From self-belief to self-direction

Posted on October 19, 2011 by Ken Carroll

spacer  In a sense, leaders are in the empowerment business. If you lead a team, you should spend a great deal of your time doing things that empower them.

Why? Because people consistently underestimate their capacity to make things happen. They defer instead, to people, events, feelings, or some other excuses. Then, not much happens.

The most potent form of empowerment comes when you instill self-belief into people. If they believe in themselves and feel assured that their gifts have a home in your team or organization, they get really loyal and really motivated. They are empowered, self-directed, and likely to do great things. They are less deferential and less likely to be put off.

The time you invest in empowerment will be well spent.

Ken Carroll

Posted in Leadership, New leadership skills, Self-direction | Tagged leadership, self-belief, self-direction | Leave a comment

You and your friends and your monkey minds

Posted on September 28, 2011 by Ken Carroll

You have a monkey mind and so does your sister. And your boss. And your neighbor. All of you. Monkey minds.


Average monkeys

But don’t feel bad. You can’t help it. It’s human nature. Our minds naturally flit from one thing to another, often for no apparent reason. This effect has been compared by wise individuals to an ape hopping from branch to branch. They call it the monkey mind.

Mental quickness is a good thing. It allows us to turn our attention to threats or emergencies in a split second. But the monkey mind means also that we’re as alive to distraction as we are to danger.

At this point in our history, the distraction is more of a problem than the danger. (How many hours did you spend cruising FB and Twitter today?) I think it’s worth acquiring the skills to manage the monkey mind. It can be done.

Are you still with me?

Ken Carroll

Posted in Human nature, Self-awareness | Tagged distraction, monkey minds | 2 Comments

Knowing people

Posted on September 23, 2011 by Ken Carroll

spacer  Leaders and managers have to become better students of people and of human nature. We spend our time understanding processes and things rather than on understanding people.

‘People’ is obviously a big subject, but you can narrow it down and start with the things that are relevant to what you want to achieve.

So, what do you want to achieve? What do you need to know about people to do it? Are you failing to connect? Do you struggle to understand people’s motivations? Are there reasons why you don’t trust them or won’t delegate to them? Find the focus for your learning.

Investing in people knowledge and human understanding will give you a competitive advantage. It’s not exactly a crowded space. Most business professionals are somewhere else.

Ken Carroll

Posted in Human nature, Leadership, Thew New Humanism | Tagged competitive advantage, leaders, understanding people | Leave a comment

Effective leadership requires mental training

Posted on September 21, 2011 by Ken Carroll


It's a fair cop and time for my mental training

Lots of professionals use mental training – athletes, surgeons, military personnel, and so on. The idea is to put you in control of your thoughts and feelings. From there, you manage your behaviors – and eventually your destiny.

Mental control requires self-awareness and a whole lot of introversion: You have to know and understand your thoughts and feelings on the inside so you can align them with your behaviors on the outside.

No-one considers this inside/out approach to be odd and no-one doubts that it is effective. And yet nothing of the sort exists amongst business professionals.

The Average Manager runs a mile from  introversion but it means he’s working at a massive disadvantage. Any individual in a high performance environment will benefit from good mental habits. But my recent work with CEOs and leaders made clear to me that most of them lack such habits and struggle chronically with the psychological challenges of leading.

It explains why most failures in leadership can be traced back to poor self-knowledge rather than poor subject-matter knowledge.

Ken Carroll

Posted in Leadership, Mental skills, New leadership skills, Self-awareness, The Average Manager | Tagged average manager, leadership, mental training, self-knowledge | Leave a comment

Self-direction versus fate

Posted on September 1, 2011 by Ken Carroll

spacer  Most people believe in fate. But with time, the belief submerges and works on them from below the surface. And so, they suffer the destructive consequences without ever realizing it.

You can spot a fatalistic worldview. People give up quickly, or never start in the first place. They lack energy and enthusiasm and they wait for life to happen. They tell themselves they were never ‘meant’ for anything beyond the ordinary. Then, sadly, and ironically, it all comes true.

No start-up, no project, no endeavor of any significance ever worked without a great deal of risk, effort, and optimism. But it’s easy to quit or let yourself off the hook when you believe that the outcome is pre-ordained, that the extra effort may be pointless.

There’s no way to reconcile fate with a self-directed life. Even if they lie below your awareness, you must find your fatalistic beliefs and root them out.

