John who?

25 pages in: Haven’t yet unfurled a single sticky tab.

50 pages in: I’m concerned the mighty tome I hold in my hands isn’t going to offer the rich vein of insight and knowledge I had hoped for, and I’m beginning to doubt Ryan Holiday’s recommendation.*

100 pages in: Surely by now there’d be signs of the lessons I’d hoped to uncover?  Perhaps they’re in the next Chapter….?  I shall press on, because this is turning into something more that I had expected.

150 pages in: Can’t put it down.  I’ve abandoned hope of uncovering any specific leadership lessons, but am engrossed by the story of this relatively unknown fighter pilot and his campaign against the US Armed Forces, with whom he served from 1944-1975.

200 pages in: My previous fears are unfounded.  It appears I’ve unknowingly stumbled headlong inside the mind of one of the most influential military theorists since Sun Tzu and Von Clausewitz, and there are lessons galore.

It’s like The Matrix.  There is no escape.  I’m a believer.

I can sense John Boyd is smiling…

Took you a while tiger, but you got here”

* note to self: never doubt Ryan’s book recommendations again.

I first heard of John Boyd while reading Ego is the Enemy.  It contained a small piece about a US Air Force Colonel who is considered by some to be one of history’s most prolific military theorists, but remains firmly in the darkness when it comes to notoriety.  In one of his recommended reading lists, Holiday pointed to a book on Boyd, noting it as “required reading“.

It doesn’t matter if you’re interested in the design and function of fighter jets (which I’m not), or the military or military theory (which I am).  The lessons to be learned in the Robert Coram book Boyd: The fighter pilot who changed the art of war go far beyond his influence on aircraft design, and extends into an unwavering campaign of self-belief that spanned 15 years and took on the entire might of the US Air Force.

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It is simply not practical to try and explain the history and detail contained within the book.  Distilling the 504 pages into a short blog post would not do justice to Coram, the book, nor to Boyd himself for that matter – who was a stickler for detail.

So apart from recommending the book, and suggesting you buy it, here are the Top 5 things I learned from Boyd: The fighter pilot who changed the art of war:

Manoeuvrability  it isn’t just sheer thrust, or speed, or fire-power that meant success in the air.  It was the ability of a plane, and pilot, to transition between manoeuvres, turning defense into attack, or attack into slaughter, or defense into retreat.  His Energy-Manoeuvrability (E-M) Theory is still the foundational piece in many elite military, business and sporting programs, and suggests that your ability to adapt and re-adapt is crucial to not just survival, but sustained success both in warfare, business, and in life.

‘Are you Being or Doing?’ – Boyd is perhaps most famous within the US military for a speech he gave young pilots who faced a cross-road in their career.  I won’t do it the disservice of paraphrasing it, so have provided an excerpt from the book directly.  In true Boyd fashion, it needs no explanation.

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The OODA Loop – Boyd spent years developing not only ways to better design fighter jets and methods of waging aerial warfare, but ways to understand how decisions are made, and the cycle within which they live.

Search for John Boyd on Google and you’ll inevitably come up with reference to the OODA Loop.  Management theorists see it as his defining piece of work, and many have since written complicated and detailed thesis papers on it.

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Fundamentally it looks to explain the process that a person consciously, or sub-consciously runs when making any decision, big or small.  The above diagram is lifted directly from the book and while there’s an obvious mountain of potential explanation behind it, this distillation of a complex process that takes place within your brain is particularly elegant, and better left to you to digest the detail.

I believe the trick here is not to try and actively interfere with the process, but simply be aware that it exists, and that if it exists for you, then it likely exists for every other human you interact with.  Understanding that everyone makes different observations, and based on those observations orients themselves differently, and then decides and acts in accordance with those differences, makes for a much less stressful work or home environment during conflicts.

Jocko Willink has a similar approach for those who like their leadership strategies in 6 words or less.

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Thinking strategically – Boyd’s ability to out think, out manoeuvre and simply out play entire arms of the United States military, from the outset looks to be the work of The Prince himself.  Again, you don’t have to subscribe to military might, or even agree with the way the US handles waging war to appreciate the way Boyd moved the chess pieces to play out what he thought, no, believed, to be simply more important than anything else.  His vision of the outcome allowed him to position those pieces better than his opponents, and there were many, very powerful opponents.  He understood that in life and business, as in chess, you need to be thinking not just of your next 5-steps, but of your opponents next 5-steps too.

