How Olympic achievements can inspire us to aim high and keep going

After a long wait and a lot of uncertainty, the Olympic games have finally commenced.  For the athletes that have made it, this is their chance to fulfil a lifelong dream.  All the training and sacrifice has brought them to this point where they will be tested against the best in the world. There will be many competitors that are happy just to be there and beat their own personal best whilst there are some medal hopefuls for whom the pressure is great.

For me, the opening ceremony was moving as I thought about the dreams of all these athletes. Timing is critical and with an extra year to wait after the games were postponed in 2020 due to Covid, there must have been some who wondered if they would make it. Indeed, sadly, some have had their hopes dashed as they failed to qualify, found themselves injured or been prevented from travelling as a result of Covid.

One achievement that has shone through in the early days of these games is that of Tom Daley who many of us have been rooting for over the last 20 years.  He was 14 when he went to his first Olympics and we have watched him grow up with Team GB.

Tipped for success from the beginning, the main prize has stayed just out of reach. Securing his second bronze medal in Rio, Tom told journalists he was ‘heartbroken’ and would be at Tokyo for a fourth attempt.  The journalist very insightfully responded that it would make for a better story in the long term.

On Monday, Tom won his first gold medal alongside his diving partner, Matty Lee. Tom’s story confirms what I have always believed:

If you want something badly enough and are willing to work hard for it every day, it will be yours.     

After the games in Rio, Tom kept hold of his dream, focused on training and technique and achieved that long sought after gold medal in Tokyo.  We have seen him deal with many challenges throughout his journey and I certainly am so inspired by the resilience, grit and determination that has led him to this point.

Of course, Tom isn’t the only one celebrating at the games so far and many are hoping that their efforts will inspire others to achieve their own goals, sporting or otherwise. In an interview with the BBC yesterday, another gold medallist, Adam Peaty said:


“If there is one thing you do today, just do one thing better.”

Their achievements may be personal but their legacy is universal.  Each of these athletes have made huge sacrifices to reach the games and their families the same. They all have a unique story but it is ultimately about challenge and achievement.  We can all learn something from their efforts and the questions is… where will your journey take you?

Have you been inspired by our Olympic champions? Have you taken something valuable from watching them compete? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Passion and purpose – what Tom Brady’s record-breaking career tells us about motivation

According to the talent scouts, Tom Brady was far from spectacular.  He didn’t have any of the things that marked him out as in an up and coming sports star which meant he was overlooked when it came to selection time. 

And yet, on Sunday, Brady won his 7th Superbowl at the age of 43 with a team that was bottom of the league last season.  To date, he has started a record 10 superbowls in his 18 year career.  With an average career of 3 years in the sport, Brady defies the odds and shows no signs of retiring just yet. 

One of the key themes throughout his career has been the lack of recognition for his talent.  Before he began his time with the New England Patriots, he played for Michigan college team.  In his sophomore year, a new quarterback joined the team and the coach was unsure which of them to play.  He kept switching them to keep them both in the game.  Many times, the coach had to bring on Brady to save the game and he did it. He came on to the field and brought them back from the brink for a win. This happened so many times, they called him ‘the comeback kid’.

Despite this, when it came to the draft, he wasn’t selected until the 6th round. Number 199 out of just over 200 places, making him the 7th quarterback taken. His nerves were on edge as his time was running out but he was finally signed and so began his professional career in American football.  Brady is now considered best NFL draft pick of all time.

The report on him ahead of the 2000 draft was unimpressive. It included:

  • Poor build
  • Skinny
  • Lacks great physical stature and strength
  • Lacks mobility and ability to avoid the rush
  • Does not roll a really tight spiral
  • System type player who can get exposed if forced to ad-lib
  • Gets knocked down easily

Brady was hugely under-estimated and struggled to gain recognition but he never lost his self-belief.

