A-Head for Success

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The Problem with Black and White Thinking (2 minutes to read)

Black and white thinkingBlack and white thinking (also known as all or nothing thinking) can be really useful when you need a quick decision which has an absolute answer:  something is right or wrong, good or bad.  A decimal point in the wrong place can have a huge impact, even though the mistake itself is small.  “I nearly got it right” won’t hack it with the bank manager.  Someone coming at you with a knife?  Bad, and a clear signal to cut and run – no time to wonder at their intentions.  So, black and white thinking can be helpful.

But not often.  What it doesn’t allow for are the shades of grey in between.  It polarises thinking and is often a factor in

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7 Strategies for Dealing with Overwhelm (time to read 3m)

Overwhelm StrategiesWhether overwhelm is a constant feature of your life or something which you experience from time to time, the following can help you overcome it.

These strategies came from working with a client of mine who was so overwhelmed that he was in danger of imploding.  He was managing a team of people in the service industry and just felt bombarded by demands on his time from employees, customers, his bosses, suppliers, his email and he was a slave to his smartphone.  He had become ineffective and irritable and, not only was he suffering from insomnia but he was also eating and drinking too much.

These are the strategies which bought his life back into balance which I hope will help you too:

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5 Keys to 2017 Being Your Best Year EVER (2.5 mins to read)

2017 Best year yetMost people want each new year to be their best.  But with much less stress.   And more fun.  And bigger results.  If possible.  So, is it really possible?  If we accept that we can only control the controllable and take response-ability for our results in a focussed way, I would say a resounding ‘yes’.  But too often we give our power away to outside forces.  So, the following keys will help you take charge and make it happen:

  1. Get clarity

Become clear on what you want to achieve (your vision and goals) and why.  The why is your motivation which carries you through the tough times so it needs to be big enough to do that.  It makes all the difference between achievement and enrichment – two concepts which are not mutually exclusive unless you make them so.  Clarity enables you to say ‘no’ to those things which are not ‘on-purpose’ so it frees up more time for you to do what’s needed to fulfil your goals.

Clarity around how you are going to achieve it is next.  When you break things down into your priorities, the next step is easier to take.  And the one after that.  And the one after that.

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Signs you may be close to burnout

BurnoutBurnout is that state you get to when you are so stressed and exhausted that you are no longer able to function.  At it’s extreme level, you won’t even be able to work at all.   You could argue that high performers and perfectionists are more at risk than most.  Why?  Because they power through and ignore signals that show they are at risk.  The problem is that the more you power through, the more at risk you become until you shut down completely.  Like your body has had enough and decides that if you are going to ignore its needs, it will just stop working so you can’t ignore it any more.

So, what are the warning signs?  Everybody is different but the following are a few:

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10 Traits of Successful People

10 Traits of Successful People10 Traits of Successful People

You could argue that most people want to achieve more success with less stress.  Whether you feel your efforts are yet to be rewarded with results or your success has come at too high a price, there are factors which characterise those who have a positive success formula.  Though of course it will vary from person to person, there are common themes:

  1. Clarity

The very first component for success is to have clarity of purpose, mission and goals and to keep these in sight.  When you have this kind of clarity, all your efforts are focused in the right direction – so you spend much less time readjusting, backtracking and regretting.

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Emotional Intelligence – Your Secret Weapon

Emotional IntelligenceI was interviewed for a leadership program on the subject of emotional intelligence this week.  I call it your secret weapon because it is said to account for 80% of your success.  You might be surprised to learn that intellect, though important too, actually only accounts for 20%.  It is your ability to handle yourself which is what makes the biggest difference and this is what emotional intelligence is about.  And the good news is that it helps you in your work and in your personal life too.

The downside of it is that you need to have it to know whether you have it!

There are four main elements to emotional intelligence (or EQ as it is also known):

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Influence and Manipulation – What’s the Difference?

How to InfluenceWhen they first start to work with me, some of my clients don’t like the idea of learning how to influence because they see it as the same as manipulation.  But there is a significant difference.  One that sets the influencer apart, builds trust and is a significant factor in helping you achieve your goals in life and in your business.

What is Influencing?

