Working With The End In Mind – Stepping Stones And Goal Setting (2/6)

Did you look up Eugene’s book. Did you order it? You might have even read it.

Another very influential book for me was Bob Seelert: Start With The Answers (Seelert, Bob (2009), Start with the answers: and other wisdom for aspiring leaders, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey).

Bob said:

Find your own personal statement, identifying the values, beliefs, and principles you stand for – then live by it.

Nothing summarises personal development any better. Youness. Bob is a natural. You identify your vision, cross reference with your values and beliefs – make sure they are aligned. Live by them. Work towards them. Have a mantra and a mission statement for your life. Live by them every day. You will be successful.

And don’t forget. Success for you might look different to success for someone else. For some it is money, others happiness, others a big family. You define what you want to achieve. You define what is important to you. What is aligned with your inner self. Nothing else really matters.

Bob, in his book, talks, amongst many other things, about rules of turning around a business, being a hands on leader, a doer and not to be a senior guy that sits around in an office. To be successful you need to listen to everyone in the organisation, to your customers and shareholders, lay out a plan and stick to your short list of critical priorities (p.51).

Triggered by one of his chapters on the Myer-Briggs type I was identified back then as 11% emotional, 25% intuitive, 12% feelings and 78% judgemental. Maybe I have to redo the test, I think things might have changed in the last 5 years since reading the book. Trying to do another test online I come up with similar readings but less strong – hey I guess it is a personality test after all. I take personality tests with a pinch of salt but it gives you a great indication of what might be one of your underlying values. As discussed before, try to find out what you really want to do in life.

Bob speaks about a personal and company mantra. A strategic vision needs to be like a mantra, twenty words or less, and communicated to everyone. He states that customer service is key to a successful organisation and that you achieve success by knowing what is wrong underneath the service and changing it. Winning is about knowing where you are going and having the tools and the know how to use them effectively. I guess you also have to have the keys to the kingdom in order to do it. If you do not you can be the greatest manager or visionary, but if the senior guy who holds the key does not want or cannot understand you, you are wasting your time. I suppose that is why a lot of people start their own business to be put in the driving seat.

When managing a team, giving them time to do their own thing, develop creativity and work on personal projects is important. People make mistakes but if they learn from it, it is ok. Google is famous for letting employees work 20% of their time on a pet project. As a leader you need to set expectations for your people to be the best they can be and ensure they have everything they need to make it happen. Give them support, encouragement and principles. Start with the end in mind, give them a vision to where you and the organisation want to go. And similar is true with business relationships. Relationship marketing is about long term value of customer relationships and extended communication between advertising and sales.

So how does all that come together?

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Working With The End In Mind – Stepping Stones And Goal Setting (1/6)

This chapter is about bringing it all together. If you like this is the summary of what I am doing and what I think the basics of an organised life, efficient working style and great communication entails. Again, do not forget that this is quite subjective and there are some things that work better for some than others….

That’s how I started this chapter in my book. Yet it should probably be the core focus in the book – starting with the book end in mind….It is about the vision you have in life. The greater thing you want to achieve. The life, the job, the career that is important to you. I have been quoting Steve Jobs for a while saying that you don’t really need any motivation, as the vision is pulling you if you are working on something exciting. And that is fundamentally true.

If you are working on a new product, bringing something to  market or are eager to get a family started, or the long anticipated job, then you are having a vision. This vision will pull you along, and you will manage to achieve all of that – by being pulled. Sounds easy, but you will know when it hits you. When you get up in the morning with an energy and enthusiasm to achieve something, to get going and work on something until it works. That’s the vision, your drive, your enthusiasm. You will succeed. This goes in line with an inner urge to succeed and make it work. No matter what.

I still read a lot of personal development books, and mainly about how to raise the bar. What I like to understand is how you can continue to push the bar and still succeed and grow. Is there infinite growth in personal development? Will I ever be able to raise the bar to where I want it to be? My answer is clear: YES. One can achieve anything in life as long as you put your mind to it, have a clear vision and goal setting.

Whatever you decide to do, you can achieve it. Whatever you put your mind to, you can achieve it. Practising and being part of what you preach is key. Being one with yourself is also key. What I mean with that is if you are 100% you, not fake or pretend to be someone, then you will be able to be 100% within the now and be yourself, be real and can grasp the moment. You will be an achiever! One must give 100% of oneself to achieve one’s goals! You might be able to rise above others but do not become arrogant. When spirit and body, a healthy body I shall say, come together to form a “youness” – that is when you start having energy flowing through your body that makes you kind of invincible.

