Think Positive in your Work
Do you remember a time when you were more enthusiastic in your work? Even passionate? When you felt you could make a difference? When every day was another opportunity? If that has faded over time, perhaps it's time to think positive. Would you like to feel that way again?
What can think positive give you? By thinking positively you can have: improved performance, more productivity, better teamwork and less stress. Thinking positively helps you: stay focused on solutions and get the job done; give yourself the chance to succeed; be clear about your team's strengths and make the most of them; be a role model (and even an inspiration) to those around you; know what you want and what you need and also know that you are entitled to ask for both.
The first step is attitude. The step is to 'think positive'.
As a busy manager or executive your are beset by conflicting issues: KPIs, targets, team performance, corporate politics, staff development, customer demands, etc., etc. When was the last time you thought to yourself, “We can't do this; it's too much.”? Were you right? Probably. What if your starting point had been, “We can do this, I just don't know how yet.”? The first attitude shuts down the problem and expects failure. The second attitude invites success. The second attitude is thinking positively. The way forward might be straightforward, it might be convoluted and complex. But if you begin by believing there is no way forward then you certainly won't find it. We find what we expect to find. If you tell yourself, “We can't.” then you won't. Thinking positively is believing otherwise – knowing that the solution is there, waiting for you and your team to create it.
By way of analogy, in martial arts there is not only the action (the blow, the block, the push, the throw) there is also the intent behind the action. Without the correct intent, the action is empty and likely to fail. In your work, what is your intent? Are you focussed on where you want your career to be? Do you project your team towards a successful future? Or are your actions empty and by rote?
Thinking positively is not self-delusion. It is not ignoring the facts. It is not a magic spell or good luck charm. Thinking positively does not guarantee success – success depends on you. However, with a 'think positive' frame of mind, you are more open to opportunities, more aware of the benefits in every situation and interaction, you are looking for success. Think positive gives you the motivation to make your success happen and so you are more likely to succeed. It is as simple and difficult as that.
What kind of manager or executive do you want to be? How do you want others to see you? Nobody wants to be seen as defeated or depressed. The people around you want hope and motivation. By thinking positively you can give them that hope and motivation and move forward together.
Dealing with Difficult Customers & Clients
As we are all aware, our biggest difficulties and frustrations tend to come from people rather than things. Let's agree to view that as the inevitable flipside to all their good features. Now, while we are in this 'think positive' frame of mind, let's consider the customers or clients to whom you are trying to provide your products and services. Just as in conflict with anyone else, if you genuinely strive to understand their position and clearly explain your own then you will be on the right track. However, with customers and clients there are a few additional considerations.
First of all, the customer is not always right. However, the customer always thinks that they are right which can amount to the same thing. If they have their facts wrong then you may be able point that out, but opinion is more difficult. They may say that you have not delivered what you promised. Perhaps low quality, insufficient quantity or just not on time. This may be true, it may not.
Where the facts of the dispute cannot be established you may be left with the choice of whether to give the customer the benefit of the doubt or not. Doing so may retain their business but also leave you feeling aggrieved. On the other hand, insisting that the customer is wrong may result in them walking away. Ultimately, you need to decide how critical it is to your business to retain their custom. Part of that decision will be to consider what damage (if any) they could do to your reputation.
You may think that you are the only source of an exclusive product or service and that your customer cannot go elsewhere. But beware: if that is the case then it is almost certainly a luxury that the customer could choose to do without. Also, the more successful your 'unique' product or service is, the more likely that competitors will soon spring up looking for a slice of your success; and probably offering it cheaper too. By all means be confident in your product, but don't be complacent.
Sometimes a complaint will not be about the service or product but the person providing it. If you have employees responsible for customer relations then you need to ensure that they represent you appropriately. You may have standards and competence statements about what they do, but they also need clear guidance on how they do it. Does the customer feel respected by your representatives?
So what positive measures can you take?
Firstly, ensure understanding by being crystal clear on what you are promising, to what standard, and by when.
Secondly, build trust by listening to what the customer wants, demonstrating your expertise (without being condescending) and delivering what you have promised. Remember that for the customer, your marketing (which brought them to you in the first place) is a key part of your promise.
Think positive and remind yourself not to focus exclusively on the occasional difficult customer or client. Most are no trouble at all and are actually a joy to work with.
Always enjoy your clients!!
The corporate environment tells us that performance is important. We have performance targets, performance reviews and performance-related pay. However, performance is not all there is, there are also unwritten rules in every organisation. Whether you like it or not, people judge you based on what they observe. It's human nature; we all do it, often without even realising it. In the workplace this means that judgements about you are based on all sorts of factors; not just your productivity. Even more potentially worrying, these workplace judgements can influence our pay, projects and promotions.|
Still, think positive: if you are aware of the unspoken rules as well as the spoken then you can play the corporate 'game' with more confidence.
In his 1996 book, “Empowering Yourself: the Organizational Game Revealed”, the American business consultant, Harvey Coleman outlined the three factors influencing advancement and success in the workplace.
Performance – what you actually do; the quality and volume of the work that you produce; the clarity or otherwise of your decisions, your strategy, planning, etc. This is the factor that tends to be openly acknowledged.
Image – your appearance; how you dress; how well you appear to 'fit in' with your colleagues. First impressions count and this is the first visual impression that you make on those around you. Do you appear to be a 'team player' or a 'loose cannon'?
Exposure – your visibility within the organisation; how well your name is known; your reputation. Doing superb work while never leaving your office or desk will not on its own help you advance. You not only have to be good, you have to be seen to be good.
So far, you are probably reading this and thinking, “That makes sense.”, maybe even “That's reasonable.” but Coleman's research went further. He identified a percentage split between the three factors showing to what extent each influenced advancement: as follows:
Performance = 10%;
Image = 30%;
Exposure = 60%.
The chances are that this still feels familiar to you, but it probably doesn't feel fair. Well, to think positive, at least you know now and can make your choices in light of that knowledge. This research does not necessarily mean that you have to who you are in order to progress. You may, for example, choose to continue focusing on good work (performance) while doing more to bring it to the attention of others (exposure) and not change your appearance (image) because it feels important to you. But at least now that would be a conscious choice, made from a position of awareness.
Ultimately, whether you wholly agree with Coleman's findings or not, they do provide food for thought. Ask yourself: “What is my reputation with my colleagues and how might that impact on me at work?”
|Back To Top
There may be times when you feel stuck. Sometimes you're missing a vital piece of the puzzle. Sometimes you're just having a bad day and need a little help. Well think positive; that's what your network is for.|
So what is it? Put simply, your network is everyone you know: friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances, clients, neighbours, and so on. With some, the connection is strong and reinforced every day; with others, you may not have spoken for years but the connection (however tenuous) can still be there.
It's a cliché – but true – that everybody is different and everyone in your network will have a different set of skills and knowledge and attitudes. When you need something that you can't provide for yourself, someone in your network might be able to help. Likewise, when they need something, you might be able to help them (a true network is two-way; symbiotic not parasitic.) Also, everyone in your network has a network of their own. So even if no-one has what you need, they may know someone that does and be willing to connect the two of you. This has the double benefit of you getting what you need and also expanding your network.
Your network can provide you with advice, feedback, support and encouragement, new skills, contacts and opportunities. Although it is worth remembering that not everyone you know will be helpful in every circumstance. Some members of your network may waste your time, reduce your confidence, criticise you or resent you. So part of the art of active and conscious networking is to make decisions about who you keep in your network and to whom you reach out (whether to ask for or to offer help.)
So how do you extend your network? Making new friends, joining classes, clubs or professional associations through your work; all these can bring you into contact with potentially like-minded people. The more people in your network, the more options you have. But don't forget that your connections require maintenance. It is much more difficult to ask favours of (or offer help to) somebody if you haven't communicated with them for years. A good network has connections that are strengthened by frequent contact.
The internet, of course, contains many ways of creating contact: MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and Flickr are well-known, but how about LinkedIn for business networking or Delicious for bookmark sharing? Why not start a blog or a YouTube channel and share your expertise – whatever it may be – with the world? There is plenty of online advice and articles on how to use these sites and services for your benefit; either personal or business.
Finally, don't forget that for everyone you know, you are part of their network too and you will find that the more you think positive then the more valued a network member you are.
Stress at work appears to be one of those issues that never quite goes away. A Health & Safety Executive (HSE) survey states that in 2008/09 up to 415,000 people believed they were experiencing workplace stress at a level that was making them ill. With this in mind, it is likely that stress may be an issue for you or your teams at some point. From a profitability point of view, the figures also suggest that stress costs UK businesses up to £700 million per year. So let's think positive about this negative topic.|
What is stress? The HSE's website states that stress “...arises where work demands of various types and combinations exceed the person’s capacity and capability to cope.” It is important to note that this definition avoids blame. It does not say that the “work demands” are unfair or that the person is inadequate. Of course, both those situations are possible, but the essence of the definition is that there is a mismatch between the work and the worker.
Although symptoms are always specific to the individual, the following may indicate a stressed condition:
So, first of all, assess yourself. Do any of those feel familiar? If so, then it's worth examining your situation with the following six questions:
- feeling unable to take decisions
- reduced concentration
- inability to relax or sit still
- problems with sleeping
- increased alcohol or caffeine intake
- chest palpitations
- over time, a lack of self-esteem
If you can't answer “yes” to any of them then that gives you a clue as to where some stress might be coming from. A good manager or executive will also ask themselves these questions about their teams and – where necessary – raise the subject with individuals. Most large organisations these days will have HR policies around stress and work-life balance which give a platform for such discussion.
- Are my work patterns and environment healthy?
- Do I have what I need to do the job?
- Do I know when I'm doing a good job?
- Do I feel my job is important?
- Am I recognised as an individual?
- Am I learning and developing?
The obvious question is: what to do about it? Options fall into two categories: quick fixes for when you (or another) are feeling stressed 'in the moment' and longer term solutions for ongoing situations.
'In the moment' – take a short walk (physical activity changes the focus and removes you temporarily from the stressful environment); find something to laugh at (release those endorphins); drink some water (if our body is dehydrated it is operating below its best) or herbal tea (less caffeine, remember!); or if circumstances allow, take a quick nap (20 minutes' sleep can significantly reduce stress levels.)
Longer term – self-awareness (learn what your stress indicators are and then pay attention to them); discuss workload with a manager (it may be an issue of quantity or it may just need re-structuring); talk to a GP (particularly if physical symptoms are experienced); learn to say “no” assertively (it is easy to fall into the trap of taking on too much at work); and ultimately, a change of job or role may be indicated.
Most of us experience workplace stress at some point in our lives and careers. Perhaps we should see it as a positive sign, letting us know that we need to look after ourselves a little better. The important thing is not to ignore it but to take notice and take action.
Career Management – Making Your Movie
Are you pondering what to do with your own career ? Here is a fun exercise to help you assess it from a different perspective|
Recent years have seen successful executives increasingly realise that the best succession planning in business is a combination of external recruitment and growth of internal talent. In these times of economic downturn, making the most of what you have got is common sense.
Ultimately, responsibility for an individual's career rests with that individual; whether you or one of your people. However, organisations usually offer some form of advice and support through appropriate coaching; whether via an internal coach (often the manager) who is part of and therefore knows the company or a 'fresh-pair-of-eyes' external coach who may have a broader view.
