Tag Archives: developing leaders

Saying I will try is useless

iStock_000005705584Small“Are you coming to the party this weekend?” Your response, “Hmmm, I’m not sure I’ll try to get there.”

“Can you get me the report by tomorrow afternoon?” Your response, “I have a lot on. I’ll try to get it to you.”

Self talk, “I know that I should read more so I’ll try to read fifteen minutes every day.”

“Have you lost some weight?” Your response, “Yes I’m trying to get fitter and to lose a few pounds.”

“Are you coming to training tonight?” Your response, “I’m going to try to get there.”

I’ll try.” When you read the above statements are you filled with confidence that the person is really going to do what they are saying they will “Try” to do?

When I hear people say, “I’ll try” I’m about 98% sure that whatever it is they are saying they are going to “Try” to do isn’t going to happen, get done or achieved.

The statement is pathetic and provides an instant ‘get out‘ clause for not doing something.

If you are serious about creating success in your life you must drop this statement from your vocabulary. Instead, follow this formula.

1. Make a commitment

If you are going to do something properly commit to it. Make the decision. Saying “I’ll try.” is neither a decision nor a commitment.

2. Be clear with your responses

“Are you coming to the party this weekend?” Your response, “Yes. I’m there, count me in.”

“Can you get the report to me by tomorrow afternoon?” Your response, “Done!

Self talk, “I read for fifteen minutes every day on topics that are helping me to improve my skills.”

“Have you lost some weight?” Your response, “Yes I’m getting fitter and healthier. This ‘new me’ is here to stay!

“Are you coming to training tonight?” Your response, “No. Not tonight. I have a more important commitment to my family. I’ll be there next week.”

Your language should support your commitment and decision.

3. Imagine success

Whenever you make a commitment to something, imagine what success will really look like. See yourself handing the report in to your boss thirty minutes ahead of schedule. Imagine the pleased look on your boss’s face when she reads through your report. Imagine the appreciative comments you will hear her say.

When you have a goal to be fitter and healthier ‘see’ the new you being active and looking good, not just for a short period, but for as far as you can see into the future.

4. Create a plan

No doubt many things can be planned in your head. If something is important and really must get done, then having a plan that lives in your head is a major risk to your productivity. Instead, write your plan down. Identify clear outcomes. Identify your starting point. Work out what you need to do (your actions) and then work out which actions have the highest leverage – in other words if these actions don’t happen then the job won’t get done or won’t get done to the required standards.

For example. You’ve committed to getting the report to your boss as requested. It now has to be delivered a day early. You have already imagined what success looks like so write what you imagined in Step 3 above. Next, write your current starting point. If the report is 50% complete, then write that down. If you are waiting on some data from Jane, write that down. Next, identify the actions that you’ll need to take to complete the report and to get it to your boss as requested. Out of the tasks that you have listed, identify the ones that have the highest influence on achieving your objectives. These need attention and focus and must be completed as soon as possible. In this example, such an action would be to contact Jane directly and explain to her how the deadline for the report has been moved forward and how you will do whatever you need to do to help get that information from her.

Your list of actions will also include less important tasks that someone else could do. Quickly delegate those tasks to other people. If there are no other people then you have to do them yourself. But do these after the most important tasks have been completed or are under ‘control’.

5. ‘Do’ your plan

Take action. Follow your plan. Adjust if necessary but stay focussed. Create the success you desire.

These five steps will take you from being someone who “Tries to be successful” to someone who is “successful”. Do yourself a favour and drop the word “try” from your vocabulary. It’s useless and it doesn’t work.

Gary Ryan enables organisations, leaders and talented professionals to move Beyond Being Good.

911 My Personal Connection

Nine eleven.Those two words are powerful. They evoke deep emotions of awe, fear, anger, devastation, astonishment, concern and many more of which I am yet to find the words to describe.
Yes For Success
Living in Melbourne, Australia I had gone to bed and was asleep when the first plane flew into the Twin Towers in New York. I was awoken by a phone ringing which is always a little nerve rattling. Phone calls late at night nearly always mean bad news.  As the phone was closest to my wife Michelle, she picked up the receiver. It was my youngest brother Wayne.“Turn on your TV. America is under attack.” is all he said.
We rushed into our living room and turned on the TV to see the North Tower on fire, smoke billowing from the 93rd floor and above.It was an incredible site.

