A Christmas and New Year Message

Happy Christmas cardMay peace fill all the empty spaces around you, your family and your friends and your colleagues at this special time of year, and in you, may contentment answer all your wishes.

Raise a toast to yesterday’s achievements and tomorrow’s brighter future.

May comfort be yours, warm and soft like a sigh.

And may the coming year show you that every day is really a first day and a new year.

Let abundance be your constant companion, so that you have much to share.

May mirth be near you always, like a lamp shining brightly on the many paths you travel.

Work with the best of your abilities in 2015 and show to the world you power to create wonderful and superior things.

New Year 2015 may turn out to be a year when you are put on the road to everlasting success and prosperity.

Be the change that you wish to see at your workplace and take initiatives to make things better.

Wish your tomorrow is more prosperous, happy and successful than yesterday and today.

Looking forward to another year with hunger and passion to exceed at work and you are sure to meet with success.

Let new beginnings signify new chapter filled with pages of success and happiness, written by the ink of hard work and intelligence.

May the New Year bring us more wonderful opportunities for success.

Here’s wishing you the gift of peace and prosperity throughout 2015.

What is happiness?

smiley faceThere has been much discussion around happiness and the opening of our hearts to truly experience passion and energies which have a profound effect over our ability to elevate our emotions and increase productivity, relationships and success in life.

Pharell Williams, the music artist, had an unbelievable global success with his song ‘Happy.’‎

But with all this in mind, exactly what is happiness?

A few years ago I arrived at Hong Kong international airport earlier than anticipated and purchased a book by Professor Richard Layard called ‘Happiness’ In this new edition of his landmark book, this book shows that there is a paradox at the heart of our lives. Most people want more income. Yet as societies become richer, they do not become happier. All the evidence in the book show, that on average, people have grown no happier in the last fifty years.

So with this in mind, can money buy love, or even happiness?

It is certainly natural to believe that success will bring you happiness, but a variety of psychologists, including Harvard’s Shawn Achor, have argued that this common sense understanding is actually backwards. Success does not make you happy so much as happiness makes you more successful.

But how much more successful exactly, and how can you ever rigorously scientifically test something like that?

Interesting enough, something as simple as writing down three things you are grateful for or three things that you have intentions towards, every day for 21 days in a row can significantly increase your level of optimism and happiness.

Happy and unhappy people have the same pain and trauma. The difference is happy people have a disposition which helps them bounce back very quickly. When you cultivate a happier attitude, you become less dependent on external sources of validation, and trust your thoughts, emotions and behaviours.

It’s a proven fact that happy people are:

·        Smarter and more creative

·        More stable and happy marriages

·        Make more money

·        Healthier and live longer

·        Are more generous

summer pictureMany organisations wrongly assume that employees dealing with things like stressful commutes or worrisome family problems can simply check their emotions at the door. Most cannot. But there are steps that both employees and employers can take to reset the bad moods that compromise job performance.

One important way employees can reset a negative mood on their own is by creating an intentional transition. That might mean stopping for a coffee, listening to a favorite piece of music or taking a more scenic route to the office. It Is more than just a feel good strategy, it can set the stage for making a better impression at work.

In terms of relationships and happiness at home, according to a new Brigham Young University study published by researchers Lori Schade and Jonathan Sandberg, romantic couples who text each other with confirming messages (“How are you?” “How’s it going?” “I miss you!” “I feel tingly just thinking about you!!!”) tend to experience greater relationship satisfaction. Confirming messages are best conveyed with an emotional dimension – communicating essentially: “I care about you,” and “You’re important in my life.” In fact, sending affectionate messages to one’s partner yield even greater emotional satisfaction than receiving them.

On the other hand, couples who rely on texting for conflict resolution tend to experience lower relationship satisfaction. When texting, vital verbal, non-verbal and emotional cues are invariably missed, which can severely limit a couple’s ability to reconcile.

What makes you happy and how do you manage work and personal happiness?​

Collaboration and trust through human interaction

Image of five people looking at business-plan and brainstormingI have been engaged in several discussions recently discussing the topic of human to human interaction in relationships and in the workplace.

So many technologies allow us to collaborate “virtually” today. Email, instant messaging, video conferencing, and desktop sharing are common parts of the workday for many people. But regardless of what technologies we use, all of our interactions still rely on a basic element: each other. No matter how many great and easy to use tools we have, we cannot forge ahead and progress without other people.

So the question is “do we need to get back to intimacy?”

We have always learned that people are more engaged when they can interact the way humans have done for thousands of years: face to face. When personal meetings are not possible, there is a tendency to embrace technology.

