I’ve spent much of today working at home catching up on some of the latest articles and blogs on leadership. However this morning I found myself distracted by the glut of courgettes in my garden and ended up on Google looking for tips on how to freeze them. Coming from a family with a very strong work ethic, I felt a slight sense of guilt for thinking about courgettes in the middle of the working day, even more so when I went out to harvest today’s crop.
In an excellent article in HBR recently, Shawn Anchor and Michelle Gielen refer to the importance of recovery for building personal resilience. They claim that a lack of recovery is costing our companies $62 billion a year in lost productivity. According to them, the key to resilience is trying really hard, then stopping, recovering, and then trying again. They distinguish between the kind of recovery we can do during the working day and the recovery we do outside working hours.
Many people are programmed fom an early age to think that any kind of recovery during the working day makes them a slacker and low performer. But science says otherwise. Taking what I call moments of ‘micro-recovery’ during the day helps us to recharge our batteries, both physically and mentally.
Back to those courgettes….. The few minutes I took to go out into the sunshine and pick a few courgettes was like plugging myself into the ‘charge’ socket, enabling me to spend more time in productive mode when I went back to my desk. So next time you find yourself in endurance mode, telling yourself you’ve got too much to do to take a break, yet finding your mental focus waning, give yourself a break and allow yourself some micro-recovery. It might be a few minutes fresh air (leaving your phone on your desk), it might be listening to your favourite song, it might be going to the other side of the office to say hello to a valued colleague. Switch off for a few minutes at regular intervals during the day and you’ll most likely find that your resilience, performance and creativity benefits.
For support in building your productivity by increasing your personal resilience, contact me on +44 (0)7411 483319 or e’mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s no co-incidence that Andy Murray gives much credit for his latest Grand Slam win at Wimbledon to his coach, Ivan Lendl. I wouldn’t like to guess how much Murray pays Lendl, no doubt it’s a great deal. However it’s clear that Murray sees it as an investment worth making because it gets results.
The link between executive coaching and business results is less clear. In my experience, results from executive coaching can be significant as long as there are well-defined coaching objectives and the client is open to the support and challenge that a good coach provides,. Take for example Joe, a Sales Director I’ve been coaching. Continue reading
“Mum, you never listen, I’ve already told you three times where I’m going tonight!”.
Not sure whether other parents of teenagers recognize this, perhaps it’s just me, but this is a common refrain in our household. Why, I ask myself, is it easier to listen well to my coaching clients than it is to my own family?
So many conversations at home take place in a distracting environment. The radio’s on, you’re updating your online shopping order while the dinner’s in the oven, your phone buzzes with a text that’s just come in, and you’re keeping an eye on your work e’mail for the information you need for tomorrow’s client presentation. It takes intentional effort and discipline to stop and focus on the other person.
You have a great idea about a new product or service that you’re convinced will make a big difference to your business. You’ve done your homework – researched the market, identified your target customer, analysed costs and potential sales in detail and created an implementation plan. So why is it that when you pitch the idea to your boss and her colleagues there’s a resounding No? Surely the benefits of going ahead are obvious, why don’t they get it?
I sometimes come across this scenario with my coaching clients who come to me frustrated that they can’t influence with more success. They understand that influencing others requires not just logical argument, but they feel uncomfortable about what they call ‘playing politics’. For some people ‘politics’ has a somewhat distasteful connotation, it smacks of fakeness and goes against peoples’ integrity. They don’t enjoy ‘schmoozing’ and, women especially (though not exclusively) tell me that they feel shut out by the ‘boys club’.
So what if you were to reframe the problem? If you understood that as human beings we are more likely to say ‘yes’ to ideas, proposals and products offered by people we like and trust, where would you put your effort?
Last week I was having lunch in the Members café at the British Museum a few days after the start of a major new exhibition. It was busier than I’d ever seen it, and the team of people behind the counter were doing their best to cope despite a growing queue of customers. Two customers sat down at the table next to mine and started to complain to each other about the inefficiency of the café. The waitress, who I have always experienced as being very friendly and customer-focused, brought them over their coffees and apologised for the wait. They then proceeded to complain quite vociferously about how useless she and the team were. In a very British way I kept quiet and said nothing, but I could see that the waitress was very upset. I spent the next few minutes finishing my lunch and wondering what I should do. As I left, I took the waitress aside and gave her a few words of genuine appreciation, and told her that despite what these people had said, I could see how busy they were and that they were doing their best. The transformation in her face was immediate, her energy returned, she looked genuinely relieved and thanked me profusely for what I had said.
