How To Actually Connect That Will Help Your Communication

The primary difference between dialogue and skilful discussion involves intention. In dialogue, you may be exploring a topic or seeking some discovery or insight. Often, in a discussion, its purpose revolves around making a decision or reaching some form of agreement, or maybe even agreeing on some new priorities or a way forward.

What goals to pursue? What actions are priorities for the next three months? What future direction will you, your team or your organisation take? These are all likely questions you wish to address from time to time, particularly at this period of the year.

In this post, I set out six helpful tips that will make your approach to such discussions more skilful and therefore more productive. I draw on the work of Peter Senge, and in particular his book, “The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook”, to explore the six tips.

Pay attention to your intentions

Be clear about what it is you wish to achieve through your discussion. Do not enter into that discourse without sharp clarity, or else, when challenged, how will you respond to that challenge or to attempts to influence your thinking?

In staff meetings, I typically set out non-negotiable and negotiable items for discussion, by specifying them as such in a meeting agenda.

Non-negotiable meant we were having a discussion on that particular item so that I could take on board a range of other views and opinions, but I would make the decision. Negotiable meant I had an open mind about the outcome and was happy for others to influence the final determination.

Staff often found this approach a little strange at first, but quickly warmed to my practice once they understood that when I said I was open to influence, I was! I also had personal feedback that they liked my decisiveness, though not everyone agreed with my decisions.

Balance advocacy with inquiry

To my mind, skilfully managed discussions have always been about sharing, of thinking, of reasoning and expectations. Moreover, I believe I am open to challenge and will often explicitly invite it and offer permission to do so.

Senge suggests one way you might do this is to provide your view and an explanation of how you reached it, and then ask for ways it might make better sense or be improved. I agree with him wholeheartedly and would urge you to model that practice.

Build shared meaning

Language used well has immense power, for good and for bad. Therefore it is important to use language with high precision, being sure to make your meaning evident. However, we share meaning with others, and so it is also important not to assume, even within your team, that everyone is working to the same definition as you. So, from time to time, check out that you share your understanding with others.

I think the same is true for values, and I have regularly reviewed and refreshed understanding across teams and partner forums that our values are shared and remain consistent. In my experience, people assume they stay constant, while in reality, as we are all living organisms subject to growth and evolution, they shift and change, often imperceptibly.

So, language, like values needs your attention on a regular, almost daily basis!

Use self-awareness as a resource

Senge suggests that at moments when you are confused, angry, frustrated, concerned or troubled to ask yourself these questions:

  • What am I doing right now?
  • What am I feeling right now?
  • What am I thinking right now?
  • What do I want right at this moment?

He further suggests that the answers to these questions might lead to a fifth question, which is, “What am I doing right now to prevent myself from getting what I want?”

The most powerful way forward, he proffers is to say this phrase to yourself, “I choose …”  then take a deep breath and move on.

Being more reflective and self-aware is seen as a sign of authenticity and keen emotional intelligence. It demonstrates you are better attuned to your emotions, thinking and behaviour and this, in its turn, enables you to manage discussions that more skilfully.

Explore impasses

Even in the most skilfully managed discussions, impasse might arise. Rather than keep returning to the sticking point like a bull at a red flag, see if you can identify the actual source of the impasse or disagreement.

Senge considers that a standstill might often occur for one of four reasons. They are:

  1. An argument on facts – so what did happen? What data supports that view?
  2. Disagreement on methods – so what do we need to do now, and how?
  3. Discord on goals – so what are and how clear are our objectives or purpose?
  4. Divergence on values – what do we all believe in and do we share common values?

In my experience, the last causal factor is often the one overlooked, and probably the one you should return to first. Values, once spoken or written down, appear to assume a concrete-like substance, forever immutable. In reality, people regularly flex them as they choose, and assume others are doing the same too, in the same way. Fortunately, we are all different beings, and so a belief that homogeneity of values exists always seems to me to be rather foolish.

One final tip

When sources of disagreement arise, a simple visioning exercise will help you move on. It works because it helps those involved in the disunity learn more about the situation under discussion, clarify any assumptions they might have about the situation, and with this better insight, move forward more positively.

Senge poses three simple moves for the visioning exercise:

  1. Listen to ideas as if for the first time and be prepared to hear new ideas.
  2. Try to consider the issue from the other person or persons’ perspective.
  3. Simply ask yourself and those involved in the discussion, “What do we need to do to move forward?”

If you would like to find out more about how I can support you in building positive change for yourself, your team or your organisation, please just ask!

Ring 07958 765972 now for a free consultation or write to me at john@johnthurlbeck.co.uk for further details!

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40 Leadership Lessons from the Freedom Trail – #27

On the 31st August 2013, Lesley, my wife and soulmate, retired after 35 years teaching in secondary schools. Two days later, as planned, we set off for a magical celebratory holiday, taking in New York, California and Oregon. Our trip became known as the ‘Freedom Trail’.

While on the Freedom Trail, I journaled every day and ended each entry with a leadership moment/lesson.

Leaders know when to rest and conserve their energy

After the volume of travelling over the past few weeks, today was the day we stopped and rested!

So, a lazy morning, watching the sun come up and eating breakfast by the lakeshore, was followed by a visit to the local Rite Aid pharmacy.

That was an excellent place to buy the bits and pieces we needed, and the staff were friendly and helpful! It had everything we were after, and well-laden, we headed back to our cabin.

