“We need to be the change we wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi

You Too Can Be A Leader If You Chose To Be One.

We all have a pretty clear picture of what a leader looks like in the context of a business environment and an organisations management structure: A person in charge, that is able to motivate others to act toward achieving a common goal, with the analytical skills to know the best way to use the resources at an organization’s disposal, and with ability to direct workers and colleagues according to a strategy that meet the company’s needs. It sounds worthy but dry, and quite frankly a little boring. What about leadership in the broader context of life and relationships between people. I believe there is a leader within each one of us, waiting to get out and make a difference in the world.

I often have conversations with clients about leadership, and these conversations usually start by the person saying, “I’m not a leader”, as they associate leadership with management, authority and being in control of other people. It is true that many great leaders have such responsibilities, so it is understandable that many may not automatically see themselves in such a light, especially someone of a more quiet and introverted disposition. But even more confident and extroverted people may fail to appreciate their leadership potential if they perceive themselves as occupying the lower rungs of an established hierarchical structure.

There are many reasons why people shy away from leadership; sometimes it is because of feelings of unworthiness that has to do with limiting beliefs and lack of confidence, a complex subject and a topic worthy of proper attention another time, but often it is a misunderstanding of what makes a leader and a belief that leadership is something “other people do”. However, leadership is not a privilege only afforded to those of a higher status on the ladder, authorising a relationship from the top down towards those below themselves. Genuine leadership defines a person’s relationships in all directions; both up and down as well as sideways. It is my view that adopting a leadership role is a choice available to anyone, regardless of where they may be on the career ladder, or wherever they may be on the social and professional spectrum. I would go as far as saying it is everyone’s civil responsibility to shoulder the responsibility of leadership when an opportunity to make a positive contribution presents itself.

It is important to understand the difference between being in charge and being a leader. Being in charge is about power and control. Being a leader need not include responsibility for managing and controlling others, but it does mean being responsible for and in control of oneself, able to express and act on ones values and beliefs. You can probably think of someone in your environment who has that ability, totally comfortable in their own skin, who without exercising power or control manage to have a natural influence over most situations they are involved with.

Reflecting on my time as Artistic Director of two national ballet companies, The Royal New Zealand Ballet and English National Ballet, I wish I had at that time been more aware of this distinction between leadership and being in charge. My natural leadership style is collaborative as opposed to coercive or authoritative, which is why I am now a coach, but as a director there were definitely occasions when my belief it was necessary to exercise control compromised my ability to lead effectively. I don’t look back on that time with any kind of regret, I am proud of my achievements as an Artistic Director and the many successes I was instrumental in creating, but as the old adage goes; if-I-had-known-then-what-I-know-now I might have done some things differently.

What I have learned is that effective leadership comes in different forms. A skilled business leader will understand that leadership is situational and use appropriate tools and techniques for each occasion. However, sometimes a single, spontaneous act of leadership can alter the course of history. Rosa Parks exercised quiet but powerful leadership when in 1955 she refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. In 1987 Princess Diana shook the hand of a dying AIDS patient, an act of leadership that altered worldwide attitudes towards AIDS sufferers. During protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989 an unknown student placed himself in front of a tank, a courageous act of leadership that brought Chinese political oppression to the attention of millions of people around the globe. In 1947, after years of campaigning, Mahatma Gandhi’s legendary quiet leadership style put an end to two centuries of British imperial rule in India. In 2012 Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen for having the courage to speak up for the right of girls to be educated, she was 15 years old at the time. In recent years Greata Tunberg, another teenager, has emerged as an international leader for the environmental movement to save the planet from global warming and mindless human destruction.

“We need to be the change we wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi

Your ambition may not be to alter the course of history, nor may you wish to be a leader of business, but below are 20 leadership qualities that will enrich your relationships and strengthen your standing with friends and colleagues and allow you too to make a positive contribution to the world around you. Why 20 you may ask. I could have listed 30, 50 or 100 but I believe these 20 illustrate my point.

Leadership is to be a servant first.

Leadership is to see strengths in others.

Leadership is to show respect and be tactful.

Leadership is being able to say no.

Leadership is having the courage to say yes.

Leadership is the ability to state one’s opinions without belittling others.

Leadership is being clear on one’s values and beliefs.

Leadership is knowing when to speak.

Leadership is knowing when to be quiet.

Leadership is having the humility to admit failure.

Leadership is acknowledging the contributions of others.

Leadership is saying thank you.

Leadership is being loyal to your people.

Leadership is asking – not telling.

Leadership is listening to hear – not waiting to speak.

Leadership is to guide – not direct.

Leadership is to have a vision.

Leadership is to show empathy.

Leadership is to take risks.

Leadership is to create more leaders.

People will follow a leader not because they are in charge of people in their care, but because they care about people in their charge. You may not be looking for followers, but you will receive respect if you have the resolution and integrity to live by your own standards, together with the humility and generosity to reciprocate to your people in equal measure. You can lead from the front or from the back, whatever suites your personality style, but when you are called upon have the courage to step up to the mark and lead.

“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”

 – Bill Gates

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An Excellent Alternative To Perfection

Do you sometimes procrastinate because you can’t bear the thought of not being seen to be good? Do you often feel anxious because you have impossible expectations of yourself? If this sounds like you it is possible you’re suffering from a touch of perfectionism.

“But isn’t striving for perfection a good thing?” Not really – in fact struggling to be perfect might actually be standing in the way of being good. This may seem like an odd statement so let me explain.