Ken Carroll

Posted in Mental skills, Self-direction | Tagged fate, self-direction | 3 Comments

Shakespeare in war

Posted on August 30, 2011 by Ken Carroll


Wherever your mind goes, the rest of you follows.

Shakespeare knew this, and so, apparently did Henry 5th. He crushes the French at Agincourt, despite being absurdly outnumbered and ill-prepared.

His rousing, “Once more into the breach” passage is one of his most famous, and not least from a leadership perspective. It reveals something about thoughts and actions. (Though it occurred a bit before they got to Agincourt itself.)

The best line comes when he’s asked if his troops are ready for battle. The king’s reply:

 “All things are ready if our minds be so.”

Artists know this. Athletes know this. A lot of people know this.

I’m just not sure if the Average Manager knows it. For him, it’s more like:

All things are ready if the data be so.”

Ken Carroll

Posted in Leadership, Mental skills, The Average Manager | Tagged leadership, Shakespeare | Leave a comment

Introducing the Average Manager

Posted on August 29, 2011 by Ken Carroll

The Average Manager

 In the old days, marketers thought that information drove behavior. All you had to do was tell people to buy the product and they would. Advertising was about dry fact. No connection or empathy needed.

How laughable. How absurd. Where was the motivation? Buyers don’t respond to mere fact, you fools.

Someone tell this to the Average Manager. He’s still around and he still doles out tasks with the enthusiasm of a migraine attack. He expects his team to respond to mere fact. No connection to the people he’s delegating to. No motivation or empathy. Just dry fact.

His rationale: “The company has its targets to meet.”

Words of magic. That’ll set them on fire.

The Average Manager is everywhere – and I mean everywhere – but how obtuse do you have to be to think  this approach works?

Ken Carroll

Posted in The Average Manager | Tagged average manager | Leave a comment

Why we fail

Posted on August 26, 2011 by Ken Carroll

spacer  The reason why most people never achieve their greatest ambition is because they don’t know what it is.

If you lack focus you will not allocate your mental and emotional resources efficiently. With nothing in particular to aim for, you’ll shift, change, try bit of this, and a bit of that. In the end, there won’t be much to show for it.

Organizations make the same mistake and for the same reason. If the leadership doesn’t truly know what it’s trying to achieve, employees spend their time doing things that aren’t core – there is no core. They’ll try this and try that but in the end, they too will have little to show for it.

Life can be shockingly simple sometimes. The fact is that success requires concentrated effort. Diffuse and un-focused is no way to allocate personal or organizational resources. It’s the most common cause of failure for both.

Ken Carroll

Posted in Self-direction | Tagged concentrated effort, failure | 1 Comment

Lead like a novelist

Posted on August 25, 2011 by Ken Carroll

 I once attended a lecture on how to write a novel. They woman said something like, “Your work must introduce the reader to a world of flesh and blood characters, individuals who face daunting obstacles. These characters should grow from the struggle and triumph in the end”.

Too true. That’s certainly how my, erm, novels would end. But isn’t it also the way that leaders should view the people on their teams? As flesh and blood characters on a common mission to overcome adversity, reach their goals, and grow from the experience? Wouldn’t that be a meaningful and motivating way to look at it?

Salary isn’t the only thing that people seek from work.

Ken Carroll

Posted in Leadership, Thew New Humanism | Tagged adversity, leadership, obstacles | Leave a comment

The nature of leadership

Posted on August 24, 2011 by Ken Carroll

you’re struggling to simplify your life, a quick search can uncover a world of insights, links, people, and solutions.

This ability to connect into communities with shared needs and interests means that we get to learn about ourselves in hyper efficient ways that were never possible in the past.

You soon realize that you’re not the only one who sees the world in a certain way or struggles with a particular issue. And this is true for people from entirely different cultural backgrounds. The blog posts, testimonials, comments, and observations explore it all in depth. The evidence of a shared psychological experience is clear.

There is a human nature and there are things we can say about the common experience. For a very long time, we denied this truth in the West, and I believe it kept us in darkness.

Human nature is a very big topic, but there are ways to narrow it down, according to what you’re trying to do. We have access to learning about ourselves in a way that was never possible before. But in any event, leadership has more to do with human nature than with the stuff we traditionally find in business school.

Ken Carroll

Posted in Human nature, Leadership, Thew New Humanism | Tagged human nature, leadership | Leave a comment