All in Personal Codes

You're Not Perfect. That's OK.

“We love seeing raw truth and openness in other people, but we’re afraid to let them see it in us.” (Brene Brown)

There’s an illusion in the business world that we cannot expose our flaws to anyone around us - not our colleagues, our clients and certainly not our bosses. The fear is, of course, that we will be judged, perceived as someone who is fundamentally flawed and, accordingly, cast off to career obscurity.

It’s an illusion that becomes all the more exacerbated at the management level. I can’t afford to show any weakness. I have to always impress that I know everything. I can never say ‘I don’t know’.

When You Need A Burning Platform

Change doesn’t tend to come easily to most of us.

For the most part, we don’t typically choose to change. More often, change - or at the very least, the need for it - is thrust upon us due to some exterior event, shift or development. When profits are severely impacted, when a competitor introduces a revolutionary new product or when an external environmental shift occurs, shifting the steady state we’ve become so comfortable with.

Lessons From Springsteen On Broadway

By the time Bruce Springsteen released his first album, Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ, in 1973, he’d already had almost a decade of playing experience under his belt. He’d started playing back in 1964 with a band called The Rogues, then another, then another, ultimately morphing into the now famous E Street Band.

That first album met with critical acclaim but little commercial success. The one after (The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle) fared pretty much the same, and he didn’t really achieve commercial success until Born To Run was released in 1975.

It Matters More When No One's Looking

It’s easy to be nice (or virtuous or kind or thoughtful) when the eyes of the world - or even a single person, for that matter - are on you. It’s much harder, and frankly, far more telling and meaningful when they’re not.

This is true in all walks of life, but especially so in the business world, where we allow ourselves to use the “capitalist filter” to make decisions that, if we were to step back and assess them in a broader social or moral sense, we likely would have acted otherwise. (Putting aside why people are so completely comfortable divorcing moral or fairness considerations from economic ones. That’s a conversation for another time.)

The Lemon Loaf Incident

Alright, let me start by saying that I’m wary of saying that how someone partakes of a lemon loaf directly reflects what kind of a person they are.

I do, however, think that how one partakes of a lemon loaf - and specifically an iced lemon loaf - suggests something about them (in conjunction with other data points as well, of course).

What Is Your Ambition Based In?

I think most of us accept that ambition is a necessary ingredient for success.

Whether we’re growing a business, launching a new initiative or pushing forward on a creative project, ambition is needed to not only get the project going, but more importantly to take it to fruition. It’s a foundational requirement for creating lasting, meaningful change.

So the important question to ask is not whether or not we have the ambition needed to succeed. That’s a hygiene factor. If we don’t, there’s no point even getting started.

Don't Believe The Hype

To be human is to be complex. It means we aren’t one thing. We’re multi-faceted.

For example, that sports star that won that coveted trophy actually isn’t perfect. She’s made (and will continue to make) plenty of mistakes along the way.

And that team that finished in second place, the one whose faults are being picked apart by all critics? Well, they still played better than all the other teams in the league - except for one.

When Bono Went Walkabout...

“It was a great day, but I thought I had fucked it up.”

“We felt like we’d blown an opportunity to be great.”

“I really thought we were crap.”

On July 13th, 1985, U2 took to the stage at Wembley stadium for their designated slot at Live Aid, the global concert for African famine relief. This was pre-Joshua Tree, so while they were popular, they were nowhere near the household name that they are now.

Creativity Is About Being Fearless

As someone who grew up on Queen’s music, I remember how good they were in their prime. I especially remember their performance at Live Aid back in 1985, as I watched it on TV in my living room in Hong Kong. When Mercury and Queen came on, they electrified the crowd - both those sitting in the audience at Wembley, as well as the millions who watched from their living rooms around the world. In fact, there were two acts that really stole the show that day and Queen was one of them.

Fight - Even When You Want Flight

Sunday morning, I woke up to watch the Arsenal-Spurs game, famously known as the North London Derby. It’s a game where form goes out the window and these two arch-rivals go all out for bragging rights as to who is the best team in North London.

It’s a game that hasn’t gone our way in recent years and as I anticipated the stress and emotional rollercoaster I would go through over the next couple of hours, I briefly debated staying in bed and waking up when it was all over. To just not have to deal with it all.

Just Focus On What's Next

Sometimes, the goals we set for ourselves are overwhelming. The bigger the goal or the more challenging the objective, the harder it can be to fathom how we will get there.

We get caught up in the sheer scale of our idea, or we start setting all sorts of impossible timelines and expectations that we think we need to achieve on our path there.

Living On Your Own Terms

When I got into consulting in the mid-nineties, I did so with the expectation that I was going into a field that was focused on driving change. That we were there to make a difference, and to improve the lot of our clients. And that doing so required people who were committed to that process, both within the firm I worked for and at the client. Generally speaking, that expectation proved to be the reality.

"It’s Like A Pizza..."

Many years ago, I worked with a senior consulting partner who liked to talk in puzzles. Instead of giving us specific marching orders, he’d talk around the issues and then ask us to put together a deck for his review.

For example, as we’d talk through a proposal we were working on, he’d talk about the client situation, the range of issues they were facing as well…

The Thing About Politics...

…Is that there really isn’t any such thing.

In popularity contests of any significance (where a sizable population is asked for its endorsement of an individual or a subject or an action), the landslide win is not a common occurrence. More prevalent (in my admittedly unscientific assessment) is the close race, where the margin of victory is in single digit percentage points.

The Thing About Mandates...

…Is that there really isn’t any such thing.

In popularity contests of any significance (where a sizable population is asked for its endorsement of an individual or a subject or an action), the landslide win is not a common occurrence. More prevalent (in my admittedly unscientific assessment) is the close race, where the margin of victory is in single digit percentage points.

No One Likes Surprises

When it comes to the work we do, no one likes surprises.

It doesn’t matter which part of the organization you sit in - client management, operations, marketing or elsewhere - one of the fundamental tenets of corporate performance is predictability. We want to know what’s happening, why and, if necessary, what we need to do about it.