An Important Lesson in Self-Reflection

In helping others to create the best businesses possible, one key ingredient for high levels of success (as I preach to my clients), is radical responsibility. The following is a story about how I recently failed to do just that.

What does radical responsibility mean? It means accepting that you have 100% control of your choices and responses in any and every moment of your day, week and life. And because you have that level of control over your responses, you also have a massive amount of influence on the outcomes you generate. Those outcomes may not always come about in the ways you imagine or the timeframe you intend, but given the unlimited choices you have to achieve your outcomes, their achievement is arguably always achievable.

This concept is easy to understand but can start to get grey in situations where the triggering event appears to be out of your control. This is particularly true when attempting to keep your cool in stressful situations, or remaining level-headed in heated conversations loaded with (what you perceive to be) untrue accusations.

I recently had the gift of experiencing the latter. And, after days of reflection, my immediate response to the event floored me.

After having a disagreement with someone in my life, I managed to develop a story that completely justified my response and pointed blame (or at least 80% of it) on the other person involved. Now, if you ask most people, I’m pretty sure they will tell you I am a person that does take personal responsibility for my life and outcomes. And given I am the guy who helps others do the same to grow their businesses, I pride myself on walking the talk. My self-identity is a person who takes 100% responsibility. And that was part of the problem. Because I was so sure of myself, I was blind to the reality.

And it got worse. Perhaps, deep down I knew the story I was telling myself was not based in truth, I don’t know, but I subsequently looked for some ‘sounding boards’ to make sure I was not missing something. Yet, upon reflection, the ‘sounding boards’ I chose were people who I knew would take my side. When explaining the situation, my language made it appear like I was taking responsibility but truthfully, I flavoured it (unconsciously) in a way that the response I always got from them was ‘it sounds like you are doing the right thing’ which further justified and supported my story. A sure danger sign that I willingly ignored.

I don’t know why I did this, but some days later I called another ‘sounding board.’ But this one was different. Perhaps I was now ready to find the truth. Brad is also a business coach, and our relationship is such that we hold each other to the highest standard in the toughest of times (and we’ve both been through a few). We never let each other off the hook. So, how do you think this call went?

Brad asked a few probing questions and reflected back some of the things I was saying and in short, gave me the lens of radical responsibility. What I saw was enlightening. The truth was that regardless of the other person’s behaviour (of which I have no control) I always have control over the story I tell myself, and subsequently, my emotional response.

While the other person’s behaviour had triggered anger within me, that trigger was mine to own. My ego did not want to admit this, nor did it want to accept that I needed to do some work and look at myself.

So here’s what happened:

When I next met up with this person, there was hostility in the air. I took a deep breath and reminded myself of the decision I had made to take radical responsibility. I reminded myself that I have complete control over how I handle this and how I handle this will have a massive impact on the outcome. I knew I wanted a great relationship with this person, so I needed to stay focused on that and park my ego. The long-term relationship was way more important than the short-term fix of feeding my ego with the need to be ‘right’ (which was always in question anyway).

That first conversation went was something like this:

Me – “We don’t need to talk in depth about what happened if you don’t want to but I do want to share some reflection I’ve had over the past week. I see now that the response I chose in the moment was not fair. And the things you had said to me that fuelled my response do have truth in them. I can see now that I had created stories in my mind that made me feel justified in my behaviour and put me in the ‘right.’ While your behaviour had triggered a response in me, that is my trigger to own. Your behaviour is not the issue here. You have my word that I am now conscious of what happened in me and am committed to working on it. I also apologise for hurting you, which I have clearly done. That was never my intention.”

Them – “Thank you for that but I’m not innocent either.”

Me – “That is for you to judge. All I know is what I need to own and work on.”

It took a lot of work to get me to the point where I was not concerned about trying to change the other person’s behaviour. Before this incident, I really felt it needed to change. The work I did in the week between the event and the reconciliation allowed me to let go of that need and just focus on what was going on inside my own head. The decision to do this was relieving and energising. I no longer had the pressure to try and change something that I could not control.

This situation is still current for me so I can’t tell you how it ends. What I do know is that communication moving forward will be completely different because now instead of needing the other person to be a certain way so I can stay in control emotionally, I am conscious to the fact that I hold the power over my emotions. It may need some different tactics from time to time to get the result I want, but that is still all within my control and I know the next interaction with this person will hold a completely different energy.

