Archive for April, 2018

Embracing The Power of ‘Yet’

April 29th, 2018

“Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you are climbing it”

– Andy Rooney

Most of us will acknowledge that we live in an ‘instant age’. Our access to information, resources and networks be it for personal or professional purposes has never been more easily or readily available. Quick Google searches provide answers in mere seconds often speeding up our abilities to make decisions and take actions; online shopping can see us in a new outfit the next day or deliver us dinner faster than we can cook it; and with the click of a button we can now connect and engage with community forums anywhere in the world on any topic we like.

But is this ‘world of instant’, creating unrealistic expectations that at times impede our growth, limit opportunities and cause us to lose rather than gain perspective? Are we now always looking for and expecting instant results, instant knowledge and skills, or instant rapport in relationships that in reality all still require some good old-fashioned hard work, problem solving, time and investment? Does the lack of instant success prevent us from exploring longer-term benefits by always defaulting to what is only achievable now or is ‘safe’ from failure?

Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, conducted years of research about why people succeed or fail and how what she terms the fixed or growth mindset impacts the outcomes. Her TED talk, The Power Of Believing That You Can Improve provides a powerful insight into this concept and in it explains the ‘power of yet’. She begins her talk by describing her work with 10-year children and how they coped with learning challenges. In giving them problems that were slightly too hard for them, two distinct responses emerged. Some reacted in what she termed a ‘shockingly positive way’ adopting a mindset that saw them embrace the challenge, recognizing in the learning process regardless of whether or not the outcome was successful. The second group (those with a fixed mindset) felt it was a tragic, catastrophic scenario feeling that they had been set up for judgment and failure. Essentially they found that those with a fixed mindset will reject learning if it means not failing – and will often resort to cheating or finding those who have performed worse than they did in order to feel better about themselves. Those with a fixed mindset were ‘gripped in ‘the tyranny of now,’ where as those with a growth mindset were able to recognize and embrace the power of ‘not yet’.

Given that most of us acknowledge that we should never stop learning, how we embrace the growth mindset and apply it to our careers and lives is critical. Whilst it is important to recognize our innate talents and play to our strengths, it will be our abilities to embrace ongoing development; collaborate with and seek out new ideas from others; and invest in the learning process to solve problems with no guarantee of immediate success that will see us well positioned for the future. As Dweck’s studies found, it was these individuals that tended to achieve greater levels of success in both their personal and professional lives because they were less worried about looking smart and more focused on becoming smart.

As we continue to face rapid rates of change to the way we live and work, it will be our ability to embrace opportunities and learning in environments that are rich in volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity that will see us succeed. With new industries rapidly emerging and old ones being disrupted; demands for greater flexibility and diversity in the ways that we work; and a requirement to operate in a much more globalized market we actually can’t afford to not adopt a growth mindset. To do so sees us risk relevance, opportunity and future success.

So what are the keys to building growth mindsets in our organisations and the people we lead? I would encourage you to consider the following 6 tips:

  • Cultivate purpose: When we truly know why we are doing what we do, we are able to focus on the longer-term gains and develop greater levels of perseverance, commitment and engagement.
  • Reward actions not traits: When we acknowledge the action taken we are more likely to see it repeated and develop patterns for success.
  • Stop seeking approval: When we constantly prioritise approval over learning we sacrifice potential for growth.
  • Separate improvement from failure: All too often we associate ‘room for improvement’ as failure. Rather we need to embrace it as opportunity.
  • Embrace the power of reflection: Taking moments to understand what worked or didn’t work allows us to replicate or adjust our actions accordingly.
  • Adopt the word ‘yet’: In acknowledging that we may not have mastered a skill or solved a problem just ‘yet’ removes the notion of having failed and reinforces that success still lies ahead.

As leaders need to accept that we don’t build a career or a business in one, two or even three years. It is a long-term game, that requires focus on your own ‘big picture’, a preparedness to make and learn from mistakes, a willingness to acknowledge that you may not be there just yet!

How are you cultivating this growth mindset for yourself and the people you lead?

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.


What’s Your Leadership Intent?

April 23rd, 2018

‘What I really love about Intentional Living is that it causes you to start. It doesn’t allow good intentions to stay as merely intentions. It says you’ve got to turn those into good actions.’ – John C Maxwell

Most of us have been guilty of thinking dreamily about the future – you know ‘that day’, the one when we buy the dream house; take that overseas holiday; finally get to work on something that we love or be in a position to really influence and add value to others. Or maybe we’ve heard it uttered in the corridors by others ‘Some day I will earn enough to do X’ or ‘Some day I will step out and do X’. The reality is ‘some day’ never comes unless we focus on making it happen.