While you're pondering what you need to do with your own career – or how you can ensure coaching for your people to manage theirs – here's a fun exercise to help you assess your career from a different perspective. All you need is a pen, paper and a little imagination.
Imagine that you are starring in a movie about your career so far and ask yourself the following questions:
- What is the title?
- What music is playing as the opening credits roll?
- Who are the main characters? (Other than you, of course.)
- Which actor or actress plays you? (They don't have to look like you.)
- Who designed the costumes? (What about the sets?)
- What are the basic elements of the plot? (Write down your job moves, important decisions you have taken, your learning along the way, any changes in attitude, etc.)
Take a step back and reflect on your answers; try to look at them objectively. What do they tell you? Were you the director of your movie or was someone else telling you what to do? Are any patterns emerging? Is there anything that you wish had been different? Ideally you would do this stage with someone who coach you through these (and other) questions. If not, then try to talk it through it with someone you trust.
Now to imagine the sequel. In other words, the movie of your career from now on. For this, you are definitely the director and the only rule is that it must have a happy ending. (Remember to think positive!)
- What is the title?
- Who are the main characters?
- Which actor or actress plays you? (It doesn’t have to be the same.)
- Who designed the visuals?
- What are the basic elements of the plot? (job moves, decisions, learning & development you will need, etc.)
- What music is playing as the end credits roll?
Now, having created a picture of your future career, bring it back to the 'real world and set some clear objectives to help you achieve the goals in your sequel. Again, having a coach or someone who can take on that role would be helpful. In fact, to build on the metaphor of seeing your career as a movie, you could see the coach as your agent; except that they won't take 20% of everything you earn!
So, are you ready for your close-up? Is your movie a Hollywood blockbuster, a European art-house film or an amateur clip on YouTube? Perhaps it's Prêt-à-Porter, The Devil Wears Prada or Coco Before Chanel. Whichever it is, hopefully this exercise has got you thinking (positively, of course!) about where you career will take you next.
|Back To Top
Training & Development – Who is Responsible?
Training and development (also labelled as “learning and development”) is always acknowledged as crucial to the success of any business; both in-house and outsourced; whether training courses, on-line learning or executive coaching. Conversely, it is often the first area to feel the cutbacks when times are hard. As a busy executive, it can be challenging to balance the responsibility for developing your team with reducing budgets and focusing on the bottom line. However, think positive, it may not be your responsibility only.|
So how do we define training and development (or T&D for short)? How about: equipping people with new skills, knowledge, attitudes or experience which they are then able to apply to their workplace and careers? That's a nice, broad definition which we can break down into three broad categories:
From this we see that T&D can equip people to do their job, stay abreast of the changing requirements of that job and also help them in their career progression. Therefore, there are clear immediate benefits to the business (the first two categories) and definite future benefits to the individual (their career.) Of course, the individual also benefits from being well-trained in their daily role and the business benefits from developing its own future executives in-house.
- what people need to do their job as it is today;
- what people need to do their job was it will be tomorrow; and
- what people need to do the jobs they want in the future.
At this point, we might want to question this word, “training”, which tends to suggest activity geared towards a specific task or role. It also implies a process that is done to the individual rather than being something that they can fully engage with (after all, dogs are 'trained'.) Perhaps the better and more inclusive term would be “learning”, which suggests a wider range of options (including mentoring and coaching) and also, perhaps, a wider range of applications.
Returning to the issue of responsibility: if the benefits are shared, shouldn't the responsibility also be shared? Traditionally, a manager might appraise each team member (sometimes in secret), personally decide what they needed by way of improvement and then prescribe the appropriate off-the-shelf training course. This is a Doctor model, where the manager acts as authority, diagnostician and decision-maker. Within limits, it can be efficient and it certainly saves time, but the lack of involvement of the individual can lead to lack of engagement with the training and therefore a lack of benefit.
These days we see more of a Coach model in which the manager and individual discuss the training needs and make decisions together. The coach guides the individual through the process of identifying and meeting their development needs with an emphasis on which solution will suit both them and the business. Those with particular potential, the ‘rising stars’ may even manage their own development allowance or budget and be free to seek tailored coaching outside the organisation (on the understanding that the results are applied within the organisation.)
Ask yourself how it works in your workplace. Do individuals have development objectives? Are they imposed or agreed? How are development options chosen? Is the criteria solely business efficiency or does it also take into account the individual's learning style? Is there support available to apply the learning to their role? Are they coached through their career development?
So think positive and engage your team in their own learning. The key factors are: involvement; discussion; business needs and personal aspirations; not just “training” but “learning”; and joint decision-making. That can mean joint success for you and your people.
Project Management – Basic Principles
Project management is a key business skill for today's executive. However, a whole industry has sprung up around it and although projects can be complicated, sometimes the jargon doesn't make it sound any simpler: GANTT charts, PERT, Critical Path Analysis, PRINCE2, it's easy to feel daunted. It can also sound too boring and technical for some sectors, such as fashion. But the Milano Fashion Institute's Masters Degree in Fashion Project Management is now in its second year. Yes, project management is everywhere. So, think positive; whether you're co-ordinating the Spring Collection or just making a cup of tea, the basic principles are the same.|
STEP ONE – PLANNING
“All important decisions are made on the basis of insufficient data”
– Sheldon Kopp
This may be true – especially with hindsight – but before commencing a project, you need your information to be as complete as possible. Agree a clear statement of what the project is to deliver, by when, to whom and for what cost. Share that statement with the project team. Share it with the project stakeholders.
A stakeholder is anyone who has an interest in, or some influence over, your project. They include: senior executives, shareholders, your team, customers, colleagues, the press, etc. List your stakeholders and then consider their levels of interest and influence:
STEP TWO – ORGANISE
- high influence / high interest – these are people you must fully engage and satisfy
- high influence / low interest – do enough to keep them satisfied, but not so much that they become bored
- low influence / high interest – keep them adequately informed, and talk to them to ensure that no major issues are arising
- low influence / low interest – monitor them but do not bore them with excessive information
Having identified the parameters of the project, break it down into key tasks and steps; as much detail as possible. Which tasks depend on the completion of others? Which can be performed at the same time? By charting these tasks and knowing how long each will take and what resources it will require, you have built a detailed roadmap of your project. You also won't have to guess at deadlines.
STEP THREE – MONITORING & CONTROLLING
The project is now under way and your job is to keep it on track. To do so you need regular communication between you and your project team and the key stakeholders. As obstacles arise, decisions will be needed. To help decide, you must know your priorities. Any project is driven by the required quality and the available time and resources. You need to know which of these is the most important and which have some flexibility in order to achieve your goal.
STEP FOUR – REVIEW
Finally, you may think it's all over but this is the time to learn with hindsight for the benefit of the next project. What happened? What problems occurred and how were they solved? What training or coaching might be required in future?
Whether you're involved in design, production or marketing – from the designer's sketch pad or screen to the customer's home – thinking positively about project management can keep everything flowing smoothly.
|Back To Top
Politics is not just about elections. For senior executive and junior administrator alike, the workplace is full of politics. People choosing what to say, how and when to say it and to whom. All with a specific outcome in mind. Alliances are forged. Supporters are rallied. It's not just the management priorities in the business plan that decide which design gets the vote of confidence and which project is axed. But think positive, “politics” may seem a dirty word but the skills we're talking about can be used for good as a well as bad. It's all in how you play.|
So what is office politics? Politics is the use of power towards a particular goal. Where that goal is to the benefit of the individual and the detriment of others, we tend to see it as devious, manipulating and negative. Additionally, because we often see power as going hand-in-hand with position, we tend to see the more senior people in the company as the ones who play politics.
However, there are many other types of power than the kind that resides in rank or position: there is knowledge (what you know), network (who you know), experience (length of service), physical (size, appearance) and personal (charisma) power. It's safe to say that we all have some power in one or more of those categories. So if we all have power, it follows that we can all play office politics. But do we? Ask yourself: have I ever delayed or withheld bad news from the boss? Have I ever passed on a piece of information in order to influence opinion? Have I ever used my connections to find out something? The chances are, we've all played politics at some point or another.
However, skills that you perhaps used in these situations are not by themselves bad. In fact, when you break it down to skills, it already starts to sound more neutral. Influencing others... negotiation techniques... communicating with the audience in mind.... these are all key management competences, required by any executive and often the subject of personal development and coaching.
The key question to ask is: on those occasions, what were the intent and impact of our politicking? We need to be aware of the reasons behind our actions and how those actions may affect others. We can build our power by promotions, networking, gaining expertise, building a reputation, etc. We can understand our company's political arena by studying the key players and their agendas and how they align – or not – with the company agenda. But when we come to use our power, if it is purely for our own ends and profit then we will be seen as playing politics. If it also benefits the business and the people in it, then our efforts will be viewed as more constructive.
Ultimately, whether you are seen as an 'honest' office politician or not becomes a matter of integrity. So think positive and play the game fairly.
|Staff Opinions – What Are Your People Thinking?
|For the average senior executive (if there is such a thing) the larger the organisation in which you do business, the chances are the less you really know about what people think. Even in a smaller business, if you're the boss then there's always a barrier of sorts between you and your people. Not a barrier of your making necessarily, but a barrier created by position and responsibility. However, your people have huge influence over your organisation's efficiency, profits and public image. You need to know how engaged they are with your latest marketing strategy or customer procedures. You need them to feel motivated and involved. But how?|
Well think positive, because if you really want to know what your people think of your business, you just have to ask. Staff or employee opinion surveys have been increasingly common practice for years. When your people feel listened to by their employer there is a positive impact on business performance, staff turnover reduces and your customers feel the difference in the service provided.
"To be listened to is..., a nearly unique experience for most people. It is enormously stimulating... Man clamors for the freedom to express himself and for knowing that he counts.”
- Robert C. Murphy (1888-1973), U.S. naturalist and environmental activist
Of course, there are a few issues to consider before you start drawing up questions. Will you use a questionnaire or ask people face to face? Will you manage the process in-house or use an external consultancy? What happens once you have the answers? Here are a few things to think about before asking for your people's input and feedback.
Confidentiality – people need to know who will see their answers.
Anonymity – will the answers be linked to individuals (let's face it, they will be more honest if the answer is “no”).
Response Rates – the ideal is that 100% of people answer the questions, how will you persuade them to do so?
Communication – people need to understand why they are being asked to take part in this exercise.
Questions – what do you want to ask? Surveys can be used to gather feedback on any area of your business: procedures, management, leadership, training, communication, customer service, pay & remuneration, teamworking, etc. Do not ask a question if you're not prepared to act on the answer.
Afterwards - people need to know what will be done with their answers. How will the results be collated? What sort of report will be produced. What will happen after that?
The very worst you can do is go to all the time and trouble (and expense) of conducting some sort of staff opinion survey and then do nothing with the results. Your people have given you the gift of their views, thoughts, suggestions and ideas. If they don't see some sort of positive outcome then they will not do it twice. Besides, your motive for asking in the first place was to find out how to improve the business, wasn't it? So use the data to implement changes to benefit both your business and the people who work in it.
