Aware Leaders make a difference by default

I had the privilege to attend an event last week run by three of the best speakers in this country. The event was about making a difference – I was initially skeptical as there seems to be a fair bit of ‘lip service’ paid to ‘making a difference’ these days.

Thankfully my skepticism was totally unfounded – the event was truly inspiring and the key take out was, “what do your actions and endeavors do for the people you interact with”. What this means is ‘how do your interactions leave people feeling’?

Do people feel empowered, enthused, motivated and excited by interacting with you? Or do they feel ‘shafted, defensive, protective, vulnerable and devalued?’. Or perhaps they feel nothing from your interaction, ‘whatever’!

I certainly came away from this event empowered, enthused, motivated and above all excited by the fact that so many people (100’s) would be doing things a little or a lot differently having attended this event. The power of contagion was at work.

Imagine if every interaction people had with their leaders within their organisations left them feeling 1.0% or even 0.5% more motivated than they were before the interaction?

Aware leaders make it their business to focus on how they are impacting the people they lead. They do this by first being aware and mindful of themselves and their habits having learned to observe these habits.  They also pay attention and note how they feel about each interaction they have throughout the day, which means they are focused on how they come across to the people they interact with.

This may seem like hard work – and it is in the initial stages of learning to overcome busyness and distraction in the moment to be aware and focus. It is not long before these aware leaders create new habits and suddenly they find their ‘workload’ or ‘busyness’ seems to have lightened. Why?

Because they find themselves surrounded by people who are mindful of their own interactions and what each of those interactions do for the other person. The effectiveness and efficiency of these people is extraordinary. Why?

Because the small daily improvements they have made as directly shown by their ‘aware’ leaders, has made staggering longer terms changes to their effectiveness.

Are atrocities perpetrated by humans increasing?

Humans have treated each other poorly for eon’s. When we collectivley experience events such as the past weekend, Orlando, football hooliganism, and the random slaying of an entertainer, amid more local events – many people feel unsafe and that the world is not a pleasant place. We hear things such as people are so self-centered and their is no respect……..

To put things into perspective. The world is a much safer place, and tolerance of each other as humans of any race, creed, colour or any other segmentation we assign to people, is consistently increasing. We don’t have to go back to far to times when ‘violence’ (intolerance) against colour, creed or sexual orientation was societal and ‘entrenched as community values and law’. Stalin checking off names at the end of the day of people to be arrested ‘legally’, most of whom would not survive their trip to the ‘camps’ is within the lifetimes of many of us.

We also need to remember that the media is in the business of ‘selling stories’ and ‘sensation’ sells. The expanded media and the sheer bombardment when ‘stories’ break is overwhelming. As I have written about here before the media don’t necessarily control our thinking, however they absolutely control what we ‘think about’ as consumers of media.

The media know they have a limited window to ‘capitalise’ on these stories – they need to make money like everyone else, so they make the most of it. The danger with this to the general public is that the relentless negativity focuses peoples’ thinking negatively –  I am not for on moment suggesting that any of these acts of violence are not appallingly negative in every sense of the word.

The best thing we can do collectively is to focus on the incredible response to these events around the world – the people in the streets saying we will not tolerate this violence. This is what we need to hang on to – and the reality that collectively, we are so much more tolerant of each other. We must expand this to be ever more mindful of ‘what we are thinking about’ consistently. After all we are products of our collectively thinking. Marketers and marketing scientist have know this for decades – lets continue to change the collective intolerance of ‘violence’ one thought and one action at a time.

By way of example of the power of thought and action, a friend in the US picks up litter lying around whilst he waits at the train station. I am sure that every single one of us walks past litter most days, how many of us will pick it up? I have begun to do the same thing – it is extraordinary to watch how other people will begin to notice and pick up litter placing it in bins which are there at the ready. The power of right action.

Status Quo – what is it?

Status Quo is a Latin phrase and means the current situation, the way things are now and refers to ‘wanting to keep things the way they are’.

