More scandal this week as it has been established that Findus Lasagne has been discovered containing 100% horse meat, not beef as advertised. It’s the latest in the on-going headlines about horse meat being discovered in processed food products, sold by supermarkets and brands. I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of this issue, as no doubt all parties in the supply chain are now busily drilling down to the root cause.
Whilst out riding my bike this weekend, I got to thinking about this issue and what thoughts it triggers within consumers when scandal hits. Believe it or not, the words that came up happened to make an acronym called MEAT! Scandals tend to boil down to four major things, whether you are Lance Armstrong, a merchant banker, an MP or Findus. Generally speaking they tend to fall into one of the categories below. I’ve made some comment against each of them relative to the horsemeat scandal.
M = Morality. In the UK, we have an issue with eating horses. To us, they are primarily pets, not a food source unlike other cultures across the world. It’s funny how no-one has picked up the taste difference, when smothered in sauces, sugar and colouring! So, it’s not about the taste, it’s about the ingredients.
E = Ethics. No household name brand on earth would risk their reputation by substituting constituent ingredients in their products. The risks are simply too large, starting at shareholder value. Nestle previously owned the brand up to 2000, but sold rights to Findus Group. Ethically, major issues like this can set a brand back years and many other food processing businesses will be working overtime to see if they too are affected. Major brands spend significant sums of money protecting their Corporate reputation and suppliers will have been audited, so there is likely to be foul play.
A = Accountability. Consumers will want the root cause to be quickly established. The brand involved – Findus – has already launched its own investigation which points the finger at a Romanian supplier. They’ve been quick, as with all PR crisis management, to get a statement up on their website. The major supermarkets will be applying the pressure big time, exerting their full weight on the supplier to come up with some answers. No doubt they are all busy checking their own brand and private label products, likely sourced from the same suppliers. Consumers expect you to stand up, man up, and be honest if you are in the frame.
T = Trust. Consumers put huge trust in big brands, supermarkets particularly. They take the position that if a supermarket is selling something, then it must be OK. I bet your bottom dollar that the category manager in charge of the ready-meal/frozen foods category is looking at a chart that shows negative sales for value products in their range. We (consumers) can be a funny bunch when it comes to establishing who we want to take the hit. Is it the supermarkets or the supplier who will feel the pain of our brand switch? Worst thing possible for a consumer to lose trust in your brand.
The acronym works for leaders of businesses too. Stakeholders expect morality, ethics, accountability and trust as characteristics of the people charged to lead them. It’s critical that you have these things in order, for example: -
Morality. Doing the right thing, having a strong organisational and moral compass.
Ethics. Never compromising your personal or organisational credibility for a quick short term financial win, always play the long game.
Accountability. Being the buck stops here person. Calling the big shots and standing behind them. Saying sorry when you get it wrong.
Trust. Keeping confidences, doing the things you say, being honest even when the news is difficult, having personal integrity.
In a social media driven world, leaders and brands are instantly accountable for their actions. News spreads like wildfire, opinion spreads, blame spreads and your reputation can be gone in an instant. Take the lessons from Findus and apply them to your own business in terms of your business and personal reputations.
One thing about being a child of the 80′s (growing up) is that I’ve witnessed a renaissance in technology over the the last thirty years. When you just take a minute to step back and think a minute, you come up with a list that contains things like this (not exhaustive or in any particular order): -
- Fax Machines.
- CD’s (including portable CD players).
- The internet!
- MP3 downloads.
- Mobile phones.
- Personal Computers.
- Laptop Computers.
- Sky TV.
- Portable flash drives.
- Wireless Networks.
- Digital cameras.
- Satellite navigation systems.
- Social Media – Youtube, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Wikepedia, Hotmail.
- The birth of Amazon and Google.
- Flat screen Televisions – LCD, Plasma.
- Apple (i-pod, i-pad, i-phone).
- Tablet computers.
- Cloud computing.
