Strategy & Planning

Get Inspired!

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Are you inspired?

Are you fired up?

Are you on top of your game every day?

Many of us want to be in an inspired fired up and ready to perform mode and it would be wonderful to think that we could leap out of bed every morning in the state. While there are many things we can do to help get into that state, a constant commitment to excellence requires effort on a daily basis. Common focus areas which can help your overall physiological state are

  • eating well

  • sleeping well

  • having a routine

  • planning a day

  • exercising

  • focusing on breathing techniques

  • journalling

  • having an attitude of gratitude

Among the thousands of people I have worked with, I have observed that people who are constantly on top of their game are doing all of the above or at least many of them. They are also being very careful around what they allow to influence them. This involves being astute in the people you surround yourself with and the people you seek advice from. It also involves what you choose to read, watch and listen to. The information that you are feeding your brain is the information which it draws upon to determine your state of being, state of mind and your overall experiences. How deliberate are you around

  • what you watch?

  • what you listen to?

  • who you choose to spend your time with?

Many people will scroll through the news or social media; flick through magazines and invest time with people who do not build them up and challenge them in a constructive way. If you calculate how much time you spend scrolling through social media and reading and listening to things that don't really answer your life, how much time do you think it would total? If you chose to focus that time more deliberately onto topics, areas and people that align with your core values, your belief structure, your purpose and your goals - what difference would that make in your life?

Are these thoughts are striking a chord with you and making you think about how you might do things differently? If so, a useful exercise is to spend a week doing what you normally do and take a deliberate note of where your time goes and what you do with it. In the following week, be very deliberate and intentional about making sure you read, watch, listen to and spend time with people and in places that help you to become more of who you want to be. 

For myself, the decision to begin to take the following actions:

  • read a non-fiction book a week

  • to invest my watching time on TED Talks and other inspirational and educational material

  • to spend quality time with the people I value and people who want the best for me

has been incredibly rewarding and positively life changing.

Where do you draw your inspiration from? It would be great to hear from you and to share positive resources that can make a life-changing difference.

Window Seat Is Best

Window seat on plane

How do you stay innovative?

Is your business ahead of the industry?

Where do you look and what resources do you tap into to stay current and relevant?

Things are changing fast. We have VR, AR, AI and now Elon Musk is looking to wire the human brain to your personalised microchip. Stable industries are being shaken, challenged and changed by technology. New industries are being created, redesigned and reimagined in an ever-evolving  cycle.

Some things beautifully contrast this by being, thankfully, very constant. Sunrises and sunsets. Beauty of mountain ranges covered in snow, young kids laughing out loud in public, simply because they have found something funny. Travel is a kaleidoscopic mixture of technological change and traditional normality.

This is especially true of air travel.  As engines get better, auto pilots get smarter, check-in becomes cloud based app and automated self service, it is still a people driven (or maybe I should say flown) business. The smile of the crew members,  their friendliness and professionalism, the cleanliness of the airport and plane all make a difference. Sitting on seat 16D for my flight to Auckland (best seat for view of the mountain!) I look out at a view I have see hundreds of times before (and still take a photo of the spectacular Mt Ruapahu).

In the same way, an essential business survival practice is to both look internally and be inspired externally - look beyond the current state to what is happening (or about to happen) in the wider world. Do you stay aware of the inevitable changes happening in your industry? How? Are you looking at the same view from an up-to-date perspective? A useful tool is to use is PESTEL. This acronym encourages people to look at their business through the multiple lenses of

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Political

Economic

Social

Technological

Environmental

Legal

Use additional perspective-expanders: ask customers and suppliers what they need, want and have heard seen and are aware of; go to trade shows; read books and articles; research papers; do your own research & development internally and with clients and suppliers.

Dream big and add a dash of crazy in there. Consider how you could deliver what you do with half the resources in half the time at half the cost. Look from all angles and you might just spot  something so incredible it changes your business, the industry and the world!

Here's to your success!

Innovation Is Not An Option

Model T Ford, Edison Quote, Modern Ford

“The only thing constant is change” is something that is proving truer by the day!

Advancements on every front is creating a ripple effect of change that is permeating every industry, society, group and person. Change is not always good - nor is it always bad. Change is what change is - CHANGE.

Resisting change is a futile exercise that will leave you exhausted and defeated - much better to work with this and be innovative. Some thoughts around this:

Challenge yourself as a matter of course: “What would my competition have to do to steal my best clients?”; “What disruption does this industry need?” (Think AirBnB & Uber) What is the biggest ‘bug-bear/irritation’ in the industry and how can you remove it?

Highlight key points in customer feedback - look for common themes and explore ways of doing more of elements that delight. Reduce/eliminate the factors that irritate. Customer feedback is key because these people are already paying for the service/product.

Adopt a continuous improvement culture where new ideas are welcomed and it is safe to make mistakes. Innovation is largely exploring what does not work, on the journey to discovering what does work.  