Throughout his time with the Patriots, he demonstrated the talent and skill which has made him the sport star he is today. Still, his talent was played down and often attributed to the coach. In his latest Superbowl achievement, he has finally proven that he is the magic ingredient and getting the credit he deserves.

According to his Dad, when they carried out that assessment: “they missed the most important thing: heart.  They didn’t understand what drives somebody.” It isn’t something that can be measured. And it cannot be defeated either.

Others have commented on his backbone and resilience: “All the intangibles that a quarterback is supposed to have? They were overlooked. Because with him, it was burning on the inside”.

What can we learn about leadership from the greatest quarterback of all time?

  1. Never let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do – it isn’t for someone else to decide what you are capable of, it is up to you.  If you are willing to work hard, take on board the feedback and improve, you can achieve your goals.

  2. Resilience is about understanding your values and purpose and staying true to them – it doesn’t matter what people say or think. To succeed, you need to keep your goal close to your heart and keep going.

  3. Follow your passion – if do something you love, you will bring maximum energy which will drive you to work hard, master your discipline and achieve success.

Have you been inspired by Tom Brady’s success? What is it about him that stands out to you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Image by Alexandr Nebesyuk from Pixabay 

Why a bit of ‘warm & fuzzy’ is important for motivating teams

How to motivate people has been a topic of conversation which has come up several times for me over the last couple of weeks.

Previously, I have written about the principles of autonomy, mastery, purpose which Dan Pink promotes in his book ‘Drive’. The theory set out in the book is one I believe in strongly but talking about it with others has made me realise that there is a further aspect that needs to be considered.

I’ve also written before about the value and importance of the ‘cuddle’ hormone oxytocin and I think there is something important here that helps to motivate people to come to work and give their best.

It’s a complex environment we are working in today and technology has sped up the pace of change. News is instant and we are expected to be able to respond and change direction very quickly. Certainly, working with lots of small charities, I see leaders and staff delivering in tough conditions, trying to push on forward despite high levels of uncertainty.

It takes a lot of resilience to keep going under these circumstances and I think that there is some ‘warm fuzzy stuff’ that leaders can easily implement which helps to keep people motivated.

Recognition – firstly, when people work hard, they want to be recognised for their efforts. This doesn’t have to take the form of big awards but just something to show that they have been noticed, whether that is an individual or the whole team, sometimes both probably, just let them know they have been seen.
Appreciation – say thank you! In whatever form you are most comfortable with and preferably often. A common view seems to be that work is transactional i.e. people come to work, do the job and get paid which should be thanks enough. It isn’t enough though if you want a motivated, high performing team. For that, you need to give a bit more which means saying and doing things that make people feel appreciated.

Celebration – celebrate often, let staff enjoy being at work and feel good about what they have achieved. Far too often, we finish one thing and move straight on to another with no looking back. If your team works hard and delivers success, encourage them to take time out to reflect and celebrate their achievements however small.

Whilst I believe these things are important all year round, I also think that Christmas is a point in the calendar where we should take a moment to reflect on what’s gone well, thank people for their contribution and celebrate the achievements of the year gone by.  So this year, why don’t you think about how you use these ideas to ensure you have an empowered and motivated team for 2020.

 

Like this article? Have your own experience to share? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

 

3minuteleadership.org

 

(Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay)

Why putting people first pays dividends for employers

A few articles have come to my attention recently around flexible working and in particular the challenges for working parents in what can sometimes be a fight to get employers to recognise the value in supporting employees to achieve a good balance.

Beginning my career working for myself, I was able to see the benefits of flexible working, being able to fulfil my professional responsibilities at times that worked for me and also manage personal commitments. Since then, I have championed flexibility in the workplace and heard both employers and staff challenge this over the years.

One article that really spoke to me recently shared the story of a woman who had returned from maternity leave and requested flexible working arrangements. As part of a restructure, her line Manager decided that all roles needed to be full-time and her application was turned down. A legal case decided that the employer had made this decision without evidence and the tribunal resulted in a finding of Unfair Dismissal and Indirect Sex Discrimination.

