Category Archives: Coaching

3 ways to be a Great Follower

There is so much expectation and pressure on every one of us to be leaders.  In every arena, leaders are admired and respected and for the most part that is appropriate.  However, we have all experienced or know of leaders who have disappointed, misused their position and broke the trust of those who follow. 

I know that each of us aspire to be great leaders.  Leading people with charisma, integrity, and being inspirational and all things that are admired.  However, let’s face it, not every leader today has those qualities and not many are successful in that role.  There is one leadership role that we each play and that is to be the leader in our own lives.  We need to lead ourselves by continuously learning, developing, building our capabilities and skills with an intention to make a difference with the people that we do have in our circle.  We don’t need to be “in a leadership” position before we can make a positively impact on someone’s life.

There is one role that we all have and that is to be a follower.  No matter what level of leadership you are in, you are a follower of some kind.  The term follower has somewhat been turned into a taboo word.  A word that almost denotes that you are not as important or as good. 

In today’s “everyone must aspire to be a leader” culture, we have forgotten the importance and critical role that followers play.  If everyone is a leader, who are they leading?  Imagine the chaos in the workplace if everyone is a leader at the same time playing the same role.  We have undermined the role of a follower and in fact made it into a taboo word that only someone who is “not good enough” to be leader naturally falls into the “follower” role.

I would like to change that perspective and identify 3 key areas that makes for a great follower.  Yes, not just a follower but a great follower.  Before we do that, I want to demystify the word follower.  A follower is someone who follows a leader, but a follower is not someone who has a lower IQ, less skills or lower competencies but different set of competencies that might not fall into the leadership category of competencies.  In fact, whether you are leader, or a follower depends on the situation, roles to be played, expertise or skills and environment.  For example, you could be a great business leader but if you are in the jungle and needs to survive, you might be best suited to be a follower of a someone who knows how to survive in the jungle.

A great follower should have these attributes:

  1. Great individual contributor.  He has his specialize set of competencies, performs his role well, works well with others and is well respected.  He knows that he is competent in the area that he is working on, loves what he does and does it well.
  2. Confident and adaptable.  He is confident in his own abilities, has strong sets of values that he lives and works by and is therefore comfortable with change, thinking out of the box and is adaptable.  In today’s ever-changing landscape, to have a follower that is adaptable is an enormous asset for any leader and organization.
  3. Challenges constructively.  In any discussion or brainstorming session, there is a great need for people to think out of the box, to share perspective that not tunneled by the organization’s culture, to help the leader by challenging assumptions and cultural norms all with the purpose of getting the best possible solutions for any problems.  Followers are not to just blindly follow whatever the leader decides but to follow with commitment and conviction and that can only occur if the solution is agreed upon and is in alignment with the company’s values and goals.

Think about the role that you are playing today.  Are you a leader?  Are you a follower?  Are you a leader/follower?  I dare say that for most of us we are in the hybrid role of leader/follower.  We are leaders in a certain area but are followers in certain situations.  To be the best leader/follower is to understand and value the role of the follower.  If we only value the leader, there is a misalignment in the essential role that a great follower would play.  In fact, the world has more “followers” than leaders.  I know that in my “leader” role, I love to have great followers which those 3 attributes as mentioned above.  It is challenging but extremely rewarding when the team is performing at its best level.  That happens when we are comfortable with playing the most appropriate roles depending on the situation. 

Micro-changes that Transforms

  

We live in a culture where we celebrate major milestones, major achievements and everything that is big and great.  And so we should.  We should acknowledge and celebrate those big successes.  However, on the downside we have neglected or overlooked what it took to achieve those big successes.  We have forgotten to recognize the micro changes that went into achieving the success.  We have put less emphasis on the small steps that it took to achieve a giant leap.  We all strive to achieve the major without realizing that it’s the micro that is required to make the major.

