Sep 17

You are becoming the average of the five people you spend the most time around.

By Emma Sanders-Edwards | Blog , Personal Effectiveness

Does this statement make you happy? Or scared? What are the five people you spend the most time with like?

Are they generally happy, or do they complain a lot? Are they successful and driven? Do they run marathons, do additional study, play sports? Turns out if they do, it’s likely you do too.

Why does this happen? Neuroscience tells us it’s the mirror neurons in our brain. Essentially we copy others because they activate ‘mirror’ neurons on our brain. Just clap at a baby and watch them try and imitate you. A boss who is easygoing and laughs a lot is more likely to trigger laughter from their team. Research has shown that top performing leaders elicit laughter from colleagues three times as much as mid-performing leaders.

Another phenomenon that is important is ‘emotional contagion’. It turns out it’s not just your cold that’s contagious, its your emotions as well. When someone around you is stressed and anxious, you’ll probably feel a bit that way yourself.

So, how can we use this? Catching others emotions and mirroring their behavior is useful for us. Knowing that we catch others emotions and mirror their behavior can help improve our own behaviors, influence and impact. Just as we get more excited at sports events when there are lots of other fans watching, and find it easier to stick with a healthy eating plan when we are with others who eat well, it’s easier to be an inspirational leader if you spend time with others who are.


  • What do you elicit from your team – what mirror neurons are you triggering?
  • Do you catch or emit emotions that aren’t useful?
  • Who are the key people around you and how do they impact you? Who should you spend more time with, or less time with?


Sep 01

Inspire Smart Action Series – Learnings from the Frontline

By Peter Schibli | Case Study , Developing Others

We love inspiring smart action – and we love gleaning lessons from them even more. I just asked some people half-way through their leadership course to ‘Tweet” their most recent insights and wins. I’ve shared them below because they are a fascinating peak into the minds of people who are courageously upgrading their ability to make a difference in the world. We all want to make that difference and we can all learn from each other as we try things out.

  • “The best ideas/solutions are usually discovered by accident. Unfortunately so are the worst!” 
  • “Always celebrate success, even the small ones; they can lead to a 1:100 payback”
  • “The highest morale people in my team are the ones who feel like they’re adding the most value!”
  • “This quote really stretches at how I like to lead and manage -> ‘Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what is required and they will surprise you with their ingenuity’ “

And below are some mind maps created in their ten minute ‘insights and wins’ reflection session at the start of the workshop…


Each of these managers have very different roles in their organisation –  from Operations to Financial services to Emergency services – but the same universal human challenges keep emerging.


They all achieved lots of nice practical wins – no rocket science required – just time out to take a deliberate look at what’s working, some applied common sense, and a dash of courage.


I get a lot of bonus value from seeing where I’m facing those same challenges and what points of leverage they’re using.  I invite you to treat yourself and take a few minutes to read those mind maps and note which areas would give you a nice payback if focused on them this week.

JumpShift Knowledge-to-Action Platform

Based on our clients’ need of scaling leadership development programs across geographies while retaining the impact, JumpShift has recently developed and deployed an automated leadership application called “Knowledge-to-Action” in New Zealand, India and the United States. If you’re interested in scaling the kind of results you saw above across an organization you care about, then we have a 2 minute animation here which explains more.

All the best and have a cracker week.



Aug 04

Upskilling your Charisma

By Peter Schibli | Blog , Personal Effectiveness

I misspent several thousand hours of my teens playing Dungeons & Dragons. If you haven’t played it, think ‘Lords of the Rings’ meets tabletop wargaming with each person running a character. In this shared imaginary world you’d slay monsters and get to loot some very handy ability-boosting magical treasures. Wouldn’t it be handy in this world to be able to just slip on, say, a Ring of Charisma + 3 and instantly become even better at influencing others?

It turns out we might be able to do just that. Charisma is not a fixed attribute. Three separate research efforts have uncovered and decoded two fundamental drivers that work in concert to generate charisma. In a stroke of incredible luck, both are relatively straightforward to improve with some deliberate practice.  I’ll talk you through them below.