Notice the trends. Make it a point to stop at least quarterly and discuss trends:- PESTEL is useful here- Political Economic Social Technological Environmental and Legal. Many changes and opportunities for innovation are identified in the ground-swell of new trend - smart phones, fashion, online reviews, hover vehicles, etc

Goals can help keep some focus and ensure follow through. It is important to remember that it is people who are innovative, not organisations - set clear parameters. These act not as restrictions to innovation and change, but more as rules in a game - to give structure, sense and guidelines.

Execute - Kill the bad ideas and follow through on the good ones! An ability to focus and select 1-2 winning ideas that you can ‘own’ and take to market is much better than a dozen great ideas that take so long to come to fruition that others beat you to it. Apple uses this highly focused approach to win and excel in a few fields rather than develop hundreds of good products.

What do you need to do to ensure your business stays relevant and current? Innovation is a culture and an attitude - it enables highly responsive teams to lead the field, be early adapters and maximise the opportunities by being first to market.

Here’s to your success!

Living On Purpose

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How many people in your organisation could tell you why you exist, what your vision is, and what values the business is run by? 

I had a very interesting experience recently. I had the after lunch session. I was working with a business who had just been presented their vision in their morning strategy session and when I asked them what it was, they said, “We can't remember it because we've only just heard it.” My reply to them was simple - if you cannot remember it after only having heard it an hour ago then there is absolutely no way you will be remembering it and living by it in a week or a month’s time.

If after only an hour the vision could not be remembered it obviously was not exciting. They had not spent the lunch break inspired, discussing the mission and vision, and reveling in the privilege they had to work together, as a team, towards achieving this.

I asked them if it followed the age old formula of “We want to be the best in (fill in the blank) and lead the industry by (fill in the blank)”. They rather sheepishly said yes.  No surprises it was not remembered. A vision is there to inspire and propel a team forward. It should fuel motivation and internal drive so people NEED to make it happen. 

If you're creating a vision for the sake of doing it, because everybody else has done it and you keep getting told you should, you will actually do more damage than good, because people very soon realise that you were just talking a talk. Action speaks louder than words and your team will watch you to see if you really meant it when you shared your vision. They will especially watch when you have to make a tough decision - one that follows the vision for the sake of the long term ideal or whether you compromise for the short term rewards - a quick sale, a placating compromise. If you are not “walking the talk” you begin to create a culture where everybody knows that what is said is not really what is meant, and that is a very dangerous culture to have.

Your ‘purpose for being’ as a business should be clear and every team member should be able to articulate how their role feeds into that purpose. Every team member must be able to feel like the purpose and vision resonates with whom they are, what role they have and the job that they do so that they can see how what they do relates to the greater purpose. This is then supported by your value.

Your values should act is an absolute guideline. When team members know (and live) your values and understand your vision, it is not actually possible to make a major mistake in your organisation. This is because the vision is the guiding light, showing what we are aiming to achieve; and the values act like the banks of a river - guiding and steering all the thoughts and activities of individuals towards the end  goal.

Passion comes from having a purpose. People need a purpose - they need to know that what they do matters and that it makes a positive difference. The more people can connect with this, the greater the levels of engagement, enjoyment, loyalty and productivity. 

Check in with your team and see if you need to be clearer on what difference it makes having them on your team!

Here’s to your success!

Integrity In A Green Washed World

Picture of Green Planet with Recycle Symbols in Business hand

Some years ago there was a big article in the paper around the green taxis in Wellington who gave the impression that they were environmentally friendly and yet when it was checked out, they were not. There is such a big expectation upon businesses to be environmentally friendly. The social pressures through social media, public interest groups and the news create a growing necessity for businesses to comply. One only needs to look at the impact Greta Thunberg has had by sitting outside the Swedish Parliament demanding change on climate laws and how this been picked up and emulated around the world. Closer to home, we have seen the ban on plastic bags and the growing demand for the removal of all plastic or at the very least an end-to-end solution.

With the public demand for companies to be environmentally and socially responsible, it is very easy to see why so many jump on the bandwagon to capture the ground-swell of people who make their purchasing decisions based on the demonstration of this responsibility. And yet so often we are finding that businesses are taking shortcuts - one only needs to look at the BMW, Volkswagen and Daimler scandal for an example.

If a business is to have integrity and demonstrate this, then any environmental initiative they undertake must be transparent and up for scrutiny because it is inevitable that the public can and will scrutinize it. You do not want to be found lacking. Integrity means testing, trialing and retesting until you get it right and then, and only then, do you go and announce it to the public and show what you are doing and get their buy in and their support and from a business sense, their loyalty and their referrals, testimonials and their business.

Being socially and environmentally friendly and responsible involves a lot more than just talking about it and stating it on social media and then your marketing material. A word to the wise, or at the very least to those who will listen, ensure that you have tested and proven your offering so that when the furnace of public scrutiny comes upon you , you will not be found wanting.

Integrity is about doing what you say you will do. If you are going to claim that you are environmentally and socially responsible then ensure that your actions backup your words. The public is very unforgiving when companies fail to walk the talk and the time it takes to recover from such a faux-pas is much better spent just doing it right the first time.

Here's to your success!

