Monday, October 29, 2012

Stopping Worrying

What would we all do if we just stopped worrying ? Because if you think about it, what we spend most of our time doing is worry about things that may or may not happen. Let me ask another question, how is that working for you ? Does your worry actually make a difference ? Or do things just seem to happen on their own anyway ?

If you have done any reading around the power of thinking (authors like Dr Wayne Dyer or if you are more scientifically minded, Gary Zukov or my favourite Esther Hicks), you will know that what you think about expands. Which means in effect, you create what you are worrying about..

It is not possible to expect a habit that has been entrenched over a lifetime to just disappear, but there is something you can do about it.

1) Find that balance between being in this present and holding your vision in the present.

Conflict arises when you are in conflict with what is and what you would like it to be. The trick (and it really does seem to be a trick) is to accept where you are without struggle and also keep the energy of where you want to be present.

2) Shift your focus, from what is absent to what it would feel like with ‘it’ present

If you are worrying, you are focusing on something not happening. Shift your focus to the future and really see and feel yourself in that future moment. Stop focusing on it not happening and focus on it happening, how will you feel then. What does that moment look like, how does it unfold ?

3) Accept it not happening

Because it may not! Be comfortable with it not happening by having a strategy in place to manage that situation. Then you can let go of worrying and start creating. Accepting that it may not happen does not mean giving up. It means you need to rethink your strategy. If this approach does not work, move on, and find another strategy but the only way to move on is accept that sometimes things don’t happen exactly as we envisage. You need to be flexible.

4) Be flexible and use what you have

By letting go of HOW something should happen you allow it to happen. Stop worrying about the how and instead, pay attention to what is happening now. Ask yourself how this helps you and start to use the opportunities that are there yet you never see because you are so focused on the how you have in your head.

5) Step into your fear by taking the time to put down ALL the consequences of your choice.

Worry is the fear that something you desperately want won’t happen and the fastest way I know to move past fear is to consciously acknowledge understand every consequence. We are never trained to see consequences because we are told that thinking about what could go wrong makes it happen. Poppycock. Things go wrong and the people who manage those events best are the ones who took the time to think about what would happen if. In deep diving this is often the difference between surviving or dying.

6) If you can’t trust the people around, trust yourself

We control because we don’t trust others. We worry because we think that if we don’t, it won’t happen. But, if you trust yourself (which means you have taken the time to be prepared, have a plan in place for any consequence and have given yourself permission to learn), then you can let go and focus on what is happening. In diving, the moment you submerge is the moment you stop worrying about it, because now it is too late. That is the moment you start living it. When was the last time you stopped obsessively worrying and thinking about your vision and instead lived it!

Letting go of worrying feels uncomfortable. It feels like you are deluding yourselves, but here is how I made peace with it. Would I rather be happy in this moment and not get what I was hoping for, or would I rather be miserable in this moment and still not get what I was hoping for. If you are still not convinced how about this, your thoughts create your reaction to events and by now you should know how you react to something is often the difference between a successful or disastrous outcome. If you are focused on what you want to happen you will not jump to the wrong conclusions, instead you will be firmly linked to the present, working on using what you have to create what you want. It is the most empowering place to be and one that every leader I have met instinctively knows.

PRACTICE ! Take an hour, a day, or even a week and find out what happens when you let go of worrying! You have nothing to lose, after all, you can always go!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mastering Work – Creating High Performing Teams and Individuals (Why Context creates Performance, not Training)

