Jacky Leonard's blog

Category: Being on purpose

Out with the old and in with your new best self

Categories:  Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

"If you want the best the world has to offer, offer the world your best"  

Neale Donald Walsch

 

Well, here we are at the end of another year that I’m sure many will be pleased to see the back of.  On reflection, overall 2016 has been good to me, with a number of personal and professional highlights such as getting my book written and published, picking up some wonderful new clients and helping relocate a Catamaran between Greece and Turkey.  I’m grateful for my fabulous friends and family and count myself fortunate to have their continued support, love and kindness in whatever challenges life brings, or I choose to tackle.  On a sadder note, I lost a cousin who was my writing inspiration. I will remember Evie with great fondness; her capacity for kindness, acceptance of people’s right to be different and her keen sense of fun.  

Review 2016’s news and views and you’ll discover a year that had its highs, accompanied by perhaps more than its fair share of volatility, uncertainty and tragedy.  One friend on Facebook described it as ‘the year that just keeps on taking.’  An understandable perspective given the bad and ugly events experienced around the globe, all of which have been well documented so I’m not going to dwell on them here.  Instead, I’d like to end 2016 on a note of hope about the positive impact you and I can have if we continue to offer our best.

In a world that seems increasingly intolerant, quick to judge and blinkered to the many qualities that link and connect us, I hope 2017 will bring more understanding, acceptance and kindness.  Instead of looking outwards and being quick to criticise, let’s deal with things within our control and think about what we think, feel and do and how this might impact on others.

I’m sure you all want the best for yourself and those closest to you, but is that where your goodwill stops?  It’s easy to extend a helping hand to people you like, or those you think are like you.  What about the ones outside your inner circle, or those who are different, challenging, or in need? What are you contributing to the wider community? 

What about your behaviour; are you a drain or a radiator?  Of course, we are all capable of both, but where do you spend most of your time and how does this affect you and those around you?  It’s important to do the right thing, as well as to do things right.  Never underestimate the impact of a seemingly insignificant gesture.  A smile, your time, listening with empathy, making a charitable donation, every act of kindness, however small, counts.  Perhaps, instead of focusing on differences, we can acknowledge and celebrate the similarities that bind us, look for people doing things right and be more appreciative of our own and others qualities, strengths and abilities.  If the statement, ‘you get what you focus on,’ is true, we can all benefit from concentrating on being and doing our best in the forthcoming year.

 

Here’s a story that illustrates the power in a simple act of kindness, regardless of the odds.

A man is taking a walk along a beach, when ahead of him he sees thousands of starfish which have been washed ashore. As he continues along the sand, he sees a boy, walking slowly and stooping often, picking up one starfish after another, putting them into a bucket, walking to the sea and tossing each one gently into the ocean. “Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” he asks. “Because the sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them into the water they will die.”

The man looked at the lad and sneered “Don’t you realise there are miles of beach and starfish all along it.  You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.”

The youngster listened, then calmly bent down to pick up another starfish and gently threw it into the sea before turning to the man and saying. “I made a difference to that one.”

 

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you a happy, healthy and successful new year and leave you with one question to ponder…How will you be your best and make a difference in 2017?

 

 

 

Too much business?

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose

"Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity."

H. Jackson Browne, Jnr

It appears many small businesses owners and sole traders don’t need new business.  I make that statement on the back of my personal experience and from information received via friends and colleagues.  Frankly I’m flabbergasted at the number of businesses that fail to follow a hot lead.  Don’t they know how difficult and costly it can be to find new customers?  Why would you bother to invest in promoting your services if you have no intention of following through?

Recently, I wanted a few jobs done around the house so I checked out the local directory and asked for recommendations from people within my online network. I called 9 local business to request quotes for the various jobs, some from the local directory others via referrals. I got through to them all, we exchange information on the phone and I was booked in for an appointment.  They each dutifully arrive, 7 of the 9 even turn up at the agreed time; then after a short assessment of the work, they promise to send a text or email within a few days and yet 6 out of 9 never get back to me...even after I call to chase the quote. 

Now there could be a number of reasons for this including:

  • The recession is over and they have too much work...is there such a thing?
  • They didn't like me (hard to believe I know), although even if this was the case I'm not sure why it matters in this case
  • They've stopped trading...this would not be surprising given their lack of response
  • They can't be bothered - good old apathy

One thing is certain if you fail to follow through with a customer who has already identified a need, shortlisted you to help fulfil their requirements and given you an opportunity to quote, you miss the opportunity to convert a red hot lead. Now, I can understand if you decide not to quote, I've done this myself because I don't believe I'm a good fit for the client, but even then I’ve made courtesy call to explain.  To come out to see a prospect and not follow through is simply barking mad and a waste of time for you and the prospective customer.

With businesses going to the wall, often due to an inability to anticipate customer needs, offer innovative solutions and stay ahead of their competitors, can SME's afford to be so blasé?  Customers are not easy to come by and often expensive to acquire; can you really afford to pass them by when they make a direct approach to you?

One thing is for sure, if at some time in the future I have more work on offer, I won't be contacting them and will certainly not recommend them to my network of friends, family and business contacts.

It's been a lesson for me. I've began re-evaluating how I interact with prospects in terms of response times to calls, enquiries and requests. If, like me this has made you think about how you do business, give yourself a pat on the back, because complacency will send you down the road to ruin.

 

Every day's a school day

Categories:  Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”

When I gave up a proper job (my brother’s sentiment, not mine), I decided to redress my life balance and make time for more experiences.  Each year I allocate time in my diary to ‘play,’ experience new things and have adventures, in all areas of my life. I believe every day’s a school day, so continual development is really important to me, however I also believe this learning can come from a wide range of experiences, providing I keep my mind open to possibilities and say ‘yes’ to the opportunities that come my way. 

Prior to 2006, I had spent a lot of time in my comfort zone, without really knowing it.  I loved my job and the people I worked with, but I was becoming restless and frustrated and wasn’t quite sure why.  I’d spent time on extra-curricular activities such as co-leading expeditions, qualifying as a teacher and even walking on hot coals, but nothing was really hitting the mark.  After a lot of soul searching I realised I needed the challenge of pastures new and wanted to see if I could make a success of running my own business as a learning and development consultant and coach.  Not known for doing things by half, I decided I needed a physical, mental and emotional push, so I signed up for a 4-month ‘adventure’ at Plas y Brenin, encountering the fun and extremes of the mountains, lakes and rivers of North Wales. 

I’ve been involved in a number of sports at a performance level since childhood and have been able to master new skills quite quickly, but this was different.  The great outdoors offered a challenging array of activities, many of which can result in serious injury or death, if you aren’t confident, focussed, and mindful.  I found out a lot about myself.  I discovered I didn’t learn to do things as quickly as I had 10-15 years earlier, particularly when fear entered the equation.  I re-learned how embarrassing, painful and tough to take, failure can be.  I realised how important the ‘why’ is when choosing to apply yourself to anything.  I discovered, although the passing of the years had brought me greater experience, skills and greater knowledge, I’d noticed some deterioration e.g. my recovery rate, eyesight (features on maps are so small) and confidence. All useful lessons when starting a new venture and also invaluable from a coaching perspective.

Since then, I’ve had many adventures, at work and at play.  For example, as an introvert, the thought of giving presentations to large groups of people used to hurl me towards my panic zone.  In the words of Susan Jeffers, I decided to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ and now regularly find myself delivering sessions to hundreds of people.   I’ve discovered, sometimes uncomfortably, that there is no growth in comfort.  You have to expose yourself to a little embarrassment, pain and frustration and be willing to take a leap of faith, a calculated risk and still accept you’ll make a few mistakes along the way.  You have to be able to graciously accept feedback from others, as even when you may not always agree with their perspective, it will always be of value.  You have to be resilient in your approach, agile in your thinking and flexible in your attitude if you want to achieve anything.

I love the quote “a mind is like a parachute; it works best when it’s open.” That’s where you start by opening your mind to possibilities.  Saying ‘yes’ and giving others the chance to say ‘yes’ to you. 

So…

  • What’s your next challenge? 
  • What strides are you making to step outside the C zone into stretch to continue your learning journey?
  • What have you learned or rediscovered about yourself, or your business today?

Mindful March

Categories:  Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

“A new destiny starts with one thought – a powerful thought”                www.just-a-minute.org

 

With the daffodils in bloom and Spring emerging from the depths of an extremely wet Winter, I decided this month I would be more mindful, as opposed to mind full and to keep it simple, I stuck with the rule of 3 and chose a trio of areas on which to direct my focus: Breathing, Eating and Walking.

It’s estimated you have between 60-80,000 thoughts a day...and maybe not all of them are as positive as you’d like.  That’s an awful lot of thinking, so is there any wonder you find yourself mentally drained at the end of each day.  Could mindfulness help…and what is it anyway?

It can be described as a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment, being fully aware of what’s happening outside and inside your body, calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It is now commonly used as a therapeutic technique to manage stress and promote wellbeing.

I started with breathing, after all it’s the first thing all mammals are, sometimes forcibly, encouraged to do when you’re born. It’s an essential, unconscious, automatic act, so why focus on it?  Well, it seems you may not be doing it as well as you could and this can have a negative impact on your posture, stress levels and efficiency of your bodies systems.  Breathing practices feature highly in activities such as meditation, martial arts and yoga because of it’s numerous benefits including helping to release toxins; elevating your mood and reducing excessive stress.

There are many breathing exercises, from those that give you a quick oxygen rush, to the slower, measured and more calming form.  

Here’s one I practice at night to help me switch off, or during the day when I need to focus and get some clarity.

1. Inhale through your nose, expanding your belly, then fill your chest to a count of 5
2. Hold and Count to 3

3. Exhale fully from slightly parted mouth and feel all your cells releasing waste and emptying all old energy to a count of 5.

This should be done slowly, deeply and rhythmically, breathing in through the nose for 3-4 seconds and out for 3-4 seconds.

See more at: http://www.onepowerfulword.com/2010/10/18-benefits-of-deep-breathing-and-how.html#sthash.eGSY0b70.dpuf

 

What about eating?  Another essential activity that is often done habitually, without too much conscious thought.  I come from a family that eats like something is about to swoop down and take the meal away if it’s not consumed in haste.  Not a good thing, for your digestion, weight management, or enjoyment.  Therefore, it’s easy for me to default to the ‘eat and run’ approach to meals.  Here are a few tips I’ve picked up from the nutritionists, psychologists and physiologists I’ve worked with who specialise in adopting healthier eating habits.  Practicing these activities have helped me be more mindful in terms of the quality and quantity of the food I eat and the speed in which it’s consumed. 

  • Eating in the company of friends and family
  • Sitting at the table, rather than eating from a tray on your lap in front of the visual Valium (TV)
  • Using a smaller plate
  • Eating regular meals, so you’re not over hungry when you eat
  • Using fresh, wholesome, healthy ingredients, rather than packaged, processed food
  • Taking your time, by putting down your fork after each mouthful
  • Savouring each mouthful, enjoying the smell, texture and taste

Employing these strategies have made eating a more pleasurable experience for me, rather than a mindless activity.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mindful-eating/200902/mindful-eating

 

Finally, to walking.  A wonderful weight bearing activity that has a range of benefits including refreshing your mind, improving your physical health and lifting your spirits.

https://www.psychologies.co.uk/body/benefits-of-walking.html

I love walking, through the countryside, up mountains and along coastal paths.  I find it good for my soul, as well as my health.  It offers me time to remember what’s really important and re-energises me physically and mentally.  I’m fortunate enough to have walked in some wonderful places such as Peru, Iceland and Kenya as well as the UK’s National Parks and I now have the beautiful Cotswold countryside on my doorstep.  I quite enjoy the solitude of a walk alone, or with a dog.  However, if you prefer company, there are a number of walking groups and organisations countrywide that provide a convivial social environment.  Here are 3 links that may help you find one near you.

https://www.walkingforhealth.org.uk/walkfinder

http://www.ramblers.org.uk/go-walking.aspx

https://www.bhf.org.uk/get-involved/events/training-zone/walking-training-zone

10,000 steps a day is the recommendation, however The British Heart Foundation, recommends starting with just 10 minutes a day.  Get up, get out and enjoy the fresh air and freedom of a walk.  I use a Fitbit to record mine, (alternative monitoring devices are available) and have set some other personal targets, which ‘Go Green’ when achieved.  This allows me to measure my progress and helps keep me motivated.

Being more mindful during my walks this month have added a new dimension and enhanced my experience.  Try this:  When you’re out walking, firstly focus on your breathing, the origin, the depth and pace.  Then notice how the ground feels underfoot, how each step impacts on the body, which muscles are working.  Change your focus to the environment around you and without judgement, absorb yourself in the sights, the sounds, the aromas, spending a little time to be completely mindful of each in turn.  You’ll might find you notice things you’ve missed before and start experiencing your ramble from a very different perspective.

Next month is Adventurous April.  I challenge you to step outside your comfort zone and try something you’ve not done before. Enjoy!

 

Are you due a life audit?

Categories:  Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

“Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention.”

Frank Sinatra  

 

Do you ever give yourself the opportunity to stake stock?  To give yourself a few minutes, hours or even days to reflect where you’re going, where you are now and acknowledge how far you’ve come on your life journey?  It’s an interesting exercise and can sometimes be prompted, quite unexpectedly following a milestone or emotive event.

