The Fast and Furious Guide to Great Rapport

How rapport and great relationships at work start just like brilliant stunt-driving

Imagine that you’re starring in an episode of the popular movie franchise ‘Fast and Furious’. You’re in a scene involving two speeding cars, possibly chasing a third vehicle, or a train or something. For some reason your task is to get somebody to step or transfer from one of those moving cars, into the other. And they’re both moving at high speed.

If you can do this, if you can successfully facilitate that step between these two speeding cars without crashing, then the day is won, or the bad guys are defeated, or something similar; anyway, in the movie it’s a good thing if you can do it.

This act, of transferring successfully between those two moving vehicles, has a lot in common with the way that great rapport starts. Roll with me on this.

Rapport: ‘a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned are in sync with each other, understand each other’s feelings or ideas, and communicate smoothly.’


If you can get great rapport between yourself and another person at work, everything you need and want to achieve together just becomes so much easier.


But what if that rapport is not coming naturally, or if you’re unsure how to go about it, where should you start?

This is where our Fast and Furious car transfer comes into its own.

Imagine for a moment that you and your colleague are the two moving cars and that the act of stepping successfully from one car to the other is your relationship. Will it transfer successfully? Or will it plunge to its doom between the two and be left in the wreckage on the highway?

If you really did have to facilitate that rolling transfer, how would you go about it?


Before you did anything else, you’d make sure that you came alongside each other, and were then travelling at the same speed and in the same direction. In a real-life rapport-building situation this is the equivalent of:

  1. Reading and understanding the other person’s Emotional State; and
  2. Matching that Emotional State yourself, in a way that isn’t fake.

Let’s drive along that road in a little more detail…

First, reading and understanding the other person’s Emotional State.

People want to be understood. This is why we say things like: “He just gets me,” when we’re talking about our best relationships. And the best way to understand other people is to observe and listen to them.

In the early stages of a rapport-building situation, this is easier to do than you might think. Research shows that humans are evolved to recognise at least six separate basic emotions just from seeing facial characteristics alone – and possibly as many as 21. And more recent research shows that hearing the emotional content in what people say might actually be even more accurately evolved in humans. I’ve put some links about this stuff at the end of the article, in case you’d like to read around a bit more.

The key to doing the early stages of rapport-building well is just to give your naturally-evolved abilities a brief moment to operate. Think of yourself as the second car in our Fast and Furious episode. Your colleague is driving along as the first car. If you wanted to pull alongside them at speed, it’d take you a moment or two to judge how fast they were going and in what direction they were headed.

If you want to have better rapport with people, make sure you take that moment to look and listen and assess their Emotional State before you do anything else.

Second, matching that Emotional State yourself, in a way that isn’t fake.

It seems to me that this is the point where a lot of people come unstuck in trying to have better rapport. What if the other person’s current emotional state is different from yours? What if, for example, they seem quite grumpy, but you’re feeling good about things and would just quite like to get on with whatever work task needs their input? Or what if you think that the task you both need to be getting on with requires one emotional state – “steadiness” for example – but the other person seems anything but ‘steady’?

In these situations people seem to tell themselves that they can’t suddenly change their emotional state to match the other person’s because that would be like lying or faking it, and (a) I don’t know how to do that and (b) they’ll see through it anyway. Or we throw our hands up and ask why, just for once, the other person can’t be the one who changes their emotional state to match mine!

These are important issues and I’d definitely want to tackle them in order to have better relationships at work. But in a context where your immediate goal is to start having great rapport, it’s futile to address them now. They’re the equivalent of pulling almost alongside the other speeding car and shouting over at them: “I want to head in a different direction.” Or: “Change your speed to match mine.” But they can’t hear you – they’re in a speeding car!

Better, to nudge your speed and direction closer to theirs, and then have the conversation about where you’re headed, and how fast you should be going.

And instead of worrying about looking or being fake when you’re seeking to match someone else’s Emotional State – find your own real close equivalence, and then be that; it’ll be close enough to work.

