Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Leadership - what is it all about? was inevitable.
Everybody gets older. I turned a year older this very year. I think it likely you did too, or you will.
I know, life. Crazy... 
For those of you who don't know me. I'm a guy who is still in my forties with a few wrinkles appearing on my face when I smile now, I'm happily married, I have a 17 year old son, a 21 year old daughter, a 3 year old granddaughter and a 9 year old step son. There's a lot more salt than pepper in my beard and hair now than there was a year ago (possible reference to all the children) and I'm less inclined to go for a cross country run now than I was when I was 20.  
No wait. Scratch that. I've always hated cross-country running. Face turns red, you sweat and overheat, struggle to breathe, and the constant running thing never tickled my brain. With all those symptoms, I'm pretty sure they're all signs of an allergic reaction.
Plus, running for fun? Have you ever seen a happy runner? No. And there you have it. I do enjoy exercise though, but swimming. Not running. I'm not built to run. I'm more of a stand and see what happens kinda guy.

But I digress. The point of this article is to provide some general guidance on how to be a good leader/manager, and call on a few of my own experiences and from successful people behaviours I have observed to use as examples. My hope is that the insights will enable you to have a successful career in your chosen field, and perhaps even in life. 
So let's kick this off. So, how does a guy like me - who did not excel in school but did fine, was not a superstar in any chosen field just fine in most, was not particularly well supported by my teachers due to my incessant curiosity, who came from a single parent home - end up doing all the incredible stuff I have done (and with more to come) across so many businesses and with so many amazing people? 
The answer is the very same answer that I've been writing about in almost every single post I've ever written. It all comes down to;
Yup - this old nugget. "A" double "T", "i" and another "t" with a whole lot of "uuuude" thrown in for good measure.
I - like a lot of the successful people I know - strive each and every day, to focus on the good, to turn not-so-good situations into better, to be proactive greater than 20% of our time and turn the negative thinking of others and ourselves, into more positive views. Dwelling on negatives does no one any good. Learning from negatives becomes a positive and that does everyone good.

By constantly looking for win/win's in every situation, being open to learning from everyone and anyone, by building a genuine, honest rapport with the people you work and interact with, you build a good base with people. Maintaining a constant drive for transparency and integrity in all your dealings, things will often fall into place where they're supposed to. Add to that, doing exactly what you say you're going to do (and striving to become well-known for all these traits), you will build up a size-able level of respect. It's how its worked for me in all the businesses I have worked within. 
And judging by the numerous head-hunting messages I get through LinkedIn etc and emails each month, I can only guess that perhaps this respect has translated into word of mouth that I'm a good guy to have on the team too. Always nice to be wanted :D
For you reading this, all that effort I've noted might seem a lot or hard work, but it's not. It is just a simple state of mind. Nothing more.
The result of having this type of attitude ensures that you have the opportunity to grow both professionally and personally without burning any bridges along the way. Whilst sure, as a leader you will have to make decisions that ultimately challenge what others are doing and you might get things wrong but in my experience, whatever bridges you "singe", you 'll never burn to the ground. Often the burns will fade once people realise you have not ever deviated from being a genuinely caring person with integrity who they trust. And more often than not, a person's reaction to anything you do, is often reflection on them, rather than you. Especially when you have a good, kind heart with the attitude to match.

And that raises the big point. Being successful in business is never about being heartless. In fact, it's quite the opposite. The people and businesses I have seen become successful, have been all about the heart. Being honest. Valuing people highly. Caring. Whilst there are always dollar decisions to be made, if you have a core set of values of how you view the world and they ultimately reinforce a heart approach and why you're in business in the first place, then you cannot go wrong. And it's easy to see the people and businesses who fall off this path too. You can almost see the disengagement amongst their employees from the moment they suspect they've become numbers rather than human's and their leaders have disengaged. 