There are a few books I have read that have had a great impact on me. One was Chasing Daylight (O’Kelly, Eugene (2008), Chasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life, McGraw-Hill, Maidenhead) which is a book Eugene O’Kelly started writing when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour he would not survive long enough to finish the book. He describes his journey from loving husband and father and leading CEO to being diagnosed with an incurable disease. As a committed CEO he travelled the world in order to sit next to a prospect on a plane to close a deal. As a committed husband and father he describes his thoughts being on his sick bed looking back at his life. A very powerful book. The key message is to enjoy and cherish the moment, the time you have, make it real, make it awesome for others and yourself.

Eugene achieved a lot. I don’t want to end this post on a low, but sometimes you need to realise NOW what you have. What you are grateful for and what drives you on. Don’t forget, just because you dream big doesn’t mean you should neglect what you have. Do a reality check, be grateful for what you have, and make sure you have this vision to pull you.

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What to eat or snack whilst staying productive (without getting fat)

I love to snack, and who doesn’t? You feel peckish in the morning, a few crisps go down well. Some peanuts and chocolate after lunch and then some more chocolate to stay awake later in the day? So what is the answer to snacking healthily at work?

First of all, maybe self control and eating lots of bananas instead. That worked well for me, ending up eating 4-6 bananas a day. However, if you don’t have that much self control, what can you actually eat and stay healthy?

Fresh fruit is key like apples and peaches. Then lunch, what do you eat for lunch? Heavy bread and crisps like a lot of people in the UK? Or some healthy salad with some freshly made granary bread? I used to snack on carrots. Or some sushi?

Again, our friends at Lifehack where I read a lot of good stuff, have a whole list of foods you can snack on:

  1. Avocados. 
  2. Almonds.
  3. Raisins.
  4. Figs.
  5. Olives.
  6. Walnuts.
  7. Carrots.
  8. Strawberries.
  9. Flaxseeds.
  10. Water.
  11. Sunflower seeds.
  12. Papaya.
  13. Pear. 
  14. Green tea.
  15. Ginger.
  16. Peppermint.
  17. Watermelon.
  18. Low fat yoghurt.
  19. Dark chocolate.
  20. Raspberries. 

You can see they suggest  a lot of fresh fruits and dark chocolate. High on antioxidants, low on bad stuff. Perfect for snacking.

If you look around a few sites and do your research, the list is very similar to above. Those snacks come in handy when your energy level drops. If your blood sugar drops try to eat an egg or dark chocolate. A yoghurt with some honey for lunch? Or water if you feel hungry, someone once told me to drink cold water so the body warms it up and burns energy. Is that really a way to loose weight? One probably has to drink a lot of water to achieve small weight loss.

Definitely seeds and almonds do the snacking trick if you aren’t intolerant or allergic to it. Humous I found on a list and of course olives. They are surprisingly healthy, same as raisins, and they are full of good stuff too!

What did you experience for healthy snacks?

Just start by taking a donut away a week, replace your chocolate bar with dark chocolate and make the small changes. I managed to almost stop snacking now. You can do it too!

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Power Napping

I love to power nap!

The idea behind power napping is to have a 5-30 minute break from the day, recharge your batteries and nap.

Wikipedia defines its benefits as “Power naps of fewer than 30 minutes—even those as brief as 6 and 10 minutes—restore wakefulness and promote performance and learning. A 30-minute nap may also be able to reverse the hormonal impact of a night of poor sleep or reverse the damage of sleep deprivation. A University of Düsseldorf study found superior memory recall once a person had reached 6 minutes of sleep, suggesting that the onset of sleep may initiate active memory processes of consolidation which—once triggered—remains effective even if sleep is terminated.

So there we go. My experience of power napping is easily described. I used to, at university, study for 90 minutes, worked hard on past exam papers, really concentrated. Then I took a 10 minute nap. Got up, had a coffee, a snack and went back to 90 minutes studying. Then repeat. I ended up with a first class degree and one of the reasons that was, as far as I believe anyway, is that after the studying my brain relaxed and key things from past exam papers sank into my brain, I memorised things better.