Study #1 Commitment x Humility

In Good to Great, Jim Collins and his research team described CEO’s whose companies, over a 15 year period, outperformed their peers by a whooping 300%. To their surprise those CEO’s weren’t rockstar visionaries. Instead they had a unique combination of being intensely committed AND very humble. New Zealanders like Sir Edmund Hillary and Sir Peter Blake are great exemplars of this, each achieving spectacular wins as a result.

Study #2 Strength x Warmth

In Compelling people, John Neffiner & Matthew Kohut show how super influential people like Nelson Mandela and Oprah Winfrey project a blend of Strength AND Warmth.  Matthew describes what happens when only one side of the equation is present, “They were either very accomplished and smart people to the point that they seem only interested in themselves and come off very cold and unfeeling. Or they were the nicest people in the world, but they were falling all over themselves apologizing and we feel like they won’t be able to deliver… The path to influence is the ability to balance both strength and warmth to gain the respect and trust of others”.

Study #3 Purpose x Respect

The authors of Crucial Conversations describe how they shadowed those individuals with ten times the influence of their peers. Their single point of difference was how they acted in tricky conversations. Where most people would either cause a trainwreck or say nothing, these people would transform the situation by bringing to bear a combination of purpose AND respect. Staying true to a purpose meant they didn’t dodge the issue. Speaking with a high level of authentic  respect meant they didn’t cause a trainwreck.

Bonus study: Require x Relate

Just to completely cinch it, Nick Petrie talks about meta-research that shows the two key influence skills that great leaders use are a combination of requiring – setting high standards, driving results and holding people accountable, AND relating – caring about their people and providing support. The key to this model is that the best leaders can see both drivers and switch between them if required.

Seeing a bit of a pattern here?


Here we have a very diverse group of researchers, looking at different aspects of the human condition, across very large sample sets, and in different domains, all honing in on the same equation!  Now that you know the secret formula you’ll probably see it at work in yourself and others.

The key is to build a high score in both. You can be the warmest, most respectful and humble person on the planet, but if you have a low level of will, ability to hold others to account, and so on you won’t be able to lead in any kind of adversity or challenge. People won’t trust your ability to deliver. On the opposite side – the most demanding, committed and strongest person who is cold, uncaring and provides no support will be disliked and only followed under duress.

Is there are larger pattern still?

Is there a single thing that underpins and generates both strength and warmth? I don’t have a clear answer yet, but I suspect that it might be something to do with confidence, or perhaps ‘mindful confidence’. Something our leadership workshop participants always comment on at the end of their program, is how much more confident they feel. If there is a link then it might just be that they’re getting their own bonus Ring of Charisma + 3 as a result.

Applying this insight

You’ve already taken the first major step by reading this which is seeing that it’s even possible. The next key step is to decide if you want invest focus your personal improvement focus energy on this area. Is this the right time for that? Will it give you a solid payback? Are you interested in it?

If the answer is yes, then I suggest a couple of starting points. Firstly, get your head inside the model by getting clear on what one word from each domain is most relevant or useful to you to focus on.  Is it strength, commitment, require, purpose or something else again that unifies these or that especially resonates with you? Is it warmth, respect, humility, relating or something else again?

A second step is to self-score. On a scale of 0-10 what do you give yourself for each area? What do you get on a 0-100 scale when you multiply them? If you lift the lowest score by just one point what would you now get as a total?

Armed with this insight you can now upskill your own Charisma one notch a time. Start to deliberately practice improving your weakest side with small tweaks. See what works and lock the things that you like into habits. Very soon you should start to see some visible effects in how others relate to you, and in your ability to achieve your goals and vision through others.

References: I highly recommend getting yourself a copy of each of the books below that this insight draws on.

  1. Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan & Switzer ISBN-10: 0071775307
  2. Good to Great by Jim Collins ISBN-10: 0712676090
  3. Compelling People by John Neffiner & Matthew Kohut  
Jun 19

Inspire Smart Action Series

By Darshan Doshi | Blog

JumpShift exists to inspire smart action. People we work with take smart action to both improve how they work and lead.

