Switch off, breathe and switch on

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Switch off from all those “urgent” e-mails, appointment reminders, to do lists, reports

Switch off from those “important” calls to receive and make

Switch off from Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and all the rest

Switch off from the music, the radio and whatever other noise surrounds you

Switch off from other people and their busyness

Just Switch off and be yourself

Now switch on to yourself

Switch on to your breath; just breathe

Thinking ?

Switch back on to your breath and clear your mind

Keep breathing and be aware

Thinking again? That’s okay.

Switch back to your breathing

Switch on to your body and your feelings? Explore and discover!

Keep breathing and be aware


Now slowly switch yourself back on

What did you discover?

What did you learn?

How do you feel?

…..consider carefully what else you need to switch back on and go

When will you next give yourself the time to switch off and explore?

One final question before that difficult decision

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There are many questions we ask when making difficult decisions: we think through all that go wrong and we second guess people’s reactions.
One final question to ask yourself: What will happen if I don’t do it?
  • What will happen if nothing changes and we keep going the way we are going?
  • What will happen to my view of myself and how I measure up to my beliefs and the values I espouse?

So what is your decision?

Check the facts and turn up the volume on the positive thinking

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We can all experience situations when our mind can take on a life of its own allowing negative thoughts whether about ourselves or others in a particular situation to get out of hand with unwelcome consequences for our own confidence and behaviour.

Most of us are fortunate in that we do not allow the thoughts to endure and we can break out of it. If we don’t it can impact our health and well-being.

A good first step to limit the impact of this negative thinking and stop it in its tracks is when you feel it coming on take a step back and run through the facts of the situation. The facts or evidence will more often than not, not support the thinking and help you turn the volume up on the positive thinking.

So if my mind is telling me that I always screw up, then I can check the evidence:

  • What is it we are talking about and how bad is it really?
  • Who said I screwed up?
  • Who supports me and believes in me?
  • What have I got right, recently and what is going for me?
  • etc etc

If this is something that resonates with you and you want to learn more about managing your own thinking I would recommend an excellent book “Change Your Thinking” by Sara Edelman . This is an excellent guide to managing upsetting emotions and to think in a healthy and balanced way and gives practical strategies for overcoming negative thoughts and behaviours.


Reinventing management to meet today’s challenges – a talk by Gary Hamel

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Gary Hamel, rated by the Wall Street Journal as the world’s most influential business thinker, asserts that the management systems we are using today were designed for yesterday’s problems and that we need to reinvent management to meet the unique challenges we face today.

In this entertaining talk he lays out his reasoning and sets out what Management 2.0 should be like.

He outlines 3 things successful companies have to do to succeed:

  • Change as fast as change itself
  • Have everyone in the organisation see innovation as their job
  • Create the environment where employees bring all their gifts and talents to the job every day

He states that is is not about making organisations fit for the future but making them fit for humans

Enjoy and be prepared to be made uncomfortable and excited at the same time with some of the examples and concepts he suggests can make this happen.


Mind your body language

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Amy Cuddy presents her research on how our body language affects our own thinking and behaviour

Verbal communication, the words we use, makes up 35% of how we communicate. Much more significant is our tone; facial expressions, movement, appearance, eye contact and posture, this non-verbal component of communication is 65%But what influence does our body language have on our own thinking and behaviour?

Social psychologist Amy Cuddy uses this TED talk to present her research to give us more insight to this fascinating subject and tells her own very personal story that led her to take up the research.

Within the talk we learn that:

  1. We make judgements about other people based on their body language
  2. Many of the postures we have are naturally programmed (people blind from birth display them)
  3. Whilst we influence others with our non-verbals – we also influence ourselves and govern how we think and feel about ourselves
  4. By being aware of our body language we can change our minds

This talk really caught my attention as a big part of coaching is understanding how our thinking influences our behaviour and in turn our relationships and culture we work in. Cuddy adds another level of awareness to that whole process and the importance of our non-verbal communication to ourselves as well as others.

