3 Steps for Taking Responsibility

Take Responsibility to Gain Momentum

Freeing yourself and others to gain traction and action.

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

Take Responsibility

How often have you waited for work or input from someone else in order to get your work done, or to actually start the process.  It’s not your fault you are delayed, but what can you do about it?

In short, the answer is to grow up and take the initiative!

We are inculcated into a culture of blame which, in turn we use to abrogate responsibility and for blaming others – this creates a vicious cycle.  Furthermore, we are afraid of taking the initiative in case we fail, and then how will we look to others.  So we stay there, sitting on our hands, not wanting to take the risk of trying and failing, and worried that we might not look good if we do so; and we are happy to do so, because if we don’t move we can’t do anything wrong.  For some reason we assume that because we have not made a decision, then no decision has been made; we forget that no decision is a decision in itself and has its own set of consequences.

Breaking the Cycle – Taking Responsibility

If you want to things to improve, to overcome inertia and to gain momentum then the responsibility for doing so starts with you.  There is no cavalry charging over the hill to rescue you – they are too busy sitting on their own hands.  You have to take action and be the catalyst regardless of your position or role – you are taking on responsibility and accountability for what needs to be done and yourself.

We all want to work with people who are energized, take the initiative and have drive.  Yet we are surprised when they don’t exhibit these qualities – simply because we fail to exemplify it in what we do and how we behave, and people follow our example.

3 Key Actions To Take

To liberate yourself and others do three things:p

  1. Recognize the difference between fault and responsibility – there is a significant difference between them.  As a leader you may be responsible for a situation, even if you are not at fault – the blame is irrelevant and counter-productive. Fault is backward-looking, and responsibility is forward-looking.
  2. Take ownership – this frees us to take action and drive results.
  3. Own the problem and take action – this helps both ourselves and others; we create a virtuous cycle by providing the necessary avatar for others, and help to unblock their blockages.

So what are you going to do and how will you help your people – your reports, your peers and your bosses? The responsibility for this lies with you.

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

How to Assess Potential High-Flyers

How to determine and assess future leaders, and where and how to focus your efforts in their development.

You are looking to develop future leaders for your business. How can you do this so that you can consistently evaluate them across the board? What is more important when you evaluate them – their past performance or their future potential? It isn’t an either/or question. You need to understand both their past performance, and to identify their future potential. This is where the Performance/Potential Matrix comes to hand.

Performance/Potential Matrix Overview

This consists of a 3×3 matrix contrasting the two elements:

  • Performance – this is the extent to which the person achieved their objectives (“the What”) and the extent to which they demonstrated the appropriate leadership behaviors. (“the How”).
  • Potential – this is a person’s capacity to be a top performer in a more senior role.

By assessing where an individual sits on each of these two axes you are able to determine two factors:

  • Where they currently sit as you and/or others perceive each individual;
  • With whom to focus your efforts and where (performance and/or potential)

An example of how each of the 9 grids can be labelled is shown below. In doing this the matrix provides a simple and effective tool by which to calibrate criteria and expectations, and acts as a diagnostic tool for development. As such its real value is in being a catalyst for robust dialogue and it facilitates shared ownership rather than one person’s opinion.

Headings

  • Red Headings – people in these grids are likely not to be retained
  • Grey Headings – these people are unlikely to progress futher, but given their level of performance may be best suited in develping further in their existing field
  • Yellow Headings – these people may develop further, but need attention and resources to help them develop. If they do not develop further, or sufficiently, they may slip into a red or grey box.
  • Green Headings – people with real potential who should be in the firs tier for leadership development.

