Monday 28 December 2009

Friendship

A friend is one to whom we
may pour out the contents
of our hearts, chaff and grain together,
knowing that the gentlest of hands will sift it,
keep what is worth keeping,
and with a breath of kindness,
blow the rest away

Monday 21 December 2009

Learning to say 'No'..........

Much of my Coaching work revolves around the ability to communicate effectively and strongly from that place called 'YOU'. For most of us this is a lifetimes work and difficult to achieve alone.

80% of my practice concerns itself with 'Communication and Relationships'. Within that a sizeable proportion of that work is bound up with a challenge in relation to saying 'No'. Why should this be? Is it a cultural thing, a hierarchical thing or just randomly found in individual people? - Hard to say, however I do have an opinion! Saying 'No' EFFECTIVELY is a challenge for most people. It took me a long time to understand that. It implies you have both a good understanding of yourself and an easy/acquired relationship with the world and more especially the world of others!

Dear to my own heart is the notion of 'Win-Win'. I talk about it a lot. This means both sides come out on top. Failure to say 'No' means it becomes a 'Lose-Win'. You lose, someone else wins, often followed by guilt, shame and hurt. Not a happy place, we need to UNLEARN. It's my belief that until you master HOW and WHEN to say 'No' effectively you limit your effectiveness and more importantly your own happiness. In my experience, through this work you will also learn WHY you don't say 'No'. I'm a firm believer in the hierarchy of logic and sequencing of events. Let me explain what I mean and why it's relevant here.
Some things just ARE more important than others (relationships, family, integrity, love) and these things should get priority and appear in the sequence (order) of things before other (less important) things. So why don't we do this more often if it's that simple? That's the point. It IS simple, it just isn't EASY! Anything in life worth having has to be earned and toiled over. Here's the distilled logic as I see it and the sequence. Hope it's useful.
  • Most of us don't know what's IMPORTANT to us (we call these our Values-what we value the most)
  • Without knowing this we fail to develop vital DECISION-MAKING skills.
  • Unless you know what's most important how can you decide and choose?-You can't!!
  • Your decision making becomes INCONSISTENT and UNDER PRESSURE you either cave in to yourself or do someone else's bidding.....How does this ACTUALLY happen??
  • Unless you know what to say 'YES' to how can you say 'NO' with surety and confidence?
  • When you know 'A' is more important than 'B' you can choose 'A' with confidence.
  • Most people don't know HOW to do this and that's WHY they're unable IN THE MOMENT to say 'No'........See, it's simple, just not easy!
  • That's why working with a Coach to help you through this is so powerful. Everything good ultimately comes from this clarity.
  • You become more EVEN, CALM and less CRITICAL, less JUDGING and more UNDERSTANDING. You begin to like yourself and others equally and freely.
  • It's almost like an early glimpse of Heaven! Your STRESS levels reduce and you WORRY less about this. PERSPECTIVE is more omnipresent.

That's what we mean by saying 'life's a journey'. Yet journey implies positive movement towards something and unless we know where we're headed, we're likely to end up anywhere. That's where we end up when we can't say No...we end up NOWHERE.........This is painful work and slow at times, but when you do master it the payoff is a FREEDOM that cannot be bought, only earned. Why I love what I do so much is that is the beating heart of Coaching. A good Coach will help you as I call it 'engage with your own story' and help you understand your own story. When we fail to say 'No' we help someone else write theirs or some version of it . I believe that's why people are unhappy. We ache due to lack of real identity. We spend all day with ourselves yet we barely know ourselves. This is because all the LESS Important stuff is in the way, in front and you can't see anything real. Don't despair, here's a way out and a place to start. You can start anytime and keep coming back till it gets better (you will get derailed, that's normal!)

If you want the life you could have, then start by really engaging with these 2 questions;

Q; What is the MEANING of my Life....?

A; To detect your unique gifts and talents

Q; What is the PURPOSE of my Life?

A; To use those gifts and talents

...........What are you waiting for..............??

Get busy working with your real gifts. When you do, saying 'No' will become a whole lot easier. You only spend 24/7 with yourself, it's not like you don't have the opportunity! I remain convinced being able to look life in the eye and say 'YES' to knowing AND doing both of these things is a passport to happiness, well-being and overall prosperity.

As we approach the festive season and reflect on what we did/didn't do in 2009 remember what John Wayne (I kid you not!) once said "Today is important but not nearly as important as tomorrow. Why? For tomorrow gives us fresh hope , a clean slate and the ability to start all over again" If 2009 wasn't so wonderful don't despair, 2010 can be better. Start by saying 'YES' to Life...Your life!

Monday 14 December 2009

Abraham Lincoln's Leadership Principles

I came across this impressive list of 10 Leadership Principles attributed to Abraham Lincoln and over the coming weeks will include some others (Shackleton's list is also insightful) to develop the Leadership theme and reflect on how little has changed in Principle and how well those Principles still serve. Lincoln himself stated that; 'Practices may change, but Principles never change'

Here's his list of 10 Principles

  1. Surround yourself with whatever talent the given enterprise requires
  2. Welcome, even encourage principled dissent
  3. Timing's not everything but often the difference between success and failure
  4. Exercise selective hearing during a contentious group discussion
  5. Unless absolutely certain be willing to grant benefit of the doubt
  6. Exhaust opponents by listening to them
  7. Appreciate effort but only reward performance
  8. Serve with malice towards none and charity towards all
  9. Lead with 'firmness in the right'
  10. When dealing with forceful personalities, focus on common interests

Much of what's espoused today is already enshrined here.

  • Real conversations-'allowing' the truth to surface
  • Tolerating differences- Today we call that diversity
  • Smart Trust-erring where possible on the side of generosity
  • Performance Management- Appreciate effort but ONLY reward performance...wow!

No wonder these people cast such a long shadow and are justifiably iconic.

Right now my favourite is #6, Exhaust opponents by listening to them. Let them talk their way into capitulation!

What's your favourite & why does it resonate with you?

Monday 7 December 2009

The Eisenhower Matrix....Understand your own 'relationship' with Time

Stephen Covey's credited with devising the 'Time Matrix'. Many of you who've been on Time Management/Personal Effectiveness programmes will know about this. The originator of this was in fact Dwight D Eisenhower, WW2 general and later President of the USA. What he did was brilliant. When presented with a problem he routinely asked 2 questions.....

1. Is this Important..?

2. Is it Urgent..?

If the answer was NO to both he did not get involved! Here's a great 5 min sketchcast which explains the Time Matrix better than anything I've seen or tried myself. Here's the link; http://blog.lodewijkvdb.com/2007/08/sketchcast-2-using-the-eisenhower-matrix.html

Most people who engage a Coach are busy. Good Coaches use this approach as it does 2 fundamental things.
  1. It creates space. This allows room to look at what you do and space to make changes.
  2. It clarifies your own work patterns. These can be difficult to spot accurately on your own.

Without such an approach, you do not have any real framework to make decisions about things. This is an essential building block, it then highlights other areas to work on. Common skill gaps this throws up are; decision making, problem solving, learning how to say 'No', planning, scheduling, diary management. Nothing in itself is a panacea, but with the correct building blocks in the correct order you will improve quickly and continue to get better over time.

What's your own Achilles heel?!

Monday 30 November 2009

Eat That Frog......

As a Professional Coach, I do a lot of work in the area of 'Personal Effectiveness'. This is better known as Time Management, prioritisation and getting thing done. This is very close to my own heart so will post a few similar posts in succession.

