All Posts by Terry Condon

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I am a behavioural strategist, I help leaders and their teams work together and do better.

Dec 30

Superstars Are Using This Superpower to Prosper in the New Economy

By Terry Condon | Career Strategy

[vc_row][vc_column column_width_percent=”80″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]The game has changed.

Information is cheaper and more accessible than ever. Anyone can learn anything, and old educational models centred on exclusivity and prestige are fast losing relevance.

The dizzying pace of change disrupts entire industries, and dislocates those within them. Business cycles are shorter than ever, and careers are not what they used to be.

When the ground keeps shifting beneath your feet, how can you be sure of your next step?

Studying those who are thriving in the new economy can teach us a powerful lesson; those making waves don’t compete for opportunities, they create them.

But how do you create opportunities?

You cultivate the rare superpower that distinguishes you from your peers.

In this two-part series you’ll learn what this superpower is, and why it is more important than any qualification, or association you might have or gain. You will also discover the two distinct ways this power can be developed to win in the new world of work.

To top it all off you will get a practical tool for mastering this superpower faster. Read on to level up.

Prediction Is a Distraction

The graph above tells a frightening story: technology is outpacing our ability to keep up.

Astro Teller runs Google X; a division of the tech giant focused purely on ‘moon shots’ which can solve massive, complex problems. He believes the gap between how fast we can learn, and how fast technology creates change is one of the biggest problems of our time.

Thomas Friedman illustrates this gap with a striking example in his book ‘Thank you for Being Late’. He makes the point that by the time regulations catch up with ride sharing services like Uber, autonomous cars will have made the current business model obsolete.

This is not an isolated example either, it has either happened or is happening all over:

By the time supply for coding skills meets demand, the task will be simplified and automated.

By the time universities figure out new tech like VR, education will have been democratised.

By the time most of us understand the blockchain, the real opportunities will have passed.

Most people see the landscape shifting and try to predict what the future will look like. While this is a fairly rational response, it can also be dangerous. Why?

Because trying to be one step ahead actually forces you to look behind.

This is because the only way you know how far ‘ahead’ you are, is by looking backward to map your current position against the previous one.

But the future doesn’t look like the past, and prediction is not protection. It is a dangerous distraction.

Ray Dalio is the founder of Bridgewater, the most successful hedge fund in history. He makes his living on being right about the future, but guess what? He thinks prediction is a cruel joke.

In his recent book ‘Principles’ he mentions a quote he tends to use a lot:

‘he who lives by the crystal ball is destined to eat ground glass’

He goes on to detail his learning on the fallacy of prediction:

“Between 1979 and 1982, I had eaten enough glass to realise what was most important wasn’t knowing the future – it was knowing how to react appropriately to the information available at each point in time.”

Learn from Ray’s experience: understand the future is and always will be fundamentally uncertain. Once you make your peace with that, you can stop making predictable errors trying to predict it. Then, and only then can you start working out what to do about it.

If you accept the above statement as the truth, you pretty much have two options:

  1. You can hone your ability to adapt.
  2. You can hone your ability to create.

Importantly, these two paths are not mutually exclusive. You can take both at once. However, both options depend on one essential skill: Learning how to learn.

Learning Is the New Black

Learning how to learn is the superpower of our time.

When you become a better learner, you become eminently more valuable.

The faster and better you can learn, the more adaptable you become. The more adaptable you are, the less biased your thinking. The less biased you are, the more readily you see nascent opportunities.

The adaptable person also becomes more creative as a result of a broader set of experiences. This allows them to traverse and connect multiple fields of interested to create new and novel ideas.

This is how Elon Musk went from sending money online to building rockets.

This is why Bitcoin was not built by bankers, but computer geeks.

This is what makes 90 million people download and listen to Joe Rogan’s podcast each month.

When you create an arrangement that has never been seen before, people pay attention. This instantly distinguishes you from others and puts you on playing field with no opponent.

To see what this looks like, watch award winning producer Pharrell William’s reaction to this folk musician’s early attempts at combining dance music with more natural and traditional sounds. [2:27 – 3:48] Then listen to what he says afterward [5:33 – end].

Realise this; competition is a race to the bottom, and only a select few actually prosper in a red ocean of competition. Just ask anyone who runs a business in direct competition with Amazon.

Essentially, it comes down to acquiring a new mental model. When everyone zigs, you zag. Better yet, forget anything starting with z and make up a completely new manoeuvre.

How does this work in the context of increasing your value you ask?

Simple. While everyone else is scurrying about trying to figure out what is best to learn (i.e should we all learn to code?), it’s probably better to first figure out how best to learn.

Consider the following thought experiment:

Who would fare better in the long run? The lumberjack that focuses intently on sharpening his axe? or the lumberjack who obsesses over the latest way to hold or swing an old blunt axe?

Learning is the constant, what to learn keeps changing.

But it’s not enough to value learning, those who do best learn in very distinct ways.

How to Become a Superhero: The Two Predominant Patterns

Too many of us have bought into the idea that the only way to get ahead is to (mindlessly) accumulate more qualifications. The truth is, beyond a certain point further formal education is a waste of time and money.

If that time and money were to be spent solving big problems, coming up with new and better ways to do things, or doing new things altogether many of us would be much better off.

Very often there are no qualifications or certifications for the rarest (and therefore most valuable) skills. Because when you get to the cutting edge, results overshadow everything.

Did the wright brothers have pilot’s licences?

Was Thomas Edison a qualified electrician?

Is Elon Musk an Astrophysicist?

When you look at the type of people are doing best in the new economy, two distinct patterns emerge.  The first pattern is ‘the pioneer’. The second pattern is ‘the artisan’. Both approaches acknowledge that results and reputation matter most, and both approaches leverage learning as the critical success factor.

The Pioneer 

Elon Musk is the ultimate pioneer. His knowledge is both broad and deep. He knows a little about a lot, and alot about a little. I know I know, sounds confusing, let me explain.

Being broad means, he has the ability to learn and know enough about a range of industries such as aerospace, transport and energy to envision or identify new opportunities the incumbents miss. He also has the courage to act on them.

Musk’s deep expertise is associated with building businesses that solve massive problems, and capitalise on the convergence of digital world (technology) with the physical world (products). No one on the planet can match him in this area.

Pioneers like Musk are masters of opportunity and execution. They see what no one sees, and go where no one has gone. Their reward is the claim they stake on new unexplored territory, and the empires they build on the back of their efforts.

Other notable pioneers are Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steve Jobs

The Artisan

Jiro Ono personifies the artisan approach. Ono’s knowledge is deep and broad. He knows a lot about a little, and a little about a lot.

Being deep means he knows a lot about one thing; making sushi. In this area he stands alone. Over decades he has practiced and perfected his craft, today people pay a lot of money just to get a seat in his restaurant and be told what they’ll eat.

Being broad means that within his area of expertise, he knows a lot more than the average sushi maker about every aspect of the process. This includes sourcing and identifying the best fish (at the best times), buying the best rice, finding better ways to store it, and buying the best seaweed paper.

Artisan’s like Ono are masters of their craft, and become skilled at every single variable that impacts the outcome. Their reward is being renowned, and remunerated significantly more than most in their field or any other field.

Other notable artisans are Kelly Slater, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christian Louboutin.

Don’t stress, It’s Not Celebrity or Bust

At this point, you might be feeling a little anxious. This is probably because the most notable examples are also the most intimidating. Don’t worry, you don’t need to be world renowned to very well – you just need to follow their example within the context of your own career.

How exactly do you do this?

Well that’s what we’ll cover in the second part of this series. This is where I show you the powerful process these people all follow to become pioneers or artisans. I also give you a tool that can help you use and apply this process to your own goals.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Dec 07

A Parable with Five Principles That Will Show You How To Build Buy In

By Terry Condon | Communication , Influence

[vc_row][vc_column column_width_percent=”80″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/1″][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner column_width_percent=”100″ gutter_size=”2″ overlay_alpha=”50″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Most of the time, people don’t really want to change the way they do things.

Even if a new approach could yield superior results, status quo bias wields a powerful influence on all of us.

The best leaders are skilled at creating a kind of constructive discontent which yanks others out of their complacency, and creates an urgency to act.

In this post, you will learn five key principles to promote progress and change among those who like doing things as they have always been done.

These principles are gleaned from five key resources, and are demonstrated through a story about a hut maker who revolutionised hut building in his village. The five principles within this parable will help you become more influential in instigating change in others, and supporting the effort and action required to sustain it.[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading]

Building Buy In: The Parable of Harry & The Huts

[/vc_custom_heading][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner row_inner_height_percent=”0″ back_color=”accent” overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ shift_y=”0″ z_index=”0″ css=”.vc_custom_1512599106739{border-top-width: 1px !important;border-right-width: 1px !important;border-bottom-width: 1px !important;border-left-width: 1px !important;padding-top: 10px !important;padding-right: 10px !important;padding-left: 10px !important;}”][vc_column_inner column_width_percent=”100″ align_horizontal=”align_center” gutter_size=”3″ overlay_alpha=”50″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/4″][vc_wp_text][/vc_wp_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner column_width_percent=”100″ style=”dark” gutter_size=”2″ overlay_alpha=”50″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”3/4″][vc_custom_heading]1. Understand Them[/vc_custom_heading][vc_column_text]Everyone has a set of priorities and these govern how they filter their world. Take the time to discover and communicate in relation to others top priority (Telos) and you will gain their attention. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Harry was a villager in Ancient times; he had just come back from a long journey east. There he had learned from the great tribes of the sea a far superior method for making huts.

Upon his return, he noticed how ugly the huts in his village are in comparison, and how dangerous and inefficient it is to build them. Harry was determined to teach his neighbor Fred the new and improved hut making method, and gradually improve the whole village.

Last time he came back from a trip and tried to teach Fred how to hunt better, he simply shrugged his shoulders with a glazed look on his face. He clearly did not appreciate how superior Harry’s new approach was.

Harry tried and tried to persuade him to learn but eventually his persistence began to annoy Fred. Not wanting to test the relationship in case Fred got violent (as many villagers tended to) Harry decided to drop it.

This time, Harry decided to take a special interest in Fred and observe his behaviour closely.

As he did so he noticed that Fred tended to talk a lot about his family, he went to great lengths to make sure they are always safe and provided for. He also noticed that Fred’s oldest son was nearly old enough to begin his initiation into adulthood.

One day he asked Fred what he planned to teach the boy first. ‘How to build of course!’ Fred replied gruffly, without turning around.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner row_inner_height_percent=”0″ back_color=”accent” overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ shift_y=”0″ z_index=”0″ css=”.vc_custom_1512598008486{padding-top: 10px !important;padding-right: 10px !important;padding-left: 10px !important;}”][vc_column_inner column_width_percent=”100″ align_horizontal=”align_center” gutter_size=”3″ overlay_alpha=”50″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/4″][vc_wp_text][/vc_wp_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner column_width_percent=”100″ style=”dark” gutter_size=”2″ overlay_alpha=”50″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”3/4″][vc_custom_heading]2. Make Them Feel Safe[/vc_custom_heading][vc_column_text]Our brains are wired to be on the look out for differences (which are perceived unconsciously as threats), emphasising similarities & common ground opens people up to you and your message.  [/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]‘A wise choice’ replied Harry. ‘I plan to do the same with my boy, a man must learn how to use his hands so that he can care and provide for his family’.

Fred turned around to face him now, nodding vigorously in agreement. ‘And what would you say a good father should teach his son to build first?’ asked Harry.

‘A hut replied Fred excitedly, what good is a man who cannot put a roof over the heads of his family?’

‘Agreed my friend, a man who cannot shelter those he loves will find it hard to attract a mate’ Harry said, mirroring his enthusiasm. ‘And what sort of hut do you plan to teach him to build?’ he asked.

Fred looked confused; ‘the same type of hut everyone in the village builds of course, isn’t that the only type of hut there is?’[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner row_inner_height_percent=”0″ back_color=”accent” overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ shift_y=”0″ z_index=”0″ css=”.vc_custom_1512598290579{padding-top: 10px !important;padding-right: 10px !important;padding-left: 10px !important;}”][vc_column_inner column_width_percent=”100″ align_horizontal=”align_center” gutter_size=”3″ overlay_alpha=”50″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/4″][vc_wp_text][/vc_wp_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner column_width_percent=”100″ style=”dark” gutter_size=”2″ overlay_alpha=”50″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”3/4″][vc_custom_heading]3. Entertain Them[/vc_custom_heading][vc_column_text]Mirror neurons in the brain have evolved to allow humans to simulate experience (the key to learning), telling stories allows people to feel the emotions associated with an experience. The emotion centres of the brain control decision making and therefore heavily influence a persons actions. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Harry smiled and replied ‘until recently I believed the same thing, but on my travels, I learned otherwise’.