Also, I worked as a warden in halls and alarms went off unexpectedly in the middle of the night. Working as a bouncer until late at night got me in late, so I had to catch up with sleep during the day. A few minutes or 30 minutes here and there got me through uni.

Wikihow explains how it is done 🙂 They even suggest to have coffee before the nap so it activates you when you wake up. Very interesting concept. The main danger really is to just fall asleep properly and not waking up at all. Then you will feel wrecked for the rest of the day. So one key aspect is to make sure you get up as soon as the alarm goes off. If you feel light headed, do it anyway. That’s very important. The latest fitness trackers (Jawbone or Fitbit) offering you options to power nap too, including the wake up.

As you know I am having a 5 am routine. Often, on my commute in the morning, I catch up on 10-20 minutes snooze or power nap. I go deep into myself and nap, waking up very refreshed at the station. It is to catch up on some sleep deprivation, some balancing act in my brain’s chemicals I suppose, to make it a successful day.

Have you tried it?

I know some people say they cannot sleep during the day. They feel knackered afterwards. Surely that is true, but given I have been training it for years, there is a way of being able to train yourself to succeed with power napping. If you cannot, then that is a shame.

The biggest challenge is to do it at work: whilst some companies have sleeping pods or quiet rooms to encourage the napping during the day, I don’t think that is the norm (yet). However, if you have the luxury of your own office, why not put a “do not disturb sign” outside your door and take 10 minutes over lunch?

Carpe diem!

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Can you be as tough as a Navy Seal?

I read about the Navy Seals recently. An article quoted the four pillars of Navy Seals as being

1) Goal Setting

2) Mental Visualisation

3) Positive Self-Talk

4) Arousal Control

This all made sense for personal development also. What does make the Navy Seals or any elite unit so successful, and what can managers or leaders learn from them? To answer that question I did some research and came back to similar or same four pillars as described above.


Navy Seals operate in a very specific area. They have one goal and one goal only. That means they are very focused on e.g. rescuing someone or finding something. Anything else, any surrounding circumstances are ignored. The goal or target is highly relevant and 100% in focus. Nothing else.

Training is usually around 90 minutes for a task, and then those 90 minutes are broken down in smaller tasks. Just as a leader sets a goal for e.g. revenue per year and breaks it down to revenue per day to be achieved. Chunk size goal setting, that can be achieved and work towards achieving the bigger goal.


The Mental Visualisation is key also. This is known from sports people, race car drivers or successful speakers also. They practise the speech or the game or the cycle or drive in their head. They visualise every corner of the grand prix race and how they lean into a curve during the motor bike race. The same is true for leaders who should visually drive themselves through the next staff meeting, the redundancies or hiring process; as sales drive yourself through the next pitch and visualise how great the presentation and hopefully the response is going to be. Try to be prepared for any surprises though.


The positive self talk is key to stay calm under pressure. Always talk yourself that things are going to be ok, and that you are ok and doing a good job. This keeps the confidence going and you are not letting yourself or your team mates down. Remind yourself that if others have succeeded, then so will you. There is no reason to not believe that and it is important to keep going and you will succeed as well. Override your fear!


It goes in line with Arousal Control. When your body feels overwhelmed, physically or mentally, be prepared and steer against it. Don’t let yourself down, don’t fail. This is key in any Navy Seal operation, but also for any manager. Don’t pack it in front of your clients or faint when things aren’t going well. Keep faith and keep a straight face. Grin and bear it.


This summarises some key skills to learn to be tough and mentally strong to avoid surprises and be prepared for the worst to hit you.

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What I learned about GTD recently

I thought it was time to look at GTD once again. Lifehacker wrote a good summary, and I wanted to pick that up again. The five pillars of the GTD workflow are simple.


1: you need to capture everything.

Any to-do’s, ideas, tasks, re-occuring events or task, just anything that comes your way. If that is via Evernote or pen and paper or a tool, like the 2do app which I highly recommend and use daily if not hourly, is up to you. Whenever you think of anything that needs to get done, put it in your trusted system. The idea is: keep it simple as a tool and simple in terms of retrieving it. So capture it often, immediately and make it easy to review.


2: Plan what you capture and clarify what you need to do.

