Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

The Power of Knowledge and Action

September 4th, 2019

“Knowledge is not power … it is only potential power. It becomes power only when, and if, it is organised into definite plans of action and directed to a definite end.”  (Napoleon Hill) 

When we have momentum, we feel as though anything is possible and we can confidently take on new challenges. Other times, momentum can seem elusive and a struggle to develop.

It’s often hard to describe and yet it is nearly always our secret magic weapon to achieving success. At its best, momentum helps us remain focused, clear minded and forward thinking rather than stagnating.

One of the key roadblocks to momentum, for leaders in particular, often manifests in being caught up with the tactical execution of work, rather than focusing on the strategic and organisational management work that is needed to drive growth and leverage opportunities as and when they arise.

Businesses and their leaders know what they need to do but find themselves unable to do it because they don’t have people in the right place, or people with the right capabilities, which results in stalled momentum time and again.

The key to breaking out of this cycle is turning this knowledge – of what needs to be done – into action, which is often easier said than done.

The reality is knowledge is only useful if we do something with it. Whilst it is very important to develop a strategy, build intellectual capital and remain up to date and aware of new developments, we need to actually do something.

Whether it’s about implementing a new way of working, recruiting new skills for our team, getting fitter, saving more money or simply slowing down, too many businesses and individuals are finding themselves caught in the gap between knowing what they should do and doing what is actually required.

So how can we build a culture of action within our businesses?

Commit to taking action: Many of us have fallen into the pattern of researching, planning and refining our strategy as a way of telling ourselves we are busy ‘doing’ when really we are just playing safe. Essentially all we are doing is walking on a treadmill – yes we are moving but it is not actually taking us anywhere.

Lose the perfectionist tag: Perfectionism is the equivalent of paralysis. Not only does it prohibit us from taking the first step towards action, it also creates unwarranted stress, crushes creativity, prevents productivity and ultimately limits profitability.

Simplify: Leaders and organisations that use simple straightforward language, concepts and structures are better at closing the knowing-doing gap. Simplicity removes ambiguity, blame and confusion. It increases productivity, efficiency and creativity. Quite simply it is the fast track to creating action.

Invest in learning: Closing the gap on knowing and doing requires an investment in training and learning be-it for our organisations or ourselves. Developing expert skill-sets, efficiency and confidence requires commercial tolerance, time and a learning based culture or outlook. Recognising that as learners we need space to explore new ideas, make mistakes and embed new knowledge is critical to maximising the ROI on the learning investment.

Face the fear: Fear is one of the greatest enemies of success and progress. To close the knowing-doing gap we need to face it – both at an individual and organisational level. To take action we need to know that there will be no punishment for taking risks, making mistakes and exploring new ideas without a guarantee of success. If we fear for our jobs, our future opportunities or even for our own self-worth we are less likely to move beyond the safe confines of what we know and have done before which ultimately prohibits any form of growth.
Measure the right things: To encourage action we need to ensure that we are measuring the right things. Pouring all of our energies and metrics into scrutinising hours worked rather than levels of customer satisfaction is not going to drive future results. We need to demonstrate and see the value in what we are measuring and how it relates to what we do our future direction and our success.

Do you feel your business is effectively turning knowledge into action? What opportunities would you be able to tap into, if less time was spent in execution?

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Unlocking Organisational Productivity

August 5th, 2019

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning and focussed effort” – Paul J Meyer

Productivity is never an accident. As business leaders today, we are constantly challenged to increase both productivity and profitability whilst being asked to conserve resources and do ‘more with less’.

As the quote above suggests, to do this requires an unwavering commitment to excellence, intelligent planning and highly focused effort. There is however one additional area I believe we need to build an unwavering commitment to developing: Trust.

Trust, which is widely regarded as the glue to any healthy and productive relationship, appears to be on the rise in some sectors of work, placing a greater emphasis building trust between the employee-employer relationship than ever before.

According to The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer, trust has changed profoundly in the past year. In 17 markets including Australia, the research revealed that “people have shifted their trust to the relationships within their control, most notably their employers.”

The research showed that 77% of respondents in Australia trust “my employer”, which was considerably more than NGOs (56%), business (52%) and government (52%).

