When Not To Do The Hardest Things First

July 9, 2020 10:56 am

While the adage do the hardest things first has merit and is useful to counter procrastination, it doesn’t make sense to do high concentration/hard things, first up in the day if our energy is low. The adage should be re-written: do the hardest things when your energy is in its peak zone.

The set hours for one of my client’s employees was 8 am – 4 pm but the person struggled to get going until around 10 am. I suggested that if the person wasn’t required first thing in the day their hours could be changed from 10 am – 6 pm. The employee was extremely happy with the suggestion with both they, and the business, winning from the time shift. 

Aligning our tasks—according to the degree of difficulty and demand on us—to the rise and fall of our energies creates higher productivity than if we treat all hours the same. Seek to do your easier mundane tasks in the troughs and your most demanding work in the peaks. 

Photo by Vivek Sharma

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Planning and Writing it Down

February 28, 2020 6:14 am

I have completed many executive coaching assignments with business owners, managers and supervisors and one of the predominant challenges they have is balancing reactive and demanding workloads with being planned and forward-thinking.

The observed behaviour follows similar patterns:

  • Not responding to calls and emails in a timely manner;
  • Forgetting critical tasks that delay projects, cause cost blow-outs and create dissatisfied clients;
  • Neglecting their team members;
  • Not delegating effectively;
  • Internally rushed and bouncing from one urgent item to another.

I could go on…

Two foundational habits that require changing are those of taking time to plan and writing stuff down.

I have found, (and what I coach others in) is that the time invested in planning my day and week comes back at least fourfold, i.e., if I invest 15 minutes at the start of the day to plan it I generally get at least an hour back. Then, if I write everything down and don’t rely on my memory, I avoid all manner of negative outcomes—also saving time in the process.

Remember: whatever time you invest in being better organised always comes back in a manner greater than the initial investment.

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That Round and Round, Busy-But-Getting-Nowhere Kind of Work

February 14, 2020 7:41 am

It’s already February (Happy Valentines Day by the way) and I’m writing on this topic. It doesn’t seem to matter what time of year it is for those who are involved in a leadership capacity in busy work environments but too many tasks with a finite amount of time can take the joy out of work and make us feel weary at days end.

Many struggle with overloaded schedules and the corresponding coordination of tasks: to get done what needs to be done in a timely manner. Our automatic response is often reacting to the next thing on our plate and before we know it, the week has passed and we feel like we have achieved nothing apart from having exhausted ourselves.

I would like to propose a counter-intuitive solution:

The busier you are, allocate more frequent, smaller amounts of time, for thinking, task prioritisation and scheduling. 

Yes, it’s counter-intuitive but do it we must if we are to avoid the running on the circular, busy-but-getting-nowhere path that many of us unwittingly run on.

Thinking, prioritisation and scheduling helps us to:

  • create an inner equilibrium where we are clearer about what should take priority, what should be secondary and so forth;
  • gain a sense of progress as we move through our tasks in a more orderly fashion;
  • move to more of a methodical planned approach to our days rather than living in constant response and reactivity;
  • strangely…achieve more of what’s important.

Actions you can take to get off that circular, busy-but-getting-nowhere path are:

  • Have your day planned before you start it;
  • If you lead a team of people, always be asking, “who else could do this?”
  • Take frequent 1-2 minute planning breaks to look ahead at the next few hours;
  • Batch similar tasks into blocks of time so that you maintain clarity of mind and focus;
  • Ensure that all activities are aligned with your goals and required metrics. Don’t do something just because…;
  • Seek to ensure that you are regularly on top of email, phone calls etc. There is nothing like a hundred undealt emails in your inbox when you leave work to make you feel swamped and it is this sense of overwhelm that slows our pace.
  • Ease up. Instead of leaning forward and attempting to run at 110%, try easing back to 95%. The 5% energy/pace margin—again counter-intuitive—helps us work more effectively.
  • If you, like me, get to the end of a day or a week and wonder what you’ve actually done, start keeping a what I did well today list. This only needs to take a couple of minutes and can include the major tasks you’ve completed, the people you were kind to, the fact you took time for lunch and so forth. This list also provides feedback. Often, we don’t receive external reinforcement for a job well done. The what I did well today list sets up an inner feedback loop that can provide great encouragement that we are doing well and moving forward.

I would suggest that if you are on this circular path where you are busy but not getting very far, take one of the action points above and once it becomes more habitual, enact a second and so on.

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Efficiency. Converting Wasted Labor into Surplus Time

January 30, 2020 2:51 pm

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I recently reviewed my efficiency and labour intensity across my business and identified one primary area of waste related to marketing. One activity I do weekly takes around five hours to complete and was tedious, to say the least.

Upon identification, I set the goal of reducing my labour in the most tedious part of it by fifty percent. I realised, that if I could outsource this part of the work I could achieve my goal.

The result: an estimated saving of two hours per week (not quite 50%) or when annualised – one hundred and four hours or two and a half workweeks.

In consulting to organisations, I have come to see that efficiency gains are to be found everywhere. The issue is, we are so busy doing the work that we’ve forgotten to step back from our work in order to look at what we are doing, why we are doing it and how it’s being completed.

What took me four hours in reflection, waste identification, creating a plan and initial implementation, provides a beautiful ongoing ROT (Return on Time) and a possible holiday in Tuscany with my surplus weeks:-))

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The Reward Is In The Writing

December 18, 2019 6:50 am

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As my newsletter Mindful Motivation enters its fifth year, I have been reflecting on its origin and its meaning for both myself and those of you who read it, of which I thought I would share here with you.

Mindful Motivation was born out of the dark womb of depression. While I thought that all potential seeds of life had died during that time, there was at least one seed that hadn’t been snuffed out.

I revisit the many lonely, sleepless, 2 AM mornings where I would sit despairingly in my office looking at the picture (above). On one of these occasions, as I was sitting quietly, the following words came to me: “write your way forward.” And thus, Mindful Motivation exited the womb and came to life.

That was four years ago and for me, writing this piece regularly has been one of the most rewarding and therapeutic tasks I have engaged in and has, in fact, moved me forward in ways I could never have imagined.

As I’ve been reflecting on it this week I would suggest that it is critical for there to be elements of our work that are personally rewarding, where we find inspiration and fulfilment. These rewards also help fuel us for the more difficult parts of life and business, keeping us going in the tougher times.

The other reflection is that in periods of lostness and darkness, light can issue forth and “foundness” and newness can both germinate and spring to life in the subsequent season.

I want to express my deep gratitude to all of you for being part of my broader community: for the work we’ve done together; for your attendance at my speaking gigs; your responses, sharing of and publishing of my writing; for your promotion of my work; for the drinks we’ve imbibed and the bread we have broken.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and New Years and I trust you will take some time to fill in the following to help guide your efforts and fulfilment in 2020:

“I find my reward in the …………….”

All the best,
Ray

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Soul Weather

December 5, 2019 9:37 am

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Years ago when going through a dark spot, a psychologist gave me a useful strategy. Every day I would give myself a “mood rating” between 1 and 10—1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest. I followed this process long after I came out of the black hole, until I was regularly hitting 5 and above.

