The business of rugby – top line to bottom line, frontline to backline

It’s two years since we were lamenting Dan’s injury, fretting over Richie’s foot and were about to claim rugby’s greatest prize for the second time. As we look forward to some exciting test rugby, consider these rugby-inspired business reminders. Crossing commercial terms like line manager, top line and bottom line with rugby’s emphasis on front line and back line, you get a range of business critical success factors.

Once you line up your organisation strategy with market conditions, hard assets (things) and soft assets (people), you can systematically manage these lines to improve competitiveness, minimise risk and build forward momentum (go forward ball).

°          Top line represents your value proposition. Well articulated and conveyed, this creates market pull (demand) without which you don’t have a business.

°          Front line converts consumer desire (pull) to dollars. Those on the front line are your eyes and ears in the market. They will keep the business close to the customer and convert desire to dollars (push). Of course, not all sales are profitable but without sales, you are on the back foot.

°          Midline – think of this as the heart of the business. This is what keeps people connected, aligned and ‘pumping.’ Ensure people know the impact of their actions. Each role contributes vitally to success, or it shouldn’t be there. Do all people embrace their responsibility for business success?

°          Back line executes and delivers on promises made at the Top line and by the Front line. Do the front line and back line work in sync? Do your ‘centres’ distribute quickly and cleanly? Do the front line sometimes promise what can’t be delivered? Do the back line drop the ball, causing the front line to lose sales confidence? Do the centres stall or misdirect at crucial moments, dissipating margin? These lines of play build momentum or contribute to loss.

°          Sidelines provide the parameters in which a business operates. This is your risk mitigation, cost minimisation and hazard protection.

°          Bottom line indicates the health or otherwise of the business, its competitiveness and its attractiveness to investors (sponsors).

°          Advantage line refers to your hunger for competitiveness through opportunism and continuous improvement. This predicts longevity.

With due focus on these seven lines, you have the best chance of world-class performance and  successive wins.

Then see  leadership as an attitude and market position, not a role or title. Leadership can come from anywhere across the park when people and functions line up with purpose to make your organisation the leader in its field.

Cherri Holland

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Lessons from the spilt milk

Is it just me or did others notice the Chinese embassy spokesperson’s words on The Nation this weekend? Embassy Economic and Commercial Councillor, Zhang Fan, was asked, “Are you looking for heads to roll (over the Fonterra issue)?” He appeared bemused by the question. His answer implied that it is not their way to find someone to blame but rather to look for the solution.

In a nutshell, it summed up the contrast between the traditional Eastern versus Western approaches to quality assurance. W. Edwards Deming, whose approach was widely adopted by Eastern manufacturers decades ago, emphasised the quality system: when there is an error, look first to the system. People are only as good as the systems they operate and operate within. His urges to avoid blame and a culture of fear largely fell on deaf Western ears.

He argued that the Western approach of top-down (imposed) objective-setting focused people’s energy and effort on keeping out of trouble. When the fear is that  targets can’t be reached, you get corner cutting, cover ups, delayed exposure (response), blaming others……..all resulting in lower productivity, compromised quality and underperformance.  Indeed, this approach left Western manufacturers competitively floundering for decades until they eventually adopted a version of Eastern quality systems.

Deming stood for an attitude of continuous improvement (kaizen) where people set their own goals based on process understanding, quality systems, measures and controls close to them, that they can immediately see and correct. This remains the shortest, cheapest path to competitive advantage.

Many seem to miss the connection between world class teams in all walks of life – both business and sport – and this simple focus on process (inputs) versus outcome (outputs).

Where:

  •  You look to the system when errors occur
  • There is collective responsibility for system design and process design
  • Individuals focus on daily (iterative) continuous improvement
  • There is rigorous, open scrutiny ……

what flows from that is the best of what is human in the workplace:

  • Brilliant foresight
  • Preventative action
  • Intelligent processes
  • Early error detection
  • Quick response
  • Mutual trust and collaboration
  • One team (overall harmony and cohesion)
  • Absence of political manoeuvring, posturing and game playing

…characteristics common to all world-class, high-performing teams.  Simply put, you get the best of all the brains.

