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“Talk through your challenges - even if it’s only with a rubber duck”

“Talk through your challenges - even if it’s only with a rubber duck”

A problem shared is a problem halved. Even if your confidante is only a bath toy

Leadership can be exhilarating, rewarding, challenging and sometimes isolating. “The buck stops here,” as the saying goes and when your decisions affect so many people in so many ways having the confidence and authority to assert on a course of action is a critical skill, just as much as setting the right course.

In one of my recent CEO Meets interviews, in which I talk to British Franchise Association members about their businesses and experience in franchising, Peter Molloy, managing director of Metro Rod, talked to me about the fact that none of us were prepared for COVID.

New ground

Peter was called by an associate at the beginning of March last year, who said: “Okay, we’ve got this pandemic, what do you think we should do?”

This is a fair and valid question and one we were all asking ourselves at the time, but his tongue in cheek response of: “Let me refer to what we did in the last pandemic!” made me chuckle, as did his candid confession that effectively we were all making it up. Because let’s face it, we were.

None of us have lived through anything remotely like it before, not in business, not in our personal lives, nor in scientific research, medicine or government.

Collective wisdom

The serious point here is that when you find yourself on new ground, that’s the time you need to be able to make decisions based on the information at hand, without the benefit of prior experience.

And to do that you need to be talking to the people around you. Shared experience and collective wisdom is so important, but so is having the ability to air your own thoughts.

And that brings me to the rubber duck. A team member at the bfa recently posted on LinkedIn about ‘Rubber Duck Debugging’.

In essence, this refers to a practice, outlined in a book called The Pragmatic Programmer, in which a computer programmer would sit a rubber duck by their desk and debug code by explaining it to the duck line by line, often finding solutions to problems in the process.

Advice at hand

Now, I’m in the privileged position of being surrounded by extremely competent and capable people.

Having spent 20 years in franchising means I have the ear of some of the most respected people in the industry. I don’t take this for granted and whenever I have a challenge that seems like it has no solution I’ll turn to these people for advice and guidance. I’m also fortunate to have Emily

Price on my leadership team. Her cool head and ability to strategise any situation into a realistic plan makes my life much easier and I always value her input.

On top of that, I’m surrounded by friends and family, who will always give me their time if there’s something I need to talk through. What this all comes down to is the value of being able to talk about the issues you face.

On a final note, I’d like to give a nod to the age-old adage that a problem shared is a problem halved. Even if your confidante is only a bath toy.

The author

Pip Wilkins is CEO of the British Franchise Association.

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