October 20, 2017

Resolution wasn’t built in a day

Bridge to visionOur inclination is to think that it should be possible to resolve issues, disagreements, and even conflict in one go—in a day perhaps. Sometimes, no doubt it is, if we can bring enough goodwill and expertise to bear.

Other times, we may only be able to proceed part way; we may only be able to head in the right direction—or even just a promising direction.

But we should not be deterred…

Sometimes a little progress—and a little sustained movement by all parties—can be enough to build sufficient trust, confidence, and faith that, in time, further steps can be taken and more progress made towards an ultimate resolution.

Important, then, not to dismiss the initial progress, just because it’s incomplete.

Relationship building, or especially rebuilding, is a through-time process not an in-time event.

Resolution wasn’t built in a day.

The value of validation

TeamOf course, it’s good to make up our own mind about whether something we’re doing is right or not. Nevertheless, a bit of external validation is still very welcome.

We can seek it out ourselves, for our own needs.

But what about other people—those we have reason to assist in their learning?

If we’re supporting someone develop new leadership behaviours, for example, and they seem to be making some progress in that some of their people are stepping up and taking on appropriate leadership responsibilities as well, it can be extraordinarily reinforcing to prompt other people seeing these positive developments to say so.

In a workshop setting, one answer is simply to invite other participants to comment. Out in the field, a little more deliberate action is needed—perhaps asking them to take the trouble to have a word.

From our perspective then, as the orchestrator of all this, perhaps as a facilitator, or maybe just a friend…

Worth thinking about how to prompt people who could say something helpful.

Don’t leave it to chance.

Connection or fluency?

Mid sized audienceWhich is more important: being fluent or being connected with your audience i.e. the other party?

Traditionally, we pay a lot of attention to being fluent, even organising many aids to make sure we can join words together in a smooth and flowing way.


It may be more effective to concentrate on being connected with the audience.

If people have a sense of connection, they’ll listen with the heart rather than the head—and, in fact, take more away from the conversation. They won’t be that aware of glitches in the delivery.

It might not really about the words anyway.

If people are disengaged, it really doesn’t matter how good your words are.

Sometimes attempts at fluency can get in the way of natural connection.

The ideal is both, I suppose, but if you can’t have that, which would you go for…

Connection or fluency?

Dangerous questions

Worried manBeen reading Daniel Kahneman’s excellent and very useful “Thinking, Fast and Slow”…

He says: If asked a difficult question we don’t know the answer to, we will normally pick an easier one we do have an answer to, and provide the answer to that one instead. And we do that without realising we’re making the substitution. It’s an unconscious process.

That rings true, I believe.

Moreover, it seems to me…

If the question asked requires a yes or no answer, then our search for a seemingly related question we can answer in those binary terms may take us an especially long way from the starting point, with unpredictable results.

Maybe we should take more care with our questions.

We want you to step up (except when we don’t)

GatheringLeaders in businesses and organisations often say they want their people to step up and take more initiative.


Some, in the next breath, will say they want certain things done a certain way, and they’ll end up directing the action they want. Other times, they’ll push back when the to-be-empowered folk come forward with some new and different idea that doesn’t quite fit with their view of things.

In other words, they want their people to step up—except, that is, when they don’t.

Quite a difficult thing to get right: stepping up some of the time, and only then in someone else’s preferred manner.

Could you be in this predicament?

The right review arrangements might be what you’re missing.

Taking people along with you

Group working on a projectIt’s remarkable how often this comes up as a theme: the challenge of getting a group of people on board with a course of action.

Our natural inclination is often that the hard task in a situation is working out what to do and the easy bit is taking other people along with us.

But really…

It’s the other way round: Working out what to do is the easy bit and taking everyone else along with us is the hard part.

And so it makes sense to put that first: To recognise that time spent in the “social” process is worth it in the long run, and that we should organise around that.

This seems rather obvious but still we often do the opposite: We revert to working out the solution ourselves and then trying to sell it, which actually is much harder.

