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.

Cheers!
Alasdar

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...?

Monday 13 December 2010

Can We Learn Anything Meaningful From TV...?


My guess is when asked most people instinctively answer "no". I don't think I've ever believed that. The problem is not that TV is that bad (though there is a lot of poor quality production) but there is also some really clever and ultra smart TV.

Let me justify my position with facts! Our daughter recently introduced us at home to "House". The problem is it's completely addictive, but then again the nights are long and we tend to be indoors. I actually believe I get smarter just by watching this. Anyone would, it's that good. Check it out for yourself.

There's a site for this programme . This is a programme ANYONE can learn from. It's also a must for anyone in any line of work. The lessons are endless. For those of you who don't know. House is based on a misfit genius doctor called Dr. Greg House, invariably known as House. He has a limp as a result of a faulty diagnosis and he is in constant pain. He's also a genius diagnostician. What I love about him most is his stunning ability to associate unrelated things and events, think laterally and never believe a problem is greater than his ability. Sure he's arrogant, selfish, indulgent, belligerent and "morally bankrupt" to use his own words, but the magic is in his genius.

What can business learn from House...? Ok, so he's not a role model for people in his interpersonal relationships but he could teach anyone how to think differently. That's his genius. He thinks in 3D. Broadly, vertically and in depth. I believe anyone in any kind of problem solving role can learn from the brilliance of this series. They say when you park your own ego it makes it compelling to work with the best. They are demanding and sometimes completely unreasonable, but we put up with that due to their brilliance. His gift to us is to look at what we see differently and be open to new and fresh interpretation. When we do that we become creative and then we become different. You can see I'm hooked. I wouldn't be if I wasn't learning.

Friday 3 December 2010

The Trouble With Conflict Is....

I've recently become involved with the Leadership of ICF (International Coaching Federation) http://www.coachfederation.org/ in Ireland and it's a great organisation. In Ireland we're trying to build a community for Coaches by putting on events with practical and topical issues and high quality speakers. Recently we ran an event with some high powered speakers which had conflict as the central theme. It took my appreciation and understanding of this topic to a new level. The real insight is that each Coach should know THEIR OWN PREDISPOSITION where conflict is concerned. This informs your judgement and your interpretation of vital data when it comes up in Coaching sessions.

This far exceeded my expectations. The main reason is it really highlighted to me about my own preferences in dealing with conflict. It also gave me a perspective on how we as a Nation deal with conflict especially given the recent debacle surrounding the IMF.

There are 5 styles which are recognised as the standard in dealing with conflict. These have been described by Thomas and Kilmann, check out their website; http://www.kilmann.com/conflict.html This instrument is drawn on 2 axes one looking at Assertiveness (willingness to satisfy one's own needs) and cooperativeness (the extent to which a person tries to satisfy the other person's concerns). Why is this important? It's actually a LIFE SKILL, that's why!

If you understand how you tend to operate and you know how others might operate you can flex your style to be more effective in your communication with them. This is essence can short circuit potentially protracted conflict. As humans we're creatures of habit and as such we operate in patterns. And habits are what we repeatedly do so understanding this dynamic in you and in others makes you highly skilled and agile in dealing with a wide range of other people.

If you click on the link you'll see there are 5 styles. How is this useful in a Coaching sense? You can run a self evaluating profile and then learn about the styles of others. This makes it easier to plan how to create a "win-win". This type of thinking is highly unusual. As humans we tend to be "binary" by nature (black or white) The bizarre thing is the world is a sea of grey! Mostly we run out of creative ideas when things get tough and we give up when we fall at the first hurdle! I find if you work at this you can become instinctively creative in the moment and once you have the right framework in place this gets easier with practice.

The other real value add here is as Tom Peters once said "innovation changes everything" When you think differently you come up with different ideas. Conflict dissipates and falls away in the face of fresh thinking. It actually makes us see the positions we were invested in were old and stale. We begin to distance ourselves from them.

I have another observation and that is that most conflict is due to poor thinking. We've never been taught how to think properly and so we take a position based on part of the picture. It's like an optician writing a prescription on a faulty and incomplete diagnosis. In my experience mental laziness or indolence only leads to more pain. I prefer to think things through so as not to end up scoring what I refer to as "own goals". You penalise yourself and your team when you do this. Poor thinking leads to poor planning which in turn leads to poor outcomes ( due to defective decision-making)....Yeah, that could lead to conflict!

Go on rattle my cage and disagree...just think it through first!

Monday 18 October 2010

Don't Be Fooled By Me- Calling the "Pretend" Game

Been a few weeks since I've been able to post anything due to hectic set of commitments inside and outside of work. I intend to rectify that as quickly as possible and get back to posting on a weekly basis.

A good Coaching friend of mine sent me on this reflection and thought it made excellent blog posting material.

Don’t be fooled by me. Please hear what I’m not saying.

Don’t be fooled by me. Don’t be fooled by the face that I wear.
For I wear a mask. I wear a thousand masks that I am afraid to take off, and none of them is the real me.
So don’t be fooled by me, I’m good at pretending.
I give the impression that I’m cool and confident, but inside, it’s different.
I’m not in command.
I’m often confused, lonely and desperately need someone to understand me.
But I hide and I don’t want anyone to know.
That’s why I frantically create a mask to hide behind,
I’m afraid to show the real me.
I’m afraid that you will not accept me.
I’m afraid that you will think less of me and laugh at me.
You see, deep down, I’m afraid that I’m nothing, that I’m no good,
And if you knew me, you would reject me.
So I play my game, my pretending game, and thus begins my parade of masks.
My life becomes a front to protect the real me.
I chatter idly to you about everything but tell you nothing of what’s going on inside me,
My fears, My worries, My doubts.
So when I’m talking, please listen carefully and try to hear what I’m not saying, what I’d like to say but I can’t.
I’d like to be genuine, honest and sincere, but I cannot without your help.
My trust grows very slowly, so you will have to be patient with me.
Each time you are kind, gentle and encouraging, each time you try to understand, I am given new hope and I start believing in myself in a new way.
You let me see its o.k. to be me.
So I can take off the mask and be happy in your company, I can let you see the real me.
Who an I you may wonder? I am someone you know very well.
For I am every man and woman you meet.


My own take on this is we each have our own precarious relationship with ego. These are the defences we have in place that protect the current picture we hold of ourselves and how we want to present to the outside world. I made a conscious effort some years ago to tackle my own ego head on and in real time where possible. In Coaching parlance this is referred to as being "authentic", "congruent"....I guess "real" is the word we hear these days. We humans are programmed to recognise "realness" when we see it. We like it when people are real with us and become defensive when they're not. That's normal!

My interpretation of that "programme" is we were born with the capability of being perfect but spend much of our lives in our own way. There is an assertion that we are all born geniuses but then, life, parenting, school, family and finally work messes that up on an ongoing basis.
I firmly believe that an easy relationship with ego allows us to be more like we can.

Here are some practical examples I'd see this would help.....


- People would find it easier to climb down when the position they've taken is unwise
- Men could feel comfortable asking for directions!
- Women would stop competing with each other on the grounds of looks and telling each other and us men that this is all for us!
-Government would find it easier to say "I'm sorry, we got it wrong , we made mistakes"
-Parents would find it easier to change the way they interact with their kids and try asking instead of being perpetually on transmit.
- People at work would feel more comfortable saying "right now I need to focus more on my family" instead of pretending to be a superhero and getting stressed out pretending everything's ok.

