I have always had a healthy admiration for comedians.

For me they have always been the bearer of uncomfortable truths and the representors of the silent majority (or silent masses). Whether it is Ricky Gervais shamelessly applying public head shots to actor elites on the Golden Globes, or The Monty Python crew explaining ‘what have the romans ever done for us?’ I have always been intrigued as to their role in society and teams.

Our Jester

When I was a new Lieutenant, I had a soldier in my platoon who we will call ‘Steve’. He was an older soldier and an experienced troublemaker. He had a natural charismatic aura and had come from a tough background. Other soldiers gravitated to his energy. Arguably his most redeeming feature was his ‘rat cunning’ and his ability to read the room, and the people within it.

We used to make a distinction between ‘three types’ of soldier:

The ‘Barracks Soldier.’ Very rarely in trouble with the law, thus rarely requiring disciplining or corrective actions. A professional in the barracks in the environment. Often highly educated and industrious with a good response to order and convention. Generally very career focused particularly with regards to promotions and courses.

The ‘Field Soldiers.’ Often in trouble in the barracks environment (legal, relationships, investments, career, etc), but a natural fighter in the field environment. They often had very little career ambition but just loved the thrill of being at the pointy end of their profession. They often made up for their barracks transgressions by demonstrating their skill on the battlefield.

The ‘Unicorn’. The soldier that was excellent in and out of the field.

Steve was a field soldier of the highest order. The soldiers respected and looked up to him, so much so that he socially asserted himself as their representative. A tricky position to hold in an organisation which is intensely hierarchical, and order driven.

The mechanism by which he achieved this effect: Comedy.

He had an innate ability to crack a joke and break the ice. But not just any meaningless and useless joke. No, it was far more surgical than that. His jokes were of the right balance to be able to call out the elephant in the room. The one no-one else wanted to, or could, address.

As a leader it was incredibly valuable.

1.    The fact that the important message was delivered as a joke meant it was done with good intent (we will talk about offence being taken, not given later).

2.    The frequency of his jokes meant that no-one was safe, and everyone could expect to be ridiculed, even himself (by himself) at some point, thus removing the officialities associated with the hierarchy.

3.    The content of his jokes was always etched in some level of subjective truth. He was most often reporting the obvious or blinding inconsistencies in our messaging or logic, the ones that everyone was thinking, but no-one was speaking about. This allowed us to answer these concerns publicly and address the concerns of the masses without the need for complaints.

One time however, during a period of weakness I lashed out at Steve who was cracking jokes at a time when I was severely sleep deprived and carrying a burden of responsibility which I didn’t feel comfortable explaining to my men at the time. The result of this lapse in judgement was a temporary break in rapport with Steve, who abruptly retreated into his metaphorical shell.

For a period, I was blind to the needs and feelings of my men. The section commanders did a good job in allaying their concerns and ideas, but even they were separated to some extent due to their hierarchical positions.

We had lost our court jester…

Steve was wise enough to know it too (otherwise he wouldn’t have been a very good reader of rooms). Slowly but surely, he regained his confidence and began demonstrating the much-needed behaviours which would characterise our Platoon team dynamic.

Over time as his confidence grew, he became a reliable source of information about what was happening to the other teams within our organisation. The other team jesters would speak to each other and ground truth information we could not, or would not, receive via other means.

The Essential Role

The term ‘Jester’ is drawn from Anglo-Norman (Old French) Gestour or Jestour, meaning storyteller or Minstrel. Older terms for the same role included Fol, Disour, Buffoon, and Bourder.

The role provided an important function and has been present the world over for ages past.

In Ancient Rome, Balatrones were professional performers for the rich. Often covering political topics, relevant at the time. This was particularly true during periods of carnival.

“The Court Jester had the right to say the most outrageous things to the king. Everything was permitted during carnival, even the songs that the Roman Legionnaires would sing, calling Julies Caesar ‘Queen’, alluding, in a very transparent way, to his real, or presumed, homosexual escapades.’

-Umberto Eco-

The Aztecs and Chinese employed cultural equivalents to the jester, to the same effect.

In France in 1340, when the French fleet was destroyed at the battle of Sluvs by the English, Phillip VI’s jester told him the English sailors ‘don’t even have the guts to jump into the water like our brave French.’ In doing so, he was the first to break the bad news to the King, when no-one else would dare (Beatrice, O, 2001)

In Poland, a politically focussed jester by the name of Stanczyk would later become a historical symbol for the Polish people (Pelc, J, 1989).

In an example which pushes the boundaries, a Jester by the name of Ferrial (AKA Triboulet) went too far by insulting the Queen. The King responded decisively, sentencing him to death. Due to Ferrial’s long service with the King, he was provided with the opportunity to choose his mechanism of death. His response “Good sire, by Saint Goody Two Shoes and Saint Fatty, patrons of insanity, I ask to die from old age.” So brazen was his response, the King reconsidered his order, and banished him instead (Historia, 2008).

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The Battle For ‘Common Sense’ and The Search For ‘Truth’

“Satire must accompany any free society. It is an absolute necessity. Even in the most repressive medieval kingdoms they understood the need for the Court Jester, the one soul allowed to tell the truth through laughter.”

– Joe Randozzo –

Shakespeare identified the important need for jesters. He often used them as a means of incentivising attendance at his plays of different classes within society. The jester was used a mechanism of commonality and a means of building rapport within the audience, regardless of their status.

In the ‘Twelfth Night’, Feste the jester is described as “wise enough to play the fool” such was the high regard for which the position was held.

In ‘King Lear,’ the Jester is used as a means of communicating the perceptions of the masses, adopting a consultative or advisory role for the Monarch.

In essence, the Jester is, and has always been, the last line of defence in the battle for common sense. They have forever been the pressure tester of ideas, and the illuminator of idiocy. They are the identifier of hypocrisies and inconsistencies. They are the social pattern finders, with the courage to communicate their observations. They are by their very nature incredibly intelligent and observant.

But what has caught my eye in recent years is a concerning shift in language and expectations. There has been an ever-increasing tendency to compel speech and censor language to escape awkwardness and avoid offence. It seems to have accompanied a social redirection to ever improve our collective safety, without concerning ourselves for the accompanying responsibility to increase one’s own strength.

In a recent example, SOAS University in London attempted to pre-censor Konstantin Kisin (comedian) as a prerequisite to his comedic performance. The list of banned topics included: “racism, sexism, classism, ageism, ableism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, xenophobia, Islamaphobia, anti-religion or anti-atheism.” A tough gig for any comic. Needless to say, Konstantin didn’t take the job.

During my time in the Infantry, it was the class clowns that really bonded the teams. Their jokes new few limits, and no-one was exempt. An Officer that could demonstrate they could take a joke on the chin and walk it off, demonstrated a strength of character which would be highly valuable in other more challenging environments. If they couldn’t take a joke, how would they respond with the pressures associated with a real enemy who seeks to kill them? It might seem a bridge too far to connect taking a joke and being shot at, but they are more similar than they are different.

