Archive for June, 2016

When my daughter Lindie and her 3 daughters recently arrived from Singapore at the Cape Town airport for a holiday in South Africa, I was so happy to see them again.  Well done, Lindie, for your management skills to get it all done in a way that seems effortless!

2016-06-21 09.19.00As the Singapore Airlines plane was coming to a stop, I saw the pilots’ silhouettes in the cockpit.  I thought how amazing it was for two small (when compared to the size of the machine they were flying) people to control that plane for thousands of kilometres and have the implicit trust of everyone on board that they could bring them safely from Singapore to Cape Town.

The saying “Huge doors swing on small hinges” also came to mind…

If the pilots only had their own natural un-leveraged human power available to do the job, they would never have even left the parking bay at the Singapore Changi airport.

To achieve the result of a safe journey they leveraged so many systems and sub-systems.

A small turn/push/pull of the yoke or the foot pedals is amplified hundreds if not thousands of times by systems I cannot even describe, and makes the huge aircraft respond.

How often don’t you and I waste our own energy when creating or changing things by using just our own energy and our own abilities, whereas things could go so much easier if we leveraged what we already have in terms of friends, colleagues and systems?

You don’t have to do everything yourself – ever heard of delegation?  Many people have difficulty to delegate because of their mind-set that “If I want it done properly, I have to do it myself”.  Or “If I want it completed by the deadline, I have to do it myself”.  These are thoughts that end up making you a Cessna pilot instead of the Boeing pilot you can be!

Leverage whatever system you use to manage your work and reminders – don’t rely on your memory alone.  (Ever forgot to buy a new light bulb when one blew at home – you can walk right past the globes but forget to take one.)  Get things out of your head and into your system, whether that system is Outlook or Google Docs or a paper-based system.  The technology you leverage does not matter, it’s the principle that you will have less stress and frustration if things are in your system and not in your head.

Keep in mind that you can see the word SYSTEM as an acronym – it is something that Saves You Stress Time Effort Money.

Take some time today and make a list of things that you can delegate, and then create a system with which you can manage and track that.

List things that you are experiencing some difficulty with at the moment.  Have a look at the resources you have available and then figure out how you can leverage these resources.

As John Donne said, “No man is an island, entire of itself.”

Find your human connections.  Help them, and be helped by them.

Quote: “When we leverage, we aggregate and organize existing resources to achieve success.”
― Richie Norton



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RIP Potberg

My dear friend, colleague and Toastmaster buddy of many years, Chris Bothma (nicknamed Potberg), passed away on 31 May.

A few weeks before his passing I spoke to his wife, Daleen, who said that he was very tired and that she was limiting visitors, but would be happy to let me see Chris.

I never went.

My father always said that he wanted to write a book titled “The Regrets of My Life”.  If it was me writing, my failure to say goodbye to Chris would be in my book.

I had the privilege of having time in Stellenbosch with my three granddaughters of 2, 4 and 6 years-old this afternoon.  They are visiting from Singapore. What a trilogy of energy and sound!

On my way back to Cape Town, I thought about their energy and that of Chris, who Daleen told me today, just wanted to sleep for the last few days of his life.  Let’s keep our energy going for as long as we can!

I also thought of my father’s last words on his deathbed…” Forgive for everything that I did that was wrong”.

I am sharing this with you to encourage you and me to do what we want to do, and sometimes have to do, the moment we can do it.  Find the time.  Create the time.  There is no such thing as “I didn’t have the time”.

Let’s not reach our last days – which could be just around the corner –  with regrets and excuses.

Chris was full of life, love, energy and jokes.  He made so many people laugh and forget their problems, not only in Toastmasters, but beyond.  His was a life of giving – he even gave up some lunch times at work to listen to me while preparing for a Toastmasters speech!

And I am sure I heard an outburst of heavenly laughter the night of 31 May when Chris arrived there!

Tell them your stories, Potberg, tell them!

Laat vlieg daai Harvard, Chris, laat hom vlieg!

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During the qualifying rounds at the first F1 race to be held in Azerbaijan this weekend, Lewis Hamilton, after making a number of mistakes, made contact with the inside wall in one of the turns in the city, with subsequent very bad consequences for him, and started the main race from 10th position on the grid.

lewisDuring the run-up to the start of the main race, I heard people on TV discussing the reason for this, and one guy said that “Lewis had the sun in his eyes”.  To which the other guy responded: “They all had the sun in their eyes”.

The conditions were the same for all racing drivers, but only Lewis Hamilton crashed there.

In life, and at work, conditions can be pretty much the same for us.  We all get (too many) emails, we attend time-wasting meetings, everyone gets interrupted, we all tend to lose focus and don’t finish what we start…

But we don’t all crash.

Some people can say “no” – the crashers say “sure thing”, and end up doing work for other people while the quality of their own work suffers.

Some people deal with email just a few times a day – the crashers live in their Inbox and have a very reactive day at the office by responding to emails as they arrive, working on other people’s agendas most of the day.

Some people know that only a few things are essential – the crashers believe that everything is important and end up with overflowing plates.

Some people have clarified their business and personal priorities – the crashers play things by ear and let their personal and family lives run be default.

Some people avoid meetings with time-wasting morons – the crashers believe that they have to go all meetings they are invited to.

