What You Need to Do If You Want to Change

Change starts with ourselves, but why is it so hard to do?

To change ourselves we need to change our behaviour. This is difficult to do and even harder to sustain. In fact it can be one of the hardest things that we do.

If you think I’m exaggerating this then answer these three questions for yourself:

  • What do you want to change in your life? – This might be something minor or major, just think of something that is important to you right now.
  • How long has this been going on?– How many weeks months or years have you been telling yourself some variation on the phrase, “this is the day I make the change!”
  • How is it working out? – Can you point to a specific moment or a specific time when you decided to change something in your life, you acted on it, and it worked out to your satisfaction?

I suspect, like many people, you have something you want to change that has been going on for a long time, and for which you have not yet taken any action or achieved the change to your satisfaction. There are three reasons why this is:

  • We can’t admit that we need to change – we are not aware of the need, or we are aware of the need but we have rationalized to ourselves why we do not need to change.
  • We do not appreciate inertia’s power over us – inertia is often the reason why we don’t begin the process of change. Given the choice we prefer to do nothing rather than take a sustained course of action. As such, it is hard to stop doing something that takes us out of our existing comfort zone, in order to start something difficult which will only benefit us in the longer term.
  • We don’t know how to execute a change – we need to understand the 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. Alternatively, we may have the understanding and the ability but lack the motivation

Ask yourself these three questions:

  • Do I really want to change?
  • What am I prepared to stop in order that I can start something?
  • Do I have the necessary motivation, understanding and ability to successfully make the change in my behaviour?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, then consider why this is the case and look at what you need to do to bring around an answer of “yes”. You can’t change yourself unless you want to; you know what you need to stop doing and what you need to start doing; and that you have the necessary motivation, understanding and ability.

If you were to ask these questions of your team, then what would they answer? Understanding this will help you understand where you may encounter resistance to change, why, and what to do about.  Try it and see what insights you uncover.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

3 Factors for Building Resilience

How to assess and develop your organization’s resilience.


*by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

Resilience – a word more often abused than used correctly.  Resilience often is used to describe strength.   Although strength is implied in resilience, it is actually not a trait (a distinguishing quality) – rather it is a capability, something that can be used.

There are two definitions for resilience that can be used here:

  • “the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress”
  • “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change”

The Three Factors of Resilience

Resilience relies on three factors:

  1. Flexibility – how flexible is your business in terms of how it works, how it is structured and how it is organized in producing the same outcome result?
  2. Adaptability – how can you apply what you do and how you do it to produce different outcomes or results.
  3. Learning – how good is your business, at an  individual and corporate level, in learning the lessons from having to adapt or be flexible so that you can avoid repeating them (hard , painful lessons) or you can leverage them in the future (where you have had success) and understanding why you were successful or not.3 Factors for Resiliency - Overview

Flexibility Factors

  • Elasticity – can you easily expand or contract the business in whole or part
  • Alternatives – are there many ways in which you can achieve the same result, or are you locked in to one or only a few ways?
  • Interchangeable – how easy can different building blocks (people, assets, processes) be used in a different sequence and/or configuration to produce the same result or outcome?

Adaptability Factors

  • Reusability – can your core people, processes and assets be used to produce different outcomes and results with little or no difficulty?  For example, a consulting firm can reuse many of its existing people, processes and assets in delivering a new service.  However, the Boeing factory production line can only produce Boeing airplanes – it cannot produce other products without significant changes in people, assets and processes.
  • Speed – how quickly can you move from producing one set of products and outcomes, to produce new products and outcomes?
  • Capacity for Change – how prepared and able are your people to make the necessary changes? 

Learning Factors

  • Measuring – how good are you at being able to quantify or qualify the changes that have occurred, their implications and the associated outcomes?  Are you able to identify where the greatest impact, positive or negative, has been realized?
  • Applying  – can you clearly ascertain as to where the lessons learnt can be applied?  Do you understand what caused the problem and how it was solved, or where and how the opportunity was capitalized on?
  • Anticipating – how good are you at being able to replicate or avoid the lessons learnt?  For example, if you are an engineering consultancy who tried to enter a new market unsuccessfully then can you identify why?  Was it the lack of a local partner?  Cultural differences? Inability to deliver?

These 3 factors apply equally to the individual as to the business.  For real success you need resilience both personally and corporately – if you lack the resilience you may not survive the change, even if the business does.

Resilience is not about just meeting the current challenge, or having met the challenge just past, but it is about putting yourself in a better position for the future – not just going back to your original shape or form before the challenge occurred.  To be resilient you need to be flexible, adaptable and to learn from your experiences.

Two out of Three Ain’t Bad – But It’s Not Enough

So what does it mean if you only have two out of three, let’s see below.

  1. Flexibility & Adaptability – you can meet the challenge in the short- or even mid-term, but your inability to learn from your experience and apply will mean that you will be overtaken by the competition and quickly become irrelevant
  2. Adaptability & Learning – you can diversify into other areas, but you are not at the forefront of your market being weak at delivering in alternative ways.  You are at risk of being out-maneuvered by competitors and being a market follower rather than a leader.
  3. Learning & Flexibility – you are efficient at operating in your particular niche, but you are a one-trick pony, and you are at the whim of industry pressures.  You are more reactive than proactive, and your ability to become diverse, grow and spread the risk is weak.

For each of the 3 factors, and for each of the 3 components for each factor, how do you rate yourself?  Score yourself out of 10 for each component (1= Very Low, 10=Very High), and rate how strong or weak you are in each factor and relatively.

