Leadership

Begin with the end in mind

Begin with the end in mind

Begin with the end in mind

‘The servers down’!!!!!

It seems like it’s the perfect excuse for not working or to take stock of the jobs that can be done when its down, that you may otherwise have decided was best not started.

Begin with the end in mind may not seem an obvious Stephen Covey quote to refer to when the server goes down, yet a recent event in my office led to the discussion about, what should we do when the satellites decide to play up.

One hour or five without the internet seem rarer these days. Our conclusion on the last event though helped us realise that we were distracted enough by our computers to have many of the ‘other jobs’ start to get behind.

One major benefit of this thinking is that it allows you to think of all that is needed for a job or project to be finished. Some of us are not good at following a job all the way through to the end, but some are.

Some of us use computers well and enjoy them. Some of us don’t.

It is helpful to think of a division of jobs that need tenacious computer types and jobs that need a tenacious other type.

A recent storage issue in one of my businesses helped me define a newer approach. Heavily paper based for over 20 years, made a big scanning project a necessity. To be frank the scanning should have been done years ago, but not being as tech based as the modern world requires, I kept putting it off.

Now I’m looking at selling this business, I am forced to face the challenge, that could have been easier had I been brave enough and thought end game more.

I ran the project by my team, and after a few ‘Luddite’ comments, I agreed I should not be the one running this. So, with the end in mind, I set the goal, I gave it to my tenacious computer-based people, and they are now charging through the job faster than I’d thought they would. With more enthusiasm than I could have mustered and with a better insight into how to get the job done than I could have. The end I have in mind seems so much closer.

I love the concept of sharing goals, getting the right people doing the right jobs, getting a deadline agreed and overall, delegating things that are just not my forte.

Waiting until the server is down, to discover what you can do without these amazing things called computers is not the best strategy. The jobs that are needed to be completed to get a project finished are best split between those that can be best at doing them.

Remember the differing versions of style of skills and mindsets you have at your disposal and if “begin with the end in mind” becomes an ingrained habit, you will get there so much quicker.

I look forward to next satellite wobble and its effects.

Letting go of the past

Letting go of the past and moving on

It is never easy to let go of a secure hand or foothold but to be blunt, how can you possibly climb the wall unless you do?

It takes faith in the new foothold and belief that it will take you to a better position. Until you let go, you’ll never know.

Imagine looking at a climbing wall and seeing climbers stuck in the middle. You shout and encourage them to move on, but they stubbornly say ‘I can’t’ or ‘I won’t because I’m afraid’.

You can see the goal ahead of them, but their face is pressed against the wall, and they can’t see what you see. They will stay there until they fall off or die.

Sometimes people around them are saying the same thing, and they are stuck too! They keep each other stuck by saying, be careful, don’t let go, you may fall off! It might be worse on the next foothold. So, they feel reassured that it best to stay where they are.

Occasionally, people come from below, and pass them and ask as they pass, ‘why are you staying there?’ They can’t understand why people would play it so safe they would sacrifice the rest of their lives in order not to take a risk. Some do fall off, and it scares the ones rigidly hanging on. Some of those who fell, get back on and still climb past them. Some are never heard of again. From the perspective of the hanger on it is frightening.

The coach has climbed that wall already. The coach is at the bottom or in the middle or at the top, offering advice, encouragement, and being the positive ‘, you can do it’

Some coaches are watching from a distance so that they can see the goal, the hurdles, the best strategies and the dangers. They are like your Sat Nav in life. My Sat Nav in the car sometimes says’ Your route has been altered due to the current traffic situation’.  Being stuck on the climbing wall of life is like saying to your sat nav, well I don’t care, I’m just going to carry on doing what I have always done.

It’s strange, but that is how some people live their lives. Whether that’s based on fear, laziness, apathy, contentment or even just plain stupidity, at some point, in order to move on, or climb, you need to let go. Deciding what to let go of is part of the solution. Listening to those that have been there and done it is another.

The story of the spider monkey comes to mind when I think of the amount that we give up, by just not letting go of what is holding us back.

The poor spider monkey is a beautiful creature, that is traded as a pet all over the world. They are hard to catch in the wild, without hurting them. So, us ever ingenious humans came up with a way to catch them that is based on their greed and physique.

Their hands are like clubs on the end of a very skinny arm. They love nuts as a natural part of their diet, and this is their unfortunate demise. To capture one, all you need to do is put a thin-necked sturdy bottle in a strong box and put a few nuts in it. The spider monkey can smell them and reaches in to grab some. He loves them so much, he will not let go of them, and his big hand is now too big to pull out of the bottle. He is trapped. His captor then puts a chain on him and he is no longer free. The captor breaks the bottle, because he knows the spider money will not let go.

The monkey has not only given up his freedom for the rest of his life, but it was for only a few nuts which he could have let go and still be free.

