Habits Shape Your Personal Brand

September 6, 2021
Don’t give all your habits an even break. Some will serve you far better than others. But to know which is which – start always with understanding what you wish your personal brand to stand for. How do you wish to differentiate yourself? In what way will you add value? What will be your most defining attributes? Yes, all foundational questions to be answered for your personal brand. Assuming you do the core work around defining your personal brand then it is a matter of understanding how best you deliver on that proposition. Your habits will either serve you well, or work against your aspiration. ‘High return’ habits can be described as keystone habits and if you are going to adopt only one new habit, it should be one of these – they distinguish themselves because they have a compounding effect. If we have leant one thing in the area of statistics during COVID, it has indeed been the power of compound growth. Charles Duhigg, author of ‘The Power of Habit’, explains that keystone habits change more than our behaviour, they change how we see ourselves. They positively move us in the direction we would like life to take us. That is why a clearly articulated personal brand works hand in glove with identifying keystone habits – it helps to articulate what the end goal is. For example, if your personal brand aspiration has you positioned as a thought leader in some domain, then you will need habits that grow your knowledge and expand your thought. What habits best set you up for such activities? Is one of your keystone habits a 5.30am start each day framed by an hour at the gym (because physical activity makes you feel better about yourself and gives you the energy to think deeply during the day). Do you then compound the impact of this time by making it a key time to listen to stimulating podcasts in areas relevant to your thought leadership domain. And if you embrace the keystone early gym start habit, do you derive the other benefit of having it as a nudge to self to head to bed a little earlier and get the re-charge sleep that your body craves? Understanding both the upstream and downstream impacts of your habits is powerfully informing. Regardless of whether one embraces the notion of identifying keystone habits or not, how we move forward into the future should be based on conscious thought. At the very least work out what is your desired destination and which of your habits serve you well and which ones work against your aspiration.

Manage Your Energy Not Your Time

March 13, 2021
Simply putting in big hours does not cut it. Time spent at a task is not a proxy for productivity, never will be. The individuals in any organisation that compete for the status as being the last to leave each day, do not always represent the most effective. My brother once joked about his concern that if his CEO’s car broke down on the down ramp in their car park there would be an almighty accident. All those who waiting for the CEO to leave for the day, would simply crash into rear end of his car. The real stars are those who bring high levels of energy (and of course competence) to the most important tasks. Tony Schwartz and Jim Loehr in their book The Power of Full Engagement argue if you start matching your energy to your task it is the key to excelling. “Every one of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours has an energy consequence,” they write.  “The ultimate measure of our lives is not how much time we spend on the planet, but rather how much energy we invest in the time that we have.” A BBC report from a few years ago referenced research that found the top 10% of employees within a technology organisation that had the highest productivity didn’t put in longer hours than anyone else – often they didn’t even work eight-hour days. Instead, the key to their productivity was that for every 52 minutes of focused work, they took a 17-minute break. They re-charged. One thing COVID has opened up for individuals is the opportunity to work from home, and around zoom meetings create their own work rhythm. Building highly focused bursts interspersed with timely breaks has never been more accessible. The smart ones may well be having an early afternoon siesta. No one is judging. Whatever the strategy, the question top of mind should be how am I managing my energy and am I applying it to the most important tasks. How effectively do I focus systematically on activities that offer the most long-term leverage? The length of the break to re-charge is less important than the quality. It is possible to get a great deal of recovery in a short time—as little as several minutes—if it allows you to disengage from work and truly change channels. Personally, I have always tried to create the opportunity for physically activity in the middle of the day. A lunch time gym visit, swim or run has the effect of making you feel you are starting your day over again. Totally re-charged. Finally, I was once coaching an executive who believed they personally had a ‘big tank’. Yes, they had lots and lots of get up and go. But it was not endless. It had to be managed. Regardless of your natural disposition, one has to always ponder if you are optimising the effective use of the significant energy that has been gifted. There is much to be gained by monitoring and managing

How many bullshit jobs do you have?

