"Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going."
- Jim Rohn, business philosopher
We are creatures of habit (a behaviour pattern), so the saying goes. It therefore follows that if we minimise the bad habits and maximise the good ones, we will have leadership, business and life licked! If only it were that simple.
The Importance of Habits
Planning plays a critical role in creating a desired vision and blueprint for success. Motivation pours fuel into the tank. Having the right set of competencies – skills and knowledge – is paramount too, but it’s habit that creates a winning routine that enables positive behaviours to be repeated over and over again.
Leadership, Habits and Humility: a Necessary Three-Way Marriage
A key trait to unlock change is having the humility to accept that a negative habit exists in the first instance. We are human beings after all – it’s part of our nature to be perfectly imperfect. I’m sure most people would be willing to say, “I’m not perfect”, but this isn’t real ownership. Admitting the specific behaviour and the cost to the business goes deeper and requires brevity, courage and humility – perhaps a greater benefit to the business than eye lasers.
Humility in Action
Marshall Goldsmith, an acclaimed leadership coach, regularly references his work with Alan Mulally, former CEO of Ford. In 2013, Alan was named third on Fortune’s ‘World’s Greatest Leaders’ list. However, he had to work on his leadership style throughout his career at Ford – from telling staff how to do their job to becoming a facilitator of change. Marshall puts the turnaround down to Alan’s humility and lack of ego. Alan once told Marshall:
“Every day I remind myself that leadership is not about me. It is about the great people who are working with me.”
Do These Bad Habits Sound Familiar?
Exercise is often the first appointment we break under stress and in favour of work-related commitments. Getting back into an exercise regime or becoming more active tends to be a constant goal among leaders. However, endless evidence suggests exercise is important for both our physical and mental well-being and helps us to make better decisions and improve mental agility under pressure.
Procrastination occurs in the pursuit of perfection. An inability to get important things done due to a fear of the end result not being quite right. This is one I know very well and it especially raises its ugly head when I’m about to hit the ‘publish’ button of my latest blog post! I aim for ‘80% happy’ (or thereabouts) and focus on the intention over outcome – adding value, rather than writing a scholarly masterpiece.
The need to be right is prioritised over all other outcomes. Justifying one’s own importance or intelligence is placed ahead of the opportunity to collaborate, discover new information or ideas and is likely to damage relationships. This particular habit also shines a big bright light on one’s own ego, instead of shining the light on the team, something Mulally pinpoints as critical in effective leadership.
The Psychology of Behaviour Change
According to BJ Fogg, a psychologist and researcher at Stanford University who has studied behaviour change for more than 20 years, three elements must converge at the same moment for a behaviour to occur: Motivation, Ability, and Trigger (a structure that prompts an action). Ding, ding, ding! A clear and simple formula.
Managing Habits: a 10-Point Plan
1. Change the mindset around negative habits. See them for what they are – sabotaging behaviours that are sabotaging your progress.
2. Notice the ‘inner voice’ that is supporting the bad habit (“it’s not a scholarly masterpiece!” or “you’re not good enough!”). The more you notice it, the quieter it will become.
3. Remember, you are always at choice. Don’t convince yourself that negative behaviour patterns are just ‘who I am’. You get to choose.
4. Start small. Set up a daily structure to keep you on track. It might be to spend 5 minutes at the start of each day writing your top 3 ‘must dos’ for the day that’ll mean success for you.
5. Create a routine. Creating a new habit is like building a muscle – it requires a regular workout. A structured routine containing daily actions will support the formation of a new habit.
6. Focus on the present. What can you do today? The past can’t be changed and the future has not yet been written. It’s what you do today that’ll have the biggest impact on future success.
7. Pair habits. BJ Fogg suggests pairing desired new habits with well-established old ones. For example, when you brush your teeth (established daily habit) do 10 squats (desired new habit).