What are you holding on to? What do you need to let go of?

Who could help you identify what it is and has the wisdom to reason with you, to ally your fears?

A coach offers this and more.

The high road or the low road?

 

The high road or the low road?

As part of our coaching practice, we ask programme members the following question:
 
Why did you start your own business?
 
The answers are generally very similar.
  • I felt I could make more money doing (what I do) myself
  • I wanted to be in control of my own time
  • I did not like the way I was treated at my last company
  • I had a great idea that I wanted to put into practice.
However, nobody starts a business which they believe will fail. Most people start a business in which they have expertise in what the business does. A florist starts a florist shop. An electrician starts working for himself as an electrician. A financial adviser like myself starts a financial advice business. This trend is very well covered in the excellent book for small business owners – the E- Myth Revisited. The book also covers the reasons that most new businesses fail in the first five years. The figure is around 80% which is alarming and terrible for the people concerned.
 
The main reason is, although they know how to do what the business does, they have no skills in how to run a business.
 
This skill of understanding how to run a business well is significantly more important than knowing how the work of the business is done.
 
A highly experienced business owner could probably make a success of a florists business, even if he or she did not have the slightest idea on how to be a good florist. Essentially, this is where a good business coach can help – they know the strategies which work and the ones which are less likely to.
 
Nearly everyone believes they can make more money working for themselves. This is normally is a primary driver for taking the risk of starting their own business. This is fine as an initial driver as we all have to live and pay our bills. However, once the business is relatively stable and profitable running a business purely for the money is the low road. This low road has a high potential to end in dissatisfaction, stress and burnout.
 
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as shown below says that once our physiological and safety needs are met, we all aim to satisfy our needs for self- fulfilment.maslow hierarchy of needs
 
Setting the main goal and purpose of the business as only making a large a profit as possible causes a problem. It will make it more difficult for the directors and team to stay motivated and aligned with that purpose in the longer term.
 
The high road is to set a purpose of contributing to the world and adding the most value possible. Of course, the bottom line of working as effectively and efficiently as possible does not go away. The business must continue to make a profit to thrive.
 
Delivering on this higher purpose will generate money as customers all appreciate good value. This higher mindset will align the directors and their teams to work harder. They will also have higher levels of job satisfaction that simply more money will not bring.

Action required

Review your company goals – are they set around the high road or the low road?

Explore what your business does. Ask your customers why they use your products and services. Talk to your employees. Ask them what value the company provides.
 
Once you have collected all the information, spend some time setting a vision for the future. This vision should encompass the contribution the company intends to make and the value it provides. Clarify and write down the company purpose, mission and values.
 
Get feedback on your statements from your employees and customers before settling on a finished version. Then keep these statements under review and set your company goals and direction around them.
 
This is the higher road which leads to self-fulfilment for all people working at the company. It also helps you employee people who are aligned with what you are trying to achieve.  These more engaged employees work harder and smarter to help achieve company goals and produce higher profits.
So in deciding on your business goals remember the high road or the low road is a conscious decision which can make a big difference in your approach
Enjoy the journey

Muhammad Ali – Inspirational thoughts

Muhammad Ali – Inspirational thoughts

Muhammad Ali – I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.

I must admit to being very surprised when I first came across this quote. “Hated every minute of training?” and yet he still went on to become what many would regard as the greatest boxer who ever lived? He was certainly an icon who transcended his sport.

Muhammad Ali must have spent thousands of hours training to become the best at what he did. This training is a testament to his basic beliefs. If you want outstanding results in your field of endeavour you have to train long and hard.

Many business owners wonder why their business is not progressing. They believe it should be performing better. And yet they have spent very little time training as opposed to “fighting in their ring.” They seem to believe their business is completely different to all other businesses. They ignore the benefits of a great training and coaching program.

This is a misplaced point of view. Every business may indeed be different. Indeed, every athlete is different. If those athletes want to become great,  the same principles of coaching apply to all athletes. In business, the same applies. Coaching will help you to develop as a person and a business owner.

How much time do you spend in the training zone?

How much time do you spend in the performance zone?

The training zone gives you help and feedback to improve your skills. In the performance zone, you have to achieve excellent results.

Nobody wants to have an operation done by a surgeon who is in training.

You want him to have trained to an excellent standard beforehand and then produce outstanding performance in your operation.

Allow yourself time to train to be the best you can be. This investment in yourself is the best investment you can make.

The results of such a change will have a huge positive impact on your life and business profitability.

If every great athlete like Muhammad Ali in the world has a coach why don’t you?

Do you know your clients?

get to know your clients

Do you know your clients? Yes, but do you really know?

We often think we know our businesses, and its true most us have a handle on the numbers and the history.  However, Sir Clive Woodward, at a recent conference talked about ‘The Data’, and the story behind the data is not often a true explanation of the facts.

