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In control

A client spoke recently of ‘getting in control’.

Made me think of the reality and usefulness of control.

Perhaps control is an illusion that doesn’t help in a rapidly changing environment. Reminded me of Patricia Ryan Madsen’s improvisation manifesto (see earlier post).

Think what may be more important is awareness and the courage to respond to whatever comes along. Being in the moment, as it were.

If you’re Wellington based, I recommend Barbara Woods Meisner acting class. She teaches actors to be believable and compelling in any given imaginary situation. You may not want to act, but as a leader it sure helps to be believable and compelling. You’ll learn both with Barbara.

Barbara is contactable at



It’s often refreshing to read the Harvard Business Review. They seem to understand how to communicate incisive business ideas in a very engaging way. It was particularly refreshing to see Teresa Amabile’s contribution to Breakthrough Ideas for 2010 (January-February 2010).

The number one motivator (by a long way) for motivating people is Progress. (ie. the feeling of making progress in one’s work). That’s based on the Amabile/Kramer multi-year study of hundreds knowledge workers. I’m calling it Achievement.  I think we’re on the same page.

What I’m arguing is that the best investment an organisation can make is in supporting it’s people to achieve something that aligns with the strategic direction of the organisation. There are no silver bullets, only fundamental questions.

Everyone should ask themselves:

  1. Given the current situation, what specific achievement should I be focused on? What specifically constitutes progress?
  2. How would this be meaningful to me?
  3. How do I enroll the people I need to support this specific achievement/progress?
  4. How do I create a sense of momentum that motivates myself and the team?
  5. What does reality look like? Am I making progress?

Worth thinking about!

Because you know. The greatest opportunities for leadership development, learning, motivation, change, engagement, value, etc – lie in front of us in the work that we do.  It is just a matter of how we think about it.

ps I’m back after a summer recess! You’ll be hearing more from me.

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.

Future of work

Here’s a cool presentation on the future of work.

I like the golden rule of real estate = location, location, location.

The golden rule of work = communication, communication, communication!

Is there anything else?

Thought leadership

I’m sensing an increasing premium on thought leadership at the moment. We’re living at a time of significant change. A time of opportunity surely, but also danger.

Anything that supports and develops better and more creative thinking should be encouraged. There’s a lot more value in thinking differently at the moment. There’s a lot more value in thinking for ourselves. That’s why I love Twitter as a channel for connecting with a wider perspective on what’s happening in the world. Individual ‘tweets’ may be low value, but hearing how others are thinking makes you think differently. Valuable thoughts emerge from the diverse and potent mix of stimulating ideas. It can’t be premeditated though! You just need to let it happen.

In this spirit, here is an intriguing conversation with  Robert Sapolsky (a Stanford neurobiologist) about Toxo!

It probably has very little to do you’re day job. Unless you’re a neurobiologist!

But I hope it makes you go “wow”. I hope it makes you think about how little we know. I hope it creates an openness to different ideas. I hope it stimulates a curiosity to learn more. I hope it helps you to be a stronger thought leader. And I hope you find it stimulating enough to subscribe to

Achievement focus

The All Whites made soccer history a second time by making it into the 2010 football world cup in South Africa. The draw for pool play happens tomorrow in South Africa. Some would prefer that the All Whites are drawn in a tough group. They want the opportunity to play Brazil and other tops sides in pool play. For most of the team it would be there only opportunity to play against the top players in the world.

Not the captain though. Ryan Nelson wants to be picked in the easiest group to maximise the teams chances of making it past the pool stage.  To make it to the last 16 would be the greatest sporting achievement of all time for NZ. He’s not settling for just making up the numbers. That’s achievement focus!

How the Mighty Fall

Just spotted Jim Collin’s latest book. I’ve always enjoyed his previous books – Built to Last and Good to Great. This one is Great to Bad! How once great companies fail. He identifies 5 stages of decline.

  1. Hubris born of success.
  2. Undisciplined pursuit of ‘more’.
  3. Denial of risk and peril.
  4. Grasping for salvation.
  5. Capitulation to irrelevance or death.

Sobering reading as an individual, team, organisation or civilisation.

I’m thinking of climate change and the current financial meltdown.

I liked this quote – “The signature of the truly great versus the merely successful is not the absence of difficulty but the ability to come back from set-backs, even catastrophe, stronger than before.”

There’s always hope …. if it’s well-founded!

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February 2019
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