The correlation between greater organisational productivity was also strong, where employers that work to build trust will be rewarded; Australian employees who have trust in their employer demonstrate greater advocacy (80%), loyalty (71%), engagement (69%) and commitment (87%).

It comes as no surprise, then, that a lack of trust can not only mean a leadership crisis, but also a productivity crisis. When we don’t believe or trust those around us it not only sets in motion a tidal wave of negative attitudes and emotions, it actually significantly impacts our ways of thinking and behaving. So much so that it can all too easily become the biggest blocker to personal, team and organisational productivity.

Patrick Lencioni who is widely regarded for his work in team development and organisational performance identifies trust as the most basic requirement to building high performance. His pyramid The Five Dysfunctions of A Team defines the core problems of unproductive teams and subsequently by default the requirements for a high functioning and productive team:

 

Patrick Lancioni: The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team

Failing to build trust can affect each level of the pyramid, crippling the potential of a productive team if not established on a strong, trust-based foundation. Only people with high trust between each other will take risks, engage in healthy robust debate, seek solutions, commit to a vision, hold each other accountable and focus on delivering measurable results.

Stephen Covey’s analogy of trust as a tax or a dividend is particularly apt: When there is a lack of trust in a relationship or organisation, it is like a hidden tax that is placed on every transaction, piece of communication, decision and strategy, which brings speed down and sends costs up. By contrast, individuals and companies that operate with high levels of trust reap the benefits of a dividend that enables them to succeed by multiplying performance, productivity and capability.

Lack of trust therefore has the capacity to dramatically increase the cost of doing business and triple the delivery timeframes; where as high trust has the capacity to not only significantly save time, money and angst but also deepen relationships, build greater collaboration, career fulfillment and success for all involved.

So how do the most successful leaders build trust?

  • Establish purpose and commitment: from individuals and between individuals
  • Communicate honestly and transparently: by talking straight and keeping it real!
  • Ensure actions match words: removing ambiguity and taking the guess work out of situations
  • Deliver results: that offer lasting and meaningful value
  • Listen and observe: Not just to those that shout the loudest but to all members of a team
  • Demonstrate consistency: If you do what you say and say what you do, people will trust you
  • Remove the ‘landmines’: the hidden agendas, the vagueness and doubt
  • Clarify expectations, purpose and commitment: contributions, behaviours and attitudes
  • Value accountability: both for themselves and the team’s that they lead
  • Remain engaged: with individuals, objectives, processes and outcomes
  • Acknowledge and give credit where credit is due: both individually and publicly

For leaders, trust is two fold. There is a very real need to engender it and you need to be able to give it. Without both, productivity is almost always compromised. The most successful leaders recognise this and focus on creating it as a core objective.

Trust is not just a nice-to-have. It is a critical component of personal, team and organizational performance. It is a clear enabler of productivity and one that underpins your leadership skill set and true capability.

The logic is simple: if people trust you and that trust is reciprocated, they will give you their all. If people give you their all they are more willing to go the extra mile, more likely to perform at remarkably high levels and apply extraordinarily levels of discretionary effort. Productivity therefore becomes the natural outcome.

Do you feel your organisation’s leadership engenders trust? Where could there be opportunities to build trust within your business? As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

The Danger of Disconnection

July 3rd, 2019

“Conflict lives in people not knowing who they are – disconnected from their experience, living out of their heads, not their hearts” – Julio De Laffitte

Recently I met a senior executive whose energy and enthusiasm for what he did seemed to seep from every pore of his being. Not in annoying ‘Pollyanna’ sort of way but in a truly genuine and understated manner that made it seem so ridiculous that he would settle for anything less. In reflecting upon his career it was apparent that he hadn’t simply skipped along a gold paved path of career dreams, but rather travelled along plenty of ‘bumpy dirt roads’ with lots of tough life lessons, disappointments and hard work. There had been redundancies, restructures, great bosses, not so great bosses and several overseas assignments that saw him encounter great highs and presented some of the greatest challenges least of all navigating the journey ‘home’ only to find people and places that didn’t always feel quite so familiar any more.