As a coach and learning specialist, I’m used to undertaking reflective practice of what I do in a professional capacity.  Although, to do a full life audit properly can be a little more painful, particularly if you really take a good long, honest look in the metaphorical mirror and ask yourself the tough questions. 

I recently returned from a trip to North Wales where I was visiting a friend on her smallholding.  She and her husband upped sticks and relocated to the Welsh hills from the Cotswolds to live their dream of owning a property with a few acres of land.  In anticipation of moving and not wanting to do anything by half, they started learning Welsh and set about finding a new base.  Now, several months after relocating to Gods own country (being Welsh I may be a little biased), they’ve established themselves into the local farming community and have acquired quite a menagerie that includes ducks, geese, chickens and a small flock of sheep.  It was a joy to see her living her dream.  I had a wonderful few days and even got to help with the lambing.  It will no doubt be one of those memorable experiences that stays with me for a lifetime. 

Watching her absorbed in her new life, got me thinking about mine.  As a child, I remember asking my Nan, if she could have anything what would it be.  She responded “To be healthy and happy.”  I’m sure I didn’t really understand the significance of that statement at the time, but I’ve since become aware of how wise she was. You can’t buy either of those things, although you can experience life with those attitudes and that outlook creates opportunities for you to live your best life…whatever it might entail.

I’ve never had a master plan for my life, but I like to think my Nan’s words have been a compass for my choices.  I left what my brother calls “a proper job” at the end of 2006 and after spending a four-month sabbatical playing in the Welsh hills, I set up as a freelance learning and development consultant.  At the time of deciding to leave that ‘proper job’ (which I loved), I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, or how things would map out.  I was restless and had a burning desire to do something else before it was too late.  I wanted to challenge myself, experience new things and spend more quality time with friends and family.

So far, my journey since then has been an eclectic mix of experiences.  I’m fortunate to have been able to strike a good balance between what a famous confectionary company calls work, rest and play.  There have been peaks and troughs, successes and missed opportunities, moments of sheer joy and utter frustration.  Life’s like that!

I’ve been lucky to work with a variety of wonderful people, across sectors, helping them to develop strategies to improve their performance in the areas that mean most to them. It’s simultaneously energising and exhausting and I hope I can continue to contribute to the development of many more interesting, fascinating and passionate people. 

One of the best bits of being self-employed is the feeling of having more choice how I spend my time. I’ve stepped outside my comfort zone and used the experiences to grow at work and at play.  I’ve travelled, met wonderful people and rekindled my love of writing through blogs, poetry and learning resources. I’m happy to work my socks off for my clients because this feeds my need for challenge, commitment and contribution.  In addition, I now give myself permission to play and enjoy the many things life has to offer.

I believe it’s important to balance the life account and ensure you’re getting the return on the investment you want.  I seek activities that feed me; my brain, my heart, my soul, as well as my bank account.  So, I’m sure Nan would approve.  I’m happy, I’m healthy and embracing what life has to offer. I’m blessed with loyal, kind and thoughtful friends, a wonderful family and fabulous clients. There’ll continue to be highs and lows and I hope I’ll handle them with confidence, passion and humour, in my own inimitable fashion, learning as I go.

 

What about you?  Are you living your best life, or is it time for a life audit?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Success is a Journey

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is usually more important than the outcome.  Not everyone can be number 1”                      

Arthur Ashe

 

I’ve used this quote a lot over the years to support the need for continual improvement.  However, the more I revisit it, the more meaning it has for me. 

Over the years, you’ve probably seen, or read about elite business or sports people who experience a meteoric rise to success.  Most don’t achieve it overnight; in fact, many achieve great things, only to self-sabotage, crash and burn and lose everything.  Some stay in the gutter, while others use their failings as feedback and pick themselves up, reconsider and redefine their purpose, identity and values and decide what they need to do in order to get back on track. 

In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualisation sits proudly at the top of the pyramid.  However, achieving your greatest ambitions can be dangerous unless they are aligned with who you really are…and you know where you’re going next.

Arthur Ashe, was correct, you can’t all be number 1.  You can however, be your best self, if you identify your purpose, align that with those things that matter most to you, then choose behaviours that support you in that journey.

 

Here’s my take on ‘the journey’:

  • Know who you are and where you’re heading

  • Create short, medium and long term goals to use as milestones and checkpoints along the way

  • Celebrate each and every success, however seemingly insignificant

  • Reward your effort, as well as your achievements

  • Be present and focused each and every day

  • If you are what you consistently do, behave in a manner that is aligned to your purpose and identity

  • Treat failure as feedback and learn from your mistakes

  • Practice daily – i.e. taking a step, however small, in the right direction

  • Enjoy the ride – contrary to the title from one of the James Bond movies, sadly you do only live once

  • Look positively towards the next horizon

     

In short…Continuous Improvement = Continued Success

 

 

Ready, Set, Goal

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing, Sport and Leisure

'People who aim at nothing seldom miss the target.'

Well here we are again…another year over, a new one just beginning.  ‘Tis the season for resolving to do something different.  To set yourself something, which often, even with the very best intentions will be forgotten, or left for dead before the year has had chance to really get going.  So how can you carry your resolve with you into 2016 and ensure those new year’s promises are not left by the wayside? How do you keep on track and achieve those things you really want to be, do or have and make this year your most successful to date?

Here are my top 7 tips to help you on the road to success:

1.  Make it as easy as 1, 2, 3

Never mind top 10, choose a maximum of 3.  Too many goals can be overwhelming and may result in none being achieved.  Consider those things you really, really want, because any goal worth having will mean some sacrifice on your part.  They can be big audacious ones, or small significant ones, just as long as they’re meaningful for you.

 

2.  Take a commitment check

Ask yourself, ’Why do I want this?’  and ‘Why is that important to me?’ Align your goals to your values (i.e. those things that are really important to you) and you’ll be more likely to achieve them.  

Now rate your commitment and importance on a scale of 1-10 (1 = I’m not that bothered; 10 = just try to stop me).  Ask yourself, ‘what does achieving this goal really mean to me?’ and ‘How committed am I to doing what it takes to achieve it?’

If you’re not scoring at least 8 on that scale, you may want to set another more meaningful goal, or ask yourself, ‘What would need to happen to make it an 8, 9, 10?’  If you can address that, do it, if not, think again.

 

3.  Make them SMARTER

Each of your goals should be:

Specific – unambiguous and expressed precisely, in sufficient detail to mean something to you.

Measurable – set yourself some milestones along your journey and include a mechanism whereby you will know when you’ve reached your chosen destination.

Achievable – make them big, by all means, just make sure you have the skills and wherewithal to make it happen, or have a plan on how you’ll get what you need.

Relevant – the have to be meaningful, appropriate and significant for you to want to spend the time, energy and resources it will take to achieve them.

Timed – set yourself a deadline or timescale, so you can keep track of your progress.

Exciting – uninspiring goals can be boring, demotivating and left unfinished.  Choose goals that challenge, inspire and excite you.

Recorded – Write them down and share them with others.  This makes them more real and adds a little extra commitment.

 

4.  Use the 3 P’s

Make your goals:

Personal – something you really want and is within your control

Present tense – as your brain can’t tell the difference between fact and fiction, you might as well tell it you’re already there by expressing it as if you’ve already achieved it, then give it a timeline e.g. I am 10 stone in September 2016

Positive – write down what you want, not what you don’t want

 

5.  Use the right tools

There are many goal setting tools out there, 2 of my particular favourites are the GROW model and Brian Maynes’ Goal Mapping.  You can use these on your own, or get a coach to work with you for maximum impact.

 

6.  Make marginal gains

Small things done consistently achieve big results.  Even those seemingly insignificant actions can create compound interest and before you know it you’re there.  Equally, failing to take daily action can set you back to square one.  If you are what you consistently do, then it makes sense to decide who that is, then do what it takes every day, to be that person.

 

7.  Start Now

There’s no time like the present, so do something, however small, straight away…and keep going.

 

There you have it!  Well, what are you waiting for?  What WILL you do NOW and NEXT to get you closer to making 2016 your best year yet?

Wishing you a happy, healthy and successful 2016, whatever you resolve to do.

If life is an echo

Categories:  Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

Life is an echo.  What you send out comes back.  from Bev James "Daily Do Its!"

This statement refers to the principle of causality, where the intent and actions of an individual influence their future.  Call it life’s echo, the boomerang, Karma, or what goes around, comes around.  As this is the season of goodwill it seems like an appropriate time to think about what that means.

Pick up a newspaper, read social media or watch the TV and you’ll see a world of hate. The worst that ‘humanity’ has to offer.  I’m not going to quote any particular atrocity here as there have been so many needless, brutal, senseless acts recently.  Has the world gone mad?  We see societies full of intolerance, impatience and misunderstanding.  Groups of people vandalising, brutalising and terrorising others into submission, just because they don’t share their beliefs, values or lifestyle.   If the statement at the top of this blog is true, there are currently a lot of people set to receive some seriously bad echoes. 

It never ceases to astonish me at the seemingly endless, appalling and cruelly creative methods the human race finds to torture each other, physically, mentally and emotionally. Sadly it seems, there are many misguided and misinformed people who use religion to justify committing atrocities.  People will find reasons to do bad things and maybe religion has become a convenient cloak to hide behind.  Religious texts have been warped, twisted and manipulated to fit fanatical agendas.  Are we so self-centred, narcissistic and sure of ourselves that we can only accept those who fit our model of the world?  Maybe it’s fear, ignorance or just plain bigotry.  Who knows? 

It’s easy to make excuses for bad behaviour; often it’s someone else’s fault.  “I’m genetically predisposed”; “it’s the way I was brought up”; “they made me do it”.  There are many nature-nurture debates, but let’s not forget the third aspect that many fail to acknowledge…choice.  We have the capacity to choose what we think, how we feel and what we do in any given situation.  I accept, those choices may be limited, not really what we’d like, or the best of a bad situation; they are however still available.

Perhaps it’s time to take a good look in the mirror, focus on what we can control and work on our own behaviour, rather than being so quick to judge, criticise and bully others who are not like us.

I’ve referred to these quotes before, but they continue to resonate with me. 

“This is my simple religion.  There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy.  Our own brain, our own heart is our temple: the philosophy is kindness.”

And

“Be kind when it is possible.  It is always possible.”  Dalai Lama

Maybe if more of us lived by this philosophy, the world would be a better place.

86400, Are you making them count?

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

We all have the same 86400 seconds to play with every day, yet it seems there are some people who manage to use that time better than others. So what’s the reason for that?  Are you bored, overworked or lazy...or do you just have uninspiring goals?  Let’s face it you’ll often find time for those things that you deem most important to you. 

The reality is you can’t manage time.  So, as it’s impossible to get more of it, (that clock is going to tick away those seconds regardless), you can only manage yourself within the time you have available. With that in mind, maybe the question you should be asking is ‘how can I maintain my energy, motivation and focus to ensure I get the best out of my day and achieve the things I want, at home and at work?’

Here are 6 practical tips to help you get the best from your time:

1.  Appreciate your own and others perspectives

You’ll see time from your own perspective, which may not be the same as those you live or work with.  This can sometimes be cause for confusion, frustration and even anger because you won’t understand why your family, friends or colleagues don’t view things in the same way as you.

 2.  Accept that you can’t manage time

Those seconds will tick away, regardless of how organised or tardy you are.  All time management activities focus on helping you manage yourself within the time you have available.  To do this effectively, you must be honest about your strengths and challenges and find ways of capitalising on the former and dealing productively with the latter.

 3.  Know your outcome

An important management tool for getting the best from yourself and others is to first set yourself some clear goals.  Identify what you want to achieve, how much you really want it and when you want it.  You can then decide how you’ll get it and who needs to get on board to help you.

 4.  Think of it as planning a journey

Managing yourself to achieve anything is akin to going on a journey.  Before you head off you’ll hopefully be fully aware of where you are now.  You then have to decide where you want to go (your destination, goal or outcome), when you want to arrive, who you’ll travel with and how you’ll get there.  One of the most important steps is often forgotten…WHY are you taking the journey?  What are the reasons you must reach this destination?

 5.  Align your WHY with your values

The Why is your driver, the factor that will help keep you motivated even when the going gets tough.  It’s more likely you’ll assign the right level of importance and give your journey the appropriate level of effort, time and resources if you and your team identify your reasons for wanting this goal and how it specifically aligns with your values and your organisation’s culture.

6.  Just do it…once

When you’ve set yourself a goal or task, get on with it.  It’s easy to procrastinate, find other (less important) things to do, or distract yourself with and before you know it, half the day has gone and you’ve achieved very little.  Address things once; prioritise, then deal, delegate, delete, defer or ditch it.  Set specific and dedicated times to deal with tasks such as emails and only deal with personal stuff when you have a planned break or have finished work.

If you’re a procrastinator, check out Do it or Ditch it by Bev James.  A wonderful book that will help you stop dithering and start doing/

Find a management tool, technique or model that works for you and stick to the guidelines above and you’ll find you’re more efficient, personally effective and productive. 

If however, you’re like me and prefer to experience your learning with others.  I’m running 86400 – Make them count workshops in partnership with CIMSPA over the next few months.  Here are the ones scheduled so far:

29 October 2015        Stoke Mandeville

03 December 2015     Manchester

15 December 2016     Pontypool

Using practical tools, models and learning activities, this 1 day workshop will help you identify the things you simply must do, explore the reasons you’re time challenged and consider the attitudes, behaviours and approaches that will help you use your time more effectively.  To find out more

For specific details on venues, times and cost just follow this link to the CIMSPA website http://bit.ly/cimspaevents and book your place.