The rest of our day was taken up with reading, travel blogging, lazing on the beach enjoying the sun, and Skyping a few folks and catching up with the family news. I have four sisters and a brother, plus our son and his wife, so there was plenty to hear about, given we’d been away nearly four weeks!

Later in the afternoon, we strolled by the lake shore and admired a beautiful sunset, before heading to Appleby’s for dinner. We love that restaurant chain, where the food is quality and great value, and the staff are amiable and enthusiastic.

Our quiet day set us up well for further adventures the following day when we planned to visit the ghost town Bodie and to Mono Lake. More of that in my next blog post on the Freedom Trail.

As always, I welcome your comments and dialogue. I also wish you an entertaining and enlightening experience of this series of posts.

Thank you for reading.

Leaders know when to rest and conserve their energy, and also when to plough on irrespective!

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How to make your goals for 2017 SMARTER here

Last year I applied Michael Hyatt’s Best Year Ever method to my personal goal setting. It was the first time I had written down my personal goals correctly.

I found the exercise challenging and exciting. And my end of year review last December provided some helpful insights and learning. One particular idea was a need this year to make my goals much SMARTER.

For 2016 I used Michael’s acronym AACTION, but this year I am using an another approach.

I have used it numerous times when writing work goals, targets and outcomes.

So, in this post, I will introduce you to the S.M.A.R.T.E.R. way to write your goals, objectives or outcomes, using personal examples to illustrate what I mean. The acronym stands for:

S – Specific

The more specific your goal, the better it is. Why is this so important? Simply put, the more accurate you are, the more likely you are to achieve what it is you set out to do. The specifics of your goals are what fuel your activity.

So, for example, my financial goal for 2017 is not just to make money, it is to make £30,000. Well, I am semi-retired, so the finances are not the thing that drives me, though it is good to have an end of year financial target. What I have done, however, is put an exact figure, which I believe to be realistic.

M – Meaningful

While specific goals are a must, they must also be meaningful. That way you will take action and do what it is you said you would do!

At a psychological level, this is WHY you chose to set the goals you are setting. So, for example, my £30,000 target will help me focus my energies and action through my work to achieve that objective. I already have work to the value of £8,000+ underway, which will provide an excellent stimulant to my future working practice.

However, meaningful goals will often work at a much deeper level. So, for example, another of my goals for 2017, to lose 10 lbs, is a better example of a target that has a deeper meaning and thus a better chance of a positive outcome. My weight loss goal is about me being happier with my health and well-being, with a particular focus on its results.

A – Achievable

Years of practice have taught me that any goals, objectives or outcomes you decide upon should be achievable. Grand thoughts and ideas are fine, but you should chunk them down into bite-sized pieces that, cumulatively, build the whole.

It is possible to set out three, five and even ten-year plans, with goals attached. My experience over many years of doing this in a work setting for business and project plans helps me to understand this. However, I would always set out cumulative goals. Setting out my long-term aspirations within smaller, specific intentions ensured that goals were achievable in the short-term.

That’s why I chose my target of £30,000, as it builds on what I did last year. I know that I will not be a millionaire overnight, mainly because I don’t do the Lottery. However, I do know that I can stay focused and improve on last year! That way I can build incremental momentum that moves me further on year on year.

R – Relevant

Any goals you write will only have real meaning if they are relevant to your life. By that I mean, you should write goals about what it is you want out fo life,

I love Michael Hyatt’s view that your goals for this year should span the spectrum of your life – relational, spiritual, financial, physical and intellectual. That approach helps you to achieve real balance, while at the same time ground yourself in harmony with who you are and what you want out of life.

So, align your goals with your core values. That will make them so much more relevant. And, if you don’t know what your core values are, then go figure them out first before taking another step in this process.

As an example, spending a designated set of days quality time with my wife travelling was a key goal for last year, and is again this year. Last year I blasted the goals to pieces, way exceeding what I’d set out to do. Why? Because sharing quality time with my wife travelling is what we love to do together, and it aligns so closely with who we both are.

T – Time-bound

Setting an exact date when you aim to achieve your goals is also a necessary part of this formula.

So, my financial goal for 2017 is for the full year. So is my weight goal. However, I can split each of those goals down into sub-targets if I wish to make things even more precise. So, for example, £7,500 per quarter for my financial target, or 2.5 pounds per quarter for my weight goal.

That helps me to measure my progress. I, therefore, see my goals as not set in stone, but as a cumulative process towards my ultimate goal for the year. Other of my goals, such as the one for quality time with my wife will end by October 31. I have another for my spiritual target, which is reading a particular book, and that will finish around 30 June 2017.

The time-bound part of this process helps you to measure how you are doing; to see how close or far from your goal you are. And, believe me, the sense of elation you get when you achieve your goal or hit your target is immense.

E – Evaluate

There are many schools of thought about how often you should evaluate your goals, from daily, to weekly, to monthly, to quarterly and even, for really lazy people out there, annually.

I believe it needs to be what will work best for you. What works for me is weekly. However, you need to evaluate your goals regularly [maybe daily or weekly] and consistently to ensure you are not ignoring them or underperforming against them. Whatever you do, it needs to become a habit!

I would also recommend setting up a system to track your evaluation of your goals. Micheal Hyatt uses a model involving Evernote. I’m a bit old school, so I use pen and paper. Whatever you do, make it work for you!