Personally, I consider myself as someone who's recovered from 'urgency addiction'! This sadly is also often referred to as the busy fool syndrome. Most of us don't start out being addicted to anything, but our work patterns take over and if we're not aware of this or they go unchecked they can actually work against us. Things like burn out, stress and not coping with work and life can result.

My own dawning came from realising that many people whose energy levels were much lower than mine actually achieved for more, far faster than I did. After I left that place called 'denial' and presumed they were just lucky I did something smart. I approached one of these people and asked for help. This is one of the first things I learned. Here's a video clip that explains what Eat That Frog means.... http://www.eatthatfrogmovie.com/

Procrastination is a habit, and like all habits it can be changed. This requires discipline. Doing the thing you dislike most first sets up your day for success. It usually also was never that bad. We tend to put things off due to either fear (uncertain outcome, unsure of what to do) or boredom (the task is repetitious or dull). Give this a try as the video clip suggests for 30 days and see the difference. I will follow this up with a few more practical tools and some gems by way of advice I've come across..

Let me know how it goes.!

Monday 23 November 2009

The link between Coaching and Leadership Development

Many people forget that the primary reason for Coaching in a Business context is to improve Performance. In my opinion, Coaching should also be seen as improving people's Leadership capability. Coaching is a key process that allows this to happen. Once people grow into a new version of themselves, they BECOME better, bigger Leaders through the experience. This upward spiral of growth allows us see people blossom before our very eyes.

Stephen Covey says "Leadership is essentially a CHOICE, not a position". This makes so much sense to me. This is what we mean when we say Leaders 'emerge'. They don't ask for permission, they see what needs to be done and either do it or see it gets done.
Coaching becomes the vehicle that CLARIFIES what needs to be done and how it should be done. Once this is in place, Leadership then happens as a result of such clarity. So the inference is if people were clearer about things in their own minds they would Lead more often. Seems sensible but why is this not the case? My own belief is this is linked to the following reasons;
  1. Not enough high quality role models for people to study, work with or learn from.

  2. Limiting beliefs; too many capable people discount their own abilities or lack confidence.

  3. Deferring to hierarchy. We still live in a society where permission is sought far too often.

Coaching has a saying, we help people "get out of their own way". When this happens, people are energised and move positively and rapidly towards their goals, with a new spring in their step and no small amount of creativity. For a resourceful Country like Ireland we're not very tolerant of people making mistakes! This seems like a contradiction. Making mistakes is seen as a sign of weakness. Often times capable people don't act just to avoid looking foolish. The sad reality is making mistakes is an essential part of learning. True Leaders allow this to happen in a safe and smart way.

There's an old Chinese proverb that reminds us "the fish always rots from the head". This is because capable people can be shackled by a false perception of their role. They become slaves to conformity and all too often lack the moral courage to speak out, even on issues they're expert in. Leadership is also about having the confidence to speak your mind. If you don't do this why be in the room at all? We mainly regret things we don't do, rather than the things we actually do.

Much of the work of a Coach is simply helping people re-frame what's in front of them so they begin to evaluate options that hitherto were suppressed or just plain new! These 'aha' moments are truly powerful. This is why people don't need to be told what to do! It's so much more powerful when they discover things for themselves. They stand taller, take on a new air of confidence and a new purpose. They OWN that which they've just detected. The really smart ones then learn how to do this with their own people. Whenever you spend time with another person and help them figure out something for themselves, you build a deep bond with that person. This builds up tremendous loyalty. That up-front time is repaid to you many times over. That person is also likely to repeat this process with their own people and credit you with their learning. You get a reputation internally as 'a great Coach'. The ultimate accolade!

Future leaders and High Potential individuals do however need more than just a Mentor. They also need a Coach to help them decipher their own behaviour and accurately interpret what's going on around them. This helps them unpack and unpick complex issues. This allows the Coachee access "the simplicity on the far side of complexity" as Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said. This is simple but rarely easy! A good coach will relish being in this space with you.

In a nutshell, Coaching is the enabler, People Development is the output and Leadership over time will leave a fine legacy.

Your comments as ever are very welcome.

Monday 16 November 2009

The Role of Profiles in Coaching...'Your postcode is NOT your home address'

As a Coach you're 'expected ' to have access to profiling tools as part of your diagnostic work. If you don't know what these are they're simply tools to help people understand themselves better. We each have a preferred way of working and a style. (DiSC, Insights, Myres-Briggs etc)
Have you ever noticed some people just get their heads down and are TASK and DOING people? Others are PEOPLE and RELATIONSHIP types. Others again are STEADY and AMIABLE and yet another group are ANALYTICAL and DETAIL oriented. Which 'type' are you?! There are typically 4 styles and we're all a mix of the 4 but some traits are more pronounced and developed than others. There are no good and bad types only DIFFERENCES! If you learn to accept that you'll save yourself a LOT of grief!

The benefit of knowing our 'type' is it helps us understand our own strengths and soft spots. Once we know this we can do something about it! It can also demystify the 'world of others'. Perhaps they're not quite the tyrants we labelled them. In fact in most cases they're just busy being themselves. There's a great saying in Coaching; "Everyone's behaviour makes sense to them". Another way of looking at this is to accept that they're doing the best they can right now. Perhaps it could improve, but most people are not busy being difficult. They're like you, they're busy being misunderstood! It's one of our deepest needs to feel understood. Next time you come across behaviour you don't understand try saying to yourself..."How very interesting, I wonder what they MEANT by that"? This is a great question and has saved me from jumping to many a wrong conclusion.
Abraham Lincoln once said, where possible, we should grant people the benefit of the doubt. I'm inclined to agree with him. Let me give you a painful personal example!

I asked our then 15 year old daughter to check the DART timetable to see when she wanted to be dropped off at the local station. I went out and when I came back she was on the computer. I ASSUMED she was doing something else. I let her know how unimpressed I was. She explained, the DART timetable I gave her was out of date and she went on line to get the correct information. We're Stephen Covey fans (7 Habits of Highly Effective People). She quoted Habit 5..."Seek first to understand dad"... Plonker Dad!!

When we look to understand the behaviour of others and grant them the benefit of the doubt I find their INTENTIONS are usually honourable. They may make poor decisions and mistakes but work would be less miserable if how we TREATED people at work was more respectful. Many times we fail our people and their mistakes are actually our mistakes (gaps in training or coaching). Relationships would be more ADULT to ADULT. Making mistakes is part of improving. My own line is "it's ok to make mistakes, it''s not ok NOT to learn"

Profiles help by increasing SELF-AWARENESS and EMPATHY. This is the entry point to increasing your own Emotional Intelligence (called E.I.). If you do undertake such a profile do so in context. See it as your postcode, rather than your home address!! Take what's useful and use that to improve. Then use what you're learned to get on with the rest of your day!

What's your feedback on this topic or on any profiles you have completed?

Monday 9 November 2009

Why "Change Management" is an Oxymoron........

I'm a big fan of William Bridges. Many people think the likes of John Cotter and Spencer Johnson are the gurus where 'Change' is concerned. Much as I rate and value their work, Bridges messages are more pertinent and fundamental. Let me tell you why. Bridges demystifies Change BECAUSE he looks at it from the point of view of the least powerful people in any Change situation. This is the group upon which the entire Change effort depends. Who are these people? They are the silent majority. The people who do the work. The people on whom we rely on most to change, yet invest in the least. We're missing a trick and we don't even know it.

He makes 2 great points. They are linked, but separate.

Don't confuse CHANGE with TRANSITION.......The man's a genius! So what does he mean?

