The Self-Organising Secrets of Successful People

What is the common denominator between Margot Spalding, Dr. Judith Slocombe, Donald Trump and Kochie?

They are all managers, professionals, with big responsibilities, some of them with very big families as well (7, 9, 5, and 4 kids respectively, as of the latest count) and all of them very successful!!! (And two of them are Businesswomen of the Year winners!!)

As someone also very successful, and who I respect very much, said recently: “Having the attitude of a winner and using the psychology of success helps a lot to get you where you want to be but all the positive meditation, chanting mantras in the car on your way to work and grinning at your reflection in the mirror is no substitute to these two key and very simple things”

  1.  WORK HARD – harder and better than your colleagues and competitors
  2. WORK SMART – find out what other successful people do well and copy it

There’s been a lot of hype around Tim Ferris’ book “The 4 hour week”; it’s already caused a lot of confusion and some of the misconceptions have led to faulty work and life practices.

To set the record straight, just look at Tim himself – the guy is restless, he’s passionately been working on two possibly three big projects after this book and all involving numerous hours of research, hard work and having lots of fun of course.

Whilst working a 4-hour week is a possibility for some, it is not a realistic (or even desirable) goal for the majority of us.

And should it be? What else should we read in the “4-hour work week” messages?

What is the philosophy and business/work model behind it?

And why are successful and rich people like Donald Trump still working 10+ hours a day?

Stay tuned for my Special Report next week…also book this day in your calendar: Thursday, 27th September, 8am-10am

Come and take a peek at how successful people organise their day for optimal results.

Denitza Genova

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Gold Medal Communications

For as long as I’ve been in management and consulting the absolute Number 1 personal and company problem I’ve encountered in almost every company has been Communications!

And it’s so simple and tangible and yet so very hard to resolve….
And, as always, the answer is not really that hard – you just need to know where to look for it.

Because if we focus on “fixing” communication, it’s not going to work – what we really need to focus on is what comes before and after communication.

So let me ask you two vital questions:

  1. What is it that is not happening, that you’re not feeling or experiencing when you’re communicating?
  2. And, secondly, what is it that you need to do, change or be in order to get there?

So let’s say you want to be a powerful, credible communicator so that people act on your advice and instructions and, ideally, without the need to repeat yourself, cajole or threaten – then you should focus on building your credibility as a speaker and communicator.

If you want your messages to have impact, to position yourself as an expert in your company or community, the person to go to, then you need to focus on the perceived value and relevance of the information.

Or perhaps what you would really like is for your staff to appreciate and enjoy what you say and really remember it – then look at how you connect with your listeners, what is interesting and fun to them.

If it is rapport and engagement you’re after then your listening skills and general attitude are of great importance and should be the focus of your improvement efforts.

So take some time to think about what it is that you want to achieve using this powerful and so under-utilised tool of communication and then go to the beginning – link it/them to those skills and behaviours that will help you to get there.
Also, look for more practical help in our next report on the subject.

PS – please remember that the biggest danger in Communication is assuming that it has taken place!
PPS – we’re running one of our series of breakfasts on this very subject soon…so watch this space!

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This Simple Habit Guarantees Success in Life

Even if you’ve come across the “marshmallow experiment” before, you’ll love this entertaining 6min. video, which demonstrates so well this key success quality.

The experiment was first conducted by a Stamford psychology professor Walter Mischel.

Have Fun!


So what does it mean? What can we do to cultivate this habit, the ability to delay gratification.

The implication from the experiment and the video is that some people are born with this ability as it is displayed as early as 4 years of age.

It is certainly easier if you have this innate quality but the good news for all all of us is that it can be learned.

When I was in my first year at high school I remember one of my classmates telling the teacher that she’d bought the new Metallica album but waited until after she’d completed her school work to enjoy it.

I also remember the teacher and everyone else being very impressed with her self-discipline (yes, Mira, I’m writing about you). Suffice to say she was  a top student in a class of achievers and continues to do well in life.

So since then (at the age of 14 , not 4) I knew there was something special about the ability to delay gratification.

