(re)Invention

Never be afraid to reinvent your business

Markets shift, owners change, leaders develop, teams evolve, products and services are born, mature and die.

There’s probably some good business school research somewhere that shows just how important it is to continually reinvent whilst staying true to your core. But you know in your heart this is true anyway.

Don’t let the thought of your “sunk costs” (the money and effort that you’ve spent but won’t recover) get in the way either. They are gone anyway. Learn and move on.

If you don’t reinvent your business somebody else will change theirs first, simply because they need to more than you do. Necessity is always the mother of (re)invention.


As usual, please leave me a comment if they’re still open below, or tweet me @NickRobCoach. What might get in the way of the reinvention your business needs?


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Seven Essential Leadership Tools

If you’re a visual person, you’ll love this. My seven most essential leadership tools – but can you name all seven?

Each of the images in the set above represents one of my most essential leadership tools. But I haven’t named them. The challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to correctly identify each of the seven leadership tools using only the image and your own brilliant perception.


As usual, please add a comment below if they’re still open, or tweet me @nickrobcoach – how many of the seven essential leadership tools could you name; what would you add or change?


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Assumptions Afternoon

The assumptions and the mind-reading are still rampant at work. Co-designing is the answer – if you’re brave enough

It’s been a while since I heard anybody do that old joke about Assume making an Ass out of U and Me. And yet still it goes on.

I’m still seeing people in meetings without a clear purpose. Still coaching people whose leaders haven’t talked about expectations. Still working with teams who haven’t figured out how they can best get on together.

For goodness sake people, stop it!

Trust yourselves enough to co-design your desired outcomes together. Talk together about what’s needed. Ask what’s expected of you. And make sure you help others be clear about what you expect of them. Have a conversation with your teammates about how you all work together. Plan collaboratively.

Do. Not. Assume.


As usual, please leave me a comment if they’re still open below, or tweet me @NickRobCoach. What drives you mad about the assumptions people make? What are your top tips for being more collaborative about what’s expected?


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If you put down that hammer, I promise I won’t shout

If you’re stuck in one typical way of doing things or only have one way of looking at things, how do you change?

Doing some group coaching recently with the board of a successful company that faces some big changes in its market. Unless they shift direction slightly, they’ve seen that they may not have a business at all in the space of just a few years!


So you can maybe understand why I wanted to shout at one director who was being amazingly intransigent and who seemed utterly and stubbornly unable to approach things through anything other than their usual way of looking at them. A person who was actually being part of the problem, if not even its cause, rather than part of the solution.


In the end I decided not to shout at them. I have tried this in the past; sometimes it’s worked and sometimes not. In this case I didn’t feel that shouting would help at all because the cause of this director’s intransigence is that old case of:

If your only tool is a hammer, after a while everything starts to look like a nail

And I’m pretty certain that this person knows they’re being stubborn and sticking to one, out-dated point of view and one inappropriate way of dealing with things.

It made me curious.

What if that was me, stuck there facing a difficult and uncertain future, wielding the wrong kind of tool but unable to put it down?

How do you get out of that? How do you help yourself to discover new ways of looking at things? How do you investigate new tools; different approaches for dealing with thorny problems?

There are two reasons why people, having metaphorically picked-up a hammer, are so reluctant to put it down and take fresh approaches:

  1. Habit
  2. Fear

Habit, because it works. This is why we develop habits. It’s terribly wasteful of energy and slow to do things in a new way every time. If you don’t have to think about it too much and it pretty much always works, why do it any differently? You’ve developed a skill, so use it. The trouble is of course that we become ossified, stuck within the boundaries of that way of doing it, even if that isn’t the best way. If we’re really skilled with a hammer, we can even bash a screw into place!

Instead of that skill being something that facilitates our achievements, it starts to define what and how we can achieve.

Fear, because it’s nature’s way of helping us to survive. Don’t think, there isn’t time. There’s a threat right here. Stick to what you know and apply that now. Attack, run, hide; fight, flight or freeze – stick to whichever of those you’re good at. It takes a brave person to say “Hold on, maybe we should take a fresh approach to this threat. Maybe I’m not seeing the whole picture here, or I’m stuck in one way of doing things and that isn’t helping.”


Really we need to practice these things before there’s a crisis. Learn new tools before they’re needed. Get used to taking a different perspective even when we don’t need to, when our usual way of looking at things is enough. Make space for curiosity for curiosity’s sake.


