Setting Effective Strategies

In my experience, operational leaders and visionary leaders are two different types of people. You want both types on a senior leadership team. Too many of the first and the team gets bogged down in the detail. Too many of the second and the team ends up in LALA land.

The thing that can balance up either one is a shared purpose (or strategy). I particularly like using Amazon’s Narrative approach as a way to find this for common ground. More at:

https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/startups/startup-advice-how-to-write-a-narrative/

Avoid PowerPoint at all costs as it will not give you this common ground – it is the tool of visionaries. Don’t get bogged down in Excel either. It’s the tool of Operations and Finance folks.

Learn to write better and more concise English and get feedback on what you’ve written by listening more.

You can then move up and down this scale of short-to-long term thinking as appropriate, adding in pictures, charts and tables to clarify the position for the folks that need it.

At the same time you bring the whole team with you along the way! It is no coincidence that the word “WORD” is one of the first words in the bible.

(A suitable meditation to reflect on – on this Sunday morning – even though I haven’t been to church!).

Share

TT2125 – On Setting and Achieving Objectives

As we pass Midsummer’s Day 2021, it is a good time to reflect on what we have achieved so far this year, be honest about we are now, and set some stretching goals and objectives for what we are aiming to achieve for the rest of the year.

For many, the past eighteen months have been very different from anything that has happened to us in the past. Some of us have lost loved ones. Others have lost jobs. Yet others have been forced to take really tough business decisions that we never expected we would have to make.

In contrast, for some lucky folks, these times of change have presented new opportunities to change direction and grow. I have often found in life that the greatest opportunities present themselves in the times when things seem darkest. Just as the dawn precedes the coldest part of the night.

Through all these ups and downs in life, the one thing that I have found most useful throughout any period of change is to take one week out every 3 months to reflect and re-orientate myself. To give me (and those close to me) an opportunity to a complete a frank and honest self-assessment of what’s I’ve done that has worked, what I want to celebrate, what I want to change so that I can focus my precious time, energy and effort over the next 12 weeks into the things that I love.

It sounds a bit “corporate” , I suppose, but IT REALLY WORKS!

Image by RÜŞTÜ BOZKUŞ from Pixabay

I have three broad areas that I create new agreements on where I want to focus. I take one sheet of A4 paper for each. The three areas of objectives and agreements that I have are:

  1. The well-being of myself and my close family
  2. Work-related projects
  3. The wider community

For each of the three areas, I pick one (or a maximum of three) objectives that I want to focus on in the next three months. The trick then is to write them down! It is well known that one of the major factors that separate successful people from less successful people is that the former write down their goals and objectives and are crystal clear on what they want to achieve. I would suggest that success is impossible without a clear set of written objectives which are time-bound and specific and meaningful to you as the ultimate designer.

Further, given that we live in such an interconnected world, most of these objectives will require the energy, input and skills of others to achieve them. So another key factor is creating agreements with yourself and others as to how you will achieve those objectives.

This all sounds simple, but many people find loads of excuses not to do this type of exercise on a regular basis. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it! Personally, I’ve tried loads of apps and pieces of software – but at the end of the day, I always seem to come back to pencil and paper – which I then type up into a final draft which I print out and refer to daily.

Like any discipline, it requires practice, practice, practice. However, if you take these ideas and adapt them for your own needs, I’m sure they will give you a more successful three months ahead, where you find more meaning and purpose for yourself and those around you – whatever challenges present themselves.

In future articles, I will outline how I define these objectives and agreements in more detail and how I’ve created a personal support network of “circles” which help me achieve my objectives. I would love to extend an invitation to you to join one of these circles. Please message me if you are interested or leave a comment below if you have other tips and tricks you would like to share on how you set and achieve your objectives.

Share

TT2029 – The Three Flights of the Honeybee

There are three types of flight
A honeybee takes in her lifetime
They are:
The orientation flight,
The scouting flight and 
The foraging flight.
There are useful analogies between
The honeybee flights
And the journeys a young person
Takes when leaving home
For the first time. For each flight
Is different, you see. 
The orientation flight is designed
To learn how to get back home.
There is no point in going out
Of the nest and lose your way back.
So the orientation flight refines
Your homing insinct
The foraging flight is a well-worn path
Which many other bees have flown.
The knowledge is passed on by a ritual
Called the "waggle dance".
The more vigorous the dance,
The greater the source of food.
The riskiest flight is the scouting flight.
This is a leap into the unknown
There are no maps. No tribal knowledge.
No leaders to follow. Just instinct.
Many scouting flights do not bear fruit
And many scouts die on the wing.
As humans, we all have an innate
Pioneering spirit of adventure.
A call to explore the unknown.
Which would you rather bee?
A newbee, a forager or a scout?
I know which one I'd rather bee!
Share

TT2027 – The Power of Pencil on Paper

Let the words flow onto the paper
So that you can feel the scratch.
Feel the texture of the paper
Underneath your writing hand.
Feel the flow of black graphite
As it runs off the tip of your pencil

Creating the next letter
In the word
In the sentence
In the paragraph
Of the chapter
Of your next book!