Whenever you are working, whatever you are doing, if you have the right attitude towards it and those around you, you will succeed. Make sure you're not just sitting back and "expecting" things to happen for (or to) you, and things will get easier and you will keep yourself ahead of the curve. Nice people in business do get somewhere. Nice people with go-get-it attitudes get even further. It does also depend on what you consider is success.

For me, my guide is about making a positive difference to those around me, genuinely helping people develop and grow, building relationships that will stand the test of time, all whilst being well rewarded for my efforts. Not so that I can go buy "stuff", but so that I can provide for my family (be that travel to expand their minds, safer cars they love, healthier food on the table, etc) to the very best of my ability. Your career will take off the moment you define what you want out of one. 
For the attitude, people will see this great attitude in you, a confidence, a know-where-they-stand understanding and as a result, will not only work hard for and with you, but you will also garner their respect and belief in what you're trying to get done. 
Sounds great, right?
But what about all the experience, the skill? What if you're just starting out?

Along with the attitude, you also need to allow yourself to make mistakes, not be too embarrassed to make them so that you then don''t try, become too afraid to ask questions.
You have to be brave.
"It's ok to make mistakes"
So many people beat themselves up unnecessarily regarding making mistakes, but ask yourself some logical questions each time you make one;
"What have I learned?"
I'll bet you leaned how NOT to do it again, right? So is that a negative or a positive?
"How did that happen in the first place?"
Root cause analysis. Time to start looking at the process and how you got there, which will lead quite nicely into...
"How can I stop that happening again?" 
Forward thinking to help yourself and others.
"How wide did that mistake go? Who else did it affect?"
This is a good one to consider. Shows caring, plus can open up your mind to stop thinking just about your backyard, this one enables you to think all the way across the business you're in.

Regardless of the mistake, it is absolutely possible to turn it into a "positive" by learning from it and acting on it.  
Did you know about the potential to make this mistake before you made it? 
Maybe you did. What actions did you take to ensure it didn't happen? If you didn't, now you do. What will you do with this information you've just learnt?
Will you try to cover it up and fingers crossed no one realises? Well, you could...but where will that get you? Constantly having to hide it? Anxiety that someone might eventually find out? That doesn't sound like any fun now does it. Always better to confess, own any errors you make and spread the word! You don't want anyone else doing the same thing you did, right? 
Thing is - your $40 mistake (or even $4000 mistake) that you've just learnt from and are striving to fix/repair etc could be potentially plug a massive dollar hole the business you work for, that no one knew about. You raising it will highlight it. Good trustworthy people spread the word and endeavour to protect the business.   
And since you've found the error, by you alerting others to it, your little mistake could potentially save your company millions of dollars in the long run.
So...when you make a mistake, why would you beat yourself up again?  
If you need an acronym to remember - try F.O.A.L.S
That's a real positive. 
So give these things a go - consider the environment you work in and look toward upping your personal profile within the business. Think about who you interact with, what your job is, what your role is (job and role can be different) and why you're there.
A few key points to consider too if you want to be well thought of, trusted and successful.
1. Never be a suck-up - everyone can see through sycophantic behaviours, even if you're world class at it. You will effectively lose all respect from the people you work with and miss out on even normal opportunities. No one likes a suck up attention seeker.
2. Keep your cool when others aren't or can't. Someone who can think crystal clear in any crisis is an asset to any business.
3. Never go to a meeting without preparing for it first - you can choose to go as a spectator or a participant. NEVER choose to go as a spectator.
4. Do what you say you're going to do - use outlook calendars, phone reminders etc do whatever you have to make sure you don't forget. If you do forget, don't bother with excuses, own it. You made a mistake. Learn from it.
5. Allow yourself to have fun, and those who report to you. Don't be serious all the time. No one will relate to the person who can't have a laugh. They won't follow you or support any goals you have either.
6. Admit when you don't understand - which would you rather? Know how to do something or do it wrong and have to re-do it?
7. Be genuine/real. This, is numero uno and the MOST important thing of all. Fakes never gain trust. Better to be respected for who you actually are, than respected for someone you're pretending to be.
8. Show empathy for others. Care and concern is a strength, not a weakness. The leader who can empathize, can show vulnerability, is the one people will follow. You "get" them, they "get" you.
9. Proof read every email you send before you send it and re-read every email you receive at least once.
10. And lastly (but by no means finally) - challenge yourself. You're a lot stronger, braver and smarter than you give yourself credit for. Trust that fact and give things a shot. How will you know what you can achieve if you only ever sit back and don't push yourself?