It was useful for:

  • Tuning in to how I was feeling;
  • When my rating was less than 5, I had different strategies to help me ride out the troughs;
  • Understanding the links between certain events that had happened on the previous day(s) to how I was feeling on the current day;
  • Ascertaining the impact of integrating new activities into my days and the effect these had on my mood.

And while I took anti-depressants, this was in many ways, the pragmatic side to doing a rough journey.

Speaking with a business owner yesterday, the subject of depression came up and how tough the business road can be at times. These tough periods, when encountered and endured for long seasons can be impactful beyond what we thought possible. He mentioned the constant knock-back of tenders as an example. Another business owner I know was saying how tough things were at the moment and jokingly said that they were having a strategy and planning day and was hoping that the future plan was to shut up shop.

Sometimes, it’s long seasons of drought or hardship; other times we just run out of steam from having been in the game for so long.

Running a business is certainly not for the faint-hearted and the “take a dose of concrete and harden the f**k up”, while it may work for short term obstacles, doesn’t cut it for longer-term marathons.

Maybe you’ve never been at the point of taking medication or a daily mood rating but my guess is that some of you have, and that others of you have employees, friends, and family that have or are enduring similar.

As we come into the holiday season, take time for self-reflection. If you feel you haven’t been hitting your straps for a while, push into it rather than dismissing it. Talk to trusted others about what you are experiencing and maybe, like I did, seek professional help.

Also, be aware of those you are connecting with over the break. Sometimes, the best gift you can give someone is an empathetic, attentive, listening ear.

And soul weather, just like natural weather, has its seasons. And while we can’t control the weather outside, we can take steps to understand, nurture and shift the weather inside.

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A Spinning Wheel Kind of Life

November 14, 2019 9:45 am

Spinning Wheel

Ever felt like this fella in the photo? Most of us, from time to time, experience the feeling of being a mouse on a spinning wheel: running hard but going nowhere. And perhaps, this is the way life has always been.

A frantic pace with fragmented peace.

Sometimes this wheel spinning kind of life:

  1. Is a result of being successful. We’ve worked hard and the resultant incoming work and promotions have created that “keep up, frantic, do what it takes momentum.”
  2. Is due to having grown up on the tools, taken orders and got used to a reactive schedule. Then, when we’ve gone into some form of leadership we still operate in those same kinds of “wheel spinning ways.”
  3. Happens because we want to do our very best and don’t want to disappoint others.
  4. Is related to an inner sense of, “if I am busy then people will deem me to be successful.”
  5. Is driven out of an inner disquiet. “If I keep myself active I won’t have time to think about all the shit in my life” or, “I’ve got too much on to deal with this now.” (Ten years later we are still saying the same thing).
  6. Results from the all roads syndrome. Many, if not all roads within our organisations lead to us and through us and because we keep spinning, we can’t get off long enough to plan a road re-route to utilise technology and effectively delegate to others.
Jumping off the Spinning Wheel

The above are but a few of the inherent reasons for wheel spinning but there is a way out, and this is what one person I am coaching is doing.

These are the recommendations I gave him and which, in a short period of time, he has successfully adopted.

  1. When you are working on something, keep a writing pad beside you to write down all the other items that come to mind. This way it keeps you focused on the major item in front of you. (I recall one client saying she received a Telco bill while working on a major task, got sidetracked and two hours later arrived back to what she was originally doing). Sound familiar?
  2. Give your phone to administration, hit Do Not Disturb or let it go through to voicemail when working on significant tasks. Take only urgent calls but leave the rest till later.
  3. Schedule your days. In my client’s case it was primarily:
    a. Quotes in the morning,
    b. Meetings and callbacks in the afternoon.
  4. Plan tomorrow, today.

Simple but effective.

These are but four disciplines that are taking him from the manic pace of the spinning wheel to the planned, disciplined and productive pathway on the ground.

If you feel like you are on the spinning wheel, the only way out is by getting off, even for short periods of time: to think, to plan, to utilise technology and others and to outsource wherever you can.

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Focus. A Fresh Set of Eyes

October 13, 2019 5:32 pm

A fresh set of eyes

I recently had an eye test completed and subsequently followed through on the specialist’s recommendation to purchase glasses. Little had I realised that over time, I had slowly become accustomed to blurred vision. Now, with a fresh set of “eyes,” things that were unclear and hazy have become sharp and distinct.

At different times in our personal worlds, our careers and business endeavours, the focus that was once crystal clear becomes a little muddied. We find ourselves so deep in the trenches that all we see are the trench walls, losing sight of what is beyond. We find ourselves going through passionless motions that once brought us life.

If you find yourself doing that daily trench trudge make a move to jump up on top. Some things that might be helpful are:

  • A change of routine;
  • Meet with some inspirational friends or colleagues;
  • Incorporating something fun into your life;
  • Pursuing something that you are curious about;
  • Taking a risk in something you’ve been delaying;
  • Hiring a coach or mentor. (I have just hired someone to coach me again from the US and 3 weeks in I can tell you it’s well worth the investment);
  • Schedule think time into your weekly schedule;
  • Get some fresh input which might include further training or reading.

A fresh set of “eyes” helps raise us from the footslog of the trench to the freedom of the mountain. And often, it is just the simple things that help gain that shift.

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Where Did The Day Go?

July 30, 2019 3:57 pm

where did the day go

My phone, for the first time, alerted me to the Screen Time analysis for the past week. I was astounded as I reviewed the data. Fortunately, most of the time was spent in productive activity however, it also helped me identify time waste, especially in how often I pick up the phone.  From this data, I now have the opportunity to make corrections to assist in concentrated focus and converting pick up time to more productive time.

Where Did The Day Go?

How often have we arrived home after a long, busy day and asked ourselves, “Where did the day go?” We were busy but achieved little.

Just as my phone gave me the Screen Time analysis, we can conduct our own Work Time analysis. From this, we can see both where our time went and then where we need to make corrections to increase concentration focus and productivity levels.

I conducted this analysis with a business leader, having him document, in 15-minute time increments, how he spent his time over the course of the week. One of the many insights was that his quoting preparation was happening all over the place due to incoming phone calls. From the data, we were able to ascertain when the peak levels for these calls were, allow for this in his schedule and then block a solid time for quoting on a daily basis. This enabled him to work with a singular focus, reduce the likelihood of errors on his quotes and overall increase his output. If we hadn’t completed the data analysis we could never have made such corrections.

Being busy is one thing. Being productive is quite another.

Analyse where the day went and then use the review-reflect-correct method to increase your outputs.

If you would like to look at where your day went, you can access a free Time Analysis template by clicking here.

Best,

Ray

PS. If you do this exercise, I’d love to know what your findings are from the analysis and the subsequent changes you are going to make. Feel free to email me at ray@rayhodge.com.au.

 

*Photo by Michelle Sexton

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For Employees Only

June 12, 2019 4:12 pm

Dear Employee.

I coach and consult to Business Owners, Executive Directors and Managers across the country and here are 7 areas they take notice of and respond positively to.

When you, the employee, act and think in these ways, you are often promoted faster, earn more, are the last on the line when redundancies are enacted and so forth. Overall you become highly valuable within the organisation.

Here are the top 7 areas I’ve observed that leaders love to see in their people.

