D is for The Dispassionate Approach To Delivering The Desired Results


Great workers sometimes take the dispassionate approach towards channelling their passion. Many people find this helps them to make good decisions and deliver the desired results.

Bomb disposal experts, mediators and crisis managers often take this approach. They feel passionately about their work but use both their hearts and heads to get positive results.

Imagine that you are aiming to deal with an explosive device. What will go through your head as you approach the device on what is known as the longest walk?

Ed Chipperfield and James Day describe some of the qualities needed in their article called What does it take to survive as a bomb disposal expert? Below are excerpts from the piece. You can discover more via the following link.

Bomb Disposal Experts

In a situation where the only outcomes are success or failure, psychologists say these soldiers require a certain mindset.

“We want people who minimise the unknowns,” says Eugene Burke, a military psychologist.

“They’re not impulsive but are able to make fast decisions, thanks to training. It’s almost as though they’re flicking through reference cards in their head to find a match to the problem in front of them. They’re organised, focused on detail and think ahead to possible outcomes.

“These guys know how they’ll be affected and they know how they’ll respond to these accumulated experiences. Allowing stress to build up is not an option as the operative can become withdrawn and lose their temper.”

Looking back on your life, when have you taken the dispassionate approach to delivering the desired results? You may have done this when dealing with a crisis or tackling a challenge.

Faced by a potentially overpowering issue, you may have drained yourself of emotion. You clarified the results to achieve and considered the possible options. Settling on the way forward, you concentrated fully on the task in hand and did what was necessary to achieve the goals.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the past when you took the dispassionate approach towards channelling your passion and delivered the desired results.

Describe the specific things you did to take these steps. 

Describe the specific things that happened as a result.

The Dispassionate Approach
In Challenging Situations

There are many theories about bravery. These include distinguishing between hot courage and cold courage.

Hot courage involves spur of the moment acts of bravery. These can include confronting an armed attacker, pulling somebody from a burning car or laying one’s life on the line to save another person.

The adrenaline kicks in and the person throws themselves into action. Looking back after the experience, they may say something like: “It was the obvious thing to do.”

Cold courage is more calculated. It does not necessarily mean the absence of fear. Sometimes it can involve the simple calculation that choosing to act – and accepting the feeling of fear – is better than not doing anything.

Sometimes it means going through the following steps. a) Recognising what is happening; b) Recognising what will happen if nobody intervenes; c) Recognising that they want to do something to affect the outcome.

Cold courage sometimes involves being committed to something that is greater than yourself. It may involve pursuing a set of values, a spiritual faith or a sense of mission. Serving this cause can provide the strength to tackle difficult challenges.

Let’s explore another topic related to this theme. This involves caring deeply for your work but not letting the caring cloud your judgement. Passion is a great starting point, but sometimes people also need to develop perspective.

This is particularly crucial when it comes to making decisions. One Chief Executive expressed this in the following way.

We hire people who are passionate about the work and want to deliver high professional standards. When considering people for leadership positions, however, we consider whether they can develop perspective.  

Good leaders see the big picture and make good decisions. Some leadership teams, however, are full of people who only feel passionate about their own departments. This can then translate into people indulging in turf wars.  

We want people to put aside their personal agendas and see the big picture. They need to make good decisions that help the customers and the whole organisation to achieve success.

Great athletes sometimes adopt the dispassionate approach. They care deeply about doing their best. Sometimes they can become anxious and perform badly, however, by caring too much about winning the prize.

Matthew Syed, the author of Bounce, gives an example of how to overcome this feeling. He explains how Sarah Lindsay, the speed skater, took this step by maintaining perspective.

Sarah spent years focusing on reaching the final of her speed skating event in the Winter Olympics. Reaching this goal meant beating her previous best performance.

She knew this called for being able to flow, focus and finish. How to make this happen? Sarah was seen preparing in the locker room before the final qualifying race saying to the following things to herself.

It’s only speed skating. It’s only speed skating. It’s only bloody speed skating.

Sarah kept repeating the mantra. She then went out and performed beyond her previous best to reach the final.

Matthew goes on to describe how an athlete can overcome choking – continually failing to perform when it really matters.

As Mark Bawden, the sports psychologist who worked with Lindsay, put it:

“In order to make all the sacrifices necessary to reach world-class levels of performance, an athlete has to believe that performing well means everything.

“They have got to cleave to the belief that winning an Olympic gold is of life-changing significance.

“But that is precisely the belief that is most likely to trigger a choking response.

“So, the key psychological skill for someone with a tendency to choke is to ditch that belief in the minutes before competition and to replace it with the belief that the race does not really matter.

“It is a form of psychological manipulation, and it takes a lot of work to master.”

Decision Making

Looking back on your life, when did you made a good decision when under pressure? This could have been in your personal or professional life. You may have been facing a crisis, tackling a challenge or dealing with another issue.

What did you do then to buy time? How did you clarify the real results to achieve? How did you clarify the potential options? What did you to settle on your chosen way forwards?

