Eight stops to Swiss Cottage

December 8, 2014

The scene was one I’m sure you’re familiar with. Hundreds of people swarming off the train having just arrived at a London Mainline station and rushing on to their familiar short hop on the tube, or outside to jump in a taxi, or perhaps preferring to walk across the City whilst taking in some snapshots of architectural genius…breathtaking creations that are so often missed in the hurly-burly of another ordinary, busy, so-much-to-get-done day in Metropolis.

For me this particular Tuesday it was a little bit different. I’m not incredibly familiar with Central London but I can find my way around OK on my usual routes. Today I was heading somewhere I’d never been before. As I came out onto the main station concourse, I flipped out my phone and opened the Tube Map app to sort out where I needed to be going.

No direct line. Damn. Need to engage brain.

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I stared at the tiny map for an age and was getting nowhere. Way too many options, massive indecision leading to temporary mental paralysis!

Plan B – head down the steps and find one of those large spaghetti maps just before you go through the barriers. That’s better. Make the map larger and it’s much easier to get perspective. Select my line – the first one at least. Choose a destination. Find the platform, board the train and then watch, eagle-eyed, as we pass each station on the way to where i get off.

Time to re-calibrate. Next line. Where am I now? Where do I get off?The big picture map is great but when it comes to making specific progress I need to simplify it right down to a one-line process where I can easily mark my progress.

I’m heading for Swiss Cottage. I’m at London Bridge. That’s eight stops away. In the middle of a million people and ten million thoughts, I need a really simple way of knowing where I am, where I’m going and how many stops to get there.

IMG_2079That’s why I love it when I get to the platform and see one of these maps (eyes right)! Us human beings function much better in the middle of a busy day with the second kind of map rather than the first. Sure we need the big picture and the strategic plan about how it all connects together. All of that should be put together away from the front line where our thinking is clearer and our focus undiluted. Stepping out into the hubbub of the day I need a simple, crystal-clear one page plan that plots my route from A to B and tells me exactly which line I’m on (I don’t want choices now) and how many stops to Swiss Cottage!

Translating all of this into the reality of our lives, our businesses, and all the stuff we have to get done, the obvious lesson is that we need both kind of maps. So many individual leaders and management teams I’ve worked with have struggled to create the proper ‘big map’ or, having done that well, have then failed to translate that on a daily and weekly basis into the single line map that plots the fastest and most effective path from where we are now to the next identified milestone.

One of the most valuable habits to develop in this respect is the ‘Ten Magic Minutes’ – ten minutes spent planning before setting off on the journey of any day to establish what must be done, in what order, in which time slots and exactly what ‘finished’ looks like, or in other words, translating the ‘big map’ into today’s single line. The same thing when you get there – ‘Ten Magic Minutes’ to review, note the escalator repairs at Green Park for the next six weeks and alter the route for next time!  Obvious really, but it’s amazing what comes into focus during an ordinary Tuesday on the London Underground!

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Impossible not to be inspired!

April 7, 2014

Yesterday I completed my first ever proper running event – the Regency 10k in Leamington Spa. I wasn’t going particularly fast or , achieving anything especially impressive compared to the accomplishments of many others in so many different fields of life, but it was something i’d set a goal to do so it felt great to go out and do it. Just for the record, I came 636th!

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What really took me by surprise was the impact that the cheering, shouting and encouraging words from the crowds watching and also the stewards and marshals stationed around the course had on me. It was genuinely very profound and made me want to run faster and push myself to get round in the very best time I could. It was like my own mini London 2012 experience!

I can also recall so many other situations where I’ve been going into new situations in both a personal and professional context and there alongside me was someone significant cheering me on, expressing confidence in my ability to succeed and giving me that undeniable boost that comes when someone else shows belief in what you can do.

In discussions around good leadership and management we talk often about the value of praise, encouragement and reward, but I’m not sure we really appreciate just how much of an impact we can have on those around us. As I discovered in a small way yesterday, it’s impossible not to be inspired when others cheers you along, congratulate you on your progress and urge you to dig in and keep going.

Find someone to cheer on today and see what happens!

 


“Meaningless” and “Unrealistic” Targets

April 4, 2014

One of the news headlines that caught my attention today as I’ve been listening to Radio Five Live on my travels, has been the report that highlights “a culture of fear” within the Met Police, describing many of the targets that were used to manage performance as “meaningless” and “unrealistic.”

