Archive for June, 2015

Leading or Managing

Monday, June 29th, 2015

I came across a provocative article the other day that says that if you are weighed down with decisions, you aren’t leading, you are managing.  The thesis is that we pay managers to resolve disputes and make decisions in order to make our policies and strategies effective; the job of a leader is to set direction and train or recruit others to do make those micro-decisions.  As coach for many years, I see all-too-often, bosses who no doubt think they are leaders but are just too busy in the day-to-day stuff to think about the future.  Strategic thinking is usually reserved for the odd meeting I run to help them raise their eyes to the heights.

Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and present CEO of Square, has the same approach. He believes it’s an organizational failure if he has to make a decision. He says his role is to see that decisions are being made, not to make them  “If I have to make a decision, we have an organizational failure. I can help provide context of what’s happening in the industry. But I definitely see the organization and the people in it as the ones to make the decisions, because they have the greatest context for what needs to be done.”


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Fitness trackers and positive, personal change

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

Regular readers will know that I have been experimenting with the use of a fitness tracker for the last few months, and finding them quite useful.  I came across an article which looks at why they work, or rather what they need from us in order to work.  The thing is that of themselves, they do nothing but measure; what they are counting on is that we will do something with that data… like change!  There is an old saying in Change Management “You get what you measure”.

So here we have the intersection of two elements, change and technology.  In order to work, they look to help us change our life styles and get more active.  Professor Andrew Lane, a sports psychologist at the Centre for Health and Human Performance says that habits are, “A learned behaviour or thought that occurs automatically.” On a neuro-scientific level, “the pathway for habitual movement involves consistent messages, these messages are strong enough to stimulate action.”

The process of forming new habits is extremely complex, but Duhigg writes that generally there’s a three step loop when it comes to forming a habit, “A cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode; a routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional; and a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering.”  In other words, the more a synapse in the brain is used, the stronger and more automatically we can use it, so that we don’t have to think, we just react.  The manufacturers of these trackers are aware of this and support their hardware with software that encourages us to act.  They send encouraging little messages, give tips, make it easy for us to compete against our friends or ourselves.  It may seem silly… I guess it is only I find that it works and you can’t argue with that. 

Win arguments … by keeping schtum

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

I am often left flabbergasted when I watch some of the people you see on reality TV argue.  Think of Jerry Springer with two unsavoury types both talking at each other and it seems to be a trial of strength to see who can keep going longest and who is loudest.  Both talk simultaneously with no pretence at even listening to each other.  If you are like me, then it is easy to sit there in your middle class, self righteous sense of superiority and think “How shocking!  I’d never do that!”  The thing is if you were well brought up you have to at least pretend to listen to the other person, you keep a polite silence, and look at them.  However, what many of us do, (in fact I’d go further and say what most of us do!) is not to really listen to their point, but to await our turn to prove them wrong.  We may not do this out of any sense of maliciousness, but we all do love to be right!

However, if you want to win the argument, or better still, if you want to win respect; then you should really listen to them.  You should actually show you are listening by nodding at appropriate times, making ahha type noises, looking at them, in other words, actively listen.  When they are done, ask questions.  Then, summarise what they have said and make your point.  Either agree with them, or perhaps suggest that in order to meet the agreed goal, that there might be better strategies or additional steps required.  People are far more likely to give serious and honest consideration to you and what you say if you first do the same for them.  It is the Law of Reciprocity; society has brought us up to offer back what we are given.

So, if you want to win… keep schtum… at least initially.

Why saying “Sorry” might be a good idea

Monday, June 15th, 2015

The word sorry originates from the prehistoric Germanic root word meaning “sore or pained”, the English Dictionary offers us several different meanings a few definitions being “feeling regret, compunction, sympathy, pity”, but there is a study published in the Harvard Business Review which studies the social impact of apologising on your relationships.  The bottom line is over apologising, such as the wonderful English habit of saying “Sorry” when someone walks in to you, rather than being silly and unnecessary actual is proven to be a positive tactic in building trust.  It seems to demonstrate  our empathetic natures and people take that as showing we care about how they feel. 

I have often written here about how much we hate being wrong, and how we are programed from a very young age to always try and prove that we are right (or at least never wrong!)  but this study suggests that being gracious and saying “Sorry” even if we feel it is unnecessary can really work in our favour.

Being nice pays… scientifically speaking

Monday, June 8th, 2015

We all know that Charles Darwin said that survival was a prize won by the fittest, suggesting that we compete for scarce resources.  However this is only part of the truth, because if we look at nature, there is far more evidence that co-operation is the best route to survival.  You can look at colonies of insects such as bees, or birds and apes where non-parents will help rear the young of other females.  I watched some amazing footage of a bird of paradise who uses a young ‘apprentice’ male to woo his potential mate.  The pay-off being that the younger male learns the steps of the dance from his ‘mentor’, thus ensuring he will be more successful when it is his turn to mate.

Back in the days of the cold war, when there was serious worry about nuclear war, and what strategy would lead to safety and security and and which would lead to ending civilisation.  They developed a game called the Prisoners Dilemma which enabled them to test this theory.  They proved, that in the long term, safety was better assured by co-operation than selfishness. 

So perhaps instead of working to gain an advantage over your ‘rival’, you might be better off to come up with a strategy which is win:win…? 


Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

I came across a couple of things today which seemed to be on a similar theme.  The first was an interview with some Tech ‘experts’ who were discussing the impact of technology on our lives and how it impacted our free time; do we have more more or less free time when we could get emails from work at all hours?  Of course the key to this is twofold.  One element is the culture of the business and the country; in a very intense company, such as Apple, it isn’t abnormal for people to expect you to be available at all hours, other firms have different expectations.  However, you have a choice.  Do you choose to keep an eye on the email, and ‘manage’ it so as to make things easier for yourself, or do you stop after a certain time and switch off?  I don’t think there is one right answer to this.  It depends on our natures and circumstances.  What we should never ignore is that we do have a choice, and we need to make one that works for us.

The second note in this theme, was the idea that we might be used to the idea of saying “No..” to others but we seldom do it to ourselves!  At first it is a strange idea but how often do we hear a little voice in our heads telling us that we have to just finish this  or we can’t go home till whatever?  The fact is that we can and perhaps often should say “NO!” to both these thoughts.  It is usually very conscientious people who fall pray to this kind of self-imposed pressure but usually, the world keeps on turning, and the wheels don’t fall off the wagon if we don’t go the extra yard every single time. 

The trick is to work out what works for you.  When are you most effective?  What sort of things create pressure for you?  What do you need need to perform at your best; sleep or knowing you have a clear in-tray?  Don’t be afraid to explore different ways of working to find one that works for you.