A-Head for Success

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Why is Feedback so Stressful?

It is Ken Blanchard who said that feedback is the breakfast of champions.  But it always seems so stressful.  Whether you’re giving it or receiving it, few people are comfortable around it.  It has got to the point where organisations are questioning the validity of appraisals and one company, GE, are calling feedback Insights so people feel less antsy about it.  Why?

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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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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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Enjoying More Flow – The Tempo

Enjoying More Flow - The Tempo

Welcome to the third in the series of how to enjoy more flow in your day to day life.  What does this mean?  When you are in your flow, you are motivated, energised, you are productive and everything seems easy to you.  The key to enjoying this is to play to your strengths as much as you possibly can.

One way of understanding your strengths is to have a profile done.  Talent Dynamics is one of several that I use and it has four main types.  Today we will look at the third type – what is called The Tempo.  But it isn’t the name that’s important, it’s the characteristics.

Of course at work it is rarely possible to have a job which only plays to your strengths.  In reality, most people find that there are parts of their job that fits you so perfectly.  It is far more likely that there are elements of your job that you dread, that may take a lot of mental energy and that take you longer to do than you think it should.  But by doing a job which plays mostly to your strengths, and managing your time so your day is not affected too much by the other tasks, you will notice your productivity increases.

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What’s the Difference Between a Coach, a Mentor and a Consultant?

The difference between a coach and a mentor

They say that all the best people get support to get them to the top and to keep them there.  It is a sign of vision, strength, and drive to want to take your performance and productivity seriously enough to invest in yourself and your business in this way.  But how do you know what kind of support you need? 

I am often asked the difference between a coach, a mentor and a consultant.  As I use a blend of these techniques when I work with my clients, I thought I would share them with you.  Whereas there is a lot of overlap, the following is my interpretation of the differences:

What is a Coach?

Coaching assumes that you have all of the answers within you and a good coach will ask questions to elicit from you the answers you seek.  They may challenge you, uncover blind-spots and develop perspective.  You can expect to learn more about yourself and develop insights you would struggle to achieve on your own. 

A coach does not need to have more experience than you in your field of expertise as they will not provide advice.  What they will do is help you make decisions and move forwards towards a specific goal in a way which empowers you.  You may be encouraged to evaluate the options available to you prior to making a decision yourself.

Coaching tends to revolve around a particular task, goal or skill to be achieved.  Examples would be leadership skills, presentation skills, productivity.

The coach will hold you accountable and the focus is on skills development and productivity.

What is a Mentor?

A mentor, by comparison, is someone who has more experience than you in a field of expertise you wish to become more skilled at.  They will be someone to whom you will ask advice on a particular subject.

A mentor will offer more guidance and will be a sounding board for any problems.  They are a person you will turn to when things go wrong for encouragement and a listening ear.

Essentially, they will be someone you feel safe with and be able to confide in.

Mentoring is much more relationship-driven without a specific goal in mind and so tends to be long-term.  The mentor will tend to consider you in the context of your work and your personal life.

The focus is on personal development.

What is a Consultant?

A consultant has specialist expertise and will look at a problem, usually on a more systemic level.  They will do research and analysis and provide recommendations for its resolution.

The focus is on solving a specific business problem which may involve several people or departments within your organisation.

The consultant may be asked to manage the implementation of the solution for you.

The focus is on problem-solving.

In Summary

If you want to achieve a specific goal and to develop your skills, coaching is for you.  If you need support and a sounding-board and personal development, then mentoring is for you.  If you want to find the solution to a problem with an expert, then consulting is for you.  My clients like the fact that I can offer support in a way which is right for them in that moment.  Sometimes it is to offload, sometimes it is to provide an answer to a complicated problem and sometimes it is to discover skills you didn’t know you had.

If you would like to find out what would be appropriate for you, why not call me on 0845 130 08540845 130 0854 for a free telephone consultation?

© Tricia Woolfrey 2014

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A-Z of Business: Z- ZEN – Can Mindfulness be Profitable?

Mindfulness in Business

When I started out in business in 1998, success to me was the achievement of a particular goal, be it profit-related, the completion of a project or the acceptance of an idea.  And while these are true, they are concerned with the what of success, not the how

Over the years, I have studied many psychological and business-school concepts.  And what is missing for most people is the application of zen principles to business.

For the purpose of this article, the term zen can be considered as the mindful engagement with your work and operation of your business (or your job if you work for someone else).  This means being purpose-ful about what you are doing and why, from a macro perspective and a micro perspective.

