We Know What To Do

I have been reflecting on how complicated we tend to make things when a bit of rational thinking might illuminate a much less cluttered path.  

For example, take the subject of ‘customer service training’.  When I ‘Google’ that phrase, I get 211 million hits.  If I was looking for some help in that area, I would have an enormous reserve of resources and providers to call upon.  But, on the other hand, I have been a customer myself on thousands of occasions.  As an experienced consumer, I know what I like (and what drives me crazy) in customer service, or a lack thereof.  In fact, we all do.  We have all had customer service experiences that we can draw on and, if we spend the time to reflect on these experiences, we can very quickly decide what works, and what doesn't.  All that is left is for us to apply the golden rule – “do unto others, etc.”  

What will a customer service training workshop tell us that we couldn’t already figure out for ourselves?  Can you remember the last piece of customer service advice that you heard, or read, and thought that you would not like to receive that service as a consumer?  Of course not, you know it all makes sense.

So why do we need customer service training? – We know what to do!

Similarly management (697 million responses) and leadership (314 million hits) provide much more information than we could ever wade through.  Yes, I know that we can refine our search and be much more focused on what we are looking for, but I trust that you see where this is heading.

We have all been managed and led.  We know what we like, what we don’t like, what motivates us, and what doesn’t.  To paraphrase the golden rule ... “Lead others as you would like to be led.”

We know what to do!

Maybe we misinterpret the complexity.  Is it possible that it is not the act itself that is difficult but, rather, it is our imperfect application that challenges us?  It’s not the ‘what’, it’s the ‘how’.  I wonder if we make things more complex than they are because it doesn’t come naturally?

Let’s try the following.  Choose a fundamental aspect of leading or managing that you know requires your attention and focus on it until it becomes as natural as breathing.  Instead of “inhale ...  exhale ... inhale ... exhale”, let’s try “do ... reflect ... do ... reflect”.

Obviously, if the solution was that easy, everyone would be doing it.  And so we need to work on it.  We try, and then we fall back into our old habits.  We learn from those missteps, refine our approach and try again.  It takes persistence, determination, an understanding of our own fallibility, and an acceptance of the culpability that goes along with owning up when we fall into old habits.

But, we know what to do!

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All the best


Conscious Confidence: Three Steps to Taking the Lead

Many of you will know the phrase “conscious competence” that is used to describe a state of expertise where one has an awareness and clear understanding of the application of competence in a particular skill or technique.  It is part of the unconscious incompetence – conscious incompetence – conscious competence – unconscious competence sequence.

I would like to introduce you to the phrase – Conscious Confidence – that I use to describe a behaviour, or set of behaviours, that many good leaders and managers have, and to which we might all aspire.  It’s that state where you are ‘in-flow’, in the zone, on your game, and where you feel totally in control.  It is allied to both conscious and unconscious competence but it avoids unfounded, unaware arrogance through your grounded, confident approach.  Some have labelled this as a fifth stage of the continuum – the consciousness of unconscious competence.

I’m sure you have seen people who have that air of confidence.  They don’t actually say the following, but they give  off an aura of “follow me”, “it will be OK”, “I’ve been here before”, “I know what I am doing”, because of the purposeful and confident way that they go about their business. 

This is not false confidence or bravado.  People can see through that in a second.  They are calm and in control.  There is no doubt.  They know their business and you know they will succeed.  You are drawn to their prospect of success.  They are in total control of the situation and their antennae are up, and operating. 

So how do you achieve Conscious Confidence?  First, you need to be very aware of your strengths, those areas where you are very good, maybe better than most people you know.  We all have those strengths but we tend to pay more attention to our weaknesses.  This requires regular and honest reflection.

Second, the time and energy that we devote to shoring up our weak spots might better be spent on bringing our strengths to the fore.  That’s not to say that we should ignore the areas that require attention.  But let’s have more balance.  Let’s take those strengths out for a run more often and let people see those areas of Conscious Confidence.  Further, we need to practise our strengths regularly.  How often do we do that in business?  How often do we practise, with intention and purpose, at getting better at our technical and interpersonal skills?

And third, look for opportunities to display that Conscious Confidence.  Steve Jobs used to think of himself as the most brilliant person in the room.  He didn’t get it right all the time, but when he was on the money he took people with him and they achieved outstanding results.  Opportunities are all around us – if we look out for 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


You Made It! Now, The Two Things That You Should Stop Doing!

Success, promotion, the corner office.  At last!  Now there are a couple of things that you must stop doing.

It’s been a long haul.  You have really worked hard for that promotion and now you have been assigned the responsibility for leading a team and you will be held accountable for their results.

Along the way, you built a reputation as a ‘do-er’, someone who was always willing to go the extra yard when things got busy, you took on some tasks to lighten your boss’s load, and you tried to set a good example to the young graduates who joined the team over the years.  You also became known as a ‘fix-er’.  When problems arose, you found a solution.  When things went off the rails, you could be counted on to get things back on track, and when the process ground to a halt, you were there to oil the machinery and get it working again.

