The title of this blog comes from a session in a course that Professor Paris de l’Etraz teaches about Life. I met Paris at a dinner in Madrid 4 years ago hosted by another inspiring teacher.
Stand in the Traffic: I love the simplicity of this life strategy.
Whatever you want in life, there are places where opportunities are flowing… and there are places where opportunities are not flowing. Abundant places… and stagnant places.
Stagnant: There are very few opportunities passing the person sitting on their sofa watching Netflix.
Abundant: There are many more opportunities passing the person out there in the world engaged in conversation… on a university campus, in industry conferences, in associations, online via youtube and blogs and writing articles.
If you have any idea what you are looking for…
If you have any idea about the types of things that you want to come into your life, the next step is to ask yourself “Where is the traffic?” Where are relevant people, resources, ideas, activity flowing?
Go stand there.
Put yourself where opportunity will pass you by.
If you are at an industry event and it is coffee break time, where do you stand?
If you stand by the wall with your mobile phone in front of you… you are not “in the traffic”.
If you stand by the coffee machines or the food service area, all the traffic will pass by you.
If you know how to smile and ask a few questions “hey, how are you doing? what brings you here? what has impressed you so far?”… now you can engage with the traffic.
The title sounds a bit “salesy”… but that is what the video is about.
My friend and colleague at Vistage, Harry Marsland, shared with me one of his secrets to build a successful marketing agency in the UK. He has 5 questions that he would ask to his favourite clients each year:
Harry’s 5 Sales Questions to Double your Business:
What do we do that you Like?
What do we do that Not like?
What could we Do more?
What should we Do less?
What will it take for you to double the business you give us?
Competence – you can only be trusted as competent if you clearly understand the limits of your competence. The great danger of experts is they forget the limits of their expertise – “it is better to trust a man of 130 IQ who thinks he is 125 IQ, than to trust a man of 180 IQ who thinks he is 200 IQ” Warren Buffett
Inverting – if you want to make life better, think of what you would do to make life worse. Charlie was an aviation meteorologist during WWII. His task was to give weather briefings to pilots. His role was unclear until he thought of the inverted perspective “if I wanted to kill pilots as a meteorologist, what could I do? Flying with iced wings, flying in conditions they will be unable to land.” This really clarified for him the important aspects of his role in keeping pilots alive. In our own lives, asking “how would I really make my life worse?” can be a valuable perspective on what really matters.
Collector – be a collector. How many collectors do you know who are unhappy? Identify things or experiences that you enjoy collecting and become a curator of your collections.
Integrate ideas between domains – most people focus on details within the idea (especially academics), few people look at the interaction between big ideas. That’s where there’s not much incentive in academics, but it’s very interesting for investing money.
Occam’s razor- go for simple… with a proviso that was initially shared by Einstein “Everything should be made as simple as possible but not more so” Einstein. Anywhere there is a “lollapalooza result” (Charlie’s term for a hugely positive and rapid outcome)… look for a confluence of causes. Academic experts find one cause. To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. There are rarely just single causes for high impact outcomes.
The problems of Social science– all chemists can answer “where do the rules of chemistry not apply?” In the high temperature plasma state. how many social scientists can answer “if you want to sell more should you raise or lower the price?” Where does this rule not apply? 1 in 50 will say “luxury goods!” Many social scientists forget to think of the exceptional cases.
Without the people around you taking good decisions, you will always need to step in to stop disaster from happening. In the IESE MBA program we have a course called “Analysis of Business Problems”. We teach a 6 step process for business decision making:
They deserve a promotion because of past efforts? No.
What ideas do you have?
There is one characteristic without which you cannot be called a leader.
Followers? Yes… but what do you need to have as a leader so that others actually follow?
The Fundamental Characteristic of a Leader
You know where you are going.
…and then the power to Communicate
…and then you need to develop the ability to engage with people so that the destination becomes a shared destination.
If you can begin to paint the destination in the minds of others with stories you begin to engage not just their hands, not just their skills, but their whole self in the committed pursuit.
A Shared Vision of a Worthwhile Destination
How do you engage those around you to commit to the journey?
Don’t “motivate” people.
Figure out something that is worth doing. Figure out how it will make your life better, how it will make their lives better and how it will make society better.
