This is a guest post from Ecatherine Matnadze, who serves as the Vistage Spain In-house Leadership Coach - working with me and the leadership team in clarifying goals and staying disciplined in our actions.

When a change plan fails, it is more often than not due to the human dynamics inside the organisation.  It doesn’t matter whether your plan is “good” or “bad”, it matters that you work to build a coalition of support amongst those that will be affected by your plan.

Most leaders can come up with a goal and with a plan. It’s the relationships that make things happen or not.

The 5 Types of People in Any Change Initiative

  1. Committed Supporters,
  2. Compliant Supporters,
  3. Neutral Parties,
  4. Antagonists, and
  5. Active Resisters.

1. Committed Supporters

Committed supporters are people who will go out of their way to help an idea happen. A committed supporter is someone who will take personal risk to make this happen. There is an old story about a pig and a chicken going to a picnic. The chicken brings eggs; the pig brings bacon. The chicken is compliant; the pig is committed.

We want to know who the committed supporters are. Why do they support this idea? How can we leverage them? How can we get them to influence others?

There aren’t going to be a lot of committed supporters in most organisations. But if you can find them, they can be enormously helpful.

2. Compliant Supporters

These are the chickens who come to the picnic with eggs. They’re helpful. They’re supportive. Who are they? Why do they support this? How can we use their support to get things done?

Maybe we can turn them into committed supporters. Maybe we can build the relationship a little bit more so they’ll go from bringing the eggs to bringing the bacon.

3. Neutral Parties

There’s a lot of people who just sit back and watch and wait. They don’t take any risks, they’re not sure, or they’re just neutral. And again, we want to identify them – if we can get more of them on our side, we can get a lot more momentum for our idea.

Who are they? Why are they neutral? And what reasons can we use to influence them to turn them into a supporter?

4. Antagonists

Now we’re moving to the people who are negative. Antagonists are not willing to take personal risk to stop the idea, but they might feel moderately threatened by it; they might not understand it; they might not like it. Sometimes they’re very vocal against it, but they’re still not willing to do anything.

The best you can do with the antagonists is to get them to be neutral. At least get them not to speak out against the idea in meetings. Would you go and talk to them? Maybe you redeploy them somewhere where they don’t have an impact on this idea.

5. Active Resisters

These are the nemeses, the saboteurs. Active resisters feel personally threatened by the idea and will do anything to resist.

It’s very rare that they’re irrational, unless you have done something that’s caused a personal enmity. Usually they have other incentives and it’s a matter of will, of really working hard to get them on your side. Sometimes it’s a matter of changing the way they’re rewarded. Maybe someone with power can talk to them and say, listen, this is moving forward, I need you out of the way.

Sometimes the best you can do with active resisters is to isolate them – maybe they have to move to a different department, or leave the organisation.

You don’t need Everyone to Support you…

It’s said that in any major initiative at most you’re going to get about one-third on your side as committed and/or compliant supporters. Few want to change, and most people are in a state of inertia. It’s okay for people to be negative, you just don’t want so many of them that it’s going to make it impossible the initiative to succeed. You don’t need everybody to support you. The key is finding the right number of people.


Ecatherine Matnadze is Certified Executive and Team coach, focusing on coaching top leaders and their executive teams. Having worked as a CEO herself, she understands the demands placed on high-achieving leaders, and helps them balance business results with personal well-being.

Ecatherine is based in Barcelona, Spain. She works with Spanish- and English- speaking clients, both locally and internationally. You should connect and follow her posts on LinkedIn.

This video is about Innovation and the 3 types of innovation as described by Ferran Adrià, the world’s best chef.  He tells us that there are 3 levels of innovation… and that it is type 3 innovation that really moves humanity through a step change in progress.

Read more on Innovation on the blog:

“You can take my life, but you cannot take my freedom” William Wallace (through the mouth of Mel Gibson)

Freedom sounds like good stuff.  Generations have fought and died to allow us the individual freedom that we enjoy today.

Freedom is not the freedom from something, it is the freedom to choose to do or not to do something.  Freedom comes with a price: you are responsible for your choices.


Freedom is a burden.

Freedom is not fun.  Freedom is a challenge for individual human beings to handle.  Few accept complete responsibility. Existential psychotherapists say that people will go to extreme mental contortions to avoid seeing two truths: we die and we alone are responsible for our life.

Andy Warhol said that if he could hire anyone, it would be a “boss”.  Someone who would tell him what to do each day.  It is tiring to have to personally decide what is important and what to work on each day.  Much easier to outsource the challenge to a boss, or a political party, or a guru.

