Don’t be too proud to ask for help

Ever had one of those days when your decision to be an entrepreneur seems like a mistake? Do you ask for help? It can be tricky, especially if you are a solopreneur. Everything seems to have gone belly up and you are soldiering on trying to ignore the feelings of doom and gloom. To quote a well-known phrase, “no man/woman is an island”.

Build a network and ask for help

If you are just starting out I cannot stress the importance of building a network of support. Those early days of a business can be terrifying. If you are an established business going through change you may need to extend your network to include new skills and different contacts to help manage that change.

Nobody is good at everything. My area of expertise is finance and change disruption. I was reluctant at first to tackle marketing, so I enlisted experts. I found social media at best irritating, at worst overwhelming. That was until I understood that I didn’t have to be EVERYWHERE, just where my potential clients were. My marketing expertise is growing because I found experts who were willing to educate me as I went through the process.

Sometimes you need to ask for help on a personal level

You may be awesome at your job, but you are only human. Life can derail the best of us and that is when we need to ask for help. If you have others depending on you, don’t struggle on regardless, it could jeopardise their wellbeing. Ask for help and admit that, today, you are not handling things well. You would be amazed at how people step up when you ask and may even find an employee who could share the load in some areas. When you ask for help you often empower others and get to see the best of them.

I am reminded of several friends who used to joke that their partners would never ask for directions, preferring, instead, to get hopelessly lost. I wonder if that is the case nowadays with Sat Nav? If you are unsure of the direction your business should be going and it is giving you sleepless nights, then get some guidance.

Ask for help to get back on the right track

The UK and the USA have a huge variety of business networks, advice centres, professional associations and consultants out there all whose sole purpose is support and help. It is arrogance to think you can do everything. As an entrepreneur, solopreneur, business leader, whatever your position; you are not the fount of all knowledge.

Great business consists of great teams and your teams’ expertise is there to be used. Great business makes connections and knows where to ask for help.

Great business leaders have friends and colleagues who willingly offer support and who are happy to help. So, if today is not a great day, reach out, ask for help, share the load. Tomorrow will be better.

As a Leader, If You Aspire Towards Greatness Maybe, One Day, You Will Become One

Great leader

Being a great leader is not your decision…

‘How to be a great leader’ or derivatives around this title are often used by self-help books, courses and trainers but you aren’t the one who is going to decide whether you are great or not. Others, your colleagues, results, what you achieve in your lifetime and eventually history will. Therefore I’d concentrate instead on being a thoughtful, efficient and effective leader (though that doesn’t tick the ‘sexy’ box does it?) and perhaps, if you’re lucky, greatness will follow and some will believe you to be a great leader.

Also, while I’m at it, greatness will change (ie, what is and isn’t a great leader) as should your leadership style. If you develop a style and then stick with it for the rest of your working life you are going to get stuck in it, will not develop and grow and, in all likelihood neither will your team(s).

Great leaders understand the importance of change

If all of this is confusing you I’ll give you a personal example of what I mean:

Before the train crash, pre-crash Pam (as I term myself) was an owner of a financial services company responsible for 15 staff. It was an extremely male dominated industry (mind you, still seems to be even today which I find surprising) and I thought I had to develop a leadership style that mimicked theirs.

I decided to lead by example – tough but fair. I was in early, worked late, came in at weekends when necessary, turned over enormous volumes of work and expected my staff and colleagues to do the same. I was tough with my goal setting, tough with my expectations and woe-betide anyone who didn’t keep pace or live up to my expectations of them.

It worked in the sense that we made money. It worked in the sense that targets were hit. It worked in the sense that the company expanded rapidly in only a few years. However, looking back, I don’t think any of us were having fun and I now wouldn’t term my leadership as ‘great’.  I was not a great leader.

Then the train crash happened and that life was trashed.

great leader and leadership styles

A great leader adapts

Post-crash Pam (as I view myself now) suddenly became in charge of a totally new type of team – the Paddington Survivors Group. There were 81 of us and it didn’t take a genius to work out that if I ran the group as I had my company it wouldn’t take long before all those survivors would run away! I needed them if we were going to change the rail industry.

