HOW HIGH CAN YOU JUMP?

A flea can jump up 7 inches (18 cm) and sideways 13 inches (33 cm) or about two hundred times the length of their own body! For you that would be about 200 times your height (900 feet)!

If you wanted to train a flea to perform in a flea circus, you find a short drinking glass. Find a bunch of healthy fleas (be creative!), put them in the container and cover the top. Don’t take the cover off for three days. When you do, you’ll see the flea only jumps as tall as the glass was and never again further! (This goes for their next generation of fleas too.)

Application for YOU – Do you have any unsuspected “flea training” in your life that whispers: “You can’t jump that high! Don’t even try!” Your history doesn’t create your future …(sometimes it can help), but sometimes it limits you in ways you’re blind to.

We all have choices in our lives – day to day choices, life choices, choices about our friends (we can’t choose our families – although we can choose how to behave/react with them!), choices about how we show up at work, our attitudes, our thoughts even our beliefs.  And the more coaching I do, the more I see how much we limit our choices to staying in the ‘safe’ zone (under that glass!).

Often times we become blind to the myriad of choices that are available to us as well as the range of options before us.

Why is that so?

The key element that defines our choices is our thinking.  Our thinking in turn is driven by the “personal” energy we have.

Our personal energy is affected by the sum of all of our life’s experiences. Our learning, beliefs, values, principles, emotional scars, and even our mother’s favourite sayings all aggregate together and help form the filters through which we view and live life.

For example, if your life’s experiences taught you to be overly cautious and fearful, then, when presented with a challenge, you will see that challenge through cautious and fearful eyes, and act accordingly.

Our personal energy is created by the interplay of catabolic and anabolic energy which drives our choices, our ability to change, and our ability to maximise our current strengths.

What do I mean by this?

Catabolic energy = destructive, contracting, resisting energy (cat = down, against)

Anabolic energy = constructive, expanding, fueling energy (ana = building, upward)

Both types of energies are valuable and applicable in certain areas of life.  Catabolic energy is necessary for immediate survival needs. If you were attacked by a lion, for instance, you’d want the burst of adrenaline and cortisol (catabolic hormones) to help you run as fast as you could.  As a short-term survival/coping mechanism, catabolic energy can work well.  Long term it is destructive and unsustainable.

Anabolic energy looks and feels different from catabolic energy. This energy is behind everything from creativity and intuition to compassion and caring. This type of energy fuels your body, your performance, your perceptions and choices, and your interactions.

The more anabolic, powerful energy you have, the more capacity, or potential, you have to achieve whatever it is you wish to do, and also, the more satisfaction you will experience in your life.

So is this the year that you will choose to take steps to create the life you want…and jump way before your height?

If you’re looking for a new direction, or to make those goals that seem so elusive become reality do this quick checklist. Yes, it’s simple, but take your time (reflect on where your thinking and judgments may be coming from) – maybe over your next cup of coffee.

Quick checklist to start the new financial year – list the three key items for each question:

  • What am I proud of accomplishing over the past year?
  • What didn’t I do that is still outstanding?
  • What am I most pleased with?
  • What am I most disappointed with? (don’t dwell on this – just note it down, it’s important to face your ‘failures’ and deal with them)
  • What would I like truly like to achieve this year in my:
    • Work life
    • Personal life
    • Health and Physical Goals

These aspects of your life are intertwined and will each impact on the other.

  • How will I make these become reality and am I ready to do this?

Taking the first step is the hardest but it is your choice whether you take that first step and the next one.

If you identify with the above, then I invite you as a valued reader, to chat to me over a coffee, in person, by phone or Skype and let’s see if you are ready to make your goals become reality THIS YEAR!

Any groundless or unrealistic beliefs will limit your energy and prevent you from achieving your goals – just like the lid on the flea training glass!

Working with a coach may help you leap even higher and in a coaching program, you can:

Consider your goals and aspirations

  1. Identify old assumptions holding you back
  2. Isolate and evaluate established, but unfounded and untested beliefs about your ability to achieve these goals
  3. Search for doubts about your worthiness to reach your goals
  4. Hunt for fears that may be lingering in your heart

 

My goal is to work with people for change – one person at a time.  What is yours?

 

 

 

 

 

Overcoming Fear

What Are You Afraid Of?

Are you pursing the goals that matter most to you?
Are you satisfied with your level of success?
Are you glad to be where you are in life?
Are you playing YOUR own game or are you playing someone else’s game?

Everything seems hard. We are all busy and we are all tired. We all don’t have enough money. We all know someone who says we can’t or that we would never make it. And then we are worried with what comes next. Are these excuses familiar to you?

What about these:

• Fear of change
• Fear of failure
• Fear of not being good enough
• Waiting for something to happen
• Perfectionism
• Being overwhelmed with all that you have to do
• Not know how

Well guess what – there is a battle going on….. and it is between your ears!!

Don’t surrender. While your fears may be real they are not good enough reasons for inaction. Your biggest work is in front of you and it has to do with how well you lead your life – how good are you at self-leadership?

Understanding Energy Leadership is in my opinion the missing link or secret ingredient to making all the methodologies you’ve tried and tossed aside about leadership, work — the petrol in the engine, the currency that fuels your success. Today let’s focus on energy itself. What is this mysterious quality? It’s not just movement or activity, sometimes it is stillness and reflection. Some call it a vitality or force. Energy gives us the capability to differentiate ourselves from another. Energy gives us the physical ability and drive to win the marathon — not in the first 25 miles — but in the last mile, when it is so easy to give up.

Energy can be conserved, stored, stockpiled, transformed, leaked and shared. In life we get energy from an amazing array of fuels. We can use this power to grow and develop, use our senses well, attract and repel other energy.

Now let’s look at leadership. Interestingly each of us leads by choice or default. The question is not whether you are a leader but how well you purpose to lead. To lead well takes awareness of your energy and a willingness to learn ways to use it better. Your body is a perfect example of an energy system. It’s self-contained, self-governed and thought-affected. Each thought you have contributes a specific energy pattern to the energy within and around you. There are no idle thoughts. Your energy encompasses every thought, feeling, and emotion you’ve had today, as well as, your recent actions. Because thoughts create energy in their own likeness – some can injure and others heal.

Energy Leadership Coaching is designed to reveal and develop your personally-effective style of leadership energy. This energy will positively influence and change not only you, but your family members, friends and everyone you work with and meet each day.

Albert Einstein is reputed to have said: “Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.”

Well, regardless of who said this, I know that energy is also the secret power of great leadership. Once you understand how you create your reality and attract the things you do in your life, you can create the life you really want. Where to start? Here are some tips about how to overcome fear, and any excuses you may have.

  1. Identify your goal and embrace it. Use this question as a start. What do you want the change to look like? How will that give your life meaning? Think about it – even go for a walk to reflect on it.
  2. Create the space – even a small space (or time) to make a change.
  3. Be accountable to someone while surrounding yourself with others making similar changes themselves.
  4. Take small steps that will move you forward. Movement begets movement. Now take another small step…… and change is created. It is time to decide what you intend to do next and what the next few years will mean to you.

DO YOU KNOW YOUR BIASES? – PART 2

DON’T HAVE BIASES, THEN THINK AGAIN! 
Last month I shared with you six of the twelve thinking biases we are all subject to.
You can review these six here.

To recap, we are all subject to biases, those annoying glitches in our thinking that cause us to make questionable decisions and reach erroneous conclusions. A bias is a genuine deficiency or limitation in our thinking — a flaw in judgment that arises from errors of memory, social attribution, and miscalculations (such as statistical errors or a false sense of probability).

Leveraging the wonderful article by George Dvorsky on 12 of the most common and harmful biases that you need to know about, here are the remaining 6:

Status-Quo Bias
We, humans, tend to be apprehensive of change, which often leads us to make choices that guarantee that things remain the same or change as little as possible. Needless to say, this has ramifications in everything from politics to economics and to our personal lives. We like to stick to our routines, political parties, and our favourite meals at restaurants. Part of this bias is the unwarranted assumption that another choice will be inferior or make things worse. The status-quo bias can be summed with the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” — an adage that fuels our conservative tendencies.

Negativity Bias
People tend to pay more attention to bad news — and it’s not just because we’re morbid. Social scientists theorize that it’s on account of our selective attention and that, given the choice, we perceive negative news as being more important or profound. We also tend to give more credibility to bad news, perhaps because we’re suspicious (or bored) of proclamations to the contrary. More evolutionarily, heeding bad news may be more adaptive than ignoring good news (e.g. “sabre tooth tigers suck” vs. “this berry tastes good”). Today, we run the risk of dwelling on negativity at the expense of genuinely good news.

Bandwagon Effect
Though we’re often unconscious of it, we love to go with the flow of the crowd. When the masses start to pick a winner or a favourite, that’s when our individualized brains start to shut down and enter into a kind of “groupthink” mentality. But it doesn’t have to be a large crowd or the whims of an entire nation; it can include small groups, like a family or even a small group of office co-workers. The bandwagon effect is what often causes behaviours, social norms, and memes to propagate among groups of individuals — regardless of the evidence or motives in support. This is why opinion polls are often maligned, as they can steer the perspectives of individuals accordingly. Much of this bias has to do with our built-in desire to fit in and conform.

Projection Bias
As individuals trapped inside our own minds 24/7, it’s often difficult for us to project outside the bounds of our own consciousness and preferences. We tend to assume that most people think just like us — though there may be no justification for it. This thinking shortcoming often leads to a related effect known as the false consensus bias where we tend to believe that people not only think like us, but that they also agree with us. It’s a bias where we overestimate how typical and normal we are, and assume that a consensus exists on matters when there may be none. Moreover, it can also create the effect where the members of a radical or fringe group assume that more people on the outside agree with them than is the case. Or the exaggerated confidence one has when predicting the winner of an election or sports match.

The Current Moment Bias
We, humans, have a really hard time imagining ourselves in the future and altering our behaviours and expectations accordingly. Most of us would rather experience pleasure or reward in the current/present moment rather than waiting for a larger future reward. This is a trend of overvaluing immediate rewards while putting less worth in long-term consequences.  This is a bias that is of particular concern to economists (i.e. our unwillingness to not overspend and save money) and health practitioners. It has been found that when making food choices for the coming week, 74% of participants chose fruit. But when the food choice was for the current day, 70% chose chocolate.

Anchoring Effect
It’s called the anchoring effect because we tend to fixate on a value or number that in turn gets compared to everything else.  Anchors can be as simple as a comment from a colleague, a number, or a statistic from the morning’s paper. One of the most common types of anchor is a past event or trend. Anchors can establish the terms on which a decision will be made and are often used as a bargaining tactic.  It is also why, when given a choice, we tend to pick the middle option — not too expensive and not too cheap.

Do you recognise any of these in your decision making?   If so, what do you think you could do to limit the impact of your biases on your decision making?

DO YOU KNOW YOUR BIASES? – PART 1

We are all subject to biases, those annoying glitches in our thinking that cause us to make questionable decisions and reach erroneous conclusions. I have spoken and written about them many times as to how they hamper good decision-making, and on a recent podcast on biases, I recalled a wonderful article by George Dvorsky on 12 of the most common and harmful biases that you need to know about.  Thought I would share this list of 12 over this month and next month’s MindShifts® Matters.

To start with, what is a bias or, more specifically, a cognitive bias?  A cognitive bias is a genuine deficiency or limitation in our thinking — a flaw in judgment that arises from errors of memory, social attribution, and miscalculations (such as statistical errors or a false sense of probability).

So here are six of the twelve top biases. Do you recognise any of these in your decision-making? Which one do you identify with the most? Or do we all have a little of all of these?

Confirmation Bias

We love to agree with people who agree with us. It’s why we only visit websites that express our political opinions and why we mostly hang around people who hold similar views and tastes. We tend to be put off by individuals, groups, and news sources that make us feel uncomfortable or insecure about our views.  It is this preferential mode of behaviour that leads to confirmation bias — the often unconscious act of referencing only those perspectives that fuel our pre-existing views while at the same time ignoring or dismissing opinions — no matter how valid — that threaten our worldview.

Ingroup Bias

Somewhat similar to the confirmation bias is the ingroup bias, a manifestation of our innate tribalistic tendencies. And strangely, much of this effect may have to do with oxytocin — the so-called “love molecule.” This neurotransmitter, while helping us to forge tighter bonds with people in our ingroup, performs the exact opposite function for those on the outside — it makes us suspicious, fearful, and even disdainful of others. Ultimately, the ingroup bias causes us to overestimate the abilities and value of our immediate group at the expense of people we don’t really know.

Gambler’s Fallacy

It’s called a fallacy, but it’s more of a glitch in our thinking. We tend to put a tremendous amount of weight on previous events, believing that they’ll somehow influence future outcomes. The classic example is coin tossing. After flipping heads, say, five consecutive times, our inclination is to predict an increase in the likelihood that the next coin toss will be tails — that the odds must certainly be in the favour of heads. But in reality, the odds are still 50/50. As statisticians say, the outcomes in different tosses are statistically independent, and the probability of any outcome is still 50%.

Post-Purchase Rationalization

Remember that time you bought something totally unnecessary, faulty, or overly expensive, and then you rationalized the purchase to such an extent that you convinced yourself it was a great idea all along? Yeah, that’s post-purchase rationalization in action — a kind of built-in mechanism that makes us feel better after we make crappy decisions, especially at the cash register. Also known as Buyer’s Stockholm Syndrome, it’s a way of subconsciously justifying our purchases — especially expensive ones.

Neglecting Probability

Very few of us have a problem getting into a car and going for a drive, but many of us experience great trepidation about stepping inside an aeroplane and flying at 35,000 feet. Flying, quite obviously, is a wholly unnatural and seemingly hazardous activity. Yet virtually all of us know and acknowledge the fact that the probability of dying in an auto accident is significantly greater than getting killed in a plane crash — but our brains won’t release us from this crystal clear logic. It is the same phenomenon that makes us worry about getting killed in an act of terrorism as opposed to something far more probable, like falling down the stairs or accidental poisoning.

Observational Selection Bias

This is the effect of suddenly noticing things we didn’t notice that much before. A perfect example is what happens after we buy a new car and we inexplicably start to see the same car virtually everywhere. A similar effect happens to pregnant women who suddenly notice a lot of other pregnant women around them. Or it could be a unique number or song. It’s not that these things are appearing more frequently; it’s that we’ve (for whatever reason) selected the item in our mind and, in turn, are noticing it more often. The trouble is, most people don’t recognize this as an observational selection bias and actually believe these items or events are happening with increased frequency — which can be a very disconcerting feeling. It also contributes to the feeling that the appearance of certain things or events couldn’t possibly be a coincidence (even though it is).

NEXT MONTH – THE REMAINING 6!

The 7 Types Of Rest That Every Person Needs

Recently I read a fabulous article on the 7 types of rest we need and the difference between rest and sleep by Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith.  It was such an awesome article that I posted it on LinkedIn and decided it was worthy of providing a summary here for you.

The main crux of the article is that sleep and rest are not the same thing.  Yes, we do tend to confuse both – well, I used to.  As the article states, “The result is a culture of high-achieving, high-producing, chronically tired and chronically burned-out individuals. We’re suffering from a rest deficit because we don’t understand the true power of rest.”

Do you feel burnt out?  Chronically tired?

According to Dr. Dalton-Smith, rest should equal restoration in seven key areas of our lives.

