Impossible Thoughts™

Future Leadership: How do we lead when they no longer work FOR us?

By Kieran Flanagan | Dec 1, 2018 | Comments Off on Future Leadership: How do we lead when they no longer work FOR us?
By Kieran Flanagan Ah the good old days when leadership resembled a tidy, symmetrical pyramid of hierarchical control. Leaders at the top with layers of obedient minions, ready to do your bidding… or suffer the inevitable consequences. But what does future leadership look like? Things were far from equitable but nonetheless the way leadership worked was relatively simple, almost parental, “Just do as you’re told!” Future leadership looks far less geometrical, and far more complicated. And if anything, it is going to become even less orderly and controlled. Workplace trends like off-shoring, out-sourcing, the rise of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship and the rise of the freelance economy mean that fewer employees work for us and more and more must be encouraged to work with us. By 2020 it is estimated that 40% of the workforce will be self employed (Source: The Intuit 2020 report). This means employees, your team, your staff, will no longer work for you. They will work with other businesses as well as you. They will work on projects. But most critically, they will work for themselves. This will fundamentally shift the kind of leadership we require. Leaders will be required to rely less on positional authority and more on a capacity to rally followers to their cause. Leaders will have to really stand up for something that inspires others to want to get involved, not just pay lip service to a vision that sounds like it was spat out of a Dilbert Mission Statement Generator. Tomorrow’s leaders will need to understand who people are and just as importantly, who they aspire to be. This kind of leadership will be defined by those we choose to follow, not those we a coerced into following. Read More

Reframe time: You don’t have all year

By Kieran Flanagan | Dec 1, 2018 | Comments Off on Reframe time: You don’t have all year

By Kieran Flanagan

I am pretty sure  Xmas just happened and somehow it’s April. Hilarious. IT IS APRIL! Just 263 sleeps until Xmas again. Perhaps it’s time to “reframe time”.

Not that I am a Griswald kind of girl who counts down the days in eager anticipation, (although I am partial to a fairylight or two thousand). But because I think most of us are constantly surprised at how fast time passes. We sport shocked, but trying not to be, expressions, (think Michelle Obama accepting Melania’s gift), and utter inane things like; ‘It can’t be Xmas again already!’, ‘Didn’t I just have a birthday?’ and ‘What on earth happened to summer?’ 

Unless of course we are kids, then it seems to take for-evvv-errrr for it to be your birthday, holidays or Xmas again.

When you grow up it seems you enter a time warp and time speeds up right?

Scientists have been trying to figure out this phenomena and whilst there are a number of theories from relative experience, to amount of stuff you need to fit in to life, there is no real agreement. We just know that it certainly feels that way.

So until these scientists figure out how to extend time or bend time, we’d do well to learn how to reframe time.

Perhaps because in reality a year isn’t long at all. It is a meagre 52 weekends. That’s not even one and a half lined A4 pages of ideas (I counted 38 lines on mine) of things you want to do or books you want to read or extreme haikus to write, the last one’s just me right? Do you feel my panic people? Breathe in… breathe out.

I like to reframe time when I am working with businesses and people.

52 weekends or 4 quarters of thirteen.

52 Mondays to make those calls. 52 weeks to try that experiment, learn that skill or ask for that business. 52 chances.

I like to remember I will only have my daughter Darcy as an eight year old with all her eight year old curiosity, creativity and cleverness for 52 precious weeks (particularly when she is having one of her I am a teenager in a child’s body moments)…  52 weekends for eight year old adventures.

A year isn’t long. Yet most of us are stuck in our childhood perspectives of time thinking we have all year. Our thinking needs changing.

We need to think differently about time.

You see folks, this year we are a quarter done. This is the first month of the second quarter of 2017. Which means we are almost down to just one A4 page of stuff to achieve if you do just one thing a week.

Not one year… just one page left this year.

(Or 37 Wednesdays until Xmas for you festively minded.)

Make sure the stuff on your list is meaningful.

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What are you really selling?

By dangregory | Dec 1, 2018 | Comments Off on What are you really selling?

By Dan Gregory

Like it or not, we are all in the business of sales and selling.