The teams with the most developed sense of humour were the ones that survived the greatest hardships, plain and simple. The leaders who ignored the value of humour within their teams, or were too uptight to take a joke, were the ones that experienced fractured teams with poor morale.

In the movie Deadpool, Wade Winston finds strength through his torture by relentlessly cracking jokes to assert his only freedom on his captors. Later in the movie his comedic rants only escalate further, demonstrating a powerful strength of character. It is as if his ability to crack jokes is his strongest superpower of all as it links with his resilience. Across the two films Deadpool makes endless jokes about his emerging team members, and they return the favour. The exchanges are shrugged off by each participant as they pressure test each other relentlessly. Slowly but surely their teams grows cohesively, glued together through comedy and the observational humour of their central jester.

When I transitioned out of the Military there was an adjustment period. The most significant adjustment I experienced was the censoring of speech. I had never experienced censorship of this level and I had worked in Top Secret environments for many years! It was as if there was an unspoken rule, governed by an unseen presence, dictating that one could not (or should not) say anything that could remotely offend someone else. This for me seemed like madness at first. I attempted to rationalise the problem in the first instance, ‘offence is subjective, how could someone possibly govern that?’ Or ‘don’t they realise that a team that cannot joke about itself will never get through tough times?’

Gabrielle Union’s quote echoed in my mind at the time, “drama can feel like therapy whereas comedy feels like there’s been a pressure and a weight lifted off of you.”

Nonetheless the censorship was there, and it was real. I trod on some toes initially, I was then ‘corrected,’ until I too started to adjust my speech. In most cases I didn’t even know I was doing it. To some extent, I drank the Kool Aid. With the benefit of hindsight, I can say that I was avoiding problems by not addressing them. My avoidance was prompting regret due to my lack of personal courage and convictions. After some time, the regret morphed into resentment towards individuals themselves, and also towards myself. This continued until one day I was answering someone’s question about Leadership as part of a workshop.

Their question: ‘What do you think is the most important function of a leader?”

My answer: ‘Good leaders are those that can articulate and contextualise the truth’.

It hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew then and there that I had let myself down. I had shied away from having courageous conversations and I was resenting people unnecessarily because of it…

“Those who make conversations impossible, make escalation inevitable.”

-Stefan Molyneux-

Offence Taken, Not Given

I hope that most people would agree that comedy is important. The distinction lies in what is deemed acceptable and unacceptable, and the challenge emerges when we acknowledge the nature of subjectivity; what someone finds offensive will be perfectly acceptable to another. The complexity that exacerbates this further, is that we are seemingly creating a culture that avoids conflict at all expense, even if it is healthy and delivered with pure intent.

In expanding this topic I think there are some important distinctions that need to be made:

Bullying vs Banter. Banter is not Bullying. Banter is ‘the exchange of remarks in a good-humoured teasing way.’ Bullying is ‘seeking to harm, intimidate, or coerce (someone perceived as vulnerable.)’ The difference lies in people’s intent. Most would remember the early days of romantic dating when banter really meant flirting…

Problem vs Person. A good jester can delineate between the problem and the person (the individual). They are often different things. Subtle changes in language can change the trajectory of a joke into an attack. Another expansion might include the distinction between a ‘joke’ and a ‘jab.’ Experienced comics traverse this razors edge with expert skill. The most proficient jester is one that can talk about the elephant in the room without leading the conversation to the conclusion that it was someone’s fault for letting it in.

‘Time and Place’ vs ‘In Your Face.’ There is a time for jokes and banter and there is a time for seriousness and decorum. Get the balance wrong and a jester can find themselves in hot lava. Some people are terrible readers of the room and extend way too far.

But what of offence? Are we so fragile that differing opinions can damage us? I would hope not. I would like to think that people have become stronger over time, enlightened with more information and the lessons from our forbearers. But alas, I do not think this is true.

I think over time we have become increasingly secular and tribal, forever terrified about what people might think of us. Our fear has now turned towards those ‘jesters’ that are brave enough to communicate what they see. To explain their truth whilst revelling in the awkwardness of it all.

“He who takes offense when no offense is intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense is intended is a greater fool.”

-Brigham Young-

In true Jester fashion Ricky Gervais was coined saying “Just because you’re offended doesn’t mean you’re right.” He was of course indirectly speaking about the truth, and the role the jester plays in communicating it.

In full transparency my personal concern is towards the censorship of speech. I would hate to think that language itself was censored or as a minimum distorted under a guise of ‘protection’ and ‘tolerance.’ The idea terrifies me and George Orwell’s 1984 springs to mind, “In the end we shall make thought-crime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.”

Moving Forward

So moving forward be very mindful about attacking and silencing the jester, particularly if they might be telling us something we need to hear.

If you have a jester in your team or organisation, be glad. Because whilst they are talking, you might be kept aware enough to not drink your own Kool Aid. Who knows you might learn something and become stronger for it.

If you see the jester being targeted and removed, start asking yourself who will provide the ‘common sense’ perspective?

If you look around and see no jester, be worried. They have either left and moved to greener pastures, or their satirical spirit has been crushed. Neither are good options for the longevity of healthy, resilient and capable teams. A workplace without humour is a sad and unsustainable place.

These are my thoughts, what are yours?

—–

If you enjoyed this article you will likely enjoy our blog.

Many of the people that have arrived at this article have already entered this environment postured for war. Please lower your shields and spears, I come in peace.

I recently ran a poll where I braved the question: “Has political correctness gone too far?”

Poll Results - Political Correctness

Honestly, I knew I was opening a can of worms, but at the same time I have grown weary of tip toeing around issues. As I grow older and better define who I am, I also grow in resilience and thick skin.

What is it about this topic that polarises people so greatly? I have invested some significant thought into the topic and I feel I might have stumbled upon some insights.

Both parties are mostly saying the same thing, but in a different way. The reason for the confusion stems from the definitions we subscribe to and the frame of reference we use to contextualise the topic. Moreover, going through the extensive comments a number of patterns have emerged.

For the purposes of this article let’s break the poll into the two groups. The YES and NO groups.

YES group (those who believe that political correctness has gone too far). The emergent themes in the comments were:

  • Political correctness was a method of control in order to censor those that wish to speak the truth, resulting in the deceleration of cultural evolution.
  • People’s proclivity for taking offence was largely subjective and that people who were easily offended were overly sensitive and poorly adjusted to deal with conflict.
  • Censoring language was a violation of the communicator’s rights (particularly freedom of speech).
  • It demonstrates a lack of respect to censor people from the ‘truth’, or other people’s opinions.
  • Political correctness was a mechanism used by left wing individuals as a means of controlling people, under a banner of ‘politeness.’

