What Time Is It?

What time would you like it to be?
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It’s a cynical view of consultants that they’ll tell you what you want to hear! Not necessarily, what you need to hear.

But what if they are right? What time do you want it to be?

Consider this: the future is literally made up!

Every invention we have today started as a thought, a concept, an idea. Nothing more.

Edison may have been credited with inventing the light bulb but today, the question isn’t, “What light bulbs do you have?” It’s, “What light bulb do you want?”

When I offer to buy someone a coffee, the second question is: “What coffee do you want?” Not everyone wants a long back with cream! 🤷‍♂️

So, what kind of day do you want? If that’s too long term, what would a good hour look like? (Half hour? Moment?)

The point is, going back to the consultant question …

What do you want?

The real challenge for the consultant, and for us, is whether we have the efficacy to bring the goal to pass?

Efficacy: the ability to produce a desired or intended result.

It’s one thing to want a thing. It’s another thing to bring it about.

I would suggest though, that most of us, have that ability.

  • Want a new car? Do you have the ability to save?
  • Want to have a good day? Do you have the ability to plan and stick to a schedule you plan?
  • Want a peaceful demeanour? Do you have the ability to block out calamity?

I’d suggest we all have the abilities. Most of it comes to a choice. To do or not to do. (I seriously didn’t mean to channel Yoda! 🙄)

A lot of this comes down to moments. What will we do in the moment? What is our choice?

My current moment

I’m sitting here having a coffee (long black with cream, if you’re following along) and sourdough! I shouldn’t be having the sourdough for health reasons. Some can, I can’t! But it is so delicious. But there was a moment where I could have decided not to indulge. I chose to do so.

I’ll have the opportunity to choose again tomorrow. One moment at a time.

Back to the beginning
Imagine I am your consultant. You’ve come to me looking for some clarity, some guidance on where t from here.

You ask: “Who and what am I?”
My response: “Who and what do you want to be?”

My “who and what”

I have a list of items I read every day. These are my affirmations. They cover who and what I want to be. They are not true at the moment. They are my goals.

Reading them every day imprints them in my mind. It’s a subtle mechanism to re-orient how I see myself. Maybe that sounds woo-woo. Except it’s based on how the mind works.

Everything we believe about ourselves to be currently true has occurred the same way, either consciously, or subconsciously. The constant imprinting of a belief that becomes true!

James Clear writes about it this way (if you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe James! 😉)

In Atomic Habits, he mentions a situation with two smokers (note they are both currently smoking).

They are each offered a cigarette.

One responds with, “No thank you, I’m trying to quit.”

The other? “No thanks, I don’t smoke!”

And so …

The question isn’t, “Who are you?”
The question is, “Who do you want to be?”

And then, like every human invention in history: you make it up!

No Comparions

You be you!

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A quick back story:

Years ago I was in a church where there was the discipline of morning prayer. You could do this at home but, if you were a “disciple”, it was better to be seen at the church building praying, anywhere from 6am to 8am.

The discipline of a morning meditation* was really good. The need to be seen? Not so much. In fact, if you missed attending for a couple of days you got the “didn’t see you at morning prayer, brother!” So there was this expectation and, as young me, there was always the pursuit of trying to be better. Again, nothing wrong with that.

One day, I overheard a friend say he got up at 4am to pray. Holy prayer mats, Batman!

Not to be outdone, I also got up at 4am to pray.

This was hard! Partly because of another church custom: fellowship.

This was coffee and food after church to be friendly to others, encourage each other and build relationships. Another plus for church and similar communities.

But going to bed after 10:30 and getting up at 4am was a tough gig. Not to be deterred, I stuck it out for a couple of weeks. But in the end, it was too much. I had to pack the 4am starts in and try and be a normal person.

A month or so after that, feeling like a failure in my prayer habits and clearly a very unspiritual disciple, I mentioned my efforts to my friend.

He laughed: “You obviously didn’t hear the whole conversation!”

“Oh?”, I responded, wondering what I had missed.

“Yeah, what I was saying was I had got up at 4am one time to try and it was hopeless. It was stupid. I get up at 6:30 every day!”

Needless to say we both had a good laugh!

It’s obvious to say we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others but we tend to do this without thinking.