Michelle and I were watching trying to make sense of my brother’s statement. And then we saw it. Live. The second plane flew into the South Tower. I literally jumped out of my chair and stood up.

“Oh my God!” Michelle and I uttered. “Where’s Denis?”, Michelle asked.

“About 400 miles away in Washington DC”. I replied.

You see my twin brother Denis was a manager in the security team at the Australian Embassy in Washington DC. On 911 Denis was in charge of security and the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard was on an official visit to the US.

After seeing the second plane fly into the South Tower Michelle and I were convinced that the US was indeed under attack. And we assumed Washington would be on the list of whoever the attackers were. The Australian Embassy is less than a mile from the White House. So I was genuinely concerned for my brother. For all intents and purposes I was watching the start of a war unfold before my eyes and my twin brother was in the direct line of fire.

We were also genuinely concerned about our world. As our 19 month old baby slept, we wondered, “Is this the start of World War III?”. Michelle was also in the early phases of her pregnancy with our second child.

Then the news flash occurred that confirmed our fears. A plane had flown into the Pentagon.

Surely the White House will be targeted we thought. Denis isn’t far from there.

This was not just some news event on TV. It was personal. It was ‘Realer than real’. When was this going to end?

As futile as I expected it to be I tried calling Denis. I didn’t get through.

Michelle and I sat and watched as the TV coverage captured every moment, including what was later to be seen as vision too gruesome to be shown again. To my knowledge, it hasn’t.

It was the sight of people jumping to their deaths from above the impact zone. The number of ‘jumpers’ was more than one’s mind and soul could manage. Yet we kept watching, desperate for news of what was happening in Washington.

Michelle and I continued to wonder how bad the conditions must have been above the impact zones that people were choosing to jump. These people were normal family people like us. Never in their wildest dreams would they have imagined that soon after having arrived at work that day they would be faced with such a choice. This choice and the images of what we saw still haunt me.

The TV coverage flipped between New York and Washington DC. What was going to happen next?

Then the South Tower collapsed before our eyes. To see such a thing happen on live TV was horrific. It was clear that we had just seen thousands of people lose their lives in a matter of seconds.

We wondered about the motivation of people to do such a thing as to deliberately fly a jet airliner into a building. The evil of such an act was impossible to comprehend, and still is today.

The whole night we watched and watched. Terrified of what might be unfolding in the US. I desperately kept calling Denis.

When morning broke we received a phone call from my mother. Denis had called her. He was okay. He’d been assisting the US Secret Service who had taken over the Australian Embassy to look after Prime Minister Howard and his entourage. Our relief that he was okay was enhanced by our knowledge that there were four planes involved in the attack, and all had been accounted for including the plane that had crashed in Pennsylvania.

Wow. My twin brother was directly involved in protecting Australia’s Prime Minister. Who would have thought that a plumber from Clayton in Melbourne’s south eastern suburbs could have been directly involved in such a thing. But he was.

Three days later I was able to speak directly with Denis. I discovered that the gap between what the media had reported and what really happened with Prime Minister Howard was immense. The media had reported that Prime Minster Howard had been taken to a ‘bunker’ in the basement of the Australian embassy.

No such ‘bunker’ existed.

Instead Prime Minister Howard was seated on a plastic chair in the ‘Maintenance Man’s Cage‘ in the basement car park of the Australian Embassy. Times were indeed different!

How could we be on the other side of the world yet experience the horror of these events as if we were there? Although it was 2001 modern communication systems meant that we could in fact ‘experience’ a world event as it was unfolding. I’m sure psychologists would have some idea of whether it is a good or bad thing that we have the technology to allow us to experience such events. I still don’t know myself.

In closing I have no words of wisdom to offer regarding my experience of 911. Something tells me that it would be disrespectful to do so. Today I accept that I don’t understand why such horrific events happened and why, more specifically 911 happened. I just know that it did.

The events of that day also reinforce my deep commitment to being the best that I can be. Rather than letting my experience of 911 drive fear to stop me living the life I desire, I prefer to use it as a catalyst for ensuring that I leave no stone unturned in trying to become the best that I can be. I hope it has the same effect on you.

Gary Ryan enables organisations, leaders and talented professionals to move Beyond Being Good.

What are your ‘Leadership Theories’?