You can’t do it alone – Boyd had his Fighter Mafia, his Reformers, his Acolytes – a core group of people that believed the same as he did, that, in their own differing ways, sacrificed individual glory and fanfare to do what they thought was right, what was necessary, to protect the lives of US fighting forces.  They worked symbiotically, centred around Boyd, sure, but collectively they changed the way the entire US military fights both air and ground war campaigns in a post-WWII era.

So to summarise my summary….

When you’ve found something you believe in, and are dedicated to seeing it through, find a bunch of like-minded people, think ahead, assess the threats, and when faced with uncertainty, don’t be afraid to make a call, act and understand the entire thing is a cycle.

All that from a loud-talking, cigar-smoking fly boy self-proclaimed “Ghetto Colonel” who grew up rough, and was told he’d never amount to anything.

Seems like sound advice to me, and really, isn’t learning from the everyday what it’s all about?


Do you have something you believe in?  Something you sacrifice glory for in order for it to be realised?  Have you read the book?  What did you think?  So many questions, so many opportunities for you to answer them!

Leave a comment below, or find us on the Contact page.

What I learned from some plastic bricks

Today I was humbled by a kids toy.  Well technically speaking, it was designated 14+ which means I was humbled by a toy for teenagers (or precocious 7-year olds).

Last Christmas I was given an 1,158-piece Lego kit.  A charming Ferrari F40 in fact.  It’s currently School Holidays in Australia, and in between bouts of sheer bewilderment as to how parents over the years have survived this terrifying period, I upended the enormous box of perfectly engineered pieces onto the floor and kicked off the build.

It started off reasonably easy, with the chassis and engine bay the first elements coming to life.  It wasn’t until the body started to take shape that I realised simply how far away I am from being an actual Engineer.

Dramatic revelation for a Lego build, I know.

As the perfectly sculpted, 99.9999% consistent pieces fitted together into small chunks, and those small chunks fitted together into bigger chunks, and the bigger chunks evolved into an elegant feat of engineering magnificence, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat inadequate.

The way in which these little pieces came together was just astonishing.  Now I’ve built a lot of Lego in my life.  Like, a lot.  I don’t however, recall having the eye-widening, brow lifting response to the thought, the intricacy, the engineering marvel that is the 1,158-piece F40 kit.  Chunks were coming together to form graceful curved edges, out of straight bricks!  Chunks that didn’t appear to have any rhyme or reason would effortlessly slot into sub-millimetre exactitude, forming delicate wheel arches and passenger foot-wells.

And here I was calling myself an Engineer.

Did I expect that when I left University I’d be neck deep in calculations, clutch pencils and reams of sophisticated looking computer outputs?  No.  I failed Engineering Computations in 1st year, and probably failed it again in the subsequent Summer School (I think I may have been awarded a Pass Conceded out of sympathy?).

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Confusing then, out of reach now.

No, I was never destined (smart enough) to be a design engineer, and I knew early on that my career would likely be in the people side of things; solving problems together, leading teams, delivering outcomes as a group.

Which as it turns out I really enjoy and appear to be OK at.

What it did show me though, is that as Project Managers in civil infrastructure, we underestimate, and I suspect, under-value the expertise, input and often brilliance of the designers in our industry.  How often have you complained that a design drawing is poorly set out, or about how some element would be difficult (and in some cases, impractical) to construct, or any number of other apparent grievances?  Honestly, for me, it must now tally to the hundreds, if not thousands.

How often though, have you marvelled at the fact that someone, somewhere, has coordinated the design of an entire structure, from function, to form, to reinforcement detail, to integration with any number of complex elements, and shown it all in a set of (mainly) easy to read drawings, and then gone to said designer congratulating them with a hearty “Well done!“?  Honestly, for me, it must now tally a total of about 3.  In 18 years of working construction.

Which makes it about 0.00045 times / day.  Which is just not good enough.

Being a Designer must sometimes feel a lot like being in IT.  How often do you ring IT and say “Hey there, all my systems are working fine.  My email is good, my printer drivers are all up to date, I’ve remembered to change my password in the allocated time, and I just wanted to say Thanks!“?

Honestly for me, it must now tally a total of…..

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We only ever ring to complain.