Some people know they should only do what only they can do, and delegate or outsource the rest – the crashers don’t delegate and end up stealing their own time, and opportunities from others.

We are all human beings.

Some crash; some don’t.

You don’t have to be a crasher.

To recall that old jingle… “You can stay as you are for the rest of your life, or you change to THIS PRODUCT”.

Think about where you are currently “crashing”, and think and describe what it would be like, look like and feel like if you can successfully make some changes to avoid the crash – even if you have the sun in your eyes.

“If it is to be, it is up to me.”

Quote: “Change means that what was before wasn’t perfect. People want things to be better.”  -Esther Dyson

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I was in Stellenbosch on Sunday morning and after a good brunch at Schoon De Companje, took a stroll through the center of the town.  Walking up Church Street, I noticed leaves falling to the ground, thus helping the deciduous trees to survive the cold of winter by using  less water and energy than it would need if it did not shed the leaves.  It’s almost as if the trees are “de-cluttering” themselves in order to have a better winter.

church2It seems that the word “deciduous” and the word “decide” comes from the old Latin word decidere  which means “to cut off”.

If trees know to “cut off” some parts of themselves every year in order to improve their well-being, why don’t we “take a leaf from their book” and shed some of the “stuff” on our desks, Inbox, relationships, in our homes and heads?  It might just improve our well-being.

When I do workflow coaching with individuals, one of the biggest “wins” for them is when we tackle their clutter.  .

My one client had a thick folder on his desk labelled “Reading” – nothing wrong with that.  When we worked at his filing cabinet, we discovered another thick folder labeled “Reading”! I asked him about it, and he said “Yes, yes, it’s very iportant and I must still read these articles.” I then asked him when last he touched the folder.  “2 years”, he said.  We looked at each other, smiled, and without even looking at the content of the folder, he threw it away and exclaimed: “What a liberating moment this is for me!”

Barbara Hemphill defines clutter as “postponed decisions”.  So to get rid of the clutter in your life you need take it item by item and decide what you want to do with it.  Make it easy for yourself the first time around, and just ask one question: “What is the worst thing that can happen if I get rid if this?”  And if you don[‘t break out in a cold sweat or start shaking, then move it on.  Throw it away, or give it away.  To quote Barbara: “ So as you go through life today and in the days to come, look at everything in your life with fresh eyes. Is it useful? Is it beautiful? Do you love it? If the answer to all three questions is “No!” – then it’s time to get rid of it.”

Ready to get going and do some“Autumn Cleaning”? Kate Emmerson’s book “Clear Your Clutter” could be a good place to start and get guidelines for how to do it.

Every time you see a leaf fall from a tree in the next few weeks, think about your clutter and how much lighter you will be if you can let go of some things.  See a clear picture in your mind of what it will be like, look like and feel like when you have achieved your vision.

Take before and after pictures and send them to me to share your success!  I look forward to receiving the pictures!

Quote: “Out of clutter, find simplicity.” ― Albert Einstein

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Last week I shared the story of the planning that my friends Richard and Senomi did in preparation for their move to Somerset West.  It was a job well done and brought a lot of clarity.  Today I want to share some more thoughts on “clarity”… and to confirm the idiom “the devil is in the details”, which means that mistakes are usually made in the small details of a project. Usually it is a caution to pay attention to avoid failure.

Well, the removal van finally arrived at the entrance to the estate where they have decided to move to – only to find out that it would not be allowed to enter the estate!  It is too big and will “take out” things next to the road and also would not be able to navigate the circle without doing damage.

So a smaller vehicle that could shuttle safely between the entrance and their new home had to be arranged and after many more hours and shuttles the job was finally done.

The first question Richard had to answer when arranging the move was if the vehicle would have free access to the destination.  Having seen the area, he said “yes” – which was incorrect.

Two productivity principles are in play in this situation, and the frustrating last kilometre of the move could have been avoided if they had been applied:

  • Slow down to speed up
  • Clarify up front

You will enjoy this popular video clip (42 seconds) of a guy coming out of his house in the morning after a heavy snowfall, and starts cleaning his car.  When the job is done he presses the button to open the car doors, only to see another car’s lights flash!  He spent all the time and energy cleaning the wrong car.  What should he have done?  Clarify up front!  First press the button and then start working.

At the end of your work day, do you sometimes feel that you have bee very busy but don’t have much to show for it?  Maybe you have been “cleaning other people’s cars” by saying “yes” to work that is not yours (clarify!) and in your eagerness to be a good team player accepted tasks that someone else could have done?  You nee do to slow down a bit and clarify whether the work will move you closer towards achieving YOUR priorities, not someone else’s.

Has anyone ever delegated work to you, and on the assumption that you know exactly what to do, you started off with a bang, only to find a little later that you are not actually clear about what to do?  Slow down and clarify: “I understand you want me to do ABC – is that correct?”  It may be accurate or the other person might clarify further.

Or have you delegated work to someone, only to find that they did not do exactly what they were supposed to be doing?  Slow down and clarify by asking the other person to explain to you their understanding of what they must do.

Pause-and-PlayDoes it take time to press “pause” before digging in?  Yes.

Can it save you from wasting time and energy on “cleaning the wrong cars”?  You bet.

Press “Pause” before you press “Play”.

Quote: “Mystification is simple; clarity is the hardest thing of all.” ― Julian Barnes, Flaubert’s Parrot


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