Monday, 29 May 2017

Focusing on process and remaining detached from outcomes

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
Robert Louis Stevenson

My Grandfather Fredrick Sherriff introduced me to The Law of the Farm as a boy. It is the mainstay of my life.

As a farmer Pa Sherriff knew this law as you reap what you sow. He believed as I do that more often than not if you have fertile ground, plough it, seed it, nurture it, you get a harvest.

Today we phrase this law as what goes around comes around, or you get what you give.

In my Changing What’s Normal book I use this law to explain my perspective on many things and how you can choose to use this law in your own way. If you do not have the Changing What’s Normal book you can download a digital copy via the Gifts tab at my website here.

In the book I explore the five faces of a human being fully alive using the law of the farm as pictured below.

Who will you become? What will you do next to be more alive as a human being?

You might use this change process

The fertile ground is Appreciating what is (the remarkable, the great, the good, and the bad and the ugly).

The better you Appreciate what is, the more fully you can Imagine what can be (the ploughing).

Clarity around what can be enables precise planning around the tiny shifts (Quantum leaps - the seeding) that you will take to move from what is to what can be.

Leaping (the nurturing) leads to the harvest of positive momentum, which is the key to achieving better business results, at less personal cost.

Who will you become? What will you do next?

The wonder of weeds

I invest in weeding my garden on a regular basis. As well as the joy of being in nature, having my hands in the dirt, and making my garden pleasing to the eye, physical gardening helps me to think about the weeds that have gathered in my heart and mind.

There's much I can get rid of, misguided intentions, useless emotions, clouded thoughts, actions I'm not taking that I know I must.

What weeds have gathered in your heart and mind that you need to get rid of?

There's wonder in weeds. They're alive as much as the flowers.

Weeds gather and impose themselves in our hearts and minds. If we fail to pay attention and remove them we are hiding the flowers, the beauty our lives have for others.

Who will you become? What will you do next?

And how about your business?

I meet three kinds of business leaders in general,
those tied to the past,
those fixated on the future, or the outcome/result,
and the wise ones, those focusing on process in the present and remaining detached from outcomes.

How wise are you?

You need to be crystal clear about where you’re going or on what outcome/result you want however the secret is then to be the best version of yourself in the moment and to inspire others to be the same.

“Life consists only of moments, nothing more than that. So if you make the moment matter, it all matters.”
Ellen Langer in her great book ‘Mindfulness’

Maximising Your Most Valuable Space will help you too

One of the most valuable skills I've learned and continue to hone in my public speaking work is the pause.

Long ago my speaking coach David Griggs taught me to never speak while moving on the stage, rather to wait until I was still. Another coach Max Dixon calls the pause 'a beat beyond.'

I've learned that careful and considered short pauses, and sometimes long ones, are powerful ways for engaging an audience small and large. I've also learned that silence is indeed golden.

Yet most of all I've learned the power of the pause in every day life. I believe the pause as Viktor Frankl describes it to be your most important space.

My friend and colleague W. Mitchell says: “It’s not what happens to you.  It’s what you do about it”

Whatever happens to you this week, don’t react.  Instead pause, use the space, and then respond in a way that will likely lead you and others to the best possible future.

The moment something happens it’s the past.  We can’t change the past.  We can respond in the present in ways that determine a better future.

Everything depends on how we use this most valuable space, the tiny moment between stimulus and response.

Who will you become? What will you do next?

Be remarkable

Friday, 26 May 2017

The wonders of WYSIATI and WYSINATI

Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman's book 'Thinking, Fast and Slow' which is about the reliability and unreliability of the intuitive and conscious minds and human rationality, irrationality and other thought provoking concepts, made my top 21 recommended reading list for many reasons.

One reason is WYSIATI - What You See Is All There Is. 

I made up WYSINATI because I believe it is also a key part of our lives. What You See Is Not All There Is!

For me WYSINATI is a key to successfully working together.

The songwriter Scott Wesley Brown wrote “No one of us has got it all together, but all of us together got it all.”

