Friday, April 28, 2006


Lets agree that everyone makes mistakes. Everyone. It is normal, it is life. As my little old dad told me, it is what we do to make amends that is the difference between leaders and losers. Think about that over the weekend - do you run from your mistakes or take responsibility and grow?

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Did you know that humans have a lot to learn from the world of geese!
  • When a goose flaps its wings it creates uplift for the birds that follow. Flying in the V formation adds 71% to their flying range. They honk to encourage each other. For managers it is important to check that your team is in formation - do they understand the direction they are going? Check by getting them to explain it to you. How do you "honk"! How do you encourage each other? Encouragement is the life blood of the team. People have different energy levels and need to celebrate the achievements, recognise the difficulties and help each other to get through them.
  • When a goose falls out of formation it feels the drag and resistance so quickly moves back. People need to understand the boundaries and the rules of the team. They need to know that challenging is fine but falling outside the team is not. Do you deal with this quickly?
  • When one goose gets sick others drop out of formation and follow it to protect it. People need to feel supported especially when there are issues at home. Empathy and help will gain you the utmost respect and build team spirit. If the issue is internal, your role is to support the team through the barriers. They need you to use your position to help them achieve their goals or coach them in getting around the barriers.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Have you enough time?

In Naked Leader (great book - its in the side bar) David Taylor says "Imagine have gone to a seminar and they ask everyone to put their business cards into a box. The idea being that one will be picked out and they will win an all expenses paid trip to Bahamas...the bad news you depart tomorrow. Would you go? The majority of us would find away.
If that is you then you do have time, you are not just have to prioritise. Time is an asset, you can choose what you want to do with it.
Do you want to look back and say I wish I had done that! I suspect no, so look at your diary and see what you are doing that could be delegated as part of someone elses development, meetings that could be stopped, could be shortened - why are meetings 30mins or 1 hour? Make them 20 or 40 mins....imagine then what you could do with the time. Live your dreams

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


The ability to paint a picture of the future that is compelling for your team is paramount. To illustrate the power, a little story!

Major James Nesmeth was an average golfer befor he went to the Vietnam war. There as a prisoner trapped in jail he played golf every day in his mind - playing the perfect game. When he returned from the war he had not played for 7 years. He shot a round of 74!

The more you visualise what you want to achieve, the more your brain translates that into a reality. Set out what success will mean to you and your team and talk about what it will look like, what it will feel like, what people will say, how the roles will change....and you will be amazed at how that becomes reality.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Great Question at the End of a Project

A great question to ask on the completion of a task, project etc is "What is one thing I could have done differently that would have made your efforts even more successful?" This gives you feedback, helps you to grow but also it shows the person that you value their input, value their experience.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Learning is the new black

In 1991 Pope John Paul said "At one time the decisive factor of production was the land and later capital. Today the decisive factor is man himself, that is, his knowledge."

Learning is becoming more and more important. The World is Flat as Friedman says - (well worth reading, see side column) the key criteria for you to succeed in the future is by growing your knowledge. You can take away 9/10ths of the brain and it will still work but imagine the power if you learn to use the full power. Not convinced read The World is Flat ! And then plan your next 12 months of development.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Putting the P into Change!

Change is something that is happening all the time to us. To help others adjust through this difficult time, I have detailed below 6 P's that will help you to successfully lead your team through change.
  1. Participation:- Be inclusive - not in terms of going through the motions but take time to explain the issues and ask people to participate in the change. This needs to be authentic - people will see through fake brainstorming sessions. Change is much easier if people are part of the design.
  2. Purpose: - what is the reason for the change. Change is much easier to deal with if you can understand why, this is really helped if you are communicating early and often about the market issues you are facing.
  3. Picture:- Paint a scene of what it will look like. Try and make this specific to the audience. If it does not have relevance to the audience they will not hear or understand it. Answer "What does this mean to me?"
  4. Plan:- both in terms of how the company/team will get from here to there but also and most importantly plan your communication. Plan what the core message needs to be and plan a different approach to each audience. Remember to check understanding after the communication.
  5. Part: - It is important to address the issues and the part the team will play in the change. They need to understand what is expected of them.
  6. Party:- As success happens celebrate the change results and take time out to recognise individual accomplishments.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Bouncebackability !

Resilience is a key strength of succeeding. As I have quoted before, my mentor - also my dad - taught me that everyone makes mistakes, it is how you respond and how you learn from them that determines your success. Here are some tips I have learned over the years
  1. Reflect on what has happened - try to be as dispassionate as possible. Look at the facts not the feelings.
  2. Don't punish yourself or others for an honest mistake.Not having the idea or not making the decision in the first place would have been worse.
  3. Be brave enough to admit a mistake and be honest enough to say you were wrong. This gains respect and shows your humility.
  4. After reflecting, ask others their view and for their feedback on the events.
  5. Build the learnings into your development plan.
  6. Keep believing in yourself. One mistake is a mistake, it is not the end of the world. You now need to bounce back and show your ability to grow from these experiences. If you make 70% of the right decisions then that is good going! The only thing that is certain is that it won't be your last learning.
  7. Finally, remember if the team makes a mistake - take the responsibility. But remember, if the team has a success - give them the credit. That is the role of the leader.

