I recently suggested that if at first you don’t succeed, try something easier, the way a river flows to the sea. A listener responded by saying that keeping your nose to the grind stone surely has a better track record of success than ‘struggle easier’.

I don’t think so.

What happens when you keep your nose to the grindstone? You also keep your head down. And when you keep your head down you risk not seeing the changes happening around you. You could be grinding away at what no longer matters.

I never said ‘don’t struggle’. I said ‘struggle easier’. Struggle is often necessary. What happens when a river does not reach the sea? At best a lake; at worst a stagnant pool.

To avoid stagnation, some struggle is necessary. But please question the degree and don’t assume that it must be a grind.

Personally, I find ‘struggle easier’ much more fun than ‘nose grinding’.


I’m JamesMcIntosh@nonsenseatwork.com

Copyright: 2009 James Henry McIntosh

James can be heard on Public Radio: Monday – 7:19am and Saturday – 8:19am
88.9 FM WCVE, Richmond VA | 89.1 FM WCNV, Heathsville VA | 90.1 FM WMVE, Chase City VA

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We have been taught that leadership often involves managing change to create the desired behavior. But sometimes, especially during times of stress and uncertainty, that just doesn’t work too well. Here’s why.

During times of stress and uncertainty we look for comfort. And where do we find comfort? In what we already know and understand. In our past and in our history.

At work this translates into doing the things that we’ve always done, the things we’re good at. It’s called our comfort zone for a reason. It’s where we zone out stress and uncertainty.

Leaders who know this don’t manage change. They manage history. They help us interpret the past in a way that triggers appropriate behavior today.

Remember, history’s purpose is to get you where you are now. But depending on how you see it, history can hold you where you were.

It’s time to manage your history or be ignored by the future.


I’m JamesMcIntosh@nonsenseatwork.com

Copyright: 2009 James Henry McIntosh

James can be heard on Public Radio: Monday – 7:19am and Saturday – 8:19am
88.9 FM WCVE, Richmond VA | 89.1 FM WCNV, Heathsville VA | 90.1 FM WMVE, Chase City VA

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A scorpion asks a frog to help him across a river. The frog refuses because he is afraid of being stung. The scorpion points out that if he did sting the frog then they would both drown. Convinced, the frog agrees to the task. But then, in mid-stream, the scorpion stings the frog. ‘Why?’, asks the frog. ‘Because it’s my nature’, explains the scorpion.

Many of us are like that scorpion. Over time we become very good at what we do. So good, in fact, that we keep on doing it, even as the world changes around us.

We end up believing that doing what we have always done is simply who we are. Its just our nature.

By believing so strongly in who you are now based on what did back then, you become unable to change today, even as others try to help you into the future.

Now that’s the real sting in the tale.

I’m JamesMcIntosh@nonsenseatwork.com

Copyright: 2009 James Henry McIntosh

James can be heard on Public Radio: Monday – 7:19am and Saturday – 8:19am
88.9 FM WCVE, Richmond VA | 89.1 FM WCNV, Heathsville VA | 90.1 FM WMVE, Chase City VA

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I worry about the fear in the workplace. Don’t get me wrong. A little fear is a useful management tool. But I’m talking about too much fear of the kind we have today.

Too much fear makes us do stupid things. Like freeze when we should run or run when we should stand still. In the moment of fear we just don’t know which is right.

Neither do managers. Managers are taught to manage action, not emotions behind actions.

On the other hand, I have watched leaders deal with fear instead of actions. Like our game ranger in the African bush. When the lioness charged, some of us wanted to run, others were frozen stiff. But the ranger knew what to do because he was not in fear.

Through the way he communicated his instructions, he managed our fear so that we acted appropriately. We walked away from the lioness, backwards and unharmed.

Leaders don’t manage actions; they manage fear.