Change is what's demanded by external factors. The economy, competition, credit crunch, internal reorganisation etc. The reason why Change needs to take place. 90% of all change efforts are directed here...WRONG CHOICE!!!!

Transition is about the individual change journey people undergo........Aha. No wonder people resits change so much, it's being done to them and they're being managed through it. Yet one of the fundamental principles of Change is that when people are involved in decisions they're not only co-operative, but often go beyond the call of duty to support the change effort..........

This begs the question then why don't we spend 90% of our time, effort and resources supporting the journey of the silent majority?.... I believe it's because we foolishly think 1 of 2 things;

1. They're too stupid to understand so we'll tell them what to do (get them on board, wink, wink)
2. This way will be quicker...........(how painful the other way will be. We'll keep one step ahead)

Even as I write this the stupidity of it registers with me. No wonder so many change initiatives fail...They're loaded with design faults!! Bridges refers to most programmes as being "change heavy and transition light"

In my own time as a Consultant, one of the things that struck me was I thought we were delivering change. In fact I finally realised we were getting through programmes of work through the medium of compliance. It was also really hard work and not very gratifying!

Whether we like it or not this principle is true for most people; "fast is slow and slow is fast". Speeding through change makes about as much sense as trying to reduce the pregnancy cycle from 9 months to 6 or accelerating through the grieving process. Just because it's work doesn't make it any less personal. In fact it may take longer depending on the person and the situation.
Change is often associated with loss (losing offices, losing staff, losing customers, losing status, downsizing, doing more with less, losing routine etc). Cattle prods don't really work in this space. What does work is, 1 to 1's, asking questions, seeking to understand, displaying empathy. Da Vinci famously said that everything links to everything else, that's what you need to do with people here (join up the dots!). The key skill is not to assume you know how to do this (what's best for others, how they'll react etc). Show some humility and respect to ask some questions, listen, and process the answers you get back. Then act on what you're told, mainly by doing what you say you'll do! This is how Trust is built....Why else should people believe that the new world will be better, safer than the old?

I liken this to my own reflections on how many times I've extended Trust to others and how many times I've been "turned over"...Overall it's less than 10%. When we extend trust and genuinely get people on board Change is more like water over stones than rolling huge boulders up big hills.

When you apply the 80/20 rule to Transitions instead of just to Change, you start off on the right foot. Change will still be challenging, but you are at least working on the right things instead of scoring own goals and fighting a rearguard action..........Go on share your own war stories!

Monday 2 November 2009

Emotional Intelligence (E.I.)....'Cracking' The Glass Ceiling

Having recently done an Emotional Intelligence (E.I. ) profile, it got me to appreciate more why E.I. has finally come of age. Interestingly, the book Obama took to the White House to guide his Presidency also has this as a central theme. This book's called "Team of Rivals" (It's based on the life and political genius of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln's now recognised as having had extraordinary E.I.) This I found telling and it actually offers us an interesting insight into the psyche of Obama.

It also got me thinking. ALL the really great Leaders, past and present are/were blessed with extraordinary E.I.-Look at our best examples from recent history; Kennedy, Gandhi, Covey and now Obama. This is not a panacea in itself but it takes your Leadership to a different level. It's also no accident!

My own view is this is what Jim Collins means by the difference between "good and great". Greatness is a factor of who you are as a Leader multiplied by what you can deliver.
Such Leaders happens to be nice guys who stand for something. They get things done and you just know they're going places. They don't make much noise, neither will they be pushed around. They get results and respect by who they are and how they handle themselves instead of any formal reliance on power or position.

We all know interpersonal skills are vital to get on in the world today. Why then do so few people excel in this area? I believe the problem is 2 fold (1) Lack of understanding of the significance of this survival skill and (2) Limiting beliefs-(The Glass Ceiling- i.e. it is what it is and can't be improved.) The real attraction of E.I. (unlike I.Q.) is it can be improved and honed with practice. Get yourself a great Coach to work with you on this. It's unlikely you can do this on your own.

So what is this much vaunted E.I. anyway? In a nutshell it's about 2 things;
- Self-Awareness (Tuning into you;- your moods, your reaction to things, your feelings etc)
- Empathy- (Awareness of others, the ability to see things from other people's perspective)

It's been said that in terms of overall success in life, the breakdown is as follows;
  • I.Q.- 30%
  • EXPERIENCE- 50%
  • E.I.- 20%

I had a lengthy and pretty senior Corporate career and I vividly recall 2 thing;

  1. Capable people were removed from Succession planning lists because they lacked E.I.

  2. The Perception of someone's 'promotability' was always linked to their people skills. (i.e. can they bring their people with them?)
Where Corporate fails is it does not intervene in a constructive way to address the challenges. The sub-text is invariably Darwinian- "If they're smart enough, they'll figure it out". This is not how this works....Why...? People can't figure this one out on their own...You need help to see yourself and others in a fresh light. This is the gateway to progress and real change.

If this skill can be acquired, then it's a training, commitment and resource issue. The barrier then is mainly time and a little finance. I know if I had a top class Coach when I hit my own Corporate wall I could have extended my own career and contributed more. The problems at that level are invariably interpersonal. What's this costing Business in terms of productivity, creativity and overall employee engagement?

The reality is Business does not know how to deal with this problem. This is mainly because it does not see it. You can't develop talent if you don't have a high E.I and the requisite skills. Yet so many people are not prepared to pay the price to increase their understanding of themselves and the people they interact with. Really enlightened people make time for this and are smart enough to know it's important.

2 Questions you should consider;
- If your own career has hit the "corporate wall", what are you doing about it yourself?
- If you have people around you who suffer with poor interpersonal skills and low self-awareness, what are YOU doing to help them?

Both are Leadership responsibilities and both are often "Important, but not Urgent"...The problem is if you leave them long enough they become critical issues and then remedial action is often too late.
As Yogi Berra once famously said; "You can learn a lot just by looking". Try using your 2 ears and 1 mouth in that ratio and listen more than you speak. This is a great discipline. Try this for 1 week and keep a log of what you learn...I bet you'll not only be surprised but amazed and shocked in equal measure!

Good luck, let me know what you learn!

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Have you noticed, ALL the great Performers have a Coach...??

This question crossed my mind when I came across a 1 minute video clip from Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google on why he hired a Coach in 2002 and has used him ever since. Check out this short video link; http://video.aol.com/video-detail/schmidt-everyone-needs-a-coach/35310649 Eric Schmidt admits to having been 'surprised' when it was recommended he 'Get a Coach' when he took over as CEO at Google.

His reaction's typical....'there's nothing wrong with me, I don't need a Coach'. Some questions a Coach could offer are; 'How will you improve? How valuable is perspective to you in objectifying your own decision-making? Who internally can you rely on to be bias free and offer you consistently accurate reflections? Usually nobody internally can do that consistently due to conflicts of interest. This is the value of Coaching and the closer you get to the apex of a business, the greater the impact. In my opinion in a few years time, having your own Coach will be as common as having your own GP.

Tiger Woods has a Coach, so does Roger Federer. Bjorn Borg, the first tennis superstar had one back in the 1970's. Ronan O'Gara and Jonny Wilkinson have kicking Coaches. Behind all great performers are great Coaches. None of them is particularly well known outside of a close circle. Most never excelled at the sport they Coach. Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United Manager's a rare exception. He fronts the team as Manager and is also involved in Coaching , so his role is different. His driving personality is a vital part of the team's success, yet he was never a great player himself. The best Coaches rarely are. It's a different skill set that's required.

