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The Importance of Boundaries

In his book Give And Take, Adam Grant describes three types of people [1]:

  • 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?

Also Givers.

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.

[1] 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.

Are You Competing With Your Own Team?

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.

On Control … Again

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

On Busyness and Time Management

“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’s work?”
“It’s busy.”

“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.

What else?

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.

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.