Perfection is a unique and subjective view by an individual person, and as everyone sees the world through his or her unique filters a commonly accepted view of perfection cannot exist. Furthermore, as we continue to develop our skills and evolve our understanding of the world, each time we think we are approaching a “perfect” outcome we inevitably discover another step beyond that, and then another step beyond that step and so on. Perfection will therefore forever elude us and remain tantalizingly out of our reach. And herein lies the danger of perfectionism, because this feeling of consistently falling short of the mark will make you feel inadequate.

But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that a universally accepted standard of perfection did exist; perfection would then be a static end-goal beyond which it would be impossible to move; as per definition, perfection cannot be improved upon. In my view this would be a rather sad state of affairs, as the perfect outcome of every human endeavor would be pre-defined, and once attained stifle further development and creativity.

Awareness of the difference between a healthy wish to better oneself and perfectionism is critical for maintaining a balanced perspective on life. High standards of achievement are good but expecting to attain perfection is not only doomed to fail; it is a dangerous pursuit. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it is often the cause of depression, anxiety and feelings of powerlessness.

However, ceasing to strive for perfection does not mean stopping to better oneself; there exists an alternative, a different and more powerful standard to aspire to, which is both achievable and more creative, and that is excellence.

To be excellent has as much to do with who you are, as it has to do with what you do. It is a way of being, the sum total of all you choices. It is not simply a measurement of success but also an expression of personal integrity and attitude. Excellence as a measure of quality is dynamic and can be accomplished at every level of achievement and stage of development, from the smallest to the largest of human endeavors. Excellence, therefore, is not only attainable; it will ultimately transcend perfection

So take courage in the fact that once you discover and acknowledge what is uniquely right for you, you can stop the impossible struggle to be perfect and enjoy the positive, creative and ongoing process of being excellent.

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How To Have A Good Day

An Alternative To New Years Resolutions

We’ve all tried and we’ve all failed, because studies show that approximately 80% of New Year’s resolutions will be abandoned within a few weeks. Perhaps yours have already flopped by the time you read this, in which case this article is for you. If by chance you belong to the 20% that do manage to stick to your resolutions then well done… but you should still read on.

Instead of setting goals around doing things differently to become healthy, wealthy and wise, a better alternative is to create your intentions around being different because you are a human being, not a human doing. So rather than making lofty promises about eating and drinking less, exercising more and calling your mother regularly, how about discovering a more enjoyable way to create a sense of fulfillment and happiness. (Which, by the way, does not exclude calling your mother more often.)

What I recommend is simple. I suggest you spend an extra five minutes in bed each morning, thinking of three things that bring joy to your life. (See, my method looks good already.) I’m not talking about fantasizing about unlimited wealth, eternal life and peace on Earth for all mankind, but things that are within the realms of reality for you to experience: anything you truly enjoy doing and that makes you genuinely happy. It’s built on the proven premise that deliberately thinking positive thoughts will produce a more confident and productive state of mind. It is the mental equivalent of standing up straight, with a so-called power posture, to help you speak with more confidence and authority.

For this to work well you have to vividly imagine whatever you are thinking about, making it as real as possible in your mind. The brain does not distinguish between reality and imagination. It will simply react chemically as it would to the real experience, stimulating your serotonin levels, which creates a sense of wellbeing. However, it should not only be mind game to make you feel better. For this method to bring genuine reward you must also give yourself time each day to really do at least one of the things that bring you joy.

You may already know this technique by the name the gratitude attitude, but in my opinion the name implies that you somehow owe your happiness to an outside force. Whilst gratitude is a fine sentiment that should be expressed whenever appropriate, the objective here is to take charge of your life and be able to decide for yourself what you feel good about. I have therefore given it the name positive positioning, which I feel more accurately expresses its purpose.

The things that dominate our thoughts most strongly influence our actions, but we often cruise through our busy days on autopilot, lurching from one task to another, without pausing to stop and reflect on why we’re doing what we’re doing. By spending time in the morning, pre-programming your mind with positive thoughts and feelings that will subconsciously direct your actions, you will greatly increase your chances of having a more productive and enjoyable day than if you had just rolled out of bed without any thoughts or intentions.

If you want to make this exercise really effective spend another five minutes writing your three items of joy in your diary. By doing this they become even more firmly fixed in your mind; you create intentionality and therefore they become part of your subconscious priorities. What you focus on is what you get, what you think about is what you do. It might be interesting to see over a period of time what thoughts occur more frequently. If there’s one thing that dominates your choices, that constantly stands out as more joyful, then perhaps this is what you should be focusing on more than anything else – maybe even dedicate your life to.

The problem with giving up on New Years resolutions is that when you drop them you feel like a failure, which will damage your self-esteem and confidence. So committing to resolutions you cannot fulfill might actually harm your chance for success rather than encourage you to persevere. Instead you now have an alternative; a morning ritual that is both pleasant and very simple to apply to your life, which will actually produce results and support you throughout the year. In fact by applying yourself to this method maybe those pesky New Year’s resolutions will come into effect after all: eating and drinking less, exercising more – and why don’t you call your mother right now?

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Beating the effects of Impostor Syndrome

Today’s topic is Impostor Syndrome, which is an issue troubling a surprising number of people. It’s been my personal experience that the higher I climbed on the career ladder the less confident did I feel of my competence regardless of my success. Reflecting on this prompted me to write this short article, which I hope you will find both interesting and encouraging.

