Persistence and motivation are in many ways the rocket fuels of success. Certainly if you wish to impress colleagues with your leadership and management you had better hone both of these skills.
Immediately after waking each day I have started posting a motivational quote to test its effect on me and my friends. A positive start to the day is essential, so often the quote is leadership or persistence based and quite old fashioned by today’s standards.
The leaders quoted include amongst many: Franklin D Roosevelt, Dale Carnegie, Winston Churchill, Napoleon and an old favourite of mine Zig Ziglar. These men suffered many setbacks in both life and career and yet through sheer guts, determination and persistence they moved forward and succeeded.
The dictionary defines persistence as, “Firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.” In other words, don’t expect it to be easy and understand that most will tell you that you are wrong in your chosen pursuit. Until you are successful; at which stage they always knew you were a genius.
For entrepreneurs or management starting life’s climb, an MBA, technical competence, talent, intelligence, and leadership ability – are assumed traits. However, the key characteristic that is missing for sustained achievement is persistence.
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” – President Calvin Coolidge
In order to achieve complicated or difficult goals, persistence is the most significant factor. There are lessons to be learnt from the successful, persistent leaders in all walks of life who have overcome enormous obstacles.
Hold Firm to your vision: Even when others tell you it’s foolish or unachievable.
Train Your Mind to focus on your vision: This doesn’t mean be blind to issues but don’t allow the problems distract you from the objective.
Grow Stronger: Constantly improve your skills and knowledge, constantly question and analyse especially after failure
Change: Be prepared to change 180 degrees if you are wrong, accept your failures
Be Reliable: Be there, be seen trying, be consistent, and demonstrate that even small steps are still results delivered and failures lessons learnt on the journey..
Complete the Task: Finishing the job requires the courage to hold your vision, an ability to think through and overcome obstacles and to persist when others would walk
Never Ever, Ever, Give Up: Keep at it despite the obstacles, despite negative comment, despite the odds
In principle these points are so easy to state and yet it takes enormous reserves of mental strength, courage and character to swim against the tide and achieve great things.
Lets consider how persistence and motivation changed history……
The Little Spider That Changed History……..
“A Spider that changed history?” I hear you ask; well as a small child I heard a great story demonstrating the value of persistence involving The Scottish King Robert the Bruce and a humble but determined Spider.
Robert the Bruce was defending his country from invasion by the English and their armies. Battle after battle he had fought with England. Six times Robert the Bruce had led his men into battle. Six times his men were beaten, and finally driven into flight. The army of Scotland was entirely scattered, and the King was forced to hide in a cave.
As he lay recovering, he noticed a spider over his head, getting ready to weave its web. He watched as it worked slowly and with great care. Six times it tried to throw its thread from one edge of the cave wall to another. Six times its thread fell short.
The spider persisted and on its seventh attempt was successful. Legend has it that Robert the Bruce gathered his remaining troops and told the story of the spider’s persistence. Using this story he reinvigorated and motivated his bedraggled army into one last battle and one in which they won such a famous victory.
This childhood legend has had a very significant impact on my life during times of difficulty and failure.
Much Ado About Nothing – When Doing Nothing Lifts Productivity.
In literary circles debate continues as to just what Shakespeare’s words relate to and that’s been going on for 400 years so let’s not expect too much management progress during the course of this article, however, its never too late to change and productivity improvements rapidly build the bottom line!
“So much of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to work.”
Peter F. Drucker
Now be honest….is this happening in your work place? Many managers and business owners still confuse activity with action. If phones are ringing keyboards clicking and people are rushing then we have action and action generates profit….right? WRONG!
Activity is all of the above but action is doing that what is needed, when it is needed and for the common good. Not all of us are as good at action as we might like to be.
There are days when it would be best if we just stayed away from work because on those days we are simply put – counter productive!
Five CPF’s (Counter Productive Factors) stand out in my mind and I have seen havoc wreaked by each and every one of them.
Let’s have a look at the 5 Key CPF’s:
The Hero Syndrome: This is the CPF which most trips my switches, the Corporate Hero who works all night drafting a document or arrives on a flight from Timbuktu at 6.00am and comes straight into the office. Unwashed, crumpled and lacking sleep do they really imagine they are going to be productive let alone make good decisions? Get home and go to sleep you naughty children!
The HUNGRY Warrior: This manager is simply too important to take time to eat. As they have told everyone they arrived at work at dawn carrying a mega Starbucks (a bucket of luke warm, sweet liquid, usually brown) which has nourished them through to 2.00pm. Why they wonder are they throwing note pads, pencils, shouting and blinking back tears as their staff look on in joy? Its because your brain as ceased to function due to a lack of essential food. Go home eat and then stand in a corner until bed time!!
The Martyr: Don’t worry it’s only a sniffle, yes I am sweating, I ran for the lift, no my temperature has been steady at 40° all night and I should know as I didn’t sleep a wink! Ahhchoo!! Now how and why can this person possibly believe they can a) avoid infecting the innocent and b) make any contribution to the management of the organisation? Does this person think on a good day or can we excuse today’s silly performance on the basis of ill health. Go home immediately and wear a hair shirt for 24 hours!!
The Beast: It’s a long story which started late yesterday when driving home. Some absolute moron driving a “domestic car” would not let the beast into the traffic. Worse was to come. Finally home the beast’s life partner just didn’t care, the gin was Tanqueray and not BBR No3 as ordered and to cap it all the tuna was overcooked! Obviously sex was off the menu and our beast was again insulted in the morning traffic finally arriving 15 minutes late for the finance committee. The coffee was cold; the report still printing and the CFO was a moron. Now our beasty can actually be quite pleasant but too much work and not enough play has done its dirty deed. So Beasty go home, relax, and stay there until you can genuinely acknowledge that drivers of “domestic” cars have some rights and that your long suffering partner had done a great job over dinner and gin’s (authors note) –although BBR No3 is exquisite and really should have been available!
