Nov 222014

ShouldIStayWhen should you give up? It is a more intriguing question than it may at first appear. We live in a culture that admires persistence: a society which believes that when the going gets tough, the tough should get going.

Today’s educators encourage young people to be ‘gritty’ and develop a ‘can-do’ mentality that will help them push on that extra mile toward success. Our language is full of clichés extolling the virtues of dogged persistence and yet, at some level, we all know that there are limits to how long we should continue trying to achieve an elusive goal. As Albert Einstein famously said, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is insanity.

The problem in Britain in particular is that in our ‘can-do’ society we have made failure a taboo, something which should be avoided at all costs. The conscientious don’t want to fail at anything, never wanting to admit defeat.

Have we lost sight of the value of strategic withdrawals and made it hard for the conscientious individual to do the intelligent thing? Have we fostered the tendency to persevere beyond the point of sanity….?

How can we change attitudes to success and failure in fruitful ways? How can we recognise the value of dropping an elusive goal and changing tack? How do we know when to persevere and when to quit?

TryTryThere is a fine line though between giving up and giving in, don’t you think? When the whole idea of doing something fills you with dread, boredom or you would rather sleep – give up. When you feel like your soul would be writhing in a cage if you did it – give up. But if you simply lose focus and daydream more than you do the work – give up, for a short while. Go and do something different – go for a walk, work on something else, whatever breaks the focus…. come back later/tomorrow. But don’t give up on those missions. Whatever you do, do something.

So, when should you give in? There is a difference between ‘wrong choice’ and ‘fear’ and the two should not be confused. With wrong choice, you give up and try another strategy. With fear – which often hides under the mask of wrong choice – don’t give up. Instead, give in.

Giving in is not giving up. It is simply letting go of the handlebars, taking your feet off the pedals and freewheeling down the right path …. which to my surprise is down a road which is apparently labelled ‘get the hell out of your own way’. It’s that age old cliché …. If at first you don’t succeed: Try, try again…. [W.C. Fields]

[Are you a quitter? Take a look at 9 reasons to persevere.]

Nov 212014

hear_listenHearing is one of your five senses. It is the ability to perceive sound by detecting vibrations through an organ such as the ear. Listening requires you to pay attention to the speaker and provide feedback. Listening is a few steps further down the track than hearing where, after the brain receives the nerve impulses and deciphers it, it then sends feedback. Although they are synonymous, hearing and listening are completely different things. You can listen to someone without actually hearing anything. Did you ever day dreamed in class? You heard the noise in the classroom but you did not listen to what the teacher was saying.

Listening requires concentration, deriving meaning from the sound that is heard and responding or reacting to it in some way. Listening is a process of communication, where if the person is not listening it can cause a break in communication. Listening is defined by Merriam­-Webster as, “to hear something with thoughtful attention: give consideration.”

Apparently, there are four types of communicators…. I am sure you can think of people in your circles who fit with these characteristics:

  • A ‘non-listener’ is a person who is preoccupied with his/her own thoughts and although s/he is hearing, s/he is not paying attention;
  • A ‘passive listener’ hears the words but does not absorb the meaning and only provides vague answers;
  • A ‘listener’ hears and listens, but only grasps the meaning of talks that interests them (this is most common for people who do not want to listen to a topic on which their views differ and will cease to listen to that and start providing their own ideas);
  • An ‘active listener’ is the best listener, not only do they hear the person speak, but they also listen with patience and an open mind, their focus being completely on the speaker.

What type of communicator are you? Do you alter your type depending on the social or business setting you are in….? Are you happy with the type of communicator you are….?

[Food for thought for the weekend!]

Nov 202014

The winner of a war often loses just as many battles as s/he wins but with luck and preparation, at some point the tide turns or the opponent’s will is broken. If you want to win a war, prepare to suffer plenty of losses.

Do you ever enter battle and end up feeling bad even if you ‘win’? Winning and being ‘right’ does not ensure that things will end well. In fact, if your sense of victory is dependent on another person’s defeat, the victory can be mighty hollow. Being ‘right’ is over-rated. When people argue, what are they really doing? They are defending themselves. In an argument, each person is trying to change the other and who is really the only one we can change? We all know the answer: ourselves…..


Although most of us know better, we do give it a damn good try to change others because we are convinced that if they saw it our way, things would be better. All too often well meaning souls think they know what is best for others and want to tweak someone else’s mind or convince them why they need to change.