Get the Facts. Truly, deep down can’t get any more data Facts.

You can look at your ROFE, yet behind that could be just a handful of great profitable customers that are masking the truth behind the vacuum of profit customer. Averages help get an overview but break them down and the character of the good bad and the ugly, start to show.

Ask your team, who is a pain to deal with, and why is that so. A client may serve you better by being referred to a nearby competitor. That client may have come from them in the first place.

I remember letting a client go once, and he was horrified. He got quite angry too. So, I explained to him that my average customer spent 20 hours a month of my time and gave me £300,000 turnover a year. I explained that my profit from my average customer was £100,000. On the other hand, he gave me 30 hours work a month and only contributed to £80,000 to my turnover.

Once I had explained the ‘Facts’ to him he calmed down and realised why I was making the decision and that had he known more, he would have looked at what I offered differently.

The result with this client was that I offered to charge him an hourly rate. He declined as he knew he could go and take advantage of a competitor, without paying the fees for his time. So, we agreed to no longer work together.

Unless I had got to the bottom of his way of dealing with us and backed it up with enough comparable facts, I may have continued to be bossed around by this client. It turns out the staff loved that I had ‘let him go’ because he was the proverbial heart sinker. A double win.

Working with clients you like is always a bonus. Ones that are profitable as well make a great business.

The sweet spot of what you offer is one number crunching exercise. Looking at clients who could be ten times more profitable than your average is another.

Which of your clients have the capacity to do so much more? Fewer clients to deal with could be a new option. The numbers will reveal them.

It could be that your top clients are not top clients. It could be that your low turnover/profit clients are capable of so much more, or, would refer you to others that can. Getting to know your clients in depth is important.

By getting ALL the numbers, the decisions are so much easier.

Yes, it felt good to remove Mr Pain. It was easier than I thought because I had got the facts. Numbers never lie if you dig deep enough.

So do you know your clients well enough?

Hire slow fire fast

Hire Slow Fire Fast

Hire slow fire fast

When we employ enough staff, we start to realise that employees are transitional. They come and go based on their agendas, lifestyle, circumstances, competence or even just boredom.

Hiring people is an art form. Get it wrong and you will be going through a tough time. Hire well and it can be extremely rewarding and fruitful. Good staff and stability is a great measure of how you run your business.

If you consider staff to be friends then lines can get blurred. Complacency, familiarity and lack of progress are tell-tale signs that the job isn’t the job hoped for and must be guarded against.

Building a team of people that complement each other or generate a powerhouse of work completed takes time, awareness and attention.

The question is, who does that for you and what systems do you use to ensure great productivity? How much do you develop a relationship with staff or them with each other for optimal performance?

It could be considered formulaic. However, people are people and by that, I mean, we are all different. We may have skills that are needed to compliment others or complete a team. Overall though we need to feel human, fulfilled, valued, cared for, respected, listened to and appreciated.

Even if you are all the above, turnover of staff will occur. Loyalty cannot be bought. Life changes outside work and life impacts.

When trust breaks down, fire fast. No employee should be allowed to continue in their job if the trust has gone. It is better to pay them all they are entitled to and change the locks and passwords. If you find yourself compromised, shut up shop. Get rid and move on.

The opposite is true. Hire slow. Take your time to find the right person. Do not react by getting in the first person you can. Take your time. You could be with them for years to come. Valuable people are out there. People who have skills that are rich and useful and underutilised do exist. People who are looking for a breath of fresh air and want to be part of a company that is fertile ground that enhances their natural abilities and captures their great ideas are keen to be with you.

Where would you like to work and under what conditions? Create the type of environment that people will want to come to. They will want to work hard and feel appreciated. That must be better than trying to fill the bank account with enough money each month, just to get by. That style of thinking will never serve your businesses, the employee or others who work there.

We can stifle great people. We can micromanage them to the point of strangulation. I could not think of a worse job.

When selecting someone to take on board, they need to be self-starters. Batteries included. Your role in making that happen is important and worthy of investment.

Ask the candidate, how do you see yourself in three years’ time. You already know what you want to hear, and they will already know what you want to hear too. However, those that can easily answer and are excited about the prospect of growth and learning as well as being able to articulate that in a way that you know isn’t contrived should be sought after, cared for, protected, nurtured, cherished and included in your vision for the future.

Why I try to prove myself wrong

Why I try to prove myself wrong

Why I try to prove myself wrong

Our biggest errors in making decisions often occur when we believe we are correct about the facts or information around a subject but in fact we were wrong.

It’s true that you cannot go on second guessing yourself forever and sometimes decisions have to be made with the information that’s available to hand. In most cases however and certainly for longer term goals and strategies it pays huge dividends to double check your information or get expert help from a variety of sources.

A good way of thinking about it is to set a system in place to double check your information and the strategies that are driven as a result of that information.

