This video comes from the foothills of the Wicklow mountains, near my parent’s house in Dublin.  I was teaching at the UCD Smurfit Business School and then spent the weekend down in Wexford at the opera festival.  My parent’s have been big supporters of this festival over the last 20 years and it was important to me to see it with them.

What Lesson Have You Learnt?

I ask a question: What is the most important lesson you have learnt in life?  I’d love to hear from you.  What would you say is the most important lesson you have learnt about living life well?

If you liked this post, you will also like Life is Difficult, How to Handle it or 65 Lessons Learned at Tony Robbins’ Event.

In his TED talk, Stephen Duneier explains that what defines him are not titles, but an approach to decision making that transformed him from someone who struggled with simple tasks to a guy who is continuously achieving even his most ambitious dreams.

For thirty years, he has applied cognitive science to investing, business and life. The result has been the turnaround of numerous institutional businesses, career best returns for managers who have adopted his methods, the development of a $1.25 billion dollar hedge fund and a rapidly shrinking bucket list.

“Every one of my report cards basically said the same thing: Steven is a very bright young boy, if only he would just settle down and focus.”

“What they didn’t realize was I wanted that even more than they wanted it for me, I just couldn’t. And so, from kindergarten straight through the 2nd year of college, I was a really consistent C, C- student. But then going into my junior year, I’d had enough. I thought I want to make a change. I’m going to make a marginal adjustment, and I’m going to stop being a spectator of my decision-making and start becoming an active participant.”

“And so, that year, instead of pretending, again, that I would suddenly be able to settle down and focus on things for more than five or ten minutes at a time, I decided to assume I wouldn’t. And so, if I wanted to achieve the type of outcome that I desire – doing well in school – I was going to actually have to change my approach. And so I made a marginal adjustment. If I would get an assignment, let’s say, read five chapters in a book, I wouldn’t think of it as five chapters, I wouldn’t even think of it as one chapter. I would break it down into these tasks that I could achieve, that would require me to focus for just five or ten minutes at a time. So, maybe three or four paragraphs. That’s it.”

“I would do that and when I was done with those five or ten minutes, I would get up. I’d go shoot some hoops, do a little drawing, maybe play video games for a few minutes, and then I come back. Not necessarily to the same assignment, not even necessarily to the same subject, but just to another task that required just five to ten minutes of my attention. From that point forward, all the way through to graduation, I was a straight-A student, Dean’s List, President’s Honor Roll, every semester.”

“I then went on to one of the top graduate programs in the world for finance and economics. Same approach, same results. So then, I graduate. I start my career and I’m thinking, this worked really well for me. You know, you take these big concepts, these complex ideas, these big assignments, you break them down too much more manageable tasks, and then along the way, you make a marginal improvement to the process that ups the odds of success in your favor. I’m going to try and do this in my career. So I did. I started out as an exotic derivatives trader for credit Swiss. It then led me to be global head of currency option trading for Bank of America”

Mr. Duneier teaches graduate courses on Decision Analysis in UCSB’s College of Engineering. His book, AlphaBrain is due for release in early 2017 from Wiley & Sons. Through Bija Advisors, he helps business leaders improve performance by applying proven, proprietary decision-making methods to their own processes. His artwork has been featured around the world and is represented by the Sullivan Goss Gallery. As Commissioner of the League of Professional Educators, Duneier is using cognitive science to alter the landscape of American education. He is the former Head of Currency Option Trading at Bank of America and Emerging Markets at AIG International.

For more on achieving goals, check out 6 Reasons we Give Up on Goals and Finding Purpose and Defining a Vision for your Life.

The secret to a good life? No, just a simple reflection on the nature of things. The important gestures you can make each day that really make an impact on others over the long time, are often so small that they are easily forgotten each day…  but over 10 years the presence or the lack of a couple of small gestures makes a huge impact on your relationships and what you can have achieved in life.

