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Don't let your effort 'eff' it up

Mar 28, 2024

As we head into the long weekend, lured by the intoxicating scent of freshly baked hot cross buns, let me start with a reflection on an experience I had last week, and then give you a quick update on my upcoming program. 


Last week, I spent 3 days with a group of leaders in the serene Southern Highlands of NSW. We were wrapping up a 12-month development program that I run for a national professional services firm. The picturesque setting made it all the more special - perhaps you caught a glimpse of it in some photos I shared on LinkedIn.

We had plenty to celebrate. These leaders had made great progress over the year. And while this marked the end of one chapter, it also signalled the beginning of their next leadership journey.

However, as the residential approached, I found myself wrestling with an odd feeling of anxiety. My mind was racing, and I couldn't shake off a nagging concern: would this final session meet expectations? 

"Meet expectations."

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to meet expectations. But when that desire morphs into a disorienting scramble to please - as it can for me - trouble brews.

Trying too hard, ironically, can sabotage our efforts. The pursuit of perfection risks 'effing' it all up.

I learned that early on as an improviser. The shows where I tried to be “good” or funny were awful. The shows where I just had some fun with the rest of the performers were the best. 

In this case, it was a workshop, but the same holds true for any meeting or conversation. Our desire to manufacture Great Outcomes can lead us to cram agendas, oversteer conversations, stifle creativity and shut out alternative viewpoints - missing the real opportunity of the gathering altogether. 

I suppose the key lies in striking a balance between effort and ease.

For me, that means checking my mindset and identity: from "Provider of Value" to the person who simply creates the conditions for value to emerge. 

That takes courage, too, because you have to trust in the power of space (and the occasional awkward silence!) despite the uncertainty of the outcome. Set a clear context, ask good questions, step back, and allow people to find their way into a conversation. 

As I said to a few of the group, “I've realised the main thing for me today is to make sure I don’t get in the way of the great conversations waiting to happen." 

So, the next time you're in a meeting or leading a discussion, take a breath, check your mindset and then… let the conversation emerge. 

Until next time,

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