Have you ever felt that you don’t belong, or that you’re not as competent and accomplished as other people? Do you sometimes feel you don’t deserve your successes and that people are going to find out that you are out of your depth? If so you’re in good company along with approximately 70% of the population that experience those same feelings at some point in their lives. This is one of our more common social afflictions known as Impostor Syndrome.

Some research indicates Impostor Syndrome may be more common amongst women than men. This is probably because of gender inequality and societal attitudes where women are made to feel less worthy than their male counterparts. But Impostor Syndrome will affect anyone who is not able to internalise and own his or her achievements. Certain personality types are more likely than others to feel unworthy of recognition.

Perfectionists” set impossibly high expectations for themselves, and even the smallest mistake will make them question their own competence.

Experts” feel inadequate unless they know every fact and figure in their field of knowledge.

Natural geniuses”, whose skill comes easy, might feel less worthy because they think they should be working harder at being good at what they do.

Soloists” will feel they have to accomplish everything alone, and may think that asking for help is a sign of failure.

Supermen” or “superwomen” have it particularly tough. They feel the need to push themselves harder than everyone else to prove they’re not impostors and may become anxious if they fall even slightly short of the mark.

There’s no single answer as to why people experience Impostor Syndrome. It can be triggered by outside factors such as being in an environment of institutionalised stereotypes around competence. More often it stems from childhood, such as memories of a demanding parent or successful sibling that made you feel less than adequate. As a toddler you were likely to think that anyone older (and bigger) than you was more capable, which was probably true at the time. But as you grow up this is not necessarily true any longer. However, the feeling of being less capable than others remains with you into adulthood.

Impostor Syndrome is to some degree a failure of imagination. It springs from a skewed vision of yourself and of the people around you. We see ourselves from the inside, whilst we see other people from the outside only. We only see the facade they care to show, not the emotions they are experiencing. Therefore we simply cannot imagine they have the same feelings as we do. The fact is everybody has a similarly limited perspective when comparing themselves to others, and your view of yourself is highly subjective and probably less than generous.

But here’s the thing. Feeling slightly out of your depth is not always a bad thing. A light touch of Impostor Syndrome may just mean that you are pushing beyond your comfort zone, and as we know, it’s outside of that comfort zone where all learning and personal development takes place. So perhaps the challenge is not in getting rid of Impostor Syndrome altogether, but in getting better at dealing with it and becoming comfortable with being [slightly] uncomfortable.

Most people experience moments of doubt, that’s normal. What’s important is not to let that doubt stand in your way. You can have impostor moments without living an impostor life. But confidence in yourself will not magically appear; it’s the product of optimism and of doing stuff. So what you need more than anything is courage – courage to make a leap of faith and trust that you are worthy of your achievements and realise that other people are equally vulnerable, experiencing the same insecurities, fears and foibles that you and I are suffering.

 

PLUS… whenever you are ready to talk and reflect on business, life and your specific challenges I’m here for you. I will provide the challenge, encouragement, and support you need to be successful. With me you’ll find a safe space for the conversations you are normally too busy to have, knowing you will not be judged, and go further than you thought possible.

· If you are stuck: You will become inspired and able to move forwards.

· If you are uncertain of what’s next in work and life: You’ll find clarity and purpose.

· If you are lacking confidence and doubt yourself: You will re-discover your mojo and get back into the driver’s seat of life.

To book a no-obligation, free strategy session drop me a line at: matz.skoog@gmail.com

 

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Prospering In The Face Of Adversity

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho, 1983.

The past few months have been tough. Covid has brought with it challenges that most of us thought we’d never experience within our lifetime. Keeping your chin up and maintaining confidence in the face of so much uncertainty about health, work and finances is difficult. Yet some people seem able to take the situation in their stride – and some even thrive in the face of such adversity. This enviable ability to cope is Resilience, a deliberate and more constructive mind-set than ordinary optimism.

Being resilient means that if disaster strikes, you bounce back; you have the strength to overcome setbacks and learn the lessons you need to move on to bigger and better things. The dictionary definition of resilience is:

· The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

· The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.

Occasionally falling flat on our face is part of life. It will happen to the best of us. How you view failure, deal with adversity and cope with stress strongly affects how well you succeed. Resilience at difficult times is in fact a much more important factor for achieving success than talent, intelligence or good looks; whether this be in sport, art, business or academia – or indeed for enduring and prospering following Covid 19. There are three essential elements to resilience: challenge, commitment and control.

Challenge – Resilient people know how to respond when things don’t go their way and view difficulty as a challenge. They don’t dwell on failures but acknowledge when things go wrong, recognize their mistakes, and then move on. They look at failures and mistakes as lessons to be learned from and as opportunities for growth. They don’t view them as negative reflections on their abilities or their person. The fact is that we’re all going to fail from time to time; it’s an inevitable part of life that we occasionally fall flat on our face. The only way to avoid failure is to live a shuttered existence, never trying anything new or taking a risk, which doesn’t make for much of a life.

Commitment – Resilient people are committed to their goals and they have a meaningful purpose that gets them out of bed in the morning. They are confident they will succeed eventually, despite any setback or stresses they might experience. This positive outlook and self-belief enables them to take risks, a significant factor for any kind of success. With confidence and a robust sense of self they have the capacity to keep on moving and do what it takes to get ahead, despite the very real risk of occasionally failing along the way.

Control – Resilient people know that lamenting what can’t be changed is ineffective and demotivating. They have a high internal locus of control, meaning they believe their own actions and behaviors influence their circumstances. Therefore they focus on what they have control over and place their energy where they can have the most impact, making them feel empowered and confident. They have the sense to accept the things they cannot change, courage to change the things they can, and presence of mind to know the difference.

