Having Meaning & Profit

How meaning and progress drives engagement, the bottom-line and results.

Meaning is something you create, not something that is. Meaning is a powerful tool as it can help you from dwelling on factors and conditions that are beyond your control; and you can create a little meaning for yourself, and others, every day. This helps to give people better focus and a sense of control as they work on what they can influence. Meaning is central not just to your personal purpose and existence but also to that of your organization.

Meaning is also important as it increases the level of individual and collective engagement, and this has been proven to contribute directly to the bottom-line as well as providing other benefits. Meaning occurs not just in what you do, but in the progress you make in what you do. As such it is small wins that generates meaningful progress. Research from Harvard Business School’s Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer concluded: “Of all the events that engage people at work, the single most important — by far — is simply making progress in meaningful work.”

Meaning also provides intrinsic motivation and elevates your thinking above yourself and your own monetary needs. “Helping people focus on the meaning and impact of their work, rather than on, say, the financial returns it will bring, may be the best way to improve not only the quality of their work but also — counterintuitive though it may seem — their financial success” (Wrzesniewski).

Andrew’s 3 Steps for Creating Meaning

One of the most important elements of building a great career and life is attaching what you do each day to a broader mission. Until you understand how your efforts contribute to the world, you are simply going through the motions each day. Use these three steps for yourself, and your team, to create meaning by:

  1. Start by asking why your current job or role even exists. In most cases, jobs are created because they help another person, make a process more efficient, or produce something people need.
  2. Once you have identified how your efforts create a better life for others, consider what you could do to deliver a better product to the people you serve. This is the type of daily impact you can have in your interactions with your friends, family, colleagues, and customers. But it takes effort to determine exactly how your interactions charge the environment around you every day. Start by attaching meaning to small interchanges. Over time, you will be able to connect the dots between your efforts and a larger purpose.
  3. Identify one or two key actions that you can take, every day, which will help you to create the daily impact you are looking for.

Work on this for yourself, share it with your team and colleagues and get them to share theirs with you in turn. Work with each other to keep yourselves on track so that you can make these actions into new positive habits.

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

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

 

How to Handle Stress

A simple lesson for managing your stress. 

I’d like to share a short story I came across a long time ago. While it is short, the story is full of insights, learning, and wisdom.

“A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?” Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz. 

She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” 

She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.” It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses. As early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the evening and into the night. Remember to put the glass down!?

So what can we learn from this?

Stress is dependent on two things. Firstly, how you frame the situation you are in will inform how you might experience it. Secondly, how you actually experience is a matter of your choice. So if you don’t like the results you are getting, then change your choice.  Looking to change the results you are getting without changing what you are doing, without taking action, is pointless. Change requires action, change without action is just wishful thinking.

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 Steps to Overcome Your Obstacles

“Bad companies are destroyed by the crisis. Good companies survive them. Great companies are improved by them”  – Andy Grove, co-founder of Intel

I know the commonly accepted thinking is that to be more successful you need to address and leverage your strengths, not your weaknesses. I have even written an article on this previously. But I would like to share with you a complementary but slightly different perspective.

The thinking is that if your focus on improving your strengths you can raise the level of your performance to a higher level; whereas if you look to improve your weakness you are likely only to raise it to an acceptable level of performance, not a higher level of performance. The reason for this is that this particular area, your weakness, is not particularly well aligned with your capabilities (if it was it would be a strength) and so it is harder for you to maintain an improved level of performance, and you are likely to slip back to a lower level. With strengths, because your capabilities are aligned with them, you are able to sustain this improvement in performance.

The thinking here is not to ignore your weaknesses, but by being aware of what they are (and being honest with yourself about them), you can work with others whose strengths complement and compensate for your weaknesses (and similarly you do the same for them).

However, great individuals, like great companies, can find a way to transform weakness into a strength. So how do they do this?

“Within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition…”

Great people and great leaders see the obstacles that they face – whether they are external or internal to them – for what they are, and have the ingenuity and will to tackle them effectively. Your obstacles may be mental, physical, emotional or perceived – but you can tackle these weaknesses and make them strengths.  You do this by taking the perspective of “I can make this good” – whatever the obstacle may be. This is not being naively optimistic, but rather seeing the obstacle as a new opportunity to progress or go in a better direction.

3 Steps in Overcoming Obstacles

Overcoming obstacle is a discipline and a process. The process is simple, but it is not easy, and it consists of three steps:

1. Perception – how do you look at your specific problems or obstacles? What is your attitude or approach?  How you perceive, frame and approach an obstacle will determine how likely you are to overcome it.

2. Action – how dedicated are you to taking action? (because with no action there is no change or progress). And what creativity can you bring along in addressing the obstacle that will turn them into opportunities?

3. Will – do you have the on-going inner strength and desire to continue with this process, even if you experience adverse conditions or poor results?

Use this process to help you embrace your obstacles and weaknesses, and in doing so you can turn them into strengths. And when you have strengths then you can leverage them to great effect.

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.

To Create Your Future, Start in the Present

If you want to create your future, then work in the present 

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 often have your colleagues, your family, or your friends, amazed you with their near-perfect photographic recall of the times when you got things wrong or made a mistake. Not only do they recall all the details but, if you can remember the incident at all, what you remember is totally different.   I am sure it has happened to you, it happens to us all. Now have you ever done this to someone else, of course, you have!

The problem when we do this, or when others do it, is that we are not living in the present – we are living in the past. As LP Hartley, author of “The Go-Between”, said ‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.’  Living in the past we cannot change what has happened, and living in the past stops us from living in the present where we can make choices in creating our future and taking control of our own life. The past holds you back; the present allows you to create your future and your opportunities. A Buddhist parable illustrates the challenge – and value – of letting go of the past.