The Wolf: I am going to stretch your new age cred here and suggest that in my observation a section of our population is affected by Luna movements. Yes the full moon weirdos! I won’t blind you with science here but I knew someone who became so irrational with each full moon, his eyes became red rimmed and he was for a couple of days quite, quite mad! There have been others, far too many to mention who become just a little odd every 28 days or so. In fact my own family believe it best not to ask me for money or criticise any aspect of my being for this short period each month. Download a Lunar diary and monitor your colleagues, generally they can function but eccentrically so. Treat these sufferers kindly but discretely hide the knives.
“Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing.”
I first heard of the power of marginal gains as a student. Back then “the power” of ideas such as marginal gains, marginal pricing, marginal costing, marginal probability and compound interest were all being used in business studies to show how something didn’t have to be “wiz, bang, new, fast and you beaut” to make a difference. It was power man!
Compounding interest has continued to fascinate me and occasionally I while away the odd hour on Excel running compounding options. Truly fascinating…..really! The largest deal I ever closed was when as a young executive I convinced the board of a major American company to supply us on the basis of marginal costing.
Recently on a quiet Saturday (I know it’s sad) I googled “The Power of Marginal Gains” expecting to find a plethora of MBA theses on the subject but instead I found page after page of British cycling triumphs and a guy called Dave Brailsford – Now Sir Dave all thanks to his marginal gains!
No British cyclist had ever won the Tour de France, but as the new General Manager and Performance Director for Team Sky (Great Britain’s professional cycling team), that’s what Brailsford was asked to do.
His approach was simple.
Brailsford believed in a concept that he referred to as the “aggregation of marginal gains.” He explained it as the “1 percent margin for improvement in everything you do.” His belief was that if you improved every area related to cycling by just 1 percent, then those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement.
They started by optimizing the things you might expect: the nutrition of riders, their weekly training program, the ergonomics of the bike seat, and the weight of the tires.
But Brailsford and his team didn’t stop there. They searched for 1 percent improvements in tiny areas that were overlooked by almost everyone else: discovering the pillow that offered the best sleep and taking it with them to hotels, testing for the most effective type of massage gel, and teaching riders the best way to wash their hands to avoid infection. They searched for 1 percent improvements everywhere.
Brailsford believed that if they could successfully execute this strategy, then Team Sky would be in a position to win the Tour de France in five years’ time.
He was wrong. They won it in three years.
In 2012, Team Sky rider Sir Bradley Wiggins became the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France. That same year, Brailsford coached the British cycling team at the 2012 Olympic Games and dominated the competition by winning 70 percent of the gold medals available.
In 2013, Team Sky repeated their feat by winning the Tour de France again, this time with rider Chris Froome. Many have referred to the British cycling feats in the Olympics and the Tour de France over the past 10 years as the most successful run in modern cycling history.
And now for the important question: what can we learn from Brailsford’s approach?
The Aggregation of Marginal Gains
It’s so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making better decisions on a daily basis.
Almost every habit that you have — good or bad — is the result of many small decisions over time.
And yet, how easily we forget this when we want to make a change.
So often we convince ourselves that change is only meaningful if there is some large, visible outcome associated with it. Whether it is losing weight, building a business, travelling the world or any other goal, we often put pressure on ourselves to make some earth-shattering improvement that everyone will talk about.
Meanwhile, improving by just 1 percent isn’t notable (and sometimes it isn’t even noticeable). But it can be just as meaningful, especially over time.
And from what I can tell, this pattern works the same way in reverse (in other words an aggregation of marginal losses) a 1 percent decline here and there — that eventually leads to a problem.
In the beginning, there is basically no difference between making a choice that is 1% better or 1% worse. (In other words, it won’t impact you very much today.) But as time goes on, these small improvements or declines compound and you suddenly find a very big gap between people who make slightly better decisions on a daily basis and those who don’t. This is why small choices (“I’ll take fries with that”) don’t make much of a difference at the time, but add up over a period.
The Bottom Line
Success is a few simple disciplines, practised every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.
Most people love to talk about success (and life in general) as an event. We talk about losing 50 pounds or building a successful business as if they are events. But the truth is that most of the significant things in life aren’t stand-alone events, but rather the sum of all the moments when we chose to do things 1 percent better or 1 percent worse. Aggregating these marginal gains makes a difference.
There is enormous power in small steady wins. This is why the tortoise usually beats the rabbit, the system is greater than the goal.
Where are the 1 percent improvements in your life?
My offensively sexist headline was used as a “hook” to encourage you to think about gender equality in business.
In my years in business very little management discussion has focused on the simple fact that our population is more or less and equal split between males and females. When gender is discussed it is usually in terms of targeting a product at either men or women – as an example I am told that in my son’s local supermarket in up-state New York they now sell pink rifles for the “girls”!
Where is he going with this? I hear you ask; well stay with me.
Each week I set aside two days, usually Tuesday and Thursday to meet with clients, prospective clients and the affiliate businesses we maintain relationships with. This week was different.
All but one of my meetings was with a female CEO or Manager; it wasn’t planned it just happened that way.
Interestingly SME’s lead the way in gender balance as over 32% of SME CEO’s are female compared to only 8% in the corporate world.
Now back to my week. It turned out to be both challenging and exciting as I quickly recognised that the “pattern” of the meetings was subtly different, the questions put to me were far more direct and probing and some of the feedback regarding our corporate direction and product offerings was more frank than usual. This was consistent across my two days of meetings and the only difference was the gender mix of the meetings.
I didn’t initially think anything of the changed “pattern” I merely enjoyed the buzz and excitement that flows from strong and intelligent discussion and was pleased with progress made. Towards the end of my string of meetings I realised this “pattern” had to be more that a coincidental meeting of minds with a series of very challenging intellects.
These very smart CEO’s were different. They were WOMEN!
Research from Dr Patrice Zsabo of The University of Manchester published in 2012 states that males and females do think and act differently in both social and professional settings.
The research suggested females demonstrated higher levels of both Social IQ and social empathy than men, they are conciliators by nature, good team members and more detailed, honest and open in their discussion with colleagues.
