I once got called the “King of the Three Letter Acronym” (TLA). I do use them a lot when speaking and presenting, but also to remind myself of great insights or when talking with others. TLA’s can be very useful in ensuring an audience goes away with “one key thing” from a talk, something they can easily remember.
One that I use in my own life is “TIM” which stands for “This Is Me”. Early on in my career I spent my time fitting in. Wearing the right corporate uniform, using the right business jargon, saying things I felt people wanted to hear and conforming. I guess I just was trying to be liked and doing what needed to be done to move up the ladder!
Only later did I realise that I wasn’t doing myself any favours by diluting who I was with others. Effectively I was two people, one person at the office, another at home. This led to a fundamental misalignment of self, which needed correction. Misalignment stops you being the best possible version of you and I continue to meet lots of people who can really identify with this concept of a “private me” and a “professional me”.
You can align those two things into a common definition of “me” which then becomes the true and authentic version of you. Life is far simpler and you spend less time on what other people think about you and more time on your own happiness. A recommendation I always give to people is to have clear in their mind their own Vision, Mission and Values (VMV).
Vision – What are you doing this all for? (An easy to remember one-liner).
Mission – What are the major things you need to do to make this happen? (tip, don’t create too many, keep it simple. Think of your main effort(s).
Values – What things really/truly matter to you in life?
One extra I like to add….
Morals – What are your “no-compromise” morals?
I have those things in my mind, stored across multiple devices and written down in key places. They are a constant reference point and act as a great compass in the journey. From first thought to the final list took me a couple of months of thought, refinement and deletion. When finalised, you’ll get a great sense of perspective of the real you. Acknowledge and accept that, then go and be you. Change a few things if you have to as there is no set of rules anyway that you have to be wedded to the past definition of you, whether that’s internalised or how others may view you.
So, in your head think of this TLA. “Hi, I’m TIM” – (This Is Me).
If you do prepare your VMV and get some clarity as a result, will you let me know via a comment or a note on Twitter.
Over the years, I’ve read a huge quantity of books around leadership from biographies to methodologies. It’s easy to copy a successful formula if you are trying to develop your leadership capabilities however you may end up not being the true and authentic version of you.
As I rose up within my own business, it started to dawn on me that I got far more done when I spent more time just being me, not trying to be a Jack Welch clone. People responded to me far more when I stopped trying to be something/someone I wasn’t. From that point my career rocketed, on to lead the UK organisation from humble beginnings as a fax salesman.
To this day, I could kick myself for the “work mask” that I had developed in my early years. Only when I began to work with business psychologists in 2000, did I realise the error of my ways. Over the following years, my leadership style has simply been focused on being the best possible version of me – that’s it. Let me share with you 10 simple things that I have learned about leadership as a framework which may work for you: -
- Being truthful with yourself.
- Being truthful with others.
- Respecting everyone regardless of where they sit.
- Pressing CTRL+ALT+DEL on your past and living in the now.
- Letting your true personality come through not what you think other people want to see.
- Being compassionate when making tough decisions.
- Always giving space for others to give a view.
- Being fair.
- Admitting your shortcomings and mistakes.
- Seeing everyone and everything as a potential for learning.
Back to my opening paragraph, this is not about creating an army of “me’s”. These are just some of the things that allowed myself to be the best possible version of me, when heading up a large organisation. I’ve found that the topic of leadership is more about respect. Respect for self, others and your wider environment, however you define it. When you practice that, it drifts you more towards the familiar descriptions of what “leadership looks like” in a book but with your personality stamped all over it.
Stored belief systems can be incredibly damaging if not updated, think of them like APPS on a smartphone which need to be constantly upgraded to fix bugs to function correctly and at their optimum.
Your brain is amazing supercomputer, which functions 24/7/365. Keeping your heart beating, your eyelids blinking, your legs moving, your imagination whirring and turning your thoughts into words – all without you giving it much thought. It is constantly running in the background, predicting outcomes, regulating your temperature and storing your experiences like a massive hard disc.
With something so powerful, you’d want to be sure that the operating system and software that you use with it is in tip top condition and bang up to date. To do this, you need to ensure that all it’s stored beliefs are updated and that – like a sat nav – it’s updated with the very latest route planner for you.
A tip I often give to people is to work out your personal vision, mission and values. These act as your sub-conscious route planner for your brain when needing to decide it’s direction of travel, left/right turns and the like. Like a corporate mission statement your vision (what I call DING!) needs to be clearly defined, this is your top line “what’s it all for” statement. Your mission is the actions you are going to take each day to achieve that vision. Your values should be those things most important to you which become the basis for your moral compass.
When you have those things defined – and it will take a good deal of thought – write them down somewhere where they are easily accessible at all times. I have them synced in Evernote across all of my devices, so they are never far from reach. Refer to them regularly, memorise them as much as possible, make them part of your core operating system and see what happens.