In my works as a Coach I try to help people connect with what I call "their own story". This takes time, it's "depth" work. Often personal, sometimes painful always rewarding. The reason why, I believe is, people stop worrying about how they look and place the emphasis on who they are. The more of that we do the more we like ourselves and the more other actually like us too! My noticing is we model a different way of being. I also notice this leads to more real time creativity and flexibility. All told a price well worth paying.

Your comments on this would be especially appreciated.

Monday 13 September 2010

A Poem- Beautifully Clunky...!

This is a poem of unknown origin I'd like to share with you and invite comment on. It's Kiplingesque in style as it's a little clunky and awkward. It means a lot to me and I hope it resonates with you too. One of my bosses in my corporate life introduced me to it and I realise how much it still means to me.

"Isn't it funny that princes and kings
And clowns that caper in sawdust rings
And simple folks like you and me
Are builders of eternity...

For to each is given a bag of tools
A cobbler's last and a book of rules
And each must make 'ore the day is done
Either a stumbling block or a stepping stone"

What does it bring up for you....?

Monday 30 August 2010

Jack Canfield on Goals and Purpose

I'm part of a network of Coaches across Europe called Eurocoach. Mostly the discussions are from Coaches from UK and Ireland. It's also a great go to place and rich in discussion and Learning. A great guy called Martin Goodyear shares his blog posts and I want to acknowledge his as the source of this by offering a link to his website: www.martingoodyer.com. Last week's video was also from his site. Jack Canfield is well known as the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" guy. I'd not heard him speak before and this video is a short clip from a talk he gave on Goals and linking that to our on Purpose. He's also linked to "The Secret" (a book I possess but have to admit have not yet read). What he says makes a lot of sense.




The Video clip is powerful as it offers simple pointers under 3 headings:

- Ask, Believe, Receive. The focus of the Video segment is on "ASK"
Firstly, he suggests to take stock of the things we want to change ad be mindful of the language. Focus on the positives. What you want not what you don't want. We attract what we think about. The practical step I liked was to make what he calls an "Irritation List". List all the things that annoy you, big and small. Start with the SMALL stuff and get it cleared...Why...? This is powerful, if you clear the small stuff you don't settle for seeing it not done. If you get the small stuff done you'll get to the bigger stuff. Do the small stuff regularly and monthly or quarterly attack the bigger stuff. Your horisons widen and you gain momentum. That IS insightful.

Then, list the 101 Goals you want to achieve in your lifetime. Then break into smaller, closer goals this year, this month this quarter etc. Make them SPECIFIC and MEASURABLE. I want to book a family holiday for last week of October. "I want to lose 5K by September 30th" etc. Beware, vague inputs = vague outputs. There are 7 categories that we can put Goals into and most of these are familiar.

The final piece I really liked was this exercise is about getting clear on the "WHAT" you want to achieve. This lies at the heart of "PURPOSE". Once we're clear on these things and have put some actions in place to make them happen, the Universe works alongside us to make the "HOW" happen. These are the nice coincidences, the serendipitous things, the unlikely occurrences that visit and enrich our lives. I see that as payback for taking the time and effort to become clear and committed to what's most important to us and how we can make our best contribution with the gifts and talents we have.

This impressed me more than I expected and it offers a neat and easy to apply framework to make this happen.

Your views on this topic would be very welcome.

Monday 23 August 2010

Stop Trying and Start Succeeding

Recently I was forwarded this You Tube video and wanted to share it with you. Some of you may find this a little cheesy. Apologies if you do, but I disagree, and think the sentiment and the symbolism are where the learning's based.

Too often in life we tend to 'try'. The inference is we've already failed or don't expect much to happen. When we give things all we have we tend to succeed more often than not. Nelson Mandela was so right when he said "we're not afraid of the dark, we're more afraid of the light". We've been programmed over many years to believe certain things to be true about ourselves. We're completely surprised when others see abilities in us we don't believe we possess. That's why it's nigh on impossible to succeed alone. We need help to grow into bigger versions of ourselves and the encouragement of others to bring out the latent talent and potential others see in us.



Let me know your thoughts on the video and what it brings up for you...

Monday 16 August 2010

What does it take to run a successful Coaching business...?

I recently took part in some research and one of the outputs I received was this gift below in the form of a summary. It resonated with me and wanted to pass it on. Even though the research referred specifically to developing a Coaching business, many of the points are relevant to any business.

The question, What does it take to run a successful Coaching business?

I've spoken to quite a few new coaches and some who have been running their businesses for many years. And although the answer to this question will be unique depending on your own business, desires and goals, I would like to share with you some of the tips from the people I have interviewed for my new book, 'The Secrets of Successful Coaches'.


1. All of the people I modelled know their values, with many of them being similar. In addition, these values are demonstrated in their business and are congruent with their business values.

2. They all have a strong belief in both themselves and their business.

3. They focus on what they want rather than what they don't want.

4. They start with the end in mind with a vision and plan for their business, even if this changes along the way.

5. They know how to get into a resourceful state and when they are in an unresourceful state.

6. They have or are learning the business skills to be even more successful.

7. They step out of their comfort zone every day and push themselves to achieve more.

8. They have a great support network of people around them.

9. They are great coaches with a track record as well as successful in business.

10. They have an energy and focus towards their clients' success.

11. They take action!

Do you have anything to add...? Please comment and share your own experiences.

Monday 9 August 2010

The Magic of Teams.....



I really like this poster. Came across a quote I really liked that said "It's never great work if you're doing it alone". It resonated mainly because I believe it to be true! Teams take on a life of their own and are unique to themselves. The magic, the glue is often indefinable. It's the part between the parts if you like. One thing we do know s when it works and is really in sync then the whole is so much greater than the sum of the parts.

This is really one of the true beauties and wonders of our world.

As we retreat into August and we hit that seasonal slow time, take a moment to reflect on how your team (or teams) operate and what might be possible if they operated as real high performers.

Monday 2 August 2010

What's Coaching REALLY about....? 5 Recurring Themes


I recently came across a video clip where a lot of research had been done with people who buy Coaching service. The findings were very interesting. It was reflective research on what descriptors ORGANISATIONS use when they define what Coaching is. Certainly worth knowing as it's revealing.

The 5 key recurring words that come up when describing Coaching were:

1. DEVELOPMENT:- Coaching + Development. It's not about fixing. It has a positive intention and is future looking. This is the only positive mindset that allows potential be realised.

2. RELATIONSHIPS:- These are vital in business and in life. We know this however the COACHING RELATIONSHIP is also critically important. Without it people won't be able to explore and allow themselves feel vulnerable (This is sometimes called "being powerfully vulnerably") 80% of time people ALREADY know where they need help. This allows this to happen quickly and access the other 20% where discovery is necessary.

3. DIRECTION:- People actually want to know what's expected of them! When handled properly Performance Management runs smoothly. Management's biggest failing here is not clarifying expectations. People have a right and a need to understand what's happening to them and the likely impact on their environment. They also want an opportunity to make a positive contribution.

4. ACCOUNTABILITY:- There's a stewardship that's required when leading and managing people. This allows them know through honest feedback where things are going well and where they need to improve. Accountability is not the same as 'blame' and 'finger pointing'. That's where politics and taking positions gets in the way of the work that should be getting done. Accountability is 'personal leadership'. This is ensuring what's yours gets done by you by the agreed date.