I recognised that I was benefiting from the subtly different ideas and views which flowed back and forth during the discussions with these very smart, savvy and professional women and I believe they felt the same. I quickly realised that collectively we were stronger, a more complete team.
I didn’t agree with all that was put forward but I had cause to stop, think and question my positions and ideas and that very questioning provided me with a wider understanding of the issues.
Logically if 50 percent of the population is female and 50 percent male I am at a loss to understand why current management doesn’t reflect this.
Why as managers do we not venture out to seek the views of the opposite sex? Surely for optimum balance and a better understanding both sexes should be involved in discussing and determining the corporate direction.
I just don’t buy the “if we are professionals our sex doesn’t matter” It does. Management should reflect the society we live in, the clients and customers we do business with indeed it should reflect humanity.
It’s up to us male and female to make this happen and it’s easier as an SME to lead the change than it is for a corporation.
So let’s make a difference and take the SME balance to 50/50 we are already closer than our corporate counterparts.
A good friend of mine is a leading global advisor to life insurance companies, he travels extensively and consults at board level. Recently I asked where his London office is now situated, “any Starbucks” was his answer. “Why have an office?” was his question, “the people I meet are too busy to travel and yet they appreciate 30 minutes relaxing over a coffee”.
For more formal presentations and planning sessions he uses his clients facilities, very occasionally he rents serviced office facilities by the hour.
“Put simply” he said “I have a simple rule; does this cost money or make money?” and in 2014 expensive offices certainly dont make money.
Likewise does dress at work really matter? If staff are clean and appropriately covered all that remains is motivation and productivity.
Today’s workplace freedoms would have been unimaginable 30 years ago and yet look at what we have gained by adopting the important factors of respect and comfort and letting the formal pose and its associated ego/status go.
Respect and Trust are both vitally important qualities which we look for in an entrepreneur, and I fear both are currently being discarded in the rush for blatant self promotion.
Do you remember when the UK’s Jamie Oliver first burst onto our TV screens as “The Naked Chef”? He was fully clothed but he had stripped away the unnecessary bullsh*t and mystery surrounding cooking. The world fell in love with Jamie a self-confessed dyslexic, a school drop-out from Essex – he was simply and wonderfully himself!
As I read on-line profiles I feel emasculated by the fact that every second person is now “an expert on….”; “an author of” or at the very least an “international public speaker”. Some of these are well known and how lucky we are to have such easy access to the skills and knowledge which they have gained over long and successful careers. Many others and dare I say the majority, are if not bogus, then plain humbug!
Strong words and yet transparency and authenticity are more than just corporate “buzz words” they are amongst the real attributes that B2B’s and consumers now expect from the companies and people they do business with.
People want honesty in business and expect SME’s and corporations to provide real transparency and authenticity. They also want to know and understand the real people behind the profiles, websites, logos, social media and print.
Be open when describing yourself or your business. If your business is in its first year and you are struggling to make ends meet say so! Potential customers will often give a new business “a go”. How often have you said “hey let’s try that new pizza place”? Don’t invent a “construct” designed to make you look older, bigger, better, busier.
Be yourself! Just started – Johns Plumbing, I want to help! It’s a compelling message.
Today “Corporate Image” is less about status, qualifications, large offices and expensive stationary and much more about the real people, real skills and real results. Over the past week I had three meetings in coffee shops with clients, each of which is highly successful and controls a multinational business. Only one of them has a permanent office, shared with his accountant. Today working from home with a telephone answered or a query dealt with by a virtual assistant can be sufficient.
Most businesses and consumers today don’t want to hear how clever you are or how important you are or how impressive your office is; they want to know if you can do the job and deliver the result at a price they are prepared to pay.
So rather than building an impossibly impressive on-line profile, simply state the facts; you are warm, human, competent, trustworthy and able to deliver results! It’s about engaging, sharing your passions, and talking about your product or service as it relates to other people and situations.
Here are some ways to show your inner Naked Entrepreneur:
Be Genuine: Be you, yourself, the real you and be proud to show it. Strip away the unnecessary bullsh*t and mystery!
Share your passions: Show what, how and why you are excited, if you have a dream share it.
Share your corporate culture: It says a great deal about who you are and the values you and your team share.
Admit your imperfections & failures: We have all at some stage failed, stretched the truth, let people down or just plain stuffed up – I have done all and more. It’s human. How you recover, learn and move forward is the real factor by which you are judged.
Show your expertise: Include your skills, knowledge and if wanted, qualifications on your profiles but do so to inform not to impress.
Be subtle: Yes you are brilliant, yes your brand is huge and of course your staff and customers adore you but do you need to tell us quite so loudly or so frequently.
Understand Yourself: Know your strengths, weaknesses and your limitations. For example I am a dreadful waffler and not the world’s best operational manager but when sat down free of distractions I am a fair theorist, thinker and strategist!
A reputation for being “a good person, hard working and determined to deliver” is probably close to perfection and almost naked!
Do you ever wonder why those global gurus who travel the world to sell their message of how to grow rich and famous in 30 days don’t have to stay home and manage their investment portfolios which must by now be huge? I have always wondered.
I guess they care about us so much they are prepared to travel 48 weeks a year just to help.
Some of us think better in pictures etc. Before thinking through a big idea, I usually visualise it as a diagram. I have always “solved problems” graphically. Sometimes entirely within my mind and then A1 sheets of paper, followed by whiteboards, and eventually computers. Now I use a combination of all three. I called it mind mapping long before the phrase became popular – it just seemed to fit..
Basically mind mapping is the task of transferring thought and ideas, group or individual into a written form. I find brainstorming sessions are so much more powerful if there is a mind mapper in the group and especially so if that person is good with pen, paper or the whiteboard.
Are you a mind mapper? Are you able to get those amazing business ideas you toy with when driving or in bed down onto paper? It’s a skill but not a hard one to acquire, it can be fun and importantly the results can really change your business.
WHAT IS MIND MAPPING?