Status Quo is a misunderstood concept and is used increasingly as a means for individuals, teams, organisations and communities to stay put – in ‘safe territory’.

How safe is that territory of the ‘past’ when the gulf between it and the ever moving ‘existing present’ is getting wider?

It’s not, rather this gulf causes increased angst and discomfort and is a prime contributor to poor workplace and other social behaviours, that sadly are increasing. This is due to the difficulty people have navigating what they do each day whilst clinging to a past reality. They cling to the ‘status quo’ in the first place because of ‘fear’ of the unknown.

The unknown is the basis of life – why is it that we humans are so obsessed with predictability and control? That is simple – survival, which in and of itself it has enabled us to get to this point in our evolution. The past 15 years or so has put a ‘spanner in the works’ because the speed of change has increase exponentially. This has resulted in our former ‘predictive and control’ mechanisms failing and continually failing as we ‘expect’ to be able to ‘safely predict the future to  assure us that our decisions will be ‘right’. We are terrified of ‘getting it wrong’ as that is synonymous with failure.

This is the real driver of ‘a desire to cling to the status quo’, to stay in a position of not having to step out on the ledge so to speak, and ‘risk failure’.

If we take a helicopter view of these behaviours we can see that it can only, and ‘does’, end in tears. Resisting moving with the present and attempting to make decisions with current information whilst clinging to a past state and mindset, is 100% likely to result in actions that are not fit for present or future purpose. This will also by default result in considerable anxiety and other behaviours that we see all to often currently – justification, shifting of responsibility and other ‘back pedaling’ behaviours where people try to make something quite wrong, ‘right’.

If we could shift our mindset and expectations of  ‘status quo’ to what it actually does mean, we would feel a whole lot better and just get on with it. The current ‘status quo’ or the ‘current situation’ in our world June 2016  is ‘accelerating change and continual movement’. So if we shifted our mindset and understanding of status quo being continually riding the wave of life as it moves onward at a fast pace, then we would not expect to be able to ‘predict and control our decisions as we were able to in times gone by.

We need to let go of that ‘fairy tale’, make decisions and take action for now. We have the past and our experience of it, in our kit bag to aid our decision making. There is a huge difference between making decisions and taking action based in a past mindset, and making informed decisions in response to current reality with the aid of past experiences, that may or may not be relevant. This is the current Status Quo.

To judge to not to judge – the primary contributor to distraction

As a behaviorist and a researcher I have developed a keen sense of observation which means becoming just that – an observer. To really observe behaviours (both reading and hearing about what people do and directly observing them) one must be objective and non-judgmental. This is quite hard as most people automatically think and behave in a dualistic fashion due to the law of opposites. To be truly non-judgmental requires stepping beyond the law of opposites, because by default you will be judging what you are observing as right or wrong, good or bad, which then renders your objectivity void. The other factor that makes being non-judgmental challenging is the media. Negativity and being righteous and judgmental about events and behaviours sells. Consequently the daily diet of righteous judgement is relentless as ‘the media’ is now so unbelievably expansive.

Most people don’t actually have any consciousness of this relentless daily‘judgmental’ programming that is going on by their participation in consuming media, which includes all forms of social media. This directly contributes to the constant ‘mind battle or self-talk’ that so many people endure day in day out. Constant self-talk or inner discussions are exhausting for the brain and are the primary cause of distraction. This extends to ‘work being distracting’ – it is not so much that ‘work’ is the distraction, but rather the inner discussion which goes something like this:

“I haven’t finished the work for Mike or added the time line to the project spreadsheet….Petra has just emailed asking for an up-date on the project….I have no idea how I am going to get all this done….I have the meet-up to get to tonight and I don’t want to miss it again….. Ben asked me to help him with his Uni assignment……..that terrible situation with the European refugee’s….Carla is just being nasty to Gina…..oh no is that the time…” 

Productivity and efficiency with this level of ‘relentless’ conscious brain activity will be at best 50%.

