The Hard Reset

December 2020

I know I don’t really need to say this, but what a year 2020 has been! As we reached the end of 2019 I imagine most of us were looking forward to 2020 with high hopes. Asking ourselves what would be achieved, acquired and accessed in our personal and work lives? I’m sure that the vast majority of us however, have had to seriously re-think and adapt our approach to the year that will never be forgotten. In reality, December 2020 is now a time where a lot of people are simply grateful for what they have in terms of work, family, friends and our material possessions and 2021’s plans will be cautious at best. But we’re nearly there; 2020 is almost history!

This year, I would say that it is more important than ever before to try to take the time to switch off over the holiday period. There is the well known phrase from technology support, that the help desk and customer service representatives say, “switch it off and on again and it should be OK”. Ask yourself this though, does it actually work? How many times have you tried this when your phone, laptop, Skybox or smart TV has inexplicably stopped responding in anyway and failed to respond to the tirade of abuse that you have unfairly hurled at it? To be clear, I’m talking about shouting at the devices not the technical support guys!

Everybody is feeling jaded after this annus horribilis and a reset over the holiday will ensure that we are all ready to take on 2021. And based on recent experience, we must be prepared for anything. As we switch off and take some much-needed time, I would encourage everybody to take a moment to be in the moment. Enjoy what you have and what surrounds you. So often, even when we are not working, we motor through life and miss so much of what is going on around us. Enjoy the stillness and the small things.

There is a fascinating story about virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell. The Washington Post carried out an experiment and arranged for Bell to play in the Metro station in Washington DC. He played for 45 minutes on his £3million violin, two nights after he sold out a theatre in Boston where people had payed £80 per ticket. Less than a handful of people even paused to watch or listen to the greatest violinist of his generation playing some of the greatest music ever written. This is a timely reminder to question – What are you possibly missing in life that is there for you to appreciate and enjoy? It’s so often the little things that are actually the big things.

So, enjoy giving yourself a break this Christmas and try to switch off!

Remote Control by Drew Povey

Remote Control

I don’t believe that 2020 will be a year that anybody will forget in a hurry. The impact on each and every one of us has been significant. From titans of industry to small business owners, frontline workers to CEOs of large organisations and university students to pre-school children; nobody has escaped the coronavirus effect. As we approach the one-year anniversary of the first reported cases of Covid-19 in China, the planet has changed if not forever, then certainly for the foreseeable future. From a working perspective, we are now living in a world where more people are working remotely than ever before. At best, some organisations can manage agile working but the overriding situation is that we are now interacting face-to-face less than ever before in our working day. The big question now is, how do we lead in this new landscape?

I believe I’m fairly safe saying that all leaders, or nearly all, are familiar with the leadership by example model. We effectively model what we want to see; behaviours, expectations, how we execute and how we develop excellence in our businesses. All leaders that use this technique are endeavoring to, according to Gahndi “be the change you want to see”. In a remote or agile working world, however, this tactic is at least partly removed. So, what are leaders to do?

Over the past nine months I have been working with leaders in a range of sectors and settings and the apparent common theme is that the language we use has become more important than ever. This is now our competitive advantage if we can explore it and improve it. Whether on Zoom, Teams, What’s App groups or a conference call, our choice of words is now more crucial than ever. Through my work with leaders during this time, I’ve refined some powerful leadership phrases that I hope will allow us to take back some control in a remote world.

1) Leadership Language in Four Words:

What do you think?

This is extremely powerful and can draw people into conversations and encourage them to think more deeply about an issue. Key to this language is that it’s empowering, but be warned – once you ask the question, you have to actually be prepared to listen and take the view onboard. By allowing your people to share their views, you will learn a lot about them, but the onus is on you as a leader to listen and learn about where your people are.

2) Leadership Language in Three Words:

I don’t know

I truly believe that there is nothing wrong with a leader saying, “I don’t know”. I will put a caveat up front here though. If you spend all day saying this, you may find you don’t keep you job for long! Seriously though, there are a number of leadership thinkers who would agree with the power of these three words. But what is it that makes these words so important? In my mind, it is the language of vulnerability which is a precursor to the holy grail of authenticity. And let’s be honest, in the current climate we really won’t know and it’s important to model to our teams that its OK not to know…especially at the moment.

This language will also encourage people to drop the 1980s notion of the Hero Leader, who can see, know and do all! It will instead show that leaders’ can’t actually know everything about everything all of the time. And the perfect language combo? Twinning “I don’t know” with “what do you think” – this is particularly powerful.

