Saturday, August 28, 2010

Taking the chance to change what’s normal

We are not likely to know who our federal government in Australia will be for at least another two weeks. The independents who will likely hold the balance of power have asked for lots of information before they will decide who they will support, if anyone. This scenario presents a great opportunity to change what’s normal in Australian politics.

One of the independents has suggested the new cabinet should include the best people for the roles selected from both of the major parties. Most commentators have ridiculed this concept and yet in my view it is exactly the kind of idea that should be considered. After all isn’t government supposed to be about the best interests of the people? Surely of the 150 people who represent us in the House of Representatives here we could pick the best team and that wouldn’t for a moment be all from one side of the house.

Will this idea and any of the others that are outside the box and being put forward gain any momentum? I doubt it, sadly. The likely scenario is maintaining the status quo as much as possible.

How about you in your organisation? When faced with a challenge do you solve the problem, which usually means returning to the status quo, or do you take the opportunity that challenges present and change what’s normal which is what innovation is really all about?

We live in arguably the most challenging times in history. The status quo no longer serves our best interests in most aspects of life. Time to change what’s normal.

What will you do today, and tomorrow, and for the rest of your life that that isn’t what you have always done?

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Founder Differencemakers Community
Catalyst for changing what’s normal for the good of people, our planet, and for profit

Sign-up here for a least one free resource per month and to get your complimentary copy of my ebook Differencemakers - how doing good is great for business.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lost: 143 Members of the Australian Parliament!

[For those who aren't keeping up to date with Australian politics: We've just had a general election, and neither of the two major parties has enough seats to govern in their own right. So we have a "hung parliament", with both major parties trying to woo the minor parties and independent members to create a majority in the Lower House of Parliament. There are two other parts of the Australian Parliament - the Senate and The Queen - but they don't figure prominently in this debate.]

The Australian government is formed from the 150 elected representatives of the Lower House of Parliament. In the last week, we've had endless news reports, discussions and media releases from exactly 7 of these 150 elected members: The Member for Lalor (Julia Gillard), the Member for Warringah (Tony Abbott), four independent members, and one Greens member.

My question is: Where are the other 143 voices???

Aren't these the candidates who promised to make a difference? Didn't they promise leadership? Shouldn't we hold them accountable?

These are not employees of a corporation, who might reasonably expect management to speak on the corporation's behalf. We elected them to represent us, the people of Australia.

It's the most important issue facing the Australian government in 70 years - the formation of the government itself - and 95% of the representatives are missing from the conversation.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wanting and getting and having and giving

It has been said that there are two broad kinds of people in the world - givers and takers.

The givers ask what’s in me for you?

The takers ask what’s in it for me?

I think we are all givers and takers. Intention is what differentiates.
The poet Gita Bellin says “Success depends on where intention is.”
I couldn’t agree more.

I meet lots of people who have been takers all their lives. They are generally very unhappy people. They want and get the so called finer things of life and yet the most precious gift of all - happiness - alludes them.

I also meet lots of people who have been givers all their lives. Givers of all they have. Many don’t have the finer things of life and yet they have a happiness that is inspiring.

My attitude to life is to first be grateful. I have learned that when we are grateful for what we’ve got, we can have more of what we want, usually as a consequence of giving of what we have.

My focus is to give of all I’ve got without attachment to getting back. The great paradox is that giving which such intent we end up getting back a thousand fold and often from people we haven’t yet given to.

What intentions drive you?

We can want and get. Seems to me however that the most precious things in life come to us by giving of what we have without attachment to getting back.

Another way of looking at this paradox is the concept of free and fee. I make my living giving tailored talks that stir hearts, shift thinking, and inspire people to step-up your achievements; providing meaningful and measurable mentoring; and conducting thriving on the challenges of change programs. I also give away a ton of resources for free. The paradox for me is the more I give away the more valuable buyers see my services that require a fee.

In how you are making your living, how do you increase your value by giving more than what you are being paid for?

Wanting and getting and having and giving are integral to every day life. For me the more we give all that we have, the more we get all that we want.