It’s quite incredible to think that in early 1990 when I entered the world of work, only a few of the things on this list existed in terms of technology. Everything else has been invented subsequently, in fact, life has changed totally. One characteristic of all this technology is that it has led to a world of consumption, with nearly all the tech listed contributing in some way to cramming every available moment we have.
The victim of this is quality thinking time. Waking moments are spent with screens in our hands, devices buzzing, status updates demanding attention and a need to fill down time with something. For you to be at your best, you need downtime from technology to re-connect and quieten the chatter in your head. Over a year ago I did this presentation (see slides 6-8), highlighting how being in this busy mode keeps your brain in a “beta” state, which is massively under utilising your capability to think creatively. Don’t get me wrong, I love technology and I run a technology company, however I also know the importance of keeping a balance.
When you disconnect and invest some time away from technology, it can have a re-charging effect on you. Your brain moves into it’s “alpha” mode, which is far more creative, expansive and potential based – a brilliant place to be to come up with solutions to problems or your next big idea. Your internal dialogue quietens down and relaxation becomes easier, you begin to re-connect with the inner you.
Things will keep speeding up, that’s for sure. 2013 will see more platforms, more tech and more reasons to stay permanently connected to the internet. If you want 2013 to be a year of potential and achievement, combined with a feeling of peace and contentment, then make sure you disconnect regularly, don’t be a slave to the system and invest more time in quality thought to achieve your goals. When you do, marvellous things start to happen.
You’ll be amazed at the moments of synchronicity that come your way, how you navigate yourself sub-consciously towards your goals and how you can make more positive choice about your life direction. Don’t do it half-heartedly with a smartphone in one hand and a pen in the other, the best time to think is either on your own with no distractions and nothing on in the background (radios, TV) or when walking, running, cycling, swimming or partaking in some form of exercise.
Achieving your goals is about working hard and smart. Give yourself the edge and make one of your New Years resolutions to invest more time thinking, it will deliver fantastic results.
Happy New Year!
Hindsight in not always a wonderful thing, in fact it can be really damaging. When you spend time remorsing about outcomes in the now using words like “I wish” and “I should” they are simply wasted thoughts and energy.
The only moment that matters is now. You are where you are. Reflection of what you could have done differently from what has passed, now that is a different thing. Reflection allows you to take all the lessons and re-apply them to the future you to help refine and re-define who you really are, a better version of you.
Spending time remorsing about where you are based upon the decisions you have already taken is self-destructive. Your brain will happily indulge you – if you give it permission to – in the thousand different reasons why you’re circumstances are why there are right now. “If I’d of been six inches taller I’d of been a pro-basketball player and my life would be different to what it is now.” All that says is “I’m not taking responsibility for my past decisions, my current version of me and the energy I chose to put into creating my future.” If you want to stay stuck in the past or even your present, remorseful hindsight will keep you there.
Three Tips to Assist
- Eliminate the word “Should” from your internal dialogue and replace it with “could, but I didn’t”. So, “I should have done this” turns into “I could have done that, but I didn’t”. It quietens your internal dialogue, allows you to accept your past decisions and move.
- Always look to refine and re-define yourself. Every experience is an opportunity for you to learn more about who you really are. Take the constructive lessons from what you’ve been through, but never dwell by going back and back by comparing your current circumstances. Simply take the learning and get it applied – fast to your current circumstance.
- Fly TWA. See previous blogpost on this subject here.
It’s amazing how much past experience dictates current thinking. When you can move on quickly, life is far happier. I meet lots of people that still wear their “black armband” of remorse for a past event or behaviour, keeping themselves in this period of mourning for what they should have done differently. Ask yourself if you are wearing one? If you are – For what? For who? And for how long do you want to keep going over this?
With 2012 coming to a close, it’s always a good point to have some personal reflection time. Being the best possible version of you means simply taking all the learning from those experiences from 2012, updating your brains belief systems and moral compass and living “in the now”.
To all my readers, my seasonal thought for you is about “being happy”. Happiness is simply that state of mind when you feel “peace”, “joy” and “purpose” in the things you do, a lovely balance where everything just falls into place. You can re-create who you are in a moment with a brand new thought, what lies ahead of you is simply there to be created. See you out there.