Different people use different methods for making decisions. Here are two methods that have been popularised through their use by rugby players. These are the concepts of putting on your Blue Head and also using the T-CUP approach.

Writing in his book Legacy, James Kerr describes how the New Zealand All Blacks learned to be calm and clear when under pressure. They learned to put on the Blue Head rather than Red Head.

Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code, summarised this approach in one of his blogs. Below are excerpts from the piece that you can find via the following link.

Blue Head

Quick background: a few years ago, the team was going through a period of uncharacteristic struggle. Some players were having trouble controlling their emotions in matches.

So, with the help of a former Rhodes Scholar named Ceri Evans, they devised a tool to fix that, built on a simple two-part frame that describes the mental state you want to avoid, and the one you want to be in. They call it Red Head/Blue Head. 

Red Head is the negative state, when you are heated, overwhelmed, and tense (H.O.T., in the parlance). Your emotional engine is smoking, your perceptions are slow, the game feels too fast, and your decision making is rushed. 

Blue Head, on the other hand, is the precise opposite: the cool, controlled, pattern-seeing state, when you retain your awareness and your decision-making power, when you stay flexible and deliver top performance. The key is doing three things: 

Seek to stay in Blue Head as your default setting.

Sense cues when you are entering Red Head mode

Use a physical or mental trigger to get yourself back into Blue Head.

On the All Blacks, each player is encouraged to devise personal triggers to make the transition. One player stamps his feet into the grass, to ground himself. Another uses mental imagery, picturing himself from the highest seat in the stadium, to help put the moment in perspective.

T-CUP is an acronym often referred to by the sports coach Sir Clive Woodward. He used it as head coach of the England rugby team that won the World Cup in 2003.

Different people interpret the acronym in different ways. Some refer to it as Thinking Clearly Under Pressure. Others use Thinking Correctly Under Pressure.

Why do people use this approach in sports? One view is that, at the top, many athletes are extremely talented. Their performance on the day, however, can be strongly influenced by their mental attitude.

Good coaches prepare individuals and teams to deal with such difficulties. They create scenarios that, as far as possible, replicate challenging situations. The athletes are then helped to develop skills for staying calm under pressure.

The England rugby players became so used to the approach that, whenever difficulties emerged, they would remind each other by shouting T-CUP. This helped them to make good decisions at key moments in matches.

Different people use different ways to stay calm. They also use different models for making decisions. One approach is to use the Three C Model. This involves exploring the following themes.


Looking at the situation, what is actually happening? What will be the consequences if these things continue to happen? What do I want to do to affect the situation? What are the things I can control? What are the real results I want to achieve? What is the picture of success?


What are the possible options for going forwards? What are the pluses and minuses of each option? Are there any other possible creative solutions? What are the key strategies I can follow to give myself the greatest chance of success?

Concrete Results 

What is the route – or combination of routes – I want to follow? How can I translate this into a clear action plan? How can I get some quick successes? How can I encourage myself on the journey? How can I do my best to achieve the picture of success?

Delivering The
Desired Results

Imagine that you have, in a dispassionate way, clarified the strategy you can follow to pursue your passion. How can you deliver the goods?

You will aim to perform superb work. At the same time, you will need to keep doing reality checks about: a) What is working and how to do more of these things; b) What you can do better and how.

You may also need to demonstrate certain characteristics. Great workers often show resilience, for example, and the ability to overcome setbacks.

Al Siebert was somebody who did pioneering work on resilience. His superb books – such as The Survivor Personality and The Resiliency Advantage – enabled many people to develop their inner strength.

Al provided more than inspiring stories. He offered positive models and practical tools that enabled people to develop their resiliency skills.

They could then apply these to overcome challenges when using their strengths. He helped many people to make breakthroughs in their personal and professional lives.

Al spent over 50 years studying how people develop inner strength. A paratrooper in the 1950s, he remembered meeting the few remaining survivors from the 11th Airborne Division, a unit that had served in WWII and Korea.

Something about them made him sit up and take notice. They weren’t the gung-ho types: they had unusual qualities. He wrote:

During our training I noticed that combat survivors have a type of personal radar always on ‘scan.’ Anything that happens, or any noise draws a quick, brief look. 

They have a relaxed awareness. I began to realize it wasn’t just luck or fate that these were the few who came back alive. 

Something about them as people had tipped the scales in their favour.

Returning to college after completing his military service, Al resolved to study psychology, but he grew frustrated by its emphasis on mental illness.

He decided to study life’s survivors – those who grew when overcoming tough challenges. Scoping out the areas of study, he chose to focus on people that met four criteria:

They had survived a major crisis.

They had surmounted the crisis through personal effort.

They had emerged from the experience with previously unknown strengths and abilities.

They had, in retrospect, found value in the experience.

Al shared his knowledge by running workshops, giving keynote speeches and writing articles. He then came to international prominence with his book The Survivor Personality.

