Rock Solid Foundations

March 21, 2016

I’ve been using a training room on the 11th floor of a building in Fenchurch Street, London on a fairly regular basis for a little over a year.

Across the road is a building site which has been the fascination of myself and many course delegates during coffee breaks over this period. For months progress seemed painfully slow – not a lot happening. Just clearing the site and digging some extremely deep holes!

Suddenly, on my last two visits, I’ve been amazed how quickly things have changed. The foundations stage complete, now things are moving fast. The building is taking shape as its structure rises from well below ground level to form a new landmark on the London skyline.

The same principle that applies to buildings is also true with building strength in an organisation’s people. If the foundations are good, the sky’s the limit. If they are weak, inefficiency, stress, confusion and conflict abound.

When it comes to people and performance there are also ‘foundations’ that if everyone in a team understands and consistently does, make a huge impact on effectiveness and overall productivity.

Here’s a few ideas that help form that strong foundation:

  • The ability to set and work to clearly defined goals
  • Understanding ‘WHY’ – knowing the purpose behind the goal
  • The power of The Slight Edge & 1% improvements
  • Avoiding crisis mode & constant fire-fighting.
  • ‘High Payoff Activities’ & the power of 80:20
  • Effective, systematic daily planning & prioritising
  • Not living in your inbox
  • Choosing most appropriate means of communication
  • Sensitively handling interactions with others
  • Maintaining a healthy balance across all areas of life

I’m sure you could add others to this list and I’m also sure that few, if any, of these subject areas are things you’re not already familiar with. They are not the icing on the cake. They are the base-layer. The starting point. Like in the building project described above, disproportionate time and care should be taken to make sure they are properly laid.

It’s not complex but neither is it simple.

So many times I’ve seen that difficulties faced by individuals, teams and sometimes whole organisations stem from poorly laid foundations.

The magic is not in knowing about these foundational concepts but in the consistent application of these ideas in a consistent way by all members of your team!

It’s for the reasons stated above that the course I run most often, and am always excited by the results, is the half-day Foundations of Success workshop. If you’d like to know more about Foundations of Success, click this link


Remember when your history teacher kept interrupting?

March 4, 2016

A brief but important piece this time round.

Picture this – and you’ll have to imagine it because despite the question in the title, I bet it never happened. You are sat in a Maths class at school and just getting into some long division or a bit of algebra when in through the door bursts the history teacher who was teaching you the previous lesson.

“We didn’t cover it earlier but I just wanted to let you know, the Battle of Hastings was 1066 and Harold died when he was hit in the eye with an arrow!”

Then out she goes.

A little perplexed, your Maths teacher tries to remember where he was and carry on. Six minutes later, in comes your Geography teacher.

“I know I’ll be seeing you in class this afternoon, but I couldn’t wait to tell you that the best example of coastal erosion in the UK is at Barton-on-Sea and we’ll have a look later at some brilliant footage of the cliffs collapsing. Bye.”

“This is getting silly”, you think to yourself. And it is. Really silly. It makes the Maths lesson really unproductive for you in terms of learning anything, tires all the teachers out as they rush around trying not to forget to tell anyone anything that might be important, and generally leaves both teachers and pupils feeling stressed and like they’re not accomplishing important work nearly as fast as they should be.

Good job the workplace isn’t anything like this!

We talk a lot about this at our Foundations of Success workshops and it certainly stirs up some interesting conversations!

 

 


Where did that extra energy come from?

February 22, 2016

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.

IMG_2609

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.

Have a great week!

Nick

 

 


It’s boring but…

January 29, 2016

There are some very exciting subjects to be covered in the field of leadership and management and I love to get lost in these.

Vision, innovation, managing change, empowerment, releasing peoples’ potential, strategy, handling authority, relationship-building – all fantastic and very, very important.

My topic for today may not sound so exciting, but is equally important. Essential I would say.

Managers and Leaders must be organised!

By definition, you are managing and leading people, projects, assignments, resources and activities. You have lots going on. Things can easily get overlooked or forgotten. If there are even the tiniest cracks, important things will find a way of slipping through.

That’s why being organised is such a key foundational skill to have. Be organised. Help your team be organised. It’s the gateway to achievement and effectiveness in every other facet of your work.

That’s why personal productivity is the first step in LMI’s Total Leader process, and developing a system to handle all your day-to-day responsibilities well is covered in depth on our Foundations of Success workshop.

It might sound boring but…

 


We beat Google!

January 28, 2015

I had an interesting and hugely instructive experience on Monday this week whilst on a trip out with my 7 year old son, Jonar. It’s way too good an illustration not to share with you!

Our mission was to get to a small theatre in Clapham Common by 3pm. Our train arrived at Clapham Junction station at 2:32pm. A quick entry into Google Maps showed that the quickest walking route was going to take us 34 minutes, therefore bringing us to our destination 6 minutes late. Oh no!

Undeterred, Jonar set off briskly up the road. “Dad, we HAVE to beat Google!”

The next 23 minutes turned out to be one of the most fun times I’ve had as a dad. 3 minutes in to our [very swift] walk we had gained a minute. Arrival time down to 3:05. Encouragement duly received my boy is now bouncing along the road with me lagging somewhat behind.

“Let’s get to the bus stop and then check again.”

Sure enough, another minute gained. 3:04. “We’re gonna do it Dad. Let’s try and get it down to 2:59!”

By arrival time we had beaten Google by 9 minutes and it was like we’d just won the lottery, the World Cup, an Oscar and Olympic Gold all in one. What a buzz!

I’ve kept the story brief but it illustrates the point well. When you have a crystal clear goal, with a deadline, and you track your progress towards victory (celebrating every small success along the way), the journey becomes exciting and the rate at which you progress towards the goal is way faster.

Clapham

If someone had said, “Walk quickly from Clapham Junction to the theatre on Clapham Common and see how long it takes”, it would have, without a doubt, taken us significantly longer. As it was we walked, bounced, skipped and ran our way to our destination, eagerly checking for progress updates at every junction or bus stop!

Many of have goals. Many of us have written those goals down. From my experience, many of those goals remain too vague, with a blurred deadline and no tracking method set up.

Why not choose one important goal and go through the rigor of putting all this in place, just for that one goal…and see how you get on!