Yet there are some people that appear to be cool as cucumbers and just get on with their work. The difference? Those who are able to get on with it are in control of their ‘mindspace’. They are focused and there is NO inner argument going on. They are able to attain a state of neutrality. Ask them about their media consumption (including social media) and they will have very different habits. The main difference is they will consume media from a state of ‘indifference or neutrality’, this is not the same as a ‘whatever’ attitude which is not neutral. These people are able to consume and observe outside events and behaviours without judging. They have beliefs and values, but are very clear about their own boundaries and are relentless in commanding and controlling their own ‘mindspace’ – they understand how precious it is.

The only thing that we truly have to ourselves is our ‘mindspace’. What we fill it with determines our beliefs, values and the way we view and judge the world, events, other people and how we behave on a daily basis. If we ‘fail to be aware’of how we fill and use our ‘mindspace’ everyday, then we are out of control, left to the mercy of the relentless arguments in our own heads. 100% of workplace accidents and incidents that involve ‘human factors’ are caused by distraction. This is people distracting themselves in their own heads, with no awareness that they are doing so – because their mindspace’ is overloaded.  The first step to controlling our mindspace is awareness of how we judge and view our own thinking.

Design thinking – is it the answer for our troubled organisations?

Deloitte’s latest Human Capital report is a fascinating read and as a credible and reputable document, it is second to none. Unlike the other big four, Deloitte’s did not disband their Advisory Services about 15 years ago. This lends exceptional credibility to their ‘thought leadership’ in this area as they critically, have ‘advised’ businesses all the way through the biggest change in human history ever. This report indicates that ‘organisational design’ is top of mind with business leaders. From my perspective this is great news.

Why? Because the human capital ‘issues’ that have plagued businesses since the beginning of ‘digital disruption’ are a consequence of inappropriate, ineffective and disconnected organisational design. The world has changed so radically in the past 15 years and there is no other time in human history where such a rapid ‘environmental’ change has occurred, expect for a massive meteor hitting the earth long, long ago. Fifteen years is about on par for ‘humans’ collectively to begin to ‘adapt’ to a radically changed environment. The first decade is spent in a ‘state of shock’ almost, where business leaders are faced with insurmountable challenges and ‘expected’ to solve them’.

Well cut leaders some slack – why should they ‘know what to do and how to navigate’ such a dramatic change when the rest of us don’t have a clue. They weren’t handed the ‘manual’ of how to successfully operate a business in a environment which may as well have come from an alien landing in terms of how ‘different and new’ it has all been. Whilst there have been many ‘solutions or idea’s to ‘get people’s performance on par with a fast paced world’ which says ‘faster faster’ – the reality is the ‘humans’ at the coal face are begging ‘slower, slower’. These solutions have experienced limited success and virtually none of them have been sustainable over time.

This brings me to why I was encouraged to see organisation ‘design’ as top of mind in this report. Because like any problem we humans overcome – unless we solve theses problems at the “ROOT CAUSE” the solution will not be sustainable. I, like many others have banged on for nearly a decade about how organisational ‘structures’ and by default processes and systems were efficient for the age for which they were ‘designed’ – the industrial era, but fail catastrophically in the ‘digital, disruptive age.

We left the industrial era behind 15+ years ago – and yet expected ‘business as usual’ with the same design and processes. That just doesn’t make sense. Again to cut leaders some slack – the ‘prospect of ‘changing organisational design is beyond daunting and emphatically cost prohibitive if it is approached head on. How on earth can we possibly change the way our businesses have been operating for their entire existence, and at the same time still make profits when the market is getting faster by the day? Impossible.

What is possible is to solve the problem via the back door if you like – in a ‘disruptive manner’ (disruptive to ‘usual thinking’). Design thinking.

Design thinking is underpinned by rigorous creativity (rigor – focusing on how and why), critical inquiry and ensuring that people and the environment  are respected. Design thinking is ‘limitless thinking’ – which is getting with Einsteins most famous quote – about not being able to solve today’s problems with yesterdays thinking.