Another article that I came across yesterday, shared the story of an employer who came into the office and found a woman crying at her desk. When he asked why, he discovered that she had been up all night with a sick child and had come into work because she had no leave that she could use and needed to be paid.

Now, I’m guessing that many employers feel wary of giving an inch in case people take a mile and before you know it, you are paying for staff who are never there. I do think though that parents especially can be in a difficult situation, trying to pay high costs of childcare, deliver for their employer and meet the needs of their offspring.

It reminds me of a quote I saw the other week: “We expect women to work like they don’t have children and raise children as if they don’t work.” This isn’t exclusively women anymore but the pressure is still the same and I do hear strong opinion from other mums against women who choose to work full-time.

What I find in managing my team is that they want to be in work and do their jobs well. It’s a fact though that sometimes home and family commitments need more immediate attention in the same way that some days they need to work late or over the weekend. They don’t mind giving their own time for work commitments so why would I make it difficult for them when they have issues at home they need to deal with? If their car had broken down, I would let them take the time they need to fix it so why wouldn’t I let them have the flexibility they need when their child is sick?

Companies that have a flexi-time system can be useful in these situations but I still see so many of these systems based on initial theory from the model’s inception which fails to offer genuine flexibility. And I hear of even more employers that say ‘flexible working is great but it wouldn’t work here’. These are most likely the same employers that want their staff in the office late every night or working on demand.

What I’m saying here is that many people with caring responsibilities want to work and it’s often even more important for this group because they want balance but for very practical reasons, it needs to be both ways.

Also, I think that it pays dividends when employers put people first because it returns a level of loyalty and commitment that money can’t buy.

Do you manage people flexibly with positive results?  Do you have experience to share on flexible working requests? If so, please share in the comments below.

 

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(Image by William Iven from Pixabay)

Perfecting an 80/20 ‘balance’ that nurtures talent and celebrates success

Recently, I was speaking at an internal session on managing performance and explained why I believe the role of a leader is to help people be the best they can be.

The discussion began when we were asked to identify measures of staff satisfaction and organisational success.  One of the first things that came up was staff retention with many believing this this is a sign of problems.

Now, I accept that if staff start leaving in numbers then it can indicate that there is a problem which needs to be addressed but I asked them to consider a different possibility: perhaps it shows that people are being managed well, developing skills and progressing to the next level.

When asked, I explained to the group that I strongly believe part of my responsibility as a leader is to develop people.  This means that they should grow professionally during their time in a role, gaining new skills and enjoying a boost in confidence.  Ideally, they would then rise through the ranks and feel the satisfaction and fulfilment of working for an organisation that nurtures talent, utilises this appropriately and rewards people for their success.

However, in a small organisation, it can be hard to do this and so it needs to be OK to develop people so that they can move on.  If people move on to better things as a result of what they learnt with me, then I consider that a good outcome for the organisation.  I also find that it means we have champions in the wider world and many of my staff are still working with us in their new roles.

Doing things in this way creates ambassadors who can raise awareness of our work with their new colleagues and partners.

 

The 80/20 rule

In terms of how I ensure people are able to develop, I believe in an 80/20 rule.  Put simply, this means that individuals should spend 80% of their time doing things they feel they are good at and 20% stretching themselves.

To help me identify their strengths and development areas, I ask staff to complete a personal development plan which allows them to list their skills, achievements and goals.  We then sit down and have a discussion about what they have included and I might make further suggestions about anything I think is missing.  People don’t always see something as a strength or a talent so I might explore certain things with them to highlight any skills I think they have but don’t recognise.

This provides a framework for which they can develop an action plan to push themselves forwards.

 
The theory part

One of the key theories that underpins my leadership style is Dan Pink’s work on motivation which argues that the three things people need to be successful at work is autonomy, mastery and purpose.