NO group (those who believe that political correctness has not gone too far). The emergent themes in the comments were:

  • Political correctness is often a term used by people who wish to get away with disrespecting others, or not being held accountable for their actions.
  • Adding ‘political’ to the term adds to the divisiveness.
  • People who use the label ‘political correctness’ are often the ones ‘harassing’ others.
  • We do not fully understand our own biases and assumptions and therefore do not always know the damage we are causing others. The linkage here was towards accountability.
  • The cultural change is a natural evolution of society as we become more enlightened to the effects we have on others.
  • The main drive for change is centred around respect for others, and the provision for harmonious and inclusive communities and teams.

What was immediately obvious were the consistencies in language associated with respect, communication, labels, and oppression.

Assumptions

Both sides assumed ill intent.

Generally speaking, the YES category made the assessment that the other parties were deliberately trying to silence and suppress the objective truth, often because it was felt they couldn’t handle it. The NO category assumed that the yes voters were deliberately trying to change the system in an attempt to get away with doing the wrong things. This was not an isolated observation either. There were hundreds of comments across the breadth of conversations attributed to shares from the original post. In essence, both parties assumed the worst of each other.

The assertions they made about each other force fed the narrative of evilness and divisiveness which helped to alienate the other group. It also allowed people to stay comfortable exactly where they were, self-assured in the realisation that they were right, and the others were wrong.

I think if everyone is truly honest with themselves, they will realise that most people’s intent is pure. Most people I know are trying to make the best of their situations with the knowledge and resources they have available. This is not to say that there are not evil people out there, there most definitely are. But I would suggest they are not as prevalent as we would like to convince ourselves of, particularly when we are trying to make generalised assertions about political sidings and viewpoints.

Acknowledgement of this is a great start because it allows us to focus on the problem, not the person.

“Assume the worst about people and you get the worst”

Ha-Joon Chang

Bias

After looking at the results I think bias is one of the central issues. Not only about the topic of political correctness, but about most divisive topics in society today.

There is a term called ‘confirmation bias’ which explains the “tendency to search for, interpret, favour, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one’s prior beliefs or values.” This is not a small issue. In fact, it is an incredibly dangerous and divisive issue in society today. Quite simply, what you are looking for you will find. The cumulative effects of this bias leads people to polarise. It acts in a manner that is similar in its characteristics to feedback in a microphone and speaker arrangement when the sound transmitted from a speaker is picked up by the microphone which sends a message back to the speaker to increase the volume, with the cycle ever-repeating. It is a viscous and escalating cycle that if left unchecked results in damage to the system.

Similarly, confirmation bias prompts someone to look for information that proves their existing narrative, then guides them towards finding information that proves it, then repeats the process. The repetition pulls the person further along the spectrum each time.

In this sense, we must always ask ourselves whether we would rather be right, or correct. They are fundamentally different things.

“I think it’s outrageous if a historian has a ‘leading thought’ because it means they will select their material according to their thesis.”

Antony Beevor

Filtering & Context

A commonly overlooked issue with people is our tendency to filter out information. Not just a little bit of information, but nearly all of it! Our brains are geared in such a way that they are trying to make sense of the world around us and navigate the incredible complexities it provides. The result of which is our inability to measure the world objectively and accurately.

No better example of this exists than in the unreliability of ‘eye-witness testimonies’ in court cases. “Although witnesses can often be very confident that their memory is accurate when identifying a suspect, the malleable nature of human memory and visual perception makes eyewitness testimony one of the most unreliable forms of evidence.” Greg Hurley, National Center for State Courts.

Our brains have managed complexity by attempting to reduce the scope of our focus. Our senses spend most of the time trying to remove the white noise and focus on the things that are deemed more important. This is a great function when used correctly, but without constant and careful attentiveness it can rapidly spiral into a stasis of bigotry, ignorance, and misinformation.

At the grass roots level, it results in ever extending separation of groups who in reality have many similarities or consistencies. What is scary is that the basis of our information, claims and opinions are most likely grounded in minimal truth, or as a minimum an absence of context.

When we delve ever deeper into the specific details of issues, we learn the utility and applicability of context. What might be true in one scenario is categorically wrong in another. To make matters even more complex is when we consider that someone might be right and wrong at the exact same time, depending on the frame of reference and context of the scenario. What is more challenging is when we consider that neither party might be right at all, and we may not have even stumbled across the correct answer yet as a collective.

If we fail to get into the detail and rely solely on the information provided by our senses, subjective experience and filters we are doomed to miss opportunities afforded in understanding context and truth.

Do not be so sure that what you have experienced is the truth.

“What you see is filtered through your beliefs. You rarely see “reality.” You see your version of it.”

Joe Vitale

Values and Beliefs

So where do we go from here? How can we start finding common language and understanding in order to have an amicable meeting of minds?

I think the path forward lies in our understanding and distinction of values and beliefs.

Values are guiding principles that overshadow our understanding of the world. They largely remain extant throughout our lives. They assist us in prioritising our efforts, altering our behaviours, and defining our identities.

Beliefs are different. They are an acceptance of something being true, often without proof. Beliefs can and do change throughout the course of our lives as our understanding of the world becomes more refined and higher resolution. Beliefs are also often used to help navigate specific situations, scenarios, or schemas.

This distinction is highly relevant. We often place too much weight on beliefs as opposed to values. We form allegiances with those people who hold the same belief system as opposed to those with the same values, and this works up until the point where our belief system is disproven or is made irrelevant due to context or additional information. Then the person is hit with an existential crisis that directly challenges their ego and core identity. People will then do one of two things:

  • Knuckle down to finding evidence that proves their belief correct and by extension, that they were right (confirmation bias).
  • Reassess their belief system to see whether it needs to change, and determine to what extent.

The former option is the most often to occur, resulting in further separation from the truth and a regression from personal growth.

The highest performing individuals and teams make a deliberate attempt to surround themselves with people who have like-values but different beliefs. The diversity is what fuels innovation and creativity, but it comes at a cost – awareness and accuracy.

The chaos and uncertainty that is inevitably created as a result of breaking down and rebuilding people’s belief systems is subsequently glued back together with the power of the values they all subscribe to. In the first instance, it is terrifying to be proven wrong, but knowing it came from an angle of love and was triggered by the pursuit of truth is what ultimately confirms its importance and relevance.

When implemented correctly the relationship survives and thrives, and a new cycle of growth is formed. A belief system is challenged, the relationship is re-glued by values, everyone grows, then the process is repeated.

Leadership & Influence

I would like to take the opportunity to share some advice (for what it’s worth) from my experience as a leader, learnt mostly from my mistakes.

If you are a leader you should not choose to be offended. The moment you become offended the dialogue stops. The moment the dialogue stops you lose your influence. The moment you lose your influence the person drifts in the other direction.