A mind map is a powerful way to generate and visualise new ideas, analyse problems, brainstorm, plan, show or research, complex ideas. Isn’t this just good old fashioned “brainstorming” under a new name? I hear you ask. No, mind mapping is a more structured approach to analysing and solving problems.
We now operate in a world where graphic representations are used more frequently and our brains are responding well to graphic analysis. Here are a few handy tools you can use to incorporate mind mapping into your business process.
The most basic tool you can use for mind mapping is a whiteboard. If you have a whiteboard you can start mind mapping individually or as a team to solve problems or to formulate new ideas. Today life is so easy, when you have the whiteboard full of ideas, take a picture of the whiteboard with your phone and upload it to your computer and share it with the team. Sometimes I get the original whiteboard data on the 60 inch screen in the meeting room so the whole team can see it and we start again on the whiteboard testing out our earlier ideas. This is a great way to mind map as a team.
THE BIGGERPLATE MIND MAP
If you want to up the ante and introduce a little more structure and sophistication into your sessions there are now several free or inexpensive mind mapping programs available.
Biggerplate’s mind map should meet most of your needs. In this extensive mind map collection, you’ll find templates for almost every task and challenge, including business mind maps, training mind maps, and general mind maps which you can use in your everyday life. The Biggerplate templates include everything you need from SWOT analysis (strength, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats), time management matrix, project management, task management and even tracking objectives.
If you and your team are struggling to get the mind mapping started, the Biggerplate templates can lead you into and through the process. I enjoy looking through Biggerplate’s top 10 mind maps just to see which templates other professionals are finding useful.
Very easy to use and inexpensive to buy Mindjet is an easy to use program designed for a variety of tasks, including mind mapping and brainstorming, Mindjet has flexible features which can be used in a variety of tasks including mind mapping, strategy development, marketing, sales and information technology.
MAPS FOR THAT!
The title just about says it all. Maps for That is great if you’re looking to share the mind maps you have just created or if you want to browse mind maps submitted by other teams or team members. It comes with amazing features and includes user-submitted mind maps in a variety of categories; including business, analysis, management, education, entertainment, events, and productivity, just to name a few.
If you’ve created a mind map you think others may find useful, upload it to the Maps For That site so that other users of the service can share. Initially just sign up for a free account, you can download and upload mind maps, comment on other users’ mind maps, and rate the mind maps you find the most useful.
If your business uses smartphones or tablets as a way to communicate or work on projects, check out the mobile apps available from Mindjet. These apps allow you to create, edit, and view mind maps while you’re on the go or away from your computer. Available for the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices, these mobile apps can be downloaded free of charge directly to your smartphone or tablet.
If you haven’t started using mind mapping in your business, you may be missing out. Mind mapping can be used to create new business ideas, solve complex problems, and brainstorm with other team members — whether you’re in the office or on the go.
As I said at the start we all think and work differently, I enjoy mind mapping, let me know what you think.
Often after first drafting a speech or an article I look through and ask myself the question “what would my wife cut out of this?” Invariably its 60% or so of what I have written. My wife, I should add, is a successful author, journalist and historian and she can paint amazing mind images with such economy of words.
What I realise is that with discipline I can and do communicate well but I am not a natural. As I commence a story around the family dinner table the “children”, largely grown and successful now, groan and shout “make it quick or we are leaving” or “oh not that one again.”
Whilst not comparing myself (lol) with great communicators such as Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, John F Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Nelson Mandela and Paul Keating I do occasionally wonder how Sunday lunch went down at their house.
Peggy Noonan was presidential speechwriter for most of Ronald Reagan’s presidency and she explains why Reagan’s presidency had such an impact on the world stage.
“He was often moving, but he was moving not because of the way he said things, he was moving because of what he said. He didn’t say things in a big way; he said big things … Writers, reporters and historians were in a quandary in the Reagan years. ‘The People,’ as they put it, were obviously impressed by much of what Reagan said; this could not be completely dismissed.”
Reagan was known as “The Great Communicator”, yet it’s a nickname he didn’taltogether agree with. In his farewell address to the nation and to the world, in his own humble way, he redirected the praise by saying:
“In all of that time I won a nickname, ‘The Great Communicator.’ But I never thought it was my style or the words I used that made a difference: It was the content. I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and they didn’t spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation — from our experience, our wisdom, and our belief in principles that have guided us for two centuries.”
My take on this is that it doesn’t matter whether you are a president or a manager – your success will depend heavily on your communication skill.
What are the key actions of great communicators?
Communication is just that, it’s a two way flow of information. Great communicators know how to give and take and understand its importance. They not only initiate conversation, they steer the direction of and encourage others to join in the conversation.
Great communicators know that people won’t listen unless they connect both intellectually and emotionally. Know your audience and start by conveying emotional stories that connect to their heart. It’s all about the quality of the relationships the leader has with the people they communicate with.
I know several tough and very senior Australian business leaders who have met Bill Clinton on separate occasions both in Australia and in the US, each was impressed. In my post meeting discussions with them each said that when Bill Clinton talks with you, he makes you feel like you are the only person in the world. Wow. Show your listeners your empathy let them feel it and know you value their importance.
Great communicators are skilled in relaxing those with whom they communicate. An audience is often suspicious or defensive from over-communication and perhaps afraid of being “sold something”. Great communicators show genuine interest in the other person and use humour and authenticity to come across as understandable and authentic..
If you overwhelm your listeners, you will lose them, they will tune you out from boredom or confusion. Reagan was best known for being simple and clear. Never assume just because you understand what you’re saying that your audience does as well. Great communicators find ways to simplify though issues without being condescending.
Great communicators know that an audience will retain only ten percent of what they hear, and therefore they are skilled at subtly reinforcing key ideas. They re-run their message throughout their presentations, speeches and writings. It is all about context and repetition.
Well I reckon that given the chance “my editor” would have pulled 15% of this and yet I think we are communicating OK!
I have never really believed in New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps because as a child I constantly resolved to behave better the next year only to be involved in further mischief the first day school resumed.
