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Performance lessons from sport

I have just arrived back from the Isle of Man after watching sane individuals ride motorcycles at insane speeds. The average lap record was broken, it is now over 135 mph. To get an idea picture this, take a drive out of London on the country roads to the south coast. Through villages and towns. Then imagine that every time you slow down to 30mph for a tight bend, you have to go back up to at least 160mph to get your average back to 135mph. In some parts you’ll need to do nearly 200mph to keep that average speed. And this is on country roads.

Sports people can achieve some extraordinary things, and push the ability of their bodies and minds into areas which seem incredulous to us ordinary folk. All of them are brave of course, it takes courage to push body and mind into these high achieving areas. And so this what the Isle of Man T.T. got me thinking about … is there a place for courage in our day to day organisational lives?

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Waving goodbye to stress and raise your personal impact

Robert Sapolsky is a hero of mine. Anyone who explains how Zebras are somehow linked to business has to be a hero. “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” was written 15 years ago, and since then ulcers have remained the same, and so have Zebras. So indeed, have the pressures we undergo in modern organisations.

In fact, I guess one could argue that pressures in modern organisations have become greater over the time. In Sweden there has been an experiment to reduce the working day to 6 hours. The resulting stress levels were lowered, happiness rose. The experiment was shelved eventually because it proved too costly (click here for details). So, we all seem to be faced with a truth we have come to accept … we live pressurised lives. Even far more pressurised than Zebras, who actually live with the possibility of being killed at any moment.


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Sports psychology - ensure success in business

"Sports psychology is now rated as the most important prerequisite to medalling. It is a change that has taken place over the last five years," (Ian Maynard, professor of sports psychology and director of the Centre for Sport and Exercise Science at Sheffield Hallam University, 2006).

We now take sports psychology for granted, it is no surprise to us that our supreme athletes spend time and money on cultivating the performance of their brains as well as their bodies. Perhaps one could even liken the syndrome of sport psychology to that of the contribution of NASA. How many items do we now use in everyday life that NASA invented for the extremes of space exploration? Camera phones, CAT scans and LEDs are amongst the hundreds of spin-offs that we now take for granted in everyday life. 

Perhaps then as managers in modern organisations we will start to use the success of sports psychology to improve performance in business?

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How to develop others - smile a little more?

I am writing this blog from Norway, according to World Happiness Report 2018 the second most happy country in the world. My son lives north of the arctic circle, and this family visit is an education in itself, it's hard to conceive of how a place so cold could be so happy!

The U.K. comes into 19th place in the 156 countries listed with a very slight decrease in happiness score from 2008 to 2015. Factors in the calculations include wealth, life expectancy, social support & freedom of choice. The most developed countries tend to score higher in happiness, which got me to thinking that if there is a link between a country's development status and its happiness level, is there a link also between happiness at work and people's personal development?

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Ensure success in your career

Failure is one of those things we rarely discuss. The main areas where discussion about failure is a relaxed and easy affair is in I.T. or engineering. It is acceptable to discuss a ‘failed module’ in a programme suite or a ‘failed element’ in an engineering solution. In the main though, the word 'failure' tends to be skirted around, certainly as far as human behaviour is concerned. We tend to want to be positive and talk about performance and experience rather than use the word ‘failure’.

Whilst we should be sensitive to people’s motivations and always value people’s efforts, sometimes thinking about the possibility of failure is a healthy process. We can focus us on things we need to avoid jeopardising our own success. Perhaps the best place to start to ensure success, is to consider how failure can even happen to dedicated and talented people.

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Better management - time to think

Like many of you, I have attended or run training events for all levels from basic level staff through to executives. Many have gone really well, many could have been improved, but all raise one key question for us as managers in our organisations.

The question is, what are people really paid to do?

I regularly ask the following question when running training events … “Do you have enough time to think?” The response is usually overwhelmingly in the negative. Many say they think on the train, or in the evenings or, god forbid, throughout the night! But do we have enough time available to think at work? The answer is usually ‘No’.

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How to develop others

I have always been a useless gardener. I don’t know why, but plants generally recoil in my presence. My horticulturally talented friend seems to exude warmth and confidence and the plants just grow naturally. She also does not intervene that much. When I intervene it’s usually cutting or trimming the wrong thing at the wrong time and the plant just sulks in protest. I have decided to stick at mowing the lawn.

I suppose if I learned the art of appropriate intervention like my friend, I would do much better. People development is much the same. Plants want to grow, and usually so do people. What I have learned over the years in industry is that the art of developing others is to enhance the desire to grow, rather than to intervene constantly with shears and clippers at the ready. When the desire is right, growth happens naturally.

"You don’t lead by hitting people over the head — that’s assault, not leadership."  –Dwight Eisenhower

So how do we enhance the desire?  How do we get others to own their sense of personal development?

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How to ensure a financial return from training

I'm sure you have heard of the saying 'If you carry on doing what you are doing, you will keep on getting what you are getting'.

Behind the scenes, L&D folk are masking the resistance, working miracles with slashed budgets and doing all they can to maximise training return, doing more and more internal delivery and covering the cracks of inconsistent internal messages from senior leaders delivered to the grass root business levels.

If there is a problem, L&D can fix it, if there's no budget, L&D will find a way to make it happen on a shoe string. Need a course delivered by yesterday - L&D will create something bespoke for you! If you are reading this thinking this sounds familiar you are not alone. Plenty of senior L&D folk are having to be more resourceful with budgets, and more creative with their delivery methods to keep everyone happy. How many people do you know would have their budgets cut, double their hours yet still be motivated and driven to get the best from their employees?!

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Giving Great Feedback

“People don’t leave their company, they leave their boss”.

The syndrome of leaving one’s boss to move to another job has been frequently discussed (see Harvard Business Review ). Many of course would argue that they leave because of pay and conditions, but of course even in that scenario a manager has some responsibility to address issues before the person leaves.

We are all aware that the biggest area of concern in staff surveys is “communication”. And that communication starts with the manager in the challenging arena of personal feedback.

Why is feedback so hard for many of us to give? After all, the cost of not giving feedback appropriately is people who leave their jobs because of the ‘poor manager’ syndrome, costing the company money and costing the manager huge amounts of time, effort and stress.

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