  1. You move fast.
    In terms of your overall pace in your work and behaviour, you’re always on the go.
  2. You start a little earlier and finish a little later.
    Business owners grumble about clock watchers but they LOVE people who go the extra mile.
  3. You demonstrate initiative.
    Rather than waiting for instructions, you go about your day with your brain in gear, thinking ahead, and deriving plans for the benefit of the business and your department.
  4. You’re willing to learn.
    When the business owner or manager addresses a situation, you’re humble enough to listen, you’re brave enough to ask questions about how you could do better and then you apply yourself.
  5. You’re enthusiastic.
    Your colleagues might drag their feet but you, you’re different. You have a spark when you arrive at work and even if you’re feeling the Monday blues on a Wednesday, you get into your work with vigour.
  6. You are more valuable than your pay rate.
    Many of your colleagues fall into the trap of asking for extra money without having applied ‘prior’ extra effort. But you’re not like this. You know that if you take the time to up-skill yourself, work harder and faster and become more valuable in your work contribution, you’ll be worth a whole lot more.
  7. You take responsibility.
    When you make a mistake you own up to it, learn from it and move on. You don’t pass the blame but take full ownership for your errors.

As a final suggestion, give yourself a rating out of 10 (10 being the highest, 1 being the lowest) as to your current level and commitment in each area. List the two areas that you scored the lowest on and then get to work on improving these.

If you do this, you are likely to become a highly favoured and relied upon employee who will go far within the organisation.

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Task Congestion Alleviation

February 4, 2019 3:02 pm

Congestion

Ever felt like all roads lead to you?

Task congestion is not a pleasant experience and often leads to a sense of complete overwhelm and burnout if left unchecked. For a while, we keep going: working faster, working longer, but at some point, what were the bright sunny days of summer gradually turn into a winter gloom of weariness and despondency. We find sleep fitful or never enough and we dread facing another day; like the business owner who told me he would often park down the street from his office in the early morning and cry his pain out before he could manage walking through the front doors.

I call this the all roads syndrome. A congestion condition brought on from excessive task traffic going through one person.

Speaking to an executive this week who was explaining this syndromes effect on his life, while in his current state of exhaustion he had managed to identify a road re-route. He needed another person to fulfil part of his role and he was a quest to find them. Smart. He had recognised the issue and was taking measures to alleviate the congestion.

The All Roads Syndrome looks like this:

All Roads Syndrome v2

 

If you are feeling overwhelmed, take some time out in the coming days to:

  • List all the various tasks that come your way. What is helpful here is to keep a blank page beside you and list every individually unique job that you touch over the coming week.
  • Beside each entry, list it as essential or non-essential—essential for what you HAVE to be responsible for and non-essential for what another could do.
  • For every non-essential task or responsibility, think through who else could perform the duty—whether internal to the organisation, if it can be outsourced or even systemised/automated in some way.

Be aware of the trap many fall into at this point which is where others can easily relieve us of specific tasks, but because of our penchant for control and perfection, we keep the roads coming to us. This is a severe congestion trap and letting go at this point is essential. If the people you identify in the process are not yet at the required performance level to fully take-over the re-assigned tasks, determine what training and support are needed to plan your way better forward. If it is simply matter of trust, let it go and monitor their progression.

This process can, like my executive friend achieved, assist in identifying the future lanes and roads that can carry tasks that by-pass us, thus alleviating the current congestion. One or two changes made immediately can have a dramatic impact on your work effectiveness and personal well being.

 

You might also like…
BLOG.  Streamlining Repetitious Tasks
BLOG. Rest – Refreshment Tips for the weekend. Read it here
ARTICLE. Efficient Workflow and the Happiness Factor. Read it here 

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Streamlining Repetitious Tasks

January 30, 2019 2:32 pm

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I helped a friend layout an irrigation system on his mother’s property. As we were arranging the pipework, he mentioned that our efforts would potentially save her one hour per day. That equates to a time saving of just over two weeks per annum or 5 months over the next ten years—not a bad return when you consider a 10-hour initial investment with a hard cost of $300.00.

When we reflect on our daily and weekly routines—whether at work or home—much of what we do is repetitious, and with a bit of forethought and planning, we can: free up time for more meaningful or pleasurable pursuits; create additional time capacities and overhead savings within our organisations and do a whole lot more with less.

 

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Reflections on Goals and Time

January 8, 2019 10:57 am

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This time of year seems to contain a natural rhythm within it related to reflecting on the year past along with focusing on the year to come.

Here are some of my thoughts on goals and time that I have been entertaining these past weeks.

Goals

Goals set solely from the mind can indeed be achieved, but their longevity and the resulting satisfaction may be temporary—I have learned this point the hard way. However, goals that are aligned with our highest values—or those things that reflect our interests, passions and purpose—contain within them a power: both for accomplishment and maintaining of such. We are likely to achieve them faster and be more content upon their arrival.

The values-goal alignment is a powerful force that most don’t recognise in the goal-setting process but is well worth paying attention to. This applies to both the personal and corporate goal-setting process.

To read more on this topic see:
3 Reasons Why Goals Are Not Achieved – A Personal Perspective – BLOG
The Substance of Desire – Goal Achievement – BLOG

Time

The Catholic scholar G.K. Chesterton states that “When you choose anything, you reject everything else…Every act is an irrevocable selection and exclusion.” *

When we choose to work on a quotation, for example, we are excluding everything else in the moment. Given this selection and exclusion process, it pays to be mindful of the extreme importance to be working on the highest priority task at any given time.

This is why re-active work is so detrimental to progress. When our days are those of putting out fires and bouncing from the urgent to the urgent, advancement is stymied.

As you plan the year and establish goals for yourself and your organisation— and even if you have already completed the exercise—I would suggest the following:

  • Ensure highest priority tasks relate directly to goal fulfilment and are scheduled into your diary.
  • Create a stop doing list and beside each item, list how you are going to cease from this activity.
  • Plan tomorrow today; next week this week. This method creates a higher success/fulfilment rate of top priority tasks.

I was watching the ocean waves last week and realised that each wave as it broke, would never happen again. The moment was gone. And so it is with each tick of the clock.

For more on this topic see:
Not Another Bloody Phone Call. BLOG
I’m Too Busy – BLOG
Lifestyle. Getting Your Life Back. BLOG

*G.K. Chesterton, “Orthodoxy” in The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton Vol:1, San Francisco: Ignatius, 1986

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Planning for Play

December 6, 2018 5:36 pm

Planning For Play

Planning for Play

Most of my readers are busy and productive people and given that the Christmas season is at hand, many are on tight deadlines, in pressured situations, persevering until they can take the foot off the pedal for a well-deserved rest.

One of the issues that confront the busy person when they eventually do stop for an extended break is that often, they hit the metaphorical wall. Going from a 100 m p/h to a dead stop can create all manner of personal havoc, affecting us physically, emotionally and mentally; along with relational impacts on those we are close to.

If you are verging on, or wholly in manic mode, given that we have a couple of weeks left till Christmas, I would suggest taking the foot off the pedal slightly; do what you have to do but do it walking a touch slower, both in mind and body. It doesn’t mean we do less, we just shift our mindset to doing it a little easier.

The other thing that can be useful at this time of year is planning for play while you are away—from the office.

Often we arrive at our holiday destination leaving the days to their random spontaneity. While this can be a form of its own curative therapy, inserting some meaningful activities into the time— events that we know breath life into us—can change a break from merely physical rest for our bodies to regenerative refreshment for our minds and souls.