Photo by JorgeArturo Andrade on Pexels.com

There is no success without small steps taken.  In fact, micro-changes are required before you are able to even observe or experience any changes.  A very simple example and experiment that you could do today. For a day, perform all the task that you would normally do but with your non-dominant hand.  Try brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand.  I have no doubt that you would feel extremely awkward.  You would require extra focus and concentration in order to get a simple task that is habit for you to be completed.  And even when you do finish brushing your teeth after all that effort, it was probably not a very good brushing for your teeth.  And then try the next task, combing or brushing your hair.  How did that feel?  Try eating with the other hand, slicing an onion, cooking an egg and so on.  You will realise that something so insignificant could actually be so difficult.  That one change in how you would perform your everyday task took a lot more time and effort.  It was harder and uncomfortable.  It was outside of your comfort zone.  It was a micro switch in your mindset.  By the end of the day, you will realise that even just one small change, a micro change, the implications and impact can be great.

I did that above experiment and so through my experience, I have learned these 3 simple facts:

  1. Micro-changes can make an impact over a series of actions and time.  All our habits and actions are a result of micro-changes that we made at one point in time and repeatedly being practiced.  We are an accumulation of micro-changes.
  2. Micro-changes require intentional and deliberate thoughts and actions.  Even though they are micro or small in nature, our minds still require a lot of effort to focus and be intentional in making the changes. the difference is that because we perceive it to be small therefore simple and therefore possible.
  3. Micro-changes can transform your mindset and life.  These micro-changes over a series of intentional changes can be transformational in your mindset of growth.  Your mindset will determine how you view youself and the situation around you.  Your mindset will shift from tackling a big task to breaking down the task to smaller more manageable components.  Not many people are able to change their actions or thoughts easily.  It is through small steps or micro-changes that accumulates over time and perseverance that achieves noticeable changes.  

For most of us, we don’t even attempt to change a habit or toxic thought because we believe that it’s too hard.  The image of success is too far-fetched and impossible to achieve.  However, if we change our mindset to break down the challenge into micro-changes, the goal becomes easier.  For example, when we are at the foothill looking up to the summit, we think that it’s so far away, too hard and almost impossible to achieve.  However, if we just look down and focus on one step at a time, as we walk, the summit looks slightly closer than before you started.  Eventually over time and yes effort, you would probably be able to reach the summit.  There are many times when faced with challenges, I feel defeated even before starting.  The challenge looks impossible to overcome.  However, I also know from experience that through commitment and determination and making changes along the way, I am able to overcome and achieve the goals set out before me.  

These micro-changes in your mindset are critical to help you create new habits, change behaviour and transform your outcomes.  The most powerful transformation is viewing changes through the lens of micro-changes.  This makes it achievable and possible.  Making micro-changes is far easier that making big changes.  Your mindset or perspective can be transformed exponentially just with a micro-switch.  

The ripple effect of micro-changes can be huge if you persevere and practice.  Practice makes permanence (not perfect).  Practice as a result of micro-changes can make permanence the actions or habits that you want to create or change.  More importantly the transformation of your mindset will be from the negative to positive.  From “no, its too hard” to “yes, its possible if I take small steps”.

Give it a go and discover what you are able to learn from this experiment and experience.

3 Guiding Principles to the New Normal.

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It is safe to say that the last 6 months has been different than previous years.  Different on so many fronts.  We have never heard or used words such as unprecedented, lock-downs, restrictions, shortages, ventilators, flatten the curve, testing, shutdown and sadly deaths.  We have never encountered a tsunami of changes to the way we go about life and work.  We have never had to make immediate changes. 

Literarily overnight the world around changed.  Streets were eerily quiet, people staying home, and online delivery system struggled to meet the demands, supermarket shelves emptied of toilet paper, bread, flour, meat and hand sanitisers.  People working from home and sadly many lost their jobs and their only source of income.  Those are just a small number of changes that took place, not just in one city or one country but the entire world.

Despite the terrible and horrible impact of Covid-19, human nature and the spirit of love and life powered through the darkness.  Each of us coped the best that we could.  We changed our routines and created new ones to adapt to the changing nature of our lives.  We experienced how amazing the sacrificial efforts of healthcare workers, cleaners, supermarket staffs, delivery people and the essential workers behind the scenes running the critical and essential needs of others.  We watched with tears in our eyes when survivors of Covid-19 walked out of the hospital and shared tears with those who lost loved one as well.