Here are some things to consider next time you’re scrolling Social Media:
  1. What is their background? What do they bring to the situation you don’t know about?
  2. What do they not say? This isn’t the sin of intentional omission, it could simply be they have information, skills, knowledge they take for granted they wouldn’t even think to share. For example a blogger with experience in journalism.
  3. What effort do they put in that we can’t see? We only get to see the end product in many cases. I like it when people on YouTube give us a behind the scenes look at their set up. It brings a whole lot of context.
  4. Don’t be a literalist. This is taking everything at face value. It becomes a binary argument: this OR that. Rarely is that the case. There are so many shades of grey! (More than 50, I’d say!)
What to do:
  1. What do you admire about the person? Admiration is great, we need role models. What attributes do you see that you would like for yourself. Write them down.
  2. Allow space for yourself. You are not, and cannot, be them. You can be you. What does that mean? Write it down.
  3. What are your goals in this area? Have you defined them clearly? Write them down.
  4. What tasks need to be addressed for you to fulfil #2? (you be you)
  5. What actions can you take to start completing those tasks? When can you do the first of those tasks?
To Finish

Another erroneous comparison I have made.

I follow Yiannis Christodoulou, on Twitter (@Yiannis_83). With 83 being in his profile I assume he is 20 years younger than me. He is quite the accomplished triathlete in his age group. But I assumed he had been doing this since he was a kid. I assumed he’s been brought up swimming, running and riding for decades!

If I compare myself to him, I probably can’t emulate his feats.

Au contraire!

Read his tweet of 4 days ago:

Used with kind permission from Yiannis


He only started swimming 10 years ago! And he started to run! And yet he has achieved so much!

We can be very fickle.

We see people who have made it and we think we can do exactly the same, without knowing their background.

We also see people who are accomplished and we think we can’t emulate them, without knowing their background.

If that isn’t an endorsement for you be you, I don’t on know what is.

Don’t compare yourself to others.

Admire their feats, sure and now start where you are.


*Funny that back then we referred to meditation as new age woo-woo! (Maybe they still do!) 🙄

Also, thanks to Yiannis for allowing me to mention him and his success in his journey!

Being Happier?

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Have you noticed your self talk? Is it predominantly positive or negative? For most people it’s negative. Over 80% of our thoughts are negative, according to one study.

We beat ourselves up constantly over little things that don’t matter. What’s more, we do it over and over. So one possibly bad event, turns into multiple bad events simply because we repeat it. According to this article, your subconscious can’t tell the difference between a real or imagined event.

So we can literally make shit up and the mind and body will react as if it is real. Seriously, the truth is, you can make this shit up!

I often have conversations in my head about real and imagined scenarios. We all do this, don’t blink at me as if I’ve lost my mind. Off we go on our little, pointless tangents, often over inflating the situation and you can feel your heart rate increase.

We feel ourselves getting angry, anxious or even depressed. It’s like we are in a hole and the world is closing in on us. Hope is futile and we look for a doughnut shop, a couch and a soppy movie! Or a beer!

It doesn’t have to be this way.

What to do

When I was listening to Sam Harris’s meditation app Waking Up, Sam would lead me through a meditation and the challenge, or suggestion at the end, was to notice the “moments” between commitments. Say between meetings, or conversations, or when moving from one room to another, or heading out to lunch or coming back from lunch. Simple, everyday moments we all have.

Sam would instruct me to take a moment and determine to respond, rather than react. To take a breath and notice the breath. To be mindful rather than be on autopilot and rush to the next thing!

To be honest, it took me a while. I’d get through my day and and realise I had missed all the opportunities to “notice the moment”. You can imagine what that self talk was like!

But then, one day, I did notice. I literally caught myself saying, “I am leaving this meeting and I’m heading out to get something to eat.” Bingo! I had slowed down enough, or become aware enough, to notice a moment.

Noticing moments allows you space to take conscious action.

In terms of working on your self talk, take notice of your internal conversations. Determine the difference between a real conversation you are working through versus a rant that will never see the light of day.

When the rant is in full swing, notice it, and shut it down.

I do this all the time now and it really helps my mood and reduces my stress or anxiety.

I will literally notice the conversation in my head and call out the exaggerations. I’ll say to myself, “That didn’t happen, drop it!” and I stop the conversation in my head. I then put on the “half smile” I talked about here to move away from the dark clouds in my head to the sunshine.

