How do you turn thinking to your competitive advantage?

Most companies do the same things, with access to the same resources, making the people, and the way that they think one of the few differentiators left.

In this podcast Ricky questions Rob, exploring how we can turn thinking into a competitive advantage?

Harnessing thinking in a team and encouraging collaboration can undoubtedly be advantageous to an organisation. In the podcast, Ricky and Rob explore how critical thinking skills enable people to understand the importance of goals and gain real clarity about what they and the business are trying to achieve. It also enables us to make critical choices based on likelihood, risk and balance.

The pair go onto discuss what happens if people don’t believe in the set business goals or objectives. After all, belief and confidence are two essential elements if goals are going to be achieved. Rob outlines how creating an environment where there is so called ‘helpful’ and ‘unhelpful’ thinking enables us to clarify the goal and create a gateway to success. By being open to ‘unhelpful’ thinking, any issues can be tackled and dealt with effectively. It gives the team the opportunity to share and boosts collaboration which in turn benefits the organisation.

Rob and Ricky examine how ‘unhelpful’ thinking can provide an opportunity to grow, learn and accelerate performance because people are able to participate. By thinking a little bit differently and being open to ‘helpful’ and ‘unhelpful’ thinking, people will gain a level of confidence when it comes to achieving the organisational goals and objectives.

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

Are you Getting in the Way of your Own Goal?

Jane is CEO of a retail business based in London and operating nationwide. The operational team is small, close-knit and dedicated to helping Jane achieve her ambitions. They have a few ideas themselves but they rarely share them because they know how she likes things done.

Mastering the art of getting out of your people’s way seems to be one of the best-kept secrets in business.  As a manager, it takes a leap of faith to allow your people the freedom to get on with it.

One of the best descriptions I’ve ever heard of how to achieve it came from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella who summed it up like this:

Tell your people: “Make it happen. You have full authority.”

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.

CEOs who lead without trusting their people create managers who also fail their people in the way they lead. Those managers need to know what is going on so that they can prove themselves too. Their fear of being caught out drives them to be ever more overbearing.

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 and what they want is for you to get out 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, who 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 by developers who 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.

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, the guiding light towards 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 a person and not a machine that has been designed to simply 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

 

 

 

We’re Growing So That’s OK. Isn’t it?

Simon is CEO of a business operating in the Middle East and Africa and when I met him it was enjoying double-digit growth, significantly outperforming similar organisations in mature European markets. The most recent financial year had seen growth of 12%, something his former colleagues in the UK could only dream of.

So why wasn’t I impressed?

“What’s the potential in this region?” I asked.

“Around 40%,” he replied.

“So you’re underperforming by quite a long way,” I said.

He was quiet. For a moment I thought I’d overstepped the mark.

Then he admitted, “I’d never thought of it like that.”

I hadn’t been trying to undermine his achievement, merely open his mind to what was possible and shift his focus to the 28% that was up for grabs.

This led us to get his team together and explore the potential.  We brought his country managers together.  As is typical with these workshops, there was a lot of ground to cover.

Isolating the interference

We started with a venting session, designed to get out all the issues that hold us back. We label this interference. It could be real, imagined or perceived – anything that gets in our way and occupies thinking time or activity.

The team shared over 80 things that bothered them. These were the 80 things that were preventing them from hitting their €1bn target.  

Putting the barriers in boxes

We categorised every item on the issue list – all 80 of them – into three boxes.

  • Bothered
  • Not bothered (at all or right now)
  • Givens (things we can’t change)

At the end of the process we were left with three items in the “bothered” column and we knew that if we addressed those we could unlock €2bn in additional revenues.  Solving them required no magic, no investment and no more headcount.

Think differently

We showed the teams how to take ownership and develop a plan to capitalise on the hidden potential.  Will they unlock all €2bn? Probably not, but they will go beyond their current comfortable level of thinking and increase their productivity significantly.

So ask yourself:

  • What is your real potential?
  • What interference is getting in your way?
  • What are you prepared to do about It?

Why not try the 3  step process for yourself?

  1. Vent – write down all the things holding you back
  2. Categorise
    • Bothered
    • Not bothered
    • Givens
  3. Prioritise – Go to work on your bothered list

Why is thinking so important to business?

 

Thinking underpins everything we do, driving the actions we take which deliver the results we get, yet most people just take thinking for granted.

Ricky and Richard explore how Thinking can have an impact on driving better results, showing how taking control of your thinking can deliver different results.