Common Pitfalls to Using the Performance-Potential Matrix

  • Misunderstanding high-potentials – there are misconceptions about the term “high- potential.” People use the term to talk about all top talent, as opposed to talent with the potential to become leaders. It can be difficult for managers to assess “promotability”. Often most managers are subconsciously thinking, ‘Do they remind me of me?’ “
  • Using the tool for individual assessment. – the matrix is not designed for individual assessment, you need to be able to compare different people. Without comparison, it enables neither valid assessment nor career decisions about an individual.
  • Expecting too much. – the matrix is only one tool. You need to ensure that you use other mechanism with more data e.g. 360-degree reviews.
  • Using quotas for each box don’t try to allocate people by quote, you need to reach a common understanding and agreement where each person should be realistically placed.
  • Failing to include change management – when using it you need to engage peope so they understand it and buy-in to the approach and understand what the benefits are for employees and the organization.
  • Overcomplicating the process – don’t try to make the matrix more complex, the effort will usually not add significant insight or value.
  • Failing to differentiate between employees – once you have identified the stars and top performers, you need to direct resources towards developing them—higher salaries, plum work assignments, mentorships with executives, exceptional training opportunities and coveted job rotations—to retain them and develop their talent.

Benefits of the Performance-Potential Matrix

  • It allows managers to use the matrix to assess their people and calibrate them between the leaders.
  • Assists in the creation of meaningful, accountable development plans.
  • Allows you to aggregate relative comparisons between talent.
  • Stimulates discussion and constructive debate, and creating a shared and common understanding.
  • The accuracy of assessing performance and potential improves with multiple perspectives. Managers often have blind spots with their own employees, and are

unaware of how they are perceived by others. These discussions can help shine a light on superstars and poor performers.

  • Creates collective responsibility for the team in building a stronger organization. It encourages everyone to be candid, to listen to each other, and to develop each other’s employees.
  • It uncovers both individual and organizational strengths and weaknesses. As such the matrix serves as a needs assessment for development actions that need to be taken
  • Helps managers and leaders to assess potential which they normally struggle to do.

Next Steps

Work with your peers and use this tool to review your employees to identify your prospective leaders. Try looking at the people by yourself, then share your ideas, insights and reasonings with your peers to create insights, ideas and a common perspective. Use this to stimulate debate, and look to use other tools and means by which to identify the prospective leaders.

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.

How to Motivate Your Team More Effectively

A different approach that produced results

Do you struggle to motivate your team? Could your team be more productive and more effective? Do you have people who are not performing to their potential? If so, then you are not alone. Like many other leaders, great and small, you are making the same mistake: assuming that the answer to these questions lies with others (your team), when in fact it lies with you (the leader).

The problem is that our normal reaction is to see this as a problem. Firstly, the way we are biologically geared to think is that we look out for potential threats and to move away from them strongly. At the same time, we are less prone to looking for the rewards or upside, and we are also naturally less likely to move towards them.

This underpins our natural tendency to be loss-averse – we would rather avoid a loss than making an equivalent gain.

Secondly, the problem is that we tend to judge ourselves by our actions and to judge others by their behavior. So, if the team is not performing we attribute the poor performance to their behavior and attitude.

Thirdly, what you focus on expands – this is important as it affects your confidence, and confidence is the number one variable affecting a person’s performance. Think about it – if a person focuses on her shortcomings, her confidence will naturally be low. Whereas if she can get herself more focused on what she is doing well, her confidence will improve, thus leading to increased ability and potential on other tasks and activities. People with high confidence are much more coachable, and they make improvements much more efficiently.

Let me share a story about a sales manager; let’s call him David, who lead a team of ten salespeople.  He was suffering a two-pronged problem: firstly, he was struggling to find ways to motivate his team and, secondly, he was receiving complaints that he wasn’t recognizing his team’s contribution (both on an individual and a collective basis) to the company.

When asked how often he was recognizing things that the individuals on his team were doing well, he responded, “Whenever they do something well, I give them positive feedback. The problem is that they don’t often do what I need them to do.” He went on to say, “If they were performing better, I would recognize it. There are still so many problems with the way they are doing things.”

Obviously there is a disconnect between the expectations of David and his team. His team feels they should be recognized more, and David feels they should be doing more to earn the recognition. The reality is that both sides are probably correct. Being correct in this situation, unfortunately, does nothing for the productivity of the team.

