Where’s Your Focus?

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“It’s a well-known fact that what we give our attention to grows and what we don’t give our attention to tends to fade away.”

How to Make Your Dreams Come True – Mark Forster

What are your thoughts on this?

My dad used to say what what you think about will likely happen.
We tend to focus on the negative aspects of life. We do this for our protection. Negative things can harm us. So we’re constantly on the lookout. And we do need to protect ourselves from being harmed. But if we only focus on prevention from harm, we may miss the opportunities for growth, development and happiness.

Some examples I thought of:

  • we talk in detail about a bad day at work but summarise a good day
    • them: “How was your day?”
    • me: “Yeah, good!”
  • we look for what is wrong with a situation rather than looking for what is right
  • our organisational reports generally identify error rates, not success rates
  • we tend to coach faults/gaps in performance rather than build on strengths/achievements
  • we complain about our lot in life rather than the benefits
  • we never have enough money so we focus on our lack, not what we have
  • we look how far we have to go rather than look at how far we’ve come
  • we listen to the news which is commonly negative and depressing

If this is the case, we are missing an opportunity to focus on the positive. And if the initial quote is true, or at least beneficial, how might this play out in living the life we want?

This isn’t being Pollyanna – all butterflies and rainbows. It is, in fact, looking for information and examples in situation that are good and generally in any situation.

So, how would you like to think? By focussing on the lack, the gap, what you don’t have? How will that make you feel? How will your energy be?

Don’t try this at home: Spend the next 7 days highlighting all the gaps, problems and issues that you see … in detail!

Try this instead! I actually suggest you do the opposite. Spend the next 7 days looking at all the things you do have.

To do this I suggest the following:

  • grab a notebook
  • go in to each room of your house and where you work (might be the same place)
  • write down all the things you have
  • this isn’t Marie Kondo, they don’t have to bring you joy, just list them
  • you may be amazed at what you have
  • (you may also realise you have a bunch of stuff you no longer need!)
  • do the same with relationships – this could be tricky if you’re in a tough situation
  • same with finances – if you’re in debt, like we used to be, start making a plan to rectify that by focusing on what you want

Doing this exercise does not automatically resolve all our issues into a perfect life. It’s not magical. But it may help you realise how much you can be grateful for and what you can focus on.

As the quote says: “what we give our attention to grows”.

And may also help on taking some initial steps on improving some things.

I’m writing this on a perfect day in Perth, Western Australia. I’m outside on the patio. A galah is feeding from the bird feeder. The wife has just pruned the bushes this morning. There are kids a few houses over having a great time!

While I sit here, I am in to Day 6 of a 14 day quarantine. I have to stay home while the rest of the city is free as can be. I don’t like it and I don’t agree with the strategy. But, the peace and quiet, the ability to read and write is priceless. I’ll focus on that for a while!

Developing Gratitude

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I’ve been working with a business group over the past few months. We start off each session with 3 things we are grateful for. It can be a challenge at times. Some people don’t know what to write. Some think it’s corny. Some draw a blank and feel like they may be failing. Others just don’t care for it. To be honest, I find it hard sometimes.

Until …

I’ve been thinking a little deeper into my my model of life: Bamboo SL. One thing that has been missed in the model is the influence of feelings and how they drive us toward or away from things. They are kind of there but need to be brought more to the surface so I’m working on that. Stay tuned.

On the subject of feelings, gratitude is part of that. I thought it would be useful, rather than to try to think of things from the top of my head, I’d start to document what I am grateful for. And to document from both the physical and non physical aspect.

Let me know what you think.

The image above is of one of our spare rooms. It is also the room our granddaughter sleeps in when she sleeps over.

The point is to illustrate how I am learning to have gratitude.

This is the spare room. I’m grateful we have the room because it means Alex can sleep over. Having Alex sleep over means we get to see her develop and have fun with her. She is a super articulate kid. She’s got a bit of cheek and quite often she’ll come out with words and phrases we don’t expect a kid of four to have learnt (Not cuss words, normal words like “Grandad, I am very frustrated at the moment!”) I’m grateful for that too.

