Reflections on Leadership: Motivation

Do you ever find yourself in situations juggling many ‘important’ priorities at once andjuggling3 not sure which one to focus on? Are you dealing with a list of actions and struggling to keep up? Or perhaps you have a vision to achieve something you deem important, and yet, it consistently eludes you despite trying so hard? Each time you set a goal, it goes unachieved – to the point you start beating yourself up about it. Frustrating?

If you fall into any of the categories mentioned, neither Hertzberg’s 2 Factor Theory nor Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs will provide the immediate psychological comfort you need to motivate yourself to move forward. If anything, they’ll probably frustrate you all the more.

Stop beating yourself up…

Beating yourself up when a set task goes unachieved is not the right mindset or state (of mind) to ‘operate from’. Instead of motivating you, the “beating-up-yourself mindset” actually sby5works in reverse order: It motivates you away from the doing itself – ensuring you get depressed, about being depressed, about not being motivated enough! Or, if it actually succeeds in pushing you to do the task, you operate from an unresourceful mindset, such that you’re not able to focus your full energies (or your ‘attention’) on the task in hand. This impacts the quality of the action taken – ensuring you do keep beating yourself up about it…


So, how do you motivate yourself, ensuring your tasks and key actions are performed to high quality? Let me answer that question by way of another question. Have you come across the following statement: “Attention is what you focus your full energies on as guided by intention”?

To unpack, here’s a short story:

I went into my local Print shop a couple of days ago to pick up some printing material. Whilst paying for the service, I scanned the office with my eye. storyI took particular interest in a picture hanging on the wall. I asked the lady serving me if she didn’t mind me taking a picture of it. She was happy for me to. So I did. It read:

Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention…It represents the wise choice of many alternatives”.

When you operate from a high intention, you are better able to stay focussed on what is important to you – and therefore deliver consistent high intention2quality action: Attention is what you focus your energies on – as guided by intention. Think about that for a second. Note use of the word ‘intention’. Intention, is different from, ‘attention’Intention is ‘the why’ behind the things that you do; “attention”, are the things your focus on at a given time.  Put another way, intention is staying focussed on what is really important to you, whilst using your attention to sift through arising and interconnected daily life choices.


So whilst I sit on my sofa typing this article, I am paying attention to the ‘qwerty’ keys, ensuring I type correctly and speedily. At the same time, paying attentionI am also paying specific attention to my thinking process as I type. I am thinking to myself: “How can I clearly explain this to my readers?”. In effect, I am paying attention to a number of things at a given time.

‘Intention’ on the other hand is that which drives what I am paying attention to. It is the one very thing, around which, all other things I pay attention to, are only but a means to an end.  Why am I writing this article? Why does this topic interest me? Because amongst the choice of many alternatives, writing on this topic, makes me happy. That’s my high intention. Being happy. happiness5And so, I choose this task (of writing) from a place of happiness – and apply my full focus and energies to my thinking on the subject.

Choosing a task from a place of happiness ensures you stop beating yourself up – about other ‘competing priorities’ which do not fall within the domain of your high intention, at this moment. No matter the number of competing priorities you have, and regardless of how many times you may have ‘failed’ to meet those priorities, operating from a resourceful state (of mind), from a place of intentionality, is critical. It facilitates the mindset that will get you doing the doing, rather than thinking about doing. Furthermore, it provides insight toward making wise choices, amongst competing alternatives.

So, connect with your intention and stop the pattern of wasteful cyclical thinking that keeps motivating you away from high quality doing – to a happier state that motivates you toward doing.

A few tips…

  • Step 1: What is your ‘why’? What is your intention? Take your time to respond to these questions within…
  • Step 2: Consciously choose a happy state of mind to operate out from. For example, imagine and feel the positive energy of completing a task…helpfultips
  • Step 3: Bring the positive energy of completion to bear on how you feel about the task in the present moment. Operate from there…
  • Step 4: Stop thinking about what you haven’t done, and pay attention to the things that you have done.
  • Step 5: Congratulate yourself. Celebrate incremental steps and successes.

Remember, always let your intention guide what you focus your attention on – this will lead your choices amongst alternatives.

Happy journeying…


NB: This is the last of 4 reflective articles on leadership. To discuss further, or to learn more, visit:



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Reflections on Leadership: Inter-personal Relationships

Various academic disciplines; sociology, psychology, anthropology, and philosophy & theology, have attempted over centuries, to gain insight into what the person is. mystery4Christian theological studies in particular, termed aspects of this area as concerning the mystery of “personhood”. Note use of the word ‘mystery’, suggesting that further understanding is required into this ever-unfolding area – to provide a viable response to the question: what is the person? Indeed, another way of framing the question from a leadership perspective is to ask: what is it about the person that we need to know in order to effectively lead productive inter-personal relationships?

