Posts Tagged ‘self awareness’

The Resilient Leader

January 31, 2014

Developing a strong and healthy mindset for today’s business challenges.

Have we been doing leadership training to death? Are we management modelled-out with regard to the bewildering array of personality profile questionnaires, ‘How Tos’ and books on the issue?

Well actually… probably not: leadership skills are something that we can and should continue to develop throughout our careers.

However, we’re increasingly finding in our learning and development work that something else is creeping into the mix. The world we live in is changing and the way we do business is changing. Increasingly, it means that leaders must be able to deal with the flux and ambiguity that change can create. They need to be able to develop the PERSONAL strength to succeed even in the face of increasing competition and to bounce back from the challenges and barriers they may face.

Low levels of employee engagement and productivity were identified as the biggest HR challenge in 2013 (research from talent and career management company Right Management 2013) and 59% of adults say they are more stressed now than they were 5 years ago (research from the Mental Health Foundation 2013).

In short, today’s business environment requires a different type of leader – one who remains strong and focused in the face of the rigorous and relentless challenges of today’s world.

The question is, how do we build that mindset amongst leaders? More importantly, how do we build a HEALTHY leadership mindset that capitalises on strengths without leading to burnout, and which maintains core values to boost performance and productivity?

 

1) Recognise how resilient (or otherwise) you are

Recognising how resilient you are – and being brutally honest about that – is a key factor in building a strong and healthy mindset to handle the rigours of day to day business (and personal) challenges. By resilience, I don’t just mean and ‘I’m still standing in the face of the onslaught’ approach, we mean a mindset that enables you to perform well whatever the circumstances around you.

Your levels of resilience are going to involve a number of factors, among them how in control or autonomous you feel about your current situation (and how you feel about your levels of autonomy): your ‘feedback focus’ – do you have a healthy balance between your self-perception / self confidence and other people’s perception of you: how do you respond to challenges, how quickly do you recover from a setback or disagreement and so on.

How aware are you of your OWN levels of resilience?

 

2) Recognise what triggers you to ‘de-rail’

Last year I wrote a short paper on ‘Leadership in Crisis’ based on research I’d done on leadership behaviours in the emergency services. (The paper, by the way, is a free download at Never Mind the Buzzwords, at http://www.nmtbw.com)

One of the themes to emerge from that research was that leaders in extreme situations recognise when their stress levels are becoming a problem, and they do something about it. They DO NOT soldier on regardless, as to do so could mean endangering their own lives and the lives of others.

The ability to recognise both emotional and physical signals that might build up and throw you off balance is clearly crucial – and yet most of us are too busy or pre-occupied most of the time to recognise what our own bodies and minds are trying to tell us in any given situation.

Recognising what triggers you necessitates the ability to pause from time to time and focus on NOW before charging forward.

PAUSE now – stop reading this for a minute and register what physical / emotional / psychological signals your own body is giving you now.

 

3) Acknowledge….and move forward

Obviously, it’s not enough merely to recognise what your body and mind are telling you: it’s a question of acknowledging these physical, psychological and emotional signals (they are what they are, after all) and then consciously deciding what to do.

Developing strategies for building resilience are inevitably determined by the individual in question: changing thought patterns, learning to focus, changing behavioural responses, re-discovering core strengths and values to be leveraged in times of challenge – all will be highly personal.

Building resilience requires conscious awareness and action, but its benefits are pretty obvious: more self awareness, better focus, better quality thinking, more productivity.

And those are benefits not just for your organisation but for you too.

 For more information on our ‘Resilient Leader’ programme, combining the latest research on neuroscience, wellbeing and personal resilience with business best practice and experiential learning, please contact annabelle.beckwith@yaraconsulting.com or susan@sgdevelopmentsolutions.com

 

 

Stay on track with your New Year’s Resolution! Three questions to ask yourself daily

January 15, 2012

Whether or not you set yourself some challenges at the start of the year, it’s all too easy to lose the plot when it comes to your goals, and get side-tracked by STUFF that happens in day-to-day life.

I’ve challenged myself this year to ask myself these three questions at the end of every single day, and I’d like to invite you to do the same.