My intention is not to judge this particular story, but rather to highlight the fact that I have regularly come across situations where organisations, as well as individual leaders and managers, have been using targets and measures for their own and others’ performance that have been exactly the same i.e. meaningless and unrealistic!

This is not an unusual scenario.

It would be well worth a chunk of your quality thinking time to evaluate whether the things you are measuring and the targets you are setting are the best they could possibly be when it comes to stimulating the activity that is most important for people to be doing.

Why is this so crucial?

Well, the old adage goes, “People do what they like doing and what they are measured on.”

For example, if the managers in your business are only measured (and rewarded) on bottom line results of their project or department and yet you really want them to be investing more in the coaching and development of their team members to increase long-term capacity of the team, there’s a high degree of probability it’s proving frustrating….because the results they are being judged on are different to the ones they are being told are the highest priority. We have an alignment issue.

So, the key questions are:

1) What results do you want?

2) What are the best measurements to encourage and reinforce the behaviour that will drive those results?

Have a great weekend!


It’s all built on trust

March 11, 2014

Personal Leadership demands that trust be present and that’s not always easy. Trust can easily be broken or undermined when things don’t go as we’d hoped they would or the person / people we trusted in don’t act as we’d expected.

This gets right to the heart of the leadership challenge – do I trust my people enough to let them take responsibility for the success and performance of our team / company / organisation?

Many leaders find this really hard and as a consequence are working all hours and handling all the big decisions themselves….and it’s slowing killing them!

The solution then when it comes to developing a culture of personal leadership is setting a course by which trust is gradually given, and earned, in ever-increasing measure. In my experience, most people prove far more trustworthy and capable than was expected. Of course there will be negative experiences and those who let you down, but that risk is definitely worth taking in return for the fantastic rewards of an empowered, creative team of leaders who are daily solving problems, creating solutions, developing new ideas and growing the capacity of the whole organisation through their own personal leadership.


But I’m NOT a leader!

March 10, 2014

I hear this quite a lot. Maybe you do too. Maybe you’ve even said it, or at least thought it on occasions. It’s been said many, many times that we behave in a manner consistent with how we see ourselves. Therefore if I don’t see myself as a leader, I don’t behave like a leader.

It’s really common for big surveys to suggest that most organisations admit they have a leadership gap i.e. not enough leaders to fill the important roles they need filling. Developing quality leaders is therefore an essential task for every owner / CEO / director / senior team. 

I’d like to make it more personal as well though. It’s also an essential task for me…and you. If I don’t think I’m a leader then I won’t lead my own life very well either. I am faced with the huge realisation that I need to take all those fantastic leadership principles and qualities and tactics and strategies that I read about, study and even teach others about, and apply them to my own life. The exciting part of this for business leaders is that the better your people become at leading themselves, the better they are going to be in the workplace too. Developing leaders is a classic win:win and yet so many organisations…and individuals…seriously under-invest in it.

On Thursday this week I’m speaking at the Cherwell HR Club on the subject of ‘Developing a Personal Leadership Culture. It’s really got me thinking. I’ll post some more on this subject as my thoughts develop in preparation for that session. 


Clarify & Communicate Strategy

February 20, 2012

Later this week I am beginning the LMI ‘Effective Strategic Leadership’ programme with a company in Coventry so I’ve been brushing up on the course content and, in the process, the course content has been working its work on me!

Its a five lesson programme which is in essence very simple –

  1. The power of strategic leadership
  2. Strategic purpose: why we exist
  3. Strategic assessment: where we stand now
  4. Strategic development: where we want to go
  5. Strategic execution: making strategy happen

Take the middle three lessons and you have incredibly important questions that have been causing me, and perhaps you as you read this and think about your own situation, to consider carefully the very foundations of why I do what I do.

Whatever you are involved with, implementing a great strategic plan is crucial – but only one you’ve clarified why you exist, where you stand now and where do you want to go.

As you do this, you may well find, as I have these last couple of weeks, that the drive, the energy and the desire to get on and do more, to do better, grows stronger than ever as your core purpose is made more crystal clear than ever before!

Once this step is completed, you can effectively communicate it to others which is always a key to seeing levels of engagement, motivation and productivity soar.