Move forward many years and I find myself contemplating change and wondering how I can improve myself in 2014.
Along with many others I need to be more positive, to look at the stars again and see just how brimming with opportunity life is and yet without realising it we have a tendency to introduce negatives into our thoughts and everyday conversations and getting rid of some of these negatives is my resolution for 2014.
So what am I proposing?
Really big resolutions always fall by the wayside so let’s consider something smaller; eliminating the use of just four simple, yet negative words, from our everyday vocabulary. Hate, Cannot, Never and Impossible.
These words are rarely used in context, rarely make sense and rarely if ever contribute to anything positive.
Let’s look at the words individually and see what we think:
HATE: “A transitive verb; to dislike somebody or something intensely, often in a way that evokes feelings of anger, hostility, or animosity”
Now this is a very strong, negative and unpleasant word and one I would like to see disappear from use. If you are like me you probably don’t actually hate anything and yet this word creeps insidiously into conversation…”oh I hate the idea”…..”oh I hate Social Media”, “I hate this project”. Do you really?
Interestingly when reading or listening to stories of Holocaust or Kokoda Trail survivors they had most often realised that to survive and move on with life it was important not to hate their captors.
Most great achievements in history have followed periods of struggle and complexity and I am sure that at times Pythagoras was frustrated by his formulae but did he hate them?
Let’s change our thinking to “not sure I am in love with the idea but let’s think it through” or “I just don’t get Social Media!!”
We have still let our feelings show through but in a positive way.
CANNOT:“a model verb used to indicate that it is impossible for something to be done or made use of in a particular way”
In our everyday lives is there really anything that we cannot do? Accepting that we must abide by society’s rules, we are then able to do pretty much anything we put our minds to.
When you are next tempted to say “I cannot get this report finished in time” or “I cannot get to the gym today”, think of the Para-Olympics and the CAN-DO attitude in use and on display each and every day to do what many would say “Cannot” be done.
So often cannot is used where “don’t want to” or “it will be hard” should be used.
Let’s become a can do person. Let’s consider the task and look at the different ways it can be approached and remember. You CAN do it, you WILL do it and soon you HAVE done it!!
NEVER: “an adverb indicating that something will not happen at any time, or that somebody will definitely not do something.”
Never is not so aggressively negative and yet in real terms what does it mean? I always see never as never really arriving and therefore non-existent, but it slides quietly, and negatively into our conversations….”that will never work”….”we never do it that way”…….”she will never work out/fit in etc”.
What does this mean?
Just by saying never we are limiting our possibilities. We may for whatever reason not be able to do something this minute or this day but who knows what tomorrow or next week will bring.
Perhaps we should be thinking “how is that going to work?”……”can we do this another way”…..”how can we help her fit in”
Interestingly never can be turned around…..”I will never rest until I achieve this” but that’s a different story!
IMPOSSIBLE: “not able to exist or be done”
We never know what is “possible” until we really try. Quite often we achieve the “impossible” just because we didn’t know it was “impossible”…..yes think on that!
Imagine waking up from an accident to hear the surgeon say you will never walk again or never talk again. This is a situation faced by accident and stroke victims around the world and yet against all medical evidence people move forward and do the “impossible” they walk again, they talk again!
Let’s think of these people and take our lead from them, yes the task is tough, we don’t know how but we do know we can do it!
Every day in large and small ways someone, somewhere does “the impossible” and that is one of the enduring features of being human and being successful.
Christmas is a time that asks deep moral questions of us all. Questions like: can I skip Christmas this year? And what is the nog in “egg nog”?
But if you’re like me, there is one Christmas Query that supersedes all others. To wit: Am I an alcoholic? As an investor in the wine industry both here and in Europe my immediate answer is no, I should be drinking more.
It’s certainly a very tricky question to avoid, as you slalom from one Xmas binge to another office knees-up, via that festive seafood buffet party with your old wine buddies. And normally my answer to this seasonal puzzler is:- Yes, of course I am a bloody alcoholic, have you tried that new Tim Adams shiraz?
Because it’s true. I drink a bottle of red a day – or more. This means I am probably going to die at 38; which is quite concerning, as I am already …….hmm a little bit (blush from lies, fingers crossed) older than this.
However, in this season of all seasons, I have good news for me. I’ve been reading a book called Daily Rituals, which describes the work regimes (and drink and drug regimes) of some of the most accomplished people in history. And it turns out half of them are – or were – total soaks. And when they weren’t downwind of a gallon of Macallan by elevenses they were doped, kinky, or mad, as well.
Here’s an aperitif. For W H Auden, the famed English poet, the day started with a dose of Benzedrine; that is to say: speed. He then fuelled himself to work with coffee and cigarettes, before starting on the martinis at 6, following on with litres of vino, then popping a Seconal (a downer) at about 11, so he could sleep. Fitfully.
The painter Francis Bacon would have laughed at Auden’s puritan sobriety. He commenced work at the crack of dawn (and he worked hard) but by 11am he was ready to “socialise”. First a friend came over to splice a bottle of wine. Then he repaired to a Soho restaurant for a long boozy lunch, drank through the afternoon, before dining out, going to a nightclub, necking some more wine, moving onto spirits, then visiting a casino, then having another liquor-fuelled meal at a bistro, then popping some sleepers to help him snore away the grog.
It is reliably estimated Francis Bacon drank six bottles of wine a day. He also died at the age of 83, and created some of the most wonderful and valuable paintings in history.
What do you do to ensure that the business meet you organized doesn’t fizzle out?
As a top entrepreneur in the lead, you must take the initiative to arrange business meets to connect with others. But that isn’t all; you need to create an event that people enjoy. Not something they dread!
If you create a platform where entrepreneurs share their thoughts, views, opinions and crises. It helps you earn the trust and respect of your fellow entrepreneurs. And it boosts that collegiate feeling. You just need to make it a success. But it is easier said than done.
Let’s take a look at 10 simple but effective things that can help you achieve your goal.
