The Elephant in Hindu Armies – India

The elephant is a large and imposing animal. Its natural habitat is south East Asia and Africa. The Asian elephant is slightly smaller in size than the African elephant and thus more suited for combat role. The earliest reference to an elephant as an instrument of war is in the Mahabharta. This epic mentions the war elephant. Sanskrit hymns composed about 1100BC, also mention the use of the elephant for military purpose. An elephant trained and guided by humans in battle is referred to as a war elephant. The basic use of war elephants was to make a massed charge against the enemy and sow confusion and fear in the opposing ranks.

The elephant soon became a standard part of the Army of the Hindu Kings. In fact they occupied pride of place in the Hindu armies. The assets of the elephants were their strength and terrifying appearance. Alexander the great faced the Hindu King Porus at the battle of Hydaspes in 326 BC. In addition he also faced a force of about 200 elephants. It was a terrifying battle as the Greeks were confronted by this formidable force of elephants. Selecus the Greek general who led the assault against the elephants was suitably impressed and later incorporated large elephant forces in his army. After the battle Alexander calculated that in case he advanced further he would face about 6000 elephants of the Magadh kings and thus gave up his plans to proceed further. Thus the war elephant became the mainstay of the Armies of that period in India. From India, the practice of using war elephants spread westward to Asia Minor, Greece and Africa. Their most famous use of elephants was made by the Greek general Pyrrhus of Epirus and Hannibal against the Romans.

The strategy of the generals of that period centered on the elephants who were placed in front. This was essential as they were to lead the charge. They were flanked by other components like cavalry and infantry.

Elephants had a pride of place in Hindu Armies. Great care was taken to equip the elephants. Elaborate armor made of steel was specially made for elephants. Specialized training was given to the elephants that moved into battle to the accompaniment of drums, trumpets and conch shells. The idea was to over awe the enemy and scare him.

The commander-in-Chief normally mounted an elephant and directed the battle. This gave him a panoramic view of the battle field but also made him vulnerable to personal attack as he could be easily identified. An example is the king of Debal, King Dahir who mounted an elephant against the Muslim invaders in 712AD. Dahir fell from his elephant and as if taking a cue the Army disintegrated.

The elephant continued to have pride of place In Indian Armies. Generally the war strategy of the Magadha Kings revolved around a large elephant force. Chandragupta had an estimated 9,000 elephants while chroniclers mention Harsh the Hindu king as having a force of 60,000 elephants. Irrespective of the figures the fact remains that large forces of elephants operated as part of Hindu armies. These elephants normally carried the day if battles were fought with set positions as on an even field and jungle areas.

A prohibitive number of elephants have died fighting in the various wars during India’s history. It’s important to remember that a massed charge by elephants could have terrifying results as it could reach speeds of about 30 km/h. Such a charge was also difficult to stop by any infantry line up as it would by pure force crash into enemy soldiers, trampling and creating confusion. Not forgetting the shock effect. Men who escaped being crushed were just knocked aside or forced back. It will not be wrong to say that the elephant was in the olden days the equivalent of the modern Tank/Panzer divisions.

The introduction of muskets in mid-1700 and cannon put an end to the military superiority of the elephant. However, their importance for use was not diminished because they could still transport soldiers, ammunition and supplies over extremely rough terrain where men could not go alone. The real end of elephants as a potent force occurred in the first battle of Panipat in 1526. Babur had cannon and his opponent Ibrahim Lodhi a large force of elephants. The gun powder noise and smoke did not allow the elephant charge to take place with the result Babur carried the day. It also marked the end of the elephant as a mainstay of the armies in India. But their use continued in other ways to help the war effort. Even during WWII in Burma against the Japanese the British commandeered all private owned elephants for war duty. It was only the advent of the jeep that the role of the elephant ended once for all.

Living the Question

Often, there are unanswered questions which drive us crazy. We assume that for every question, there must exist an answer. If the answer doesn’t present itself, it must be a case of looking harder for the answer. If we can’t find the answer, we think we should consult with experts for the answer. In fact, we like to consult with many experts, hence the second opinion.