8. Keep a record. Track your progress at the end of each day. Did you do it – Y/N? It’s hard to ignore failure!
9. Share your intentions. Your odds of breaking a habit or creating a new one greatly improves with accountability.
10. Celebrate success! Every little success should be celebrated. It helps to anchor the habit through a positive emotional response.
Next time you want to achieve a goal, refocus your attention on a routine that will turn new desired behaviours into anchored positive habits. A new habit could be the missing link in overcoming the latest challenge. A formula to consider…
Quality Leadership = Motivation + Ability + Trigger x Positive Habits
As a coach, my job isn’t to know more about running a company than you (that’s your job), but to hold a mirror up to behaviour patterns, which will raise awareness and insight around how they support or hinder your goals and leadership. What new habit could take your leadership to the next level?
"Leadership without mutual trust is a contradiction in terms."
- Warren Bennis, Organisational Consultant and Author
Life is about relationships. The healthy ones we nurture, the not-so-good ones we let fall by the wayside. There is a direct correlation between the quality of our lives and the quality of our relationships. This is no different in business.
Strong relationships between people and teams within an organisation hold the key to a winning culture and a climate for success. More often than not, a successful leader builds effective relationships and inspires others to follow suit – creating a ripple effect.
(As an aside, it’s important to note that leadership should be viewed as a mindset choice, regardless of your position within a company).
The million-dollar question… how do we create effective relationships?
Warren Bennis summaries this best in the quote at the start of this article. Trust. Trust is at the heart of relationships. For example, if you don’t trust a colleague it’ll undoubtedly have a negative impact on your working relationship. You won’t be getting 100% from your team if trust is not up front and centre. However, if trust is an ever-present within your relationships, it’s likely that people will want to work both for you and with you.
The 13 Behaviours of Trust
In his book ‘The Speed of Trust,’ Stephen M R Covey breaks trust into 13 behaviours which can be used as a guide when understanding how both trust and distrust can affect relationships. Therefore, it’s an excellent starting point when looking to improve trust and the quality of your relationships. Covey states the behaviours as below:
Creating Trust in 5 Minutes
Review the 13 behaviours of trust. Pick a behaviour that resonates and create an action to model more trust within a key relationship.
… in an Hour
Make a list of key working relationships and assign an action based on the 13 behaviours above that will demonstrate more trust with each person.
… for Long-Lasting Change
Building trust takes time. A one-off initiative will not likely lead to lasting change. Sustaining trust requires continued effort.
Find a feedback system – either informally or formally – that tracks areas of trust across important relationships. For example, set up a regular meeting with a trusted colleague to evaluate progress with honest feedback. Alternatively, invest in a professional - such as a coach - to hold you accountable for new behaviours that support the change process.
The Importance of Trust in the Workplace
Don’t assume that trust just happens. A global study of trust in the workplace by Ernst & Young in 2016 found that less than half of global professionals trust their employer, boss or team/colleagues.
It Starts With You
The responsibility of demonstrating trust starts with you. Inspiring and motivating is an integral part of leadership. When we honour trust, leading with integrity and authenticity comes automatically and with ease. Craig Weatherup, former CEO of PepsiCo, encapsulates this sentiment in the below quote.
"Trust cannot become a performance multiplier unless the leader is prepared to go first."
The Ripple Effect
Better relationships impact culture, which impacts talent retention and acquisition – essential for any business – as well as performance. There is also a knock-on effect with external parties, such as long-standing clients, new prospects and business partners.
Take time to nurture and appreciate the relationships that make a difference in your business. How does the level of trust currently stand within your company? What could you do to improve trust in a relationship today? Over to you…
Within the coaching framework, coachees can be supported by tailored exercises to accelerate growth in a particular area. I’ve been noticing common themes from clients and thought I would share a few exercises (in the short video above) and a simple approach to tackle planning, which is often deprioritised.
The Proverbial Spinning Plates
For some business leaders, trying to put aside the ‘spinning plates’ from last year (or even further back) is a challenge, let alone adding new plates to the to-do list.
