The Risks of Conforming

We often look at the risks associated when people don’t conform, and we often don’t like those who fail to act in the way we want or we expect.  But how often do we consider the risks associated with conformity?  The answer is rarely, yet the risks are considerable.

We often go along with a course of action, or carry on with an activity even when it is obvious to us (and often to others) that to do so is detrimental.  Think of the time you pushed yourself too hard in the gym, or in a game or a race, and you paid for it later.  Why do we do this?  Well, it is not so much about being brave but about being part of the group. A kind of keeping-up with the Jones; if you will.

Research shows that we tend to conform to the behaviors of those around us. For example, if your work colleagues take sick days, then you’ll start taking them too.  This may not seem important – but let’s look further.

The recent problems at Volkswagen who were found to have manipulated emissions tests for at least seven years illustrate this.  Suggestions have been made it  was only a couple of people were responsible, but in an organization of over half-a-million people worldwide this does not seem credible. In this time nobody said anything. Why?  Because nobody else had said anything no-one else did.

If you are a leader you need to act and do what is right – and this may be not conforming and going against the rest of the herd.  The question is this: what will you do, and what are you doing now that others are conforming with?  Remember, people will follow what you do not what you say!

To do this, firstly, be clear on what your values are, those which are non-negotiable; secondly, be clear as to  what is happening around you and also because of how you act; thirdly, make sure that you act in a way that is aligned with your values. If this means taking a stand, then do so – to act with integrity requires courage. Leading from the front is never easy, but that is what every good leader will do.  So what are you going to do?

To find out more and discuss this and other ways to improve leadership effectiveness and organizational performance further contact Andrew Cooke (MGSCC), call Andrew Cooke on +61 (0)401 842 673 or andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

You can also find further insights and a wealth of material on business and leadership on Andrew’s other blog – Growth & Profit Solution Blog. There are also a large number of resources at his Blue Sky GPS Website, and these can be found Blue Sky GPS Resources.

About Andrew Cooke & Blue Sky GPS (Growth & Profit Solutions)

 

 

The Power of Self-Doubt

In a podcast of a lecture by Tim Macartney which he gave at the London School of Economics that I recently listened to – and which I would highly recommend – he shared a valuable insight which hit home for me. I would like to share that with you here.

The Story of Mac Maharaj

The story goes that Tim, and a number of business leaders in South Africa, met with Mac Maharaj.  Mac Maharaj was the leader of the ANC’s ground forces in the bush war against the apartheid regime, a brutal and bloody time.  He played a key role in the negotiation process to South Africa’s first democratic elections, and later became the Presidential Spokesperson.

He was asked a simple question – “What would you name as the quality of a leader that you would most like to see, say in your deputy, which is at the pivotal crux of good leadership?”

He considered the question for some time and answered: “Self-doubt”

A simple, unequivocal and unexpected answer.  But one which had a lot of thought and significant implications.

He explained: “I am sick of leaders who have no questions, who think they know and are convinced that they right, the constant emphasis on confidence, on having no doubt.  I know I had a deputy who had no self-doubt and who probably killed more of our own people than the enemy”.

He went on to describe how he would prefer a person who has sleepless nights questioning what they had done, the orders they had given.  That is a person who cares – they care about the decision and its impact, not as a way of looking good or for self-advancement.

The Implications of Self-Doubt

So how does self-doubt make you a better leader?

It will only work if your self-doubt is genuine and not contrived.  Self-doubt makes you humble, it gives you humility.  It makes you think long and hard about what you decide to do.  You know that you don’t know all there is to know, and that you need to continually learn and grow through other people so that they can grow and so that you can make better decisions.

To learn and grow you need to listen more and talk less, avoid becoming opinionated and “fixed” in your attitude, perspective and mindset.  To lead well you need to feel and to sense more.  You need to be more open and remove your ego.

As a leader you understand that your power comes from who you are, not what you are. You need to be consistent to who you are and what you represent, because people witness the quality of the human being that is the leader.  It is that essence of the leader – the you – that people follow, and it is the people who the leader serves.

