Monthly Archives: March 2010


One reason why some people achieve so much more than others

Have you ever wondered how it is that some people achieve so much more than others? One answer is because they constantly set ambitious deadlines for themselves. The moment they are given a task, or have a new idea, they immediately turn it into a challenge by setting a deadline by which it will be achieved.   By telling it to the world, their deadline becomes an irreversible ‘must do’ matter of pride.

The all time classic ambitious deadline is president Kennedy’s “to put a man on the moon and to return him safely to Earth, before the decade is out”.  High achievers set these kind of deadlines constantly and for absolutely everything. “I am rather busy right now, but you’ll have it by Friday, is that OK?”. For them a deal is a deal and Friday is their new deadline.

Because most high achievers are also optimists, their overriding sense of confidence makes them temporarily blind to obstacles.  They rely on their ability (and that of their team) to overcome everything that blocks their way.  Life, to them, is like a computer game with its constant stream of challenges.  When they run out, they simply invent more.

Geoff Thompson, the author of The Elephant and the Twig, purchased twenty thousand copies of his own book, by doing so, he set himself the task of selling them himself, rather than sitting back and relying on his publisher to do so.

Successful people surround themselves with achievers. They are not in the slightest worried about competition or being out done. The only thing that is important for them is achieving their goals and objectives. So when they come across people that do not share their energy and passion, they simply ignore them. To a high achiever, a person without vision or drive, sooner or later becomes an irrelevant bystander of a forgotten game.

Have a good week,


2016-11-17T08:25:19+00:003 Comments

If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it

You don’t have to look too far around you to find ‘can’t change, won’t change’ people, they’re everywhere, hiding behind phrases like “I am fully open to change, but if it isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it.”  I have been looking at this paradox recently and have been trying to understand it.

According to professor John L. Ward, the more successful our past set of rules are, the more resistant we are to changing them. In addition the more involved one was in creating the status quo, the more resistant one becomes to changing it. But perhaps it is more realistic to say ‘the more involved one was in creating the status quo, the more determined one becomes to defend it’?

And yet change resistance is logical, after all no one likes spending a morning preparing and polishing an important email just to have it hacked to pieces by the person you asked to ‘quickly check it for typo’s’. The root of the problem is not so much in our resistance to change but in our inability to see the need for it in the first place.

When a tidal wave comes roaring in from the sea, even the most change resistant turn and run. The need is obvious, there is no room or time to defend, discuss or debate.  From this we can obviously conclude that vision is the essential element here and that vision comes from a combination of observation and anticipation.  Keeping one’s eyes focused on the horizon and not on the sand under one’s feet.

Furthermore, something does not need to be broken in order to improve it. We all like to hang on to our tried and tested ways, to the reliable tools of our past. Our old television may not be broken, but when the broadcaster stops sending signals it recognizes, it is effectively dead, even if its components are all still working.   For this reason, I am going to be careful from now on with using the phrase ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’.

Being a source of inspiration to others, being a leader is about anticipation. It is understanding the importance of discerning subtle changes and patterns and adapting to the new emerging environment long, long before it becomes too late.

Have a good week,


2016-11-17T08:25:20+00:000 Comments

Where does vision come from?

I hear so many people say “the trouble with our company is that it lacks vision” or “The trouble with him is that he lacks vision” and just as I mentioned in my blog “Who are they”, a few weeks back, this is mostly about blaming everyone else but yourself.  “they should have seen it coming”, “They would never allow it”, “they are never open to new ideas”. The same applies to vision and the apparent lack of it.

However it is important that I do not raise your expectations too high here, by confusing ‘eureka’ invention moments with vision. More often than not, it is not the inventor that is the visionary but an ordinary team member that sees a useful application for what they have just invented. In much the same way, leadership vision is not so much about inventing something new but understanding the complexity of the problem and then focusing people to work together, in the right direction, in order to solve it for good.

In this way, with enough time, effort and practice, everyone can become a visionary. It’s just like learning to cook. Here’s how:

Step one:

Identify two or three things you see around you that you find annoying (this can be anything from an unreliable multifunctional printer to world hunger, take your pick). Imagine ( visualize) what your world would look like if your annoying problems were solved.

Step two:

Group your problems into clusters and then (the toughest part) give each cluster your ‘vision’ by applying an inspiring title, such as: (for the case of the printer) ‘The paperless office’.

Step three:

Set up a series of goals (measurable objectives) that could bring this eventuality about.

Step four:

Give your vision a time frame

At first visionary exercises are extremely difficult, but played out in a group, and with practice, it gets much easier. (The trouble is that we tend to only try these things in haphazard ways, without proper structure and with real life situations that are too close to home, where our emotions cloud the real issues).

When President Kennedy gave his nation nine years to go from nothing to putting a man on the moon and bringing him safely back again, he overtook the short term technological advantage that Russia had over the US. In doing so he turned his nation into the leading technology player in the world, thereby secured its long term financial strength.

Not every vision needs to be a ‘Kennedy’ moment, but vision is vision and just like with any recipe, it needs to have the right blend of practicality (solving a real problem) and imagination.

Have a good week

2016-11-17T08:25:20+00:000 Comments

Brilliant But Stupid!

I try not to use the word ‘stupid’ too often. Everyone does something stupid once in a while; makes a mistake that they later regret, but this is not the kind of stupidity I am referring to.  My definition of a stupid person is someone that continues to repeat the same mistakes over and over again, not because they are unable to learn but because they are simply either too arrogant or lazy.

And yet we are all prepared to act ‘stupid’ when it suits us.  For example, in my case it is mastering Dutch grammar.  I am prepared to continue to making the same mistakes year in year out.  It seems that I have no desire to focus on perfecting it right now.  In my wife’s case it is setting up any kind of new electronic machine, it simply does not interest her and so she bows to my ‘superior intellect’, knowing that the complete reverse is true.  The point here is that this kind of stupidity is not a problem because the ‘stupid person’ is not disadvantaged, in fact in many cases they are gaining it (my wife gets the video system re-programmed the way she wants it, without the hassle of learning to do it herself).

I was once in a meeting where a manager who happened to be a brilliant scientist was talking through a new proposal.  It was complicated and although he knew his material inside out, he was going at it at such a pace everyone in the room could hardly keep up with him. He genuinely thought that his entire audience was stupid.  Sadly this situation is not uncommon in Universities where genius is encouraged and marketed, even at the cost of the student’s rate of personal development.  However in business this behavior is unacceptable.

Here’s a typical scenario:

Assume you are in a situation where you need to win the approval of a group of people in order to implement a new idea or procedure. What you have to explain to them is rather complex but it is necessary that they understand it, if they are to give their approval.

In this case you need to go at the pace of the slowest in the group. Go any faster and you will leave them behind. Once you have one or two stragglers your meeting is destined to fail because people that cannot keep up become restless and bored. And instead of trying to follow your reasoning they look for objections and flaws in your arguments, anything, no matter how trivial.  They will raise them and interrupt your flow, looking for support from others that are possibly struggling to keep up too.  A few minutes later and your presentation has turned into an all round debating forum that is spinning out of control.

I know of a few managers that regularly fall into this pit. The sad thing is that they tend to believe that their colleagues are unintelligent, stupid even.  If you find this happening to you on a fairly regular basis, you need to change your way of working, you need to find a personal coach.  Because getting one’s own way is an essential part of leadership.  You can have the best idea ever, but if people don’t recognize or follow it you are not a leader but a prophet crying in the wilderness.

Have a good week,

2016-11-17T08:25:20+00:000 Comments