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Leading in the Whirlwind - Review . . . for Clarity

It is the archetypal hero vs villains scene. One lone hero, often a former military man, stands in an abandoned warehouse. He is surrounded by villains all heavily armed. We know what happens next in the movies. He defeats them all, despite being outnumbered and having less weaponry. But do you notice the key moment? Before the fight ensues and the root cause of the hero’s victory? . . . review. Even in the midst of a challenge, a battle, a whirlwind of action. There is the momentary point of review. His strengths, their strengths. His weaknesses, their weaknesses. Even in the midst of the intensity the review is crucial to success, to know where to start and the right steps to take.

Last week, I highlighted the importance of 4 key elements that can help lead in the real challenge of the whirlwind:

  • Pause

  • Review

  • Evaluate

  • Plan


Have you ever been in the whirlwind of leadership? It is frenetic, intense, draining and demanding. And amongst all of this intensity, there is a lie, a whisper in the ear, “I can’t stop to think, I just have to battle on.” The intensity demands our attention. But failing to pause and review, means we often end up with mistakes and more failure than we need to have.

So, what makes good review?

In chapter 8 of my book, Everyday People, Everyday Leaders, I talk about the six ‘P’s or stages of strategic perspective. The second is that of ‘Position’. It is about getting a clear perspective of our current position. When we know our clear starting point, we can plan the right steps. This comes in 2 parts

  • Confident Celebration

  • Critical Consideration

Confident Celebration

Start with confident celebration; what is working well. Then, be critical in consideration of what needs to improve. Considering what is working well encourages you that not all is bad. The thankfulness helps reduce the stress hormone cortisol and helps you consider the things that are working. These can help shape next steps as you know what is working.

Critical Consideration

The Japanese have a word ‘hansei’ which describes the process of an honest assessment of problem areas, focusing on what went wrong and on creating clear plans for ensuring it does not reoccur. The key word here is ‘honest’. As we stand in the middle of a whirlwind, it has to be an open and honest review. It maybe has to be quick, with many pressures coming fast, and it certainly has to be honest.

Practical review in a whirlwind

Now, we can’t ignore that little voice in our ear. We are often under time pressure in a whirlwind. Of course, a proper, through review would be best. But practically that can be hard and if that is the case then a little review is better than none at all. Try some of the following:

Countdown 321 - Gather the team for 10 minutes. Ask them the 3,2,1.

  • 3 things that are working well

  • 2 things that are not working well,

  • 1 simple change to try tomorrow

Health advice - Call 111 - If you work in a team, try the 1,1,1

  • 1 person who is doing well in your team

  • Ask them the 1 key thing that they do that makes the difference

  • Weigh it up and plan 1 thing that everyone could adopt from this

5 Second rule - 5,4,3,2,1 - If you work by yourself then

  • 5 things that are working well

  • 4 things that are not working quite so well

  • 3 people that could help you

  • 2 things that would improve things

  • 1 thing that would make the most difference

In many ways the numbers here aren’t important. The aspect is to review what is working well and what could be better. You can do this in ten minutes if time is tight. The key elements is still, in the midst of busyness, even when the whisper says don’t stop; stop and have an open and honest review.


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