Have a think about how you are holding yourself and how it then influences your thinking about yourself in that situation. Typical situations are:

  • In meetings with your team or with your boss
  • In a conflict situation
  • Making presentations
  • Interviews
  • When asking for something
  • Talking on the phone

I hope you find the time to look at this. If this makes you aware of something you are doing experiment with a change of posture and see what difference it makes.


P.S. for those interested in the brain and how it works I recommend Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight.

Innovation – yes, but remember the basics

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Innovation: out bosses look for it and encourage it; our customers want it. It can consume a great deal of our energy and resources. Yet, what people really want is a good service or product that works.

Windows phones have not grown market share the way it was hoped. Why? The software does not work or deliver against i-phone and android.

The telcos have suffered for years, despite all the great technology and products, they have been lambasted because of hidden costs in contracts and lousy response to customer problems whether technical or service related. (They are on the improve).

We go to fancy restaurants that look great and have innovative menus etc – but they do not sustain themselves – why? Because the service is not there.

So whilst innovation is important and we should always challenge ourselves to do something new, particularly if what we are doing currently is not working, we should not forget the basics. If we go back to the fundamentals and invest the time and energy in getting that right, then there is a far greater chance of success.

Maybe that will be the new innovation – service and products that work!

What do you think?

Expectations – don’t forget the important question

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It makes it easier if we sit with people and clearly explain what we want and expect from them, but there is a question that we have to make sure we don’t forget.

How often have we heard people complain about being a bit lost and not sure what is expected from them. Job descriptions are often the default reference, but even with very clear job descriptions people want their leaders to explain clearly what they want from people as individuals. It just makes it so much easier if we sit down and explain to people as individuals what we want from them.

Many do not have these conversations, in fact when asked many leaders find it hard to express what it is they want from their people. Others are good at it and make a point of being very explicit so that they can hold individuals accountable.

It is certain the conversation has to be thought about and you have to be clear. However, in the rush to generate clarity and accountability – don’t forget to ask “….and what do you expect from me?”

This is perhaps the most important part of the discussion that can lead to some powerful insights that make us better leaders.

The Second Little Book of Leadership

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The Second Little Book of Leadership A great little presentation from Phil Dourado, pulling together a lot of wisdom and insights into a 10 minute slide show.

Be sure to share it.

Don’t forget to get a good night’s sleep

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We often spend our time looking for new ways to help us be more productive at work. There are a myriad of elements to look at including the physical elements of exercise and diet, how we set goals, plan and prioritise, and how we manage others, to name a few.

In the rush to find the silver bullet, we often forget about one of the most important activities in our lives - sleep. 

You may ask “How does sleep affect my performance as a leader on a daily basis?”

Sleep is essential to our overall well being and ability to function effectively over a sustained period of time. Tony Schwartz in his book “The Way we are working isn’t working” dedicates the fifth chapter to sleep. The title says it all – “Sleep or Die”.

If we don’t get enough sleep the risks are:

  • extreme fatigue
  • reduced ability to think clearly
  • emotional instability
  • lower productivity
  • greater susceptibility to illness
  • more likely to gain weight
  • less able to respond creatively to problems and opportunities
  • less likely to generate new ideas

Schwartz believes that “No single behaviour . . . more fundamentally influences our effectiveness in waking life than sleep”

Interested and want to know more? 

Russell Foster, a circadian neuroscientist, tells us more about sleep and the influence it has on our lives
Arianna Huffington sets out her big idea in an entertaining 4 minute case to a group of women why sleep is the secret to more success.
How much sleep do we need? Various bodies recommend 7-8 hours of unbroken sleep.
The correct amount of sleep lifts your resilience so that you feel better about yourself, think more clearly, deal with challenges and be healthier. So what to do?
The first thing is to be aware of how much sleep you are getting. If you feel you need to sleep more, here are some things you could try:

  • go to bed earlier or get up later
  • 30 minutes before you want to sleep switch off TV  - read a dull book (watch out for LED screens they stimulate the brain!)
  • alcohol is a stimulant – if you like a glass of wine with dinner – have it early. Nightcaps not recommended
  • go to bed and get up at the same time 7 days a week (one lie in disrupts your sleep patterns)
  • exercise regularly

Sleep well!

