I think it might be.
You might not agree but I feel that the next few minutes could have a profound effect upon your life.
Why are you successful sometimes and not at others? Why do you have periods when you are you happy with your lot and at other times not? Why do you feel like everything is on track and at other times you feel your life is off the rails?
Welcome to the world of personal drivers.
If your drivers are being met you will be more successful and happier because your internal needs are being satisfied. It’s about what you need as a person but at a very deep level – it’s not about the next pay rise or holiday abroad or 10 minute mile.
So what use are they in the real world?
When you need to make a decision simply assess which of the available options best feeds your drivers and then choose that one. It’s more likely to be the right choice for you.
We enjoy doing those things that meet our drivers so we do them longer, harder and better leading to even more success.
When things aren’t going well for you or you just feel a bit cheesed off with your lot check which are of your drivers are not being fed and it will give you some idea of how to fix your situation.
Here’s the bad news though: that’s pretty much all I can give you because it’s not my field. However, I do have a couple of suggestions which should help you to at least begin discovering your drivers. Before that though here are mine (he said laying himself bare before his readers).
These caused me to like squash more than water polo; become obsessed with programming (won a nationwide prize for it!); take up bricklaying as a hobby but preferred using recycled bricks; built a successful recruitment business in the 90′s but failed to do the same again in the naughties and finally to end up as a business development consultant.
- I need to be in a place of discovery: I like new things: challenges; people; places and experiences. I can’t stand the status quo for any length of time.
- I need to be on a journey: I like it when I know where I’ve been, where I am now and where I’m going. I need to be on a mission; a man-with-a-plan.
- I need to make things that work: building something that, when it’s complete, actually does something really hits the spot for me.
- I need to renovate and improve: I like to take something that doesn’t work very well and reinvigorate it so that it does.
- I need recognition and to be valued: I’m not proud of this but I need external validation such as being paid for what I do, having my achievements recognised and affirmation that I am good at what I do. I see this a weakness in myself.
- I need to be good at what I do: If I can’t be good, or better yet great, at something I’m not interested in doing it.
- I need to leave a legacy: it’s like “Mike Ames was here”. Leaving my mark on whatever I am involved with.
Underpinning these drivers is my Foundation driver that has to be in place all the time: -
- I need familiarity and security: I absolutely have to have my back to the wall. Mrs Ames says that’s why we’re still married after 30 years when my drivers would suggest that I should have been a flighty piece. I think she’s right.
So all I can offer you is chapter 5 on needs, passions and talents in Stephen Covey’s otherwise less than inspiring book The 8th Habit of Highly Effective People. Not worth buying it for that though – borrow a copy if you can.
Alternatively, you could make a list of everything that you were successful at and enjoyed (the two usually go hand-in-hand) and another that you were terrible at and hated. Start from your earliest recollections (our drivers don’t really change) and come to the present time.
Then look for common needs being met/ignored in each list; it takes time (about 9 months in my case) but you will find them. Then you can test them out by taking situations and seeing whether your drivers were being met or not. Keep reiterating this cycle of observation and testing and eventually you will arrive at an accurate definition of what drives you. Well worth the investment of time and effort if you ask me.
Find your drivers and it will change how you make decisions and ultimately how happy and successful you’ll be.
So was it the most important post I’ve ever published I wonder?
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
A guest post from the very free-thinking Tony Barton: coach, speaker (to naked people; ask him not me) and writer.
It doesn’t make sense.
Bright people, like you and me, are working so hard we’re burning out, trying to keep up with an office that’s open all hours. It’s a hopeless task we can never win – or can we?
I’ve been fascinated by this subject of burn out for the past year because I see it wherever I go in my job as a leadership trainer and coach – and the smell of burning is overpowering, it’s time someone sounded the alarm.
What frustrates me is that everyone knows the answer to this problem – it’s called working smarter not harder. So how come the majority of people ignore this simple mantra? We’ve all read Covey’s ‘Seven Habits Of Highly Effective people’ haven’t we? And if you haven’t read that one you can always try any one of the other 251,000 self-help books listed on Amazon, any one of them would work if you actually did what they say.