JumpShift App

How do you inspire smart action? Well, we get told time and time again that the best actions are inspired by what others do – peers, colleagues, people in similar situations. Experts, theory, models and inspirational stories all help but the best inspiration comes from people just like you. Makes sense doesn’t it? This is why we want to start sharing what our participants are doing. Maybe they will inspire you? Here is our first set.

Last week I reconnected with a group using our Knowledge-to-Action app. I learned how they were working, leading and living more deliberately. They all benefited and shared great stories. Here are some of them.

Graham is a business professional in the wellness space. As part of his program he was inspired to volunteer for a food bank. A surprise outcome of this action is his professional network is better than ever. Graham also has taken on the Leadership D-I-Y habit of reflecting and pushing himself every day. He is loving how this is creating more space to think and lead.

Amanda wants a promotion and needed to demonstrate her leadership style in a tangible way. Amanda didn’t wait for the promotion, she took a role as a Scout leader and is now feeling confident and in control of the next stage of her career.

Karen has been CEO of her organization for 11 years. She wondered if she still had what it takes or if she had outgrown her organization. Sound familiar? Karen’s insight was just how valuable pausing and reflecting is. She remarked, “I do have what it takes. Reflecting and getting back to basics reminded me what I already know or can easily find out what I need to know. Being mindful of this was my only gap and now I’m more mindful as a habit”.

John is a dream client. John dove head first into his program and took knowledge to action! One of John’s actions was to coach people more on outcomes and allow them to input into the solution to achieve that. He now has a better pool of ideas to work with and the increased buy-in has made execution quicker. “By stepping back and reflecting, then planning and acting I’m sharper. I see more connections. It is now a habit”.

I hope something in here worked for you and inspired some action you can take. There is so much great learning out there. I look forward to sharing the next set. Is there anything great that you have done and you would like to share lately?

Mar 10

What to do when we become a Dictator-by-Default

By Giles Cox | Blog , Developing Processes , Directing change

Toward the end of last year I led a group of five other post-graduate business students in a competition run by one of our Management Professors. The competition saw fifteen teams of six members test their team decision-making skills against one another by running the same simulated manufacturing company for ten weeks. I regarded the competition as a means of gaining insight into the inner workings of a short-lived decision-making team: how we would form, what type of decision-making process would become normalized and whether we could develop from a group to real team. My initial expectations had me believe that I would be responsible for facilitating the decision-making process by keeping discussion on point and managing any conflict as we reached group consensus.

Team Photo

Perhaps you can imagine my surprise when minutes into our first meeting conversation stopped, and all eyes turned to me to execute our team’s first major decision. I chalked this down to first meeting nerves and impression management, however, over the coming weeks the scenario kept reoccurring. We would reach an impasse regarding an important decision; all input would cease and the team would turn to me, as elected leader, to make the decision.

JumpShift DIY

Diagnose – The Problem

A diagnosis of the problem finally occurred when reading a HBR article by manager Bob Frisch. Frisch had correctly described what was happening in our team, labeling it the ‘dictator-by-default syndrome’.

The Executive Team is deliberating about a critical strategic choice, but no matter how much time and effort the team members expend, they cannot reach a satisfactory decision. Then comes that uncomfortable moment when all eyes turn to the CEO. The team waits for the boss to make the final call, yet when it’s made, few people like the decision. Blame, though unspoken, is plentiful. The CEO blames the executives for indecisiveness; they resent the CEO for acting like a dictator. If this sounds familiar, you’ve experienced what I call the dictator-by-default syndrome

 (Bob Frisch, “When Teams Can’t Decide”)

Over the last few weeks I had become frustrated with the scenario occurring, I believed that our decisions could be more effective if we were forming them with more group input. Having finally recognized the problems affecting our team I began to consider ways of inspiring change.

Identifying the Causes

The situation was occurring because opinions weren’t adequately being voiced, there was a general reticence amongst members to allow any form of conflict to occur during our meetings. As such, when members were on the verge of a potential conflict they would turn to me as the person they had elected their leader to decide for them as a means of conflict avoidance. Why there was such a reluctance to allow conflict remains partly unclear to me.

