Archive for December, 2017

Turning Knowledge Into Action

December 20th, 2017

“The greatest gap in the world is the gap between knowing and doing”

– John Maxwell

These days we seem to know a lot. Not only is there an extraordinary amount of up to date relevant information available on almost any topic we can think of, our access to it has never been easier. Books, blogs, podcasts, training programs, knowledge management systems and devices are everywhere and yet one of the biggest questions for both businesses and individuals alike is ‘Why can’t we get anything done?’

For many of us we simply seem to be drowning in a sea of good intentions. Whether its about implementing a new way of working, recruiting new skills for our team, getting fitter, saving more money or simply slowing down, too many businesses and individuals are finding themselves caught in the gap between knowing what they should do and doing what is actually required.

The reality is knowledge is only useful if we do something with it. Whilst it is very important to develop a strategy, build intellectual capital and remain up to date and aware of new developments, we need to actually DO something. This means tackling the hard work, rolling up our sleeves and getting stuck in. As leaders, this doesn’t mean that you have to do everything but you have to actively engage and play your part. Failing to do so sees us risk both business and career success.

Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton, authors of the book The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge Into Action argue that one of the main barriers to turning knowledge into action is the tendency to equate talking about something with actually doing something. As they note, all too often talk is valued because the quantity and ‘quality’ of it can be easily assessed immediately where as the ability to get things done requires a greater timeframe. The risk therefore is that our impressions of others are based on sounding smart rather than on how they perform.

No doubt many of us have borne witness to this in our own workplaces – Individuals who are able to speak the talk but not walk the walk. The long-term damage is enormous and does nothing than more than erode trust, confidence, engagement and action. The bottom line is no results or benefits are ever achieved or enjoyed simply by talking about something – or by just making a decision to do something. It still needs to be followed with effort to implement.

So how do we build a culture of action for our businesses, teams and ourselves?

Understand the why before the how: As managers and leaders all too often we want to quickly learn the ‘how’ – what do I need to I immediately do/adopt rather than understanding the ‘why’ in terms of drivers and goals. The real danger is when we expect our teams to also adopt this framework of thinking as it can easily create an overly dependent culture that is devoid of learning, independent thinking and ownership.

Commit to taking action: Many of us have fallen into the pattern of researching, planning and refining our strategy as a way of telling ourselves we are busy ‘doing’ when really we are just playing safe. Essentially all we are doing is walking on a treadmill – yes we are moving but it is not actually taking us anywhere.

Simplify: Leaders and organisations that use simple straightforward language, concepts and structures are better at closing the knowing-doing gap. Simplicity removes ambiguity, blame and confusion. It increases productivity, efficiency and creativity. Quite simply it is the fast track to creating action.

Invest in learning: Closing the gap on knowing and doing requires an investment in training and learning be-it for our organisations or ourselves. Developing expert skill-sets, efficiency and confidence requires commercial tolerance, time and a learning based culture or outlook. Recognising that as learners we need space to explore new ideas, make mistakes and embed new knowledge is critical to maximising the ROI on the learning investment.

Face the fear: Fear is one of the greatest paralysers of success and progress. To close the knowing-doing gap we need to face it – both at an individual and organisational level. To take action we need to know that there will be no punishment for taking risks, making mistakes and exploring new ideas without a guarantee of success. If we fear for our jobs, our future opportunities or even for our own self worth we are less likely to move beyond the safe confines of what we know and have done before which ultimately prohibits any form of growth.

Lose the perfectionist tag: Perfectionism is the equivalent of paralysis. Not only does it prohibit us from taking the first step towards action, it also creates unwarranted stress, crushes creativity, prevents productivity and ultimately limits profitability.

Measure the right things: To encourage action we need to ensure that we are measuring the right things. Pouring all of our energies and metrics into scrutinising hours worked rather than levels of customer satisfaction is not going to drive future results. We need to demonstrate and see the value in what we are measuring and how it relates to what we do our future direction and our success.

The real challenge for us is to make knowing and doing the same thing. It is only when we do that we will drive a culture of action for ourselves and the businesses that we lead. As we head to the end of the year and for many a summer break I would encourage you to consider what you can do to make 2018 the greatest year yet.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.



Unlocking Potential

December 6th, 2017

There is no man living who isn’t capable of doing more than he things he can do

– Henry Ford

Barely a day seems to go by where we don’t hear about the volatility and uncertainty of the business landscape, the economy and the employment market.

Businesses say they are struggling to find the right people to help them navigate this ever changing landscape; whilst individuals say they are struggling to find the right roles and/or organisations that allow them to showcase their talents and have real influence and impact.

PWC’s recent global survey found that 63% or CEO’s and business leaders don’t believe they have the talent needed to support their future growth. Further studies indicate that almost the same percentage of employees don’t believe that their managers and leaders understand their real capability or future career ambitions.

There is no doubt that this misalignment is hurting individual careers and impeding business growth. In a landscape characterized by what is now being commonly referred to as VUCA – Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity – we all need to rethink how we develop both our own careers and those of the people that we lead. If we don’t we will find ourselves unable to navigate what is currently in play or what lies ahead.

The bottom line is individual’s need to get better at showcasing their potential; and organisations need to get better at identifying it.

With research suggesting that the top 10% of employees are more than 2.5 times productive and efficient than their counterparts, there is no doubt that showcasing and spotting real potential is critical to future proofing our success.

So how do we spot it and what are it’s key indicators? I particularly like Claudio Fernandez-Araoz’s (from global search firm Egon Zender) identification of the following 5 key elements.

As you read through them I would encourage you to take a moment to think about how you showcase each element. For those of you who are responsible for growing business capability and talent pipelines consider them as a guide to spotting potential in your team and organisation.

  1. Motivation: Inpossession of a fierce commitment to excel in the pursuit of unselfish goals. Individuals with high potential are ambitious big picture thinkers who are driven to leave their mark by continually improving on what and how they deliver. They are not driven by selfish motives but rather are keen to contribute for the greater good of their team and organisation.
  2. Curiosity: A thirst for exploring ‘the new’; for learning and discovery; for the possibility of what could be and not merely what is. Individuals are motivated by the desire to improve and better their own lives, careers and the organisations that they lead. They are not satisfied with merely maintaining the status quo.
  3. Insight: The ability to collect, interpret and apply new information that invariably brings with it new possibilities. People with high potential know how to navigate change and make sense of emerging trends, technologies and practices.
  4. Engagement: A nack for using emotion and logic to communicate a persuasive vision and connect with people. Individuals possess the capability to harness capability, motivations to drive collective outcomes and results.
  5. Determination: A dogged persistence and wherewithal to pursue difficult goals despite the challenges and roadblocks that may lie ahead. People with high determination also know how to ‘bounce back’ and recover from frustration, disappointment, failure and adversity.

It is worth noting that there is a significant difference between high potential and high performance. Mistaking the difference can be costly for all involved. No doubt we have all worked with or heard of the top sales rep or technical lead who is promoted to manager and in the process struggles to transition from being the best in their field to helping others become their best. The results are often sliding performance and heightened frustrations for all involved, which ultimately hurt morale and drive turnover.

Converting high potential to high performance is always going to be the key to maximizing growth and opportunity – be it business or personal. To do this we need to start considering and offering development opportunities that push us out of our comfort zones. For it is when we operate outside of our comfort zone and stretch ourselves that the five elements of potential can be adopted and showcased…. And where the real magic happens.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.


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