January 14, 2021
  As they say, it takes a bullshit artist to know one. Where do you rank? The book “Bullshit Jobs” (Simon & Schuster), by David Graeber, raises some interesting perspectives on the sheer number of jobs that exist that add no real value and are essentially meaningless (and for many soul destroying). He talks about “duct tapers” who are hired to patch or bridge major flaws that their bosses are too lazy or inept to fix systemically. He also argues that there are millions of people across the world — clerical workers, administrators, consultants, telemarketers, corporate lawyers, service personnel, and many others — who are toiling away in meaningless, unnecessary jobs, and they know it. Sometimes driven by inefficiencies and increasingly because businesses will not embrace relevant technology. The pandemic has been brilliant at putting a spot light on important roles – those in no way bullshit. Front-line workers in so many different forms have come to the fore. Health workers, supermarket staff, logistics workers, school teachers (albeit remotely), police and who ever got their role deemed ‘essential services’ by the Government. At one point it seemed whoever was making toilet paper were in our most treasured roles! Some of these roles perhaps do not get the recognition they deserve, and thanks to COVID for driving needed conversation about this. COVID has also been brilliant in raising big questions about the gig economy – is a bullshit job one with no security? And of course there is always the question, is any job (bullshit or otherwise) better than no job? Perhaps that is the motivation to Government for keeping Job Seeker payments so painfully low? However, if we move beyond these many philosophical questions and simply ponder what role can you play in eliminating bullshit jobs, there may be some immediate upside. Think about your own role. What tasks do you currently undertake that add no value? What would happen if you stopped? What processes could  you re-engineer to get rid of meaningless jobs that are the by-product of lazy work-arounds? How can you build more meaning for yourself and others by developing a greater sense of purpose – ‘the why’ of what you do? How can ensure you are adopting viable technologies to free yourself or others from drudgery? How do you ensure people feel valued in their roles – recognition, security, fair rewards, etc? Frankly, if you are thinking bullshit jobs do not need to be on your radar, then you are thinking bullshit.

Self-Actualisation Characteristics

January 6, 2021
Becoming everything you are capable of becoming. A couple of further thoughts (see recent post) on Abraham Maslow’s concept of self-actualisation. A self-actualiser being someone who has the desire to realise one’s full potential. Leading to a rather grand outcome of becoming everything they are capable of becoming. Maslow contends that self-actualised individuals exhibit the following characteristics. Again an acknowledgement to the Positive Psychology web site for the summary of the characteristics. Italics represent a few of my observations. https://positivepsychology.com/self-actualization-tests-tools-maslow/ Acceptance and realism: persons are unthreatened, unfrightened by the unknown. they have a superior ability to reason, to see the truth. They are logical and efficient. Accept themselves, others and the natural world the way they are. However, while they are realistic they don’t place self-imposed limits on achieving things that are important to them. Spontaneity, Simplicity, Naturalness: Spontaneous in their inner life, thoughts and impulses, they are unhampered by convention. Their ethics is autonomous, they are individuals, and are motivated to continual growth. Personally I am attracted to the notion of unconventional as a precursor to shaping change – worth asking yourself when have you gone against the group think within your organisation? Problem Centering: Focus on problems outside themselves, other centered. They have a mission in life requiring much energy, their mission is their reason for existence. They are serene, characterised by a lack of worry, and are devoted to duty. Interesting, how many serene individuals do you encounter? Personally not many. But a sense of purpose beyond oneself is a great driver of positive energy. Detachment- The Need for Privacy: Alone but not lonely, unflappable, retain dignity amid confusion and personal misfortunes, objective. They are self-starters, responsible for themselves, own their behaviour. I understand the role of personal accountability embedded in this characteristic – but it almost implies not being a team player??Certainly since Maslow’s time in the sun, collaboration has become an important factor in value creation. Autonomy: Independent of Culture and Environment: rely on inner self for satisfaction. Stable in the face of hard knocks, they are self-contained, independent from love and respect. Again get the independence and self-contained attributes but when I think of my own quest for self-actualisation I find it difficult to be an outcome at the expense of love and respect. Continued Freshness of Appreciation: Have a fresh rather than stereotyped appreciation of people and things. Appreciation of the basic good in life, moment to moment living is thrilling, transcending and spiritual. They live the present moment to the fullest. Today we would see it as mindfulness at play. What can one say, grab it with both hands and an expansive mind! Peak experiences: The feeling of ecstasy and wonder and awe, the loss of placement in time and space with, finally, the conviction that something extremely important and valuable had happened. Again bring it on – but clearly it is also an outcome of truly knowing yourself, the goals you wish to tick off, the artistic expressions you embrace and frankly