5. RESULTS:- we all want to win and succeed. In Coaching this is handled through the setting of clear goals and clarifying what the OUTCOMES meed to look like. Handled properly with positive intent and engagement by all sides there should be no surprises only those that positively exceed expectations.

I like these descriptions, like all lists they never cover everything but they cover the main points......... Care to share your experience...?

Friday 23 July 2010

Coaching in Organisations Explained in 3 minutes of Video!

Many people ask me how to explain the work I do and finally I distilled this down to a short 3 minute video Let me know what you think and get in touch if this can help you or your business.

Monday 19 July 2010

Contracting....THE Essential Skill in Coaching


It's a known fact that the ability to 'contract' is THE most important skill a Coach possesses. Sure there are other things he/she needs to be able to do and indeed excel at, however without a solid and comprehensive contract the quality, depth and outcomes from Coaching are very likely to be both flawed and compromised.

The truth is many Coaches are not skilled enough in how to contract with a Client, an Organisation or in any other circumstance they find themselves in. Also, it's just damned hard so why take all that on as well?! However I have to say when I do this properly and carefully not alone do Clients do better, they actually soar....!

Coaching's about change, you cannot make an omelette without breaking a few eggs and that's often why Coaches and Organisations procuring Coaching services avoid tough yet obvious questions. As a Coach sometimes your own "ego" can get in the way. (Not the great "I am" ego, more like the "I don't want to rock the boat" or "Don't want to look foolish here" kind of ego). Sometimes clients just want to move very quickly and seem very sure of their ground on an issue that requires Coaching. A good Coach should feel comfortable slowing the pace down when this happens and asking the somewhat dull but essential questions. There are many ways to conduct this exercise effectively. My own view is when I facilitate what should be happening between my Client(person being Coached)and my Customer (person paying for the service = often the boss)then I'm most effective. I realised that's what works best....Why...?

"I don't work there and the problems are theirs not mine"................

I ask 3 routine questions that work for me and support any process or situation I've come across in my own practice....Thought them worth sharing with you whether you're a Coach or acquiring Coaching services.

1. Does the person requiring Coaching have a full understanding of why Coaching's being requested for them at this time....?

2. Has everything you discuss with me been discussed and understood by the Coachee already...?

3. How will we know this has been successful and what does that look like for all parties concerned here...?

A lot of the time we "ASSUME" the client has this "covered" or the Coachee somehow "intuits" what's meant and expected. As a Coach that's too high a risk to gamble on not clarifying. That's all part of Contracting. This is an expansive process that looks at EXERYTHING involved from, how you'll work together to timing of sessions, payments, logistics and all the emotional and psychological work that's involved here. The Coach needs to lead this process and communicate early if it's going off track. It's a reproducible skill that once mastered will serve you well in other areas of life also. It's particularly powerful in managing the expectations of other and managing performance....Will support this weighty topic with further posts in coming weeks..... Your comments are as ever very welcome.

Monday 12 July 2010

"Dream, Believe, Dare, Do" - The Walt Disney Formula



The best things in life happen where an easy flow and minimal effort meet. This allows things to flow uninterrupted. This flow is invariably supported by positive energy. Came across this 4 part formula that Walt Disney used to bring ideas to life. His biggest idea would no doubt have been "Disneyworld".

- He was a very visual person and could see this clearly in minutely accurate detail in his own mind's eye.
- He checked in with his own core beliefs and Values to assess how much they overlapped with the opportunity he was considering.
- He would consider a series of never before tried out audacious moves
- Turn that into a robust plan and bring to life (His brother was essential to make that happen)

People who make things appear like they can be achieved are the ones who say "I have a dream". The people who make it happen say "I have a plan". You need the former group to unify people around a common cause. You then need the doers to ensure the dream becomes a reality-They always produce the plan........!

They say less than 5% of the adult population have a plan with goals written down and mapped out that they believe in and and regularly review........No wonder we're in such trouble, mot of us are busy playing small......! Take a step back and look at what you're doing and how it's all going. What changes would you make if you could...........?? What could you create that does not already exist...?

Take a leaf from Walt Disney's book and start your own internal revolution of Dream, Believe, Dare, Do.

Let me know how you get on...

Wednesday 7 July 2010

If You Want Something Done......



.....then ask a busy person, all others simply have no time! This is a quotation that was often attributed to my own father. He understood intimately the role of service and contribution in having a fulfilled life. He was a real role model. He walked his talk. It caused me to reflect on what my own contributions in this area have been of late and I have to say I do come up short.
Like many Coaches, I give freely of my time in my line of work and am generous sometimes to a fault but commitment to a heartfelt cause has been missing for a while. It's also the hallmark of a real Leader. So what's the human resistance to committing to a worthy cause and making a difference through service and contribution....?

Some would say sheer sloth and selfishness. No doubt that's a factor, but I'd also cite fear of failure, the potential for ridicule and also running out of steam and the will to finish what's required as genuine concerns. I've recently been offered the opportunity to make a difference in the Caching profession and despite all the reasons why not getting involved, I'm going to commit and test my own ability to attach to a worthy cause and perhaps add some depth to whatever spine already exists. This will be interesting! As Coaches, we learn how to 'contract' for things we want and don't want to happen. The ability to state our own needs is something we help clients with but in reality, we don't always do this well ourselves. I'd like to use this opportunity to contract and make a difference. That will be a first and perhaps a new template for involvement generally will be borne from it.

There are several key things required to get a successful outcome with anything new. The key one for me is what Jim Collins (author of 'Good to Great')said ...get the right people on the bus... Once that happens you can decide where to take it. Technically with the right people aboard it can go anywhere

There's never been a better time to get involved and commit to a cause that doesn't profit us directly. That's my rationale and I look forward to updating you. What have you committed to recently that did not prosper you directly...?

Monday 28 June 2010

The Road Less Travelled


This phrase has become locked into what JK Galbraith coined as "conventional wisdom", yet the meaning of this saying I believe is largely misunderstood. This is an epic read and a challenging one. There are so many facets to the book that warrant attention. This is a book by a psychotherapist about therapy. Yet it's a compelling read for any emerging Coach even though the terrain is different. Here are some reasons why:

1. Our past has made us who we are and may in some way inform our future.

2. Very often, our "world view" (our map) is inaccurate and does not serve who we want to become. Knowing the context of that may give us greater insight into our client and may be valuable input into the Coaching work.

3. There's a stigma attached to therapy in that if you need to see a "shrink" you need to be "shrunk" in some way. But aren't we all traumatised to some degree by life's journey...?

So where's the shame in that...? In fact therapy could well be just plain smart! It's about personal growth and development. Sometimes we need to uncouple ourselves from the past to allow us to move towards where we'd rather be. Therapy helps us to do that. Coaching helps us move forward and we normally don't need the context of the past to help people do that. A good Coach should however, be able to know when a client would benefit from therapy and where Coaching's appropriate.
My own position on this is quite clear. The rule I apply is, if a person's past shows up in their present to a degree that impinges on them accessing their future they should explore how therapy may help them. A book of this quality gives me greater insight into that world and I'm a better Coach for it.

