On the radio this morning we heard the news that another cold snap is incoming for next week and we let out a collective weary groan.
My daughter especially is really looking forward to warmer weather and the thought of yet more freezing temperatures after the months of Winter we’ve already had, lowered her mood.
The thing that struck me though as we talked over our bowls of Cornflakes, own-brand Rice Crispies and Gluten-Free Granola was that this was likely to be the last dip before things are well and truly on the up weather-wise.
The mornings are getting lighter, so are the evenings, and we’ve had some warmer days already giving a glimpse of what’s to come. In this context, it was much easier to raise the spirits of the family because they had tangible evidence of things going the way they wanted.
The long, warm days spent in shorts and t-shirts, eating ice-cream after school and water-fights with friends in the street may be some way off yet, but it feels like we’re getting there and that makes enduring the present reality much easier.
The same is true in our work, in our DIY projects, anything really. We function better when we have some tangible indications of progress towards our goals. To do this, we need clear goals of course AND we need to have established definite ways to measure progress towards them. We need regular ‘small victories’ and to get our heads up long enough to notice that the nights are getting lighter and it wasn’t quite so bitter on the platform this morning!
How about taking some time today to pause and notice what tangible progress you’ve made already this year? Share that with your team if you can. Emit a collective sigh of satisfaction….and get back to it… hopefully with a renewed sense of resolve because the end is a little more in sight that you realised.
P.S. I’ve just realised this is one reason I often have the SatNav on even when I know where I’m going – I like to see the progress as the miles are covered and the destination draws closer. Counting down the miles is strangely satisfying!
This kind of feedback is never easy to take. The offending statement came in written form about 15 years ago as part of one of those management team exercises. Again, most of what was shared with all of us was extremely positive but can I remember any of it? Hardly. The difficult stuff? Never forgotten.
Most of us have the tendency to focus on the negative aspects of ourselves and that’s not good. Building confidence based on the positive feedback we receive is really important. Discovering our strengths and developing them is a central aspect to successfully making our unique contribution to the world.
So what about the tough stuff?
That “Nick is opinionated” comment has been more useful to me than I can ever have believed possible. As I reflected on it at the time, and many times since, I began to realise that I did tend to state my opinions pretty strongly. I came to realise that this worked OK in some situations where the other would counter just as strongly and we’d enjoy a lively discussion.
But for others, that was overwhelming; it seemed dominating, arrogant even. So I learned to temper. To speak but make sure I also listened and be persuaded by others where appropriate. I became familiar with a weakness (or a strength gone too far), and over time learned to improve how I communicate and how I work with others. Still learning… but the feedback has been so valuable.
At the time I was not grateful for it. Now I can’t even remember who it came from but I am so pleased it did come.
This is why feedback is a gift. Be open. Dwell on the positives. Ponder and learn and change when you receive feedback that’s not so comfortable but when you reflect on it, there’s a ring of truth to it.
That at least is my instinctive reaction when I receive feedback that isn’t simply ‘Nick is amazing’, or something wonderfully positive like that!
I run a lot of training courses so I am given feedback almost every day. Thankfully, most of it is very good and for that I am extremely grateful.
But then, out of nowhere (it seems!), comes something not-so-great…and it lands a withering blow to the stomach as the words, whether written or delivered verbally, find their target.
Another human being has the gall to have the opinion, much worse even, to share that opinion, that Nick Howes is not perfect. There are things about how Nick does his job that they find annoying, boring, confusing…whatever it may be.
The thing is, it’s this kind of feedback that makes us. We need it and we need it badly. The positive feedback builds our confidence and that’s crucial, but to become better, to really excel, we need those ‘would be better if….’ comments.
They are indeed a gift to us and we can learn to treasure them (even if we still hate them)!
I’ll write some more on this. Hope this has got you thinking for now.
This week’s Friday Five looks at your personal learning & development.
I work a lot with L&D departments – committed teams focused on providing the very best growth opportunities for staff across their business. In many ways though, it’s a thankless, hopeless task.
Individual attitudes to learning.
No matter how good the L&D programme and support structures, the single biggest factor in the success of any investment of this type will always be the attitude of those engaged in the process.
Positive, self-motivated people with great attitudes will learn and develop themselves regardless of what the organisation does or does not provide. Here are five things to consider in the context of your own personal growth:
1. Master growth list – write down everything you can think of where learning new skills or developing a character quality would be beneficial to you in your work (& life more generally). Keep this as a master list. Add to it whenever you can.
