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It’s the relationship, stupid!

April 13, 2012 2 comments

With apologies for the bowdlerisation of the 1992 US Presidential campaign’s famous “It’s the economy, stupid!”

Working recently with a whole team of new people and in a culture that puts a huge store on relationships I was strongly reminded of the need to get the right balance of task, process and relationships.

What do I mean? well when you are up against a deadline it’s very easy to focus on task, task, task!  “We just need to get the job done”.

But I was reminded that sometimes you just need to sit back and think about what the people involved need to help them succeed.  Picture the scene……

As I sat in the umpteenth meeting room, all alone, waiting for everyone else to turn up, feeling impatient to get on, I started to see things in a different light ……… my facetious side thought “Just abandon all hope of getting this done quickly”, my insightful side reflected “Use this valuable thinking time to work out a better strategy” – then the two came together: to quote one of my favourite sayings ‘What’s the definition of madness?’  “Keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result”.

That’s when I remembered what I’d forgotten.

In any (business) endeavour you need to work on 3 aspects – task, process and relationships.  You need to focus on whatever the task may be and ensure it gets done – but to do that you also need process – a means of getting there, and people or relationships to get it done.  And you must be constantly reviewing and rebalancing these to get the best possible progress and outcomes.  Concentrate only on task and people will feel bruised, misunderstood, demotivated…. take care only of the people and nothing gets done.  Without some process you don’t have a way of achieving anything.

So I just sat back: one by one they came in…we chatted, we got to know each other.  We put everything on the table and talked it through.  In no time we were all throwing in ideas, feeding off each other’s creativity – having great fun, enjoying each other’s company – and most importantly, making decisions and agreeing a way forward.

That’s what makes business work….  How’s your balance?

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No 1 tip for getting focused

January 25, 2012 Leave a comment

It’s a new year – well, newish.  A time for resolutions – and by now, 25 days in, if you made some you’ve probably already given up.  Research* shows that most last less than a week!

So if there’s something you really want to achieve, just give it a laser like focus!

Do you find yourself saying any of these things?Laser like focus

  • “I’ll just do these quick jobs first …..”
  • “Where did the morning/day go?”
  • “Oh no, I still haven’t had time to work on that big project today”
  • “I just haven’t had time to do that”

This was definitely me until I decided it couldn’t go on or I would never achieve the big, important things I most wanted to do.  Through some coaching I realised that there is just one way to focus – and that seems appropriate when we are talking about focus!  It works for others I’ve passed this tip on to as well.

And the really good news? – it’s not just one thing,  it’s simple as well!

Work on that big, most important project first thing in the morning – dedicate some real brain-space time while you feel energised and upbeat and before everything else starts crowding in on you.  It works partly for that reason and also because those many ‘small, easy tasks’ are never actually finished – every day more appear!  It’s also a very virtuous circle – you feel good about yourself and what you’ve achieved and so become more enthusiastic to carry on,  achieving even more than you expected.

So give it a go and let me know how you get on – why not start tomorrow?  unless you haven’t got time of course…..?

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*University of Hereford

Photo: © XYZproject – Fotolia.com

What’s in the box? metaphors and imagery to solve your problems and get motivated

December 5, 2011 Leave a comment

“It’s as if there’s a box and I’m afraid to open it because I don’t know what’s in there.  And if I look inside there’s all sorts of things, just jumbled up, they’re all wrapped up and I don’t know what any of them are.”

“How would you like that box to be?”

“I’d like it to be…..….like a filing box, like one of those card indexes  – everything neat and tidy so I can see exactly what needs to be done and when.  Phew, that would be such a relief!”

“And what do you need to do to get that filing box organized?”

“Hmmm – I just need to sit down with the box, unwrap all the ‘gifts’ and go through them all…in fact it won’t take me long ….…I just need to decide to sit down and do it…….yes I could do that, I could do it today in fact, I’ve got an hour later on!”

This is the power of metaphor to solve problems – and far more interesting and engaging than ‘how do I organise my in-tray??’

