Colin D Ellis
Leadership | Culture | Success


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Making Common Sense More Common

Last year I got trolled on LinkedIn. Well, when I say trolled, I actually felt like it was a compliment, but I’m sure the person didn’t mean it that way. In reference to a video I posted, the person wrote, ‘I don’t know why people like this guy, all he does is talk common sense.’

See what I mean? When did it become a bad thing to reiterate some things that people should already know? But, it did cause me to self-reflect. Perhaps some of the things that I talk about – to paraphrase Mark Twain – aren’t that common, and my assumption that people know them, is incorrect.

So I thought I’d address that and publish a Common Sense Manifesto. A document that can be used by individuals and teams alike, wherever they are in the world, as a reminder of the things they should all be doing, all day, every day.

No ambiguity, no context required, just simple actions, using simple words. And let’s face it, simplicity is often hard to come by in the business world. There are people out there whose sole purpose seems to be to make things more complicated.

It’s time to take a stand against that. To call it out and make it easier to get things done, not harder. This is not a generational requirement, it’s a human one. It’s not about using technology either, as this can both help and hinder. It’s about making simple choices to be the best, most productive version of yourself and to help others do likewise.

These things will require courage, resilience, communication, challenge and, for some, a completely different mindset. It might mean that you have to assume the best of yourself and others whilst also questioning some of the things you tell yourself.

It’s a manifesto that you can apply to personal lives as well as professional ones. And if you want to ignore this completely, then of course that’s your choice too! Or perhaps you want to create your own common sense checklist – I hope you do! 

So here we go with my 'Seven Point Common Sense Manifesto', which is also available as a .pdf download. The super simple seven point version and a more detailed version.

1. Be a good human

  • Don’t do or say anything that another human would find offensive or upsetting

  • Don’t say something behind someone’s back that you wouldn’t say to their face

  • Recognise your emotions and keep them in check

  • Make an effort to understand how others are feeling

  • Challenge inappropriate behaviour and poor performance

2. Accept that you don’t know everything

  • Be open-minded to other ideas and opinions

  • Ask positive questions

  • See change as an opportunity to grow and develop

  • Understand and challenge your biases

  • Get into the habit of asking yourself ‘is there a better way to do this?’

3. Keep your promises

  • Do the work by the date you said you would

  • Return calls

  • Reply to emails

  • Get to meetings on time

  • Make time for friends and family

4. Listen when you want to talk

  • Give others a chance to speak

  • Don’t show frustration or annoyance

  • Look people in the eyes when they’re talking

  • Take notes to capture your responses

  • Ask others for their thoughts, insights and experience

5. Use your time productively

  • Decline meetings that are of no value to you

  • Stop projects that aren’t going to deliver value

  • Learn how to say ‘no’ positively

  • Make time every day to do the work you’ve promised to do

  • Use downtime to increase your knowledge (see 6)

6. Never stop learning

  • Read books, blogs or watch videos that stretch your thinking

  • Make time to explore new ideas

  • Don’t use age or time as an excuse not to learn something new

  • Ask others to share their knowledge with you or set up a community to do so

  • Get the most from the technology that you use

7. Take a break

  • Take time away from your desk during your day

  • Find a good balance between your work and home lives but commit to both in equal measure

  • Take a holiday or a long weekend

  • Exercise regularly

  • Limit your screen time.

The great thing about common sense is that it transcends role, rank, responsibility – it’s something we can all do, right now. So, please share this manifesto, print it out, talk about it, add to it or pick one thing to do every week. It’s time to make common sense common!