Solutions. I’d be happy to talk to you about how we might assist you and your team.
How many times have you heard people talk about values? Often, I bet.
Companies talk about organisational or company values. Leaders, coaches and mentors talk about personal values. You may even have done some personal development workshops that have helped you define your own values. But what does “living your values” actually mean?
I can’t tell you what your values are. That needs to come from within. There is some work we can do to help you define your values and I will write about that later. In the meantime, you could try the free on-line Values in Action assessment to help give you a start. What we can do, however, is look at a list of common values and what living those values might mean.
I have on my fridge a faded piece of A3 paper that, after sitting on a beach in Coffs Harbour a few years ago, displays the results of three days reflecting and defining my values. Even though it’s old and faded, it still has a place on my fridge for daily insight and I thought it was worth sharing ‘living values’ with you today.
After spending some time reflecting on the values that were important to me, I had the question in my mind “So what? What do I do now?” It occurred to me, in order to start living the values I just need to define a couple of specific actions for each one. There were actions that I could easily achieve each day would give this list of values some ‘meat on the bones’ .
So, here today, I list 10 values and the actions that can help you to start living values. If you don’t identify with these values, pick the ones you do identify with and have a go at this exercise for yourself.
Ten values and the actions to start to ‘live them’
1. Love of Learning
- Take professional development courses.
- Read different books, blogs and articles in order to provide different perspectives and boost creativity.
- Seek out a mentor or coach to support you in your personal and professional growth.
- When conversing with others, attempt to adopt their perspective and understand what angle they are coming from, what motivates and drives them.
- Remove distractions when talking to people. Put down the phone. Turn off the computer.
- Ask curious (and not judgmental!) questions about what you have heard in order to ensure you have understood.
- Take control of initiating communication. Initiate conversations with people you haven’t spoken with or with who you need to speak with.
- Spend 10 minutes with each of your team at least once a week. Be curious about what is going on for them. Seek to discover what are they proud of achieving this week and what are they finding a challenge.
- Check in with your team to see how your message has been received and understood.
- Do what you will say you will do and do not commit to anything you cannot do.
- Tell the truth and do not deceive. Encourage others to come forward with bad news and treat it with respect.
- Seek to understand how your personal values link to the company or organisational values.
- Take a break during the day to exercise. Even a 30 min walk can increase energy levels.
- Invest time in what motivates and recharges you.
- Read Harvard Business Review articles about maintaining optimal performance over the long term and managing energy levels rather than time.
6. Financial Security
- Do not impulse buy. Apply the 24-hour rule.
- Seek professional financial advice.
- Invest securely.
- Be on time for meetings. It shows others that you respect their time.
- Be courteous.
- Tell your team what they need to hear and trust that they are mature enough to accept the good and bad news.
- Be there for people when you can and when they need you to be.
- Listen and ask questions.
- Laugh and smile.
- Attempt to find appropriate humour in difficult situations at work.
- Don’t take things (including yourself) too seriously.
- Say sorry.
- Let go of anger.
Now, you may not agree with the values above or the actions that I have listed underneath them, and that’s okay. I respect your right and opinion to have whatever values you choose to have. What I am suggesting here is that having small, achievable actions underneath each value will help you understand that value a little better and help you live and model them on a daily basis.
Oh, and by the way, if you’re still not sure what your values are a simple Google search revealed these to me; authenticity, achievement, balance, compassion, challenge, determination, fairness, fun, justice, loyalty, recognition, security, success, status and wisdom. Perhaps there is something in that list that resonates for you.
So, what I would like you to do is ….
Think about your personal values. What is is that is important to you and what do you believe to be true? What do you want to be known for? Take some time to come up with a few actions that you think help you live and model those values. What are the actions that will show others what values are important to you?
Once you have your list of actions, start living them. Monitor how they are working for you, and modify them as required. Remember, if it is a true value for you, it should not be difficult to live it.
Once you have had a go at this exercise, I would love to hear about how it went for you. Feel free to leave your insights on your experience in the comments section below.
Do you know someone who has trouble ‘living their values’? Perhaps you could share this article with them and coach them through the activity in order to help them. Again, I’d love to hear about how that went for you.
If you would like to discuss this concept with me then feel free to get in contact using the contact details at the Campbell Leadership Solutions website.
Finally, thanks for reading and leading.
Leading Through Values: Linking Company Culture to Business Strategy by Michael Henderson, Dougal Thomson and Shar Henderson
One of the most common goals I get asked to assist clients with is dealing with workplace conflict.
- “I don’t deal well with conflict.”
- “When people get aggressive I shut down.”
- “I prefer to avoid conflict if I can.”
Oh, and by the way, before we continue, not liking the fact we have to deal with conflict is completely normal. Have you ever met someone who said “I love conflict”? Some people are just better at it than others.
I would like to share with you an interesting idea on how to diffuse tension and aggression in conversations. Before I do share my idea, however, I’d like to tell you about a podcast I listened to recently.
Invisibilia talks about the “invisible forces that shape our lives”. It’s a podcast about how the way we think affects our behaviour. I highly recommend it and you can easily access it from my website. One particular episode was called “Flip the Script”. It began with a story about how, one night, a group of friends were having a backyard dinner party. Everyone was having a good time when suddenly, a man appeared armed with a gun. Pointing the gun at the guests, he told them to give him their money. Everyone was initially scared and all attempts to dissuade him from his action met with more aggression from the man and tensions began to rise quickly.
One of the group of friends then took the bold and courageous action to invite the man with the gun to sit down and share a glass of wine with them and join in their celebrations. “It was like flipping a switch” was the comment from one of the guests. The effect was an instant diffusing of the tension. The man instantly became less aggressive and after a while apologised before leaving. (There is more to the story but the podcast tells it much better than I could.)
“So what?” I hear you ask. How does this apply in my workplace and how does it enable me to deal with workplace conflict?
What does workplace conflict look like?
At its simplest level workplace conflict looks like unresolved disagreement. It could also be someone actively avoiding you. It might be someone raising their voice in a conversation. At extreme levels it could be someone who yells at you or when you witness someone else being yelled at. These types of behaviours come from a need to win and a need not to be wrong.
What are your behaviours when you experience workplace conflict?
