Posts Tagged ‘corporate development’

7 Leadership skills that EVERYONE should develop – Number 4: Encourage Learning

July 9, 2011

If you ever get to a stage in your career when you think “I’ve arrived”, you stop learning … and it’s obviously important that leaders at all levels don’t do this. Perhaps more to the point, it’s crucial that leaders act as ROLE MODELS for learning and development, in order to embed it throughout the organisation.

Cynics amongst you might think “Well she would say that –she’s in training and development!”  and I guess there’s an element of truth in that: but I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t believe passionately that it’s important, both to individuals and to businesses.

Here are three things to do with learning that I believe that leaders could do better– whatever size of business they’re in.

1) Elevate the status of learning

I’ve written before about whether people approach training to build a person and their skills (i.e. in a positive and proactive sense) or whether they use it to fix problems (i.e. in a remedial, reactive sense).

If training and development are seen as remedial measures, people are less likely to be motivated to learn – either on training courses OR, more importantly, in their own time and in terms of their own personal development. Almost across the board, that whole personal development area is a huge learning opportunity that companies are missing.

As a leader, making it obvious that you yourself are on a learning journey, passing on some of the things you’ve learned and referencing books, courses, online resources and so on will help raise the importance of ongoing learning within the company.

Put bluntly, if you and your people aren’t learning, they’re remaining in ignorance … and that’s not going to bring you a commercial edge.

 2) Condone the enjoyment of learning

Learning is serious business … but it doesn’t have to be a mirthless drudge of lectures, powerpoint presentations and manuals the size of building blocks.

Years of research in both the training and development and education sectors point to the fact that the brain absorbs information (i.e. learns)  through the five senses, amongst other factors, and that by far the most people learn best through auditory, visual AND haptic means.

I was working for an organisation a few years back which approved a very interactive, innovative series of workshops for junior staff, but insisted that senior managers at the same organisation needed a more ‘serious’ approach.

They seemed to somehow be suggesting that once you  get a  ‘senior manager’ plaque on the door, you suddenly lose your sense of humour and personality and more to the point, lose your ability to learn by any other means than didactic instruction.  This of course, contradicts both academic and medical research … to say nothing of common sense. Do senior managers enjoy boring training courses any more than the rest of us?! I doubt it!

Of COURSE content needs to be tailored to the level of the participant group. Delivery methods, though, need to be as engaging as possible in order to be interesting and relevant to learners.

It should be remembered that people learn more when they are relaxed and enjoying themselves. And there’s no age or management limit to that.

 3) Support the implementation of learning

So! Someone comes back from a training course, full of ideas, keen to test out some of their new found skills! What happens next:

a) Hurray! The company already has a learning system in place, and with the full support of their managers and colleagues they successfully build confidence in implementing their new skills until they become habit, modelling positive behaviours and practices in the process.

b) They have a stab at some of the techniques from the course that they’re more comfortable with, stash the course manual in a drawer somewhere, and remember to tick that training course off on their performance management checklist.

c) They try one of their new techniques and their manager /colleague jibes “Oh, well we can see that YOU’VE been on the training course!” leaving them somewhat crestfallen and reluctant to try to implement anything else they’ve learned.

Clearly individual leaders can have an impact on the level and extent to which they provide an environment where learning and trying new skills is the norm, and where practice is monitored and encouraged, and many already do this.

It can be easier, though to assume that people will come back from a training course or other learning intervention and just ‘get on with it’, without recognising how the environment can affect the extent to which this is done.

Leaders who continue to learn inspire others in the organisation to do the same. Leaders who recognise when other people are learning and coach and encourage them to persevere in implementing their newskills are taking HUGE steps to develop a learning culture.

And why bother? In the words of the Chinese proverb  “Learning is like rowing upstream: not to advance is to drop back”.

And who wants their own career, their department or their company to do that?

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7 Leadership skills that EVERYONE should develop # 2: self awareness

June 18, 2011

To see ourselves as others see us – wouldn’t that be something? Genuine self awareness, and an ability to understand how others see us and the impact that our actions and behaviours have on others, is an important skill for the leader.