I can't remember who said it, but I love the quote "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade!"

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

How To Get Ideas Accepted

Following on from the previous post, do you struggle to get ideas accepted? Well that maybe because you are not thinking about how to sell those ideas - what kind of person are you trying to sell it to?
1) Are they driven by profit if so concentrate on showing them the financial results
2) Do they love the world of detail - if so present the idea with loads of documentation eg internet research, articles, feedback, analysis
3) Are they a people person? If so concentrate on the impact of this idea on their team, on people within the organisation
4) Are they self-driven? If so tell them the benefits they will reap from backing this idea

An idea remains an idea until you can action it. Idea creation is often not succesful because people forget to market it to their audience/boss/family etc Don't think what is important to you, think what is important to them and watch your success rate soar!

Angel Advocate

Have you ever had an idea that after a few meetings fell by the way side? The conversation goes:-

I have an idea..
Its a great idea BUT
Is it in the Budget?
Does it fit in the corporate guidelines?
Waht is the pay back period?
Have we got a feasibility study?
We tried that 5 years ago - it didn't work
Can't see the Board approving it..
Well, it was just as idea...

Playing devils advocate can be a good thing but what about being an "angels advocate"? With this approach you find out how you could make it work. Meetings are often full of the devils advocates which drains energy...why don't you play this more positive role and see how people react? It gives a positive message ideas are great...lets see if we can make it work!

Monday, April 10, 2006


Something that I have always done is read books, magazines etc that have nothing to do with my job. I read design magazines, tech blogs, US magazines, branding newsletters.
The reason is that I am looking for great ideas that I can use in my role. For example on the web there is a restaurant in US that has photos of their suppliers and a quick description of the supplier as part of their menu. I loved this idea and used it as a recognition tool - so the trainer suddenly had a photo and people could learn a little about them as a person. Giving it a more personal feel.
Design and branding materials are all over the web and all you need to do is put 15 minutes aside to "surf" for these little gems. The trick is loving an idea and then translating it to your work....but it is much easier than thinking of the original idea in the first place!
If you are looking for how to set out instructions...look in cookery books for example. This kind of reading is a form of free benchmarking. So bring an idea in and ask the team how you could use it in your company. Or even better get them to find great ideas for your next team meeting....and get a discussion going to see if you can use it to improve. This can help motivationa and can form part of a recognition program.

Motivators you can use

Fairness is a value which constantly comes out top in whether people are engaged at work. In a realtively low inflation it is often difficult to give out big rises to your star performers. So how can you handle this
  1. Firstly - don't take the easy route in apraisals, people see through it. The "I wish I could have given you more" is a sign of lack of leadership. You do have choices and although it is difficult you must use pay rise time as a strong sign of recognising superior performance and not praising mediocrity. The 3% rise across the board is far too damaging...reward superior performance and set your marker.
  2. Secondly - use non financial items as a reward item. If the money pot is tight then use promotions, secondments to give reward. If there are no positions available then see if you can delegate a little more and give your high performers more exposure. Can a new member stretch their role a little more and learn a different area.
  3. Use the bonus scheme to stretch people not as a way of giving people pay. If you are a mediocre performer and know that your bonus is safe, you will not get an improvement in their performance.

The biggest mistakes can make is by setting values and behaviour and then promoting people under a different premise. We have all seen this and it causes disengagement around the orgainsation - it is impossible to create a successful company with disengaged people. So make sure you pay and reward for the behaviours you want....

Friday, April 07, 2006

Understanding Motivation

People often make the mistake of believing motivation is about getting people to do what YOU want them to do. WRONG! Fundamentally it is about getting people to do it because THEY want to do it. SO how do you achieve this?
  1. Give them a clear goal and check they understand it fully by getting them to explain it to you.
  2. Translate the goal into what they will personally achieve by succeeding.
  3. Give feedback along the way and support them in removing obstacles to their progress.
  4. Celebrate their achievement - it reinforces for next time. People need that recognition.
  5. Check at the end how they have grown and ensure they have got what they wanted out of it.

People need you to lead them...the skill in motivation is seeing it from the other persons side.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Seth Godin on his blog today asks

...what is the hardest thing you have cope with in your job? I suppose it depends on your personality traits. For me it is too much structure, not enough time with my team and the ability to think through ideas. Oh and then trying to get people to take a risk on that idea....what about you..

Developing Talent: Being creative to save ourselves

Developing Talent: Being creative to save ourselves

Just love the quote on this blog from Judith Orloff....imagine if we could translate this from an individuals persective to a company one, and encourage creativity like Google and Apple.

