Category Archives: Management

The 3 Curses of Confidence

There is a lot to be said about confidence.  It is important that we have confidence in who we are and what we can do.  Confidence allows us to accomplish activities, gives us courage to experiment and try out new things and helps us to negotiate challenges by providing us with an inner strength and determination.  We can see people who have confidence and those who lack confidence.  We see it in people depending on whether they are familiar with certain situations or task.  We see how a baker is confident with baking bread but may not be confident when it comes to technology.  Confidence is a product of learned skills and the more you are familiar in a certain area, the most confident you are.  So, the first aspect of confidence is that it can be a learned.  No one is born confident.  We grow in confidence with time and practice.

A Lack of confidence on the other hand is not necessarily a bad thing.  It just means that there is opportunity to learn to be skillful or just to have experiences gained through exposure to a new situation.  For example, a lack of confidence in fixing a bulb is a result of not knowing how to and never doing it before.  Once we learn how to do and give it go, our confidence level will increase and when the need arises again, we would be more confident in performing that task.  

For example, I recently had a need to fix a tap which was wobbly.  I had no clue how to do it.  I could call a plumber, or I could learn how to do it on my own.  I decided to check out the source of all knowledge, YouTube, to see how easy or difficult it was.  I did my research on YouTube and found several easy to follow videos, figured out the tools that I needed and decided to just do it.  I bought all the necessary tools, borrowed some tools, and went about replacing the old with the new tap.  After many minutes of unscrewing and screwing, I was successful in replacing the old with the new tap.  I was so proud of myself.  Afterall, who would have imagined that I could be a plumber in disguise.  Due to that experience, I am now confident that if the need arises again, I can do it.  My confidence in replacing the tap was developed through learning the steps and then applying the knowledge.  Now, I could develop an unrealistic confidence of being able to do more than just replace the tap to major plumbing projects just because of one small success.  That would clearly be unrealistic. An unhealthy level of confidence is where the curse lies.  

The curse of confidence arises when you develop an unhealthy and unrealistic level of confidence.  The 3 pitfalls are:

  1. Stop Learning and Growing.
  2. Never asking for help.
  3. Not taking responsibility.

Stop Learning and Growing.  People with a false sense of confidence believe that they know it all.  When you believe that know everything and that you are right all the time, you are not able to ask yourselves questions or seek feedback in areas to improve and develop further.  There is no one who is perfect.  There is certainly no one who knows everything.  There is no one who is right all the time.  Ask any successful person and they will be the first to admit, how much they do not know and how much more they have to improve.  The heart of our development is the acknowledgement that we have so much so learn and develop and the only way to do that is know which areas to work on.  

Never asking for help.  If you believe that you know it all, you cannot accept the possibility that someone else knows more than you.  You are not able to accept any teaching or training because you believe that you know everything.  You will not be able to ask for help even if you know you need help.  It is just the curse of confidence.  You believe that you are the only one who is able to find the answer and know what to do.  That may be true, but the time and effort spent will be more than just seeking help from an expert.

Not taking responsibility for your mistakes and actions.  This is probably the one that impacts those around you the most.  When mistakes are made, instead of taking responsibility and owning the mistake, the blame game takes over.  Deflecting the problem and directing it at others.  This will not help solve any problems, but it will alienate you from people who could be the source of help that is needed.  Not owning one’s mistake does not demonstrate strength or good leadership but the opposite.  Everyone knows that mistakes will be made.  It is inevitable.  How we own up to the responsibility of the consequences of the mistake is what makes for a good leader.

There is a need for healthy confidence.  It is that balance that is delicate.  How do we achieve that balance?  What’s the cure?

The cure or solution lies in the following:

Allow your trusted advisers the gift of giving you authentic feedback.  Your friends or trusted advisers are gifts to your leadership health check-up.  Similar to seeing a doctor for a medical check-up, getting feedback from your trusted advisers is vital.  Allow or give them permission as they should have your well-being at heart.  The feedback that they are able to provide you will be invaluable.

Self-Awareness is a good radar system.   Exercise self-awareness.  It is a great self-checking system that you have.  Have a meeting with yourself and ask these simple questions:  What have I learned this week or month?  What situation or circumstances have you caught yourself being offended or defensive?  Are the people in my team staying away, avoiding or being hyper careful around me?  Have you noticed any changes in how you react to situations differently (negatively) than the past?

In a nutshell, confidence is essential but over-confidence is a curse and a stumbling block.  Keep yourself in check frequently and consistently.  Be aware of the red flags of your over-confidence zone.  Allow your trusted advisers to give you feedback and use your self-awareness radar to never stop learning and self-check up on your leadership through frequently seeking feedback.

5 Ways to Change Well

“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.” -Gail Sheehy

Change is necessary and uncomfortable.  It is vital in order for us to continue to grow.  We can only grow when we are challenged.  Challenges only come when our situation changes.  The causes of change varies from self-initiated to forced-upon by others or circumstances.

