Nineteen Behaviours of Effective Leaders! Have you seen this form of click bait on the internet? Self-help and mimicry of successful leaders are the staples of these articles. Honestly, they drive me to distraction but today I throw away all my principles, embrace the need to market a punchy start and drift, warily into the minefield
Planning has been at the core of my professional career, I should be good at it. I certainly have intimate knowledge of most of the things that can go wrong but if any prospective clients are reading, everything was always recovered within contingency.
Planning is on my mind at the moment because next week I will be in Kiev with Sasha. It goes without saying that I am excited and looking forward to the trip, but it also requires planning. Not only do I have to plan the trip but also how to produce these pieces while still enjoying myself.
I know what you are thinking. What’s the problem? I wander down to the computer mid-morning after a long lie in and hearty breakfast. Some tippy-tappy, all is finished, and I am free for a pre-lunch sherry.
It’s nothing like that but oh, how I wish it was.
Never a lie in, hearty breakfasts are long in the past and I don’t drink, but it is the idea of a rapid tippy-tappy that is furthest from reality. Even if I know what to write about it takes forever to edit and re-edit until I am happy and even then, as yesterday, I spot a typo only after I have hit the publish button (empathise came out as emphasise, so much for auto correct). I may be old, wizened, and experienced in life’s vagaries, but for me writing is a skill in its juvenile years.
Honestly, there is no way that holidays and daily blogging can coexist unless I plan properly. How good I am at planning will only be seen next week; the proof will be in the pudding as the saying goes.
This is the more formal planning problem of task management and scheduling time which is euphemism for saying that I will be waking very early and taking note books to jot down a passing phrase or thought.
But good planning is not a virtue in itself. Talking a great game plan is of no use unless it gets executed and for my tuppence getting things done is of far more significance.
There is however the intermediate step of rehearsal, which often totally ignored. In formal planning processes we rehearse alternatives by conducting ‘what if’ analysis and there is a whole literature around ‘scenario planning’. This is what we do for the big problems and then ignore it day to day.
What a shame because rehearsing tomorrow is a great way to be successful and so here, finally, is Gerry’s One Activity That All Successful Managers Should Follow.
Think of this.
Imagine an experienced politician being interviewed in a serious programme with a good interviewer. In other words, everything that the Piers Morgan’s interview with President Trump wasn’t. Do you see how easily the politician avoids and evades questions they don’t want to answer? I know it is hugely frustrating, but it ensures they make the point and avoid bear traps.
This isn’t because they are more fluent, better educated, or brighter than most of us (we could debate that on another day). It is because they have rehearsed and practiced. Of course, they have extensive media training to make them feel comfortable in the studio, but it is the team of researchers rehearsing and planning questions and answers that makes the difference.
That wonderful play that you have seen didn’t just happen. The actors didn’t learn their lines and pitch up and meet for the first time as the curtain lifted on the first night. We all know that. They spent many weeks rehearsing what was going to happen.
Most of us are not politicians or actors, but there are positive lessons. Between planning and delivery there is rehearsal and it is a technique I have used for most of my life.
It started with the advice I was given as a wet behind the ears consultant. I was told that on my way home from work I should think back and reflect on what I had achieved during the day. And on the next morning, sitting among other commuters on the train, set my objectives for the day, thinking about what I was going to do and who I was going to meet.
I have one advantage. I can day dream and I have no problem imagining and rehearsing upcoming meetings. If you have read previous pieces you will know that I’m the man that has imaginary conversations with dead physicists.
I think we can use my trip to Kiev as a simple and trivial example.
It is a holiday and I will be spending a lot of time with Sasha and although we will normally be eating out I have promised to cook a meal for her and her parents, Iryna and Stanislas. I have no idea what I will cook and will wait until we go to the supermarket and see what takes my interest.
I do quite fancy a smoked fish in a curried coconut sauce. Sound good? I imagine myself walking round the supermarket and hunting through the shelves of the supermarket. What would be missing? Well turmeric and my favourite curry spices might be hard to find. So, I have made up a small sachet of what I will need. It takes up no room in my case, weighs next to nothing but may solve a later problem. I got there by rehearsing the walk around the supermarket with Sasha.
I am now thinking about arriving at the airport and checking in. Maybe I will meet again that Ukrainian ballerina carrying a small dog in in a bag over her shoulder. I get to the front of the queue. What is my booking reference? It is in an email from British Airways. I can see it and I know I will have to find it quickly. I hold up my phone to the rep on the desk and show it to her. I don’t print or carry extra paper and so I copy it into a folder easily accessible on my phone, so it is immediately available.
When I know I am meeting someone new or even for that matter someone I know well I go through all the questions they could ask me and then think about my answers. I don’t just rehearse the obvious questions I will face but also the most outrageous and outlandish. It doesn’t matter. I have an answer and remain fluent. There is nothing worse than being caught unawares.
As Sasha knows I think planning is important. Maybe I go too far but that is my training and I love it when plans work out well.
In Men in Black III there is a character, Griffin. He is the last member of the Archanan race and therefore the last who has the unique ability to foresee the infinite potential outcomes that are dependent on the actions taken in any given scenario. We don’t possess many or most of the skills of the Archanan’s skills but through rehearsing we can improve the chance of a plan becoming reality.
When you mentally rehearse the scenes, then one day, maybe just one day, your dreams will come true.