So, if the other person looks and sounds like they’re ‘grumpy’ and you’re not feeling the grumps yourself, find something close to it that you can relate to, like ‘sombre’, or ‘serious’. Find the part of you that truly is at times ‘serious’. You know what that looks and feels and sounds like and there will be times when you’ve genuinely been that. This’ll be a close enough match; your cars will be wobbling and twitching at high-speed, but you’ll be close enough to connect in a way that really counts. And you won’t end up too fast, or too furious.

Drive well people 🙂

Off-site research and article links:

Evolution of facial expressions

Mapping facial expressions for 21 emotions

Does your voice reveal more emotion than your face

 


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Behavioural Choice and Change (1/2)

The most flexible person usually wins – how to generate choice and change in behaviours at work (1/2)

One of the things you’ll often hear me banging on about is the principle (in my kind of coaching) that:

the person with the most flexibility is the one most likely to succeed.

That is, if you can adapt your approach, change your behaviour, in a way that remains authentic, then you’ll be more likely to overcome obstacles and influence people positively.

In a leadership sense, you might hear people talking about whether or not somebody has “leadership range”, and this is the same thing. Can you adapt your leadership behaviours, the way you do leadership, to best suit the people around you, the circumstances you find yourselves in and the things you want to achieve?

When it comes to dealing with other people, it’s almost always easier to change yourself than to change others. Actually, in my view, getting others to change very often requires us to change ourselves in some way, even if its only to find a better way of communicating with them.


When you see this principle of flexibility in action, it’s a very powerful thing. People sometimes come here to my coaching studio feeling totally stuck. What they’ve got to do is create enough wiggle-room in their circumstances to get unstuck – like they need to spray some WD40 on a bolt that hasn’t been turned in a while.

And the best way to create that wiggle-room, that all-important flexibility, is to work on behavioural choices . On having different ways of going about things.


It seems to me to go a bit like this:

  1. If you’ve only got one way of doing things, then sooner or later you’re going to get stuck.
  2. If you’ve only got two ways of going about things, then sooner or later you’ll face a dilemma.
  3. When you’ve got three or more options, then you’ve got the ability to select what to do and how to do it, in a way most likely to suit the circumstances. Now you have choice.

I’m going to split the rest of this article into two, so I can tackle it with a bit of depth.

Carry on reading below to find out just what it is we’re talking about when we ask people to create choices in their behaviours. What is behaviour? What needs to be going on on the inside (mostly in our heads) and on the outside, when we’re looking for behavioural choice and change?

And then I’ll give some easy ways to actually generate more behavioural choices in a second article next month (check this space for the link when that’s been written).

What Behaviour Is

In my very simplistic definition, behaviour has got two important dimensions.

First, the dimension of behaviour that most people consider (because it’s ultimately the only part that you’ll ever experience of somebody else’s behaviour) is what happens on the outside, and it’s this:

what you say and what you do.

This first, outside dimension, of behaviour is the one that most people start with when they’re looking for change. And it’s the kind of thing that’ll get reported to you in a 360 feedback or an appraisal. It’s also almost always the wrong place to start when you’re wanting to generate choice and change.

Where you should be starting, is with the second, far more interesting part of behaviour:

what happens on the inside, to generate what you say and what you do.

From a behavioural point of view, what happens on the inside to determine what you say and do on the outside has got four key factors. I’m summarising like crazy here, just to give you some useful headlines about this stuff. In a coaching session we’d dive into these and have a fun time exploring around each of them quite a bit. And I also know from experience that if you’re reading this because you might want to help yourself or others to create more behavioural choices and to see some kind of positive change in your outcomes, then even just working with this at a headline level can create a great deal of new wiggle-room for you. The four factors of behaviour on the inside to consider are these:

1. Why you do it (what’s your MOTIVATION?)

2. What Outcome you want to achieve (what’s your INTENTION?)

3. The Sequence of words and actions you might take to carry this out (Your STRATEGY)

4. What Evidence will you need to see, hear or feel to know that it’s working (what CRITERIA need to be satisfied?)

Just asking some basic questions and having a few moments reflection on each of those four factors can often be enough to generate new choices and the flexibility to succeed.


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Thanks

How to lead like a boss in five minutes

I’m just back from a weekend’s volunteering, leading one of my favourite activities. It’s a really energising and rewarding thing to be involved with and there’s a lot to get organised. What makes it work are the other people who volunteer their time, effort and experience, at the weekends and elsewhere.

