Saturday, 29 November 2014

Practice what you preach

I spend a lot of time coaching people.

Five Post-It notes, a pen and an hour somewhere quiet has helped unlock something inside dozens of colleagues. 

Their frustrations with work but ultimately life brought out into the open. And sometimes for the first time a realisation that they are more in control than they realised.

Three small steps taken in seven days return that sense of wellbeing. Back in charge they feel a bit better.

And feeling better ultimately means life and work are a little happier.

Every time I go through this process I have a mini crisis of confidence that it won't work with this particular colleague.

But it always does.

And almost without exception the five most important ingredients of their ideal job are not the first five Post-It notes placed on the table.

In fact the sixth, as there is always a sixth, is not only normally the most important motivational driver, but it is also the one with the lowest score out of ten.

Isn't that interesting that in the thirty or so people I've coached in the last three years, without exception the most important thing to them in life wasn't something they were aware of.

So why do I share this with you?

Today I feel low.

I'm not sure why. It could be I'm simply tired. Or hungover. Or both.

Or more likely one or more of my five Post-It notes is below par.

In fact maybe I'm not clear any more what my five really are.

So here goes. Off the top of my head:

1. Work life balance
2. Receiving praise and recognition from people I respect
3. Being perceived to be an expert
4. Being in a role where my creativity is celebrated not seen as disruptive
5. Inspiring others

Now if I were coaching me (this could get a bit weird) I would ask what the difference was between 2, 3 and 4. Aren't they one of the same?

For 2, this is about seeking out feedback knowing that I need it to feel a sense of well-being. When it is in short supply I feel anxious. I experience self doubt. I get that imposter syndrome thing.

Number 3 is the chip on my shoulder. The son of a world renowned scientist, I too want to be respected by peers in my industry for my craft. Albeit I'm not daft enough to think I'll ever get an OBE like my dad.

Number 4? Creativity is part of my wiring. I love the chance to problem solve. And join dots together. I used to think social media was my only outlet. But actually it turns out that was just a convenient coincidence for a year or two.

If I were to score them all out of ten what would they get based on how I feel today and the job I do?

Here goes:

1. Work life balance (8/10)
2. Receiving praise and recognition from people I respect (7/10)
3. Being perceived to be an expert (5/10)
4. Being in a role where my creativity is celebrated not seen as disruptive (6/10)
5. Inspiring others (7/10)

So it turns out the expert one is where I'm not content. Which ironically is a result of being recognised this week as the 13th most influential social media person in the UK. Hilarious I know.

My reaction to the accolade in itself is interesting. I thought it would make me feel good. And it doesn't.

Anyway there is always a sixth one. What is it? Numbers 2 & 3 are one of the same. I need another different one.

Winning. It's winning.

I enjoy winning. I'm competitive. It's my dirty secret. Like some people who want to earn more money but don't like to admit it. I like to win.

What score out of ten would I give it? 3/10.
So what three things can I do in the next seven days to get that from 3/10 to 4/10?

How confident am I and how committed am I to do them?

Hmm. Here goes...

1. To win in anything you need world class people around you. If you want to get better play with the best. I'm going to book my next trip to San Francisco.

What else?

2. I'm going to start reading a book on winning. I'll Google some in a minute.

What else?

This is harder than I thought. One step to get it from a three to a four.

3. I'm going to push the boat out on something I'm working on. Winners take chances and go with their gut?


How confident am I that I can do all three in the next seven days? 100%. How committed am I? 100%.

So my new five are: 

1. Winning
2. Work life balance
3. Receiving praise and recognition from people I respect / being perceived to be an expert
4. Being in a role where my creativity is celebrated not seen as disruptive
5. Inspiring others

So the one I wasn't aware of an hour ago is possibly the most important motivational factor.

How do I feel now? Better. More in control. And not as low as an hour ago.

Maybe it's just the hangover wearing off. But I don't think so.

This is mad. I started this blog feeling depressed. And now I don't.

Hopefully as you read it this makes sense. If not don't worry. I wrote this for me. And it worked a treat.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

My self limitation is in desperate need of some complimentary medicine

Later today I'm going to meet my new executive coach.

I've never had an executive coach before.
I've had the odd business mentor here and there. And a boss or two who I really looked up to. But this is different.

Throughout my career, if not my life, I've been a self-limiter.

By that I mean I've held myself back. At certain points I had a chip on my shoulder. Enviously looking at others and what they had achieved. And I let that get in the way of my ambition.

I wanted success to come quickly and at times thought I knew it all, especially in my early career when some colleagues probably thought I was a bit cocky.