Don’t confuse self-doubt with a low self-esteem, it quite the opposite. To have good self-esteem you need to be self-aware – you need to be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses, how you affect others and how you are affected by others in turn. So welcome self-doubt and let it thrive.  Use it as a tool by which you can grow and develop, and by which you can become a better leader.  What are you going to do to harness your self-doubt and help other to harness theirs so that they can become better leaders too?

To find out more and discuss this and other ways to improve leadership effectiveness and organizational performance further contact Andrew Cooke (MGSCC), call Andrew Cooke on +61 (0)401 842 673 or andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

You can also find further insights and a wealth of material on business and leadership on Andrew’s other blog – Growth & Profit Solution Blog. There are also a large number of resources at his Blue Sky GPS Website, and these can be found Blue Sky GPS Resources.

About Andrew Cooke & Blue Sky GPS (Growth & Profit Solutions)

 

 

6 Questions to Be Super Successful

Often, when we take time to reflect, we ask ourselves passive questions rather than active questions i.e. what has been done to change us, not what we have done to change ourselves. “Do you have clear goals?” is an example of a passive question. It’s passive because it can cause people to think of what is being done to them rather than what they are doing for themselves.

When we answers such static questions our response is environmental – that is we attribute the reasons for this answer to external factors, not ourselves. This encourages us and others when answering passive questions, to abdicate responsibility and accountability for ourselves. It also means that what we address, as a result of the responses we get from asking passive questions, will not help us address what we can do to improve.

In the video below Marshall Goldsmith provides an overview of how you can use active questions to improve yourself. Simlarly, your team can use them in turn to improve themselves.

So, what’s the alternative?

Active questions are the alternative to passive questions. There is a huge difference between “Do you have clear goals?” and “Did you do your best to set clear goals for yourself?” The former is trying to determine the employee’s state of mind; the latter challenges the employee to describe or defend a course of action.

Here They Are: The Six Questions that Will Set You Up to Be Super Successful!

Here are six active questions which, if you discipline yourself to ask them every day, will help you alter your behaviour:

  1. Did I do my best to increase my happiness?
  2. Did I do my best to find meaning?
  3. Did I do my best to be engaged?
  4. Did I do my best to build positive relationships?
  5. Did I do my best to set clear goals?
  6. Did I do my best to make progress toward goal achievement?

My challenge to you? Try it for yourself and see! If you like, try this for 2 weeks and then send me a quick note and let me know how it is working for you. I can’t wait to hear from you!

To find out more and discuss this and other ways to improve leadership effectiveness and organizational performance further contact Andrew Cooke (MGSCC), call Andrew Cooke on +61 (0)401 842 673 or andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

You can also find further insights and a wealth of material on business and leadership on Andrew’s other blog – Growth & Profit Solution Blog. There are also a large number of resources at his Blue Sky GPS Website, and these can be found Blue Sky GPS Resources.

About Andrew Cooke & Blue Sky GPS (Growth & Profit Solutions)

 

 

Making Meaningful Behavioural Changes Ain’t Easy

Based on an article by Marshall Goldsmith

Shared by Andrew Cooke, Blue Sky GPS

As an accredited Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching (MGSCC) executive coach, my role is to help successful people achieve positive lasting change in behaviour. Many embrace the opportunity to change, and most are aware of the fact that behavioural change will help them become more effective leaders, partners, and even family members. A few are not. I would like to share some of the insights as to why people find changing themselves so hard!

My process of helping clients is straightforward and consistent. I interview and listen to my clients’ key stakeholders. These stakeholders could be their colleagues, direct reports, or board members. I accumulate a lot of confidential feedback. Then I go over the summary of this feedback with my clients. My clients take ultimate responsibility for the behavioural changes that they want to make. My job is then very simple. I help my clients achieve positive, lasting change in the behaviour that they choose as judged by key stakeholders that they choose. If my clients succeed in achieving this positive change – as judged by their stakeholders – I get paid. If the key stakeholders do not see positive change, I don’t get paid.

