Is it possible to over-encourage?

September 5, 2017

A very brief article today based on this question: “Is it possible to over-encourage people?”

Yes, you need to have the confidence to confront poor behaviour and manager under-performance through clear communication and constructive conversations. Let’s take that as ‘sorted’.

Without that accountability it’s certainly possible to create a culture that is falsely positive, where poor attitudes and slack work habits go unchallenged.

But, assuming that’s in place because you have well-trained managers (if you don’t, give me a call and let’s get them well-trained!), is it possible to over-encourage or is it the case that the more praise, encouragement and generally positive inputs to the work environment, the better?

What do you reckon?  And what will you stop doing, start doing and continue doing as a result?

I’m genuinely really interested to hear your thoughts.

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DIY Deadline Day

August 31, 2017

It’s Transfer Deadline Day in the football world, with the transfer window bolted shut at 11pm tonight. Any business that clubs don’t get done by that cast-iron cut-off point doesn’t happen….at least until the window opens again on 1st January.

Many I know, and I humbly confess to being one of them, will be refreshing the deadline day news apps on phones quite a few times between now and 11pm.

Watch

Whether you’re a fellow ‘refresher’ or have no interest at all, you can’t escape the fact that the deadline creates activity and lots gets done. The transfer window has been open all summer but it’s today that many of the deals get completed. It’s do or die, now or never, time to go and make it happen!

There’s something incredible about the deadline that generates action. We humans can’t seem to resist it’s power. Whether it’s ‘last day of early bird booking rate’, tax return submission day, job application cut-off, the big tender due date or the last day at work before holidays, the time when time is running out is so often when we are at our most productive.

Somehow our lack of self-discipline, poor self-motivation and well-honed procrastination skills all get put aside as the shadow of the pending deadline looms large!

My aim here is not to look at why this is, but rather to think about how we can use this naturally occurring phenomenon to our huge advantage.

What happens when we don’t have a big, externally-dictated deadline looming?

Here are three ways to harness some of the power of the deadline every single day:

1) Set a deadline for when you are going to finish working today

Make your plans, write your lists, set about your daily work but with a definite end-time which is 100% inflexible. I guarantee you’ll work more efficiently knowing that you can’t just keep going ‘for as long as it takes’.

2) Set the clock on a piece of work

When you have a large project or specific task that needs your focussed attention and you don’t know how long it will take, it can be really hard to get going with any sense of urgency. This is especially true if it’s one of those long-term projects that will generally improve the world but lacks any definite ‘we need it by then’ dates. Here’s where it can be really helpful to set yourself set blocks of time to make as much progress as possible. Choose a realistic period, an hour often works, to get your head down and concentrate only on that task. Set a timer and keep it visible in front of you and keep going until it beeps. Then schedule your next block of time to pick it up again.

3) Create an arbitrary deadline and make it public

Sometimes we will be more motivated by the potential for public shame than just the satisfaction of our own achievement! Where this is the case, set a date for a project, a launch, an event…anything really…and tell people. ‘Going public’ might be telling your family, your team, the whole office, your clients, all your social media followers or even the Stock Exchange. But do it and see the difference it makes!

The unavoidable truth is that deadlines work like a dream and, as is the case for many ‘refreshers’ today, can even make things a little bit more exciting!

 


The Friday Five – “I want my manager to…”

June 9, 2017

Five quick and easy things to digest on a Friday!

This week it’s five things I hear most often that people want from their manager.

  1. Consistency
  2. Communication
  3. Clarity
  4. Involvement
  5. Feedback

1.  Consistency – this includes handling problems and mistakes, treatment of different team members & general mood. We like to know that our leaders uphold consistent standards and to feel that we are treated fairly and with respect.

2. Communication – in a nutshell, nearly every conversation I have on this subject contains the sentiment, “I want my manager to communicate more.”

3. Clarity – I read a survey a while back that suggested one of the greatest causes of stress at work was unclear boundaries. We like to know what’s expected. We like to know what success looks like & to have something concrete to aim for. We like to know our roles & responsibilities, & those of our teammates. Strive for clarity wherever possible.

4. Involvement – On a recent day of staff interviews in preparation for designing a line-manager development programme for a company, the appreciation for managers who were present, visible, approachable and who understood what their team actually did day-to-day was huge. NB. This does not mean micro-management!

5. Feedback – for goodness sake, let us know how we’re doing! Are we on track? Are we doing great? What needs changing? Few things stir unrest like the negative annual appraisal that comes out of the blue. Make feedback regular and routine. Both positive and negative.

That’s your Friday Five for this week. Do you agree? Anything else that you’d have in your top five?


Step back. It’s wonky!

May 4, 2017

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of spending a few days with many of my LMI colleagues from around the world at our annual convention in Florence. Our flight from London went into Pisa so, having never set foot in Italy before, it would have been rude not to stop and have a look around. As every good tourist does in that small-ish Italian town, we headed in what seemed like the direction of that world-famous wonky tower.

pisa

It’s more wonky that I thought!

You can’t see the tower from miles away so it came as quite a shock when we rounded a corner and there it was, leaning away, just like in the pictures. Having seen it’s picture dozens of times, I was still amazed, when confronted with it in real life, at just how much it leans. It’s impressive!
Something I then found very interesting. The closer I got to it, the less obvious it’s lean became. It’s basic physics I know, but these things make an impact when you experience them first hand. Close up, it could almost be straight. Start walking away and look back, it’s lean becomes stark once again.

