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Yes. Competitors Can Collaborate.

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.

Resolutions or Reflection?

Resolutions or Reflection?

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:

  1. What worked for you.
  2. What didn’t work.
  3. What you want to do more of.
  4. 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:

  1. Grab a notepad and create two columns: POSITIVE and NEGATIVE.
  2. Go through your calendar from the last year, looking at every week.
  3. For each week, jot down on the pad any people and activities that triggered peak positive or negative emotions for that month.
  4. 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?”
  5. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Align your efforts with your values. Be comfortable with the choices you make and stop trying to live by other people’s values.
  5. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Commit those thoughts to paper and share with a friend. You are more likely to follow through if you do.
  3. 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. 😉







What I want you to do is … Surf the Complexity

What I want you to do is … Surf the Complexity

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:

  1. 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.”
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

Interlude: 2016 Leadership Blog Review

Interlude: 2016 Leadership Blog Review

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


Make It Safe To Fail

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.


Consider How Others Are Seeing 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!


Believe In Yourself As A Leader

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.


Overcome “I don’t know.”

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.


Have Your Head In The Same Place As Your Body

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.


Reduce Your Frustration And Acknowledge Your Achievements

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.


Learn. Don’t Compete

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.


Eyeball Your People

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.


Don’t Ask The Same Questions

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.


Lead Up

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.


Get Curious And Deal With Workplace Conflict

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.


Live Your Values

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.


Ask Yourself, “What is in my control?”

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.


Take A Different Perspective

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


Why The Lighthouse

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?


Why I Do What I Do

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.



What’s next?

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.





What I want you to do is …. Don’t ask the same questions

What I want you to do is …. Don’t ask the same questions

“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.

What I want you to do is …. Overcome “I don’t know.”

What I want you to do is …. Overcome “I don’t know.”

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.


    1. What do I know? Plan for that.
    2. What don’t I know? Ask questions.
    3. As new information comes in, adjust the plan.
    4. 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.