Be The Leader You Wish You Had

Here’s some positivity for your week.  I’ve been sharing this story a lot around the traps lately.

It’s one that reminds me that we always have a choice, we can take the road less travelled as leaders.

When times get tough, it’s easy to feel pressured down a path that seems “prudent” “sensible” or “cut and dry”.  But times like these call for more from us as leaders, a duty to support those most vulnerable and a duty ultimately to longer term outcomes – and that duty will command different actions than most of what we see going on around us.

This week I’m calling on YOU, to make a difference for your tribe.​​​​

Video transcript and relevant links

Hey, so with all the turmoil that’s out there at the moment in today’s world, I wanted to take the time to actually reflect on a really positive message that can come out of all this.

I know we’re largely in lockdown at the moment trying to work out how to respond to a significant threat to our business, in many instances.  But there’s also great opportunity here, and I think the real opportunity for us as leaders today is to step into being the leader we wish we’d had.

I wanted to share a really positive story that came out of a recent crisis.  So in the wake of 9/11, Southwest Airlines was a bit of a beacon, in terms of the industry.  As you can imagine, with a crisis like that, airplane flights halted overnight. The domestic travel industry largely collapsed in the US, immediately.  

So all of a sudden you’ve got a whole industry that goes into crisis mode and starts to make those reactions like, cutting staff, cutting back on pay, working out how to handle a situation where all of a sudden the income just isn’t coming in anymore.

Southwest Airlines chose to take a different pat.  In the wake of those horrendous events, what happened was that at Southwest they got together as a company and had a conversation about what they were going to do and what that looked like.

As a result, they chose not to lay off staff.  Instead, they started talking about, what does a response look like, if we’re not going to do that.  Does it look like four day work weeks, does it look like reduced hours, how do we come together around this problem and solve it to the best of our ability?

They did some amazing things around offering refunds to customers straight up.  It’s a gutsy, gutsy move, paid off big time. And I’m not necessarily saying that we need to go down all of these paths.  The real takeaway here is that this company came together and chose to reposition their response to the problem in a way that other companies didn’t.

As a result, Southwest actually made money in the fourth quarter of 2001, and they have continued to make a profit each year. 

So, in the light of what’s going on today and what may seem like some pretty dark times – for a lot of us – that are ahead, don’t forget that you have a choice in the way that you react.  You can choose to be the leader that you wish you had. And you can choose to make a really humanistic decision that’s based on what’s best for everybody, not simply an immediate individualistic response to what’s going on.  You can choose to make a difference every move we make.

So I hope you’re out there and having a great week and pushing through where you can and taking the time to rest and recover where you need to.  We have got a pretty rough path ahead, so hold on, it’s going to be a bit of a roller coaster ride.

But, you have a huge opportunity here and I would really really encourage you to all think about how we can make those decisions that are going to be best not only for the ongoing sustainability of our organisation, but for the people who live and breathe life into that organisation as well.


It doesn’t take much to do a quick google on the Southwest story – here’s a starter for you:


Opportunity is knocking!

This is it, the biggest chance you’ll ever get.

Disruption has hit.  Things are chaotic​​.  It’s a great time to start changing the way we work, the way we think about work, the work we do – we’ve already go the excuse, and it’s not us that’s going to get blamed for the disruption. 

Let’s get out there and do some good, now’s the time people are looking for true leadership.  And you’ve got the goods to change.

Video transcript and relevant links

Wow it’s crazy world out there at the moment!

I hope you’re surviving well.

But it’s also a really exciting time!  If you’re a changemaker this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  If you have a transformation program up and running, if you’ve been thinking about change, this is it.  With all this disruption in place, stuff’s getting broken everywhere, you have a massive massive chance to go and make a difference TODAY.

We spend so much of our time constructing transformation programs and change programs to minimise the disruption and often no matter what we do, there is going to be disruption.  We’re changing!

But it becomes this hurdle that we need to overcome.  It can be a reason for a lot of people to put off making the decision to make the change that really needs to happen for business agility, for better responsiveness, for pivoting around what it is what our customers are asking of us.

Today, in the current environment, the disruption has already happened.  Stuff’s already broken. This is a massive, massive opportunity if you’ve got a transformation program that you’re looking at, that you’ve been trying to work out what to do with, that you’ve been thinking about for a long time – with all this disruption in place, you’ve got a huge opportunity to get your agenda over the line, today!

So, as an example, if you’ve got staff that are being stood down for in one particular part of the business there’s an opportunity to transfer those people with all of that knowledge and context across to another area of your operation where you’re needing to resource-up.

It’s a massive opportunity for cross-functional team development.  It’s a great way to get more people on the frontline – particularly if you’ve got a lot of enquiries coming in from customers.

