September – the beginning of the school year (& fresh starts!)

September – the beginning of the school year (& fresh starts!)

September – the beginning of the school year and so often a time for fresh starts, fresh initiatives, and fresh projects. I often think that starting something new at this time of year can feel more optimistic than in January: let’s face it, starting something when it’s cold and dark outside can often feel more like a chore!

But what I also find is that when people start something new in September, they’re not really thinking beyond the next quarter. They put a few new things in place, get themselves to Christmas, and then on the 1st of January suddenly find themselves needing to think about the calendar year ahead. That lack of forethought can really hamstring a business and is one of the key factors that can inhibit growth. Every few months there’s a ‘fresh start’, before the last one has had a chance to gain any traction, as leaders cast about looking for another way to jump start growth.

I also often see clients in a vicious circle of hustling to win new business, getting a project out of the door and then either experiencing a dip when they need to find new work to pitch for, or jumping straight into the next task in front of them. They perform re-actively, instead of proactively: unable to work on their business, because they’re too busy working in it. The company exists and stays afloat, but it can’t move forward, as there’s no tangible plan in place. Of course this is going to stultify growth – it’s impossible to think about what you want the future to look like when you’re trying your hardest to keep the present under control.

This lack of forward motion, combined with numerous ‘fresh starts’, can have another unintended side effect, which can be equally damaging: a lack motivation within your team.

New initiatives, trying to build on the momentum of the last project using new processes, or simply trying to create some momentum, may fall at the first or second hurdle, either from the absence of a proper plan behind it, but also because your team simply aren’t motivated to work on their fifth or sixth new ‘master plan’. Think about it – if you don’t have any clearly defined goals other than ‘grow’, and no real idea of how to achieve them beyond something you’ve only researched in passing, your team is bound to look at any new ideas with skepticism. You need them to buy into and become accountable for the future, which they’re not going to do if coming to the office feels like Groundhog Day.

So how can you build and maintain growth if you’re going back to the drawing board every quarter.

It can feel overwhelming, I know, but by planning a proper growth path, and delivering work in a more coordinated way, you can improve your business prospects organically and sustainably.

At Amplified it’s my passion to help you create a plan to change and grow your business, quickly and sustainably. I’ll work with you every step of the way to show you how growth can be achieved and maintained, from a vision planning process all the way through to regular accountability check-ins.

If you want to see more about what I believe could help you scale your business, please watch this short case study I recorded – go.jamespotten.com

Creating a sports mindset in your business

Creating a sports mindset in your business

After so many inspiring sporting performances during the Olympics, with athletes truly at the pinnacle of their game, my mind got to thinking about legacy and in particular what learning we can take and positively apply in the world of business.

There really is so much in turning up and being ready…ready to perform. They say medals are won based on that tiny percentage of real estate – the bit between your ears. It’s truly a mindset and preparation thing!

I was fortunate enough to be in the British windsurfing team and competed in the Olympic trials back in 1995. My own sporting mindset, and indeed the ability to perform at my best, was in no small part developed by an amazing coach (thanks Chris if you are reading this!)

I was probably around the age of seventeen, with some raw ability and plenty of passion. Yet, without doubt it was my coach that elevated me to perform at my maximum potential. My coach made such a positive difference to my understanding of ‘what was happening when’; how to manage my thought processes and how to recognise when things weren’t going so well. He also taught me how to manage and learn from these moments.

Roll the clock on ten years, and I found myself applying many of the sporting mindset tools adopted from my coach into the world of business. Yes, they were indeed transferable.

In business, I was starting to go through some really exciting growth periods and in the hot seat leading within my own business. I was experiencing success, however, truth be told, it was hard at times and I was actually struggling with the pressure of leading a scaling company.

I remembered what it had been like to have a coach when I was younger and what a remarkable difference it had made to me in sport. It was around this time that I got a coach to support me in business (thanks Mike if you are reading this!).

This was without doubt a winning decision for me. The positives I experienced as a direct result of working with my business coach were many. The process helped me understand how I thought again; what was happening around me and also introduced me to group coaching – which I found incredibly powerful!

Group coaching gave me the opportunity to learn so much from understanding how other people in similar business roles to me worked their way through similar business challenges. It also helped me understand that the challenges I was facing in business were not unique to me and that others were in fact experiencing just the same.

It’s true to say that there really is so much in turning up and being ready to perform. Just as with athletes at the pinnacle of their sport, success in business is truly about getting the right mindset and the right preparation in order to WIN (or compromise with a win win)!

It’s no great surprise that medal winning athletes so often champion the influence of their coaches in their post performance interviews. Medal winning is a big ask when ‘going it alone’. And, I believe the same can be said in business.

In sport, I came to the realisation that the right coaching environment would play a large part in getting me ready to succeed. It would help me reach my pinnacle of achievement. In my own business, I found that exactly the same was true. Working with the right coach and being involved in the right group coaching made such a lasting difference to me in business.

And so, fast-forward to today and that’s all led me to what I do now, coaching other business owners to help them achieve their own pinnacle of success. Coaching, just like in sport, is a catalyst for both a winning mindset and being truly ready to perform in business as the best you can be.