Finally, think positive. You might receive some criticism which requires action, but you might also receive some outstanding praise as well.
|Back To Top
|Business depends on good communication. In order to work together, Production must understand Design; Marketing must understand the customers; senior executives must understand everything. You would think that with this great need for understanding, people would place a premium on 'win-win' communication in which each party seeks to understand the position of the other. However, business also thrives on competition and in the workplace we often see the 'win-lose' principle of competition influencing the way in which we communicate. Let's think positive, take a closer look and see if we can coach ourselves into better workplace communication.|
Assertiveness theory states that we have a number of rights; such as the rights to:
Of course, if you take those rights the other half of the deal is that you also take on the responsibilities of respecting that others have those rights too, and of asserting your own rights in a reasonable manner.
- your own feelings, needs and opinions;
- ask (not demand);
- refuse (say “no”);
- make a mistake;
- change your mind;
Back in the world of hard-working executives in the business environment, this begs the question: do we have these rights in the workplace? The answer is yes. However, there are factors that can erode those rights. For example, your contract will require of you certain duties; it's difficult to say “no” to that. The hierarchy may put pressure on your rights: it's difficult sometimes to refuse the boss's requests. Deadlines and targets can be stressful and it's more difficult to be assertive when you feel stressed. Perhaps you want people to like you (a 'please others' driver) and worry that they won't if you don't help them. Finally, given the state of the economy, you may have concerns about job security.
Therefore one of the big workplace assertiveness issues is the ability to say “no” when faced with unreasonable demands. Here's a quick guide to standing your ground (when you decide that it's appropriate to do so) when you feel you're being asked to do something that is beyond your remit, capacity and/or capability.
First, ask for clarification. Before you refuse, ensure that you understand what is being asked and why (e.g. is the person just trying to offload their own work or is this a 'drop-everything' corporate priority?)
Second, say “no” clearly, briefly and calmly, providing reasons for your refusal. The other person has the right to understand your position; after all, they may feel their request is perfectly reasonable. The important thing is to keep the channel of mutual understanding open. Do not apologise repeatedly. By all means, be sorry that you are unable to help them, but be clear about the fact that (based on the information you have) you are unable to help.
Thirdly, be prepared to listen. If they are able to offer new information or reasons then you may feel it reasonable to change your position. But only because you have decided that their request is now reasonable. If it remains contradictory to your job role, business priorities and perhaps even your personal life, why would you change your mind?
The reasoning here is that unassertively saying “yes” to everything doesn't make good business sense, causes you stress and can become a pattern of office behaviour that is increasingly difficult to break. Sometimes, it is actually thinking positive to say “no”.
|If you have chaired a meeting in which the objective was to impart information to the participants then you needed presentation skills. If you have chaired a meeting in which the objective was to engage with the participants, encourage their input, discuss options and agree a consensus then you needed facilitation skills.|
It is possible that there was a time when the manager or executive's role was simply to tell employees what to do. However, modern leadership, employee engagement and the necessity to use your resources to the fullest often require you to work with your people and create the way forward together. This tends to be much more difficult than just issuing instructions but – let's think positive – it can be much more productive, satisfying and even fun.
So what is facilitation? Facilitation is: helping things along, ensuring clarity (of aims, of procedure, of results), asking the right question at the right time, having the group’s interests at heart, challenging the status quo, keeping things on track, hanging back when you’re not needed and stepping in when you are. As a 'facilitator' you are there to (literally) make things easier.
Here is a framework for effective facilitation:
Sometimes a sign of the most successful facilitation is that your role has gone unnoticed. As Lao Tzu wrote, “The highest type of leader is one of whose existence the people are barely aware.” In such a case the group of participants may feel that they have achieved the results themselves. Which they have; but you know that you have made it easier for them to do so.
- BEFORE: What is the objective or aim of the meeting/session? If there is more than one issue, decide how you will structure the time. Consider the possible different views and needs of the participants. Prepare a few key questions to ask them. Do the participants need to do any preparation? What about the environment: room, seating, tea/coffee, visual aids, etc?
- DURING: Clarify the aim or objectives. Explain your role. Establish a few ground rules to ensure people feel able to contribute. Use this four-stage model for discussion: identify an issue; pass the issue to the group for debate; summarise the contributions; gain agreement on the way forward (you may need to go back and forth a little in order to fully explore a complex issue!) Encourage everybody to take part. Don't take sides; but do manage any conflict constructively. Keep an eye on the clock and move things on if people become stuck or start going around in circles. If there are any action points, make sure that they are allocated to specific people and have deadlines attached.
- AFTER: Review the process; did you achieve the objectives? Ensure that someone (not necessarily you) is collating and distributing a summary of the outcomes and any agreed action points. Was there anything you could have done differently or better?
|Coaching a Colleague
|With a 'think positive' attitude to life, you may find that you stand out in the workplace and are noticed. Quite often this can lead to new opportunities and sometimes – because people hope your attitude is contagious – you will be asked to pass on your skills and knowledge to a colleague.|
First of all you need to clarify what exactly you are being asked to do. If you have been asked to help a colleague with a specific task or process then you are probably expected to train them, rather than coach them. The two roles are very different. On the other hand, if you have been asked to help them achieve a specific goal, such as competence in a new skill or to manage a project, then that sounds more like coaching.
In more detail: training is instructive; coaching is facilitative. When training, your job tends to focus on imparting new knowledge and then helping and testing the trainee's ability to apply that new knowledge. When coaching, your role is to ask the right questions and help the coachee achieve their goal. The crucial difference is that when training, the path is often set for the trainee, whereas when coaching the coachee decides on the path that is right for them.
A common coaching model that is used to give some structure to the process is GROW; as follows.
GOAL – clearly establish the end result of the process; ask questions to clarify what must be achieved, by when, to what quality, what resources are available, how are they expected to demonstrate that they have reached their goal, etc.
REALITY – explore their position now, their starting point; this will give a clear indication of how far the individual must travel in order to achieve their goal; ask questions to understand their current skill levels and attitudes relevant to the goal. The more information you can gather at this stage, the better.
OPTIONS – identify the different ways in which the individual can now move from their reality to their goal; explore the different routes that might be possible; ask questions to establish the choices and the pros and cons of each one. (The 'O' can also stand for 'Obstacles' when discussing what factors might stand in the way of the goal and how they can be overcome.)
WAY FORWARD – agree specific actions to move towards the goal; ask questions to identify specific activities that the individual will now undertake. (The 'W' can also stand for 'Will' as in ensuring the individual has the will and the commitment to see the process through.)
Depending on the size and scope of the goal, you may have many meetings with your coachee to discuss progress and review or refine the actions that are helping them achieve their goal.
So, the next time you are asked to support a colleague, ask yourself: Am I a trainer or am I a coach?
|It's a well-worn cliché that the brain never stops working, until the moment you stand up to make a presentation. Yes, they can be nerve-wracking things to do but like anything else you can learn to make good, even great, presentations. Think positive!
First of all, why are you making this presentation? Yes, it might be because the boss has told you to do it, but what is the actual objective? What do you want the audience to know or do after your presentation. The answer to this question will help you identify all the facts, theories, figures, stories, etc. that might be helpful to that objective. Make a list. Do some research. Ask other people; in fact, ask your audience what they would like to know. In this way, you can gather more than enough material.
Next, consider your audience. What will work for them? What will engage them, convince them? Relevant factors may be their jobs, age, background, level of education, ambitions, opinions, interests and so on. This will help you decide what material to keep and what to cut out and also what sort of presentation they might appreciate. For example, do they need something short and blunt (because they are busy and/or have short attention spans) or do they need lots of supporting facts and figures (because they will have to present this information to others afterwards)?
How will you structure your material? You will need a beginning, a middle and an end. Remember, it’s all about reinforcing your message:
Within the middle section, which contains all the key points, you should break the information down into sections and then put those sections into a logical order.
- tell them what you’re going to tell them
- tell them;
- tell them what you told them.
As for the introduction, well you only have one chance to make that first impression so it’s worth spending some time on this. A useful principle to bear in mind is A, B, C or in other words: grab their Attention, tell them the Benefits of listening, and show them your Credentials (i.e. what qualifies you to speak on this particular topic.)
What about visual aids: flipcharts, handouts, PowerPoint, videos, etc? Well, it’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words and it’s also true that however beautiful your voice, people will sooner or later become tired of listening to it. So give them something to look at; but make sure it’s relevant.
OK, you have your presentation written and ready, now what? Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! Practise it in front of the mirror (speaking out loud) and in front of family or friends. This will help you sound more natural on the day, and will help you test your material and the timing.
Finally, two thoughts to help you think positive:
- nobody wants to sit through a bad presentation so your audience actually want you to succeed; and
- nerves are natural and good; in order to have the butterflies, you have to have the stomach.
|Back To Top
|People are not the same – obvious perhaps, but true – and in any workplace team there will be a wide variety of types, preferences, attitudes, skills, knowledge, etc. All these differences will interact together and produce different team behaviours. Ultimately, the effectiveness and efficiency of your team will depend on whether these differences work together or against each other.|
So, understanding the people in your team is crucial. As a manager or executive you need to know each individual in order to bring out their best possible contribution to the team effort. What role should they play within the team? What role would they like to play? What role would be best for them (and the team?) As ever, these questions can seem daunting when faced with a group of individuals whom you must turn into a functioning unit.
Worry not and think positive. There are many theories and models available to help you. One of the more established is that of Belbin's Team Roles.
A team role is defined as: “A tendency to behave, contribute and interrelate with others in a particular way.” Nine roles were identified by Dr. Meredith Belbin during a period of research at Henley Management College, England.; as follows:
IMPLEMENTER – organised; disciplined; puts ideas into practice; may be inflexible.
SHAPER – energetic, pushes forward; thrives on pressure; may lose patience with others.
COMPLETER/FINISHER – sees things through; conscientious; deadline-focussed; may be inclined to worry.
CO-ORDINATOR – leader; confident; provides focus; may be domineering.
TEAM WORKER – caring; diplomatic; works to resolve conflict between members; may be indecisive.
RESOURCE INVESTIGATOR – networker; enthusiastic; explores new possibilities; may lose interest in 'old' ideas.
PLANT – creative; unorthodox; produces original ideas; may ignore details.
MONITOR/EVALUATOR – careful and accurate; objective; sees the 'big picture'; may appear over-critical.
SPECIALIST – expert; dedicated; knowledgeable and skilful in a specific area; may dwell on technicalities.
Effective teams have a balance of roles; each role making an important and distinct contribution. However, that is not to say that every team must have at least nine people! One individual can fulfil the function of more than one of Belbin's roles and that same individual may perform different roles in different teams and over the course of their career. Team roles are not fixed in stone. The important thing is to know what each member of the team has to offer and to play to their strengths and to manage their weaknesses.
Think (positively, of course!) about your team in the workplace. Is the team balanced? Are you clear as to who is fulfilling which roles? Are any of the roles missing; if so, who can develop the skills to take on that role?
|Working through Change
|If you work within an organisation, you are subject to change. Of course, this is true just by being alive but the workplace is where change most often feels like something that is beyond our control. Whether it is the computer system, the entire staffing structure or even just the location of the water-cooler, the old cliché that change is constant has never felt more true.|
So is it really beyond our control? Well, yes and no. We sometimes may not be involved in the strategic decisions that affect our working lives but we can choose our reaction to them. Do we complain? Stick our heads in the sand? Pretend it is not happening? Or do we engage? Ask questions? Get involved? Maintaining a positive attitude to workplace changes can be difficult but it is guaranteed to give you more job satisfaction than the alternative.
