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Entries from November 2014

The Bigger and Bigger Challenge

20th November 2014

Leadership Challenge
Leaders face a constant demand to exceed performance of the
previous year regardless of the environmental factors; bigger numbers, bigger
teams, bigger roles…
As a leader you probably take it on and do this seamlessly
based on your current skills and abilities or, cope as you grow into the
It’s easy to say that you have learned a lot from
experience, and I am sure you have. However, you don’t know what you
don’t know
. You can actually be limited by your experience. It can also be a
reactionary process, learning in the now, rather than a proactive process,
thinking about what you need moving forward.
People expect skills gaps for lower level managers yet as
you develop your career, and transform into a senior manager, there is an
assumption that you know everything and have a full ‘toolkit’ on leadership and
I’m not saying this is wrong – it can however be exhausting
if you constantly feel as though you are playing ‘catch-up’. You may also be unaware
that you are in this place as it’s become a way of operating – and this doesn’t
make you a leader in your own life.
Recognising you are in this Challenge
Leadership ChallengeThis may be the perfect time for you to take a moment and
reflect. You are likely to be caught in this place if you are doing any one or
more of these:
  • Working increased hours – you’ve taken on the additional
    responsibilities and find that you are going in early, working late and
    weekends to keep up.
  • Taking on increased responsibility – you’ve taken on
    additional responsibilities without considering what this means to how you work
    and utilise resources.
  • Have an increased revenue target to achieve and/or a reduced
    budget to deliver with either no extra resources or reduced resources.
  • Increased expectations that may be explicit or not – you are
    not really clear about what is expected of you and are working harder – just in

If you recognise yourself in any of the above, rather than
play catch-up I’d like to encourage you to take a more proactive look at your
Start by looking 3 years from now. What would you like to be
doing in 3 years time? Think of the role you’d like to be doing and how you
want to be operating both in work and out of work.
Take some time to do this
and list the skills and attributes you want to be demonstrating. Then identify
the gap between where you are now and where you want to be.
  • Where are you now and what would be the priorities for you?
  • Are there opportunities in your current role to start
    developing these?
  • Do you need to get some honest feedback on where you are and
    how you may be demonstrating these?
  • Is there someone you need to ask to be your mentor?
  • Is there someone you need to ask to be your coach?
  • Is there someone you could shadow?
  • What are the priorities and next steps?

Costs and Benefits
There will undoubtedly be costs and benefits to your
choices, both hard and soft.
What would you gain by addressing these challenges and what
would it cost you?
Take some time to understand if there is a broader need to
be met. Sometimes there is an issue that underlies what you’ve listed and this
may be the very thing that needs to be addressed. Be sure to take a holistic
and consider life outside of work. Be sure to include the cost of taking no
action too!
Do the benefits out way the costs?  
If the answer is yes then all that remains is:
  • To be clear about the priorities
  • Take action
  • Get support

‘Challenges are what make life interesting, overcoming them
is what makes them meaningful.’
Joshua J. Marine

What is your Pruning Practice?

14th November 2014
Continuous ImprovementAs we are now in the middle of autumn, and most of the trees
have lost their leaves, I can actually ‘see the wood from the trees’ in my
garden. I have a much clearer picture of what needs to be pruned back to allow
more space for new growth, or where there is dead wood that is no longer
serving a purpose.
Now I know that pruning in the garden doesn’t happen once a
year, it really depends on the plants I have at any one time. However, autumn is
the time when I can take a more strategic look at what needs attention so I can
plan for next year and decide what areas I want to change and what I want to
Through this process my garden becomes an ever-evolving
space and I’ve learned over the years which plants love their position and
thrive and which positions in the garden need a certain type of plant.
It’s been more a process of trial and error than strategic
planning and when I’ve neglected it it’s required a lot more work from me to
get it back to be ‘fit for purpose’.
And the relevance to business is what I hear you ask?
How often do you as a leader take time out to look at your
business or your team to reflect on what is no longer adding value?
Is it:
Annually, or
Proactive Change
Many organisations and teams plan ahead. Usually this is around
what activities are required to deliver your targets. Rarely is it about
stopping things because they no longer add value.
I know of few organisations that change proactively, and as
a consequence there is a mismatch between what is happening internally and the
pace of change externally. The result is that when something does need to
change it requires some form of change programme that takes more time, more resources
and often a degree of pain.
Consider for a moment how different this would be if somehow
we’d manage to evolve with the environment? What if we had a regular pruning
Here are the benefits I see and the action you can take
Regular review of
what’s working to achieve your goals
  • What is thriving and what do you need to do to maintain
    this? Does it need feeding? Regular pruning?
  • What needs support to grow and flourish? Do you need to add
    some structure or additional resource to help it on its way?
  • What needs digging up or pruning to allow space for
    something of greater value to grow?