R – Readjust

After years of experience setting many types of goals, there is something wonderful about achieving them and a feeling altogether different when you continuously undershoot against them.

That is why I prefer to write SMARTER goals than SMART goals.

For me, the readjust part is not about throwing away your goals and starting again from scratch. It is about recognising that new approaches may be required until you get closer to what you are attempting to achieve. Or it may mean abandoning that goal for another purpose that is more realistic and achievable. Or postponing this target to what you believe would be a more favourable time.

Last year, seven weeks into 2016, I recognised that meeting my spiritual goal by June 2016 was unlikely, given all that was happening around me at that time and forecasting forward into the year. I decided to abandon that goal and reset it for this year. Another goal, to do with my business looked set to miss the mid-year deadline I had set. On further evaluation, I readjusted my time-frame and achieved the goal.

The final two elements of this process work in conjunction with one another. Regularly and consistently reviewing lends strength to your opportunities to readjust. Of 10 goals last year, I only abandoned one, using this process. In hindsight, last year I set too many goals, so this year I am trying seven. I will let you know how I get on with my achievements.

One final thought

Reflecting on last year, I would highly recommend finding an accountability buddy! Mine lives in Folsom, California and we do our calls over Skype on roughly a six weekly basis. It adds to my evaluation of how I’m doing, and keeps me on my toes! If you need an accountability buddy, just call me, and we can talk about how that might work.

If you would like to find out more about how I can support you in building positive change for yourself, your team or your organisation, please just ask!

Ring 07958 765972 now for a free consultation or write to me at john@johnthurlbeck.co.uk for further details!

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How to avoid the Titanic effect here in 2017!

I believe that leaders at all levels need to ensure positive relationships within the workplace! When they work well, such relationships enable much more productive and useful work, more fulfilling workplaces, and better outcomes for both staff and clients.

When those relationships are not functioning well, it is because people overlooked one critical element – the organisational iceberg! Failing to do so has the equivalent effect of the iceberg and the Titanic; change of catastrophic proportions! Occasionally, it is sudden and drastic; more often it is, however, slow and insidious, though the end results are no less tragic.

In this post, I suggest what might be coming in 2017, describe how a redundant mindset might impact on changes in 2017 of any nature,  explore what is the organisational iceberg at the root of an outdated mindset, and offer some thoughts on what you might do about it!

What might be coming in 2017?

Experience tells me that inevitably in 2017, you will encounter a change or changes of one description or another, transformational or otherwise. It is the one inevitable occurrence I might predict in what is likely to be a turbulent year, economically, socially and politically.

And yet, my years of experience tell me that people are liable to approach that change, or indeed any changes through the year, with the same redundant mindset.

What impact does this disastrous mindset have?

That mentality is rooted in managers’ beliefs that to make sound change happen, you need to deal with the ‘structural’ elements of change … and not the organisational underpinning that is relationships.  So, they spend greater time looking at products and services, hierarchies, technologies, job descriptions, roles and responsibilities, procedures, policies – tangible things that are easily grasped and wrestled with to make so-called improvements.

However, once implemented, it was regularly my personal experience that some weeks or even months later, senior staff would voice concerns as to the lack of impact the changes had brought about.

So back to the drawing board executives would go and chart some tweaks and fine-tuning and try again! On and on this cycle would revolve with what ultimate effect? In general, little real change and certainly not embedded change of the order sought in the first instance! Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic springs to mind!

What is the organisational iceberg?

For me, and many colleagues around me, we mainly experienced dismay, disillusionment and despair, especially as we were not often engaged in the design of the process. It was done to us rather than with us. More subtly, however, it appeared that senior managers could not or chose not to see the need to harness the power of positive relationships.

Then I discovered the concept of the organisational iceberg!

It was mid-way through my career as a youth worker that I came across a perspective that helped me to understand this apparently ‘lemming-like’ behaviour. I found it in one of my favourite management books, entitled ‘Managing Change and making it stick’!* It was here that Roger Plant introduced me to the concept of the ‘organisational iceberg’, which enabled me to begin to reflect seriously on the nature of change and the power of positive relationships.

I found it in one of my favourite management books, entitled ‘Managing Change and making it stick’! It was here that Roger Plant introduced me to the concept of the ‘organisational iceberg’, which enabled me to begin to reflect seriously on the nature of change and the power of positive relationships and to adapt my behaviour.

 

I reproduce Plant’s drawing opposite. I think it is straightforward, though graphic.

His view, simply put, was that change scenarios too often focused on the bit of the iceberg that was visible – the structural stuff I mentioned earlier – as this was relatively easy to manage.

Often ignored were the things that really make organisations work – sometimes known as the ‘soft stuff’, although, frankly, in all my experience I have found it the hardest stuff to deal with! He included many organisational aspects within his view of the ‘soft stuff’ – cultural norms, habits, loyalties, personal relationships, motivation and commitments, moral stances, beliefs and values, hopes and fears, friendships, feelings and moods, amongst many other elements.

He argued, and I strongly support his view, that by failing to grasp this ‘hidden’ mass of the iceberg, any change process was almost inevitably doomed to failure from the outset.

What does this mean for you?

I have seen failure to address relationships and change at first hand on too many occasions! Both local and central government have been guilty of this; more painfully so at a local level. I have experienced it in the voluntary sector and the private sector. Nowhere is immune from the impact of this offensive mindset.

