Category Archives: Leadership

Federer and the performance benefits of working part-time

The professional tennis circuit is a punishing arena for men’s and women’s bodies.  To aim for #1 requires a level of commitment and a volume of matches that seem beyond the capacity of the human body to sustain.  Hence, our heroes regularly need injury time off, or even worse, limp off the court without finishing their matches – leaving the public without the contest we have paid good money watch.

The rule of sport, and most working lives, seems to be “play full-on for as long – or as short – as you can, then retire”.

Roger Federer understands the cost of full-time commitment to the game. In mid-2016 he took a six-month recovery break and looked to be facing the end of his career. But in 2017, he staged an amazing resurgence, winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon, among others.  Instead of returning to full-time tennis, he cherry-picked the games that he would play and we heard him use the term “part-time” at both Wimbledon 2017 and at this year’s Hopman Cup win. In the Hopman Cup interview he explained: “I’ve played almost 1500 times so you have to be careful now. It’s nice, I work part time now. I work in the morning, I’m off in the afternoon or I do it the other way around. It’s good being a dad, good being a husband, good being a tennis player. I have the best of all worlds, it’s great.”

Many senior business people face a similar dilemma, working too hard and not participating in their children’s development, until a disease or illness knocks them down. Then they re-evaluate and have to decide whether to persevere or retire. They often don’t have the choices that Federer – a self-employed professional – has the advantage of making.  Federer can choose which competitions he enters.  The only thing he may have to give up is the ambition to be number one again, if he is not playing as many competitions as his compatriots.

Federer is a great example to reinforce that “part-time” doesn’t mean “poor quality” or “poor commitment”.  In fact, many part timers work harder than their colleagues and yet they are distrusted.

Given the paucity of good quality part-time jobs, it’s time to start having more conversations to remind our leaders that having happy and high-performing part-timers can be a better option than requiring senior employees to remain full-time and frazzled?

Girls: Put your Hand up and Get on a Panel

When I joined the Royal Australian Air Force, women couldn’t be pilots, so I got into logistics. One of the female engineers won the right to fly just after I graduated, by taking the Air Force to the Discrimination courts.  But she could only fly the transport aircraft.  It’s taken nearly three more decades to earn the right for Australian women to support our country (if they wish) by flying fighter jets.

While this is an extreme example, I’m regularly disappointed when I see conference panels with no female face. A recent Talented Women blog by colleague Kiri Stejko reinforces that we want to cheer our female peers when they do something ‘unusual’ like fly a plane, but it would be so much better to consider it normal, not unusual.

I think Sheryl Sandberg has it right. It is our collective responsibility to put our hands up and encourage our female peers to ‘go public’.  We need more women to sit at the table, get on the panel, give a talk, write a book. Show other women it is possible and allow us to hear the views of ‘the other half’ of the working population.

Make sure you attend an International Women’s Day event this March 8th and then challenge yourself to ‘put up your hand’ and make sure your voice is heard or read, sometime during the intervening 364 days of ‘normal’ events.

How to work with more givers and matchers

A good interview by Wharton’s Adam Grant about givers and takers, from McKinsey and co.  Initially my reaction was “you cannot screen out the takers, they are the ones who’ve already made it to the top by ‘kissing up and kicking down’.”  But I do agree that in the context of the knowlege economy, where people work more on projects and less in a hierarchical structure, giving can be a strength.

I also like his advice to ask people situational questions in recruitment interviews.  Grant reasons that people will give you the answer you want if you ask what they would do, but if you ask them to predict others’ behaviour they are likely to give you an insight into their beliefs and motivations.

I also like his distinction of givers (one end the bell curve), matchers (the bulk of the bell curve) and takers (the other end of the bell curve).    The bulk of people are matchers and they will follow the behaviour of the dominant group in the organisation – and society as well.

The question for us all is “which way around do we want our bell curve? Do we want givers or takers at the top end?”

I know I want to live and work with givers, so one way is to make time to thank people for their efforts and as Grant says, make the link for them from their efforts to how it’s contributing to a meaningful outcome for me or for our client.

So thanks to McKinsey for the link, it helped open my eyes to a new way to think about giving and thanks to Adam Grant for his research and his book, which reminds me that giving is a way to greatness, not the suckers choice!







How to create a movement

Love it.   Watch it and cheer!

