Mixed Thoughts

On my recent trip to the USA, I caught up on some reading – 14 hours on a plane gives you plenty of time – and I thought I would share with you just three of my favourite thoughts/ideas that I came across.

1. 103 Bits of advice I wish I had known
Kevin Kelly turned 70 last week and for the past few years, he’s jotted down bits of unsolicited advice.  He shared these recently and some that appealed to me are:

  • Don’t ever work for someone you don’t want to become.
  • Your growth as a conscious being is measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations you are willing to have.
  • If you repeated what you did today 365 more times will you be where you want to be next year?
  • The biggest lie we tell ourselves is “I don’t need to write this down because I will remember it.”
  • To keep young kids behaving on a car road trip, have a bag of their favourite candy and throw a piece out the window each time they misbehave.
  • Don’t keep making the same mistakes; try to make new mistakes.😅

Want to read more?

2. The Most Eye Opening 10 Minutes Of Your Life by Brené Brown
Love, love, love the wisdom in this. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6j7DbxtMbpQ

Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston. Brown has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy.

As a coach, I love working with my clients’ gremlins.  What is your gremlin saying to you?

3. Data, information and decisions
“Data is everywhere, but turning it into information isn’t free.

It takes focus, effort, consultation and time.

More information is only useful if it helps you make a decision. Knowing the temperature on Saturn isn’t useful. Knowing it to even more accuracy is less useful. That’s because we’re not making any decisions that involve the temperature on another planet.

We’re surrounded by data that our spreadsheets or networks or cohorts seem to want us to be aware of. How many people clicked yesterday, or what someone wrote in a comment, what a backlist book sold or the foot traffic in that store vs. this store.

But if you’re not going to use the data to make a decision, don’t spend the time exposing yourself to it. It’s resistance at work.

If you can’t do anything with the data, it’s never going to be information”.

Source: Seth Godin – May 14, 2022 Data, information and decisions 

As a specialist in competitive intelligence, I have seen this so often. Many business executives worry about data when in fact it is the insights (what does this mean for the business) they really need to understand in order to make better business decisions. And if you are unclear about your decision, then any data will do, right?

Are you focused on the data or are you after insights?

Something a little different…

In Australia we are now coming up to the end of the financial year, so instead of sharing another interesting article or writing a particular blog about starting afresh in a new financial year, I thought I would share five interesting short videos that over time I found to be quite insightful, and made me reflect on the way I see myself and those around me.The psychology of your future self“Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished.” Dan Gilbert shares recent research on a phenomenon he calls the “end of history illusion,” where we somehow imagine that the person we are right now is the person we’ll be for the rest of time. Hint: that’s not the case.  View hereEmpathy vs SympathyWhat is the best way to ease someone’s pain and suffering? In this beautifully animated RSA Short, Dr Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities.View hereAre you human?Have you ever wondered: Am I a human being? Ze Frank suggests a series of simple questions that will determine this. Please relax and follow the prompts. Let’s begin…View hereGetting stuck in the negatives and how to get unstuckAlison Ledgerwood is interested in understanding how people think, and how they can think better. Her research investigates how certain ways of thinking about an issue tend to stick in people’s heads. Her classes on social psychology focus on understanding the way people think and behave in social situations, and how to harness that knowledge to potentially improve the social world in which we all live.View hereWhat makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happinessWhat keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life? If you think it’s fame and money, you’re not alone – but, according to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, you’re mistaken. As the director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction. In this talk, he shares three important lessons learned from the study as well as some practical, old-as-the-hills wisdom on how to build a fulfilling, long life.View hereSo which one was most insightful for you?  Most interested to hear your thoughts!



You’re not alone!

Most of us at some point in time have to work or collaborate with someone we can’t stand.  A wonderful article by Peter Bregman was published in the Harvard Business Review on this very topic and I really liked the insights he provided to guide anyone on improving working relationships.

Accept that you are not going to like everyone.
It’s inevitable you will encounter difficult people who oppose what you think, believe and feel. Conflicts or disagreements are a result of differences in values. That person you don’t like is not intrinsically a bad human. The reason you don’t get along is because you have different values, and that difference creates judgment. Remember not everyone is like you. If you can accept that not everyone will like you, and you won’t like everyone, then this realisation can take a lot of the heavy emotion out of the situation.

Turn inwards and focus on yourself
It’s important that you learn how to handle your frustration when dealing with someone who annoys you. Instead of thinking about how irritating that person is, focus on why you are reacting the way you are. Sometimes what we don’t like in others is frequently what we can’t stand in ourselves. Recognise the triggers that might be complicating your feelings. You may then be able to anticipate, soften, or even alter your reaction. Remember: it’s easier to change your perceptions, attitude, and behaviour than to ask someone to be a different kind of person.

Check your own expectations
It’s not uncommon for people to have unrealistic expectations about others. We may expect others to act exactly as we would, or say the things that we might say in a certain situation. However, that’s not realistic. Expecting others to do as you would do is setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration. If a person causes you to feel exactly the same way every time, check your expectations and adjust appropriately.

Be compassionate with yourself
And remember: “Being compassionate with yourself is the key to being compassionate with others”

When you give yourself unconditional love, compassion, forgiveness, and acceptance, you’re then able to give that to others.

Want to read the full article? here.

Or you may prefer to see this short video on 10 ways to have a better conversation.
When your job hinges on how well you talk to people, you learn a lot about how to have good conversations. Celeste Headlee has worked as a radio host for decades, and she knows the ingredients of a great conversation: Honesty, brevity, clarity and a healthy amount of listening. In this insightful talk, she shares 10 useful rules for having better conversations. “Go out, talk to people, listen to people,” she says. “And, most importantly, be prepared to be amazed.”

So this month, I hope you find a way to work with people you don’t like and still have wonderful conversations.


Here is a wonderful article I had to share with you from Marshall Goldsmith, giving advice on how to be more effective in influencing up. I have had a number of coaching clients facing this situation, so maybe there is an answer there for you too.

1. Accept the facts
Every decision that affects our lives will be made by the person who has the power to make that decision, not the “right” person or the “smartest” person or the “best” person. Make peace with this fact. Once we make peace with the fact that the people who have the power to make the decisions always make the decisions and we get over whining that “life isn’t fair,” we become more effective in influencing others and making a positive difference. We also become happier.

2. Realise You Must Sell Your Ideas
When presenting ideas to decision-makers, realize that it is your responsibility to sell, not their responsibility to buy. In many ways, influencing ultimate decision-makers is similar to selling products or services to external customers. They don’t have to buy–you have to sell. No one is impressed with salespeople who blame their customers for not buying their products. While the importance of taking responsibility may seem obvious in external sales, an amazing number of people in large corporations spend countless hours blaming management for not buying their ideas. A key part of the influence process involves the education of decision-makers. The effective influencer needs to be a good teacher.

3. Focus on contribution to the larger good – not just the achievement of your objectives
An effective salesperson would never say to a customer, “You need to buy this product because if you don’t, I won’t achieve my objectives.” Effective salespeople relate to the needs of the buyers, not to their own needs. In the same way, effective influencers relate to the larger needs of the organization, not just to the needs of their unit or team.

4. Strive to win the big battles
Don’t waste your energy and psychological capital on trivial points. Executives’ time is very limited. Do a thorough analysis of ideas before challenging the system. Focus on issues that will make a real difference. Be willing to lose on small points. Be especially sensitive to the need to win trivial non-business arguments on things like restaurants, sports teams, or cars. You are paid to do what makes a difference and to win on important issues. You are not paid to win arguments on the relative quality of athletic teams.

5. Present a realistic “cost-benefit” analysis of your ideas – don’t just sell benefits
Every organization has limited resources, time, and energy. The acceptance of your idea may well mean the rejection of another idea that someone else believes is wonderful. Be prepared to have a realistic discussion of the costs of your idea.

6. Challenge up on issues involving ethics or integrity – never remain silent on ethics violations.
The best corporations can be severely damaged by only one violation of corporate integrity. Refuse to compromise on company ethics. Take action immediately.

7. Realise that powerful people also make mistakes
Don’t say, “I am amazed that someone at this level…” It is realistic to expect decision-makers to be competent; it is unrealistic to expect them to be anything other than normal humans. Focus more on helping them than judging them.

8. Don’t be disrespectful
While it is important to avoid kissing up to decision-makers, it is just as important to avoid the opposite reaction.
Before speaking, it is generally good to ask one question from four perspectives. “Will this comment help 1) our company 2) our customers 3) the person I am talking to, and 4) the person I am talking about?” If the answers are no, no, no, and no, don’t say it!

9. Support the final decision
Treat decision-makers the same way that you would want to be treated. If you stab that person in the back in front of your direct reports, what are you teaching them to do when they disagree with you?

10. Make a positive difference–don’t just try to “win” or “be right”
We can easily become more focused on what others are doing wrong than on how we can make things better. An important guideline in influencing up is to always remember your goal: making a positive difference for the organization. Focus on making a difference. The more other people can be “right” or “win” with your idea, the more likely your idea is to be successfully executed.

11. Focus on the future – let go of the past
One of the most important behaviours to avoid is whining about the past. Have you ever managed someone who incessantly whined about how bad things are? Nobody wins. Successful people love getting ideas aimed at helping them achieve their goals for the future. By focusing on the future, you can concentrate on what can be achieved tomorrow, not what was not achieved yesterday.

In summary, think of the years that you have spent “perfecting your craft.” Think of all of the knowledge that you have accumulated. Think about how your knowledge can potentially benefit your organisation. How much energy have you invested in acquiring all of this knowledge? How much energy have you invested in learning to present this knowledge to decision-makers so that you can make a real difference? My hope is that by making a small investment in learning to influence decision-makers, you can make a large, positive difference for the future of your organization.

Source: The above article was written by Marshall Goldsmith, “11 Ways to Influence Key Decision makers”, April 30, 2015.


As many of you, who will have read my previous newsletters this year, will know I have been reading over the summer holidays and going through some old files. What memories!

Interestingly 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 long time 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 (I guess these people don’t have customers, suppliers, have any needs for products or services, don’t participate in conferences, etc!);
c)“old boy’s knowledge”.