Peck's one of those rare people who cared enough about the subject matter and the audience to get to the bottom of complex issues in a simplistic enough way to make them interesting and meaningful for the reader. The first main point I picked up from him is linked to the notion that our map or view of the world when inaccurate severely limits the quality of our lives. The pain and suffering associated with addressing this issue is less than avoidance and denial. He frames this in a linear fashion by saying that people who attend therapy tend to fall into one of two categories....

1. Neurosis (they present as neurotic)...Things are my fault, guilt, shame, fear. (The flaw in the map is internal- They don't see themselves properly= I'm inferior)
2. Character Disorder (the world's the problem-there's nothing wrong with me= I'm superior)
He goes on to say that people in category 1 can have greater success from therapy as they're more disposed to change. Perhaps marginally the lesser of 2 evils! In my experience we tend to have a default position on either side of the centre line. This is often a negative pattern laid down in childhood. In today's language we could say it's the "aggressives" v the "submissives". These are the behaviours, the real work is the underlying cause.

This mirrors a lot of the work I do as a Coach. I ask the people I Coach when we work on these areas to establish where the "centre line" is. If we know where that is we should be CENTRED I guess! Peck calls this BALANCING. In this context he means this is where we need to be flexible enough to embrace change (go with the bend in the road) and exercise judgement as dictated by the circumstances when we're presented with new things to deal with.

Like many things it's simple...just not easy. It's a pleasure to read someone who truly mastered their craft to the point where it gets transformed into an art form. Shame he passed away a few years ago. His legacy will no doubt endure.....

What do you think of the above...? Have you read the book...?

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Man's Search For Meaning- Viktor Frankl

A few years ago I came across the story of Viktor Frankl, an extraordinary man who survived 5 different concentration camps. How he did that was reflect on the MEANING of his life and VISUALISED himself having a life beyond his current circumstances. He's been an idol and hero for me. His story is humbling to read. I'd encourage you as a start to look at this short clip from TED from 1972 when we's speaking about Meaning. It's very powerful. (The link's at the end of the post...please read on!)

The facts are that up to 80% of people are not engaged in their work. Many people in that category are not even aware of that fact. As Leaders we can influence this by being good role models ourselves. Today people don't want to be told what to do. They appreciate much more being helped figure it out for themselves. That's what the best people do anyway and it also lies at the heart of Coaching.

Frankl's gift to the world (in addition to surviving the concentration camps and giving life to 'logotherapy'- therapy work engaged with helping people find meaning in their lives) is he pioneered the "FREEDOM TO CHOOSE" movement.
Why he's such a hero to me is he really walked his talk. The statistics showed that the survival rate in the camps was less than 10%. What he showed us is with a mental attitude where you own your own life and not let yourself be victimised by your captors you're able to find MEANING to your own existence. He realised he was in fact more free than the guards who were often cruel and obviously deeply unhappy. The piece of this video that most appealed to me was the idea that if you treat someone like they are that's all they'll become. But if you treat them like they can be that's what they WILL BECOME!!

How much time as Leaders do you spend investing in the future potential of your own people...? The opportunities abound for such development; stretch assignments, cross functional teaming, exposure to new environments. They all take us out of our comfort zones and that's where all the learning and growth takes place.

Sadly we're not taught how to as Frankl later said "detect" our own life's meaning. This is part of the struggle of life. The paradox as I see it is we have to grapple with our own abilities in order to detect what we do best! Nothing's for free but most of the best stuff actually IS free. We have to earn the right to our own birth right! That is bizarre, but it is the way of the world. An analogy in the natural world would be how caterpillars become butterflies. We each have to earn our own right to fly, but fly we all can if we want to engage with our own story and respect our own potential.

As we head into summer season and many of us take time with family and away from the "busyness of being busy" use some of this time to reflect on your own meaning. Here are some Coaching questions which may assist that process:

1. Why do you do what you do....?

2. What are your best talents and highest passions...?

3. If Q2 is not supported by Q1....you may not be using all your potential.....Start there and if you struggle to so this on your own, that's where a good Coach can help you...............
Enjoy the link!..........

Monday 7 June 2010

What the Science REALLY says about Motivation

I recently had this link sent to me by a friend of mine and wanted to share this with you too. The link's here and well worth the 10 minutes you'll spend watching it.
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It does turn the whole idea of what we know about Motivation on it's head and seems to be replicated in different societies. It is also highly counter-intuitive! It highlighted a few things for me:

- We are all individual, so we are different...yet it would appear, we're all the same...how amazing the human condition!

- Unless you get to REALLY KNOW your people you have even LESS of a clue about what motivates them.

- People don't work purely on a 'binary' basis. It's not either 'good' or 'bad'. There's a lot of grey in our world and that's where the action is.

Some of the core tenets of Coaching absolutely apply here:

- Treat ALL people with the same level of respect
- Suspend your own beliefs and judgements and tune into what really makes your people tick
- Focus on their POTENTIAL not their history. Where we're headed is way more important than where we've been no matter how significant that's been.

Finally I'd suggest we stop being lazy and 'throwing money and rewards' at problems. It does not work as we're all knowledge workers these days. It's not compatible with 21st C living either.
We care about Purpose, Mastery and Autonomy start putting those enablers in place and see what happens......... My sense is a lot of good stuff happens!

Monday 31 May 2010

Some Questions Google Cannot Answer-Have Faith!


I'm fortunate enough to be able to take our daughter to school on a daily basis. Recently a sign was erected in front of the church in Dundrum where she goes to school. I noticed it made me smile every time I saw it. Today I took a photograph and thought it the best advertisement I'd seen anywhere for a church bar none..!

It's award winning material no question. It also links with a great quote I heard from Ronan Tynan (one of The Irish Tenors) when he was being interviewed on TV-AM a few weeks ago. He was talking about Faith. He used a great line to describe it: "Faith is the food that feeds the bird that sings in the dark" The bird being the voice in our heads which lies in the dark recesses of our minds. The singing I took to be what the Psychologists call "autosuggestion". This is the human ability to put positive and/or negative thoughts into our own heads. Henry Ford famously said "whether you think you can or can't you're absolutely right". So true! The problem with the human brain is it does not have a brain!! So what does that tell us...? We have to train our brain to do what we want it to do. It's as easy to train it to work for us as not. Of course this requires effort and time. The need to put positive thoughts into our brain is that they seep into our subconscious mind and that over time informs what we believe to be true about ourselves and the world. I find it also helps us acquire vital new skills (we notice what we want and need and go after it) In this space also we end up meeting people who are actually there to help us, as if they just turned up when we most need them! How often has that happened to you...? It's happened a lot to me. When I think positive things, good things tend to happen when I'm not fussy about what gets into my mind, good things tend not to happen. Even if I was just superstitious, I'd be inclined to stick with the positives!

So, we're talking about Faith! Not in any deep spiritual way (and I believe that is also important) but in regard to how important it is in our everyday lives. I personally struggle with this. It does not come easy to me. Having recently been exposed to a variety of things on Visualisation and how powerful it is, it all came back to a common root; FAITH. What I've become clearer about is that without Faith we have no control over what type of thoughts are running through our minds.

Autosuggestion is the ability to put whatever thoughts you want into your head and preferably positive ones. The idea being that these are transmitted out into the wider Universe and attract similar thoughts which can eventually come back to you and make what you wish for turn into a reality.