He noticed Fred looking on intently and continued, ‘Would you like to hear about how a great tribal elder of the East taught me how to build safer, sturdier and more beautiful huts? These huts were the most beautiful I have seen, and I noticed the men in this village who built them boasted the most attractive mates’.

Fred nodded excitedly, ‘of course, my boy would be the toast of the town if he was the first young man to build one of these huts! Please tell me about your experiences!’.

Harry told Fred of his experiences with the tribal elder who generously passed on his knowledge over the course of a six-month apprenticeship. Fred laughed as Harry recounted him how terrible his first attempts were and how the locals pitied him. Fred listened as he described the new luxuries that a family can experience within these new huts and how they seemed happier than those in any other village.

Suddenly Fred looked at his hut and back at Harry ‘would you teach me Harry?’ he pleaded.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner row_inner_height_percent=”0″ back_color=”accent” overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ shift_y=”0″ z_index=”0″ css=”.vc_custom_1512598695758{padding-top: 10px !important;padding-right: 10px !important;padding-left: 10px !important;}”][vc_column_inner column_width_percent=”100″ align_horizontal=”align_center” gutter_size=”3″ overlay_alpha=”50″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/4″][vc_wp_text][/vc_wp_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner column_width_percent=”100″ style=”dark” gutter_size=”2″ overlay_alpha=”50″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”3/4″][vc_custom_heading]4. Educate Them[/vc_custom_heading][vc_column_text]Cultivate a culture of conscious practice, break it down for people and keep it simple, give small chunks of (the right) information and facilitate fast and targeted feedback.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]To Fred’s delight Harry agreed, though he warned Fred; ‘the first hut will take some time’. The elder had explained to Harry the best way to teach someone is to first model the correct techniques, and then describe the process to the learner. Then support them as they practised themselves.

Harry explained that he would build his own hut first as the Model, and describe to Fred how to undertake each part of the process before allowing Fred to imitate his process.

Over the course of the next 6 months, Harry replicated the three-part apprenticeship process taught to him by the old tribal elder:

  • He taught Fred only the parts allowing the whole to gradually reveal itself over time.
  • He taught using concise, vivid descriptions that made it clear what to do, not what not to do.
  • Once he was satisfied his student understood, he allowed Fred to go to work on applying what he had learned.

Before Harry agreed to teach Fred, he made sure Fred agreed to first apply any feedback he received before reflecting on it. He had learned from the wise old elder that discussing the merits of advice given is essentially a waste of time. This is because the merits of advice can only be accurately assessed once applied.

As Harry looked over at Fred’s work, he gave clear and concise feedback that Fred accepted and applied immediately. Harry was surprised how quickly he could teach complex ideas as a result of not having to discuss every piece of advice given.

Harry, like his teacher before him was a stickler for detail. So he insisted Fred master each part of the process before he taught him the next part.

This frustrated Fred a little in the beginning, but because he received clear and concise feedback at regular intervals progress became evident more quickly. The momentum led to confidence and soon he began to trust the process.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner row_inner_height_percent=”0″ back_color=”accent” overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ shift_y=”0″ z_index=”0″ css=”.vc_custom_1512598853032{padding-top: 10px !important;padding-right: 10px !important;padding-left: 10px !important;}”][vc_column_inner column_width_percent=”100″ align_horizontal=”align_center” gutter_size=”3″ overlay_alpha=”50″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/4″][vc_wp_text][/vc_wp_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner column_width_percent=”100″ style=”dark” gutter_size=”2″ overlay_alpha=”50″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”3/4″][vc_custom_heading]5. Encourage Them[/vc_custom_heading][vc_column_text]Feedback that draws attention to the process encourages people to seek challenge and growth in their pursuits, whilst drawing attention to the outcome creates anxiety and destroys confidence. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner column_width_percent=”100″ gutter_size=”2″ overlay_alpha=”50″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]When Harry was completing his own apprenticeship, he asked the wise old elder how the whole village learned to be so good at building these huts.

The elder chuckled. ‘They always learn the right way which is as I have taught you, and they are trained to appreciate the process as opposed to the end result. Valuing the process makes the task enjoyable and encourages mastery, which is why the huts in our village continue to evolve and improve while those of most other villages stay the same’.

Harry took this to heart, so whenever he complimented Fred, he made sure to emphasise the process and the effort Fred had displayed. As a result, Fred began to take immense pride in his work and his appetite for learning and improvement became insatiable.

Soon Fred was truly inspired by building better huts.

One day, Fred invited Harry over for to enjoy dinner with his family in his newly finished hut. He was proud of his creation and the life he could now provide for his family.

Harry was impressed at the quality of his craftsmanship and the home was indeed beautiful. ‘Congratulations!’ he said to Fred, ‘your home is beautiful and your family must be so proud of your efforts and the time you took to master your craft for their benefit’.

Years later, Harry and Fred were sitting on the front porch of Harry’s home. From their view on the hill they see a village that was now the envy of all others surrounding it. Many people came to live and work there since the living standards the villagers enjoy is unparalleled.

Fred pointed out the beautiful cityscape and said to Harry ‘none of this would never had happened had you not taught us to build better huts. Thank you’.[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading]

Moral Of The Story

[/vc_custom_heading][vc_column_text]Instigating change in the way people do things is hard, but it doesn’t have to be impossible.

Practice and apply these five principles to get it done.

  1. Understand them: Frame change in their values to get their attention.
  2. Make them feel safe: Build liking and trust by emphasizing similarities.
  3. Entertain them: Keep them engaged, and bypass defences by telling stories.
  4. Educate them: Break it down, and speed up feedback loops to build momentum and belief.
  5. Encourage them: Create a mastery mindset by recognising and emphasising effort over outcome.
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Nov 22

How to Ensure Your Advice Is Taken Seriously – Even if Others Are Resistant

By Terry Condon | Communication

[vc_row][vc_column column_width_percent=”80″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]In 1847, a Hungarian physician stumbled across one of the most significant discoveries in modern medicine. Despite his findings, he was largely ignored, and ridiculed by those who stood to gain from his insight.

Ignaz Semmelweis figured out that that doctors were unwittingly transferring pathogens from corpses to pregnant mothers as they treated them. The solution was simple: to dramatically reduce the rates of infection and mortality, all doctors had to do was wash their hands between patients.

Not long afterwards, Joseph Lister shared what was essentially the same idea. Yet, because he could point to other accepted theories he was more effective in influencing the establishment. Today he is widely known as the ‘father of modern surgery’.

Clearly, knowledge on its own is not power.

The ability to make new knowledge accessible to others differentiates the successful leader from their peers. Though there is no universal leadership style, there are universal capabilities. The ability to share knowledge effectively is without doubt one of them.

In this post, I’m going to share a tool that can help you quickly understand how people prefer to learn and act on new information. To use this tool, you will learn the four ‘student archetypes’ people commonly assume when receiving advice. This will help you tailor your communication to open others up to your point of view and ensure your message is heard.

When One Education Ends, Another Begins

It felt like a massive slap across the face.

As soon as I walked in on my first day on the job I realised what I knew meant nothing. The way the athletes were looking at me – many of them much older than I was – told me it wasn’t going to be as simple as I had imagined.

One week after graduating, I was suddenly responsible for preparing and managing some of the highest profile athletes in the country.

In that moment, I realised pretty quickly that before I could do any teaching I must learn.

Not long after my realisation, I had the privilege of attending a lecture by the legendary college basketball coach Lute Olsen. During this lecture, he essentially confirmed my thinking when he said ‘It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts’

I Realised I Needed a Blueprint for Better Sharing

From that point on I immersed myself in the study of all kinds of leaders: religious, political, philosophical and educational. I also watched my colleagues closely to find out who was most effective and why. As I learned and experimented over thousands of interactions I realised something important about giving advice to others.

It’s easy to forget what it’s like not to know what you know.

When you guide others, and give them advice without considering where they are starting from, you make all kinds of assumptions that undermine the outcome. This often creates resistance in those you seek to influence.

Their personality, and how your message makes them feel will dictate how they will respond. In general, there are a couple of core patterns that can be observed: people are either open or closed, and they are either problem focused or solution focused.

If we plot it on a classic quadrant it looks like this.

The Four Student Archetypes and How to Handle Them

The use of this model allows us to consider four core archetypes others fall into when learning new information – I call them ‘student archetypes’.

  • The cynic is closed and problem focused.
  • The sceptic is closed and solution focused.
  • The fanatic is open and problem focused.
  • The politic is open and solution focused.

On our quadrant it looks like this..

By observing where someone fits on this quadrant I could figure out which archetype they might belong to.

Experimenting with different ways of interacting with each archetype allowed me to figure out over time how best to share new information with the person in front of me.

To use this model effectively, you need to assume the approach of a good poker player. The poker player watches their counterparts closely to determine what kind of player they are, and what mood they are in. These ‘tells’ can inform the tactics used to get the desired result.

Be a poker player, look for tells and then tailor your approach to the kind of player you are dealing with.

A word of warning though, remember that what someone is like is often context specific. The same person might be a cynic in one context, and a fanatic in others.

As always with models, they can be useful, though rarely are they accurate. The best way to use this tool is to always be questioning it, and updating your assumptions.  This will ensure you are always improving your ability to share.

The movie ‘The Big Short’, showcases the four archetypes brilliantly. As news spreads that the US economy is about to collapse, the characters all inevitably fall into one of the four archetypes. I have chosen four of the more obvious examples to illustrate my point.

Below each example, I outline the most important ‘tells’ you can use to identify each archetype. Along with these tells are the tactics I recommend for dealing with each of them.

Tells: The cynic can act reserved or even rude in light of new information, and often poisons others with their inherently negative view of the world. They can be sarcastic, passive aggressive or overtly resistant depending on their personality type.

Tips: Fight your instinct to confront this person (unless not doing so will cause others to doubt your conviction or message). Instead step back and make it seem like you are ceding power to this person, yet at the same time make them accountable for their assertions.

Say something like: ‘well it seems like you sure know what you’re doing, what kind of results are you getting with your way?’ How have these changed or improved over time? And how do you expect these to change going forward? What are you basing these assumptions on?

This allows you to move away from opinion, and get to facts. This is really important as often the cynic largely looks through the lens of the past, and how it makes them feel. If you can get them into the present and observing facts, you have a shot at influencing them.

Don’t expect this to always work though, and don’t expect any change in attitude to occur quickly. The best way to deal with a cynic is get results with their peers, and gradually turn them into a vocal minority whom has much to say, yet comparably little success to point to.

Tells: The sceptic won’t dismiss you out of hand like the cynic does, but they will ask probing questions. Their body language, pitch, and tone will tell you they won’t just take your word for it, you will have to convince them. But they can be convinced. Unlike the cynic, they are a little more interested in solving the problem, and have done (or are doing) their own thinking on the matter.

Tips: The sceptic can be your biggest advocate if you engage with them the right way. If you don’t dismiss their experience or insight and are prepared to engage in thoughtful disagreement, this person will champion your cause in a way no one else will.

When discussing your ideas with this person, always come from a place of ‘let’s get to the truth’ rather than, ‘let’s get you to take on my truth’. Chances are, their thinking can and will evolve your own perspective.

No one sees reality clearly, we filter it through our perceptions which are guided by our values. Good discussion and debate leads to higher quality decisions. If you treat this person as a peer, they will open up to your message in pursuit of a solution.

Tells: The fanatic is that person who gets overly excited about what you have to say, yet does not seem to fully understand. They will cling to your advice and treat it like its irrefutable, and treat you like a god. Be warned though, it’s not often a good thing.

Tips: Be very wary of the fanatic, this is probably the most dangerous archetype. They are so desperate to rid of their problem they look for certainty anywhere they can get it. If you come at the fanatic with too much certainty, you are setting yourself up for a fall.

The fanatic will not work to actually understand your message, they just want the end result. If and when hiccups happen, this person will not expect it, and point the finger at you. Do not sell this person, educate them. Make sure they see and understand both the benefits and the risks associated with your approach.

Tells: This person rarely gets overly excited about anything. They are incredibly pragmatic and very logical in their learning. They have little to no hang-ups about changing their mind in the face of new and better information. This is the person whom asks thoughtful questions and really considers your answers.

Tips: Lay it all out for this person in a logical, sequential manner and let them chew on it. If they ask a question, don’t worry about how you need to answer it, just answer it. The politic is less interested in playing games than getting to the truth, and improving outcomes. Help them get there faster, and they’ll love you for it.

The politic is the easiest person to work with, and usually gets results faster and with less hiccups than any of the others. Use this to your advantage by showcasing their results as a case study for the cynics and sceptics.  It’s hard to refute the facts, especially when their peers are proving something works.

Build Your Skills

Remember, knowledge on its own is not power, it is only potential power. The ability to organise, integrate and translate knowledge into action is power, and this ability separates the successful from the smart.