2. Asking the wrong question – my favourite – 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.

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 because they know an input of information will likely show up the flaws in the pet 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) fools rush in
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

Here is a recent example – “As Vladimir Putin has surrounded himself with hardliners who reinforce his worldview, the Russian president’s access to reliable — if inconvenient — information has diminished. The result is a dangerous feedback loop which encourages an increasingly belligerent stance, reflects Seva Gunitsky for Foreign Affairs.”

7. No Decision Can be the Same as a Bad Decision (Hurry Up and Wait) – Failure to make a decision 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

Every company and every industry runs the risk of thinking that the status quo will continue indefinitely. Many decisions taken or not taken rest on this assumption.

One of my biggest weakness is No. 4. Which sin(s) do you feel you are committing today as you move forward?

Excerpts: Sawyer, D., (1999) “Getting it Right, Avoiding the High Cost of Wrong Decisions”, St. Lucie Press, USA.


As I mentioned in my last newsletter, I have read some fabulous articles over the holidays.  And in continuing the theme about complaining and being happier, I wanted to share this one about choices.

Practice doesn’t make perfect. But deep, deliberate practice, a form of training that involves concentration, effort, and a steady stream of critical feedback, can help improve any skill up to 10 times faster than conventional practice. 

Practice with that level of focus and your brain forms myelin, a microscopic neural substance that adds considerable speed and accuracy to thoughts and movement. Myelin is kind of like a muscle, except instead of strengthening your body, it strengthens neural pathways related to a particular skill.

That’s great, but then there’s this: Your body doesn’t make value judgments. Practising something that isn’t good for you will also alter your brain.

Basically, your body adapts, and that adaptation helps build patterns of thought and behaviour. 

The result is a virtuous cycle if you’re trying to learn a helpful new skill — and a vicious cycle if you regularly do something less positive.

Like complaining.

Think of it as a bizarre version of the Law of Attraction: Complaining will cause you to “attract” more experiences you can complain about (except this phenomenon is based on science, not philosophy).

Complain, and over time it’s easier to be negative than to be positive. Complain often enough and complaining can become a default behaviour. 

This is one reason some people seem to always be able to find something to complain about.  They might say they’re perfectionists. They might say they have extremely high standards.  But possibly they’ve just learned to complain.  And trained their neural pathways to be really good at complaining.

Venting Won’t Make You Feel Better.

I know what you’re thinking: When you’re mad, upset, frustrated, etc., releasing those negative feelings helps you feel better.

Nope: Science says whining about your problems actually makes you feel worse, not better.

According to one study, venting just makes you feel worse. In fact, the more participants vented, the worse they felt their day had gone. And those negative feelings last.

As the researchers wrote: [Participants] ‘not only reported lower momentary mood and less satisfaction and pride with the work they’d been doing that same day … but they also tended to experience lower mood the next morning … and lower pride in next-day accomplishments.’

And if that’s not enough, those feelings affect the people around you.

If, as Jim Rohn says, you are the average of the five people you hang out with, and one or two of those people tend to complain a lot, research shows that their bad mood affects yours. ……..Just as yours affects them.

So Instead of Complaining …

How you react — to anything — is a choice. 

If something bad happens, you get to choose how you’ll respond. If something goes wrong, you get to choose how you’ll respond.  If someone does something you don’t like, you get to choose how you’ll respond.

While you can never control everything that happens, you can always control how you respond.

The next time something goes wrong, don’t waste time complaining. Put that same effort into making the situation better: Talk about how you’ll make things better. Or what you’ll do next time. Or won’t do next time.  Even if you have that conversation only with yourself.

Practice responding that way and in time you’ll build up neural pathways that make responding that way even easier.

In effect, being positive will become a skill — one you built through deep, deliberate practice.

Would you agree with this premise? I would love to hear what you think!


Source: https://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/neuroscience-says-youll-be-happier-less-stressed-more-productive-when-you-stop-doing-this-1-thing.html

New life blog post

You can’t change yourself by thinking it so!

I have been thinking a great deal recently (I have had plenty of time for that with Covid), on how my own biases and limiting beliefs prevent me from understanding where I get in my own way.

There is so much I still want to achieve; there is so much I still want to experience and feel. And yet as every year goes by, somehow, I find myself still chained to my desk (aka emails and specific projects), pushing that rock of biases and beliefs up the hill and not giving myself permission to do something different, learn something new (I would love to learn Ikebana), read a novel, have a siesta or even dare I say it – just daydream.
Does every year of your life seem like a repeat? Mine sure does.
The question for me was how do I change things?  
The opinion and thoughts we have of ourselves determines everything about us, and shapes what will happen to us in the future – from what kind of job we will have, to how successful we will be. Our thoughts define who we are and determine how happy we are.
If this premise is true – and the entire field of psychology, counselling and coaching is dedicated to this premise – how do we change our opinion of ourselves? How do we create a better me or a better you?
As a dear colleague recently said, “How do I wake up tomorrow with a new view of me?… How do we change the way we think about ourselves after a lifetime of assaults on our self-concept from parents, peers, professors, and preachers?”
My answer – you can’t change yourself by just thinking it so! Our biases and limiting beliefs will still be there, creeping into all our decisions. Each of us needs someone to reflect back to us what we are really saying about ourselves and therefore thinking.
So, late last year, after much reflection, I got myself a coach.  Yes, I know, I am a coach. But that is why I knew I needed one – to help me traverse the line between working 60+ hours a week to a more relaxed approach. It is taking time, and I know it won’t happen overnight. It took decades to develop my limiting beliefs, so they will not change just because I think so.
In 2022, what do you want to change, and how will you make it happen?  
What support will you get to make sure a change deep down really happens?

five important lessons

What is truly important in life?

I thought for something different for the end of the year and in preparation for 2022, I would share these five important stories that were recently shared with me. They made me reflect on what is important in life.  Read these wonderful stories at your leisure over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

1 – First Important Lesson – Cleaning Lady.

During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student and had breezed through the questions until I read the last one: “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?”

Surely this was some kind of joke.  I had seen the cleaning woman several times.  She was tall, dark-haired, and in her 50’s, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank.  Just before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count towards our quiz grade.

“Absolutely, ” said the professor.  “In your careers, you will meet many people.   All are significant.  They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say “hello.”

I’ve never forgotten that lesson.  I also learned her name.  It was Dorothy.

2 – Second Important Lesson – Pickup in the Rain.

One night, at 11:30 p.m., an older African American woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway trying to endure a lashing rainstorm.  Her car had broken down and she desperately needed a ride.  Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car.

A young white man stopped to help her, generally unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960s.  The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance, and put her into a taxicab. She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him.  Seven days went by and a knock came on the man’s door. To his surprise, a giant console TV was delivered to his home.  A special note was attached.

It read:  “Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night.  The rain-drenched not only my clothes but also my spirits.  Then you came along.   Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband’s bedside just before he passed away.  God Bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving others.

Sincerely, Mrs Nat King Cole”.

3 – Third Important Lesson – Always remember those who serve.

In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table.   A waitress put a glass of water in front of him.

“How much is an ice cream sundae?” he asked.

“Fifty cents,” replied the waitress.

The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it. “Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?” he inquired. By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient.

“Thirty-five cents,” she brusquely replied. The little boy again counted his coins. “I’ll have the plain ice cream,” he said.

The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table, and walked away.  The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier, and left.  When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table.  There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies.

You see, he couldn’t have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.

4 – Fourth Important Lesson. – The Obstacle in Our Path.

In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway.  Then he hid and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock.  Some of the King’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it.  Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.

Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables.  Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road.  After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded.  After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been.  The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway.

The peasant learned what many of us never understand! Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve our condition.

5 – Fifth Important Lesson – Giving When it Counts.

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare & serious disease.  Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness.

The doctor explained the situation to her little brother and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes I’ll do it if it will save her.”

As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the colour returning to her cheeks.  Then his face grew pale and his smile faded.

He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?”

Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.

Most importantly… 
Live with no regrets, Treat people the way you want to be treated, Work like you don’t need the money, Love like you’ve never been hurt, and Dance like you do when nobody’s watching.

Right Decisions

How to make the right decision

Think decision-making is about gut feel? Think again. It’s all in the mind.

Making decisions is the most important job of any executive. It’s also the toughest and the riskiest. Bad decisions can damage a business and a career, sometimes irreparably. So where do bad decisions come from? In many cases, they can be traced back to the way the decisions were made. But sometimes the fault lies not in the process but in the mind of the decision-maker. The way the human brain works can sabotage our decisions.

For executives, the psychological traps can undermine everything from new product development to acquisition and divestiture strategy and succession planning. While no-one can rid his or her mind of these ingrained flaws, anyone can learn to understand the traps and compensate for them. These include:

THE ANCHORING TRAP – When considering a decision, the mind gives disproportionate weight to the first information it receives. Initial impressions, estimates, or data anchor subsequent thoughts and judgements. Anchors can be as simple as a comment from a colleague, a number, or a statistic from the morning’s paper. One of the most common types of anchor is a past event or trend.

Because anchors can establish the terms on which a decision will be made, they are often used as a bargaining tactic by savvy negotiators. Their effect in decision-making has been documented in thousands of experiments. Anchors influence the decisions of managers, accountants and engineers, bankers and lawyers, consultants and stock analysts.

But aware managers can reduce their impact by using the following techniques:

  • View a problem from different perspectives.
  • Think about the problem before consulting others.
  • Seek out information from a variety of people.
  • Avoid anchoring those from whom you solicit information or counsel.
  • Be wary of anchors in negotiations.

THE STATUS QUO TRAP – Decision makers display a strong bias towards alternatives that perpetuate the status quo. The source of the status quo trap lies in the desire to protect our egos from damage. Breaking from the status quo means taking action, and when we take action we take responsibility, thus opening ourselves to criticism and to regret.

Once you become aware of the status quo trap, you can use the following techniques to lessen its pull:

  • Always remind yourself of your objectives and examine how they would be served by the status quo.
  • The status quo is not your only alternative. Identify other options and use them as counterbalances.
  • Ask yourself whether you would choose the status quo alternative if it weren’t the status quo.
  • Avoid exaggerating the effort or cost involved in switching from the status quo.
  • Remember that the desirability of the status quo will change over time. Evaluate alternatives in terms of the future as well as the present.
  • Don’t default to the status quo just because you’re having a hard time picking the best alternative. Force yourself to choose among the options.