What to Blog?

Person writing

It is no longer a question of "to blog or not to blog" but rather what, where, when and how often. We have been doing a weekly blog for over 4 years now and one of the most common questions I get when doing any form of marketing training is around what to write and how often. 

Encouragement shouts out "You know more than you think you do! You have more to share than you dare allow yourself to believe! You can bring a unique perspective to people who want to hear from you!"

A few keys points:

-Write to a specific someone - your ideal client - the person you are best set up to serve.

-Get inside their head and look for all the gaps that you are most qualified to fill.

- Think about where they look to find information that you can bring them.

- Consider all the things that they 'don't know that they don't know' and that would make a positive difference to their life if they did know!

- List all the problems you can help them solve, all the benefits you bring, all the nuances of your industry that you take for granted.

These are great starting points (You can of course ask people what they want you to share - we did this for a weekly Learning BITES video clips and got over 3 months worth of suggestions and requests!) 

As with everything in business, the key lies in adding value.

Value needs to be seen from the customer's/readers/audience perspective. While you might be writing about something that you are knowledgeable and passionate about, it is always important to remember but you are not writing for you but for an audience. 

Add something to their day. Make the investment of their time and attention in reading your blog worth their while. This means giving serious thought to what it might be that they are looking for. Always aim to leave people grateful they made the time to read your article.

Look to add something that they are lacking, something they need to learn, look to challenge a perspective, offer a different opinion, offering insight that shows them things in a different light and gets them to thinking differently. Be the expert - leverage your knowledge.

Unique content is obviously best. Avoid just regurgitating, re-framing and rewording stuff that's already out there, as you will fade into one of many rather than being a reference point worth coming back to that is ultimately going to make a difference to 'me the reader.'

Emotive, exciting, entertaining, educational - whichever way you look at it you need to ensure that what you write has something that people can connect with and that stirs emotions. If I am not moved in thought and heart I will not be moved into action!

When we share with people we give them a piece of us, and like good company we want to do it so well that people enjoy it and come back for more!

Role Play for Profit

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In training there are certain things that can make people start to groan and generally not want to participate. Probably top of all of these has to be when you announce role-play. It has got to the point where I now introduce that we are about to do an activity and explain the activity exactly the same way as I would explain a role play activity without using the word. It is incredible how merely dropping a simple phrase can make such a big mental difference.

In this blog I wanted to briefly touch on why it is so powerful to do role-plays - even if they make you initially feel like you would rather run for the hills or set your hair on fire.

The human brain is designed primarily to keep us alive and anything that it perceives is dangerous, it will generally tend to avoid. Role-plays are often perceived to hold a lot of danger: the risk of embarrassment, there's the risk of looking silly, of messing up, you've been asked to do something you don't know how to do etc. It is for this reason that so many people want to avoid it. However the human brain is also an incredible creation and once it has done something once and ascertained that it is both possible and not fatal, it has an amazing knack for being able to do the activity again a little bit quicker, a little bit smoother and more effectively.

I recently have had a number of clients attend expos, field days and trade shows. There are three parts to this: there is the preparation before-hand, the actual event and, of course, the follow up after the event. For teams who put the effort in before the event and practice role-plays, the effect of the result speaks for itself. Ironically the very thing that people fear inside of a role-play is totally eliminated in real life if they have practiced well. What so many people (who dread what a role-play might bring) end up finding is the reality of being prepared in a real world situation with real customers when it really matters.

Doing a role-play allows us to fully understand who we are and what we bring to the situation. It gives us an opportunity to understand the value that we offer and why people might be interested. It also enables us to practice how to engage, how to answer questions and how to use the short space of time we have effectively for both parties.

An effective way of doing role-plays is to set some clear goals for the salesperson and then have the customer come on stand with a backstory, as well as the interests that they have. For example, they could be the buyer for a large organisation who is under a huge amount of pressure to find a new supplier who can deliver on time because they have been badly let down. However the main KPI on a day-to-day basis is the GP. Added to this, the person could be having troubles at home with the kids and maybe has just received a request to go and see the doctor after some results have been received in and they are are worried what this might mean.

The rest of the team then observes how the role-play pans out. The Rep obviously guides the client through the stand that is on display in the practice room and asks the questions that they've got prepared. The rest of the team observes and makes notes. It is important after a role play to ask each party what they believe was done well. I often find the people immediately want to jump to what was done badly but we need to rewire people's brains to know that they have done things well. You get more of what you focus on, so focus on what you want more of. The very fact that they have done it, is good and so therefore the only feedback we want to know is: "What did you do well?" and "What will you do differently and or better next time?".

Ideally the salesperson should have uncovered that the key driver for the person was around reliable delivery and while price was important, it wasn't the deciding factor. Depending on the amount of time you have in the role-play - whether you are planning for a face-to-face meeting, a presentation or an event, being very clear on the design and outcome is important.

Once you've done this a few times it becomes easier and easier to do. When it is acted out in reality, the confidence levels it gives will often see role-plays being added as a stable part of a sales meeting - which is what indeed they should be. If you've never done them before, I strongly encourage you to give it a go before your next big meeting, presentation or event and watch the results speak for themselves.

