Opportunities Everywhere: What do I focus on?

I had a session with a client this morning and she was just exploding with excitement as she was faced with so many different opportunities and was getting pulled in many directions as a result of that.  It’s a great problem to have in a way, and yet can also be daunting and confusing if we are not clear on what it is that is aligned with our purpose or something that is meaningful.  We may uncover a hidden talent, new opportunity to start your own business or a new role or promotion and so on.  Some might seem to be very different from what you are currently doing.  And yet seems exciting.  So what are you going to do?

What can you do to help you focus and decide?

  1. Go back to what you want to achieve or accomplish or purpose.  Does the opportunity align with what you want to do?  Does it extend what you are currently doing?  Does it help you to learn a skill that will help you in achieving your goals?
  2. Time vs. Impact.  How much time will it take from you?  Will it impact what you are currently doing?  How does it impact what I am currently doing?  What are the trade-offs that I need to make if I were to take it on?  What is the impact if I did not take it on?  What is the impact if I did take it on?
  3. Talk to your “advisers”.  I am sure that you will have a group of people that you would consider as your trusted advisers.  Get advise or just talk it out with someone.  It is always beneficial to express your thoughts or emotions and in most cases you will achieve clarity.  When we hear our thoughts out loud, it helps to bring a certain amount of awareness.  This can help you with clarity and choices or next steps to be taken.
  4.  Decide and move forward.  Make that decision and move forward.  Don’t let a decision “hang” around as it will just cause further confusion later on.  Letting go and moving forward with the decision is an important step.  If you have decided to take on the opportunity then take it on.  If you have decided to not do it, then let it go and focus on what you have and see what other opportunities will present itself later on.

Confusion will only drain your energy while focus will increase your energy and excitement level which will lead to impact.

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?

Team Work: Does it exist outside of sports?

I was watching a lot of team sports recently e.g football and even cricket.  It made me realise that team work is such a natural part of those sports.  Every player plays with a common goal, knows their role in the team and executes it to the best of their abilities.  Then there are sports like golf or tennis where you only see the player as an individual contributor out on the course or court but you know that behind the scenes there is a group behind them.  The behind the scenes group works together to help the player become the best and even get all the limelight.  Perfect example of how a team works whether to promote one person or as a team.

I immediately asked myself, “Why does team work or collaboration not work like that in the workplace?”.   “Maybe it just doesn’t happen in a workplace where rivalry and competition means to tear people down vs. to motivate for better performance.”.  I have been fortunate enough to work in teams where there was great synergy and team spirit.  I have also worked in an environment where it’s all about “me”.  I believe that every one in the workplace wants to work in a great team where everyone is just working together and achieving great results as a team.  Why does it not happen all the time?  Why is it one of those “lucky” or “chance” moments?

Reflecting on what I had experienced, I have come to 2 simple conclusions.

1.  Common Goal.  A lot has been said about having a common goal.  But what is it really?  Is having 5 goals a “common” goal?  Is it just having 1 goal a common goal?  Too many goals even if its common will certainly confuse things as the question becomes which one do we prioritise and when do we prioritise which goal.  One goal might sound too simplistic but it is powerful.  As an example, I am sure that when a sports team is in a match, there is only one goal, that is to win the match.  It doesn’t matter who scores the goal so long as someone does.  In the same way, for a team to be successful, there needs to be a simple, clear goal that everyone is able to articulate at any time and it does not matter who is the “star” so long as the team wins.  In order for that to happen, I believe that the next critical element is trust.

2.  Trust.  Trust in the person in your team to do the job.  Without trust, there is no team.  It is just a group of individuals doing whatever they see fit.  How does trust come about?  Trust in the person’s abilities and skills hence each must have a certain ability or skills set that is valued by the team.  When there is trust in the person on your left and your right to perform in a certain way and consistently deliver results, the team synergy will just flow and gets better over time.  However, since no one is perfect and each with their unique strengths and weaknesses, recognising that and having the right expectations sets the stage for basic trust.  As they say Trust is earned and that’s certainly true in the workplace.  Therefore if a new team is formed, I believe that the first building blocks of trust is to be open and honest about what we can and cannot deliver.  Over promising and under delivering are never good traits to building trust.

I am optimistic that there can be great team work in the workplace.  I have simplified the issues, challenges and what we can do to build great teams with the above 2 elements.  I do believe that it’s a start.

What do you think are other elements that will help in team work?  What are your experiences and learnings from working with teams?  How can we build great team work?