Our odds of success improve because I’m with the client every step of the way, telling him or her how to stay on track and not regress to a former self. But that doesn’t diminish the importance of one extremely significant fact:

Meaningful behavioural change is hard to do.

It’s hard to initiate behavioural change, even harder to stay the course, hardest of all to make the change stick.

If you think I’m overstating its difficulty answer these questions:

  1. What do you want to change in your life? It could be something major, such as your weight (a big one), your job (big too), or your career (even bigger). It could be something minor, such as changing your hairstyle or checking in with your mother more often or changing the wall colour in your living room.
  2. How long has this been going on? For how many months or years have you risen in the morning and told yourself some variation on the phrase, “This is the day I make a change”?
  3. How’s that working out? In other words, can you point to a specific moment when you decided to change something in your life and you acted on the impulse and it worked out to your satisfaction?

These three questions conform to the three problems we face in introducing change into our lives.

  1. We can’t admit that we need to change—either because we’re unaware that a change is desirable, or, more likely, we’re aware but have reasoned our way into elaborate excuses that deny our need for change. In the following pages, we’ll examine—and dispense with—the deep-seated beliefs that trigger our resistance to change.
  2. We do not appreciate inertia’s power over us. Given the choice, we prefer to do nothing—which is why I suspect our answers to “How long has this been going on?” are couched in terms of years rather than days. Inertia is the reason we never start the process of change. It takes extraordinary effort to stop doing something in our comfort zone (because it’s painless or familiar or mildly pleasurable) in order to start something difficult that will be good for us in the long run.
  3. We don’t know how to execute a change. There’s a difference between motivation and understanding and ability. For example, we may be motivated to lose weight but we lack the nutritional understanding and cooking ability to design and stick with an effective diet. Or we have understanding and ability but lack the motivation. Our behaviour is shaped, both positively and negatively, by our environment—and a keen appreciation of our environment can dramatically lift not only our motivation, ability, and understanding of the change process, but also our confidence that we can actually do it.

Causes Problems of Changing Behaviour

What makes positive, lasting behavioural change so challenging – and causes most of us to give up early in the game – is that we have to do it in our imperfect world, full of triggers that may pull and push us off course. Achieving meaningful and lasting change may be simple – simpler than we imagine. But simple is far from easy. And being aware of that is the first step in helping you change yourself successfully.  Share this insight with your team, reports and colleagues.

To find out more and discuss this and other ways to improve leadership effectiveness and organizational performance further contact Andrew Cooke (MGSCC), call Andrew Cooke on +61 (0)401 842 673 or andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

You can also find further insights and a wealth of material on business and leadership on Andrew’s other blog – Growth & Profit Solution Blog. There are also a large number of resources at his Blue Sky GPS Website, and these can be found Blue Sky GPS Resources.

About Andrew Cooke & Blue Sky GPS (Growth & Profit Solutions)

 

Can Executives Really Change Their Behaviour?

Can Executives Really Change Their BehaviourMy mission is to help successful leaders achieve positive, long-term, measurable change in behaviour. The following process, developed by Marshall Goldsmith, is being used by coaches around the world for this same purpose. When these steps are followed, leaders almost always achieve positive, measurable results in changed behaviour — not as judged by themselves, but as judged by pre-selected, key co-workers. This process has been used with great success by both external coaches and internal coaches.

If the coach will follow these basic steps, clients almost always get better.