So the next time you see something that’s smart, or innovative, or just a job well done, tell someone.  Tell anyone.  Send them an email.  Do something!  Make an effort to find the person or team that designed it, or built it, or maintained it, or swept it up, or cooked it, or whatever’ed it, and tell them.

Covey wrote about it back in 1989 and nothing has changed.

“Satisfied needs do not motivate… Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival, to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated.”

– Stephen Covey

Apart from the obvious, that thanking a person is just a nice, polite thing to do, there are 5 reasons why positive encouragement is important in the workplace:

  1. People want to feel important
  2. Encouragement reinforces the right things
  3. Encouragement inspires people in tough times
  4. Encouragement builds employee loyalty
  5. Encouragement is free, and gives huge returns

All that from some Lego.  Now that’s a lesson in the every day.  And isn’t that what it’s all about?

 

Have you thanked a designer lately?  Have you thanked anyone today?  Grab someone (politely) and tell them you appreciate them!

“Son, you’re on your own this time….”

I realised recently there’s a difference between leadership and true leadership.

In the last few years I’ve gobbled up scores of lessons about leadership, from actively seeking out a range of books, to observations on the fire ground, to random learnings in the every day.  What I observed just last week though, was the purest form of leadership I think I can recall – and it’d been staring me in the face for years.

We were on a family holiday, my wife and I and our two young kids up at Nelson Bay (highly recommended by the way).  Our eldest son, a five and a half year old terrorist, had done something he shouldn’t have, like all five and a half year olds do, and was being told off by my wife.  He responded with  something along the lines of “Well it doesn’t matter what you say because Dad makes all the money and paid for the holiday”.

There comes a time, when despite wanting to protect your child from all of life’s ills, that there’s simply nothing a father can do. Son, you’re on your own this time….

While my wife isn’t exactly prone to bouts of expletive-ridden tirades, this had all the hallmarks of being a reasonable excuse to let one roar.  Instead, she calmly stated;

“I do everything for you.  I’ve given up everything for you.”

The moment of tension quickly passed, and we all got back to enjoying our holiday.  I am certain however, that our eldest (and possibly my wife, until she reads this I guess) was entirely oblivious to the power that statement had on me.

For some background.  My wife is significantly smarter than I am.  First Class Honours in a Science degree I can’t even explain – something about genetics and biodiversity.

Due to, well, life, she went back to Uni later than most, demolished a Science degree, volunteered in Costa Rica doing conservation work, travelled the NSW coast collecting and freezing an invasive species of crabs to monitor their insidious march northward, and got published for her efforts.

What I’m trying to show here, is that she’s no slouch in the brains department, and was primed to kick off a fantastic career in something smart.  Something she was particularly excited about.

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Mess with crabbo – get stabbo.  Photo taken off internet

Then came along marriage and motherhood – both of which I might add, she’s also smashing out of the park.  I have no doubt that without her, our entire mob would be a hot mess of (disorganised) chaos.  I’m not talking about cleaning and cooking here – I’m talking about our entire way of life.  It’s no wonder the kids call her The Captain.

It dawned on me in that brief moment of frustration, that all this time she had been demonstrating the purest form of leadership.  Self-sacrifice.  For the good of the mission.

You can lead a team at work, you can lead a team on the sports field, and I’m sure you can cite examples where you put the welfare of your team above your own – fundamental to the success of any team, and the sign of a good leader.

What you’re probably citing though is when you didn’t take credit for the work your team did anyway, or that you took the accountability you should have regardless, for the team missing a deadline, or when expenditure exceeded budget.  While certainly important – these things don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, and I’d suggest they won’t be things you reflect upon on your death bed.

Your most important contribution may not be something you do, but someone you raise

Want to know what matters?  Kids, legacy, growing a family.  Are they the only things that matter in life?  No, obviously, but I’d suggest they’re on almost everyone’s list above missing that deadline.

Want to know what’s admirable?  Putting a promising career on hold that you worked godd@mn hard for, re-calibrating the trajectory of your life to care for and support 2 small kids (and 1 large adult-sized kid).  Providing an environment where these 3 other humans are given every opportunity to achieve their own successes (and failures), in a space that’s structured, organised, has high standards, is clear, supportive and never-failing.