As a new Leader/Manager you must understand that, whatever got you to this point, might not be what you require in your new role.

Stop!  Take a moment to think about what is required of you in your new role.  It is very tempting to continue to do what you did before because that was what grabbed others’ attention and earned you that promotion.  When you are fixing problems, you feel good about yourself.  All this fixing and doing keeps you busy and, as we all know, when we are busy we are important.  Right?  Wrong!

Stop being the ‘do-er’ and the ‘fix-er’.  Start being the leader.

Now you have to work as a leader of others – setting direction, communicating with impact, motivating others, keeping an eye on the big picture, thinking strategically and engaging in transformational, rather than transactional, activities.  When you continue to do things for others, they will not develop as you were allowed to develop.  When you remain the one who fixes all the problems, you are saying, in part, that you don’t trust anyone else to keep things moving.

You might feel good about yourself, but no-one else will share that opinion.  It’s no longer all about you but, rather, about the team that you lead.  Your output is just one element in the larger team’s output.

Be a leader.  Understand what that means, but also be clear on what is not required.  Sure, there will be a transition phase where everyone, including you, needs to adjust to their changing roles and responsibilities but, in the end, you need to move to a new stage of your ongoing development and leave the doing and the fixing to others.

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


Leading Like A Pro

The professional athlete -- focused, skilled, experienced, persistent, determined, adaptable, creative. 

As professional Managers and Leaders, I am sure that we would all aspire to these attributes.  When you think about the top golfers, footballers, swimmers and tennis players, you could assign the list of attributes to most professional sports people – with one significant difference between them and us.

If you attend any professional golf or tennis tournament, you will see the players honing their skills on the driving range or practice court before every game.  Swimmers are in the pool before dawn each day completing endless laps as they seek the perfect stroke and develop their endurance, while their footballing counterparts are on the pitch each afternoon as they work on team drills and personal skills development. 

The relentless pursuit of improvement and conditioning is something to admire, but those sports men and women know that, if they don’t undertake this regular regime, their results will reflect a deteriorating level of performance.  They have to work hard, every day, to stay at the top of their game.

When do you, as a professional manager and leader, practice, rehearse and train? What can be achieved, and what is at risk, at each negotiation you attend?  When was the last time you consciously prepared for, and rehearsed, a meeting or presentation?  What could happen to any of our sporting heroes if they simply turned up for a game or competition with little, or no, preparation?  What happens if you are not at the top of your game?  You won’t be dropped to the reserve grade, but you do miss an opportunity to exploit your potential.  How long would the ‘pro’ last in their business if they graduated from their academies and then hoped their skills and techniques would improve through some crypto-mystical process of absorption?  When was the last time that you worked on your skill level?

Think about a professional preparation for your next big presentation, or meeting, or interaction with other business professionals.  Mentally prepare and picture your success.  Cover all your bases and think about alternative approaches that you might draw upon if circumstances require you to flex and adapt.  Who is the audience (or the competition) and what do you need to do and say to achieve success?  What can you practice that will give you confidence in any situation?  What are your strengths and how can you maximise the effect that you have on others?

Reflect, practise, prepare and surprise yourself.

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All the best


Practice Makes Excellent - Not Perfect

You will all know the saying ‘practice makes perfect’.  Those of you who know me will also know that I am a pretty practical, feet-on-the-ground type, and this is why I have trouble with the ‘practice makes perfect’ dictum, particularly when it comes to people and business.

Even elite sports people would never claim to be perfect all the time.  Yes, occasionally they will have that game or event when they were 'in the zone' and everything just flowed, but that would be the exception to the rule.

I think we should take the pressure off ourselves and, instead, aim for a ‘practice makes excellent’ world to live in.  If we aspire to a quality or state of excellence, rather than perfection, we will act in a way that is consistent with our values.  If we come from a position of serving others, that state of excellence will be appreciated by those around us as our contribution to events and issues in which we are involved.

Hannah Samuel, a colleague of mine, calls this state of excellence “flawsome” which she describes as not worrying about being perfect, but instead focusing on doing the best you can in any given circumstance and when things go wrong, front-up, accept responsibility, and work to put things right in ways your client or customer thinks is awesome.

If this makes sense, then think about practising.  Think about the top sports people in the world.  At the top of their games and in peak fitness, they still practice for hours each day.  When was the last time that you 'practiced' managing or leading?  When did you reflect on the success, or otherwise, of a challenging conversation and then practice an alternative approach that might have resulted in a better outcome?  When have you practised for a meeting to enhance the chances of success?

So, take the time to practice to be excellent as often as possible, and appreciate those occasions when things are perfect.

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All the best