It takes significant courage, fortitude, and discipline to listen to people intently, absorbing their entire message. All this, whilst trying to find the context for why/how they arrived at that conclusion. It is a well recorded communication skill to be able to accurately and honestly depict another person’s opinion (in all its detail) without manipulating it into a narrative that suits our own purposes. This is an incredibly powerful skill to foster and maintain enduring relationships.

Our egos are ultimately the trap. They encourage us to cut others off and impart our opinion over theirs. The moment we choose to become offended we have decided to focus on the person, not the problem, and this does not work.

The other thing to consider is that the loudest people in the room very rarely hold the greatest influence. Be careful when the ‘squeaky wheel’ individual claims to represent the interests of an entire group, rarely is this the case (in my experience). It is quite often to find a silent majority who hold relatively consistent opinions. This group are sometimes reticent to communicate because it is perceived to be too hard to deal with the louder more dominating individuals, and is therefore fraught with avoidable dangers.

This is a shame because it speaks to the fundamentals around communication, openness, and honesty which professedly scaffold our communities and cultures. Maybe more important to recognise is the lack of dialogue and communication leads to regret, which subsequently morphs into resentment. I see this happening with the two groups in the political correctness debate, as people routinely mention their inability to speak out without being attacked.

If you think the damages associated with offending people are bad, wait until you see the results of drawn out resentment. They are quite literally the worst.

Closing

So, has political correctness gone too far? The answer is yes, no and it depends (very politically correct I know, but it is true).

The answer is case specific to individual societies and cultures. It is in varying levels in different places throughout the world, all of which hold different political structures and systems. A generalised answer about the topic or the people that voted is arguably unhelpful and only serves to fuel bias.

One could reasonably say that 84% of people saying something has gone too far is an objective indicator to consider that there is likely something amiss. But if it is to be fixed it requires further analysis and contextualisation to find those root causes that are triggering this answer.  It also needs people to leave their egos at the door. It is important to note that had I asked the question in a different way, it is likely I would have received an entirely different result. The frame of reference is important and cannot be overlooked for the sake of convenience.

All this considered, the incredible sway in one direction (based on the way I asked the question) might trigger some people to reassess the way they communicate with others. It might challenge preconceptions that individuals previously had on the topic. It might pressure test some people’s beliefs – and that is good thing. Hopefully, it might have shocked some people to delve further into the topic in a manner that might challenge their own belief systems, or the way they interact with others.

If it has achieved this, then we have collectively taken one small step in the right direction and that is a better place than we were previously. Sometimes that is all we can hope for.

Safe travels, and best wishes.

I hope you have enjoyed this article

When I was a young boy I made a monumental mistake.

My equally rebellious friends and I had managed to source a big box of matches. We thought it would be a great idea to go down to the makeshift BMX ramps which were located in the nearby pine forest that surrounded our suburb. One thing led to the next and before we knew it we had figured out that if you hold the match in a specific way and flick it with your other finger then you can shoot them at each other. So that is exactly what we did. We spent nearly an hour burning each other by shooting flaming matches at each other. It seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do at the time, but in the back of my mind I knew that if I got caught my Dad would kill me!

The very same man that achieved so much for so long by focusing intense energy on areas of his life that were deemed high priorities. This included his family, his work, his sport and community groups.

So, with this as knowledge I continued to burn my friends, as they burnt me – laughing and carrying on the entire time. Until something went wrong…

Who would have thought that hundreds of flaming matches in combination with a dry and arid Australian bushland would be a combination for a disaster? It didn’t take long before we realised we had started a small bush fire off to our flanks. We all snapped into gear taking off our shirts and trying to put out the small fire which by this time was beginning to spread. Then I thought to myself if Mum knew what I was doing with my T-Shirt right now, worse than killing me, she’d be disappointed!

The same woman that had selflessly focused on our family, providing us with good hearty values and morals. She had admirably progressed herself with poise, tact and dignity as she moved up the Corporate ladder into increasingly respected positions of leadership.

As it turned out, with a little bit of luck from some lateral wind we won the battle. Laying there panting, covered in unnecessary match burns a tall dark looming figure appeared over our heads. It was a man that lived on the borders of the forest we were playing in. He had heard the commotion and realised what was happening. We scattered to the four winds in a desperate attempt to escape. I got away and ran home.

Hours passed. Then a knock at the door…

There was my slightly chubby friend standing next to his Dad. There I was on the inside of the door standing next to my Dad. My heart practically stopped. It was now time to pay the piper. The Dad’s talked to each other. I could feel the rage in my father growing.

What eventuated was something unexpected.

When everyone had left and it was just us in the room, he turned to me and said one thing.

“You know better, where was your self-discipline?”

By no means was this the end of the ‘discussion’ or the ‘disciplinary process’ but it was the one thing I would remember vividly in my bones forever as it had come from one of the most disciplined men I know.

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CONTEXT

Today’s society has evolved so rapidly influencing technology, populations, expansion, globalisation and leadership changes.

But in other ways society has regressed and it has been more subtle and insidious. In many areas within society we have seen a progressive shift away from our personal values as our compass, and personal discipline as our mechanism of delivery.

Slowly but surely, we made it more and more acceptable to withdraw from accountability. The truth has slowly been replaced with whatever language or actions make us more comfortable, instead of those that might keep us honest and accountable. This has been further exacerbated by a narrative that encourages people to be victims. We stopped telling people what they needed to hear, and instead reverted to telling them what they wanted to hear. We started making excuses for people in order to avoid having difficult conversations. All this has resulted in a significant paradigm shift that has left many people disenfranchised, disconnected and irrelevant to those around them.

It was Mahatma Gandhi. That said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Most people reading this would agree on one thing. Our minds are often geared to resist change (often due to a lack of incentives, fear of uncertainty or a perceived risk of losing what they already own). So, what is it that can help someone get out of their own way? What can we generally identify as the precursors which will prevent someone from taking positive action in their life? Here are some:

  1. Finding purpose and direction.
  2. Being responsible for the service to others.
  3. Fortitude, resilience and determination.
  4. Prioritisation of efforts.
  5. Plan of attack/delivery.

But these are all just feel good words and phrases unless they are overshadowed by a culture of discipline and action. Without discipline to act on these values and ideals people remain in a state of limbo, always talking a big game but never get anything done. These are the same people that have ‘opinions’ about most things, but rarely have the calloused knuckles of a person who actually works to achieve the goals and commit to the delivery.

DOING THINGS WE DON’T WANT TO DO, BUT NEED TO GET DONE

My time in the military showed me some of the most disciplined people in the world. They would stop at nothing to achieve the goals required for their individual and team success. They understood the interrelationship between self and team success, identifying that in most cases they were one in the same.

