Time LEADERSHIP – doing the right thing.

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“The key is your ability to discern between two activities and determine which is more important at the time.” Stephen R Covey

Just a quick on this week, because I have just returned from a holiday and have a million and one things to do, as you can imagine having experienced that yourself. One of the priority items is you – you’re reading this because I consider my readership to be important.

That’s not to say that this was the first thing I did on my list, because a daily plan may not permit the most important to be done first – less important things may have a time element that promotes them. A quick but less important telephone call may have to be made when the intended recipient is available, and leaving it until after the most important task may render the call pointless.

People routinely make the mistake of thinking that because something is urgent, it is by definition also important. More often than not – and I mean that most sincerely, folks – the urgency is not commensurate with the importance. In fact, it often isn’t urgent at all.

I recall one day in police world when someone said I had to attend a report of an overnight burglary ‘now’ because it was urgent.

My response was ‘Why, is it going to be un-burgled if I go in 20 minutes?’ was met with open-mouthed shock. It WAS important, but dropping everything that instant was not necessary – I had time to organise other stuff, and even do a small task or two, before dedicating two or more hours to one project. (Dead bodies, on the other hand, we go NOW.)

When assessing what task to start, and when, the criteria ARE importance and urgency. But plumping for either of those without due consideration means risking a wrong decision – putting off a telephone call because it isn’t urgent only to find that it becomes urgent because we miss the recipient, is pointless. And while we can’t do something important like attend an appointment until the appropriate moment, its importance does not justify sitting around doing nothing else.

The right thing, in the right way, at the right time. That’s the key to effective productivity. Takes thought, that.

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For more on time management, go to Amazon, HERE

Purpose – and process.

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Interim blog this week, just to keep you all refreshed.

The company that owns the intellectual property rights to The Seven Habits®, FranklinCovey, currently utilises an interesting diagram to illustrate a ‘process’ through which people can come to properly apply the 7 Habits Principles in their circumstances.

That diagram is this:

7H Egg

(Copyright © 2016 FranklinCovey, Inc)

I absolutely endorse and believe in the process that this diagram so beautifully illustrates, and suggest that whatever life philosophy you choose – and I recommend the 7 Habits® as a great one, and the Three Resolutions® as a viable alternative – this process is the method you should use to properly adopt that ‘new way’.

First, as with any philosophy or plan, you have to truly decide, genuinely and freely commit to whatever you have elected to apply. Without that commitment there will be no success, only something you can ‘talk’ about but which you don’t walk. (Yes, I know………)

Then, apply Jack Canfield’s Principle ‘Act As If’, and start to model fully what it is you tell others you ‘are’. This is where integrity is born. This is where, even if you wander off the chosen path, you recognise that there is a path and you want to be walking along it. You ‘do’ what you have elected and promised to do, even if while doing it you feel as though there is a secret, internally felt element of pretence about what you are doing. You “fake it ‘til you make it”, but you do so specifically in order to make it, not to just seem to be making it. If that makes sense. (It does to me.)

That Modelling of your ideal ‘you’ is then reinforced until you are no longer faking it – you are doing it, you are doing it consistently, and people around you can see just how committed you are. In fact, they might not see it because they have accepted that it IS you. There is no change evident – you have arrived, so to speak.

But nothing happens without first making that commitment, so the advice I give in my book The Three Resolutions remains valid – do not commit until you are truly willing to put everything into your performance of your adopted philosophy.

And once you have done that – remember the above illustration.

 

If you haven’t done so yet, please visit Amazon HERE and ‘Look Inside’ to see more about The Three Resolutions and how it might change your life on your own, better terms.

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“Shut up – lest thy tongue make ye look a proper nana.”

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“You don’t understand Gandhi,” Desai responded. “You see, what he thinks is what he feels. What he feels is what he says. What he says is what he does. What Gandhi feels, what he thinks, what he says, and what he does are all the same. He does not need notes.” Mahadev Desai, Gandhi’s assistant.

I’ve mentioned before my publicly stated disdain for the speech patterns which pepper the English language, these days. Not local dialects, odd as they are. No, for me it’s the careless way people follow others’ linguistic idiosyncrasies. Last time I mentioned them it was because of standards. This time it’s because people do this to avoid telling the truth. Not a factual truth – politicians use it to do that, as do lawyers – but their truth.

People use these things to avoid telling us how they truly feel because they don’t want to be judged. This is partly because they are not confident about their ability to properly and reasonably express an opinion that is not the current fashion; and also in the quite reasonable belief that the person they are speaking to wouldn’t even listen if they could express themselves well.

