Two Questions to Attain and Maintain Focus

Two Questions To Attain and Maintain Focus

Achieving and maintaining focus is a key skill in modern business.

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

In a time-poor environment in which more demands are being made of us it is more and more important that we focus on what we do.  This is especially true as the business environment becomes increasingly volatile, uncertain and complex resulting in managers having to make decisions more quickly, with less information and greater risk.focus

Focusing allows you to concentrate your efforts, time and resources on what needs to be at the center of your attention and your activity.  To do this you need to be able to ensure that you have prioritized what needs to be done and to avoid unnecessary procrastination.

There are two questions to ask yourself when you are about to start a piece of work or, as occurs more and more frequently, people interrupt you with a request for your assistance.

  • Is this piece of work important to me?
  • Is this piece of work urgent for me?

If the answer to both is then you might accept it – or guide it to the right person if it is not you.  If the answer to either question is “No”, then you don’t need to focus on it now. You can either refuse it, accept it conditionally (you might do it later or delegate it to someone else, for example), or if you are not sure then you can ask for more information (often a good idea if it is your boss who is interrupting you!).

This is a simple technique by which to maintain focus on what is important and what is urgent, and by which you can consider tasks which you are only important or urgent, and to reject those that are neither important or urgent.  Try it out for yourself, and find out how much time you free for yourself and how much easier it is to do the work that matters!

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

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.

 

How to Be an Effective Leader?

What Do Effective Leaders Do?

The one thing effective leaders do. Do you do this too?

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

effective leadership

When you ask people what do effective leaders do you will get a range of responses – set strategy, provide direction, develop people, motivate people, create alignment of activities, and so the list goes on. All true, but they are all facets of one thing,

To discover this, ask yourself what should an effective leader do? The one thing an effective leader should do is to get results.

All the earlier responses are actions that an effective leader makes in order to get results.  If it were that easy then virtually all leaders, by dint of what they do, could be effective leaders.  But this is not the case. A leader is not effective because of what he or she does, but rather because of how he or she does it.  An effective leader is followed, and people follow the leader for who they are and not because of the position.

As such, it is how leaders lead that encourages and engages other people to follow and get results.  The “how” is the individual’s leadership style, and this is made visible and tangible in the behaviours they exhibit when leading.  This is important as people will pay more attention to what their leaders do than what they say, and if there is a conflict between (such as when the leader does not “walk the talk”) then people will follow the example of what is done rather than what is said.

There are six common leadership styles which are utilised by leaders, and which they switch between in the short-term on a frequent basis.  These six styles provide a context in which a leader behaves, and depending on the leadership style the behaviours that exhibit can be very different.  The leadership style used is a result of the individual’s perception of the situation at hand and how they need to adapt it, and their personal preference in leadership styles.

Six Leadership Styles

  • Coercive leaders – demand immediate compliance.
  • Authoritative leaders – mobilize people toward a vision.
  • Affiliative leaders – create emotional bonds and harmony.
  • Democratic leaders – build consensus through participation.
  • Pace-setting leaders – expect excellence and self-direction.
  • Coaching leaders – develop people for the future

Being an Effective Leader

So, to be an effective leader – a leader who gets results – you need to

  1. Be clear on what the results that you want are – ensure you articulate and communicate them clearly to everyone.
  2. Be clear on how you will achieve them, in doing this you need to:
  • Use a suitable leadership style given the context of your particular situation.
  • Adapt your behaviours to the style, but make sure that they provide the right example to others and for others to emulate.
  • Switch between styles and behaviours as needed so you not only get the results, but you get them in the right way.

Remember, the difference between a good leader and a great leader is in the how.

Next Steps:

Look at what you are looking to achieve as a leader.  Once you are clear on what you have to do, and can articulate it, then ask yourself how can I do this to be effective?

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

Understanding How Others Respond – And the Implications

Understand how people can react – whether they take control of themselves, or abdicate responsibility…

There is a simple, but useful tool that helps you to understand how people respond to situations, and to anticipate their likely behavior. 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 – 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 or they have an external locus of control. People with an external locus of control blame the external factors for their failure.
  • 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 by 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 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,

4 Questions for Debriefing and Learning

Four key questions by which to learn from your experiences!

We often get so involved in doing the work, that we rarely make the time to review how we are doing in a structured and creative manner that allows us to extend our curiosity into what has happened, and to learn why. In short, we rarely take the time to debrief and when we do so, we generally do it poorly.

Debriefings can help you accelerate projects, innovate new approaches to problems, and hit difficult objectives. More than a casual conversation about what did and didn’t work, a debriefing digs into why things happened.

“Two things are infinite; the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe” – ALBERT EINSTEIN

A debrief should review four key questions:

1.What were we trying to accomplish? Start by restating the objectives you were trying to achieve.

2.Where did we hit (or miss) our objectives? Review your results, and ensure the group is aligned and has a shared understanding of what has happened.

3. What caused our results? This should go deeper than obvious, first-level answers. You need to go beyond the symptoms and get to the underlying causes of your results. A good way to do this is to use the Five Whys Tool.  Here you take the first-level result, and ask “Why did we achieve this result?” This exposes a second-level item. Ask the same question again. You normally do not need to ask this question more than five times.

Example:

Results:  Sales down by 25% compared to the same time last year.

Why? #1 – Because the market is more competitive.

Why is the market more competitive?

Why? #2 – Customer demand for our products is down

Why has customer demand reduced?

Why? #3 – The market price has come down and we are charging a high price.

Why are we unable to sell our quality products for a higher price?

Why? #4 – Because the sales force lacks the skills to sell the value of our product.

Why is the Salesforce unable to sell on value?

Why? #5 – Because we don’t hire the right people with these skills, or develop these skills in our existing sale team.

Solution: to address the fall in sales we need to train, equip and incentivize our sales people to sell on value, not on price.

1. What should we start, stop, or continue doing? Given the root causes uncovered, what should we do next, now that we know what we know?

Debriefing provides you and your team with a structured learning process that allows you to continuously evolve plans while they’re being executed in the light of your experience and results.  This helps you to learn quickly in rapidly changing situations and to address mistakes or changes quickly and effectively.

Remember, no plan goes to plan – never. We need to learn to adapt, and we need to adapt to survive, and we need to survive if we are to thrive.  Debriefing is an ongoing process that needs to be built in as a core part of your work, not something that is ancillary to it.

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.

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.