The pictures on the wall have been created by my daughter and my sister. I love the paintings and am reminded how talented they are. Each time I see my daughter’s painting (on the left) I get a real sense of warmth and love for her. It’s a relatively simple painting but is also quite expressive and a joyful image.

The picture by my sister is also quite playful and bright. It’s a cheerful image for which I am also grateful. It’s also a but quirky, like my sister!

The bedspread was made by my wife. She has created a few of these and they are projects in themselves. We actually bought a cabinet to store them all! It takes, patience and an eye for colour and coordination. It’s a work of art in itself. I am of no help at all but the kids get involved and it becomes a team effort.

Lastly, on the side table on the right hand side of the bed is a small drawing of boats. It’s by my grandmother, Portia Bennett, who was a well regarded artist in her day. I have a few of her paintings.

And so, from one room, I can highlight quite a few things I am grateful for. The physical items have meaning for me as do the people associated with them. There is a lot of talent in the family and also the fact that people will do things for others to help make life a little nicer. And they bring joy to me and those who receive them – if we’ll slow down and recognise that.

My Thoughts

If you are struggling to find things to give gratitude for, can I suggest an exercise?

Go through each room and list the items in the room. Perhaps just list the items at first. Maybe in a notebook down the side a page. And then, over time or when the thought strikes you, write alongside the item what you are grateful for.

What does the item do for you? How does it, or what it does or maybe just infers, make you feel? Could you be grateful for that?

Let me know what you think.

Humility

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This seems to be coming up more in my various social media feeds. So I thought I’d add to it.

The best definition I heard was from Lou Tice, the founder of The Pacific Institute. He defines humility as “truth”. Simply to tell the truth.

His example was that of a fictitious piccolo player with 6 fingers on each hand.

When someone pays them a compliment: “Oh my, you are the best piccolo player I’ve ever heard. How do you do that?”

The humble piccolo player might respond: “Thank you, but I do have an advantage, I have six fingers on each hand, which makes playing the piccolo much easier and I can play more complex tunes.”

A less humble piccolo player might fold their hands behind their back, and respond: “Yes, thank you, I’m just very good!”

Humility, for me, is simply telling the truth!

Intro to Bamboo SL

This is a model I’ve been playing with lately. I’ve been learning a lot about mindset, habits and behaviours and this is an attempt to learn something by putting it into my own thoughts and provide it to others.

It is developed as Bamboo SL based on the elements that create the outcomes (Satisfaction & Lifestyle) from the inputs:

  • Beliefs
  • Attitudes
  • Mindset
  • Behaviours
  • Observations
  • Outcomes

I’m planning on developing it further and the construct may change as things become clearer. (maybe Observations come after Outcomes).

Background

What got me thinking about this was that we, generally, mostly concern ourselves with external factors, particularly in business when it comes to performance and feedback. These are the behaviours, the observations and the outcomes. “I saw you do this”, “Let’s discuss the sales results”.

The Behaviours are the things we do that we and others can see. We can comment on them, whether they are good, bad or otherwise. You can get feedback on them. I’ve run workshops on performance management based on SOBs – Specific Observable Behaviours.

The Observations are similar to the behaviours but in this instance we are trying to take a step back and observe ourselves or reflect on what we did. We can then make adjustments if we want to.

The Outcomes are, perhaps obviously, the results of what we see. We overeat and the scale goes up. We diet and the scale goes down. We put in a good day at work and our boss is happy with us. We put in a bad day and the boss is less happy. (I have a friend who got a commendation the same day they got a first and final warning!) Organisations, like people, can be fickle.

My observations here are that we tend to focus on the obvious. How we feel about our day and our lot in life. Very simple observations and conclusions for the most part.

We do mull over the Satisfaction stage. Am I satisfied with my job, relationship, income, goals? Sometimes we may look at social media sites showing people who seem to be doing better than we are. Even though we know this is people on their best days, they can still trigger us and cause some dissatisfaction with our own life.

