October 1, 2016

istock_000021022342medium-copy If you want to be a high performer today you need to fearlessly, courageously and pro-actively embrace exponential growth. This is growth that just keeps on coming. It never stops to give you breathing space. It can overwhelm if you don’t know how to move with it. It is, however, the kind of growth that enhances your ability to manage the uncertainty, unpredictability and complexity of today’s  world.

To embrace its empowering excitement and ride its challenging relentlessness, you need to move out of your comfort zone and stretch yourself where you will discover potential you never knew you had. More significantly, on the way, you will gain insights into the intrigues of how this new economy  operates. This empowers you to work more effectively within it, provoking even further  growth and ultimate success.

Incremental growth, on the other hand, is a long road today. You decide to make a change and you work on it until you’ve made it. When that change is achieved you make another building on the first. It may take months or years but all the time you remain in control of the process. That’s important to you because the stress of not being in control of the change threatens you too much. You still believe that slow and steady will get you there. While you are growing incrementally, however, you see colleagues bypassing you, seizing opportunities and promotions you believe you deserve. You don’t understand that while you are technically more qualified, you do not display the non-technical soft skills that will equip you to become a high performer in this volatile, uncertain and changing workplace.

While those of you who embrace exponential change work with 1, 3 and 5 year plans that are flexible and very agile, those committed to incremental change are following  3, 5 and 10 year plans that you are adhering to very closely.

Everyone has a comfort zone, but it is the seat of mediocrity. You will not become the best version of yourself that you can be by staying there. So if you really want to grow, change and transform, get out of your comfort zone. It’s about facing your fears. Often they are imagined, not real.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said that “We gain strength and courage and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face…….we must do that which we think we cannot.”

What’s amazing about stepping out of your comfort zone is that the first step may be terrifying. If you keep going, however, the next step is less so and within a few short steps, you are wanting to take giant leaps because of what you are experiencing and because you like what is happening for you and to you – even though it sometimes makes your heart race at an alarming speed and you feel you have snakes, not butterflies, in your stomach.


Gently, yet often, exercise your risk threshold like a muscle. Eventually it will become stronger

and able to withstand greater pressure

- Frank McKinney.

These are words of wisdom for all you people who, in these uncertain and unpredictable times, fear to take risks. Instead you ride down the road with your foot on the brake.

You need to change this because being able to take calculated risks is the way to move to the cutting edge in your profession or industry sector in these changing times. If you stay in your comfort zone, you’ll get “run over”. The risk lies in moving out of that comfort zone into the unknown which can hold opportunities that you have only ever dreamed of.

All physical fitness trainers are about building muscle, strengthening our bodies so as to  prevent injury. Yet if you haven’t done exercise for a while, you don’t go in and start lifting heavy weights. You start small. You do light weight bearing exercise and lift 1 or 2 kg dumb bells and as you become stronger you move up and take on bigger challenges.

Something extraordinary and unexpected happens for you. You feel empowered physically but also emotionally. You can feel a strength and power in your body that you never knew was there.

You can do the same with your professional self. Start taking little risks and exercise your emotional muscle. Build your confidence and feel it grow.

  • Go up and introduce yourself to someone you don’t know at a networking event.
  • Stand up and do a presentation at a professional forum.
  • Volunteer to chair a meeting when you’ve never done it before.
  • Take a decision for your team that you know is right but which you also know will greatly challenge you.
  • Apply for a job you really want but for which you don’t meet all the criteria and go into bat for yourself big time.

Draw up a list of your own.

  • What creates fear and apprehension in you professionally, yet you know it would be good for your career?
  • Decide to take one risk a week and watch what happens to you.
  • Keep a record to read back because after a very short while you will find that very few things present as risks anymore. When you read back, you will realise how far you have come.

You have nothing to lose and so much to gain.

Steve Jobs made the comment when he knew he was dying: “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.” Don’t wait until you are dying. Live life at this exciting edge today. Whatever it is that you fear, take hold of it and start today to exercise your risk muscle and be ready to seize the next opportunity that presents itself to you. This article is a chapter in my book – Take Your Foot Off The Brake – 18 Inspirational Reflections To Accelerate Your Career. You can get a copy of it when you subscribe to my blog.



What Happens When People Are Promoted To Management

When They Don’t Know How To Manage People?

If you are that person or if you were the leader who promoted that person or if you have an aspiration to be promoted to management, then this is for you.

Mark has technical skills your organisation cannot afford to lose. No one else in the organisation has his level of expertise. You really want him to focus on bringing that expertise to research and development, enhancing the product development and service delivery in the organisation. Mark, however, has been wanting to move into management for the past 18 months, saying that having been with the organisation for 3 years at the same level, he deserves a promotion given his significant contribution.

You don’t deny any of that and you are quite concerned that if you don’t grant that management promotion to him, he may seek it elsewhere. So what do you do? You make him a manager. What happens next is an organisation’s worst nightmare.