Writing the todos down is one thing, but you need to plan them too. Either by project managing them or breaking them down in mini tasks, putting a time against it or a due date or maybe even deleting them as they aren’t that relevant anymore. Can you delegate parts of it maybe?


3: Organise the items on your todo list….

The natural next step: once you have everything captured and know what you want to have, then organise the items and actions and todos in the app or your paper todo list. Categorise them if you can, e.g. home, personal development, work, hobby etc. Prioritise them A, B, C….or add a due date as of above. Some might just be on the list for GTD’s famous “some day maybe list” or some might go into your calendar as a reminder.


4: Review

Once a week, or on the go (I like to do it whilst being disconnected on flights), review and reflect. Review what’s on your todo list. What is next, what can wait, what has to be done sooner. Can we change the work flow? Can we be more specific? Should you break certain tasks down more?

Ideally you review the list once a week in the weekly review. Is the system working for you for all those steps so far?


5: GTD!

It is great to have many lists but you need to action on them too. Get to work and GET THINGS DONE, tick off a task and get going. You now can be proactive, you know where to focus and what to do and when. You got manageable tasks, easy to start.


Action over to you!



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Becoming and Being an A-Player

I believe it was Tony Robbins where I first came about the expressions of “surround yourself with A-Players if you want to be an A-Player“. In research A-Players are described from anything of being a workaholic to being a superhero. I am not too sure I am either 😉

However, there is much truth in surrounding yourself with people that help you vs. people that you help. What I mean by that? Simple really, if you ever managed and employed people you should follow one simple rule: employ people that help you push boundaries rather than people that solely do their job. You employ people that are better than you and help you succeed, because if you employ people that you constantly need to micro manage, then you loose too much time.

That doesn’t mean you should employ someone with potential, e.g. people that are, with some coaching by yourself and your team, don’t turn into high performers. Again, the word high performer has to be defined.

Surrounding yourself with people that are better than you will challenge you and help you grow. It also helps the company as boundaries are being pushed.

I have a simple rule when looking at recruitment: people need to be smart, understand the space they operate in and have an understanding of where they and the company want to go. If someone already asks about the future of the project and his/her role in it, then this person is definitely making the last round. They will help me pushing the limits. And if you want to be successful, that is what you need.

Surround yourself with players that help you succeed. You noticed I dropped the A. Somewhere I read A-Players put their job over their family and seek opportunities for their company all the time. High potential, high risk. I am not convinced.

Actually, I am opposing the idea. If someone has family, then this person can still be an A-Player having a great work life balance. As a former boss put it, being away from home one or two nights a week can actually help your relationship. It is good for employees to work longer hours sometimes or travel for work and have some distance to their family and the office. Yet also, it is key for me that employees have a great family ‘back up’. No work at the weekends, being home for bathing their kids on some days of the week (or all) and no late or early hours unless necessary.

Some of you would wonder if I don’t expect a lot more than 9-5 from my staff? I don’t. I expect a lot more from my employees between 9-5. Productivity, excellent work ethics, A-Player thinking, pushing boundaries and constantly contributing to solutions and the progress of the company. If that is happening and the employee has a great work life balance, then this results in better performance than someone working 5-9 who is miserable about their home and family life.

I cannot stress enough that success and performance is not the amount of hours you work but what you get done during your working hours. Everyone can keep busy until late at night, but the output might not be as great. And, whilst sometimes it is necessary to work all night, the majority of time life outside work is to relax and spend time with the loved ones.

Now, to look at “A-Players” (with reference to MaRS) and their key skills:

– smart and asking the right questions

– positive, can do attitude

– entrepreneurial and pushing boundaries

– excellent communicators

– a life outside work

– highly productive and committed

– team players that easily integrate within the culture and team itself

– growth potential

– decision makers

Important is, coming back to your own personal development, that you surround yourself with those kind of employees as they will be the ones taking things forward. Employ people better than yourself, don’t fear competition, as you enable them to grow. They will thank you for that.

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Communication – Productivity of Life (4/4)

Thank you all for the feedback about my communication chapter from my productivity book to far. I much appreciate your input.

There is a part I like to touch on which I call non-verbal communication. Reading people. I have read many books in relation to that and found only one sentence helpful which I remember as: “If someone sits on a swivel chair, turns to the side, crosses his legs and shows you the side of his body, he might not be interested in you or your conversation. Or, he just thought of something and got into a more comfortable position whilst talking to you”.