If you want to see more about what I believe could help you scale your business, please watch this short case study I recorded – go.jamespotten.com

CAN YOU RETAIN CULTURE DURING RAPID GROWTH?

CAN YOU RETAIN CULTURE DURING RAPID GROWTH?

I often hear Business Leaders express frustration that their team doesn’t have the same drive as they used to in the good ol’ days! Trying to keep some of the magic from the original company culture for scale-up business is tough and as you add more people it’s undoubtedly going to change as new people means new shared values.

Getting recruitment right is so important. Whenever a new person is added to the team, you are basically saying to the company, this is what the new ‘good’ looks like and this is where the business is going (whether you intended to or not)! I’ll talk in detail how to make existing teams feel valued shortly.

Business leaders solve this through different ways, one of the most famous being Jeff Bozos of Amazon talking about it always being ‘Day 1’, to keep the team hungry for innovation, as once it’s day 2 they will be beaten. This is often delivered in a letter each year or quarter to the team to paint a picture of the future and why the company is aspiring to achieve great things. Hopefully they also take the time to celebrate success and have Champaign moments.

The reality in your organisation is likely to be new people = new behaviours and not only are you fighting an ever-changing landscape externally but now you have the same internally and it feels like the originals spark is eroded. When companies lose their way, they have been able to get back on track by returning to the founder’s original vision and values. The best-known case of this is with Steve Jobs and Apple in the 90s when Apple bought NeXT and Job became an advisor to his former company, the rest is history.

There are practical things that you can do, such as always being involved in the hiring process, even if it’s just a zoom call towards the end of the process so you check that new team members are the right people for where you’re going but also where you’ve come from.

It’s also important not to skimp and this is something that I found hard in the early days because you don’t have the money. Sometimes you will interview and feel that they may move on, as they are too good but it’s much better to hire a good person for a year than someone that doesn’t perform for two! Good people can have 100x the impact to the success of your organisation whereas the wrong hire can reverse the successes you’ve had to date (& sabotage company culture).

Hiring the wrong person can also take up so much of your time. We’ve all made these mistakes and you know the challenge of removing people is quite disruptive (even if your country allows you to do this more easily). I’ve also never been in a situation where I’ve extended a probation and that employee ever really work out. Your intuition is almost always right but it needs to be backed up with performance data which again, takes time to gather & build a position.

So some practical exercises that you can do with your existing team, so they feel included. One that’s really important is to define what good culture looks like. You have to be really explicit with your team not implicit so defining this together is the best way to get buy-in as follows: –
• As a team, with lots of post-its (or on a collaborative platform like Miro if virtually)
• Draw the rugby goal posts (which have more space above the line) and ask the team to write on their post-its what above the line or below the line behaviour looks like.
• They then get the team to talk through their post-its as they put them up either above or below depending on the behaviour
• Get this typed up and printed off / placed on the intranet, so others can refer to this.

The beauty of this is it becomes self-regulating and you give the team permission to challenge below the line behaviour and praise above the line. Great culture is what the team do when you are not there (which is most of the time during these covid times).

Hiring high-performing senior members of the team essential, irrelevant of whether you have a hierarchical or self-organising team, as can be seen in Figure 1 and 2 below. The underperformance (red) will permeate through your team (affected pink team members).

When to hire and ‘grasping the nettle’ (training I’ve shared in amplified.me) when removing underperformers are entire subjects of their own. I often hear ‘hire when it hurts’, or ‘hire slow, fire fast’. In both cases, I’d suggest you need to know your business cycles, how long does a sale take to be delivered, does it need additional resource and how long would it take to train someone up. Alex Reilley from Loungers talks about how he and his Co-Founders would ‘shed skin’ until they had enough to make a new person, then hire (effectively finding enough tasks to turn into a whole role they could package up and delegate to a new team member).

So hopefully this is giving you some initial ideas of how to try to retain your company culture during rapid growth.

If you want to see more about what I believe could help you sustainably scale your business, please watch this short case study I recorded – go.jamespotten.com 

ABUNDANCE360 – SIX HUMAN NEEDS

ABUNDANCE360 – SIX HUMAN NEEDS

Day one is over at Abundance360 2017. It reminded me of why I was fully hooked on the exponential journey, with loads of exciting new breakthroughs in tech, even in the last year.

