Improving Your Leadership Skills

the one thing to create a multiplier effect for your leadership skills

There are a broad number of leadership skills that you are expected to have and to develop. However, this takes time and effort and you cannot develop these skills in a classroom. You have to develop them in real-time and quickly.

The “key leadership skills” that are commonly cited include: inspiring and motivating others, problem-solving, delivering results, good communication, driving innovation and strategy, providing direction and goals, developing others, internal and external relationship building….

So how can you develop these skills quickly and effectively, and in a way that leverages your experience and helps you to improve what you are doing?

Simple. Ask questions!

In a blog post by Johannes Bayer he looks at some of the key questions that you might ask for each of these key leadership skills.  I have included his ideas here (thank you, Johannes!).

In a nutshell, the process is:

  1. Define the skill you want to improve
  2. Create a list of many questions you can use to demonstrate this skill
  3. Narrow the list down to a handful of key questions.

The questions should help you elicit ideas for yourself and from others to: generate and gain insights; to expand your thinking and that of others; to generate new ideas and thinking; to leverage your experience; to help you gain traction and overcome inertia; to challenge the status quo; and to learn.

For the key skill, you are looking to improve what are the top 3-5 questions from your list which will have the greatest effect for you and others?

Here are a few examples too of how this might look like

To improve this skill You may want to ask questions like these
Inspiring and motivating others
  • If I gave you 4 hours each week to work on anything you like what would it be?
  • What roadblocks can I remove for you?
  • If you could change 1 thing to make you happier at work: what would it be?
Problem-Solving
  • What exactly is the problem? Why is it a problem? How big is it?
  • Has someone else solved this problem already? If yes, how can we use this?
Delivering Results
  • What are the key factors that influence the results I need to deliver (data, process, people, turnover, price, customer satisfaction….)?
  • How does world class performance look like and how do we compare?
Good Communication
  • What questions should I have asked but did not?
  • Let me understand your communication preferences: what are they?
  • What questions/comments do you have for me?
Driving Innovation and Strategy
  • If you had to do this in half the time / with half the funds / half the resources / … how would it work?
  • What does the customer value that’s not in our product?
  • What is in our product that the customer does not value?
Providing Direction and Goals
  • What is the #1 goal to focus on this year?
  • What are priorities vs sideshows?
  • What should guide all decisions we make ($, quality, client satisfaction, data…)?
Developing Others
  • Which of your skills are we not using?
  • What have I done today to develop others?
  • If you were in my place, what would you do?
  • How do you add value around here?
Internal and External Relationship-Building
  • What questions can I ask colleagues / clients to get into a deep, meaningful conversation right away?
  • What was the achievement that makes you most proud this year?
  • What key challenges are you working on right now?

Use this approach to help you develop your leadership skills.  Even more importantly, share this approach with your peers and reports – a great leader helps others to surpass himself or herself. So what have you found of most value in this blog post? What will you do as a result?  Share this here and we can learn from each other!

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.

Overcoming the Voice in Your Head

What to do when you become your own worst enemy, and how to win over yourself.

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

On average you speak sixteen thousand words, a day or nearly six millionemotional agility words a year.  That is a lot. What we forget is that this is a fraction of what we think – our inner stream of consciousness, your “inner chatter” that provides a running commentary whether you want it or not.

We are influenced by what we people say, how they say it, when it is said and the context. But we forget the first rule of influence – influence starts with you. As such we influence ourselves and we inform our own behaviour – primarily through our beliefs and attitudes which become apparent to us through our “inner chatter”.

How we behave, and the consequences we incur, occurs when we put a “story” around an event or experience we have just gone through.  We tend to behave in accordance with how we feel about this and then incur the consequences.  The flow looks like this:

SeeTellFeelAct

 

 

 

How many times have you had thoughts and feelings which have led to behaviour which has caused you problems? We see someone do something, or ourselves, and we create a story about.  For example, “He always takes credit for what was done, yet I did most of the work…” or “The same thing happened in my last job, I obviously can’t do this type of work…

What happens here is we get hooked by our thoughts in that we either treat these thoughts as facts and therefore true or, with help, we challenge them and rationalize them away which can lead us into situations where we act against what we feel are our values and best interests.