  1. If they were scared, they bit their lip and did it anyway.
  2. If they were uncertain, they reminded themselves of their relevance in the team and did it anyway.
  3. If they were under performing, they trained ridiculously hard in order to patch the gap.
  4. If they were hurt they found where they could still provide value and volunteered.

William Feather once stated, “if we do not discipline ourselves, the world will do it for us.”

Looking back now, boy was he right!?

HONESTY

Ask yourself the following questions honestly:

  1. Do you only do things when prompted or influenced by others?
  2. Do you understand your purpose to the point where it influences your daily activities and behaviours?
  3. Are you lazy?
  4. Do you routinely blame external influences or people for your lack of success?
  5. Do you judge other people on their lack of performance, but then demonstrate the same behaviours when no-one is looking?
  6. Are you unhealthy in body and mind, and was it as a result of laziness?

If the answer is unfavorable, then you have some serious life changing choices to make.

ACCOUNTABILITY

It is not someone else’s responsibility to keep you accountable. That responsibility lies solely and squarely on your shoulders.

Moreover, being disciplined does not mean being a jerk or being mean. It has absolutely no connection with being jaded, obtuse, offensive, rude or antisocial – quite the opposite actually. A disciplined person is in control of their behaviour, communication, and deliveries. They accept accountability when they get these things wrong and then subsequently improve without making excuses or demonising the other party.

As we approach the end of the year many of us will start posturing to make our New Year’s Resolutions. Two types of people will emerge from the pack. Those that follow through and commit to long-term behavioural changes, ultimately improving their lives and others. There will be another group of people that will talk a big game, dabble in temporary difficult work and then subsequently quit. The determiner for each of these types will be discipline. Better yet there will be a third group that see no need in waiting for New Years in order to start moving and fixing things, they will start immediately.

BE COMFORTABLE BEING UNCOMFORTABLE

Life is not meant to be easy despite our best wishes. Life is experienced in an environment characterised by chaos, uncertainty and friction. The more we choose to place our fates in the environments that surround us the more we lose control of our own futures.

For many, it is time to start being uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable! So uncomfortable that it normalises and you finally realise that you are well positioned to make choices that can significantly improve your life and circumstances, or alternatively float along in a cloud of malaise.

Commit to something small and get it done. Find something slightly more difficult and get it done. Find something even more difficult and get it done…Rinse and repeat until you realise how much control over yourself and your future you really have! Have the discipline to finish something, and then everything.

CONCLUSION

If you want to truly step your life up to the next level then start accepting accountability for your actions. If you know there are behaviours that are unresourceful and are resulting in negative outcomes – Stop them! Surround yourself with people that are also on a journey of betterment. Hold them to account if they are to remain in your circle of influence. They should do the same for you. But, don’t rely on them to get your responsibilities fulfilled.

I trust this message will get to the one person that needs to hear it. It might be the very message which will lead you to a better outcome. It is written from an angle of love and respect.

For those committing to longer term success and are willing to be more disciplined this time around I say ‘Ad Meliora’ – ‘Onwards to better things.’

If you would like to read other articles please visit here.

If you would like to have a discussion about personal coaching then I can point you in the right direction, hit me up in a message…

Victor Not Victim – A Personal Walkthrough

So today I woke up angry, frustrated and pissed off. Sue me, I’m human.

The trigger was due to the accumulative effects of numerous issues which arose the day before. It was just one of those days that progressively got worse and worse until the point where it was nearly laughable.

The day involved everything from technology blow ups, being let down unexpectedly by others, losing important leads, communication blunders, losing the rugby, to not sleeping through the night. It was one thing after the next. No sooner had I put down the phone did it call with another problem. We have all been there. Just one of those days…

So, I woke up this morning with a unique idea. I would walk people through the way I was going to re-frame and get back on the horse. This would document how I forcibly slap myself off of the victim bandwagon and get on with life. This is as transparent and honest as I can be about something that is happening real-time.

Step 1 – What Do I know?

Whenever someone gets ‘spooled up’ like I did the day prior, it is usually following a number of assumptions or assertions that have been placed into the narrative.

1.   In my instance it is very easy to assume that the ‘attack’ on me from multiple fronts is due to a higher and more insidious attempt to break me.

2.   That the people who let me down did so in order to deliberately annoy and frustrate me.

3.   That the leads we lost were a complete and utter waste of time.

4.   That the technology mishaps were entirely preventable

5.   That the rugby game we lost was the universe’s way of putting the ‘cherry on the cake.’

When you say it out loud one immediately starts to realise that it is a massive list of thoughts generated by self-rationalisation.

A narrative that directly places me in the cross hairs of a victim mindset.

Instead let’s look now at what I know to be true:

1.   I had a crappy day with a whole bunch of unrelated but equally frustrating events.

2.   The day prior was quite good and if I choose I could average it out and come out on top. Or better yet I could reinforce the fact that what happened one day is very unlikely to have full effect on the next.

3.   It is very unlikely that the interpersonal disappointments were malicious in any way. More likely it was how I chose to interpret them.

With that detailed, let’s move onto the next step…

If you are interested in learning more about the distinction between facts and assumptions, read this article I wrote previously.

Step 2 – Who do I choose to be?

My personal values are below. Let’s see how I can use my values in order to make better choices. In doing so I need to be 100% honest with myself and leave my ego and pride at the door. I need to ask myself some challenging questions.

Service

1.   Whilst I am wallowing in self-pity and anger, am I providing service to others? No

2.   Would the mindset I am currently demonstrating align with my reputation of service to others? No

3.   Are there better ways I can demonstrate service to others? Yes

4.   Will what I experienced recently redirect who I provide service to in the future? Partly Yes

Initiative

1.   Is there a more productive way of using my time in order to provide service to others? Yes

2.   Am I currently being forward leaning or reactive? Reactive

3.   Can I make a deliberate choice right now in order to demonstrate initiative of thought and activity? Yes

Accountability

1.   Did I have a part to play in the proceedings that happened the day prior? Yes

2.   Could I have responded in different ways that would be more resourceful? Yes

3.   Is this an opportunity for self-learning? Yes

4.   Are we now more informed about the realities with the people, technology and markets? Yes

5.   Will this allow me to adjust my style and approach in the future? Yes

Integrity

1.   Did you demonstrate integrity in the way you responded to stimuli? Yes, but I could have done better.

2.   Do you have a choice to demonstrate integrity moving forward? Yes

3.   Did we learn about other people’s integrity throughout the process? Yes

4.   Will this help in allowing me to better allocate our time to people with like-minded values? Yes

These questions, and others like them are the result of personal discipline to stop oneself getting worked up. It has taken me many years to realise my limits and personality flaws to the point where I can ask myself questions like this in order to snap myself back into the person I would like to be remembered as. In this way our values can become powerful circuit breakers.

Step 3 – Contextualise and re-frame

Moving forward I have to make some choices. The first is a choice as to whether I will whine like a little child and play the victim, or whether I choose to act like a mature adult that accepts their part to play in the events, learns from it and makes better choices in the future.