THE SUNK COST TRAP – Another of the deep-seated biases is to make choices that justify past choices, even when those past choices no longer seem valid. Executives should recognise that, in an uncertain world where unforeseeable events are common, good decisions can sometimes lead to bad outcomes. By acknowledging that some good ideas will end in failure, executives will encourage people to cut their losses.

For all decisions with a history you will need to make a conscious effort to set aside any sunk costs:

  • Seek out views of people not involved with the earlier decisions and who are unlikely to be committed to them.
  • Examine why admitting to an earlier mistake distresses you. Remind yourself that even smart choices can have bad consequences, through no fault of the original decision-maker, and that even the best managers are not immune to errors in judgement.
  • Be on the lookout for the influence of sunk cost biases in the decisions your subordinates make.

THE EVIDENCE TRAP – This bias leads us to seek out information that supports our existing instinct while avoiding information that contradicts it.

The two psychological forces at work here are our tendency to subconsciously decide what we want to do before we figure out why we want to do it, and our inclination to be more engaged by things we like than by things we dislike. You need to put your choices to the test:

  • Check to see whether you are examining all the evidence with equal rigour.
  • Get someone you respect to play devil’s advocate. Better yet, build the counter-arguments yourself. What’s the strongest reason to do something else?
  • Be honest with yourself about your motives. Are you gathering information to help you make a smart choice, or are you looking for evidence confirming your view?
  • In seeking advice, do not ask leading questions. And if you find that an adviser always seems to support your point of view, find a new adviser.

THE FRAMING TRAP – The way a problem is framed can profoundly influence the choices you make. A poorly framed problem can undermine even the most considered decision. But the adverse effects of framing can be limited by taking precautions:

  • Don’t automatically accept the initial frame, whether it was formulated by you or by someone else.
  • Try posing problems in a neutral way that combines gains and losses or embraces different reference points.
  • Think about the framing of a problem. In the decision-making process, ask yourself how your thinking might change if the framing changed.
  • When others recommend decisions, examine their frames. Challenge them with different frames.

THE FORECASTING TRAPS – All of the traps discussed so far can influence the way we make decisions when confronted with uncertainty. But another subset of traps can have a particularly distorting effect in uncertain situations because they can cloud our ability to assess probabilities.

These include:

  • The overconfidence trap. Even though most of us are not very good at making estimates or forecasts, we actually tend to be overconfident about our accuracy. That can lead to errors in judgement and, in turn, to bad decisions. In making predictions most people set too narrow a range of possibilities. For example if managers underestimate the high end or overestimate the low end of a crucial variable, they may miss attractive opportunities or expose themselves to far greater risk than they realise.
  • The prudence trap. When faced with high-stakes decisions, we tend to adjust our estimates or forecasts “ just to be on the safe side”. Policymakers have gone so far as to codify over-cautiousness in formal decision-making procedures. For example using worst case analysis and incorporating the worst case into the decision.
  • The recallability trap. Even if we are neither overly confident nor unduly prudent, we can still fall into a trap when making estimates or forecasts. Because we so frequently base our predictions about future events on our memory of past events, we can be overly influenced by dramatic incidents that have left a strong impression on our memory. Anything that distorts your ability to recall events in a balanced way will distort your probability assessments.

Still think that decision-making is about gut feel?

If you’d like help to make the ‘right’ decision get in touch via our contact form.

Negative and positive Feedback

How to stop being a people pleaser: 7 powerful habits – PART 2

Last month I started this article around the sneaky and negative effects of being a people pleaser and you may recall that I mentioned there were 7 habits you could develop to help you with changing this habit.

To recap briefly; habits 1, 2 and 3 were:

1. Realize that with some people it isn’t about you and what you do (no matter what you do).
2. Learn how to say no.
3.  People don’t really care that much about what you say or do.

Now moving on:

4. Learn how to handle criticism and verbal lash outs (and the fear of that).
Sometimes its simply about the other person and his or her situation in life right now. It is 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 the conversation. 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. As they say, you don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to.  You can just say nothing, let it go and move on. It is important to remember that you 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. In fact, it may provide you with an opportunity to learn about different perspectives.

5. Set boundaries for yourself.
Can’t tell you how important this is and how many coaching clients I get to practice this.  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 few of the 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 smartphone is on silent mode when I am focused on a project, with a coaching client, or writing.
  • Only check email twice 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.
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.  After a while, you’ll be less concerned about getting everyone else to like you all the time. As you like and respect yourself more, 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. Now your energy and time are focused on achieving your goals and aspirations.  You’re no longer drifting along without a clear focus.

So how could you stop being a people pleaser?  Which of these 7 habits resonated the most for you? What could you do differently moving forward?

It is not easy changing a lifetime habit – it takes time and practice.  So be kind to yourself as you learn to focus on what matters most for you and be able to let go of pleasing others all the time.



When you get stuck in the habit of trying to please other people most of the time, it can have a sneaky and negative effect on your life.  And 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.
  • Sometimes you feel taken advantage of by others who use your people pleasing habit.
  • Often you 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 may not create the outcomes you seek and often can be an even worse choice than one may at first think.

So how can you change this behaviour and break the habit?

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

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 can’t void conflict no matter what you do, you can start to let go of this damaging habit.

2. Learn how to say no.

It’s of course hard to say no.  But it is vital for you to 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.  Now you are establishing a boundary for your sake.
  • 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 by 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 behaviour. 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.
Interested in practical ways to say no? I’m happy to share with you my list of ’99 ways to say No’. Just email me.

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

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 of 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.


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 understand that beliefs are only thoughts and that they are not real.  With our 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 current beliefs.  Don’t worry at this stage whether your beliefs are right or wrong. 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?

Do You Have Work / Life Balance?

Recently I have been reflecting on my work/life balance.  To be honest, my life has been so unbalanced I could certainly provide a guide as to 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 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 business 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.  This is not what anyone would call work/life balance.  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 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 some sort of equitable distribution amongst all the aspects of one’s life.

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

  • Contribution to society
  • Work/Career
  • Family/Relationships/Friends/Social
  • Fun and Enjoyment
  • Spiritual Development
  • Health
  • Financials

I definitely did not have equal distribution amongst these aspects of my life – often because I felt I had no control over my time.

When I was halfway 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, 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 24 hours on 24 hours, 7 days a week.  Yep, I definitely got more balance!

Even when my studies come to an end and I only had to concentrate on my business, I thought, at last, I 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 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.

Not any more …..  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.

Over the past year, talking with my coaches (yes, I have more than one!) I have slowly changed some of my values.  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!  This coming financial year my goal is not to work on Fridays – well most Fridays/Friday afternoons??

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 try to take the time to read, to get together with family and friends and to even look after myself.  Please note that try is the operative word here.

I believe I 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. The personal questions are how do I define balance? What is life/work balance for me?

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 our choice how we live our lives and whether we really want to change our lives to have a greater work/life balance – whatever that may mean for each of us.

PS:  To help you on your road, download the Wheel of Life to see which areas you need to work on to bring greater balance into your life.


Do you need to overcome negative thoughts?

Here we are at the end of another financial year – and you may be questioning where has the year gone and what is going on in the world.  So much change, so much to keep up with!

All this may be overwhelming, and it may start to drag you down.  You could start to feel sorry for yourself, or maybe you are worrying more, or questioning ‘what’s the point?’ On reflection, maybe you didn’t achieve what you wanted to so far and maybe the world news is just putting you in a funk!

Negative thoughts can be toxic, can build up and quickly make us feel depressed, sad, lost and sometimes hopeless.

Here are a number of suggestions to overcome negative thoughts, which might help you move to a more positive frame of mind:

  1. In every situation there is a silver lining – Ask yourself what is the one good thing you can identify in this negative situation?  What is the one thing you could learn from this? Or as I often suggest to clients, what is the gift in this negative situation?
  2. Replace the negativity in your life – What are the 3 top sources of negativity in your life right now?  What can you change about these 3 sources?  It is OK to take small steps when dealing with this.  Alternatively, you can keep reminding yourself of tip No 1.
  3. Talk to someone – keeping negative thoughts bottled up is not helpful.  Find someone you can share or vent with.  And then see if you can together find a more positive approach to relieving the negative thoughts to move forward.
  4. Are you making a mountain out of a molehill? – think through the negative thought.  Are you making the issue bigger than necessary?  Think would it matter in 3 or 5 years?  What about next year or even next month?  What would a friend or family member say?  When we focus on a problem or issue, it becomes all-encompassing and is no longer in perspective. Asking yourself whether the issue is really in perspective is an important way to manage negative thinking.
  5. Be grateful for what you do have – this is my favourite No. 1 negative squasher!  List what you have to be grateful for and remind yourself of these things every day. I get my clients to write them down at the end of every day.  You will be surprised what happens to your thinking.
  6. What about going for some exercise? – Endorphins are a wonderful recharger.  When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins, which interact with the receptors in your brain.  These trigger a positive feeling in the body and improved self-esteem, providing a more positive and energized outlook on life.
  7. Pay it forward – If you want to feel positive then bring positivity into someone else’s life. Do an act of kindness and/or generosity; give a compliment; help out, etc.  By adding positivity to someone else’s life, you too can start to feel better and more optimistic again.
  8. Start tomorrow with a positive tone – set yourself a reminder the night before of a positive action you are going to take the following day.  Make sure you can see it clearly the moment you wake up.  Repeat it to yourself a couple of times during the day if you want.  Savour it!

Each of these tips will help take those negative thoughts away.  Give it a go – what have you got to lose? Let me know which ones you think help you the most.  If you want to talk about it more, give me a call.

How well do you influence?

