The business world still needs superheroes

Pants On The Outside

Unleashing Superheroes

Pants on the Outside is alive and well, after all the business world still needs superheroes.

But rather than standing alone, it’s part of the work we do over at The Clear Thinking Partnership now so if we can encourage you to check us out over there, you won’t miss anything.

www.clearthinkinguk.com

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Procrastinators of the world unite….. Tomorrow?

This month The Magnificent Chameleon has been exploring the world of The Procrastinator and has some advice to share about how to vanquish this cunning and all too common workplace villain.

What does The Procrastinator do?

The Procrastinator has the influence and ability to slow things right down to a standstill by taking attention away from what’s important and onto what’s easy or more interesting. The Procrastinator loves to see people wasting time and energy and has the ability to make the trivial so compelling that it moves to the top of the agenda, causing important deadlines to be pushed out and snarling up progress.

How can you tell if The Procrastinator is active in your organisation?

When you know what you’re looking for, then it’s easy to spot if The Procrastinator is at large in your organisation.

Important pieces of work fail to materialise when promised and commitments are not kept. Insignificant tasks move up the agenda and time is spent working on things that will not have a significant business benefit.

Distractions seem to be everywhere and focus and attention quickly slips away from what’s really important to move things forward.

People just don’t know where to start so they choose to ignore what’s pressing and turn their attention to the things that they are comfortable with (even if they don’t really need doing).

Desks get tidied in the name of progress whilst stopping the real work from being done.

Here’s what you’ll see and hear:

 Deadlines are pushed as tasks are not completed

“I’m really sorry but can I extend the deadline as I’ve not finished it yet”

Focus falls on mundane tasks at the expense of business critical activities

“I really need to tidy out my filing cabinet and then I’ll be ready to start on the website redesign”

 The time is never right to start as something else always gets in the way

 “I will do it, but just not quite yet”

People don’t know where to start, so they don’t

“I’ll do it when inspiration strikes me”

Once you’ve identified that The Procrastinator is at large, how do you stop their cunning and villainous ways?

Here are 7 tactics you could try……

1. Make sure that you and your team are crystal clear about priorities and have a robust plan that stimulates action and propels you all forwards. Getting this wrong can be a huge banana skin for teams, and it’s so easy to lose focus on what matters most every day.

2. Combat seemingly impossible and completely overwhelming tasks by ‘eating the elephant’ by breaking them down into much smaller, far more manageable chunks. Once you’ve done this you can spot the single most critical action that has to happen that day, and do it.

3. Overcome the inactivity that The Procrastinator thrives on by jumping into short bursts of action. Challenge yourself to do 10 minutes on something that The Procrastinator seems to have their grip on. Build up your motivation by starting small and getting things moving. You’ll be amazed at how much positive energy you can create by doing this.

4. The Procrastinator thrives when people are feeling stuck and lacking in ideas. By collaborating with other people, you can tap into their skills and talents, bounce off their ideas and energy and break The Procrastinators hold. Good collaboration leads to meaningful activity.

5. Use honesty to vanquish The Procrastinator. Being deadly honest with yourself (and your team) about what are you avoiding will help to break the deadlock that has started to build up around a certain task or project.

6.  Enlist other people’s help and ask a colleague to hold you accountable for a task or project when you suspect that The Procrastinator may be lurking, ready to lure you into bad habits

7.  When planning your activity for the day or week, evaluate each task based on its urgency and importance and do the important work. Give the unimportant tasks less attention so they don’t become your biggest distractions.

What do you do to keep The Procrastinator at bay?

We’d love you to share your experiences and join in the conversation by hopping over to our Pants People Group on Linked In. Next month we’re changing our focus and starting to look at the Superheroes who already exist in organisations. Our gaze first falls on a workplace Superhero, The Motivator.

As well as working with organisations to help them banish the workplace villains that lurk in the corridors, we also love to help highlight and build on the Superhero skills and abilities that already exist. Where are the Superheroes in your organisation?  We’d love to hear about them.

Has The Confidence Crusher Left You Feeling Flat?

This month The Magnificent Chameleon has been exploring the world of The Confidence Crusher and has some advice to share about how to vanquish this sneaky and all too common workplace villain.

What does The Confidence Crusher do?

The Confidence Crusher sneaks around, often under the radar as they work their way deep into people’s inner thoughts, causing them to doubt their own abilities. Once established in an organisations culture, confidence is undermined…in fact, it’s crushed, creativity is stifled, people stop speaking up and challenging each other and opportunities are missed as the appetite for risk taking evaporates. People’s energy and passion to try new things is replaced by feelings of anxiety and lowered expectations. Mediocrity rules and the organisation loses an incalculable amount of creativity, inspiration and drive.