Yesterday I spoke at the Cheshire Business Expo (organised by Profile Communications) on what small businesses can learn from big businesses and leaders of big businesses. I covered quite a lot of content but wanted to summarise some of the key points here for the people that attended as a reminder of the key takeaways. Bullet form for easy digestion: -
- Have a clear vision.
- Have the right people, in the right seat.
- Understand their economic engine.
- Are disciplined in Thoughts, Words and Actions.
- Don’t just have a plan A, but also a B) Big and C) Contingency.
- Know what their main effort should be to deliver the vision.
- Have a stop doing list.
- Confront the brutal facts.
- Act quickly on poor performance at all levels.
- Spend more time thinking about the future.
Successful Leaders of Big Companies
- Manage their emotional state.
- Make evidence led decisons.
- Look to data and facts.
- Check assumptions.
- Spend more time creating than reacting to things.
- Are focused on “being their best” not comparing to others.
- Are open to everyone and everything.
- Have their mind, body and soul aligned.
- Effectively delegate and spend their time coaching/aligning others.
- Know their Ding!
I spoke quite a bit about emotional intelligence, here are a few additional articles for you to read: -
- The Ocean of Opportunity (all about the future and not looking back).
- Fly TWA (why you should put thoughts and words into action).
- AFD-MO (why you should just forgive everything and everybody as the only moment is now).
I do wonder sometimes about who are the high-profile role models for Generation Y+Z to base their lives upon. Most of what is in the media is sensationalist reality television depicting lifestyles dominated by drama, micro-celebrity and the pursuit of money plus things to artifically elevate social status – not great for our next generation of young people. Hopefully the London 2012 Olympics did it’s job in “inspiring a generation” of young people to take a different pathway inspired by different values of teamwork, personal success through hard work and recognition through personal sacrifice.
I spent a day at a conference yesterday , where two keynotes speakers inspired me, enter stage left – Sir Ranulph Fiennes OBE and Roger Black MBE. Fiennes our greatest living explorer and Black a great former Olympian. I seek out opportunities to hear stories from people like these as there are always transferable lessons from their achievements and timelines to transfer into your own. These two guys are great role modes with bonefide achievements and life lessons. I’ve bulleted five key points from each speaker to share and added some further thoughts in italics: -
Roger Black MBE
- “My Silver medal was my Gold”. Perhaps one of the most profound comments of the day and one that I totally identified with. The day he ran his own best race in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, he came second to perhaps the greatest athlete of that time, American – Michael Johnson. Rather than say he failed, he re-framed the way he looked at that to say that he ran his best possible race and won a silver medal. He walked away from that track knowing that he had delivered his full capability, in the moment. When he looked in the mirror, he could say there was nothing else he could of done on the day and the result was the result. He felt proud that he performed to his best when needed – This is a powerful lesson in moving on and acceptance, when all you aim to deliver in life is your personal best then it leads you to a really great place of accepting who you are.
- “Have the courage to change a winning formula. ” Black re-counted a race when they turned the conventions of running a 400m relay upside down by putting him as the first man, not the last, in order to beat the dominant Americans. The night before they realised that they could not beat them conventionally and had to put immediate pressure on their competitors. The result was a thrilling race which saw them execute their plan perfectly and win – A great example to always question what, why and how you do things – are your competitors planning to switch their running order to outpace you?
- “Wanting to win isn’t enough.“ At the Olympics, every athlete wants to win so everyone is in the same place mentally, which neutralises everyone. He spoke of the need to develop your own “need to achieve” which transcends “wanting to win” into a greater purpose. I think this is a great metaphor for life, I see so many people “wanting to be successful” but not being driven by the purpose of “why they want to be successful.” When you switch “I want to be successful because I want greater status in society” (short term happiness) to “I want to be successful so that I can help others less fortunate” (long term happiness) see what happens to your purpose and your results.