Because Mark is highly skilled technically, he believes that his management will be assessed on how successful he is at getting his team members to produce work at the same high criteria he has set for himself at a technical level. He becomes the command and control leader. He micro-manages his people to make sure the work is getting done. If it’s not done, he puts significant pressure on them to work back to get it done, using fear as a motivator. He sets and imposes his standards and monitors each team member to see they are being met.  He becomes angry when anyone slips up or doesn’t meet deadlines and then if things don’t go the way he wants them to he can be moody for days at a time. He barks orders at his team that verge on bullying and harassment.

For the first 6 months, the team’s output and results are significant and that confirms to Mark that he is a good manager and that his style is just what is needed. He believes that you can’t trust people to perform at a high level without monitoring what they are doing, and making them keep their heads down and checking their output on a regular basis to ensure they are meeting expected targets and using their time productively. His results confirm his belief, he thinks. His team accept his leadership style even though they don’t like it because Mark was introduced to the team by the CEO who spoke highly of his expertise and skills and no one wanted to be seen to contradict that by complaining.

It all then began to change however. A talented team member seen as a prospective leader resigns to take up another job. She doesn’t implicate Mark even though he is the main reason for her departure. One respected team member goes higher up to make a complaint about Mark and reveals the low morale and discontent in the team. A few months later, two go off on stress leave and cite Mark as the reason and the insurer asks the organisation what it is going to do about Mark. Two more cite their commitment to the organisation and ask to be moved to another department because they cannot work with Mark. There is a noticeable increase in absenteeism in the team. The team appears to be disintegrating.

In fact, what has happened is devastating for Mark. All his professional life he has been a success story, highly acclaimed for his technical expertise, always working at the cutting edge. Now, for the first time in his life, he experiences himself as a failure. Initially he denies responsibility and turns it back on the lack of commitment and expertise in the team that he has inherited. He may or may not later become aware of what has happened.

So What Has Happened In This Common Situation?

Mark does not make the transition from doing the work of a team member to managing the team. He is no longer doing the job he loves, instead he is motivating the people he manages to do the job he loves and they will never, in his eyes, do it as good as he does it.

He has spent his professional life investing in his technical skills and has not seen the importance of developing soft skills. His professional identity is completely tied to his technical expertise so why would he? He hasn’t kept himself up to date with the changing economy and the fact that organisations are now looking for people who know how to motivate and inspire people to high performance. They want people, especially in management and leadership, who have more rounded personalities, who have a wide range of skills and expertise, not just technical skills.

Let’s not blame Mark for all of this, however. He has been promoted not because he has been identified as having good management or leadership potential but because of his previous role as a technical expert of high standing.  It really does not make sense when you think about it, to promote a technical expert to management and believe he would naturally be good at motivating people.

He was appointed to this position with no experience or training in leadership or management.

Even when his manager became aware he was having difficulties, and it was apparent that  team members were unhappy with his management style,  little was done. Because of that, the organisation was at risk of being left with a non-performing manager in Mark, while the prospective talented leaders of the future left because they could work under him.

Mark’s managers haven’t well-developed soft skills either. They delayed having that crucial conversation because they didn’t know how to have it in a way that would motivate Mark to want to change. Instead they feared that they would de-motivate him and he would leave. They cannot explain to him what they want from him. They cannot even articulate clearly what is wrong about what he is doing. It’s all fuzzy and confused so Mark is often not clear even after talking with them what he needs to do to change.

As well, his organisation does not have a structure for holding on to their technical experts, while at the same time advancing their careers, apart from advancing them into management for which they are often patently unsuited.

I see this happening constantly in my work. People are constantly telling me: “Oh yes, we have people like that in our organisation.” These technical experts advanced into management without the skills to manage people were one of the groups of people for whom I wrote my book – Soft Skills – The Hard Stuff of Success. It is frequently difficult to get them to change, however, or even believe they need to, even when their leaders offer them coaching or mentoring opportunities to do so.  Learning the skills to be the coach, not the critic, and be able to motivate performance rather than command and control it, is a start in helping leaders learn how to have the kinds of conversations with people like Mark which will inspire him to want to change their style of management.


This May Not Surprise You: Only 10% of Managers Have What It Takes To Be Managers 

This article by Ben Schiller reports on a recent Gallup report that revealed that only 10% of managers have what it takes to be “a great manager”. Constantly, however, people are promoted to management not because they show potential to be good leaders and managers but because of some other factor – their seniority in the organisation, or, as is often the case, because of their technical expertise.

It went on to say:

“Great managers possess a rare combination of five talents. They motivate their employees, assert themselves to overcome obstacles, create a culture of accountability, build trusting relationships and make informed, unbiased decisions for the good of their team and company,” says the report. “The majority of managers are miscast.”

Not only that, the outcomes for the organisations that promote people to positions of management and leadership  who don’t have the very specific skills to lead and manage in the new workplace are often disastrous.

In the same study, where 27 million people were surveyed over 195 countries, it was found that engagement levels were very low, in Australia about 23%. Gallup formed the conclusion then that managers are responsible for 70% of engagement variance.

This article, which is a report on that research, is well-worth reading and backs up my comments above. There is also a link to the research within the article for those who want to explore it further.


