Posts Tagged ‘motivation’

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.

Goal Setting Success Factor # 5 – Maintaining momentum and developing resilience

April 18, 2011

 Well, here we are at the final part of Yara’s Goal Setting Mini Series. Hundreds of you have read the series (thank you to you all!) and I’m shortly going to be formatting the series as an e-book, which will be downloadable FREE from the Yara website at http://www.yaraconsulting.com

Anyway, let’s get on with it!

A critical part of achieving your goals is the ability to maintain momentum and motivation, and to build resilience in the face of challenges.

Here are 5 key factors that will make a difference to your ability to keep going until you’ve achieved your goals.

1. Retain focus

Last year, a group of friends and I climbed Goat Fell, the mountain on the Isle of Arran, just off the coast of the West of Scotland. Living in Ayrshire, we can see the top of this mountain every day from the mainland … as long as it’s not cloudy.

We took the ferry across to the island … at which point our goal was no longer the romantic, cloud-swathed view on the horizon … it was much nearer, and looked a lot bigger, steeper and rockier close up than it did from across the water. Some goals can be like that: scarier up close.

If you don’t have a strong reason for carrying on, you probably won’t.

As we started to climb, it was a case of watching the ground close to our feet to make sure we didn’t stumble over rocks and vegetation. However, we stopped often to look at the top of the mountain, and to check that we were on the right path. If we HADN’T checked where we were against our destination, we might have been so focussed on the ground beneath our feet that we could have wandered into the ferns, left the path and got a bit lost.

Whilst you’re working away on the tasks you need to undertake to get to your goals, look up to ensure that you’re still heading in the right direction … and that the goal hasn’t moved. Re-align wherever necessary, and keep moving forward.

2. Enjoy your journey

On that climb up Goat Fell, though, we didn’t tromp relentlessly straight to the top of the mountain. At various points we stopped for breath, looked back at the view, and marvelled at how far we’d come.

As you continue your way, it is VITAL that you pause from time to time, and allow yourself to reflect on your journey so far, on what you have learned, how you might need to re-align yourself on your way to the top, and to take from your past experience things that will carry you forward.

It’s also important, having achieved some of the ‘sub-goals’ along your way, to take the time to congratulate yourself on the fact that you are taking positive and deliberate strides in the right direction.

Depending on the goal that you’ve set yourself, you might be working towards it for some time … so even though you might have to undertake some tasks that aren’t your favourite thing (tax returns spring to mind), make sure your overall journey is one that you are happy to be on.

3. Know what derails you …

Self-awareness is a key area that comes into play here (about which, more in my series next month on 7 Leadership Skills EVERYONE must develop!)

Think back on your past experience, and consider carefully the times when you had been enthusiastically working towards a goal, and something or someone had thrown you off course. What WAS that something or someone?

Frequent responses to this are:

· Other people’s negativity

· Lack of confidence that you can (or deserve to) achieve

 · Frustration that things aren’t moving quickly enough

· Insurmountable barriers

Thinking about the things that have derailed you in the past, consider further:

 · If you gave up on something, how strong was your reason why in the first place? Is this really the right goal for you? (Think about this VERY carefully – no excuses!)

 · Were your fears based on fact … or your assumptions? How will you overcome them?

· How far are you prepared to let other people’s negative comments or actions put you off your goal? How will you limit their impact?

· How will you build your confidence and overcome your reservations?

· If you really do come up against a barrier that you cannot overcome, consider carefully the reasons why you had been working towards this goal. It will almost certainly be possible to find an alternative goal that fulfils the same need.

It’s crucial also that you recognise the signs of when you are starting to slump, and bring these from the subconscious to the conscious. If you can catch them early on, you can take action to turn yourself around and get back on track. Do you start talking to yourself in a negative way? Do little things really annoy you? Do you find yourself snapping at other drivers on the road, or at your kids? Do you find yourself faffing around and doing anything BUT the tasks required to meet your goal?

Learn also to pinpoint the causes of these … and take steps to avoid or limit them. This might mean thinking about your conversations with friends and family: if they pull you down when you talk about your goals, steer the conversation onto something else. I’ve known a few people who were so negative that I just started to try to avoid them altogether!

