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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Positive Leadership: Developing Mental Toughness

When you do a triathlon you step out of your comfort zone and push the boundaries of what you previously thought possible and it leads to experiences that most people won’t ever have. It takes great mental toughness, a vital sporting attribute that some say you either have or you don’t. But as with physical fitness, mental fitness can be trained and controlled.

The greats of the sport would tell you that you must train for adversity and suffering. One of triathlon’s most infamous coaches, Brett Sutton (the former coach of multiple Ironman champion Chrissie Wellington) trains his athletes for mental toughness using extreme measures. One example is a session where the athlete will run a marathon on a treadmill in a room no bigger than a large wardrobe, where no MP3 players or TV’s are allowed! Similarly, he never allows drinks bottles during pool sessions as you can’t drink during the swim portion of a race. He tells his athletes to get out of their comfort zone on a regular basis.

Here are some keys to developing mental toughness:

1. Self-belief
Develop a confidence mantra. Repeat it to yourself daily. Whether you believe it or not initially is irrelevant. With repetition you can trick your mind. ‘I can do this. I am strong, healthy and fit.’ When you are under pressure, repeat: ‘Calm. Confident. Strong. In Control.’ When negativity strikes as you get tired or something starts to hurt, repeat the mantra and distract the mind. Remember this saying: ‘Whether you think you can or think you cannot, you’re probably right.’

2. Motivation
Remind yourself why you want to do what you are doing. Remind yourself of a time, really visualise it, when you felt strong, positive and motivated in as similar a situation as you can. Bring this image into your mind regularly. Picture your friends and family being proud of your achievements and willing you to succeed. Try to bring the scene to life by using colours, sounds and situations with a high emotional attachment.

3. Focus
The key skill is to prepare for things going wrong. Practise how you might deal with problems. Concentrate on your own performance, as you cannot control your competitors. When the negative mind chatter comes in, silence it by focusing on your mantra.

4. Handling Pressure
Start by accepting that anxiety is inevitable in competition and know you can cope with it. Learn how to let go of mistakes quickly if things do not go the way you want. A key part of mental training is about compensating, adjusting, and trusting. If plan A does not work, go to plan B or C. Mentally rehearse these plans. Develop a systematic pre-performance routine that switches on a desired state of mind that’s ‘ready to compete!’ Examples are listening to a special playlist on your music player, or taking four calm deep breaths before the start and focusing on feeling strong and competent.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Positive Leadership: Why Do Some People Become Heroes?

Dr Philip Zimbardo, Professor Emeritus at Stanford University, introduces the Heroic Imagination Project at TED University 2010.

Zimbardo, whose work has studied the depths of human evildoing and the heights of heroism, is passionate about inspiring people to take heroic action.

“The decision to act heroically is a choice that many of us will be called upon to make at some point in time." Dr. Philip Zimbardo

Learn how to practice everyday heroism.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Positive Leadership: Good Luck TeamGB in the London 2012 Olympics


Positive Leadership: Learn from the Best

In his memoir, “At Ease”, President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered the following advice:

“Always try to associate yourself with and learn as much as you can from those who know more than you do, who do better than you, who see more clearly than you.” 

'Ike' slowly mastered the art of leadership by becoming a superb apprentice.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Positive Leadership: The 'Secret' of Olympic Success

With the 2012 London Olympics just around the corner, athletes the world over are entrenched in training mode. But as sports have become increasingly professional, technique and fitness is no longer the standout difference between winning gold or heading home empty handed. Instead, it all comes down to mental toughness – the ability to make cool-headed decisions in heated moments and control things when they threaten to go astray.

Just look at some of the world’s top athletes – even Rafael Nadal credits his success to his strong mental resilience: “It is impossible to play great every time, but when I play so-so I’m still there mentally – the mental part is there 100%”

Whether you’re an aspiring figure skater or cyclist, the mental resilience required to win gold in the greatest sports competition on Earth is the same. 

In a recent study, a team from Loughborough University spoke with 12 Olympic champions across a range of events and found they all possessed a unique mental toughness characterised by five unique attributes:

Positive personality: Each gold medal-winning athlete had an openness to new experiences, was conscientious, competitive, optimistic and proactive

Motivation: Top athletes are motivated by multiple internal and external factors. While they have a passion for the sport, they’re driven to prove their worth so choose to compete at top level.

Confidence: Their confidence is gained from a range of sources, from experience and self-awareness to visualisation and coaches – this means a set-back in one area won’t hold them back.

