Monday, 9 January 2012

Focus your efforts (a “know what you want” influence tool how-to)

This post provides guidance on how to apply the "Focus your efforts" influence tool from the "Know What You Want" chapter of the book Student to CEO: 97 Ways To Influence Your Way To The Top In Banking & Finance (read more here), including specific steps, examples and templates.  All content in this post has been created by me, using the title of this influence tool as a starting point only (the book provides anecdotes and context, not detailed how-to steps as outlined here).

What?
Spend more time on doing things that directly support your goals and avoid spending time on anything that is a waste of time or that is useful but does not directly help you to achieve your outcomes. Pick specific things that you want to get done and spend time and energy on getting them done quickly and to a high level of quality.

Why?
The areas that we focus on will be a success. The more focused you are, the quicker you will achieve your goals in that area of focus and the better the outcome will be. You will achieve more and feel a greater sense of satisfaction on completing something well than you will if you make general progress across a number of areas. If you do not focus on anything, lots of things may move forwards but it will take longer to complete any one thing and the quality of each thing you do complete may suffer due to a lack of time and attention.

How?
First you need to be really clear and specific about what you want to achieve. Then you need to work out what tasks you need to do to take you towards that outcome. Once you know what these tasks are, pick just one of them at a time and make sure that you get them done first, to the highest level of quality that you are capable of.

This does not mean that you should drop everything else. Everyone has lots of things going on in their lives at any one time so it is rarely possible to drop everything to focus on just one thing, and sometimes urgent tasks crop up that we must deal with immediately, regardless of whether we want to or not. Therefore, another key thing to do is to look at the tasks you are currently doing or planning to do and to prioritise them based on the extent to which they help you towards achieving your outcomes.

An example
If you try to do too much at once, you will either fail to do some of your tasks or will get them done to a lower level of quality. For example, try brushing your teeth and brushing your hair and washing your hands at the same time. You can try, but it probably won't end well.

Also, even if you can do more than one thing at once, sometimes you need to do one thing before you can do another. For example, you wouldn't want to get dressed at the same time as having a shower – you'd have the shower first or you're going to end up with very wet clothes.

Applying this to something a bit more realistic, think about trying to build a cupboard whilst watching TV. I can guarantee that it will take you a lot longer to build it and you will most likely make a fair few more mistakes because you're distracted.

This principle of focusing on a particular thing to get it done applies to everything in your life and at work. Make sure that you focus on your priorities and you will get them done quicker and to a higher level of quality than if you split your time across activities.

An exercise
  1. Make a list of all of the things that you are splitting your time on at the moment.
  2. Go through each thing and mark whether they are important and/or urgent.
  3. Answer the following questions:
    - Do you really need to do it at all?
    - Do you need to do it today?
    - Can you leave it until next week?
    - Are there any other things on this list that are dependent on you doing this first?
  4. Go through the list again and put the items in order of when you will do them (things that are important AND urgent AND need to be done today AND that other activities are dependent on take highest priority)
  5. Ensure that when you start working through the list, you focus on one thing at a time and don't split your time across multiple things at once.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Accept full responsibility for your achievements (a “know your map” influence tool how-to)

This post provides guidance on how to apply the "Accept full responsibility for your achievements" influence tool from the "Know Your Map" chapter of the book Student to CEO: 97 Ways To Influence Your Way To The Top In Banking & Finance (read more here), including specific steps, examples and templates.  All content in this post has been created by me, using the title of this influence tool as a starting point only (the book provides anecdotes and context, not detailed how-to steps as outlined here).

What?
Ensure that you understand how you contributed to every achievement in your life. Know that you are in full control: every time you have achieved anything, it is because of actions that you took, regardless of who provided the opportunity or gave you a little nudge in the right direction in the first place. It was you that took the action to make it happen and it will be down to you every time you make an achievement in the future.

Why?
If you are to be successful, you must believe that you have the power to make your life a success. Your achievements did not just happen by accident, it was not just luck.

Even if you were fortunate to have a particular opportunity, it is highly likely that you played some part in creating that opportunity, even if you didn’t mean to or did not realise it at the time: for example, it could have been a brief conversation that you had, which you thought was completely unrelated but led someone to suggest you as a person to help with something.

Likewise, if you had not taken action once the opportunity had arose, you would not have converted that opportunity into the achievement that it became.

Know that you are responsible for your achievements, you are in control and you are the person that will accomplish all of your future achievements as well.

How?
Every time you achieve anything, make sure that you give yourself a silent pat on the back to congratulate yourself on the achievement and think about what you did to get there. This is not the same thing as being cocky or boasting – it is a positive attitude that helps you to grow in confidence and to keep building successes on successes. By reflecting on each success you can also look for patterns and key actions that you may repeat in the future that will lead to further achievements. It will also help you to identify things that you might want to avoid doing or improve on when working on similar opportunities.

