6 weeks ago an electrician popped over to our place to provide a quote on putting in a new power board. He said it wasn’t a big job and he’d back towards the end of next week to do it. They always say that. Do you think he ever came back?
As your career unfolds your reputation continues to be built. Every day you interact with all sorts of people. Some already know you, and have already formed an opinion on you. Some don’t and may be quick to judge you, based on their own map of the world.
Your reputation goes with you everywhere you choose to go. It’s not something that you can simply switch on and off.
Reputations are very powerful. They exist without you being there.
Think about what you have done in the past when you have had a great experience with a film, a restaurant or a service provider. You tell other people. The scary fact is that when you experience something bad you will be more likely to tell a lot more people.
Think about how you spend your time and the impact that this has on your own reputation. Everything that you do is in some way affecting your reputation.
If you are always 10 minutes late for meetings this sends a message to the other attendees about how you value your time in comparison to theirs. If you allocate 2 hours a day to Facebook and Twitter updates this sends a message out about your priorities. If you check your emails during meetings or even better, take calls (but speak softly) during meeting this will affect your reputation.
After every interaction you have with someone you leave them with an experience of you. Your reputation is so powerful. It’s hanging around, much like a vegetarian in a fruit shop, long after you have left the room.
4 ways to improve your reputation
No matter what type of work you do you can easily enhance your reputation every day. I have found over the years that the people I work with who have a great reputation tend to consistently do the following 3 things:
1. Do what you say you are going to do – It doesn’t sound hard, but not as many people do it as you would think. If you say I’ll call Greta tomorrow, then call Greta tomorrow. If you say we need to make a decision about the Bigalov project file by Friday, they lets make a decision about Bigalov by Friday. Listen closely to your words. Your reputation is being damaged if you are saying what you want to say, but you aren’t delivering on it. You don’t want to be known as someone who only tells people what they want you to hear. This is not always helpful when it comes to building a successful and sustainable long term reputation.
2. Give without expectation – We all know there are 2 types of people in the world. The givers and the takers. If you are seen as a taker, think for a moment about how damaging this will be to your ongoing reputation. People with successful and established reputations are constantly giving without any expectation in return. Think of how Karma works. Build a world class reputation based on what you can give not what you can take. Work on exceeding others expectations.
3. Be consistent – this is probably the key. You will build a personal brand through providing a consistent level of service. Be consistently average and that’s how you will be perceived. Heh, there’s nothing wrong with being average. Look at McDonalds. You wouldn’t feed their food to your dog, yet they never seem to run out of customers. The reason? People know what they are getting. No surprises. They are happy to eat that food and drink those shakes because they know what they are getting.
When should I start building my reputation?
Start right now. Keep a better record of your commitments. Checklists might help. Listen closely to your words. If you find yourself saying No more often to certain requests this could be a good sign. It indicates that you are more aware of what you can do and what you can’t do. Work hard on not making promises that you can’t deliver on.
I’m still waiting for the electrician to come back. In fact if he does come back at some stage we don’t need him. We’ve changed our mind about having the power board in that spot. Good job he’s unreliable. He saved us $350.
A few years ago we had a bowl of white peaches on the kitchen bench.
I noticed one day that one of the peaches had a few very small fruit flies buzzing around it. No big deal.
In my wisdom I decided to do nothing about it. The rest of the peaches looked fine to me.
I thought my wife would probably notice the fruit fly on the bad peach and she would deal with it.
Two days later I went to grab another peach from the bowl. I also noticed how soft it was. It also had a lot of fruit flies on it, so I threw it out. I grabbed another one it was also rotten.
In fact when I checked the fruit bowl all the peaches were ruined. If only I had thrown out that first rotting white peach when I noticed it had the fruit fly.
Move forward 3 years and I see that the Australian cricket coach and leadership group have decided to suspend 4 players for failing to complete what should have been a relatively simple task.
On the one hand the whole episode is hilarious.
On the other hand it raises some very important questions for any high performing team.