We can’t always control what happens to us and we can all get caught out by impulsive self talk. But if we start to notice these moments, we can begin to respond and not react.

Sometimes just reading something like this is enough to trigger the ability to stop and notice.

Other times we need to be more conscious about this.

I suggest writing something down to read each morning. Or, as I have also done, I write what I want to be conscious of at the top of the page in my notebooks where I write my notes of meetings during the day. This way it’s always in front of me.

On days I forget, I simply remind myself I get another chance tomorrow!

24 hours is a long time…

How to turn around your worst day ever …

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Have you ever come home from work (whether you work from home or not), and wanted to just throw something? Like it was the worst day ever! And “worst day ever” was not an exaggeration. It was THE Worst. Day. Ever! (WDE)

Now, have you ever come home from the same job, 24 hours later, thinking the exact opposite? As in, Best. Day. Ever!

I have, and it’s both a pain in the ass and a revelation. They say a week is a long time in politics. Twenty four hours can be a long time in a job. 

So, want happened in the twenty four hours between worst and best?

In my experience, (and this is not a peer reviewed, double blind study of thousands, this n=1), a bad day is just a bad day.But we catastrophise it.

My WDE was working in finance and I had deadlines that needed to be met and things just went awry. Then a deal was declined and I had to break the bad news to the client. I took it as a personal affront. I felt I had lost credibility with the client and my manager and they both thought less of me. And, while dealing with that, I still had to charge ahead on the deals that were falling more and more behind. And then I thought: “I should be better than this!” See? Worst. Day. Ever!

Here’s my evaluation, yours may differ with that minimal amount of information. 

The problem wasn’t really in missing or delaying the deadlines. Everyone knew we were short staffed, over worked and had way more on our plate than was feasible. The executive didn’t really care as it was money in the door, profits increasing and happier shareholders. (Until later, when we literally ran out of money to lend!) It was backs to the wall stuff.

The deal that got declined wasn’t really an issue. Was I the first person in history to have a deal declined. The first person ever to miss an element in financial management? No. Hardly. Shit happens. (But I do tend to be down on myself for mistakes I make. Again, I’m probably not the only one who does this).

The real problem here was my … perspective!

I had taken it way too personally! I know, people getting a deal declined can be demoralising and hard on the client when they can’t achieve their goal. But I can’t help them in that moment. Sometimes I feel I should. 

So what happened in the 24 hours after that WDE (Worst Day Ever!)?

Because of the WDE, I took stock to get control back, or at least a little more control. I looked at what was within my sphere of influence and took steps to manage my workload. 

I literally piled up the files on my desk (it was a very high pile!). I ordered them by deadline and worked though them one by one. No deal got looked at until the deal I was working on was finished with for the day. If a client rang up asking for an update I gave them the briefest (but nicest) update and then back to the pile.

The productivity and progress made that day went through the roof!

Best Day Ever!

Two things I (re)learned:

  1. Perspective – how am I thinking about my circumstances and how am I responding? Am I improving my circumstances or adding to the chaos? What steps can I take to regain order and control? Is it really as bad as it seems or am I catastrophising again?
  2. Processes/Procedures – I love these. Develop a process or a procedure to follow to ensure the steps I am taking cover the end to end process. And then iterate as I go. Is there a step I can add or remove? Keep it simple. This is from experience but the Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande is an also must read!
    1. in addition to this, particularly if you work in an organisation where people can override you, it is invaluable to be able to articulate your thinking and demonstrate your process. Sometimes a manager will not care about your discipline to work effectively and pronounce “just get it done!” This can be a challenge when trying to become better and stressing less by doing what you need to keep to the plan. I had this challenge last week. Here is the outcome …

Summary

In order to reduce stress, look at how you are looking at things. What perspective are you taking? Are you making it worse than what it is? This can be hard in the moment. But that thought (it can be hard in the moment) is also a realisation to help us move forward. You may need to think, “This is hard…”, but then follow it up with “… but not pointless.”

Processes. What can you put in place to help you stay on course? Is it a checklist or simply write out for today what you’d like to achieve? Perhaps add what will you do if you get off track. What about people who can, due to their role, overrule what you are trying to achieve? Is that a personal development opportunity → “How to deal with people who try to overrule you (unnecessarily)”. Sometimes being overruled is necessary. A wise person will know or learn the difference.