So, to begin with, why do you do what you do?  What purpose does your business (or job) fulfil?  I am reminded of an old parable about a man who visited a city many hundreds of years ago.  He came across two men labouring under the noonday sun.  He asked the first what he is doing “Oh, I am just doing some labouring.  It is hard work and I will not be finished for hours.”  He asked the same question to the second man who responded “I am helping to build a cathedral”.  This story beautifully describes the purpose of their work.   One saw it is a job, a means to an end, something he had to endure each day.  The second man saw it as a vocation and put his heart and soul into each stone he laid.  Which man was likely to have been more productive?  Which man happier?  Which would have inspired others?  And which went home with a sense of achievement?

Are you clear about what your business is there to achieve in terms of a higher purpose?  If you are in business purely for money, as a lot of people are, what is the higher purpose that money is there to achieve?  For example, let’s take a cleaning company.  Not the most glamorous of businesses and fraught with day to day problems.  It would be easy to get bogged down in the nitty gritty of the issues around difficult customers and unreliable staff.  So, what is the higher purpose?  This would be personal to everybody but it may be to provide a beautiful environment for your clients to live or work.  Or it may be to provide work and career opportunities for employees who have had difficulty holding down a job in the past.  Or, if you really have no passion for the work at all, it may be to provide a good education for your children so that they can be free to make more fulfilling career and life choices for themselves.

When you have an over-riding purpose, it can carry you through the most challenging of times.  It can pull you out of the mire of the day to day and into a higher, more creative, more empowered mindset.  Which is likely to create more profit for you?

At a micro level, it is about being purpose-ful in the moment.  This means applying yourself 100% to whatever it is you are doing, fully absorbed.  The ability to multi-task is seen as a skill and even a virtue.  It is something I have been proud to call a skill.  And it is.  But it is also a weakness.  I noticed myself yesterday doing something and then stopping it to start something else and then interrupting myself doing that to do yet something else.  I realised that I have become so “skilled” at multi-tasking and responding to requests and interruptions that I now interrupt myself!  So I have to remind myself and, when I do, there is a flow to my work.  A peacefulness, a quiet productivity which is enriching and rewarding.  Of course there are times when I have to multi-task and over the years of my career I have had to do this thousands of times, shifting gear at a moment’s notice, which is why it is a difficult habit to break.  However, the effort of stopping and starting and stopping and starting again reduces productivity and increases stress.  It is important to be able to do it but not to make it a way of life.

True multi-tasking is a myth as usually you are simply stopping and starting, picking up and putting down.  I recently saw a cartoon about women being great multi-taskers.  It showed a woman flying through the air with a duster in one hand to clean the ceilings and pushing a vacuum with the other to clean the floors.  But in reality it is really very difficult to apply yourself fully to more than one task at once.  Sure you can wait on the phone for someone to pick up while you file something away but in reality, you are almost always only doing one thing at once.  Doing that one thing with a sense of purpose can bring a richness to the most mundane of tasks.  Most people hate filing but if you do your filing with an intention to create order in your environment this can transform the experience and it can even feel meditative.  In addition, thinking about the piece of work that paper represents with an attitude of gratitude and appreciation can be equally rewarding.  Certainly better than attacking the filing with a feeling of resentment and obligation.

So, the concept of applying yourself 100% to whatever you are doing in the moment, thinking about the purpose of that task, brings with it a higher level of clarity and productivity, a calmer demeanour and a much nicer person to take home to the family!  This brings with it greater financial profit but also an intrinsic profit which is priceless.

And last, but by no means least remember the principles of karma – that you reap what you sow.  So, be kind in your interactions and you will be richly rewarded with deeper and more trusting relationships as well as greater loyalty with your associates, your employees and your clients.

If you would like to learn more about how mindfulness can enhance your productivity and your profits, call me on 0845 130 0854.

On this note we end my A-Z of Business blogs, which I hope have been productive for you. As we enter the new year, I hope that your 2014 business plans are clear – your company goals, business values, products and USP…and that you feel personally prepared to take on the year ahead, manage your time effectively, serve your customers and motivate your staff. For any additional support, do contact me at tricia@pw-consulting.co.uk. I wish you a very happy new year and a successful 2014!
 

 

© Tricia Woolfrey 2014

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: Y – YOU – Are you the Problem or the Solution?

You and your business

 

Whether you are in business for yourself or working for others, it is natural in times of success to take credit for it.  But it’s tempting to blame external factors (other people, customers, the economy, market forces, etc) when things go wrong.

However, to do so is no help at all except that it massages a fragile ego.  You are still stuck.  The mark of a successful business-person is one who looks to themselves in times of challenge.  In this way, they retain control rather give away their power to outside forces.  To avoid looking to what you could do differently is to be a victim, powerless to make changes.  In this competitive world, it is unsustainable.  The power is in the ability to evolve.