It takes courage to live with the responsibilities inherent in freedom. We have the power to shape our lives, and we have the capacity to take action to create and to destroy. We are responsible for our lives.

Gandhi said that all rights come with corresponding responsibilities. All rights can only be earned by carrying out the required duties. The right to be free comes with the duty of full responsibility for your actions.

Edit 14/12/2016: Added this wonderful animation of this post by @Saminsights

The Source of Passion in our Life

I’ve been meeting a lot of CEO coaches over the last 6 weeks in order to develop my business Vistage Spain.  I am interested in meeting all of the people that CEOs can turn to when they need clearer vision, greater commitment and significant change.

I had a wonderful coffee and discussion with Rabieh Adih, executive coach and founder of Shine Coaching, today.

We discussed passion.  What it is, where it comes from, how it dies, how it is brought back…

My personal position is that passion and meaning can only come from within an individual human being.  It can only come when that person knows that they have given more than has been demanded.  It is only this Chosen Sacrifice that can result in a feeling of meaningfulness in a life.  If you give only the bare minimum, if you treat everything as a transaction…  you will kill passion and find your way to apathy.  It is only by choosing to give more than is necessary that you use your freedom in a meaningful way.

“It all starts with Love” Raul Cristian Aguirre

My friend and entrepreneur Raul Cristian Aguirre wrote recently in the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation Octane magazine.  His message “It all starts with love”.

Now, I’m the first to hate hippy slogans and idealism, but Raul’s message is not about Love in the US Romantic Comedy sense.  He speaks of another meaning.

We often confuse love with liking or love with lust or love with enjoying being in someone’s company.  These are not love.  They can help you get to love.  Love is not a response.  Love is action.  Love is giving when not being asked to give.  Love is to give without waiting for anything in return.  Love is Chosen Sacrifice.

It is only through daily acts of giving more than is asked that we live lives of passion.

These acts must be chosen.  We must give freely.  Thus, freedom is the burden…  but it is the path to a life of passion.

The Freedom to Give More than is Asked by Life

Life places demands on you.  You can pay the minimum price.  There are a whole legion of workers in business that are the “Working Dead”, the “Quit and Stayed”…  day after day after day they deliver the necessary minimum work.  They achieve exalted states of Apathy.  (In Harry Potter, these might be the “Dementors” creatures who feed off your fears).

You can use your freedom to choose to give more than the asking price.

I don’t mean that you pay €5 for tomorrows newspaper.  I don’t mean that you pay €10 for your next bus journey.

The next email you write… take 10 seconds to make it 1% better than necessary.

The next person you pass in the hallway…  take a few seconds to really look into their eyes when you ask “how’s your day?”

The next person you meet with…  ask them about why they work, what is going well, what is not going so well.. and take interest in who they want to become.

Practice giving a tiny little extra in these small things.

This is where passion grows.

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Mother Teresa



This post describes Corporate Boards –

  1. What do they do?
  2. How do I join one? and
  3. What are my responsibilities as a Director?


A board of directors is a body of elected or appointed members who jointly oversee the activities of a company or organization, which can include a non-profit organization or a government agency or corporation.  In a stock corporation, the board is elected by the shareholders and is the highest authority in the management of the corporation. The board of directors appoints the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the corporation and sets out the overall direction for the company.

What does the Board do?

herman-daemsProfessor Herman Daems is teaching today on the IESE Advanced Management Program.  His course is “The role of the Board of Directors in Evaluating and Selecting the Strategy”.  Dr Herman Daems is professor at University of Leuven and visiting professor at Harvard Business School, and currently he is the Chairman of the Board at BNP Paribas Fortis SA/NV.  He has been part of many public, private and charitable boards over his career.

I wrote a few notes as I sat at the back of the classroom.  What does the board actually do?