3) Leadership Language in Two Words:

Thank you

This is the language of appreciation. Business author Tom Peters encourages leaders to say “thank you” to ten people by 10:00am every day. There are a couple of points to bear in mind with this. Firstly, make sure that it is genuine appreciation and thankfulness, which is the difference between praise and flattery as Dale Carnegie taught us. Secondly, some people have challenged this and wonder if it could become too much. My response is always that maybe it could. But really, how many people do you know that finish a long day at work, arrive home and say to their loved ones; “Do you know what? I’m sick and tired of being appreciated at work”? This was probably said by no one ever!

4) Leadership Language in One Word:


This is a key part of the power of plural pronouns. This has always been of vital importance, in my opinion, but never more so than now in our remote working landscape. From the latest Gallop research, we can see that employees are feeling more unheard, more unseen, more disconnected and less part of the company culture than ever before. Therefore, using words like “we”, “us” and “our” can help people feel part of and think like a team. I’d even go as far as to suggest significantly or completely eradicating the use of “I”, “you” and “them”. If we want a team, we have to talk team.

In summary, we know that the language we use can make or break people, cause our teams to fly or fall or the ship to sink or sail. We know this to be true as parents or in our personal relationships and it’s important to remember how important our words are as a leader. The Four, Three, Two, One Language of Leadership has been road tested and has proven to be useful for leaders when having to navigate this complex Covid era. So, keep leading through the power of language and seize that remote control!

Decisions Decisions…by Drew Povey

The Triple P Model

We all make decisions each and every day, from the moment we wake up until we drift off to sleep in the evening. A lot of the decisions we make on a day-to-day basis won’t have huge consequences, although these innocuous small decisions can become habits…but that’s a blog for another day! Most of us will, however, have to make some crucial decisions throughout our day and this is what today’s blog is all about. I have worked across a number of sectors where critical decisions have to be made for the immediate, mid or long-term performance of the company, sports team, board or school. Over time I have field-tested a model that I would like to share with you that will encourage a more measured approach to making those key decisions in life when they arise. I’ve used this model extensively. It now leaves you with the key decision…Do I read on or not?

I call this system the Triple P model and it is comprised of three key action phases:


Press Pause

We all live our lives at such a frantic pace and if you’re anything like me, you’ll shift into autopilot mode numerous times a day. Even during these uncertain and challenging times, though our working days may have changed to varying degrees, we are all still facing pressure, such as balancing working from home with family commitments, keeping our teams engaged, ensuring the longevity of our companies during these times as well as many, many other factors. When we are caught in these moments of pressure – it is often easy to make knee-jerk decisions that we haven’t had the chance to properly assess and in doing so, we may make uninformed choices. In this model the first element is therefore crucial at supporting us to overcome this downfall. When faced with a big decision we need to press the pause button whilst we consider our next move. To be clear, this isn’t stopping. Stopping is final and requires a significant effort to restart. So what does pressing pause mean? Well, when we press pause this simply means we take a ‘breather’ and buy some time to think about and decide on our next move.

Author Daniel Kahneman, in his book Thinking Fast and Slow, lays out two distinct ways in which the human mind thinks. The first way is System One thinking. When we make decisions through System One thinking, our cognitive process is based on familiarity and it is in those times when we are quick to go with our gut instinct. These decisions feel easy and they may be appropriate for a lot of what we do. However, we can fall into the trap of making more crucial decisions through System One thinking, and that isn’t so great! The pause stops us automatically making that knee-jerk decision and buys us some time to think things through.

Perspective Gained

What is System Two thinking? When we have paused and taken time to reflect and gain some perspective of the choices we have in front of us. This is what Kahneman calls System Two thinking. It allows us to take a step back and see the bigger picture. When we are focused on the context of our situation, our method for making decisions is much more effective and we are likely to make the better choice. Life is so often more complex than a simple black or red decision as there are always a range of factors to consider before taking the leap!

As part of the process of gaining greater clarity and perspective we should also seek the views of those around us. You wouldn’t think about deciding on the new colour scheme for your dining room without consulting with your significant other half (would you…really…perhaps that is just me because of my inept ability at interior design?). So why would you make critical decision about your business or team without listening to the views of trusted stakeholders? Use the pause time to seek out views, talk to colleagues or to do some research – depending on the time you have. My mentor used to say to me, “let’s pick this up tomorrow” and how often had my view changed by the following day? Honestly, it would do quite often. And if my position hadn’t changed from my initial gut feeling, then perfect – I knew with real certainty that it was the right decision. I had gained perspective.