At school I was even called arrogant, albeit only by one teacher who coached our football team and mistook my lack of skill when getting caught in possession as arrogance, when in reality I just wasn't that good.

Or was I? With the right support, challenge and practice could I have been a decent player?

See there I go again. Forever questioning how good I really am?

I've said before on here I'm the kind of player who needs the gaffer's arm around his shoulder every now and then.

But having been given a new job back in April, that I had no idea how to do, I've come out the other side and for the first time in a long time am beginning to feel like I'm half decent.

As a result I'm at another cross roads.
But this time rather than being faced with only going left or right, I feel like I could be lifted up and dropped off more or less anywhere now and somehow I'd find my way.

I read the other day that 'good leaders are good path makers. Sometimes the journey is not clear' (via @LeandroEHerrero).

I like that thought. Sometimes you need a map. Sometimes you need to follow the well trodden path. And other times you need to create your own way for others to follow.

Hence the time feels right for some guidance. Someone to expand my horizons. And to help me realise my full potential.

The job I'm doing right now has taught me a new level of resilience.

But it's also demonstrated to me that I'm more capable than I have ever given myself credit for.

That's a very liberating experience to go through. I've lost my fear of failure.

So back to meeting my coach...

Last week we had a pre meet call with him and my boss.

Following a few introductions my coach asked my boss to outline three things:

1. What he liked about me.
2. What would make me even better.
3. And what people say about me when I leave the room.

It was an illuminating experience, thankfully, as it could've been fairly humiliating.

What follows btw feels a little self congratulatory but to overcome my self limiting tendencies I've resolved myself to share (look away now Mr Hague or whatever his name was).

My boss said things like:

"Dom is incredibly honest, he's very authentic with high integrity. He's a very inspiring leader."

He went on to say how I get to know my team, I'm very creative and very adept.

So far so good.

What could Dom do more of asked my coach?

My boss described how although I have magnificent ideas (his words not mine). The opportunity for me was to convert these into impactful business plans.

I need to hold myself and my team more accountable. Blending ideas with real commerciality. Taking myself into tough leadership forums. Elevating what I do up to senior stakeholders in the business.

It was then that my new coach singled in on something simple but extremely revealing.

He described how all senior leaders are effectively in two teams. The one they manage, and the one they share with their peers.

Team one, the most important one, is your peers, not the one you manage.

As I sat there and thought about it I realised I spend 95% of my time and effort on team two.

Rightly or wrongly I always felt they were in more need of my time and full attention.

Then came the killer third question about my own personal brand. My reputation.  What others say about me when I leave the room.

My boss listed off the things I often hear said of me.

Positives: Nice guy. Full of ideas. Great fun. Different perspective. Etc.

Negatives: Where's Dom today? Would be good to have visibility of his plans. It would be great if Dom could offer a view on this.

There is a sense that if you need a whacky idea I'm the guy to go to. If you can find me that is.

Ironically I'm on the early train to London penning this blog so no doubt someone is wandering the corridors of Asda HQ looking for me right now to solve something for them.

So what do I want out if this new executive coach relationship?

I want someone to challenge my thinking.

I want someone to recognise in me the skills and characteristics of a great leader, albeit one at the early part of his development.

And I want to overcome my self limiting tendencies once and for all.

Not much then. Wish me luck.

Monday, 3 November 2014

My present to you. Enjoy living in the now.

Do you ever get that anxious feeling that you're missing out on something?

Or do you spend so long looking forward to something happening that when it arrives it is somewhat of an anti climax?

When I was a teenager I remember feeling like I was missing out. Something was happening and either I wasn't invited or worst of all I was, but was paralysed by indecision. Should I leave where I was and go there instead. Or should I stay where I am in case I miss out?

On Friday my eight year old was in such a predicament. She wanted to be in two places at once. Already out trick or treating with her sister and one of her best friends she had also been invited to a house party.

As we left her sister and friend and walked to the party she stopped and said she didn't know what to do.

Cue my attempt to explain enjoying life in the moment. Being truly present in the now. Not worrying too much about what has gone before or what may come next. Pausing in the moment and being content with your lot. Right now.

It didn't work. We crossed the road towards the party. Ironically we either went to the wrong house or the party had all gone out trick or treating. Either way her gamble of the grass will be greener backfired.

By now her sister had separated from her friend. And we trudged off home.

On Saturday evening this tweet crossed my timeline. Attributed to the Dalai Lama it captures the sentiment rather more eloquently than I.

When asked what surprised him about humanity he apparently said:

"Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he doesn't enjoy the present; the result being he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die; and then he dies having never really lived."

Well said that Dalai.