Creating ‘Head Edge’ for Competitive Advantage

The power of visualization and mental rehearsal is often not appreciated by leaders and managers, yet it has been proven in research time after time.

Let me share one study done with the United States Olympic ski team. The team was divided into two groups equally matched for ski-racing ability. One group received imagery training, visualizing how they would win their races; the other served as a control group. The coach quickly realized that the skiers practicing imagery were improving more rapidly than those in the control group. He called off the experiment and insisted that all his skiers be given the opportunity to train using imagery.

Like anything, visualization requires regular practice; this can be done anywhere, at any time, even when you are tired. When visualizing and mentally rehearsing, make your images as vivid and as clear as you can. Don’t just visualize the end result, but visualize every step you will take along the way and how you will feel. Incorporate every sense into building that picture of the future. See yourself overcoming mistakes, and imagine yourself doing things well. You will find, and feel, yourself achieving greater confidence, clarity and agility.

Top sports psychologist, Gary Mack, used to carry out an experiment on the power of the mind and visualization when he coached professional sports teams on the power of the mind. He would get all the athletes to stand up and then ask them a simple but important question: ‘Who believes that their performance on the sporting field is affected by how they think, by at least 50 per cent?’ He found that at least half the room agreed. He then asked a very powerful question: ‘If most of you believe that your state of mind changes your final performance so greatly, why aren’t you spending ten, twenty, thirty or even fifty per cent of your training time on thinking in the right way?’ The room would go quiet as the athletes realised that they were not devoting nearly enough time to mental training for peak performance.

It is no different for business leaders and managers. We get so caught up in what we do, the physical training and the present, that we do not look at how we do what we do, the mental training and the future. We often act, but without any clear direction in mind. We are trying to move straight from the ‘Now’ to the ‘How’ without considering the ‘Where’. This is a reflex action. What we want is reflective action, to think about what we are going to do and where it will take us. Working on your “head edge” and making dedicated time to reflect will help you do this.

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

 

Using Executive Coaching to Grow

How executive coaching can help you in your business

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

learn leadExecutive coaching is a next evolutionary step in the development of leaders. Historically, leadership development was largely focused on participants’ involvement in training programs. These programs were all based upon one completely invalid assumption—if they understand, they will do.

Wrong!

In the United States the diet industry is worth about $59 billion per year, with over 50% of Americans on some type of diet – yet 95% of dieters fail. That means the market just keeps churning: people lose weight, gain it again, and go right back to the diet industry to search for another solution.  Everyone who buys diet books makes the same assumption as everyone who goes to training programs: If I understand how to go on a diet, I will do it.

Wrong again!

You don’t lose weight by reading diet books. You lose weight by actually going on a diet—and sticking with it.  You don’t improve yourself by attending training programs, you only improve by actually applying what you learn on a consistent basis.

Extensive research involving more than 86,000 participants in leadership development programs from eight major corporations found that if leaders attend training programs, but then don’t discuss what they learn with co-workers and follow up to ensure continued progress—they improve no more than by random chance. In other words, they might just as well have been watching sitcoms all day!  Those who do apply what they have learned do get better. Yet many don’t!

Why do so many leaders attend training programs and then end up making no real change? The answer is seldom because of a lack of values or a lack of intelligence. The reason why many leaders don’t apply what they learn in traditional training when they’re “back on the job” is that they are buried in work. Leaders in major corporations today work harder than leaders have worked in the past 50 years. They feel trapped in an endless sea of e-mails, voice mails, and requests. They worry about global competition. The job security that they may have felt in the past is a distant memory. They barely have time to meet the minimum requirements of their jobs—much less focus on their long-term development as leaders.

Executive coaches can help leaders bridge the huge gap between understanding what to do and actually doing it. Your coach is a person who sticks with you over time and makes sure that you do what you know you should do, but have a tendency to “put off until tomorrow”—a tomorrow that (without help) may never come.

So why do CEOs prefer to work with external executive coaches rather than coach their leaders themselves? There are four good reasons:

  1. They don’t like dealing with behavioral issues, so their motivation is very low;
  2. They lack the ability to coach well
  3. They lack time
  4. It is more efficient and effective to have an objective outsider involved, rather than take up a leader’s valuable time which is in short supply

In today’s corporate world, the stakes have gone up, the pressure has gone up, and the need to develop great leaders has gone up. The time available for executives to do this has diminished. Coaching can help high-potential leaders become great leaders! In doing so, coaching helps you to develop the skills, capabilities, and bandwidth of your people to lead, manage and develop others.

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

How to Manage Internal & External Changes

High-Potential Leaders & Building Partnerships

by Andrew CookeGrowth & Profit Solutions 

High-performing leaders need to know how to partner, both internally and externally, to manage the on-going changes in the business environment.

A survey, asking high-potential leaders describe today’s ideal leader, produced an unequivocal result – an ideal leader is a person who builds internal and external partnerships.

Internal partnerships include direct reports, co-workers, and managers.  External partnerships include customers, suppliers, and competitors.