The second is whether I contextualise what I am experiencing with the real world.

1.   Is anyone dead or dying? No.

2.   In ten years time will I remember or care about the shit day? No.

3.   Have I personally dealt with worse? Hell yes!

Then get off your high horse and get back down to reality where you belong….

My decisions and choices moving forward:

1.   Today I will act in a way that acquits my values positively

2.   I will make more informed choices about the people I invest time in, the technologies we use, and the markets we service.

3.   Today I’ll re-frame with a chosen phrase of ‘shit happens’. Sometimes you have crappy days. Get over it.

4.   I’m going to start looking for opportunities and gaps and regain my hunt for ‘good people.’

Step 4 – Get on with it

It is time to execute on the promises, and implement the lessons learnt.

No excuses. Get it done!

Getting these things done is what we will define as success and winning.

Conclusion

I hope by walking people through this internal discussion and dialogue they can see some opportunities for their own personal growth. Either that or you now think I am a loony madman.

I trust that the importance of personal choice and accountability rings through and this resonates with the people who are currently ‘spooling up’.

I am confident that there is at least one person out there who might gain value from this article.

In closing I would like to quote Viktor Frankl:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

If you would like to read some of our other publications and be informed of future releases. Please visit our website blog.

If you would like a discussion about personal and professional development opportunities. Reach out and we can have a chat.

 

Author: David Neal – Director – The Eighth Mile Consulting

We have all heard someone say, “I’m not a pessimist, I am a realist.” It is a phrase that has many different layers to it, and it is definitely a topic worth discussing.

There are many that would argue that the world is a terrible and chaotic place characterised by suffering, confusion, and destruction.

I recently saw an amazing post by Ian Mathews which prompted me to write this article.

Before becoming a Management Consultant, I was an Infantry Army Officer within the Australian Army.

My early years within the Army were founded in an education into military strategy and tactics. Many veterans would have experienced this for themselves. I can say with absolute confidence, that the lessons I learnt during this time have significantly shaped the way I perceive the world, most notably those interactions between organisations in highly competitive markets. This is not to say that organisations cannot co-exist, cooperate, or operate with an abundance mindset, but it is to recognise the fact that the actions of one organisation can directly impact the operational effectiveness of another. And, if we agree that the interactions between organisations, coupled with unique approaches to market ultimately decide our own team’s fate, then I feel it is something worth learning about.

During my first four years in the Army, a number of fundamental lessons were taught regarding the different types of warfare and strategic approaches. These lessons were further investigated throughout my career and were regularly cross-referenced against our operational efforts at the time.

History has shown that the differences in strategic approach inevitably decide the outcomes of almost every major military and international effort. My observations accrued from working inside the commercial and corporate world as a relative outsider have shown me that there is a reluctance to change strategy or consider different approaches often at the long-term detriment of the organisation. Furthermore, there is often a lack of willingness to learn new more simplistic methods of operation or approach. Conversely, those organisations that are willing to consider different perspectives and approaches often leave their competitors in their wake as they seemingly glide their way to success. The most damning situation of all is the vast number of organisations that aren’t operating with any strategy at all…

For the companies that are doing well, the reason they seem to glide so effortlessly towards their goals is because they are able to answer one fundamental question:

“How can we best use our precious resources in order to achieve the strategic outcomes we seek?”

With this said, I want to take the opportunity to introduce a number of different military methodologies and in turn demonstrate their utility in a corporate and commercial context.

ATTRITION WARFARE

“Attrition warfare is a military strategy consisting of belligerent attempts to win a war by wearing down the enemy to the point of collapse through continuous losses in personnel and material. The war will usually be won by the side with greater resources (Military-SF, 2007). The word attrition comes from the Latin root ‘atterere’, meaning to rub against, similar to the “grinding down” of the opponent’s forces in attrition warfare (Merriam Webster Dictionary).”

World War 1 and many sections of World War 2 were prime examples of attrition warfare. During these campaigns, an enemy would simply try and saturate an enemy force by bringing as much force to bear on them as possible until their systems and team’s collapse. Attrition warfare unequivocally favours the larger force and requires less imagination and agility in order to conduct. The resource cost is immense but if conducted in the right context (with the right force offset) can result in decisive victory, whereby an opposing force can be completely incapacitated in one location and in one event. There is a catch though, when a decisive victory is not achieved it results in prolonged wars that can extend for years with organisation’s ‘digging in’ and are incredibly difficult to dislodge.

In the commercial and corporate context attrition takes the form of monopolised businesses that are so massive and occupy so much of the market, there is no practical way for smaller organisations to try and compete with them by using direct or overt methods. Examples would include (but are not limited to):

  • Certain types of paid advertising
  • Sponsorship of events
  • Undertaking certain types of legal action
  • Poaching high-end staff by way of salary incentives

Attrition as a practical commercial strategy is almost solely limited to those incredibly large organisations with huge resources on hand. The very same organisations that advertise during the Super Bowl as an example.

MANOEUVRE WARFARE

Manoeuvre Warfare refers to a strategy aimed at unbalancing, unhinging, or outmanoeuvring an enemy. It was developed in response to emerging middle-sized conventional armies that were adamant in avoiding the huge losses associated with attrition warfare. It pays particular attention to identifying and defining the root purpose of a campaign and finding different ways to achieve the same aim. It is commonly referred to as targeting an enemy’s ‘Centre of Gravity’, which is loosely defined as that ‘thing’ that gives them the will or the ability to fight.

 

History has seen different militaries use Manoeuvre Warfare in different ways. Some armies have made use of:

  •  Physical Dislocation. Geared at removing the key assets or logistics that enable them to operate.
  •  Temporal Dislocation. Being faster to move than the enemy, particularly in achieving important terrain, milestones, or assets ahead of time.
  •  Moral Dislocation. Attacking the enemy’s will to win, or fight. This often includes a significant effort to get into the minds of the key decision-makers and shape their decisions.

Each of these different methods may be run simultaneously, and all of them have emphasis placed on surprise and making faster decisions than their competitors.

In the commercial and corporate context, we see manoeuvre characteristics in those organisations that are adept in prioritisation and channelling their efforts towards those outcomes that will have a disproportionate impact in support of their strategy. These organisations know their strengths and weaknesses and magnify their results exponentially by focusing their precious resources towards 2 or 3 outcomes. Manoeuvre in this sense allows organisations to start capturing market share from bigger competitors, and the market share they capture will be more tailored towards where they can have the highest impact.

GUERRILLA WARFARE

“Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare in which small groups of combatants, such as paramilitary personnel, armed civilians, or irregulars, use military tactics including ambushes, sabotage, raids, petty warfare, hit-and-run tactics, and mobility, to fight a larger and less-mobile traditional military (Wiki).”