I recently had a conversation with a good friend, and we were philosophising over the concept of being comfortable with uncertainty. and the danger of certainty in some situations. My recent experience speaks to that. When I was certain on my story, it prevented self-awareness.

Always be willing to ask “how am I contributing to this?” “What don’t I see or know?”, “What am I assuming to be true that may not be?”

To finish up with some practical tools, the best reading I’ve done on this subject is a book called ‘Crucial Conversations.’ Having the tools is helpful, but having the ability to park your ego is also sometimes the greatest challenge. I know it is for me.

Good luck.

8 Critical Questions to Ask Your Business-Self Before 2018

For all you ‘A type’ business owners out there, how many of you (like me, many times) find yourselves always charging from goal to goal in the pursuit of evermore? You know where this is leading right? The power of taking some time out to ask critical questions and reflect on what ‘has been’ is a very powerful way of making sure the future you are about to create is:

  1. the future you want, and
  2. that you are going to go about it in the best way you know how.

I was sitting down with a new client last week, and he told me about his annual ritual of taking a step back, looking at what he’s accomplished, looking at where he is relative to the plan he created and asking the question “Am I going to keep doing this for another year?”. The ‘this’ in his case is his business. While you may or may not be open to the option to ‘stop running your business,’ it’s an empowering notion to consciously realise you have the choice. Yes, there may be consequences, but you still have the choice. More importantly, taking the time to ask reflective questions (hopefully insightful ones), is a healthy practise that the best business owners consistently adopt.

This year, I crafted a list of questions. They are based on some I’ve used previously and are designed to extract from my mind the lessons and best practises I’ve encountered over the past 12 months (or 40yrs for that matter). Knowing if I bring these thoughts forward to my conscious, I can then proactively apply them moving forward. Let me share them with you.

Reflection:

  1. Looking back over the past 12 months what were the greatest wins for my business?
    • What were the actions, relationships or events that led to these wins?
    • If I had to bottle this as a recipe, what would be the key ingredients?
  2. Looking back over the past 12 months what were the greatest wins for my personal life?
    • What were the actions, relationships or events that led to these wins?
    • If I had to bottle this as a recipe, what would be the key ingredients?
  3. What were my main points of focus over the past year?
  • Given where I am now:
    • which of those would I consider to have been worthwhile?
    • which were possibly a waste of time?
  1. What should I have quit sooner?
    • In hindsight, what are the signs I might have seen (if I knew what to look for) that could have led me to this decision sooner?
  2. What should I have put more effort into? How could I have known to do so earlier?
  3. Looking at all this, what are the biggest lessons of the past year.
    • How can I apply them moving forward?
    • Who can help me?
  4. How do I currently see my SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats)
  5. Is my 3-5yr vision still relevant? What changes do I want to make?
    • Looking at my 3-5 year vision, what are my one-year goals.

I find it best to ponder these over a glass of wine – it tends to loosen my creativity ????

Enjoy the questions and more importantly be sure to apply what you learn from answering them…and if you need someone to bounce those ideas off – we’re always ready. Reach out HERE

Business Lessons From the Bike Trail #3

Sometimes, even in leisure – things don’t always go as planned. In our third installment of Business Lessons from the Bike Trail we talk about some quick and easy ways to ensure you are preparing for a successful day – no matter what comes your way.