I used to think not alone was this hard work, but, all a bit too fanciful to be true. Then I asked myself, why when we write down our GOALS on a sheet of paper, work out how they will happen and revisit them regularly, they tend to happen...? The answer is when we revisit them we put the notion into our heads that this is what we want to achieve and this I believe helps make goal happen. Your mind helps you turn that DECISION into a REALITY.

Only 3-5% of people in the world have clear Goals that they engage meaningfully with. They somehow happen to be the most financially independent and often times very balanced, centred and CALM of people. They're self made....They've won the battle of the mind. The mind now works for them! This is no coincidence.

This is then essentially simple (to understand) just not easy (to make happen!) Recently I uncovered a formula that worked for me. I'd like to share that with you: When I chunk things down they have a better chance of happening. I now build OUT from today, then next week and then next month. I found the 5 year view too far away and then too vague. I recently decided to become aerobically fit by June 1st. What I did was combine this with other things that I'm also poor at (avoiding chocolate, getting enough sleep and getting regular exercise). I now COMBINE these activities (so they're like mini-goals) and this I find makes it more attractive for me to stay on track. You can of course say there is no reward and you close off everything you like. I find that works for me. If another combination works for you go with that. I call the major goal "SELF-CARE" and attach the other ones to it. That way I have a VARIETY of reasons to stay on track rather than one thing I may just blow off at any time if I have an off day. This then becomes a HABIT and habits are what we REPEATEDLY DO............This is not an act of God, but it does require Faith. I also read that when we really believe something we're then READY to acquire it. This just started recently for me and the readiness bit rings true.... Would really like your comments on this as I'm really energised by this right now........

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Stay Hungry, stay foolish

I get weekly updates from many sources and appreciate the brilliance of the Internet as many of my learnings are free. This is a most moving speech from Steve Jobs from Apple who was addressing a graduation class in Standford University a few years ago. Here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF8uR6Z6KLc&feature=player_embedded

Some of the messages I'd heard previously. The insights into his life and the rich distillation of an extraordinary story that started before he was born, then in college and finally in later life are truly uplifting. Some people just exude style and ooze class. Steve Jobs falls into that category and I'd defy anyone to view this clip and not be moved by the story. This is not an example of idolising relationships as he's far from perfect. This is by any stretch a captivating story.
He says many things but the main thing I got from it was in the title; "Stay Hungry, Stay foolish". By that he meant never lose that sense of curiosity about the world, be prepared to be innocent in our viewing of things and never lose our appetite for learning. Follow your heart and your intuition. That will take you to what you love to do.
As someone who's recently arrived at where I truly belong, I have to agree wholeheartedly. You can't do great work until you love what you do. The passion will run out and so will the adrenaline and the motivation. No wonder so many people are unfulfilled in life and in work. So, the invitation to step out of our own shadow has been issued and awaits us.....................

What will YOU do...............?

Monday 17 May 2010

Remove the Nightmare from Giving Feedback!!

Giving feedback need not be a nightmare for you or the person receiving it!!

Much of the work I do as a Coach involves giving and receiving feedback. Sometimes what we have to feedback is positive and this is a pretty pleasant task. Less so when the feedback is a development area or a blind spot for someone. The responsibility of doing this is an essential part of being a Leader or Manager. There are many models and thought leaders in this field. Personally I rate and like Marshall Goldsmith. Here's a link to his site, so check it out for yourself; http://www.marshallgoldsmithlibrary.com/


Here are a few tips and pointers when you need to give feedback and an easy to use model.

When giving feedback to someone, the important thing to remember is to focus on the ISSUE in question and not the PERSON. This removes unnecessary EMOTION from the conversation and focuses on the BEHAVIOUR and not the PERSONALITY.

3 Rules (A.I.D.- An acronym)

1. Actions- (What the person did- both +/-) Use language like 'I noticed you doing........a,b,c' 'What I liked about x was when you took the initiative and did y.' If the feedback is not positive, focus on the facts. "We agreed the report would be on my desk by 9am, it was late. We discussed this several times, do you recall that...?" This clarifies the situation and is in no way personal. (This is the current status, what you're GETTING)

2. Impact- (The effect of the behaviour in question) 'The upshot of that was it slowed down everyone and everything while we waited for this report' (This builds the CASE for CHANGE. Often times people don't think through the impact of their actions (or inaction!) This is where people have an 'Aha' moment and realise this behaviour needs to change. (This is feedback-it relates to the past)

3. Desired Outcomes- (Ways in which the Coachee could do things differently)Let's explore together options that address these points' This is also where as a Leader or Manager you get to have a say in the behaviour you want. Many times I find people forget they are in charge and it's part of those responsibilities to clearly state to people what you want. If need be, outline to them what good quality work looks like. You also have to become comfortable in helping people work in the way YOU want them to (this is not the same as bossing people around or being a tyrant by the way!). If people were doing what you asked them to do in the way it needed be done you would not waste either parties time. (This is also referred to feeding forward-It focuses on the future)

This is all part of 'on the job Coaching'. The best Leaders I've come across are really skilled in HOW to do this. I suggest you take the time to learn how to do this well.

When you think about it, it's not possible to manage performance or develop people if you can't comment accurately and effectively on how people are doing....Give this a try and see how you get on. If you decide to work with a Coach, they will help you develop the skills and belief to do this really well. It's central to my work and will make you stand out as a Leader. That's also why smart people have a 'Coaching Relationship' and not go looking for a Coach when they need one. This is a little like having great relationships....you need them before you need them!

Why give this attention...? Because it's known as 'instant payoff' Coaching, you can change behaviour quickly or recognise great work in a way that generates loyalty. That's just smart thinking.

Let me know how you get on with this.........

Monday 10 May 2010

How Great Leaders Inspire Action

I came across a great video on TED last week and it inspired this post. The video clip (from a guy called Simon Sinek) is simply stunning in its simplicity and has real potency in the message. His core tenet is "People don't 'buy' what you do but WHY you do it". He uses 3 great examples: Apple, The Wright Brothers and Martin Luther King Jnr.
Our decision making is based on what things MEAN to us. That's why the picture is so true. Our emotions tell us what's really going on. Here's the link; http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html

The beauty is ANYONE can learn how to do this. I link this to another insight I uncovered recently related to this concept. People who are good at operating from 'WHY' as per the video clip are often Visionaries or Early Adopters.

I've grown to realise that while having a Vision is important, making a Decision is even more important. Here's the link. It's how to make the dream become a reality.

Dreamers are vital people, especially dreamers of the day (not the same thing as day dreaming!), but people who turn dreams into action are like gold dust! Many of the best Visionaries of the works (Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Martin Luther King) would have failed unless they had people around them who could turn these dreams into reality.

I equate it to the analogy and the relationship between Leadership and Management. Leaders see further ahead and much sooner than most people. (They get the WHY...Disneyworld, Computer in every home, etc) but they often don't know HOW to make things happen (Walt Disney's brother Roy made the dream come true). The person with the idea is like the DANCER and the first follower helps turn it into a MOVEMENT! This is a powerful insight. We are typically either one or the other. very few people are gifted in both areas (that would be unfair!). I realise I paint in big pictures and don't always hold all the detail............so I married someone who does! When we work well together we make a powerful team and that's when real SYNERGY happens.......(we create something togtehr better than either of us could alone)

So, what are you a WHAT or a HOW person...? It's an important question to know how to answer. It can affect the boss you next want to work for (how do they do Visioning, Strategic Thinking etc) or the person you want beside you to implement a major project (handle the detail and follow through on commitments.