Take Your Time to Plan Every Detail
You cannot wait until the last minute to send out the invites and think everyone will turn up. Decide the time and date, select the venue and inform the business meet group members about it in advance. They have to fit it into their busy schedules too.
Check Every Important Aspect In Advance
How will you feel if the audio doesn’t work when someone’s making a presentation? Reach the venue and double check every detail. Make sure the space is adequate for all and the audio-visual equipment works.
Make It An Exclusive Event
Identify the niche you are in and create a group with a strong focus on the core concept. When you make it an invite-only event, you generate interest about it among the entrepreneurs in the niche to participate. This also encourages the aspirants to be part of the community.
Make Introductions Easy With Name Tags
It isn’t easy to remember the names of hundreds of entrepreneurs at an event. Create name tags. It will make introductions a breeze! You can also add their business name and relevant details to it.
Adhere To Your Goals to Meet Expectations
As an organizer, you need to have a clear idea about what the meet is all about. Make sure this is in keeping with the image of your business. For example, if you are into apps development for educational institutes, educational meets are more suited. Plan the meet according to the purpose.
Organize Topics to Keep Everyone Engaged
What do you want people to talk about? Decide the things you want to interest people in at the meet. Use the topics to initiate conversations. You can also throw in some challenges to keep things in motion.
Offer Exposure for Start-ups
You may also incorporate talks, events, quizzes and such other elements into the business meet. But when you let a start-up offer a demo at the meet, you add to its interest. It supplies food for thought for the entrepreneurs present and gives them an excellent topic of discussion.
Give Conversations a Direction
Don’t let the conversation die down. Place your contacts at opportune points to keep it going. With this simple tactic, you will create an environment where people learn new things without a hitch.
A business meet is all about the relations entrepreneurs create. And the community they build. It is possible to boost entrepreneurial efforts when people have the support of their peers. Don’t just keep it professional. Let entrepreneurs connect with each other on a personal level. Social hangouts can help you with this.
Keep It Confidential
No entrepreneur will open up unless they are sure that their secret’s safe with the attendees. This is possible only when you assure that it remains within the group. Open and frank discussions will be possible only if you do this.
It isn’t difficult if you are aware of how to keep things in motion at the meet.
With a little planning and effort, it is possible to organize a business meet where the group members can share their stories, offer others positive challenges, help others get back on track and create a strong community.
And what do you get out of it? Well, you become the proud organizer of a business meet that isn’t another monotonous hour of long conversations between people who don’t even connect with each other. But something that gives everyone their fair share of exposure in the community and ample food for thought.
Procrastinate, Procrastinate, Procrastinate! Spoken aloud and with the correct intonation this little mantra sounds remarkably similar to the Daleks famous Exterminate, Exterminate and believe me Procrastination can lead to SME Extermination!
Procrastination is a problem for the sufferer, it’s a problem for the SME and it’s a deal breaker for cohesive team work and yet it is a common problem in businesses of all sizes.
Some weeks ago I was surprised when reading an article in Psychology Today, to find it claimed that around 20 percent of people chronically avoid putting their heads down and getting on with the job. In fact they actively look for distractions!
That seemed a little excessive until I looked at my own behaviour and that of our team. I realised that we all occasionally put off certain actions despite our valuing efficiency, team work and “multitasking” as much as we do. The big question is, why?
We all procrastinate from time to time. Sometimes it’s those mundane things – like reconfiguring our computer files, reconciling bank accounts, or fixing up a dated web site. But often we procrastinate on bigger things that require more time, more commitment, and put us at more risk of failing, looking foolish or feeling emotionally bruised. Things like updating our business plan, confronting a complex new task that threatens us, or not pursuing a long held ambition.
It appears procrastinators are not born as procrastinators; rather we are trained to some extent from birth. That’s the general consensus of psychological research into the art of procrastinating. One increasingly popular theory is that procrastination has its roots in childhood, where it functioned as a means of early of rebellion against authority figures or as apathy in the presence of a strong parental pressure to perform.
Doctor Joseph Ferrari, associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago, suggests that there are three types of procrastinators in the world:
The arousal types, who get a thrill from rushing through projects at the last minute, whether they come out on top or not.
The avoiders, who don’t want to get to the end of any given project because the fear of change keeps them paralysed.
The decisional procrastinators, who simply cannot make any decisive choices because they can’t bear the results of their actions.
I found it interesting that these three types of procrastinators apparently use multiple “tools” to help them procrastinate whilst still appearing to function. Understanding which type of procrastinator an employee is and recognizing which of the following methods they use to procrastinate will help you to work with them and hopefully overcome the problem.
As with most management issues, understanding the cause is 90% of the solution and there is much we can do to help the procrastinator overcome their problem.
Let’s look at the common causes:
We don’t always have to do things exceptionally well, often “good enough” is quite enough. The ingrained desire to get everything 100% correct every time can lead to a paralysing fear of failure and multiple revisions that just waste time. A phrase which springs to mind is “analysis paralysis”.
As John Henry Newman, Anglican Deacon and author, once said, “A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault.”
Fear of Failure
Fear of failure is a major factor for some. Failure can be seen as having far-reaching implications. For some it’s how they perceive themselves and how they think they are perceived by others.
On the other hand, if this same person breaks all records, they fear all future projects will be held to a much higher standard. Some people are willing to do anything, including nothing, in order to avoid being taken out of their comfort zone.
If a project is complex, the individual steps may seem endless! Instead of seeing individual steps and taking them, the procrastinator thinks they can see all the steps that lead to completion but has no idea which one to take.
If someone is overwhelmed by targets (either the ones they’ve set for themself or the ones they’ve been given by others), they may find themself feeling unable to disassemble tasks into constituent components. As a result they simply don’t know where to start.
This feeling of helplessness usually feeds upon itself until it eats away at their resolve, making workplace distractions a welcome escape. This leads to a loss of focus and thus motivation.
One method of overcoming this form of procrastination is to create an action list that’s prioritised and reduces a complex project into smaller, more achievable steps.