I believe it was Konosuke Matsushita (founder of the Panasonic empire, and known by many in Japan as the ‘god of management’) who said: ‘We use all the brains, not just the big ones at the top.’

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Perception is everything

I had a brain fade last week on Thursday. It took about 10 minutes to realise I had not picked up my laptop after leaving the departures screening area at Auckland International Airport. Panic? To put it mildly. Needless to say, I dashed back to the security screening area to find……nothing.

This story has a happy ending. The Aviation Security team leaped into action like a well-oiled machine, assuring me in a calm and professional manner that due to the number of cameras and the quality of the imaging, I could anticipate getting my laptop back….’soon’.

To say I doubted this service claim is an understatement. To say I badgered and tried to control (interfere with) the retrieval process (me? surely not!) is an understatement. My rationale? You so often hear assurances and so rarely does the service experience match the service promise. In this instance, perception of service not only matched the claim, it exceeded it.

Through the fog of my anxiety (about to board an plane with my workshop material neatly poised for action on my now missing laptop) I registered the patience and professionalism of the various aviation security people who (unfortunately for them) crossed my path that day as they were pulled into my drama.

Forty five minutes later, two women in Aviation Security uniform approached me beaming. They told me they had retrieved the missing item and shortly thereafter put my precious cargo in my hands! I could’ve hugged them both.

The point is: there are some amazing service teams who, day in, day out, do thankless tasks. We put our very lives in their hands, if you think about it. Yet, at no time did anyone point out that I should have checked I had everything with me before I left the area. That would’ve been a logical and understandable thing to say. But would it have helped? No. That’s exactly what I was saying to myself; having someone else say it would’ve only added to the pain.

On the contrary, to a person, they were understanding, sympathetic, responsive and kind, leaving me with a completely positive perception of them as professionals and people. Their calmness and gracious disposition throughout the entire experience was remarkable. (A little thing we call Emotional Intelligence.) In addition, I got the impression that this is a tight team, and that some of their strength comes from their cohesion. (A little thing we call Teamwork.)

The retrieval of the item (tangible service) was quite distinct from my perception of their responsiveness, their attitude towards me and their handling of my ‘state’ at the time (intangible service).  Even had the tangible service not been delivered (had the  laptop remained missing) I would have remained impressed by their professionalism. Isn’t this the most important aspect for a service organisation? Perhaps aviation security aside (or any other service where successful service delivery can mean lives are saved) most service organisations have frequent tangible service mishaps that are not their doing. Examples can be out-of-stocks, product quality faults and delivery mishaps. Yet their reputation can be safeguarded by those factors inside the control of staff:

  • the attitude they bring to the role
  • their manner with the customer
  • their people skills in a crisis.

As I said in my letter of thanks, Aviation Security either have outstanding training or truly remarkable people. Most likely, it is a combination of both. What percentage of commercial organisations can make this claim? How many deliver that level of response, support and successful service delivery with very little fanfare or fuss, leaving the customer with the perception of their brilliance and trustworthiness?

They say when it comes to service, perception is everything and I have come away with a new-found respect for these lethal (yet very human) weapons in our aviation security line of defence.

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Disruptive leadership

Leadership New Zealand, AUT Business  and other leading contributors sponsored a powerful event in the week spotlighting leadership in New Zealand.

From young achievers to seasoned elders, the lessons were profound and timeless. Among those who impressed were:

  • a youthful and explosive Alanna Krause (http://www.enspiral.com/  and https://www.loomio.org/)
  • a young and energetic Barnaby Marshall
  • the renegade capital generater and business architect  (my description) Tex Edwards.
    (Am I the only person who bought a Two Degrees product and service just to support the ‘cause’ and does that make me weird or merely human?)