 

It’s fair to say many of us take the power of thinking for granted. In the podcast, Ricky and Richard discuss how thinking fundamentally affects our actions or inactions. The challenge arises when our thinking isn’t getting the results we would like to see. This could be evidence the team or business isn’t heading in quite the right direction.

Ricky and Richard consider how we need to ask ourselves questions. Are the actions we are taking, as a result of our thinking, working in reality? It’s all too easy to get caught in a loop where we keep doing the same things but somehow expect the results to change. As the pair explain, if we want to see a change in the outcome, we need to change the quality of our thinking.

We also need to ask questions of ourselves that help us to think differently. After all, our subconscious and the long-standing habits we have formed over many years will be having an impact. To drive a different set of results, we need to be asking ourselves a new set of questions and trying to create some new habits. Even if a business has the same products or processes as before, by challenging people’s thinking it’s possible to come up with a new way of doing things and get better results.

Ricky and Richard wrap up their discussion by exploring how in a work environment, the natural focus is often on the output. Thinking is essentially an input and by examining our thinking and collaborating with others, we can increase our chances of success.

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

Why your current situation isn’t the problem

So you’re facing a bit of a business crisis. It might mean answering to shareholders, investment being put on hold, or even layoffs.

At a lower level, it may be that bonuses aren’t paid, promotions are passed over or individuals are held accountable.

It’s a problem, right?

Wrong.

How can the result be THE problem, when the result comes at the end?

Yes, the result may cause a problem and bring consequences, leading to a different set of decisions.

The real problem came earlier – and it was probably one of these:

  • The Unhelpful Mindset.  Often driven by the size of the target, the quality or price position of the product or service or even how well your people feel supported by their manager, colleagues or other departments will reduce performance.
  • Reward Strategies.  It could be the way you manage your people. Do they feel valued and appreciated? If there is a perception that others are valued more, then this ‘treatment’ will lead to a sense of unfairness and unhappiness and lower productivity – or worse.
  • Systems and Processes that make it hard for people to do their job can be immensely frustrating.  Whether I am trying to win business, serve customers or support the internal teams I want to feel like I have the tools to do my job well.  ‘Fighting the internal systems and processes is frustrating and reduces productivity. Worse still, you’ll lose your good people.
  • Measurement.  When you measure the wrong things, you not only drive the wrong behaviours and limit your performance, you seriously p*** off your people.  They don’t get it and you end up creating value destroying processes just to report on the wrong things.

Facing one of these issues is bad enough, but more than one and you’re in big trouble!

Ask yourself – to what extent …

… is your peoples’ mindset focused on ‘how to’?

… is the way you reward and acknowledge their contribution motivating them?

… are your systems and processes enablers for your people?

… do you measure the things that add the most significant value to your business?

Thinking Focus specialises in transforming business performance by unlocking potential in people.  Why not give us a call to discuss your current situation and how we can help? You can also tune in to our podcast series – ‘The Question is…’ available now on iTunes.

 

5 fears that WILL lose you the sale

More often than not, it isn’t what we say that loses us the sale – it’s how we think.

Sales, more than any other profession, plays with our minds and at certain critical moments during the sales process we are particularly vulnerable to talking ourselves out of a sale. Subconsciously, fear can distort our thinking during these decisive stages which is why having an awareness of how our minds work can make the difference between success and failure.

Be honest, have you ever caught yourself thinking any of the following?

  • I’ve got a new lead but what if it’s a waste of time?
  • I’m about to become one of those irritating sales calls but hey, it’s another appointment to add to the log.
  • Our product isn’t the best on the market and it probably won’t be what they’re looking for.
  • They’ve gone quiet – we must have been too expensive …
  • … or maybe they’re talking to someone else?

As sales people we are great story tellers. This is how we convince our prospects that we can solve their problems. It’s also how we talk ourselves out of a sale. Whenever we’re persuading ourselves or someone else of our point of view we go looking for evidence to back it up. What really matters is where we look for that evidence.

Our minds are powerful and use all our senses to store multiple experiences on the hard drive that is our subconscious.   Our subconscious is incredibly complex and I do not pretend to understand the inner workings but if you want to learn more get a copy of Incognito by David Eagleman, he knows his stuff. For the purposes of this argument, we simply need to be aware that the subconscious stores experiences and emotions associated with those experiences.  Within the subconscious filing system are ‘folders’ where we store habits, beliefs, cultures and biases.

