In August 2021, 4.3 million people resigned from their jobs in the USA and this phenomenon on its way to Asia and Australia. According to this article from news.com.au, the people quitting included front-line workers to CEOs.
Retiring Australian Football League (AFL) legend Chris Judd has shared two key lessons for success in his recent speeches and newspaper article. Both lessons are not your run-of the-mill lessons. They are insightful and more importantly useful. Use them to help you stay on track on your journey toward more success and life balance.
Lesson 1 – None of us are Nostradamus
When quizzed about his decision to play again in the 2015 season, Judd was asked if it was the wrong decision. Here is his response:
Playing on this year had proved to be the wrong decision for the right reasons. By that, I meant that I hadn’t persevered for money, or for personal glory, but to help the club build a culture. I have some good memories from the second half of last season, and had hoped to solidify them. They were good reasons to play on. As it turns out, I was wrong. But none of us are Nostradamus. As long as you go about the process correctly, and your intentions are pure, even if you make a wrong decision, you can sleep at night. That’s how I feel now.
None of us are perfect. Occasionally you will make wrong decisions. As Robert Louis Flood stated, “The future is unknowable“. When your intentions are honourable, and it turns out that you made a wrong decision, so be it. Learn and move on.
Lesson 2 – Enjoy the good moments when they happen
When asked for his advice to current players, Judd replied:
I think one of the main things, if I had my time over again, is just to appreciate the good moments a little bit more. I was always so ambitious and focused on what was coming next that I probably didn’t recognise as much when something special had happened.
Jeffrey Hopkins, in his translation of the Dalai Lama’s ‘How to Practise – The way to a meaningful life‘ shares that too many people cause themselves suffering because they are not present in the moment. Rather, they are stuck in the past or already focused on the future.
You share this challenge. Remembering to live in the moment when you are doing something important is a critical trait to develop.
I recall that a good friend of mine shared some excellent advice with my wife and I prior to our wedding. He said, “I encourage you to take some time out during your celebrations. Just sit by yourselves on four or five occasions and take it all in. Commit the experience to memory. The sights, the sounds, the taste of your food and drink. You won’t regret it.”
We followed his advice and 18 years later we can both remember our wedding as if it were yesterday, as I can the birth of each of my five children and many other important events in my life as a result of practising this technique.
Taking the conscious time to be present in the moment is important for success because it provides you with the experience of success that you strive so hard to achieve. It is worth following Judd’s advice – enjoy the good moments when they happen.
Gary Ryan provided leadership development services to the Richmond Tigers in 2007 and 2009, and sat on the AFL Coaches Association Board of Management from 2009 to 2014.
Here’s a formula.
High quality conversations lead to high quality decisions, which lead to high quality actions and ultimately, high quality results and performance. The reverse is also true. Low quality conversations eventually lead to low quality results.
Achieving high quality results and performance are worth the effort to learn how to conduct high quality conversations.
Unfortunately you have experienced more than your fair share of low quality conversations. These are ones where you walk out of the meeting and think any one of the thoughts below:
- “Wow, that was a complete waste of time”
- “When will people finally start to listen around here?”
- “Why does everyone have to make my life so difficult? Why won’t they listen to me?”
- “There’s no point saying what you really think around here because no one is going to listen anyway!”
High quality conversations are more natural than you might think. Peter Senge, author of the Fifth Discipline states,
As far as I know, no indigenous culture has yet to be found that does not have the practice of sitting in a circle and talking.
For the ancient Greeks dia logos was the ‘flow of meaning’. It was the cornerstone of civic practice. The polis was the gathering space for conversation. The purpose for the dia logos was about enabling self-government to occur. This system was the birthplace of the western world.
As time has passed the practice of dia logos has diminished. When you converse in a workplace your purpose is no longer to consider what is best for the whole. Rather, your purpose is to win. You are a master of debate. I win. You lose.
Our modern word for dia logos is dialogue. When we dialogue our purpose is not to win. It is to discover what no individual could discover on their own and it is to discover what is the best solution for the whole, not the part.
