Posted by: mikeduckett | August 8, 2014

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR

(first published in Staff Canteen : a digital portal for Chefs)

Have ever been taught how to set yourself a goal?

Have you ever been on a goal setting course?

Have you ever listened to any motivational tapes about Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs)?!

Probably not, unless you have a corporate background, so you might be wondering how anyone could make such a meal over this. There is a huge number of books, tapes, videos and courses on the subject but this need not concern us here – suffice it to say goal setting is a subject all of its own that we may return to in another posting.
For the moment the bigger issue is how do you know what goal to set yourself? You can learn about setting SMART goals – Specific; Measurable; Achievable; Relevant; Time-bound and then set yourself the goal “to start my own business by 30th January 2017″. That seems to match the criteria pretty well so it must be a well-formed goal. The problem for me is whether you’re sure that’s what you really want. It’s a bit like going to university after school; for some people it’s a real goal but for others it just seems to be the thing to do.
Before setting yourself some big goals this year you might want to consider how clear you are about what really matters to you. What values do you hold around your chosen career path? What is your core purpose?

You don’t have to believe in the gods to entertain the idea that if they are playing a big game with us and we’re just pieces, what is the role your piece plays on the board?

Not to get too deep and philosophical about this, we’re talking about your true values, not the things politicians speak about such as “good old-fashioned family values”  – that’s just what they call meaningless motherhood and apple pie. Thinking about this stuff properly can save you years of hard work, striving to get somewhere you never wanted to be in the first place. If – and it’s a big ‘if’ – you eventually achieve your goal of starting that business you might find yourself wondering if it was all worth the effort.  You are almost certainly clever and hard-working enough to make anything happen if you put your mind to it; so be careful what you put your mind to!
In fact once you’ve done the thinking about your core purpose (mission if you prefer) and your true values, many things get easier, including the hard work needed to achieve things. Take a look at a couple of famous purpose, or mission, statements:
Walmart: to “…save people money so they can live better”
Disney: to “…develop the most creative, innovative and profitable entertainment experiences and related products in the world”

These aren’t complicated corporate jargon statements; they are pretty straightforward lines that tell us (and themselves) what they are here to do. The real point though is that once you’ve figured out your own you can use this as a decision template for most choices you will be faced with in future. It’s obvious that although selling insurance might be profitable for Disney to get into, why would they; it just doesn’t fit with what they are here for.

Knowing your own real purpose for which you have a passion, the goals you set each year may well vary but you’ll almost certainly find the energy and commitment to make them happen because they should all continue to be in line with this single purpose. There are many ways to skin a cat but this way you will end up with a skinned cat and not a dead horse – to mix metaphors!
The trick is how to uncover these unconscious beliefs and principles so you can make clear conscious decisions based on them. Let me give you a couple of tips:
Try asking yourself, “if I gave up work tomorrow and no-one else took over from me, what would the rest of the world be missing (even if they don’t realise it yet)”?

On the basis that you’re going to be spending many hours of your life doing work make a list of single words or very short phrases that come to mind when you ask yourself, “what matters to me about the kind of work I do?” Then take each one and ask again, “why does that matter to me?” Each time you ask “why” you’re getting closer to the real heart of the matter until you end up with maybe 10 key values. Every decision you make from now on can be made with this list in mind e.g. when recruiting employees. If they have a very different set of values beware hiring them, no matter how competent they are. They just won’t ‘fit’.

Finally to get back to setting that goal of starting your own business, when you’ve done that will it have kept you focused on your real reason for bothering to work?

Posted by: mikeduckett | June 11, 2014

In Their Own Right part 3

An interview with Jo Wood and Suzanne Lee-Barnes: two women who ‘s lives were set to run in parallel, with an occasional meeting, from the moment they decided to go to two separate parties.

Both ended up as successful entrepreneurs in their own right, despite having been married to rock stars Ronnie Wood of The Rolling Stones and Alvin Lee of Ten Years After.

Here they discuss stepping out of the shadows of their rock star husbands and making moves into the male dominated business world. (They laugh at the thought of business degrees and business plans!)

Posted by: mikeduckett | June 11, 2014

In Their Own Right part 2

Second part of an interview with Suzanne Lee-Barnes (who was married to Alvin Lee of Ten Years After) and Jo Wood (who was married to Ronnie Wood of Rolling Stones). Both are successful entrepreneurs – how did that happen?