Let’s take a look at self-initiated change.  This type of change comes from:

  1. Need to challenge our current thinking or circumstances.
  2. Need to change our current status or situation.
  3. Ability to see that changes are required before it is forced upon you.
  4. Just feeling bored or unsatisfied with the current status quo.

There are many more reasons why you would initiate a change.  All of which puts you in control.  You are in control of:

  • Outcome of the change.
  • Level and degree of change.
  • Comfort level of the change.
  • Circumstances of the change.

There are a 5 key stages of the change process that you should be aware off and what you can do about them:

  1. Change is uncomfortable and we need to face and overcome our fears.  Fear is usually the number one reason why people resist change or give up.  Fear does not go away, even if you are the one initiating it.  Ask yourself these questions when fear sets in:
    1. Identify the fear.  What kind of fear is it?  Is it rationale or not?  What is the possibility of it happening?  If you were to put a number on that fear from 1 to 10, what would it be?  What can I do to mitigate it?
    2. Remind yourself of how you had overcome fear in the past and what was the reward.
    3. Change your perspective from fear to opportunities.  For example, instead of thinking about failure, think about how to be successful.  Instead of a challenge, focus on the opportunity.  Instead of the limitations, think about the possibilities.
  2. Resistance from yourself and those around you.  Depending on the level of change, it is scary not just for you but for those around you.  You might face resistance from the very people  you expect support.  However, always remember the reasons for the change.  You need to be very clear and focus on why are you seeking change.  What are your goals, desires or purpose for this change?  Realign yourself back to the reason that you are pursuing the change.  Read through what you have written down with regards to your purpose, missions or goals.  Remind yourself.  Explain and share them with others.  Be open to their feedback and concerns.
  3. Distracted but get back on the track again.  It’s easy to get started when the enthusiasm is high, the adrenalin is rushing and everything is new and exciting.  Then time passes by and the distraction of other priorities or just the busyness of life comes into the picture.  Distraction along the way may derail your outcome.  Before we let that happen, it is good to have set up some time every month or quarter or mid-year to review.  Review where you are today vs. your plans.  Review what needs to take place next.  What help do you need to get back on track?
  4. Disappointments drag you down but don’t give up.  Failure and disappointment are just part and parcel of the learning process.  Like growth that comes from change, we learn best through failures and disappointments.  We learn what we can do differently, how to do it better and so on.  The key is not to let the disappointments drag you down and then give up.  Think about or remember , what got you to where you are today.  How can use what you have learned to get to the next level.  Remember your past accomplishments to build your self-confidence.  It is easy for us to forget what we have achieved, what we have experienced, what we have learned and who we know that can help us transition.  It is useful to review and remember.  I have used this numerous times in my coaching role and have found that clients find great empowerment when they realise that they do have the abilities to make the transition.  The motivation to pick themselves up and continue.
  5. Accountability and find someone to be accountable to.  Hold yourself accountable to the change.  You know the reasons for the change and the positive impact for you and those around you.  In order for you to push through and achieve the desired outcome, you need to be accountable to doing the work.  You can find yourself an accountability buddy.  Someone who will hold you accountable and not let you get away easily.  Someone who will push you and support you when necessary.  I have found that this is one aspect that most people ignore or push aside.  However, it is safe to say that the one who is successful is one that has someone they are accountable to.  You can think about your partner, your friend, a coach, a mentor as options for your accountability buddy.

Change on your terms and remember that change is not a lonely process.  Change is enriching when you are clear on the purpose, the impact on you and the people you love and going through it with a good support structure.

“Change before you have to.” -Jack Welch

Stop Using these 3 Words or Phrases : “Step Up”, “But”, “Potential”

We have all been there, done that and said it.  What would happen if we stopped using certain words or phrases during performance review.  What am I talking about?  The top 3 most common “dreaded” words or phrases:

  • Step Up:  Yeah that’s right, you have heard it.  Personally I have heard it and sadly I have used it.  What does it even mean?  It’s used as if everyone knows exactly what it means but truth be told really don’t.  At least not to person hearing it.  “You need to step up.”  What does that mean?  Step up to what?  Instead of “step up”, what would be a specific feedback that would help the employee to improve?  For example, “You need to step up on your leadership of the team.”  To the person hearing those words, what does it mean?  Does it mean “I need to shout louder so that people know that I am in charge?”, “I need to act more arrogantly so that my team knows that I am their leader”.  What could you say instead of using the words “Step up”? Managers don’t be lazy.  Think about the feedback that you want to give to get your employees to either reinforce or rectify a behaviour.  Remember, for feedback to be effective, it needs to be specific, impact driven and suggestive for actions.
  • “But”:  The dreaded “but” word.  No one ever hears or retains anything before the word “but”.  What other options do we have to communicate areas of improvement or focus.  “You are doing well but you are careless with the details.”  What does the person hear?  “You are careless and in trouble.”  What could you say instead of using the word “but”?
  • “Realise your full potential”:  Potential.  What is that?  Who judges that?  What is the basis of that judgement?  Is the benchmark against what we have set for ourselves?  Every one of us has “potential”.  Potential to be great, good or average.  The area that needs to be highlighted is what is useful to be developed further and what is not useful to be de-emphasized.