I hope to see you soon.

 

 

 

 

 

Managing meetings to maximise results

Categories:  Effective Communication, Being on purpose, Sport and Leisure

“A meeting is an event at which the minutes are kept and the hours are lost.”

  • Do you think meetings are a waste of time and money? 

  • Have you been asked to attend a meeting and wondered why you’re there?

  • Perhaps you have to chair them and feel you’re not making the best use of everyone’s time?

Meetings are a vital tool for management and communication.  If run properly they save time, increase motivation, productivity, and solve problems. Meetings can provide a forum for generating new ideas and initiatives, tackling challenges and achieving buy-in from colleagues and clients.  They diffuse conflict in a way that emails and memos cannot and allow the meaning and feeling of the situation to be conveyed through facial expression and non-verbal signals. Effective meetings can help you manage your team and achieve your objectives quicker, easier and at less cost. However, badly run meetings waste time, money, resources, and are worse than having no meetings at all.

Here are my top 5 tips to help you run more productive meetings:

1. People who aim at nothing seldom miss the target

Make sure you identify your outcome.  Decide the purpose of the meeting.  If you don’t have an outcome, what’s the point in holding a meeting?  If you have a reason for holding one, first decide the issues for inclusion and their relative priority, importance and urgency.  Every meeting and every item must have a purpose.

2. Prior planning prevents particularly poor performance

Whenever possible, especially with meetings which occur on a regular basis, agree dates for the whole year at the first meeting so everyone can commit them to their diaries; then circulate and publish the dates as soon as possible.  It isn’t easy to gather people for meetings, particularly if they’re from different departments or organisations, or in the case of volunteers, have other priorities. So before setting meeting dates remember to consider other people’s commitments and planned events so you can select dates that cause minimum disruption for all concerned.

3. Decide who needs to be there

Remember the more people you invite the longer the meeting is likely to take; and decisions may be more difficult to achieve.  Only invite those who genuinely need to be there. Bring in ‘experts’ only when needed and ensure they leave when they have made their contribution.

4. Be confident, comfortable and in control

A skilled facilitator or Chairperson will remain objective about the issues discussed and will ensure all ideas are heard and properly considered, whilst keeping the meeting on track.  The key to your success as a chairperson is keeping control. Stick to the agenda, manage the relationships and personalities, and focus on the outcomes and you won’t go far wrong.    Remind yourself and the group of the required outcomes and steer the proceedings towards making progress.

5. Right place, right time

Venue choice can be critical for certain sensitive meetings and far less so for routine, in-house gatherings. It is your responsibility to check the environment suits your meeting’s needs.  Never leave it to chance; be clear about your requirements and double check your booking in advance, a few days before the meeting and before you start.  Remember if anything goes wrong your credibility will be in question. 

And here’s an additional one for luck…

Follow the basic rules:

  • use an agenda as a planning tool

  • circulate the agenda in advance

  • during the meeting - keep control, agree outcomes, actions and responsibilities, take notes

  • produce and circulate minutes promptly

  • follow up agreed actions and responsibilities

     

If however, you’re like me and prefer to experience your learning with others.  I’m running Managing meetings to maximise results workshops in partnership with CIMSPA over the next few months.  Here are the ones scheduled so far:

10 November  2015     Wolverhampton

02 December 2015       Bedford

Whether you’re involved in attending or arranging meetings, this 1 day workshop identifies the best and worst aspects of meetings and explores how you can maximise your results and get the most from them. Using practical tools, models and learning activities you’ll discover how to make meetings more productive and enjoyable, explore how to manage challenging behaviour in order to get the best from everyone who attends and develop a strategy to ensure you achieve the best return on your investment.

For specific details on venues, times and cost just follow this link to the CIMSPA website http://bit.ly/cimspaevents and book your place.

I hope to see you soon.

 

The Coach's Challenge

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

"The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own."                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Benjamin Disraeli

As a coach, it’s critical to remain impartial, objective and curious, trusting that your client is the expert in everything related to them.  However, we’re brought up in a culture where it’s natural to judge, compare and critique; to want to pass on the knowledge and expertise you’ve acquired?  After all won’t that give your clients a shortcut to success? 

When I started my coaching journey, one of the hardest things to master (and I’m still working on it daily) was to set aside my judgement and not give advice.  Observing new coaches during their learning journey with The Coaching Academy, I know this can be one of the trickiest skills to master, especially when you’ve come from a background where you’ve been held up as ‘the expert,’ or been in a role where you are supposed to provide ‘the solution,’(as if there’s only ever one)!   If you’re not careful, the ‘I know best’ stand can become your default position.  It’s a real draw back for a coach, disempowering for a manager and frankly a little annoying in anyone.

Something that has helped me be less critical of myself and others is the NLP presupposition ‘people do the best they can with the resources they have available’ and the Stephen Covey quote “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviour.”  I find these simple statements help me pause just long enough to extend the gap between the stimulus of the client’s comment and my brain’s response of ‘I know what you could do’.  That short gap helps stop me judging the person’s behaviour, or jumping to an over critical conclusion. 

Let me offer you some examples which may be familiar…the person who cuts you up on the road, the friend who insists on repeating the same sob story again (despite them telling you they’re going to sort things out), the colleague who doesn’t seem to possess an ounce of ‘common sense.’  It’s so easy to be critical.  Why can’t they be more like you?  The simple answer is they aren’t you; they don’t share your map of the world, your values and beliefs or your resources…and even if they did, they might choose to use them in a very different way.

After all isn’t it a little egotistical to believe you have all the answers?  Remember how empowering it is when someone reaches their own conclusions…especially if it’s prompted by a timely, pertinent and insightful question from you.  Appreciate that even when you have a perfectly good solution, it’s yours, based on your experience, knowledge and background and while it may serve you, it’s unlikely to help them.

Before I sign off I’d like to leave you with a poem I wrote whilst managing a certificate weekend for The Coaching Academy.  It’s a tongue in cheek take on that question I hear often from new coaches…’Can I give advice?’

 

The Coach’s Challenge

Can I give advice?  Can I tell them now?
Some clients seem so clueless about the what and how.
I know just how to help them, there’s things I can suggest
To get them closer to their goals and be their very best.
The problem is I’ve been told that coaching’s non-directive,
I’m supposed to ask them questions, be attentive and objective.
But surely that can’t be right, when I have so much to give;
I could tell them what to do and think and how they ought to live.
So explain to me just one more time why coaches don’t advise?
Particularly as we’re clearly, so brilliant and wise!

©Jacky Leonard April 2013

www.poetryinmysoul.com

 

Now There’s an Improvement

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

“All the world is my school and all humanity is my teacher.”
George Whitman

 

I’m an advocate of lifelong learning; for me being ‘green and growing’ is an integral part of who I am.  Being curious and willing to learn new things and keep up to date with constant changes in my personal life and business, keeps my mind active, alert and interested.  I spend the best part of my life, learning…about myself, my clients and what changes I can make to improve our experience of the services I offer.  It’s a full time job! 

I’m pleased to see many organisations insisting their members undertake regular continual professional development (CPD). It’s a must if you want to absorb new concepts, challenge your perception and develop new approaches.  For me, it doesn’t always have to be directly related to what I do.  Looking back over the range of CPD activities I’ve engaged with over the years I’ve probably learned more about how to get the best from myself and others when I’ve chosen pursuits that might initially seem a little out of the box. 

So, how do you spend your time and hard earned cash developing yourself?  Next time you’re asked to a meeting, conference or networking event ask yourself…

  • What’s the point or purpose?

  • Is this the best use of my time and resources?

  • What are my specific outcomes?

  • Can I achieve these outcomes in a better way?

  • How does this activity fit into my overall PDP - Professional or Personal Development Plan?

  • What are the tangible benefits to me and my business?

  • What’s the anticipated return on my investment in terms of my personal growth, business development, income etc?

Remember…every day’s a school day.  One of the most cost effective learning tools is your own self-reflection.  I use the traffic light system (stop, continue, start) as a simple reflective exercise.  At the end of each day spend 5-10 minutes thinking about your impact today and ask yourself...

What did I learn or re-discover today about myself or my business?

And as a consequence what will I choose…

Stop

Continue

Start?

 

“Commit yourself to Lifelong learning.  The most valuable asset you’ll ever have is your mind and what you put into it.”
Brian Tracy

 

 

Are You Engaging?

Categories:  Effective Communication, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

My last Blog focused on helping you get engaged with yourself?

In this one, I'd like to turn the focus onto those people that are most important to you…your friends, family and your partner.

How’s your relationship with them? 

How much quality time are you spending with the people you care most about?

It can be difficult to spread yourself around when you’re busy juggling the demands of home, family and work.  How can you ensure that when you are with your nearest and dearest you’re making the most of the time you have together and giving them your undivided attention, rather than checking your emails, updating your status on social media, or watching TV?  And…even when you manage to put down the electronic gadgetry how do you stay present and in the moment with them instead of getting distracted by something else?

Here are some helpful tips to enable you to stay focussed and fully engaged with the people you love most.

 1.  Listen and be interested

Immerse yourself in what they have to say.  Make eye contact and apply active listening.  It’s not as easy as it might seem.  Your brain works twice as fast as you speak and is constantly trying to make connections and associations with things it already knows.  This makes it very easy to become distracted by your internal chatter and even if you manage to shut it off you may get caught ‘waiting to interrupt.’  You know, that phase where a person says something that resonates with you and you can’t wait to contribute your two pence worth.  At this point you stop listening, because all you want to do now is tell the person your story.

Here’s a technique I learned a few years ago, which will help you stay focussed on what the person is saying.  It’s called Rapid Repeat and it works like this.  When someone speaks to you, you repeat exactly what they say, just after they say it.  Be careful to do this in your head, not out loud.  Like any technique it requires practice before you’ll become skilled at it.  It’s worth the effort as it’s a truly powerful tool that will instantly help you engage with others.  It does however come with a health warning.  You can’t tune in constantly. It’s hard work being an excellent listener and you will get tired. You may also find people who know you well, might find your new found ability to be attentive a trifle odd, especially if you’re not a particularly good listener right now.  Persevere with it the benefits are worth it.  You’ll be able to respond better because you actually hear more.  People you know will believe you care more about them and those you meet will find you more engaging, interesting and empathetic just because you’re giving them a good listening to.

 2.  Respect each other’s differences

There’s a good chance you’ll share many of the values your friends and family hold dear.  However, the order in which they sit in your own particular hierarchy of importance might be quite different.  Wouldn’t life would be boring if you all shared exactly the same perspective?  There is strength in diversity.  Once you start really listening to your loved ones; they might surprise you.  It’s good to find common ground, but just as important to be able to voice your differences and learn to appreciate those things that make you and each of them unique.       

 3.  Be patient

If patience is a virtue, how virtuous are you, with yourself as well as others? We live in a fast paced world with sadly, little time to ‘stand and stare.’ With deadlines to meet and tight timescales you can find yourself rushing from task to task, forgetting to acknowledge the people around you.  When this happens, it’s tricky not to become impatient, intolerant and judgemental.  Sometimes your nearest and dearest need to share things with you that are really important to them.  If you are distracted or rushing headlong into the next job they might find it difficult to share or articulate their thoughts and feelings.  It might be they just don’t express themselves in the same way you do.  Remember communication is a two way process that involves transmitting and receiving so take a little time observe their body language, consider their needs and listen to what’s not being said. 

My grandmother has just reached the ripe old age of 98.  She lives independently, is mobile and still quite sharp mentally.  However, she is now prone to repeating the same stories.  We’ve all heard them before…a number of times, but she still insists on telling them as if it’s their first airing.  I guess at here age there are less new experiences to share.  We’re lucky to still have her here sharing experiences none of us have had and probably never will.

4.  Share new experiences

Plan to do something with each other.  Go for a walk, head to the gym or join a local interest group.  Participate in something you’ll both/all enjoy, rather than sitting around waiting for something to happen.  It can be very easy to get into a rut, or unhealthy routine with those closest to you and before you know it your life comprises of very little else than work, eat, sleep.  There are plenty of wonderful things to see, hear and do and once you’ve experienced these things you’ll have a rich source of topics to share in conversation.

I’m fortunate to live in Cheltenham, where we have a wonderful programme of town festivals throughout the year.  Jazz, Literature, Music, Science, Food and of course The Races.  Many of these festivals have free activities and showcases, so you can get out and soak up the atmosphere gratis.  What’s going on in your area that you could share and enjoy with your friends or family?

 5.  Turn off the Visual Valium

In my opinion, TV, or visual Valium as I like to call it, is a conversation stopper and relationship killer.  Don’t get me wrong there are wonderful dramas, comedies and documentaries available to you at the flick of a switch, but it may be worth limiting your time in front of the telly, particularly when you’re in the company of others.  It’s not a particularly interactive medium, unless you’re building in a healthy discussion about what you’ve just watched.   It’s also easy to get territorial over the remote which usually results in resentment from those who don’t have control.  Agree those things you really want to watch (together or separately), then turn off the set and step away from the remote.

 6.  Be Kind

Kind is an interesting word.  Like many words in the English dictionary it means different things to different people.  There’s kind as in generous, or caring, or thoughtful.  What sort of kindness do your loved ones need from you?  Is it a simple gift to show you’re thinking of them, a sincere word of thanks or genuine compliment, a demonstration of your affection in the form of a cup of tea after a hard day, or giving them a jolly good listening to? Consider how you can be kind to someone you care about today.