- “Champions are reactive, they are pro-active.” Linked back to point one but a different point. There was a time in Blacks career that he kept a close eye on his rivals, comparing race times to his, getting feedback about their winter training camps or form. He spent a lot of time comparing himself to them and then trying to fine tune against them. At one point he received career changing advice from a coach that he had to stop comparing against them and focus on running his perfect race. I wrote a blog on this theme called “Being Your Best” which you can read here. Bottom line is this, focus on your own potential, not others.
- “Talent is not enough unless properly applied. “ Black was a talented runner, with a physique perfect for the 400m. He has been gifted the physical attributes to run very, very fast. He had the talent. However, to maximise that talent he needed the right people around him to demonstrate how to use it. Successful running is about many different things including tactics and he had to listen and learn to refine his talent to become world class. If you are trying to be world class in your business, then don’t do it on your own. Get great non-executive directors, hire great talent – the best you can afford, go to conferences and listen to how world class people achieved, read white papers around excellence in your industry and most importantly – develop yourself.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes OBE
- “You can sack someone on an expedition but you can’t get rid of them.“ If someone isn’t performing in the middle of the Antarctic, you can say “you’re fired” but there is nowhere for them to go as you’re in the middle of nowhere. Candidate selection is vital for the expeditions that Fiennes leads, it’s also vital for business. Spend time at the front of the process – particularly with key hires – to ensure best fit.
- “We go for any record that any human has never done before.” How do you frame that? Achieving what most think is the impossible. Using your frame of reference as to what everyone else things is unchartered territory. Are you confining your thoughts to the market as defined by everyone else or the potential of the market in a completely new unchartered way?
- “We had nothing but morse code for communication with the outside world. “ Describing one of his major expeditions which saw him circumnavigate the globe, a feat to which this day has not been repeated and took him three years, Fiennes described a world without GPS, satellite navigation and mobile devices. He and his companion – Charles Burton – had each other and morse code only for communication with hunanity. They mapped regions of the world for the first time ever, by hand for the great good of humanity. Can you imagine life without a device, wireless access or 24/7 communication? Are you comfortable with your own company? Can you sit and think without agitaton to be connected? Can you imagine having to walk for thousands of miles over ice, which is constantly moving only navigating by a compass? The lesson here is all about the growing need to be connected to the matrix in order to feel in touch and the growing need for things to be automated which ultimately stops your brain doing the work. It’s not a bad thing to be out of touch, to allow your mind to drift from “attention” to “possibilities.”
- “Have mental ammunition at the ready.” A question came about how Fiennes kept going in some of toughest conditions on the planet, ravaged by frostbite, in constant pain with huge distances still to travel. He said he had “mental ammunition” which he always fired at his brain to overcome the overwhelming need to stop.“ Ability to cope under pressure and mental toughness is a fantastic quality, which you can personally develop. You’re potential to achieve is far greater than you imagine and your pain threshold far further than you might think. Have your own mental ammunition ready for the tough times to dig you out of a hole. Good ammunition are things like: – “Pain is temporary, quitting is forever,” “How bad is this compared to being diagnosed with a terminal illness.” Get some perspective and push on through.
- “I recruit on motivation.” Many of the people that accompanied Fiennes on his expeditions were unpaid, took time out of their lives and risked their livelihoods to accompany him. For Fiennes this meant that their purpose was not money or status, but the adventure. Fiennes knew that these people would give every last drop in their tank if they had to because they had nothing to lose. Fantastic lesson to find the fanatics in your business whose purpose is all about the adventure and the experiences.
Arriving at our local Costa coffee on Sunday afternoon, you couldn’t help but notice that it had been updated and refurbished. Out with the deep red colour, in with a funky new colour scheme – very nice for the customer.
Over the time we’ve been visiting this particular store you always end up talking to the baristas as you’re waiting for your drink to be prepared. Observing the new working area for the baristas which seemed to be more cramped, I asked whether they had been consulted about the re-fit. The answer was no.