An example
There have been many times in my life when I have been called “lucky” , but when I have looked back over the events that led to my “luck”, I can identify various things that I have done to lead there. Some of the things that I have done may have been extremely small – such as conversations that I had in passing that turned out to be more significant than I thought, or minor changes that I made to my LinkedIn profile or online CV that led to a significant new opportunity.

Many of the new jobs that I have landed and successful deliveries that I have been responsible for have been due to not only the focused efforts on those opportunities themselves, but also due to my consistent behaviour from day to day, to the way that I have dealt with situations and responded to questions and to proactive action that I have taken on even minor tasks that have led to far greater things than I could have imagined.

The important point with this influence tool is to recognise that these opportunities and successes were not just down to luck. They may not have been fully intentional, but were influenced by me and were due to my actions.

The same is true for you. You are in control of the way that you behave and respond to events in your life. Do not allow people to tell you that you were “lucky” for you successes – take credit for them, use them to build your confidence and give you the motivation to continue to work and live in line with your values, to the utmost of your ability. Believe in your own successes and not only will you be happier, but you will find that it leads for more and more successes in everything you do.

An exercise
  1. Think of a great thing that happened in your life that you were involved in but at the time you did not think that you played any real part in making it happen.
  2. Now go back to how the opportunity arose. Who was involved? How did they come up with the idea? Why did they ask you to be involved in the way that you were? Did anyone ask you at all or did you just volunteer or take action without being asked?
  3. Really try to think about everything that could have led you to that point.
  4. Then think about what you did to help translate the opportunity into an achievement. What did you do? Who did you talk to? How did people react to the success? Who got credit for it? (Again, this is not about you taking credit for other people’s achievements, it is about recognising what part you played and realising that you were responsible for at least part of its success).
  5. Now think forwards. What opportunities are you currently aware of or are currently working on. Now that you know how influential you are, what might you do differently today, in the next few days, weeks and months to accelerate or improve your personal achievements and to play an even more significant part in the achievements of others?
       

Friday, 23 December 2011

Model success from the top (a “know your map” influence tool how-to)

This post provides guidance on how to apply the "Model success from the top" influence tool from the "Know Your Map" chapter of the book Student to CEO: 97 Ways To Influence Your Way To The Top In Banking & Finance (read more here), including specific steps, examples and templates.  All content in this post has been created by me, using the title of this influence tool as a starting point only (the book provides anecdotes and context, not detailed how-to steps as outlined here).

What?
Study how other successful, high achieving individuals reached their goals and apply whatever was successful about their approach to yours. Look for people who are at the top of their game in an industry, sector or discipline that you are targeting and seek to learn what worked and what did not work for them, so that you can emulate their successes and avoid the pitfalls that they fell into.

Why?
You can save a lot of time and effort by learning from other highly successful individuals. In some cases they may have taken some specific actions that you can copy directly; in others they may have just had a particular attitude or set of behaviours that made the difference. Whatever it is that made them successful, why not see if the same thing can make you successful too?

How?
Modelling success from the top does not have to involve a formal “study” of anyone – it can just be achieved by keeping your eyes and ears open when working with great people and making sure you learn from them.

However, if you are to dedicate some time and effort to learning from the best in a more formal way, there are several key ways to do this:
  • Study a famous highly successful person through research;
  • Study a famous highly successful person by directly reaching out to them; or
  • Study someone that you already know, who is highly successful in a relevant area of their lives or career.
Whichever of the above you choose, there are several basic steps that you need to go through to do this:
  1. Identify the person or persons that you intend to study. They must be successful in a way that is directly relevant to you;
  2. Define a structure for studying their success e.g. categories of behaviour, capabilities or outcomes to look at how they performed in each. Ideally this structure should be aligned to the categories that you have used to define your own objectives;
  3. Plan your research: how are you going to do it e.g. what books, websites or other sources are you going to target, how are you going to get in contact with them, how will you document and analyse the information you gather?
  4. Conduct the review in line with your plan;
  5. Analyse the results and work out how your findings can be applied to your own life;
  6. Apply the lessons that you have learned!
There are a few other alternative approaches in addition to this:
  • Read lots of biographies and autobiographies of people who you want to learn from and make sure you continuously look for ways to apply their ideas and approaches to your own life;
  • Read lot of self help books that contain case studies and anecdotal examples from other successful people;
  • Find a successful person to be your mentor (a longer term relationship than this one-off exercise).

An example
You will find examples of where you have done this in everyday life, because we model our behaviour on the behaviour of others often without even realising that we're doing it. This can be in relation to everything from your accent, picked up from your parents and friends, to the way that you deal with setbacks in your life.

