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.

 

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.

Using Executive Coaching to Grow

How executive coaching can help you in your business

by Andrew Cooke, Growth & Profit Solutions

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

Wrong!

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

Wrong again!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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,

How to Manage Internal & External Changes

High-Potential Leaders & Building Partnerships

by Andrew CookeGrowth & Profit Solutions 

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

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

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

Inside the Organisation

1. Partnering with Direct Reports.Leaders Need to Partner

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

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

2. Partnering with co-workers.

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

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

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

3. Partnering with managers.

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

Outside the Organisation

1. Partnering with customers.

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

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

2. Partnering with suppliers.

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

3. Partnering with competitors.

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

Summary

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

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

John Donne put it very eloquently:

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

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

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

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

4 Questions 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.