If you’re a leader, you’re selling your vision, your purpose and your ideas. If you’re a business person, you’re selling products or services. Parents are trying to sell things like bedtime and broccoli. And, if you’re in a relationship, or you’re trying to get into a relationship, you are very definitely in the business of selling.

Of course, sales is far from a logical process, when it is done well, it also engages us at an emotional and even psychological level.

Part of the reason so many people are uncomfortable with words like sales and selling is that many of us have had poor experiences with sales people who were either too pushy or else not really interested in meeting our needs or solving our problems. But the truth is, while few of us enjoy being sold to, almost all of us like buying things,

So why the disconnect?

Part of the problem is our definition of sales and selling. These words in isolation tend to conjure up images of sleazy sales people and manipulative pitching methodologies – and there’s more than a little evidence to support this.

Perhaps a better definition is, “to align your value with their values.” This shifts the focus of a sales conversation from the product to the customer. In fact, the sale is always in the prospect, not the product.

Another issue is that we tend not to think of things such as engagement, inspiration and buy in as a function of sales, but in truth, every great leader is in the business of selling their ideas and too many great ideas die on the vine, not for a lack of quality or efficacy, but due to a lack of influence.

If we want to be more influential, persuasive and engaging, it’s helpful to understand that there are 3 Levels of Selling.

  1. The Literal
  2. The Emotional
  3. The Psychological

The Literal Level of the sale is exactly what you would expect. It is the product or service you’re wanting to sell. This might be a physical product – in the case of the FMCG or manufacturing industries, a service – which includes such things as he trades, contractors and professional services, or it might be an idea, some intellectual property or Thought Leadership if you are a scientist, engineer, or leading a cause. This is what most people understand, but unfortunately, it is also where most people stop.

The Emotional Level of the sell is linked to how the sale makes people feel. This is often expressed as the shift from “features” to “benefits”. A faster computer processor (feature) might lead to less frustration in your work or greater productivity and confidence (benefits). This is where sales people tend to spend a lot of their time and it is the first shift from product or service centricity towards customer-centricity. But there is a further step that is critical to understand.

The Psychological Level of the sale may never be articulated out loud (as often it might be embarrassing or suggest a character failing) but it is incredibly important to understand as this is ultimately the real value your provide for your customers. In B2B markets it might be all about risk aversion, whilst in business to consumer sales, it could be all about selfish gain. In either case, it ultimately comes down to the identity of the purchaser and the identity they wish to present to the world. In other words, your sales pitch would start with WHO.

So what does this look like in practice?

A short time ago, my business partner Kieran Flanagan and I were running a program to help small businesses punch above their weight. One of the businesses in the room was an arborist or tree lopping business run by a young, optimistic 24 year old – Nick.

Whilst working with Nick’s Tree Lopping, we asked what he thought he was really in the business of. He replied, “I make people feel good about cutting down trees!” We looked at him for a moment before responding, “Yeah… let’s not put that on the website! What do you mean?”

He explained to us that he was in fact an environmentalist. Most arborists, when they cut down a tree, chip the wood to make mulch. Nick didn’t do that. If the tree’s diameter was any larger than 20cm (roughly 8 inches), he kept the timber and turned it into furniture. Amazing right? This was nowhere on his website but was clearly the greatest point of difference and story he could have used.

Immediately, we advised him to change the name of his business to “Treeincarnation”, which he did, and then we directed the three levels of his sell.

At the literal level, he was obviously selling tree removal. The emotional benefit was a feeling that despite having a tree cut down, you were doing it in the most sustainable way possible. But at the psychological level, we realised that Nick wasn’t actually in the tree removal business – he was in the guilt removal business. Now,  Nick will never say that to a client, but it does inform how he sells, the new services he introduces to his business and the insights he brings to conversations with his customers.

So… what are you really selling?

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Don’t ignore what is unchanging

By Kieran Flanagan | Dec 1, 2018 | Comments Off on Don’t ignore what is unchanging

By Kieran Flanagan

In a world of relentless change, most leaders and organizations understand the importance of keeping up to date, but often forget the importance of looking to what will endure.