Therefore, what’s the most important thing to do when you’re back? (apart from sleep for nearly 10 hours!)

Easy – thank the other volunteers!

If you’ve only got five minutes and you want to make a real impact in your leadership why not try this. Think of somebody whose spirits would be lifted by a simple thank you, write a card, by hand, and post it.

Don’t do it just because it works as a leadership technique (it does); do it because people deserve it.

Do keep a stock of cards in your top drawer for when you’ve got those five minutes. Just about every brilliant leader I know does this.

Don’t be put off by the fact that for everything people do right, there’s often something you wish they’d done differently. There are other techniques for dealing with those things.

Do be authentic. If your style is naturally reticent, then a simple “thanks for doing that job” is fine.

Don’t worry that people you haven’t thanked this week will in some way be aggrieved (they won’t); but do be mindful that teams and groups are usually sensitive to ‘fairness’. They want to hear “thank you” and they also want poor performance dealt with – regardless of who that’s directed at.

Do take a moment to notice what impact it has on yourself as you search for things to say thank you about and for people to say thank you to. There’s research to suggest that gratitude improves physical and mental health, facilitates relationships, strengthens self-esteem and increases resilience!

 


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Ring my Bell

If you want to inspire others, you’d better wake-up and hear what you need to hear

At this time of year I once took a trip to the Kurama-dera Mountain Temple, a day out from Kyoto, up on the shoulder of Mt Kurama. It was one of the best parts of that visit to Japan. You can either take the funicular railway up from the Kurama side, and hike down to the amazing village of Kibune, or do it the other way around. The whole place is quite a beautiful, inspiring experience.

I must have been ready for some deep discovery, because it felt like lots of things shifted for me that day. Here’s one of my highlights.

As I’m hiking up the mountainside, through alternate bright spring sunshine and then dark cool forest, I can hear this deep, booming noise. It sounds like someone is using explosives to mine away somewhere in the mountain.

I start to get very angry that they would do this in such a beautiful, natural environment. I’m on my way to the Buddhist temple at the top, and getting more and more annoyed at how complacent and supine the Buddhists must be to allow this. If you’ve been to Japan you’ll know how the cities can sometimes look, with cables strung everywhere and rough, raw concrete a popular building material. I was very ready to believe that the mountainside and temple would soon be the same.

Then I turn a corner out of the forest and approach the temple properly for the first time. There’s a huge bell hanging in a shrine. I mean, a really big thing. There aren’t too many people around, and they’re mostly Japanese people, and all of them are either waiting in line to ring the bell, or waiting for their companions to do the same. Then I realise for the first time that I’m looking at the source of the booming explosions I’d been hearing and had been getting so angry about.

I join the short line to ring the bell and then stay around for a while to watch and listen to other people do it. The sound of the ‘explosions’ now having quite a different meaning.

It was a great lesson. How I could hear one thing and imagine something quite different. Of how important the nature was to me, that I’d been so ready to accuse others of letting it be destroyed.

That bell was also a wake-up call. My anger can be very energising. I’d used it to put right all kinds of things at work, fixing broken processes, championing how things could be better for customers. And I was ready for something more. Part of me knowing that anger wasn’t quite enough for the next step I wanted to take at work. That I’d need to learn how to call people up towards something inspiring and beautiful as well.

 


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Fear and Difficult Behaviour – full handout to download

The Four Directions of Fear and how they lead to Difficult Behaviour at Work

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The Die Hard Guide to Getting Stuff Done

5 killer tips from Die Hard’s John McClane for when you just have to be at your most productive

This last couple of years I’ve been getting more and more obsessed with being productive. I expect this is happening because I’m both (a) Lazy and (b) Ambitious. I just don’t see any way of combining those two (without it all ending in tears) unless I’m getting as much done with as little effort as possible.

Combine my recent productivity obsession with news that one of my favourite movie franchises, the Die Hard series, is planning a prequel-come-origin story, and there’s only one thing to do…

Buckle-up, put on your best white vest and be ready to yell “Yippee ki-yay” as we laconically dive into The Die Hard Guide to Getting Stuff Done

One slight warning, the following is absolutely full of spoilers. I can’t imagine anybody hasn’t seen these iconic movies yet, but if you haven’t, maybe rent them first. In sequence, obvs.

