One small step…

Many of us are relaxing at this time of year, but for some there is a nagging feeling that we need to make some changes in our work life. Perhaps you might be worried that you aren’t doing as well as you might. Or that there are problems with managing some people in your team. Or perhaps your relationship with your boss isn’t great.

Whatever it is, I am 100% sure you are not alone. People face work challenges all the time and it has been my absolute joy to help people through them. The key is that we already know what we need to do. We often just need someone to help us realise this, and then work out how to follow through.

And so I am suggesting you take a small step. Nothing too scary. Nothing that commits you to too much. So, what do I suggest?

Regardless of what the work problem  you are worried about, I am pretty certain to have seen it before. I have been coaching all kinds of people for 20 years now in all sorts of jobs in organisations as different as global oil companies to small auto dealerships. From the Civil Service to banks. And I’d love to be able to help you through whatever your challenges are. Why not arrange for us to have a chat? I promise to listen and help you clarify in your own mind what the issues are and how you can start doing things differently this year. Oh, and this first 30 minute conversation is completely free with no obligations whatever. More details about my approach are here. You can contact me via this form.

Go on –  this small step could be your “giant leap” forward!



Changing the world, one nudge at a time.

As a psychologist I know only too well how people are driven by a complex interwoven set of drives, preferences and biases. And anyone who has tried to manage people knows how resistant to change human beings are. The leader is driven to improve, change and create and finds it frustrating when others are not driven in the same way. Some even go so far as to say it’s impossible to change other people – you can only change yourself (and that’s hard enough!). It is definitely true that changing someone’s behaviour fundamentally is not going to happen as the result of one initiative, project or intervention. But it happens best when it is done incrementally. And this is perfectly in tune with the underlying psychological research.

So what is Nudge all about? At the heart of it is one of the most well understood notions in psychology – reinforcement. This is where behaviour is monitored in some way and the ‘correct’ behaviour reinforced through reward. The other side of the coin would be to ‘punish’ the wrong behaviour although this is far less effective than positive reinforcement. This might sound underhand or even immoral but the technique is well understood and can be used in every workplace imaginable.

What is reward?

the main thing is that reward is not necessarily financial. Everyone needs to be appreciated and we all need to be certain that we are doing the right thing. I worked for a boss who was really very nice to me and always positive. but I was never quite sure I was doing the right thing. Was I focussed on the right projects? Was my style right? Was I doing enough? When I had my annual review, he said in so many words that I was doing very well and then was specific about what he liked about what I was doing and why. This was amazingly useful and I left that meeting on a high. But it would of course been so much better if he’d managed to do this earlier! I see my role now is to reinforce when he gives me this sort of feedback. Here’s a form of words:

” Thanks for that Dave. It is sometimes hard to know in the daily pressures of work whether we are putting out efforts in the right place so I really appreciate your telling me this so I know I am on the right track.”

Another example could be when I might not be focussed on the right thing and he tells me this. So I might respond:

“Dave, this is of course a bit difficult to hear because I am clearly not quite focussed on the right things. But it is so useful to have this feedback so I know what I need to change. I will work on this and perhaps I can check back with you to make sure it is now going the way you want it?”

So. Reinforcement is the first step. More of this another day!

Getting (some) things done

I have an admission to make. I left work yesterday without having finished all the tasks I wanted to. The reason I can say for certain that this happened is because I actually do this every day. In fact, having coached dozens of executives, discussed this with hundreds of managers I have trained – including many super high achievers, I don’t think any of them ever finish everything before they leave the office.

But sometimes you think you have done everything perhaps when you go on holiday. I would argue this is usually that you have set yourself things to do before going on holiday – a sensible strategy of ourselves – but this does not mean you have completely finished absolutely everything. But surely super effective people who are promoted manage to finish every thing by working late, weekends or getting up extremely early? Actually no. The reason being there are so many demands on us, so many things to do, so many possibilities to follow, so many requests or orders to follow, we cannot possibly do everything. The amount of things to do expands infinitely and is possibly even increases when we are good at our job because colleagues and customers look to us to make things happen.

So here’s a radical idea; if you have genuinely finished everything every day, I would suggest that you are in trouble. Why?

I can only assume that if you thing you have finished everything, you should perhaps be doing more than you realise. Or maybe you aren’t being trusted. Or perhaps your job isn’t important. The long term result is the same in all cases – you aren’t going to have that job for much longer.

So what’s the answer?

This is going to sound simple, banal, obvious – but believe me the answer is as simple as this:

Because you can’t do everything, you need to make sure that the stuff you do do is the important stuff.

So all you need to do is:

  1. know what the important stuff is
  2. do the important stuff first
  3. only do the unimportant stuff when the important stuff is done.

So, there you have it. I can almost sense the cynicism – a business school professor thinks that work is easy. But this isn’t just me – I have used this approach with many people I am coaching and it can have a transformational impact on their wellbeing. Knowing that the important things are done and that the pile to things undone can wait prevents a major source of worry.

So the trick is to really understand what is important, what it is YOU want to achieve and also account what the organisation wants you to do. The list that results from this thinking is your task list. Then don’t be distracted, out off course or bullied away from what you have decided. If you’ve done it right, you will be happy to leave your office with some things left undone. knowing that the important stuff for you and your employer has been done.

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