We are defined by what we choose to reject”
– Mark Manson

What I observed was leadership not towards a short-term goal; hitting a sales target, pouring a slab, winning a contract, but true leadership – for a vision, for something that means something, and dedicating everything to achieving it.

It was a German-born theoretical physicist that said it best.

Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”
– 
Albert Einstein

I guess the lesson I learned in that moment was, apart from my wife being a superstar, is don’t just employ leadership techniques you read in a book or a blog, but find something, anything, that inspires you to live true leadership.


As we approach Mother’s Day – take some time to reflect on the sacrifice your Mum made, or is still making, to create an environment where you can achieve the successes you’ve had.  If you can, call your Mum today and tell her she’s awesome.

From the fire ground to the office

With the recent bushfire activity here in Sydney, I thought it was timely to share some of the exemplary leadership I’ve witnessed in my time within the NSW Rural Fire Service.

In late 2017 I was on a Hazard Reduction burn, an HR.  Before we go any further, can we  please stop calling these back burns.  Back burns are where you use fire to fight fire (which is what happened down at Holsworthy / Menai), and a hazard reduction burn is where you burn off as much of the ground fuels as you can ahead of a bush fire season.

So I was on a hazard reduction burn with the mighty Continue reading From the fire ground to the office

The Obstacle is the Way

If you follow this blog, you’ll hear me mention three people on a regular basis.  Ryan Holiday, Tim Ferriss and Jocko Willink.  I credit them as the majority shareholders in my recent learning investment portfolio.  They themselves are prolific in their teachings, and I recommend you read and listen to them all as much as possible.  Along with the resources they recommend, they form a 3-person Advisory Council that’s hard to beat.  I must note that I’ve never met any of them – although I did once get a Facebook response from Jocko – but reading their books and listening to their podcasts has been as good a schooling as you’ll get anywhere, and I’m thinking of making a trip to Jocko’s Musterin 2019.  Side note: Ant, I’ll be crashing at your joint so get that air bed pumped up.

Today’s post is a review of Ryan Holiday’s book The Obstacle is the Way.  For reasons unknown, I read the first 3 chapters of the book back in early 2017, and it then sat on my shelf for almost a year.  Why?  It wasn’t boring or poorly written.  I suspect it was because I wasn’t really ready to absorb the message it spruiked on the dust jacket and those early chapters, and I was possibly a little apprehensive, or maybe even blinded by my ego that the lessons would even apply to me.

“It’s impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows”
– Epectitus

For reasons even further unknown, I picked it up again recently and simply devoured it.  Perhaps I was ready for what he had to say, perhaps I needed to hear what he had to say, but regardless of the reason, it’s certainly made an impact.

The book is set out similarly to his others (Ego is the EnemyThe Daily Stoicboth are highly recommended), in that it looks to break down huge, mind-bending concepts into tasty bite-sized pieces.  Similar I’m told, to the way you should eat an elephant.  These tasty brain nuggets make the concepts infinitely easier to retain and even more importantly, easier to implement.

Simplify.
Check out britespot design on Pinterest for cool stuff like this!

So what are these concepts, these principles?

Holiday doesn’t just look to, but succeeds in, cleverly detailing a personal operating system to help you perceive, act and persevere in the face of obstacles.  I write that, but actually it’s more – it’s providing a way to entirely refocus your approach to obstacles, great and small.  Redefining them in your head so that they no longer appear as obstacles, but opportunities for growth, learning and improvement.

He does this by providing a way to visualise obstacles in the same way Stoicism teaches an approach to life.  Three basic principles.

Perception – See things for what they are.
Action – Do what we can.
Will – Endure and bear what we must.

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Photo credit: author

Fundamentally, these principles, or maxims, are what have guided the Stoics for centuries.  From the teachings of Seneca, Marcus Aurelius and beyond, Stoicism provides us a framework for re-configuring our perspective on life, with the ultimate aim of a simpler life.  Simpler doesn’t necessarily mean living like a pauper or foregoing pleasure, but that whichever path you choose is chosen for sound reason.  Apart from the seemingly obvious benefit of this, it then ultimately provides you with more time and focus on doing what it is you need to do in this life.

I’ll be sharing a post in the coming weeks on how reading and learning, and practising Stoicism has had a huge impact on my life, but for now you might be asking “What does any of this have to do with leadership?”