There are two behaviours that are not helpful in workplace conflict. The first is if we avoid and hide from the conflict. While we may put barriers up and think that we are not engaging in the conflict, by allowing the conflict to continue unremarked we are not developing a more constructive relationship with our protagonists into the future. We are saying that the conflict is acceptable.
The second less-than-ideal behaviour is to defend our position aggressively and possibly even counter attack. Remember, the conflict behaviours are about being right and proving to others (and ourselves) that we are not wrong. If we defend an entrenched position or go on the counter-attack what we are doing is escalating the conflict. Hugh Mackay, in his book “Why don’t people listen?” expresses this very succinctly in his Third Law of Human Communication: “When people’s attitudes are attacked head-on”, he writes, “they are likely to defend those attitudes and, in the process, reinforce them.”
“When people’s attitudes are attacked head-on, they are likely to defend those attitudes and, in the process, reinforce them.”
Both of these behaviours above also have second and third order effects of leading to ‘Below the Line’ cultures. In his book, Michael Henderson describes Below-The-Line cultures as experiencing higher degrees of stress in the workplace, increased fear among the staff, and environments where people cease learning because they are afraid to make mistakes.
What if we ‘flip the script’?
What if, rather than engage in workplace conflict, either passively or aggressively, we took the lesson from the dinner party guest and adopted a mindset of curiosity instead….?
I’d like you to pause and reflect for a moment what that might look like. What would it look like if you adopted a mindset of genuine curiosity about the conflict and the person or people with whom you are experiencing that conflict?
Leaders, at all levels, are required to manage conflict in the workplace. That conflict might be with a boss, peer or direct report. It might not involve you personally at all. It could be between staff members. The point is that destructive conflict is not good for the work environment and leaders will take steps to resolve it quickly. Part of the skill in doing this is to understand your people, adapt and be flexible to changing situations. The following questions might be useful in achieving that:
- I wonder what is going on for this person/these people right now that is causing them to act in this way?
- This person seems quite passionate about this topic. I wonder where that is coming from?
- If I make the assumption that these people are trying to do their very best for the organisation and the client, how might that shape my opinion of what they are saying?
- How could my current behaviour be contributing to the conflict?
These types of questions can help you flip your own script in terms of how you can approach any conflict situation.
What additional questions can you think of that would help you adopt a curious mindset? Take a few moments to think about it before reading on.
Being curious has the following effects:
- It takes away from your own need to win and your own need not to be wrong. You start to adopt a learning mindset and you start to learn more about the other person and what fuels their aggression. By having a better understanding of the person opposite you, you will start to build your relationship with them and thus have greater influence, improving your ability to lead.
- It also moves you away from a judgemental mindset which is not useful as you start to rate others against your own standards and enter competitiveness. See my article on reducing competitiveness and promoting learning for more detail.
- Finally, by being curious you take away fuel from your protagonists’ competitive fire. When they start to notice that you are curious about them and are not avoiding and not fighting back they have nowhere to go with their aggression and it will soon die out.
I acknowledge that, while this is a simple concept, it may not necessarily be easy to accomplish. Many people over the course of our careers will have figured out how to trigger our defences in order to get what they want. We tend to develop automatic reactions to this that we may not be consciously aware of. Working with a coach or mentor to understand our triggers for conflict is one effective way to raise our consciousness and start to practice curiosity. Like any skill, the more you practice the better you will get.
So, what I would like you to do is ….
Get curious. Start asking yourself genuinely curious, non-judgemental questions about others and yourself. Start small with people that you are not in conflict with to get some early practice in. Additionally, start reflecting on what triggers your own defensive behaviours. Think about better ways you might respond when and if those behaviours are triggered in the future. Also, think about a current conflict you are experiencing at work. Try looking at the situation from the outside in and get curious about what you are seeing in that situation. Questions like “What am I seeing here?” and “What is going on to cause this conflict?” are useful starting points.
Have you found this article useful? Please leave your discussion points below. I also consider myself a lifelong learner so I am, of course, curious about what you think.
Do you know anyone who is experiencing workplace conflict? You can forward this article on to them or perhaps you could ask them some curious coaching questions of your own. Feel free to share your learning on this below as well.
Finally, if you would like some help developing your ability to deal with workplace conflict, or would like some clarification on any of the points above, get in contact with us here at Campbell Leadership Solutions and we will be more than happy to provide assistance.
One of the fundamental truths of our work lives is that senior managers will sometimes make dumb decisions and junior staff will always complain about it.
Can you identify with that? Take a moment to reflect on the latest “good idea” that your senior leaders had….
What did you do about it? How did you influence the senior leadership around that decision?
I’ve often heard clients that I work with say things like:
- “That decision is well above my pay grade. Nothing I can do about it.
- “Don’t ask me what that decision is about. No one consulted me.”
These kind of statements come from a place of being a victim in the work place and having a sense of no control. What if I could show you a way that you could influence up and have an impact on the decision making within the organisation? Would that be useful to you? Read on ….
Let me tell you the story of Elaine (name changed to preserve confidentiality). Elaine works in a small to medium enterprise and leads a number of geographically dispersed teams. HR referred Elaine to me for 1-1 leadership coaching in order to improve her ability to influence within the organisation. Even though Elaine was consistently getting great results and achieving high external ratings from her customers, her reputation within the organisation, especially at the higher levels, was low.
Elaine was passionate about her work and believed she was making a difference. It was evident, however, that she had no trust in the senior leadership of the organisation. Elaine would challenge, often aggressively, every decision made that she disagreed with. Let me tell you, there were plenty of decisions that fit that category for Elaine.
The result was that, while Elaine was getting good results, her ability to influence was reduced. Senior leadership were getting frustrated with the number of times they were being challenged by Elaine but also the way that these challenges manifested. Elaine would often send aggressively worded emails or have loud chest poking sessions at organisational functions. The leadership was starting to wonder if Elaine was a good fit for the organisation, despite her results.
Take a moment now. After reading Elaine’s story above, what do you think her problem was? How would you approach this situation?
I’ve written before about how you don’t need to have a team to be a leader. Leadership is about behaviours and not about position. I’d like to take that concept a little further now and talk about how we can apply it to leading up. How do you influence the decision makers in your organisations? Here are a few steps you can take to ensure your voice is heard.