Lots in our lives and our businesses can be like this. We get so involved, so consumed by the the day-to-day demands, so ‘close’ to all that’s going on, we don’t notice how wonky it is.

When I look at the pictures I’m reminded to step back and notice where things may have become a little wonky.

Am I working too many hours & have lost balance?

Have I stopped being so careful about prioritising my work?

Are my goals a little out of focus?

Has our passion for great customer service dropped off a little?

Whatever ‘stepping back’ means for you at the moment, it’s well worth doing. And when you notice something’s wonky, get help to fix it (unless it’s so extraordinary that you can get rich off people coming to see it)!


Print it, frame it, hang it.

March 27, 2017

I know that you’re not likely to be surprised in any way, shape or form if I start by saying that I believe having clear goals is important.

So I won’t. You already know that!

When it comes to gaining that extra 1% though, there’s a key element to the Goal Planning System that I notice being regularly missed out and it’s costing dearly when it comes to reaching your goals: VISUALISATION.

FrameOnce you’ve done all the planning phase of setting the goal – defining it, identfying the benefits to be gained or losses to be avoided, possible obstacles and solutions etc, the tough bit is often keeping the goal sufficiently at the forefront of your mind so that you keep on doing the stuff that is required if it’s ever going to be reached.

This is where visualisation comes in. What picture can you use, maybe you have to create, which you can then frame and hang somewhere that will keep the goal continually in mind?

If the goal is important enough, it’s worth the extra time and effort to follow this powerful step. Put the picture somewhere you (and anyone else who is working towards the goal) will see it all the time.

You can be as creative as you like when it comes to the what and how of picturing your goal. If it’s not something you do at the moment, I promise it’s really worth having a go with.

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If you’re not familiar or currently using an effective Goal Planning System, get in touch and I’d be happy to talk you through it. It’s a fantastic, watertight system for the whole goals process – from setting the goal to establishing the tracking that will see you through to its accomplishment.


A bit of know-how & the right tools

October 28, 2016

It’s been half-term for my kids which generally means it’s bit of a mixed week between work and other things…one of which has been getting my driveway done.

Before you get in any way impressed I should confess that my neighbour is a landscape gardener who’s been doing his own driveway…and I’ve just piggy-backed onto his project!

Without going into the whole shebang in great detail, a couple of things have stood out to me as the project neared completion.

I had a go at some aspects of the work on my own, with my own tools. It involved a couple of evenings well beyond the fall of darkness and some severely sore legs from all the crouching down.

Then I would watch the expert. He had the right tools and (more than) a bit of know-how and the difference in how quick and how well things got done was incredible. A circular saw instead of a hand-saw. A petrol whacker-plate. An open-backed Transit instead of my family-wagon with the seats down. I could go on.

The difference in progress (productivity) between me on my own – getting there but it’s a hard slog – and the expert with the right tools and plenty of experience was immense.

Leading people, teams and organisations can be much like this. You can get it done by instinct, common sense and what you’ve picked up from others along the way or get in the right tools, with some expert guidance and see much better results with less toil and in less time.

I share loads of these kinds of tools for free (one complimentary place for the first person from any organisation) at the Foundations of Success workshop. If you, like me with my driveway, know some help would make a huge difference, you’re very welcome to get along.


Three unexpected ways to get more done in less time

October 14, 2016

You’ll no doubt be familiar with most of the common ways that are suggested to help you improve your productivity. Things like:

  • Don’t multitask; land one plane at a time
  • Switch off email alerts (If you’ve worked with me you’ll know I’m quite insistent about this)!
  • Start with planning your day / week / month rather than just launching into ‘doing’

These are all great and loads of my work is helping busy managers and leaders improve their productive use of time. It is still the biggest pressure that so many people face at work and it’s no small issue outside of work too.

I have also stumbled across some far less conventional ways of getting more done that are worthy of your consideration. You may find one or more of them helpful, and if not helpful, perhaps at least interesting! Waiting over. My three juicy nuggets of wisdom are:

Plan some messing about time!

Do something deliberately slowly.

Stop and chat for longer than usual.

Here’s why.

  • Plan some messing about time! If you have things you’re interested in but aren’t crucial to your work at hand, keep a list and schedule some down time (not loads) casually playing / learning / experimenting / reading etc…generally just satisfying that interest. Sometimes brilliant new ideas come from these times. It will also help focus you on the more serious work for the rest of the day

 

  • Do something deliberately slowly. Think of something important that has many options and requires your thought and creativity. Decide how long it should take. Then double it. Deliberately take it slowly. Explore every option. Discuss every possible outcome. Pretend that there’s no hurry at all. You might uncover some gold that otherwise would have remained lost forever.

 

  • Stop and chat for longer than usual. “Grab a quick coffee, quick chat…and straight back to it.” Most of the time that mantra may be spot on. However, the discerning amongst you will sometimes recognise the time that this one conversation could lead somewhere. It might just open a door, solve a problem or reveal an opportunity if given the chance.

Have a great day. Perhaps do a little less, a little slower….just this once!