How often have we gone to the doctor looking for an answer to some mysterious ailment, only to have the doctor say that he or she didn’t know why our body did what it did. Usually, we react in frustration or we lose confidence in our doctor, our expert. If he or she doesn’t have the answer, then they must be lacking in knowledge, skill or expertise. So, we decide to get a second opinion. Sometimes, that doctor will say the same thing. Or perhaps he or she will give us an answer that sounds good. We like that answer because it is an answer; and any answer is better than no answer. But what if the doctor’s answer is just a fancy way of saying there is no explanation? We don’t care because that doctor ‘sounded’ like she knew what she was talking about. That perceived certainty is reassuring and satisfying. But it’s an illusion and satisfies our need for certainty.

In the leadership arena, the same situation occurs. A leader often comes upon a tough and complex situation, more often than not involving people. It’s not presented as a people problem. It’s usually presented as one of these:

The project is off-track and we aren’t sure how to get it back on track

We are going through a transition and I need my people to shift their focus to another way of operating

We aren’t being efficient in how we use our time and everything is taking too long

We are losing market to our competitors who seem to be doing a better job of reaching out to the same customers

The VP is a great guy but he doesn’t have the presence to lead the team to meet their objectives

So what is the question? It will often be framed as one of organizational process, talent management, employee engagement, effectiveness, communication or other issues. Thus will begin the search for the answer and the expert to provide it. If the expert doesn’t provide us with the solution we have already concluded we need, then we blame the expert and search for a better expert. Yet, we never question the question. Or our need for an answer.

I recently worked with a team which had a new leader. This kind of change always creates great uncertainty, for the leader and for the team. In this case, the leader very quickly wanted to establish strategic priorities and move forward. I was brought in to run a skills development session on trust and influence, at the end of which the team would create action plans. We didn’t get there. In the course of the session, there was what I call ‘unspokenness” in the room; also known as the elephant in the room. When the elephant appears, everything else that happens is illusory because we are dancing around the issues. The elephant is the container for those issues and for the questions.

Sometimes, the question is hanging over our heads, like the Sword of Damocles. We know that dealing with the question will bring complexity and messiness to what we want to be an orderly process. But what games we play with ourselves. This leader and the team blithely move forward, working on strategic plans with lots of neat deadlines and goals. We all know that the elephant will reappear and the unspokenness will continue and the real work won’t get done. We don’t see the immediate impact of this, but over time, targets and goals are missed.

When we rush to solutions or action, we whiz right by the questions.

Sometimes, just staying with the question is the most powerful action a leader can take. It forces everyone to think about the question, to live the question so that other possibilities have a chance to emerge. There is wisdom in silence because it slows everything down and makes space for our imagination, our creative mind and gives us a chance to make connections.

Just living the question might be the most trustworthy thing a leader could do.

The Golden Elephant

There is a “golden elephant in the room,” according to Robert Zoellick, the American who heads the World Bank.

As world leaders headed to Seoul for the G-20 summit last week, gold hit a record-high price of $1,400 an ounce, and Zoellick made a surprising proposal. In an opinion piece in the Financial Times, he wrote that “The system should…consider employing gold as an international reference point of market expectations about inflation, deflation and future currency values.”

The media were quick to interpret Zoellick’s statement as a call for the return of the gold standard, a system in which the value of paper currency is directly pegged to the supply of gold. However, in an interview with CNBC, Zoellick explained that he did not mean to propose tying currency values directly to any hard asset.

Zoellick said he had simply intended to suggest that governments pay more attention to what gold says about the financial community’s confidence in national currencies. Right now, that confidence looks very shaky.

In his Financial Times column, Zoellick noted that markets are already “using gold as an alternative monetary asset.” The peak in gold prices before the G-20 summit demonstrated investors’ worries over fluctuating currency values and their desire for more stable assets. What “the price of gold has been telling people is that there is a lack of confidence in some of the fundamental growth policies,” Zoellick said.(1) He called for a new package of international reforms aimed at spurring growth.

But while Zoellick may never have intended to raise the possibility of a gold standard, the fact that people instantly interpreted his comments that way demonstrates the persistent support in some quarters for that idea – a very misguided one – and the mounting concern that the world’s major trading currencies are all being manipulated or debased.

I doubt any central banker today would support the idea of tying the money supply directly to gold. The reason is that there is essentially a fixed supply of gold in the world. Annual mining output does not have much impact, since the gold that can be mined in any one year represents a small fraction of all the gold which has been mined previously. Unlike, say, oil, gold that is produced is almost never consumed. It just ends up in someone’s jewelry box or coin collection or, most likely, in a bullion vault, where it sits until it is sold to someone who will put it in a similar place.