This book contains many stories about people who have overcome extreme challenges. The situations they faced included, for example, sexual assaults, life-threatening illnesses, being prisoners of war, addictions, physical attacks and crippling accidents.

How do people cope with such adversity? Some don’t, says Al. They feel victimised, blame other people, become helpless or lash out at others. Some people do cope with adversity.

Drawing on their inner strength, they stay calm, clarify the situation and chart their strategy. Committing to their course of action, they concentrate fully until they reach their chosen goal. Al explained this in the following way.

They thrive by gaining strength from adversity and often convert misfortune into a gift. Are life’s best survivors different from other people? 

No. They survive, cope, and thrive better because they are better at using the inborn abilities possessed by all humans. 

Al discovered that survivors adopt various strategies to overcome crises successfully. These include the following.

They have good personal radar
and quickly read the new reality

Al found a link between survivors and peak performers. Such people have a sixth sense in the areas in which they perform brilliantly. They seem to know what will happen before it happens. This is called personal radar.

Reflecting on his time with the paratroopers who survived battles, Al talks about them quickly scanning situations. Looking for patterns, they asked some of the following questions. 

What is happening? What isn’t happening? Are events following their normal course or is something else happening?

What are the patterns I can observe? What will happen if these patterns continue? What will be the consequences?

How can I build on the successful patterns? How can I deal with the unsuccessful patterns?

What action do I need to take? Bearing in mind the patterns that are occurring – and the potential consequences – how can I do my best to achieve success?

Survivors have experience of overcoming difficulties in life. As a result, they have developed a particular kind of savvy or personal radar.

They read situations quickly and start considering the consequences. Other people ignore what is happening or bury their heads in the sand. Survivors click into awareness mode and take snapshots of what is actually happening.

They have life-competencies
help them in emergencies

Survivors are life-long learners. They love to explore and make sense of experiences. They prefer to take initiatives rather than become institutionalised.

Such people are often positive realists. They have a positive attitude but also quickly read reality. They then use their repertoire of skills to see patterns and deliver the required results. 

They stay calm and maintain
a sense of perspective

Why? They realise it is vital to establish clarity. They must clarify what is happening and then make decisions about the way forward.

Al gives examples of hijack survivors who stay calm. They gather information about how the hijackers behave, look for patterns and explore potential exits – not only for themselves, but also for other people.

Such people also maintain a sense of perspective. Individuals who are diagnosed with a serious illness, for example, may then move to clarifying their assets. Some people reframe the difficulty as a project.

Looking at it from this perspective, they are able to remove themselves and plan the path ahead. Al points out that some people actually become more playful and laugh in the situation.

They clarify their options, are open to doing
anything and choose their way forwards

Al found that survivors choose their strategies from a wide repertoire of options. One contributing factor is that they have a quality common to many peak performers.

Such people embrace what appear to be seeming paradoxes. They are able to see the big picture and the small details, to be focused and flexible, to be serious and playful.

This means they are able to see a wider number of options than, for example, people who have been trained to behave in one way. Bearing in mind the results they want to achieve, they then choose their way forward.

They take responsibility and
totally commit to doing their best

Survivors make their decision and throw themselves into pursuing their chosen strategy. They employ every ounce of energy to reach the goal.

Such people are also able to balance the apparent paradox of being simultaneously helicoptering and hands-on. They are completely committed to the task in hand, yet hover above it to get perspective on what is happening.

Survivors then do everything possible to reach the goal. Al described this in the following way.

The survivor way of orientating to a crisis is to feel fully and totally responsible for making things work out well

Al expanded on this topic to produce another compelling book The Resiliency Advantage. Building on the theme of survival, he explored how people can thrive in a fast-changing world. This calls for individuals, teams and organisations to develop their resiliency skills.

Why? In the old days many people relied on institutions to tell them what to learn and how to behave. Nowadays people must be more self-managing. They must manage increasing information, complexity and unpredictability.

Such events may include personal setbacks, sickness, redundancy, market changes, reduced budgets, technological changes, economic downturns or other issues.

People will need to deal with such challenges. This calls for them taking responsibility, seeing to the heart of the matter and making good decisions.

Even if they choose the right strategy, events may conspire to throw them off-track. They will need to recover quickly, do course correction and do everything possible to reach their goals. People who develop such resiliency skills are more likely to increase their chances of success.

Let’s return to your own life and work. Looking ahead, can you think of a situation when you may want to take the dispassionate approach toward achieving a goal?

This could be in your personal or professional life. You may want to take this approach when playing a sport, making a sale, managing a transition or taking a tough decision.

Looking ahead, what can you do to take the dispassionate approach? How can you clarify the picture of success? How can you clarify your options together with the pluses and minuses of each option? How can you choose your way forwards?

How can you then do superb work? How can you keep doing reality checks about what is working and what can be done better? How can you manage setbacks along the way? How can you do your best to deliver the desired results?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the future when you may want to take the dispassionate approach towards channelling your passion and delivering the desired results.

Describe the specific things you can do to take these steps. 

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result.

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