This weekend I will be facilitating a leadership development program for thirty experienced leaders. One of the results of the pre-program research that I have conducted is that only one person enrolled in this program acknowledges that she uses explicit theories/models to guide her in her practice of leadership.

From my experience over time results like this are common and highlight that the majority of ‘managers’, i.e. people in formal leadership roles, do not have a conscious set of theories/models to guide them in their roles.

Businesswomen working on laptop.When I say “theories/models” I mean everything from explicit, research based theories such as the Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Model, or Tuckman’s Stages of Team Development, or Belbin’s Team Roles approach, all of which are solid theories/models built upon academic research. Or you might have your own ‘lay’ model that is reflected as an, ‘If…, then…‘ statement or a guiding set of ‘Do‘ and ‘Don’t Do‘ behaviours. Some of you may even use poetry or quotes to aid in providing a theoretical approach that underpins your behaviour. While not a ‘model’ per se, these can represent high level principles that inform your behaviour.

The alternative, of course, is to ‘wing it‘. This means that you ‘make it up as you go‘ and never settle on a consistent approach that keeps you grounded. With all the education that is now available I urge you to find explicit theories/models to guide your behaviour as a leader. Theory and practice don’t have to be separate. In fact they are designed to work together. The whole purpose of research is to improve practice, and practice informs research. They work together to help us improve the world around us. Think of road laws and vehicle safety as an example. The improvements in the safety of vehicles and the laws that are designed to help us drive around our cities safely have, over the past four decades, seen a dramatic reduction in the number of deaths caused by traffic accidents. While there is still a lot of improvement to be made in that area, theory and practice have worked together to improve the human condition.

If you desire to be the best leader that you can be then it is your responsibility to find, practice and gradually master your Theory of Leadership. Occasionally people ask me, “Okay. But what should I do if I discover that the theory I am using doesn’t work in practice?

The answer is simple and straightforward. If your theories/models aren’t proving useful, then find and adopt new ones that do. The principle remains the same. Make sure that at the very least you have conscious theories/models that you are trying over time to master, rather than having no theories/models at all.

You’ll find that this approach will have a positive and everlasting impact on your effectiveness as a leader.

Gary Ryan enables organisations, leaders and talented professionals to move Beyond Being Good.

Defeat your enemy!

Eastern cultures have taught us that there are equal and opposite forces that co-exist and influence our lives at the same time. Each force cannot exist without the other. Day cannot exist without night. Courage cannot exist without fear. Good cannot exist without evil. These forces are known as Yin and Yang and are present in our lives every day whether we realise it or not.

Gary Ryan, Organisations That Matter, Yes For Success, vision, personal vision plan, plan for success, successI urge you to be the best that you can be; at home, at work, in the pursuit of your passions. To be fair I have to let you in on a direct consequence for such choices. This consequence is something that you will recognise but prefer not to know. But you need to not only know this consequence but you must understand it as much as you understand yourself, maybe even more so. Failing to understand this consequence places the future you desire in grave danger.

When you decide to take action to create a better life an equal and opposite force is automatically released. This force is RESISTANCE. Its purpose is to stop you from creating the success and future you desire. In short it wants to kill your ideas, your passion and your creations. It never sleeps, has a high intellect and is prepared to use the dirtiest of tricks to stop you from creating the life you desire.

You need to be aware of this force right now. If you are not sure what I mean, think about every great idea that you have ever had or any major task that you have decided to undertake. Did those ideas see the light of day? Has your song been published? Did you start that club? Have you lost the weight you decided to lose? Have you kept that weight off? Have you learned to play the guitar? Did you speak to that fellow student who you identified as someone who could help you to achieve a higher grade? Did you cross the room to introduce yourself to that attractive person with whom you had momentarily met eyes? Did you update your resume and apply for the ‘perfect’ job that you saw advertised? Did you make a stand against a decision that your boss was making because deep down you knew that it was wrong?

Why didn’t you do those things? The answer; RESISTANCE!

Right now don’t be surprised if resistance is at work challenging you to stop reading this message. “This guy is full of crap. Don’t keep reading this stuff he’s trying to use some form of hocus-pocus to get you to do something you don’t want to do. Plus, you don’t have the time to read this stuff!” If these thoughts are in your head right now then you know RESISTANCE exists.

