To be honest

If you knew you could improve someone’s performance by having a difficult conversation, you would have that conversation, wouldn’t you? Easy. How about if that person was the company Chairman? More difficult, perhaps. Would it be easier if you knew that the Chairman craved honest feedback, and was desperate to hear from you?

So what’s stopping you?


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Slow down, and get more done!

Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to get things done, and how little time there is?

The usual reaction to seeing time ticking away is to pick up the pace; to work a bit faster; to cut corners. And that sometimes works – if you’re running late to catch a flight, it might pay to hurry along before it’s too late. But I find that more often than not, the faster pace becomes the new norm, and the next step is to increase the pace once more in a never-ending cycle.

I have recently been encouraged to do things differently, and it is working. I’m deliberately slowing down, and I’m seeing the benefits – I’m getting more done.Slow Continue reading

What the Paralympic Games gave us

I was unsuccessful in my sustained attempts to get tickets for the Olympic Games of London 2012. I finally “settled for second best”, and got tickets to the Paralympic Games some three months ahead of them, and long before there was any indication of the excitement which they would bring. I had made the mistake of assuming that the Olympic Games would somehow be better than the Paralympic Games – big mistake! How wrong I was…

The Paralympic Games were not only spectacularly successful from a competitive perspective; looking beyond the competition results themselves, they gave us so much more.

Neil Crofts recently identified Ten things we have learnt from the Olympics on his excellent Making Mondays Magic blog. Thinking about my own experiences of being at the games, this is how I see it: Continue reading

Will it make the boat go faster?

Will it make the boat go faster?”  This was the title of a keynote speech I recently attended by international oarsman, and Olympic gold medal winner Ben Hunt-Davis MBE.

By his own admission, Ben’s crew had a poor track record in the years leading up to the Sydney Olympics, and they were not favourites to win a medal in the 8+ races.  The spotlight was firmly focussed on many other medal hopefuls (most notably the coxless four, of Stephen Regrave, Matthew Pinsent, James Cracknell and Tim Foster).  What we didn’t know at the time was that the entire crew had become dissatisfied with their performance and had decided to do something about it.  Their reward/ work ratio was just not good enough.  International athletes make a massive investment in their time and their personal lives in order to compete at the highest levels, and this all makes a great deal of sense if there are rewards.  But without the rewards – winning medals – it just doesn’t make sense.  It’s absolutely not about taking part.  For these people it is the winning which counts.

The entire crew had had enough, and following the old adage “if you keep doing the same old thing, you’ll keep getting the same old results”, they decided to do something different.  Every element of their training regime was analysed; every personal motive was questioned; every plan was scrutinised, each time answering the same basic question – Will it make the boat go faster?  See more from Ben here and get his excellent book:It is all too easy to lose sight of what’s important in a business, in our everyday lives or in a sporting pursuit – there are so many distractions, little details which throw us off course.  So it is particularly important to keep the original objective in mind.  In the case of Olympic oarsmen, it is clear – it’s making the boat to go as fast as possible.

Many people have used the phrase “No campaign plan survives contact with the enemy”, but Helmuth von Moltke the Elder seems to have a reasonable claim to its origin, so the concept is more than 150 years old. We all know from experience that despite painstaking plans, things derail us, distract us, irritate us and cause us to lose focus. When that happens, we divert energy into the wrong thing, often changing tack completely. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, we ask ourselves the question “now, where was I?” or “what was I doing?”, before dragging ourselves back onto the original course. It is so much easier if we have a simple objective to focus on: making the boat go faster; selling more icecream; reducing the costs; designing the thinnest phone.

The key is to get the clarity of thought needed in order to distill down what the underlying objective is, so that everyone can keep it in the front of their minds where it can survive contact with the enemy.

In the meantime, read this excellent book by Ben Hunt-Davis and Harriet Beveridge.