Leadership

When to reflect

Natural breaks offer the opportunity to look back

Yesterday I had the pleasure of working with the Southern Regional Management Team at Lowes Menswear. What a great bunch of people that inspired me with their stories of connection and care they have for their brand and respective teams.

Working with the Southern Regional Management Team for Lowes Menswear

Working with the Southern Regional Management Team for Lowes Menswear

One discussion point that we worked through revolved around reflection. What is it? When to do it? How to do it? And is it beneficial? There were a few highlights in the discussion:


1.       Awareness

Those that have attended one of my talks will know that I love Ernest Hemmingway’s quote “Everything in life happens gradually and then suddenly”. A great way to explain that our small habitual actions accumulate – both in a positive and negative way. Reflection gives us the opportunity to be smashed in the face (normally referred to as realisation) with how far we have come or how far we have slid over the past few months. Awareness is a powerful agent of positive change.

Positive and Negative habits accumulate to build powerful outcomes.

Positive and Negative habits accumulate to build powerful outcomes.

2.       Conscious Streaming

Cameron Schwab introduced me to a method call Conscious Streaming (or Stream of Consciousness) which is the technique of journaling our thoughts in real time. Click here for a more in-depth explanation. This is a wonderful way to become aware of your thoughts and make sense of them. A great way to set yourself up to make better decisions, especially when we find ourselves in an emotional state.

3.       Time is your friend

Reflection doesn’t take much time. In fact, sitting down with a paper and pen to write out some thoughts can take as little as a few minutes. When done regularly there seems to be a cumulative effect that builds. James Clear writes beautifully on the power of habits in his book Atomic habits – a great read for those wanting to implement habitual changes in the way they work and generally live.

4.       Do it your way

Writing the old-fashioned way can be a great way to slow our mind down, and neurologically has been proven to have many benefits (Huffington Post). But please don’t restricted yourself to this. Find a style that suits you and run with it!

5.       Anything

What stops many people is that they are not sure what to write. Freeing yourself of restraint is a great place to start. Ultimately, getting your thoughts on interactions with others, certain aspects of work, how we are feeling, and what we are thinking are all relevant. Keeping it simple, honest, and open is all that is required. And when you are done whatever you have written can be thrown in the bin. There is no need to keep it, file it, or share it unless you want to.

With almost four months gone in 2019 and the Easter break upon us this weekend presents a natural break in our working rhythms to stop and reflect on what is working, what is not, what can be tweaked, and what can be eliminated.

I hope you have a lovely break with your nearest and dearest over this Easter Holiday. Have fun and take a moment out to do a little thinking.

Contact Paul to organise a Lunch n Learn Session like the Lowes Team experienced - paul@paulfarina.com.au

The Pro vs The Professional

Pro's make a difference, professionals* just act like they do...

In 2002, I got my first professional contract to play cricket in the UK. As the one and only “Overseas Pro” in the team there was expectation and local notoriety (everyone wanted to see you fail). It wasn’t a game changer financially, but it was a great vehicle to travel and experience the life of playing sport as a vocation.

It was during this period I gained a better understanding of what it took to be a Pro. But it was the environment at my grade cricket club at East Torrens in South Australia that showed me what it was truly like to be a Pro. Things like never missing training, being at training early, or staying late were regarded highly. . Effort was rated. And, helping others to get better was of deep importance. To explain this better, I will paraphrase the brilliant words of Scott Pressfield from his book The War of Art. He says, we are all born Pros already - we just need to do the following ten things:

1. Show up every day. Whatever the motivation, you get your ass to work.
2. Show up no matter what. Sick, problems at home, feeling anxious… no matter – get to it.
3. Stay on the job. Never leave until the whistle has blown.
4. Be committed for the long haul. Not always to one brand or project, but keep going until the body or mind gives up.
5. Acknowledge the stakes are high and real. Knowing there are consequences for our families, communities and colleagues – survival on many levels is at stake.
6. Accept remuneration. We get paid so do the work and do it well.
7. Don’t over-identify with our jobs. The Pro works hard but recognises they are not their job.
8. Master Technique.
9. Laugh at ourselves.
10. Receive praise and blame freely.

It is a serious list that aims to separate the Pro from the Amateur. But, I would add that Professionals* don’t do these things either. In the corporate environment, I saw it often that people would hide behind “being professional”. In Kim Scott’s Radical Candour, being Professional is at the heart of becoming a robot at work and sliding down the scale of “giving a damn” as a leader and colleague.

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Kim Scott presenting her Radical Candour work

For me, the Pro is present and able to give attention to what matters - they do the work (and more) assiduously. The Pro is proactive to avoid hiccups and problems causing jarring setbacks. And the Pro "Eats Last" to borrow from Simon Sinek. All of these attributes send strong signals to one’s team and customers – I am trusted, thorough, and care deeply for you. I am devoted to moving the project forward. I have summed this up below:

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The Professional* is the equivalent of plastic flowers. They may last, but they give zero sensory value, end up looking cheap, and eventually pollute the environment.

Being a Pro forms the cornerstone of leadership Role Modelling. When the person is passionate about their work being The Pro is easy to learn and apply.  Role Modelling is fundamental to what I call Captaining as these behaviours cause immediate elevation in team members. The team's performance continually improves as these habits become contagious.    

Tell 'em their dreamin!

Making the unrealistic manageable

The most predictable thing in business is that people, teams, and organisations are going to be stretched. It can feel like this is unique to us, but it has been happening since the Industrial Revolution (and probably for a long time before that). The narrative tends to be ‘do more with less’. Often as leaders, we are the ones charged with the responsibility of passing this message onto the workers to execute the strategy.

