How can you write goals for things that are touchy feely?

 

Some goals are easy to write down, they have clear defined outcomes.  However, goals for feelings, such as confidence, or for perceptions such as relationships or expectations are much harder to articulate.

In this episode, Rob explains to Richard how you can use a benchmark within SMART to create clear simple goals around these harder to define areas.

When it comes to the best approaches for writing down goals around emotions and feelings, there are still useful techniques that can be applied. Rob explains to Richard how you can use a benchmark within SMART – specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and time related – to help you achieve a written down goal.

But how do we measure something that is a feeling or a perception? Rob explores how a useful technique is to consider the feeling on a scale of one to ten and then apply a numerical figure. For example, you may judge your feelings to be 4/10 at this moment in time but where do you want to be on the scale by a particular date?

Rob and Richard discuss how this approach allows us to write the feeling down in a SMART goal format: by this date… I will have…. improved to a specific number.

Rob adds that it’s important to use our imaginations. For example, on the scale we know what 4 feels like right now but how much would we like it to be? What would this feel like? We may feel an improved level of confidence in specific situations.

It’s fair to say goals around feelings are more difficult to write but as Rob and Richard explain in the podcast, there are useful methods that enable us to put these to paper.

The Thinking Focus: The Question Is podcast series is available to download on ITunes.

How can you get your team to contribute more ideas?

 

Ever asked one of your team, what do you think we should do?

Did you even get an answer?

Getting people to contribute ideas sometimes can feel like pulling teeth, but it does not need to.

Rob explains to Paul how, with a few simple steps, you can help everyone channel their creativity and expand the range of ideas available to you.

It can sometimes a feel a bit like pulling teeth when it comes to getting people to come up with ideas. In the podcast, Rob and Paul explore a few simple steps that can make the whole process run more smoothly.

At the outset, we need to be clear of the benefits when engaging a team to generate ideas. In the podcast, Rob and Paul discuss how it’s a two-sided equation. As team leader, we must be willing to let go and let others come up with their own ideas in the knowledge those ideas will subsequently be valued and considered. In turn, the benefits to the organisation are you can harness the collective thinking power of the group rather than just relying on one source.

Rob explains a lot of creativity comes from a combination of different ideas. It’s important to break the process into two parts. Some people are very good, for example, at coming up with lots of ideas whilst others are talented at evaluating those ideas. There needs to be a clear topic and a clear rationale: we then need to apply techniques to generate ideas and establish afterwards how these will be taken forward.

The pair conclude their discussion by focusing on a strategy known as the 20-idea method. It’s a simplistic but powerful way to solve challenges and get the creative juices flowing. It involves setting out a clear topic which is usually posed as a question. Everyone then individually writes down their ideas. Not only does this method generate a volume of ideas, we can achieve a wider scope of ideas. It allows us to compare, contrast and add to ideas with the further benefit of ensuring the whole group is involved.

The Thinking Focus: The Question Is podcast series is available to download on ITunes.

Should the R in SMART be Realistic or Relevant?

Have you noticed how some people use realistic, while others use relevant?

So which is the right one, does it even matter?

Rob and Rich discuss the merits of both.  Maybe they might change your mind about which one to use.

It’s fair to say the acronym that gives us a guide to setting goals and objectives, SMART, has been around for some time. In our podcast, we explore how you get better value if you consider the R stands for relevant.

Rob and Rich begin their discussion by reminding listeners what SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic/Relevant and Time-bound. Many people use realistic because that’s what they know but Rob is a big fan of applying the term relevant instead. He maps out how if you have a list of tasks to achieve on a day, we can always choose something that’s realistic. Just as an example, we could easily set ourselves the limiting goal of running 100 metres in 14 hours.

It becomes a different question if we ask how relevant is the goal? We should be looking at the relevance of achieving our tasks rather than just asking can I achieve them. By applying this technique, we can reach a meaningful goal.

Ricky adds that we bring into play questions and thoughts for the person writing the goal about their motivation if we use the term relevant.

Both agree that realistic and achievable can almost be interchangeable when considering the SMART framework. Substituting the R for relevant can help us to prioritise and consider our motivation therefore adding more value to the whole process.

There really are no right or wrong answers but using relevance in their expert opinion will add more depth and value when it comes to achieving our goals.

Why we dread difficult conversations

The ‘difficult conversation’ is something that, as managers, we all have to face up to at times in our careers. Whether it is having to tell someone that their performance is not up to scratch, having to share changes to the structure, process or work environment or let someone go, it can be a daunting prospect whatever your level of experience.