Here are a few examples of how successful people and good managers use delay gratification to achieve maximum results:

1. Prioritising

This is a well-known organisational tactic of high achievers to always start their day with their top priority, which in a lot of cases is either complex, hard or not very pleasant task. By doing this they make sure that the important decisions are made and actions taken. They do not start with the easy, let’s-get-some-runs-on-the-board fun stuff!

2. Working towards a goal

Successful people know how to use delayed rewards to keep their motivation up in order to achieve their goals. It’s a simple technique of pairing up milestones with rewards, something you want to get, have or do but rather than get it instantly, you attach it to something you want to achieve.

3. Dealing with hard/unpleasant tasks

This one is my favourite. An example will be rather than having coffee first thing when I arrive in the office I delay it until I finish something important and then reward myself for it. In fact I structure my work in a sequence of hard, easy, hard tasks, which is now an automated choice/habit.

4. Saving/Investing

 Putting money away or investing it wisely is the best demonstration of how you can use delayed gratification for long term benefits.

So don’t eat this marshmallow. By all means go ahead and smell it – it will only make you stronger and more successful!

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What is stopping your organisation from being more productive?

Productivity has been a hot topic on the Australian macro and micro economic scene for the last several years and not just because of the GFC.
Productivity growth has been in decline since 2000 (still growing but at declining rate of 1% compared to 3.5% in the previous decade) after the acceleration of productivity growth in the 1990s.

According to the Grattan’s Institute report “Productivity growth is the most important determinant of long run improvements in any country’s sustainable standard of living. After decades of decline relative to other countries, Australia substantially improved its productivity performance in the 1990s. However productivity growth has slowed substantially during the current decade.”

The Australian Labour Productivity as a percentage of the US level fell almost 10% in the last decade (1998 to 2008).

So what has contributed to this drop in productivity?

Paul Eslake and Marcus Walsh have discussed the key factors at lengths in their report a summary of the key findings were covered in my first article on this topic.
The more recent business news will add some fresh perspective to the story.

Just take a look at Holden, Toyota, Qantas, BHP Billiton and Heinz. What do they all have in common?
If you ask Toyota’s Australia president Max Yasuda he will point blank tell you: “Australia’s inflexible Industrial Relations System and Lazy Workplace Culture”.
He explained the axing of the 350 jobs at the Altona plant in Melbourne with declining international competitiveness, influenced by lack of flexibility to respond to changing business conditions, increased union influence, bogus sick leave and absenteeism rate of 30%.

We all know what happened with Qantas, fresh information from Alan Joyce suggesting that Jetstar will be pulled from Darwin and Cairns if he’s not allowed to employ foreign labour.
Heinz has relocated its tomato sauce manufacturing plant from Victoria to New Zealand.

So what are the solutions?

From a macro-economic point of view the Government has undertaken a review of the Fair Work Act, which is expected to conclude next month.
And whilst regulatory restrictions have a significant influence on business results the answer to productivity will not be resolved with changes in the regulations or even Government alone.

Let’s get back to the Australian “lazy workplace culture”.
For an outsider, such as Max Yasuda, it may appear this way, especially if we look superficially at sick leave and absenteeism numbers, or at “face time” (the number of hours spent in the office, a major KPI in Japan, also an indicator of dedication to the company).
But, as always, we need to investigate the causes behind the numbers.
However, from our experience, working with both manufacturers and service providers, we know that managers do not always look beyond the first layer when problem-solving.
It reminds me of the Operational Manager of a car component manufacturing client who complained that his team could not deliver the product on time.

His reason – “I’ve trained them numerous times and they still can’t do it”, Why? –“Because they are thick”, was his answer.

As it turned out, after some more in-depth analysis of the potential contributing factors behind the “thick-ness”, it was the company culture and management style to blame, which always allowed time extensions if delivery targets could not be met, and without any sanctions.
So the reasons for subdued productivity are almost never found in your staff – lazy, incompetent, thick, etc.

You, as a manager, as a CEO, need to get back to the drawing board and start exploring.
And no, it doesn’t take too much time and resources, if you have the right mental models in place.
Some mental models, such as the fish-bone diagram, strategy maps, decision-making trees, cause-benefit analysis, the peak performer model, to name just a few, are covered in engineering degrees.