As with so many things, though, balance is the key: understanding how we are perceived by others needs to be balanced by our own confidence and sense of self.

Misalignment of that balance – in either direction – can spell trouble for the leader: whilst as individuals we’ll always judge ourselves on the basis of our intentions, we need to remember that others will be judging us on our behaviours.

Why is self awareness so important? Because it’s the beginning of Emotional Intelligence, and as author Daniel Goleman puts it in his bestseller, this “can matter more than IQ”.

In terms of Emotional Intelligence, self awareness is closely followed by four other factors:

·        Managing your emotions

·        Self motivation

·        Understanding the feelings of others

·        Managing relationships

So how, as a leader, can you become more self aware? Here are 5 top tips:

1) Try to objectively assess your impact

Being objective about our own behaviour is exceptionally difficult, because we’ll rationalise and make excuses for ourselves where things are going wrong.

If your INTENTION has been one thing, but the results are something different, take a close look at yourself and your behaviours to try to understand how you might be coming across.

I came across a stark example of this quite recently. A very senior executive in a global organisation had said his door was ‘always open’, but wondered how it was that few people ever seemed to cross the threshold, unless they were members of the senior management team.

A short while after this conversation, I relayed to him a concern that had come up in the training room, from a couple of participants who shared the same office. His response was to cut me off mid sentence with the response “what do these people want? They need to be empowered and learn to deal with these things!”

Hmm … let’s see, now. Might there be a possibility that staff are thinking, “He SAYS his door is open, but if you go in he’s likely to bite your head off”?

His intention might have been to encourage people to find their own solutions: his behaviour was very easy to interpret as that of someone whose door might be open, but his mind isn’t. The impact was that people DON’T come through his door – it might as well be closed.

2) Be aware of the little things

Self awareness isn’t just about the impact of overt or obvious behaviours – it’s about the little things too.

Imagine a Chief Executive who gives a stunning performance on the platform at the AGM about his optimistic outlook in the coming year. A couple of days later, he steps into a lift and a junior colleague is already there. The junior colleague asks him how things are going. He shakes his head and says “times are tough”.

What’s the understandable interpretation of this, in terms of the truth of the message AND the integrity of the speaker? What message do you think is going to be discussed in the canteen and around the water coolers of Head Office for the next month?!

Non verbal communications and behaviours that take place on an ongoing daily basis need to be considered in the light of self awareness. And actively managed.

3) Have some humility – listen to feedback

For some leaders, this can be a bit of a stumbling block –particularly if they work in (and perhaps perpetuate and enjoy) a culture where hierarchy is important, and where leaders are deemed to be infallible.

Sometimes, it’s necessary to have the humility to just accept feedback, even if you weren’t expecting it. On a recent training course,I offered some impromptu feedback on delegate presentations. One or two commented during the break that they’d not been expecting individual feedback. So?? Will you ignore it, then?

Norman Vincent Peale said that “Most of us would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism”. Given that feedback helps to build self awareness, it’s necessary to be open to it.

360 degree reports are another case in point: I’ve done a lot of coaching around 360 degree reports (feedback reports gathered from peers and direct reports as well as managers). Occasionally I’ll come across someone who rates their own abilities far higher than anyone else does – more often it’s the other way round.

If your colleagues are saying one thing and you’re saying another, it’s worth considering the possibility that they can’t ALL be wrong.

4) What if you’re right and they’re wrong?

I was delivering a workshop recently, and one of the participants said “I’ve really tried to understand my impact with this person,but the problem’s not with me, it’s with them”.

If you’ve been objective about really considering what’s going on, this is fair enough. As I say, there’s a balance to be struck between your own sense of self, and the other person’s perception. You could well be right and them wrong. They might even have another agenda and are deliberately misunderstanding you or the situation

If this IS the case, what next?

This is where we have to move on, in terms of Emotional Intelligence, because you still have to manage your relationship with that person – influence them or whatever – in as productive a way as possible. And this will mean remaining self aware and confident.

No one should stop being self aware because they think they’re the one in the right.