1. Build your reputation
If you want people to take notice of you when you talk you need to have a good reputation. This means you need to be the best worker, team member, staff member, junior or middle level manager that you can be. Work hard within the appropriate guidelines and policies, be ethical and get results. Additionally, lead down well. Your staff will talk about you and your reputation and integrity with them is just as important.
2. Follow the rules
Senior leadership do not like rule breakers. They made those rules, or their predecessors did, and any affront to those rules may be seen as a personal attack on them. This adds to the reputation piece in the paragraph above. People who follow the rules are seen as reliable and will be respected. Here’s the kicker; this means you have to follow the ‘stupid rules’ that you don’t agree with as well!
3. Pick your battles
Pick the issue, discussion or decision where you feel you can have the most influence. You will not be able to win every argument so don’t have one where you can’t make a difference. Linking back to following the rules above, this means there will be times where you might have to do some ‘stupid stuff’, which will again build your capital with the leadership.
4. Go with a solution
When you have picked the issue that is most important to you, and where you feel you can make a difference, develop a solution and socialise it with colleagues, peers and mentors first. Make sure it has the best chance of working before you take it to the leadership. This is where your reputation and hard work will payoff because it will speak volumes for you before you open your mouth. The senior leadership will be looking at you as a trusted employee and will be willing to listen, especially if you have a solution for them. After all, you’ll be making their life easier rather than just bringing them another problem to solve.
5. Be humble
Don’t be worried about who gets the credit. If you really love what you do and believe in what the organisation is doing then it won’t matter who success is attributed to. Right? You can’t be looking for the pat on the back or “I told you so” moment. That’s about ego and not about purpose. If the senior leadership think you’re trying to get one up on them they will potentially close off to your idea quite quickly. In his book “Good to Great” Jim Collins talks about Level 5 leadership. The characteristics of a level 5 leader are humility and force of will. Be the leader who is happy that the right thing got done and be comfortable in your own skin that you had something to do with it.
So, here’s what I want you to do ….
As you reflect on the work you have done recently, reflect on the frustrating things about your job and what you’d like the senior leaders to change. Do a self assessment of your own reputation with your leaders. Is it good based on the hard work that you have been doing or have you been a thorn in the side of management? What can you do over the short to medium term to enhance that reputation? Pick an issue you’d like to have an impact on and start working on a solution to that issue. Collaborate with others and check the ego at the door.
If you can do these things you will start to notice that your influence with your leadership will start to grow and you will have an impact on the things that are important to you. You will be leading up.
Do you know someone who is struggling with frustrations at work and could use some skills in leading up? Please feel free to share this article with them. If you subscribe to the principles discussed here perhaps it might be useful to sit down with them and have a conversation with them about it. I’d love to hear your feedback about how it went. Please leave your reflections in the comments section below.
How have you successfully led upwards before? What worked for you and what didn’t? Again, I’d appreciate your thoughts. We can all learn from one another.
If you or anyone you know would like to discuss this or any concepts on leadership please feel free to get in contact with us here at Campbell Leadership Solutions. We’d be delighted to assist you in any way we can.
“Good questions outrank easy answers.”
– Paul Samuelson
How would you like a simple technique to help you find out more about what is going on in your workplace, increase connection with people and boost creativity? What would that be worth to you?
Read on ..
Previously I’ve written about the power of getting out from behind your desk and increasing the amount of human connection you have on a daily basis. In doing so, you have the opportunity to grow your relationships with people. This increases your influence with people and develops your ability to lead better.
“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.”
– John C. Maxwell
This week, I want to expand further on this concept and talk about the questions you ask when you see people. My challenge to you not to ask the same question twice in one day. I suspect you may find this a little more difficult than you might first think, however, the payoff will be worth the effort.
When you are walking around the work place how many times do you ask “Hey, how are you going?” or something similar? Is this the same question you ask every time you run into someone new? It is my experience that lazy questions produce lazy answers. If you ask the same old questions you will get the same old responses and you are unlikely to learn anything new.
What if we were to change it up a bit by challenging ourselves to never ask the same question twice in the same day? What effect do you think that might have?
I suggest this technique to clients who are trying to increase their level of engagement with their team or struggle with finding out what is going on in the workplace. They all report back that, when they try it, one or more of the following occurs.
- They feel more focused on the answers that they are getting from people
- They learn new things about the people that they are talking to
- People tend to be more thoughtful about their answers if it’s a question they have not been asked before
- They boost their creativity
“Boost their creativity?” I hear you ask.
The first three in the list above may seem intuitive, while the last may be unexpected. That said, however, a recent Harvard Business Review Article, indicated that one of the ways you can boost creativity is by placing constraints on yourself. In doing so, you force yourself to think in new and creative ways.
What I am suggesting is that if you place a constraint on yourself to never ask the same question twice in one day, you may just boost your creativity. In this knowledge and information age, this is a force multiplier.
So, what I would like you to do is ….
As you move around your office this week, engaging with your team, notice how many times you ask the same question and notice the quality of the responses. Even this initial step will have the effect of sharpening your listening skills.
Then, when you feel up to it, take the challenge. Don’t ask the same question twice in one day. And that includes “Hi, how are you?” Try a few of these instead:
- “How was your evening?”
- “What’s the key issue on your plate today?”
- “What do you need assistance with today?”
- “How can I be of assistance to you today.?”
Remember, once you’ve asked the question once, you can’t use it for the rest of the day. This is a simple undertaking but not necessarily easy as we have formed some deeply ingrained habits over the years. I truly believe, however, that if you take the challenge you will find yourself more focused on the answers your people give you, feel more connected with them and learn new things about yourself, your team and the environment.
And, when you have done it, please, let us all know how you went and what you noticed in the comments section below. Alternatively, if you know someone who is struggling with asking questions at work, feel free to share this article with them.
If you want to take this to the next level, set up the challenge in the work place. Challenge and hold each other accountable for not asking the same questions twice. Make a bit of a game of it and discuss amongst yourselves what you are noticing.
If you would like to discuss this, or any concepts around leadership, coaching, mentoring or anything I have written about, please feel free to get in contact with us here at Campbell Leadership Solutions.
“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.”
