[Article] Breaking the Mould

“How you do anything is how you do everything” – a popular point of view in the personal development arena over the past few years. It can be a useful way of gaining insight into the patterns that dominate your behaviour, but I’m convinced that we all have multiple patterns and there are always SOME things that we do differently from most of the rest of what we do. It’s all about context.

However, if we apply this idea to organisations, I believe it has greater validity. Having observed behaviour in hundreds of different organisations over the 20 years I’ve been working as a consultant, I’ve noticed one consistent pattern:

The core competence of an organisation generates its core culture.

I first noticed this when I was working on two large projects with contrasting organisations:

In the first organisation I was supporting Senior Managers in the introduction of a new appraisal and performance model. Managers complained that the staff kept finding fault with the new model and wanted to talk about fixing the problems they saw. No-one seemed prepared to live with an imperfect system.

In the second organisation, I was involved in coaching Department Heads following 360 appraisals. A new policy on working hours had just been introduced and the Heads often mentioned what a political issue it had become. They told me that the staff seemed convinced that it was paving the way for some other, more radical, change yet to be announced. People kept asking questions and seemed suspicious of the answers they were given.

Musing on this, I realised that the people in the two organisations were simply doing what they were best at doing.

Let me explain…

The first organisation was the Engineering division of a major airline. The people I was working with were Aircraft Engineers. What makes a great Aircraft Engineer? The ability to spot a problem and fix it, never accepting anything that doesn’t function correctly. (And this particular airline had, and still has, a safety record that is among the best in the world).

It’s not surprising then, is it, that the people who spend their working lives spotting potential problems on aircraft – and fixing them, approach other aspects of the job in the same way? What could go wrong with this appraisal and performance model? How can we make it work?

The second organisation is a world-famous media company. Most of the employees are journalists. What makes a great journalist? Someone who is prepared to dig for information? Someone who doesn’t take for granted that what you tell them is the whole story?

Small wonder that these employees were not taking the Managers’ word at face value!

Having noticed this, I started looking at other organisations and reviewing my past experiences:

I ran Time Management workshops for two different Fire Services. Why were they interested in time management? Because nearly everything in the organisation was done on a ‘fire-fighting’ basis!

I’ve done projects for several Local Authorities. There I’ve observed (and experienced) tremendous frustration at the time it takes to secure the authorisation to do something new. Everything has to be agreed – by Members, by Executives, by employees, by the public. The whole thing runs on the basis of consultation and democracy.

Are you still with me?  Or are you now thinking about YOUR organisation and its core competences?

There are two points to remember:

  1. The core competence of your organisation generates its core culture.
  2. Once you know that, you can start to break the mould. Awareness is everything.

[Article] Motivation re-visited

Every business leader wants their people to be motivated. Preferably to do what the leader wants them to do!

There have been a lot of wise words written – and backed up by research – about what motivates people. In NLP we’re also interested in how people are motivated. That is, we look at the thought processes that create motivation.

You may be familiar with the idea of Towards and Away From motivation.

Towards motivation is the kind of motivation that is focused around the positive benefits of a particular course of action. “If I do this, I get something I want.”

Away From motivation is focused around avoiding something undesirable. “If I do this, I’ll avoid something I don’t want.”

Because of this, some people regard Away From motivation as negative and less effective than Towards motivation. But the point is, both ways of thinking produce motivation – they create the drive to do something.

It’s been pointed out to me that Away From motivation peters out once the worst has been avoided. That can mean that someone using an Away From motivation strategy can end up not achieving very much – just avoiding a lot of problems!

I’ve often been asked how to change a habit of Away From motivation for one of Towards motivation.

And yet…

Some of the most successful and goal-oriented people I’ve met are Away From motivated.

I started digging a bit deeper to figure out how that works.  And this is what I discovered:

It’s all to do with the time frame someone uses.

If you are focusing on the present, then once the immediate problem or discomfort ends, the motivation will run out. If you are focusing on the future, it’s a different matter.

A lot of very successful people are driven by the need not to fail in achieving their goals. That need to not fail keeps them working hard until the goal is achieved.

In the same way, Towards motivation that is present-oriented will have you lounging on the sofa, eating chocolate or drinking beer – because it feels good now!

Towards motivation that is future oriented will keep you working towards your goals, even if it’s painful today, the rewards will come tomorrow or next week or next month.

The key to success is not in the style of motivation you habitually use, it’s in the time frame that gets most of your focus.