To teach, first learn. Learn who your counterpart is, how they like to learn, and what student archetype they are likely to assume within the a given context. Use this information to frame your advice the right way, and tailor your approach and you will overcome resistance.

As with any skill, the best way to get better is to practice deliberately. Using this framework, start noticing which student archetypes those around you automatically assume within different contexts. Then start experimenting with the tips I have provided here, and come up with your own.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Nov 16

This Timeless Truth can Improve Your Wellbeing and Your Wealth

By Terry Condon | Psychology

[vc_row][vc_column column_width_percent=”80″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]I’d been feeling a little lost.

Sometimes being in business for yourself is great, other times it sucks. Despite some recent success I had been feeling stuck, frustrated, and fearful of the future.

Then something changed, at first it seemed insignificant, but over the course of a few months my outlook and productivity shifted dramatically. The catalyst? A bookcase.

My wife had been pestering me for literally six months about styling out our home office. This is where I do most of my writing, and though I could see how a little work could change the space, I wasn’t convinced it was a necessity.

I am an obsessive reader, my learning helps me solve my clients’ problems, but unfortunately it can also create clutter. We had more books than could be shelved and I had resorted to stacking them on top of and around the floor.

So, we spent a Sunday afternoon building the new bookcase and reconfiguring the room. As much as I struggled with the assembly I enjoyed working with my hands. It reminded me of my childhood, working on the farm with my family. When we finished I took a step back, and was genuinely shocked.

The space we had created matched almost exactly an idea I had in my head for years. I had always wanted a place where I could enrich my mind and nourish my soul. Now I realised what I wanted had always available to me, yet I had been too caught up in what I thought was missing to recognise it.

I didn’t need to move to another place, get it architecturally designed and styled by experts. I just needed to buy a bookcase and reconfigure a few things create the reality I wanted. The room I am sitting in as I write this is exactly the place I have dreamed about for years.

Why A Different Way of Seeing Is the Key to Wellbeing.  

Often, the things we want are right in front of us, but we are too consumed with their lack to see what might be possible. The world wants us this way, feeling unsatisfied keeps us off balance and hungry for more. More money, more prestige, more ‘work life balance’, just more.

Think about it, it’s hard to sell someone who doesn’t want anything. Marketing is about creating want, and highlighting the gap between what we want and what we have. The whole happiness industry thrives on it, and business is booming.

The ancient ideologies of both east and west pointed to this truth in different ways. Buddhists, Taoist and Stoics all counselled that the cause of suffering is desire. The very act of wanting something negates its existence, and creates a gap which causes the pain of lack or loss.

When we come from a place of ‘I have what I want and I want what I have’, we see how it is so. This simple reframe allows us to recognise the form in which our ‘want’ exists, and then reconfigure reality to realise our vision. These four steps are the key to drastically improving your wellbeing; reframe, recognise, reconfigure, realise.

The Japanese have a word for the insight that is required to kickstart this process: Kensho.  It means to see, or to awaken. When you think this way, you become like Neo in the Matrix, finally seeing reality for what it is: a bunch of code that can be moved around and manipulated for a different result.

This is not about being happy with your lot and settling into a life of mediocrity though, it’s actually a powerful principle for abundance. If you really take a look, you will see that thinking in this way is common to some of the most accomplished people on the planet.

How Ancient Wisdom Can Unlock Creativity and Create Abundance

When Steve Jobs bought a controlling interest in Pixar for five million dollars in 1986, he saw it for what it could be, not what it was. What it was was a fledgling enterprise software company comprised of eccentrics who liked to make short films with the skills and software they sold to others.

Under the Guidance of Jobs and Ed Catmull (Pixar’s President), Pixar became a pioneering animations studio that eventually sold to Disney for 7.6 Billion dollars, and became a publicly traded company.  Today it is the most revered animations studio on the planet.

When Jobs entered the smartphone sector with the iPhone, again he saw things as they could be rather than what they were. He saw that phones could be fashion items and built them to be that way, others saw what was or what had been and dismissed the product out of hand. Here’s a famous Clip of Microsoft Steve Balmer doing just that.

In the clip you’ll notice Balmer laughing about the price (no one has ever payed that), and deriding the product for its lack of features. He then points out that Apple had never sold phones before. His arguments offer a clue into his outlook. His want to win caused him to overweight the past and the present, and ignore the possibilities.

More recently the same thing happened when Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post. Many claimed he overpaid for a decaying organisation in a dying industry, and again wanting things to be different clouded what might be. Bezos, like Jobs made fools of the ‘experts.’

He saw that the conventional model could be revolutionised with new technology that could tailor information to users’ preferences. Using this insight, he has completely turned The Post around and made it one a standout success in an industry where most continue to fail.

What Will You Do With This?

This pattern recurs throughout history, and the cause is almost always the same. Desire defeats imagination and stimulates suffering. After my Kensho moment I started to look at other arenas in which I already had what I thought I wanted. I didn’t have to look far.

In the end I realised it’s just about making a choice: would you rather live in a world of possibility or misery? If you chose possibility then I offer you another choice:

Will you read this and dismiss it out of hand like Steve Balmer?

Will you read this and think nice notion, maybe later?

Or will you seriously consider how thinking this way could help you, and commit to giving it a go?

Like my bookcase, one small change could have a dramatic impact on your life. It is simply a matter of following the four steps: reframe – recognise – reconfigure – realise.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Nov 10

The Unique 4 Step Process That Helped Me Smash Stress and Get Back to My Best

By Terry Condon | Productivity , Psychology

[vc_row][vc_column column_width_percent=”80″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]If you believe the social media memes, the answer to your success is simple. It’s just a matter of working harder. ‘Hustle’ and ‘Grind’ seem to be the popular catch-cries ‘success’ merchants endlessly scream at the rest of us.

It’s true that no one succeeds without earning it. However, hustle is an ingredient not a recipe. The best performed people work hard at the right things, and completely ignore the rest. Success is about smarts first, and stamina is more often a consequence of do the right things right.

In this post I’m going to show you how you can re-imagine your work and life to better suit your nature. If there is any success hack it’s this: successful people align who they are with how they work, and always ensure they are making their highest contribution by doing so.

Working Harder Doesn’t Work

If you’re the kind of person that reads a post like this, I assume you already work hard – because you’re reading when everyone else is looking for catchy quotes on Instagram. Also, you’re reading. In an age of Netflix and Facebook, entertaining oneself often wins out over bettering oneself.

Am I being hypocritical by praising you? After all I just criticised ‘success merchants’ for lionising effort didn’t I? Well yes, but I’m not highlighting your effort so much as your thinking. While most cut corners or switch off wherever and whenever they can, you are thinking for yourself and seeking solutions.

Let’s quash this ‘hustle’ crap once and for all, shall we? Those who hustle hardest live in the third world. Their quality of life is a day to day proposition, and their survival depends on sustained effort. Those who ‘hustle’ the hardest in the first world are usually working to make others dreams a reality.

Nobody hustles harder than the poor Indian child begging for food on the streets of Calcutta. Nobody grinds it out like the minimum wage factory worker with little education and no specialised knowledge. I’m pretty sure these people would laugh at the idea more effort is all it takes.

Realise this, working hard matters most when your living depends on the work you do with your hands. In an idea economy, notions like ‘hustle’ and ‘grind’ often do more damage than good, and lock people into an endless unthinking cycle of struggle fuelled mediocrity.  

Research suggests that around 40% of workers in the private sector report high levels of burnout, and the public sector is worse at 60%. Plus, worker engagement is at an all-time low. Clearly, outcomes are not meeting expectations.

The thing is, you can’t give away what you don’t have. Constantly pushing yourself to your limits is more likely to lead to breakdown than breakthrough. I know this because I’ve made these mistakes myself, and learned the hard way.

The Day I Almost Ruined My Career

In my first job, I worked like a madman. I was young ambitious and selfless. I thought nothing of working twelve-hour days, then going home spending hours planning ahead. I thought I was killing it, until one day I almost did something that shocked me.

One wise quip from a colleague almost set me off. In that moment all I wanted to do was punch this guy right in the mouth. It was visceral, real and terrifying. When I took a step back, and really thought about my reaction I realised I my whole outlook had changed.

No one told me to work every day, no one told me I had to go home and work till late, neglect my partner, my friends, and my family. I assumed this was the cost of success, and so I had been working for three months without a day off. And then I crashed.

I lost the motivation, passion and purpose that are seminal to success. Suddenly my dream job had become a dreaded obligation, and I projected my sense of dissatisfaction and disillusionment onto my work, and those around me.

Apathy, illness, depression, anxiety and a host of others are often just signals from your body. In their own way all of these issues force you to repay the debt you’ve accumulated through an imbalanced approach to life and work. The pendulum always swings both ways.

It sounds obvious, but so many of us fall into the same trap. We give out much more than we put back in, and soon enough that imbalance corrects itself. Why would we do this? Because we’ve come to believe that rest gets in the way of work, and work is the key to success.

Why Recovery and Productivity are not Mutually Exclusive

Believe it or not, balance is an essential prerequisite for performance. If you make money using your mind then your brain is your most precious asset. Understanding how to get more from your mind then, is the hack you’re looking for.

Most people treat the mind like a machine, when it functions more like a muscle. The brain (which is the mind’s hardware) needs both stress and recovery to service the mind effectively. It works kind of the like the way a hybrid car toggles between using fuel and electricity.

The conscious mind is like the electric engine, it does the heavy lifting and gets things moving. This involves taking in information and sorting it into categorises it in relation to existing mental models. When we are working the conscious mind hard, experts call it focused thinking.

The unconscious mind is more like the gasoline engine. It leverages the momentum already created to further improve performance. It does this by making connections between new and existing information to arrive at insight. When we are using the unconscious in this way, experts call it diffuse thinking.

To get more out of your mind, you need to make the conscious and unconscious work together. The best way to do this is to cycle between periods of work and recovery. This means gathering all the information, and thinking hard about the issue at hand, then creating some distance.

Play is the fastest way, but this can also be achieved by switching to a task that requires less deliberation and conscious attention. Activities that allow the conscious mind to switch off or wander allow the unconscious to go to work making connections and solving problems.

This is why Steve Jobs took long walks, it is also why Richard Branson loves kitesurfing. There are plenty of ways to do this, and the key is finding the one that works for you. When I am writing, I take regular breaks to surf, or walk along rock shelves to force my mind to pay attention to something else.

Of course, this is an oversimplified explanation, but the important thing here is only to realise that just working harder rarely works. The world’s highest performers work hard and smart. But it’s not just about recovering better, it’s also about working in a way that suits your nature.

How to Make Your Life and Work… Work.

Crisis often precedes change, this is because crisis forces us to see clearly. When we see clearly, we choose wisely. After my moment of reckoning I understood I needed to get smarter about the work I took on and the way I completed it.

I realised that time is a finite resource, but energy is not. It follows then that learning how to manage and conserve your energy can drastically improve your work. This allows you to more effectively prioritise your tasks, and maximise your productivity -without compromising your well being.

Using the process I am about to share with you, I managed to cut my workload by about a third, while dramatically improving outcomes within three months. I also regained the meaning I had lost in my work. I now use this process with the majority of my coaching clients.

Once executive I worked with used this process to re-imagine a key aspect of his job which for a long time had drained him. The changes he made instantly improved both his performance and productivity, and to his surprise his colleagues much preferred his new method also. This works, and it can work for you.

In an effort to keep this concise, I will be more instructive than descriptive here. Though if you have any questions about this process or would like any more info, feel free to drop me a note at hello@terrycondon.com.

There are a couple of key definitions you need to know before undertaking this task. The first is energy, and the second is necessity.

Energy: for the purposes of this this process I define energy as the joy and flow that can experienced during a task. The process of ‘doing’ a task may either light you up or drag you down. High energy tasks can offer us insight into our preferences, low energy tasks also show us something of ourselves.

Necessity: This is how important the task is to you and or others. A high necessity task must absolutely be done by you. low necessity tasks may be done by others or maybe even not at all. Thinking about necessity is important when it comes to making space to double down on those tasks in which you can make your highest contribution.

Your highest contribution will be made by focusing mostly on those tasks that light you up, and which are essential. These are the tasks that inherently suit your nature, and in which you will display higher levels of commitment, focus and creativity.

In order to clear the way for more time and energy spent on high energy, high necessity tasks, we must prune elsewhere. The four-step process is essentially about pruning. Here you will learn how to rid yourself of excess, and redesign your life to better suit your inherent nature.

Step 1: Audit Your Life

1.1 Make a list of all the activities and tasks you repeat on a daily and weekly basis.

1.2 Mark a plus (+ = like) or a minus (- = dislike) next to each activity depending on whether a task gives you energy or drains you.

1.3 Divide your list into two, one for all the high energy tasks, and one for the low energy tasks.

1.4 Rank and sort your lists so the highest energy tasks are on top of one list, and the lowest energy tasks are on top of the other.

