October 27, 2011

Recipe for success: stare death in the face

People are complacent.

We wake up in the morning assuming we'll be alive by the end of the day so delay doing those "less important things".

That list can get pretty long.

Telling important people we love them.

Eating the foods we know are best for our health.


Pursuing that role we really want because we're comfortable in our current job. Even though it's not quite it - just safe.

And so on...

Talk to someone who's beaten death. They know the truth.

We all are going to die. Sooner than we planned.

People don't plan on being hit by a bus, suffer a coronary, be in the wrong place at the wrong time or simply just stop living. They don't plan on not having enough time to do the things they keep putting off.

You should.

So the next time you think "I'm too tired, too busy, don't need to, etc." Tell your brain to shut up and just do it.

At the very least, whatever life you have left will be way more interesting.

October 25, 2011

A Journey to Truth

As a leader, it is imperative that you ground yourself in your personal values and stay true to your talents and interests. It's what gives you power and purpose in your daily interactions internally and as a representative of your organisation. It also contributes to your own emotional maturity as a leader and adult.

However, some people aren't in any way connected to their truth so don't even know where to start to bring congruence to their work and life. That's okay. As long as you are interested in learning, here's how you can get there:

1. Ask questions. A good place to start is by asking yourself "What's important to me? What am I passionate about?" By engaging in a process of self-examination, you open the door to a new world and will begin to notice things that were previously hidden from your view.

2. Listen to your quiet voice. We all have a quiet voice in our mind that gives us clues to what we really want to do. Often, we get so busy in life that we don't take time to listen to that voice. However, it is in those quiet moments that we can find our answers. Take some time out, find a quiet place and listen.

3. Remember your childhood dreams. Many times our dreams are put on the back burner for a variety of reasons. But they may very well hold the clue to our future path. A trip down memory lane might just help you find some answers, or at least a direction.

4. Get a coach. Whether it is a colleague or paid professional, having an unbiased observer willing to help you move past your blind spots will shorten the process and enable you to discover some important strengths in yourself along the way. Coaches look for the best in you. In doing so they enable you to learn just how much greatness lies within.

5. Risk getting it wrong. There is one truth in life. You're going to die one day no matter what you do. Whether you live your life safe and small or take risks, fall down, get back up again and play. That journey you're taking will only end when you die and you're the only one to say what you get to do along the way.

Even if you make a mistake, it's unlikely to be fatal. Unless you're a matador.

6. Learn. We all make mistakes. It is an inevitable part of being human. We only fail when we fail to learn. So, take a chance, dare to fail but make sure you keep your eyes and mind open for the lessons. They're the real gold.

7. Take action. In Medieval times, opportunities were much more limited and most people had very little say in what they could do to occupy their time. Now we have virtually unlimited choice in professions. Who knows for how long you'll have this opportunity. Grab it. Try something, if it doesn't work out try again.

Just take the first step....

October 20, 2011

Anyone can be great

Jeroen's answer to my serve last week was quite bold. "Dare to fire people that do not fit your company culture."

Permit me to contradict myself as I answer his challenge.

People do not engage in fixed behaviours and have an unlimited potential waiting to be tapped

Given the right future, one that is congruent to their own personal values, talents and interests, they will rise to a new level of performance and become a valuable asset to their company.

If they are able.

The brain has to be able to perceive something for you to see it. So, if you give an African bushman who has never seen a photograph before a picture of your family, chances are he won't be able to see the people. He may crumple it up, taste the paper and wonder what it is.

But his brain will not have been primed to "see" the people as people in the photo. 

There are people who have strayed so far away from congruent behaviours, that they cannot perceive the opportunities. It would take a massive amount of work to bring them back. 

As managers and leaders, you need to first evaluate their potential for growth and development and choose whether they are worth the investment of your time and energy. Then ensure you connect their own personal aspirations to the company's goals. When people are working towards an inspiring future they'll have the incentives to let go of old habits and fulfil their potential. 

I say there are no good or bad people, just congruent and incongruent.