But all, without exception, are taught in a good management development programme.

Going back to Max, we can assume, that like the majority of organisations pursuing productivity improvement, his approach was/is to drive people harder.
This is a very simplistic approach and on its own will only result in short-term improvements (a band-aid solution). It’s like starting a strict diet to lose weight fast and expecting to achieve long term, sustainable results. And yet people do and that feeds an enormous, multi-billion dollar “health” industry.

A more long-term, sustainable approach to productivity boost involves a multi-level plan/strategy including:

1. Education

Interestingly enough a recent report, Managing in a Multi-Speed Economy 2011-2012, found that only 37% of managers could define productivity, though 50% considered productivity a business priority for the next 12 months.

Productivity is briefly defined by “units of output (product or service) per unit of input (resources)” – or achieving more with less.
Sometimes, however, productivity is only interpreted as efficiency focusing on quantity, rather than quality, even though the quality parameters are being met.

This paradox stems from the fact that quality and productivity may be driven and defined internally, using “maker” rather than “user” definitions.
Take for example the very common situation where IT system designers meet their own very high quality standards but fail to meet the functionality, user-friendly standards of the user. They may have come with the solution quickly but if it wasn’t the right solution they failed the quality or effectiveness productivity test.
This problem is easily avoided with well defined value streams and value drivers and the right education – in strategic customer service, in strategic management, in continuous improvement, in decision-making, etc.

2. The Right Strategic Plan and Performance Measurement System

The 2011 Telstra Productivity Indicator found that while 76% of Australian organisations ranked productivity as a top priority, only 24% measured it, which left a “productivity gap deficit” of 52%.

Just saying you want to improve productivity is not good enough – it needs to become a strategic goal;
You need to track its value stream and use the right measures.
I’ve reviewed strategic plans where productivity and efficiency are mentioned in numerous contexts but never explicitly as a goal and a measure.
You almost get to think that they are there because it sounds and looks good. When asked, the strategy implementers (i.e. staff) could not really define what was meant by productivity in all those different contexts.

A few more words on the value streams – there is nothing more powerful for any organisation’s success then indentifying the value creation map, in other words how is value delivered to the stakeholders.
Yet very few organisations have identified their value maps and designed their business strategy and plans around them.

3. Communication

A lot of discussion about productivity happens between business and government but not always within the business itself.
When you decide to focus on productivity as either a key continuous improvement goal (incremental improvement) or as a “our back is against the wall” measure (quantum leap improvement) your intentions and actions should be transparent and explicitly communicated throughout the entire organisation.

Let’s look at two examples.

One of our client companies had implemented a 5S system, which is essentially a waste reduction initiative with the main purpose of streamlining operations. It does take time and resources to implement, which the company had successfully done. However a few of the areas had problems maintaining the initiative especially in the “Shining” (Cleaning) component of initiative.

I asked the guys on the management programme we were running with them at the time if they knew what the purpose of this initiative was and why they thought the “Shining” wasn’t happening.
The answer was they didn’t quite know what the purpose was and that the workers, the majority of them males, did not like cleaning after themselves as they didn’t see this as part of their job.
We see this lack of understanding of the meaning/purpose of initiatives (even single jobs) quite often and had these guys known that it wasn’t about aesthetics but about waste and efficiency they would have had a different mind-set and respectively different behaviour.

They just didn’t know/were not explicitly told.

The other example is much more painful, as the organisation in question is no longer trading.
I remember the frustration of the GM, when they were going through restructuring and having to roster people in fortnightly shifts of work/off-work.

Most of his concerns were caused by what he labelled as “reckless” behaviour – people leaving work for their 2 weeks of enforced leave and leaving the powerful machines and work equipment on, wasting resources and time while at work and not empathising with the company situation.