 7.  Appreciate each other

It’s easy to take those you love for granted.  After all, they’ve probably been with you through thick and thin; enjoyed you at your best and supported you through your worst.  You may subconsciously have huge, maybe even unrealistic expectations of them.  Try to focus on the positives (there are probably loads of them), rather than identifying what they’re not doing.  Say thank you more regularly…and mean it and pay them a genuine compliment.  Remind them what you like about them, why they’re important to you and how much you miss them when you haven’t seen them for a while. 

There you go, 7 re-engagement tips.  Try them and see what response you get.

 

 

 

Getting Engaged?

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

How often are you fully engaged in what you’re doing?

In this hectic world, are you choosing to live at a break neck speed, rushing from one task to another, hardly pausing for breath?  Do you find it difficult to completely focus on the job at hand, or the person in front of you and be ‘in the present?’  Are you easily distracted by your phone, emails or thinking about the next task?  Are you just going through the motions with half an eye on the ball? 

If you’re living your life in an unconscious competent state you can get caught up in an endless routine of doing the things you’ve always done, in the way you’ve always done them, not really thinking about the reason, outcome or how you might improve the process.  The business and personal consequences range from the inconvenient to the disastrous.  Here’s my invitation to get off the treadmill…even if only for a few minutes and get interested.  I’ve trawled the web and my personal library to provide you with a variety of practical tools, tips and techniques.  My next few Blogs will focus on helping you get present and re-focus on yourself and others. 

So, where do you start?  My suggestion would be to begin with YOU.  After all, it’s your first area of expertise and something you can directly control.  Here are 7 ways to help you re-engage with yourself.

 

1.  Be on purpose

Do you know what you want, why you want it and how to get it?  I’ve coached a lot of people who know what they don’t want, however if you believe that you get what you focus on, a more effective approach is to know where you’re going.

Throughout recorded history, the most successful men and women have been those who’ve learnt to develop their natural goal-setting ability into a powerful skill for achievement. Goal setting is a natural function of the brain. Making a decision triggers a subconscious process that transforms the decision into an action.

Traditional goal setting techniques focus on left-brain words and endless repetition, Brian Mayne’s Goal Mapping uses imagery – the language of the subconscious.  Click the link below to learn more and access your free Goal Mapping tool.

https://www.goalmappingonline.com/?ref=%20jackyleonard%20

 

2.  Take responsibility

“It’s not my fault.”  “They made me do it.”  “He/she makes my life a misery.”  Ever heard (or said) these statements.  At best their disempowering.  They relinquish responsibility for your thoughts, feelings and behaviour.  So if not you…who exactly is responsible for these things?  Take control of them, or someone will take control of you!  Listen to your internal dialogue and retune it to a more positive, accountable and empowering channel.

 

3.  Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulnessis "the intentional, accepting and non-judgemental focus of one's attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment"  Wikipedia

Here’s a link to get some tools to help you become more mindful about your disempowering habitual behaviour.

http://www.simplemindfulness.com/about-2/

 

4.  Meditate

Meditation is a fabulous tool to get you into the present and experience peace and a real sense of wellbeing.  I resisted it for years, finally took a couple of classes and WOW!  What a powerful activity to help you clear your mind of all the unhelpful chatter, relax and reconnect with yourself.  Now I know you’re a busy person so maybe taking a whole hour out is too much.  The good news is, you don’t need to.  Below is a link to a wonderful website where you can access free 1 minute meditations.  Surely you have just a minute?

http://www.just-a-minute.org/en/resource_centre/

 

5.  Be more active

Being an ex-physical training instructor, personal trainer and performance athlete, I could write a whole series of Blogs extoling the virtues of physical activity.  You’ll be pleased to know I won’t. The benefits are well documented and there are numerous activities you can do iincluding: cycling, dancing, exercise classes, swimming, walking, weight training, yoga etc.

If you haven’t done much since PE at school it is usually best to have a quick health check first.  Then decide what will be most fun, rewarding and interesting for you.  The link below takes you to the Change4Life be more active web pages.

http://www.nhs.uk/Change4Life/Pages/be-more-active.aspx

 

6.  Be interested

Are you still curious about life, the universe and everything?  The older I get, the more I realise how little I know.  Maybe, like me you had a series of bad experiences that stopped you asking questions of the curious kind.  The types of questions that can truly open up interesting conversations, challenge beliefs and expand minds.  Do you still look at things with interest, wonder and excitement, or have you become busy, cynical and blasé.  Perhaps adopting a child’s view of the world will give you a fresh perspective.  Click here to find out why.

http://poetryinmysoul.com/2013/03/12/through-the-eyes-of-a-child/

 

7.  Appreciate your life

There’s always something to be grateful for if you take a little time to look around you and reflect on what’s really important to you.  Research has indicated that people who practise gratitude on a daily basis are capable of being 25% happier. 

Here’s a link to Thank You, by Liggy Webb, a book about the benefits, opportunities and joy of being grateful.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Thank-You-Liggy-Webb/dp/1908596511

 

So what are you waiting for?  You now have 7 ideas; 1-a-day for the next week.  Go on…get engaged!

 

 

A Winning Edge

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing, Sport and Leisure

In my last Blog I asked “…when there's often very little to separate athlete - they all train hard, want to win, and are in excellent physical shape, what's the difference that makes the difference?  What does it take to be the best…in sport…in business…in life?”

You’ve probably witnessed it.  A clash of sporting titans, seemingly equally matched in terms of physical prowess, technical expertise and preparation.  Yet, one comes out on top and the other ends up being the also ran.  So, what is the difference?  What does it take to have that winning edge?  Having been fortunate to observe and work with elite performers in business and sport, here are my top 10 winning ways; behaviours and beliefs that all ‘champions’ access and utilise to great effect.

  

1. Self-belief – “You know I need that cockiness, the self-belief, arrogance, swagger, whatever you want to call it, I need that on the golf course to bring the best out of myself.” 

~ Rory McIlroy

Champions have a healthy dose of self-belief, even if, like Rory McIlroy, you only display it when you’re ‘on shift’.  That’s not to say you won’t have the occasional doubt or hiccup; just don’t allow yourself to get shifted too far off course by them. You have to believe to achieve!  Winners, expect to win.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  If you want to win, you firstly have to have high expectations; a real belief that you can and will succeed. 

 

2. Team support – “As long as I have that support from my team, and I have that confidence in myself that I train really hard, I think there's no one out there who can defeat me in my weight class.” 

~ Nonito Donaire

Behind every successful performer, there’s usually a group of people working consistently and tirelessly towards the same goal.  Your support team might consist of family, friends, peers, or technical professionals.  Coach, mentor, or key stakeholder; their role and importance depends on the business or game you’re in.  It’s unlikely you’ll achieve all you want without them.

Make sure your ‘team’ are full of ‘Radiators’…positive, like minded, motivated people with similar values, beliefs and goals. Stay away from the ‘Drains’…people who drag you down and soak up your energy. 

 

3. Consistency –“In any team sport, the best teams have consistency and chemistry.” 

~ Roger Staubach

Whether you’re managing a work team, playing a sport or delivering customer service, you’ll be more successful if you can consistently produce the goods time after time.  Most people in teams like consistency; you know where you are, what’s expected of you and what you need to do next.  It’s also much easier and more fulfilling to work with someone if their values and beliefs are consistent with yours and they behave in a manner that’s congruent with these.

 

4. Tenacity – “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.”

~ Babe Ruth

To be a top performer you have to possess the drive, determination and persistence to succeed.  To stick with it when the going gets tough and never give up, no matter how bad things may seem. That can often mean, picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and starting over, with a change of approach and renewed enthusiasm when things don’t go according to plan.

 

5. Adaptation – “If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you always got.” 

~ James P. Lewis

If you want to be a winner you have to be able to think on your feet and make the changes needed to get the best out of any situation.  Whether that’s adapting to a new system, process or environment, or getting ahead of the competition, the quicker you adapt to the new normal, the more likely you’ll be able to accept the change, discover alternative options and find a new strategy to get you closer to your goal.

 

6. Technical expertise – “The top experts in the world are ardent students. The day you stop learning, you're definitely not an expert.” 

~ Brendon Burchard

Are you an expert in your field?  Do you possess those exceptional skills, knowledge and competencies required to be the best?  It takes time, effort and commitment to become an expert, but the rewards are worth it.  You’ll notice experts in any field can invariably demand more for their input; whether that’s on the field of play,  in the boardroom or on the shop floor.  

To be good at anything, you have to practice every day until skills are honed and successful behaviours become habitual; practice until you can’t get it wrong…not just any old practice, ‘perfect practice’…the type where you’re completely absorbed, doing it for real and playing full on.  Practice it physically, mentally and emotionally until it becomes second nature and you can reproduce it at any time, in any given situation, against any competition.  

 

7.Mental toughness – “I’ve been in a poor physical shape many times in my career and I’ve had some of my best results. My best performances happened because my mind was in the right place. The mind is definitely stronger than the body.” 

~ Kelly Slater

Can you handle difficult situations?  Can you step up to the plate when the going gets tough; when you’re tired, things aren’t going as planned and people start to doubt you?  It takes a huge dose of mental toughness to maintain a high level of performance through the inevitable disappointments, challenges and setbacks that life throws your way.  Your success depends on your attitude; how you perceive the situation (challenge or problem?) and what you’re willing to do to make it work.

 

8. Passion – “There are many things in life that will catch your eye, but only a few will catch your heart…pursue those.” 

Do you love what you do?  Or as my friend Brian Mayne put’s it…Are you doing the thing that makes your heart sing?  Successful people are invariably absolutely passionate about what they do and their ‘why’ (motive/reason) is completely aligned to their values.  Your passion provides momentum and keeps you on task when things are tough.  If you pursuing something you love, you’re more likely to be good at it.  You spend more than half of your waking hours at work, so shouldn’t it be doing something that turns you on?

 

9. Outcome oriented – “Staying focussed on your goal is a lifestyle not a weekend plan.” 

Are you completely focused on your goal and willing to make the sacrifices necessary to achieve it? It’s easy to get distracted by irrelevancies, pulled off track, or sidelined into doing something else.  After all, there are so many distractions these days…technological gadgets creating constant interruptions, conflicting demands on your personal resources and people insisting you do more with less.  It can be difficult to keep your eye on the prize and continue to move consistently towards your goal, particularly if you’ve set yourself some big, audacious ones. 

Ensure you have a plan that includes your goal and the milestones you want to pass en route.  Set yourself some journey goals to help keep you on track, gather momentum and act as review and reward stations along your route. 

 

10. Being Present – “The secret of health for both the mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles…but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” 

~ Buddha 

Do you live in the moment, or are you constantly planning and reviewing without really being present?  I’m not suggesting high performers, don’t plan…far from it.  Most will keep records of their plans, track their performance and review their next steps, making the necessary changes and adaptations to continually improve.  However, you have to be present at each stage of the process.  Be absorbed in the task; be in the moment, be focused on the job in hand.  

Athletes are aware of the potential distractions that can take them off track.  They consider the ‘what ifs’ and practice how they’ll deal with them when they arise.  This allows them to be in the moment when they play; to quickly shake off the disappointment of a bad call, a poor shot, or an opponent’s comment and stay present, goal focused and ready for the next move.

 So all things considered...what's your next move to getting that winning edge?

 

The Team Works

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Sport and Leisure

Congratulations to all athletes representing the home teams at Glasgow 2014.  So many notable and inspiring performances from the Commonwealth’s sporting elite.  I had the privilege of supporting Badminton Wales at The Games.  My responsibility as a team manager was to take care of everything off court so our players and coach can concentrate on their game.

It was truly fascinating to witness the competitiveness, camaraderie and commitment; the highs and lows, the desire and passion, the energy and drive there on display in one event.

It was a wonderful, albeit surreal and exhausting experience.  Team Wales were keen to promote the concept of ‘togetherness,’ one team working together to achieve more, supported by statements such as “We are all part of something bigger, something special, no-one of us is greater than the whole.”

It reminded me of an African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far go together.”

Working together to achieve a common goal.  Home nations being lifted by enthusiastic supporters, to exceed expectations and medal targets because of all involved.

Of course you only get to see the few fleeting seconds or minutes it takes to compete, not the months of long, hard, demanding preparation it takes to get there.  Even athletes competing in individual events have an extensive support team to help them go far…and fast.  Coaches, managers, physiotherapists, medics, nutritionists, physiologists, psychologists, officials, administrators…not to mention family and friends.

For some this event was a milestone on their journey to the next big event, World championships, Olympics etc. For others it may have been a wakeup call and the realisation that there is still so much more to do…more sacrifices to make, more miles to run, more skills to hone.

So when there's often very little to separate each athlete - they all train hard, want to win, and are in excellent physical shape, what's the difference that makes the difference?  What does it take to be the best…in sport…in business…in life?

Of course talent plays a big part - an innate ability to perform is a great starting point, but there are a lot of talented people out there that never achieve their full potential.  Perhaps they don’t have the single minded determination, perseverance or the right support to achieve their very best.

If you want to go far, as well as fast it may be worth asking yourself:

“Who are the important players in my support team, in my business and life?”

“How can I ensure I get the best from myself and my team?”

 

Making Progress?

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

“Progress often involves some element of risk.  You can’t get to second base and keep your foot on first.” 