Self-actualisation is worthy of some reflection

January 3, 2021
Abraham Maslow Your life is your life – so how is it playing out? For many of us, studying Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was simply something one had to do as part of our University studies. Intuitively you always kind of got it – yep get the basic needs satisfied like your physiological and safety ones, and then start reaching for a bit of love and esteem, nail that and then have a crack at the joy of self-actualisation. But the reality is that our needs are fluid. We can be wrapped in a whole lot of love, but just lost all our assets ( and the accompanying safety and physiological needs they provided) through a business deal that goes pear shaped. LIFE CAN GO PEAR-SHAPEDI’ve been there, done that. Think you are flying and then end up with a business in receivership and all you seem to have is a lot more time than you had planned on having. Certainly you may still be able to feed yourself, but your esteem has taken a battering and self- actualisation can seem like it exists only on another planet. But time is a wonderous thing. You are back in the saddle, the years drift by and all of a sudden you begin to ponder what does it all add up to. It is in this context that the concept of self-actualisation is worthy of some reflection (as it really should be for the whole journey – and journey it is). SELF-ACTUALISATION IS LIVING TO OUR TRUE POTENTIALIf we accept that self-actualisation is a big slice of living to our true potential, then how are you travelling? As mentioned above our needs are fluid, and working towards self-actualisation is an on-going process, influenced by your changing life circumstances and the experiences you accumulate. It is a journey, and what follows is 10 questions ( courtesy of https://positivepsychology.com/self-actualization-tests-tools ) to reflect on while you steer the mothership to where ever you are heading. TEN QUESTIONS TO PONDER1. In what ways are you open to new ideas and concepts?2. How often do you take the time for self-contemplation and reflection? How could you improve this?3. To what extent do you accept yourself and your life’s circumstances?4. What control do you think you have over what happens to you, and how you respond?5. How do your current relationships help foster a sense of personal growth in your life?6. Where do you feel you could make improvements in your life to help foster a greater sense of fulfillment?7. When was the last time you felt genuinely content? Where were you, and what were you doing?8. How do you give back to others?9. In what ways do you think you could make more time for the things that give you a strong sense of fulfillment in life?10. How do you encourage and willingly bring new knowledge, thoughts, and ideas into your life? Empowerment, curiosity, generosity and consciousness clearly all worth programming into your navigation system.

Inspirational quotes – truly personal

December 9, 2019
There was an interesting article recently in the Weekend Australian Magazine by Polly Vernon about inspirational quotes. While she provided great insight into the rampant growth in the use and visibility of such quotes, she also provided some brilliant insight into the minds of those who hold them in contempt. Certainly the language used by them as note worth as the inspirational quotes they reject. Expressions such as ‘word farts’ and ‘the stupid person’s idea of wisdom’ says something of their disdain. But in terms of why others are attracted to them, one very interesting observation is that they provide some form of diversion to the constantly running messages that we have on repeat playing in our minds. The suggestion being that the mantra like quotes nudge our narrative and allow us to refocus from time to time. From my own perspective, I have no universal position on inspirational quotes. However, the context in which they play out does shape my view somewhat. For example, to have such quotes playing out on home furnishings feels so underwhelming. In fact the Weekend Australian article referenced a Canadian research paper that found a link between lower IQ’s and a readiness to absorb, subscribe to, enjoy and share inspirational quotes – yes, perhaps having them on one’s cushions at home supports that. Inspirational quotes in non-fictional books as chapter breaks often speak to me strongly. Usually because of their relationship to the topic I am interested in – hence reading the book. However, typically I can never recall them post reading – but there is one that has remained with me and does drive action from time to time. It is a quote from a guy called Jocko Willink. He is an ex-Navy Seal, now running a leadership and management consulting company. I came across him in the Tim Ferris book, Tools of Titans. His quote is simply this: ‘If you want to be tougher, be tougher.’ This thought is one I periodically call upon when I am desiring a little more discipline or will power in my endeavours. Its power for me resides in the fact that it requires no elapsed time – just do it (sorry).

