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

Advertisements

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!


The Alignment Triangle

December 10, 2014

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.

Alignment Triangle

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.


3 years, 8 months…and I never knew

August 5, 2013

“I’ve been working here three years and eight months and I never knew how smart he is and what a fantastic job he does.”

Its The West Wing, Series 4, Episode 2. Friends of my wife and I recently got us into this gripping political drama set in the West Wing of the White House. You don’t need to know the story or the characters for this to make sense, but its a great series and well worth checking out.

Josh Lyman is the Deputy Chief of Staff. He, along with a couple of other senior White House staffers, has been stranded on a trip and so Sam Seaborne, Deputy Communications Director has to step in to cover Josh’s role which is to be with the President in his various meetings throughout the day. The meetings come thick and fast, and the variety of issues he is expected to know everything about is just astounding. Sam, who is usually pretty sure of himself, is out of his depth.

This day in his colleague and very good friend’s shoes is a real wake-up call for Sam. He suddenly got a whole new respect for what his close workmate does and realised the pressures they work under and the daily challenges they had to overcome.

The analogy is simple. Empathy is not ‘what would I do if I were them?’, or even ‘what do I think about the job that they do?’

What does it actually feel like to be them, to sit where they sit, to face what they face and to overcome what they overcome? What are their challenges, their hopes, their goals? What is it that obstructs and frustrates them…and why?

Such contemplation could transform many a team…a workplace…a relationship…a family. Worth a try.


Train through the pain

October 20, 2011

I write this as a dad to three kids aged 7, 6 and 4. They constantly amaze me with their desire to do new things, and their capacity to learn new skills really quickly. There is, however, always a temptation when one of them comes and wants to join in some activity or other that I’m doing. They want to understand what’s happening and to play a meaningful part in it whereas I’m usually thinking that I want to get it done as quick as possible and move onto the next thing.

What I’m beginning to realise though is that there are more and more things that, if I’m prepared to take a bit of extra time and show one of my kids how to do it, and then be patient with them as they learn it and practice it, they will then very happily carry on doing so I don’t have to – result! Cutting the grass may be a thing of the past for me by next summer the way its going!

The same can be true in work – its always easy to think it’ll be quicker to just do it yourself BUT if you take a bit of extra time, maybe there’s a load of things that you could delegate to others and with a bit of initial pain in terms of things taking a little longer to train and coach them up to speed, you’ll find a stack of your time freed up for other things….and maybe end up with more motivated, empowered team members to boot!