Help others understand that being part of it will be better for them and their life.
How do you share this destination with others? How’s this as a script:
Let us move forward: This is a good use of our time…
Here is what is in it for me…
Here is what is in it for you…
Business as an Infinite game
Simon Sinek shares a powerful concept in his book “The Infinite Game”. He has popularised the distinction between Finite games and Infinite games.
Chess is a finite game. Soccer is a finite game. Tennis is a finite game. They each have a set of agreed rules, and a clear victory condition at which time the game ends. The objective in a finite game is to end the game as victor.
Business is not a finite game. Life is not a finite game. Leading human beings is not a finite game.
Success in life is keeping it engaging to play for all those involved (including yourself!).
A game everyone plays voluntarily is more successful than a game where some must be compelled to play.
If you are going to set up an organisation, you can compel people to perform with threats and fear. It is much more effective to engage them to play a game that is meaningful for them, and for you… and for society as a whole.
How to lead the whole Person
Imagine these two requests from a leader:
“Go home and take 4 hours to think about how you will contribute to this organisation over the next year” or
“Go home and take 4 hours to think about your life and formulate a plan for your life with this business being a part of the plan”
Which is the question of the bigger leader?
Jordan Peterson reports a 10% increase in contribution where leaders ask the 2nd question to their teams.
You want yourself and your team to see that working for you serves their higher order purpose.
If not, this is not the job for them. Help them find a place where they can serve their higher purpose.
In golf, one poor shot can trigger a state of mind that leads to a run of poor shots. I hit my drive into the bunker. In frustration, I try a more difficult shot than I should, and put it in another bunker. I then try and hit it extra hard to reach the green in 3… and leave it in the bunker.
Chess international master Josh Waitzkin says that the moment when a chess player really loses the game is when they think they are ahead, and after a move they realise that maybe their position is not so strong. The next move will be too aggressive because they are anchored on the emotional sense of being ahead.
A professional learns to forget the past and play the shot or the move that they have in front of them. An amateur compounds the error.
One poor shot does not ruin a golf round… unless you let it.
The same occurs in life.
Do you let one mistake lead to three more?
On a diet… one biscuit leads to 3 more? …that’s how to screw it up.
Covid is a physical disease, but the wider impact will be on the mental health of the billions who have been hit by the economic shutdown.
Who do you feel is struggling to keep things together?
Every single one of us has incredible power to lift up the spirits of the people that are around us. It requires a choice. It is harder when you are struggling yourself. It is important. The people around you need your leadership.
How can we help those around us feel good about themselves?
In the video, I share 3 ideas.
Let them help you
Shine a light on their strengths
Who needs your attention today? Who around you would benefit from a few minutes of facetime or skype or a phone call?
Living in Fear – the mode of seeking “Freedom from” and seeking validation for our past decisions
Living in Confidence – the mode of clarifying “Freedom to” and making choices as a responsible being.
Over the last 7 months, I have noticed that I have slipped into the living in fear mode. I knew what I didn’t want, but not what I did. I was waiting to see how the world would work out rather than committing to creating my own clear path.
In an episode of internet procrastination, I came across this tweet… and it led me down a rabbit hole.
Tom Peters, the Original Management Guru
Tom Peters wrote the book “In Search of Excellence” back in 1983 and began a major shift in Business studies. In place of scientific management, business began to look at what leadership might be… and begin to treat employees not as robots, but as human beings. The role of leadership is not to maximise production, it is both to achieve productivity and to make sure that employees, customers, owners and communities benefit in the process.
I came across a recent interview with Tom Peters. He spoke with Vala Afshar of Salesforce and Ray Wang of Constellation Research. I’ll share Vala’s summary of the interview (original article here)
11 Lessons on Life from Tom Peters:
1. The most important leadership lessons were taught to us in middle school.
Peters has advanced college degrees from Stanford and Cornell, and yet he remembers his 4th-grade teacher as one of the most influential people in his life. Peters said that his 4th-grade teacher loved him and the other students. It is about people who deeply care about other people. Care about your people. Teach them to be better humans.
2. Never hire anyone who does not have high emotional intelligence (EQ).
And never, ever promote anyone who does not have a sky-highEQ.