Thus, if the supply of money is set as some fraction of the supply of gold, the money supply becomes fixed. The need for money, however, is not fixed; it expands as commerce expands. The need for money also increases when the money’s “velocity,” the rate at which people spend it, slows down. If the money supply is not increased in response to decreases in velocity, the economy contracts sharply.

Back in the days of the gold standard, recessions were sharp and frequent, and bouts of deflation were common. There were literally shortages of money. The greatest money shortage of all became known as the Great Depression. In 1933, one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first acts in office was to break the tight link between gold and the U.S. money supply.

But those who wanted Zoellick to advocate a gold standard are not entirely misguided in their thinking. The public is becoming increasingly aware that the supply of money needs to be related to something. The Federal Reserve’s “liquidity injections” have left many worried that paper currency, or at least green paper currency with the word “dollar” on it, will soon become meaningless.(2)

A country’s money supply needs to be related to something, but that something is not gold; it is the county’s output of goods and services. Ideally that output should also be closely related to the country’s consumption. In the United States we have a chronic problem balancing the two. We consume more than we produce, and we borrow the money, or accept foreign investment, to make up the difference. By effectively printing up as much money as we need to finance the stuff we want to buy, the Federal Reserve is matching the money supply to consumption (or the consumption it wants to promote), rather than to output.

This policy is only supposed to last long enough to stimulate the economy over the next eight months, but if the economy remains sluggish, it’s possible that the Fed will dump in even more money. And, as the value of the dollar declines, foreigners may be reluctant to buy the newly issued Treasury debt, demanding interest rates higher than the Treasury can afford to pay. In that case, the Fed will have to choose between allowing the Treasury to default and printing up more money. Given the choice, the Fed will immediately kick the printing presses back into high gear, further eroding the value of the dollar.

Imposing a gold standard would be similar to erecting a brick wall to stop a runaway train. It might halt the collapse of the dollar, but it would do a lot of damage in the process. Rather than throwing up a wall, we need to get the train back under control. That will require us to restore balance between what we produce and what we spend.


(1) CNBC: Zoellick Sees ‘Elephant,’ Not Endorsing Gold Standard

(2) Merco Press: Germany Blasts Latest US Fed Reserve Plan To Pump More Money

Performance Anxiety: Overcoming the Bedroom Blues

How does one overcome sexual anxiety?

Sexual anxiety can be the 1,000-pound pink elephant in the room. It is something most men don’t want to talk about, nearly all men will deny ever having experienced, and yet will affect virtually everyone at some point in their lifetime. Anybody who claims they have never been nervous about having sex is either lying or lives with a healthy dose of narcissism. While sexual anxiety can range from having a few butterflies in the stomach to a crippling emotional condition warranting assistance by a professional sex therapist, there are ways to ease the anxiety and make sex more enjoyable. Taking charge of one’s sexual life in terms of emotional health, penis health and physical health can help lead to a more satisfying love life all around.

What is sexual anxiety?

Also known as performance anxiety, the crux of the problem begins with overanalyzing and putting too much pressure on one performance, which can ultimately lead to a poor performance come show time. Many men seem to equate bringing about female orgasm with masculinity and worry that if they do not measure up to a woman’s standards, they will be seen as less of a man. Society’s ideals of male sexuality are constantly bombarding the typical man, often creating unrealistic expectations of what a man should look like and how he should perform in bed. Magazines are splashed with 6-pack abs and mind-blowing sex tips every man should know. Often, turning on the TV will find a steamy between-the-sheets session between two impossibly good-looking people — who seem to have endless stamina and passion for one another — as their sweaty bodies cascade in orgasm after orgasm. And that is happening in the PG world, never mind the way that the adult film industry portrays male sexuality.

For some men, all this media input skews their perception of their own bodies, leading them to believe that they cannot live up to their partner’s expectations. Thus, when it comes time to knock boots, some men become self-conscious and hyper-focused on what they are doing rather than what they are feeling, which is a recipe for an unsatisfying experience. In some cases, this performance anxiety can even lead to prolonged dysfunction.

How to overcome sexual anxiety

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Part of solving the problem is getting to the root of the problem, so often self-exploration is needed to determine the underlying cause. Men can ask themselves, “What am I afraid of?” or “What is making me feel nervous?” to help determine what may be the cause of the anxiety leading up to a sexual encounter. Below are a few quick tips to help curb sexual anxiety; however, men suffering from long-term, severe cases should consider professional help.

