Crouch, touch, pause, engage…


The 2015 Rugby World Cup is under way! From a leadership, management and team perspective there are many things that we can draw upon from the inevitable drama that is a part of any major sports tournament.

There’s the pride, passion and belonging that the players clearly have when putting on the team shirt – how can we as leaders foster the same level of pride, passion and belonging in our teams?

There’s the strategy that allows a team to disrupt and triumph over the match favourites as we saw when Japan beat South Africa. How do we as strategists develop a winning strategy that allows our organisation to punch well above our weight?

But as a supporter of Wales I’ve been concerned about all the injuries that the team have suffered recently. How resilient is this Welsh team? How competitive will it be having lost some of it’s key players? If Wales is to progress in this tournament it will need to have developed resilience.

I have also been concerned about maintaining the resilience of my own organisation – the IT job market is currently buoyant and the pressure to deliver more for less only ever seems to increase; how do we, as leaders, build and maintain resilience for ourselves and our organisations?

Here are some of my suggestions based on my experience and outlook –

Self resilience: – 

  1. Keep things in perspective. Worrying is draining and can lead to panic and/or unhealthy stress levels.
  2. Don’t panic, stay calm! Clear thinking will get you further than flapping. Try to work through the situation logically exploring scenarios, options and outcomes.
  3. Try to be realistically optimistic. Nothing is usually as bad as you first think and often there are unexpected upsides to bad situations.
  4. Seek out help and advice. No man (or woman) is an island; we all have connections and every connection is likely to know something that you don’t. Asking for help is a sign of strength.
  5. Try to find the humour in a situation. To see the humour in a situation we have to enter an observant role. The observant role requires physiological distance which in turn provides perspective.

Organisational resilience: –

  1. Be prepared. In the same way as an individual needs to remain calm in a crisis so should the organisation. If you’ve thought about likely scenarios and responses in advance then your likely to achieve better outcomes. It’s a lot easier to think clearly in a calm environment than in the midst of a crisis.  If the organisation has an effective business continuity plan in place to effectively manage the crisis then it is highly likely that the crisis will be shorter and have less of an adverse impact.
  2. Develop flexibility. Just as sometimes players are required to play out of position, sometimes it is really useful if you have employees who are capable of taking on tasks that are not normally within their day-to-day activities. This will often require investment in time and training but if it helps to eliminate single points of failure you’ll be glad that you did it should you be facing a crisis.
  3. Develop a strong employee value proposition. Someone will always be prepared to offer more money for the right candidate but what can your organisation offer that could differentiate it and keep your valued employees as part of the team? Research has shown that training, development and a sense of purpose can be more motivating than financial rewards.
  4. Seek out help and advice. As individuals we have connections that we can call upon for assistance and so should organisations. No organisation is likely to be entirely self reliant and good organisations will develop networks that outlast the individuals who initiated and built those original connections.
  5. “We’re in this together!” If as leaders we can articulate the challenge and a response that is credible then that will encourage belief and belonging. It develops a sense that provided we stick together we can face whatever is thrown at us and come out the other side feeling positive, no matter how battered and bruised we may have become in the scrum and the maul.

Do you have any advise on building self resilience and organisational resilience?

Don’t confuse motion with progress!

merry-go-round-in-coventThink back to when you were a small child and when you first rode a merry-go-round (carousel). The horse rising up and down and travelling at speed for a small child probably delighted and thrilled you. No matter how thrilling the ride the horse ultimately ends up in the same place time and time again having only ever travelled in a circle. This is motion.

Work can sometimes feel like being on a merry-go-round. Each working day you may be really busy – busy doing ‘stuff’ –  and there is no doubt that you are in motion. However, when you look back on the day, the week, the month or the year have you made progress? Ask yourself this – how is the ‘stuff’ that I am doing moving me closer to my real goals? Do I even know what my real goals are?

If you don’t know what your real goals are or how the work that you are currently doing is moving you closer to achieving those goals then you may be in motion but unlikely to be making progress.

So what can you do about it?