I’ve got one client at the moment who’s in tourism.  Because a lot of their trips aren’t happening, they now have a bunch of staff that would otherwise normally be out hosting customers on a boat trip or a bus journey – we can now take those people and put them in a place where they can do some good!  

They can be helping out with our call centre staff and reworking the bookings, reworking, making things easier for customers as the cancellations are coming in, as plans are changing and customers want to change.

So my recommendation to you right now is to take this opportunity.  Look at the opportunities where you’ve already got disruption in the environment and you can start to make the process changes towards removing waste and failure in a system and working towards more value-driven work.  Definitely look at repurposing towards those things.

Take the opportunity where you’ve got tech strategy that can build towards business agility.  So how can you build-in the process that’s coming through in a way that means you can be more agile in the future.  Particularly around some of that stuff where maybe you can transfer a skill set.

And third opportunity, cross-functional teams.  Great chance to start pulling people from different parts of the business together.  Whether it be in a “war room”, in a taskforce or whether it be temporarily reassigning people to another area for business away from a place that is no longer requiring the input and the manpower, the effort – and repurposing them on to work that’s actually going to make a difference for customers.

So take the opportunity.  It’s not all bad. It’s actually a really positive opportunity for those of you that have been thinking about making change, that have been thinking about transformation programs.  So let’s go out there and SMASH it!


Strong Opinions… Loosely Held

When you’re feeling your way forward in new territory, it can be challenging to make a decision knowing that you may look back and realise you made a mistake.

What if it feels like the right thing to do today, but in 6 months time someone hangs me out to dry because we’ve realised the wrong thing to do?  Or you have to change your message because what you used to think no longer applies?

It can be a lot of pressure, especially if you’re pushing transformation on your own.  People have high expectations in change – any departure to the familiar had better be “right” because the hurdle to get over changing the way work is so high.

Humans are creatures of habit and we don’t often adequately assess the risk in our status quo – but we’ll definitely pick all the holes in something new.

Well this week I’m encouraging you to be brave, to take that first step and keep moving.  This is stepping into the vulnerability we all feel when we’re transforming business and I promise it’s good for you 🙂

Video Transcript and Relevant Links

Hey so I was talking to a girlfriend this week about some struggle that she’s having in her business, and something she’s really wrestling with and she keeps putting off again and again and again.

When we got down to the root of it, she said “I think the reason I’m putting it off is because I have this fear that if I put my opinion out there, then I’m going to be held to account for it.  Not so much that people will disagree with me, but if somebody comes back to me in three years time, and I’ve changed my mind… I don’t want to be held to what I was thinking three years ago!”

So we were having a bit of a laugh about this whole mind game that goes on.  And it occurred to me that it’s something I see again and again and again when we try and make change in organisations as well – we can sometimes get really scared to make that move, or to make that decision, because we’re worried that we’re gonna be, in some way held to it and attached to it, for the rest of forever.  And that’s not the case.

It reminds me of when I used to work for a wonderful consulting firm over in Melbourne called Thoughtworks, and we used to have this thing we’d say “strong opinions, loosely held”.

And the culture within that organisation was very much about, have an opinion, voice it.  But equally people would be quite willing to change their opinion if they came into contact with information to the contrary, or they found something new – we were quite happy to switch at that point, take on that new idea, and run with it again.

It strikes me that it’s one of those things that’s really critical if we’re starting to talk about building a workplace that embraces positive conflict, and embraces the diversity and the discourse that we need to make better decisions.

And it also reminded me of a great little tool that I’d come across, I don’t remember when, but it was talking about three stages of learning.  How when you first come up with an idea, first start learning a new concept, you’ll often hold onto verbatim what your teachers are talking about – and you need to hold onto those ideas and parrot things back.  There is a line, and we follow the rules, we follow the guidelines, because we’re trying to learn the system, the method.

Then we get a little bit further on in our understanding and at that point we’re able to parrot back the texts from others, we’re less open to absorbing new information and we start to ask others to play by the same rules that we’re playing by, because that’s the new method and we’ve decided that is now the right way to do things, this is now the new way of working.

We get really rigid in just preaching these rules and that replicating of the text book and the parroting back of those rules becomes really quite intrenched.

And then as we move a little further along down the path, what we often find is that people get to a place where they understand the rules, they understand the concepts, but they’re a lot more fluid in the way that they’ll go about interacting with other people.  

It’s ok to have challenge at that point, because you’re anchored in a foundation of understanding the concepts of this particular idea set or this way of working; you’ve digested them to a point that you understand beyond the words on the page, you understand the meaning around them, you’ve had life experiences where these things have played out and you’ve been able to learn on a deeper level those foundational parts of these new ideas.