Focus: The ability to concentrate on the process rather than the outcome and self-reflect without distraction.

Social support: They have a strong support network and believe high quality support, whether from family, coaches or teammates, is just a phone call away.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Positive Leadership: The Importance of Education

In this recent video, President Obama urges Congress to take action now to put teachers back to work in classrooms, because the best predictor of individual and American success in this economy is a good education. 

This is a good lesson for all countries and is reflected in the relative success of Singapore, which understands the significance of public service - https://www.bcgperspectives.com/content/articles/public_sector_engagement_culture_making_of_talent_magnet/


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Positive Leadership: An Olympian's Guide to Leadership

Christie Rampone is one of America’s most successful and celebrated soccer players, and she will be leading the U.S. Women's National Team to the London Olympic Games. She has already won gold twice, once in 2004 and as the team captain in 2008. She has also played in four World Cup finals and is a mother of two young kids. Here, she opens up about what it really takes to be a leader.

'Whether in the world of soccer or business, leadership is simple.

It's about communication, honesty, and building confidence. That's it. You get that, and your team competes at its best. Period.

As the captain of the U.S. Women's National soccer team, it is my job to help the team understand what the coaching staff expects. I took over as captain in 2007 and had never thought about or prepared for a leadership role. At first, I tried to please everyone—but I soon learned that only leads to confusion and failure.  

So, I looked to former players like Carla Overbeck and Kristine Lilly for inspiration. They taught me the values of a good leader: to be honest with the players, care about their well being, and treat them with respect. They also showed me how to lead by example, put the team first, and keep things simple.

After five years, I have found that being a great leader boils down to a few no-nonsense principles:

1. Stop talking so much. A good leader is a good listener. My role is about less talk and more keen observation. You can often learn more about your team's dynamics by simply watching the team interact. As you watch, ask yourself:  Where are there issues? Who is helping the team the most? Who is hurting the team's morale?

In one-on-one conversations, a good leader really digests the information and, most importantly, won't blab it to other colleagues. This is the foundation of trust.

2. Don't gossip. In one-on-one conversations, a good leader really digests the information and, most important, won't blab it to other colleagues.

This is the foundation of trust between colleagues. For me, when a teammate expresses concern about an issue, I don't use her name and or exact quotes when I speak to our coaching staff.

This way, our coaches are addressing the issue, not a particular person. It also means I don't lose the confidence of my team. I'm a credible source, not a gossip or someone who blames others for problems.

Bottom line: If what you say has substance and integrity, your colleagues and whomever you answer to (and, face it, we all answer to someone) trust you.

3. Stop saying yes. I can’t afford to be a yes person. When the athletes come to me with ideas or problems, I have to weigh each and prioritise. Same goes for business: You can't just take on everything from everyone.

Sometimes saying no is harder in the short term (your team might not understand or agree), but if you know it's best for your team in the long run, it's worth it.

4. Roll up your sleeves. If you are constantly putting the group before yourself and doing the work each and every day, it makes it easier for the people around you to respect, appreciate, and buy into the process. 

Then, when you make a mistake or a controversial decision, your team will understand you are thinking of the big picture—that you are trying to accomplish something as part of a team. 

5. Walk the walk. Great leaders know body language is important. As a captain, my actions and demeanor need to enforce motivation and enthusiasm but also show plenty of poise. No matter what, I always want to show positive and controlled behavior, on and off the field, never any stress or worry.'


Monday, July 23, 2012

Positive Leadership: Leadership Lessons from Musical Ensembles

Eugene Lee is the Chief Executive Officer and member of the Board of Directors at Socialtext. 

In this video, he talks about ‘Breathing Together - Leadership Lessons from Musical Ensembles’ – a fascinating insight!


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Positive Leadership: #Olympic Preparation

London2012 is starting soon! 

Watch this interview with Dutch Olympic Swimmer Ranomi Kromowidjojo about training and inspiration.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Positive Leadership: Elite Athletes and Successful Goal Setting

No one becomes an elite sportsperson on talent alone. It takes passion, commitment and attitude to make it to the top.

Whether you’re an aspiring athlete or entrepreneur, there’s a lot you can learn from the world’s elite athletes. By emulating the techniques they use to push ahead, win gold and shatter records, it’s possible for anyone to be on their way to accomplishing the remarkable.

Athletes at the top of their game understand all about successful goal-setting. This is what they do:

Adopt concrete goals that aim toward excellence: Elite athletes are very specific about what they want to achieve, right down to the split-second. By developing your own set of specific, long-term goals you can achieve success in any aspect of your life – whether you want to a promotion or to complete a specific project.

