Decision Making Skills – Your Most Important Tool

My dear friend and colleague Jack Speer of Delta Inc. in the USA wrote an excellent blog that made me reflect on my decision-making processes.

As a child, decisions were easier. They were based on a few fundamentals:

How much does it cost?  Can we afford it?  What will the neighbours think?  Will it get me in trouble?

As adults, here are a few more principles that may be helpful:

  1. Decisions Are About Ways to Move Ahead.

    The decisions that matter should be stepping stones that take us to the next part of the life we’re building. Sometimes life takes a 180degree turn, and we take a different direction to where we thought we were headed. Generally speaking, however, the decisions we make today build on the decisions we made yesterday and hopefully move us forward.

  2. Logic Is Useful, But Checking In With People Is Clever.

    Good decisions are informed by facts but are impacted by our thoughts and the people around us. Being aware of other people’s opinions and ideas can expand our decision logic and limit our biases and blind spots.  Our decision-making process may then uncover information we had not addressed nor thought of.

  3. Group Thinking Kills Good Decisions.

    As a species, human history has its foundation in groups and tribes who wanted stability and were naturally not attracted to change.  So be aware that you may have to fight for your ideas. The quality and the effectiveness and passion with which you present your decisions will determine your success.

Decision-making is complex and difficult and involves many factors, some contradictory to each other.
Making good decisions requires good research and fortunately, facts about any subject today are just a click away. You just have to know where to look.

Every good decision should also involve a personal ‘poll’ of the best minds that surround us.  Family, tradition and religious beliefs all shape our decisions.  The influences of those around us help us to optimize opportunity and minimize risk.

Decisions almost always carry an element of risk, which many people are uncomfortable with. They would rather have someone else make the decision, even when they don’t agree with it.  However the more willing you are to make decisions, the more control you have over your life and circumstances.

I believe that the more I empower myself to make decisions (even though I make mistakes), I’ll always come out better by stepping up and deciding.  Ultimately, I know that I will protect my interests better than anyone else.

So give it your best shot. Decide and do it!

Do you understand your competitors?

Every organisation has competitors, whether they’re internal competitors – fighting for limited resources and budgets, or market place competitors fighting for their share of the market.

Why should you understand your competitors?

In order to make the best possible decisions for your business, you must understand the market you are in – where it’s headed, and what your competitors are up to.  In my experience, however, most businesses tend to track what their main competitors are currently doing – or have done in the past.

We all know that the way we operate today is not the same as how we operated a year ago – so why should any competitor be any different?

We need to uncover where existing competitors plan to go in the future and where potential competitors might disrupt an industry.  Ask yourself – will you be taking sales from them, or will they be taking sales from you next quarter, next year or even two years from now?

To get a good grasp on a competitor’s real intentions, you need to delve a little more deeply.

Here are seven tips to help you better monitor your competitors:

  1. Buy your competitors product or service

Always buy your competitor’s product, if possible, to determine their sales process and get on their mailing list to see future promotions. The relatively small price you pay for their product will pay for itself many times over. Knowledge is power – and you’ll gain by finding out what they are doing and how they are doing it. By purchasing their product you’ll also experience what being a customer of theirs is like – and you can judge their product, service, and operations against your own. Just reflect on how the Chinese have been able to enter so many markets.

  1. Audit their website

You probably know the websites of your main competitors, but there’s an even better way to identify sites in the same niche that you may not even know about. This will help you understand the market share in your internal audit report. You can use a site called Similar Sites to find sites like yours.

Another part of competitive auditing is identifying competitors who are ranking higher in search engines for your primary keywords. There are many sites you can use to help with this – however, one that I use is called Moz SEO toolbar (MozBar). It will give you immediate access to a range of many on-page SEO factors such as Domain Authority and Page Authority.

The other search that you may find useful is to simply put your primary keyword phrase into Google search, and find out what comes up.

Often you will uncover other companies you’d never heard of, doing the same thing or in the same business. Changes to a website can also say a lot about a company. TimelyWeb, by EldoS (www.eldos.org), has several ways of notifying you when page changes occur, including via e-mail. The free program can monitor 10 Web pages. If your competitors have large sites, you may want to buy the commercial version.

  1. Get the gossip from Colleagues, Vendors, Friends and Discussion Groups.

There are so many ways to find out what people are talking about online. Online discussion groups are the pubs and clubs of the internet – where individuals meet with like-minded people. One of the popular ways to hunt through newsgroups is with Facebook Groups or Google Groups. Simply type in the subject you are interested in to sort through the web’s 20,000 Usenet discussion groups.  LinkedIn is also pretty good.  And remember to speak to your customers, distributors, suppliers, industry consultants, industry associations, journalists – to name just a few.  All these people are a fountain of competitor information and may provide new insights into market intentions.

  1. Check out the Classifieds

Is your competitor expanding? Is he or she going in a new direction? You might get a clue through help-wanted advertising. The listings can tell you more than what your competitor is planning. You can also check salaries being offered. Through the use of search engines, you can also tell whether a company is experiencing tough times. Rumours of a layoff? Ask an information broker/librarian to help you delve deeply into a competitor’s online profile. They have the training.

  1. Read up on Plans and Finances

Drop by your industry association’s website. It won’t cost you a cent. If you’re lucky, you may find additional information about a member who is your competitor. Perhaps they were interviewed for the association’s website or publication. You can also learn a lot by reading what people say are their future plans. If your competitor is a large publicly listed organisation, it is required under Australian law to file quarterly and annual financial reports and announce any activities that are likely to be of investor interest (that has an influence on the share price).

  1. Set up a Google Alert

These days you don’t need to pay for expensive online monitoring services to keep track of activity by your competitors. Google Alerts allows you to track information on the internet such as simple keyword monitoring – which might include blogs, forums, news sites – and information on the wider web. It will also track You Tube. Google Alerts will send you an email every time one of the chosen keywords is mentioned. You can also choose the frequency at which you’ll receive the information. One option is to get the information, as it happens – or alternatively, you could choose to receive the information once per day, once per week, etc.

What you won’t receive are social media results. If you want to know what’s said on social, you’ll need a social listening tool such as Keyhole.

For more comprehensive print, online, TV, radio and social monitoring and insights, platforms such as Streem can help you track, measure and respond to competitor news as it happens.

  1. Hire a ‘Big Gun’

With so much information available, strategic specialists can help a company define what information will genuinely assist you in making better decisions. They can provide strategies to help a company collect, monitor and, most importantly, analyse information to deliver the necessary insights for better decision making. Look for a company that has a strong ethics policy. This represents a clear signal that the consultancy is credible, has considerable experience and is aware of the boundaries concerning responsible corporate behaviour.

Understanding what your competitors intend to do in your market is not hard.  It may cost you time, effort and budget in the first instance, however when you compare that cost to potential market share loss, sales lost and customer shrinkage – it’s worth the investment.

To help you get underway, here is a free download to help you build a better intelligence system for your business.

For more information about how you can improve your competitive intelligence capabilities get in touch!

Making Good Decisions

How Good Is Your Business Decision Making?

Numerous studies over the years have shown that most executives make decisions around strategy in relative isolation, and with little attention to the external environment. 
Sadly all too often opportunities are missed or lost due to a lack of good competitive insights.

Competitive Intelligence can create a competitive advantage by significantly improving business decision-making efficiency and effectiveness by:

  • anticipating competitors’ future strategies;
  • supporting your cost and/or differentiation strategies; and
  • increasing your control, innovation or adaptability.

In preparation for the new financial year, I encourage you to reflect on your decision-making capability.

How effective are you at making business decisions, and how good will your business decisions be in 2019/2020?

A dear friend of mine many years ago identified seven deadly sins of business decision making that alas are all too familiar to us today.  What do you think?

The High Costs of Wrong Decisions

We know that executives who place a greater emphasis on intelligence in their business decisions will be those that face fewer surprises.  In fact, getting the right insights will be a key success factor for companies in this VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world.

So why do so many executives shy away from investing in some research about a new product idea, an acquisition, or business expansion opportunity, but will happily plunge ahead with a scheme and rack up million dollar losses when it turns out to be a dud!  The reasons business people make the wrong decisions, in fact, stems from a multiplicity of causes. My friends list included:

We already have all the answers – the longer someone has worked in an industry the more inclined they are to believe they know all the answers about that industry.  The same applies to someone who has worked with a particular company for a long time and is immersed in that particular company’s viewpoint, read more. 

If you’d like some guidance on Competitive Intelligence – email me, I’m here to help.

Business Blindspots

Blindspots vs Black Swans – Don’t let blindspots ruin your business

I was catching up on some reading in preparation for this newsletter and re-read an article in the Company Director Magazine called “Planning for the Unknown.” Among a number of issues, the article highlighted the need for directors to be more on the alert for the so called “black swans” – that is events which are hard to “predict”.

The term “black swan” became popular by Nissem Taleb, an American finance professor, whose “black swan theory” refers only to unexpected events of large magnitude and consequence, and have played a dominant role in history.  As such, black swans impact everyone at the same time.

As a decision making maverick and a competitive intelligence expert I would like to state that unless a business operates in a vacuum, executives and directors can identify events that will impact on their competitive ability, seek a number of options, and mitigate the risk.

The Lessons Are Clear

Over 25 years of working with multinationals, local businesses, large and small, the lessons are clear.  While everyone knows that a business does not operate in a vacuum, senior executives and directors continuously exhibit blindspots which increase competitive risk and limit growth opportunities.  Just think of all the companies you know that have lost market value or no longer exist.

Case study after case study, in every business degree in Sydney, Boston or London, identifies executive blindspots as the number one cause of company failures.

Executive Blindspots

The first blindspot to be acknowledged is that you cannot know everything about your industry and customers.  Every industry is moving too fast, morphing daily in some way.  There is no way an executive can stay on top of it all including unexpected disruptors.  And being internally focused only makes things worse.

The second blindspot is the belief you can do nothing about this, as it is so overwhelming.  There is just too much data, too many inputs and it is all too time consuming.  Well, these days we operate in a VUCA World (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) and we need to become very, very familiar with this.  We need to have people who can provide insights to help mitigate risks and uncover all the options that are available in this dynamic environment.

Think, Reflect and Analyse

It is not about big data.  It is about the ability to think, reflect, and analyse.  Executives have an armoury of tools and methods to limit the risk from the unexpected.  Tools such as Scenario Analysis, War Games to name a few and methods such as competitive analysis or competitive intelligence have been around for many, many decades.

Remember:

  1. There is no business that operates in a vacuum.
  2. Learn about your competitive marketplace – I can assure you, you do not know it all.
  3. Limit your blindspots – get customers, suppliers, outside consultants, experts to provide insights into your competitive landscape and highlight what they see are some options on your horizon.

Black swans will affect everyone. Blindspots will destroy each company one at a time and these days at a much faster pace!

To find out how you can mitigate against blindspots in your business get in touch via our contact us page.

Coaching for Common Sense

The Death of Common Sense

As a life, leadership and business coach, I am sometimes faced with amazing problems and situations with my clients.  In a number of cases, it is as if common sense has left the organisation, the building and society in general. When I came across this obituary I thought of my clients and many of my […]

What IS and IS NOT Analysis – and the five benefits of good analysis.

You can’t be expected to know the entire competitive landscape well enough to correctly call ALL the shots. Within today’s complex, chaotic, and globally competitive environment  – think VUCA world –  the pressing need for sense-making, strategic thinking and improved understanding of the competitive terrain is why you need to develop and enhance your analytical abilities.