This challenging times brought out the best and the worst of our nature.  I choose to look at the best of what trials brings out in us.  The word choose means that I have the power to control what and how I look at the situation around me.  That is the most empowering and powerful mindset to have during crisis.  We cannot choose what happens around us or even things that happens to us but we can choose how we respond to it.

Why is it that some people seem to be able to respond and handle challenges well?  What makes them different?  I believe that there are 3 key principles that enables them to do so.  The 3 guiding principles are:

Freedom to choose our response.  Each of us has the freedom to choose how we want to perceive a situation.  We can view it half empty or half full.  It is a choice.  If we choose to look for problems or issues, we will find it.  Often, we will find more issues than we could imagine.  Whatever you choose to focus on, you will find.  If we choose to look for the silver lining, the good, we will find that too.  Do not fall into the trap of unrealistic optimism but realistic optimism.  Ask yourselves these questions:

  • What is my current situation?  What am I in control of?  What am I not in control of?  What can I influence?  What I am not able to influence?
  • What can I do now?  What can I do if I made some changes?  Be innovative and look for opportunities that you would otherwise not have looked at.

Be resourceful and innovative.  In times when resources are limited or challenges so great, it brings out the best of our creative thinking.  It is when we are faced with a problem, that innovation comes out with the best solution.  Penicillin would not be discovered if there was no problem with bacteria.  We would not have anything today if it were not for people thinking outside the box to find solutions to everyday needs or problems.   Ask yourselves:

  • What resources do I have now? 
  • What resources I do not have now? 
  • Be creative and resourceful, what can I use instead of this or what can I put together to do the same function.

For example, there is no bread in the supermarket, but you have flour and water.  Learn how to make sourdough starter which leads to great sourdough bread.  I think that there are now a great number of sourdough experts as a result of this lockdown.

Be kind and generous.  Look beyond yourself.  Fear does bring out our survival instinct as demonstrated by shortages experienced in supermarket.  However, once the initial fear passes, let’s take some time to think not just about our own needs but to look up and out to see the needs of others.  Your one small act of kindness or generosity has a much greater impact on you and those around you.  I am reminded of Capt. Tom Moore, a 99-year-old war veteran who raised $33 million for the British Health Care System by walking around his garden.  Clearly, age is no barrier but more importantly what one man’s action could do to bring out the generosity of millions for a good cause.  It speaks as much about one man but also the people who so generously gave.  Ask yourselves these questions:

  • Who can I help?  Who is in need that I can reach out to?
  • What do I need to do to look after myself, family, and friends?
  • Who can I be generous with?
  • Who should I connect and keep in touch with?

As countries move to end restrictions and lockdowns, let us now forget what we have learned and experienced.  Let us all remember that we do have control over how we respond to crisis.  We have the freedom to choose, be resourceful and innovative and show others kindness and generosity.

Personal Space Reclaimed !

As an introvert, the new normal of social distancing is almost a vindication of why personal space is so important. I have also felt that my personal space was always invaded by the space ninjas who believe that the closer you are to a person, the closer you are to the person. I would like to state that it is not true! I like my personal space of at least 1 meter. The new normal of social distancing is almost like the perfect remedy. I am no longer the “weirdo” or “unfriendly” person. I am in actuality practicing the appropriate behaviour to ensure that everyone is as safe as possible. Who knew that this pandemic had a silver lining.

Now of course I am taking the mickey out of this but truth be told, those who were once considered “paranoid” and “obsessive” with washing their hands or using hand sanitisers are the ones who are having the last laugh. After all, this is the recommended behaviour now. This goes to show that we cannot judge others based on whatever low standards we might have had of any practices. In fact, for those who appreciate personal hygiene, would be wondering “Why would washing hands be something that the government have to spend millions to educate their citizens on???” What a money waster if only people had learned that simple practice from young.

I think that it is fair to say, that we need to be vigilant and be socially responsible to and for those around us. We need to be sensitive to the needs of others. As we claim our personal space, we should also be setting aside our selfish nature, scarcity mentality and rise above all the pettiness and come together to help one another. Be considerate, responsible and look after and look out for one another.

Above all, watch that personal space.

Forget New Year Resolutions. Start Theme for the Year!

Be different!  Forget New Year Resolutions, Start a Theme for the Year.