Although we store our take on reality, it is not necessary the truth, although we will be convinced that it is exactly as we remember. When faced with a new, scary or challenging situation, the way we’re feeling at the time will influence which subconscious files and folders our conscious mind chooses to access.

Conversely, these files and folders will inform how we feel going into a sales situation.  Contained within them will be the culture of our company and sales team, our biases relating to prospects, products and services, past sales experiences and beliefs about our capability and ability to deliver what the prospect wants.

So what can we do about it?

As we’ve already acknowledged, a seller’s mindset can be their best asset, but it can also be their undoing.

Developing a winning mindset relies on us revisiting the way we think at critical moments in the sales process.

Listen to the voice in your head

Is it being helpful or unhelpful? What many of us don’t realise is that we can choose how we think – in other words, what our inner voice is telling us.

If you start thinking about the negative reaction you might get when you make a call, you’re not going to have the right mindset to maximise the impact of your sales message during the conversation. When it comes to discussing price, the wrong mindset can leave you wide open to cost challenges and a lack of conviction. Assuming you’ve managed to seal a deal, the way you think will influence your ability to ask for referrals. Are you being a bit cheeky or do you feel you’ve done a great job and have earned it?

Changing your thinking takes time and the first step is simply being aware of how you think in different situations. By taking control of your thinking,  you can develop a winning sales mindset.

 

 

What is the value of a growth mindset to business?

Having the right mindset is often talked about in companies, but how can a mindset make a difference to results.

Paul and Ricky discuss how a growth mindset can help deliver better results, allowing individuals and teams to grow and learn from their failures as well as their successes.

 

The idea of mindset comes from the psychologist, Carol Dweck, following extensive research on achievement and success. In the podcast, Paul and Ricky explore how people often approach the world with one or two different mindsets. A growth mindset allows you to see the world as abundant and to have the ability to grow and learn from situations. In a fixed mindset, people will tend to have a more emotional reaction and look at the world in a very specific way.

In business scenarios, Paul and Ricky discuss how it can be very useful to promote a growth mindset. In the 21st century, modern economy things are changing all the time so can we really afford to have a fixed mindset? They go onto consider the benefits of a growth mindset. Fundamentally, it allows us the ability to learn from failure as a group, individual or organisation. People with a fixed mindset may use up a lot of time, energy and resource when they could be moving forward.

It’s possible for many of us to have a combination of the two but how do you achieve a growth mindset in an organisation? Paul and Ricky examine how leaders have an important part to play, for example, in the way questions are asked. If a mistake occurs, the first question many people might ask is why it happened? This will need to be considered, of course, but someone with a growth mindset will ask what can we learn and take away for the future?

Paul and Ricky conclude their discussion by looking at how a growth mindset in the world of business can help deliver better overall results because it allows forward thinking to thrive.

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

 

How can you motivate your team more effectively?

 

Ever wondered if there was anything you could do to motivate your team to achieve the goals and tasks that they have been set?

Ricky and Paul ponder this by exploring how relevance and purpose can be used to engage and motivate.

Ownership is key when it comes to approaching tasks or goals with energy, enthusiasm and passion. In the podcast, Ricky and Paul discuss the importance of giving a team clarity about what they are working on and outlining the purpose. Sometimes, leaders can too easily become caught in the detail of what needs doing but the focus needs to be on the vision and getting people to buy into that vision.

They explore how the issue of relevance is key to motivating a team. It’s important to make sure everyone knows how they fit into the bigger picture. How is it relevant to them and the wider organisation? Ricky and Paul consider how at work some people can be on auto pilot: they do what is asked of them very well but don’t see the connection to the bigger picture.

By giving people a level of autonomy, we can give them the freedom to express themselves and go after goals in their own way. They can deliver them in the way that feels most appropriate and bring a different perspective into the equation. Ricky and Paul refer to the book Drive by Dan Pink which looks at this issue in more detail.

The pair conclude their discussion by breaking the process of motivating a team more effectively into five steps: clarity, purpose, involvement, autonomy and ownership. We are likely to see real benefits and value if we can get people to own the task or goal. This will be apparent in the way they apply themselves and have a knock-on effect when it comes to the wider aspirations of the organisation.

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

So Why is Great Service So Hard to Come By?

Today I had two experiences that made me want to let off steam about customer service. Or rather, the lack of it. I feel I may have reached that age, the age where one turns into a grumpy old man. Some may argue that ship sailed long ago.