  1. Physical rest – now that could include activities such as naps, sleep, massage etc.
  2. Mental rest – do you struggle to turn off your brain at night, going over conversations, to-do lists etc from the day? Firstly keep a notepad by your bed to jot down any thoughts that keep coming up.  Secondly, you could schedule short breaks every couple of hours to remind you to slow down.
  3. Sensory rest – in today’s world, we are all suffering from sensory overload – emails, zoom meetings, background noise, information overload, social media, etc. We need to intentionally unplug ourselves from this over-stimulating world.  Take time out for a few moments, close your eyes and breathe.
  4. Creative rest – is about allowing yourself to enjoy something completely outside your normal day. It is about reawakening the wonder and awe inside of us. For example, a place of inspiration or enjoying the arts, or wandering among nature. It provides space for your subconscious to do its work and develop innovative ideas.  Think of a hobby you love: gardening, bushwalking, photography, etc.
  5. Emotional rest – This is having the time and space to freely express your feelings and cut back on behaviour that is unhealthy. Emotional rest requires the courage to be authentic and to acknowledge what you are feeling.  Look at the quote at the start of this newsletter.
  6. Social rest – As stated in the article, “This occurs when we fail to differentiate between those relationships that revive us from those relationships that exhaust us.” It is important to connect with people who are positive and supportive and limit the toxic relationships around us.
  7. Spiritual rest – Oh my, one of the areas many of us leave off which is the ability to connect beyond the physical and mental and feel a deep sense of belonging, love, acceptance and purpose. This can be achieved when we engage in something greater than ourselves, such as prayer, meditation, or community involvement.

So getting more sleep is not going to make your feel rested.  What do you personally need to do to make you feel more rested?  What level of rest are you missing out on?  What about someone you love – how are they getting enough rest?

Here is her amazing TEDx Talk from 2019 about why we are so tired and what to do about it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGNN4EPJzGk&t=65s

The Power of Listening

Many years ago I learned an invaluable life tip. One of my teachers always stressed how we have one mouth and two ears; and that listening is far more valuable than just talking.

Have you ever asked someone to do something and they nod their heads and “yes, yes” you only to have them return with a result only remotely related to what you asked for?

There are a number of reasons for this:  they may be distracted, you may be distracted, they may not understand what you’ve said, and/or are afraid or “too cool” to ask for clarity, or you may not have explained it well – all of these have to do with weak listening skills.

What gets in the way of listening?

As a coach and consultant, listening is a critical ability.   It is one that I have found to be underutilised both by myself and often by others around me.  Listening is, without a doubt, one of the toughest skills to master as we need to uncover the deeper barriers within ourselves. Yet it is one of the most important skills we need to develop as we move to more demanding roles and relationships.

Judith E. Glasser, an organizational anthropologist and executive coach, has written a wonderful book called Conversational Intelligence – about the art of conversations and the critical element of listening.  There are four harmful listening habits*, which I wanted to share with you.

1.  Noise-in-the-attic listening. When we sit silently while others talk, we appear to be listening; inwardly, however, we are listening to the noise in the attic—disengaged from the speaker’s ideas and involved in our own mental processes. Such listening tends to develop when we are told as children: “Don’t talk while I’m speaking!” “Don’t interrupt me!” “Don’t ask so many questions!” Conditioned by these warnings, many of us become preoccupied with our own internalizations: “Who does she think she is?” Or, we resort to reverie—returning from time to time to listen to what is being said.

Tip: The talk in our head can take over our listening and become what we remember. Our self-talk becomes more prominent in our minds than what our ears hear. If the self-talk contains catalytic and emotional phrases like “Don’t interrupt me,” or if the words communicate judgment such as, “you stupid idiot,” our brains produce neuro-chemicals that activate our fear-networks in the primitive brain, closing down our executive brain, the prefrontal cortex. When the chemistry of fear turns this off, we forfeit empathy, trust, and good judgment. We lose our ability to handle complexity, and resort to old thoughts rather than process what is happening in the moment.

To prevent noise-in-the-attic listening, become aware when your brain is full of I-centric self-talk and turn it off. Instead, listen to connect to the other person and focus on we. By attending to the other person and removing the judgment, you create a neutral listening place in your brain to hear what others are saying without judgment. This mind shift also activates the mirror neurons, enabling you to experience the meaning others bring to their words, to connect, to build trust, and to make others feel safe to open up to you.

2.  Face-value listening. We think we are hearing facts, when we are hearing interpretations. In face-value listening, the listener isn’t mentally checking back to see whether the words explain what they purport to explain. This explains why people can differ dramatically in their perceptions. Many of us hear what’s in our heads, rather than listening to connect with what others are really saying. Good listening requires guided attention to the meanings others are bringing to life.

Tip 2: When we listen, we bring our own interpretations to the words we hear. We try to match what we think and know with what we are hearing. Our brains are designed with internal filing cabinets, which hold our personal history of experiences plus our own dictionary of what words mean. Too often, we listen with face-value listening, thinking that others share the same dictionary—when we don’t.

To prevent face-value listening, remember that your dictionary differs from that of others. Take the time to ask questions for which you have no answers. Rather than thinking you know what they mean, listen for distinctions—and ask questions that will bring out the meanings others have in mind and create new insights.

3. Positional listening. Such highly partial listening can lead to faulty assumptions and destroy team morale. For example, a leader might listen to her president’s annual report to determine whether her division will be growing. What she hears could affect her performance and her relationships with co-workers.

Tip 3: When we are fearful about our role, or when there is high uncertainty about the future, our mind seeks clues assuring we have a secure place in our tribe. Our fears about where we belong in the pack influence how we listen, feel, and engage with others.

To prevent positional listening, engage with others around shared success and how you can support each other’s success. This we-centric conversation shifts the attention from you and your fears to positively connecting with others. Once we know that they are friends, not foes, we bond and trust them.

4.  Navigational listening. Navigational listening—the art of listening to connect, to partner, and to perform better—is the most we-centric form of listening. Navigating with others leads to an expanded view of what is possible, often ending in a decision, strategy, change in behaviour, or point of view. This highest and most expansive form of listening engages you with others in a spirit of co-creation, elevates your conversational intelligence, and exponentially elevates your chances for mutual success.

Tip 4: When we shift from I-centric to WE-centric thinking, we enhance our partnership in co-creating the future. The prefrontal cortex, the executive brain, is where empathy, trust, good judgment, strategic thinking, emotional regulation and foresight into the future reside. When we listen to connect, we build bridges from my brain to yours, enabling the capacity to hold a broader view. Conflict gives way to co-creation, and the conversations shifts from the past to the future.

To enhance navigational listening, note when you fall into positional behaviours, defend your point of view, and be right at all cost. Become sensitive to how your need to be right might be creating resistance in others. If you can’t turn off this addiction in your mind, write down what your brain is saying—this acknowledges your thoughts and ideas and releases their grip on your mindset. Then, refocus your attention on the listening to connect.

By understanding what can shut down your listening, you can improve this important skill to enable you to align people, decisions and agendas.  So what gets in the way of your listening?

Take some time to reflect on this month’s Matters and how it might apply to you, and get in touch if we can help.

* These were sourced from her article “Navigational Listening – put conversational intelligence to work” posted at www.psychologytoday.com on February 28, 2014.

Getting Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

Many of us these days are feeling overwhelmed.  Not only by the information we receive but also with the sense of choices and opportunities we now have.  As a result, we often feel uncomfortable that we may be missing out on something important. And this in turn just adds to our daily stress, our sense of overwhelm and a sense of nervous fear.

With all the technology, with all the information and contradictions we read and see, it is important, I believe, for us to become comfortable with the uncomfortable.

What do I mean by this?

Throughout our lives, we always revert to what is comfortable and this comfort zone becomes our habits.  We know that to change a habit we have to push ourselves to feel uncomfortable in a sense until we come to feel comfortable with the new habit.

For example, we know that if we want to be fit and healthy, we need to be doing something different than sitting down at a desk all day.  We need to regularly exercise, eat differently, let go of technology at night, sleep longer and so on.

Some of these new activities might at first feel uncomfortable however by diligently pursuing a new activity, over time we know it becomes commonplace and we can start to feel a sense of comfort in its repetition.

The sad thing is our dislike for change is underlined by a sense of fear – in fact as a coach I see this as our default place.  We allow the news, technology and social media to make fear the norm.  All we read, see and hear on the news is the negative.  Why because it validates our existing comfort zone and so we don’t seek change.  In the end, everything is reduced to its simplest message of fear and danger.

With the abundance of information and knowledge sharing, our sense of comfort is being tested.  There is so much information out there that we no longer know what to do nor who to believe.  Thus we enter our discomfort zone.

However, do we really have to accept the message of fear, when we have random acts of kindness popping up all over social media?

This impacts our ability to choose, to make the so called “right” decision.  We become lost in a world of choices, options and indecisions, and our daily stress levels keep going up.

If we know that the amount of information and knowledge is going to increase over the years to come, then does it not make sense that the options in our decisions are also going to increase?

If we accept this, then we have to work on becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable.  I believe this is what we have to accept going forward.

We have to explore this uncommon place – what I call our discomfort zone.

How can you do this?  Here are a couple of suggestions:

1.  Every month, try something new – just one new thing.  You only have to do it for a month.  When you start, acknowledge the sense of discomfort and how strange it feels.  Find the positive in this new activity.

2.  Explore your sense of discomfort whenever it comes up – what causes you to feel uncomfortable? Are you feeling some fear?  Where do you think it comes from?

3.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, understand clearly the decision you are making – be very precise in what you are deciding.  For example, don’t just say you are looking for a job. Say you are looking for a role as a Marketing Manager in an international fast-moving consumer company with x$ and a career path.  The clearer you are and the more focused you can be, the less overwhelmed you become with information.  I find that most people are not that clear on the decisions they are seeking to make.

What would be the possibilities in your life when you start to feel comfortable with the uncomfortable?

Ten Steps To Get You Moving Forward

STOP THE STOPPING!

What would it be like for you if you stop putting stuff off until tomorrow and started what you could today? How would you feel?

Stop the noise in your head that says – great idea, maybe later. Because, before you know it, later becomes tomorrow, tomorrow becomes next week and next week becomes never. When you put something off for ‘later’ – what you are really doing is depriving yourself of what may be possible – if you’d just taken that first step.
There’s no need for remorse for the delays of yesterday… just start today and take that first step forward!

And to get you going, here are some easy ‘first steps’ to get you moving forward
1. Read one page of a book
2. Put on comfortable shoes and go for a walk
3. Be grateful for the blessings you do have
4. Laugh
5. Phone or write to one friend you care about
6. Learn one new idea that will enhance your career
7. Spend 10 minutes carefully listening to a family member
8. Give your time or donate funds to a worthwhile cause
9. Meditate
10. Encourage rather than criticise yourself

You don’t have to do them all, just choose one, for today. Or, create your own wish or to-do list – and then just pick one and start!
And if you want some support, give me a call.

DON’T

In November last year, you may recall I wrote a blog about creating positive energy with your words and provided some suggestions for saying things in a different, more positive way.  A good colleague of mine, Bob Seldon, then sent me his latest book “Don’t – Unlock the do in don’t…..How using the right words will change your life”.

Well, I read this wonderful book over the summer holidays and in summary, all I can say is this book is outstanding and a truly helpful guide with some great exercises, tips and examples.
The book is broken down as follows:
Part One – How words impact our behaviour
Part Two – Words to use, words to avoid and other influencing factors when communicating
Part Three – Difficult conversations and how to manage these.

Bob certainly takes you further than my little blog.  So if you are looking to bring more energy into your life, then you really need to read this book.

Turn Fear Into Fuel in 2023

Happy New Year and welcome back!!

Uncertainty. It’s a terrifying word. Like it or not, uncertainty is the new normal. We live in a time where the world is in a state of constant, long-term flux.

Uncertainty leads to unease, anxiety, fear and doubt on a level that snuffs out most genuinely meaningful and potentially revolutionary endeavours before they even see the light of day. Not because they wouldn’t have succeeded, but because you never equipped yourself to handle and even harness the emotional energy of the journey.

But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if there was a way to turn the fear, anxiety and self-doubt that ride along with acting in the face of uncertainty – the head-to-toe butterflies – into fuel for brilliance?

Turns out, there is. Here are 5 starter-strategies to help get you going:

1. Reframe

If you create a story that empowers action and innovation, that’s great news. Unfortunately, our brains have a strong bias toward negativity, leading most of us to create stories around circumstances that require action in the face of uncertainty that are more likely to paralyse and stunt creativity than fuel action.

Reframing is a process that asks you to suspend negative storylines, explore if the story you’re telling is the only one and, if not construct or frame a new storyline that empowers you.

For example, if your storyline is around the risk of failure, instead of just asking “what if I fail?” and creating a doomsday scenario, you ask yourself ”What would I attempt to do today if I knew I could not fail?”  Then build new stories around those questions.

 2. Practice Mindfulness

Reframing is an immensely powerful tool in the quest to lean into the unknown. But it also requires a certain detachment, the ability to pull back and see what’s really going on and re-centre.  A daily mindfulness practice goes a long way toward equipping you to do just that.

Mindfulness cultivates a sense of persistent grounding that makes living and acting in a world where there is no new normal far more enjoyable. And it trains you in the practice of dropping thoughts among those destructive, limiting beliefs.

3. Exercise Your Brain

We’ve all seen the research on exercise and health, weight loss and disease prevention. But did you know that certain approaches to exercise also have a profound effect on your brain?

Daily cardiovascular exercise, for example, especially with high-intensity bursts mixed in, can improve mood, executive function, decision-making, and decrease fear. It is also strongly correlated with decreases in anxiety and increases in mood, which are directly connected to improved creativity and problem-solving.

4. Single-task

Multitasking is out. Our brains don’t multitask; they just rapidly switch between tasks, sometimes fast enough for us to believe we’re doing many things at once. The problem is, every time we switch, there is a “ramping cost” in your brain, it takes anywhere from a few seconds to 15 minutes for your brain to fully re-engage. This makes you feel insanely busy but simultaneously inhibits productivity and creativity and increases feelings of anxiety and stress.

Multitasking also requires you to hold a lot of information in your working memory, which is controlled by a part of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex (PFC). But the PFC is also responsible for will power, and for keeping fear and anxiety in check. Multitasking increases the “cognitive load” on the PFC, overwhelming it and effectively killing its ability to keep fear, anxiety and the taunt of distraction at bay.

Simple solution – just say no. Do one thing at a time in intense, short bursts.

 5. Learning Opportunities

Explore the possibility of bringing a learning approach to your creative process. Create the simplest version of your idea possible, then bring a select group of those who potentially might enjoy it into the process earlier in the name of soliciting and integrating input into the next iteration. This not only minimizes waste, it changes the psychology of creation by adding more certainty earlier in the game and encouraging consistent, incremental action.

Source: Adapted from Jonathan Fields, “zen habits: 5 Ways to Turn Fear into Fuel”, http://zenhabits.net

I hope these five simple suggestions will support you in creating a 2023 with less fear, anxiety and uncertainty. Want to chat further….. contact me: babette@babettebensoussan.com.au

7 STRATEGIES TO HELP YOU LIVE WITH UNCERTAINTY

Last month I shared with you things you can control and things you can’t.  Today I would like to take a different approach and look at certain strategies you can implement to help you live with uncertainty.

