DO YOU STOP TO ASK FOR DIRECTIONS?

I was recently asked to comment on the importance of business coaching and why so many business owners are reluctant to get and pay for coaching. This is a snapshot of what I said.

Hello, I'm Mister Ed

Business has to view coaching/mentoring as another staff member. They must put a value on that resource like they would any other employee.

The problem you will find is that most business owners do not view non-fee earning activities as valuable. It’s sad but true that most business owners do not value what coaches provide. Why? Because they cannot measure it. And also because it takes a long time to translate into increased income and profits.

Most business owners think short-term. Consequently they drift along in the realms of mediocrity. For me they are no different to people who never stop to ask for directions, or builders who commence construction on a project without detailed specifications. They make costly mistakes. Implement the wrong strategies. Lose time and miss opportunities. Worst of all they get lost in the detail of business and lose the enthusiasm and the passion they once had for their craft.

A lot of business owners I come across make the mistake of thinking that having a coach is like admitting defeat. Or worse they think they know more about their business than a coach. They miss the point that a coach is not there to tell them what they don’t already know. Rather a coach is there to take their business and their personal life to the next level. The level where champions compete.

You see, business is no different to sport. The best entrepreneurs and sports people work with coaches. They recognise that to compete with the best you have to be coached to peak performance. A good coach can help you achieve this.

Here are a list of benefits of working with a coach:

  1. You lift your energy and enthusiasm.
  2. You It takes the pressure off staying touch with latest concepts.
  3. You stay focused on the big picture.
  4. You improve your personal life.
  5. Your staff will start love and respect you even more than before.
  6. Your customers will notice the difference.
  7. Your family will notice the difference.

I believe that having a business coach is essential – especially in our digital age where information and strategy is evolving so rapidly.

The question is not whether your business can afford a coach. The real question is, can you afford NOT to have a coach.

Happy Easter festivities to all. A time for family and eating lots of good food!

Is Speed Killing your Life and Business – Part 4 “The Solution”

So how do you work slower throughout the day? Try adopting some of the following strategies:

  • Don’t schedule in more than two meetings per day. And meetings should not last more than an hour.
  • Don’t schedule any meetings after 3pm. It is the most unproductive time of day and also the time of day where most misunderstandings and therefore conflicts occur.
  • Don’t pick up your second line (or call waiting) when you are already on a phone call.
  • Don’t rush your meetings or phone calls. Take your time and ensure that you understand the objectives and outcome of a discussion.
  • Listen more and absorb what the other person is saying.
  • Don’t take on too much work. Learn to say ‘no’.
  • Don’t rush your individual tasks. Enjoy doing them to the best of your ability knowing and reminding yourself that the service you give affects the customer. Visualise them praising you for the good work you will do.
  • Don’t accept any last minute deadlines imposed on you. Last-minute deadlines usually arise from somebody else’s inefficiency. It is somebody else problem. Don’t make it yours unless it is truly an exception requiring you to go beyond the call of duty.
  • Take a walk at lunch – preferably where there is a park or trees. Go alone.
  • Take at least 45 minutes for lunch.
  • Take a packed lunch to work for at least three days in the week. You will get more nutrition and you will save money.
  • Keep a photo on your desk and look at it throughout the day. It could be a photo of your partner, your children or a picture of your next holiday destination.

    SLOOOOW DOOOOWN

These are just some of many strategies that we can each adopt. For those of you who are self-employed you will find that when you work slower then you can choose to work whenever and wherever you are without compromising your quality of life. Because working slower reduces stress. Stress management is a major challenge in our working lives. But people don’t realize that the problem is not the work we do but the speed in which we do it. For example when we are faced with a problem (or challenge) at work that same problem can generate different levels of stress depending on your frame of mind. If you tackle the problem in a slower frame of mind the problem shrinks in stature and the solution comes clearly and simply. The opposite applies when you are hurried. Problems are magnified unnecessarily and viewed as potential disasters. That is why most fast-paced and stressed people are caught in a cycle of worrying about things that never materialise. They blow things out of proportion.

Therefore working slower can solve your stress problem a lot cheaper and a lot more effectively than gym memberships, counseling sessions and pub drinking sessions.

The next burning question that I am sure you are about to ask is: Does slowing down at work reduce productivity and the business profitability? The answer is “definitely not”. Think tortoise and the hare. The fact is you are more effective when you slow down. You are more focused, more methodical, more thorough, more alert, more relaxed, and more creative. And all this facilitates better customer service and better management of yourself and others that work with you.

We have to also acknowledge that most of the time pressure we put ourselves under is self-inflicted because we tend to waste time here and there throughout the day. By managing your time more effectively you will find that there is never a need for speed at work. Time management is simply adhering to the cliché that “there is a time to work, a time to rest and a time to play.” To do this, simply apply what I call the “Triple 8 Rule”. We have 24 hours in the day:

  • 8 hours for sleep
  • 8 hours for work, and
  • 8 hours for socializing and relaxing

Too much sleep makes you sluggish. Not enough sleep makes you tired and irritable. Too much work makes you stressed but not enough work makes you feel dissatisfied and bored (not to mention poor). Too much social time makes you directionless but not enough makes you boring and stressed. A fine balance between these three is the key. There are many books written on time management and I do not intend to bore you with the obvious; suffice it to say that you will find that it is a lot easier to slow down if you manage your time effectively. In addition to energy it is your most valuable resource. So slow down and smell the roses. Shed your cynicism. Sit and reflect and grow rich in mind. Listen to music you love. Savour the flavour of food and wine. Take the time to really listen to people. Take a slow stroll in the park. Daydream about your next holiday. Look into your children’s eyes and see the wonder and excitement for life.