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Slowing Down To Go Fast

November 22, 2018 7:21 pm

Speed Performance

When a business grows, that which once flowed easily can become congested over time—when systems don’t keep up with increased work volumes.

I experienced this first-hand today but in a different setting.

Ten years ago, Kingsford Smith Drive in Brisbane used to be a fast flowing thoroughfare. As the city has grown and the traffic volume has increased so has the congestion. Today, I find the speed reduced to 40 km/h and it’s painfully slow and frustrating at times. Construction crews are now creating new lanes to re-establish speed and flow.

It’s a case of slowing down to speed up.

In business, sometimes it’s critically important to intentionally slow things down temporarily, minimally lowering performance outcomes if required in order to focus our efforts on constructing a new road.

These new roads can represent the employment of new staff; the reorganisation of divisions, management, roles and responsibilities; the documenting of processes and procedures; implementation of a new job management software platform; culture change and so forth.

This kind of decision, to intentionally take a hit on performance and speed, takes courage, but in the long run, congestion will ease, flow will resume, speed and outcomes will rapidly increase and your employees and customers will be significantly better off for it.

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Change Will Never Happen When…

November 8, 2018 10:00 am

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Some time back I met with a client’s team member who was responsible for sales in a specific territory. Part of the meeting was to gain an explanation for their low sales—50% under budget—over the past twelve months. Every reason they gave me was external to them. “It’s the market; it’s the product; it’s the lack of support; it’s the competition,” —and so the discussion went.

Whenever we, or our employees, provide  ONLY external reasons for poor performance and fail to look at the image staring back in the mirror, change will never happen.

 

 

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Promoting Growth

October 22, 2018 11:05 am

Organisational Lawn

Over the years of caring for lawns, I have come to understand that one cannot make them grow by standing over them—harassing, badgering, pressuring, urging, nor barking incessantly. The grass is deaf to my clamant appeals.

I have realised that I have to work with a lawn—providing the best nutrients and conditions required in order to promote natural growth and literally, from the ground up.

The people in our organisations are similar.

Some individuals and teams display abundant growth while others are more sparse — a bit of green here, a bit of growth there but overall, lack cohesion and progression against their verdant colleagues.

Just as a lawn needs watering, weeding, soil conditioning, fertilising and suitable climatic conditions to grow, so too, our people and departments need to be nourished and provided with the right conditions and environment to promote and support their growth.

Sometimes after working with existing lawns, I have decided to replace them—or parts of them; and so it goes for some personnel also.

To create a thriving lawn takes effort and care; working with our people is no different.

 

 

 

 

 

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Not Another Bloody Phone Call

April 26, 2018 11:51 am

Value Of The Next Call

How many times have you been meeting with someone, their phone rings, they grumble or swear, then answer it?

Customers detect overload.

All of us want to feel like we are the most important person at that time, particularly when we are buying a product or service. When we are treated in a rushed and gruff manner, we think twice about doing business with that person or company again.

If you find yourself on overload, overwhelmed and wishing you could throw your phone against a brick wall, try the following.

  • Give your phone to your receptionist or another relevant staff person for 30-60 minutes at a time so you can concentrate on important work. THEN, return any calls that require you to do so. If the calls that come through are urgent they can always advise you to call them immediately.
  • If you work on your own you can always employ the services of a Virtual Assistant to re-route your calls to.
  • Analyse your calls. I recall working with a General Manager who averaged 80-100 calls per day. A large percentage of those were able to be re-routed to others who were the more appropriate personnel to deal with such.
  • Train your clients. When I was working in finance many years ago, I created a business card for one of my key staff members and introduced her to all my clients as the best person to call, given that she knew what was happening with their files. I also said they I was always available to my key clients. Over a period of time, my calls reduced significantly.
  • Batch your calls. Most calls are not urgent and can be batch to be completed in scheduled blocks of time.

Treating people like they are the most important person in the world at the time of engagement goes a long way to fostering employee buy-in and increased customer sales and repeat business.

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Lifestyle. Getting Your Life Back

April 9, 2018 4:47 pm

Get Your Life Back
Lifestyle. Getting Your Life Back

Many of the business owners I work with struggle to have a life outside of work. They mostly enjoy what they do, but often long for a bit more freedom from the office.

If you find yourself longing for the outside here are ten points that I often use with business owners when helping them get their life back.

  1. Ask: What are the ingredients that (for you) contribute to living full of vitality? e.g. diet, fitness, rest, play, type of work etc.
  2. Understand what your limits are. What agendas and schedules have you living out on the edge?
  3. Clarify the outcomes you want along with some goals you know would breathe life into you. e.g. visit our beach house monthly; a fully systemised business; go to the gym 3 days per week; be home at 5 pm daily to see my children; complete a wine appreciation course.
  4. What are the key changes I need to make that will contribute to obtaining these outcomes/goals?
  5. Take time to design work pathways away from yourself. You don’t have to do it all. This often means a position description review of other employees and/or the recruitment of other key personnel in order to redistribute your tasks to them.
  6. Over time, incorporate into your schedule ONLY that which contributes to your desired outcomes.
  7. Always ask, “who else can do this?” Delegate and then follow up.
  8. Learn to say no to others agendas and yes to your own.
  9. Plan next week this week; tomorrow, today.
  10. When you leave the office, intentionally close your door as a way of mentally shifting gears to the life you are stepping into outside of the office walls.

Lifestyle is all about the style of life we are living. Managing our lives according to the outcomes we desire is a powerful way to live a fulfilled life.

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Meaningful Work

April 5, 2018 5:32 pm

Some years back, a new acquaintance showed up. His name was Depression. A friend of mine at the time mentioned that a psychologist had said that being busy doing meaningful work was one of the best ways to distance oneself from his pestering presence.

I never forgot that.

When I interview employees these days I often ask them, “what is it that you truly enjoy about your work and what aspects of it do you particularly like?” The thing I have noticed is that once they start talking about what they enjoy, both their eyes and their mouths light up.

Enjoyment Performance Theory suggests that “Employees who enjoy at least 75% or more of their job are three times more likely to succeed than employees who enjoy less than 75% of their job. That makes understanding factors like work satisfaction vitally important for making the right hiring decisions, motivating employees, and retaining top talent.” *

Reflecting on our own careers, and the positioning of our team members, the key questions that arise are:

  • what do I/you enjoy most about what I do?
  • what is the percentage of enjoy to dislike?
  • how can I/you increasingly position myself/yourself in the 75%+ zone?

Meaningful work is work that one enjoys and can provide a sense of purpose. And while it can be challenging, disheartening at times and tiring, living in the 75%+ zone stimulates a fortitude, resilience and momentum that is naturally propelled from within (an intrinsic motivation) as compared to the have to’s of external demands and expectations.