Things don’t just happen just because you think it. Success comes to those who are intentional. Regardless of whether you have landed your ideal role, changed career direction or simply bought your dream car, it has come about because there has been a purposeful decision made and action (often lots of it) taken to see it become a reality.

As leadership expert John Maxwell notes, you know when you are leading intentionally and on the road to success because it’s all uphill. That doesn’t mean the road is always fraught with obstacles or difficulties but rather it is one that requires consistent, deliberate and disciplined behaviours and choices. There’s no coasting to success. You can’t just hang around at the office for days or weeks on end and think ‘something good might happen to me today on this road to success’. If you wait around you coast and when you coast you go down hill never up.

As leaders, it is imperative that we are leading intentionally and not just talking about what we intend to do. That means leading firstly ourselves with purpose, clarity and confidence and then leading our people – and not just the outcomes. Failing to do so not only sees us risking disengagement, misalignment, conflict and productivity but also sees our own leadership credibility called into question. Nobody wants to work with or for somebody who is only full of great intentions, instead they want to work with and for people who know how to turn intent into action and in a way that has meaning to them.

So what are the habits and traits of leading with intent? I would encourage you to take a moment to reflect on the following 6 characteristics and how you might seek to embody them in your role as a leader

Intentional Leaders:

  • Assume responsibility for who they are and where they are: Ultimately we are all responsible for the path we are on and where we are along that path. Leaders who assume personal accountability are much more likely to achieve success, unite teams or enact change if required.
  • Are clear about their leadership purpose: They recognise what their core value is and know that it is more than a checklist of tasks to do today, next week or this financial year.
  • Care about their people: They know what high impact looks and sounds like for the individuals on their team. They care enough to offer challenge, opportunity, growth and recognition; and will challenge behaviours and values that compromise the integrity of their team and what they are aiming to achieve.
  • Challenge the status quo: Chase what could be and not merely what is. Fresh opportunity, increased productivity, relevance and fulfillment do not come from simply standing still or doing what we have always done but rather from seeking new and improved ways of doing things.
  • Build trust: For leaders, trust is two fold. You need to be able to engender it and you need to be able to give it. Without both, success is almost always compromised.
  • Celebrate the milestone achievements: Whilst leading with intention requires us to look over the horizon, it also means recognizing success along the way. Recognising that success is a series of building blocks is critical if we are to maintain purpose and momentum for what we do.

Living and leading intentionally doesn’t mean that we always have to be pushing, striving or seeking out the next big thing. Let’s face it; we would be exhausted if we did those things 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. Sometimes taking time out to re-energise and re-engage needs to be an intentional act. What we do need to do is get crystal clear on what we want and why and to then start closing the gap between intent and action. It means being realistic about how we do it and what offers the most impact. To do this we need to know that our actions (and reactions) not only matter but also are what will be remembered.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.


The Acknowledgement Factor

April 16th, 2018

‘Those who drink the water must remember those who dug the well’ – Chinese Proverb

Acknowledgement is one of those things that you often don’t miss until it’s not given. Be it in the acknowledgement of someone as they walk into a room, an email received, a mistake made, the contribution of others or great work delivered, failing to acknowledge can be frustrating, demotivating and at times simply rude. Most of us don’t need to think too hard or long about a situation that could have been transformed if we had simply been acknowledged.

Yet acknowledgement is something that is so easy to give. It doesn’t cost us anything, is not time consuming and the benefits yielded for both the recipient and the person making the acknowledgement can be far reaching. For most of us learning the act of acknowledgement was an integral part of our upbringing – learning to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, greeting others in a genuine and interested manner and showing respect to others by acknowledging them and their efforts. Unfortunately however whilst it is still taught it no longer seems to be a ‘norm’ in many of today’s organisational cultures.

With many organisations formally implementing reward and recognition programs there is no doubt that at some level, acknowledgment is valued. However this formal process should not and cannot replace the personal responsibility we have to acknowledge those around us and their contributions in our everyday actions. As leaders it is one of our greatest tools for building motivated, engaged and connected individuals and teams. Leaders with the greatest following are the ones who personally acknowledge others, appreciate their work and guide them to leverage their contributions. This act of personal acknowledgement not only helps to forge stronger relationships by building loyalty and trust with the individuals who work with us, but also helps to enable more productive and timely results.

