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Sunday, 27 October 2019

Unsure, Uncertain, Can't Decide? Trust Your Memory Bank and Make a Decision!

Some years ago I went to see one of my clients for his regular one-to-one mentoring session.  He greeted me with a rather gloomy look and the odd sigh.

I took the hint and asked him what appeared to be the problem.

He said: "I am beginning to have certainties"

Knowing him to be a very collaborative and inclusive leader I could see how this would affect him.

He was anything but proscriptive (except on very rare occasions) so to have certainties implied, to him, that he was having doubts about his leadership style.

We talked it through in a lot of detail and he began to accept that there is nothing wrong in being certain of a solution in a situation.  In fact that is the precursor to a quick decision in many cases.

Even in major events the leader's responsibility is to come to a decision and if this is his/her own decision rather than one tested with others then so be it.

Time may be of the essence and a lengthy discussion with others could well pose a problem, so, yes, go ahead, make a decision based on your certainty and live with the result.

It's all a matter of balance in dealing with situations. Some need a deal of thought and some can be disposed of more quickly and effectively.  There is no right or wrong in these matters.

On the other hand, the far more difficult part of the leader's role is dealing with uncertainty.

However we define it, it can be the "we know what we don't know" problem and in that case a certainty can be exactly the wrong approach.

Being a recanted engineer my own default position is always to gather as much information as possible. That gives me a feeling of comfort that I have begun to make inroads into the "don't know" scenario.

However I also recall another of my clients who constantly complained that his Number Two, an engineer, always achieved paralysis by analysis.

The fact was that in his eyes, you could never have enough information with the consequence that he was constantly researching and seldom came to a satisfactory conclusion.

It's an attitude that can be compared to the accountant who is firmly against estimated figures and tries to produce monthly management accounts accurate to the nearest penny.

Pointless and unnecessary but it does happen even if the management accounts are six weeks late because “he didn't have all the invoices in”.

There comes a time in the life of every leader when an uncertainty pops up and the only thing to do is make a decision on what is cheerfully termed "gut instinct".

No such thing of course.  I certainly wouldn't trust my guts to make a sensible decision.

Gut instinct is a synonym for expertise based on experience and there is nothing wrong in trusting it from time to time.

A problem arises and it is something that is out of the ordinary.  However the odds are that there will be something in the situation, a felling of familiarity perhaps, that leads one to search through the database we call the subconscious and latch on to a previous and similar occasion.

It isn't instinct. Fight, flight, freeze is instinctive and comes from deep inside the brain prompted by perceived danger.

Experience leads to expertise and the more we are able to recall from the memory bank, the more likely we are to draw on a past experience.  That leads to better decision-making.

And if we can't specifically match past experience with a current issue then still trust your feelings about it.  It isn't gut instinct. Past experience always colours the present and helps you come to a decision.

A bad decision is always better than no decision.

Take a look at The Chimp Paradox by Dr Steve Peters. It's a great and enlightening read.

Ivan J Goldberg
Author, professional writer, content producer and leadership specialist.      
Email me for a discussion via ivan.goldberg@maa-uk.co.uk

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Want to Change Someone’s Behaviour? Try a Little Acceptance Instead!

One of the things that we find difficult to accept or even understand is that everyone is unique with different talents, different attitudes, different abilities and they probably look different too.

All of this makes nonsense of generalist initiatives that make the assumption that if we treat everyone in the same way then we will get the same outcome from everyone.

I recall talking to a client some time ago when he told me that he was intending to make substantial changes to the working environment that would generate enthusiasm in the team.

He did just that and, lo and behold, there were at least 10% of the people who complained that it wasn’t as good as previously and they didn’t like the change.

For some time I have been banging on about people in the business with a poor attitude and rightly so.  They can be a toxic influence and need rapid and decisive action on the part of the leader.

However, there is the other factor of behaviour that is perhaps subtly different from that of attitude.