  1. Start with the end goal in mind. It doesn’t matter if the goal is to achieve something today, this week or an even longer time frame. Just make sure that you can articulate the goal as an outcome and not the activity. For example ‘Learn conversational French’ is an outcome, book on a ‘French’ course is an activity.
  2. Now that you have a your goal or goals you can start to list the activity or activities required to achieve the goal.
  3. Once you have the activities go to your calendar and schedule the activity or activities.
  4. Yes, you will find it a challenge at times to protect your scheduled time as the urgent tasks encroach on the important activities that move you closer to your goals. Try to treat that protected scheduled time as if you were meeting an important client or a meeting with the boss of the company – you’ll only protect the scheduled time if you consider it as being really important.

So that’s it – simple! You’ve protected your scheduled activity time and during this time you’ll be making progress towards your goals. Everything else and you are probably still on the merry-go-round!

I love Monday and here’s why!


Like most of us I love my weekends and they are never long enough. However unlike a lot of people I also love Mondays and here’s why: –

  1. Monday is like a mini New Year. It’s the start of the week and an opportunity to reboot, start afresh and say to yourself that this week I’m going to make a difference. Who doesn’t like new beginnings?
  2. I like being productive but there are some things that I can only do as part of a team. Monday is when my team and I get back together and we can all help each other move closer to our goals.
  3. Even when Monday looks like a real tough day I’ll try to think about how I’ll get through the day, what I will achieve, what I will learn. I also know with certainty that no matter how hard the working day is it will inevitably end. So I try to view a tough day as a challenge and take pride in getting through it.
  4. I’ll record my favourite programmes of the week and watch them on a Monday evening or perhaps I’ll have a take-away. Having something to look forward to is a great way to change the way you perceive Mondays.

I am fortunate enough to work in an environment that I enjoy with colleagues that are, on the whole, very supportive. However if you hate Mondays because you hate your job, you hate your boss, you are surrounded by toxic people or whatever the reason then why not use Monday to start to plan how you you’ll turn things around.

Here is a final thought from me….

If you work an average of 220 days a year that’s 44 Mondays each year.

If you start working at 18 years old and retire at 65 then you’ll work for 47 years.

That’s 2,068 Monday’s to hate – the equivalent of hating over 5 years of your life!

Love Mondays!

Don’t you know there’s a war on?

Screenshot 2015-07-10 08.42.58

There is a war on and it may not be a ‘hot’ war in the same way as WW1 and WW2 but make no mistake this is a World War, there is no sign of peace, it won’t be over by Christmas and at some point, if it hasn’t already, it is likely to impact directly on you!

This is the Cyber War! Attacks, such as the alleged North Korean attack on Sony, hit the headlines from time-to-time but this war is being fought intensely second by second. Take a look at the real time Norse Attack Map.

The Attackers

Attacks come primarily from four types of entities: –

  1. State and state sponsored organisations (though no state is likely to admit the full extent of this)
  2. Hacker groups such as Anonymous, the Chaos Computer Club, the Cult of the Dead Cow or the Honker Group. Often they will have political agendas and will be responsible for coordinated attacks
  3. Cyber criminals, organised, well funded and often backed by more traditional organised crime syndicates
  4. The ‘lone geek’, stereotyped as a lone guy operating out of his bedroom or the basement of his parents house but capable of doing real damage to an organisation or individual

The Attacks

Long gone are the days when the worst that could happen is that your website may be defaced. Attacks now include (but not limited to): –

All devices and operating systems are subject to attack (it’s not all about Windows PC’s!). Our increased use of mobile devices has led to a corresponding increase in attacks against these devices. And as we attach more and more devices to our networks, the Internet of Things (IoT) will offer more channels for cyberattacks. The potential for attacks against cars, medical equipment, transportation and critical building systems should now be viewed as a present threat.

