The Sisyphus Trap

‘In Greek mythology was a king punished by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this throughout eternity.’

‘In experiments that test how workers respond when the meaning of their task is diminished, the test condition is referred to as the Sisyphusian condition. The two main conclusions of the experiment are that people work harder when their work seems more meaningful, and that people underestimate the relationship between meaning and motivation’

Sometimes as individuals and leaders we fall into this trap, we tried to change things and it didn’t work, this caused us to be fearful so we resolved not to let that happen again and took the safe route. We make compromises with our values, we start saying things like ‘another day another dollar’ (or equivalent currency), ‘I wish I had a job that I enjoyed’

I wish means: wouldn’t it be nice if … If you always make the right decision, the safe decision, the one most people make, you will be the same as everyone else. Always wishing life was different. (just like Sisphus) Paul Arden

In fact our brain is hardwired to seek stability and not change as it takes more energy to build new synapsis that are required to retain new information and ways of doing things. Don’t believe me, then think back to when you had to study some new process or qualification, did you feel tired?

To start avoiding the Sisyphus Trap you need to consider

Values & Beliefs Attitude Behaviour

Your values and beliefs influence your attitude and these manifests in your behaviour to yourself and others. When you compromise these too much your attitude will become less positive and this will affect your behaviour.

So step 1 is for you to identify your values e.g. honesty, being creative, team player, recognition, autonomy etc.

Then look at how many you have given up in your current work / home environment. Then plan how you can start to overcome barriers to being ‘valued’ in your life and work. Start with small steps e.g. talking with your boss about other opportunities to be more creative or greater autonomy. When you start planning solutions on how to create links from what you do to your values, you will notice your attitude and behaviour will start to change.

If you are a leader and you notice that your teams attitude, behaviour and motivation is not where it should be then it maybe down to their values being overly compromised. Find out their individual values and help them to see links to what they do. I have run a values exercise with leadership teams many times and it is amazing what sharing values in a safe environment can do.

Summary to escape the Sisyphus Trap

  1. Re-identify your values
  2. Make a plan to connect your values to what you do and take action
  3. Bring meaning and purpose back into what you do in your life through your values
  4. Recognise and appreciate that people’s values are different
  5. Be tenacious and recognise the successes you make

Please use the comment box if you have any questions or have experience of this happening in your working world.

If you would like to talk to me about coaching or team development please contact me at

It’s Better to Regret What You Have Done Than What You Haven’t

I wanted to leave you with this great Ted video

Tony Robbins discusses the “invisible forces” that motivate everyone’s actions

Adding a personal touch to stakeholder management

The key to influencing someone is to understand yourself first. When starting out on my professional career I occasionally would be frustrated with people that I worked with who had a different way of working from me and I am sure that they would equally get frustrated with my chatty, upbeat outlook and desire to get things done.

E.g. when engaging with many senior executives they would have a surprised look on their face when I would use ritual cliche when first meeting them rather than getting down to business. My friendly emails would get one word replies… fine, good. My thought process would be ‘have I done something to annoy them?’. This was down to my interpretation of the ‘facts’ with my ‘personality lenses on’. It wasn’t until I was introduced to the Bolton & Bolton model below and later MBTI step 1 & step 2 that I realised that it probably wasn’t personal and I need to flex my style to communicate with them more effectively.

I am not one for putting people in boxes or labelling and everyone has elements of each of the personality types, we just prefer to use the characteristics of some of the boxes more often; so guessing isnt always going to accurate, however it is a very useful guide.

Quick tips

Driver: Be clear, concise and to the point. Information should be fact related. Make sure you listen to them. Bring solutions not problems

Expressive: Allow time for ritual cliche, be positive and forward thinking. Allow them time to talk.

Amiable: Let them know that they are valued and you care about the people aspect of business decisions. Allow time for them to reflect

Analytical: Concentrate on facts, decision making process, track history. Allow time for reflection.

This subject is far to wide ranging for a blog post, feel free to leave comments or contact me if you would like me to run a session with your team using this framework or MBTI step 1 / step 2

Follow me and I will send you a free questionaire to identify your style

A great ted video below

In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. But, as Susan Cain argues in this passionate talk, introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.

Is it time to give your business a spring clean

Well spring is nearly upon us and traditionally at home many of us would take stock of what needs fixed,changed or thrown out so that our home feels fresh and has a new energised enviroment.

Seeing as many of us leaders spend alot of our lives at work, then maybe it’s time to think about what we can do to freshen up our business and our customer experience. Many businesses are thinking that a fire sale is what they need by cutting prices, staff and training and development, but take a minute to think about the potential consequencies

  • Once you reduce your margins will you ever be able to put them back up?
  •  How will reducing staff affect your customer experience? Are you driving them to the competition?
  • Research has shown that companies that spend money on staff development and training on average perform better*
  • If you don’t develop and stretch your talent pool they will leave

So as part of your spring clean consider the following

  • Could we give our customers a better experience and therefore charge a premium?
  • Is our company Vision relevant to our marketplace and engaging your employees?
  • How do we engage our colleagues more?
  • What development would make a difference to our bottom line?
  • How do we retain our best people?
  • Do we effectively performance manage our employees and reward them appropriately?

Good Luck with your spring clean, if you have any ideas for business spring cleans, please comment below.

I have noted a link to a great article about Ron Johnson who revolutionised Apple retail stores and later J C Penney

Low cost ways to show your employees that they are valued