The whole experience being guided
From somewhere else.
Written in a space of timelessness.
Written in a space that is yours alone.
Written in a space of pure potential!
Black on white.

Written as if you are in the story
Guided by characters that are performing
In front of you - true to form.
Written as an observer of human frailty
Woven into a storyline that is not yet
Completely obvious - even to you!

You are but a hollow bone.
A reed vibrating to the dance of time.
A pool of water reflecting what is true.
A breath of wind blowing onto other's faces.
A timeless channel of pure consciousness.
Just observing what's obvious.

Come! Join me in my land of plenty!
Let the flowers bloom;
Let the birds sing;
Let the music play;
Let the rich tapestry of colours
Be woven into our future!
Share

TT2026 – Out of Prison

As we come out of the Great Lockdown, it is interesting to reflect on the roller-coaster of emotions and experiences that have accompanied the disruption to our relationships both at home and at work in the past few months.

So far as I have seen, we have all had very individual experiences depending on our conditions going into lockdown.

For some, living on their own has been much more of a trial than for those that live with others. We are social creatures by nature. Results of a 2011 United Nations (UN) report raised the question – “Should isolation be permitted under any circumstances?” UN Special Rapporteur Juan E. Mendez concluded in the report that “solitary confinement for more than 15 days…constitutes cruel and inhuman, or degrading treatment, or even torture”. The relaxation of rules will be most significantly felt by this group of folk living on their own – perhaps as if they are not just being let out of solitary confinement but out of prison itself.

Yet others on the key-worker frontline, life has been probably pretty hectic and at times very stressful. Many have used the analogy with the military and are predicting that the stress will start to show itself in longer-term mental health issues such as PTSD.

For others, financial worries have been in abundance – particularly for those leaders in companies who continue to have to make difficult decisions about the future of their employees and contracts whilst they balance their income with their outgoings into 2021. There will be many casualties – particularly for those who are not having restrictions lifting like theatres and live performance venues.

And there are those fortunate ones who have perhaps seen more benefits than stress. Relief from a long commute at the start and end of each day. Closer bonds with family and friends. More time with their children. More community spirit and predictable days if you are lucky to have a job where you can work from home. We’ve been using communications technology in ways that we couldn’t conceive of at the start of 2020 that will change the whole way we think about how and where we work in the future.

With all these changes, we have seen other glimpses of the future. Things that people consider changes for the good that we don’t want to lose as well as the slowing down of life to the point where the decisions we take are more conscious and deliberate. Last week I lost a good friend to the virus. It reminded me of the fragility of all of our humanity and the importance of being far more conscious of nurturing the relationships that are important to me as well as to spend the time I have more wisely.

As human beings, we are an incredibly adaptable species and we will surely adapt ourselves to any so-called “new normal”. But before returning to any type of normal, it is so important for us to meditate a while on the things that have been good about the past three months that we might soon forget.

For me, it has been a time where time was somewhat frozen. I’m not exactly sure what I have achieved during that time. Maybe that was the point? In any case, I have become more conscious of the importance of the things that I promise myself and others – and I have become more determined to follow-through on those promises rather than waste my time on more trivial things that don’t matter.

Please share below any answers to the following questions so we can all learn from the past few months – before we forget and pretend everything has returned to normal.

> What did you learn?
> What are the changes that you want to stick?
> What things are the ones you only happy to let go of?
> How could we make the important changes stick – and not revert to the old patterns?

#lockdown #consciousrestart #covid #futureofwork #futureofhumanity

Photo Credit – Getty Images

Share

TT2015 – Waiting for Cora’s Return

In classical Greek Mythology, Persephone
(Who was also known as Kore or Cora)
Was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter.
Hades abducted her to his underworld
Where she lives before returning in spring
To cause the cycle of life to continue.

Even though it is now springtime in the North
Cora has drawn humanity in her underworld
In a way not seen for a generation.
This prolonged winter is out-of-sync with
The natural seasons, but gives us time to reflect
And become more conscious of the world around us.

How should we best prepare for Cora’s return?
Many minds are mulling on this at the moment.
They say that even when she returns,
The world will never be the same again
Our expectations, our structures, our systems
They will all have to change.

So, for each of us, we have an opportunity.
We can spring clean our lives before her return
We can make a list or an inventory
Of those things we like and want to keep
And those things that we want to let go of.
In preparation for Cora’s return.

Deeper than that, we can choose to make
New life choices that affect other people
Use the time to pray for, ponder and meditate
On a better world for all.
To reconnect to our own true nature and
To remember the fragility of humanity.

More than anything, to rediscover our ability
To create and nurture deeper relationships
With the things that matter most to us
And to simplify our lives by reducing clutter
And unnecessary noise in our busy lives.
So we are truly ready for Cora’s return

Share

TT2012 – Let’s Get Creative on Beeing Useful!

Image by PollyDot from Pixabay 

As the weather starts to warm up, the hives are starting to wake up. Each bee knows what to do. The queens are starting to lay eggs. The few new young workers are keeping the hive tidy and the others are out foraging for pollen and nectar when the sun gets up and it’s not too cold or wet to go outside.