One thing is true: all change involves loss. Even if what we are losing is an out-of-date, inefficient, and ‘less fun’ way of working, it is still a loss. Even if we are glad to lose it, it is still a loss. So, what happens to us when we are faced with loss? A common model used for workplace change is an adaptation of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s theory about loss and grieving, which states that we go through a number of distinct stages, such as:
It may be that you don’t experience all the stages equally or even in this order – people differ – but it’s probably fair to say that this will seem familiar to you.
- Denial – “I don’t believe it.”; “It will never happen here.”
- Resistance – “I won’t do it – you can’t make me.”; “The old way was better.”
- Exploration – “How will it work with X?”; “What if we tried Y?”
- Integration – “This is how we do things now.”
So, a few tips for when you are faced with workplace change:
Overcome your nostalgia: we see the past through rose-tinted spectacles; the ‘good old days’ were not necessarily better and whether you like it or not, the future is here to stay, until it changes again.
Engage with the change: the above model says that it is natural to want to ignore change. That is true, but think positive and keep yourself in the loop. Otherwise, you be left out as your more forward-thinking colleagues go on to build their reputations and careers, influence the changes as they happen and even enjoy themselves in the process.
Accept that mistakes happen: poor communication, missed opportunities, failure to consult – no project (or project manager) is perfect and oversights will occur. If you can be constructive about these problems, this is your chance to…
Get involved: ask questions, make suggestions, look for a role that you can fill. Help make the change a success and you can look back on the process with pride rather than resentment.
Change has always been with us in the corporate environment; the difference is that the pace of change has increased and will probably continue to do so. Remember: think positive! Change is not your punishment; it is your opportunity.
|Leading through Change
|These days the theme of organisational life is change. Your teams are constantly subject to alterations and shifting priorities in working methods, market forces, staffing structures, etc. Of course, you too are subject to all of this. However, as the manager or executive, your role is to think positive and find a way through change; for both you and your people. If, as is often said these days, your people are you biggest asset then it makes sense to have their interests at the heart of any major change programme.
So, how will they react to the latest initiative? Will they be 'thinking positive'? Well, as we saw in last week's article, “Working through Change”, the answer is: possibly not. People's individual reactions to workplace changes tend to go through a number of stages: Denial, Resistance, Exploration and Integration. The first two in particular can result in negative behaviour and your job is to help your people through these stages as smoothly as possible.
The ADKAR model can help you help your teams; it can also provide an objective approach to change management that can keep you positive when dealing with their emotional responses. The ADKAR model was developed by Prosci, an American business research consultancy, following studies of over 700 organisations around the world. The model offers five key stages for managing organisational changes: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement. When looking ahead and planning your change strategy, the model can be used as follows:
So, that's the ADKAR model. Why not think positive and apply it to a significant change you are managing in your organisation?
- Awareness of why the change is needed. List all the reasons for the change; Why is the 'old way' no longer appropriate? Why is the 'new way' better? And so on. Now, how many of your people are aware of these reasons? Only when you can answer, “more than 50%” should you move on to...
- Desire to support and engage with the change. List all the factors that will motivate your people to change; both the positive factors that pull them towards the 'new way' and the negative factors that push them away from the 'old way'. Rate your people's level of motivation; again, at least 50% is needed before moving on to...
- Knowledge of how to change. List the skills and knowledge needed to successfully change (including the knowledge of what the change involves) and rate your people's knowledge and training in these areas. 50+%? Then go to...
- Ability to perform the change. Consider the skills and knowledge you have listed. Now rate your people's ability to apply and use these skills and knowledge. Once you have more than 50%...
- Reinforcement to maintain the change. What measures are in place to ensure the change is permanent? What incentives are in place? Rate their effectiveness in supporting the change. 50% or more?
|Back To Top
|Workplace conflict is common. With the increasing complexity of projects, products, marketing, strategy, policy, leadership, etc. it is inevitable that people will have differences of attitude, view, belief, opinion, value or need. This is often seen as a bad thing but wait... good decisions are those that take into account a number of perspectives. Without conflict we lose richness and our decisions lack depth. The more views taken into account in the decision-making, the less chance that the course of action will fail later on. Your art as a leader, lies in thinking positively about conflict and seeing it for the valuable phenomenon it is.|
So how do you navigate the conflict and resolve it as quickly and efficiently as possible without losing the benefits? Here is a model which may help.
Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann's research during the 1970s identified five basic modes of approaching conflict based on the levels of importance you attach to your own needs and to the needs of the other person:
Competing – your needs are paramount – you stand up for what you think is right or, perhaps, simply try to win. It may be that you see achieving your objective as more important than preserving the relationship. Good for quick decisions but it may come across as harsh.
Accommodating – the opposite of Competing – perhaps you don't care about the issue or maybe harmony is more important. Unlikely to lead to the best decision, but you may be able to demand a favour in return later.
Avoiding – attaching no importance to either your needs or theirs – sidestepping the conflict; it may buy you time, but it does not resolve the differences. Only really appropriate where the issue is trivial and everybody's attention should be on more important matters.
Collaborating – the opposite of Avoiding – a genuine attempt to satisfy everybody's needs. Sometimes time-intensive, but if parties are committed, it can lead to new and original solutions. The only true 'win-win' approach. Good for situations in which a good quality decision is essential; where quality is more important than speed.
Compromising – all needs are important but it is acknowledged that not all needs can be met – agreement is reached but nobody gets everything that they want; it is democratic but not always satisfying. Useful where a deadline may be looming or where any solution is better than none.
Ultimately, the 'correct' approach depends on the situation, how much time you have and the relative roles of the people involved (politics is always a powerful factor.)
Next time you are faced with managing a conflict with or among your people, why not take a moment to think about which of the five approaches is the most positive to take?
|Motivation often comes down to individuals and circumstances and what works today may not work tomorrow, which is why it can feel difficult and time-consuming. But work done willingly is always better than work done unwillingly and your people's commitment to their work is worth its weight in gold (even at today's prices!) so let's 'think positive' and take a look at motivation.|
There is a huge amount of research and theory on what motivates people in the workplace (e.g. McGregor's X and Y or Reiss's 16 basic desires), how personality types can influence an individual's motivation (e.g. the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) and there are models to help us examine how self-awareness influences motivation (e.g. the Johari Window), but a starting point would be Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
Abraham Maslow's psychological research led him to identify a pyramid or hierarchy of personal needs common to all of us:
Each of these needs depends upon those beneath it receiving some satisfaction. In other words, you can provide all the coaching and personal development training you like (to meet Need#1), but if the individual feels that they receive no credit for their good work then your coaching will not motivate them (because Need#2 is not being met.)
- self-actualisation – achievement of full personal potential
- self-esteem – independence, recognition, respect
- social – sense of belonging, friendship, love
- safety & security – protection, shelter
- physiological – food & drink, warmth
Furthermore, to illustrate how people's personal lives and working lives cannot easily be separated: you can give someone a public thank you for all their hard work at the team conference (to meet Need#2 and maybe even #3) but that will mean very little to them if they are having trouble paying the mortgage (Need#4 is under threat.)
So, what people need in order to feel motivated will vary from individual to individual and from one day to the next. What can you do? First: 'think positive' (of course!) Second: communicate. Talk with your people. You need to know how they feel; what is going on for them in the workplace. That doesn't mean you should pry or be too invasive with your questions, but you can and should show an interest. Give them the opportunity to tell you what they need. And when they do, you acknowledge that need, show you understand that need and, where possible, meet that need.
Granted there may be some factors or incentives that are not within your control. Do acknowledge their existence, but devote your energies to that which you can provide.
Finally, how often should you do this?
"People often say that motivation doesn't last.
Well, neither does bathing that's why we recommend it daily."
-- Zig Ziglar (motivational speaker)
Ask yourself: “How motivational a manager am I?”
|Your image – what does it say?
|Your image can be positive or negative. There is 'self-image' (how you see yourself) and 'public image' (how others see you.) They are often quite different but they both depend on similar factors. So if you want to 'think positive' about changing or improving your image, the same positive steps will impact on both.
But is it really important what other people think of you? It may seem self-evident that you would want a good self-image, but does your public image matter so much? Well, firstly most of us like to be liked. Maybe that shouldn't be so powerful (and it certainly should not be your only source of self-esteem) but in reality if someone we like also likes us, then that feels good (and so boosts our self-image.) Secondly, pragmatically speaking, you might need something: co-operation from a colleague, a favour from a friend, or a sale from a customer. How freely they give it will be influenced by their opinion of you. That's the way the world is.
As the old saying goes, “The clothes maketh the man.” (and woman!) First impressions are formed from your appearance. Every social situation – the office, the pub, the funeral, the country walk - has its uniform: a set of clothes that is 'appropriate'. There are times when you want to wear that uniform and others when you don't. Do you want to fit in? Or do you want to stand out? You decide.
Health & Grooming
Like it or not, we are programmed by modern society to respond to people who are clean, fit and well-groomed; just look through a fashion magazine. If you eat healthily, look after your skin and hair and take some regular exercise then by today's standards, your appearance will be improved.
Just as there is a uniform, there is also an accepted manner of speech depending on the situation. Whether business jargon in the office or football chants on the terraces, adopting the speech of those around you can create a positive image. Equally, it is not only the words you use but also how you use them. Do you interrupt people or wait until they've finished? Do you dismiss opposing views or politely disagree? Your language and way of speaking are a powerful part of your image.
It is not only your words that communicate to others. Your posture, your gestures, your movements all speak loudly. Likewise, your behaviour is also part of your image. For example, if you hold a door open for the person behind you they instantly see you as a kind and considerate person; if you let it slam in their face, they don't. Simple, small actions tell others about you.
However, it is important to stress that this is not about having to change your personality. Your identity is complex and multi-faceted. Using your image to your advantage is about knowing yourself well and then deciding positively on what part of you to present in any given situation.
So, think about the image you project in different situations. Is it what you want?
Think Positive in your Life
|What do you really want from your life? Have you got it? Have you unlocked your full potential or are you still looking for the key? There may be several locks on your potential: ability, opportunity, motivation, but the first key you need is always attitude. Without a positive frame of mind, you may not even find the door.
Thinking positively is crucial to your success.
It has often been said that perception is nine-tenths of what you see. If what you see is your own lack of ability, lack of opportunity and resultant lack of motivation to do the things you want to do, then maybe it's time to change your perception.
Remember a time when you were thinking negatively, perhaps it was “I'm not good at managing my money.” or “I won't get that promotion.” or even “I don't deserve to be happy.”? Did it turn out to be true? Probably.
Imagine if you really believed that you were good with money. Imagine if you really believed you were ready and able to be promoted. Imagine if you really believed you deserved to be happy. If you believe it then you have taken the first, and most difficult, step to making it true.
Now remember a time when you felt confident, when you knew that you could do what you were asking of yourself, when you were thinking positively. Not only did you most likely succeed, you probably had fun doing it as well.