The concept of Guerrilla style tactics was heavily publicised in the works of Sun Tzu who suggested that a much smaller force could win against a much larger competitor if it made absolute use of all its available resources and was able to move faster before they could respond properly.

 

Guerrilla warfare is based on an idea that smaller teams can create significant issues for their enemies providing they stay under the ‘detection threshold’. They almost always have significantly sparse resources and they rely heavily on the use of supporters, partners, and sympathisers. Their support networks are often incredibly loyal and ideologically linked with their fighting purpose.

In the corporate or commercial context, it means that smaller more agile organisations can achieve huge proportionate impacts providing they are willing to remain agile, dynamic and are able to incentivise people behind their cause. It also means that smaller boutique agencies can provide highly tailored services to organisations who are not keen on paying premium prices.

In many ways, this has been one of the founding success features of The Eighth Mile Consulting as we endeavour to support areas of the market that are not detected by the larger players in the industry. This in turn with our support from partner organisations has meant that we can seize opportunities quickly, provide valuable services and maintain our loyal support network (providing we continue to give value regularly). With this as context our organisational values and ethos make sense:

  • Service – Client tailored service delivery
  • Initiative – Find a need, fill a need
  • Integrity – We do what we promise
  • Accountability – Actively seek responsibility

CONCLUSION

I have not even scratched the surface on the intricacies associated with each of these strategies or the myriad of other strategies available, but I am sure we can agree that there is a utility in their application within a corporate and commercial context.

Now it might seem counter-intuitive to suggest that these strategies do not always have to be adopted in an overtly aggressive manner against others. The more astute readers will recognise that in the corporate and commercial context that these strategies often speak more to how we operate our own teams and strategies and are less geared towards destroying your competitors. I firmly believe in the concept of an abundance mindset, but I also acknowledge that the actions of one organisation can have far-reaching implications on our own. So, this being said I would suggest that understanding of these strategies:

  • Helps us prioritise our efforts towards the effect we are seeking to achieve.
  • Reduces our scope of operations towards those things that will provide the most significant impact and effect.
  • Encourages us to recognise our strengths and weaknesses, and therefore assist us in finding our relevance.
  • Promote early adoption of detecting those routes that will provide the paths of least resistance.
  • Incentivise us to think outside the box instead of always reinventing the wheel.

‘The enemy’ in the corporate or commercial context might not be your competitors, but it might be your environment and its ever-changing conditions.

If we look at it from this angle, we open the door to huge opportunities to reinvent our brands, define our team’s purpose, and provide an enduring legacy.

For those interested in developing unique business strategies please feel free to reach out and discuss with me or my team. 

For other articles and daily posts please follow David Neal and  Jonathan Clark.

 

One of the most distinctive memories from my early days within the Army was one of my respected Sergeants suddenly and abruptly correcting one of my trainee peers.

My mate had mentioned the unmentionable…

We were discussing what we should do if we encounter an enemy that was larger or more dangerous than we had originally predicted, and someone mentioned the word ‘retreat’. The response from my sergeant was immediate, ‘Australians DO NOT retreat!’. He went on to explain that we might withdraw in the interest of finding a terrain that was more conducive and favourable for us, but we do not retreat.

This is a statement that has stuck with me since that time. It speaks of the importance of always moving forward and regaining the initiative. Of remaining focused and deliberate in everything we do. It accepts that at times we might have to take a step back, but this should only be done to regain our footing in which to be able to take more steps moving forward. Over the years this phrase has spread its utility into most aspects of my life such as:

The Importance of Strategy

But here is the catch, it is predisposed on an assumption that we know what direction we should be heading. What point is there moving forward if it is entirely the wrong direction?

This is why having a strategy is so incredibly important. A strategy is a framework which sanity tests our decisions in short time, in order to allow us to stay focused on heading in the right cardinal direction. I have seen so many people get this wrong at their detriment.

We need to ask ourselves does our strategy (personal or professional):

  • Detail what we are seeking to achieve (Mission)?
  • Explain what it looks like when we achieve it (Vision)?
  • Include a sequence of how we might actually transit there (Goals, pillars, objectives, measures of success)?
  • Contain an acknowledgement of what we are willing to invest (or give up) in order to achieve it (resource allocations)?

It is an area that is too often paid lip service, but it is this defining feature that separates good teams from the absolute best.

A strategy allows a team to make quicker decisions, allocate precious resources towards those efforts with the highest impact and effect, as well ignore those shiny distractions which enticingly seduce people off of the centre line of their success.

Stopping the rot

‘Moving forward’ all the time is extremely difficult. It requires consistency, dedication and focus. Traits that can be increasingly hard to come by these days.

Our world is full of ever-increasing distractions and information that act as ‘white noise’ to our concentration. This white noise can incrementally increase for some people to the point where it becomes debilitating to their decision-making abilities. Some teams can become so confused by the pressures associated with these distractions that they reactively overcompensate by creating more and more high priorities. Leaders become withdrawn as the idea of moving forward appears less and less tenable.

For these teams, a ‘circuit breaker’ is required. Something that can stop the spiralling confusion and provide some level of clarity. This often requires a combination of the following:

  1. Strong leaders & managers with clear roles and responsibilities. Kotter once described the distinction between Leadership and Management, explaining that leaders coordinate ‘change’ and managers coordinate ‘complexity’. I particularly like this description as it is a simple reference for teams to make in order to refocus and distribute their team’s efforts. It is a common observation that the teams that are drowning have not clearly identified the distinction in roles and responsibilities between key roles. Everyone is trying to do everything, and no one is doing it well.
  2. Objectivity. Sometimes people are so saturated in their problems that they cannot see the overall context. They are literally living minute by minute and the idea of popping their head about the parapet in order to refocus their direction is unimaginable. This is where objectivity is so key. A third set of eyes, from someone who is not so absorbed in the problem, can be invaluable in asking the right questions and assisting in resetting the focus.
  3. Horsepower. Some teams are under-resourced and under-supported – plain and simple. These teams have often been heading in the right direction but just do not have the horsepower or workforce to get their project over the line. They have been doing ‘more with less’ for so long that they have reached culmination, and they just need reinforcement. Jonathan Clark once said to me, ‘sometimes you don’t need more people standing around the hole telling you how to dig better, you just need them to jump in and help dig’.
  4. Prioritisation. It is common to see teams that have a massive list of ‘what to do’ they have forgotten to detail what they ‘do not need to do’. The list of what is not required is often more important than what need to do. It stops people being lured down the enticing trip falls we eluded to earlier…

Some of the readers might resonate with some of these observations. If you have, I would love to hear your comments, case studies, and ideas.

The Eighth Mile Consulting team has founded a reputation for helping teams navigate through this confusion. There is an amazing feeling of elation as a team steps over the line of success when things months prior looked dire and unachievable.