Analysis needs to be done well if you want your business to succeed.

And you ask – But isn’t analysis something that my software can do for me? Can’t I just get by and rely on a mixture of collected data, software analysis, intuition, and experience?

My answer is unfortunately a resounding no – and definitely not these days.

Let me briefly explain what I do and do not mean by analysis by referring to the following table.

Table 1 – Identifying Analysis

  What Analysis IS What Analysis is NOT
Methods The practiced application of proven technologies. Constant usage of industry conventions and one-off solutions.
Process A method and set of steps designed to effectively break a situation into its component elements and recompose it in a way that addresses a challenge or question. “We just kind of know what it is, how to do it, and fortunately, have managed to get by so far.”

We hire consultants to do it for us.

Output Actionable insight, intelligence/meaning and implications derived from data and information. Repackaged, re-organized, re-classified data and information. Often a summary of the information at hand. No meaningful conversion.
Data Sources Legal and ethical gathering of relevant data or information driven by the needs defined in the structuring of the analytical question. Seeking and using data or information from illegal sources or by unethical means – often incomplete.
Support Systems Using application-relevant communication, information and management systems to supplement your thinking. A software application or solution you can acquire and apply “off the shelf.”

Magic-bullet solutions.

Timing Provided in advance of any decisions. Rushed to provide support to an answer that has been decided.
Communication Channel Conducted in whatever means the decision maker can best accept and use it. Done via “formal” reports with a specific format.

Always in writing.

Questions Answered What?

So What?

Now What?

Just something nice to know – providing no insights.
Catalyst Yours or your bosses discussed need to know something.

The need to better position your organization in its competitive marketplace.

What you think or hope is important to the executive.

The need to demonstrate we are actually doing something.

 

At a minimum, good analysis of your competition, environment, organization and strategy should help you deliver the following:

  1. Early warning of potentially developing opportunities or emerging threats in your competitive environment.
  2. An objective and arms-length assessment of your organization’s relative competitive position.
  3. The ability to help your organization to more quickly and easily adapt to changes in the environment
  4. The means for basing your organization’s strategic, marketing, sales or product plans on relevant and timely intelligence.
  5. Confidence that decisions are based on systematically derived understandings that reduce ambiguity and complexity to low levels.

Does your analysis deliver the above?

The driving purpose of performing analysis is to better understand your industry, the context of your business, and your competitors so that you can make better decisions.  Improving the quality of decision-making should hopefully improve the quality of the strategies that you implement – providing you with a competitive advantage – and superior performance results.

If you would like to find out how you can develop your competitive intelligence capabilities – or those within your organisation – contact Babette Bensoussan for a confidential conversation. 

Are you looking for insights?

This post focuses on one of the hardest steps in providing intelligence or insights to decision-makers – identifying Users Needs and the direction of an Intelligence Assignment.

The Competitive Intelligence process is defined as “a systematic and on-going process forgathering and analysing information to derive actionable insights about competitors, the competitive environment and trends in order to further the organization’s business goals” (Adapted from Fleisher & Bensoussan, 2003).

Whether you are doing competitive intelligence, market intelligence, strategic intelligence, consulting, or providing support for decision-makers, the first step is to identify the client’s key question or objective and then plan the direction of the assignment.

Experience has shown that identifying Key Intelligence Topics (KIT)/Key Intelligence Questions (KIQ) to be one of the hardest steps. Executives are often like kids in a candy store to start with, believing that any question, focus or topic will do – only to find the answers often provide little, if any, strategic value.

It is absolutely vital that there is an understanding of what the “customer” (the decision-maker) really wants, where they are coming from, and how the insights will be directly related to a management decision or course of action.

A good example of the need to understand intelligence questions occurred several years ago when a client brought us in for a CI assignment and asked us to tell them ‘who is who in the zoo’ in relation to a particular market segment”.  In order to understand their key focus and provide value, we asked the basic of all basic CI questions “What decision will you be supporting with this information?” The answer – “Should we enter this market niche?”

Wow, how different was the assignment now.

We immediately realised that in order to answer their original question, we would have delivered little strategic value.

The key was in understanding that what the client really wanted to know and the reasons behind the question.

Step 1:

Formulate the goal you want to achieve.

For example, the goal may be – “Is it worth my while to spend $500,000 developing Product X?” or “What would be the most effective way of entering this market?” or “Is there a market for my services in Asia and if so, how do I do it?”

The goal, whatever it may be, will in effect drive your information gathering process and keep you focussed.

Too many times research projects fall over because of poor identification and understanding of the topic or question, and its relationship to the business. It is really worthwhile spending time here to understand your decision-makers.

Step 2:

Scope out the project parameters.

  • Who needs the intelligence?
  • What business decision is being supported?
  • What specific information is required?
  • What are some potential sources of information?
  • What are the assumptions implicit in the KIT?KIQ?
  • What method of analysis should be undertaken to answer the KIT/KIQ?
  • What form should the final ‘report’ take?
  • When is it needed?
  • What are the budget constraints?

It is a waste of time and resources to ask too broad a question to start off with. It will always deliver little value.

Step 3:

Break down the decision focus into three areas:

  • Early Warning Issues– these typically stress activities and subjects by which management does not want to be surprised. They are heavily weighted toward threats.
  • Strategic and Tactical Issues– these relate predominantly to the development of strategic plans and strategies. However issues around the implementation of marketing or sales tactics are also identified in this area.
  • Market Player Profiles – these are the least actionable but reflect a need to understand a “player” in a particular market.

The approach outlined above enables a clearer focus on the specific types of questions and the irrelation to company strategic issues, competitor issues or factors that cost the company money whether for today or tomorrow.

The more specific questions are to start off with, the easier it will be to build up decision support, intelligence abilities, and deliver value.

Step 4:

Ask the right questions.

It has often been said that the critical factor is not the information we get but the questions we ask. Often we ask questions that are either too broad or too convoluted to be able to provide us with a specific response. In the end we often end up with information that is of little strategic value.

So start with questions that are quite specific and result in a specific response. The important thing to remember in all of this is that intelligence works for the business.

Businesses have a purpose, an intent, and all intelligence activity must be carried out for, and focus on, the intent of the business – otherwise why bother!! To get information for the sake of getting it is really a waste of time – especially in today’s climate of information overload and fake news.

The key is in understanding what you really need to know, where you are coming from, and how the intelligence will be directly related to a management decision or course of action.

Step 5: 

Analyse your information.

Once the issues around the KIT/KIQ have been clearly defined and agreed to, a plan and direction of how the assignment will be undertaken can then be formulated. The major focus is not just the identification of sources of information but what method of analysis will be used to turn the information into intelligence and insights. Let me say at this point that there are over 170 methods of analysis in business, and picking the appropriate methodology is critical to delivering value. It is through analysis that information is turned into intelligence.

Insights are created – they’re never found!

Are your 2019 business plans based on the right information?

As it is the beginning of the year we thought we should point out three of the most common (yet most harmful) practices in decision-making in business that you should keep in mind – especially if you are setting plans for 2019 in the weeks ahead. 

1. Casual Benchmarking: People tend to copy the most visible, and obvious business practices of a competitive organisation without understanding the underlying purpose behind it. Very few companies undertake the research and analysis required to have a thorough understanding of the reasoning behind a strategy  – Is it the best strategy to improve your organisation’s performance? What would the possible downsides be? And how could you do it more effectively?

2. Doing what has worked in the past: Be careful to understand exactly why a strategy was previously successful. Is it relevant to the issue at hand, and is this strategy the best one to resolve the current situation? Be aware not to confuse success in spite of an action as opposed to success because of an action.

3. Following deeply held but unproven beliefs: This happens when we believe something will work or that it matches some assumptions that are held about what makes businesses successful. These assumptions or beliefs will resist change and affect judgements and choices, regardless of whether or not they are true. Check whether your decisions are relying on intuition, personal or group beliefs or influencers who may have other agendas in play.

Avoid these pitfalls and you’ll make much better decisions that provide clear direction and competitive advantage for your business.

Get in touch with MindShifts today to find out how we can help you access the right information for your business.

 

Top Concerns 2019 Survey

Top Concerns for 2019

In December last year we decided to undertake a short survey (only 6 questions) with our readers to see how people felt about 2018, and to determine what each of you was seeking in 2019. We promised we would share the survey results!

Well firstly, thank you to the many people who undertook the survey. I so appreciated how many people took the time to respond. Humbled indeed.

Secondly, wow, over 62% of you do not want 2019 to be like 2018.

So what are you looking to change this year and what are your areas of greatest concern?

The issue was not with family, partners and friendships but with careers, physical health/wellbeing and financial situations.

In fact the two top concerns for 2019 in order of highest responses are:

1. Finances
2. Career

The next markedly lower category of concern was around Health and Personal Ageing.

When we asked if you did 2019 like 2018 would you be satisfied, 62% replied No! Not surprising.

However, the next question asked what changes would you make in 2019. You would have thought people would address their top concern of Finances and Career, right?

Well, the top three answers were: improve my health; go on a holiday; and improve my relationships. Interesting isn’t it!

As a group we listed our top concerns as Finances and Career – and yet what we want to change in the year ahead relates to Health, Holidays and Relationships!

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make change to these three areas, but I do think it’s interesting that we don’t seem to want to prioritise the things that are really worrying us.

Let’s go a little deeper.

The final question of the survey addressed the future, identifying your big question moving forward. We broke up the responses here into the categories of finances, career, and let’s call it wellbeing to fit in with the top concerns.

Result – 60% of you had questions around work and careers, the remaining 40% were equally split between wellbeing and the bigger life questions like “Will there be peace in the world” or “What is my purpose?”

In summary, the majority of you don’t want to repeat 2018 in 2019, and your big questions for 2019 deal with issues related to your work and careers.

You can see that as a group we seem unclear on how we should deal with the issues that cause us most concern.

This begs the question – what will you do differently in 2019 in light of your concerns?

If you address just one of your questions, 2019 will not be like 2018;

  1. Who will you ask to be your coach and / or mentor this year?
  2. What professional development or program will you undertake in 2019?
  3. What network(s) will you become more actively involved in?
  4. What magazine / reading material will you subscribe to? Think about how you can access information about future trends, innovations that will help you to prepare for the future. Some links to Book Lists.
  5. Whats the one thing you will do differently and be held accountable for?

Ultimately making change is up to you.

SPECIAL COACHING OFFER TO HELP YOU CHANGE 2019:

If you’d like help to ensure 2019 looks different to 2018, I am offering 20% off my coaching and mentoring programs until 31st January 2019. Get in touch via this link. Or, via the Contact Us page.

 

Keep In Touch: subscribe to our monthly newsletter for tips, advice and insights that will improve the decisions you make in your life and career.

Worklife balance – Is there such a thing?

When I was first asked to write about work/life balance, internally I chuckled. My life has at times been so unbalanced that I feel I’m an expert about what NOT to do.  As I have grown older and hopefully wiser, I have come to realise that to live a good life there needs to be moderation in everything.  Something I guess I am not good at.

Let me give you some background to help you understand where I am coming from.  From 1982 to 1992 I studied for my degrees part-time while working full time and trying to make my way up the corporate ladder.  That was a Bachelors Degree in Business with majors in Marketing and Economics and then an MBA.

While working at least 40 hours per week for my employers, I was adding another 40 hours (at least) a week in studies.  Work/Life Balance? I had none.