So how can we mitigate our “inner chatter”? How can we avoid either buying into it or suppressing it? How can we approach our “inner chatter” in a mindful, constructive way?

Four Steps for Building Emotional Agility

To do this we need to build emotional agility. This is the ability to free yourself from patterns of negative thoughts and feelings and move forward positively.  In doing this for yourself you:

1. Recognize Your Pattern

Notice when you are hooked by your thoughts and feelings – for example, your thinking becomes rigid and repetitive.  You are re-running past experiences, or seeing the same attitudes surface again.  Only when you realize you are stuck in a pattern can you break out of it.

2. Label Your Thoughts & Emotions

“Name them and shame them”.  By naming or labeling your thoughts or emotions you are able to see your thoughts and feelings for what they are.  They are transient and may or may not be helpful.  Doing this helps you to free up your thinking and begins to break the pattern.

3. Accept Them

Once you have labeled them then just accept them without judging them.  You experience your thoughts and feelings and take the time to see what is happening in the moment.  What is really happening in the situation and what do you need to do to take productive action?

4. Act on Your Values

You can now consider more choices, rather than going along with your “inner chatter” and you can choose to act in a way that is consistent with your values.

By providing yourself with emotional agility you have the opportunity to change the story you tell yourself which, in turn, allows you to choose to behave in a different way and obtain consequences which are both beneficial and less adverse.  Simple and effective.  Try it, use it and practice it and build your emotional agility muscle.

This article is partly based on the article, “Emotional Agility” by Susan David and Christina Congleton, HBR November 2013.

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

3 Steps to Develop Your Team

Stop-Start-Continue – 3 Steps for Individual & Team Growth

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

3 Steps to Develop You and Your Team – Raise Performance, Achieve Outcomes.

Stop-Start-ContinueHow often do you take the time to stop, look at what you are doing and carry out a “self-audit”?  To reach our potential, or to help others to reach theirs, we need to do this periodically.  This can be used in your business, social or personal life.

Stop-Start-Continue 

There are three parts to this process:.

1.   Stop.

What are you doing that you can stop doing or need to stop doing? 

These might be things that you stop doing yourself, delegate to others, or is no longer required. This frees up time which you can utilise in the next two parts.  Time is limited, so make sure you use it on those things that matter, have priority and help you (or others) to grow and develop.

2.   Start.

What do you need to start doing that you are not currently doing? 

What are those things which will help you (or others) to grow, develop and achieve those things that they are looking for.  You can begin to do these things with the time you have freed up in the first step of Stop.

3.   Continue.

What are those things you need to continue doing?

Identify those things which are currently working for you, and which you can improve that will help you realise what you are looking to achieve. How can you leverage these things and the time to do more of them?

What to Do Next?

For yourself, think of three things for each of the three parts – STOP, START and CONTINUE.  Using the template below, especially if you are a leader or a manager in your business then try this to help your team and reports:

  1. Identify what each person should STOP, START and CONTINUE as regards their role and contribution.
  2. Get each person to do the same for themselves.
  3. Meet with each person and get them to share their ideas with you, and share your ideas with them.  This will create engagement, ownership and commitment for team members who are looking to grow and develop successfully.

Stop-Save-Continue Template

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Improving Your Personal Effectiveness

3 Ways to Improve How You Work

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

improve2

We are often so busy doing the work that we forget to take a step back and give ourselves the time to focus and re-energize ourselves.  Here are 3 tips for improving your personal effectiveness, no matter what you do.