* Harrison Assessments

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Strong Back Feedback…For The Brave Only

February 28, 2018 12:34 pm

Strong Back FeedbackFor The Brave Only

Strong Back Feedback

Brené Brown quotes in her book Braving The Wilderness a piece from Roshi Joan Halifax:

“All too often our so-called strength comes from fear, not love; instead of having a strong back, many of us have a defended front shielding a weak spine. In other words, we walk around brittle and defensive, trying to conceal our lack of confidence. If we strengthen our backs, metaphorically speaking, and develop a spine that’s flexible but sturdy, then we can risk having a front that’s soft and open… How can we give and accept care with strong back, soft front compassion, moving past fear into a place of genuine tenderness? I believe it comes about when we can be truly transparent, seeing the world clearly – and letting the world see into us. “

Recently I asked for some personal feedback on a global consulting forum that I have been part of for years. I chose to be transparent and vulnerable. It took courage to do it as I risked getting a ‘virtual slap.’ The response from many of my colleagues was insightful, encouraging and yes, I got slapped. I didn’t take everything on board but overall it was extremely beneficial and needed.

The strange thing is …we think that in order to be strong we need to demonstrate that we have it all together. We think that we are more effective having that ‘defended front shield’ as per the above quote where in actual fact, it can seriously undermine our personal growth, human connections and our leadership effectiveness.

Feedback From Others

When I used to take my kids on regular date nights I would often ask: “what would you like me to stop doing, do less of or do more of?” They ALWAYS gave me feedback and often remind me of it now that they are older.

Asking the people that you lead to provide feedback on your leadership and on how the organisation can run more effectively can be incredibly insightful – but it takes a brave soul to do that.

Dropping our guard with close friends or a significant other, allowing them into our personal worlds – our fears, our challenges, our hopes and aspirations – while sometimes a scary process can promote personal connection significantly. Asking for their perspective can help us see things that we are blinded to.

The more teachable we are; the more we ask for objective insight and feedback; the more we drop our defensive fearful guards – the faster progression takes place at both an organisational and a personal level. The connections we have with the people we love and we lead will be significantly enhanced and there will be a sense of ‘team’, not the isolation that comes from walking with an impenetrable front shield.

“Brené Brown again says it perfectly: “Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”

Best,
Ray

You might also like Empathy. The Leadership Performance Driver

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In The Shower With Ray

January 15, 2018 1:03 pm

<‘In The Shower With Ray’ photo excluded due to high possibility of massive unsubscription >

Discussing the year that was, over a beer with a couple of business owners before Christmas, they were commenting how the best ideas for their company had come, not from brainstorming in the boardroom but while making toasted sandwiches in the kitchen.

A few days before this meeting I had been reflecting on where my best ideas were generated from and realised that they come mostly when my brain is not busy processing a million bits of information or trying to come up with good ideas.

And one of those places is in the shower.

For me, the shower is representative of environments where creative thinking comes quite naturally and where I have space for my thoughts to roam.

I remember reading about the founders of Snapchat and how the idea was generated in their college days through discussions around sexting and in the midst of their alcohol fuelled parties. The idea that posted photos not coming back to haunt them seemed a great idea. They took the idea, developed it, took the company public and are now worth just a little more than the average person.

Rod Judkins, in The Art of Creative Thinking, says, “Creativity isn’t a switch that’s flicked on or off; it’s a way of seeing, engaging and responding to the world around you.”

Elizabeth Gilbert, best known for her book Eat, Pray, Love says, “Ideas of every kind are constantly galloping toward us, constantly pass through us, constantly trying to get our attention.”

If you want a boost in creative ideas this year whether for your organisation or your own life here are a few thoughts:

  • Give your mind some additional regular roam time
  • Keep a journal handy to jot down the ideas that come to you
  • Follow the best ideas through. This is the common failure point.
  • If you have employees, create an anonymous suggestion box (to reduce any fear of a bad idea). This way, whenever they think of how the organisation could do things better or there are different opportunities to be pursued, they simply jot down the thought and drop it in the box. You could even go to giving a prize for the best idea of the month. (I am sure that the idea owner will put their hand up if there was a prize at stake).
  • If you want to get your teams together for idea generation days, make sure it’s in an environment that is conducive to creativity and freedom of thought

The Hungarian psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi stated, “Be open to what the world is telling you. Life is nothing more than a stream of experiences – the more widely and deeply you swim in it, the richer your life will be.”

Some ideas will stick and if developed and followed through have the potential to be game changers. Others, (such as my thought about changing my blog site to www.intheshowerwithray.com.au) for the moment, need to wash down the plughole.

May the year ahead be one of the long shower and game-changing thoughts.

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A Brave Transition

November 20, 2017 11:47 am

transition

The following is a journal entry* from one of my clients, Bianca, who is in a transition from working 80 hours a week to a 24 hour week – as we move her business from being largely reliant on her to being systems and (other) people reliant. It provides a brave and honest insight into the transitional discomfort that many of us feel when we are in these situations.

“Today I found myself in a really odd situation and mood. I took the day to take Rocky (child) to a doctors appointment on the Gold Coast – no contact with work at all? Really – nothing? One phone call at 10.40am which was Zach (employee) asking me if I wanted lunch. He didn’t even know I was away for the day. Not sure how to process this. My mind is going a million miles – lots of questions all broken down to one thing – AM I NEEDED?. 

I had great self-control not to call today. Call anyone at work to see where it was up to. I was busy with kids but in the moments I had to think, it was all regarding work. This thought was making me angry and I had no one to express it too. Who would understand? Bad as it is, I am hoping when I go to work tomorrow there are issues for me to deal with.

This whole situation is making me feel out of control. I am now starting to look for things I can control or things that I will take back to control. Just say I don’t find something and I let it run its course. What will I do? I need something. My brain is too busy to relax.” 

For more on this topic read my related blog post The Discomfort Of Transition

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Rediscovering The Art Of Play

October 11, 2017 3:48 pm

I love watching children at play. Before they reach a certain age they have no regard for what other people are thinking. They laugh, squeal, run and frankly can be annoying at times – but it’s all because of their inborn natural instinct to play.

I think we were born to play but as we grew older, we were told to restrain ourselves, instructed to act our age. In our teens, we became conscious of ‘cool’ and what our peers thought of us. Then, as we’ve grown older we largely lost the art of play due to the responsibilities we’ve shouldered, the worries we’ve carried.

A few years ago, I discovered the art of play through dance and then that has led to other types of activities where I find refreshment; to laugh, connect with others, get some physical exercise and sometimes just be my playful childlike self and embarrass others. Like the time I asked a girl to dance and she introduced me to her husband. My immediate response was “great, two people to dance with. I’m not bi-sexual but I am a bi-dancer.” For some reason, neither of them were that keen to dance with me…

Play is different for all of us and I think the key is abandonment. Abandoning ourselves in the moment with activities that nourish the soul; where we lose track of time; where fun is the core of the activity; where we lose being ‘cool’; where sometimes we feel guilty for having wasted time having indulged ourselves – guilty pleasure as I like to call it.

If you are not laughing like you used to and feel weary from the weight of responsibility make it your mission to rediscover the art of play.

Ray

PS. And just so you know… I purposefully let go of ‘cool’ with this silly looking video thumbnail of me 🙂

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They’re Doing The Best They Can

September 8, 2017 11:37 am

They’re Doing the Best They Can

Over my years of consulting, business owners or managers, in describing their people have sometimes said “this person is hopeless” or “they just don’t get it”. The most memorable was “I work with a bunch of dickheads.”