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Founder Differencemakers Community
Catalyst for changing what’s normal for the good of people, our planet, and for profit

Sign-up here for a least one free resource per month and to get your complimentary copy of my ebook Differencemakers - how doing good is great for business.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Community and country above party politics - please

I just watched interviews with three people elected in yesterday’s federal election as independents. The three, along with maybe two others elected and not members of either major party, will determine which of the major parties forms the next Australian government.

The interviews I just watched were notable for there absence of BS, unlike the five weeks of the election campaign where BS ruled and community and country ran second and third to party ideology.

Could it be that we are seeing the end of party politics? I sincerely hope so. Parliaments should be about working together to ensure that local, national, and international interests are met. Parliaments should be about collaboration not competition. And the people who sit in our parliaments should be about enlightened self-interest, not self-interest or the interests of minority groups or those who provide financial donations.

I also hope that in my lifetime we will move to government ministers in Australia being the best of the people who have volunteered to serve rather than members of one party.

I would be very interested in your thoughts on these matters and look forward to hearing from you.

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Founder Differencemakers Community
Catalyst for changing what’s normal for the good of people, our planet, and for profit

Sign-up here for a least one free resource per month and to get your complimentary copy of my ebook Differencemakers - how doing good is great for business.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Design thinking - it's emerging but why isn't is mainstream

Recently I wrote an article for Australian design journal BBetween. This publication is produced by Billy Blue College of Design in North Sydney, Australia.

This article is posted on the HSC & Company site. The full journal that includes similar thinking to what I have penned is available by contacting Leanne Rule -

I trust you enjoy it.

Phil Hayes-St Clair

Ensuring change programs actually result in desired change

The majority of my work is about helping my clients to change what’s normal for the good of people, our planet, and for profit. This is my passion and purpose and I have had my shoulder at the wheel for almost two decades. Consequently I understand what works and what doesn’t regarding change programs.

One of the many actions that I take to ensure that I am always on the leading edge of thought, is to subscribe to many newsletters by change experts. One newsletter I always get great value from is Cultural Intelligence by Steve Simpson and Stef du Plessis. In their latest issue which you can download here there are some great insights into why 95% of change programs don’t work and how to stop people reverting to their old ways.

Here are some of the insights explored by Steve and Stef:

Start out right by getting as many people as possible involved particularly those who will be affected by the change.

Build the urgency - everyone in the organisation needs to see the
opportunity associated with the change - rather than being told about it.

Make everyone a choice-maker i.e. allow everyone to make choices and decisions.

Remove barriers and share successes.

I would add the following:

Bottom-up change is always more effective than top-down, therefore:
Ask employees what needs to change in order for them to be better engaged.
Ask other stakeholders what needs to change in order for them to be better engaged.
Do something about the answers received when you ask as above and involve the people concerned in the design and implementation of solutions.

Get outside help from experts to create strategies for changing, whatever it is your changing. We can see what you can’t because we do not have emotional involvement, however, always involve the people who will be the executors in the deciding of strategies.

Cascade strategies down to every individual performance plan therefore personalizing the strategy and ensuring desired change is integral to daily work. This will also greatly increase buy-in and ownership and therefore make execution likely.

Ensure intrinsic motivators are met as additional outcomes of your change program. According to Daniel Pink, and I agree with him, the key intrinsic motivators are:

the urge to direct our own lives
the desire to get better and better at something that matters
the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Founder Differencemakers Community
Catalyst for changing what’s normal for the good of people, our planet, and for profit

Sign-up here for a least one free resource per month and to get your complimentary copy of my ebook Differencemakers - how doing good is great for business.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Make the Internet your filing system

I recently ran a webinar about managing the information overload, to help busy business owners cope with the torrent of information coming their way.

The key solution is not to try to stem the flow, but to allow it to flow. In other words, don't let the information in unless you've got a way to get it out as well.

Here's the specific piece of advice I gave:

I'm not just talking about cloud computing, where you store your data on-line instead of on your computer. That is useful, but that's often for private purposes, like doing backups, sharing files between computers, collaborating on documents with others, and so on.

I'm talking about taking the information you get, and making it public.

I see too many people collect information as it comes in, and let it pile up on their computer, because "it might come in useful some day". That's just as bad as cluttering up a spare room or a garden shed with physical stuff! The trouble is, you end up with clutter - whether it's physical or electronic.