And yet, even at this stage there was nothing visual to encourage people to save resources. Instead all visuals were related to procedures and work safety with signs plastered above staircases telling people not to fail to notice the staircases!!!!
Visual communication is very powerful as it focuses the attention and has a direct line of “communication” to the brain – hence the proliferation of visual poka-yokes in recent years, not just in the high risk industries (health-care and heavy manufacturing) but also in the service industry

4. Reward and Recognition

This one is a huge topic on its own.
For now it’s worth considering the fact that the Asian businesses, known for their huge innovation, technology and efficiency progress in recent years, are known for their good reward and recognition programmes.
One example of such initiative, which works really well is “gain-sharing” where the company gives back a percentage of the realised benefit (saving or profit) back to the contributor/s and as such encourages people to innovate.

5. Lead by example

As the famous management thinker Peter Drucker once said “The Productivity of Work is not the responsibility of the Worker, but of the Manager”.
There are a lot of managers who are way too operational or hands-on and even pride themselves on that.
I think it’s a case of a misinterpreted “lead-by-example” principle.
The main purpose of any manager and leader is two-fold: remove the obstacles and develop the person so that they can achieve their goals and enjoy the process.
So leading by example is about the demonstration of the right values and behaviour, not doing the job yourself.

6. Culture and Employee Engagement

Speaking of values and their role in sustainable productivity gains, make sure that productivity and its interpretation in your organisational context is embedded in your organisational value set.
Because being a Low-cost provider – one of the key top level corporate strategies according to Strategy Guru Michael Porter – is no longer a strategy of choice, no longer a differentiator and source of competitive advantage.
It is a necessity, a responsibility of every single organisation to continuously employ fewer (optimal) resources and maximise value to the customer.
How to create a culture of continuous productivity improvement?
Engage people – link values to your reward and recognition system.
A few years ago, (yes, it is not a new “thing”), I saw a software developer from Sydney showcasing how their Reward and Recognition software was used solely to reward and recognise staff based on adherence to preferred values, demonstration of the right attitude, behaviour and workplace communication.

7. Technology alignment and Innovation

When it comes to productivity improvement there is nothing that can give you and your organisation a bigger, more tangible boost than the right technology.
It’s only a matter of what to use and how to get your people on board as quickly as possible, applying the change management principles from the early stages of the decision making process.
We, as a company, and as part of our new Work Smart – Have Fun programme, have made it a priority to research and assess the best examples of technology enablers and embed them into our own and our clients’ practices.
If you’re still unsure about new technology, just ask your pre-schooler to show you a mind-map – my daughter’s school note books (and she’s only 4) are loaded with mind-mapping and decision making software, something that we teach in our management development programmes for grown-ups.
So jump on board, don’t let your kids embarrass you by showing you how!

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Performance Reviews – Scrap them?

If your organisation has only one annual performance review – scrap it.

It’s pointless…if done only once a year.

The Return on Investment is minimal.

This is not to say that Reviews are useless – they are a huge drain on our limited resources if done only once a year, not backed up by a good system and not followed through.

I conducted  informal research in several of my professional groups – it wasn’t meant as such but the article I posted for feedback caused so much interest that a month after the posting HR managers, CEOs and PM professionals are still posting and arguing their points.

Here’s a summary of the Pros and Cons as viewed by professional from Australia and overseas.


Arguments AGAUNST Performance Reviews:

  1. The primary impact of annual reviews is filling in files with questionable information/reviews that make arbitration difficult when the company finally decides to act upon poor performance.
  2. The usual annual or twice a year report has no measurable impact upon performance at individual or group levels.
    They are mostly “stick” and very little “carrot.”
  3. Conventional performance reviews are a bureaucratic construct that have no place in 21st Century staff performance management; they may be outdated and not applicable to current dynamic external environment.
  4. Today’s technology enables employees to measure their own performance, ideally daily, preferably weekly and at least monthly.
  5. Dishonest reviews lead to the wrongful dismissal of highly competent, qualified folks who simply had the misfortune of having the wrong supervisor.
  6. It opens the door to more subjectivity – glowingly positive or glaringly negative – further distorted by hidden agendas or dysfunctional politics.
  7. Reviews may not be properly understood or indeed have the wrong Key Performance Indicators attaching to them.
  8. After review, very little action happens; No real time taken to effect change. No one made responsible for effecting real change after review.
  9. No one in the organisation fully aware of really what is ‘strategic fit’ necessary and how each performance review report is translated to this overall fit.
  10. It is a waste of time and resources, a burden to both employers and employees
  11. In many cases overly specific performance reviews will hinder the potential for top performers from using their skills to think “outside the box” when they are being graded within the box.
  12. There is the practice of performance reviews and there is the task of filing a document.