Sometimes, a change to positive thinking seems too big. If so, don't give up, instead imagine you are changing gears in a car. You wouldn't shift from reverse to forward in one change, would you? No, first you would put the gears into neutral. So, if you find your thinking is negative, just ask yourself, “What assumptions am I making about this situation?” What hard facts do you really have that are telling you that it can't be done? Probably very few. Usually we make assumptions, particularly in our dealings with other people. Be honest: you don't really know the other person's views, thoughts and intentions; you don't really know that they won't agree with you / support you / believe you / help you. Those are assumptions based on either their previous behaviour, something you've heard from someone else or even just your own fear of success. So shift the gears into neutral and acknowledge that you don't really know that you won't succeed. Based on what you actually know, success is entirely possible. Now that you know that you can succeed, you're on the way to believing that you will succeed. Having shifted the gears to neutral, you can now shift to 'think positive' and move forward, looking for ways to bring about your success. Whatever it may look like.
Thinking positively centres on the fact that your frame of mind is your most powerful tool in life.
Think Positive in Today’s Reality
Today's reality can seem very negative if you let it. With the news being about the recession, redundancies, inflation, sometimes it can feel as if there is a lot of bad news around. Negativity is contagious, just like the seasonal flu and too much bad news can leave you feeling down. The good news is that you can also catch a positive attitude, and not only does thinking positive get you better results, it also makes you feel better!
A 10-year corporate study by Aston Business School in Birmingham found a link between chief executives' attitudes and the performance of their employees and companies. Put simply, you attitude matters; not just to you but also to anyone who depends on you: colleagues, family, friends. The BIG question can be: how do you do it? You know positivity feels better, gets better results, but when there are fewer jobs, rising prices, bad news in the media and you look at the state of your bank balance, how do you 'think positive'?
Well let’s think in terms of the 3 'P's of positivity:
- Is is Personal?
- Is it Permanent?
- Does it affect the big Picture?
Sometimes it can helpful to stop a moment and realise that in most cases it (whatever “it” is) isn't directed at you personally, it is a temporary state of affairs, and even while it lasts, it doesn't affect the whole of your life; the big picture is still the same.
Here are a few tips on how to recover from negativity and catch the habit of thinking positive.
If you there is too much bad news in the media, ask yourself how much you actually need to have a general grasp of current events, how much you need for your work, and how much for your personal life. Then take a conscious decision to limit your exposure to the media to just enough to meet the needs you have identified. Less bad news = less negativity.
Have an Attitude of Gratitude
Focus on the positive aspects of your life or day and take pleasure in them: a cup of tea, a hug, half an hour with a good book, whatever it is, enjoy it.
Review Your Values
What is really important to you? What are the personal values that make you, you? Think about how you are measuring up to your own standards and make a choice to do so regardless of the newspapers or the stock market or your bank balance.
Have a Plan
There is a well-known motivational phrase about having the wisdom to know what is within your control and what is not. Focus your positivity on the issues that you can influence where it will do you (and others) the most good: what you spend, whose company you keep, how you relate to others, and so on
Think positive and strengthen your attitude's immune system against negativity.
Better Your Life With Your Think Positive Approach
Have you ever noticed how it's not just the picture, it's the frame around it? That even a mediocre image can be lifted, made better by a good frame? Life too.|
No matter how positive you are, bad things can still happen. Sometimes the picture that life presents you with is not so pretty. The key question is how do you respond when that happens; the true test of positive thinking is whether you can apply it when you need it. Put simply, when you see a picture that you don't like, what sort of frame do you put around it?
Experiences are largely subjective. Not just what happens but also how we choose to view what happens. This is where the technique of reframing can be used. Maybe you know someone who always finds the down side to every situation? If you won the lottery, they would say, Yes, but money doesn't bring you happiness? If you started a new business, they would talk about how many new ventures fail in the first 12 months. This person is great at reframing, but they're coming from a 'think negative' position. All you need to do is reverse their tactics and place your frame around the positive elements in the picture.
So, here are three positive reframing steps that you can take the next time you're faced with a huge credit card bill, an unexpected repair to the car or a cancelled flight:
Your life is often more subjective than you think. Things happen, but whether they are “good” or “bad”, “positive” or “negative” largely depends on how you choose to view them. And it is a choice. Positive reframing techniques can genuinely boost your think positive approach to life when you most need it.
- Establish the truth – What are you telling yourself about the situation? What are the real facts and what negative assumptions are you making?
- Check your reaction – How much of what you're feeling about the situation relates to the truth and how much is actually how you felt about similar circumstances in the past. Are you just resurrecting those feelings a second time?
- Ask yourself the right questions – If you ask yourself, Why does this always happen to me? then you're automatically telling yourself that you cannot control the situation and are condemned to repeat the past. Whereas if you ask, How can I stop this happening again? you are empowering yourself to take control and influence your future. The wrong questions instruct the subconscious bits of your mind to keep you feeling bad; the right questions put them to work on solutions.
It's the classic question: is the glass half-full or half-empty? Either way, the glass has the same amount of water in it, but your answer will transform your everyday approach to life.
|Back To Top
Some executives are better at budgets, analysis, research; the logical stuff. Some, on the other hand, are better at relating to people, motivating their team, gaining an understanding of how customers might think. Of course, some people believe themselves to be good at both skill sets but if you ever think you could improve on the second then think positive because the concept of emotional intelligence might just be of help.|
There has been research on emotional intelligence – often referred to as EQ to distinguish it from the more academic-related IQ – throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, but the book that popularised the idea in business circles was Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence in 1995. Increasingly it has been incorporated into training and coaching practices.
The basic message of Goleman's work was that success is strongly influenced by personal qualities such as perseverance, self-control and the ability to get along with other people. That doesn't sound too controversial to the business world these days. Most of us can probably think of a mid-level executive who may be highly intelligent but whose career has stalled. Perhaps because they don't understand organisational politics or upset too many of the wrong people or their reputation puts people off wanting to work with them? This person may well need to boost their EQ.
Fundamentally there are two main aspects to EQ: understanding yourself (your aims, motivations,behavioural responses, etc.) and understanding others. The business benefits to developing these skills are numerous: increased motivation, productivity, engagement, commitment, harmony within the team; and decreased workplace stress, conflict and unhelpful politics.
The two aspects are divided into five main competence headings, as follows:
Self-Awareness – understanding your own emotions, being able to assess yourself accurately, your level of self-confidence.
Self-Regulation – being able to control your emotional responses, being seen as trustworthy, the degree to which you are conscientious, adaptable and innovative.
Self-Motivation – your drive to achieve and your commitment, initiative and optimism.
Social Awareness – your degree of empathy, the ability to understand customer needs, developing others, the ability to use diversity positively, political awareness.
Social Skills – your communication and influencing skills, leadership, change and conflict management, networking and ability to effectively lead a team.
Certainly, put like this, these are all essential skills for the executive in today's corporate environment. However, there is an argument that for most of us, these skills (or lack of) are set at an early age, usually in childhood. This then begs the question: can these skills be developed and improved or are we stuck with what we have?
The good news is that yes, one can become more socially and emotionally competent. That said, most corporate training focuses on cognitive learning methods, which encourage you to take new information and fit it into your existing framework or world view EQ requires emotional learning, which may mean using the new information to actually change the way you perceive the world. But think positive, because that change of world view may just break you out a static pattern and bring you the career you always wanted.
What Drives Us?
Lots of factors drive us to do things in life. Look at any executive or colleague in your business – or look at yourself – and ask why they might have chosen design, production, marketing, etc. On a day-to-day level, it can be difficult to understand why people sometimes respond the way that they do. As ever, by taking a think positive approach, we can find a tool to help with that job.|
Whether looking at self-awareness or examining our interactions with others, a coach may use Transactional Analysis (or TA) to develop understanding. TA was originally developed by psychiatrist Eric Berne during the 1950s. Among other features, the model suggests five main Drivers for our actions and decisions: ingrained messages that drive our behaviour. Some of the main traits of the five Drivers and some advice and tips are as follows:
Traits: wants everything to be considered in great detail; follows procedures to the letter; deadlines may be missed through taking too long to plan, correct, revise, etc., critical of own and others perceived shortcomings; dislike feeling out of control or rushed.
Advice for 'Be Perfects': remember that mistakes help us learn; check how much detail is actually required.
Tips for dealing with 'Be Perfects': offer reassurance; be punctual; show appreciation.
Traits: willing and helpful; nothing is too much trouble; accepts work from just about anyone; has real difficulty saying “no”; keeps quiet about problems for fear of upsetting anyone.
Advice for 'Please Others': set priorities around your own job responsibilities; identify your boundaries and stick to them; learn how to accept constructive feedback
Tips for dealing with 'Please Others': give options, including the option to refuse your request; set clear priorities; give unconditional appreciation.
Traits: competitive, often first to volunteer; gets bored quickly, resulting in unfinished tasks; uses the words “I’ll try” a lot; takes things on because they feel they should.
Advice for 'Try Hards': eliminate “I’ll try” from your vocabulary and use “I can” or “I can’t” instead; don't volunteer just because you think you should; find a way to avoid boredom at the end of a project.
Tips for dealing with 'Try Hards': show appreciation for finishing work; gently challenge “I'll try”; ignore competitiveness.
Traits: stays calm (sometimes unnaturally so); will refuse help; avoids discussing feelings; prefers to work alone; appears unworried about workload.
Advice for 'Be Strongs': learn to ask for help; involving others can improve final results; be flexible.
Tips for dealing with 'Be Strongs': offer help in a constructive way; don't force into a position of vulnerability; don't make changes for the sake of change.
Traits: works at a fast pace; makes mistakes because they rush; always looking for shortcuts; commits to too many meetings and projects; impatient.
Advice for 'Hurry Ups': take time to plan; stop interrupting; keep a regular “have done” list to remind you of what you have achieved.
Tips for dealing with 'Hurry Ups': encourage preparation; don't be intimidated; encourage questions to check their understanding.
Naturally, in any business, all of the Drivers have their own drawbacks and (think positive!) their own benefits. Look around you; you can probably guess at your fellow executives' Drivers but to be honest about your own, it may be easier to when working with a coach or other helper. Either way, TA Drivers offer a fascinating insight in our own and others' behaviours.
Think Positive and Sleep Well
In an ideal world, we spend nearly a third of our lives sleeping, getting a solid eight hours every night and waking up the next morning, refreshed and ready to meeting with life's ups and downs. However, whether everybody needs the same amount or not, the fact is many of us have trouble sleeping.|
While the results of insomnia can be different according to the individual, they are rarely good. A regular lack of sleep can cause memory impairment, confusion, weight gain, stress and also reduce the efficiency of the immune system. All of these can affect self-esteem and the ability to cope, which is hardly helpful when it comes to thinking positive.
In fact, it's very easy to end up in a downward spiral: you find it difficult to sleep – you have less energy – you feel less positive – life's challenges feel insurmountable – you become stressed – therefore you find it difficult to sleep – and so on... What you need is an upward spiral instead.
So what to do? Sleeping pills and herbal remedies can offer a short-term solution, but they rarely provide good, deep sleep and over time, you will build up a tolerance to them. With this in mind, here are 13 tips to help you sleep and so keep your think positive attitude.
- Stick to a schedule to help your body to set its own internal rhythm so you can get up at the time you want, consistently, every single day. Try to keep the same schedule on weekends too, otherwise the next morning, you’d wake later and feel overly tired.
- Sleep only at night. Avoid daytime sleep if possible. Daytime naps steal hours from night-time slumber. Limit daytime sleep to 20-minute power naps.
- Exercise helps you sleep better. Your body uses the sleep period to rest the muscles and joints that have been exercised. Twenty to thirty minutes of exercise every day can help you sleep, but be sure to exercise in the morning or afternoon and not just before bedtime.