What needs emphasising is that change impacts on people directly; it affects the human condition and the myriad feelings, attitudes, circumstances and opinions that this brings! Failure to recognise and work with the hidden elements breaks trust. Destroying trust is a surefire way to send you, your team and your organisation into a negative downward spiral, from which recovery will be long and painful, if at all possible.

So recognising the concept and how it works in your circumstances makes for a good start. Co-creating your vision with your team for 2017 will address it even better. Take it up a notch by even jointly agreeing on collaborative goals, targets and objectives for the year.

Then write them down, but not too many, say six or seven that are essential, and regularly and consistently review and evaluate them!

When writing your goals, think SMARTER – Specific, Meaningful, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound, Evaluate and Re-adjust! I have used this approach for some years, and it works!

Most importantly, you need to talk to your people, take action on what you hear, and explain when and why you cannot take action. I’m not saying that you will achieve complete change this way, but I do believe you will carry your team with you wherever that change takes you!

If you would like to find out more about how I can support you in building positive change for yourself, your team or your organisation, please just ask!

Ring 07958 765972 now for a free consultation or write to me at john@johnthurlbeck.co.uk for further details!

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How to spread joy and goodwill for an amazing 2017?

As we move towards the end of the year, people are typically reflecting on the year past and thinking through their plans for the new year. Often the outcomes can be mixed, so I wondered how I might help you and your team plan for a fantastic year in 2017.

In this post, I set out three simple questions you can share with your staff that will keep you and them focused throughout the year! I hope they help!

What are you doing to make people feel like they belong?

If you set out with a compelling vision and clear values about how you intend to deliver that vision, you will gradually build significant critical mass in your team.

Better still, you will bond your staff that much more efficiently if they share with you in the process of co-creating that vision. People like to feel they belong, that they share a common identity, and that their opinions and views matter.

So, make a goal in 2017 to ensure that this practice – checking out your vision and values – in 2017 is regularly reviewed and refreshed. You will be astonished just how much of a difference it will make to those around you who matter!

What are you doing to help people realise they matter?

In my experience of working in many teams over a long time, I noticed that the biggest drain on an organisation’s vitality, focus and direction are assumptions. Assumptions that they will always be there! Assumptions that they will always come through when needed! Assumptions that they will plough on regardless! And so the list goes on.

Strangely, though it may seem, your staff will want to know that you care.  Your employees want to know that you have some concern for their well-being. That you are interested in what they do and what they say. Your people will want to know that you understand them and want to understand them better. That you show them they matter in the overall scheme of things, even as a small, but vital cog in a large, complex mechanism.

So, make another goal for 2017 to show you care, however, you choose to do that! I bought flowers, cakes and random gifts over many years of leading teams. Even small handwritten notelets on a job well done. Sending a short but sincere Thank You email now and then will make a huge difference. Do this now, and throughout the year, else people will feel largely forgotten, and their trust in you will inevitably bleed away.

How are you helping people work together?

Finally, what is it you do to help your people work together? Both within the team and, internally and externally, across the organisation and its partners. In such collaboration lies the wellspring of creativity, ideas and motivation.

Creative collaboration is not only an excellent way to drive your agenda, but also an excellent way to move individuals into new learning pathways, explore fresh ideas and gain new momentum.

It will also help them to understand better what makes them, their team and their organisation tick! Those relationships and communications may not always be easy or straightforward, but a little healthy conflict or debate is good for the soul, so expose your staff to it, in my view.

Handling conflict appropriately, your team will learn that awkward conversations are possible and often fruitful. They can explore those opportunities and define for themselves new ways to handle situations they may well encounter another time.

It may also help them to say NO graciously, using one or more of the methods I detailed in my post http://wp.me/p6liLE-fD.

What now?

Try out these three simple actions, consistently and regularly throughout 2017, and I am sure you will see a massive difference in the happiness and productivity of your team.

Better still, contact me to help you keep that laser focus by regular six or eight weekly coaching/mentoring calls. I charge £50 per hour and can meet up with you ‘live’ via an agreed appointment time and social media method. I will also enable you to record our calls for further reflection and review post session.

I welcome your comments and enjoy engaging in further dialogue. If I can be of any assistance in coaching your leadership practice, building your happiness or developing greater personal resilience, please just ask.

Contact me on john@johnthurlbeck.co.uk or by calling +447958765972.

I am always happy to listen and ready to help.

Thank you for reading and every best wish for 2017!

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40 Leadership Lessons from The Freedom Trail – #26

On the 31st August 2013, Lesley, my wife and soulmate, retired after 35 years teaching in secondary schools. Two days later, as planned, we set off for a magical celebratory holiday, taking in New York, California and Oregon. Our trip became known as the ‘Freedom Trail’.

While on the Freedom Trail, I journaled every day and ended each entry with a leadership moment/lesson.

P1050056

Leaders set direction – be unafraid to set your pathway

After many days of travelling from place to place, today we were headed to yet another beautiful spot – South Lake Tahoe. We were staying here seven nights and had planned a series of excursions to various other points of interest, using our resort as a base camp.

P1050007Our journey from Chester to South Lake Tahoe was another enchanting scenic drive P1050027
through forests and craggy outcrops.

We had decided to take a different route to the one suggested in the California Road Book and some majestic sights rewarded us. Although born by the seaside, I much prefer the mountains and forests, having been an avid mountaineer in my youth.