Getting back into the swing of things

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After the festive break, or any another holiday for that matter, it can be a challenge to get back into the swing of things and build momentum again. Here are a few tips on how to ease into things and not lose the benefits of the holiday too quickly

1. Take a step back – “what ? … I hear you say, “I have been on holiday for two weeks I want to get ripped into things and get going.” Yes you can do that, or you can take a step back and remind yourself of the main goals, strategies and plans for the year, where you and the team are at and use this review to build a clear picture of what your priorities should be.

2. Talk to people – check-in with your boss and team to ensure that your priorities and thoughts correspond with theirs. (Don’t forget to ask them how the holiday was and take a genuine interest in how they are.) Agree expectations and set follow-up meetings

3. Make a to do list and prioritise. Based on the above write down the things you have to get done each day and prioritise – A, B, or C and then number A1, A2, B1, B2 etc. This should mean that you are starting to work on the most important and/or hardest things first – it will be hard, but you will feel so much better when you have started on them and get them done. When the big things have been done, the smaller things are easier to do.

Be sure to break your big list into small chunks for each day at the beginning of the week; you can’t do it all in one day and looking at a long list just gets you down. A short list gives focus and you feel good when you tick things off as done.

Procrastination Alert - do not start with the small things first, they will consume your day and the important work will be continually deferred!

4. Schedule time in your calendar for your priority work. Before others take control of your week, book 1.5 to 2 hours in the morning and afternoons for priority work. As far as possible let other meetings and work fall around these times unless they relate to your priority work. It is amazing what you can get done with dedicated interruption free time.

5. Give yourself a break. You want quality concentrated effort with the job done first time. So if you feel concentration dropping off, don’t push through as you will likely make mistakes and end up doing the work again. Take breaks, keep yourself fresh. If you have done the hardest things first when the fatigue sets in you can work on the low priority and generally easier tasks.

Go easy on yourself, some things may have to be done over a few days or even weeks. You have been away, it will take time to get back into it. Accept this and use it. Fighting it will tire you out even more.

6. Prep for meetings and phone calls. Be clear on what you want to get out of them and prepare. This should always be done anyway, however after being away for a few weeks you need to do a bit more work to build focus. Do your preparation and you will make sure you use the time well and not miss opportunities.

7. Be smart with you e-mails. At some point you will have to confront the dreaded in box; whether you get to all those e-mails first thing, in small batches or later in the day, here are a few ideas to make it easier:

  • Sort your in box by alphabetical order to go though them. This way you can look for e-mail trails so you only need to read the last e-mail in the trail – delete the rest. Same for reports that update automatically. You can quickly find the messages from the people that you know are a priority and will see the spam mail much more easily this way.
  • Be unrelenting with the delete – where a mail does not relate to your work objectives and you can get the information at another date delete it. If once you have read a mail you do not need it again, delete it.
  • Where you have a major task to start in the future related to the message or need to look at it later, the e-mail to tasks and set it with a reminder date to come back to you when you think you will be ready to do it. This will remove the e-mail from your inbox.
  • Don’t reply to the mail if you can. The less e-mails you send, the less you will receive. If there is a need to contact a person, think about whether a phone call will be more productive and avoid another round of e-mails.
  • Delegate the work within the e-mail as appropriate making sure that you state clearly what you want done and by when. Be sure you have a follow-up system so you can track the work – again tasks can be useful for this.
  • File it – if you do need the information file it somewhere – the main thing is to remove it from your in box.

8. Go home at a reasonable hour. Really an extension of point 3; working long does not relate to quality. At the end of the day review your to do list, create a fresh one for the next day and go home with a clear mind and enjoy your other life. (This may have been something you promised yourself for the New Year, so start as you mean to continue!)

9. Don’t forget your body. Give yourself the right fuel, exercise and sleep to build and maintain your energy at work

Any other tips that you have found useful and would like to share?



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