Bear in mind also, that your darkest hour is 60 minutes long…it’s not for ever, so take heart.

4 … and how to motivate yourself

So what motivates you? What cheers you up when you’re feeling low? Make a list and keep it to hand.

As soon as you feel your motivation levels drop, don’t wallow or try to soldier on regardless – refer to your list (if you need to) and DO SOMETHING to pick yourself up: go for a run, play the piano, play with your kids, walk the dog, phone a friend – or whatever.

It’s important that, while you are in a positive frame of mind, you begin to develop strategies to help you through tough times. When you’re IN the tough times, you might not be in the frame of mind to be able to help yourself.

A significant amount of academic research has been done on the impact of music on motivation and mood. Choose some motivating and uplifting pieces of music and have a playlist on your iPod: My favourites include Labi Siffre’s ‘Something Inside So Strong’, the ‘Indiana Jones’ theme tune and Van Halen’s ‘Jump!’.

Pick whatever gives you a lift, and put your playlist together when you are in a positive frame of mind.

At times when you’re feeling flat, discipline yourself to focus on past times when you have achieved something, or been particularly successful. Doing so will awaken similar positive feelings to the ones you felt at the time.

Some of this might take a bit of effort: often we quite like having a bit of a moan or wallowing in self pity (I’ve been there, just the same as everyone else!). It’s important though, that you refocus to a positive frame of mind quickly, and keep going.

5. Look after yourself

This might sound really obvious, but no one wants to get to their goal a burnt-out wreck working 18 hours a day on the verge of a breakdown. What kind of success is that?! For goodness’ sake look after yourself.

Stress is one of the biggest causes of work-related ill-health. Take time out to reflect on what you’re doing, what you’ve learned so far and where you’re going. Make sure you take time to relax

 “But Anna,” I hear you say, “I‘m so busy that I don’t have time to relax!”. Make time. Your health is important.

If you’re NOT looking after yourself, you’re not functioning as effectively as you might, and you’re not doing anyone any favours – least of all yourself.

AND FINALLY … When you have reached your goal, and are rewarding yourself and allow yourself to celebrate your success, remember to ‘put something back’. Donate to a charity. Mentor, coach or just help someone. Volunteer for something. Why? Because it’s a good thing to do … and sometimes that’s reason enough.

Music to Inspire

July 19, 2010

Just a quick one this time. We probably all have a song or two that never fail to cheer us up when we’re feeling a bit naff.

Before I share my top ten with you (I don’t care if you laugh –  I LOVE these tracks!!!) let me just say that there’s a significant amount of research that proves that music has beneficial effects in terms of stress management and indeed in terms of learning.

A BBC report on the One Show last year said that listening to rhythmic music while exercising ‘lessened the perception of effort’, and listening to quiet, calm music post-exercise caused the heartbeat to return to normal more quickly.

The ‘Tomatis Method’ uses both music listening and music making to work with kids with ADHD, reducing the need for drugs – with some remarkable results.

Georgi Lozanov developed a way of language learning where large amounts of information could be absorbed and recalled…while listening to music.

So it’s not just a quick pick-me-up. Music really can effect your mood and your state of well-being.

For what it’s worth – here’s a countdown of my top ten  smile makers  : )

10. The ‘Indiana Jones’ theme Tune http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVNNhBtBbOs

9. Volare – Gipsy Kings http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLdRsKCLYA8

8. Beautiful day – U2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8w7f0ShtIM

7.  The Fallen Angel Set (from the album To Answer the Peacock) Brian McNeill  http://www.myspace.com/brianmcneill

6. Canario – Joaquin Rodrigo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVgG-_Ez5XU

And now to share my top 5 with you……

5. Hoedown – Aaron Copeland  (YEEEEEEEE HAAAAA!!!)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cqah1rucyRg&feature=fvw

4. World Cup Song – K Naan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhM-cpSwrmM

3. One Day Like This – Elbow http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQIdXKz4sE8

2. I Get Knocked Down (but I get up again)  – Chumbawumba http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGzuw9ErEM0

AND……

1. JUMP  – Van Halen (I could be at death’s door and this would revive me. Love it Love it Love it) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swzh0ngMNJo

Happy listening!

Anna

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”.