A Better Alternative to New Years Resolutions

Most people acknowledge that New Year’s resolutions rarely work, so why do we keep making them? Is it a moment of drunken utopia that makes us believe that this year is going to be different?
The truth is, Jan 1st is just another day in the calendar. There is nothing magical about it. I know that sounds a bit deflating. Sure, it comes with the perception that you get a clean slate (and I’m all for taking advantage of that) but that is it. So why do we think a ‘resolution’ is going to work on Jan 1st vs. any other date on the calendar?
The reason most resolutions don’t work is because there is no emotional substance behind them. The plan to go to the gym and workout 4 times a week takes some serious dedication. Most people won’t do it because it requires a massive change in habits and the payoff is not entirely clear. The gym resolution is based more out of pain and fear (“I look like crap in front of a mirror”) vs passion and excitement.
My goal here is to give you a more concrete strategy to make your business and your life better
There are three things that must exist for a plan to be well executed. They are:
  1. Emotional leverage.
  2. Tools and skills.
  3. Visibility / Accountability.
(note: I’m now talking about plans and not resolutions. And the first ingredient to make a plan work is to actually have a plan ????. I’m not going to be talking about how to create your plan here. For more on that topic read my post creating 90-day plans or the importance of planning)
Emotional Leverage – is the ‘why’ behind your plan.
Why do you want it?
What is it going to do for you?
How important is that to you?
Your answers to these questions must add up and offset the level of difficulty in sticking to your plan. In other words if you are not really clear on the payoff, you are likely to quit or fall off the plan as you come up against obstacles. If the pain of not achieving your goal is less than the pleasure from hitting your goal … you’ll quit every time.
The way I do this, is I get my wife and kids involved in setting our family goals. Then together we work to build our vision board (a board with pictures representing the things we want to ‘be’, ‘do’ and ‘have’). These are both individual and family based. One of the ‘have’ items on our vision board right now is a pool in our backyard. And every other night or so, as we are putting the kids to bed, we role play how it would be to have the pool, like it is already there. During this process we get a feeling that builds within us. It’s an excitement and it give me fuel during the day when I’m going about executing my plan. Believe me, having your kids asking daily “how’s the pool coming along Dad?” is potent fuel for action.
Does it work. Hell yes. I’m using it right now. For me, writing like I’m doing here, is one of those tasks that will easily fall on the procrastination pile. So to make it happen I think of my kids playing in the pool. It makes me move!
Tools and skills – when you are awesome at something, it is much more fun to do. Simply because it is easy. So to make executing on your plan easier, get better at the things on your plan. The more you invest in your own education and betterment, the easier life becomes. The question to answer is – “what 2 or 3 skills are going to be critical to this plan succeeding”. Then develop some methods for improving (reading books, practice, attending a course etc). Just think, if you invested in improving 1 or 2 skills every 90-days, how much could you improve over the course of a year? What about 5yrs? Oh yeh … this is where the gold really lies.
Visibility and Accountability – Even if you have strong emotional leverage and you have all the tools and skills you need to be successful, sometimes we just don’t make the best choices with our time. (i.e. we get distracted – it happened to me yesterday as I passed too close to a bike shop and I got sucked right in ???? ) and caught up in things that are not key to our progress.
My suggestion for you here is have your goals and key activities clearly posted where you can see them. I use my 90-day plan format and have it posted on my wall in my office. Our family vision board is where we eat every meal. It is all front and centre so it’s very hard to forget. I also take tasks from my 90-day plan and have them posted right in my calendar so I know exactly what I’m supposed to be working on and when. My last tool is one I call ‘The Sales Game’ and it is a points system based on certain activities I know need to be done to grow my business. It sits on my desk and is very obvious. It serves as a constant reminder as of what I should be working on.
Having someone you are accountable to also helps. You really should have others involved in your plan anyway so it becomes easy for others to see what should be getting done. I’m not a big fan of people checking in on me (I know when I’m behind, having people ask me just pisses me off). What works for me is making commitments to people. I really feel bad when I don’t keep my commitments. Know what form of accountability works for you and use it to your advantage. Want an app solution? Check out www.coachme.com
Some things to remember before you run off – executing on an idea is way harder than coming up with the idea. Sticking with a plan is way more important than having the perfect plan. Use these tools and strategies to truly make this your best year. I’d love to hear your success stories. Email me [email protected]

Are you Ignoring a Better Version of Yourself?

The great thing about the world we live in, is that we don’t need to look too far to find out where we need to improve. All around us, the world is giving us feedback which can guide us on the actions and decisions which will generate a better business and a better life.

In the world of business the feedback comes from our customers, suppliers, website, comments on your blog (or lack of – see below), bank account etc. In your personal life, it may be a spouse, your kids, your friends, acquaintances…

Now the trick to this feedback is that it may not be coming to you in an obvious way. In fact it may not be given to you directly at all. More often than not you have to actively look for it. It might be in what someone is not saying or what is not happening as much as what is.

This is not a complicated science. You don’t need a degree to be able to translate and decipher it. But you do need to be aware and in tune with the people and events around you.