 

Question 1: “Have I acted with courage and zeal?”

The question here is the attitude with which you’ve approached the day: have you forged ahead and done things that needed to be done, even if you were a little bit afraid of doing so … or have you allowed fear to prevent you from doing something? Have you adopted a “get on with it NOW” mindset … or have your procrastinated and put off doing a task until you “get around to it”? Have you acted with a positive and enthusiastic outlook, or trudged through the day as if your goal was forced labour?

Consider the impact that a positive approach has … compared with the sorry alternative.

 

Question 2: “Have I sown the seeds of tomorrow, today?”

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and success can take time, depending on the goals that you’ve set for yourself. Have you done something today that has sown the seeds of your tomorrow, and that has moved you in some way closer to your goal? Success often comes through consistently doing the small things, rather than waiting for the right moment to make a one-off gargantuan effort.

Ultimately, you reap what you sow … so what’s it been today?

 

Question 3: “Have I retained balance?”

Whatever you’ve done and achieved today, have you done so without compromising your values and character and without infringing the rights of others? Have you maintained your sense of ‘self’ and well-being?

If you have freaked out for some reason (it happens to everyone all too often) it’s worth reflecting on the day and thinking about the precise point at which you started to ‘lose it’, and what triggered that emotion, so that if the situation arises again you can either try to stop it … or if that’s not possible, recognise the need to develop some coping strategies to keep you grounded.

At the end of the day, success isn’t success if along the way you lose sight of yourself and your values.

 

If you ask yourself these questions frequently, it doesn’t matter too much if you go off track for a day or so: you can catch up quickly.

If you DON’T ask yourself challenging questions and hold yourself to account … or you only do so once in a blue moon … then you’ll have MUCH further to catch up if you’ve slipped off the track. And you might not catch up at all.

Playground behaviour in the office – do we really grow up?

November 7, 2011

Alongside my corporate work I’ve undertaken many projects in the education sector. It never ceases to amaze me how the same behaviours that first appear in the classroom and the playground manifest themselves again years later in the office and the boardroom …

I used to work in a place where I could quite literally look around the table at a committee meeting and think to myself, “You were the one puffing away on a cigarette behind the bike sheds … you were the class creep who always brought an apple for teacher, and then slagged her off behind her back … you were the vacant one who’d be watching clouds out of the window and didn’t have a clue what was going on in the room …”.  I’d almost be prepared to wager that if any of my former colleagues are reading this, they’ll know EXACTLY who I mean!

Throughout my training career I’ve come across examples of behaviour which at first seem a little out of place … until you consider their parallels in the classroom.  Clearly, if a behavioural tactic proved successful for someone at an early stage of their life, that behaviour is likely to be repeated – whether or not it’s appropriate at work or not – until it is caught and corrected.

By way of example, I was astonished at a participant on an in-house training programme I was delivering a wee while ago, who took every possible opportunity to convey (both verbally and non-verbally) to the trainers and his fellow participants how senior he was, and how far beneath him the programme content was (and de facto his colleagues in the room).

By contrast, another senior level individual in the room took a much more active role in the proceedings, and generously shared his considerable expertise and experience with his colleagues.

I’m taking a wild guess here that the first participant thought that he was cutting an impressive figure, and cementing his senior status in the pecking order of the group. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if when he was at school, he’d see a classmate tussling with a tricky maths equation and say, “This is so easy! I finished it ages ago! I’m bored now! I should be in the advanced maths class, you know.”

At some point, exhibiting these behaviours has probably successfully intimidated other people into behaving towards this individual in a deferential way which fed his ego. And so, inappropriate though it is as a leadership behaviour, it continues today. It will continue to do so until he receives feedback that prompts him to reflect on his behaviour, and change it.

Another example was a young woman I worked with a few years ago. I was working with her one-to-one on her personal presentation skills, and the issue she wanted to overcome was that older male contacts and colleagues (she felt) were not taking her as seriously as they should.  Now, her voice was very high pitched, she spoke very fast, and she had a distracting habit of winding her hair around her fingers as she spoke.