Fred Wilcox

 

Having worked in facility management and spent much of my leisure time in the hills, I’ve done my fair share of risk assessments.  Even now, I catch myself doing dynamic checks.  I’m not hyper vigilant, OCD, or risk averse, however I do have a healthy mental safety checklist. 

Fred Wilcox is spot on.  If you want to make progress of any kind, you have to take a risk.  You can plan, look at contingencies and do your due diligence but there’ll invariably be an element of chance.  I found myself in that position back in 2006, when I took a leap of faith and gave up a ‘proper job’ (my brother’s terminology) to set up as a freelance Learning and Development Consultant.  It was scary up to the point where I made the decision, and then I felt a weight had lifted and couldn’t wait to get to ‘second base.’

My questions to you are:

  • What’s nailing your foot on 1st base right now?
  • If you’ve done all your research, planning and preparation, why are you’re still treading water?
  • What belief do you hold that’s limiting your opportunities and hindering your progress?
  • What are you scared of?  Success, failure, looking foolish, the uncertainty of change?

We all have different tolerances and perceptions of risk.  Are you motivated to head toward pleasure, or move away from pain? You may be one of those people who thrive on the edge or the type who’d prefer to check all directions twice before putting your foot on the accelerator.  

I’m not suggesting you throw caution to the wind and dive headlong, blindly toward the next fad, fashion or latest trend.  However, don’t let your risk aversion stop you from making progress and being the best you can.  You may have a goal you’ve always wanted to attain…what’s stopping you making the progress you want?  Think about it…it might be time to take your foot off first base.  Make progress a habit by making small steps every day to create momentum.

Try Again

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Life Balance and Wellbeing

“I'm always doing things I can't do - that's how I get to do them” - Pablo Picasso

How about you? 

Do you have a go at doing things you can't...or think you can't?  Or are you content with limiting yourself by not even trying? 

And what about the people you manage? Do you encourage them to try, learn and develop, even when they think they can't? 

I see a lot of people at work, in sport and life, who have a heap of natural talent, but give up when the going gets tough and they are required to step up to the next challenge. 

I was facilitating a session about taking a coaching approach to giving feedback with a group of managers a couple of weeks ago. The issue of rewarding effort as well as outcome came up.  I believe you should acknowledge both.  Unfortunately, too often I see people trying really hard, sometimes against the odds, yet their efforts go unrecognised. The result is, unless that person is particularly intrinsically motivated, they begin to reset their standards to the lowest common denominator and start to deliver less than they are capable.

I'm guessing you have friends, family and colleagues who are naturally supportive of you...and probably also your share of those who, even with the best intentions, feed your insecurities and put doubt in your mind. Spend more time with the former if you can.

You too, have the capacity to dash people's hopes and efforts, or support them during the times they need a sounding board, helping hand, or cheer leader. To pick them up, dust them off and encourage them to have another go. Remember to do the same for yourself too. 

You'll come across a lot of people who'll take pleasure in judging you, putting you down and planting seeds of doubt.  The only question you need to ask yourself is, "Do I really want to invest the time, energy and resources to achieving this?" 

If the answer is "yes" go for it and don't let anyone stand in your way.  

One of my personal heroes is the climber Alan Hinkes. A no nonsense, Yorkshire man, Alan set himself the audacious goal of climbing all 14, 8000 metre peaks. He is still the only Briton to have achieved this. He hung in there despite illness, injury, the death of climbing colleagues and personal setbacks. The epitome of pushing yourself to do something which you've not done before. 

Remember nothing's impossible, except striking a match on a jelly! 

“Being defeated is often temporary, giving up is what makes it permanent” - Marilyn Vos Savant

 

No Fear!

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

If you listen to your fears, you will die never knowing what a great person you might have been - Robert H. Schuller

 

Fear is a strange concept. On the one hand it's a necessary, built in response, offering a friendly warning of potential threats, dangers, or risks to life and limb. It says "hold on a minute," "have you thought this through" or "watch out!"

It's less friendly alter ego can eat away at you, offer extreme scenarios and conjure monsters in your brain.

This can create the kind of mental state that takes you straight to the primitive response of fight, flight, or freeze, often summoning irrational thoughts, unhelpful behaviour or complete inaction. The result is just what Shuller suggests...unexplored opportunities, unfulfilled potential, in short, a life less lived. 

I meet many people in business and sport who allow fear to paralyse their potential.   Whether that is a Fear of failure, the fear of being taken advantage of, a fear of being wrong…even the fear of success. If left unchallenged these fears can take root in your psyche manifesting limiting beliefs of the worst kind, about yourself and others. This can lead to a reluctance to try, because you think you can't, or you'll look foolish, or things might not go to plan. Before you know it you'll, often falsely, believe you're just not capable. 

I have a belief that many fears are born from the misperception that you are in complete control. Therefore, when you are placed in situations where this view is challenged the anxiety starts and can take control of your next move...if you let it.   One of mine involves flying.  I don’t allow my fear to stop me getting on a plane, even though I have to relinquish control of my destiny to someone else.  Rationally, this makes perfect sense as I know every passenger (including me) is much safer for that decision, however, this doesn’t prevent me becoming a little anxious.

The good news is, like me, you have choice.  You have the capacity to decide how you deal with your fear. Do you let it paralyse or empower you?   You can worry…or alternatively, deal with the things you can control and manage your perception of the things you can’t.

Jacky Leonard

2013, and there is was…gone!

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

 "Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such." - Henry Miller

Is it me, or did last year speed by quicker than usual?  At the end of 2013, I almost thought I’d blinked and missed what was actually quite a significant milestone year for me.  So to check I hadn’t slept through most of it, I sat down with my diary and looked back over the year.  It was only then I realised I’d managed to cram quite a lot in during my 50th year on the planet. 

In typical learning and development fashion my thoughts soon turned to…what can, or did I learn from it all that I can share, which will be useful for me and may even be helpful for you.  So here goes, call them reflections, resolutions or realisations and take from them what you will.

1. Time flies

It’s one of your most precious resources.  When it’s gone, it’s gone; spend it wisely on those things that are most important to you, or lose it on the ‘sand’ of life.  (Read the story at the end of this Blog for more details on the ‘sand’). As the years pass I am more acutely aware of the important stuff and how this is not a rehearsal.

2. Life-long learning

I’m a big advocate for life-long learning.  Once you stop learning, you stop experiencing all that life has to offer.  There are many ways to gain new knowledge, skills and capabilities; I’m going to mention just one here.  Self-reflection!  It can be a surprising, enlightening and painful process; although in my opinion always a worthwhile one.  Use a little of your precious time to reflect and learn from your actions, inactions and mistakes and decide how you will use that new knowledge to improve your world.  However, try not to spend too much time in the past or the future.  As the old adage says, there is no time like the present; it really is a gift so enjoy each moment here and now!

3. Appreciate your world

Have an attitude of gratitude for your world and everything and everyone in it.  It’s easy to start taking people for granted and judging them too harshly, particularly if they are close to you.  Instead, start noticing the good in people, the wonder in things and the beauty on this planet.  Embrace and celebrate diversity and uniqueness wherever you find it.  Try to view the world through a child’s eyes occasionally; I promise, you’ll get a whole new perspective and see things in a very different light.  You may experience less cynicism, prejudice and complacency and more wonder, anticipation and kindness.  When you find yourself judging others, just remember it’s easy to project your inadequacies onto others.  Stop and check it’s not your own shortcomings you’re judging, reflected in them.

4. Laugh out Loud

I joined Facebook a couple of years ago and nearly closed my account because of the privacy issues and bad press.   I then realised the posts contributed positively to my day.  Some made me think, smile…and often laugh out loud.  Any medium that does that can’t be all bad.  Apparently laughter is  the best medicine and it’s free and easy!  I think it’s particularly healthy if you can laugh at yourself.  I can be intense, but I’ve learned it’s OK to act your shoe size sometimes…and I do!

5. Keep your promises

Do you find it easier to keep the promises and commitments you make to others, than the ones you make to yourself?  I know I can be guilty of that.  You can’t truly respect others unless you have a healthy liking for yourself.  Be kind to yourself first.  You have to believe you’re worth the same respect, time and effort you afford others.

And…

6. Be your best self

Whatever that means to you, be it, do it, feel it…you deserve it!

Believe in your dreams and take daily action to make them a reality.

There is one final point, based on the story I briefly mentioned earlier.  I saw it on a friend’s Facebook feed recently and thought how well it encapsulated all that’s important in life.  It will be one I read time and time again whenever I need perspective.

7. Remember the Golf Balls

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large, empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’

The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things - your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions, and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car. The sand is everything else - the small stuff.

‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.

If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are most important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn. Take care of the golf balls first, those things that really matter.  Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.’

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, ‘I’m glad you asked. The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of Beers with a friend.’

 

As you begin 2014, keep track of what’s important to you…hold on to those golf balls!

 

Jacky Leonard

www.jackyleonard.co.uk

If at first you don’t succeed…

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Sport and Leisure

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something, but I can’t accept not trying.”

Michael Jordan

I’m with MJ on this one!  Failure is a natural part of the learning process.  It’s healthy; it provides an opportunity for improvement if you dare to reflect on its lessons and decide how to do things differently.  The only real failure is not to try at all, or quit the first time you get knocked down.  So…are you playing full on, or are you too quick to throw in the towel just because you’ve encountered a tough adversary?

If you watched this year’s men’s Wimbledon tennis final you will have witnessed a great example of what trying really looks like.  Andy Murray, desperate to win the Wimbledon trophy after coming so close last year; and the past champion and world number one Novak Djokovic, in a thrilling head to head.  Two men at the top of their game, in peak physical and mental condition, giving their all and doing their damndest to emerge as the victor.  Who’d have wanted to be Djokovic that day?  It must have seemed like the whole of the country was rooting for Murray.  Did he give up?  Hell no!  He made Murray dig deep as he saved three championship points resulting in the most exciting display of tennis, mental control and nerves of steel from both men.  

I was incredibly impressed with both players’ attitudes, behaviour and mental toughness as well as their sporting prowess.  I also admired the way Djokovic handled defeat.  He’d thrown everything he had at Murray and although clearly devastated to have lost, he was modest, generous and gracious during the post match interview. 

There are certain occasions when giving up is just not an option, or you’d never have learned the complicated, but fundamental skill of walking.  Did you wake up one day and just walk across the room?  I doubt it…you had to try…and fail…and try…and fail…and try…you get the idea.  You were encouraged, supported even cajoled into sticking with it. The truth is you can’t win all the time; you will fail at something, at least once and maybe more.  The trick is to use the experience as feedback not failure. 

Parents should beware the pitfalls of letting your children win all the time.  Learning to fail is as important as learning to win; they’re two sides of the same coin.  People react differently to winners and losers and you need to experience both and discover ways of dealing with the feelings each provoke.  Kipling expressed this so eloquently as “if you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.”  For your own sanity you would be wise not to let success go to your head, or failures go to your heart.   

So…If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again or in the immortal lyrics of Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping…“I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down.”

I win, you lose!

Categories:  Effective Communication, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

“Fairness is not an attitude.  It is a professional skill that must be developed and exercised.” ~ Brit Hume

 

I’d like to think many of you have a fairness value; mine runs through my DNA.  Its real importance to you, as with many of your other values, will often only become apparent when you feel it’s being trampled on. 

The best negotiations are when both parties feel they have won.  You can walk away satisfied that you’ve been heard, treated with respect and benefitted from the exchange.  Win-Win!  I’ve witnessed, on more than one occasion, cases where one party has walked away rubbing their hands in glee, while the other sits looking a little confused and eventually feeling they’ve been shafted.  Win-Lose! 

If you’re the winner in this scenario, you’re sense of satisfaction is usually short lived as, even if your ‘opponent’ didn’t fully realise the significance of the interaction at the time, they soon will and they’re unlikely to trust, or do business with you again.

Consider this personal scenario…you want to go to the cinema with your partner, but they want to have a quiet evening in with you.  What will often happen is one or other of you will ‘compromise’ i.e. do what the other one wants.  That’s OK until you start to feel you’re always the one doing the compromising.  What happens then is you begin to resent your partner.  After all it’s not fair!  Why should they always get their own way at your expense?  Win-Lose!  Sometimes, even if you’re the one who won the exchange you may feel guilty, so you both feel put out. Lose-Lose!  So what’s the answer?  Stephen Covey called it synergy.  It’s an opportunity for values to be shared and outcomes to be aligned to achieve a win-win. 

Let’s look at that scenario again.  This time let’s consider what both parties might have wanted.  If, for example, what’s important is that you both spend quality time with each other, what you actually do becomes less of an issue.  You are now much more open to find an alternative activity that suits you both e.g. a drink at your local followed by a good movie on TV. 

Next time you find yourself in negotiation, try to establish what’s important to you and the other party first.  You may find it far easier to reach a mutually satisfactory outcome.

A modern day epidemic?

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

Just read an article on www.publicservice.co.uk providing startling statistics.  Obesity in children under 11 has increased 40% over the last decade.  At the current rates, without effective intervention, more than two thirds of Britain’s population will be overweight or obese by 2050. 

This ‘epidemic’ has significant financial and health costs; with over £5 billion a year being spent on the problem and a loss of 9 years life expectancy, and the scariest part of all is that no one is immune!  Regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, family history, you can all fall prey to making poor lifestyle choices which ultimately not only affect how many years you add to your life but also with how much enthusiasm, energy and passion you live it!  

