Decide, then build.

April 4, 2018

Change is easy. Make a decision, then go do it…and keep on doing it and, hey presto, you have the change you decided you wanted.

Except we all know it’s never that simple.

Change is flippin’ hard. We decide, then we try, fail, forget and eventually move on to something else with the scar tissue of another good intention that was going to improve our business, our life, health, or relationships in some important way but ultimately never came to anything and we live with the fall-out which will make us less up for trying the next time round.

I hate it when people in my industry make out that change is easy. It’s not. We get rooted into habits, conditioned into behaviour and ways of thinking that take concerted effort to get out of.

So what’s the answer?

I don’t want to fall into the same trap of now saying I have the simple answer which will solve everything! However, there is an important step that will help massively.

Build something.

Think about the change you want to make and then build around it. Build in a fitness class to your weekly schedule. Build in accountability by signing up with a few friends. Physically build a door or a wall or something else that’s within your control if it’s about getting more focused time on your top priorities. If it’s reading more, spend some money and put a whacking-great reading chair in the corner of your lounge and always leave an open book on it ready for you to pick up!

Whatever your goal, build something into your routine, your work, your team or your family that will mean you continually stumble over that thing and it whacks you in the shins every time you try to move so that you remember why you took that decision in the first place and have a much better chance of following through on the action required to secure the change needed.

 


Fight for a fit

March 8, 2018

Fit rarely comes easy.

My right foot is slightly bigger than my left, hence finding shoes that are super comfortable for both feet can be a bit tricky. I’ve had to try on lots of pairs and discover particular brands that work for me.

Similarly, I didn’t instinctively know what kinds of work would be a good fit for me. I’ve had to try things out, take assessments and profiles (I’ve just about done them all!), consciously reflect on my experiences to identify when and where I’ve felt best about my work.

Here’s a few questions that you can ask yourself, or as a manager you can ask of your team members, to help discover their best fit:

  • What parts of your work do you enjoy most?
  • What areas of your work do you feel most enthusiastic about?
  • What do you care most about achieving?
  • What do you think you do best?
  • What do you find most stressful?
  • In what tasks do you procrastinate most?

There are plenty of others, but these are a good start.

Good fit is worth fighting for. It increases productivity, retention, motivation and morale. It reduces turnover and stress. It has a positive impact on mental and physical health.

Good fit is in everyone’s interests.


End in sight

February 21, 2018

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.

pexels-photo-309384.jpegMy 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!

 


A sudden jolt of empathy

February 12, 2018

It’s half term so there was no major rush getting everyone out the house this morning.

As I thought about the wonderful opportunity this presented for me to get my kids to do loads of useful stuff whilst they have all this time on their hands, that’s when the jolt of empathy hit! Don’t put adult expectations on 14, 12 and 10 year old children.

I used to love school holidays, especially the first morning. Lazing around…reading a bit…playing on the computer….all with no stress at all. Nothing to do and nowhere to be.

Yet here I was loading them up with my agenda of things to do! Don’t worry, I’ll still get them helping out with stuff…just with a bit more give first! I know that if I’m not so self-absorbed and enter into the joy of their world first, both they and I will get a much better result – more help, more willingness, less resistance, less conflict, more fun etc – than if I just launch ahead with what I want them to do.

I hope the jolt I was hit with might help you avoid making the same mistake I was rushing headlong into.

 

 


Roll with the punches (more on feedback)

October 13, 2017

“Nick is opinionated.”

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.

More to come on this subject…


9 Magic Questions

September 19, 2017

Here are nine magic questions – if you develop crystal clear answers to all of these in any given situation, be it something for yourself, helping motivate a member of your team, or in a sales context, it will make a massive difference:

1. What do you want?
2. Why do you want it?
3. Why is that important to you?
4. Why don’t you have it now?
5. When would you like to have it? Why then?
6. How will you feel when you have it?
7. What do you need to do to get it?
8. Are you willing to do what it takes to get it?
9. What’s the Plan of Action to get it?


DIY Deadline Day

August 31, 2017

It’s Transfer Deadline Day in the football world, with the transfer window bolted shut at 11pm tonight. Any business that clubs don’t get done by that cast-iron cut-off point doesn’t happen….at least until the window opens again on 1st January.

Many I know, and I humbly confess to being one of them, will be refreshing the deadline day news apps on phones quite a few times between now and 11pm.

Watch

Whether you’re a fellow ‘refresher’ or have no interest at all, you can’t escape the fact that the deadline creates activity and lots gets done. The transfer window has been open all summer but it’s today that many of the deals get completed. It’s do or die, now or never, time to go and make it happen!

There’s something incredible about the deadline that generates action. We humans can’t seem to resist it’s power. Whether it’s ‘last day of early bird booking rate’, tax return submission day, job application cut-off, the big tender due date or the last day at work before holidays, the time when time is running out is so often when we are at our most productive.