BarriersBarriers – what are they like?  Like a huge brick wall that you can PUNCH a big hole in?  like hurdles that you can leap over? Or a pane of glass where you can see everything you want almost in your grasp just the other side.   And then when you step back you realise that in fact it’s not very big and you can just walk round the side of it!

By turning something nebulous and elusive into something tangible it makes it so much easier to deal with, and metaphor is part of what makes us human – don’t just take it from me, watch this video clip of Professor Susan Greenfield: Metaphorical thinking and identity.  Or you can read more in Lakoff and Johnson’s  Metaphors we Live By.

So if you don’t already use metaphors and imagery – why not give it a go?   I’m just scratching the surface here (here I go again!);

How many metaphors can you spot in this blog post, besides the obvious ones? They can be both fun and profound!  Tell us about how metaphors have worked for you by leaving your comments.

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Photo: © James Steidl – Fotolia.com

Best kept secret of transition from professional to leader

October 5, 2011 4 comments

“This is the hardest transition I’ve ever made” to quote a successful software developer after her first three months as a manager.  Why was that?  “Suddenly I’ve found I can’t do everything.  I’m bombarded by emails, requests for information…. I have to be selective about what I do”.

She shared this in a group coaching session I was running to help her and others recently promoted to address the big challenges in their new roles.Leadership tightrope

Although this was several years ago I still find this is one of the biggest shocks to new leaders.  Does it matter? – yes! because as a new leader you want to focus on the big challenges you really do need to get to grips with, not trying to walk a tightrope of something totally unrealistic and unattainable.

Why is it such a closely guarded secret?  Maybe:

  • None of us quite get over that guilty feeling of NOT doing everything?
  • Or feel we’ll lose credibility if we admit to this ‘weakness’?
  • There is still a tendency in many organisations to promote people because of their professional expertise rather than their leadership qualities or potential – this means that when you are promoted you think that’s why you got the job and you need to be even more professional and knowledgeable?
  • Little or no organisational support is provided to help with this transition?
  • It’s hard to break the  ‘habit of a lifetime’ of responding to all requests and demands?

So what’s the answer?

  • Other leaders and HR managers should share what they are looking for in a manager/leader in their organisation  – it’s not just a more glorified professional role – and may not be for everyone who’s great at their job.  One law firm I worked with had a clear framework which specified the responsibilities at each point on the career ladder from Solicitor to Partner
  • Setting yourself a vision and goals and prioritising around these – Stephen Covey’s matrix in The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People is one excellent way of doing this – prioritising around what’s important and/or urgent (or not!)
  • And one of my enduring themes – it’s about changing your beliefs and letting go ie the value you bring comes from a different source, no one can do this as well as you can so you’d better do it yourself……which brings me to…
  • Understanding how to delegate successfully

And that will be the theme of my next post – don’t worry it won’t be a list of ‘practical tips’ – it’s about what it REALLY takes to delegate successfully….As always I’ve got some real life examples to share with you of the positive benefits and also some dire consequences of NOT doing it well!

As ever, please share your views below.  I look forward to hearing what you think.

Photo: © Aliaksei Hintau – Fotolia.com

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Don’t think of a pink giraffe with blue spots

August 30, 2011 8 comments

What happens when I say that to you?  yup, it’s pretty much impossible to NOT think of something that’s drawn to your attention.  That is where your focus goes.  Also your unconscious mind doesn’t hear the word ‘don’t’ and only hears the rest of the instruction.

“Don’t forget to call me”, “I want to lose weight”, “Mind the kerb”.  All of these contain embedded commands to do exactly what you don’t want.  So this may explain why people don’t do as you ask (or think you asked!), why you don’t achieve your goals and why you fell off your bike  – because your thinking and language is ‘problem focused’ or ‘away from’ rather than ‘outcome focused’ or ‘towards’.  You’re not alone – this error is made by large organisations too: ‘don’t walk on the grass’, ‘don’t forget your green bags’.