Step 2: Look for Patterns

2.1 Take a good look at your favourite three to five tasks. Rank them on a 1-5 scale in terms of how much energy they give you and how necessary it is you be the one that is doing them.

2.2 Look for any themes that emerge. For example, upon completing this exercise I realised that I tend to gain energy from tasks that involve creativity, critical thinking and a level of collaboration.

2.3 List these themes and then rank them according to your preferences. To do this, think about what trade-offs you would make if forced. For example, if I could only have one of creativity or collaboration which would I choose?

2.4 Those tasks which are high energy yet low necessity should be delegated. Trust me on this, these are the surplus that need to be culled first. A little pruning here creates important space

 Step 3: Make Comparisons

3.1 Now, looking at your most dreaded tasks, isolate the top three to five.

3.2 Assign each task a 1-5 rating for energy and necessity. For example, a task may sap me of energy (less than 2/5), and be of moderate necessity (3/5).

3.3 Now rank this short list in terms of necessity, those tasks that are of lowest necessity should be on top, and those of higher necessity should come later.

Step 4: Moderate and Innovate

4.1 Starting with low energy, low necessity tasks (I call them ‘baggage’). Make one of two choices, either drop them completely, or delegate them. Those tasks which are of low necessity to you, but high necessity to the smooth running of things should be delegated, all else should be dropped at least temporarily.

4.2 For low energy high necessity tasks (I call them ‘fixer uppers’), pick out the lowest hanging fruit. This is the low energy high necessity task that can be redesigned most easily, and which causes the least disruption to others.

4.3 Consider how this task might be redesigned to suit your preferences. Do this by thinking about ways to inject those common themes that emerged from tasks you enjoy. For example, you might think about how to inject more creativity into a task that feels very constrictive.

4.4 Once you have settled on a prototype, test it and continue to iterate until you get the desired result (doing an old job a new way which improves the experience and outcomes simultaneously)

4.5 Using a ‘lean’ approach prototype ideas and test their effectiveness, continue to iterate until you get the desired result.

4.6 Repeat this process with the other ‘fixer upper’ tasks until you have improved the experience as well as the outcomes for all.

Learnings: The Three Assumptions That Clog Up Your Life

Too often we make assumptions about our life and work that add to the complexity of our lives and drain us of energy. These assumptions are very often the cause of burnout and should be called into question.

The first assumption is every task being carried out regularly is of high necessity. This is very often not the case, many tasks may have been high necessity at one stage yet are no longer required (or can be done better by others) for things to continue running smoothly.

The second assumption is that the way a task is currently done is the best way it can be done. Once again this is often flawed logic. Your preferences have a major impact on how committed you are to doing a task well. Neglecting to rework your work to better suit you is a huge mistake, and is often the cause of poor work.

The third assumption is that work is a stressor, and life is not. This process should be used for tasks outside of work, as well as those within it. I used this process to redesign the way weekly chores are allocated in my home, and the result was a dramatic drop in conflict. I did not realise how these small but regular skirmishes impacted by ability to recover at home until they no longer existed.

The Take Home

Our lives constantly collect clutter like our closets do, yet we are more likely to invest hours spring cleaning and changing our physical environments than we are our psychic one’s. This is often to our detriment.

To do your best work, you need a balance of stress and recovery, and this requires you to create and defend space for tasks and activities in which you can make your highest contribution.

Making your work better suit your nature requires some thought, and the discipline to follow four key steps. First audit your life, next mine it for insight, then isolate the excess, and finally eliminate or innovate[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Nov 06

The Real Reason Your Team is Overly Dependent on You – And What to Do About it

By Terry Condon | Engagement , Motivation

[vc_row][vc_column column_width_percent=”80″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]When you find yourself spending most of your time placating your people, leadership can be a drain. An overly dependent team saps you of energy and stifles long term success.

This common occurrence has a common cause, though the sources of the solution are a little more surprising. In this post you’ll learn how a well-known movie character and world-famous toy can reveal a powerful strategy that can help you change the game.

When you are able to transform your staff into self-starters who manage and motivate themselves, you can shift your approach. This means you can be less coach; endlessly encouraging and critiquing, and more mentor; sensibly observing and advising.

The Trials of Leadership Can Outweigh its Trappings

When you are responsible for any group of people working together toward a result, a certain amount of time will be spent reassuring others. The law of odds dictates that you will always have one or two people who need a higher degree of support.

However, just getting things done can be a struggle when your entire team acts like a needy first girlfriend, constantly requiring attention and affection. Constantly having to stroke others egos can be a little like trying to master one of those old school toys where you push one end in, only to have another pop out.

Having to have the same kinds of conversations can get pretty old pretty quick. Eventually, most leaders will try to create some distance in one of three ways: becoming short and blunt with staff, creating walls of bureaucracy, or adding new layers of management.

The defence mechanisms described above may work for a period, but inevitably lead to more serious problems. Deprived of their usual avenues for significance, people will create new ways to be seen or feel important, and this is where politics and power games find fertile ground.

As with most common problems, prevention is always better than cure. Mopping up the mess from the office soap opera is far more work than the time it takes to create healthy avenues for ambition. However, to ensure any solution is effective, first we must accurately diagnose its’ cause.

Your People are Different, But their Wants are the Same

It seems sexy at the moment to attribute issues with motivation, engagement and teamwork to generational differences. ‘Millennials just don’t get it’ is the popular sentiment many continue to cling to. This is actually an age-old argument and in the end is redundant.

Throughout the course of history there has always been tension between incumbents and their eventual successors. Just as millennials refuse to wait patiently, baby boomers were once hippies who rejected the rigid rules of the past. Patterns always repeat through history. In the end, leadership means taking responsibility, not pointing the finger.

Like it or not the game has changed. The people who work for you are not ‘millennials’ they are just people who grew up in a different world. However, though their worldview is different the things that drive them and inspire them remain the same.

Most working people today grew up in a world where computers were the norm. This is important because computers enable data. For a generation that grew up using social media or playing computer games, feedback was always at their fingertips. They used it to gauge their progress, and alter their approach in order to improve their results.

To a person who grew up in this world of real time, relevant feedback, and variable rewards, work is too often a wasteland. To this person, the annual performance review is actually insulting. It does not inspire confidence or commitment; more likely it breeds complacency and or contempt.

All people want to feel like what they are doing matters, they are doing it well and their future is bright. Yet todays workforce is more assertive in seeking this validation. They are less likely to tolerate ambiguity, and will not blindly obey authority.

So how do we get the best out of this new breed?

What the Tamagotchi and Mr Myagi Can Teach Us About Motivation and Mastery

Most people misunderstand motivation. Too often we assume people who aren’t acting the way we want don’t have it, and that it is an important prerequisite for success. This causes all kinds of incentive schemes which often devalue the task itself and destroy the inherent pleasure in improvement.

People don’t need to be motivated to do better, we are wired to seek progress. Evolution has burned it into our DNA: adapt and improve or die. In the book Psycho Cybernetics Maxwell Maltz likens this ancient instinct to the way a missile seeks out its target and steers its way toward it.

This in-built improvement mechanism is the major reason why the Tamagotchi became one of the most popular toys of all time. Over seventy-six million units have been sold since its inception. Why? Because this game gave people a simple target (keep your digital pet alive) and provided ample opportunity to feel like a winner in some small way, every single day.

Just think about the time, attention and effort millions of people poured into such a simple, ridiculous goal. What may have been achieved had this human capital been deployed toward worthy ends that supported themselves and or their communities?

Just as people don’t need to be motivated, neither is motivation a causal factor in success. Despite what most popular social media memes seem to suggest, motivation is not the spark that ignites or propels a person toward success. Instead it is gradual success (otherwise known as progress) that propels people along the journey toward mastery.

In the movie karate Kid, the protagonists mentor – Mr Myagi shows us how motivation really works. At first an angry boy wants his help to get revenge on the local bully. Yet by the time Mr Myagi is done with him the boy is obsessed with mastering the art of karate, and almost indifferent to payback.

How did this happen? Mr Myagi started with simple exercises which built competence, gradually as the boy began to put the puzzle pieces together he built confidence. Soon he was exhibiting a level of consistency and intensity he had not believed he was capable of.

With consistency came progress and once progress showed up – suddenly the means was transformed into the end. He had now internalised the drive to master karate, why? Because he was getting good at it. And herein lies the secret: motivation is not a catalyst, it is a consequence of success.

The sooner a person sees visible progress, the sooner they will take a liking to almost any task. To get people to do big things, we need to chunk it right down and help them build competence. Competence leads to confidence and inspires consistency in the search for visible progress.

Gamification is a fancy word for doing just that.

How to Use Gamification to Power Your Teams Performance.

Without progress there is no motivation, but without some form of success there is no sustained effort to reach that point of progress. Like Mr Myagi we break it down for people and help them master the parts. Like the Tamagotchi, we provide them with opportunities to win every day in a variety of ways.

In order to apply this to your context it can help to think about the mechanics of a game. Games have three core components: a goal, rules and feedback. Your team as a whole and each member within it needs a daily goal, consistent rules and fast feedback loops which can validate and inform behaviour.

How do we get there? With five simple steps.

Step 1: Get Granular.

If the only markers for success are quarterly or annual objectives, then by that definition most days will be deemed a failure. If you want consistent effort, you need to make it possible for your people to win every day in a variety of ways. Too often we don’t go far enough:

if you want your staff to have a good year, show them what having a good quarter looks like

if you want them to have a good quarter, show them what having a good month looks like

if you want them to have a good month, show them what having a good week looks like

If you want them to have a good week, show them what having a good day looks like.

If we want people to go the distance, we need to help them take the first step. This means that although we work backward to create strategy for success, we need to communicate forward. This can be done by making it very clear what a good day looks like.

Think about the best days you can remember that did not involve achieving some long-term target. What was it about these days that struck home. Specifically, it can help to think about people’s attitudes, their actions and the results achieved on these days. These are your generic criteria.

Now look at your quarterly objectives, and think about what needs to be achieved each month, each week and each day in order to meet these targets. Find the lead metrics people can act on each day in order to achieve those lag metrics.

Step 2: Score it

Using the generic and specific criteria that describe what a good day looks like, create your own daily success formula, index or function. This should take in all the inputs and come up with one simple figure which can be recorded and tracked over time. Think of this as the teams overall score, just like in sport the team score is essentially an aggregate of a variety of inputs covering an array of disciplines.

Play around with the weighting you give to each criterion and observe how it impacts behaviour and performance. Try to make this as objective as possible. Rather than creating rating scales for attitudes, think about the objective metrics that are highly correlated to attitude.

For example, if ‘strive for excellence’ is a core value, look for those stats which indicate effort. For a sales team it might be number of outbound calls, number of courses or seminars attended. Look for those objective numbers that correlate to the behaviours espoused in your values.

Over time, you should be able to clearly define the threshold for daily success. Once you have a good indicator of your teams ‘ability’ you want to progressively keep moving that bar ahead of them. Do this right and you will be creating the conditions for flow.

Step 3: Track it 

What gets measured gets managed, but too often we’re not measuring the things that matter. Tracking the business numbers such as revenue, profit or anything regarding money is essential for making decisions about the business. However, emphasising the idea of money makes people less likely to want to help each other, and can crowd out intrinsic motivation for mastery.

Using the overarching success metric helps take the focus off the typical targets, and keeps your people process focused. To keep their attention, make sure that scores are recorded and available for comparison. Tracking trends in the score and various success criteria over time creates an important feedback loop. Consistent, relevant feedback allows your people to come up with their own ways to improve.

If you will not be the person tracking this, make someone you trust responsible for it. Putting your best people in charge shows that you take it seriously (you would not waste resources if it were a phase), and will ensure it actually gets done.

Step 4: Show it

Link your tracking system to a scoreboard that makes progress and daily success visible. Preferably you want this dashboard to be a physical artefact that your team will walk past frequently. Digital scoreboards are cool, but they are less likely to triggers awareness or action.

My wife and I have a simple system for regularly affirming each other in our relationship. On the back of our bedroom door is a whiteboard with 3 incomplete sentences: I appreciate A, I am grateful for B, and I am proud of C. Because this ritual has been made physical, every morning I walk out of the room I am reminded to do my ABC’s 😊.

A public dashboard keeps people focused on the score, and helps them visualise how the parts make up the whole to create progress and success. As Mr Myagi taught us making progress visible is the heart of motivation and attention.

Step 5: Use it

Using the scoreboard means referring to it regularly. In your meetings, talk about how the team and each individual is doing. Ask questions about where improvement can come from, and why. Keep updating the assumptions, and tweaking the criteria. Keep moving the needle to stretch your team to new levels of improvement and performance.

Help each person come up with their own individual scoring system and use it the same way. Encourage them to think about how their own actions, attitudes and results contribute to the team success score. This can be a great way to make the dreaded annual review obsolete.

When it is very clear how someone is doing, the conversation can be focused more on higher level ideas, such as; where improvement might come from, further education, career progression etc. These are the conversations that build trust, commitment and engagement.

