This is something we tend to neglect in the rush and tear of business life.  And yet, in my experience that's when we do our best work.

Don't get me wrong...

...I'm not saying stress is bad and we should all go around in a perpetual zen state!   

What I have noticed though, is that when we're running on adrenaline we need to be careful to balance it out by keeping a sense of calm amid the busy-ness.  

When we fail to do that we end up completing the job and then finding all sorts of glaring mistakes.   

How often have you... 

...sent off that vital tender, only to notice a glaring omission when you take time to look at it later?

Stress overload gets us into an unresourceful state where we lose our sense of perspective and our external sensory awareness starts to shut down.  

And as leaders...

...like it or not, we set the tone.  If our people see us rushing around in a mad panic it will have the effect of destabilising the whole team. 

 

ACTION POINT

When things get hectic and you're under pressure, do you:  

a) go round to the team constantly checking on their progress;

b) offer them a reward if they get the job done on time; or 

c) take time out to get everyone relaxed, focussed and energised? 

It seems counter-intuitive, and yet (c) is far and away the most effective.

So this is how...  

...to do it.   Get the team together and run through what needs to be done.  Make sure everyone is clear on their roles and tasks.  

Then, before rushing off...

...to get into action, take a moment to pause and get relaxed. 

I find that simply getting everyone to close their eyes and take a couple of deep breaths makes a huge difference.

Now you're all focussed on what needs to be done, ready and able to do your best work in a happy relaxed and confident frame of mind!

 

 

 

 

It's true that we seem to have a natural in-born disposition to think and behave in certain ways.

If we didn't, there would be no real way of understanding and making meaning of personality, either our own or others.

That doesn't mean...

...that we're all victims and we can't do anything differently.  We're not doomed from birth to always behave in the same and predictable ways.

We have free will, we have a choice.

We can choose...

...in each and every moment how we feel.  Whether we're optimistic or pessimistic, happy or miserable, angry or calm, in each case we have a choice.

The key is self-awareness...

...recognising what we're thinking and feeling and how that's affecting our external mood and behaviour.  

Then we can choose to change it if we feel it's not appropriate or not serving us.

As leaders we...

...need to be aware of what's going on in our internal world, because our people look to us for clues about how they should behave.  

We set the tone - whether we like it or not - and that comes from the inside out.   

 

ACTION POINT

Notice how you're feeling right now.  

Are you happy, impatient, nervous, or contented?  Is how you feel having a positive affect on your mindset? 

If not...

...think of a time when you had the feeling you would find most beneficial right now.  Maybe you'd like to feel optimistic.

If you can't think of a time, then think of a person who demonstrates the feeling you'd like to have.

Now connect to...  

...that feeling inside yourself and imagine it displacing the one you want to change.  Then hold it there and notice how your physiology is changing.  Remember that.  

Next time you want to change that feeling, try simply changing your physiology, and notice how the new feeling is instantly triggered.  

It's practically impossible...

...to be sad with a smile on your face.  And we all know how good laughter makes is feel. 

So take control of your feelings and that will help you develop a mindset that will inspire and energise everyone on your team.

 

 

 

We have a real employee engagement problem in the UK: a shocking 70% of staff don't trust their managers; and 64% say they have more to offer their employers if they had the chance.

No wonder we have such a productivity gap!

In my experience...

...from 45 years in business, lack of engagement has two main causes:

  1. Disengaged leadership; and 
  2. Lack of meaning in their work.

 

These two factors are intimately related.

If we... 

...as leaders are not engaging fully with our teams, how can we possibly expect them to feel engaged?  

There is a way for us to address both these issues: 

PURPOSE

When we lead on purpose - a purpose beyond profit - it creates a focal point that draws us all together.  It gives us a point of engagement and defines the meaning people attach to their work.  

 

ACTION POINT

What's your purpose?  

Who does your organisation serve, and why and how does it serve them?  

And how do you use this to engage and create meaning for your people? 

As an example...

...I once met a young lady who worked in a printed circuit board factory.  When I asked her what she did, she explained that she soldered the long yellow and the short blue wires onto the PCBs.