The lessons kept coming, peppered with powerful one-liners and quotations. We were reminded that:

  • Logical thought applies well to things that cannot be other than what they are
  • ROIC must be greater than WACC
  • Everyone lives on Google avenue – the only difference is the size of your house
  • Loomio can be used to sew the society back up once Twitter has instigated the riot

We saw the power of by lines to change thinking:  “How to destroy 500 000 years’ work……….Ignore it”.  The semantics of forest custodians who spoke of the ‘death by a thousand cuts’ reminded us that leaders stir emotion.

Reference to Buckminster Fuller kept me firmly engaged (as his book Critical Path shaped my thinking about business, nature and the world making me rather painful to work with, no doubt! His words conveyed his drive to adjust our thinking……..such as Ephemeralisation – ‘doing more with less’ –  how technology would enable us to do everything with nothing, resulting in ever-increasing standards of living despite modern challenges.)

I felt blessed to be seated at the Sir Peter Blake table. He shall remain in my mind among the best of New Zealand leaders – a giant by any global leadership measure. I reflected on how many people he touched during his all-too-short, yet action-packed and adventurous, life. A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”  Lao Tzu. ( As I nervously watch Team New Zealand race Luna Rosa in the Louis Vuitton Cup – it now looks extremely dangerous – I recall the ’95 and 2000 excitement disrupting a city………. a nation.)

We debated (among other ideas) autonomy and collaboration. One contributor, John McCarthy from Lifewise, showed how one person can change many lives. His story also validated the importance of sharing ideas with other leaders and teams who are discovering daily what works best.

We want people to apply what is known, not just what they know (Robert Kaufman).  For that to happen, people need to stay connected, with curious minds and hungry hearts. Imagine where we could be as a species if:

  • every lesson only needs to be learned once
  • we collectively commit not to ignore the lessons others have learnt
  • we collectively commit to keep improving what we encounter

Years ago ‘Blakey’ spoke of the team’s commitment to chase one second of speed each time they went sailing. Not a huge ask, yet the cumulative effect over time is that you forever change a city, then a nation, then a species.

The final words belong to Lao Tzu:
“Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.”
(Those may be the only words that will shut me up!)

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Connecting the dots…..

How do your people feel – significant or insignificant?

The recent“Corporate Citizenship” conference revealed a surprising level of connection between those who do good and a range of productivity and financial measures. It presented significant research into reputation, volunteering, contribution and all-round wellbeing. The impact of these on financial health was demonstrated with business example after business example, both New Zealand and Australian, which showed how those who do good feel good and work even better.

Often we assume staff who appear to be busy, are; who appear to be trying, are; who appear to be giving their best, are. But are they really? Or is there a significant amount of discretionary effort, commitment and ‘smarts’ that is buried somewhere?

All too often, we rob people of that all important motivator – significance. Decades ago, Tom Peters reminded us that a human being will not sell their lives for any sum but will give it freely for a compelling cause.  Giving and helping others is hardwired in our brains. Giving stimulates the same reward centre in the brain as receiving.

The conference explored the untapped potential in terms of company reputation and employee productivity demonstrating the impact that workplace giving and community connection has across all significant indicators. At the conference, Treasury made the connection between this and  its pursuit of higher New Zealand living standards – something that touches each one of us. (www.gen.org.nz)

The researchers have concluded there is a $5 return for every $1 invested in ensuring employees score well across all facets of wellbeing. Gallup uses 5 Factors of Wellbeing but there are other models and approaches that all reach the same conclusion: doing good delivers across the full range of financial measures of corporate health.

