"Frank's skill in asking the right questions is un-mistakable, and is at the core of his leadership philosophy.

The power of these questions cannot be underestimated, especially if you want to lead and not manage."
—John Cave
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Business Jargon

I’ve talked about business jargon in this blog before.

Because… while business leaders and their teams love jargon, I hate it.

Leaders think its use makes them look smart. And their team members use it because they’re frightened they’ll be left out in the cold if they don’t.

Taking of being left out… I remember a friend of mine expressing surprise when suddenly—as if by magic—all his colleagues started talking about ‘metrics’. He thinks they meant ‘numbers’ by this but to this day he’s not quite sure. Perhaps his redundancy had something to do with not using the right language.

Which brings me to Pfizer Chief Executive, Ian Read. He was in the news a bit lately as his drug making company sought to take over British competitor AstraZeneca.

His performance in front of a Parliamentary select committee was peppered with some remarkable jargon examples.

“I asked a simple question,” a seemingly exasperated committee chairman Adrian Bailey said at one point as Read talked about ‘putting together the pipelines’, making sure of ‘good capital allocation’ and opportunities ‘to domicile’.

You can bet that Read’s acolytes all talk the same nonsense. This might well promote team spirit (not in itself a bad thing)… but also risks hiding what’s really going on in a sea of corporate-speak.

So… next time you go on a senior executive course make sure you bring back new-found knowledge but not the jargon attached to it.

Then everyone might still know what you’re talking about.


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The Soup Nazi’s Cousin

A recent mailing in my inbox had some rambling about the setup of a specific business and what its purpose is. Then the bold statement:
“Private lessons are used to help a person develop not a time to work on any skill that person wants.”
My first thought was that when you go in a restaurant and order steak—are you really willing to eat the salad they bring you; yet still pay for the steak?

All this promotes is mediocrity, favoritism and in general a dumbing down of the people.

As long as those managers don’t understood that a person is more than just the few skills they want them to possess they are just that: Managers scared that everyone is out for them.

I have to guess that in her business the customer is always


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Nap Away!

I have been thinking about square pegs and round holes.

The square peg I am particularly concerned about is the human body. The round hole is modern life.

Now… those leaders who insist on hammering the square peg that is the human body into the round hole that is modern life are eventually going to fail, believe me.

But smarter leaders, those who recognize what humans and particularly, human physiology, requires to thrive, well… they’re on to a winner. Because they are going to have the happiest, most effective and most successful workforce.

I say this as yet another study confirms that new connections between brain cells (aka synapses) form during sleep. In other words… sleep is when people consolidate, process and learn from the events of the previous day.

Last year, studies showed that the brain uses sleep to remove ‘waste toxins’ built up during the day.

And other studies showed that ignoring the importance of sleep exposes individuals to a greater likelihood of developing health problems like cancer, heart disease, type-2 diabetes and obesity.

Now a few blogs ago, I suggested that people should be able to work when it suited their internal body clock.

To which I now add… and they should be allowed to take naps at work to boost productivity and creativity.

Not practically possible? Have a look at these Metronap Energy Pods external and in particular the video.

Now if you’ll excuse me…
I’m off for my afternoon nap.


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Ethical and Moral Responsibility

I have just been watching online an extract of a speech given by Prince Charles to business leaders in London.

In the speech he says:

“The primary purpose of capitalism should surely be to serve the wider long-term interests and concerns of humanity rather than the other way round. So, critically, it would require the incorporation of environmental externalities. We would have to account properly for carbon dioxide emissions, the use of water and fertilizer, the pollution we produce and the biodiversity we lose. All of these would have to be comprehensively considered in our economic and national decision making because inclusive capitalism cannot be truly inclusive if our dependence on natural capital - what Pavan Sukhdev astutely describes I think as the economic invisibility of nature—is not also included in our calculation of economic worth.”

Prince Charles went on to say that:

“We stand at a pivotal moment in history. Either we continue along a path we seem collectively determined to follow, apparently at the mercy of those who so vociferously and aggressively deny that our current operating model has any effect on dangerously accelerating climate change… which I feel would bring us to our own destruction… or we can choose to act now before it is finally too late, using all of the power and influence that each of you can bring to bear to create an inclusive, sustainable and resilient society. There will of course be hard choices to make—and take it from me—in the short-term, you will not be popular with your peers—but if you stand firm and take the kind of action that is needed I have every confidence the rewards will be immense. Not least you will be able to look in the mirror and say with full confidence that you did everything you could possibly do to create the kind of transformation that would put the true long-term value of both nature and human communities at the heart of future economic and investment models, thus ensuring a social, environmental and commercial return that is truly resilient.”

A few thoughts struck me as I watched Prince Charles speak.

Firstly, all business leaders need to think carefully if their motivation remains simply about the pursuit of profit over and above any other impacts their organizations are having and could have. Because I believe those who remain so traditionally motivated could be heading for a big fall.

