Category Archives: career

Book Review: The Intangibles of Leadership – The 10 Qualities of Superior Executive Performance

Book Review:

The Intangibles of Leadership – The 10 Qualities of Superior Executive Performance

As an Organisational Psychologist, Davis is routinely exposed to executives at all levels and so is uniquely placed to be able to identify which characteristics and behaviours result a superior leadership performance.




Davis’ conclusion from his years of research and experience is that there are 10 ‘intangibles‘ or characteristics that are the result of an individual’s underlying values and psychological mechanisms.  He suggests that, although intelligence, training and experience are important, it is these 10 characteristics that lead to some leaders, not only succeeding, but thriving.


Each ‘intangible’ is discussed in its own chapter, with case studies to illustrate and highlight the importance and relevance of each characteristic.
Each chapter is also structured in a standard format asking and answering some fundamental questions for each ‘intangible’:

  • What is it?
  • How do I know it when I see it?
  • How do I get it?

This style not only makes the information easier to absorb, but it also provides a practical approach that an executive can use to develop each quality themselves.
The 10 ‘intangibles’ are:

  • Wisdom – Experience borne of involvement in business, tempered by reflection and by putting each experience into context.
  • Will – The act of getting things done by purely applying oneself to the task diligently and consistently.
  • Executive Maturity – Having sufficient self control and awareness to control your emotional reaction to an event and the ability to evoke emotions in others for positive influence.
  • Integrity – Having a value system that is moral and consistently and visibly holding yourself to that value system.
  • Social Judgement – Having emotional awareness and intelligence and understanding people as a means to leading them.
  • Presence – A gravitas that allows you to be recognized.
  • Self-Insight – Recognition of what it is that drives you and the impact you have on others is a key way  to improve what you do and how you do it.
  • Self-Efficacy – A self belief that you can make a difference and control events to get things done.
  • Fortitude – The internal strength that you confront challenges with.
  • Fallibility – An understanding that you are going to get things wrong but will still attempt the difficult tasks.


For anyone that is well read in the Leadership field, many of these characteristics will be familiar.  What Davis has achieved in this book is to present each characteristic in a clear and easily accessible manner so that an executive or aspiring leader can indentify ‘the differences that make THE difference’.  He has essentially made these ‘intangibles’ tangible and provided an action plan for leaders to develop the characteristics that can improve both their individual career and the performance of the organisations they are leading.

A valuable addition to any library on leadership.




Filed under Book review, Business, career, Coaching, Improvement, Leadership

9 Tips for Effective Networking

One of the most useful things you can do for personal and professional success is to network effectively.  And as with most activities, there is a right way to network and a wrong way to network.

If you have the time, I recommend reading ‘Never Eat Alone’, which is the seminal work on networking and Ferrazzi has a talent for describing the most effective techniques of Networking in an easily understood and accessible way.

If you don’t have the time or the inclination for the big volume then here are some tips for networking:

1.         Talk to anyone about anything.  Participate in other peoples thinking as much as possible as no one is as smart as all of us are together and you never know who has the innovative solution to your problem.

2.         Develop a high tolerance for ambiguity as opening yourself up to other ideas will often result in your challenging your own ideas, beliefs and sometimes even your values.

3.         Don’t enter a discussion with an attitude of getting something out of it.  By going into a discussion with a viewpoint of giving more than you hope to receive will make you appear truly sincere and helpful and not just out to use the relationship for your own ends.

4.         Have a fearless attitude because starting a conversation with people who you don’t know can often be intimidating. Get comfortable with this feeling and you will look at networking as a delight rather than something to fear.

5.         Always think about the connections that you could help each person make.  One of the most beneficial influences that good networkers develop is being a social node, a person who people will contact just to get to another person in the network.  If you add value to relationships you nurture, everyone profits over time.

6.         Go on gut instinct.  If you think the connection won’t endure, move on.  You have to be happy with the person you are networking with in order connect them with others that know and trust you with their details.

7.         Expand your conversational topics and your sense of humour.  Being confidence when you discuss topics or being able to break the ice with a humorous comment will make you a person that is happy with networking and someone that people will want to network with, making the problem of making the first approach disappear!

8.         Have a way of keeping track of the people you meet and what they talk about.  It is the chance to think about how they fit into your network and who would benefit from knowing and how they could benefit from others in your network.

9.         Maintain the integrity to yourself and your network.  People are trusting you with their personal information.  Live up to that trust.

If you look at the most successful people, they are generally those people that have the largest network, touch each element of it regularly and add value to all those with whom they connect.

