Friday 18 November 2011

The 3rd Alternative- Synergy at Work-Latest Thinking

I'm a great fan of Stephen Covey and have found his books to be highly impactful where my own life is concerned. His seminal work "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" has sold in excess of 20 million copies globally and is a personal favourite of mine.

Habit 6 is about "Synergy". His description of this is the principle of creative co-operation. How to create something with other people that is better than either of you or a group could have achieved on its own. The whole being greater than the sum of it's parts. What he's done is turned Habit 6 into a book and expanded the ideas. The book is called "The 3rd Alternative". Here's a link to Dr. Covey being interviewed related to the book:

Like many great insights it's simple but not always easy. The human condition has us programmed to see things from our own frame of reference. That's ok to a point. We should always have a position and an opinion. Where this falls down is we need to take our thinking to a different level if we want to breakthrough the problem we're dealing with. For that we need a new perspective and greater flexibility in how we look at the problem. This is what I believe Einstein was telling us when he famously said: "We can't solve a problem with the same level of thinking that exists when we begin working on it"

In the area of Negotiation for example, we often enter into things with a view to getting what we want or limiting what other parties might get. This is classically "win-lose/lose-win" thinking. Either way it never feels great and certainly won't build a lasting or meaningful relationship with the other party.

What I like about this thinking is the impact it has on Conflict in the workplace. It invites us to engage with it differently by collaborating instead of competing. He says that all new and creative solutions emerge from this thinking. I agree with him.

Many years ago I made this my default mindset. The payoffs have been massive. I've become more creative and flexible in my thinking as a result. People feel better as they know they're not being used. Also we build the relationship by creating something together that's new and fresh we could not have created alone. I really like this approach as it invariably takes things to a new place, where freshness of thinking and uncovering of possibilities are more the norm. Trust also increases and you add Value. I see nothing but positives from this mindset. I'd encourage you to consider it also.

The one thing that is slightly unattractive about it is you have to invest upfront to get the benefits. When you think about it this is true of all things. In a world where there is a lot of grey and sameness this is also unleashing innovation and creativity at work. We need more of that.

Your observations and comments are as ever most welcome.

Thursday 3 November 2011

Enlightened Detachment- How smart is that!

I subscribe to a series of great resources that support my own learning. Much of it comes in great bite sized learning lessons. This one really resonated with me because it touches the heart of my philosophy about the role of selling in business.
The author is Michael Oliver and he cunningly calls what he does "Oliver's Twist on Selling". It is often very insightful. This one is great and here's the link:

I believe that selling is really straight forward when you adhere to fundamental guiding principles. The key one is to tune into what the client actually wants rather than what you're trying to sell.

Having learned this a long time ago I'm in no doubt it has helped me build a growing and successful Coaching practice. Here's my take on this topic:

1. Everyone wants to be seen as a "Trusted Advisor", yet how many of us are prepared to pay the price to become one with ANY of our Clients...?

2. Selling in the 21st Century is about building Trust and Creating Value. That's about how you "show up" time after time with the same people. They can consistently predict your behaviour in a range of circumstances. It also tests where your priorities lie regarding who's agenda is most important. This takes Character and that has to be earned.

3. It's actually a really smart thing to do! Because it happens so rarely people gravitate towards it when they see it and they are happy to endorse you to other people. So they become advocates for you and want to see you succeed as well.

This is egalitarian in its purest sense, it's free to anyone who cares enough to bother to work and operate in this way. It also role models what's possible and that's Leadership. We always need more of that!

Hope you enjoy the article as much as I enjoyed writing about it! Your comments and feedback are very welcome.

Monday 11 July 2011

How To Get A Real Education

This is a great article from the Wall Street Journal from April I thought I'd blog about. It's by Dilbert (Scott Adams) so that's gotta be worth a laugh! Dilbert is wickedly funny and inevitability scathing. He does always make sense as his wit is not purely observational. It changes perspectives which is more fundamental.This article is brilliant:

It talks about people in school who are not academically gifted but have the kind of intelligence that you need to succeed in business. (Book smarts v street smarts) When people are extremely bright you often can't put them in charge of anything, but they are invaluable team members and often gifted specialists.

Sometimes people can surprise you, as having an aptitude for business is not always easy to spot. Many of them are hard to spot until they get started doing things on their own. I really like his idea of teaching people to "fail as a process". When we do new things they tend not to work up to 9/10 times. This should be seen as ok and necessary. Our egos get in the way when things fail as if it only happened to us and us alone, no way!!

As a Leadership Coach am overwhelmed by the similarity in thinking processes between people. we tend to process in very similar ways, our experiences may inform how we do a task or handle a situation and then the behaviour becomes personalised. we have so much more in common than separates us. As U2 rightly point out we are one but not the same! One of the great decisions I made when I started Coaching was to not take me or my mistakes too seriously (nobody else did!) If I put my energies into understanding hoe to do better next time then the rest was not just in the past but a vital part of my learning. The pay off is great...I recover quicker and get back on track renewed and refreshed that I'd figured out something new and have mastered it. A great feeling!