There are four key points for successful collaboration, and they all rely on human behavior.

·        Build relationships and networks that lead to trust

·        Turn human interactions into results

·        Balance decision-making and consensus building

·        Evolve the culture for productive collaboration

People collaborate to innovate in businesses. This type of collaboration focuses on developing creative solutions or ideas that improve an existing process or product. Through ongoing collaboration, socialisation, and vetting, the idea develops into a viable solution to discuss a new market opportunity, re-engineer a core process, solve a problem, or create business value. Technology can be used as the accelerator for change, transformation, and improvement.

Harvard University has studied this subject for years. They state that the human moment has two prerequisites: people’s physical presence and their emotional and intellectual attention. That’s it. Physical presence alone isn’t enough. You can ride shoulder-to-shoulder with someone for six hours in an airplane and not have a human moment during the entire ride. And attention alone isn’t enough either. You can pay attention to someone over the telephone, for instance, but somehow phone conversations lack the power of true human moments.

human contact reacting energyHuman moments need energy. Often, that’s what makes them so easy to avoid. The human moment may be seen as yet another tax on our overextended lives. But a human moment doesn’t have to be emotionally draining or personally revealing. In fact, the human moment can be brisk, business like, and brief. A five-minute conversation can be a perfectly meaningful human moment. To make the human moment work, you have to set aside what you’re doing, put down the memo you were reading, disengage from your laptop, abandon your daydream, and focus on the person you’re with. Usually when you do that, the other person will feel the energy and respond in kind. Together, you quickly create a force field of exceptional power.

The positive effects of a human moment can last long after the people involved have said goodbye and walked away. People begin to think in new and creative ways; mental activity is stimulated. But like exercise, which also has enduring effects, the benefits of a human moment do not last indefinitely. A ten-mile run on Monday is wonderful—but only if you also swim on Wednesday and play tennis on Saturday. In other words, you must engage in human moments on a regular basis for them to have a meaningful impact on your life. For most people, that’s not a tall order.

I am concerned, however, that human moments are disappearing and that this trend will be accompanied by worrisome and widespread consequences. I say this not as an executive who has seen and lived through the many technological challenges of the last 20 years. As discussed in my earlier post ‘Is human to human communication dying?’ I can tell you without a doubt that almost everyone on the planet is experiencing some deficiency of human contact. The power of Face to Face contact in a relationship need not die however it should be lived and exercised as an important medium across effective technology if we are to accelerate business progress, relationships, and indeed trust.

What does your organisation define as valuable points for successful collaboration? Does it encourage human relationships?

Is this the end of the business card?

global exchange imageI visited the annual gala for one of the charities that I support recently. The event and evening took its normal schwa ray of greetings and smiles, with exchanges, and my amusement. For the first time, I was not asked for a business card but “could I kindly have sight of your QR code” whilst I held a large grin on face. I could not help but wonder what had happened to the long tradition of exchanging business cards.

To my relief, the next person I met did actually ask me for my business card. I asked myself if this is the end of a lifetime of generations where etiquette was a formality of exchanging a business card.

I remember my time in Japan and China where presenting your card with two hands is a big part of business culture. To these cultures this is the first representation of you. I could not imagine a PA to a director carrying your iPhone, Android, or Blackberry to the person you are about to meet.

Are we now going to be subjected to “can I see your QR code” and the next thing you know you will be zapped in a CRM program for life?

Industries may change and brand names may come and go, but at least one tradition in the business world has remained largely unchanged for hundreds of years. The exchange of cards between two people who are meeting for the first time is a ritual that goes back as far as business itself.

For most of us, the handing over of contact details is an important moment – a clear signal that a connection has been made. But as our lives turn increasingly digital, technology is attempting to offer a range of futuristic alternatives to the old-fashioned card.

Ever since the arrival of electronic communication, people have explored new ways to share information with each other from swapping email addresses to trading mobile phone numbers and, increasingly, connecting through an online social network.

Japanese Business Card Exchange
Japanese Business Card Exchange

In the majority of cases, I believe business cards matter. The personal and interactive approach vs a CRM listing is what builds trust and the relationship.

