It's Christmas - Just Two Words

It’s Christmas.  A time for gift giving, rushing to complete that last piece of work before the break, running off to buy presents for loved ones during your lunch break, and having to attend those employee/supplier/client parties that seem to grow in number each year.  By Christmas Eve you are exhausted and looking forward to the break.

If you are looking for an easy to assemble gift that could leave a lasting impression on the recipient, I’ve got the solution.  If you want something that doesn’t need wrapping and can be ‘re-gifted’ over and over, stay tuned.  If you are prepared to spend a few minutes preparing to give and, in so doing, start a small movement in your workplace, here it is. 

Just two words – “Thank You”.

I was recently speaking with a Project Director from a global manufacturing group and he was telling me about an interaction that he had had with a junior colleague.  They had just completed a pretty demanding phase of a project and the junior had thanked her boss for bringing the team through a challenging time.  Amongst all the ‘busy-ness’ that was happening at the time, and despite the team’s major accomplishment, it was an innocent “Thank You” that had pleased the Project Director the most.  As he said to me: “You just don’t hear those words as much as you should, and it made me feel great.”

His story made me stop and think about all the people that we could, or should, say “Thank You” to, but we don’t because we forget, or it simply doesn’t occur to us as something that we need to do.  We often rationalise in our minds that “they are just doing their job, why should we thank someone for doing what they are paid to do?”  We probably thank people a lot during a typical day – “thanks for dropping that off” or, “thanks for taking that message” – but what about a purposeful and considered “Thank You” for a job well done?

You might think that we all just go about our jobs and don’t need special thanks, but it made a difference to the Project Director’s day and you can make a positive difference to someone else’s day as well.  Here are some examples . . .

“Sam, I wanted to say “Thank You” for the extra work that you did on that project last week.  It was great to arrive at work and see that you had removed a major hurdle that had been in the way for all of us.  Thank You, Sam. I really appreciated your effort.”

“Lyn, I wanted to say “Thank You” for your energy and attitude around the office.  You really make a difference when the pressure is on, and your outlook reminds me to focus on what is important and spend less time on office politics.  Thank You Lyn, we should all follow your lead.”

“George, I know you must make a thousand coffees every day, but I wanted to say “Thank You” for your eye for detail and your way of making each of us feel important.  You remember my order and always say “Hi”.  Thank You George, you provide a great start to my day.”

I’m sure you can think of many more examples and, if you look around you right now, you will see an opportunity to give someone that gift you have been trying to finalise.  Look around again, and you will find another opportunity, and then another, and another.  So, think about it, make it real, wrap it in thought and care, and deliver it with meaning.

And so, my opportunity arrives.

I want to say “Thank You” to all of you.  During the year, many of you have provided comments and feedback that makes me feel that my newsletters and blogs are hitting the mark.  I really appreciate you taking the time to send me a note or to pick up the phone and I look forward to getting back to my desk after a short Christmas break.

Have a peaceful Christmas break with your family and friends, and let’s all look forward to a brilliant 2014.

If you would like to join the CED tribe, you can sign up here for the CED newsletter where I will be discussing topics similar to this one in a little more depth.

All the best


Off Track? Wrong Result? What Did You Expect?

You are some way into your new job, new role, or project, and it suddenly occurs to you that you are not sure that you are heading in the right direction.  What to do?  Continue on and hope that you stumble upon your destination, or, stop and check your compass?  Have you ever had a project delivered to you and the result was nothing like the picture that you had in mind?

So often, we arrive at a destination that is not where we expected to land and we rue lost opportunity, wasted time, and misplaced effort.  If only we had checked what was expected of us, or what we expected of others, we might have avoided those costly and misaligned expectations.

So why does this happen?  Sometimes, we simply forget and, in other situations, we make the dangerous assumption that those expectations are patently obvious to everyone and shouldn’t require explanation.  In other circumstances, things have gone on for too long and we might be afraid to ask (or tell) because we think that we should know, and to check would be too embarrassing.  Whatever the reason, mistakes can be costly so here are some questions that you might like to consider.

If you are starting (or even if you are a long way down the track) in a new role or project, you might ask yourself, your boss, or your direct reports, some of the following:

  • What do you expect of me during the next 30/60/90 days?
  • What expectations do you have of your peers or fellow team members during the next period?
  • What expectations do you think your peers or team members have of you?
  • When do you expect to be in a position to present a compelling report or successful solution?
  • What do you expect that I (and my team) would have achieved?
  • What does your picture of success in this role or project include, or look like?
  • What do you expect from me, or what resources do you need, that will help you to do your job?
  • What do you need to immediately say, or ask, to ensure that you are on track to deliver the expected result?
  • Do I, or my team, or my boss, or all of us, clearly understand and agree on the objective that we are aiming for?
  • How, or what, do you expect to feel when you deliver on time and under budget?
  • What do you think my expectations of you include?
  • What does your picture of success in this role include, or look like?
  • What objectives do you expect to have been reached or completed after 30/60/90 days?
  • Which of your original expectations have been met, or not met, and why were you successful, or unsuccessful?
  • How might your original expectations have changed as the role/project has evolved?
  • What do you expect of me and/or my team that will help you achieve your business goals.

