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The Power Of A Simple System

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?

How to listen to feedback

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

You can’t do everything.

“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.

Campbell Ramble #4 – Customer Service Matters

Campbell Ramble #4 – Customer Service Matters

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.

So what…?

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.

What I would like you to do is … Create A Motivation Rich Environment

What I would like you to do is … Create A Motivation Rich Environment

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.

I’m Back

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.

Further Reading

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.


Campbell Ramble # 2 – Chewing Gum for the Brain, Coaching, Mentoring and Allowing Others Their Journey

Campbell Ramble # 2 – Chewing Gum for the Brain, Coaching, Mentoring and Allowing Others Their Journey

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. 😉