Archive for the 'Conversations' Category


I’m back at my Meisner acting class. Barbara likes to say:

an actor without an opinion is like an athlete without a game plan!

It’s a powerful idea. Actors who have strong opinions have presence. You can’t take your eyes off them! Their scenes are compelling.

Is it a powerful idea in business? An opinion could be a vision, mission, strategy or a value. But opinions sound like they are more personal, less corporate. Personal opinions have a stronger influence on behaviour – in acting, in business and in life.

Should leaders have stronger personal opinions?  Is this what makes them so effective? I often wonder if we are developing  a cohort of senior managers in leadership competency, only to find they don’t have a personal opinion on what leadership means to them. Their leadership understanding and knowledge doesn’t translate into compelling action. I think leadership should start with a strong personal opinion on life.

Perhaps also, it is easier to trust people with strong opinions?  You may not agree with their opinion.  But strong opinions make people more purposeful, have a stronger presence and more predictable in their behaviour.

Strong opinions may be powerful, but they may also be dangerous. It obviously depends on what the opinion is. But more dangerously, opinions start to define how you see and experience the world in ways that reinforce themselves. Always dangerous in a rapidly changing world.

Perhaps we can all have strong opinions that are loosely held? Is that possible?


Less is More

A quote from Antoine de Saint Exupery.

“You know you have achieved perfection in design, not when you have nothing more to add,

but when you have nothing more to take away”


Push Me Pull Me

I recently spotted some interesting research by Ronald Friedman and Jens Forster. They’re a couple of social psychologists.

In 2002 experiements the found that ingrained in our brains is an association between the act of pulling and positive feelings. While the act of pushing is associated with negative feelings.

I think it’s fascinating how interconnected the mind and body are!

Also it’s fascinating that the current business trend to greater consumer pull (rather than organisational push) has a foundation in neuro-physiology! Is this why pull works better in business and organisations?

Applied to communication ‘pull’ is less about pre-designed messages and channels and more about listening, empathisising, provoking, and engaging in the moment. It’s more about letting meaning emerge. It’s less about leading and more about meeting.

Well sometimes anyway.

Low tide

Lunch with a friend yesterday. Mentioned that it was interesting to observe the behaviours of some, when the tide goes out. He shared a personal experience of a public sector manager behaving unethically and probably illegally. Using power and position to disadvantage my friend. No doubt he rationalised it by thinking of the current economic situation.

It made me think of the character aspect of leadership. Some things illuminate character. Adversity for instance. It seems that many leaders stand out in times of adversity. Is it because they find their character? Is it because they have the opportunity to exercise their character? Is it that the character of others is exposed through negative behaviour (… and they stand out)?

Someone once said that you can judge a society by how it cares for it’s most vulnerable members. Ditto leaders. Judge leaders by how they behave towards others more vulnerable. When the times are tough. Anyone can look good on a rising tide, when things are going well. But for some, low tide is a different story.

Character boils down to behaviour. Having the courage of your convictions and treating others as you would be happy for them to treat you.

I believe that we all have a responsibility to robustly confront poor behavior by:

  • naming the specific behaviour
  • articulating the impact of that behaviour
  • telling the person how we feel about it.

Letting people get away with poor behaviour, only accepts and encourages it.

Slowly then quickly

There’s a great speech by Al Pacino  in the movie ‘Any Given Sunday’.

OK, it’s a boys movie.

But putting  the aggressive competitiveness to one side. What’s the message?

It’s that, small things add up.  Whether you’re talking about communication, leadership, relationships, sport, finance, music, acting, or anything else. It’s the little things that add up. That matter.

It means that the future arrives slowly (inch by inch) and then quickly. It can be a big surprise. A big unpleasant surprise. One morning we wake up and trillions of dollars of wealth has disappeared!

Behaviour by behaviour, we create our future. And the future of others around us.

Jan Carlzon talked about moments of truth

Malcolm Gladwell talks about outliers

de Niro talked of the inches

What are  the inches that matter to you?

Take care of your inches!

Borrowed creativity.

I was speaking today with a prospective client about some coaching.

We ended up discussing an individual’s personal brand.

I’ve always liked the idea of expanding the idea of a communication objective from a specific piece of communication, to a longer term communication strategy. Like a personal brand.

In essence, over time and many interactions, how do individuals want others to:

  • think about them
  • feel about them
  • act towards them

Of course, your audience matters too. What do they want and value?

One of the attributes valued highly these days is creativity.  Perhaps I’d like people to think of  me as creative! I’ve written before about creativity, and the importance of  listening to others for ideas. Rather than coming up with ideas all by yourself!

So, in the spirit of borrowed creativity, here is Fast Company’s Top 100 Most Creative People (to listen to).

Borrow, learn, distil, reapply, combine, but most of all enjoy.

Working the room!

Yesterday, I spoke to a group of independant professional advisors/counsellors. The topic was networking, as a marketing tool. I made three points:

  1. The predominance of social networks can be seen as much more than a marketing tool. I think they are becoming an extension our brains and are making us more intelligent. Our intelligence afterall, is the result of the brain’s complexity – the billions of neurons interacting with each other. By connecting to other individuals we significantly multiple the possible interactions. Connecting our neurons to neurons outside our brain. The beginnings of a global brain (see Peter Russell’s “Global Brain”
  2. But, chemistry matters. The chemistry that connects the neurons in our brain to each other is a complex bio-chemistry. The neurotransmitters that pass signals across the synaptic gap (between neurons) has to work. Or we don’t think effectively, or at all! Between people that chemistry is the chemistry of conversation. Important elements of the chemistry of conversation include – effective questioning, active listening and empathy. That chemistry has to work too.
  3. And, that chemistry also includes ‘attitude’. Someone spoke of those who think of networking as “working the room”. If that’s your attitude, I doubt the conversation chemistry will work. I find it best to leave your agenda at the door. Just talk to people, enjoy talking to them, be curious, be yourself . Let any business opportunities emerge. Don’t work the room!

As always, interested in your perspectives.

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