The key difference that this “influence tool” advocates is that you take control over who you are influenced by and how, including what it is about others that you allow yourself to be influenced by and what you will not allow.

An example from my work life is a programme manager that I worked for several years ago who I still use as a model for how programmes should be run. Not only did he implement a range of programme management tools that are widely recognised as “best practice”, but he did so in a pragmatic way that demonstrated how they should be used for maximum effect. He focused on getting the best out of the people that were working for him, on coordination and alignment of activities, on clarity of status and communication. It was a great experience to work for him and on every project that I have been on since, I think back to what he did and what he would have done to make sure that I deliver to the best of my ability.

Also, in my experience the most valuable behavioural lesson that I have taken away from successful people is the very high standards of integrity and quality that these highly successful live by. I have seen that a person's attitude and principles and the way in which they consistently live their lives in line with these values is often the most important factor in their success.

An exercise
As a really simple way to get started, try filling in the table below.
You can add as many rows as you wish, for all of the people that you feel that you can learn from. The columns in the table cover:
  • WHO
    This column is for the name of the person you will model your success on. These people can be world leading superstars but don't need to be: they can be anyone who has any behavioural trait or success that you want to learn from and model, no matter how humble their backgrounds.
  • LESSONSThis column is for a list of the lessons that you will take from the life and achievements of the person that you have chosen to model your success on. When filling in the lessons column, try to be as specific as possible about what it was that they did to achieve their successes. Don't focus on environmental things that were outside of their control such as their upbringing – instead look at what decisions they made, how they dealt with setbacks and mistakes, what specific actions they took that you could copy, how they behaved from day to day that worked well for them. If you chose them due to one particular success in their life, focus on things that led to that success.
  • ACTIONSThis column is for capturing a list of things you will do to take action on the lessons learned by the individual you are learning from. You can list as many actions here as you like - just make sure that your actions are as specific as possible: ideally include in your list things that you can do today; things you can change about your behaviour from this moment forwards; specific people you will talk to, things you will do and deliver. The more specific and immediate your actions are, the more likely you will be able to implement them and the quicker you will see the positive effects of making those changes.

WHO
Successful Person
LESSONS
What made them successful?
ACTIONS
What can you do to apply their lessons to your life?
























Monday, 19 December 2011

Know where you are right now in relation to your goals (a “know your map” influence tool how-to)

This post provides guidance on how to apply the "Know where you are right now in relation to your goals" influence tool from the "Know Your Map" chapter of the book Student to CEO: 97 Ways To Influence Your Way To The Top In Banking & Finance (read more here), including specific steps, examples and templates.  All content in this post has been created by me, using the title of this influence tool as a starting point only (the book provides anecdotes and context, not detailed how-to steps as outlined here).


What?
Clearly define where you are now in relation to the outcomes and goals that you have set yourself and in comparison with what success “looks like” to you. Understand your location and the direction that you are facing before you set out on your journey. If you are pointing in the right direction, at least you know that every step you take, no matter how small, is taking you closer to where you want to be.

Why?
If you do not know where you are now, how do you know if you are heading in the right direction to achieve your goals? You need to know your current situation in relation to your outcomes to be able to create a plan that you can execute to move towards the achievement of your goals.

It is important that you review your position to establish where you are again on a regular basis, because as you progress you will encounter new opportunities and challenges , which will result in the need for changes to your approach.

Therefore, know where you are is important to be used when:
  • Planning
  • Tracking progress
  • Adjusting your approach to take advantage of opportunities, overcome challenges and re-align yourself with where you really want to get to

How?
Knowing where you are in relation to your goals implies that you first need some goals! (See influence tool 1: know your outcome for guidance on how to establish your goals).

However, if you do not have any concrete goals, you could list areas of your life that you wish to improve and start by just assessing where you think you are in those areas. This can actually help you to identify further goals for you to work towards, based on an understanding of what you wish to improve.

The biggest benefit of identifying where you are now in relation to the areas of your life that need improvement or against specific goals that you have set yourself is that it helps you prioritise your efforts based on areas of greatest weakness, or based on areas that would be easiest or hardest to fix, and gives you an idea of how far you have got to go to get to where you want to get to, which will help in developing a plan to get there (your route map).

One of the simplest ways to assess where you are in relation to your goals, is to list your goals (or areas of your life that you want to improve), then give the areas a “score” based on your gut feeling in terms of where you are e.g. 5 for great and 1 for terrible. Then write a set of comments explaining why you have given yourself that score for that goal.

Whilst this influence tool is all about knowing where you are in relation to your goal, just assessing your position without taking action will not take you very far – so it is also always a good idea to jot down your thoughts on what you can do to improve things and take things forwards for each area as well, ideally as a set of specific action points.

