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As you are aware Change is all about people, and it starts with us. This is an exploration of some of the ideas and issues that I've encountered along the way. I've created this also to enable a dialogue to begin around this subject and hopefully produce a forum where we can all learn something.

Sharpening your razor

December 11th, 2013

stropping2Steven Covey, in his “Seven Habits of Highly Successful People”, talks about the importance of ‘sharpening the saw’, as a metaphor for continuously improving your skill set and capabilities.  I was reminded of this today when I had to replace the foil and cutters in my razor.  It is something I do regularly and this one was only a bit over a year old and the cutters are supposed due  to be replaced at the two year mark.  However, the foil had become damaged and it was just as cheap to replace both at the same time.  So this morning I shaved with my revivified razor and was amazed by the difference.  It felt like a totally different experience.  Every morning I use it and every time it does its job, but what I didn’t realise was that every day it did it a little slower and a little worse.

It occurred to me that this often happens to us; things gradually change, perhaps getting a little worse bit-by-bit and we simply don’t notice because we are too close to see.  However, a new customer will see things as they are today not what they used be like when they were good.  Change happens all the time and all around us, both for better and for worse, and we need to be aware of this and to take action to use this positively. 

You have to act if you want to stop the ravages of time, and periodically you are offered the chance to improve things and it is smart to make the best of these ‘opportunities’ rather than feeling plagued by them.  I’ve needed to take my own medicine in this regard as I have just been told my boiler is about to die and this is my ‘opportunity’ to spend invest £6000 in an improved system…Happy Xmas!!

Pushing at an open door

November 25th, 2013

open doorI had an interesting experience the other day that set me to reflecting.  I was going to a client meeting and thinking about what we needed to achieve and how best to do that.  I did a brain dump of the key points, which included one that I thought the client would never go for.  However, it was, in my view, crucial for success.  I wasn’t sure how to persuade them about this and knowing them well, felt I was likely to be overruled on grounds of financial expediency.  Often in organisations, people signing off on things get clear sight of the costs going into a project but the benefits are seldom so clearly on view, so one can understand, in times of financial hardship, that is much easier to say “No” than to ensure you are making a wise investment.

I sat down at the table with them and asked what they wanted to achieve and was pleasantly surprised by the tone of what they said.  So much so that I told them that what they were thinking of as a single event needed to be two separate ones if it was ever going to succeed.  “That makes sense” they agreed and that was that!  The meeting went very well, agreed everything in fast order and I left with everything I needed to make it work for them.

The thing was, I was anticipating a struggle, and probably the rejection of my ideas.  It is very easy in those circumstances to react before the event and go in feeling hostile and defensive.  This of course communicates and produces the very effect that you feared.  Luckily, I avoided this and walked away with a win.  Sometimes people surprise you and anticipating trouble often precipitates it, as John Lennon once sang “Give Peace a Chance”.

Don’t be so defensive…

November 22nd, 2013

defensive 1jpgI have often written here about the power of our Flight / Fight response and how deeply it affects our behaviour.  It is a primitive mechanism that kept our ancestors safe from the dangers that surrounded them and helped them survive and breed.  We are the direct descendants of those primitives who ran away fastest or fought hardest.  In modern society it is not really considered socially acceptable to either run out of meetings or physically attack those we feel threatened by.  So we have learnt to subvert these behaviours into a set of more ‘polite’ behaviours that manifest in how we communicate.  We can attack their ideas, ridicule them; we can become evasive when questioned or monosyllabic in our responses. 

defensive-behaviorI came across this article, which talks about the perils of being overly defensive in our communications.  This obviously applies at work and at home.  It suggests well known, but perhaps under used techniques like when you listen to a suggestion instead of saying “Yes…. BUT”, why not try seeing the difference it makes when you say “Yes…AND”.  The first diminishes and undermines an idea (and by extension the speaker), the latter builds on it and makes it stronger.  One makes an enemy and the other an ally.

Aikido uses the principle of first putting yourself in the place of the person who is ‘attacking’, and trying to ‘see’ the world from that position, and then having aligned yourself with them you are better positioned to avert, divert or deflect their ‘attack’. 

If we can let go the idea, or rather the feeling, that we are being made ‘wrong’, we can stay more open to other people’s ideas that may help us not only be more successful but also more well liked.  Now that is what I call a win:win!