What do you do about poor performers?
Why set up people in your team to fail?
Why didn’t the players complete their homework?
What would have happened if Warne or Ponting were still in the team and they hadn’t done their homework?
What does it show you about the respect and the relationships between the leadership group and those players?
How important is it that the punishment should fit the crime?
How will this act, suspending the players affect the culture of the team?
It’s easy to ignore the little problems, in any relationship when you first notice them. You hope that they’ll just go away. They rarely do.
High performing teams know how important it is to deal with little problems quickly before they grow in to bigger problems. They provide quality and timely feedback. Have you ever heard the saying, “nip it in the bud”.
I wish that I had just thrown out that rotting white peach as soon as I saw it.
If you would like to discuss some ideas for building a stronger team email me at email@example.com
To see some of the ideas and activities I can offer for team Building sessions please click here.
Everyone I work with has some teaching ability. It’s innate.
Most people can see the immediate benefit of being taught, but don’t necessarily think of themselves as teachers. Yet if you became a better teacher the benefit to yourself and your team would be enormous.
I’m guessing that you had exposure to close to 20 teachers by the time you had finished high school.
Throw in your sports coaches, dance teachers and the piano teacher with the large mole with hair coming out of it and you are probably closer to 40.
I’m assuming that if you can read this some of your teachers were very good. If you can comprehend it, they were even better.
I wonder how many of your teachers really made an impact on you. Perhaps two?
I remember a lot of my teachers, but probably for the wrong reasons.
Mrs Gonzalez (big lips), Mr Weston (too much aftershave), Bob Ossie (endless American basketball videos) and Mrs Keszi (she was a Cypriot and the way she said Introductory Statistics was worth the school fees).
Perhaps the reason you recall so few is that you weren’t really ready to learn. Timing is always critical in any teacher – student relationship.
It takes 4 years to qualify to become a teacher and a life time to master. Think for a moment how hard it must be trying to teach a classroom that is full of children with different skills. Chances are that they all come from different backgrounds and all learn in slightly different ways.
As a leader I’m sure that you devote a lot of your time to helping others to learn new skills and fulfil their potential. You know from experience that it is not easy. You may have a handful of people who report to you. The chances are you find it difficult to get the best out of all of them.
My eldest child, Emily has 29 children in her class. That means her teacher has to find a way, every day of guiding, inspiring, coaching, teaching and mentoring 29 people. Every school day of the year. Try that for a week and see how you go!
Great teachers are such a rare commodity, yet they are worth so much. Not just for the immediate or short term results that are reflected when you review your child’s school report. Think about how a great teacher can set someone off on a path that they never even knew existed. They can introduce them to the amazing worlds of space, art, music, science, sport, reading, maths and technology.
This morning I asked my girls (11 and 9) what they like to see in their teachers. I loved their responses. They said, someone who is organised, fun, has time to actually teach you and funnily enough, actually teaches you. That might seem fairly obvious, yet I wonder I often it actually occurs.
In your own role how much of your time are you allocating to teach other people new skills.? Some people I know don’t know how to set up their auto signature in outlook or on their phone. That’s fine. Shouldn’t someone teach them how to do it? Not everyone you work with will have the courage to approach you requesting to learn new skills. People can feel very insecure about what they don’t know and will go to extreme lengths to mask their inadequacies.
“If I reveal that, what else might they think I don’t know? Better to stay quiet and just bluff my way through. I’ve made it this far by saying nothing, so why rock the boat now.”
As you move into more senior roles your ability to teach other becomes more important. You can’t assume that the people you work with will have the same desires and motivation that you do. You are probably not trained as a teacher, yet you must find a way to teach others. You can’t just send people off to courses all the time to learn new skills.
You can become a better teacher very quickly by doing these three things.
1. Learn a new skill. An instrument, a language, a new cooking dish. Notice how the person teaching you goes about it. How much talking do they do? How involved are you? How much do they understand your challenges? Do they set you tasks to complete post the session? Adults should always be learning new skills. It keeps you sharp and interesting. Why not make the future you a better version (2.0) than the current version?