As a culturally diverse team we may have all been predisposed toward adopting somewhat different decision-making processes.

Cultures differ enormously when it comes to decision making–particularly, how quickly decisions should be made and how much analysis is required beforehand

When a manager behaves like an arbitrator or a judge, making a final decision without team involvement, neither the manager nor the team gains much insight into why the team has stalemated

 (Brett, Behfar & Kern, ‘Managing Multicultural Teams’)

Inspire – an Effective Change

For my team this meant we individually had to understand what was occurring, furthermore it had to be known that I could no longer enable the problems persistence through yielding and making a decision. Change to a group dynamic, such as the normed decision-making process, may initially cause a degree of anxiety in team members. Consequent anxiety is particularly the case when ambiguity is present regarding a change, therefore efforts must be made to eliminate ambiguity regarding change.

Separating Symptoms & Causes

Outlining both the potential and actual symptoms of the problem is a prime opportunity to stress the need for effective change to occur. These symptoms could be the deteriorated of collaboration caused by consequent resentment, or they may be lack of real strategic insight in decisions. However, in order to prevent future re-occurrences, the actual causes of the problem need to be discovered so that they can be overcome.

Your Action – Moving Forward & Effecting Change

Finally, once causes have been identified appropriate recourse can be addressed. The question may be asked, what changes could eliminate or vastly reduce the effects of these causes of the problem. In my team attitudes regarding conflict were discussed and team members began to entertain the prospect that certain conflict could be beneficial. For our situation, this meant a type of conflict that Daniel Goleman has described:

Open discussion and disagreement about ideas- as opposed to attacks on people who hold disparate views- sharpen decision making.

 (The New Leaders: Transforming the Art of Leadership)

Implementing any strategy of adaptation can take time and a great deal of awareness from all team members. However, if successful the incidences of the dictator-by-default scenario should dramatically reduce. If a team is suffering from a lack of conflict, attempt to instil the notion that disagreement is not personal, instead it can act as an important flag that further analysis is needed. What course of action a team ultimately chooses though, must be geared toward overcoming the causes of the issue and not the symptoms. The reality is that there is no fix all solution to the dictator-by-default scenario.

Stating that though, a starting point of open discussion aimed at addressing the problem and its causes and effects is as solid a foundation as any for collectively formulating a way forward.

About the Author

Giles Cox is currently a Masters student of International Business Management at the University of Auckland. His approach to management issues is largely directed by his previous postgraduate studies in analytic philosophy & predominant interest being in human rationality. For this reason he holds a particular interest in how we as people do, and should, reach decisions that are geared toward promoting desirable outcomes.

In his spare-time, Giles can usually be either found teaching tutoring pre-med students in logical problem-solving, out on the water fishing, or playing blues music around Auckland.


For those interested in further reading, referenced works are listed below:

Feb 27

Leadership Insights from Cricket: Think Big and Act Small

By Carl Sanders-Edwards | Blog

I used to play a lot of cricket. Cricket is a hard game, especially when batting it can be cruel. To set the stage; two sides play, one that bats to scores runs in fixed number of overs, while the other side bowls to get the batsmen out and restrict the runs. The team that scores the most runs in One Day International & Twenty 20 formats wins the game. (Test format has slightly different rules).

As a batsman, you can be in the form of your life and still fail by facing the ball of the day. That is it. You are out and there are no more chances, game is over for you. What other sport is like this? If you have a bad serve in tennis you can still send down an ace next time. Miss a putt in golf but you can still birdy the next hole. Miss a shot at goal in soccer but be the games’ hero with an overhead thriller in the next play.

I could go on but you get the drift – cricket is tough – maybe even tougher than business and the business of improving how we lead ourselves and others.  This made me reflect on what cricket could teach me about leadership. We learn a lot when we pass through difficult times. The insight that popped into my head was some coaching that my dad used to give me, he said…

“You score a century (100 runs) in 5’s. After each 5, start again and stay focused on the next 5”.