Problem focused thinking can also be hugely demotivating – I once worked for a Director who was an absolute master of it – he took us all away to a conference which I think was meant to motivate us to greater things – but by the time we’d heard about what would happen if we didn’t up our game, how the team numbers would be cut, how our budgets would be reduced, how our status would drop we were all feeling thoroughly depressed and the confidence and optimism we’d arrived with just melted away with his words.

Some organisations have a whole culture of problem thinking, constantly looking for things to stop doing eg saving costs or failing to celebrate achievements before moving on to the next thing.  Learning from mistakes is fine – but do you also learn from what went right?!

This type of thinking is so contagious – I’m finding it really hard to write this post whereas I find they normally flow very easily!  I hope you’re not finding it as difficult to read – oh no! I mean “I hope you’re finding it easy and enjoyable to read”.Focus on the outcome you want

So what do you do instead?

  • As ever the first step to changing your thinking is to be aware of it – notice it yourself or ask a colleague or coach to draw your attention to it.  Do many of your sentences start with “I don’t want to…”
  • If you have a problem to solve ask yourself  “what do I want instead”? for instance, change “I don’t want to get bogged down with this” to “I want to be really focused with this”.
  • If you have a goal express it in the positive – not “I want to reduce customer complaints” but “I want 99% of our customers to be delighted with our service”
  • Focus on the outcome you want and vision it  “Whatever you create in your life you must first create in your imagination” – Tycho Photiou.

What are your experiences? – please share them in the comments below.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Photo: © Tomasz Trojanowski – Fotolia.com

Are your goals boring you?

August 17, 2011 3 comments

Some time ago, back in the days when I was an HR Business Partner, my boss asked me to (well,actually I think that was TOLD rather than asked!) me to run a quarterly Career Development Forum with the Board we were working with.  I was new in to the job but I guess I should have realised it was not going to be easy when he told me he’d been trying to get this off the ground for months and now wanted to hand it over to me!  To cut a long story short, it was a disaster.  They had no idea what I was talking about and I had completely failed to get on their wave length.  You can imagine how much I was looking forward to it when the next quarterly meeting approached!  I started to think of all kinds of diseases I might go down with, reasons why there wouldn’t be time to do it with, disasters and emergencies that might intervene and then ….STOP!

I suddenly realised how I was sabotaging myself and setting myself up for failure by thinking of everything negative about the meeting and all that could go wrong.   It dawned on me that to be successful what I needed to do was envision a successful meeting and me running it really well.

Visioning! such a powerful tool for all sorts of things – and especially to create exciting and motivating business and personal goals for yourself.  Of course SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound) has been tried and tested and is popular in many organisations.  But does it inspire you? does it make you want to get up in the morning, make you want to give your all?? exactly!  Visioning what you want to achieve and yourself being successful certainly can though.

Your mind cannot tell the difference between a real event and something you have merely imagined, so by vividly imagining  yourself as having already achieved what you want you are far more likely to succeed.

How to vision?Vision what you want

  • Find yourself somewhere to be alone and to relax – this is definitely best done in private!
  • Close your eyes and imagine with all your senses that you have achieved your goal, be it winning a new client, giving an amazing presentation, getting your dream job….  Imagine what you’re seeing around you, who is there, what are they doing, the expressions on their faces.  What are you hearing? what are they saying?  and what are you feeling – excited, exhilarated, proud, confident?  think of other times you’ve felt that sensation and really remember what it’s like – where do you feel it in your body?  how strong is that sensation?
  • Whenever you need re-motivating or you lose touch with what your goal really means to you repeat the process so that you’ve recreated the reality of it again
  • Your unconscious mind will help you find ways to achieve your goal when you really know what you want
  • Write down your goal or find a picture or object that represents it so that you can carry that with you at all times to remind you what you’re working towards.

So what are your tips for creating exciting goals for yourself and those you lead?  or how else have you used visioning? Please post your ideas below – what’s worked and what hasn’t worked for you?

Next time I’ll look at why you need to focus on what you do want, not what you don’t.  Join me then and I look forward to hearing from you in the meantime.

Photo:  Caroline Talbott.  Antarctica 2006.