— Indira Gandhi
Have you ever had work delegated to you electronically? You know. Your boss sent you an e-mail with a task and instruction to get it done by a certain time and with no prior or subsequent conversation about it? Or was it was allocated by an electronic task tracker and it just appeared on your to do list?
How did you feel and what were you thinking when that happened?
While you’re thinking about that let me tell you about a situation that reinforced to me that this is not the way to do things.
When selected for command of a ship in the Royal Australian Navy, prospective captains attend a three month command course where senior officers who have gone before you talk about their experiences and impart valuable wisdom. I remember one particular Admiral by the name of Raydon Gates (some of my readers may know and remember him) said something that has always stuck with me. He said “Eyeball everyone everyday.” By this he meant make sure that you wander around the ship and speak to your people. Don’t lead from behind your desk. This is something I never forgot and took forward into my subsequent positions.
I put this into practice in 2010 during my first week in Command of HMAS Newcastle. I was sitting in my captain’s cabin reading a piece of correspondence on my computer. The correspondence was from the headquarters ashore and required action from the ship. I knew who the relevant action officer was on board and I had a few questions around exactly what was meant by one of the requests and what needed to be done.
I printed a copy of the correspondence then walked down one deck, headed aft (towards the back of the ship) about 30 paces, knocked and entered the cabin of the officer I needed to see. She happened to be working on something at her computer and looked up as I entered. The expression on her face indicated surprise. I was initially confused by this. After all, I had knocked and she had called out to come in.
We started discussing the task in question and it soon became apparent she had the task already well in hand and was able to explain to me very clearly what the the issues were. I thanked her and was about to leave when she stopped me and said that I shouldn’t have bothered making the effort to come to her. If I had called, she would have come to me. Alternatively I could have sent her the question by e-mail and she would have answered it. I thanked her and left.
Afterwards I reflected on what she had said and I realised I could have saved time if I followed her suggestion in sending the task by e-mail. I also thought back to the admiral’s wisdom and thought about what I gained by not sending the task electronically. In going to her office I saw her in her work environment. I could see how much was in her intray and gauge how busy she was. I also saw a photo on her desk of her husband and two kids and it gave me an opportunity to ask a little about that. I also had the task I was enquiring about explained to me in simple terms. By reading her body language, and hearing the tone in her voice, I saw her confidence in dealing with it and I left trusting that it would be done. If I had sent the task on by e-mail I would have missed all of that. I would have lost the ability for rapport building and human connection.
The value of Human Connection.
The development of communications technology over the last decade or so has increased our ability to send large amounts of information across vast distances almost instantaneously. It has also increased our ability to send large amounts of information across very short distances, say from one office or terminal to another in the same building or same floor of a building. This ease of communication can lead to some people delegating by e-mail.
In their book “The Leadership Challenge” Kouzes and Posner talk about the importance of human connection. “By increasing human interaction, you increase optimism and you increase credibility.” I think we could all agree that these are two things that we would like to increase in the workplace. The leader who makes the effort to touch base with his or her people is the one that will get the most from them.
Similarly, Daniel Goleman in his book “Primal Leadership” discusses how emotionally intelligent leaders use self awareness and empathy to monitor their own actions and how others react to them. Clearly we can’t do that if we don’t get out from behind our desks and interact with our people.
So, what I would like you to do is ….
Sometimes we don’t initiate conversations with people because we’re not sure how to. Here’s a few ideas on how to overcome that.
Take a few minutes now to think of someone in your organisation that you haven’t spoken with face-to-face for a while … Have you thought of someone? Good.
Now think about something that they have done well recently and is worthy of acknowledgment or thanks. Find the time this week to go and find them. Be honest with them. Tell them that it’s been a while since you’ve spoken personally and that you wanted to just acknowledge the work that they have been doing. This should get the conversation started and may open up opportunities to ask them about how they have been going, what they have been working on since you last spoke and what they are finding challenging at the moment. Who knows what you might find out or how you might make that person feel, just by eye-balling them, that you wouldn’t have achieved by just sending an e-mail.
Do you know someone in your organisation that tends to sit behind their desk and not interact personally with others in their organisation? Please feel free to share this article with them by e-mail or social media.
Have you experienced “leadership by email” before? How did it make you feel and what strategies did you use to overcome it? I would love to hear about your experiences so please leave your comments below.
If you would like some support through coaching or mentoring on this, or any of the concepts that I have written about, feel free to contact me here at Campbell Leadership Solutions.
“If you’re a competitive person, that stays with you. You don’t stop. You always look over your shoulder.”
– Magic Johnson
How would you like to feel less pressure at work and in your personal life?
What if I told you that, potentially, a lot of that pressure is coming from your own desire to be “better” and to always win?
What if I could show you how a subtle change of mindset could relieve some of that pressure?
Would that be useful to you? Read on ….
In my role as an executive coach and mentor I work with a variety of leaders; directors, executive directors and program managers, just to name a few. I see many people putting pressure on themselves to be “better”.
“Better!!” What does that mean to you?
This is a question that I ask them when I hear that word. “Better than who?” “Better than what?”
Sometimes they answer …
“Well, there’s this person who works in another section and I like the way they work, so I want to be like that.”
Sometimes, they answer like this:
“I’m into continual self improvement so I believe that I can always get better.”
While on the surface these two answers may seem harmless enough (indeed the second one seems quite noble) there is a hidden and dark undertone; Competitiveness.
We all love the competitor. We love to watch our favourite team compete. We cheer them on and we hope they win. Competitiveness in the market is also okay if a business is to be successful. In both the examples competition means striving to win.
But what if the person you are competing against, indeed trying to be ‘better’ than, is on the same team, in the same organisation as you? How is it useful to be ‘better’ than them? Worse still, what if the person you’re competing against, trying to be “better” than, is yourself? How will you ever achieve that? If you’re constantly trying to be better than yourself then you can never achieve that. This is because you will never be happy with your current level of performance. You will always be trying to be better than you are right now. You are failing to acknowledge the value that you are providing, right now.
Is there another way?
There is another way of looking at these situations that still allows for personal development and growth and it is by adopting a small shift in mindset from one of competition to one of learning.
When it comes to the other person in your organisation, ask yourself what is it about that person that you admire and what can you learn from them that you can apply to your own performance. This shift in mindset takes you out of competition mode and relieves the pressure in trying to be better than them.
