Now

When deciding what to do next, try to avoid the urgent.

Urgent is rarely important. Urgent rarely brings long term value.

So ask yourself, what should I do next that will return dividends well into the future?

Like compound interest, these small, regular investments will accumulate over time and turn into something massive.

 

 

 

How to structure difficult conversations

When going into any meeting, presentation or especially a challenging conversation, it really helps to have a framework to structure your thoughts.

Barbara Minto’s ‘Pyramid’ structure is one I’ve just learned about and it’s very effectvel.

It goes like this:

Situation

Set the context, environment and go through any supporting data. Generally give the lay of the land or the key facts so far.

Complication

What’s gone wrong? How are our plans threatened and what’s the potential impact? Explain how and why it’s got to this point.

Question

There’s nothing better than a question that you already have the answer to. Summarise the complication with a question that prompts a resolution… and then give your pre-prepared answer.

Answer

State your proposed solution. Then, explain how you go there. List as many fact-based reasons you can as to why this answer is the best way forward. If someone shoots down one of your reasons, don’t panic! Keep going through the list like a ruthless prosecutor.

At the end, take any questions and address any concerns. If everyone is on board (they should be, because you overwhelmed them with reasons to be), allocate actions so that the solution can come to life.

Even if the four steps above don’t go to plan, at least you had one. Appearing in control is a victory in itself and will help you influence the outcome more often than not.

 

Quality or delivery

Success has just as much to do with communication as it does with talent.

Knowing who is doing what, in which order, while the project is in motion, is the key to achieving an outcome on time.

Talent, skill and hard work are known factors that impact quality.

Less stated, however, is the need to coordinate, communicate and plan. 

Without these 3 things no one will ever see the finished product, which is a huge waste of effort. 

Talent + skill + hard work = quality of product. 

Coordination + communication + planning = delivery of product. 

Asking the right person

 

A lot of time can be saved by getting the people who actually do the work in the room early on.

Usually, time spent talking about possible challenges and solutions is completely wasted because no one thought to ask the person who will do it.

Ask yourself:

  • What do we need to do
  • Who does it
  • When does it need to be done

But don’t ask:

  • How do we do it
  • What happens if we do it like this
  • Why can’t we do this

…until you’ve got the right person answering the questions.

 

Park it

Have you ever felt that emotional, cloudy feeling in your brain when something seems so hard that you don’t know what to do next?

I have.

When the speaker makes the wrong assumption. Someone changes their mind. An agreement is broken.

Our mind can cope with only a few challenges at a time. In meetings, when more than 3 barriers are raised, notice how everyone’s confidence and constructiveness drops?

There’s a simple way to overcome this. Since our brains black out, it’s best to create a ‘parking lot’ on the whiteboard.

The parking lot is somewhere issues, blockers or cons can be stored and addressed at a later time. They are things raised during discussion, verbalised, noted and recorded.

Our brains love this. We don’t panic that they may be forgotten. We don’t stress about getting sidetracked. We don’t accuse people of hijacking the meeting.

When the time comes to go through the parking lot issues, you will find that the emotion has dispersed and once unpacked they are much easier to solve than previously thought.

The Parking lot technique is a simple way to keep meetings on track (and on time!) and to keep everyone focused on achieving the same thing. Try it!

Hitting singles – a path to success

home run

A home run is an incredible way to win the game. You risk it all on one big swing, hoping that night will be the night you single-handedly make the difference.

However most teams in the MLB this season average less than 1 home run per game. Usually, games are won by singles or doubles, accumulated over an inning – not a magical moment of individual brilliance.

So it is with our work or any pursuit we are trying to excel in. Undoubtedly, we dream of a home run each time we wake up in the morning, hoping that today will be the day the crowd finally witnesses our hidden talent.

Though instead of aiming to hit it out of the park each time, we should try to simply hit the ball first. Then, hit singles. Hit singles as consistently and reliably as anyone. Turn up, deliver what was promised, contribute, improve, share. Hit singles every time.

Eventually, you might even hit a home run. Yet until you are known as the person who is reliable, the one-off remarkable success will only be viewed as a fluke.

True success comes from mastering the basics, over and over again. This is a skill as rare as smashing it into the crowd.


Image: Werner Kunz

Try something

try something

The worst place to be is stagnant, afraid to make the next move. After failure, the next best thing to do is try again.

If we find ourselves second-guessing or holding back, we’ve already lost.

Success only comes to people when they try something over and over again, a slightly different attempt each time.

We learn. We build muscle memory. Change velocity. Wins are subconsciously enforced as good behaviour. Over time, we discover the right method or approach.

There’s no such thing as an overnight success, simply someone who has tried a thousand times.

Hitch a ride

hitchhiker
Life is full of trends. Like waves in the ocean, we can get swayed back and forth without realising it.

We know that the cycle of poverty is hard to break because there’s momentum behind generational unemployment.

Addictions are terrible because it’s not only the substance or behaviour, it’s the habitual repetition of that action that makes it hard to break.

On the positive, finding a mentor or boss with positive momentum can completely change your career or outlook on life.

Who will you hitch a ride with this year?

The expert of sharing

We see great leaders as experts in their fields. Visionaries of change and thought leaders defining the decades to come. The smartest, fastest or loudest.

Are they really that special, though? Are they that much braver than the rest of us? Of course not.

Great leaders gather people together and praise the latest ideas of others, steal like an artist and motivate the talented people in the group.

They aren’t always bright or talented.

So I want to propose something radical: leadership is an illusion.

Leaders aren’t the best in their niche. They’re the best persuaders, motivators and sharers.

They keep tabs on everyone that matters and distribute ideas that they know other people can convert into something great – with their influence.

Who are we sharing the best stuff with?

Who’s better equipped to make the changes we need to make?

What can we do today to be a better leader, not just a smarter expert?

Fixed or flexible

flexible

It’s frustrating when someone comes along and ditches the plan. The plan we all agreed was the best path. The one we graphed and colour coded and said, in unison, ‘approved’.

It’s also frustrating when someone can’t break from the plan. The plan that is so constrictive, inflexible. The plan that’s stopping us from making something even better.

Both ways of thinking are perfectly fine, but can be equally dangerous.

Often I find myself in both camps. When I’m invested in the plan, I can’t stand it when people break it. When I want to break the plan, I can’t stand people who want to keep it.

Understanding the type of people you work with (and for), either planners or breakers, is a massive help.

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