This approach to employee engagement incorporates the customer and the broader community in which the business, the employees and the customers reside. Research demonstrates:

  • $64 cost to an employer per employee per year versus $392 for those who are low on wellbeing measures
  • 23 days of freed up productivity per year per employee when investing in all aspects of wellbeing in contrast with 7 days in freed up productivity when managing the physical wellbeing (absenteeism) alone
  • those with high Career Wellbeing get more done and work substantially longer hours without burning out. In sharp contrast, workers with low Career Wellbeing disengage after just 20 hours of work in a given week (Harter & Arora, 2009). As a result, employees with low Career Wellbeing have more incidents of workplace injury and theft.  (To get a copy of the Five-factor Wellbeing report with all the financial measures, send a message on this blog.)

Demonstrating how significance and ‘connecting the dots’ impacts service, quality, motivation and engagement, there was the story of the below-par performer working at a service provider to the health sector. The supervisor had tried in vain to improve accuracy and motivation of staff, this person in particular. A visit to the ward of one of the local hospitals connected the dots. Staying behind one evening, this person referred to one of the  patients by name, saying he couldn’t leave for the day without triple checking the work so no errors could get through.

We rob people when we treat them as ‘resources’ instead of human power kegs of passion and brilliance. We entrust work to them everyday but don’t trust them at all. We barricade them from connection with the real meaning of their work and blind them to their importance. We starve them of information and relevance and then complain when they can’t wait to leave for the day or make excuses not to show up at all.

Leadership is an attitude and action in the lives of every individual – it is not a title or pay scale. Inside each person on the payroll is a leader of something or someone, with the potential to significantly improve our reputation and customer experience.

When we reveal the impact people do have, we grow giants. But it is up to us to connect the dots. After all, we are the ones who disconnected people from their real purpose with structures, titles and functions that have become dysfunctions interfering with why the organisation exists.

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Powerful connections inspire – from surviving to thriving

Two conferences unintentionally held in the same week could turn coincidence into an annual NZ business boost.

Inspire Auckland 2013  put on by KEA (supported by NZTE) and sponsored by AUT, was held two days before the annual Dept of Ethnic Affairs EPIC event promoting powerful connections, a common theme for both events. (A big thanks to Air New Zealand – our home away from home, when abroad – for the prize received for my business value proposition!)

The same names popped up during success stories at both events.  EPIC’s Keynote speaker Priv Bradoo shares a common history with Sean Simpson (a great contributor to the Inspire line-up), both at the cutting edge of converting waste into precious metals and fuel sources (respectively.)

Some common themes from both events were:

  • When you discover the thing you absolutely have to do, find a way to get it done.
  • You will absolutely need to convert believers to do it.
  • You will absolutely experience pain (lots of it) along the way – some internal, some external and much to do with people.
  • You will need drive at a level sufficient to take you through the pain barriers.
  • You will need smart people who have navigated the path ahead to manage risk and contain fallout (Good governance will considerably limit pain and fallout.)
  • Remember the “why” – success will only come from giving people more of what they want and less of what they don’t. Forget customers in the rush of blood to the head and you will be punished. (Forget your sponsors and you will suffer similarly – thanks to Sir Peter Blake for driving that one home.)
  • Kiwis (even Chiwis!) get great things done through global connections – distance melts. What really matters is aligned interest, passion and vision.
  • Sustained success will always be a relay, not a 100 m sprint.
  • Get funding from banks before you need it.
  • Get lenders onto your turf – it’s not only customers who respond to sticky  promotion.
  • Along the way you will need to win substantial ‘skin-in-the-game’ support from investors, customers, managers, staff and even friends and family.
  • Sustainable success is associated with endeavours of substance – positive impact across a range of metrics.

Common names that popped up  in many kiwi success stories were Derek Handley (of whom I am a micro sponsor) and Sir Stephen Tindall (of whom I am a benefactor). It became clear that those who are backed become future backers. (Check out https://bteamnews.squarespace.com.) As Branson said, “Wonderful things won’t get done if you don’t do them.”

