Houston, we’ve had a problem

The rather sombre words uttered by Jack Swiggart, Command Module Pilot, Apollo 13, at 21:08 April 13. 1970 shortly after Oxygen tank No. 2 blew up, causing No.1 tank to fail. A catastrophe which left the shuttle and its crew stranded: No electricity, lights, or water; 200,000 miles away from earth, with no way to power the engine to “begin an immediate return to earth”

Thankfully, due to the expertise, courage and sheer blooded determination of the shuttle and ground crews this story ended – as James A. Lovell writes in his book Apollo Expeditions to the Moon, CHAPTER 13.1, Houston, we’ve had a problem, – not as a tragedy but “a successful failure”

How many businesses can say the same thing? You’ve launched successfully and are powering along, nose to the grindstone moving towards your chosen destination. Your dashboard sais you are on track – profit is growing, you’ve moved into bigger offices, are hiring new staff. Okay, like Apollo 13 you’ve had a few minor surprises – your top performer quit to join a competitor, you’ve had a few performance issues, all minor trembles but you’re growing and your dashboard says profit is up so you keep going. And then

Bang blog

You find yourself in a space with no resources: you lose your most experienced people through performance and churn issues, leaving you with ‘newbies’ who are going to take at least 6 months to start contributing. The problem as you investigate further is that the newbies are actually not performing, or being as productive as you thought nor are they anywhere near where they should be in terms of abilities.

You desperately need to do something and do it quickly or you and the shuttle might not make it out of orbit.

Luckily in most cases, much like Apollo 13, business owners have the courage, determination and sheer bloody-mindedness to push harder – get training for the ‘newbies’ put in a better performance management system, change the recruitment process and hire more people and slowly the shuttle rights itself and carries on towards its intended destination with nothing more than a stress headache.

Only, it’s slower with a lot of clunking that you hadn’t noticed before and pretty soon you have another…Bang

For those of you out there who have experienced this, I am sorry and hope that you don’t go through this again. If you haven’t been through this yet, lucky you :0)

In either case: How do you (as mush as possible) prevent this from happening and if it does, then ensure that instead of a catastrophe you turn it into a “successful failure”

  1. Identify the warning signs – There are always signs of impending problems, the earlier you recognise and acknowledge them the easier it is to minimise the chance of them occurring
  2. Take appropriate action to correct the warning signs – As with the Apollo mission there were many things that should have been challenged and changed. Unfortunately, time and cost pressures often put a stop to these happening Two very important words around action:a) Take – Action needs to be taken, which because of change can be harder to do

    b) Appropriate – The right action needs to be taken, it’s no use putting a bandage on a headache.

  3. Recognise that you need help in taking the appropriate action: (Think symptoms vs cause) Most often actions take place which rectifies the symptoms. the problem here is that it looks good at the time but only wears down further later on. True change/ transformation is a complex business with many facets. As a leader/owner, you are a critical part of the change,  however, because of your position and vested interest in the success of the business help should be sought in moving this forward.

Identify the warning signs

Sometimes its hard to see the ‘cracks’ – warning signs that although nothing is obviously wrong, if action isn’t taken quickly and efficiently you should expect a bang. I’ve created a short questionnaire which you can complete. The questionnaire is a short, informal, non-scientific tool I designed from years doing this work.

Want to identify if your business is a “Houston, we’…. candidate” complete this short questionnaire Click on this link

I understand the challenges leaders go through, I’ve been in the business of organisational performance a long time. Leadership in Motion was formed to help organisations flourish by developing their people into strong, confident leaders: Leaders who recognise their purpose and authority; and who have the tools and means to equip, enable and empower others to realise their full potential. Find out more

Taking Effective Action

If you want to achieve something successfully i.e. it delivers and has a purpose, you should have a goal.

Everyone is familiar with the acronym SMART. I have been using and training the use of SMART for many years now and although a very useful tool , somehow people seem to struggle with the complexity of it all

Struggle no longer 😊

I came across the following in my study of a Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren which has made goal setting and the use of SMART as a framework simple

Here it goes

  • Is the action  you are about to take personal, does it involve you?
  • Is the action you are about to take practical, is it something you can do (do you have the skills, knowledge, tools, materials, contacts)
  • Is the action you are about to take provable…does it have a deadline (is there a measurable finish line)

If the action  you are about to take meets these three criteria, write it down.