And that’s when I went through a crash course (excuse the pun) with my own leadership style. I had to develop ways of cajoling, being supportive, persuading, managing, developing, listening and being diplomatic with everyone – survivors, industry and government. Luckily it worked – we survivors stuck together for over 5 years and were able to substantially influence sweeping changes within the rail industry nationally.

It was exhausting changing such learned behaviour from before but, oh my, was it liberating. And you know what? Since that time it is these new skills that keep opening doors and opportunities for me and most of my old pre-crash Pam leadership style has evaporated.

Does this make me a great leader? Only history will ever know as I doubt I ever will. All I can do is continue to strive towards being the best leader I possibly can.  I still lead by example but now I rate compassion, co-operation, communication and self-improvement above anything else.

So the question is how will history be able to judge you as a leader?  What do you believe to be the necessary attributes of a great leader? I would love your feedback – do comment below

other attributes of a great leader

Lifelong Learning & Leadership – Do you really think you know it all?

lifelong learning is for all

This week I have been running several leadership workshops, some full day some half.  At one company there was a gathering of 13 leaders responsible for over 265 people between them.  The age range spanned from 30’s to 60’s and were a mixture of men and women.  (It was almost a 50/50 split between the genders which made a pleasant change).

Lifelong learning often starts with reflection

At this particular company, they had only booked me for a half day training session but specifically wanted my future-proofing leaders programme.  As this normally takes at least 2 days to deliver the entire programme I had to focus in (with their agreement) on the first, and most important aspect, which was getting the leaders to have a good, long, honest, hard look at themselves and their own styles of managing teams and people. This to me is a crucial aspect of lifelong learning- the ability to reflect and avoid the, “We’ve always done it this way” mentality.

lifelong learning

Lifelong learning is for all of us

What I found interesting was the difference in how the different leaders responded and what they took on board across the age range.

The ‘younger’ members were open and seemed willing to take on what was being imparted taking part enthusiastically with the activities.  It wasn’t that they had to learn, they had after all already achieved their rank and were actively managing their teams.  They just seemed to be more open to new ideas, thoughts and suggested tweaks to their management style.  They seemed to appreciate that you never finish learning, however high up you might ascend, and longevity for a leader is to keep evolving and embracing the new.  They embraced the notion of lifelong learning. This was borne out by their remarks on the feedback forms afterwards where they all stated they had enjoyed the course and had picked up some pointers that they had not thought of before.

The ‘older’ members appeared more reticent.  I got that they had been in their roles longer and had probably been on more courses then most of the rest of us, however their attitude was more jaded.  They did not willingly participate, there was a bit of grumbling and ideas that the younger members grasped quickly they were struggling with.  One gentleman specifically fed back that he didn’t personally feel a need to change but would get his team members to use the tools!  I am not sure how you get a team to follow your lead if you don’t set the example yourself. Lifelong learning is not just the province of your juniors, it should be something you model yourself.

lifelong learning leadership

In my opinion you never stop learning.  Granted, along the way, you may hear or see things that you have heard before put differently, but that doesn’t mean they are not right.  If any of us, including those at the very top, truly believe that they have nothing more to learn and are perfect in every way then I tremble for the future of those companies and hope that their tenure at the firm will come to a natural conclusion, in the not too distant future.

Big business buzzing around aimlessly

BIg business

‘I’m going to kill him’, was my thought.

I had just got back from an event which, as I was the speaker, meant I had been on the go for almost 20 hours straight.  It had been a hot, humid and tiring day and I had just got home.  You know how, when you finally stop, your body starts shaking from the effort and tailing off of adrenaline?  Well that was the stage I was at.  One of my antidotes is to lie down on my cool kitchen flag stones, close my eyes and concentrate on my breath and that was when I heard him.

‘bzz, bzz, clunk, clunk, bzz, bzz, clunk clunk, bzz, bzz, BZZ……’

It was a wasp buzzing around and hitting my kitchen window panes.  It’s amazing how loud they seem when everything else is quiet.  He was incessant and maddingly seemed incapable of escaping via the wide open windows and French doors though the great outside was there.

Are we not wasps who spend all day in a fruitless attempt to traverse a window-pane – while the other half of the window is wide open?