It is important to note that resistance is impersonal. It doesn’t just pick on you – it selects everyone. We all have to fight resistance or let it rule our lives. It is ruthless and unending in its attempt to de-throne you from your ideas and your attempts to create a better life. If you don’t believe me, then why haven’t you already created the life balance and personal success that you desire?

Where does this resistance come from? It exists in you, but it isn’t you. This may be hard for you to understand, but it is essential for you to grasp if you are to win your battles against it. You are not your thoughts; like the weather they randomly enter your mind. Resistance likes to take hold of your thoughts and to create chatter in your mind that clouds your desires. It attempts to create fear; fear of success. Yes, that’s right; resistance likes to create fear because fear is its fuel. The idea of being successful is one thing; actually being that success is another. Resistance likes to create fear to stop you from creating the success you desire.

Resistance can be manifest in the people around you; your partner, family, friends, colleagues and bosses. But any resistance coming from them only serves to fuel the resistance inside you. The resistance inside you is far more powerful than any resistance external to you. In fact, resistance is strengthened every time you believe that whatever is stopping you from creating the life that you desire is because of someone or something else.

I know from my own experience that resistance grows in stature the closer I get to completing a project. The last 10kms in a marathon are the hardest to complete, more because of the chatter in my mind than the aching in my legs. The hardest part of publishing my first book was pressing the ‘send’ button for my final draft to my publisher. “What if this thing is a flop? What if I don’t sell a book. It owes me thousands without counting my time and effort. What if people don’t like it? I’ll be publicly humiliated!”.

If you have ever lost weight, then you know resistance. Resistance is most powerful when you reach your target weight. Yes, that’s right folks; it is at its most powerful at that point in time. “How?” you ask.

It is at the point of reaching your target weight resistance awakens with all its fury. It does everything in its power to stop you from doing the habits that enabled you to achieve your target weight in the first place. It creates chatter in your mind that it’s now okay to have a little bit of this food and a little bit of that food and you don’t need to exercise today, after all look at yourself, you look fabulous. Before you know it more than half the weight that you had lost has been put back on.

As mean as resistance is, it is selective. It doesn’t present itself when what you are doing is taking you away from the life balance and personal success that you desire. It doesn’t lift you off the couch when you are watching episode after episode of mindless reality TV. It doesn’t stop you from eating more chocolate than you should, from sleeping in, from missing a deadline or forgetting to say thank you to your spouse for cooking dinner. It doesn’t stop you from taking on more and more duties at work even though all these tasks are doing is taking up more of your time and preventing you from doing the things that you really need to do to create the life you desire.

While resistance can’t be seen, touched, tasted or smelled, it can be felt. It is that awkward feeling you get when an idea or action pop into your mind and you know that it is a good idea or the right action to take. But that feeling you get quickly stops you from taking any action. In resistance’s incredibly astute way that feeling disappears as suddenly as your idea or your intended action fade to a distant if not extinguished memory. Resistance’s desire for you not to become your best has been satiated so it no longer needs to create the feeling it generated to stop your idea or action. Remember resistance possesses a cunning that is unmatched and it will sneak up on you like a leopard stalking its prey.

Resistance can also come from those who love you the most. When you change, if even for the better it can be scary for them. Because they love you they will get used to you changing but maintain your awareness that they can behave in ways to stop you from improving. One such example may be putting pressure on you not to spend time on improving yourself. In its extreme, the type of resistance I’m describing is present when a street gang member attempts to leave the gang. “Who do you think you are? Do you think you are better than us?” While this example represents an extreme version of external resistance from the people around you, the same sort of behaviours can be exhibited by people close to you when you try to improve yourself.

What can you do about resistance? First, you must accept that it exists. If you don’t it will blind side you at the first opportunity and you won’t even know. The proof will be that your ideas and the life that you had hoped to create will be left as ideas or even worse as fuzzy memories. Second, you have to be prepared to battle resistance every day. This is no ordinary battle. As Steven Pressfield says in his book Do The Work this is literally a fight to the death every day. You can defeat resistance and you can slay it. But it will rise again tomorrow and take you on once again.

Think of any of your life achievements so far. Were they plain sailing? Hell no! You had to work hard to overcome many obstacles. Where did those obstacles come from? Resistance!