Some attributes common in resilient people are:

· they have a positive image of the future;

· they have solid goals, and a desire to achieve those goals;

· they see the effects of bad events as temporary rather than permanent;

· they never think of themselves as victims;

· they are flexible, understanding that things change, because even the best made plans may need to be amended or scrapped.

Even if you’re not a naturally resilient person you can develop a resilient mindset by becoming more self-aware. When faced with difficult situations simply slow down and take a moment to reflect, which will help you gain a more objective view of what’s happening to you. The following points will help.

Practice thought awareness. Resilient people don’t let negative thoughts dominate. So listen to how you talk to yourself when something goes wrong. If your inner critical voice makes a statement such as: “My boss never likes my work; I’m no good at anything.” Change it to “My boss didn’t like the work I did on this assignment, so what can I do differently next time.” Remember it’s up to you to decide how you speak to yourself.

Maintain perspective through cognitive restructuring, which means changing the way you think about negative situations and bad events. Whilst you cannot always control what happens to you, you can control how you feel about what happens to you. You can choose to react negatively or you can choose to remain logical and find a solution. Your reaction is always up to you. Resilient people understand that although a situation may seem overwhelming in the moment, it may not make much of an impact over the long-term, so try not to blow events out of proportion.

Be aware of post-traumatic growth because there is some truth in the saying: if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger. Don’t beat yourself up about every slipup you make, instead learn from your failures. Every mistake has the power to teach you something important. So keep searching until you’ve found a constructive lesson in every situation.

Finally stay healthy because when you take good care of your mind and body you’re better able to cope with stress and difficult challenges.

No one wishes for adversity but with resilience you will grow in the face of it. Just think of what you could accomplish with a robust mindset, a clear vision of where you are going and the courage to face your challenges head on? In the words of the song from the 1936 movie Swing Time, staring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers:

Nothing’s impossible I have found,

for when my chin is on the ground,

I pick myself up,

dust myself off, and start all over again.

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THE HEXAGON OF SUCCESS

Six principles that will turn good intentions into positive actions and make the impossible possible

Over the past few weeks I have been reflecting on goal setting. Much has been written on the subject, emphasising that having properly structured, ambitious goals, written down will make you successful, wealthy and happy. A 1953 Yale study is often quoted as evidence of this. However, it has been determined that no “Goals Study” of the Class of 1953 actually occurred. There is on the other hand a fair amount of anecdotal evidence confirming that a large proportion of people with goals abandon them long before accomplishing what they set out to do. This article therefor is not about setting goals, but about how to assess the quality of your goals and their likelihood of being successfully completed because: The true challenge is not in setting goals—but in realising goals.

There are a variety of systems available for effective goal setting. Not least the well-known S.M.A.R.T. system. The acronym that stands for: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timed. An excellent system that is indeed both smart and effective in creating goals with clear purpose and defined deadlines. However, my view is that goal setting can easily become slightly contrived exercises in ticking boxes. Because it is important to understand that purpose is not the same as meaning and a SMART goal, however specific its purpose, will not necessarily contain a meaning that will inspire and drive you onwards.

I have therefore designed a process, which I call The Hexagon of Success that if you apply it will significantly increase your chances of realising your goals by ensuring they are not merely an exercise in box-ticking, but also represents something that you truly want and can achieve. The process appeals both to your emotions and powers of reason, as well as providing a practical structure for implementation.

The Hexagon of Success is built around six principles Sensible, Significant, Sincere, Small, Simple and Sustained. I shall address each principle in turn, but before continue reading I suggest you take a moment to think of one of your own goals against which you can test these ideas for your self.

1. SENSIBLE

A genuine belief that you can achieve your goal will increase your chances of success. Therefore first of all confirm that your goal is sensible, and not a pie in the sky? By sensible I mean that it can actually be accomplished. If you have prepared your goal properly, using for instance the SMART system, we can assume it is indeed doable so this should simply be a matter of confirming that this is the case.

Even though a goal should be bold and ambitious your expectation of successfully completing it must be realistic. A goal with an unlikely probability of success will quickly become de-moralizing and de-motivating, which is the exact opposite effect that it should have on your self-confidence. If there is any doubt, what so ever, that your goal is sensible review it once more.

2. SIGNIFICANT

Your goals might be short, medium or long term; personal or business, but in every case it must be a wish for something that will bring significant results to be worthy of pursuit. A goal providing limited return and that is too easily accomplished, perhaps just a general task, should go on your daily to-do list. It does not belong on your personal development plan and should not be allowed to occupy valuable time or space in your mind.

Some questions that will help you ascertain whether your coal is really significant might be:

· What exactly will I achieve

· What will I have when I achieve this

· What in my life will be better

· What will be different

· Who else will benefit

If the answers to these questions points to a significantly improved situation, the thought of which inspires you, then you will have a worthwhile goal to pursue.

3. SINCERE

Having a clear purpose is no guarantee, however, that your objective has true meaning to you, so the outcome must be something that you truly and sincerely desire, or it will not be sufficiently motivating. Your sensible and significant goal must be something that you sincerely want to do, not something that you think you should do.

To check in with yourself I suggest you answer the question: why do I want this, five times—with an emphasis on “I”.

· I want this because…

· I want this because…

· I want this because…

· I want this because…

· I want this because…

If you can come up with five compelling reasons, intellectual, practical and emotional, as to why you want this outcome you will have a goal truly worth striving for. The thought of your goal should excite you and make you feel proud.