To influence is an art that has been lost in the volume of information that people are swamped with today. As we are all aware, information is readily available in overwhelming volumes – through the media, the internet and social media networking. One of the biggest hindrances to success is all about persuading the people you wish to influence. Even the best business proposal will not gain traction if you are unable to influence or persuade your target. The important thing is influence and not just inform. Following are five prongs of persuasion:
  • Words: Express yourself with positive, specific and precise words. Don’t use negative, vague words.
  • Rhetoric: Use rhetoric to get your message across, include powerful messaging and use memorable phrasing.
  • Emotion: Draw on emotions to get your message across. Create feelings such as pleasure, fear, safety, acceptance, and prestige. Decisions are based on emotions.
  • Logic: People need to justify their emotional decisions with reason. Help to interpret the facts, information and ideas that are available. Take a point of view. Lead others to draw  conclusions.
  • Trustworthiness: Demonstrate your integrity. People need to trust your personal values and genuineness before they’ll believe what you say.

Information floods the airwaves, the internet, and our in-boxes. And with that influx, influence has become rare. Yet channelled toward a goal, influence – not simply information – drives action and results.

If you would like to improve your effectiveness as a leader, or communicator within your business, family or life in general, contact us for a complimentary 45 minute discovery session.

Avoiding Bad Decisions

As you know, I have been working for over 25 years to help people make better decisions, whether through strategic and competitive intelligence or life, leadership, and business coaching. I even call myself The Decision-Making Maverick™.

Over the years, I have found four key areas that impact decision-making the most:

  • Heavy internal focus
  • Decision Fatigue
  • Shallow Brains
  • Learning how to do new things

So when a colleague – Shane Parrish from Farnam Street – recently posted about one aspect of decision-making that’s rarely talked about – how to avoid making bad decisions – I had to share it with you.

Here are his suggestions (including some additional comments based on my experience) for five of the biggest reasons we make bad decisions:

1. We’re unintentionally stupid

We like to think that we can rationally process information like a computer, but we can’t. Cognitive biases explain why we make bad decisions but rarely help us avoid them in the first place. It’s better to focus on these warning signs that signal something is about to go wrong.

Warning signs you’re about to do something stupid unintentionally:

  • You’re tired, emotional, in a rush, or distracted.
  • You’re operating in a group or working with an authority figure who thinks they know it all.

The rule: Never make important decisions when you’re tired, emotional, distracted, or in a rush.

2. We solve the wrong problem

How many times have we come across this? The first person to state the problem rarely has the best insight into the problem. Once a problem is thrown out on the table, however, our type-A problem-solving nature kicks in, and we forget first to ask if we’re solving the right problem.

Warning signs you’re solving the wrong problem:

  • You let someone else define the problem for you.
  • You’re far away from the problem.
  • You’re thinking about the problem at only one level or through a narrow lens.
  • You don’t have a clear enough question about the problem.

The rule: Never let anyone define the problem for you. And never proceed if you are not clear on which problem you are trying to solve. Go back to the decision you are trying to reach around the problem.

3. We use incorrect or insufficient information

We like to believe that what we read is correct and that people tell us the truth. We like to believe the people we talk to understand what they are talking about. We like to believe that we have all the information.

Warning signs you have incorrect or insufficient information:

  • You are not speaking to the right people.
  • You’re reading about it only in the news.
  • You are not looking at multiple sources to collect and verify the information you need.

The rule: Seek out information from numerous sources – don’t be lazy – a lot is riding on making a better decision.

4. We fail to learn

You know the person that sits beside you at work that has twenty years of experience but keeps making the same mistakes over and over? They don’t have twenty years of experience—they have one year of experience repeated twenty times. If you can’t learn, you can’t get better.

To truly learn from our experiences, we must reflect. Reflection has to be part of your process, not something you might do if you have time. Don’t use the excuse of being too busy or get too invested in protecting your ego. Only reflection allows us to distil experience into something we can learn from to make better decisions in the future.

Warning signs you’re not learning:

  • You’re too busy to reflect.
  • You don’t keep track of your decisions.
  • You can’t calibrate your decision-making.

The rule: Be less busy. Keep a learning journal. Reflect every day.

5. We focus on optics over outcomes

Our evolutionary programming conditions us to do what’s easy over what’s right. After all, it’s often easier to signal being virtuous than to actually be virtuous.

Warning signs you’re focused on optics:

  • You’re thinking about how you’ll defend your decision – and you don’t share what you already know.
  • You’re knowingly choosing what’s defendable over what’s right.
  • You’d make a different decision if you owned the company.
  • You catch yourself saying this is what your boss would want.

The rule: Act as you would want an employee to act if you owned the company.

As some of you would know from my many presentations, I have talked about these very issues. Avoiding bad decisions is just as important as making good ones.

Look at the warning signs, reflect, set some rules for your decision-making processes, and you will never need to rely on luck to get good outcomes.

Here is the link to Shane’s original article and many others – https://fs.blog/2021/03/avoid-bad-decisions/

I would love to hear how you have learnt to avoid making bad decisions.

At MindShifts® we offer a range of coaching programs, and competitive intelligence services to support individuals and businesses. If you’d like to get in touch, or would like to arrange a 45 minute complimentary ‘discovery session’ please contact us via our contact page.


Changing one little word

Five years ago, I came across a wonderful suggestion from my friend and colleague Leanne Buttrose.  I asked her at that time to write a little note about this which I shared.  Since then, I have been regularly practicing this suggestion.  I thought you would enjoy it as our Monthly Monday Motivation for May.

“How to change your energy and everyone around you by changing one little word!

In the year 2000, I was introduced to a simple and yet incredibly powerful change in my life.  I removed the word “BUT” from my vocabulary. At the time I learned this, I didn’t realise what this change would mean to me and the hundreds of people I have shared this concept with.

The greatest challenge was to not replace it with a “but” in disguise.  We know these words as – however, although, nonetheless – although there are many more!  “But” simply means; everything I said before this word is null and void. For example, the party was great, but the food could have been better.  So was the party great or not?

I found that I became very conscious of my sentences and that “but” was my way to buy time and think.  It was what I used instead of a pause or full stop in a conversation or when presenting.

The most profound discovery was in my written words.  I used “but” in emails, documents and papers, and it gave them a negative overtone when that was not my intention. I used it in sales pitches and PowerPoint presentations when trying to make a point. I was a “but-aholic”!

So how did I change this?  I replaced the word “but” with “and”. While at first, it felt grammatically incorrect, it forced me to stop and think about why I even wanted to say the word.

I found in conversations, I started to pause, think and then continue without using the word.  In written communication, it forced me to rethink the whole sentence because when you remove the use of ‘but’, you often have to phrase the entire sentence very differently.

Here’s an example: ” I’m sorry I didn’t finish the report, but I received your email too late.”

Instead, you might say: “I’m sorry I didn’t finish the report. I received your email too late, and I will do my best to finalise it by the end of this week.”

I have shared this with leaders who now write their messages to their customers and staff coming from the “Yes… and” perspective. They have found it easier to create more positive energy through their communications.

WOW! To think removing just three little letters from our vocabulary can hold that much incredible power.  And I have been practicing it ever since.  It really does make a difference.

A great way to make sure you’re following “Yes… and” is to exercise self-awareness.  Self-awareness is the secret weapon for lasting habit change. 

If you’d like some support or are interested in gaining more self-awareness, contact me for a complimentary 45 minute coaching discovery session via our contact page.

A Hidden Saboteur that Holds You Back

As you know by now, I love sharing great articles that I come across in journals, magazines, e-newsletter and so on with you. This one from Pat McDaniel of Wise Insights struck a chord with me. He introduced the concept of hidden saboteurs who undermine our efforts to get ahead and reach our goals and dreams.

In this article, he draws attention to an invisible saboteur that is easier to see in others than in ourselves.

“In 1967, researcher Martin Seligman conducted a series of experiments to see if someone could be unknowingly persuaded to believe something their own eyes were telling them wasn’t so.

In the first experiment, two groups of test subjects were individually placed in their own personally confined area where they could not easily escape. They then experienced a series of uncomfortable conditions that made them want to escape the confinement.

  • Test group A (control group) participants wasted little time in escaping their confinement once the discomfort got to be too much. As expected, none stayed until the end.
  • Test group B participants were each placed in their own, more rigorous enclosure and could not escape despite their efforts. They just had to endure the discomfort, even as it got worse.

In the second experiment, group B members were each moved to another personally confined area similar to the first but with an important difference: there WAS a way to escape if they looked for it.

Researchers witnessed that when group B participants were again subject to the same discomfort experienced in the first experiment, they just sat there and didn’t even try to escape, even though it would not have been difficult in the new area.

What was going on? 

This group had reached a point where they were conditioned to believe they were powerless to escape the misery, despite the evidence they could see that there was a way to escape (if they looked for it). They had gotten to the place of concluding, “why even try?” because they believed the outcome was fixed.

This research confirms the anecdotal stories of baby circus elephants who are tethered to a stake in the ground and are unable to pull it out (because they are small). Later, when they are fully grown, they don’t even try to pull up the stake (even though an adult elephant could easily do it) because they believe it is futile to try.

Researchers called this conditioning “learned helplessness.”

Learned helplessness can affect you and me in select areas where we have seen repeated failure (e.g. losing weight, getting a promotion, getting married, etc.).

Because we have been conditioned (learned) to believe we are powerless to change the situation, we either don’t even try or quickly give up.

If left unchallenged, this unseen force can ultimately influence multiple areas of life so that a single failure in one area draws the same conclusion (why even try again?) even if the reality is that another try would succeed.

Sooooo many are missing out on much greater success toward their goals and dreams because of this self-induced hopelessness.

What Can You Do?

There is a proven, 3-step process you can use to fight against learned helplessness (and many other self-limiting beliefs):

1. Awareness of the lies – you need to be tuned into the messages you tell yourself.

If your tendency in one or more areas of your life is not even to try (or quickly quit trying), you need to be on the lookout for your faulty conclusions. If you watch for these self-limiting thoughts, you will easily see them.

2. Challenge beliefs with the truth – you need to tell yourself the truth forcefully and persistently: You are not helpless. It is not hopeless. You can do much more than you think you can, especially if you persist.

From my experience, in the early stages, it is hard to convince yourself of the truth when the lie has seemed true for longer than the truth.

That is why you also need the next step (which many fail to use). 

3. Lean on external input – seek input from the outside (those not affected by your distorted perception and see more reality than you can for yourself).

It is important to seek input from those who “believe in you… and have been there”. They can help you feel hope for a different outcome. You can even derive strength from their confidence in/for you.