Surely, maintaining a healthy weight is a simple equation of eating less and moving more…right? Unfortunately, although it may be simple it is far from easy.  There’s a minefield of options on the market to help you obtain the ‘perfect body.’  Few seem to provide a sustainable answer to the question, “how can I achieve and maintain healthy weight?”  The result for many is a roller coaster of weight loss followed by the seemingly inevitable weight gain.  Unfortunately, modern day eating habits often involve over indulging in high fat, high sugar options because they are usually more readily available and in many cases, cheaper than following a healthy diet. 

So how do you get off the Roller Coaster?  Well…you are what you habitually do, therefore the choices you make each day regarding your activity levels, and dietary intake will have a significant impact on the quality of your life.  Even if you decide to “stop the ride, I want to get off” and make more conscious choices about your behaviour around food and exercise it can still be difficult.  Identifying exactly what you want to achieve and the reasons why you want to make these changes are positive first steps and here are some others. 

Studies of 5000 people who lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off long term showed these results:

  • 78% eat breakfast
  • 75% weigh themselves at least once a week
  • 62% watch less than 10 hours TV a week
  • 90% exercise for about an hour a day
  • 80% used a healthy diet and exercise to lose weight

Interestingly, only 10% used just diet and 1% just exercise. 

Remember; when you embark on your journey towards a healthier weight there are 3 distinct stages…

  1. stop the weight gain
  2. achieve the weight loss you want
  3. maintain your new healthier weight

Each stage may present different challenges, so be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. Consider the reasons for your past successes and failures so you can build in your own personal strategies and find a support network to help deal with those difficulties when they arise.  Oh and one last thing; identify ways you can reward yourself (other than food) and celebrate your successes.

 

 

Constructive feedback?

Categories:  Business Coaching, Effective Communication, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching

Performance development guru Tony Robbins suggests “...everything before the but is bullshit” and he's got a very valid point.

I’ve heard critical feedback referred to as the 'bullshit sandwich.' In other words a filling of criticism neatly placed between two slices of praise. You don't fool anyone; it's still criticism. There's no such thing as ‘constructive criticism’...it’s just criticism. When was the last time you came away clicking your heels after receiving negative feedback, dressed up as a 'praise burger?' There is however, ‘constructive feedback’ which is framed and presented in a very different, more thoughtful and empowering way.

Think about the last time you received feedback from a friend, colleague or family member. It seemed to be going so well and then their intonation rose and you knew what was coming next...oh yes, that dreaded ‘but;’ that little word with a big meaning. How did you feel after they'd used it? Did you even really listen to what was said after the ‘but,’ or had you switched off by then?

The word 'but' has the unfortunate result of undoing the impact and meaning of the preceding statement. 

Here are some examples:

The way you dealt with that customer was great, but...
I think you have great potential, but...
I'd love to help you with that piece of work, but...

 

Take time to notice when you, or other people use the word, and the impact it has on the recipient. Observe their body language and listen to their response...if there is any. It often has a way of taking the wind completely out of their sails.

So at this point you may well be asking 'what should I use instead?' This depends on the context of the sentence. For instance words such as 'however', 'nevertheless', 'though' are often longer versions of the ‘but’ and can therefore result in a similar disheartening impact.

My suggestion would be to end the sentence on a positive note and start a new one outlining any other feedback, or use 'and' as a link if you have additional pertinent information relating to the same area.

Let's take the three earlier examples:

The way you dealt with that customer was great. I was particularly impressed with the way you actively listened. What could you have done to have made an even bigger impact?
 
I think you have great potential and would like to help you develop your skills further. How could I be of most help to you?
 
I'd love to help you with that piece of work and i can free up some time to talk to you about it next week.
 

So next time you are giving feedback consider the outcome you're trying to achieve and the impact you wish to have and let that influence the language you use. You'll often get much better results, BUT don't take my word for it, try it yourself.

Visual Valium

Categories:  Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

"I have never seen a bad television programme because I refuse to.  God gave me a mind, and a wrist that turns things off." Jack Parr

In attempt to reduce my dose of visual valium, I decided to give up TV again for Lent…the reason I chose to abstain from television this year is, each time I give it a break, it surprises me how much a part of my habitual behaviour it has become; and frankly not a very positive, interesting, or useful one at that.

It got me thinking about how easy it is to pick up unhelpful behaviours; they almost creep up on you when you least expect it, become part of your daily routine and before you know it you stuck with a piece of baggage you’d prefer you didn’t own.

I’m almost ashamed to admit, for years Television was one of those habits for me…it became my visual valium.  Do they have a TAA…Telly addicts anonymous?  It seemed to have the effect of sedating my conscious mind, while over stimulating the unconscious part.  Switching on the TV became a completely unconscious action…and frankly after a few hours in front of it I’d end up drained of all energy, practically in a semi-vegetative state.  Not a good look!

It’s so distracting, repetitive and as addictive as a drug.  In short, it can be a life stealer!  If this makes me sound a little evangelical, I promise you I’m not suggesting television is the root of all evil and you unplug your set and give your goggle box the rock star treatment and throw it out the window.  I’m not even recommending you give it away to charity, merely this…

…make it a conscious choice, rather than a mindless reaction.  Take time to record how many hours you watch each week.  You’re likely to be shocked at how much of your life is spent inert, in front of the telly.  When you know how much you’re consuming, consider what else you could, or would be doing if you weren’t glued to the screen?

Studies of 5000 people who lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off long term showed (amongst other interesting statistics) 62% watch less than 10 hours TV per week.

Just look at the following activities I’ve added, or been able to do more of each time I stop plonking myself in front of the box: 

  • Spent more quality time with my friends and family
  • Engaged in proper conversations
  • Consciously ate my meals…actually tasted better too and I eat less
  • Made time for more physical activity
  • Listened to some fab music I haven’t heard in ages and new stuff I hadn’t heard before
  • Went to the cinema
  • Taken more walks with the dog
  • Listened to some great educational audio programmes
  • Got around to those household jobs I’ve been putting off
  • Read more books
  • Written more articles, blogs and chapters of my book
  • Taken time to just sit and think

Etc.

I also find I sleep better and need less horizontal hours. 

So, have I missed it?  No!  Although there have been a couple of occasions when I’ve had to consciously stop myself from going into automatic pilot and pressing the remote.  Will I start watching it again after Easter?  Of course!  There are some very good programmes being made that I’d love to watch.  I do however; want to make viewing a choice rather than a habit.  To make it an event, rather than a pastime, so I can really enjoy the experience and look forward to the next time, rather than using it because it’s the easy, mindless and automatic thing to do. 

Just Because

Categories:  Effective Communication, Being on purpose, Training & Coaching

“If you’re the boss, just because they don’t ask, doesn’t mean your employees don’t have needs.” 

― James Levine

In my last blog I said I wasn't a fan of 'why' and suggested you replaced the word with more creative ways of asking people for the reasons behind their decisions or actions.

I personally like to know the intentions behind people’s behaviour, so perhaps that’s one of the reasons I’m such an advocate of the word.  American psychologist Dr Robert Cialdini, in his book Influence Science and Practice, presents more compelling evidence in support of it.   He says if we ask someone for a favour we “will be more successful if we provide a reason.”   It's a word that’s used as a precursor to many explanations we receive as children, so you’ve more than likely learned to respond in a certain way when hearing it. Psychologists refer to it as a fixed-action pattern, something which triggers your pre-programmed learned behaviour.   An experiment (Langer, Blank and Chanowitz, 1978) demonstrated a simple request with the addition of ‘because’ improved compliance by over 30%, even when no real reason was given i.e. “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?”

So it would appear this simple word can be an effective influencer and powerful in its application.

In your role as a manager, trainer, mentor, when you give information to your team do you give them the ‘because’ and tell them 'why' things are done a particular way, or why you’ve made a specific request?   It would seem giving the thinking behind your requests or actions is more effective for a number of reasons…

  • It’s an effective influencer
  • It helps 'sell' your idea
  • It enables a greater understanding, thus minimising mistakes that can happen if people do things by rote
  • It can allow your team to consider viable alternatives, solutions or improvements because they appreciate the rationale
  • Having to give a reason is more likely to make you think it through

So, if you can't explain the reasons things are done a certain way, perhaps it's time you did!  Is it because you’ve always done it that way?  You may be missing more creative, efficient or effective ways of achieving the same thing.

Try it and see...because it may pay dividends.

Thought for the day

Categories:  Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

Yesterday is history, tomorrow's a mystery, today is a gift.  Unwrap it with excited anticipation and enjoy every second.

 

My thought for today is about being present.  Living in the here and now.  I'm not suggesting for one minute you don't review your past and learn from it, or plan for your future and work towards it.  What I'm recommending is you don't live in either of those places.

It's easy to get caught up in worrying about past events, but the reality is they're gone.  Re-running them throught your head like an old movie doesn't solve anything.  By all means review and learn from your mistakes...it's a natuaral part of the development process, but then leave the past behind.

I'm a planner, I like to be in control of what happens next...even if in reality it's just an illusion of control.  However, I've learned living in the future is a little unfulfilling...and worrying about it isn't very constructive either.  

Your time is now!  Live every 86400 seconds gratefully, passionately and purposefully.  

Out of your depth?

Categories:  Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

“One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.  If I were a medical man I would prescribe a holiday to any patient who considered his work important.”  This quote from Bertrand Russell seems to indicate that he valued himself higher than his work.

In today’s living and working environments you’ll be confronted with constant changes to your daily routine, which you’ll respond to in a variety of different ways.  The recession, the threat of redundancy, or having to cope with more work because there are fewer staff.  Even seemingly enjoyable events such as going on holiday, meeting new people, or getting married can sometimes be a real worry.  Experience teaches us to cope with these situations, but sometimes it’s easy to feel ‘out of your depth’ and inadequately equipped to deal with events.  The word stress is today often used to describe the suffering we feel from the harmful effects of our own response to a potentially threatening situation. 

A situation that might just be challenging for one person could put another under extreme pressure and lead to an undesirable outcome.  Of course a certain amount of stimulus is necessary to spur you into action, but when the stimulus becomes excessive and starts to get out of hand, or continues over a prolonged period of time, problems can arise.

The way the body reacts to stress has changed little since the days when our ancestors had to fight for survival.  When under stress our bodies produce the hormone adrenaline, which prepares us for immediate action.  This is sometimes called the ‘fight or flight’ response, as you have to face up to the challenge, or make a hasty retreat.  You might have noticed the immediate signs of stress, if you’ve had to make a speech, or go for an interview.  Your heart pounds, you breath faster, your mouth becomes dry and the palms of your hands clammy.  Priority is being given to the areas of the body that need to be brought into play quickest, so you are ready for action.  This primitive response served our ancestors well, but is of less use to us today.  Our daily problems can be difficult to fight and almost impossible to run away from.  So you can literally find yourself ‘stewing in your own juices.’

It’s not always the situation that makes you feel under pressure, very often it’s your reaction to it.  How you view an event is very individual – ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison.’  If the demands made upon you exceed your perceived ability to cope an imbalance occurs.  This in turn can lead to worry, anguish and panic, which will inevitably impact on your performance and eventually prove detrimental to your health.

Your interpretation of an event can activate, or excite you, or place undue and unnecessary strain upon you.  It all depends on how you view the situation and how much input you can cope with before you reach overload.  A lot of stress arises from internal conflict; thoughts such as “Can I do this job now I’ve taken it on?” or “I have to (but I don’t really want to)” express your perceived limitations.  You may have self-doubts, self-denial, but you also have personal choice.  You’ll be continually assessing what people and situations mean to you in order to make sense out of events around you.  By changing your approach to the way you view these situations you can also alter the way you think about them and thereby remove, or reduce the harmful effects of the potential stressor.  Managing your own perception of events can be exhilarating, as it offers you a choice, when quite often in the workplace you may feel you have little control.

Before you begin to interpret an event it’s worth considering the following:

  1. All humans are fallible – so set realistic goals for yourself and others and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
  2. It takes two to conflict – so before apportioning any blame remember all parties involved in the conflict will have in some way contributed to fuelling the fire.
  3. You can't change the past – so why try to establish who or what was to blame?  It is more productive to examine your own behaviour and decide what you would do to change it to allow yourself to feel better.

The choice is yours; there is no easy way to beat stress, what works for one person might not help another.  It is up to you to find the method that works best for you and practice using it.  Aim for a balance between work, rest and play and ensure you allocate time for yourself each day.  Have hobbies and interests other than your work.  Physical outlets such as exercise are valuable to calm the body down and release anger; emotional outlets such as talking it out or writing it down are also effective methods of reducing the harmful results of stress.

Check out my next Blog for my 10 top tips on how to perform under pressure.

Shoulda...woulda...coulda...

Categories:  Being on purpose

“Procrastination is the thief of time.”    Edward Young

It was the wonderfully talented Beverly Knight who sang "Shoulda, woulda, coulda means I'm outta time..." and she was so right, dithering doesn't do it!  What it invariably means is "I might...if there's nothing else that interests me and I manage to get around to it."  Personal Development guru, Tony Robbins likes to say that some people “should all over themselves. "Is that you?  Is there a task or project on your to do list that you haven’t yet got around to?  Are there goals you thought you’d like to achieve that you’ve laid to rest?  You should have done something about them…maybe you would have…you even could have…but you haven’t!

So what’s the reason you get around to some ‘stuff’ and neglect others?  And before you try that lame “I haven’t got time” excuse, think again.  We all have 24 hours to play with, so how can you use those precious 86,400 seconds wisely to achieve the things you really want?  Funny how creative the human brain can be in finding diversionary and avoidance tactics, particularly when faced with jobs that may be important, but are also a little unpalatable, difficult, or maybe even boring.