And here’s another thing that makes me mad.
If any of you read ‘The 5 Regrets Of The Dying’ last year, you’ll recall that spending more time at work wasn’t one of them. What people actually regret at the end of their lives is missing out on the simple things in life, time spent with friends and family, having the courage to be yourself – and all that touchy feely stuff. When was the last eulogy you heard that remarked on the deceased’s incomparable ability to hit his KPI’s?
My point is it doesn’t make sense – we all know that the way we are allowing ourselves to work these days is simply not sustainable.
The real problem is that we love our work too much!
Work is a great drug; it provides us with so much of what we need in life…reward, challenge, sense of achievement, purpose, friends, fun and more besides – but as we know, at the end of the day, work is important but it’s not really what life is about – is it?
Maybe it is – it’s up to us to choose.
But if it’s not – what is the answer?
Well you could read one of those hundreds of books on working smarter – but we know that won’t make any difference, so what else can you do?
I suggest you start talking about it.
You know, start talking about just how crazy it is to be working 12 hour days on a regular basis, talk about how hard it is for you to turn off and get a decent night’s sleep, talk about how exhausted you are when you get home, so tired that you have no time or energy left for your loved ones, talk about your fear of not keeping up with the pace, talk about the fear of failing, talk about how little time you have these days for your hobbies or your friends.
Conversations change the world, one conversation at a time.
I call these courageous conversations, because that’s what they are and it’s about time we started to have them with the people that matter; your colleagues at work; your boss; your partner; your friends – and most importantly of all, isn’t it time you had a courageous conversation with yourself about how you plan to live your one wild and precious life?
Now there’s an interesting conversation starter.
Tony Barton is a first rate life and business coach who I have used myself with some great results. He is one of life’s great characters and God knows these days we don’t have enough of them.
Check out his Red Kite world to see his corporate offerings and slide over to his Burn-out site if you feel life should be more than long hours and stress (by the way his Red Kite e-newsletter is well worth a read too).
So here they are; my top 10 TED videos and the reasons why you should check them out. Just on the off-chance that you don’t know what TED is it’s like YouTube for grown ups where the contributors are invited to contribute. Video clips tend to be less than 20 minutes and covering an eclectic mix of subjects – at home we often watch TED instead of the TV!
Read on if you want to be educated, inspired or just plain entertained. Beware though: TED can lead to addiction issues!!!!!!!
1. Steve Jobs – Stanford Address -
The inimitable Mr Jobs is speaking at a Stanford University graduation ceremony. He recounts three different parts of his life each offering at least one important message but beyond that these episodes provide a fascinating insight into what made the great man tick. Seriously it nearly moves me to tears every time I watch it.
2. Simon Sinek – why do people buy from you -
Sinek recounts some real-life examples (again one of them being Apple) of how people buy what you believe above all else. If you have to persuade people or sell to them as part of your job this brief clip WILL make a difference. I changed the way I present what I do after I watched it.
3. Sir Ken Robinson – Killing creativity -
I’ve seen Sir Ken speak live and he never fails to entertain, educate and perhaps most importantly make you contemplate. Here he is talking about creativity especially in kids but you can relate to what he says no matter what you do or how old you are. Particularly relevant if you have kids at school I might add.
4. Derek Sivers – Starting a movement -
Sivers narrates a video clip of somebody who starts an extraordinary movement at a pop festival, of all places, and then draws lessons that anybody who wants to be a wow on the internet will want to learn. Want to grow a community? Well check this out. Also it really is fascinating to watch the community form before your eyes.
5. Malcom Gladwell on Spaghetti Sauce -
Ever wondered why some people prefer one product over another? Could this help you to promote your offering to better effect? I think so and the way Gladwell achieves it is by recounting how the perfect spaghetti sauce was developed; or not as the case may be.
6. Sheena Iyengar – How to make choices easier -
When I watched this clip for the first time I was struck by the simplicity of Iyengar’s argument: put some effort into the way you build features and choices into your offerings and the way you present them to your clients. Love it!