Once again to cut leaders some slack – the ability to ‘think creatively’ utilising such techniques as design thinking is completely eroded by Busy Brain Syndrome ( (speed of change causing the clever brain to shut down). BBS has impacted all of us, and leaders more so as they are at the front bearing the brunt of this overload (think front of the peleton in a 40kmh headwind – continuously). The reason I am encouraged by this ‘new thinking’ focusing on the ‘actual cause’ of business output failing to keep up with demand, it that is is showing early signs of ‘those people at the leading edge’ – our business leaders – adapting successfully to thrive in our disruptive world.


7 things that blah blah…………

The art of the head-line, the grab words: New; Now you can; How to get; The secret to; You can be like… and then there are the numbers.  7 is the magic number allegedly – why? Anybody’s guess. One absolutely indisputable fact in a word awash with sages, advisers and experts who espouse removing your ‘pain’, is that those who have at least a basic understanding of how to ‘grab’ attention are much more likely to be seen as the ‘experts’.

There are two problems with this, firstly, ‘credibility’ in the virtual world is measured by ‘hits’, ‘likes’, ‘comments’ and ‘shares’ and pretty much in that order – albeit there is a push for ‘likes’ being more important than ‘hits or views’. So how do you get ‘hits’ with your ‘post’ regardless of how banal is it or how much is regurgitated content (plagiarism was seen as bad form – now is seems to be encouraged)? With human attention shrinking seemingly by the hour these days – literally no-one reads things through anymore, if they do they ‘speed read’. That means skimming through the content which from a ‘brain processing’ perspective has a ZERO chance of being comprehended. The only thing that will ‘stick’ is the headline or bits of the headline which further reinforces the ‘attention’ words as something readers ‘grab’ hold of – oh and the number of hits, likes etc stick, further reinforcing the ‘measures of credibility’. This is how we have become programmed to consume content, lots of hits – then it must be good or important or interesting or maybe even funny – we crave being entertained.

The second thing and one that quite frankly I find simply mind-boggling – is this seemingly insatiable addiction to being ‘seen’ and heard as some sort of expert and usually in something that ‘is popular or a buzz word concept, the latest fad. I think the phenomena of ‘career development’ is driving this, as allegedly numbers on LinkedIn for example, are ‘important’ for career growth. Recommendations, endorsements, posts, likes, followers, the LinkedIn experts tell us are the way to get ahead. The cacophony of noise out there is SO loud that the chances of ‘genuinely’ (a whole other post) being heard are very, very slim.

The real experts who are most credible and dedicate their lives to their craft or area of passion are the ones who are more likely to not be barking about themselves and their ‘expertise’. These experts are also quite satisfied with their lot, they have a job, or  clients, customers who are so ‘delighted’ by their services (this also apply’s to employee’s) that they talk about their experience with friends, family, colleagues in conversation (this includes bosses talking about great employees). Conversations, F2F or phone, brings so many rich elements to light that ‘are absent’ in the social media realm. There is an increasing realization that whilst technology has radically increased ‘connectivity’ were are actually less ‘connected in a real human way that ever before’.

Just think about looking for a service or product and how much more convinced you are ‘hearing F2F or by phone about the experience from someone, as opposed to reading reviews. You can ask questions – get a deeper sense of whether the product, service will meet your needs and also gauge the feedback for ‘fit to you’, because you ‘know’ the person you are speaking with. The real experts I describe above exist in a community of experience, where they ‘get what they want’ – doing satisfying meaningful work that is appreciated by those they do it for. At the end of the day is what we all want, we actually crave being appreciated for what it is that we do in our way – that no one else does because we are all unique. BTW the brain is hard-wired to seek this level of satisfaction – if we are really smart then we will  ‘get with the brain program’.

People in authority have POWER over other people’s behaviour.

Two things occurred this week that compelled me to pen this post. Both these occurrences are directly related to how much more powerful ‘imprinting’ has become with people’s behaviours as our world gets busier.