Alvin Toffler, the famous American writer said "The illiterate of the 21st Century are not those who can't read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn". The one thing the "B" students of the world know is HOW to learn and how to change. That's why they're in charge and will be in the future. We need more than simple cognition and left brain ability to be successful. Sure they get you an entry ticket but they won't win you the game. That requires a different mindset completely. Hope you enjoy the article as much as I did and as always be delighted to hear your views

Sunday 5 June 2011

The Power of Words

I recently came across this video clip on You Tube:

It's only 1min 48seconds long but it's poignant irrespective of how you feel about the people who are advertising. It shows how a blind man who cannot see what someone writes on his sign benefits from the creativity, presence of mind and generosity of a stranger. This stranger who as Jonathan Swift famously said "Saw the same as everyone else just thought something different" and changed this person's day and perhaps their life.

Is this a random act of kindness or just arrogance...? Hard to tell but it is effective. It reminds me of the fact that as a Coach I'm acutely aware that words are powerful when skillfully use and applied.

Many times words needs to be "proofed" and meaning verified as our interpretations can vary so significantly, other times we connect with the wisdom of the Universe. The message is universally clear. That's what happened here and it is simply beautiful. It's almost impossible not to be touched and moved by this scene. It transcends mere words yet the meaning's clear and very moving.

What did you make of it...?

Thursday 17 March 2011

LinkedIn Founder offers us 10 Laws of Entrepreneurship

Came across this recently on my Twitter account which I retweeted and when I looked at it realised it was worthy of a short blog so here it is!

The founder of LinkedIn (the must have professional shop window if you want to be seen and found)is called Reid Hoffman. Here's a link to his article stating his current top 10 laws of Entrepreneurship: .

The article is brief and to the point. It has that decisiveness and incisiveness that's the hallmark of the entrepreneur. The ability to state quickly and clearly what you want to say. Entrepreneurs are often very insightful people, blessed with great clarity on topics they speak about. This is no different. Personally I'm drawn to 1,2 5 and 6.

1 = Create Disruptive Change. One example's reducing the cost of something from €10 to €1, this opens up new markets and new opportunities

2 = Aim Big, so counter intuitive! An entrepreneur friend of mine adds to that 'act fast' which I also agree with.

5 = Maintain Flexible Persistence; understand when to be persistent and when to be flexible. Also when you need to blend these to create something different or fresh

6 = Launch early enough to be embarassed by your 1.0; Most people worry (needlessly) about their reputation. It's almost expected that your first version will have faults in it. Launch it to get it our there and upgrade it on the hoof. That makes so much sense, as the life cycle of most things is shrinking, so capitalise on whatever window you have and move on as fast as your learning allows.

Most of this is not rocket science, but added together and joined up makes a potent mix. That's what makes entrepreneurs stand out. Not alone do they back themselves and their ideas, they just don't countenance failure and their rationale is based on an understanding and forgiving public. Interesting concept, I know I learned hugely from it, what about you...?

Tuesday 1 February 2011

Work-Life Balance- It's about Balance actually!

I was recently approached by a very reputable business to talk to one of their project teams about Work Life Balance-(WLB). It was an interesting exercise. During the course of my research, I spoke to other Coaches, Psychologists and networked with a PhD from Canada who'd written a thesis on the subject. My education on this subject was taken to a new level, a very rich journey. o, what did I learn...?

I learned it's a 3 sided thing. 1. there are global forces at play or local forces which are external to our control. These are only set to intensify and accelerate. 2.then there's the culture of the company one works for. This can be a positive or a negative depending on how in sync our Values are to the operating principles of our employer. 3. finally there's you! Too much of the emphasis I believe is placed on how Technology has lowered boundaries and how external factors/company policies "leave us with no choice". For example, having a Blackberry or iPhone suddenly makes you accessible 24/7. I've had one of these devices for years, and remain struck by how many people fail to treat these devices as servants and not masters.

The biggest challenge I see in this whole area is we don't know how to think about the problems that face us, especially at work. Ok, I concede, work can be complex, with many dependencies and assumptions that may run concurrently. Relationships may not be strong enough to extend the boundaries of trust. The result being we're understated in our approach to ensure we don't make mistakes or offend people. Some of this I buy, much of it I have to challenge because it's irrational and illogical.

Today, we're meant to be better educated, and you'd expect we'd be capable of independent thought. We see ourselves as high end "Knowledge Workers" (we rely on our brains instead of our backs to make a livelihood). Where did it say we have to relinquish CHOICE and the birthright of INDEPENDENT WILL? Have we become eunuchs, emasculated by a hierarchy that is no longer supposed to exist? Why has the Knowledge Worker become a glorified wage slave who has become meek and servile in the process...?