I repeat—your goal must be something you actually want to do, and not something you think you should do: two considerably different driving forces, the former being intrinsic and the latter extrinsic. And personal development has to be intrinsically driven to be successful. So if your sensible goal does not pass the significant and sincere tests it may not be worth pursuing at all.

4. SMALL

The second part of the process starts by deciding on small actions to take towards your objective. By breaking a seemingly overwhelmingly large goal into smaller parts it will seem less daunting and more manageable, which will give you a feeling of control. Each small action needs to be just big enough to be doable in one go. (Otherwise the small action becomes a project in its own right.) By tackling each action separately, one by one, you will soon have completed the larger objective without feeling overwhelmed.

Personal growth starts where your comfort zone ends, however, so your small action should push you ever so slightly beyond where you started out. Not so far beyond that it becomes a daunting chore, which might cause you to procrastinate. Ideally it should feel like a fun and rewarding challenge.

But a small step for some is a giant leap for others, and your comfort zone will change depending on context, so chose your action well and make sure that it too fits the sensible principle, i.e. that you can actually manage it.

5. SIMPLE

Your small action must be simple to implement and incorporate into your regular routines; preferably without the need for additional scheduling, preparation or special equipment. (Unless it involves going to the gym for instance.) Anything that requires specific arrangements is too easy to put off, especially if you are running short of time. So you need to think of ways to simply incorporating your small actions into your day-to-day activities.

An effective method for integrating actions into daily routines is the when/then technique:

· When I get up in the morning then I sit down and write for half an hour, then I have a shower.

· When I commute to work then I read ten pages in my book on personal development.

· When I come home from work then I will straightway go jogging.

Patterns of behavior that you regularly follow will vastly boost productivity as they reduce the need for planning and decision-making. This kind of when/then strategies can be very effective in achieving this.

6. SUSTAINED

The last principle is concerned with take action towards your goals, because actions must be sustained persistently over a period of time to bear fruit. Small manageable actions taken consistently will have greater effect in the long term than big actions taken infrequently. Creating rituals will enable important actions to remain consistent and sustained. They will also help you overcome procrastination.

Rituals are different from habits in that they are performed intentionally rather than habitually. This awareness will therefore provide a rewarding sense of achievement as you progress towards your goal. If your goal is to eliminate a bad habit, or to develop new habits, rituals that will sustain your actions consistently over a longer period if time are particularly effective. But rituals are very personal and you need to establish appropriate ones that work for you. The when/then technique mentioned above can be very effective to this end.

IN SUMMARY

Goals aligned with the first three principles, sensible, significant and sincere, will appeal both to your emotions and powers of reason, which is motivating and inspiring. And by putting in place small actions that are simple to implement the likelihood of a sustained and disciplined approached to taking action, and therefore the likelihood of success, is substantially increased.

Finally—When you do complete an ambitious goal don’t forget to celebrate your accomplishments. It is nice when other people recognise your achievements but it is important that you do so too. So give yourself a pat on the back and a treat for each successfully accomplished goal.

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Ten good questions to ask if you are facing redundancy

Updated: Oct 24, 2020

Most of us have in recent months correctly been focused on the very short term. In most cases that has meant day-to-day survival thinking. If you have been furloughed you may have enjoyed a temporary sense of security. However, as things head slowly back to the new normal different concerns raise their ugly heads. Perhaps you are a potential victim of, in the best case reduced working hours and therefore diminishes income, or in the worst case scenario redundancy. This short piece suggests ten questions to ask yourself that may help you find clarity of direction to what to do and what to think should the worst happen, and your job is in the line of fire as a result of the Corona crisis.

1. What was already about to change before the crisis struck?

Crises accelerate change. Is it possible that your job, or your department was already in line for change and restructure. Don’t be blindsided by a false sense of security because things have been rolling along unchanged for a lone time, because there are decades where nothing happens and then there are weeks where decades happen. The Corona virus is likely to have brought old business models into sharp relief, precipitating and accelerating changes that may have been intended for a more distant future.

2. What can I do to make a contribution in a new reality?

Things are not going to go back the where they were before the crisis so what skills, experiences or personal qualities do you have that could make a difference in a restructured company with a reduced staff. Ask yourself how you can bring value in a changed business environment. Perhaps there is scope for you to make a contribution in areas that were not previously part of your remit. Take the initiative to make a proposal to management. Make it clear that you have ideas and that you’re open to change. A restructured organisation is more than ever in need of people who are positive and creative, so make sure you are seen to be proactive. You want to be part of the solution not the problem, and your initiative will make management take pause and consider you in a different light when making new plans. Soft skills matter in hard environments. Small words or gestures have a big impact with the people who are working hard to protect and resurrect the business.

3. Is my relationship with management strong and positive?

When it comes to redundancies management will always tell you they are not looking at personalities but at the business functions they need to retain for the greater good of the company. But do you really believe this to be true? When it comes to crucial decisions about who is staying and who is going management will be guided by their personal preferences, whether consciously or subconsciously. That’s human nature. We all have unconscious biases and are influenced by our likes and dislikes. Therefore be clear in your mind, and honest with yourself, about your personal relationship to the people responsible for decision-making. Don’t be mistaken into thinking this is not important.