Brené Brown in her book Rising Strong mentions a concept that I’ve really taken hold of in my own personal journey and in my coaching work with others. That concept is that everyone is doing the best they can. The understanding that people are generally doing the best they can,  given their history, emotional and physical health, current skill set, strengths and weaknesses, habits, life circumstances and so forth.

She says, “It can be painful for organisation leaders to answer this question (are people doing the best that they can?) because…what often comes up is the realisation that instead of prodding and pushing someone, they need to move on to the difficult task of helping them, reassigning them, or letting them go.” [Bracket insert mine]

Brené goes on to say “This doesn’t mean that we stop helping people set goals or that we stop expecting people to grow and change. It means that we stop respecting and evaluating people based on what we think they should accomplish, and start respecting them for who they are and holding them accountable for what they’re actually doing. It means that we stop loving people for who they could be and start loving them for who they are. It means that sometimes when we’re beating ourselves up we need to stop and say to that harassing voice inside, “Man, I’m doing the very best I can right now.” [Italics mine]

A large part of my consulting and coaching work over the years has been to help employees and leaders within organisations to become more productive. The approach I’ve taken is, go slow to go fast.  I take time to get to know who the person is as per the areas I mentioned in the first paragraph. Once I know who I am working with I can steer them appropriately. For some it can happen within the hour, for others, it can take numbers of meetings – dependant on the person. From this approach I get to know:

  • if they have the potential to be a star player
  • if they have reached their capacity in their current role or within the organisation
  • if they need to be demoted or promoted
  • if they need to be released to work elsewhere that is more suited to them.

Once I know the above about a person, having built trust with them along the way and when they know I have their best interests at heart, the process of getting them where they need to be can be rapid. It’s a win for the organisation and a win for the employee. Both parties come out on top.

For you as an influencer and leader of people, taking this empathetic leadership, they are doing the best they can approach, means that you start with where the person is; accept that who that person is now is what you have to work with and then to work alongside them from the ground up as opposed to from the top down.

Everyone is doing the best they can. I am doing the best I can. It has the potential to revolutionise your organisation and your own life.

Watch The Video

 

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Let It Go

September 5, 2017 6:56 pm

 

Edited  Video Transcript
“80% out the door is better than 100% in the drawer.”
Some wise advice I was given many years ago.
One of the things I have realised through life is our penchant for perfectionism and it’s a curse. There is no destination if we live on Perfection Drive – it is one large roundabout.
We strive to have everything perfect, and if it’s not perfect it doesn’t see the light of day. Our in trays are full – good intentions but they’re full because nothing’s quite perfect. We’ve got proposals and quotes, invoices and draft emails that have to be double checked and triple checked before letting them go, creating bottlenecks in our organisations. We have new ideas for business development but because they are not fully formed to perfection we continue with what we’ve always done. We fail to trust others because “no one can do it as good as me.”
Some have got songs that are sitting in the drawer that are at 95% that never see the light of day. Artists – their paintings never see the light of day because they’re not perfect.
Some things need to be given the 100% treatment. Workplace Health and Safety is one that has serious ramifications if we fall short of the mark but much of our output can be let go at less than perfect. The time it takes to perfect something compared to the value received by others doesn’t necessarily correlate.
One of the things I’ve learnt over time is to continually produce, and if it’s 80% or over in my estimation I let it go and I perfect along the way. Does that mean that we shouldn’t strive for excellence? Not at all. Excellence is a great goal, perfectionism, as I said, is a curse.
So in your life, in your work, in your artistic endeavours, in the gifts that you’ve got to share with the world, 80% out the door is a whole lot better than 100% in the drawer.
And it’s up to us to understand what needs to be at 100% and what can be released above 80%. It’s different for everyone and different for every organisation.
Simply said…Let it go.


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Risky Security

August 22, 2017 9:13 pm

Risk

  • Don’t risk working for yourself. You should get a good-paying job as it’s more secure.
  • You’re 40 and single – you should be married.
  • Pay your home off first, don’t invest until then.
  • Make sure you are always seen to be strong. People can take advantage of you if you are vulnerable.
  • Being a musician, dancer, actor or artist is too risky. Go to uni and get your degree first.
  • Don’t upset the apple cart.
  • Make sure you’re insured to the hilt.
  • It’s too risky travelling overseas.
  • You might fail and lose everything if you start that business.
  • If you express your true feelings to them you might get hurt.
  • Work hard for the next 40 years, play it safe, build your nest egg, then, when you retire you can live the life you always wanted to.
  • Save for a rainy day.

Ever come across any of these – the well-meaning voices from our loved ones, friends, family, society or self?

Security is needed in different realms but taken to the extreme, it will override the voice of the heart and the accomplishment of what is truly important in our lives.

The chase for security can cause:

  • the reversion to (or the existence in) the realms of certainty and the known rather than risking the pursuit of our heart and intuition.
  • putting up with paid life-sapping work rather than truly working in our strengths and passions which promote happiness and joy.
  • the blinding to opportunity.
  • lack of personal growth and stretch.
  • the maintaining of our personal walls and shields to protect us from being fully known by others.
  • maintaining the treadmill tedium, the rat race run, the tail chasing circuit.
  • a dulling to the beauty and magnificent of all life has to offer.

Those who highly prize security generally encourage the same – don’t take risks, just play it safe. They tend to watch on as others get on with their lives and comment how lucky the person was if they succeeded and are the first to say “I told you so” when the person fails. When we live solely to please others, we sell our soul to buy their approval.

Better to take a risk, designing your security needs on that path than only heeding the voice of security and risk missing the whispers of your heart.


“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt

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It’s Monday!!! How to achieve more this week.

July 24, 2017 3:48 am

Arriving at work on Monday can find us immediately immersed in a mountain load of to – do’s, meetings and demands that we are not quite prepared for and for many, Friday appears and we think “I feel like I’ve achieved nothing all week.”

If you find yourself facing a lot on your plate I would suggest that you take 10-15 minutes today, to list 3 – 7 major things that you would like to achieve this week and then block time into your diary for their accomplishment.

Focused managed task completion is much more effective than bouncing from item to item in a reactive style with your to-do list more likely to become the have-done list by weeks end.

You might also like…
Time Analysis Planner – Free Template
Priority Identification – Article

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Finding Your Way Back Home

July 17, 2017 6:00 am

19749608_10156421602639129_919993579_o (2)
Most of us get personally lost at least once in our lifetime. Some are disorientated for a matter of weeks,  others months, and for others, years or even decades. Being lost is an awful place to be. We feel disorientated, disillusioned, aimless, uncertain with accompanying effects of fatigue, boredom and depression for some.

One of the gifts of our lostness is that we discover things about ourselves, others and life that we didn’t know existed in our prior state. When things change in our lives, we change – it’s the nature of life’s course and often, we have to get lost in order to truly find ourselves.

I experienced a period of lostness for around three years. After my separation/ divorce, the landscape was incredibly different. Trying to navigate new roads in unfamiliar territory was incredibly challenging, to say the least.

On one dense foggy night as I was driving home from a friend’s home in the country, I had to keep my eye on the white line given I could see only a few metres ahead. I knew that if I simply followed the line it would lead me home. I realised that in my current personal fog, all I had to do was find that life line that would lead me out into the light of day.  I couldn’t see very far ahead but if I simply did one thing at a time, moving forward with at least some semblance of future direction, I would eventually find my way home.