NZTE and Dept of Ethnic Affairs could add the MBIE’s Business Growth Agenda for a powerful annual boost to NZ Inc, to grow the current number of about 180 companies that account for 80% of our exports. (The Business Growth Agenda focuses on six key business growth “ingredients”: Export markets, innovation, infrastructure, skilled and safe workplaces, natural resources, and capital. Each is a programme of innovative initiatives and policy reform – see www.mbie.govt.nz. As Geraldine McBride who spoke at Inspire said, not many people are using this agenda to coordinate effort and energy.)

The strands that connect powerful people to inspiring visions have never been more important. (What some e.g. Paul Cameron refer to as the kiwimafia.) KEA and The Landing Pad in San Francisco want to ensure that no call is a cold call. Put all the brain cells of both local and expat kiwis together and you have a neural powerpack.

Finally, seek the right connections – not everyone and everything will be the right match. Then, when you make the approach, your IQ (Influencing Quotient) will immediately showcase both person and proposition. These must both get the numbers to realise your vision.

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M&A – wins and losses

M&A failure rates are as high as 80%, with evidence indicating that a significant contributing factor is neglect of the human element across the whole range of business relationships. “M&A is still regarded by many decision makers as an exclusively rational, financial and strategic activity, and not as a human collaboration” says Susan Cartwright (QFinance).

Customers and suppliers will have their own responses to news of a merger or an acquisition, but what happens with staff in situations of threat, real or perceived?

Our ancient brain still fires in response to a threat.  Fight or flight likely reactions include:

Physical

  • Excess adrenalin (meant to fuel muscles with blood and oxygen, diverting energy away from digestion) and cortisol (which affects blood sugar) lingers, triggering other hormone reactions
  • ‘Amygdala hijack’ – the midbrain’s 911 system puts the rational brain on hold

Emotional:

Fear, panic, anxiety, anger (even rage) – all debilitating and distracting, diverting energy and focus away from positive solutions and resourcefulness. This emotional rollercoaster plays havoc with hormones adding to excess cortisol, which in turn triggers sleep disturbance, stomach fat and other risk factors.

Mental:

Circular thoughts loop,  fuelled by catastrophic self talk of worst case scenarios. Disassociation and withdrawal can fulfill the fear of diminishing opportunities.

These states are associated with errors and generalised workplace risk. There is an increased likelihood of emails sent to the wrong people, confidential information being inappropriately released, incorrect figures in quotations or reports, moodiness and impatience expressed in important client or colleague correspondence and forms of sabotage from petty pilfering to IP theft. These and other signs of disassociation, disconnect and dismissiveness are potentially disastrous for an organisation at a time of vulnerability……when excellent service, efficient delivery and market confidence are critical.

Contrast this with a true story:
A manager told of a time when the company had gone through (yet another) restructure. Her manager at the time had been so positive (aspirational) about the change that her team experienced this as a time of adventure and opportunity. She sharply contrasted their experience with that of other departments. It was how the department head framed the experience for them that determined how they thought, felt and acted – not how positively or negatively people were affected by the change.

Simply put, leadership determined the mental therefore emotional therefore physical reactions of those involved.

During times of uncertainty, leadership stays the course.
                “You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.”  Theodore M. Hesburgh

In times of uncertainty, the temptation is to avoid people, cancel meetings (what if they ask questions we can’t answer?), disappear behind closed doors, say too much, not enough, the right thing at the wrong time or the wrong thing at the right time.

Instead:

  • Increase adherence to rituals – this calms the midbrain
  • Create a positive, optimistic outlook as a leadership team (not in a Pollyanna sense but as a deliberate strategy)
  • Set (and honour) regular, distinct times to chat/vent. (One leader made 2pm on a Friday available for a ‘drop in’.)
  • Don’t feel you have to artificially create a safe haven. Say ‘I don’t know’ if you need to but also work to build self-belief and resourcefulness
  • Use words that keep people calm and positive, but also in touch with reality
  • Form a mental contract with the whole team to only add positive, helpful dialogue to the common space
  • Focus people on what is known/certain and on short term goals – e.g. the significance of what they do in the big picture; make this a daily re-commitment during the crisis peak

Better yet, build agile, resourceful, confident, positive people ahead of when its needed;  people who source security from their continually-growing capability rather than from an employer, role or function. Do this and you will not only have built a great reputation but created a powerful legacy.