If you were to play the Taboo word game, what would you now say to your employee.  How much thought would have to go into preparing for the discussion or review?  What would you say differently?

Perception of Change: How to change? Embrace and Extend.

Whenever we hear the word “Change”, the majority of responses would fall into these categories:

  • Fear, Anxiety and Dread
  • Fear and then Excitement
  • Excitement and Anticipation.  Probably only from the people who caused the change.

It is no surprise that as “routine and comfort loving human beings”, any thing that requires us to change or do things differently will invoke a negative reaction.  Our perspective on “change” is almost always tied to something negative or bad.  I think that all of us can relate to an experience where we had to “change” the way we worked or behaved and change is never comfortable.  Change of routines and schedules can create anxiety, frustration because it means that we are no longer in control.  At the center of the negative perception of change is the fact that we are no longer in control.  For type A personalities, that is just disastrous.  Unless of course as type A personalities, you created the change.

How and what can we do to change our perspective on “change”?

1.  View “change” as an opportunity.  I remember many years ago, when I was working in Microsoft, we were faced with the Internet Browser battle between Netscape and Internet Explorer.  Netscape created a change in the industry to how we viewed the contents of the internet.  There was a “mantra” at that time, “Embrace and Extend”.  Embrace the net and extend the capabilities.   In many ways that’s exactly what happened in the browser war.  Internet Explorer embraced the features of Netscape and then extended it beyond and who can remember what happened to Netscape?   I thought that was the best tagline.  Much like Nike’s Just Do It.  If we view “change” as “Embrace and Extend”, we are not viewing it as a threat but as an opportunity.

2.  Embrace the change.  Embrace the change, take the opportunity to learn and develop your skills or adapt to the situation.  The faster we are able to see the situation through the lense of opportunity or development, the faster we are able to shift our mindset of resistance to adapting to the change.  Embracing the change will required changes to how you do certain things, what you do as well as who you might need to work with.  None of those areas are negatives, all can be positives as it will serve as a platform for growth and learnings.

3.  Extend the change.  Extending the change now serves as a platform for you to be ahead of the curve and maybe even cause you to be at the forefront of leading the next wave of change.  To extend the change requires you to shift your perspective from taking on the change to leading the change.

Change is the only constant and our survival depends on how self-aware and self-critical we are in order to view perceptions and perspectives differently.  Questions that you can ask yourself:  What is driving the negative perspectives towards that change?  What skills or abilities do I have today that can still be used?  What skills or abilities do I need work on in order to be successful?  What can I do or actions to take that will remove the fear or doubt?  Reflect on the past, how did you handle changes in the past?  What would you do differently?  What are the opportunities that will arise from this change?

As the Borg tagline in Star Trek goes “Resistance is Futile.”  Always be a student of change and never the victim of change.

Farmer or Hunter?

Have you been asked this question before?  Are you like a farmer or a hunter?  A farmer is one where you will take the time to plough the land, sow the seeds, fertilise and wait for the plant to grow and then harvest it.  A hunter on the other hand is one where you will track a target, size up the target and then seize upon it.  As an example, these 2 metaphors have been used to describe people in sales and marketing roles.

What are the similarities of a farmer and a hunter?

  • A clear desired outcome.  Both know what they want to achieve at the end of the process.
  • Have a strategy and action plan in place and execute it.   In order to achieve their goals, both need to have a strategy on how to make it happen.
  • Have to be skilled and competent in what they are doing.  Need to have the know-how to be successful.
  • Need to be patient and persevere as they wait for the harvest.

What are the differences of a farmer and a hunter?

  • Mindset and perspective.  A farmer looks forward to a big harvest while a hunter’s target is very specific.
  • Approach in getting to the end result.  A farmer needs to prepare the land first before sowing the seeds in order to achieve a good harvest while a hunter needs to identify the target and then track it until its time to close the deal.
  • Time frame.  One might take longer than the other hence having the right expectations of time frame is critical.
  • Personalities.  Clearly there is a need for different personalities and attributes in each role that gives it an edge.  Myers-Briggs profiling have indicated that some profiles are better suited for certain roles.

I feel that sometimes we focus far too much on the differences that we do not appreciate the similarities and therefore face unnecessary conflicts as a result.  To put this into a workplace perspective, it is very common that there are conflicts between the sales and marketing teams.  Most of the time, these conflicts are just because of differences that I have mentioned above – perspectives and approaches along with time frame of when things happen.  If we focus instead on the similarities e.g. a common goal, trust in the other’s skills in performing their role and agree on the time line of execution, these potential conflicts can be minimised.

So which one are you?  Each with their strengths and rewards.  Each with their unique traits and characteristics that will make them successful in their roles.  The questions are:

Do you know which one you are? How would you continue to develop either one of these approaches?  How can you be a better farmer or hunter?  Can you be both a farmer and a hunter?  How can both the farmer and hunter work together for the good of the group.  After all, we don’t just want to eat meat or vegetables all the time, right?