Too Much on your Plate

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  •         Do you ever feel overwhelmed, like there is too much happening in your life?
  •         Are there deadlines that you are not meeting?
  •         Are you working long hours and spinning your wheels?

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above I know how you feel. I have been there before. At the end of last year there was a lot closing in on me. Mostly self-inflected, I certainty take on more than I can handle at times. That said I have made changes and got back on top of things.

So what did I do when I had too much on my plate? I have one word “focus”. Focusing on one thing at a time and focus my life on less roles. Through focus I was able to move from feeling overwhelmed to feeling back in control of my life. Clearing the plate also cleared my mind.

When I focus on one thing at a time I can get in a zone of productivity, I can sit there on task for hours to get it done. Without distractions I get the task done quicker and to I higher standard. Without distraction or multi-tasking the mind will allow you to process task quicker and allow your creativity to come out.

At the same time I also cut back on some things in my life. My studies came to an end, I stopped blogging for a period while there was lots happening in other roles and I resigned my scouting role. In the end through doing less things I am actually doing more. And the more I am doing is more of what I want to do, like family.

  •         What is on your plate?
  •         Do you need to review what you are doing?
  •         What is your life’s priorities?

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Leading People not Machines

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“You do not lead machines, you lead people. Unless you understand human nature, I don’t think you can lead.” David Morrison, former Chief of Army

While on a flight recently I was flicking through the inflight magazine and saw an article on leadership and management. The saying above was at the start of the article. It had a number f leaders from the business world and David Morrison, former Chief of Army. The article describe the rise to the top as being around people.

At the lower levels of management it may be possible to get things done through authority, planning, using systems, assigning tasks and do things right. However in order to be effective in leadership the focus needs to change away from systems to people. In doing so leaders promote a vision and inspire people to do the right things.

Focusing on people does not mean that it is a popularity contest. Being popular is different to having influence with people to inspire them to work towards the vision for the team or organisation. David Morrison tells inspiring leaders to remember the three Fs: Fair, Firm and Friendly.

  • ·        How do you inspire your team?
  • ·        Do you have influence in your organisation outside of your authority?
  • ·        Are you doing the right things or do things right?

 

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Mission Driven Workplace

There is a lot of talk about purpose driven organisations. There are not for profit organisations, government organisations and even commercial organisations that are for benefit. Does this mean that they do not think about profits or the financials? No, not at all, I think that resource management is important in all organisations.

I think that being a mission driven workplace is about ensuring that everyone knows why the organisation exists and this is beyond just profit. This mission has to be clear, concise and specific. Then the organisation’s decision making processes and outcomes would all align with this mission. The team and individual team members would review their tasks and make decisions in accordance to this mission.

The organisation would also monitor and review operations through the lens of the mission. Is the organisation achieving the mission? Where can the organisation improve in order to better achieve the mission and better serve the customer?

So does this led to more or less profits? I would argue more. With a sustainable business model being mission driven will ensure that your organisation better serves its customers. Doing so will set the organisation as a leader in its field. It will ensure that the organisation’s customers are better served and hence this will keep them coming back.

I have experienced this focus in my current army role. Through setting a mission and setting objectives the team was able to build on the capabilities and the capacity of the squadron. It was easy for the team members to understand what was happening, what needs to happen and why? This is truly a way to be able to empower the team.

 

  • What is the mission of your workplace?
  • How do you ensure that your team are working on a common mission?
  • What benefits that you see from a mission driven workplace?

 

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The Rush of Planning

This week I was talking with colleague about the rush that comes from planning in the military context. Often there is time restraints, there are resource constraints and there is a critical mission to achieve. The planning has to be done and produce deliverables within a short timeframe that meet the mission requirements, is achievable within resource limits and has a tolerable risk level.

The military has a defined framework for planning to occur, everyone on the planning team understands the process and the terminology. The team is also all focused on finding the best way to achieve the mission. There are heated moments and long hours. Many people would say that it sounds like a horrible environment to be in.

However I get a rush from it. To have everyone focused on one thing, planning the task at hand and to see the result that the planning achieves in a short period of time is very satisfying. There is a buzz to achieve so much in a limited timeframe. I often wonder why so much can be achieved in a military context and often I do not see this happen in my civilian work. I think it comes down to the following things:

  1. A single focus for all of the team
  2. There is a methodology that is used
  3. The team is all speaking the same terminology
  4. The team does not stop until the planning is complete

I do not see these things come together in many workplaces and I am not sure that they could… What do you think?
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Missing the Children

38165711a8c2f850ca024e70c94588caWith the custody arrangements for three of my children shared with their mother, I do not see my children all the time. In some ways this means there is time to do things without worrying about what to do with the children. However it is a little sad when the children are not around. The house is quieter and I miss the little conversations we have about everything and anything in life. I miss playing cards with them…. Even if I am a little competitive….

This last twelve months has been even harder with the amount of time I have been away with work. It has been crazy busy. I have enjoyed all that has been accomplished with various projects, however this has meant even less time with my children. Over the last couple of weeks I have enjoyed spending significant time with the children. Yes, I am about to go away again, however on my return I look forward to spending more quality time with the children again.

 

  • Who do you enjoy spending time with?
  • What are some of your favourite activities?
  • Do you spend enough time on these activities?