Our brains perceive ambiguity as a threat so we will do whatever we can to create some sense of certainty.  We have all experienced this behaviour in some way during the pandemic.   So how would it be if we learnt instead to live with ambiguity?  Here are 7 strategies that might help

1. Don’t resist

Instead of resisting what would happen if you moved to practice acceptance?  Acceptance is about meeting life where it is and moving forward from there.  What that means is we surrender to the problem situation and to our emotions about the situation. This does not mean resigning to the way things are.  Instead, we accept things as they are while knowing we can always work to improve the situation or find ways of moving forward.

2. Invest in yourself

The best resource you will always have is YOU! If we feel depleted, if our spirit is low, or we have deferred self-maintenance – ie lack of sleep, not eating well, not having any down time – we will not be leading the best version of ourselves.  Self-care and personal growth are the most healthy things we can do for ourselves.

3. Find healthy ways to comfort yourself

Instead of turning to social media, junk food, alcohol, or spending to soothe our rattled nerves, we do better when we can comfort ourselves in healthy ways.  I reflect on gratitude – I really have so much to be grateful for.  Or maybe I might take a little siesta, or take time out and read the next chapter in a novel I am currently reading.  What do you do that is comforting for you?

4. Don’t believe everything you think

I have said this in numerous newsletters – we all have a tendency to believe thoughts that are limiting, that contain assumptions about how we see the world, and that are supportive of our inner voices.  Instead of buying into these stressful thoughts, we can actively imagine the best possible scenario, the silver lining so to speak of the negativity in our thinking.

5. Pay attention

Interesting the opposite of uncertainty is not certainty.  It is presence.  Be present with your emotions.  What are you feeling?  Bring curiosity and acceptance to what you are feeling.  We are not defined by any one moment, even though a single moment can be incredibly important.  Instead, it comes back to the idea of creating a space where we can show up to ourselves with compassion. It is an opportunity for correspondence with our own heart.

6. Stop looking for someone to rescue you

When we feel powerless, or trapped, we start to hope other people will save us from our misery.  The interesting point here is that rescuers tend to give us permission to avoid taking responsibility for our own lives.  Instead, we need to find emotionally supportive friends (or coaches) who help us focus on our strengths in solving our own problems.  When we take responsibility for our lives, we trade the false power of victimhood for the real power that comes from creating the life we want.

7. Find meaning in the chaos

Meaning in our lives is found around our purpose, value and impact. Meaning and purpose are wellsprings of hope.  When we feel the world is scary or uncertain, knowing what meaning we have for others and feeling a sense of purpose can ground us better than anything else.  Don’t be resigned to your misery while we wait for the situation to resolve itself. What outcome are you hoping for?  How can you create that life during times of uncertainty?

During my student years, my marketing professor – who I had for four marketing units – reminded every class, every day, that the only certain thing in life was change.  Change will always bring a degree of uncertainty as we cannot know the future however I hope the 7 strategies above will bring you a sense of comfort, acceptance and support.

Adapted from: “7 strategies to help you live with uncertainty”, by Christine Carter , October 21, 2020 – https://ideas.ted.com/7-strategies-to-help-you-live-with-uncertainty/

Things you can control, and things you can’t!

With Covid hanging around, a number of my clients have been stressing about things that are really not in their control. Some things are simply uncontrollable and it is exhausting to obsess over them—not to mention disempowering since we can’t control what’s in our power when we’re fixated on things that aren’t.

Then, this week I received a wonderful email (from Lori Deschene who has a delightful blog called Tiny Buddha) around control.

I thought I would share with you a few of the items on her amazing list of fifteen things we can’t control, what we can control instead, and what, specifically, we can do to own our power.  You can access the full list and Letting Go of Control worksheet here.

1. YOU CAN’T CONTROL: WHAT OTHER PEOPLE DO.

You can control: Whether you participate in their behaviour or enable them.

Some specific things you can do: Trust other people to make their own decisions and accept that you’re not responsible for their choices or the consequences of their actions. Consider that their choices and outcomes are somehow necessary for their growth. Recognize that you can accept their behaviour without condoning it, participating in it, or enabling it. And set boundaries if their actions are hurtful to your physical, emotional, or mental health.

2. YOU CAN’T CONTROL: HOW OTHER PEOPLE SEE YOU.

You can control: How you show up in your relationships and how you see yourself.

Some specific things you can do: Make a list of traits you’d like to embody in your relationships—kindness, honesty, or integrity, for example—and check in with yourself throughout the day to ensure you’re being the kind of person you want to be. Take a little time every night to reflect on everything you did that day that made you proud.

3. YOU CAN’T CONTROL: HOW OTHER PEOPLE TREAT YOU.

You can control: How you internalize and respond to their treatment.

Some specific things you can do: Recognize that their behaviour isn’t personal; it’s more about them and their own pain and limitations than you. Communicate how their behaviour affects you, set boundaries around what you will and will not accept, and plan what you’ll do to enforce those boundaries and what you’ll do if someone crosses them. If the other person regularly treats you with callousness or disrespect, create distance in a relationship or end it altogether.

4. YOU CAN’T CONTROL: WHETHER OTHER PEOPLE LIKE YOU.

You can control: How true you are to yourself.

Some specific things you can do: Remind yourself that no one is liked by everyone and that you don’t have to win anyone’s approval. You just need to be yourself so you can find like-minded people, people who accept and appreciate you just as you are. Also, list what it means to you to be true to yourself and check in with yourself regularly to see if you’re adhering to your list.

5. YOU CAN’T CONTROL: WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK, FEEL, AND BELIEVE.

You can control: How you engage with your different opinions, feelings, and beliefs.

Some specific things you can do: Set boundaries around conversations (which topics you won’t discuss, or what you’ll do to stay calm when hot button issues come up). Remind yourself that it’s not your job to change people’s minds. Look for common ground—something you can both agree on, even if you think differently. And remember that you don’t need to see eye-to-eye on everything to have a strong relationship; you just need to respect each other.

6. YOU CAN’T CONTROL: HOW OTHER PEOPLE INTERNALIZE THINGS YOU SAY AND DO.

You can control: Your intentions and how you respond when you unintentionally hurt someone.

Some specific things you can do: Communicate how you feel if you fear you’ve upset someone and clarify your intentions if you think there’s been a misunderstanding. Also, trust that other people will tell you if they’re upset, and recognize it’s not your job to read their minds if they don’t speak up.

7. YOU CAN’T CONTROL: YOUR THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS.

You can control: Whether you attach to them, identify with them, or act on them.

Some specific things you can do: Accept that thoughts and feelings come and go, and they are never permanent. They also don’t mean anything about you as a person. Also, practice pausing before acting on a thought or feeling so you can respond from a place of calmness and clarity.

I do hope these help you focus better on what you can control.  You can never control others nor what’s coming however you can always control how you will react, whether you are strong enough to cope with a situation and even how to make the best of it.

Something a little different…

In Australia we are now coming up to the end of the financial year, so instead of sharing another interesting article or writing a particular blog about starting afresh in a new financial year, I thought I would share five interesting short videos that over time I found to be quite insightful, and made me reflect on the way I see myself and those around me.The psychology of your future self“Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished.” Dan Gilbert shares recent research on a phenomenon he calls the “end of history illusion,” where we somehow imagine that the person we are right now is the person we’ll be for the rest of time. Hint: that’s not the case.  View hereEmpathy vs SympathyWhat is the best way to ease someone’s pain and suffering? In this beautifully animated RSA Short, Dr Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities.View hereAre you human?Have you ever wondered: Am I a human being? Ze Frank suggests a series of simple questions that will determine this. Please relax and follow the prompts. Let’s begin…View hereGetting stuck in the negatives and how to get unstuckAlison Ledgerwood is interested in understanding how people think, and how they can think better. Her research investigates how certain ways of thinking about an issue tend to stick in people’s heads. Her classes on social psychology focus on understanding the way people think and behave in social situations, and how to harness that knowledge to potentially improve the social world in which we all live.View hereWhat makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happinessWhat keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life? If you think it’s fame and money, you’re not alone – but, according to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, you’re mistaken. As the director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction. In this talk, he shares three important lessons learned from the study as well as some practical, old-as-the-hills wisdom on how to build a fulfilling, long life.View hereSo which one was most insightful for you?  Most interested to hear your thoughts!

AVOIDING THE HIGH COSTS OF WRONG DECISIONS

As many of you, who will have read my previous newsletters this year, will know I have been reading over the summer holidays and going through some old files. What memories!

Interestingly they also reminded me of how often the basics of business still remain unchanged. And one such area is in the way we make business decisions. Why is it that so many companies keep making costly mistakes?

The reasons business people make the wrong decisions, in fact, stems from a multiplicity of causes. A colleague of mine, Deborah Sawyer, a number of years ago identified seven deadly sins of business decision-making that alas are too familiar to us all.

Her list included:

1. We already have all the answers – the longer someone has worked in an industry the more inclined they are to believe they know all the answers about that industry. The same applies for someone who has worked with a particular company for a long time and is immersed in that particular company’s viewpoint.

Symptoms include –
a) familiarity breeds contempt;
b) arrogance in that we would never go outside for information (I guess these people don’t have customers, suppliers, have any needs for products or services, don’t participate in conferences, etc!);
c)“old boy’s knowledge”.

2. Asking the wrong question – my favourite – getting to the right decision means having the right information. And having the right information means asking the right questions. Here lies the kernel of another reason why many business people make the wrong decisions – they do not ask the right question.

3. Old Demon Ego – Decisions which companies should never take, and would never take if egos could be set aside, do get taken because decision-makers can’t give up their pet ideas. Whilst decision makers often know they should go and get some objective input to test their idea, they deliberately avoid doing so. That’s because they know an input of information will likely show up the flaws in the pet project. That would mean they would have to abandon the idea!

Symptoms include:
a) unwise acquisitions
b) diversification bites
c) failing overseas
d) entrepreneurial weakness

Have you hugged your pet idea today?

4. Flying by the Seat of your Pants Saves Money – Doesn’t It? – Executives often fall for this one! By not seeking out the information to support decision making, they “save” the company money.

Symptoms include:
a) winging it overseas
b) fools rush in
c) leaving it too late

It is important to remember here that most readily available information is generalised and intended to inform in a general way. Rarely is generalised information, which just about anyone can access, tailored enough to support business decision making, which has to occur in the context of a paritcular company’s situation.

5. If It Works for Them, It’ll Work for Us (All Aboard the Bandwagon) – Rather than

undertake soul searching to find the right choices, a company instead looks around at what others in its industry have done and simply mimics them. By imitating what others do, there is no need to take an idea and test it in the context of your own company to see if there is a fit.

Some symptoms include:
a) following the fashions
b) safety in numbers
c) why is no-one else doing this?

This sin is most usually made in mature industries where there are a limited number of players and everyone knows everyone else.

6. Hear No Evil – Another way companies avoid making the right decision is by making sure they never hear anything unpleasant. We all know this one and some of the symptoms include:

a) don’t tell me what I ask to hear!
b) shoot the messenger

Here is a recent example – “As Vladimir Putin has surrounded himself with hardliners who reinforce his worldview, the Russian president’s access to reliable — if inconvenient — information has diminished. The result is a dangerous feedback loop which encourages an increasingly belligerent stance, reflects Seva Gunitsky for Foreign Affairs.”

7. No Decision Can be the Same as a Bad Decision (Hurry Up and Wait) – Failure to make a decision does not just mean a lost opportunity. It can also take away the chance to take corrective action to an existing business situation.

Symptoms include:
a) decision drag (also known as procrastination)
b) head in the sand
c) eye off the future

Every company and every industry runs the risk of thinking that the status quo will continue indefinitely. Many decisions taken or not taken rest on this assumption.

One of my biggest weakness is No. 4. Which sin(s) do you feel you are committing today as you move forward?

Excerpts: Sawyer, D., (1999) “Getting it Right, Avoiding the High Cost of Wrong Decisions”, St. Lucie Press, USA.

New life blog post

You can’t change yourself by thinking it so!

I have been thinking a great deal recently (I have had plenty of time for that with Covid), on how my own biases and limiting beliefs prevent me from understanding where I get in my own way.

There is so much I still want to achieve; there is so much I still want to experience and feel. And yet as every year goes by, somehow, I find myself still chained to my desk (aka emails and specific projects), pushing that rock of biases and beliefs up the hill and not giving myself permission to do something different, learn something new (I would love to learn Ikebana), read a novel, have a siesta or even dare I say it – just daydream.
 
Does every year of your life seem like a repeat? Mine sure does.
 
The question for me was how do I change things?  
 
The opinion and thoughts we have of ourselves determines everything about us, and shapes what will happen to us in the future – from what kind of job we will have, to how successful we will be. Our thoughts define who we are and determine how happy we are.
 
If this premise is true – and the entire field of psychology, counselling and coaching is dedicated to this premise – how do we change our opinion of ourselves? How do we create a better me or a better you?
 
As a dear colleague recently said, “How do I wake up tomorrow with a new view of me?… How do we change the way we think about ourselves after a lifetime of assaults on our self-concept from parents, peers, professors, and preachers?”
 
My answer – you can’t change yourself by just thinking it so! Our biases and limiting beliefs will still be there, creeping into all our decisions. Each of us needs someone to reflect back to us what we are really saying about ourselves and therefore thinking.
 
So, late last year, after much reflection, I got myself a coach.  Yes, I know, I am a coach. But that is why I knew I needed one – to help me traverse the line between working 60+ hours a week to a more relaxed approach. It is taking time, and I know it won’t happen overnight. It took decades to develop my limiting beliefs, so they will not change just because I think so.
 
In 2022, what do you want to change, and how will you make it happen?  
What support will you get to make sure a change deep down really happens?

five important lessons

What is truly important in life?

I thought for something different for the end of the year and in preparation for 2022, I would share these five important stories that were recently shared with me. They made me reflect on what is important in life.  Read these wonderful stories at your leisure over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

1 – First Important Lesson – Cleaning Lady.

During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions until I read the last one: “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?”

Surely this was some kind of joke.  I had seen the cleaning woman several times.  She was tall, dark-haired, and in her 50’s, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank.  Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count towards our quiz grade.

“Absolutely, ” said the professor.  “In your careers, you will meet many people.   All are significant.  They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say “hello.”

I’ve never forgotten that lesson.  I also learned her name.  It was Dorothy.

2 – Second Important Lesson – Pickup in the Rain.

One night, at 11:30 p.m., an older African American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rainstorm.  Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride.  Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car.

A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960s.  The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance, and put her into a taxicab. She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him.  Seven days went by and a knock came on the man’s door. To his surprise, a giant console TV was delivered to his home.  A special note was attached.

It read:  “Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night.  The rain-drenched not only my clothes but also my spirits.  Then you came along.   Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband’s bedside just before he passed away.  God Bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others.

Sincerely, Mrs Nat King Cole”.

3 – Third Important Lesson – Always remember those who serve.

In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table.   A waitress put a glass of water in front of him.

“How much is an ice cream sundae?” he asked.

“Fifty cents,” replied the waitress.

The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it. “Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?” he inquired. By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient.

“Thirty-five cents,” she brusquely replied. The little boy again counted his coins. “I’ll have the plain ice cream,” he said.

The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table, and walked away.  The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier, and left.  When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table.  There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies.

You see, he couldn’t have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.

4 – Fourth Important Lesson. – The Obstacle in Our Path.

In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway.  Then he hid and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock.  Some of the King’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it.  Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.

Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables.  Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road.  After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded.  After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been.  The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway.

The peasant learned what many of us never understand! Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.

5 – Fifth Important Lesson – Giving When it Counts.

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare & serious disease.  Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness.

