Values (2)

Values come in two forms.

The ones we talk about every day are our spoken values. These are the ones we normally reach for when asked, ‘what are your values?’.

The ones we live are our lived values.

The two are not always the same.

It is easy to talk about our values, it is harder to live them. Unless our values have been tested, we do not really know whether they are our values. 

If our values are intended as an inner compass, a guide for our lives, then they are worth a little more thought. Are my values aligned with my actions or are they but cheap talk?

We can test this easily enough by looking back at big decisions we have made in our lives and the values that have underpinned them.

Big decisions are easy to spot, they are the ones where something changed. A relationship started or stopped, a change in career direction, the start or end of an era in our lives or a shift in the strategy of our business. There are surely more examples. 

If the things we value come up as the consistent thread in these big decisions then our spoken values are aligned with our lived values.

If our values waiver with every decision, then perhaps we need to take a closer a look at what we consistently value.

Those are more likely to be our lived values, and the ones we should speak about. 

Are our spoken and our lived values aligned






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How not to have a meeting

“I can’t wait for the next meeting, this is so exciting”

If you have ever heard someone say that then you are very rare. 

“Wasted time in meetings costs the UK economy £26 billion”

This was the headline of a 2012 piece of research from Epson supported by Cebr (source:

Other facts that it revealed were:

  • 2 hours 39 minutes: the number of hours workers feel are wasted in meetings during an average week
  • 49 minutes: the number of wasted minutes in meetings not made up for later
  • 10 hours or over: the amount of time one in five senior managers and directors say they spend in meetings per week
  • 11 minutes: the average amount of time it takes for people’s attention to drift in a meeting
  • Respondents thought that an average of 20 minutes was wasted in every meeting they attended 

I read once that the ego of a person calling a meeting dictates the number of people invited.

We would all agree that ideally a meeting leaves the participants with more energy, clarity and enthusiasm for what needs to be done than when they walked in.

So why then are they so incredibly painful for most companies?  

Mostly what happens with meetings is that they take place for no other reason than they always have. 

They are used like a blunt object supposedly to achieve a wide array of disparate ends. 

  • Let’s get everyone aligned. We’ll have a meeting.
  • We need to solve this issue, let’s have a meeting.
  • Let’s get it all out in the open so we can deal with it, let’s have a meeting.
  • This change affects everyone, we should meet.
  • Let’s plan to meet in three weeks and take it forward.
  • Should we set up a series of meetings to move this forward?
  • You have a meeting and let me know the outcome
  • And a hundred other reasons people call meetings (what are your favourite lame reasons?).
We have become like corporate zombies going through repeated motions because it has become habit. We have not stopped and thought more strategically about how to get things done. 
To avoid meetings ask yourself or your group the following questions.
  • What is it we want to achieve?
  • Why do we want to do this?
  • Who needs to be involved?
  • What is the best way of involving these people?
  • If a meeting has been suggested, are there alternatives other than a meeting that will be effective?
Following this process eliminates most meetings and moves you forward faster.
If you find yourself staring down the face of an unavoidable meeting, here is a way to ensure that the meeting works better than most. 
  1. Take leadership of the meeting even if you are not the person calling it. Work through the above questions to quickly get focused. 
  2. Decide how much time is needed (it is seldom an hour as Outlook or Google Calendar suggests by default).
  3. Make sure each person arrives at the meeting with their contribution prepared.
  4. If you need more than 30 minutes then most likely you haven’t done 1, 2 and 3 thoroughly enough
  5. Pick a facilitator for the meeting who is not involved in the content. Make it her responsibility to finish on time.
  6. Keep a list of off topic items to be picked up outside of the meeting and don’t get pulled down a rabbit hole when they come up.
Jeff Bezos of Amazon starts every meeting with his executives reading six page memos from each area. His belief, is that the communal reading guarantees undivided attention and by forcing his execs to write down their memo in narrative form , they have to think carefully about what they want to say. This is great practice and will certainly result in more focused and reduced meeting time. 

Wasting time in meetings







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Be prepared to be wrong

Thinking strategically is about being right about the future, right?

Actually not.

Striving to be right is the biggest blind spot of many strategists. Believing that we can correctly see what lies ahead, we tap into a number of our biases. Overconfidence, anchoring, illusion of control and the Texas sharpshooter fallacy all pull us away from the rational view of the future.

There are more biases but the above should be enough to caution us to expect to falter at least some of the time.