I’ll be honest, it’s hard to provide a specific answer to this.  If I could, it would have been be me that would have written the book.

But alas.

What I can tell you is that since trying to implement the fundamentals Holiday writes of, I’ve noticed that what would have previously pi$$ed me off for hours or even days, seems to have shrunk to minutes, or not at all.  Is it because I’m older, wiser (ha!), or maybe it’s having two kids who are growing up too fast?  Do all these things mean I’ve mellowed with age?

Perhaps.  I’m not saying I’ve reached a Zen-level calmness, far from it, but with the stresses and obligations more pronounced than ever before, you’d think this would be offset by any mellowing and I’d still be pi$$ed off.  I truly believe that the combination of Stoicism and the teachings of this book have made me a better father, better leader, and a better human.

Yeah right, I hear you mutter under your breath.  Check out this sucker caught up in yet another self-help cult.  I understand your scepticism.  I felt it myself before I started learning again.  Just read the book and you’ll see what I mean.

Holiday’s fundamental principle is that the obstacle you face, whatever it might be, is unlikely to go away simply because you want it to.  You stub your toe on a table.  You then shout at the table, and while you’re at it, you shout at your toe.  Neither of these are going to upset the table, nor you toe for that matter.  You stub your toe on the table and then take a chainsaw to the table.  This is also not going to upset the table.  I recommend not taking a chainsaw to your toe.  The table is a simple example, but illustrates the point.  It is your response to an obstacle which causes the reaction, not the actual obstacle itself.  More importantly, it is only your response to an external stimulus that you are able to control.

He’s mindful of not wanting to sound glib, which is difficult when you consider some of the obstacles people face every day.  A sudden and unexpected death of a loved one?  Hard to see how that’s a good thing, and while grieving is a natural response, Holiday’s approach is to limit the impact that that grieving has on your life, by understanding that there’s nothing you can do to change what happened, and that being paralysed by that grief serves no one.  To take it to the next level, the person that’s dead doesn’t care at all.

On a lighter note, the approach can be applied to your work (and home) life almost every day.  I’ve stolen from Jocko Willink a method of changing your perspective, whose standard response to members of his SEAL team when things didn’t go as planned was “Good!

Good!
– Jocko Willink (when something went wrong)

Good?  Yup.

Same approach as Holiday describes, but provides a tactical method that you can implement today.

Ammunition re-supply didn’t arrive?
Good!  Opportunity for us to practise hand-to-hand combat.

Our operation got cancelled?
Good!  Opportunity for us to run through the plan a few more times.

Now unless you’re in a combat zone, these may not seem particularly relevant, but in our normal, ‘not being shot at’, lives, the approach still works.

Got a boss that micro-manages you?
Good!  Now’s your opportunity to work on methods in dealing with this type of person.

Got looked over for that promotion?
Good!  More time to get better.

Got dumped?
Good!  Now there’s more time to spend with your family who you’ve ignored recently.

“If you can say the word Good!  Guess what?  It means you’re still alive.  It means you’re still breathing.  And if you’re still breathing, guess what?  You’ve still got fight in you.  So get up.  Dust off. Reload. Recalibrate. Re-engage.
And go out on the attack.”
– Jocko Willink

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Jocko Willink – Good shirt.  Note how it’s written mirrored?  The message is for YOU.  Visit jockostore.com

Your response to the obstacle is the only thing you can control.  Re-visualise it and see it as an opportunity to learn, to grow, to develop, and you’ll suddenly find that everything is a lesson in leadership.  Even the hard sh!t, in fact, especially the hard sh!t.  It’s an uplifting revelation to have.

Obstacles in whichever form they take, are a vast majority of the time, not placed in your way deliberately, or with malice.  Obstacles are life’s way of reminding you that you’re alive, and that while you think you may have mastered her, that Mother Nature still runs this show so and you’re really just a passenger.  Each time you conquer an obstacle, you’ll learn something.  Each time, you’ll develop strength, wisdom and perspective.  Each time, a little more of the competition falls away.  Until all that is left is you: the best version of you.

“Lose money?”
Remember, you could have lost a friend.

Lost that job?”
What if you’d lost a limb?

“Lost your house?”
You could have lost everything.

Perception.

So we’ve covered off Perception and we’re already at 1,600 words.  There’s enough meat on this bone to warrant more posts, so we’ll stick with just Perception today and cover off Action and Will in a few weeks.