2. Create & maintain your own PDP – lots of organisations encourage a personal development plan. In my experience, it’s the exception rather than the rule if these are current, active and influencing someone’s behaviour. Regardless of the degree to which your company helps with this, take responsibility for your own development. Own your PDP! Take the most important two or three things from your master list and make those your current growth priorities. If this is done in collaboration with your manager or coach, so much the better.
3. Set a goal – turn those priority areas into goals. Very specifically, what are you going to do and how much of it and by when exactly? Make it visual. Put it somewhere you are continually reminded of it. Best way I know to do this is the LMI Goal Planning System (if you don’t have a great system for planning & tracking your goals, drop me a line and I’ll be glad to share it with you).
4. Take systemised action – I would say ‘take action’, but it’s such a common story that we learn something (we go on a course…read a book…do some online learning etc), go away and do something as a result, which is great, but then fail to build the infrastructure around that action so that it keeps on being done. For example, a manager learns about how to have an effective one-to-one with their team members, goes away and does nine brilliant one-to-ones in month 1….and it never happens again! Systemised action means booking those meetings into the calendar as recurring appointments for the next 12 months! Learnt something new on Excel? Set a reminder every day at 9.27am to review and practice that action for as long as it takes to never forget it!
5. Review & share – the very best way that anylearning and development is cemented is when you review and share it with others. Simple stuff. Rarely done.
“How was that course / book / webinar?
“That’s good. See ya.”
“Could we grab a coffee and take 15 minutes to review what I learned on that course, what I’m planning to do differently as a result and how best I might be able to share that with the rest of the team?”
I hope that’s prompted some useful reflection about your own learning & development. Have a great end to the week and if you have any suggestions for topics in this #fridayfive series, I’d love to hear them.
We often define change that we’d like to see, even implement change in a positive way. But how many times do things waver or even completely disintegrate so that 2 years, 2 months, even 2 weeks later, the initial enthusiasm and adherence of the new way has evaporated and things are back the way there were before.
In this video, taken from the Foundations of Success Workshop, I share one of LMI’s foundational concepts – the critical importance of securing lasting change through spaced repetition.
Today is my kids’ first day back at school and my second day back at work after returning from our holiday some silly time in the middle of Sunday night!
After time away, do you ever experience the “who am I and what do I do here” feeling? I certainly do! There’s the horrible discomfort that comes from being out of the habit: the work habit or the school habit…or the exercise habit, or whatever. It’s why we can often feel like we need a holiday just a few days after coming back from one!
The trick is to get straight back into starting and ending well. If you do that bit, the middle will mostly take care of itself. Avoid the temptation to put aside all those good disciplines. Make a list – yes, physically write it down! – of all the positive actions that have helped you stay productive in the past and make a bigger-than-usual effort to make sure those things happen again from day 1.
Get straight back into your ten magic minutes habit – review your goals, make a plan, schedule important tasks. Set an end point.
Re-establish your end-of-day routine. Review what’s gone well. Record today’s victories. Transfer unfinished tasks. .
This start well / end well mantra works! In fact, it works like a dream and you can apply it not just to organising your day, but to almost everything you’re involved with – staff one-to-one’s, monthly team meetings..the list goes on.
Decide how to start and how to finish. Do that routinely and the bit in the middle goes better and better!
Sometimes things are going just fine, maybe even great, which is lovely. Showing up each day is relatively easy and the whole place has a positive vibe.
Sometimes, the opposite might be true.
Sales you expected didn’t materialise, exciting new projects got shelved, company share price is falling, valued staff members handing in their notice, EU referendum (I refuse to say Brexit!) fear is slowing everything down… Whatever it might be, it can be tough going.
What can be done in such times?
Look for small victories. Seek out a momentum shift.
Whether it’s for your whole organisation and hundreds of people or just you personally, working at home and feeling somewhat discouraged, one small (or big) victory can make the whole world feel like a brighter universe to inhabit and that can be just the fuel needed to keep going and turn things around.
When you haven’t been running for months, one 10-minute jog at half the pace you used to do…and you’re running again.
When you haven’t done proper home cooking since 2009, one simple pasta dish with a few chopped peppers and mushrooms…it’s no Delia or Jamie…but you made it and you’re cooking again.