Let me know your thoughts.....

Monday 3 May 2010

Being instead of Doing....

Much of what I see in my own practice tells me there is a conflict between what people are doing and who they are when they're doing it. No wonder so much of people's best work is never seen at work!

In Coaching parlance this is referred to as " how you show up in a given situation" My own noticing is my BEST work is always when I move away from problems and solutions and move onto what people want (to be) rather than what's expected (to do). Otherwise we may become like the picture,unreasonable!

We had a family revelation this week that showed how people suffer silently when this is not named. Someone was doing something because they felt it was expected. Others presumed it was because they wanted to do this activity. The person involved was really 'holding' a false assumption about this and was doing it for others out of a sense of duty. Can you imagine what the commitment to that activity was and how they felt about it. What was said was really interesting, here it is "it wasn't really me doing this at all, it felt like another person..." In a work situation this is when people often seek outside help due to lack of employee commitment! You'd have to ask does God do this just for fun..?!

This post is about celebrating the world of being. In any given situation we ARE someone and that someone matters. Sometimes we like ourselves better than others and much of Coaching's about helping clients BE or BECOME that best version of ourselves. This is really important. In my experience any profound shift and sustained change is unlikely unless work is addressed in this way or at that level.

Too often we're obsessed with 'fixing' especially in the world of work. Problems need solving- get a Coach, a Consultant an Expert. If you really want to see results with your Coach allow BOTH of you focus on Being rather than Doing..........."Who are you in that situation....?" is a powerful question. A reflection of my own is working to tight deadlines with people on certain pieces of work is not always the same as helping clients see clearly who they are in this situation. When this is clear everything flows with a natural ease and it does so quickly!

When we know who we are we automatically become more resourceful. That's where the REAL work is and to paraphrase the wise words of Ken Blanchard author of many of the "One Minute Manager" books "We need to slow down in order to go faster" (Less haste= more speed)

Monday 26 April 2010

Making 'Permissions' work for us

This is a great cartoon. It's the exception that proves the rule! Much of the world of today is tied up with rules and OUGHTS and HAVE TO's. I had a great English Teacher (called John Flanagan) and he gave us some neat definitions. This one remained: 'Freedom is the right to do as we ought'. You may or may not agree with the definition, that's immaterial. It does however imply 2 things. We have Choices and within that we also have Responsibilities. Therein for me, lies the understanding of Permissions. The cartoon is powerful because it portrays using parody how needless both of these positions are. If either party took responsibility for their OWN actions they would make good and adult choices. A Coaching colleague of mine (called Jackie Hogan) gave me a great way of validating my own behaviour and also a way of deciding what to do in any given situation.

Next time you're in a 'will I won't I' type of situation, ask yourself this powerful question:
"What's appropriate here..?"
Then leave a gap of 5/10 seconds and see what comes back. That usually is the correct answer. I find it works for me and many others I've offered it to have given me similar feedback. The reason why is it invites us into an ADULT space where we can have an adult conversation with...OURSELVES. Can you see how powerful and how simple this is?
If it does not work, don't worry I'll do a post on guilt and forgiveness at some point!

Monday 19 April 2010

Managing Boundaries

This truly is an Irish problem! We are quite clueless about boundaries. It's part of our National charm and part of who we are. However we all need boundaries and we need to be able to assert our rights and communicate effectively with others so they know where we stand on different issues.

In my experience most problems with boundaries do not lie with other people. They lie with us. We invite people to violate our boundaries and then get upset when it happens! How bizarre when you think about it. We don't have the skills or the courage to do something about it and yet it's all so avoidable.

When we see well behaved children, we know they don't operate from a 'be seen and not heard' place. More they know what's ok here and what's not. This has to be learned and as adults if we have not learned it, we must be taught. There is a linear continuum I believe that explains this best. It is as follows:

AGGRESSIVE -ASSERTIVE -SUBMISSIVE
If you know where you tend to default to on that continuum then how you manage boundaries will be reflected there. Let's explore the positions. People who are Aggressive tend to violate the boundaries of others either wittingly or unwittingly. This can manifest through having staff work late. Nobody leaves the office before you do. Macho values (lunch is for wimps etc).
People who tend to be Submissive can be cannon fodder for the Aggressives. They can behave like victims, always put upon and wanting things to be different but never taking a stand on important issues. Plainly such people need help to express themselves and state their own needs in a mature and consistent way. Finally there's the happy camper group. This cohort seem not to be flustered and are comfortable speaking up and challenging when they have issues. Why can't more of us be like the Assertives.?! Easier said than done. You need a strong sense of self-worth and high self-esteem to have this as a default, Yet this is where we operate best. In Coaching parlance we refer to this as Adult to Adult communication.
These positions can all be modified, learned and unlearned. If you operate on either end of the spectrum then you most likely need to get some Professional help to enable you become less aggressive or more confident. This will allow you CHOOSE Assertive as your default. Then you'll notice people treat you different. You know why..? You have BECOME different. A price well worth paying!
Have you ever noticed how positive language reflects these positions..? Strong people are referred to as 'centred' and 'grounded', 'comfortable in their own skin' and unapologetic for their opinions. That's ALL of us when we play to our true potential.
-Hope something in there helps you. This thinking has helped me enormously over the years.

Monday 12 April 2010

Capability Gaps Exposed- Poor Engagement-

Work sometimes can be a grim place! People are
treated like mugs or even worse may feel they
ARE being mugged on a daily basis! Much of what's required today's called 'engagement'. It's also referred to as 'discretionary effort'. This is the ability to get others to go the extra mile for the Team or others. Yet many people managers have little idea how to go about this. How could this be and what to do...?

  1. Many Managers don't understand the keys to Motivation
  2. They don't know their people enough to personalise it even if they did understand Motivation.
  3. They don't offer appropriate and genuine praise when it's due.

So what to do and where to start...? Yogi Berra once said "You can learn a lot just by looking". What he means is start to pay attention. Get to know your people (pay appropriate attention, develop a healthy curiosity) Nobody never got demotivated because their Boss surprised them by noticing their birthday, anniversary, great work, client feedback. Today this is called 'Employee Recognition' There are 5 simple rules:

  1. Understand what was done that deserves recognition
  2. Learn how it was done
  3. Who was involved in making this happen
  4. Who benefited by this being done
  5. Act on this quickly and in a positive way.

When you think about this, it's so easy. The choices are stark. People today expect this to happen. If you DON'T do this, you indirectly walk around with a mug like this one telling people things need to be done your way. Not very inspirational is it..?!

As more and more companies are taking Feedback/360's seriously you need to get with this programme or be seen as a dinosaur. When you do this you set yourself apart. The intangibles are great loyalty and people will want to work with you....If these principles would work for you it's safe to assume it will also for others.

Monday 5 April 2010

'Calling It'-The Elephant in the Room..!

I'm a great believer in candour. Without it the truth struggles to emerge. Yet we are all too often constrained by circumstances and refuse to speak our minds when we know we should. When Coaches talk about 'congruence' this is what is meant. The ability to be oneself in different situations. One of the things I really appreciate about my role as a Leadership Coach is the ability and necessity to sometimes just 'call it' and point to that which is obvious to most and spoken of by none. That's the elephant in the room. When you look at the picture it shows how ridiculously chained to convention and ritual we can become! One of the attractions of going into Business on your own is that this is one less thing to deal with!! We also offer others perspective by allowing them see that seeking permission may not be the only option and many times not the best one either.