Of all the stories in the book about Perception, the one that stuck most in my mind, and the one I’ve reflected on the most, is a story about a factory fire at Thomas Edison’s laboratory which destroyed almost all of his life’s work.

Now it’s statistically unlikely that any of us will ever reach the heady heights of Edison, but if he can approach the razing of his factory as a spectacle to behold, who told his son with childlike excitement as the fire raged, fuelled by the strange chemicals in the various buildings, “Go get your mother and all of her friends.  They’ll never see a fire like this again”, and calmly state afterwards, “It’s alright.  We’ve just got rid of a lot of rubbish”, we can surely re-frame having a difficult boss or poor Wi-Fi reception as an opportunity.

Side note:  Edison’s factory was up and running again in weeks, at full production some 3 months later, and almost tripled its output and profit within a year.

Good!

Make no mistake.  It’s hard work trying to implement the approaches outlined in the book.  It’s easy to see every obstacle as another reason to rest.  Another reason that explains why the other guy is succeeding when you’re not.  Another reason to give up.

But that’s the exact reason why you should try.  Why you must try.

The only person you should try and be better than…..
is the person you were yesterday

I promise you that you only need to do this exercise a few times to see the benefit.  But I promise you will, as the effect is immediate.

The impediment to action advances action.
What stands in the way becomes the way.
– Marcus Aurileus

As I promised in my first book review, I’m happy to send through a copy of my index in Excel format.  Leave a comment below, or get in touch via the Contact page.

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The Obstacle is the Way – index

As also as promised, my 3 takeaways;

  1. Edison’s factory fire – everything is an opportunity if you’re open to it.
  2. Changing your perspective on obstacles being opportunities is difficult and takes time.  Worth the effort though.
  3. A quote from Amelia Earhart “Always think with your stick forward”.  That is, you can’t ever let up your flying speed – if you do, you crash.  Be deliberate, of course, but you always need to be moving forward.

Re-framing my relationship with obstacles, and making it part of my existence, is I suspect, going to be something I’ll have to work on for the rest of my life.  But in the short time I’ve been trying to implement it, I’ve learned a lot.

Learning to be better than I was yesterday.

And as I always say, isn’t that what’s it all about?

Confidence – is it measurable?

In my recent post, I reviewed one of the best leadership books I’ve read in quite some time.  Hal Moore on Leadership: Winning when out gunned and out manned is a no-nonsense record of one man’s leadership lessons learned over 30+ years in the US Army.  Buy it – it’s worth it.

Throughout the book, Moore speaks of confidence, and that there are four foundational tenets.

  1. Self-confidence
  2. Confidence in your weapon (or your tools, resources, systems if not in a combat environment)
  3. Confidence in your team
  4. Confidence in your leader(s)

He doesn’t go into too much detail in analysing these specifically, and while the genesis of his thoughts rest firmly in the military construct, he notes there’s an obvious correlation to business and life in general as well.

It got me to thinking if confidence could be mapped.  Could you represent these four pillars and understand what having one and not another might mean, or if two or three overlapped?  Similar to this really effective representation of the Japanese term ikigai (which might get its own post in the coming months).

If you’re interested, I think I sit in the ‘Satisfaction, but feeling of uselessness‘ bracket.

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I sketched a few ideas and as you can see below, it’s unlikely I’ll be making a career change to mathematician or graphic designer any time soon.

What became painfully clear was making a 4-variable infographic with any real meaning was harder than it appears.  Drawing 4 intersecting circles wasn’t the problem, but it was determining a meaningful analysis of where the circles intersected that proved difficult.

As I worked through sketching out a few failures (ideas), more and more of them started to look like charts  rather than images representing a concept.  I got to wondering if you could have a team with a perfect four-way balance of confidence?  Is it something you could assess and then improve on?  What would it mean if you did get a top-score confidence index (CI)?  Confidence Index – remember that.  You heard it here first.

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I took to Google Scholar (an amazing resource that gives you search results from academic sources) to investigate if this has been done before.  There are thousands of hits on measuring team morale, and the effect self-confidence has on individual and team results, but nothing popped out trying to map these 4 specific factors.

