In this article I'll show you 4 of the most common causes of procrastination so you can work out which one applies to you. For each one I offer you a tried and trusted procrastination-busting tip.
It's a common problem for managers - when there's too much to do, or some activities are overwhelming or unappetising, we all have a tendency to procrastinate. There is no single sure-fire way to overcome procrastination, because it depends so much on what is at the root of your issue. Start by working out what is causing you the problem.
In this article I'll show you 4 of the most common causes of procrastination so you can work out which one applies to you. For each one I offer you a tried and trusted procrastination-busting tip.
How often have you asserted something "without a doubt"? But stop and think for a moment; to be truly without a doubt, one of two conditions must be trued:
A real leader knows that doubt is inevitable, and in fact necessary. It is doubt that will drive a real leader to explore alternatives and counter-arguments, and to be respect them. It is doubt that will impel the real leader to step into other people's shoes and to see things from multiple perspectives. It is self-doubt that guards against hubris, and ensures a life-long quest for personal improvement.
Let our leaders have a little more doubt, please.
Collective dreaming is an opportunity for a group of people to construct a vision of their future. With its roots in positive psychology, and appreciative enquiry, it shifts the focus away from problems to be solved, and on to doing what works, and doing more of what is already working. Recently, I was working with a team who had been through a tough time lately. A great deal of organisational change, a couple of formal complaints and high staff turnover risked making this team of exceptional people become disillusioned. They were ready for some positive thinking.
Through a guided visualisation, I had the team envision a point in time one year on, and to think themselves into it, as if it were now. They explored questions like what the environment looks like and sounds like; how it feels to work in this team; how they are behaving towards one another and towards their customers; what they are saying to one another; what a fly on the wall would notice about the team; what skills and capabilities they are drawing on to be successful; what new opportunities are arising to further develop their skills; what the team’s core values are; and how their own personal values are being met by being part of the team.
I asked them each to come up with a metaphor for the team in a year’s time, when it is operating just as brilliantly as they want it to be. The results were richly varied. One person chose a German automobile company as their metaphor, identifying characteristics such as efficiency, innovation, expertise in each unique component part, brought together skilfully to make a high-performing result. Another chose a beaver, because it is industrious, works together with others to maximise resources, collaborates, is organised and at the same time a cohesive social unit. Another chose Brains from the Thunderbirds, because he is the communication hub, with his finger on the pulse, accessing and utilising all the other members of the team to get the best results. The picture above was one person's tree metaphor.
The team needed no further guidance to start to extract the common themes from their wide-ranging metaphors, to create their shared vision of the future. Further thinking created an inventory of resources within the team to generate the planning and momentum needed for the immediate actions. Stimulated by one person choosing Google as their metaphor, they realised that the staff turnover could be re-framed as a positive thing – the natural consequence of being a team of intelligent, talented, young, ambitious professionals. Inevitably such people would be highly employable and much in demand; and the loss of one team member would give the opportunity for the others to step up to the plate, learn new skills and extend their experience.
The day ended with the team buzzing with excitement and a palpable increase in their self-worth. Collective Dreaming may sound like an intangible concept, but it can deliver absolutely tangible results.
Many organisations use psychometric profiling to explore the personality types of their leaders, managers and staff. A popular and well-respected tool often used is the Myers Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI. Each personality type is accorded a four-letter code, such as ENTJ, or ISFP which summarises the profile on each of four key dimensions. The fourth of these letters indicates whether you are a Judger or a Perceiver, and this code is often much misunderstood, and yet it is very useful to understand how someone makes decisions.
The Judger/Perceiver dimension is sometimes entitled “Structure” – In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided (This is called Judging) or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options (This is called Perceiving)? Judging and Perceiving behaviours are often visible in how a person organises their time. Judgers tend to like to know what’s happening. They may have ordered and regular habits, an efficient schedule and be good at planning and organising their time. Perceivers tend to like to keep room for the unexpected. They may have a flexible schedule, with spontaneous changes, and to be good at living in the moment, or going with the flow.
Broadly, the Judger filters towards decisions, whereas the Perceiver filters towards information. A judger will choose a course of action and the reward is the decision. A perceiver will explore all the alternatives, and the reward is the process of exploring the information. Metaphorically, a judger enjoys the destination; a perceiver enjoys the journey, detours and all.
If you are trying to determine someone else’s preference, you can often spot this when they are different from you. If you are a perceiver, you may find judgers too rigid, inflexible and unwilling to be spontaneous. If you are a judger, you may find perceivers to be chaotic, unpredictable and unreliable. On the other hand, you may value the benefits that the opposite profile has for you. Perceivers value judgers for their ability to organise and deliver on promises, to remember deadlines and to make firm decisions. Judgers value perceivers for their ability to think outside the box, to explore different avenues and to see all different sides to a situation.
Remember also, that this filter describes only what you can see on the outside – a Judger may have a very free-flowing and open-ended curiosity in their inner life, whilst presenting a judging exterior, focusing on pinning down decisions. A Perceiver may be very ordered and structured inside their heads, whilst presenting a flexible and spontaneous exterior, focusing on exploring all the options.
