Something in reserve…..

Some of you may be aware that I have just embarked upon a challenge on an endurance motorbike across the Pyrenees to raise money for KidsCo and Great Ormond Street Hospital.I haven’t ridden a motorbike for 14 years!

As some of you will know, my current challenge is that when I stall (a rather regular occurrence) I find it an almighty effort to kick start the bike again – partly due to the height of an enduro bike (high – due to the suspension required for rough terrain) and my lack of technique, welly, strength, something or other……

So, when after umpteenth attempt to start the bike again late yesterday I was on the verge of thinking perhaps I’d over-challenged myself- it was pointed out to me that perhaps I was out of fuel and needed to switch to the reserve tank! Switched to reserve tank, slighted exhausted attempt at kick-start and voila! Big roar, two stroke fumes and off we go……. A lesson learnt even if I did feel somewhat daft (one word to describe it anyway?)…….

It got me thinking about the challenges that individuals and companies face on a regular basis and sometimes the blindly doing what went before even though we don’t get the results- that is until metaphorically or truly speaking some-one points out that we need to switch to reserve or change something!

In a difficult trading period, economic climate, time of low morale et al, as leaders it is so important to listen and harness observations from others.There is a little story, if you will, of taking a group of people out to a garden with a statue in the middle and asking each to describe the statue.Each individual will of course have a slightly different view and standpoint – however the important thing is that their view is nonetheless valid and real.

So, how do we ensure that as leaders we capture the imagination and perhaps hearts of our teams and people.If we have a way of being that enables others to offer feedback and share views of our product, sales process, what competitors are doing, what we could do better – this will give a business the competitive edge.

It is being regularly researched and we so commonly hear that if a business combines its technical prowess and its emotional intelligence- it will stand stronger and very oft be much more successful.

Combining commercial pragmatism and passion can be a challenge, for some effortless and for others a step that they’ll think about but won’t actually make.

One of my clients, the CEO of a software company, oft says; ‘People can only be productive when they have balance in their life!’

By this he isn’t talking of the over –used work/life term but his team having a balance between their technical capabilities and their individuality, their personality- what they as unique people bring to the team, the company.He is particularly good at harnessing the creativity , innovation and passion in his people and runs a very successful business.

As business leaders, how can one harness the commercial pragmatism and the passion. I did a quick internet definition of the two:- ‘pragmatism- originally developed by Peirce and James / – a practical , matter-of-fact way of approaching or assessing situations or of solving problems’ and ‘passion – any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate’.

So, a few ideas on how to bring pragmatism and passion together:-

Listen- truly listen (it doesn’t mean you have to agree all the time!)

Establish a culture where people are ‘genuinely’ able to fail or just mess up, brush themselves off and onto the next thing

Have regular meetings that have no agenda- the amount of creativity and innovation that comes from these is quite extraordinary

Know your people , know your business – when was the last time you ’walked the floor’ …

Passionate and creative individuals are vats of innovation – seeking better and often fixated on better solutions to problems.It might be something technical or something more personal but either way it evokes an emotion that the person really needs to feel.

Like it or not, our best judgements and decisions are most often anchored in how we truly feel about something- even in the most clinical of us!

As for reserve tanks, I started writing this on a train to Newcastle and spotted a horse trotting along the fence of its field.Horses always leave a bit in reserve – they are flight animals – so whatever eventuality may transpire they will always have a little energy in reserve, a means to escape, make a change whichever – even highly tuned racehorses.If horses don’t epitomise the practical with the passion I don’t know what does!

Is your business bringing together the pragmatism and the passion……………?