When I went to ‘psychology school’ a long time ago ‘imprinting’ was a phenomena that was associated with animals and how they learned to behave by watching their parents and other members of their herd, flock or troop (baboons). Humans were considered to be more sophisticated. I would argue otherwise, particularly currently in our world of overload where more than 60% of everything we do is unconscious, autopilot behaviours. Further, we are seeing significant increases with ‘social default’ behaviours, where people defer to what people around them are doing without ‘consciously making a choice’.

So what has prompted me to write about this? I reside near a busy precinct of cafes, restaurants, bars and shops. The main road is a clearway in the morning’s and two lanes of traffic relentlessly hurtle down this road in peak hour. What has been happening in the past few months is that increasingly vehicles are pulling into the side street stopping illegally in the no standing zone whilst theimportant drivers go and get a coffee. This blocks the entrance to the street for vehicles trying to enter as well as exit the street. My neighbor has almost been hit innumerable times trying to squeeze past these illegally parked vehicles.

I have been pondering why it is that this worrisome behaviour has seemed to have increased recently. A few months ago I noticed that an emergency vehicle began stopping in this no standing zone while its occupants went and sat down to have a coffee in one of the cafe’s. I have observed that this occurs on a regular basis. This week a very, very senior and recognisable politician came out from the cafe and proceeded to get into the chauffeured car that was parked in the no standing zone, and it quickly sped off. A few days later a different emergency vehicle was stopped in the no standing zone and its occupants were in the cafe. Whilst they were in the cafe an elderly man with a cane had to go around this vehicle to cross the street, and as he did so a car entered the street at a great rate and just managed to brake before hitting the old man. The occupants of the emergency vehicle inside the cafe were oblivious to what had just occurred. The old man was quite shaken up and luckily was helped onto the footpath by a passerby.

I realised that the reason for the recent increase in ‘cars’ stopping illegally ‘just for a minute’ to get a coffee was that the message from seeing ’emergency vehicles and officers’ and a senior politician just stopping to get a coffee was that this behaviour is OK. Well its not OK, as no standing zones exist for safety reasons – to protect pedestrians such as the elderly man, and for vehicles to turn safely from a busy road into a side street. The message to everyone who ‘see’s these vehicle’s parked in this manner is that ‘it doesn’t matter’ about the no standing zone – it is OK to stop for a five minutes to get a coffee. What these behaviours are essentially about is that ‘other people’ are not considered. Increasingly we see these sort of behaviours where people seem to be oblivious to the impact and potential consequences their actions have on other people. It is as though they exist in their own universe centered around their own needs.

This is the case, and in defense of all of those people who just ‘stop for 5 minutes’ they are not thinking about other people. As I pointed out above more than 60% of what we do each day is on autopilot, these people who ‘stop for 5 minutes’ are focused on getting to work – they are thinking of saving time, they don’t want to be late and other people and ‘consequences of their actions’ are not even on their radar. In short they are experiencing the debilitating effects of Busy Brain Syndrome – which reduces their awareness of their environment to their own insular little universe. This is why if the old man had been hit by the car – the occupants of the emergency vehicle would have been completely mortified, devastated that their ‘non-thinking’ and non-consideration of the possible implications of their actions led to possibly the serious injury or death of a pedestrian.

Leading Change – A New Approach

Change failure or ‘paralysis’ has reached such levels within organisations, that many businesses are in a state of chronic dysfunction where they are falling behind and some may simply fade away, unless ironically – they change. There is a way, and it begins with decisive leadership. The most critical role of a leader and why they are paid as they are, is to take responsibility and make timely decisions.

I prefer to use the word ‘paralysis’ rather than ‘failure’. Both words imply the same effect – change not being successful – but have very different perceived causes. Failure implies that lack of success was ‘invariably’ someone’s fault, which leads to further dysfunction as most organisations still operate on last century’s management paradigms where ‘people (particularly leaders) are responsible for increasing predictability ‘. Paralysis, on the other hand suggests there are factors inhibiting success, that if addressed and removed will see change succeed.