  1. Involve the leaders being coached in determining the desired behaviour in their leadership roles. Leaders cannot be expected to change behaviour if they don’t have a clear understanding of what desired behaviour looks like. The people that I coach (in agreement with their managers) work with me to determine desired leadership behaviour.
  2. Involve the leaders being coached in determining key stakeholders. Not only do clients need to be clear on desired behaviours, they need to be clear (again in agreement with their managers) on key stakeholders. There are two major reasons why people deny the validity of feedback – wrong items or wrong raters. Having clients and their managers agree on the desired behaviours and key stakeholders in advance helps ensure their “buy in” to the process.
  3. Collect feedback. In my coaching practice, I personally interview all key stakeholders. The people I coach are executives or aspiring executives, and the company is making a real investment in their development. However, at lower levels in the organization, traditional 360° feedback can work very well. In either case, feedback is critical. It is impossible to get evaluated on changed behaviour if there is not agreement on what behaviour to change.
  4. Reach agreement on key behaviours for change. My approach is simple and focused. I generally recommend picking only one to two key areas for behavioural change with each client. This helps ensure maximum attention to the most important behaviour. My clients and their managers (unless my client is the CEO) agree upon the desired behaviour for change. This ensures that I won’t spend a year working with my clients and have their managers determine that we have worked on the wrong thing!
  5. Have the coaching clients respond to key stakeholders.The person being reviewed should talk with each key stakeholder and collect additional “feedforward” suggestions on how to improve the key areas targeted for improvement. In responding, the person being coached should keep the conversation positive, simple, and focused. When mistakes have been made in the past, it is generally a good idea to apologize and ask for help in changing the future. I suggest that my clients listen to stakeholder suggestions and not judge the suggestions.
  6. Review what has been learned with clients and help them develop an action plan. As was stated earlier, my clients have to agree to the basic steps in our process. On the other hand, outside of the basic steps, all of the other ideas that I share with my clients are I just ask them to listen to my ideas in the same way they are listening to the ideas from their key stakeholders. I then ask them to come back with a plan of what they want to do. These plans need to come from them, not me. After reviewing their plans, I almost always encourage them to live up to their own commitments. I am much more of a facilitator than a judge. I usually just help my clients do what they know is the right thing to do.
  7. Develop an ongoing follow-up process.Ongoing follow-up should be very efficient and focused. Questions like, “Based upon my behaviour last month, what ideas do you have for me for next month?” can keep a focus on the future. Within six months conduct a two- to six-item mini survey with key stakeholders. They should be asked whether the person has become more or less effective in the areas targeted for improvement.
  8. Review results and start again.If the person being coached has taken the process seriously, stakeholders almost invariably report improvement. Build on that success by repeating the process for the next 12 to 18 months. This type of follow-up will assure continued progress on initial goals and uncover additional areas for improvement. Stakeholders will appreciate the follow-up. No one minds filling out a focused, two- to six-item questionnaire if they see positive results. The person being coached will benefit from ongoing, targeted steps to improve performance.

While behavioural coaching is only one branch in the coaching field, it is the most widely used type of coaching. Most requests for coaching involve behavioural change. While this process can be very meaningful and valuable for top executives, it can be even more useful for high-potential future leaders. These are the people who have great careers in front of them. Increasing effectiveness in leading people can have an even greater impact if it is a 20-year process, instead of a one-year program.

People often ask, “Can executives really change their behaviour?” The answer is definitely yes. At the top of major organizations even a small positive change in behaviour can have a big impact. From an organizational perspective, the fact that the executive is trying to change anything (and is being a role model for personal development) may be even more important than what the executive is trying to change. One key message that I have given every CEO that I coach is “To help others develop – start with yourself!”

To find out more and discuss this and other ways to improve leadership effectiveness and organizational performance further contact Andrew Cooke (MGSCC), call Andrew Cooke on +61 (0)401 842 673 or andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

You can also find further insights and a wealth of material on business and leadership on Andrew’s other blog – Growth & Profit Solution Blog. There are also a large number of resources at his Blue Sky GPS Website, and these can be found Blue Sky GPS Resources.

About Andrew Cooke & Blue Sky GPS (Growth & Profit Solutions)

 

Your Boss – Seriously Successful or Downright Deluded?

Seriously Successful or Downright DeludedWhich answer do you think is most common? Strangely enough, the answer is probably both!