5) Don’t be paranoid – impostor syndrome

I’ve already said that balance is the key here, and this is just as valid for leaders who LACK confidence on certain issues.

I worked with a senior leader recently who, whilst acknowledging that her colleagues respected her, felt deeply self conscious about her humble ‘working class’ roots. The fact that she had a strong accent, she felt, was betraying to everyone that she was a local girl made good. She saw this as a weak point, as she worked with a number of people at this senior level who had had better educational opportunities than she’d had, and who spoke with what she perceived to be a more refined accent.

The issue about her accent had taken on far more significance than it deserved. She was starting to feel uncomfortable in her role and to doubt her abilities – feeling like an imposter.

It took a considerable amount of coaching for her to arrive at the conclusion that her accent and background might actually be a source of inspiration for those further down the corporate ladder, who’d had a similar start to her own. In this case, what she saw as a weakness could actually be turned into a considerable strength.

Self awareness is NOT about denting our confidence and bringing us down to the level of other people’s perceptions.  It IS about genuinely evaluating our behaviours, how we come across, and the impact that we have on others, and building on this to develop our own abilities, and our relationships with others.

The leader who is not self aware is sticking their head in the sand … leaving their backside dangerously exposed.

Watch out over the next couple of weeks for the 3rd leadership skill that EVERYONE should develop: personal accountability.

7 Critical Leadership Skills that EVERYONE Should Develop

June 8, 2011

I’ve been privileged and fortunate to work over the years with a large number of people who are either in positions of leadership, who aspire to leadership, or who have had leadership ‘thrust upon them’ and want to develop their skills.

Through observing and working with them, I’ve recognised that there are certain leadership skills that the good ones simply can’t do without.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing them with you…so here we go with the first one!

LEADERSHIP SKILL #1: LISTENING

Just a quick thing, friends: I’m focussing here specifically on Listening and Leadership – if you’d like to develop your personal listening skills (identifying the mistakes that EVERYBODY makes, and learning how you can avoid them! ) then please have a look at the free download which will be at the Yara website at http://www.yaraconsulting.com within the next few days.

At the risk of stating the obvious, listening is a CRUCIAL skill for leaders to develop. Why? Well, first of all, why not? You don’t seriously think you have all the answers without input from others do you?!

More to the point, listening to people does two important things: it makes the speaker(s) feel valued and understood, both of which contribute to motivation, and indeed to further contribution from that individual or group. Nothing shuts down ideas, input and motivation quicker that people feeling ignored.

Listening also provides you with an insight and perspective that you wouldn’t otherwise have…and for leaders, I can’t overstate how vital this is.

Good leaders listen, and listen to the right people. Learning to do it and learning to do it well is a valuable skill which cannot be neglected.

Listening strategically

By listening strategically, I mean considering carefully to whom or what leaders are listening. Listening in the right direction can potentially have a profound impact on decision making and organisational direction.

There will of course be the usual things that leaders listen to: market factors, shareholders, regulators customers etc etc. However, there are a few other directions in which leaders should turn in order to listen strategically – and some issue of which they must beware.

Beware ‘Groupthink’: listening to the same circle of opinions and the same peer group is limiting. It just is.

If everyone’s in a similar position or has a similar mindset, is listening to each other, where is the challenge coming from exactly? Where’s the raw, external perspective? Where’s the often needed boot up the backside?

Take the blinkers off and get out more, and listen in different directions. Fresh perspective is vital for innovation and growth.

Beware forgetting where you came from: I love those fly-on-the-wall documentaries where the Chief Executive goes back to the factory floor, the call centre, the supermarket checkout or wherever.

They invariably learn a massive amount about their people by observing what they do, listening to them, and living their day to day experiences. Perhaps more to the point in terms of STRATEGIC listening, they gather ideas and customer insight that frequently translates into policy and/or new business.

Don’t just listen up and listen out….listen down as well.

Beware the ticking clock: the world is probably moving faster than many companies can keep up with it. Fads can become trends which become major market forces with frightening speed (take Facebook and social networking as a clear case in point.)

