February 22, 2018

Archives for 2014

Asking the right question

Group in discussion at computerThere’s no such thing as the right question, of course, but some enquiries contribute more to moving things on than others.

It’s worth thinking about…

What’s your intention when you ask a question – helping things along in the direction they need to go in for the benefit of everyone, or making a point to enhance your position?

Both have their place, I suppose.


It’s good to be clear about your aim.

And if it’s to move things on, there’s a skill in asking just the right question to pick things up where they are and carry them on to the next step.

How well do you do that?

If you’re the leader…

Business People in a Board MeetingYou created everything around you. (You are the person with authority and influence, after all.)

If you don’t like it, either you’ve not led very well, or you’re not actually the leader.

Which is it?

Knowing your own power

Two senior managers in conversationIt’s surprising, in a way, how little we know of our own power—our power to impact on other people.

We tend not to realise just how impactful we can be. We say things with full force when actually something more measured would meet less resistance, cause less hurt, and serve us better. This is especially true if we have formal authority as well as personal power. We’ll get a better outcome if we deliberately turn it down a bit.

Other times…

We have less power than we think we have. We don’t get the results we expect. Our power turns out not to be what we thought it was. In this case, we do well to moderate our actions to match the level of power we actually have.

Then our power will grow with our success.

Accurately gauging our personal power can make the difference between being effective and being irrelevant.


We may flinch from the sight of our own power, but it’s there whether we accept it or not—better to embrace it and use it for good rather than deny it, and so diminish our own contribution.

Do you know your own power—its nature and its strength?

Worth getting to understand it well. Then you can use it for the best.

Do you go at the pace of the slowest?

Do you go at the pace of the slowest?Working with leadership teams, it’s usually the boss who has the most to think about and the most change work to do. They are the main driving force in the company after all.

But as well as that…

Sometimes there’s someone in the team or the group who, for whatever reason, moves a bit slower than the others—someone who perhaps doesn’t really “get it” or lacks the necessary skills or knowledge.

What do you do about them?

It may well be you need some aspect of their expertise or contacts.

Do you invest, in a sense disproportionately, in the weak link? You might well need to. After all, you do need the group to move forward together at least to some degree.

Whatever you do, you can’t ignore the situation.

Otherwise you will go at the pace of the slowest. Or the group will break apart.

The part that makes the most difference

Woman reflectingWe spend a lot of time thinking about how to change things around us; how to change our organisation and the people in it.

That’s a lot of work. We tend to encounter resistance and often it takes a great deal of energy to make progress.

The reality is…

Sometimes we’ll get more “bang for our buck” working on ourselves first—making the changes we ourselves could do with making.

Then the chances are other people will be influenced to change too.

After all…

If we’re in a leadership position then we’re likely to have the most influence. People will do what we do.

So if we want something different to happen, doing something different ourselves might be a good place to start.

Controlling everything isn’t leadership

Group in discussion at computerIt’s management.

They say the best leaders are the ones who develop the most leaders, not the most followers.

If we want to lead—as opposed to manage—we mustn’t control everything, because then there’s no opportunity for others to exercise their initiative and grow into leaders themselves.

Of course, there need to be checks and balances to pick up mistakes; to keep everything and everybody safe.

And the right relationship to make all this possible—trust.

How do you strike the right balance between freedom and control?

If you’re trying to nail down everything, you probably aren’t leading.

How far do you go… to coach an employee?

Four business people in a discussionI often see business owners and managers struggling to secure reasonable performance from certain of their employees – one or two members of staff who, for some reason, aren’t effective. Cases where it’s not a skills issue, more of an attitude problem.

Usually, the leaders try to manage more performance out of the individual. In essence, they apply pressure, with perhaps some effort to coach them in a narrow, task-related way as well.

The thing is…

Often, more fundamental help is required. Somebody needs to get across to the individual what being a working person entails, what life is about, ultimately.

Sometimes, an individual has just never had that kind of education, from parents or other role models.

The question then is (and I’m often asked this)…

How far should a business owner or manager go into this kind of territory?

How much of a leader of the whole person should they be?

The answer is… as far as it takes to stimulate the change in performance they need. Or the individual realises they are in the wrong place.

If the time and effort involved in doing that is beyond what’s justifiable then it’s time to recognise the appointment isn’t working out and deal with that.

Because it’s just too damaging to leave it alone.

Our choice is…

Do whatever it takes to get to the point where the individual is productive, perhaps getting an older, wiser head to talk to them about life, if that’s what’s needed.


Remove them from the team.

Holding back, doing less than it takes, isn’t an option.

Love in the language of cricket and Australia

Philip Hughes, Australian cricketerIn what’s been said about the tragic death of Australian cricketer, Philip Hughes, the word “love” is prominent. Captain Michael Clarke, for example, wrote “I will love you forever” and many others referred to caring in the same way, both about the man and their support for the family. See for example http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/cricket/30221766.

Clearly, Philip Hughes engendered a strong affection, and the bonds of the community run deep.


The Australian willingness to call the sentiment what it is is noticeable—noticeable because it seems different; different from other countries.

And that’s a strength.

I’ll remember, and perhaps you will too.

How challenging can we be?

Three in discussionWhen it comes to stimulating change in other people, how challenging can we be?

How far and fast can we push?

How can we best tell when we need to back off?

Well, of course, it depends…

It depends on the nature and quality of our relationship: Is it a boss-subordinate relationship, or a coach-client relationship, or a peer-to-peer relationship? And how strong is that relationship? Is there enough “fuel in the tank” of trust and confidence to cope with the disturbance and get the best result?

It also depends on our presence: How grounded and resourceful do we seem? Are we coming from a place of personal authority? Or are we relying on our formal position?

There’s a sense of right timing too—a sense of things in motion. Maybe we need to bide our time for the big intervention. Maybe we need to wait for the “planets to align.” Patience may get us to the end result more quickly than haste.

But we do need to be challenging in some way in the meantime—and also supportive.

Otherwise what we’re doing won’t pass the “so what?” test.

Holding back completely doesn’t work.

You need to not know

Three senior managers talkingOr rather, you need to know you don’t know. And you need your team to know you don’t know and want their help.

How else can they know they need to look out for missing information?

They need to know that you will welcome them saying you might have overlooked something, made an error, or not noticed something important – or at least not bite their head off when they tell you.

That’s the difference between the professional and the amateur: The professional doesn’t let the issue land in their ego.

This principle is rather obvious skippering a yacht, for example. Get it wrong and you usually get immediate and probably uncomfortable feedback from your environment. You need the crew to tell you things before you make a mistake, not after.

Otherwise you might hit the rocks.

Running an organisation, the principle is even more true, just a bit less obvious.