command or control

Trek to Nepal – 12 weeks away

Posted on February 7, 2011. Filed under: command or control, expectations, leadership response, Nepal trek, personal leadership, Plan Fundraising |

What a difference a week makes! Suddenly an adventure that seemed so far away and with plenty of time to prepare for is just around the corner. In fact in some respects there are two complete months to go – given that we are one week into February.


What a different perspective this creates. Perhaps not in my mind as much as in the minds and responses of others. This past week when speaking with people about the trek (especially related to my fundraising targets) the responses have exclusively been “wow that’s really close”. It has been a sudden and complete shift.

In my mind there are still many weeks to go and I am tracking well on my fitness and training goals, preparing the right equipment, having test runs of all of my gear within the next few weeks and keeping up with the timing of progress payments for travel costs and fundraising donations as well. Lots of things going on yet all weaving together to form a complete tapestry of what will be a trip of a lifetime. A trip that will benefit me, will benefit Plan and will benefit communities. A trip that will also connect some of my friends and colleagues – and people who do not know me that well – with Nepal and a passion for helping others as the thread that joins us.

And that is what has really struck me about this week: many things seem to have shifted. It is not just the reactions of others, my own actiity and focus this week also shifted. It has been really hard this week to fit in the physical training due to weather and work commitments  and so I have shifted my focus to my mental and emotional state. Lots of meditation work and mindfulness. Rather than being physically active I have been mentally aware and focused. And perhaps mentally aware of what I have not been doing before I was able to turn that into what I have been doing. Making the switch from physical to mental activity initially felt like I was doing nothing and that was disappointing. Then I realised what was happening – the focal point had shifted slightly. It is all still very related to being ready and capable of trekking in Nepal. Just different.

For me one of the challenges has been that very thing: keeping my mindset positive and not lapsing into a self deprecating dialogue of how I have allowed the training to slip and what sort of risk that now poses to my making the trek safely and effectively. Progress physically has been so far great. There are lots of things I have improved greatly over the past month and persistence has been one of the kesy. For me to have a week of difference was probably a timely reminder that this trek is going to be filled with the unexpected and unanticipated. It was also a stark reminder that this is as much a mental and emotional challenge as it will be a physical one. And emotional and mental control is something I pride myself on highly.

Control. There are only certain things we can control in life – the main one is our views and mindset or beliefs about something. That’s where my personal focus has been this past week. And it has been a very different experience. There are things I cannot control and need to accept that. As Maya Angelou said “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

And I did – early in the week I realised I needed to change my attidtude. Actually it was closer to mid week. And as soon as I did so the change was startling. Letting go of that expectation and pressure allowed me to make better progress with what really needed to be done. For example, I was going to have fruit and yoghurt for breakfast this morning (as I usually do) when I realised that there was no can of fruit opened. Not planning to breakfast at home for most of this week I initially thought it was not worth opening a can and not wanting plain yoghurt that I would have toast. With homemade jam. And then it struck me: I have homemade jam because there is lots of fresh fruit in the house from my own backyard trees. And so I had fresh fruit with my yoghurt today.

A small example of how focus that becomes fixation is not healthy or helpful. So a little bit of letting go while still holding the bigger goal is the optimal way.

Self awareness is one level, the deeper levels are where I have been. A useful event I feel as Nepal and trekking is likely to pull on all of those resources and practices. And probably even more.

I’m amazed at how even preparing for a trip like this has pulled certain issues to the fore – the past week has been full of distractions and so my focus has been tested. As has my ability to retain a level head and clarity on the end goal while also being patient with myself (personally being patient with me is a major challenge!). I’m a firm believer that life throws at us what we need – and here is an example.

trek to Nepal

For the coming week I am reconnecting with my intense physical training while also continuing the mental focus.  A coming week of continuing with the small steps while charting progress to the big one.

Being focused without allowing myself to fixate and judge.

Preparing and being prepared.

My first fundraising event was quite successful. I need to do more, much more, yet have proved that it can be done and whilst having a good time.

Experiencing and being on the journey – because the journey is just as important as the destination.

Beginning to get more excited by the prospect of the trek.

It is quite close now.

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Leadership stereotypes

Posted on August 22, 2010. Filed under: command or control, expectations, leadership legacy, leadership stereotype, personal leadership |

Today’s post is very different to the one I had planned – all because of two unforseen factors.

The first was the point at which I was up to in reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink” where he talks about a war games scenario. One team gathered and formatted many types of data and information on the ‘enemy’ and used that to create detailed forecasts and plans about what would happen next in the battle. The other team was far more adaptable and creative in the situation. The rogue leader in the scenario (known as Rip – or more correctly Paul Van Riper) refused to allow himself or his team to become caught up in the process or the data analysis – he told his team that he would be in command not in control.

Let’s look into that phrase a little deeper – being in command traditionally is associated with control (we even label one leadership style as command and control) yet here is a man saying that he is going to be out of control. How many people could panic if they knew their leader was out of control. Yet think about it: what leader expecially at senior levels can be physically in control of every single task and interaction within the business or even the team?  MMany of our assumptions and stereotypes place this undue expectation on a leader – and then when s/he fails to deliver on that level of detail we criticise.

For those of us who are or have been leaders I’m sure there are examples and experiences coming to mind right now.

Leadership as being in command and out of control.

A freeing statement – the leader is freed to focus on the vision, strategy, holistic view while the team are empowered to do what they do best. It allows members of an organisation to apply their technical specialties and perhaps gain a high degree of satisfaction from being trusted enough to be left alone to get things done.

Naturally this is not a totally hands off situation – the leader is always there if and when the team need to reach out for guidance or assistance. The leader is not effective if present and close to the team to the point where s/he is “in the face” of the individuals trying to get their work done.

So leadership as being in command not control.

That seemed like an interesting topic to contemplate as it seems far removed from how we normally reward or monitor the performance and effectiveness of leaders.

And the second factor that came up today – leadership as a legacy. After attending a great dinner on Friday night hosted by Loddon Murray Community leadership I held onto a comment about our role as leaders being to pick up where others have trail blazed us to and then also paving the way for those following us. Each of us has an opportunity, or even an obligation, to smooth the way to some degree for those following us.

It made me think about the role of leadership as being about a legacy and in some ways it’s humbling to see yourself as both a leader (traditionally associated with success and being one of a small group) and as a piece of a larger puzzle or tapestry.

Two thoughts, related in many ways yet different.

Looking forward to more discussion and development on these areas.

Have a great day.


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