What we've been thinking about and working on lately...

what we've been talking about

Fortunately I was not watching the British middleweight title fight in London at the weekend - but I have been following the debate over when the fight should have stopped. According to Chris Eubank Senior he would have stopped the fight if his son had been in Blackwell’s position even if it would “alienate his son for life”. I imagine that the opponents themselves, their trainers, family, doctors, referee and the audience might all have different views about the right time to stop a fight depending on their own perspective and experience.    


Whether you’re cooking, painting, writing, training or leading a team, knowing when to stop can be quite a skill. Effective leaders seem to know when to stop talking, checking in, waiting for more information or working on a particular project and while it’s relatively easy to spot when someone should have stopped doing something, we often don’t notice when someone stops at the right time.

Here are a few suggestions to help experiments with stopping something

  • Have a clear outcome and boundaries in mind. The clearer you are about the end result you want, the easier it is to know when you have achieved it and can stop. It also helps to understand any rules or boundaries relating to this. What don’t you want to happen?

  • Apply the law of diminishing returns. That final 20% effort might not add much value and it could actually diminish the impact /outcome of what you’re doing. Whether it’s too many colours on the paining, too much seasoning in a casserole, diluting a bold statement by restating it in multiple ways or delaying completion with additional analysis. 

  • Ask for feedback. Recognise that you might be too close to the situation to judge. Ask for feedback and give your team and stakeholders different ways of letting you know how you’re doing – is the job complete to your stakeholder’s expectations even if not to your own? is the person you think you are “supporting” feeling micro-managed?

  • Gain perspective. If you can, step away from whatever you’re doing for a while. Take a walk. Go for a run. Work on something else. Sleep on it. Then come back to the task and look at it with fresh eyes. Ask yourself what needs to happen to finish according to your original plan?

  • Practice stopping. If your tendency is to get into too much detail, talk for too long, or over-worry about things - experiment with stopping before you’re comfortable. When in doubt, give yourself a deadline or time limit - and stick to it.

Mine is now.

Leave a comment


Be the first to comment on this blog entry!

As coaches we often find ourselves in discussion with clients about why people under perform, or behave in particular ways - and we find ourselves asking questions along the lines of 

  • How many people go to work in the morning with the intention of failing? and
  • When did you last get up in the morning and think “I’m going to do my best to screw up today”?

I have sometimes noticed people rolling their eyes as we share our belief that few people deliberately go out of their way to get things wrong, mess things up, or irritate their colleagues. I can almost hear them thinking “aha – well you’ve not met x”

I’ve had to take some of my own medicine recently. Working on a charity event, I found myself on the receiving end of some behaviour that immediately had my hackles up as I planned my revenge. I was particularly outraged because the offending behaviour was documented in email form – which somehow seemed to make it even more tangible and impossible to ignore.

After wasting a reasonable amount of time discussing and complaining about the situation  with a couple of my colleagues, I suddenly stopped and asked myself how helpful this response was either to me or to getting the job done. Of course the answer was “not at all”. I was wasting time, draining my own energy and increasing my levels of stress.

By this stage I was back in coaching mode and able to respond more rationally. The person in question had given up their own time to help – I really don’t believe that their intention was to upset or anger other people in the process. They were probably in a rush when they wrote the email etc.

So when you find yourself in a similar situation I would encourage you to do two things

1: Ask yourself what you think the other person’s intention is/was

2: And probably even more important – ask yourself whether your own response is helpful

And then decide if and how to respond.

Leave a comment


Be the first to comment on this blog entry!

As I write, it is the last day of the Scottish referendum and campaigners for both sides of the argument are using every means possible to convert undecided voters. There have been a variety of approaches to this – from the BP CEO’s statement that “long-term investments require fiscal stability and certainty,” to David Cameron’s emotional admission that he would be “heartbroken” if there is a vote for independence. 

Part of the decision making process usually involves applying “rational” methods such as rankings and mathematical tools to assess the value of different options based on specific criteria. In my experience this is often a second step and means of validating or backing up an emotional choice because we are afraid to trust (or admit we are basing the decision on) our emotions. 

I was once advised to make a decision and then live with it for a while to see how it feels before making a firm commitment - in case the emotional impact of the decision outweighed the logical arguments. It is something I still do – spend time imagining the potential impact of a decision and I find that this simple tool/diagram on the right really helps.

Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio’s states that “emotions play a critical role in the ability to make fast, rational decisions in complex and uncertain situations”. When he studied people who had received brain injuries to the part of the brain where emotions are generated, he found that they had difficulty making decisions because of an inability to use emotions to help guide future behavior based on past experiences. 

So logic (head) and emotion (heart) both play a part in effective decision making. But there is another important dimension - and that is intuition, or your gut instinct. Have you ever had a “spec” for your perfect house and then fallen in love with something completely different because it just felt right? Or interviewed someone who is the perfect candidate on paper but you just “know” that they won’t fit in? Sometimes there is no single “right” decision, but it is likely that the people who make the best decisions take into account the head, heart and gut – using intellect, emotions and intuition to find a solution that not only works, but they can commit to, stick at and live with.


Leave a comment


Be the first to comment on this blog entry!