There is so much wisdom in this comment. My takeaways from this insight are:

  • Think Big – Set a goal that is meaningful to you and others.
  • Act Small – Thinking in increments keeps you flexible, innovative and resilient. In other words, in life and business play each ball on its merits.
  • Be Persistent – Don’t get overwhelmed by big targets; just break them down and start now.
  • Have Fun – Celebrate what you achieve along the way.
  • Live in the Present – Stay in the current moment no matter how inspiring your future ambition is.
  • Focus – Clear out your fears and other thoughts and focus only on your goal.

I’d love to know if you can add to the list – please comment below.

Action Trumps Everything.

Inspiration is good but I’ve learnt nothing happens by itself and I don’t learn unless I act on it.  I’ve done two things since I got this insight:

  1. Planned a break – it has been a big and exciting year for JumpShift but unless I stop and pause soon, fatigue will likely cause me to miss something important. Christmas is too far away, and my work and life isn’t a sprint. The break has helped me focus on my goal.
  2. Be happy and content – By mentally patting myself on the back and then resetting to zero, I’ve focused myself on living here and now – both at work and with my beautiful little family.

I’m already feeling the impact of putting this leadership insight into action. A light fog I didn’t even know existed has cleared and the creeping frustration I was feeling entering my mindset has evaporated. Now I better make this a habit!

How do you plan to put this leadership insight into action and improve your life?

Feb 06

Confessions of an Anti-Leader Part 1

By Peter Schibli | Blog , Personal Effectiveness

Liz Wiseman calls people like me, “accidental diminishers“.

She’s kind.

It’s not accidental at all. My most destructive anti-leadership behaviours were done full noise and despite a trainwreck of clues… people leaving my meetings and workshops  zapped of energy; a kind of ‘stupid-zone’ where people around me never came up with any good thinking; a feeling like I had to do everything myself. I was frustrated, but I knew it wasn’t me – after all, I was a good person wasn’t I?


And here’s why: I’d get excited, I’d see connections, possibilities, layers of nuance and insight, ways to build on those sparks…  and then I’d share them, and share and share and share…  Of course, what I was really doing (this is painfully embarrassing) was overwhelming everyone and sucking out all the oxygen from the room. And then I discovered the damage I was doing was much worse…

It turns out that when people see a connection between two different things and have an insight, a set of special neurotransmitters get released which help inspire that person to take action. But if you draw the dots for them they get the ‘aha’ moment without the spur to action and do… nothing. Which is exactly what I got.

Clearly they were just idiots, turning my golden ideas into lead. Luckily I was the idiot, and luckily I ran across the genius of Liz Wiseman’s book, Multipliers. After a period of sick realisation and relief that it was something I’d caused, and therefore in was my control, I went to work.

Transforming myself was hard. To govern the flow of ideas: I’d impose a rule – one third of the time I would simply acknowledge an idea with a nod or a ‘good’, the other third I would ask them a question to draw out their insight; and the last third of I would allow myself to build on their idea by adding something to it. I forced myself to fully solicit the other person’s ideas and thinking first. Samuel Smiles summed it up well, ‘It is disrespectful to take away the privilege of people solving their own problems’.

Sometimes I’ll practice what Liz calls extreme questioning, a kind of Socratic enquiry with no ideas allowed from me. My creativity becomes the elegance and beauty of my questions. They become the teacher and I leave delighted by how smart people are.

Sometimes, if I’m feeling lazy or low in self-esteem I fall back to old habits. My original title for this post was ‘How to stop people from learning through cognitive log-jamming’. Pompous – check. Hard to read – check. Too clever – check. I just mention this to you to show you how insidious it can be.

I see this at work in training programmes whose strategy is to give as much information about the subject as possible. The trap is that 99% of it is irrelevant to the person in the programme, and the overload shuts them down to the 1% that might be useful. The dots have been drawn for them and they take no action. Anti-leadership.

Napoleon Bonaparte said, ‘There are no bad regiments, only bad colonels”. A smarty pants might be tempted to say, ‘There are no bad colonels, only bad leadership schools’. What we really want are training programmes that use these multiplier principles, along with lean and agile thinking, to help leaders discern and solve their own issues and achieve their own goals. And in that action-learning crucible become better leaders.