Give it Some Time

Here’s the reality, you’re probably not going to nail this straight up. My advice is to start simple and slowly keep evolving things as you learn more and confidence in the system builds. It’s best to allow at least three months (preferably six) to get the hang of it.

The best way to introduce this is by involving your people early on. Be clear on the purpose of the undertaking and how decisions will be made, but get their input. The more they co create their experience, the more invested they will be in its success.

The Takehome

Ambiguity is the enemy of progress. When people are not clear on what success looks like, they look for ways to find reassurance and or significance. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that motivation is missing, realise that it needs to be uncovered not created.

To build independence, invest time and energy to combat complexity and leverage game mechanics. Make progress and success visible and achievable every day, and motivation will follow. Create a scoring system, build a scoreboard, track your progress and refer to it regularly.

If you have read this far, hopefully you’re thinking about giving this a go, I have included some recommended resources below. These offer a little more detail on designing games and linking them to your objectives.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column column_width_percent=”80″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/1″][vc_custom_heading]

Read

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Listen

[/vc_custom_heading][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Game Changer podcast [/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Oct 26

Forget Personality Profiling, Here’s Three Simple Steps to Build a Better Team

By Terry Condon | Personality profiling , Team Building

[vc_row][vc_column column_width_percent=”80″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]If you’re like most leaders, at some point you’ll want develop a better understanding of yourself and your people.  This is probably because you intuitively know that a deeper understanding among and between your team can lead to improved cohesion and commitment.

Personality profiling tools are increasingly presented as a performance solution, yet current research shows that employee engagement is at all-time lows. Clearly something is amiss. In this post you will learn why profiling can be problematic, and what the best leaders do differently to build team capability.

By properly examining the underbelly of profiling, you will be better placed to use these tools effectively, instead of being used by them. Avoiding these common traps can help you develop a more nuanced view of your people, and improve your ability to unite, align and guide your team toward success.

Can Profiling Really Improve Performance?

Today’s glut of personality profiling tools has grown in response to a demand that reportedly exceeds five hundred million dollars a year. Almost one in five organisations use personality profiling for hiring, and just as many or more for team development.

Yet profiling as a method is not new. Actually, it is probably better described as an instinct than a method. People have been profiling each other since we developed the capacity to think, and it serves a very important purpose. Unfortunately, that purpose has little to do with relationships, teamwork or performance.

To profile someone is to assess them, to size them up and basically determine whether they are predator or prey. At its core, profiling is about survival not performance, judgement not understanding. The popularity of profiling tools is a largely due to our most primitive instincts.

One of the earliest methods of profiling was a pseudoscience called ‘phrenology’. It rose to prominence in the early 1800s as the means for determining a person’s psychological attributes. The methods creator – Franz Joseph Gall – argued that the brain was simply the hardware of the mind, and therefore the makeup of the brain could tell us something about a person’s mind.

The process gained popularity in no small part because of its simplicity. Essentially all that was required to understand another person was to observe the shape of their skull, and feel its surface for specific indentations. Sounds ridiculous, right?

Of course, no one today would accept such an oversimplified approach, and those who know their history would more likely condemn it.  This is because phrenology was commonly used to justify all kinds of prejudice and bias.

Unfortunately, today’s profiling methods are not much more effective than Phrenology when it comes to understanding people. Sure, they may seem a whole lot more scientific and comprehensive, but anyone who knows anything about brain research will tell you that we are still barely scratching the surface.

Personality is the result of a multitude of factors, each mixing together as the brain forms during our formative years. Patterns of care, life experiences, social and cultural norms along with plenty of other influences play a role in creating a world view that is as unique as a fingerprint.

The brain is a universe yet to be fully mapped, and every person is a galaxy rarely explored. Yet because profiling is viewed as a panacea, many leaders remain more tourist than traveller – relying on the same routes, and satisfied with only superficial experiences.

Knowing what someone is like does not help us understand them. To truly understand someone and develop a robust working relationship, we must understand why they are the way they are. To fully comprehend someone, we must work to learn how the watch works, not what time it is.

Of course, those who spruik profiling tools often sell improved engagement, commitment and or performance, but they are actually capitalising on our survival instincts. More often the process of profiling actually undermines the very relationships leaders seek to strengthen.

Why Your Lazy Lizard Brain Is Limiting Your Leadership.  

To understand why we find profiling tools so seductive, we need to recognise something about how the brain actually works. In order to do this, let’s play a little game. Please read through the following questions and their answers, then answer the last on your own.

What do we call a tree that grows from acorns? [Oak]

What do we call a funny story [Joke]

What sound does a frog make [Croak]

What is another word for cape [Cloak]

What do we call the white part of an egg [???]

If the word yoke popped into your head or you blurted it out instead of the word albumen (or just egg white), you just experienced the way your brain prefers to process the world. At our core we are hardwired for survival, and that means our brains are constantly detecting patterns and creating shortcuts that can cut cognitive load.

The brain is about as fuel efficient as a pickup truck. Lots of thinking drains your energy stores, and this is risky when it comes to survival. The animal inside you wants to conserve as much energy as possible in order to maximise your chances of survival in the event of danger.

The brain, at its best…

What Your Brain Looks Like

Lazy brains in busy people make simplistic solutions very seductive. We much prefer a soothing, oversimplified story to describe someone than the messy complex reality. Philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls this tendency the ‘Narrative Fallacy’, and it causes all kinds of misunderstandings and mistakes.

Because of these tendencies, we often interpret results from profiling tests as an accurate portrayal of people when in fact they are simply useful models. Our lazy lizard brain creates the illusion of understanding when in reality we have simply acquired new knowledge.

During an interview with Harvard Business Review, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic (the CEO of Hogan Insights, which is a prominent personality profiling company) explained that models are either useful or accurate but never both. No model can accurately explain the complexity of a person, and the assumption that it can is very damaging to relationships.

When we let these tools act as a substitute for our own thinking. We effectively outsource the effort required to build and maintain strong working relationships. This sends a very clear message to subordinates – ‘spending time to get to know you is too hard, I’d rather read a report’.

Unfortunately, the end result is usually the absolute opposite of the original intention: functional, surface level relationships characterised by transactional interactions. Potentially, we might become more efficient at working with others by avoiding certain ways of relating, but this should not be mistaken for cohesion or commitment.

Functional relationships frequently buckle under pressure. When things go wrong people will either be too afraid to speak openly and honestly about issues, or they will attempt to dominate their peers by using aggressive and antisocial behaviour.

This unsettling cycle of unhealthy repression or expression damages trust, and promotes survival of self over success of team. Obviously, this is hardly a recipe for loyalty, cohesion, commitment or performance.

If profiling is not the answer then, what is to be done?

How to The Best Leaders Really Build Their Teams: Three Steps For Success.

Management guru Peter Drucker was fond of reminding almost anyone who would listen, ‘what everyone knows is usually wrong’. He reasoned that uncommon results are rarely achieved through common approaches, and therefore convention should always be questioned.

In the case of building better teams, it would seem his philosophy stands the test of time. While many leaders continue to lean on profiling and other ‘proven’ methods, a few do things differently and predictably reap the rewards.

Success leaves clues, but not where most people look. Some leaders and their teams will succeed because of any combination of sheer talent, luck and or timing. There is little to learn from these examples. Instead, we are much better served studying those who succeeded in spite of the odds.

One recent example stands out. In September 2017, The Richmond Football Club capped off a stunning turnaround to win the premiership after finishing thirteenth in the Australian Football League the previous season. The championship broke a 37-year drought and caught the whole competition off guard.

At the beginning of the season, Damien Hardwick – the teams coach – was considered lucky to have survived a thorough review. In fact, few believed he would see out the season. His team had several established stars, and some smart recruiting added talent, but these were far from game changers.

Despite gloomy predictions from the pundits, the Tigers seemed to get better as the competition wore on. By the end of the season no team could match them for intensity, commitment or unity. Suddenly a mediocre group had become world beaters. Throughout the finals, they did not just beat their opponents, they eviscerated all who stood between them and success.

To understand how leaders like Hardwick turn talent into team, it can be fruitful to deconstruct their success. Knowing Damien, many of his staff and athletes quite well, I know they would not agree their achievement can be boiled down to anything resembling a formula.

I do not intent to oversimplify or trivialise their success, this would undermine the smarts, skill and effort the whole club invested over much more than one year. However, I do believe some important aspects of their story can provide leaders seeking unity with some very valuable answers.

In studying some of the changes Hardwick made, three key steps become apparent:

First create space.

Next, encourage disclosure.

Last, invest time.

Create Space.

The responsibilities of leadership can be overwhelming, and somewhere along the line it is easy to forget that the people part of the job, is the job. When you spend too much time placating the wrong people (anyone outside your team), you often neglect to invest time with your team.

After a disastrous 2016 season, Hardwick realised his relationship with his job, his team and the sport had degenerated to one he was not proud of. He did not turn away from the reality, he looked inward to understand it, and then went about addressing it.

The most successful leaders I have worked with have always been more editor than engineer. They work to strip away the complexity from their roles, and roles of others in order to make success more visible. Hardwick did this by working with his staff to get back to the basics.

This meant simplifying the strategy so that it could be more easily communicated. In doing this, he reduced the need for long technical teaching sessions, and created more space for meaningful interactions.

Encourage Disclosure.

One clear example of these meaningful interactions was dubbed ‘the HHH sessions’. During these sessions, one person stood up in front of their peers and shared three stories: one of hardship, another about a hero and another about a life highlight. Hardwick started this off, and his players followed in succession.

The genius in this simple initiative is in how it builds trust. When you share something personal with someone, you are essentially sharing a secret. Secrets are valuable and it is human nature to want to reciprocate when someone offers you something of value.

Social science studies show that disclosure is the key element in strong, lasting relationships. In fact, this one element when introduced to an interaction between any two people can create long lasting bonds. When people share something of themselves, the ensuing interactions go beyond the usual surface level.

The watch word frequently repeated among the tigers’ players during season 2017 was ‘connection’. When the chips were down or the stakes were high, the bonds built on the back of better interactions were there for all to see. The Tigers played for each other, longer and harder than everyone else.

Spend Time.

Sharing some secrets over a campfire while on retreat is not what the Tigers did. One of the main reasons initiatives like the HHH sessions are perceived as gimmicks is because they are almost always used infrequently. When we spend time on something, we show it is important. When we do things haphazardly and half-heartedly we don’t build trust, we breed cynicism.

The HHH sessions went on for not one week, not two weeks – but forty-four weeks. One team member shared themselves with their team each and every week. Carving out time in the weekly schedule sent a very clear message: this is not a gimmick, getting to know each other is vital to our success.

Instituting this as weekly ritual also gave each experience more gravity than were it to be done back to back over a period of hours or days. This was not a box to be ticked, this was something to take very seriously in service of shared success.

When the rhythm of day to day work is centred around on processes, functions, and results. You Get functional relationships that produce predictable outcomes. If you’re wanting more however, you need to invest time to unite and align your people. To avoid being gimmicky, create rituals like the HHH sessions that work for your context and embed them into your routine.

The Take Home.

Unity leads to improved capability, but beware of common mistakes. Very often tools are gimmicks, and gimmicks can be tools. Profiling is not a solution, it is simply information.

To build a better team do three things: create space for meaningful interactions, encourage disclosure to build strong bonds, and be consistent to avoid cynicism.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Oct 05

The One Skill That Separates the Successful Leader

By Terry Condon | Decision making

[vc_row][vc_column column_width_percent=”80″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]As organisations grow, people begin to specialise in skill sets. In the seed stage of a start up the founders do almost everything, however as resources become available so does expertise. Greater resources and expertise means improved processes and better judgement. However, more moving parts also creates a more complex system.

Leaders live and die by their choices, and tapping into the abilities and knowledge of those around them is an essential skill for success. Effective leaders in today’s make good calls more often. They do this by making best use the expertise and information at their disposal. This post outlines what gets in the way of good decision making, and which practices are common to leaders who develop superior judgement.

Why Good Decisions Differentiate The Most Successful Leaders

Leaders come in all shapes and sizes; maybe there are some traits more common to effective leaders, but the truth is there is no single leadership personality. Some are strong and self-assured (think Mark Cuban). Others are less dominant and assertive in their style (Richard Branson), though both can be equally effective in different environments. However diverse leaders can be in their approach, there is one skill ALL successful leaders possess: the ability to reliably make good choices.

A leader who possesses all the personality traits that endears him to others, yet makes poor decisions will inevitably struggle to succeed. Whereas the leader who may not relate quite as well, yet dependably makes good decisions has a greater chance of survival and success. Of course, the very best leaders relate well and make excellent decisions, yet superior judgement more often distinguishes the successful leader. The harsh reality is, the litmus test for leadership is results, not sentiment.

