Reversing the logic

Because we get old we slow down and have to be less active.

When we get into our 70’s we aren’t able to ride skateboards because we may fall.

People in the late stages of their life cannot balance on slack lines. 


Stephen Jepson walks a slackline in his 70's






The video below proves this logic is faulty.

As obvious as it sounds, being active is the best way to stay active.

Often we decide that because of an injury or some other reason, we need to slow down and take things easier as we get older.

This is contrary to what our bodies are made to do, which is to move. And continue moving well into old age. 

If you need more examples then look here, herehere and here

So why is this discourse of getting old and slowing down so common? The reason is that it is pervasive and to push against it is hard. It’s easier just to agree. 

The same is true for business. There are many experts with advice on what we should or could do. However, when the music stops, it is up us to decide how we stay in the game. The critics can watch on the side and say, ‘I told you so


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It underpins everything

Knowing ourselves is our most overlooked ability.

Today the advice section in our local book store overflows and talk shows have more experts than topics.

Since Stephen Covey gave us the 7 Habits of highly successful people, we have advice lists covering all our possible needs. From spiritual success to power, money and any other topic we can think of, someone has advice for us.

The one area where advice doesn’t count, and all we have is ourselves, is our awareness. Advice means nothing if we don’t know ourselves.

A life filled with advice and little awareness is like a house built on a weak foundation.

Sitting silently within ourselves, our awareness or lack of it, can be our greatest asset or our Achilles heel.

No advice can replace awareness









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When we look at our life backwards, we get a unique perspective.

Looking at another person’s life backwards can be inspirational.

The question is will our legacy be an inspiration for those people who know us?  

I thought of this when I read about Hiroshi Yamauchi, the long-time leader of Nintendo and an icon of Japan’s video game industry who passed away last week at the age of 85. Having transformed the company from a small card manufacturing business into a global gaming giant, it is tempting to think that his legacy is bigger than the average person.

The truth is our legacy counts more for those who we personally touch during our lives, than those who indirectly benefit from our work. This is why it is important to pay attention to each of our important relationships.

Our legacy is built one relationship at a time. Sure the people we touch indirectly count, but not as much as the people with whom we have true connection.

Perhaps our real legacy is the people who show up at our funeral and have something to say.

Our legacy can be measured by our connections







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Jumping in

A recent client of mine is in a very dynamic technology based industry which has gone through tremendous growth in the last ten years. As a result of this and relatively low barriers to entry they are now in an extremely competitive space with a race to the bottom on price fuelled by clients being able to switch easily and low perceived points of difference between large established and small operators that are new entrants. They also have the challenge of being regulated which continually adds to their operational cost. In short, business is tough.

In strategy sessions requested to set up and consider different ways of competing, the group concluded with the points above and more. It was clear that something different needed to be done and everyone agreed with this. But when it came to spending time thinking about this change, there was a reluctance to engage. The group agreed that ‘someone’ should spend time thinking about alternative ways that they could do business. However there were no takers.

I’ve seen many groups and in these situations one of a couple of things normally happen. Somebody grabs it as an opportunity to make difference and an impact. If nobody grabs it then the CEO will either assign it or take it themselves so as to either drive it or persuade somebody to drive it outside the strategy session. In this case nobody was coming forward. 

The challenge of this situation is that the piece of work has unknown outcomes. This is scary for many people. Taking on a task which is to think about different ways of doing things can be really exciting but it is also risky. It is undefined work, work that can easily be shot down because it cannot easily be compared to something else. If however we stick with what we know things are a lot safer and predictable. 

To break out of the unknown we need to take risks. Risk taking implies not knowing the outcome.

This is hard and very rewarding when it comes off.

Which is why doing the safe thing quickly gets unrewarding. 

To get rewards (the real kind that we feel internally), we need to jump in.

Take a risk and jump in.







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Follow the energy

When we are working within our talents and natural ability, we are able to work effortlessly and time flies by.

When we are working in areas where we are competent but have little natural talent, time drags.

Too often we look externally for answers when needing to decide to do something or not.

By paying attention to the energy that is generated or depleted as a result of our behaviours, we have a built in autocorrect mechanism.

Activities that build energy keep us in flow are easy to do and leave us feeling more alive when we are finished.

Those that use up a lot of our energy, exhaust us, leaving us tired and depleted

Energy inducing activities use strengths to make us stronger.

Energy sapping activities ignore strengths and make us weaker.

Our built in energy system can act as an intuitive guide to everything that we do.

As with all good guides though, we need to acknowledge that we need guidance.

Paying attention to our energy can guide us in our decision making












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The best way to end a meeting

Just before walking out the door after a meeting, try asking this killer question which summarises everything that has just happened.

“So what are you taking away from this meeting?”

The summary which follows gives you an opportunity to hear what others are concluding from the meeting.

It immediately gives you a checkpoint confirming  that they are leaving with the desired outcome of the meeting. If not, then it gives you an opportunity to correct it. If you are not sure what the other person or people are leaving with then the meeting may have been a complete waste of time.