When it comes to being ‘better’ than yourself, firstly, think back to how you were performing in the past. In a recent article I talked about taking the longer view of your performance in order to acknowledge your achievement. This acceptance of how far you have already come is important because you will start to see that your efforts are making a difference. You are now in place to continue your own development without the pressure of trying to beat the other person or yourself.
When you change the focus from needing to win (and being worried about losing) to “What have I learned.?” you take the pressure off and start to focus on growth.
So, here’s what I would like you to do ….
This week, I would like you to notice when you are in competition with others in your organisation or yourself. You will notice this when you start thinking or talking in terms of being “better”. Ask yourself instead, what can I learn from others or the situation and adopt a learning mindset instead.
Do you know someone in your organisation that is constantly putting too much pressure in themselves in order to be better? Share this article with them or perhaps coach them yourself around changing their mindset.
Have you shifted recently from a competitive to a learning mindset? What was your catalyst for change and what have you noticed? I would love to learn from your experiences so please leave your comments below.
If you would like some assistance working on adopting a learning mindset, please get in contact with us here at Campbell Leadership Solutions.
“A fallen lighthouse is more dangerous than a reef.”
Navjot Singh Sidhu
“Why the light house?”
“Is there any significance to the light house?”
“Hey, nice logo. What’s it mean?”
These are the questions I often get when I hand over a business card or refer people to my website and they see my logo for the first time. When I explain to them the rationale behind the design they all get where I am coming from and some suggest I should write about it.
As some of you will be aware I had a fantastic career as an officer and leader in the Royal Australian Navy. My connection with the sea is something I will forever be proud of. People often ask me if I miss being at sea. This is an interesting question for me because, I do miss some aspects like the people I lead, the motion of the ship and the ability to look around and not see any land. Additionally, I do love what I do now and I know I left the Navy for the right reasons. I also think it’s important not to look back unless you are informing yourself about how to act in the future.
“Allow your past to inform your future. Not define it.”
When I first started my executive coaching career after I left the Navy I used a ship logo that I designed myself.
At the time I thought this well defined what I was about and where I had come from. A ship moving through the ocean signified getting to a goal. The sea is a complex and unpredictable place, much like the environment in which my clients operate as well.
Soon after my business began to grow and I started taking on more clients. My skill set and understanding of what I did also developed and I realised that my role as a teacher, coach and mentor to my clients was more of guiding role than a driving one.
In my role I understand that you are the experts in your lives. My role is simply to ask you questions, challenge your assumptions and provide feedback. In doing this you raise awareness of yourselves, others and your interactions with them, and the environment in which you operate. Once you have that awareness, you have the confidence to navigate the seas ahead.
So, if you think you could use some guidance, some increased awareness or some assistance navigating the increased complexity of your work or personal lives, please, get in contact and we can discuss what you need.
“Bad days don’t make it a bad job. Good days don’t make it a good job. Like a relationship, it’s the general feeling we get when we think about our work, and not the excitement or stress on any particular day, that defines our fulfilment.”
– Simon Sinek
How would you like a simple technique to reduce your levels of frustration at work? Would that be useful for you?
Read on ….
Sometimes, and I suspect we are all guilty of this at some point, we get mired in the day-to-day and forget about all that we have achieved over time. Demands from your bosses, pressures at home and the constant connection to technology can all stop us from seeing the bigger picture.
But what if we were to take stock of all that we have achieved over a longer period?
Ask yourself this; “What has changed due to my efforts, and that of my team, over the last year? Two years? Three years?”
Let me introduce you to Susan who works in a large and complex organisation. Susan is not quite C-suite yet but she’s not far off. She is currently experiencing a level of frustration which has been the subject of our coaching conversations. Susan feels she is not achieving anything at work.
“I don’t feel like I am getting anywhere with this current task that I am working on.”
“Why do we have to keep re-learning the same lessons every time.”
Now, go on, be honest, you’ve felt like this at one time or another haven’t you?
What was the source of your frustration?
It turns out Susan’s was linked to her perception of time.
“What does he mean by that?” I hear you asking.
Let me explain. Susan has been in her role for nearly three years. Her boss was appointed to his role only recently; About six months ago.
It turns out that Susan was tying her sense of achievement in the role to the tenure of her boss and not her own. Let me explain….
In order to get out of a problem mindset, I started asking Susan about what she enjoyed about the job. “Oh, that’s easy” she said “I get to be creative.” Then she proceeded the tell me about how, when she entered her role, she had identified there was no system in place for capturing lessons learned and identifying future trends in the market. Collaborating with her team she had created just such a system.
“How would you rate your sense of achievement over he last three years?” I asked.
“Well” she thought “when I think about how I created something effective for the company, really good.”
“So, where is the source of your current frustration then?” This was Susan’s light bulb moment.
Susan’s frustration was that she was only gauging her sense of achievement over the last six months. She had forgotten what she had achieved in the preceding two and half years.
Too often we get wrapped in in the “busyness” of the day-to-day and we forget take stock of all that we have achieved over the longer term. This can lead to a frustration and a feeling that nothing is getting done.
So, what I would like you to do is ….
Find some space and time this week to reflect on what you have achieved over the last few years. For 30 minutes, turn off your alerts, go somewhere quiet, pull out pen and a blank piece of paper and start writing down everything that you are proud of achieving over the longer term.
When you look back over your achievements, how does that make you feel?
I would love to hear your insights. Please, leave your comments below.
Do you know someone who is experiencing day to day frustrations and could use some time to reflect on their achievements? You could share this blog with them or you could spend some time with them coaching them around this concept. Again, I would love to hear about your experience.
If you would like to discuss this or any of the concepts around leadership please feel free to contact Campbell Leadership Solutions. We’d love to hear from you.
How would you like to achieve balance between your work and home life? What if I told you that we have been going about achieving this balance all wrong? What if I could give you a simple technique for being just a little happier with your work and family life?
Would that be useful to you?
“I’m spending too much time at work.”
“I’m not spending enough time at home.”
“I want that promotion but it will mean more time travelling.”
Hands up if this sounds familiar?
I can’t see you right now but I’m assuming if you’re reading you’ve said something similar to yourself or someone you trust at some point in your life.