What is unchanging is just as important a consideration when it comes to inventing our futures as what will. The legendary adman Bill Bernbach (one of New York’s real Madmen) wisely spoke about unchanging man (of course he would has added “unchanging woman” had the MadMen era not so entirely biased towards the masculine.

He observed, “It took millions of years for man’s instincts to develop. It will take millions more for them to even vary. It is fashionable to talk about changing man. A communicator must be concerned with unchanging man, with his obsessive drive to survive, to be admired, to succeed, to love, to take care of his own.”

No matter how our business or technology or trends may change the way we deliver value for our customers, Mr Bernbach is of course, correct. Core human drivers will not dissipate.

We will still want to feel important, to matter, to connect to feel like us showing up to work made a difference.

We will buy emotionally, feel fear, worry for our loved ones (and their futures) and want to love.

We will be driven by ego, to prefer to do more of the things we are good at, that make us feel good, that trigger dopamine releases deep into our cerebellums.

None of these things will change because they are core to who people are.

When we understand this we can look to the heart of our businesses and consider how we serve the deepest motivators of humanity. If and when we do we can rest assured that no matter what technological or other changes occur (often beyond our control) what we offer will still be fundamentally relevant.

The how we deliver might be different but the core of what we deliver may not change at all.

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You’re on before you’re on

By dangregory | Dec 1, 2018 | Comments Off on You’re on before you’re on

By Dan Gregory

It doesn’t matter whether your speaking to your team, presenting to the board or giving a speech at an AGM or annual conference, you are on before you’re on and being aware of that is critical to the success of your communication.

There is always an elephant in the room that you either need to tame or put down otherwise it will trample over any content you hope to impart. 

Sometimes it’s the way you look, the way you speak, an accent, a stutter, a hiccup in your gait, your professional position relative to those you’re speaking to, the remnants they’re carrying from your last piece of communication or even the cultural climate you’re speaking into.

As a professional speaker, when I walk on stage, there are usually two thoughts running through an audiences head, “That guy’s fat,” and “I know that guy from somewhere.” So I take that thought off the table by referencing my weight and the TV show I appeared on for many years, “A couple of months ago I heard a woman at the next table whisper to her companion, ‘He’s the fat one off the Gruen Transfer…’” The audience can then relax, they know why they know me and also that I’m aware of my fondness for pie.

Sometimes the elephant in the room actually has nothing to do with you or what you’re presenting. Matt Church, one of the world’s best professional speakers once took to the stage after a very popular member of the audience had had a heart attack and been taken to hospital. At that point, Matt could have decided to press <PLAY> and deliver his content on transmit mode, or as he decided to, he could meet the audience where they were emotionally and move them slowly to where he wanted them to be.

Too often we get caught up in what we’re presenting: our content, our pitch, our sales patter of features, benefits, case studies and statistics and forget that the audience’s state is not always where we need them to be.

I once followed Paul de Gelder on stage. He’s a navy diver who had part of an arm and leg taken off by a shark in Sydney Harbour whilst on duty. It’s an inspiring, but bloodily graphic story. The audience was clearly impacted by his story. I had to follow up with some business content and my brief was, “Make them think, but make them laugh.”

I expected the MC, who’s a friend of mine, to reset the audience before introducing me, but what I got was, “Next up, we’ve got Dan Gregory talking about influence…” Before I could get into my presentation, I needed to acknowledge what the room had just experienced and shift their state so they could hear what I had to say and experience a completely different emotion to what they had been sitting in for the previous hour.

So how do we use the fact that we’re on before we’re on?

   1. Acknowledge the elephant in the room

There are many kinds of metaphorical elephants and the reason they’re called elephants is that they’re too big to ignore. So deal with what’s pressing in the minds of your audience before you move to what’s a priority for you. You don’t need to have a solution (if it’s a problem) or a joke (if it’s a personal feature), simply let the audience know that you know where they are.

    2. Turn your foibles or weaknesses into an asset

We like to think that our weaknesses are hidden. So let’s be clear… they’re not. When you’re communicating with someone and you’re nervous, or dismissive or angry, it telegraphs very clearly. The key is to acknowledge our obvious weaknesses in a way that makes them useful to our message. Not only does this take the elephant out of the room, it also connotes a sense of authenticity and confidence.