Our journey also included a short stop for lunch and a visit to the Eco Centric shop in Graeagle. The town was originally named Davies Mill but was renamed following a competition to find a better name. Graeagle is a charming contraction of Gray Eagle Creek, a local water source. The town only has a few hundred inhabitants, but it was by no means the smallest settlement we passed through on our drive.

We played ‘spot the lowest population’ in the villages and towns we passed through – Canyon Dam was the clear winner with 31!

While town and village sizes varied considerably throughout our journey, the scale of everything else – the mountains, forests and rivers – were spectacular.

P1050001

Even the local pine cones get in on the act! This part of the California is an amazing contrast to the West Coast, especially around the Redwoods in the north of the state.

We were so thrilled that we had taken an alternate route than the one suggested in the California Road Book, as we had found a charming and captivating tableau unfold before us.

Musing on our time there today, some three years plus on, I would say the current TV adverts about California have it right. It is a massive state, with so many different and exciting things to see and do.

Eventually, we arrived at last – to find our lovely apartment right on the edge of the lake – literately.

The ‘private beach’ was a short walk from our gaff, just one minute, with a marina right next door. The view, as you can partly see, was spectacular. The weather was warm and sunny, and we felt that we were so lucky to spend the next seven days in and around such an idyllic spot.

At the end of the day, we reflected on our travels from Chester and the sights we had seen throughout the day. Our view was that it had been an excellent choice to drive off the beaten track as so many incredible sights along the way brought us much joy.

As always, I welcome your comments and dialogue. I also wish you an entertaining and enlightening experience of this series of posts.

Thank you for reading.

Leaders set direction and will often be rewarded by choosing an alternate path. Be unafraid to set your pathway!

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2016 your best year ever? How to improve in 2017?

In 2016 I applied Michael Hyatt’s Best Year Ever approach to my goal setting for the first time.  I’ve had a brilliant year, though not exactly my best year ever. So, there are still lessons to learn to make next year even more amazing.

In this penultimate post of 2016, I reflect on how I did with Michael’s approach, my learning from applying it, my feelings on using it, and how I intend to improve in 2017.

Finally, I suggest some simple steps you can take to emulate a successful goal setting plan in 2017.

The Best Year Ever Approach

Michael recommends writing down your goals, so I did this for the first time in 2016. He further suggests that you set yourself between 7 – 10 goals across your life spectrum, not just about work. So, your goals need to focus on career, family/relational, health, spiritual, personal/hobbies, and financial elements of your life.

In writing your goals, Micahel advocates an active goal writing approach, using the acronym AACTION, which stands for actionable, aligned, challenging, time-bound, inspiring, objective and narrow. It is a challenge to follow the formula, but it does result in sharper, clearer and more focused goals

Once you have your goals, Michael suggests you share them selectively. I wrote ten goals and shared them with two close personal friends, one in the UK and one in the US.

Finally, Michael counsels a regular review of your goals, on a weekly basis, thus ensuring that the goals remain at the forefront of your mind.

How did I do with my goals for 2016?

For my goals in 2016, I wrote four career objectives, two for my family, and one each for spiritual, financial, health, and personal/hobbies.

On reflection today, my performance over the year was pretty mixed, though I still had a brilliant year, more of which later.

I abandoned my spiritual goal, reading the Master Key by Charles Haanel and practising the exercises, after about twelve weeks, though I did maintain reasonably regular meditation and spiritual reading throughout the year.

I failed to lose weight, my health goal and gained five pounds. Of course, I did say I’d had a brilliant year!

I easily achieved my family goals by being more intentional and ‘present in the moment’.

I fulfilled my personal/hobbies goal well within the time set, and my garden has never looked better than this past summer.

I undershot my financial target by about 40% of the target, but I’d been ambitious from the outset and was unsurprised by this.

As for my career goals, they presented the poorest return. Of the four, the one I was delighted with was my blogging. I set a highly ambitious target of blogging three times a week and, with some gaps through the year, kept to that.

I also made significant progress on my solo book, though did not complete it by the year end as planned.

Nine months later than expected, my new website will appear in early 2017. That has largely been for reasons beyond my personal control, as my son is building the website and other private work, a change of job and his wedding have overtaken events.

Finally, my regular accountability sessions did not materialise as anticipated and the proof of that is clearly in the motley review noted in this section.

How do I feel about my year on reflection?

Sitting here writing this blog post, I feel very relaxed about my overall performance, as I understand why it is such a diverse set of results. I also know what I need to do to improve in 2017 and how I might best do that.

My biggest happiness comes from being far more intentional about my family and that my quality time with my wife and soul mate well exceeded the goal that I had set. That is what has made this year a brilliant year for me, and perversely did for me in meeting my health goal! The highlight of the year was our son’s wedding, which was a magical weekend, and, looking back, that along with all the enriched contact with my family has made this year brilliant. There is truth in there’s more than work to your life.

I am also at ease with the fact that I set myself stretch goals, which I knew would take some achieving. Michael Hyatt advises that your goals need to require your best effort, though interestingly, as human beings we are all subject to frailty and weakness, and I am clearly no exception to that rule. I am, however, progressing well with some of my goals for 2016, though they are not yet fully completed. So I see that as a positive, not a negative.

What lessons did I learn to help me improve in 2017?