Think about the conversations that you have at work, especially the ones where everyone in the room is ‘representing‘ a specific department or unit. What is the intent that each of you bring to those conversations? Is it to do what is best for the whole organisation, or is it to defend, protect and/or promote what is best for your department or unit?
The root cause of the lack of dialogue in organisations is the lack of the practice of dialogue itself. Quite simply, well-educated and/or experienced people don’t know how to dialogue. The reverse is true. They know how to debate. It is little wonder that debate rules, but the overuse of debate lowers the overall quality of your conversations.
Debate is not bad. In fact a form of debate (known as ‘opposing’) is encouraged in the practice of dialogue. The issue with debating is that it is overused. Our conversations are out of balance. We require more use of dialogue to improve the quality of our conversations.
The solution is to learn dialogue together. The beauty of the learning process is that you can practice dialogue, while learning it, on real organisational issues.
In the foreword to William Isaacs’s book, ‘Dialogue and the art of thinking together‘, Peter Senge highlights that,
In almost every setting where practices of dialogue have become embedded and part of everyday routines, the ensuing changes have become irreversible, as near as I can tell.
The projects to which Senge was referring involved practical people such as line managers, executives and staff from mostly Fortune 500 companies. The improvements were clear. Improving the quality of work-place conversations improve performance.
The effort is worth it. Higher quality conversations lead to higher quality decisions which lead to higher quality actions and ultimately higher quality results and performance. Results and performance matter and so does improving the quality of conversations in your organisation.
What actions are you taking to improve the quality of conversations at your work-place?
The most recent Gallup research (conducted in the USA) on manager effectiveness has shown that seven out of ten managers are directly reducing rather than increasing employee motivation and engagement. If you are a manager, then this means that you have a 30 percent chance of being an effective manager, and a 70 percent chance that you are an ineffective one. Which one are you?
The report highlights that effective, engaging managers result in a, “48% increase in profitability, a 22% increase in productivity, a 30% increase in employee engagement scores, a 17% increase in customer engagement scores and a 19% decrease in turnover.” How do your numbers compare with these?
The evidence is overwhelming. Closing the gap between ineffective and effective management matters!
What is it that effective managers do that makes such a big difference?
Firstly, they are talented. Gallup defines talent as, “… the natural capacity for excellence. People can learn skills, develop knowledge and gain experience, but they can’t acquire talent — its innate. When individuals have the right talent for their role, they’re energized by their work, rarely thinking of it as “work” at all.”
The skills required for effective management and leadership are specific. They include being able to listen, to communicate effectively, to have foresight, to be able to find employee strengths, to be able to paint a picture of success and more. Identifying people with the talent to manage is just as important as identifying people with the right talent for any job.
Next, talent is grown and not promoted. Promoting people into roles beyond their competence is one of the greatest flaws that contribute to the generally poor performance of managers. Just because someone is good at their frontline role doesn’t mean they will make a great manager. Yet that is exactly the practice that exists today. How are people promoted into management roles in your organisation?
Gallup recommends that people be paid for their performance, not their job title. This means that an employee could be paid more than their manager. Place the right talent into the right roles and pay them for their value, not their title. For most companies, this will require a structural change to how they manage their pay scales. Are people paid for the value or their title in your organisation?
Manager’s themselves need to continually improve and to further develop their strengths. Too many managers have limited opportunity to improve their management skills once they become managers, which decreases their own engagement, the ripple effect of which is to further decrease the engagement of their direct reports. Lower engagement leads to lower productivity and lower profits. Clearly this is madness, yet this vicious cycle continues to thrive.
How can these issues be resolved? Fortunately, there is a solution.
Servant Leadership is a management and leadership style that addresses these issues. Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes, shares in her book Dare To Serve the power of Servant Leadership and how it has driven the company’s turn-around since 2007 (it’s share price has risen from $12 to over $56 – how happy do you think its shareholders are about this improvement!). A clear and deliberate cultural shift to practice Servant Leadership, including changing systems and processes to make sure they are aligned with the principles and practices of Servant Leadership has driven their performance improvements.
The test for effective Servant Leadership focuses on the growth of the people you are serving. Gallup’s recent research identifies that growing talent is what matters. Servant Leaders take action to help the people they are serving grow. The results; increased engagement, productivity and profits!