In fact, I was spelling “fun” as “w-o-r-k”!!!  If I wasn’t studying, I was working and if I wasn’t working, I was studying.  My friends were my fellow students and if we got together for an evening it was either completing assignments or preparing for exams.  Definitely not what you’d call a balanced life!

Today, for me, a work/life balance is where there is time and space for earning a living, enjoying the company of family and friends, having regular holidays, time to exercise and time to ruminate.  In other words balance occurs where there is equal distribution amongst all the aspects of one’s life.

Our lives are made up of many parts and these include:

➢ Contribution to society
➢ Work
➢ Family
➢ Spiritual Development
➢ Health
➢ Friends

Control – or Losing Control?

In the past, I definitely did not treat these areas of my life equally  – often because I felt I had no control over my time.

As I was half way through my MBA, I decided that I needed to go out there on my own and start my own business. I needed more control over my life and a better balance, or so I thought.

Well let me tell you, there is nothing like starting your own business while studying!!

Instead of working 80 hours a week, I was now working (and worrying) what felt like 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Even when my studies came to an end and I only had to concentrate on my business, I thought, at last, I’ll now have a chance for a better work/life balance.

Well, up until recently, I can say I have rarely had holidays longer than one week a year – if that for some years. I have attempted to balance all the parts of my life but with little success. Work seems to have always gained the upper hand.

Personality Drivers and Personal Values

Nowadays, I think I know why.

Balance in one’s life is based, I believe, on your personality drivers and personal values. In case you have not guessed yet, I am a type A personality – very achievement oriented, a workaholic. Everything I did in work needed to be as good as possible if not perfect….. exhausting isn’t it!

These drivers and values rarely let me rest – there was always something bigger or better to achieve. As a result there was little moderation in my life – everything was predominantly work/goal oriented. This was after all the only way I believed I could show the world I was worthwhile and of value.

Changing Values – and Thoughts to Achieve a New ‘Balance’.

A couple of years ago I realised I did not want to live my life this way anymore. I no longer wanted to buy into the long hours of the perfect executive. I wanted to get off the work treadmill.

To completely change my pattern of behaviour I recognised the need to fully understand what was driving me to achieve in work only. The first step was identifying where the drivers and values that motivated my current balance came from.

After a great deal of thought with some support from a wonderful coach and a few mentors, some of my drivers I would suggest I was born with, but a lot were and are the result of my family and school upbringing. I am of the opinion that these pre-set values or thinking can be changed over time with focus.

Over the past year, I have slowly changed some of my values and thoughts. Whether that is a result of conscious effort or age or both, I am not sure. I now no longer work on weekends – big step there! I am no longer driven to prove myself as much – I guess because I have already achieved much, to be truthful, and for which I am grateful. I now make the time to read, to get together with family and friends and to even look after myself.

My key thought that changed was that there was no need for balance – it was ALL my life. I did however have a choice whether I want to work hard or whether I want time to play. It is MY values that will drive whether I really achieve balance or not in my life.

Each one of us needs to find our own balance amongst all the different aspects of our lives. But first I believe we need to understand the values and drivers we hold about our self worth and those values we want to hold close. It is your choice how you live your life. The idea of ‘balance’ is such a personal thing – but something that is in OUR control.

 

If you would like to better understand your drivers, and values – and create your balance in 2019, book in for a complimentary 45 min coaching session. Enquire Now.

Are you starved of Information

Are You Starved of Intelligence?

As laudable as it may be to make some decisions instead of no decisions there is now a major change in the dynamics of the decision-making environment. While information is more abundant than ever before, managers are intelligent information starved!

Yesterday’s information and methods are increasingly ineffective for making today’s decisions – and even less effective for identifying tomorrow’s opportunities, problems, and unknown competitors.

Competitive Intelligence

Competitive Intelligence, or CI as it is commonly referred to, has grown as a specialist management discipline around the world as companies face tougher and faster competition. In fact, CI in large successful multinational organisations is becoming a “must have” rather than a “nice to have”. Recent studies from the USA indicate that budgets for CI now range up to and over US$4 million per annum and that rates of return can be as high as 4000%.

In the past, Australian businesses have been slow to practise effective Competitive Intelligence. One reason I believe is that many Australian companies think they are already practising Competitive Intelligence. Although all managers intuitively carry out some form of CI, the information explosion, fake news, changing technology, and increasing global competitive pressures mean that there is an increasing need to develop more systematic ways of using CI.

Today, some are beginning to realise it is a strict discipline that selects and delivers the right insights to support key decision-makers, a discipline focused on the external environment, maximising the company’s competitiveness, optimising time and profit, while minimising risk.

CI relates to the techniques used to interpret and analyse external information and communicate it to the right people for timely and effective use. It is ethical and legal and right now it is estimated that over 90% of what one will ever need to answer an executive’s questions, is already in the public domain. Maybe not in the form that will directly answer questions, but the pieces of the intelligence jigsaw are always there.

Information Collection, Analysis and Interpretation

It is important to note that intelligence or insight is never found – it is created specifically as a result of information collection, analysis and interpretation. It is the insight from the analysis that enables executives to make sharper and smarter decisions.

The most significant issue that sets this process apart from conventional information systems is that rarely is one piece of data or information in itself sufficient to provide management with all the answers and that it requires the introduction of the process of “analysis” and “thinking”.

After all, the keys to the future are not found through extrapolations, predictions or media gurus, but through patient, careful strategic work.

Make More Informed Decisions… Not Decisions in a Vacuum.

The purpose of CI is not to predict the future, but to identify what is likely to happen and to assist leaders to make better decisions about the organisation’s future.

Competitive Intelligence is an integral part of making business decisions today. The data and information gathering and evaluating process can identify and project strategies that current or emerging customers and competitors might pursue, and provides an assessment of the implication of these strategies on your company’s future.

This process is very specific in its intent and always outward looking, using both internal and external resources as mentioned above.

We need to realize that we are threatening the very existence of our organization if we continue to make decisions in a vacuum. We need to realize that our more wide-awake competitors will climb on the ‘intelligence bandwagon’ even if we don’t. We need to realize that we have exciting new ways to protect margins, to fight the competition, to achieve breakthroughs. We need to realize the positives will far outweigh the negatives – but only if we change.

Forced change is always second prize. The secret lies in putting together a strategy for the future based on sound insights.

Here is an example of one CI project –
CASE STUDY

Scanning strategic environments and market segment prospects

Aardvark had a problem, perhaps many problems. The market for widgets seemed to be changing, revenue and premiums were under pressure in their key market segments. New market entrants and Aardvark’s main competitor were eroding market shares. New business models fueled by information and telco technology and movements in the exchange rate also seemed to be complicating the picture. What was going on, what was driving this turbulence? How would Aardvark respond? How could they improve their competitive advantage?

MindShifts worked with Aardvark to define the key intelligence topics and refine the key questions which would drive a situational analysis. Internal sources of information, expertise and networks across the organisation were mined. At the same time MindShifts carried out a targeted search for publicly available information which would add external information to the analysis. We also talked to industry commentators and associations, suppliers, competitors and employees in search of information and knowledge.

The strategic drivers were now becoming clear, the market and competitive terrain had fundamentally shifted and Aardvark now appeared to be positioned in the wrong place to take optimal advantage from this powerful set of trends. On the basis of this analysis, MindShifts proposed strategies that would move Aardvark to take advantage of the emerging opportunities.

Working with MindShifts, Aardvark was able to move quickly to modify its capability and move into emerging market segments through a new distribution channel with the right sort of product and service offer. Within 12 months Aardvark had reversed the erosion in market share and was also experiencing strong growth in the new market segments they had entered. Aardvark’s market entry was also before its major traditional competitor which was proving to be a significant advantage as they now tried to play catch up.

For more information about how we can assist you to develop CI capability in your organisation contact Babette Bensoussan at MindShifts.

Overcoming Fear

What Are You Afraid Of?

Are you pursing the goals that matter most to you?
Are you satisfied with your level of success?
Are you glad to be where you are in life?
Are you playing YOUR own game or are you playing someone else’s game?

Everything seems hard. We are all busy and we are all tired. We all don’t have enough money. We all know someone who says we can’t or that we would never make it. And then we are worried with what comes next. Are these excuses familiar to you?

What about these:

• Fear of change
• Fear of failure
• Fear of not being good enough
• Waiting for something to happen
• Perfectionism
• Being overwhelmed with all that you have to do
• Not know how

Well guess what – there is a battle going on….. and it is between your ears!!

Don’t surrender. While your fears may be real they are not good enough reasons for inaction. Your biggest work is in front of you and it has to do with how well you lead your life – how good are you at self-leadership?

Understanding Energy Leadership is in my opinion the missing link or secret ingredient to making all the methodologies you’ve tried and tossed aside about leadership, work — the petrol in the engine, the currency that fuels your success. Today let’s focus on energy itself. What is this mysterious quality? It’s not just movement or activity, sometimes it is stillness and reflection. Some call it a vitality or force. Energy gives us the capability to differentiate ourselves from another. Energy gives us the physical ability and drive to win the marathon — not in the first 25 miles — but in the last mile, when it is so easy to give up.

Energy can be conserved, stored, stockpiled, transformed, leaked and shared. In life we get energy from an amazing array of fuels. We can use this power to grow and develop, use our senses well, attract and repel other energy.

Now let’s look at leadership. Interestingly each of us leads by choice or default. The question is not whether you are a leader but how well you purpose to lead. To lead well takes awareness of your energy and a willingness to learn ways to use it better. Your body is a perfect example of an energy system. It’s self-contained, self-governed and thought-affected. Each thought you have contributes a specific energy pattern to the energy within and around you. There are no idle thoughts. Your energy encompasses every thought, feeling, and emotion you’ve had today, as well as, your recent actions. Because thoughts create energy in their own likeness – some can injure and others heal.

Energy Leadership Coaching is designed to reveal and develop your personally-effective style of leadership energy. This energy will positively influence and change not only you, but your family members, friends and everyone you work with and meet each day.

Albert Einstein is reputed to have said: “Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.”

Well, regardless of who said this, I know that energy is also the secret power of great leadership. Once you understand how you create your reality and attract the things you do in your life, you can create the life you really want. Where to start? Here are some tips about how to overcome fear, and any excuses you may have.

  1. Identify your goal and embrace it. Use this question as a start. What do you want the change to look like? How will that give your life meaning? Think about it – even go for a walk to reflect on it.
  2. Create the space – even a small space (or time) to make a change.
  3. Be accountable to someone while surrounding yourself with others making similar changes themselves.
  4. Take small steps that will move you forward. Movement begets movement. Now take another small step…… and change is created. It is time to decide what you intend to do next and what the next few years will mean to you.

I feel this is so important that for the month of September only I am offering a 20% discount on all my coaching programs when booked. Get in touch today to find out more about Energy Leadership and our one-to-one coaching programs.

Self Love Coaching

Do You Love Yourself? | MindShifts | Energy Leadership

Over the years working on myself and coaching executives, I have learnt a little secret that I wanted to share with you.  It is quite simple – You can only love others as much as you love yourself.  Surprisingly simple yet so profound.  Just think about it.  You can only give to others, what you give to yourself.  Turning that on its head, what you give to yourself is in fact what you draw to yourself.

Wayne Dwyer said it so beautifully :

“Make a pact to remind yourself often of this secret of not being able to give away anything you don’t have. Then work on your personal program of self-love, self-respect, and self-empowerment, and create a huge inventory of what you wish to give away.

