Waterloo, Wellington and the secret to professional effectiveness

June 18/2018

Waterloo, Wellington and the secret to professional effectiveness

On 18th June 1815, in present-day Belgium, the battle of Waterloo was fought, and brought the “Napoleonic era” to a dramatic close.

The combined forces of The Duke of Wellington (a polyglot army of British, Dutch-Belgians, Hanoverians, Brunswickers, and more) and Blucher (leading a Prussian army) defeated Napoleon’s French army. Around 200,000 men participated in the action. Many did not see another dawn.

My passion for military history has grown from when I was a young boy, playing with airfix soldiers on the carpet (I bet many readers will have done the same). As a result, I’ve always been fascinated by the way leadership, teamwork, strategy, and focus played a huge part in the events of history. On the battlefield, where so much is at stake, there are certain qualities that shine through, and the writings of the great leaders tell us so much about the way they go about their grim business.

The Duke of Wellington attributed his unbroken series of victories against Napoleon’s French forces, throughout the Peninsula War right up to the final action at Waterloo, to:
“… doing the day’s business in the day.”

In other words, getting done everything that needed to be done on every day.

Imagine the staff-work, the paperwork, the decisions that have to be made when leading an army of men… and the responsibility! Lives are at stake! Your skills as a leader determine the success or otherwise of the campaign. And the success or otherwise of the campaign determines whether your men will see their homes again.

Now, fortunately, you and I, running our businesses and our lives in the modern age, aren’t faced with that level of responsibility, or risk.

But, if “doing the day’s business in the day” is good enough for Wellington, then it’s good enough for us too.

So, how do you know you’ve done the day’s business?

Many write a “To do List”. I’ve always felt that calling it an “Action Plan” was much better in the first place… I also colour code mine, depending on the sphere of activity being included: Red (Strategic/ working ON the business); blue (focused on the delivery of what I do); green (creative, writing, etc); black (administrative). The process begins the night before where, based on my weekly plan, I allocate all the items for the next day… in no particular order.

Then, each morning, I ask three simple questions:

1.  What 3 things am I most grateful for today?
2.  What 3 new things do I want to be true at the end of today?
3.  What are my 3 action-achievement goals for today?

After that, creating a colour-coded Daily Action Plan becomes simple. And it helps determine what “the day’s business” is, and when it is done.






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