Existing management practices are not working. Companies and organisations need to adopt a completely different approach to how management roles are executed. Servant Leadership is the answer. It results in more engaged employees and customers and increases profitability. Who doesn’t want those outcomes! Make the decision today to change your management practices for the better.
My eldest child Liam is a teenager and loves his Australian Rules Football and his cricket. He is on an Australian Football League (AFL) Pathway program and he played representative cricket last summer. While he loves both sports he has said that his personal goals are to be the best that he can be so that he can (at the very least) enjoy his sport at the local level.
He has come to realise that if he hadn’t been exposed to a higher standard he would have continued to think that his effort at his local team was at a high standard. He wants his local team-mates to raise their standard and is frustrated by the fact that he knows that they think that they are already training with a high level of effort. He doesn’t blame them for thinking that way because he used to think that way too. They simply don’t know anything different.
He has a dilemma. How can he help his team-mates to ‘see‘ the gap that he has seen without looking like a know-it-all!
Unbeknown to me he has executed a plan. You see, as part of his own development he has “run water” for the past two seasons with our local Under 19 team who play in the Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA). His perspective is that by being involved with the older boys he is continuing to be exposed to a higher standard of effort. His plan has been to continue to invite his team-mates to come and help him run water with the intention being that by doing so they will be exposed to the higher standard of effort and have the opportunity to see first-hand the gap with his underage team.
Last weekend, for the very first time, one of his team-mates took up the offer. At the end of the warm up his team-mate came over to Liam and said, “Wow, did you see the standard of their warm-up? This is what we should be doing too!”
Bam! Liam smiled and agreed.
His plan had worked and it only took exposing his team-mate to the Under 19 team’s warm-up before their game for the gap to be ‘seen’ for the first time.
This example is relevant well beyond junior football. If you have team members who are performing at a low standard, it may be that they have never seen what a high standard actually looks like. Finding ways to expose them to that higher standard is a leadership challenge. It can be a slow journey, but one by one you can change a standard and a culture by exposing people to a higher standard, having them ‘see‘ the gap and then challenging and coaching them to ‘bring‘ that standard to their normal work.
If you wish to be successful in your role there are two critical questions that you need answered:
- What is my role?
- How do I know that I am doing a good job?
Knowing the answer to the first question is not enough. You also need to know the answer to the second question. The performance of your role may be measured in many ways and if you aren’t addressing the measures that matter to your employer, you will be judged as a non-performer.
The reverse is also true. If you are a manager one of your roles is to make sure that your team members are clear about their role and are clear about how they will be judged for doing a good job. If your team members aren’t clear about the answers to both of these questions, chances are they will be doing unproductive work. And that reflects poorly on you.
How well do you understand your role and are you clear about what you need to do to be sure that you are doing a good job? If you are not clear about the answers to these questions go and find the answers now. Success in your role depends on it.
Creating life balance and personal success requires that you master your habits. The start of the entry for the definition of the word ‘habit‘ on Wikipedia reads, ‘routines of behavior that are repeated regularly and tend to occur subconsciously.‘ Daniel Pink in his book Drive references many research papers that show that humans are regularly irrational from a behavioural perspective. Your motivation for doing what you do doesn’t always make sense from a rational perspective. You buy things that you cannot afford. You stay in an unhealthy relationship. You accept the poor behaviour of your boss. You don’t save for your retirement even though there is ample evidence to suggest that this is the smart thing to do if you wish to have the same level of living standard in your retirement years. You hold on to bad investments long after they have gone sour. You continue smoking after you have had a heart attack. I think you get the picture.
Much of your behaviour is irrational and subconscious. You don’t really know why you do what you do but you do it anyway. In other words, your behaviour is driven by habits and these habits are often irrational.
Creating life balance and personal success requires that you raise your awareness of your habits. To do this you need to become more conscious of your behaviour and/or ask a trusted friend to point out the habits they see you doing. Give them permission to tell you things that normally you might not like to hear. Not everything they say will be bad. A number of your habits will be good.