Take time regularly to be aware of how bias effects your decision making and make a concentrated effort to find out how other people see situations. You will find this is crucial to sustaining shared-view in the seven areas of significance where the most successful leaders stand out.

I've written about the seven areas extensively. Below is an overview and a link for your further work.

There are three worlds.  The world in here, that’s my world.  The world out there, that’s your world. The world that really matters though is the world we share (ours).

Think about this - all the troubles of our world can be traced to a pre-occupation with the world in-here or the world out-there, rather than the world we share (ours).

Stop focusing on your view or trying to change someone else’s view and have the courage to get in the middle.

You can download a special, short blue paper that will help you here. This will get you working in your own best way on the seven areas of significance as follows:

1. where you are (reality)
2. where you're going (possibility)
3. why you're going there (purpose)
4. how you will get there (strategy)
5. who will do what and when (execution)
6. how you will know you are on track (milestones and lead measures)
7. how you will behave along the way (culture and values)

Be remarkable.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Co-creating culture is a never-ending process where candour is key

Every person is accountable for sustaining a remarkable culture in your business, otherwise your business is vulnerable to disruption. Therefore I say co-creating culture is a never-ending process.

Corporate anthropologist Michael Henderson says
"Culture is;

“What it means to be human here.”  (‘Here’ being wherever you are referring to when talking about a culture.)

“ An unwritten social contract that turns a person into a people."

and Michael says A High Performance Culture is;

"A culture that clearly defines and inspires people to be at their best, perform at their best and serve others."

These definitions align with my foundational model for purpose-driven business success pictured below:

Although every person is accountable for the culture of your business I believe it is also critical to your success to ensure a member of your leadership team has overall accountability.

The purpose of a people and culture role, as it is commonly referred to today, can be stated as follows:

Ensuring there’s leadership commitment, capability, and candour in place that means the majority of people feel valued, are living values, and delivering value.

Candour is key

“Creativity has to start somewhere, and we are true believers in the power of bracing, candid feedback and the iterative process-reworking, reworking, and reworking again, until a flawed story finds its through line or a hollow character finds its soul. ”
Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar and President of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, in a wonderful book Creativity, Inc.

Candour is critical to the culture of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios and a key reason for their long term success. And it can be at your place too.

5 essentials for co-creating a culture of candour

1) Be purpose driven. Three actions you can take here.

2) Ensure being candid and convivial is integral to all communication and conversations.

We’ve already explored the 8 conversations that count here.

3) A further key factor in this is naming elephants in the room.

Most of what could be better about an organisation is known yet unsaid (it is said underground and away from the organisation). For 26 years I have been walking into organisations as an adviser and I am told, usually within an hour, of what could be better and yet no one has raised issues with insiders for fear of reprisal or fear for their jobs and other nasty reasons. A common reason is a cultural issue of not talking about what can be perceived as unpleasant. Candour overcomes this.

Sometimes I name the elephants myself. I am not for everyone for I confront BS and help people to humanely remove warts, skeletons in closets, and elephants from boardrooms, offices, factories and shops.

Once or twice I have been thrown out for doing so! Mostly I mentor people to name the elephants themselves. The outcome usually is relief and very quickly elephants are removed. Soon creativity and innovation happen. Often the reaction is why was this not spoken about before?

The known not being said and a failure to excel at having conversations about performance when there is difficulty, conflict or disagreement is costing organisations billions, probably trillions. The biggest cost though is to human life. 

In the Stephen Covey book previously referenced ‘The 8th Habit’, he says there are four chronic problems in organisations 1) no trust 2) no shared vision and values 3) Misalignment and 4) disempowerment. I see these four even in the very best organisations. The cause more often than not is a lack of candour.

Candour according to the Cambridge Dictionary is
the quality of being honest and telling the truth, especially about a difficult or embarrassing subject.

synonyms for candour:
frankness, openness, honesty, candidness, truthfulness, sincerity, forthrightness, directness, lack of restraint, straightforwardness, plain-spokenness, plain dealing, calling a spade a spade, unreservedness, bluntness,outspokenness; informal telling it like it is.

