Parables and Commandments

Long Haul

Ever suffered the long haul getting your team to change the way they do things?

Most leaders have.

It’s frustrating, but the idea that leadership means you can get your people to do what you want is a myth.

Let me qualify that. Changing simple things is pretty straight forward, but if you want something that involves a change in mindset, life becomes more difficult.

What do you want?

Whether you want something easy or hard, the first step is always to say what you want.

I know it sounds obvious. But the number one reason people don’t do what’s expected of them is … they don’t know what’s expected of them.

For simple changes, just letting the team in on the secret might get things off and running, lickety-split.

Shifting mindsets though – to improve customer service or to be more innovative, say – can feel like a wrestling match. But change isn’t an opponent, it’s something to bring in to your corner.

I don’t think you’ll find motivation is the hurdle. Most people want to do a good job. More often the barrier is a simple lack of understanding. Listen hard, and you might just hear your people saying, “I don’t know what [customer service/being innovative/any other conceptual change] means in my job. How. Do. I. Do. That?”

Show and Tell

In other words, a speech (or ten) that simply urges an abstract change might sound like it’s full of good ideas, but it’s probably just noise.

Put your message in context with home-grown stories that show what you mean. It’s the difference between showing and telling, between parables and commandments.

For example, for better customer service, tell tales about heroes. “Did you hear about Brian? He drove home on his lunch break to pick up a jacket to lend to a customer who’d lost his own in an airport snafu?”

Using parables gives change a human face. They show what you want in real life situations, and they break down complex concepts like “improve customer service” into simple and easy actions.

Neatly filed under Leading on November 4, 2010
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Reaching the big one quarter

Gibbous (three quarter) moon in daylightGibbous (three quarter) moon in daylightGibbous (three quarter) moon in daylight

Image copyright: kurtphoto via Flickr

It’s been three months since I wrote my first post for Shearing Layers and threw it into WordPress. I guess like most new bloggers I’ve found it an exciting, miserable, nerve wracking, delightful, low, high, skippy experience.

A big thank you to everyone who’s said things about Shearing Layers, given me feedback, and sent such interesting people my way.

Here are the most popular posts:

Bringing products to market


Some of these posts also make it to a series I’m building on the shearing layers themselves:

With three months under my belt I’ve finally bitten the Twitter bullet, please follow me @sn1ck.

Here’s to another three months.

If you like what you find here please subscribe to the RSS feed for a little slice of Layers cake whenever it’s on the table.

Neatly filed under Skippiness on June 25, 2009

Doing the impossible

4 Minute Mile

Image copyright: balakov

55 years ago tomorrow, 6th May 1954, Roger Bannister became the first man to break the 4 minute barrier, running the mile in 3:59.4. The report only made page 8 of the next day’s Times but it changed the world.

After being dropped six times during the war years the mile record was stuck. For nine years every attempt to push the record below four minutes had failed. Was the four minute barrier an absolute?

Bannister settled it. 46 days later Australia’s John Landy broke the mark again.

Now everyone realised what Bannister had known all along. The clock wasn’t the problem, there was no four minute barrier, they was only a psychological one.

Bannister was convinced that he could break through the barrier. His goal was clear, he had a plan, and used bucket loads of commitment and determination to see it through.

Organisations can suffer from old time milers’ fear; failing to deal with self imposed barriers.

He won’t support it, I’ll never get the budget, they won’t let me, I can’t call her, it’s too hard, it’s impossible.

But it is possible. Bannister showed the way; set out a clear goal, work out what has to be done, put the pieces in place, execute.

Neatly filed under Focus on May 5, 2009
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Tell a story with data

Take 20 minutes to watch Hans Rosling present statistics third world issues. You heard right, take 20 minutes for statistics on issues. Can’t do it? Take 1 minute. Commit to watching 1 minute from any place in the presentation.

Stay for longer than a minute? Why?

The data, the presenter, the story?

Neatly filed under Focus on April 15, 2009
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