I enquired further and found out that the boards were used in the control panels of aircraft, including Concorde.  I then pointed out to her that her actual job was:

Ensuring the safety of millions of passengers.  

That's quite a big purpose! 

So that's your job as a leader: to define your purpose in real and meaningful terms, and use it to engage and inspire your team.

 

 

 

I came across this concept recently.  It comes from a Vietnamese monk called Thich Nhat Hanh.  

The quote goes like this: 

"Wash the dishes to wash the dishes."  

Simple yet pithy.

In our hurried...

...lives we get so caught up in things that we end up rushing everything, doing things just to get them done and tick them off our list.  We rarely take time to give thought and attention to what we're doing; we're already focussing on the next task.  We waste our time living in the future, never noticing or fully experiencing the present.  

And so often, this spills over to our relationships.  [We'll come back to this in today's Action Point.]

There's another...

...saying that is relevant to this: 

"One = All."

You see, it's about attitude: how we do one thing tends to be how we do all things.

If we...

...wash the dishes mindlessly, to what extent are we being mindless in other important areas of our lives?  

But if we do it with love and attention, what does that say about us as human beings?  

Which brings me to another saying I love: 

"We are human beings, not human doings."

  

ACTION POINT

How do you wash the dishes?  

In the dishwasher, I expect. But the point is, how do you approach those seemingly trivial tasks?  Do you give them your full presence and attention?  

Now ask yourself...

...to what extent are you guilty of not doing this in your relationships?

Are you fully present when you're talking with your people?  Or do you find them a distraction, stopping you from getting on and 'doing' your next task? 

Notice how... 

...you are 'being' in your interactions with others and, if necessary, bring your attention back to the present.  

If you're like me, it will take effort and practice.  But eventually it will feel a completely natural way of being.

What's amazing is... 

...how much richer it makes all your experiences.  

And you'll notice a huge difference in the way people respond to you.

 

 

 

 

This may sound obvious, but you'd be amazed just how much confusion there can be around the whole area of roles and responsibilities.

This is often...

...because we have a clear idea in our minds of who should be doing what, and we assume everyone else can see the same picture. 

This lack of a common understanding is highly dangerous.  It can lead to confusion, duplication and - worse still - important things being missed.

And sometimes... 

...it's just down to bad - or no - communication.

I well recall one situation I came across where someone was annoyed with a co-worker who suddenly started being really bossy.  It turned out that she had been promoted to manager but the boss hadn't told anyone!

 

ACTION POINT

Make sure you get clarity of roles fully understood with the whole team at the start of every project.  

This can't be done on a one-to-one basis.  Everyone on the team needs to know what they and everyone else is responsible for if it's going to work seamlessly.

You should also...

...make it part of the agenda and minutes for each and every meeting.  What are the action points, and who will take responsibility for making them happen, needs to be clearly set out for all to see.

And if you ever... 

...catch yourself assuming people know their roles, it's time to check in with them and make sure your understanding is mutually shared.  

That way, everyone can stay focussed and on task, and everything gets done.

 

 

 

 

When it comes to communication we tend to make one big assumption that can actually stop communication dead in its tracks.

We assume that...

...others like to receive information in the same way we do.

The reality is very different!  We all have our own preferred modes and quirks that can either help us take things in, or actually hinder our understanding.

For instance...

...some people love to get everything written down in an email, while others would prefer a phone call or a face to face.  There are people who need to understand the big picture context before any of the detail makes sense; whereas others may be turned off unless they've got a handle  on the 'nitty gritty' first.

If we...

...impose our personal preferences on others we can end up only communicating effectively with people like ourselves.  That could end up exluding a significant number of people we would like to reach!

 

ACTION POINT

Firstly, notice how you like to receive information.  

For example, I find it really hard to assimilate lots of facts buried within long paragraphs, preferring simple bullet points and no waffle.

Step Two is...

...start noticing how others are communicating with you.  That's a clear sign of what their preferences are.

Now see if you can meet them where they are.  

Next time... 

