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 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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.