Last week, at a lecture on “Leadership and Change” for MBA students, I asked, as part of an exercise on interpersonal communication, that students turn to the person next to them and spend a minute talking on any topic of their choice – whilst looking each other in the eye as they spoke. At the end of the minute, some reported that they found the exercise “uncomfortable”, “embarrassing”, and even “unusual”. For others, it was revealing. It felt very natural and was something they’d take practical steps to incorporate in their day-to-day relating.

The phrase ‘inter-personal relationships’ suggests 2 or more people in relation with each other, communicating. Indeed, the word “communication” (co-mmune-cation)the eye1 is very suggestive of 2 (co) persons (or more) commune-ing or sharing intimate thoughts or feelings. To this extent, real communication is actually a ‘spiritual’ experience. This may be what William Shakespeare referred to, as he is known to have stated that “the eye is the window of the soul”. My students felt “uncomfortable”, and “embarrassed” because they looked in the eyes of the person they were paired with during the exercise. It could well have been the first time they really focussed on another person as they spoke. They had in fact communicated, person to person, soul to soul

What does this all this mean, you ask? How does this relate to me in the workplace?


Have you ever been in a situation where whilst speaking to another, a family member, friend, or work colleague perhaps, you became conscious that the person, though looking at you, wasn’t actually listening? It was as though the person was there, but not there. Perhaps you were the person not there, or the one watching the scenario unfold? What did it feel like? Were you in or out of rapport with the person? Looking back, what do you think led to the breakdown in communication?

Interpersonal relationships is about building rapport. It is about realising that it is not just in rapportabout you, it is also about the other. When we are in rapport with an-other, we are in communion with them. We enter into their world, to see what they see, to hear with they hear, and to feel with they feel. Stephen Covey (1988) calls this process seeking first to understand (see: “7 habits of highly effective people”).

silent2Seeking first to understand” means being able to switch off the voice in the head, so that the ensuing internal silence reflects the actual ‘external’ activity of listening – and then speaking, as required. It is almost like giving oneself totally (in that moment) to the other allowing them the space to commune (or share their thoughts and feelings). Adopting this approach has surprising results. You begin to realise what the other person is actually saying – beyond the verbal dialogue. In this type of inter-personal relating, we start to know what the other is communicating. This knowing, is called felt knowledge, derived from paying attention (or focussing) on both the verbal and non-verbal cues being communicated by the other. Interestingly, according to a study by the University of Pennsylvania, approx. 70% of inter-personal communication is actually non-verbal…

So, would you like to lead the type of inter-personal relationships you want? Do you want to be the expert communicator you truly are?

Some tips…

  • Step 1: Seek initially to build rapport, not just to put your point across.
  • Step 2: Manage the voice in the head – by being still internally…and thence
  • Step 3: Pay attention and focus on verbal (speech) and non-verbal (body language, breathing, tonal pitch, etc.) cues.
  • Step 4: Show support and empathy to the other. Look at them as they communicate with you.
  • Step 5: Speak as required, and in accord with what comes up through active listening.
  • Step 6: Don’t give up! Keep on practicing until you begin to see, feel and hear the difference that makes the difference in your communicating…

This is the type of communication upon which strong inter-personal relationships are built be that at home or in the workplace. Indeed, Psychologists, Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham (Johari Window, 1955)dancing suggest the way to achieve this level of communicating and relating is through a greater knowing of self and other. In effect, leading interpersonal relationships is a two-way street. Like a dance involving two partners, it’s about you…and how good you are at leading the other person.

Interestingly, where the other person also takes a leading cue in the ‘communicating process’ – such that there is a shared ownership of the dynamic, exciting new heights and levels of communication (and clarity of thought) will be reached.

Happy journeying…


NB: This is the 3rd of 4 reflective articles on leadership. Do keep a look out for the final article in this series on: Motivation


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Reflections on Leadership: Self-Development…

“Are you the Driver or Passenger in your car?” 


This question may sound absurd to ask, particularly if you recently spent thousands of $dollars purchasing a new vehicle. Naturally, you would respond: ”Of course I am the driver of my vehicle Jude!”. But, we do need to ask the question again. This time with some emphasis: WHO is driving YOUR vehicle (of life)? You or another?