Posted by: mikeduckett | June 11, 2014

In Their Own Right part 1

An interview with Jo Wood and Suzanne Lee-Barnes: two women who ‘s lives were set to run in parallel, with an occasional meeting, from the moment they decided to go to two separate parties.

Both ended up as successful entrepreneurs in their own right, despite having been married to rock stars Ronnie Wood of The Rolling Stones and Alvin Lee of Ten Years After.

Posted by: mikeduckett | February 26, 2014

Are You Looking For Talent or Just Weeding Out The Chaff??

In a recent piece on Radio Marlow FM we discussed something I had spotted in the news about Google’s HR processes, i.e. their use of algorithms, not just for searching the web but for making decisions about pay and promotions. I was quite impressed, even though I jokiClip edit1ngly referred to Robomanager.

If you listen to this clip you’ll hear some comments about not being able to measure things other than results. As I said, I think you probably can identify valid measures of most things if you’re really specific about the behaviour you’re looking for, after all, if someone isn’t demonstrating a ‘quality’ (characteristic / value / capability etc) then how do you know they have it!?

Well it seems Google spend a great deal of time correlating outcomes / results with numerous behaviours . For example they even track people’s’ time spent queuing for coffee. They then treat this as one piece of behaviour that influences collaboration. Collaboration in turn is well-known to be linked to innovation and we all know Google are masters of innovation.

I recently came across two interesting linked blogs, a year apart, by Dr John Sullivan who seems to have followed Google’s use of maths and statistics in HR very closely. The first of these picked out what he calls his ‘Top 10 Most Powerful Illustrations of the “People Analytics” Approach’ in reinventing HR. ‘I would say this wouldn’t I’ – but for me, one of the most interesting points was the recognition through data analysis and not opinion, that a coaching style of management and giving frequent personal feedback is the No1 key to being a successful leader.

The second piece, Facebook’s Billion Dollar hiring lesson makes a terrific point about how much it costs companies when they miss a talented individual i.e. when they fail to spot some inherent potential in people. History has some famous examples that bring wry smiles, such as Decca Records turning down The Beatles but Sullivan is now able to put a direct price on Facebook’s mistake; not just as a missed opportunity cost.

Facebook just bought WhatsApp for nearly $15 billion having refused the two inventors Jan Koum and Brian Acton jobs only 5 years previously! He points out that for Koum to go from a reject to a main board member in 5 years must be very embarrassing. He then goes on once again to illustrate how Google use objective statistics to make hiring decisions and avoid missing talent like this.

So what’s my take on this? Why is it grabbing my attention?

There are two points I’d make:

1. Don’t fall into the trap of only measuring results. “We’re a results driven company” may sound objective and aggressive but from a performance coaching perspective you’d be wise to separate a result from the performance (behaviour) required to obtain that result; then focus on the performance. Google are proving the claim that you can’t measure subtle or so-called ‘soft’ success behaviours to be a myth. Don’t follow the example of football clubs (see my previous blog) and remove talent purely on a set of results simply because that’s all you can be bothered to measure. They may be putting in a great performance which hasn’t yet been rewarded through factors outside their control.

2. Think about your recruitment processes in terms of seeking out the ones you’re looking for.  There’s a useful way of examining your motivation for setting a goal in terms of whether your underlying motive is to avoid something negative or to seek out something desirable. Each has a subtly different effect on the way you think about what you’re doing and therefore on the likely outcome.

Although Sullivan’s blog is written in the language of avoidance of errors and ‘not missing’ talent, I suspect the reality of Google’s algorithm is that it seeks out talent. I just wonder how much recruitment, certainly in large orgnisations, is done to ensure they don’t make the mistake of hiring the wrong people. The difference in outcomes then could be that Google find what they are looking for – talent – and others find what they are looking for – non errors. I know which sounds more exciting!

I suspect that if many companies were to try to follow Google’s example the biggest first step would not be hiring statisticians but deciding precisely what they are looking for!

Posted by: mikeduckett | November 27, 2013

Will Big Business ‘do a Clarkson’ on Social Media?

I remember hearing that the end of normal fit pale blue jeans as a credible fashion item was when Jeremy Clarkson wore them; apparently he can be the death of any trend! Which self respecting leading- edge fashionista would want to share Clarkson’s dress sense?

