The favorite saying of my boss of 15 years and mentor Des Miller. I find myself quoting this saying more often these days and each time I recall the many amazing lessons I learnt from Des.
All to often business tries to many activities at once, leading to nothing succeeding. Focus and dominating a particular market, really allows excellent execution.
A few weeks ago I was speaking to someone I competed with in business nearly a decade ago and he recalled the outstanding success for the product and market, he said he would not even compete, even though he worked for a gorilla business, as the business I worked for owned the domain.
In the telco sector there are few that own a niche. Regional players, sector players ie hotels, schools and one that specialised in 1-50 employees in business and nailed the proposition. In a market where Managed service providers and Information technology providers are owning the customer, the challenge for the pure carriers is clear. Again the lesson is relevant: What piece of the kingdom are you going to own?
In the kingdom of the blind, the one eyed man is king.
Just finished reading Julia Gillard and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala book on real life and real lessons of women and leadership.
This is a must read for any man and women in business or politics as the stories and lessons are relevant across all segments. The challenges the leaders faced and their ability to drive forward for the greater good, is inspiring.
The last chapter on standout lessons is to ensure that women feel inspired to continue in spite of the challenges for women in the workplace. We need to path the way for women of the future and there is no doubt change is happening and social media has given a voice that is accessible to all.
Here are some of the exerts that resonated with me:
‘That the academic research shows such toxicity in the feelings towards women who are ambitious is concerning’
‘Think women leader – Think Bitch’
‘women adapt to sexism so profoundly throughout their lives that the line between ‘this is me’ and ‘this what I do in response to gender stereotyping’ is impossible to draw’.
For male leaders this book will really help support and challenge the issues that prevent women from reaching their potential. For the female reader, be inspired and not be put off by the challenges, the benefits to society out weight the obstacles and with every women reaching the top, each one changes the course of history.
Cynicism may seem innocent and we all have our moments, but be careful of your audience and how they interpret your comments. Recently I heard someone, who was sharing cynicism and I cringed as I realised that could be me saying those very words! Worse still may be they heard me and then copied! They sounded like a victim, that it was happening to them, rather than them taking control of the situation.
Don’t go down the cynical path, chose strength and find a way to create a different view.
Take action rather than joining in the commentary. You become part of the problem, rather than creating the solution.
Cynicism is not a strength. What are you going to differently?
It was also a turning point when mentee becomes mentor, a significant moment where I felt immensely proud of the journey we had been on together and how far she had come personally. As she spoke about the book I realized that this book had had a profound impact on her, the most significant change in recent years.
Intrigued I got stuck into the book and I soon realized why it had such an impact. Jay’s journey to become a monk, is inspiring and his vulnerability about his personal challenges allows you to connect to him, as his challenges are every humans weakness, we all have them, some more controlled than others.
Some of the excerpts that resonated with me:
The more we define oursleves in relation to the people around us, the more lost we are. This is in the context of purging ourselves of envy, jealousy, greed, lust and more. This is so true. Being yourself and working on your challenges is more important than holding an opinion of others. None of us are perfect.
Transformatioal forgiveness: Revenge is the mode of ignorance. I think I practice forgiveness really well, however there is one incident related to me being made redundant due to a “mate” being given a restructured job. No matter how much I work on letting this go, I find myself repeating the story to others. Why? its not helpful and reflects poorly on me.
Job crafting, what employees do to redesign their jobs in ways that foster engagement at work, job satisfaction, resilience and thriving. Love this, as a leader I have always encouraged employees that care about sustainability or love customer facing engagements to find ways to make it part of their job. This is a must for everyone to connect to their job, company, peers and customers.
If you think you are too good for something, you succumb to the worst egotistical impulses, and you devalue anyone that does that chore. I witness this behavior in poor leaders. I roll up my sleeves at every opportunity as I feel more connected to my team and it really helps me understand the challenges they face.
To walk down the same old path and find a new stone is to open your mind. The example Jay uses to illustrate how monks are trained is well worth the read. During covid I did walking meetings everyday. Where I live we are surrounded by a very quiet international airport, industrial estates and suburbia! Never the less I walked the industrial estates and housing areas every day doing my calls. I heard others complain how boring walking around the neighbourhood is. For me it was one adventure after another, exploring areas I had never been to before, and where I had been I was on the look out for something new. Under the runway is a weir into a canal, I spotted two unusual birds, took pictures and when I got home discovered they were Spoonbills. Never ever seen this bird before. This morning I was walking back from the supermarket in the rain, when I spotted unusual mushrooms. Every day is a discovery if we open our minds.