In our last discussions on Leadership, we focussed on the subject of ‘Self Awareness’. Specifically, we looked at how leadership feels and some of the internal challenges we grapple with in leading self – and other. I now want to take our discussions a slight step further to focus on what the ‘internal challenge(s)’ of leadership, (or leading self) is, and offer some thoughts for use as a self-development tool.

To start, let’s provide a response to the question: “Are you the driver or passenger in your car”?

If we are to sum up the ‘technology’ that comprises the internal functioning of human mind4beings, we essentially consist of 4 main inter-linking (neuro-semantic) ‘buttons’: (i) thinking,(ii) feeling,(iii) speaking, and (iv) behaving. In effect, what we think, directly influences how we feel, speak (or language) and act. It’s how we are wired. Note: Thinking feeling, speaking and behaving occur in milliseconds, often subconsciously, and not necessarily in a linear manner.


So, here’s an example of how the technology operates in practice:

You wake up in the morning. It is raining. The clouds are grey. You look outside your window and say to yourself: “What a sad day!” As you said to yourself “it’s a sad day”, note, you actually begin to feel sad. Indeed, in your subsequent communication with other, you communicate ‘sadness’, and behave in a like manner. In effect, you inadvertently give off an energy of sadness felt and experienced by others.

rainy day1But it does not stop there. No. It continues: At some point, you begin to realise that you feel sad…for feeling sad in the first place, and all of a sudden you find yourself in a continuous cycle of sadness. Upon ‘internal’ examination, you realise you’re not actually sure why you feel so sad apart from the fact that you feel sad. Like a passenger in a vehicle, you’ve arrived at a destination not entirely sure how you got there in the first place! Might this be you, on occasion? Or always, perhaps? For some, this can be the commencement of depression…

How can we manage how we think, feel, speak and behave? How can YOU be the driver of YOUR vehicle as opposed to a passenger?

Eckhart Tolle (“The Power of Now”, 2015), in discussing this topic tells a story of a man begging for money on the streets of Asia. Perched on a wooden box, he would hold his hand out and call out; “Spear some change please”. On this particular day, a Sufi walked right passed him, not giving him anything. After walking on for a while, the Sufi treasure3suddenly stopped and walked back to the Beggar. “What are you sitting on?”, the Sufi asked. The Beggar looked at the Sufi with questioning eyes and said, “A wooden box”. The Sufi responded; “Have you ever opened it to see what’s inside”? Before the Beggar could respond the Sufi walked off. The Beggar opened the wooden box he had been sitting on. It was full of gold pieces!

Suggested tools…

Being the driver of your thinking, feeling, speaking and behaving requires that we first of sherlock holmes1all look inside ourselves. Like a ‘Sherlock Holmes’ character, undertake a thorough investigation of your insides! Understand your inner workings; know their patterns and how they typically present – then develop a simple strategy for managing them effectively.

For example, when you feel ‘sad’, think (about something) ‘happy’. If feeling moody, laugh at something totally silly. In effect, conjure up an emotion that puts you in a more ‘resourceful mood’. Called the ‘elastic band’ analogy, stretch yourself, consciously, to do the exact polar opposite of how you feel elastic band1to bring yourself into a more pleasant ‘state’. With conscientious practice, eventually, it becomes habit. You’ve successfully managed yourself by reaching inside your internal ‘treasure box’.  This is self-management. The ongoing process of managing self is self-development. Self-development, simply put, is about being the best human being that you can be

Reflective Questions:

  1. What kind of a human being do you want to be?
  2. Think of one thing you would really like to change (in your life). What is it?
  3. So, what’s stopping you?
  4. Take your time to answer within…

To be the best human being you can be, (or managing how you think, feel, speak, and behave), is the single most important duty human beings are called to undertake. Note use of the word “called“. From the Latin “vocare”, (‘to call’), it suggests a vocational quality to self-development. A ‘calling’, as it were, to self-development that will see us move from an “inauthentic to an authentic existence” (‘Being and Time, Martin Heidegger, 1927).

kit kat2Remember the Kit-Kat advert strap-line: “Have a break, have a Kit-Kat”? Well, self-development is actually all about that, not the chocolate part, but giving YOU a break! You take YOU with YOU everywhere you go. Why not give YOU a break by developing a good relationship with YOU(r) thinking, feeling, speaking, behaving. The result will be end of unnecessary ‘psychological suffering’. A true break indeed!

Happy Journeying…

PinNB: This is the 2nd of what will be 4 reflective topics on leadership. Do ensure to stay tuned for our next installment on: “Interpersonal relationships”.