The solution is to let it flow. For example ...
  • Tweet it to your followers.
  • Post it to your blog.
  • Add it as a resource on your membership site.
  • Link to it on Digg.
The secret is that you're not saving it up for that book that never gets finished, that workshop that never gets designed, or that CD program that's never quite ready. You're getting it out - fast!

I know this sounds counter-intuitive, because it seems like I'm suggesting you do even more work to solve a time management problem. But try it! It eases your burden rather than increasing it. And you don't get "overloaded" because you never let the load build up too much.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Are you too smart for your own good?

OK, it’s gut check time. Are you too smart for your own good? Or did you listen once too often when your mother told you that "curiosity killed the cat"?

Here's what I mean. Every day you’re being presented with (maybe even bombarded with) new information - at work, through the various media to which you subscribe, and from friends and contacts. How much of the new data are you discarding out of hand? Are you automatically saying to yourself, “Been there, done that, studied that in college, got an A…” and then filtering it out without even looking at it or evaluating whether it could be beneficial or applicable to you?

Sometimes it does seem like it might be easier to avoid upsetting the apple cart of your habits and predispositions by ignoring incoming information that might be disruptive. I talk a lot about filters in this blog – attitudinal filters, perspectives, assumptions, unwritten rules and such. This particular filter - one of blocking incoming information - is one that results from a person thinking they already have enough of a good thing. They see a piece of information and extract maybe 10% of it. The rest they critique, discount, consider the source, or outright discard.

I'm an information junkie - there, I said it - especially in areas that interest me, so I admit to having a bias on this topic. But I ask you: how much opportunity might you be missing because you’re glossing over potential input that you view as being beneath you?
Personal continuous improvement has no end zone, no finish line. There are four stages of personal development:

1.Unconscious incompetence - This is a stage some people call "blissful ignorance." It's the point where you don't know what you don't know. Everyone else around you might see it, but you don't. You might have observed this in someone who has taken the stage at a karaoke bar, and whose confidence and enthusiasm is far greater than their ability to carry a tune, bucket or no bucket. Just remember not to make fun, because when you're pointing at somebody else, three of your fingers are pointing back at you!

2.Conscious incompetence - At this stage you realize what you don't know, whether through a training program, a whack on the side of the head, or criticism from a trusted source. Conscious incompetence is not comfortable, which is one of the reasons why you might be avoiding new information.

3.Conscious competence - Fortunately, if you train yourself or allow yourself to be trained by somebody who knows more than you do, you can become consciously competent. This means that you know it and can do it, but you have to be thinking about it. You can observe this when you see a child move their lips when they are learning to read silently - they transfer their skills from reading aloud by "reading along" with their brain.

4.Unconscious competence - By the time you reach unconscious competence your information is so ingrained that you don't even realize it's there until you're in the company of someone who doesn't have it. You are on autopilot, completing the task without having to think about it. An example of unconscious competence would be the ability you acquired with years of driving experience. You automatically ( I hope) hit the gas and brake pedals at the appropriate times, automatically enough that you can sing along with the radio at the same time.

Unfortunately, texting or applying makeup while driving in the car require too much attention for your unconscious competence to prevail, no matter how much driving experience you have. Thus the incidence of auto accidents when too much multi-tasking is taking place. You have now moved back into quadrant 1 in your driving - unconscious incompetence - well, at least untill your car bumps the one in front of you. Once you actually hit someone or get stopped by your local friendly police officer I think you'll be conscious that you messed up.

Silly driving example aside, the point is that you’re never “done.” The stages of learning, of competence, are cyclical. You might have been a world-renowned ace at using a slide rule, but hello – no matter how fast you are you can’t beat the computation power of even today’s most underpowered PDA. You used to be unconsciously competent at computation, but now that the rules and tools have changed you’ve passed back into incompetence and didn’t even notice.

I told you earlier that I'm an information junkie, but I trust that I've made my case for keeping your eyes, ears, and brains open. Curiosity won't (usually) kill you. Being not too smart is a good thing.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Architectural Window Systems (AWS), role-model in designing products that are great for the environment

One of my clients, Architectural Window Systems (AWS), is at the forefront of designing products that are great for the environment. Below are some very interesting facts from one of their brochures. You can download the full brochure here.