I'll leave this all with you to have a bit of a re-read through - it is a big post. 
I sincerely wish you the best of luck with your career. I'm sure you've got this and perhaps all the stuff I've blathered on about, you already knew. If you did, sometimes its just good to have it written down as a reminder. If you didn't, I hope it is helpful. 

So please, have a great day...

...and dream big.

Distinguished Gentleman's Ride photoshoot

It's that time of year again! 
Where I grab my dapper gear and start telling anyone who will listen about this charity ride I help organise here in Tauranga, and the benefits of why you should donate to this worthy cause.

The following pictures are from our Marketing team here at Cubro ( who for the 2nd year in a row, have jumped in behind me to help raise the awareness and get people talking.

Please donate :)

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Dealing with problems

So I have been thinking...yeah I know...dangerous times....

But see I've had this thought, a little random thought. 

I was on a phone call yesterday, had taken a bite out of an apple whilst on hold (it was a long call). I had plenty of time to finish my mouthful before the person I was talking to came back. 
For whatever reason, I kept holding my apple for the entire duration of that phone call, didn't bother putting it down once - and at the end when I hung up, I noticed something.

And this is where I had this thought.

For arguments sake, forget my phone call and let's say I'm holding an apple up in front of your face. Yep, a regular crispy apple.

Now let's say I ask you; "How heavy is this apple?"

You're going to guess.  
Maybe anywhere between 100 grams metric or maybe 3-4 ounces if you're from the States.

Now what say, I tell you that no matter how much you determine this apple's weight to be, you will always be wrong - even if you take the apple from me and physically weigh it.

Yes, you're going to think I have lost all my marbles.  

So what am I on about?

The thing is, the longer you hold that apple, the sooner you will change how you consider it's weight.

To clarify - if you hold that apple up in front of my face for a minute or two, it wont be a problem - right?

But what if you were to hold that apple up in front of my face for an hour? 

Or two hours? 

Or maybe two days straight?

The weight of that apple will not physically change but the longer you hold it, the heavier it will get for you.

And here's where that thought has come in, knocking around in my back-brain until it's arrived here.

Could this be some kind of analogy for difficulties we sometimes face? 
For those times we negatively prepare for meetings expecting the worst? 
For stresses built up only from our own insecurities? 
For our anxiety's, our panic's, worries and concerns?

It strikes me that all of these things are all like this apple.

The longer you hold onto them, the more painful they become and the heavier on you they get.

Goal for you. Please remember to put your apples down.

You'll feel better for it.

Image result for friendly face

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Effort and failure - why both are good for you and your team

Hi there! Great to see you back.
Today I am running as Captain Obvious. No, nothing to do with lycra or super powers. All the stuff you are about to read, you already know. 100% logical and makes perfect sense.
You ready for the first one? Sure? we go.

"You only get out, what you put in."
See? You knew this already didn't you? Effort provides reward. More effort, more reward. If you do nothing, nothing changes. Now for the second one. Please take a look at the picture below.
This message is a simple one and again, one you've known all of your life.
No one just becomes a master, an expert or even something more than what they were, without the positive benefits of failure. Yes, you read that right. The POSITIVE benefits of failure. 
Let's look at the facts and the combo of both statements.