Here's to your success!

Time Power

Picture of kid dressed as superhero

If you could have any superpower you wanted what would you choose?

This question has always been a great one to get people thinking and talking. For me, the super-power ability to be able to control time would be amazing.  Time is one of those resources that is extremely limited and yet operates in that wonderful paradox where there is so much of it that we don’t value the little we have. When I realised how much difference I could make to my life by managing my time better, it was a key turning point towards a better path and a better version of myself.

However, I have found that in recent times there is something that is far more important than managing time. Time management taught me how to block my time and get key chunks of work done. I still maintain that time blocking is the single most effective form of time optimisation. However, the concept of blocking off an hour to complete an activity - write an article, or to do your calling, or to update your CRM - makes the assumption that you have control over one of the greatest interrupters of your time.  That of course, being yourself.

Technology has made it so easy to get distracted so that doing a bit of research for an article, or researching some key information on a client, or even something as simple as looking up a client’s contact details on the web, can very easily and surprisingly quickly lead to clicking on interesting articles and chasing information down rabbit holes, that consumes all the time we have put aside with nothing to show at the end of it.

In the modern era, it is no longer a case of time management, or time optimisation as we like to call it.  Rather, it is has become an issue of focus management. Our ability to focus and get done what we know needs to be done is what separates productive people from highly productive people. Where would you rate yourself in terms of your ability to focus on something and stick with it until it is done?

There are many tools available to help you to focus, from mindfulness techniques to specially designed music at websites like focus.com. I have found that the best methodology is to make my time blocks smaller to be incredibly clear around what is intended to be achieved in that time block, and to get someone to hold me to account.  This combination of focus, clarity and accountability makes it a lot easier to take ownership and, when combined with seeing clear measureable outcomes, it does make it a lot easier to get the most out of your time.

Fighting The Change Monster

Red origami boat diverts from multiple white origami boats

Change is the only constant in life is oft quoted. 

The challenge this gives, of course, is that many people do not like change. Change means that things are going to be different and human beings have little sayings like "Better the devil you know, so keep the status quo!" to justify why they don't want to do things that would be better.

The reason that many people dislike change so much is it they have had negative experiences involving change in the past and the fear of the unknown looms large.

This is amplified if there is mistrust in an organisation, or if people see the change leading to a potential negative outcome for themselves - even if it could be a positive outcome for an organisation - hence any talk of restructure that might affect salary or earnings or job security will often be met with anger and/or resentment, stemming from fear.

Management often doesn't help themselves by not picking their timing, or their words well. When they do not explain what's happening and why, in a way that people can relate to and connect with, it leaves staff with a negative outlook on the potential change.

If an organisation has to grow and improve, it is going to need to change. Creating change with the team on board and getting their buy-in, their ideas and their vision around how things could be better, is a superb way of helping the change to be a positive experience.

When people understand why something needs to change and what the specific changes will look like and will mean, they are far less likely to resist change.

When making changes within an organisation, really consider if the change is necessary. Like many situations, it is best to start with the end in mind. Create and paint a vision of the future that draws the team forward rather than having them playing on to a known past.

When you can change in a way that looks like you're having fun rather than fighting a monster, the change is far more likely to be smooth, effective and to stay in a way that will allow you to grow.

Here's to your success!

How To Grow People

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When it comes to growing people, there are many different elements to look out for. From the obvious of actually being born and growing up through to the more complex concept of what makes for a well rounded healthy and contributing individual.

There are many articles written on the topic and when you're working with your team members, it is worth remembering that they are more than just the body and brains they bring to work. Every team member has a story and that story is a complex mix of their upbringing, their culture, their beliefs, their education and even their birth order.

Having a better understanding of all of the aspects that make up a person can help you to help your team members grow and become more productive and engaged at work

As a minimum, when you are developing a professional development plan, it is important to look at what people's goals are for work and at home - because it is the whole person that we want to engage. If you do wish to go further with this, helping people to become more self aware and more observant around what makes them up as an individual can enable them to take greater ownership for their own lives and their own development.

When doing this, it is important to think through what aspects of a perso'ns life will impact how they work for you and in your workplace. There are many useful models online that help people rate where they are and where they would like to be on such aspects as their health, their finances, their education and learning, their spiritual space, social space and emotional space.

It is important not to feel like you have to fix all of these things - but rather look at how you can equip and enable people to improve those aspects of their life that matter to them and make them feel better about themselves and what they do; helping people plan by identifying the core values and how those are lived and applied across the elements of finance, career, family, health, education. Once identified, then show them what small steps they can take to improve a little bit in each of these can help someone improve self-esteem tremendously.

Great businesses are built on great people. Leaders don't just find great people - they develop them. What can you do to improve the growth of your people this year?

Here's to your success!

Finding An All Star & Keeping Them Shining

Pic of team hands joining together to create a star

It has to be one of the saddest things of management and of business when a company spend tens of hours and thousands of dollars looking for, and finally finding the perfect person to fill a role and then fails to help them succeed.