Priorities Setting

As a result of pressing pause and gaining some much-needed perspective, then and only then can we begin to set our priorities in this decision-making process. The clarity that we have now gained will bring the important factors into sharp focus. What impact do you need your decision to have and how does it need to be executed? I’m not referring to the execution of the work that will follow on from the decision/s being made, but more about the contributing factors that will need to be executed well, that will then lead you to making the right decisions. There will be a number of priorities that need to be considered when making decisions. Some of these will become clear as a result of you gaining perspective and there is no right or wrong number of priorities. But it will be much clearer if you can boil it down to just a few.

In this phase we need to try and keep on track with the System Two thinking. We know what the issue is, we know the wider picture and the context in which the issue sits and now our priorities can be set out in order to help us make a clear and appropriate final call. Whether we are dealing with a challenging situation with a student in a school or entering a game-changing situation in a game of rugby, there will be priorities that underpin the decision that we have to make and this final part of the process is key.

When setting these priorities, I believe it is helpful to ask ourselves some final fundamental questions that will help frame our thinking and make the right decisions. Questions such as;

‘What matters most right now?’ ‘What is our important/urgent?’


‘What will really make the difference now?’

can all be useful. Keeping with the sporting example from above, this would be key in tweaking and adjusting the team’s tactics and wider game plan.

In closing, I want to address the issue of time frames. I often get the challenge of “how is this possible in the heat of the moment?” There is always time and the process can be as long or as short as you have time. In the heat of a game of sport, a decision may need to be made quickly following an opponent’s try or goal. A team can then press pause, form a huddle to gain context and clarity and the captain can work with the team in deciding the next play or tactic. This has to happen in 60 to 90 seconds! At the other end of the spectrum, a senior team can go on a weekend retreat to decide on the next phase of the group’s journey and the process can take 48 hours over activities, meals and informal interactions. The timing will need to be relevant and appropriate to the circumstances.

I can’t and shouldn’t tell you what decisions to make, but hopefully this model will help you make better decisions for yourself and those around you. As ever, I would love to hear you views, so please get in touch via the contacts page!

Dealing With a Crisis

Crisis: /ˈkrʌɪsɪs/ a time of intense difficulty or danger

We are facing unprecedented times. The current worldwide events are unlike anything that we have ever experienced or could have imagined. If we spent 30 seconds focusing on the definition of crisis, I think we would all agree that there is little doubt that we are now in the midst of a very real and global crisis. The purpose of this blog is to therefore offer a simple framework that might help us navigate through these challenging times. Remember, as John Maxwell said “a crisis doesn’t make us; it reveals us!” During these times we learn a lot about:

a) Ourselves
b) People immediately around us
c) People we work with and the world at large

“A crisis doesn’t make us, it reveals us.”

I’ve been working with a number of leaders over the past three weeks using a new simple framework that I have developed. The main objective of this framework is to help leaders navigate through the current crisis and have a simple message to communicate to their teams. The crucial underpinning theme beneath this whole framework is awareness. A heightened sense of awareness is one of the key survival techniques in these times and it will enable us to address the three core elements of this model:

• Acceptance

• Adaptation

• Ambition

1) Acceptance

We’ve all heard the sayings; “It is what it is” or “We are where we are.” As glib as these sayings can sometimes appear, when we stop and think about them they are actually quite salient. We have to be clear about what we can and can’t control. As humans we like to be able to control things. However, as uncertainty increases our ability to control decreases. The result of this is that our levels of anxiety, worry and fear increase exponentially. It is important to focus on what we can control; control the controllable. And the things over which we have no control? To quote the famous anthem from the Frozen movie, Let It Go!

“As uncertainty increases, our ability to control decreases.”

2) Adaptation

Once we have accepted our circumstances we need to adapt to our new reality. There is a golf adage that talks about adjusting our way to success. This is crucial during crisis, because things will have to change. Adjustments will almost certainly be needed and it’s true, some people will need to adjust more than others. But how do we know what the right personal adjustments are for us? This is when experimentation comes into play and we trial different methods. This trial and error process will enable us to understand what is needed from us as individuals and what works in our leadership of those around us. Then and only then can we effectively adapt. Central to this are two key aspects in my view. We must adapt and shift the way we think about our lives, or our business (or ideally both!). Once we’ve done this we can adapt and shift the way we act.

