Create the conditions

by | Jul 31, 2023 | Leadership

I’ve recently taken up mountain biking because of this man, Phil, and his coffee stand.

Yes, my other half had said how great cycling would be, especially uphill, for my long-term hip condition. Yes it meant we’d spend more time together at weekends.

But the moment when I decided to invest in my own bike was sitting round the firepit at Phil’s on a chilly December Sunday. After a relentless 25 minute climb, I was drinking great coffee and connecting with strangers round a crackling fire under a canopy of beech trees.

A few months on, I’ve come to enjoy cycling more, but I still look forward to days when the reward for a painful hill climb is “stopping at Phil’s” – a good coffee, a sit round the fire and a bit of banter with Phil who is irrepressibly good-humoured and remembers everyone’s names.

Create the conditions

My experience made me think about a great little book called Unleash Your Complexity Genius by Jennifer Garvey Berger and Carolyn Coughlin which is a favourite for me to send to clients.

They talk about how the complexity we live and work in today means we can’t make things happen. One example they give is employee engagement scores. Try thinking of a simple solution to that! But we can create the conditions for solutions to emerge, just like Phil has.

Since he set up a few years ago, Phil has a stream of regular customers – hikers, dog-walkers and horse-riders. I wonder how many, like me, have created or nurtured a habit because of the conditions he has created?

What’s your firepit?

When you think about what you’re trying to achieve, whether that’s merging two teams, getting your team to step up, or building a relationship with a challenging stakeholder, what conditions could you create that could facilitate progress?

Maybe it’s a voluntary initiative that brings everyone together working for a common cause. Maybe it’s stepping back and letting your team run your weekly leadership team meetings. Maybe it’s having a walking meeting in the park next to the office instead of a windowless meeting room.

It works

I’m pleased to say that taking up biking has indeed improved my hip issue (sustained resistance is good for it). My husband and I spend more time together at weekends and it’s added a whole new dimension to holidays. I’m gaining confidence on the bike and I’ve also made some unexpected connections round the firepit.

The gardener does not make a plant grow

As someone who loves creating the conditions in my garden to attract wildlife, this quote from Ken Robinson seems very apt to finish on, “The gardener does not make a plant grow. The job of a gardener is to create optimal conditions for growth.”

You can find Wild about Coffee in Norbury Park near Box Hill, Surrey, Thursday to Sunday. Check out their Facebook page.


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Alison Reid is an experienced executive coach who helps new Directors lead with confidence and step-change their influence and impact. She works with them 1-1, empowering them to focus on what matters, communicate with impact and stay calm under pressure so they can lead themselves and others to great results. She's the author of Unleash Your Leadership : How to Worry Less and Achieve More. Download an extract or buy the book.

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