There is much discussion around work life balance these days. The Standards Australia Handbook for Coaching in Organisations lists work/life balance in the top four most common issues discussed in coaching behind Career/Business, Relationship/Interpersonal and Life Direction/Goal Setting issues.
In most cases, the discussion of work life balance would appear to be around the amount of time we are spending either at work or at home. The premise of my argument this time is this…
What if we were to shift the conversation to the quality of our time instead?
Take the example of ‘Maggie’. Maggie was the Chief Operating Officer of a not-for-profit, married and the mother of a ten-year old girl. Successful and driven, Maggie was being considered for promotion to CEO when the incumbent retired at the end of the following year. Maggie sought out coaching because she was unsure of taking on the increased responsibility. She was already travelling significantly; more often than not she would be on the road three to four days a week and sometimes only home on weekends. Becoming the CEO would place increased demands on her time.
Maggie always made sure she was home by Friday afternoon. That was when her daughter’s swimming training was on.
Maggie was torn. In discussion it was obvious she loved her job. It aligned with her values around giving back to the community and social justice. Maggie was aware, however, that her daughter would soon be going to high school and that, as the CEO, she would be absent physically from her daughter’s life.
Time to check in with you all. Have you ever experienced feelings like this? Take a moment to think about situations when you have?
Back to Maggie ….
Importantly, Maggie’s husband was supportive of her taking the promotion. Being self employed he had the flexibility to be the ‘stay at home dad’, a role he enjoyed. Maggie told me that it was nice to come home after a long week away and sit at the kitchen bench watching her husband cook dinner while she had a glass of wine and caught up on emails on her iPad or laptop.
On her iPad or laptop?
It occurred to me perhaps while she was physically home mentally Maggie was still at work.
“Maggie,” I asked “you said that you liked to make sure that you were at your daughter’s swimming training every Friday afternoon, yes?”
“Yes.” She replied. “After a week away I think it’s important to spend time with my daughter at something she loves and it’s important for her to see me there …. that I care.”
“Ok.” I went on. “When she completes a lap or achieves something significant in the pool and she looks over to you, what does she see?”
Maggie opened her mouth to speak, shut it again and then became quite emotional.
What do you think she said?
Fighting back tears, she said. “She sees me checking emails on my Blackberry.” Maggie was starting to realise that her lack of satisfaction with her work life balance was less about the quantity of time and more about the quality of time when she was at home.
In this age of connectedness where we are constantly ‘on’ it is too easy to become consumed by the next alert on our phone or be checking emails in case we miss something ‘important’. Much of the time we are doing this subconsciously.
How many times have you picked up the phone or become distracted by work at home without really thinking about it?
If you want to think about work life balance, start thinking about the quality of time that you are spending at home. Are you making the most of that time? What are your loved ones seeing and experiencing from you when you are at home? Do they see you engaged and interested in what they are doing or do they see you with your head buried in a laptop or some other device?
I’m not saying we shouldn’t be working at home at all. There will be times when you have to. What I am advocating here is that we should make conscious decisions around when and how we do that and that we think about where our heads are at when our loved ones need us.
So, here’s what I would like you to do.
Take some time at home to notice your thoughts. If you notice that you are thinking about work when you are watching your child’s football match then just acknowledge those thoughts and gently bring yourself back to where you are. The more you practice this the more focussed you will become. Attention is like any muscle. It becomes stronger with training. For more on this I recommend Focus by Daniel Goleman.
As you start to pay more attention when you are at home you may find that the quality of that time is improved.
How have you achieved balance between your work and home life? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Do you know someone who needs balance in their life? Perhaps you could share these thoughts with them.
If you would like to discuss these ideas further then please feel free to get in contact with us here at Campbell Leadership Solutions.
You know that big problem you have right now that you don’t have a solution for? You know the one. The task where you keep saying to yourself “I just don’t know how to get started” or “I don t know what to do.” Well, how would you like a simple 4-step system you could apply to any situation to help you make progress? Would that be useful? If so, read on…..
Take a moment to think about the issue you are dealing with that has you stumped …. Got it? Good.
The system I am going to introduce you to was given to me by a mentor over ten years ago when I was in command of a Royal Australian Navy patrol boat, HMAS Bendigo. At the time, the Boats were the workhorses of Northern Australia, responsible for patrolling the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone and apprehending any foreign vessels fishing illegally in Australian waters. To achieve this I was responsible for leading a crew of 25 of the Navy’s best men and women. The crew and I came across many complex and difficult situations during our time. At our disposal were a number of planning methods we could use to assess situations and then take action. These methodologies were taught in a variety of leadership schools and staff colleges around the country and all had their pros and cons.
One process, however, I kept coming back to time and again, purely because of its simplicity. The irony was, it was not formally taught and, as far as I know, you won’t find it in any manual. I have no idea where my mentor got it from; perhaps from his mentor in days past or perhaps he developed it himself from his own experience. I found it useful at those times when there was difficulty in taking the next step or there was a perceived lack of information to make decisions. It is also a process I’ve adapted for use with my coaching clients when they say, “I don’t know.”
There are four simple steps that you need to take. Let me walk you through each of the steps and you can overlay your own problem or task.
Step 1: What do you know? Plan for that.
Whether you realise it or not you will have certain information about your situation already. For example:
- You may already know what resources you need, financial, materiel or people. You may even know where they are or where they need to be.
- You’ll have a deadline. This tell you how much time you’ve got and what urgency you need to place on tasks.
- You may know who’s involved, at least at the initial stages and you may know who else needs to be involved down the track.
These are just a few things you may already know.
Take some time to brainstorm and write down everything that you know about the situation at this point. Take some time now and do it. Go on. This blog will still be here when you get back.
Once you have finished, start forming an initial plan of attack based on what you know. Set up meetings for those you need to talk to. Start allocating resources and requesting additional ones? Generate a timeline if that’s what is required.
The important thing here is to take some time to understand what you know right now and generate that plan for the first step or steps. This will help you generate that initial momentum which is important at this phase of the project.
Oh, and here’s beauty of this part of the plan; it may be that at this time you start to understand what you don’t know and that leads us on to step 2.
Step 2: What don’t you know? Ask questions.
At this stage you will be starting to identify information gaps
- How much capital will I need?
- Is this person or that person available?
- What are the market conditions?
- Where other resources do I need?
