Peter Eales

Traffic Light Mantra

Traffic lights work. You see green, you go, red you stop, and amber, you prepare to go or stop. And if you don’t, you are in trouble! They were invented just 30 years after the light bulb (which Edison came up with in 1879), by Lester Wire, in 1912, a policeman in Salt Lake City, Utah, who also used red-green lights. On 5 August 1914, the American Traffic Signal Company installed a traffic signal system on the corner of East 105th Street and Euclid Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio. People obey traffic lights, I guess, because of the legal penalties incurred if they do no obey. There is also some degree of moral obligation. I find applying go, and stop to actions is helpful in personal and business planning. I call it the Traffic Light Mantra. I use the word mantra because this is a “statement or slogan repeated frequently” and it takes time, use and repetition for it to work for me. I will share this simple traffic light mantra with red practices for avoid, green do and amber is your toolbox. Use this to create your own list of do’s and don’ts.

In tennis, I use a traffic light principle: green to hit aggressively when everything is good, orange, to review carefully and red, means get out of trouble and beware. This same principle of risk and opportunity assessment/ management can apply to work and other areas of life, I think.

Let me give you some examples.


Only Red-Traffic-Light

In simple terms this means do not do something. Or you do so at your own risk. It’s a bit like Room 101 on TV but for business. Here is what Entrepreneur Magazine said, What Not to Do:
“A seasoned entrepreneur reveals the 17 most common mistakes startups make and how to avoid them — plus, the 5 things you must do to ensure success. – here
My wife, and Pauline who runs the shop at West Hants Tennis shop both put the top item on their “red list”
Rushing – it looks unprofessional. The solution, just start sooner.
Here are a few more Red list items  – a mix of mine and some from colleagues, you will have your own!
End of the day decisions – avoid these.
End of the day letters and emails – avoid these.
Copywriting errors – as Drewry’s Wordsmiths advise, do two kinds of checks, 1. sense checks and 2. spell and grammar
Talking not listening – we all can fall foul of this, Susan Scott addresses this brilliantly in her “Fierce Conversations” book video
Over-eating – see new year resolutions people try to follow (!) here
Missing exercise
Missing sleep
Mobile while driving
(unless hands free)
Work / Life imbalance – see the five maps of adult territory and Nick Hixson’s video on aligning business and political objectives.


only orange-traffic-light

I am intrigued by how to make things happen. It’s why I love Dorset Business Angels and listening to new ideas. If Red in my Traffic Light Mantra is “avoid”, and Green (later below) is “do these”, then Amber is my Toolbox to review, check, prepare ahead of deciding to go or no go, recognise implementation is all important.


Be clear about your traffic light list
You probably have your own toolbox list, if so, use those tools
If not, these may help:
People, trusted advisers – for work and all aspects of life (see Five Maps of Adult Territory)
Project Management – become proficient at this using your preferred tool for example  – people are critical
Day to day work management tools such as:
OneNote or EverNote
Google G Suite Apps
MD of Doodle, chooses top apps to help small business owners here – Doodle is also terrific!
Marketing – as a marketer where to begin? I will send you to our digital and social media page – see here
A finance person – be it accountant or FD. Where to stop? Cyber is so critical, IT and more, but a good accountantant, for example Hixsons who we work with have a full range of support services and partners.


Green Lights

This is my list of things to do. My personal Key Performance Indicators KPIs. To some extent, it is the opposite of the “Red” list. But that only tells half the story, because this is about focus, and keeping it simple. So let’s start with,
Results – which is why I list everything and tick them off every day, week and project – or game and match.
You – it’s about others, it mustn’t be about “me”. My work with Steve Barker and all good marketing stresses this.
See, Hear, Feel – is how to stay alert in a meeting or event, and to afterwards recall details, it’s another mantra
Continuous learning – online, onsite, practical and in fact of an kind to fit one’s work, family and social plans.
Satisfy financial & personal objectives – as Herzberg identified it’s not all about the money, but it’s important
Stephen Covey’s 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE would be included in my “green list” ….

  1. Be Proactive – on your “Circle of Influence” the things you can change and disregard things you cannot affect.
  2. Begin with the end in mind
  3. Put first things first – prioritise
  4. Think WIN-WIN ie solutions that work for you and others
  5. Understand then be Understood
  6. Synergise
  7. Sharpen the saw – keep learning

So there you have it your Traffic light mantra with red practices for avoid, green do and amber is your toolbox. Use this to create your own list of do’s and don’ts.

Good luck


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