  • Develop an Ambition for the Company – an ambition is not a strategy.  An ambition might be to “Climb Everest”.  A strategy would be the specific path to gather the necessary resources and execute the climb of the mountain.
  • Find the Leadership to develop a Strategy to realise the ambition – management must develop strategy.
  • Approve a strategy – Important to be clear that a board does not make the strategy, only approve that the leadership’s strategy supports the Company Ambition.
  • Provide Resources (Financial and Human) – importantly the board establishes the dividend policy
  • Balance the Power of Differing Interests (shareholders, management, employees, government, public) – board members must have general business experience.  Specialist members do not make good board members.  Board must make collective general business decisions, not just good specific decisions.  Individual members must have credibility and be willing to raise their hand and make an impact.
  • Monitor and Control Strategy – the board plays a much greater role on controlling strategy than on deciding the strategy.  Management will rarely say that their strategy is not working.  This is where the board is really necessary.
  • Control the use of Resources, control the risks involved – see next item…
  • Assume responsibility for the actions and risks of the company – The Board of Directors have “collective responsibility” for the actions and risks of the company.  Members are not personally responsible.  Some legal attempts to hold a finance expert or an audit committee member personally responsible have always been pushed back by courts on the basis that board is collective responsibility.  In banking crisis, some executives have been held personally responsible, but in no cases have board members been found personally responsible.


How do you get onto a Board?

“People often ask me ‘I’d like to make a change in my career and play a role as a board member.’  I first ask how much money they are making now.  I don’t want your role as a board director to be the significant source of income for your life.  If you are dependent on this income, you are not going to be a good director.” Herman Daems

In most countries, board members can be fired at will.  You do not want to depend on this income.

There are 5 specific reasons why you might be appointed to the board of a company:

  • You represent a shareholder or stakeholder of the company – you represent a reference shareholder, a private equity company, a venture capitalist, a strategic owner
  • You bring specific knowhow or capabilities to the board – technological, financial, market knowledge, legal
  • You bring a specific experience – you are a former CEO or a director in other companies
  • You have a reputation for reliability, independence; you bring reputation to the company – …also you are always contactable (crisis happens on Sundays, board is like fire service…  emergencies happen)
  • You have access to a relevant network for the company


What is your role on the Board?

  • It is important to find an equilibrium between the interest you represent and the company interests.  A board member is responsible to all stakeholders.  Take into account the specific traditions, structures, culture of this board.
  • Come well prepared
  • Ask questions, be critical… but solution oriented.  Directors who are always critical start to lose engagement with management.
  • Do not get stuck into details (do not become a shadow executive) – do not try to prove how smart, wise you are
  • Be aware of your legal and societal responsibilities
  • Speak your mind
  • Be courageous, remain friendly

Further Reading

  • Do you want to start something?
  • Do you want to grow something?
  • Do you want to make the world a better place?

Rosabeth Moss Kanter is a Harvard Professor that has spent her life looking at what it takes for leaders to get things done.

6 Keys to Leading Positive Change

  1. Show up – if you don’t show up, nothing happens. Be there. Trust that your presence matters and can make a difference.
  2. Speak up – Use your voice. Say what needs to be said. Ask the questions that need to be asked. Shape the agenda. Re-frame issues and give new perspectives.
  3. Look up – Have a higher vision, bring values to the team. Know what you stand for. Elevate people out of the weeds and to a bigger picture of why our work is important.
  4. Team up – Everything goes better with partners. Don’t try to do it alone. Build a sense of partnership.
  5. Never give up – Persist until done. Everything looks like a failure in the middle. It will take longer than you imagine, keep going anyway. Be flexible in your approach, but inflexible in your persistence.
  6. Lift others up – Share success, share credit and give back once you have a success.

Here’s Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s recent TEDx talk:

There are 2 ways to categorize work:

  • cognitive or manual
  • repetitive or non-repetitive.

4 Kinds of Work

There are basically 4 kinds of work:

  1. Manual repetitive – Assembly line factory worker, farm labourer
  2. Cognitive repetitive – Call center operative, Bank teller
  3. Manual non-repetitive – Jewellery maker, Custom car builder
  4. Cognitive non-repetitive – Project manager, Sales of large complex systems

Generally speaking, repetitive manual work requires the least self-management and is the lowest paying, and cognitive non-repetitive work requires the most self-management and is the highest paying.

Are you good at Self-Management?

“We must manage ourselves, and help others manage themselves” Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker wrote an article called Managing Oneself that is still the best summary of Self-Management.  As a summary, you need to be answering these 6 questions:

  • What are my strengths?  Feedback is the only way to find out.  Do you have a systematic process for getting feedback on your behaviours?
  • How do I perform?  How do I learn best?  Don’t struggle with modes that don’t work for you.  (on Mastery)
  • What are my values?  “What kind of person do I want to see in the mirror in the morning?”
  • Where do I belong?  Mathematicians, musicians and cooks are mathematicians, musicians and cooks by the time they are 4 or 5 years old.  Successful careers are not planned, they happen when people are prepared and positioned for opportunities that suit them.  Knowing where one belongs can transform an ordinary person into an outstanding performer.
  • What should I contribute?  Given my strengths, methods and values: what is the great contribution to what needs to be done?  Don’t look too far ahead – 18 months is the range of good planning.  Define courses of action: what to do, where and how to start, what goals, objectives and deadlines to set.
  • Who can I work well with?  Adapt to what makes those around you successful.  Adapting to what makes your boss most effective is the secret of managing up.  Take responsibility for communicating how you are performing; take responsibility for building trust

Past Posts on Work and Money

They lie, they manipulate and they pick fights: Some colleagues are ruthless, especially when it comes to their own professional advancement.

pablo (11)

Avoiding a toxic employee can save a company more than twice as much as bringing on a star performer.  The trouble with Toxics is that they are difficult to detect. Often, Toxics are popular with colleagues, seen as friendly and interested. It’s only after a while that co-workers begin to notice that the Toxic is sucking the joy and engagement of an entire workplace.  Poor leadership creates the perfect breeding ground for Toxics.

Who is likely to be toxic?

Overconfidence and narcissism are toxic.  I know these traits…  because myself, Conor Neill, at age 35 was massively overconfident and pretty narcissistic.


What it takes to get the job is not just different from, but often the reverse of what it takes to do the job well.

The main reason for the uneven management sex ratio is our inability to discern between confidence and competence.  Men are more apt to show confidence, women tend to hold themselves back from overconfidence.

Unstructured interviews are a terrible method to evaluate a person for a job – they reward self confident individuals and fail to analyse real competence.


High-flying leaders dream of their faces appearing on the front of Time, Business Week and the Economist.  Not their brand, not their team, not their investors…  their own face.  (That was my dream when I was 35 – fame for me).  This is narcism.

Freud told us that there is a dark side to narcissism. Narcissists are emotionally isolated and highly distrustful. Perceived threats trigger rage. Achievements feed feelings of personal grandiosity. Freud thought narcissists were the hardest personality types to analyze.

Narcissistic CEO Larry Ellison was described thus by a subordinate: “The difference between God and Larry is that God does not believe he is Larry.”

The 4 Apocalyptic Qualities of Poisoned People

Harvard Research showed that employees who showed the following characteristics were more likely to be toxic workers:

  1. Overconfident – as described
  2. Self centred – narcism
  3. Productive – individually highly productive in visible areas; note: this is individual rather than team focus on productivity
  4. Rule-following – a stickler for the formal rules

A self-centred, overconfident productive and rule following person will poison their team – taking all the credit, ruining the spirit, enjoying and promoting the failures of those around them.

How to be Un-Toxic?

What can you personally do to be less toxic?  What can you look for in others to ensure that they are competent and serve others?

Jim Collins identifies the 4 characteristics common to Level 5 leaders:

  • Humility
  • Will
  • Ferocious resolve
  • Responsibility: Give credit to others while taking blame upon themselves

How do you achieve humility combined with ferocious resolve?  How do you stay responsible even as you do start to achieve more and more?  I believe there is only one way to keep our feet on the ground:

Feedback from Trusted Peers

You must be surrounded by a group of people who can keep your feet on the ground, but believe deeply in your capacity to be a powerful, positive, valued leader.  There is no way to keep this journey going alone.  We need others to regularly see something in ourselves that we become blind to when left alone.  As the story goes, we are 2 wolves…  alone we feed the bad wolf, supported by peers, mentors, coaches and inspiring people…  we feed the good wolf.

Watch people – do they seek feedback from trusted peers?  If not, they are likely Toxic.

Robert Fritz says that we each have two limiting beliefs: powerlessness and unworthiness.  We don’t have to pretend to be better than we are.  We don’t have to pretend that we don’t do shameful things that all humans do.  The only cure?  Allowing trusted peers to really know us, and let us see what they see in us.

Benjamin Franklin brought together a peer group of 12 friends who would be fully open about their lives, challenges and opportunities.  A group who aspired to live bigger lives, and who worried about the dangers of self-delusion.

I have been part of a peer group forum for 8 years.  Each meeting we push each other to share the real person, not the one we have created to impress others.  I have found over these years that each time I share something that I am ashamed of, it loses its power over me.  Each time I share my real me, the others respond in a more positive way than when I share the carefully crafted impressive version of myself.

For 2016, Get Trustworthy Feedback

In 2016, be sure to surround yourself with people who believe in you, and in turn, make every effort to give them the same gift.