In the same way after a barren period, find one new customer – no matter how small the transaction – and you’ve got the small, green shoots of growth and possibility again.
One successfully solved customer complaint. Hurray!
One LinkedIn recommendation from a delighted client – someone appreciates what you do!
Set one clear goal that’s exciting and everyone can get behind & can be reached this week.
Do something, no matter how small, to create a momentum shift. Achieve and celebrate one small victory. Success fuels motivation. Motivation generates more success.
Sometimes these momentum shift moments come our way suddenly, unexpectedly and joyously . Sometimes they don’t. That’s when we have to go out and make them happen.
Saturday afternoon I went out running with my youngest son Jonar, who’s 8. We got a bit lost round the woods – I’m not known for my sense of direction despite a Geography degree! – and ended up going quite a bit longer than I’d planned and than I thought he would be able to manage.
Understandably he was flagging as we headed for home. Quick check on the maps app – 1.4 miles from home. It’s raining. I have a very tired and increasingly unhappy child on my hands whom I have to coax home before he gets too cold.
The obligatory post-run selfie!
Something really interesting happened. A short way into that part of our run, Jonar recognised where we were. I had been saying it’s not that far and giving out all the right “You can do it” encouragement, but it wasn’t working too well.
Suddenly it all changed! When he knew where we were, he was on familiar ground, energy flowed in quite a remarkable way. We ran that last mile or so faster than I would have comfortably done it on my own! I was genuinely amazed.
Three lessons here that I think are important in how we lead ourselves and our teams in a way that galvanises that extra energy and effort that can make the difference between winning (or surviving) and not:
Being on familiar territory: create landmarks, familiar habits, systems and ways of operating that breed confidence even in challenging times.
Knowing exactly how far there is to go: define the end, or at least a definite staging post on the journey towards the end so people understand there’s an end in sight rather than just plodding on endlessly.
Make a big deal about getting there: celebrate small victories, take a picture, have a meal. It makes a huge difference.
It was sad to hear of the death of Sir Terry Wogan last Sunday. Often someone in the public eye passes on and I find that their undoubtedly significant contribution to the world somehow passed me by. Not so with Sir Terry.
Memorable Eurovision nights, not for the songs, but for the genius commentary! I got into Radio 2 well before my time, entirely down to the breakfast show host, Mr Wogan.
As I listened to and read the many tributes earlier this week, one thing stood out to me and is extremely insightful when it comes to leadership.
Everyone said Terry would brighten a room. His cheerful demeanour. His humour. His self-deprecation. His genuine interest in people. All these made him a delight to have around and person of significant influence.
It’s a simple but profound lesson. Learning from Sir Terry the simple truth that leaders who foster a cheerful, positive and humorous presence – not taking themselves too seriously – will have a hugely positive impact upon the feel of the entire workplace, group, team or company. Work is serious, but not everything needs to be taken seriously!
This morning I was with a company in the Midlands for the course end presentations / graduation of a group of managers and team leaders who were completing the LMI Effective Leadership Development programme.
For the last 18 weeks we have been meeting fortnightly for two hours, reviewing each set of lesson material, sharing goals, tracking progress, dealing with challenges and generally facilitating the process of attitude and behaviour change that leads to performance improvement. Some of the results shared by the participants were incredible – reports delegated that frees the manager up two hours of valuable time each week, 50% reduction in error on the production line, improved atmosphere in the warehouse that is noticeable to every visitor…I could go on but that’s not the main point of this blog.
After each participant shared their own development through the programme and gave examples of how they have applied new ideas, their line manager made some comments. It would be easy to think ‘old school’ and be worried about what your manager might say if you were in this situation. As it happens, each of the line managers present has also been through this same LMI programme and understood the power of public praise!
Their comments were incredibly affirming as each one shared how their direct report had, through the duration of the programme, made huge progress and achieved tangible, significant victories that have resulted in better performance of their teams.
This kind of thing doesn’t happen every day, but it’s incredibly powerful when it does. Each graduate walked out feeling a hundred feet tall – it feels good to receive honest praise and affirmation – but there’s something else I’ve seen happen when this takes place….the relationship between manager and their team member is deepened, trust built and hence their ability to work together effectively and harmoniously in the future is strengthened.
I’m not saying public praise should be an everyday occurrence – but it should be regular. How can you make space for this in a meaningful way? If you do, watch the impact it will have on your team!