Wei Wu Wei

Big business blundering

As I lay there, willing him to find one of the open exits, too tired to move or contemplate the natural behaviour of wasps it struck me how like a metaphor for old fashioned big business he was.  Making a lot of noise, getting more and more frustrated as they keep banging into obstacles and blindingly unable to take advantage of the numerous and obvious escape routes just waiting for them.

If someone comes along to try to help the response is to resist and avoid, then attack and sting the rescuer.  Yet, if no aid is forthcoming, they will eventually fall down exhausted and die.  With a minimum shift to the left, right or upwards freedom would be achieved and yet they continue to fly around doing the same thing over and over again and (I hypothesise) wondering with bewilderment as to why it is not working.

Big business wrong way

Quite an apt simile I felt considering my exhausting day had been spent with one of the high street establishments that I had found difficult, though not impossible, to make headway with.

I took pity on the wasp, stirred myself off my floor, found a plastic pot and rescued him, releasing him back into the great outdoors.  If only it was that easy with the big businesses who resist embracing the change they need to make in order to survive or is it time to let them fall to the floor and expire?

Think differently – is trauma the only way or can we learn to shift our way of thinking?

Think Differently

I’ve been ruminating recently about why I appear to see things and think differently compared to so many others.  People are continually coming up to me saying “I hadn’t thought to look at it like that”, “that’s an idea I hadn’t thought of”, “I found what you said inspiring” and yet, to me, I’ve only uttered what seemed logical in the circumstances.

Why the difference?  Is it possible to distil what it is and perhaps use it? Is the ability to think differently something that could be taught/learnt?

My ruminations have led me down this track though, I hasten to add, I haven’t yet formed a definitive conclusion nor say I’m right and I’m aware I am generalising – it’s just food for thought:

To think differently is to break the rules

When we pop out of the womb we are thrown into a world that is defined by a set of rules that others have come up with.  We (and our parents) are told how children should be brought up.  We are told that the education systems that are in place are the correct way to learn.  Our working world is primarily defined by set out rules applicable to each industry and to get on we must abide by these rules in order to progress.

‘Normal’ is to behave in a certain way, grow up, get a job, find a partner, get married, have children to perpetuate the cycle, move up the housing ladder, get promoted at work, stay healthy by a predefined definition of healthy, grow old, die and, basically do nothing that rocks the ‘normal’ boat. If you think differently you are not “normal”.

We are subconsciously taught not to question, not to challenge, not to over-reach our position in society whilst at the same time being told hypocritically ‘you can achieve anything you set your mind to’ while not actively being encouraged to do so. [I concede that there are people who naturally and successfully flout this]. To think differently does require change and often change is painful.

Then, out of the blue, for some of us, our lives, our very existence on earth are threatened with early termination. It seems that at this life/death point clarity strikes.

Think Differently Life or Death

At the second or the minutes when you believe you are going to die, all the rules, experiences, problems and worries we are conditioned to accept as part of our lives disappear. Everything seems to snap into focus.  You are no longer concerned, stressed or worried by anything that was occurring before this precise point.  You don’t think about a future or even if there might be one.  All of your senses and neural activity are consumed by only that point of ending – your breath or struggle for breath, the light or darkness, the pain or lack of pain, the acceptance that this is your lot.

And then, by some miracle, you survive.  You don’t die and there is going to be a future for you.

Freedom to think differently

However, and this is the crux, that feeling of clarity and being set free from ‘normal’ never leaves you.  Whatever trials and tribulations you face afterwards your mental state is more creative and inventive than before because it wants to recapture that clarity.  You question more, you explore more, you test things out irrespective of whether it will work or not.  You want to get back to that simpler, clearer, less complex existence – just without the pain or death part. You almost have no choice but to think differently.

And can you teach or learn this without having to go through the facing death experience?  I believe you can.  There are enough people, like myself, who have been through it and are still around to tell the tale.  Some will recount what happened to them and leave you to construct your own take away and some, again like myself, try to tease out new skills and new ways of thinking from our experiences and hand them over to others.

Choose to think differently

What you then do with them is completely up to you however, surely, the ideal is to be able to get to “I am looking at things differently”, “I had thought of that” and “I am inspiring myself”.