David is reacting like any normal, rational human by expecting that his team actually do great work to be recognized for doing great work. The problem is that promoting the maximum effectiveness of his team requires him to think abnormally. Expectancy theory states, that which you focus on expands. If David continues to do what is normal and focus on the negative, there will be more negative. However, if he can re-focus himself and his team onto what is being done well, the positive will expand.

Expectancy theory is powerful because of the role it plays on confidence. Research confirms that confidence is the number one variable affecting a person’s performance. Think about it – if a person allows his mind to focus on the shortcomings, confidence will naturally be low. Whereas if he can get himself more focused on what he is doing well, confidence will improve, thus leading to increased ability and potential on other tasks and activities. People with high confidence are much more coachable, and they make improvements much more efficiently.

“Normal” Thought Processes

People have a problem-centric approach, which is we tend to recognize the problems in a situation first. Again, this is the normal course of thought for people. When faced with good and bad aspects of a situation, the bad aspects stand out like a sore thumb, while the good are harder to identify. This comes in handy when we need to identify the speeding car plowing through a red light or the bear running at us through the trees, but when it comes to leadership, this norm can be devastating to a team’s productivity.

David sees his team as having a lot of work to do to earn more recognition. He sees where they are falling short, which, in his mind, does not warrant much positive feedback. In his mind, the focus of his team needs to be on where they should be making improvements. He naturally sees and focuses on what is not working well.

“Abnormal” Thought Processes

With David, he started making a conscious effort to recognize at least one “done-well” for a member of his team every day. Instead of waiting for something to stand out to him, he would need to put in the effort to look for it in order to reach his daily quota. At first he was reluctant because he felt that he would be “celebrating mediocrity,” but what he found was that his team started to gradually perform better and better. Eventually, they were doing things that David actually found worthy of recognizing. It became easier for him to find things to celebrate.

Set a reminder either in your phone or in your calendar to recognize one “done-well” per day. It is important to schedule these recognitions because, again, they will not come naturally to you. It is abnormal to have a constant radar for “what is working well” because your radar is naturally set to “what is not working well.” It will take conscious effort to overcome this tendency. Your team will feel valued, and their work will start to reflect this.

A focus on what people are doing well results in people doing even more things well. This is a snowball effect that great leaders absolutely use to their advantage.

We grow best by building on our strengths, not by constantly trying to correct our “weaknesses.” That’s the essence of positive psychology. Yet the overwhelming feedback we receive – even when solicited – is about correcting some failing. Often we take the feedback to heart, and we spend a lot of time and effort trying to figure where we went wrong. But should we? Do you really have a problem?

So what can we learn from this?  There are three things.  Firstly, good performance by a leader requires good performance by the team; however, the reverse – good team performance means you have a good leader – is not necessarily true.Secondly, a leader cannot motivate anyone else but himself or herself. All the leader can do is create an environment in which people can easily motivate and align themselves in achieving the goals. Finally, the more time we spend trying to get our team to “correct” what we deem inadequate, the less time they have to invest in exploiting their own significant potential.

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 Keys for Business Performance

Having two out of three is not good enough…

There are three key determinants for business performance – direction, aptitude and attitude.

Direction
Performance occurs in context of the goals, outcomes and measures that have been established
.

How well are the desired goals and outcomes of the business communicated, and commonly shared and understood?  This needs to be meaningful, relevant and measurable at all levels from the corporate overview to the contribution of departments, teams and at the individual level.

Aptitude
To achieve your goals and outcomes you need to have the necessary skills and abilities which you can use when planning, executing and reviewing.

What are the key skills and capabilities the business needs to have?  What is needed now? And what else is needed to meet the future goals and outcomes of the business?  Again, these need to be identifiable at all levels of the business – from the corporate to the individual level.

Attitude
What are the core attitudes and associated behaviours that we need for driving high performance?