7. Niall Ferguson – the 6 killer apps of prosperity -
You may have seen the TV programme but either way this is a great talk which explores a) why the west was so successful in growing powerful and rich nations even though it started later than the east and b) why the east is now overtaking the west. Very thought-provoking and ingeniously presented by using the modern concept of Apps but for nations.
8. Nigel Marsh – how to make work-life balance work -
One of the biggest challenges we face in the modern world is getting balance in our lives: how much time for work; how much for our friends and families and how much special time do we need for ourselves? A relatively easy question to answer you’d think but if you can’t seem to get there (you’re definitely not alone if you can’t) then try this talk by Nigel Marsh for size.
9. Paul Gilding – the Earth is Full -
I don’t want to get into the whole green debate but wherever you stand on the subject this talk will certainly make you think. Gilding avoids the easy targets of lonely polar bears, shrinking icecaps and unusual weather patterns and comes from an angle that even made me sit up and think. If you watch it do so with an open mind – the logic behind his arguments is sound and irrefutable.
10. Cat vs Washing machine -
OK so this isn’t a TED video; I’ve watched it a hundred times and it makes me laugh every single time so go on, cheer yourself up and watch the cat who’s left his iPhone in his jeans which are now in his washing machine. One of many TRANSLATION vids by Chris Cohen.
So there you have it; my very favourite TED videos but I’m sure you’ve got loads others so please add your favourites as comments so others can share.
Vive le TED!!!
Have you heard that old expression: when you’re up to your arse in alligators it’s difficult to remember that you were hired to drain the swamp? Well, if it resonates you probably need to check your pulse because you could have already turned into a corporate zombie without even realizing it. Allow me to explain.
Have you ever watched any of those dreadful B-movies involving zombies swathed in rags and their flesh falling off their bodies limping wide-eyed and groaning towards their hapless victim? A gruesome vision, perhaps but a vivid reminder of what it’s like to work in today’s corporate world? Surely not!
Well I happen to think there is more than a passing similarity. They seem acceptant with their lot, they’re all behaving in the same way and, worse of all, they are entirely oblivious to anything except what is in front of them.
Think about it. Where do you get any thinking time these days? Years ago, before the advent of hand-held devices and email, travelling; holidays; lunchtimes and home time all belonged to you but now you are available 24/7 and, unbelievably, some people have become to expect this kind of access as the norm!
The upshot of this is no thinking time. Just like the zombies we have to concentrate on the next thing in front of us. Oblivious to all else we process that next email, take that incoming call, turn out for meetings (most of which are pointless) and stress about deadlines. Everything, it seems, is sucking our time, energy and head-space from us leaving no time to think and no time to question. Voila! We have become corporate zombies.
Well it doesn’t have to be this way.
In America there is a new concept that I would like to introduce to you called Corporate Stillness. The belief behind it is that the more senior you are in an organisation the more ”empty time” you need so that you can think, reflect and challenge the status quo – that’s how progress is made.
Apparently you can stay in a cliff-top room in the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur California where you pay extra ($2285 per night per room) for a room which does not have a TV, wifi or a mobile signal – only in America! But the reasoning is sound: you need time to think about the big idea, draining the swamp if you will.
Added to that Nicolas Carr performed a series of tests as research for his book (The Shallows) that found after spending quiet time often in rural surroundings, people “exhibited greater attentiveness, stronger memory and generally improved cognition”. In other words quiet time makes you smarter and sharper!
We all know we should be working on our business as well as in our business but if we don’t find the time it just won’t happen.
My point is this: ideas are the currency of greatness and they don’t come whilst you’re arse-deep in the corporate equivalent of snapping green monsters. Creativity and innovation need time so you simply must create some stillness in your lives otherwise you are just going to groan and limp your way through one corporate morass after another.
My advice is consider adopting the following: -
- When you go on holiday spend time before you go arranging things so you don’t have to check in every day. Give somebody access to your emails and get them to do it instead – don’t fall for the illusion of your own indispensability!
- Turn off all you mobile devices every second journey you make especially to and from work.
- Do not wear a watch or check your emails on Sundays.
So there we have it – avoid being a corporate zombie and achieve great things by showing a little back-bone; turning off your Crackberry and creating some stillness. It sure works for me.