From that point, I took the time to re-create a picture of what I wanted my life to look like in five years time. I then created some individual goals in order to help me arrive at my ideal destination. I then took those goals and created start dates and then placed those particular activities into my diary to be completed on a regular basis. Doing this accomplished the following:

  • Gave me a sense of my future destination/home (which I can change anytime I want to)
  • Clarified the white lines – the next thing to do in order to get me one step closer to home
  • Provided some metrics in order to assess progress
  • Gave me a return point due to the high likelihood I would go off course. i.e I can go back to the white line – my action plan

If you’re out on foggy roads or in unfamiliar terrain, stop, locate your ideal destination, design how to get there and then follow one step at a time. And, try to enjoy the mystical experience of the fog on the way. Sometimes that in itself can inspire even the most lost soul.

Ray

PS. Here is a link to a document (My Little BIG Dream Planner) that I created to help me find my way. Also, click here to go to the related video

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I Want Another Drink

July 5, 2017 2:33 pm

IMG_3661
When I first starting consulting, my first client was an exceptional Life Coach. We arranged that I would consult with him in return for his coaching me. He was very gracious in being my first client. We agreed that when the coaching came to an end, we would share a bottle of Penfolds Grange. We arranged to have dinner and purchased a bottle for a small princely sum. Apart from the wine being the best I have had to date, the one thing I shall never forget is that upon every mouthful, it created the intense longing for the next sip. It stimulated my senses in such a way that I just wanted more.

One of the things I have noticed in my own life and those that I work with is that when we enjoy the tasks and activities (the Grange experiences) that we are engaged in, we are energised in the process. We do a bit, and we just want more – sometimes losing ourselves in the process.  We enter a state of ‘flow’, the term used by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his profound book Flow – The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

The converse is also true. If our lives are filled with things that are laborious and that we don’t enjoy, our energy is depleted, stress increases and happiness is what belonged to another era. We procrastinate and avoid those areas as much as possible.

Take time to do a flow – happiness inventory. What are those things that you engage in with ease and that you WANT to do? Some of those I work with have found meaning and joy in varied activities. One works on his cars;  meditation inspires another; my accountant absolutely loves business analysis and for another, it’s time in the garden. When it comes to our actual daily work, what are the elements of it that you truly enjoy doing? Identify these and seek to work 80% of your time in those areas – outsourcing, delegating or stopping altogether the rest. It may take you some time to get there but is worth making the journey.

Similarly for employees. If you can work increasingly on having your people work in their strengths and what they enjoy doing – their happiness and engagement levels will increase thus their productivity and your profitability.

Where our greatest enjoyment is located is often an indicator of where our greatest strengths lie and ultimately our gift to the world – our purpose beyond ourselves.

Whatever it is for you, find those Grange experiences – the one or two things that inspire you and that create happiness and joy in the process, creating a longing for more. Life like wine is to be savoured and enjoyed. And after all, drinking bad wine for the rest of life is not a very pleasant thought.

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Self Awareness, Lifestyle Design and Career/ Leadership Connectivity

May 18, 2017 5:18 pm

   Self Awareness – Lifestyle Design – Career, Leadership Effectiveness

The above graphic demonstrates the connection between:

  • one’s self and the related personal growth
  • the design of, and living out a satisfying and meaningful personal life
  • a career that is aligned with who we are at the core with enhanced Leadership effectiveness.

Connection and Authenticity are central to the process.

Self-awareness is about connection. As I grow in my understanding of who I am, my likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, my gifts and talents, behaviors, personality and so forth, it connects me emotionally and pragmatically to who I am. I am self-connected and in this awareness, I am better able to connect with others.

Authenticity is a life lived congruent to our growing self-awareness. When I understand who I am, I am better equipped to not subject myself to the shoulds and expectations of others. I live a life that is increasingly congruent and authentic in all areas.

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What Is, May Not Be For Always

May 18, 2017 4:25 pm

FullSizeRender (38)

The popular Brunetti Cafe in Swanston Street, Melbourne is being torn down to make way for the Metro Rail, an $11 billion rail project. Some of the words used in one of the articles about the various businesses affected were disappointed, struggle, relocation, disruption and in the dark.

When things change in our lives these words can reflect what is experienced on the new journey. Whether we have chosen the change or it has been forced upon us, there is disruption and often a prolonged disconcerting uncertainty. We long for what was. We sometimes mistakenly assume that our current life situation, our success, dreams, and aspirations are the way it will be for the rest of our lives – but life has a way of changing. And then when the building starts to get torn down, we attempt to revert to past methodologies and thought patterns to deal with the disruption. But as I have found, disruption, disappointment and the shattering of what was, demand new ways of thinking, being and acting. What served us historically won’t necessarily serve us in a new future. And, while the current season can change dramatically overnight, the future season can take a significant amount of time to adjust to.

If you or those you know are going through seasons of displacement, be gentle on yourself, on them. Allow time for adjustment – there is no time frame.

And often the tearing down of what was, is making way for a greater what is to come.
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Thinking about Thinking

March 10, 2017 10:53 am

IMG_3318 (1)

Today I visited the inspiring Victorian location of Healesville – a town nestled in the wine region of the Yarra Valley. I went to catch up on some work, particularly to write but found myself sitting for a long time, staring at the landscape in front of me – doing nothing but thinking.

I recall the story of a group of business students being taken on a tour through a factory. As the tour progressed they came across an older gentleman sitting on a chair staring into space. As the story goes, one of the students asked the factory tour guide, “what is that man doing?” The guide’s response was “he is paid to think.”

Thinking creatively, reflectively or futuristically can be hard work. If we are acting, moving fast and ticking things off our to-do list we feel that we are contributing meaningfully and getting somewhere (even if we are on a road that is leading us down to a dead end). Being busy can be an illusion of productivity and profitability.   If we take time out, however, to think long, hard and purposefully we tend to feel we are not being productive.

I think that thinking purposefully, while being one of the more challenging activities for many,  can be one of the most rewarding in the longer term.

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Introducing My Acquaintance, Depression

November 28, 2016 9:28 am

During the last couple of years I met a person called Depression of whom I’d like to introduce you to.

Our initial introduction was at a time of significant personal loss when, quite unexpectedly, he dropped in and offered his quiet consoling presence in order to remove me from my present pain into a numbing darkness. It was in some ways attractive – that removal from the confusing world I knew at the time. He anaesthetised my brain and my soul, painting my world a comforting dark grey. When the pain persisted he would recommend other numbing activities such as loveless sex and the sedation of alcohol. I know others experienced various recommendations that were unique to them however, these were my tailor made remedies. I followed his advice and while he was right (in that these things helped for a short period of time), the after effects pushed me further into reliance upon him. It was a bottomless downward spiral – from grey to black. While he promised comfort it turned out he was a liar and a thief, seeking only companionship for himself and not giving a shit about my personal well being.

That was some time ago.

Occasionally to this day he still visits me, particularly in times of vulnerability. I have got to know his particular insistent rapping on my door and sometimes, in these times of weakness, I am persuaded to walk through that door and take his hand – all the while knowing this will lead to nowhere good. He reminds me to not hope for a better day because this is as good as it gets. He encourages me to not share my pain with my life giving friends; to not dance, not read, not laugh, to procrastinate, not attempt to love again, not go to work, not go out, not eat, not seek new enlightening experiences. Sometimes he even suggests that life is really not worth living at all. And if I follow him out that door… instead of leading me into the open sunshine (which he indeeds promises every single time) he guides me back into that dark and dank cave that I know only too well. And once I get there I realise I have yet again been fooled once more.