2. Teach at every opportunity. Read to your dog and see if she barks in appreciation and especially when you pause. You can admire her paws whilst she admires your pauses. Teach people how to clean a BBQ (if you are good at it), learn to surf, kick a football. Why not share your enthusiasm for a subject area through teaching it to others who are interested in learning more.
3. Notice the effects of your teaching. If people give up immediately after you have taught them or change the subject quickly there is a very large clue for you. If they want more you are probably on the right track. The success of any teaching often occurs well after the lesson has finished. If they thank you and then start to implement what you have taught them you are definitely heading in the right direction.
Your children’s future lies in the hands of your teaching, your role modelling and the teachers that they are exposed to. You have almost no control over the teachers they will be exposed to. You have almost full control over your own teaching and role modelling.
The future of your staff lies in your hands. Imagine how much stronger your team will become in the future if you could become a better teacher today.
If you would like to assess your own leadership skills, I have developed a new leadership self assessment tool. It takes you no more than 8 minutes to complete and will give you a score out of 50 on your own leadership skills. The average score is 36. If you would like a copy please email firstname.lastname@example.org
2013 is the Chinese year of the Snake and the NRG year of Intuition.
This year, if my gut feeling says it is the right thing to do, then I’m going to do it.
If at the end of the year I’m 25kgs heavier than I am now you’ll know my gut feeling is a lot stronger than my will power.
Picture this scenario.
You are looking to hire a new person and a candidate walked into your office, and said, “I’m here about the job”. Imagine them standing there, well dressed in a suit and then you notice a large tattoo across their forehead that says “Hire me, I’m awesome”. I doubt that you would be inviting them back for a second interview.
Yes, they might have had an excellent CV. They may have relevant industry experience. They could have answered all of the questions that you asked them at the interview beautifully.
The reason that you won’t have them back is that you are using your intuition.
Intuition is the X factor in decision making.
We all have a wealth of life experiences that guide us when we make decisions. We love to pretend that we are being logical and rational when making decisions. Reality is, often we are not.
Think about the last time you were considering trying a new cafe? What was it that gave you the courage to try it? Was it the colour of the logo, the pleasant aroma drifting from the venue or the handles on the mugs? I’d guess it was none of these.What probably influenced you more than anything else were the people you noticed drinking in the cafe and the people who were working there.
Your intuition gave you a “feeling” this would be a safe and wise choice. Some people call it a gut feeling.
I love using my intuition when I’m meeting people for the first time. In my line of work I can potentially work with 5 new groups in any given week.
When I meet new people at the start of a session, I love noticing my intuition. 80 per cent of the groups normally seem fine.
What is my gut telling me about the guy who came in late and doesn’t want to hold eye contact with me? What is the message I am getting from the lady who starts every sentence with the word I? It’s not my place to judge anyone. What I have learnt though is to trust my intuition. It helps me to make better decisions every day. It helps me to plan how I can deal with people and potential difficult situations in advance.
Here’s a little experiment that you could try the next time that you find yourself watching late night TV .
When the ads come on for another wonderful exercise and weight loss machine, let’s call it the ab blaster 5000, turn the sound down. Watch the presenters. With their sculpted bodies, shiny teeth and orange skin what is your intuition telling you? You might get a very different feeling from the one that I get in my abs.
I discovered a new word last year, and I love it. Akraisia. It means doing something against one’s better judgment. It might be deciding to have an extra-large slice of chocolate cake on day 2 of your new diet, (I’ll run it off tomorrow) or starting a new project and then clicking on that email promoting those $39 flights to the Gold Coast or picking up the phone to order the Ab Blaster 5000.
Your intuition is in a constant tug of war with your will power. If you let your intuition win most of the time and reward it for winning then you might find that you make more and better decisions every.
It would take a lot of courage to hire the candidate with the “Hire me- I’ awesome” on their forehead. If your intuition said it was the right thing to do, you might just have to go ahead, take the plunge and hire them. It might turn out to be the best recruitment decision you’ve ever made.