It’s time to start asking those questions. It may take some time to get the answers but, as my kids would say, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” Ask lots of questions. Get curious about the task. Seek second opinions. You will feel like you are making progress because you will be gathering new information.
Now that you’ve formulated your initial plans, what are the questions you need answered? Take some time now to write them down. What questions did you come up with?
Time for the next step.
Step 3: As new information comes in, adjust the plan.
You’ve asked all the questions that come to mind and soon the answers come rolling in.
Look at your initial plan. Look at your new information. How does the new data, answers or information affect your plan?
Take some time now to adjust your plan.
At this point, you may find that you will be moving back and forward between steps 2 and 3 – asking questions, getting new information, adjusting your plan, taking action…repeat.
Now, there is one final step ….
Step 4: Consider the ‘What ifs….?’
This is the step where you can let your imagination and experience run for a little.
- What if this person does not come on board?
- What if we don’t get all the investment that we need?
- What if growth in the first year isn’t as predicted?
- What has happened before that I didn’t plan for last time?
This is a brainstorming phase where you consider contingencies. The benefit of stretching yourself here is that you start to anticipate the unexpected. What are the risks? How will you mitigate them? This is your chance to get ahead of the game.
It is important here to not go too far. Don’t scare yourself so much that you paralyse yourself through fear of failure. What we are trying to do here is to just anticipate some pitfalls and be ready for them.
Oh, and one last question in this step: “What if I succeed in this plan? What then?” Too often we don’t plan for that contingency.
What are your “What if?” scenarios?
So, what I want you to do is ….
If you’re feeling stuck with a project give this simple planning tool a work out.
There are a number of very useful planning tools taught in military colleges and business schools around the world. They all have their place and will, with time and effort, yield the results you are after.
This process, however, is useful when stuck with a problem and you’re feeling a bit stuck about the next steps. I know several of my coaching clients have found it useful. The good thing about this process is that it is easy to remember, can be applied quickly and to any aspect of your work or life.
- What do I know? Plan for that.
- What don’t I know? Ask questions.
- As new information comes in, adjust the plan.
- Consider the “What ifs…?”
So, now that you have given it a go, what do you think? What worked for you? How would you modify it? Please share your experience in the comments below.
Do you know someone who could use this tool? Feel free to share this blog with them.
If you need some assistance, or have any questions, feel free to get in contact with Campbell Leadership Solutions who can work with you to refine your team or individual planning strategies.
“The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.”
– Kenneth H. Blanchard
Before you start reading, have in mind a person you admire and respect as a leader.
That person could be someone you’ve worked with or for. It could be a figure on the world stage. If you can’t think of anyone real, pick a fictional character you associate with being a good leader.
Right, do you have someone in mind? Good. Read on…..
Most of the time when I work with clients I am working with people who are leading teams. Those teams might be five people. It could be 500. Occasionally, however, I work with people who don’t see themselves as leaders. With these people I normally hear something like:
- I don’t have anybody who works for me. How can I be a leader?
- We have a very flat structure around here. How can I lead when I don’t have a team?
- I’m not in a leadership position in this organisation.
It’s at this point that I get them to run a very simple exercise. Firstly I get them to do what I just had you do; pick a leader who resonates for them.
Next, and you can do this too now; I get them to tell me what specific behaviours make that person such a good leader.
Write down the specific behaviours that make your respected leader so good for you.
When I get my clients to do this I generally come up with a list that looks like the following:
- My leader really listens to me when I have an issue.
- My leader is always approachable. I know I can talk to them whenever I need to.
- She always seems to see the bigger picture.
- He has a great sense of humour.
- They care about what they are doing and the people they are working with.
These are only a few examples and sometimes we talk in terms of characteristics and not behaviours; Competent, courageous, focused, problem solver for example.
I then ask them the following question:
When you look at those behaviours and characteristics, tell me how they are linked to a position or tied to having someone work for you?
Not once has one of my clients been able to do that.
We can now start talking about how they can start to exhibit the leadership behaviours that they identified and how they can embody those qualities in their role. For example:
• How can they really listen to those they interact with?
• How can they be approachable for others in the company?
• How can they embody competence, courage and focus?
At the time of writing this I did a Google Search of “Leadership Behaviours”. In 0.41 seconds the search returned 18 million results. The first result was a Zenger Folkman article entitled Top 9 Behaviours that Drive Employee Commitment. I would argue that each of the nine behaviours listed could be demonstrated by anyone in your organisation. The second return, a personal branding blog called 15 Behaviours and Traits of Good Leaders lists qualities that anyone, in any role, could do.
Think about your role. How can you exhibit the specific leadership behaviours that you admire?
This quote, and the one at the beginning of this article capture the essence of what I am talking about here; Leadership is a behaviour and not a position.
As an aside, Maxwell wrote a book that lists 21 qualities of a leader. They can all be displayed by anyone in any role as well.
So here’s what I would like you to do….
Take some time this week to think about the leadership behaviours and qualities that you admire in your favourite leaders. Then, reflect on how you could apply those behaviours and qualities to your role in your organisation. For example, if you prize being a good communicator then how could you improve your communication in your role? If you prize being a problem solver in your leaders then what problems could you solve for someone that works near you? Consider leadership as a behaviour, not a position and start seeing yourself as a leader.
Do you know someone who is skilled at leading across all dimensions of an organisation? Down? From the side? Up? Tell us what they do well.
Do you know someone who doesn’t consider themselves a leader? Feel free to share this and your insights with them.
Alternatively, talk to Campbell Leadership Solutions who can assist you with your leadership development or the development of your team.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.”
Recently I conducted team-building workshops for a large directorate of a Federal Government Department. The demographic was young graduates and future leaders. The exercise sought to explore team dynamics, understand the preferences for working styles within a group and to raise awareness of predominant individual styles. The aim was simple – generate better understanding of teamwork within the group.
Part of the workshop was loosely based on the Compass Points Exercise developed by the National School Reform Faculty based in the U.S.A. Groups of graduates, up to 45 at a time were asked to walk a room and look at four posters placed on each wall of the room. The four posters contained one of each of the following:
- Acting – “Lets do it”. Likes to act, try things, plunge in.
- Caring – Likes to know that everyone’s feelings have been taken into consideration and that their voices have been heard before acting.