Much better to get the group to develop the solution and apply our expertise in guiding them in that process. Then we don’t need to sell the plan to them… because it’s already theirs.

It’s a fundamental trait of human nature not to resist things we say ourselves—and one that’s worth making use of.

Then it’s easy to take people along with us.

If we let go of the big goal…

Mount EverestIt’s seem slightly paradoxical, doesn’t it? If we put our big goal out of our mind and just focus on getting small things done, it’s easier to take those minor steps—to do the mundane. And so we make more progress towards our main objective.

The tasks we put in hand do need to contribute to the aim, of course. They need to be part of the plan. And we do need to have a clear idea of what our big goal is.

Assuming that to be the case…

Sometimes it’s easier to make progress if we stop worrying about the big thing we need to accomplish. Then we relax. And then we can get started.

This is worth remembering both for ourselves and anyone we might hope to lead.

If we stop worrying about the big goal; if we calmly accept its existence, and indeed the possibility that we might or might not get to the ultimate outcome, it could be that we will make more progress towards it.

That’s true even if “failure is not an option” funnily enough—perhaps especially if failure is not an option.

Can a business leader sell with the same approach as a salesperson?

Four people, two shaking handsThe processes of selling are well-known, though, of course, what’s most effective and appropriate varies from context to context. And there’s always room to get better at it.

An important question is whether it’s entirely open to a leader with more rounded responsibility for the business or organisation to sell in the same manner. Can they adopt conventional sales techniques? Or do they need to modify their approach?

Of course, you might be thinking business leaders don’t need to sell. They have somebody to do that for them. That’s not my experience. For the most part, business leaders need to at least get involved in bringing new business into their organisation. Indeed that’s often the most important part of their role.

And in comparison with the specialist salesperson, the business leader needs to meet different customer expectations. In particular, the customer infers the organisation’s values from its leader. And these need to match what the customer expects.

And also, because the leader has responsibility for delivery as well as sales, and everything else besides, they need to be convincing about the whole of the business in an end-to-end way, not just that they will be the customer’s representative in the company’s processes.

And it’s very definitely a relational sale if the leader is involved.

What do you think?

How should a business leader approach the sales process? As if they were a salesperson? Or something else?

The importance of sifting

The importance of siftingIt’s surprising what a difference it makes, thinking over our experiences and learning.

You’d imagine that if we put all that stuff into our heads the process would be automatic after that—that we could rely on our brains to process everything comprehensively; to form all the connections that there are to form; and to generate all the ideas there are to generate. After all, we’ve put it all in one pot.

In my experience, it doesn’t work like that. The “stuff” mostly just lies there.

Instead, to make the most of what we have—all that accumulated wisdom—we do need to find ways of sifting through our experiences and new things we’ve learned. We do need to do that deliberately. And we do need to create the opportunity for new patterns to emerge.

In other words, both time to reflect and some particular approach to reflection are important.

Talking things over with other people is obviously one way, especially if they have some skill in listening and questioning. Another is writing a journal. Whatever the specifics, expressing what’s inside stimulates new realisations. Particular frameworks and models and new ways of looking at things help.

It’s like we need to cross and recross the ground in different directions, connecting up the pieces in new ways, and sorting out what is most important.

In other words, we need to sift.

So much, so obvious maybe.

The question is: Are we sifting enough?

Just because you can tell people what to do doesn’t mean you should

Two businesspeople in slightly tense conversationIt’s so tempting for the “boss,” especially if they are also the owner of the business to assert their authority and tell people what to do, just because they can. It feels like a right, or even just “right.”

That might be why they set up in business in the first place: So that they can be “their own boss.”

When we’re questioned about something, chances are our ego doesn’t like it and we want to push the intrusion away: And we can, or at least, it’s possible.

And we may be right. We may have the greater experience.

But sometimes, it may be a mistake, because we may be wrong, and, especially then, it’s crushing for the employee.

In my experience, it’s a critical step in the development of the business or leader to accept that we may not always be right and to be open to question accordingly.

Noticing that we’re asserting ourselves, just because we can, is a sign that we might be “off.”

Are we?