I’ve referred to Satisfaction as “The” Measure. If we are “satisfied” with our lot in life, that becomes our life. There is no need or sense of urgency to change. Even if we are dissatisfied. Read that again. We we can be satisfied with our dissatisfaction. Why?

Life is defined at the top of the image above with examples from Relationships to Finances. Feel free to substitute your own.

The Subconscious Program

Lower down we have the Subconscious program. This encapsulates our beliefs, habits and attitudes that, in many cases, reside there without scrutiny. Again we may mull over them occasionally but perhaps not as much as the external factors.

Our subconscious program, as I have (re)learned has, on the whole, been given to us by others when we were very young. We may vote the same way our parents vote. We are comfortable with similar foods (healthy or unhealthy). We may undertake similar pastimes as our parents or peer groups. Alternatively, it could also be you eat completely differently because your parents ate junk food!

Because our beliefs have been given to us, or we have been highly influenced by others, we can take life as it comes without examining some of these factors. We would do well to examine some of these and see if they hold true for us and help us achieve the Satisfaction and Lifestyle we are wanting. If not, it may be our beliefs are keeping us from achieving the goals we seek, or once sought, and now we’ve accepted our “lot”.

Example: I have a close friend who doesn’t like Mitsubishi cars. No reason! It’s a belief or attitude they have to Mitsubishis. Many years ago, when they were contemplating a new vehicle, Mitsubishis were off the list. Just a belief that really has no grounding and, in this case, not an issue.

But what if we have beliefs that are issues that we hold on to that limit our progress and limit our real potential. That, to me, is worth exploring.

Summary

I believe the areas that can most influence our Life at the top of the image are, in fact, the elements at the base: Beliefs, Attitudes and Mindsets.

These elements will influence the Behaviours we are prepared to engage in, which in turn can affect our Outcomes if we are prepared to examine (Observe) those Behaviours to see if they are working towards our goals or away from our goals.

My point being, the areas we really need to examine, we generally don’t. (Or perhaps I am the sole troglodyte here!)

The good news is, once we know this, we are free to choose new beliefs, attitudes and mindsets. And, from there, begin to review our potential and re-assess the goals we want to pursue!

Now that I’ve published this I’ll find all the spelling errors. Feel free to point them out!

The $1 Experiment

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Many people would like to make money online.

Some do it as a full time gig and others for pocket money. I heard of one person develop a “BMW course” which helped them buy their first BMW! They were very upfront about it.

Still others do it simply to see if what they do is helpful to others. I’m in the third category.

This is a 12 month experiment to see if I can contribute to the lives of others.

It will commence formally on 1 January 2022. This is the “soft launch”.

I was listening to a Jay Shetty podcast recently (I cannot remember which one. I’m still sorting through them and will post here when I find it). (Also, listen to Jay, he is amazing!)

It started off with something like: “How do you become a billionaire?” with a response of “Help a billion people!” Sounds easy. But the sentiment stuck with me. “Help others.”

So I’m playing with that idea in mind.

I’d like to help as many people as I can. And that is entirely up to you! It’s a free market.

The experiment’s premise:

  • If I provide value to you (and only if I do) would you consider donating $1?
  • No more, no less.
  • In addition, if you consider the information valuable to you, would you refer the site to your friends?
  • That’s it.

If I receive your dollar, I know I’m delivering value. If I don’t, I need to up my game. It’s the ultimate feedback model.

Some guidelines (in your favour):

  • You do not have to donate at all. The information here is entirely free and will remain so. Hence why I call it a donation, not a cost or a fee.
  • You cannot donate more than $1. You get three choices: $1, $1 or $1!
  • Check the $1 Experiment page here
  • You can only donate once, ever! I will be reviewing all donations every quarter and if I find you have donated more than once, I will refund the donations!
  • Due to the size of the donation, there will be no refunds. Sorry!

This is my experiment, these are my rules!