Resources:

  1. Aikido1
  2. Aikido2

The creative power of disagreement

November 21st, 2013

world war zIn the film World War Z, the world falls victim to a plague of zombies.  Suspiciously, Israel seems to be ahead of the curve and have locked their borders to repel this invasion… how did they know?  10 days prior to the plague they received an email mentioning zombies, their cabinet debated its authenticity and the need for action and they all agreed that it was ridiculous.  However, it was their policy that if faced with unanimous agreement like this it was the job of the tenth man to play Devils Advocate and thus avoid the possibility of potential threats being ignored.  There seems to be some evidence that this may have a basis in truth.  However, whether or not this is Hollywood hokum or fact, I know from experience that there is both power in asking “Why not?” and danger in group-think.  It is often my job as facilitator to ask the dumb questions and challenge the sacred cows.

If you can’t afford a facilitator or don’t have anyone trained in the role, then before signing off on important decisions, have someone play Devils Advocate, as the Catholic church used to do when proposing someone for canonisation.  We are programmed and rewarded for being right, so we all hate to be proved ‘wrong’.  Setting aside the value judgements implicit in both these phrases, isn’t it better to be proved wrong at the board table than in the harsh world of business.

Be the change you want to see..

November 18th, 2013

BallmerSteve Ballmer, the retiring CEO of Microsoft, realised that the company wasn’t changing fast enough, despite his best efforts and on reflection, decided that perhaps he was part of the pattern he was trying to change.  “At the end of the day, we need to break a pattern. Face it: I’m a pattern,” he said.  It is a brave and honest assessment, no doubt made easier by the millions he has set aside, but still, leaving at the right time is a key step in good leadership.  It is similar to the challenge parents face of learning when to let go and just how to support an adult offspring.

So I take my hat off to him for this. 

 

Source: Pocket Lint

Seeing what’s not there…

November 9th, 2013

Dog that didn't barkI listened to a BBC program about so called “Thankful Villages”; 52 villages that amazingly saw all their men / boys return from WW1, and 14 of which even managed the same in WW2.  It is fabulous to learn that some places were untouched by the slaughter.  What interested me is that it took some while, and an awful lot of work, for people to realise that these places existed.  The reason is that we are programmed to see things that are happening, and it takes a very different sort of person to see what isn’t happening.  Conan Doyle wrote about this in his book ‘Silver Blaze’, a mystery about the disappearance of a famous racehorse and the murder of the horse’s trainer. Sherlock Homes solves the mystery in part by recognizing that no one that he spoke to in his investigation remarked that they had heard barking from the watchdog during the night.

Most of us are not quite so alert to things that we don’t notice.  For example, if you deal with a business where nothing goes wrong, or if you work in an office where there is no politicking or bitching.  You can learn an awful lot from what you don’t see or hear, the thing is is spend a little time shifting your awareness to scan for those things.  Communication, and what isn’t communicated is all about what you pay attention to.

So whilst these villages are are giving thanks this Sunday for the return of their menfolk, if you work in an environment free from strife, take time to celebrate that and work to preserve it; the same goes if you are living in a happy family or a good marriage.  These things are usually the result of people consistently doing the right things and this takes work and effort.  Celebrate it!

What doesn’t kill you makes you strong

November 6th, 2013

TreesI was out walking last weekend and I came across these three trees which had all somehow found a way to go on thriving despite all Nature had thrown at them.  The first was twisted and broken by a storm and resumed its vertical growth, the second had been left with a fraction of its trunk and yet was still growing and the final one found it could root in the soil and roots of another tree that had been blown down.  It seems amazing to me that Nature is so resilient and its creations seem to know how to grow despite all that is done to them.

If people, or businesses, are allowed to learn from their mistakes and misfortunes they can go on to be successful.  In fact there is a saying that if you have never failed, then you simply haven’t been trying hard enough.  Most successful businessmen fail a few times before they perfect their offerings.  The difference between those who thrive and those who wither away is that some learn and give it another go.  When coaching people, it is important to ask them what hey have learnt from their experience rather than just judge it.