Recalling the Performance/Attitude matrix one very important square is that with only adequate performance but good attitude with the implication that the individual is willing to be trained in the skills that would make them into a Good Performer with Good Attitude, a very desirable state.

The fact is that as people are unique we need to examine then individually to see how and if they will adapt to change and take on board new ideas and processes.

That requires a subtle amalgam of attitude and behaviour, good attitude leading to good behaviour and vice versa.  I agree that that is a wild generalisation but like all generalisations it contains a modicum of truth somewhere.

The fact is that most people who we value in the business will still have some behavioural traits that perhaps either irritate or even actually militate against good practice.

In discussion with one of my clients recently he told me of two senior people (Directors) in the business, both of whom were good performers and had generally excellent attitude but not to each other.

In fact they were at opposite ends of the continuum that starts at ‘Quiet And Gets On With It’ and ends at ‘Noisy, Brash and Impetuous’.

At this stage we need to examine the individuals in the round and ask a few questions.

For example, how significant is the output of each person?  What is their individual contribution to the business?  Could we do without either of them?

Even though they are not wholly compatible in this case it is perhaps a matter of compromise on the part of the leader.

Provided that all the answers to the questions are positive and we want to keep both of them, then it is up to the leader to realise that people can’t be changed and at some stage we either accept the vagaries of their behaviour as well as the good contribution they make.

It is a very tough call for the leader; accepting perhaps that 20% of what someone brings to the table will irritate and annoy while happily accepting that the good outweighs the bad demands maturity and some humility.

It means getting things into perspective; realising the uniqueness of people will always result in differences some of which are acceptable and some downright impossible to live with.

There are undoubtedly some facets of behaviour that irritate. The question is, do they militate against effective performance and if not, get real and live with it.

It’s a matter of balance on the end.  Add up the positives, determine the negatives and make a decision.

Ivan J Goldberg
Author, professional writer, content producer and leadership specialist.      
Email me me for a discussion via ivan.goldberg@maa-uk.co.uk

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Creativity, Invention, Innovation? We Are All in it Together!

There is nothing new under the sun

From time to time politicians decide that they need to be up there and trendy so they decide to latch on to the need for innovation.

Innovation, creativity, development all imply change but considered change and preferably for the better.

I came across a very interesting book recently that now resides on my iPad audiobook collection and which explodes the myth that creativity and innovation are the province of genius.

It's called How to Fly a Horse by Kevin Ashton and everyone in business should read it.

Ashton left school at 15 with one useless O-level and through his determination to be successful has achieved great things in business.

The very word creativity which was coined only in 1926 is derived from the word create and it generally implies something emerging ex nihilo meaning out of nothing.

Science has shown that the universe is expanding so if we calculate backwards at the same but reversed rate then we should arrive at the starting point of the Universe and the Big Bang theory.

All well and good but what was there before the Big Bang?  Professor Stephen Hawking says, somewhat dismissively, that asking that question is like asking what is north of the North Pole.

An interesting philosophical concept maybe but doesn't get us anywhere.

The facts seem to be that the Universe was created ex nihilo and crucially, is the only example as such in all the 13.4 billion years of its existence.

On that premise then the word creativity cannot apply to what we do. Everything that we achieve is based on or derived from something already in existence.

Kevin Ashton makes the point that Homo Sapiens 150,000 years ago developed simple tools from easily found materials in order to feed themselves and stay alive.

Oddly there was apparently no development of these tools until around 50,000 years ago when noticeable changes started to appear.

One of our ancestors thought that these tools could be made more efficiently and to greater purpose.  Perhaps this was the birth of innovation.

Please note: this change was not derived from nothing. It was developed from existing knowledge and skill with the input, this time, of conscious thought.

Fast forward to today. Can you think of any invention, innovation that has been derived ex nihilo without any input from existing knowledge? (The only example that comes to mind is Graphene).

In truth, every innovative idea, any new and even revolutionary idea is born out of existing knowledge and skill.

In fact, great innovation is the offspring of a need; the innate need to improve, change and develop and is usually derived from a problem that has to be solved.