The Hopeful Outcome

I hope to provide value that some of you may feel is worth something. If enough people feel it’s of value, that’d be awesome. If it is a resounding failure, well, it’s a supply and demand market.

Occasionally I may post how the donations are going. That’s a personal choice I’ll make at the time. If I do post the results, the intent will be to encourage others to experiment.

Why might this work?

I have over 30 years of management and leadership experience that I’d like to share and help others benefit from. There have been highs and lows. Sleepless night and tears but also many “reach the summit” moments. This is my way of giving back. I have a program I am developing that will be available, also for the one time donation of $1. It will be updated as I learn new things and as I see areas of improvement, either from feedback or from my own realisations.

Many times the courses available are out of reach, price-wise. That’s fine for corporates but for those wanting to develop and don’t have that kind of cash, a lower “price” may be of help. That is my aim. Yes, you can read books watch YouTube and listen to podcasts.

The Starting Point

  • I have 126 people subscribed to this blog
  • I have 97 Twitter followers
  • I have 60 Facebook friends
  • I have 44 Instagram followers

The aim is not to grow those numbers. The aim is purely on output and helping these who arrive here. These numbers simply show the basis I am starting from.

Best regards

When you’re down … and troubled …

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(hat tip to Carole King)

You know those times when you’re facing a challenge and you wonder if you’re up to it? All you see is the challenge and little of the opportunity?

I had that a few years ago.

In 2007, I’d joined an Engineering Group as Head of Human Resources and, on day one, I was tasked with creating an emerging leaders learning retreat … in 6 weeks time.

Holy shit!

It was possibly partly a test. It is a tough industry and they were looking to see what I could do. Could I do this? So much to do and organise and it was just me. No staff. No support. The PAs of the Execs didn’t know me so no favours were coming from that area.

I had to think about selecting the participants with some logic. My experience in Learning & Development required me to have learning outcomes, behavioural change and get the right people in the room.

I had to develop the program. Organise the guest speakers. Locate a venue with catering. Establish costings along with submissions for approval. Back and forth discussions with the COO and the CFO on “Why this?” and “Why that?” and “Can’t you do this cheaper?” (Good times!)

Plus, the other parts of the HR job in general. I was the first HR Manager at the time so everyone wanted a piece of me.

Remembering significant achievements can help you when you’re feeling flat, demotivated and useless. Hey, we all do at times. Have you ever been asked what your greatest achievements are and, in the moment, come up blank? Or maybe you just dismiss them? Yep, me too!

Here’s what I’ve started doing …

  1. Open up your note app of choice, in my case it’s Apple Notes, but feel free to use a physical notebook.
  2. Write down all the achievements you have been responsible for. Could be something you led or played a significant role in (work or personal).
  3. Think about the achievement and how you “felt”. Make sure to write down how you felt at the time. If you can, bask in that glory for a minute, and re-live the emotion. Emotions are great motivators!
  4. Write that down next to the achievement. “I changed “x” to “y” and it was bloody hard work but in that moment I felt on top of the world!”
  5. Keep it visible. If you use something like Apple Notes, you can pin that to the top of your notes so it’s always there to see and re-read!
  6. If you use a physical notebook, place a tab on the page (pages ) so you can refer to it when you need to.
  7. When you’re having a tough day or simply faced with a challenge, take 5 minutes to review these achievements, feel the emotion and gratitude you had at the time. Feel “on top of the world again!”
  8. You did it then, you can do it now!

Outcome: The Emerging Leaders Workshop

Over 3 days, we had 20+ emerging leaders on the program. They had come from all over Australia, Vietnam and Dubai.

We walked them through a business case study and allowed them to interact with each other, challenge each other and develop plans to become better.

We developed some business “truths” and created stronger relationships between the offices and the various engineering disciplines.

I think the CFO and COO were mildly stunned I had pulled it off and were very happy with the outcomes.

That experience is one I remember when faced with a challenge today. I’ve done it before, I can do it again. Even writing this out has been beneficial.