One of the lessons I continue to learn and practice is that the universe responds with the same energy that we send out. If you attract a lot of people who wish to take advantage of you, you need to consider what you’re doing to attract victimizers into your life. If you run into anger a lot, explore the angry thoughts you have inside you. If your consciousness is a “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” energy, you’ll attract all manner of demanding energies into your life. You know if this is true by the number of deadlines not being met, demanding bosses or customers you encounter, and the feeling of being a victim. Send out “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” energy to the universe, and it will do the same in return.

If what you give is self-respect and self-love, the universe, via the attractor energy, will return the love and respect you’ve been radiating. It’s really so simple. You can’t give away what you don’t have.”

Energy Leadership Index & Life Coaching

If you are interested to learn how victim thinking or negative thoughts might be impacting your life, your work and your relationships with others, get in touch to discuss our coaching programs and the Energy Leadership Index.

 

Are you Future Ready?

How to become future ready

As a competitive intelligence practitioner – what does it mean to be future ready?

If I look at this question from a competitive intelligence (CI) perspective my response must provide options for actions for being future ready. So where to start?

Let me start with the original question itself.

  1. Does the question relate to individual future readiness or organisational future readiness?
  2. What are some critical uncertainties around the future that would impact anyone’s readiness?
  3. What are the assumptions or biases inherent in the question?

This means I need to be clear about these factors and any others facing the decision-maker before I drive through the plethora of information. And, talking about the plethora of information…. It is not just the information that is available on the internet or has been published that is important. When it comes to the future, it is vitally important to talk to people.

Yes, I know you can ask people on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for answers however I wonder how many people would really be capable of providing insightful comments to such a question?

This means we need to go out and seek answers from people who may have an idea of what any plausible future will look like.

From an organisational perspective, that could mean talking to academics, journalists, futurists, customers, suppliers, distributors to just name a few. Many of them may not have published their future intentions on the internet for you to find via a single simple search on Google! So let’s say I now have a lot of information at hand and am well informed about an array of possible futures. Does that make me future ready?

In my opinion, absolutely not! It does not answer either ‘so what does this all mean for me?’ nor does it tell me ‘now what should I be doing?’

We need to analyse the information in light of our current situation. Based on over 25 years of business experience, this is without a doubt one of the weakest steps that managers and individuals face. Analysis is the cornerstone for insights yet far too often we see summaries instead!! From an organisations perspective all the information needs to be analysed in context of the organisation’s capabilities, strengths, weaknesses, etc to identify the gaps it needs to address to be future ready, irrespective of the future that plays out.

Some suggested analytical techniques that would help here would include techniques such as

  • Scenario Analysis
  • Critical Success Factors
  • Driving Forces Analysis
  • even SWOT (done properly mind you – not the silly little four boxes!!).

Conducting a SWOT would be equally valid for an individual. The output of these techniques would identify options, opportunities, and threats that an organisation or individual could address to make itself future ready.

This approach would provide real insight, and outlines what should be done to best prepare for the future. To be future ready for me is not just about knowing what future may likely play out but about being prepared and alert to meet any future with the best possible advantage. What do you think?

If you would like assistance to become future readyget in touch with MindShifts.

Babette Bensoussan is the CEO and founder of MindShifts and was appointed a Fellow of SCIP (Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals). In 2006, she was the recipient of the SCIP Meritorious Award, which is the most prestigious award within the international CI community. As a qualified counsellor and MBTI practitioner, with certification as a business coach through the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching in the U.S.A, Babette is well placed to assist executives and organisations to improve their future performance and success both personally and professionally.

 

Why do Smart companies make dumb business decisions

Why do smart companies make dumb business decisions?

Why do smart companies make dumb business decisions?  Like you, I have heard many stories of great companies crashing.  But why is that?

After 25 years of strategy consulting, I would like to suggest some of the following reasons:

  • Companies repeat mistakes
  • Work gets duplicated
  • Customer relations are strained
  • Good ideas don’t get shared
  • Competition is around price
  • Not keeping up with market leaders or innovators
  • Dependence on a few key individuals
  • Slow to innovate
  • Lack of good market knowledge

People don’t choose for good things to go bad – just as executives don’t choose strategies that fail.

Bottom line I think, is that people in business aren’t finding the insights they need to improve their decision-making, aren’t sharing it around if they do know something, aren’t keeping it refreshed and up to date, nor even using it.

All of this has real business consequences.

What do you think you could do differently this month to improve the quality of your decisions?

Get in touch to find out how MindShifts can help you make better business decisions.

 

Better Business Decisions Workshop

 

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When I look at me, who do I see?

My wonderful colleague Jack Speer from Delta Associates http://delta-associates.com wrote this wonderful post. I just had to share it with you. It is about how you really see yourself when you look in the mirror.

Are you happy or horrified? What is your self concept when you look at yourself? Some people can’t get enough of their own face in the mirror, others avoid looking at all. Where do you sit?

As an executive coach one of the most important aspects of coaching is working on what a person sees when they see themselves—their fundamental self-concept. You have to get self-concept right for anything else to be right. The ”Me” in the mirror is fundamentally a reflection of how you perceive life. What you see will literally be what you get in your life.

The health of your self-concept is almost as important as your physical health. It is so fundamental and foundational that no matter how smart you are, how many degrees you’ve earned, your work experience—self concept trumps everything else. To a great extent your self-concept will determine your station in life, your wealth, your happiness and well-being.

Do You Accept False information about Yourself—Why!?

My father was not a self-disclosing person, so it surprised me one day when I was a teenager when he told me that he would have been happier and more successful in life if he hadn’t been so ugly. Nothing could have been farther from the truth as revealed by his childhood photos. Later in middle age, he was a very good-looking and distinguished man. He simply accepted false information that he was given about himself.

You may be carrying around false information that was given you very young, and you still believe it.

The Wrong Kind of Humility Can Ruin Your Life—Stop It!

Religious upbringing, parents, and culture have a lot to say about how you’re likely to see yourself. I grew up hearing sermons about being humble, and my West Texas parents told me and my brother over and over again—”don’t get the big head.” If I had ever told my parents I wanted to grow up rich and famous, they would have sat me down for a good talking to. It was out of the world view of my West Texas relatives. The opposite of humble is not really haughty. It’s a belief in yourself to be self-confident and to serve those around you.

Change Ideas that Will Change Your Life—If You’ll Do Them!

Here are some thoughts for you every day when you look in the mirror—they will change your life, but not all at once—changing your self-concept is as difficult as anything you’ll ever do. So here it is . . .

 1. Be true to you–your very own guru. When you look into the mirror, you’re seeing in you a unique individual, never ever to be repeated in the history of the world. There are many guides and sources of knowledge and inspiration—but you are the only one capable of evaluating what you receive, and making the final decision.

People spend a lifetime looking in the mirror and trying to dress, speak, and style themselves like someone they have seen and admired. What they say is what they think people want them to say. When they walk into a room, they wonder who they should try to be.

You certainly must remember you’re not God nor Superman. At the same time, you must trust yourself ultimately. It doesn’t mean you have to abandon your belief, faith, or respect for authority—nothing further from my point. It simply means that you are the last word. Otherwise, you run the risk of drinking someone else’s Kool-Aid—not healthy!

2. Be your own hero—There is no one else you should admire more. When I became my own hero people around me began to look at me differently—like a leader they depended on. Previously, nobody ever beat up on me and put me down like I put down myself. When I was victim of my bad self-concept, everyone responded to me accordingly. Every time I tried to take a role of leadership, I got the feeling that people were saying, “Who do you think you are?” The reason they responded that way was I didn’t believe in who I was. When I believed in myself, others believed in me.

3. Don’t let anyone put you down or limit you because of physical appearance—there’s no “Leaders Look”. At 5’8” inches, I’m getting shorter every year as people grow taller. I go to the gym several times a week and pass by young people who are anywhere from 6’5” up to approaching 7 feet. I am a dwarf compared to these people. Yet short people are doing some really tall things. One of my favourite personalities is Meet the Press host, Chuck Todd, 5’3”, who beat out a lot of very tall people for that position. So if there is something about your physical appearance that you can do something about, work to change it, certainly. But short, tall, fat, homely people who believe in themselves are achieving huge accomplishments every day.

4. Develop your own style that works for you. Leaders come in all kinds of wrappings. I have also known leaders who are incredibly shy, physically unappealing, take-charge people, don’t make any waves folks, sharp elbowed, aggressive personalities, quiet, talkative—all who were successful within their own styles. These people see themselves as leaders and when they walk into a room people often ask, why? It is because of their own self-concept and belief in themselves. Every day you are auditioning for the leading role in the greatest movie of all—the stage play about your life. As the star of that play, you don’t want to walk out on the stage, forget your lines, and fall on your face. It’s not easy to be a star, but you’re in that role. Play that role to the hilt. It’s worth the performance.

 

Find out how you can improve your self-concept. Get in touch for a complimentary coaching session – click here.

Self Care - Put your oxygen mask on first!

Are you looking after yourself?

I have been coaching now for some time and one of the things I have noticed is that many people don’t take care of themselves first.

This always reminds me of the announcement on planes – put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others. If we don’t take care of ourselves first, how can we be authentic in assisting and advising others?

I love the way so many people give advice freely yet are really saying – do as I say not as I do!! So how good are you at self care?

I came across these great questions in a recent Mind Movies Newsletter that might help you become a little better or more aware of self care that might shift your mindset:

1. What am I not saying, that needs to be said?
2. Do I feel unheard or left out?
3. What fear am I afraid to face?
4. Am I holding onto resentment or guilt?
5. Do I have an abundance mindset?
6. Do my everyday choices bring me long-term fulfilment or simply instant gratification?
7. Do I use situations to grow and evolve or to beat myself up?
8. Have I said something gentle and loving to myself in the last hour or even day?
9. Am I appreciative of all the things in my life?
10. So what does self-care really mean for me?

Self care sometimes means taking a deep, long breath. Sometimes it’s just shutting down your computer. Sometimes it’s a good cry and other times it’s going deeper into your core and facing your fears. For me this week, my self-care practice involved quiet reflection while walking along the beach.

Hopefully asking yourself these 10 questions might result in a healthier and happier you.

BEFORE YOU SPEAK…..THINK
T= Is it True?
H= Is it Helpful?
I= Is it Inspiring?
N= Is it Necessary?
K= Is it Kind?

For more information on MindShifts Coaching and Mentoring Programs please click here, or get in touch today.

7 Deadly Sins of Business Decision Making

7 DEADLY SINS OF BUSINESS DECISION-MAKING

As many of you who will have read my June Monday Motivation will know I have been going through some old files. What memories! However they also reminded me of how often the basics of business still remain unchanged. And one such area is in the way we make business decisions. Why is it that so many companies keep making costly mistakes?

The reasons business people make the wrong decisions, in fact, stems from a multiplicity of causes. A colleague of mine, Deborah Sawyer, a number of years ago identified seven deadly sins of business decision-making that alas are too familiar to us all.

Her list included:

1. We already have all the answers – the longer someone has worked in an industry the more inclined they are to believe they know all the answers about that industry. The same applies for someone who has worked with a particular company for a while and is immersed in that particular company’s viewpoint.

Symptoms include –
a) familiarity breeds contempt;
b) arrogance in that we would never go outside for information – we have it all in-house!
c) “old boy’s knowledge”.