"You only get out, what you put in" and "the positive benefits of failure"
We all start out as beginners, amateurs and newbies in everything we do. Combine this with the first fact - effort - and it is in failure that we learn how to do better as it is one of the most efficient methods of learning.

By trying something, we often fail at it first. If we don't try, not only do we never fail, but we also never grow, improve, or even learn. Failure is something we experience from birth onward. The trick is to view it more positively than negatively. 
For every failure where you put in effort, you get to choose what to do with it.
Above the line thinkers learn from it and aim to never make the same mistake again, they gain experience and grow. 
Below the line thinkers ignore the lessons and potentially screw up the exact same way later down the track, plus they often avoid the chance to make any more mistakes.
The vast majority of you reading this will be identifying with more above the line than below. But there have been times where you fell below the line, right? That's okay too. Most everyone does from time to time. 
If you are picking below the line as your most preferred and attractive option, perhaps you need to re-evaluate yourself and the way you view the world. These articles are designed to help you get above the line and stay there. Success and positivity always rule and flourish above the line and by learning from your mistakes. Ignoring any great lessons failure can teach you, will set you up to obtain a narrow view of the world around you and potentially fail.
And again.
And again.

Perhaps not a good place to come from. If you do nothing else today and you live below the line, consider what might change if you challenge your beliefs. A positive view as a person can change your world. A positive view as a leader of people can change others worlds too.
When it comes to mistakes, there is a caveat. I am currently a department manager leading (indirectly through a great up and coming Team Leader) a customer care team of 17 people, plus working alongside a fantastic team of team leaders in a mentoring capacity as part of a larger across-the-business solutions focused role. There are a lot of people who could be making serious mistakes. Now if each of these people made a mistake on an hourly basis and I did nothing about it, then I wouldn't be much of a manager/leader at all, or be helping the business or them as individuals.

The fine line is about understanding impacts of the mistakes that "can" be made and managing those and the chance of them happening.

If you are reading this as a Team Leader, then this is all vital information to have and lead by. By putting in active levels of support (think about when you take a kid ten-pin bowling - you can put up the stoppers to prevent gutter-balls), by ensuring your people have the right tools to do their job, you consider what errors they "could" make, ensure you provide clear and concise information and help them find the drive to get things completed to the expected standards. This is the key towards empowerment. You technically allow them to try.

The better you get at empowerment, the more effort they will put in.
The more they try and take more ownership, the more mistakes they "could" make.
The pay off is they will learn more lessons and be better at what they do.
The better they do, the better your team performs.
The better your team performs, the less you have to manage them.
The less you have to manage them, the more you get to look for opportunities to challenge them even further, make their work life fun and improve how your entire section of the business performs.

Do you see how it all flows into one another? 
By ring-fencing mistakes, they quickly become "exceptions" to the normal day to day and therefore kept minimised and controlled. The benefits gained from allowing your people to make them, are massive.

If you haven't already, please read my LinkedIn article What-would-happen-i-empowered-my-team

Your role as a team's leader is to provide them a safety net. You need your people to own up to any mistakes they make, and then ultimately learn from them. You do this by leading the way, by building better relationships with them. You also need to provide yourself with permission to try and potentially fail too.
If your team see you trying, you will inspire them.
There are a few other features that "Failure" has in store for most people that as a team's leader, are important factors to consider in your (and their) journey.
Failure is often emotionally charged. A factor that stops people in their tracks. Embarrassment can play a big factor. Right now I'm betting you're thinking of embarrassment being a feature of your own journey as for a solid reason NOT to have tried things in the past, right? 
Rest assured, it's a common factor for most of us. Including those you are leading.

If you want your team to succeed, then you will have to take the bull by the horns at some stage, accept that embarrassment is an acceptable part in making mistakes and put yourself out there by trying and failing too.

In every case where you error, you will have the ability to choose how you react. And this is something you can teach. As the leader, in showing you are willing to try and fail, your team will see a vulnerability that will humanise you and be right up there with the other important leadership traits as Trust, Empathy and Approach-ability.