Change paralysis is caused by the disconnect and misalignment between a consistently fluid market and ‘old organisational management structures’ that follow ‘good management practices’ rather than adapting to meet market demands. A rapidly moving customer driven market has created a chronic sense of urgency within businesses, where ‘reacting’ is the typical response as an attempt to alleviate and control the chronic anxiety that ‘urgency’ creates. This has resulted in exhausted, burnt out leaders who have developed decision paralysis and thus, business inertia exists where they fail to keep up with change.

This paralysis has no relationship to a leaders ability, experience or knowledge about how to lead effectively. Overcoming decision paralysis requires a paradigm shift where leaders develop a new way of leading and being decisive in a world of complete uncertainty.

That new way is for leaders to ‘let go of the expectation and need for certainty’. Easier said than done, but ironically in our personal lives we have a much lower stranglehold on the ‘expectation of certainty’, particularly with disruption from technology. In fact we expect uncertainty with technology because new things appear all the time and we embrace them.

Letting go of certainty and predictability in businesses is a two step process. Firstly, understand that our organisational structures still operate on the premise that ‘we respond to all demands’. More importantly whilst leaders may know ‘intellectually’ that they cannot possibly respond to the ‘insane’ level of demands currently, they are still hard-wired ‘unconsciously to react to perceived urgency’. This is why ‘self-awareness’ is the most important skill for leaders to develop and master in a fast moving world.

Secondly, leaders need to get to being OK with ‘uncertainty’. What I mean by this is the natural progression with mastering ‘self-awareness’ is the ability to ‘create space’ with decisions. This ‘space’ enables a considered ‘conscious response’ rather than an ‘unconscious reactionwhich is caused by the brain being hard-wired to ‘control and avoid anxiety’.

What also occurs by default when leaders learn to get ‘OK with uncertainty’ and master ‘controlled conscious responsiveness’, is that their energy becomes very clear and focused, whereas when in the ‘reacting to excessive noise mode’, their energy is scattered, which is exhausting. This means they make decisions that are right for the moment and have a cascading effect throughout the organisation. Strong decisive leadership makes for a strong decisive business where people feel ‘secure and stable’ and readily change to meet changing demands.

Political Correctness is Causing Business Dysfunction in a VUCA World.

Decision paralysis with leadership is a fallout from a VUCA (Volotile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world, just as failure to change is a fallout with teams. Whilst there is a significant debate and discussion about the ‘VUCA’ caused problem of people and teams failing to adopt and sustain change in the longer term, there is little discussion by comparison on the impact of decision paralysis in businesses.

The irony is that decision paralysis from leadership leads to and exacerbates change sustainability failures with teams of people in organisations. If we drill down to the root cause of both these business challenges, they stem from the same cause, overload and an inability of businesses via their people to keep operations on par with fast moving, fluid market demands.  The beginning point to resolve this challenge is to ‘fix’ decision paralysis with leaders, because this perpetuates failure of teams to sustained change.

Decision paralysis presents in business in its most disruptive and dysfunctional way as changed purchase processes. For business leaders to keep their businesses operating at current levels and stop them going backwards in a fast moving world, they need to be continually implementing improvement solutions. These solutions invariably involve purchases of some description, be that an external system or process, more people, consulting expertise, new machinery or products.

Business decision making which includes purchasing process, has slowed by a factor of 4-5 over the past few years. Meaning urgent problems that need a decision to ‘fix’, are now stalled in no-mans land whilst a ‘decision’ takes five months rather than one. And we wonder why ‘people’ within organisations ‘struggle with change’. The apple doesn’t fall far, imprinting or ‘do what leaders do, not what they say’ is the ‘actual driver of behaviour’. People within organisations ‘see’ this indecision and mimic it, albeit unconsciously.

So what factors are contributing to this decision paralysis? Firstly there is an ever expanding array of stakeholders with often competing agenda’s changing purchase criteria which with any decision by ‘committee’, ends up with the lowest-common-denominator behaviours. This expansion of stakeholders is driven by collaboration and diversity agenda’s which is not a bad thing in terms of ‘contributing’ to the decision making process. However that is just it contribute to, rather than be directly involved in, is optimal.