Diplomacy is not the answer to the troubles in our world, not if this means smiles and handshakes, double-talk, and dancing around the truth.

Most of the great disasters of my life-time could have been avoided, and most of the trouble in organisations too. 

Are you the someone on the inside who speaks up and does so long before a consultant, auditor or diplomat arrives?

If you know it, speak it, otherwise you are guilty of wilful blindness and a tragedy could be about to happen.

To speak out effectively a lot of work needs to be done to ensure mutual respect, safety, and adopting the philosophy in ethics of enlightened self-interest, which Zig Ziglar famously captured when he said, “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

If you are afraid, for whatever reason, to be candid, please find an ally inside and/or seek outside help today.

A great place to begin is watch Margaret Heffernan's TED talk.

I am a big fan of Margaret for her excellent book 'Wilful Blindness' which sadly I see a lot of in my work. Wilful blindness is one of the great barriers to progress in the world today.

If you know it, speak it.

Saying what you know might just be the beginning of co-creating a culture of candor. You’re authenticity and willingness to be vulnerable will inspire others. Very soon spin, BS and wilful blindness will be assigned to history.

Courage is required

Being candid is not easy. Being on the receiving end is often not easy either. 

The death of my best friend in May 2011 hit me very hard. Until I was given some candid feedback (and feedforward) I hadn’t realised how down I had become and in fact had lost my mojo. I found it very difficult to receive candour and in fact fought it initially. I am forever grateful to the person who had the courage to be candid with me because eventually through it I was able to restore my well-being.

“Telling the truth and making someone cry is better than telling a lie and making someone smile.”
Paolo Coelho 

Are you a connoisseur of candor? Your friends, family, and work colleagues will be grateful (sometimes eventually!) if you are.

Being a connoisseur of candour is one of the eight roles that Appreciative Leaders play remarkably well. If you haven’t already done so please consider getting your copy of the handbook today. Check it out here. 

In addition to being purpose driven, being candid and convivial in all communication and conversations, and naming elephants in the room, the final two essentials for co-creating a culture of candour are:

4) Work with others and come up with a one sentence description of your culture. More on this here.

5) Determine the behaviours that mean people are living your values.

There’s 5 minute video to watch and further insights, inspiration and ideas about this here.

Such behaviours underpin your culture. They are integral to people feeling valued and delivering value.

Who will you become? What will you do next?

Be remarkable.

Monday, 22 May 2017

The powerful paradoxes of choice and chance

“The history of free man is never written by chance but by choice - their choice.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower

In ‘The 8th Habit’, my favourite Stephen R. Covey book, he refers to our freedom to choose as our first birth gift.

The eighth habit is "Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs."

Tap into the above by genuinely empowering people to make the every day decisions in your business.

In my slideshare below you’ll see research that suggests at least half the decisions made by business leaders are not the best decisions that could be made.

You mitigate the risks associated with the best decisions not being made by empowering people to make every day decisions and by adopting a process for big decisions like the one in slide 10 of the above slideshare.

I love Nordstrom, the US department store. Their employee manual says:

We're glad to have you with our Company. Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service. Set both your personal and professional goals high. We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them. Rule #1: Use best judgement in all situations. There are no additional rules. Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager, or division general manager any question at any time.

What does your employee manual say?

Take a chance with the above actions and you will greatly rehumanise your leadership and management, and paradoxically you’ll reduce human error in the big and every day decisions made.

Decision-making structures and systems like those referred to above are a key part of ensuring that your management (processes, policies, procedures, practices, and systems) mean it is simple for your people to bring their very best to their work every day.

We choose our thoughts and our emotions

I read a great insight in the Virgin Airlines Voyeur magazine from performance psychologist Dr. Phil Jauncey:

“There is a big misconception in sport and the corporate arena in which people think you need to get your mind right to perform, but that’s not true.

Mental toughness isn’t the ability to get your mind right before an event, it’s being able to execute when your mind is saying you can’t.”