  • Relax: It is pretty hard to enjoy oneself during sex when simultaneously analyzing one’s body fat content and trying to recall the last 20 moves in the Kama Sutra. Remember, nobody’s perfect, so try to put insecurities aside and have fun.
  • De-stress: Anxiety begets anxiety. Work, family and money stressors can be carried over into the bedroom without even trying. Make a conscious effort to leave anxiety at the door and mentally “check-out” during intimate moments.
  • Exercise: It may sound simplistic, but exercise releases feel-good endorphins into the brain, which help to combat anxiety. Additionally, working out may provide a jolt of self-confidence in the bedroom, making it easier to be naked and vulnerable with a partner.
  • Breathe: Obviously people are always breathing, but purposeful deep breaths slows down the nervous system and fights anxiety. Breathing in for the count of 4, holding it for the count of 4, and breathing out for the count of 4 can actually help boost relaxation. Really, try it.
  • Talk about it: Sexual anxieties may be the last thing a man wants to talk to his partner about, but chances are she has already noticed something is going on. It is best to get it out in the open, as she may just have a response to help solve the whole problem. It is also important to communicate, because ones’ partner may misread anxiety cues — such as avoidance of intercourse — as a sign of infidelity or rejection of her body, leading to additional issues down the road.
  • Penis care: Keeping a healthy penis can increase body confidence and may even help with stimulation and sensitivity, making sex more enjoyable. Using a daily penis vitamin formula (most professionals recommend Man 1 Man Oil) can keep the penis skin smooth and attractive while fighting odor and increasing circulation to the area. A healthy penis can go a long way towards feeling good about one’s prowess, and that may just translate into decreased anxiety in the bedroom.

Elephant Plains Game Lodge – Game Viewing

Elephant Plains Game Lodge is located in Sabi Sand Game Reserve, a part of the Greater Kruger National Park, with 2.2 million hectares of unfenced open forest. Accompanied by the Manyeleti Honeymoon suites, Rondavels with in-built bars, open-sky buffet, African cuisine and spa, Safaris, Ranging and tracking, star gazing and the amazing Big 5, Elephant Plains naturally becomes a part of anyone’s African-tour wish list. With accommodation capacities for a maximum of 24 people, the luxury, adventure and the raw nature is served to enjoy with complete privacy. Gaming, Photo-shoot, Marriage, Honeymoon or a family trip – Elephant Plains could make it unforgettable.

What makes Elephant Plains Game reserve Lodge special?

The Sabi sand game reserve was named after the two rivers running across the place, Sabi and the Sand Rivers. In the middle of the 20th century, the farmers of the reserve dropped fences to make the roaming area of the animals residing there into a bigger place. In 1993, the Kruger national Park also dropped fences, making the traverse area of the animals there, over a whopping 2.2 million hectares.

The rooms of Elephant Plains were some of the first to be built in this reserve and have been opened to the public only before a decade ago. Being surrounded by a dry riverbed, the place is habituated by the famous BIG 5, and added to them, by leopards, hyenas and over 300 colorful and rare species of birds. As one can expect from any game lodge in South Africa, the guests of Elephant Plains can enjoy game drives and bush walks. But being there from the beginning, more than any others do, makes their game rangers and Shangaan trackers the most efficient among everyone you can have there. They were well-educated and well-aware of the regulations imposed by the ecologist of the Kruger national Park and the Sabi Sand game reserve; hence they know where they can take you on track and also, off-track.

The animals around this place have got used to the ranging vehicles, which in turn makes your trip inside the deep forests, a peaceful one without disturbing their everyday life. As Elephant Plains is situated right by the side of the two rivers that runs across the reserve, having a sight of animals quenching their thirst and taking a nap in the afternoons amidst the bushes is so common here. A complete South Africa game lodge should have all the wonders that the country has to offer its visitors, and this is a place where pure South African spirit can be seen, felt and experienced. The Sundowner drink offered during the Safaris, the drumbeat announcement of dinner, a delicate South African breakfast, the homemade coffee and rusks, and obviously, the stunning views of the wildlife, guarantees you more than what you can expect from the woods of Africa.

