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Preparation and Closing Loops

As a consultant, I often have the opportunity to present and to attend presentations. These may be for everyday meetings, sales pitches, informational sessions, training, special interest groups, industry conferences or other casual events.

Before we get into the meat of the topic, I just want to be clear that this is not meant to focus on PowerPoint presentations, rather on presenting in a general form. So, your presentation may be backed up by PowerPoint, but I aim to address the topic from the Screen Shot 2018-05-16 at 17.01.43angle of preparation, execution and take-away. Also, I am by no means a professional speaker and definitely don’t claim to be a master at this. But, I have some experience and have observed what works for me and other really good speakers at events I have attended. I hope to share this with you from that point of view.

Before I go into the first logical point – preparation – let’s pause to consider those who have never presented before but might need to at some point. There are not many things I have experienced in life that can cause the kind of anxiety that comes from presenting to a group of people for the first time. What causes this? Firstly, the spotlight is on you and it’s like stepping into a boxing ring – once it starts you are on your own. Secondly, whether you know them or not makes no difference for your comfort levels. And finally, you are assumed to be well versed in what you are presenting (not always the case). So, these things can immediately create pressure which won’t help leading up to the moment you need to start. And in my experience, the first 3 or 4 sentences generally set the tone and flow for the rest of the presentation for you and the audience. If your nerves throw you off here, it’s tough to get a flow going. The only way to ease the stress (and it will never go away completely), is to consider the following:

  1. Preparation

As with most other things in life (interviews/going out/cooking), preparation is the most obvious starting point. But what does it mean to prepare? At a high level it means a few things: Continue reading → Presentations

Employee Focus

Do you treat your employees as well as you treat your customers?

Customer focus.

Customer focus is drilled into every conversation we have and article we read about how to grow a business, how to maximise profit, how to increase customer loyalty. The conversations revolve around topics like the customer experience, their expectations, tactics to boost sales and keep them happy, how to reach them better. There is an excessive amount of content on the topic.

Now compare this with the number of articles in business and entrepreneurial magazines and blogs that speak about keeping employees happy, improving their experience, reaching them and understanding them better, improving their loyalty. Not paper-3309829_1280so many, right? So, what about employee focus?

An author that understands this well and someone I quote regularly, Simon Sinek, has also tried to help leaders understand that a large portion of their success lies in the environment they create for their teams. In a business context, he speaks about the creation of a culture where all people are treated equally, not only the top achievers and performers. When the circles of safety only protect the employees bringing in the biggest customers or the highest sales, the rest are left to fend for themselves. They see the workplace as an environment where their future in the company is based on how well they can protect themselves and deal with the politics or how they are treated. How do companies thrive when employees are in survival mode all day long?

Businesses I have worked with often wonder why things aren’t getting better for them. Continue reading → Employee Focus

Parkrun Observations

Lessons from a 5km run

It has been months since I last ran at one of the Parkrun events. Partly because of my knee giving me problems at around the 3km mark every time, but honestly, partly also just because sleeping in is nice. Despite being away for a few months, I was able to run it in less than 26 minutes. Needless to say, I was chuffed with myself.

This time seemed different though. Because I had been away for some time, I wasn’t pressuring myself to get through the race in a specific time. So, I was able to absorb a lot of what was going on around me. The entire run seemed to be a metaphor for what I have seen happening around me in the past few months at work and on my journey of personal progress.

When I arrived, I quickly realised that just because I took a break, doesn’t mean anyone else did. You can take your foot off the gas or get paralysed by defeat when you have street-marathon-1149220_1280setbacks but be sure of one thing – everyone else is carrying on, they’re pitching up or they’re entering for the first time. They don’t care if you’re there or not.

Although I put in a good time after being gone for so long, I am very aware that if I had not been in the gym 4 days a week training, the return to Parkrun would have been painful. The longer you take to launch your business, the longer you take to get up after defeat, the longer you take to make important decisions, the more difficult it becomes when you eventually do.

I was always very competitive when the run started. Note that it is a ‘run’, not a race. Everyone is running, nobody is racing. Despite this, I hated it when runners would come past me. These were not only other guys with similar physiques to me. It would be guys, girls, old people, young people, little kids, overweight people. I would try push harder, but if they were fitter than me, they finished ahead of me. This is where I learned there is no template for who can or can’t succeed. Someone might leave school with grades lower than mine and build an empire of a business just as the next guy might seem overweight as I pass him in the store and outrun me on Saturday morning at the Parkrun. Don’t judge books by their covers and don’t measure people with your personal yardstick, it’s not calibrated for them.

Naturally, the fitter people in the run try get up front for Continue reading → Parkrun Observations

Incremental Adjustments

Fixing your New Year’s Resolutions

There was this thing that I did, but I never knew how to articulate it, so I never gave it much thought. It revolved around New Year’s resolutions and thinking that I needed them, but they were stupid and 12 months later made me feel unable to execute on goals I would set for myself. The times I did achieve them, I would just think “well that would have happened anyway”. It was the end of the year by the time I realised I hadn’t achieved them – this is the part where the failure is solidified, and self-doubt can set in. So, a long time ago, I said no resolutions for me, on any new year.