Times are changing so fast, it’s an absolutely necessity to keep an ear to the ground, and I’d venture to suggest that using both formal and informal channels is the only way to maintain a true grasp of what’s going on.

Market research yes. Internal reports, yes. But don’t underestimate the value of taking a few minutes to listen and observe what customers are saying to your front line staff. Listen to what’s going on in other areas of your customers lives. Listen out for apparently random connections in other sectors that could give you a commercial edge.

If you don’t have time for that sort of thing, MAKE time…and then honestly evaluate the return on investment of that time spent vs the information it yielded.

The mistake of thinking you don’t have to listen

For whatever reason, many leaders often appear to feel that they don’t have to listen.

Some undoubtedly feel the pressure of senior management to provide the answers. And some, frankly, seem to think that they have it figured out, have made it, and don’t have to listen any more.

If you’ve ever heard yourself say:

‘People expect us to give them the answers because we’re their leaders’.

‘I’m better informed than most’

‘I don’t have time to gather everyone’s opinions – it would just muddy the waters’

‘I know what I need to do: listening to other people could just derail me’

‘We asked them last year – there’s no point going back to them now…’

‘I’m the leader, it’s my prerogative’ …then watch out.

Leaders can rest assured that the QUICKEST WAY to destroy innovation and ideas, de-motivate people, create cynicism amongst staff and customers alike and undermine corporate and brand values is by either NOT listening to people (both internally and externally)…or by pretending to listen to them and then ignoring what they’ve said.

The bottom line is that genuinely listening – and in more directions than you currently are – will earn you respect, motivate your people (and therefore increase productivity and morale) increase customer understanding and therefore retention, and can lead to profitable ideas and innovations being recognised, captured and implemented.

Establishing forums for listening

There’s no point paying lip service to this sort of ‘strategic listening’: you have to DO something to make it happen.

At a broad brush level, it’s about creating a culture where listening is part of leadership, and where staff feel like active contributors whose ideas and opinions are valued, and this HAS to be role modelled from the very top, otherwise it’s just not going to happen. It’s also about creating and encouraging opportunities to listen in different directions, gathering best practice and ideas from other sectors and areas, ACTUALLY listening to customers, and trying something different…as opposed to just analysing statistics.

Mix it up. Get a fresh perspective. Do something different. Learn from it. Develop yourself. And grow your organisation.

Watch out next week for Critical Leadership Skill #2 – Self Awareness.

Unlock Your Hidden Creativity: Step 2 – Create, don’t just Edit

May 10, 2011

Creativity is serious business. It’s about creating new things, coming up with new ideas, establishing new ways of doing things. It’s what can give successful companies a sustainable competitive edge.

Many individuals and organisations, though, settle for editing existing versions of products or processes, never really coming up with anything new, just with a load of stuff that’s a small shuffling step or two away from where they started.

Here are 3 top tips for genuinely creative thinking … as opposed to sticking to familiar patterns and making minor amendments to the status quo.

Please bear in mind that I’m NOT giving a list of techniques here – you can do a Google search for that and come up with dozens of techniques and processes like brainstorming, SCAMPER, role play, blah blah blah … I’m focussing on fundamental pre-requisites to creative thinking. If you don’t have your head in the right place to start with, even the best creative thinking techniques won’t help you.

1. “Set phasers to ‘stun’!”
Before I start, I wouldn’t mind betting that some readers are already thinking, “well, you can’t just come up with new ideas and implement them! You have to do a risk assessment / scenario plan / costing strategy …”    WOAH WOAH WOAH!!!

To those who are doing that, hold on a moment: we WILL do those things. Creative thinking doesn’t stand alone, it must be partnered with practical implementation … but that bit comes later.

At the start of the creative process, you’ll have to ‘knock out’ the internal editor or analyst (hence the Star Trek terminology).  We don’t want to kill them off completely, because they are vital to implementing creative ideas … BUT left brain logic mustn’t interfere too soon.

For some people that’s going to be really difficult, as it cuts across habit and mindsets. However, on the premise that EVERYONE is creative, it can be done.