The doctor explained the situation to her little brother and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes I’ll do it if it will save her.”

As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the colour returning to her cheeks.  Then his face grew pale and his smile faded.

He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?”

Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.

Most importantly… 
Live with no regrets, Treat people the way you want to be treated, Work like you don’t need the money, Love like you’ve never been hurt, and Dance like you do when nobody’s watching.

Right Decisions

How to make the right decision

Think decision-making is about gut feel? Think again. It’s all in the mind.

Making decisions is the most important job of any executive. It’s also the toughest and the riskiest. Bad decisions can damage a business and a career, sometimes irreparably. So where do bad decisions come from? In many cases, they can be traced back to the way the decisions were made. But sometimes the fault lies not in the process but in the mind of the decision-maker. The way the human brain works can sabotage our decisions.

For executives, the psychological traps can undermine everything from new product development to acquisition and divestiture strategy and succession planning. While no-one can rid his or her mind of these ingrained flaws, anyone can learn to understand the traps and compensate for them. These include:

THE ANCHORING TRAP – When considering a decision, the mind gives disproportionate weight to the first information it receives. Initial impressions, estimates, or data anchor subsequent thoughts and judgements. Anchors can be as simple as a comment from a colleague, a number, or a statistic from the morning’s paper. One of the most common types of anchor is a past event or trend.

Because anchors can establish the terms on which a decision will be made, they are often used as a bargaining tactic by savvy negotiators. Their effect in decision-making has been documented in thousands of experiments. Anchors influence the decisions of managers, accountants and engineers, bankers and lawyers, consultants and stock analysts.

But aware managers can reduce their impact by using the following techniques:

  • View a problem from different perspectives.
  • Think about the problem before consulting others.
  • Seek out information from a variety of people.
  • Avoid anchoring those from whom you solicit information or counsel.
  • Be wary of anchors in negotiations.

THE STATUS QUO TRAP – Decision makers display a strong bias towards alternatives that perpetuate the status quo. The source of the status quo trap lies in the desire to protect our egos from damage. Breaking from the status quo means taking action, and when we take action we take responsibility, thus opening ourselves to criticism and to regret.

Once you become aware of the status quo trap, you can use the following techniques to lessen its pull:

  • Always remind yourself of your objectives and examine how they would be served by the status quo.
  • The status quo is not your only alternative. Identify other options and use them as counterbalances.
  • Ask yourself whether you would choose the status quo alternative if it weren’t the status quo.
  • Avoid exaggerating the effort or cost involved in switching from the status quo.
  • Remember that the desirability of the status quo will change over time. Evaluate alternatives in terms of the future as well as the present.
  • Don’t default to the status quo just because you’re having a hard time picking the best alternative. Force yourself to choose among the options.

THE SUNK COST TRAP – Another of the deep-seated biases is to make choices that justify past choices, even when those past choices no longer seem valid. Executives should recognise that, in an uncertain world where unforeseeable events are common, good decisions can sometimes lead to bad outcomes. By acknowledging that some good ideas will end in failure, executives will encourage people to cut their losses.

For all decisions with a history you will need to make a conscious effort to set aside any sunk costs:

  • Seek out views of people not involved with the earlier decisions and who are unlikely to be committed to them.
  • Examine why admitting to an earlier mistake distresses you. Remind yourself that even smart choices can have bad consequences, through no fault of the original decision-maker, and that even the best managers are not immune to errors in judgement.
  • Be on the lookout for the influence of sunk cost biases in the decisions your subordinates make.

THE EVIDENCE TRAP – This bias leads us to seek out information that supports our existing instinct while avoiding information that contradicts it.

The two psychological forces at work here are our tendency to subconsciously decide what we want to do before we figure out why we want to do it, and our inclination to be more engaged by things we like than by things we dislike. You need to put your choices to the test:

  • Check to see whether you are examining all the evidence with equal rigour.
  • Get someone you respect to play devil’s advocate. Better yet, build the counter-arguments yourself. What’s the strongest reason to do something else?
  • Be honest with yourself about your motives. Are you gathering information to help you make a smart choice, or are you looking for evidence confirming your view?
  • In seeking advice, do not ask leading questions. And if you find that an adviser always seems to support your point of view, find a new adviser.

THE FRAMING TRAP – The way a problem is framed can profoundly influence the choices you make. A poorly framed problem can undermine even the most considered decision. But the adverse effects of framing can be limited by taking precautions:

  • Don’t automatically accept the initial frame, whether it was formulated by you or by someone else.
  • Try posing problems in a neutral way that combines gains and losses or embraces different reference points.
  • Think about the framing of a problem. In the decision-making process, ask yourself how your thinking might change if the framing changed.
  • When others recommend decisions, examine their frames. Challenge them with different frames.

THE FORECASTING TRAPS – All of the traps discussed so far can influence the way we make decisions when confronted with uncertainty. But another subset of traps can have a particularly distorting effect in uncertain situations because they can cloud our ability to assess probabilities.

These include:

  • The overconfidence trap. Even though most of us are not very good at making estimates or forecasts, we actually tend to be overconfident about our accuracy. That can lead to errors in judgement and, in turn, to bad decisions. In making predictions most people set too narrow a range of possibilities. For example if managers underestimate the high end or overestimate the low end of a crucial variable, they may miss attractive opportunities or expose themselves to far greater risk than they realise.
  • The prudence trap. When faced with high-stakes decisions, we tend to adjust our estimates or forecasts “ just to be on the safe side”. Policymakers have gone so far as to codify over-cautiousness in formal decision-making procedures. For example using worst case analysis and incorporating the worst case into the decision.
  • The recallability trap. Even if we are neither overly confident nor unduly prudent, we can still fall into a trap when making estimates or forecasts. Because we so frequently base our predictions about future events on our memory of past events, we can be overly influenced by dramatic incidents that have left a strong impression on our memory. Anything that distorts your ability to recall events in a balanced way will distort your probability assessments.

Still think that decision-making is about gut feel?

If you’d like help to make the ‘right’ decision get in touch via our contact form.

Negative and positive Feedback

How to stop being a people pleaser: 7 powerful habits – PART 2

Last month I started this article around the sneaky and negative effects of being a people pleaser and you may recall that I mentioned there were 7 habits you could develop to help you with changing this habit.

To recap briefly; habits 1, 2 and 3 were:

1. Realize that with some people it isn’t about you and what you do (no matter what you do).
2. Learn how to say no.
3.  People don’t really care that much about what you say or do.

Now moving on:

4. Learn how to handle criticism and verbal lash outs (and the fear of that).
Sometimes its simply about the other person and his or her situation in life right now. It is not about what you did or did not do.  A few more things that help me to handle negative or critical messages are:

  • Wait before you reply. Take a couple of deep breaths in the conversation. By doing so you’ll reduce the risk of lashing out yourself or making a mistake. Calming yourself down a bit before replying is pretty much always a good idea.
  • Remember: you can let it go. You don’t have to reply to all the negative messages you may get via email, social media or in real life. As they say, you don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to.  You can just say nothing, let it go and move on. It is important to remember that you do have this option.
  • It’s OK to disagree. This took me time to really get. Because I wanted to get people to my side. To make someone see things the way I did. But it’s also OK to simply have different opinions about things. In fact, it may provide you with an opportunity to learn about different perspectives.

5. Set boundaries for yourself.
Can’t tell you how important this is and how many coaching clients I get to practice this.  If you set a few firm boundaries for yourself then it will, over time, become easier to do the same towards other people too. And these boundaries can also help you to focus better on what matters the most to you.

A few of the daily ones that have helped me with both of those things are:

  • A start-time and a stop-time for work. I don’t work before 8 in the morning and my work computer is shut off – at the latest – at 7 in the evening.
  • Work in a no-distraction zone. I keep email notifications and messaging programs off. And my smartphone is on silent mode when I am focused on a project, with a coaching client, or writing.
  • Only check email twice a day. Otherwise, it’s easy for me to lose focus and to have too many thoughts swirling around in my mind while working.

6. Strengthen your self-esteem.
As you value yourself, your time, and your energy more, it becomes more natural to say no when you need to.  And criticism and negative words will bounce off of you more easily and more often.  After a while, you’ll be less concerned about getting everyone else to like you all the time. As you like and respect yourself more, your dependency upon what others may think or say, drops drastically.

7. Keep your focus on what YOU want out of your life.
If you know what’s most important to you and you keep your focus on that each day then you’ll naturally start to say no and stop being so people-pleasing. Now your energy and time are focused on achieving your goals and aspirations.  You’re no longer drifting along without a clear focus.

So how could you stop being a people pleaser?  Which of these 7 habits resonated the most for you? What could you do differently moving forward?

It is not easy changing a lifetime habit – it takes time and practice.  So be kind to yourself as you learn to focus on what matters most for you and be able to let go of pleasing others all the time.

No

HOW TO STOP BEING A PEOPLE PLEASER: 7 POWERFUL HABITS – PART 1

When you get stuck in the habit of trying to please other people most of the time, it can have a sneaky and negative effect on your life.  And not only on you but also on the people around you.

Because as you try to please:

  • You put on a mask and try to guess what to do while getting anxious and stressed.
  • Sometimes you feel taken advantage of by others who use your people pleasing habit.
  • Often you feel out of tune with what you yourself deep down want.
  • It can also have an unintended effect on other people as they may see through your mask, start to feel your inner discomfort and stress themselves and get confused or upset because they sense you are not being honest and straightforward with them.

So being a people pleaser may not create the outcomes you seek and often can be an even worse choice than one may at first think.

So how can you change this behaviour and break the habit?

This month I’d like to share 7 powerful insights and habits that have helped me with this issue.

1. Realize that with some people it isn’t about you and what you do (no matter what you do).

Some people just can’t be pleased. No matter what you do. Because it’s not about what you do or do not do. It’s about him or her.

By realizing this and how you in the end can’t get everyone to like you or can’t void conflict no matter what you do, you can start to let go of this damaging habit.

2. Learn how to say no.

It’s of course hard to say no.  But it is vital for you to own happiness, stress levels and for living the life you truly want.

Here are 5 things that have made it easier for me to say no more often:

  • Disarm and state your need. It’s easier for people to accept your no if you disarm them first. Do that by, for instance, saying that you’re flattered or that you appreciate the kind offer. Then add that you, for example, simply don’t have the time for doing what they want.  Now you are establishing a boundary for your sake.
  • If they’re pushy, add how you feel. Say that you don’t feel that this offer is a good fit for your life right now. Or that you feel overwhelmed and very busy and so you cannot do whatever they want. Telling someone how you honestly feel can help them to understand your side of the issue better. And it’s also a lot harder to argue with how you feel rather than what you think.
  • Help out a bit. If possible, finish your reply by recommending someone that you think could help out or would be a better fit for what they need. I do this quite often when I feel I lack the knowledge or experience that a reader or a friend is looking for.
  • Remind yourself why it is important to sometimes say no: You teach people by how you behave. They learn about you and your boundaries from your behaviour. So if you stand up for yourself and say no and are assertive about what you don’t want then people will start to pick up on that. And over time you’ll encounter fewer and fewer situations where someone tries to be pushy or steamroll you.
  • It’s OK to feel a bit guilty about saying no (but you don’t have to act on it). Just feel it and be with that feeling for a while. But at the same time know that it doesn’t mean that you have to act on it and say yes or do what they want you to do.
Interested in practical ways to say no? I’m happy to share with you my list of ’99 ways to say No’. Just email me.

3. People don’t really care that much about what you say or do.

The truth is that while you may be the main character in your own life and head, you’re not that in other people’s lives.  Because here’s the thing: people have their hands full with thinking and worrying about their own lives. They have their heads full of thoughts about their kids, career, pets, hobbies, dreams and worries or thoughts about what others may think of them.

This realization can make you feel less important. But it can also set you free.

ARE YOUR BELIEFS CREATING THE LIFE YOU WANT?

Beliefs are thoughts in our heads that influence our emotions, behaviours, attitudes, and actions.  Some beliefs can be empowering, which can lead us to great success, or self-limiting which stops us from achieving our goals.

However, we need to understand that beliefs are only thoughts and that they are not real.  With our power of choice, we can change our thoughts whenever we want to. We have the power to choose what we want to believe and not believe.  Successful people have chosen to believe in thoughts that empower them.  What are you going to choose?

Here are some empowering beliefs that I have come across:

  1. I am not afraid, only excited for what is ahead
  2. I am responsible for the life I create – The choices I make are ultimately my own responsibility.
  3. Failure means nothing to me – I look for outcomes and if the outcomes are not what I expect, then I assess what I need to do to change those outcomes
  4. I embrace challenges because I will always find a way to overcome
  5. I am the person who has to decide. Whether I will do it or toss it aside; I am the person who makes up my mind.
  6. Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, joy, courage, creativity and empathy. Vulnerability gives me strength and fuels my belief in me.
  7. The past was who I was, the present is who I am and the future is who I may become.
  8. I am on a continuous journey of learning, which will never end.
  9. I accept that sometimes I can stuff up, make mistakes and that I am not perfect however I never stop trying to be the best person I can be.
  10. I always dream big. I strive for that which is out of my reach as the impossible is worth striving for.

One of my favourite quotes is from Lao Tzu –

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.

 

Do you want to change some of your thoughts?

The first step to changing how you think is to decide what the results are when you act on your current beliefs.  Don’t worry at this stage whether your beliefs are right or wrong. What are your key beliefs about yourself and your life now? What are the consequences of those beliefs in your life today?  How do these thoughts serve you?

Now for the next 10 days choose one empowering belief and repeat it three times a day – preferably looking at yourself in a mirror. Each day try to behave and act in a way that supports the thought that you have chosen. Then watch how you begin to feel different….. and begin to transform.

Once you commit to living your life as an empowered individual you will have no option but to experience a life full of success and fulfilment.  Why wouldn’t you?

Do You Have Work / Life Balance?

Recently I have been reflecting on my work/life balance.  To be honest, my life has been so unbalanced I could certainly provide a guide as to what NOT to do.  As I have grown older and hopefully wiser, I have come to realise that to live a good life there needs to be moderation in everything.  Something I am not good at.

Let me give you some background to help you understand where I am coming from.  From 1982 to 1992 I studied for my business degrees part-time while working full time and trying to make my way up the corporate ladder.  That was a Bachelors Degree in Business with majors in Marketing and Economics and then an MBA.

While working at least 40 hours per week for my employers, I was adding another 40 hours at least a week in studies.  This is not what anyone would call work/life balance.  In fact, I was spelling “fun” as “w-o-r-k”!!!  If I wasn’t studying, I was working and if I wasn’t working, I was studying.  My friends were my fellow students and if we got together for an evening it was either completing assignments or preparing for exams.  Definitely not a balanced life!

Today, for me, a work/life balance is where there is time and space for earning a living, enjoying the company of family and friends, having regular holidays, time to exercise and time to ruminate.  In other words, balance occurs where there is some sort of equitable distribution amongst all the aspects of one’s life.

Our lives are made up of many parts and I believe these include:

  • Contribution to society
  • Work/Career
  • Family/Relationships/Friends/Social
  • Fun and Enjoyment
  • Spiritual Development
  • Health
  • Financials

I definitely did not have equal distribution amongst these aspects of my life – often because I felt I had no control over my time.

When I was halfway through my MBA, I decided that I needed to go out there on my own and start my own business.  I needed more control over my life and a better balance, I thought.  Well let me tell you, there is nothing like starting your own business while studying!!