Give it a go - after all, what's the worst that could happen? You fail? Not a big deal, right?

An easy exercise to help.
Ask yourself and your teams to define the remainder of this question;
"Often when I fail, I..." 
1. ...wallow in self pity, and beat myself up for my dumbness. It haunts me.
2. ...get embarrassed, shut down and refuse to try again.
3. ...blame everyone else except me, just to deflect the blame.
4. ...handle it positively, do my best to learn from it ensuring my future self will thank me if it comes up again
If you answered "No, I don't do that" to the first three and a firm Yes! to the forth, then congratulations! You're well on your way.
To help your team members (and yourself) deal with any other answers, an easier thing to do is change the starting question. You add two simple words.

"Often when I fail, I choose to..." 

The addition of the two extra words can provide the opportunity for you and your team member to discuss the choices each of us have, especially when dealing with failure.

As always, it is on you to lead the way, to help your team be better, to change their views and lead them toward a more positive approach. Get your team above the line through getting them to genuinely answer "No" to the first three questions and a firm "Yes" to the last one.

By dropping the bowling alley barriers to stop gutter-balls, and assisting them to see the benefits to failure and effort, you empower them to grow.

There is no greater feeling as a leader than seeing your team succeed.

As always, if you have any questions, please add them into the comments.

Have a great day!