In the article Jauncey is also quoted as saying that there are four reasons we fail under presssure:
“we don’t know what to do
we don’t know how to do it
we don’t have the ability to do it
we choose not to do it”.

I agree with all of these.  We choose not to do it was the one that got me really thinking.  In my reflections I contrasted Jauncey’s insights with some great thinking in the book ‘Resilience’.

“For most of us, emotions are things that happen to us.” Zolli and Healy say in their book.  They go on to say “Researchers who study mindfulness and attention often conceive of our emotions differently. In their view, emotions are not things that happen to us.”  My take from reading the book is that we choose our emotions just as we choose our thoughts.

What are you choosing to feel and think today?

If you don’t know what to do or how to do something you can learn.

We also need to be candid with ourselves if we simply do not have the ability to learn how to do something.

What we choose is what really matters.

What are you choosing to feel and think today?

And could you change what’s normal in your life and make better choices for your well-being and growth?

“It’s not what happens to you.  It’s what you do about it”

I am a big fan of W Mitchell the originator of the above statement.  If you ever have the chance to hear Mitchell speak, don’t miss it! Of all the 1000's of speeches I have heard I remember his the most.

Whatever happens to you this week, don’t react.  Instead respond in a way that will likely lead you to the future you want.

The moment something happens it’s the past.  We can’t change the past.  We can respond in the present in ways that determine a better future.

The paradox of profits

Embrace a particular paradox - the paradox of profits, and you'll unleash human energy and creativity in your business as this short paper from John Mackey and Raj Sisodia beautifully articulates.

In the 26 years that I've been helping business owners and leaders to focus on reasons I know beyond any doubt that when we focus on reasons, results take care of themselves.

What are you choosing to focus on, results or reasons?

Be remarkable.

Friday, 19 May 2017

You need a change process not a change program

Change management like strategic planning and performance management are in my view the 3 great oxymorons of business. Please read more of my thoughts on these here.

Change leadership, strategy and execution plans, and performance leadership on the other hand, are crucial to achieving your best results. Check out this post for more on performance leadership.

A framework these 3 can operate successfully within I call a change process. No-one needs a change program; Everyone wants a change process!

The change process below is the one I use initially in work with my clients. My objective is always to help my clients to co-create their own process with employees, thereby guaranteeing innovation and ownership.

I am deeply indebted to the work of many people who use the concept of Appreciative Inquiry, the work of Duarte, and to my Grandfather Sherriff for teaching me the law of the farm.

The fertile ground is Appreciating what is (the remarkable, the great, the good, and the bad and the ugly).

The better you Appreciate what is, the more fully you can Imagine what can be (the ploughing).

Clarity around what can be enables precise planning around the tiny shifts (Quantum leaps - the seeding) that you will take to move from what is to what can be.

Leaping (the nurturing) leads to the harvest of positive momentum, which is the key to achieving better business results, at less personal cost.

Inside The Appreciative Leader handbook are considerations and possible actions you can take to co-create and implement a change process for your business. You'll never need to think about a change program ever again.

Find out more about the handbook, and the associated companion resources web page and private online community here.

At the companion resources web page via the above link you’ll see examples of specific actions.

Who will you become? What will you do next?

Be remarkable.

PS I’m very grateful to the work of John Kotter on leading change. For many years while developing the Appreciate - Imagine - Create - Leap - Momentum process I used in my own best way his 8 steps process in my work with many clients.

There’s an excellent ebook about Kotter’s 8 steps here. 

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Celebrations/Ceremonies/Rituals we never get tired off

We human beings never get tired of being genuinely appreciated.

Our dog Molly (and Blake, Karma, Bodie and Rebel before her) reminds me daily of the awesome power of the number one food for the soul - feeling appreciated. Whether I’ve been gone for 5 minutes or 5 hours doesn’t matter to Molly. She greets me in the same enthusiastic way that says loudly “I’m so glad you’re back.”

“The deepest human desire is the craving to be appreciated.”
William James

What celebrations/ceremonies/rituals could you adopt/begin in your workplace that inspires/reminds/persuades people that they are genuinely appreciated?