Conversely, what are those attitudes and behaviours that we want to avoid which lead to low performance?  These core attitudes pervade the whole business at all levels and, in themselves, do not change.

Generally, businesses are good at identifying the skills and capabilities needed both now and for the future; mediocre in establishing and establishing a clear vision, goals and outcomes; and very poor at identifying, understanding and making tangible the core attitudes and behaviours needed for performance.

To be a high performer we need to be able to accurately assess how strong we are for each element.  As can be seen in the diagram below, being strong in two out of three is not good enough or able to drive high performance on a sustainable basis.

3 Elements of High Performance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what do we need to do to achieve high performance?

1. Be clear on your direction – make sure everyone understands and can articulate it.

2. Ensure you have the right skills, capabilities and resources to enable each individual, team and group to achieve high performance in their aligned goals.

3. Recruit for and manage people with the right attitudes – understand what your core attitudes and associated behaviours are necessary to drive high-performance in your business, and avoid and manage those which result in low-performance.  Remember, you hire for attitude and train for aptitude.

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

3 Tips for Being an Effective Leader

Here are three tips to help you succeed.

  1. Understand what your customers REALLY want going ahead

When planning for how you will evolve your products and services start by sitting down with your best customers and asking them these two questions:

  • “What are the key challenges (good and bad) you will face in the next 12 months?”
  • “If you had a magic want and no limitations, what could we do differently to improve our service to you in the next 12 months?”

The key to discovering the REAL opportunities for your business is to hear their challenges / ideas and translate that into how you can help. What can you add to your service offering that can help them? Sounds simple and it is! Why not grab a lunch or coffee with your top 5 customers prior to year’s end and ask each of them the above questions, you have nothing to lose.

2. Boost your accountability levels
A critical element to strategy implementation is accountability. Great strategies are developed during a planning weekend (or day), and include one page plans for implementation. However when there is no accountability loop, even after all that great work, you tent to find after 1-2 months things have ground to a halt as day-to-day issues get in the way. Building in as a ‘habit’ a two-week accountability loop with key team members for key strategies will ensure it happens as barriers can be discussed and addressed quickly. Making these accountability meetings short and sharp (maximum 30 minutes) every 2 weeks will ensure only strategic issues are discussed and addressed. If you operate by yourself find a coach or a peer you trust and use them for your accountability loop, you will notice the difference quickly.

3. Focus on the outcomes, not the inputs
To ensure that you are not only delivering but exceeding your customers’ expectations, ensure that you know and understand what the outcomes are that they are looking to realise from engaging with you.  Customers are not interested in what you do, rather they are interested in what you help them achieve.  They want results, not deliverables (although deliverables may form part of the output, it is not the reason in itself).  To ensure that you are working on those things that are of importance to the customer make sure you know the outcomes they are looking for, the metrics which you will use to ascertain progress, and what it means to them if they realise the desired outcomes.

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

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

What to Do If You Are About to Miss Forecasts

What to do when you are coming from behind…

Here is a problem.bridge-photo.png

You are driving along when you come to a bridge that is one kilometer long.  Your goal here is to average 60 kilometers per hour.  Your average speed is 30 kilometers per hour at the half- kilometer mark. How fast do you have to go over the remaining half-kilometer to achieve your goal?

The most common answer is “90 kilometers per hour.” If you have a strong science background you will recognize the task’s impossibility. After all, to average 60 kilometers per hour you have to cross the bridge in one minute and you’ve already burned that minute crossing the first half kilometer.

So what is the point here?

Using the bridge as a metaphor for your achieving your forecast, the point is that if you start a year too slowly, at some point it becomes impossible to hit a forecast.

In the current environment many companies are encountering this more frequently, and leaders often take short-term actions to try and recover, however these actions can seriously impact the business in the long-term

Here are three key tips to keep in mind when you are in this situation:

1. Make sure short-term actions to improve profits don’t impair long-term capacity to grow – don’t let yourself be dictated to by short-term issues to the exclusion of the long-term.  It may be easier, but it will come back to bite.

2. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – when you coming from behind there is often the desire to focus on the “one big thing” to bridge the gap.  We are frequently over-optimistic in our ability to achieve and deliver.  This can mean that if we try for the “one big thing” and we fail, with no plan B in place, then we are then faced with an even bigger gap to overcome in a shorter time.  Focus on a few key priorities which complement each other, but also provide resilience if some of them is not achieved

3. Do more with less – in this situation necessity is the mother of invention.  What can you leverage and utilise to gain strategic advantage and benefits that significantly outweigh the costs, time or resources involved? Implement a process of continuous innovation, “lean” or “agile” thinking and systems.  If you can improve things then systemize them and lock-in the benefits for the future, if you fail then look at how you can learn from this and incorporate the lessons into future efforts.

Following these tips won’t help you cross the bridge at the desired average speed, but they will help make sure you are can cross the next bridge you encounter.

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

Using the Leadership Grid to be an Adaptive Leader

The Trials of Leadership Styles

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

Adapting your leadership style for effective results – balancing task- and people-oriented leadership.

Leadership Styles

When organizing a company meeting what do you, or the individual you have delegated to, do first?  Do you develop the timeline and associated task, or do you consider who would prefer to do what and then try to develop an approach and schedule around their needs?  And how do you respond if you fall behind schedule – do you focus on the tasks or the people?

How you answer the above can reveal your preferred personal leadership style, these can be:

  • Task-oriented – you focus on getting things done, you are more production or task-focused;
  • People-oriented – you want to people to be happy, you are more people-focused;
  • A blend of both.

Neither preference is right or wrong, just as no one type of leadership style is best for all situations. However, it’s useful to understand what your natural leadership tendencies are, so that you can then begin working on developing skills that you or your reports may be missing.

Understanding the Leadership Grid

The Leadership Grid is based on two behavioural dimensions:

  • Concern for People – this is the degree to which a leader considers the needs of team members, their interests, and areas of personal development when deciding how best to accomplish a task.
  • Concern for Production – this is the degree to which a leader emphasizes concrete objectives, organizational efficiency and high productivity when deciding how best to accomplish a task.

In the Leadership Grip below there are five leadership styles.

  Leadership Grid 2a

The Leadership Grid highlights how placing too much emphasis in one area at the expense of the other leads to low overall productivity.  However, when both people and production concerns are high, employee engagement and productivity increases accordingly.

The Five Leadership Styles

Impoverished Leadership – Low Production/Low People (A)

This leader is mostly ineffective. He/she has neither a high regard for creating systems for getting the job done, nor for creating a work environment that is satisfying and motivating. Often typified by a delegate-and-disappear management style, the leader of manger shows a low concern for both people and production. He (or she) avoids getting into trouble. His main concern is not to be held responsible for any mistakes. Managers use this style to preserve job and job seniority, protecting themselves by avoiding getting into trouble. The result is a place of disorganization, dissatisfaction and disharmony.

Produce or Perish Leadership – High Production/Low People (B)

Also known as authoritarian or compliance leaders, people in this category believe that employees are simply a means to an end. Employee needs are always secondary to the need for efficient and productive workplaces. There is little or no allowance for cooperation or collaboration. This type of leader is very autocratic, has strict work rules, policies, and procedures, and views punishment as the most effective means to motivate employees.  Although results may be achieved in the short-term it is not sustainable in the long-term as employees become disengaged and employee turnover increases.

Middle-of-the-Road Leadership – Medium Production/Medium People (C)

This style seems to be a balance of the two competing concerns. It may at first appear to be an ideal compromise. Therein lies the problem: when you compromise, you necessarily give away a bit of each concern so that neither production nor people needs are fully met. Leaders who use this style settle for average performance and often believe that this is the most anyone can expect.