1. Die Hard – the original

Bad guy Hans Gruber and his psychotic side-kicks have taken over the Nakatomi tower on Christmas Eve. Intent on stealing the company’s millions of untraceable bearer-bonds, the only thing that stands between Hans Gruber and the certain death of the Nakatomi hostages is world-weary cop, John McClane.

Barefoot McClane gets shot-at, beaten-up, rejected by the authorities and has to sprint through broken glass.  His plans fail, his ammo runs out, he’s bloody, bruised and bandaged – and his white vest turns steadily dirtier and blacker. But he never, ever quits.

If there’s one productivity lesson (and one thing about John McClane) that we should learn from the original Die Hard, it’s this:

Get knocked down seven times; Stand-up eight.

2. Die Harder

Once again, we find ourselves at Christmas Eve, now at Washington Dulles Airport. This time we’re in a plot involving special forces solders trying to rescue General Ramon Esperanza, a drug lord and dictator of Val Verde, who is being extradited to the United States to stand trial on drug trafficking charges. I forget why they’re doing this; it doesn’t really matter. They’re the bad guys and John McClane is the goodie who must save estranged wife Holly and other airplane passengers from a deadly crash into the snowbound runway.

Nobody can navigate their way around the byzantine layout of the airport (or the plot…), apart from our Yippee ki-yaying hero John, who has one secret weapon on his side that is a great productivity lesson for when you’re lost and can’t see your way forward.

John takes the time to listen to and connect with janitor Marvin, who is hidden away in the bowels of the airport. Marvin’s inside knowledge helps McClane navigate his way around the airport, unseen by the bad guys. The lesson John teaches us in Die Hard 2: Die Harder, is this:

No matter how busy you are, be humble enough to take time to connect with the unseen people working away in the depths of the engine room – they know stuff that will help.

3. Die Hard with a Vengeance

This time we’re not at Christmas Eve. Never mind. A crazy bomber is threatening the city schools and John McClane must team up with shop owner Zeus Carver. The bombs are of course just a distraction, because now it’s gold that the bad guys are after. There are trucks, underground tunnels which flood, a ship, loads of explosions, and plenty of painful injuries. Thanks to the efforts of our heroes the school kids are rescued. But somehow the gold still goes missing.

It looks like the bad guys have gotten away with it. But hold on! What’s that written on the label of this bottle of aspirin that head bad guy Peter Krieg had ironically thrown to McClane? It seems that the aspirin came from a hotel just across the border in Quebec – EXACTLY WHERE THE TRUCKS LOADED WITH GOLD WERE LAST SEEN HEADING…

This small and seemingly insignificant piece of information is the vital clue to the whole puzzle and it inevitably leads to the bad guys getting their just deserts. And that’s the productivity lesson that John McClane has for us here:

Most of the time, the key to being productive is about the big picture, about knowing where you’re going and focussing on that. But just sometimes, the real clues about how to reach your goals are in the tiny, easily-overlooked details. Know when to switch your focus from big-picture to detail.

4.0 Live Free or Die Hard

Now it’s cyber terrorists, because the internet has happened and national infrastructure like electricity, gas and financial stuff is all vulnerable to hacking.

Hard-drinking, hard-to-get-along-with cop, John McClane, is reduced to baby-sitting assignments and has to transport a hacker who is facing criminal charges. Meanwhile, the bad guys start blowing things up and taking out anybody who can identify them.

John launches a car at a helicopter, which explodes. There’s a thing called a firesale, which is about crippling the infrastructure so much that the economy collapses; John’s daughter is in peril; the bad guy turns out to be a spurned cyber-security expert who didn’t get the credit for his government work. John has to team up with the young hacker guy, because he can do that hacker-typing stuff. Oh, and there’s a VTOL jet plane (an F-35B Lightning II), which John also takes out.

There are so many lessons about how to get stuff done in Live Free or Die Hard, that it’s tough to know where to start.

You could look at how John McClane learns to trust and rely on the cyber-expertise of young hackers Matt and ‘Warlock’. McClane might not know cyber-stuff, but he knows people and he knows when to depend on them.

