InsipireMCR A Tip In The Right Direction

Of course its hard work, especially if you don’t know which way you are going

Both Nicola Collister and myself were invited to a recent InspireMCR event hosted by Lawrence Jones of UKFast.

I am quite an avid consumer of things. Never stop learning. Keep being curious. Keep moving. These and other such phrases are what I would use to describe my general approach to finding insight and understanding. I am also from Greater Manchester, so have a natural affinity for the feeling that it is a City whose time could come again.

Actually I am from the area of Manchester that produced the wool that turned the wheels of the industrial revolution, that led to Manchesters’ first great age. I went to school (a Comp/Secondary Modern School) with people who’s lineage were responsible for the Kay’s Shuttle and worked on LED technology and underground electricity substations. My biggest take out of all this was how wet it always was (stops the yarn breaking!)

And this relates to a tip in the right direction how?

Lawrence was joined by James Timpson – 400,000 of us a week get served by a Timpson colleague, including me this very week! (or a Max Spielmann colleague) and Jonathan Wall the Controller of Radio 5 Live, now based in Media City.

On the face of it a very diverse bunch of people, but the fact is they did very different things, in quite different ways, but using very similar principles.

It’s these principles – that they, me and loads of others talk about – that mean when change occurs, which it always does (just look what happened to Manchester), it is more likely to TIP in the direction that you want.

If you do one thing – understand the different layers of ‘stuff’ we have to deal with

Getting things done is a product of 2 things (besides basic human biology which drives us on – hence why change is a constant) and they are:

  1. The context in which you exist – this is things like genes, family history, country of birth etc – you can do little about these at first. They can all be summed us as ‘Stuff that happens to you that you have little choice over’
  2. How hard you work – now on this there is a subtle nuance. Context can determine the level you start at – Hard work determines how far from this start you can move. But you need to understand the 3 layers of change.

The summary here is: Stop worrying about what happens to you, and focus on what you do about it

These are not new ideas – And this is where listening to Lawrence, James & Jonathan was so refreshing.  Running though their recollections were the guides for improving the impact of your hard work – remember if you don’t work hard, you will be subject to change that happens to you to.

In short the Context you live in will keep changing in ways you have little control over.

The Three Layers Of Change

Through a lifetime of filtering and adding to others ideas with thoughts of my own, I have found splitting things into 3 distinct layers is very useful.

  1. What you do – So this is the day to day activity. As soon as you step out of doing a fixed role, this ‘stuff’ expands exponentially and most of us quickly struggle to comprehend what we are trying to deal with. At some level this makes us scared (a natural and primal emotion we can’t avoid). Without understanding the next 2 layers you will soon be reaching for a self help book, or new management model to help makes sense of things (making sense is the first step to feeling safe i.e. overcoming that primal fear).
  2. How you do it – This is the way you go about sorting ‘stuff’ out. So if what you do (or your team do, or your business does) is the product or service you offer, this is the process you use to create it. Now depending on if you start on this simple 3 step approach at the bottom or top, this is either the bit that dramatically increases the influence you exert over tipping change in a favourable direction, or the equivalent of fiddling whilst Rome burns.
  3. What guides you – Called any combination you would like out of: Goals|Vision|Purpose|Values. What these represent are the Scale, Direction and Scope of your ambition. A good example of this for a person would be. I am going to test the limits of my resilience and ability, by turning from a hill walker into a mountaineer, and I will climb Everest unassisted from Camp 4 to the summit within 3 years.

By the way.. In case it has not occurred to you yet, this is one of those things that should be built bottom up.. Most of us work in top down business’s though and as such spend all day obsessing with 1) complaining about 2) and being disparaging about the companies version of 3) because of the problems we have coping with 1 & 2.

Understanding these layers is critical

It was clear Lawrence, James & Jonathan do understand this, and I say this because what they all talked about could be summed up in 3 words:

Goals – Where are you going, be clear, be ambitious, be succinct and write them down

Culture – Focus relentlessly on getting like minded (different skills though) people to help you do it

Simplicity – By having clear Goals and a like minded People Centric Culture, what you do will take less effort

So they do the 3 steps from the bottom up (actually most approaches are top down – biologically of course our brains are at the top, so for us anything at the top of something is more important – see primal conditioning affecting a modern digitally savvy man).

And the logic goes – and has always gone – Start with clear goals/purpose to guide you. Create a culture of like minded, but differently skilled people to help you to do it. And what you do will be a product of these two factors (in the main, life always has it’s issues – mainly not enough good like minded people).

But do we do this?

Some do, but most do not. Many are endlessly stuck in 1) What you do, with a divergent culture (people rowing their own boats in different directions) and a lack of easy to understand goals they feel they can contribute to.

All three of the speakers work hard. In fact as well as having demanding day jobs, Lawrence is trying to open a school because he feels so passionately about eduction being a one size fits no-one solution; James is pushing his work on rehabilitating offenders, an area has has driven for 14 years; Jonathan makes time to manage a youth football team (Unbeaten this season) to keep in touch with grass  roots sport.

Goals & Culture = Simplicity

But more than this, they all understood the need to make sure their hard work was not just about hours spent. It was about using simple and time tested ways to ensure what you did, and how you did it, moved you towards your goals and not away from them.