Here’s the thing. We DID manage to address this issue in part. However, an underlying factor was that when she was a little girl, this lady had been very ‘sweet’, with her high breathy voice, fast manner of speaking, and coy fiddling with her hair. And it was difficult for her to let go of some of that, in pursuance of a more grounded, measured way of communicating at work.

I don’t have to look too far for my third example. I have a tendency to ‘ask for forgiveness rather than permission’, which is often not appropriate. My school environment in particular was one where conforming and conservative behaviour was encouraged, and asking permission to do something out of the ordinary was met with a resounding “no”. Best not to ask and just get on with it then. It’s a pattern I still have to watch out for 30 years later.

Take a close look at some of your colleagues – what would they have been like at school? What ‘child’ behaviours and tactics do they bring to work?

Have a look at yourself. What do you do that you learned in your childhood … your actions, responses, attitudes and communication style … and how helpful (or not) is it?

As the poet William Wordsworth said – “the child is father of the man”.  And sometimes we all need to grow up a bit.

7 Leadership skills that EVERYONE should develop: number 6 – leverage others

August 8, 2011

One of the marks of a strong leader is his or her ability to leverage the talents of others in order to reach organisational (and individual) goals. Leadership isn’t about knowing (or doing) it all yourself, it’s about enabling others to learn, grow, contribute and achieve excellence.

1) Know your people
I hardly need to say that unless you know your people, you’re not going to know where their talents lie and therefore you’re not going to be able to leverage them.  How well do you know your team, what motivates them at work, their out-of-work interests and so on?

A participant on a course I was delivering recently told me about a team member of his who was terrified of public speaking. Common enough, you might think. However, the course participant knew that this individual sang in a band in his spare time and regularly performed in local venues at the weekend.

Using the rationale that if you can SING in front of a crowd of people you can speak in front of them too, he coached and encouraged the singer to transfer his skills to the public speaking arena … with conspicuous success.

Had he NOT made the effort to get to know his team, this vital talent – and its link to the workplace – might have been missed.

2) Look beyond the obvious
It’s all too easy to focus on the obvious, to pigeonhole people according to their job title and to assume that, because of the work they do, they’re going to be good … or conversely NOT going to be good … at certain things. Look beyond the obvious, though, for hidden and unexpected talents.

I used to work in an organisation where, in the marketing department, we were frequently required to come up with catchy titles for performances, projects and publications.

Whilst it was well outside his remit, someone who we’d often ask for input was the Finance Officer. Why? Because he had a knack for coming up with great titles and captions and had a way with words.

If we’d pigeonholed him as the number cruncher who held the purse strings (which of course he WAS … but there was more to him than that) we’d have missed out on some great headlines. I’d like to think too that he enjoyed being asked to contribute to something that wasn’t directly linked to his job role, but was still of benefit to the organisation as a whole.

3) Don’t value your skills above everyone else’s
This is a bit of a lesson in self-awareness and humility, both of which have a role to play in leadership. Many people, whether they realise it or not, will place their own skills at a higher value than those of others.

To the creative person who loves coming up with new ideas, the logical pragmatist is “boring and conventional”.  To the strategic realist, someone with strong people skills is “touchy feely”.  To the ‘blue sky’ thinker, the person who needs to establish a context is “stuck in the past”.

If you are to leverage the skills of others successfully, you must recognise them for the values that they bring, and not undervalue them because those values might be different to yours.

At the end of the day, leadership and leveraging the abilities of others isn’t actually about you … it’s about them, and about the business as a whole.

 

Recognising, valuing and leveraging the skills of others is something that requires us all to leave our egos at the door and give ourselves the challenge of looking for people who aren’t just LIKE us and able to ‘fit in’, but who are BETTER than us at a given thing, and who will provide the necessary challenge to move everyone up a notch. And that’s not always as easy as it sounds.

7 Leadership skills that EVERYONE should develop – number 5: manage stress and maintain wellbeing

July 17, 2011

Inevitably, leaders shoulder a lot of responsibility for the departments, businesses and organisations that they oversee. This does NOT mean, though, that neglecting your own health wellbeing and soldiering on regardless is a viable option: you’re no use to anyone as a stressed out, burnt out wreck who’s running on empty.