As an individual striving to succeed in the world of ‘big corporate’ I have become obsessed with finding that ‘x’ factor that differentiates high performing teams and individuals. My natural tendency is to want to perform and perform well (if not better than my peers), which has been very difficult to accomplish in the world large corporate. I could have given up and just blended into the corporate background but that is not in my nature either. It has to be possible to succeed, after all, I have a world record, how hard can success in a corporate really be compared to that ? At this point you would have thought I had learnt my lesson. When I started my world record journey the question that drove me was, yes, you guessed it, how hard could it be ? Then again, I had no experience in creating exceptional success, so this time should be a whole lot easier.
In diving I took a lot of time to understand the environment I was in and then to correlate what people did to service that environment and understand what they were doing and why. In diving it was easy because the environment was almost exclusively physical, at work, well the environment is not that simple. In diving I also never had to worry about other people’s performance or impact on my success, not so in the work place. So what causes a lack of performance in the work place ? As if often the case, a book gave me an answer that really connected for me and that book was ‘How Nasa Builds Teams (Pellerin).
Pellerin refers to another book (that is not on Kindle, I hate it when that happens) by Stolovich and Keeps (2004) - Training ain’t Performance, where the cause of performance in the workplace is linked to environmental rather than individual factors. The context then in which individuals find themselves is therefore the key aspect that defines performance. Their research indicates that 80 % of team performance is associated to environment (context) with individuals’ abilities only contributing about 20% of the time. Which basically means that training ain’t going to fix your problem, managing the context will.
Even more thought provoking was the finding that context/ environment drives behaviour and in fact modifies it, which can turn a high performing individual into a non-performing individual just through consistent exposure to the behaviour norms within an environment. We all know unconsciously that context drives behaviour because we do it all the time. How you behave at a dinner when your in-laws are there, or your boss or your best friend or it is your bachelor/ ette party are all different with the different contexts clearly defining your behaviour. This control of an individual’s behaviour is managed by the participants in the environment, with people who do not ‘conform’ sanctioned until they do.
Malcolm Gladwell makes a compelling argument that our character has more to do with environment/ context than who we are innately. He states that the reason most of us seem to have a consistent character is that most of us are really good at controlling our environment”. Corporates are even better at controlling behavior through a mechanism Pellerin calls normalization of deviance.  This is what happens where bizarre behavior that even the individuals exhibiting it would consider inappropriate outside the workplace, is completely appropriate and propagated within.
Now take all that and apply it to your workplace.  You are either in an environment that supports high performance or you are not! No amount of training will change that as it is the environment and not the skills that are creating the non-performance, and as training is what companies do to create change, you are now stuck in ground hog day… with the people around you exerting enormous pressure for you to behavior just like them, no matter how destructive that may be.
So what do you do ? I fundamentally believe that individuals have the power to create change (even when stuck in a world of instituitionalised disempowerment), which means that I do not believe in sitting back and letting some-one else fix the environment I am in. As an individual I am empowered and I can make a difference through who I am and how I behave. If the problem is create by environment and context, I can start to actively change the environment toward something that would support my vision (in this case, high performance). Focusing on environment is something that is  outside my nexus of control, which leaves me with one last tactic - consciously managing my behavior by choosing a ‘self’ that does not change based on context. By becoming more authentic I become part of an environment that supports high performance instead of becoming part of an environment that creates non-performance. I also am operating within my nexus of control, which means that I am fundamentally more at peace and more confident with who I am and whilst that may not matter to my company, it certainly matters to me.
There is a warning that I must attach to the concept of choosing who you are and so how you will act and behave - especially when you find yourself in an environment where conforming is required – it can create huge conflict if managed incorrectly. Then again, think back to those rare managers who have walked into a team and fundamentally turned it around through a combination of who they are, how they behave and how they manage the context. Sometimes, all it takes is one person with a strong vision of how it could be. Sometimes, that person is you!

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Lonely Road - Turning a ‘No!‘ into a YES!

I stumbled on a new TV program last night called, ‘Peter Jones – How we made our millions’. Peter Jones is well known to Dragons’ Den fans and as a permanent fan of people who ‘stand out’, I watched the show with mild interest, only to be stunned at the level of honesty and exposure that was hardly normal in a documentary of that nature. Two quotes popped for me, the first by one of last nights, entrepreneurs, Richard Reed  really encapsulate what explorers do, they turn a world of No’s, into a  ‘Yes’ and the second was observation about what it feels like to walk that road – very lonely which is definitely a feeling I could relate to.
It is indeed lonely being an explorer. You are outside the known limits, outside of the comfort zones of all but a few people which means there is very little external approval or support, both  of which are things that most of us are born to seek. I often found myself ‘seeing’ my journey as a road that stretched out into oblivion with me, the only pilgrim anywhere in sight. Some days I  would wonder if I was even sane ? Was it really worth it ? Maybe I should go back to that well beaten path where I at least would have company ? I would return for a while and surround myself with the constant barrage  of No, No, No until it irritated me so much I would head back out and look for another way to turn that No into a Yes.
Because that is really all that a world record holder or successful entrepreneur does, challenge the reasons why something is not possible and look for a way to turn that resounding  No into a Yes! How do they do that ? With their persistence, their creativity and their ability to let go of who they are and become who they need to be to get to that Yes! Think about it. When you are in a negotiation/ discussion how often do you find yourself letting go of what you want just to be right ? But, if you were really serious about getting what you wanted, would you not let go of being right or start to listen to the person opposite you so that you could understand his position and how you could both  move closer to yours ?
Next time you find yourself stopping dreaming because the prevailing opinion is, “No! That is not possible! “ and you can not find a single person who believes in your dream, relax and remember, lonely is normal. Then start to focus on exactly how to get from where you are to where you want to be.
Let go of everything else! Let go of your ego! Challenge your beliefs! Get creative but don’t stop until you have turned that No into a Yes!