Not a mere game reserve lodge

Being special will need more than common features and specialties. Elephant Plains stands special with not only the perfect trips and foods, but also with its rooms and luxury suites. The main lodge itself stands magnificent with ambient dining area, an elegant bar, a perfect lounge and wine cellar, a spa, a swimming pool, a games room, a gym, a conference room, a library and a curio shop. Added to it, there are six luxury suites for double or triple stays, five Rondavels for double, triple or family stays and an exquisite Manyeleti honeymoon suite.

Everything a person can expect from a luxury game lodge is here – the air conditioned double bedrooms, en-suite bathroom, glass fronted open-plan, fireplaces, electronic safes, tea and coffee making machines and added to these, an elegant bar and an excellent private viewing deck. Luxury is common, but the sightings of wild animals roaming so close to you, is unbeatable.

When the luxury rooms are overlooking the riverbed, the Rondavels are overlooking the landscaped garden, with amenities like the same as in the luxury suites. There are Rondavels for two, three and four, that gives you the unmatched experience of staying here at an affordable price.

The diamond in this crown called Elephant Plains is the Manyeleti honeymoon suite. With in-built swimming pool, a private viewing deck, a day-bed and a stunning view of the reserve, this suite can be one of the best places any honeymooning couple can go for.

Big 5 – The best part of a safari game lodge

The African Elephant, the mighty Rhinoceros, the lightning fast leopard, the all muscular Buffalo and the king of the jungle, the lion are called the Big 5, by the locals as well as the usual visitors of this reserve. The major part of people visiting this place come here just to have a look at the Big 5, while on a safari trip. But with Elephant Plains, sit and watch the riverbed from your private viewing deck, you can easily spot the Big 5, all around the this wonderful safari game lodge. Located in the middle of a vast riverbed and bushy landscape, not only the Big 5, even the nocturnal habitats of this reserve and a lot of birds and animals, which are rare to be seen, can be easily spotted roaming around the lodge.

Elephant Plains – The four starred private game lodge

No wonder that the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa has awarded Elephant Plains with four stars and an AA accreditation, certifying superior accommodation and amenities. Not only the food, not only weddings, not only the suites and not only the Big 5 are what making this place a must-go; there are separate safari trips for photographic sessions, wedding, evening time star gazing and also a program called mini-tuskers for the children based on the number of the children present at the time.

As one can see, it is located in the remotest parts of the Sabi Sand reserve and can be reached only if you take the Gowrie gate, which is adjacent to the northern part of the Kruger National Park. Due to river crossing, accessing the place through other gates is impossible and also, over the last 20 Kms is a dirt road, which may take around 45 minutes of travelling after you take off from the tar road.

Though finding the place is little tricky and hard for new visitors, it is worth the time and money spent on it. If you are going to South Africa, don’t forget to include Elephant Plains in your checklist.

Gastronomical Torquay

Torquay holidays offer its travellers a huge list of attractions along with some great restaurants which do play an important role on anyone’s holidays. Torquay is one of the most popular holiday destinations of the world, which gained popularity as a lovely seaside town with many holiday cottages. Due to abundant sunshine all through the year, more and more tourists visit this place. You can plan your Torquay holidays in summer with your family. Torquay holidays with a real continental atmosphere, sun kissed beaches and the lovely water front offer a vibrant life full of restaurants, bars and cafes. The holiday cottages are located   in  picturesque setting that offer serene atmosphere to families wanting to enjoy their Torquay holidays to the fullest. Here are some of the restaurants to enjoy lip smacking dishes during your holidays to Torquay.

 The   Room   in  the  Elephant 

 The   Room   in  the  Elephant  restaurant is situated close to the holiday cottages and offers fine dining experience with breathtaking views of Torquay due to its perfect location. You should not leave this wonderful restaurant without tasting the locally sourced seafood. It is now recognized as one of the most stylish restaurants  in  Devon.

Steps Bistro

You can make your Torquay holidays just perfect by visiting this incredible restaurant called, Steps Bistro. It offers a wide variety of drinks and wines to give your evening a perfect start. Adventurous diners can experience a culinary experience of their choice and the chefs are always busy concentrating on the freshly cooked food. They now have the names of locally produced wines from the Devon’s Vineyards on their list. With generous portions, they bring to you separate menus for lunch and dinner along with some scrumptious vegetarian dishes.