4. Where do I access the right kind of advice?

I would like to think all employers deal with their employees honorably and fairly. This, however, is not always the case. Should the worst happen and you receive notice of redundancy make sure you access the best possible advise about your employer’s contractual obligations towards you. It is important to remember that the function of the HR department in your company, whilst hopefully dealing with your issues as fairly as possible, is primarily to safeguard the interests of the employer. If you are in a higher paid corporate position you may have the resources to seek advise from a solicitor, or if you are member of a union they will provide the support you need. If on the other hand you are working for an hourly wage, perhaps on a cero-hours contract, there will be other avenues open to you. In fact, only the other day I was talking to someone who provides low-coast advice on employment issues to people who may otherwise not have established support networks at their disposal. (I’d be pleased connect you should you wish to.)

5. How good is my story?

Competition for opportunities will accelerate. The question is why should anyone chose you ahead of others and how do you make a compelling case. The answer lies in your personal history, the story of your life. Now is the time to honestly look back on what you have achieved over many years of professional life. Don’t be a shrinking violet and overly modest with your past successes and accomplishments. The idea of generally being good at what you do is no longer enough. To prosper in the post-Covid world needs clarity of message well communicated and backed up with evidence of impact. Now is the time to take a look at your CV, not as a list of qualifications and job experiences, but to consider what message it communicates and what story it tells of your life.

6. How many possible futures can I foresee?

Perhaps you are better placed than many others at present. But your future is ultimately connected to the rest of the world. As such no one really knows what his or her future looks like. The best you can do is to consider a range of possible scenarios. Scenarios are not predictions, however, but rather possibilities to plan for and explore. They will help expand your thinking so you can better anticipate and imagine what might happen. It is important to test your capacity to operate in each scenario and the potential consequences of that possible future coming to pass. As part of this exercise it is also important to ask if you have truly examined the full range of implications. Some scenario may look rosy at first but are they based on a realistic outlook and probability? Optimism bias is real and needs to be challenged.

7. Can I trust the information?

The current Covid world is strong on opinion, but rather lighter on fact. Consultants, advisers, and professionals of every kind are filling the ether with words. Some of it is undoubtedly useful but much of it is not, and a great deal of sifting and skepticism is needed. In many cases the media is an unreliable source of information, social media even more so. There are plenty of vested interests positioning themselves in a confused world. Bias and self- interest are sadly prevalent. The best and most useful thing you can do is to ask questions and test assumptions. In assessing information presented to you the following is a useful checklist: Is the information complete, accurate, verifiable, relevant, recent and objective?

8. Are there changed practices that I should keep?

What new processes have you been using during lockdown that you should keep in the future. On-screen Zoom meetings have become an accepted norm. Some businesses have found that shorter more frequent meetings work better. Cost and time saving measures have been real. What of this has been positive and how can you bring this forward into your new situation. How have your life gained in quality rather than lost as a result. There is strong chance this will happen again. What have you learned and how well are you prepared for another similar event.

9. Am I acting from within my core value set?

People that act fast to reinforce a strong, compassionate, and positive culture stand to benefit the most post-crisis. This is the time to reflect on purpose and meaning. Chose your objective and articulate your values. If you have to make tough decisions what is your frame of reference? What is non-negotiable, and alternatively what can you stop doing and say no to? What would challenge you and render you productive and helpful. Don’t wait to be asked. Be the first to put your hand up to be counted.

10. What are my priorities?

In a post-Covid world most people will be preoccupied with four priorities in the medium term: recovering cash flow, rebuilding a career, rethinking day-today organisation, and accelerating adoption of digital solutions. What are your priorities?

Final thought

With a strong vision of where you are heading you’ll have the clarity of direction you need to move forwards. If the worst happens and you are faced with a situation you did not ask for, and that you do not want, be prepared to answer the question: What do you want?

PLUS… whenever you are ready to talk and reflect on business, life and your specific challenges I’m here for you.

I will provide discussion, encouragement, and the support you need to move forwards. By offering you a safe space for the conversations you are normally too busy to have, knowing you will not be judged, I will help you go further than you thought possible.

If you are stuck: You will become inspired and be able to move ahead.

If you are looking for direction and uncertain of what’s next: You will find clarity and purpose.

If you are lacking confidence and doubt yourself: You will re-discover your power to succeed and get back into the driver’s seat of life.

To book a no obligation, free strategy session contact me.

Brave new world

PREPARE FOR A BRAVE NEW WORLD

We are in uncharted grounds as the Coronavirus pandemic unfolds around us. Who would have thought a few weeks ago that we’d be hauled up behind closed doors in self-imposed isolation? Who would have thought we’d see supermarket shelves empty of staple foods and that people would be panic buying baked beans and toilet paper? Covid-19 is upsetting, scary and very, very inconvenient. But it is not just a short-term health crisis. We now know it is also going to be a long-term financial, cultural and social crisis. And before things get better it is likely to get worst and touch all our lives in some way or other. If it touches yours I hope it will not be your health, or the health of your loved ones. With the situation changing daily and so much uncertainty in the air one can’t help but worry about what the future may have in store for us. But a time of crises gives pause for thought and reflection. Normally we are too busy chasing stuff we think will make us happy and successful rather than find time to appreciate those things that matters most; connection, community and contribution. The need for a cohesive community spirit is now greater than it ever was so perhaps the virus has had the inadvertent positive effect of making us sit up and take notice; to connect more genuinely with the people around us and focus on being generous, kind and compassionate. However, the reason for writing this short article is not only to remind you to be kind to your neighbours and enjoy spending time with your nearest and dearest, as important as this is. No the point to appreciate is that even after the Coronavirus is gone – because this too will one day pass – things will never be the same again. A worldwide calamity like this cannot happen without leaving an indelible mark on our lives. So to believe everything will simply revert back to normal would be naïf. Preparing for what comes next will require you to rethink how you live your life, do your work and run your business; it’s an opportunity for reinvention. Those with courage to face uncertainty, ability to navigate complexity and foresight to see possibilities where there were previously none are those that will do well. To face this challenge successfully you need to lean into the process of transformation but if you resist you are likely to find the next several months, and the future beyond the Corona crises, harder than it needs to be. As we are stuck at home for the next several weeks, possibly even months, the Internet will be crowded with entrepreneurs wanting to take their business on-line; an obvious and reasonable strategy if your business lends itself to online trading, and many will see it as an opportunity for going global. A potential downside to this, apart from your Internet connection running slower than normally, is that it will increase isolation and social separation in a post-Corona World rather than bring us back together again after this is all over.