New Year brings about new and exciting opportunities as well as challenges.  For most of us we look forward to a new year mainly because we want to get over the “bad” parts of the past year and we can start with a “clean” slate of sort.  We are motivated to have new year resolutions or goals to kick start the year.  Probably because it’s what everyone is doing or talking about. We desire to change old habits, create new habits, accomplish new goals, right the mistakes of past and generally to create a Me.2.

Then we read articles on how by the 12th day of January, most people’s new year resolution would have failed and by March, its long forgotten and nothing has changed, we get discouraged even before we truly start.  Maybe its time for a different strategy. 

A new strategy would be to start creating a theme for the year.  Start it after the 12th January 2020 just to be different from the majority of the people.  Instead of starting with a goal or resolution, create a theme for the year.  A theme is a broader umbrella for what you truly want to see and experience.  A goal is very helpful to keep you laser focus but a theme will help you view what you want to accomplish in a broader and sometimes unexpected context.

For example, a theme like Optimize.  This theme can and will encompass a whole range of areas in your life.  It could be how best to optimize the time that you have in a day.  It could be what’s the best method of optimizing a certain task.  It could even be how to optimize your resources such as energy or money.  A theme will help you expand your thought process and provide you with the flexibility that will keep you going because it is not confined to one area.  You can adapt the theme to your circumstances and as the year progresses, you are able to mix and match what works for you.

Once you have established a theme for the year and for the purposes of this write-up, its “Optimize”, you can then decide that maybe for the month of January, you will explore how best to optimize your finances.  What is the best investment strategy for you?  What is the best savings plan that you need to have in place?  How do I optimize my income?  The list goes on.  The focus will be optimizing what you have.  You can break it down by month or category or whatever area that you want to make the initial change.  The main idea is not to overwhelm yourself with a series of goals but to tackle one area at a time based on a focus theme.

You can literally put into action and create new habits one act at a time based on the theme for the year.  To put into practice the theme, you can decide how it is to be embedded into whatever that you are doing.  For example, if you are already exercising 30mins a day, think about how best to optimize that 30mins of exercise, maybe its adding a little more strength work in between or exercise in a fasted state to optimize fat loss.  With practice, your mindset will change to filter what you think and do through the theme filter. Your habits can be optimized or modified based on a small change in how your think and act.

I have personally been practicing this for the last 3 years and I have found it to be life changing.  Life changing because:

  1. I don’t feel guilty or as a failure if I do achieve a “goal”.  That is the freedom and the advantage of this.  I have the freedom to implement the theme as I go along and change the actions incrementally.  I can then creates specific goals if I choose to.
  2. Intentional practice and application. I choose to incorporate the theme consciously and intentionally.  I become more intentional with what I do, and my mindset is always thinking about what I could do differently depending on the theme of the year. Questions such as “How could I optimise this situation?” “What areas do I need to optimise?”.
  3. It’s a growth vs. goal-oriented mindset.  A theme should challenge you to always be looking for new ways to incorporate it and a natural byproduct of that is a growth mindset.  You will want to learn more about how to “optimize”.  You will focus your learning and reading materials around the theme of the year.  It helps to focus you without hemming you in a set series of goals.
  4. Expansive vs. Limiting.  The theme applies to any and every area of your life not just in one area that you have set.  You can incorporate it in your attitude, behavior, habits, perspective and mindset.  It is not solely based on your actions. 
  5. Experiment and test the boundaries.  The theme is as big or small as you want it to be.  You can start small and as your confidence grows, expand the boundaries.

The theme I had in 2019 was “Overcoming Limiting Belief”.  The theme has helped me to take on challenges that I would normally have passed up. It has allowed me the freedom to try new things which my previous limiting belief stronghold would have said “No. You are not artistic and therefore cannot paint.” Not only did I take up watercolor painting but discovered that I enjoy it and am pretty decent with it.  I have learned new skills and taken up new challenges because my mindset was centered around that theme.  Everything and every time I thought of saying No, I would think about my theme and then decide to just give it go as I am on this journey of overcoming my limiting belief. 

For me personally, I have grown and learned and accomplished a lot more than I would have otherwise.  Give it go.  What have you got to lose?