Or you could look at how in the final scenes McClane shoots himself THROUGH HIS OWN SHOULDER to kill the bad guy behind him. That’s getting stuff done right? No pain, no gain!

But for me, the most important lesson from Die Hard 4.0 about getting stuff done is this:

Sometimes, in order to get stuff done, you’ve got to totally disrupt what’s currently happening. It’s not enough to just do things right, you’ve got to be doing the right things. Nothing changes the game like launching a car at a helicopter. They didn’t see that one coming and it certainly cleared the way for the priorities that John really had to be getting on with.

5. A Good Day to Die Hard

It turns out that John McClane’s estranged son Jack is an undercover CIA agent. Jack is facing trumped-up charges for assassination in Russia and so John travels to Moscow to help him out.

Everybody’s after some kind of file concerning former billionaire and government whistleblower Yuri Komarov, which has evidence implicating high-ranking Russian official Viktor Chagarin. There are plenty of gun fights, more helicopters, running, leaping and exploding.

There are also red-herrings all over the place, as the file turns out to be non-existent and is actually a clue to a secret entrance to a Chernobyl vault containing €1bn worth of weapons-grade uranium. It’s this uranium that everyone (not just the bad guys) has been betraying each other in order to reach first.

A Good Day to Die Hard is a lot like trying to get stuff done in real life. You can never really be sure what’s going on. Somebody tells you that the secret file is the key, but do they really know what they’re talking about? What if they have an agenda of their own?

A pivotal point in the plot is when John and Jack meet up with Komarov’s daughter, Irina. They’re in a grand hotel in the city. Irina will provide them with a key to the vault which contains the (non-existent) file. The file will exonerate both Jack and Irina’s father Komarov, as well as incriminating Chagarin. So why is Irina acting so shifty…? John McClane trusts his instincts and just knows that Irina’s shifty behaviour is not right. That her motives must somehow be off. This gives them vital seconds to escape the devastating gunfire that rips through the hotel ballroom’s windows.

It’s this point which for me is the big lesson in getting stuff done from Die Hard 5:

When you’re trying to get stuff done, people around you will promise one thing and do another. Their motives will be different from yours. Most of the time, they’re not acting against you (unless you’re John McClane), it’s just that they’ve also got an agenda, stuff that they need to get done too. Trust your instincts to know when this is happening and deal with it in as straight-forward a way as possible.

Yippee ki-yay people; go get stuff done.


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Self-Awareness (1)

9 Expert Questions and one handy Diagram for Building great Self-Awareness

The best starting point for any development and growth at work, whether as a leader, a team member or just as your individual self, is the place of “self-awareness”.

And I’m talking here of self-awareness in a wide sense.

If you’re looking at self-awareness just as an emotional intelligence tool, then you’ll be focussed too narrowly, just on the awareness of your own feelings. What I want you to get, is a self-awareness about the whole you. That’ll include your drives, flaws, experiences, ambitions, assumptions, patterns of behaviour, values, resourcefulness and more. But also, and maybe more importantly, the big picture of what it’s like to be you. And what’s it like to experience who you are.

This kind of deep self-awareness really is essential to any kind of development. It’ll answer questions right down at a tactical level about what you want to be doing with your time and effort and how best to interact with the world. And it’ll act as a kind of beacon, keeping you heading towards the more important, bigger picture of what you’re about.

Sometimes this kind of self-awareness is forced upon us when something we’re trying to achieve goes wrong. Then we have to re-assess things on a personal level. And at other times, self-awareness comes out of a ‘gap’, a sense that something’s missing or unfulfilled.

Overcoming the uneasiness and discomfort around this kind of self-knowledge is important both to make sense of what’s happened so far and to move forward.


If you wanted to get some more self-awareness without being forced into it by that kind of circumstance, how would you go about it?

One of the best ways is to pretend to be your own observer.
Check out the diagram alongside. (If you click it and then right-click it, you should be able to download a copy.)

First, imagine ‘seeing’ a version of yourself. Get a sense of who this person is, and what’s important to them.

Second, imagine you could observe how this person goes about interacting with the world about them and with other people.