Worse was to come, the re-fit had made their job harder. The bins were smaller meaning that they now had to be emptied every half an hour, rather than every morning or afternoon. The serving areas had been reduced meaning they could not benefit from the improved cycle time of an additional coffee machine and the additional coffee machine had been located at the opposite end of the servery, meaning they had to constantly weave through each other with hot drinks. In sum, the new design made the work more difficult for the baristas.
It was a classic scenario of someone thinking about the brand look and feel for the customer – big tick, but not thinking about how the work works – no tick. Bottom line is that customers will still be kept waiting in a queue as something as simple as a serving area was not considered sufficiently enough in the new “grand design”.
In a world where people don’t want to wait, my primary effort would have been to review cycle time to reduce queues and minimise wait times, then designed the coffee drinking experience around that. The only way to achieve that aim is to go to see how the work works, consult, listen and then test, learn and refine.
There’s a huge lesson here in that you should never make big decisions unless you understand how the work works by talking to people who do the work. First question, “If you were me, what would you change?” Invariably, they know more about the processes than anyone, so listen up and listen carefully and you’ll get better results in the long term.
I don’t watch much television nowadays, the TV I do watch tends to be documentaries, business shows or cycling! (Saying that I have recently been wowed by introducing an Apple TV set-top box and Netflix subscription into the house following a new high speed broadband network at home – lots of new possibilities there).
I have however been impressed by some of the shows on Channel Four recently and one that recently caught my eye was The Audience. Imagine a crowd of fifty people who follow you everywhere you go as you wrestle with a personal dilemma or big decision, their job is to view your problem through their eyes then debate and counsel you as to route you should take.
The fifty are drawn from all walks of life, different ages, ethnic origins, regions and backgrounds. They observe, listen, question, then debate amongst themselves the issue at hand ultimately then answering the dilemma at the end of the show having thrashed the issue out amongst themselves.
It’s compelling viewing and there is a huge lesson in there. This problem isn’t just a problem halved, it’s quartered up into fifty slices with fifty brains working on potential solutions. Each of the individuals bring different perspective, life experience, logic and rationality to the process. The lesson is about using the wisdom of crowds. Not everyone thinks the same, sees the problem with the same eyes or has the emotional attachment to a set of circumstances.
Regardless if your problem is personal, technical or business related, a third party can always give you fresh perspective. If you think you know always know the answers, you’re likely to be closed to new possibilities. I often tell a story at work of a pharma company whose development of a blockbuster drug was halted whilst their chief scientist wrestled with a highly technical development issue. A chance meeting at a coffee machine with a colleague from the finance department solved it. The guy in finance happened to have graduated with a degree in chemistry, then had a career change. His fresh set of eyes and ears on the problem, simplified the solution and development got back on track.
Surround yourself with others. Appreciate their differences to you. If you’re logical, seek non-logical people – the opposite to you to get a fresh perspective. Appreciate the wisdom of others. Welcome feedback. Don’t always think you have the answers, there is something to learn from everybody.
If you’ve ever flown in a helicopter or light aircraft, then you’ll be familiar with the words “you have control” when a pilot hands over the joystock to a co-pilot or vice versa. It’s a very specific instruction so that both are clear as to who is flying the machine. I used this metaphor the other day when explaining a leadership situation around delegation, that once you have handed over control, don’t try and wrestle it back!
Another great helicopter metaphor relates to staying in the sky and retaining ” the helicopter view.” As the leader of the business you have to stay above the business, looking down and keeping the aerial view – it’s a commonly used anecdote. The bit that most people don’t tell you though is how easy it is to come crashing back to ground when problems occur!
Your first response will be to grab the controls, descend as fast as possible, get the chopper on the ground and get problem solving. This is the thing you must avoid at all costs, if you are to truly delegate. Trust those you work with to solve the situation, you stay up in the air and keep in radio contact!
In the early days it’s hard to do but you soon get the hang of it. By staying “up there,” you can remain objective and provide the best possible advice keeping the big picture in mind. It’s very tempting to land the helicopter but remind yourself that if you’ve said “you have control” to a colleague, then unless they are struggling or specifically ask you to get back down on the ground and help out, then keep flying, keep thinking and keep big picture.