I’m JamesMcIntosh@nonsenseatwork.com

Copyright: 2009 James Henry McIntosh

James can be heard on Public Radio: Monday – 7:19am and Saturday – 8:19am
88.9 FM WCVE, Richmond VA | 89.1 FM WCNV, Heathsville VA | 90.1 FM WMVE, Chase City VA

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Your wheel of success, is it turning or is it broken? Listen to this before you decide.

Soon after you were born Big People began to tell you what to do and how to do it. Not long after that they demanded that you get better at what they told you to do. We call these people parents and teachers and bosses and spouses.

Not many of us break out of this cycle of being ‘told’. Most of us go on trying to please these ‘significant others’ to the extent that we fail at being us. No wonder we become confused about whose goals we are really striving for; no wonder we end up living someone else’s vision of a successful life.

Maybe its time to stop getting better at what others want for you. Maybe its time to understand what really matters to you. Maybe you should commit to that for a change. Maybe that’s the opportunity in this economic chaos.

I’m JamesMcIntosh@nonsenseatwork.com

Copyright: 2009 James Henry McIntosh

James can be heard on Public Radio: Monday – 7:19am and Saturday – 8:19am
88.9 FM WCVE, Richmond VA | 89.1 FM WCNV, Heathsville VA | 90.1 FM WMVE, Chase City VA

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I worry about the people left behind by this recession. No, I don’t mean those who have already lost their jobs. I mean those who are still holding on, desperately.

Many of those who have lost their jobs are moving on. They have no option. But those left behind in the workplace? Are they moving or are they frozen with fear?

The outcome is more serious than you might realize. What is the golden rule when fear stalks the workplace? That’s right. Don’t be the one to mess up.

Suddenly you have very reasonable people at work, a clutch of yes-men and willing-women. You have lost your competitive advantage, your ability to progress.

You see, George Bernard Shaw was right when he warned that “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

So, good luck with your reasonable people.

I’m JamesMcIntosh@nonsenseatwork.com

Copyright: 2009 James Henry McIntosh

James can be heard on Public Radio: Monday – 7:19am and Saturday – 8:19am
88.9 FM WCVE, Richmond VA | 89.1 FM WCNV, Heathsville VA | 90.1 FM WMVE, Chase City VA

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This month, two hundred years ago, Charles Darwin was born. Fifty years later he published a theory that caused quite a stir. In this country, that theory continues to cause a stir.

I don’t care whether people believe in his theory of evolution or not. I do care when we ignore good insights simply because we don’t care for the main theory.

Darwin’s main theory is not going to help you through this current crisis mainly because it takes time to evolve. However, one of his key insights can make a huge difference to you because you can apply it today. And every day.

Here’s the insight: ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.’

For many of us it is time to stop doing what we’ve always done well. It is time to learn new things and do them well.

I’m JamesMcIntosh@nonsenseatwork.com

Copyright: 2009 James Henry McIntosh

James can be heard on Public Radio: Monday – 7:19am and Saturday – 8:19am
88.9 FM WCVE, Richmond VA | 89.1 FM WCNV, Heathsville VA | 90.1 FM WMVE, Chase City VA

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Did you hear about the banker who spent $1.2 million last year to redecorate his office?

I remember a time when bankers were stuffy and so were their offices. I remember how uncomfortable that stuffiness made me feel when I asked for a loan, but also how that same stuffiness made me comfortable that my money would still be there in the bank when I needed it.

It seems our money started disappearing when that stuffiness went out of style.

Please, all you leaders out there, don’t mess with the culture and values that you have inherited with your position. Old cultures have reasons for those values. If you fiddle with the culture without understanding the reasons, you risk the continuity of your organization. You will create a mind-set that debunks values without understanding consequences.

Because of that mind-set the same banker now stands accused of paying out $4 billion in bonuses even though his bank lost $27 billion.

I’m JamesMcIntosh@nonsenseatwork.com

Copyright: 2009 James Henry McIntosh

James can be heard on Public Radio: Monday – 7:19am and Saturday – 8:19am
88.9 FM WCVE, Richmond VA | 89.1 FM WCNV, Heathsville VA | 90.1 FM WMVE, Chase City VA

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