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Performance Reviews – yay!

Learning from the past is one thing that distinguishes people from rats. No, wait; rats learn from the past. Perhaps it’s: conscious reflection to extract the lessons from the past, to avoid repeating mistakes and get more, sooner. No, wait; some would argue rats do that too. Maybe what distinguishes people is that we don’t learn from the past.

Performance Reviews may well be the most valuable activity in your business next to making a sale and increasing efficiencies. Yet people seem to dread them. When they recount their experiences with Reviews, I can’t blame them. It needn’t be that way.

The secret to Reviews that are welcomed is to conduct them in the context of a performance partnership. Without this two-way exploration of insights to make individuals, teams and organisations smarter, they are a waste of time and potentially (even frequently) damaging.

Where you have a performance partnership, the reviewer is there to:

  • prompt a performer’s self- and team-awareness
  • accelerate their discovery of new and better ways to get results
  • remind people what they are capable of and accountable for.

The reviewer is not there to do all the thinking and talking. (The one who is doing the talking is doing the learning.) The responsibility for demonstrating performance is the employee’s. (Just as well they are adults and don’t require caretaking.)

Problems occur where there are:

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Fuzzy communication
  • Unclear demands
  • Confusion about either role
  • Inappropriate dependency by one and/or control by another

Develop self-management and staff-driven performance by using questions to stimulate insight, clarity, learning, commitment and accountability. Here are some:

What went according to plan?
What are you pleased with/disappointed about?
Why’s that? (What’s the lesson in that?)
What else could you have done? (What could you have done differently?)
Why didn’t you…………………….? (Curious tone not judgemental)
What do you want to change next time?
What would be the impact of that?
What can you commit to, to fix that?
What about if you’d tried……………..?
What I think you could’ve done is……..
What I’d like to see is…………….and so on.

Maybe calling work “the Rat Race” is insulting to the common rat. You pay so handsomely for experience – use Performance Reviews to make it pay back!

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Mission versus margin

It’s been a mixed week for both business and sport:

°          news of Mainzeal’s demise was countered by Ceres NZ’s intention to invest in what’s considered to be valuable assets

°          Last weekend in NZ sport, the high of the NZ Breakers’ thumping of the Perth Wild Cats was countered by the unceremonious dumping of the NZ Sevens team by Kenya (of all teams) from the Wellington 7s tournament.

While we’re back on a winning streak in the early games of the Las Vegas leg of this tournament (and have increased our overall lead in the Championship series) it is clear that complacency has no place in this outfit. Iconic NZ Sevens Coach Gordon Tietjens said when interviewed after that loss that the guys were wearing GPS during that Kenyan game recording their speed for next week’s training. There aren’t many who can survive a Tietjens’ training session, reported to be tougher than any actual game.

NZ Breakers’ Dylan Boucher said there is a world of difference between this team that thumped the Wild Cats and the Breakers team of old. While the old Breakers team produced some spectacular results, they were inconsistent. He said: “We underestimated the level of professionalism and dedication required to win at this level.”

Since then, this team has dug deep and built the character of which winners are made, winning two consecutive championships in the Australian comp.

This is the same in any endeavour. Carving character and applying this to relentless training and practice develops the ability to win under competitive pressure. Once you have a reputation of being a winner (after the numbers stack up) money comes out of the woodwork (whether it be financiers or sponsors).

New U.S. Interior Secretary, Sally Jewell, shared a key lesson from her years in business this week: “You can’t have mission without margin.”