Most of the time if you trust your intuition and listen to that feeling in your gut and that little voice inside your head, you’ll make the right decisions. You don’t always need a spreadsheet and multiple meetings for permission to proceed.
Go for it.
In February this year, when I wrote the first newsletter of the year I mentioned that I saw 2012 as the western world’s year of distraction.
Nothing that has occurred during the year has changed my view of that.
As we approach the end of the year I wonder how you have coped with all of the distractions that have come your way with Email, Facebook, LinkedIn, You Tube and Twitter etc.
One alarming trend for an old bloke (I’m 45!) like me is that I am noticing more and more F.B.A’s as I travel around the country. Face Book Addiction is a serious issue and one,like most addictions that might not be that easy to shake.
It’s not my place to judge anyone for how they choose to allocate their time. My job involves helping people to perform better at work.
Everyone I work with has a different value system. If you want to perform better at work, I suggest that you need to develop a system or at least a well thought out plan for managing how you deal with social media and interruptions.
If your value system relies on staying up to the minute on the details of hundreds of people who aren’t really close friends of yours, then I guess it would be very important for you to be on Facebook, on a regular basis.
If your value system was one of getting the best return on your working time each day, so that you had sufficient time to allocate to the other priorities in your life, I doubt you’d be spending a lot of time on Facebook.
As you start to think about your plan for 2013, I wonder what your approach to social media will be. Who will you discuss it with? Are you concerned enough to look at it in depth?
It can be very tempting to be updating your status regularly and viewing others “news” on an hourly basis. My concern continues to be, at what price?
There is a very simple concept that I had learnt from my high school economics teacher, Mr Weston. It’s called Opportunity Cost. It is the cost of the next best alternative. So, if for example I spend 1 hour a day reading Facebook updates what was the opportunity cost? What else might I have been able to do with that time? Opportunity cost measures the relationship between scarcity and choice. What will I really gain by allocating so much time to Facebook or social media?
How will it repay me? Great, I now know that your cat has eczema, your second child came third in the egg and spoon race or you have discovered how to dance Gangnam style like Psy. Terrific. As I mentioned before, if this is of value to you and helps you cope with the world, then go for it. In fact why not double your social media time each day? Like cosmetic surgery, If it makes you feel great, fresh and up to date, then you should be doing it more often, not less often.
I imagine that you are now busier than you were 2 years ago. I don’t work with many people who tell me how they are slowing down.
Like you I have to juggle my business priorities with my family, my health, my friends and my hobbies. If I allocate 1 hour a day to Social media then what I must ask myself is what will I need to forgo?
For me this might be a swim, a walk with my wife, reading a good book, calling some clients, playing soccer with my son or watching cricket on tv. This is the big question that everyone faces every day. If I do this now, what will I be giving up?
If there is one trait that I consistently see in the great leaders that I work with it is that they have developed a way for managing themselves, and hence making better use of their time each day.
They know the difference between important and urgent priorities.
As you approach 2013 I suggest that you look closely at how you choose to allocate your time. Perhaps measure the amount of time for one week you spend reading unsolicited email and catching up with your online friends. Think about what would happen if you cut your Facebook time in half, just for a month initially.
All of a sudden a window each day would open for you. What you then do with this time is up to you? You might spend it just pondering and seeing what thoughts come to the surface. Have you ever noticed how clear your thinking can become towards the end of a holiday?
Summary and tips from your speaker coach, Steve Herzberg, NRG Solutions.
Top 10 considerations for speakers – I suggest read this and consider how it applies to your session.
1. Your content.
How clearly is your content structured? Does it flow logically? Are there no more than 3 key chunks of content? Is it a journey from Point A to Point B?
Do you highlight some challenges and then show possible solutions? Do you explain a recent situation, the action you took and the outcome you achieved?
Will you be busting some common myths? Are you presenting on why we need this technology, how to use it, or a bit on both?