Instead of working 80 hours a week, I was now working and worrying 24 hours on 24 hours, 7 days a week.  Yep, I definitely got more balance!

Even when my studies come to an end and I only had to concentrate on my business, I thought, at last, I now have a chance for a better work/life balance.

Well, up until recently, I can say I have rarely had holidays longer than one week a year – if that some years.  I have attempted to balance all the parts of my life but with little success.  Work seems to have always gained the upper hand.

Not any more …..  Nowadays, I think I know why.

Balance in one’s life is based, I believe, on your personality drivers and personal values.  In case you have not guessed yet, I am a type-A personality – very achievement-oriented, a workaholic.  Everything I did in work needed to be as good as possible if not perfect…..  Exhausting isn’t it????

These drivers and values rarely let me rest – there was always something bigger or better to achieve.  As a result, there was little moderation in my life.

Over the past year, talking with my coaches (yes, I have more than one!) I have slowly changed some of my values.  Whether that is a result of conscious effort or age or both, I am not sure.  I now no longer work on weekends – big step there!  This coming financial year my goal is not to work on Fridays – well most Fridays/Friday afternoons??

I am no longer driven to prove myself as much – I guess because I have already achieved much, to be truthful, and for which I am grateful.  I try to take the time to read, to get together with family and friends and to even look after myself.  Please note that try is the operative word here.

I believe I have a choice whether I want to work hard or whether I want time to play.  It is MY values that will drive whether I really achieve balance or not in my life. The personal questions are how do I define balance? What is life/work balance for me?

Each one of us needs to find our own balance amongst all the different aspects of our lives.  But first I believe we need to understand the values and drivers we hold about our self-worth and those values we want to hold close.

It is our choice how we live our lives and whether we really want to change our lives to have a greater work/life balance – whatever that may mean for each of us.

PS:  To help you on your road, download the Wheel of Life to see which areas you need to work on to bring greater balance into your life.

 

Do you need to overcome negative thoughts?

Here we are at the end of another financial year – and you may be questioning where has the year gone and what is going on in the world.  So much change, so much to keep up with!

All this may be overwhelming, and it may start to drag you down.  You could start to feel sorry for yourself, or maybe you are worrying more, or questioning ‘what’s the point?’ On reflection, maybe you didn’t achieve what you wanted to so far and maybe the world news is just putting you in a funk!

Negative thoughts can be toxic, can build up and quickly make us feel depressed, sad, lost and sometimes hopeless.

Here are a number of suggestions to overcome negative thoughts, which might help you move to a more positive frame of mind:

  1. In every situation there is a silver lining – Ask yourself what is the one good thing you can identify in this negative situation?  What is the one thing you could learn from this? Or as I often suggest to clients, what is the gift in this negative situation?
  2. Replace the negativity in your life – What are the 3 top sources of negativity in your life right now?  What can you change about these 3 sources?  It is OK to take small steps when dealing with this.  Alternatively, you can keep reminding yourself of tip No 1.
  3. Talk to someone – keeping negative thoughts bottled up is not helpful.  Find someone you can share or vent with.  And then see if you can together find a more positive approach to relieving the negative thoughts to move forward.
  4. Are you making a mountain out of a molehill? – think through the negative thought.  Are you making the issue bigger than necessary?  Think would it matter in 3 or 5 years?  What about next year or even next month?  What would a friend or family member say?  When we focus on a problem or issue, it becomes all-encompassing and is no longer in perspective. Asking yourself whether the issue is really in perspective is an important way to manage negative thinking.
  5. Be grateful for what you do have – this is my favourite No. 1 negative squasher!  List what you have to be grateful for and remind yourself of these things every day. I get my clients to write them down at the end of every day.  You will be surprised what happens to your thinking.
  6. What about going for some exercise? – Endorphins are a wonderful recharger.  When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins, which interact with the receptors in your brain.  These trigger a positive feeling in the body and improved self-esteem, providing a more positive and energized outlook on life.
  7. Pay it forward – If you want to feel positive then bring positivity into someone else’s life. Do an act of kindness and/or generosity; give a compliment; help out, etc.  By adding positivity to someone else’s life, you too can start to feel better and more optimistic again.
  8. Start tomorrow with a positive tone – set yourself a reminder the night before of a positive action you are going to take the following day.  Make sure you can see it clearly the moment you wake up.  Repeat it to yourself a couple of times during the day if you want.  Savour it!

Each of these tips will help take those negative thoughts away.  Give it a go – what have you got to lose? Let me know which ones you think help you the most.  If you want to talk about it more, give me a call.

Avoiding Bad Decisions

As you know, I have been working for over 25 years to help people make better decisions, whether through strategic and competitive intelligence or life, leadership, and business coaching. I even call myself The Decision-Making Maverick™.

Over the years, I have found four key areas that impact decision-making the most:

  • Heavy internal focus
  • Decision Fatigue
  • Shallow Brains
  • Learning how to do new things

So when a colleague – Shane Parrish from Farnam Street – recently posted about one aspect of decision-making that’s rarely talked about – how to avoid making bad decisions – I had to share it with you.

Here are his suggestions (including some additional comments based on my experience) for five of the biggest reasons we make bad decisions:

1. We’re unintentionally stupid

We like to think that we can rationally process information like a computer, but we can’t. Cognitive biases explain why we make bad decisions but rarely help us avoid them in the first place. It’s better to focus on these warning signs that signal something is about to go wrong.

Warning signs you’re about to do something stupid unintentionally:

  • You’re tired, emotional, in a rush, or distracted.
  • You’re operating in a group or working with an authority figure who thinks they know it all.

The rule: Never make important decisions when you’re tired, emotional, distracted, or in a rush.

2. We solve the wrong problem

How many times have we come across this? The first person to state the problem rarely has the best insight into the problem. Once a problem is thrown out on the table, however, our type-A problem-solving nature kicks in, and we forget first to ask if we’re solving the right problem.

Warning signs you’re solving the wrong problem:

  • You let someone else define the problem for you.
  • You’re far away from the problem.
  • You’re thinking about the problem at only one level or through a narrow lens.
  • You don’t have a clear enough question about the problem.

The rule: Never let anyone define the problem for you. And never proceed if you are not clear on which problem you are trying to solve. Go back to the decision you are trying to reach around the problem.

3. We use incorrect or insufficient information

We like to believe that what we read is correct and that people tell us the truth. We like to believe the people we talk to understand what they are talking about. We like to believe that we have all the information.

Warning signs you have incorrect or insufficient information:

  • You are not speaking to the right people.
  • You’re reading about it only in the news.
  • You are not looking at multiple sources to collect and verify the information you need.

The rule: Seek out information from numerous sources – don’t be lazy – a lot is riding on making a better decision.

4. We fail to learn

You know the person that sits beside you at work that has twenty years of experience but keeps making the same mistakes over and over? They don’t have twenty years of experience—they have one year of experience repeated twenty times. If you can’t learn, you can’t get better.

To truly learn from our experiences, we must reflect. Reflection has to be part of your process, not something you might do if you have time. Don’t use the excuse of being too busy or get too invested in protecting your ego. Only reflection allows us to distil experience into something we can learn from to make better decisions in the future.

Warning signs you’re not learning:

  • You’re too busy to reflect.
  • You don’t keep track of your decisions.
  • You can’t calibrate your decision-making.

The rule: Be less busy. Keep a learning journal. Reflect every day.

5. We focus on optics over outcomes

Our evolutionary programming conditions us to do what’s easy over what’s right. After all, it’s often easier to signal being virtuous than to actually be virtuous.

Warning signs you’re focused on optics:

  • You’re thinking about how you’ll defend your decision – and you don’t share what you already know.
  • You’re knowingly choosing what’s defendable over what’s right.
  • You’d make a different decision if you owned the company.
  • You catch yourself saying this is what your boss would want.

The rule: Act as you would want an employee to act if you owned the company.

As some of you would know from my many presentations, I have talked about these very issues. Avoiding bad decisions is just as important as making good ones.

Look at the warning signs, reflect, set some rules for your decision-making processes, and you will never need to rely on luck to get good outcomes.

Here is the link to Shane’s original article and many others – https://fs.blog/2021/03/avoid-bad-decisions/

I would love to hear how you have learnt to avoid making bad decisions.

At MindShifts® we offer a range of coaching programs, and competitive intelligence services to support individuals and businesses. If you’d like to get in touch, or would like to arrange a 45 minute complimentary ‘discovery session’ please contact us via our contact page.

 

What is Energy Leadership

As some of you may know, I am one of only 2-3 Australians certified in the Energy Leadership Index – one of the top tools recommended by the Coaches Forum at Forbes Magazine.

Energy Leadership™ is the process that develops a personally effective style of leadership that positively influences and changes not only yourself, but also those with whom you work and interact.

As individuals, we view the world through filters (based on our experiences, values, assumptions, etc.). Those filters will either limit what we see or expand what we see. As a result, they impact how we perceive and what we think about our circumstances. Throughout our whole life, we’ve unconsciously developed filters, which may be holding us back from seeing the full potential of ourselves and what our life and career have to offer.

LEADERSHIP: EVERYONE IS A LEADER EITHER BY CHOICE OR DEFAULT.

Leadership is how you interact with everyone, including yourself. Leaders are quite visible within small and large businesses. We tend to think of them as business owners, CEO’s and managers at all levels. Traditionally, leadership also extends into politics and other global affairs. However, parents, therapists and health care providers, solopreneurs, sports coaches, consultants, mentors, partners in relationship, teachers, authors, and others who interact with people on a regular basis are all leaders.

If we don’t think of yourself as a leader, then you are limited in your thinking. Leading is the way we help move people into action, including us. The question is not whether or not we are leaders, but how well we lead.

ENERGY – THE TWO STREAMS IN LIFE – WHICH ONE DO YOU SWIM IN? 

A relentlessly damaging stream is flowing through the world. This stream is not created by water, but by fear. It is the Stream of Unconsciousness.

Its constructive counterpart, the Stream of Consciousness, is fed by creative and positive thinking that produces questions like “What’s right,” “What’s the opportunity here,” and “How can we make this work?” In contrast, the Stream of Unconsciousness is based on only one question: “What’s wrong?” This stream is the one most of us have been trained to see, listen to, drink from, and bathe in since birth.

During any typical workday, most people spend a great deal of time focusing on what’s wrong — with their family, their jobs, their projects, their colleagues, their relationships, and their lives. At work, it’s not surprising that studies show that more than 50 per cent of the people would choose, if they could, to quit their jobs.

What will it take to shift the pressure and negativity that surrounds not only our careers but our personal lives and the state of our communities?  What will help employees to be productive, content, and have a positive view of both the organizations they work for and the people they work with?

CATABOLIC AND ANABOLIC ENERGY: THE TWO FORCES THAT CREATE YOUR WORLD 

More than a hundred years ago, Albert Einstein addressed the scientific community, passionately presenting the idea that everything we see, hear, taste, touch, and smell is not matter, but energy.  Everything that “matters” is energy.

On an energetic and cellular level, catabolism usually refers to a breakdown of complex molecules, while anabolism is the opposite.  When you hear about a person’s catabolic or anabolic energy, however, it’s a broader statement about destructive and constructive forces in an entire person, who is made up not only of individual cells but also of anabolic and catabolic thoughts and beliefs.

Anabolic and Catabolic energy are predominant in organizations as well as people.  Many organizations experience catabolic energy by constantly reacting to their circumstances with worry, fear, doubt, anger, and guilt.  And thoughts are indeed contagious.  When even a few people in an organization have negative feelings, it can spread like a virus. “Group think” sets in, and their thoughts become group “fact.”

Remember that “group think” begins with “leader think”. At its core, an organization strongly reflects how its leader thinks, feels, and acts.  Anabolic leaders have the ability to motivate and inspire themselves and others to do extraordinary things.

No matter how effective or ineffective you currently are in your role, you can transform yourself and others, as well as your organization, into a thriving, inspired, positive, productive, and successful entity. And, thus begins your journey to become the Ideal Leader.

The Energy Leadership Index (E.L.I.) is a unique assessment that enables participants to get a snapshot of their perceptions, attitudes, behaviours, and overall leadership capabilities. The Energy Leadership Index assessment reveals what specific filters you’ve developed and how those filters are influencing the results you’re achieving.

In a way, it’s a snapshot of you, and how you show up in the world. It shows the effects of stress on your performance and targets areas where you can shift your energy to be more successful.

If you would like to find out more about Energy Leadership get in touch via our Contact page.

Simplicity Principle

The Simplicity Principle of Life

Like many of you during this Covid-19 crisis, I read a lot and have come across some great articles and ideas that I would like to share with you over the coming months.

There was one article in particular around simplicity that resonated strongly with me. If you are like me, the pandemic has made me realise how much I want to simplify things both in my business and in my life.

Confucius once said that life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.

How true is that?

Today in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) World, the complexity of business decisions, automation, technology and AI, bears both financial and emotional consequences for us all. Then with the disruption of Covid-19 on top of all of this, we are experiencing significant stress levels.

As humans, our desire for simplicity is not new, especially during times when society undergoes upheaval. So while everyone is talking about robotics, machine learning, AI, we need to be reminded that we – as humans – need meaning and connection. We also need boundaries as much as we need to sleep.

Psychologists and neuroscientists understand that we can not go overloading people with systems and structures that are complex and anti-human. We have information overload, decision fatigue, and the “always-on” culture. So the craving for simplicity is not surprising.

The opposite for CAT – a work-life of complexity, anxiety and time poverty – is KISS.

Most of you would know the KISS principle – Keep it Simple Stupid! Living by KISS means making a commitment to pursuing clarity and a commitment to avoid decision fatigue in which too many choices limits and inhibits people. Steve Jobs always wore a black t-shirt and jeans, Barack Obama wore either a blue suit or a grey suit, and Apple remains a great example of a company committed to simple and functional design.

People who live by the KISS principle think and behave in a more agile way as they don’t feel so burdened.

So what are the elements of the simplicity principle?

Here are five areas that leaders following the simplicity principle observe – you may come up with more:

  1. They have boundaries. They know their limits, and they observe them. Did you know that it has been estimated that it takes literally 23 minutes and 15 seconds for the human brain to refocus after being online and task switching? A boundary may involve being clear about when you will be on digital devices – and when you will be focused in conversation.
  2. They know how to reset and rest. By trusting simplicity, you take time out to value nature and appreciate how calming it can be. As we all know, being always ‘on’ is bound to lead to failure.
  3. KISS leaders treat their schedules like their bodies. They control what goes in their schedule like they would control what they eat. They know when to stop and may choose to create daily time blocks to address important tasks.
  4. They balance technological speed and scale against reality. They address the human dimension and its impact on every worker and customer in an organisation. They place the human at the centre of work execution.
  5. They understand that there is collective talent, insight and wisdom among their network. People want to serve and share in a myriad of ways.

Turning the complex into the simple will always be a constant challenge. It is something we all need to consciously work on to improve the way we think and act. Steve Jobs said “Simple can be harder than complex; You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it is worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains”.

Accentuate Positive

Accentuate the Positive

This month for something different I thought I would share some short messages and videos which I’ve recently found – many of which have been quite useful!

Accentuate the Positive
I was watching some old movies and recalled a song called “Accentuate the Positive”. After a little research I learned the words were written by Johnny Mercer in 1944 – at a time when the “War to End All Wars” was still raging. The world longed for peace and hope and a way to look up. The songs wonderful lyrics are actually useful as a powerful success formula:

“Accentuate the positive,
Eliminate the negative,
Latch on to the affirmative,
Don’t mess with Mr In between!”