Decisions become clearer, purpose jumps to the fore and clarity ensues. Your brain will then start to store them deep in your parietal lobe, the key area for auto-pilot responses, and update itself with your personal direction of travel. Hopefully that place is a destination called “success”. Let me know how you get on.
Been thinking about these words a lot of late and worked them into a few talks.
It’s amazing how your thoughts can conspire to constrain you, with past experiences creating a hard disk memory in your parietal brain which may auto-pilot you to never repeat something or your limbic brain telling you a thousand reasons why you should retreat, not invest. I’ve met so many people, wearing their virtual black armbands or past experience, failing to forgive and move on.
Successful people, have mastered the notion of ubiquitous opportunity. They don’t pre-judge, they stay open to everything and closed to nothing. Even if that means repeating a previously unsuccessful thing on a different day as the outcome may be different. Your past experiences can end up pre-programming you to be closed to opportunity, unless you constantly update your stored experiences and beliefs with the up to date version of you.
Earlier I sent this tweet, “Opportunities are never lost,someone will always find the ones you fail to see/action”. It’s a great reminder that those who have moved on into the moment of now, rarely miss opportunity, as they see the possibility in everyone and everything at anytime. They have great listening skills, ask lots of questions, take lots of feedback and update their personal software.
People who have pre-formed opinions, want to spend more time arguing they are right or pre-judging outcomes rarely see as much opportunity. So spend more of your time reflecting as to whether you might be in that place, I have been and from experience I can tell you, the less hung up you are, the more UP! will come your way.
This was the scene I had in front of me on Sunday morning – fantastic isn’t it. I was out on my bike, it was foggy and early in the morning so the roads were quiet. The sunrise was breaking through the haze and riding towards it, I couldn’t help but feel what an amazing scene it was, so I pulled over and took a picture with my phone.
Absorbing the detail of the view, the trees, the distance, the sunrise and combined with the slightly shivery conditions, I felt glad to be alive and equally glad to be out enjoying such a moment.
As I rode off towards the amazing sunrise, it made me reflect on why I no longer make New Years Resolutions, prefering “lifelong evolution” to short term “resolution” which sounds like you are doing a running repair.
When you are working to a greater purpose (for me it’s simply to make a difference to the people that I meet), you take little notice of days, months and years anymore. Your life is less goal centred and more orientated towards your bigger picture,with goals contributing rather than being the be all and end all.
For too many years I chose to make resolutions, which all lasted for a week or two before I got back into my old ways. Usual stuff, lose a bit of weight, get fitter or ring up an old friend. It wasnt until I turned forty that I began to realise that you don’t need a New Year to do any of this stuff, you can make the choice anytime of the day or night, on any given day on any given year. All you need is a wider purpose to make it meaningful for you, for you to get the motivation to break a habit and create a new one.
Everyone needs goals, they do help to motivate. But goals not linked to a purpose can end up becoming empty goals, or a shot at goal which goes wide of the net. Whether in business or your personal life, feeling connection to a strategic objective or life goal, is the surefire way to accelerate your journey towards it.
Those that may have seen me speak on this subject will have heard me refer to this as defining your “ding” – there is a short blogpost about it which you can read here. When you get that over-arching reason as to what you’re doing it all for, you’ll quickly realise that you can change anything about how you operate in the blink of one eye and change needn’t be driven by a date called the 1st of January which only occurs once per year. You can have twenty “1st of January’s” every day, if they are linked to a real purpose, all you have to do is decide what.
Happy New Year!
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!
Remember TWA? If you do, you’ll be thinking of an American airline that existed until 2001 when it was acquired and merged into American Airlines. It was one of the big two at the time, competing with Pan-Am for control of the skies. I use the acronym of TWA when talking about success.
A distinguishing characteristic of successful people is that they take action. How many people do you know that do a lot of dreaming and talking, but not a lot of doing? When it comes to putting the rubber on the road, they are to be found lacking.
Action is the most important component of creativity and innovation. Implementing ideas is where it’s at. It’s no mistake when you get a super successful entrepreneur on a stage at a conference that their journey always started with a single step, that step being they did something about their idea. Nowadays with so many social platforms available, you can get going in a really agile way, developing and refining your concept as you go, there’s fewer barriers than ever.
But still some people choose to talk, procrastinate and put off the vital component in creating success = ACTION. If you want to fly in life, you need to put your Thoughts and Words into Action (hence the acronym). What you’ll quickly establish is whether your ideas will make it or whether you are the next Richard Branson. Without action, you risk falling into that marvellous category of talkers, not implementers. You’ll never find that success unless you take steps to action your ideas.
For many, it’s the fear of failure, fear of exposure, fear of what might happen. Successful entrepreneurs don’t look on it as fear, they look on it as risk management. Many hugely successful people see failure as simply the process of finding success, they start multiple businesses expecting some to fail, in order that the stronger ones survive and prosper. They consistently seek out opportunity and quickly get on with it, when that opportunity looks realisable and able to be monetised. So if you want to fly, buy a ticket to destination Action and see what happens.
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.