You hear these pauses between question and response. You hear them when the interviewee says, “I mean” before they’ve said anything that needs re-interpretation. You hear it when they say, “like”, “sort of” and other gap words which are interspersed between thoughts because other thoughts are emerging which they have to think about while they’re still thinking about the one they are expressing now.

They are talking too fast, and worry that they may betray themselves in some way.

Gandhi didn’t do that. Gandhi knew what he had to say, and that what he had to say was something he truly believed. There was no deception, no two-facedness about him.

Oh that we allowed other people to be like that, by shutting up and letting them talk. If they have a truly held belief, let’s hear it. If it does not comply with current trends as decided by the media, let’s hear why. You can’t reasonably argue with an opinion you haven’t understood – all you can do is impose yours on someone else. In which case they have as much right to dismiss yours in the same way you just dismissed theirs.

I was recently at a meeting where one party spoke of a technique he used in training courses, and anyone there would have seen me grimace as he did so. I thought that the method used wasn’t in keeping with the tenor of the training that the rest of us were trying to promote. But even as I grimaced I thought to myself, “He said two words – you ‘know’ what that means, but you don’t KNOW what that means. So you can’t challenge its efficacy in ‘our’ programme until then. So shut up.”

I shut up. And didn’t make myself look a fool, as may have happened if I’d challenged him only to discover that what I thought I knew was in fact wrong.

Give other people the same respect, and give yourself the same chance NOT to look stupid.

Argue

Back to Basics. Best cure possible.

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Please pardon my absence – been hard at it and just completed two weekends away, hence no meaningful opportunity to give lots of thought to this blog. While I was away, however, something happened which I felt worth a good chroniclin’.

I was out with my family, on the first of the two-in-a-row weekend break opportunities that had serendipitously opened up. (The second was a 35th anniversary weekend away that coincidentally happened both temporally and geographically coterminous with some top-level motor-racing, but that was a genuine accident even though my wife doesn’t believe me.)

We had gone out for an evening meal in a busy restaurant and I suddenly felt absolutely miserable. Not wishing to demean ‘real’ depression, but I felt so absolutely and irrationally fed up, all of a sudden, that I could imagine that feeling that way all of the time must be hell. I didn’t like it.

All kinds of emotions welled up, and I decided in a moment of utter pain that I would delete each and every mission statement and values list I had ever written and stored on my computer – and start again. That, I thought, should sort me out.

Well, it didn’t. I did delete all those records, and I did reconsider my values, principles and mission statement. And guess what happened?

Yup, exactly what I should have expected.

Anything I wrote reflected what I had always written. My vales were still what they have been for a long time; my objectives stayed the same; the words got jiggled about but the meaning remained constant.

My discovery?

When you feel down, it isn’t necessarily changing external things that will solve your problem.

Your emotional problems are often solved by reflecting on and returning to a focus upon what you should have been doing in the first place.

My problem wasn’t that my mission statement was wrong; my problem was that I wasn’t properly living it. I wasn’t exercising (hadn’t for a week); my writing wasn’t getting done (too ‘busy’, apparently); some short term plans hadn’t come to fruition and I’d allowed an empty space to develop. But through reviewing my PMS I rediscovered what I am for. The PMS is a reminder of what you/I can be when I/we are at our best. It is a constant that we can rely on.

All that said, there is something I am going to do to my Three Resolutions PMS. And that is I am going to turn it upside down. While development of your compliance with the Three Resolutions starts with self-discipline and develops towards purpose and service, execution of the Three Resolutions should start with Purpose and Service.

Nobly serving others with excellence, in the field you have chosen, or ‘just’ your family and friends.

That’s what’ll make you happy.

Something challenging is coming. So what?

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“Just when I found out the meaning of life – they changed it.” George Carlin

When things change, we desperately scream about unfairness, the loss of what was, the inconvenience of what is to be, and No, this is not about Brexit even though it could be, just as it applies to any change. The fact is that people are reluctant to change, so create emotional rationales for why it shouldn’t happen, even when logic suggests that some of the things we fear are not actually facts.

For example, I just heard Andrew Marr on the BBC bleat again about how money from Europe funded Universities and now that’s at risk. Well, AM, as it was OUR money before it was THEIR money to hand it out, perhaps WE can fund the Universities ourselves? Ergo – fear IS False Evidence Appearing Real – to the uninformed.

Change, ladies and gentlemen, just IS. It is the only true constant outside maths and physics.