Why do we find it daunting? The answer lies in how you talk to yourself.

Your self-talk is the voices in your head; we all have them. You ask questions and say things about people, about the situation or yourself. These voices will either be helpful or unhelpful.

Is your self-talk working for you or against you? 

We are great imagineers; we play out given situations in our mind. We search our memory banks looking for examples from the past; we look to the future playing out the conversation with the person.

You imagine their reaction. You can almost see them vividly kicking off, crying, shouting or arguing. You remember similar situations and how others may have behaved/reacted to this type of news. This imagined future will create emotions and will position our state of mind.  Do we see this in a calm, rational way or how most of us see it: as difficult, challenging or potentially confrontational? Our imagination creates the story, the narrative of how we see the conversation going. It is this story that informs how we prepare. If we have imagined a difficult conversation, we are likely to go into it with a level of emotion, expectation and tension. Hardly the best preparation!

What can we do to prepare ourselves for these types of situations?

The great thing about your self-talk is that you can control it. You just need to programme it in the right way. If you find yourself in an unhelpful mindset, the simplest way to change that mindset is to ask yourself three questions:

1.     What could you say that might be more helpful?

2.     What memories could you recall that might be more helpful?

3.     What future could you imagine that might be more helpful?

These questions are part of the Thinking Focus Self-Talk Model, a mental model designed to help you to find ‘ingredients’ to create a more helpful mindset. You can harness the helpful mindset to prepare yourself better for the conversation you need to have.

 

We believe that individuals, teams and business units underperform. Not because they want to, not because they intend to, but because they can’t get out of their own way.

This may not be down to them; it could be the culture or work environment. Our experiences shape our mindset and work habits, often causing people to get stuck.

 

What’s the best tool to use for writing a goal?

 

Is there just one way to write a goal, or are their different techniques?

In this episode, Rob and Richard discuss how to select the most appropriate approach making defining your goal easy.

How many ways can you write a goal and what methods are best? In our podcast, Rob and Richard discuss the most appropriate approach to make defining your goal easy.

When it comes to the best approaches for writing down goals, there are a few elements to consider. In the podcast, Rob and Richard discuss how it all depends on what the goal is about.

Among the questions to ask ourselves are: is the goal specific or big picture? Rob explains that SMART is a useful technique if the goal is quantitative and you want to achieve it in a certain amount time. This acronym stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time related. On the other hand, if the goal is around feelings, a benchmarking technique is a better approach.

Richard goes onto examine how aspirational goals are another matter and you can break these down into different parts by using a ‘chunking’ strategy. For example, if the goal is to run your own company before you retire, this can be broken down into chunks so it becomes achievable.

Goals set around feelings are more difficult to measure but Rob explains benchmarking can be a useful technique. We can ask ourselves questions about where we are now, where we want to be in the future and look at closing the gap.

The pair summarise the discussion by focusing on the approaches they have examined including SMART and benchmarking. They explore how it’s important to be able to describe and measure the goal in some way. This gives us greater clarity as to whether we buy into the goal or not.

The Thinking Focus: The Question Is podcast series is available to download on iTunes.

How does your leadership cocktail taste?

We’ve all met leaders who are driven. They have a particular mindset; one of constant improvement, of never wanting to stand still. They are relentless in their quest to deliver. They blend key ingredients to unlock that perfect flavour of performance.

When was the last time you tasted the ideal blend of leadership? How did it taste?

When it comes to inspiring team to perform, there are some key ingredients and some leaders are driven to find the perfect balance of flavours to inspire their team to achieve their goals.

So when you think back to the last time you saw strong leadership, ask yourself what key drivers informed that cocktail. Was it driven by the need to be more productive, maybe increase efficiency, be more innovative and creative? As leaders, we have to find the ideal mix of ingredients to get our teams to perform. What is your ideal ‘taste’? What is the blend you need to achieve your objectives?

The test of leadership is to get the ingredients right. To blend those ingredients in perfect measure and most importantly to maintain the right mix to ensure sustainable performance.

It is my view that leaders are responsible for blending three (not so secret) ingredients; to provide clarity and purpose for their organisation, to create an environment where their people can and (more importantly), want to perform, and finally, to equip their people with the capability to deliver. This seems to be a complex cocktail. Getting it right will have huge benefits. Get the right blend, and you instantly recognise it and the taste is amazing.