So that’s become part of you, and who you are, you can ground into that.  And then the challenge comes from various directions, but you welcome the discourse.  Because at that point you’re grounded in knowing what you know, but you’ve also learned that, you probably know very little in the greater scheme of things and you’re ready to open up for those new ideas, for that new thinking to come in and then to grow and evolve from there.

And so if I think back to that girlfriend who’s sitting there going “Ooooo I don’t want to be held on to this for too long, I don’t want to be attached to this forever…” I really love that idea of strong opinions, loosely held.

Go out there, put your opinion out there, try it.  If it doesn’t work, or you learn something new along the way, then we can jump on to that and run with that idea.  But don’t ever lose that passion and that fire, and start backing off because you’re worried you’re going to be held to account to something for years and years to come.  Things change, we know that.

I’m Danelle Jones, please scroll down and leave me a comment below, I would love to hear from you, and go out there and smash some goals this week!


Progress without the Work

For so many of us, progress is closely associated with work – hard work.  The visible toil of intellectual, physical, emotionally wrestling with a goal or outcome is a signal that we, or our team are getting somewhere.

So often we think the more we throw at it, the more progress will result – but how many times have you found that more force doesn’t equal more output?  We’ve also read those articles about shifting from five to four day weeks without a drop in productivity.

What’s the secret?​​​​

Well, that’s what this week’s video is all about…  🙂

Video transcript and relevant links

Ok so how many of us equate progress with work? and… hard work?

This is one of those belief patterns that runs deep. I know certainly I was taught growing up – work hard, get results – that respect for a work ethic.  This is something that has gone deep deep deep inside and every now and again we find ourselves in situations where pushing harder doesn’t necessarily result and more progress.

So particularly when you’re working in change.  Particularly when you’re working in changing thinking, often “progress” isn’t visible in this way and yet we have this pattern and this belief system that is caught up with the fact that if I can’t see people visibly toiling – whether it’s frustrated and wrestling with something intellectually or physically digging holes and filling them in –  then I have this sense that people aren’t working hard and therefore we won’t make progress.

I wanted to share a little story today that somebody shared with me a while ago. I think it… to me it’s really really similar to working in change.

So if you think about people who work in creative professions – an artist with a gallery opening – what we see visibly is often a whole scramble of work in a very short period of time and then a gallery show or a visible demonstration of output and those shows might last for a week or a month or so but all that’s really visible is that show as a result of the output.

We have a sense that some work has gone on, there’s that wrestling and putting it together at the last minute that happens.  And we don’t often consider that ok so there is a period of time where those paintings or those photographs were taken and developed and worked on leading up to the show.  

But even before that, is this huge piece of work that’s going on but it’s not visible wear ideas are starting to fall into place.  We’re digesting new thoughts, we’re coming up with an understanding about a theme or a particular topic, learning about ourselves and others and what’s going on, that precedes even pulling out a paintbrush and putting that to paper.

And so that creative process is not only the gallery opening that we see at the end and it’s not only the making of that work that we see in that last minutes rush.  But actually, all of that apparently blank space in between, that might be months or years in the making.  

The reality is that that end output, was never going to happen without all of that blank space happening as well.  That blank space is critical for those ideas to come through, for the digestion, for the understanding, for the thinking process to happen so that we can actually make those beautiful works of art.

For me this is exactly like being in a change program.

You’ve got an outcome that you’re striving for.  You have a chunk of very visible work – whether it be changing process, introducing new work methods, new ways of working, the automation of testing if you’re in an IT project, prioritisation of work, you know… all of that change in business process that happens.  To me that’s right at the end as well.  

But what precedes all of that happening, is this blank space.  And in that blank space it’s critical that people have the time to digest these new ideas and to start to process these ways of thinking and working in a new way.  

And so your role as a change agent in planting those seeds can often be incredibly frustrating, because what you’re seeing a lot of is the black space before we get the action.

So it’s a… wonderful way I think of this work in that it helps me to remember that my job is to plant seeds.  My job is not necessarily to get the gallery opening happening. Not straight away anyway.  

Ultimately yes, but my job is to plant the seeds and so even though that progress might not be visible – and certainly I’m one of those people that things are never moving fast enough for me – but during those blank space times, just knowing that people are processing, people are digesting, people are working through and working themselves up to the point where they’re actually going to do that visible, physical, output, workload.  

So yeah, so that for me is something that is critically important when you’re thinking about change programs.  Even though it’s not necessarily visible, even though that work is not necessarily visible, you’re still making a huge amount of progress in that blank space.

As long as you’re consciously sowing those seeds, and continually working through the thinking change that needs to happen.  That means that actually, when the work happens, it’ll be solid, and you’re gonna get the outcome that you want, it’ll be sustainable and it will last well beyond your tenure.