This brings me to social media. Facebook and Twitter were initially places where the ‘alternative you’ could go to express itself unhindered by norms demanded by the adult world. The devil in you could come out to play with all the other kids. Let’s remind ourselves where Facebook began: as a juvenile geek means of commenting on the looks of female college students. Twitter was initially a stream of consciousness from now CEO Jack Dorsey and co-founder Biz Stone who posted such important material as “lunch”, “sleep,” “drawing naked people”, “wishing I had another sammich,” “feeling pains in my back,” and “going out to do an errand”. (For more fascinating early Tweets see Old Tweets ).

Then Big Business woke up and started to cast it’s commercial eye over what was going on. It didn’t take long for advertising companies to use their younger, early-adopter staff to find them a way to make money here. Now a visit to Facebook and increasingly, Twitter, is like a visit to the high street or a magazine or a commercial TV station; you just want to enjoy yourself but you know a clever marketing person knows what you’re up to and wants to cash in.

Well OK, we’re used to that as a way of life so I doubt it will reduce the user base, however I wonder about the effect of more recent incursions into the space by recruitment companies and HR departments. The first incursion that was exposed was the viewing of Facebook postings of employees and candidates to glean an insight into the ‘real’ person behind the work façade.

We’ve all read stories of employees being disciplined or sacked for posting that they’d just taken a sickie. They just got caught out. More worryingly perhaps is the drift into inferring personality characteristics from postings online. It seems from research that the evidence for the accuracy of any such inferences is mixed and the last piece of work I saw recommended caution. Research from North Carolina suggested “…posting updates about drinking and drugs was only related to higher scores on extraversion but not with low scores on conscientiousness. This has potential real-life importance because employers have revealed they view online photos of applicants’ boozing and drug taking as a red flag”. We discussed this on Marlow FM :

Courtesy of Marlow FM & Take One Business Communications

The latest development though concerns Twitter and our choice of language to use in tweets. IBM are currently working on some software (which I assume they will want to sell to employers and recruiters) that analyses Twitter postings and then makes inferences about the author’s character traits based on what are known as The Big 5: extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, openness and neuroticism. So far they think for example, that people who use words like ‘us’, ‘friends’, ‘health’ and ‘home’ care about other people, whereas people who don’t care so much for others use words such as ‘work’, ‘school’, ‘job’, and ‘beer’! We also discussed this on the radio:

Courtesy of Marlow FM & Take One Business Communications

I just wonder if these serious users will quickly devalue the media as it will no longer be a personal space where your inner child can be let loose and your guard dropped. Will LinkedIn then remain as the  space where you’ve always known the adults are watching and you’re used to presenting the right message and signals?

Posted by: mikeduckett | November 21, 2013

Optimistic Thinking and Being a Realist – Part 1

It’s not in your genes: it’s learned

We’ve talked about this before but no matter what part you play in industry one thing is for sure (as well as taxes of course) and that’s that it won’t always go your way. No matter how skilled you are there will be times when you miss your goal e.g. missed targets are almost a fundamental part of being in business. This is obvious in sport and in selling: “you can’t sell them all, no matter how good you are”.

The big difference between elite sports heroes or high profile business ‘winners’ and the rest of us is not that we fail and they succeed; it is in their skill at rationalising life’s up and downs so they can come back from failure and go on to succeed – time after time.

This is not about ‘PMA – positive mental attitude’ in the way normally taught, through affirmations etc. This is about learning a new way of thinking things through. A new habit which can be learned and then practiced like any other habit.

The leading psychologist who did most of the original work on the subject is Martin Seligman and he started by researching the idea that depression is a form of learned helplessness. Then after some years he asked psychologists to ‘turn the binoculars around’ and look at fully functioning healthy people – how do they cope? He then coined the phrase ‘learned optimism’ recognising that both are simply learned ways of viewing life’s events.

Some years ago I put out a small questionnaire designed to identify people who scored high in learned optimism. The video below is an interview with one such respondent where I attempt to illustrate the way he thinks optimistically.

Although it was made some time ago I was recently working with a client on their goal of being optimistic and resilient and showed them this. They suggested it might be worth a look if you haven’t already seen it……….

An interview with Nick Barber:

Posted by: mikeduckett | August 8, 2013

Offlining for Curmudgeons

Call me old-fashioned. Call me a Luddite. Even call me a curmudgeon but I must say I can’t help but be drawn to discussions about the use (miss use) of modern communication media. I really enjoyed a discussion (laugh) in the pub last night with a friend in his late 50s who never responds to text messages – he thinks they are intrusive and are less efficient than a phone call. He said he’d just observed his daughter having a 30 minute text flow with a friend living 100 yards away about where to go and what to do that evening. “If she couldn’t be bothered to walk over she could at least have arranged it in a 5 minute phone call!!!”