REMEMBER: History does not always repeat itself!

2. Asking the wrong question – getting to the right decision means having the right information. And having the right information means asking the right questions. Here lies the kernel of another reason why many business people make the wrong decisions – they do not ask the right question.

REMEMBER: Asking the wrong quesiton is not such a sin if a company is willing to recognise the mistake, backtrack and then go forward.

3. Old Demon Ego– Decisions which companies should never take, and would never take if egos could be set aside, do get taken because decision-makers can’t give up their pet ideas. Whilst decision makers often know they should go and get some objective input to test their idea, they deliberately avoid doing so. That’s becuase they know an input of information will likely show up the flaws in the project. That would mean they would have to abandon the idea!

Symptoms include:
a) unwise acquisitions
b) diversification bites
c) failing overseas
d) entrepreneurial weakness

Have you hugged your pet idea today?

4. Flying by the Seat of your Pants Saves Money – Doesn’t It? – Executives often fall for this one! By not seeking out the information to support decision making, they “save” the company money.

Symptoms include:
a) winging it overseas
b) rushing with a product lauch/project
c) leaving it too late

It is important to remember here that most readily available information is generalised and intended to inform in a general way. Rarely is generalised information, which just about anyone can access, tailored enough to support business decision making, which has to occur in the context of a paritcular company’s situation.

5. If It Works for Them, It’ll Work for Us (All Aboard the Bandwagon)– Rather than undertake soul searching to find the right choices, a company instead looks around at what others in its industry have done and simply mimics them. By imitating what others do, there is no need to take an idea and test it in the context of your own company to see if there is a fit.

Some symptoms include:
a) following the fashions
b) safety in numbers
c) why is no-one else doing this?

This sin is most usually made in mature industries where there are a limited number of players and everyone knows everyone else.

6. Hear No Evil – Another way companies avoid making the right decision is by making sure they never hear anything unpleasant. We all know this one and some of the symptoms include:
a) don’t tell me what I ask to hear!
b) shoot the messenger

7. No Decision Can be the Same as a Bad Decision (Hurry Up and Wait) – Failure to make a deicison does not just mean a lost opportunity. It can also take away the chance to take corrective action to an existing business situation.

Symptoms include:
a) decision drag (also known as procrastination)
b) head in the sand
c) eye off the future

Do you recognise any of these in your business? Every company and every industry runs the risk of thinking that the current status quo will continue. Many decisions taken or not taken rest on this assumption.

So which sins are we committing today as we work to being a more profitable business?

Get in touch find out how MindShifts can assist you and your organisation to make better decisions. Take action today!

10 Essential Strategic Insights

I was recently going through some old files and realised that in some cases the more things change, the more they really stay the same. This is especially true in strategy and when you distil the writings of Michael Porter, a global authority on competition and strategy, there are essentially 10 key strategic insights. Not least among them is that most companies think they have strategy when they don’t.

Porter’s essential strategic insights are:

1. The granddaddy of all mistakes is competing to be the best, going down the same path as everybody else and thinking that somehow you can achieve better results.

2. Confusing marketing with strategy.

3. Overestimating strengths.

4. Getting the definition of the business wrong or getting the geographic scope wrong.

5. The Worst mistake: Not Having a Strategy at all.

6. Not addressing the hidden biases embedded in internal systems, organizational structures and decision-making processes.

7. Companies undermine their own strategies.

8. Strategy killers in the external environment.

9. If you listen to every customer and do what they want you to do, you can’t have a strategy.

10. Single minded pursuit of shareholder value, measured over the short term, has been enormously destructive for strategy and value creation.

Yes, some of these seem self-evident when you think about it, yet they run counter to the way most executives think and behave.

Clearly developing an effective strategy is a long-term process and not a short-term one, and having a strategy is even more important in these turbulent and uncertain times.

Remember we operate today in a VUCA World (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous). There is nothing wrong in returning to basics – sometimes it’s important to step back and take an outsiders view of your business.

Need to see with a fresh set of eyes? Looking for someone to challenge your thinking? – Give me a call on 0403 346 322 or contact us via our website.

Opportunity Everywhere

Opportunities Everywhere!

Think about the word “problem”.

This word actually produces stress because we feel we must solve something, it’s likely to be complicated, and somehow we’ll be graded on how we solve the problem.

The word “challenge”, although a vast improvement over the word “problem”, still carries hidden emotional baggage.

It comes with feelings that maybe you’ll be “humiliated” if your performance isn’t equal to others or you’ll have to climb over a great obstacle or run a tiring race.

The words “problem” and “challenge” are emotive words, meaning there are feelings and emotions that accompany them. Most of the time we’re unaware of these emotions as the words are so common.

When you see a challenge you naturally begin to see reasons why it can’t be achieved. When you see a problem, you see failure looming. With both, you’re recognising a manifestation of a fear you have. Once you’re victim to the fear of failure you can’t think in a healthy way.

The answer? Change your perspective.

What if there was no such thing as problems or challenges?

What if there were only opportunities to test what you believed, no failures to keep you from trying, and only growth from your experiences?

“What would you attempt to do today if you knew you could not fail?”

There’s huge power in this kind of thinking! (Which is another good reason to have an objective coach in your life.) Changing your perspective –just the way you use a word for example – helps you tap into an inner energy to accomplish your dreams. Changing your perspective helps you identify and overcome internal obstacles and barriers so you can succeed!

For more information on MindShifts Coaching and Mentoring Programs please click here, or get in touch today.

Positive Energy

Creating Positive Energy With Your Words

One of the ways we generate energy is as a result of the words we use. Every word spoken or read creates an image and energy in our minds.

Did you know that we actually remember positive words better than negative words!

Here’s an example: Don’t dump rubbish here! Sounds OK. It communicates! But in your mind something amazing happens when you read this – amazing but not good. Why not good? Well, when you read an instruction that is worded negatively, you have to switch tracks from “I can’t dump rubbish here” to “where in the world AM I supposed to dump the rubbish!”

What’s better and more effective to say is: “Dump rubbish here.”

Eliminating one word turns the negative order into a positive order that can be easily followed and avoids having to switch around in a thought dilemma, which wastes time and creates negative energy!

Here are a couple more to consider:

 

So think carefully about the words you use and the positive energy they bring to you and to those around you.

This month, practice using positive words and let me know how you go. You could always share how you are going on the MindShifts Facebook page.

INTELLIGENT COMPETITION

The most critical strategic issue for any business is its competitiveness. No one would disagree with this yet few businesses really spend time and effort to deeply understand and manage their future competitiveness.

Most executives monitor their competitiveness through market share and as we all know that indicator is historical and is in no way predictive.  Neither is historical tracking of past revenue trends.

So how do you monitor your competitiveness, identify potential new entrants, understand your existing competitors, and manage as well as identify your potential competitiveness? How do you manage the risks involved in being in a competitive market?

 

While generally the CEO is the one responsible for the competitive ability of any business, they are often lacking the right insights to make the best decisions.  And while most businesses have plenty of information and plenty of know-how they have very little Competitive Insights or Intelligence (CI).  One reason — there is no tie between business strategy and future competitiveness, and business systems and processes.

CI is concerned with the methods, systems and processes that a business uses to monitor its competition, any potential industry disruption, its own competitive position, and to improve its competitiveness overall.

Although most managers intuitively carry out some form of CI – generally in an ad-hoc way – the overwhelming data that is available, rapidly changing technology, and increasing global competitive pressures mean that there is an increasing need to develop more systematic ways of doing CI.

 

There are a number of key steps that will ensure the success of a good CI process. These are:

 

  1. Ask the right question

 

Far too often, businesses make decisions too quickly and without a strategic context — it is a case of ‘ready, fire, aim’.  The internet and social media has not helped this mindset, as the speed to market has become a more critical factor. In the end, we are left with a smoking gun, but where did the bullet go?

 Experience has shown that ‘asking the right question’ is one of the hardest steps for senior management.  Here we need to define the decision objective or purpose and to put it simply to understand what really needs to be identified.

 

  1. Manage information effectively

 

Once you have identified your objective and possible key questions, the next driver for understanding what you have and don’t have within the business needs to come from studying the forces at work on your business. These forces could include competitors, technology, clients, consumers, new entrants, industry trends and so on.

Getting solid information on the decision at hand requires a number of information sources:

Human sources: for example, people in your organisation, business networks, experts, etc.

Economic and financial sources: for example industry reports, economic analyses specialist media.

Corporate sources:  for example, customers, suppliers.

Technical sources: for example technical reports, academic papers, and product manuals.

Remember all the information needs to be put into context and subjected to interpretation to derive some meaning and value.

 

  1. Analyse for insight and intelligence

 

The major focus in the CI process is the method of analysis used to turn the information collected into intelligence or insights for the decision maker. It is only through analysis that intelligence or insight is created.

The value of insight is early awareness, as it enables you to recognise and monitor the future as it unfolds, thereby reducing risk and minimising mistakes. Today, executives are faced with many pressures — they may sometimes seek only short-term gains — but costly mistakes from executives making uninformed decisions are no longer an option.  The risks are too high.

 

 It is important to note that the purpose of CI is not to predict the future, but to enable management to make better decisions about the future.

 

In a VUCA world, CI is becoming an integral part of making business decisions. The data and information gathering and evaluating process can identify and project strategies that current or emerging customers and competitors might pursue, and provides an assessment of the implication of these strategies on your company’s future competitiveness.

We need to realise that we have exciting new ways to protect margins, to fight the competition, to achieve breakthroughs. We need to realise the positives will far outweigh the negatives – but only if we change.

 

Forced change is always second prize. The secret lies in putting together a strategy for the future based on sound intelligence.

Are your beliefs creating the life you want?

Beliefs are thoughts in our heads that influence our emotions, behaviours, attitudes, and actions. Some beliefs can be empowering, which can lead us to great success, or self limiting which stops us from achieving our goals.

However, we need to be cognisant that beliefs are only thoughts and that they are not real. With the power of choice we can change our thoughts whenever we want to. We have the power to choose what we want to believe and not believe. Successful people have chosen to believe in thoughts that empower them. What are you going to choose?

Here are some empowering beliefs that I have come across:

  1. I am not afraid, only excited for what is ahead
  2. I am responsible for the life I create – The choices I make are ultimately my own responsibility.
  3. Failure means nothing to me – I look for outcomes and if the outcomes are not what I expect, then I assess what I need to do to change those outcomes
  4. I embrace challenges because I will always find a way to overcome
  5. I am the person who has to decide. Whether I will do it or toss it aside; I am the person who makes up my mind.
  6. Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, joy, courage, creativity and empathy. Vulnerability gives me strength and fuels my belief in me.
  7. The past was who I was, the present is who I am and the future is who I may become.
  8. I am on a continuous journey of learning, which will never end.
  9. I accept that sometimes I can stuff up, make mistakes and that I am not perfect however I never stop trying to be the best person I can be.
  10. I always dream big. I strive for that which is out of my reach as the impossible is worth striving for.

One of my favourite quotes is from Lao Tzu –

Watch your thoughts, they become words
Watch your words, they become actions
Watch your actions, they become habits
Watch your habits, they become character
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.

Do you want to change some of your thoughts?

The first step to changing how you think is to decide what the results are when you act on your existing beliefs.

Don’t worry at this stage whether your beliefs are right or wrong. Just stop and question: What are your key beliefs about yourself and your life now? What are the consequences of those beliefs in your life today? How do these thoughts serve you?