Yet it was quite obvious that he loved what he did, enjoyed the interactions that came from the people he worked with and was challenged by interesting work that offered him great learning and rewards stretching far beyond the monthly paycheck. As a highly regarded senior executive who is seen by many as being at the top of the game, I asked him what he attributed his success and sense of career fulfillment to. His answer was one word: Connection. Being connected to who he truly was, doing what he knew he was good at, in places that valued it and being connected personally and professionally with people that truly mattered to him.

Much is written about workplace disengagement and what it costs us in terms of lost productivity not to mention opportunity or fulfillment. Recent statistics suggest that as little as 20% of Australian employees are actively engaged. That leaves a whole lot of people who are either stuck in the ‘beige-ness’ of work or who actively dislike what they are doing. Whilst disengagement and disconnection are two different things they often go hand in hand and I would also argue that it is very hard to maximise engagement without a strong sense of personal connection.

When you disconnect you shut down, switch off and disengage. Conversely when you are connected to what you do, you bring high degrees of determination, energy and dedication. You are able to leverage a strong sense of internal motivation, conviction and belief about the role you play and the value you deliver. When you combine this with an engaged workforce and environment around you the combination is powerful.

Whilst all managers and leaders play an integral role in building strong engaged teams, some of the responsibility also has to lie with us as individuals. I know that there are many times that I’ve worked in situations that were less than ideal, navigated challenging people and projects, but my sense of belief in what I was doing and care for how it was done, saw me remain connected and committed to delivering the outcomes agreed to. Whilst the environment and how we are led is extremely important so to is our personal connection to what we do.

In thinking about how you create a strong sense of career connection, I would encourage you to consider the following four tips:

Connection is personal: Understanding what it is that motivates, inspires and challenges you is unique to you. Getting clear on the business of you is critical if you are to identify the right workplace culture you wish to connect to.

Connection is a choice: You ultimately have a choice to connect or disconnect from what it is that you do, where you do it and who you do it with. Every choice brings a series of consequences so getting clear on what they look like is important if you are to make informed decisions and manage the outcomes from a place of confidence and control.

Connection requires honesty: You can’t fake connection – you either have it or you don’t. Learning to recognize what it is that builds that strong sense of purpose and connectedness requires you to be honest with yourself and those around you.

Connection is about accountability: Building and maintaining connection requires you to take responsibility for it. Often it requires an investment of time, effort and money to grow your own personal development and the opportunities required to seek out the right people and environments for you.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

Why Great Leaders Are Amplifiers

May 8th, 2019

‘”Amplifiers are the rare and extraordinary leaders who amplify the best in themselves and others. They amplify the messages that matter, amplify the positive mood in a culture and amplify the results achieved.” – Matt Church

In a world that seems to feed off of negativity, drama and hype our ability to amplify the positive stories, opportunities and results around us has never been so important. Unfortunately for many, living and working in environments that predominately focus and feed on the failures and barriers that get in the way of success is all too familiar. The reality though is that there are many extraordinary events happening, results being produced and opportunities arising every day. We just need help in seeing and hearing about them – especially with the pace and diversity at which we have now become accustomed to operating in.

Great leaders know this. Not only do they recognize their occurrence but they proactively seek to highlight them and in doing so have a significant impact on those around them and their outcomes. Great leaders are like amplifiers who know how to effectively increase the volume and quality of sound whilst minimizing distortion and unwanted feedback.  They amplify the highest of qualities and eliminate the distractions and unwanted noise.

Building high performance is greatly enhanced when we focus on amplifying the individual strengths, extraordinary results and constructive behaviours that contribute to ongoing success. To do this we need to make sure we are attracting and employing the right people for our organisations and teams; that we are creating workplace cultures that recognise individual contributions and reward healthy positive behaviours (and importantly remove that are not); and that we give people the freedom to operate from a place of strength.

However as Jon Stewart so aptly notes ‘if we amplify everything, we hear nothing’. As such we need to learn to be discerning about what constitutes the ‘extraordinary and successful’. We also need to be brave enough to address the results and behaviours that detract us from achieving what we set out to do. Failing to do so results in a culture of ‘anything goes’ where the lines between success and status quo or healthy and unhealthy prevail.