Maybe there is a Step 9!

Ask for what you want!

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Not what you don’t want.

I was speaking with a client the other day about their business culture. I asked them: “What do you want?”

They proceeded to list a few things the team were doing they didn’t like.

I noted this down and held back comment until they had finished.

We discussed few areas of the business. The common phrase kept coming back: “I don’t want them to…”, or “They do this … (negative thing)”.

After a bit, he said, “Okay, now you talk!”

I mentioned the language he was using. He recognised it immediately.

I’d taken notes so offered a couple back to him and asked him if they stopped doing what he didn’t like what would he see them doing?

He proceeded to list some behaviours he’d love to see.

Sometimes all it takes is to stop and listen to ourselves. Hear the words we say and turn them around. But we get into autopilot mode and the words come bumbling out. We react when we need to respond.

The Insidious Part – Part I

And here’s the insidious part – often the words don’t come out but are stored in our mind, our subconscious. And our attitude towards someone can become “They always do that!”, “They never help out”, and “They always leave early!”

(I can hear some of you now … “But they dooooo!” )

The Insidious Part – Part II

And this is now conveyed, without words, to the party these words are meant for. Attitudes change, behaviour changes and all of a sudden, there is tension at work. And, almost, no-one knows why!

What to do?

Step I – Identify the issue/s

Below there is a link to a template you can use for this. List the things you want to be different/better.

Caution: different isn’t always better but better is always different!

Make it a brain dump for now. Let the thoughts flow and don’t self critique. Just write.

Once you’re done, you’ll find that some can be combined, some are trivial, others will be fixed by other actions and then there are the priorities.

Pick one!

Step II – Be clear about what you want

This may take some time at first but it gets easier, like most things.

Write down what you want. How would this make the situation better? Writing it down helps you get clear about what it actually is you need. I’ve asked this many times of myself and my clients and it can be hard at first. I asked someone this earlier today and their response was:

“Yes, but then I’ll need to take action!” Correct answer!

Using the template, now write down what ‘good’ would look like. What do you want to see? Be clear about this as you need to explain this to another party.

Step Ia – Work within current procedures

It makes it a lot easier if what you’re asking is based on current known procedures. If it’s a brand new process, more explanation may be required. But most requests come from within the Business As Usual (BAU) model. So, the conversation that will follow won’t be a surprise.

Step II – Have the conversation

Thomas J. Leonard (1955 – 2003), father of the modern coaching industry, has this great saying which cannot be avoided:

“All problems exist in the absence of a good conversation”

This can be the tough part, but it doesn’t need to be. Honestly.

If the request is reasonable, simply ask. Don’t make it “bigger than Ben Hur”.

I have found that it is very much the molehill when compared to the mountain.

Step III – Offer support

It’s possible what you are asking for may be out of someone’s comfort zone. You’ll need to offer some support as they make the necessary change. That support may best come from a colleague. A colleague might be better placed to do this both from a technical and empathetic perspective.

The objective is to improve the business or situation by a change of behaviour. It doesn’t really matter who helps make it happen.

Step IV – Don’t make this mistake!

One thing I used to do, along with my manager colleagues, was ask someone to come to a room to speak privately! God what a mistake that was! You can imagine what was going through their mind: “A manager, taking me into an office! What have I done?”

If the topic is sensitive, sure, privacy is important. But many times, if an issue is caught early, all it takes is a quick “Hey, can you do this for me?”

The “Always” Step

Relationships are so important in any environment.

It’s not a step in the procedure. It’s an “always on” fundamental.

With the above steps, what makes it far easier is by ensuring the relationships we have with people are always being reviewed for improvement. “Reviewed” meaning, “what is my role in this relationship and am I playing as best I can?”

We are human and therefore not perfect. But we can continuosly work towards being better in this arena.

Summary
  1. identify the issue
  2. write down what you do want (is it known to the other party?)
  3. have a conversation (professional, polite, constructive)
  4. offer support
  5. maintain the relationship

Let me know what you think in the comments. Let me know how you handle these situations at work? Would love to get more ideas.