Firstly, this concept of a new year is a man-made concept, nature doesn’t care for it. But, it does create a psychological gate for us to walk through every 12 months which helps us mentally reset ourselves. Secondly, even though a ‘new year’ can be any twelve-month period we choose to set resolutions, doing it at the same time as millions of others is fulfilling in its own way and makes us share in the euphoria.

Where does the desire to set resolutions every year come from? We may want to become a better person. We may feel a sense of temporary achievement because setting the goal, tie-690084_1280in a way, is an achievement and it makes us feel a sense of belonging because everybody else is doing it, so we’re all in it together – whether we actually act on that or not is of little importance in January. Cynical, but true in many cases.

So, what I was unable to process and articulate became apparent to me while listening to Sam Ovens one afternoon. He spoke of quarterly reviews – personal ones. I had only ever thought of quarterly reviews in a corporate environment. He closed the gap for me. That gap was where my issues lay with the whole idea of new year’s resolutions. I only saw the beginning and the end, the starting line and the achievement or failure at the end. I was missing all the pieces in between. This is checking in with yourself quarterly on those goals and being critical and honest about what needs to be done and how you are progressing.

So, what do you need to do up front? For one, set realistic goals. Continue reading → Incremental Adjustments

“Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young” – Mary Schmich

pexels-photo-952428.jpegMost people reading this will be familiar with the song version of this essay written by Mary Schmich – known as ‘The Sunscreen Song’. Baz Luhrmann, an Australian film director, got Mary Schmich’s permission to release this as a spoken song – surprise! It was not written by Baz Luhrmann… The piece was originally published in 1997, although Baz Luhrmann speaks to “the class of ‘99”. For more detail on the history, Wikipedia provides a full account.

I remember hearing this song for the first time. I was probably 13 or 14 years old and it had the same immediate impact on me as it has when I listen to it now. The only difference is that I tend to understand it better as I get older. The words are as relevant 21 years after they were published as they were back then. Amazing. That is why this blog will focus on those words and none of my own. I contemplated sharing my feelings and viewpoint on certain points in this song, but I believe none of that will do it justice, only the original words will. Take a few minutes to absorb this powerful message.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ’99
Wear Sunscreen
If I could offer you only one tip for the future,
Sunscreen would be it
The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists
whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience…
I will dispense this advice now…

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth
Oh never mind;
you will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded Continue reading → “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young” – Mary Schmich

Starting a Business. Have you asked yourself WHY?

Simon Sinek talks about starting with why. It is the most relevant question you can ask yourself. Why am I currently doing this? Why do I do what I do?

There are books, blogs and videos you can refer to about this but start by just asking yourself this question. Keep it simple for a start. Imagine you are meeting yourself for the first time and telling yourself about you – education and career. You tell yourself what you have done, what you are doing and what you still want to do. Then yourself turns to you and asks, “why?”.

In this moment, try avoiding answering with what sits on the surface.

Dig deep when you answer this question about why, but understand this – there is no right or wrong answer. There is only an observation. This is only for you, for now. This is house-painter-3062248_1280by no means a question designed to criticize your choices, to doubt your past or present choices or to induce any sense of failure or success. It is merely to observe your current state and future trajectory.

When you dig deep, answer this question and observe your answer – you will know if something needs to be done after that.

So, if you are starting a business, ask yourself why. Is it because you heard the money is good? Is it because it solves a real-world problem? Is it because a friend had the idea and it seemed good enough to join as a business partner? Is it because you are one of a few people with a specific skill or product? Are you bringing something new or different to the market or an industry? Are you commercializing a hobby or a passion?

There are three reasons I ask myself whyin my businesses – Continue reading → Starting a Business. Have you asked yourself WHY?

Routine Gets Me High

Over the past 6 months or so, I have tried to implement some routine into my mornings. If you had to ask many of the successful people you know or follow, you would probably find they all have some sort of a routine for their day.

Spagnola and Fiese (2007) discuss how routines and rituals help early childhood development because it provides predictable structure which helps guide behaviour. Think about it, predictable structure – when are we most comfortable? When we can predict things. It reduces our cognitive load, makes things easier when we have decision fatigue and helps us find efficient ways of getting things done in a particular order.

Even though Steve Jobs believed that dynamic capability fostered innovation, he also believed in routine in terms of process (how things get done) to be part of Apple’s success.checklist-2098425_1280

Let’s face it, routines are a lot of work! That’s the main difference between a habit and a routine; a habit is subconscious, performed with little effort or mental capacity, whereas a routine requires great amounts of intention and effort. They say it takes 21 days to make or break a habit – I would love to say that after I broke the 21-day mark of going to gym recently it is a habit, yet it remains an intentional conscious action every day on my part. And, so will most actions in a routine you undertake to get your day going.

Below is brief list of things I do to get my day going, some of it has to do with personal progress, some spiritual progress and other parts mental and physical health. Continue reading → Routine Gets Me High