Posts Tagged 'achievement'

Boldness has genius

All leaders should read this.

Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would not otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man would have dreamed would come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now.”

W.H. Murray

The Scottish Himalayan Expedition




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.

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!

Russian roulette

The track record for organisational change seems poor. Some research puts the success rate for change initiatives at 20% or less. Measured against the expected benefits. That’s like playing russian roulette with 5 bullets!

Almost all of the research seems to focus on faulting the change management process. The problem was poor communication or lack of ownership or insufficient consideration of culture or poor implementation, or …

But how much of the underachievement is because the change itself was wrong? The expected benefits are clear, it’s just that the ‘what’ of the change won’t deliver the expected benefits. I imagine, some change sounds good but isn’t. For example, consolidating process into the ‘back office’, may in fact increase costs and reduce quality.

It seems unfair to criticise the change process if the change itself is flawed. And yet it may not be easy to detect the flaws before the change has been implemented.

With such a bad track  record, a prudent course would be to tread carefully. Perhaps change is best approached as a series of small experiments to trial and validate different changes. Big bang approaches seem too dangerous. When you’re playing russian roulette, it really can be a big bang!

Debating sacred cows

I’m having an interesting debate at the moment over some  sacred cows. My friend is argueing that:

  • success isn’t just about results, but about starting something,
  • failure is valuable, and
  • it’s all about learning.

He is, of course, wrong. Success is entirely about results (achievements). Failure or learning have no value.

It is the outcome that has value, or not. By all means start something but value should be judged on achievements. By all means fail, learn from the experience but the value of both will be judged on what is achieved by applying that learning. Not the learning itself.

It seems the more we think in terms of the abstract (eg learning) the less we focus on the concrete (eg. achievements).

Just another plug for achievement guys.

Above average?

As humans we have an enormous capacity for self delusion. Psychologists tell us that the average person thinks they are above average in looks, intelligence, honesty, generosity, and most other human attributes. We think we’re special!

Some delusion is useful. It gives us confidence. But sometimes it is fatal. Effective leaders confront the reality of a situation with evidence and logic. Without making it personal. I think they do it by:

  • engaging openly with those around them.
  • leaving a space between ego and opinion (‘there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in’ – Leonard Cohen).
  • understanding where to look for the evidence of success/failure.
  • fronting up to critical conversations.
  • the courage to look reality in the face.

Confronting reality is the fifth and final aspect of my evolving Achievership framework. It looks like this:

  1. Assure self with purpose.
  2. Create relevance with a specific mission.
  3. Engage the right people.
  4. Create momentum in pursuit of the mission.
  5. Confront reality and adjust course accordingly.

For my own film project, I found I got stuck at (4) and have had to go back to (2) and (3) to move forward.

Where are you at with your Achievership?


I spoke yesterday at HRINZ on change and HR. It was version 1.o of some thinking I’ve started on these two topics. It was a start. One of upsides of the current economic turmoil is that its forcing individuals and organisations to think again about ‘value’.

I often encounter unflattering comments about HR’s value from senior and line managers in organisations. I wonder if HR has become overly preoccupied with process, systems, tools, technologies and frameworks.  It reminded me of the IT industry. And led me to thinking about how pervasively we use the web today. It’s a long way from the IT industry I knew in the late 80’s.

The internet has transformed itself from simply a transport mechanism into something that delivers real value to people. The current term being used is Web2.0.

Web2.0 is about technology:

  • as a platform for it’s users to create individual value (eg Flickr)
  • as an architecture of participation (eg blogging)
  • as a means of harnessing collective intelligence (eg Wikipedia)
  • providing users with a rich user experience (eg RSS)
  • letting users pull information to meet their immediate demands (eg Google)

WEb2.0 has lead to an exponential rise in the use and creativity of the web. No change management plan here!

What would HR2.0 look like?

As a starter I’d suggest that HR 2.0 could:

  • insist managers are responsible for achievement of goals aligned with the overall strategic intent of the organisation.
  • let individual managers decide what they need (from HR and others) to achieve those goals. And who, when and how those needs are met.
  • focus at least 70% of their effort and resources (budget) on meeting the individual in-action needs of managers striving to achieve clear goals.
  • work within an organisational framework of clear values, culture and shared sense of accountability.
  • offer a suite of useful tools, frameworks and resources without advocating any.
  • inspire people to be bolder in their sense of possibility and potential.

Interested in talking with anyone interested in further developing this thinking.

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