Remember the character Michael Corleone played by Al Pacino in The Godfather III? He is trying to legitimise his business and move away from crime related activities. But his family and associates keep killing people. Michael remarks, “Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in!“. Even Michael, as powerful as he was, had to fight resistance.

The good news is that you can defeat resistance, one day at a time. You already have. Any success or improvement in your life that has taken you closer to being the person you desire to be provides you with examples of having slain resistance. Draw on these examples to give you the confidence that you can, and will, defeat it again and again. On the odd occasion when resistance defeats you, use your knowledge of your past successes to give you the confidence to take it on again. Interact with other people who understand resistance and who are able to defeat it. Let their successes give you energy for your battles against it.

The Yes For Success Program exists to help you win your everyday fight against resistance. When you win a battle, the Yes For Success community wins a battle. Your success is the community’s success. Sharing your successes when you defeat resistance provides both encouragement and energy for others. Likewise the successes of other community members provides encouragement and energy for you to take on this mighty foe! After all, we’re all fighting resistance, myself included!

Take action to defeat resistance now. Join the Yes For Success program and take the execution of your strategies for life balance and personal success to another level. If you have read to this point of the article then you understand the power that resistance has – win your first battle and at least check out what the Yes For Success program includes. Click here now.

Gary Ryan enables organisations, leaders and talented professionals to move Beyond Being Good.

Mastering the exponential effect of performance improvement


The Western Bulldogs in the Australian Football League (AFL) have ‘suddenly‘ improved beyond most commentators’ expectations. Gerard Healy, a legend of the AFL and a commentator for the Fox Sports Network repeated several times during the Western Bulldogs victory over the Adelaide Crows, “Where has this improvement come from?“.

Performance improvement of any kind does not occur in straight lines. Rather it occurs in curves. These curves are not well understood.Yes For Success, Gary Ryan

The performance improvement of the Western Bulldogs over the past six weeks is not due to any single thing that the club’s coaches and players did seven weeks ago. Rather, it is the cumulative effect of learning over a 20 month period. It is also the effect of mastering a model; a theory from the head coach Brendan McCartney about how the game should be played. No doubt, as a first time senior coach Brendan has been constantly developing his model.

That said, when reviewing his post-match comments over the past two seasons he has been very consistent about the fact that the players have been learning and that the longer the players are able to stick with the plan throughout matches the more likely the team would start to see on-field success. Over time this approach requires that the players have more and more faith in the model and need to be able to see that, at least in patches during a game, the model works. The coaches have to be able to identify these patches and to show the players the evidence that the model really does work. This process in itself is very challenging because there may not be a lot of evidence to show at various stages of the learning journey.

The challenge with curves and performance improvement is that at the beginning of the curve time can pass without any noticeable performance improvement. The flat part of the curve is the most challenging part of this journey because pressure can build. While time is ticking the outcome of the work you are doing isn’t producing the desired results, and as more time passes people start to question the model. The short-term focus of our world can kill a model, even if it was just about to hit the ‘performance curve‘; a seemingly sudden spike in performance. The challenge is that you never really know how long the flat part of the curve will last. One thing you can hang your hat on is that you never reach the exponential part of a curve, where performance improves at a seemingly fast rate, without first going through the flat part of the curve. This is a fact of performance improvement.

This is where leaders have to have absolute faith in the model and their model needs to be based on experience.  When everyone else starts to say that your model doesn’t work and they have the short term evidence to prove it, you need to stay true to your model and plan and stick with it. Seth Godin in his book The Dip calls this pushing through the curve.

These performance improvement curves happen everywhere where learning and/or change are present. They occur with a child’s reading and writing, with a salesperson’s selling methods, with your fitness improvements, learning a new software program and just about anything where performance improvements are desired.

If you don’t understand these dynamics you will kill models before their time. Moving onto a new model in the short-term doesn’t guarantee results; instead it guarantees a new flat part of a new curve to learn your way through. This delays rather than creates success.

If you have faith in your model and the track record to know that it will work, have the courage to stick with it to create the improvements you desire. Once you have mastered your model a new learning challenge will arise – and you’ll have to move on to a new updated model…there is little time to rest for those seeking genuine performance improvement!

Over time how have you experienced the exponential effect of performance improvement?


Gary Ryan enables organisations, leaders and talented professionals to move Beyond Being Good.

