Archive for the Category ◊ Leadership ◊

• Tuesday, February 07th, 2017

broad focus narrow focus think big act small


To lead a team well is really quite hard. The concepts are easy, but the execution is often difficult. One of the things that is exceedingly difficult is getting people to focus on the things that really make a difference.

If you want to build a high performing team, you need to help narrow their focus down to the things that make a really big difference. This is especially true in the 21st Century. When all the other teams in the world are scrambling to do more. The way to get people focussed is to do less and focus on execution. In my keynote speaking engagement and workshops, this is what people want to hear about a lot. They want to know how to build high performance culture by honing in on the big ticket items.

But sometimes we need to broaden that focus. In the planning stage of the year, we need to look outside of what we are doing and just gather as much information as possible. This is where we find ideas that might cause the next great shift in our performance. In doing this, most people just look at what their competitors and their industry are doing, but here are some other ideas:

If you want to engage customers, look at some of the social media platforms that are getting massive engagement. Why are people getting addicted and what can you learn from that?

If you want your people to be more productive, then take a look at what some start-ups are doing – how are they making things work on a shoestring budget?

If you want your people to produce better quality, look at some QA-heavy industries like foods and manufacturing to see what process they put in place to make sure their quality is of the highest level.

This is a great exercise to get people to brainstorm and think outside the box for new initiatives and strategies that just might help your team find the next level. It’s also a great exercise in innovation that can stimulate thinking and help people start challenging the status quo.


Once you pick the initiatives, it comes back to narrow focus for the rest of the year. Spending a couple months with broad focus and brainstorming is a great stimulus. But if you want to really execute – you have to narrow your teams focus and make sure the behaviours they choose are affecting the things that really matter.


• Friday, December 09th, 2016

Is it Time to Close Down the Open Plan Office
Think about this: Distractions take up 28% of our day.

Someone once thought it was a good idea, but open plan offices are killing our productivity.

Research shows that we get distracted every 11 minutes. That can include someone directly interrupting you, or the loud-talker four desks over that won’t keep it down. Even worse, once we are interrupted, it takes a staggering 25 minutes, on average, to get back on track.

The concept of increased collaboration by removing the office walls is great in theory, but when we need people to be more productive than ever before, why would we give them an environment full of distractions?

In my workshops, a constant theme is that people are regularly getting into the office early (before anyone else is there) or staying later (when no one else is there) in order to get some productive work time in. This tells us one thing: we are more productive when we’re not interrupted!

In order to thrive in these chaotic workplaces, we need some personal and organisational strategies to maximise productivity, without leaving collaboration behind.

Here’s what I suggest:

1) Acknowledge the Problem

Distractions are a real problem. If we are getting distracted every 11 minutes, and it takes us 25 minutes to get back on track, then how much work are we actually getting done? We need to acknowledge that collaboration is great, but we also need periods of time where we can actually get the important stuff done during the day.

2) Develop Team Strategies

Sit down with your team and work out some strategies to make this happen. Maybe it’s that there are periods during the day that are free from internal email, meetings or interruptions. Or maybe you set up a ‘signal’ that people are working at full intensity – maybe people have a sign on their desk or they have their headphone in.

3) Develop Personal Strategies

Our willingness to be distracted is increasing daily. We feel compelled to response to every email ping or social media blip. Start implementing periods of focussed attention in your day. Maybe start small and practice ignoring distractions for 20-30 minutes and then increase from there.

• Thursday, November 24th, 2016


How are those 2016 goals working out for you? I’ve got some news for you, but most people don’t want to hear it.

There are only three reasons that you fail to make progress towards your goals. Yes – it’s that simple. But people are going to deny it.

The first two reasons are the most important – and the ones that people don’t want to face. The third reason is really just a caveat. So let’s scrap the third reason.

There are only two reasons you fail to progress towards your goals.
In. Anything.

a) You’re not doing the work, or
b) You’re doing the wrong work

That’s it. Nothing else is stopping you. Whether you want to get a promotion, make more sales, qualify for your bonus or lose ten kilos. If it’s not happening for you, it’s because of one of those things.

So here’s what you need to do. And I KNOW this sounds really simple, but I am really frustrated with a bunch of people I’ve been working with, so I’m going to spell it out.

First – find out what the ‘right work’ is. Because if you want to make more sales, but you’re only making three sales calls a week, then getting buried in admin – it’s probably not going to happen. Or if you want a brilliant team, but you aren’t doing one-on-ones with your staff at least once a month – it’s probably not going to happen.

So, find out what the BEST people in your world are doing. Whether that’s sales, or losing weight, or leadership, or whatever. And then do it even better than them.

Secondly. Commit and work relentlessly on making it happen. You can’t make those 10 sales calls every other week – it has to be every week. Don’t make excuses why you can’t get out the door and exercise, because you’re too busy – just make it happen. Don’t cancel those one-on-ones with your staff because you have too many emails to answer. Prioritise it and Get. It. Done.

And don’t lie to yourself and other people that you’re doing it, when you’re actually NOT.

What’s the third reason? The third reason is that your goals are out of your control. But this rant assumes that you set controllable, smart goals anyway. So forget it.

• Tuesday, November 08th, 2016

Many leaders don’t invest much time and effort in setting and upholding standards. Instead, we focus on results. And fair enough – results are what we are measured on.