Shifting your Reward motivation into a Change motivation

Change Motivation Embrace

In my previous article I explained how, currently, 90% of people are working within a Reward motivation concept.  In order to survive and succeed within the fast pace changes we are now facing a Reward motivation alone will no longer be enough.  A Change motivation, the ability to be motivated by change itself, will be the one that wins the prize.

So, what’s the trick to moving from just a Reward motivation mind-set to a Change motivation mind-set?

How to move to a change motivation mindset

For me it was brought about by the train crash.  I lost everything I had built up in my life up until that point and yet I can say, in many ways, that train crash is the best thing to have happened to me precisely because it made me re-evaluate what my motivation was going to be.

Before the train crash I was considered a successful businesswoman. I had my own company, I was earning what was termed a high net worth income, I went on 5-star holidays, I was able to change my car to the latest model every year, Champagne was my drink of choice. I had my life all planned out. There were new ideas in the pipeline and my motivation, which was to make money, was definitely working back then.

Change Motivation Second Chance

Then, in the blink of an eye in those few minutes, the train crash tore to shreds all the plans I had.  I lost my company, I lost my marriage, I lost my health. I ended up in a coma for three weeks and when I awoke I found that my whole life had changed.  It would never be the same again.

I realised pretty quickly that I was going to have to adapt and adapt quickly to my altered circumstances. If I wanted to survive and continue into a future I had to alter my reasoning behind my very existence, my motivation.

And that is when my motivation changed.  It changed from a money or Reward motivation into a Change motivation.

I wouldn’t want any of you have to go through something as traumatic as a train crash to find this out, so I’ll explain as simply as I can.

Firstly, you have to understand the concept behind why we become motivated and that, at the moment, most adopt the Reward motivation way of working. Once you get that, the second step is acceptance.

Acceptance that change motivation is natural

You need to truly accept, to the very marrow of your being, that change is totally and perfectly normal.  Change is our status quo.

Change is one of the few guarantees we can rely on will happen, as has been proven when we look back over our history, and it will always shape our future.

Furthermore, it is going to happen whether we like it or not so the intelligent thing is to accept it.

Once you have really accepted change the next step is to embrace change.

Welcome it.  Expect it.  Look for it.

Turn your attention to welcoming change when it happens. Go out and look for it. You should begin to encourage it in yourself at home and at work and also encourage it in other people around you.

And when you find that you’ve hit a hiatus? If you get to the stage where you think ‘this is quite smooth sailing’ your Change motivation should push you into deliberately creating change because that’s how you leap forward.

You should even, as I found, look forward to change and you’ll spot and enjoy the new opportunities it will present because the negative aspects (fear, worry, anxiety, stress) diminish to imperceptible levels.

You’ll also find when you’re encouraging this embracing and accepting attitude towards change you’ll adapt quicker and adapting quicker puts you several steps ahead of your competition.

Ever since I’ve adopted this Change motivation my new life, my second chance if you will, has opened up in surprising, unexpected, but ultimately rewarding pathways. The Change motivation mentality has led me back to success again but has also opened up avenues to new opportunities and potential which I have learned to exploit.

You too can steal a march on exploiting change for your own benefit. Embrace the Change motivation.

Understanding Motivation is Key to Success

Understanding Motivation

You’ve heard the phrase ‘knowledge is power’?   Well, the knowledge in understanding why and what motivates us in today’s ever-changing world is vital to any desired success. Understanding motivation, what makes us tick, what makes us get out of bed in the morning, what drives us on and why we do what we do is an imperative base from which to plan forward from.  It underpins any adaption we need to make to change and once fully grasped is the bedrock for the next steps.  It is also key in how to stay motivated while business is changing, especially when things get a bit tricky.

Understanding motivation requires reflection

To begin to get to grips with understanding motivation we must look back over mankind’s history and the first thing to appreciate is that change is not new. It has been happening to us for as long as humans have existed.

Millennia ago we started off as hunter gatherers.  We didn’t have to worry about how to stay motivated because we had to hunt for the basics to keep us alive, so survival was all the motivation we needed back then. We weren’t concerned with understanding motivation, we were fighting sabre toothed tigers.

Understanding Motivation Survival

Then about 12,000 years ago the Agricultural Revolution happened. We settled down and began farming. We cultivated the basics that we still needed to stay alive and survival was still our prime motivation.