“Adapt and shift the way we think…and act”

This altering of our practice, both mentally and physically, will be what gets us through these times. Being shocked into a state of trance or retreating to a safe place just won’t cut it in during a crisis. We have to lead. Whether a fully operating publicly listed company, a furloughed workforce, a locked-down sports team, school or your family – this is courageous leadership in action and doing what we’ve always done isn’t going to get us through this. We need to adapt!

3) Ambition

Just because we are in a crisis, doesn’t mean our standards should slip. As Tony Robbins said, “We get what we tolerate.” We need this ambition and belief that we will get through these times and come out the other side. Our ambition should coexist with aspiration and drive us to be the very best that we can be. We are leading people through this crisis and as Napoleon was famously quoted as saying, “Leaders are dealers in hope”. Whatever we believe are the values and behaviours to making us good leaders, they are never going to be as important to us as they are now in giving hope to those around us. No matter what, keep both your expectations and standards high.

“Leaders are dealers in hope”

So in summary:

Accept it
Adapt yourself and your practice
Ambition is the key to keeping going

Awareness Remember, this underpins all of the above!

If you would like to discuss the above framework or have any other issues you would like to discuss, please get in touch via the information in our Contact page.

MORE THAN GOALS – by Drew Povey

It’s not just what you do, it’s how you show up for what you do that counts.

Those of you that watch my weekly videos on my social media channels will have seen that I have been talking about goal setting and how to overcome the many pitfalls that can catch us out when we set about on a new mission for change. January is traditionally a time when we set ourselves goals for the year ahead. Lose weight, drink less, exercise more or spend less money. This is a positive move and yet how many times have our grand plans withered and died and ended up in the graveyard of dreams? This year, let’s make sure these goals hit and stick. I have a simple three stage approach that will help us all stand up in the face of goal fails and get to where we want and need to be.

1. Mindset for Success – The Dream Builder

The easy bit is setting the goal. A little self-reflection and self-awareness goes a long way when deciding what goals to set. Once we’ve set our goals it’s time to build the strategy or the plan for how we’re going to get there. We have our tactics for how we will execute our plan and go for it. At this stage be ambitious – stretch yourself to be the best you can be. Nobody does anything exceptional by being half-hearted. Set audacious goals and you’ll get big results.

But how do we stick with it and see the plan through to the end. Reaching our goals can be a slog and requires more than just desire – we need belief. I will come to that in a minute, but first we need to be aware of things that can hold us back…

2. Excusitis – The Dream Killer

Look out for this – it’ll ‘get you’ when you least expect it! “I’ll just have a slice of cake, it’s your birthday”, “One more glass as it’s Friday” or “I’ll miss my gym session today, just as a one-off because I had a late night last night”. Do these kinds of phrases pop into your mind sometimes? It happens to all of us. The problem is that too many people beat themselves before they’ve properly begun their journey.

The fact is that nobody likes to fail, so instead we create excuses. But we are only really kidding ourselves because nobody else really needs convincing or, if we are brutally honest, is probably too bothered whether you succeed or not. Don’t be fooled, your mind will protect you from the pain of failure by concocting these excuses and so we give ourselves permission to turn a blind eye. We need an antibiotic to kill the excusitis and to stand guard at the gates to the graveyard of dreams. Step forward belief!

3. Belief – The Dream Saviour

The people who are most successful in completing their plans and hitting their goals underpin the whole process with belief. You have to believe in what you are doing and not allow your mind to turn on itself and hinder your outstanding progress. If you can dig down into your belief and focus on why you are doing what you are doing, you’ll find the journey a lot less arduous and you will be surprised how much easier it is to succeed. Note I said easier not easy – to use the old quote, nothing good comes easy.

We will have times that will challenge us and when we are vulnerable. The third Monday of January has been labeled ‘Blue Monday’. There are a number of theories as to why this particular day has been labeled as such. The bills begin landing after Christmas, the days are short and we begin to feel the cracks appearing in our resolutions. I wonder, however, whether it really is a ‘thing’ or if we choose or are conditioned to make it a ‘thing’.

Without belief, we can only try and do the tasks we set ourselves. As a Headteacher, my work was underpinned by a belief in the young people and community I served. I believed that I was helping to make the difference to their lives and the community in which they lived. A sports coach will pick players because he believes they are the best. World record-breaking adventurers conquer impossible new frontiers because they believe they can do it and believe in exploring the planet to further our understanding of our environment.

When the excusitis begins to grow like a weed, use your belief to kill the weeds. Belief runs deep and will hold you firm like a tree, remember it like this:

“Be-leaf is a tree that needs deep roots”