Think about this, who coaches Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Tiger Woods or Padraig Harrington...? We don't know their names. All we do know is they're pretty amazing at what they do! Why...? They have a deep understanding of the person they're Coaching. They excel in their understanding of performance and all know their sport inside out. Coaching's a contact sport, it's experiential and to be successful as a Coach you really, really have to both love and 'get' people.

I was asked recently what the difference was between a Coach and a Consultant. I referred them to this definition; "A Consultant will tell you what you need to know...a Coach however will ask you the questions you need to answer for yourself". In a world where clarity is king that really nails it. A Coach is not an expert in your business per se, but an expert in people and over time, applies a deep understanding of you as the Client to the situations you find yourself in and the patterns of behaviour you exhibit. In my past I was a Director within the Medical Device industry and later on in Management Consultancy, so I can draw on that background to inform my Coaching. It does not lead or govern the interaction. It helps me empathise with my Client. Take the crucial activity of skill development- (i.e. an ability to learn about yourself and try out new things) being able to do this in a safe environment is vital. If I've been in a similar situation how to frame the questions is key, so they're not directive. Having a dedicated time and space where there is no judgement, shame or foolishness, allows learning to take centre stage as the 'critical essential'. A good Coach provides a 'channel' for this work to flow through.

The biggest challenge I see with Leaders today is they are very driven but often have paid too little attention to understanding themselves or the world of others. This makes life very difficult. Egos tend to get in the way. Due to limited self-awareness this blind spot goes unnoticed and unchecked. Many such Leaders under pressure, resort to directive styles of behaviour. This really does not work anymore. Today we rely on co-operation (win-win), teamwork, people going the extra mile in order to get ahead and succeed. This is a very long way from what many Leaders have grown to rely on. When words and behaviours differ, people see through that straight away and trust ebbs away....No wonder Leadership can be lonely! Coaching can draw a spotlight to such practices and behaviours which when seen by their 'owner' are powerful motives for real change and new levels of insight for the Client. Ownership happens, things get named. These are 'wow' moments in Coaching when real 'shifts' take place. When we begin to see things differently, behaviour and results follow suit.

Coaching is essentially a relationship and what's role-modelled there can act as a template for what's desired in the future. Through this relationship you learn how to make that happen and get clear on what's required to move to a new and better way of working. The beauty is you mainly work this out for yourself. The journey towards this clarity provides the steps to take to be successful. This allows meaningful long term change to take place. The person being Coached develops new insights into themselves and that clarity provides new energy and impetus to act with integrity in a new and often creative way. In this space people move very quickly. The role of the Coach is really in assisting as a partner. This style of Coaching is called 'co-active'.

A Coaching colleague of mine described it thus "Coaching is not magic, but something magical happens". It's where change meets performance and you get a sense of your own real potential. The real beauty of what happens is that you become addicted to being and acting like your real self in real time... all the time. That's why such Leaders don't need to work with cue cards to ensure they're 'on message'. They are the message and they're on it all the time. People gravitate to that. It's ultimately how Leaders attract followers.

........As a Leader, what would this type of relationship allow YOU to create...?

Monday 12 October 2009

Potential v Performance (P=p-i)

This is a great and really simple principle which explains beautifully what Coaching is all about. One of the founding fathers of Coaching, Tim Gallwey, was the first person I heard talk about this principle. This is the link to his site; www.theinnergame.com. His findings are as fascinating today as in the 1970's.
He was a tennis coach and he found when people learned how to learn and tuned into the present moment their game improved. When they focused on what WORKED for THEM instead of MAKING MISTAKES their game improved remarkably. See how this is so useful at work??!

This got him to think that there is a real link between what goes on in our heads (our Inner Game) and what's happening in the environment (the Outer Game). P= p-i was born. So what does that actually mean?

P= Potential (what we're capable of doing when we perform at our best)
p= performance (what happens in a given situation. Meeting your boss, giving a speech etc)
i= interference (any factor, internal or external which affects performance)

In a nutshell this means we can perform to our potential all the time if we don't let things interfere with our performance...! When training to become a Coach this was a 'Wow' moment. It really crystallised things for me. A good Coach helps you understand your own interferences and helps you put in place strategies that will work for you to overcome them.

If we continue to do this regularly we manage our own limitations and over time turn weaknesses into strengths. Try it out and see what it can do for you.

Friday 2 October 2009

Doing a DEAR..........

Do you ever 'do a DEAR'..?
Of course this is an acronym which I thank a Coaching colleague for. DEAR is simply "Drop Everything And Review''

  • Are you addicted to urgency (always firefighting?)
  • Do you get stressed in a way that prevents you from thinking straight?
  • Are you continually battling with 'overwhelm'...?

If so, take a quick time out and assess the situation. As a Coach you develop some powerful questions for these situations. Here are a few you can ask yourself;

- What's the most productive thing I can do right now?

- If I could only focus on one thing right now what would that be?

- Who do I know who operates really well in this type of situation- what would they do?

This is a simple technique that can give you back vital perspective and get you back on track. If you take it seriously you will, over time, reform the way you think, and operate. Your productivity and overall effectiveness will go up exponentially.

Hope it works for you too!

Friday 25 September 2009

What STAGE of Development is YOUR business at?

I learned an invaluable lesson this week, one that pulled me off the edge of the precipice! These are tough times and this economy is tightening further. Therefore the speed of reaction is more important than ever. Guess that's why they rate adaptability so highly huh?!

Then I read this excellent article; http://www.dceb.ie/news/susan-spences’s-ten-tips which brought the reality surrounding my own business into sharp focus. I didn't realise what STAGE of development my own business was at. Apparently there are 3 stages;

1. Survival (This can generally take 3 years) Do you have recurring revenues, can you predict income?

2. Sustainable (A key objective has to be the ability to generate recurring revenues, pay per use, book deals, repeat orders/contracts) You may need multiple income streams to achieve this.

3. Expansion (then back to sustainable) This may mean you have to Internationalise to break into bigger markets. Irish people are gregarious and have good interpersonal skills. This gives us a competitive advantage.

Susan Spence- Group Director of Softco offers Ten Top Tips they are included in the link above.

When something resonates the second you read it you know it's true and great advice. I've taken it....how about you...?

Friday 18 September 2009

The Golden Rule gives way to the Platinum Rule

I came across a saying recently worthy of a short blog post. Many of us are familiar with the 'Golden Rule'- 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'. Nice when it happens! The Platinum Rule goes a step beyond that. It states: Do unto others as they would do unto THEMSELVES'.
That got my attention and it takes your assessment and awareness processes to another level altogether. It also shifts the emphasis away from yourself by factoring in the needs and wants of other people. So this actually just 'saves me from myself !'

When playing with this new learning during the week, I was struck by 2 things I feel I got 'for free' from this insight;

1. It neutralised my own agenda and helped give me a more balanced perspective.

2. It also helped my decision-making and saved me from the trap of needlessly short-changing others.

Look how the emphasis changes when you alter just 1 word -'you' to 'themselves' !. Try it out, it may also work for you.

Friday 11 September 2009

There are only 2 Types of Business

Several years ago, back in my J&J days, our European President was commenting on the Dot Com boom of the late 90's. He was not impressed. Being Sicilian he was both reflective and directive!. "Alasdar, " he said,"there are only 2 types of Business, good business and bad business. This looks like bad business to me". How right he was! I've used this thinking ever since.