More on the why at the start usually helps. Be careful that you just don’t show us how your technology works. Explain its relevance and why now is the time to start taking a closer look at this.
Summarise as you go, and at the end of your session.
2. Demos and props.
Always consider this question. Could you show them something as opposed to telling them?
Demo as early in your session if you can. Not the whole thing, but at least a little teaser. The more telling you do in your session the more likely it is that the audience will disengage.
I can guarantee you that if you want to lose your audience, keep taking at them in a fairly fast, flat monotone voice. Props and demos are a great way to have the audience focused on something other than reading another PowerPoint slide.
3. Keep building response potential.
The audience need to be enthused about what you are showing them now and importantly what is coming up next. Remind people where you are taking them.
This is where we are now, and this is where we are going in this session. I’m going to show you how to get there.
Think like a magician. Produce some magic in your talk that has a wow factor. Be like the pilot on the plane, explaining the details of how we will get to our destination on time, and where we are currently flying. Be clear about how you are going to move them from A to B.
4. Stay on your message.
Repeat it often. They only see your session once. If you are lucky they will remember about 20% of it!
Be clear on what you are suggesting. Remind yourself what you would like the audience to be doing as a result of your session. How should they feel? How easy is it for them to get started? Give them the confidence and the tools to take a closer look.
5. Edit your deck again.
80% of the speakers I work with have TMC (too much content). Look again at each slide you have in your deck. Assess why it is there. Be brutally honest. Does it add value to the audience? If the slide is there for your benefit, not theirs, get rid of it.
6. Your slides.
Use larger font and fewer words on each slide. Look at each slide again. Is there still too much writing on it? Does all the writing force the audience to read it and hence lose their focus on you?
How good are your images? A picture paints a thousand words. Search for better images that will add impact to your message. Make sure these are not restricted by copyright.
7. Practice properly.
In your preparation for your presentation allocate the same amount of time to content preparation as you do to your delivery. I suggest at least 2 run throughs before you present. Time it. Record it. Then do some more editing.
8. Delivery skills.
Speak slower than you usually do for most of your presentation. Some variety in pace and volume will help keep the audience engaged. Pause often. Move when you pause.
Walking in silence looks cool and helps the audience understand the flow of the presentation. Use clear gestures that are closely linked to your words.
Tell relevant stories that bring your content to life. Everyone loves stories. Think about your recent experiences with this technology. What have clients been saying about it? Think laterally. Consider recent events (e.g.: Olympic Games) and how these could be worked in to relevant stories.
10. Next steps.
You should be clear about what you are suggesting that people do next.
Persuade them to have the courage to download the appropriate information and start trialling it. Encourage them to connect with you via social media.
Let them know where they can come and speak with you in more detail after your session. If you aren’t clear on the next steps, what hope will they have?
Last week my eldest child Emily, who is now 10, asked me for some feedback on a talk she had prepared for school. I listened to her present it to me. She then said, “Well dad, what do you think?”
I paused, processed what I had just heard and seen, reminded myself she is only 10 years old and my gorgeous first born child.
I then said, “I think it’s pretty ordinary. It lacks planning and structure and it seems to me like you’ve rushed it”.
You should have seen how upset she was. She was almost in tears.
I knew that with a little more effort and some planning that she could do a lot better.
She was disappointed that my feedback was so blunt. I was surprised, as I would have thought by now she would have been used to it.
Feedback, it’s the breakfast of champions.
Providing high quality feedback is a tricky business.
My wife loves giving me feedback. She loves telling me I can give it out, but I can’t take it!
I love that feedback. It reminds me I need to keep working on how I receive feedback myself.
If you look back on your career I wonder how much of the soft natured well done feedback has really helped you. “Oh, that was a lovely presentation. Well done”.
It might have, like a can of “Red Bull”, given you a short term high. However after a few minutes its gone forever.