Habits and personal success


Creating life balance and personal success requires that you master your habits. The start of the entry for the definition of the word ‘habit‘ on Wikipedia reads, ‘routines of behavior that are repeated regularly and tend to occur subconsciously.‘ Daniel Pink in his book Drive references many research papers that show that humans are regularly irrational from a behavioural perspective. Your motivation for doing what you do doesn’t always make sense from a rational perspective. You buy things that you cannot afford. You stay in an unhealthy relationship. You accept the poor behaviour of your boss. You don’t save for your retirement even though there is ample evidence to suggest that this is the smart thing to do if you wish to have the same level of living standard in your retirement years. You hold on to bad investments long after they have gone sour. You continue smoking after you have had a heart attack.  I think you get the picture.

Much of your behaviour is irrational and subconscious. You don’t really know why you do what you do but you do it anyway. In other words, your behaviour is driven by habits and these habits are often irrational.

Crethe traffic lights on white background, Gary Ryan, Yes For Success, life plan, plan for success, life balanceating life balance and personal success requires that you raise your awareness of your habits. To do this you need to become more conscious of your behaviour and/or ask a trusted friend to point out the habits they see you doing. Give them permission to tell you things that normally you might not like to hear. Not everything they say will be bad. A number of your habits will be good.

Once you identify your habits you need to assess whether they should be kept or whether they should be stopped. The task of categorising your habits should always be done in the context of whether or not your habits are taking you toward your definition of life balance and personal success, or whether they are taking you away from that definition. Keep doing the habits that are taking you toward the success you desire and stop doing the habits that are taking you away from what you desire.

Stopping habits isn’t easy but it is necessary for the third category of habits to be commenced. This category of habits are the ones that you need to start. The time and effort that is required for this category of habits is obtained from the habits that you stop. So you don’t have to find more time to create more life balance and personal success.

Keeping, stopping and starting habits all require that you know what life balance and personal success looks like for you. If you don’t know then check out the Yes For Success Program here.


Gary Ryan enables organisations, leaders and talented professionals to move Beyond Being Good.

Customer mistakes are your problem

If you are in business then you know that customers make mistakes. They get things wrong. They don’t read the information that you have provided them. If they have read the information they mis-understand your message. They don’t turn up when they are supposed to. They miss bookings. This list could go on forever!

Gary Ryan, Yes For SuccessAs service providers we can either see these mistakes as a pain in the neck and wish for the day when our customers will no longer make them. Or we can see these mistakes as opportunities to innovate so that the mistakes are either eliminated, reduced or mitigated.

Recently I flew to the USA with my wife and five children. International travel with five children can be a stressful experience. Anything that the airlines can do to cut the stress is a blessing. Anything they do that increases stress makes the travelling experience more challenging.

Despite being an experienced traveller I forgot to arrange our visas for entry to the USA. This error, my error, was surfaced while we were checking in.

“I’m sorry sir, but you can’t check in until your visas have been approved. Here is a card with a website address for you to quickly complete your application. Please move your bags to the side so that I can check in the next customer. There is an internet cafe just down the foyer past gate 60.”

I made the mistake. The airline, in this case United Airlines was not to blame for my mistake. It was my fault. That said, at that moment, how do you think I felt about United Airlines? The error wasn’t theirs, but in that moment I felt that somehow they were responsible, even though they weren’t.

I ran through the airport to find the internet cafe. I then spent over fifty minutes completing my online applications. Each application took about eight minutes to complete. You can imagine my stress levels rising. As each minute passed we were getting closer and closer to being excluded from being able to board our flight. Twice through the application process the computer I was using crashed, meaning that I had to reboot it and I had to restart the application process again. Everything around me became a blur. All I was focussed on was completing the applications so that we could check-in and board our plane.

Finally all seven applications were complete. I ran back to the check-in counter. We were the last people to be checked in. The staff were wonderful as they helped us through this process as more forms needed to be completed and we still needed to clear customs. As we were checking in the staff told us that it had been one of those days where multiple people had not completed their visa applications. My mistake as a customer had also made life for the staff more difficult as they too were frustrated by their inability to complete the check-in process in a timely manner.

When we were finally on the plane and I had some time to catch my breath, wipe the sweat from my brow and reflect on my mistake, it dawned on me that the staff had indicated that there had been a pattern of customers making the same mistake that I had made.