Our Country GM had another reflection. He described the way he was trying to lead our business as; "Enlightened Self-Interest". It struck me both observations were insightfully correct and peculiarly they were also linked. The link is the first calls for sound business judgement and an ability to look under the bonnet of what's on offer. Then apply clear thinking and sound perspective. The second can be layered on top of that to inform HOW you do business. These together shape your credibility as a Leader. This is how great reputations are built. All legacies depend on it.
Today in business, this is often called 'win-win'. I'm a big fan, let me tell you why. When you adopt this as a way of life, you get good business discipline for free. Your focus is on adding Value to the agenda of your clients. This negates any tendency towards self-serving behaviour. Your success then is an OUTPUT of that process. It's how all positive relationships are built and nurtured. In my experience, people respond to that and personally, I feel more effective and congruent working in that way.

Sometimes in life you need an exception to prove a rule. The global Banking crisis is a prime example Have a look at this satirical story told using cartoons. http://docs.google.com/present/view?skipauth=true&pli=1&id=ddp4zq7n_0cdjsr4fn
This highlights what happens when these principles are violated.

Your comments as always are welcome.

Monday 31 August 2009

S.U.M.O.

A Coaching colleague of mine introduced me to the S.U.M.O. concept. It raised a smile so, thought I'd share it. It's an acronym and is entirely appropriate to help us move out of the 'Shock, Denial' syndrome we find ourselves in here in Ireland after so many prosperous years. It can relate equally well to any set of circumstances where you need to just 'get a grip'!

So what does it mean...?
S.U.M.O. means 'Shut Up Move On' It's written by an author called Paul McGee and is an easy read. There's a time for reflection, sadness and wonderment regarding our current situation but we also need to be realistic and accepting of things. This is especially true for things outside our control (the economy, negative media etc). Things don't always go according to plan. When they don't, they get better quicker when we adapt to our new circumstances. By managing ourselves and our emotions towards our personal goals, this enables us to get us back on track. Sometimes we take our setbacks and ourselves too seriously. I learned nobody else does! A lot of work is being done at present in terms of 'resilience coaching' which is in the same arena.

The most successful people are not blown off course less........they simply correct and get back on track FASTER, (we control that by the way!). So, if you feeling a bit hard done by, give yourself a quick talking to, dust yourself off and get back on the horse. Smile as you learn, it makes it all more fun!
If you've read the book or used the concept I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday 19 August 2009

Eliminating the Fear of Failure

Eliminating the Fear of Failure

"Today's scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments, and they wander off through equation after equation, and eventually build a structure which has no relation to reality." Nikola Tesla
Here are some ways you can use meaning-making to instantly reduce (or even eliminate) fear of failure.
In the domain of science, an experiment is an approach for acquiring deeper knowledge about the world, while setting out to solve a particular problem or answer a particular question. Scientists design & perform experiments in order to find out what happens.
Experiments don't succeed or fail per se - they just have an outcome, revealing something about the world in the process. The insidious fear of failure

Lots of people set goals of one sort or another to help live the kinds of lives they desire. Yet all too often, goal-setting can be "corrupted" by fear of failure, which can...
· Stop people setting goals in the first place
· Put so much pressure on them to succeed that they crumble
· Create a focus on failure that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy
In addition, we've all been told how useful it can be to...
· "Detach from result" & "enjoy the process"
· Believe that there's no failure, only feedback
· That you only fail if you don't learn
However... if it's your 15th time trying to stop smoking, or your weight is still yo-yoing after 200 diets, or you're still broke despite setting big-hairy-goals to make a billion dollars, these aphorisms may fall a bit flat.
Here's an alternative. You can frame goals as experiments.
You can frame goals as experiments
Instead of framing goals as win/lose, succeed/fail affairs, you can frame them as experiments.
1) Read the following goal-pairs out loud & find out how they feel different to you...
Success frame
I want to get super fit & healthy, eat nourishing food & look stunningly great.
Experiment frame
For the next month, I want to find out what happens when I avoid sugar, eat plenty of protein & slow carbs, & take regular exercise.
Success frame
I want to become fabulously wealthy.
Experiment frame
For the next 90 days, I want to find out what happens when leave my credit cards in a drawer, live only on cash, & spend 20 minutes a day taking action on increasing my financial intelligence.
While the "success frame" goals can be quite exciting & motivational, they also run the risk of activating the succeed/fail polarity - fear of failure. While it's really useful to set big motivational goals, it may be worth then reframing them as action-oriented experiments.
Why? Because an experiment means something different. The purpose of an experiment is for discovering something, learning something about the world (and yourself).
2) For some change you want to make or goal you want to achieve, find out what happens when you frame it as an action-oriented experiment.
"OK" I hear you say "But what if the thing I'm afraid of failing it is bigger than an experiment. I want to embark on a new career, but I'm worried that if I screw it up, I'll wind up broke & at the bottom of the career ladder."
I was saying goodbye to a friend of mine recently, & I said "Take care." He replied to me "Don't take care - have an adventure."
In cases where an experiment isn't quite enough, you may need something bigger. An adventure!
You can always have an adventure
It's possible to frame any endeavour as an adventure.
· Want to try out a new career? You may love it, or you may loathe it, but either way, you'll have an adventure.
· Want to quit your job & sail around the world? You'll have an adventure.
· Want to start your own business? You'll have an adventure.
· Want to leave a relationship? Or start a new one? You'll have an adventure.
These days, I see my life as one big adventure. The great thing about this is that it doesn't require things to turn out a certain way. After all, adventures are full of twists & turns of one sort or another.
3) If you wish, you might like to find out what happens when you frame life as an adventure.
"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure."Helen Keller

Friday 14 August 2009

This is a timely and beautiful story that puts the struggle with life into perspective using nature as the subject. Hope you enjoy it..!

THE BUTTERFLY

One day a small opening appeared in a cocoon.
A man sat and watched for the butterfly for several hours
as it struggled to free its body through that little hole.

Then it seemed to stop making progress.
It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could
and it could not go any further.

So the man decided to help the butterfly.
He took a pair of scissors and opened the cocoon.
The butterfly then emerged easily.
It had a shrivelled body and small crumpled wings.

The man continued to wait;
because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would open, enlarge and expand to be able to support the butterfly’s body and become firm.

But nothing happened! In fact the butterfly spent the rest of its life creeping around with a shriveled body and crumpled wings. It was never able to fly!

What the man, in his kindness and goodwill, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were nature’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings, so that it would be ready for flight once it had achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in life.
If we were allowed to go through life without any obstacles, it would cripple us.
We would not be as strong as we could have been. Never able to fly.

I asked for Strength and I was given difficulties to make me strong.
I asked for Wisdom and I was given problems to solve.
I asked for Prosperity and I was given brain and brawn to work.
I asked for Courage and I was given obstacles to overcome.
I asked for Love and I was given troubled people to help.
I asked for Favours and I was given opportunities.

I received nothing I wanted.
I received everything I needed.

(Source unknown)

Friday 7 August 2009

Chillax- It's SLOOOOOOW TIME!

Our daughter, uses the teen expression 'CLILLAX' to get us parents to calm down and get a grip. It seemed in perfect union with the season and (this week's weather!).
This is an article that might strike a note............Enjoy!!

IT'S SLOW TIME; Decelerate Your Life If You Want to Achieve More, Says OCTAVIUS BLACK of the 'Mind Gym'.