This is even more important for smaller businesses and entrepreneurs who have all the responsibilities of the organisation on their shoulders. They must have the ability to be Jack of all trades, master of them all! A mindset that requires adaptability, agility, and an aptitude to set, commit to and complete priorities. On top of all of this, they must be able to see the big picture – looking for opportunities and threats – and have the capacity to be always ‘on’.
So, do you need to be a superhero to achieve all of the above and run a successful business? The answer is no, thankfully! What you do need, however, is a solid planning structure in place to avoid fire-fighting daily tasks without long-term direction.
Planning is a laborious task for many. Simply trying to allocate time to take a step back from the business to see the big picture is seen as a luxury, rather than a necessity. However, the right planning can lead to smart goal-setting and implementation. The best planners ensure that every day tasks fit into the larger goals of the business and that they in turn fit into the overall vision of the company - ensuring “working harder, not smarter” is a reality and not just a pipe dream.
Marshall Goldsmith, one of the world’s top Executive Coaches, coined the phrase:
“What gets measured gets done.”
A simple and effective context to hold around planning.
The Big Picture Approach: Why, What, How
There are tonnes of planning tools and exercises out there, but if you are someone who struggles with planning, a simple ‘Why, What, How’ approach can help get you started.
Crucially, the ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how’ should all be aligned.
The final takeaway around planning is understanding the importance of being future-focused and making time to plan ahead. Seeing this as a necessity, rather than a luxury, is paramount. If you’re not planning ahead for your business, who is?
Career transition within the field of executive coaching is on the rise. I’ve been approached recently by a number of people asking for support in this area. As many people will be starting the new year with resolutions around career change, I thought it may prove useful to share a formula that can support the process.
In my previous role in the corporate world, there was one thing that was drilled into us and that was that we are all responsible for our professional development. Of course, it wasn’t quite this simple, as there was a small barrier called ‘budget’ (or lack of it!) that got in the way on occasion, but I wholeheartedly agree with the principle - it’s down to you alone to make the best career for yourself.
Business Philosopher and entrepreneur, Jim Rohn, encapsulates this best.
Research has unearthed a few enlightening facts for those at a crossroads.
You are not alone!
Recent LinkedIn research states that three-quarters of 25 to 33-year-olds have experienced a quarter-life crisis driven by career angst. I wonder if this is higher or lower than the mid-life crisis bunch? Perhaps one for another time!
The cost to your happiness
According to an article in the Mail Online last year, Britons spend 12 years of their lives at work. 12 years! This is a long time to be doing something mediocre with your life… especially if it negatively impacts other parts of your life too.
The good news…
If you do decide to take the plunge in a role, research has found that 74 per cent of people who changed jobs got a higher salary at their new position.
The role of the career coach
A coach will focus on the gap or growth zone – coaching between where you are now and the end goal. Change doesn’t happen by hanging around the current trajectory, but rather above it.
In order to evoke change, a coach will raise awareness around values, skills, strengths, long-held limiting beliefs (systematic thought processes that maintain the status quo) and build confidence to help you get clear on the right career path.
Step 1: what do you want from your career?
If you had to score your level of career satisfaction out of 10 today what would it be? If your number gives you cause for concern or you’ve just taken an involuntary intake of breath, perhaps it’s time for a change.
The career coaching formula
Values are simply an intrinsic part of who we are at our core - what makes us tick. Our actions are driven by our values and they are what makes us jump out of bed in the morning (sometimes!). Therefore, identifying what's important is essential before embarking on a career change or promotion, as a career that doesn’t align with our values will likely feel unfulfilled.
Also, when considering a company to work for it’s worth assessing how their values align with your own. For example, I would suggest that often why we undertake a career pivot is down to values.
Skills are necessary for getting and being successful in a job. Being able to articulate when under pressure what you're good at and also knowing which skills you enjoy utilising is paramount in an interview scenario and also serves as a guidepost to your ideal role. Figuring out your skill set prior to looking for a promotion or a new role is vital.