The 80/20 rule means that they spend 80% of their time utilising their strengths and working towards mastery.  If their time is spent mostly on things they enjoy and feel they are good at, then they will feel good most of the time and will be doing things that fire them up, satisfy them and allow them to feel confident.

From that place, they can focus on the other 20% which should be about things they either don’t want to do (we all have those things) and things that they want/need to learn to be the best they can be.

The key to success with the 20% is to have a clear action plan which identifies skills and competencies that need to be developed in order to achieve career goals.  This should include steps that will be taken to ensure that individual can push forwards and make tangible progress towards their goals.

In terms of monitoring, I hold individuals to account for completing their actions by making sure progress is discussed on a quarterly basis and then on an annual basis, I ask staff to reflect again and complete a new plan for the year ahead.

 

Achieving ‘flow’

If you look through the stages, you can see that the method is based on the high performance cycle – Plan, Do, Review and Improve.  In following this process and ensuring the 80/20 ‘balance’, I believe people can be supported to achieve ‘flow’ which, in positive psychology, is:

‘The mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity’.

This has to be the state of optimum performance and exactly where we surely would want our teams to be so I challenge you to try a different way and see the difference it makes.

 

If you can see the value of this approach or have similar methods yourself, share your thoughts in the comments below.

5 things that will add some Strictly sparkle to your line management

It’s that time of year where many of us are tuning our tellies every Saturday night to that family favourite ‘Strictly Come Dancing’.  In our house, we love to settle down for the evening and watch the glitzy spectacle of sequins, heels and hairpieces, enjoying the glamour and fun that draws in viewers from across Britain.

Watching the show, it’s heartening to see clueless, inexperienced individuals become confident and capable dancers.  It’s even better to watch the relationship between mentor and mentee develop as the celebrities see their good faith and hard work pay off.  We literally see contestants blossom and grow as the weeks progress.

With a new baby at home, this has become a Saturday night staple and I’ve been watching not only the weekend shows but also the weekday behind the scenes spin-off programme ‘It Takes Two’.  As a result, I’ve noticed a number of qualities and behaviours that we could all adopt as leaders and managers to get staff performing to the best of their ability.

I’m sure there are many lessons we can take from the show but here are 5 things that will add a little extra sparkle to your line management:

1)      Be enthusiastic and encouraging – from the clips of rehearsals, the interviews on It Takes Two and the filming on the night, you can see that the professional dancer is always super enthusiastic and encouraging which helps to build the celebrity’s confidence and make it a positive experience.

2)      Focus on strengths – the pro-dancer focuses on those things the celebrity can do well and celebrates these things in order to give them a boost which increases their confidence and keeps them motivated.

3)      Help them to improve – the professionals identify areas for improvement, helping the celebrity to sharpen their skills and develop gradually rather than overwhelming them and forcing them to try lots of things they are struggling with.

4)      Allow mentee to shine – the pros look to show the celebrity in their best light and allow them to shine brightly and enjoy their success regardless of what level they are at.

5)      Focus on fun! – they remember that it’s about having fun so despite pushing them to their limits, they encourage their celebrities to enjoy the whole experience and make the most of their time in the competition with many of the celebrities saying they intend to continue dancing long after their time on Strictly ends.

 

Are you watching the show and have some other ideas to add to this list? Add your thoughts in the comments below.

 

3minuteleadership.org

Why becoming a great leader is a journey not a destination

One of my favourite leadership thinkers is Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why and Leaders Eat Last both of which you should read if you haven’t done so already.

The other week, I saw a link on Twitter to one of his videos which I watched and was reminded that ‘the best leaders don’t consider themselves to be experts; leadership is a skill which can be learned’.

This resonated with me because it is exactly the reason I am taking part in an initiative called ‘Leadership Pods’, a development programme developed by Dafydd Thomas at Circularis for people who want to be great leaders.

Being part of this encourages me to consider how I can further develop my leadership practice and allows me space to reflect on where I am now and where I would like to be in the future.  The programme also allows participants to share and learn from others who may have similar challenges or experiences.

