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!


Is it possible to over-encourage?

September 5, 2017

A very brief article today based on this question: “Is it possible to over-encourage people?”

Yes, you need to have the confidence to confront poor behaviour and manager under-performance through clear communication and constructive conversations. Let’s take that as ‘sorted’.

Without that accountability it’s certainly possible to create a culture that is falsely positive, where poor attitudes and slack work habits go unchallenged.

But, assuming that’s in place because you have well-trained managers (if you don’t, give me a call and let’s get them well-trained!), is it possible to over-encourage or is it the case that the more praise, encouragement and generally positive inputs to the work environment, the better?

What do you reckon?  And what will you stop doing, start doing and continue doing as a result?

I’m genuinely really interested to hear your thoughts.

Learning from Sir Terry

February 2, 2016

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!

Trust me, I’m a good kid!

April 3, 2014

Yesterday evening we’re sat round the dinner table, all five of us, having a chat about the day as we often do. Eden, who is 10, has just had a couple of friends knock at the front door: “Can Eden play out?”

We’ve said yes to this a couple of times, and sometimes we’ve said no.It’s a tricky challenge for any parent. How much freedom do you give and have much do you exercise control and parental authority?

We got into a conversation about how Eden might get more freedom and have mum and dad say yes to her more often, and also extend the boundaries of her freedom so she can travel further and stay out longer.

She’s a smart kid and she got it quickly.

“If I keep to the rules when I am allowed out (get back at the agreed time…call if plans change etc), then you’ll trust me more and therefore I’ll get more freedom.”

Spot on!

It’s exactly the same in life, work and business for all of us. If we deliver on what we promise, or what is asked of us, we build trust.That gains us more credibility and ultimately responsibility. If we want to expand the scope of what we do, build trust. There’s no point saying the equivalent of “I’m a good kid, trust me!” – we have to earn it.

This is true in relationships with our customers, the teams we lead and manage, our own managers and leaders…as well as our friends and family.

A few years ago I was hosting a leadership seminar and the speaker, who was extremely experienced as a senior leader in a major corporation said something I’ve never forgotten:

“The most important thing to being an effective leader is simply to always do what you say you’re going to do.”

Challenging words. Extremely important words.

Much more than time management.

November 13, 2013

3 years, 8 months…and I never knew

August 5, 2013

“I’ve been working here three years and eight months and I never knew how smart he is and what a fantastic job he does.”

Its The West Wing, Series 4, Episode 2. Friends of my wife and I recently got us into this gripping political drama set in the West Wing of the White House. You don’t need to know the story or the characters for this to make sense, but its a great series and well worth checking out.

Josh Lyman is the Deputy Chief of Staff. He, along with a couple of other senior White House staffers, has been stranded on a trip and so Sam Seaborne, Deputy Communications Director has to step in to cover Josh’s role which is to be with the President in his various meetings throughout the day. The meetings come thick and fast, and the variety of issues he is expected to know everything about is just astounding. Sam, who is usually pretty sure of himself, is out of his depth.

This day in his colleague and very good friend’s shoes is a real wake-up call for Sam. He suddenly got a whole new respect for what his close workmate does and realised the pressures they work under and the daily challenges they had to overcome.

The analogy is simple. Empathy is not ‘what would I do if I were them?’, or even ‘what do I think about the job that they do?’

What does it actually feel like to be them, to sit where they sit, to face what they face and to overcome what they overcome? What are their challenges, their hopes, their goals? What is it that obstructs and frustrates them…and why?

Such contemplation could transform many a team…a workplace…a relationship…a family. Worth a try.

Face it – you’re weird!

August 10, 2010

We generally like to think of ourselves as broadly ‘normal’ and life is mostly lived by most people within the boundaries of what is accepted as ‘normal’ behaviour.

The fact is though that you are unique! There is no-one else on the planet who thinks, reasons, feels and acts quite like you do. You’re weird…well as least in the sense that you are different to everyone else.

This is the reason why clever techniques and coldly-applied ‘principles’ don’t cut it when it comes to people, and people are what makes the world work – whether its your colleagues, your customers, your friends or your family.

I’ve been married for 7 and a half years and I still haven’t got my wife figured out! She’s weird! And guess what? I’m weird too! We are constantly discovering new ways in which we are different. We are blessed with 3 wonderful kids, but I am amazed at how 3 small people with the same genetic heritage can have such incredibly diverse personalities, skills and interests.

Its takes time and effort, good listening, understanding and appreciation to make relationships work. Without this, its so easy for things to go wrong…and whether its in a work, home or social context, when relationships break down, everything and everybody suffers.

One of the things I’m learning to enjoy and appreciate more and more is how different people are – how each one of us brings something unique to the table and, if understood and appreciated, this can make for incredibly powerful teamwork and hugely enriched lives.

Just don’t expect everyone to see things like you do – you’re weird!