You will be amazed by how far just knowing where you are will take you. For example, are you even pointing in the right direction? Just knowing that you need to turn around can have a profound effect on your success in business and life – so even if you don't write down any action points, just assessing your current position will take you further forwards than you probably realise.

Below is a simple table that can be used to assess where you are in relation to your goals:
Goal or category Current rating Rationale for current rating Actions
Finances





Relationships





Belongings





Others





In the table above, I have included “categories” similar to those suggested for the “know your outcome” influence tool. You can replace these with specific goals that you have set yourself to really focus on areas of high priority. It could also be useful to have one version of this that is a high level view of where you area against each category of goals and a more detailed one for each of your goals.

An example
Let's start with an analogy.

Imagine you are travelling to meet someone in a town that you have never been to before. You have just got off a train and all you know is that the place that you are meeting them is in this town.

So – you know you are in the right town. But how far is this location from the train station? Which direction is it in from here?

Just knowing where you are and where you are trying to get to is not enough – you need to know where you are in relation to your destination: e.g. which direction it is in, how far away it is, can you walk it or do you need to get a taxi? Only then can you work out your plan for getting there and how long it's going to take.

The same applies to your own self development. Just having goals is not enough, and even an assessment of where you are now without knowing where you are trying to get to is not enough. However, the minute you start looking at where you are in relation to where you are trying to get to, you will find that you are able to look at what you need to do to achieve your goals. It will become a lot easier to develop a real, actionable plan to be successful in achieving whatever it is that you are trying to achieve.

An exercise
  1. Print out two copies of the “Where You Are” template.
  2. Fill in the first template for the categories of your life that you set your goals around (refer to the “know your outcome” influence tool for more info).
  3. Fill in the second template for any specific goals that you have set yourself.
  4. For each row, make sure that you have a clear description of why you think you are where you are and at least one thing you will do to move towards your goal or improve in that area of your life.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Know your outcome (a “know your map” influence tool how-to)

This post provides guidance on how to apply the "Know your outcome" influence tool from the "Know Your Map" chapter of the book Student to CEO: 97 Ways To Influence Your Way To The Top In Banking & Finance (read more here), including specific steps, examples and templates.  All content in this post has been created by me, using the title of this influence tool as a starting point only (the book provides anecdotes and context, not detailed how-to steps as outlined here).

What?
Clearly define where you want to get to and what success “looks like” to you. Be as specific as you can; describe why you want to get there, how it will feel when you get there and how you will measure your success.

Why?
If you do not know the outcome that you want to achieve, you cannot create a plan to achieve it and will not be able to assess whether you have made it there or not.

Therefore, your outcomes are important to be used when:
  • Planning
  • Tracking progress
  • Measuring success once an outcome has been achieved

How?
There are various tools available for setting goals and objectives.

It is usually advisable to set some boundaries such as:
  • the timescale for which you are establishing your outcomes (e.g. 1 week, 1 month, 1 year, 3 years, 5 years);
  • the “categories” of your life for which you are defining your outcomes (e.g. your career, your relationships, your belongings, your health, your finances etc); and
  • the “success criteria” you will use to describe the outcome (e.g. numbers, ££, feelings, deliverables etc.)
Once you have your boundaries, simply spend some time thinking about what you want to achieve in each of these areas and write down your thoughts.

A simple table such as the one below can be used as a template for capturing your outcomes.

Timeframe:

Category Outcome – where do I want to get to? How will you know when you get there? (What does success look and feel like?)
Finances



Relationships



Career



Others




A real example
Anything that you do, whether you know it or not, you will have been thought of in your head beforehand – even if your outcome was as simple as making a cup of tea, with milk and no sugar – you will have in your mind an idea of how you wanted that cup of tea to turn out before you even started to make it.

Think of anything you’ve ever achieved. Did any of it happen by accident, really?

If you didn’t define your outcome, who did? Did you parents have something in mind for you? Or your teachers? Did you have an outcome that you were aiming for without ever really realising it?

Even if you are not consciously aware of it, anything and everything that you have ever done, has been done with a purpose that you have subconsciously “signed up” to. By setting your own outcomes, you are taking control of your own destiny, instead of allowing those around you, your circumstances and environment, set them for you.

An exercise
  1. Print out three copies of the “Outcomes” template.
  2. On the first template, write the timescale “1 year”.
  3. List the key “categories” of outcome that you want to use.
  4. For each category, write a description of where you would like to be in that timeframe.
  5. For each outcome, write a description of how you will know when you have achieved your outcome.
  6. For each outcome, write one action that you could take immediately to make progress towards that outcome.
  7. Repeat for 3 and 5 years on the following templates.