Roles and relationships change over time and it is a mistake to think that you should only ask these sorts of questions when you are starting something.  I have often heard someone say that their role might have changed over time but they are so far along that it seems pointless to ask about expectations.  “I’ll continue on my current path and hope that it leads me to where I am meant to be!”

It is never too late to clarify expectations and, in the long run, it can often avoid the pain and misery of wasted time and effort on something that is miles away from that which was originally anticipated.  You, or your reports, might be turning up each day to guess your way through your role or project, hoping that you are on the right track but never really knowing – until it is too late.

I know that your reports will appreciate you taking the time to clarify your expectations of them, and I also know how settled you might feel if you could be sure that you are on the right track with your boss.

As you start to think about preparing for the new year, these might be important questions to ask so that this time next year you are able to say: “On track, doing the right things, and delivering on expectations."

If you would like to join the CED tribe, you can sign up here for the CED newsletter where I will be discussing topics similar to this one in a little more depth.

All the best


What Will You Do In Week Three?

I was listening to two friends recently.  One was describing her plans to move to a new house near the beach.  She was excited about all the new activities that would be available, and she was obviously looking forward to her changing lifestyle.  When she paused for breath, my other friend asked: “And what will you do in week three?”  This was a reference to the way many of us typically plan our future and, of course, "week three" can mean three weeks to six months after an event. 

We get excited and enthusiastic about a new situation or changing circumstances but our horizon is usually short-term.  It made me think about how often we forget about ‘Week Three’ which, of course, alludes to the longer-term plans that we need to make but which we often overlook in our enthusiasm for, and expectation of, more immediate satisfaction or success.

Just starting a new job?  I’ll bet you have a list of things that you will do to make an impression on your boss, your colleagues, and your reports.  You are here to put your stamp on this organisation and create a presence that others can not ignore – right?

The latest edition of your favourite leadership or management journal has just arrived and your attention is drawn to a catchy headline – The Three Things That All Great Leaders Do – or something similar.  Yep, that all makes sense, and here is the recipe to success that you have been looking for.

Just finished a training course?  You will probably have made a list of those things (or people) that you intend to change.  If it was a leadership program, I’m sure you will have decided to become an overnight success and be that leader that you have read about.

Like a comet, we blaze across the sky and then burn out only to disappear into the environment of ‘ordinariness’ as we lose momentum and retire to the way we have always done things previously.  It takes a special discipline and focus to maintain the spark and the energy, to reflect on our plans and turn them into long-term behavioural changes.

Too often, we forget about what we will do/could do/should do/plan to do in – Week Three.

I often suggest to participants on programs that the program (or the journal article, or the coaching session) is not like a car wash or sheep dip.  That is, you don’t simply turn up for an event and, having passed your time at the venue for the required amount of time, you are suddenly different.  That event, or that new appointment, or that article is merely the start of a much longer challenge that rolls out before you – you have to think about ‘Week Three’.

So what can you do about ‘Week Three’?

First, continue to be excited and enthusiastic about the prospects that positive and considered changes might bring.  That is really important in protecting yourself against the creeping cynicism that sneaks up on many people as they slip back into their tired old ways while expecting different results.

Second, pick a ‘Week Three’ which could be a month, or six months down the track and diary some time with yourself and or a trusted advisor or colleague – maybe someone who attended the same development program and shared your experience.  Then ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do I remember as important from the program or article?
  • What did I think would be important to have achieved in my new role?
  • What am I doing differently, or have I achieved?
  • How do I know that I have been successful in changing my behaviours?
  • Who has benefited from my actions?
  • Has the spark been maintained or, if not, when did it grow dim?
  • How have I dealt with setbacks?
  • Why did I want to change?
  • Where do I go from here?
  • What words would I use to describe my personal and professional growth?

Finally, and having responded to these questions (and others that you might think of):

  • What plans do I have to rekindle my enthusiasm? 
  • How can I build on my success? 
  • What objectives do I have for the next ninety days? 
  • What resources might I need?
  • When will I start the next phase?

And so . . . . . What will you do in your Week Three?

If you would like to join the CED tribe, you can sign up here for the CED newsletter where I will be discussing topics similar to this one in a little more depth.

All the best


How To Make Meetings Matter!

Bing!  Your calendar alert sounds.  ‘Team Meeting Scheduled – Agenda attached.’  You frown and sigh as you think of all the things that you could do/would like to do, rather than attend another talkfest.

Ask a group of people what they will not miss when they eventually leave their jobs, and ‘attending meetings’ will usually rank close to the top of the list.  We seem to be caught up in a never-ending cycle of meetings-for-meetings sake and I can’t recall the last person I heard say: “I really enjoy going to meetings.  I find them stimulating, invigorating, informative, and they really add value to my day.”

You open the attached Agenda and your eyes glaze over as you read the list of items.

