Posted by: mikeduckett | November 12, 2014

From Back Stage to Public Speaker – just

From Back Stage to Public Speaker – just another step

Jo Wood has lived the life that many might dream of.  She’s perhaps most famous for having been a model and ‘rock chick’, touring with The Rolling Stones for 30 years.  The Jo Wood of today is a successful entrepreneur and champion not just of organic food but of all things organic, including her own range of organic fragrance, bath and body care products. Some might therefore find it a little surprising to read that she didn’t imagine she could stand up and talk to people – indeed, she kept declining offers to give out awards and speak to groups.  She really felt that she needed to learn the skill and, just like her other skills, needed training in order to acquire that skill.

Ever since her school days Jo had known that presenting was a weak area for her – she had always dreaded standing up in front of her class to present.  She knew she needed to find confidence.  She didn’t just want to appear free and easy; she wanted to be free and easy.

Jo felt it best to work with a coach who was experienced in helping people achieve such objectives and spoke to trusted people about who she might work with, which led to her working with Mike.

In all of their sessions Jo made sure that she listened carefully and learned.  Visualisation was the key tool Jo learned how to use.  She recognised that successful actors and sports people do it and it is proven to work for them – why should it not work for her?

She learned how to visualise herself in a role and to run through a scenario in her head.  With practice, this became easier to do – she eventually became able to have a whole event rehearsed in her mind from start to finish.

Not only did this really help her as planned, when presenting, but she uses the tool in many other scenarios.  Just one of these is when going to gym and working with her personal trainer – she has found that she works much better when doing routines if she has first properly visualised herself doing them.

The original stimulus to engage with a coach was when she agreed to present an evening at the Natural History Museum and knew that she needed help before she could do so.  Now looking back at the event, Jo said “Two seconds in I was off and running, with huge self-confidence – they had to force me off the stage in the end!  Each time I present it becomes a little easier.  As with anything, having the right tools means a job can be done well – coaching has given me those tools.”.

Co-hosting an event for the first time was another major step forward for Jo.  Before she was announced to the crowd and she went on stage, she took a deep breath and ensured she clearly remembered her visualisation of what was about to happen, quickly running through it again.  She then walked on stage and it all just fell into place.

Immediately after each event she now does, looking back on what she has just achieved, Jo knew her coaching had worked.

At the time of writing, Jo has an upcoming talk for 100 people at a  ‘Friends of the Earth’ dinner, so will have a couple of sessions with Mike to refresh existing tools and develop new ones, to deal with a different type of presenting – telling her story rather than reading from autocue.

After each coaching session Jo has had so far, she feels she developed more confidence in her ability.  She is therefore sure that she will walk away from these upcoming sessions with new skills to tackle her new challenge.

Jo feels she has really learned about herself by going through this process.  She commented “I now have confidence that I can do anything.  My fear of presenting, of standing up in front of a group of people and being the focus of their attention, went out of the window.  It was just an insecurity.  Coaching helped me believe in myself.  It really helped with my self-confidence.”.

Jo is well aware that there are some who just don’t “get” coaching.  To such people she says “Unless you are a complete natural, coaching is so fantastic because whatever your challenge is, it does take skills to rise to that challenge and there are tools to use.  The only way you acquire those skills and tools is from an expert.  I would not have been able to rise to my challenges without such coaching.”

Posted by: mikeduckett | October 16, 2014

Goal Setting – How Not To Score An Own Goal

Most people would not think they could use help setting goals.

What’s your goal?  Well, there could be a few.  To have another hundred happy customers?  To get a promotion?  To move to a new organisation?

When I work with clients we first agree some terminology to ensure we are both talking the same language!  Getting a certain number of new customers should be regarded as simply a ‘result’ i.e. a measure of your goal. Usually when we scratch beneath the surface of a result, the client realises there could be more than one way of measuring a desired success and x number of customers is just one of those measures.

There are a number goal setting theories, especially in sports psychology, and all of them attempt to draw out in some way, a distinction between a result and the performance required to achieve that result. The main issue is about degree of control.

What I mean here is that if you examine the goal you are setting, ask yourself how much control you have over its achievement. If other people are needed to make the result happen then you have very little control. However, if no-one else is involved then you have complete control. You’ll often hear athletes talk about their coach’s instruction at times of pressure to “control the controllables”.

Getting a promotion obviously relies upon the selector/s awarding you one and you’re certainly not in control of them! Even having happy customers is not entirely under your control as the customer alone will decide if they are happy.

These would be valid and powerful Goals but after you’ve done some envisaging work on them your attention should turn to your own performance that will be needed to influence the goal.

What areas of ‘performance’ might you focus on?

When you break down everything that needs to happen between where you want to end up (say with x new customers) and where you start from today, you’ll find there will be a list of desired situations e.g.:

  • Your team deliver their best sales performance
  • You release your best leadership behaviour
  • Your product gets good reviews

In terms of your own performance (the only thing you can fully control) then obviously you can focus on exhibiting the right leadership behaviours and set a clear ‘outcome’ for this. E.g., although you have little control over the team (we can only influence others, rather than control them) your focus could be on your inspirational leadership style and setting a clear outcome for this.

If this produces the desired inspiration in individuals the short-term goal of customers signing up will have a much better chance of happening.  An eventual result may be the achievement of a sales number, or a promotion but I’m confident that if you stay focused on this result, rather than your performance (your leadership style) you will be less likely to achieve it.

Put even more simply, a result (sales numbers) is in the future so stay focused on the here and now; what you’re doing in this moment. Elite athletes never focus on winning or losing; only on how they are performing now.

If you need convincing then take a look at the record of David Brailsford. He is currently performance director of British Cycling and the general manager of Team Sky.  One might suggest he had a reasonably successful 2012!  He has been clear on countless occasions that he is not focused on gold, he’s focused on performance – the right performance will bring gold medals (and boy did that happen during the Olympics!).

‘Focusing on the moment’ is key.  In a busy office, with things perhaps not going 100% right on a challenging Monday morning, should you be focused on whether or not you’ll have a £x sales by Christmas?  Absolutely not.  At that time, the goal is to ‘pull it together’, to get everyone in that team to perform to the best of their ability.

Did you hear the BBC commentary as Andy Murray was about to serve for the match, and for the Gold, in the Olympic Final?  The commentator actually said “All he needs to do now is focus on the moment”.  Would it have helped to have thought about the Gold medal, about beating his nemesis, about the countless millions watching on TV?  Quite the contrary.  His goal was to win that one point and his performance outcome was to serve at his best which, I am delighted to say, he did with an ace. Just to make the point – at that moment he certainly wasn’t thinking about being Wimbledon champion in 1 year’s time!

But do you really need help to set goals?

Well, does the aforementioned Andy Murray have a Coach to help him set and achieve goals?  Or Tiger Woods?  And how about senior executives in the business world?  Or high performing sales people?

What the coach provides is the skill of facilitating your thinking; teasing out what is under your control and what isn’t; asking the right questions to stimulate the right thoughts. The very process itself is of tremendous benefit because you’re rehearsing success.

Done properly, there is so much more to this than simply writing down some SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound) goals and pinning them on the wall. When you really get your brain engaged in hearing, seeing, feeling, smelling and tasting the moment of success before it happens, then I reckon you are more than half way to achieving it.

Ghandi once said, “The difference between what we do, and what we’re capable of doing would solve most of the world’s problems”. The question is, how big is the gap between your current success and what you’re capable of?

Posted by: mikeduckett | August 8, 2014


(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’:

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