One could argue that globalisation is why we are now in such dire straights. So I think a potentially more successful future business strategy will be in building relationships and strengthen connections with our clients or customers closer to home, on a one-on-one, one at the time basis. Right now this may seem counter intuitive, as we are being told to keep a distance of at least two meters between ourselves and any other human being, but in the longer term communication with those close to us will I am sure become more important. Bear in mind that the word communication relates to the word community. So stay calm and use this enforced time of self isolation to reassess, and as an opportunity to create a new and better vision for your life and business, re-discover deeply held values and find clarity of direction to what’s next; to be at your best in the face of the worst.

If you need support with getting clarity of direction to what’s next in your life and want to figure out what you need to do to get to where you want to be I’d be happy to schedule an hour for a conversation. Let me know. I’d be pleased to help.

13 most common blockages

SELF-AWARENESS AND THE THIRTEEN MOST COMMON BLOCKAGES THAT WILL STOP YOU FROM LIVING YOUR BEST LIFE

Self-awareness: everyone thinks they have it, but in reality most people go through life hardly ever noticing how they truly feel. The fact is that the majority of our thoughts and actions are on autopilot. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing either. Our habits, routines, impulses, and reactions carry us through our lives so we don’t have to stop and think about it every time we leave the house, or meet a new person. The problem is when we’re on autopilot for so long that we forget we’re on autopilot. Because when we’re not even aware of our own habits, routines, impulses, and reactions, then we no longer control them; they control us.

The first and most important step in personal development is consequently self-awareness. This is because personal development of any kind means change in your actions, behaviors and attitudes, but for something to change for the better it must first be recognized as a problem. Achieving self-awareness of any personal foibles that may be holding you back is the first step on the journey. It will provide you with a powerful tool to help you transcend those blockages and realize your full potential.

Lack of self-awareness and limiting thinking to an undemanding level is a convenient device to fool oneself into feeling problems does not exist. Because maintaining a fragile and undesirable status quo, even if it’s horrible, is at least familiar. However, change even when desired is tricky and the more transformational it could be in your life the more difficult it is to achieve. This is true even when you know that your existing patterns of behaviors are dysfunctional. But if you are unwilling to challenge yourself and find courage to step into the unfamiliar you run the risk of remaining slightly unsatisfied and unfulfilled for the rest of your life.  

In this article I list thirteen of the most common indicators that something might be stopping you from living your best life. They are not accusations; everyone has at least one of these symptoms and most of us have more. But once you know where to look, you’ll find beating them that much easier. Use them as prompts for self-reflection and encouragement to explore a better way to be.

• Firstly DISCOUNTING. This is a typical unhelpful head-in-the-sand behavior. Are you aware there might be an issue but ignoring its importance? Do you accept the problem but believe that you can’t change because it’s simply too difficult, too dangerous or just too damn uncomfortable—so it is easier to pretend it does not exist.

DENIAL. A variation on the discounting syndrome is combating personal dissatisfaction and performance at work, or at home, by making yourself believe, and I mean truly believe, that everything is fine and refusing to see, despite the strong hints, that there are problems up ahead?

DISPLACEMENT is struggling with internal anger and frustration by putting it onto other people? Was someone damaging, nasty or unpleasant to you at work or at home, perhaps way back in the past? – Perhaps you’ve developed kick-the-cat syndrome rather than addressing the core issue.

TRANSFERENCE is very similar; incorrectly and unfairly transferring to someone in your current environment the negative characteristics and emotions that should rightly be associated with an earlier relationship, at another time in another place, perhaps with an authority figure such as a parent or a teacher.

RATIONALIZATION is when you intellectualize and analyze rather than deal with strong emotions, which might otherwise be unsettling and overwhelming. Do you find it easier to; keep your emotions at bay by making them seem abstract, and therefore pretending to feel they have no personal impact on you?

INTROJECTION is believing you are ‘stupid’ or a ‘non achiever’, often because someone repeatedly told you so when you were little; perhaps someone in authority, a parent, a teacher or perhaps some bully at school? Low self-esteem makes personal change a real struggle, especially when it is easier to believe oneself a failure, and not try to change, then attempt to change and run the risk of failing.

• What about its opposite: PROJECTION? This is dreading that a particular kind of shortcoming might be yours and preferring to project it onto someone else. This is the principle of ‘if you spot it, you got it’. Importantly, there is also positive projection, which is equally damaging to your self-confidence because you are creating an unrealistic fantasy about another person by assigning them the qualities that you would like for yourself but are struggling to implement.