Peter Drucker, renowned management consultant and author, said:
“A person can perform only from strength. One cannot build performance on weakness, let alone on something one cannot do at all.”
In other words, it is easier to move from good to excellent than it is to move from incompetence to mediocrity.
Research from Gallup found that “people who focus on their strengths are three times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life, six times more likely to be engaged at work, 8% more productive and 15% less likely to quit their jobs.”
Therefore, understanding strengths is a must in understanding what is the right career choice.
Limiting beliefs generate very unhelpful words of wisdom – they are like a good friend that gives bad advice. Managing and quietening these sabotaging thoughts is a crucial element in the overall career jigsaw puzzle. It might be the one obstacle in the way of that dream job.
A number of exercises are especially useful when it comes to career coaching, such as a skills assessment, CV building or finding a job description that represents the next job and making a plan to plug the gaps.
Getting clear on all of the above builds that all important element: confidence.
At a career crossroads?
What do sports coaching and business coaching have in common? More than you might think, as it turns out.
Moreover, why do we so readily accept the practice of coaching in sport, but often don’t consider coaching for ourselves or our business?
These are questions I’ve been giving thought to lately as I build my own coaching practice. Also, being a keen sportsman (mostly from my armchair these days), I couldn’t help notice the similarities between coaching in sport and in business.
“Dave Alred is a genius. He changed my life.”
Dr Dave Alred MBE is widely acknowledged as one of the finest coaches in the sporting world. He’s not only coached Jonny Wilkinson, but also the golfer Luke Donald (while he was number one in the world), the England cricket team and the British and Irish Lions.
In his book, The Pressure Principle, Alred bridges this gap between sport and business. He consistently relates his learning, techniques and tips from the sporting arena to the world of business.
As a side note, what a truly impressive guy. Also, great book and well worth a read for those interested in sport and/or coaching.
I digress… an explanation of the similarities is below:
The Coaching Framework – In sport, the coach is responsible for providing a framework to improve performance. Dribbling, passing, and shooting drills in football would be obvious examples. In business coaching, there is also a framework in place to improve performance. Some examples could be effective goal setting, values discovery and raising awareness through self-assessments.
In both instances, the coach provides the framework and the coachee is responsible for making the change.
The Coaching Contexts – The contexts surrounding both sport and business are certainly the same. The below image shows some of the common contexts.
Each context is a vital ingredient in creating a successful coaching relationship.
Body Language and Embodiment – The skill of embodiment is another great example. In sport, I don’t know one footballer who hasn’t puffed out their chest in a bid to hold their space more confidently. In business, owning the space also gives a person more confidence. Alred has developed what he calls the ‘C to J concept’, which emphasises the importance of using body language to create a positive mindset. Key elements of this concept are the ‘command posture’ and ‘being big’, ensuring one’s ability to stay big and tall under pressure to bypass anxiety.
The Growth Zone – Coaching is all about creating awareness to bring about choice to enable change (remember my last article?). However, in order to create change we need to be willing to move into the growth zone – and out of the comfort zone.
Alred calls this the ‘ugly zone’. He suggests that we need to be in the ugly zone in order to change an action or habit.
Any right-footed footballer who has practised with their left foot can vouch for this (and vice versa). Extremely ugly indeed!
Limiting beliefs – The main reason we avoid moving into the growth or ugly zone is because of the fear of failure. We have limiting, risk-averse beliefs that want to protect us from failing. You know the one: those dreaded feelings of looking stupid, feeling embarrassed or not being good enough.
But if we don’t address this, we are unable to develop or move towards our goals. Using the example above, a young boy or girl who neglects to practise with their weaker foot in order to avoid embarrassment is unlikely to realise their dream of playing for Manchester United… or even Keyworth United (my local team of non-league ‘galácticos’).
The consequences can be far-reaching. That same risk-aversion can also affect the business executive who doesn’t put in for promotion or apply for a job that they really want because of a limiting belief.