Over the past three years the Australian Property Industry has undertaken a dramatic shift in thinking, a significant trend towards sustainable building design and "Green" building is emerging.

Green buildings are no longer  being  viewed  as  “marginal”  or  “niche”  rather,  investors  and  developers  alike are recognising the potential for green design principles to impact positively on the profitability of the projects.

Commercial office and residential building occupants account for 23% of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

I would be very interested to know of what is a happening in commercial property in your country.
Please email me

The following insights are also contained in the AWS brochure:

2008 Green Building Statistics

The BCI Australia survey for the Green Building Market Report 2008 found that the main trigger for committing to green building included:
  • Rising energy costs: 77% (up from 74% in 2006)
  • Client demand: 65% (up from 56% in 2006)
  • Government regulations: 62% (up from 60% in 2006)
  • Availability of green building technology: 60% (up from 5% in 2006)
  • Worsening of environmental conditions: 57% (up from 27% in 2006)
  • Lower lifecycle costs: 53% (down from 58% in 2006)
  • Superior performance of a green building: 51% (up from 35% in 2006)
  • Industry rating system: 48% (down from 53% in 2006)
  • Increased education: 46 % (up from 2% in 2006)
  • Competitive advantage of green projects: 45% (up from 37% in 2006)
  • Government rating system: 41% (down from 43% in 2006)
The above facts further demonstrate the business case for triple bottom-line businesses (environmental sustainability, social responsibility, and economic prosperity)

I would be very interested to know about companies like AWS in your country so that I can spread the word. The more we create awareness of role models the sooner it will be that sustainability is the new normal. Please email me examples

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Founder Differencemakers Community
Catalyst for changing what’s normal for the good of people, our planet, and for profit

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Seven ways to increase your commitment

So you've made a decision. Is it a foregone conclusion that you'll be following through, or have you had the tendency to waffle or waver a bit on this or prior decisions? What do you need to do to REALLY make a commitment, to take the action necessary to achieve it or fulfill it?
  1. Connect it to your life purpose. Think about the really big reasons why you're deciding this. Is this just a fitness program to wear two sizes smaller or is this your method to ensure that you'll be around to play with your great-grandchildren? Same decision, very different motivators.
  2. Write it down and plan it out in detail. Put your exercise commitment in your calendar. Consider the obstacles and develop solutions to overcome them so they won't catch you offguard and send you off track.
  3. Keep the bites manageable. You are unlikely to follow through if it's so big that you won't really believe you can do it. Also consider that small victories give you energy and motivation to pursue bigger victories. Instead of deciding to make a personality (or career, or relationship, or life) overhaul, select one thing to improve at a time and work on that.
  4. Tell someone about your goal or your commitment. It might sound crazy, but sometimes we'll do things to save face in front of other people that we wouldn't do just for our own satisfaction or success. If it's too private or too sensitive to tell a family member or friend, or if you simply don't want to burden them, consider hiring a coach to be your accountability partner.
  5. Do it with a buddy. This is related to the prior point, but in this case you're not just telling another person - they're sharing in the commitment with you. When one person is down the other person can pick them up. And if your decision revolves around an activity that you don't typically like to do (at least not until now) the attraction of seeing your buddy will help you choose to do it anyway.
  6. Pay a lot of money for it. This isn't a recommendation necessarily, just an acknowledgement of what works for some people. If they part with enough of their personal resources that it feels a little painful they're more likely to follow through on getting full value for their investment.
  7. Envision the positive outcome in detail. Think about it in multisensory terms: how will it look, feel, sound, taste, etc.? If it helps you, put a picture of it on your mirror or refrigerator. The emotional impact of the visioning will increase your attachment to the rewards associated with fulfilling your commitment.
Even if this one decision or commitment is relatively small, it could be the foundation for a very big deal. Whenever you make a decision or commitment to yourself (or to others) you create the potential to demonstrate integrity. You will increase your integrity when you make decisions or commitments and follow through consistently on them. When you follow through consistently you will also contribute to your own positive self-image. Positive self-image and growing integrity will help create an upward spiral of commitment and follow-through that increases your influence and success.

What is the value (ROI) that your clients/customers demand, desire, and feel they deserve from you?

