Get the map out of your bag

I was doing an online navigation course aimed at those racing mountain marathons but the parallels with business and personal life were clear.

“Lots of people keep their map in their bag and only get it out after they are lost. Elites always keep their map to hand.”

Any map, be it an Ordnance Survey 1:25k or a personal/business/product roadmap, needs to be immediately available at the point of wayfinding decisions.


Any amount of availability friction increases the likelihood that you’ll press on regardless – when short on time – without checking your course and therefore make directional errors.

It can of course be a bit of a flow killer to consult the map when you are making fast progress; running down a mountain or otherwise.

But, anyone who has mistakenly descended 250 metres in the mountains before realising they have to regain that height on tired legs – or made a similar business/personal decision that’s taken them in the wrong direction – wasting valuable energy and momentum knows how quickly directional errors can compound.

The guidance from the world of elite mountain marathon winners is instructive:

  1. Print and laminate just the portion of the map you need for the particular race so you can keep it handy in all weathers.
  2. Check your position on the map regularly.
  3. Practice checking so it becomes super quick and second nature.

Ok, that’s great for running in the mountains but what about business/personal maps?

In the pre-COVID-19 face-to-face world, the formula was simple; print and display a massive version of the roadmap prominently in the office, take hard copies to all meetings, and evangelise relentlessly.

The formula for the remote working world needs some tweaks – here’s what I’ve found works so far:

  1. Print a copy and stick it on a wall in your home office – this is your ‘in any weather’ copy that will survive wifi outages, laptops overheating, kids messing with your router, and those digital overload moments when you crave something analogue to just scribble on.
  2. Pin the latest version somewhere digital with high organisational visibility e.g. internal wiki. Searchers can self serve with zero friction and casual passers by may take an interest.
  3. Always keep the file open on your computer so you can easily share your screen during video calls.
  4. Mercilessly include a copy in the appendix of any remotely related presentations! (no one’s printing those packs anymore so there’s no wasted paper).
  5. Schedule regular time to deliberately review your/teams’ direction and progress; cadence will vary but I’ve found 15-30 mins weekly works well.

Your map will be well and truly out of your bag and you can course correct before you get lost.

Defining leadership

Tonight the streets are filled with love.

These are the first words I heard from the radio alarm on Tuesday morning. Those seven simple words filled me with awe.

I had never heard of Crown Prince Haakon. I have no idea what sort of man he is. But his words spoke to me deeply.

The streets weren’t filled with anger or hatred. Not vengeance. Not negativity.

Love. Resilience. Humility. Defiance. Dare I say forgiveness?

What a colossal reframe of the situation! What a powerful perspective. What a bold statement to make.

We look to leaders in times of crisis to help us make sense of a situation. To provide guidance and reassurance. Leaders simplify things.

I was taken by Crown Prince Haakon’s reframe because it said so much in so few words. It also chimes well with the Jim Collins school of thought that the best leaders encapsulate humility and a quiet but steely determination, which resonates with me.

It wasn’t just Crown Prince Haakon. Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said, “Evil can kill a person, but it cannot kill a people.”

Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang said, “We will punish the guilty. The punishment will be more generosity, more tolerance, more democracy,”

Wow. What amazing courage and resolve.

Tonight the streets are filled with love

I have seen dozens definitions of leadership over the last fortnight but those seven words say it all.