Design a training regime, engage coaches and expand your expertise: Athletes are continuously training and expanding their programme to include new challenges – but they never do it alone. Find a mentor you admire, listen to their advice and incorporate it into achieving your goals.

Keep a log of your efforts and outcomes: The best athletes don’t simply create goals; they also rigorously measure how they are tracking to achieve them. Make note of all the actions you take to achieve your personal goals and measure the pay-off received from each one.

Take the long view: Each competition an elite athlete participates in helps them reach their long-term goals. By being tactical about what projects, jobs and roles you take on you can help ensure each one is a step towards achieving your long-term goals.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Positive Leadership: Courageous Leaders Apologise!

We are frequently taught that leaders, especially aspiring leaders, should hide weaknesses and mistakes. This view is flawed. It is not only good to admit you are wrong when you are; but also it can also be a powerful tool for leaders—actually increasing legitimacy and, when practiced regularly, can help to build a culture that actually increases solidarity, innovation, openness to change and many other positive features of organisational life.


Positive Leadership: Our Offer to You

What do the recent Barclays LIBOR scandal and the ‘humiliating shambles’ of the G4S Olympics security operation have in common?

One thing is certain – leadership which has failed to deliver optimum performance and results when put under pressure.

Leadership cannot exist in a vacuum in any organisation – it impacts business strategy in a multitude of ways. Oftentimes, leaders fail to appreciate this connection or at the very least, are unprepared for the effects of pressure on strategy and behaviour.

Executing business strategy successfully in situations of high pressure and delivering optimum results requires proven leadership which appreciates the underpinning importance of a values based leadership culture throughout the organisation.

At Positive Leadership, we have developed a proprietary values based approach to optimising business results. For us, it is the interaction and close synergy between leadership values and business strategy that delivers such an outcome on a consistent basis. Our Values of Positive Leadership™ are based on extensive research and many years of business experience.

We work with our clients advising them on how to excel under pressure. Our involvement is client/transaction specific and typically involves a combination of transaction based advice, leadership coaching and management mentoring.

We are confident that our approach will help you deliver improved bottom line performance and equip you and your fellow leaders with the understanding, skills and awareness to ensure that optimum performance and results are delivered, even under pressure, unlike the leaders of Barclays and G4S.

If you would like to speak with us to learn more about our ideas and to benefit from a no-cost initial consultation, please contact graham.watson@positiveleadership.co.uk


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Positive Leadership: Three Pitfalls Start-Up Founders Must Avoid

Noam Wasserman, Harvard Business School professor, outlines three pitfalls start-up founders must avoid - the three Rs: relationship decisions, roles decisions, and rewards decisions.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Positive Leadership: The Success Formula Behind Lady Vol Athletics

In 29 years as the leader of the Lady Volunteers, recently retired Joan Cronan's programmes combined to win 10 NCAA Championships, 30 SEC Regular Season Crowns and 25 SEC Tournament Titles. Additionally, the Tennessee Rowing program has won two Conference USA Championships.

The winning model that Cronan has followed comes from a favorite Bible verse. Luke 12:48 says “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked,” (NIV).

“That has been the platform that we have tried to build our programme on,” Cronan said after citing the verse. “We’ve given athletes great opportunity and with that comes responsibility and accountability. Remember who you are and who you represent, and I think that has built a real pride in what the Lady Vol programme stands for."

An excellent philosophy for success!


Monday, July 16, 2012

Positive Leadership: The OODA Loop

Business is a dogfight. Your job as a leader: outmanoeuvre the competition, respond decisively to fast-changing conditions, and defeat your rivals. That's why the OODA loop, the brainchild of US Col. John "40 Second" Boyd, an unconventional fighter pilot, is still one of the most important ideas in business. 


Friday, July 13, 2012

Positive Leadership: American Influence in the 21st Century

Author and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman spoke to a Stanford audience about the themes of his recent book, "That Used To Be Us," which explores the reasons for U.S. decline in the 21st century and offers solutions to preserve American power in the world.

Average is officially over!


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Positive Leadership: You Win From Within


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Positive Leadership: Why We Lie

We like to believe that a few bad apples spoil the virtuous bunch. But research shows that everyone cheats a little - right up to the point where they lose their sense of integrity.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Positive Leadership: Improving Your Return On Luck

Morten Hansen, management professor at UC Berkeley, describes the traits leaders need to help their organisations thrive in times of chaos and uncertainty.