Do you have a trusted group of peers?  If yes, let me know how you found this group.  If no, I’d love to hear from you – I can share some tools to help you get started.  


More on Toxic Employees:

More On Peer Feedback Groups

De duodecim abusivis saeculi “On the Twelve Abuses of the World” is a self-help book written by an Irish author between 630 and 700AD.  You could say that it was the earliest precursor to Steven Covey, Brian Tracy or Jim Rohn.

The work was widely propagated throughout Europe by Irish missionaries in the 8th century. Its authorship was often attributed to Saint Patrick (the general view today is that it was not his work).

Duodecim abusivis saeculi

De duodecim condemns the following twelve abuses:

*Collectio Canonum Hibernensis
  1. the wise man without works; sapiens sine operibus
  2. the old man without religion; senex sine religione
  3. the young man without obedience; adolescens sine oboedientia
  4. the rich man without charity; dives sine elemosyna
  5. the woman without modesty; femina sine pudicitia
  6. the nobleman without virtue; dominus sine virtute
  7. the argumentative Christian; Christianius contentiosus
  8. the proud pauper; pauper superbus
  9. the unjust king; rex iniquus
  10. the neglectful bishop; episcopus neglegens
  11. the community without order; plebs sine disciplina
  12. the people without a law; populus sine lege


This form of document is part of a broad category of medieval literature called “Mirrors for Princes”.  They were developed to educate future kings in the leadership qualities that would be needed in their role as king.  The best known of these works is The Prince by Machiavelli.

The title of this post came from a summary of a talk by Pat Murray.

As a leader, people watch every single act.  If you are in a bad mood and act out of that bad mood, people think that is who you are.  Words are generally ignored, we watch what you allow to happen.

As parents this is even more difficult.  If you say “do this and you will not get dessert” and then give them dessert anyway (because you are tired and do not want the fight) you have taught the children a lesson:  Your rules are flexible and negotiable.  It is hard to trust someone whose rules are flexible and negotiable.

You Stand For What You Tolerate

“The worst use of power is no use of power”

What do you know that is “wrong” but tolerate?  What behaviours annoy you, but you don’t address them?  If somebody arrives 4 minutes late to a meeting, are they allowed to attend?  If somebody sends the report an hour later than agreed, are they sanctioned?

If you allow bad behaviour this is who you are.  Words are cheap.  What you allow is real.

What are your intolerables?  What are the behaviours that you absolutely will not sanction?  If you are not clear on this list, then you will allow bad behaviours to creep in to your culture.  I learnt one clear lesson during the Organisation Behaviour module of my own MBA: “The worst use of power is no use of power”.

It is really painful to confront another person on their behaviour.  It is a lot more painful to be the passive creator of a slowly sickening culture of performance.

What’s the most annoying “little rude behaviour” you see around you?  

recent New York Times article tells me that science is now showing that it pays to be nice to those around you at work.  Little rude behaviours generate a group of people looking forward to see you fall on your face.  Little kindnesses generate a group of people who want to help see you succeed.

It is good to cultivate little kind behaviours and reduce little rude behaviours.  Here’s a list of the most common little rude behaviours.

Rude Behaviours Frequently Seen In Others

These are the rude behaviours by bosses most often cited in a recent New York Times article (in descending order of frequency).

  1. Interrupts people
  2. Is judgmental of those who are different
  3. Pays little attention to or shows little interest in others’ opinions
  4. Takes the best and leaves the worst tasks for others
  5. Fails to pass along necessary information
  6. Neglects saying please or thank you
  7. Talks down to people
  8. Takes too much credit for things
  9. Swears
  10. Puts others down

Our Own Rude Behaviours

These are the rude behaviors people most often admit to seeing in themselves.

  1. Hibernates into e-gadgets
  2. Uses jargon even when it excludes others
  3. Ignores invitations
  4. Is judgmental of those who are different
  5. Grabs easy tasks while leaving difficult ones for others
  6. Does not listen
  7. Emails/texts during meetings
  8. Pays little attention to others
  9. Takes others’ contributions for granted
  10. Belittles others nonverbally
  11. Neglects saying please or thank you

What do you Think?

I am pretty good at most of the behaviours on both lists.  How about you?  Which is your great weakness?  Which do you most detest when you see it in others?  I’d love your comments below.

My post from last Friday at Lifehack on 11 Differences between Busy and Productive people has been shared over 4 thousand times!  What do you think?  Are you productive or are some of the busy features there in your activity?