In 2012 on the recommendation of my colleague Maria Carlton who is a best selling author and publisher, I purchased a book by Derek Mills The 10 Second Philosophy®.  Derek is known as The Standards Guy®

Derek’s book is about having standards instead of goals.  It is a very refreshing read and I have added his book to my recommended reading list.

For many years my focus has been about following rituals, what Derek calls standards.  I know that if I follow the right processes for me then the outcomes take care of themselves.

Is your focus on outcomes or processes, goals or standards, results or rituals?

Some people live in the past, stuck usually with intentions, feelings and a mindset about what has happened.  We can’t change the past.  We can view what has happened with different feelings and new eyes.  We can see failure as a learning opportunity for example rather than as a negative.

Some people live in the future, stuck usually with intentions, feelings and a mindset about what might happen.  We can’t guarantee the future.  We can vision what is possible and take one step at a time towards possibility.

The most successful and happy people who I know live in the present.  We can change the present.  We can control what happens within the sphere of what is in our control, our intentions, feelings, thoughts, and actions.  Sure it is important to have direction, goals, targets, to begin with the end in mind.  The trick though is to focus on the now.  This is what processes, standards or rituals can do for us.

So again I ask

What celebrations/ceremonies/rituals could you adopt/begin in your workplace that inspires/reminds/persuades people that they are genuinely appreciated?

Here are three suggestions

1) Send stars, never black holes

In the early 90’s I taught Peter Marshman’s Communication Magic program to hundreds of people. A key to the success of the program was teaching people to send stars never back holes in both sending and receiving messages. 

Typically stars are messages that promote high self esteem of receivers and the 
likelihood of personal best performance.

Examples are enthusiastic greetings, smiles, recognition of effort and achievements, compliments, being included, putting ourselves out for others, asking someone else for advice, showing genuine interest.

Typically black holes are messages that mean a likely drop in self esteem and the corresponding drop in personal performance. 

Examples are not saying hello or greeting people as though they barely exist, not saying thank you or not recognising other peopleʼs efforts, claiming the credit for someone elseʼs work, ignoring or excluding people, putting people down, criticism as opposed to constructive critique or feedforward, thinking our way is the only way and demonstrating this in our behaviour, having a closed mind.

People must be empowered to deal with black holing or other inappropriate behaviour by responding to poor sending with the statement “I think thatʼs a black hole”

Conversely it is strongly encouraged that star behaviour be complimented with words such as “thanks for the star”, Thank You. You are a star”. 

2) Have regular appreciation and accountability conversations

The Double A Technique below is an example.

Ask: How are things going?

When you get a positive response:
Ask: How does that make you feel? 
(be quiet and pay attention) 
Then say, Great, Brilliant or whatever is appropriate. 
Then ask: Any other areas I can help you with? 
(be quiet and pay attention)

When you get a negative response
Ask: What happened? (be quiet and pay attention) 
Then Ask: What do you need to do to get back on track? 
(be quiet and pay attention) 
Then Ask: Is there anything I can do to help you? 
(be quiet and pay attention) 
Finally, Ask: Anything else? 
(be quiet and pay attention)

In this video I demonstrate the above technique 

A key to the success of all conversations is having tools that focus the conversation

Performance Possibility Plans and Role Clarity Statements are two such tools. There’s two short videos and further resources about these two here.

3) Ensure eight conversations are integral to daily life and work.

At the above link I reference The Appreciative Leader handbook. In the handbook I detail 8 conversations that enable celebration, ceremony, and rituals. Below is a snapshot.


Imagine the leader who announces to her team/community/constituents:

"I've heard myself say to myself lately that I haven't really connected with you on X.

I believe I can explain my intentions, feelings, and thoughts much better.

I'd really appreciate your help."

Do you feel/think most people would respond positively to such statements? I reckon most people would.


And so the door is now open for feedforward which is of far greater value than feedback.

Feedforward is a great concept from Marshall Goldsmith.

Feedforward is suggestions from others that provide insight and foresight for you to change your behaviour.