Please don’t tell my wife, but I visited a well known fast food chain for my breakfast, my weakness the sausage and egg McMuffin. I used the drive through and when I came to pay the server  was bright, bubbly and smiling. Wow, I thought.  She’s enjoying her day. Two seconds later I approach the main event, the bit where I get my snap. This server was the polar opposite. Efficient, yes, but very dour.

Later the same day, I have the misfortune of talking to my business bankers, an experience to behold. I interacted with a call centre, my online account and the online chat.

Let’s start with the online chat. I went through the entire process only to be told I would have to start again as this chat was not secure. That meant I had no option but to contact the call centre. Including the 15 minute wait to be connected this whole process took up an hour of my time.  All because they cannot communicate swiftly and efficiently. This gross inefficiency (or incompetence) is causing them and more importantly their customers to waste valuable time. All because they have failed to design their systems and processes with their customer at the heart.

To add insult to injury, I decided to give some constructive feedback (see paragraph one, grumpy old man). I presented my facts in four clear bullets only to be thrown off the page because I failed to complete my mobile number in the way they wanted. The contact form deleted everything on the page and forced me to start again, or abandon. So now, if transacting with them was not hard enough, complaining was even harder.

Now, banks will hide behind a load of rules and regulations. I know, I used to work in one, and that was over 20 years ago. I see nothing has changed.

Service is a lottery, and yet it is the one thing that all organisations have in their gift.

I put it down to two things:

1. The systems and processes make it impossible for the decent people in the service industry to deliver the service they can. The system disempowers them.

2. The engagement of their people is so poor that they have failed to communicate their vision and purpose in a way that their people can connect. If they don’t get why service is so important to the customer, then businesses are putting more than that customer at risk, the brand, future revenues and a lot more besides.

Of course, individuals can take ownership for how they behave but businesses, please stack the deck in your people’s favour and give them the tools to deliver, both they and your customers will thank you for it.

Is your CI Team the problem with your CI programme?

A UK food manufacturer was looking at investing in a formal Lean and Six Sigma programme, as they believed that they had done everything they could to optimise their plant. Across the business, there was evidence of people operating in silos, and a fragmented attitude towards Continuous Improvement with a perception that CI was purely for the manufacturing process.   The business driver was to continually find year on year savings.  The challenge was that they believed no further savings were possible.

Why is having a dedicated CI team such a problem?

Typically, businesses invest huge amounts in business improvement methodologies. They create a CI team to drive the improvement agenda seeking to save money on their production and processes. The trouble with that is that the rest of the business sees them as the owners of CI.

By having a team dedicated to CI, you inadvertently create abdication amongst the rest of your business. Your people look to your CI team to solve problems, own the reporting and expect them to take the heat when the benefits of CI do not materialise as expected. After all, you created the CI team to ensure your CI investment pays off. CI is cultural, adopted at all levels of the business. Everything you do needs a CI lens to look at process optimisation, waste reduction and process improvement. You need an environment where everyone can and are encouraged to get involved in the improvement agenda.

What are their limits? 

The CI team have limited reach. When they intervene, they are dependent on the individual or team adopting the revised approach. Much will depend on how they manage the change process. The CI team have the process knowledge but do they have the change skills to take people with them? Are the CI team fighting the culture, the business mindset? Your CI team become frustrated at a lack of support, perceived or real. The overall impact means the business loses out on many levels. You do not realise efficiencies and savings; waste is created by people not being engaged effectively and leaders go looking in the wrong place for reasons.

Back to the food manufacturer

Let’s get back to that food manufacturer. The issue was that their culture was not one where CI was central to everyone’s role.

How did they solve it? They developed a programme which brought together cross-functional teams to tackle seven business projects. The leadership team sponsored the key projects and the project groups were equipped with mental models and tools and then challenged them to apply them to the business. They created an environment where people felt able to have a go.

The impact was a real cultural shift. 

The CI team became enablers, not owners of CI. They provided expertise but didn’t own the problem. In just 90-days they have not only identified over £500k of savings across the business, but improved engagement, streamlined processes, and freed up almost 30 hours a week by removing duplication.

 

Are you getting the bang for your CI buck? If not, I recommend you look at how your CI team operate. A CI team who act as enablers in a culture where the whole business owns CI will unlock huge productivity gains and better still your people will own it! A CI team who own the CI agenda will never realise the potential that exists in your business.