1. Boost your personal efficiency
When looking at profit improvement potential (or waste) in a business it is often said it is easy to identify 30% of your current overheads as ‘waste’. The same can be said if you audited yourself for your levels of efficiency. 30% of what you do on a day-to-day basis is waste. Outside the box ways to boost your efficiency are required. Some key tips are:

  • Hire a Virtual Assistant to prevent you performing tasks you don’t have to
  • Stop doing many of the things that are not in the 20% of things you do which create 80% of the benefit
  • Build processes and document all aspects of your business you currently do ‘naturally’ so you can delegate more of what you do
  • Use the latest technology platforms such as Ipads, Livescribe pens and various apps to better collect your notes, ideas, strategies and increase your speed in finding them at a later date

2. Protect your energy levels
Think of the networks of people in business and personally you associate with on a regular basis.  Are these people providing you a boost in your energy levels when you connect with them or are they taking away your valuable energy levels (acting as what we call ‘Energy Vampires’)?  If you have the balance wrong and have a large portion acting as ‘Energy Vampires’ it can have a detrimental effect on your ability to implement change and deliver the outcomes you are seeking.  Perform a quick audit on your circle of business and personal contacts; what do you have to change?

3. What is your ‘theme’ for the next 12 months?
Having a theme for your plans for the next 12 months can help focus more acutely your team, customers and importantly yourself on what’s important when driving strategies / actions. Themes could include: “Innovation”, “Growth”, “Efficiency”, “Profit”, “Downsize”, “Consolidate” or “Improve Life Balance”.

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.

The Salesman Who Lost the Million-Dollar Deal

How failure can make you more successful…

We all make mistakes, but do we learn from them?

As children we are often taught not to make mistakes, and that it is important to be right. This is reinforced as we become adults and so we learn to equate mistakes with failure.  And when we do this we limit ourselves and our potential to grow.

I view failure as an opportunity to learn and improve, and from this to grow and develop myself further. If I am not making mistakes then I am not pushing my boundaries or myself, and I condemning myself to be average as I cannot grow. The important thing about mistakes is not just to learn, but to implement that learning so you don’t make the same mistake twice.

I would like to share a story with you about Thomas Watson Sr., the man who founded IBM and oversaw its massive growth from 1914 to 1956. The story goes like this….

“”IBM had survived The Great Depression. Gambling on a post war boom, Watson Sr. had maintained IBM’s employment levels by increasing inventories when there was little demand. Excess machinery and parts crowded basements and filled every nook-and-cranny of Endicott’s warehouses.

Some on the board of directors, because of this, were lobbying to remove Watson as IBM’s President.

He needed these inventories sold.

A very large government bid, approaching a million dollars, was on the table. The IBM Corporation—no, Thomas J. Watson Sr.—needed every deal. Unfortunately, the salesman failed. IBM lost the bid. That day, the sales rep showed up at Mr. Watson’s office. He sat down and rested an envelope with his resignation on the CEO’s desk. Without looking, Mr. Watson knew what it was. He was expecting it.

He asked, “What happened?”

The sales rep outlined every step of the deal. He highlighted where mistakes had been made and what he could have done differently. Finally he said, “Thank you, Mr. Watson, for giving me a chance to explain. I know we needed this deal. I know what it meant to us.” He rose to leave.

Tom Watson met him at the door, looked him in the eye and handed the envelope back to him saying, “Why would I accept this when I have just invested one million dollars in your education?”

It is that last line – “I have just invested a million dollars in your education” – that brings it home to me.  There are two important learnings here:

  1. The failure you experience and the mistakes you make are opportunities for you to grow.
  2. The failure others experience and the mistakes others make are opportunities for them to grow.

Are you tolerant of and welcome mistakes in yourself? And in others?  Currently do you look to learn from your mistakes and failures? And do you help others to learn from their mistakes and failures?

We are living and working in a changing world, and we are finding that what got us here will not get us there. As well as this we are also discovering that what we have always done will no longer get us what we always got.  Failures and mistakes do not stem just from doing something new or different, but they can stem from doing that which we have done before and which has previously brought us success.  The latter source of failure and mistakes is more insidious and harder to sport, ironically because it is so familiar.

So create an environment where failure and mistakes are seen as an opportunity to learn and grow – individually, as a team, and as an organization. Identify the learnings, share them with others, and determine what you need to implement to prevent the failure or mistake from recurring by raising the bar for both what you do and how you do it.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here. (needs link)

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.

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.

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 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.