How can you tell if The Confidence Crusher is active in your organisation?

One of the clear signs that The Confidence Crusher is at work in your organisation is when people stop trying new things ‘just in case’ they fail. Individuals start to doubt their own ability and as a result, they play safe and stop putting themselves in the way of great success, as they become fearful of dismal failure. Group consensus is easily achieved as people don’t speak up to share new ideas as this might result in ridicule, and decisions are weakened by a lack of input. There are covert attempts by some working in league with The Confidence Crusher to suffocate any ideas that carry a degree of risk, change or discomfort within their area of responsibility. The status quo is maintained and progress is limited. The focus swings from what has gone right to what has gone wrong. Stagnation becomes a real danger.

Here’s what you’ll see and hear:

It seems that nothing is ever good enough

“If you can’t do it properly then I suppose I’ll have to do it myself!”

Ideas are shot down in flames before they’ve been really listened to or debated.

“You don’t really understand what’s going on around here do you”

People’s contributions are ridiculed publicly.

“Is that the best you can come up with? That’s a rubbish idea!”

The past is used as evidence of why things won’t work now.

“We tried it before and it didn’t work then so why should it work now”

And then there’s the ‘inner critic’ to contend with too!

The Confidence Crusher doesn’t even have to be with you to affect you. If you allow them in, they can often ensnare you by turning your own thoughts against you and fuelling your ‘inner critic’ to get to work on sabotaging your confidence. You’ll hear similar comments to the ones above, but they might well be said in a far nastier tone when they are inside your head and they can be relentless.

The ‘inner critic’ bombards you with questions like ‘are you sure that you can do it?’ and ‘what happens when it all goes wrong’. It tells you that “You’re always making silly mistakes,” “You’re not good enough,” “Sooner or later someone is going to find you out!” It also is adept at glossing over anything that’s good, and uses past evidence and examples to undermine your confidence and remind you what went wrong in the past, and just how massively you failed.

Once you’ve identified The Confidence Crusher is at large, how do you stop their destructive and villainous ways?

Here are 7 tactics you could try……

1. Action is the enemy of The Confidence Crusher. Rather that wonder how things might work and worry about the possible negative outcomes, create a clear objective and a robust plan and get going. Pause regularly to review your process with others, examine the evidence, face up to challenges head on and celebrate successes.

2. Nurture a business culture that encourages people to listen and ask questions first, rather than dismiss new thoughts, ideas or possibilities before they have had time to flourish. Seek to understand before coming to any kind of judgement.

3. Positively build confidence. Offer regular balanced feedback to build resilience and counteract the influence of The Confidence Crusher. Encourage individuals to venture into their stretch zone, and let them try new things without there being negative consequences for their bravery.

4. Foster a supportive environment where making mistakes is recognised as an essential part of discovery and development and where active experimentation is encouraged. So that things don’t go completely of the rails, establish boundaries at the start; think of it as a controlled explosion!

5. Share good news stories that help people in the organisation to clearly see how the risks associated with trying new things, with innovation and with change are often outweighed by the results that are gained.

6. Find time to recognise individual and team successes and actively celebrate them. Use this to reinforce the benefits and positive outcomes that can be achieved by trying new things, pushing boundaries and challenging the status quo.

7. Actively manage your own ‘inner critic’. Recognise when it is trying to get a hold of you then do something to change the potential impact that it has. Pay attention to the sound of your ‘inner critic’ and notice its characteristics. As it’s in your head you have the power to completely change those characteristics, so would it have the same credibility and influence over you if it sounded like Tweety Pie. Try it! How much notice do you take of it now?

What do you do to keep The Confidence Crusher at bay?

We’d love you to share your experiences and join in the conversation by hopping over to our Pants People Group on Linked In; we’re talking about The Procrastinator next. We’d love you to work with us to help organisations banish these villains once and for all……go on, grab your mask and cape and be a superhero!

Wave goodbye to the Silo

This month The Magnificent Chameleon has been exploring the world of The Silo and has some advice to share about how to vanquish this particularly frustrating and destructive villain.

What does The Silo do?

The Silo has the potential to work in any organisation, large or small, creating barriers and encouraging turf wars, causing people who are on the same team to work against one another. The Silo is often found at large in places where direction is lacking and confusion reigns. Once established, The Silo wastes resources, damages productivity and endangers the achievement of business goals.