An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Ancient Wisdom

This video comes from the beautiful location of Villa Ottoboni, on the outskirts of Padua in Italy. I had the privilege of teaching an interactive workshop on “The Psychology of Leadership” with the Ambrosetti organisation today.  

and that’s “Goodbye” from the central market of Padua

How to Improve Teamwork?

There are many ways, many frameworks, many tips.  Here I share one simple, easy to implement change that you can begin to use today.

Sometimes the best way to allow your team mates to ask for help is for you to ask for help first (and especially when you don’t necessarily believe that you need help).  Allow others to have an impact on you, they will then open to allow you to have an impact on them.

This video is about learning the humility as a leader to ask for help, not when you need it, but at times where you don’t feel you need it – at times where you are not struggling, at the times where you would tend to just get on with it and solve it yourself.

If you liked this post, you will also like 6 Question to Ask Yourself Every Day to be a Better Leader and 12 Vital Questions for Any New Business.

This list is Conor’s “Sunday afternoon in a coffee shop brain dump” of reasons why Business Leaders seek the support of an Executive Coach or Mentor either independently or through an organisation like Vistage.

I’ve been working on leadership development for over a decade through my roles at IESE Business School, Entrepreneurs Organisation and Vistage.  I’ve come across hundreds of coaches and thousands of business leaders who have benefitted from the support of a coach.

  1. I have a specific need
    1. I regularly fail to achieve results (typically in one specific area)
    2. I want something specific (a promotion, more money, get fit, better golf handicap)
    3. I am frustrated at myself and nothing seems to be working
    4. I cannot relate effectively with somebody (children, parents, boss, team mates, senior leaders, wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend)
    5. I’m having a conflict with a colleague.
    6. I am burnt out/overwhelmed and need to release some of the pressure
  2. Someone Else tells me that I Need a Coach
    1. HR assigns coaches to all senior managers
    2. HR puts me on “fast track”
    3. HR identifies me as “needs improvement” but valuable enough to make the effort
    4. My friend/wife/husband/boss has told me that I have to make changes
  3. Conditions change
    1. I have been fired or my job made redundant
    2. I start a new business
    3. I change career path or change company
    4. I need new skills for my role (public speaking, writing, leading, managing others)
  4. I am Stuck
    1. I don’t know what I want (but I know that where I am now is not it)
    2. I have been passed over for promotion
    3. I need some help advancing my career, my career trajectory has hit a plateau.
    4. I feel bored with my life
    5. I feel that my improvement has stopped in an area of passion (golf, tennis, fitness)
    6. I feel that I am missing out on life (FOMO)
  5. My Leadership is Ineffective
    1. We don’t have a strategy.
    2. It takes too long to get things done.
    3. Turnover is high.
    4. My employees do not take responsibility for results
    5. The leadership team is not moving in the same direction.
    6. I need to take my Leadership Team or my Board to the next level.
  6. I want to “Win”
    1. I want to achieve something that will give me a sense of winning
    2. I want to increase my life challenge, I want to avoid complacency
  7. I want to be Inspired
    1. I wish to experience an excellent role model
    2. I want to see how you coach/lead me, what techniques you use
  8. I want Validation
    1. My self-worth depends greatly on external validation
    2. I lack a strong group of supportive friends
    3. I lack a trusted confidante who will be fully honest
    4. I need clear, objective and usable feedback

The Coach’s Perspective on Executive Performance

 

What about you?  Have you ever worked with a Coach?

What other situations or triggers would cause someone to see out Executive Coaching?  What is missing?  When have you sought out coaching?

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” Aristotle

There are few things more important than understanding your own personal strategic recipes for enjoying a positive, fulfilling experience of your own life.  What is a Strategic Recipe.  Let’s start with what constitutes a “strategy”.

“A Strategy is a system of producing a consistent result”. Tony Robbins

This sentence is deep.

A Strategy:

  1. is a System – repeatable, objective process
  2. of Producing – there is no strategy without action, “producing” implies that something must be done
  3. A Consistent Result – time and time, over and over again you achieve a specific outcome.

