In all of my work as a sounding board to leaders and to teams, I have never (never!) found an occasion where it was important for them to make things more complicated in order to get their message across, to get alignment, agreement, engagement, energy, enthusiasm, motivation etc.
I’ve written on this site many times away simplicity and will do so again today, but today I will focus on why there is demand for specialists like me to support change.
It comes down to one word. Bravery.
Some people are not brave, some people don’t believe they are (but have untapped and powerful depths of courage awaiting being unleashed), some have bravery by the bucketload and simply need it focussed in the right way.
I love radical change, transformative and brave. Incremental change is important, “marginal gains” and all of that is vital to maintaining forward momentum. However, for me what I love is supporting leaders who are hungry and brave and know deeply that something more radical is needed and that this is their path.
So, when a client asks me for my advice on how to transformationally change their organisation, after I listen, ask questions, then listen some more, I often come up with this statement.
Yesterday I published “Be Nice“, talking about Jeffrey Sachs and his advice for changing the world. As a leader he has certainly changed the world through his thoughts, actions and choices.
November 13th, two days ago, was “World Kindness Day”, and at one stage that day I sat and read the Sunday Times review of “Won’t you be my neighbour”, a documentary just released about Fred Rogers, one of the kindest humans I’ve ever come across.
Today let me share my thoughts around Mr Rogers and kindness, closing with one of the most powerful appearances at a congressional subcommittee you will ever see.
I had lunch recently with an investor who expressed frustration about founders of startups and scale-ups.
They are not a fund partner, nor VC or from the Private Equity world. No, they actually built a business of value and lived it for the whole journey through to an ultimate sale and cash out for a significant sum, thus giving them space and funds to invest in other businesses. Cards on the table, I prefer such investors as they’ve been through it personally, rolled the sleeves up. Experience brings empathy at a level that is irreplaceable. This gives them a powerful edge in mentoring founders, who often are sorely lacking sounding boards on the roller coaster ride.
So, why was this investor so frustrated when I met them? Could it have been that they wanted to vent along the lines of my own common frustration with founders focussed on raising round after round of funding without actually building a business that generates revenues? Not that day, though certainly something I may write about another time!
No, they were frustrated with founders pretending they are bulletproof. (more…)
In order to make failure possible, you first have to try, to commit, to go where it may scare or even terrify you, to be vulnerable, to say “this might not work” and do it anyway.
Very recently I was disappointed to witness this first hand in someone. They were presented with a real opportunity, yet my sense is that it felt too scary to them to try, so instead, they creating a rationale for them to choose to back away and shut down. Rather than risk failure, they chose not to commit, to make the effort, to try.
By making the choice not to try, as Cate Campbell notes (see letter below) that person “let the fear of failure destroy the possibility of success”. We all have our own journey to go on, our own choices to make, and reflecting on that experience, today I’ll riff on this with lessons from two leaders. (more…)
My current musing is on Romance, Beauty and business. Yesterday’s post, inspired by the “Business Romantic”, Tim Leberecht, had me think about being human and building a business around that, and I finished yesterday with:
“Business can be beautiful when it embraces what it means to be human. Appreciate beauty for beauty’s sake, be vulnerable, open, intimate, curious, authentic. Such qualities in humans are beautiful at a deep level, as they are with a business.”
Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk is my favourite TED talk of all time. Every time I watch it I well up with tears towards the end. Why? Simple, such humanity is truly beautiful.
As Bob Marley also notes above, vulnerability is essential if we are to take true pleasure in life. Oh, and it also risks it all too, so vulnerability is indeed brave and a gift to ourselves and others.
In the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to several thought leaders, speakers, writers who I have very much admired and respected for many years.
Two of those people are Nilofer Merchant and Chip Conley.
Nilofer I just talked to for the first time recently, Chip I first connected with via my writing on this site late last year, then I followed the energy and spent time with him and an amazing cohort of Modern Elders in Baja, Mexico this past April.
Now, from talking to Nilofer, today I simply will connect her concept of Onlyness to what I see that means for Chip Conley.
In her book, she writes about this word she came up with:
“You’re standing in a spot in the world that only you stand in, a function of your history and experiences, visions, and hopes. From this spot where only you stand, you offer a distinct point of view, novel insights, and even groundbreaking ideas. Now that you can grow and realize those ideas through the power of networks, you have a new lever to move the world.”
“Through the power of onlyness, an individual conceives an idea born of his narrative, nurtures it with the help of a community that embraces it, and, through shared action, makes the idea powerful enough to dent the world.”