Once you identify your habits you need to assess whether they should be kept or whether they should be stopped. The task of categorising your habits should always be done in the context of whether or not your habits are taking you toward your definition of life balance and personal success, or whether they are taking you away from that definition. Keep doing the habits that are taking you toward the success you desire and stop doing the habits that are taking you away from what you desire.
Stopping habits isn’t easy but it is necessary for the third category of habits to be commenced. This category of habits are the ones that you need to start. The time and effort that is required for this category of habits is obtained from the habits that you stop. So you don’t have to find more time to create more life balance and personal success.
Keeping, stopping and starting habits all require that you know what life balance and personal success looks like for you. If you don’t know then check out the Yes For Success Program here.
If you are in business then you know that customers make mistakes. They get things wrong. They don’t read the information that you have provided them. If they have read the information they mis-understand your message. They don’t turn up when they are supposed to. They miss bookings. This list could go on forever!
As service providers we can either see these mistakes as a pain in the neck and wish for the day when our customers will no longer make them. Or we can see these mistakes as opportunities to innovate so that the mistakes are either eliminated, reduced or mitigated.
Recently I flew to the USA with my wife and five children. International travel with five children can be a stressful experience. Anything that the airlines can do to cut the stress is a blessing. Anything they do that increases stress makes the travelling experience more challenging.
Despite being an experienced traveller I forgot to arrange our visas for entry to the USA. This error, my error, was surfaced while we were checking in.
“I’m sorry sir, but you can’t check in until your visas have been approved. Here is a card with a website address for you to quickly complete your application. Please move your bags to the side so that I can check in the next customer. There is an internet cafe just down the foyer past gate 60.”
I made the mistake. The airline, in this case United Airlines was not to blame for my mistake. It was my fault. That said, at that moment, how do you think I felt about United Airlines? The error wasn’t theirs, but in that moment I felt that somehow they were responsible, even though they weren’t.
I ran through the airport to find the internet cafe. I then spent over fifty minutes completing my online applications. Each application took about eight minutes to complete. You can imagine my stress levels rising. As each minute passed we were getting closer and closer to being excluded from being able to board our flight. Twice through the application process the computer I was using crashed, meaning that I had to reboot it and I had to restart the application process again. Everything around me became a blur. All I was focussed on was completing the applications so that we could check-in and board our plane.
Finally all seven applications were complete. I ran back to the check-in counter. We were the last people to be checked in. The staff were wonderful as they helped us through this process as more forms needed to be completed and we still needed to clear customs. As we were checking in the staff told us that it had been one of those days where multiple people had not completed their visa applications. My mistake as a customer had also made life for the staff more difficult as they too were frustrated by their inability to complete the check-in process in a timely manner.
When we were finally on the plane and I had some time to catch my breath, wipe the sweat from my brow and reflect on my mistake, it dawned on me that the staff had indicated that there had been a pattern of customers making the same mistake that I had made.
From a business perspective I find patterns interesting. They can often lead to opportunities. We had waited in line for over an hour before being checked in. A United Airlines staff member had been ‘walking’ the line asking us if we required tags for our luggage. Many people found this service useful. However, what if this staff member had also been asking customers if they had completed their visa applications? If I had been made aware of my mistake earlier I could have completed the online application process while my wife and children were waiting in the check-in line.
United Airlines also had access to a system that informed them about our visa status. I know this because the staff member who checked us in accessed this system to check our status. I wonder whether this information could have been used to contact me three days before our flight. Imagine if I had either received an email, a text message or even a phone call three days before our flight informing me that I was yet to complete my visa application. Imagine if I had received this information by all three communication channels. I could have been pre warned of my error so that it didn’t become an error. People missing flights isn’t good for anyone so anything the airlines can do to reduce the chances that flights are missed has to be good for both the airlines and the customers.
Flight Centre was our travel agent and once again, in this self-help world that we live in a travel agent is an expert in international travel, not me. Imagine if Flight Centre had also had a system in place to help me to help myself? After all, as experts in travel the very thing that they would know that could negatively impact my travel plans is not having appropriate visas. In fact my wife had spoken with our travel agent a few days before our departure and this issue had not been raised with her. An opportunity missed!