Yet, as a society, most of us are in the equivalent of October or November, going into hibernation – or as we call it “self-isolation”. The bees don’t know that. They can’t get our kind of virus (though they have plenty of their own to contend with).

However, just as in the beehive, there are those workers who are stretched to the max. The health workers. The supermarket delivery folk. The engineers working out novel ways to make vital equipment with 3D printers. Those lucky enough to have a job where they can work from home.

But for many (particularly those over 70), the next few months might become lonely and frustrating. As humans, we all have an innate need to serve society and be useful. I’ve just volunteered to the UK’s National Health Service – but the system itself is just not designed to take on a flood of volunteers. The old systems can’t cope with taking on a flood of volunteers. There are too many rules and the processes are too slow.

The bees don’t work like that. If something needs doing, it gets done. As a bee goes through life and picks up new skills, it applies those skills to the job in front of it. They are a complex society driven by a much simpler and more effective set of rules than the way we are organised in our so-called modern global economy. I’m going to be writing about my thoughts on this in the coming weeks.

Additionally, next week, at 17.00 GMT every day, I’m running a half-hour Zoom call to swap ideas on effective volunteering in the lock-down. Spaces are limited. Please like or comment below if you want an invitation.

Let’s get creative about how we can be useful!

Share

TT2003 – Calling For More Generalists

Image by Miguel Ángel Ramón from Pixabay

When people ask me what I do, I tend to freeze.
I dislike labels.  If I have to be labelled
I prefer to be known as a Polymath.
Something like that.  And yet that doesn’t help
When you are looking for your next piece of work.
The market is skewed towards hiring specialists.

The world of HR and recruitment love labels.
It somehow makes the hiring process less risky
For them when they can you put you into a box.
Specialisms, industry knowledge, groupthink.
It’s a disease which is rife and one where
Renaissance (wo)man stands no chance!

How can generalists become more useful?
Some give back by working as a volunteer.
Charitable work is very is rewarding
But does not pay the bills.
Others enter academia to become
Priests to the religion that is education.

Others become authors or artists.  Yet in business
Creativity clashes with corporate straight jackets.
Squashed between policies and boring routines
We need a revolution! A revolution
In the way that cognitive diversity is
Recognised, commissioned and rewarded.

Ahah! I hear you say! It’s up to the generalist
To market their skills and get themselves a job!
However, generalists don’t like being tied-down
To particular job descriptions.  They don’t like
Being put into a box.  They are too inquisitive,
Onto the next idea before the last has closed.

What if there was a pool of generalists
Who could be engaged for an hour, day or week?
They know lots of things about many things
And can challenge like the Court Jester.
Crazy ideas might lead to a great product or service.
Who would commission them? Would you? And why?

Share

Lunch Boxes at the Embassy

We met twice in 2019.
Lunch boxes at the Embassy.
He was once a beekeeper.
We had fascinating and ranging discussions,
All listened into by unknown ears
From a foreign country.
Last time I saw him was in court
After they arrested him.
Now he’s in Belmarsh Prison.
We pray for him every day.

As a New Year’s Resolution,
I’ve decided to re-join the local writing circle.
This week’s exercise is a short story in 55 words.
This is my contribution

Share

TT2002 – On Plans and Planning

Image by Hebi B. from Pixabay 

As we enter a new year of a new decade, have you
Ever thought about how effective your plans are
At helping you achieve your objectives?
Winston Churchill once said:
“Plans are of little importance,
But planning is essential”.

Have you also wondered whether alternative strategies
Might produce better results to get you there faster?
And how the plan will go down with the rest of the team?
Planning is one of the riskiest activities we undertake
(And with the undertaker is where many plans end up!)
Wherever you are, it’s never too late to start planning!

How can we give our plans the greatest chance of success?
Aside from Churchill, many great leaders have determined
That is is the planning process that is most valuable.
The end-result of a published plan being far less important.
Yet without setting your sights on creating the latter,
The former is very unlikely to happen!

Some people (like me) think in pictures
Other people prefer words or spreadsheets.
So it is important that the plan is gamed-out
From a number of different views or perspectives,
Each one providing valuable insights into areas
That might cause problems down the line.

Involving the wider team from the outset is vital.
A plan that has no buy-in from them is bound to fail.
It is the planning process that gets the buy-in
By negotiating key friction points on the way ahead.
Yet too much sharing can also be counter-productive
Leading to too many cooks spoiling the broth.

In our modern-day world of information overload,
Artificial intelligence, social media and fake news,
It is ofttimes difficult to understand
Where things are going and where they might end up.
The planning process is more important than ever,
Even though the plan will end up being pretty worthless!

_____________________________________________________

If you would like to book a free 15-minute slot
In the month of January 2020 (no strings attached)
To discuss a plan you are currently working on
So I can give you three valuable ideas
To make it a better plan, then please book me here: https://calendly.com/gameyourplan/three-ideas

Share