How can you tell if The Silo is active in your organisation?

A clear sign that The Silo is at work in your organisation is when divisional competition and infighting has taken over from focus on the organisational goals. Teams are pulling in different directions with their own agendas regarded as top priority at the expense of all else. Finger pointing and blame are rife. Attention has moved away from customers and competition and focuses more on battles over budgets, titles and who is responsible for mistakes. Battle lines are drawn; Head Office vs. Field Teams, Sales vs. Engineering. The Silo can cause professional anxiety and exasperation, leading to increased turnover of staff.

Here’s what you’ll see and hear:

Teams working in isolation on the things that are important to them but perhaps not so important to the organisation as a whole. 

“This is our priority and we’re not changing it for you” 

Team members are not aware of what’s going on in other departments within the Organisation.

“No one told me that!”

More energy is used focusing on internal battles than external issues like customers and the competition.

“I can’t believe that sales/ engineering/ ops/ marketing

have done that to us again”

And then there’s the ‘us versus them trap’!

The Silo will sometimes lay the ‘us versus them trap’ to ensnare you. This trap causes colleagues from different departments who should be working together, to blame others for the things that go wrong and find fault rather than finding ways of working together. 

Once you’ve identified The Silo is at large, how do you stop their destructive and villainous ways?

Here are 7 tactics you could try……

1. Actively break down barriers. Provide people with a compelling reason to work together on projects that positively affect the whole organisation. Without a clear reason and context, people can get lost and start to work at cross purposes.

2. Agree a business wide shared focus. In his book ‘Silo’s, Politics and Turf wars – a leadership fable about destroying the barriers that turn colleagues into competitors’,  Patrick Lencioni suggests creating a common sense of purpose, a rallying cry which he describes as a Thematic Goal.

3. Ensure that the leaders of the organisation get involved. Clearly establish top priorities that are shared by the whole leadership team

4. Encourage teams to adopt good behaviours that can stop The Silo in its tracks. Be curious about other people and teams, ask questions, listen to responses and see things from a different angle to gain an alternative perspective on the things that you already know.

5. Once The Silo has been spotted, create a sense of urgency to counteract their destructive influence. Work diligently as a team to break down the barriers that are starting to rise.

6. Communication is the enemy of The Silo. Hold regular updates with the whole team so everyone gets to hear about businesses priorities, how things are going and how they are all contributing to the bottom line.

7. Create opportunities for teams to share their priorities with others and understand how they can work together towards common goals and aspirations. Big Picture works brilliantly with this tactic.

What do you do to keep The Silo at bay?

We’d love you to share your experiences and join in the conversation by hopping over to our Pants People Group on Linked In; we’re talking about The Confidence Crusher next. We’d love you to work with us to help organisations banish these villains once and for all……go on, grab your mask and cape and be a superhero!

Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock – Can you hear the Time Stealer?

As we celebrate the start of 2013 and work towards our goals for the year ahead, no doubt many of you are focused on getting more done and generally being more productive. Your efforts can easily be sabotaged if you allow the Time Stealer into your life. The Magnificent Chameleon has been exploring the world of The Time Stealer and has some advice about how to vanquish this particularly grizzly villain.

What does the Time Stealer do?

The clue is in the name really; the Time Stealer will brazenly steal your time away, leaving you struggling to fit in all that you need to do and want to do.

How can you tell if The Time Stealer is active in your organisation?

The Time Stealer works in mysterious ways and you may not know that they are active in your organisation until it’s too late and you’re suffering the consequences. Deadlines approach at an alarming pace and projects that you thought you had plenty of time to complete are suddenly due and you simply can’t see how they are ever going to be finished on time.

You might also find that the Time Stealer works with a team of Henchmen, adept at filling your time with pointless chatter and gossip, endless meetings, requests and diversions that take you away from the pressing jobs that you should be tackling.

Here’s what you’ll see and hear:
You feel like you’ve been busy, but when you look at what you’ve achieved you’ve hardly made any progress at all on the important stuff you had on your list

“It’s not quite done yet, is first thing tomorrow ok?”

As your colleagues head home for the evening, you’re still chained to your desk, submerged under a pile of papers and an ever increasing inbox

“Don’t stay too late!”

You find yourself in a state of panic as you realise how much needs to be done and how little time you have to do it in

“There is just no time to get all this done ~ it’s ridiculous!”

Your day starts well before everyone else’s because you think that if you get into work early you’ll have time to catch up

“Did you sleep here last night?”