It’s critical to allow creativity full rein at the beginning WITHOUT the logical editor or analyst coming in and saying “we can’t do that because … have you thought about … we tried that before and …”

Take a piece of paper and a pencil and try this 5 minute exercise.

Think about everything you’ve done since you woke up this morning, starting from the moment you opened your eyes, and start to write it down. Write it down EXACTLY as it comes into your head.

How easy or difficult is that? How long is it before the ‘editor brain’ kicks in and you find yourself correcting spelling and punctuation, revisiting sentences that don’t make sense, THINKING about what you’re going to write rather than just writing what you think?

Freely thinking creatively can take self-discipline. It’s important to learn to silence the inner editor and think freely … otherwise ideas will be stifled at birth and never allowed to develop.

Learn to silence the editor within and give your internal ‘creator’ space at the beginning of the process, whatever specific technique you are using.
 
2. The Catwalk Model
One concern that logical, strongly left brain thinkers can often have is that allowing too much creativity will lead to the lunatics taking over the asylum. That strange and ridiculous ideas will come to fruition. That profitability and common sense will be sacrificed on the altar of irrelevant arty-fartyness. That reckless and meaningless expenditure will have to be awkwardly explained to demanding shareholders.  That pie-in-the-sky projects will detract from the serious business of generating profit.

Not so.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s watched a TV clip of an emaciated catwalk model (stay with me here, the metaphor is relevant!) wearing something completely bizarre, her hair backcombed to within an inch of falling out, aunt sally make-up, tottering along on impossibly high heels and thought “Who on earth would wear THAT?!”

And funnily enough, on my local high street, and in the fashion magazines, I never see people actually wearing the catwalk outfit … I  DO, though, see people wearing similar but more practical versions of it in terms of size, colour, shape, cut, length and so on.

Creative thinking that initially conjures up the bizarre and  somewhat alarming, actually translates – through a process of analysis, editing, elimination and implementation – into practical new ideas that work.

Tempting though it is to start with the safety of the status quo and tweak it, genuine, groundbreaking innovation comes from new thinking.

Strongly logical left brain thinkers in particular need to remain calm and positive during the creative process, and not shut it down because it looks like it’s getting out of hand.

Strongly creative right brain thinkers need to acknowledge that not everything is going to work out in real life.
 
3. Get out more!
Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that my clarion call to Do Something Different is one which I repeat often … in this case, it’s an exhortation to get out more!

Creative thinking benefits from inspiration. This is more easily achieved by bringing in external influences, or by going out and doing something different, and not by sitting round a table in an office or training room somewhere with a heap of post-it notes and coloured pens, pontificating.

Excessive inward focus is far less likely to lead to inspiration than looking outwards and GOING outwards in order to make connections and discover new things. 

So be creative about your creativity. Don’t expect to come up with startling innovations by editing what already exists and thinking in the same old way in the same old environment doing the same old things that you always have done.

Do something different. Because doing something different leads to inspiration …
which leads to creativity …
which leads to innovation …
which leads to commercial and competitive edge …
which leads to profits and sustainable business growth.
 
Next week, more on how you can develop an environment that fosters innovation and creativity.

Goal Setting Success Factor # 4 – Plan it and DO something!

April 9, 2011

Actually managing your goals… and managing yourself to achieve those goals is likely to take a bit of time and a bit of self discipline. Yes, it would be great if we could just daydream, visualise and focus on our future and it would all magically fall into place, but actually, we need to get off our butts and DO something in order for anything to happen at all.

If you’ve given consideration to my Goal Setting Success Factors 1 – 3, you’ll already have a strong reason why you want to achieve your goals, and you’ll have a clear understanding of the skills you have and the skills that you need to do it. 

These are very strong foundations as you consider what exactly you’re going to need to DO in order to achieve your goals.

Here are my top 5 tips and factors to consider as you start to take action towards your goals.
 
Tip # 1 – be prepared to be patient
We live in an instant, push-button, get-it-now society. EVERYTHING happens fast – hey, if we’re kept for more than 2 minutes in the queue at MacDonalds we start to get fidgety and cross.