That’s why I’m such an unabashed fan of the JumpShift leadership programmes, which (disclosure) I’m privileged to help lead. Time and again see participants in the JumpShift programmes see their own versions of my anti-leadership insight, turn them around and create solid, heart-warming results for themselves, their teams and their organisations.

Have a look at the six Accidental Diminisher behaviours at Liz’s website here, or watch her on YouTube (2 minutes here, and 1 hour google talk here). Hopefully you tick one or more of these diminisher behaviours – because then you’ll have a golden opportunity to quickly level yourself up. What better present can you give yourself and those around you this year?

Jan 22

Modi-fied India: Changing a Nation through Optimism & Charismatic Leadership

By Darshan Doshi | Blog , Directing change

Narendra Modi

When India awoke in the morning of 26th May 2014, it opened its eyes to potentially an absolutely new nation. The air was heavy with hope and excitement about better times. It was as though its people had found a savior, a magic wand that would make all the evils of the past go away.

Narendra Modi is much more than a leader; he is a phenomenon, an emancipator of sorts. With the help of the strong tide of anti-incumbency against the prevalent government and a talented PR team, Narendra Modi climbed the ranks not just in his party but also people’s minds as the ‘only’ contender that can undo the damage done by weak policy decisions of the past and the rampant corruption that was rotting the roots of democracy. With his centralized style of governance and no-nonsense attitude towards administrative affairs, Narendra Modi made for an authoritative figure that was a welcome change from the previous socially awkward and often mute Prime Minister.

What makes Narendra Modi one of the biggest waves of change that India has witnessed in decades?

He does hit all the right spots when it comes to executing the impending change in governance. He has lead by example; the shining jewel in Narendra Modi’s crown is his stint as the Chief Minister of Gujarat. He decidedly focused on infrastructural changes in the state and gave a big push to industry; structural changes that are quite evident to the eye and basically are like salt on the burnt face of India.

His image as a slightly dictatorial but highly able Chief Minister gave him the credibility as a capable leader. This was a ray hope for the millions of Indians awestruck by communist China’s dizzying successes; a sure shot solution to treat India’s lagging economic pace and lazy leadership. Narendra Modi hit the iron when it was at its hottest. With the help of an aggressive PR campaign that portrayed him as the answer to all of India’s questions, he made a space in the average Indian’s psyche. The catchy slogans like “Abki Baar Modi Sarkar” (A Modi government this time) and “Achche Din Aanewale hain” (Better days are coming) didn’t hurt either!

But to attribute Modi’s success just to a good PR campaign would discredit his intelligence, charisma and leadership capabilities. Seductive oratory and just the right amount of pompousness have made almost each and every of Modi’s speeches enthralling and entertaining. He has caught the nerve of disgruntled India and has pulled all the right strings of their hearts through his numerous public rallies. As against the absent PM of the past decade, people saw a leader who was not afraid to reach out or even speak out his mind.

Since the very beginning, Modi is known for his unforgiving determination and discipline. The middle one among nine siblings, Modi once said that his brother who is a government servant has never entered his office since he became a CM. He is known to be a taskmaster and does not shy away from tough decisions. A master strategist and development advocate; he is known to stick by his words no matter what.

Unfazed by the many controversies surrounding him, Modi employed technology and the skills of educated professionals to push for reforms and progress. Even though Modi was cleared of being a partial and racist leader in Godhra riots by Supreme Court of India, Modi & his team spent a great deal of time and efforts to overhaul this biased image through targeted publicity campaigns that gave a starved nation the much-needed morsel of ambition.

To the optimist, Modi is the harbinger of change. To the realist though, he is only the beginning of the much-needed transformation that India needs. Either ways, it won’t be wrong to say that he has made his critics bite their tongues and given his admirers a dream to live by; the dream of cleaner, simpler governance and unburdened development.

Five Leadership Lessons from Narendra Modi

  1. Lead by example – prove yourself as a leader at a smaller stage before taking the big jump.
  2. Know the rules of the game and orchestrate to get key stakeholder buy-in.
  3. Be an inclusive leader to integrate diverse perspectives to create high-performing teams that drive success.
  4. Take decisions based on sound values & a holistic approach.
  5. Be adaptive & innovative to solve challenging problems.