I have found that there are three kinds of people in life: -
- Vampires – who suck the joy out of your life and the energy from your very soul. Think: negative, critical, snide, arrogant, know-it-all, taker, won’t listen, exploitative, secretive, petty – I think you get the idea.
- Vanillas – who don’t really taste of anything much and don’t have a positive or negative effect upon you. Think: John Major
- Voltages – just fill you with energy. Think: giver, listener, encourager, positive, open, honest, suggestive, fun and interesting.
Here’s another thought. What are you to other people? I’m guessing you’d like to think you’re a Voltage but are you sure? What about this for a suggestion: as you connect with people during the next week or so why not ask yourself as you finish the encounter “did I just make them feel better about themselves or worse?”. Just a bit of fun really but could be quite illuminating.
I happen to have a list of people who I see solely because they are voltages: I can’t do business with them; they won’t introduce me to anybody I can do business with; they may not have information or expertise that I want but they all lift my spirits and bring me alive.
So here’s the skinny: actively get rid of the vampires, avoid the vanillas and seek out as many voltages as you can.
What’s your ratio of vamps to volts then and what are you going to do about it?
Of course, the fruit I am alluding to are Apples (iPads or iPhones), Blackberry’s and Oranges (or any other network for that matter) and I am really talking about not using them for work purposes rather than as a way of keeping in touch with the kids at the beach.
But why would you bother?
I recently took a week off and before I went I had been wrestling with a few strategic challenges within the business. Operationally I was in good shape but I just needed some away-time to think things over at a leisurely pace – not a luxury I usually get during my normal working week.
Usually I do take along on holiday my iPhone (and was planning to slip my iPad in too this time) but I decided not to. And here’s why: -
- Mel is a first rate support person who can handle anything that comes along and if not would find a way to contact me.
- We took some time to do a proper handover.
- I am not that crucial to events that if I’m not there the world will stop.
- I need a chance to let myself empty of work before gradually reintroducing it. Step away, step away and see so much more that way!
- It’s not fair to my family – it isn’t the few minutes you spend on your emails it’s the distance it creates when you stop. You’re kidding yourself if you think it doesn’t affect them: it does.
As it turns out we were unable to fly due to a sick daughter but I took a staycation at home instead. Same rules applied and for the same reasons.
After a whole week of working in the garden, going for walks, some outings with Mrs Ames and time spent working with my youngest son on his house I had completely emptied my head of work – it wasn’t easy to keep away from the electronic office but I managed it. The results: I was utterly refreshed, eager to get back to work and had a clear way forward for each of my challenges (mostly the answers popped into my head right at the end of the week).
So next time your holidays are looming do yourself a favour and leave your work behind. Get a good support person in, do a proper handover and focus your attention on your family where it belongs.
If you do you will most likely come back much stronger, more refreshed and with more ideas than if you had been checking emails and texts every day to “keep on top of things”.
Happy holidays and let the only fruit you encounter be in a bowl at breakfast time!
Think back for a moment. When did you last come up with a really innovative and ground breaking idea? When did you solve that business problem that had been dogging you for ages? When was the last time you made a business development breakthrough? When was the last time you had a revelation about your future?
I’ll bet a pound to a penny that it wasn’t whilst you were slogging your way through your emails or on the telephone to an irate client and I am darned sure it wasn’t in a meeting. No; the kind of outcomes we have been describing come from reflective introspection in an environment that you find conducive to thought. This is called Purple Time.
The big problem with Purple Time is getting enough of it. Come to think of it, drop the Purple and apply the statement to time in general but whereas with Red Time (activity) you can use, pretty much, whatever you have available to get things done this does not apply to Purple Time. This is especially true if you have a job to do and are expected to do some business development as well.
Consider the time you spend doing activities as fast food time: get it and consume it on the hoof. But, Purple time is more like preparing a fine meal at home for someone special. The lead up to it is all important and the consumption should be considered and savoured and it should definitely not come with a deadline. “Hurry up with your creme brulee would you darling I’ve got the property team arriving in 5″. I think not!