Since the GFC I have noticed and experienced greater scrutiny regarding return on investment (ROI) for providers of professional services like me. Indeed we are all a Professional Service Firm whether we are a one person business or have employees, or work in someone elses business, and regardless of what we are offering.

Tom Peters first articulated this concept of being a Professional Service Firm in his book Liberation Management in 1992 and then in an article for Fast Company magazine on 31st August 1997 The Brand Called You

Please download some great insights and ideas from Tom in his ebook PSF is Everything.

For me understanding and accepting that we are a Professional Service Firm is the first step to understanding how we can provide a return on investment for our clients/customers.

Do you see yourself as a Professional Service Firm? (even if you don’t have a business and work in someone elses business!)

What is the value that your clients/customers (internal and external) demand, desire, and feel they deserve from you? I sometimes call these the must haves, should haves, and nice to haves. Today people want all three to feel they have made a good return on their investment in our services.

Before I work with any client I follow the Alan Weiss formula - agree with the buyer on objectives, measurements, and value. My fee always depends on the value as perceived by the buyer.

What is your process?

The more we deliver the value to our clients/customers that they demand, desire, and feel they deserve the less we will have trouble in demonstrating the ROI on our services.

Maybe I can help you

Two years ago I began to offer mentoring on skype to my clients as a standalone service, or as part of a package, and recently this kind of mentoring became part of the package of Torchbearer membership of differencemakers community. 

On most Monday mornings wherever you happen to be in the world I can provide a 30 minute mentoring session for free.  All you need to do to book your session is email me with a date and time.  When I am already booked I will email you back with alternative dates and times.

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Founder Differencemakers Community
Catalyst for changing what’s normal for the good of people, our planet, and for profit

Friday, August 6, 2010

Do your buyers see your products/services as discretionary or essential?

I had a conversation with a client of mine yesterday and he was telling me why he thinks that the volume of sales in his retail business is down 20% on the highs of his business in 2007. He told me he thinks a lot of people are sitting on their hands and asking will the economy get better, worse, or stay the same? And while they are sitting he told me such people think our products are discretionary, where as in 2007 they thought they were essential!

Many businesses face this dilemma. I know in my business there are many clients and prospects who are telling me that my services are a non-essential spend right now, even though they know deep down inside that to not invest in developing people right now will have dire consequences down the track, such as losing good people to competitors, low morale, and the corresponding drop in productivity.

To meet this challenge and to ensure my clients see me as a highly valued performance partner, I am providing more services before and after I work in person and/or online with my clients than I ever did.

Mostly I do this by providing digital resources and in person work using technology that enable my clients to be better prepared for my work with them, to increase the likelihood of action being taken in the long term, and to provide great support as agreed actions are implemented.

How about you? What are you doing to help your customers/clients see that buying your products/services is essential?

An interesting outcome of providing more value before and after is happening for me. My in person work with clients is valued more!

I would be interested to know what you are doing that is changing what’s normal for you and your clients. Please email or telephone me.

Someone said that the definition of stupidity is
Expecting a different result by continuing to do the same old thing

Someone else said that the definition of idiocy is
Doing something different and still getting the same result

My one aim each day is to not be stupid or idiotic!

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Founder Differencemakers Community
Catalyst for changing what’s normal for the good of people, our planet, and for profit
Sign-up here for a least one free resource per month and to get your complimentary copy of my ebook Differencemakers - how doing good is great for business.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Are you standing out or blending in?

I would describe the election campaign for the next national government in Australia, now in its third week, as bland, boring, and baseless.

Neither the Prime Minister Julia Gillard or the alternative Tony Abbott have done anything to stand out in my view, rather they both seem intent on blending in rather than standing out.

Neither Gillard or Abbott have articulated a vision for the future that is compelling.  From what I have heard them say, I have no idea where we might be going as a nation except more of the same or a return to the past, neither of which is attractive to me.

Broadly speaking I meet three kinds of people; the happy being miserable, the happy being mediocre, and the happy being magnificent.

The happy being miserable complain about everything and are disengaged from reality.  I would put Mr.  Abbott in this category.  He seems a decent man with good intentions however his behaviour is about criticizing others rather than standing out himself.

