Archive for June, 2012

Break Throughs Take Will and Capacity

June 17, 2012

Yiannis Boutaris, 70, a successful Greek winemaker has been mayor of Thessaloniki for 18 months. Thessaloniki, Greece, is a sprawling city of 800,000 people on the Aegean Sea. It is second in size only to Athens.

Bankrupt & Corrupt

Boutaris inherited a city on the brink of bankruptcy (nearly $130 million in debt), with outdated laws and regulations, corruption, manufacturing decline and few tourists. His predecessor and 17 colleagues have been indicted – accused of stealing about $38 million.

Under these conditions, pundits gave the new mayor little prospect for success. Bloated municipal employment, inadequate basic services, discord with Turkey, and tangled regulations were all accepted as “normal.” However, this wiry septuagenarian who sports a pierced earring and frequently punctuates his point of view with profanity, knows two fundamental factors vital for change: will and capacity.

Will & Capacity

Will is the practical and political determination to persist. Will endures both obstacles and critics. It prevails. Boutaris advises: “When you propose the slightest change, people say no. If you do it all at once, it is a different thing. Something has to break through.” He adds: “You cannot step back, if you step back you lose.”

Capacity is about the strategic management acumen to make smart, hard choices that enable performance. Capacity reflects knowledge, skills, training and experience. Boutaris has made unpopular but effective decisions about budgets, employees, public policy and external relations. He is changing practices with a focus on different and better.

Whether a community, an organization or individual, will and capacity are requisites for change to occur.

Boutaris is undeterred in his reforms. (For more, see NYT Saturday Profile.) To date he has begun recycling programs, resumed relations with Turkey, grown tourism, and instituted unheard of practices at City Hall: job descriptions, goals and evaluations. He has cut city costs by 30%. One man insists on making his hometown a place of progress and growth.

I bet it happens.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com

The Wonder of Willpower

June 4, 2012

David Blaine has been buried alive for seven days, encased himself in a block of ice for three, endured a 44-day fast and held his breath for 17 minutes. Blaine has willingly experienced physical pain, trauma, and deprivation in amazing displays of self control. He is an endurance artist. He’s unusual.

Endurance Artist

Few people are endurance artists, but most of us want to be effective. Like Blaine, highly successful people manage themselves through internal motivation – often called willpower.

By comparison, when more than a million people were surveyed about a range of personal strengths, which virtue was identified least often? Although honesty, kindness, humor, creativity, bravery, and modesty are often cited – self control is dead last.

Constant Temptation

Desire in humans, a perceived need or want, is prevalent. In about half of waking hours people are challenged with a temptation. The most commonly resisted desire is an urge to eat, followed by sleep, and leisure. To cope with desires – people most often look for a distraction, suppression or simply attempt to avoid the lure of an experience or object.On average, people succeed in resisting temptation only about 50% of the time.

As you might guess, poor self-control correlates with all kinds of personal trauma: compulsive spending, domestic violence, crime, chronic anxiety, explosive anger, procrastination, bad nutrition, alcohol and drug abuse. Conversely, managers rated most favorably by their peers and staff also score high in self control. Observers will most often use descriptors like disciplined or focused.

Build Willpower

It’s possible to build willpower. Here are some suggestions to develop your resolve:

Do a little more. If you jog three miles daily – add another half mile.

Respect decisions. Make a choice, stick with it. Don’t waffle.

Do things differently. Explore new ways and habits.

Be committed. Don’t “try.” It is shorthand for maybe. Do it.

Start again and again. Each attempt has value, don’t quit.

Surround yourself with support. Ally with others who pursue ambitious, shared goals.

Willpower is all about what you ought to do – not what you want to do.

Budgets Force Choices

After studying thousands of people, scientists say it’s conclusive: everyone has a finite amount of willpower. Our will can weaken…and the same limited energy “bank” is called on for all tasks. So, each of us has to budget. Taking on too many simultaneous demands ensure failure with some. It means priorities are absolutely essential to success.

The demands of managing and leading change are intense. Willpower can support  long-haul endurance for the inevitable challenges you face. Grow yours!

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is chief strategy officer and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com


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