Creating space

16/09/2014

Not being able to see the wood for the trees is a common feature of life. People regularly talk about being busy and overworked – but just how much of this is self inflicted. All too often we engage in activity that brings no value to achieving our highest goals and ambitions. Without reflective time, our decision making becomes blurred and it is common to lose sight of what we want. The result is stale thought with patterns of behaviour that fail to deliver our deepest desires. Successful people have the fortunate ability to think clearly, this is helped by finding the time to take well earned breaks from being “busy”. This cleansing process provides the opportunity to de clutter the mind.

The practice of finding sanctuary helps to remove mental blockages and fosters a sense of balance between work and play. Without regular periods of reflection you will find yourself eventually in a rut – the place you don’t want to be!

You must think of Sanctuary on three levels of “time out”:

  1. Daily sanctuary to help us to prepare for the day ahead – time with family, exercise, meditation, prayer, reading. Starting each day with 10 minutes of deep reflection, provides a kick start to focused activity and just being aware
  2. Weekly sanctuary that helps divert our energies into non related activities like pursuing a hobby, sport or spending more time with family and relationships. These activities release you from the week that was – puts you in a good frame for the week ahead
  3. Sanctuary includes those activities that most people can only fit in two or three times a year. They would typically involve family holiday’s, short breaks or some form or retreat. This level gives you the opportunity to ask the big questions – what is my life all about? What needs to change? Should I go and do something else?

Dedication to the 3 Levels will open your mind to new possibilities and opportunities. Chasing success can be as destructive as it is constructive – practicing the art of Finding Sanctuary will build perspective into your life and help to differentiate between what is and what is not important, what brings fulfilment and what does not – embed these disciplines into your routine and you will experience a profound improvement in clarity of thought – you will see things more clearly, you will make better decisions and life will feel less hectic.

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Leaders must learn to coach

08/04/2013

One of the biggest challenges entrepreneurs of growing businesses face is that of building a high performing team. So often founders fail to trust the judgement of individuals they employ or they consider others not to be as capable as themselves (self-awareness is a very important leadership attribute and very often founders lack it!)

The reality is people and teams operate with maximum impact when they are held responsible and accountable for their actions. When individuals feel that they have ownership of a task then there is a greater likelihood of it being successfully delivered. Empowering others means that you must dedicate time and energy to coaching staff and team. The busy day can all too often lead to us neglecting the personal development and training needs of others, particularly those that we need on side.

As a leader you must create space for coaching members of the team, ensuring they have the skills and motivation to perform the tasks needed to successfully grow. In your coaching role you must support others to achieve their goals, remembering these must clearly align to your own mission (win-win). Some simple steps can be followed in coaching others to perform:

Focus  and define – all coaching starts with a conversation, however it is vital to home aim on specific areas that need to be addressed. Aim to define very clearly key skills that need to be developed.

Explore the options– when the discussions become focused, explore the options and possibilities for what needs to be achieved. Challenge preconceived ideas. Lead by asking questions – don’t give answers

Action planning – get the detail on the table and work out what actions need to be implemented going forward – agree goals and don’t forget to write them down. There must be no confusion on what needs to be achieved

Remove hurdles – people will often see barriers and reasons not to change. Often these challenges are in the mind and don’t really exist. You must try to help individuals remove these hurdles.

Agree next steps – agree what has been agreed – actions and deliverables by when! Set a date to review the previous session. Stick to it


Get stuck in

18/12/2012

The speed at which 2012 has passed is unbelievable. During the year many entrepreneurs put their foot on the brakes, carefully monitored costs and kept their head well below the parapet. However, I have been very fortunate to be around a group of business people who have just carried on pushing forward with confidence, energy and enthusiasm. They have used their resources very wisely and spent time working on:

1. How to manage their personal time wisely – focusing on the vital few priorities rather than the trivial many 

2. How to apply creativity to customer satisfaction and marketing rather than just money – innovation is key to differentiation

3. How to create “space” to think about new ideas and strategies – all breakthroughs come from taking time to think

4. Focusing on the KPI’s – the dials on the dashboard that ensure the business stays on track

5. Developing themselves – personal development is the ultimate source of competitive advantage

6. Developing their teams and ensuring effective communication  – with staff and all stakeholders 

7. More doing and less talking – working on the basis that sometimes strategy is activity and tinkering (in times of uncertainty strategy is meaningless to a small business – experimentation and discovery is vital – an attitude of think, do, review moves us on)

8. Living in the “Customer Worlds” – wearing out the shoe leather, putting themselves about and working out needs and future requirements 

The lesson for ambitious entrepreneurs going into 2013 is train with the best and learn from them, practice and condition your thinking to success, prosperity and progression. 2013 is a year to build momentum.


The extra mile – no traffic jam there

16/09/2012

Putting in the minimum amount of effort to a task to achieve a satisfactory result is a behaviour associated with individuals who have little or no ambition. Successful entrepreneurs take nothing for granted, they realise that through hard work and loyal commitment to their personal intentions they may from time to time have to put in extra hours or do things that may feel punishing to either their mind or body – quite often both. I see lack of ambition in many businesses I meet, almost inertia. The economy needs more big/different thinkers.

My experience is that very few people are willing to push themselves physically and emotionally to over deliver- just doing enough to get by, does my head in. A clock on clock off mentality – delivers business as usual if you are lucky. A Just Do It attitude delivers a winning performance. This maybe working a weekend to complete an important project, staying late at the office to help colleagues complete a critical bid, or investing in a loss leading idea to get you noticed – winners do more.  Going the extra mile to please customers is an extremely important behaviour to exhibit, you become respected by your peer group and the opportunities for growth is enhanced because others become engaged by your level of commitment.

You will place yourself well ahead of the competition when you do more than what was expected of you. It is also extremely rewarding both professionally and personally. The mindset of going the extra mile helps when:

  • You want to make a great first impression with a customer (you only get one chance to do this)
  • You want to win an important contract
  • You have an ambition to exhibit the gazelle growth profile
  • You are operating in a crowded market place
  • You want to build value in your business not just a wage
  • You want to maintain the edge on competition

Think deeply about what you want to achieve and accept that by conditioning your mind to embrace the philosophy of doing more you will become evermore successful purely by outperforming others. This mental programming becomes an integral part of your behaviour and winning becomes a habit.

There is no traffic jam on the extra mile – a mindset more entrepreneurs needs to embrace.


Growth Entrepreneur – the much referred to lonely journey

31/08/2012

Successful entrepreneurs so often talk about the feeling of isolation they experience when pursing their desired aims and objectives. The journey to a bigger job, the quest to build your own business or being at the helm of an organisation where the buck stops with you can create a sense of overwhelming burden. Such feelings can be difficult to switch on and off as they can hang over our very existence. Striving for success invariably involves expeditions into the unknown where situations, circumstances, cultures or environments can trigger immense insecurity. Making the right decisions becomes the central focus of our intention as delivering the wrong ones could effect both our own or other peoples future, they could result in financial hardship, losing face with others, humiliation and as a worst case damage your health.

The preoccupation with getting the decisions right has all the danger signs of isolating ourselves from others. We must take positive steps to ensure that we don’t withdraw into ourselves and find channels that turn the feeling of loneliness into one that ensures we have an effective support infrastructure around us –this becomes the route by which we answer the question of who motivates the motivator.

In the process of moving towards a successful and fulfilling life and career we can take some simple steps to combating loneliness:

Smile – don’t signal your loneliness to your peers and other that you are trying to influence. This could have an adverse effect on how you are perceived. Also remember life is too short to be miserable.

Friends – we all have friends outside of work make sure you talk to them. They are a great source of support and advice

Learn – new situations and environments will require new knowledge – the more you know the more confident you become, the less isolated you feel

Be friendly – be nice to everyone you meet, it makes people warm to you and you feed off their energy

Attend events – networking events where like minded people congregate provide an ideal opportunity to share experience and war stories.

Ambassadors – build relationships with people that support your points of view. Ensure that you communicate with them and keep them in the loop of what you are thinking and doing – they become your extended voice

You may feel alone and isolated but you must take comfort in the fact that at some point in their progression to success others have felt exactly the same. Remember at some point in the future you will be able to share with others how you coped and made it through those lonely days and nights


Collaboration is key to competitive advantage

13/07/2012

How times have changed in the past ten years. Companies I would have viewed as major competitors at the turn of 2000 have now become close allies – we are sharing knowledge, IP, business ideas and revenue streams. It strikes me that collaboration is very much embedded within the mindset of the forward thinking organisations I meet on a day-to-day basis. Those that hold their cards too close to their chest will almost certainly miss out on new business and product opportunities. Collaboration can present itself in many formats:

  • Businesses with complementary skills coming together to bid for large contracts – one where the mix of expertise and geographical coverage offers massive benefits to a customer. This can be achieved as a consortium or through what is commonly referred to as a special purpose vehicle (SPV)
  • Companies fusing complimentary products and services to create a new offering – WP did this several years ago, we took creative expertise of a University and combined it with coaching techniques to create the highly successful Winning Pitch TV (WPtv) – a great example of HE working with a SME
  • Euro Garages one of the North’s most successful companies brought together petrol stations with Starbucks and Subway franchises to build a new experience in filling the tank.
  • We see it everyday on the motorways with Starbucks, M & S and other high street chains teaming up with service operators to create a new service station break – this used to be a joke in terms of food quality, now, very different
  • Large pharma companies engaging with smaller niche R & D operators. A much nimbler and cost effective route for multi nationals to build their innovation pipeline

Fundamental to collaboration is a win- win attitude, there has to be a common goal, a shared vision, a sense of trust and purpose, fair commercial gain for both parties. Working as I do everyday with high growth companies, its very clear that those entrepreneurs who think partnership are opening themselves up to so many new possibilities.  Stay awake, think about who you can collaborate with, the only warning is, be sure why you are doing it and what’s in it for both of you!


Entrepreneurial Learning

29/06/2012

I spoke at the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship conference earlier this week. The theme was entrepreneurial learning in organisations. It was an extremely thought provoking session, that brought together fantastic academic minds on the theme of entrepreneurship.

As a keen observer of entrepreneurial learning and improvement, my view is that the UK economy will grow faster if more effective leaders are created and nurtured. Enterprise policy makers must recognise the importance of bigger thinking and greater ambition – a key component of leadership. Academic enterprise research needs to investigate in greater depth the emotional needs of entrepreneurs – the spirit and mindset. Setting up and growing a business can be extremely demanding. For entrepreneurial leaders balancing personal and commercial risk can be a debilitating experience – we must look at developing practical coping strategies to help leaders overcome the fear often associated with the stages of growth.

From my discussions with participants I was encouraged to hear that softer issues do appear to be attracting more academic interest. Topics such as developing an entrepreneurial mindset, coping, resilience, mental toughness, personal branding and faith must get on the agenda. These are all essential ingredients for leadership success. Practical tools to help entrepreneurs address these areas would be well received within the community – when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Entrepreneurs are courageous individuals who cope well with the lonely rollercoaster existence, helping them to live with high pressure moments would be a well-received antidote for those wanting to make a difference. I am extremely excited about the work ISBE is undertaking.