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I mentioned in a previous post that I was taking a holiday and going to enjoy some time in Barcelona and Madrid. Whilst in Madrid, we spent an afternoon in the gorgeous sunshine at a park called Retiro and did a spot of rowing on the lake.

Whilst synchronising my rowing strokes I was reminded of a brilliant book I read a couple of years ago called “Will it Make the Boat Go Faster?” The book tells the story of the Great British rowing 8s team as they searched for every little improvement towards their goal of Olympic Gold. At the same time, there are some very relevant leadership lessons intertwined in the story.

One of the key points I took away from the book was that the team had some incredibly clear goals and were unbelievably focussed around delivering them. Every proposed action was met with the same question – “Will it make the boat go faster?” We may not be involved in a rowing team striving for Olympic victory. But we can ask ourselves a golden question based on the same principle to every idea or action that we take; “what difference does it make?”

Every leader I know is time poor. Made worse by the amount of time we spend doing things that aren’t making a difference. In the words of the song…”the devil will find work for idle hands to do”

Focussing takes determination particularly when the things that aren’t important or don’t make a positive difference are usually easier to achieve and provide more instant gratification.

Achieving real success as a leader requires us to understand the direction we are setting, and then prioritising our actions to move towards those goals.

If you want to know what you are doing is the right thing, just ask the question “what difference does it make?” and if the answer is “….it makes none” then why do it?

About the song:

Originally released in 1984, this track was also on The Smiths first album also called “The Smiths”. The song features a fantastic guitar riff from Johnny Marr and an unmistakeable closing falsetto from Morrissey. In researching this post, my favourite fact about this track is that it was released without a promotional video (hence the TOTP performance) because Morrissey felt that the video market was something that was going to “die very quickly”, and that he wanted to “herald the death” of it! How wrong you were Steven, how wrong you were…..