I suggest the first question you can ask yourself is…"How badly do I want to do/have/be this?”  And just as importantly “Would I rather be spending my time on something else?” Whether your task or goal involves:

  • Doing something e.g. finish off your tax returns
  • Being someone or something e.g. a successful business owner
  • Having something e.g. a new company car
  • Or even Going somewhere e.g. a networking meeting

There are going to be some things that you’d rather not be involved in or people you'd prefer not to work with.  Ask yourself “how important are these things, goals or people to me and can I achieve what I want in a different way?” I work with performance and elite athletes; they are some of the most single minded, driven and commited people I know and what they do is an intrinsic part of who they are. You’re more likely to be successful if you are truly committed (even passionate) about something. Remember the old adage “where there’s a will there’s a way” well there’s certainly something in that. Of course, I'm sure you're also aware that where there’s a will there’s a won’t!  

So here are my tips for making those shoulds a must...or better still, a  will...

  • All goals or tasks are a journey and like all trips it's imperative you identify your point of origin and your destination after all "people who aim at nothing, rarely miss the target."
  • Follow the advice of that famous pop quintet The Spice Girls and identify "...what you want, what you REALLY, REALLY WANT."  Your drive to complete an activity, or even start it will be greatly reduced if this is a task someone else wants you to complete, or one you feel you should do rather than one you really want to do.
  • Once you’ve established what you want and that you really, really want it, the next step is to tune in to everyone's favourite radio station...WIIFM (What's in it for me?) to give yourself powerful reasons why you must be/do/have this.  Clarifying the importance of the task and the benefits it will give you, or those closest to you, will align your goal with your values and help give you momentum for completing or achieving it.  
  • As 'pain' is often the catalyst for action it is also worth identifying what might happen if you don't take action towards your goal.  What would the consequences be if you procrastinated, dithered or even failed to follow through? Keep your eye on the prize; focus on your outcome and consider the benefits...and the pain.  Even if you take the wrong turn or fall by the wayside this will provide you with the incentives to pick youself up and get back on track even when the going gets tough.
  • Find a good support network.  There may be people you trust who you want to share your goal and your journey with.  A mentor, peer support, friends, colleagues and family are important travel companions, who can support or sabatage your efforts.  Choose them well.    

The process below will help you consider the challenge of completing it from all angles.

On a scale of 0-10 how important is it that you complete this task, or achieve this goal?

0=it’s not at all important I complete it, to 10=it is extremely important (even imperative) I complete it

  • So what are the reasons you haven’t done it yet?
  • What will happen if you don’t do it?
  • What won’t happen if you don’t do it?
  • What will happen if you do it?
  • What won’t happen if you do it?
  • What would you think or how would you feel if you don’t do it?
  • What would you think or how would you feel if you did do it?
  • What are the reasons for that?

Now list your reasons for really wanting to complete or achieve it and identify the benefits you’ll gain by doing that. By now you’ve hopefully identified a compelling case for why you MUST and WILL take consistent and positive action!  Now revisit your commitment to it.  You’re looking for a 10 here; anything less and you're unlikely to follow through.  

On a scale of 0-10 how committed are you to completing this task/goal?

0=I’m not at all committed to completing it, to 10=I’m fully committed to completing/achieving it.

When you reach the point of MUST, decide what action you’ll need to take to achieve it. Remember to avoid the self sabotage words like try, should, could, might etc.  Instead, use positive statements to describe your next steps.  Then in the words of a very famous sports brand…Just Do it!  

Well, what are you waiting for?

Time flies like the wind…fruit flies like bananas!

Categories:  Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

"There’s a myth that time is money. In fact, time is more precious than money. It’s a non-renewable resource. Once you’ve spent it, and if you’ve spent it badly, it’s gone forever."

Neil Fiore: Author, speaker, and trainer on managing business

My apologies for my tardiness!  After a busy, exhausting, but exhilarating few days at this year’s school games I headed off for a well needed break in Turkey with a few of my favourite people.  Since returning home I’ve been gainfully employed doing other ‘stuff’ and as a consequence have neglected my blog.  This will change…I have resolved to pay it far more attention in future and promised to upload a weekly instalment.  It did get me thinking though…always a dangerous thing!

What’s the reason we often fail to follow through with those things we plan, or say we’ll do?  Of course, the easiest excuse (sorry, reason) is time…or lack thereof.  It’s a bit of a lame one though isn’t it?  We all have 24 hours to play with, so why do some people manage themselves better than others; why are some individuals incredibly productive and early for appointments, while others struggle to get things done and are invariably late?  What are the reasons some of us achieve more than others in those precious 86,400 seconds? 

The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.

C. S. Lewis

Well let me start by exploding one myth…time is not manageable – you can’t change it, move it or get more of it!  Time doesn’t judge; it has no favourites as it treats us all the same; it is up to you to decide how to manage yourself effectively and use the time available to your best advantage.

So if the management of time is a misnomer; if those seconds are going to tick away regardless of your efforts, all you can hope to do is make the best use of the time you have available by managing yourself efficiently and effectively within the 24 hours you have at your disposal every day.

"One thing you can't recycle is wasted time."

Anonymous

One thing worth keeping in mind when we’re looking at productivity is we all view time differently and what works for one person won’t necessarily be the right option for another.  Here are my top tips for getting the most out of the 86,400… 

  • Use those precious seconds wisely…“Wisdom is to live in the present, plan for the future and profit from the past.”   Anon
  • Be present whenever you’re with someone, or doing something.  If you’ve bothered to be there you should make every effort to make it quality time.  Remember…they call it the present because it’s a gift!
  • Remember the 6 P’s…Prior planning prevents particularly poor performance
  • Learn by your mistakes.  If you’re getting stressed out because you feel you have too much to do and are running round like the proverbial decapitated hen.  Stop!  Then reflect on why and decide what you could do to change it.
  • Find a really good reason for wanting to do whatever it is you’ve planned to do – what’s important to you about getting this done and how will you benefit?  (More on how to avoid the shoulda, woulda, coulda trap in my next Blog)
  • Use the 4D principle – Dump it! Delegate it! Delete it! Or Do it!  Many documents and emails should be labelled "R" for Rubbish!  If you find yourself reading the same document over and over… decide what needs to happen to them and do it! 
  • Manage your meetings.  Consider if attending is the best use of your time (and everybody else’s).  Are there other effective methods of communicating the information?  If you do have them, make sure there’s an agenda and a clear purpose...and make sure you follow through on any action.
  • Make a list of your goals, targets and actions - To do lists are a bit like marmite – you either love them or you hate them.  I sit in the first category; I like them as I find they help clear my head of all the internal clutter.  I also get a real kick and sense of satisfaction when I achieve the things I’ve committed to and get to strike them off my list. 
  • Unless you wear your underpants outside your trousers it pays to prioritise your workload and be realistic about what you can do in the time allocated.  You’ll generally overestimate what you can do in the time available.
  • Take a break.  Yes, we all need some time out, particularly from your PC.  It may surprise you to know that doing this improves your productivity.  Get up and stretch; take a short walk; get some fresh air and take some relaxing deep breaths; do a one minute meditation – click the link to find out more http://www.just-a-minute.org/resource_centre 
  • Get some perspective, identify what’s really important to you and don’t sweat the small stuff!  

 And on that note I’ll let William have the final say…

 

Leisure

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare. 

William Henry Davies

A Matter of Choice?

Categories:  Being on purpose

“Life is the sum of all your choices.”

Albert Camus

I’ve been fascinated with human behaviour for almost as long as I’ve been on the planet.  The ‘what’ and ‘how’ of personal interaction has always interested me, although as I’ve ‘grown’ I find I’ve become more preoccupied with the intentions behind these behaviours...‘why’ we make the choices we do.

So...have you ever stopped to consider why you behave the way you do?  If life is a journey, what is it that influences the path you take…is it a matter of chance, or choice?  Is it nature...are you genetically predisposed to act in a particular way?  Is it nurture...have you been taught to behave in a certain way?   Or...is it CHOICE?  The likelihood is it’s a combination of all 3.

Psychologists suggest we may not be all that complicated after all.  Our behaviour could be as simple as ABC i.e. Antecedent (external and internal triggers) – Behaviour – Consequence.

The question is which of these triggers are most powerful?  Are we externally, or internally motivated i.e. are we programmed to respond to external stimuli, or more likely to make decisions based on our internally developed notions of what’s most important and satisfying to us?  Some choices appear relatively simple while others, affecting our lifestyle, religious affiliation or political preferences may be more complex as they impact directly on our core values and personal beliefs.

I’m not a qualified psychologist...more of a pragmatic observer of my fellow man and a reflective self analyst so my articles tend to have little to do with clinical accuracy and more to do with personal experience acquired over a long career working with a diverse populous.  So let me share some of thoughts with you now.

Wikipedia defines choice as...

“...the mental process of judging the merits of multiple options and selecting one of them.”

Of course, none of these ‘multiple options’ may be particularly palatable, after all if every action has a consequence, what would happen if you got it wrong and had to take responsibility for the decisions you made.  A friend of mine was recently considering giving some feedback to his employer regarding a newly introduced process that was adversely affecting his ability to respond to his customers needs.  This was leading to discontent in the workforce and deterioration in customer service.  He queried the wisdom of the new system with a number of his peers who it appeared were having the same issues.  So…what would you do?  Surely if a system is introduced that is clearly detrimental to the efficiency of the organisation you’d want to challenge it, wouldn’t you?  Perhaps not, if…

  • your previous feedback fell on stony ground and you’re now sick of knocking your head against a brick wall.
  • you’ve been publicly shot down in flames, why put yourself in the firing line again, particularly in the current economic climate, after all replacement jobs are hard to find.
  • the previous system worked better, maybe it would be less aggravation to revert to the one that worked for you, without anyone knowing.

As often is the case, there are multiple choices, I’ve cited just a few.

However, the concept of having “multiple options” felt completely alien to him, he felt he had no choice given his past experience i.e. his picture of his working world was not a happy one.  In theory he had choice, in practise the potential consequences of speaking his mind left him with just one – say nothing!   It seems even though you have the ability and the opportunity to choose it’s often easier to procrastinate, or adopt an ostrich management approach, however the reality is indecision becomes decision with time!  

So, what implications could this have for the business?  Well let’s face it; indecision and fear are not particularly healthy management tools.  If organisational culture puts people in what they believe are invidious positions and expects them to act against their core values their choices become limited and painful.  Communication breaks down, creativity is stifled and systems go unchallenged, which overtime can have dramatic consequences, not just on the individual but on the organisation.  If your people feel undervalued, your customers will feel that way too in time.    Your staff may be reluctant to leave in the current economic climate, but your clients won’t necessarily feel the same allegiance.  Your customers always have the right to choose; they can leave whenever they like.  To survive you have to continue to value input from your stakeholders, encourage ownership and allow your people to learn by making their own decisions.

If William Glasser’s Choice Theory http://www.wglasser.com/the-glasser-approach/choice-theory is to be believed, external events cannot make us do anything; we always have some choice in how we behave.  This doesn’t mean you have unlimited choice, or that external data is irrelevant; it means you may have more control than you think, but with this comes a responsibility for the decisions you make.  An empowering concept in my opinion!  Much depends on your perception; your window on the world. 

So which is it?  Indecision, blame and regret or opportunity, responsibility and action – YOU CHOOSE.

Alternatively you can draw up your own list; that’s the beauty of choice!

 

"Life's not about expecting, hoping and wishing, it's about doing, being and becoming.

It's about the choices you've just made, and the ones you're about to make, it's about the things you choose to say - today.

It's about what you're gonna do after you finish reading this."
 
 
Mike Dooley

Another door opens…

Categories:  Being on purpose

“When one door closes another door opens, but we often take so long looking regretfully at the closed door, that we miss entirely the newly opened door.”

Alexander Graham Bell

Well here we are again nearing the end of another year.  Where did 2011 go anyway?  I came across the quote on Facebook the other day and it struck me how good a metaphor it is for seeing out the old year and bringing in the new.

I’m not suggesting for one minute that you don’t look back…reflection is a good thing, particularly at this time of year…just not regretfully or in anger.  As the door closes on 2011 and opens on 2012 why not take the opportunity to look back on the year and learn some lessons from your actions, or possibly even your inactions and take a little time to consider the following 11 questions.  You may wish to focus on one particular area of your life, or take a helicopter view of your big picture.

Above all, be honest with yourself and decide how you will use this information to make a positive start when you walk through the newly opened door of 2012. 

1. What did I do that I’m most proud of this year?
2. What was the one thing I didn’t do that I wish I had?
3. What was the reason I didn’t do it?
4. What gave me the most pleasure or satisfaction in 2011?
5. What were the reasons I found most satisfaction in this/these areas?
6. Who did I really enjoy spending my time with in 2011?
7. What were the reasons I enjoyed being with them?
8. What one thing can I do to ensure this/these relationships continue to be positive?
9. What one thing will I do to improve communications with my clients/customers/friends/family in 2012?
10. What are the two most important things I learned, or re-learned in 2011?
11. How will I use what I learned this year to best affect?

How will these reflections affect your plans for your future and what are you going to do with this information now?

When the Dali Lama was asked what surprised him the most about humanity he answered,

"Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money in order to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die and then he dies having never really lived."

