THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Part 3

How did the visualisation go?  Did you discover you were predominantly left brained and therefore, right brain visualisation took a bit of getting used to?  You wouldn’t be alone so don’t panic, but its a key habit to embed so do practice it as often as you can.

“Habit 3 – Put first things first”

We’ve covered this before, but it’s worth repeating again.  The heart of effective personal time management is to spend the maximum time possible doing important jobs in a non-urgent atmosphere that increases your efficiency (so says Mr Stephen Covey in his book we are reviewing).

Here are the four basis types of activities:

The goal is to maximise your time in Quadrant 2 – the Important and non-urgent activities.  This is the heart of effective personal management.  By increasing the amount of tasks carried out in Quadrant 2, the likelihood of tasks cropping up in Quadrant 1 are minimised.

Effective people are not problem minded – they are opportunity minded.  They think preventatively.  To create the habit of Quadrant 2 working, say no to quadrant 3 and 4 activities.  This will take tact and diplomacy of course, but it will be worth it.

The way you spend your time is a direct result of the way you really see your own personal priorities (Habit 2 – start with the end in sight).

There are 6 criteria for helping you spend more time in Quadrant 2, as follows:

1. Coherence: harmony between your personal mission statement and both short and long-term activities (Habit 2)

2. Balance: identify your various roles and keep them focused so that important areas are not inadvertently ignored

3. Quadrant 2 Focus: deal with prevention and anticipation rather than crisis control.  Don’t prioritise your schedule, instead schedule time to achieve your priorities.

4. People dimension: planning needs to reflect dealing with other people, as they can influence your time schedule.

5. Flexibility: tailor time management  to exactly the way you need it to work for your life

6. Portability: time management is on the go and with you at all times, not just in the office.

Interesting week don’t you think?  I thought it was worth finishing with this quote from Goethe:

” Things which matter the most must never be at the mercy of things which matter the least.”

Mentorship & Me – Part 5 – Alison Crawford – An Epiphany!

Since my previous mentor session, it’s fair to say I have had an epiphany, a moment of clarity.  All this reflection and thinking about my future in 5 years time is starting to make sense.

So at my last blog update, I was feeling a bit dejected having not passed sifts for some jobs I applied for.  So far there is still nothing of interest to apply for.  This is likely to change, as the restructure of the NHS will generate opportunities for someone like me.  But this isn’t where my reflection has paid off.

My 5 year plan has been looking a bit sketchy on the 3-5 year part.  Other than a better paid job, I have to be honest that I don’t really have a specific goal.  There are no roles in the business I’m in that I really long to have.  My ambition feels somewhat stifled.  So what is the great epiphany?  Well I don’t think I am destined to climb this particular greasy pole to the top, I think I want to change my career entirely and indulge my passion for the outdoors.  In a nutshell, I have hatched a plan that will allow me to start up my own garden design business in the next 3-5 years, giving me the chance to escape my current desk-bound existence.  Once this tiny idea hatched, everything else has made more sense, and I have been able to start turning this from an idea into a reality.  My little red mentee notebook is now filling with ideas of how to make this a success.  The course I need to enrol on, people I need to speak to about their experience of running their own small businesses, information about the market for this skill in the area where I live.  What sort of income can this generate, what sort of companies I could be working for.

Having discussed this with my mentor, I am fired up with fresh enthusiasm and ambition.  This isn’t just a heart decision, the head is getting involved too and making some good contributions as well.  The reality of the situation is that I’m not quitting my job tomorrow and buying a new pair of wellies.  My bank manager still requires a mortgage payment every month, but I have a plan for how to keep him happy and make this change too.

So I’m still risk averse, still obsessive about planning and still wanting to have a greater influence over my work area.  Nothing about me has changed, but somehow the penny has dropped and I feel like the answer to my own happiness and career satisfaction is 100% in my own control again.  And it feels great!

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Part 2

So just how successful were you last week with Part 1 – How proactive were you on your one issue and was it comfortable or successful for you?  It’s important that you adopt the easy habits before they become more challenging so please let me know how it went.  Habits are created through repetition, so do it, as often as you can!

This week, we focus on

” Habit 2 – Begin with the end in mind”

This means using an image or paradigm of where you want to ultimately be as a frame of reference by which you examine everything you do in the meantime.  For example:  let’s use an Olympic athlete as a reference point here, as the huge success of London 2012 is still fresh in everyone’s  minds.

There is plenty of research around which illustrates that Olympic athletes  (or any world-class athlete or peak performer for that matter) are visualisers.  They see their end goal, they feel it, and they experience it in their mind before they actually do it.  They begin with the end in sight (in their mind).  We have seen 100m sprinters focussing and going through their motions mentally before going into their blocks.  Hurdlers are seen to play out going over those hurdles and we see their arms and legs actively going through those motions before they’ve even fired the gun.  They lock into the right side of their brain which deals with pictures and relationships, the more intuitive and creative side.  They are seeing their end point, they are making their bodies feel their end point in this way.  They actively leave their left hand brain (which is logical, dealing with words and specifics) to one side at poignant moments in their training and competitive activities.