But what many leaders forget, until it’s too late, is that standards and behaviours precede results. And if we don’t reinforce the right behaviours, both culture and performance gets off track pretty quickly.

Consider some recent research in how standards are contagious

In a university experiment, researchers found that when colleagues kept their work environment tidy, only about 18% of people littered the environment.

But then the researchers decided to plant a mole who had no regard whatsoever for the cleanliness of their workspace? They left trash lying around, dirty coffee cups littered their desk, and they were generally messy all day every day.

What do you think happened?

Once the students observed someone engaging in this messy behaviour, it triggered a more than 40% increase in the number of people that were messy as well.

Just one person had a massive influence on the behaviours of other people in the team.

You see, staff tend to be drawn to the behaviour they are surrounded by.

They look around and they think “Well, if Fred can do that, I guess it’s ok for me to do that too’’

If those standards are high, that’s great. But if the standards are low – then watch out.

Think about these two simple things that you can do:

Firstly, define your Team Brand

Simply ask your team “What do we want to stand for?” and then highlight the behaviours that exemplify this in your team. Even better – get your team to set these standards and behaviour so they become part of the solution see this quick video on ownership

Second, be relentless about rewarding people for displaying the behaviours, and holding people accountable when they do things that detract from your team brand. Most people fail to do this and then wonder why they aren’t seeing the behaviours they like from their team.

I’ll say it again: standards and behaviours precede results.

If you tolerate low standards in everything from performance to the way people treat each other, then you are setting your team up for poor results.

• Thursday, October 13th, 2016

Helicopter Managers

We all know the helicopter parent. That person who hovers over their child. Making sure that everything is ok. Often removing any obstacles in their way. This parenting style is highlighted by a need to make sure that your child is ok – that there’s nothing going wrong – and, in many cases, removing any difficult obstacles that stand in their way. At the most extreme – helicopter parents will even go so far as to do many things for the child. Some people might even say they do too much.

But this isn’t about parenting. I am wondering this:

Is there such a thing as a helicopter manager? The answer is yes. You might even be one.

In every single leadership workshop I facilitate, when asked what behaviours leaders would like to change in their staff, they come back with one particular thing:

“I want my people to think for themselves. I want them to stop coming to me with problems and asking me for the solution.”

Someone brings this up. Every. Single. Time.

This leads to a discussion on what drives behaviour in people and the reality is that, at it’s most basic level, we do things because they are either easy, or because we get a reward.

So we dig a bit deeper and our conversation invariably goes like this…

Me: So – what do you do when they come to you with these problems

Participant: I give them the solution. I have to – by this time there is not time and it would take too long to work through it with them.

Ok – so let’s look at this in the context of people doing things because they are easy, or because they get a reward.

1)    This is so easy it’s crazy. If I’m your staff member, and I’ve got a problem, I can either a) spend a heap of time thinking about it, or b) ask you and you’ll tell me the answer.

Which one do I pick? The first option of course! This is a no brainer.

2)    Let’s look at the rewards -

a)    I didn’t have to do something hard (that is, think for myself)

b)    I can’t get in trouble if the answer is wrong (because it was your decision)

c)    My job is finished.


This happens all the time.

Managers solve people’s problems for them.

They take back work that they originally delegated.

They accept poor quality work and then fix it themselves.

And when we do this, we ‘make it all better’ for our staff. And then we wonder why they can’t think for themselves.

• Tuesday, June 21st, 2016


In this fast paced life being busy is a badge of honour. But sometimes doing nothing is the best way to be productive. Slowing down gives us a chance to reset our stress response, get breakthrough ideas and avoid burning out at the end of the day.

Here are some things to consider.

The Problem with Busy
If you’re busy doing the really important stuff (not just busywork) then that’s fantastic. It’s great to work at your limit: you get more done, you work with urgency and you most likely fit in more before lunch than most people do in a day. But prolonged periods of heightened attention, madly rushing from one thing to the next have been shown to increase stress chemicals. Being under constant pressure fires up our fight or flight response.

While this boosts urgency and helps us get more done, it has a bad effect on our quality of thinking: our problem-solving and short term memory suffers, we make more errors, and we find it more difficult to control our emotions and behaviours. Sometimes you work with greater intensity, but the quality suffers as we switch on the reactive areas of our brain.

Operating with a moderate level of constant stress has also been shown to stop our ability to get ‘A-ha Moments’ or breakthrough ideas. For these to happen, we need time to reflect (often sub-consciously) on the problem at hand and this allows us to ‘connect the dots’ that might be just beneath the surface.

You see, even though your effort remains extremely high throughout the day, your quality of works goes down…. and down….. and down….

Step One: Slow Down
Here’s a way you can combat that constant pressure that is sapping your productivity and quality of work.

Build in three, 10 minute breaks throughout your day. Research shows we need these ‘recovery’ breaks about every 2 hours to maintain peak performance.

In these breaks, you need to do some really simple things:

1) Slow Down
Don’t take a break from work stress just to add a different stress. If you’re running around doing personal errands, it’s not working. Do something to slow down. Or better yet – do nothing.

2) Disconnect Physically and Electronically
Get away from your workspace, and turn off your electronic pings and notifications. These tend to still create the stress response because they scream for our attention.

If you think you can get more done just by sitting at your desk for longer, you’re wrong. It’s a false economy. Try these simple 10 minute breaks throughout the day and see how it affects your productivity once you sit down and get back to work.