As Sinek sets out, it is important as a leader to keep learning and commit to continuous improvement throughout your leadership journey.  It’s about supporting people and making a difference so why wouldn’t you want to work towards perfecting your craft which of course we all know does not have a final destination.

It’s like the best athlete working on their discipline; they can break new ground and set world records for their sport but there are always others who are watching them, learning from them and will ultimately take their place and set their own records.

Sinek goes so far as to say in his video: ‘any leader that considers themselves an expert… don’t trust them…. run in the other direction’.  You should definitely be suspicious of a leader who is convinced that they are always right and can’t see a reason to listen to the views or ideas of others.

In his book, Leaders Eat Last, Sinek promotes the importance within good leadership of prioritising the needs of others sometimes even putting these needs ahead of their own.  My approach certainly is to focus on supporting those in my teams, ensuring I take steps to understand their needs and considering how I can adapt my style to get the best out of them.

For example, I consider who they are and how they like to be managed.  Some people, particularly millennials, want to have autonomy; they want to be clear about what is expected of them and be given the freedom to do their best work which might involve trying out new ideas or generating new opportunities.  They expect to be able to get fully involved and don’t want to be told what to do.

Generation X and the baby boomers might prefer more specific management and direction  with greater clarity around what is expected of them and could even look for detailed instruction.  Of course people don’t always fit nicely into a box and so the only way you can understand what they need is to ask them.  I try to ask my direct reports on a regular basis if they are happy with the way they are being managed, recognising that my preferred style doesn’t work for everyone.  In circumstances where my approach is causing problems for them, I do my best to change it because ultimately, I want them to perform as well as they can and I don’t want to be the person that holds them back.

Understanding their long terms goals is also valuable because I recognise that they might not spend their whole career with one organisation and instead may wish to develop and move on to other opportunities.  In taking time to discuss this, I can ensure they are developing the necessary skills and experience to get them where they need to go.  Even if they do want to stay with us, I want that to be because they feel like they are able to develop and are invested in, whether that’s through funding for formal training or time to develop their specific interests or skills.

It’s important to recognise that they are a good measure of my own performance as a leader and I might ask them how they enjoy working with me and listen carefully to their feedback.  Also important is to recognise that they can be giving feedback through their silence or avoidance so I try to make a special effort to notice what they are not saying through body language or passing comments.

Sinek says: “We call them leader not because they are in charge but because they are willing to run head first into the unknown or dangerous.”

It’s not about status or rank, leadership is a skills that needs to be developed and perfected over time.  If you aspire to be a great leader then you might want to sign up for a Leadership Pod yourself and find out how you can unleash the power not only within yourself but in those you work with across your organisation.

Like a parent, you are not an expert parent but you keep practicing and practicing and hopefully, you’ll get it right someday.” (Simon Sinek)

 

Do you consider yourself to be a great leader? Have any thoughts or tips to share? Let us know what you think by posting in the comments below.

 

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Giveaway: Drive – the surprising truth about what motivates us

This month, we are giving away a copy of Daniel Pink’s New York Times top 10 bestseller ‘Drive: The surprising truth about what motivate us’ and here’s the reason why…



A couple of years ago, as part of a management course, I attended a workshop that explored how we can keep people motivated.  Keen to get the best out of my teams, I was listening intently, excited at the prospect of learning new ways to engage people and enhance performance.  As the tutor explained Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, he outlined the different levels of need which need to be fulfilled for an individual to achieve the central goal of ‘self-actualisation’ or ‘full realisation of potential’.

This was great but I already knew about Maslow and was hoping to be able to build on this knowledge and take something new from the session.  Having an awareness of modern theories in this area, I was puzzled to hear the tutor say that there haven’t been any motivational thinkers since Maslow in the 1960’s and 70’s.