Brand Positioning – Different strokes for different folks

November 25, 2019
Clarity around your desired brand positioning is critical. But brands can play different roles for different companies, as well different consumers. The recent announcement of Japan’s  Asahi’s $16 billion purchase of beer maker Carlton & United Breweries is a reminder of the leverage an attractive portfolio of brands can offer companies from a strategic perspective. In fact the commentary around the acquisition has largely focused on the business benefits of economies of scale and distribution muscle versus the individual market positioning of the brands being acquired. Australian  Executive Chairman of Asahi Peter Margin simply referencing the great scale the ‘local goliath’ offers. “It gives us great scale. It certainly gives us scale around manufacturing, logistics and probably more importantly around marketing capability,” said Mr Margin. The  beer brands being acquired include Carlton Draught, Victoria Bitter, Melbourne Bitter, Cascade, Crown Lager and the relative newcomer Great Northern. They are rather iconic brands in their own right, but little has been spoken about their market propositions by Asahi, rather the business benefits of immediate market share ie moving from approx 2% to 50% as a result of the buy. But the acquisition is strategic far beyond what it means here in Australia. While the Australian beer market isn’t growing, it is mature, stable and high-margin. By buying into The Aussie beer market it dilutes the Japanese brewer’s exposure to a home market where an ageing and shrinking population creates an intensifying challenge. This all contrasts greatly with how the independent brewers have responded. Yep, different strokes for different folks. They have doubled down on reinforcing their ‘fresh, artisan and innovative’ market offerings. Co-owner of  Bodriggy Brewing Co, Peter Walsh, recently stating,  ‘the way that CUB and Asahi make a lot of their beers are pasteurised and mass produced and there is not much difference between a two-day old beer and five-year-old beer. Whereas the whole craft industry is people appreciating freshness and local and artisan.’ As a beer drinker Walsh is even challenging me on where I should in fact live. Fresh is best. He believes the main reason the whole brew pub thing is working and the craft industry is booming is people are starting to appreciate that if you are going to drink a good beer make sure it is fresh. He suggests a good way to do that is to live near a brewery. This is clearly where I have been misled. I have simply been making sure I was in striking distance of beverage big box distributor Dan Murphy’s. And to remind me further that the market does segment in very different ways – not only have I been a regular visitor to Dan’s for my packaged beer (and wine) I have been for a long time purchasing Victoria Bitter. It may not be fashionable but as their long standing tag line says…’for a hard earned thirst.’ Say no more.

Leadership Master Class–Thank you Jacinda Ardhern

November 25, 2019
Out of the most devasting act of terror we were gifted such profound lessons in what leadership is about. Confronted with the tragic loss of 51 lives the New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardhern demonstrated an extraordinary fusion of toughness and empathy. Her highly instinctive leadership disarmingly empowering. She immediately declared gun laws needed to be toughened up (and they have been!). She also demonstrated the most simple act of compassion and empathy. The day after the massacre she met with members of the Muslim community, wearing a hijab, embracing the community symbolically and literally. Each word, each hug declaring to the world that in an increasingly fragmented and self-interested world we need to care for each other more than ever. When the global media began praising her style of leadership, she responded: ‘I don’t think I’m displaying leadership. I just think that I’m displaying humanity.” Interesting thought, displaying humanity. Seems so obvious, but sadly self-interest regularly gets in the way. But is is worth pondering the question in whatever leadership role we have – how am I doing on the humanity scale? What level of empathy and understanding do I afford others? List 5 ways my humanity has shined through in the past week. What is interesting with Jacinda Ardhern is that humanity seems to her default position. What a great platform to operate from! Interesting thought, displaying humanity. Seems so obvious, but sadly self-interest regularly gets in the way. But is is worth pondering the question in whatever leadership role we have – how am I doing on the humanity scale? What level of empathy and understanding do I afford others? List 5 ways your humanity has shined through in the past week.