On reflection, there are some key learning points from my use of Michael Hyatt’s Best Year Ever approach.

In particular, the spread of objectives gives a grounded sense to your life, including work. Writing them down, using the AACTION formula, also helps to make you think carefully before committing pen to paper and committing yourself to action. So, I will take that route again for next year. Before this, I will undertake a full review of 2016, as also suggested by Michael, to properly acknowledge what happened, learn from that experience, and adjust my behaviour accordingly.

From my initial reflection on my goal setting and practice in 2016, a weekly review of my goals was clearly my biggest failing. Michael recommends this, along with chunking down and writing down actions that help you towards your goals. Taking that bite-sized approach is a necessity for me in 2017, as it will keep my goals at the forefront of my mind, as well as helping me to align my priorities for action.

I also recognise that my accountability sessions proved not as regular as I had planned. I think we might all benefit from that external stimulus to keep us laser-focused, as my great friend Cynthia Bazin would suggest. So a key action for me in 2017 is to set in place a monthly session to do this. I have a close friend here in the North East who I will approach about this over the next few days. I am sure this will help me improve my focus, my actions and my outcomes.

While not wholly uncomfortable about this, my reflections also affirmed that I lack discipline and self-control at times and I need to improve on these aspects of my behaviour. I have a mind like a butterfly and often move spontaneously from topic to topic, revelling in the glee that new learning brings. I am blessed with an innate curiosity, though I need to become better at channelling it.

Finally, in hindsight, I set myself too many goals, and this is a lesson to take forward into 2017. That indicates to me that I took Michael’s approach too literally and did not give sufficient thought to the process as I might do it. That is a helpful insight, as I had never taken this approach before and now I can refine it to make more sense for me. I am therefore going to set myself seven goals for 2017, rather than the ten I did for 2016.

What does this mean for you?

I think you might take a few simple lessons from this blog post. Goals in life are important, and if they are important, you must deal with them appropriately.

So, take some time to write them down, in a clear, concise, and actionable fashion. Set deadlines for completing your goals spaced throughout the year ahead and put in place a weekly review and prioritisation process.

Set goals that stretch you but are not overly ambitious. Set sufficient goals to make a difference but not too many that it becomes a chore to monitor, review and evaluate them. Finally, set a spread of objectives across your life elements, not just about your work or career, and find someone you trust and respect to help you achieve them!

I welcome your comments and enjoy engaging in further dialogue. If I can be of any assistance in coaching your leadership practice, building your happiness or developing greater personal resilience, please just ask.

Contact me on john@johnthurlbeck.co.uk or by calling +447958765972.

I am always happy to listen and ready to help.

Thank you for reading and every best wish for 2017!

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40 Leadership Lessons from the Freedom Trail – #25

On the 31st August 2013, Lesley, my wife and soulmate, retired after 35 years teaching in secondary schools. Two days later, as planned, we set off for a magical celebratory holiday, taking in New York, California and Oregon. Our trip became known as the ‘Freedom Trail’.

While on the Freedom Trail, I journaled every day and ended each entry with a leadership moment/lesson.

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Leaders don’t operate through power

After an overnight stay in Chester, we moved on to Lassen Volcanic Park.

What a place – lovely and sunny but freezing! The top peaks of the volcanoes had a covering of snow. It was a place of wondrous beauty, peaceful yet quite imposing!

We stopped at the first panoramic vista point and got out to soak in the scene – wearing just t-shirts and jeans. Another car pulled in shortly after us. Two ladies dressed from head to toe in ski gear – jackets, ear muffs, gloves – the lot. They couldn’t believe we were standing there so lightly garbed!

We told them that the folks from NE England were ‘well hard’ – and then jumped back in the car to put on jumpers, as soon as they drove off. How we laughed!

As we climbed higher, it got colder and colder. When Les hopped out for a quick photo at one viewpoint, it was even snowing!

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We drove right the way through the park, which was about 20+ miles.

Les found the road was particularly scary – with sheer drops either side at times, and U-bends you would not believe! Once I managed to persuade Les to climb out from under her seat – and to take her fingernails out of my thigh, she soon realised just how stunning the views were!

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On our drive out of the park, we noticed the ‘devastated area’ where the forest fire raged the previous summer.

We also visited the museum and saw the photos taken when it last erupted badly in 1915 – that was quite a sight! At the museum, you can see some great stuff about the park, its geology, including how volcanoes form, and its wildlife.

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Lassen Peak is one of the many active, though currently, dormant volcanoes found around the Pacific Ocean. Formed about 27,000 years ago, it is one of the world’s biggest plug dome volcanoes rising from 2000 ft to nearly 10500 ft above sea level.

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We found the Lassen area is rich with lush forests and meadows, rushing mountain streams, soaring mountain vistas, tranquil lakes, seasonal wildflowers and a wide variety of wildlife. This scenic beauty is accompanied by hissing

This scenic beauty had an accompaniment of hissing mud pots, steaming fumaroles, dormant lava dome and cinder cone volcanoes and a remnant of a stratovolcano.

I bet you were impressed with all that information – I copied it from the leaflet!!!!

P1040976As you can see from the photograph opposite, the Parks Department have created many pathways for exploration of the area. We walked on a trail about 2 miles into the canyon to an area known as ‘Bumpass Hell’.

The trek in was a little scary – often a relatively thin ledge – scattered with large rock formations and tree roots – but a long way down!