I have heard countless stories where businesses have been rejoicing over having found the perfect person and this person is seen as the one who's going to make all the difference and they arrived to huge expectations of immediate performance. They are given the concrete boots, thrown in the deep end - and after a month people began questioning why they hired them. After two months there's the feeling that maybe they made a mistake and after the third month they're wondering why there are no good people to be employed.

Consider it from the employee's point of view. You find me find the job of your dreams and you arrive full of excitement energy and enthusiasm. Stories of induction disasters range from people not knowing you were coming; to arriving at your new place of work and being given several manuals to read through, so they can sign a sheet to say that you've read the health and safety and all other attended documents, before being told to start working, with little or no direction. This is a showcase for disaster and is the flip side of the above scenario - explaining why companies get frustrated that new stuff don't perform to their expectations.

Induction processes are often viewed as nothing more than a rubber stamp process and it is expected that this will be done as quickly and painlessly as possible, so the new person can start work straight away. The reality is that a thorough induction program should be run over three months to even a year. It takes three months before somebody has their head around their role and up to six months before they're performing well, with more complex roles only seeing a return after twelve months.

Here are some things to consider when you are inducting somebody new into your organisation

The clarity of role and the interview process is the actual starting point, where it must be clear to both the interviewee and the interviewer why this person is being employed and how they will help the organisation achieve their goals.

This first step should be reinforced, when ideally the managing director should make some time to welcome the person on board, share the vision and mission of the business along with why their role was created and how their role contributes towards the overall success of the business.

There are many aspects to consider when helping somebody settle into a new role and ideally a business will have a checklist to make sure these all happen (if you would like a checklist please do send us an email and we'll happily share our one with you).

Some of the top things I suggest businesses consider

  • to have a buddy system with somebody from the business comes alongside the new person and help them to understand the culture

  • having clear KPIs and KPAs with a feedback loop showing when somebody is performing and when they are missing the mark

  • an introduction to all team members and ideally a role rotation through the key roles that the employee will be engaging with to help give an appreciation of the work that precedes them and the work that goes after them

  • where appropriate, having any staff uniform, business cards, equipment and/or paperwork already sorted so they can arrive and feel immediately part of the team

There are so many factors to consider if you want somebody to join your team feel a part of it and feel connected to the vision you are striving to achieve. The sooner you get people connected and engaged and the quicker the speed of your feedback, the more likely you are to see success in your future hiring.

Here's to your success!

Learning To Learn

Team in training environment

One of the things which most astonishes me about Mike Clark, is his ability to actually LEARN. I met him in the days when he was travelling extensively and training - that year, of the 365 days in the year, he spent over 230 away from home, sleeping enroute to somewhere else. Yet somehow in that he made time to read constantly and convert those streams of new information into practical actions which benefit both himself and clients all over the world.  This learning lifestyle is in itself a learned practice, and not simply a natural stroke of good fortune.

At the start of our lives, the actual practice of learning comes more or less naturally to people.  We are born without speech or motor coordination and usually within a few short years have learned an entire language, and become adept to various degrees at getting ourselves around.  Driven by internal desires to become more than what we currently are, we shape bumbling words till we are understood, and take shaky steps which soon turn to confident strides. Learning is in our DNA.  There are various attitudes towards learning, which affect the approach with which people take on learning, and the outcome it has.

Four tips on the practice of “Learning to Learn”.

  • Focus On The Goal. While learning can be fun, it is not always so.  Having an end goal which motivates you to press on through the difficulties is critical.  While there are a few people who learn for the sake of learning, for most of us it has a point - motivated in the same way that we were as infants, the goal is to get us beyond our current inability to a place where we are confident. The clearer and more desirable that goal is, the more motivating we will find it.

  • Learn to Use Your Own Process. While learning is a generic term, there are many pathways to the same apparent outcome and not all learning paths are equal.  Mike’s ability to learn via auditory methods (aka listening to narrated books) is superb for him, but this pathway has little value to me as a kinesthetic learner. I have to DO to learn, strongly supported by visual and (interestingly for this introverted personality type) by participating in discussion about the new learning. I have learned to use my own knowledge of myself in my somewhat-sketchy ability to remember people’s names, especially when meeting them in a networking situation where audio (my weakest learning pathway) is the sole means of inputting the new information.  With almost all but the most common of names, I draw a visual picture (a kinesthetic imagination) with the person and their name - for some I “see” the letters of their name being written as I ask how that particular name is spelled, with others I ask for the origins of the name, creating an association in my mind of the threads of that name, and for others, I picture them beside a person or identity of same name, creating a visual similarity that will enable me to draw their name from my memory as I need. In the practice of knowing yourself, the particular value of knowing your learning style cannot be stressed.  Identify what works for you, and use the process to deepen and get the most value from your learning experiences.