Take for instance your spouse. Are they smiling at you, giving you non-verbal cues that they feel loved, or are they distant and detached? Are your customers giving you referrals, written testimonials? Are they haggling about price or are they willing to pay a little more based on the value they perceive?

It is common to see this kind of feedback as one-off events or something that’s beyond our control. In fact, the reverse is true. Every event around us is a reflection of us. It’s a reflection on how we think, on the quality of our actions, and it’s a reflection on the value we are creating.

One of my favorite feedback mechanisms is the bank account. Now money is not the only measure, I realise that, but in the world of business it is a critical measure and one that does not lie. It is hard to say you are doing well if your account is empty. And if the account is healthy, it may be an indicator you are on the right track

Another favourite mechanism it to look at your team. Do you have long term employees or is there constant turnover? Have you investigated the reasons for turnover? Is there as much smiling in your workplace as you’d like to see. This feedback is more subte but equally meaningful.

The lesson (and I’m writing this as much for myself as for you) is to conduct life and business with our eyes open. Receive the information and feedback that we are getting from even the non-obvious sources. And use it to create positive change within ourselves that will inevitably bring positive change in our businesses and lives.

Feature Image Source: Flikr/Peter

Are You Feeling Dangerous or Defeated?

When you experienced your most recent success—think back to how you were feeling leading up to that event.

Were you feeling skeptical, afraid, or tentative? Or were the feelings more like ‘confident, excited, anticipation’?

It might sound like a silly question. You might be thinking “well of course I was feeling good”.

Well, the next question is “How important were those feelings in creating those successes?”

This second question might be harder to answer, but in my experience, most people acknowledge that when you feel good and are thinking positive, good and positive things happen. Think to a time recently when you met with someone who was trying to influence you in some way (you shouldn’t need to think too hard, we are always trying to influence each other in same way), how did their energy (an outward projection of how they are feeling internally) affect how you felt about them and what they were communicating? Did it affect you? Of course it did. It always does. You tend to get a ‘feeling’ about someone or a concept. How much you tune into that feeling will vary from person to person, but there is always a level of subconscious intuition going on.

The same goes for you. How you feel and think affects how others feel about you and how they are influenced by what you are communicating. Whether you are working on developing a team member, or trying to put a deal together, how you feel in the moment has a massive impact.

One of the philosophies I train my clients on is this:

Your Results = (Your Skillset x Your Mindset x Your Activity Level) x Your Current State.

This overriding variable in results is how you are feeling in the moment. So here’s my question to you: How do you need to be feeling to maximise the chance for success? And how do you check on this and manage it to work for you?

Here’s how I do it:

Each morning and throughout the day, I ask myself the simple question ‘Am I feeling Dangerous or Defeated?’ These are obviously words that resonate with me, but you get the idea. If the answer to that question is not “Dangerous” (meaning I’m ready to blast through brick walls) then I’ve got a few rituals I use to get into that state. I’m not always looking for a 10/10 on Dangerous scale but I definitely want to be at an 8 or higher.

If I come back with a 7 or below, here are my go-to actions to boost me up a few notches:

  • Revisit my vision and why I’m doing what I’m doing. This is by far the most powerful and sustaining of all the strategies. Keep in mind, this will only work for you if you are extremely clear on your vision (what you are working to create) and why you are doing it. See Simon Sinek’s TED talk ‘Start with WHY’ to learn more about this.
  • Review my plan. Similar to the point above, but my plan is a shorter timeframe (3-12 months) vs. my vision, which is years out.
  • Think about how I want to be remembered by my kids. This is another plan that is similar to the first point. It is a real motivator for me.
  • Exercise. This can vary between a full workout or a 5 minute walk. Usually the secret is to get the blood moving and get out from in front of the computer screen.
  • Listen to something inspiring or educational. I love listening to interviews with successful people. I also have some go-to audio books and books that lift me up a couple of notches. If you’d like some recommendations, comment below or email me [email protected]
  • Coffee. Notice this one’s down on the list. For me, if I’m in a low mental state and I have coffee, sometimes it can just make the negative thoughts happen faster (not good), so this one is used more if my energy feels sluggish. Again, not one I aim to be dependent on.

If you’ve got some strategies to add here, I’d love to hear them. Comment below and share your own successes and strategies.

Make it a great day!