A QUIET revolution has been occurring in some circles. While we rush around feeling that if we are not frazzled we are being lazy or falling behind, some chic, achieving urbanites are taking life at a distinctly slower pace.
But far from dropping out, or downshifting - the term used to describe people who give up a demanding profession to start an organic vegetable patch in Shropshire - they are still working, and becoming more successful than ever.
Strange as it may seem, the psychological research shows that we're more likely to enjoy our lives and achieve our goals when we rush less and consider more. There's evidence, too, that slowing down our approach to life can make us more creative and efficient.
Research suggests the brain has two modes of thought.
In his book, Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind - Why Intelligence Increases When You Think Less, British psychologist and Chairman of The Mind Gym's academic board, Guy Claxton, calls them Fast Thinking and Slow Thinking.
Fast Thinking is rational, analytical, linear, and logical. It is what we do under pressure, when the clock’s ticking and delivers clear solutions to well defined problems.
Slow Thinking is intuitive, woolly and creative. It's what we do when the pressure is off.
Carl Honore, author of the book ‘In Praise Of Slow’, says 'Getting stuck in fast-forward takes the pleasure out of life.
Eureka moments seldom come in a fast-paced office or a high stress moment.'
However, 60 per cent of women report feeling continually short of time; the average couple manages to spend only two hours a day together; and 'more time' is one of the most popular items on our New Year wish lists. Slowing down seems almost impossible.
However, it is possible to take back control. Here are five practical ways to achieve more by slowing down.
TAKE PLEASURE
CARL HONOR... started the Slow Movement when he caught himself speed-reading his daughter's bedtime story. In his desperation to pack more and more in, he realised that he'd forgotten the reason why he was doing things. Whether it's a delicious dinner, a country walk, don't just go through the motions of completing the task - enjoy it.
LET OTHERS RUSH IN
The passionate risk-taker may succeed in films, but it's those with stamina and staying power who come out on top in the real world. The wise person lets others rush in, and then learns from their expensive mistakes.
In economic history, the only major example of a successful business that was first to market is Xerox, with the photocopier. They were also first with mobiles and PCs. Not that it bothered Nokia or Dell.
LISTEN LONGER
THE major difference between doctors who get sued by their patients and those who don't is how much time they spend listening - even when there's no difference in the treatments.
The time and pleasure dividend you will get later, will more than make up for a few extra minutes listening to your lover's woes or your colleague's extravagant tales. You might even learn something useful.
SET AN ALARM
SPOT where rushing often means you make mistakes: leaving your keys at home, your mobile on the bus or your shopping list in the car.
Pick a physical object that you are likely to see on these occasions and use it as an alarm call to prompt you to slow down. Your toothbrush could be the trigger that reminds you to ease your early morning dash.
BE A TIME DOVE
NO ONE has enough time to do everything.
Some people are content with this. They recognise that, just like the fact that there is only one ace of spades in a pack of cards, having to work out how best to use our limited time is part of the game of life. These people are the time doves. The time hawks, on the other hand, are constantly frustrated there isn't enough time. In a desperate attempt to be perfect, they try to do it all, and often end up doing it all badly.
ARE YOU A RUSHAHOLIC?
TO FIND out how much you feel the need for speed, fill in the questionnaire below. State the extent to which you agree with the following: * I underestimate how long it will take me to do something.
* I tell myself to speed up.
* I am known for being busy by friends and family.
* I worry about the next thing I should be doing.
* I often have to go back to get something I have forgotten.
* I eat on the move.
* I fail to notice beauty until someone points it out.
* I get impatient when I watch someone else doing something that I could do faster.
* I try to multitask.
* I tap my fingers/ jiggle my feet.
* I finish sentences for other people.

Score the above as follows: Always 5 Often 4 Sometimes 3 Rarely 2 Never
. If you skimmed each question and answered it almost before you'd finished reading it, add 5 . If you read each question and thought for at least a second before answering, add 3.
. If you read the question slowly and thought about each answer for at least a couple of seconds, add 1.
WHAT THE SCORES SUGGEST...
40-55 Harried and hurried YOU are a rushaholic and, if you scored in the top half of the scale, may be an adrenaline junkie, too. What requests can you say no to? Can you build in some down time between commitments? Sure, being busy is fun, but when you're feeling battered and beaten you may feel it's time to trade in for a calmer karma.
25-39 Pause and pace YOU are susceptible to becoming a rushaholic but the good news is that you aren't one, yet. Don't get caught in the speed trap where you assume that by doing things faster you will automatically get more done. Enjoy the times when you are feeling unhurried and pay attention to the times when you aren't. Make sure that you allow yourself time to reflect.
11-24 What's the rush?
HURRYING is not an issue for you. You may get accused of dawdling every now and then, and others may sometimes consider you slow. However, as long as you are using your more measured pace to think before you act, enjoy the pleasures around you, and give your undivided attention to what you're doing, you're onto a very good thing. There is a difference between not rushing and grinding to a halt. Be careful not to lose impetus altogether.
* DISCOVER hundreds more ways to find time in The Mind Gym: Give Me Time, published by Time Warner and at http://www.themindgym.com/

Monday 27 July 2009

The Forgotten Art of Thinking

Since becoming a full-time Coach, it's become apparent to me that in Business the most critical ability we have is our thinking ability. Thinking is vital if we want to become skilled at solving problems. Yet so few people either realise that or have much skill in HOW to Think. Yet when you learn how to think, many things become easier. As F.Scott Fitzgerald once said: "The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposite ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function".
These are spurs that must be earned. But like all muscles, our thinking muscles can also be developed and improved over time!
Here are some 'critical essentials' as I rate them and simple things you can do right away to get the ball rolling.

1. Separate yourself from the issue at hand. Create THINKING SPACE. Remember to MANAGE your EMOTIONS. (Are they helping or hindering?)
2. FRAME the problem. Ask yourself "What's the crux of this matter?"-What needs to be decided here? Am you solving the right problem? Separate issues from each other.
3. Start to DEFINE the problem/issue using all the available information. I challenge myself to 'refine to 1 line'.......Then I really understand the ESSENCE of things!!
4. Am I looking at the simple and obvious things FIRST?- Thomas Jefferson advised us to "grab the problem by the smooth handle"
5. Do I have enough INFORMATION or experience available to make an informed choice?
6. Are there different OPTIONS available? Am I being objective and balanced here?
7. Have I come across this before in another guise- What LESSONS can I draw from previous experience?

As a Coach you must excel at thinking. You of course are not doing the thinking on behalf of your Client, but, you have to be able to assimilate, distil, synthesise and associate quickly to be useful to busy Executives whose lives move and change very quickly. As a Coach, when I'm most effective is when I think clearly and frame accurately. This allows you trust your own judgement and feel confident you have your 'arms round the topic' under discussion.
People come to a Coach with complex problems they cannot resolve on their own. It may be in the form of a convoluted 'people issue', an Organisation Chart, a Strategy Document, a handed down Executive decision that they struggle to interpret clearly. You have to be comfortable in this space as a Coach and feel capable of what I call 'beating the problem while understand the person in it'. That's complex, but a great achievement when you finally achieve clarity. A coach is essentially as Plato said " a midwife to understanding". An enabler of clarity and someone who runs alongside you as an equal partner, co-creating the desired outcome. That's essentially how Coaching is different to other disciplines. I studied Six Sigma and Strategic Marketing academically and have those to thank for helping me HOW TO THINK. What helps you to think and gives you comfort you understand your issues properly???

Wednesday 22 July 2009

The Changing Role of the Professional Coach...

As this economy becomes tighter and the cycle continues to be unforgiving, the role of the 'Executive Coach' has changed and needs to evolve with the conditions.

Whether you're working with a Coach or thinking about it, here are a few reflective pointers I think are relevant to the discussion. For many of course what I'm advocating may well be the norm.