So considering all the benefits why does the act of acknowledgement seem to be disappearing? Judy Umlas, author of The Power of Acknowledgement believes it is a new set of habits that need to be developed and cultivated for today’s way of working. All too often we fail or forget to acknowledge others, not because we are thoughtless or unkind, but simply because we can’t always see what warrants it and our more traditional ways of recognising it no longer apply. As such we no longer acknowledge it. Bob Nelson, a leading engagement expert argues that the habit of acknowledgement is simply disappearing from our culture. We have become so use to not giving or receiving it that we no longer look for ways to give it.

There is no doubt that the fast paced and often frenetic ways that we now work require us to learn to ‘see’ what is happening around us in a different way. Coupled with the impact of technology, flexible and remote work environments and the ways we communicate, the way in which we observe each other’s contribution and the way we acknowledge has certainly changed enormously. However despite all these changes we still need to be acknowledged for what we have done. We need to feel connected to what we do, who we do it with and how we offer value to the team and organisational purpose.

So how do you cultivate the habit of acknowledgement? I would encourage you to consider the following seven steps:

  • Commit To Looking For Opportunities: To identify them you need to firstly commit to looking for them. Reflect on each of your team members and stakeholders and consider what they are currently working on, what they have delivered and where their high value contribution is.
  • Audit Your Daily Routine: Often there are numerous opportunities to acknowledge others in our every day routines. The people you walk past on your way to your desk each morning, the commencement of meetings, the incidental tasks that others just naturally assume responsibility for, your regular client and supplier conversations.
  • Be Genuine: As with all communication, the benefits of acknowledging of others lies in the sincerity and purpose in which it is given. Be considered with you are acknowledging and how.
  • Be Timely: Don’t wait! Like feedback, acknowledgement is best given as close to the result is delivered or event occurs. The timeliness reinforces the value of the contribution to the here and now and often serves as a motivator for further effort.
  • Don’t Delegate It: Personal acknowledgement is just that – personal! It can’t be delivered with as much impact if delivered by your assistant or colleagues. You need to take ownership of your appreciation.
  • Consider How: To deliver meaningful acknowledgement you need to consider both who you are delivering it too and what the most appropriate format is for that person. If they hate public acknowledgement, think of something that will hold real meaning for them. Sometimes the value of a hand written card can’t be under-estimated!

Like all habits that need developing, we need to prioritise and practice the act of acknowledging others. However when we do, the benefits are enormous, both for us as individuals and for the people who we lead.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.



How Reliable Are You As A Leader?

April 8th, 2018

“Life is like a game of cards where reliability is the ace card” – Edgar Watson Howe

People inherently value reliability. Every day we place enormous value on things such as reliable internet connectivity, mobile phone service, planes taking off on time, our cars getting us from A to B and our family, friends and colleagues doing what they say they will do.

When these things are reliable, they not only afford us greater efficiency and peace of mind but also help us forge stronger relationships and deliver greater results. Investors, shareholders, leaders, consumers, neighbours and friends all look for reliable people. Why? Because we place great importance on people and businesses who are able to deliver consistently good results time after time and who can be depended upon to deliver on commitments and promises. Fundamentally they make life (and what we do) easier, more enjoyable and more rewarding.

As leaders, recognising this importance and value is critical to our success. A team or business that delivers reliable results is really only a collective of reliable individuals. So with this in mind, business reliability starts with us as leaders and in our ability to engender it in the people we work with. Understanding how our people perceive and regard our reliability can greatly impact our careers, opportunities and abilities to successfully deliver. People are more likely to trust us to get things done with freedom and autonomy on how we deliver; new and fresh opportunities are more likely to emerge; and the quality and depth of relationships and subsequent loyalty built tends to be greater.

Given that a core element of reliability is doing what we say we will do, communication is key. Neil Crofts, a leadership and culture expert suggests that a big reason so many businesses and organisations are perceived as unreliable is a mixture of over ambition, under commitment and a lack of real clarity about what they are communicating. He suggests we need to give greater consideration to exactly what we committing to and subsequently communicating: information, promises or aspirations. Failing to give enough thought to the difference between each can have an enormous impact on how reliable we are considered to be. His example of train services succinctly demonstrates this point:

  • Information: The next train is going to be 10 minutes late
  • Promise: We promise 99% of our trains will be on time
  • Aspiration: Our aim is for 99% of trains to be on time

Since reliability is such a fundamental aspect of our success, we should all be asking ourselves ‘How reliable am I?’ and what can I do to create it? I would encourage you to consider how you can apply the following six actions:

  • Manage expectations: When committing to responsibilities, roles and people be realistic, upfront and transparent about what, when and how you are committing to. Misaligned or ambiguous expectations can prove costly to both you and your business.
  • Learn to say ‘No’: All too often the reliable leader is the first person asked to take on more responsibility – because they always deliver! Learning to say no and developing the art of discretion is a critical part of not over committing or over promising.
  • Develop strong organisational awareness: As leaders you need to determine what and how you can configure things to ‘make stuff happen’. What can you change and what can’t you? Knowing the difference will help you avoid committing to things beyond your control or influence.
  • Do what is right and not just what you have to: Regardless of what we are committed to, we all have an obligation to do what is right and not just do what we have to. Given that we are all part of a team and community, how we play the game is just as important as the tasks and results required of us.
  • Build positive emotional reliability: Reliable leaders cultivate the skills required to navigate the unknown and don’t allow circumstances dictate their behaviour. They make the most of situations and are able to demonstrate courage and resilience under pressure.
  • Communicate, Communicate, Communicate! Take a proactive approach to communicating with relevant team members, stakeholders and networks. Avoid surprises, remove ambiguity, provide updates – good, bad and indifferent – and always honour the timelines and communication channels committed to.

Regardless of your position, title or tenure, reliability can and should be a cornerstone of your reputation. Essentially, we all aim to collect reliable people and avoid the unreliable. Make sure you are worth collecting!


The Importance of TODAY

April 2nd, 2018

“Your big opportunity may be right where you are now.” – Napoleon Hill

How often are we torn between the memories of yesterday and the unknown of tomorrow? Whilst our abilities to look up and out, forward and back are vitally important to our success, there is a real danger in not focusing our efforts and energies on where we are at TODAY. Not only does it see us risking future opportunities but it can also leave us feeling very impatient and dissatisfied with where we are at in our careers and what knowledge, experience and expertise we currently have.

As John C Maxwell notes, most of us look at our days in the wrong way: we exaggerate yesterday, we overestimate tomorrow and we underestimate today! The reality is it is what we do today that really counts! It has the power to consolidate, repair and move forward on our previous day’s works whilst also setting up our next steps and future directions. It also enables us to feel a sense of control, purpose and satisfaction in what we do and the building blocks we are creating.

In working with many senior business leaders there is an ever-emerging struggle that many face in balancing future focused, visionary thinking – in a market that feels like it is changing faster than the speed of light – with the reality of where we are at today. We all need goals and we all need a vision for where we are heading that we believe in. BUT, failing to recognize the opportunity and associated responsibilities we have right now – this minute – is self limiting, career damaging and risky business practice.

As leaders our role is to help our people navigate the journey from today to future ‘what is possible’ states of play.  We can’t effectively do that without getting clear on where we are currently at and what knowledge, skills and relationships we need to focus on to prepare us to move forward. Forming an accurate view of where our skills and value lies allows us to make decisions about what we can immediately do, calmly and on purpose. It helps take the emotions out of the process and avoids the risk of impulsive shortsighted decisions.

In what I have often referred to as Career Currency, I believe that there are four key areas that each of us should individually assess. In doing so it will help us make practical informed career decisions about the actions we can take today to invest and improve the value of our currency. I would encourage you to think about the value of your currency in light of the following areas:

  • Performance: How is my performance regarded, evidenced and valued in my current role? Consider elements such as: ability, output, motivation, consistency, ambition and attitude.
  • Potential: How am I demonstrating and communicating my potential? Consider elements such as: past and future learning, growth, ambition and desire.
  • Relationships: What is the strength and health of my professional relationships? Consider both internal and external relationships and elements such as effort, influence and collaboration.
  • Style: How is my style contributing to or hindering my success? Consider elements such as communication, EQ, resilience, intent and behaviour.

Your ability to accurately assess the strength of these four currency attributes not only provides you with an insight into what your career value is but most importantly it can help you determine what actions you can take today to invest in your future opportunities -either internally or externally. Furthermore the clarity you gain about yourself will help you identify the right opportunities that recognise your value and compliment your style.

Loss of direction, purpose and motivation all dramatically affect the value of your career currency and present some of the greatest career dangers. At a time when businesses are more focused than ever on efficiency and cost management, establishing a firm appreciation of where you are at today and what you can do today to maximise your opportunities has never been more important. Not only does it help you build a strong sense of ownership and empowerment but also clarity and confidence about your career direction.

As leaders we need to not only ensure that we are taking daily action to maximize our current opportunities but also helping the people that we lead to do the same. For it is when we do that, we as individuals and the businesses we lead will achieve new levels of success.

So what actions are you taking TODAY – not tomorrow, next week or next quarter – to move you and your team forward?

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.


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