“We only hire nice people” is a mantra that Tom Peters admires. Don’t hire the jerks, regardless of their deep expertise. Can we train for higher EQ? Peters thinks that if we have institutions that are thoughtful, caring, and people first, then we will have teaching opportunities to increase emotional intelligence.
3. Positive reinforcement is 30X more powerful than negative reinforcement.
Peters talked about a Google study of their top employees and what made them perform. They discovered all of the top 7 attributes of their top employees were all soft skills. Project Oxygen had surprising results — the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last.
possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view);
having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues;
being a good critical thinker and problem solver;
being able to make connections across complex ideas.
Peters also talked about the negative impact of categorising players as A-players vs. B-players — the fastest way to demotivate half the population.
4. Always start with honesty and humility.
No living human being today knows what they are doing. There are no experts in unsolved problems. Regardless of the size of your business, we must all admit that we do not have the answers. Instead, let’s work together to make forward progress. Be human and care about people. Peters weeps about a 20-person restaurant owner who is struggling now. Peters talked about mangers who had to execute layoffs, but when doing so with compassion and empathy, the workers effected ended up hugging their hiring manager. Be human.
5. Take care of your employees by protecting their safety, health, and future.
Peters read a memo from the Blue Mountain Community College, Boardman, Oregon that was communicated to their employees during the work-from-home quarantine:
You are not “working from home,” you are “at your home, during a crisis, trying to work.”
Your physical, mental, and emotional health are extremely important right now. Take care of yourself!
You should not try to compensate for lost productivity by working longer hours.
Be kind to yourself and don’t judge how you are coping based on how you see others coping.
Be kind to others and don’t judge others on how they are coping based on how you are coping.
Success will not be measured the same way it was when things were normal.
6. It is about stakeholder value, not just shareholder value.
Peters talked about long-term thinking companies have produced vastly more income, jobs, and wealth as compared to short-term thinking companies. You cannot expect customers to love your company before your employees do. Caring about your employees, customers, partners, and the community is good for business. If you take care of people, you will make a lot of money, this according to Peters. Maximizing shareholder value is no longer the path to sustainable growth. Values create value.
7. This is the time to listen, learn, care more, and change.
Tom Peters was not willing to comment about racial tensions in our country because he said that “I am part of the problem.” I asked Peters to talk about the current state of health, economic, racial, climate, and leadership crisis and he said that no one should pretend to know the answers to these unsolved problems.
8. What you have done in the past two months, and what you will do in the next two months will define your leadership legacy.
Peters strongly urged business and community leaders to recognize that who they are as human beings will be defined by what they are doing now. Leaders emerge in times of crisis. How you behave, the degree which you were helpful, the degree of thoughtfulness will define you.
9. There are two kinds of virtues — resume virtues and eulogy virtues.
What will people say about you at your funeral?
Peters referenced the work by David Brooks and his article on eulogy virtues. Brooks wrote:
“It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues, and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?”
Peters reminded us to focus on the eulogy virtues — this is how you can live a recommendable life.
10. Leadership Team Must No. 1: Put more women in charge.
In the age of COVID-19, Peters released a new piece titled “Excellence 2020: The 27 Number Ones,” succinct guidance about where to focus your leadership — from hiring and training to culture and management — now and always.
Tom Peters shared several research findings regarding why women are better leaders than men. Peters also talked about the importance of pay equality. Women should be paid the same as men for the same work. Peters also shared encouraging news about more women are graduating from colleges than men. When Peters graduated from Cornell, there was only one woman graduate out of 800 engineering students. Today’s Cornell graduating class consisted of 51% women graduates.
The final story that Peters shared with us was an emotional story for Peters. The story involved Dwight David Eisenhower and the 76th anniversary of the D-Day landing, where Eisenhower went to the beach, putting his arms around the soldiers and wishing them Godspeed. I want you to see the video (35 minutes, 40 seconds into the video) because the delivery from Peters will bring tears to your eyes.
11. Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; the third is to be kind.
Tom Peters referenced the famous quote from Henry James. Peters said that this mantra should be the guiding principle for all schools and businesses. Let us behave well as individuals now. Let us hold ourselves to a higher standard.
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