Some simple stuff about beginning to shift habits for you to try out yourself:

  • If you regularly commute, when was the last time you took a different route home, just to see what that was like?
  • Where do you usually holiday (same place or different places?) and how much exploring do you do when you’re there?
  • What type of entertainments do you prefer – and how much do you switch those around?
  • What working habits have you not changed in the last two, five or even ten years?
  • Are you sitting in the same desk, facing the same way today that you were this time last month or last year?
  • When did you last visit an art gallery? And when did you last visit an art gallery to deliberately see art that you don’t ‘get’?

And the same applies to fear. Fear hijacks our brain and gets us into that fight, flight or freeze straightjacket. When we’re in there, it’s hard to get out.

So we need to practice and become familiar with our fears in advance:

  • What are you afraid of?
  • What keeps you awake at night?
  • What are your deepest concerns about your business?
  • What do you not want people to find out about your own perceived inadequacies?
  • What can’t you let go of?

The more familiar we can become with our fears, the less power they have over us. The more flexible we can be with our habits, they more they become skills to help us, and not shackles to bind us.


Please let me know in the comments below, or by tweeting me @nickrobcoach, what you’re finding out about your own habits and fear, and how you’ve developed flexibility of approach.


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Can’t Keep Up?

Feel like you can’t keep up?
12 ways to simplify your leadership

Do you want to work as quickly and efficiently as possible, so you can finish early and still have time and energy to do other stuff? You’re not alone. More and more I’m seeing people who say they want to do more at work, enjoy more time with their family, and have more time to relax, but that their actual focus is on “keeping up.”

It may be that you’re temporarily in a really tricky situation and you just need to get out the other side of it. But if not; if that sense of not being able to keep up at work is persisting longer than it should, take a look at these short tips for breaking the pattern.

1. Identify your Top 1 – 3 priorities for the day

And once you’ve identified them, do these first thing in your day, or do them in your quality time, or scrub-out something else. Remember, you’ve either chosen to work on your own priorities, or you’ve chosen to forward somebody else’s agenda.

2. 80% is More Than Good Enough

Identify what level of %age completion/quality is right for the task you’re involved with and don’t go 1% over. Perfect is the enemy of good.

3. Delegate the ‘What’ not the ‘How’

Make sure you’re only delegating ‘outcomes’ and not telling people how to achieve those outcomes. Be prepared to live with people taking a different approach to the way you might have done it. This is the ONLY option if you don’t want to, or can’t, do everything yourself – which you don’t and cant’!

4. Don’t use your Email In-tray as a To-Do app

It doesn’t work. It DOESN’T work. Email is for communication, not task-management. Get a simple to-do app and use that instead. If your email in-tray is overflowing, make a separate folder, dump everything into there and start again with a blank in-tray, this time using a separate app to record to-do’s.

5. Manage all your Emails (and other In-boxes) using the 5-Minute RAFT Formula

Everything that arrives in your various inboxes should be dealt with using the 5-minute RAFT approach, as follows:

  • R is for Reading – can you read an item in 5 minutes or less – and do you really, really need to read it? If so, read it when it arrives, otherwise, bung it into a Reading File and wait ‘til it’s a priority. Or Trash it.
  • A is for Action – can you action item in 5 minutes or less – and do you really, really need to do it? If so, action it when it arrives, otherwise, bung it into your To-Do app and do it when it’s a priority. Or Trash it.
  • F is for File – can you file an item in 5 minutes or less? If so, file it now. If not, wtf is it!?
  • T is for Trash – this is my favourite. Trash it. Hit delete. Gone and forgotten. Should be your default setting – can I legitimately just hit delete or chuck this in the bin and not get emotionally-hooked.

6. Under-schedule and Over-deliver

Rather then over-schedule and under-deliver! This is strongly linked with Items 1 and 12. The best way to do more is to try and do less. Focus, focus, focus. How jammed is your calendar, how hectic is your travel schedule? “Less is more” people.

7. Ask people for their ideas

Not only is this a good way to get and stay engaged with people, you’ll end up with new and different solutions that you wouldn’t have thought. Takes a bit longer in the short-term, delivers better quality and takes the load off of you in the medium-term.

8. Know and Say your Leadership Mantra

All leaders should be able to say what the strategic aim for their organisation or department is. “What we need to do is X, Y and Z.” Repeat this whenever and wherever until you’re sick of hearing it. And then repeat it some more. This way of simplifying really helps others to get behind the programme and take-up more of the effort themselves. You’ll be more than pleasantly surprised when you hear people repeating your mantra unprompted.