...you have to interact with them, try using their preferred style and medium.  

You should then notice a big positive difference in the way they respond.  

And communication is, after all, about what action people to take as a result.

 

 

 

This is such a fascinating topic: how we engage with one another to clarify things and then to reach decisions.

Sometimes we...

...don't even get to debate!  We don't want to risk upsetting the team or causing individual offence, so we leave things unsaid for the sake of an artificial sense of harmony.

This achieves nothing and causes more damage long-term if it results in us making decisions that don't work in everyone's interest.

Debate is usually...

...our default mode, where we invite everyone to contribute their views and then argue out the merits or otherwise of each idea.  

Whilst it's healthy for everyone to have their say, this approach can often lead to the feeling among some that they've lost the argument.  

And then you've got people with a vested interest in proving that their way was right and, "You should have listened to me."  They have no buy-in to the outcome and may even be just itching for an opportunity to say, "I told you so."

Dialogue is where...

...you can get to those win-win outcomes that are so desirable.

Here, we not only listen to everyone's ideas, but we actively probe to find out more about them and get a deeper understanding of the other person's thinking and to see if we can find ways of changing our own thinking so we can all get what we want.

 

ACTION POINT

Notice which of these levels your team's discussions are predominantly held in:

  • Artificial harmony
  • Debate
  • Dialogue

 

Do you need to dig down deeper?

Try this simple...

...experiment.  Write down the following words on a piece of flip-chart paper and display it prominently in all team meetings: 

  • Why? 
  • What? 
  • Who? 
  • When? 
  • How?

 

Make a point of using these questions to seek a genuine and full understanding of what's being discussed.

And, by the way, the question marks are important!  They open our minds in ways that mere words can never do.

 

 

 

This tip isn't as daft as it may seem...

What really makes you feel pi**ed off?

For most people it's...

...being ignored, not having their contributions recognised, and generally not feeling valued.

 Validating others by showing them respect, honouring their differences and not sitting in judgement of them is a genuine act of love.

There's no need to...

...get all lovey-dovey and start sending them flowers or chocolates!  

Treating them as individuals is all they want.

That and, maybe, a pay rise ;-)

 

ACTION POINT

Take 5-minutes to sit and think about how you like to be treated by others - especially your bosses, if you have them.  Then notice to what extent are you treating 

your people in the same way.  

It's a simple...

...case of giving what you want to get.  

Share the love!  

When people feel valued they are more motivated and life is better for everyone.

 

 

The whole way we view our world and our work is based on assumptions.

We have assumptions over how people will behave, what's going on in our markets, what will motivate our teams, and so on.

 

What that does...

...is to create a kind of operating envelope where our assumptions set parameters and define the boundaries of what we believe is possible.  

Assumptions can be very comforting, but also very dangerous.

 

In an era of...

...accelerating change we can't afford the luxury of assuming things will carry on as they are.  Did the hotel industry expect AirBNB, or the taxi business expect Uber and the plethora of lift sharing apps now becoming available?

The only safe assumption we can make is that things will change.

 

ACTION POINT

Where do you feel most secure?

What are the assumptions you're making that ​​​​​​​cause you to feel that way?

Now imagine...

...you woke up tomorrow and those assumptions no longer held true.  

Consider how you could adapt: 

  • What would you do differently?
  • Who would you need to connect with?
  • What new resources would you need?

 

Are there any ideas there that you could act on to start the future-proofing process, or to simply do things better right now?  Or maybe there are things you could stop doing and save yourself valuable time and resource.

When you start...

...regularly questioning the assumptions you're making you'll open up a whole stream of new ideas and innovation.

And, as always, you may like to get your team involved in this discussion...

 

 

You already know how important celebrating success is to recognise, reward and energise your team.

But why not...

...include planning the celebrations right at the start when you're putting the project plan in place?

This has the effect of helping everyone envision the task being successfully completed on time and on budget.

That way...

...they start out with the mindset that it's already accomplished, giving them a sense of confidence in the project, the team, and their role (and your leadership too).  