Some Attack Statistics from 2014 (source: Symantec)

  • 60 percent of all targeted attacks struck small and medium sized organisations – it’s not all about Government and big business!
  • Ransomware attacks grew by an incredible 113 percent!
  • 317 million new Malware Variants added
  • 1 in every 1,126 websites were found with Malware
  • 76 percent of scanned websites were found to have vulnerabilities, 20 percent of which were critical

The USA is the country that suffers the most cyberattacks while the UK has the most cyberattacks in Europe.

Incoming, take cover!

Given the above statistics it is a wonder that the attackers don’t do more damage than they already do. The fact that attackers do not is a testament to the professionalism of those involved in IT security.

But unless you are in IT security (or you are a hacker) then it is likely that you are a civilian in this war. We don’t want to become a casualty of this cyber war and like all responsible citizens it is our responsibility and duty to do what we can to protect ourselves.

What can we do as civilians?

Well we could unplug everything and go off grid I guess….or

  1. Where possible ensure that your device has up-to-date anti-virus software permanently running. Set the software to do a regular full scan of the device.
  2. In addition to anti-virus ensure that your operating system and applications are regularly updated and patched.
  3. If possible encrypt the data on your device.
  4. Do not click on links in emails, texts, social media etc unless you are confident that the source is safe.
  5. Do not open attachments unless you are confident that the source is safe.
  6. Set secure strong passwords, don’t share them with anyone and do not use them on multiple sites. Do not write down your passwords – if you forget them then there is usually an easy way to reset or recover them.
  7. For mobile devices where there is the ability to wipe data remotely ensure that this option is enabled and that you know how to to this quickly.
  8. Take regular backups. If you are hit by Ransomware one of the quickest and cheapest ways of recovering your data is to restore from a backup.
  9. When surfing the web take every ‘warning box’ that your device displays seriously.
  10. Monitor. If the performance of your device suddenly degrades or you start seeing unusual activity on your email or other accounts then take action immediately. Run full anti-virus scans, change your passwords and if necessary consult a professional, the supplier or your work security team for advice.

The Cyber War maybe not be a war that we will ever win but it is a war that cannot be lost. Those businesses that are responsible for creating this wonderfully connected world have a duty to adequately protect its inhabitants and those that don’t may themselves become a casualty of war.

There is no movement without the first follower!

This is a great video that highlights the importance of the first follower(s).

  • It can be a little lonely in the beginning when starting a new movement
  • There is no movement without the first follower
  • When you achieve a critical mass extraordinary things can happen!

Enjoy….and don’t forget to get up and dance every now and again….maybe be brave enough to be the first to join the dance!

Choose your attitude!


Some things in life are bad
They can really make you mad
Other things just make you swear and curse
When you’re chewing on life’s gristle
Don’t grumble, give a whistle
And this’ll help things turn out for the best…

Okay so life isn’t going the way you want it to but here’s the thing – we need to understand that we can’t always control what life throws at us but we can always choose how we react! We can always choose our attitude.

We are in constant dialogue with our inner self. That inner dialogue is just like a software program that is running through our brains and just like any software it can be programmed – the name of the software program is “Attitude”!

So have you programmed your software to predominantly respond positively or negatively?

Try this – the next time someone asks you “How you are doing?”; how did you respond? Positively…”I’m doing great”, “Brilliant”, Fantastic” or was it more neutral/negative… “I’m okay”, “Not too bad”, “Surviving”, “Meh!” etc.

The good news is that this is software so you can re-program a negative attitude so that it becomes a positive mental attitude. How?

Three simple steps: –

  1. LISTEN to your inner dialogue. Are you having a positive dialogue or is the dialogue full of self-pity, self-defeat and constantly blaming others for what is happening to you?
  2. STOP it! If the dialogue is negative then stop it!
  3. START a positive conversation with your inner self! “I can do this!”, “I’m doing great!”.

Okay, I lied, it may not be that simple because in reality the “Attitude” program can be difficult to change and may take time. Constant positive affirmation is key.  Keep telling yourself how good you are, how you can achieve anything if you want to, if you fail then that it is a great opportunity to learn, when you hit an obstacle its just an opportunity to find a way over, around it or under it etc….you get the picture!