Inside the Organisation

1. Partnering with Direct Reports.Leaders Need to Partner

Organizations no longer provide employees with job security.  As job security has diminished so has employee loyalty.  High-performers see themselves as “free agents”, able and willing to move to those who will cater to their needs for personal growth and development.  Leaders here need to develop a “win-win” relationship with these high-performers and to be their partner rather than their boss.

This is especially true when managing knowledge workers, where managers know less of what is being done than their reports.  If you don’t partner these people then you won’t have them.

2. Partnering with co-workers.

Successful leaders will share people, capital, and ideas to break down boundaries:

  • Share people –  so that the leader can develop the expertise and breadth needed to manage;
  • Share capital – so that mature business can transfer funds to high-growth business; and
  • Share ideas – so that people can learn from both successes and mistakes.

These are difficult to do, especially when areas may have to suffer a short-term loss to allow the organization to benefit in the longer- term.  It requires leaders to collaborate and be skilled in negotiating and to create “win-win” relationships.

3. Partnering with managers.

The changing role of leadership will mean that the relationship between managers and direct reports will have to change in both directions. Leaders will need to be partners leading in a network, not managers leading in a hierarchy.  Leaders need to collaborate as a team and combine the leader’s knowledge of unit operations with the manager’s understanding of larger needs. Such a relationship requires taking responsibility, sharing information, and striving to see both the micro and macro perspective. When direct reports know more than their managers, they have to learn how to “influence up.”

Outside the Organisation

1. Partnering with customers.

Customers are now buying solutions and systems for delivery that are customized to meet their needs to meet their needs. Many customers now want “network solutions,” not just hardware and software.

Leaders from supply organizations will need to become more like partners and less like salespeople. This trend toward building long-term customer relationships, not just achieving short-term sales, means that suppliers need to develop a much deeper understanding of the customer’s total business. They will need to make many small sacrifices to achieve a large gain. In short, they will need to act like partners.

2. Partnering with suppliers.

As the shift toward integrated solutions advances, leaders will have to change their relationship with suppliers. Many leaders now realise that their success is directly related to their supplier’s success. As such they now make a commitment to their suppliers as part of their joint focus on serving the end user of the product or service.

3. Partnering with competitors.

The most radical change in the role of leader as partner has come in partnering with competitors. Most high-potential leaders see competitors as potential customers, suppliers, and partners. When today’s competitors may become tomorrow’s customers, the definition of “winning” changes.

Summary

These six trends toward more partnering are mutually reinforcing. As people feel less job security, they begin to see suppliers, customers and competitors as potential employers. Leaders need to learn about these organisations, create “win-win” relationships and build long-term relationships,

What are you doing to do build partnerships in your strategy, direction and actions?

John Donne put it very eloquently:

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main”.

Are you looking to work alone, or do you see yourself as part of a greater whole and a greater opportunity?

Thanks to Marshall Goldsmith whose work provided the basis for much of this article.

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

4 Questions to Prepare for Any Meeting

Preparing for any meeting these 4 questions will help you be more effective.

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

4 Questions for Any MeetingWe spend a lot of time meeting and talking with people.  Think how much of your time is spent on the phone, face-to-face, on webinars, video conferencing, conference calls, email etcetera.  It is a lot of time, and often it takes longer than we want and achieves less than we would like.

Yet for all the time we spend communicating with other people we spend remarkably little time preparing for these conversations and dialogues.  Here we look at a simple way to do this – by asking yourself 4 simple questions.  It is quick to do, only takes 30 seconds, and the benefits can be substantial.

The Four Questions

  1. What are the messages I want to convey?
  2. What do I want them to think?
  3. What do I want them to feel?
  4. What do I want them to do?

Let’s look at them each in turn.

  1. What are the messages I want to convey?

Know what your key messages are so that you can share them clearly and concisely.  In doing this be aware of how you need to adapt your delivery style so that your audience (whether it be one person or a thousand) can hear and comprehend your messages. 4 Questions for Meetings

2.  What do I want them to think?

You are looking to engage their minds and thoughts, you want them to give their full attention and consideration to what you are saying so that you can guide their thoughts

3.  What do I want them to feel?

Logic makes people think, but emotions make them act.  Your message may be logical, but if they do not personally engage with it then it will be weakened and ineffective.  If people feel the message, it is stronger, more memorable and more likely to achieve the result you are looking for.

4.  What do I want them to do?

As a result of sharing a clear, consistent message that engages the audience both rationally and emotionally what is the behavior that you want to occur? It is behavior that drives results and outcomes, not outcomes and results that drive behavior. So how do you want the audience to behave as a result of hearing and understanding your message(s)?  What is the call to action?

By reviewing these four questions before your next meeting or interaction you can customize your conversation to the situation and the audience, whilst be engaging them to take the necessary actions/behaviors as a result. Build this into your daily activities and see the difference it makes.

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

So, What Do YOU Think?