The emotional part of our brain is the first thing to kick in when faced with a difficult situation, it’s why arguments can flare quickly and why conflicts can easily escalate, you get wrapped up in the situation. There are a number of things you can do to avoid this, here’s a few tips: -
1. Keep your WITS about you. WITS is an acronym for “Walk in Their Shoes” – that is, see it from the other persons side. What is it about their personal circumstances which is making them feel this way? How am I making them feel? What pressure must they be under to react like that? What would I do if I were them? If I were floating above this situation, what advice would I give myself?
2. Accept the first reaction to any situation will always be the emotional one, it’s just the process the brain goes through—>Emotion—>logic when things have calmed down a bit. Let all the emotion come out first from the third party and be fully vented before you get involved. If possible, call a time out after that to think so that you can process the information and divide up the rational from the irrational. Quite often you’ll get an apology once someone has got their emotional stuff all done.
3. AFD-MO. Accept, Forgive, Dissolve – Move On. This is one that I’ve developed myself which really helps to calm your inner voices, stop you waking up at night, carrying around anger, feeling a victim or otherwise following a confrontation or difficult situation. I think it’s an incredibly powerful way to process such interactions: -
- ACCEPT that it’s happened, there’s nothing you can do to change it and that conflict is simply a part of life and not necessarily personal.
- FORGIVE. Everything, everybody and yourself for the situation or circumstances.
- DISSOLVE. A great thing that I picked up from behavioural strategist David Yeoman, by not allowing things to persist in your thinking, they dissolve. Forgiveness is the ultimate way to dissolve things.
- MOVE-ON. The only moment is now, don’t beat yourself up about past events, what was – was. A new day, a new hour, a new minute, a new second stands right before you and you will only damage yourself by allowing yourself to “re-play” past events, there is no need. If you A+F+D, you’ll be surprised how quickly you move-on. Another tip is to replace the world “should” with “could” in your internal voice (a great tip I picked up from the book The Chimp Paradox by Dr. Steve Peters), it stops your inner voice speculating about how outcomes could have been different when ultimately the time has passed.
It would be wonderful if you use any of these tips successfully to hear how, please leave a comment if you do and share with others.
You have probably never heard of Robert Daley, I hadn’t before a BBC documentary called “Olympic Dreams” last night about the young diver Tom Daley who’ll be diving in the Olympics shortly.
Tom Daley has found fame as one of the youngest Olympians out there, he is still only 18 years old. He burst onto onto the media scene when he won two golds in the 2010 Commonwealth games as a sixteen year old, prior to that he has won a string of gold medals at various European and World Championship – Robert Daley was Tom’s father.
During the documentary, the audience followed a man that had encouraged his son from an early age. Attending as many of his training and participatory events as he could, always with a big hug and a kiss for his son of whom he was so proud. An emotional journey then ensued when it was discovered he had cancer which manifested itself in brain tumours, which ultimately then led to his premature death as a forty year old in 2011.
As a dad watching this show, I couldn’t help but be deeply touched by Robert and the love that he showed for his son Tom and his other two children, he could be regularly seen on camera crying and hugging Tom after a major performance, he was a bright light for how dad’s should be everywhere and a role model. It’s no accident that Tom has achieved great success with such support behind him.
As the show drew to a close, I sat reflecting on what I’d just seen. My thoughts were: -
- If you’re going to be a shining light, then be an LED (Live Every Day).
- Time is so precious, use and choose it wisely.
- Be the real and authentic you by being prepared to show your emotions to others, one of the really big lessons learned by leaders, alignment of self.
- Positivity can achieve great things in life, it can’t beat aggressive cancer however it can inspire others to do great things.
- Role models play a huge part in life in stimulating others to reflect on their own stories, who is your role model and how are you being a role model to others?
I’ll remember Robert Daley moving forward for the lessons he reminded me of above. Role models don’t always have to be superstars of business or sport, they exist in everyday people and everyday life – Robert Daley was a bright and shining example to millions of dads, I would love to have met him.