As leaders I would encourage you to reflect on how you amplify the following 5 areas in order to build individual, team and organisational success:

  • Strengths: Tom Rath & Barrie Conchie, authors of Strength Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams and Why People Follow – conducted studies that revealed engagement increased eightfold when leaders focused on their employee’s strengths as well as their own increasing from 9% to 73%.
  • Behaviours: How we act and behave in our workplace is fundamental to success our individual and overall success. Invariably they are the ‘linchpin’ not only in our abilities to deliver but in the timeliness and quality the results produced.
  • Results: Recognising and applauding results – both incrementally and at the point of final delivery – is important in helping to define what ‘great’ looks like. Amplifying great results also helps drive engagement, energy and productivity.
  • Contributions: Often success is the ‘sum or parts’ where a number of individuals have played a role in supporting the overall delivery. Learning to acknowledge the contributions of others is fundamental to elevating healthy workplace performance.
  • Learning: Not everything we undertake is considered a success. How we embrace failure, recognise it and learn from it is fundamentally important to creating healthy environments that encourage us to step out of our comfort zone. It also supports our efforts to create new ways of working, innovate and problem solve.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

                 

The Abundance Mindset

April 3rd, 2019

“Abundance is not something we acquire, it is something we tune into.” – Wayne Dyer

It is all too easy to get caught up in the world of ‘not enoughness’. In an age where we are constantly being told that we need more, should aim for more, deliver more, earn more and want more is it any wonder that not having enough, doing enough or being enough is one of our greatest social cripplers and fears.

The real danger of this scarcity mindset is the paralyzing effect it has on us. Not only can you find yourself living in the interim moment – I am here, but when I am there everything will be bigger, brighter and better – but you can also easily fall into the trap that there won’t be enough to go round unless I fight for it. And herein lies a major issue for the way we manage our careers, our teams and our businesses.

Viewing our career through a scarcity lens can sabotage both your success and your progress. Scarcity people believe that there may not be enough pie to go round or that their share will be smaller than everyone else’s. Abundance people simply believe that you can make more pie.

People with a scarcity mentality tend to see the world (including the workplace) in terms of win-lose. Whilst it often is not about being malicious it manifests in negative workplace cultures and individual outlooks. People with this mindset typically hold onto knowledge, resources, people and staff with a tight reign. They find it difficult to share recognition, power or profit. They keep things close and small because they can control or influence situations with ease. As a result teams fracture, silos form and careers are damaged.

Conversely people with an abundance mentality see the world in terms of win-win. They are genuinely happy for the successes, well-being, achievements, recognition and good fortune of other people. They go out of their way to help others and contribute to their success because in doing so they believe they can all – both individually and collectively – achieve more. People with an abundance mentality operate from a strong sense of worth and security. They typically adopt a bigger outlook on life and the world and consequently generate new opportunities and possibilities. Not only do they have the ability to unite people, they connect ideas, remover barriers and roadblocks and engender healthy workplace cultures where contribution and recognition are valued.

Stephen Covey is credited with coining the term ‘Abundance Mentality’ in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. He notes that scarcity people are always comparing and competing and believes it s a sure fire recipe for unhappiness. Abundant thinkers feel rich before they become rich – and not just monetarily but in all things of value – time, relationships, attention, experience and happiness.

Take a moment to think about some of the attitudes and behaviours around you today:

If we want to expand our possibilities and grow our opportunities we need to shift our thinking away from scarcity to abundance. In doing so we maximise our potential for success and fulfillment.

I believe that there are two critical strategies for developing an abundant mindset:

  • Know your own strengths and play to them: Your talents and strengths are unique to you and nobody can take them off you or away from you. The more clarity that you have around what they are and how to best apply them, the more you can rely on them to power your career.
  • Position yourself for recognition: This is not about endless self-promotion. Rather it is about building up your portfolio of accomplishments and positioning yourself for more opportunities and achievements. To do this successfully you need to seek feedback and input from your leaders, team and mentors both from within and outside your organization.

Scarcity separates and abundance unites. We all want to be part of a winning game where opportunities abound, successes are shared and achievements are celebrated. Cultivating the right mindset and environment for both our teams and ourselves is what will position us all for success.

By observing some of the behaviours around you, do you see more of an abundance or scarcity mindset?

Comment your observations below, I would love to hear your thoughts.