Now go do it

Do you know where you are going to?

“Do you know where you are going to?

Do you like the things that life is showing you? Where are you going to,?

Do you know?”

The starting words to one of my favourite songs sung by the legendary Dianna Ross. A song which I just learned is the sound track to the movie Mahogany, a story about Tracy (Dianna Ross) an African-American woman from the slums of Chicago who puts herself
through fashion school in the hopes of become one of the worlds top designers.

A song and subsequently a movie which illustrate this posts focus – Goal setting

I was first introduced to the concept of goal setting when I read the fantastic, inspiring book


Okay in all likelihood this probably wasn’t the first time I was introduced to goal setting, more like it was the first time goal setting was something that had become important to me. You see I am by nature a person who goes with the flow, a person who used to let things happen as they happened. Unfortunately I slowly started experiencing stress and high disappointment living this mind set and decided to make a change, which subsequently brought me to the aforementioned book and enlightenment.

Why a post on goal setting? Because of the following

Reason 1 is best illustrated by Lewis Carrols Alice in Alice in wonderland

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” asked Alice
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” said the cat
“I don’t much care where –” said Alice
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.” said the cat

Reason 2

 “An effective goal can improve performance by up to 16 per cent (the equivalent of saving yourself an hour in an average eight-hour day)” research by professors Edwin Locke and Gary Latham into goal setting and high performance

So how to set achievable, inspiring goals?

1. Identify exactly what it is you want as well as why specifically you want this. A technique to help you in this regard is to ask yourself the question

“Why do I want this?” or “Why is this important to me?”

Keep asking this question until you can longer answer ‘because…’. What you now have is your motive/your emotional need. This is the driver that keeps the fire burning when things get tough

 Break your goal down into 3 key areas

  1. Vision goal: This is what you are working to accomplish.

  2. Performance goals: These are the indicators (land marks) which you use as yard sticks to determine whether you are going in the right direction at the right speed etc.

  3. Behavioural goals: These are the actions, behaviours that you have identified will (if done consistently) bring you to your vision goal. These are the actions and behaviours that you have control over and that you are committing to doing day in day out

2. Write your goal down and make it very specific. Here are a few guidelines to assist you

  • Make it in the first person
  • Make it in the present tense
  • Make it specific (date, exact details, colour, sounds, smells, emotions, quantity, time)
  • Write it down, draw it, paint it, capture it
  • Read it and reread it and reread it. Immerse yourself everyday in living the accomplishment

Here’s a personal example to illustrate 

Its 3pm Saturday 22nd August 2015, a beautiful autumn afternoon in Budapest as I cross the finish line to my first ever Ironman 70.3. My head is held high, smile radiating from my face,eyes brimming with tears, chest bursting with pride at the fulfilment of one of my long standing dreams.

I set out to finish this event with a few criteria in place

– Finish with a second to spare from the cut off 9 hours – I have done it in 7h50min!

– With a smile on my face – if it got any bigger the sun would rise again

– My heart still beating – not only is it still beating but I feel strong and energised – and a spring in my step – after 70.3 miles I still have the energy to skip the final 100 yards arms waving in wild celebration.

The noise from the watching spectators is like nothing I have experienced before. The applause and encouragement pulsing through me,  goose bumps of emotion rippling across my skin. My beautiful wife comes running towards me, tears streaming down her face as we embrace hugging each other tightly, lips salty as we kiss and gaze into each others eyes whispering  we did it/we did it. 

 A little later, once the euphoria has settled to a mild hum and we have celebrated with a well earned tipple I have a chance to reflect on the journey that started 9 months ago with us booking ourselves onto this event. The sitting down and planning of our nutrition and training plans. My attending a running, swimming and cycling clinics to improve efficiency and output. Doing the work that was set out in our plans day in and day out, come rain, wind or shine. The once monthly races to test and measure impact of our training. Finding ways around illness, injury and travel – made easy because of the well laid plans up front

So, “If you don’t know where you are going to, if you don’t like the things that life is showing you” stop and take a moment to look at your life, Make a decision on one thing you have the power to change which will give you the direction or happiness you require, follow the guidelines above and make your world great