My view is that along the way we've surrendered a vital part of our own identity. That being, the responsibility for our own decisions and actions. We become conditioned into thinking that people make us do things, that we have no choice(s). Perhaps we've been educated beyond the point of independent thought! In many cases we're PhD's without an opinion, without the ability to critically think our way out of even routine problems. Therein lies a massive paradox and a huge irony. Better educated people you'd think would be better thinkers and better decision-makers, but that's not the case.

I'm also of the opinion that the fear that runs through our country and our people is also legitimised and fed by this surrendering of our own identity. Clones don't think for themselves and when you stop doing that other people are running your life. The better educated we are the less capable we become of thinking things through for ourselves. We fail to apply the skills we learn in school to our own lives and we get caught up in a never ending loop of poor decision-making. Who's have thought! This will always lead to bad stress where WLB is concerned. How could it be otherwise..?

In the end we are each responsible for our choices and our decisions. The data shows we can't or don't do that. If we were, we wouldn't have negative equity extending back to house purchases as far back as 2004 or earlier. In one way or another, we've all failed to engage brain before spending in this country in recent years. What I've realised is that having to work harder and longer to nurse these self inflicted wounds is painful but NOT dealing with them is far worse.
I'm a big fan of Stephen Covey. He's right when he says "our happiness is a product of our decisions , not our conditions. It is a product of our decisions BASED on our conditions".

Where then does WLB fit into all this? For many it may seem like a frightening prospect. I disagree that it's Pollyanna like to remain optimistic regarding WLB. If we don't believe things can improve, it's unlikely they will. In fact it's the sanest thing you can do. We shouldn't forget that misery is optional and we always have more choices available to us than we may perceive at any given time. 2 key things I believe make this situation bearable;- DECISION and ACTION. Once we decide on a course of action, our thoughts become clearer and our energies renewed. We sadly never get taught that in school, so we can't understand that NON-DECISION is destructive (you're actually going backwards) and the consequence of inaction is INERTIA. The by product of that is fear and we can't project from our own power if our fears are in the way. We inadvertently render ourselves impotent.

What to do and where to start...? I believe you can't fix what you can't see. What you can't see you most likely don't understand and therefore can't change. Find someone to help you sort out the mess in your own head (hire a Coach, get a Mentor, seek a Network). The help is there, find what works for you. COMMIT to the JOURNEY...your own! Once that happens in earnest as Goethe famously said "once we move, providence does too" and you start to become a force for good in your own life. The other real benefit is you become happier and as a consequence more confident. When I come through such negative cycles in my own mind I always notice how nothing has actually materially changed! The choice to be positive always existed, I just didn't see it or believe it at the time. As Thoreau rightly said "things don't change, we change".

So WLB is actually an OUTPUT. It's not a goal or something ethereal to get lost in. It's what happens as a consequence of doing what's right for you and doing it more, better and faster. Our Universe exists because of balance. We have an internal guidance system that we switch off when it clashes with our poor decision-making until it's screaming deafens us and pain ensues. Then we pay attention because we notice how confused we are! When we learn to listen to that voice in real time we step into the centre of our own Universe and balance begins to happen as we reacquaint ourselves with what's best for us. Over time this just gets better and better. The pain cycles get shorter (we correct quicker) and our decision-making improves. We learn and as we do we become more effective and clearer in our thinking. That way we become better real time decision-makers. The good news is, it's ALL trainable.

Pay attention to the people around you. Those who seem most assured pay attention to this stuff and are people you should get to know. They can teach you much. Like for example, how to reclaim your own life. Then YOU get to decide what the terms and parameters of WLB are. The problem has changed because you now see it properly and are better equipped to put yourself into the equation and balance the tension that invariably exists in this 3 sided dynamic.

Give it a try and see how it can work for you too. Your comments are very welcome.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

What Do YOU Care For...?

The ICF recently started a global campaign called "I Care For..." where Coaches from around the world can speak briefly about what they care for. It's very powerful and moving. In fact it could become a movement in it's own right. The relevance for us here is despite what's going on recently cannot be ignored. We too need to reclaim our own identity and reconnect with our value system and the beauty of our own "Irishnessness"

Here's a link to a site where you can share the view of respected senior Coaches and what they care for;

They say the question is the answer, so in attempt to answer one's own question what do I care for...? In a nutshell "I care for people to step into their own space by engaging with their own story to allow them tell that story to the world". It's been said that the world is full of stories yet the stories are all one. I agree with that, because it means that my story is at one with the Universe and I am an essential part of that 2 way connection. The fact I have my own story makes me unique the fact I have a story make me the same as everyone else. What I feel many people don't get is down to two fundamental questions that are difficult yet essential to answer; 1) What's the meaning of life and 2) what's the purpose of life..?