One other type of external input is particularly helpful: a group working together to overcome a challenge (particularly one guided by someone who has seen success).

For example, weight watchers type groups see great success because (a) you don’t feel alone, but instead are in it together, and (b) because you see others making progress. Combined with their encouragement, you can believe progress is possible.

Learned helplessness can be unlearned with persistence and outside encouragement.

Source: https://www.wiseinsights.net

The Rules of Life

Well that is the first quarter of 2021 gone – yes already you say!! With time, life and everything else speeding by, we – well I do more often than not – sometimes just need to remember what the Rules of Life really are:

1. If you woke up breathing, congratulations! You have another chance! “Every day above ground is a good day!”

2. Learn to pick your battles; ask yourself, “Will this matter one year from now? How about one month? One week? One day?”

3. The five most essential words for a healthy, vital relationship are “I apologize” and “you are right.”

4. Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.

5. You need only two tools: WD-40 and duct tape. If it doesn’t move and it should, use WD-40. If it moves and shouldn’t, use the tape.

6. If he/she says that you are too good for him/her — believe them.

7. When you make a mistake, make amends immediately. It’s easier to eat crow while it’s still warm.

8. Living well really is the best revenge. Being miserable because of a bad or former relationship just might mean that the other person was right about you.

9. Work is good, but it’s not that important. Money is nice, but you can’t take it with you. Statistics show most people don’t live to spend all they saved; some die even before they retire. Anything we have isn’t really ours; it was given to us by God; She just let us borrow it while we’re here…. even our kids.

10. Be assured that most of your problems will disappear by themselves if you don’t get too attached to them.

11. Worry is a misuse of the imagination.

12. The wonderful thing about the game of life is that winning and losing are illusions. They are terms that humans created to help us play the game of life by the rules we also created.

I need to keep reminding myself of rules 1, 2, 11 and 12. Which ones resonate with you?

What is Energy Leadership

As some of you may know, I am one of only 2-3 Australians certified in the Energy Leadership Index – one of the top tools recommended by the Coaches Forum at Forbes Magazine.

Energy Leadership™ is the process that develops a personally effective style of leadership that positively influences and changes not only yourself, but also those with whom you work and interact.

As individuals, we view the world through filters (based on our experiences, values, assumptions, etc.). Those filters will either limit what we see or expand what we see. As a result, they impact how we perceive and what we think about our circumstances. Throughout our whole life, we’ve unconsciously developed filters, which may be holding us back from seeing the full potential of ourselves and what our life and career have to offer.


Leadership is how you interact with everyone, including yourself. Leaders are quite visible within small and large businesses. We tend to think of them as business owners, CEO’s and managers at all levels. Traditionally, leadership also extends into politics and other global affairs. However, parents, therapists and health care providers, solopreneurs, sports coaches, consultants, mentors, partners in relationship, teachers, authors, and others who interact with people on a regular basis are all leaders.

If we don’t think of yourself as a leader, then you are limited in your thinking. Leading is the way we help move people into action, including us. The question is not whether or not we are leaders, but how well we lead.


A relentlessly damaging stream is flowing through the world. This stream is not created by water, but by fear. It is the Stream of Unconsciousness.

Its constructive counterpart, the Stream of Consciousness, is fed by creative and positive thinking that produces questions like “What’s right,” “What’s the opportunity here,” and “How can we make this work?” In contrast, the Stream of Unconsciousness is based on only one question: “What’s wrong?” This stream is the one most of us have been trained to see, listen to, drink from, and bathe in since birth.

During any typical workday, most people spend a great deal of time focusing on what’s wrong — with their family, their jobs, their projects, their colleagues, their relationships, and their lives. At work, it’s not surprising that studies show that more than 50 per cent of the people would choose, if they could, to quit their jobs.

What will it take to shift the pressure and negativity that surrounds not only our careers but our personal lives and the state of our communities?  What will help employees to be productive, content, and have a positive view of both the organizations they work for and the people they work with?


More than a hundred years ago, Albert Einstein addressed the scientific community, passionately presenting the idea that everything we see, hear, taste, touch, and smell is not matter, but energy.  Everything that “matters” is energy.

On an energetic and cellular level, catabolism usually refers to a breakdown of complex molecules, while anabolism is the opposite.  When you hear about a person’s catabolic or anabolic energy, however, it’s a broader statement about destructive and constructive forces in an entire person, who is made up not only of individual cells but also of anabolic and catabolic thoughts and beliefs.

Anabolic and Catabolic energy are predominant in organizations as well as people.  Many organizations experience catabolic energy by constantly reacting to their circumstances with worry, fear, doubt, anger, and guilt.  And thoughts are indeed contagious.  When even a few people in an organization have negative feelings, it can spread like a virus. “Group think” sets in, and their thoughts become group “fact.”

Remember that “group think” begins with “leader think”. At its core, an organization strongly reflects how its leader thinks, feels, and acts.  Anabolic leaders have the ability to motivate and inspire themselves and others to do extraordinary things.

No matter how effective or ineffective you currently are in your role, you can transform yourself and others, as well as your organization, into a thriving, inspired, positive, productive, and successful entity. And, thus begins your journey to become the Ideal Leader.

The Energy Leadership Index (E.L.I.) is a unique assessment that enables participants to get a snapshot of their perceptions, attitudes, behaviours, and overall leadership capabilities. The Energy Leadership Index assessment reveals what specific filters you’ve developed and how those filters are influencing the results you’re achieving.

In a way, it’s a snapshot of you, and how you show up in the world. It shows the effects of stress on your performance and targets areas where you can shift your energy to be more successful.

If you would like to find out more about Energy Leadership get in touch via our Contact page.

God and Lawn Care image

God and Lawn Care

There is nothing like laughing at ourselves to get us in the right frame of mind to tackle the year ahead. So here is a little story with an interesting insight at the end:

You will chuckle as you read this …. Because as stupid as it may sound, this is exactly what we do!

Frank, You know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet? What happened to the dandelions, violets, milkweeds, and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees, and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colours by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles.

It’s the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers’ weeds’ and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

Grass? But it’s so boring. It’s not colourful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It’s sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it, sometimes twice a week.

They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

Yes, Sir.

These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

You aren’t going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It’s a natural cycle of life.

You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

No!? What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?

After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

And where do they get this mulch?

They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

Enough! I don’t want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

‘Dumb and Dumber’, Lord. It’s a story about…

Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis…

So while this story seems funny and crazy, it demonstrates a critical issue that I see all the time in coaching – the blind spots, biases, and limiting beliefs that we bring to our every-day life that just don’t make sense. These biases and beliefs stop us from achieving our goals and the outcomes we seek.

Often we can’t articulate our own biases or blindspots – it takes an outsider to hear them so that they can call them out. Remember that each of us wears our own rose coloured glasses which may not allow us to see the clearer picture.

If there’s anything I can do to help you on your journey, please send an email via the contact form. I will respond within 24 hours.

Essential questions for success in 2021

10 Essential Questions to Guarantee Success in 2021

Why do dumb things happen to smart companies? 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 organisations aren’t finding the insights they need, and this has real business consequences.

You may have your new year strategy already drafted, and now the focus is just on starting the new year afresh. However, doing this without first reviewing the past year could land you in some murky waters – with issues unresolved, staff dissatisfied, and without clearly understanding what may not have gone so well, and what could be done better next time.

So during February, schedule some time for yourself, or if you prefer as a team exercise, and use these questions to explore 2020, gain the insights necessary, and ensure you achieve higher goals in 2021:

  1. What was the most successful initiative of 2020?
  2. What was the most disappointing (honesty wins out over whitewashing)
  3. Do you feel you maximised opportunities? If not, why not?
  4. What could you change now that would have maximum impact on company performance?
  5. How could you make this change happen and continue in 2021?
  6. What will be your “theme” in 2021?
  7. What would be the ideal working environment you would like to have in 2021, and what steps are needed to make it a reality?
  8. What could you do to provide the tools to help you work smarter and better next year (eg mentoring, training, coaching)?
  9. What initiatives could you implement to help your staff work better and as a stronger team?
  10. What are the three actions you can take now to start the year off on the right foot?

These questions are a catalyst for looking at your business. Taking the time to honestly (and without any blame) review both what worked well, and what didn’t work, will strengthen the bonds within your team and ensure that you all start the year positively and motivated to making it a success for everyone.


Coaching in 2021:

If you have considered coaching and would like support in 2021 to achieve your career or personal goals get in touch via our contact form to arrange an initial discovery session.

A discovery session is a 45 minute complimentary session where you can experience the coaching process for 30 minutes and then ask any questions you may have for the remaining 15 minutes.  We will both know by the end of the session if we are a good fit.

Start 2021 on fresh footing – with clarity and purpose.

Simplicity Principle

The Simplicity Principle of Life

Like many of you during this Covid-19 crisis, I read a lot and have come across some great articles and ideas that I would like to share with you over the coming months.

There was one article in particular around simplicity that resonated strongly with me. If you are like me, the pandemic has made me realise how much I want to simplify things both in my business and in my life.

Confucius once said that life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.

How true is that?

Today in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) World, the complexity of business decisions, automation, technology and AI, bears both financial and emotional consequences for us all. Then with the disruption of Covid-19 on top of all of this, we are experiencing significant stress levels.

As humans, our desire for simplicity is not new, especially during times when society undergoes upheaval. So while everyone is talking about robotics, machine learning, AI, we need to be reminded that we – as humans – need meaning and connection. We also need boundaries as much as we need to sleep.

Psychologists and neuroscientists understand that we can not go overloading people with systems and structures that are complex and anti-human. We have information overload, decision fatigue, and the “always-on” culture. So the craving for simplicity is not surprising.

The opposite for CAT – a work-life of complexity, anxiety and time poverty – is KISS.

Most of you would know the KISS principle – Keep it Simple Stupid! Living by KISS means making a commitment to pursuing clarity and a commitment to avoid decision fatigue in which too many choices limits and inhibits people. Steve Jobs always wore a black t-shirt and jeans, Barack Obama wore either a blue suit or a grey suit, and Apple remains a great example of a company committed to simple and functional design.

People who live by the KISS principle think and behave in a more agile way as they don’t feel so burdened.