What we accentuate and dwell on, focus on and look for in each day makes all the difference. It’s just like looking at a glass and seeing it half full or half empty.

Words have power. I challenge you to eliminate the negative words as you recognise them. For me, I say the word “Cancel!” when I hear one come out of my mouth and immediately select a positive word to replace it. Try it for just a day. You’ll feel the results! Then make it part of your life routine.

Latch on to the affirmative. Remind yourself what you’ve achieved. Write out positive affirmations that assume the best and keep them in your pocket. Review them often. It’s truly powerful!

And when you’re not sure, just leave those neutral, puzzling areas alone. The questions you can’t answer should not vex you or stop your progress. Just don’t mess with them.

Finally, find a bouncy song that can become YOUR theme song and hum it to yourself now and again. It works for many.

And to add to the affirmative here are two videos that might also help:

Cultivating unconditional self-worth
When a person demands perfection of herself or himself, anything less can feel like failure. Adia Gooden knows this from experience. In addition to her work as a staff psychologist at the University of Chicago, she’s learned in her own life how to break negative thought patterns and live more freely. She shares those lessons in her talk.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EirlZ7fy3bE

What I learned from 100 days of rejection
Jia Jiang adventures boldly into a territory so many of us fear: rejection. By seeking out rejection for 100 days — from asking a stranger to borrow $100 to requesting a “burger refill” at a restaurant — Jiang desensitized himself to the pain and shame that rejection often brings and, in the process, discovered that simply asking for what you want can open up possibilities where you expect to find dead ends.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vZXgApsPCQ&feature=youtu.be

What about the choices you make?*
You always have a reason–and usually, a pretty good one– for doing what you are doing and choosing what you are choosing. Be careful not to convince yourself that you are doing something against your will. Such a thing is impossible.

Therefore, be honest with yourself as to why you are choosing to do a particular thing. Then, do it gladly, knowing that you are always getting to do what you want. The statement “I have no choice” is a lie. You can choose. You simply do not prefer the alternatives available to you, for whatever reason. So you select the outcome that you most prefer. Isn’t that power?

If you would like some help working through your choices, do get in touch.

*Source:  Neale Donald Walsch – http://www.nealedonaldwalsch.com

 

Competitor Information

How to learn more about your competitors

These days it is critical that executives understand the constantly changing competitive environment. The pandemic has changed supply chains, production processes, customer interactions, technology use, staff interactions, and so much more. So with all these changes going on around us, how can we each still make sound decisions?

90% of everything we need to know about our competitors is available online

Right now more than 90% of what we will ever need, in data or information to help with those decisions, is already in the public domain – that means it’s all available online. Maybe not in the form that will directly answer our specific questions about, for example, our competitors but the pieces of any jigsaw are always there.

Let’s take one example. What if a large Asian/European/US firm decided to enter the Australian market. We would estimate that they were planning on entering the market well before any actual launch, undertaking research to review existing players, identify market growth opportunities, government legislation, consumer requirements and so on.

Yet, as a player, how could we have detected their intentions before they actually entered the marketplace? And, what can we find out about their intentions?

Firstly, market expansions rarely occur without changes in personnel, particularly senior personnel. In the above example, this could also mean increased management, skilled and unskilled labour, equipment and floor space. Wouldn’t all of these considerations be part of our own business and marketing strategies if we were to consider the growth of this kind?

So why would a competitor be any different?

The pieces of the jigsaw are all there – each carrying a little message.

Now, as we know well, not all information is of equal value, worth or credibility. Information may arrive distorted, almost always incomplete and usually with bias either from its source or from the user….even if it has been published. Remember just because it is on your computer screen and in Google, does not mean it is true! Information needs to be verified.

There are four main sources of information, each able to validate the other in some way. These are:

  1. Human Sources: Oral information by way of business networks, seminars, friends and experts. At MindShifts®, our company’s greatest asset is our staff. After all, they attend industry webinars, research online, look at social media, just to name a few sources. To tap into this wealth of information we need to find out who knows what and develop a method for gathering and processing the information. We may also need to attend specific additional industry webinars or listen to expert podcasts, online product and service demonstrations, or connect with the local council and industry associations and join social networks.
  2. Economic & Financial Sources: This includes annual reports, trade publications, general media. What has been written about a company locally or in other countries? What publicity have they received in their industry press? What about the individual partners, board members, connections?
  3. Corporate Sources: This includes customers, suppliers, innovation hubs, Facebook pages, web sites, advertising etc. In this area, staff should be listening and gathering information about the competitive environment as part of their everyday activities. Simpler still put yourself on to some e-newsletter lists or join some Facebook and/or LinkedIn groups. Now, with a new perspective, we will have competitive information delivered to our desk.
  4. Technical Sources: This includes technical reports and journals, product manuals, IP/patents, even cases.

Don’t hesitate to use all four sources to build your competitive puzzle.

A question I often get asked is ‘How do I identify disruptors?One great way is to get on the newsletter listings from organisations such as Kickstarter, Springwise, Indiegogo, TrendHunters, and the Aussie Idea Spies- just to name a few. These all identify start-ups and the products and services seeking funding or being launched. These days nothing is really that far from you.

The important thing to remember is that understanding competitors – whether disrupters, medium or large players – can give a business advantage and provide us with the right information at the right time to perceive and avoid threats, and utilise opportunities for a profitable business in today’s constantly changing environment.

Learning about, and understanding, the business environment in which you compete is really your only competitive advantage.

Want to know more? Get in touch.

Energy to Succeed

Do you have the energy to succeed?

So let me start with a simple question – Do you have the energy to succeed?

You can’t hide lack of energy and motivation since it’s evident from how you carry yourself. Sit down somewhere and watch people walking by and you will quickly notice who has what it takes and who hasn’t.

So what do I mean by energy?

Think of energy as two streams of life – one based on negativity and fear thinking, that is “What’s wrong” and the other fed by creative and positive thinking that produces questions like “What’s right,” “What’s the opportunity here,” and “How can we make this work?”

During any typical workday, most people spend a great deal of time focusing on what’s wrong — with their family, their jobs, their projects, their colleagues, their relationships, and their lives.

What we accentuate and dwell on, focus on, and look for in each day makes all the difference.  It’s just like looking at a glass and seeing it half full or half empty.

Which stream do you think you currently swim in? 

What do you think it will take to shift the pressure and negativity that surrounds your life?  What will help you, your colleagues and co-workers to be productive, content, and have a positive view of both the businesses we all work for and the people we work with?

It will require a shift in thinking – as essentially what you think creates your reality.

Let me explain – our thinking is a result on our beliefs, the assumptions we have about the world and life, the interpretations we make about other people’s behaviours and the limitations we perceive in ourselves.  These four factors are the foundations of our thinking and as a result produce the energy we exhibit.

Here are seven suggestions to boost your energy and shift your thinking:

  1. Develop self-awareness

Learn about your default tendencies, that is the way you react generally to circumstances.  Understand how you personally filter information and your perceptions. Ask yourself – what are your thoughts and beliefs in a particular situation you face? How often do you focus on the negative or find yourself in a reactive mode?  How often do you focus on what’s right and are excited about the possibilities?

  1. Be aware of others

Observe your colleagues, co-workers, friends, etc and see how they engage and contribute.  Are they seeing the glass half empty or half full? It is all about “what’s wrong?” or “how can we make this happen?”  Where is their thinking coming from?

  1. Intentionally choose how you are going to show up

Decide how you want to lead and how your energy, values, etc are going to show up in conversations, relationships and decision-making.  Don’t ever forget you have the power to choose.

  1. Ask and listen

Become more aware, through probing and listening, so that you can address matters in a more positive manner. Go back to the video in our Monday Motivation of August 3 to learn more about listening.

  1. Be a coach

Coaching is all about drawing answers from deep within the “coachee”.  It is a positive, collaborative, thought-provoking process.

  1. Find a coach for yourself

Sometimes it is difficult to understand our own deeper feelings and values without someone helping us out.  We may only see our reflection rather than the amazing person in the mirror.

  1. Bring out greatness in yourself and others.

Recognise people for what they are capable of.  Acknowledge and point out their greatness.

Words have power.  I challenge you to eliminate the negative words as you recognise them.  For me I say the word “Cancel!” when I hear one come out of my mouth and immediately select a positive word to replace it.  Try it for just a day.  You’ll feel the results!  Then make it part of your life routine.

Latch on to the affirmative.  Remind yourself what you’ve achieved.  Write a gratitude journal or write out positive affirmations that assume the best and keep them in your pocket.  Review them often.  Both are truly powerful exercises.

How are you going to show up? Do you have the energy to succeed?

If you’d like to get in touch send an email via the Contact Page.

10

ARE YOU HELD UP BY YOUR PAST?

People talk about fate, destiny, or past mistakes as if there was and is a set pathway we are each walking. The thinking is that if in the past you didn’t take a particular action or you made those mistakes, it inescapably changed everything in your life.

This thinking condemns you to a future that can’t be changed.  That forevermore you will be burdened by the chains of your past choices.  

And that is all wrong!  

It’s true we all make mistakes. Sometimes because we’re unaware or ignorant; sometimes because we’re so fearful of the consequences of the present (or the past) that we run in a direction far more damaging.

The truth is you don’t have to live with your past actions, decisions or choices, because in truth you only have the present.  You can’t change the past and you can’t control the future. Right now is a new moment that’s completely yours to action as you see best.  

Learning from experiences is a critical goal, but to say you’re chained to what happened yesterday only inhibits you from enjoying the experiences of THIS day. Don’t let anyone or anything from your past stop you from achieving your dreams.  

Today IS a new day.  Take action now toward your goals. Do not let your past slow down your progress.  

The only way forward in life is by taking responsibility for our own life and identifying ways to improve your lot today.  Here are some “truths” that might help you on your journey:

  1. Life is never perfect! There is no such thing as “the right time” – the time to face your lot is now.  Yes, it is scary. But its life.  Sit down, review all your choices and opportunities and take action!  If you worry about taking action, have a look at the next truth…
  2. You might fail – and continue to fail. The reality is whenever you try something new or set a goal, there is the possibility of failure. However, it is by failure that most of us learn. Only through failure can we have continuous improvement. So ask yourself what can you do better next time?
  3. The past is done.  It is over!  You can have regrets, you can wish things went differently but it is the here and now that counts.  So shift your attention to the present and move forward to a better future.
  4. Tomorrow is not guaranteed – this is a powerful truth. There may not be a tomorrow.
  5. No-one is going to “fix” you – you need to take personal responsibility for your own life. Once you do that – you will realize how much power you really have!
  6. Being busy does not guarantee you are doing something useful. The tip here is to focus on one thing at a time before moving on to another task.
  7. You have more time than you think you do.  Have a look at how you actually spend your time – record it on a piece of paper.  On another piece of paper write down your priorities.  Do the two lists match up?  How you spend your time is a choice so spend it wisely.

And if you need help moving away from the past or addressing some of the truths above, contact me – That’s what I’m here for.

 

7 deadly sins of business-8

TAKE BACK YOUR LIFE IN 10 STEPS

With all that has gone on around us these past months, from fires, floods to the impact of the virus, I noticed that many of us, sometimes, no longer feel in control.  That is not unreasonable when businesses are shutting down, everyone has to change and work from home, the share market is going down, stocks are low, and there is talk of a recession.

So, I was looking for inspiration to write this newsletter and reviewed some of my favourite articles over the years.   This one really jumped out.

Written by Tony Schwartz (http://theenergyproject.com/about/tony-schwartz)  back in January 2013 in the HBR blog (https://hbr.org/2013/01/take-back-your-life-in-ten-ste.html), I thought his ten steps were powerful yet simple.  You don’t have to do them all but gosh, they are a great place to start.

Here is his blog posting with the ten steps.

You’re smart, hard-working and good at what you do, but the truth is you also too often feel your life is just a relentless set of demands you have to meet, and too rarely a source of satisfaction. You long to feel more in control of your days, but the reality is you’re frequently racing just to keep up.

It doesn’t have to be this way, and the solution has to do with deeply embedding a series of simple practices into your life.

I have ten in mind, but it’s not realistic to add them all at once, assuming there are a number you don’t currently do. Instead, I hope to lead you on a journey in which you add them one at a time, sequentially, over the coming months. You don’t have to do all of them for your life to work really well, and even small changes will often deliver disproportionately large results. At the same time, it’s likely that the more of these you eventually add, the better and more in charge of your life you’ll feel.

The suggestions are in order from the most basic and fundamental, to the highest level.

  1. Get sufficient sleep every night. Sleep is often the single most undervalued behavior in our lives and the one with the most immediate power to improve our experience in every waking moment.
  2. Move more. It’s not only good for your heart’s health, but also for your mental health. Do some form of exercise that significantly raises your heart rate for 30 minutes at least four times a week and move frequently during the day.
  3. Eat less, more often. Food is fuel. Lean proteins and complex carbohydrates are high-octane fuel. You’re best off when you keep feeding your internal furnace in small doses throughout the day, beginning with breakfast.
  4. Renew more. Human beings aren’t designed to work continuously. We’re meant instead to move between spending and renewing energy. Ideally, take a break every 90 minutes, even if only to spend a minute or two breathing deeply.
  5. Invest in those you love. The greatest gift you can give is your absorbed attention. Better to be fully present with someone for an hour than physically present, but distracted, for multiple hours.
  6. Give thanks. We’re far quicker to notice what’s wrong in our lives than we are what’s right. At least once a week, handwrite and mail a note of appreciation to someone who deserves it, telling the person precisely what you’re grateful for.
  7. Do the most important thing first. Early in the morning, you’re likely to have the most energy and the fewest distractions. Start your workday by focusing without interruption, for 60 to 90 minutes, on the most important and/or challenging task you can accomplish that day.
  8. Practice reflection. We’re so preoccupied with the urgent that we rarely take time to think about what it is we’re doing. Set aside 15 to 30 minutes at the end of each work day (or in the evening) to reflect quietly and without interruption on what you learned that day, and what your highest priorities are for the following day.
  9. Keep learning. Our brains work better if we challenge them, and life becomes more interesting when we do. Reading books is a simple and surefire way to learn and grow, but so is building a daily practice around learning a new language, a sport, a musical instrument, or around how to write code, fix a car, or draw.
  10. Give back. Take at least one hour a week to put your own needs aside and devote that time instead to adding value to the world at large. One hour a week is very little time, but it’s a start — and it’s also more than most of us regularly give.

 

I am still working at doing more of each however I can say I am doing 6, 7 and 9 pretty well.  I just need to attend to 2, 3 and 4 a little better.  What about you?

 

If you’d like support to get your life back in control – get in touch today.

Image of Leaders

What type of leader are you?

Developing an Effective Style of Leadership

Energy Leadership™ is the process that develops a personally effective style of leadership that positively influences and changes not only yourself but also those with whom you work and interact, as well as your organization as a whole.

As individuals, we view the world through filters (based on a range of influences, including our experiences, values, and assumptions). Those filters will either limit what we see or expand what we see. 

As a result, they impact how we perceive and what we think about our circumstances. Throughout our whole life, we’ve unconsciously developed filters, which may be holding us back from seeing the full potential of ourselves and what our life and career have to offer.

Leadership: Everyone is a leader either by choice or default.

