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Do You Need Every Alert?

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.


What Else Is Happening?

We’ve all got them. That one person or that group of people that we find difficult. [1]

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): [2]

  • 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.


[1] 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.

[2] 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.

Do you really need to say “need”?

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.


The Right Thing.

The Right Thing.

“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.


  1. This story is based on a current real work scenario. Names have been altered to ensure confidentiality.
  2. Sometimes we may never know what other people’s motivations are or our assumptions might be wrong.

Image Credit to Gerd Altman on Pixabay

Good or Bad? Hard to Say.

Good or Bad? Hard to Say.

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

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.