Academic achievement must go hand in hand with an entrepreneurial mindset

30/04/2015

The next three months will see universities churning out thousands of very proud new graduates – BA Hons, BSc’s the lot. A great education with brains packed full of new learning, knowledge and facts. But why do so many fail to find a job? How many of these bright new graduates have had their prospects limited by the conditioning of the external environment? These young adults have been supported in life skills and getting their head in shape for the next stage of their life. How many walk away with a personal growth plan that defines very clearly how to move their life on and make the best of their three years spent at university? How many have thought creatively about next steps… charity work, setting up their own business, free lancing using specialist skills they have acquired?

My view, is that we have some of the best academic institutions in the world and we create some of the finest talent, but so many never realise their potential and end up in jobs that fall way below their true capability – futures that lack direction, bouncing around from one job to another. It’s no use having a long list of qualifications if you don’t put them to best use. More effort and energy should be put into developing the creative and entrepreneurial mindsets that drive ambition and ultimately greater achievement. If you cant find a job why not create your own and set up in business? We need to see more graduate entrepreneurship.

I speak from experience, I left university in 1986 with a degree in Chemistry – great technical skills, but struggled having conversations, making presentations and generally selling myself to potential employers – no skills for life. I am not sure much has changed to be honest – I had to work it out for myself. We need to equip this next generation with a more rounded experience thereby allowing them to combine great academic qualifications with a mindset conducive to achievement and releasing personal potential. We must remember that we get what we think about. The universities are a rich seam of next generation entrepreneurs, work is needed to getting them started.

Are the cap and gown, the photograph that hangs on mum and dads wall and the handshake from the university chancellor the best send off we can give them? As well as the well-earned degree certificate, they should all leave with a “plan for life” or maybe a plan for their own business.

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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.


Are the universities letting the next generation down?

13/09/2011

I am a firm believer that the UK has some of the best universities in the world. However, does a game plan to raise the bar of performance feature within their strategic plans, particularly in relation to what happens when they wave good bye to their graduates.  We turn out amazing talent, equipped with knowledge and expertise in writing highly intellectual theses and essays. But what happens when they try to get a job. As an employer and interviewer of graduate talent, what comes across my desk every day is CV’s that lack depth, an inability to articulate a point of differentiation and to be honest a document so generic it misses the point. The resultant effect is we send out piles of “no thank you” letters, this must be highly discouraging to those poor graduates who thought their degree was a passport to the world.

Well I think its time for a rethink of how we make the talent pool more ready for the work place – many universities have a careers advice service, but just how effective is it?  Employers are looking for a tailored CV, crisp and to the point, giving evidence led narrative, supported by an interview where the applicant is prepared and up for the pitch. Attitude is just as important as qualification.

So where does the responsibility lie for job readiness? Is it the employer or the university? My view it’s the latter. If it’s going to be the growth SMEs that create new jobs, I believe it’s the universities role to turn out more rounded graduates ready for the work place. Those who have been taught the importance of self motivation, the power of communication, researching employer needs and writing CVs that hit the spot. If we don’t get a grip of this we will end up with graduates whacking out hundreds of CVs and applications with many of them receiving the obvious replies – this will manifest into bright sparks becoming depressed and ultimately lacking self worth. A thought for policy makers.


Smart Operator – High Growth Individuals

19/07/2011

Recent economic challenges have placed serious pressure on people to think very differently. Business as usual is not an option, its time for something completely different. Cuts in public and private sector budgets have taken their toll – redundancies, lost revenue, projects going on hold…the story goes on. So what’s the answer? Manage decline and depression or look for the opportunities. As one delegate at an event I spoke at the other week put it….”recession, I have decided not to participate”. A very refreshing approach and outlook, the very opposite to the doom and gloom the media encourages us to embrace.

The answer is to practice and develop the Smart Operator Mindset – this ultimately leads to the creation of the high growth individual. We should draw parallels from the world of enterprise and create our own personal business plan, one that maps out a destination with the prioritized tasks to get us there. Here are some pointers for the Smart Operator Mindset:

1. Smart Proposition – define your unique talents, what you love doing, what you want, what gets out of bed. Aligning a future to a basic purpose really does help to accelerate the way forward.

2. Smart Vision – write down your personal intentions for 6 months, 1 year, and 2-years. Base this on your Smart Proposition. Include earnings and other components that make up the life you want

3. Smart Plan – remember a vision without tactics is hallucination. List the things you need to do and get on with it. The right path will emerge when activity is initiated.  Avoid procrastination. Set yourself KPI’s to check whether you are on track.

4. Smart Brand – you are selling yourself, so work out what mental imprints you want to leave on those you meet. Be memorable, deliver on your promises and become the master of your trade. This is what you will become known for.

5. Smart Collaborator – work out who you need to engage and team up with. Alliances and partnerships are a critical part of the Smart Operators DNA.

6. Smart Communicator – master the art of getting messages across, think win-win and live in the world of your audience. Clarity and concise messages that considers both your needs and those of others lead to positive relationships that go somewhere.

7. Smart Connector – work out a plan for finding, reaching and locking into to those individuals and organisations that are important to your personal progression. The connectors and influencers could include suppliers, banks, associates, partners, customers, other departments.

Practice makes perfect, another cliché that I hate, but its true. As Malcolm Gladwell said it takes 10,000 hours to become successful, so that means blood, sweat and tears, I still don’t think there are any short cuts to getting want you want. A combination of being really good at what you love doing, combined with taking ownership of your life fused with determination and persistence help pave the way forward. The Smart Operator Mindset is a framework for you to hang your thinking on.

 


The Secret – so whats missing?

26/05/2011

I read this book just after Christmas last year and I keep going back to it in search of wisdom and insight for the entrepreneurs I deal with. The book teaches us how clarity of purpose and setting clear intentions opens us up to the world of new opportunities and how the law of attraction delivers us what we want. In many respects The Secret can be summed up in Goethe’s famous quote:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now”

In my opinion The Secret can give false hope to those who don’t appreciate or embrace one extremely simple principle – life rewards people who take action. Whilst I believe the book is a source of great inspiration, my research clearly shows that successful people have an extremely strong work ethic, whilst believing they can can achieve what they set their minds to, practice, practice, practice is essential and must follow the dreaming. If we combine the teachings of The Secret with that of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers theory – of the”10,000-Hour Rule” then I think a formula for accelerated performance can be derived. The rule claims that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. Fusing this thinking with the need for deeply rooted personal intentions delivers a potent mix for getting what you want.


Time to rethink how you think

17/10/2010

There are a set of principles and philosophies that I believe lead to a winning mindset – one that delivers a fulfilling career, balancing both professional and personal aspirations. The scary thing is 80% of individuals want more from their business, career or profession, however the majority of people can’t define what more means to them. The starting point is to critically and honestly appraise your thinking and mindset in order to work out what needs to change – what is holding you back? How can you overcome the hurdles that are stopping you achieve more? We all must take time to rethink how we think – this means creating space to reflect on what your life and career means to you! Don’t leave it too late because time soon catches up with you.

When you find time to assess your values, attitudes and motivations it helps identify areas in need of transformation. If you want more from your life then you must define clearly your intentions, plan, then take action. Without these foundations, frustration and anxiety along with a feeling of being stranded in the wilderness soon take hold. In time, inertia and loss of direction soon overwhelm the way you think. This can be an all-consuming leaving you with a sense of emptiness – a mindset that can only be described as being a million miles away from success or winning.

I believe the following areas are vital as part of your reflective exercise:

  1. Clarity – Do you  know what you want?
  2. Mental Toughness – Do you keep going in difficult times?
  3. Take Control – Do you control your own life or do others?
  4. Take Action – Do you talk or do?
  5. Be a team player – Do you have a collaborative approach?
  6. Effective leadership – Are you a good leader?
  7. Build a great reputation – Do people respect you?
  8. Connectivity – Do you recognise that you are selling to get want you want?
  9. Creative spark – Do you make time for new thinking?
  10. The Extra Mile – Will you go where others won’t?

Your journey of discovery and change could start by asking some simple questions…..


Getting more out of our business, career and life…

18/09/2010

I have been busy working and thinking about developing the success philosophy I have spent the last 2 years researching. As I have always said success is very much a personal thing and what it means to one person is different to another. Trying to create a model is beneficial and the world is full of them and I just can’t resist developing my own. The one hundred bits of the jigsaw for success published in June 2010 have now been wrapped up into a model consisting of three core components – I must admit this helps me to describe my philosophy to others. It came as a flash of inspiration when I was walking my dog “Buddy” over the Lancashire moors three weeks ago at 5.30am – a reminder maybe to us all that Eureka moments often come when our mind is in a different state – relaxed and clear from the mental fog that the working day brings.

Well as for the success model or “wrapper” – I think there are three parts:

1. Clarity – when we understand our personal intentions clearly its a motivator for action. However action here is the operative word without action there is no result. As part of achieving clarity we must prepare ourselves mentally for what we want to achieve – if your goals are ambitious also be prepared for a rollercoaster  ride. Expect the unexpected because nothing goes to plan – what is it you want? Are you prepared to change to get it? If you are not then its a dream!

2. Enablers – to get where we want to be we need to understand what things can get us there faster?  They are the supplements we need to keep us going and accelerate performance – they include practice, as practice makes perfect, personal brand, communication mastery, working as part of a team, developing leadership skills, innovation and creativity, functional mastery

3. Ethics – do things the right way and within the moral codebook – respecting others, humility, caring – always operating by the law of best intention

C.E.E. as I have now called it…I hope to write more about this in the coming weeks!