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Re-calibration and Taking Stock of Achievements

How to stop being annoying and demotivating because you focus too much on what hasn’t yet been done

Perhaps you’re one of those people who always sees the potential in something, the great achievements that could be accomplished. Or perhaps you’re someone who knows what a difference could be made for others if only that big weakness, failing or inadequacy could be addressed. Or equally, you might be someone who often has their eye on the next prize, the next hill to be summited, the next mistake to be avoided.

If anything like that is the case for you – excellent! As a leader, you’ll likely be the person who really makes a difference.

However, this focus on how things could be often comes at a price.

From working with lots of driven and focussed leaders in my coaching, I reckon there are two big costs to this attitude. And from time-to-time, it’s worth checking that you’re not paying too much for it. The costs are these:

1. Instead of being fired-up, you yourself become demotivated and frustrated at the apparent lack of progress. You might start looking around for the wrong new opportunity or lose your drive and sense of satisfaction.

2. The people around you, who might not share your drive, start wondering if you’re ever going to let-up for a day, or ever going to stop and look at what they have achieved or solved. You may well have gone from being the inspiring seer of potential, to a thankless pain in the backside!

The solution is simple, with one important thing you might need to do first. Here’s the solution (and, if you’re a future-focussed person, I bet you’re not already doing this):

Start taking stock, on a regular basis, of what has actually been done. Do this in whatever ways suits you. Make sure that other people are also involved in that stock-taking. What have you all achieved together? What problems have been avoided? What difference have you made?

I can hear the little gremlin voice in your head saying something like: “But if I let them start looking back, at the small stuff they have done, they’ll lose momentum and just rest on their laurels not getting the next important outstanding thing done.”

If that’s true rather than just a gremlin trying to sabotage things, do some work on your abilities to inspire. How good are you at making your vision for the future seem so attractive that people are just compelled to march towards it?


In order to do the stock-taking properly, you might need to re-calibrate what gets counted as an achievement. I notice that people who are great at seeing what could be accomplished, often tend to discount the many small steps that they’ve already taken along the way. You might need to reset your meter so that it does actually start taking account of the many things you’ve already achieved or solved – and help others to do the same.


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Three Empowerment Techniques

Three simple ways you won’t have thought of to help someone empower themselves at work

OK, you might have thought of some of these, but they’re so simple, and so effective, that they often seem to get overlooked and are definitely worth repeating.

First things first, notice that it’s about helping someone to empower themselves, not doing it for them (which is actually disempowering). I reckon a lot of corporate programmes fall down right at this first hurdle, trying to spoon-feed empowerment to their staff instead of creating the conditions in which people want to take power for themselves. Perhaps that second option is just a bit too scary in some organisations?

1. Ask for their help

Nothing helps people realise what they’re capable of better than an opportunity to help somebody else. If you can do this in a way that is genuine, i.e. on something where you really do need their help, that’s good. If you can do it in a way that shows that asking for help is itself an act of strength, not weakness, even better.

2. Tell them what you see

This one is really so sweet and so powerful that it should come with a government health warning! People take themselves for granted. They forget about their good qualities and they focus on the things that they don’t like about themselves. You can change that in an instant with this way of giving people recognition.

Take a moment to remind someone about a resourceful quality of theirs that you have noticed them using. The format is really simple, but does take some guts to use. It goes like this: “I noticed that you were really [resourceful quality] during [recent situation]; that’s a great quality to have.”  Here’s an example of the kind of thing I’ll say to the barista in my coffee shop, just for practice:

I noticed that you were really calm and helpful with that difficult customer just now. That’s a great quality to have.

3. Be kind in their presence

Everybody knows by now that acts of kindness are contagious; when you see someone being kind you tend to pay it forwards yourself.  People are less aware that there’s an unconscious association of kindness with resourcefulness. It’s like part of your brain says to itself: “Oh, I’ve just been kind! I must have the strength of mind and physical resources that mean I can spare some for others”. Whenever you get the chance, role-model this for people and use the contagious power of kindness to remind people just how resourceful they really are.

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Give some recognition today

International Recognition Day

Some people are just waiting to hear, straight from you, what a difference they make. Don’t let them wait

As I write this, it was recently Blue Monday – officially the most depressing day of the year. Despite that, you and I are still here and still going strong – well done us!

In response and opposition to the whole Blue Monday thing that the news jumps on every year, I’m declaring every day my official International Recognition Day, and I invite you to try it too:

  • Who do you know who would benefit from being reminded how great they are?
  • Who’s been kind, caring or just a good listener?
  • Who has had the kind of attitude towards life, work and other people that made a difference?

When I was a young manager in a big organisation somebody I really valued gave me a great piece of advice. He told me: “Some people are just waiting to hear, straight from you, what a difference they make. And they’ll wait forever if you let them. Telling them now, while you can, is the act of a great leader”.

I haven’t always lived up to that, because of my doubts and fears. Often because I don’t want people to think I’m joking, or because I don’t always believe that I’ve got the ‘right’ to say anything. And sometimes I haven’t done it because that person isn’t always great like that or because the behaviour they showed might not seem like that big a deal. And I wish I’d done it more.

None of those doubts or fears matters on International Recognition Day though, just tell people what an impact they’ve had – I dare you.


Great One-on-One Meetings for Busy Managers