Wingman

One of the most valuable things we can do when we’re trying to find a way forward is to put our thoughts out there with somebody we trust.

Somebody who will challenge and look for our weak spots, with the intent of sharpening our argument, or our game.

I’ve been wrestling with a paradox. When we coach, we cannot have an agenda- we are in service of our client’s thinking. The moment we introduce our own thinking, uninvited, we are no longer coaches.

At the same time, part of our job is to introduce ideas and concepts that might move our client forward.

So, how do we square this circle?

My “sparring partner” today helped me see a route.

In what seems a long time ago, I was an officer in the R.A.F. During my time there, I was taught the idea of a “wing man“. The concept is as simple as it is powerful. When we are focused on a target, we lose peripheral vision. We are so focused on the target, we fail to see what is going on around us.

The wing man provides that. She looks out for us, and feeds back to us threats we may not see.

The biggest threats we are facing today sit outside of our immediate vision. We may achieve and celebrate short term financial goals, whilst at the same time not see the bigger systemic picture, wherein lie the issues that will take us out of the game.

All of us need a “wingman” or woman. I’m grateful for mine. Who’s yours?

Escape Velocity

The 50th anniversary of landing on the moon took me to thoughts about escape velocity. For earth, a little over 11km/s, or Mach 33, or several times the velocity of a high powered rifle bullet. The energy needed to escape the pull of the familiar.

We are currently trapped in a numbers driven economic system, largely detached from considering it’s externalities – the unintended consequences of the headlong push for growth. Our escape velocity will be determined by what we value.

We have allowed ourselves to become limited by the gravity of an orthodoxy that may well kill us unless we escape its pull.

There are however signs, and not just from the likes of Extinction Rebellion. People closer to the centre of the current orthodoxy. Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever, is making a stand. So too is the head of Moore Stephens speaking at The European Court of Auditors – not a body I have previously associated with radical action.

Good though this is, it seems unlikely that this is where the leadership we need will come from. They have little to risk.

The real impetus, the energy needed for escape velocity will come from those who do have something to risk. Those who will do differently, from the outset. Who will view value as more than numbers.

Smaller businesses, individuals without the security of an established career.

Those for whom the risk of standing out is real.

Which is most of us.

Following

Maybe, in times of uncertainty and rapid change, following is the most important thing we can do.

Following is a choice. By accepting and commiting to a leader’s premise, we are defining ourselves. Our values, our hopes, our aspirations. By following we become personally accountable for the outcomes .

A leader cannot be a leader without followers.

Both “leading” and “following” imply movement. From here, to there. Joint effort to an agreed destination for a specific purpose.

Following infers risk. It’s not often the Generals that lie bleeding on the battlefield.

So, perhaps we have three options.

  • To Lead. In pursuit of something we believe in , to commit ourselves and face the dangers. The Hero’s Journey.
  • To Follow. To make a conscious decision to back the vision and capability of a leader, putting yourself on the line by making your decision.
  • Fatalism. To do nothing, in the belief that you can do nothing, and that what will be will be.

Each is a conscious choice. When we decide to do something, to say yes to something, no to something, or take a time out, we are making decisions and defining ourselves.

Each time we put a cross on a ballot paper, take a job offer, follow somebody on social media, or watch and do nothing we are defining who we are to others, and of course ourselves.

Who we follow is a serious decision, with consequences. Take it seriously.

We are all accountable.