“In other words when I’m certain that I’m right about something, I will try to prove myself wrong.”

Trying to prove myself wrong is the best way I know of to improve my education around a subject which will then drive my strategies and actions. However it flies in the face of how we are raised and rewarded. Usually, you are rewarded for the “right answer” in a world of education where there is a perceived right answer. So we are subconsciously raised to believe there is one right answer. This also falls right into our preferred method of thinking which is to seek easy answers as anything else raises uncertainty and then takes too much time and effort to resolve.

We tend to skim information and accept what we read and hear at face value. For instance -almost everybody will judge other people diets believing they are healthy on not, based on superficial information and education. Unless you have done at least one thousand hours study and in depth research into an effective human diet or any other complicated subject you have almost no expertise – so presume you are wrong.

There also exists the problem of confirmation bias, which leads us simply to seek out information and facts which support the decisions (often irrational and emotional) we have already made. This effect is even stronger in emotionally charged issues when ambiguous information is used for supporting evidence. It is often easier to try to prove someone else wrong than make the effort to get more educated ourselves.

“When we are open to the possibility of being wrong, we gain knowledge which will help guide our strategies and decisions.”

Even when trying to build your knowledge, you have to be careful about people’s opinions as everyone has some sort of agenda, which while it might be well intentioned, may also be as a result of their own confirmation bias. Most documentaries, magazine articles or blog posts will be written by someone with an agenda and it’s not difficult to research any subject and find a different point of view on the same topic.

However, in big life changing decisions like your diet, exercise program, career or finances it is certainly worth the time to make an educated decision as possible. Trying to prove yourself wrong is an effective strategy as this route usually leads you to find out that the issues involved are much more complex that you originally thought and the world is rarely black and white. You have probably studied your career for over 1000 hours but can you say the same about diet, exercise and financial well being?

We need to start off believing we are right but then really make the effort to prove ourselves wrong and seek out information that flies in the face of our beliefs. When we are open to the possibility of being wrong, we gain knowledge which will help guide our strategies and decisions.

Other than the time and effort it takes to more fully and deeply explore any subject that could lead to big decisions there is little to lose and much to gain.

  • You gain knowledge
  • You gain balance and empathy with other people’s points of view
  • You gain better strategies and decisions

Simply put in taking the time and effort to prove yourself wrong – you gain.

Enjoy the journey

Generating focus on the job until completion

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Generating focus on the job until completion.

Recently I decided to put a 3-minute video together to post on my Website. I soon realised that when I made a mistake of any sort, because I had the option to stop and start again, I could focus on getting it as near perfect as possible and just ditch the out-takes as it were.

This caused me to keep my focus levels average and not be VERY focused as I should be. The idea of one try and that’s all you have, would be difficult to manage but like the proverbial gun to the head does have a way of improving your performance or shutting you down completely.

Generating focus on any task that is important, needs to be understood. Too relaxed and the performance or detail can be too casual and substandard.  Too intense and you may crumble under the pressure.

The length of time that we can spend highly focused is different for us all and different dependant on it being something we love doing compared to something we hate doing or just need to get done.

If you love painting, you can spend many hours doing so and lose track of time.  Often the more focused we are the more we lose track of time. People refer to this as being in the zone or in a state of Flow.

So how do you get the maximum focus time for any one job. The style of guidelines varies but here are some fundamentals:

It is better to stay highly focused for a short period and then have a break and pick it up again.

The less distractions you have the better.

The less opportunities you have, to be able to postpone the task, the more focused you will become.

Having others to answer to will keep you motivated too.

Proper preparation is essential. Start by detailing your plan, determining your order of attack as well as preparing the tools or needed equipment will enhance your focus.

The desired outcome being clear in your mind, enables you to overcome the hurdles as you go, rather than stumbling and failing. It also helps you persevere at the tough points.

There are many styles of how to focus yourself and the key to being focused is listening and analysing yourself to enable that to happen. Here is a thought process that will help.

Tasks or goals often fit into one or more of these criteria: Necessary, urgent or desired.

If they fit the urgent, it is clearer that you of course need to get on with it. The necessary push you in a negative way. The desired however can be the one you put off until the desire is very strong indeed.

Learning to build your desire helps tremendously with motivation and generating focus.

Avoiding the pain helps too.

As yourself the following:

  1. When does this need to get done by?
  2. Why does it need to be done?
  3. What are the benefits of doing so?

These will all greatly enhance your ability in generating focus and improve the quality of what you do.

Going back to the video. It is urgent and desired. I have many good reasons to do it. The benefits of making it are huge and potentially lucrative too.

Have I struggled with generating focus? Yes. Using the guidelines above, I managed to get it done, enjoy it and have some funny outtakes too. The progress made was good too. The next one will be easier. Thankfully my camera knows how to focus automatically.

We need to practice on generating focus to help achieve our desired outcomes.

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