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We were over 8000 ft up, so the air was also rather thin, but that didn’t stop the smell reaching our way well before we saw Bumpass Hell!

We dropped into an area of seething mist coming from the lava beds and the mud holes. The smell was disgusting – it soaked into your skin, and you could taste the sulphur! We thought nose pegs would have been a great asset at this point!

After another brilliant day, we headed back to Chester. Tomorrow we were packing up to go to South Lake Tahoe for a week, and we both thought how brilliant it would be to stay in one place for a while. At least then we would be able to remember where the toilet is in the middle of the night!

Reflecting later that evening on the wondrous power of nature, I began musing on leadership and power. It struck me that many leaders believe they wield power when in truth they lead by influence. In fact, what affects the choices of those they lead are often the leader’s vision, values and their sense of purpose.

As a Head of Service for over seven years, I came to understand that my powers were extremely limited, but my influence grew the more I became known and respected by my staff, my peers and my partners.

As always, I welcome your comments and dialogue. I also wish you an entertaining and enlightening experience of this series of posts.

Thank you for reading.

Leaders don’t operate through power – their vision, values and sense of purpose influences the choices of those they lead.

 

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How to be amazingly happy? Here, try this!

I am a massive fan of #Frank Sonnenberg. I love his approach, his thinking and his content, and I would highly recommend following him through social media.

A year or so ago, he published a piece called “Moral Character is the DNA of Success and Happiness”, which resonated with me greatly.

In today’s post, I want to explore his thinking, offering my interpretation.  I am prompted in this by a marvellous conversation yesterday with a close friend and colleague here in North East England. My thanks to him, as ever, for his curiosity and thirst for understanding.

The Components of Your Moral Character

In his post, Frank identified four parts to Moral Character. These were Life Purpose, Beliefs and Values, Character and Actions.

I lay out my thinking on these four elements below, with inspiration from Mark Twain.

Life Purpose

Have you ever considered why you are alive? I have reflected on it often over the years. That is why I have always liked the Mark Twain quote below.

Interestingly, my life purpose, as I define it, has remained pretty constant throughout my life beyond my teen years. I wanted and still want to help people and make a difference in their lives, their families and their communities. I am driven by a notion of social justice and have always had a passionIt is a goal or ambition that many people would also choose.

However, I am equally sure that many people do not give it a thought, better yet decide what it is. They move through life doing rather than being, and consequently, do not develop themselves in a way which makes a greater impact.

In short, what is the legacy you wish to leave behind you? How would you care to be remembered? What impact will a life lived well have on those who you encountered?

Beliefs and Values

Many people hold me in high regard. I know this from very regular feedback I receive from them, both directly face-to-face and via social media and other channels.

A surprise phone call on Tuesday evening this week from someone who I have not seen face-to-face since 2009 brought this home to me. Paul rang me to catch up, while on his way to work. He had noted, from following my social media strands that I had a busy year and wanted to see how I was.

We have corresponded by email and postings on and off over the years but only talked on a couple of occasions.  I met him in 2009 when I facilitated a leadership development programme he attended. We struck up a strong rapport, and that has continued, albeit at a distance. He lives in Derbyshire and works in Nottinghamshire, many miles from my home in Sunderland.

It was a delightful conversation and made my day. Paul’s words were very kind and strongly complimentary. They reminded me that what drew Paul to me so powerfully were my beliefs and values, as lived each and every day. He experienced that directly, though many years before. He saw them enacted in my social media postings and they resonated once again in our telephone conversation.

I cherish my beliefs and values and stay true to them. I live them, express them, refresh them and share them. In other words, I am the best me I can be, and I strive to improve day by day. I am not perfect though I do see progress 64 years on! I am also still learning.

So, have you considered your beliefs and values deeply? Do you live them as well as espouse them? Do you look for continuous improvement?

Character

Your character moves beyond your beliefs and values. It describes your mental and moral qualities, exhibited by your attitudes and your behaviour.

Many people ‘talk the talk’ but they do not ‘walk the walk’. You will have heard this said many times. In my experience, I have seen hundreds of people who could do the former, but not the latter. Why? Merely because they lacked the moral courage, the character to carry through, to follow through and to see an action to its ultimate conclusion.

Here’s something I observe more and more. People are afraid to have awkward or difficult conversations. They shy away from potential conflict? They say Yes when they should say No. They allow themselves to be led, rather than lead. And then they whine, groan, and complain under their breath, privately or to like-minded individuals.

What do they lack? Character. More often, however, it is because they did not create the time to discover who they truly are, what that means and how to utilise it in the most productive way they can. So, take time out, meditate, think, seek support to aid your thinking, and rediscover yourself. You will be amazed at what you see and astonished by what that will do for you!

Actions

I have a close friend called Cynthia Bazin. She lives in California, and we have only ever met once face to face, in October 2016 in Las Vegas. I have known her virtually for years. Besides being a great friend, Cynthia is my personal accountability buddy, fellow co-author, and mentor to many, and she is extraordinarily good at that.

One of her favourite sayings is, “Take freakin’ action!” It is powerful and resonates greatly here because all of your thinking, soul-searching, self-awareness raising and so on amounts to nought if you don’t do something with it!

So, Frank’s final element is the one for me that rounds this whole post off. I can be who I am, live my values and beliefs, be laser focused on my purpose, but it does not amount to anything if I don’t act!