We had an audience with Tony Robbins (life guru) & Steve Jurvetson (big dog Investor) on ‘what won’t change in the next 25 years’ Steve made a great point when he said ‘if we are gods, we better start acting like them’.Fair point although I think it’s more we like playing god. Peter D explained that there are 5 million truck and taxi driver jobs in the US that will be gone in the next 5 years. We currently don’t have the infrastructure for retraining and reallocating these people. It’s going to get messy. Making ‘America great again’ just got a whole lot harder. What struck me is how I connect so much with what Tony Robbins was saying about human behaviour struggling with the speed of technical change. We are unlikely to cope very well unless we also develop new ways of thinking. He explored our six key human needs and said the struggle up Maslow’s is very real and will continue to be so. His Six Human Needs model being our desire for: –1. Certainty vs 2. Uncertainty3. Significance vs 4. Belonging5. Growth and 6. Contribution(note 5 & 6 have an ‘and’ not ‘vs’ between them. Both can exist in harmony together. I’ll explore this more in a future post. So, here with some of the key takeaways from day 1: –- The rate of solar development is happening faster than expected. Coal is dead, long live PV (China have just cancelled the building of 104 coal plants)- Elon Musk says that ‘100 giga factories is enough to supply the whole world with batteries’. 1 down, 99 to go- Salk institute have actually been successful in reversing the signs of ageing – extended the lifespan of mice by 30% (does that mean we get a second mid-life crisis?).- Ehang single person drones. US company Lung Biotechnology have ordered 1000 drones for synthetic human organ delivery (not that synthetic organs exist yet. The drones are distracting their employees from making any breakthroughs).- [email protected] – it’s the Spotify for people who like to listen to tunes to get in their flow when working – all music is produced for it’s ability not to be remembered. Tay Tay’s entire collection is going on there.- In 2016 the four new elements were named. It’s really screwed that periodic table song.- Augmented Reality is going to completely change education, human interaction and how we watch Netflix. Finally, I went for my first ride in a Tesla. It was a Model X, and yes, we went in autopilot mode. It was ridiculously awesome. It just steers itself. This vehicle was at level 2 capacity (out of 5), which means there should always be a hand on the wheel. By the end of 2017, any Teslas manufactured since Dec 2016 will be able to go to level 5, which won’t need a steering wheel. It’s likely that legislation won’t go beyond level 4 in the near future, which means you can take your hands off the steering wheel. Elon was having a bit of fun naming his vehicles, having released the Model S & X, the next ‘Model 3’ was going to be the ‘Model E’, but Ford wouldn’t allow it. I’ll let you work out where Elon was going with that one.More to come on day 2. I’m off to try out multiplayer augmented reality ‘Call of Duty’. My sick bag is ready. James Potten Useful linkshttps://www.tonyrobbins.com/mind-meaning/do-you-need-to-feel-significant/ http://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/1/17/14294906/china-cancels-coal-plantshttps://twitter.com/jamespotten/status/825841217762062337http://www.salk.edu/news-release/turning-back-time-salk-scientists-reverse-signs-aging/https://www.engadget.com/2016/05/04/biotech-firm-wants-to-deliver-organs-using-a-passenger-drone/www.focusatwill.comhttps://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/12/01/its-official-4-new-elements-added-to-periodic-table-have-formal-names/?utm_term=.bc5bf5b593aahttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgVQKCcfwnUAlso published on Medium.

Time to reflect

Time to reflect

the Don’t tell me, I’ve been there! You’re up against it, it’s been another manic week. You’re giving almost all the energy you’ve got to tackle the daily grind. I say “almost” as you’re taking 5 minutes to read this.

So why have you given yourself just 5 minutes? Intrinsically you know you need some mental space, but you’d struggle to convince colleagues you were working on your phone, in fact I’d be willing to bet you’re in the loo right now reading this. Gotcha!

So why is it that reflecting is not seen as working? It has been proven time and again that giving ourselves new stimuli or allowing our mind to refocus can have a profound impact on our creativity. I know this, and yet I remember taking pride in skipping lunch and staying late. You’ve got to do 10,000 hours right?

“To know and not do is to not know” — Steven Covey

Creating your own sacred space
In his very succinct yet fascinating book, “A Technique for Producing Ideas”, James Webb Young identified a 5 step process:
-gather raw materials
-digest
-unconsciously process
-have the ‘a-ha’ moment
-challenge the idea with reality

It’s the “unconsciously processing” stage that I want to focus on. So how do you ensure this stage happens in the work day?

I used to be very envious of the smokers at work. Through a forced need they got their timeout, a rush of new ideas and ‘fresh air’. I’m not suggesting that we all take-up smoking, but there is a learn here for all of us. Our equivalent time out these days can be a journey into social media, exercising or sharing a coffee.

So, what can you practically do?
Well for one, I recommend taking a holiday every quarter. My fiancée always makes sure we do this, even if it is a mini-break or a long weekend. I find some of my best ideas come whilst kitesurfing or in nature.

Also, try to understand the patterns of natural cycles in your calendar and work around them. For some people it’s the day of the week, for others the season. Get a calendar out and mark when you’ve had your biggest challenges, then build in sacred space that works for you, such as exercise, journaling, meditation.

A great way to help form routines is with an app like the Streaks app.

Be kind to yourself
If you struggle with being externally referenced (like me then it will be all the more difficult for you be kind on yourself. Ultimately you have to consider how you can be the best and most creative you, and that means getting time to reflect. It could make the difference between delivering your next creative contribution to the world, or instead submitting to the person judging you for reading this (which is only you btw!)

“Don’t do what you need to do, to be the most authentic you” – said no one, ever

If you want to see more about what I believe could help you sustainably scale your business, please watch this short case study I recorded – go.jamespotten.com