There is no reason why we can’t do that for professional success too.  We need a professional mission statement (the left hand side of my brains says logical here, the right hand side of my brain says boring!), but its true.  To do this, we need to catapult ourselves decades into the future – visualise where we want to be, what kind of relationships we want to be part of and what do we want people saying about us at that point?  For example:

  • Visualise being at your own funeral!  Write an eulogy.  What sort of things would you like to be said about you?
  • Visualise being at your 50th wedding anniversary, or a grandchild’s wedding or graduation.  What kind of family relationships do you have at that time?
  • Visualise your retirement day.  What do people in your profession have to say about you?

Any of these examples will help you visualise and “begin with the end in sight“.

Personal leadership is not a single experience, so once you have this end in sight, you can’t let it sleep! You have to keep this vision and values alive by aligning your professional activities to it as often as possible.  Once the left hand brain kicks in, and you encapsulate your visualisation into your professional mission statement, through words and logic etc, your own personal guiding principles will be your basic signposts from which to set your long-term goals.  Your principles do not change and do not react to any outside influence.  They are deep, fundamental truths that are consistent, timeless, exacting and emotional to you, and you alone.

Good luck on visualisation.  I can heartily recommend it from years of personal experience.  I lead with my right hand brain and drag my left hand brain along, sometimes kicking and screaming, but it comes eventually 🙂




THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Part 1

The above book has been highly popular.  Stephen Covey will still be laughing all the way to the bank.  In my commuting days, I saw it in the hands of many other commuters!  So this is a series dedicated to those habits as they are well worth returning to from time to time.  Something that effective does not become ineffective overnight of course. So lets learn some good professional habits over the next few weeks.

“Habit 1 – Be Proactive”

Covey says:

“we can choose our own response to any signal or information we receive.  We have the ability to influence our own actions.  Therefore, being proactive means to actively choose what our response will be in any situation rather than to react blindly”.

Powerful words indeed.  This choice distinguishes man (or woman) from every other creature on our planet.  This is why we can learn new practices and evaluate our experiences.  It is the core principle of self awareness – vital for any leader to be successful.  Choosing how to respond to situations requires a combination of:

  • self awareness – the ability to control thoughts
  • imagination – the ability to mentally create a new reality
  • conscience – an inner awareness of right and wrong
  • independent will – the ability to act on thoughts

So animals can’t, but humans can, write their own directions and either chose to be reactive or proactive, as a result.  This is the true meaning of RESPONSE-ABILITY, the ability to choose our own responses.

Proactive people are  highly responsible and driven by values that are well thought out and internalised.  They do not get swept away by the heat of the  moment.  It does not mean being pushy, aggressive or insensitive.  No doubt many of us have seen that badged as proactivity in the past.  It’s not!  Rather, it means to control a situation from the inside out, affecting positive change.  If you can stop focussing on the immediate circumstances and rather, turn to considering your own response to the conditions that exist, then you will have removed the power of anything external, to affect you.

People who know me are familiar with my mantra: “Actions have consequences”. Actions we can choose, consequences we cannot, which is why the former is so important.

So it is in ordinary, everyday events, that we can develop proactive skills.  In these ordinary, small events, we show our true character and given that our response to irritations can determine our responses to disasters, we should practice this on the little things first don’t you think?!

Homework this week:  pick one small event that you will practice this technique on and reflect how it was different to your usual response.  Then let us know about it!

Oliver Wendell Holmes ….

…. was an insightful chap.  He said:

“What lies behind us and what lies before us is a tiny matter compared to what lies within us”.

Think about that for a little while – it talks of character, charisma, values and a whole host of things we are virtually born with!  I mention it as a follow up from the Thursday Thoughts! blog last week. Another addition to the leadership quality list 🙂

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – How can you spot a future leader?

I’ve often been asked this question.  It’s linked to spotting potential and it seems that others think I have a knack for tapping into strengths and helping them to bloom.  Who am I to disagree?  So other than the obvious list of skills and competencies leaders have to have, ie talent, education, presence, I also list character and humility.  This has produced several raised eyebrows in the past but I hold firm to my list – it hasn’t let me down yet!  I am a firm believer that leadership is first about character, THEN about skills.  The former is something deep inside us, the latter is something you can acquire along the way.  Equally, you can’t talk your way into humility, it’s only ever practiced.    Humility demonstrates real strength (in my eyes).  Arrogant leaders might well succeed, but they will never be successful because humility is much more about the “how” of doing things.  Its “how” you go about things that makes you memorable, makes others want to follow and aspire to you, and which leaves a lasting impression on them.

So, this week, think hard about:

“How would you spot a future leader?”

This simple, yet instantly recognisable list, will help you spot them 🙂


It’s not exhaustive of course and the skills element is very important indeed.  But humility is essential because it allows leaders to ask, “How can I help?”  C. S. Lewis once said:  “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.”

What strengths do you see in humility and how does arrogance hinder or destroy leadership?  Looking forward to the answers on this one as everyone I’ve met has a view and opinion on leadership, good and bad.

Is This How You Are Seen?


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