What happens when the flavours don’t work? 

If the mix is slightly off, the imbalance leads to a plethora of issues. Amongst other things; disengagement, missed opportunities and worst of all a dissatisfied end customer. All of which have a cost and, like a dripping tap, will have dripped away before you even realise.

People are your greatest asset; they are key to your business achieving its strategic aims. Business invests heavily in kit, inventory and machinery, they protect it, service and maintain it. They look after it to best optimise it. Do you approach your people in the same way? Do you invest in them the way you do your systems and machinery? After all, they are the ones who can make or break a process, optimise a machine and delight your customers.

A major bank I worked with embarked on a development programme to get their ‘mix’ right. They involved the people and outlined the aims of the programme. They created an environment where their people could own a challenge of their choosing. They could approach it in any way they chose. Before they started, they equipped their people with tools to help them. The impact was huge.

The bank found that their people picked things that bothered them the most, they challenged assumptions and broke down cross-functional barriers. They reduced call wait times by two-thirds. They saw 30% reduction in calls into their contact centre by increasing the quality of customer communication and through challenging their processes they reduced operating costs by 25%. Their single biggest win was to challenge the perception that the IT team were too busy and together they fixed a long-standing technical issue that released capacity they valued at nearly £4m.

They achieved a perfect blend for them. People had clarity and were invited to take the challenge. They understood how they could make an impact and received development with the tools and an environment in which they could perform. And, perform they did, beyond the expectations of anyone!

My challenge to you as a leader is to ask yourself and your teams:

  • How clear are you about what you want and what is compelling about it that your people should come with you on your journey?
  • What environment do you have, is it conducive to delivering your strategy?
  • How effective are you at optimising the capability of your people, with tools, systems and process?
  • What impact would the perfect cocktail have on your business or team?

 

 

We believe that individuals, teams and business units underperform. Not because they want to, not because they intend to, but because they can’t get out of their own way.

This may not be down to them; it could be the culture or work environment. Our experiences shape our mindset and work habits, often causing people to get stuck. 

We create mindsets that unlock productivity and realise potential.  

Why can’t goal writing be easy?

Goal writing sometimes seems like a mystic art form, limited to a very few highly trained experts.  Are goals really that difficult?

Richard and Paul discuss how to make goal writing really simple.

Goal writing sometimes feels like a complex task that requires specific training to get right. In our podcast, Richard and Paul discuss how to make goal writing really simple.

There are times in the workplace when we’re asked to focus on writing down goals but for many of us it’s not always a straightforward process.

In the podcast, Richard and Paul talk about how we may never have been shown how to put goals to paper before starting work. Sometimes people talk about goals as though there is a magical way of writing them but in reality, if you have a decent structure, the entire process can be simplified.

The easiest way to begin is to set out what you are trying to achieve. Crucially pick a date and then focus on the positive ‘I will have.’ Richard and Paul explore how there can be a nervousness around choosing a specific date but once we commit it allows us to start focusing and really working on the goal.

They go onto examine how many of us play it safe when it comes to writing down goals keeping them vague. But goals need to be sharp: we need ‘picture, perfect, clarity’ and a real point of time in the future by which the goal will be achieved. Sometimes if we feel unsure about a written down goal, it’s because we haven’t given it enough thought.

Richard and Paul conclude their discussion looking at the issue of accountability. If we share a goal, we are more likely to achieve it. Essentially, they say writing down goals is about having a go. Keep it simple: what do I want to achieve and when do I want to achieve it by?

The Thinking Focus: The Question Is podcast series is available to download on ITunes.

Why is it important to write down goals?

What is the difference between a goal in your head and goals that are written down?

Ricky gets Rob to explain the benefits of writing your goals out.

Experts agree the world over that you are more likely to achieve the goals you have written down. In our podcast, Ricky asks Rob why putting your goals to paper could make all the difference?

When it comes to a goal in your head compared to a written down goal, the likelihood of you achieving it becomes so much greater because you have greater clarity. In the podcast, Rob explores how a written down goal suddenly becomes much more important to us. By writing it down, we have committed to it: our thoughts have become crystalized resulting in a more meaningful goal.

Putting your goals to paper has the knock-on effect that we then hold ourselves to account. Sharing goals has advantages too as someone else gets involved. Rob goes onto discuss how written down goals have other benefits as they can be reviewed easily. The goals can be tested and examined to see if they are still the right thing, still achievable and deliverable. The process enables us to sense check the purpose remains relevant. Then there is the question of memory. Many of us are holding multiple tasks and goals in our heads on any given day. By writing goals down, you can capture them.