Marshall Goldsmith shares a story:

One night over dinner, I listened to a wise military leader share his experience with an eager, newly minted General, “Recently, have you started to notice that when you tell jokes, everyone erupts into laughter—and that when you say something ‘wise’ everyone nods their heads in solemn agreement?” The new General replied, “Why, yes, I have.” The older General laughed, “Let me help you. You aren’t that funny and you aren’t that smart! It’s only that star on your shoulder. Don’t ever let it go to your head.”

Marshall continues. We all want to hear what we want to hear. We want to believe those great things that the world is telling us about ourselves. Your boss is no different. It’s our belief in ourselves that helps us become successful and it can also make it very hard for us to change. As the wise older General noted – we aren’t really that funny, and we aren’t really that smart. We can all get better -if we are willing to take a hard look at ourselves. By understanding why changing behavior can be so difficult for our leaders, we can increase the likelihood of making the changes that we need to make in our quest to become even more successful.

In the video below Marshall shares his insight into “The Success Delusion”, a short but powerful video. When watching it remember, this not only applies to you but also to others – so remember that when you work with your team, your peers, your bosses and others.

Why We Resist Change

We all delude ourselves about our achievements, our status, and our contributions. We

  • Overestimate our contribution to a project;
  • Have an elevated opinion of our professional skills and standing among our peers;
  • Exaggerate our project’s impact on profitability by discounting real and hidden costs.

Many of our delusions come from our association with success, not failure. We get positive reinforcement from our successes and we think they are predictive of a great future.

The fact that successful people tend to be delusional isn’t all bad. Our belief in our wonderfulness gives us confidence. Even though we are not as good as we think we are, this confidence actually helps us be better than we would become if we did not believe in ourselves. The most realistic people in the world are not delusional—they are depressed!

Although our self-confident delusions can help us achieve, they can make it difficult for us to change. In fact, when others suggest that we need to change, we may respond with unadulterated bafflement.

It’s an interesting three-part response:

  1. First we are convinced that the other party is confused. They are misinformed, and they just don’t know what they are talking about. They must have us mixed up with someone who truly does need to change.
  2. Second, as it dawns upon us that the other party is not confused—maybe their information about our perceived shortcomings is accurate—we go into denial mode. This criticism may be correct, but it can’t be that important—or else we wouldn’t be so successful.
  3. Finally, when all else fails, we may attack the other party. We discredit the messenger. “Why is a winner like me,” we conclude, “listening to a loser like you?”

These are just a few of our initial responses to what we don’t want to hear. Couple this with the very positive interpretation that successful people assign to (a) their past performance, (b) their ability to influence their success (as opposed to just being lucky), (c) their optimistic belief that their success will continue in the future, and (d) their over-stated sense of control over their own destiny (as opposed to being controlled by external forces), and you have a volatile cocktail of resistance to change.

So, as you can see, while your boss’s positive beliefs about herself helped her become successful, these same beliefs can make it tough for her to change. The same beliefs that helped her get to her current level of success, can inhibit her from making the changes needed to stay there – or move forward. Don’t fall into this trap!

As the wise older General noted, as you move up the ranks and get that star – don’t let it go to your head. Realize that every promotion can make it harder to change. Always balance the confidence that got you here = where you are – with the humility required to get you there – where you have the potential to go.

I am passionate about helping executives and leaders become more successful and, in doing so, help others become more successful in turn.  As an accredited Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coach (MGSCC) I partner with executives and leaders to help them achieve real tangible improvement in leadership effectiveness and organizational performance.

To find out more and discuss this and other ways to improve leadership effectiveness and organizational performance further contact Andrew Cooke (MGSCC), call Andrew Cooke on +61 (0)401 842 673 or andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

You can also find further insights and a wealth of material on business and leadership on Andrew’s other blog – Growth & Profit Solution Blog. There are also a large number of resources at his Blue Sky GPS Website, and these can be found Blue Sky GPS Resources.