Dare to Aspire


Filed under Business, career

Common Mistakes in Proposal Writing

Proposal writing is key to the survival of most service providers and consultants, particularly those that operate in the Public or Government domain. To support businesses that are writing proposals for government work, there are often standards that can be followed, including the guidance provided by Herman Holtz and also the Shipley approach.

The writing of proposals is a skill in itself and requires that the writer have knowledge of Marketing and sales, Business analysis, expertise on the subject itself and a good grounding in writing, particularly persuasive writing. Even with this knowledge, skill and experience of other proposals, there are still some things to avoid:

The common mistakes that proposal writers make:

Aggressive / Defensive Proposals – don’t make bold claims with caveats or have escape clauses if you fail to complete the task successfully.

Loud Claims Proposal – Avoid a sales pitch rather than a substantive address of the problem particularly if you do not offer a viable solution.

Me too Proposal – There is no point in arguing that ‘we can do it too!’ if you don’t offer another compelling reason to choose you.

Unsure of the Requirement Proposal – it is a poor consultancy that suggests ‘we can do some really good work, perhaps it fits your needs’ when a key role of consultants is to help identify the needs.

Whatever it is we can do it Proposalan approach that offers a ‘whatever you want, we can do it and provide a great performance’ solution is rarely credible.

Canned solution Proposal – One size rarely fits all, so make sure you tailor you proposal and your solution to the problem you have identified.

The client will have both ‘Needs’ and ‘Wants’ that have to be addressed (although not necessarily delivered), so focus on meeting those. Whatever the proposal relates to however, the writing needs to be accurate, brief, clear and relevant and be about how the solution meets the clients ‘Wants’ and ‘Needs’.

The proposal you offer is only better than the others if the customer decides it is better, therefore it is also a matter of selling your solution to the client rather than just meeting the ‘Wants’ and Needs’.

In reality, you only really learn about writing proposals from writing them and getting feedback, so whenever you get the opportunity, gain the feedback and learn from the experience by looking at what the customer really thought.

Dare to Aspire

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Flexibility: The Case for Continuous Education

As I went through my aviation training, a phrase that was emphasized over
and over was ‘Flexibility is the key to airpower’. The speed and agility of
an aircraft allows it to enter a battlespace, undertake a mission and then
escape quickly. With the correct radio fit, information can be updated
during that mission and a skilled operator can then replan and achieve the
mission despite the changes in the battlespace.

Flexibility is also one key to performance and success. Our ability to
maintain flexibility is dependant upon 3 factors:

– Our ability to monitor any changes in the environment.

– Our ability to correctly assess the impact of those changes.

– Our ability to adapt to exploit those changes.

This is the underlying theme of Spencer Johnson’s book, ‘Who moved my

Being aware of our environment requires us to be open to events in
the world across several fields. A good mnemonic for the categories that we
should generally monitor is PEST:

Political – How do shifts in the political landscape influence us? eg.
Devolution in Scotland

Economic – How do economic trends influence us? eg. The growth of the
Chinese economy.

Sociological – What events are happening that effect communities as a
whole? eg. Globalisation.

Technologies – How are scientific advances changing the World? eg. Web 2.0.

(Sometimes rewritten as STEP or STEP/LE when legal and environmental factors
are also considered)

By scanning the media and the events around us and by using this simple
model as a filter, significant changes can be identified that will influence
the way be live our lives.

Assessing the potential impact of any changes requires some thought.
History teaches us that life events are often cyclic in nature so the more
we learn about history and how similar events have unfolded, the more likely
we are to be able to assess the likelihood of different consequences. By
considering our own experience and learning lessons from
history, we are more able to assess likely outcomes.

Finally, out ability to adapt and exploit any changes is significantly
improved if we have a variety of knowledge and skills.

Professor Eric Hoffer stated that ‘In times of massive change it is the
learner that will inherit the Earth. The learned will stay elegantly tied
to a world that no longer exists.’
The point is well made. If we become mentally complacent and stop
questioning, stop thinking and stop learning, then we will lose our
flexibility and the ability to cope with change. Therefore, the value of broad deep
continuous education through reading and training, as a way to maintain flexibility, cannot be overestimated.

One of my favourite motivational quotes is from Napoleon.

There is nothing that training cannot achieve.
Nothing beyond it’s reach.
It can turn bad principles into good.
It can turn bad morals into good.
It can raise men to the level of angels.

By adopting a pattern of behaviour that focuses on broad deep continuous
education, we are more readily able to meet the challenges that changes in
the environment will throw our way. This means adopting the habit of
reading, not just novels but non fiction. Perhaps get a library card and
take out a simple business book or subscribe to a business magazine. Once
you get the habit for reading and applying what you have learned, you may
begin to crave more knowledge. If you struggle to find much time for
reading then perhaps adopting a better reading technique will help you
become more effective. Matt Cornell, a productivity consultant has a blog
that may help.