Now for the next 10 days choose one empowering belief and repeat it three times a day – preferably looking at yourself in a mirror. Each day try to behave and act in a way that supports the thought that you have chosen. Then watch how you begin to feel different and begin to transform.

Once you commit to living your life as an empowered individual you will have no option but to experience a life full of success and fulfilment.

Why wouldn’t you?

Let me help you bust those self-limiting beliefs, send me an email today at action@52.62.165.177.

Monday Motivation – Let me be your Jiminy Cricket!

When Jiminy Cricket first came to media attention for his supporting role in a movie called Pinocchio in the 1940s, few realised the significance of this little green, talking insect with umbrella and top hat.

To me, he represents the essence of my coaching philosophy.

Goal Setting

First he teaches you to sing (or hum), “When You Wish Upon A Star” where you effortlessly learn the secret to goal setting…that reaching your own star is how you fulfil your life best.

The hardest part is selecting only one star to reach for. Until you know what you want, you’ll never know if you’ve satisfied your goal.

Right & Wrong

Additionally, Jiminy as coach represents a “conscience booster” to help you identify the right from wrong decisions which will lead to your success. Your coach becomes a trusted and faithful guide along the way – so you stay on the straight and narrow.

No Easy Answers
No coach will give you the answers as to what’s right or wrong. Instead, they’ll ask clarifying questions to help you identify what contributes or distracts from you achieving your vision. The choice is up to you.

This conscience/coach is available to help you when it seems you can’t stay focused. They offer words of encouragement and challenge so you can resist temptation. They suggest and support your choices to keep you on the straight and narrow path, pre-defined by you.

I’m proud to say I’m a coach like Jiminy Cricket.

Get in touch today to see how I can help you achieve your goals – email me at babette@52.62.165.177.

How to do SWOT Analysis the right way!

SWOT – The most abused analytical technique in management

As most business people would know SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

Traditional SWOT analysis is possibly the most widely known and among the most utilized means of situation analysis.  A SWOT analysis is used to assess the fit between a company’s internal resources and capabilities (its strengths and weaknesses) and external possibilities (its opportunities and threats).

The technique can be applied to many areas of a company, including products, divisions, and services. The simplicity and ease of using this model have made it a popular technique, particularly for determining a company’s ability to deal with its environment.

However, it is also arguably the most misused, misapplied, abused and poorly understood analysis method in management today.

Have a look at the diagram below.

Most people undertake the first SWOT that, to be honest, provides executives with little insight and no options as to their competitive abilities. It is so easy to fill in four boxes and persuade yourself you have done analysis!

The real SWOT (as originally developed by Harvard Professor Ken Andrews) will always deliver insights and options for good decision making. It is a little harder to do however every client I have worked with using this “proper” SWOT has uncovered invaluable insights and options as to its competitive ability.

SWOT Analysis

So how can you improve your use of SWOT Analysis?

Step 1: The first step in utilizing a SWOT analysis to understand each of the elements.

a. Strengths: Strengths are those factors that make an organization more competitive than its marketplace peers. In other words, those factors that differentiate you from your competitors. It is where the company has a distinctive advantage at doing or what resources it has which are superior to the competition. Listing what you believe are your strengths is simply an exercise in patting yourself on the back! Strengths are what differentiates you from your competitors. Your customers, suppliers and third parties know your strengths well compared to your competitors.

b. Weaknesses: A weakness is a limitation, fault or defect within the company that can prevent it from achieving its objectives. They occur when the company performs poorly or has inferior capabilities or resources compared to the competition. Again, your customers, suppliers, and other third parties would be aware of your real weaknesses.

c. Opportunities: Opportunities include any favorable current or prospective situation in a company’s environment such as a trend, change or overlooked need, which supports the demand for a product or service and permits a company to enhance its competitive position. Opportunities are equally valid for all players in your industry – not just you!

d. Threats: A threat includes any unfavorable situation, trend or impending change in a company’s environment that is currently or potentially damaging or threatening to its ability to compete. It may be a barrier, constraint, or anything that might inflict problems, damages, harm or injury to the organization. Again, these threats are equally valid for all the players in your industry.

Once you have completed your list in each of the four boxes, the hard work now begins.

Step 2: You now need to match each of the boxes with possible strategies you could undertake –

a. Matching your Strengths and market/industry Opportunities – what are some activities/strategies you could develop?

b. Matching your Weaknesses and market/industry Opportunities – what are some activities/strategies you could develop?

c. Matching your Strengths and market/industry Threats – what are some activities/strategies you could develop?

d. Matching your Weaknesses and market/industry Threats – what are some activities/strategies you could develop?

This is not easy to do and requires thinking.

Below is an example of a completed SWOT.

Once you have completed your SWOT, you will notice some common themes in the activities/strategies you have available. These common themes become what I call your strategic imperatives. You should address these in the coming 12 months as they will provide you with a competitive ability based on your current market fit.

Each year, business executives need to repeat this process as your fit will no longer be the same – and neither will your marketplace!

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Better Business Decisions Workshop

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EXAMPLE:   SWOT Analysis for Cannondale Bicycle Corporation

Competitive Insights

Are you reading the signals that will save your business?

As we move into 2018, I am getting requests from colleagues and businesses about the need to ensure that they understand their competitive environment and that they are clear on the focus of their strategy for 2018.

The problem that I often encounter is that most business strategies are generally ideas blowing in the wind without much competitive insight or analysis. You know what I mean – our strategy is to grow our business by 10% (or whatever other figure your CEO/Board has in mind) or to increase our customer relationships or improve our interaction with customers, and so on without much input from the competitive landscape!

So for those who believe that they really know their market – which competitor or new entrant is breathing down your neck to also deliver similar growth and/or improve customer interactions???? How are you going to differentiate your business? Maybe there is a business out there – in Never Never Land that just might make your business redundant!!

Nothing happens to you or your business in a vacuum…..there are always signals.

So here is my tip to all my wonderful readers, after 25 years as a competitive intelligence expert, author, strategic consultant, with over 350 client projects under my belt…….

Develop your analytical skills.

Make sure you have at least one analytical technique you can use in each of the following categories:

  1. Environmental
  2. Evolutionary
  3. Strategic
  4. Corporate/Competitors
  5. Customer
  6. Financial

And by the way, SWOT only sits in one of those categories. More on that in my forthcoming newsletter.

If you want to learn more about different analytical techniques have a look at: http://52.62.165.177/~mindshifts/ms/resources/babettes-books/

Or give me a call….(02) 94113900

 

Special Offer: I’d like to offer you a complimentary 30 minute strategy coaching session to help you work out which analysis frameworks would help you most in your business.

Click here to book a time that suits you.

Personal Planner

What’s your personal plan for 2018?

Most of us have a personal plan – of some kind. It might be a list of things that you’re ‘hoping’ to achieve… and sometimes you might have it ‘written down somewhere’.

After working with successful people for over 20 years as a business advisor and coach I know from experience that for a plan to be achievable it must be explicit and ‘alive’. Having a plan in your head just isn’t going to cut it.

By articulating and writing it out, you will become clearer on the outcomes that you want to achieve. Are you looking to develop your career, inject more fun and enjoyment into your days, enhance relationships, or get on top of your finances or health?

Having a written plan is the first step…

Here are some tips to get your personal plan started:

1. Pick a future point in time (maybe the end of the year, or in 3 – 5 years) and imagine your ideal life. What does it look like? What are you doing that is different from today?

Action: Download our wheel of life to help you with this process – and reflect on how you have addressed each area of your life at the point in time you have selected.

2. For each area of your life, write down what are you good at, what makes you happy, and what you could improve? Make a list of your strengths and the areas you need to address.

3. Choose one area to focus on. (If you try to focus on too many areas at once you may end up giving up.) Write down what your ultimate objective is – and the steps you need to take to achieve the ideal scenario you’ve described. How will you know if you have achieved your goal? Like any objective you need to make sure it’s measurable.

4. Get a support person or coach to keep you focused and accountable. As I often say, it is hard to keep focus when you are up to your armpit in alligators!

5. Once you feel you are moving forward in one area, you can begin to look at other parts of your life. Remember to set some clear milestones so you know that you are moving in the right direction.

Most people think that planning is confined to the office, and limited to finance and budgets. However to create the life that you want – you must plan for it. While there may be a budget somewhere in your plan, a major part of the process will involve taking the time to think, articulate and measure where you are now – where you want to go – and how and when you’re going to get there.

You create your life.

After all, you are the leader of your life.

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Special Offer: Over the next couple of months I’d like to offer you a complimentary 30 minute strategy coaching session to help you map out your personal plan for 2018. Together we can make it your best year yet!

Click here to book a time that suits you.

Do you see what you’re missing?

Over the last twelve months or so, we’ve been bombarded by talk of ‘Fake News’. Whether you call it ‘Fake News’, ‘Fake Intelligence’ or just plain old wrong information – it’s always been around.

When the market changes, we see opportunities and problems in a certain way – because of the solutions that we’re used to.

According to Seth Godin, when confronted with a patient with back pain, surgeons prescribed surgery. In the same scenario, physical therapists thought that therapy was required, and acupuncturists were sure that needles were the answer. Across the entire universe of patients, the single largest indicator of treatment wasn’t based on the symptoms a patient suffered – or the patients background, it was the background of the doctor.

The reason so many organisations have trouble dealing with new opportunities – and managing problems, is  that they approach it from the perspective they are used to. The odds are that they will continue to do so until their organisation fails. It’s not just about the new vs. the old. It’s from the background you view the new.

Ask yourself, how can your organisation see new opportunities and problems – and do you need to change perspective to see the right solutions? Are you really seeing your competitors without your blindspots?

Get in touch with MindShifts today to find out how we can help you see what you’re missing.

How to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence (EI) is the capacity to effectively perceive, express, understand and manage your emotions and the emotions of others in an effective and appropriate manner. Research has proven that EI is a strong predictor of success in the workplace, more so than IQ, skill sets, personality, and experience.

In essence, Emotional Intelligence equals Interpersonal Effectiveness, and the more effective you are with others, the more successful you’ll be.

Enhancing and developing a greater awareness and application of EI will have a significant impact in all aspects of your life, including more self-awareness and improved relationships with co-workers, friends, family, and others who are significant in your life. People who improve their EI capabilities are able to decrease stress – personally and professionally, enhance interpersonal relationships, and demonstrate greater leadership and decision-making skills. Even more important, raising EI has a direct and positive effect on your level of consciousness.