Hopefully we in the service industry will gain momentum on this issue and start a Slow Service Movement that will improve our quality of service and more importantly our quality of life. We owe it to our customers, to our family and most importantly to ourselves.

Tomorrow I am off overseas on a relaxing break with my family. Its a time for slow living and really connecting with the family. Its also a time when most of my creative ideas come flowing.

See you in 8 days.

Regards, Sam.

Is Speed Killing Your Life and Business? Part 3

Speed Affects Your Family – Especially Your Children

Our fast pace at work affects our home life because you cannot just flick a switch and slow down when you get home. Your brain is still in fast-mode. Consequently you deal with your family in the same hurried fashion, which for those of you with children has disastrous consequences because children crave attention and connection. And it is difficult to ‘connect’ with your children if your mind is in fast-thinking mode. How many of you with children truly connect with them when you get home? Do you make long eye contact? Do you take them for a long slow walk to the local park? Do you read them a bed-time story that lasts at least 20 minutes? If you do then you are in a small minority. If you don’t then you are robbing yourself and your children of real happiness. Most fast-paced executives fall into the category of patting their kids on the head when they get home and then trying to distract them with TV or video games. We must remind ourselves that our kids will never be two years of age again or eight years, or 12 years or whatever age your kids are. Slow time with them is crucial. And the earlier there age the greater their need for your time. More than ever, and contrary to popular belief, children need quantity as well as quality time.

Speed Kills Enjoyment for Life

Is it About Switching Off?

Most fast-moving executives fall into the trap of solving the work-speed problem by trying to learn to ‘switch off’ and slow down when they get home. But it never happens. Never happens! It is virtually impossible to flick an internal switch and slow down when your brain has been on high-speed for eight to twelve hours. Some may be able to switch off work-related thinking but rarely have I met anyone that can actually slow down. It is very difficult for the brain to make that adjustment. It is like driving on a long highway doing 120 km/hour for eight hours and then reaching an exit where you have to slow down to 50km/hour. It feels excruciatingly frustrating. You feel the powerful urge to speed up again. Most of us have experienced this phenomenon and paid the price for it with a speeding ticket. Similarly we pay a high price in our personal life when we don’t slow down at home. A walk in the park after work helps. As does yoga or meditation. A fast and heavy gym workout is usually our choice of exercise but many practitioners are starting to realize that the principle of ‘no pain no gain’ actually does more harm than good. (There is a Slow Exercise movement also gaining popularity, which you can read about in Honore’s book). In any event all these activities take more of your time, in an age where we are so very time poor. To achieve work/life balance most people also take up hobbies and try to squeeze them into a schedule that is already bursting at the seams. Consequently they find themselves even more hurried. So they drive faster, walk faster, eat faster and talk faster. They squeeze every waking minute with something to do. We have all been brain-washed to think, “don’t just sit there do something”. When in fact the opposite is true: “Don’t just do something, sit there”. It is in those moments of silence, that creativity sparks in our mind and we gain our perspective.

So what is the answer to our ‘speed’ problem? The answer is clearly not in slowing down when you get home, but rather in working slower throughout the day. This may be a progression up and down in speed but generally slower. It is about easing into the day and easing out of the day.  In returning to our car-on-a-highway analogy it is like starting the day at 60km/hour, accelerating to 80km/h then after lunch progressively shifting down to 70, then 60 then walking out of the office nice and relaxed at 50km/hour. So there is no adjustment needed for when you get home. You then only have to work on switching off. (An effective method for doing just that is to brain dump everything in a journal – See Chapter 12 of my book).

Tomorrow I will give you practical strategies on how to work slower throughout the day without compromising  your work performance.

Is Speed Killing Your Life and Business – Part 2

Business Consequences of Speed

Firstly lets look at some of the consequences of a ‘speed’ culture in your business. Here is a quick list of consequences that we can all relate to:

  • Hurried consultations with customers leading to confusion over choosing the right product.
  • No real connection is made with the customer and the customer’s objectives. We must all learn to connect with the customer; and that takes time. Time to listen and relate. Time in person and time on the phone.
  • Poor management of the customer’s expectations.
  • More money spent on IT than is needed.
  • Stressed staff. And this stress rubs-off onto the customer. A ‘blame’ culture ultimately develops between all stakeholders when a problem arises.
  • Medium to long-term reduction in productivity of all such staff.

This list can go on and on. But you get the drift. And most business owners will probably relate to some if not all the above consequences of speed.

