For over 25 years I’ve had the good fortune to be a leader of people in business.

From a first time manager to a C-level executive. I’ve worked with teams of one (is that a team?) to many hundred. In different industries, counties, and cultures. Disrupters and the disrupted.

And over that time I feel I’ve attended a thousand leadership seminars and read even more books…some telling me to turn left, others right, many straight head. To lead from the front, from below, or from a distance.

With so much information it would be easy to believe that leadership is some mystic art form requiring decades of unpicking, unpacking, and unravelling. And although there are many subtleties and much to be learned about how best to tackle this never constant space, at its core it actually starts with one basic step. In order best understand how to lead others, you firstly need to understand what drives and motivates you.

What make you work harder, deliver more, and go beyond the boundaries of normal expectation? What do you look for, and what do you avoid, in those that lead you? What do drives your satisfaction, engagement, and passion? Because irrespective of whether you’re a CEO, a line manager, or new to the work force, personal motivation has much in common. And a leader’s role is to maximise that motivation.

We all want to be valued, appreciated and recognised. We all thrive on being engaged, consulted, and having a voice. We all perform best when trusted and enabled. We all want to be able to make a difference. So as a leader of people, why would we feel that those we lead have motivations that are particularly different to our own?

These are not the characteristics and drivers of a certain level of employee or manager, they are fundamental human desires surrounding any significant relationship; including those amongst colleagues and staff.

Certainly, the importance of one element compared to another might vary, with some for example preferring greater financial recognition over open praise, or some preferring the opportunity to voice their opinion quietly rather than openly in meetings...but the underlying principles are the same.

This thinking of course would typically simply be a message around empathy; those more naturally inclined to be empathetic are more likely to recognise the above-mentioned. And certainly that’s true. But empathy is often as much about common sense as anything else.

Understand what drives you then create that environment for those you lead.

You’ll be amazed how simple that can be and how quickly those around you will gravitate to that environment.

There’s plenty more to great leaders and leadership but a taking this common sense approach will create a foundation on which to build.

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Charlie’s five and loves dinosaurs.

The T-Rex is his favourite, but he’s pretty good with the long neck of the diplodocus, the lengthy wings of a tetradactyl, and the broad shoulders and shiny trio of horns of a good old triceratops.

Yep, Charlie loves dinosaurs.

And as a result of his interest, it has of course spiked mine.

With access to web sites, books, movies, museums, re-creations, “documentaries”, and actual fossils on a scale similar to the massive Argentinosaurus (whom I told was the biggest dinosaur, estimated at about 100 tons and 40m long) you can easily be enveloped by their fascinating history and stepping-stone relationship to ours.

But despite their phenomenal physical scale one can still imagine them in some kind of familiar context; it was a big a small plane, as massive as two double decker buses, as heavy as ten elephants. These references make their existence conceivable.

This perspective becomes significantly more challenging however when you look at their place on an historical timeline.

Try and consider this. The stone age was approximately 2 million years ago, our first human ancestor about five to seven million, and the T-Rex (the dinosaur not the English rock band from the 1970’s) last roared over 65 million years ago.

When you live a life that is so often structured around hours and days, sometime months and years, how do you even start to comprehend something that ceased to exist 65 million years ago after living, in some form, for 200 million years?

The time framework by which we manage and measure our existence doesn’t even register on that ruler.

But this is my point.

If our whole existence is but a blip, what does it say about the mountain of work piled up on your desk, the people knocking on your door to come in, and constant flow of meeting reminders that now appear in gaggles rather than singular events.

Perspective is a wonderful thing for bringing the struggles of work back into balance. And with more balance comes less stress and in turn more productivity.

Now I’m not suggesting we simply write off the human race as interesting but historically irrelevant, but I am suggesting we utilise the principle of perspective to manage our workload. For example try these when assessing your workload:

  1. Use “criticality perspective” and spend time each day assessing the relative importance of everything on your plate. Ensure you don’t provide too much or too little weight to each item.

  2. Use “deadline perspective” to assess what must be completed in the next few hours or by the end of the day irrespective of other considerations

  3. Take “another’s perspective” and use empathy to assess the impact of your work. Sometimes things that feel insignificant to you may be critical to others, or of course, vice versa

  4. Use “benefit perspective” and determine what of your work delivers the greatest benefit to you and your organisation. Focus on that.

  5. Use “effort perspective”. If everything is critical and urgent, tackling those requiring less effort can help clear your plate.

  6. Use “necessity perspective” to be ruthless in determining if things should be on your plate, your team’s plate, or simply thrown in the bin

Utilising perspective to effectively manage your workload and stress can be a simple and successful tool. Expecting a five-year-old to understand it – well that’s another story altogether.

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