Here are a few tips on how to increase your Emotional Intelligence, taken from iPEC’s Energy Leadership Development SystemTM, a full coaching certification program which I undertook

  • Begin to take notice of how your thoughts affect your emotions, and how your emotions affect your actions. Self- awareness is the key to beginning to shift your energy and increase EI. As you go through your day, be aware of how you react to situations, and what thoughts are going through your head as you do so. If someone cuts you off on the road, and your thought is ‘What an idiot,’ your resulting emotion would be anger. If you think instead ‘Wow, he must really be in a rush to get someplace,” your emotion would most likely be very different. As you become more self-aware, you’ll be able to identify what triggers your emotions.
  • Journal about areas to improve in your awareness and expression of your emotions. What’s working, and what’s not working for you? What relationships need improvement?
  • Journal about ways to manage and control your emotions. What has been effective for you, and what hasn’t? How do you want to respond, and how can you do so?
  • Practice meditation/centring to be able to build a stronger tolerance to anxiety.
  • Each day, set your intention to be more aware of your thoughts/feelings and how they might affect you and/or others.
  • When you’re very angry or upset, give yourself 5-10 minutes alone, prior to taking any action. Then ask yourself what would be the best way to address the situation. Think about the energy level at which you’d like to respond. Taking a little break will help you respond as you’d like to, not just go with your “knee-jerk” reaction.
  • Seek out others who will assist you, objectively, in providing observations of how they experience you expressing and/or managing/controlling your emotions. You may be surprised at how others view you.
  • Tell others you want to increase your understanding of their thoughts and feelings and “check in” with them periodically about this. You’ll soon become better at reading others.
  • After getting a buy-in, offer feedback to those around you about their emotional awareness, expression, and management.
  • Practice incorporating new skills and behaviours and being aware of how others respond to you.
  • Interview others who demonstrate high EI, to learn some of their strategies for responding to stressful situations.
  • Take an Energy Leadership IndexTM Happy to debrief you on the report and we can work together on increasing your self understanding

THE POWER OF LISTENING

Many years ago I learned an invaluable life tip. One of my teachers always stressed how we have one mouth and two ears; and that listening is far more valuable than just talking.

Have you ever asked someone to do something and they nod their heads and “yes, yes” you only to have them return with a result only remotely related to what you asked for?

There are a number of reasons for this:  they may be distracted, you may be distracted, they may not understand what you’ve said, and/or are afraid or “too cool” to ask for clarity, or you may not have explained it well – all of these have to do with weak listening skills.

So what are some tips to help us all be better listeners?

  • One of Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People©” was to “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Put listening before talking, it’s the key to communication.
  • Let others know you’re listening by rephrasing what they’ve just said. It also confirms what you think you’ve heard.
  • Avoid putting words in someone’s mouth and never finish someone’s sentence (nothing is more annoying and rude!)
  • If you’re talking in a place that’s noisy or your phone keeps dropping out, be sure you clarify and confirm what you’ve heard rather than filling in the missing blanks yourself.
  • If you’re face-to-face with someone, maintain healthy eye contact!
  • Focus on what they’re saying. Multitasking is highly over-rated and some research has found it results in being about 40% less effective. Certainly this is true with listening. So don’t be watching for a text or ordering coffee while someone is explaining something. Stop and listen!
  • Let someone finish what they’re saying and learn the art of asking sensible, clarifying questions.

 

Communicating well takes skills in both talking AND listening. Major in listening and you will never go wrong!

Take some time to reflect on this month’s Motivation and how it might apply to you, and get in touch if we can help.

Ready – Fire – Aim, Australia’s Smoking Gun

Far too often, we come across organisations where decisions are made too quickly and without a strategic context. The old rule of “ready, fire, aim” is still prevalent in corporate Australia. The internet has not helped this thinking as the speed to market becomes a critical factor. In the end we are left with a smoking gun but where did the bullet go?

While information is more abundant than ever before, managers are intelligent information starved!

Competitive Intelligence (CI) has grown as a management discipline around the world as companies face tougher and faster competition. Competitive Intelligence in large successful multinational organisations is becoming a “must have” rather than a “nice to have”. In fact recent studies from the USA indicate that budgets for CI now range up to and over US$4 million per annum and that rates of return can be as high as 4000%.

In the past, Australian businesses have been slow to practise effective Competitive Intelligence. One reason we believe, is because they think it is something else, another buzzword, another soft option, another ‘be seen to do’ activity which consumes time and profit. Today, some are beginning to realise it is the opposite, a strict discipline that selects and delivers the right intelligence to support key decision-makers, a discipline focused on optimising time and profit. An example is one client who measures the value of business intelligence simply in dollars – an identified new market worth to them at around A$100 million.

Another reason why companies have been slow to pick it up, is that many Australian companies think they are already practising Competitive Intelligence. CI is not paper shuffling, having the most expensive database or the most efficient data distribution. CI is also not market research or strategic planning. It is an approach which focuses these and all marketing, analytical and planning functions on one outcome, maximising the company’s competitiveness.

So what is this CI discipline that helps you be “aim” first? Competitive Intelligence is concerned with the methods organisations use to monitor their competition, their own competitive position, and to improve their competitiveness. It is about the techniques used to select and filter information, to interpret and analyse it, to communicate it to the right people, and to use it effectively. Although all managers intuitively carry out some form of CI, the information explosion, changing technology, and increasing global competitive pressures mean that there is an increasing need to develop more systematic ways of using CI.

The major focus in the process is not just the identification of sources of information but what method of analysis will be used to turn the information into intelligence. There are over 170 methods of analysis in business and picking the appropriate methodology is critical to delivering value at the end. It is through analysis that intelligence is created.

The intelligence process works best however within a strategic framework where individuals and organisations can look ahead with all the means at their disposal, interpret what they find and integrate these understandings into a continuous cycle or process of competitive ability. The keys to the future are not found through extrapolations, predictions or media gurus, but through patient, careful strategic work. You need to be ready and take careful aim at the specific target before you fire.

A strategic plan that doesn’t include insight about the near future is next to useless. Yesterday’s information and methods are increasingly ineffective for making today’s decisions – and even less effective for identifying tomorrow’s opportunities, problems, and unknown competitors. The purpose is not to predict the future, but to make better decisions about the future.

The value of foresight is early awareness. This reality check enables you to recognize and monitor the future as it unfolds, thereby reducing risk and minimizing mistakes. Costly mistakes by managers firing from the hip, is no longer an option. The issue is often that managers today faced with so many pressures are unsure of the specific target sometimes seeking only short-term gains.

The systems for identifying these warning signs is totally different than yesterday’s methodology. For example, business respects and relies on traditional information. Statistics, facts, concrete data. This hard or secondary information is retrospective and most useful for quantifying what has occurred. But it is increasingly unreliable and inaccurate for revealing the future in a rapidly changing environment.

Another problem is that of asking the right questions. Experience has shown this to be one of the hardest steps for senior management.  The key is to ensure there is understanding of what the “intelligence customer” really wants, where they are coming from, and how the intelligence will be directly related to a management decision or course of action.

Too many times, intelligence projects fall over because of the poor identification and understanding of the key issue and its relationship to the business. If managers can’t identify the target, how can they be prepared to take aim and be successful?

Success comes from hard work and careful planning, and it does not come overnight. The realities of making this work means we need to understand the competitive landscape before we fire, and incorporate this understanding and insight for competitive management. How your organisation prepares its competitive gun, in essence, will provide you with either a strategic advantage — or kindle the demise of your organisation.

Today, Competitive Intelligence is not negotiable. Can you afford to fire first?

Who Is Your Competition?

  • Other organisations offering the same product or service now?
  • Other organisations offering similar products or services now?
  • Organisations that could offer the same or similar products or services in the future?
  • Organisations that could remove the need for a product or service?

So who is your competition really? This question seems so simple however a company that defines its competitive set too narrowly can miss disruptive attackers and high potential growth opportunities. Just take a look at Blockbuster, Nokia and Kodak. They were all market leaders who fell pray to either disruptive technology or market changes. How can your company avoid a similar fate?

Let me guide you:

1. Define your target/objective

Far too often, organisations make decisions too quickly and without a strategic context — it is a case of ‘ready, fire, aim’ The internet has not helped this mindset, as the speed to market has become a more critical factor. Understand what you are looking to maximise.

2. Ask the right question or questions

Experience has shown that ‘asking the right question’ is one of the hardest steps for management. The key here is to understand what your business really wants, and how the insights uncovered will directly relate to a management decision or course of action

3. Manage information effectively

The next driver for understanding what you have and don’t have within the business needs to come from studying the forces at work on your business’s competitive ability. These forces include competitors, technology, consumers, new entrants, industry trends and so on. Getting information on these forces is the first step in becoming knowledgeable about your competitive environment.

4. Analyse for insight and intelligence

A strategic plan that doesn’t include insight about the near future is truly next to useless. Yesterday’s information and methods are increasingly ineffective for making today’s decisions — and even less effective for identifying tomorrow’s opportunities, problems and unknown competitors.

The value of insight is early awareness, as it enables you to recognise and monitor the future as it unfolds, thereby reducing risk and minimising mistakes.

Today, managers are faced with many pressures — they may sometimes seek only short-term gains — but costly mistakes from managers making uninformed decisions are no longer an option.

 Today, competing effectively is not just understanding existing competitors and the current business environment. It is strategically about having a picture of what the future business environment will look like and addressing the questions I posed at the start.

How your business prepares for the future will provide you with either a strategic advantage — or the demise of your business. The most critical strategic issue for a business is its competitiveness.

Looking for a mentor in strategy and competition for you business or division? Give us a call (02) 9411 3900 or email us here!

How to Stop Being a People Pleaser: 7 Powerful Habits

When you get stuck in the habit of trying to please other people pretty much all the time then it can have a sneaky and negative effect.

Not only on you but also on the people around you.  Because as you try to please:

  • You put on a mask and try to guess what to do while getting anxious and stressed.
  • You sometimes feel taken advantage off by others who use your people pleasing habit and you often feel out of tune with what you yourself deep down want.
  • It can also have an unintended effect on other people as they may see through your mask, start to feel your inner discomfort and stress themselves and get confused or upset because they sense you are not being honest and straightforward with them.

So being a people pleaser is often an even worse choice that one may at first think.

But how can you change this behavior and break the habit?

This week I’d like to share 7 powerful insights and habits that have helped me with that.

1. Realize that with some people it isn’t about you and what you do (no matter what you do).

Some people just can’t be pleased. No matter what you do. Because it’s not about what you do or do not do. It’s about him or her.

By realizing this and how you in the end can’t get everyone to like you or avoid conflict no matter what you do, you can start to let go of this ineffective and damaging habit.

2. Learn how to say no.

It’s of course hard to say no.  But it is vital for you own happiness, stress-levels and for living the life you truly want.

Here are 5 things that have made it easier for me to say no more often:

  • Disarm and state your need. It’s easier for people to accept your no if you disarm them first. Do that by, for instance, saying that you’re flattered or that you appreciate the kind offer. Then add that you, for example, simply don’t have the time for doing what they want.
  • If they’re pushy, add how you feel. Say that you don’t feel that this offer is a good fit for your life right now. Or that you feel overwhelmed and very busy and so you cannot do whatever they want. Telling someone how you honestly feel can help them to understand your side of the issue better. And it’s also a lot harder to argue with how you feel rather than what you think.
  • Help out a bit. If possible, finish your reply with recommending someone that you think could help out or would be a better fit for what they need. I do this quite often when I feel I lack the knowledge or experience that a reader or a friend is looking for.
  • Remind yourself why it is important to sometimes say no: You teach people by how you behave. They learn about you and your boundaries from your behavior. So if you stand up for yourself and say no and are assertive about what you don’t want then people will start to pick up on that. And over time you’ll encounter fewer and fewer situations where someone tries to be pushy or steamroll you.
  • It’s OK to feel a bit guilty about saying no (but you don’t have to act on it). Just feel it and be with that feeling for a while. But at the same time know that it doesn’t mean that you have to act on it and say yes or do what they want you to do.

3. People don’t really care that much about what you say or do.

Holding yourself back in life and trying to act in a way that is pleasing to others can, in my experience, come from a belief that people care a great deal about what you say or do.

But the truth is that while you may be the main character in your own life and head you’re not that in other people’s lives.  Because here’s the thing: people have their hands full with thinking and worrying about their own lives. They have their heads full with thoughts about their kids, career, pets, hobbies, dreams and worries or thoughts about what others may think of them.