So if you want to be more in control and have a clear idea of where you are going here are my three steps to Purple Heaven: -
- Figure out your Purple Time. It can be different for all of us. Mine used to be running but since I can no longer run it is walking. I also experience Deep Purple Time when I am driving with the radio off although I don’t recommend this as it can be highly dangerous. What were you doing when you had your last Eureka moment?
- Stack the Purple Deck. If you don’t make Purple Time it just won’t happen I’m afraid. It’s not really a matter of booking it in; I’ve yet to add an entry to my Outlook calendar that said “Experience Purple Time”. Whatever your Purple activity is make sure that you go out of your way to get some, preferably on a weekly basis.
- Write things down. If you are not very careful your special time will turn into a sort of a thinking-shop in the same way that many brainstorming sessions at work become nothing more than talking shops. This is all very well but it is the outcome we want not the experience. So, when you emerge back into a less than Purple reality write down what you came up with and, where necessary, insert some tasks into your chosen task management system. Action, action, action!
- They are very, very cool.
- The keyboard means you can actually type on it even if you have sausage fingers
- The screen size allows you to easily read A4 sized attachments without magno-vision
- It fires up in a split second. No more “I must remember that”. Flick a switch, on it comes and off you go.
- You can store lots of PDF diagrams that you can quickly use to illustrate points in a discussion.
- There is an app for anything you might want to do and they are cheap as chips (a colossal boon I find)
- The 3G feature allows you to email your meeting notes to be acted upon before you have even left the room.
- They are very portable so you tend to end up taking them everywhere instead of a heavier PC
- Connectivity to all major social media channels is simplicity itself.
- They are very, very cool (technically the same as point 1 but so important I thought it was worth a second mention)
Come on now; you know it makes sense
Most of our time belongs to somebody else: work, the kids, the other half, a list of jobs to do longer than your January credit card statement (by the way this year mine came by special delivery and was leather-bound by the bank. How sweet of them). The combined effect is that we can only exist in the here and now; dealing with what’s pressing and proximate.
So how will things change? Will these pressures suddenly go away? Children grow up and not need you any more (fat chance!), you hire a home-help, work load suddenly drops? No. The only way your situation will change is if you change it yourself.
To do this you will need to do three things: -
- Have a clear idea of how you want things to be
- Build a plan to take yourself from here to there
- Grow a pair and JBDI (just bloody do it)
The first two depend upon you finding time and I don’t mean a snatched half hour at lunchtime whilst you hoover down a sandwich and do your internet shopping at the same time. You need to enter the You-time Room. Let me describe what this looks like and then suggest how often you need to get in there.
Definition of the You-time Room: -
- You have complete control over what happens when you’re in there
- It does not allow interruptions like the telephone, emails and other people.
- You feel comfortable in it
- Ideally you can stay as long as you like; anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of weeks.
- Present day problems get left on the doormat outside.
- The room is for thinking not watching TV, slipping into the Black Hole that is social media or such similar activities.
- When you’re in there think, visualise, plan and look at the bigger picture.
A quick word on visualisation if I may. Most successful entrepreneurs, great leaders and high achievers (especially sports people) also tend to be dreamers: visionaries if you will. Mohammed Ali was trained in it!
Stephen Covey in his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” calls this sort of behaviour “the first creation”. In other words if you want something to happen you have to first spend time building the situation you want in your mind and experiencing what it would be like if it were true. Techniques for this can be found in “I can change your life in 7 days” by Paul McKenna. They are very powerful.
There are three types of stay in the You-time Room and here they are: -
- Your annual holiday. “Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag……”
- Long weekends. A caravan, a hotel (preferably), a cottage or if you are short of dosh buy a tent. Get away from work, the house and preferably the kids.
- Weekly check-in. Once a week an hour of two that you schedule and keep to. Weekends are probably your best bet.
Here’s the interesting part. I don’t need to spend any time explaining what you to do in the room; think pain of the present and fruition of the future and away you go. If you provide the right ground and climate the seeds will germinate and grow all by themselves.
If you do the thinking and the planning the JBDI becomes soooo much easier.