After the tutor had finished presenting, he moved around the room to speak to the different groups.  When he reached our group, I raised my thoughts with him:

‘You mentioned that there haven’t been any motivation theories since Maslow but I actually do know of one’.

‘Ah yes’ he said ‘are you talking about Daniel Pink?’

I confirmed that I was indeed speaking of Daniel Pink and his theory set out in the book ‘Drive’.  To my surprise, the tutor responded:

‘Yes, we’re not allowed to teach that’.

Thankfully for me, I’d read Pink’s theory already and put the ideas into practice to great effect so I was dismayed to realise that others were being prevented from exploring Pink’s theory.

At a later event I went to where we were discussing well-being, the conversation turned to staff and motivation.  It was clear that there remains a view that people ‘just’ go to work for money and that’s all they are looking for.  I don’t believe this is the case and whilst money is important – of course, we all want to have nice things and a comfortable lifestyle where we can spend our days experiencing joy and not worry – money alone does not provide job satisfaction and fulfilment.  Drive explores this idea in more detail, considering why people go to work and how Managers can capitalise on that to encourage optimum performance.

It wouldn’t be fair for me to spoil the book for you so if you, like me, did not cover Daniel Pink in your management course but want to know how to help people in your team to reach their potential, I suggest you retweet or share on social media and subscribe to this blog before 27th October to be in with a chance to win your own copy and see what difference it could make.

 

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Help people find their ‘flow’ and make every day feel like Friday

Have you seen the new Lucozade ad?  The energy drink brand has decided to shake its image as a hangover cure and look for a new audience amongst busy professionals.  The campaign, titled ‘find your flow’, features normal people in everyday situations performing beyond their best thanks to Lucozade.

“Flow. The unmistakeable feeling of unstoppable. Of no problem that can’t be solved. Of no-one else can do it better. That whatever the day throws at you, you simply take it in your stride because you’ve found your rhythm. You’re on top form.” (Lucozade 2015, Find your flow)

The ad company responsible, Grey London, have taken inspiration from psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who created the concept of ‘flow’ after extensive research on the topic.  It’s the feeling of being completely ‘into’ what you are doing.  Of being wholly absorbed in a task or activity and of losing yourself in a moment.

Csikszentmihalyi describes ‘flow’ asbeing completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” 

That’s what I want to feel when I’m at work and what I want my team to feel also.  I’d like them to love what they do so much that they can immerse themselves in their tasks and spend most of their time ‘in the zone’.

Why should we aim to help individuals find their ‘flow’ in the workplace?

I’m really conscious that people spend a lot of time at work.  Over a lifetime, it’s around 90,000 hours if we work full-time from leaving school to retirement.  This is time that many people would rather spend doing something else such as sitting in the garden, playing with the children or walking the dog.

It’s an ambitious aim but I want the people in my teams to enjoy what they do almost as much so they are focused on delivering great things for the organisation rather than wishing they were somewhere else.  My view is that if I can help them find their ‘flow’ at work, I can help them to maximise their contribution to the organisation and enhance their overall life satisfaction.

How do we create an environment that supports individuals to find their flow’?

Based on 10 factors which are known to accompany the feeling of ‘flow’ here are 8 things that leaders should seek to provide in the workplace to allow employees to immerse themselves in their activities:

1)      Set clear goals that are challenging but achievable

2)      Allow people to concentrate on their goals and focus their attention

3)      Ensure their work is rewarding and ensure recognition of their efforts

4)      Create an environment where they feel secure and not self-conscious

5)      Give feedback

6)      Ensure tasks are achievable and suitable for the individual’s level of skill whilst providing a healthy challenge

7)      Allow ownership of a task or responsibility

8)      Minimise any distractions that will prevent the individual from focusing on the activity

 

Do you agree that helping people to find their ‘flow’ is an important goal?  Have you tried to create this kind of environment in your workplace?  Let us know your experiences by posting in the comments below.

 

3minuteleadership.org

 

Photo credit: Pixabay

 

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