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10 Reasons to Stick your Neck Out!

Editor's Note: Take a look at our featured best practice, Digital Transformation Strategy (145-slide PowerPoint presentation). Digital Transformation is being embraced by organizations across most industries, as the role of technology shifts from being a business enabler to a business driver. This has only been accelerated by the COVID-19 global pandemic. Thus, to remain competitive and outcompete in today's fast paced, [read more]

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5434541912_f86ea2af3c_oEight years ago, I called my business “Resolve Gets Results,” because the world “resolve” connotes both the determination to succeed and the problem solving mentality essential in business.

When I first started blogging 8 months ago, I didn’t know where it was going to take me or quite why I was doing it. I had a gut feeling it would be a worthwhile experiment from which I would gain valuable insights that would inform and improve my business thinking and actions. So it has proved.

Writing blogs has been an amazing and humbling journey so far. It has enabled me to find a clear voice. What has surprised me most is the feedback from both existing and new contacts. It seems people like the fact that I’m not afraid to speak from the head, heart and soul, to be honest, and to show vulnerability.

What I write in these blogs is a natural expression of who I am and my deep passions at work. I realise from the comments they’re attracting that it appeals to people because of its authenticity and originality. However, this arises not because I have any particular wisdom, knowledge or skill, but because I’m a student of those who do, a keen observer of what’s going on around me, and I’m prepared to say what seems to be in many people’s heads which normally remains unsaid!

I strive to use these insights to slowly, painfully become a better person myself, a better leader and a more successful businessman. So I’m not ‘preaching’ anything that I’m not striving every day to practice.

In the contrarian mould I hold dear, inspired by the attitudes and behaviours of the Top 1% whom I strive so fiercely to follow, here are my thoughts on why you should courageously seek and speak the truth at all times in business, constructively of course, intelligently, but without compromise, and no matter what outcomes you might fear.

I’ve entitled them 10 great reasons to stick your neck out! I hope one or two of them at least strike a chord and are helpful.

  1. We each have only one piece of the jigsaw – we need each other’s perspectives to avoid unnecessary pitfalls and to succeed more often and more consistently. Being honest with sensitivity about what you don’t know as much as what you do know is a great way to improve your own chances by learning from others, by teaching others (which they will appreciate), and by improving communication, mutual understanding, relationships and teamwork.
  1. Life is too short to tolerate 2nd, 3rd or 4th best, or worse. Don’t ever risk putting yourself in the situation in future when you have any regrets because you failed to do or say what you know you should have done.
  1. Others need the courage we can give them by our example. The silent, decent majority are crying out to be led. As noted political thinker Edmund Burke said so famously 300 years ago “Bad things happen when good people do nothing”. It leaves an empty playing field for cynical, bullying, sociopathic takers. Adam Grant’s powerful study ‘Give and Take’ (2013), summarised beautiully in his article in the April 2013 McKinsey Quarterly, found the vast majority of us are givers in our private lives and, lo and behold, respond best to givers at work. These people do not always need to be in the top jobs, but they need to be visible and to influence others by their positive attitudes and behaviour.
  1. Negativity is corrosive – we’re all guilty of it. I read a blog this week on how to motivate people at work and beat apathy. I agreed with most of it, but not the key finding, which was the need to get rid of the negative people who spoil it for everyone else. Being brutally honest a company which did that wouldn’t have many employees left! We’re all guilty at some point of gossip, cynicism, and of undermining others, often unthinkingly, sometimes deliberately, perhaps in quite subtle ways. Research conclusively demonstrates that organisations in which people support and collaborate with each other perform much better. So fight negativity and unwarranted cynicism wherever you encounter them – don’t let them reign unchecked.
  1. It’s great for your mental health and your close relationships. Depression has become a modern epidemic as society fragments progressively and people abandon traditional moral and religious structures. The essential human search for meaning in life has been severely compromised and we’ve got to find something nourishing to fill the chasm. Seeking and applying wisdom pays dividends in all areas of your life – put simply it makes you a happier person.
  1. Whatever the meaning of life is, it definitely isn’t ‘keeping your nose clean’ (staying out of ‘trouble’) – that’s a definition of mediocrity! One thing is certain – you will not achieve your destiny by staying ‘out of trouble’ and avoiding any forms of pain. The chances are you’ll be nowhere near as happy and you’ll get ‘pain’ in plenty of other ways anyway. This is an extension of the jigsaw piece point (No 1 above) – life is so much more vast and stimulating than we can conceive of in our own tiny world.
  1. Being frightened of making mistakes is no excuse – we constantly commit the sins of commission (we do things we shouldn’t do) and the sins of omission (we don’t do things we should do) whether we like it or not, so stop trying to avoid mistakes and get stuck in! By all means learn, but don’t avoid.
  1. The fear of embarrassment or humiliation is one of the most deep seated and damaging, yet unwarranted, human traits, (in my humble opinion!) My recent beginner’s exposure to neuroscience has taught me that unfortunately this insidious human behaviour is hardwired into the relatively primitive, lower areas of our brains, so it is devilishly difficult to control, let alone defeat. I believe it explains far more of the worst of human behaviour than is commonly recognised, especially the abuses we witness from those in positions of power. I also see overwhelming evidence that those who have been subjected to apparently career threatening or terminating humiliations – Churchill over Gallipoli in 1915 to name but one – emerge as stronger and wiser leaders as a result. I would go so far as to call humiliation, indeed often repeatedhumiliation, a true leader’s essential rite of passage! After all, to be humiliated is literally to be made humble, and the research evidence that Top 1% leaders are humble is absolutely overwhelming.
  1. People will admire and love you for it – what could possibly be better than that?
  1. Above all it’s massively liberating and great fun!

So stop holding back, grit your teeth, and plunge into the fray! Yes, there will be some pain, but you’ll feel more alive than ever and you won’t regret it.

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About Mark Ashton

Mark Ashton is a UK business leader, developer, entrepreneur and consultant whose passion is starting, growing or restoring great businesses that outstrip customers' expectations. His leadership mettle and die-in-a-ditch, selfless business principles were first forged in the early-1990s in the US, where in 4 years he led 250% growth of a 2 year old textile machinery sales and service company against a backdrop of industry decline and fierce, entrenched competition. Since then he has led and advised on start-ups, turnarounds, and growth, strategy, improved business metrics and customer-driven Lean (continuous improvement) projects in SMEs, mid-sized and large corporates, in widely differing industries. He brings strategic insight, courage, honesty, common sense and motivational skills to help businesses survive, avoid pitfalls and grow sustainably. Over the next 5 years he and his close-knit team of C-level experts intend to build a hands-on, long-term investor company that will apply tried and tested, winning principles of enduring Top 1% businesses to create exceptional shareholder value. You can connect with Mark on LinkedIn here.


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