Being different

Spot the "differents"

OK so I’m biased.

Well I don’t mean to be, but I am. Worse, I think I am less biased than most. But then, I’m biased.

I love the anecdote of the medical professor presenting himself to a rather erudite audience and saying “statistically speaking 50% of this room are practitioners who are worse than the average”, to which the response was flat denial, loud guffaws and probably outright terror from some.

We all like to think we are someone else at times. Not just average, and certainly not less than average.

And maybe a sure sign of this for me is when I see someone being different I say to myself “Go you good thing”, knowing that I no longer have the courage or motivation to “dance like nobody is watching” (other than to make my children laugh”).

The reality is I like to think I don’t conform, but I do, lots.

And because I do, how much of me have I lost, how much of we have we lost, and how much real leadership have we lost?

I expect the answer would terrify us.

Which is why I say “go you good thing” (but not yet so anyone can hear), why I look for the lights in the eyes, the mischief, the different view, the person who snubs etiquette, the noise, the silence, the independent thinker, the colour, the quiet withdrawal from boorish company and I celebrate the difference and know there is better to come.

It is also why I am terrified. Because I am unsure where we grow this,  I know we are poor at supporting it, and I am sure we seldom celebrate it.

For me it takes “different” to make “exceptional” otherwise the best you can be is very good at what someone else has already done.

Part of the challenge is picking the right “different”. ‘Me too’ and pretenders only get in the way and make the road harder for those with something truly valuable to offer.

What differences make a difference to you?

How could we support them?

Do you have your own story of being different and getting so frustrated you lost your ‘zing’?

I’m interested to hear.

I’m Back

If you’ve stumbled across this blog, welcome, you won’t know I have been missing.
If you have visited this blog because you have wondered what I am up to – welcome back. I’m going to try and breathe some new life into it.
I have concluded I am a compulsive blogger. It’s good for the soul. I am not worried about who cares, I am worried about giving my thinking a way out.
At the same time it helps me get myown  thinking straight, and if along the way that helps somebody else, then I am an even happier camper.
Enjoy what has preceded this post, and enjoy what follows.
I’m happy to hear your thoughts, any time on any matter.
Go Well
Richard

Easy is Hard

There are no shortcuts in life, but you can short-change yourself.

How?

By taking the ‘easy’ way out.

What I think smart busy people have realised is that it is as easy to work hard on the right things as it is hard when you to try to take things easy.

I confess, for me being idle is an horror too great.

Iwonder however whether a lot of our productivity is tied up in the misguided notion that being busy and productive is the hardest way to live your life.

Spending most of your woken day at a job where you produce nothing is just painful. I’ve been there. Anybody who believes that is a good way through life has already started making life difficult.

Of course I am not promoting being a slave to your work or just pulling long hours and never seeing your family. Work life balance is hugely important (and this includes ‘time out’)

My focus is on the 40- 50 hours you spend at work.

Make them count.

Make the hours of your employees count too.

I would rather send people home early because they did what was needed doing than keep them here in the hope they’ll ‘fill in time’.

I concede it is a difficult balance, but leaders should not be ashamed of expecting more of themselves and their employees in being more productive.

The thing is – and here is the kicker – I believe this often doesn’t happen as the managers concerned aren’t doing it themselves and therefor are not prepared to ask their reports (note I changed from leaders to managers, because I have just demoted them all!)

And this doesn’t just apply to being productive.

So the next time you see a manger not asking for more, see what they are not doing themselves first.

Then decide- am I a leader or a manager!!

Catching balls and catching leaders

How is it we can run and catch a ball without making complex mathematical calculations?

Well, inbuilt for most of us is a process called the gaze heuristic.

The gaze heuristic is a heuristic employed by people when trying to catch a ball. Experimental studies have shown that people do not act as though they were solving a system of differential equations that describe the forces acting on the ball while it is in the air and then run to the place at which the ball is predicted to hit the ground. Instead they fixate the ball with their eyes and move so as to keep the angle of the gaze either constant or within a certain range. Moving in such a fashion assures that the ball will hit the catcher.[1][2]

How is this relevant?

Several times people have mentioned or alluded to the basic premise leaders are born not bred. Certainly for much of my management career I have believed this.

Now I don’t.

Well not absolutely.

I think as a guide it stands, but I think it ignores two critical aspects:

Firstly even born leaders need to keep being bred – to learn new skills, to revisit things they knew before, and to keep learning what they didn’t know they needed to learn.