I would class these systems as “Recipes”.  A Recipe is a specific process and clear starting state (quantities of ingredients, saucepans, oven temperature, time required) that consistently delivers an outcome (delicious, tasty meal that impresses the guests).

Let’s call these effective processes Strategic Recipes.

My Strategic Recipes

Running in Nature – In my case, going for a run is a Strategic Recipe. No matter how crap and aimless that I feel before I start running (and often for the first 15 minutes of the run), by the time I have run for 20 minutes, my mental chatter starts clearing out and I start to be present in the day, in my body.  I start to reconnect to what is important for me, to the people that I want to be with today. I have (what feel like at the time) good ideas and clarity on actions that are important for today.

The gym doesn’t work the same way for me… it has to be running outside… I don’t know why this is, but that doesn’t matter…  it only matters that I have a Strategic Recipe for turning unmotivated fuzz into disciplined productive action.

Brompton with Daughter – Taking my daughter (the 2 years old one) out on the infant seat on my brompton bicycle and cycling around Barcelona is another Strategic Recipe.  It feels like a meaningful activity – and I love the way she shouts “Wheee!” and “Faster Daddy!” as we cycle.  We don’t have any real destination, but might stop off at a playground or a Starbucks along the way.  It has to be the brompton bicycle… going for a walk to the park doesn’t give me anywhere near the same positive emotion as the brompton (my daughter is also necessary… heading out alone is just a lonely loser on a bike without a destination…)

Drinking Makers Mark bourbon whisky at night is another Strategic Recipe.  (I don’t like that it is… but as I reflect I have to accept that it is…). Watching TV without the whisky makes me feel ordinary and boring.  Throw in a neat whisky and I feel like some sort of awesome sofisticated TV watcher.  Nuts.  (I don’t do this every night…  we had some alcoholism in my family and I really watch out for any regular habitual daily drinking… and stop immediately if I notice it)

Curious this…  I am sat in a Sandwichez coffee shop near my house and trying to think of the Strategic Recipes that I have in my life to achieve a positive mental state as a result…  and the recipes that I find are random…

Some other Strategic Recipes that I have:
  • Write a blog post – like just now…  20 minutes of activity and I feel that I have accomplished something for the day. They often trigger interesting comments or email dialogues with interesting people.  This adds a bit of feeling connected and significant to my day.
  • Networking on LinkedIn – I have a whole bunch of searches set up (I use the paid Sales Navigator version of LinkedIn) and I can identify a number of inspiring people that I reach out to.  My business Vistage depends on building deep, trusted relationships with a wide range of high integrity spanish CEOs.  LinkedIn is a gold mine for this.  (probably because I spent 15 years blogging, 8 years making videos and generally have what is known as a “personal brand”)
  • Cooking a Meal – I love cooking.  Gives me a sense of accomplishment, creativing and completion.  I start with raw ingredients, end with a tasty meal… all in 20 to 60 minutes.  My current favourite recipes are Thai chicken curry (yellow, green or red), Mexican fajitas or Indian curry (korma or tikka masala).  I used to love BBQ, but have lived in places where you can’t BBQ for last 4 years…  I do miss that.
  • Playing Cards with my family – they are very smart and there can be no distraction when I play… or I will be destroyed.  Tough to deal with when you are dealing with a 14 year old and an 11 year old.  But I always feel connected and intensely present during the games.  We currently play Dou-Dhi-Zou, Georgian “Stupid”, Hearts and Gin Rummy.  What other good card games are there for 3 or 4 players?
  • Watching Big Bang Theory with my older Daughter – we are on season 6… got hundreds of episodes to go.  Love the inside jokes that she and I can make based on Sheldon and team’s on screen antics.

It would be good to have a set of Strategic Recipes in our armory that allow us to meet the 6 human needs:

  1. Safety (or Certainty)
  2. Risk (or Variety)
  3. Significance
  4. Connection
  5. Growth
  6. Contribution

What are your Strategic Recipes?