Political correctness has railroaded the most important function within any business – timely, confident and committed decision making. To my mind CEO’s and other heads of businesses are paid ‘well’ because they take on the responsibility of the viability of the business. How does that responsibility manifest in business success? By MAKING decisions in time, that lead the business to success. What we have now is RISK gone mad, with people involved in decision making when they really should be contributing information needed to support the decision, because they are not experienced in decision making. They have other functions to perform in the business and endless ‘decision meetings’ are a complete waste of their time and expertise.

So rather than the business leader receiving relevant information in a timely manner, that he/she can sort through with ‘trusted advisers’ and MAKE workable decisions, there is an abundance of largely irrelevant information that tends to bury the core issues. Time is added completely unnecessarily, the value of the solution is watered down, and in cases eroded completely.The business is left with the same original problem, a devalued solution that is invariably not fit for purpose and is doomed to be ineffective. Employee’s get to be right again – ‘this won’t work just like last time’.

So how has overload contributed to business decision paralysis? Overload is caused by Busy Brain Syndrome – which for the purposes of this discussion locks people into a negative state unconsciously. BBS causes people to view everything through a negative lens. For example collectively we are fixated on negative statistics – rather than viewing something as having a 90% chance of success, we focus on the 10% chance of failure. This has caused leaders to focus on ‘fear getting decisions wrong’ rather than focusing on the fact that they will get it right, nine times out of ten. In the same way people and teams ‘fear change’ because of what they ‘could lose’ rather than focusing on what they gain. Most of these fears can be controlled with efficient, timely and effective decision making.

What our businesses need is strong decisive leadership supported by stakeholders supplying the right information at the right time. The business leader is then armed with salient information to make decisions in a timely manner, enabling the business to keep up in a VUCA world. Nobody wins with decision paralysis.

I’m too busy to change

eally? What are you ‘busy’ doing? This is a question that high achievers, successful entrepreneurs, sports stars and the like don’t even have to ask themselves – and is the reason they are successful. For them change is something they do every day and it is an expectation that they continually need to adapt to presenting circumstances in order to maintain success. This group is definitely the minority and for the rest of us change can seem to ‘get in the way of our busyness’.

The average person spends at least half their time at work being distracted or recovering from distraction. This is a complete productivity and efficiency ‘killer’, as most people don’t fully recover from distraction and get back to the ‘train of thought’ they were on before they were distracted. This further exacerbates the ‘busyness’ problem because the work we produce whilst being constantly distracted is never our best. This is very unsatisfying as most people have high standards for their own work. Distraction means it takes longer to complete work because when people are not happy with their output, they continually make modifications hoping to make something they know is not their best work, look better.

Being busy recovering from distraction and patching up work that we know is not our best because the deadline is looming, is not being efficient.  We associate busyness with activity, and we tend to think that the more active people are the busier they are, and that they are efficient. Busyness is not proportional to efficiency by any stretch of the imagination, and the reality is that those people who ‘are frenetic’ at work, are in fact the least efficient people.  Ironically, ‘inefficiency’ is what drives change in the first place, as change in organisations is driven by the need to improve output and efficiency. So therefore when confronted with the need to ‘change’ people who are too busy, are ‘actually busy’ recovering from distraction which caused the inefficiency, which has effected the need for change.

An excellent strategy to overcome this objection to ‘change’ is to ask the question – what am I ‘busy’ doing, and am I being efficient?  If people get into the habit of asking themselves this question everyday (in particular, when they notice they are being distracted), they will find two things occur. They will realise that they are not in fact being efficient whilst being distracted, and more importantly they will begin to get ‘control’ over distraction, because learning to ask this question brings it to ‘top of mind’.

Will they be too busy to change? If they learn to take control over distraction – then chances are the need for ‘change’ will become redundant.