Monthly Archives: January 2016

Does turning your best business ideas into reality sometimes feel a bit like this?

You’re not alone. The time to act on a great idea can be so fleeting. We’ve all been in meetings when eyes light up around the room at a good idea. The team bounces around their thoughts to make it a great idea there and then – and you all leave enthusiastically agreeing to make it happen. And then, somehow, it doesn’t.

Just like the bubbles in the Peanuts cartoon strip, the fragile membrane of goodwill can quickly disintegrate under other pressures. The way you drive a great idea in its early moments is absolutely crucial – it takes aspirational leadership to keep the bubble alive.

What keeps a great but fragile idea in tact? Here are some thoughts:-

Capture it. Record the idea straight away – it doesn’t matter how. Don’t delay if it feels raw and rough around the edges. You’ll get time to refine it later. What matters more is to get the ball rolling and know what the next steps will be in the form of actions and date(s) in the diary.

Take responsibility. To give a fragile idea life you must be prepared to take responsibility for it straight away. No one will ever understand your idea as well as you and your team did in that first glorious moment of inspiration. Are you prepared to take the responsibility to stick your neck out to argue for a great idea?

Bottle the passion. As well as the idea itself, keep talking to your team about what it is that gave you all that feeling of excitement at the moment the idea arrived? How did the idea make you and them all feel? Leaders who can bottle – and remind others of – the emotions behind the idea stand the best chance of seeing it through.

Work hard on those who weren’t there. It’s rare to have all the people you need to make an idea work in at its birth. When explaining a great idea to those whose support you need but didn’t feel the original passion, set aside time to think through what would motivate them to back you. You need to short circuit your idea to their aspirations to move from lukewarm encouragement to genuine enthusiasm.

Sustain the commitment. Finally, ideas don’t become reality overnight, so you need to sustain the commitment of all. This is the hard, because so many other tasks and priorities get in the way. Go back to your original note of the idea to remind yourself and others of the passion for your idea. And understand what is it that made other stakeholders buy in to the idea. Understand this will help you (and them) overcome the understandable temptation to leave even great ideas to one side.

mm
Merriborn Media is a business dedicated to developing clever content, engaged online communities and effective collaborative working and learning for clients. Both Merriborn Media and its founder Trevor Merriden were ranked in the Top 3 of social learning evangelists for 2016 in a recent major study.

3 mental skills to keep your “Big Plans” on track

More than once this week, I’ve had a conversation with a client that begins something like this:-

Me: “Happy New Year! Did you get back Monday?”

Them: *Sighs* “Yes I did, but I feel like I’ve been back a year already!”

The trouble with New Year is that when we get back to work we ALL have “Big Plans” for the year ahead. These “Big Plans” usually involve intensive and unsustainable levels of effort. We need others to help us, but they of course have their own Big Plans – and therein lies the first sparks of friction and rumblings of frustration that are likely to leave us feeling like our “Blue Monday” media caricatures in 2 or 3 weeks’ time.

2016 consists of 52 weeks, not one, so my suggestion to you is to slow down now, in order to speed up later. Frenetic activity this week is no substitute for genuine long term achievement – and your resulting frustrations will be the acid dissolving your resolve. Instead, try to develop these 3 mental skills in 2016 and I guarantee your year will be much the better for it.

1. Outcome. When frustrated, try to develop new skill No.1  – the skill of stepping back. Take a big step back and ask yourself a simple, forward-looking question: “What are we are trying to achieve?” You’re probably further down the road than you realise. It is easy to get wrapped up in a particular challenge without thinking of the progress already made. Avoid questions that keep you in the past, such as “Who is to blame?” or “How did we get into this mess?” Instead, ask yourself “What is working?”, “What needs to change?” and “How do we get there?”

2. Attitude. I know it’s difficult, but new skill No.2 is to attempt to strip the emotion out of the situation and just accept that yes, you’re going to feel frustrated from time to time. Criticism from others, for example, is felt far more personally than intended by others. Instead, think about the positives in feeling frustration – we have all experienced “light bulb” moments through brainstorming challenges, shortly after experiencing the biggest doubts. You need to accept frustration in order to appreciate progress.

3.Simplify. It’s tempting sometimes to look beyond the obvious to an attractive but complicated solution or get bombarded by (or even seduced by the comfort of) clutter, noise and distractions. Remember that intense but unfocused activity is an inadequate short-term substitute for achievement. Skill No.3 is to remove all the clutter and strip a problem down to its essentials before moving forward again.

So focus on the outcome, adopt the positive attitude and simplify the challenge. Do this and you are already well on the way to moving beyond frustration and on to something much, much better.

mm
Merriborn Media is a business dedicated to developing clever content, engaged online communities and effective collaborative working and learning for clients. Both Merriborn Media and its founder Trevor Merriden were ranked in the Top 3 of social learning evangelists for 2016 in a recent major study.

Feel makes Real: a case for “deliberate” optimism

As I write, I feel a sense of optimism about 2016 – but not for the reason you may assume. My brand of optimism isn’t about  deluding myself that the change of year will bring forward a “new me” – I know I have some faults and weaknesses that I can promise you now will still be on display in 12 months’ time.

In truth we are all both optimists and pessimists several times a day, faced with different situations. My sense of optimism though is more deliberate and pragmatic – I’ve come to realise that it makes no sense whatsoever to practise anything other than optimism.

Shawn Anchor, in his amazing book “The Happiness Advantage” tells the fictional story of a man who walks into a bank. There are 50 other people there. A robber comes in and fires his weapon once. You are shot in the arm. Would you call yourself lucky or unlucky?

There is of course no right or wrong answer. What is more interesting is the way you came to your decision. These sorts of questions doubtless came into your heads …..

“How come I was the only one out of 50 to be shot?”

“I could have been fatally shot. How lucky was that?”

The brain invents a “counter fact” through these questions. A counter fact is an alternate scenario our brains create to help us evaluate and make sense of what really happened.

This is important. We have the choice over what counter fact we select, one that makes us feel either fortunate or helpless. This then influences far more than one’s attitude to an individual event. Those who pick positive counter facts are open themselves up to a whole range of subsequent benefits to spur their motivation and performance.

Research shows that people with positive counter facts have more successful careers, relationships and even live longer – they probably even have better love lives, though I have no solid evidence to share with you on that last one. Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology and author of “Learned Optimism”, noticed that people who bounced back from setbacks all shared a positive way of interpreting adversity or what researchers called optimistic explanatory style.

In short, how you “Feel” makes it “Real” – if you hope and expect the best, you perform better. So, even if you don’t actually think you’re an optimist, I’d urge you to work hard on becoming more aware of and challenging your more pessimistic moments – and channelling your positivity into your performance.

Be deliberately, even doggedly, optimistic in 2016. There’s really no point in being any other way.

mm
Merriborn Media is a business dedicated to developing clever content, engaged online communities and effective collaborative working and learning for clients. Both Merriborn Media and its founder Trevor Merriden were ranked in the Top 3 of social learning evangelists for 2016 in a recent major study.