I’ve been going through a 2 month period of feeling unmotivated.  I had a very busy May, June, July and it put me off balance…  I am only now noticing that I am unmotivated and would like to get more clarity and fulfillment back into my days.  I’d love your help.  What works for you?

I’d love to hear from you.  What are your Strategic Recipes?  What set of steps systematically lead you to a consistent positive feeling (through meeting in some way some of the 6 human emotional needs)?

Comments below are excellent, but more than happy to hear from you via email.

 

I was on the road for 8 hours over last 2 days, lots of podcasts.

I listened to Tim Ferriss speaking to Jason Fried.  Jason seems an interesting character – professes to have no goals as he learnt at a young age that setting and aiming at goals only served to detract from his joy of life.  I don’t think his approach works for everyone, but I do think I have something to learn from his attitude of learning to enjoy and contribute rather than focus on task completion.

One sentence really hit me as he said it:

“In schools, you don’t learn to iterate. You complete the task, you hand it in, and you are done. In life, iteration is everything.” Jason Fried

When I heard this I repeated “iteration is everything” over and over for a few miles… because I completely agree.  Why am I good at giving a speech?  Iteration.  I get to speak hundreds of times every year.  Writing?  this blog.  I write hundreds of posts, edit them, improve them, republish them… each iteration is a slight improvement.

There is a story from Toyota in the 1980s.  Globally they decided to implement an employee suggestion scheme, but they left it up to each national leadership team to decide how to implement the scheme.

In the US, the leadership decided to pay 2% of the value of the change once implemented.  Imagine you are working on the factory floor of a Toyota plant in US.  What type of ideas are you looking for?  You will get 2% of the value of the change…  big ideas, huge ideas!

In the US they received an average of 1.5 ideas per employee of which less than 10% were actually implemented.

In Japan, the leadership decided to pay $50 for every idea.  Imagine you are there on the floor of the Japanese factories.  What type of ideas are you looking for?  Small ideas, little improvements, anything that slightly improves the efficiency or quality of life of the factory.

In Japan, they received an average of 55 ideas per employee, of which around 70% were implemented.  Within 2 years the Japanese operations were so much more efficient that they took the new Japanese operations and re-implemented them around the world.

Iteration is Everything

All excellence is from iteration. World class musicians play a piece hundreds of times with small improvements (or just changes) with each iteration. Sports is repetitive. My speaking is repetitive.

What piece of old writing could you dust off and improve 1% and produce a new iteration?  What skill could you focus 5 minutes each day on iteration?  What animal have you always wanted to be able to draw… draw a bad version today and iterate every day for the next month…

How to practice iteration… Check out this from Jason The Writing Class I’d Love to Teach

This video is from Bilbao in front of the Guggenheim Museum. I was in Bilbao for the launch of Vistage in the region.

In my courses I often have participants who hate following standard processes. Sometimes this is a good thing. When you decide to break the rules, you better do your homework and preparation so that what you deliver is excellent. Too often, “creative” people break the rules of structure… but don’t do the necessary work to be excellent in delivery.

If you liked this video, you might also like Performance Excellence: Deliberate Practice and the 3 Models of Mastery and Self Discipline will make you a Better Leader.

“To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with Spring” George Santayana

I spent most of this week in Ireland teaching at UCD Smurfit Business School and then running a corporate event at Croke Park.  This week’s video is from Croke park – you can see in the background they are getting set up for the Rolling Stones concert.

If you are only happy in spring, you’ve limited your state of wellbeing to less than 25% of life.  Life comes with seasons.  It is best to learn to take the best from each of these seasons.

My dad often said “A leader should never waste a good crisis”.  The winter is when you can get people to change their habits.  When a company is growing and all is going well, you won’t get change easily.  When the company is struggling, competition is fierce, the winds are howling… people are hungry for changes.

Often the roots of new success are planted during the winter moments of our lives.