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Reflections on Leadership: Self Awareness…

Leadership image

Amongst the terms we tend to use frequently in organisations, the term ‘leadership’ is one that is common place. It often refers to ‘senior managers’, ‘senior management teams’, or those on ‘executive boards’. To some extent, this is correct in that it meets the nominal explanations of the term. However, it is important to point out that leadership is not just a function of those operating in senior positions. It also refers to any situation where we as individuals act or take decisions with regard to ourselves or others.

In terms of ‘what’ leadership really is, or what it is that is being led, we do need to develop a fuller understanding and appreciation of the term.

My intention is not to commence an academic escapade into the definitions of leadership, or to discuss the distinctions between ‘management’ and ‘leadership’ theories and practices. Not at all. There is plentiful research by human resource and business management academics that explain the differences in numerous literature. My intention rather is to simply reflect on what leadership actually ‘feels’ like from thefeelings2 perspective of the individual doing the leading – with the view to assisting those leading understand the challenges of leading – from within. From this particular perspective, we shall explore the meaning of leadership experientially. This will assist us check-into ourselves, allowing us to conduct an introspective benchmark for measuring our current leadership or leading capability.

Let’s begin with the topic of self-awareness. To unpack, here’s a story:

Remember the movie “Nemo”? Yes, I loved it too! Nemo was a percula clown fish that was caught off the shores of the Sydney harbour by a deep-sea diver and placed in a fish tank in a dental practice with other fish that had apparently also suffered the same plight. The entire plotFN2 of the film shows the effort Nemo subsequently takes, with the support of his eager compatriots (the other fish in the tank), to return back to where he came from – the ocean.

Self-awareness is a bit like the ocean. It is vast, bottomless, and unlike the water in a fish tank, is completely limitless. This is why Nemo did everything he could to free himself from the constrictions of the fish bowl and return back to where he came from.

To lead, in any situation, be it in the workplace, home, or socially, we need to be fully aware of who we are. This is particularly crucial in our relationships with other.

Reflective Questions:

Do you know who you are? Or put it this way: Is the sum total of who you think you are, your name (as in “Jude”, “Paul”, or “Mary”)? Or your job title (as in “Director”, “Senior Manager”, or “IT Consultant”)? Or perhaps your possessions (as in your house, the area where you live, the car you drive, or even your social interactions)?

Take your time to think about these questions. Respond within yourself.


Drawing on lessons from Nemo, at times, we can be like fish swimming in a fish bowl, content, as it were, with the distorted view of reality that comes as a consequence of our ‘natural’ constrictions. The water in the fish bowl is like the human mind, cut off from the ocean, the original source. In so far as we stay within the confines of the water in the bowl, we are not truly aware of our inner self – our pre-thoughts, mental patterns, mental movies,mentalmovies dispositions, habituations, energies, etc. These internal states or ‘meta-programs‘ are intricate to our neurological system and shape and directly affect our behaviour and decision-making, even if we are not aware of it. Called the mind-body connection, what we do (action), is in effect, a consequence of what we are thinking or have thought and stored away, like a computer, in our ‘mental library’ to be used at a later date. Of course, all of this activity is done unconsciously.

So how do we build self-awareness into our unconscious internal states?

There isn’t a prescribed method for becoming more self-aware apart from taking practical steps to be-ing conscious. However, I am sure many have heard of “Johari’s Window”? Created by Psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham (1955), the model divides human awareness into 4 introspective quadrants (or window panes):

  • Window Pane 1the part of ourselves that we know, as do others.
  • Window Pane 2the part of ourselves that is not known to others, but we know. 
  • Window Pane 3the part of ourselves that we do not know, but is known to others.
  • Window Pane 4the part of ourselves that is not known to self or others. JH1

The journey of self-awareness (otherwise called the process of ‘introspection’) whilst cutting across all window panes, requires a deeper understanding and reflection into window pane 4 – the ‘unknown’. It is suggestibly of this window that Socrates, the famous ancient Greek philosopher speaks when he advocates: “Man, know thyself”. (see Plato’s Phaedrus)

Through this statement, Socrates suggests a mastery of oneself, or to put it simply, to bring self-awareness in one’s internal state. Whilst this may appear to concern oneself only, upon commencing the process, we quickly realise that building self-awareness is not just about me, it is fundamentally about the other. Indeed, building greater self-awareness enables us to realise that what we think of others, how we behave, attend to, and relate with others, is in fact only a reflection of ourselves.