Professional training courses are also beneficial as they are often intensive and
focused with the opportunity to apply the techniques in a ‘safe’ environment
away from you business place.

Having the skills to adapt to change is essential to personal flexibility.
Begin developing these skills now with the habit of continuous education.

When you are tough on yourself, it will feel like life is being much easier
on you.

And remember

Dare to Aspire

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Rules of Networking

One of the greatest ways to develop your business is to develop a great network. Just by increasing the circle of people in your network, you will see dramatic benefits. A few of these benefits include:

  • Opportunity to generate new business contacts, leads, clients, customers

  • Provide opportunities to promote your services/products

  • Enable you to meet owners or decision makers from many other businesses

  • Establish yourself as a domain expert

  • Reduce the need for cold calling

  • Grow knowledge and share ideas and experiences with like minded people

  • Find new potential service providers

  • Form alliances and affiliations

  • Gain testimonials and recommendations

To get the most out of your networking opportunities you need to do some preparation and planning.

1. Consider networking as an important part of your personal development. It can not only give you the opportunities listed above, but also help you identify mentors and coaches willing to help you and also potential sources of funding.

2. Aim for a broader network of people who can support you in different ways. Think of those you can help as we as be helped by. From your list of contacts identify those who add the most value and think laterally to see if individuals can fill any gaps in your skill set.

3. Some people will just try to leach from you, time, energy and your contacts. Avoid these people

4. Build you network quickly by finding common ground. Find topics/skills/hobbies that you share.

5. Try to get on people’s wavelengths quickly by gaining rapport as soon as possible.

6. Be open with yourself about your own goals and aspirations. This will help you to clarify your reasons from gaining contacts in you network and help you target then most appropriate people.

7. Understand the goals of others before focusing on your own. As Stephen Covey suggests, Seek first to understand and then to be understood.

8. Build long term relationships based on mutual understanding. – Networking is a life long process that forms enduring bonds between people.

9. Become an interesting conversationalist. This means you need to broaden your interests and reading. Having an opinion on most things can at least help you to discuss a subject with conviction rather than having to create a viewpoint on the spot!

10. Become image conscious but not vain. Your image can be an asset or a liability, either way it is part of your personal brand and you need to protect it.

11. Always follow up. A thank you is a powerful tool.

12. Keep a good recording system for your network. Your network is a useful tool so make sure it meets your requirements and is easy to access. Name number and email address at the very least.

13. Be bold in approaching people you want to meet. Empathy and impact make a lasting first impression. Have a script for each type of person you want to meet. Eg Senior manager, colleague, staff. This will improve your confidence and help you make a better impression.

14. Do research before meeting new networkers. It shows respect to know things that are easily learned about someone you want to add to your network.

15. Once you have added a contact to you network. Remain in contact with them by what ever means is appropriate.

16. Network more when you don’t need to. Start your campaign now. Networking is a life long activity.

Dare to Aspire

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What Can Sun Tzu tell Us About Business

Despite being over 2500 years old, the teaching of Sun Tzu are still the most profound thought on military strategy today. His philosophy and writings have been used to great effect, guiding military strategist, generals and leaders to victories throughout history.

Although not directly applicable to modern business practises and often in direct contradiction to the successes of collaboration and cooperation, Sun Tzu can still be relevant in the modern business context, particular his 10 principles for competitive success:

Learn to fight: Competition is inevitable in life so learn as much as you can about competing and your competition. Remain dispassionate and unemotional as emotion, particularly fear, can lead to poor judgement.

Do it Right: Effective execution is the key to success and it is the leader that defines the way forward. It requires that the leader identify or create favourable situations in which to compete and to take advantage of the subsequent opportunities.

Expect the worst: Hope for the best but anticipate the worst. In this you will consider and prepare rather than hoping that the competition will leave you alone.

Burn your bridges: When Cortez arrived in the new world he burned his ships so that his men became more motivated to survive. This unifies the purpose of the team and helps the leader establish cohesion in the team.

Show the Way: Leaders must ‘show the way’. They define the strategy and command the actions of the team in the move toward success. Leaders must display:

  • Vision

  • Commitment

  • Discipline

  • Understanding

  • Correct behaviour

Pull Together: By organising, training and operating together, the team will naturally become more cohesive. A common phrase in the military domain is ‘train as we mean to fight’ capturing the essence of team performance and building mutual trust by demonstrating the reliability of each member of the team. A common goal will also help bind the group together.