How we respond is usually based on a couple of factors.

  1. Did WE plan it – if so, it is ‘good’.
  2. Did our bosses plan it – if so, it is ‘bad’.
  3. Can we deal with it? If so, good. If not – what the hell is wrong with you?!

If you have an unchangeable set of core values, I suggest that you can cope with absolutely anything that comes to pass. You can use your unifying principles, values, credo, mission statement (whatever you choose to call your life’s philosophy) to deal with change.

  • New job – treat it by applying your mission statement to it.
  • New relationship – treat it by applying your values to it.
  • New home – create it with your values and mission in mind.
  • Tragedy – focus on your values and beliefs and work through it.

In the end, who you are can be the one thing, the only thing you have that need not change. Hold on to what you believe, be willing to accept alternatives if you discover them; but hold on tightly to what you are, and what happens will be easier to endure. Always.

It’s a lot easier, more productive and ultimately a lot less tiresome and noisy than sheer panic.

Time to step up – and this time I mean ME.

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I was reading Black Hole Focus by Dr Isaiah Hankel this week, having scanned it in bookshops and considered the content as ‘readable’. Truth is, it’s a bit Anthony Robbins so far, in that the ideas and methods reflect the Big Man’s methods and ideas. That’s not necessarily a negative criticism because if a method or philosophy works then any personal development book will have the same stuff in it. (Which is why I really must stop buying them….)

(BTW, in my defence there is a systematic structure to the philosophy of The Three Resolutions so it is a bit of a lot different.)

One of the concepts Hankel suggests we use is to ‘Name Your Purpose’, which resonates with me as a proponent of Personal Mission Statements. It’s about creating an identity for what you want to achieve, so that it becomes a little more real to you and to your subconscious.

As you know, the name I use for my long term mission statement is the Three Resolutions, but this week I began to seek an outcome which I also named, called the Mastery 55 Project.

In December I turn 55, and my poorly restrained human failings have led me to gain weight, a whole stone in 12 months. (Mainly over Christmas…..) I’ve also developed a less than frenetic work ethic, so even though I do all that is required of me there is a personal sense that I could be getting a lot more done, as mastery and expertise on the TV programme The West Wing is not necessarily a valuable life skill. And I am prone to impatience. (that sentence is quite long enough, dammit!)

Therefore, despite my preaching about character and integrity, I feel I am not walking my own talk. Hence the project, through which I intend to lose all my gained weight, recapture a higher level of physical fitness, increase my productivity, regain that sense of calm and just become ‘better’ by my 55th birthday.

I am tweeting through @mastery55project and a blog can be accessed through the above link, or here if you can’t go back that far. (See patience.)

The project has a its own name, but it does not replace my mission statement as much as it serves it in specific areas, particularly the self-discipline, First Resolution element.

We all, except the saints, veer off course occasionally. It’s how quickly we are willing to correct our course and get back on the right road.

And one method I am using to reinforce my intent is to review my own book, The Three Resolutions! The best way YOU can keep me honest is to read it and challenge me to live by it.

You are my accountability partners. Thank you.

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Some things can’t be put off.

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“Almost always, there IS one thing among all others that must be done first.” Stephen R Covey

And more often than we’d care to admit, said ‘one thing’ gets demoted to ‘lower than the quick, convenient or more pleasurable thing’. How do I know this?

I know this because I procrastinate for Wales. As the national team strives ever forward towards whatever level of success their skills, self-belief and luck dictate, I find that when it comes to putting things off – even the things that I consider to be important – I am Gold Medal Standard.

I am currently involved in a project that I consider to be very important, even ‘legacy-related’. It is something I believe in, wholeheartedly. It relates to the provision of Third Resolution service and it requires Second Resolution competence in communication and time management. Unfortunately, sitting down and getting on with it requires First Resolution self-discipline, and like many procrastinators, that is where lies any failure to get on with it.

Which is not to say that I am not making progress. In recognising that I have a tendency to procrastinate, I also realise that this tendency also creates the ‘opportunity’ to exercise self-discipline and get on my arse and do it. (Deliberate choice of words, it involves sitting at a desk.)

Once a day I have to sit at my computer and do what I both want and have to get done. In our digital world this presents a challenge, because just as the average worker sits at that screen, a tumultuous number of ‘alternative opportunities’ not only arise, but actually demand a change of attention.

