November 17, 2017

New Year every month?

Calendar dates from monday to sundayHow often do you review your goals (assuming you set some in the first place, of course)?

Obviously, it’s traditional to set personal goals at the turn of the year and it’s a good idea. It’s a good time to do it too, because we need a bit of downtime to reflect on what our direction should be. I have benefited over the years from doing this reasonably diligently, not least because it’s made me re-assess my priorities and what I am aiming for. The actual outcome has definitely been different from what it would have been had I not taken the time to think over what I could achieve in the 12 months to come. (I also think about three years ahead, to make sure I am radical enough.)

Because of the fresh direction that comes out of the process, last year, I decided to attempt to take stock and re-assess my yearly aim and objectives every month-end. Of course, I didn’t manage every month, but I did manage about six of the month-ends. That definitely contributed to a successful year. Each time, there was experience and learning to reflect on and I made some adjustments to my aim for the year—upwards, generally—because I could see more clearly. That redirection definitely wouldn’t have happened without making time for the review. (I’m not saying it’s a comfortable kind of thinking, by the way. It’s work, no doubt about that.)

I suggest you try this, especially if you are entirely responsible for your own direction. At the end of the year, you’ll be glad you did.

I know this is kind of serious, but it matters.

So…

New Year every month?

Tip: Schedule your monthly review in your diary—perhaps for the weekend nearest the beginning of the month.

And, of course…

Best wishes for 2017.

Getting unstuck

Exhausted computer userA reminder of something simple and perhaps basic but really important, which has certainly helped me…

To succeed, yes, we need a vision and a purpose and goals and priorities and all that.

But when we’re stuck; when we’re down, we sometimes can’t do any of it.

Instead, we need to…

Do something—ANYTHING—that moves us even slightly in the direction we need to go, even if that’s just polishing our shoes or painting our nails.

Then we’ll gather momentum and be able to tackle something slightly bigger. Setting our direction can come later. “Ready, fire, aim” as Tom Peters and Robert Waterman put it in “In Search of Excellence.”

Sometimes we don’t have to be that smart, just determined.

At times…

It doesn’t matter a tiny bit which task we do, as long as we do something.

So much starts with managing our energy. They say 50% of winning is showing up.

What about you…

How do you get unstuck?

Straightening out your business

Road into the distanceIn program and project management, people talk about “straightening out the program,” meaning to set it on an orderly basis, with dependencies between one task and another, and resource availability in the face of constraints, properly recognised.

Without that clarity…

The program has “kinks” in it and so seems shorter overall than it really is, and at the same time actually isn’t the quickest route between two points.

It’s not laid out in a line properly.

Proper development of a programme then, both increases the realism of the planning and finds ways to minimise the expected duration.

So the end result is a straight line of minimum possible length.

Developing a business or an organisation is like that too.

In that context, the question is: Are the actions we’re taking on the shortest path to the goal or the vision?

Or are they partly a side road?

In other words, are we truly doing what most needs to be done?

Are you in your vision?

Bridge across a gapBefore we can create something in reality, we must create it in our mind. So developing a personal vision is a vital step in achieving something that didn’t exist before.

How clear and detailed does our vision need to be? Clear and detailed enough that if it showed up, we’d recognise it. Without that clarity, it won’t have the necessary guiding effect on our actions. Without that clarity, we won’t notice the relevant opportunities that come our way; we won’t see that they fit; in fact, we won’t see them at all.

That’s all very important.

But here’s the key…

We need to place ourselves in our vision. We need to see where we fit in the end result, and in turn, the journey to get there. Otherwise we won’t truly step into the dream. We won’t connect it with our life. And we won’t take the actions we need to take to make the vision a reality.

It feels safer to see a future state that doesn’t include our role in it. But then we disconnect ourselves from the journey to get there. And so we don’t take the right actions. And our vision doesn’t become a reality.

It takes courage to see yourself in your vision, taking the lead you know you can take.

But that’s what you need to do (if you want to change anything anyway).

Not where you’d like to be?

Bridge across a gapWe’re pretty used to being clear about what we want, what our vision is—clear enough that if it showed up, we’d recognize it.

But what if we can’t get to that straightaway?

That’s where “creative tension” comes in.

Creative tension is what Peter Senge (author of “The Fifth Discipline”) calls the gap between our vision and our current reality, which may not wholly fit with what we want.

Part of the practise of “personal mastery” is being able to sit with both a vision in mind, and a clear view of our current reality (and the emotions that go with it), and accepting the difference between them, and just being cool with it.

Now here’s the good bit…

If we hold this creative tension diligently, accepting the gap between where we are and where we want to be, and not stressing about it even as we work away to move toward our vision, it’s funny how our environment starts to rearrange itself in such a way as to close the gap. Things show up that help us move toward our vision; people get that we’re on a journey and support us; they accept that things are changing.

How does this work?

Well, we could go metaphysical about it and say that we manifest the change we want, but even at a prosaic level, somehow we just give off clear signals about what we’re looking for that others respond to, and, at the same time, we’re ready to recognize opportunity when it appears. They key is calmness. Nothing flows without the calmness.

Being OK with the creative tension of a gap between where we are and where we’d like to be not only helps us get there, but sets us free from stress in the meantime.

Pretty cool, I think.

And part of being an inspirational leader.

What’s your experience of this?

(With grateful thanks to Peter Senge and Robert Hanig for my own learning here.)

Is our instinctive, defensive response to competition the right one?

When the going gets tough, when markets contract, when budgets decline, when promotion is rare, our instinctive response is to retreat and defend what we have. Parts of our brain that kept us alive in a more dangerous world respond vigorously to the threats we perceive. They compel us to withdraw from any circumstance where we could be vulnerable, such as a situation where we share our knowledge and resources in collaborating with another.

This response to threat can be so strong it’s barely a conscious process at all. The strength of our defensive reaction leaves us with a certainty that it’s unquestionably the right one.

But is it? Does our hasty retreat from collaboration serve us?

Perhaps the most effective response to scarcity and threat is the exact opposite, to collaborate, to share what we have, to form new teams, to focus on our strengths, and allow others to do on our behalf what they do best, even though that requires sacrifice. Then the whole may succeed on the bigger stage and our individual outcome may be better than if we’d acted alone.

Suppose it does serve us to collaborate: How do we make this happen? How do we take our people along with us?

One key is articulating a compelling future so that the long term gain seems worth the short term pain.

We need high levels of integrity and to seek that quality in others. To be trusted and so involved in the best opportunities, we need to be seen as a mature and honest collaborator.

We need the skills to work intelligently with the interests and values of all and balance these to optimise the whole for the ultimate gain of all.

Are our defensive responses to increased competition with colleagues, other departments, other organizations, other countries, the responses that should guide us? Or are we better to resist our primitive instincts and collaborate rather than defend? And if so, how?

How do you respond to competition?