Ricky goes on to offer some other useful advice. He explains how we can’t rewrite history if the goal is on paper in terms of the original aims. It allows you to be more consistent reducing the chances of drift in terms of timeline, volume or quality. Writing down goals allows us to check there isn’t any duplication in specific areas and has the additional benefit that everyone knows what the organisation is setting out to achieve.

Putting goals to paper increases collaboration and commitment in the workplace and can be a bit like an insurance policy; a useful way to minimise risk. Essentially it all comes back to the issue of clarity and it’s fair to say you get much better value in an organisation if goals are written down.

The Thinking Focus: The Question Is podcast series is available to download on ITunes.

How can you motivate yourself?

 

Everyone has to get involved in things that they would rather not be doing.  To get these things done we need to master the art of motivating ourselves.

Ricky and Rob explore, how can you motivate yourself?

We all know there are times at work when we need to get involved in projects or tasks that we would prefer not be have to do. In our podcast, Rob and Ricky discuss just how to make a connection and get motivated.

On a personal level, it’s likely most people will be more enthusiastic and therefore more likely to do a better job if they make a connection on some level. In the podcast, Ricky and Rob explore how sometimes the only motivation is that we have to do the task because it’s part of the job. How can we learn to attach importance and value to our work if this is the case so it becomes a personal and greater goal?

To be motivated, we need to see the bigger picture. Rob explains if we see things as having to do them, the motivational goal is only ever going to reach a certain level. To attach more importance, we need to see the job as a personal or community goal which will in turn increase motivation levels.

Ricky goes onto explore how if we can make a connection at a personal level, it will make a positive impact on productivity and the quality of our work. We will be able to put in more energy and vigour for the greater good of the organisation.

A useful checklist when getting motivated is asking the questions What, Why and Can I? This will give us focus to move forward with the job in hand. What is it we need to focus on? Why is important personally, to the team and organisation? Rob and Ricky wrap up their discussion on a positive note examining how we all need to believe that ‘we can’. This will instil a level of confidence in turn boosting our motivation.

The Thinking Focus: The Question Is podcast series is available to download on ITunes.

Managers, how to get out of the way and improve your performance

Sshh!  Mastering the art of getting out of your people’s way seems to be one of the best-kept secrets in business.  I mean as managers it takes a leap of faith to allow your people the freedom to get on with it.   
The truth is that treating your people with respect and trusting them to do the right thing will reap real rewards.  Your performance will increase, significantly.  Your engagement scores will rise, your attrition will fall, compliance will improve.
The way we are managed and led continually fails us, the need to report, to know what is going on, the fear of being caught out and exposed by colleagues drives manager behaviours to be more over bearing.  
Dan Pink in his book, Drive, talks about the science behind motivation; where a role requires a more cognitive approach than traditional carrot and stick approach, the latter fails consistently.
Exploiting these three fundamental principles will reap tremendous benefits.
Autonomy
It is highly likely your people understand the direction of travel; it is even more likely that they know what the key issues are along the way, what they want is for you to get our of their way and let them get on with it.  
Allow them to decide how they will get there and you will see a level of engagement, creativity and problem solving that will amaze you.  We see this all the time in our workshops; our clients are continually blown away by their people, they willingly take on business challenges over and above their day job and come back with remarkable results.
Mastery
We like to get better at stuff, we enjoy taking on challenges and making a contribution, and we don’t always want rewarding for it!  Counter-intuitive right?  Not if you look at examples like Wikipedia, built on free contributions, developers give their time for free to improve open source software for the betterment of the user base.   What if, your people could choose the skills they want to develop and focus that time on improving your business.  Win-win?  I think so.
Purpose
Your best people are attracted to more than just the money; they want to feel that their work has meaning.  Your purpose, provided it is meaningful is fundamental to engaging your people, this is the north star, this is the guide for both autonomy and mastery.  If I connect with the purpose and I am allowed to apply myself I will give more than just what you expect; I will excite you with my passion and energy.  Why; because you treat me like I am a person and not a machine, just designed to shift a widget!
Getting out your people’s way makes sense commercially and scientifically, so why not give it a go.
    
Don’t take my word for it; Dan Pink says it far more eloquently than me in his book Drive and this short YouTube clip https://youtu.be/u6XAPnuFjJc