An organisations results are merely the consequence of a multitude of decisions made by leaders and their staff over time. Decision such as which market to pursue, how much to invest in marketing versus product, who to recruit and how much should to spend to get them. The aggregate effect of these and many other similar decisions have a huge influence on a firms odds of success.

The key to making good decisions is to first understand and address what gets in the way, then apply the timeless techniques used by those who demonstrate superior reasoning and judgement. First, lets look at what prevents good decisions.

The Three Obstructions to Effective Decisions

There are three principal barriers to good decisions. Together these obscure the truth and trick us into believing we are being logical and rational when in many cases we are not. The first is our lazy human brain, the second is an inflated ego and the third is the pressure to perform. These hindrances cause cognitive clangers that lead us to ignore key information, be overconfident in our assumptions, and succumb to short-term emotional thinking.

Our lazy brain has evolved to keep us safe and be energy efficient. In order to do this, the brain must choose which information it pays attention to, and which it ignores. The brain is so good at this that we don’t even need to think about it, it all happens automatically without our even being aware of it. When we make fast ‘intuitive’ judgement calls using only the limited information our brain has presented us, we use what psychologists call a ‘heuristic’. Sort of like a rule of thumb.

Heuristics are alot like computer algorithms; most of the time they work exceptionally well, but only for very specific well defined, well established problems.  Our brains use heuristics to cut cognitive load and conserve energy in case we need it (to survive) later. When a heuristics causes us to make an error in judgement, experts call it a cognitive bias.

We are all prone to make these mental mistakes if we are unaware of our tendency to rely on heuristics. No one is immune from cognitive biases, but we can apply systems to override them. The only thing standing in the way of our using these systems is our inflated ego.  When we believe our instincts are above question, we neglect to involve others or search for more information. This leads us to defend and justify fast, faulty judgements made by our lazy brain. Experts call this tendency overconfidence.

Overconfidence is common and easily addressed, however an inflated ego will cause its owner to dismiss new information and also at times those who present it. In sport, overconfidence can cause leaders to fall victim to another cognitive bias called the Dunning Kruger effect. This mental mishap causes those with relatively low knowledge or skill to overrate their abilities, and those with high knowledge or skill to underrate their abilities.

Leaders are particularly susceptible to the Dunning Kruger effect when an inflated ego leads them to mistake their authority in an organisation for superiority across all areas. When leaders overconfidence causes them to downplay or discard expert advice, they reject information that does not match their predetermined conclusions. This sees them dominate or manipulate decisions in areas outside their expertise. This interfering frequently leads to misinformed, misguided decisions that often undermine long-term success.

Why would leaders meddle in this way? Probably because they are often under immense pressure to produce wins. In business, where there are many stakeholders there is very little tolerance for taking ones time, the perfect leader acts with conviction and quickly turns a firms fortunes around. This unrealistic pressure can fuel intolerance for ambiguity, causing leaders to mistake the uncertainty exhibited by experts for indecision. This intolerance causes leaders to overlook or ignore important contextual information from others when making critical decisions.

At this point it might seem like biology, psychology and the environment are constantly conspiring against us, in some ways this might be true. However the good news is that in this case knowledge can indeed be power. Simply being aware of and acknowledging our inherently human flaws instantly makes us better decision makers. In addition there are five timeless techniques observed by leaders who make good decisions that lay the groundwork for success.

The Five Elements of Good Decisions

The best decision makers learn to tame their ego, manage external pressure and stay sceptical of their overconfidence. They achieve this by following a specific pattern. First they decide how to decide, then they establish the specifications a decision must meet. Next they encourage dissenting opinions. Once a decision has been made they commit to it and expect the same of others. Finally, good decision makers learn and improve their process by paying close attention to outcomes compared to expectations.

Decide how to decide:

Abraham Lincoln is famous for assembling a ‘team of rivals’ to help him lead the country as president. Some of these men thought they should be president, some openly despised each other, and others were far from trustworthy. Despite this, Lincoln made excellent use of their diverse perspectives to form superior judgement and consistently make good decisions in the best interests of his country. He got the best out of his team by respecting all opinions, while being transparent about how a decision would be made and by whom.

There are four types of decisions: command, consult, vote and consensus. To command is the quickest, yet generally the least effective means. To consult assumes responsibility for making the decision, yet defers authority on the matter to experts where necessary. To vote yields responsibility to the majority. To reach consensus requires all involved agree on the same course of action.  All decisions that involve others are superior to the use of command, since they allow a leader to see outside their own incomplete outlook. Yet to make suitable use of others, it is important to clearly define the desired outcome.

Establish the Specifications

Seeking the opinions of experts and trusted advisors is the mark of a wise man and a good decision maker. In today’s information economy it is impossible to know enough about everything. However, where a counsel is formed for the purposes of making a decision, ego will inevitably emerge.  ‘Distracted purpose’ occurs when people become more concerned with pushing their own agenda for resources, favour or power than achieving the central objective.

Lincoln and other good decision makers moderated the influence of distracted purpose by assembling the right people and clearly defining what a decision is about (and if required what it is not about). Establishing the specifications a decision must meet requires two steps; the first is describing what constitutes success, the second is clarifying the deeper reason why a particular decision matters in the context of the bigger picture. Effective leaders include the right people and also ensure the group is clear on the specifications a decision must meet. Then they encourage honest opinions from all.

Encourage debate

Some leaders assemble a team (of yes men), whose real job is not to offer an expert, honest opinion, but guess and mirror their own. This is a recipe for mediocrity, failure or even disaster. If everyone unanimously agrees, some are not thinking, or are subjugating their truth for the truth of others. Experts call this ‘groupthink’. When President John F Kennedy approved the Bay of Pigs invasion to overthrow dictator Fidel Castro in Cuba, he thought all his advisors were united in their recommendation. In reality his team told him what they thought he wanted to hear, and the result almost created a nuclear war.

The best way to avoid overlooking crucial information is to create an environment where people feel safe to speak truth to power. In his brilliant management book ‘Creativity Inc’, Pixar President Ed Catmull advises teams to put honesty before harmony when making decisions. The way to do this is to de-emphasise symbols of hierarchy, and help people separate themselves from their ideas. Catmull writes: “you are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offence when they are challenged”. Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt also encourages dissent, but demands relevant data to validate opinions.

Demand Commitment & Congruency

When the decision has been made and it comes time to take action, success demands conviction. In many cases a poor strategy executed perfectly is still more likely to succeed than a perfect strategy executed poorly. Uncertainty invites distraction and causes errors. Effective leaders understand that commitment and congruency is essential for execution, so once deliberation has ended and a decision has been reached, they commit to it and demand that others do the same.

At this stage harmony takes precedence over honesty, and leaders present a united front to the team. Graham Henry and the All Blacks coaching staff observed the maxim ‘disagree and commit’ to reinforce the importance of unity among leadership. Where leaders assume responsibility, and the process has been transparent and fair, most people will accept and defer to the judgement of superiors. But good leaders don’t stop there, they continuously evaluate the effectiveness of decisions, and review the process for improvement.

Observe Outcomes vs Expectations

If you want to get better at something, you need to pay attention to feedback. Feedback helps you identify your weaknesses. ‘Black box thinking’ is a trendy term at the moment that encourages people to look back on ‘failures’ to see what can be learned. A black box that records all interactions and experience makes this easy, but without this technology we are dependent on our own subjective (often incomplete) interpretations of reality.

Reviewing decisions and interactions within the context of a process makes it much easier to spot and learn from mistakes or areas for improvement. For example, dominant leaders often find they typically need to take more of a back seat during deliberation stages, while passive leaders often need to be more assertive when decisions are communicated. Actively observing and reviewing outcomes versus expectations helps leaders learn, improve and adapt their approach faster.

Conclusion:

Mediocre leaders come to believe their instincts are above question, while the best leaders work to examine and overcome them. The fact is, our nervous system is wired for a very different world for the one we live in, and this often works against us when it comes to reasoning.

The future is fundamentally uncertain, this means not every decision is going to work out the way we like. Despite this, possessing the awareness of our weaknesses and adopting a systematic approach for important decisions can dramatically improve our judgement and stack the odds in favour of long-term success.[/vc_column_text][vc_wp_text]



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Oct 05

Why Automation Will Make Work More Human

By Terry Condon | Communication , Strategy

[vc_row][vc_column column_width_percent=”80″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]If you believe today’s rhetoric surrounding tech and its implications, you could be forgiven for thinking the world as we know it is about to end. In a way that might be true, but does this mean that the future of business will hinge solely on technology? I doubt it.

The rise of the service economy means that more and more people are in in the business of helping people. While technology can replace some aspects of how value is created and captured, anarchists often overlook the fact that business transactions ultimately occur between humans.

Leaders who are investing intelligently for the future understand that technology only makes the human element even more important. This is done by leveraging tech to improve the human experience, and doubling down on people development.

Is Code being Commoditised?

The increased educational focus on STEM reflects a particularly pervasive narrative around the future of work: if people don’t know how to program, they will struggle to add value. This makes sense on the surface, everywhere we look it seems as if Marc Andreessen’s assertion that ‘software is eating the world’ is proving correct.

The trained Taxi driver is all too aware of how technology can quickly change the game, and render one’s career obsolete seemingly overnight. Before them it was factory workers, and before them it was farmers. There is no doubt technology can and does replace people, in certain fields at least.

Do these trends mean that one-day humans will be irrelevant in business? Should all of us without ‘technical chops’ rapidly retool to stay relevant? This seems to be the popular sentiment – among technologists at least. But what if this thinking is completely wrong?

The truth is, code – like many other functions – can and will be commoditised. In fact, this is already happening. Ten years ago I payed multiple thousands for a (substandard) website I never used. Today I can build my own (much more functional) website for a fraction of that cost, all without coding.

I farm it out to a freelancer who can do the job quickly and cheaply within hours. That freelancer’s skills were worth ten times as much ten years ago, today it cost me less than an average night out to hire the same expertise.

Recently Marc Cuban (a pioneer in tech commerce) said that computers will eventually teach themselves to code. The idea is that artificial intelligence will become so smart that it will be less about programming our computers, instead we will train them.

If code is being commoditised, where and how should leaders spend their R&D invest dollars for the future?

Kevin Kelly, the founder wired magazine and author of technology treatise titled The Inevitable observes that we humans have a weird relationship with tech. He has stated that in general we tend to overestimate technologies impact in the present, and underestimate it over longer periods. Often this means people fall into one of two categories; sceptics or fanatics.

The reality is, those who do technology are not necessarily better placed to prosper in a technological future. If that were the case, then programmers would not be bidding for piecemeal prices on freelancing platforms. Instead those whom position themselves to prosper in the future will be those who best understand technology.

Tech = Transformation, not Disintegration.

If we study the past, we can see clear trends in how technology impacts humans. Before the industrial revolution most people worked with their hands. Then as machines took over the grunt work, we worked more with our minds. Today’s tech is often far superior at the logical, sequential data processing tasks, now those who do best, do business with their hearts.

In business, technology does two important things; it reduces friction and increases transparency. Think about how the experience of getting into an Uber differs from getting into a cab five years ago. Before you would be waiting around for a cab to drive by, hurrying to explain where you are going, and wondering how much it would cost.

Now you know exactly when and where to meet, no cash changes hands and the driver already knows where you are going. There are no transactional concerns to worry or think about. So what’s left to discuss?

Everything.

You and the driver are now much more likely engage in an actual conversation. What’s more, you are also more likely to bring your best selves to the interaction thanks to peer rating systems. These review systems make it much easier to know what you are going to get in any business transaction. This essentially means that over time the driver who is not only effective, but relatable will win.

We can see the same pattern across most industries, technology replaces certain aspects of work –  left brain, logical, sequential rational processing – but in doing so, much other aspects more important. Think Air BnB, Instacart, and Menulog.

How to Win Both Ways.

There is an important law of automation; anything that can be done better by a machine, will be, and (eventually) will be commoditised. This inevitably happens because what can be automated can be replicated, and Moore’s law means as tech keeps getting better, it gets cheaper.

The flipside of this is this law is just as true; anything that humans do better than a machine will be done by humans, and will increase in value. This is precisely because ‘human’ skills and tasks are variable and not as easily scaled or replicated.

As always in economics, scarcity drives value. Those firms and people who use the opportunity created by tech to build strong relationships, will dominate share of mind. Tech actually fuels this phenomenon; Think about how a bad rating on yelp or social media can impact a business fortunes.

Jeff Bezos can serve as a useful model for leaders looking for guidance. Amazon has pioneered the use of cutting edge technology to run its business, though everything is aligned toward a very human insight. People are always going to value goods that are low price and convenient.

Can you see the strategy here?

Relentless innovation enables amazon to prosper from what is changing, while an obsession on human relations allows the same company to thrive from what stays the same. This approach acknowledges that business is done between humans, yet technology can and will change things.

But would this work in other industries?