Looking Out the Window

When was the last time you looked out the window and just appreciated the beauty that’s out there.  Looking out my window, I see the trees, leaves and the sun light streaming in.  A gentle breeze does just enough to sway the leaves with a bird chirping by the sidelines.  Time to just pause and reflect and maybe these moments only happens to me when I wake up at 6 am.  And being a beautiful summer’s day, decided to go for an early run around the neighbourhood.  It was a nice relaxing run which I am trying to get into form again after a few weeks of lay-off due to a very stubborn cough.  Nevertheless, cough or no cough, I think that the fresh air does me some amount of good.

I realised that even at my slow leisurely pace, I don’t notice a lot of things.  I don’t notice or even realise the world around me.  I am so focus on me, that my filters don’t even process anything that does not have my name or interest in.  Realising that, I changed my filters and started to see things differently.  I noticed my neighbour’s peach tree which was filled with ripening peaches, the sound of a mother getting her kids ready for school and some work man starting work by the road side.  I also started to be more organised in my mind.  Organising what I wanted to do today, who I needed to call and touch base with, what I wanted to write and even what I wanted to eat for lunch.  Clearly food is high up there on my priority list.  Got back feeling refreshed instead or tired and all ready to get the day started.  Maybe that’s what exercise does to your body but for me, it gave me the opportunity to appreciate, reflect and organise.  It is the time that you spend by yourself that I think counts.  Time to shut out the noise around you and use that solitude to refresh and gain a new perspective.

Do you set aside time to just be by yourself and pause and reflect?  What’s your method of renewing yourself?  What do you do to keep up your energy level?  Do you look out your window and just feel grateful for those around you and what you have?

Try it and see what happens.

New Year Resolution: How’s it going?

January 2015 is almost over which means that if any of us made any new goals or resolutions for the year it’s either on track or dead in the water.  The top 5 new year resolutions are:

1.  Lose weight.

2.  Start Exercising.

3.  Spend more time with family and friends.

4.  Enjoy life more.

5.  Help others.

I have to admit that my new year resolution falls into those 5 categories and I am well pleased to note that so far I am on track.  I have lost the weight that I had gained during the festive session, running 5k 3 times a week, golfing with the aim of reducing my score to 100 but really just to have fun, setting aside and spending time with God and focusing on my coaching activities.

One of my new year goal is to start my blog/online presence as part of my coaching practice.  I have been procrastinating on this for a very long time.   Why?  It was out of fear and laziness more than anything else.  My mind would just feel too tired thinking about setting it up, updating it and whether anyone would even read it and so on and so forth.  All these rather “negative” thoughts had me defeated even before I could start.  To overcome this, I decided to just DO IT.  I love the Facebook motto of “Its Good Enough”.  I wanted or envisioned perfection but I have come to realise that Good Enough is really Good enough.  To know “why” I am doing it is far more important that “what” I imagine could happen or not happen.  Hence I started this blog to share my learnings, my thoughts and to help bring some clarity or steps to take to break down barriers.

What can you do to break down the barrier of NOT starting on your goals?

1.  Start with a goal.  Sounds obvious but there is a need to write a list of goals down.  One of the great trainings from Microsoft is writing down SMART goals.  Strangely I actually still do that.  It provides a starting point, end point and clarity to what you want to achieve.

2.  Keep it simple.  Keep you actions or steps simple.  Simplicity helps you to focus and cut through the noise of complexities.   For example, to start a weight loss program doesn’t require massive investments in shakes or diet programs or joining a gym.  It just starts with reducing 1 not so healthy element with another better option.  My example is instead of starting with a flashy, robust, all beautiful website, I started with a simple blog.  Just keeping it simple, makes the step less arduous.

3.  Just do it.  Nike tagline is perfect.  To overcome the fear whether it’s about failure or success is to just do it.  Just take the plunge.  Take the first step.  Does not matter what the reaction is or the results are.  Taking the step is more significant than any set back you might encounter.  As we take the step, confidence will grow and that will in turn reduce your fear level.

4.  Stick with it.  Perseverance is a must and that will get you through the grind when its tough.  Nothing worthwhile ever comes from nothing.  My best friend always ask me why I play golf.  Well it’s about that 1 good shot, forgetting the 110 bad shots.  That in itself helps with your mindset.  Focusing on the good and learning from the bad.

5.  Have fun.  Whatever the goal is, it must because you enjoy it or will enjoy it so that you can have fun with it.  Some things might start out as not fun but necessary e.g. exercise but I think that once you find something that you enjoy or can feel the difference that its making, the fun element comes into play.

I hope that your resolution for 2015 are on track and if not, I hope that those 5 suggestions can help you get going.