Remember this is primarily an inner dialogue….there’s no need to keep telling others how good you are (even though you are, right!).

An inner dialogue it may be but positive mental attitude changes the way you engage with others, it alters your body language, it soon becomes noticeable and that in itself can lead to some very positive outcomes!

So when you next encounter something that doesn’t quite go your way in life what are you going to be saying to your inner self…

“It’s not fair!”, “I can’t win!”, “I never win!”

or perhaps…..

“What can I learn from this?”, “I can turn this around”, “Next time I’ll win!”

And….. “Always look on the bright side of life!”

We choose to go to the Moon!


“We choose to go to the Moon! … We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win …” JFK 12th September 1962

When John F. Kennedy made his bold statement in 1962 NASA did not have all the resources to achieve this vision and some of the technology required did not even exist at the time. On the 20th of July 1969, nearly seven years later, the Eagle landed and Neil Armstrong took one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

Back on earth…a little real life anecdote about a programme manager (PM) brought into an organisation to rescue an ailing multi-million programme. The PM oozed sell-confidence and made a lasting first impression. Shortly after arriving in the organisation the PM made a statement that the programme would, without question or doubt, deliver by a given date. So certain was the PM that they took a permanent marker pen crawled under the board room table and wrote the date that the programme would deliver its first release!

Not quite as bold or as visionary as JFK perhaps but I guess the PM was seeking to lay down a marker and impress the audience with their unwavering confidence and determination. You can guess the outcome….

Way before that delivery date was reached it became obvious that: –

  • the PM had not gained the confidence of the programme team
  • had lost the confidence of the board
  • stood no chance of delivering the first release on time

The PM subsequently left the organisation.

So what’s my point?

Bold and visionary statements cannot in themselves achieve the desired outcomes…..

JFK had used Lyndon B. Johnson, the then Vice President, to consult extensively with NASA. The NASA geeks knew that with the right investment in resources and with technology developments already in the pipeline the target, though hard, was realistic and achievable. JFK had a strong base of support and had the necessary authority to ensure that NASA received all the resources required to turn his words into reality.

Contrast that with the PM:-

  1. The PM did not consult extensively prior to making their statement.
  2. The PM had not taken appropriate steps to understand what were the real or perceived obstacles and how they might be overcome.
  3. The PM had not established themselves within the organisation and didn’t have a strong support base.
  4. The PM did not necessarily have all the authority and backing to ensure that the required resources were in place even if they had known what they were!

In short the PM believed that through sheer force of personality and their supreme confidence they could ensure that the delivery date would be met.

If the PM had taken the time to listen to credible concerns while filtering out the naysayers and prophets of doom then they may have understood the real size of the challenge that the programme faced.

With the challenge, opportunities, dependencies, risks and issues more visible (to all) there would have been a much better chance of constructing a realistic and achievable plan. With a realistic and achievable plan, there would have been more buy-in and confidence that the delivery date would be met would have risen across the organisation.

Who knows, instead of the PM writing the delivery date on the underside of the board room table the CEO may have been inclined to write the delivery date on the reception wall!

The 3 Basic Stages of Change

butterflyIn Lewin’s Change Management Model, Lewin describes the three phases as unfreeze, change and freeze but here’s a different way of looking at it…

Stage 1. Contemplation – where we think about why we want to change something, what we hope to achieve through that change and how we would go about it.

Stage 2. Decision – having thought through the options, the issues, the risks and the desired outcomes at the contemplation stage it’s now time to decide – do or do not (there is no try!).

Stage 3. Action – We’ve decided, now we act. Our action will be successful, not successful or perhaps partially successful in achieving our desired outcomes. Depending on the outcome of the action it may be necessary to loop back to stage 1 – contemplation.

Easy and logical right? We probably go through this process instinctively hundreds of times each day for the basic stuff. For example, I’m thirsty and I want to enact a change so that I’m no longer thirsty. But do I want coffee, tea or water (contemplation); I want tea (decision); I go and make a cup of tea and I drink the tea (action) and I’m no longer thirsty! If I was still thirsty I’d loop back around to contemplation – do I want another cuppa or will water do a better job this time around?