Monday, July 09, 2012

Positive Leadership: Training for Mental Toughness

It is no surprise that it takes stamina and mental toughness to be successful in small business. The truly challenging part is achieving this level over an extended period of time. However, the way a person chooses to think will really control the way they behave. Having the right mental focus will lead to more successful business outcomes in the long term.

Here are some thoughts on how to train for this mental toughness on your way to becoming a peak business performer.

1. Focus on solutions. Within 60 seconds of when top-performing people are faced with adversity, they replace the negative thinking with solution-focused thoughts. Research shows that people who have "Relentless Solution Focus” (RSF) are proven to live longer, be happier, and to be significantly more successful. If you fail, cheer the darkness for a minute. Have a pity party if you want, but then focus on the solution. Fortunately, everybody can be retrained to focus on the solutions not the problems.

2. Seek to control only what you can. (This is very difficult to do in practice.) The only thing we can control is how we deal with the past and what we do in the future. Learn what you can, but then take action to get another chance at a successful outcome.

3. Find one thing you can do differently to make the situation better. Top performers force themselves to control what they can control, which is how they deal with adversity. This is difficult, because humans are biologically built to have problem-centric thought (PCT). In other words, we have a tendency to focus first on the problems not the solutions.

4. Keep a success log. Ask yourself what three things did you do well today? Take credit for success, since it can be a barrier against future discouragement.  Ask yourself what one thing you can improve and how you can achieve it.

5. Practice the 100-second mental workout.  Here is a 100-second workout that can make every businessperson a better performer. First, take a 6-second breath to centre yourself, hold it for 2 seconds, and then breathe out for 7 seconds. The purpose of this is to control the pressure and put you in a position where the mind will work as an asset instead of a liability. Step two is to repeat a personal mantra; something that really focuses you on who you are, your strengths and what you’re capable of achieving. The third step in the mental workout is a personal highlight reel. This is a visualisation of where you want to be in five years and what you want to accomplish in the next 24 hours. Think about the actions you need to take today to get this done.

What steps have you taken to increase your mental toughness in order to become a peak business performer?


Saturday, July 07, 2012

Positive Leadership: Winning at the Olympics

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has posted an epic music video for the official song of the London 2012 Olympics.

English rock band Muse wrote the song, titled “Survival,” specifically for the games. The track is a perfect anthem for the Olympics, but it’s the video that really gets us excited.

The video opens with a reverse highlight reel of the Summer Olympics, beginning in 2008 and going back to the start of the modern games. It is a perfect introduction to winning at the Olympics.


Friday, July 06, 2012

Positive Leadership: Maintaining a Winning Approach

Strategy, understanding the competition and strong technical talent are keys to success in any competitive sport. However, in basketball, when the momentum can shift at any moment, an intense uncertainty exists throughout the entire game. In this context, the team’s abilities to adapt to constant change and operate in unstable environments are decisive factors for winning. The same holds true for business leaders in today’s uncertain business environment.

Here are some other lessons that can be gleaned from one of the most successful sports coaches in history and a best-selling author on leadership, Mike Krzyzewski, the head coach of the Duke University men’s basketball team.

Use symbols and images to create a frame of reference

Business leaders often invest heavily in developing a vision that addresses all of the environment’s complexities. But often the concepts are wordy and by the time they traverse from the executive suite into the rest of the organisation, they can become lost, mistranslated and ineffective.

A hallmark of Krzyzewski’s leadership is his use of symbols and images to effectively communicate vision and ideas that stick. The right image can be a powerful tool for conveying complex ideas in a way that is easy for the team to understand. That understanding can then empower the team to act accordingly.

Two images that he uses are the fist and the wheel.

To create understanding of team identity, Krzyzewski uses the symbol of the five fingers coming together to form a fist. The symbol simply, but effectively, describes the unique strengths each individual brings to the game and the incredible power that results when they come together as a team.

To illustrate the structure of the organisation, he uses the image of the wheel. Traditionally, the spokes only connect to the centre (in this case the coach) of the wheel. In Krzyzewski’s wheel, the spokes also connect to each other, resulting in greater stability so that even in the absence of the centre or a missing spoke, the wheel remains intact. His organisation has a higher degree of stability, mutual awareness, and support because its members understand that their community is defined as much by the collective strengths and connectivity of its members as it is by the leader.

Provide focus and priorities

Even with a clear vision and set of stellar strategies, organisations can remain overwhelmed by the amount of work required to achieve the end goal. Without focus, members can be paralysed into inactivity or mobilised into a host of actions that generate little return.