Arguments FOR Performance Reviews:

  1. Every employee: 1) knows what they are expected to accomplish, where they stand overall, specifically where they are doing well and where they can do better; and 2) stays focused and motivated.
  2. The performance review also provides a solid basis for coaching, reward and recognition, corrective action, compensation adjustments, and promotions.
  3. Performance appraisals have an important place in any organisation that wants to make promotion, selection for advanced training, selection for important assignments both fair and legally defensible.
  4. A good system realises that entry-level people might need a performance appraisal every six months. A good system has performance expectations tailored for the individual’s position in the organizational structure.
  5. Setting SMART objectives and being evaluated on them helps me to prioritise what the organization and my boss think is important. This enables me to either say “no”, “out of scope at this time”, or “let me try to negotiate space to do that.”
  6. Without a plan (developmental) and a review (performance measurement) how would anyone know what is being accomplished?
  7. Performance management fails when it is done badly; Just because you had a bad experience doesn’t mean that you should scarp performance reviews
  8. Good review processes give organisations and individuals an opportunity to audit the effectiveness of an organisation’ management as well as individual’s performance.
  9. “What you aren’t measuring, you aren’t managing”, If targets and individual performances are well managed then the Performance Review is a great opportunity to celebrate success.
  10. Preparing for reviews is a great way to take stock, reward high performing team members with praise, and get a start point in place for recovery of underperformers.
  11. It is when people find they haven’t had them that they realise the value to themselves as individual employees. Otherwise, with poorer managers, they can find years have passed without that formal opportunity.
  12. Performance reviews are essential in that they continuously remind everyone in the organisation, regardless of level in the organisational structure, that his or her roles, responsibilities and accountabilities are monitored and will be assessed in line with expected outcomes.

Where to from here:

Most professionals are in favour of performance reviewing in general. The objections have been primarily against the Annual Review as an event, questioning its relevance, methodology and outcomes.

I believe in performance reviewing in all its forms – self-reviewing, peer reviewing, organisational plans/strategies reviewing. Without reviewing there is no point in planning in the first place.

It seems that a lot of confusion and dissatisfaction is created by the multitude of objectives the single event of Annual Performance Review is trying to achieve, i.e. Review individual performance, Review contribution to team performance, Review contribution to Organisational goals, Review application/demonstration of company values, Review achievement of personal goals, Motivation levels, Plan next year’s goals (in all the above areas) plus fit in some coaching/counselling for a quick problem fix.

It’s quite a significant ask from all parties involved…

The obvious solution/approach is to split the formal Review into several “conversations” – an ongoing review “sessions” with a minimum reportable period of 1 week.

Some people have suggested daily reporting and reviewing….

Is this not verging on micro-management and over-reporting?

I believe everyone can self-manage on a daily basis and review their own performance. (there are exceptions of course, high-risk industries for example, but then you’re monitoring organisational key value drivers on a daily basis not individual performance….)

If the Annual Review is not a single performance management event, it becomes a relevant summary of what is already known and addressed in the previous 12 months; therefore its main purpose is developmental – to set the individual’s performance/development plan for the following year, whilst also acknowledging their improvement efforts and achievements so far.

So what can you do in your organisation?

  1. Having an automated, easy to use system is important – we are currently reviewing several for meeting our key criteria below:
  2. The Performance Measurement System should be aligned with the process of creating and tracing/measuring value in the organisation.

If this path is not well defined there is disconnect between what is measured and what the organisation as a whole needs to achieve.
How do you do this? – not as easy as it spans Strategic Management, Operations, HR and Strategic Marketing, which are normally addressed by different departments, consultants and systems, which come in separate packages.

We have designed a system that brings all these strategic elements together, and are in the process of  pairing it up with the most suitable Performance Measurement software.
Our system is incorporated in our new programme/ new business philosophy Work Smart – Have Fun, which will be launched in late March with first participants intake in April.