  • Choose Your Hard. We all have experienced the frustration of not understanding, or of being in a position which we feel the bitter sting of inability. Sometimes the fear of this keeps us from entering a learning situation. We must use perspective to help us understand the choices in front of us today.  It is hard learning a skill which employers will value - but it is also hard being “on the bones of your bum” so to speak, and unable to get a job. It is hard learning to manage your business as you expand - but it is also hard seeing it crumble because you didn’t make the time. It is hard to make time to exercise and eat healthily - but it is also hard living with the cost of not having done so.  It is hard learning to manage differing personalities - but it is also hard living with the damage that lack of understanding those differences brings. Knowing that we have a choice to not remain in the weaker place is a strongly empowering motivator for learning.

  • Practice. Practice. Practice. I cannot overstate the value of practice - of practicing to the highest standard you can manage. Of going over basics, repeating processes, committing to the discipline of learning.  If you begin something and make no mistakes, you are not learning - you already know how to do it. Learning involves input, measurement, failure, adjustment, retrial, assessment, failure, input, adjustment and so on as we slowly learn the nuances of our field.  Putting priority on the regular practice of this process fast-tracks your growth in ability.

Learning has the ability to set you free. It releases potential.  While not easy, it is both empowering and satisfying to conquer a new discipline, bringing growth and perspective which reaches across other areas of your life in transformational ways.  

Here’s to your success as you choose to grow, and become the best version of yourself possible with the resources at your disposal.


Protect Your Notre Dame

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It will have been very difficult to miss the news that the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris had a serious fire earlier this week.  This iconic cathedral was under restoration and parts of the spire, visible from across Paris, collapsed as a result of the fire. In response to this misfortune, millions of Euros have been donated towards the restoration of this medieval Catholic cathedral, considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture.

What does this have to do with business?  The Notre Dame is one of the USP’s of France, indeed of Europe.  A point of difference which drew and continues to draw people from all over the world. When your point of difference is so well known that everyone is aware of it without even having to point it out, then it is working for you as a business.  

Imagine if the response to the ruin of the famous spire was “It was just an old church spire - there are thousands of them dotted across Europe and the world.  Why be worried?” For some, this may even ring true as their priorities and values lie in different areas; but for those to who Notre Dame is a part of their life, their identity and their heritage, it is important enough to donate their own hard-earned money to its continuation.

Are you educating your customers on the value of your point of difference?  How are you helping them to know the unique difference it makes to them, the issues it solves, the understanding of their problems and the ease with which you resolve them? As you help your customers to know the value of your product - not just in the product, but the service, delivery and care of them as a customer, you will develop a loyalty and following which becomes a part of your identity as a business.

Protect your Notre Dame.

I Find Myself Disagreeing With Gary Vaynerchuk

Mike Clark looks at Gary Vaynerchuk LinkedIn Post

To even type that title feels like an anathema - almost the equivalent of questioning Richard Branson on business, or Warren Buffett on investing.

For those who do not know Gary Vaynerchuk, he is best known for his work in digital marketing and social media, leading New York–based companies VaynerMedia and VaynerX. I follow him on social media and one cannot question his success - but his latest post on LinkedIn has had me seriously questioning his realism.

The post was simple and audacious - nothing new there. I even "Liked" it, along with over 5500 other people. Then, over the course of the day, my subconscious interrupted the flow of the day with the sheer ridiculousness of what I had read.  

Titled “5 LinkedIn Marketing Strategies for 2019”, point number one reads: Use the $1.80 strategy on LinkedIn. (leave your $0.02 cents worth on 90 comments posts a day in your field).

That sounds logical - with that much activity on LinkedIn you are bound to get noticed!

Do the math however and you need to be allocating 3+ hours a day to find enough stuff worthy of comment, think what to say, type it and respond to replies.

It is sufficiently challenging for myself, doing a post a day and making half a dozen comments and likes. I consider it a huge success when I am able to help clients to see the value of a post a day and feel victorious when their resulting action is regular posting of a few times a week!

Why?

No surprises here - SME business owners are time poor. If they could find 3 focused hours daily, they would be better off working on their business rather than in it, doing solely LinkedIn marketing! As a matter of interest, I went and looked up Gary’s LinkedIn activity for the day he posted that advice. I was somewhat relieved to see that he managed 10 ‘activities’ on the same day (that means that he is human like the rest of us).

The concept is really interesting and my subconscious is continuing to play with the idea but I just don’t see myself investing that much time in one strategy. I have asked Gary how he proposes a busy, mortal human, with no super powers, actually does what he is suggesting and look forward to his reply.

Am I simply naive? Have I missed something? I am interested in your thoughts on this - please leave comments in the section below the blog.

Lessons From Schoolkids

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October 2018 and the hall was packed with eager young adults all keen to be a part of the next Boys High/Girls High school production. Fast forward to mid-March and the Addams Family production has had its final performance - 80 odd people all working seamlessly together to deliver a stellar performance. Having watched and been alongside of our two girls through this experience, I have reflected on many lessons learnt.

Being on the team was a privilege that had to be earned. I was amazed at how clear the play director was on the information evening, around the commitment that was going to be required. He actually stated that he was attempting to put people off before they got carried away with dreams of how wonderful it would all be. The play was to be the top priority - more important than family days out, work commitments, sport commitments or friend commitments.