What does this mean for you?

So, take what you are, what you have and what you can share and give it, unstintingly, with love, with energy, with enthusiasm, with humour and with passion. The more you do, the more you will receive in return! Like my story about Paul this may come tomorrow, next week, or eight years later. Though to be fair to Paul it has been bubbling along for many years now.

The issue raised here is I know myself; I try to portray that in my interactions with others, and I have done this consistently for many years while trying to improve a little each day.  Paul highlighted that consistency by this comment from his follow-up email written to me the day after our call. He said, “I really enjoyed our conversation yesterday on the phone, it’s always very uplifting talking to you! You made my day too!” I very much appreciate his kindness and delight in the connection we share, even after all these years.

I also firmly believe it is because I understand what makes up my moral character, which is truly the DNA of my happiness and success. Frank’s model remains my bedrock, and I strongly recommend it to you. Think about it, decide upon your position and then take action.

So, how about you? What are you going to do now?

I welcome your comments and enjoy engaging in further dialogue. If I can be of any assistance in coaching your leadership practice, building your happiness or developing greater personal resilience, please just ask.

Contact me on john@johnthurlbeck.co.uk or by calling +447958765972.

I am always happy to listen and ready to help.

Thank you for reading.

 

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How to Say No Graciously, Manage Your Life Here!

I recently read a brilliant book titled “Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown. I highly recommend it to all who want to remove the trivia in their lives and focus on what matters.

Psycho boss imageIn this post, I draw on Greg’s ideas about doing one thing that will make such a difference in managing your life, your work and your relationships. Learn how to say NO graciously.

It is a fundamental life skill

Being able to say NO is an essential life skill. Not just for your work, but in every sphere of your life. And yet I never cease to be amazed at the large numbers of people I meet who struggle with this.

I recently gave a keynote speech to a group of around 80+ professionals. In my address, I asked my audience how many people were able to say NO. Less than 10 showed their hands.

Interestingly, there were even less when I asked a further question about having difficult conversations. Apparently, the notion of conflict avoidance plays large here, but that is a subject for another time.

Practice makes perfect!

Like any other skill, you need to practice it. So, avoiding saying NO when you want to makes the problem greater. If you are British and you are reading this, the situation becomes worse. That is because we have that quaint knack of saying things one way, which have an entirely different meaning to the person hearing.

What that means is you need to take action and to do it as soon as possible. Do not procrastinate, take charge of your life and be bold. You will not believe the feeling that taking back your life will bring!

Reject the notion that you can do it all

If you are keen to take back control of your life, you have to start by rejecting the idea that you can do it all. So many people delude themselves into believing this fallacy. You can’t, none of us can, and you should make a start by accepting this.

Give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, and you have made a massive step forward to taking back control. Consider all your options and filter them, choosing only the most essential. Greg suggests that when your receive a request, if your answer is not a definite YES, then it is a clear NO. I have found this takes a little time to work through, but it is sound advice. Of course, then you need to say NO, rather than fudge around the edges or do the British thing. Typically, we might say, MAYBE, or PERFECT or FINE, when what we mean is the request has just completely ruined our day!

OK – so how do I say No graciously?

In his book, Greg suggests eight separate ways.

  1.  Use the awkward pause – when the person makes the request, do not immediately reply. Take time to think through your options. Often the silence will cause the other person to assume the answer is no, so they will offer a new option.
  2. Try the soft ‘No’, often known as the ‘No, but’ – it works like well when you can make a counter suggestion. If, for example, your boss asks, “Can you work on Saturday”, you might reply, “No, that’s time I reserve exclusively for my family, but I could work on Sunday”.
  3. Try the No that creates some space for you. Say, for example, to a request for a meeting, “Let me check my diary and get back to you.” It holds space for you to think through your best course of action, and then perhaps to use one of the other ways of saying No graciously.
  4. If you need space from email communicators, try using an automatic email reply. It is a commonplace to see them now, and again you get to have the space to think first.
  5. When being overloaded by your boss or work colleagues, say, “Yes, what should I deprioritize?”That throws the ball back to them and can lead to a proper conversation about what your workload is, and its prioritisation.
  6. Say it with humour. Recently, my best friend wanted to know if I would do the 109 meters canyon swing at his daughter’s wedding next January. I laughed and said, You have got to be kidding me!” He took that as an NO.
  7. Offer an exchange of commitments that sets boundaries about how far you are prepared to go. Use the words “You are welcome to use my X. I am willing to Y.” So, for me, a recent example was, “Yes, you are welcome to use our minibus. I am ready to make sure the keys are available for you.” In that instance, the person asking the question was hoping I would drive the minibus for them. That was not going to happen.
  8. Suggest another person better suited to deal with the task. Say, “I can’t do it, but Phil might be interested.” It gives your colleague another line of inquiry and leaves you free to move on without yet another burden.

I have used each and every one of these suggestion numerous times, and I hope they are helpful to you. However, I still believe the most powerful way to manage your life is to be clear about what you will and will not do, and say so to people when they ask you for something you are not prepared to give.

I welcome your comments and enjoy engaging in further dialogue. If I can be of any assistance in coaching your leadership practice or developing greater personal resilience, please just ask.

Contact me on john@johnthurlbeck.co.uk or by calling +447958765972.

I am always happy to listen and ready to help.

Thank you for reading.

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