‘I don’t know’ – uncertainty as a platform for growth

When ‘leadership’ is confused with ‘the need to know everything’ it can lead to cultures of bluff where people feel it’s more important to give a response (including a wrong one) than acknowledge doubt. Instead, these three simple words from a leader can establish a very different context: I don’t know. “I don’t know” puts[…]

You can’t withstand your environment you’re a part of it

I am I plus my circumstances. Jose Ortega y Gasset While it’s true that the way we perceive and interpret events impacts how we experience them, it’s only part of the story. Too much emphasis has been placed on our ability to withstand the environment as if it were somehow separate from us. Instead, we[…]

Self-love is overrated 

How many times have you heard that you have to love yourself? Worse, that you have to learn to love yourself first, as if without this magical substructure, little else is possible. Some stretch the friendship further, demanding you love yourself unconditionally. Unconditionally? Is that even possible, desirable? For example, in the middle of a[…]

Pure rationality is a myth we should not aspire to

I think it would be very foolish not to take the irrational seriously. Jeanette Winterson   Be rational, people say as if – It’s (fully) possible The counterpart is unhealthy. In reality – We all behave on a continuum from rational to irrational Those who put irrationality down are just as susceptible to it as[…]

False hope is futile

Hope is life-affirming, a longing for the particular that gives energy to go on despite struggle and disappointment. Hope teaches the value of persistence when there are scant results and we doubt the worth of our efforts. We learn to value the process of working towards a goal, not just reaching it. This is not blind hope, it’s hopefulness underpinned by hard work. Many great accomplishments[…]

Pay attention, focus on evidence

These seemingly contradictory, yet complementary insights may be of value – Pay no attention to what people say; but pay close attention to what people say. Focus on evidence; but don’t let evidence narrow your focus. Attention Pay no attention to what people say (when it contradicts what they do) It’s easy to say – I am[…]

Technology creates connection

I smiled at How technology is increasingly isolating us from each other and stifling creativity on tech zombification because it brought a number of people together, in part contradicting it. Let me explain. A week after this Twitter exchange I was coffee-ing with one of the tweeters, futurist Chris Riddell. How did I know Chris? Well, many moons ago when speaking at CeBIT I[…]

Don’t be too quick or too slow to forgive

We’re told that it’s compassionate to forgive ourselves and other people. It’s a great principle, sorely lacking in detail. When, for example, is the time to forgive? And how do we do it? By rushing to forgive we risk pushing legitimate feelings underground. On the other hand refusing to forgive is a lost opportunity for deeper[…]

Fault-finders

There’s a fine line between demanding people and fault-finders. Demanding people bring out the best in us by showing us what worked and didn’t. We may feel upset that a report we slaved over doesn’t meet expectations and keeps coming back. But the feedback enables us to see what worked and where we’ve made wrong assumptions, left things out or there[…]

Why I choose Samuel Beckett over positive thinking, any day

I believe we can learn more about what it takes to succeed from the closing assertion of Beckett’s The Unnamable than any other motivational book You must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on. This insight about the need for persistence in the face of obstacles and even despair offers no illusions about[…]

Cynicism is a poison

I’m not a fan of the saccharinely positive with no off-button but cynicism – that can be a poison. The kind of cynicism I am talking about here has little to do with discernment or healthy realism; the critical thinking required to analyze information or challenge norms, which leads to better outcomes. I am talking[…]

What jealousy can teach you

We’re told that jealousy is bad and we should rise above it so people deny or suppress the feeling. The problem? They are still jealous but now feel guilty and ashamed too and are no closer to understanding why the jealousy emerged or what they can do to manage the discomfort. But if you really want to know[…]

What is trust?

If I offer you my trust am I – Agreeing with you? Doing what you ask of me? Offering robust feedback? Protecting your feelings? None of the above? What is considered a sign of trust to one may appear as a betrayal to another. We cannot define the minutia of every interaction but without a[…]

Why loyalty is not always a virtue

We think of loyalty and fidelity as virtues and they can be. But like any qualities they can turn on you. The terms are also frequently misapplied. We need to ask –  Is this the right word for what I am dealing with? To whom or what am I loyal?   Relationships in any arena bring the complexity[…]

Why deferring to ‘expertise’ can be dangerous

I was recently at a workshop where a participant introduced himself by listing his Ivy League credentials; while impressive, his doctorate was in a discipline unrelated to the discussion and the act was out of context. Notwithstanding this, many people subsequently looked to him to lead or tacitly sought his approval when speaking. What he[…]

Platitudes undermine credibility

The leadership space is peculiarly susceptible to platitudes. But oversimplification makes them inadequate for dealing with the real difficulties that people face. We relate to the grain of truth that a platitude embodies but often apply them in the wrong context in ways that do not fully reflect the complexities of a situation. Part of a[…]

You are what you do

I heard a woman who doesn’t work but overtly disparages friends who aren’t able to participate in her luxurious designer-clothing-five-star-travel-restaurant lifestyle say that she was not materialistic. Hello? Now there’s nothing wrong with enjoying material things but there’s clearly a gap here between what’s expressed and lived. And the examples are everywhere. A friend worked with[…]

Don’t leave social media out of the productivity debate

Hardworking executives may have been surprised at research last year that found Australian leaders lagging on many of the key management indicators correlated with productivity. Among the gaps highlighted by an Ernst & Young report was a deficiency in people-management capability, particularly with respect to instilling a “talent mindset” across the business. The report, called Productivity Pulse,[…]

Technology is about people not tools

That technology impacts every area of our lives from the way we meet to how we learn and work hardly needs to be said. From innovations such as a zero liquid discharge that oxidizes and evaporates sewage to apps that regulate our bodies; the crowdsourcing of funding, news or health, the benefits are well documented and generally embraced. But it’s the insidious colonization by[…]

Why being kind is more important than being right

 A part of kindness consists in loving people more than they deserve. Joseph Joubert While we are supposedly more open to softness and emotion, the reality is that we still privilege disconnection. What do I mean by this? Simply that the hard-nosed, cut off and detached can be perceived as more capable and grown up[…]

How to stoke your genius

“You cannot look in a new direction by looking harder in the same direction.” De Bono, Lateral Thinking Innovation is touted as a ‘must have’ future capability with evidence that innovative leadership is critical for translating ideas into action and to a company’s success. At the individual level, creative adaptation is vital as technology impacts everything[…]

How to lead with optimism through uncertain times

Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty. Jacob Bronowski. How can you lead with optimism given these difficult times? The legacy of global financial mismanagement and the unresolved European debt crisis mean phrases like ‘economic collapse’ are brandished about, clubbing into us the fear (or reality) of job cuts, foreclosures and other terrors.[…]

Be a ‘learner’ not a ‘mistake-avoider’

We learn by failing, if failing means not getting things right all of the time. Whether it’s those first steps, our running style or scientific discoveries that come only after trials are ditched and techniques refined, learning is process. We are not built for perfection. Experiments have conclusively shown that we are hard-wired to think in[…]

The myth that we have to ‘rise above’ emotion is corrosive

The myth that we have to ‘rise above’ emotion is corrosive. Where is emotion ‘kept’ such that we could disentangle from it? Emotions are complex biochemical events triggered by and that trigger internal and external reactions. There’s some evidence that specific molecules regulate certain emotions – oxytocin with empathy, serotonin with happiness  – although this is an emerging field[…]