What do you if someone simply can’t prioritise? Chances are they will spend hours working on non-essential tasks and fooling themselves into thinking that everything is okay.
Unlike those who get overwhelmed, those who can’t prioritise correctly don’t see anything wrong. These are the people that spend an hour deciding which font to use on the quarterly report but don’t leave time to get the actual writing done.
One symptom of this type of procrastination is filling hours with “activity” rather than “action”. Often the excuse of being “flat out” is used, when really, this is just another form of procrastination.
As with the overwhelmed procrastinator the method of overcoming this form of procrastination is to create an action list that’s prioritised and reduces a complex project into smaller, more achievable steps.
Lying to Cover
Procrastinators are constantly lying to themselves. They lie to justify their failures (“Oh the System was down”). They lie to justify their successes (“Oh Fred did most of the work”). They lie to justify their justifications (“I’m sorry about the inventory debacle; it’s the warehouse, they screwed up again”).
Some procrastinators just don’t know how to not lie. Learning responsibility is the key to beating back the lies and overcoming procrastination. Help them take ownership and live up to their actions.
Lack of Motivation
Goals have to be worthwhile and achievable or managers and staff are probably going to give up on them. If the task isn’t interesting enough, intellectually satisfying enough or it’s simply dull, a procrastinator’s passion for the task is going to evaporate and they’ll find themselves looking for ways to occupy their minds. Suddenly the sun pouring in through the window becomes an irresistible magnet and they find themselves offering to head out and buy coffees for the team.
If you find this happening a lot, restructure the tasks so that they excite or add a personal reward to the end of every project. For example show real appreciation and praise if you get the monthly finance report on your desk by mid-day.
In a properly functioning and caring work environment management and or team members would ideally recognise the indications of procrastination and work together to break the cycle.
If as suggested procrastination is learned, then with help it can be unlearned. By looking out for and identifying procrastination as it’s happening, you can discreetly help by restructuring work habits, adding motivation and removing distractions.
I am convinced that a simple solution lies in planning and time management. Personally I always work from a rolling weekly task list and each day I write down the 3 things that I absolutely must do that day. This keeps me on the straight and narrow when my mind starts to wander.
Procrastination costs SME’s a good deal in lost productivity and we should work to fix it but don’t expect overnight success. Lifelong habits are difficult to overcome and take time but the first step is always a hard yet positive move.
As Dr Ferrari says in his book “Still Procrastinating: The No Regrets Guide to Getting Things Done”, “Eliminating procrastination from our lives is like trying to stop a moving train; it’s not easy.”
Now avoid moving trains and….do it quickly, don’t procrastinate!
Early in my career it was noted that “I didn’t suffer fools gladly”. At the time I took it as a compliment as I couldn’t understand why some of the people in the organisation just couldn’t grasp the problem, yet alone see the solution and fix it. Clearly they were fools!
As I travelled around the organisation from city to city reviewing performance I was unbeknown to me leaving a trail of emotional disaster and disharmony. One day the CEO sat down in my office and declared that if he could lock me in that room, push problems under the door and wait for me to push the solutions back out some time later, we could change the world. Yes this was the pre computer age and I had to change.
Whilst I had grasped problem solving I had little idea of or interest in the team. I was just so absorbed with problems and their solutions.
I am now much better, though still not good, at team work but I have recognised that a good team is both high performing and exciting to work in. Results flow from great teams.
Cerebral loneliness is a very real problem, I need the companionship of strong thinkers to challenge and spark my own mind. Brilliant ideas are rarely born in isolation, and successful projects stem from a strong, collective team. Without the spark of companionable challenge I find I can become almost self-destructive in my thinking.
In other words, to do great work, you must surround yourself with great people.
It’s an interesting exercise to define what this means for the type of thinkers you want on your team. I find that my best work comes from interaction with people who think differently than I do – and differently from each other. A diversity of mental profiles yields the richest results. Here are six personality types I would have on my dream team.
1. The dreamer: This person never ceases imagining what’s not, what’s next and what’s possible. They think big and hopefully, stretching the bounds of what is considered achievable. They never stop asking, “what if?’ and supply your team with an electric and optimistic creative energy.
2. The debater: Debaters question your assumptions, call out your leap of faith logic and point out the flaws in the plan. They see problems long before others, and they keep everyone grounded and prepared. Their questioning nature forces you to strengthen the rigor of your arguments.
3. The disruptor: The disruptor challenges the status quo and breaks others out of their mental ruts and insular perspective by bringing fresh and far-ranging perspective. My favourite disruptors are intellectually curious, lateral thinkers who are first to spot latent competitors and untapped opportunities in the market.
4. The driver: Drivers are natural leaders, bringing a crusading, concentrated vision to all work and supplying forward momentum when everyone else is losing steam or motivation. They are positively relentless in pursuing an idea, galvanizing political support for it and keeping it on track. They can be fantastic advocates for the customer, and at times hard drivers keeping the team focused on the problem you’re here to solve.
5. The detailer: This type digs into every facet of a project. Detailers focus on practicalities and save everyone else from silly mistakes and fatal design flaws because they think through all the angles and implications. They identify what’s missing in even the best-laid plans and can diagnose the precise point when something could break or be improved.
6. The doer: The doer is the wonderfully resourceful team member who gets stuff done, no matter what. Doers roll up their sleeves and find the practical solutions to delivering products services and “what-nots” on time and on budget. They are great colleagues to those who devise the grand strategy because they get it delivered on time, all the time.
Do you recognise your team members here or see gaps in your own team? Do you think of attributes that I may have missed. Let me know or post your comments below.
Why be so negative?…….well let’s use Paradise as a metaphor.
Because It Rains in Paradise…….!!!!!!
Come along take a short ride on this little thought wave, let’s see Paradise as a metaphor for a well-run business, a prosperous and growing concern and let’s see the rain as a metaphor for an approaching economic storm.
How well protected are we in terms of our ability to weather the storm? We have our business plans to hand but they make no mention of a storm. Have you been through a storm before? What changes? How do we survive? How bad will be storm be? Can we rebuild post storm?