Although the Duke team’s endgame is winning the national championship, in every practice the focus is solely on the next game. This is regardless of the opponent. Players are expected to bring their best to and treat each game as if it were the championship game. That focus helps the team hone in on and develop the requisite skills needed to win that next game. As the season progresses and number of games grows, the team builds the discipline, mentality and capacity to adapt to any situation.

Help members understand where they fit into the big picture

In a dynamic business environment, decisions often do not have time to go up and down a chain of command. Members need to be able to act in the moment in a way that is synchronous with the other parts of the organisation and in support of each other. Being successful requires that members understand where and how they fit into the big picture.

A key way that Krzyzewski creates an adaptive communal organisation is by providing clarity around players’ roles and reaffirming each individual’s importance to the team.

A few years ago, when Duke’s star player J.J. Redick was asked how it felt to be the primary scorer for the team, his response was, “It’s my job.” He understood his role not as the star, but as helping to create a winning team. Another player’s role may be to pass the ball. The team also has several walk-on players whose role is to train.

Krzyzewski helps each player, whether a star shooter or a walk-on, understand his role in the context of the overall team. By doing so, he fosters an even greater sense of community because all the members see their individual value to the team, as well as the value of their teammates. This also played out at the 2008 Beijing Olympics when Krzyzewski was able lead the United States to a gold medal by moulding a group of high-scoring NBA superstars into a cohesive team in which players understood their roles.

For leaders operating in today’s complex global environment, adopting these lessons can give their organisations the necessary competitive edge.


Thursday, July 05, 2012

Positive Leadership: The Importance of Values Based Leadership

No matter how big a company gets, it needs to be prepared to change course if the environment calls for it.

That was the message from Tim Brown, President and CEO of Nestlé Canada during a presentation at the Richard Ivey School of Business recently for the Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership MBA Leadership speaker series.


Positive Leadership: Oops!!


Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Positive Leadership: The Path to Peak Performance

Harvard's Dr. Edward M. "Ned" Hallowell (author of Shine) outlines the five steps necessary to excel at work: select, connect, play, grapple and shine.

Everyone can 'shine'!


Positive Leadership: Barclays, Values and Integrity

An interesting quote from Bob Diamond, ex CEO of Barclays, at today's UK Treasury Select Committee:

"I believe values and integrity are important. I don't care how hard you work or how talented you are, if you don't have values it's a non-starter."


Positive Leadership: Leadership Lessons from the Barclays Scandal

In advance of today’s UK Treasury Select Committee hearing and the expected further fall-out from the Barclays scandal, we believe there is value in stepping back and thinking about the key leadership lessons emerging so far.

According to the Financial Times, Bob Diamond (ex Barclays CEO) gave a lecture last year in which he stressed the importance of culture in establishing an ethos of trust and integrity. “Culture is difficult to define,” he explained, “but for me the evidence of culture is how people behave when no one is watching.”

In our view, recent events highlight three significant leadership lessons, which have broad impact:

•             As well as developing good leaders, Boards need to focus on stopping, or at least slowing down, bad leaders.
•             Stakeholders should beware of the superstar CEO. Often, he gets a great deal of press attention, he writes a book, his remuneration goes up, but the performance of his company ultimately goes down.
•             It is important to focus on a leader’s character attributes when hiring and understand how he copes when faced with high-stress situations.

The framework provided by our Values of Positive Leadership™ offers a solution to these challenges.  Such an approach enables business strategy and corporate transactions to be executed successfully, thereby delivering optimum results in situations of high pressure. 


Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Positive Leadership: Dealing With Uncertainty


Monday, July 02, 2012

Positive Leadership: Bankers Need A Moral Compass

This extract from a recent editorial in the Financial Times highlights the continued appalling state of the UK banking sector and the need for wholesale change in leadership. British bankers really do need a moral compass!

‘The Barclays affair may lack the spice of some recent banking scandals, involving as it does the rather dry “crime” of misreporting interest rates. But few have shone such an unsparing light on the rotten heart of the financial system……..What is shocking is the casual way in which this con was perpetrated, and how few checks were in place to stop it. The messages swapped between traders – with their promises to reward fiddled figures with bottles of champagne – breathe an easy sense of entitlement. They also speak volumes about the rotten culture at Barclays. Bob Diamond, the bank’s chief executive, gave a lecture last year in which he stressed the importance of culture in establishing an ethos of trust and integrity. “Culture is difficult to define,” he explained, “but for me the evidence of culture is how people behave when no one is watching.” Well, now we know.’

For the full article, see: