Personal and business growth starts with the way you think


Our mind is constantly in dialogue with itself about what it is observing in the outside world. These internal discussions stimulate a whole raft of feelings and emotions some positive and others negative. As part of our conditioning for success and growth, it is vital that we listen very carefully to what we are saying to ourselves as this commentary can have a powerful effect on the shaping of our life and the business we run.

The debates can influence our outlook, what we want and what we believe – the perceptions that result from what we are thinking ultimately builds the framework for how we perceive the world – for many of us this perception is reality. Used correctly we can use mind discussions to give us exactly what we want, it will catalyse your route to success. However, if used the wrong way our dreams and aspirations can be seriously sabotaged by negative self talk. Think on!

Watch your thoughts; they become words.

Watch your words; they become actions.

Watch your actions; they become habits.

Watch your habits; they become character.

Watch your character; it becomes your destiny

Sustained periods of failure can lead to a decay of our internal motivation, incidents or experiences that resulted in humiliation, anger, disappointment, fear, hurt or injury can trigger a whole series of inner discussions that result in negativity. Moving into the winning zone means that you must be acutely aware of the words and thoughts that swirl around in your mind – you can quickly rewire your thought patterns by simply ignoring any negative self talk such as “I will never achieve”, “I just cant do it”. You must replace these with more positive words.

Some simple and easy steps can be embedded within your daily routine to ensure you eliminate the negative self talk that all too often stunts our personal (and ultimately, business) growth and hinders the progression to achieving our goals:

  1. Take time every morning to clear the mind of negative experiences that the day before held. Telling yourself that today will be better gets us off to a good start.
  2. Be constantly and consciously aware of what you are saying to yourself
  3. Stop judging what you see as being right or wrong, just accept it for what it is – by doing this you use far less emotional energy.
  4. Eliminate phrases such as I can’t – replace them with I can or I will

Internal self talk has a great influence on the outcome of your success, make it a habit to keep using positive phrases of thought – over time you will become more positive and the peaks and trough in your moods will flatten out – you will become energised by positive thoughts and you will attract circumstances and situations that match your frame of thought.

Personal and business growth starts with the way you think.

John Leach founded business coaching and training company Winning Pitch ten years ago this month. View more articles like this, and sign up for future events or tools & techniques here >>>

Controlled lunacy – a recipe for growth


Are you MAD? This is often the reaction friends and family give when someone says they are off to set up their own business. Giving up the security of a well paid job and entering the unknown is often seen as a bonkers thing to do. Well if this is madness we need more lunatics. Very often seeing things that others cant is the first sign of going off the rails, however it’s also a trait of entrepreneurs who have a vision or calling to go it alone. A burning idea, new product or a solution they have found to a commercial problem. So often entrepreneurs see things that others cant!

One word of caution, this lunacy must be controlled and a safety net provided with solid advice, sound coaching to ensure all the cogs of finance, compliance, systems and processes are in place. So important, otherwise the wheels come off. Control that madness.

Your Business – An “asset” or “calling”


It never ceases to amaze me how passionate and animated entrepreneurs become when they talk about their business and what they do. To those listening it can come across as “in your face”, however, the reality is, most founders are just so proud of what they have achieved. Business and personal time are inextricably linked feeding each off every minute of the day.

The successful high growth entrepreneurs I have worked with often started their business because of a “calling” – this means putting something right, fixing a problem, chasing a dream of freedom, pursue a passion, wanting to make a difference or proving to others they can achieve something quite amazing.

So many entrepreneurs often forget that their business is also an asset with value. The danger is when the founders view their company solely as an asset. This creates inward focused strategies, lack of customer focus, greed, ultimately this will lead to only one place  – a disconnection with the real world and decline. My advice is when the voice of the “calling”  gets overshadowed by the asset, its time for rethink. A danger zone is just around the corner. Its about balance, of course a business must generate wealth, however it works far better and in my view becomes more profitable when its game plan is linked to a purpose.

That feeling of doing what you do because it makes a difference to others is probably one of the best you can have in your career, long may it last!

Smart Operator – High Growth Individuals


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.


Clichés – Drive me mad….but


I sat in a meeting the other day and at one point I thought I was in an episode of The Office – in the space of half an hour I counted over 30 clichés. It made me reflect on the power and meaning of many of these phrases, ones that we so often use to fill in the gaps in conversation, particularly when we don’t know what else to say. My conclusion is that when you get under the skin of their meaning, they really do teach us a lot about life:

Win – win – Don’t shaft anyone or it will come back to haunt you, big time

Can’t see the wood for the trees – sometimes you get so close to a problem you just need to stand back

Think out of the box – stay awake and try new ways of doing things

What gets measured gets done – focus on the priorities and what will deliver the result

Trust your gut feel – listen to your inner voice – it’s usually pretty accurate

Headless chicken – stop and think about what you are doing – success is 20% thinking 80% doing

Trust me – why should someone trust you without you proving yourself

Practice makes perfect – Malcolm Gladwell tells us that we need 10,000 hours of it, there are no short cuts to success

The point of this blog is, so much insight can be derived from the wisdom of clichés, but before you use them think about what they really mean.

Is the fire alarm going off?


So many of us hear the fire alarm going off but how many of us do something about it? The research has shown that when a fire alarm starts people do not react immediately, they hang around talking and working out what is going on. Most individuals wait for more specific clues – smoke or the smell of burning.

Well I liken this to life and business when the alarm goes off do something about it before it’s too late. How often do we think nothing is the matter, but the bell is getting louder and louder. This could include:

1. The employee not performing after six months of support, training and assistance – we think it will get better but it wont – we just hope it will, don’t kid yourself

2. Business costs are running out of control…keep on and you will run out of cash. Too late then.

3. Strategic partnerships that are resulting in they win, you lose. You think it can get better but guess what? it wont!

Sometimes we don’t want to believe that crap is happening and we think all will be OK. Many of us avoid having difficult conversations or meeting reality head on and taking action.  As human beings we ignore the fire alarm, and put our head in the sand. But still we are surprised when the inevitable happens.

People want more – Find the switch to drive personal change


Observation tells me that 80% of people want more from their career, life or business. However the two biggest challenges are:

  1. Defining what more looks like
  2. The will to change behaviour to achieve more

Here lies the heart of debate – most people are resistant to doing things differently with many not willing to take the necessary steps to initiate the changes – the reality is, only action delivers change. A study of 11,000 of patients in the US who had undergone major heart-by pass surgery revealed that only 11% changed their lifestyle habits to accommodate a new way of living – that means 89% carried on with business as usual even though their life was at risk.

For me Darwinian thinking applies in these instances – its about the survival of the fittest, in other words those willing to change usually enjoy long term success. Big changes do not usually happen overnight, it comes in small steps – a bit like a dimmer switch – slight turns make the light shine brighter. Embracing a mindset that welcomes small changes can have an almost profound impact on personal progression.

Lets draw some insights from Nudge Theory, an area that I don’t claim to have any deep understanding but one where its impact I know has had a profound impact on behaviour. The best example of this was seen in Schipol Airport. Toilet cleaning costs were spiraling out of total control. The problems were attributed to the mess made in the gent’s toilets, usually men rushing to catch their flight obviously late but needing to relieve themselves before departure. Unfortunately their haste led to making a mess on the floor, wall and just everywhere including their shoes. This created a massive demand for additional cleaning – costs started to rise at an unbelievable rate. By applying Nudge Theory to this situation the sanitary ware manufacturers etched what looked like a fly on the urinal – guess what 80% immediate reduction in the cleaning bill – think about it. Something so small with such a profound effect – how can you nudge yourself to getting the change that you want? What small nudges can you make to?

  • Think differently
  • Act differently
  • Deliver you the change you want

So the starting point for any one on a mission, ambitious project or wanting to achieve a big goal is – pull the trigger of personal change, recognise that if you don’t you will at best stand still or at worst go into reverse.

Personal change is likened to the turning of an oil tanker, it takes time, and very few of us are blessed with the ability to change at the pace of a gazelle. However, if we recognise that change is constantly needed we are more likely to take action to get what we want.





Expectation builds reality


One thing that has come clear from the ambitious high growth entrepreneurs I have been involved with is they tend to think in a very different way to those who experience more modest achievements. The former are able to constantly change the way they think and adapt to new challenges and circumstances. They never lose sight of what they want to achieve and they relentlessly pursue what they want – both personally and professionally. In Jim Collins book on Good to Great – his observations where that great leaders face the brutal facts but never lose faith in what they set out to achieve.

The report of the Polar Bear in yesterday’s news that swam continuously for 9 days (in near freezing waters) in search of stable ice and food reminded me of the endurance that I see in so many driven and successful entrepreneurs – they just keep going. And as in a famous Winston Churchill quote “when you are going through hell, keep going” – this sums up what I am increasingly observing in growth wish entrepreneurs. What I also should add is they know very clearly, just exactly where they are going!

I also see many entrepreneurs just plod on, no ambition and generally a negative attitude to the world. Whilst this is OK (if that’s what someone wants) the resultant effect of this mindset is that their business hits a wall. In contrast to the other entrepreneurs I described, this second group often find that at some point reinvention is vital or the inevitable will take its natural course.

There is a clear pattern in the high growth entrepreneurs mindset – it’s the expectation that they will achieve what they want, ultimately this shapes reality. This was summed up in a wonderful quote from a young lady well on her way to business success – recession, I have decided not to participate!

Stepping out into the unknown


My research over the last few years has focused on the whole arena of success and as mentioned in other blogs so many people I know want more from life. However they just cant define clearly what more looks like. This desire for achievement and fulfillment but not knowing what it is, can be motivationally debilitating – even after long periods of reflection our goals just seem so fuzzy that personal clarity moves even further away.

I think we live our life in chapters and each phase of our existence is characterised by three key mlilestones:

1. Arrive – new horizons

2. Stay – enjoy the time

3. Move on  – time to try something new

But where is it we want to arrive at or move on to? Sometimes we just have to step out into the unknown and see what new opportunities present themselves, who we meet, the places we visit and the experiences we feel. It is this stepping into the unknown that can be quite a scary period. For those who have lost their jobs or businesses that have failed to realise their potential – there are times when we just have to believe that the next big opportunity is around the corner – but believe it with conviction. This conditions our mind to tune into the next stage of our life, one that provides us with a sense of purpose.

Don’t spend the rest of your life trying to find what you are looking for. A vision and strategy are very important but sometimes you just have to step into the dark – using the first draft of the plan as your guide. Its like a voyage of discovery – you know that there is something out there, not sure what it is but without taking action and exploring you will never find it. Would Christopher Columbus have brought the Americas into the forefront of Western attention without leaving the port – does a Paratrooper get his wings without jumping eight times (day and night) out of an aeroplane? Would Amy Johnson have made the contribution to aviation without taxing her plane on to the runway? Woven throughout the fabric of each of these remarkable people is – bravery and courage, and pushing our ambitions one step beyond.

When we want to achieve something or we are looking to move to the next chapter of our life – just go for it, explore, discover, and keep an open mind. Stepping out into the dark means that sometimes you have give it a whirl because fortune often favours the brave. Time is ticking away so give it a go – leave the port or depart from the airfield.


The power of vision


The term vision has featured so prominently in the research into what makes successful leaders and businesses.  Read the biography of any famous or accomplished individual and they will refer to the power of their vision and how it motivated them to go on and do great things.

In the SME world and for any leader of an entrepreneurial business, selling the vision to staff, suppliers and customers can be a challenging task – getting everyone on board can be equally draining both emotionally and spiritually. Quite often the founder or leader of a business can see the vision so clearly – what success looks like, the business in three years time, the new product being launched or new markets being served – but getting someone to see what you can is hard. Here we can draw the comparison with madness – lunatics can see what others can’t – so not surprising many entrepreneurs can be viewed as a little strange at times.  Well I am a great believer that your expectations shape reality and all ambitious entrepreneurs should have clarity of what they want to achieve down to the finest detail – otherwise what are you aiming for?

But how do you sell it to others? To achieve your vision in business, more often than not you will have to get others on side, this includes – staff,  partners and other stakeholders. It is unlikely you will achieve what you want on your own. This means you have to create followers and to be a great leader you have to follow as well – this means listening to others, taking on board thoughts and views and respecting opinions.

As with any other selling job, get others bought into the vision means – you personally must be respected, have knowledge, explain the reasons as to why the vision is important, keep things simple and most of all talk about the things you have achieved as well as the things you want to achieve. Define very clearly the journey you are going on and the steps, communicate clearly along the way the landmarks and celebrate key milestones, over time results start to emerge. Beware of the people who steal your energy because in challenging times you will start to doubt yourself. Have self belief and  practice (BYC) – believe you can mentality.

There are many blurred lines between the terms vision, goals, passion and purpose. Many people claim to have a vision or goal, the reality is they don’t – it’s an halucination. You know when you have a vision because it burns deep within often to a point of obsession.

In business  define your goals and visions then find your ambassadors and  disciples and together you can make it happen!