Choose wisely. Then invest in your people. The return to your company and yourself in your time, money and energy will be manifold.

Congruence will always work.

My challenge to you Jeroen, as an expert in strategy, how does this impact the strategic thinking and planning in an organisation?

October 13, 2011

Leaders must be role models

Jeroen De Flander of the Performance Factory has returned my serve beautifully with a challenging question "What do you do when people know that non-integer behaviour got them - or their boss or CEO - the corner office?"

Non-integer behaviours result in short-term or immediate benefits to only one or a few involved. But the long-term repercussions are far greater for the larger population. Our current world economy painfully illustrates the impact of this short-term thinking and behaviour.

This is even more dangerous when the leaders misbehaving have great power and authority over large populations. Greece provides a powerful clarion call to all of us to beware the long-term effects of our actions.

So how do you shift people away from those behaviours when the immediate payoff looms large? 

Sometimes you can't if they aren't willing to change.

It's the amount of pain they experience that shifts people away from destructive behaviours. Whether it is through their results, peer pressure or management, people who experience those short-term rewards will only cease their actions when they no longer deliver a pay off or when the pain of continuing them is great enough to motivate change. Unfortunately, that often occurs when it's too late to stop the damage. Witness Lehman Brothers.

We can train people in skills, but they learn behaviours and thinking through observing others. We need leaders to be more than just successful captains. They must be role models. Too many lives are dependent on them.

There will always be people unwilling and unable to act with integrity. My goal is to provide enough of a balance to ensure their damage is minimised. As coaches and consultants, we must focus our energies on those who put their hands up.

So, Jeroen, you can lead a horse to water, even shove his head in it, but can't make him drink—how do you build the peer and social pressure around people to show them another way?

October 11, 2011

Imagine there's no blame

Over the next few weeks I welcome Jeroen De Flander from Brussels to our first round of blogging tennis. He'll pick up this conversation in his blog and then send one back to me.

Today is about integrity and how it enables us to learn and grow.

What would it be like if you took the words blame and fault out of your language?

Imagine reviewing a situation and being able to learn from it without blaming anyone. Without someone or something having to be wrong and someone else having to be right.

What would you learn?

Often we look at integrity from a perspective of what is right and what is wrong.

Maybe integrity is only about what works.

If we look at a situation dispassionately from what works, there is no one to blame if something isn't working. There is just what is happening and what needs to be done to improve the situation. Without a scapegoat, there is someone we can work with to find a solution.

When we seek to learn and not to blame, we are more readily able to expand our view and see many different perspectives. We can have conversations that tackle the tough stuff because without blame or shame, it doesn't seem so tough after all. 

Great coaches and great leaders alike know that to have these conversations you need to suspend judgement. Only then will people confront really big issues because of the deep trust that makes it safe for them to be honest and share. 

Those are the great conversations that lead to better relationships, higher performance and future leaders. 

In the words of Naomi Simson, Founder of RedBalloon and one of the True Leaders featured in my upcoming book, "Blame doesn't work. All it does is make people feel bad and then they don't want to play."

When was the last time you blamed someone and it really solved anything?

Over to you Jeroen. What are your thoughts?

October 6, 2011

Being Steve Jobs

While Steve Jobs' body has died, his ideas will live for generations to come, earning him true immortality in a world of mortals.

If we look beyond his extraordinary innovations, there is a wellspring of lessons we can glean from Steve Jobs' life.

First, and foremost, is that he gave himself over completely in pursuit of his ideals, with great integrity and intention. His life was about his innovations and he only stopped when his body could no longer support his massive commitment.

This was not a small life lived safely. He thought and acted boldly and while we will remember his successes, he also had failures.

We all do.

Steve Jobs just didn't let them stop him. When he was stopped, he made another plan and continued to take action. Massive action.

While his innovative thinking was something that comes along once in a generation, his ability to turn ideas into reality is available to each and every one of us.

What ideas are burning in your mind, begging you to take action? In there lies your chance for immortality.

Your body will die one day but your contribution to this planet can live forever.

Act now. Go!