Peer Review

Feedforward helps to make peer review conversations more candid and convivial.

Peer review is the daily conversations you have with your peers that appreciate remarkable work and help everyone to be accountable.

Having focusing tools is paramount. Role Clarity Statements and individual Performance Possibility Plans (PPP's) previously referenced are essential.

After Action Reviews

These are structured conversations that appreciate what was remarkable, great, good, bad, and ugly about a specific action; imagine what can be next time; create/update PPPs in ways that reflect agreed personal and business behaviour changes, and stay, stop, start actions.

After Action Reviews are powerful when you and your colleagues are in the habit of sharing your self-talk, and are engaging in feedback, feedforward, and peer review.

Weekly Check-ins

Weekly Check-ins ritualise conversations.

These are short, sharp, weekly meetings online and/or in person where individuals and/or teams review what's happened and what's next, and agree on actions and accountability for the coming week.

Weekly Check-ins are also great for continuous celebration of what's going well and to explore what can still be better.

Mentor Moments

Appreciative Leaders have mentors and are being mentors for others and so Mentor Moments are integral to conversations.

Mentor Moments are informal and unstructured as well as formal and structured conversations.

If you aren't yet enjoying the high value of Mentor Moments as both a mentor and a mentee then get started today if not sooner.


The vast majority of successful people I know are part of one or more master-mind groups (people mutually committed to each others’ success who meet regularly).

Each of the 8 conversations that really count explored above are critical to successful master-mind groups.

The most successful teams are master-mind groups. Is yours?


I’ve left feedback till last because I believe it’s the least most important conversation.

"We've listened to your feedback" say the politicians, business, and other leaders. How well you've listened will be determined by your actions.

Feedback is about the past. Often it’s biased opinion based on self-interest. In my case I'm from the Alan Weiss school - I ignore feedback I didn't ask for!

Your turn!

Who will you become? What will you do next?

Be remarkable.

Monday, 15 May 2017

The Art and Science of Scorecards/Scoreboards and Meaningful Metrics Matter Most

The Balanced Scorecard book by Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton, published 20 years ago, put forward a key premise for creating measurements of performance that are meaningful for people, that of measuring the intangible being just as important as measuring the tangible. I value the book and it's insights.

I've observed a myriad of 'balanced scorecards' in operation in businesses. Sadly most fail because of too many moving parts.

Suggested solutions

An edict that was prevalent in my early days in business (and still is in some workplaces today!) was the concept 'what gets measured gets done.' Ruth Henderson, one of the Founders of Whiteboard Consulting Group Inc., makes 4 great recommendations about this concept, and meaningful measuring in general, in a Forbes article here.

Ruth's recommendations:

1. Understand the difference between a measure and a metric.

2. Understand the difference between an Outcome metric and a Performance metric.

3. Figure out what you want to know before you start measuring things.

4. Design your report to tell a story.

My suggested solutions are to embrace Ruth Henderson's 4 recommendations in your own best way.

Begin by ensuring that you fully understand the difference between measures and metrics, then start with number 3., then focus on performance metrics (lead measures), and finally excel at number 4 i.e. visuals that tell a story.

My blog post here will help you with lead measures in particular.

A strong recommendation is that you work with individuals and help them to focus on no more than 3 lead measures per quarter that are in alignment with their personal goals as well as those of your business.

The founder of Buy One Give One Masami Sato's 'Impact Score' is a fine example of the power of a visual to tell a meaningful story.

Interesting take on lead measures and visuals (as below) from Verne Harnish here.

The most simple yet profound way to determine what features on your scorecards or scoreboards in your business is to ask people what’s meaningful to them and how best could this be visually represented for them?

Recently as part of helping a client to create visual scorecards I asked several people what would they most like to know about their performance?

A common answer was just knowing for certain whether or not other people truly felt they were delivering on their promises.

Obviously this could be visualised in many different ways. There’s no limits to human creativity.

Your turn!

Who will you become? What will you do next?

Like some help? Give me a call. My number is +61 418 807 898.

Be remarkable.