We hope this gets you thinking. Do you know a Modi and how you could support him or her to be more effective in driving change in a business or society?

Jan 16

Empowerment – the perfect way to disempower those you care about

By Peter Schibli | Blog , Developing Others

Everyone’s doing it.

It’s enlightened. It feels noble. It looks wise. If you’re a black-belt at this, you’re working to empower not just your team but your peers and your boss as well…  hey look, I’m empowering my whole freaking value chain!!


Something’s not working. There’s some mischief at play. It feels like hard work and we’re still overloaded. We know our heart is in the right place and our intention is good, so where is this villainy hiding?

Let me ask you this, if your role is to empower them, what does that mean about how much power they have?

A Landmark Forum Leader once told me, “The context is always decisive.” In this case what I think is implicit in the idea of us empowering others is: they don’t have much power, we have plenty, and we can grant it

David Marquet calls this the Leader-Follower model. One leader. Many followers. Nothing wrong with that if you only need the commitment of one brain per team. But trying to empower them in this model is like pouring love into a bucket with a hole in the bottom.

Luckily, people are stubbornly hard to disempower. They have a huge amount of passion and intelligence. Start relating to people as leaders and they’ll usually surprise you in a good way. Share your intent and learn theirs. Ask for their recommendation instead of giving the answer. Yes, they’ll be unfamiliar and therefore uncomfortable with that at the start, just like you were, but you turned out okay and so will they.

Watch David Marquet’s 10 minute YouTube video, “Greatness“. It will blow your heart open. Then read his book, ‘Turn the Ship Around’  (ISBN-10: 1591846404).  It will show you the detailed steps he took. Share the video and book with your team. Practice it. Level up.

The world wants more leaders. You can create them. It’s not a paradox.

Dec 18

10 Leadership Lessons from Sir Alex Ferguson – Part II

By Darshan Doshi | Blog , Developing Others , Developing Processes , Directing change , Leading Your Business , Personal Effectiveness

Sir Alex Ferguson, former manager of Manchester United football club (hereafter MUFC), is considered by many to be the greatest manager ever in football (soccer) and even in all of sports. Clearly, we all have something to learn from his leadership, his process to deliver success and his legacy. While his domain was sports, the lessons we can draw apply across dimensions to our life.

The first part of two-part leadership series blog focused on Alex Ferguson as a Leader. You can read it here. The main lessons were

Lesson 1 – Let you leadership style flow from your personality.

Lesson 2 – Have some simple rules that guide recurring success.

Lesson 3 – Manage both for the short term and the long term.

Lesson 4 – Don’t be afraid to experiment if the environment allows it.

Lesson 5 – The numbers show the process of success.

The second part of the blog focuses on his ability to build successful teams.

Lesson 6 – Set the bar high – both for your team and your environment

Ferguson is famous for the discipline he instilled in the team once he took over. His 7 am practice sessions inspired others on the coaching staff to themselves show up before 7 to mimic the boss. “Hard work is a talent” as Sir Alex once said. He also surrounded himself with a great assistant coach (Carlos Queiroz) and a best in class scouting team. Not only this but Ferguson also made sure the environment was conducive for success. Training facilities were upgraded continuously, criticism of players was never done in public and a siege ‘us against them’ mentality was created to foster a great team spirit. Training sessions matched the intensity of game day. Moreover, anyone who dropped his standards was swiftly dealt with no matter what the reputation or previous contribution might have been. Negative influences resulted in swift departures of hitherto vital team players (Roy Keane, Ruud Van Nistelrooy)

Lesson 7 – Always look ahead three years and dare to rebuild your team

Ferguson, although he never really mentions an exact formula, always looked at three-year timelines. He also had a mix of players under the age of 23, 23-28 and 28 and above. Therefore, he always looked to build teams with players in different stages of development.

Key Takeaway – keep your team/portfolio with members/stocks with different levels of experience/payoffs so that you can simultaneously manage short-term performance and long-term stability.