Allowing Autonomy

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This article from the Pacific Institute (note, I am affiliated the Institute) really struck a chord with me.

It talks about allowing some risk when guiding employees. Too many rules and teams will be constantly looking at the next step and not the outcome.

In creating the “tightrope effect” we increase the stress and anxiety in people who are too fearful to make a mistake. As the article says, when people “look down” to make sure they are following the steps they are not looking ahead to what can be achieved.

I’ve worked on a number of initiatives where people are asked to adopt a process of some kind. A process or a daily target, for example.

This article made me think of the tightrope we ask our teams to walk if we mis-manage the implementation process.

Riding a motorbike requires the rider to look ahead. I’ve ridden bikes, never look down. Look ahead to see what’s coming so you can negotiate it successfully. (Plus it’s more enjoyable leaning into corners! )

Source: http://www.canyonchasers.net
Here’s an example:

In a recent role, we were implementing a new process. There were five steps and each step had five “criteria”. Staff were required to meet each of the criteria at each step. On a regular basis, a scenario was recorded and critiqued by the management team.

Could they identify each of the steps and the associated criteria? Yes. No. Maybe. (Even the managers couldn’t agree!)

The team member was then coached on the outcome of that discussion.

“Here’s what you missed! Here’s what you did well.” What do you think they would reflect on?

“Dear Team Member, Please make sure you complete all steps and all criteria within each step! – Manager”

The feedback asked them to “look down” at each step and criteria. Next time they were with a customer, where do you think their focus would be?

“What if I didn’t do all the criteria but the customer was happy?”

The guidance being to “work it in. Focus on the steps, not the outcome.” That wasn’t the intention, of course, but you can see how it would work out that way.

I had the opportunity to speak with the developer of the model and asked them about the strictness of the model. Do all criteria of each step have to be completed for this to be a success?

“Oh god no! As long as the person is achieving the main steps (rapport building, explain benefits, good questioning, asking for the order and closing) the criteria are guidelines. To help with coaching and development.”

This is where we need to allow some autonomy of our people to do their roles well. We can create so much unnecessary stress in our teams if we demand a certain set of behaviours where a slightly different set will achieve the same outcomes.

In general, we’re dealing with adults but rigidity to this degree means we can also treat them like children.

Allow some risks to be taken, as the original article suggests. Don’t make them look down, you’ll increase the stress, limit performance and the only target you’ll exceed is your staff turnover.

The Inner Critic (Self Talk, Mindset)

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Do you have an inner critic that you’re tired of listening to?

If someone else spoke to you the way you speak to you, would you put up with it?

Here’s “Thing 1” … 

While you’re berating yourself …

  • others have full confidence in you
  • you provide encouragement, support and confidence to others (who also have an inner critic!)
  • when others fail or falter, what do you do? You’re quick to pick them up, I bet!

Maybe some self care is in order.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Pause/breathe – think about what you’re about to say to yourself
  2. Respond – don’t react
  3. Define what you do want – what does ‘good’ look like?
  4. Next time … what could you do next time this happens. Write it down if you can, it helps with imprinting and reinforcement
  5. Affirm what you’re wanting to achieve – write an effective affirmation (more on this coming soon) 

Here’s “Thing 2” …

  • Think about what you were berating yourself about 12 months ago.
  • Can’t do it, can you?
  • This too will pass, grab any learning you can, let it go and move to the ‘good’

Want an example?

Meeting 1: “God, that was a train wreck! I am hopeless at running meetings. I can’t control the participants. I can’t stick to the agenda. What an idiot!”

Meeting 2: [Pause/breathe] “Well that wasn’t ideal. Next time … I’ll be clear about the agenda and keep participants on track. I’ll allocate some time to plan better. Will see Jane about how she does it, she runs her meetings well.”

Affirmation: “I plan my meetings well and maintain control to achieve the outcomes we need.”