But all that is is aggressive behaviour. Aggressive behaviour is characterised by ‘You’ statements and focuses on how the other person ‘should be’ (in someone else’s opinion). Many times, aggressive communication is designed to ‘get back’ at someone else or control how they behave or think. Many people think that aggression is reasonable if the end justifies the means but really anything short of physical danger does not merit aggression because, by definition, the behaviour is authoritarian and judgmental.

Not everything in life has to be a battle – though sometimes it may seem like it! – and don’t think that losing a battle means losing the entire war. Using authoritative, assertive communication – counteracting the ‘You’ with ‘I’ statements – expresses personal feelings without trying to change the way someone else sees things…. And sometimes ignoring the arguing irritant is even more powerful!

The important thing is – Keep Your Cool. If somebody calls you an idiot, that’s personal. But if someone says that your idea is ridiculous, that’s business. Act appropriately when your ideas are criticised or shot down and when you talk (whether literally or online) about other people, be professional. Criticising a person’s idea and criticising a person are two events that I like to call ‘mutually exclusive’. Consider them separately and deal with them effectively.

[Once again, now to potter off and take my own advice…..!]

Nov 192014

Teamwork with blue markerOver the years, I have worked in many teams and earlier this year, I blogged about team work. But it is a subject I often return to and I wonder…. What is the secret to a great team?

I am certainly not the oracle on this subject (and I would question anyone who says they are!) but there are a few thoughts and ideas which I have picked up on along the way which might just help if you are thinking about developing a team:

1. Think small. Ideally, your team should have seven to nine people. If you have fifteen or more, you are setting yourself up for a challenging time ahead as the connections between team members are too hard to make.

2. Diversity. A team should be made up of people who have different opinions about things, people who approach their work in different ways. Diversity is one of the keys to a successful team. That said, I’m sure that on every good team, an individual has gone home at the end of a day thinking, ‘This isn’t going to work’!

TeamworkDream3. Respect. Each team member must have enough self-confidence and self-respect to respect other team members.

4. Common vision. The mission – whatever it is – must be clearly defined and articulated. Everybody has to understand it and know the part they play in achieving it. Team members also need to be driven by the team’s results, not by individual results.

5. Positivity. All team members have to be positive thinkers. A team just cannot function with an excuse-driven, ‘no-can-do’ member on board.

Generally, a good team in the making starts with shared values. Are the team members passionate about the work that they are going to be doing together? There will be contention on any team. That’s to be expected. But at the end of the day, team members have to like one another — and they have to like what they are doing.

When I look at the team here at FWL, I use the 3P’s test. The P’s stand for people, process and product. If everyone on the team isn’t clear about the product (whatever it is that we are trying to create) and the process (how we are going to get where we need to be, who drives what and who is the ultimate decision maker), then there are going to be people problems. If ever you are presented with a challenging situation, step back and ask, ‘What are we trying to create?’ Then ask, ‘How are we trying to build it?’. Usually if you can unpick these two issues, it will clarify what the people problem is all about. If not, you’ve got a ‘fit’ problem.

I am lucky to work in some fantastic teams – this has not always been the case I can assure you! – and the main benefit is that the best teams produce the best results!

Nov 182014

netiquetteOver the past few months, I have frequently found myself shocked and stunned by people’s etiquette (or lack thereof) online on various social networks from Facebook and Twitter, to blogs, Google+ and more. Of course, Netiquette is just a big and fancy work for having etiquette on the internet. But just what are the rules?

Well, the simplest rule online is to only say or do things to others that you would want them to say or do to you! If you want to have a discussion with someone about something contentious, private email is the way to go. It’s a bit like, in business, raising an issue in a meeting with colleagues, or waiting to speak to the individual on a one-to-one basis. But, the internet is bigger than a meeting room – much, much bigger. And you don’t know who will read your comment/post or whatever …. today, tomorrow or in the future. Sometimes your comments are hard to remove from the written record and/or to erase from people’s memories.

On, I found a delightful use of the work Netiquette to explain the ‘rules of online etiquette':

NETIQUETTE1Necessary: Do people really need to know what you are posting?

Exemplary: Are you portraying yourself in a model fashion?

Thought-provoking: Is your post interesting?

Idealistic: Do your thoughts show principle?

Quotable: If someone used the words in your post to define you, how would you be remembered?

Understandable: Can people understand what you are saying? What about your tone?

Essential: Is what you are saying essential to the situation or conversation?

Trustworthy: Do your words portray you as someone who people can trust and confide in?

True: Do I really need to explain this one? Don’t lie. Ever.

Exactly what you intended: Overall, does your post portray exactly what you intended it to convey?

If the answer is ‘No’ to any of the above, the simple answer is …. don’t post it!

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