Nissan fuses tribes and technology for college sports sponsorship

November 9, 2015
Nissan ain’t being shy with its strategy of hitching brand expansion efforts to sport sponsorship deals. Alongside sponsorship of ICC and UEFA tournaments, Nissan recently announced a massive deal to back 100 American colleges across 22 sports. We’re talking college juggernauts such as Ohio State, University of Texas and Oklahoma. We’re also talking about a new ability to leverage its association with America’s second most popular spectator sport: college football. To give its new deal some initial traction, Nissan has gone innovative. It’s launched a free Diehard Fan app, which allows fans to use a photo or video of themselves to virtually paint their face with any of the 100 colleges’ colours. Before you dismiss the app’s capabilities, you really should take a look below. The finished product is remarkably life-like. This is a pretty shrewd move. It allows Nissan to edge its brand into fans’ consciousness by tapping into the tribal, fervent nature of US college sports. Nissan is injecting itself into the heart of a college sports ecosystem typified by old rivalries, the thrill of wearing the same school colours as parents or grandparents and raw, passionate support of a current school or alma mater. Further, the app serves as a credential to show Nissan understands the college sports landscape. On its technological merits alone, the app is a fun, novel and conversation-generating way of establishing a connection with the market. With some colleges home to 100,000 plus capacity football stadiums, college sports running 11 months of the year and extensive cable TV coverage, Nissan decision to go big could well end up with a touchdown.   Image: scmikeburton via Compfight cc

Toyota, ISIS and an awkward brand endorsement

October 8, 2015
It’s definitely the sort of global, consumer-driven endorsement that companies would rather do without. Toyota HiLux trucks have emerged as a near constant fixture in ISIS videos, from convoys of HiLuxes kitted out with heavy weapons or terrorists jumping from the trucks to commence brutal executions. To compound the company’s embarrassment, the US government recently asked Toyota to explain how ISIS acquired the vehicles. This sort of adverse association isn’t new for Toyota. An interesting 2010 Newsweek article points out that HiLuxes have been favoured for decades by militants from the Middle East, Africa and Central America. The article, via counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen, summarises the vehicle’s appeal: longevity, high ground clearance, an ability to cover ground well and people mover capacity. You can’t help but feel a little sorry for Toyota. In this instance its brand has suffered solely for living up to one of Toyota’s enduring and defining brand promises: quality. Toyota is drawing negative publicity precisely because the HiLux is functioning the way it was intended. The HiLux’s reliability in arduous conditions and its ability to handle heavy haulage has simply appealed to ISIS just as much as it appeals to tradies around Australia. In response to the US government’s inquiry, a Toyota representative said all that could be really said – including it has a strict policy not to sell to people who may use them for terrorist activities. Essentially, Toyota will just have to ride this one out. It would hope consumers are intelligent enough to recognise the situation is beyond its control. It will also need to continue to be seen doing what it can to protect the integrity of its sales deals and supply chain, despite the reality that it’s impossible to stop HiLuxes ultimately reaching people who want them. This “endorsement” does get you thinking, however, how the owners of Harley Davidson felt when bikie gangs started embracing their brand!   Image: alex1derr via Compfight cc