   3. Understand the state the audience is in

Never present without an understanding of the present context of your audience – even in a one to one conversation. Be in the room early or assess their emotional state through a third party. Even the best communicators in the world will struggle if they misread the mood of the room.

   4. Know what your presentation character is and how it will be experienced by others

My business partner of many years, Kieran Flanagan, has been a leader in a world dominated by MadMen for the past 25 years, despite being a short blonde with a bubbly personality. Kieran knows that she will often be underestimated, in fact, she considers it her super power. She also uses this underestimation as a source of humour. Kieran describes her presentation character as Reese With-a-knife (not Witherspoon) – she’s bright-eyed and optimistic, but sharp and cutting when she needs to be. She uses the audience’s prejudices about her appearance and voice as leverage to build the experience she wants them to have

So, how are the people you are communicating with perceiving you? 

More importantly, how do they perceive you before you’ve even said a word?

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Dan and Kieran are this generation's Edward De Bono."


Dan, as usual, you were the post man. You delivered."


An extraordinary ability to solve highly complicated and political problems."


Dan Gregory and Kieran Flanagan did a phenomenal job. Both Gregory and Flanagan were personable, professional and very engaging."


Kieran and Dan facilitated a highly engaging, entertaining and thought-provoking workshop around entrepreneurship, risk-taking and decision making within a highly regulated environment."


I learned a huge amount and the team feedback has been incredibly positive. "


We've had amazing feedback (on Dan & Kieran) - Very grateful!"


The feedback from your presentation has been bombarding! Which is bloody awesome!"


Kieran’s opening Keynote established the spirit of the conference from the outset. Embracing the theme in an engaging, relevant and lively presentation. She was the perfect choice."


Signs of genius."


Delegates were literally buzzing through the hours of workshops that followed and we were able to achieve the directions we required to take us forward."


Dan had the room engaged from the outset and took our team on a 90 minute journey, resulting in eyes and minds being opened to new opportunities. The feedback after the event was overwhelmingly positive - we wouldn’t hesitate in working with Dan again in the future."


Kieran’s presentation was a breath of fresh air. She is a ball of energy, totally engaging, brilliant use of humour, super visuals and great delivery, but above all she was totally on message with great content. They loved her."


I have the opportunity to work with many speakers and presenters throughout the year, and I can say without bias that (Dan’s) presentation was the best I have seen in a very long time."


Kieran delivered riveting speeches that kept a diverse audience engaged and wanting more."


Dan has that unique ability of entertaining an audience with humour while giving them a wide range of strategies that can make a significant difference to their bottom line."


Kieran’s deep insight, cutting humour and ability to convey complex messages to our audience were the stand out features of her keynote. it's great to work with stage professionals who deliver."


Dan Gregory appeared at our annual top tier dealer network conference as our keynote presenter. Dan was engaging, entertaining and informative and we were so impressed that we are preparing to work with him again this year for another area of our business."


Kieran Flanagan’s presentation was so inspiring - thank you."


It was a pleasure to deliver the genius of Dan Gregory to our members at the  Real Estate IQ Conference. Dan’s infectious enthusiasm, coupled with his brilliance, was incredibly well received by our audience with many following up on his presentation in months to come. I would personally recommend Dan’s services to any event manager who is looking to effectively engage, educate and inspire their delegates."


In 12 years of running SWB, Kieran is the first speaker to receive a 100% approval rating from all delegates!"


What a fantastic way to kick off the New Year! (We've been) flooded with phone calls and emails about Dan and what a wonderful speaker he was."


Rarely have I heard anybody articulate their thoughts with such clarity and vision. His intelligence and insight provides a much greater understanding of how to engage your customers, your team and the community. I would whole heartedly recommend Dan, you will never be disappointed."


I was laughing and learning... Dan is the Australian Ricky Gervais!"


He more that lives up to his own advertising!"


Our recent Business Partner Exchange event was a great success, largely in part due to Dan Gregory. Dan met our brief completely, with his presentation providing a strong and supportive storyline for our launch. We couldn’t have asked for more, and are looking forward to other opportunities to work with Dan in the future."



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