There are many things you could be observing and getting a sense of, but to get you started here’s some of the things I’ll typically be asking my clients about to help them develop their self-awareness. We talk about them as if they were another person, so instead of saying “what’s important to you”, I’ll get them to practice being an impartial observer of themselves by asking, “what’s important to this person?”.

Here’s some of the aspects you might be considering as you pretend to observe yourself. It’s a fairly long and deep list, so don’t feel you have to get all of this straight away:

  1. What kind of things are really important to this person?
  2. What’s the story of how they got to where they are today? And what did they have to overcome, sacrifice or achieve to get here?
  3. What are they like, at their absolute best?
  4. What qualities do they have that make them a resourceful person? What personal attributes, skills and knowledge can they call upon?
  5. What holds them back or keeps them stuck?
  6. As they interact with the world, how clear are they about what outcomes they want?
  7. Thinking of a specific interaction that you want to understand more about, what was their intention at the outset? Did what they wanted to have happen, actually happen?
  8. How wide is the range of choices they have about how they approach things; do they have one typical way of operating or a wider range?
  9. What are some of the assumptions, hidden beliefs or ‘rules’ that they have about the world, about themselves and about others?

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Focus

New image update for you to download.

Click the image above and then right-click and select “Save as…”

 

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Flexible Authentic Leadership (with full handout)

Click the picture above to access the full handout and then right-click and select ‘save as’ to download your copy.

12 Easy ways to adapt your leadership style and still be authentic – full handout

I’m often telling the leaders I coach with that they need to flex or adapt their way of leading to suit the people and situations they find themselves in. But this is easier said then done, so I thought it’d be helpful to show you how.

One of the things that makes it tough for people to adapt their leadership style is the (legitimate) concern that if they do things in a different way, it will be inauthentic, or just not the ‘real them’.

The way to overcome this, and reap the benefits of being a more flexible leader but without having to become someone else entirely, is to lead from your Values. Values are the ideas, beliefs and ways of being that are intrinsically part of and important to you. Stay true to these and you stay true to yourself.

In the handout (see the picture, above), I’ve set out 3 of the top Values that people often express at work: Excellence, Harmony and Creativity, I’ve also put four of the most common Leadership Styles and when they are best to use.

Then, I’ve given examples of how you might use each of those Leadership Styles to express each of those Values

Now it’s over to you. Can you adapt your style to suit the situation and still be ‘real’?

Click the picture above to access the full handout and then right-click and select ‘save as’ to download your copy.

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10 Ways to be a Smarter Leader

How to be Smart in a World of Dumb Leaders

Thank you for reading this. There is so much to be done in the way that some people lead and run businesses and organisations, that it really needs folks to spread the word about how things could be instead.

So many times I’ll be sitting in a work-group observing, or be finding-out second-hand about something a leader has said or done that just makes me cringe: “Ouch! Why did they need to say or do it that way?” You’ve probably seen or heard about something similar yourself?

I just looked back through my notes over the last few months to find these ten examples of what I reckon are the most important differences between Smart and Dumb leaders – it wasn’t hard to find these!

Please get out there and spread the word. Let’s have much more smart leadership.

Dumb Leaders: Smart Leaders:
Pretend to know all the answers Are brave enough to ask the tough questions
Struggle to hide their weaknesses Use their vulnerabilities as a chance to learn from and develop others
Never stop to see themselves how others see them Take the time to walk in different worlds and explore multiple viewpoints
Inflict their mood-swings on everyone else Successfully manage their emotions, to help read and influence the moods of others
Always look for the heroic, Hail Mary long shots Make sure the daily grind is being done well, to make the most of the right opportunities
Will happily, noisily and frequently tell you what they think – and even what you think Apply the principal of one mouth, two ears – seek to listen and understand before being understood
Don’t care who you are nor what’s important to you See each team member as an individual deserving of their attention
Slap-down ideas and actions that don’t fit into their way of doing things Encourage creative thinking and prudent risk-taking
Keep their plans secret Know how to use their vision of the future to motivate and inspire people
Have low standards for their own behaviours and will justify doing as they want, when they want Role-model the kind of high ethical behaviour that instils pride and earns respect and trust.

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