The Orchid

This is the 26 cover AC restaurant and has 3AA Rosettes under its belt. It not only offers breath taking views, but also offers lip smacking continental dishes with buffet and A La Carte options. The prices are not on the higher side which makes it a popular joint amongst holidaymakers. Since the restaurant is situated near the holiday cottages and is a must-visit during your holidays.

Langtry’s Restaurant

Langtry offers pure luxury with a romantic A la Carte spread, where you will get exclusive innovative choices of local specialties. The restaurant uses the best and the finest local ingredients which are sure to please even the most discerning diner. You and your family can enjoy a fine meal at this restaurant.

Also not to be missed are the award winning Fish and Chip shops and various other eating joints that offer culinary journey around the world- from Moroccan, Thai, Mexican, Chinese, Indian, French and Italian. So when you choose the holiday cottages you will be making sure you have a great place to stay for your Torquay holidays.

Whiplash Symptoms From Sneezing?

Most people have heard of whiplash and think of it as something that is caused in a car accident. And while that is true, there are also other causes of whiplash including a previous neck injury, sport related falls, being pushed or a bad fall.

Even an intense sneeze can result in whiplash!

That’s why it’s important to know the signs of whiplash which may include:

  • A sudden feeling of stiffness or soreness in the neck
  • Pain between shoulders
  • Difficulty in turning the head from side to side

Because of the pain associated with whiplash, along with the potential for further complication, it’s important to consult with a chiropractor following any injury. Any sudden stop of an individual’s body that forcefully snaps their head and neck forward, backwards, or sideways can severely injure their neck’s soft tissues, muscles, ligaments, tendons and nerves, as well as the vertebrae.

In a whiplash injury, supportive soft tissues in the neck are often over-stretched or torn and spinal joints can become misaligned. Misaligned vertebrae, or subluxations, can cause the nerve roots and blood vessels in an individual’s neck to become compressed, stretched or irritated. This can interfere with nerve transmission and blood supply to vital body functions.

In addition, the normal curve of the cervical spine is altered and joint motion becomes restricted. As a result, weakened tissues are no longer able to support the vertebrae in its proper position.

Over time, if these subluxations are left untreated, they can cause many health problems such as headaches, backaches, neckpain, arthritis, heart problems, and many others. There is simply no end to the health conditions that can result from a pinched or blocked nerve. Consider this, if the nerve from your brain to your heart was cut the result would be fatal. What if the nerve was pinched or squeezed? What would the result be?

This is why consulting with a chiropractor is so important. Individualized chiropractic adjustments not only can relieve initial pain from an injury, they can also help in the restoration of healthy spinal joint function to prevent future problems.

Because chiropractors are extensively trained, they can help with:

  1. Removal of nerve interference
  2. Breaking down scar tissue from previous injuries
  3. Increasing circulation to enhance healing
  4. Reducing inflammation

Studies have shown that chiropractic adjustments can eliminate or reduce joint pain and restore normal range of motion to specific areas of injury. An Australian study points to the pain associated with whiplash and shows how a chiropractor can help with such situations. The 10-year study found that:

  • Facet joint pain is the definitive cause of chronic head and neck pain in 60 percent of whiplash cases studied
  • 87 percent of patients exhibited a limited range of cervical motion. The two findings suggest that many whiplash injuries respond well to chiropractic care because adjustments are specifically directed at facet joints
  • Case studies have also shown that chiropractic adjustments can eliminate or reduce joint pain and restore range of motion

Why Would I Talk About Elephants?

You will discover the two great reasons to think about  elephants  as you read on

First up what can we learn from “Mr Shuffles” the newborn baby  elephant  that after 4 days of his mother’s labour was thought to be stillborn – until he popped his persistent head up and with a little help like a sling under his belly held up by four zoo staff so he was able to drink milk from his mother until his legs got the hang of standing by himself. He is now a fun little animal and still getting into trouble and a recent news broadcast showed all the other  elephants  and the zoo staff rescuing him from a pond adventure. Baby  elephants  weigh around 100 kg but like all of us from time to time, they may need some help.

And so the lessons we learn from Mr Shuffles, who now has a proper name, are that we all, including our businesses, need both a helping hand and a good dose of persistence.

So why is this relevant?

Let me explain…

One of the best helping hands for most businesses is a simple and effective management system that identifies, then reduces risks, trains your staff to reduce errors, rework and missed opportunities and builds  in  feedback.