Five Questions You Should Ask Before Accepting A Management Position

Is being promoted to management  a goal you aspire to? If so, then it is important to read this article by Stephanie Taylor Christensen. She indicates that while it may be what people aspire to as they endeavour to climb the career ladder, being a manager does not always bring the rewards and fulfillment the new manager expects.

The same Gallup research mentioned in the article above found that in the US only 35% of managers were engaged in their job. What this means in reality is that for 65% their promotion to management has been a great disappointment and has not given them the satisfaction they expected. If the managers themselves are disengaged, they will certainly not be able to engage their team members in the work of the organisation.

What is valuable about this article by Christensen is that she cites five questions that it is important to find answers to before you accept a management position, to ensure that it will meet your expectations and bring you the career satisfaction you want.

1.     Will I actually be managing people?

2.     What will my typical day look like?

3.     How will my performance be measured?

4.     How much say will I have in Personnel decisions?

5.     Why did the previous manager leave?

With answers to these questions you will be better able to assess whether you can be the manager you want to be motivating your people and building a high performing team.


Some Inspirational Quotes To Motivate You.

Richard Lyle IMG_2764

Before you become a leader success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others…..Jack Welch.

Work on your job, make a living. Work on yourself, make a fortune……..Jim Rohn.

The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are, for what we could become………..Charles Dubois.

There’s only one thing worse than training your staff and having them leave, and that’s not training them and having them stay……………Zig Ziglar.

The conventional definition of management is getting work done through people,

but real management is developing people through work  ……Agha Hasan Abedi.






Overcoming Two Of The Challenges To Successful Time Management

July 20, 2016

Time flies, but you are the pilot and you can fly anywhere you like with your time. You can, however, let it fly on auto pilot while you involve yourself in attending, almost unconsciously, to a multitude of things that come in your door or across your desk. The two areas I want to get you thinking about and acting on are managing interruptions and managing your energy.

If you are able to master those two challenges, you will come close to making time management a thing of the past. I want you to embrace what Eben Pagan has said:
“The term ‘time management’ is a misnomer; we need to manage ourselves, not time”.

Read the full article →

Women – Who’s Shaping Your Career?

June 27, 2016

You have to plan your career and if you don’t someone else will do it for you. You will find yourself doing what someone else believes you should be doing. These two workshops are about empowering women to plan their careers and how they can stand out from the crowd.

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Rethinking Performance Appraisals.

May 27, 2016

Since the 1980s they have been the ceremonial event of the year for white collar workers in every post-industrial economy. Yet, there is no other business practice that fails so often to bring about the outcomes it sets for itself, but continues to be used year after year.

In the last 12 months many companies around the world have therefore abandoned them. Some you may recognise are: Adobe, NAB, Deloitte, Accenture, Microsoft, Motorola, Seek, Zappos, GE, Expedia, Dell and Atlassian and I could go on and on.
What are they doing differently and why do we need to rethink the traditional appraisal?

Read the full article →

Leadership And Performance Appraisals Are Changing

May 11, 2016

The changing face of leadership and the rethinking of performance appraisals are highlighted in this newsletter. There are a number of articles and blog posts that will hopefully motivate and inspire you to think about leadership. There is also some thoughts on performance appraisals and information on 3 workshops I am conducting on that topic in the next few weeks.

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Ten Talents of Highly Successful Professionals

April 18, 2016

Here are ten talents that I look for when wanting to engage with highly successful professionals. They are qualities that these professionals have made a big commitment over periods of time to develop in themselves. The outcome for them has been great success. You also can become a highly successful and talented professional by learning these skills.

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Empower Yourself To Be The Best Version Of You In 2016.

January 18, 2016

Another year! Another opportunity to empower yourself to be the best version of yourself in 2016. Here are 5 inspiring articles to help you to do just that. If you haven’t downloaded your copy of the e-book – Expect More From 2016 – you can do this here also.

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A Christmas E-Book Gift – Expect More From 2016.

December 21, 2015

Today I want to give you a Christmas Gift that will inspire you to successful action in 2016 – the latest edition of the e-book Expect More From 2016 – Strategies for Success from 22 Leading Experts in Personal and Professional Development.

Every year Gihan Perera brings together a group of experts and invites them to write an article that may inspire people in the new year. It has been my privilege to be involved now over many years.

This year my article is : Be An Empowered Leader – Even If You Are Not The Boss.

You can download a copy of the e-book for yourself and you can share it with your colleagues and friends.

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How Have You Changed Your Life This Year?

December 21, 2015

Another year is drawing to a close. While these last days are usually a crazy time with no time to think, I’m going to pose some questions for you to think about. Maybe you’ll get some time to consider them after Christmas and before the new year begins.

I’d also like to suggest that you take a pen and paper and sit quietly somewhere and write down your thoughts. Or if you are the creative type, draw it out on your sketch pad. Reflection while tapping on a computer keyboard does not open you up to your deepest creative and reflective self!
If you’ve had a great year, these are probably the reasons why and you need to keep doing them. If you had a disappointing year I’m guessing the reasons why and you need to change something in the next year.

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