So let’s not dwell in the past, just learn from it…let’s not worry about the future, just make plans for it…let’s live in the present and truly enjoy it.  After all it’s called the ‘present’ because it’s a gift!

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a healthy and happy 2012.

From a reflective Jacky Leonard

Thought for the day

Categories:  Being on purpose

"I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be honourable, to be compassionate.  It is after all, to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you have lived at all." (Leo C. Rosten)

So what have you done today that stands for something, or has made a difference?

Thought for the day

Categories:  Being on purpose

There are 5 things in life you cannot recover:

A stone after its thrown.

A word after it’s said.

An occasion after it’s missed.

The time after it's gone.

A person after they die.

Life is short. Break the rules. Forgive quickly. Kiss slowly. Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably. And never regret anything that made you smile.



Don’t look back in anger…

Categories:  Being on purpose

What’s wrong with the world?

There appears to be so many dissatisfied, unhappy, desperate people around who feel the need to demonstrate their anger and frustration in a violent manner.  Have people stopped caring?  In a recent article, psychologist Peter Honey suggests “When people are caught up in crowds, they do things they would not normally do…and don’t concern themselves with consequences.”

The line between right and wrong isn’t always as clear cut as you might think.  What’s deemed acceptable in some circles, cultures and societies can be taboo in others, however I believe most ‘normally wired’ people know the ‘rules’.  I was taught that stealing is wrong, which means you won’t see me looting shops; however, I have been known to take home the odd piece of stationary from work!  Is that less of a crime?  How far would you go?  And…what circumstances would make you break the law or fail to do the right thing?  What makes you abide by societal ‘norms’ and when would you choose to blatantly disregard them?

Honey also maintains that “External situations have a massive impact on human behaviour. Any of us, caught up in a lawless situation where anything goes, is capable of appalling acts of selfishness.”

Perhaps it’s a case of self preservation!  It strikes me that the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ has widened.  There is tremendous pressure to ‘succeed’.   Now success can mean very different things to each of us, however there seems to be increased pressure to measure our ‘worth’ by the things you accumulate rather than the person you are.  Personally, I don’t believe what you’re worth can be measured in ‘stuff’; it has to start with self!  Who are you?  What do you believe in?  What and who is really important to you? 

It’s not easy to understand the motives of others when your reality contrasts so widely with theirs.  Since being involved in the hiring and firing of young adults on a future jobs funded project over the last year, I have been exposed to a wider variety of realities.  It’s been fascinating to observe how the same opportunity has been embraced fully by some and dismissed by others.  Their lives contrast massively from mine and that of the people they’ve worked with, so understanding their behaviour has been challenging.  Many of the issues that have arisen during the project have been addressed with one simple skill…ATTITUDE.  And it all starts with a healthy, honest, respectful personal relationship…the one you have with yourself.  How can you possibly develop a great relationship with others if you have little, or no self respect?

A friend of mine informed me that when her son was little he would introduce himself to new people and ask the following question…What are you for?  Great questions isn’t it?  Think about it…in four simple words he asked you to consider your purpose, the reason for your existence, your values.  When I first heard the story I reflected on how I would answer and realised what a tough question it is if you really want to do it justice.  Perhaps if more people really thought about this there’d be more tolerance, kindness and compassion.

I’ve been reviewing my own set of values over the past few weeks and it occurred to me that many people may not even consider theirs unless they become challenged in some way.  Do you stop to consider why something someone has said or done has offended you?  Which of your values has it challenged, or trampled on?  How you respond to their action or inaction will say more about you than them!

I’ve no answers to the questions surrounding the current social unrest…I’ll leave that to the politicians.  I do however think that the right attitude, a willingness to communicate openly and honestly and a healthy self respect go a long way to creating a better environment.

I’ll leave the last words to the Dalai Lama “If asked my religion I would say it was kindness.” 

Making a difference?

Categories:  Being on purpose, Training & Coaching, Sport and Leisure

Over the past 7 months I've have had the pleasure of working on an inspirational project with three of the major players in the active leisure sector. Funded by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), DC Leisure, MEND and Lifetime formed a partnership to recruit and train around 150, 18-24 year olds across the country to become Community Activity Leaders.  Successful candidates took part in a six month placement in leisure centers’ across England.

For a variety of reasons many of these young people have found it very difficult to find sustainable employment.   Our aim was to provide them with a job opportunity that would improve their employability by the end of their contract.

Throughout the project, as expected their performance has been mixed; some taking full advantage of the opportunity and other’s falling at the first, second or third hurdles.  It would make a fascinating psychological study into attitude and motivation.

The first batch of ‘graduates’ completed their placement last week.  Prior to their departure they attended an exit session.  This had a dual purpose, firstly it allowed us to evaluate a number of aspects about the project and just as importantly, it was designed to help them reflect on lessons learned and plan their next steps.

For the first exit session I adopted the Forrest Gump philosophy – life is like a box of chocolates…I really didn’t know what I was going to get!  It turned out to be a real joy.  The majority of these young people have gone through such a transformation in the past months; it was like they’d grown up!  They were interested, engaged and participative, genuinely appreciative and positive.  I swear I was witness to an attitude transplant in some cases!  They tackled each activity admirably and demonstrated an ability to self reflect and look to the future with a little more optimism.  I was truly exhausted by the end of the day!

The saddest thing is that some of them will be unemployed again now their contract has ended – their placement was only for 6 months.  My consolation, based on my observations during the session, is the belief that the opportunities they’ve had on this project have made them much more employable.  In fact some of them have already been offered positions at their host centre’s or elsewhere.

Although I’m known for my objectivity this is intended to be a very personal perspective.  I know projects such as these will be evaluated by the funding organisations on hard data.  The attitudinal changes and emotional impact is often excluded which I think is a shame, so in my quest to redress the balance I wanted to include some of the very human elements of the project.  After all it is about people.

There have been times during the project when I wondered whether it was all worthwhile.  My reflections following that first exit session are that if supported by people who care enough to give a damn, a project like this can make a difference.

Jacky

http://www.jackyleonard.co.uk

Resistance is Futile!

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose, Life Balance and Wellbeing

I was watching an old episode of Star Trek Voyager the other day where the crew had a chance meeting with The Borg.  Now those trekkies amongst you will know that these are a particularly unpleasant group that grows their community by assimilating other species while chanting “Resistance is futile”.  Firstly let me assure you, I have no designs on assimilation; it just struck me that the phrase illustrates perfectly the need for adaptation and flexibility in business.

The fact is organisations that resist change will get left behind by those that move with the times and are willing to adapt to keep ahead of the game.  The most successful people and organisations see opportunities, even in the bleakest times and what’s more they take advantage of those that arise, even if this means making changes.  Let’s face it change can be painful; after all it’s easier to maintain the status quo, but the reality is that nothing happens without action.

As a coach my job is to help organisations identify the appropriate changes required to take their businesses forward and grow, even in difficult economic times.  I’ve had to adopt the same strategies for my own business and trust me they work – I’m still here!!

To deal efficiently and effectively with the transitions…

  • Focus on what you want rather than what you don’t want
  • Be clear about your goals and why you want them
  • Check that these goals are aligned with your values – are they really important enough to you?
  • Review where you are in relation to where you want to be and identify the gaps
  • Set yourself a plan of action
  • Focus on the profit producing tasks
  • Take time out to work on your business, rather than just in it
  • Get support – find a peer group or mentor to challenge, motivate and inspire you

And most importantly of all TAKE ACTION!

If you find yourself frustrated, anxious or in ‘pain’ look at it positively as it’s usually a good catalyst for action.

Remember, resistance is futile – ring in the changes and make things happen.

Jacky Leonard

jacky@jackyleonard.co.uk

Living life on purpose…

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose

I’ve just finished Andre Agassi’s autobiography ‘Open’.  What a fascinating, interesting and inspiring read.  Agassi gives a frank account of his life in tennis from his earliest memories of having his father place a tennis racket in his hands as a very small child, to eventually finding his purpose for playing.  Agassi takes the reader on his journey of self discovery.

How can someone be good at something they hate?

‘I hate tennis’ – privately throughout his competitive career Agassi hated the game he excelled at, but publicly he deceived us all and told us what he thought we wanted to hear.

Only in the twilight of his competitive career did he start to find his true purpose, a real reason for playing and winning.

As I read this book I was once again reminded how important being purposeful is in affecting your drive, motivation and ultimate success.

So my questions to you are:

Do you know your purpose?

Are you living life on purpose?

Perhaps it’s time you did…

Go make things happen…

Jacky Leonard
www.jackyleonard.co.uk

Reflect for success

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose

‘Tis the season of goodwill, good cheer and over indulgence!

If however, we’re wise men and women it is also a great time for reflection; an opportunity to look back on 2009 and learn some lessons from our actions and possibly also our inactions!

Here are Leonard’s 11 questions to prepare you for 2010. Take a little time to consider your responses; you may wish to focus on one particular area of your life e.g. your business, or take a helicopter view of the whole picture.

Above all, be honest with yourself and decide how you will use this information to make a positive start in the New Year.

1. What action have I taken that I’m most proud of this year?
2. What was the one thing I didn’t do that I wish I had?
3. What was the reason I didn’t do it?
4. What gave me the most pleasure or satisfaction in 2009?
5. What were the reasons I found most satisfaction in this/these areas?
6. Who did I really enjoy spending my time with in 2009?
7. What were the reasons I enjoyed being with them?
8. What one thing can I do to ensure this/these relationships continue to be positive?
9. What one thing will I do to improve communications with my clients/customers in 2010?
10. What are the two most important things I learned, or re-learned in 2009?
11. How will I use what I learned in 2009 to best affect?

Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and a healthy and happy 2010.

From a reflective Jacky Leonard

Go make things happen…

Jacky Leonard
www.jackyleonard.co.uk

Call NOW to book your free business booster consultation
01451 860399
07894 904041

Are you making things happen yet?

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose

There are 3 types of people in life

Those that make things happen

Those that watch things happen

And those that wonder what happened!

Which are you?

I have to admit I’ve been every type – sometimes all in one day!

So do people have a natural propensity to take action, while others prefer to observe proceedings, or even at times find themselves so immersed in the past or future that they completely miss what’s going on around them now?

And…

If like me you’re likely to have been all 3 at sometime what factors would influence your action or inaction?

Here are some factors to consider:

  • Personal Experience
  • Belief systems
  • Values
  • Experience of others
  • Culture
  • Religion
  • Peer pressure
  • Environment
  • Friends and family
  • Education
  • Media pressure
  • Perceived competence
  • Desire

I’m sure some if not all of the above contribute, however I want to focus on what I believe is one of the key drivers and that’s…

DESIRE – how much do you really want to make things happen?

Whether your goal is to:

Do something e.g. run a marathon

Be someone or something e.g. a successful author

Have something e.g. a shiny red sports car

Or even Go somewhere e.g. a cruise around the world

You’re more likely to be successful if you are truly committed to it and absolutely passionate about it.  Or as Brian Mayne says it’s doing the “thing that makes your heart sing”.

Remember the old adage “where there’s a will there’s a way” well there’s certainly something in that!

Consider people that have apparently succeeded against all odds.  Who would have believed we’d see a black president in the White House?

“My parents shared not only an improbable love; they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or blessed, believing that in a tolerant America your name is no barrier to success. They imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though they weren’t rich, because in a generous America you don’t have to be rich to achieve your potential.”

Barack Obama

They have a goal; maybe a pretty audacious one, but more importantly they have a burning desire to achieve it.  Their WHY is strong enough so even when the going gets tough they find extra reserves within themselves and find a way to make things happen.

This may mean reviewing their goal, adjusting their course, or even starting all over again.  In fact they’ll do whatever it takes to reach their outcome, because their reasons are so powerful that it’s not a matter of ‘maybe’ or even ‘must’; it’s a very definite ‘WILL’!

Woulda, shoulda, coulda just doesn’t work here. As Tony Robbins says there are plenty of people out there who “should all over themselves!”

Now consider those occasions when you’ve achieved most…

What was the difference that made the difference?

Tapping into that place; that state; that desire – the one where you’re at your most resourceful.  Your positivity creates clarity, discovers options and provides the energy to take action.

Well what are you waiting for?

Go make things happen NOW!

Jacky Leonard
www.jackyleonard.co.uk

 07894 904041

Do you know where you’re going?

Categories:  Business Coaching, Being on purpose

“Would you tell me which way I ought to go from here?” asked Alice.

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get,” said the Cat.

“I really don’t care where” replied Alice.

“Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)

I came upon this excerpt from Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland the other day and thought how perfect a metaphor it is for the lack of direction in many small businesses. I have similar conversations with business owner/managers; like Alice they are sometimes not really clear about what they want to achieve or where they’re taking their company.

As a coach it’s not up to me to dictate their direction, especially as invariably they already have the answers and just aren’t asking themselves the right questions. That’s where I come in; my job is to help them find clarity of purpose and identify priorities by asking the right questions and providing the appropriate tools to ensure the actions they take are as effective as possible and justly rewarded.

So do you have a vision and goals for your business and if you do, are you on track? It’s easy to blame the current economic climate for a downturn in profits, but are you working smarter, not just harder and taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves, even in a recession?

Taking time to re-assess your priorities and evaluate the reasons for your current situation helps to provide perspective and get you back on track.

After all, people who aim at nothing seldom miss the target!

Call now for a free 45 minute business diagnostic to get you back on target.

Jacky Leonard
www.jackyleonard.co.uk

07894 904041