The play would require total dedication and any deviation from this would see team members been removed from the company. Lines were to be learnt in your own time and team time was to practice and refine the delivery of the play. School work and performance at school was not allowed to be negatively affected by involvement in the production. In the five months build-up to the performance there were many long nights and tiredness was frequently evident. The whole team kept focused and committed.

The amazing thing with a school production is that all of this effort and time is put in by people who will not receive a financial reward! The effort given from a pure point of passion and wanting to contribute and make this production awesome was inspiring. What lessons could you take for your team to get them fully engaged and totally committed?

Some lessons for business: 

Select team members very carefully with clear roles in mind. Get people to perform their task before you select them to ensure they are right and can deliver in their role. Be very clear on the commitment required and the vision that your people are buying into.

Have understudies for key roles so that the vision is not at risk due to one or two key people being sick or absent. In the workplace, this is seen in role rotation and cross training of skills. In the build up before team members are released to do their role, train them thoroughly. Practice and feedback regularly, always setting the bar high so that team members know the standard expected and what they're striving for.

 In the training period ‘rehearse’ often and reinforce what you want more of (rather than what's wrong). Foster and build team spirit. Keep the vision in front of everyone's mind and have encouraging mantras “We will be awesome” was one I heard often. The culture was built around clear expectations and making it fun with regular feedback - I was amazed at the constant communication over Facebook after every performance practice. Practices were regularly filmed to give people the opportunity to reflect and see what needed to be worked on. 

 When we create cultures that allow everyone to bring their best, to come complete with their skills, willingness to learn and passion to excel, then people are fully engaged and any company will excel!

Here’s to your success!

Get It Done - A Template

Hand drawing idea

“Nothing Changes if nothing changes”

“Action speaks louder than words”

“Not just action - the right action”

There is so much said around the importance of action. Nike’s famous 3 word slogan “Just Do It” is often lauded as the rally cry for productivity. The real secret though, lies not just in taking action but ensuring it is the right action.

“I’m just too busy” is an excuse many have heard and used. Busyness does not equal business. It is oft the whirlwind of activity that is responsible for the speed of disappearing days. The well known ‘secret’ to effectiveness is to ensure we work on the important and stick with the task until it is completed.

This raises two key questions: How do we know what is important and how do we “stick with it”?

After a decade of working with companies to answer these ever present questions, I have found that one way to answer this is a simple 90 Day Dash Template. Before using the template it is important to have a goal and a plan - many companies do this, but as Peter Drucker pointed out, “The purpose of information is not knowledge. It is being able to take the right action.”

So your steps are as follows:

Step One - Take time out to decide what is important - A strategy day/session is great for this  

Step Two - Prioritise at a board/management level how you will succeed in reaching these goals - your strategic priority areas

Step Three -  Next work out what is most important now i.e. Your Strategic objectives

Step Four - Decide who must do what

Step Five - Make it easy to know what must be done by when

Step Six - Execute and follow through with reporting and feedback

Where do you get up to in those 6 steps? I see many people doing steps 1 & 2 well and doing ok at step 3 and 4 before it all gets swept away in the busyness of busyness.

To ensure the important gets done break your goals and objectives into 90 day segments (A 90 day dash) and then further break this down into a 30 day sprint which is monitored weekly. This can be done on a whiteboard (one of my preferred methods as it is visible to the whole team and brings in peer accountability) or shared online documents - Google Docs, Smart Sheet, etc

Very simply this is how it works:

State the goal(s) it the goal area (I like to do this on a Post It note as it keeps it short and succinct)

Break this down into the key actions and decide within which quarter the tasks need to be completed

For the current quarter break the tasks down into what needs to happen monthly if we are to complete the tasks

Take the current month and break the actions into what needs to happen in each week and allocate a person to ensure this is done (they do not need to do the actions - they are responsible for ensuring the actions are done!)

The link on this article will take you to a video and downloadable version, should this be a tool you would find useful in your business. Please do get in touch if we can help you through any part of this process.

Here's to your success!

Getting Some R&R

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Many people look longingly at retirement as the time in life when you will finally be able to relax with no pressure. In the interim, we have holidays. The risk is that it is used as ‘catch-up’ time rather than the rest and recuperation we tout it as. Whether we are rushing around catching up with family and friends, or attending social functions, or using the quiet time to clear emails and “just” finish that last little bit of a project that “will allow me to come back next year a lot fresher!”

The illusion of retirement is rose tinted by hectic holidays, giving it a heavenly hue of a serene paradise. Speak to anybody who has been retired for any length of time and you will quickly have a much clearer picture - without purpose, the days drag on interminably. Many people wish they had developed a hobby, sporting interest or group of friends or something while they were younger.  Time waits for no-one and looking back wistfully is something many of us have an opportunity to avoid.

