Rock Solid Foundations

March 21, 2016

I’ve been using a training room on the 11th floor of a building in Fenchurch Street, London on a fairly regular basis for a little over a year.

Across the road is a building site which has been the fascination of myself and many course delegates during coffee breaks over this period. For months progress seemed painfully slow – not a lot happening. Just clearing the site and digging some extremely deep holes!

Suddenly, on my last two visits, I’ve been amazed how quickly things have changed. The foundations stage complete, now things are moving fast. The building is taking shape as its structure rises from well below ground level to form a new landmark on the London skyline.

The same principle that applies to buildings is also true with building strength in an organisation’s people. If the foundations are good, the sky’s the limit. If they are weak, inefficiency, stress, confusion and conflict abound.

When it comes to people and performance there are also ‘foundations’ that if everyone in a team understands and consistently does, make a huge impact on effectiveness and overall productivity.

Here’s a few ideas that help form that strong foundation:

  • The ability to set and work to clearly defined goals
  • Understanding ‘WHY’ – knowing the purpose behind the goal
  • The power of The Slight Edge & 1% improvements
  • Avoiding crisis mode & constant fire-fighting.
  • ‘High Payoff Activities’ & the power of 80:20
  • Effective, systematic daily planning & prioritising
  • Not living in your inbox
  • Choosing most appropriate means of communication
  • Sensitively handling interactions with others
  • Maintaining a healthy balance across all areas of life

I’m sure you could add others to this list and I’m also sure that few, if any, of these subject areas are things you’re not already familiar with. They are not the icing on the cake. They are the base-layer. The starting point. Like in the building project described above, disproportionate time and care should be taken to make sure they are properly laid.

It’s not complex but neither is it simple.

So many times I’ve seen that difficulties faced by individuals, teams and sometimes whole organisations stem from poorly laid foundations.

The magic is not in knowing about these foundational concepts but in the consistent application of these ideas in a consistent way by all members of your team!

It’s for the reasons stated above that the course I run most often, and am always excited by the results, is the half-day Foundations of Success workshop. If you’d like to know more about Foundations of Success, click this link

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Remember when your history teacher kept interrupting?

March 4, 2016

A brief but important piece this time round.

Picture this – and you’ll have to imagine it because despite the question in the title, I bet it never happened. You are sat in a Maths class at school and just getting into some long division or a bit of algebra when in through the door bursts the history teacher who was teaching you the previous lesson.

“We didn’t cover it earlier but I just wanted to let you know, the Battle of Hastings was 1066 and Harold died when he was hit in the eye with an arrow!”

Then out she goes.

A little perplexed, your Maths teacher tries to remember where he was and carry on. Six minutes later, in comes your Geography teacher.

“I know I’ll be seeing you in class this afternoon, but I couldn’t wait to tell you that the best example of coastal erosion in the UK is at Barton-on-Sea and we’ll have a look later at some brilliant footage of the cliffs collapsing. Bye.”

“This is getting silly”, you think to yourself. And it is. Really silly. It makes the Maths lesson really unproductive for you in terms of learning anything, tires all the teachers out as they rush around trying not to forget to tell anyone anything that might be important, and generally leaves both teachers and pupils feeling stressed and like they’re not accomplishing important work nearly as fast as they should be.

Good job the workplace isn’t anything like this!

We talk a lot about this at our Foundations of Success workshops and it certainly stirs up some interesting conversations!

 

 


Learning from Sir Terry

February 2, 2016

It was sad to hear of the death of Sir Terry Wogan last Sunday. Often someone in the public eye passes on and I find that their undoubtedly significant contribution to the world somehow passed me by. Not so with Sir Terry.

Memorable Eurovision nights, not for the songs, but for the genius commentary! I got into Radio 2 well before my time, entirely down to the breakfast show host, Mr Wogan.

As I listened to and read the many tributes earlier this week, one thing stood out to me and is extremely insightful when it comes to leadership.

Everyone said Terry would brighten a room. His cheerful demeanour. His humour. His self-deprecation. His genuine interest in people. All these made him a delight to have around and person of significant influence.

It’s a simple but profound lesson. Learning from Sir Terry the simple truth that leaders who foster a cheerful, positive and humorous presence – not taking themselves too seriously – will have a hugely positive impact upon the feel of the entire workplace, group, team or company. Work is serious, but not everything needs to be taken seriously!