Your family are complaining that they don’t see enough of you, you’re home too late and you do everything a the last minute

“You’re late; the kids are already in bed!”

Your weekends become a time to catch up on admin and emails, rather than being spent enjoying yourself and recharging your batteries

“I’m sorry I’ll just be another 5 minutes.”

And then there’s the ‘stress trap’?
The Time Stealer will sometimes lay the ‘stress trap’ to ensnare you. This trap has a powerful effect and can leave you feeling that there is nothing that can be done. It feels like an impossible situation; you have too much to do and you simply don’t know where to start. You feel your motivation ebbing away and it’s the trivial and the urgent tasks that get your attention, leaving no time for the important work, the more proactive and strategic activities. Until of course, they become urgent too. Stress builds and productivity flounders.

Once you’ve identified The Time Stealer is at large, how do you stop their villainous ways?

Here are 7 tactics you could try……

1. The Time Stealer knows the value of your time. What value do you place on your time? If you treat your time as being highly valuable, the Time Stealer will find it less easy to steal it way from you as you’ll do everything you can to protect this precious and irreplaceable commodity.

2. Become aware of the little things that the Time Stealer does to steal your time. Is it the temptation of social media or the mess that your desk is in? Is it a call and the opportunity to chat or is it the email notification in the corner of your screen that’s grabbing your attention? What can you do to avoid a guilty pleasure becoming a full on Time Stealer?

3. Begin each day with a plan and, within reason, stick to it. Be realistic about what you can achieve and make sure you prioritise well so that you spend some time progressing the important work that moves you closer to your goals.

4. When a project seems just too huge to tackle, break them down into much smaller steps and ask yourself, “What’s the smallest thing I can do to this forward?” This will help you to avoid the ‘stress trap’ too.

5. Look out for one of the Time Stealer’s henchman, The Great Gossip. Make your excuses and get on with the task at hand. The Great Gossip might have time to give away, but you don’t.

6. From the outset decide on the milestones that will signal to you that you are on the right track and making good progress. Ward off the Time Stealer by rewarding yourself every time you reach a key milestone.

7. Even if you know that the Time Stealer has struck you today, think about how and why you let him into you day, commit to making some small but important changes to the way you work then start tomorrow with renewed vigour and the best of intentions.

What do you do to keep The Time Stealer at bay?

We’d love you to share your experiences and join in the conversation by hopping over to our Pants People Group on Linked In; we’re talking about The Silo next. We’d love you to work with us to help banish these villains in your organisation once and for all……go on, grab your mask and cape and be a superhero!

Irritable Frown Syndrome? – Meet the Grey Cloud!

This week the Magnificent Chameleon has been exploring the mysterious world of The Grey Cloud and has some advice about how to vanquish them.

What does the Grey Cloud do?

Rather like the ‘Dementors’ in the Harry Potter books, the Grey Cloud has the ability to suck the life and vitality out of the people that it comes into contact with.

How can you tell if The Grey Cloud is active in your organisation?

As soon as the Grey Cloud enters a room the tone and mood of the conversation quickly alters from one of optimism and ideas to complaints and apathy. Their influence can be strong and smiles turn to worried looks as the people effected by the cloud start to feel themselves sinking into hopelessness.

You might also find that the Grey Cloud also operates under his alias ‘The Mood Hoover’ ready to suck the life out of anyone that he comes into contact with, quickly turning a sunny mood into a grey one.

Here’s what you’ll notice:

Ideas and suggestions start to dry up

Every positive is crushed by a negative response

Optimism is replaced by cynicism and negativity

People trying to move away from the Grey Cloud but sometimes getting sucked into its influence

And this is what you’ll hear:

“We’ve already tried that and it didn’t work”

“Nothing ever goes right around here”

“I’m not even going to bother”

The Grey Cloud will sometimes lay the ‘cynicism’ trap to ensnare individuals or whole teams. This acts quickly and negatively affects the energy and enthusiasm that the team naturally hold. Things start to seem too difficult to tackle and momentum dries up, leaving people stuck.

Once you’ve identified The Grey Cloud is at large, how do you stop their villainous ways?

Here are 6 tactics you could try……

1. Strengthen yourself against the Grey Cloud by spotting their approach and actively working against them to counter their negative effects. Once you have recognised that the Grey Cloud is operating, you can focus on positive action and deflect its effects.

2. Weaken The Grey Cloud by asking specific questions that open up their thinking and help them to see things from a completely different perspective and point of view.

