The Gift of Feedback

October 11, 2017

I hate this title. I hate feedback.

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.


10 minute video – Great Leaders in the 21st Century

October 9, 2017

I found this an unusually brief (!) and insightful commentary on the current demands upon leaders to be effective in today’s world.

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?

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.

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.


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!


Success by routines

August 30, 2017

Are you feeling rested, refreshed and energised to launch full-steam ahead into the Autumn? Perhaps for you or some colleagues, “exhausted and glad the kids are going back to school is more like it”?!

However you’re feeling as August comes to a close, the Autumn does tend to be a really productive – dare we say, ‘busy’ – few months where the natural lull in routine created by the summer gives way to full-scale activity.

Here’s a warning right away. As you well know, activity doesn’t equal productivity. Being busy and working hard doesn’t guarantee results.

With this in mind, my ‘one-percent’ recommendation is that you take some time to review and re-establish your routines – the regular habits that keep you on track. After a break in the norm, it can take more effort than we think to get back into good work habits rather than starting with email and seeing where the day takes us!

There are key activities that if practised routinely, make a huge difference to your productivity. Here are just a few examples:

– 10 magic minutes daily planning
– week review & planning meetings
– regular team meetings and one-to-one’s
– booked out periods of uninterrupted time
– finishing work at a set time to do other stuff!

I’m sure you could add to the list. Give it some thought and make a conscious effort (& book it it the diary!) to re-establish those routines that will help you stay a little bit more in control, focused on your high-payoff activities and working towards important goals over the next few months.

Here’s to a fantastic September!

#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.”


“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.