So what are the elements of the simplicity principle?

Here are five areas that leaders following the simplicity principle observe – you may come up with more:

  1. They have boundaries. They know their limits, and they observe them. Did you know that it has been estimated that it takes literally 23 minutes and 15 seconds for the human brain to refocus after being online and task switching? A boundary may involve being clear about when you will be on digital devices – and when you will be focused in conversation.
  2. They know how to reset and rest. By trusting simplicity, you take time out to value nature and appreciate how calming it can be. As we all know, being always ‘on’ is bound to lead to failure.
  3. KISS leaders treat their schedules like their bodies. They control what goes in their schedule like they would control what they eat. They know when to stop and may choose to create daily time blocks to address important tasks.
  4. They balance technological speed and scale against reality. They address the human dimension and its impact on every worker and customer in an organisation. They place the human at the centre of work execution.
  5. They understand that there is collective talent, insight and wisdom among their network. People want to serve and share in a myriad of ways.

Turning the complex into the simple will always be a constant challenge. It is something we all need to consciously work on to improve the way we think and act. Steve Jobs said “Simple can be harder than complex; You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it is worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains”.

Accentuate Positive

Accentuate the Positive

This month for something different I thought I would share some short messages and videos which I’ve recently found – many of which have been quite useful!

Accentuate the Positive
I was watching some old movies and recalled a song called “Accentuate the Positive”. After a little research I learned the words were written by Johnny Mercer in 1944 – at a time when the “War to End All Wars” was still raging. The world longed for peace and hope and a way to look up. The songs wonderful lyrics are actually useful as a powerful success formula:

“Accentuate the positive,
Eliminate the negative,
Latch on to the affirmative,
Don’t mess with Mr In between!”

What we accentuate and dwell on, focus on and look for in each day makes all the difference. It’s just like looking at a glass and seeing it half full or half empty.

Words have power. I challenge you to eliminate the negative words as you recognise them. For me, I say the word “Cancel!” when I hear one come out of my mouth and immediately select a positive word to replace it. Try it for just a day. You’ll feel the results! Then make it part of your life routine.

Latch on to the affirmative. Remind yourself what you’ve achieved. Write out positive affirmations that assume the best and keep them in your pocket. Review them often. It’s truly powerful!

And when you’re not sure, just leave those neutral, puzzling areas alone. The questions you can’t answer should not vex you or stop your progress. Just don’t mess with them.

Finally, find a bouncy song that can become YOUR theme song and hum it to yourself now and again. It works for many.

And to add to the affirmative here are two videos that might also help:

Cultivating unconditional self-worth
When a person demands perfection of herself or himself, anything less can feel like failure. Adia Gooden knows this from experience. In addition to her work as a staff psychologist at the University of Chicago, she’s learned in her own life how to break negative thought patterns and live more freely. She shares those lessons in her talk.

What I learned from 100 days of rejection
Jia Jiang adventures boldly into a territory so many of us fear: rejection. By seeking out rejection for 100 days — from asking a stranger to borrow $100 to requesting a “burger refill” at a restaurant — Jiang desensitized himself to the pain and shame that rejection often brings and, in the process, discovered that simply asking for what you want can open up possibilities where you expect to find dead ends.

What about the choices you make?*
You always have a reason–and usually, a pretty good one– for doing what you are doing and choosing what you are choosing. Be careful not to convince yourself that you are doing something against your will. Such a thing is impossible.

Therefore, be honest with yourself as to why you are choosing to do a particular thing. Then, do it gladly, knowing that you are always getting to do what you want. The statement “I have no choice” is a lie. You can choose. You simply do not prefer the alternatives available to you, for whatever reason. So you select the outcome that you most prefer. Isn’t that power?

If you would like some help working through your choices, do get in touch.

*Source:  Neale Donald Walsch – http://www.nealedonaldwalsch.com


Competitor Information

How to learn more about your competitors

These days it is critical that executives understand the constantly changing competitive environment. The pandemic has changed supply chains, production processes, customer interactions, technology use, staff interactions, and so much more. So with all these changes going on around us, how can we each still make sound decisions?

90% of everything we need to know about our competitors is available online

Right now more than 90% of what we will ever need, in data or information to help with those decisions, is already in the public domain – that means it’s all available online. Maybe not in the form that will directly answer our specific questions about, for example, our competitors but the pieces of any jigsaw are always there.

Let’s take one example. What if a large Asian/European/US firm decided to enter the Australian market. We would estimate that they were planning on entering the market well before any actual launch, undertaking research to review existing players, identify market growth opportunities, government legislation, consumer requirements and so on.

Yet, as a player, how could we have detected their intentions before they actually entered the marketplace? And, what can we find out about their intentions?

Firstly, market expansions rarely occur without changes in personnel, particularly senior personnel. In the above example, this could also mean increased management, skilled and unskilled labour, equipment and floor space. Wouldn’t all of these considerations be part of our own business and marketing strategies if we were to consider the growth of this kind?

So why would a competitor be any different?

The pieces of the jigsaw are all there – each carrying a little message.

Now, as we know well, not all information is of equal value, worth or credibility. Information may arrive distorted, almost always incomplete and usually with bias either from its source or from the user….even if it has been published. Remember just because it is on your computer screen and in Google, does not mean it is true! Information needs to be verified.

There are four main sources of information, each able to validate the other in some way. These are:

  1. Human Sources: Oral information by way of business networks, seminars, friends and experts. At MindShifts®, our company’s greatest asset is our staff. After all, they attend industry webinars, research online, look at social media, just to name a few sources. To tap into this wealth of information we need to find out who knows what and develop a method for gathering and processing the information. We may also need to attend specific additional industry webinars or listen to expert podcasts, online product and service demonstrations, or connect with the local council and industry associations and join social networks.
  2. Economic & Financial Sources: This includes annual reports, trade publications, general media. What has been written about a company locally or in other countries? What publicity have they received in their industry press? What about the individual partners, board members, connections?
  3. Corporate Sources: This includes customers, suppliers, innovation hubs, Facebook pages, web sites, advertising etc. In this area, staff should be listening and gathering information about the competitive environment as part of their everyday activities. Simpler still put yourself on to some e-newsletter lists or join some Facebook and/or LinkedIn groups. Now, with a new perspective, we will have competitive information delivered to our desk.
  4. Technical Sources: This includes technical reports and journals, product manuals, IP/patents, even cases.

Don’t hesitate to use all four sources to build your competitive puzzle.

A question I often get asked is ‘How do I identify disruptors?One great way is to get on the newsletter listings from organisations such as Kickstarter, Springwise, Indiegogo, TrendHunters, and the Aussie Idea Spies- just to name a few. These all identify start-ups and the products and services seeking funding or being launched. These days nothing is really that far from you.

The important thing to remember is that understanding competitors – whether disrupters, medium or large players – can give a business advantage and provide us with the right information at the right time to perceive and avoid threats, and utilise opportunities for a profitable business in today’s constantly changing environment.

Learning about, and understanding, the business environment in which you compete is really your only competitive advantage.

Want to know more? Get in touch.

Energy to Succeed

Do you have the energy to succeed?

So let me start with a simple question – Do you have the energy to succeed?

You can’t hide lack of energy and motivation since it’s evident from how you carry yourself. Sit down somewhere and watch people walking by and you will quickly notice who has what it takes and who hasn’t.

So what do I mean by energy?

Think of energy as two streams of life – one based on negativity and fear thinking, that is “What’s wrong” and the other fed by creative and positive thinking that produces questions like “What’s right,” “What’s the opportunity here,” and “How can we make this work?”

During any typical workday, most people spend a great deal of time focusing on what’s wrong — with their family, their jobs, their projects, their colleagues, their relationships, and their lives.

What we accentuate and dwell on, focus on, and look for in each day makes all the difference.  It’s just like looking at a glass and seeing it half full or half empty.

Which stream do you think you currently swim in? 

What do you think it will take to shift the pressure and negativity that surrounds your life?  What will help you, your colleagues and co-workers to be productive, content, and have a positive view of both the businesses we all work for and the people we work with?

It will require a shift in thinking – as essentially what you think creates your reality.

Let me explain – our thinking is a result on our beliefs, the assumptions we have about the world and life, the interpretations we make about other people’s behaviours and the limitations we perceive in ourselves.  These four factors are the foundations of our thinking and as a result produce the energy we exhibit.

Here are seven suggestions to boost your energy and shift your thinking:

  1. Develop self-awareness

Learn about your default tendencies, that is the way you react generally to circumstances.  Understand how you personally filter information and your perceptions. Ask yourself – what are your thoughts and beliefs in a particular situation you face? How often do you focus on the negative or find yourself in a reactive mode?  How often do you focus on what’s right and are excited about the possibilities?

  1. Be aware of others

Observe your colleagues, co-workers, friends, etc and see how they engage and contribute.  Are they seeing the glass half empty or half full? It is all about “what’s wrong?” or “how can we make this happen?”  Where is their thinking coming from?

  1. Intentionally choose how you are going to show up

Decide how you want to lead and how your energy, values, etc are going to show up in conversations, relationships and decision-making.  Don’t ever forget you have the power to choose.

  1. Ask and listen

Become more aware, through probing and listening, so that you can address matters in a more positive manner. Go back to the video in our Monday Motivation of August 3 to learn more about listening.

  1. Be a coach

Coaching is all about drawing answers from deep within the “coachee”.  It is a positive, collaborative, thought-provoking process.

  1. Find a coach for yourself

Sometimes it is difficult to understand our own deeper feelings and values without someone helping us out.  We may only see our reflection rather than the amazing person in the mirror.

  1. Bring out greatness in yourself and others.

Recognise people for what they are capable of.  Acknowledge and point out their greatness.

Words have power.  I challenge you to eliminate the negative words as you recognise them.  For me I say the word “Cancel!” when I hear one come out of my mouth and immediately select a positive word to replace it.  Try it for just a day.  You’ll feel the results!  Then make it part of your life routine.

Latch on to the affirmative.  Remind yourself what you’ve achieved.  Write a gratitude journal or write out positive affirmations that assume the best and keep them in your pocket.  Review them often.  Both are truly powerful exercises.

How are you going to show up? Do you have the energy to succeed?