They then bring a positive mindset and energy which is incredibly infectious and will enthuse everyone on the team, creating a 'virtuous cycle' of motivation.

This is a great...

...way to boost the resilience of your project team and keep them on a high - even through the rough patches you will inevitably encounter along the way.

 

ACTION POINT

Start planning now!  

What's the next project you've got coming up?

Think about how you can integrate the success celebrations into your planning process.

You could even...

...engage your team in the discussion to give them a real sense of ownership over both the celebration and the actual success.  

This is a great way to get them focussed and energised for the project right from the start.

 

Have you ever noticed how the people we are drawn to nearly always have a really big purpose that is driven by something beyond themselves?

We're not interested...

...in those who like to talk incessantly about themselves and their own achievements, and only appear interested in WIIFM: "What's In It For Me?"

It's the same...

...with leadership.  The best leaders tap into things that appeal to the higher interests of their people: their sense of purpose.  People want to feel good about themselves and will admire others who represent the kind of person they would like to be.

And yet...

...so much motivation focusses on the basic level "hygiene" needs of money, security and recognition.  And when we do that we fail to ignite their passion, so we have real problems trying to get them onside.

  

ACTION POINT

Who do you particularly admire?.  

Take a sheet of paper and start writing: I admire xxx because...  

Congratulations!  You've just created a blueprint for the person you aspire to be.

Now...

...close your eyes and take two or more deep breaths, then imagine yourself as this person.  Take time to really enjoy and revel in the experience. Imagine how great it feels to receive all the love and appreciation just for who you are!.

Finally...

...open your eyes and walk around for a bit to get the feeling really embedded into your physiology, whilst also thinking about your next meeting or other interaction.  

Now you're ready to go and amaze yourself - and your colleagues!

 

 

I thought this would be a great tip to get you set up for success in the New Year.  It's all about deciding exactly how you want to show up and be perceived by others.  

You see, we all have a sense of what are appropriate standards and principles that we carry around in our minds.

The trouble is...

...we don't always live up to them as we don't have an organised process to, firstly verbalise what they are and, secondly to keep them front of mind. 

Without that we are liable to be blown in different directions depending on the latest thing we've come across.  

Lots of different...

...(and usually good) ideas come our way and so we keep changing what we're doing.  Ultimately that makes it hard for people to know what you stand for, which means you can't be an effective role model.  

And that, I believe, is one of the keys to leadership success...

 

ACTION POINT

 Write down your "Principles and Standards" to define how you want to show up in life - both at work and in personal relationships.

​​​​​​​I personally have a list of 18 things, including:

  • Start each day with a workout
  • Be professional and prepare like a professional
  • Always give outstanding value
  • Live a healthy, balanced lifestyle
  • Give everything your best shot

Get it...

...laminated and read it every morning to remind you of what you're about, and to set you up for the day.

You will find that you become more centred and others will start to better understand what you stand for.

It will...

...keep you in touch with your moral compass and make it easy for you to know what to say 'Yes' and what to say 'No' to. 

Ultimately, you'll become more focussed, more productive and a lot more relaxed in your approach to life and work.

Now isn't that something worth aiming for?

 

 

There's nothing more disabling than being told what to do all the time.

When that happens it drains our energy enthusiasm and effectiveness.  Worse still it numbs our initiative and our ability to think for ourselves.

OK, so when you're the boss the buck stops with you.  All the more reason then, to make sure you're treating you're people as the responsible adults they truly are so they can turn in the kind of performance they're capable of rather than simply doing what they're told.

After all, if you've done your job properly by recruiting and training people to the appropriate standards they'll probably know better than you how to do things the best way.

ACTION POINT

If you're getting in the way of your team by being dogmatic about how they do things (that's the small 'how' of method not the big 'how' of ethics and standards) try a new tactic.

When they ask you how, refuse to tell them.  Let them work it out for themselves and then tell you!

Before long they'll be coming to you with all sort of solutions, and often it will be to things you didn't even know were problems!

Then you'll be well on your way to having a high perfoming, self motived, empowered team.

No more sleepless nights!