But what about when it’s not just about you or a cup of tea? What about when it’s a major complex change involving a team, a department or even the whole organisation? The stages are the same but things just got a lot harder…..

“But you can’t expect everyone to contemplate or decide surely?” No? Think national referendums or general elections – it is possible to put in place mechanisms to contemplate and decide on a large scale. I’m not advocating that the workplace should be a democracy but recognise this – the more people that have to act that feel involved in the contemplation and the decision process then the greater the chance of the change being a success.

So where it is practical consult as widely as possible. Harness the brain power of your team, your department, your organisation at the contemplation stage and you may be surprised at the golden nuggets you’ll discover.

Of course the ultimate decision (unless you do hold a referendum!) is still likely to be made by an individual or a small group of individuals. The Chair, the CEO, the department head, the team leader – no matter how wide you consult, you remain accountable for the decision. Not fair…tough…suck it up…it’s what we get paid for!

So now the decision has been made how do we get people, lots of people to act? There needs to be a plan, the detail of the plan will depend on the scale of the change but it should never be vague and it needs to clearly identify who is doing what and when and what dependancies there are across the plan or external to the plan.

It is essential where major transformational change is desired, even before we get into the detail of who is doing what and when, to get as much buy-in as possible from those who you need to act. A great way to do this is through the construction of stories or blueprints.

A story or blueprint is a high-level vision of the future state that is desired after the change has taken place. The clearer the vision, the more descriptive of what things will be like or how we will do things, the more understanding we will attain. Understanding doesn’t equal buy-in so try to ensure that all stakeholders, particularly those who are involved in the ‘Act’ stage have a stake in reaching that future state.

A great companion of the story is the alternative story or blueprint. The alternative story describes what things will be like if we do not make the change. Usually it describes an outcome that is not desired (otherwise why do the change!). The alternative story can sometimes be a stronger motivator than the story!

So who’d like a cuppa? (Let the contemplation begin!).

I am not liked by everyone and I’m okay with that!

Lone WolfWe all like to be liked. We’re programmed that way, if we are liked by the pack the pack won’t turn on us, the pack will protect us. Some people will do anything to be liked even if this means compromising values, beliefs and standards just to please, just to be liked. But think about this…

We live in a diverse world. Nurture, environment and experiences will have shaped our view of the world. My nurture, environment and experience will be unique, as is yours and as is the other seven billion people that share our planet. So not everyone is going to agree with you and some people, if you reveal the real you, are not going to like you. So what can you do about it?

Option 1: Become a chameleon and change your views, your opinion, your standards to please as many people as you possibly can. But this option will not work 100% because you will soon be seen for what you are doing and that in itself will be cause for some to dislike you.

Option 2 : Just be yourself! You have an opinion, you have a voice. Develop and nurture yourself to be the best that you can be and if that causes someone to dislike you then that probably says more about them than you. You can still be tactful, diplomatic and even conciliatory but stay true to your core beliefs, standards and integrity. Also keep an open mind to constructive criticism and realise you still have lots to learn no matter how old or experienced you are.

Fact 1 : Some people will dislike you no matter what you do.

Fact 2 : If you worry and care too much about what others will think of you it will constrain your development as an individual and you will never reach your true potential.

Fact 3 : It’s okay to disagree with someone on many things and still like and respect them as an individual and for them to like and respect you. Chances are both of you have chosen option 2 and are emotionally intelligent!

Fact 4 : Compromising is often a positive thing to do but also sometimes taking an unpopular stance is just the right thing to do.

Fact 5 : If you can’t be yourself then you are nobody!

So if the above sounds simple, easy and obvious remember it isn’t, we are all wired to want to be liked and most of us worry too much about what others will think about us. So what if by being yourself the pack turns on you, stops protecting you? Sure you should reflect as to what it is about you that has caused the pack to turn on you but also consider this – maybe you are in the wrong pack!