Achieving your goals is not like selecting a chocolate bar in a vending machine, putting in your money, pressing a button and ‘voila!’ there it is.  If your goal is really what you want, it’s worth making a bit of effort.

In his book Principle Centred Leadership, Steven Covey talks about the ‘law of the farm’. You plant something, you tend it, and in its season it’ll bear fruit. You DON’T plant a seed and expect to find a tree there the next day.

Challenge yourself to take action towards your goals. Don’t lose heart if it doesn’t happen for you overnight, though: remember that perseverance is part of achievement.
 
Tip# 2 – learn how to plan

It’s important that you plan how you’re going to approach your goal – even if you’re naturally a bit disorganised (like me) it’s important that you do this, and don’t just dive on in… and potentially miss out something vital.

First, you’ll need to break your goal down into smaller chunks (the ‘journey of the thousand miles beginning with the first step’, as it were). To define these smaller ‘sub-goals’, it’s usually easier to work backwards from your main goal than to try to guess at what the first step should be.

For example, if your goal is to be a published author, what else will you need to consider on your way to that goal? Is  your work formatted in a way that editors want? Have you had it proof read? Will you need to find a literary agent? How will you approach and promote yourself to publishers?

From here, you might say that one of your sub-goals is to find a literary agent. So now, you need to consider how you might do that. Perhaps the one of the first tasks you need to get your teeth into is researching literary agents, and working out how to make your pitch.

When you’ve decided what these smaller steps will be, you need to turn them into SMART goals… yes, THIS is where that whole SMART thing comes into its own, and not before!

·         The goal needs to be Specific (e.g. “I need to find a literary agent in the USA, who deals with children’s authors)
·         It needs to be measurable (e.g. “I only need the one agent, thanks… but I might need another one if I want to be published in Europe”)
·         Aligned with your overall goal (“Is getting an agent aligned with my goal of getting published? Yep”)
·         Realistic (“It’s a challenge, but can I do it?”)
·         Time bound (“WHEN will I do this?”)

That last one – Time Bound – is the biggest challenge.  If you don’t have some sort of timescale, there’s a danger that nothing will actually get done, so push yourself to set some deadlines.
 
Tip # 3 – be prepared to be focused
If your goals are worth it, they deserve to be kept in focus. Broadly speaking, stick to your plan, and work fairly methodically through it.

Don’t work slavishly through it, though – remember that the journey is, for many people, as important as the destination.

Opportunities that you hadn’t considered might present themselves along your way, and it’s important that you’re able to make the most of these. However… beware of ‘bright shiny objects’ that might appear to be opportunities, but can actually be distractions, taking you away from your main goal.

When these things present themselves, weigh up carefully whether or not they are actually helping your towards your goal (in which case, make the most of them) or whether they are taking you away from your goal… in which case, leave them alone.

When I started out in training and development, I was offered a PR contract (something I used to do in the past). The fee would have been good, and I’d have been able to do the job, and at first it seemed like easy money. However, my goal was to build my training and development business! How was doing someone else’s PR going to help towards that goal? It wasn’t! I politely withdrew from the contract.

The strange thing was, while I was briefly working on that PR job, I felt really uneasy and frustrated because I wasn’t working on my own goals. Sometimes, there’s a lot to be said for listening to your gut: if it feels wrong, it probably is.
 
Tip # 4 – learn to prioritise and do the right things
Once you’ve broken your goals down into sub-goals, you’ll begin to arrive at something that looks like a to-do list.
Just a quick question – how do you prioritise the tasks on your list? Really??

Most people will head straight for the tasks that they like doing, that are quick to finish, that someone else has told them they ought to do, etc., etc. Prioritising in this haphazard way, though, can lead to the sort of day when you’ve been busy for hours… but achieved nothing.

According to Steven Covey (and I’d agree!) the only two factors on which we should prioritise are the urgency and the importance of the task.  I have a to-do list that’s split into four sections:

A. Urgent and important
B. Important, but not urgent
C. Urgent but not important
D. Not urgent and not important

The A section containts things that I really need to get done this week. If I don’t do them, I’m going to set my ‘goal plan’ back.