An opportunity to
consider what’s missing
Ask yourself:
  • Where are you lacking creativity?
  • Where is there under performance?
  • Is there a clear path laid out?
  • Do you have the right skill set available?

A weed is anything that you no longer want. From an
organisational perspective what behaviours are you noticing that do not support
the culture you are wanting? What systems or processes are no longer delivering
what you need? What teams or individuals are no longer performing?
A time for some self-reflection
Having considered all of the above some questions you may
want to ask yourself are:
  • What am I doing that is supporting this?
  • What am I creating?
  • What am I tolerating?
  • What do I want to be new/different?

As a leader what action do you need to take to start a
regular pruning practice?
I love to hear your thoughts so feel free to email me at:
“Today may be the enemy of your tomorrows.”

Dr. Henry Cloud

Mind the Gap

6th November 2014
Continuous ImprovementIf you are anything like me you are a bit of a learning
‘junkie’. Always looking for the next thing to learn, or ways of getting new
insights whether that be a course, a webinar, a conference, a seminar, reading
a book or hiring your own coach.
We are always setting targets or goals and then when we get
there set new ones, often without celebrating how far we have come. We focus on
filling the gap between where we are and where we want to be.
I have spent part of this week with my mastermind group
reviewing my business and how I operate and identifying what I need to do in
the next quarter. An additional element was a day looking at how you
communicate to create a powerful partnership.
It’s easy to think you have learned a topic and there is no
need to revisit it. WRONG!
Just the way the concepts and exercises were presented
allowed me to look at what I do differently.
What I took away was some ideas for coaching. More
importantly it allowed me to identify a blind spot I have around my own
expectations when communicating with others and how I can improve on a
particular communication skill.
Blind spots – the biggest growth area
Our blind spots are the things we don’t know we are doing or
the things we don’t know we don’t know – and neither to do others. So, when
they are revealed to us, no matter how small, they help us make progress and
grow in areas we never imagined.
The very reason that you don’t know what you don’t know
makes identifying your blind spots difficult and the only person getting in the
way of them is you! You can see the conundrum…..
And it’s worth saying that blind spots can be talents as
well as development areas.
So how do you open yourself up to them?
Here are my tips to help you:
  • Be prepared to revisit topics, tools you’ve used before to
    review how they are working for you. If you know someone who is really good at
    these things, go and talk to them. Find out their approach, how they think,
    what they do that is different to you.
  • Be honest with yourself. We can be our own worst enemy and
    skirt over situations and topics that we are uncomfortable with. Give yourself
    some space to really explore what might be going on for you.
  • Conduct a review after meetings and events. Ask your self:

went well?

didn’t go so well?
what I know now what would I do differently?
action will I now take to do things differently moving forward?
     It can often help to involve others in this to get some
different perspectives.
  • Take 100% responsibility for every situation. If you are not
    getting what you want, what can you do differently to make it clear what you
    want? This may mean that you still don’t get what you want and you may learn
    something about yourself in the process.
  • Get a great coach to support and challenge you. They will
    see things in you that you and those close to you don’t, or aren’t prepared to
    tell you about.

Continuous learning and growth is a bit like peeling an
onion. The first few layers come off really easy and the closer you get to the
centre the more patient you need to be and the shifts are more subtle.
Be kind to yourself – recognise your progress and celebrate.
Focus on how far you have come as well as where you want to get to and own your success.
‘Continuous effort – not strength or
intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.’

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