Serious power upgrade

May 12, 2015

We just moved into a new house and I had some ‘dismantling’ to do of various items left by the previous owners, some of which involved cutting some metal frames.

My limited experience told me to go searching through my equally limited toolbox for a hacksaw – it would have done the job…but it would have taken me ages, and expended a lot of energy.

Enter the hero of the story, my brother-in-law who, on hearing about my intended endeavors, goes to his garage and pulls out one of these little beauties!

angle grinder

Upshot was that I got the job done in just a couple of minutes and it was loads of fun…so I’ve been dangerously wandering around the garden looking for other things I can remodel 🙂

It’s a simple analogy to what I find so often in my work with managers and leaders – there are some really powerful tools that are the equivalent of a massive power upgrade when it comes to handling their own responsibilities and the day-to-day affairs of the team effectively.

The only way to discover these tools is to pause from the hectic daily activity long enough to find out what they are and to learn how to use them.

That’s all for now – I’m off back to the brother-in-law’s garage to borrow the chainsaw!


Too many chiefs?

March 3, 2015

A quick reflection on what I heard loads over various media outlets last weekend. You may have heard it too if you’re into sports, or just happen to have the radio or TV on at the wrong time! The lament is a familiar one:

“This team needs more leaders!”

One pundit was going on about how when England won the Rugby World Cup in 2003, that was a team full of leaders. Another was adamant that the current England cricket team was ‘sadly lacking leaders’.

On the one hand, no team needs a whole load of ‘classic’ leaders – multiple people trying to set the direction, establish rules, assert their opinions above others. That’s where we get the common refrain “Too many chiefs….”. Too many people wanting things their way and not enough people being team players.

So what do we mean when we say that more leaders are required? It is something right at the heart of my work with organisations and core to the LMI philosophy. We assert that:

“The best organisations develop every person to become a leader. Leadership is not a position. It is a way of thinking, believing and behaving.”

This, and what I think the sports pundits are getting at, is about the attitude and character displayed by team members. Leaders take responsibility. They roll their sleeves up and put a shift in when the odds are stacked against them. They handle disappointment well and can maintain a positive outlook. They make it their role to encourage their teammates. They find solutions to problems rather than complain. They innovate. The do what it takes to get results. They are great people to be around.

Every team does, in fact, need more of these kind of leaders! This is Personal Leadership. It’s not the role you play. It’s the person you are.


10,000 Facts About Keys!

February 10, 2015

I popped in yesterday to a well-known high street store to get my watch strap repaired. The place also cuts keys. Loud and proud on the wall is a big sign:

We know 10,000 facts about keys.

Wow! That’s a claim. I commented to the only guy staffing the shop that I had no idea there was so much to know about keys. His reply was telling:

“There isn’t. I’ve no idea how they came up with that.”

He was clearly fed up with having to explain this to another customer. ‘They’ had done it again. The very use of the word ‘they’ gives so much away. He – the guy on the front line dealing with customers – had no involvement, connection or ownership of what ‘they’ had done.

People don’t so much like having things done to them, or thrown at them. People generally like to be involved, to feel valued and to be treated with a bit of general kindness – especially if they are the ones who have to live with the consequences of what is decided day-in and day-out…which ‘they’ never do.

I’ve seen this kind of thing happen so many times. To manage and lead well takes more time and requires extra effort but the benefits to be gained and the losses to be avoided by doing so are enormous, both on the happiness of staff and the profitability of the business.

It’s a good reminder to us all – Think very carefully before directing a sign to go up in someone else’s workplace that they have had, and want (as they will gladly tell the customers) nothing to do with.


One hour: massive change

December 16, 2014

There’s a problem, a challenge, an issue – something is not right.

It may be a relationship issue with a colleague or a client, a friend or partner. Often it’s a member of our team, or the boss! It may be a process issue, perhaps a ‘how can we get more of xxxxxx?’ or ‘how can we make sure less xxxxx happens?’ question.

Sometimes these things can hang around for months – years in some situations I’m aware of. Some can be very complicated and require an awful lot of work and skilled help to resolve however, an incredible amount – I’m going to make an informed guess of around 80% – of the challenges that you and I face on a day-to-day basis can be massively improved if the relevant parties can sit down, block out all interruptions, get some good coffee…AND TALK. It might take longer or shorter, but aim for an hour.

I’ve seen it with clients. I’ve experienced it myself. If you face something like this, try it. One hour: massive change.