Personal reflection on the Duke of Edinburgh’s obituary and business performance

Derek Robertson.jpg

Derek Robertson , CEO

(Chartered FCIPD, MCMI, MInstLM, NLP Practitioner and Coach) 

Author of, The Great Cape Escapade (A fable about effective meetings)

4 min read


Reading Prince Phillip’s obituary stopped me in my tracks.  It reminded me of the risks we have when we reduce people to soundbites.  Risks articulated by Gallup and others that quote up to 80% of UK workers not truly committed to their work.  The implications for organisational performance are obvious.

The man and me


Like most of you Prince Phillip’s been around my whole life.  The closest I’ve come to him was three metres at a Garden Party.  At most, I thought he did a decent job in difficult circumstances.  Too often I’d have my own mental soundbite of, “He’s the guy that ‘often’ said stupid things’.

What’s been revealed to me is that he was a smart talented achiever.  And probably Everything DiSC ‘D’ style.  The feedback that struck me the most that he could have made it to First Lord of the Admiralty ‘on his own merit’.

All of this gave me a stark reminder of the need to rise above our soundbites of people when assessing performance, promotion or even just working with them.  Instead we need to get to facts, evidence and multiple opinions.

Our people and our brain’s hijack

I get it.  Our brilliant brain uses short cuts and broad strokes to deal with the huge amount of sensory input it receives.  I love Robert Cialdini’s description in the Psychology of persuasion where he calls it ‘Click whir’.

While this Click whir helps us survive it also hinders.  Reducing a team member to a soundbite especially from a distance is one of those times.  And it’s harmful to performance at every level.

Now don’t say you don’t do it.  I’ve sat in too many team meetings, board rooms and annual performance calibration meetings for it to be my delusion.  It’s like the workforce walk around with a neon sign above their head.  I’ve heard people referred to as “The yes but-er”, “Mrs hidden agenda”, “Lord of the files” and “Thrombosis”.  The last one was explained to me as the person was a ‘slow moving clot’.

The implications on company performance

Aside from being cruel at a time when we need to get the best performance from all our people, it’s criminal to reduce people to a soundbite.  Whether it’s me with Prince Phillip or you with your people.

Your results as team leader, senior manager or CEO are affected by inaccurate, incomplete, out dated, or just plain wrong soundbites.

The action

Your first step is to acknowledge that you’re doing it.  Then notice when you are.  I know it’s tough and I know your brain is trying to help you.  Remember though that you’re in charge.  Here’s what I’d suggest.

  1.  Acknowledge you’re doing it
  2.  Park the soundbite
  3.  Seek wider evidence (from other people, company documents, characteristics profiling and so on)
  4. Come to an informed view that’s current
  5. Consciously change the soundbite

Now you can catch other people doing it and help them too.