Country Club Leadership – High People/Low Production (D)

This style of leader is most concerned about the needs and feelings of members of his/her team. These people operate under the assumption that as long as team members are happy and secure then they will work hard. The leader or manager is almost incapable of employing the more punitive, coercive and legitimate powers fearing that using such powers could jeopardize relationships with the other team members. The organization will end up with a friendly atmosphere, but not necessarily very productive due to a lack of direction and control.

Team Leadership – High Production/High People (E)

This is the pinnacle of leadership style. These leaders stress production needs and the needs of the people equally highly. The premise here is that employees are involved in understanding organizational purpose and determining production needs. When employees are committed to, and have a stake in the organization’s success, their needs and production needs coincide. This creates a team environment based on trust and respect, which leads to high satisfaction and motivation and, as a result, high production.

Applying the Leadership Grid

1.      Identify the Current Leadership Style

What is your current leadership style?  Review past and current situations where you have been the leader.  For each situation mark your position on the matrix.  What themes or trends can you identify?  Why have you put yourself there?  What was the outcome for using that style? Use the template below to assess yourself.

2.      Identify areas of improvement and develop your leadership skills?

Are you more task-focused or people-focused?  How effective are the leadership styles you are using?  Are you in the middle-of-the-road?  If so, do you need to operate outside your comfort zone?  Are you too task-focused?  If so, what people skills do you need to develop?  Are you too people-focused?  If so, what do you need to do develop task-related skills?

Leadership Grid

3.      Monitor, Review and Solicit Feedback

Get others to assist you in this and to share their perspective and reasoning in a constructive manner.  This is an on-going process, not a one-off event.

Summary

Being aware of the various approaches is the first step in understanding and improving how well you or your reports perform as a leader or manager. It can also help you to anticipate how you lead can impact the level of employee engagement either positively or negatively.

At different times and for different situations you will find that you will adapt your leadership style – there is no one style that can be universally applied to produce the results and the people that you want to develop and achieve.  However, the Leadership Grid provides you with a tool by which to assess the alternative styles that are available to you.

Don’t treat the Leadership Grid as the “ultimate truth” – it is only there to provide input for you to consider when trying to determine and understand what is the most effective leadership style for you to use given your situation, the context of the situation (including its seriousness, urgency and whether it will become more acute if left unaddressed), your current skills and capabilities, your experience and your people.

Finally, don’t forget to use this tool with your own reports – a great leader develops his or her people.

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

The One Thing You Need to be Successful

And the answer is……

So you want to be successful? But is that enough to be so? We all know that just because you want something does not make it so. Success requires one thing and one thing only – action!

To be successful needs a massive amount of effort on a consistent and ongoing basis – if you are only prepared to work from 9-5 then be prepared to be disappointed with what you achieve, you will fall short of your expectations. This is especially true when you start out when you need overcome a considerable amount of inertia and create momentum.  I am not saying here that you need to be a workaholic doing 16-hour days continuously, but you will have to be prepared to work harder than others so you can be more successful than they are. And you need to work smart in doing so.

Even if you have put in the time and effort necessary to be successful it does not mean that you will be.  Your success is relative to that which other people achieve. This does not make it a zero-sum game, quite the contrary; other people’s success can create the conditions and opportunities for you to be successful. Think of Facebook or Google; neither could have been successful if it had not been for those who had created the Internet. Success is not a fixed pie, where someone else’s success means your opportunity for success is diminished; rather it is a growing pie where success begets more success.

To be successful requires you to take action, and to do so on a scale that is greater than others – not just an incremental effort over and above that of your competitors. If you do this, and you are successful, then is it enough? In short, no. To be successful requires a massive effort, and to continue to be more successful requires even greater effort.

So what do you need to do to be successful and to continue to be successful? The answer is in the question – it is you.  It is you who needs to take action consistently; it is you who needs to be continually self-motivated; it is you who needs to see the setbacks, problems, and difficulties as opportunities to grow and achieve even more; it is you who has to be always hungry and looking to improve what you do and how you do it; it is you who takes responsibility for the results you achieve (or don’t) and looks to improve.

To be successful is a choice. What will you choose?

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.

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.

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