You may be thinking, "But that's my job, to
lead the business."

BLT171

Well, yes and no. Your job is to get results.

And the key to that is leading the people.

People have their own...
...agendas, and if we don't make sure we're 
linking them to our strategy, we won't have 
willing followers.

We'll be marching off, saying "Follow me," 
but when we turn round and look, they're 
all off doing their own thing.

So we need to put people at the heart
of our strategy.

ACTION POINT

The key to getting the results we want 
is having a proper engagement strategy.

That means finding out what your people
want, and linking it to your overall objectives.

And then showing them how that works,
how achieving your goals helps them to
achieve theirs.

You'll need to...
...consider their different motivations.

Find out what their wants and aspirations
are by having deep listening conversations.
(And that's something we can help you with.)

Think how you will satisfy their need for

  • Recognition and achievement 
  • Being part of something inspiring
  • Having a happy and supportive workplace
  • Taking a pride in their work, and
  • Creating a secure future for all
  • Etc...

Once you've created this web of connectivity
and inter-dependence, the results will start
to simply flow...

OK, so you've got your strategy in place.

BLT170

You've broken it down into projects and 
then into individual tasks.

And then...
...life gets in the way.

Other urgent things have a habit of
cropping up taking our focus away from
our long-term goals and getting us caught
up in activity that's not moving us forward.

Our job as leaders is...
...to keep ourselves and our people 
focussed and making progress towards 
achieving our big objectives.

And I've found a neat little way to do that...


ACTION POINT

Write down your key strategic objectives 
for each week - the main tasks that will 
move you closer to your goals.

​Then place them somewhere they'll be 
staring you in the face, demanding your 
attention and commitment.

I write mine up on an A3-sized whiteboard 
and put it on the wall just above my computer.

​It's a constant reminder...
...to stay on task, and also of my progress 
- or lack of it - during the week.

I use a different colour for every project too, 
so I can see at a glance how I'm doing on 
each of them.

It also helps to break up the list so it doesn't 
​look such a big task to get it all done!

​Good luck with moving faster towards 
realising your goals and ambitions...

The idea of the Servant Leader had been around 
for well over 2,500 years.

BLT169

The Ancient Chinese - Lao Tzu and others of his
time - believed that in order to lead effectively,
you needed to put the interests of your people
above your own interests.

And it's even...
...more important today, when we have such
a diverse range of different stakeholders to
look after.

ACTION POINT

Create a list of all the different stakeholders 
you need to serve in your leadership.

Look at the list and consider how well you 
have represented their interests in the past.

Now think about how you can best serve
them in the future and write an action plan
in order to achieve this.

Something magical...
...will then start to happen.

You'll notice people are much more willing
to follow you, and your leadership will start
to flow and become effortless.

And that's something you can really look
forward to.

As a fellow achiever, I'm sure you almost certainly
are driven to try to cram all your life into each and
every day.

BLT168

We want to do everything, and have the perfect 
lifestyle balance - work, play, family and self-
development.

Trouble is...
...this can set up conflicts that will play on our 
minds, creating frustration, disappointment 
and resentment.

All very low energy emotions that we could well 
do without!

If you...
...have a deadline to meet and need to work late, 
what gives? Do you miss seeing the family, or 
cut out the session at the gym? Or both?

There is a far healthier way to achieve
a positive outcome.


ACTION POINT

Instead of trying to balance your lifestyle on 
a daily basis, plan to achieve it over the course 
of a week.

With 168 hours at your disposal, it's so much 
easier to make sure all aspects of your life 
are accounted for, giving you the time, energy 
and motivation to be a total success!

Consider taking...
...a little time out - maybe on a Sunday evening -
to plan your weekly schedule.

Make sure you include all the fun stuff you want
to do. This will give you huge motivation and
energise everything you do.

Above all...
...get out of the mindset of trying to cram 
everything into every day.

That's just setting yourself up for failure -
the exact opposite of what you want.

One of the ways we make sense of an increasingly 
complex world is through generalisation.

BLT167

We will take an experience we've had and assume 
it'll be the same next time around.