How to get your people to engage with you.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Bill Marriott, chairman of the Marriott Hotel Group, shared this useful piece of advice.  He explained that as a young officer in the US Navy he was responsible for the stewards who served in the officers’ wardroom.  New to his role, and being in a military organization he told them what to do.  They ignored him.  He ordered them.  They ignored him still.  He came to realize that, even though he was in the military he could not command people to follow him as a leader, they had to want to follow him. For them to follow him he had to engage them.

So what was the lesson from this?  It was four simple words – “What do you think?”

As a leader, by asking this, you are getting your ego out of the way.  Leaders cannot and do not have all the answers, nor do they know everything.  By asking people for their ideas, their input and their insights several things will happen: firstly, your people will see that you care about them and are interested in their opinion; secondly, you will learn something you did not know before; thirdly, you can make better and more informed decisions which your people can buy-in to as they have participated in the process  By engaging with others they can engage with you, but it starts with you reaching out first.

What do you think?

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

The 4 Foundations for High-Performance

The Four Components of Human Performance

There are four key components that need to be in place for people to perform, and for organisations to prosper.  What are they and what can we do to ensure they are in place? 

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions Human Performance

Performance is about people, and people can be fickle.  Organisations are under pressure to do more with less; organisations are becoming flatter which, in turn, is extending the scope and responsibility of managers and leaders, increasing the number of reports and reducing the time that manager and leaders can spend with them.

So what do we need to do to ensure that we have the right building blocks in place so that people can perform effectively and efficiently?

Andrew’s Four Building Blocks

There are four building blocks which form the foundation for performance.

4 Components of Human Performance

1.  Desire to Work – people need to want to work.  It is not about just satisfying their monetary or security needs.  People want the opportunity to apply their skills and talents, to gain gratification from doing so, and to receive recognition for doing so.

2. Adequate Skills– if people have the desire but lack the necessary skills they will be unable to perform, they will be frustrated, and the organisation will be negatively impacted.  Certain skills are essential for success.  Employees may already have these skills; they may need to be trained in them, or to develop these skills experientially on the job.  At the same time, especially with “knowledge workers”, the necessary skills and expertise may erode or even become obsolete (how many rotary telephone repair people do you know?  Or typewrite repair experts?)

3. Right Attitude – if you hire nothing else, hire enthusiasm.  Hire energy, hire excitement, and hire passion.  These are not teachable.  You can teach people your content and the skills required. The adage, “hire for attitude, train for aptitude”, has never been truer.

4.  Right Behaviours– if people lack the right behaviours, even though they have the desire to work and the necessary skills, you will find poor performance. How many times have you gone out for a meal, which was excellent, but marred by slovenly, slow or disinterested service?  How are you clients experiencing your people? Behaviours have to match the job results expected.

Look at your organisation and ask yourself how are you doing in each of these areas?  Are you recruiting people with these four components from which you can build a foundation from which to build high-performance? Are there are weaknesses or gaps in your business, divisions or departments? Are these gaps areas which you can influence or are they areas which are in the domain of the employee?

All four components are required for human performance and measurement, but only some of them can be built by the employer, although all of them can be nurtured by the employer.

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

5 Tips in Changing Your Mindset About Profit

 

Future Profit

A recently published book, Understanding Michael Porter: The essential guide to competition and strategy (Magretta, 2012), compiles and applies the work of management guru, Michael Porter.   Full of useful insights, here are five pearls of wisdom that can, if applied, create a more robust, more profitable and sustainable business.

Tip 1: “Strategy explains how an organization, faced with competition, will achieve superior performance. The definition is deceptively simple”

Performance is not about your competition, it is about achieving superior performance, every day, regardless of what is happening with your competitors or markets.

Tip 2: “Competitive advantage is not about beating rivals; it’s about creating unique value for customers. If you have a competitive advantage, it will show up on your P & L”

To create unique value is not about you beating your competitors, it is about you delivering (through superior performance) the unique value by focusing on your customers’ needs.

Tip 3: “Strategic competition means choosing a path different from that of others”

If you accept that the competitive goal is superior performance, then it makes sense to achieve that performance using methods different to the competitors. You have to be able to differentiate yourself not only in the customer’s eyes, but in how you achieve that differentiation – in how you deliver value to the customer.

Tip 4: “The value proposition is the element of strategy that looks outward at customers, at the demand side of the business. The value chain focuses internally on operations. Strategy is fundamentally integrative, bringing the demand and supply sides together”

Strategy is about achieving a position.  Here it is to achieve superior performance whilst delivering superior value to the customer.  You need to be able to focus on how you will drive that superior performance, and what this means in terms of superior customer value.  In this you need to continuously improve the efficiency of your internal operations.

Tip 5: “There is no honor in size or growth if those are profitless. Competition is about profit, not market share”

This tip serves as a reminder that we need to be the most profitable, not the biggest in top-line revenue or head-count.

Consider these five tips in context of your own organization. What should you do to meet the requirements of all five? Is your current strategy going to work for you in the coming next few years?

What has worked or not worked for you? Share your knowledge, share the wealth!

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