REPRESSION is holding you back by allowing yourself to ignore important memories because they are too emotionally powerful to deal with. By denying honest and objective recollections from your past, both good and bad, you will prevent yourself from seeing the future objectively. 

REGRESSION is reverting to an infantile state as soon as you meet resistance or are under stress, stamping your proverbial foot and having unnecessary tantrums. However, effective as this may be in manipulating others into doing your bidding it’s a very unattractive trait. It is unproductive and you will find it quickly loses you respect of friends and colleagues. 

UNREALISTIC PESSIMISM is mistakenly assuming that if bad things will happen they will inevitably happen to you. Do you wake up during the night, finding it difficult to go back to sleep because you ruminate about everything and everyone? You should know that 90% of everything we worry about on a daily basis will never come to pass. 

VICTIMHOOD is self-protection through constantly feeling sorry for yourself and thereby avoiding taking responsibility for your actions. Often this is due to terror of what positive change might involve. Perhaps you are unable to see what you have contributed to a problem yourself because you feel your misfortune is always other people’s fault, or find constant self-blame easier than trying to achieve something?

• To be a COMPULSIVE APOLOGIST is always saying sorry as a way of keeping other people’s criticisms at bay. Or perhaps you are using it’s variant: doing ‘little me’ talking – constantly belittling your own achievements and personality to elicit easy sympathy and make people give you praise. 

• Lastly, DIGITAL THINKING stops you from being truly happy because you are always generalizing situations, and people, as being brilliant or terrible; black or white with nothing in between.  You can miss out on healthy relationships because you forget that every situation in life has its own shade and nuance, and every person is uniquely and infinitely complex? 

If any of the above strike a chord with you please remember you are not alone. Almost everyone suffers from similar insecurities. Avoiding change is a defense mechanism rooted in human evolution: where you may have risked your life by stepping outside the normal patterns of tribal behavior. In our modern society, however, sidestepping change and keeping painful truth at bay is a way to avoid facing up to personal shortcomings and difficult emotions.

A less admirable reason (although quite common) for dodging responsibility to change is that maintaining your shortcomings can provide an effective way to manipulate others through guilt. Finally, the biggest reason of all for evading change is the fear of failure together with its close relation: the fear of success.

You may find you want help navigating the uncertainty and complexity of a particular situation, or finding clarity of direction to what’s next in your life. If you need help getting where you want to be, coaching provides perfect support. Coaching helps identify the necessary actions for positive change and build the courage to take them, which will in turn strengthen your confidence and motivation. This is because confidence is not only the cause of action but also the product of taking action.

louis-maniquet-71QXQUSC_Do-unsplash

YOUR WORLD IS ABOUT TO CHANGE. ARE YOU READY?

We are currently living through a period when change is happening all around us at an exponential rate—socially, politically, economically and environmentally. In the coming decades more people will be facing momentous change and transition in life and at work than ever before in human history. I believe therefor it has never been a point time when if has been more important to take a good look at where we are today and where we want to be tomorrow.

Life-shattering change and distressing uncertainty is not only a global phenomenon, however, it can also affect each of us on a very personal level. Regardless of success and professional status everybody is likely to face transition at some point, and transition means change, and change is by definition uncomfortable. It will happen to you too, and when it does it is likely to make you feel stuck and unsure, and question your direction and sense of purpose.

We can choose to look on these global trends and dramatic occurrences in our lives as existential crises or as opportunity. I believe it to be opportunity for good men and women to reinvent, or perhaps rediscover, themselves and find a heightened sense self-awareness and personal responsibility; for themselves, for the people they love and for the world at large.

I am proud to say that I used to be an international principal dancer at the very top of my profession, and I have been an artistic director of two national arts organisations: The Royal New Zealand Ballet and English National Ballet, where I had the privilege of leadership and responsibility for personal development of up to 70 employees.

Over the years of working in the theatre I have had the pleasure of working with some of the most extraordinary, talented and successful people on the planet, all of them dealing with the complexity and uncertainty of change on a daily basis. Because in the arts change and transition is constant—it’s a way of being. The courage to enter into the unknown and unexplored is in fact the very essence of the Artistic Creative Process.

But the need to tackle complex transition and change is not exclusive to the arts. I often come across people in all walks of life who are highly successful and skilled at what they do, but have regardless got stuck—knowing that if they don’t find a way forward they run the risk of remaining unsatisfied and unfulfilled.

I provide a coaching service called: What Next? Typically my clients are successful senior professionals feeling stuck because they are going through a period of change and transition. I help them navigate the complexity of their situation and their feelings of uncertainty. I work with them to find clarity of direction to what’s next in their life, and/or business, and to decisively take action so they can get to where they want to be. My clients tend to go from feeling overwhelmed to being in control and knowing what they need to do to recover their mojo and get back in the driver’s seat again.

My coaching program is built around three fundamental elements: vision, strategy and mind-set: i.e. WHAT do you want, WHAT do you need to do to get what you want, and WHAT is stopping you from doing what you need to do. It sounds very simple, but simple is not the same as easy and to expect a person to manage that process on his or her own is a tough ask.

The answer lies not necessarily in a dramatic shift of life-paradigm, because the key to success is not in becoming someone different, but in doing things just a little differently, small adjustments that can lead to dramatically different and positive results. Much of the work we do together is focused around insight; because often one single insight might be all it takes to change everything.

If you are facing a time of uncertainty and change and want to explore, in a safe and confidential environment, what is next in your life drop me a line to book a free one-hour consultation. I would be pleased to hear from you.