  1. Approval of minutes from the last meeting
  2. Work in progress
  3. Team development
  4. Resources
  5. Client service
  6. Next meeting

If your agenda looks more inviting than this, congratulations!  You might actually look at meetings as useful returns on the time investment that you and your colleagues are going to make.  And let’s say that there will be eight of you in attendance, and that the meeting is scheduled to last for an hour.  That’s a day’s worth of productive time being assigned to an exercise that most of us won’t miss, and that just doesn’t make sense.

So what can we do about those meetings?  How can we get a positive return on our invested time, and is it possible that we could conduct meetings that people look forward to?

First, ask yourself, and answer, these questions.  “What is the purpose of the meeting?  What do I want everyone to know, to have said, to be thinking, to feel, at the end of the meeting?  If I don’t schedule this meeting, would anyone notice?  What benefit am I seeking?  Will we be any worse off, individually and as a team if I cancel or postpone the meeting?”

Next, rather than the dry agenda shown above, how about defining the items as questions that attendees must think about before they attend?  For example ….

1.   Approval of Minutes from the last meeting
– (re-frame as)

  • What have we accomplished in relation to decisions that we made at our last meeting? 
  • What have you seen happen, and what has not been started yet? 
  • What were you responsible for and how is it going?

2.   Work in progress – (re-frame as)

  • What are you working on at the moment and how is it contributing to our strategy? 
  • What value is it adding to our business? 
  • Are you feeling productive, or do you think your current project needs to be re-visited, reviewed or revived?

3.   Team development – (re-frame as)

  • If we were running our annual engagement survey today, what might you say about how well you think we are working together?
  • What could we do to get an even better result?
  • What would you do if you were in charge of the team’s development? 
  • What progress have you made against your individual development plan?

4.   Resources – (re-frame as)

  • Are your capabilities being fully utilised? 
  • What are you contributing, or could you contribute, that will improve the team’s output, morale, or brand? 
  • Do you think we are seeing real synergies through our combined efforts? 
  • Is there anything that you think the team should be doing but cannot do because of a lack of resources, and what resources do you think we need?

5.   Client service – (re-frame as)

  • What are the top three things that your internal or external clients want most from you and your team?
  • Are your clients getting value for money, or could they do better from someone else?
  • How do you know – have you asked them?  If not, please find out before our meeting.

6.   Next meeting – (re-frame as)

  • What three things will you do before our next meeting that will either enhance our team output, improve your individual skills, or delight your clients?


So, in order to make your next meeting matter, demand more than attendance.  Ask each person to bring considered opinions that they can offer in an involved and participative environment, rather than just turning up to passively make up the numbers.

If you would like to join the CED tribe, you can sign up here for the CED newsletter where I will be discussing topics similar to this one in a little more depth.

All the best


The Ethical Superiority of the Uninvolved

Ask a room full of business managers and leaders if any consider themselves to be unethical.  What do you think the chances are that anyone would own up?  Probably very low, wouldn’t you think?  But we make decisions every day that are often underpinned by a range of unconscious biases, and which can call our seemingly best decisions into question.

Sir Adrian Cadbury coined the phrase: “The ethical superiority of the uninvolved.”  That is, we are all very quick to make ethical judgements when we are not involved in a situation, and we imagine that we would be pure as the driven snow, given a similar scenario.  Research, however, suggests that we will generally predict that we will behave more ethically than we actually do, and in retrospect we will also believe that we behaved more ethically than we actually did (Tenbrusel, Diekmann, Wade-Benzoni and Bazerman, 2007).

So what is at play here?  Our unconscious biases (and we all have them, to a greater or lesser degree) play out almost every day.

We are all raised according to a set of values and beliefs that we learn on our parents’ knees, and which then develop as we grow and experience more of life.  Sometimes these beliefs can play out without us realising.  Consider where you sit on the following: physical disability = mental weakness; poor people = lazy; older workers = retired from the neck up; leaders = taller than average.

When you are recruiting or considering a group of candidates for promotion, where do nationality, ethnicity, social connections, or your age group play out in your decision?  But is there anything wrong in favouring someone who went to your school or university, who grew up in your home town, or who came with a recommendation from your boss?  If all other factors are equal (and they rarely are), you might think not.  But in doing so, you actively discriminate against other candidates who don’t meet your criteria.

When working in a team, do you consider that you made the same contribution as your colleagues, or do you think that your contribution was slightly above average?  The chances are that we would consider ourselves to have made an above average contribution in most circumstances – and so do all our colleagues – but the total contribution would then add up to more than 100%, and that doesn’t work!

When you reflect on those hidden, unconscious biases, you might find that they are more present than you suspected.  So what to do?  Think about incorporating the following steps into your work as a manager and leader.

  • Acknowledge that we all have these biases
  • Try to identify how they might be playing out in your world
  • Regularly audit your decisions
  • Be aware of your unthinking custom and practice
  • Consider counter-intuitive options
  • Include others who can balance your unconscious biases with a different point of view.

Finally, don’t beat yourself up about these biases.  We’ve all got them - but only some decide to do anything about them.

If you would like to join the CED tribe, you can sign up here for the CED newsletter where I will be discussing topics similar to this one in a little more depth.

All the best