Let us know if you want to be part of it.

Denitza Genova

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Re-Energise these Holidays

Everyone has a different idea about their ”ideal” or “dream” holiday.

It might be relaxing with a book at the beach, playing with the kids, visiting some remote places, catching up on sleep or re-connecting with friends and family.

This time of the year is a wonderful opportunity to take some time off our busy schedules and re-charge our batteries.

And while you are relaxing or having some serious fun make sure you really re-energise yourself.

One thing, which is even more important than New Year Resolutions and carefully thought out plans is to start the new year with the “Best You”, which is basically the very simple “Being Healthy and Happy“.

I do believe that in order to realise any other goals and dreams you may have you need to have a sound body and a sound spirit.

Use the down-time to introduce and establish some healthy routines, which will turn into healthy habits. Here’s how… [...]

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How to Boost Productivity and save the Australian Economy $109bn

Ernst & Young’s first of its kind Survey of Australian Productivity (the Ernst & Young Australian Productivity PulseTM) measured Australian worker’s productivity and opinions about the biggest barriers to productivity and how to improve it.

2,500 workers were surveyed across different industries, regions and organisational levels.

The key findings of the survey reveal the Productivity Levels of a worker’s average day and the 4 Major Drivers of organisational productivity.

Individual Productivity Levels

In an average day people spent:

  • only 58% on work that directly adds “real value”
  • 18% on work that wasted time and effort
  • 12% on networking with colleagues
  • 9% on other activities that added value
  • 3% on activities that added to personal development

Given the annual wage bill in Australia is approximately $606 billion, total organisational productivity wastage could be valued at as high as $109 billion. [...]

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Is Effort Alone Enough…


I came across this motivational video about peak performance and the extra degree of effort, called 212.

The basic premise is that at 211 degrees (F) water is hot and at 212 degrees it boils.
This 1 extra degree makes a world of difference to the impact it generates.

And whilst the conclusions and thoughts this video provokes are obvious – do more and you’ll achieve more, don’t give up – it takes just one extra step, etc I think given our overly busy life today the more relevant issue here is :

Is effort alone enough to get what we want from life?

Because if it is not ourselves we all know a lot of people who do so much, apply themselves, are always “flat out” but are not happy with where they are and with what they are achieving in life.

It is a very pertinent issue and it certainly deserves more time (and effort). So I want to break this down to several “conversations”.

Let’s start with a simple model using a popular approach in management decision making, the management matrix
I want to call this model “The 212 degree Achiever” or “The Peak Performer” ( if you don’t like the American reference to Fahrenheit).

The management matrix always relies on comparing case scenarios/options created by exploring 2 variables.
We already have one, the degree of effort we invest in what we do.
The second one, which I believe is a key ingredient to peak performance, is FOCUS.

So let’s see how it all comes together.
In the matrix on the right  there are 4 distinct behaviour models along the 2 variables of FOCUS and EFFORT.

Let’s look at them:

The Overwhelmed or the Cruiser

These are the people who don’t do much about anything because they don’t care (the cruiser) or because they are not sure which way to go (the overwhelmed).
Either way don’t expect to get anywhere interesting or meaningful with this strategy in life!

The Underachiever

Unfortunately we all know people who are so talented but just don’t apply themselves. The reasons are different but the end result – the same – disappointment that a great talent is wasted. The focus is there ( I know what I like and what I’m good at but it’s just too hard…) but the effort is missing.

The Overstretched

You have to feel sorry for these guys – they are so committed and involved in achieving and so tired and stressed out to enjoy it.
Why? Regardless of how healthy, strong and intelligent we think we are, we will always have a finite amount of energy and resources to achieve what we want. So we have to make a choice and prioritise.

The 212 Degree Performer

These guys certainly have found the answer.
Choose something that you like, are good at it and just keep doing it until you succeed, win, and feel happy (whichever words you choose to use to describe your final destination).

It’s a really simple formula – FOCUS and EFFORT or FOCUSED EFFORT.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog.

Let me know what you think.
Until next time,

And here is the video:

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