February 21, 2018

Archives for February 2014

Not change but coercion

Exhausted computer userWith sufficient power and authority, we can make something different happen.

We can get an organisation to produce different results.

We can make people comply.

But that isn’t really change…

It’s coercion.

Not very sustainable, and also very hard work.

Better to cultivate an emergent solution, though it’ll need more patience.

Or perhaps go for a bit of both, blending top-down and bottom-up.

What if we don’t like the implications?

GatheringWe may dismiss certain kinds of learning…

Now it could be that the learning is plain wrong.


It could be that we don’t like the implications.

One way, we’re right; the other, we’re making a mistake.

Choosing not to see things systemically is a common example of this. We’d rather not confront the messiness that implies. Reacting to events is much easier.

But likely to reinforce the problem.

The pull of the tribe

Networking groupHave you noticed…

Spend any time at all around a group of people, especially a large group of people or a big organisation, with at least some cohesion, genuine purpose, and shared values—in other words, a “tribe”—and the pull to associate with it is almost tangible, a visceral effect.

Depending on the specifics, the direction could be the opposite, I suppose, with an urge not to belong to that tribe, but another one instead.

Either way…

It’s a deep-seated, powerful part of human nature… the need to belong. The consequences pervade our organisations and our lives.

Have you noticed when you are pulled in this way?

Or when the pull of the tribe is influencing a situation?


Are you self-sufficient enough to stand apart when you need to? Or at least to make a conscious choice about it?

Total control—total paralysis?

Female hand signing a formWe’re addicted to control—control of our businesses, our public services, and our non-profits and charities. It seems so logical: The tighter we can nail down what happens in our organisations, the more efficient and reliable and predictable they will be.

That could be true, assuming people can actually work in such a regime. (In fact, they can’t, but that’s another story.)

The other trouble is…

Control everything and it becomes impossible for anybody to innovate. Nobody can take any kind of speculative risk. They can’t act on a hunch. It’s just too difficult.

A remarkable number of people I know holding really quite senior positions have no discretion to spend even a few hundred pounds, in some cases, not even a few pounds (or dollars or euros).

So their bosses must think they have a monopoly on innovative ideas. Well, I’m sorry, but that’s just not credible.


Total control means, if not total, at least partial paralysis.

In a fast-changing world, that’s really not smart.

Paralysis means stagnation, and stagnation means getting out of date.


We need control, yes. We need a little chaos too.

Evidence – Finding your own

Group in discussionWe generally want evidence that something works, and our first thought is it’s to be found “out there.” What have other people done?

There are sound enough reasons for looking at things this way, and it can be important for influencing stakeholders and their decisions.

But at the same time, the habitual response is a sophisticated form of helplessness.


We could look for our own evidence. We could check the idea out for ourselves in actual experience. Then we would have the certainty of inner knowing.

The voice of direct experience has a different quality.

Much more powerful than “evidence” on a piece of paper.

In other words, whatever it is, just try it.

They think it’s someone else

Two senior managers in conversationWe like the idea of blanket coverage – everyone treated the same. A programme for all employees seems like a great idea. That way no-one is singled out.

The trouble is…

In the area of people skills, really everyone needs input specific to them, including ourselves, of course. We’re all in a different place. And so the “sheep-dip” approach may well not achieve the hoped-for effect.

The ones that you especially wanted to “get it,” instead of realising they are meant to connect with the learning…

They think it’s someone else.

In this field…

We need to know the tailored message is specifically for us.

So you need to provide one-to-one input, one way or another. There’s really no getting away from it.

Otherwise, it’s easy to dodge the message.

You can say it’s to help them be even more effective in their role. And that’s true.

You have to do what you do

Road into the distanceTo be influential takes consistency.

You have to keep at it. Once you’ve said you stand for a particular thing, you really need to act congruently with that.

This point could be understood as an aspect of branding, which suggests it’s a corporate kind of issue.


It’s a personal issue too.

Once you’ve said you said you stand for something, you need to follow through on that if anything much is going to change. Waver about the place and the net effect will be close to nil. Influence takes time and consistency.

Of course…

You still need to develop your thinking, but as you learn new things and evolve, you need to do that a little bit gradually and integrate it well so that your audience or community or workforce isn’t confused.

Take care to protect the momentum of your message.

Do you need attention?

Executives listening to a presentationI don’t mean like your car…

Do you need attention from other people?

It’s often nice to have a little bit of attention, but does it always help you get what you want?

Perhaps not…

Conventional wisdom says that before you can be heard you have to get people’s attention. That might sometimes be true; might even often be true.

But it kind of assumes they don’t know whatever it is you’re going to say, whereas you do.

Maybe they already do know, and it’s just a question of allowing them to express that. In which case, you might not want their attention.

Because having their attention will interrupt the flow, and stop them saying what you really want them to say.

And if it’s them that say it, it’ll be so much more powerful.

Worth thinking about…

Do you need attention?

Maybe not.

A faster way to create a group…

Hotel meeting roomIt is considered a test of a group…

Can it be together in silence? Can the people involved be in each other’s company without anything being said, or is it so uncomfortable that someone needs to fill the space and say something?

If, in fact, the group can be together in silence, that means the individuals involved have some deeper sense of connection; that they are in fact a team of some kind.

But which comes first?

Being a group, or being together in silence?

Perhaps we can build the group faster by creating the circumstances where its members are together in silence sooner or more often.

One easy way into this is to ask those present to think to themselves for a minute or two about a challenging question. That’s appropriate in almost any setting, including at work.

It’s illuminating to try this out.

You see…

Sometimes words get in the way. They actually block the deeper communication.

Do you have the nerve to create some silence and see what happens?

Can you be with yourself in silence even? Perhaps that’s a subject for another day.

Is your business a hedgehog?

Hedgehog on a roadHave you ever tried getting a hedgehog to move? What happens if you frighten it?

Sometimes out walking in the dark, I’ve come across a hedgehog on the road. It’s dangerous for a hedgehog, being on the road—a bit like an organisation in a changing world.

So we might try and get the hedgehog to move off the road.

Too hasty though and we’ll frighten it. Then it’ll curl up into a ball and stay where it is—right in harm’s way. Then we can’t get it to move at all.


We need to create just enough commotion that the hedgehog moves off in the direction we want it to go. But not too much.

The thing is…

Is your organisation a hedgehog?

If so, what’s the right amount of commotion to get it to move?