This realization can make you feel less important. But it can also set you free.

4. Learn how to handle criticism and verbal lash outs (and the fear of that).

Sometimes it’s simply about the other person and his or her situation in life right now and not about what you did or did not do.  A few more things that help me to handle negative or critical messages are:

  • Wait before you reply. Take a couple of deep breaths in a conversation or a few minutes if you’re in front of your inbox. By doing so you’ll reduce the risk of lashing out yourself or making a mistake. Calming yourself down a bit before replying is pretty much always a good idea.
  • Remember: you can let it go. You don’t have to reply to all the negative messages you may get via email, social media or in real life. You can just say nothing, let it go and move on. This does of course not work in every situation but it’s important to remember that you from time to time do have this option.
  • It’s OK to disagree. This took me time to really get. Because I wanted to get people to my side. To make someone see things the way I did. But it’s also OK to simply have different opinions about things. And to leave it at that. I found that life became lighter and simpler when I started to accept this idea and perspective.

5. Set boundaries for yourself.

If you say no to yourself, if you set a few firm boundaries for yourself then it will, over time, become easier to do the same towards other people too. And these boundaries can also help you to focus better on what matters the most to you.

A couple of my daily ones that have helped me with both of those things are:

  • A start-time and a stop-time for work. I don’t work before 8 in the morning and my work computer is shut off – at the latest – at 7 in the evening.
  • Work in a no-distraction zone. I keep email notifications and messaging programs off. And my smart phone is on silent mode at the other end of our apartment.
  • Only check email once a day. Otherwise it’s easy for me to lose focus and to have too many thoughts swirling around in my mind while working.

6. Strengthen your self-esteem.

Why’s this important?

As you value yourself, your time, and your energy more, it becomes more natural to say no when you need to.  And criticism and negative words will bounce off of you more easily and more often.

Plus, you’ll be less concerned about getting everyone else to like you all the time. Because now you like and respect yourself more and your dependency upon what others may think or say, drops drastically.

7. Keep your focus on what YOU want out of your life.

If you know what’s most important to you and you keep your focus on that each day then you’ll naturally start to say no and stop being so people pleasing. Because now your energy and time is mostly focused on your needs and wants.

You’re not just drifting along anymore without a clear focus (which is great because when you lack that then it’s easy to fall into the trap of just going along with what someone else wants).

So how do you do this practically?

Well, fine-tuning what you want deep down might take some time. But a good start is this…

  • Ask yourself: what’s the top 3 most important things in my life right now? It could be your small business. Your family. Your career, health, dog, photography hobby, soccer, improving your social life or simplifying your home. Or something else.
  • Create 1-3 reminders. Write down your top 3 most important things on a small piece of paper. And put it on your bedside table so you see it first thing every morning. You can also create 2 more notes with the same answers to for instance put on your fridge and in your workspace.

These simple steps have helped me a lot to keep my priorities straight and to remind myself every day not to drift too much from what matters the most to me.

Emotional First Aid

It really is amazing how we are all taught about hygiene and physical first aid – you know what to do when your hands are dirty before handling food, or when someone has scrapped their knee, all the way to CPR – yet we are never trained or educated in providing emotional first aid for our thoughts and feelings such as how to handle stress, negative environments, difficult relationships and so on.

As our thoughts and feelings control so much of our daily existence, it makes sense to learn some emotional first aid.

In this article I want to start with those pesky negative thoughts and emotions. You know the ones that won’t go away and keep going around in your head!

There are times for all of us when we experience anger, grief, anxiety, stress, remorse, embarrassment or any of the range of negative emotions. Life is not always easy and in those trying times we struggle mentally with our thoughts and emotions, trying to talk our way out of them, or possibly trying to distract ourselves with activities or trying to drown it out with food, or drink or something even stronger.

Interestingly all these paths perpetuate negativity in the long run. So what can you do? How can you stop those negative thoughts and feelings?

How about instead of trying to suppress them, you turn your attention inwards?

I use this great little 4 step process to help deal with negative thoughts and emotions. It is called RAIN.

RAIN stands for –

R Recognise

A Allow

I investigate

N Non-identification

Recognise

The first step is to recognise and name what is happening and what you are feeling. “I am feeling stressed” or “I am feeling overwhelmed”. Stop for a moment and tune into the present moment of what is happening in your body and mind – the thoughts, the emotions, the sensations. Don’t inhibit what is happening, or suppress it, or ignore it or try to conquer it. Instead develop an attitude of open curiosity and acceptance.

Acknowledge that the emotion is there.

By recognising and naming what you are feeling you are giving yourself the space to care for yourself.

Allow

The acknowledgement and acceptance of your feelings and thoughts provides a sense of permission to allow life to be just as it is. Allowing doesn’t mean we have to like the situation however it does soften or drop our mental resistance to what is happening. You can embrace or hold the feeling in your awareness, which in turn can calm and soothe you.

This step is so important as we generally have an unconscious impulse to push away, suppress or ignore difficult emotions. When we engage in this inner struggle we unwittingly create more suffering and tension.

By allowing yourself to accept your present emotions and thoughts without judgment, you will almost immediately have a sense of softening and ease around the emotion, as you will have created a mental space around it. You are now witnessing your emotion rather than being enmeshed by it.

This is then an act of self-compassion.

Investigate

Now that you are calmer and allowing yourself to sit with whatever negative thought or emotion you may be experiencing, you can ask yourself questions like “Why do I feel this way?” “Where did this feeling come from?” “What is it that I really need?”

Ask what event may have triggered the feeling. Or are there physical factors such as lack of sleep. It may be that particular kinds of thoughts were the cause – worrying about something or someone, ruminating over a comment a colleague made last week, and so on. You may also find that you have particular values or beliefs of how things should be that may have contributed to your negative feelings.

By asking these questions and investigating where the negativity comes from, we can develop a truly insightful relationship with our emotions and thoughts. And as time goes by, we can even resolve and dissolve some of the negative thoughts or emotions.

Non-Identification

This step is the simple realisation that you are not your mind or your emotions. You are the awareness that lies beneath every thought, emotion and sense perception.

Non-identification means that you are truly not defined by your thoughts and emotions. This brings a sense of freedom and ease, and at the heart of it all a sense of peace.

Remember that no matter how intense or painful the emotional storm, there is always a part of you, which is still, silent and untouched.

The RAIN method can be used anytime you feel stressed, overwhelmed, or out of touch. It helps to centre you during challenging times.

As Eckhart Tolle said, “Whatever you fight, you strengthen, and what you resist, persists”.

To learn more about the RAIN method, read the works of Tara Brach such as http://www.mindful.org/tara-brach-rain-mindfulness-practice/. Tara Brach is a clinical psychologist and author of “True Refuge: Finding Peace & Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart.”

 

 

 

The Heart of Entrepreneurship

So you want your business to be more entrepreneurial and your employees more innovative and productive? But what does that really mean to you? I suspect that you want your employees to still provide the service and quality on which you have and are building your reputation but with the added ability to add value to your business without you having to be there all the time to tell them how.

So how do you go about creating a more innovative and entrepreneurial environment?

Firstly we need to understand what entrepreneurship means. The press often define the term as starting and operating a new business. Managers on the other hand describe entrepreneurship in such terms as innovative, flexible, dynamic, risk taking, creative and growth oriented and these views are often used to describe the success of organisations such as Apple Computer, Google and General Electric.

However none of these definitions are precise enough for managers wishing a more entrepreneurial organisation. For every successful company there are thousands of new restaurants, clothing stores, and consulting firms who have tried to be innovative, creative and growth oriented – yet have failed.

So how can you be different? How can you make innovation, flexibility and creativity operational? To help answer these questions, we need to look at entrepreneurial behaviour.

Numerous writers on the topic suggest that the best approach is to view managerial behaviour in terms of extremes. At one extreme you have the entrepreneur who feels confident of his or her ability to seize opportunities, expecting surprises and the need to adjust to changes, with the ability to make the most of these changes and to make things happen. At the other extreme, you have the administrator who is fearful of change and the unknown and whose inclination is to bring things back to the way they were.

Most of us exist between these two extremes and research has shown that there is a close relationship between opportunity and individual needs. Companies of all sizes have difficulty in encouraging entrepreneurship when the individual’s needs and the company’s interest do not coincide. It is not an easy task.

The pressures that push a company to either end of the scale are often determined by factors of timing and resources coupled with personal, organisational and competitive forces.

However, the difference in approaches becomes apparent in response to the following questions.

Where is the opportunity for my business?

The first step to identify an opportunity requires a market or external approach rather than an internal or resource approach. It is important to remember here that most readily available information is generalised and intended to inform in a general way. Rarely is generalised information, which just about anyone can access, tailored enough to support business decision making, which has to occur in the context of a particular company’s situation.

The entrepreneur however is attuned to environmental changes, constantly scanning information, which may provide a favourable opportunity, while the administrator seeks to preserve resources and reacts defensively to possible threats.

Administratively oriented companies approach new opportunities more cautiously, while successful market oriented businesses are aware that change is inevitable and therefore keep their organisations learning.

Entrepreneurs are however not just opportunistic gamblers. They are also creative and innovative. They many not necessarily break new ground but perhaps may mix old ideas in such a way as to provide new services or applications. Some new software companies for example are simply altering slightly existing technology or repackaging it to accommodate new perceived market segments.

What resources do I have and how do I control them?

Necessity is the mother of invention and many people who start a business make imaginative use of their limited resources. An engineer may discover selling skills which she or he never knew they possessed or a restaurant owner may quickly adjust to waiting on tables. Most of the risk in entrepreneurial management lies in the effort to pursue opportunities with inadequate or inappropriate resources.

The only control that an entrepreneur needs from a resource is the ability to use it while an administrator believes that resources are inadequately controlled unless they are owned or on the payroll. Using external resources as required is in itself an opportunity to maintain costs while providing a service equal to or better than larger competitors. Entrepreneurs learn to use other people’s resources well while keeping the option open on bringing them in-house.

A small publishing company may hire a free lance to make editorial improvements, or contract with a typesetting company or binding company and even contract with a public relations firm to sell the book to stores. There is no need therefore to control all the resources necessary.

It should be remembered however that apart from the effective allocation of scarce resources, successful entrepreneurs seek plateaux of success where they can consolidate their gains before moving to pursue further opportunities. It is important, when possible, to pause to give both employees and internal systems time to adjust. This may not always be possible however as booming markets often don’t allow growing companies the luxury of a pause.

What structure is best?

In organising business, there is a distinct difference between the entrepreneur and the administrator. The entrepreneur tries to “feel” the way events are unfolding. The administrator on the other hand views organisational relationships more formally ie rights, responsibilities and authority.

Power and status, expressed in a hierarchy and financial rewards, push companies towards the administrative end with the control of the resources also influencing the approach to a business operation.

Businesses that use or rent resources by necessity develop informal networks both internally and externally from which new opportunities may be gleaned.

It is up to individual companies to allow favourable conditions for entrepreneurship to flourish. That means encouraging the pursuit of opportunity, the most appropriate commitment and use of resources and the breakdown of hierarchy. These goals are not that easy to reach particularly if your company needs to be turned around.

It is much easier and safer for companies to stay with the familiar than to explore the unknown. Only by encouraging change and experimentation can companies of all sizes adapt and grow in the midst of uncertainty.