We then fast forward to 500 years ago and the Scientific Revolution began.  That’s when we began to understand the laws of physics, chemistry and biology and we gained the capacity to start traveling the world, particularly the Europeans. We started making discoveries of new countries and we learned how to exploit them.

Understanding motivation – the shift to reward motivation

It’s at this stage that capitalism begins and shifted us from us from the Survival motivation focussing on the basics we needed to live, to money and possessions, which to us began to equal success. That is what I am terming as the Reward motivation. Now understanding motivation becomes more complex, our responses more layered.

Fast forward again to 200 years ago when the Industrial Revolution starts. We then take even greater steps forward as we become mechanized and start using machinery to help us do our tasks. Our motivation to succeed in terms of money and possessions becomes easier. We feel if we apply ourselves we deserve to be rewarded. Hence the Reward motivation. Understanding motivation becomes a matter of what do we get if we put in the work?

Then we jump to 1968 and the start of the Computer Revolution.  The dawn of the information age.  Our motivation to succeed, our Reward motivation, becomes digitized.

Then we hit 1990 – the Internet Age and the World Wide Web. We then moulded these tools so that they fitted into our ideals to satisfy our Reward motivation. This is also the beginning of a perception that instant gratification is achievable.

And now we stand on the cusp of Quantum computers, AI, cyborg and nano-technology.

Understanding motivation and the pace of change

The thing to notice here, within all of these seismic changes, is the shortening of the time periods in which we have had to adapt.

Understanding motivation pace of change

Widening Horizons – Explore and find challenge

Widening Horizons

Sometimes, when nothing much is happening at a given time, it’s an opportunity to deliberately seek out change.  It’s about widening horizons and looking beyond the here and now. What’s that saying “A change is as good as a rest” – well maybe it is, and it could be considered as good advice to take literally.

Having had a busy month I noticed that my diary for the coming one was fairly tame in comparison.  There is nothing that I can see coming or envisage that would need my immediate attention. I also intensely dislike the cold, wet, miserable winter months in Britain mainly because it exacerbates the pain in my damaged joints.  Moments like these are somewhat of a danger signal in my brain as any hiatus in me moving forward is alien to my nature.  It’s time for me to act – to seek out and encourage change to come to me.

Widening horizons as a personal challenge

I have decided that I need to expand my own horizons for a while.

Most of my work as a speaker this past year has unusually all been UK based.  Dashing around from town to town has been entertaining and interesting but there is a whole wide world out there.  There are people facing different challenges, living different lives, having different experiences and it is time I went out and immersed myself in some of it.

I suppose this could be achieved by simply taking time out and surfing the internet however, this is a poor substitute for actually living and breathing it.  When I have been off on my travels before I have found the experience reminds me of life’s complexity and beauty.  The intricacies of human behaviour, expectations and ways of dealing with life come back into sharp focus.  It has also sparked off far more creative thoughts and ideas than I ever get at home when weighed down by everyday responsibilities.

With all of this in mind I’m off!

Widening Horizons

Widening horizons but keeping it personal

I have booked myself a trip to Sri Lanka.  I have deliberately chosen a hot country as that will help with my pain, but I have also chosen it as it has always intrigued me.  A country wrapped up in history (some good, some bad) with a universally acclaimed friendly and open populace and, I hope, some fantastic sights and cuisine to enjoy. I have also deliberately organised local guides and will be travelling around the island to capture as much of the experience as I can.  My accommodation is mainly with family run B&B’s so I can directly learn more and listen to personal views and experiences.  Widening horizons, I find, works better if you keep it personal and authentic.

House-sitter organised, work tidied up, so it can wait until I get back, I am ready for adventure.

As always when I travel, I will have a smile on my face, have an open heart, be keeping my eyes open, more importantly keeping my ears open and being receptive to anything that may cross my path.

Watch this space for updates on my widening horizons adventure.

Learn How to Bend in the Winds of Change

motivational speaker

In my last article I was expostulating about making change happen for yourself which then got me thinking and observing things around me and my world.

Are you ready for the winds of change?