Sustain your humility after achieving something. Remember and give thanks to the people who gave you the skills you are getting recognition for. Sharing the success with them keeps you humble. So important to share the impact others have on you. I am fortunate to have many amazing mentors.
Thanks to my amazing mentee/mentor Danielle for the gift of “Think like a monk”. It is one of my all time favorite reads and I know I will be rereading this book again and again.
Thanks to Joe Shetty for sharing your personal journey, exposing your own vulnerabilities. This is a life changing book if you practice the many lessons that are contained within the covers.
Keeping your boss informed of potential escalations and things that he/she should know about is an important part of your role. No one likes receiving bad news without a warning.
The earlier the warning, your boss can mentally be prepared, with no surprises and feel confident you have the situation under control. There are many steps to communicating well and in a timely manner.
Here are the 5 key steps and principles to landing the message without creating unnecessary action.
1. Email is good. Ensure the title is clear. FYI NO action required. Repeat after your Hi line in your email. This is important to ensure they dont take action. Also if you believe it may get escalated to them or above then put FYI No ACTION required. Escalation Highly probable.
2. Context: what is the issue and what is it causing concern. Be explicit but do not write more than a paragrath
3. What action has been taken already and the outcomes. This is to inform of steps taken, so your boss knows what you have tried already.
4. What steps you are taking at present and possible other steps if there are any. This is important for your boss and stakeholders to know what avenues you are exploring
5. Next Update will be in 24 hours. This is critical to keep your stakeholders informed and if they are in communication externally you are on the same page.
These can be done in one email, keep it short and concise. The earlier the warning the better prepared your stakeholders and boss can be. Don’t wait to crisis point. If you suspect the situation could blow up, go early and over communicate.
No boss enjoys surprises, this is a sure way to communicate timely information which means they are never caught off guard.
Way more than you think! Loser not being able to influence to get an outcome. Give up to easily. Victim
Since moving to corporate getting anything done, is infinitely harder than in a small and medium business.
The reason: many more stakeholders with many different agendas. Unless you have the patience, combined with excellent influencing skills and stamina to see it through, you could be the person making the statement ‘I have been asking for this business change for two years? ‘
Is it worth driving for the change? Yes you have your values and none of us come to work to do a bad job. We all want to make difference. So how do you go about making the change?
Really clearly define what you want to change. Put it in simple terms. Test the messaging with peers and team members
Use examples of how it will have an impact, who it will impact
Business case to demonstrate one of the following : revenue increase, cost saving or risk mitigation. If capital is required then their are extra steps re: budget etc depending on budget cycle.
Finally the risks and mitigation strategies for each risk. Clearly lay out and don’t miss any. Be open to receiving more!
Once you have the above nailed, then you need to go to your stakeholders and take them through steps 1-4. Solicit feedback, enhance any of the fours steps with the feedback and continue as you go stakeholder to stakeholder to gain support. Don’t miss any stakeholders. Look who is on the leadership team, do you have them covered?
When someone says “No” they wont support, deep dive on the why? fully understand why they are opposed. If you uncover reasons that you should not proceed, then you are wiser, you can move on. If you don’t agree with their views then proceed to get more feedback, ensure the non supporters risks are captured and you have clear mitigation as this wont be the last time it will be raised.
Once you have done the rounds and you have adequate support,( if not you need to rethink the strategy), take your boss through 1-4 with all the feedback and then all the names of people you have spoken with and who is supporting your recommended change. Agree the next step of approval and implementation.
The above could take significant time, but it is always worthwhile. Being passionate about a better future is contagious and a great leadership trait.
This lesson I am constantly relearning. My personal challenge is flawlessly executing the above every time, as once I meet the person who say No, once I hear this I stop dead in my tracks, especially from more senior leaders and start to reflect on the request, and then eventually I put it in the drawer for another day. With experience and benefit of hindsight I realise that is not what the business needs, they need the challenger mindset and finding support is not far away if you are prepared to look.
Don’t be the victim saying “been asking for this business change for 2 years”. Take action.
Recognising you need to change in order to be more successful and fulfilled in business and in your personal life is one of the hardest challenges we face.
Complacencies, making excuses for our behaviour, means that we don’t move past the point of acceptance for the current state. Losing a promotion, not securing a role, not given opportunities to step up, destroying a friendships can be a turning point where you reflect on what you are doing or not doing.
For me its not just situational, reading self development books, meditation blogging and journaling are also a cause for reflection on my own behaviour and what I need to do to enjoy life more. The four tools are a powerful combination to accelerating your learning and enjoying life and work.
The process of contemplating your own behaviours and the impact you have on others can be confronting, lonely, and transformational as we move from blaming others to taking responsibility ourselves.