Change comes when we take a look at our lives and decide we want something different. To do this we need to find time to think, plan, visualise and generally get a bigger perspective on things. Each year we need a fortnight’s holiday and 4 long-weekends as the foundation with regular weekly trips to the You-Time Room scheduled in as well.
Let me leave you with this quote by Peter Drucker – “Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action”.
“The answer is YES now what is the question”. This could be the mantra for 21st century customer service and from the point of view of the customer it’s a pretty good one at that. This mentality is also becoming more prevalent in the workplace too: if somebody asks us to do something we grudgingly accept the task like a donkey shaking it’s head as another plank is added to it’s already creaking burden. One simple “yes” that takes a split second to say can cause us hours or even days of aggravation further down the line.
Before we examine the reasons for this let’s look at the two very different sides of the “always say yes” coin.
On the positive side being seen as a reliable yes-person who will take ownership of anything thrown at them has got to be a career-positive thing. Who wouldn’t want people around them who say yes all the time – wicked! Also working flat-out can be addictive for a while but like most drugs that addiction is bound to become destructive in the end.
On the negative side taking on too much means we will almost certainly under-perform by missing deadlines or quality standards. Added to this our personal stress levels will be higher than the bar staff in the student union bar – not so wicked.
But the worse thing is that we lose control over our lives. We have to work long hours to get everything done and when we’re not working we’re either thinking about work or, worse still, worrying about it. If you are cool with this then don’t waste any more time reading on (here’s a tip: read on).
OK, I admit when we start out in our career we have to put ourselves out there: work longer hours and be seen as a can-do person but if this overzealous business adolescence leads into a similarly frenetic adulthood I think it is worth taking stock. Successful people tend to work smarter not harder.
Like most things it really is all about balance. We should only take on those things that we can comfortably handle 80% of the time – we all have to put a bit of extra effort in from time to time. This is not the problem; the real issue is when working over our capacity becomes the norm. A very destructive scene indeed.
So why do we say yes too often? Well for all sorts of reasons but the four biggest ones are: -
- If we refuse we feel it will harm our career prospects or offend people
- We have some sort of personal ego thing going on where we feel we should be able to do everything
- We have no accurate idea of what we have already committed to
Let’s look at these in a bit more detail. If we work in an environment where we are expected to continually work excessive hours and saying no is career destructive I suggest that we would be better off with another employer or in another career. Worse still, if we do carry on in our corporate sweat-box we are bound to under-deliver which happens to be even more career-delimiting than saying no. Take no truck with this argument at all!
We can’t do everything and neither should we try. Get over it!
We look at the whole planning piece in the last of the series but remember this. Most bad decisions and pretty much all stress happens because people are out of control. Having a personal development tool (Outlook is more than adequate) which enables us to estimate required resources to undertake any task or responsibility we take on and the ability to reserve time in our calendars to undertake specific tasks will help us stay in control. This is not hard at all when you get the hang of it.
Habits are only broken when a) we are aware that the habit exists, b) we consciously take steps to break the habit and c) we monitor our progress having established a new, and more suitable, habit. It also helps if we can change alongside somebody else who feels the same as we do.
All well and good but what about saying “no”. Here are some approaches you may like to consider: -
- “I would love to take it on but which of these projects (showing your well maintained Outlook plan) would you like me to put back?”
- An alternative way of saying the same thing “Can you help me to plan out my workload. I am running over capacity at the moment (again you need proof of this) and if I take this on I need to know what I can let slip.”
- “That is a great opportunity but if I take it on I will not be able to give it the time and resources necessary to produce good work and as I do not like to under-perform it might be an idea to ask somebody else.”
- “I don’t think I am best suited to do that task. My skill sets lie elsewhere and I would not be able to produce the level of work that you require.”
- “Take you silly-assed problem down the hall matey”. Upon reflection use this one with care
So to round off. If you say yes all the time you are simply storing up future problems for yourself. Get control of your tasks and responsibilities so that you know what your available capacity is. Don’t be afraid to push back when asked to over-commit as you have seen you don’t have to say “no” to say “no”.
Oh, and one last thing. This counts for your personal life too. Saying yes to some kind of social thing that you know you won’t enjoy is not a good idea. Be kind, be thoughtful but above all be honest.