  • Coaching is about CHANGE and in a work context it usually involves being able to either acquire new skills or effect a step change in PERFORMANCE in some area of your work. .....ACTION is required!
  • A good Coach should be comfortable in holding 3 way conversations. (called tri-partite contracting) This involves you-the Coachee, the Organisation and the Coach. The essence of good Coaching is CLARITY- A good Coach must inspire confidence in all their dealings with you and the Business.
  • A Coach must be able to decipher the needs of the Organisation, understand where you are in that equation and with you, devise a Coaching Plan that allows you meet those expectations in a way that positively impacts your Performance. That's why Coaching is both Valued and Valuable (prized and priced) 1 to 1 Rolls -Royce treatment!

  • Coaching is usually 1 to 1. When effective, it can impact 30/40 others where more Senior people are involved. If this is not happening, you're probably NOT being Coached. You should challenge that. Effectiveness is not just in the 1 to 1 outcome but more so the wider organisational IMPACT of this quality work

  • Much of Coaching is about understanding you in a given situation or with others when you just don't 'play at your best'. Your Coach should be able to help you cross that divide from one side to the other. I call this 'partitioning' my work. We move from understanding you in a situation to HOW to play at your best with this situation/relationship in the future. It may require some SKILL BUILDING. Your Coach should have ideas of what may work and know how to tailor to best suit your needs.

  • A good executive Coach should have an extensive business background to draw from and be able to accelerate you acquiring these new skills. A good coach should be able to talk about models, frameworks approaches for your problem. If not there and then, they should be able to find useful information for you

  • Because you're busy, a good Coach will have more time than you (that's part of what you pay for) and should be able to do some work for you between sessions. This can be researching, thinking, designing, structuring. Coaching is about 'Adult to Adult' relationships and in that way your Coach should be 'shoulder to shoulder' with you in their desire for you to succeed in true partnership fashion

  • When you come to giving Feedback to the organisation/your boss, a Coach should be able to see how to structure that in a way that will work best and lead and shape that discussion with you so it's a successful outcome.

  • Many Coaches feel they should not express an opinion on topics because 'the coachee has all the answers'. I say yes and no to that. Coaching is not Consulting or Mentoring, but, you too have a voice in this relationship. With that comes responsibility. Therefore, how you position what you say and being clear your role is to balance the welfare of your Client with the requirements of the business your skill here is not just desirable but essential. In my experience, if the Coach manages themselves well and their intent is honourable. this generally results in a positive outcome. In a 3 way relationship this is really just a 'win/win/win'
  • Go on rate your own Coach out of 10 and let me know what your experiences are!



Thursday 16 July 2009

Creativity...just another name for Innovation you know?!

I have a Dilbert cartoon which has Dilbert looking at his PC and becoming distracted by more exciting activities. The caption reads "I have met the enemy, it is ourselves" In effect it means we defeat ourselves. In a creativity sense we often just 'leave that to the bright sparks'. This is both foolish and an incorrect perspective.
Sure some people have more ideas and find this process easier. Here's a simple thinking tool to get you started. Many of us have heard of the '3rd Way' or, a third/new alternative. Many of us are too linear (your way, or my way...you win or I win) In fact, the idea of 'win/win' is in itself creative. It's a 3rd way that's better than we can achieve on our own.
Look for more win-wins, it will free up your thinking and that flexibility will allow new ideas and possibilities enter your consciousness. The rest is practice and learning!
Our egos and fear of making a mistake confine our thinking unnecessarily. As our own Beckett famously once said; "Fail, fail again, fail better". This encourages us to take some risks but we must also take the time to learn from what's happened..........Have fun, small wonder young kids are so creative! Try asking for forgiveness instead of permission and see what happens! Got to be at least worth a try! Let me know how you get on.

Friday 3 July 2009

Motivation........Inside out, not outside in

Another building block you must understand if you want to succeed in life, at work at home or in your community is motivation. People dance around motivation like it's some big mystery. It's quite simple. Here are some facts you may know but if you're like me you won't always have used them properly!


  1. You cannot Motivate another person. All you can do is put in place conditions which encourage them to want to do things for themselves (Their Journey is different to yours!!)
  2. It's important to differentiate between MOTIVATORS and SATISFIERS. We often get them confused. Your salary, working conditions, and benefits package do not motivate. Why? People believe they are entitled to these anyway and they just get absorbed over time into people's lifestyles. What Motivates me may only barely Satisfy you etc...
  3. The Golden Rule of people management is to park your own assumptions and ASK other people what's important to THEM? Those who aren't shocked will be amazed!!
  4. Motivation is in my opinion a 3 way axis: (a) Skill, can I do that which I want to? (b) Will- am I willing to learn, follow through or continue to do something irrespective of the challenges and finally (c) Readiness, this is often overlooked. Maturity is a personal thing. Think of how many times you told someone (esp your parents!) you realised it's time to start saving, give up smoking, build a career etc, they often say...'We've been telling you that for years...!' You just were not ready. Engage with this as a 3D model and you'll do much better. in and out of work.........

Wednesday 17 June 2009

What's the Role of Marketing in Business...?

Marketing is still a young profession in Ireland. It involves Planning and Thinking.......not an instinctively great space for us Irish!! We prefer running across the Somme dodging bullets and regaling people in the bar afterwards with our exploits! Romantic and charming definately, but not the way of the future. I learned a long time ago, if you know a few good basics you can go a long way.........Here's a few secrets..........please don't tell anyone!!



1. Marketers are at heart- Customer advocates (like nurses are for patients). They put the Customer in the centre of all they do and use tools, logic, guile and wit to reach them and give them reasons to buy.


2. Most Businesses what fail or struggle fundamentally don't understand Customers or how to interact with them. Without that what hope have you of selling to any of them??

3. S.T.P...........Those of us grey haired enough to remember will think this had something to do with the prevention of teenage pregnancies but it 's at the heart of any Marketing activity.

S= Segment your Customers (or decide who to focus on/chase/go after)-Not all Customers are equally important to you (or you to them!!)-Avoid pestering the wrong people!

T= Target those Customers or groups (Gen Y iPod users etc) you want to Communicate with. Get to understand them as a group. What are their behaviours, means of buying. Who influences them? Do they shop online? Buy through word of mouth (W.O.M.) etc

P= Positioning I recall from my own CIM studies this is 'creating a space in the Customer's mind'...A space for YOU. Today we call this 'messaging'. The role of Marketing is to give clear and consistent messages to Customers over and over again. This build Brand Trust, then Loyalty and this adds to Brand Equity.

Marketing's mantra is to 'get more for less'. This is about focus and precision as opposed to a mass approach. (Sniper Approach v Gatling Gun!) It will improve your Effectiveness and move you up the Value Chain

Wednesday 3 June 2009

Why the Best Sales People Remain The Best

Many people ask; 'What's the secret 'ingredient' of great sales people?' In the programmes I teach this is my own 'Power of 3'

1. Overwhelming Drive to Succeed. This is vital. As Paul Arden the late Advertising guru famously said: "Energy's 75% of the Job. If you haven't got it...be nice!" They back themselves and refuse to be beaten by anything. (This is entirely trainable)

2. They set Goals. Only 3% of people have written down their goals and the steps to achieving them. We completely control this one but mostly don't believe in our own goals. The best really do and take time to review them seriously. They keep their Drive topped up by using Goals to achieve the success they want. (Trainable- A Choice)

3. They excel at Managing Relationships with a wide range of people. They Communicate brilliantly, they Listen naively and they ask brilliant Questions. This is how they solve problems. That's what Cients want and how Selling's done. No wonder they're busy...........! You can't achieve your Goals if you can't get on with a range of people (Trainable as well)

Selling's easy, we make it difficult. My own reframe is simple: "There is nothing but need in the Business world, therefore the limiting factor is my ability to match client need to to my skills".
If you expect to be busy you will be...keep believing and keep learning that way you stay both fresh and current. You have to pay a price to be good at anything, but it's worth it when you do!