It gives you peace of mind and extra time.

It does not really matter which system you choose, environment, safety or quality because they all help your business. The best system is one that covers all these risks and is low paper but fully integrated.

The second  elephant  is the one we pretend is not  in   the   room  when we talk about systems.  In  the case of certified systems, the  elephant  is what to do about auditing.

I am the first to acknowledge that external auditing can be expensive, especially if you have an integrated system with several standards but there are things you can do.

• You may decide to only internally audit your system and this may be a sensible choice although is not as easy to get the real system benefits and improvement that an external audit helps with.

• You may decide to only audit one system but run all of them and if they are fully integrated, your external audit will help you keep them all up to speed so that you get the benefits at a lower cost.

• You can think carefully about which auditing body you want to use. I recommend smaller auditing bodies for small business because their costs are often lower – like $1,200 per day instead of $1,800 from some of the larger companies and some of them specialise  in  working with small business and understand you have simpler systems.

• If you need the highly recognised big company logos for your marketing, then your auditing fees are well worth it and much cheaper than many other forms of advert. Every business is different.

One very real benefit of an external audit is that tomorrow walks in the door and you have a deadline to keep your system up to scratch. You will get greater efficiency and reduced stress!

Just imagine not needing to deal with staff errors and what is even worse, covered up errors that come back to bite much worse than if they had admitted it up front.

Other benefits are access to tenders and large contracts and logos that help with your marketing.

I have been running audited systems since the late 1980s and it is simply the way I do business. It allows me to run effectively with minimal staff and I fully recommend you have an audited managed system.

Motivating Your Team in a Tough Market

When the market tightens, the media spews doom and gloom and Consultants become discouraged, it may be a good time to try new strategies for motivating your team.

Traditionally, most sales teams and sport teams focus on causes of failure and try to improve weaknesses. As Sales Managers, Coaches and Trainers, we identify skill gaps and try to address them. We focus on what they are not doing well.

Well, there’s a new strategy in town! A strength-based approach to enhance motivation and teamwork. It turned the Sri Lankan Cricket Team into a world-series winning team by applying these two new processes prior to their April – July 2006 tour of England. And I thought you might like to know about it, as I think it’s exactly the right approach to use with sales teams in a tight market.

Appreciative Enquiry and Open Space Technology.

It’s all about moving from a team with a champion or two, to a champion team focused and motivated to soar. I attended a session with Dr Sandy Gordon FAPS, now based at UWA, Perth Australia who was the Sri Lankan team’s sport’s psychologist at the time. And it occurred to me that this would be a great approach for a sales team, bruised and battered by the economy.

The Appreciative Inquiry Process

AI is a positive, strengths-based operational approach to learning and development that seems to enhance and refocus Team Work. The AI Process asks questions as a group:

“What are we doing right?”

“When we are at our best, what are we doing well?’

“When we are at our best, what is our behaviour?”

“How do we make what’s working, happen more often?’

AI makes some assumptions from which this model operates:

– In every group something works

– What people focus on becomes their reality

– Reality is created in the moment and there are several realities

– The act of asking questions of a group influences the individual in some way

– People are more confident and comfortable in their journey to the future when they carry forward parts of the past

– If people carry parts of the past forward, those parts should be what is best about the past

– It is important to value differences

– The language people use creates their reality

Ultimately, it puts the attention on their goals by paying attention to the right things at the right times. It also helps identify what is out of your control but keeps your focus on the team vision.

So, how did they apply AI to the Sri Lankan team? And how can you use this for your sales team? AI took a five step process:

1) Discovery

Identifying the ‘best of what has been or what is’ and supporting their belief in a positive future

2) Dream

Creating a clear results-oriented vision in relation to the discovered potential and encouraging them to conceive images of possibilities.

3) Design

Creating possibility propositions of the newly express dream or vision and bringing the dream into focus

4) Destiny

Strengthening the affirmative capability of them and helping them recognise the dream in the present.

5) ‘Naming the Elephant’ in the room

Bringing ‘undiscussables’ into the open and having the ‘difficult conversations’. Let’s face it, every time you try to motivate your team, there will be ‘yes buts,’ as a barrier in their minds. Ask them if there’s any problems, the whole team will shake their heads, “No, can’t see any problems.” But guess what, the first thing they will talk about when out of the room are the very things you wanted them to talk about in the room.