How do you live with no regrets? There are many wonderful ideas around this but for this time of year I thought I would share one: REST

Relax - Plan to do something (ideally lots of) whatever helps you to relax. Some people like to read a book, others love to travel and see new and beautiful things, some are active relaxers - choosing to do something physical and rewarding that helps them disconnect from work. “Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.” Leonardo da Vinci

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Escape your routine. Do something a little different. Break the normal mould and routine of your life. A change is as good as a holiday. “Sometimes it's important to work for that pot of gold. But other times it's essential to take time off and to make sure that your most important decision in the day simply consists of choosing which color to slide down the rainbow.” Douglas Pagels

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Stillness holds magic. In a world where survival often feels like it is dictating the need to become the perfect ‘human doing’ there is a deep joy to be found in being. “When was the last time you spent a quiet moment just doing nothing - just sitting and looking at the sea, or watching the wind blowing the tree limbs, or waves rippling on a pond, a flickering candle or children playing in the park?” Ralph Marston

Think about different things. Allow your mind to rest and be creative, to solve a puzzle and day dream, to marvel at the wonders of creation and do nothing more than watch a cloud float across the sky. “Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.” William S. Burroughs

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However you relax do take time over the holidays to rejuvenate your body mind and soul and bring your best self into 2019.

Here’s to your success!

3 Tips Learnt from Fighting with Technology

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To update or not to update - the dreaded question!
Next dreaded question... How long do you attempt to fix the problems yourself before calling IT support?

I had successfully avoided the latest Windows 10 update following articles about a bug that deleted user files. Eventually though the time came when an update just had to be done and that was when the "Irrustratration" started (One of my favourite words for moments like these! I wrote an article some time back on this wonderful word my kids created  for those moments of intense irritation and frustration).

Two points of reflection for this blog: 1) The power of social media and 2) Lessons learnt

The first pain point was MS Word saving all documents as read only - after a few days of thinking I was going insane I jumped online and found a solution in the screeds of similar laments. 

It is so easy to share one's frustrations and in the heat of the moment people tend to vent flamboyantly. Social media gave a swath of thoughts, feelings, viewpoints and emotions on the latest update. Thankfully included in all that was some ideas suggestions and solutions! 

While you cannot stop people being people on the internet, you do have full control over the way you respond! You are in control of your actions and reactions - “play nice” as my Nana use to say! Your response will carry far more weight than a dozen frazzled rants.

Next pain point – our new printer would not print - many uninstalls and reinstalls later I called the service desk (and yes you are right - I should have called them waaayyyyyy sooner!)

The last time Windows 10 did an update I Iearnt to check the web for common problems associated with the latest update before pressing the update button. The learning for me this time around, was 3-fold:
1) Know where I add the most value to the organisation and work in that space most of the time - DO NOT spend time doing stuff where you are not adding value 
2) Don't waste time creating 'work-arounds'
3) Ask for help sooner

What is your top tip when facing IT frustrations?

If you need to look at a team event to review this year and plan for the year ahead do get in touch - we would love to facilitate the day for you!

Aim to Team Think not Group Think

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Having facilitated another company team day, I have had cause to reflect on what makes for an exceptional team. There are, of course, many factors. 

Team days are such an awesome way to help team members get to know each other more and work more effectively together. The opportunity to brainstorm possibilities and explore how to tackle challenges, utilising the whole team's knowledge, skills and perspectives, creates powerful buy-in and innovative solutions IF the team is free to express their thoughts.

Groupthink is a term coined by Irving to describe his influential theory of group decision making that he called groupthink. The idea is that groupthink is a kind of thinking in which maintaining group cohesiveness, harmony, conformity and solidarity is more important than considering the facts in a realistic manner.This can result in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making process and outcome. 

To get the most from a team, they need to feel safe to discuss, debate, agree and disagree. The enemy is artificial harmony. Team Think occurs when a team of people have an agreed common goal that they are committed to achieving. Team Think is characterised by a mindset that is eager to participate and collaborate. There is a sense of unity and the team sees and refer to themselves as a unit - “we” rather than “you and me”

Team Think is focused on adding value (contrasted with group think which is focused on the individual and being valued). One of the most powerful aspects of Team Think is common alignment to a clear goal - this allows the team to focus on the ‘prize’ as against the cost. 

The whole team needs to think right, if they are to act right and get the right results. This thinking, however, has to start at the top. Very broadly speaking Team Think has 5 key elements:

Team leadership - How the leaders think set the tone and creates the culture

Team identity - from this culture the team forms its identity. When the ‘team’ as a unit becomes more important than the ‘individual’ team members that make up the team the team can transcend to new heights.

Team purpose - Strong leadership and culture combine as core elements to build a strong sense of purpose. People need to know that they matter and that what they do makes a positive difference. People with purpose and on a mission will often outperform higher skilled teams.

Team prize - The purpose give people something to aim for. This sense of striving for a prize fires people up to give more, do more and be all they can be.

Team energy - When teams have the above elements they can create an almost self perpetuating energy that allows the to operate at higher levels and outperform their peers.

What could you do to enhance the latent potential inside your team?
If you need to look at a team event to review this year and plan for the year ahead do get in touch - we would love to facilitate the day for you!