The abundance of Glass

I went on the train into Leeds this week and hit (not literally!) by the abundance of glass in the new high rise buildings that you see as you enter the station. They are, in the main new appartments and it made me wonder about the trend for glass.
To me it "mirrors" the trend in the workplace and society. Glass gives the impression of wealth, it is startling to look at, and has a beauty - it gives the trappings of wealth somehow. But is it me or does glass seem cold - it gives the impression that it is transparent and yet you can't see through it- glass allows people in but not really !
What has this got to do with work? Well I think it "mirrors" the desire of being a successful individual....fiercly protecting your individuality and yet wanting to feel part of the team. Giving the impression of openness and yet just keeping something back. Thats what architects and managers have in common.....somehow getting a balance between individuality and sense of community....or glass vs stone in towns.
Maybe it also highlights how if done correctly old and young can live in harmony.....what are your thoughts ?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Modern Motivators at Work

I am constantly surprised at how people do not recognise what motivates people. People constantly use money - which of course has to be in the right ball park - but now with relatively low unemployment people can and will look round for the best pay deal. Competing on price for people will not work, the external motivators like pay and reward is in reality a given. What sets you out from the crowd as a place to work is the intrinsic motivators such as satisfaction, meaning and the sense of community. If you want to build a great team, a great company or indeed a great family, concentrate on the will not regret it. If you have to constantly look at pay, people are probably not that happy and want more compensation for putting up with the job. Think wider and look at what satisfies people - each individual will be different and your role is to understand that and feed it.

Feedback Made Easy

Got a great tip today that I wanted to share with you. Use a technique called SEER for providing succinct and powerful feedback.
Summarise the point eg Barbara you have been the best sales person this year
Elaborate eg You have exceeded the targets set
Example eg You have hit the target every month with 110% being your best month
Restate eg You have set the standard for others to follow and would like you to share your sales technique with the rest of the team.

Often we get too wordy if you do then use SEER it will help frame what you say. Great stuff from the guys at Managers Tools.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Conquering fear

Mark Twain once said "True courage is not the absence of fear, its the mastery of fear".
When I was young I loved fun fairs, as I have grown older I have grown fearful, as I now understand the risks. I was not born with that doubt...but when doubt occurs it can lead to fear, if you dwell on it.
So how do you conquer the doubt so it doesn't lead to fear. Well you have to have confidence in your ability and have faith in yourself. That faith in your ability can be the difference between success and failure. Build that confidence by replaying in your mind when you have done something similar and been successful...feel the fun, feel the adrenaline buzz use those feelings to squash that doubt. You have been succesful in the past you will be successful in the future....if you believe in yourself...

Frist, break all the rules says Marcus !

I love the quote in this book "It is the relationship with her immediate manager that will determine how long an employee stays, and how productive she is while she's there". There is a growing tend for managers to manage upwards to the detriment of managing their team. For me a manager will always be judged ultimately on the success of their team or indeed the business. As Jack Hayhow says the primary component of that success is the productivity of the workforce. The primary driver for productivity is the relationship the employee has with his/her manager. A focus on upwards management will work in the short term but not in the long term. A balance is required. Two great great concept

Monday, April 03, 2006

Motivation and emotion

Both words with the same root...mot...meaning move. I am always surprised at how people hide emotion to stay "professional". Professional in this sense is cold and distant. You motivate by tapping into emotion and you can only tap into it, if you understand and show your own emotion(clearly controlled!) You can use the right words but if you don't back it with the relevant emotion in your voice, the words will be lost. I always find that I cannot present if I don't believe in the subject..if I do believe in it then I want to convey that to everyone. Make sure you believe 100% in what you are saying otherwise don't say it as people will see through it. Great actors convey emotion and make us "feel". When you are presenting or talking, your role is the same as the actor/actress so think about what emotion you want to convey and then take your stage....

Sunday, April 02, 2006


Do you sometimes find that when you hit a hurdle on a goal that your or the teams motivation dip? One way round this and to keep on track, is to list 5 problems that may occur...and decide how you would address them, ahead of setting out on the goal. Then when you hit an issue you are ready and you are motivated to overcome it. Preparation for a goal is so important....including possible hiccups. Successful people retain the end goal in their mind and see the obstacles as tests of their leadership.....overcoming those obstacles can be real motivators in themselves.

Self Talk

Statistically about 77% of self talk is negative. Wow, 3 out of 4 thoughts you have are negative...that is before anyone else speaks. Think then how great it would be if you could reduce that %. It isn't easy though, so what can you do to help build that inner sefl confidence ?
Well I am a great believer in sleep.... if you are tired then it is harder to control those inner thoughts. If you find you are being negative with your words..take a break. A walk at lunch, a friday off. The world will be able to cope ! Secondly, we need to control the words we use. Substitute "I have to" with "I chose to" - after all you don't have to do anything except die and take up space....the rest well it is up to you. When you understand that, and take control of your mind you feel more motivated.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Ok two words...

I have just been reminded that there is another word to be avaoided.....BUT !
If you are apologising eg "I am sorry about being late with the report but I have been busy" Try instead just to state the facts...."I am sorry my report was late; I had to track down some additonal research which you will find at the end of the report." Or if you do not have an excuse then be truthful "I am sorry the report was late; I had underestimated the time involved. It was been a learning for the future". You will see the difference in people's can diffuse the situation.