Myers Briggs profiles are based on four dimensions: Extravert/Introvert, Sensor/Intuitor, Thinker/Feeler, Judger Perceiver For more information, visit http://www.myersbriggs.org/
How well do you know the people who you work with? Who work for you? Who buy from you?
You may feel that you have built up good relationships with the people around you, but too often managers work with a very superficial level of understanding. We often pat ourselves on the back if we manage to remember the names of our colleague’s partner and children, or that they like to go skiing on their holidays.
However, do you really know what makes them tick? Try this for a moment – think about a colleague that you know well, and ask yourself the following questions:
People’s values and drivers are core to their personality and influence how they make decisions in every situation. If you really know someone, then you will understand and appreciate these about them. You will understand how they differ from your own values at a deep level, and you will value these differences.
So if you want to get to know the people around you that little bit better, try adding this one simple question to your conversation: … and what’s important to you about [that]? To personalise the question, then instead of saying “that”, insert a word or phrase that they have just used. Then listen. Really listen. You can even ask the question again, using the reply to the previous question instead of “that”.
You may be surprised at what you learn, and the people around you will appreciate you taking the trouble to find out what matters to them.
1. Some people may not like it. The people who were your peers may not be so friendly with you once you have been promoted above them. This is normal and OK; do not compromise them by expecting your relationship to remain unchanged. They will quite understandably be concerned about confidences leaking into management ears. Respect that and cultivate openness and understanding whilst recognising that your relationship will necessarily change.
2. It's OK not to know all the answers. When you first get promoted into a management role the temptation is often to try to answer ever question and do everything that comes your way. You aren't expected to know everything, so ask for help, delegate what is appropriate to delegate and meanwhile learn everything you can about what those around you are doing. You don't need to do it, but it's good to know what is being done.
3. Set clear goals. Be clear about your goals for yourself and for your team and then share them publicly. Make sure that your team buy into their own goals. The best way to ensure this is to get them to articulate their goals in their own words. Then test them for PACE -
P are they Positively Stated, focusing on what you DO want, not want you don't want.
A Are they Achievement oriented - how will you know when you've achieved them? what will you see, hear and feel? What are the steps necessary to get there and are the steps in your own control?
C What is the Context - where, when and with whom with the goal be achieved? Who or what is it dependent on? Who or what is dependent on you?
E Is the goal Ecological - that is to say, will it have a beneficial effect both for you and for your environment? Is it consistent with your values, and with the values of your organisation?
4. Prepare yourself for difficult conversations. They are bound to happen. Whether it is a conversation with a member of staff who is under-performing, or a conversation with a customer to let them know you won't be able to fulfil a promise, it is better to prepare yourself for having these conversations than to let them fester. Try using the three Es: Explain the problem, Explore the problem, Eliminate the problem. Then you can be sure that the conversation focuses on results and ends with a positive commitment to action.
5. Ask great questions. The more you ask, the more you will learn. Use "clean" questions that are not loaded with your own agenda but focus on exploring the reality of the situation, and the different interpretations that everyone else holds so that you can understand exactly where they are coming from. You know what they say, there's no such thing as a stupid question except for the one that you don't ask.
Leadership skills: 7 Key attributes for exceptional leaders
We take it for granted that leaders have good communication skills, can motivate people and get results. This article explores seven advanced competencies that set truly great leaders apart.
1 – Courage
A true leader is prepared to go out on a limb to get results. Be prepared to face difficult or risky situations with resolution, self-possession and confidence. Motivate others to follow in such situations. Go for it.
2 – Vision
Have a clear purpose and be able to paint a picture of your vision to others. Mediaeval leaders used symbols on their shields and banners representing their cause, which acted as a rallying point for their followers. What is on your banner?
3 – Inspiring Followership
Why should I follow you? What makes it worth my while? Identify what motivates your followers and capitalise on it. Take notice of their level of willingness to follow you, and adjust your behaviour, communication and example-setting to build their willingness.
4 – Serving
“I lead by serving, I serve by leading”. Serving in a leadership context is a two way street. The leader serves a higher purpose, whether it is a corporation, a deity or an ideal. The leader also serves their people. When you give to those around you as much as you expect them to give to you, you will be rewarded by respect and trust from motivated and inspired followers.
5 – Advocacy.
Present compelling arguments in favour of your cause, idea or policy. Actively demonstrate support for the issue. Be ready to speak fluently and passionately about your cause. Great leaders are inspirational when talking about or debating their cause.
6 – Decision-Making
Sometimes it’s tough; sometimes it feels like any decision you make is full of pitfalls, but as a leader you have to make decisions. So make your decisions with conviction, display confidence in your decisions, take ownership of them and follow them through to implementation.
7 – Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurs show agility, speed of response and independence of thinking, driven by the awareness of threat from competition or market conditions. An entrepreneurial leader harnesses this sense of urgency to get results. Leaders with this attribute dream big dreams and achieve big goals.