It IS personal…

November 5th, 2013

HeinzI was amazed when I read the recent news that McDonalds has announced it won’t be serving Heinz ketchup any more at its 34,000 restaurants, as they don’t like the fact that Heinz have appointed Bernardo Hees, the former head of rival Burger King, as Heinz’s chief executive. Heinz was recently acquired by Warren Buffet’s company Berkshire Hathaway and Brazilian investment fund 3G Capital. Burger King is controlled by 3G Capital.and they appoint Mr Hees.  So it appears a strategic global sourcing decision is made by one of the commercial giants on a similar basis to playground politics and “I don’t want to play with you..”

I have always believed that business is all about people, and people do business with people they like, also people like them.  So the best way to ensure your business grows is to take a genuine interest in your customers business and make sure that you help them to succeed. 

A tale of 3 IT Giants…and a corporate ineptitude

October 24th, 2013

imageYesterday was the day after Apple’s big iPad launch event and they released v7.03 of their iOS operating system, so I clicked to upgrade.  Apple has a global reputation for excellence and ease-of-use, so it was bound to be simple wasn’t it?  NO!  It turned out they had changed their T&C’s for iCloud and you had to accept these… simple?  NO!  I and numerous other unlucky users found you couldn’t accept them as their server wouldn’t connect.  I spent an hour searching the net for answers, none of which worked, and ended up having to delete my account and reset it up… Great service… very slick!

Later I tried for the third time to download and install Windows newest  release of their global operating system 8.1.  Microsoft having been dominating this space since the 90’s, so they have this off pat surely?  NOPE!  I had tried twice before, wasted about 3 hours and nearly messed up my system over the weekend.  I’d read everything out there and updated every possible driver and unplugged every peripheral device as it was deemed to be some kind of driver conflict.  It got to 40% installed and the machine (the almost brand new, completely updated and highly specified machine..) turned off mid-install!  Luckily it reverted to its previous state okay but when I called my PC helpline they said “Loads of people are having issues with it, we recommend waiting a month or so till they get it right and and reissue the code”.

Finally, my afternoon was wasted by Samsung who despite being the one of the worlds biggest maker of smartphones and computers seem totally incapable of writing a simple piece of backup code.  I wanted to backup my phone; on my old Blackberry this was simple and took 10 minutes.  I spent an hour or so just trying to get the computer to see the phone, and once it had, the program kept hanging.  Four hours later, I still hadn’t succeeded in this simple task.

Three global leaders, worth $900 billion, seem incapable of doing their basic ‘job’ properly.  They employ the smartest people so it can’t be a lack of capability, and it certainly isn’t because they lack the resources, therefore we must assume it is because it simply isn’t important enough to them.  How on earth do the survive when they don’t care if their products work properly?  It is pretty hard to avoid their products so we have to lump their lousy programming.  If you are running a smaller business it is a very different deal.  We need to ensure that our customers lives are made easier and better by working with us.  They have to know that we care that we deliver quality and that we don’t take their business for granted.

South Downs Way

October 18th, 2013

image

Yesterday, a friend and I finally finished our walk along the South Downs Way, through 4 counties and two national parks.  It is 100 miles long and you climb (and descend) 13,600 ft.  You can see from the profile above it is all up and down… subjectively much more up than down, but in truth the descents are almost as tough.

We weren’t able to do the journey in a single hit due to work commitments, but we it took us longer than we ever thought to find the six days it took us.  It takes you through some fabulous countryside with some breath-taking views.  However, by-and-large, it is very undeveloped with only two pubs on the whole length of the walk. 

It is a very do ‘able challenge, with some people cycling it in a single day!  However, it is reasonably demanding and takes some planning.  There is a fair amount of logistics involved it getting to and back from the end of each stretch.  You clearly need to plot your route and stay on it.  If you put all this together it isn’t so different from any business project – planning, support, execution.  There were times when you feel good about it and other times when it would be easy to just stop.  Sometimes you feel inspired by the challenge and other times it seems more daunting.  In the end, all you can do is take the next step and worry about the rest later, and in the end, that does get you there.

My favourite stretch was the bit from Devil’s Dyke to Rodmell where you walk on the ridge of the hills and have views to the south out to sea and and across the Weald to the north and the next bit to Alfriston and our second pub was good too!  I have always loved the metaphor of the journey when talking about Change and taking one with someone else is a great opportunity to get to know them and bond.  Companies often spend huge amounts on team building days but something like this can be a great way to get to know your colleagues and build a real and lingering sense of teamwork.