Leadership is how you interact with everyone, including yourself. Leaders are quite visible within small and large businesses. We tend to think of them as business owners, CEOs, and managers at all levels. Traditionally, leadership also extends into politics and other global affairs. However, parents, therapists, and health care providers, solopreneurs, sports coaches, consultants, mentors, partners in a relationship, teachers, authors, and others who interact with people regularly are all leaders.

If you don’t think of yourself as a leader, then you are limited in your thinking. Leading is the way we help move people into action, including us. 

The question is not whether or not we are leaders, but how well we lead.

Energy Leadership 

Bruce Schneider, from the Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching, wrote an excellent book called Energy Leadership. He borrowed two terms from nature to describe energy as it relates to leadership.  

He used the term “catabolic energy” to represent destructive, draining energy and “anabolic energy” to describe constructive forces within an individual, which leads to success.

Anabolic Vs Catabolic Leadership

Here are two lists that describe the differences between successful leaders and those who are stressed and who stress those around them.

Anabolic Leader Catabolic Leader
Leads by encouraging others to take their own next steps Manages by controls that push and pull
Shares projects and becomes one of the team Delegates everything so they can blame others later
Shares detailed information and works to get feedback and buy-in from others Gives information without justification or buy-in
Listens, weights and uses the feedback of others when possible Disregards other’s ideas and makes their own decisions
Plans and develops for the future Works for today and in crisis mode most times
Understands and uses emotional intelligence Analyses everything in left-brain mode
Identifies the opportunities in everything Focuses time and energy on problems and challenges
Sees the heart of the human resources Is self-focused and uses staff to get ahead for selfish reasons

 

When you look at the descriptors in each of the columns, you can easily choose which type of energy is best for you to use when it comes to dealing with others. And that’s just the point – you choose.

The kind of leader you chose to be, in any context, from being the leader at home to being the leader of a multi-million dollar organisation, is a moment-by-moment choice.

And the power of choice is fuelled by discernment, decisiveness, and dedication to what’s right.

As you start your day today, read both columns and make your choice!

If you would like to find out more about Energy Leadership – and our range of coaching programs, get in touch for a complimentary 30-minute consultation.

 

decsisons

Decision Making Skills – Your Most Important Tool

My dear friend and colleague Jack Speer of Delta Inc. in the USA wrote an excellent blog that made me reflect on my decision-making processes.

As a child, decisions were easier. They were based on a few fundamentals:

How much does it cost?  Can we afford it?  What will the neighbours think?  Will it get me in trouble?

As adults, here are a few more principles that may be helpful:

  1. Decisions Are About Ways to Move Ahead.

    The decisions that matter should be stepping stones that take us to the next part of the life we’re building. Sometimes life takes a 180degree turn, and we take a different direction to where we thought we were headed. Generally speaking, however, the decisions we make today build on the decisions we made yesterday and hopefully move us forward.

  2. Logic Is Useful, But Checking In With People Is Clever.

    Good decisions are informed by facts but are impacted by our thoughts and the people around us. Being aware of other people’s opinions and ideas can expand our decision logic and limit our biases and blind spots.  Our decision-making process may then uncover information we had not addressed nor thought of.

  3. Group Thinking Kills Good Decisions.

    As a species, human history has its foundation in groups and tribes who wanted stability and were naturally not attracted to change.  So be aware that you may have to fight for your ideas. The quality and the effectiveness and passion with which you present your decisions will determine your success.

Decision-making is complex and difficult and involves many factors, some contradictory to each other.
Making good decisions requires good research and fortunately, facts about any subject today are just a click away. You just have to know where to look.

Every good decision should also involve a personal ‘poll’ of the best minds that surround us.  Family, tradition and religious beliefs all shape our decisions.  The influences of those around us help us to optimize opportunity and minimize risk.

Decisions almost always carry an element of risk, which many people are uncomfortable with. They would rather have someone else make the decision, even when they don’t agree with it.  However the more willing you are to make decisions, the more control you have over your life and circumstances.

I believe that the more I empower myself to make decisions (even though I make mistakes), I’ll always come out better by stepping up and deciding.  Ultimately, I know that I will protect my interests better than anyone else.

So give it your best shot. Decide and do it!

Increase your emotional intelligence

How to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the capacity to effectively perceive, express, understand and manage your emotions and the emotions of others in an effective and appropriate manner. Research has shown that EI is a strong predictor of success in the workplace, more so than IQ, skill sets, personality, and experience.

Why is Emotional Intelligence so important?

Enhancing and developing a greater awareness and application of EI will have a significant impact on all aspects of your life, including more self-awareness and improved relationships with co-workers, friends, family, and others who are significant in your life.

People who improve their EI capabilities are able to decrease stress – personally and professionally, enhance interpersonal relationships, and demonstrate greater leadership and decision-making skills. Even more important, raising EI has a direct and positive effect on your level of consciousness.

What can you do to increase your Emotional Intelligence?

Here are a few tips on how to increase your Emotional Intelligence, taken from iPEC’s Energy Leadership Development SystemTM, a full coaching certification program that I undertook. They are so simple, yet so powerful!

  • Begin to take notice of how your thoughts affect your emotions, and as a result, how your emotions affect your actions. Self- awareness is the key to beginning to shift your energy and increase EI. As you go through your day, be aware of how you react to situations, and what thoughts are going through your head as you do so. If someone cuts you off on the road, and your thought is ‘What an idiot,’ your resulting emotion would be anger. If you think instead ‘Wow, he must really be in a rush to get somewhere,” your emotion would most likely be very different. As you become more self-aware, you’ll be able to identify your emotional triggers.
  • Journal about areas to improve your awareness and expression of your emotions. What’s working, and what’s not working for you? What relationships need improvement?
  • Journal about ways to manage and control your emotions. What has been effective for you, and what hasn’t? How do you want to respond, and how can you do so?
  • Practice meditation/centring to be able to build a stronger tolerance for anxiety.
  • Each day, set your intention to be more aware of your thoughts/feelings and how they might affect you and/or others.
  • When you’re very angry or upset, give yourself 5-10 minutes alone, prior to taking any action. Then ask yourself what would be the best way to address the situation. Think about how you’d like to respond. Taking a little break will help you better manage your response and avoid a “knee-jerk” reaction.
  • Seek out others who will assist you, objectively, in providing observations of how they experience you expressing and/or managing/controlling your emotions. You may be surprised at how others view you.
  • Tell others you want to increase your understanding of their thoughts and feelings and “check-in” with them periodically about this. You’ll soon become better at reading others.
  • After getting a buy-in, offer feedback to those around you about their emotional awareness, expression, and management.
  • Practice incorporating new skills and behaviours and being aware of how others respond to you.
  • Interview others who demonstrate high EI, to learn some of their strategies for responding to stressful situations.
  • Take an Energy Leadership IndexTM  Learn more about Energy Leadership here.

If you’d like to increase your Emotional Intelligence and improve your outcomes both at work and at home,  Get in touch!

Coaching for Common Sense

The Death of Common Sense

As a life, leadership and business coach, I am sometimes faced with amazing problems and situations with my clients.  In a number of cases, it is as if common sense has left the organisation, the building and society in general.

When I came across this obituary I thought of my clients and many of my colleagues. Of course, some of you may have seen this before – I have too. However as a reminder, I thought I would share it with everyone in light of the “news” we get bombarded with every day and the “entitlements” (aka the 5 stepbrothers) that pervade our lives.

An Obituary

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years.

No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:

– Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
– Why the early bird gets the worm;
– Life isn’t always fair;
– And maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or give an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot.  She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death,
-by his parents, Truth and Trust,
-by his wife, Discretion,
-by his daughter, Responsibility,
-and by his son, Reason.

He is survived by his 5 stepbrothers; 
– I Know My Rights
– I Want It Now
– Someone Else Is To Blame
– I’m A Victim
– Pay me for Doing Nothing

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.

Source:  Unknown.

If you would like to find out how can assist you to make better decisions in your business or life, get in touch via our Contact Us page. 

Analysis

What IS and IS NOT Analysis – and the five benefits of good analysis.

You can’t be expected to know the entire competitive landscape well enough to correctly call ALL the shots. Within today’s complex, chaotic, and globally competitive environment  – think VUCA world –  the pressing need for sense-making, strategic thinking and improved understanding of the competitive terrain is why you need to develop and enhance your analytical abilities.

Analysis needs to be done well if you want your business to succeed.

And you ask – But isn’t analysis something that my software can do for me? Can’t I just get by and rely on a mixture of collected data, software analysis, intuition, and experience?

My answer is unfortunately a resounding no – and definitely not these days.

Let me briefly explain what I do and do not mean by analysis by referring to the following table.

Table 1 – Identifying Analysis

  What Analysis IS What Analysis is NOT
Methods The practiced application of proven technologies. Constant usage of industry conventions and one-off solutions.
Process A method and set of steps designed to effectively break a situation into its component elements and recompose it in a way that addresses a challenge or question. “We just kind of know what it is, how to do it, and fortunately, have managed to get by so far.”

We hire consultants to do it for us.

Output Actionable insight, intelligence/meaning and implications derived from data and information. Repackaged, re-organized, re-classified data and information. Often a summary of the information at hand. No meaningful conversion.
Data Sources Legal and ethical gathering of relevant data or information driven by the needs defined in the structuring of the analytical question. Seeking and using data or information from illegal sources or by unethical means – often incomplete.
Support Systems Using application-relevant communication, information and management systems to supplement your thinking. A software application or solution you can acquire and apply “off the shelf.”

Magic-bullet solutions.

Timing Provided in advance of any decisions. Rushed to provide support to an answer that has been decided.
Communication Channel Conducted in whatever means the decision maker can best accept and use it. Done via “formal” reports with a specific format.

Always in writing.

Questions Answered What?

So What?

Now What?

Just something nice to know – providing no insights.
Catalyst Yours or your bosses discussed need to know something.

The need to better position your organization in its competitive marketplace.

What you think or hope is important to the executive.

The need to demonstrate we are actually doing something.

 

At a minimum, good analysis of your competition, environment, organization and strategy should help you deliver the following:

  1. Early warning of potentially developing opportunities or emerging threats in your competitive environment.
  2. An objective and arms-length assessment of your organization’s relative competitive position.
  3. The ability to help your organization to more quickly and easily adapt to changes in the environment
  4. The means for basing your organization’s strategic, marketing, sales or product plans on relevant and timely intelligence.
  5. Confidence that decisions are based on systematically derived understandings that reduce ambiguity and complexity to low levels.

Does your analysis deliver the above?

The driving purpose of performing analysis is to better understand your industry, the context of your business, and your competitors so that you can make better decisions.  Improving the quality of decision-making should hopefully improve the quality of the strategies that you implement – providing you with a competitive advantage – and superior performance results.

If you would like to find out how you can develop your competitive intelligence capabilities – or those within your organisation – contact Babette Bensoussan for a confidential conversation. 

Are You Looking for Insights?

Are you looking for insights?

This post focuses on one of the hardest steps in providing intelligence or insights to decision-makers – identifying Users Needs and the direction of an Intelligence Assignment.

The Competitive Intelligence process is defined as “a systematic and on-going process forgathering and analysing information to derive actionable insights about competitors, the competitive environment and trends in order to further the organization’s business goals” (Adapted from Fleisher & Bensoussan, 2003).

Whether you are doing competitive intelligence, market intelligence, strategic intelligence, consulting, or providing support for decision-makers, the first step is to identify the client’s key question or objective and then plan the direction of the assignment.

Experience has shown that identifying Key Intelligence Topics (KIT)/Key Intelligence Questions (KIQ) to be one of the hardest steps. Executives are often like kids in a candy store to start with, believing that any question, focus or topic will do – only to find the answers often provide little, if any, strategic value.

It is absolutely vital that there is an understanding of what the “customer” (the decision-maker) really wants, where they are coming from, and how the insights will be directly related to a management decision or course of action.

A good example of the need to understand intelligence questions occurred several years ago when a client brought us in for a CI assignment and asked us to tell them ‘who is who in the zoo’ in relation to a particular market segment”.  In order to understand their key focus and provide value, we asked the basic of all basic CI questions “What decision will you be supporting with this information?” The answer – “Should we enter this market niche?”

Wow, how different was the assignment now.

We immediately realised that in order to answer their original question, we would have delivered little strategic value.

The key was in understanding that what the client really wanted to know and the reasons behind the question.

Step 1:

Formulate the goal you want to achieve.

For example, the goal may be – “Is it worth my while to spend $500,000 developing Product X?” or “What would be the most effective way of entering this market?” or “Is there a market for my services in Asia and if so, how do I do it?”

The goal, whatever it may be, will in effect drive your information gathering process and keep you focussed.

Too many times research projects fall over because of poor identification and understanding of the topic or question, and its relationship to the business. It is really worthwhile spending time here to understand your decision-makers.

Step 2:

Scope out the project parameters.

  • Who needs the intelligence?
  • What business decision is being supported?
  • What specific information is required?
  • What are some potential sources of information?
  • What are the assumptions implicit in the KIT?KIQ?
  • What method of analysis should be undertaken to answer the KIT/KIQ?
  • What form should the final ‘report’ take?
  • When is it needed?
  • What are the budget constraints?

It is a waste of time and resources to ask too broad a question to start off with. It will always deliver little value.

Step 3:

Break down the decision focus into three areas:

  • Early Warning Issues– these typically stress activities and subjects by which management does not want to be surprised. They are heavily weighted toward threats.
  • Strategic and Tactical Issues– these relate predominantly to the development of strategic plans and strategies. However issues around the implementation of marketing or sales tactics are also identified in this area.
  • Market Player Profiles – these are the least actionable but reflect a need to understand a “player” in a particular market.

The approach outlined above enables a clearer focus on the specific types of questions and the irrelation to company strategic issues, competitor issues or factors that cost the company money whether for today or tomorrow.

The more specific questions are to start off with, the easier it will be to build up decision support, intelligence abilities, and deliver value.

Step 4:

Ask the right questions.

It has often been said that the critical factor is not the information we get but the questions we ask. Often we ask questions that are either too broad or too convoluted to be able to provide us with a specific response. In the end we often end up with information that is of little strategic value.

So start with questions that are quite specific and result in a specific response. The important thing to remember in all of this is that intelligence works for the business.

Businesses have a purpose, an intent, and all intelligence activity must be carried out for, and focus on, the intent of the business – otherwise why bother!! To get information for the sake of getting it is really a waste of time – especially in today’s climate of information overload and fake news.

The key is in understanding what you really need to know, where you are coming from, and how the intelligence will be directly related to a management decision or course of action.

Step 5: 

Analyse your information.

Once the issues around the KIT/KIQ have been clearly defined and agreed to, a plan and direction of how the assignment will be undertaken can then be formulated. The major focus is not just the identification of sources of information but what method of analysis will be used to turn the information into intelligence and insights. Let me say at this point that there are over 170 methods of analysis in business, and picking the appropriate methodology is critical to delivering value. It is through analysis that information is turned into intelligence.

Insights are created – they’re never found!

Top Concerns 2019 Survey

Top Concerns for 2019

In December last year we decided to undertake a short survey (only 6 questions) with our readers to see how people felt about 2018, and to determine what each of you was seeking in 2019. We promised we would share the survey results!

Well firstly, thank you to the many people who undertook the survey. I so appreciated how many people took the time to respond. Humbled indeed.

Secondly, wow, over 62% of you do not want 2019 to be like 2018.

So what are you looking to change this year and what are your areas of greatest concern?

The issue was not with family, partners and friendships but with careers, physical health/wellbeing and financial situations.