The ‘ping’ of a new email, the potential new ‘Breaking News’ which requires repeated visits to the Interweb, only to discover that said Breaking News is, in fact, the same news you heard about an hour ago but which now has a journalist in place confirming that what he said just now was still the case. The stimulus on the screen which sparks in your memory the existence of a ‘to-do’ you had not realised you had, er, to do, until the screen/noise/presence alerted you to it.

All of those things can take seconds to address, but their presence and ‘in your face’ nature pulls you away from that original commitment, and getting back to it takes effort.

In the final analysis, however, it is the execution of self-discipline that cures all this. Turn off the pings, resist the desire to ‘just check on’ the BBC News, shut your office door (a surprisingly effective anti-interruption technique that costs nothing), and GET THE HELL ON WITH IT.

And get on with it particularly if what it is you have to get on with is important, whether to you – or to someone about whom who care.

That last caveat also means that when your wife appears over your shoulder, you really, truly ought to change your focus from the screen to her. Your loved ones should always, ALWAYS be first. If only because, life being what it is, suddenly and unexpectedly they won’t be there to be first anymore.

Which brings me back to procrastination.

I really must stop putting her off when I’m busy ……….

 

For more on Time and Life Management, go HERE for the Kindle book, or HERE for the paperback version of my book.

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You can find you’ve stepped in s**t, but you can leave it on your shoe and blame me – or clean it up. Your choice.

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“The past does not equal the future. Unless you live there. ” Anthony Robbins.

It seems inevitable that I have to address the amusing result of the EU Referendum this week, from a coaching perspective. I say amusing not because of the result itself, but because of the inevitable Facebook furore that followed.

For those in a hole in the middle of Siberia, the British electorate decided by a narrow majority that we should leave the European Union. The politics, the efficacy of the ‘simple majority’ rule and its consequences when a narrow majority swings it, and so on, are arguments for others. But from a coaching perspective, “things look different here”. (Jeff Lynne, Mission of the Sacred Heart. ‘A New World Record’, side 1 track 4.)

A decision was made, one with which some disagree.

I can understand the dismay felt by some of those on the ‘losing’ side. But what I found more dismaying was the response of some. The FIRST Facebook post I saw called me and 16million plus other people ‘cretins’. The poster has met me so perhaps in my regard he was well informed, but I’m guessing he’s not met more than a relative few of the other 15,999,999 plus. So that’s a bit of a sweeping statement, particularly when so many are far more intelligent than either of us.

Next, a professional coach of my acquaintance circulated a post saying people were ‘bewildered, angry, etc. etc.’ about the vote.

I suggested to him without being too specific about his profession (politely, and he changed headline of the post), that the job of a coach is to help people address the gap between what happens to them, and what they do about it. To choose productivity and positivity in their response to ‘not winning’ instead of exhibiting ‘bewilderment, fear and anger’; all of which very negative and are rarely beneficial emotional responses to any event.

And finally, in response to the umpteen, presumably anti-democracy petitioners demanding a second referendum, I posted that I’d sign their petition if they signed mine about declaring Didier Drogba offside in the match against Manchester United during the latter part of the 2009-10 season, thereby changing the result to a draw, thus docking Chelsea 2 points and giving United one more, in turn rightfully making United champions instead of Chelsea.

Ultimately, history happens. Unlike the future, the past is set in concrete. You can try to change it, you can pretend it didn’t happen – or you can learn from it and do something productive about it which, of the three responses, is the only one that will work. It does not involve blanket insult-bombing. It does involve making a plan that is in keeping with your values, and sticking to its execution.

So stop promoting doom and gloom, and stop insulting me (and others) purely on the basis that they don’t agree with you. When you do that you authorise me to do the same. In this case, as usual, I won’t. I respect your right to disagree but not to insult me or my friends, even if you are one of those friends.

Don’t just be interested – be QUALIFIED.

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“Renewal is the principle – and the process – that empowers us to move on in an upward spiral of growth and change, of continuous improvement.” Stephen R Covey

I am now involved in the provision of a new Third Resolution ‘service’, having qualified (a loose term) as an Institute of Advanced Motorists Local Observer. This means I get to tell other people, with a level of authority, what I think of their driving. That is something I missed from my days as a uniformed copper. Although unlike then, those people will have paid to be told and they won’t argue (much) about my being right.

Yesterday, I attended a training session and was slightly taken aback to learn that for every 100 people who start training as advanced drivers, as many as 60% plus elect NOT to take the test at the end of the programme. Just as we say ‘You’ll pass the test!’, they decide that they don’t want to be tested. They’re good enough, the ‘authority’ tells them so, and they demur.

This is not like school, where you take an exam at the end of a school year, ready or not. These are people who have been prepared for, and told they can pass.