- Taking a hot shower or bath before bed helps bring on sleep because they can relax tense muscles.
- Avoid eating just before bed. Give yourself at least 2 hours from when you eat to when you sleep. This allows for digestion to happen (or at least start) well before you go to sleep so your body can rest well during the night.
- Avoid caffeine. It keeps you awake; we all know that.
- Read a story. A book can take you to a whole new world – you may find as you read more and more, you become more tired at night and so find it easier to fall asleep.
- Have the room slightly cool. Turn off the heat and allow the coolness to circulate in and out of the windows. If you get cold, wear warmer clothes.
- Sleep in silence.
- Avoid alcohol before bedtime. It’s a depressant and although it may make it easier to fall asleep, it causes you to wake up during the night. As alcohol is digested it can cause night-time awakenings and even nightmares for some people.
- Have at least a 2-hour break from your computer before trying to get to sleep and DO NOT use the computer if you wake up during the night as the stimulation from the screen will make it almost impossible for you to get back to sleep.
- Keep a notepad and pen beside the bed and quickly note any nagging thoughts that wake you up and then let them go knowing you can't forget about them tomorrow.
- Invest in a hypnotherapy sleep tape to introduce you to techniques to help you sleep well and consistently.
It's time to make a good night's sleep part of your everyday reality!
|Back To Top
Think Positive and Feel Better Fast!
Sometimes your think positive attitude runs a little low. When there's too much going on, too many competing priorities, the stress begins to build and you feel those negative thoughts creeping in around the edges. Before you know it, you're feeling down and the demands on your attention are even more daunting.|
First of all, don't worry about it. Everyone feels like this from time to time. All you need is to know how to give yourself a boost; a think positive attitude injection. Try these exercises and find out which one works best for you.
Have you ever paid attention to how you breathe? The chances are, the more stressed you are, the shallower you're breathing. When we breathe shallowly, the chest and abdomen move very little and we only use the upper part of our lungs. This means that less oxygen is entering our bloodstream, and less oxygen means less energy.
First, just notice how you're breathing. Try it now. Shallow or deep? Now, relax your chest and shoulders and take a deep breath, right in, down deep. As you breathe in, you'll notice that your stomach moves outwards. This is because the volume of your lungs has increased. As you breathe out again, your stomach goes in. Try deliberately moving your stomach in and out as you breathe for a few breaths to feel the full effect. You should start to feel a lift as your oxygen levels rise. Just work on this for a minute or so – too long and you might start to feel dizzy. There's no harm in that (unless you're driving or operating machinery in which case don't do this exercise!) it's just not the effect we're aiming for.
Take a moment and sit at your desk or kitchen table. Lean forward slightly and put your elbows on the surface (for just two minutes forget what your mother said about table manners). Now close your eyes and cover them with the palms of your hands. Don't put any pressure on, just cover them.
As you sit there, let your posture change as it relaxes – you might feel your shoulders drop of their own accord, or you might want to uncross your legs. After a minute or two of this, take your hands away, sit up, take a deep breath and open your eyes. You will find that you are physically relaxed, mentally calmer and your vision is clearer.
Smooth Your Tension
Find a quiet place where you can sit for a couple of minutes. If it's possible to lie down comfortably, that's even better. Close your eyes and focus on your body. Examine it, bit by bit, looking for tension. Start with your head, does your scalp feel tight, your jaw taut? How about your neck, is it stiff? Are your shoulders lifted up slightly? Now your arms, are they tensed? Check your chest and stomach, can you breathe easily? What about your legs, do they feel bunched up?
Wherever you find the tension, imagine it melting away and gently tell that part of your body to relax. Pay particular attention to your hands and feet. If they are truly relaxed the rest of the body tends to follow suit. With practice, you will be able to release tension quickly and easily, leading to a more relaxed attitude. All three of these exercises follow the principle that by focussing on relaxing the body you automatically relax the mind.
So the next time you can feel your think positive attitude leaking away, nip the problem in the bud and try one of these quick fixes. Relax and keep optimism as your everyday reality.
More and more, thinking positively is your first and best response to modern life. As the pressures mount – whether in our work or our personal life – your state of mind, your attitude is crucial.|
Your friends usually support your positive thinking. After all, you chose them, there must be something you like about them. When you need a boost, 'phone a friend'. But... sometimes they let us down. Maybe they ask too much and give too little. Maybe they haven't been in touch even though you needed help.
Think positive. Whatever they have done or not done, it's just behaviour. They are not a 'bad' person, the worst you can say is that they have behaved 'badly'. Tell yourself that there must be a good reason for it and proceed from that assumption. Talk to them; give them some space; whatever's reasonable. Remember you're their friend too.
Is your work ever dull? Every job contains elements of routine. At times we find that comfortable but at at others it can take the fun out of the day.
Think positive. Ask yourself what scope there is for creativity in even the simplest task. Use your imagination and ask:
“How can I get the best out of this day for myself?”
It may only be starting at 'Z' instead of 'A' when you do the filing – a bit of silliness – or conducting a regular meeting in a café instead of the office. Any task can be livened up with a bit of creativity. If you've got to do something, you might as well do it with a smile instead of a frown.
Life is timetabled and scheduled: Calendars, 'to do' lists, reminders, everything is to be done according to deadline. But whether it's an illness or a traffic jam or an Icelandic volcano, life is also full of delays and we can become obsessed and frustrated by those delays.
Think positive. Try re-framing the problem. What is the silver lining to the ashcloud? Maybe it's the universe telling you to take a time-out? So, get a cappuccino, sit down and have a break. Reassess your priorities, think about something completely different, call a friend. Use this pause in proceedings to your benefit.
Hobbies & Interests
Almost by definition, a true hobby is 'non-essential'. It doesn't pay the bills or keep the roof over your head. It isn't part of the expectations that society and other people have of us. A hobby is for personal pleasure and in a busy life, personal pleasure can feature low on the list of things to do.
Think positive. Try to see it from a different angle: a hobby is something that you do for yourself. In a way your hobbies define the real you. Your choice of hobby is not made from necessity but from personal preference. It doesn't depend on competence but on enjoyment. So whether it's yoga, knitting, coin collecting or watercolour painting, find time for your hobby. It's you.
|Back To Top
Your New Year Resolutions
Three weeks into 2011 and how are your New Year's resolutions? Were they realistic? Did you set yourself up for failure or success? Now is the time to take stock and keep yourself on track with a 'think positive' attitude.|
One survey (2007, quirkology.com) suggests that although 52% of people felt confident of success, after a year only 12% had achieved what they set out to do. In fact, forget the figure of 12%. The fact that barely half of the people in the survey had any confidence when they set their goal tells us that sometimes the only thing more traditional than making a New Year's resolution is failing a New Year's resolution.
But Let's think positive. How do we succeed?
First of all, we need to be sure that we have made the right resolution. It's all too easy in the post-festive period of recovery to swear off alcohol and rich food or pledge to make the most of your gym membership, but is that the right frame of mind in which to set your January goals? Here's a question: did your resolution stem from negative beliefs? The most common goals often do:
- get fitter (I'm unhealthy)
- lose weight (I'm too big)
- give up smoking (I smoke too much)
- give up drinking (I drink too much)
- spend more time with my family (I'm not a good father/daughter/etc.)
- be more organised (my life is chaotic)
- be less stressed (I work too hard)
These are all potentially good resolutions, but they are all built on negative foundations. If we are to succeed, we need to build something more positive to work with.
Here are seven 'think positive' tips for resolution success:
Whatever your resolution, this early stage is the time to check you're on the right course, give yourself a boost and think positive!
- Focus – choose one resolution and stick to it (it's easier than juggling half a dozen).
- Realistic milestones – make it easy to notice when you're succeeding; e.g. Don't say, I'll be better with money; Do say, I will reduce my overdraft by £50 every month.
- Make a NEW New Year's resolution – picking the same one that didn't work last year just returns you to old feelings of frustration.
- Use positive language – it you focus on 'giving up' smoking then you're more likely to just 'give up'; better to think about the positive benefits to help your commitment.
- Long-term benefits - think about why you're doing this; e.g. why do you want to lose weight? What will it give you? Focus on the new designer wardrobe rather than the punitive salads.
- Go public - telling others about your resolution takes it out of your head and puts into the real world. Facebook and Twitter are ideal for announcing your resolution, posting your progress and then receiving your friends' encouragement to succeed.
- Positive reinforcement – be kind to yourself; regard any slippage as temporary and all success as worthy of reward.
Think Positive and Change for the Better
We all know successful, positive, happy people. We often call them “lucky”, but suppose luck is just a concept, an idea, a myth? What if these people who are successful, positive and happy are not lucky at all? What if they create their own “luck” through using a 'think positive' attitude?|
We once lived in a world without computers, radios, TVs, microwaves, mobile phones and we now benefit from all this technology because of positive thinking. Not the kind of deluded, unfocused, wishful "One day I'll win the lottery" kind of thinking that relies onthe external universe to change our circumstances for us, but the positive thinking that accepts the current reality and asks the right questions to produce progress and better results. Questions such as...
... and perhaps most importantly in the current turbulent economic times:
- "How can I make this product/situation/relationship better?"
- "How can I improve on what I have now?"
- "How can I become more competent?"
- "How can I add more value to my family's/client's/own experience?"
- "How can I acheive my goals easily and quickly?"
− "How can I find out what I need to do or know to make the best decisions for me?"
By asking positive "How can I..." questions like this, you begin to form positive ideas and as Dr Richard Bandler, co-creator of NLP said, "People create ideas that shape reality". 'Think Positive' techniques like this can help you manage your change for the better and ensure you get more of what you want and need in your life. In other words, help you have the reality you want and deserve.
Of course, you can't always control every aspect of life's changes, but you can decide to use these type of techniques to increase your level of control. As well as the questions above, you could try thinking back to a time when you felt in control of your life, were successful, or in the zone and notice that you probably did a lot of things unconciously to produce that result. For example, you may have:
Remember these two techniques – the "How can I..." questions and the 'thinking back' – whenever you are faced with a change or want to make changes in your life. Change happens so 'think positive' and make a change for the better.
- assessed the situation realistically in terms of what is within your sphere of influence and what is not;
- devised a plan, set goals and action steps;
- networked and asked for help, support & ideas;
- managed your resources effectively (time, money, etc.);
- seized opportunities and created new ones;
- expressed yourself positively;
- had either a positive inner voice, image, or role model to encourage you along the way;
- reviewed progress and adjusted your plans accordingly.
7 Changes in 7 Days
Theory without practise is just talk without action; the illusion of progress. This is your 7-step programme of real, positive change. It's time to change your everyday reality for the better.|
Day One – Desires Day
First, you need to be clear about where you are going on this journey. Today is about taking time out and achieving clarity on what you desire from life. What do you need to happen?
"When you’re not being pulled and pushed by your emotions, you create more freedom to choose where to direct your attention and what you wish to change. It’s like getting shelter from the wind so that you can catch your breath and look around."
– Paul McKenna (2011)
Today's action: Make a list of your specific desires. What would be on that list if you knew you could not fail?
Day Two – Ideas Day
To change your life, you have to do something different. Today is about personal innovation. Involve others (family, friends, colleagues, neighbours) because their perspectives and ideas will be different to yours. Spend today thinking positive about new experiences that could change your life.