Secondly there are always leaders lurking who wouldn’t be classically picked as future leaders, and circumstance can mean they pull themselves through or someone or something else does.

I’ve harped on long enough in various guises about the first aspect. The second aspect though needs to be noted.

Leaders looking for, and at, leaders can’t afford to ignore those ‘not born as leaders’. They may go about things quietly or  lead with dogged determination – not the sort that barks everyone day and trumpets their glory (they are pretenders) – I mean the ones who have a belief in themselves and a self knowledge that they have plenty to learn if they wish to lead effectively. There are endless variations.

I typically observe these unheralded leaders as being either fearless or, at times, verging on what appears to be reckless ignorance. They are full of surprises.

My aim with this post is to speak out for those leaders ‘not born as leaders’, and to draw out some of your thoughts and experiences on this topic.

These ‘not born leaders’ support one of my belief’s that you can grown anybody into a pretty damn good leader.

And because ‘we’ don’t, perhaps that is why the old wives tale of born not bred has perpetuated.

References

  1. ^ “ScienceDirect – Psychology of Sport and Exercise : Fast and frugal heuristics in sports”. http://www.sciencedirect.com.
  2. ^ “Gut Feelings” (The Intelligence of the Unconscious) By Gerd Gigerenzer. Viking, 2007.

The journey

I have somewhere in my files a parable that many of you will have either heard or heard variations of. I love it with a passion. I shall give you the highlights and then change the ending as I have known it.

Synopsis:

A struggling business man ( funnily I have always assumed middle aged of European decent) seeks out a great guru for the meanig of life.

The guru indicates the man must follow him up the mountain and at the top all will be revealed.

The businessman sets off in pursuit of the guru.

The Guru seems to effortlessly ascend, stopping and wating for the businessman. Always calm.

The businessman struggles, and groans. The days pass.

After some considerable number of days they come to the crest.

The businessman’s spirits build and with the smell of conquest in his nostrils he crests the mountain to see…

Busloads of people and a huge vacation resort.

Stunned he looks at the Guru and asks what is going on.

The Guru replies – only you chose to make the journey a difficult one.

So that is where the story ends.

But I would be the demanding un Hollywood or Bollywood, Guru and change the ending.

The Guru replies – only you chose to make the journey a difficult one – and seeing as you clearly have not learnt anything we must go back and start again.

Sometimes we have to fail. And in failing there is the opportunity for great learning.

There is no learning from mere insight, new ideas or information or other peoples wisdom.

It is the connecting, the living out of a new and different way of being which makes the difference.

You may not always appear to be going forward, but when you crest the mountain there will be no questions, no going back – only lightness of effort…and more effort than you ever imagined.

…At least this is what I hope my Guru would say to me, if only I could catch him on this damn mountain 🙂

An elegant solution

My background is manufacturing operations. Often we would encounter seemingly irresolvable problems, often with a myriad of choices and no clear path as to which to choose or choose first.

The standard approach to these matters include tools like Root Cause Analysis, Waterfall Charts and HACCP. Mostly these serve pretty well and in significant issues some sort of framework is useful.

At times however there is no time and you need a broader framework. Something that sits well above the detail.

In any organisation I believe this is where clear vision and value statements are critical – you can quickly eliminate the things not to do by understanding and connecting to your vision and your values.

Does the solution/ action serve the values and vision? No, then let’s find something else.

Somewhere in this mix I always have another friend. I seek the ‘elegant solution’.

My first encounter of an elegant solution was Edward De Bono who indicated the way to stop polluting of rivers was to ensure that the polluters drew their water downstream from their outlet.

I am always suspicious when an answer is overly complex, when important questions have not been answered and particularly when a proposed action is likely to unreasonably ‘cost’ one or more parties either in impact or effort.

I have seen a lot of effort going into designing solutions where the method fails at the very first or a very early stage, and everything else is immediately redundant. That is not elegant.

Elegant is maximum impact for minimum effort.

Elegant is having the buy in of all parties

Elegant is understanding limitations

Elegant is easing your way through a maze with due thought and consideration

Elegant is knowing you don’t have the answer

Elegant is letting things shape themselves

Elegant is guiding

Elegant  is something you sit back and admire for the beauty in its simplicity.

You feel Elegant, though only if you are open to it.

Get Elegant today.