It would have been so easy for me to walk away and say nothing, after all it was none of my business. But it just seemed like the right thing to do, and by taking a few seconds to give her a small piece of appreciation, not only did I make a positive difference to her day, I also felt good about myself.
Reflecting on my executive coaching clients over the past few years, I also see that in many instances, it’s the small changes that make the biggest difference. Continue reading
Recently I mailed an old colleague, with whom I’d worked closely, asking whether she’d like to meet up for lunch or coffee, to catch up and bounce around professional ideas. This is the reply I received: “I’m so sorry, I literally don’t even have time to eat lunch these days!! So I’ll have to pass on a catch up but I hope you’re well.” Wow, I thought, poor thing, if this literally is the case, I’m worried for her health, and her sanity, and her business.
But “Hang on..“, I hear you say, “..that’s exactly what it’s like for me! I’m running just to keep my head above water, it’s a matter of survival“.
So my question is this. If we literally (!) don’t have time to meet our basic physical needs for food, what chance do we have of making use of that most wonderful and essential organ, our brain, to think well and create wonderfully exciting and innovative solutions for our customers?
Welcome to Part 4 of The Mastery of Leadership , this issue focuses on Mastering Engagement. Whilst engagement is by definition about the external world (The ‘Outside’ bit of Inside-Out leadership), leaders cannot gain full engagement without also paying attention to the ‘inside’ pieces of ‘Mastering Authenticity‘ and ‘Mastering Relationships‘. Benjamin Zander, Conductor at the Boston Philharmonic, said that the most important moment of his career was when he realised that the conductor of an orchestra doesn’t make a sound! He said “The conductor of an orchestra depends for his power on his ability to make other people powerful”. He urges leaders to look first at themselves if they see others demotivated and under-performing. I wonder what our workplaces would be like if our business leaders always did this?
‘Mastering Engagement’ gives more focus to the organisational perspective and how we build motivation and create an effective vision and culture. In order to get all stakeholders working in the same direction, they have to have an understanding of and an emotional connection to the Vision. So it’s important for any leader to create an engaging Picture of Success or Vision that people can connect to not just with their heads but with their hearts.
A recent client, a leader in a technology company, was frustrated because his team wasn’t as focused as he was on the KPIs. Continue reading
Welcome to Part 3 in this series about my model ‘The Mastery of Leadership’. This time I explore the second aspect: Mastering Relationships
It’s my strong belief that in today’s complex global marketplace, no one leader can ever have all the answers. In order to become and then stay competitive, leaders need to harness the talents, perspectives and creativity of everyone in the organisation. Hence I believe that Leadership is essentially collaborative. It’s about relationships. It’s not about knowing things but it’s about harnessing the talents of the whole team.
One of the most important skills to master in any relationship is listening. I believe that true listening is the most under-rated yet most powerful of leadership skills. Effective leaders Continue reading
Part 2 in this series about my model ‘The Mastery of Leadership’ is a deep-dive into the first aspect: Mastering Authenticity
Bill George, in his influential book ‘True North’ describes authentic leaders as ‘genuine people who are true to themselves and to what they believe in. They engender trust and develop genuine connections with others’. The issue we see in many organisations is that many leaders feel that they have to be someone else to who they are as a person.
Take a senior leader I know who is a strong introvert. Continue reading
In a recent radio interview, 72-year-old Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones was asked why the Stones still had the appetite to perform. His response was “I think it’s because we still think we’re getting better…..from the way I’m feeling, there’s promise of more…who’s going to jump off a moving bus?”
Dan Pink, in his book ‘Drive’, pointed out that ‘Mastery’ is never quite achieved. It’s something that we strive to approach without ever quite reaching it. Yet many of the most successful people continue to strive towards mastery, knowing full well that they’ll never quite touch it, even if they get really close.
And so it is with Leadership, mastery is impossible but the best leaders continue to learn and develop because, as with the Rolling Stones, there is promise of more. Continue reading