Everyone seems to be acknowledging that major, disruptive change is happening, and the results are beginning to reveal themselves, but they seem to be singularly unprepared for how to deal with it.  Some are even sticking their heads in the sand with the idea that ‘it won’t happen in our industry’. Wrong! The winds of change are not selective; they affect all areas of life and business.

Let me assure you that every single industry, job, way of working and success attainment is going to be affected by the change upheaval that is coming our way.  It will reach office, manual, research, people facing businesses, politics, every type of business you can think of and may even affect complete ideologies. It will be as big, hard and as fast as a Tsunami.  Everything you may hold as belief in your career path and marketplace is going to be disrupted and it is not going to take long. I believe that within the next 5-10 years the workplace landscape will look very different and the future even more uncertain.

For me this is nothing new.  My world was changed and disrupted almost 20 years ago, and it taught me valuable lessons.  I now count these lessons as blessings as I seem to be ahead of the game and on a beneficial trajectory. By adopting and using my Big Shiny Goal methodology I am very clear about where I personally am headed and how I am going to get there and my approach has the flexibility to adapt at any given time. I am determined that the winds of change will not blow me off course.

Winds of Change

The winds of change are causing shivers across industry

This past month has been a busy month. I have been running around speaking at various companies and events and I have noticed there is a general feeling of, what I am going to call, the ‘tremble effect’.  They know something is coming, they are not sure what it is (they may even want it to go away which it is not) and they are not sure what to do for the best.

The answer is to get prepared.

Ostrich thinking will leave you at the mercy of these winds of change. When the hurricane hits, don’t break, bend. As I have said before, change is not something to be feared, but this level of rapid change is perhaps fearsome. If you are an industry leader it is your responsibility to help your industry to adapt, especially in the light of overseas competition. If you are an employee then prepare yourself, expand your skillset, stay alert.

You are going to have to learn how to be flexible and adaptable.  Learn how to give up on hard predictable outcomes, they will become a thing of the past.  Learn how to change yourself so you are ready to meet anything that comes your way with the minimum amount of fuss and stress.

Above all else remember my oft repeated adage: In every challenge there is always opportunity, you just need to be fluid enough to spot it & grab it.

Make Change Happen – Embrace It

Change Motivational Speaker

Are you fed up with the position you are currently in?  Frustrated that things are not happening for you as you had hoped?  Running, just to simply stand still?  Then you are going to have make change happen.

Only you can do it.  No-one is going to come along and gift you the way forward or the give you the answers to your problems.  You are going to have to actively seek change, make it happen and then get it to work for your own benefit.

Make change happen on your terms

Change happens all the time in every facet of our lives.  Sometimes it is unwanted and causes upheaval and sometimes it is just the way things work out.  However, if you can learn to embrace change, look for it and even welcome it, the transition change creates can open new avenues and opportunities you had not even thought of before. When change is outside of your control it can be daunting adjusting to new circumstances, but it can also be exhilarating. However, when you take control and make change happen yourself, it empowers you.

Take the example of a colleague of mine.  Many years ago, she had left the field of education because, though an occupation she loved and was good at, circumstances had changed and had left her disillusioned with the entire process.  She harnessed other skills and started down a completely different career path. However, I don’t think her passion or desire for educating our younger generation ever left her.  Recently she decided to stop ignoring her passion and re-applied for an education role but this time very much on her own terms.  She got it – she is excelling in it and, though it’s hard work with day to day frustrations, she is making a positive difference to some of our most disadvantaged young people.

It is this attitude of going out and looking for change that I find brings about the most fulfilling results. Whenever things go quiet here (admittedly not often) I deliberately go out and vigorously poke around until something materialises that will affect a change.  It may be in something I have an interest or passion in, it may be learning something new, or it may be something I can see would benefit others and I can contribute towards.  When it does appear I then grab it and follow it to wherever it might take me which, 9 times out of 10, is usually somewhere pretty good and sometimes darn right amazing. I rarely regret it when I make change happen.

When you are coasting in life, go make change happen

The important thing is not to worry about or avoid change.  Accept that it is inevitable and your key attitude through and beyond it is to embrace it.  And, if you are in the position where not much is happening, but you want it to, then banish ‘coasting along’ from your vocabulary and life, go out to actively seek the change that you want to enrich your life. Check out my PDF on change if you want more guidance on managing change