It takes courage to be a leader because you can equally be considered just a lone nut, but in the view of Derek Sivers, its even more important to be the first follower, that’s what gets the momentum rolling.

So leaders, remember to nurture your first followers, not think “it’s all about me”.

From ‘change’ towards ‘development’

A lovely snippet from Russell Ackoff’s Reflections 2002 article:

Development is an increase in the desire and ability to satisfy one’s own needs and legitimate desires, and those of others“.

This definition supports my quest to move beyond the concept of leadership and behaviour change.  Changing behaviour is problematic because there is usually a positive intention behind the behaviour that leaders will fight to maintain.  This definition allows leaders to engage in a robust discussion about behaviours that will allow them to increase their ability to satisfy their own needs and the needs of others.

Creating Shining Eyes

It’s the season to be merry, so a great TED video clip for all of us who are leaders at work, home or in our communities and clubs.  Lots of great one liners from conductor Ben Zander.

My favourite quote (at the 19 minute mark) is: “Who am I being so that my ‘followers’ eyes are shining?”

Best wishes from A Passion for Results for shining eyes today and into the New Year.

Playing with learning and development

The “climate” is a bit grey in more areas than just the weather, so what better way to brighten your development program, than be a bit playful.  On a frivolous Friday, here are four games to make learning and development more fun. Try one out and see what “magic” happens.  You may have to sprinkle a little “magic fairy dust” to set the mood and cajole your participants to believe its OK to play.

Magic wand – give everyone a magic wand (easy to source from a children’s party shop), then go round the room and have each person describe what they would change in the team / organisation if they had a magic wand. You can follow this up with the Solution Focus miracle question to create even more discussion about how they would know.

Dress ups – provide mixed media materials – paper, cloth, plastic and ribbon – and ask each person to make a costume that represents their favourite hero or heroine.  Dress up, then go round the room and discuss the qualities of the hero / heroine and which of those qualities they do demonstrate / would like to  demonstrate more of.  For large groups, split into smaller groups first for making costumes and discussions.

Sparkling moments – (thanks to Svea van der Hoorn and Brief UK for this) organise the room into pairs and have each pair nominate a interviewer and a “personality”.  The interviewer asks the personality about sparkling moments from their work history when they have demonstrated excellent leadership and draws out the who, when, why, what and where of the story, especially the mental, emotional resources the person had access to.

The rules of the playground – provide a number of images of playgrounds or sporting grounds.  Work in small groups to share their examples of the rules of the playground when they were young.  Then groups draw a metaphorical playground for their company / division / team and list their understanding of the “unwritten” rules of the playground.

If you would like a copy of instructions for the Solutions Focused activities mentioned, send an email to  sharon at

Collective resonance – a corporate example

Yesterday, a series of links led me to The Resonance Project website and Renee Levi’s research into experiences of collective resonance. I was very impressed by the story from Tex Gunning, who was President of Unilever Bestfoods Asia at the time and who had been assembling his country leaders in retreat settings through events called Outbreaks “to build community, create purposeful business strategy and goals, and make a difference in the world”. Tex”s sense was that they were creating collective resonance and the story shows the difference this makes when a group of people have a purpose beyond pure profit making. It also makes sense of the recent Dove “pro-age” campaign – which uses real life models – not those 8 supermodels!

Have a read and if you have an experience of collective resonance – Renee and the Resonance Project would love you to submit your story and so would we.

If, like me, you are also interested in finding out more about Tex Gunning,

Continue reading

Change your thinking, change your feeling

Interesting new research by Elizabeth Phelps and colleagues of New York University, shows that we can think our way out of feeling something bad, by changing the meaning of the thoughts and feelings. As the article says, this is not new research, but the measurement via neuroimaging can provide the evidence that doubters need.

Many managers and professional people suffer from negative or doubtful thoughts, e.g. I don’t know if I can do this or I’m not confident, which is usually accompanied by, or even triggered by anxious or uncomfortable feelings.

The message in the research is to choose a new thoughts about the feelings. For worry, I like something like “oh that’s my worry radar picking up some interference”. It makes me think of the noise a mobile phone makes when it changes cells.

Try your own idea for three weeks and see what happens. If you cannot think of a new thought, make a comment on this blog and we can come up with one together.

Thanks to Stephanie West Allen from the Ailist for the link.