So here are 5 things to consider as you manage your own state of mind and wellbeing. And don’t tell me you don’t have time to stop and think about this – if that’s the case, you need to MAKE time!

1) Recognise the signs
Working under pressure is a little bit like the old ‘boiling frog’ metaphor: you gradually become more and more pressured until suddenly you develop a stress related illness.

It’s important to be able to distinguish between what, for you, is an appropriate and productive level of pressure….and what becomes panic or extreme stress where you might be appearing to function, but you know yourself you’re not making quality decisions, and are becoming irritable or obsessive.

Think carefully: when you start to feel stressed – WHERE physically do you feel stressed? Prickly scalp? Knotted stomach? Tense shoulders? Where?

Begin to recognise your own physical symptoms and consciously name them. Recognising and acknowledging these early signs is a key stage in being able to address them.

If you’ve been feeling very pressured, have a look at one of the many stress related websites (like www.stressbusting.co.uk ) to check out the symptoms of stress and compare yourself against them. If you want to be proactive about minimising stress levels within your organisation, have a look at www.stredia.co.uk, and speak to Gerard O’ Hanlon there.

Recognise also whether you’re going through a period of short term stress which you can manage and where’s there’s light at the end of the tunnel….or whether the pressures are long term with no end in sight.  The latter requires urgent action.

2) Re-evaluate what’s important
Find a pen and paper and make a list of the ten things that are most important to you. ‘Family’ can count as 1, rather than naming them individually, and the list can be in any order you like.

Be very honest with yourself here. Some of these things might be factors like ‘the need for recognition’ or ‘the need to be wealthier than my peers’ and so on – things that you might not want others to know.

Look at your list, and cross off 3 things which aren’t quite so important as the rest.

Of the remaining things on the list, cross off a further 2 that don’t mean as much to you as the others.

Of the 4 items you have left, pick your top 3.

How well do these 3 life priorities reflect the amount of time you give to them? For example, if your family comes out near the top but your job requires you to be flying all over the world all the time….where’s the balance?

If you look back at your life, it’s unlikely that you’re going to regret not having spent more time at the office.  Consider carefully what the important things in your life actually are, and begin to set yourself some goals around work-life balance.

Define what, to you, a more balanced life with less stress might look and feel like, so that you have a positive situation to work towards and don’t get stuck on a relentless treadmill of pressure, feeling powerless as it grinds you down.

If you’re trapped in a mindset that says ‘I can’t get off the treadmill – I have a family to support, bills to pay’ then give yourself a metaphorical slap in the face. Do your family want you to be a burnt out wreck? Do your creditors want you to become ill and be unable to pay your debts? No. Do yourself a favour and address the stress.

3) Retain perspective
Years ago I worked for a short while on a live, daily TV show. On one occasion, I was working with a TV chef who was assembling a pudding of some sort. Somehow, between the rehearsal and live transmission of the piece, a jug of custard had been moved from one side of the table to another, partially obscuring one of the camera shots.

During the debrief afterwards, some of the directors team were furious about the move of the custard, and went on a considerable length about the problems it had caused. The fact that no-one watching the show at home would have noticed – or even cared – didn’t seem to be a consideration.  Eventually, one senior member of the team brought the argument to a close by saying. “So a jug of custard got moved. Nobody died”.

Refresh your perspective from time to time. Take a step back. In the grand scheme of world events, where does it stand?

4) Don’t be a martyr
Pretending you’re fine and ploughing on is not an option. You might feel for some reason that this is the noble thing to do, but rest assured, it absolutely isn’t.

If you’re stressed, it’s highly likely that you’re irritable or moody and aren’t making quality decisions…which is going to impact on those around you and on your business or career.

Some leaders find themselves taking on too much because they don’t want their staff to feel pressured, working unreasonably long hours themselves whilst ensuring that their team clocks off at 5 pm.

What’s that about?! Learn to delegate, learn to trust the ability of others, and accept that you’re not earning any brownie points by being a martyr and are potentially establishing an unhealthy work ethic.