If you’d like to get in touch send an email via the Contact Page.

Business Anchors

Budget Anchors – Exalted Numbers

In business, some numbers take on special status.  The cost of capital.  The rate of inflation. The market average.  Last year’s results.  The industry benchmark.  Six sigma. These and other numbers are so exalted, we rarely question, let alone notice, their unintended consequences as mental anchors.

One number stands out in every organisation. 

 It is a number we fear and venerate.  It is a number that is fluid and then becomes a stone.  It is a number that defines the limits of what’s possible.  The number is, of course, the budget.  

Our colleagues at Advanced Competitive Strategies in the USA conducted a business war game for a major company.  They divided the company’s managers into teams to role-play their own business and their competitors. They were told that they had to allocate their marketing budget among various messages that they could deliver through multiple media. Their market share and gross margin numbers would result from how much they spent and how well they spent it, compared to how much their competitors spent and how well they spent it.

Advised what their budgets were, they were free to spend more or less than those budgets. There were no limits to how far their spending could diverge from their budgets.

Every team, in every year of the business war game, spent within a few percentage points of their budgets.

In most companies, the budget is rather like Goldilocks’ porridge scenarios.  Spend less than your budget, and your bowl shrinks next year.  Spend more than your budget, and you get burned.  Spend very close to your budget, and you are just right.

Unfortunately, the meet-your-budget imperative collides with the competitive challenge. If you are constrained by your budget when an unexpected threat or opportunity pops up, then you are restricted in your options to respond to the threat or exploit the opportunity.  

If your competitors work the same way (and they probably do), you might not suffer too much.  However, when new competitors (or newly aggressive existing competitors) charge in, your (real or unconscious) constraints can produce a debilitating competitive disadvantage.  

This competitive disadvantage can trigger a downward spiral that’s hard to wrest from a heavy budget anchor.  A competitor takes a share, so sales go down; as sales go down, budgets go down; as budgets go down, the ability to respond to the competitor goes down; as responses weaken, the competitor takes more share; and so on.  A strategist in a large company described this conundrum: We have enough money to buy bullets, but not enough to buy a scope for a rifle that will let us aim accurately.

The downward spiral isn’t the only way budget anchors can taint strategic thinking.  

In another business war game, a budget anchor led managers to assume their strategy would work.  They knew they could cut their costs, which would give them pricing flexibility; they figured that because their competitors couldn’t cut their costs, their budgets would force them to either cut spending or maintain a higher price.  They were wrong.  When their own managers put themselves into their competitors’ shoes – one of the main benefits of business war gaming – they figured that their competitors couldn’t afford not to match a price cut.  Of course, they couldn’t guarantee that their competitors would behave that way.  Nonetheless, the insight led them to a major change in their thinking, which led to a major shift in strategy and a major improvement in performance.

Why do upstarts beat incumbents?  

Remember articles in our previous issues of MindShifts® Matters?  Upstarts supposedly “think outside the box” or “break the rules.” What are the boxes, what are the rules, that bind the incumbents?  The budget anchor is one.  An upstart thinks investment; an incumbent thinks budgets.  The different word reflects the different boxes and rules.

What to do:

One of my wise colleagues refuses to talk about “budgets.” He talks about “spending plans.” It helps us think more expansively and more creatively.

Watch the thinking that goes on in your company’s strategy sessions.  Are there unstated assumptions about the inviolability of the budget?  Is there an important opportunity, or threat, that people are trying to fit inside the budget, rather than thinking about spending what’s necessary to deal with the challenge?

What you can do if you believe that the budget does not reflect the needs of an opportunity or threat is to show how a different level of spending would be of benefit.

Finally, note that anchors and other assumptions partly influence budgets themselves.  We should spend X% of sales, this year’s budget is last year’s plus an adjustment of Y%, we’ve got to keep spending to $Z to boost the stock price.  Other strategy-related issues have anchors of their own: a new-product launch costs $A, it takes B years to become profitable, the pricing sweet spot is $C.

A ship moves only after it raises its anchor.

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

Source:  This article is adapted from Mark Chussil’s blog post, ‘Exalted Numbers: How Good Numbers Produce Bad Decisions’ 



People talk about fate, destiny, or past mistakes as if there was and is a set pathway we are each walking. The thinking is that if in the past you didn’t take a particular action or you made those mistakes, it inescapably changed everything in your life.

This thinking condemns you to a future that can’t be changed.  That forevermore you will be burdened by the chains of your past choices.  

And that is all wrong!  

It’s true we all make mistakes. Sometimes because we’re unaware or ignorant; sometimes because we’re so fearful of the consequences of the present (or the past) that we run in a direction far more damaging.

The truth is you don’t have to live with your past actions, decisions or choices, because in truth you only have the present.  You can’t change the past and you can’t control the future. Right now is a new moment that’s completely yours to action as you see best.  

Learning from experiences is a critical goal, but to say you’re chained to what happened yesterday only inhibits you from enjoying the experiences of THIS day. Don’t let anyone or anything from your past stop you from achieving your dreams.  

Today IS a new day.  Take action now toward your goals. Do not let your past slow down your progress.  

The only way forward in life is by taking responsibility for our own life and identifying ways to improve your lot today.  Here are some “truths” that might help you on your journey:

  1. Life is never perfect! There is no such thing as “the right time” – the time to face your lot is now.  Yes, it is scary. But its life.  Sit down, review all your choices and opportunities and take action!  If you worry about taking action, have a look at the next truth…
  2. You might fail – and continue to fail. The reality is whenever you try something new or set a goal, there is the possibility of failure. However, it is by failure that most of us learn. Only through failure can we have continuous improvement. So ask yourself what can you do better next time?
  3. The past is done.  It is over!  You can have regrets, you can wish things went differently but it is the here and now that counts.  So shift your attention to the present and move forward to a better future.
  4. Tomorrow is not guaranteed – this is a powerful truth. There may not be a tomorrow.
  5. No-one is going to “fix” you – you need to take personal responsibility for your own life. Once you do that – you will realize how much power you really have!
  6. Being busy does not guarantee you are doing something useful. The tip here is to focus on one thing at a time before moving on to another task.
  7. You have more time than you think you do.  Have a look at how you actually spend your time – record it on a piece of paper.  On another piece of paper write down your priorities.  Do the two lists match up?  How you spend your time is a choice so spend it wisely.

And if you need help moving away from the past or addressing some of the truths above, contact me – That’s what I’m here for.


The underlying principles of strategy are enduring, regardless of technology or the pace of change._ Michael Porter (2)

The Power of Choice

We all have choices in our lives – day-to-day choices, life choices, choices about our friends (we can’t choose our families – although we can choose how to behave/react with them!), choices about how we show up at work, our attitudes, our thoughts even our beliefs.  And the more coaching I do, the more I see how much we limit our choices to staying in the ‘safe’ zone.  We often become blind to a myriad of options available to us and that can be followed through.

Is this the time that you will choose to take steps to create the life you want?

If you’re looking for a new direction or making those goals that seem so elusive, become reality do this quick checklist. Yes, it’s simple, but take your time – maybe over your next cup of coffee. 

A quick checklist to start afresh – list five key items for each question:

  • What am I proud of accomplishing over the past year?
  • What didn’t I do that is still outstanding?
  • What am I most pleased with?
  • What am I most disappointed with? (don’t dwell on this – just note it down, it’s essential to face our ‘failures’ and deal with them)
  • What would I truly like to achieve going forward in my:
    • work-life
    • personal-life
    • health & physical goals

These aspects of your life are intertwined and will each impact on the other. To help you look at all of these aspects of your life, download our Wheel of Life.

  • How will I make these become a reality and am I ready to do this?

If you don’t start now, then when will you create the life you want?

Moving forward, make sure you are clear on your goals or the outcomes you want to achieve.  Break them down into smaller goals or steps if you feel they are too big or if you want a champion on your side as you work through them, talk them through with a coach.

Taking the first step is the hardest, but it is your choice whether you take that first step and the next one.

If you identify with the above, then I invite you to chat with me over a coffee, by phone, or Skype/ Zoom, and let’s see if you are ready to make your goals become a reality!  

As a dear friend once told me when I started my business over 25 years ago – It is your attitude, not your aptitude that will determine your altitude.  

Let me know how I can support you – you can contact me here.  

7 deadly sins of business-8


With all that has gone on around us these past months, from fires, floods to the impact of the virus, I noticed that many of us, sometimes, no longer feel in control.  That is not unreasonable when businesses are shutting down, everyone has to change and work from home, the share market is going down, stocks are low, and there is talk of a recession.

So, I was looking for inspiration to write this newsletter and reviewed some of my favourite articles over the years.   This one really jumped out.

Written by Tony Schwartz (http://theenergyproject.com/about/tony-schwartz)  back in January 2013 in the HBR blog (https://hbr.org/2013/01/take-back-your-life-in-ten-ste.html), I thought his ten steps were powerful yet simple.  You don’t have to do them all but gosh, they are a great place to start.

Here is his blog posting with the ten steps.

You’re smart, hard-working and good at what you do, but the truth is you also too often feel your life is just a relentless set of demands you have to meet, and too rarely a source of satisfaction. You long to feel more in control of your days, but the reality is you’re frequently racing just to keep up.

It doesn’t have to be this way, and the solution has to do with deeply embedding a series of simple practices into your life.

I have ten in mind, but it’s not realistic to add them all at once, assuming there are a number you don’t currently do. Instead, I hope to lead you on a journey in which you add them one at a time, sequentially, over the coming months. You don’t have to do all of them for your life to work really well, and even small changes will often deliver disproportionately large results. At the same time, it’s likely that the more of these you eventually add, the better and more in charge of your life you’ll feel.

The suggestions are in order from the most basic and fundamental, to the highest level.