Now we’ve all likely been subjected to these kind of assessments at work before – usually around Safety Culture.  Each time I’ve sat these assessments and been presented with the results, there’s great hype and excitement about how the results will drive change in the organisation or team.  I’d say of all the examples I’ve seen over the last 18 years, organisations are running at a less than 25% strike rate with regards to any real, tangible change.  Would this new CI assessment change that?  Of course not – it’s rarely the assessment or the analysis of the results that determines if action will be taken, or if it will be effective.  It’s the will and commitment of the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) that does.  The CI assessment would just identify which areas the team think are strong and which are weak, and allows the SLT and Executives to then target their effort and resources.

Being an effective executive is an entire topic on its own which we won’t cover today, but for those who are executives, or are hoping to become one, take a look at a book called The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker.  Written in 1966, it’s style is a little dated, but the lessons are as solid as they come.

I digress.  The Confidence Index (again, you heard it here first).

I’m not proposing to try and create a full assessment tool in this post – while I’m particularly interested in seeing what comes of it, I’m fairly certain I don’t have the necessary horsepower to make it into an effective tool on my own.  I’m going to ask all of YOU if there’s anyone who is interested in being part of a team to develop this, get in touch or leave a comment below.

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I’ve set a target of 6 months to get this thing developed, tested, and to then report back.  Broad plan is as follows;

  1. Set Objectives
  2. Draft assessment questions
  3. Undertake ‘market research’
  4. Finalise set of questions
  5. Run preliminary assessments
  6. Determine most effective measure of results
  7. Report back

6 months seems to be a reasonable time frame for this in amongst all the normal work / life pressures.  I think most of the time will be spent working out what questions to ask in each of the four areas that would result in a meaningful ‘score’, and then finding someone who is an Excel wizard to help with presenting the data.

If you have any great examples or resources that might assist, feel free to get in touch via the Contact Us page and drop me a line.  A problem shared is a problem halved.

Do you think the Confidence Index would benefit you and your team?  Do you think it’s just another management tool that has no real-world value?  What are your experiences with these types of assessments – do you have examples of where real change has been made as a result of one?  Would you like to be part of the team that develops the Confidence Index?

As always, either get in touch via the Contact Us page, or leave a comment below.

The Bancroft Affair

At risk of being yet another armchair critic of the goings-on at the cricket in South Africa, I thought it’d be a perfect (yet unfortunate) opportunity to talk about ego.  It’s been the enemy and downfall of leaders great and small over the millennia, and appears to be in no danger of being any less of an opponent to greatness in 2018.

There is an invasive desire (and ability) of the media in the 21st century to capture, record and dissect the failings of leaders more so now than any other time in history, so the happenings in Cape Town simply provide us with a more intimate look at how blinding ego can be to leaders – in sports, in business, in families.

Surely it was ego that lead the ‘senior leaders’ of the Australian Cricket team to consider that a combined inspectorate of eagle-eyed viewers, commentators and umpires would not catch their indiscretion?  As an random side note on seeing things from a long way away – I read an article recently that described a new space telescope with the ability to shoot images with 40 times more clarity than Hubble.  Simply breathtaking stuff.  In layman’s terms, this telescope is so powerful it can see right now what you’re thinking tomorrow.  Now the outcome of a cricket test has far less importance than seeking clarity on the origins of the universe, but likely has a lot more relevance to the humble earthling, and my roundabout point is that in 2018, we can see everything.

So what does any of this have to do with ego?  Imagine the ego, the sheer audacity of a person, or group of persons, to consider this was an appropriate course of action to take, and that they’d never get caught, or if they did, that their status, their influence, their gravitas would see this incident swallowed up by tomorrow’s next Bachelor in Paradise headline.

You hear of petty criminals who rob a bottle shop while still wearing their name tag from work, or make no attempt to cover their faces while staring doe-eyed into the CCTV cameras, and wonder how anyone could possibly be that dim.  That’s a different level of dysfunction, and is most likely not a factor in this malaise.

In mid-2017 I read a book called Ego is the enemy by Ryan Holiday which fundamentally shifted my awareness of ego as a part of your leadership characteristic.  It’s easy to say “my ego is in check”, or that you’re “really humble”, but if you find yourself saying it aloud to people, it’s likely neither is true.