9. Work through People and on Tasks

And the more senior you become, the less you should be working on tasks and the more you should be working through people. Check how your current balance is on this and see if you need to spend more time leading and less time doing. See also 10 below.

10. One-to-one Meetings are your Main Tool for Working through People

There isn’t a better way to get things done than to sit down with your people individually and coach them through their own priorities. I’d give at least one day a week to doing this for every four team members I have. Use this Coaching formula:

  • What Outcomes are they working towards?
  • What’s in the Current Situation that you and they need to be aware of?
  • What Approaches have they tried or do they want to take?
  • What Support do they need?
  • How will you know when it’s Worked?

11. Build Relationships

I bang on about this all the time. Relationships are the key to getting stuff one in organisations.

“It’s not what you know.

It’s not even who you know.

It’s how well do you know the right people?”

Nick Robinson

When was the last time you prioritised coffee with a colleague just for the sake getting to know each other better?

12. Leaders think Short, Medium AND Long-term

So often we under-estimate what can be done in the long-term and over-estimate what can be done in the short-term. The key is to plan on all three time-horizons. What’s my priority for this year, for this month, for today – and how do they link together?


I hope those help a little? Give me a shout – add a comment below if they’re still open, contact me here, or tweet me @NickRobCoach if there’s something not covered or if you’d like to add one of your own tips.


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Wind-up or Shine?

Image update for you to download:
If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?

Click the picture above and then right-click and select ‘Save as…’ to download your copy.

This one of my new favourite quotes from the 13th century Persian poet and mystic Rumi.

Working life can be full of little bits of ‘helpful’ feedback, annoyances, set-backs and other irritating stuff. You can either let that rub you up the wrong way, or take what’s useful, disregard the rest, and use the learning it provides to hone and polish yourself to a brilliant shine.

Takes a bit of practice, but it really is a choice everybody can make.


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Excellent!

As the fires of excellence shine at your door, generosity itself smiles

Click the image above for a full-size version and then right-click to download or ‘Save as…’

This is one of my favourite sayings, from the Arabic, carved above the door of the Myrtles Palace in the Alhambra in Spain. I’m pretty sure that what it’s saying is something like: “Be great and good stuff will happen!”

I’m a big fan of striving in this way and I wish that everybody felt they had one thing that they wanted to be excellent in doing. The actor and comedian Steve Martin said something I really love:

Be so good that they can’t ignore you!

This is also a very important area for businesses to address.

One of my favourite business books, ‘From Good to Great’ by Jim Collins has as part of its core approach something called the ‘Hedgehog Concept’. Collins describes this as being the intersection between these three factors:

  1. that which drives your business’ economic engine
  2. that which your business can be deeply passionate about
  3. that which your business can be the best in the world at.

Collins holds that this intersection is the turning point between the build-up to greatness and the actual breakthrough towards it. Without it, your business can be good, even very good. But not great.


What about you and your own business?

If it was possible to set aside any doubts or limiting beliefs about what might be achievable, what’s the one thing you’d like your business to be excellent at doing?

Feel free to leave a comment in the box below whilst its open or, after it closes, tweet me @nickrobcoach


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Every Time

Inspiration: 12 things to do every time if you want to go beyond your previous limits – in the form of a poem!

When I started it, I wasn’t really sure what this article would turn out to be…

In the end, it more or less wrote itself anyway. Very early one dark, rainy Monday morning when I was feeling great about things. Full of determination and ready for the week. Looking at it now, I’ve laid it out a lot like a poem, so, I guess that’s what it is!

Enjoy 🙂

Every Time

Every time you doubt yourself,
Go do it anyway.

Every time you judge yourself,
Give yourself a break.

Every time you get a chance,
Lift somebody up.

Every time you’re not enough,
Be all that you are.

Every time your dream fades,
Dream it even bigger.

Every time you need a leader,
Look into a mirror.

Every time you let us down,
Learn to ask for help.

Every time you hit a wall,
Work your way around.

Every time you’re in the wrong,
Own it.

Every time you mess up,
Fix it.

Every time you stop short,
Start again.

Every time you fall down,
Get up.