All it takes is a different perspective.  Look to yourself for the solution and ask yourself the right questions:

  1. What factors have contributed to this problem?
  2. In what way(s) have I contributed to this problem?
  3. Where did I take my eye off the ball?
  4. What didn’t I do which I should have done?
  5. What did I do which I shouldn’t have done?
  6. What didn’t I do which I could have done?
  7. What steps can I take now which can remedy the situation?
  8. What steps can I take to avoid this happening in the future?
  9. Is this part of a bigger pattern?
  10. What else can I learn from this?

By putting yourself “at cause”, you take control, you evolve and you build a more robust business.  It takes courage, insight and humility.  Do you have what it takes?

It can be difficult doing this for yourself and this is where a good coach/mentor can really help.  Why not book a session now?  Call me on 0845 130 0854 to find out more.  You’ll be glad you did!

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: W: Weaknesses – You are only as strong as your weakest link

Weakness

We are all made up of strengths and weaknesses, undiscovered potential and blind spots.  Your best strategy for success is to exploit your strengths, uncover hidden skills (we all have them), open your eyes to your blind spots (we all have those too) and start working on these – and your weaknesses – to make sure they do not become your derailers. 

Your biggest enemy in addressing any limitations is denial.  If you want to have success, your best friend is your willingness to be open to discovering weaknesses and to work on them.

As the title of this article suggests – you are only as strong as your weakest link.  Doing whatever it takes to mitigate against these is good insurance for the future and it will give you a sense of progress and achievement too.  It may mean working on yourself (it’s much easier with the support of a good coach) or hiring in talent to make up for any shortfall.  All the best teams, according to the principles of Belbin Team Roles require a variety of attributes to achieve success.

Belbin has nine team roles from Shaper (takes the business forward, creating strategy) to Completer Finisher (who puts the strategy into action).  One cannot exist fruitfully without the others, otherwise the team is out of balance.  Whether you are working on your own or with a team, the same principle applies.

In the 5 Pillars of Success, I look at the dimensions which help to make you successful:

1.    Clarity
Do you have a clarity of purpose, of mission and of values?  Do you have a clear strategy with clear steps to take you there?  Can you see clearly enough to prioritise well and delegate effectively to your team or brief your suppliers effectively?

2.    Skills
Do you have the skills you need to make you successful?  InfluencingTime management?  Leadership?  Delegating?  Presenting?  Emotional intelligence?  Business skills?  Conflict management?  What skill do you wish you had more of?  What skill do you overplay so that it becomes a problem?  Perfectionism?  Drive?  It’s just as important to see when a strength becomes a weakness as it is to recognise your blind spots.

3.    Mindset
Are you positive, motivated and solution oriented?  Do you possess the personality factors for success?  Have you been on my Personality for Success seminar yet?  This gives you a great self-assessment tool, or you can book yourself a psychometric profile.

4.    Stress Resilience
Are you calm and resourceful under pressure?  Do you respond thoughtfully to situations rather than react impulsively, building up more problems for yourself down the line?  Do you allow the small things to become big things?  Do you take the stresses at work home with you and the stress at home to work with you?

5.    Energy
Do you have too much work at the end of your energy?  Does your lifestyle or pace impact your health?  Do you have adrenal energy or core energy?  It is only core energy which is sustainable but few people have this.  Are you firing on all cylinders?  If you aren’t, nor is your business.

And what weaknesses are there in your business?  Do you have the skills, processes and systems in place to run the business effectively and profitably?  Do you have a good quality team, performing well and working well together?  Are you able to acquire and retain customers who pay well and are happy with your service or product?  And are you able to meet your financial targets and obligations?

Remember that no one person can know it all, do it all and be it all.  Perfection is not a human condition but it is a destination, one you can travel on your journey of self-development and business improvement.   

What one area could you improve which would have the biggest impact for you?  If you focus on one thing at a time then you will not risk dropping any of the many balls you are juggling and it is easier to integrate the change.

Why not book an assessment to see where you can best focus your efforts to create the best value?  Call me on 0845 130 0854 to discuss your options.

 

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: V – Values – Your Guiding Principles

You may think of value as being the value you provide to your clients.  This, of course, is important.  After all, if you are not providing value to your clients (or customers), why should they work with you?  The value of your product and service needs to be clear and tangible to them if you are to have a sustainable business.

However, just as important are the values which drive you in your business.  Values are what you consider to be important.  They link into your vision, your mission and your strategy.  They are your guiding principles.

Values are also part of your brand – the personality of your organisation.

As well as guide you, they can be a barometer in decision making.  Let me take an example.  Let’s say your values are:

  • Quality
  • Teamwork
  • Integrity
  • Customer delight
  • Innovation

If there is an opportunity to buy into a joint venture which stacks up financially with a quick and generous return on investment, but the quality of the offering is lower than your current product or service offering, this will undermine your values of quality, customer delight and possibly integrity.  So, while on paper the deal may appear lucrative, the net effect is likely to be negative as people stop trusting your brand and you lose customer loyalty.  If you lose customer loyalty, this will, in turn, impact your revenues.  Remember it is more cost effective to keep an existing customer than it is to attract a new one.

But more important than that is your reputation.  Working counter to your values undermines your brand and your brand values become different to your espoused values.  They become your reputation – what people are saying about your company when you are not in the room.  It is important to really understand the values which underpin your business.  So, here are some questions for you:

  1. What is important to your business?  Truly?  (This is no time for self-deception)
  2. What do you want your clients and customers to be saying?
  3. How is this different to what you imagine them to be saying now?
  4. Are your values supported in your decision-making processes?
  5. Your marketing?
  6. Your logo?
  7. Your website?
  8. Your communications?

Remember that everybody in your organisation is an ambassador for your business (for good or ill), so it is important that they buy into your values with their own behaviours and attitudes.  To what degree are your values reflected in the following:

  1. Your hiring processes?
  2. Your hiring decisions?
  3. Your inductions?
  4. Your training?
  5. In your leadership style (and that of your other managers)?
  6. In how you the performance of your staff is managed?

Perhaps your lived values are different from the values you would like to be known by?  If so, it is possible to change them.  However, it requires a structured and integrative approach.  They need to weave into everything and to underpin everything with buy-in from each and every member of your staff – otherwise it is just a PR exercise which will backfire.  Getting this right can create more customer loyalty, more employee satisfaction and attract new business to you.
© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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A-Z of Business: T – Time – Achieving More in Less

Time Management

How do you relate to time?  Do you just see the future ahead of you, cluttered with actions and goals which threaten to suffocate you?  Are you in the present moment, having fun but not getting much done?  Are you stuck in the past with no idea how to develop the insight, motivation or courage to move forward?  Or are you able to see time as a continuum with the past, present and future laid out in front of you?

If it is the latter, it means you are more able to learn from life experiences, get things done in the present and plan for the future.

“Not all hours and minutes are the same length” as Roger Black says.  It can speed by when you are enjoying yourself, or slow down when you’re not.  While we all have the same 1440 minutes every day but how is it that some people get more done than others?

It is all down to your relationship with time, how clear you are about your priorities and how everything fits in together.  It is important to prioritise those things which move you towards your goals in an economical manner.  This combines both effectiveness and efficiency so that your productivity improves.

A productive person is calm, focused, disciplined, flexible, balanced, has perspective and, generally, does what they say they will do.  This increases your reputation with yourself and so your self-esteem enjoys a good boost too.

There are four main time enablers:

  1. Perspective:      Purpose, goals, priorities and values
  2. Self:                   Self insight, self-motivation and self-management
  3. Others:              Understanding and managing others
  4. Balance:            A balance between downtime and uptime

When you have a clear perspective, with an ability to understand and manage yourself (and those others on whom you depend to get things done – or to whom you should be delegating) and balance this with self-care, you are in a much better position to improve your time management.  You will also feel more resourceful, your productivity enemies slain.

Here are my top tips:

  1. Focus on just two important items each day – this frees up your mind-clutter and gives you a sense of achievement
  2. Fill in the spaces with smaller jobs
  3. Have a power-hour once a week where you do all those little things you don’t have time for but which make you feel really good when they are done.
  4. Whatever you are doing, apply your 100% attention to as you can only do one thing at once, contrary to popular belief.  In addition, the stop start involved in not doing this can increase the time needed for each task by as much as 5 times!
  5. Limit distractions – be ruthless but respectful about it
  6. Delegate well
  7. Manage your information overload – be super-ruthless on this one
  8. Procrastinate discriminately – some things should be procrastinated but a lot of people procrastinate the important in favour of the trivial
  9. Make your to do list a reality list and keep your fantasy (wish) list separate.  Work your list with passion and fervour
  10. Keep your workspace free from clutter to give yourself mindspace to think clearly and get things done

Getting things done should be a joy, not a chore, giving you a sense of empowerment, achievement and progress.  By following these simple steps (which I cover in detail as part of my Achieving More in Less Time workshop), you will find that your productivity soars.

If you could use some help overcoming your time-management demons, why not book a session?  Call me on 0845 130 0854.

© Tricia Woolfrey 2013

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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