To conclude, here’s another story: Jean-Paul Sartre, a 20th century French philosopher once described the intricate and indistinguishable connection between the self and other. He summarised his thoughts by way of a simple question: “Have you ever tried to pick upsand2 a grain of sand from the beach?” If you haven’t, go ahead and try it! When you do, you will inevitably pick up multiple grains, not just one. Sartre used this analogy to depict the inextricable connection between ‘l’ and ‘Other’.

From a leadership perspective therefore, knowing who I am is crucial to effectively leading others. Put simply, leading others, is first and foremost about leading oneself. Indeed, as we journey through the process of self-discovery, it will result in a change in perception – of ourselves and other.

Happy journeying!

PinNB: This is the first of what will be 4 reflective topics on leadership. Our next topic will focus on self-development. Be sure to check-in!


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10 Core Strategic Competencies

I stumbled into a website which got me thinking about the competencies listed below. I suggest that they are essential to those needed for effectively navigating the challenges of the 21st century workplace:

1) Systemic Thinking:                                                                                                                           

The ability to think…outside the box, and to see the inter-connectedness between seemingly disparate things in a manner that brings about change to an organisation’s structure, functions, people, culture and general ‘feeling’. Systemic thinking is about facilitating an environment where diverse perspectives lead to great insight

2) Strategic Intent:

The ability to use insight to analyse, understand, and develop simple and clear solutions that solve problems – leading to the attainment of an organisation’s strategic objectives.

3) Ethical Mindset:

The ability to navigate the ‘politics’ of the workplace as it relates to business, opinion, hierarchy and relationships, ensuring the right thing remains paramount – and is performed at all times. Continue reading


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‘Thinking’ and Talent Sourcing…

Companies are about to be engaged in a war for senior… talent that will remain a defining characteristic of their competitive landscape for decades to come. Yet most are ill prepared, and even the best are vulnerable” – McKinsey, 1997

Ever since the phrase “the war for talent” was first coined by McKinsey in the late 90’s, talent sourcers, recruitment consultants and all those involved in the talent acquisition process have been self-challenged to think more creatively on how to attract talent from what has become known as a limited talent pool. The 3 key reasons for this ‘war’, according to a 2011 report by the Aberdeen Group are; increasing competition in the market place for top talent, a shortage of required skills available in the labour pool, and pressure in meeting organisations growth objectives. But are these really the key reasons for this ‘war’ or are there other underlying, and often unexamined causes?

Consider this analogy to help explain the point: If you place a pencil into a glass of water, what happens? The pencil ‘appears’ bent, does it not? Indeed, our thinking will initially tell us that it is in fact bent, just like a mirage in the desert will have us believe that there is water in the near distance. However, upon further examination, and as scientific thinking later tells us, it is not the pencil that bends, but the refraction of light, as it hits the pencil at an angle that causes it to appear bent:

The way we think about talent (what it looks like, where we expect to source it from, how it should typically present itself or behave, etc), tells us that there is a war, that there is a very limited talent pool to tap from. However, upon further detailed examination of our ‘rational’ presuppositions, of our expected ‘criteria’, we may realise that it is not so much that there is a shortage of talent, but a shortage in our understanding of what talent is. The ‘war’, as McKinsey terms it, is not only about ensuring talent management is a burning board level priority, but in addition, I suggest, is even more so, about the war in our minds…in our heads! How are we to really understand 21st century talent? Continue reading

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Diversity of ‘Thought’ – The mechanics behind ‘blue-sky’ thinking…

The beginning of freedom is the realisation that you are not “the thinker”. The moment you start ‘watching the thinker’, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated. You then begin to realise that there is a vast realm of intelligence beyond thought, that thought is only a tiny aspect of…intelligence…that…creativity arises…from beyond the mind

Eckhart Tolle

In our last discussions entitled ‘Diversity of thinking’, we explored the business case for workplace diversity and we suggested that the different ways we think, serve as strategic building blocks for attaining higher levels of intelligibility – an essential requirement (also known as ’intellectual capital) that keeps organisations competitive. We suggested that the argument for diversity of thought was in fact an argument for greater intelligibility, and also further suggested that the phrase ‘diversity of thinking’ had its roots within the 17th century philosophy of Rene Descartes’, who proposed that “all human beings are essentially thinking things”.

But…let’s take a few steps backward for a moment…

Is Descartes actually right? Are all human beings essentially‘thinking things’ as he suggests? Put is it this way; is there more to the actually ‘activity’ of thinking than we know, such that it questions our ‘casual’ usage of the term ‘diversity of thought’, and which may have direct implications on creativity levels in the workplace? I argue that there is. Indeed to a large extent, I think Descartes got it wrong! Continue reading

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