If you have Depression in your circle of acquaintances, you might at present be arm in arm with him and if not, one day in the future you may experience as I do, his unannounced visit or that quiet yet insistent tapping on your door. As I have got to know him I have come to understand that he is deaf. Despite me telling him I never want him to revisit he doesn’t seem to hear. He just keeps dropping in from time to time. I have come to accept this and now have strategies in place for when he does. Simply hoping he would never visit never kept him away.

The next time he pops in on you, instead of opening the door and instead of allowing the falsely comforting numbness to take hold – take a step the other way and reach out to a true friend to let them know what you are feeling and experiencing, as I did this morning to my friend Jo. Not all my friends are aware of my acquaintance Depression and that’s okay. They’ve never been introduced to him and some even deny his existence. I am happy for them (as I wish I had never met him either); so these friends never get to know of his presence in my life. I am very selective in this process.

Reaching out to others in these times, in order to bounce into the light  is counter intuitive as the easy route is take our acquaintances hand and progress into the counterfeit comfort of darkness.

But reach out we must.

Cultivate friends who care for you, who have your best interests at heart. Build a life giving circle of a few that might include a therapist as I have had in my circle at times. Create and live a life where your soul is regularly refreshed and happy, for Depression detests healthy joyful people. And finally, create a simple strategy so that if Depression does happen to knock on your door, you know exactly what to do and who to call in order to ward off his advances.

Copyright 2016 Ray Hodge
Illustration by Bekky Halls. 
http://saintdamascus.blogspot.com.au/ 
Used with permission

Note to the reader.
If you are currently struggling with depression or you’ve realised that you’ve lost your happiness and life is mundane, may I encourage you to reach out to a trusted friend and/or seek professional help. As my beautiful daughter keeps reminding me, we are only as sick as our darkest secret – thus the light of admission and open conversation helps reduce the power of soul darkness and assists us in moving forward one step at a time.

Feel free to also get in touch with me. A large part of my daily work is with business owners, executives and employees – assisting them to be happy and productive in their work and personal lives. I can be contacted directly on +61 403 341105 or at ray@rayhodge.com.au

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Universe Offloading

August 25, 2016 1:45 am

“There is a reason for everything” I hear people say. When things go wrong, when the consequences are painful others comfort us with these words. The other sentence is “the universe sent this along to teach me”.

I think there are reasons. Sometimes the reason is our own stupidity for creating the shitty situation in the first place. Other times we have worked hard and struck gold along the way. Other times there seems to be no real reason when external incoming bombs came in from left field and blew us of our feet.

Can we learn from everything?  YES.  Is there a gift in everything? YES.

To credit the universe for our pain or pleasure; to offload our stupid actions and resulting situations into the expanse of cosmic escapism I’m not sure is correct. Personal ownership and perseverance in it all is paramount. But that’s just me offloading!

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Closing The Door On The Day

April 25, 2016 8:13 pm

Those of us who care about our work with the added fortune of an active mind find it difficult to not have the brain whirring of an evening or a weekend on work matters. Here is one suggestion with two physical variants that might be useful.

15-30 minute prior to leaving work, jot down your key tasks for tomorrow and enter them onto your calendar. Once complete, slowly review the list, your day tomorrow – signing off on the day just done. Then (and here is the key) physically close the door to your office and mentally leave your work there as you head home.

The variant to this if you are in an open plan office and don’t have a door is the physical closing or shutting down of your computer or the cover on your day pad.

Closing the door on work enables us to not only be more effective when we show up at the office next day but also when we show up at home that night.

 

 

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The Town Called Confusion

February 15, 2016 12:32 am

Given the busy lives many of us lead, there invariably arrives frequent states of confusion. Some live in its constant state, others daily, others less frequently. At least once a week (and sometimes more) I arrive at such a place.

The Latin root for confusion is confundere meaning to mingle together. It later developed to mean rout or bring to ruin.

The Latin root for fusion means to pour or melt – the process or result of joining two or more things together to form a single entity.

Confusion often results from intermingled thoughts and feelings, overloaded schedules and demands.  The fight we had with our partner before work; the ten calls and two quotes needed to be actioned this morning; the urgent travel arrangements; the seven messages and fifteen emails to be responded to. Once this intermingling occurs productivity goes down, blood pressure goes up, our fuse gets shorter and the to do list seems longer.

Fusion on the other hand is the ability of melting all of these conflicting tasks and thoughts into one streamlined process.

Stepping back is the key. My practice for many years, when I arrive at the town called confusion is to cease driving and take a break. It may only be for fifteen minutes but I stop, jump out of the car, have a coffee and review my tasks. I then batch these into blocks of time on the calendar while striking off non essential items and delegating some to others. It is the taking of single items and streamlining them into my day that brings the fusion. Where emotional angst is at play, I will allocate time in the diary to deal with it (yes, cold hearted scheduling) or, if I have the time, I will jot some notes in my journal about how I am feeling and attempt to get some perspective on it.

Creating fusion doesn’t just happen. It’s all about getting out from underneath the crushing weight of confusion in order to gain perspective, control and taking our power back.

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The Origin of Inefficiency

January 25, 2016 5:04 am

Speaking with the administration officer at a client’s business last week, she mentioned her frequent calls to the director to check invoicing with him. I then asked “why do you have to check them off with him?” Her response – “because the inventory is wrong and I am not sure I have got the appropriate catalogue item.”

When the director arrived at the office this had become an agenda item. After discussions it then became a short term goal to correct the inventory.

The key to creating increased efficiencies within your business (and your personal life for that matter) is:

  1. Observe the behaviour and ask “how can we do this better, faster, or do we need to do it at all?”
  2. Where there is apparent inefficiency ask “what is causing this?”
  3. Correct the cause

Locate and correct the cause and increased efficiency  will be the result.

© 2016 Ray Hodge

Make this year, your year – Ignition Coaching Program

 

 

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Purpose and Intrinsic Motivation

October 6, 2015 1:57 am

All of us have been designed to have a purpose that contributes beyond the regions of ourselves.

Individual Purpose
Understanding ourselves and our individual team members in terms of purpose and then linking our daily work activities to this purpose creates a powerful intrinsic motivation. One persons purpose might simply be to provide for their family and raise them in a loving environment. The person who sits beside them might be driven to free children from sex slavery in Cambodia. Taking the time to understand each of our employees greater purpose, demonstrating interest and belief in these will go a long way to increasing highly engaged, performing staff.

Corporate Purpose
The other key here is helping your team see the greater reason for your business/organisation. You’ve no doubt come across the story of the Three Bricklayers. When the first one was asked what he was doing he simply stated the task outlined for him – “I’m laying bricks.” The second when asked the same question said “I’m putting up a wall.” The final bricklayer declared proudly “I’m building a cathedral.”

What are you building? What is your cathedral? What is the greater purpose for your life, your company? If you can unravel this and then instil it into your companies mission and values, it will help a greater number of team members jump on board with where you are going. It will also help the wrong people jump off.

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