About Andrew Cooke & Blue Sky GPS (Growth & Profit Solutions)

 

 

How to Challenge Your Team & Take It to the Next Level

Challenge Your TeamI am passionate about helping executives and leaders become more successful and, in doing so, help others become more successful in turn.  As an accredited Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coach (MGSCC) I would like to share with you a simple process which can deliver real tangible improvement in leadership effectiveness and organizational performance. I have also included a short video by Marshall Goldsmith that shares this process with you.

Let me share a story with you on how to Team Build Without Time Wasting.

A team was being coached as a group,. When asked to rate themselves they scored themselves, on average, as a 6.1. Each team member was asked to reflect on a challenge that he/she was currently having and  to share with the group. There were about 10 people and 6 focused on changing what they could not change. It was an epidemic! The team prioritized this behavior – to focus on what they could change and not what they could not -as the one to focus on in their team change efforts. Over the next six months, the group took part in the Team Building without Time Wasting process and I it is now a highly functional team, with members rating the team an 8.6!

Video:Team Build Without Time Wasting.

In the video above Marshall Goldsmith provides a brief overview of how this process works, and how you can use it for your own benefit.

Following are the steps the team took to change this endemic challenge of focusing on what they could not change. Note step 7. All of the steps are critical in the process, and step 7 is the one that will take your team to the next level – it is Follow-Up – and it will ensure that the change sticks!

  1. Ask all members of the team to confidentially record their individual answers to two questions:
    1. “On a 1 to 10 scale (with 10 being ideal), how well are we doing in terms of working together as a team?” and
    2. On a 1 to 10 scale, how well do we need to be doing in terms of working together as a team?”
  2. Have a team member calculate the results. Discuss the results with the team. If the team members believe that the gap between current effectiveness and needed effectiveness indicates the need for team building, proceed to the next step in the process.
  3. Ask the team members, “If every team member could change two key behaviors that would help us close the gap between where we are and where we want to be, which two behaviors we all should try to change?” Have each team member record his or her selected behaviors on flip charts.
  1. Help team members prioritize all the behaviors on the charts (many will be the same or similar) and (using consensus) determine the most important behavior to change (for all team members).
  2. Have each team member hold a one-on-one dialogue with all other team members. During the dialogues each member will request that his or her colleague suggest two areas for personal behavioural change (other than the one already agreed on above) that will help the team close the gap between where we are and where we want to be.
  3. Let each team member review his or her list of suggested behavioural changes and choose the one that seems to be the most important. Have all team members then announce their one key behavior for personal change to the team.
  4. Encourage all team members to ask for brief (five-minute), monthly three question “suggestions for the future” from all other team members to help increase their effectiveness in demonstrating 1) the one key behavior common to all team members, 2) the one key personal behavior generated from team member input, and 3) overall effective behavior as a team member.
  5. Conduct a mini-survey, follow-up process in approximately six months. From the mini-survey each team member will receive confidential feedback from all other team members on his or her perceived change in effectiveness. This survey will include the one common behavioural item, the one personal behavioural item, and the overall team member item. A final question can gauge the level of follow-up – so that team members can see the connection between their level of follow-up and their increased effectiveness.

This process works because it is highly focused, includes disciplined feedback and follow-up, doesn’t waste time, and causes participants to focus on self-improvement.

Let me close with a challenge to you (the reader) as a team leader. Try it! The “downside” is very low. The process takes little time and the first mini-survey will quickly show whether progress is being made. The “upside” can be very high. As effective teamwork becomes more and more important, the brief amount of time that you invest in this process may produce a great return for your team and an even greater return for your organization.

To find out more and discuss this and other ways to improve leadership effectiveness and organizational performance further contact Andrew Cooke (MGSCC), call Andrew Cooke on +61 (0)401 842 673 or andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

You can also find further insights and a wealth of material on business and leadership on Andrew’s other blog – Growth & Profit Solution Blog. There are also a large number of resources at his Blue Sky GPS Website, and these can be found at Blue Sky GPS Resources.

About Andrew Cooke & Blue Sky GPS (Growth & Profit Solutions)