My answer to these questions is: 1) The meaning of life is to discover your own unique gifts and 2) the purpose of life is simply to use these gifts. The extent to which we engage with our own story fashions the richness of our lives and shapes the nature of our legacy. Legacy is in essence no more than contribution. That invariably means doing things for others (often on a pro-bono basis) which I believe is when we're at our best. That's when we tap into our own uniqueness, when we do this we don't collide with others in the world or the Marketplace because we are "us" and no-one else can do what we do, yet so many of us are afraid or unable to step out of our own shadow.

That's also why so many of us can't answer that question. We have no frame of reference and no sense of who they are so how could we speak with conviction on what we care for. So in these still slightly longer if dank and changeable days we find some time to answer our own unique questions we can add them to the list already existing. If nothing else it's a free exercise in clarity and only good can come from that! There may be 6.8Bn of us in the world but no-one will or ever has had my story so, why would I ever want to die with "my music still inside of me" as Wayne Dyer once famously said? No more than you I wouldn't but why do we wait when we don't know when the clock may stop ticking? So as our American brethren say "go figure..."

Monday 3 January 2011

Awaken The Giant Within- A New Year Gem

I've just started reading this and have to say I purchased it with some reservation. If you're not aware, this is a famous book by Anthony Robbins. I reserve judgement on people whom I perceive to be bigger than their work or the messages contained within. I prefer Stephen Covey for that reason as he walks his talk more and his work is less about him and more about the messages. Tony is a huge personality and a celebrity. I don't have an issue with that per se. He does attract more detractors who are not convinced of how genuine he may actually be....Me...? Right now it makes sense for me to "err on the side of generosity".

As it's New Year instead of droning on about Goals and Plans I thought I'd pass on something significant I learned in the first 50 pages of this book. I liked this and decided to do a blog post about it. His point is simple: To create sustainable Change in your life you need to make 3 fundamental shiftss. Here they are:

1. Raise your standards; By doing this, you make a statement about what you don't want (You tell your brain you're upping your game) This means you take a position on what you want and decide what you're not going to settle for. "In 2011 I will only work with clients who really want to do the work as opposed to people who are willing to pay..." Would be an example of raising your standards.

2. Change Your Limiting Beliefs; If you take a new stance on things, you need to rid your system of the old way of doing things (you need a new mindset and to rid yourself of the fears you had in the past which kept such clients or opportunities from you) You need to work on these beliefs to ensure you don't lose belief in yourself in support of your new standard.

3. Change your strategy; Whatever action you were or were not taking in the past was not allowing you to access this opportunity (perhaps you were unaware of this)You need to devise a new set of actions to support the new beliefs in service of the new standard.

The rest is learning and part of this exercise in to lose the fear of making mistakes. Robbins invokes something Nietzsche once famously said-paraphrase; "when we make a firm decision, providence moves also" I actually believe this has a lot of truth in it. We need a complete system to line us up for success. I will no doubt do more posts about this work or the author! I'm off to put that sound advice into ACTION...What are you waiting for...??!

Monday 27 December 2010

A Most Uplifting and Thoughtful Festive Gift

Sometimes you come across something magical. Here's such a thing! Innocent diners in a shopping mall are treated to a real treat. It looks like people are just spontaneously getting up and singing. They are in fact there on purpose as a "thank you" to one of the stores. What a way to feel loved!

Be still, enjoy and share with others. Have a great Christmas and all the best for a great 2011.


Monday 20 December 2010

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

I've long been a fan of John C. Maxwell. This is not because of who he is (a church pastor) or what he's not (some self-professed guru) but because he has a rare and very special grasp of Leadership.

When you read his work you know there's not just passion but substance, depth and truth. I rate this as a Leadership 101 book and would encourage anyone with Leadership aspirations to not just read this work but become a student of the content and become fluent with the Laws he references. These by the way are not religious laws but laws that are based on facts and principles- in other words they endure.

The reason the book attracted me was his first Law called "The Law of the Lid". This is a great way to check if someone is a leader. Do they spend more time developing their Leadership potential than simply striving to be successful? He uses the McDonald's example. The McDonald's knew how to take their business so far. Ray Kroc (then a 52 year old man with health problems) had the vision to see what that business could become and made that happen. He was a Leader, the McDonald brothers were not. The reality is if you want things to change, grow and get better. The "Leadership Lid" will always be the limiting factor. If you work at raising the lid the effectiveness increases and things change. All things emanate from that.
He says that when you need to change things in a business, team, voluntary group the first thing you need to do is change the Leader. Why?- If the Leader could lead they would be doing it already. They may need help, time to develop, but unless you make changes at the top nothing gets better.

Would you pass the "Law of the Lid" test...?