From a business perspective I find patterns interesting. They can often lead to opportunities. We had waited in line for over an hour before being checked in. A United Airlines staff member had been ‘walking’ the line asking us if we required tags for our luggage. Many people found this service useful. However, what if this staff member had also been asking customers if they had completed their visa applications? If I had been made aware of my mistake earlier I could have completed the online application process while my wife and children were waiting in the check-in line.

United Airlines also had access to a system that informed them about our visa status. I know this because the staff member who checked us in accessed this system to check our status. I wonder whether this information could have been used to contact me three days before our flight. Imagine if I had either received an email, a text message or even a phone call three days before our flight informing me that I was yet to complete my visa application. Imagine if I had received this information by all three communication channels. I could have been pre warned of my error so that it didn’t become an error. People missing flights isn’t good for anyone so anything the airlines can do to reduce the chances that flights are missed has to be good for both the airlines and the customers.

Flight Centre was our travel agent and once again, in this self-help world that we live in a travel agent is an expert in international travel, not me. Imagine if Flight Centre had also had a system in place to help me to help myself? After all, as experts in travel the very thing that they would know that could negatively impact my travel plans is not having appropriate visas. In fact my wife had spoken with our travel agent a few days before our departure and this issue had not been raised with her. An opportunity missed!

Once again I want to make it clear that I am not blaming United Airlines nor Flight Centre for my mistake. Rather, I am using this personal experience to highlight that organisations need to be aware of the common mistakes that their customers make and to do whatever they can to help their customers reduce those errors. Whether we like it or not, most customers will blame the organisation for mistakes that they (the customer) has made.

Customer driven mistakes are the service provider’s problem. Looking at the patterns of mistakes and then seeing these patterns as opportunities can definitely enhance an overall customer experience.

What common customer errors happen in your world and what are you doing to reduce them?


Learn about the Yes For Success Platform here.

Gary Ryan enables organisations, leaders and talented professionals to move Beyond Being Good.

Power and management behaviour


Watching university students role play salary package negotiations is fascinating. Without question the student who acts as the manager negotiates from the perspective that they have the power in the negotiation. The student acting as the prospective employee, who is trying to negotiate the best possible outcome for themself also adopts the perspective that the ‘manager’ has the power.

Several minutes in to the role plays I interrupt and tell the ‘manager’ that their CEO has a memo for them. The memo informs them that, due to the war for talent, they must do everything they can to secure the services of the prospective employee while maintaining responsibility for their budget.

Gary Ryan, Creator Yes For Success personal development programThe negotiations continue with a changed dynamic. The power has shifted. No longer does the ‘manager’ see that they have control. While having adopted an initial distributive bargaining strategy, they quickly shift to an integrative bargaining strategy. Even their body language changes. As I said this is fascinating to watch.

What is also fascinating is that the students involved are yet to begin their professional careers. Many of them have part-time jobs and/or volunteer roles and the majority of them have never had a manager’s role. Yet they follow this pattern of behaviour.

The role play is conducted as part of a Communication For Business program. In it I teach the students about the power of their mental models; their theories about how they believe the world works and how these theories directly affect their behaviour. Their perception of having or not having power affects the mental models they adopt in the role play which in turn affects their behaviour. As soon as the power is ‘shifted’ by the memo, they adopt a different mental model and their behaviour changes.

I have conducted this activity over a seven-year period and the observed behaviours have been consistent over this period of time. The perception of power has a direct implication for behaviour. This is not right or wrong. The challenge is that your mental models often act at a sub-conscious level rather than a conscious level. Either way they will affect your behaviour.

Reflecting on the activity students report that they were aware of the position they were taking in the negotiation but not aware of the deep mental models that were ‘driving’ their behaviour. Their view of the power they had or didn’t have had a direct impact on their behaviour.

What lesson does this activity surface for leaders and developing leaders alike?

Let’s assume that you value talent. If you are not aware of the influence that power has on your subconscious mental models and ultimately your behaviour, you are unlikely to treat the talented individuals you are working with as talented people. You will treat them as people who have less power than you. You will not be equals who have different roles.

Raising your awareness of your mental models is a key element for success. What is your experience of mental models and how they drive your behaviour?

Learn about the Yes For Success Platform here.

Gary Ryan enables organisations, leaders and talented professionals to move Beyond Being Good.