Take a Breath

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.


 

Are you in 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)

 

 

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)

 

 

Leading and Succeeding in Challenging Times

Leaders are faced with the on-going dilemma of maintaining long-term and sustainabChallenge & Succeedingle profitability, whilst having to meet the short-term gains demanded by investors. Here are a few insights into how you can lead more effectively in these challenging times.

Andrew’s Top 8 Insights

  1. Change your mindset – instead of looking at the issue of how do you maintain long-term profitability or deliver short-term gains look at changing your mindset by changing one word. Change “or” to “and”. So, it becomes, how do you maintain long-term profitability and deliver short-term gains? Asking “and” instead of “or” opens up your thinking, the possibilities and creativity in identifying potential solutions.
  2. Learn continuously in your work – you cannot know everything you need to know to perform and achieve the results on a sustainable basis. With an accelerating rate of change the currency of what you do know has a shorter ‘shelf-life’ and is increasingly likely to become out-of-date and/or obsolete. So be open to learning from everyone and anyone, from outside your industry, wherever you might find that which can assist you. Make this part of how you work, focusing on those things which are important and relevant whilst keeping a watching brief on other things.
  3. Adopt an ‘investment approach’ – look at what you want to achieve in the long-run and use this to guide what you need to do in the short-run. You need to have clear fundamental principles to guide you and your people in how to do this, without proscribing what they need to do in doing so.
  4. Look for simplicity – this is not to say you want to make things simplistic, rather you want to understand the essence of what you have to deal with. Once you understand this then adopt and adapt what you need to do to be effective.
  5. Be innovative – it is a case of what got you here won’t get you there. In innovating you need to achieve three thing:
  • firstly, create an environment where people are encouraged to and supported in initiating new things and ideas;
  • secondly, act on these things and ideas and invest in them appropriately to implement and commercialize them successfully; and
  • thirdly, bring people along on this journey – both internally and externally (including customers, suppliers and other stakeholders) – to make it a success.
  1. Create a strong leadership culture – leadership is a choice, not a position, and occurs at all levels in the business. You want all leaders to be able to articulate and demonstrate what is expected in terms of business thinking and thought, how to drive results and outcomes, caring for people and holding them accountable, and the key leadership behaviours expected and required.
  2. Be comfortable with ambiguity – the world is not black and white, but rather consists of many shades of grey. As leaders we need to be able to accommodate this, and in doing so be flexible in the decisions and judgements we make, and to do so especially when we lack all the information we would like to have.
  3. Focus business discussions on key areas – there is the risk with so many things affecting us and the business that we will get distracted from the business itself. So bring back your discussions back to what matters:
  • Improving business capability
  • Activities that build and maintain competitive advantage
  • Things that are being done to improve business productivity
  • How you are mitigating current and future risk
  • How you are supporting earnings / funding and how it is tracking to industry standards, and
  • Proposed investments that support business sustainability.

The power of these insights is multiplied when you share them with your team and reports. Use these eight points as a discussion tool to share perspectives, insights and experiences in creating a commonly shared, understood and articulated approach.. Take the ideas and guidelines generated and cascade them throughout the organization. This helps to align and communicate expectations across the organization. This will help you, and them, to succeed in challenging times

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)