Words of wisdom: Leadership

The ultimate leader is one who is willing to develop people to the point that they eventually surpass him or her in knowledge and ability


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


This morning. as I sat in the quiet stillness of a beautiful dawn and reflected on my day ahead, my thoughts drifted to my housekeeping objective for the day – vacuuming and washing the floors. As quickly as the awareness of what I had committed to do earlier in the week came to mind…

At the start of each week, I set myself objectives for the key areas of my life and then assign these objectives to a daily plan which makes seemingly big tasks such as ‘clean the house’ highly manageable because all I am doing on the given day is the assigned task

…another thought came up as quickly “I’m not overly keen on doing this and I have a lot of other things to do, so I’ll adjust my  commitment slightly” a.k.a vacuum today, wash floors next week ;0

For any of you who have a tight schedule and have experienced the joy of ‘doing what needs to get done, when it needs to get done’, my ‘thought’ hopefully triggered the following response “if you drag this over to next week, then next week you have more to do“. I of course immediately recognised this and with a firm tone said to myself “No, you committed to doing this today! GET YOUR CHORES DONE!

I have to admit that my statement of intent made me feel slightly better (it feels good knowing you are going to follow through on your commitments) and although fully committed to completing this task I still had a slight ‘resentment’. And I realised why – I had to do a ‘Chore’

When I looked up the meaning of Chore the following came up

“A tedious but necessary task”

google dictionary

A job or piece of work that is often boring or unpleasant but which needs to be done regularly”


When we have to do anything that, although necessary, we perceive as ‘tedious’; ‘boring’ or ‘unpleasant’ we typically will either –

Do it but in a reluctant manner, giving less than our full effort and attention

We will find ways to avoid it either ‘rescheduling’ or ‘trying to do it’ (an interesting word ‘tried’)

With this realisation, I recognised how this dirty little word could seep into many things we need to take regular action on – Making those daily sales calls; invoicing clients; calling the people we promised to call back – tasks which have a big impact on our happiness and success.

I have therefore decided, as all good coaches with a grounding in CBT would do, to reframe my language. My necessary tasks which need to be done regularly are now my

“Acts of Love”

It’s was amazing! The moment I thought about what I needed to do as an act of love – in this instance keeping a clean home is an act of love to myself, my gorgeous wife and to my Father in Heaven – the resentment vanished and was replaced by a smile on my face and a song in my heart.

Love requires heart and as the bible says

“whatever you do, work with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters”

Colossians 3:23

Give it a try – start treating your tasks/jobs as “acts of love” and see how you are richly rewarded :0)

*Leadership in Motion was formed to help managers and business owners develop 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 resulting in flourishing organisations, communities and lives