Somehow our lack of self-discipline, poor self-motivation and well-honed procrastination skills all get put aside as the shadow of the pending deadline looms large!

My aim here is not to look at why this is, but rather to think about how we can use this naturally occurring phenomenon to our huge advantage.

What happens when we don’t have a big, externally-dictated deadline looming?

Here are three ways to harness some of the power of the deadline every single day:

1) Set a deadline for when you are going to finish working today

Make your plans, write your lists, set about your daily work but with a definite end-time which is 100% inflexible. I guarantee you’ll work more efficiently knowing that you can’t just keep going ‘for as long as it takes’.

2) Set the clock on a piece of work

When you have a large project or specific task that needs your focussed attention and you don’t know how long it will take, it can be really hard to get going with any sense of urgency. This is especially true if it’s one of those long-term projects that will generally improve the world but lacks any definite ‘we need it by then’ dates. Here’s where it can be really helpful to set yourself set blocks of time to make as much progress as possible. Choose a realistic period, an hour often works, to get your head down and concentrate only on that task. Set a timer and keep it visible in front of you and keep going until it beeps. Then schedule your next block of time to pick it up again.

3) Create an arbitrary deadline and make it public

Sometimes we will be more motivated by the potential for public shame than just the satisfaction of our own achievement! Where this is the case, set a date for a project, a launch, an event…anything really…and tell people. ‘Going public’ might be telling your family, your team, the whole office, your clients, all your social media followers or even the Stock Exchange. But do it and see the difference it makes!

The unavoidable truth is that deadlines work like a dream and, as is the case for many ‘refreshers’ today, can even make things a little bit more exciting!

 


#fridayfive – Your Personal L&D

June 16, 2017

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.

The reason?

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 any learning and development is cemented is when you review and share it with others. Simple stuff. Rarely done.

“How was that course / book / webinar?

“Great, thanks.”

“That’s good. See ya.”

Or…

“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.


The Friday Five – “I want my manager to…”

June 9, 2017

Five quick and easy things to digest on a Friday!

This week it’s five things I hear most often that people want from their manager.

  1. Consistency
  2. Communication
  3. Clarity
  4. Involvement
  5. Feedback

1.  Consistency – this includes handling problems and mistakes, treatment of different team members & general mood. We like to know that our leaders uphold consistent standards and to feel that we are treated fairly and with respect.

2. Communication – in a nutshell, nearly every conversation I have on this subject contains the sentiment, “I want my manager to communicate more.”

3. Clarity – I read a survey a while back that suggested one of the greatest causes of stress at work was unclear boundaries. We like to know what’s expected. We like to know what success looks like & to have something concrete to aim for. We like to know our roles & responsibilities, & those of our teammates. Strive for clarity wherever possible.

4. Involvement – On a recent day of staff interviews in preparation for designing a line-manager development programme for a company, the appreciation for managers who were present, visible, approachable and who understood what their team actually did day-to-day was huge. NB. This does not mean micro-management!

5. Feedback – for goodness sake, let us know how we’re doing! Are we on track? Are we doing great? What needs changing? Few things stir unrest like the negative annual appraisal that comes out of the blue. Make feedback regular and routine. Both positive and negative.

That’s your Friday Five for this week. Do you agree? Anything else that you’d have in your top five?


Step back. It’s wonky!

May 4, 2017

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of spending a few days with many of my LMI colleagues from around the world at our annual convention in Florence. Our flight from London went into Pisa so, having never set foot in Italy before, it would have been rude not to stop and have a look around. As every good tourist does in that small-ish Italian town, we headed in what seemed like the direction of that world-famous wonky tower.

pisa

It’s more wonky that I thought!

You can’t see the tower from miles away so it came as quite a shock when we rounded a corner and there it was, leaning away, just like in the pictures. Having seen it’s picture dozens of times, I was still amazed, when confronted with it in real life, at just how much it leans. It’s impressive!
Something I then found very interesting. The closer I got to it, the less obvious it’s lean became. It’s basic physics I know, but these things make an impact when you experience them first hand. Close up, it could almost be straight. Start walking away and look back, it’s lean becomes stark once again.

Lots in our lives and our businesses can be like this. We get so involved, so consumed by the the day-to-day demands, so ‘close’ to all that’s going on, we don’t notice how wonky it is.

When I look at the pictures I’m reminded to step back and notice where things may have become a little wonky.

Am I working too many hours & have lost balance?

Have I stopped being so careful about prioritising my work?

Are my goals a little out of focus?

Has our passion for great customer service dropped off a little?

Whatever ‘stepping back’ means for you at the moment, it’s well worth doing. And when you notice something’s wonky, get help to fix it (unless it’s so extraordinary that you can get rich off people coming to see it)!