Gradually then suddenly

downloadRural Spain, 1920s.  Two characters have just met in Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises.  Each one is trying to figure out what the other is doing there.  One of them cuts to the chase, asking the other, ‘How did you go bankrupt?’  The other responds, ‘Two ways. Gradually, and then suddenly’.*
So often this tempo of change – gradually and then suddenly – can be frustrating and derail the best change efforts.  We all love instant results, whether we are trying to make personal or organisational change.  So how can we accelerate results in this two-speed change economy?
Make momentum your best friend:  Throw everything behind the change for the first 30, 60 or 90 days.  The research on personal change says it takes 21 continuous days to create a new habit.  Building momentum early gives you that tipping point into speed.  Often going too slowly, like driving a car in first gear, makes  people simply lose interest.
Do a Disney:  One of Disney’s success strategies is ‘Think big, start small and go fast’.  Starting small breaks the overwhelm of change into an immediate, tangible next step.  No matter how large the task at hand, identifying and executing that first small step is doable. 
Make progress visible:  This is the advice to create and sustain behavioural change from Dr Jason Fox one of the best motivation strategy and design experts on the planet.  Celebrate and publicise every milestone. The power of small wins will get you that big win. 
Turn gradual and slow into fast and successful.  Please comment: what strategies have you used?

Help – My baby is ugly!

downloadEvery time I write a deeply personal blog I get wracked by self-doubt.  On a self-doubt scale ranging from ‘a smidgen’ to ‘paralysing’, this leans far towards the latter.

I always question whether this will be valuable for my readers?  Am I getting too personal (it’s a blog – not group therapy!).  I feel vulnerable and fear being judged.  I call this suite of symptoms the ‘My baby is ugly’ syndrome: the fear people might find our precious output unsightly.

It’s a shadowy world to inhabit even briefly and stops us from challenging ourselves.  A couple of things have helped me.  The first is to run stuff past a trusted mentor.  I often ask Kath Walters, friend, veteran journalist and content guru, for her opinion.  Kath also shoots straight from the hip, which is exactly what I need when plagued by self-doubt.  Life is full of naysayers; to balance it out we all need some ‘truth-sayers’: people who have the courage to call it as it is.  They’ll tell you if your baby is ugly, or let you know when your fear is distorting reality.

People respond strongly when I get personal, as you can see herehere and here, and I feel the same way – I love more personal blog posts.  We can all relate to honest expressions about the vulnerability and frailty of being human (the challenge is in being the one that puts it out there).  However the responses I get from my audience give me swathes of courage.  On the courage meter this is off the charts.

What ugly babies have you grappled with?  Please share – I love hearing from you.

Your inner guerilla

mower-1.1What if you looked out of your window and saw acres of unmown public land?  Overgrown because the city had run out of funds and could no longer afford the upkeep of its public spaces? If you are Tom Nardone the answer is obvious.  You jump on your lawnmower and start mowing the public parks yourself.  Before you know it, an army of volunteers have joined you and you soon form the Detroit Mower Gang, with members volunteering their time to mow Detroit’s public parks so the kids have a safe place to play.

As Nardone believes: “Doing something is way more than doing nothing.”

In an era where leadership can sometimes seem like a hollow archetype – we’ve witnessed leadership failures across several significant public institutions – the beacon of hope is the rise of grassroots leaders like Nardone.  Guerilla leaders.

Glen’s Espresso in Brisbane, Australia, is another example of this kind of leadership.  Glen runs a coffee cart where conventionally you have a barista making the coffee and one person manning the till.  Glen decided to base his coffee leadership on trust.  As a customer, you write your coffee order on the takeaway cup, put money in the till and take out your own change. A simple instruction sheet tells you how to do this.

Neither Nardone nor Glen have a formal leadership title or mandate but each have chosen to make a difference through their actions.  All it takes is getting in touch with your inner leadership guerilla.

Please comment – I love hearing from you.

The ‘Whole’ truth or daredevil?

1426541426129We all love stories of human endeavour, especially when an underdog beats the odds and triumphs over adversity.  We admire the person, heavily invest in their success and learn from their wisdom.  In a world filled with bad news, these good news stories offer a rare beacon of hope.

This seemed apparent when Belle Gibson’s story emerged.  Belle depicted herself as a brave young Australian mother who had survived brain cancer and decided to fight by reinventing a life based on health and wellbeing.  She amassed a worldwide social media following with her ‘The Whole Pantry’ philosophy, released a best-selling app and she even had a book deal with Penguin.  Belle’s journey and apparent transformation touched people’s lives profoundly.  She was an inspiration for cancer sufferers and ordinary people all over the world.

Sadly, recently the media broke an even bigger story: alleging that the entire Belle Gibson tale – from the cancer to the recovery – was a fabrication.  Proof has been requested of the various cancers, with none emerging.  Promised charity donations from Gibson’s app sales have also not been forthcoming.  Penguin and Apple pulled their support.  Gibson’s followers all over the world are angry and hurt.

The fallout has been ferocious and brutal.  Dishonesty is a deep violation: a transgression of our trust, empathy and compassion.  We feel ripped off in the worst possible way not monetarily but emotionally.

Stories like Gibson’s are powerful because they appeal to our higher selves.  But just like the sun has a shadow, inauthentic storytelling is the dark side of storytelling.

Please comment – I love hearing from you.

Expectations, empathy and elephants

imagesRecently I hurt my left eye.  Unfortunately it happened when I harmlessly rubbed it, rather than during a swashbuckling misadventure!

My eye was inflamed and red and of course it happened to be smack-bang in a week when I had a helluva lot on.  Worst of all, the very next day I was presenting an all-day workshop for a client who had never met me before. Since Plan A — crawl into a hollow log for a week — wasn’t possible, I decided to follow my own advice: ‘Always start by framing the elephant in the room.’

So for a week I used a variation of this entrée, as I stepped onto the stage with one bulbous red eye.  “Today I come to you with a health warning.  I burst a capillary in my left eye – apparently it’s really common.  Everyone knows someone who has.  It’s perfectly harmless, painless and not contagious but it looks grotesque!  So I understand if you make less than stellar eye contact with me today.

Whenever stuff like this happens I always have two reactions: the first being ‘Why me? why this?’ and the second being ‘How can I use this as a story?’ and that is the radar I hope to turn on with you today.”

A burst capillary takes about a week to heal (I am now of course an expert) and in the course of the week I decided to have fun with it.  I even bought an eye patch and introduced that as a prop.  I know what you are thinking, and I am so not going to post a photo of me in the eye patch – I looked like a pirate with issues!  And after a week, when my eye healed I almost missed the endless material it gave me.  Almost.

What my whole experience reinforced was the power of frames to set expectations, engender empathy and address any elephants in the room.  Eye patch optional.

Please comment – I love hearing from you.