  1. Get sufficient sleep every night. Sleep is often the single most undervalued behavior in our lives and the one with the most immediate power to improve our experience in every waking moment.
  2. Move more. It’s not only good for your heart’s health, but also for your mental health. Do some form of exercise that significantly raises your heart rate for 30 minutes at least four times a week and move frequently during the day.
  3. Eat less, more often. Food is fuel. Lean proteins and complex carbohydrates are high-octane fuel. You’re best off when you keep feeding your internal furnace in small doses throughout the day, beginning with breakfast.
  4. Renew more. Human beings aren’t designed to work continuously. We’re meant instead to move between spending and renewing energy. Ideally, take a break every 90 minutes, even if only to spend a minute or two breathing deeply.
  5. Invest in those you love. The greatest gift you can give is your absorbed attention. Better to be fully present with someone for an hour than physically present, but distracted, for multiple hours.
  6. Give thanks. We’re far quicker to notice what’s wrong in our lives than we are what’s right. At least once a week, handwrite and mail a note of appreciation to someone who deserves it, telling the person precisely what you’re grateful for.
  7. Do the most important thing first. Early in the morning, you’re likely to have the most energy and the fewest distractions. Start your workday by focusing without interruption, for 60 to 90 minutes, on the most important and/or challenging task you can accomplish that day.
  8. Practice reflection. We’re so preoccupied with the urgent that we rarely take time to think about what it is we’re doing. Set aside 15 to 30 minutes at the end of each work day (or in the evening) to reflect quietly and without interruption on what you learned that day, and what your highest priorities are for the following day.
  9. Keep learning. Our brains work better if we challenge them, and life becomes more interesting when we do. Reading books is a simple and surefire way to learn and grow, but so is building a daily practice around learning a new language, a sport, a musical instrument, or around how to write code, fix a car, or draw.
  10. Give back. Take at least one hour a week to put your own needs aside and devote that time instead to adding value to the world at large. One hour a week is very little time, but it’s a start — and it’s also more than most of us regularly give.


I am still working at doing more of each however I can say I am doing 6, 7 and 9 pretty well.  I just need to attend to 2, 3 and 4 a little better.  What about you?


If you’d like support to get your life back in control – get in touch today.

Technology is no substitute for strategy

Technology is not a substitute for strategy

Do I keep a 30,000 feet overview of what’s happening in my competitive space?

You bet.

Do I follow those competitors carefully, analyse traffic on their websites, compare their products, prices, keywords, AdWords, page load time, linking roots domain, changing text, quality of photos, mobile optimization, or zillion other minutiae to mine, and obsess over social network chats about them and us?

Not for one minute.

The pundits’ advice is often wrong.

Go on LinkedIn, and a horde of consultants advise entrepreneurs to keep a close eye on competitors by watching social media like a hawk, tracking competitors’ online moves, analysing site traffic patterns, and many other magical tricks.

This is simply bad advice.

If you want to stay in business, you can’t obsess about competitors.

Not knowing what to look for, what is crucial, and what to ignore is a waste of time and resources. Web intelligence and web analytics are not competitive intelligence. Not by a mile. It’s a toy that makes it easy to “spy” on competitors, right from your desk, compiling tons of useless data.

If you are serious about your company’s long-term success, you don’t want to bring a toy gun to a real gunfight.

The real competitive questions worth asking:

Real competitive intelligence answers the following tough questions:

  • What do I offer that’s unique and who can truly benefit?
  • What are the activities that are crucial to this uniqueness? Which are the most reliable links in delivering the offering? Who or what poses the real competitive threat to your business?
  • How do I stop competitors from imitating quickly?
  • What are the strategic risks and opportunities opening up for us as the market changes?

The problem with relying heavily on web analytics and other online intelligence tools is that they replace strategic thinking with hyped-up statistics or meaningless noise. A focus on web or online analytics only is a sure way to lose sight of the competition.

Internet trolling and social media obsession haven’t delivered one iota of better performance to anyone but the vendors supplying the tools.

For professionals like us who’ve been analysing the competition for decades, the hype surrounding web intelligence tools borders on the hilarious; its serious consequences, however, can lead to your company’s early demise.

Best advice #1: Never follow competitors

Competitive intelligence is about competing, not chasing the tail of your competition, whether direct or indirect. Sometimes, the best way to compete is actually to ignore competitors. That’s why Harvard Business School never succumbed to the wave of MOOCs free courses and cheap online education.

Best advice # 2: A channel is just a channel. 

Never forget that your company website is just a channel. What will make you win will depend on what your offer is – and who needs it. If you don’t fill a real need you will disappear, together with your fast-loading, button-happy, feature-rich mobile site with all the right SEO-grabbing keywords in place, state of the art technology just like everyone else.

Digital marketing is not a strategic insight. Continuous alertness to possible market evolution is where strategic minds win.

Technology is not a substitute for strategy.

There are dozens of companies today offering free or low-cost subscription web intelligence services (e.g., Alexa, Compete, HitWise, Google Trends, SimilarWeb, and Tregia are just a small sample). Are any of them a clear winner over the others? The same companies that allow you to “spy” on your competitors’ traffic and analyse their data to death can’t even win their own competitive race.

Best advice #3: Technology is no substitute for thinking.

This is the third lesson I teach my high tech start-up audience. If you are ready for hard work, it is worth it.

The realm of competitive intelligence is the realm of “standing out.” Don’t obsess over competitors’ minutia. Instead, obsess over your strategy and its underlying competitive perspective. It is a magnitude harder than collecting web noise, but it will pay off if you get into the habit of answering strategic questions with real competitive intelligence.

Leave web analytics for the kids who get excited with toy guns. Don’t be young, foolish and self-employed.

This article has been edited and condensed and sourced from my favourite CI guru, Ben Gilad, back in 2016.  Sadly not much has changed, so I thought it was worth revisiting. What do you think?  Do you do think differently four years on?

Benjamin Gilad is the co-founder and president of the FGH-Academy of Competitive Intelligence, the leading institution that pioneered the training and certification of competitive intelligence professionals (CIP™) world-wide. He is a former strategy professor at Rutgers University’s School of Management and author of three books on competitive intelligence’s role in companies’ success.


If you need help developing real competitive intelligence that will inform your business strategy – get in touch.

Image of Leaders

What type of leader are you?

Developing an Effective Style of Leadership

Energy Leadership™ is the process that develops a personally effective style of leadership that positively influences and changes not only yourself but also those with whom you work and interact, as well as your organization as a whole.

As individuals, we view the world through filters (based on a range of influences, including our experiences, values, and assumptions). Those filters will either limit what we see or expand what we see. 

As a result, they impact how we perceive and what we think about our circumstances. Throughout our whole life, we’ve unconsciously developed filters, which may be holding us back from seeing the full potential of ourselves and what our life and career have to offer.

Leadership: Everyone is a leader either by choice or default.

Leadership is how you interact with everyone, including yourself. Leaders are quite visible within small and large businesses. We tend to think of them as business owners, CEOs, and managers at all levels. Traditionally, leadership also extends into politics and other global affairs. However, parents, therapists, and health care providers, solopreneurs, sports coaches, consultants, mentors, partners in a relationship, teachers, authors, and others who interact with people regularly are all leaders.

If you don’t think of yourself as a leader, then you are limited in your thinking. Leading is the way we help move people into action, including us. 

The question is not whether or not we are leaders, but how well we lead.

Energy Leadership 

Bruce Schneider, from the Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching, wrote an excellent book called Energy Leadership. He borrowed two terms from nature to describe energy as it relates to leadership.  

He used the term “catabolic energy” to represent destructive, draining energy and “anabolic energy” to describe constructive forces within an individual, which leads to success.

Anabolic Vs Catabolic Leadership

Here are two lists that describe the differences between successful leaders and those who are stressed and who stress those around them.

Anabolic Leader Catabolic Leader
Leads by encouraging others to take their own next steps Manages by controls that push and pull
Shares projects and becomes one of the team Delegates everything so they can blame others later
Shares detailed information and works to get feedback and buy-in from others Gives information without justification or buy-in
Listens, weights and uses the feedback of others when possible Disregards other’s ideas and makes their own decisions
Plans and develops for the future Works for today and in crisis mode most times
Understands and uses emotional intelligence Analyses everything in left-brain mode
Identifies the opportunities in everything Focuses time and energy on problems and challenges
Sees the heart of the human resources Is self-focused and uses staff to get ahead for selfish reasons


When you look at the descriptors in each of the columns, you can easily choose which type of energy is best for you to use when it comes to dealing with others. And that’s just the point – you choose.

The kind of leader you chose to be, in any context, from being the leader at home to being the leader of a multi-million dollar organisation, is a moment-by-moment choice.

And the power of choice is fuelled by discernment, decisiveness, and dedication to what’s right.

As you start your day today, read both columns and make your choice!

If you would like to find out more about Energy Leadership – and our range of coaching programs, get in touch for a complimentary 30-minute consultation.



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!

Understand Competitors

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!

Increase your emotional intelligence

How to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence

What is 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 shown that EI is a strong predictor of success in the workplace, more so than IQ, skill sets, personality, and experience.

Why is Emotional Intelligence so important?

Enhancing and developing a greater awareness and application of EI will have a significant impact on 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.

What can you do to increase your Emotional Intelligence?

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 that I undertook. They are so simple, yet so powerful!

  • Begin to take notice of how your thoughts affect your emotions, and as a result, 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 somewhere,” your emotion would most likely be very different. As you become more self-aware, you’ll be able to identify your emotional triggers.
  • Journal about areas to improve 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 for 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 how you’d like to respond. Taking a little break will help you better manage your response and avoid a “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  Learn more about Energy Leadership here.

If you’d like to increase your Emotional Intelligence and improve your outcomes both at work and at home,  Get in touch!

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.


  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 colleagues. Of course, some of you may have seen this before – I have too. However as a reminder, I thought I would share it with everyone in light of the “news” we get bombarded with every day and the “entitlements” (aka the 5 stepbrothers) that pervade our lives.

An Obituary

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years.

No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:

– Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
– Why the early bird gets the worm;
– Life isn’t always fair;
– And maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or give an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn’t defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot.  She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death,
-by his parents, Truth and Trust,
-by his wife, Discretion,
-by his daughter, Responsibility,
-and by his son, Reason.

He is survived by his 5 stepbrothers; 
– I Know My Rights
– I Want It Now
– Someone Else Is To Blame
– I’m A Victim
– Pay me for Doing Nothing

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.

Source:  Unknown.

If you would like to find out how can assist you to make better decisions in your business or life, get in touch via our Contact Us page. 


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?

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!

2019 Business Plan

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.