Absolutely, think about the change happening in the financial services sector right now. Low cost index funds are massively popular, and sophisticated algorithms do most of the worlds trading. Most people these days recognise that the human element is better eliminated from investing.

However, when it comes to making money decisions, people are always going to want human reassurance. So once again, the law of automation comes into play. This will favour the financial advisor who wins trust, builds strong relationships, and always exceeds expectations.

Making Trade-offs with Tech

Unfortunately, an emerging downside to tech is that it often creates inequality. In the past productivity gains associated with innovation created a bigger pie for everyone, however today this is not always the case. Nowadays a small group reap most of the benefits.

Billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel calls this a power law. In business, this can be seen by the increasingly obvious trend in which a few firms thrive while most struggle.  The winners are those leveraging technology to improve the human experience in every sector.

But what if you can’t do both? Unlike Bezos, few leaders have limitless resources. So how might one choose if forced to trade-off between investments in technology, versus investments in mastering the human element of business?

Assuming you are in the business of selling specialised knowledge, it would make sense to favour the development of people over tech. Tech will continue to fall in cost, while the cost of falling short on the human side of business will only continue to increase.

Despite the dizzying innovations in Medicine, today’s doctors face more litigation than ever. Why? They have forgotten the importance of the human aspect of their job. Copious amounts of research continue to show the majority of lawsuits can be retraced to a poorly handled first experience.

If you look around, the trend is clear. In today’s business world, treating people like machines, and being transactional is the fastest way to irrelevance.

However, choosing to invest in your people does not have to come at the cost of tech. Sticking your head in the sand is not a solution. Forward thinking leaders are doubling down on people development, and creating smart strategic alliances for tech at the same time.

This approach enables firms to avoid becoming distracted by dabbling in technology at the cost of their core competencies. It also ensures tech solutions solve human problems, since ideas for applications will come from practitioners, rather than engineers.

Case in point would be Nike. The global sporting goods manufacturer recently partnered with Apple to move into a more service oriented business model with its Nike + users. This has allowed the company to better understand its customer, in order to build stronger relationships and increase loyalty.

The Take Home.  

There is little doubt that business is getting more and more competitive and dynamic. The pace of change is dizzying and it can be hard to know how best to position yourself and or your business for the future.

The key to getting ahead is understanding how technology impacts the human experience, and using it accordingly. Innovation creates change, but the human element of business remains the same. This means the human experience is more important than ever.

Firms that are creating a competitive advantage focus on harnessing what is changing to master what won’t. These firms use tech to streamline business transactions and invest in ensuring their people master the people part of business.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Sep 20

To Gain Their Commitment, Give Them Your Time

By Terry Condon | Synergy

[vc_row][vc_column column_width_percent=”80″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]The words stung me as they were said.

I looked back over my shoulder and the muscles of my face worked overtime as I winced sarcastically. I figured acting defensive would buy me enough time to mask my pain and collect my thoughts.

I had been running around the whole morning organizing sessions and meeting with colleagues without a minute to sit and think. I was strung out, stressed out and had not had a full day off in over two and a half months.

I was busy, I felt overwhelmed and exhausted. So when an athlete asked me about his session plan, I didn’t even stop to answer, I just called over my shoulder ‘no time right now!’

No doubt my tone conveyed the sense of exasperation and self-pity I was feeling, still I was floored by his response. ‘You don’t even care do you!’ he shot back.

Sure he was smiling when he said it, but I knew that jokes often blanket truths that can be hard to stomach or say. And I knew that behind his playful exterior, to some degree he meant it.

I stopped, looked down at my shoes, covered in fresh grass clippings and soaked through to the socks. I was confused, I didn’t know if my anger outweighed my pain, if my shame overshadowed my embarrassment.

The comment had caught me by such surprise that I could not make sense of my feelings well enough to formulate a reasonable rationale response. So I just walked away without saying a word.

In the world of elite team sport, showing ‘weakness’ like this often attracts ridicule, on this occasion however there was pure silence. It was obvious I was unusually affected.

At home that night, I sat and thought about it. I wondered how it was possible that I could work so hard for so long and yet still be perceived as careless and cold by those I was working so hard for.

 I asked myself three simple questions;

  • Who am I doing this for if not for the athlete?
  • Why and where am I neglecting the parts of my work that mean the most to them?
  • Is this a one off occurrence or is this a pattern I need to address?

In answering these questions, I realized people don’t care about what we do behind the scenes, none of that is visible to them. What is visible is who we are and how we present when working with them.

Are we busy, stressed and short with our words? Do we take the time to notice the small things? Or are we so consumed with our ‘busyness’ that we forget or ignore that coaching is really just about people.

I had thought of ‘busyness’ as a sign of commitment and care. It’s not. In fact, it probably makes people who rely on us feel guilty and resent us. To show commitment and care, we must spend time with others when it matters.

Time is the most valuable commodity we can offer someone. No one regardless of status, wealth or rank has more time in a day than anyone else. So when we give others our time, we show them they are valued.

I am not talking about the time we give when we are collaborating and directing others, it’s the in between moments, when there is no obligation to spend time, answer personal questions or ask them. These can be great opportunities.

Once I began applying this new insight, I noticed my relationships strengthened, and the stronger the bonds, the greater my influence. Suddenly those I was working with found new levels of focus and intensity whenever I asked for it.

Taking the time to listen, interact and just be with people is what really matters to them. And when we give them what they value, they give us what we value. To get commitment we have to first give it as they understand it, not as we do.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Sep 20

How to Have The Hard Conversations – Without Damaging Relationships

By Terry Condon | Uncategorized

[vc_row][vc_column column_width_percent=”80″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Difficult conversations are part and parcel of leadership.

No one enjoys being the bearer of bad news, it can feel like we have to choose between being honest, and being liked, and no one doesn’t want to be liked.

The good news is, mastering the art of the crucial conversation can be learned. In fact this is one of the skills that sets great leaders apart from their peers. In this post we will look at how to deliver bad news and strengthen bonds with staff at the same time.

Sink Or Swim

Early on in my career in sport I learned the importance of having the hard conversations when I had to explain to athletes why they were not yet fully recovered from injury, and should not return to play.

Its tough telling someone who already feels bad (most athletes feel guilty when injured) that they have to feel bad for a little longer. It’s just as tough informing head coaches their athletes aren’t ready.

I made my fair share of mistakes early, but I worked to learn how to communicate effectively and when things worked out I took notice. Here are a few things I’ve learned:

1: Do your work early:

In the past I have covered the importance of spending time with your staff and showing them you care about them as people. If you haven’t done enough of this, it’s probably not going to go well no matter how good your intentions.

If your long lost Dad showed up one day and told you off for smoking cigarettes when you were a teenager, would you even listen?

Attempting to establish rapport and delivering bad news in the same interaction is a recipe for disaster. If staff know you genuinely care and have their best interests at heart, they will generally front up even after initially reacting angrily. If you’ve barely spent a minute with them, of course they’re going to pissed.

Also, it’s important that if you know bad news is coming, prepare them for it. Most people can take bad news if it is not entirely unexpected, its only when peoples expectations are violated that emotions tend to boil over.

Giving regular objective feedback when performance is not meeting objectives or expectations is crucial. These need not be long conversations, and if you leave it too late, you run the risk of surprising people in the worst way.

2: Show them how to take it

A comedian can pick someone from the crowd and be incredibly crass toward them, yet have that same person in hysterics. Posture, facial expressions, tone of voice and eye contact say just as much or more than words.

The way you are when you deliver bad news is they way they will be. If you appear anxious, uncertain or fearful, athletes will match your behaviour in kind. If your alarm systems kick in, so will theirs and things only get worse from there.

If you act like ‘yep look this is not ideal, but I think we’re going to be fine’ athletes respond much more predictably than otherwise. Treating staff like capable adults more often than not sees them acting that way.

3: Use the STATE framework.

In their book ‘Crucial Conversations, social scientists Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler formalised what they call the STATE my path framework.

This simple tool is handy for guiding the sequence and content of conversations where stakes are high, emotions run hot and opinions can vary.

Of course the book presents all the science behind this model, but we don’t need to know how electricity works in order to enjoy its benefits, so here it is.

Here is an example of the STATE my path framework in action:

 Share your facts – tell athletes what information you think is relevant to your conclusion.

‘Tom I noticed you’ve left work quite early on three occasions over the last two weeks. You also turned up late to the last Friday’.

Tell Your Story – talk them through how you came to your conclusion

‘This makes me think you might not be as committed  as others, so I am considering having to performance manage you’.

 Ask for Others Paths – Check to see if your facts are correct, or they see it differently?

‘Tell me if there anything I am missing here? Are my facts correct?’.

 Talk tentatively – avoid being overbearing or overconfident in your assertions

‘I do know you have plenty on your plate right now with exams coming up’.

 Encourage Testing – Check again to see if your conclusion is reasonable.

‘So please let me know if there is more to the story than I am seeing. I am here to help’.

Conclusions For Leaders

Of course things aren’t always going to go swimmingly, sometimes people lose their heads no mater how careful and conscious you are of your communication. However if you keep your cool and don’t get pulled in to their emotional whirlwind, most people calm down with time. It is important to remember you are not responsible for how others choose to act, you can only set the stage.

We don’t have to choose between being honest and being liked. When we are comfortable having the crucial conversations we actually foster stronger bonds, because we get to deeper levels of understanding through these interactions.

If we can learn to manage our own emotions we are much more effective at helping others manage theirs. This can help us build better relationships with staff, relationships that are based just as much on honesty and transparency as camaraderie.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Sep 20

Why High Performance Cultures Lead to Low Success

By Terry Condon | Synergy

[vc_row][vc_column column_width_percent=”80″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ medium_width=”0″ mobile_width=”0″ shift_x=”0″ shift_y=”0″ shift_y_down=”0″ z_index=”0″ width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Originally I wrote this post for a sports audience, however it gained so much attention from the business world I decided to post it here also.

High performance seems to be a term that has bled into business from the sports world. Yet the concept is not always a positive one. This post details how an imbalanced approach to moulding culture can and does lead organisations to ruin.

The Profit Motive, Pressure & Performance.

 As an industry, sport has grown exponentially over the past twenty years. Today it is more popular and profitable than ever. This growth has seen it develop into a 145 Billion-dollar industry, and it got this way because of two things: community and entertainment.

Community is more important than ever, because even though technology has connected us digitally, more and more people feel isolated from others. Walk onto any train and you will see people with heads down, earphones on. Except of course for that one day in the week… game day.

Sport gives us a reason to smile or even talk to the stranger next to us on train, in the bar or on the sidewalk. More and more people see and use sport as a means to become a part of a tribe, or movement bigger than themselves. This instinct is what makes us human, and it’s why we sit on top of the food chain.

Entertainment has changed, now everything is on demand, that means audiences are mostly fragmented. Sport is one of the few entertainment products that can command the attention of millions of people all around the globe at one time. These days, holding any one persons attention is extremely hard, and that is why sport has become extremely valuable.

It costs 8 million dollars to buy sixty seconds of advertising space during the super bowl. It cost this much because 108 million people are watching. Companies continue to pay more and more each year for access to these slots, because opportunities are scarce and significant returns are seen on the investment.

But what relevance is all this to coaches?

Increased attention has created more opportunities to make money, and as more money has flowed into the sports industry, so have the moneymen. In many pro sporting organisations today, there are more staff employed to make and manage money, than to make and manage champions.

For most teams and their staff, more money has meant better pay, facilities, equipment and resources. But money has also brought with it new and unique challenges. The pressure to maintain profitability can often stifle success, creativity and cooperation among colleagues.

When sport becomes a business, wins can go from feedback on proper process and practice, to numbers that impact the bottom line. When the focus shifts too far from process to outcome, those under pressure to drive profitability in order to justify their jobs begin talking about ‘high performance’ and can often forget about people.

Research in behavioural economics has shown that when people think about money, they act more selfishly. This is one reason the profit motive can be damaging to the culture of a sports organisation when the pressure to be profitable is referred to the team and its leaders.

Peter Drucker is pretty much universally recognised as the father of modern management. Drucker disagreed with the profit motive, suggesting that profit is not the end goal of a business, but merely an indicator a business was progressing toward or successful in achieving its chief aim.

Chief aim is just another fancy name for an organisations core purpose or mission.

Ford’s chief aim was to democratise the automobile.

Disney’s core purpose was to make people happy.

Air Bnb’s mission is to create a world where you can belong anywhere.

The chief aim is essentially the reason any organisation exists.

Drucker contended that without a clear and compelling purpose, a business is no more than a means to make money. But since money undermines cooperation and teamwork, no business that purely chases numbers and profit, can ever be truly great. Sport is not about making money, its about being great.