- Speculating – Likes to look at the big picture and possibilities before acting.
- Paying attention to detail – Likes to know the who, what, where, when and why before acting.
Which group would you place yourself in?
Each graduate self-selected what they understood their preferential working style to be and then worked through a series of activities.
Have a go yourself right now. Answer the following questions:
- What do you see as the strengths of your style?
- How would you describe the limitations of your style?
- Which of the other three styles do you find it most difficult to work with and why?
- What do you want the other three styles to understand about how to work better with you?
- What do you value about people that are in the other three styles?
For example, it was not uncommon for the “Acting” style to indicate:
- their strength was in the speed of their decision making
- their limitations were that they often did not consider second and third order effects when taking action
- they found it difficult to work with details-focussed people because they could be slow in coming to a decision
- they valued the ‘carers’ ability to keep the humanistic element of decisions in the foreground, the ‘speculators’ for keeping the group focused on the longer term goals and the ‘details-focused’ for making sure that the correct checks and balances were in place.
There were many other examples and different groups came up with different answers, however, there were common themes throughout.
What do you think those themes might have been?
With this in mind, and having chosen a style for yourself, where would you place others that you work with?
For this particular workshop a different element was introduced; A few days prior, participants were asked, by confidential survey, to nominate which group they thought their teammates belonged. The results were tallied and revealed at the end of the workshop. After identifying where they had placed themselves, they were told where their cohort had placed them. As you might expect there were some interesting results.
So, where do you think your teammates would place you?
Around fifty percent were placed in a different category to where they placed themselves. Some graduates who saw themselves as details focused were considered by the group to be big picture speculators. Some “carers” were considered to be people of action. When we dived into why this might be the group uncovered some useful insights:
- How we see ourselves is not necessarily how others see us.
- How others see us is based on the experiences we each have that inform our judgments and biases
- The length of time someone has known us and the walls we have up will influence how others see us
- We all have views on how we would like to be seen.
Ask yourself, if I wasn’t in the group I selected for myself, where would others place me and why?
Some people were very much confirmed in the way they saw themselves. One participant who thought he was action oriented was seen that way by 37 out of his group of 42. Only two saw him as a speculator, two as a details focused person and only one as a carer. While he was obviously happy to be seen as he saw himself he was concerned that he came across as someone who didn’t care about others. It is here that one of the limitations of the activity surface. The participants are given a “forced choice”; they have to choose one category to place their team members in. This does not mean that each person cannot, at any time, display characteristics of the other styles. That said, there were some key lessons that came from investigating this feature as well:
- It is useful to be aware of how you are impacting on others.
- Just because you are predominantly seen as one style, doesn’t mean you can’t exhibit characteristics of another.
- There is strength in having characteristics across all styles.
If you are predominantly of one style, what affect might that be having on others?
So, here’s what I’d like you to do….
This week as you interact others at work, take notice of how you perceive yourself and how you might be landing on those around you. If there is someone you trust enough to give you honest feedback, approach them. Ask how they see you. Be open to that feedback and try not to get defensive. They are giving you good information with which to reflect on. Also, consider what effect appearing to be all of one style may have. Remember, we all have an image of ourselves. How others see us may not be consistent with that image. This could be impacting on how you communicate with those around you. Becoming curious will allow you to further develop relationships and communicate better.
Are you curious about better teamwork within your organisation? Contact me at Campbell Leadership Solutions and we can discuss this and many other options for maximising the performance of your team.
When I was a junior officer in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), I had the privilege of serving in one of the Navy’s, now decommissioned, destroyers. My primary role on-board was as one of the ‘Officers of the Watch’ responsible for the safe navigation and control of the ship. On the bridge, I led a small team of 4-6 people but held, on behalf of the Captain, overall responsibility for the safety of a crew of over 300. Not bad for a 26 year old.
One of the most significant lessons I learned during my two years on board came from the Captain during his welcome chat with the new officers. The message was simple and one I have tried to live by since; if your team know their job they will want to show you they can do it. If they don’t know how to do something, then they will try and hide in the background.
This was never more evident than on days we would do damage control training on board. At sea, the threat of fire or flood is always present and training to counter these threats is key. There are many pieces of equipment on board to help do this from pumps and breathing apparatus to timber, saws and mallets. In a time of crisis, you want your team to know how to use that equipment quickly, safely and in the right manner. In one form or another, training, would occur daily.
On one particular day, the whole crew was conducting training. There were various pieces of firefighting equipment set up at positions around the ship and groups of sailors were moving between them at timed intervals. Experts would demonstrate how a piece of equipment would work and then let the team have a go under supervision and instruction. It was at a station set up to teach the operation of a fire pump that I noticed three things:
- First, the sailors who knew what to do, either because they had done it before or had a knack for it, stepped up and gave it a go.
- Second, those sailors who were hesitant and unsure of correct operation of the pump sat back and tried desperately to not to make eye contact with the instructor in the hope they would not be called out to demonstrate their (lack of) knowledge.
- Finally, if the apprehensive sailors were called out, they generally got the operation of the pump wrong and suffered the jeers, taunts and embarrassment of their peers and, on rare occasions, the instructor. While the intention of this ridicule was very rarely malicious, it still had the effect of eroding confidence and stifling initiative.
Skilled instructors would notice these reluctant behaviors and then, later, take the time to engage with the apprehensive team members. They demonstrated the operation of the pump, or another piece of equipment, and then gave the sailors another shot without such a large audience. This time they were free to make mistakes without the threat of ridicule and have as they could have as many turns as they needed. In this way, the confidence of the individual was built, as was the trust level between student and teacher.
When we want to teach or develop our teams, it is important to have a ‘safe-to-fail’ environment. We learn from our mistakes as much, or possibly more than, from our victories. But what is safe for one person may not be safe for another. You may think that on a calm day at sea, when there is no actual fire on-board, lessons on how to use equipment surrounded by your peers is safe enough, however, being called out to demonstrate something you don’t feel confident about in front of others can be unnerving for some. In these situations, perhaps an individual approach is required.
How well do you know your individual team members? How is their level of knowledge of their job impacting on their motivation to do it? Is there something that we can do to help our people develop their confidence and, by doing so, their resilience at work? How are you, as a leader, creating an environment for your team to fail, learn and then succeed?