The B section is for longer-term projects: writing an e-book, developing a new training course, that sort of thing. They’re important, but I don’t need to do them right now. I DO, though, break these into sub-goals, which are on my A list… I don’t want that vital B list to drift on and not get done because I’m fire-fighting in the A section!

The C tasks are less important to ME, but might be important to someone else. In the UK, we had to fill out a census recently: if we didn’t complete it on time, we risked a £1000 fine!  Things on your C list can be time wasters if you spend too long on them. If they are urgent, get them over with and move on as quickly as you can.

The D section contains tasks that really don’t matter. I might want to download a few MP3 clips, for example, or buy a couple of things on Ebay. The question is… should these things be on my to-do list at all? In some cases (like my purchases here) I still want to do them BUT I’m not going to waste time on these tasks when the A and B tasks are waiting in my in-tray.

Give this a try – my productivity increased significantly when I split up my to-do list like this.  Another thing worth doing is getting hold of Brian Tracy’s book ‘Eat That Frog’ , which is great on making the most of your time.

Whatever you do, don’t fall into this trap “In absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily acts of trivia”.
 
Tip #5 – just get on with it!
Many people, sadly, will get as far as Goal Setting Success Factor #3 and stop. Why? Because it’s fun to daydream about our successful futures, to think about building our confidence and making an impact, and to think about the skills that we have… skills that could take us to the top.

When it comes to taking action, however, many people bottle out. PLEASE don’t let that be you. Take your aspirations, dreams and goals, your skills and your growing confidence and TAKE ACTION.

About 500 years BC, the founder of Buddhism wrote “There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth… not going all the way, and not starting.”

Step out bravely. Do something.  Just make a start.

Goal Setting Success Factor # 3: Develop an Enquiring Mind

April 5, 2011

Achieving your goal is going to involve you building on your existing strengths, learning new skills and growing in new directions. If it doesn’t, you’ve probably set your sights too low.

This might mean many things: maybe it’s a question of developing your confidence; perhaps you have all the skills you need to achieve your goal … your problem is developing the self discipline to apply yourself, plan your route forward and get on with it! For someone else, wanting to achieve a lifetime’s ambition of running a marathon, say, it could be the challenge of doing MORE – pushing oneself to run further and further each week until the goal is reached.

Organisations need to also bear in mind that strategies for growth MUST involve developing individuals across the organisation and giving them a strong reason ‘why’ (our Goal Setting Success Factor #1) … but that’s a subject for another post.

So – what do you need to learn? And how? Here are 5 key areas:

1. Develop a positive mindset to learning, as part of your journey.

This is vital. As you journey towards your goal, you’ll constantly discover new things that need to be learned, new skills, behaviours and attitudes that need to be acquired. Learning is positive. It is the road to development and growth. It is NOT a remedial measure to correct some sort of personal defect.

It’s absolutely CRITICAL that you develop this attitude towards learning – otherwise you could fall into the trap of being overwhelmed by what you think you DON’T know, rather than actively looking to learn and develop the skills you NEED.

Remember – we never stop learning. Even experts in their field continue to learn, develop and grow.

2. Don’t be modest – consider what you’re good at.

Take stock of yourself – what are your strengths? What do you enjoy doing and what are you good at? There will be plenty of things that spring to mind immediately, but you may need to ask trusted friends for their thoughts too, as they might have recognised some strengths in you that you weren’t aware of.

There WILL be skills which you think of as ordinary and ‘anyone-can-do’ which are in fact unique to you. Find out what these are. Consider how you might leverage them to achieve your goal.

3. ‘Mind the gap’: identify your gaps in knowledge, and areas for development and growth.

This is often easier said than done, and it’s ESSENTIAL (I can’t stress that enough) that you do this in a positive frame of mind and as a step forward towards your goals.

What do you need to learn in order to achieve your goals? Again, some of these things will be fairly straightforward to identify – if I’m going to be a successful photographer, I need to not only be good at taking pictures, but know how to promote and sell my work, how to manage my finances and so on.