Two common causes of this syndrome I find are:

- Fear and Habit

We become so accustomed to routines and ways of doing and thinking that all else is very threatening. Habit can also blind us from our actions and under pressure we may not see this is happening. Often we run patterns. That means in certain situations with certain people we tend to do certain things we are unaware of or would do differently in other circumstances.

Calling the elephant can be 'tough love' as our US brethern call it. The ability to give Feedback and tell it like it is. However if we get used to this practice we grow to rely on it and less dependent on our own limiting behaviours. So next time you're in a meeting, think about doing what many are suffering silently with and bring to attention in a polite and respectful way that perhaps all is not as it appears or could be...........You're Leadership stock will go through the roof!

Monday 29 March 2010

Coach as 'Strategic Thinking Partner'

While I was training to be a Coach our Lead Coach Trainer a great guy and brilliant Coach called Philip Brew himself a Master Certified Coach used a term that perfectly described the role of a Coach at the most Senior levels of the organisation........

That role is a "Strategic Thinking Partner".
What great clarity and a superb positioning statement!
To operate effectively and add Value at that level the following things are essential. They come from Carl Rogers, who's globally respected as an authority figure on 'Change'. He pointed to 3 things that when they exist in a Coaching/Change environment a positive relationship is not just possible, but in fact inevitable.

Once the Relationship is in place and that vital 'connection' has been made, being a Strategic Thinking Partnership happens quite naturally and quickly in my experience. Both parties loosen up and enter into a positive flow. These are the key enablers:
  1. Authenticity- How you 'show-up' and how credible you are are vital in building a relationship. Is what you say and do consistently the same...?
  2. Congruence- This is the ability to be 'you' in any given situation irrespective of rank, role. To me, it really means can you be authentic under pressure!

  3. Unconditional Human Regard- This means you suspend judgement and listen to what is being said without interference from your own agenda or the agenda of a 3rd party. You accept what is said and your sole intention is to understand and objectify what you hear.

I try very hard to adhere to these core principles and find when I do the quality of my work is highly effective. I attribute this to the quality of relationship that's possible when you BECOME that type of person. You attract your client into this space. You accomplish several things simultaneously when this happens:

  • You build a profound and meaningfully healthy relationship with another human being who trusts you and themselves in this space.

  • You role model what's possible to another person and as Dale Carnegie once said you give them 'a fine reputation to live up to'.

  • Finally you offer hope. This is important. Sometimes you may be the only ray of hope and sunshine in that person's life. Hope offers light and with enough light things just crystallise.

I came across a great saying in a book recently about how individual and yet how powerful all are. It is relevant here and shows why the Client should lead and what's possible when they do:

"People are like dynamite.

The action is all on the inside.

Yet nothing happens until the fuse is lit.

This can happen routinely when you give people space in which to operate, enough support to explore issues and when you trust and honour the process. This in my experience is the gateway to sustained change. What's your experience...?

Monday 22 March 2010

The Payoff of Mastery-The 10,000 Hour Rule

A Coaching colleague of mine referred me to Malcolm Gladwell's book called 'Outliers'. Here's a link to it on Amazon; http://www.amazon.co.uk/Outliers-Story-Success-Malcolm-Gladwell/dp/0141036257/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1268435364&sr=1-1
One of the Chapters talks about the price of Mastery. It was put at 10,000 Hours. It seems to be the same for anything. Music, sport, profession. There are various examples, Bill Gates, Bill Joy (Sun Microsystems) the Beatles in Hamburg. The reality is it took approx 10,000 hours to achieve Mastery. This is also the equivalent of 10 years. Some commitment and special kinds of people. Some may call them nerds I call them great. Why...? Because they have enough clarity of purpose and ambition to dedicate their lives to excelling at ONE THING...........

Here's a cut down version of a book by Steve Siebold The secrets of the World Class' (How to turn Mediocrity into Greatness) Here's a link to a section of the book. It takes 3 minutes to view. http://www.simpletruths.com/flash_files/ibSOWC/ibSOWC.html In the end this is all a CHOICE and great people are not interested in doing things on the grounds of ego. They have a cause and a burning desire to excel. Not to be better than other more subtly to become the best they can be. Such a welcome relief after all the mediocrity that seems to be required today. Many people say the recession has killed the Market. I say it has MADE the Market. Why...? It has forced more and more of us to become Masters of what we do. Most of us are not that brilliant at what we do. Yet we have great abilities which we choose to neglect. I believe this is a necessary wake-up call to simply become better and start to operate at the level we could if we bothered. Once you get on this track you enjoy a sense of exhilaration that any junkie would envy. All because it's sustained and real!

So, ask yourself what could YOU excel at and instead of leaving yourself to rue the time past and future to get there. Just take the next step to engage in what Tim Freke calls 'Lucid Living' or living on purpose. Once you begin this journey life becomes calmer and you do become much more free.

My own view is when we take the time and effort to locate and detest our best talents and deepest passions we do NOT compete with anyone...Why? We tap into our own uniqueness and we don't trip over others on the way to work. In fact we are more disposed to collaboration and abundance. In this space there is always plenty. You must make the time to create the space to allow you turn it into something. That's the stuff of legacy.

Monday 15 March 2010

Ernest Shackleton's 10 Leadership Strategies

Ever wondered why some people just seem to 'get' what Leadership is about and others don't...? Earnest Shackleton was certainly one who did. Like many iconic figures he was a complex, controversial and to many inconsistent in his behaviour. One thing for certain if you were stranded in the South Pole, you'd rather have him as your Leader than most others. He had 10 Leadership Strategies which have been adopted my many leading companies in the past few years to help 'navigate' these uncertain times. Lean more here: http://indigo.ie/~jshack/ernest.html

I attended a seminar last year where Microsoft looked to his 10 Strategies as a means of 'navigating' these uncertain times. This was a very smart move. It was fresh, innovative and morover it was supremely relevant.
Here are the 10 Strategies Shackleton used as his Guiding Principles
  1. Never lose sight of the ultimate goal and focus on the short term objectives

  2. Set a personal example with visible memorable, symbols of behaviour

  3. Instill optimism and Self-confidence but remain grounded in reality

  4. Take care of yourself. Maintain your stamina and let go of guilt

  5. Reinforce the team message consistently- 'We are one, we live or die together'

  6. Minimise staff differences. Insist on courtesy and mutual respect

  7. Master conflicts, engage dissidents and avoid needless power struggles

  8. Find something to celebrate and something to laugh about

  9. Be willing to take the big risk

  10. Never give up, there's always another move
These are simply stunning and breathtakingly relevant. If we were to take ANY of these and put them into practice we'd be better people let alone Leaders. Working on ALL of these over time would simply take us to another level... That's effectively what Shackleton did and why his iconic status endures. He's earned it!

Your feedback on this most extraordinary and extravagant of men is most welcome.