Resilience Worksheet

Which are your strongest and weakest areas?  How can you leverage your strengths to offset your weaker areas and reduce the associated risks and implications?  Are you really as resilient as you thought?


Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Take a Few, Good Breaths…

When you get stressed you need to be able to take a moment out to gather your thoughts and regroup. A good sign that you need to do this is when you find that your mind is busy “chattering”. You are often physically, mentally and emotionally overloaded.  You need to have a break but you may lack the time before your next meeting or appointment. A good way to do this is through controlled breathing. The old advice of “take a few breaths” is well founded. Just take the following steps”

  • Sit down somewhere comfortable and preferably quiet.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Let go of whatever is going on in your mind.
  • Take a deep breath through your nose all the way into your belly, try not to breathe into your chest as you don’t breathe so deeply.
  • Breathe out slowly through your mouth. Exhale continuously until you can’t exhale any more.
  • Then breathe in again, and repeat the process four or five times.
  • Open your eyes and breathe normally.

Take the time to do this every day. You will find that by doing this you are not only more relaxed, but your mind is clearer and has less “chatter” going on allowing you to focus and concentrate on your work.

Encourage your team to take brief breaks to do this, especially when they are very busy and not as productive as they would like to be. You can also help them to do this by building it into the start of your meetings – a good way to help people come to the meeting fresher, more alert and with the right intention.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Your Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence

You have limited time, resources and energy to expend on getting work done, projects completed and achieving the results you are looking for.  As such you need to be able to use these limited and finite resources effectively.  To do this you need to be able to distinguish between what lies within your Circle of Concern and your Circle of Influence as shown in the picture below:

Circle of Concern and Influence

  • The Circle of Concern – this larger circle encompasses  everything that you are concerned about, including those things over which you exert no control or influence e.g. the level of tax, terrorist threats, the current interest rate on loans and mortgages etcetera.  We tend to waste a lot of our time, effort and mental energy in the Circle of Concern.  This produces nothing as we are unable to overcome the inertia or have any effect.
  • The Circle of Influence is smaller, and it encompasses those things that we can do something about.  These are those things where we can be proactive and, by taking action for ourselves, address them. Here we invest our time, energy and effort on the things that we can change.  This produces results and momentum forward.

The two circles – Concern and Influence – are about the choices you make and the results you want.

The Circle of Concern is where you find people who focus on that which they cannot influence. They are reactive, stressed and ineffectual.  The Circle of Influence is where we find people who choose to focus on things that they can influence.

By focusing attention and energy on our circle of influence, people are increasingly proactive. The energy we expend is enlarging; each small victory motivates us further exert influence. We don’t waste energy on things we can do nothing about, but direct it towards what we can change. With each step we feel stronger and more creative. And so our circle of influence expands.

By focusing on what we can influence we also start to understand better what we cannot influence. We develop a better understanding of our circle of concern, and what it includes and does not include – it may even expand our circle of concern. This provides us with a fuller and better appreciation of the context in which we work, and helps us to better focus on our efforts on what we can influence. It can be incredibly liberating to realize that, in choosing how to respond to circumstances, we affect those circumstances. If we want to cope with the challenges we face, then we need to learn how we can influence them.

Share this diagram with your team, colleagues, and clients to help them distinguish between the two, what lies within their Circle of Influence whilst being aware of what lies within their Circle of Concern – and to focus their efforts on what they can influence, not that over which they have no control. This will provide greater traction, reduced stress and a more effective and productive team who can achieve results more easily.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.


A Tool for High-Performance – The Locus of Control

There is a simple, but useful tool that helps you to understand how people respond to situations, and to anticipate their likely behaviour. It can also help you identify those who are likely to be winners and losers. This tool is called the Locus of Control.

Everyone wants to know what separates winners from losers. One of the significant factors limiting the attainment of your vision is the degree to which you believe you are in control of your destiny. Your locus of control can be internal or external. You can have a combination of both but normally one will outweigh the other.  So what are the differences between an internal Locus of Control and an external Locus of Control,, and how can you identify them?

  • External Locus of Control – you can tell by listening to what you say, or your team members, when talking about your business and your life. If you hear things like, “I would have been successful but the economy turned sour” or “I got caught by a pile of bad debts so I had to close the business down” you have an external locus of control. People with an external locus of control blame the external factors for their failure.

Locus of Control

  • Internal Locus of Control  – people with an internal locus of control feel that they can influence the issues around them. You’ll hear them say things like “I misjudged the market so I put on too many people which ended up costing me a packet of money” or “I found that my skills weren’t sufficient to handle the negotiation”.

Get into the habit of listening to the people to determine whether they have an internal or external locus of control. Of course, those who have an external locus are the ones who find it difficult to change. It’s always someone else’s fault or responsibility.

If you are setting up a team or looking at staffing make sure you have plenty of people with an internal locus of control. In simple terms, a person with an external locus of control is problem focused, while a person with an internal locus of control is solution focused. Remember, you will always find what you are looking for. Sometimes you find that by teaching someone about the locus of control, and helping them to change their own mindset they can change from having an external locus of control to an internal locus of control.

There is little point in developing a focused and aggressive business strategy if you are surrounded with people who believe that the Government, their people and even their customers are conspiring against them. You are defeated before you start. How can this be resolved?  By having people with an internal locus of control!

To see or download this blog as a PDF article click here.

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

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)