I can recall as a young cricketer receiving some feedback on my bowling, from former Australian Test Wicket Keeper Rodney Marsh over 20 years ago. “Hertzy, you bowled well today, but your fielding off your own bowling was sh—house!” I still remember it.
I remember when I started working as a Corporate Trainer almost 13 years ago I received some feedback from a client after a full-days session. I thought this will be terrific. I love feedback.
The feedback has stuck with me to this day. The client hadn’t attended the session but what they had noticed was, at the end of the day the training room had some flip chart paper left on the walls. They were upset about this. It had created some extra aggravation for them.
Unlike the flip chart paper which fell off the walls after a few hours, the feedback has stuck with me to this day. Since that comment I think of the training room, like a putting green. I always like to leave it in a better condition than I found it.
Specific and timely feedback on something done well or something not done well seems to be the key to improving performance. Athletes thrive on this.
Watch the quality of the feedback a young person receives from an excellent coach or teacher when they are learning to swing a tennis racket, ski or play the piano. Notice the word quality, not quantity. Be careful that it’s not too often.
As Bart Simpson famously said to Homer, “Dad, you say that so often, it’s lost all its meaning”.
That’s my issue with the overabundance of awards for kids. It appears to devalue the time that they really deserve an award.
At my children’s school the kids get awards for almost anything. A merit award for having good manners. Star award for doing great homework. A special award for being polite. Next assembly, I’m concerned that there will be an award for any children who didn’t win an award.
What’s your own approach to giving feedback?
Your own approach is almost certainly shaped like most things in life, from your upbringing.
Did you grow up in a home where no matter what you did it wasn’t good enough? Alternatively, when you broke wind, were you complemented on its tone, volume and very pleasant odour?
Here’s a few things to consider;
- Have you ever met anyone who has said to you that they had to leave their last job as they were receiving too much positive feedback?
- Has a marriage ever broken down due to an over abundance of positive comments to a spouse?
- What should you do about providing feedback on areas that aren’t working well?
- If you sugar coat feedback, will the real message be lost?
Like most things in life, if you really want to, I am sure you can become better at providing feedback. Both positive and where required negative.
Next time you are on the receiving end of feedback, why not take a moment to say, “Hang on a minute, can I just write this down? I love it when you provide me with timely feedback”.
If there’s one thing that I’ve learnt about feedback over the past 45 years it would be that providing quality feedback on a regular basis is not easy to do. It takes courage, confidence and delicate timing. Just ask my wife.
For more information on how Leaders can provide better feedback click here.
Here’s all you need to do to feed 5 people with rice.
Just add 4 cups of rice and 5 cups of water and then switch the rice cooker on. It’s that easy. The rice is ready in 15 minutes.
My family have had a rice cooker for 2 years and until last week I had never used it. I’d never had to.
My wife is the master chef in our house.
If pushed I could whip up a few fairly average dishes for the family, but nothing really of any substance.
Last week my wife took a well-earned break and went to Bali for a Yoga retreat.
She won the week off, all expenses paid, for being the NRG Solutions employee of the year last year.
That meant that I was left on duty with my 3 kids. It’s amazing what you learn, and how quickly you can learn when you have no choice.
It was a pretty tough week for me.
I had never really appreciated how much work is involved on a daily basis with 3 kids.
By taking on the role of primary carer for a week I could see what is required.
I had to get up at 6am to get breakfast made, lunches ready, a 4 year old dressed, dishes washed and get 1 child to school by 8am. I then had to worry about after school activity logistics, dinner, homework and then putting them to bed. I was exhausted.
One morning I walked to school with my eldest with pyjamas on underneath my tracksuit, my hair resembling a birds nest underneath my cap and my morning breath ready to pounce on anyone unlucky enough to get in to dialogue with me.
As is always the case, when you are trying to fly under the radar, I ran into 3 people that morning who fancied a chat. I made sure that I didn’t invade their personal space.
Last week gave me a greater appreciation of someone else’s point of view. I really did spend a week in their shoes. (those size 8 stilettos are very hard to get into!)