When I look back at why I have been slow to change certain behaviours it was because I believed something else was at play, that was causing me to be held back, something outside my control. For women in the workplace we can blame bias and “the boys club”, but what if that is stopping you from facing some poor personal behaviour, which regardless of sex you would be held back?
When coaching and mentoring, I often say when the mentee recognises what they need change, you are already half way there. Why because the recognition is the hardest part, moving past that point into behaving differently is not that difficult, as the results of the change are immediately obvious and encourage you to continue, as you can see the impact you are having.
You are half way to changing when you acknowledge what you need to change
If you enjoy journaling then this book will take you to another level. Since my 20s I have journaled to release frustration, learn from my poor experiences and practice gratitude. This book is thought provoking, combined with meditation and you will become focused on those areas of development, that you have not recognised previously or you have chosen to ignore.
If you love yoga you will know that your practice changes all the time due to different parts of the body reacting differently to the moves and stretches. With practice you are highly tuned to your body and where it does not feel normal to you. The stoic journal taps into you subconscious in the same way.
Each day it gives you a question to ponder and then note section for morning and evening reflection. The discipline is addictive, as it channels your energy into those areas that you need to focus on.
The writing creates a calmness and for me, as well as detachment, something that I am challenged by, being a passionate and driven individual. In a years time I know I will look back at my entry’s in the diary and know that I will have moved on, driven to be a better person and leader.
Learning is a life long journey, being open and challenging yourself everyday, is life. My purpose: sharing the journey with others, warts and all. I want no one to believe they have arrived, there is no such thing, until we leave this world.
Today’s question: What is the real cause of my irritations – external things or my opinions?
Avoidance of fear takes its toll on our mental wellbeing. The more we avoid the things we fear, the more we retreat into ourselves, resulting in anxiety and depression.
I hated swimming as a child, the school pool in Oxford England was not heated and the summers not warm enough to make the water luring. It was my move to Australia twelve years ago where I found my love of surfing that finally made me go to swimming lessons.
I was in my late 40s and terrified of swimming. I had never worn goggles and terrified of putting my face under water. Surfing I was ok with as you only go under water when you are thrown off your board or jump off. Somehow I was ok with this, but not swimming where your face is under water a fair proportion of the time.
I read a lot about facing fears and how to move closer and stay longer. Being competitive and always pushing myself, I took a different approach to swimming. It will take as long as it needs to, I will go regularly, will not force myself to put my face in the water. The lack of pressure on myself, meant I could relax. A few years later I completed my first 1Km freestyle swim.
Friends took me out on an ocean swim at Clovelly , which was exhilarating, but my technique needed more work. So I am now back at stroke improvers swim school. Three months on, my swimming has improved, I also completed 25 meters of dolphin (pre cursor to butterfly).
The fear has not gone away, but my regular practice in the pool, has made me more confident, I never thought I would say this, but I enjoy swimming. Once I get going, I find the pace that works for me and I love the feeling of moving through the water.
A month ago I did an Ocean swim clinic at bondi. As we sat on the beach learning about the surf and how to manage swimming, I could feel my anxiety rising, knowing we were swimming out on the north bondi rip. As we stood waist deep in the rip with my goggles on, I started freestyle and before I knew it we were out the back of the waves. I relaxed, how difficult was that? Not at all, in fact it was an amazing feeling as the water acted like a motorway.
The next hour of exercises were challenging but fun, the highlight was the body surf back to the beach. At the end I felt a sense of accomplishment and felt so pleased with myself that I persisted with the swimming.
It’s easy to give into fear, its harder to face it, move closer and stay longer.
For many years I have surfed only in the white water, the only times I have been out the back is in a lesson. I did not learn to surf until my late 40’s which prompted me to learn to swim. Surf camps are great way of getting out very day with a group and last week I took part in a 5 day surf camp with Surf camp Australia in Gerroa. My husband was back at work and I was on compulsory leave, so perfect time for me to get away and do what I love (husband does not surf).
Over the years I have travelled on business on my own, even went to Bali 5 years ago on a surf/yoga retreat for women, but I was surprised at how nervous I felt going away on my own for the first time in a long time.
The fears disappeared fast when I was surrounded by like minded people of all ages and cultures. The staff also made everyone feel very welcome.
Being in nature, with all the elements (many storms) in beautiful scenery, deserted beach, in pristine blue water, empties your mind and makes you feel at peace with yourself and the world around you.
A lot is written about doing a job you love, but outside of work, it is equally important to find the time to do the things that make you happy. My take away from the week, was that I need to find more time to be in nature, it really makes a big difference to our mental well being.