Is what you're doing working.........? If not why you still doing it?!
Tell me what is and isn't working, perhaps we can help each other.

Monday 1 June 2009

Forget about what you've Got- Decide what you WANT

Too much today is made of the doom and gloom. The best people pay no attention to things they cannot impact. There are enough victims out there doing that. The smart money's always on shifting the focus from what you have (that you don't want) to what you want (INSTEAD)......so here comes the obvious question:- What do you want...?
The mistake most people make is running off looking for the Answer (or the hills!)........Try staying with the Question and see what happens....mmmmm. You can answer your own questions you know! Try it out and see what happens.

This is so simple, it's untrue. Nelson Mandela's famous acceptance speech highlighted to us so correctly that our greatest fear is not the darkness but the light. When you hear of people being 'afraid of success' this is what that means.
Personally I spent way too long doing that. I simply 'awoke' one day and realised I wanted better, more and by backing my own dreams my life would improve. It has, it's not perfect, but it's miles better than it was. Why? I now drive my own bus, carry my own weather and decide on the journey's direction. You also get to choose the passengers! What a small price for such a huge payoff!! Anyone can do that. we now call that being 'self-directed, empowered' I call it being free.........free to be and be free.....

Talk to me, what do you want to be(come)...??

Friday 22 May 2009

The Role of Profiles in Selling

Many people think that profiles are not valuable in Selling, I disagree. It's easy to see how they can be misplaced and used incorrectly to 'label' people. The more enlightened amongst you will know they're simply there to help you and the prospective buyer build rapport by understanding each other better. The salesperson needs to lead this process. Let's be honest, the buyer is unlikely to!

These profiles are usually split into 4 Styles/types. These are often called by different names but usually refer to the same or similar things:

1. Drivers (Dominant, Outgoing types)- Need to be in control, move fast and decide quickly
2. Expressives (Influencers)- Get results by Influencing others and can be very persuasive
3. Amiables (Helpers, Steady)- Support others, good in Teams and like stability and harmony
4. Analyticals (Conscientious, Observers)- like things done accurately and to a high standard

What's the value of knowing this? If you know how you present to the world and how the person in front of you likes to be dealt with you are likely to get along better faster with more people.
As humands we specialise in making things difficuly, so here's a few tips!

1. Use this information as a guide only. This is not the full story but will provide valuable clues
2. We have each of these tendencies in our make-up, look for clues...Pay attention!
3. Validate with fact, ask questions to establish your reading of trhe situation is accurate.

The biggest benefit of these tools is they help us start our own journey of Self-discovery. This usually makes us more interesting and easier to get along with...Gets my vote!

What's your experience??

Wednesday 29 April 2009

Managing Performance- As easy as A,B,C...

Most of the Professional Coaching, Leadership Development or Mentoring I do hits a stumble or at least a wobble when we look at Performance. What I mostly see is really capable people who do not have the skills or tools to conduct proper 'Performance Conversations'. You need to THINK differently about this activity to see why this is both necessary and should be a positive experience. Here are a few simple principles to guide you in the meantime.

1. Understanding Behaviour is as easy as your A,B,C.

2. Performance conversations should never come as a surprise. Both parties should know where they stand because 'what success looks like (i.e. a job well done)' has been discussed and agreed. Too many times there are assumptionas and unsaid things left on the table. Hope this is useful.

A,B, C of behaviour..........the essentials.
A is for Antecedent (also called a setting event- sets the tone for what's expected- What you want to happen) Examples are Sales Targets, Deadlines, Project Timelines, etc.
B is for Behaviour (What actually happens) The evidence, results, activities, outcomes of what was agreed by both parties.
C is for Consequence, (What happens after the event)
The secret to understanding performance lies in 1 simple Question.........
Q..."Why do people do what they do....?"
A..."Because of what happens to them when they do it...!" Consequences get results....so focus on what will happen (positive and negative) AFTER the event. So the thinking time should go into figuring what will get the consequences you require. Time well spent!

Most managers don't understand this. It causes a lot of frustrations and discord in the workplace when effort is misunderstood. This also applies to NO consequences for poor performance. (Next time surprise, surprise, you get more poor performance. As a Manager/Leader you have to do both side of this. Clarify what you want, put in place the structures to make it happen and FOLLOW-UP!! That's REALLY why you get paid more. I know, you were never told. You are now!! These comments look familiar??
"I spent hours on that report and nobody even read it...." (What will happen next time the report is due...? If it has to be done it will be done as a tick box exercise)
Conversely when you get praised for good work - we tend to work harder next time (go the extra mile, try harder and feel proud and connected to what we do.)

There's also a great opportunity to use your noodle here.........
When you see someone put a lot of effort in and it's not appreciated, a simple call or email to say, "that was a fine piece of work, we appreciate the effort. When I get to read it fully, can I ask your opinion on anything I'm unsure of...?" It shows you noticed. The Golden Rule applies to all of us.
Next time you get great performance and poor performance ask yourself the same question...
"Was what was expected both clear and fair..."? If it was and you got what you expected tell people they did a good job, say Thank You....simple, goes a long way. If you didn't get what you wanted, ask where they struggled and ask yourself "What was my role in this not going well"? Humility goes a long way. You'll learn about your own soft spots as a Leader as much as help others with performance. Easy as A.B, C! Enjoy practicing and good luck getting what you want. Most people I believe actually want to do a good job and try hard. When they don't, it's invariably a Leadership failure...........As I said before 'the fish always rots from the head'. No-one said it was easy. Figuring it out is what makes you GREAT!

Friday 10 April 2009

What is Continuous Improvement.......??

Sounds daunting and difficult! The world of long thin people with big brains. It has some science but it's actually more a mind-set and a habit. I'm very right brained (creative, idea generator, see options etc) yet I owe a lot of my business education to Six Sigma training. Here are 3 things you can do to improve Quality in your business TODAY.

Tom Peters co-wrote a book called 'In Search of Excellence'. It got panned, because he chose many companies who were excellent but subsequently failed. Not his fault really, but his simple principles are transferable to any Business. Quality happens when many small things are done consistently well and when you repeatedly look for ways to do the basics better.

  1. 1,000% principle- Take 1,ooo small things and improve them by 1% each at a time. The accumulated effect is staggering over time. Look for easy opportunities to improve TODAY.
  2. Listen to the Customer Naively- Let them speak first and listen with a real intent to understand. They will in many cases be staggered you stop talking for a change!
  3. Have a Bias for Action- The late Paul Arden (Advertising Guru) once said "Energy, it's 75% of the job. If you haven't go it ....be nice ". This is a frame of mind. It shows you respect your Customers by responding quickly. It also deals with procrastination!

Quality is a state of mind. When you care about fulfilling promises to Customers and genuinely believe their success is what secures yours then, quality is guaranteed as an outcome.

Too many people think this pie in the sky. Just ask yourself, is this how YOU would like to be treated as a Customer........? Why would this not work then for everyone...........??

As I often say if this is where the bar is set, it wouldn't take a lot to be good then would it??!