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
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!
Saturday afternoon I went out running with my youngest son Jonar, who’s 8. We got a bit lost round the woods – I’m not known for my sense of direction despite a Geography degree! – and ended up going quite a bit longer than I’d planned and than I thought he would be able to manage.
Understandably he was flagging as we headed for home. Quick check on the maps app – 1.4 miles from home. It’s raining. I have a very tired and increasingly unhappy child on my hands whom I have to coax home before he gets too cold.
Something really interesting happened. A short way into that part of our run, Jonar recognised where we were. I had been saying it’s not that far and giving out all the right “You can do it” encouragement, but it wasn’t working too well.
Suddenly it all changed! When he knew where we were, he was on familiar ground, energy flowed in quite a remarkable way. We ran that last mile or so faster than I would have comfortably done it on my own! I was genuinely amazed.
Three lessons here that I think are important in how we lead ourselves and our teams in a way that galvanises that extra energy and effort that can make the difference between winning (or surviving) and not:
- Being on familiar territory: create landmarks, familiar habits, systems and ways of operating that breed confidence even in challenging times.
- Knowing exactly how far there is to go: define the end, or at least a definite staging post on the journey towards the end so people understand there’s an end in sight rather than just plodding on endlessly.
- Make a big deal about getting there: celebrate small victories, take a picture, have a meal. It makes a huge difference.
Have a great week!
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.
Following on from the last post about the need for the large Tube map and the single line plan, here’s my ‘Alignment Triangle’ diagram which illustrates an effective process for keeping today’s activity aligned with the’Big Picture’ aims of the organisation. Every company knows they should be doing this, but I’ve come across very few that are systematically implementing this on a continual basis. That’s why a simple model to follow can really help.
The Big Picture – start with defining the Mission, Purpose, Vision and Values (this is no twenty minute exercise – take time to do this well).
Create a Master Goals List – this is the place to record every significant goal that will help move your organisation towards the defined and agreed Big Picture.
Monthly Goals & Priorities – a refined and repeatable format to clarify the goals and priorities for Dec 2014 or Jan 2015 is essential. The Master Goals List will have far too much on it to be able to focus effectively. We suggest a 2 – 3 hour monthly planning process to set each month up so everyone knows exactly what they are shooting for in that 30 day period.
Daily Organising – it’s only when the above steps are done really well that organising your daily activity can be super-effective. Again, a repeatable format for planning your day in line with the monthly goals is essential for optimising performance.