And then, be kind to yourself. It may not happen at the first try. It may take a few goes to get it right. 

S&S – Growth Mindset!

Saturday and Sundays will posts are hereby now known as S&S.

Though short (and sweet), hopefully insightful to give you a shot of energy and focus to do “the thing” you may have been putting off, or re-starting that “thing” you know has value but you’re stuck somehow.

Today is about the growth mindset! Simply put, the growth mindset is a perspective that you can achieve what you want through learning, failing and trying again.

Whenever you mess up, and say you can’t do something, add the word “Yet” to the end of what you just said:

  • I can’t run 5km … Yet!
  • I haven’t achieved my goals … Yet!
  • White Men Can’t Jump … Yet! 😉

It’s the opposite to the fixed mindset that suggests all your abilities are … fixed … and there’s little point in trying.

As Henry Ford is well known for:

If you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right!

Okay, this is now too long! I give you … Sesame Street!

Enjoy your weekend!

Avoid These Two Coaching Mistakes

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Imagine your team. Imagine their performance mapped along a bell curve. It’s likely you’ll have a fairly common distribution.

You’ll have some at the right hand side, killing it. Mostly having good days, weeks and months. A good proportion will be in the mid range. What Kim Scott in Radical Candor* calls Rockstars! (Ch. 3, p 43). And on the left hand side of the bell curve are those who are not quite making it.

It’s these team members I want to address here because I have done what I’m about to describe (to my shame). If you make these mistakes it will cost you time, money, productivity and customer service.

The good news is … it’s all avoidable!

Mistake OnE: Fixed vs growth mindset!

Not theirs, yours! As coaches we can have an opinion of a direct report that they:

  • cannot grow
  • will not come to terms with a change
  • have always been this way
  • will never change

With this mindset, how do you think the coaching will go? Even if you are determined to be a good, objective and supportive coach, can you overcome the mindset? I’d suggest it’s harder than we think. I know most, if not all, coaches don’t want to be in this situation.

How to change the mindset to coach effectively?

As always, the following is going to depend a lot on your relationship with the individual. If you have a good, respectful relationship, options open up.

  • Have a conversation with your direct report and be open about your concerns.
  • Be open about you own thoughts and ask them for help – it may be more of a molehill than the mountain you’ve imagined.
  • Even if they agree with you, don’t take the easy way out too quickly. That’s just a path of least resistance. Stay with them and work with them on the solution. This is, in part, how you become a good/great coach. It’s when others look at your results and wonder :“How the hell did you get through to them? I’ve been trying for years!”
  • Dig deeper into what could be the learning, attitudinal or habitual issue. Many times we have performance issues due to a habit or belief. We don’t realise it because it’s in the subconscious. You don’t need to be a psychologist or therapist. Learn to ask good questions.

Over to you: what would you suggest?

Mistake Two: Average is the Enemy

Let’s imagine for a moment we have a person working for us who is on the left had side of the middle of the bell curve: they are considered a low performer.

At a minimum, we’d like them to hit the middle line. We’d like them to meet the goals of the role. We help them do this though coaching, performance management, counselling, training. A myriad of technologies.

Some people take to this like a duck to water. A little bit of coaching and development and they close the gap. Others take longer, like crawling across cut glass.

But let’s assume a happy ending and the performance gap closes.

What happens now?

What normally happens when we coach someone from the left hand side to the middle? From low performance to acceptable performance?

We stop the coaching and start monitoring and supporting.

We have just coached a below average performer to be … average!

The result being they will hover between just below and just above the acceptable level. As a leader we will deem this “okay”. Or, worse, we will be watching them like a hawk to re-start the performance management process again. That’ll make them feel comfortable! 😉

Why stop there?

You’ve just helped someone improve their performance. They may be keen to go further, to become a high performer.

What are your next steps?

Here are some thoughts.