To counter this, Alred’s coaching philosophy is simple:
“To rekindle youthful learning and create a ‘no-limits’ mindset.”
A philosophy that transcends both the sports field and the boardroom. Something for us all to take on board.
I have a good friend who is a triathlete and has represented Great Britain for many years. A rather impressive individual! He mentioned years ago how he has taken his performance to the next level. I was curious, so I asked him the reason for his new-found success. His response: “I hired a coach”.
A coach in sport is hired to improve performance of the individual or team. A coach in business is hired for exactly the same reason. Coaching can have a powerful impact… just ask Jonny Wilkinson.
Previous article: What is this coaching, anyway?
Bill Gates said, “everyone needs a coach”. Wise words, William. It turns out that Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt and Mark Zuckerberg are all in support of coaching too. Not a bad set of advocates. However, whilst most people would benefit from having a coach, many have never considered the idea.
So, what is this coaching, anyway?
It is a question I’ve been asked a lot over the past six months. I thought I would put pen to paper (well, fingertips to… the… erm… keyboard) and explain the essence of coaching and the benefits it brings – together with a nice diagram (for those that prefer to read the last page of the book first).
There are a lot of different definitions out there. Most are accurate to a certain extent, but many miss out the important bit:
The learning which generates behavioural change within the coaching framework creates a long-lasting impact even after the coaching relationship comes to an end.
We’ll come back to this.
A very basic definition will probably read something along the lines of: Coaching moves someone from A to B.
This is indeed true, but it covers only a small portion of coaching and views it very much at a macro level. It’s too simplistic. A bit like explaining football as people kicking a ball around a field. There is a deeper level. Also, the original goal of B might actually become C or D or even M after coaching begins.
More than that, it’s missing the “a-ha” moments that happen throughout the coaching relationship. Picture the transformation of Prince Adam to He-Man (for those unfamiliar with the 1980s kids classic cartoon - Prince Adam transforms from a purple tight-wearing, slightly insecure and care-free young man to a fearless powerhouse hero of a man in the time it takes to say “by the power of Grayskull”). Now, that was most definitely make-believe (I think!) but coaching has many genuine empowering components.
So, what’s my take on it?
For me, coaching is a framework for growth and is all about the journey. In fact, the journey IS the destination. What the coachee learns in the process of growing and achieving what once felt like an unattainable goal is the real value. This is also where confidence grows.
Coaching can be defined in a neat formula:
Awareness + Choices = Change
This definition acknowledges the crucial stages of the framework. Within ‘Awareness’ there is learning. ‘Choices’ become conscious resonant choices which lead to growth and long-lasting ‘Change’.
In the process the coachee continues to develop a resourceful mindset to help navigate and be more effective in business and life in the future.
For those that prefer a visual, below is a diagram to show the three elements that develop a resourceful mindset.
An example of how coaching works in practice: John wants a new job and doesn’t know where to start. All he knows is he is completely unfulfilled in his current role. Through coaching, John learns:
Greater awareness acts as feedback to help improve the choices that are being made. This enables John to make more resonant choices on what he really wants next to bring about the desired change. Goals and ‘reflection requests’ are established during each session and John is held accountable throughout the process, moving him towards his goal. John reaches his objective of securing the job he really wants. However, the learning that occurred throughout will support John in all aspects of his life thereafter.
The same process can be applied within an organisation to a boss wanting leadership development coaching for an employee. A set of goals are established between the boss (sponsor), employee (coachee) and the coach. The same above steps are followed to bring about change: awareness + choices = change.
It’s easy to see why approximately 25 to 40 per cent of Fortune 500 companies use executive coaches, according to the Hay Group (a global management consulting firm).
I hope that’s shed more light on coaching and its impact. Still wondering if Bill Gates was right when he said, “everyone needs a coach”? Perhaps something to ponder next time you are enjoying a cup of tea and a Hob Nob or feeling stuck.