The Amazon story of employer brand self-sabotage

August 21, 2015
A fascinating piece about Amazon’s workplace culture surfaced a couple of days ago in The New York Times. Based on interviews with current and former Amazon employees, the article illuminated the company’s combative and uncompromising work practices. Here are just a few of the descriptions of the Amazon work experience that appear in the article: At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are “unreasonably high.” The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others. [Bo Olson] lasted less than two years in a book marketing role and said that his enduring image was watching people weep in the office, a sight other workers described as well. “You walk out of a conference room and you’ll see a grown man covering his face,” he said. “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.” David Loftesness, a senior developer, said he admired the customer focus but could not tolerate the hostile language used in many meetings, a comment echoed by many others. A woman who had breast cancer was told that she was put on a “performance improvement plan” — Amazon code for “you’re in danger of being fired” — because “difficulties” in her “personal life” had interfered with fulfilling her work goals. Their accounts echoed others from workers who had suffered health crises and felt they had also been judged harshly instead of being given time to recover. At present, this workplace culture does not seem to have adversely affected Amazon’s business success. It recently superseded Walmart as the most valuable retailer in the US. Additionally, maybe the strength of its consumer brand can offset the employer brand deficiencies laid bare in the article. Ongoing success will continue to act as a magnet for prospective employees who want to work for the best regardless of what they may have to contribute or sacrifice. But it is hard to accept that the very public exposure of Amazon’s inner machinations in The New York Times would not have a negative impact on its employer brand. A percentage of high potential, well-qualified people would surely reconsider whether it is worth working for Amazon, especially when other successful companies are perceived to have more employee friendly environments. It is also worth considering whether the toxic elements of Amazon’s employer brand will be in time taken on by its consumer brand. The article also draws attention to an intriguing dichotomy about how other employers viewed Amazon’s employer brand. Companies such as Facebook have opened offices in Seattle and benefit from former Amazon employees who are valued for their work ethic. However, the article points out some companies are cautious about hiring Amazon workers because they have been trained to be combative: “The derisive local

Domino’s Pizza uses tasty technology to make its brand number one

August 19, 2015
Last weekend, on a whim, I jumped on Domino’s Pizza’s website to order a pizza. I was after convenience and I got it: it was easy to order and pay. But more interestingly, I wasn’t cast aside immediately after my money had digitally changed hands. There was a time-elapse wheel that kept me updated on what stage my pizza was at: order submission, preparation, cooking and delivery. I then sat fascinated as I watched, via GPS tracking, my delivery driver make his way to my house. I was given his name and photo, and when his progress stalled (presumably at a red light) a little poll appeared asking me to speculate why he had stopped – had he seen Hugh Jackman? Was he pondering a new combination of pizza toppings? I’m not sure if I would follow my pizza’s progress as closely next time, but that’s beside the point. I was impressed. I valued the transparency and the involvement. Domino’s seems seriously committed to leveraging technology to advance its business. It went live with online ordering way back in 2005. Last year it introduced Pizza Mogul, which allows people to customise pizzas, market their creations via social media and take a cut of the profit when the creations sell (some bloke made $50 000 in fourth months using this process!). Earlier this year it shaved the online ordering process down to four clicks with a ‘Quick Ordering’ option and at the start of July it launched the GPS tracking. When listing the business’ four big pillars in an interview with Business News Australia, CEO Don Meij mentioned technology first. Product, store and image followed. That’s big. How many food industry CEOs would cite technology ahead of product? This focus on innovation has allowed the business to flourish despite having a product that most would not consider a market leader in taste. Domino’s can afford for its product to sit at an average, “good enough” standard because it’s secondary. When I ordered Domino’s on the weekend, I, like many others, prioritised ease and a customer-friendly experience ahead of a pizza that would uphold the finest gourmet traditions. We don’t want to go anywhere or pick up the phone and speak to someone; we want to click a few buttons and be done. Domino’s is constantly improving on that offer in ways that far outstrip its competitors. It’s also inventing ways for customers to digitally engage with its brand, like the Pizza Mogul program. This strategy is succeeding. Domino’s accounts for 43 per cent of the pizza market, ahead of Pizza Hut (23 per cent), Crust Pizza (21 per cent) and Eagle Boys Pizza (12 per cent). Maybe Pizza Hut can stop piss farting around introducing excessive, niche products like the Four n’ Twenty meat pie stuffed crust pizza and get tech-savvy.   Image: Kake . via Compfight cc
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