Be aware, though, of areas of ‘unconscious incompetence’ – things that you don’t know you don’t know. There are things you can do to try to tease some of these out, but there will always be ‘Doh!’ moments when you become aware of one of these.

Be thankful that this ‘gap’ is now known to you – don’t waste time kicking yourself about not having realised it before.

4. Learn how to learn – a crucial life skill.

Let’s face it – you could waste a fortune on training courses, coaching sessions, internet information products and so on (somewhat ironic that, as a trainer and coach, I’m telling you that).

Once you’ve identified gaps in your knowledge, you’ll need to give some thought as to how you might address these. In terms of thought processes, try to remain positive and ‘solution focused’, i.e. say to yourself, “I’m going to improve my marketing skills” and NOT “I’m rubbish at marketing, so I have to get better.”

Think laterally: who do you know that you could ask? What connections can you make from other industries / walks of life? Where can you find free information?

Consider also – at what point do you leverage the skills of others, and use THEM to fill in your gaps (hiring a book-keeper, for example, or getting someone else to build your website)?

5. Face your fears: in the words of Mr T, “Quit your jibber jabber – get some nuts!”

Learning new things inevitably means pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. Just grasp the nettle and get on with it: don’t make excuses or try to talk yourself out of trying something new.

Susan Jeffers’ book ‘Feel the fear and Do It Anyway’ is a classic on this point. At the risk of sounding clichéd … JUST DO IT! And don’t worry if it doesn’t work out perfectly first time – it’s all part of the learning experience.

So there we are – five key aspects of learning and honing the skills you need to achieve your goals. Take a positive approach to learning. Boldly assess your own abilities, and the areas in which you need to develop (some of which may already be strengths).

Be creative in how you learn. Don’t be afraid to try something new, and do something different. Learn. Grow. Fly.

Who’s in da room??

September 26, 2010

How much do we MISS by taking people at face value – by being too quick to assume that a person is only as much as his or her job title suggests?

One of my favourite questions to ask participants as the start of a workshop or training session  is what’s their “secret skill”  – something that their colleagues wouldn’t necessarily know about them.

There have been some fascinating answers: someone who made stained glass windows; someone who had a license to captain a cruise ship; an Olympic diving medallist; someone who dressed up as Ranger’s Football Team’s mascot Broxie Bear at home games; musicians; artists; sportsmen and women; a skydiver; TV quiz show champions…a truly astonishing array of talents and interests.

Do companies have ANY IDEA WHATSOEVER about the true extent of the talent within their own four walls? I imagine not. Are they missing out on opportunities and ideas? Without a doubt.

Personal development – 4 essential stages

June 22, 2010

Many corporate programmes focus on setting a goal, and making a plan to achieve it… little realising that if this is a rigid and joyless experience, it’s less likely to be fulfilled.

Many personal development programmes will tell you that you can set your goals and just believe, and somehow your attitude will ensure that magical things will happen to you.

Neither hits the mark completely….which is why we developed the Yara Method. Be prepared to ask yourself some tough questions along the way….

Your Goals: How concrete are they?  Do you really have any idea what your success will look like? Is your success a scene you can visualise…or more of a belief system and a way of life  (like “my goal is to change the world”). It needs to be the first, underpinned by the second.

Your Self Image: What is the voice in your head telling you? Whether it’s right or wrong…is it USEFUL? If not, self discipline yourself to STOP and think positively.

Your Abilities: you could list your known abilities very easily – it’s the unknown that could be the key issue. At what point do your strengths become a weakness, and your weaknesses become an opportunity for personal development or collaboration?

Your Momentum: what’s holding you back: what might trigger you to derail? Is it in your head? Is is something that someone else thinks? Is it an actual barrier?  The obstacle is less likely to trip you up if you are aware of it , can watch out for it, and be tuned in to your own emotions so that you can spot the early signs of demotivation. Be clear about what MOTIVATES you – friends and family, sports, music…whatever. And if you do stumble, don’t beat yourself up about it – get up and carry on. In the words of Churchill ” never never never give up”.