September 20, 2017

Archives for April 2015

If you’re really stuck…

Exhausted and frustrated woman at a computerStart really, really small.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to get moving. For whatever reason, we’ve become stationary. Perhaps we’ve been away and everything has ground to a halt in the interim. The scale of what we need to accomplish—what we need to get moving again—can seem overwhelming.

In these circumstances…

Sometimes it’s best to forget planning and to forget figuring out priorities and to forget making lists. Instead, just do something—anything—that will give us a sense of movement and completion and achievement, however minor. Then, once that’s done, we can pick something else, and then something else again and gradually overcome our inertia—one little step at a time.

We’re in good company taking this approach: Nature normally starts very, very small, beginning with the tiniest little thing, like the germination of a seed.

How do you get going again when you’ve come to a standstill?

If it’s not happening, it probably means they don’t know how

Two businesspeople in slightly tense conversationWe so often find it frustrating when people don’t do what we think they need to do, especially in their dealings with other people. Often it seems pretty obvious what that needed action is, perhaps even to them.

And yet it doesn’t happen. Maybe even despite explicit conversations about the matter.

How come?

It might seem like they don’t really want to, and that conclusion might be right, up to a point…

But I think more often than we realise, the underlying reason is they actually don’t know how—not well enough to commit to action.

And so they don’t want to because they’re uncertain of what to do.

I think more often than we might imagine a useful thought in these situations is “What if they don’t know how?”

And what might we do about that?

Of course, the principle applies to our own inaction too.


By the way, my new book “The Mastery of Leadership” is now available on Amazon if you’d like a copy… click here to go to the page.

Can you governance your way to innovation?

GatheringIt’s the modern management obsession: “governance” and, to a degree, quite rightly so. We do need our organisations and our projects to be well-managed.

The trouble is…

Governance on its own isn’t enough to prepare an organisation for the future. We can’t legislate for innovation and adaptation. I don’t think so anyway.

Somewhere, there needs to be enough freedom to try something new, and forgiveness if it doesn’t work out first time.

And yet…

Some organisations and some leaders – or maybe it would be more accurate to say some managers – seem to think that if only they govern rigorously enough, their organisation will be adaptable and agile.

But I believe they stand in the same position as those who attempted to succeed with a Soviet-style planned economy.

A balance is required: a combination of governance and freedom. Sounds like a contradiction? Probably it is, but that’s what’s needed. And the art of a leader – perhaps as opposed to a manager – is to hold the space for that ambiguity to exist in a tolerable and stimulating way.

What do you think?

Can strong governance and adaptation co-exist? Or is governance alone enough if it’s done sufficiently effectively?

Changing the future

Calendar dates from monday to sundayWhat really is a priority?

It so often seems urgent things are the priority and sometimes they undoubtedly are. The trouble is if we keep doing the urgent at the expense of what will make a long-term difference, we gradually become more and more sub-optimised and less and less adapted for the future (and eventually the future becomes the present).

How do you decide what truly is a priority? What must be done today?

Are you prioritising something because it’s “urgent” or because it will change the future?

Some of this seems so obvious and yet it’s often hard to do. I think it helps to decide to do one thing every day that will make a difference in a year’s time; to spend an hour on that, say. If that sounds like a challenge, maybe that’s telling us something: The future is going to be something that happens to us rather than something we influence.

How do you make sure you make time to change the future?


By the way, my new book “The Mastery of Leadership” is now available on Amazon if you’d like a copy… click here to go to the page.

Welcoming feedback?

Four business people in a discussionWe know we need feedback: We need other people to let us know how we are doing; to challenge our ideas; and to shake our assumptions (especially if they are out of date). That doesn’t mean we necessarily enjoy the process, of course. Often it’s distinctly uncomfortable, or has the potential to be so.

How do you receive feedback?

Calmly and attentively?

It helps to realise that we react badly to feedback when we let it land in our ego; when we let it question our sense of identity.

It probably isn’t intended to do that—not usually.

With strength and presence, we can take a more objective view and be a kind of observer on the exchange. We can separate the learning from our sense of self—not always easy in the moment, of course, especially when feedback arrives unannounced, unexpected, and uninvited.

How do you handle feedback—welcome it, even—making sure you get the input you need without hurting too much in the process?

Leadership is contagious

Two doctors in discussionUnlike management, which doesn’t really spread from person to person, leadership is contagious. If one person is an effective and energetic leader, those around them are likely to pick up some of the traits too.

Management authority has to be arranged and people have to be appointed to roles.


Leadership authority can be developed independently of management structure and rub off from one individual to another, to be drawn on as and when circumstances require.

A good idea then to cultivate leadership skills in an organisation—they spread.

(Thanks to Geoff Crowley, Managing Director of Highland Colour Coaters, who prompted this piece.)

How thorough do we need to be?

Group discussionOk, we probably need to stop before getting on to the gold plating, but how thorough do we really need to be, in practice?

Perfectionism probably isn’t the ideal trait, in most situations. We need cost-effectiveness too.

There’s a difference between perfect and thorough though, I think – how elaborate the specification versus how well it’s implemented.

Perhaps it’s my experiences in engineering and software development and publishing books, but I expect a certain thoroughness and rigour and am disappointed if I don’t see it. I can tell if not that much effort has gone into eliminating errors. I suppose I’m conditioned by how hard it is to get a piece of software or an electronic system to function correctly, for example.

What about you…

How much thoroughness do you expect from yourself, and from other people?