Nilofer and I recently had a wonderful “virtual walk and talk” call (after all, she did a wonderful TED talk on walking meetings!). On that call, among other things, she helped me see my own “Onlyness”, for which I am deeply grateful, and as the call progressed I also witnessed and had insights around hers.
This call then saw me muse back to spending time with Chip a few months ago. (more…)
Today I sit on my terrace early in the morning, preparing in my own way for coaching calls with two new clients from an organisation I am supporting as they bravely transform.
While sitting quietly as I tend to do before such calls, I opened my online notes of “things to read, watch, listen to” when I have this kind of space, somehow serendipitously choosing to watch a TED Talk by Amanda Palmer called “The Art of Asking”
So, a “Tom-ism” is: “A leader is someone others choose to follow”
If you make someone follow you, you are a boss, not a leader. If you ask them to follow you and they choose to, things are very different. In addition, those first followers are truly important, as once they follow you, others join them. The more enthusiastic your followers, the more others follow you, and then you have a movement.
Asking people versus making them is more powerful, but why would people choose to do what you ask? The answer is because you have connected to them and we all crave connection.
Amanda Palmer’s superpower is connecting with people, she has done this her whole life, it is her supreme gift. (more…)
This week a note. I like to choose to have only enough Structure to allow #Flow, and it feels to me that having set themes for my posts on Fridays (Smashing Paradigms), Saturdays (Writing I love) and Sundays (Movies with Meaning) is now too structured, so after this week I’m dropping that structure and such posts will be more sporadic and come as things #Flow !
Latest in the series on Smashing Paradigms.
For my story-telling explanation of the definition of a Paradigm, see “What is a Paradigm“.
One way of defining a paradigm is “we’ve always done it this way”
Recently I was talking with an author and thought leader I admire and had exchanged some thoughts with online before we decided to have a “real life” conversation (rumour has it they are coming back into vogue!). As we talked, they noted that of late they have found a theme around leaders saying to them: “my people just don’t get it, what am I doing wrong ?”.
As she listened to this, again and again, she recognised: “they don’t have a communication problem, they have an arrogance problem”.
When she has candidly told them this, sometimes they responded to her “how do I be humble?”.
She asked me my advice, based on my experience with leaders, on what to say in response to such a question.
Having and stimulating your Growth mindset is key for leaders, and so investing time to read widely as well as deeply is one way to give focus to this. With that in mind, each Saturday I post “Writing I Love”. Sometimes a business book, sometimes a leadership quote, often something more esoteric, such as a poem, novel, song lyric.
I was a little shocked at myself to realise that in all the many daily posts on this site, so far I had not actually mentioned Malcolm Gladwell in my weekly “Writing I Love” posts. Time to remedy that.
Gladwell’s books have been wonderfully catalysing for me over many years. After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, for over a decade I focussed almost entirely on financial and other metrics as the answers to building value in a business. However, I then came to realise that people and culture within organisations are also massively important, so I started studying widely and deeply to understand how “people and profit”, “commercial and cultural” elements of business, in combination, drive value.
Of course where I am now is that I feel I have a pretty deep understanding of both, so now focus on leadership and working with leaders, and one part of that is to eclectically look at what makes a great leader, hence the very varied nature of posts on this site !
So, to Gladwell. He is a master story teller, not an economist, not a psychologist, not an academic. He is also massively curious and so takes passionate interest and lots of time and research into finding and diving deep into what drives people. HIs books smack of wisdom, my personal definition for wisdom being: “something concise that, once you hear it, you feel you always knew it”. (more…)
Having and stimulating your Growth mindset is key for leaders, and so investing time to read widely as well as deeply is one way to give focus to this. With that in mind, each Tuesday I post “Writing I Love”. Sometimes a business book, sometimes a leadership quote, often something more esoteric, such as a poem, novel, song lyric.
This quote from Murakami speaks to these weekly posts, and today, inspired by a Tweet from Matt Haig a few weeks ago, simply sharing a number of opening lines of books, closing lines of movies, quotes, sayings, song lyrics.
Am also musing on classicism and romanticism and where I sit on that spectrum. From the lines below, one can see that I am certainly somewhat of a romantic, yet I can also be highly practical and rational. All things in balance !
Innovation is as simple as “doing things differently and doing different things”, so I’d love it if one or two of these inspire you to google the author, the line, pick up a book, watch a movie, listen to a song.