In fact the two top concerns for 2019 in order of highest responses are:

1. Finances
2. Career

The next markedly lower category of concern was around Health and Personal Ageing.

When we asked if you did 2019 like 2018 would you be satisfied, 62% replied No! Not surprising.

However, the next question asked what changes would you make in 2019. You would have thought people would address their top concern of Finances and Career, right?

Well, the top three answers were: improve my health; go on a holiday; and improve my relationships. Interesting isn’t it!

As a group we listed our top concerns as Finances and Career – and yet what we want to change in the year ahead relates to Health, Holidays and Relationships!

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make change to these three areas, but I do think it’s interesting that we don’t seem to want to prioritise the things that are really worrying us.

Let’s go a little deeper.

The final question of the survey addressed the future, identifying your big question moving forward. We broke up the responses here into the categories of finances, career, and let’s call it wellbeing to fit in with the top concerns.

Result – 60% of you had questions around work and careers, the remaining 40% were equally split between wellbeing and the bigger life questions like “Will there be peace in the world” or “What is my purpose?”

In summary, the majority of you don’t want to repeat 2018 in 2019, and your big questions for 2019 deal with issues related to your work and careers.

You can see that as a group we seem unclear on how we should deal with the issues that cause us most concern.

This begs the question – what will you do differently in 2019 in light of your concerns?

If you address just one of your questions, 2019 will not be like 2018;

  1. Who will you ask to be your coach and / or mentor this year?
  2. What professional development or program will you undertake in 2019?
  3. What network(s) will you become more actively involved in?
  4. What magazine / reading material will you subscribe to? Think about how you can access information about future trends, innovations that will help you to prepare for the future. Some links to Book Lists.
  5. Whats the one thing you will do differently and be held accountable for?

Ultimately making change is up to you.

SPECIAL COACHING OFFER TO HELP YOU CHANGE 2019:

If you’d like help to ensure 2019 looks different to 2018, I am offering 20% off my coaching and mentoring programs until 31st January 2019. Get in touch via this link. Or, via the Contact Us page.

 

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Are you starved of Information

Are You Starved of Intelligence?

As laudable as it may be to make some decisions instead of no decisions there is now a major change in the dynamics of the decision-making environment. While information is more abundant than ever before, managers are intelligent information starved!

Yesterday’s information and methods are increasingly ineffective for making today’s decisions – and even less effective for identifying tomorrow’s opportunities, problems, and unknown competitors.

Competitive Intelligence

Competitive Intelligence, or CI as it is commonly referred to, has grown as a specialist management discipline around the world as companies face tougher and faster competition. In fact, CI in large successful multinational organisations is becoming a “must have” rather than a “nice to have”. Recent studies from the USA indicate that budgets for CI now range up to and over US$4 million per annum and that rates of return can be as high as 4000%.

In the past, Australian businesses have been slow to practise effective Competitive Intelligence. One reason I believe is that many Australian companies think they are already practising Competitive Intelligence. Although all managers intuitively carry out some form of CI, the information explosion, fake news, changing technology, and increasing global competitive pressures mean that there is an increasing need to develop more systematic ways of using CI.

Today, some are beginning to realise it is a strict discipline that selects and delivers the right insights to support key decision-makers, a discipline focused on the external environment, maximising the company’s competitiveness, optimising time and profit, while minimising risk.

CI relates to the techniques used to interpret and analyse external information and communicate it to the right people for timely and effective use. It is ethical and legal and right now it is estimated that over 90% of what one will ever need to answer an executive’s questions, is already in the public domain. Maybe not in the form that will directly answer questions, but the pieces of the intelligence jigsaw are always there.

Information Collection, Analysis and Interpretation

It is important to note that intelligence or insight is never found – it is created specifically as a result of information collection, analysis and interpretation. It is the insight from the analysis that enables executives to make sharper and smarter decisions.

The most significant issue that sets this process apart from conventional information systems is that rarely is one piece of data or information in itself sufficient to provide management with all the answers and that it requires the introduction of the process of “analysis” and “thinking”.

After all, the keys to the future are not found through extrapolations, predictions or media gurus, but through patient, careful strategic work.

Make More Informed Decisions… Not Decisions in a Vacuum.

The purpose of CI is not to predict the future, but to identify what is likely to happen and to assist leaders to make better decisions about the organisation’s future.

Competitive Intelligence is an integral part of making business decisions today. The data and information gathering and evaluating process can identify and project strategies that current or emerging customers and competitors might pursue, and provides an assessment of the implication of these strategies on your company’s future.

This process is very specific in its intent and always outward looking, using both internal and external resources as mentioned above.

We need to realize that we are threatening the very existence of our organization if we continue to make decisions in a vacuum. We need to realize that our more wide-awake competitors will climb on the ‘intelligence bandwagon’ even if we don’t. We need to realize that we have exciting new ways to protect margins, to fight the competition, to achieve breakthroughs. We need to realize the positives will far outweigh the negatives – but only if we change.

Forced change is always second prize. The secret lies in putting together a strategy for the future based on sound insights.

Here is an example of one CI project –
CASE STUDY

Scanning strategic environments and market segment prospects

Aardvark had a problem, perhaps many problems. The market for widgets seemed to be changing, revenue and premiums were under pressure in their key market segments. New market entrants and Aardvark’s main competitor were eroding market shares. New business models fueled by information and telco technology and movements in the exchange rate also seemed to be complicating the picture. What was going on, what was driving this turbulence? How would Aardvark respond? How could they improve their competitive advantage?

MindShifts® worked with Aardvark to define the key intelligence topics and refine the key questions which would drive a situational analysis. Internal sources of information, expertise and networks across the organisation were mined. At the same time MindShifts® carried out a targeted search for publicly available information which would add external information to the analysis. We also talked to industry commentators and associations, suppliers, competitors and employees in search of information and knowledge.

The strategic drivers were now becoming clear, the market and competitive terrain had fundamentally shifted and Aardvark now appeared to be positioned in the wrong place to take optimal advantage from this powerful set of trends. On the basis of this analysis, MindShifts® proposed strategies that would move Aardvark to take advantage of the emerging opportunities.

Working with MindShifts®, Aardvark was able to move quickly to modify its capability and move into emerging market segments through a new distribution channel with the right sort of product and service offer. Within 12 months Aardvark had reversed the erosion in market share and was also experiencing strong growth in the new market segments they had entered. Aardvark’s market entry was also before its major traditional competitor which was proving to be a significant advantage as they now tried to play catch up.

For more information about how we can assist you to develop CI capability in your organisation contact Babette Bensoussan at MindShifts®.

When I look at me, who do I see?

My wonderful colleague Jack Speer from Delta Associates http://delta-associates.com wrote this wonderful post. I just had to share it with you. It is about how you really see yourself when you look in the mirror.

Are you happy or horrified? What is your self concept when you look at yourself? Some people can’t get enough of their own face in the mirror, others avoid looking at all. Where do you sit?

As an executive coach one of the most important aspects of coaching is working on what a person sees when they see themselves—their fundamental self-concept. You have to get self-concept right for anything else to be right. The ”Me” in the mirror is fundamentally a reflection of how you perceive life. What you see will literally be what you get in your life.

The health of your self-concept is almost as important as your physical health. It is so fundamental and foundational that no matter how smart you are, how many degrees you’ve earned, your work experience—self concept trumps everything else. To a great extent your self-concept will determine your station in life, your wealth, your happiness and well-being.

Do You Accept False information about Yourself—Why!?

My father was not a self-disclosing person, so it surprised me one day when I was a teenager when he told me that he would have been happier and more successful in life if he hadn’t been so ugly. Nothing could have been farther from the truth as revealed by his childhood photos. Later in middle age, he was a very good-looking and distinguished man. He simply accepted false information that he was given about himself.

You may be carrying around false information that was given you very young, and you still believe it.

The Wrong Kind of Humility Can Ruin Your Life—Stop It!

Religious upbringing, parents, and culture have a lot to say about how you’re likely to see yourself. I grew up hearing sermons about being humble, and my West Texas parents told me and my brother over and over again—”don’t get the big head.” If I had ever told my parents I wanted to grow up rich and famous, they would have sat me down for a good talking to. It was out of the world view of my West Texas relatives. The opposite of humble is not really haughty. It’s a belief in yourself to be self-confident and to serve those around you.

Change Ideas that Will Change Your Life—If You’ll Do Them!

Here are some thoughts for you every day when you look in the mirror—they will change your life, but not all at once—changing your self-concept is as difficult as anything you’ll ever do. So here it is . . .

 1. Be true to you–your very own guru. When you look into the mirror, you’re seeing in you a unique individual, never ever to be repeated in the history of the world. There are many guides and sources of knowledge and inspiration—but you are the only one capable of evaluating what you receive, and making the final decision.

People spend a lifetime looking in the mirror and trying to dress, speak, and style themselves like someone they have seen and admired. What they say is what they think people want them to say. When they walk into a room, they wonder who they should try to be.

You certainly must remember you’re not God nor Superman. At the same time, you must trust yourself ultimately. It doesn’t mean you have to abandon your belief, faith, or respect for authority—nothing further from my point. It simply means that you are the last word. Otherwise, you run the risk of drinking someone else’s Kool-Aid—not healthy!

2. Be your own hero—There is no one else you should admire more. When I became my own hero people around me began to look at me differently—like a leader they depended on. Previously, nobody ever beat up on me and put me down like I put down myself. When I was victim of my bad self-concept, everyone responded to me accordingly. Every time I tried to take a role of leadership, I got the feeling that people were saying, “Who do you think you are?” The reason they responded that way was I didn’t believe in who I was. When I believed in myself, others believed in me.

3. Don’t let anyone put you down or limit you because of physical appearance—there’s no “Leaders Look”. At 5’8” inches, I’m getting shorter every year as people grow taller. I go to the gym several times a week and pass by young people who are anywhere from 6’5” up to approaching 7 feet. I am a dwarf compared to these people. Yet short people are doing some really tall things. One of my favourite personalities is Meet the Press host, Chuck Todd, 5’3”, who beat out a lot of very tall people for that position. So if there is something about your physical appearance that you can do something about, work to change it, certainly. But short, tall, fat, homely people who believe in themselves are achieving huge accomplishments every day.

4. Develop your own style that works for you. Leaders come in all kinds of wrappings. I have also known leaders who are incredibly shy, physically unappealing, take-charge people, don’t make any waves folks, sharp elbowed, aggressive personalities, quiet, talkative—all who were successful within their own styles. These people see themselves as leaders and when they walk into a room people often ask, why? It is because of their own self-concept and belief in themselves. Every day you are auditioning for the leading role in the greatest movie of all—the stage play about your life. As the star of that play, you don’t want to walk out on the stage, forget your lines, and fall on your face. It’s not easy to be a star, but you’re in that role. Play that role to the hilt. It’s worth the performance.

 

Find out how you can improve your self-concept. Get in touch for a complimentary coaching session – click here.

Opportunity Everywhere

Opportunities Everywhere!

Think about the word “problem”.

This word actually produces stress because we feel we must solve something, it’s likely to be complicated, and somehow we’ll be graded on how we solve the problem.

The word “challenge”, although a vast improvement over the word “problem”, still carries hidden emotional baggage.

It comes with feelings that maybe you’ll be “humiliated” if your performance isn’t equal to others or you’ll have to climb over a great obstacle or run a tiring race.

The words “problem” and “challenge” are emotive words, meaning there are feelings and emotions that accompany them. Most of the time we’re unaware of these emotions as the words are so common.

When you see a challenge you naturally begin to see reasons why it can’t be achieved. When you see a problem, you see failure looming. With both, you’re recognising a manifestation of a fear you have. Once you’re victim to the fear of failure you can’t think in a healthy way.

The answer? Change your perspective.

What if there was no such thing as problems or challenges?

What if there were only opportunities to test what you believed, no failures to keep you from trying, and only growth from your experiences?

“What would you attempt to do today if you knew you could not fail?”

There’s huge power in this kind of thinking! (Which is another good reason to have an objective coach in your life.) Changing your perspective –just the way you use a word for example – helps you tap into an inner energy to accomplish your dreams. Changing your perspective helps you identify and overcome internal obstacles and barriers so you can succeed!

For more information on MindShifts® Coaching and Mentoring Programs please click here, or get in touch today.

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INTELLIGENT COMPETITION

The most critical strategic issue for any business is its competitiveness. No one would disagree with this yet few businesses really spend time and effort to deeply understand and manage their future competitiveness.

Most executives monitor their competitiveness through market share and as we all know that indicator is historical and is in no way predictive.  Neither is historical tracking of past revenue trends.

So how do you monitor your competitiveness, identify potential new entrants, understand your existing competitors, and manage as well as identify your potential competitiveness? How do you manage the risks involved in being in a competitive market?

While generally the CEO is the one responsible for the competitive ability of any business, they are often lacking the right insights to make the best decisions.  And while most businesses have plenty of information and plenty of know-how they have very little Competitive Insights or Intelligence (CI).  One reason — there is no tie between business strategy and future competitiveness, and business systems and processes.

CI is concerned with the methods, systems and processes that a business uses to monitor its competition, any potential industry disruption, its own competitive position, and to improve its competitiveness overall.

Although most managers intuitively carry out some form of CI – generally in an ad-hoc way – the overwhelming data that is available, rapidly changing technology, and increasing global competitive pressures mean that there is an increasing need to develop more systematic ways of doing CI.

There are a number of key steps that will ensure the success of a good CI process. These are:

  1. Ask the right question

Far too often, businesses make decisions too quickly and without a strategic context — it is a case of ‘ready, fire, aim’.  The internet and social media has not helped this mindset, as the speed to market has become a more critical factor. In the end, we are left with a smoking gun, but where did the bullet go?

 Experience has shown that ‘asking the right question’ is one of the hardest steps for senior management.  Here we need to define the decision objective or purpose and to put it simply to understand what really needs to be identified.

  1. Manage information effectively

Once you have identified your objective and possible key questions, the next driver for understanding what you have and don’t have within the business needs to come from studying the forces at work on your business. These forces could include competitors, technology, clients, consumers, new entrants, industry trends and so on.

Getting solid information on the decision at hand requires a number of information sources:

Human sources: for example, people in your organisation, business networks, experts, etc.

Economic and financial sources: for example industry reports, economic analyses specialist media.

Corporate sources:  for example, customers, suppliers.

Technical sources: for example technical reports, academic papers, and product manuals.

Remember all the information needs to be put into context and subjected to interpretation to derive some meaning and value.

  1. Analyse for insight and intelligence

The major focus in the CI process is the method of analysis used to turn the information collected into intelligence or insights for the decision maker. It is only through analysis that intelligence or insight is created.

The value of insight is early awareness, as it enables you to recognise and monitor the future as it unfolds, thereby reducing risk and minimising mistakes. Today, executives are faced with many pressures — they may sometimes seek only short-term gains — but costly mistakes from executives making uninformed decisions are no longer an option.  The risks are too high.

 It is important to note that the purpose of CI is not to predict the future, but to enable management to make better decisions about the future.

In a VUCA world, CI is becoming an integral part of making business decisions. The data and information gathering and evaluating process can identify and project strategies that current or emerging customers and competitors might pursue, and provides an assessment of the implication of these strategies on your company’s future competitiveness.

We need to realise that we have exciting new ways to protect margins, to fight the competition, to achieve breakthroughs. We need to realise the positives will far outweigh the negatives – but only if we change.

Forced change is always second prize. The secret lies in putting together a strategy for the future based on sound intelligence.