Good strategists always consider being wrong and avoid the temptation of believing too much in their strategies. Paradoxically this makes the strategies better.

Building in scenarios helps us to not be wrong. This is different from being right.

And if you are feeling a little infallible then consider that you would be in good company should you get your strategy wrong:

“The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.”
– Clifford Stoll, American author, 1995

“I think it will grow but the vast majority of customers in the foreseeable future will continue to prefer a good, old-fashioned printed and bound book.”
– George Jones, CEO of Borders Group, 2008

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”
– Thomas J. Watson, Chairman of the Board of IBM, 1943

“Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.”
– Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929

“Fooling around with alternating current is just a waste of time. Nobody will use it, ever.”
– Thomas Edison, American inventor, 1889

“How, sir, would you make a ship sail against the wind and currents by lighting a bonfire under her deck? I pray you, excuse me, I have not the time to listen to such nonsense.”
– Napoleon Bonaparte, when told of Robert Fulton’s steamboat, 1800s.

“There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.”
– Albert Einstein, 1932

Einstein working on the theory of relativity













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Executive coaching

Executive coaching is a rare opportunity for executives to have a candid conversation about any aspect of their business and life with a trusted confidant who can help them to see things objectively.

Often executives are at the mercy of their own and others’ biased view, reducing the chance of good strategic decision making.

As elite athletes have long known, a trusted and talented coach can significantly up the game.

“Once used to bolster troubled staffers, coaching now is part of the standard leadership development training for elite executives and talented up-and-comers at IBM, Motorola, J.P. Morgan, Chase, and Hewlett Packard. These companies are discreetly giving their best prospects what star athletes have long had: a trusted adviser to help reach their goals.”

Executive coaching provides a rare opportunity for business people to get a clearer view of their business challenges









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A managers roots

Business in the industrial age required us to check our personality at the door.

Come on in and be a resource, a human resource. Which makes sense when humans were coming in to complement the machinery.

The root manage has its’ origin in manège, which if you look up means, ‘The art of breaking, training, and riding horses’.

The line manager was the person who sat at the end of the production line ensuring compliance with the strict system of production. Breaking, training and riding people.

How does this fit with today’s knowledge workers and why do we still use these antiquated terms?

No wonder so many companies still expect us to leave our personality’s at the door.

Human resources implies bring the human but leave the humaness.

Factory environment

















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Intention and impact

Our intentions are often misinterpreted or misunderstood.

The root of most conflict lies in the gap between intention and impact. 

So it is not enough to have good intentions.

We need to understand the impact of our words and actions if we are going to be successful in our strategies.

I’m misunderstood just means so little.

The difference between intention and impact can lead to conflict








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Jack Welch was wrong

If we had all taken Jack Welch’s advice we would be firing 10% of our staff every year.

Firing the bottom 10% performers  may work for some companies for some periods of time. It doesn’t work for all companies, all the time.

Besides the disruption and killing of culture, it assumes that you have a good enough system for judging performance. Few companies do. 

This is the danger of business books from so called ‘experts’ who proclaim to have the answers to some of the toughest business challenges.

It is tempting to think that a book, talk or video from an expert will offer a solution to your problem.

Listen to the ideas and think about what works for you, in your business.

Being critical is, well critical.

Be cautious of adopting ideas without grappling with the complexity of your own situation.

Be even more cautious of people who say “Jack Welch did it so it can’t be so bad”.

Of course you could replace ‘Jack Welch’ in the above sentence with ‘Steve Jobs’ or any other famous CEO.

Jack Welch said fire the bottom 10% of our staff










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Personal strategy

It used to be that strategy was reserved for big companies.

Before that it originated in the military with Sun Tzu being one of the more famous military strategists.

Today the nature of work is changing fast. If we don’t think about ourselves as self employed we are at risk of being left behind by those that do.

More focus on Me Inc. means that we need to think about our own strategy for our business life.

Where do I want to get to? Where am I now and what is standing in the way of me getting there?

Managing my own strategy





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Being scared

It happens every day. Some of us call it procrastination. Others create more elaborate schemes where we need a few more ingredients before we can move forward.

What’s really happening is we are scared.

We are scared of what happens after we do whatever it is we are avoiding doing. 

Something changes if we do it. And change can be scary.

How it is now is comfortable. At least we know the comfort. After the change it may not be so comfortable.

The question is, ‘Will it continue to be comfortable if I don’t make the change?’

Facing fears while walking the tightrope








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