A universal theme – for both business and sport – is it’s hard to keep going without a healthy (and growing) bottom-line. But the demise of Mainzeal is a warning about bottom-line at the expense of quality and risk management (checks and balances). Mainzeal’s motto – Building Certainty – is the mission. Delivering on the promise is the competitive challenge and winning success formula. (The latest fines imposed on international banking giants is testament to this as the fallout from the Libor debacle continues.)

Those who aspire to win need to frequently remind players of the expectations of fans and sponsors, focus them on the winning actions, develop mastery through ongoing skill drills and practice opportunities and expand people’s awareness about what to change to get further more quickly.

In business, are coaches and business leaders truly doing what is needed?

Those who continuously make their players more valuable (and value-adding) than the rest will see the right margin on the scoreboard…..the kind that attracts the right kind of attention (and investment.)

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Great expectations for 2013

Q: What will 2013 hold for you?
A: It depends on you: what you expect, what you desire and what you do.

What are your expectations, as an individual or business, for 2013? Great expectations fuel desire which then becomes the leverage to act.

This is the time of year for good intentions, or what we call “resolutions”. The word resolution implies more than “hope for the best”. As kiwi musician Adam McGrath explained, hope without wire remains just that – hope. (See album Hope and Wire by Eastern.)

Yet, how often in business do we bank on promises……..declarations of intent; simply put: great expectations? The assumption is that good intentions line the road to success.

Managers and employees (and suppliers for that matter) make great statements of intent, but these may be little more than hopes and dreams, and may even represent the expectations of others.  In which case, by Easter, you may well be wondering what’s gone wrong.

Unless people are resolute – driven by strong desire – reality will not match expectations, intentions or declarations. Unless they have a strong reason to succeed, obstacles along the way will cause them to stumble.

Without a high enough level of desire, people give up at the first hurdle. In business as in life, great achievements require a certain level of motivation – simply put: desire (from the Latin desiderare: “long for, wish for; demand, expect.”)

Without enough desire, actions will not consistently match what’s required to achieve success. No amount of self-discipline (or threats of punishment for that matter) can initiate AND sustain the necessary action for achievement given the inevitable twists and turns in the road to success.

Sometimes people believe that success will occur if circumstances permit. They look at those who have succeeded and assume it was largely circumstantial. But life is an obstacle course – obstacles are there for insights and growth; not to deter us from great achievements. Once something is really important, people do what it takes, no matter what. That is commitment that flows from sufficient desire.

I feel encouraged when young people – in their early twenties – ask me: “How can I increase my motivation?” That is the key. We discuss the source of desire in the mid brain, and how to harness and cultivate that internal drive. From there, you can achieve anything.

Aptly, 2013 is the Chinese year of the Snake, which apparently does not tolerate mediocrity. Snake is a great sign, a positive one, with energy that can help us face all of the challenges ahead of us.

Actions to achieve something extraordinary this year:

  1. Create compelling reasons to achieve what you’re aiming at
  2. Stoke the desire – the commitment –  to achieve the outcome, no matter what
  3. If you can’t do 2, go back to item 1 and repeat until you can
  4. Decide on one thing you can do straight away to get started
  5. Keep moving in the right direction through consistent, progressive steps, monitoring and marking your progress
  6. Keep mindful of item 1: the “why”. If the reasons keep growing, so will your desire, commitment, leverage and opportunity to act.

 A final word:

Parents sometimes ask me how to motivate their children. This is less straight forward as desire has to come from within them and not for them. But here’s what helps:  When they tell you what they want to do, encourage them instead to tell you only two things:

  1. What they HAVE done towards their goals. What they have consistently done reveals what they are really committed to, and therefore where they will end up.
  2. How they have overcome challenges along the way.  How they act when the going gets tough reveals to you who they are right now. Explaining this to you reveals to them who they are right now and who they are becoming.

Those are two things you can bank on.

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