Monday 8 March 2010

Great Places to Work Survey-2010

The annual Great Places To Work (GPTW) survey was published recently. You can view a link to the report here: http://irishindependent.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx. This is a TRUST based survey that is completed anonymously by the employees and feedback to the organisation. It rolls up into a total TRUST score across approx 5 dimensions. Annually the Top 20 are recognised. This year they published the Top 20 above 250 employees and below 250 which allows a wider range of entrants. I'm a great fan of this type of 'climate survey'. There are many reasons for this:

  1. It shows real intent by Leaders to have their own work critiqued by their own staff
  2. It displays real Courage to be able to take Feedback without knowing what it may entail
  3. History shows that businesses that engage with GPTW outperform the stock market significantly (so it's an enlightened and smart thing to do)

The most 'current' author on Trust is Stephen M.R. Covey (son of Stephen R. Covey of '7 Habits of Highly Effective People' fame). What this survey reveals for Leaders running companies is embodied in what Covey Jnr talks about in his work 'The Speed of Trust'. He says when Trust goes up, a business enjoys a 'dividend', the payoff is more speed and greater engagement and productivity. When Trust is low what you get is a 'tax', low speed and greater cost. The number 1 trait that comes out of all the surveys when people are asked about Leaders is 'Integrity and Trust'....When you score well in these surveys it shows your people believe in what you're doing and that your actions are in line with your words. This gives Leadership Credibility and real authority...Moral authority. Check out a link to Covey's website. It's worth the visit...he's very much a chip off the old block...! http://www.coveylink.com/

Did YOUR Leadership Team engage in this survey....? If not ask them why not. If they're real Leaders they will be able to answer that question both quickly and authentically.

Your comments as always are very welcome.

Monday 1 March 2010

Powerful Questions.......



I'm currently Coaching in an organisation where they're learning how to Coach and Mentor their Sales Teams. This is a great piece of work. We just started to work with the magic of 'Powerful Questions'. This is a key Coaching competency and I thought I'd share a context and a few examples with you. This is a life skill and one that's essential if you want to increase your Influence and powers of Persuasion both inside and outside of work!

There are many models available if you want to learn how to Coach. You can Google them; GROW/ CLEAR etc. Coaching is an excellent way of channelling a conversation from the broad and vague to the narrow and specific. This helps you understand the cause of an issue. It becomes CLEAR allowing you explore some new options. Finally there should be a commitment to actions.....Powerful questions can happen at any stage during a Coaching session, often times at the early stages of the discussion. The role of powerful questions is really 2 fold:
  1. To raise new awareness in the Coachee around something (Aha moment, insight etc)

  2. To cause the Coachee to stop in their tracks and be reflective about the question.

The 'power' of the question raises awareness and is a gateway to a 'shift' for the person being Coached. The Coachee usually goes quiet and is often thinking and being deeply impacted by something that's deeply meaningful to them. They see the issue differently, often more clearly. There is both beauty and magic in these moments. This helps people 'access that which they already know' or their own latent wisdom. It proves what we claim in Coaching...the Coachee has all the answers. A good Coach therefore MUST excel at powerful questions........If not, they are probably Consulting or Mentoring or giving advice....Without questions, it's very difficult to 'Ask', you're more likely to 'Tell'............Coaching is about asking!

So I hear you ask, give us some examples of 'Powerful Questions'........Take for example a father, worried about his son's approach to a major exam.

- "I'm really worried about my son, he doesn't seem to be taking his exams seriously"........

"Is that real or imaginary.......?" Is a Powerful Question. It invites the person being Coached to reflect on this situation. It may be that at their age, this is how they behaved and are worried for their son. Their son may have a different work pattern and be doing fine...also they may not. So it helps objectify if the concern is genuine.....If it is..........

Here's another question............"How do you address this with your son....?" The key then is to WAIT (allow space). A range of answers can be; (a) I suffer silently, (b) we argue (c) I get some articles on doing well in school and leave them in his room etc.......A follow-on Powerful Question could be; "Knowing your son as you do, what could or should you do...?" What tends to happen a lot is people say "What I'm beginning to realise is............ " then their own wisdom is revealed. The energy unleashed from this is where Coaching's real benefit lies. This fresh insight often removes a 'blockage/barrier' and the simplicity of the next required action provides a momentum all of it's own.........CHANGE has ALREADY taken place. A good Coach will then check for Accountability, Follow-Up and clarity of action and purpose............Viola, excellent Coaching! The Coach has never met the son and all that's happened is Coaching has provided the channel for this work to take place. Powerful Questions are enablers that allow this to take place with the person who came in with the problem doing most of the work!

It is possible to use other approaches to help people, silence, reflecting back, summarising etc. A properly framed question often brings an issue into sharp focus. CLARITY follows and very quickly so too does ACTION.........I'm amazed at how much can be achieved even in 15 minutes when Coach and Coachee meet in an uncluttered space.

Where to start...? How about next time you feel like telling it like it is or giving people the benefit of your own wisdom, take a step back, think about a suitable question that allows them take ownership of their own problem...? That will help them even more. What in fact you're doing at a more subtle level is honouring and investing in this relationship. By respecting the person enough to allow them feel they know what to do themselves if properly supported and given a safe space to explore an issue, this builds a level of trust that's rooted in pure love. That builds a special bond. Think about what that could do for your key relationships at home and at work....?Anyway enough philosophising for now!

This vital life skill can be honed very effectively over time to great effect.

Let me know how you get on............Slings, arrows and successes all very welcome!

Monday 22 February 2010

What you Want v What you Expect........

Last Sunday I was listening to Neil O'Brien a noted sports psychologist on the radio. It was very insightful. Neil has worked with many well known stars and teams. http://www.timetofly.ie/.



He was being asked about what makes the difference between winning and losing. What he had to say was very insightful and through it I learned quite a lot. He made reference to how Olympic athletes set goals and win Gold medals. They 'begin with the end in mind', what will it take to win your event in 4 years time and work back from that setting goals on a daily basis....everyday. I first heard Sir Stephen Redgrave talk about winning gold medals over and over again when I lived in the UK. This principle was pioneered by John Nabor in the 1970's who was a noted (but not exceptionally gifted) backstroke swimmer. He showed that with some 'guile and guts' you can outdo better opponents with relentless but meaningful focus.



He said there were 3 aspects to Performance:


  1. Technical preparation

  2. Physical preparation

  3. Mental Preparation............(This was by far the most important.)

Here's the nugget I picked up................When working with a Team, the ones that succeeded were the ones whose desires (what they wanted) were matched by what they expected. His reference was to a Team who wanted to win a County Football Championship BUT when asked what they expected to happen, they replied, "a good run, maybe a semi-final...." What happened...? You guessed, they didn't win. Paul's own background is in golf. Like tennis an individual sport where mental toughness counts for everything. (Why Tiger Woods and Roger Federer are so far ahead of the rest of the pack)

So what makes the difference between winners and losers........is the MATCHING of EXPECTATION (desired outcome/belief) with WANT (desire).....So to succeed your belief and your desire must be in sync. There should be no doubt. Why I love Coaching so much is, it's really about Positive Psychology= focusing on what you want. It is a superb antidote to much of the conditioning of our past and maybe our present. Too often we are reminded of what we don't want and can't have. The power of the mind is to develop the resilience to push back, re-frame and believe that things can be not alone different but BETTER.........The ultimate winners in life therefore are those who are mentally tougher. I took great heart from these words....Why...? Because I decide and I can BECOME tougher mentally and so I can get BETTER.............So can you. It's still only February. If your dreams for 2010 are not happening you can start all over again and become the winner you want to be.

Would really like to know what you think about this, it's so fundamental..........