So if we don't...
...like what happened last time, we'll try to avoid
a repetition.

This can be very limiting.

For example, we've been given a hard time by a
female buyer; we generalise this into "Female buyers
are going to give me a hard time"; so we go into
our next transaction with a negative expectation.

The past also...
...has a hold on us because we are creatures of
habit and will tend to repeat our past behaviours, 
even though they may no longer serve us.

[This is something we do a lot of work on with
executives moving up the ladder, needing to
develop new habits.]

We need a way...
...to recognise when we're unconsciously re-living 
the past, and to break the cycle so we can get
positive outcomes in the future.


ACTION POINT

What habits or behaviours have you got that 
aren't working for you?

Think about the results you want to achieve and 
consider how you can change what you're doing 
to become more effective.

Ideally...
...you need to find somewhere you can have a
few minutes peace and quiet.

Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a
situation you've had problems with in the past.
Then re-run it with your new behaviour and enjoy
the experience of getting the result you want.

Repeat that in your mind a few times so it
becomes habituated.

Congratulations!

Next time you're in that situation, you'll now
have a choice to change your approach and
change your outcome.

It's often been said that now is the only time we have; 
the past is gone and the future is yet to come.
 
BLT166
 

​Once we understand this concept it suddenly creates 
a real sense of urgency.

How we treat...
...each and every second will make a difference to
the outcomes we experience in the future.

If we waste our 'nows', by definition, we are wasting 
our future.

As leaders it's...
...or responsibility to create that sense of scarcity
​about the present and keep our people focussed 
on using each precious moment to ensure we all 
experience the future we desire.


ACTION POINT(S)

I've got two for you this week:

1. Use priority setting processes - such as the 
Urgent/Important matrix - to make sure people are 
spending their time on the most productive long-
term tasks.

And use it to create that sense of urgency and
scarcity I mentioned.

2. Focus on what's being done in the present

If time is precious, then it stands to reason that 
whatever we're doing in the present is also precious.

When we give what we're doing in the here and now 
our full attention and devotion, it transforms our 
experience and the results we get.

What so many get wrong...
...is in thinking what they're doing is unimportant,
doing it in a perfunctory way and accepting poor
quality standards.

Consider a 'chore' like washing dishes: we can either 
regard it as a pain and waste our time in resentment,
thinking of all the things we'd rather be doing.

Or, we can devote ourselves to doing a great job of it, 
​enjoying satisfaction in the act of making the dishes
spotless and shining.

When we...
...stay fully present with what we're doing, it creates 
a profoundly different energy that translates into 
​everything else you do.

I love the concept of "One = All"

How we act in the now, is how we will always act.

If we waste now, we'll always tend to waste our time.

But if we do our best in the now, we'll always do
our best, and in doing so, achieve our desires.

 

One of the problems we confront as leaders 
is that we're at the top of the pyramid...
 
BLT165  
At least, that's how we see things.  
 
What if... 
...instead, we looked at it from the perspective of 
a circle (or better still, a sphere) with us at the 
centre and our frontline staff at the outside edges, 
interacting with our operating environment?  
 
It would mean that we couldn't move unless 
everyone around us moves.  
 
That's a much better and more accurate analogy 
for how organisations work.  
 
If you can't...
...get those around you to move, you're going to 
be stuck in resistance mode.  
 
And sadly, that's a reality for many - perhaps 
even most - organisations.
 
ACTION POINT
 
To move the circle forward, you have to engage 
with the whole organisation and get everyone 
moving together.  
 
Otherwise everything just grinds to a halt.
 
In order to... 
...achieve that, you'll need to spend a good 
proportion of your time engaging with your 
frontline troops - those at the interface on the 
edges of the circle - not just your direct reports.  
 
You need to make sure they're up for the 
changes and challenges ahead, and ready to 
move forward with you together.  
 
If you don't...
...succeed in inspiring them to action, you'll 
inevitably end up stuck exactly where you are.  
 
Get out of your office, get engaging, get 
inspiring, and see the remarkable difference 
it makes to the team - and to the results
they deliver.