Practical insights for leaders

Introducing Acumen

Welcome to the first publication of Acumen – a monthly fix of practical, evidence-based insights for leaders who view themselves more as ‘learn-it-alls’ rather than ‘know-it-alls’!  What should you expect?

  • Highly Curated Content:  Top reads/watches/listens on topics related to leadership, psychology, and the world of work.
  • Practical Tool-Kit:  Access to tools and skill-building exercises for you, your team, or organisation to apply immediately.
  • Any Other Business: Topical updates and thought-provoking content for time-pressed leaders.

Best, Olivia Meyrick
Executive Coach at Cadence


Our recommended reads / listens / watches this month…. 

VIDEO: Kathryn Schulz: On being wrong | TED Talk (17 mins)

Schulz makes the point we have no idea, in the present, if and when we might be wrong. To avoid this ‘rightness trap’ we must stay curious and listen to understand another’s point of view. 

ARTICLE:  Who’s Got The Monkey, by William Oncken (20mins)

 If you find that as a manager you are typically running out of time, while your subordinates are running out of work, then this HBR classic is a must-read. Some managers are trapped in an endless cycle of dealing with other people’s ‘monkeys’, whilst they’re reluctant to help those same people take their own initiative. As a result, they are often too busy to spend the time they need on the real ‘gorillas’ in their organisation.

PODCAST: Jonathan Haidt: When Good Intentions Go Bad (75 mins)

As a result of overprotective parenting and the rise of the ‘call-out’ culture, Haidt argues that the Gen Z population, which is now entering the workplace, is much more anxious, less resilient, and more easily offended than any group that has gone before them. He encourages leaders to emphasise ‘norm-setting’ and predicts that in-house therapy options will become commonplace in larger organisations. 


Giving Effective Feedback

’Tis the season for performance reviews for many companies. Take a tip from a study by US psychologists at Stanford et al., which showed that a simple preface before direct feedback was seen to cause a surge in subsequent effort and performance. 

What are these 19 simple words? 
“I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them”.

Why is this short sentence so effective? The message contains signals of connection (‘I care’), belonging (‘you are part of this group’) and expectations (‘I believe you can meet these high standards’). For more on this study, see here.


2020 in a visual…The New Yorker has nailed it (again)