The happy being mediocre sit on the fence and are also disengaged.  Prime Minister Gillard, also a decent human being with good intentions is in this category.  She seems to be promising more of the same when the electorate clearly wants a lot to be different. Her slogan is moving forward yet her rhetoric is about standing still.

The happy being magnificent don’t complain or sit on the fence rather they stand out from the crowd and leave us in no doubt about where they are going, why they’re going there, how we can join them on the journey, and what they stand for.

The future belongs to those who create it and if your blending in or sitting on the fence then all that your future holds is more of the same or worse.

Please stand out.

Become the magnificent one-of-a-kind human being that you are. 

You can change your world for the better and in the process you will inspire others to stand out rather than blend in.

And who knows we might just inspire politicians to be true to themselves rather than their parties outdated and mostly irrelevant ideologies and become 21st century leaders instead of relics of the past.

Be the difference you want to see in the world
Founder Differencemakers Community
Catalyst for changing what’s normal for the good of people, our planet, and for profit

PS Monday morning mentoring

Two years ago I began to offer mentoring on skype to my clients as a standalone service, or as part of a package, and recently this kind of mentoring became part of the package of Torchbearer membership of differencemakers community. 

On most Monday mornings wherever you happen to be in the world I can provide a 30 minute mentoring session for free.  All you need to do to book your session is email me with a date and time.  When I am already booked I will email you back with alternative dates and times.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

When Dreams Become Real

Dreams are a funny thing. When I grew up I knew what dreams were and I, of course, found great comfort and joy in both my dreams and daydreams … maybe too much comfort at times for I dreamed and daydreamed a lot. And as I was growing up, I recall being told countless times that dreams can come true if one believed in them enough. I liked thinking that and yet, deep within my mind, I never believed that my dreams could or would come true.

MY DREAMS were of my knowing every language in the Universe and having the ability to speak with anyone at any time in their own tongue, or of knowing how to play perfectly every instrument of music in the world as well as having the ability to play any piece of music my memory or by merely site reading it. Of course there was also the dream of becoming someone who would make a real difference in the world, but that dream was always a bit hazy and unclear even though it felt so good to see me in my dreams doing something of great value to others. But deep down I knew that these were more fantasies than dreams and instinctively I knew they were not real and would never happen. I was wrong.

This is an introduction to a short series of posts about “When Dreams Become Real”. It is a true story as it is my story. I think it could easily become your story about making your dream become real.

And out of curiosity, what do you think your life would be like if you were actually creating your dream every day?

I now sense I was right when I was younger, that there is a difference between a dream and a created fantasy. I have learned that a dream is something that one has deep within their core spirit. It is something that is akin to knowing one’s purpose in life and though we instinctively have hints and glimpses of that dream as we live our lives, it is never clear until we take a leadership journey deep within ourselves to discover our deepest core values and eventually our purpose in life. When we decide to take this perilous “Journey to the Center of our Spirit” we will if we work hard enough and are determined enough, find the foundations for how we can by our choices, become fulfilled and energized every day. And best of all, we will discover the direction our choices need to take us if we are to become that which we were born to be.

Making Dreams Real

So the next series of articles will be about making our dreams a reality. They will be about finding joy and meaning for our lives each and every day. They will be about changing our lives from merely reacting to life thus repeating the same kind of day until we become trapped into a cycle of sameness and meaninglessness, into one of creating something new… of responding to life in a way that makes our lives full of wonder, purpose, and most of all… meaning.

These will be of my story but it could be yours if you choose. Of course it is my hope that you too will choose to embark upon this journey of self discovery. And if you do, I suspect you will find what I have found… sheer amazement and wonder at the higher levels of joy, passion, and energy that has been within us since our creation – an energy just waiting for us to become aware and to create from.



Could a lack of “self awareness” be holding back your career?

Jane is a highly intelligent, capable and “take charge” leader. The problem is no one really wants to work with her! The level of churn, “grizzle” and disengagement in her team is extremely high. According to Jane the problem is “those people” – the finger is definitely pointing elsewhere and the situation has little to do with her or her leadership style. When her manager gives her feedback, she becomes defensive and argumentative, makes excuses and quickly shifts responsibility on to others as to why things may have gone wrong. Unfortunately for Jane, everyone else in the organization sees her as being “the problem” but she lacks that essential skill of self awareness to get this. Consequently she is rapidly sliding down the path of career derailment.