3. Face up to The Grey Cloud and say that you don’t agree with them. Give them real examples that counter what they are saying.

4. Move away from The Grey Cloud and choose to spend time where The Grey Cloud isn’t. Misery loves company. If The Grey Cloud doesn’t have an audience to feed off, they are weakened and their effects minimised.

5. Remember that The Grey Cloud can be vanquished by sheer weight of numbers. The more positive and resilient you can be as a group, the less influence The Grey Cloud will have.

6. Be impervious to their negativity. Adopt a positive outlook and demeanour to deflect any negative vibes – like an invisible but powerful shield of positivity.

These are just a few of the ways that you can help to vanquish The Grey Cloud in your workplace and we know that there are many, many more.

We’d love you to share your experiences and join in the conversation by hopping over to our Pants People Group on Linked In; we’d love you to work with us to help organisations banish these villains once and for all……go on, grab your mask and cape and be a superhero!

8 Ways to Vanquish the Mighty Muddler

The Magnificent Chameleon has been exploring the world of The Mighty Muddler and has some advice about how to vanquish them.

What does the Mighty Muddler do?

As you might imagine, The Mighty Muddler has the power to create confusion and sometime to leave a trail of destruction behind them. They can cause distractions that send team members off on the wrong tangent or even in completely the wrong direction.

The Mighty Muddler wastes time and gets in the way of individual and team effectiveness. They hold back the good information that can help the business move forward and they talk about the stuff that really doesn’t matter.

How can you tell if The Mighty Muddler is active in your organisation?

Here’s what you’ll notice:

  • Procrastination on the important stuff
  • People are busy doing nothing
  • Decision making stalls
  • Communication is irrelevant
  • People are frustrated
  • Potential & capability are wasted

And this is what you’ll hear:

“The left hand doesn’t seem to know what the right hand is doing!”

“I’m not really sure about what I should be doing next.”

“Well….that was a complete waste of time and effort!”

“Do we actually have a plan?”

Often found working within teams who are based remotely, The Mighty Muddler thrives on the communication challenges that these teams face and makes the most of the muddle and confusion that can occur.

The Mighty Muddler will sometimes lay the ‘Busy Fool’ trap to ensnare individuals or whole teams. This acts as a smoke screen to confuse the situation. People seem occupied and busy, but direction and purpose is lacking, so this energy and activity often has little positive business impact.

Once you’ve identified The Mighty Muddler is at large, how do you stop their villainous ways?

Here are 8 tactics you could try……

1. Weaken The Muddler by asking specific questions that give you clarity about the purpose of the task at hand. Ask what you and your team are here to do. Push hard, but politley, for a straight answer.

2. Pause for a moment and consider what’s happening right now and the impact you are having on each other, your customers and the business. Draw up 3 headings [Stop * Start * Continue] and list all the things that you could do under each to improve your effectiveness.

3. Use collaboration as your weapon against The Mighty Muddler and ask everyone for input as you work together to establish an agreed direction for the team. Do keep the Muddler up to date with your thinking though!

4. Banish overlap and duplication of work by taking time to regularly update each other on projects and progress. Schedule a daily team huddle, either face to face or virtual; it can be fast too, just put a tight time limit on the huddle and stick to it by only talking about the mission critical stuff.

5. Introduce simple thinking structures to help you to banish muddle and establish priorities. Make sure you know what’s really important as well as what’s urgent so the team know where to place their attention and energies.

6. Create a visual reminder that shows the team’s vision and agreed path in glorious and vivid Technicolor. Put it somewhere prominent that works for remote and centrally based team members. Review it often. Use it to check that the work you are doing right now is part of the intended journey and not something accidental that could take you off your agreed path. We love Big Picture for this.

7. The Muddler will be vanquished by high quality conversations that track progress, and unpick team successes on a regular basis. Reflecting on how you are achieving success will give you clues as to how you can do it again. Don’t miss the opportunities to review in this way so you can be effective next time.

8. Raise your eyes to the horizon and focus on what the organisation wants to achieve over the longer term; the next 3 years or 5 years perhaps. How does what you’re doing today pave the way for the work you will do in the future?

These are just a few of the ways that you can help to vanquish The Mighty Muddler in your workplace and we know that there are many, many more.

Why not join in the conversation by hopping over to our Pants People Group on Linked In and share your own wisdom; we’re talking about The Grey Cloud this week. We’d love you to work with us to help organisations banish these villains once and for all……go on, grab your mask and cape and be a superhero!