I have never worked with a successful leader who is not empathetic. I have seen plenty of leaders who claim to be empathetic, yet have not grasped the concept of empathy.
If you could improve your empathetic skills you would have to become a better leader.
Empathy is not sympathy.
Let’s be clear that there is a difference. Empathy is about understanding the other person’s point of view. Understanding their emotions and feelings. Not just their words.
It’s not easy to do. There is a tendency to get so caught up in what we are doing that we can neglect the challenges others are facing every day.
When you take on someone’s role, even just for a week, you get a much better understanding of what’s involved.
There’s an old saying about not judging someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes. Then at least you’re a mile from them and they have no footwear on, so at least you will have the advantage.
Here are a few questions for any leader to consider:
- How well do you really understand the different roles of the people in your team?
- Could you both benefit if you took on their role, even just for a short period of time?
- What are you doing to improve your empathetic skills?
- If you would like to have stronger relationships with the people you work with, why aren’t you making more of an effort to appreciate what their daily role involves?
High performing teams rely on people understanding what everyone’s role involves on a daily basis.
Great leaders are always, observing, listening and asking well timed questions to better appreciate what the members of their team are dealing with.
They know how to take an interest in people, without stalking them. Their care factor is high, because they want what’s best for the team.
Last time I checked, ignoring your team wasn’t an overly successful leadership strategy.
A position description may give you some clues as to what people do each day.
I’d say you’ll learn a lot more by sitting in their seat, car, or office for a few days.
Now if you are looking for some tips on using a slow cooker, I’m your go to man. I used it for the first time last week. What a great invention.
You know, you can even buy pre-made sauces for the slow cooker. You just need to add some diced tomatoes and stir. It complements the rice very nicely.
Nicola, my middle child, is now 8 years old.
Of my 3 beautiful children she is the easiest to get along with. She’ll go with the flow far more often than her older sister or younger brother.
Last month we had a clash of personalities.
Being a dad is a pretty tough job at the best of times.
In fact it’s that hard, I can’t recall one woman I know ever becoming a father.
We were on our summer holidays and went to Fingal Beach for a swim. The girls took their boogie boards into the water.
The waves were ideal for kids learning to catch waves. Nice, small breaks flowing in at regular intervals with no dumpers.
Nicola was reluctant to catch any waves. She was scared of going in to the surf, which was understandable.
She had been in and out of the surf for years, but was going through a phase at that moment where she had lost her confidence in the water.
I went in with her and held her hand. There were kids half her age in the water with us.
She made up her mind very quickly she didn’t want to stay in the surf. The water was no deeper than my waist level, her shoulders.
“Dad, you can’t force me to stay in the surf. I want to get out, she yelled. I’m scared that I will get dumped. Dad, please take me out of the surf now!”
I didn’t want her to get upset, but that was too late. I didn’t need a big argument. We get to do enough arguing when we are at home.
It was the classic coaching dilemma.
If I pushed too hard and made her stay in against her will, potentially she’ll hate her boogie board, the surf and her father for a very long time.
If I didn’t encourage her a little bit she’ll miss a golden opportunity to improve her skills and confidence in the surf.
Some of the questions I had to quickly answer included:
1. Was I trying to get her to fulfil my needs?
2. Was it really that important to address this now?
3. How about a latte for me now and a break from the kids for 30 minutes?
She will become who she will become.
Yes, she’s only just turned 8, but she already had a clear understanding of what she likes (olives, dancing and doing cart wheels) and what she doesn’t like (bananas on her cereal, being bossed around by her dad and her older sister annoying her).
Two days later we went back to Fingal Beach. I couldn’t get Nicola off her boogie board.
It’s hard to know what had changed in 2 days.
I had mentioned to her that I was disappointed she didn’t stay in the surf for longer on the first day.
She then asked me; “Dad, what do you mean by disappointed”?
Her mum and I had both told her that she had nothing to fear and was a confident and capable swimmer in small waves.
I think she had made up her own mind, in her own time that it was worth having a go.