So what exactly is self awareness and why is it so important? Self awareness is the ability to be in tune with one’s feelings and emotions in the moment and its impact on one’s relationship and work performance. It is a critical competency in emotional and spiritual intelligence (EQ and SQ) and is the fundamental building block for success in life. Self awareness enables us to make insightful and sharper decisions and course-correct as we go. It facilitates improved, authentic relationship within and with others – our boss, colleagues, team members, clients, suppliers, family and friends. We are more effective in life when we exhibit high levels of self-awareness.

So how do we harness and develop this core competency in business and our personal lives? As Sir John Whitmore, author of the best selling Coaching for Performance and many times winner of the British and European motor racing champion puts it, “we have a measure of choice and control over what we are aware of, but what we are unaware of controls us.”

Here are five things which will lead to increased self awareness:

1) Become aware and mindful of how you are feeling in the moment.
2) Try naming these emotions and feelings.
3) Notice when your
feelings and mood change – say if you find yourself getting upset or excited.
4) Ask yourself
why this might be the case
5) Become conscious of the
impact of your feelings and emotions on your thoughts and consequent behavior

Self awareness is a powerful aspect of self-reflection – a practice most managers and leaders need to regularly engage in to stay on track with their work, performance and life goals. This ability to stand back and critically evaluate one’s thoughts, assumptions, values and behavior and take corrective action is the basis for problem-solving, building great teams and for learning and development. As a client said, “regular self-reflection – putting aside 30 minutes first thing in the morning - has enabled me to take a helicopter view and focus on the priorities. I am no longer fire fighting and am able to address the important, not just the urgent.”

The role of feedback

In a management role and life, knowing your own strengths and weaknesses is a powerful ally. Being open to feedback and reflecting on our experiences are two other significant ways of increasing our self awareness. Our so-called failures can also provide fertile ground for increased self awareness and learning.

In business settings, self awareness can be fast tracked through management and leadership development courses and executive coaching. A key component to any learning and development programme is self-assessment along with 360-degree feedback from ones colleagues, direct reports, and manager. In some instances, suppliers and customers can also be part of this process.

When it comes to feedback, there are broadly four windows to self and other awareness: (Joharis window)

1) What we know about ourselves and others do too
2) What we know about ourselves but others don’t
3) What we don’t know about ourselves and others don’t as well
4) What others know about us but we don’t

Feedback and leadership effectiveness

It is in the fourth category that feedback if listened to and taken on board can have a significant impact on one’s management or leadership style.

If you are getting feedback about some aspect of your leadership style that you may have filtered out than now is the time to take notice. A senior executive thought he demonstrated high levels of responsibility and was good at holding others to account and yet his profile showed up a rather low score of three out of ten! It was a real eye opener for when he came face to face with his integrity and values profile and realized there were some serious gaps between what he thought and what he actually did.
Changing his thinking and behavior took some time and commitment but the rewards were well worth it.

Positive outcomes in the form of higher productivity, improved team and business relationships and positive feedback from those in your immediate environment can be not only rewarding but also humbling. This was the case with another senior manager I was coaching who had been branded as someone with a confrontational and aggressive style. Though initially questioning ( of course!) of the results of his feedback, he was able to take this feedback on board as he realized that his attitude and behaviour were not serving him at all - not to mention others.

Over a period of twelve months involving conscious awareness of his mind-set and behaviour, reflection and feedback, he was able to change his leadership style to a much more constructive one. The biggest win was that he managed to side-step career derailment at a critical time in his career.

Three steps to increase your leadership effectiveness:
1) Ask for feedback.

You may wish to ask 5-6 people for some key strengths as well as one thing you could do better to achieve your specified goals.

2) Listen to this feedback.

No, I mean really listen! More often than not, there will be a theme from your feedback providers. Listen with an open heart and mind.

3) Take action

Decide what one thing you are going to focus on and enjoy growing your awareness and wisdom.

Jasbindar Singh – is a leadership coach, an Integrity and values licensee and an author. She helps managers and leaders grow and deepen their self awareness and leadership effectiveness.