When looking at a team, Ferguson was famous for placing his trust in younger players and using the United Youth Academy to groom future stars. His teams always had a core of strong internally chosen candidates. However he never hesitated to bring in players from outside (like Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney) often paying record transfer fees if needed to sustain success.

Key Takeaway – Keep a core internal team (which of course changes over time) and supplement them with outside players if needed. This applies to letting team members move on when they don’t fit into the core strategy.

Lesson 8 – Adapt to survive and never give in

Another trait that set him apart from other coaches was his ability to adapt to changing circumstances. While Ferguson wasn’t known to be a tactical master, he did master how to adapt his team to the changing game of football. When he initially joined the focus was more on fitness and discipline. As sports medicine took hold he got the best to implement it for United. As stats tracking and selection by numbers revolutionized the sport, United kept pace. Adapt to change even if you’re the best.

Something relatively unknown about Ferguson is how his playing career affected his coaching career. He spent 17 relatively unsuccessful seasons as a professional player. That lack of success defined him. In his own words – “The adversity gave me a sense of determination that has shaped my life,” he said. “I made up my mind that I would never give in.” He also forged Manchester United in this image. His teams were famous for scoring in the final seconds of the game. They never gave in and as it happened more and more often teams would psychologically give in as United risked all to find a goal.

Key Takeaway – Adversity can shape a person/team and can forge a backbone that can define the team.

Lesson 9 – Don’t be afraid to lose but hate it

A significant temptation for organizations, investors and teams is to play safe when it comes to the late stages of an outcome. Sir Alex’s teams had the notion drilled into them that if they were 2-1 down with 5 minutes to go that they should go all out for a goal. Losing 3-1 was acceptable. This tied in with Sir Alex’s risk taking philosophy and imbued his teams with an attacking mentality that though would fail on a one-off basis ensured positive payoffs over the course of 38 games.

Also, Sir Alex hates losing. He’s often quoted as saying he’d liked players who were sore losers. This ‘always need to win’ philosophy meant that team members were always set with a mentality that only winning was acceptable in a results business such as football.

Key Takeaway

In organizations – This point dovetails with a multitude of others. Hating losing means that team members aren’t satisfied with products/services delivered that aren’t the best in the industry and continue to stay at a high performance level day after day to deliver recurrent success.

In investing – Taking unnecessary risks often leads to disaster. However the main takeaway is that one must also dare to be great (risking failure) in order to stand a chance to be at the top. This advice is similar that of famed investor Howard Marks which he detailed in his ‘Dare to be Great’ Memo.

Lesson 10 – The edge you have over others is miniscule and so you must look for every inch to build the edge

Organizations are finding it harder and harder to keep up with startups. Investors find that beating other investors is an enormously hard task for the majority. Similarly Football at the highest level is one where no one has an unassailable lead. Case in point – No team has ever defended the Champions League title successfully since it was incorporated. All this points to the fact that at the highest level of sport and business, edges (or moats as Warren Buffet defines it) are tiny and often temporary. Thus in this environment the edges generally lies in the tiniest of details.

Sir Alex displayed cognizance of this with United. Most famously Sir Alex often persuaded officials to add ‘Fergie time’ to the end of games often extending games by an extra minute giving his team a chance.

Key Takeaway – Leaders in organizations, startups and investors must humbly recognize that the competition is just as good as we are and that finding the tiniest of edges is a necessary condition of success.

In Summary, as Tony Robbins, the inspirational self-help author and teacher mentions, modeling the best in a field is often the easiest way to make ourselves better. We don’t have to always re-invent the wheel. There are many lessons to be modeled from Sir Alex and his unusually long winning streak at the top of professional football. These are just few of them but we believe some of the most valuable.

You can read more about Sir Alex Ferguson in his book called Alex Ferguson: My Autobiography

About the Authors:

This blog is written by Rohan Koshy & Darshan Doshi.

Rohan Koshy works as an investment analyst at a fund based in Mumbai. The psychology of decision-making, probability, football, reading about all things technology and blogging once in a while all interest him. You can read his blog here

Darshan Doshi is the Head of Digital Services at JumpShift

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