Know the facts: Time spent in reconnaissance is rarely if ever wasted. It is essential to know the facts and information is key to understanding the environment, the competition and the opportunities that exist.

Seize the Day: The Latin phrase for this is ‘Carpe Diem‘. The essence of success is to act. To succeed, do simple things frequently, moving towards your outcome and goals.

Keep Your Competition Guessing: The most effective strategies have no form. Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do estolls the virtue of formlessness as the opponent cannot discern any advantage on a strategy that has no form. You will follow your strategy and move toward victory and your competition will become frustrated and fatigued, trying to discover that strategy.

Although Sun Tzu’s teachings are over 2500 years old, the effective manager and executive can still gain value from the philosophy. All that is required is a little thought and focus.

Dare to Aspire


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Blocks to Good Communication

There is no doubt that one of the greatest skills to develop in business and in life is that of being able to communicate clearly. That means not only being able to articulate your thoughts, ideas and needs clearly, but also being able to listen to others and being able to absorb their thoughts, ideas and needs.

It sounds simple but there are often significant hurdles to overcome and blocks to clear communication. Part of becoming a better manager is becoming aware of those blocks, recognising what is causing them and them generating a strategy for overcoming them.

As with most management behaviours, it requires a combination of knowledge, skill and attitude to create a positive outcome. Think of the blocks to communication as a wall between 2 people that want to share information. Each gap in knowledge and skill becomes a brick in that wall.


Presence in the Moment: You have to be fully engaged in the conversation, listening actively and asking questions for understanding and clarification. Often people use the time when others are speaking to think up their response. This is called the monologue of the deaf where 2 people talk ‘at’ each other rather than ‘with’ each other.

Qualities and Attitudes: Do you show respect and empathy to each other? Is there any indifference and hostility on either side that reflects a deeper problem than just the issue you are discussing?

Beliefs and Assumptions: What assumptions are you making about the other person and what assumptions are they making about you. These issues are often the heart of cultural problems experienced in organisations so question your assumptions routinely to see if they are still valid.

Hidden Agendas: Often people are less open and honest because they are pursuing a hidden agenda. Perhaps they are being silent because they are unprepared or feel vulnerable. Perhaps they are being defensive because they perceive the conversation may result in an unpalatable outcome? Perhaps they are trying to control and manipulate you into acting a certain way. Hidden agendas often block communications because they stop people talking in an open and honest way.

Goals for the Outcome: You need to know what you both want so that the communication moves towards an acceptable outcome. Deception, hidden agendas, and ambiguity can lead to misleading information being passed and a subsequent loss of trust. Ensure you both understand the outcome and agree to move towards it.

Skills in Communication: Sometimes people struggle with their articulation or perhaps do not have the economy of words to ensure accurate, brief and clear communication. Perhaps struggle in getting their idea across. Perhaps they repeat themselves or the same point in the same way because they lack the verbal flexibility to change their approach. This requires some understanding on both sides so that both can work together to share the idea or information.


As well as knowledge and attitude based blocks to communications, people often display behaviours that can inhibit clear communication. You are probably aware of some of these behavioural style already. Each has very definite characteristics and different effects on the communication.

The Mumbler: Despite knowing how to communicate, the mumbler lacks confidence and their input is loss or misinterpreted because it is poorly articulated.

The Know It All: The know it all seem to have the answer for everything and provide that answer even if it isn’t correct. Often compensating for feelings of inadequacy they see information as a means to compete with the others in the conversation.

The Interrupter: The Interrupter uses the time when they are not talking to plan what they are next going to say and then when they have formulated their statement, say it without any respect for others or who is still talking.

The Sentence Finisher: The sentence finisher is often galloping ahead in the conversation and make assumptions about where your thoughts are going. Impatient with the pace they will often complete your sentence (frequently incorrectly) and move on to their next point without really listening to you.

The Gabler: The gabler talks to retain attention often to avoid the illusion that they have nothing of value to add. Their statements are often vague and full of extra redundant words.

The Speech Giver: The speech giver uses every opportunity to speak, non stop, on their subject, evangelising their ideas and using the conversation as an opportunity to get out their soap box and push their own agenda.

The Egotist: The egotist uses the word ‘I’ more than ‘We’. They use the conversation as an opportunity to evoke admiration of those around but trying to force admiration only creates alienation.

Once you recognise that you and your team are not communicating well, you can begin to identify the reasons and begin to address that shortfall. Remember that often, as a manager you will have limited time to communicate the idea. Limited time, however, does not relieve you of the responsibility for communicating well. It takes time, effort and a degree of flexibility but the outcomes are increased understanding, trust and output, and are clearly worth the effort.


Dare to Aspire

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