© 2018 www.nickrobinson.org


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Empowering Beliefs (part 3)

How to get real about empowering yourself, by training your mind to filter and focus your attention

If you want to adopt ways of thinking and behaving that get great results and satisfaction (to empower yourself), or to help other people to do the same, here’s the third article in my series which looks at what we call ‘Empowering Beliefs’. These are the unconscious thought processes that can either really help or really hinder us.


This part is about how we can selectively focus and filter our attention towards the ways of thinking that empower us.


An immediate side-benefit of this kind of approach is that it tends to crowd out or silence some of that self-doubt that can otherwise creep in and undermine us.

What I’ve set out here for you is a really simple and effective approach. The key to why it works is that:

a) We rarely actually stop and consider what exactly we want to be ’empowered’ about. Just pausing and consciously putting into words the kind of ability or capability or attitude that we’d like to be operating is itself a powerful act;

b) This approach breaks things down into steps. You don’t need to follow them exactly, some back and forth is OK but, generally speaking, the steps I’ve set out here move from a kind of general sense of wanting to be able to do something, or behave in a certain way, towards getting a real concrete feeling of what that means;

c) It starts with getting clear about what kind of ability, capability or attitude you would like to have. If you’ve read some of my other stuff, you’ll know that this getting clear about what you want is an “Outcome” – and being clear about desired outcomes is the single most important thing you can do (in my not-so-humble opinion). It isn’t what you want to stop or be less of. It isn’t what you might feel you’re not good at. It’s about asking ourselves, “In what way do I want to empower myself?”

d) Lastly, because it works in steps and helps direct our focus in a positive way towards what we want, you can use this process, pretty much as it’s written here with other people, whenever you want to help them to empower themselves.


Here’s how you can use this approach.

1. Empowering Ability

Start by thinking about what you want to be able to do, or to be capable of doing, or what kind of attitude of mind you’d like to adopt. I’ve put it like that, in three slightly different forms, just so that we cover all the ways that people tend to think about these things. If you want to be really focused, or just to have an easy way of remembering how to do this with others, you can simply ask:

What do I want to be able to do?

And let’s call your answer to that question the [Ability].

I’ll put it in square brackets like that below as well, so you can track through what’s going on.

We can also use a real-life example from a client I worked with last week, whose answer was, “I want to be able to concentrate.”

2. Focusing and filtering our attention towards empowerment

Once we know a little about what it is we want to be able to do, then we can start using the way that our minds naturally focus on what’s important to us and filter out other stuff to start getting a handle on empowering ourselves. And since everybody approaches things in a slightly different way, you can use this approach to help somebody else apply an ability even if their best way of doing it would be different from yours. For this step, we would ask:

When I’m [doing Ability], what’s important to me?

And I’m going to call your answer to that question the [Criteria] because it reveals how you’ll judge whether you’ve got that ability.

Now we’re starting to get a real handle on what is wanted and to reveal the way that this person wants to approach having it.

To continue the example from above, I asked my client, “When you’re concentrating, what’s important to you?” And the answer came back, “That I’m working through until it’s finished.” So that’s how he’ll judge whether or not he’s concentrating – is he working through until it’s finished.

3. Defining the way we want to empower ourselves

Next, we get even clearer about what this means. We’ll ask:

What is [Criteria]?

I hope you can track through all this stuff in square brackets OK easily enough. To continue with that example from my client, I asked him, “What is ‘working through until its finished’?”

I could also have asked what does it mean to ‘work through until its finished’, or something like that. The crucial things are to (a) use the same words as him and not paraphrase; and (b) just to start getting more and more meaning and definition. What we’re doing here is taking a desired capability, an ’empowerment’ out of the vague and unconscious and into the real world. That’s where the power is in this work.

4. Focusing our minds on the evidence that will tell us we’re empowered

The last step in this part of the empowering beliefs process, is to get as concrete and real as possible about what kind evidence we want our minds to be scanning for. It’s almost like we’re programming ourselves to put aside doubts, fears and fantasy, and to start getting real.

The way to do it is to take that [Criteria] from above and ask something like this:

What do I see, hear or feel when I’m [Criteria]?

I’m going to call your answer to that, the [Evidence].

And to continue that real life example, I asked my client, “What do you see, or hear or feel when you’re ‘working through until it’s finished’?”

5. Next steps

After you’ve gone through steps 1-4 above, that’s often enough to shift things quite some way towards having that ability or capability or attitude of mind. My client who wanted the ability to concentrate, which meant working though until it’s finished, was able to use the evidence part as a kind of series of signposts to help him concentrate.