For those slugging their way through problems at this very time, remember:

  • We don’t retreat, we withdraw to more favourable conditions
  • We ensure the actions we are doing are working to an overarching strategy or design.
  • We don’t give up, but we do adapt our approach

 

 

Samantha Pickering and Peter Keith from The Eighth Mile Consulting discuss the science behind resilience.

 

There is a difference between positive stress and toxic stress. Long exposure to stress can have significant impacts on our health, but there is good news, we are in control of how we perceive our world. Problem-solving and coping skills are examples of positive stress that we can exercise for our benefit.

There are five areas within our control that can influence our ability to be resilient, which we explain further in this short presentation:

  1. Social Connections
  2. Attitude
  3. Values
  4. Emotional Acceptance
  5. Sense of Humor 

In this video, we also decode the four main chemicals that affect our behaviours and moods. Looking further into how the language we choose to use directs our bodies as to how to respond to a situation. This helps provide an understanding as to how we can make simple changes to create a positive impact in our own lives. Peter Keith coaches on shifting the subconscious speech patterns that are limiting our own experience.

Building our own ability to be resilient is often a precursor to leading our teams through times of uncertainty and managing ambiguity with decisiveness and clarity. The Eight Mile Consulting has developed an online leadership course, specifically for those ambitious leaders seeking to develop themselves professionally, to become greater leaders for their team.

For more helpful videos to help you grow your people and your organisation subscribe to our YouTube channel.

 

The Eighth Mile Consulting holds true to a mantra of Good People Helping Good People. For this very reason, we chose to run this webinar in support of Women in Leadership, aiming to provide guidance for some of the challenges that women face when seeking to promote themselves up the ladder of their chosen career. We believe in equality and inclusive workplaces. Here we interview Anita Cavanough and Allanna Kelsall, two distinguished women in their fields, for their advice and experience.

Creating equality for all

As a community, we need to work together to make diversity within our workplaces the rule, rather than the exception. Barack Obama’s speech at the Women Summit taught us what modern feminism can look and feel like. 

We can all contribute to this growth and continue the positive change that we are seeing. Standing up and challenging the status quo requires both tact and strategy. We discuss setting your stage for success and getting the balance right with our own unrelenting high-performance standards. Often this requires managing up, which is another topic we have covered in a previous webinar, that you can find here. 

Sometimes it is our own limiting beliefs and fears that hold us back, is the “coach and the critic” on your shoulder helping or hindering your leadership ambitions? The Eighth Mile Consulting has built an online course dedicated to providing assistance for those wanting to develop their leadership skills, enhance their opportunities for career progression and live to their own full potential. 

Is your organisation focused on supporting women in leadership? 

Important points to remember 

  1. Take risks and back yourself! 
  2. Speak up with your creative ideas. 
  3. Keep a highlight reel, noting all of your achievements and share it with your advocates. 
  4. Build alliances and promote each other, know your allies, these can come from both sides of the gender fence. 
  5. Be yourself, authenticity and lightness can go a long way. 

For more helpful videos to feed your mind and develop yourself professionally subscribe to our YouTube channel.

What goals do you have for yourself and your career?

How are you investing in your own professional development to achieve these goals?

Let us know in the comments below!

Sometime back I posted this on LinkedIn, on the topic of leadership.

 

In response to this post many responded with a popular John Wooden quote;

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

I would like to pull this apart in a little detail because I feel for some it might add some significant value in their personal and professional growth.

Now I openly admit that John Wooden is a smarter guy than me, and he has raised an important point about the importance of one’s character as a significant precursor to developing a good reputation. In essence, Wooden is saying that by consistently adhering to strong personal values one can focus on the things that create a good reputation. To this end, you will get no objection from me, the maths adds up.

But there is something missing… Objectivity.

Defining Leadership

Forbes defines leadership in the following way:

“Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal. Notice key elements of this definition: Leadership stems from social influence, not authority or power. Leadership requires others, and that implies they don’t need to be “direct reports”.

I personally think that this is one of the most astute definitions of Leadership that I have read in a long time. It speaks of service to others, of influence, and a lack of reliance on formal structures and authorities.

Leadership effectiveness

So, if we agree that a Leader needs positive influence over others in order to be considered a leader then surely our reputation is an incredibly important indicator of how we are tracking. One could reasonably argue that our reputation is a social litmus test which gives us a reading on whether:

  1. Our communication is landing effectively with others
  2. People align with our values and intent
  3. Our teams want to work for, and with us
  4. We are adequately explaining the context behind our initiatives and proposed changes
  5. We are suitably prepared for progression into ever increasingly complex situations and problem-sets.

Objectivity

Now I will concede that people often develop reputations that are not aligned with their personal intent or values.

These people might have initially approached situations with a personal strategy that was misaligned with the organisation’s culture or strategy. On occasions, this has potentially resulted in people developing a poor reputation that is not accurate with their true character.

But looking at this objectively, I am sure we can all agree that their reputation, in this case, is still indicative of a problem, or breakdown, somewhere along the line. This problem might be due to:

  1. A breakdown in communication
  2. Joining an organisation that had a misalignment of values in the first place
  3. Making decisions that were not understood by others
  4. A lack of personal accountability

The specifics of our reputations might be factually incorrect, but the indication that something is wrong is 100% accurate. It is our job to find out what it is and fix it.

Influence

Personally, I believe I am fortunate to have worked alongside some of the most amazing and influential leaders in the world. Every one of these leaders held amazingly positive reputations – even when they had made decisions that others had professionally disagreed with, they were still respected.

People respected these leaders due to their consistency and authenticity, enough so, that others would give them benefit of the doubt and remain loyal and avid followers in pursuit of supporting a higher team purpose. These leaders were an incredibly valuable resource, particularly in environments characterised by uncertainty, confusion, and complexity. They were often dragged from one problem to the next, leaving a positive legacy wherever they went.

With this as context, this is what is meant by ‘your reputation is your real business card’.

It is also important to note that these leaders were very well represented in forums where they could not represent themselves. Simply put, they had people covering their backs and supporting their messaging, even when they were not being watched. This is the power of positive reputation and influence! People want to help your teams, even when you are not watching or listening to them.

Legacy

One of my personal life goals is to leave a positive legacy and be remembered for being a ‘good person’. I will measure this on the day of my death bed, with the people that surround and support me, and the stories of positive (or negative) legacy I leave behind.

My reputation is critical for me to measure my success as a leader in my family, my friends, and my teams. I cannot conveniently discount its importance or its messaging throughout the course of my life.

Closing

I personally believe that the best leaders are those that are committed in the pursuit of truth.

The truth about themselves, their performance, their teams, and their impacts.

As leaders, we cannot be so quick to discount the importance of one’s reputation. It is the universe’s way of telling you that something is right or wrong in the way you are delivering your messages and interacting with others. This is valuable information for those that are genuinely wishing to improve the way they lead others.