Secondly, as Prince Charles points out, those leaders who do choose to adjust their motivation will be brave given the pressure the cultural pressure there is in most organizations to put profit first and foremost above all else.

Thirdly… Prince Charles himself is exhibiting some good leadership qualities. Yes—the British monarchy might be simply titular without any actual power. But he is prepared to put forward opinions which might get him some flak. I like that.

For me every business has an ethical and moral responsibility.
And for you?

Note: Pavan Sukhdev is CEO and founder of environmental consultation firm GIST Advisory.


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I Do Not Know What You Are Capable Of

“I can’t use you because I don’t know what you are capable of.”
What a sad sad statement from anybody who claims to lead or manage.
Without using that person, how does any manager ever know?
  • This is why in sports we have practice.
    Perfect Practice makes perfect.
    Vince Lombardi
  • This is why we have tests. I mean real tests where the student gets to see the results and has a teacher willing to explain; not this useless stupidity of telling the result and leave it at that. And get the results in a timely manner. Do you remember what you did 2 weeks ago; 6 months? Exactly my point!
  • This is why we have interviews of potential employees.
  • This is why we evaluate; not just once but ongoing.
  • This is why real leaders surround themselves with talent.
  • This is why real leaders find out the potential of those they are forced to use.
  • This is why real leaders don’t have a team of 60 with 40 at the sideline. Either they have smaller teams or everyone has a job to do.

How many do you regularly sideline and keep them there?


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Flaw Free

A friend recently contrasted his son’s experience of two school teachers in their management of the school’s ‘Achievement Points’ incentive scheme.

By way of explanation, the ‘Achievement Points’ incentive scheme gives each child a small booklet which has a grid of squares. Each time the child does something well or attains a particular goal, a square is stamped. As the stamped squares build in number, so the child progresses from their bronze award to silver and then to gold. Getting the gold achievement award is seen as quite prestigious.

My friend’s son has always made it to the gold award. At least until his last term when he just got the silver, missing gold by just a few stamped squares. Needless to say the child was disappointed.

My friend wondered why there had been a blip in his son’s run of gold awards. His discrete investigations revealed that his current teacher had delegated booklet stamping to class monitors (so other kids were stamping my friend’s son’s booklet). And unlike my friend’s son’s previous teacher who exercised some discretion when a child had a close to full booklet of stamps, his current teacher was playing it ‘by the book’.

Now I have often in this blog talked about performance measurement. I have also intimated that while no scheme is perfect, some have very obvious flaws. Looking at the scheme operating in my friend’s son’s current class, there is a very obvious flaw (peers managing the booklet stamping). And contrasting the two teachers (one of whom is a ’seasoned campaigner’ and the other new to the school and sticking doggedly ‘to the rules’), the more established teacher showed greater leadership in my view by flexing the rules and quietly completing the stamps in a nearly full booklet where she knew a child had worked hard and deserved gold.

Do you make sure the performance measurement processes in your organization are as flaw-free as possible?

Is your leadership style flexible when required?

Think on!


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When Should People Work?

Ok—so we’ve looked at how long your people should work for each day?

Now how about when should they work each day?

Neurogeneticist Dr Louis Ptacek of the University of California might have a strong view on this. He says that there is a strong genetic connection between whether we are ‘larks’ or ‘owls’. ‘Familial Advanced Sleep Phase’ syndrome determines that we are up early and at our best then. ‘Familial Delayed Sleep Phase’ syndrome puts those under this genetic influence at the other end of the day in terms of wakefulness and peak performance.

And Professor Derk-Jan Dijk, Head of the University of Surrey’s Sleep Research Centre talks along similar lines. He says that ‘fast-clock’ people like to do things early and ’slow-clock’ people like to do things late.

Professor Till Roenneberg of Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich refers to the sleep deprivation many ’slow-clock’ people suffer each week as social jet lag. Driven out of their beds early by alarm-clocks, these people accumulate sleep loss manifesting as social jet lag… and he says it’s harder to get over than time-zone jet lag.

One of Professor Roenneberg’s suggestions in how to address the problem of social jet lag is to customize work attendance times. In other words, rather than hard and fast ‘9-5′ days, assess an individual’s sleeping type and organize their contractual hour accordingly.

Now there would clearly be lots of challenges with this. Will people who need to work together be in the office at the same time? How will shift-workers work? How to keep attendance records and so on.

Nothing in my opinion, though that cannot be overcome.

And think of the efficiency and performance gains!


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“Dear Douglas,
I’m honored to welcome you as the newest member of Mensa.”

Huh? Last time I checked—my name wasn’t Douglas. Still this came to my e-mail…

Wait a second—Mensa—that are those really “smart” people, right? So they are right, right? But then again—if you don’t know your own e-mail…


I rather trust the Danaans bearing gifts!


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