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.

 


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!

 


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?


The critical importance of a lasting change process

September 9, 2016

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.

 


I knew the rules but not how to win!

February 18, 2015

In our house board games are big! We love them!

The old classics – Monopoly, Cluedo, Scrabble. There are some fantastic new kids on the block, our current favourite being Sequence.

One of the kids’ birthdays recently yielded a new delight – a game called Scotland Yard. There is great excitement in the house when a new game is being unveiled and the learning of the rules followed by those first few run-throughs is an almost-sacred ritual!

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On this occasion I was not around when the cellophane was pierced and the game learnt. Neither was I present for the second and third outings. The rest of Team Howes had become fairly well versed in this new entertainment and I was at a significant disadvantage.

Finally I get to play and the kids explain the rules to me. This piece moves here. This card does that. You can’t lay this card when that happens. You must collect six of these before you can do this.

Ok, I think I understand the rules. But what’s the aim of the game? How do I win?

This was the bit that was not so well explained by the kids in their eagerness to get started…and beat me!

I find myself in the middle of the game, asking questions as we go and squinting at the tiny instructions without my glasses to try and make sense as we went along as to how the game eventually gets won.

Work can feel like that. Sometimes for the owners / leaders…often for staff. I know what I’m supposed to be getting on with, but how do we win? What does success look like? How does today, or this week really count?

We want (and for our own well-being, need) to succeed. Victories keep us fresh, energised and creative. Knowing the rules without having a clear and imminent sense of a goal to reach, a finish line to cross, it’s drudgery and no-wonder the productivity levels aren’t what they could be.

Whether it’s for yourself, or for those you lead, make it clear where the next finish lines to cross are, and make a deal of it when the tape is broken. Mine today was a short list of ‘Must do today’ tasks, the last of which was writing this blog. My prize – I’m off to make a fresh pot of very nice coffee!


#FreeMyFriday – Start with a list

February 13, 2015

It’s Friday, which, in my world immediately poses one question: is my Friday free?

For some time now I’ve been really focused on helping managers and leaders to seriously improve their productivity to the extent that they have a whole extra day each week, typically Friday though sometimes taken in a couple of half days or shorter regular slots, to concentrate entirely on the the important development work that will improve or move things forward in significant ways. The key to this is the implementation of proven techniques and finding innovative new ways to get the usual five days’ work done in four so our heads can emerge from the day-to-day and consider the bigger picture.

Don’t we all face the massive challenge of handling the myriad of stuff that comes our way every day, spinning those plates as best we can just to keep our heads above water?

Doesn’t that continually leave us with that irritating (sometimes downright depressing!) feeling that genuinely important work that would make a big difference if we could only get time to do it, lies untouched for yet another week?

This is what #FreeMyFriday is all about and it starts with making that list.

Start with writing a really clear and concise list of the things you would love to get round to doing – things like going after new customers, training your team members, taking your team out to lunch, designing some new product or service offering, reading more, perhaps even finishing early and taking the kids out after school…the list will be specific to your role and the demands of the business you’re in. But do – for goodness sake – go ahead and write it!

It’s just the beginning, but it’s a super-important beginning. Being clear about where you want to go has an incredible way of enabling you to find solutions to the challenges that prevent you from getting there.

Have a fantastic Friday…and maybe now even you could start writing the list of what you’d like to be doing this time next week?


Eight stops to Swiss Cottage

December 8, 2014

The scene was one I’m sure you’re familiar with. Hundreds of people swarming off the train having just arrived at a London Mainline station and rushing on to their familiar short hop on the tube, or outside to jump in a taxi, or perhaps preferring to walk across the City whilst taking in some snapshots of architectural genius…breathtaking creations that are so often missed in the hurly-burly of another ordinary, busy, so-much-to-get-done day in Metropolis.

For me this particular Tuesday it was a little bit different. I’m not incredibly familiar with Central London but I can find my way around OK on my usual routes. Today I was heading somewhere I’d never been before. As I came out onto the main station concourse, I flipped out my phone and opened the Tube Map app to sort out where I needed to be going.

No direct line. Damn. Need to engage brain.

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I stared at the tiny map for an age and was getting nowhere. Way too many options, massive indecision leading to temporary mental paralysis!

Plan B – head down the steps and find one of those large spaghetti maps just before you go through the barriers. That’s better. Make the map larger and it’s much easier to get perspective. Select my line – the first one at least. Choose a destination. Find the platform, board the train and then watch, eagle-eyed, as we pass each station on the way to where i get off.

Time to re-calibrate. Next line. Where am I now? Where do I get off?The big picture map is great but when it comes to making specific progress I need to simplify it right down to a one-line process where I can easily mark my progress.

I’m heading for Swiss Cottage. I’m at London Bridge. That’s eight stops away. In the middle of a million people and ten million thoughts, I need a really simple way of knowing where I am, where I’m going and how many stops to get there.

IMG_2079That’s why I love it when I get to the platform and see one of these maps (eyes right)! Us human beings function much better in the middle of a busy day with the second kind of map rather than the first. Sure we need the big picture and the strategic plan about how it all connects together. All of that should be put together away from the front line where our thinking is clearer and our focus undiluted. Stepping out into the hubbub of the day I need a simple, crystal-clear one page plan that plots my route from A to B and tells me exactly which line I’m on (I don’t want choices now) and how many stops to Swiss Cottage!

Translating all of this into the reality of our lives, our businesses, and all the stuff we have to get done, the obvious lesson is that we need both kind of maps. So many individual leaders and management teams I’ve worked with have struggled to create the proper ‘big map’ or, having done that well, have then failed to translate that on a daily and weekly basis into the single line map that plots the fastest and most effective path from where we are now to the next identified milestone.

One of the most valuable habits to develop in this respect is the ‘Ten Magic Minutes’ – ten minutes spent planning before setting off on the journey of any day to establish what must be done, in what order, in which time slots and exactly what ‘finished’ looks like, or in other words, translating the ‘big map’ into today’s single line. The same thing when you get there – ‘Ten Magic Minutes’ to review, note the escalator repairs at Green Park for the next six weeks and alter the route for next time!  Obvious really, but it’s amazing what comes into focus during an ordinary Tuesday on the London Underground!