Today's action: Think about your desires and then generate as many ideas for achieving them as possible – simple, complicated, sensible, crazy, high risk, low risk – aim for a good mix.
Day Three – Decisions Day
It's time to focus. Your first two days' work have given you the raw material, today you are going to decide what to aim for, how to get there and when to do it. Whatever you do, don't cross out all the risky, crazy stuff from yesterday.
"My general philosophy in life is you never really go wrong saying yes."
– Sir Richard Branson
Today's action: Create an action plan for achieving your desires, set timescales and milestones and build in flexibility. Relax and remember you can revisit this plan and amend it whenever you need to.
Day Four – Actions Day
Taking action is the real difference between wishful thinkers and successful individuals. You have a plan, now act; don't let the plan go stale. Look at the last three days and ask yourself what you will do today. New lives do not grow well with the weeds of procrastination. Regular, daily action (however small) is the key to real change.
Today's action: Do at least one concrete thing today to moves you towards your desires – a phone call to a friend, an email to the bank, a jog around the block – something that contributes.
Day Five – 'Think Positive' Day
To keep that stream of daily actions flowing, you need a positive perspective. Ask yourself some positive questions and let the answers empower you and increase your resourcefulness.
"Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers"
– Anthony Robbins
- Who or what makes me feel happiest?
- When do I feel the most loved and appreciated?
- When have I felt the most successful?
- What makes me feel rich in coin and spirit?
- When do I feel most relaxed and calm?
- What makes me feel that anything is possible?
Today's action: Ask yourself the questions above (and any others that you can think of) and build a resource bank of positive answers that you can use to keep positive as you make your changes.
Day Six - Anchors Day
Yesterday, you built up a store of positive thoughts and memories. Today you are going to anchor yourself to that thinking and stop yourself drifting into a sea of negativity. An anchor can be an object, a sound, a physical feeling, anything that is connected to that positive feeling and can be used to recall it just when you need it.
Today's action: Pick some of the strongest and most positive of the answers to Day Five's questions and identify something that strongly evokes that thought or memory. For example, it might be the t-shirt you were wearing at the time or the song that was on the radio. Wear that t-shirt or play that song, etc. whenever you need to summon up your positive attitude.
Day Seven – Reflection Day
Today is a day for reflection and celebration. It's time to notice the progress you're making and renew your motivation for the next 7 days. What have you achieved so far? What new experiences have you had? What daily actions have you taken? Which anchors are working best for you?
Reward yourself for your successes and decide on your personal innovations and actions for the coming week.
You can use this 7-day process every week to focus on a specific area of your life such as: health, wealth, career, relationships, fitness, further education, stress management, time management; the possibilities are endless.
“The starting point of all achievement is desire. Keep this constantly in mind. Weak desires bring weak results, just as a small amount of fire makes a small amount of heat.”
– Napoleon Hill
Health & Habits
| When the World Health Organisation was established in 1948, its constitution defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” When you think about your health, do you think in such broad terms?|
This definition would lead us to see good health as including: exercising, eating well, abstaining from (or at least being moderate in) vices, receiving stimulation for the brain and intellect, having healthy relationships with a network of family and friends, enjoying the work that we do to earn a living… basically the phrase ‘good health’ can cover every aspect of our lives.
After the almost traditional indulgences at the end of December, New Year has become a time to reflect on our life . Is it as we would wish? What changes would we like to make in the next 12 months? New Year’s resolutions often centre on either addressing inadequate physical fitness (losing weight, getting off the sofa, eating less) or giving up bad habits (smoking, drinking, too much tv) or both. Although if we want to succeed, we must remember to think positive and not think of our resolutions as only being about giving something up or being punitive in some way. We should see them as leading us to a more enjoyable (and healthier) lifestyle. Otherwise why should we bother?
So, here are a few things to think about when making your resolutions:
- Exercise: our bodies need it, whether it is running, going to the gym, yoga, or just walking instead of taking the car. If you’re not doing any, then do some. If you are, then ask yourself honestly: is it enough and is it the right sort of exercise for the life you want?
- Diet: five-a-day, vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, antioxidants… the amount of dietary advice can be overwhelming and between the internet, magazines and tv diet programmes there is a lot of contradictory information available. Why not visit your GP for some advice?
- Work: do you enjoy how you earn your living? If not, how could you enjoy it more?
- Work-life balance: How is yours? Do you work more hours than you are paid for? If so, then be sure that you are doing so for a valid reason and not that it is just a bad habit you’ve slipped into.
- Finance: how was your fiscal management in 2009? Did you save or did you overspend? Would 2010 be a good year to work on your attitude to money?
- Family: do you spend the right amount of time with them?
- Friends: is there anyone with whom you regret having lost touch?
- Hobbies: what do you do purely because you enjoy it? If nothing, then consider what you would like to take up and then how you might free up the time to do it.
Most of all, remember to set positive, realistic, achievable goals, whatever they are. The best New Year’s resolutions are the ones at which you can succeed, because success (of any description) is the best January present you can give yourself.
How well do we really know ourselves? What do other people see when they look at us? Who are we, really? These questions all focus on the issue of our self-awareness. But why should we want to be more self-aware? After all, we might find some unpleasant truths if we examine ourselves too closely. Well, think positive. The more we know ourselves, the more we understand ourselves and the more our behaviour is a result of our choices rather than our unconscious drives and experiences.|
When someone says that they are “disillusioned”, they usually mean it in a negative way. Yet for self-awareness, the less illusions we have about ourselves, the better. Illusions may be comforting to believe in but they are not real. If we want to know ourselves then we should see “disillusionment” as a positive thing.
One model which can help our self-awareness is called the Johari Window, devised by psychologists Joe Luft and Harry Ingham in 1955, following research into group dynamics at the University of California, Los Angeles. The model depends on two factors: what you know about yourself and what others know about you. It is referred to as the “Window” because the combination of these two factors give rise to four categories of information about the self, which are represented in a window-like grid with four 'panes':
||Known to Self
||Not known to Self
|Known to Others
|Not known to Others
(The names of the panes have varied over the years; the names used here are taken from a paper produced by Joe Luft in 1982.)
The OPEN pane contains things about us of which we are aware and that others can see also.
The BLIND pane contains things which others know but that we do not.
The HIDDEN pane contains things that we know but do not show to others.
The MYSTERY pane contains things about us of which neither we nor others are aware (we can assume that such things do exist because every now and then in life we find out something new about ourselves – perhaps we experience a new situation, such as a life-threatening emergency – about which nobody knew; including ourselves.)
In order to fully know yourself (and therefore to be better able to know what you want from life) it is important to explore the contents of all four panes. So, if you seek feedback from others, you potentially reduce the size of the BLIND pane and increase the OPEN. You may also choose to share some information from the HIDDEN pane; both to increase the common ground between you and the other person and also because trusting other people with information about you will encourage them to share information with you in turn. Finally, to see into the MYSTERY pane you can: put yourself in new situations; develop new skills and talents; and generally explore and follow your dreams.
Think positive and explore your window because 'you' are always worth getting to know better.
What Gives You Joy?
“Joy” is an interesting word. Take a moment and think: what other words do you associate with “joy”? Perhaps you came up with words such as, delight, pleasure or happiness? Perhaps you agree with the author, Melba Colgrove that “Joy is the feeling of grinning inside.”? “Joy” has become a rather old-fashioned word. It is often used in a religious context, but less so when referring to our everyday secular lives. But if you are approaching life with a 'think positive' frame of mind then you should surely be aiming to do the things and be with the people that bring you joy?|
The first step is to examine your current situation: which parts of your life can you associate with those words we identified earlier? Maybe it's your family, your work or even just finding half an hour to sit by yourself and read. So the question: “What gives you joy?” is just another way of framing questions that address whether you are leading the life that you wish to lead. But it is a very direct and focussed version of that old 'life review' question. It is precisely because “joy” is such a non-standard word these days that you are forced to look more closely at yourself.
Whatever the answers that you arrive at, the specific sources of your joy will be personal to you. They may change over time: the things that made you happy when you were 18 will not necessarily be the same when you are 40; or 65. But sometimes we don't notice that our tastes and needs have changed and we continue to do the same old stuff and expect the same result. That's why it is helpful to every now and then check where our happiness – our joy – is coming from.
Alternatively, look at the other side of the coin. If the opposite of joy is misery, sorrow or even despair, ask yourself if there are any areas of your life with which you associate those words. If there are, think positive! What could you do to stop doing or move away from these areas? At the very least, how could you lessen the impact they are having on you?
To return to the people and things that do give you joy: are you getting enough of them? Are they occasional highlights or are they regular occurrences? Just for a moment, let's be greedy: as long as you're hurting no-one, why shouldn't you be happy, be joyful all of the time? Why not give yourself the right to be happy constantly? If you do, then you might start wondering what positive steps you can take towards more joy in your life.
A final quote: the composer, Richard Wagner said, “Joy is not in things; it is in us.” So think positive and look for the joy in your life.
Managing Your Time
Time: everybody has the same amount but nobody has enough. Sometimes it flies, sometimes it drags, and it always passes at the same steady rate. We talk of 'saving' time and 'spending' time as if it was money (and of course, there is the common phrase, “Time is money!”) but in fact with every hour that passes we are using our time, hour by hour. The only valid question is whether we are using it to do the things we want and need to do.|
It may often feel that you have too much to do in the time that you have: job, family, housework, shopping, holidays, etc. Think positive; here are some hints and tips to help you manage your personal time effectively.
Lists – very useful for keeping track of what you need to get done. However, writing it all down can feel like more progress than it actually is: you need to take action before you can cross an item off your list.
Priorities – work out what is important and/or urgent to you, then consider any other relevant concerns, then decide in what order you will do things.
Deadlines – set some, otherwise it is too easy to put it off until tomorrow.
Reminders – there are a number of ways to alert yourself to appointments and commitments: pocket diary, mobile phone; Google calendar; notes on the fridge door; pick your favourite and use it.
Distractions – notice when you procrastinate, when you put off doing some unpleasant task. If you distract yourself with fun then do the task first and then give yourself the fun as a reward. If you distract yourself with 'easier' work (such as laundry or sharpening pencils) then prioritise: which task is more important or urgent; do that one first.
Postponements – when you've put something off three times, it is probably time to just do it and get it out of the way!
Direct Debits – if you don't already pay your bills this way then consider it; it's easier for you and you may receive a discount.
Internet shopping – save yourself the trip to the supermarket by buying the month's non-perishable groceries online and having them delivered at a time that suits you.
E-mail – you don't have to check it every five minutes; and when you do check it, it is a rare message that requires and instant response!
Telephone – you don't have to answer it just because it rings; if you are doing something important or complicated then let the caller leave a message and return their call at a time convenient to you.
Sleep – give yourself the recommended amount. Sleeping less may give you more waking hours but you'll soon be too tired to use them effectively.
Leisure – make sure that you build in some time for some fun; whether it's going to a movie, doing a pilates class, playing a video game, whatever; all work and no play is not good for you.
So the next time you are feeling overwhelmed by your 'to do' list, think positive and use some of these tips to give yourself more control over your time.
Looking for New Positive Opportunities
Have you ever caught yourself thinking or saying “I never seem to get lucky.”, “I always miss out on opportunities.”, “I have no other options.” and other such expressions of limiting beliefs?