As you’ll know from earlier blogs I have some sympathy with his argument; I am currently into the 2nd day of an email flow about booking a date in my diary: 5 mins on the phone would have cracked it yesterday. So why do we persist in thinking text & email is more ‘efficient’? It’s NOT. Don’t get me wrong. I did attempt to update my friend with the benefits e.g. of being able to text phone numbers and addresses so he won’t forget and of being able to text someone who is otherwise engaged so that they can respond at their leisure. So you see I’m actually neither a Luddite nor a smitten follower; I’d just like us to be aware of the appropriate media for the appropriate message.

However, we then got onto the subject of Facebook: “Arrgghhh. Just a bunch of people who think the world is interested in the meal they’re about to eat so they show us a photo!” On the way to the bar I mentioned Twitter………not a clue! As he said, “this stuff will do your head in”.

Which brings me to the latest piece I covered on Radio Marlow FM last week. It’s about ‘offlining’:

Posted by: mikeduckett | February 11, 2013

Ashley Plamer-Watts: Always Developing

Way back in 2005, when in his mid-twenties, Ashley Palmer-Watts had already achieved in his career that to which many might aspire – he was Head Chef at a restaurant with three Michelin stars.  And not just any restaurant, but The Fat Duck.

So what next?! What was his next achievement to be and how would he stay focused?

For him, the trigger was being invited to present the Royal Institute Christmas Lecture.  Heston Blumenthal, Ashley’s manager, addressed Ashley’s doubts about his ability to do this by recommending he get some coaching!

Despite some doubts, applying the Fat Duck ethos of trying new things to see what happens, Ashley decided to give it a go.

At his first session it became clear that apart from the ‘technical’ skills of presentation, he needed to work on his confidence in front of an audience.  Ashley believes that you have to invest in something in order to get outcomes, so worked hard, both with Mike Duckett and between sessions, to achieve his objectives and in return received much acclaim after the Lecture.

Ashley is aware that coaching should not be perceived as a blunt instrument for tackling a narrowly defined problem, but as a subtle tool to help clients achieve broader objectives.  He therefore had further sessions with Mike after the Lecture, with the broad aim of becoming a superb Head Chef.  He wanted to be a leader, a role model and an inspiration.  Most of all he wanted to earn those things, not to expect them just because he had the job title.

He therefore worked on management techniques, problem solving and how to grow professionally to become the Head Chef he wanted to be.mqdefault

Here, on this clip Ashley talks about his experience of leadership when Head Chef at The Fat Duck

He also wanted to learn how to free his mind, to become more creative.  He needed to avoid getting bogged down with dealing with problems in the kitchen and fire fighting, instead focussing on his creativity. (Familiar issue?!)

Mike gave Ashley a number of tools to help him achieve this aim.  Just one of these tools was specific pieces of music to listen to while he goes for a half hour walk.  Ideas are not necessarily generated during that half hour, but his creativity is stimulated and he is confident that the results justify the time investment.  Before opening ‘Dinner’ at The Mandarin Hotel, Ashley did this every day.  The rigours of service mean that this is no longer possible, but he still uses this technique as often as he can – if it works, keep doing it!

Sometimes Ashley doesn’t really know what he wants to achieve in a coaching session – there’s no immediate ‘problem’.  It never takes long though to draw out what’s not quite right, what’s not working, what needs improvement, and the next two hours then fly by!  Ashley appreciates that Mike doesn’t put things into his head, he gives him tools to help him “crack the code”, to see how simple things can be.

Looking back on what he has achieved so far, Ashley is now comfortable with the fact that he (and anyone else) can develop further than he thought, given the right tools and the right support.  He is a driven person who wants to become even more successful.

He does perceive himself as being very lucky to work for a company which also believes this and which is prepared to support him to achieve his aims, and who clearly see this as being of benefit to the company.

Ashley’s advice is that however successful you already are, and however you define success, you can and should work on yourself in order to either maintain your success or to become even more successful

Posted by: mikeduckett | November 27, 2012

Dumping Email & Bad Grammer

Clip from Marlow FM radio show where we discuss articles – “Top 10 tips. Why Ditching Email Is The Way To Go” and “I Won’t Hire People Who Use Bad Grammar. Here’s Why”

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