And I am astounded. I have spent my entire life testing myself against higher standards. I have sought out education and gained qualifications. Occasionally I have failed, only to revisit that failure and again take on that challenge, only to succeed. That doesn’t mean I am ecstatic when I approach an exam or assessment. I am nervous about the result. But I welcome the challenge because if I come through, I have proved to myself I am better than I was before.

So when I read that ‘our children are being stressed out through tests’ I think to myself, “Why are we telling our children to fear assessment? What numpty decided that being properly prepared for the challenges that will face us can only be overcome when they face us, and that we should not test ourselves in anticipation of that test.

Fortunately – and here’s the paradox – not one of us would want to be diagnosed by an unqualified doctor, have our accounts done by someone who can’t prove they are qualified (or at least have a Maths GCSE), or use a Uber driver who hasn’t passed his driving test. We absolutely insist that those who provide our services are qualified – trained and assessed – to do so. And yet some twits have decided that asking a teenager to take an exam in a peaceful, quiet room is stressful.

Life is a test. It tests our ability to cope, it tests our ability to overcome, it tests our ability to live a life of meaning. It wants us to be better, to find something about which we can be passionate.

Getting trained and independently assessed in those areas about which we are passionate and which serve our sense of meaning is a discipline (First Resolution), provides competence and builds our character (Second Resolution), and inevitably encourages us to start providing excellence in service when we manifest our training through employment or hobbies (Third Resolution).

And if your training and assessment is connected to your vision/mission/purpose – what the hell is there to get stressed about?

This week I encourage all readers to identify a mission- or passion-related qualification and go and sign up for the course that will demonstrate to others that you aren’t just interested – you are qualified.

For more on The Three Resolutions, go HERE to Amazon to get the Kindle version of the book, or HERE for a Paperback edition.

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Start a New Revolution. One called Standards Matter.

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“I am, as I’ve said, merely competent. But in an age of incompetence, that makes me extraordinary.” Billy Joel

What is ‘competence’? Webster’s Dictionary describes it as ‘the quality of being capable, sufficiency, capacity’; Wikipedia goes further and says it means (among other biological and scientific definitions) Competence is the ability of an individual to do a job properly’. And there’s the rub.

Using the Human Resources, work orientated definition of competence is something I made the error of doing in my two editions of The Three Resolutions, a mistake I intend to correct in the 3rd Edition. Not because that definition is incorrect, but because its application solely in respect of ‘work’ is far too narrow. Competence is applicable to more than work – it’s applicable to all areas of life.

Those who now me will be well aware that I can be spectacularly pedantic about things like English Grammar, driving standards, and the way people speak. There are two reasons for this.

First, as a student of Stephen Covey, I am familiar with how what happens around us can influence our thinking and behaviour; on the plus side it is how we learned to talk as children, but on the minus side it’s how we learn to speak as adults. Due to the well-intentioned recognition of diversity on the telly, our children and many respectable figures are now unable to pronounce the letter ‘t’ at the end of words like Got and But. Children in mid-Wales speak in a Gangsta-rap Jamaican patois, innit. And the use of ‘myself’ by Essex coppers trying to sound clever has resulted in millions of people now sounding thick as s41t when they persistently use ‘myself’ as a pronoun. (To see what I mean, say it with an adenoidal twang.)

As someone who believes that we can choose differently I therefore detest unthinking compliance with anything.

The second reason I am pedantic is because in the fields I mention, and indeed in all fields of human existence, there are standards which, if observed, make life better for us as individuals, and for everyone else as well. Those standards we will call, for the sake of this article, ‘competencies’.

We are all required to demonstrate a low level of competence when learning to control a ton of metal at speed, and immediately after passing our tests we lower that standard. We are all well aware that the law and scientists tell us that using a mobile while driving is dangerous, yet so many of us selfishly carry on doing it, attacking those who point out our stupidity. We are all taught in school how to use apostrophes, yet even those eminently capable of understanding the simple rules for their use consistently fail to apply that knowledge. Not to mention the equally simple different uses of your, you’re, there, their, and they’re. And if I read an ‘intelligent person’ has written ‘should of’ I weep.

It’s about Standards, reader. Not moral standards – that’s a whole other topic – but about a willingness to at least try and be the best we can be; in the way we eat, drive, speak, write, work, think, learn, and so on. And to stop making excuses about it not mattering when someone points it out.

If you want to make excuses about standards, maybe your brake mechanic will be okay to do the same, sometime.

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