If we look at some of the inventions that have changed our lives such as the automobile, the railways, modern shipping and manned flight, they all stem from these inventors wanting to improve and develop existing forms of transport.

Few of the great inventors would class themselves as geniuses; indeed most of them were working people with a thirst to change and improve the way they lived.

In short, everyone has inbuilt innovative skills and abilities. There is no need to wait for the next passing genius in order to accomplish positive change.

Leaders in business and industry know this instinctively. The question is, do they exploit effectively this inborn ability to be innovative?

It is often said of this country that we have great innovative ideas that are taken up and developed in other countries.

I am not sure whether this is still the case or is it just out normal self-effacing view of life.

Leaders need to understand the vast pool of existing talent in their workforce and to set up initiatives to develop and exploit the resulting opportunities.

We don't need to be a genius; Thomas Edison said that invention is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.

He also said:

"There is a better way to do it.  Find it!" 

Innovation results from hard 
work and to a greater or lesser extent the talent is inbuilt in us.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Getting Some Sales Rejection? Qualify Your Leads With Research!

My old sales mentor, the sage of Wythenshawe, Phil Copp, was an inveterate and committed cold caller in the days when sales forces could afford to swan off into the wide world to see if they could generate some business, anywhere and anyhow.

Phil would just call in on a company if he was passing and it looked interesting, go to reception, demand to see the Chief Engineer and then wait.   On occasions he was lucky and the Chief would come to see him, but generally, he had the usual rebuffs of "nothing today, thank you" (irrespective of the fact that nobody knew what he was selling) or "he's in a meeting" or "just leave your brochure and he will call you".  Oh yes?

I asked him once how many cold calls he made and didn't see anyone and he said, "Probably hundreds".  In something of a state of shock I asked him how many times he made a sale and he said: "Probably once in a hundred".

In even more shock I questioned: "How on earth can you accept all that rejection and keep on cold calling?"

His answer has stuck with me ever since.  He said, quite simply: "Because the next call might be the next sale".

Strangely I met a colleague in the USA at a conference and he said almost exactly the same thing.  His rather old fashioned and uncoordinated method was to drop in to a company, just like Phil, and ask to see the CEO to talk about joining our per group.  His statistics were about the same as Phil’s which does show that it is a very hit and miss technique and mostly miss.

We really can’t afford to spend hours just dropping in on the off chance that there might be some interest.

Sales methods however have changed radically since those times.  Noted speaker Grant Leboff exhorts us to "stop shouting at the customers"; to organise your approach so that the customer comes to you.

A little research would bring far better results and that research is so simple these days.   For example you can set up a listing of companies in any sector, check their websites, use LinkedIn to identify the name of the CEO and other executives, send messages, and generally find companies with whom we would like to do business.

Even so, Phil's message still holds good because selling is an art not a science, however much the sales gurus want make it so.   Think of it as a philosophy.  However we manage the interaction between ourselves and a potential customer or client, in the end we have to put over a message that will entice the customer to make a decision and hopefully a positive one.

It is obviously far better to generate qualified leads than to cold call although that message doesn't seem to have got through to the many unwanted telephone calls that we seem to get these days.

Even with qualified leads, however, if conversion rates are generally low, Phil's philosophy holds true.  The next discussion might be the one that is successful - even better, the next discussion WILL be the one which is successful.

It is important to understand that what we say to potential customers and how we say it, is key to success as well but the overwhelming aspect is complete self-confidence that we will succeed.  It is only by that self-confidence that we can overcome the fear of rejection and move on to the next opportunity.

As long ago as 1952, Dr Norman Vincent Peale wrote his book, "The Power of Positive Thinking" and that concept is still valid, perhaps even more so in these competitive times.

"The next sales meeting WILL be successful" is a maxim that many people in business could well take on as a way of life.

Ivan J Goldberg
Author, professional writer, content producer and leadership specialist.      

Email me me for a discussion via ivan.goldberg@maa-uk.co.uk