How speed affects you personally

Since starting to write this article I did some research into the Slow Food Movement (which I’d heard of six years ago) to see if its principles had some relevance to speed in business.  The Slow Food Movement philosophy is based around the practice of doing everything slow when it comes to food. It acknowledges that fast-food is killing us culturally and physically. Eating as the most basic of human enjoyment has been hijacked by speed. In protest, the slow food movement was started. The movement contemplates growing food slowly and organically. Fruit, vegetables, beef, lamb, poultry all taste much better when it is allowed to grown at its natural pace without modification or artificial chemicals that speed up the ripening or fattening process. The slow food movement also espouses slow preparation of food and most importantly slow eating enjoyment of food. There is now slow food restaurants and slow food cookbooks. The movement was born in Italy and has gained momentum world-wide. Now, people all over the world are enjoying weekend afternoons of eating and drinking for sittings that last 3-6 hours.

On reading about the slow food movement I could not help but think of how the culture of speed has also robbed us of the many other many personal pleasures of life. On doing a Google search I discovered and read a very good book by Carl Honore titled: “In praise of Slow”. Carl discusses the negative culture of speed and its impact on every aspect of our life.  How we eat, sleep, work, think, make love and connect with others socially. Since Benjamin Franklin coined the phrase “time is money” in the 18th Century we as humans have become a resource driven by time. Honore makes the point that since the start of the industrial revolution all inventions have been designed with speed in mind. Either to travel faster (think cars), work faster (think office machines) and communicate faster (think phone and now email). Profit became linked to haste, and time became the currency. And the problem is that everything is designed to save us time rather than slow us down. Save us time to work harder and faster. As Honore puts it, we have become ‘velocitized’. We are now addicted to speed. We love it and we don’t want to get off the highway. You’d swear that with fast cars, fast meals and fast email you’d save so much time to work a 5 hour day instead of the now common 8 – 12 hours. But has that happened? Of course not. Now we get to cram more into our schedules to make more money so we can buy more things that we never get to enjoy because we are so damn busy.

So how is the culture of speed in your work affecting you personally? How many times have you worked through lunch or after hours because you were told that something was urgent? And you had to compromise your well-being for arbitrarily set deadlines. Did you miss time with your kids? Did you hurry lunch and get indigestion, which not only feels uncomfortable but robs you of energy because you did not absorb the nutrients from the food you ate. Did you miss your walk at lunch time? Now ask yourself this: Was it worth it?

Here is a list of personal consequences that I have gathered from talking to people in business:

  • Poor dietary habits and poor digestion
  • Lack of consistent exercise
  • Poor concentration and focus
  • Reduced creativity
  • Insomnia
  • Reduced energy levels
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Poor quality time with children and/or partner
  • Executive burn-out, pessimism and depression

Part 3 – Tomorrow: “The Solution to Speed”

Is Speed Killing Your Creativity? Part 1 of 4

I was inspired to write this article whilst on-board a Virgin Blue jet to Fiji. I was trapped on a five-hour flight and had forgotten to bring a good book to occupy me. Even worse I was full of energy so I could not even pretend to nap in front of the  energetic young crew  So what was I to do? It was then that it struck me. My mind was racing as fast as the jet and I could not just sit and be still without some form of distraction. (I guess that self-awareness increases, as you get older). I realized that many of my colleagues suffer from the same affliction. So the question was: why do so many of us who work in the corporate world feel so rushed and feel the need to be doing something all the time and faster still? This culture is rampant in our society. It’s as if our whole society has caught a disease. A disease called ‘speed’. Some of us thrive on it. We are addicted to it. But has anyone stopped to question why we are doing everything faster in the name of customer service and increased profitability? Is that what the customer wants? And has speed translated into increased profits?

Speed Kills Your Business and Your life

The fact is that there is no real need for speed. Customers definitely do not want speedy service. They want good service. Most advertising wrongly convinces customers that speed of service is the performance criteria by which they should choose a service provider. And so the expectation is set. And that has a domino effect, which accelerates through the business process highway and forces a culture of speed on the stakeholders in that process.  But the question has to be asked: does it really matter to the customer whether speed of service is  important to them? Is that more important to them than the right product or a thorough attendance? I have asked a number of business leaders this same question and they all have answered a resounding “definitely not”.

So why the need to rush? How did this culture of speed creep into our strategic thinking?

Some may argue that ‘speed’ is the key to capture greater market share and therefore greater profits. But has that really happened in your business? And more poignantly, has speed translated into better staff performance and hence better customer service? The truth is that if speed is the main thing that’s driving your profits then it will come at the expense of staff morale and ultimately good customer service. A profit strategy that is not sustainable because when staff become burnt-out they will give poor service. And when that happens you will lose repeat business.

There is also the philosophical argument as to whether the ‘profit objective’ is worth it if it compromises your health, your relationships and your happiness. That is, the ‘how much money is enough’ argument. The truth is that we are never motivated to focus on those meaningful aspects in life unless and until we have suffered a loss or encountered a major problem; such as poor health, broken marriage, or loss of friendships. The very things that gives meaning to our existence.

So how is the speed culture affecting your business? More importantly, how is speed affecting you personally? More on this in my next three journal entries.