Two monks were strolling by a stream on their way home to the monastery. They were startled by the sound of a young woman in a bridal gown, sitting by the stream, crying softly. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she gazed across the water. She needed to cross to get to her wedding, but she was fearful that doing so might ruin her beautiful handmade gown.

In this particular sect, monks were prohibited from touching women. But one monk was filled with compassion for the bride. Ignoring the sanction, he hoisted the woman on his shoulders and carried her across the stream–assisting her journey and saving her gown. She smiled and bowed with gratitude as he noisily splashed his way back across the stream to rejoin his companion.

The second monk was livid. “How could you do that?” he scolded. “You know we are forbidden even to touch a woman, much less pick one up and carry her around!”

The offending monk listened in silence to a stern lecture that lasted all the way back to the monastery. His mind wandered as he felt the warm sunshine and listened to the singing birds. After returning to the monastery, he fell asleep for a few hours. He was jostled and awakened in the middle of the night by his fellow monk. “How could you carry that woman?” his agitated friend cried out. “Someone else could have helped her across the stream. You were a bad monk!”

“What woman?” the tired monk inquired groggily.

“Don’t you even remember? That woman you carried across the stream,” his colleague snapped.

“Oh, her,” laughed the sleepy monk. “I only carried her across the stream. You carried her all the way back to the monastery.”

The learning point is simple: Leave it at the stream.

If you want to drive then look ahead, don’t look in the rear-view mirror. All the rear-view mirror can show you is where you have been, it can’t show you where you need to go. And if you try to drive by just looking in the rear-view mirror you will soon find yourself coming off the road! A small change, but one that will free you and help you!

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.

The Freedom and Choice Dilemma

Choosing your own way, and choosing to be free of interference from others in doing so 

What does freedom mean to you?  You will come up with many answers covering many concepts, situations or contexts – but they all fall into one of two categories: freedom from and freedom to.

  •  Freedom to” – this is the freedom to attain certain outcomes and realize our full potential (an ability)
  • “Freedom from” – the absence of others (or things) forcibly interfering with the pursuit of our goals

One must be free in both senses to obtain full benefit from making a choice. You need to have the ability to choose an option and not be prevented from choosing it by any external force. If you go too far to either freedom from or freedom to then your opportunities are limited. So people tend to favor a balance between the two extremes.

Some people, however, tend to lean more one way than another:

  • Freedom From “I am a slave to no man”

Here you see yourselves and others as having high personal control. You tend to favor this as it provides more opportunities to attain personal goals, and because it rewards your effort. Here you have an internal locus of control; you believe you control your life.

This is also known as negative freedom as it is freedom from external interference that prevents you from doing what you want when you want to do it. These restrictions are placed on you by other people. The more negative freedom you have, the fewer the obstacles that exist between you and doing whatever it is you desire.

  • Freedom To “I am my own master”

You believe that your success is primarily determined by external factors, not you. You believe that no amount of effort can guarantee your success. You have an external locus of control.

This is also known as positive freedom, the freedom to control and direct your own life. Positive freedom allows you to consciously make your own choices, your own purpose, and to shape your life; you act instead of being acted upon.

Negative and Positive Freedom Illustrated

Imagine a man driving a car. He comes to a crossroads. There is no traffic light, no police roadblock, and no other cars; the driver is free to turn whichever way he wants to, and he decides to turn left. This is negative freedom; the driver is free from restrictions which force him to go one way or the other. 

But what if the driver turned left because he needed to stop at a convenience store to get cigarettes, and he stopped even though it would mean missing an important appointment? It was his addiction that was really steering the car. This shows a lack of positive freedom; the driver lacked the freedom to do what he really wanted – to get to the appointment on time.

The freedom you have and enjoy varies and is both positive and negative at different times. These types of freedom are not polar opposites, if you are one you are not other, but rather express a blend of freedom you may create or experience for yourself as shown in the continuum.

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.

What You Need to Do If You Want to Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ask yourself these three questions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 Insights to Being Successfully Self-Employed

What you need to know to be successful

So you are self-employed or you are looking to take the plunge and become self-employed.

Why?

Being employed is often seen as a safe and secure way by which to live your life. But is it what you want? Increasingly, job security and tenure is becoming less certain. Even so, people are loathe to make the move from what they know to that which they do not know.

Being self-employed can give you freedom, but with freedom comes with choice and with choice comes responsibility. Being self-employed does not necessarily bring you independence. Believe me, I have been there!

Being self-employed means taking responsibility for what you do and for what you don’t do, for what you achieve and what you do not achieve. At the end of the day it is what you do that matters. You may not be able to control everything around you or what happens to you, but you can always choose how you respond.

If you want to be self-employed and independent here are three things to be clear on:

  1. Your passion – what is your passion, that which underpins you and is you, which inspires you and can inspire others?
  2. Your goalsusing your passion, what do you want to achieve for yourself, for others and what legacy do you want to create or leave?
  3. Your planhow you will make it sustainable? What do you need to do to ensure you can continue to do this on an on-going basis? What do you need to earn? Who do you need to involve? What resources, capabilities or capacity do you need to be able to access?

To be self-employed and independent you need to take control, to drive from the front where you can see you are going and focus on where you need to go. To guide you use your passion, your goals, and your plan to help you build something that you love, that lasts and leaves a legacy.

So what are you going to do if you are self-employed, or you are looking to be self-employed? Share here the one action you will take, right now, to address this.

To find out more about how to build your own business and to attract the right prospects, convert them into great customers and deliver great results for you and your clients in building a sustainable business please click here.

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.