This gives people an escape clause, a back door if you like. If they are not doing well because they are being annoyed by your DealMaker, frustrated at the lack of leads, have bought into the media story of the economy and no training will remove these perceived barriers.

But holding a confidential ‘Naming the Elephants’ facilitated by a professional, you will be able to name these Elephants. Naming the Elephant allows for identifying barriers and distractions, innovation and taking action. It allows the team to learn from each other, and teaches them not to attack or blame.

The rules are simple;

– Expect and respect different points of view

– Avoid trying to identify who wrote what

– Avoid naming names – if the ‘Elephant’ is a person, only describe his behaviour and its impact on the team.

Open Space Technology

As an Open Space Facilitator, I have seen the impact this new form of meeting has on the motivation, energy and passion of the participants. Open Space Technology is a meeting methodology which helps individuals and groups become more effective in work environments that are rapidly and constantly changing.

Open Space Technology releases the knowledge, experience and innovation in the organization which is not captured through less open processes, and applies them to specific complex issues.

Open Space works best when the work to be done is complex, the people and ideas involved are diverse, the passion for resolution (and potential for conflict) are high, and the time to get it done was yesterday.

What Will Happen?

We never know exactly what will happen when we open the space for people, but we can guarantee these results when any group gets into Open Space:

  1. All of the issues that are most important to the participants will be raised.
  2. All of the issues raised will be addressed by those participants most qualified and capable of getting something done on each of them.
  3. In a time as short as one or two days, all of the most important ideas, discussion, recommendations, conclusions, questions for further study and plans for immediate action will be documented in one comprehensive report.
  4. After an event, all of these results can be made available to an entire organization within days of the event, so the conversation can invite every stakeholder into implementation, right now.
  5. And results like these can be planned and implemented faster than any other kind of so-called “large group intervention”. It is literally possible to accomplish in days and weeks what some other approaches take months and years to do.

When the economy changes, what were once predictable cycles seem to extend well beyond what we have experienced before, you need new tools and new strategies to keep your team focused and motivated.

The end result for the Sri Lankan team? They said the meetings they held were the ‘best team meetings ever’. Sri Lanka subsequently drew the three Test series 1 – 1 and white washed England 5 – 0 in One Day Internationals, their best overseas tour performance in 25 years.

Unfortunately, a change of Management decided that these processes were a bit too non-traditional and went back to more familiar strategies.

What could these concepts do for your team? Do you have the courage to try something new?

The Elephant In The Road

Question: How can you succeed applying creative leadership principles when creativity and innovation have little support in the executive suite? (The answer may surprise you.)

Answer: You can’t!

That’s right, you can’t. If you’re disappointed, stand in line. I have met many, many managers – both staff managers and project managers – who try to practice the principles of creative leadership but are frustrated by their organizational cultures. And I feel deeply sad when I hear that kind of story, because it means one more flame of inspiration will be coughing and sputtering just to stay alive. If you wonder where cynicism in the workplace comes from, you need look no further.

I used to recommend a guerrilla tactic to these folks. I advised them to establish creative work practices in their area of responsibility and focus on helping creative practices succeed there. I said they could use that as a beachhead. The idea was that the small success would spread organically, despite organizational resistance, because everybody loves success.

But I found that this guerrilla tactic only works occasionally, and then only because a powerful ally emerges in the leadership team. Having seen the profound discouragement all those other times, when no knight in shining armor materialized, I can no longer recommend it.

You see, the executive team is in many ways like an elephant, and if it wants to block the road, you’re sunk. Very frequently, the elephant is the CEO him or herself. So I’ve changed my approach and now I start right at the top. In doing so I’ve found many executives who simply don’t believe that creativity has an important role to play in the fabric of their organization.

I’m happy to work with someone who values creativity as an organizational strategy, even if they have doubts about its applicability or effectiveness in their situation. We can work together, and I can help them overcome the real and perceived obstacles.

But I absolutely will not work with people who don’t see the business value of creativity to begin with. I’ve concluded that their minds will only be changed by the success of their more creative competitors. So I explore the issue right up front, and I winnow out the doubters as soon as possible. That way I get to spend much more time with those creative competitors.

There’s a lesson here for those of you interested in change, creative or otherwise: when you’re traveling through a jungle, you’ll enjoy the trip much more if your elephant blazes the trail and gives you a ride.