So many questions and yet so far so few real life answers.
Breath deeply, let us relax together and read a little story……….
At times business can appear a lot like paradise, it’s a great place to be, and everyone wants to be there to enjoy life with you, to know you and to bask in your reflected success. You are the visionary, the hard working, creative, entrepreneurial brain who made this all possible, your adrenaline flows, your energy and ideas come together, your staff are happy, motivated and successful, they respect you, the cash flows in, you drive a nice car, dress well, you eat at the best restaurants, you fly at the front of the plane, you speak at conferences, and…….ahhhh you sit back, relax and you reflect on just how good your life is.
One day, a small cloud passes between you and the sun, sending a slight shiver through you, but it quickly passes. Utilizing your latest smart devices you send a few more ideas, instructions, queries, emails and more pictures of Paradise to your office, you check your bank balances, transfer a few funds here and there and it’s not yet lunch time.
The sun still shines but the palm leaves rustle again this time with an unsettling sound and in the distance the ocean appears darker, are those clouds, building in the far distance or a trick of light on the horizon?
Far, far away from Paradise and way over the horizon is The Land of Plunder (LOP). A terrible, bleak, dark miserable environment that draws the humanity, skill, resourcefulness and entrepreneurial spirit out of you like a black hole draws energy from its surrounding universe…..no profit, not even a scrap, ever escapes its clutches.
Populated almost entirely by wise and educated sages such as investment bankers, credit providers, speculators, derivative traders, stock brokers, securitization specialists, short sellers, long sellers, fund managers, promoters, actuaries, lenders, accountants, auditors, receivers, managers, liquidators, lawyers, barristers, regulators, and their shiny suited minions oh it’s a soulless place to exist yet alone to live.
The problem is that in the Land of Plunder no one actually makes, grows, manufactures, produces or sells anything. Nothing. Not a single thingamajig or even a widget. Not a single truly commercial activity in the whole land. Yet its population consumes the funds made in Paradise, it lives to play games with those funds converting them into concepts and instruments called spreads, market sectors, cash, gold, minerals, fuel, pork bellies, red bean futures, long and short positions, options, shares, derivatives, differentials, margins, rates of interest, rates of exchange, incremental ROI, leveraged positions, contingent assets and equally contingent liabilities. Perhaps the favourite game of all, played only by the most knowledgeable of sages, is the interpretation and discussion of meanings…..net, gross, before, after, on or off the balance sheet, earnings brought forward, deferred debt, provision for, contingent, or not and most importantly the holy grail itself………THE BONUS.
That night as you lay back in your king size bed, sipping a final glass of Comte de Taittinger, the wind rises and the palm leaves rustle, indeed as the tree trunks bend under the increasing force of the wind you get to thinking about The Land of Plunder. Who actually pays them and what for? What happens historically? Doesn’t the LOP like totally fuck up at least once every generation? And what happens when they do? Could it damage your business? What could you do to protect your business and the thousands like yours?
Another perfect day in Paradise dawns and already your CFO has confirmed that your cash registers are still singing caa-ching, your revenues are up, your staff are motivated, your customers are happy, your suppliers are on time and on budget and your R&D team is about to make yet another technological breakthrough and yet that lingering fear niggles away at you. How would I get by if the LOP was to get it all wrong?
Much of your new day is given over to this dreadful thought, and with the help of your laptop you reflect on history’s greatest LOP fuck ups. Dating from the Roman Emperor Diocletian’s disaster in the fourth century to those wicked Medici’s and their Pazzi Conspiracy and the subsequent Banking collapse of the fifteenth century, to the collapse of the Spanish economy in the mid sixteenth century….oh how could the wise sages have got the gold price so wrong? Of course no one within the LOP’s Dutch branch could have imagined that one day a Tulip Bulb would be worth less than its weight in gold but alas it came about. All of this further distresses you.
You of course realise that in the eighteenth century the sages came up with a brilliant plan, they sold the South Seas Company the exclusive rights to trade with and to import gold and other untold riches from South America. Sadly the sages didn’t actually clear this with the owners of South America, (Spain) or even mention it in the prospectus, small oversights they later realised and thus came about the South Sea Bubble. To date this is still history’s largest corporate collapse. Those damned Spaniards just didn’t play Cricket, did they, the sages were heard to mumble.
Racing forward, you find we have the sages of the LOP, engineering a convenient double act, in the Railroad and Silver collapse in nineteenth century America. Again the sages were ever so slightly wrong. More rail road carriages and rail roads were built than there were people and stock to travel on them. Some railroads went to towns and cities yet to be built. Proving that a double act was possible, the sages funded one or two, or was it ten or twenty, US silver mines to be opened on virtually the same day and surprise, surprise, the silver price fell through the floor. The US economy plunged into recession, jobs lost, families homeless, Railroad stocks crashed and companies failed but God Bless the sages……they still had their fees.
Still good hardworking entrepreneurs just like you were soon back at work in Paradise building their businesses, making and selling thingummy bits, widgets and the many whatnots needed by the people of Paradise. The sages were so impressed they decided to buy shares in these solid enterprises and trade them at a profit in LOP, whilst of course charging fees and profitably clipping tickets along the way.
Alas the shares were oversold and overpriced and in 1929 the entire global monetary system collapsed causing the worst depression, loss of jobs, homelessness, self-respect and starvation the world has ever known. In fairness some of the sages did feel quite bad about this and threw themselves out of their Towers of Babel to the pavement below. Though not many; and for the few that fell it was often as close to reality and real people as they ever came. One could go on and on mentioning the sages doing so well out of the provision of two glorious sessions of twentieth century global war debt, the Credit Squeeze of the early ’70s, the stock market collapse of 1987, the Banking Crisis of the early 1990’s and that monumental fuck up of 2008, but by now you really need a drink;
More importantly you need to recognise a the pattern, call in some real people and plan!
Please lets us know your thoughts, ideas and feedback. Contribute to this debate is both free and important to do so!
Post your thoughts below and………………….give some bark to your thinking!!!