The Importance of R&R
Today is a Bank Holiday where I live, and yet many people that I know will be working. From small business owners and entrepreneurs to multi-national conglomerates, the tradition of taking a day off on a Bank Holiday seems to have eroded. At the same time, parents are in debate with schools about the appropriateness of taking their children out of school for a family holiday during term time. As a result businesses struggle with the demands of all parents wanting to take their holidays in the same period. Families find that holiday prices soar over the school summer holidays. Overall finding time to take time off becomes harder and harder.
The days when whole towns closed down for a week's mass exodus to the coast or to the countryside are long gone. Some areas retain the vestiges of these traditions, such as Glasgow Fair week, but no longer do whole factories close down on Fair Friday for the workers to travel on mass to the Ayrshire coast.
And what else have we lost in the passing of these traditions? it seems as though the structured and societal observance of shared holidays gave us shared experiences, a connection to our communities as well as well-deserved rest and relaxation from the demands of our work.
Current pressures to perform often result in workers putting in extra hours and working on weekends and holidays in order to meet targets, or simply to impress and earn recognition - even when there's no overtime payment involved. But the times of rest are important to recharge the batteries, to stimulate other areas of the brain through engaging in non-work activities, and to reinforce social and familial bonds.
The old saying "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" is just as true today as it has ever been. Periods of play help us to perform better at work. Rest gives us more energy. Relaxation makes us more alert. And what is all this work for, if not to be able to enjoy other areas of our life?
So if you're working today, stop and think for a moment about when else you can take time off instead. Enjoy planning how you'll use that time, whether you take a family day out to a country park, or sit on the sofa catching up with your favourite boxed set, knowing that you'll be refreshed and back at your peak afterwards.
Me? Yes, I'm working today. And I'm taking tomorrow off to go to the beach.
In the last few years, the use of YouTube, webinars and podcasts has created a very credible rival to class-room based training. For a long time, many people engaged in soft-skills training (communication, leadership, management skills etc.) fought a defensive battle arguing that these skills could only really be delivered face-to-face, since they are, at the core, skills to do with people interacting with one another.
However, as we work more with distributed teams and use these technologies to communicate, lead and manage, then surely our training environments can, and should, adapt in line with these new methods of communication? I look at my own team, which includes a network of many associates, none of whom are co-located with me. We rarely meet up in person, doing the vast majority of our interactions through a mixture of media and communication channels including Skype, telephone, email, webinars, teleconferences, video-conferences, Facebook etc.
There is a place for both face-to-face training AND the use of new media to deliver soft-skills training. I personally took some persuasion. As a self-confessed Luddite I have long resisted the use of YouTube as a learning vehicle. However, increasing evidence of its importance to those around me convinced me that if I am to appeal to all learning styles effectively, then it was time to stop my ostrich impression and start to embrace the possibilities that are constantly emerging.
In our recent programme, From Crisis To Clarity, designed for professionals facing a career change, we created a fully-blended environment, involving:
- live interactive webinars including both teaching new material and live coaching of participants.
- recordings of the webinars made available to listen to offline.
- discussion forums to allow participants to interact with each other.
- confidential real-time messaging to allow participants to discuss their personal progress in private with the tutors.
- face-to-face meet-ups to allow participants to work together in person.
- a variety of video recordings of interviews with relevant experts.
- audio recordings of coaching exercises so that participants could listen and work through the exercises at their own pace and in their own time.
- written material available on-demand to support the learning process.
For a technophobe, I've certainly come a long way! What new ways of learning and communicating have you integrated into your own leadership and management? I'd love to hear about your experiences.
In our Presentation Skills training, we normally advise presenters to be wary of using slides. Even large and professional organisations too often use their slides simply as a place to writeeverything that the presenter is going to say. The audience is left peering at impossibly-small text and unable to really listen to or appreciate the presenter. We teach ways to present without slides at all, or to design slides that are punchy, visually appealing, and add to (rather than detract from) the presenter.
We also enjoy keeping up with innovations in presentation styles which depart from this thinking, in a really exciting way. Have you heard of PechaKucha, for example?
PechaKucha (which means "the sound of conversation" in Japanese) is a simple presentation format where you show precisely 20 images, each for exactly 20 seconds. The images advance automatically and you talk along to the images.
What's so interesting about this technique is that it compels the presenter to think about their slides and their talk as two completely different but wholly integrated elements of their presentation. To be effective, the images must be visually punchy - the audience has to get the relevance of the image within 20 seconds, so there's no room for reams of text. Metaphorical imagery works well, as does visual humour. The voice-over must be incisive and to the point, and well-rehearsed to deliver the key messages precisely in time with the slides.
We often give exercises to our leadership and communication skills delegates using this format. For example, create a presentation summing up your values and vision using the PechaKucha format. 20 slides times 20 seconds gives you precisely 6 minutes and 40 seconds to deliver your message. This constraint concentrates the mind wonderfully, and encourages presenters to be ruthless about streamlining their message to the key points in a way that really engages with their audience.
Our top tips for a flawless PechaKucha presentation include:
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A miscellany of articles and opinions on communication, leadership and management topics.