 

 

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Starting the Day on a Positive Note

DSC_2424We all start the day in different ways. Some people like to start the day with a coffee, some like to start the day with exercise, some start the day with yoga, others start the day with meditation….. and then there are some that just roll out of bed. The start of the day is a very important part of the day. The way we start can often impact on the rest of the day for us.

Ideally, I would start with exercise and listening to podcasts….. However that is not always the case. What I do do more often than not is roll out of bed and say to myself “What a great day.” I like to start the day on a positive note. I just find that by doing so my day tends to go better. I find that when I do I tend to bounce into the day.

 

  • What do you do to start your day?
  • Does this set the stage for your day?
  • What could you do to improve the start of your day?

 

 

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Using Informal Networks

Every workplace I have worked in has it’s own set informal networks. What is an informal network? It is the communication channels and networks that exist in an organisation that is not in accordance with the official organisation chart and communication channels. It includes the conversations at the water cooler, the staff member that has influence across the organisation due their personality, rather than position and also what some would call is gossip.

Many times I see organisations fight with the informal networks for communication bandwidth. Informal networks are often seen as a threat to management and viewed as all bad gossip. However I wish to challenge this outlook. Yes, sometimes informal networks can be a negative gossip fest, however how can an organisation utilise these informal networks for the good of the organisation?

I am a believer in empowering one’s team members as much as practically possible. To this end I believe that someone that is good at developing informal networks can be rewarded with using these networks to communicate with the organisation and also to seek feedback from within the organisation. Instead of fighting with these influencers within the organisation, what if we worked with them?

One example I have used recently was the implementation of a social media platform for internal use by my team. Instead of appointing the administrator from the top and then implement the platform from top down, we appointed an administrator from the lower levels of the organisation. Someone that had influence. Yes, management still had administrator access, however the main driver was from within the organisation.

And what was the outcome? My belief is that we had a quicker implementation and take up of the platform than we would have otherwise if it was implemented top down and not through an influencer. The other outcome was that we provided leadership and growth opportunities to the influencer in making them responsible for the platform and accountable to management.

 

  • Do you use your informal networks in your team or fight with them?
  • What do you do to use your informal networks for?
  • How do you develop the influencers in your organisation?

 

 

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Time Serving You

I was listening to a podcast this week called “Entrepreneur on Fire” by John Lee Dumas. He was interviewing a guest that had spent time in jail. From his prison experience the guest said:

“Do not serve time, let time serve you”

Though clearly referring to someone doing jail time…. For example do not just sit around in prison and do nothing. While in prision learn skills and set yourself up as best you can for when you get out. Hence let time serve you.

However this can just as well apply to us in our everyday life. Do we treasure each day as a blessing to use or do we see each day as something to tolerate and get through? Have you ever caught yourself saying something like, “if only it was Christmas?” Tolerating time, getting through a day or wishing it away are all ways that people serve time.

So how do we get time to serve us…. Firstly we treasure each moment, we ensure that we make the most of each day in terms of family, friends, learning and growth. Each day is an opportunity to build on areas of our life for the future. Yes, there will be good days and bad days, however we can choose to make the most of each day.

 

  • What do we do each and everyday to develop ourselves, learn and challenge ourselves?
  • What do we do each day to build something for the future?
  • How do we treasure each day and enjoy the moments that life presents us?

 

 

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Purpose, People and Profit

There is a lot of talk in the business community about measuring the success of an organisation by more than just money. There are those that do triple bottom line reporting, there are not for profit enterprises and there are social enterprises. These are all attempts to ensure that an organisation is about more than profits. Does this approach also work for the traditional profit making corporation?

I would argue yes. I believe that an organisation has three things that are important for its long term survive. I believe it is a sense of purpose, great people and a business model that provides surplus funds for investors and growth. So firstly a sense of purpose brings the organisation together, everyone is working in the same direction and has a guide for their decision making processes.

Great people is about having a team that is empowered, enthused and skilled to do the work of the organisation. These people could be employees or contractors. They must all understand and work towards the purpose of the organisation. Finally, there is the business models. Most of the time we start here. We chase business to increase revenues, but does it align with the skills of our team and our purpose?

So when you are looking at an organisation think 3Ps. Does the organisation have these things. If not can the organisation build these three things? If the answer is Yes then the organisation has a long term future.

 

  • What is the purpose of your business or organisation?
  • How does your business or organisation develop its staff?
  • What level of surplus does your business or organisation aim at?

 

 

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Common Understanding + Trust + Robust Discussion = Better Outcomes

In recent times I have had some good discussions about when to follow and when to push back on what the leader is saying or asking. Whether it be a workplace, a military unit, a sporting team or even a volunteer team there is a balance between doing what you are asked and pushing back as there is a better way to get the end result.

The first part is to ensure that there is a common understanding between both parties of what is to be achieved. This means that the intent needs to be clear communicated and understood by all. The second part of the equation is Trust…. Does the manager and the direct report trust each others intentions and abilities?

And finally I believe that when there is a common understanding and trust then there is an environment where robust discussion can occur. In this environment both parties are comfortable to discuss their thoughts without the conversation becoming personal. Everyone’s motivation of the discussion is to achieve the better outcomes for which there is a common understanding. The robust discussion is done in a way that both parties listen to each other and depending on the type of organisation then the manager can make the decision that everyone will go with or it is a vote from among the team.

 

  • Have you been part of a team that had a common understanding of the end result and outcomes, trust and an environment for robust discussion?
  • How did the team decide on decision in the end?
  • What freedom of movement did this working style enable the team?

 

 

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