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Whoa. Didn't see that coming. Or going for that matter. Seems like only yesterday we were winding down toward 2016 Christmas and New Year's celebrations and now we're coming to the end of 2017! 
Seriously wow. Where does time go exactly? 
Does it go to the same place as all my socks?
Thankfully for a good majority of us here on LinkedIn, Christmas / end of year holidays are generally a time where you can relax and begin to decompress from all that stress and intensity you've handled throughout the last 12 months. It is the opportunity to look back and celebrate on the wins and learn from the losses you may have had, and spare a thought for what 2018 might look like in your career for any new goals you might cook up. 
On the non-work front, it's also an excellent time to spend that much needed quality (or tolerance) time with your family and friends, and celebrate your supporters. It is also important to remember how often life has been so busy that you were forced to overlook the little things you cherish, the sacrifices you have made. Not to beat yourself up, but to make time for them now, plan how to sacrifice less in the future, find the work/life balance. Perhaps like me you're remembering those times you didn't have the patience to listen through another one of your kids terrible jokes that usually start with the punch line, then have an "oops" and then come back with hysterical giggling for the back story.
My favourites are delivered by my step son. He's 8, almost 9, loves to be funny any chance he gets. Add any kind of sugar product and he's almost inconsolable in his mischievous gigglings. Most of his jokes are almost always fart or bum related too, its the age. As a case in point, I do have to admit that I don't always stop to listen when he decides he's got a world-class joke just busting to come out and the pressure has grown too intense [pun intended]. I aim to make more time for him and will endeavour to be a better step-Dad (and Dad) for 2018. Goals, got to have them.
Fingers crossed Christmas day is going to be hilarious. Or nose-curling and eye watering. I'll bet he is intently hoping for both.
But why am I raising things we "didn't do" this year to focus on as we wind up 2017?
The answer is simple. Life is short. There are some things that might be just as important to spare some focus on. Not hitting targets, achieving goals or making a few mistakes throughout the year is sometimes okay. We learn as human beings by making mistakes, its the only sure-fire method to get better at something. Try - fail - try again, repeat. Managing our own expectations, we can have the opportunity to see the positivity around us. It can also open our eyes to things you haven't had a chance to notice. At least not just yet.
The purpose of this article is a call to action. This time of year can be really difficult for a lot of people, some of those could be right next to you at work now, you might interact with them on a weekly basis and never know. Whilst hardships are all relative in intensity for each individual, it is true that everyone has them. Think about yourself for a second - its at this time of year when you're just starting to wind down and feel that "wow, I need a break" for all the hard work you've put in over this last 12 months that the intensity is often at its highest. Maybe you've lost someone this year too.
Maybe you've had enough of your current career and are actively looking for a change. Did you know that people often throw in their jobs for new directions between now and Feb/March? This time of year is when many will make life changing decisions and often start new resolutions etc that hardly any stick to. Consider the fact you've likely been getting a little bit more tired in the last few weeks, maybe been feeling a bit less tolerant with those around you, and closest to you or perhaps you've been burning the candle at both ends and feeling a bit worse for wear. Tiredness doesn't help thinking or mood.
No matter what your situation or what you're planning, now is the time to take that look around yourself, take the blinders off a little more if you can.
I would like to ask that not only do you ensure you do things to help/care/look after yourself and your families as a priority, but that you look to also help someone else, even if its just one person. The time for extra compassion has arrived, not to mention reaching out yourself if you need any help. You can also be open to receiving help if you need some.
Each of us has the ability to help make things better. "Mindfulness" is important. Being aware of others is too. Then to act. And herein lies the request.
I'd like to put a little something out there for you to consider. It's not anything new, ground-breaking or original by any means but it will make a difference for both yourself and those around you, if you choose to roll with it.
Please pay something forward.  
Yes. Be better for someone, even yourself. Think better. Make a difference for someone where you make no personal gain. It can be a genuine kind word, a cup of coffee and a chat, a moment you open up and accept help when offered to you, anything, give help to a stranger, a friend, family member, literally anyone. 
That sounds like a HUGE ask when you're already tired and stressed, doesn't it?
It least for the first few seconds. I promise though, there is a huge WIIFM (What's In It For Me) at the start, during and after, all of which will help you with both your tiredness, your end of year stress and even your overall well being.
Please keep reading.
But there is a sizable catch to my request too though.
Don't be anonymous. That's right. Don't.
In order to make a difference, you have to be present. Be in the moment with the person or people you are trying to help. Human conversation, contact, visibility, is all about being "connected". I'm not talking posting on social media all about it either, please don't do that. I am talking about being visible to the person you are going to help. Connect with them. See the difference you make. See the thankfulness reflected. Reflect it yourself. Start the pay it forward ball rolling. It has to start somewhere.
Whilst yes, it might feel awkward, it might even feel uncomfortable, I assure you, it will 100% enrich the person's day and yours, if even only for a brief moment.
Like the article picture reads -
No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
This will be my fifth year this year trying this. I've paid for an elderly couples lunch who were looking for coins to pay a note lunch, have bought food and stopped for a chat with a few homeless people, other times have helped someone get out of an abusive/toxic relationship by moving furniture using my trailer and time. These are just examples of things you can try, to look out for. Even if the effort is small, the results are often so big.
I sincerely hope this inspires you to look to the world around you. Maybe you see it already but haven't known what to do. My advice is just to try. See the plight of someone less fortunate, get involved and give it a go, perhaps just to see someone who is having a bad day and help them turn it around. Pay it forward.
On behalf of my family and I, we want to wish you and yours the greatest of all Christmas's and an even better New Year for 2018. Please reply via the comments field if you've jumped on board this train and let everyone know how it went. Your story might inspire someone else.
Your act of kindness might not change the whole world...but that one act might actually change the whole world for that one person.
Merry Christmas :)

One More BIG Question to finish up 2017

"On your last day on Earth, the person you became meets the person you could have become. How do you feel?"

So often this question raises feelings of regret. But what if it didn't? 

What if each of those times when you had decisions to make, you looked at the forks in the road, and took the one that would help you feel great should that last day scenario ever arrive?

Well I have some really good news for you.

You can. 

It's never too late.

Start now. 

You have the opportunity to look forward to meeting yourself in the future.

And all it takes is a change in the way you see the world. 

Above the line or below the line. One way is filled with regrets, the other isn't.

Choose wisely.