Influencing is the ability to have people buy into you, your idea, your business.  It can smooth relationships so that they are more collaborative and harmonious, even in times of challenge.  It requires the ability to understand the motivations of the other person, their hopes and fears, as well their objectives.  This knowledge, through skilful influencing can help you achieve your own objectives with greater ease.

What is Manipulation?

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The Dangers When Motivation Blurs Perspective

Denial or TruthI usually write about performance, productivity and stress-resilience.  This article will cover the thorny subject of Denial which is a cousin to each of those.

The political turmoil at the moment has been cursed with so many twists and turns, accusations, affirmations and resignations that is has been hard to keep up.  At a time of deep unrest, what has been needed is an honest and unbiased assessment of the situation so that stability and a clear way forward can be restored.

This is true in business too – and in our personal lives for that matter.  In an excellent TED Talk, Julia Galef introduced the subject of Motivated Reasoning which she labels The Soldier Mindset.  In this, an individual will be motivated to defend their ideas, or attack the ideas of opponents.  Why shouldn’t we do that?  Because in blindly doing so, we don’t get an accurate picture of reality, we so doggedly stick to our position, that may take us down a path that results in regret, failure, or even disaster.

As an example, last week The Chilcot Enquiry concluded that the Iraq invasion was illegal, resulting in many needless deaths.   Tony Blair insisted he was not at fault, despite all the evidence to the contrary.  It would seem that his motivation was to forge strong links with the US, saying “I will be with you whatever.”  And so, he was.

Professor of Criminology, David Wilson, has called him ‘deluded’ and much worse*.  Whatever your thoughts on the subject of politics, the inability to see things in their true perspective can have devastating consequences.  Denial is a coping strategy to block out the uncomfortable truth.  In the case of Blair, he downplayed his actions to make them palatable to the wider world.  I think we all have a tendency to do that, but the consequences can be detrimental.

So what is the solution?

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Which Stress Personality Are You?

Stress is a very personal thing.  What might be stressful to one person, can be motivational and energising to another and comforting to yet someone else.

Yes, stress is very subjective.  However, most people would agree that stress concerns how we perceive the demands which we face in life.  If we don’t feel up to the challenges, or aren’t motivated by them, they will be stressful and draining.  In the short-term this can affect performance and teamwork.  In the long-term it can affect health and profit.

An opposite of stress is flow – when you are energised, work seems easy, you are able to give fully of yourself and time goes quickly.  You are in your flow when you do something you like and which comes naturally to you.  How you can enjoy more flow will depend on your profile – a subject which we will be addressing in this article.  Another opposite of stress is boredom.  And in many ways, this is simply another form of stress.  So the first thing to do to overcome stress and enjoy more flow is to understand yourself better so that there is less boredom, less tension and more playing to your strengths.

I use a variety of psychometric tools and one of them is called Talent Dynamics.  This is a simple tool which helps you to understand yourself more fully so that you experience less stress and more flow.

It suggests four main profiles.  I will share the main characteristics of each, as well as how each will experience stress and, at the same time, how each causes stress to others.  I will finish with a few pointers on how to deal with that particular profile. It is a longer article than usual, so get yourself a coffee and enjoy.  Even if you don’t identify with a particular profile, it provides insights into people who might be causing you stress, so it’s worth the 10 minutes it takes to read it.

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How much is stress costing you?

Employee Wellness

Stress and Wellness – Priceless?

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development have published research which shows that if you are not actively managing employee wellbeing, it is likely to cost you £554 per employee per year in sickness absence alone.  But what is the cost of stressed out employees who do turn up day in and day out?  And what is the cost if you run your own business?

Pressure on performance

With most people working longer hours than they ever have before, chasing tougher targets and meeting tighter deadlines, the continued stress levels affect not only the wellbeing of the individual, but can significantly impact teamwork, performance, productivity, customer service levels and, of course, the bottom line.  It also means that managers are spending much more time managing performance than they are managing the business.

Is ignorance bliss?

Ignoring the problem does not make it go away.  If anything, it makes it worse.  One way or another, your business will pay the price.  And stress does not isolate neatly around the individual – it can put pressure on others who have to pick up the pieces.

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