I used to work with one boss (I was very junior at the time) who pushed himself to unreasonable levels. The company was working on an important project that would impact the entire industry, and the stakes were high. However, he decided to model himself of Gordon Gekko, proclaiming that ‘lunch was for wimps’ and working long hours without a break.

I left before the project was completed, but I did hear that some time afterwards, that man had a breakdown. Was the project worth it? I’m guessing not.

5) Do something different
Make sure you have some out-of-work activities that are absolutely not work related. Golf. Needlepoint. Sky diving. Anything where your brain can have a chance to switch from pressing matters and focus elsewhere.

Simply trying to relax by doing nothing sometimes isn’t enough…the mind just wonders back to the stressful issue. In these cases doing SOMETHING –  mentally taking yourself somewhere else by reading, carrying out an activity, or going somewhere new – is the best approach to take in order to refresh and rebuild your strength.

Make sure that pressure doesn’t turn to stress. Don’t ignore it if it does.

If you look after yourself, you’ll be better able to take care of – and lead – others.

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.

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.

Old Habits…and New Trainers

July 7, 2010

My new trainers arrived earlier this week! Woohoo! Maybe they’ll help me run a bit faster!  Remarking on how bright they looked, I’d hardly noticed that my old trainers were really looking distinctly skanky.

It did take me several days before I actually went running in my new trainers. I kept them nicely wrapped in paper in their box, and looked at them when I walked past from time to time, just to make sure they were still there for when I needed them, and hadn’t been tidied away.  Why? Well, it was raining and I didn’t want to ruin the new ones right away. Also, there was the possibilty that the new shoes might hurt a bit, and I didn’t want to discover that 5 miles away from the house and have to limp all the way back.

After almost a week, on a  suitably sunny morning, I pulled on my  new trainers and headed out for a run. Guess what. They were really rather uncomfortable, and to be honest, didn’t feel as good as the old ones.

I have a choice. Do I get back into my old trainers and keep going until they fall apart….or  persevere with the new – and better quality  – ones until I get used to them?

So. Enough of my smelly trainers. The point is (as if I need spell it out)..

How comfortable are we with our old habits, whether or not they’re working for us?

What excuses do we find for NOT putting new habits and things we’ve learned into practice right away?

How useful are those new trainers if we’re not DOING anything with them?

Do you have new trainers still wrapped in paper in a cupboard somewhere that you’ve not even tried yet?  GET ‘EM OUT AND START RUNNING!

Who are you? (who-oo who-oo!)

June 27, 2010

I’ve always hated it when someone says to me ‘”tell me about yourself” – something which usually happens in an interview context when the interviewer hasn’t prepared properly, or has no idea how to conduct a thorough, behavioural interview. Tell you about myself in the context of what? Work? Personality? My life of travel, adventure and intrigue ??

Actually, it’s one of the most irrelevent questions there could possibly be. And here’s why.

You are not who you tell me you are, you are who you prove  yourself to be.

You’ve heard the maxim ‘actions speak louder than words’ and even the bible says “by their fruits shall you know them”.  It’s one of those age old rules…that many of us seem to forget.  

There are two sides of the coin here: if you feel the need to tell new aquaintances as much as you can about yourself in order to make a favourable impression, ask yourself  ‘why’. Are you really the person you are telling everyone about? Why do you feel the need to tell everyone…is it in case they don’t believe you??   I’ve met some lovely people who seem to strive to be liked in this way, little realising that there’s no need. Just being themselves is more than enough.

On the other side of the coin,  I’ve been majorly caught out by people who have professed to be one thing… and turned out to be quite the reverse. I have to take a share of the blame here: I was far too eager to listen to who they told me they were rather than looking at how they conducted themselves.  This approach has cost me a lot of money, time, and emotion.

So a word to the wise – look for actions not words:  if someone tells you they are a good listener, make sure they don’t keep interrupting everyone else. If someone tells you how generous they are – watch them give. If someone tells you all about their abilities – wait and see how they apply them. In this way, to paraphrase another ‘Who’ song, you’re less likely to get fooled again.