All I had to do was return to Fingal Beach and hope the surf conditions we’re similar to those a few days ago. Luckily they were even better.
Seeing the smile on her pretty little dial as she coasted in on the waves put a lump in my throat.
I’ve found as the kids grow up they do things when they are ready to do them, not when we want them to do them.
Push too hard and they’ll give up as soon as they can. Don’t push enough and they could end up being good at nothing and having very few interests.
I recall Jerry telling George in an episode of Seinfeld, that George was actually good at nothing. George quickly replied saying that he was a very good quitter. (“My father was a quitter, my father’s father was a quitter, Jerry I come from a long line of quitters!”).
Coaching your staff is so much about trust, timing and providing them with the right environment and opportunities to excel. If you can get the balance right they can really surprise you.
The best coaches I’ve worked with seem to know when and how to have the right conversations.
When to push, when to guide and when to get out of the way.
As her father, I hope that Nicola grows up to associate the surf with great memories and having fun.
At this stage all that I can do is keep encouraging her to have a go. Take her down to the beach with her board and get in the water with her and provide her with any support she needs.
When the people in your team are ready to embrace a new skill, they’ll be ready. Not before and usually not when you want them to be.
Be patient, create the right environment, opportunities and accept that everyone will process things at different speeds and in different ways.
I love that sentence. I read it once in a magazine, when someone had written in complaining about their partners annoying habits.
If you think your partner’s habits are slightly annoying now, imagine what they will be like in another 10 years!
If you wanted to improve in any part of your life I would suggest a close study of your habits would be a very good starting point.
Are there some opportunities in there to make some small shifts which could give you some very large returns?
As you know it is not easy to change your own habits. Changing other peoples is even harder.
When I have issues with other people I always think it’s a better option for me to change how I react to them than worry about trying to change them. Their patterns, their habits, their way of thinking will be deeply ingrained.
Change is very complicated.
There is only one time in your life that you won’t see change. That’s when you use a vending machine.
Most of the high performers I’m lucky to work with have developed excellent routines that are habit based.
They associate rewards with certain actions, and focus on consistently delivering those actions. If you could find the right patterns and habits that work for you, your future could really start to take the shape you want it to.
We all have our little habits. For some people it’s a coffee at a certain time of the day. For others it’s mowing the lawn in the nude (not doing it yet, you should give it a go, its liberating). For Facebook addicts, it’s another status update and then losing half an hour of your day reading about how interesting everyone else’s life appears to be in comparison to yours.
When you get the urge to look at another $49 deal to the Gold Coast that has just popped into your inbox, could you instead replace that urge by pressing the Del button on your keyboard. It’s located on my pc (Lenovo T61) just above the backspace key on the top right hand side. Oh, how I love that key. You might be thinking of doing it now.
I often wonder why I don’t work out more often. Go for another run, swim or walk. I know I’ve never regretted an exercise session.
Never heard myself say, “Gee, I’m really disappointed I went for that run today!” Well, there was one experience when I went on a run when I was in my early 20’s living in Perth that I do regret. I can’t really get in to that now.
I’m sure it all comes down to habits. What are the triggers that get me to do the things that I know I should be doing? More importantly what are the triggers that distract me from high value activities? If I could remove or modify the triggers that set me on the path of distraction I’d be halfway there.
I ran a session on High Performing Teams a few weeks ago with a woman who exercises 5 times per week. Her best tip was - “Get your running shoes and outfit on as soon as you can”.
I once heard of an early morning jogger who used to go to bed in his running kit, and actually slept in his running shoes. I don’t know what his wife thought of that but it helped him to wake up and go.
If you would like to refine your habits this new book is worth a look. “The power of habit” by New York Times investigative reporter, Charles Duhigg.
Why we do what we do in life and business. Reading the book won’t get you to change any habits, just like joining the gym won’t make you fitter.
The book will show you how habits work and how you can, if you have the desire develop fresh keystone habits that might just give you the opportunity to reach the fulfilment you are seeking in your career.