Well it is true that in a slow economic climate opportunities can be hard to find BUT that is different to there being no opportunities at all. Many people have their greatest successes in times of recession. Exploring how they do this will help you use new positive opportunities to achieve your goals, whatever they may be.
“How many opportunities present themselves to man, without him noticing?”
− Arab Proverb
So how can you train yourself to 'think positive' and spot more opportunities? Knowing how you have trained your brain to actually miss opportunities is a good place to start.
All our sensory input is filtered in various ways by our central nervous system. This filtering mechanism limits our input via a set of neurological filters: deletion, distortion, and generalisation. Without them, we would be overwhelmed by a deluge of irrelevant information, but whilst these filters make it possible for us to function they also restrict the information that is allowed into our conscious awareness. This explains how we can come to miss various aspects of our daily experiences, including opportunities.
So, if our perceptions – the way we see the world around us – is controlled by our deletion, distortion and generalisation filters, understanding how they work and adjusting them to allow more input is the key for improving our opportunity-generating potential.
Deletion – this is about deleting memories or experiences which would contradict a current belief or view; e.g. people who have made some poor decisions recently can find it hard to access memories of good decision-making, effectively deleting their history of having made some good decisions. This has a negative influence on their current ability to assess and seize opportunities.
Distortion – this is when we distort meaning to fit with a current belief; e.g. responding to an opportunity by saying “Sounds like an opportunity, but with my luck it will never work.” distorts the opportunity into something negative, which is therefore easily rejected.
Generalisation – this is applying a single rule to all situations, using language such as “always” or “all”; e.g. saying “whenever I have taken a risk it has always gone wrong” which generalises the situation and prevents the person from looking at the current opportunity on its own merits.
To adjust your filters:
“Once you realize that you can alter your thinking and beliefs, it changes the way you behave.”
- Develop your awareness of distortion, deletion & generalisation;
- Notice your limiting language, are you using words like all, always, never, everyone, nothing, no-one, etc? Challenge yourself to think of a time when the opposite was true and stop your limiting generalisations;
- Create a list of times when you have been successful, made good decisions, spotted opportunities, taken risks, etc. Use this to jog your memory when you catch yourself slipping into Distortion or Deletion. Use your positive history and positive thinking to reframe negative thoughts created by Distortion or Deletion.
- Richard Bandler (2010)
Think Positive and create better and multiple opportunities for you to achieve your goals
|Retune Your Brain to Think Positive |
|(Helping to achieve a positive outlook using basic NLP) |
Most of us have had the experience of feeling incredibly positive about an event, a person, or an outcome we have worked hard for, but often that feeling doesn't last. As the event becomes a memory so does the positive feeling. You may recall that as a child you might wake up each morning feeling good about nothing in particular, for no reason at all. Imagine being able to do that every day for the rest of your life.|
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) was developed by Richard Bandler & John Grinder almost 40 years ago and NLP is still one of the leading tools for personal development and lasting change for the positive.
“After we're born, we have so much knowledge and expertise to acquire – everything from walking, talking, and feeding ourselves to making decisions about what we want to do with the rest of our lives. Our brains are quick to learn how to automate behavior. Of course, this doesn't mean the brain always learns the right behavior to automate; quite often, our brains learn to do things that make us miserable and even sick”
− Richard Bandler, “Make Your Life Great” (2010)
So if we have accidentally learned some thought patterns that make us miserable in either a particular circumstance or life in general, how do we go about changing them to a more 'think positive' approach?
Virginia Satir (family therapist) suggests three things need to be in place first:
- You must be so sick of feeling negative, miserable, etc. that you decide you really want to change;
- You have to see the problem of feeling negative from a new perspective;
- You must find or create new and appealing options.
If you create for yourself the choice of a positive change, you are more likely to choose the positive option than the negative ones.
You could start by asking yourself: “Do I want to experience my first day of feeling incredibly positive for no reason in particular today or tomorrow?” and “Do I want to feel positive in general or about a particular event or person?”
To retune your brain to be more positive, complete this exercise:
- Relax and breathe deeply and as you relax, it becomes easier and easier to let your imagination play.
- Now imagine another you, standing in front of you, this is the most wonderfully positive, feeling good for no reason at all, you, that you can possibly imagine – your authentic positive self.
- Take some time to feel totally happy with the positive you, notice the way the positive you stands, smiles, breathes, talks, moves. Notice how positivity simply radiates like shimmering light from the positive you, notice how the positive you handles problems and achieves goals.
- Now turn the positive you around and step into and integrate with your authentic positive self. See through the eyes of your positive self, hear through the ears of your positive self and feel how great feeling positive feels.
- Spend some time daydreaming about how your life will improve as you life more and more as your positive authentic self.
Many people find it beneficial to complete the exercise first thing on a morning before getting up or last thing at night (do not try the exercise whilst driving or operating machinery). You can use this exercise as part of your general development or when you need an extra shot of that 'think positive' attitude.
Personal Change (Part One): Audit your Life
|“It is in the moment of decision-making that your destiny is formed.” – Tony Robbins|
That’s quite a statement. There is no escaping that it is the decisions you make that shape your life.
Our personal development does not stop once we reach adulthood; it merely enters a new phase. The world changes around you and your position in the world changes as you proceed through life. The key is to bring a positive attitude to life and take control of the changes to become who you want to be.
We all have aspects of our lives that we wish were better or different in some way. But how do we get what we want? Cross our fingers? Trust to luck? Wait for someone else to do it for us? Well, I’m afraid that not only can no-one change your life quite like you can, in fact you are the only one who can do it. So you want to move forward? Think positive and make it happen. But how?
Successful change in life is all about goals; setting them, working towards them, achieving them, reviewing them. It is only through clear goals and then definite actions towards those goals that we achieve improvement and change.
But before you go rushing in and making the destiny-forming decisions that Tony Robbins was talking about, you might want to step back for a moment, and consider...
If you want to make the best possible decision, set the best possible goals, then you need the best possible information. This is where completing a ‘life audit’ exercise such as the assessment questionnaire in the Clean Sweep Programme can help you.
A life audit is an exercise in which you objectively and positively assess the key areas of your life: physical environment, well-being, money and relationships. This process encourages and enables you to look at conflicts in your life; your friends, family and colleagues; any self-destructive behaviours; your current situation and future direction. By completing an audit of this type you will find it easier to identify areas in your life in which you would like to make changes. In other words, you will clearly see the goals you should be setting.
Let’s take a moment to stress the importance of honesty. A good life audit such as Clean Sweep will demand answers to some difficult or uncomfortable questions. There is no point in telling any less than the truth. The only person you would be fooling is yourself and the danger would be that you use the wrong or incomplete results to make important decisions about your life.
Sometimes it helps to have a structured set of questions to help you take stock. To help you see clearly where you want to be. When it comes to self-awareness, there is no such thing as too much information. So take control today – think positive and give your life a rigorous audit.
|Personal Change (Part Two): Setting Goals
Last week, we looked at conducting a life audit to identify those aspects of your life that you want to improve or change. The question now is: having named these areas for improvement, how do we move forward? It’s time for some clarity. It’s time to think about setting some positive goals for yourself.|
Having a goal means having a definite destination in mind. After all, if you don’t have a clear idea of where you’re going, how will you know when you have arrived? Goals focus your attention on what you want. If you have clear goals, you waste less time and energy on the things that aren’t important to you. Having goals means that you will work harder to achieve them. Few of us want to expend great effort for no obvious results but if those results are clear in your mind you are more likely to put in the time and effort to achieve them. We also become more persistent when there is a goal in mind – it is easier to work through or around setbacks when we know that we are working towards something that we really, really want.
So, what makes a good goal? Well, first of all: think positive! How you phrase your goals makes a difference to your commitment. For example, how about the statements, “I must eat less fried food.” or “I must stop overspending.”? They don’t sound like much fun, do they? Presumably eating greasy food or spending lots of money makes us feel good in some way (even if it is bad for us) otherwise we wouldn’t do it. If your goal sounds like a punishment, you will find it difficult to see through to completion. On the other hand, “I will eat more healthily.” or “I will manage my money more efficiently.” show a more positive frame of mind, focusing on the improvements by visualising the future (“I will…”) and using positive words (“healthily” and “efficiently”.) The language of your goal is important to its success.
However, “I will eat more healthily.” or “I will manage my money more efficiently.” still sound a little woolly. We need more detail. A common and useful acronym when goal-setting is SMART. Your goals should be:
So perhaps “By the end of the year, I will be eating salad every day for lunch.” or “By January, I will have paid off my Visa card in full.” might be more useful goals?
- Specific – clarity is crucial.
- Measurable – how else will you know if you’ve achieved it?
- Attainable – otherwise you are setting yourself up to fail – why would you do that?
- Relevant – is it connected to what you want out of life?
- Timed – most of us need a deadline to focus on.
Two final tips:
1) Write down your goals – by doing so you are effectively creating a contract with yourself. You can still change, if necessary but only after some self-‘negotiation’.
2) Break it down – long-term goals, such as “By 2015, I will be living in France.” may need a number of short- and medium-term goals to act as steps towards that big dream.
So, think positive and set yourself a SMART goal before you receive next week’s newsletter.
Back To Top
Personal Change (Part Three): What's holding you back?
Having conducted a life audit to identify areas for change and set some goals so to give a clear destination for which to aim, it is now time to think (positively, of course!) about turning those goals into action. The harsh reality is that in any attempt to change and improve your life you will probably encounter some barriers. Perhaps we can take heart from this quote from the American moralist, Frank A. Clark: “If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere.”
Certainly, any worthwhile endeavour is fraught with difficulties and there are a number of different factors which may slow you down in your quest to eat better, be better with your money, get that promotion or whatever it is that you are aiming for.
Half of the battle is your own commitment. Ask yourself, “Is it worth it?” If the answer is, “No” then it is worth revisiting your goals – you may have set the wrong ones. However, let's be positive and assume that the answer is, “Yes!” and look at what might be getting in your way.
Tidy up! Scattered surroundings are seldom a sign of determination. Clear away the clutter in your office and home. If you have possessions which symbolise the 'old you' – maybe photographs, certain items of clothing or even a bad school report – then remove them. You do not need reminders of the past which you are leaving behind. You need indicators of the future you are moving towards: a picture of a beach; a new t-shirt; a letter of thanks. Whatever it is, put it where you can see it.
Remember to think positive! Bad memories, low self-esteem, fears, regrets – these will not help you achieve your goals. You cannot change the past; but you can learn from it and leave it behind. Focus forward and remember that your goals are SMART and that the 'A' in SMART stands for 'Attainable'. You can do it!
Lack of Resources
It may be a particular skill, a certain area of knowledge, or simply a sum of money. It is likely that you will not start the journey with everything you need for success. Part of succeeding is gathering your tools along the way. Join a class; read a book; practice; take a part-time job. Work out what you need and get it.
They can be your greatest help and also your biggest hindrance. Perhaps out of jealousy or competitiveness or even just a fear that your success will highlight their failure, some people will try to stop you achieving your goals. If you can't move away from them completely (perhaps they are family, or work colleagues) then try to minimise their influence. Most people will be on your side; don't allow the ones who aren't to stop you succeeding.
So, think positive and push over, under or even through those obstacles on the way to achieving your goals.
Back To Top