Once again I want to make it clear that I am not blaming United Airlines nor Flight Centre for my mistake. Rather, I am using this personal experience to highlight that organisations need to be aware of the common mistakes that their customers make and to do whatever they can to help their customers reduce those errors. Whether we like it or not, most customers will blame the organisation for mistakes that they (the customer) has made.
Customer driven mistakes are the service provider’s problem. Looking at the patterns of mistakes and then seeing these patterns as opportunities can definitely enhance an overall customer experience.
What common customer errors happen in your world and what are you doing to reduce them?
Watching university students role play salary package negotiations is fascinating. Without question the student who acts as the manager negotiates from the perspective that they have the power in the negotiation. The student acting as the prospective employee, who is trying to negotiate the best possible outcome for themself also adopts the perspective that the ‘manager’ has the power.
Several minutes in to the role plays I interrupt and tell the ‘manager’ that their CEO has a memo for them. The memo informs them that, due to the war for talent, they must do everything they can to secure the services of the prospective employee while maintaining responsibility for their budget.
The negotiations continue with a changed dynamic. The power has shifted. No longer does the ‘manager’ see that they have control. While having adopted an initial distributive bargaining strategy, they quickly shift to an integrative bargaining strategy. Even their body language changes. As I said this is fascinating to watch.
What is also fascinating is that the students involved are yet to begin their professional careers. Many of them have part-time jobs and/or volunteer roles and the majority of them have never had a manager’s role. Yet they follow this pattern of behaviour.
The role play is conducted as part of a Communication For Business program. In it I teach the students about the power of their mental models; their theories about how they believe the world works and how these theories directly affect their behaviour. Their perception of having or not having power affects the mental models they adopt in the role play which in turn affects their behaviour. As soon as the power is ‘shifted’ by the memo, they adopt a different mental model and their behaviour changes.
I have conducted this activity over a seven-year period and the observed behaviours have been consistent over this period of time. The perception of power has a direct implication for behaviour. This is not right or wrong. The challenge is that your mental models often act at a sub-conscious level rather than a conscious level. Either way they will affect your behaviour.
Reflecting on the activity students report that they were aware of the position they were taking in the negotiation but not aware of the deep mental models that were ‘driving’ their behaviour. Their view of the power they had or didn’t have had a direct impact on their behaviour.
What lesson does this activity surface for leaders and developing leaders alike?
Let’s assume that you value talent. If you are not aware of the influence that power has on your subconscious mental models and ultimately your behaviour, you are unlikely to treat the talented individuals you are working with as talented people. You will treat them as people who have less power than you. You will not be equals who have different roles.
Raising your awareness of your mental models is a key element for success. What is your experience of mental models and how they drive your behaviour?
In its report New Concepts in Innovation – The Keys To Growing Australia the Business Council of Australia defined innovation as:
Innovation can be defined as the application of knowledge to create additional value and wealth. Innovation involves using knowledge to find new ways to create and bring about change for the better. This definition of innovation has implications for the types of activities within businesses that can be considered innovative.
First, innovation does not necessarily involve technology and technological knowledge. Successful innovation can involve the use of any type of knowledge, provided its application results in additional value and wealth.
Second, innovation is not invention. Innovation may not even require the creation of new knowledge – be it to the world or to the firm. What it does require is the inspired application of knowledge (old or new) to create additional value.
What I like about this definition is that it makes innovation easier to understand. Value determines innovation. If you create something and it doesn’t hold value, then you haven’t innovated. In an earlier post Understanding Innovation I explained that innovation was as simple as taking something and adding it to something else. Providing the result creates value, then you have innovated. Your somethings can be anything. They can be something physical with another physical thing, such as wrapping paper and a brown paper bag that together created the Gift Bag.
They can be a concept such as portability which was added to music and you create the Sony Walkman. You can have selling white goods and providing people with access to finance for those goods and you create GE Money. You can have a passion for baseball and a desire for a large free wedding and you create a fully Sponsorship Public Wedding.
Given the Business Council of Australia advocates innovation as a critical skill for career success, take this concept and start testing the value that you create. You might just take your most successful live program and the desire to create a like-minded community and create the Yes For Success Platform!