The Bounce Back Factor

February 19th, 2019

Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.’ – Lyndon B. Johnson

We’ve all experienced times where we feel we’ve blown it. It might be choosing the wrong hire or job, a failure to act, a slip of the tongue, an emotional outburst, or just a dumb decision when you think you should have known better. The reality is we all make mistakes, but they don’t have to signal irreversible damage or the end of our career. It is how we react and what we choose to do after that sickening moment we realise our error that determines just how big it turns out to be.

Understanding how we view these mistakes and failures is critical to if and how high we bounce back.  When societies, businesses and individuals choose to view failure as experience rather than losing they are setting themselves on a course that is rich in new learning, networks and opportunities. They provide themselves and others with the confidence, clarity and energy to move forward and not remain stuck where they are.

Still the memory of our mistakes can sting for a while and recovering from them is neither inconsequential nor unimportant. If it was we would continue to make them with little regard for the consequences they held in both our immediate and long-term futures.

The reality is over the course of our lives and careers we will make mistakes. If we don’t, we are either playing it way too safe or not playing at all. Our bosses, peers and team members will also make mistakes. Again, how we choose to react will play a part in how big they become. As Alexander Pope wrote nearly three centuries ago ‘To err is human, to forgive divine’. Whether it be forgiving ourselves or those around us, we need to ensure that we are focused on the future and not in the messiness of the mistake.

Developing an inner strength and resiliency to move forward is critical. Without it we further compromise our position and opportunity for future success for those associated with our actions and ourselves. Martin Seligman, an American Psychologist who is well regarded for his work on positive psychology and resilience found that people who recover from setbacks and failure often view it as a temporary, localised and changeable event. Conversely those who struggle to move beyond their mistakes and failure learn to accept their scenarios as something they have no control over and consequently develop a ‘learned helplessness’.

Resiliency brings security. In a world that is characterised by constant change and uncertainty our ability to feel comfortable and move with the changing times, recover from setbacks and navigate the unknown is a critical skill for both personal and professional success. Our lives and careers today require us to be nimble, responsive and adaptable in both the good and not so good times. Anticipating risk, limiting fallout and the ability to ‘bounce back’ are essential skills for today’s leaders. Without it we not only risk our own career but also the performance and abilities of our teams by failing to see the opportunities that lie in front of us.

So how do we learn to think and act constructively rather than react in an emotionally destructive manner following a period of failure?

  1. Own It: To move beyond our mistakes we firstly need to own them by admitting to ourselves that it is our error. Denying responsibility holds us back, creates defensiveness and tends to protract the pain and period of time needed to resolve the issue. It also helps us avoid the blame trap.
  2. Acknowledge It: Whilst our first reaction is to want to hide away there will no doubt be some people who will need to know and who are impacted by your mistakes. Acknowledging our mistakes with honesty, integrity and transparency is also a powerful leadership example to set for those around us.
  3. Manage Your Emotions: Don’t sit on them or in them! Supressing them or dwelling on them prohibits any positive forward thinking or movement. Not only does it hold you back, it also drags you back.
  4. Mitigate The Risk: Invariably there are three immediate courses of action to choose from: Undo, Redo or Make Do. Understanding what your options are will help you to focus on what the next best course of action is to take.
  5. Understand Why: To learn from our mistakes we need to understand how and why they have occurred. It will help us to spot the early signs of reoccurrence, what actions we can take to avoid it and if possible what can be done to eliminate it.
  6. Repair It: Where possible we need to take the necessary actions to repair the damage that has arisen from our mistakes – with projects, with brands and with relationships.
  7. Forgive Yourself: More often than not we are our own harshest critics as our failings leave us feeling overwhelmingly disappointed, vulnerable and ashamed. We need to remind ourselves that ‘we did wrong, not we are wrong’. Continuing to berate ourselves keeps us reliving the moment and stops us from moving forward and learning from our mistakes.
  8. Fail Forward: Learning how to acknowledge, recover and learn from them allows us to grow as individuals and leaders. It helps us build and maintain the skills and relevance required for all that we do in life and in our careers.

Jazz great Miles Davis once said ‘When you hit the wrong note, it’s the next note that makes it good or bad’. When we as individuals and leaders know how to play those next notes and manage our responses to mistakes and failure, we can in turn support the mistakes and failures of those we lead. When we do this we are building and empowering a strong, bright and resilient future for both ourselves and the teams and businesses we lead.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

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