When organisations lack, or lose sight of a core purpose, it can be easy to lean on the numbers. Numbers are easy to measure, and encourage optimisation, but when you don’t know what you’re optimising for, the number becomes the end goal. When numbers become the end goal, this can and often does lead people astray…

Abstraction and Infraction

Numbers make it easy to objectify people because they create distance and cause what author Simon Sinek calls ‘abstraction’. We can see how numbers and distance interact to cause abstraction in sport when media commentators discuss athletes in this manner:

‘Player number 10 Tyler walker has only scored 8 points or more on less than 3 occasions for the past 2 seasons. Surely he should be cut or at least traded Ken!’

The more we lean on the numbers, the less regard we show for people. When executives discuss measures to improve the bottom line, it can be easy to forget that those numbers represent real people:

‘Our profitability has dropped 20% since last year, we need to cut our operating expenses by $500 000, if we make 10 jobs redundant then we should record a profit for our next quarter’

Numbers create distance, and distance causes abstraction. When abstraction occurs in the name of ‘performance’, people who are otherwise moral and principled become more selfish, less ethical and more prone to bend or break the rules.

One of the biggest scandals in world sport occurred at the Essendon Football Club during the 2012 AFL season. During that season the football program endorsed, funded and aggressively pursued a controversial supplements program. The World anti doping authority ultimately deemed their approach to be cheating.

James Hird, Essendon’s coach at the time wrote about the club culture and the messages from club leaders in an article published in the Herald Sun on the 15th of January 2016:

“We were a tight unit, High performance was the mantra from top to bottom with club president David Evans driving us to find the best ways to do everything we did.

 This drive extended to making sure the players had the most beneficial and modern training regimens, diets and dietary supplements under the high performance program…..

At this time the use of painkillers, anti-inflammatory and sleeping tablets were the norm but would lead to side effects such as long-term arthritis, long-term neural pain, eroded stomach linings, addictions and sleeping disorders, to name a few.

To subject modern players to these “old world” methods and consequences would have been “low performance” at best and negligent at worst, especially given there had been so many developments in sports science since my time as a player”.

People have a tendency to blindly obey authority, even when the required actions are questionable. Yale Psychologist Stanley Milgram’s famous electric shock experiments showed that our ability to reason is fundamentally compromised under orders from above. Milgram also showed that the more physical distance between someone and the outcome of their actions, the less humane they were.

Clearly none of the Essendon players believed they were doing the wrong thing, or if they did they deferred to the ‘better judgement’ of authority figures at the club whom were hell bent on ‘high performance’ and over emphasised the numbers. In retrospect it is easy to see that abstraction caused the whole organisation to delude themselves.

Performance is not the Same as Success

Essendon’s most bitter rival is the Hawthorn Football club. The two clubs have rich history of conflict that is decades old. Since 2012 when the supplement scandal erupted, Hawthorn have appeared in four grand finals, and successfully won three of them. They are one of the greatest teams the game has seen.

Hawthorn has worked hard to become what they themselves refer to as ‘the family club’. Their head coach Alastair Clarkson has led the team for over ten years, and their staff have experienced very little turnover (save for those assistants who have gone on to become head coaches themselves).

Some will argue that a relentless culture focused on performance can yield results and they would be right – to a point. Some ‘high performance cultures indeed maintain decent winning margins, but performance is not the same as success. Love always conquers fear, and fear is no match for love.

The New England Patriots are one of the most successful NFL teams of the modern era. The Patriots have Won super bowls in 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2014. In the documentary ‘do your job’ about super bowl XLVIII, Patriots coaches and support staff talk about the camaraderie and connection they credit as one of the major reason for their success.

We have gone well past ‘I’m too proud to tell somebody I love them’ – Josh McDaniel’s ( Offensive Coordinator)

‘We bonded for life with that win, that’s a family atmosphere and that’s what makes it so special and that’s why you got a bunch of guys running out there telling you they love each other’. – Matt Patricia (Defensive Coordinator)

‘Its ok to tell the guy next to you if you really believe it that I love you I’ll do anything for you, and that’s what they have here, and that’s why the New England Patriots win football games’ – Dave Deguglielmo (Offensive line coach)

‘It’s a team that cares about each other, has a lot of love for each other and I’m proud of all of em’. – Bill Belichick (Head Coach)

People aren’t stupid, they model behaviour not words. When people hear leaders begin talking about ‘performance’ they instinctively begin to do as their leaders do and act in their own best interests, often at the expense of others. High turnover, burnout and low engagement characterise teams with a ‘high performance’ culture.

Fear does not cause focus; it distracts people and does more to undermine collective efforts than inspire. Organisations and cultures that put performance before people may achieve a level of output, some even produce a few diamonds under the pressure, but rarely do they achieve or maintain ultimate success.

Purpose, Not Performance is the Imperative

There was a small subset of people in Milgrams electric shock experiments whom were able to resist the pressures of authority, and were able to leave these experiments with a clear conscience. The common thread amongst these people was the accountability to some sort of higher moral imperative.

Those who were able to maintain their humanity felt accountable to a higher authority than the scientist insisting that they continue administering shocks. A higher purpose generally overpowers a lower one, and this is why purpose should always be prioritised over performance.

People crave meaning in their work, a common purpose that unites people around a cause they believe in works to keep people focused, friendly and productive. High purpose organisations enjoy more success, less turnover and higher levels of engagement.

In the end, it is high purpose, not high performance that leads to improved productivity and profitability. However the best leaders recognise these come only when the people are pooling their efforts, and are not the destination, but merely guideposts on the road to ultimate success.

 

Further Reading & Resources

If you’re interested in getting a deeper understanding of some of the material that informed and influenced this article please see below:[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Jun 14

5 Books That Will Make You a Better Leader

By Terry Condon | Uncategorized

Ever come home from a conference, read a book, had a conversation or listened to a talk where you gained some amazing information and failed dismally to impress your enthusiasm for such information on those who may benefit from it most?

Most times, the more emotionally involved you are with an idea, the less able you are to share it effectively. This is because biology and evolution are actually working against you, causing you to be on your worst  behaviour forcing your ideas on others instead of working with them toward a shared solution to a problem they acknowledge on their own. 

Knowledge that cannot be shared effectively with others (through our deeds or words) is of zero value in todays information age. Those who are able to share specialised information most effectively create the best results, receive more opportunities and achieve more success in general. Fortunately, ancient and modern science can offer us a framework which can help us better teach anyone, anything.

In order to prove myself genuine, I have attempted to use the very principles I wish to share with you to teach this framework. This framework is the result of summarising the content of 5 key resources in 5 key points I believe every information worker should read, understand and act on. Read on if you wish to learn how to help others learn and get more from your head into the heads of others.

Please note, I receive no financial reward for the content I reference below. I simply endorse the authors and their information.

HOW TO TEACH ANYONE ANYTHING: THE PARABLE OF HARRY & THE HUTS

1. Understand Them

Everyone has a set of priorities and these govern how they filter their world. Take the time to discover and communicate in relation to others top priority (Telos) and you will gain their attention.

Harry is a caveman; he has just come back from a long journey east, where he learned from the great tribes of the sea their far superior methods for making huts.  Upon his return, he notices how ugly the huts in his village are in comparison, and how dangerous and inefficient it is to build them. Harry is determined to teach his neighbour Fred the new and improved hut making method, and gradually improve the whole village using this method.

Last time he came back from a trip and tried to teach Fred how to hunt better, he simply shrugged his shoulders with a glazed look on his face. He clearly did not appreciate how superior Harry’s new method was, Harry tried and tried to persuade him to learn but eventually his persistence began to annoy Fred. Not wanting to test the relationship in case Fred got violent (as most cavemen tended to) Harry decided to drop it.

This time, Harry decides to take a special interest in Fred and observe his behavior closely, as he does this he notices that Fred tends to talk a lot about his family, he goes to great lengths to make sure they are always safe and provided for. He notices that Fred’s oldest son is nearly old enough to begin his initiation into adulthood. One day he asks Fred what he plans to teach the boy first. ‘How to build of course!’ Fred says gruffly, without turning around.

2. Make them feel safe

 

Our brains are wired to be on the look out for differences (which are perceived unconsciously as threats), emphasising similarities & common ground opens people up to you and your message. 

‘A wise choice’ says Harry. ‘I plan to do the same with my boy, a man must learn how to use his hands so that he can care and provide for his family’. Fred turns around to face him now, nodding vigorously in agreement. ‘And what would you say a good father should teach his son to build first?’ asks Harry. ‘A hut replies Fred excitedly, what good is a man who cannot put a roof over the heads of his family?’

‘Agreed my friend, a man who cannot shelter those he loves will find it hard to attract a mate’ Harry replies mirroring his enthusiasm. ‘And what sort of hut do you plan to teach him to build?’ he asks Fred. Fred looks confused; ‘the same type of hut everyone in the village builds of course, isn’t that the only type of hut there is?’

3. Entertain Them

Mirror neurons in the brain have evolved to allow humans to simulate experience (key to learning), telling stories allows people to feel the emotions associated with an experience. The emotion centres of the brain control decision making and therefore heavily influence a persons actions. 

Harry smiles and replies ‘until recently I believed the same thing, but on my travels I learned otherwise, would you like to hear about how a great tribal elder of the East taught me how to build safer, sturdier and more beautiful huts? These huts were the most beautiful I have seen, and I noticed the men in this village who built them boasted the most attractive mates’. Fred nods excitedly, ‘of course, my boy would be the toast of the town if he was the first young man to build one of these huts! Please tell me about your experiences!’.

Harry obliges and tells Fred of his experiences with the tribal elder who generously passed on his knowledge over the course of a six-month apprenticeship. Fred laughs as Harry tells him how terrible his first attempts were and how the locals pitied him. Fred listens as he describes the new luxuries that a family can experience within these new huts and how they seem happier than those within their village. Suddenly Fred looks at his hut and back at Harry. ‘Would you teach me how to built such a hut Harry?’ he pleads.

4. Educate them


 

Cultivate a culture of conscious practice, break it down for people and keep it simple, give small chunks of (the right) information and facilitate fast and targeted feedback.

To Fred’s delight Harry agrees, though he warns Fred; the first hut would take some time, since the elder explained the Harry, the best way to teach someone is to first model the correct techniques, and then describe the process to the learner, before supporting them as they practiced themselves. Harry will build his own hut first as the model, and then describe to Fred how to undertake each part of the process before allowing Fred to imitate his model.

Over the course of the next 6 months, Harry replicates the apprenticeship process taught to him by the old tribal elder. He teaches Fred only the parts allowing the whole to gradually reveal itself over time. First he focuses on building the foundations of the hut, describing the process to Fred as he watches, Harry learned that the best way to teach is to use concise vivid descriptions that make it clear what to DO, not what not to do. Once he is satisfied Fred understands, he allows Fred to go to work on building his own foundations.

Before Harry agreed to teach Fred, he made sure Fred agreed to first apply any feedback he received before reflecting on it. Harry learned from the wise old elder that discussing the merits of advice given is essentially a waste of time since its merit cannot be accurately assessed until applied.  So when Harry looks over at Fred’s foundations, he provides clear and concise feedback that Fred accepts and applies immediately. Harry is surprised how quickly he can teach complex ideas since he does not have to discuss every piece of information he gives.

Harry, like his teacher before him is a stickler for detail. So he insists Fred master each part of the process before he teaches him the next part. This frustrates Fred a little in the beginning but because he receives clear and concise feedback (which he acts on without question) at regular intervals. Fred begins to trust Harry more since progress becomes evident more rapidly, while his belief in himself, and the process intensifies.

5. Encourage them

Feedback that draws attention to the process encourages people to seek challenge and growth in their pursuits, whilst drawing attention to the outcome creates anxiety and destroys confidence.  

When Harry asked the wise old elder how the whole village learned to be so good at building these huts, he chuckled. ‘They always learn the right way which is as I have taught you, and they are trained to appreciate the process as opposed to the end result. Valuing the process makes the task enjoyable and encourages mastery, which is why the huts in our village continue to evolve and improve while those of most other villages like yours stay the same.

Harry took this to heart at the time, so whenever he compliments Fred, he makes sure to emphasise the process and the effort Fred has displayed in mastering each part of the process. Fred begins to take immense pride in his work and his appetite for learning and improvement becomes insatiable. He is truly inspired by the task he is undertaking.

One day Fred invites Harry over for to enjoy dinner with his family in his newly finished hut. He is proud of his creation and the life he can now provide for his family. Harry is impressed at the quality of his craftsmanship and the home is indeed beautiful. ‘Congratulations!’ he says to Fred, ‘your home is beautiful and your family must be so proud of your efforts and the time you took to master your craft for their benefit’. Fred positively beams with delight.

Years later, Harry and Fred are sitting on the front porch of Harry’s home. From their view on the hill they see a village that is now the envy of all others surrounding it. Many people come to live and work here since the quality of life (thanks to Harrys huts) the villagers enjoy is unparalleled.  Fred points out the beautiful cityscape and says to Harry ‘this is all because of you Harry, thank you for what you have done’.