Usually people need a bit more than that and it’s necessary to ask something like this:

Now I know that the [Ability] I want is about [Criteria] and that I’ll recognise it from [the Evidence], what are the next steps I might take to empower myself?

Try some of this for yourself. Think of an ability, a capability, or an attitude of mind that you’d like to have, and track it through the steps above. Let me know how you get on please.


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Leadership and Physical Intelligence

How’s your Physical Intelligence – and how does this affect your ability to lead others?

I’ve long been interested in the idea of different types of intelligence. The developmental psychologist Howard Gardener described eight “modalities” of intelligence (which he later expanded to include two more), one of which is ‘Bodily-kinesthetic’ intelligence:

Gardner describes this as control of one’s physical movement and the capacity to handle objects skilfully. This also includes a sense of timing, a clear sense of the goal of a physical action, along with the ability to train responses. He believes that people who have high bodily-kinesthetic intelligence are generally good at physical activities such as sports, dance, acting, and making things.

Click here to see Gardner’s book on Amazon (not an affiliate link).

Whether or not you believe it’s actually an ‘Intelligence’, you’ve probably been around people who are really great at using their bodies. They can hit a tennis ball right by you without seeming to try. Or they can insert a needle into a worried patient’s arm in one easy motion. Or they can make great choices about their own physical health, in a way that sustains them really well.
What other kinds of physical intelligence or smartness have you noticed in yourself or others?

I learned from studying Emotional Intelligence, that you can think about each of your own intelligences as having two components:

First, a ‘Capacity‘. This is like the limit of your own intelligence (whether it’s Intellectual, Emotional or Physical etc). For some aspects of each of those intelligences, research suggests that your capacity is fixed – that is, it can’t be increased. What you’re born with may be what you’re stuck with. For other aspects, your capacity can be increased – you can stretch the limit and develop new capacities.

Second, there’s a ‘Utilisation‘. This is how much you use your current capacity. If you want to improve your intelligence, be it Intellectual, Emotional or Physical etc, making sure you’re actually already using all that you can use is probably the best place to start.

As I get older and my body stops taking care of itself quite as automatically as it did when I was younger, I’ve become more interested in aspects of physical intelligence. I’m lucky to have a wide spread of ages and occupations and interests amongst my coaching clients, so this is something I often just get a little curious about with them. What do they do to take care of themselves physically? How does their physical being impact on their presence as a leader? Are there links for them (as the evidence seems to suggest) between their physical intelligence and their emotional resilience?


If I bring to mind a dozen or so people I know really well who I’d regard as great leaders, it seems pretty clear to me that they have a good range of several of Gardner’s Intelligence Modalities. They’re smart people and they’ve worked at that. They are good at building relationships with others and they’ve worked at that too. And they all do something to maintain or even increase the utilisation of their own physical capacity.


What’s also interesting for me, is the range of things that these leaders do to utilise their physical being. There’s all the middle-aged cyclists of course. And there are swimmers and runners and tennis players and footballers and hikers and so on. But then there are also dancers and yoga practitioners and tai-chi masters and Nia movers and Five Rhythms people. The range of things that people do to be in great relationship with their bodies is huge.

This is not just about “fitness” – although being fit certainly seems to be part of Physical Intelligence. It’s more than just that though; it’s also about being aligned with and being fully part of our physical being, our bodies, as well as our mental and emotional existence. Without that, it’s hard to be a complete person – which is another important aspect of being a great leader.


It also seems to me that people who have a good relationship with their own bodies are more confident in their dealings with others, are less likely to get hijacked by their own knee-jerk responses and are generally happier and therefore more pleasant to be around.


What’s your view? Does your physical intelligence have anything at all to do with your ability to lead others, or to be successful in your work?

What’s the key? If you believed that physical intelligence IS important to leadership and general success at work and in life, and you wanted to improve your own where should you start?

In my personal experience, it’s all too easy to make this difficult. In the past I’ve managed to fill my own attempts to get physically smarter with all kinds of unhelpful beliefs about how much ‘should’ be possible for me. Or about how I need to keep the shambolic, beginner stages private. Or I’ve even fallen into the ‘no pain, no gain’ trap!

If we reflect back on my earlier points about Capacity and Utilisation, we’re actually talking about learning new stuff here – even if, in this case, it’s our bodies that are doing the learning. And the best learning is messy, playful, gentle and spontaneous.

Is that the way to improved physical intelligence?


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