Here are some other reasons why:

  • How many times have you met someone, spent most of the conversation thinking of what to say so you don’t sound stupid, then, promptly forget their name when it’s all over?
  • When you meet a person at a business event and get their business card you can write a note or two on the reverse side of the card to capture the key points of your conversation while they are still fresh in your mind. The bottom line here is to have a physical record of contacts you make so you can follow-up as appropriate in conjunction with your broader job search/career development efforts.
  • A business card is a road map to opportunity. It could lead you to a great new job, a great business partnership, or simply help your business make money.
  • Business cards put a face to a business. When meeting someone new, handing them your business card will help keep your business in the back of their minds. Though they may not need your product or services today, there may come a time when they do, and hopefully they will be able to pull out your business card and call versus trying to remember your company name and searching the web.
  • Your business card is a physical object that potential clients can take with them that keeps you or your brand from just being a name that floats around in the ether.
  • Business cards never have downtime. They are always accessible, and never have dead zones or Internet outages. Your business card can be viewed no matter where you are located, and even at times when cell phones and other devices must be turned off, such as on an airplane ride or in a hospital, your business card is always working for you.

Not everyone thinks business cards are essential, and some argue business cards have lost their edge.

Technology, and—more specifically—smartphones have made information sharing easier. These days you can email someone while you’re meeting them with a few quick taps of your thumb. There are even apps out there that can share contact information with someone with barely any effort at all. So why bother with a card when you have all of this other stuff?

Networking is about making meaningful connections, and sometimes technology—or the act of using it—can be impersonal.

What are your thoughts? Will business cards become extinct? Do you still  look at the effectiveness of your card design before you re-order? Did you add a QR code to your cards?

What is excellence in business?

Excellence postI was invited to an executive finance meeting in London recently, hosted by one of the UK’s top business schools, I was discussing many key topics around business today when we moved to the subject of excellence.

Last week’s blog talked around the Changing World, I was discussing are we having to redefine excellence for today’s world, what is the definition of excellence today and how is excellence measured in the eyes of others?

Over the centuries, great thinkers have described just what excellence is. Excellence is not perfectionism. Rather, excellence is a journey through an ever-changing landscape of new possibilities and methods. It is the best result that can be produced at a particular moment in time.

Therefore, excellence is something that can be achieved. But it can also be quickly lost as well. “Today’s Excellence, Tomorrow’s Mediocrity.” According to Aristotle, “Excellence is not an act, but a habit.”

More recently, John Gardner observed that “Excellence is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well.” While Thomas Peters really nailed it when he observed that “Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change.”

Thirty years ago, Tom Peters published an incredibly influential business book, In Search of Excellence. In this book, he defined eight characteristics of excellent companies:

  • a bias for action,
  • staying close to the customer,
  • autonomy and entrepreneurship,
  • productivity through people,
  • clear and compelling organizational values,
  • focusing on what you do best,
  • operating with a lean staff, and
  • finding a balance between having enough structure without getting stuck in it.

These principles stay good guides to this day. However, the business world has changed almost beyond recognition over the last 30 years, and the time has come to redefine what excellence means. In today’s world, excellence is more than a set of principles. It’s a set of beliefs, ways of thinking, a matter of discipline, and ways of focusing.

Excellence starts with getting very clear on the end state you wish to achieve (winning) and relentlessly driving towards it every day. Excellence requires knowing when to push on (even when you don’t have all the information or the perfect solution), but doing it well and constantly refining as you forge ahead. Excellence means accepting only the best, and understanding that when it is not given that you, as the leader, are at least partly responsible.

Excellence reveals itself in the language you use, the questions you ask, the people you surround yourself with, and how you interact with others. For example, do you show up on time for meetings? Are you present in the moment? Do you listen actively to employees and direct reports? Are you aware of the biases and creative thoughts you bring to the table? Do you take steps to minimise their impact on your decision-making, or at least explore others as well?

In today’s hyper-fast world, excellence requires building flexible, lean organisations that can quickly adapt to rapidly changing markets without losing sight of their vision of winning. Creating this type of organisation starts with three critical elements.

Clarity

First and foremost, you have to know where you’re going and why. When faced with adversity (or opportunity), having a crystal-clear definition of winning keeps the company from going off in too many directions. It enables clear and consistent decision-making, not only in terms of what you will do as an organisation, but also what you will not do.

Focus

Getting clear on winning represents the starting point for excellence. Keeping your people focused on winning is the engine that will get you there. As the leader, you live and breathe the vision, mission, and strategy every day (or at least you should!). But for the people in the trenches, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the big picture. Excellence requires making winning a daily goal for your people as well.

Connection

People won’t buy into your vision of winning unless they feel connected to the organisation. Connection starts with having a powerful vision people can believe in and feel good about. Keeping it going requires a variety of leadership behaviors that often get overlooked in the rush to get the product out the door.

Clarity, focus, and connection are the status of corporate excellence in the 21st century. What will you do today to create them in your organisation?​