Monday, November 30, 2009

Be Bold – Push at Doors

Here is a practical tip for aspiring leaders. Push at doors because, in my experience, doors that may be seen as closed are more often than not ajar.

This was brought home to me most when I got Sir Alex Ferguson to endorse my book simply because I rang him direct – spoke to his PA and managed to get an exchange of correspondence with him that resulted in the book endorsement

The ‘easy’ option would have been to tell myself it was impossible to actually get to the great man but when I pushed at the door, sure enough, it was ajar.

It has always been my experience that the thing that holds us back most from being bold enough to achieve what we really want is our own reluctance to just ‘try things’ that might seem out of our reach. I imagine many people give up because they fear a negative or non-response.

I remember Tom Peters saying he asked his friend Bob Waterman when they were both senior consultants at McKinsey ‘How do you become a partner at McKinsey?’ and Waterman replied – ‘You just start acting like a partner and they will make you one.’ – So he did and they did!

I’m not pretending this is easy for some people and of course we are not all Tom Peters. Another important thing to remember is that Being Bold mustn’t be confused with being pushy, over confident or at worst arrogant. We have to have some insight about when the door is shut or even locked. That insight is partly about intuition and partly experience. But I really don’t think it's terribly complicated.

Like any other management or leadership skill we have to practice to make it work for us. I’m sure with practice we will get better about making the right call about pushing at the door or recognising when the door is definitely not for opening.


David Porter said...

Simple and excellent points Trevor. I am reminded of an old saying in change management - we must act our way to a new way of thinking rather than think our way to a new way of acting. There is power in doing something.

Trevor Gay said...

"we must act our way to a new way of thinking rather than think our way to a new way of acting."

Thank you David. I love those words.

We often believe we are powerless only because we believe we are.

William Pitt, who became the youngest ever Prime Minister in British history at age 24 once said to his close friend and political ally, William Wilberforce, when they were both in their early 20's:

"We are too young to know that some things are not possible"

What a lovely approach to life that is.

I'm still thinking about what I want to do when I grow up - what about you David? :-)

David Porter said...

Two things: Act like a child is a nice start for possibilities remain boundless and endless. As for me, the search continues along the path but I have no intention of growing up. Take care man.

JOHN O'LEARY said...

Solid and unassailable point, Trevor. Reminds me of some of the stunts I've pulled (sometimes shameless) to get access to people in high places. Of course I haven't done anything like that in...months.

Dave Wheeler said...


Exactly...if we never ask the question, we never give folks the opportunity to tell us yes. And if they tell us no, what have we lost?

Trevor Gay said...

I'm with you David - growing up sounds boring my friend :-)

Trevor Gay said...

Nothing ventured nothing gained is my watchword too John - we risk absolutely nothing by asking.

Trevor Gay said...

Agree 100% Dave - the only person that holds us back is the one we see in the mirror.

JoAnn Corley said...

Hi Trevor,
I love the metaphor of "pushing the door!" I connect that to the saying of "if you don't ask, you won't get."

As a management and leadership coach one of the foundational success components I work with is beliefs. What we believe will influence our behavior.

If we have a sabotaging belief of, "I don't think that will happen," then we won't take the initiative to try.

If we're not pushing the doors, then we have to ask ourselves, "what in my thinking is stopping me from initiating the push?"

And here is the kicker...if we're leaders and we're not doing it, how can we ask that of the people we lead!

Trevor Gay said...

Hi JoAnn and thanks for calling in at Simplicity Blog.

As Tom Peters said … ‘Powerlessness is a state of mind, not a state of reality’

I firmly believe leaders must show the way and that means taking risks sometimes and indeed failing sometimes. We cannot all succeed all the time but when followers see a leader, at least, trying things that is more likely to result in things happening in the organisation than that culture created by the leader who stays in the office writing reports and admiring his/her empire.

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Wow excellent message, indeed we need to be more aggressive depending on the situation, and be ready for any surprise.