I’m the most humble guy in the entire world….”
– 
Someone who isn’t

There are countless examples throughout history where powerful leaders and influencers were crushed by the trappings of their ego, but you can read about them pretty much everywhere.  Google John DeLorean, Howard Hughes, or Ulysses S. Grant for some cautionary tales of how ego torpedoed the fortunes (not just financial) of some truly remarkable individuals.  What I wanted to do today was tell you a story, not of a powerful leader or influencer, but from a little closer to home.

Not long ago a set of tender documents came across his desk.  A nice meaty package of work that would have seen his business take its virginal steps into directly managing works on the ground.  Not something new for him personally, but certainly the first time as a small business owner.  This fellow knew enough about the  type of work to be dangerous, and his existing relationships with the client and key stakeholders was a definite advantage.  Our fellow contacted a close friend of his who works in the same broad field and enquired if he knew of any companies that might like to partner up.  He did, and contact was made.

A meeting was scheduled, and after the usual polite pleasantries, the Director and Operations Manager of the second company kicked off by saying they’d struggled to find any information on his business, with no apparent website or company LinkedIn page to be found anywhere.

That’s right, we don’t need to advertise, we go by word of mouth

Any alarm bells ringing yet?  Our friend continued to regale the two travelling businessmen with stories of the successful work he’d done over the last several years on the particular Project.  The relationships forged, the contacts made, and the required skill set to lead the team.  Yes – he was the man to lead this team.  The director politely listened and made all the obligatory head nods and ‘Oh yes, that’s interesting‘ responses before it was his turn to speak.

Well we have a different model in mind, where WE lead the team, prepare the submission, and you consult to us.”

It was at this exact moment I’d realised my ego had f**ked me.

I hadn’t even considered they wouldn’t sign up to the plan and had nothing prepared as a response.

Yes, that fellow was me.

“I’d realised my ego had f**ked me”

On reflection, who was I to think that this successful company, several decades in the game, offices in 4 Australian states, would think that after one phone call and a carefully crafted email from a complete stranger, they would willingly hitch their wagon to my horse.  That without ANY form of actionable intel, would sign up to me being the lead in a reasonably major contract and potentially expose their business to all levels of unknown risk.

I (my ego) had assumed that simply by force of my own existence that they’d be only too happy to join my posse, that I’d lead the tender, see my company name on the front of the glossy submission, and spend my days writing lists of all the things I planned to do with the money I was going to make.

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They had considered (and upon reflection, rightly so), that as the primary provider of the resources, the equipment and cash flow, that’d they’d be better positioned to lead, but would be interested in engaging me as an advisor.  Now, certainly not on the scale of international ball-tampering or driving an innovative car company into the ground (refer John DeLorean), but a blow to one’s ego none the less.

My ego had f**ked me.

I’ll admit I think I recovered from the shock of the realisation quite well, and for what it’s worth, the rest of the meeting turned out I believe, to be a success.  Regardless of the outcome of the submission, I learned a very valuable lesson – perspective.

Always consider an offer or proposition, be it a business deal or a otherwise, from the other person’s perspective.  Throw off the shackles of a usual attempt at this, where you simply consider all the good things that may happen, but dive deep and go dark.  What could go wrong (or that they might consider could go wrong), consider why they would want to deal with you at all in the first place, consider how they might even use you for their own nefarious objective.  Go Machiavellian.

Nitchske once said “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster” which I paraphrase often and with considerably less grace.  I’m not suggesting that you live in the dark space of considering every encounter is likely to result in harm or failure, as you run the risk of it infecting your entire being.  Just don’t close yourself off to the potential.

Bill Walsh, legendary coach of the San Francisco 49’ers in the late 70’s took a team so used to losing that it had become their culture, and 3 years later lifted the Super Bowl trophy.  Often asked about his plan for winning, he is credited for saying he was not focusing on winning per se, but on implementing a ‘Standard of Performance’.  A program of instilling excellence.  Simple but exacting standards mattered more than a grand plan of winning, but he knew, he believed, that on that foundation, that the winning would come.  It did.

The lesson I learned is that I was so focused on winning, that my own standard of performance had dropped, and that there was room (and need) for significant improvement.  The stakes were low I’ll admit, but better learned now, than find myself in the Championship Game with my ego playing for the opposition.

A lesson learned from the every day.  Because really, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Did you enjoy today’s post? Has tampering with balls got you all riled up?  Have you got an example of where your ego was playing for the other team?  Leave a post below – I’d love to hear from you!