Speaking of which, if you have too many meetings where the outcome that the other participants report back after you ask the question falls well short of the objectives of the meeting, then you have to rethink how you run your meetings.  

One question that effectively summarises a whole meeting











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When giving feedback we often believe we need to tell someone else how they should correct something or compliment them on doing something well. 

In business, feedback is often another way of saying, ‘let me tell you how you can do that better‘. 

Sometimes this is useful, but mostly it at best misses the point, and at worst raises defences preventing any change in behaviour.

When we take this approach we are sharing our judgement of a person’s behaviour, often mixed in with some advice. 

  • “What you need to do is practice your presentation skills.”
  • “I think you did a wonderful sales presentation.”
  • “You didn’t really make an impact in that meeting.”

A better way to give feedback is to be a mirror for the person. If we could see ourselves in the mirror, we could make our own mind up as to what we are going to change, if anything.

Getting feedback as if we are seeing ourselves, reduces the defensiveness which naturally arises when we are told that what we are doing should be done differently. Effective feedback done in this way is also the greatest gift we could give someone, allowing them to see for themselves how they are performing. 

If you are giving me feedback as I would see myself in the mirror or if you had a video camera rolling, then there is nowhere to hide. Stripped of judgements and advice, there is nothing to dispute or defend against. I get to look at myself and decide whether what I see is ok, or if it needs to change. 

The best feedback I ever got was a video of me on a presentation skills course in 1991. Watching the video permanently etched in my mind an image of what I looked like while presenting. It contains no advice nor judgement. To this day I carry that image with me whenever I walk into a public presentation. It informs how I present in many ways. 

So what does feedback delivered in this way look like using the same examples above?  

  • “In your presentation you looked at your notes twenty-seven times and the whole presentation was 10 minutes.”
  • “At the end of your presentation the CEO signed the order without asking a question.’
  • “You did not say anything other than hello and goodbye in that meeting.”

We need to ask ourselves why we want to give feedback? If it is to help a person improve themselves then the most effective way to do it is to allow them to see themselves through our feedback.

Mostly in business - feedback is another way of saying, 'let me tell you how you can do that better'.

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Learning organisations

Peter Senge put Learning Organisations on the map in 1990 with his book The Fifth Discipline.

It is a term that has been in fashion and now is less so. Nonetheless I don’t know any leaders who would dispute that being a learning organisation is a disadvantage. 

Often people think that organisations can learn but organisations are made up of people. 

And it is people who learn, not organisations. 

Learning involves experiencing, reflecting, conceptualising and practicing*.

People do need an environment in which they can learn.

The leaders in an organisation create the environment.

The richest learning environments create more people who are learning.

More people learning create a stronger learning organisation.

Although many people quote Charles Darwin as saying ‘survival of the fittest’, what he actually said first was those who can adapt quickest to their local environment out live those who don’t. This can be applied to business as those companies who are able to adapt quickest are more sustainable than those who don’t.

Adaption implies learning.

So learning organisations are those that through the actions of their leaders create an environment which encourages their people to learn.

* See David Kolb’s experiential learning

Learning organisations are filled with people who are learning.








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The big blue bubble

Think of it as a big blue bubble. It travels with us wherever we go and it is filled with the things we say and do. The contents however tend to linger well beyond our words and actions. It is like our history travelling around with us.

If we are genuinely a well meaning person who has mostly valuable interactions with others then one fallout is not likely to have a big effect. Similarly, if we mostly fight with the world, it makes it harder for us to get on with anyone.  

Our bubble is there for anyone to see. It is surprising how accurately people can describe us just from experiencing our bubble. Before we open our mouths people have a sense if who and how we are. Blink.
Likewise there are bubbles around families, companies, churches, cities and countries. The French bubble looks and feels different to the British bubble. The Catholic bubble is different to the Jewish bubble.
Our own bubbles interact with each others and with those of the organisations we inhabit. 
When somebody says something like ‘trust me’ while their bubble is telling you to run a mile, we feel uncomfortable.
The question we need to ask ourselves is how are we influencing our bubbles with what we say and do?
Do our bubbles represent who we would like to be? And if not, what can we do about it?
Our bubbles follow us wherever we go.
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This is an interactive presentation

People who say their presentation is interactive seldom give interactive presentations. 

Asking for interaction in presentations is normally a quiet plea for acceptance.

“Please like my presentation by interacting with me.”

What presenter wouldn’t like their audience engaging with them and appreciating what they are saying?

To get engagement however, we need to create the possibility for interaction.  

Asking open questions,
looking at people expecting a response,
asking people to discuss an issue and summarising their outcomes.

These are some ways to get interaction. “What questions do you have?”, followed by a pause encourages questions, “Please interrupt me if you have any questions” , doesn’t.

And our body language often says far more about whether we really want interaction or not. 

When presenting we are not just saying words and showing pictures. There are many other subtle messages that our audience is receiving from us. If we don’t think about them, then we can cause confusion or even work against the message we are trying to convey.  

People who say their presentation is interactive seldom give interactive presentations.










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