  • Continue to engage with them about broadening their skills around particular aspects of the role. Aspects they may be able to improve quickly.
  • If it’s sales and service, help them with questioning and listening skills. Role play tough situations. Help them get comfortable with higher performance, so it becomes the new norm for them. So even with some dip in performance, they’ll still be above average!
  • Continue to provide feedback when they do something (positive) they hadn’t done before.
  • Partner them with a high performance colleague who has a bent for coaching and developing others. (Caution: some high performers hit their targets because they are left alone to get on with their work. Unless developing others is part of their development, I’d avoid these, at least at first! Again, first hand experience!)
  • Get them to log their achievements. It’s not an extra task, journaling is a very effective way of improving performance. This helps them reinforce their progress. These insights can also be used as tools in coaching sessions when looking to help them replicate good practices and habits.

Over to you: What have you seen work effectively?

Summary

As a coach we need to own our actions and mindsets. These mistakes cost you, the direct report and the company, money and misery.

As I confessed earlier, I’ve made these errors. (And maybe it’s just me!)

A common phrase these days is #IYKYK (if you know, you know).

Be on the lookout for your own mindset and, when you’re coaching someone who’s below par, enjoy the process of coaching them to high performance, not just average.

What have been your experiences? Have you seen this/done this? Prepared to share? 😉

*affiliate link

Be the G.O.A.T.

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The term G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) is often applied to superstars of sport and business, of stage and screen.

But did you realise that if you are better than you were yesterday, you are your own G.O.A.T. of that!

Perhaps you are thinking that doesn’t count. Maybe it only counts when there is an official record of the achievement. The Guinness Book of Records or front page of the paper.

If that’s the case, do you realise how many people achieve great things who don’t get recognised?

Here are some you may not have heard of:

  • Nellie Bly: around the world in 80 72 days! One her own. Note: She took with her the dress she was wearing, a sturdy overcoat, several changes of underwear, and a small travel bag carrying her toiletry essentials. She knew how to pack!
  • Cleisthenes: Though many people credit Thomas Jefferson as the father of democracy, the honour actually lies with the Greek philosopher Cleisthenes. Who? Yep!
  • Pope Leo I: All popes are famous aren’t they? Pope Leo singlehandedly persuaded Atilla the Hun to back down from his invasion of Italy. Did he get a gong? Nope! Should’ve!
  • Percy Julian: Pioneered the drug industry. After he developed the chemical synthesis of hormones like progesterone and testosterone, he became the first African American chemist inducted into the National Academy of Sciences. His research also laid the groundwork for the modern day steroid.

So if you’re waiting for recognition from others … breathe in … hold … no keep holding …

This means the recognition of your achievements, the possibility to be the G.O.A.T. is in the hands of others. Not everything is statistical like:

  • Most number of wickets (cricket)
  • Most number of 3 pointers (basketball)
  • Most number of Oscar wins
  • Most number of Oscar nominations (without a win!)

And what if others don’t want to recognise your feats? What then?

This is my fourth blogpost in four days. That is a record for blog posting streaks in my household. I am the G.O.A.T! Tomorrow, when I post my fifth, I’ll be the G.O.A.T. again. You may think that is unremarkable. But if I am to post every day for 100 days or 1,000 days, I have to do the four day streak and then the five day streak.

Over to you … what have you done today, or plan to do today, that will make you the G.O.A.T? How will you be your G.O.A.T. tomorrow.

Let me know!

Don’t belittle your achievements.

Self Efficacy and Self Talk

So there’s this thing called self efficacy.

“Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s belief in his or her capacity to execute behaviors necessary to produce specific performance attainments (Bandura, 1977, 1986, 1997). Self-efficacy reflects confidence in the ability to exert control over one’s own motivation, behavior, and social environment.” (Source)

There is another concept called self talk.

Self-talk is our internal dialogue. It’s influenced by our subconscious mind, and it reveals our thoughts, beliefs, questions, and ideas.” (Source)

Most people talk negatively to themselves most of the time. If it’s not negative, then it is neutral, with little to no power to progress.

In order to make progress

We need to improve our self efficacy, the ability to cause something to happen. Otherwise we will remain waiting for something to happen. Waiting on others, or waiting for a windfall.

To improve our self efficacy we can look to improve our self talk. Note from the source above, it can be influenced by some deeply held beliefs we may need to challenge or at least question.

What do you hold to that may not be true?

We could be talking ourselves out of the very things we want to happen in our lives, career, relationships etc.

As Henry Ford said,

If you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right!

What do you want to have happen?

How are you talking to yourself about it?