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Recently, I saw Eddie Izzard, the British Comedian, who brilliantly discussed his 27 marathons in 27 days (amongst a billion other things). He hilariously tells of the experience, "the first one is hard, the second, third, and fourth are the hardest, and then after that “your brain thinks it’s in bed dreaming about the pain you are in". But, think about it – Izzard is in his 50’s, hasn’t an athletic bone in his body, yet he achieved something most of us would consider impossible.

Finding this inspiring is easy. Taking a lesson from it and implementing habitual action to take on the seemingly impossible ourselves is very different.

 

When faced with tough budgets, stretch KPI’s, or ridiculous deadlines we can allow ourselves a moment to say “tell him he’s dreaming” (a famous Aussie quote from the movie The Castle) or some kind of expletive.

 

Castle.png

Then once the angst has been let out, it is time to get a game face on and prepare to get the job done. In an age when 'failing often' is all the rage, we need to acknowledge that failing to meet objectives will not be tolerated for long, and the higher up the chain, the less wiggle room there is.

 

What I have found helpful includes:

  1. Audit yourself

Do you know all of the technical elements of your role, your team’s roles, and those that relate to your client? Close the gaps through training, research, and key on-the-job experience.

  2. Tracking the right stuff?

 Just because average sale, conversion rate, and run rates are what everyone has been tracking since forever, doesn’t mean you have to. Question what will ‘shift the dial’ when executing the strategy. Track what will make impact, not what someone ten years ago thought was important.

 

3. Seize the moments

 In the movie Limitless, Bradley Cooper’s character takes a pill that opens up big chunks of his brain none of us can access. Suddenly colours are brighter, he is attuned to all kinds of details, and he feels awake in a way he has never felt before (kind of like a beautifully strong coffee in the morning 1000x). ‘Pre-pill’ is how I view most managers and executives out there. Working hard, with so much on their desk they can’t even see the 20 or 30 moments presented to them every day where productivity and effectiveness lies in their teams. The moments that create, initiate, and nudge people closer to being brilliant at their jobs and align everyone's purpose.

 The first two fixes listed above are the easiest to execute, and that is why most tend towards them first, and rightly so. Without these in place, the small moments cannot be understood or capitalised upon. The third takes courage to own up to and to develop. As Dr Brene Brown says, “we can choose comfort, or we can choose courage”. Having the courage to develop the leadership interpersonal skills, and then to practice them daily in the workplace takes courage.

 The payoff? This is where true transformation happens. Where business results are meaningfully impacted. Where unrealistic targets become achievable.  

 

Play Beyond Targets is the series of one-day Masterclasses helping successful people build rhythm into their teams. Create immediate uplift in traceable performance.

The Proficiencies of the best

The building blocks of memorable managers

Figuring out what separates a good boss from a bad boss is simple. Think of the best boss you ever had and think about the worst. Picture their faces, their voices, and actions. By looking at a few underlying traits it is clear what the good do, and what the bad don't.

Art Markam writes in his Harvard Business Review article (Can you be a great leader without technical expertise, 2017), team members respond well to bosses that understand the technical elements of the work being done. This is being Task Proficient.

It is one of the reasons I never opened my own Hair Salon. I consulted salon owners for years and knew the business like the back of my hand, but never opened my own salon. Day-to-day, the staff could take liberties with my lack of knowledge (not a good basis to harness respect). Also, I did not have a passion to learn the technical side of the trade. This lack of Task Proficiency would have been a poor business move.

Good business leaders need to be data literate. They will understand the metrics in a business and industry they can effectively measure, track, and respond to. A manager whom cannot do this will usually struggle or fail. Trend and pattern analysis informs decision making, creates an internal language amongst the team, and tells us if we are succeeding or not (our scoreboard). This is being Analysis Proficient.

In the real world there are limits to this analysis. Data can be incomplete, people don’t tell the truth on surveys, and quality of data can vary from different areas of the business (The limitations of data in predictive analytics).

Data is a reflection of what is happening. It is not ‘what is happening’. To get to the bottom of things, managers need to see, hear, and feel things for themselves. They also need to do something with all of this info!

During my Emotional and Social Competencies Inventory Accreditation, the definition of a manager was presented to me that stuck ever since:

‘A Manager gets results through others’

This is the true limitation of Task Proficiency and Analysis Proficiency. The ‘doing’ of a manager is more than just knowing how to do tasks and analysing the numbers.

Being able to Role Model behaviours. Being able to connect and manage the Self and Others through a range of crazy challenges. Being able to coach, confront, and manage conflict. Being able to build a unique culture of performance with momentum. This is being Performance Proficient.

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 Imagine your team are the crew of a yacht. The manager is the captain. The captain needs to know every rope, knot, and crank (Task Proficient). They need to know the wind direction, wind speed, ocean currents, and resources (Analysis Proficient). But the running of the yacht comes down to…

·        how the Captain carries them self,

·        how keenly the Captain observes every detail,

·        how the Captain gains and gives constant feedback, and

·        how well they promote an environment where everyone feels safe, energised, and focused no matter what storm they are faced with.

(Performance Proficient)

Performance Proficiency requires 13 distinct skill sets. They are learnable, practical, and immediately applicable in the workplace. A leader will maximise these learnings by first being Task and Analysis Proficient. Put it all together with Performance Proficiency and there is every chance of being reflected upon as a ‘good’ manager by the crew!

If you or your managers are Task and Analytically Proficient and are ready to learn these 13 skill sets in detail, they are covered in the Play Beyond Targets Masterclasses. More info here.