Body language is down to individuals. I often play with my beard or stretch my legs to feel sensation in them. That does not mean my head is switched off or I am not listening. I am just being comfortable. However, if you do not look into someone’s eyes, or staring can be both off putting or supporting your self confidence if you do not overdo it. Hence shy people who usually do not like looking at someone, do not always make the best sales people. And, I believe you can tell if someone overcame shyness at some stage in their life too. There are a few things I just refer you to the literature where you should be careful of avoiding gestures in a conversation or meeting. Like if you cross your arms you can be comfortable or protective, defensive even. I believe the most known one is showing the bottom of your foot (sole of your shoe) to someone in the Middle East. It is an insult as the sole is already on the ground and the other person is suggested to be even lower. Again it goes in line with cultural differences.

Whilst in the UK it is common to have a drink with a colleague or business partner prior to closing the deal, in other countries you would never socialise with a business partner nor drink with one. In the US you either drink at conferences, but for lunches it is more uncommon as most people have to drive and it is less socially acceptable. Germany serves alcohol free beer at most events, so you don’t have to drink but can be part of the “drinking community”. Each to their own.

One last point to mention is internal communication within organisations. Time zone differences, the above mentioned language differences and internal politics often make it difficult to communicate. An important factor is to find out what your boss wants to hear, who the key influencers are internally and how you can address challenges with them. Make sure you got the right reporting structure and deliver any required information on time. Also, key is to have all the information ready for your boss whenever he asks. Attention to detail. Whether those are the latest figures or your opinion on the market. Some people would summarise it as managing up and across. You need to manage your manager, manage up to him and across to other key stakeholders in the process.

I have seen more than once that communication breaks down and that people do not realise that they talk past each other. The results can be lethal or damaging for the company and its culture. Hence it is more than important to give people room to manoeuvre, understand requirements, listen to your boss and set up a process that fits within the organisation.

And maybe my last personal tip on communication in the workplace? Summarise your pay review, important meetings with clients, miles stones with employers or employees in an email. Sometimes it makes sense to bcc yourself and keep that email for your records. Send it as a follow up, almost like a recording of what has been discussed.

I hope that you enjoyed these four weeks sharing my communication chapter of my productivity and personal development book. There are so many more things to speak about and talk about and show in regards to communication. Some little cultural things, some about how to impress someone with using a white board versus powerpoint/keynote and how to show confidence by doing so. Most probably I should write a chapter about how to communicate your sales pitch confident and successfully. Negotiation could fill a whole other book.

That is for some other time. For now enjoy communication, practise some of the ideas, make yourself consciously aware and maybe look up some basic conversation rules, like how to build rapport or how to come across confident in meetings.

Best of luck and as always, please leave more comments and let me know what you think. Let me know which bits you want me to focus on more.

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Communication – Productivity of Life (3/4)

Last week we started speaking about different languages in Europe, me sharing my communication chapter from my productivity book. If a team speaks English yet only one native English speaker is in the team, this can lead to a challenge. Most people translate from their native language into English and translate or communicate slightly differently.

I worked for many multilingual companies and once actually sold a product focusing on multilingual services. Languages are fascinating. Each language has different pronunciations, slang, meanings etc. I am bi-lingual which means I can read and write German and English proficiently.

For instance this blog and my book are written in English as I think in English. I try to bring my children up talking to them in German. They talk back to me in English because my wife and their teachers speak English to them most of the day and we live in England. I would think of my English being very good, of course I still have an accent I will not lose, but that is part of a multi cultural society in London. Without an accent you almost seem to be a foreigner in London.

Yet there is nothing wrong with that. Just the opposite I find. The drawback is that you sometimes cannot pronounce a word you would like to use or have less words to choose from in your foreign language. But you know enough to make yourself understood of course.

Between the US and the UK, although both speak English, there are differences in language too. “Two countries separated by a common language”, one says. However, if you work with people who have never used English on a daily basis, and this is your corporate language, or people are not conscious of their limitations with the English language, then you have a huge potential communication issue. There are several reasons: The British first of all, and to a certain extent the Americans, are too polite to say to someone that they do not understand them but instead praising people that their English is very good. It took me some time to figure that one out 😉 Then when it comes to daily communication you need have reassurance what they mean. Often emails do not make sense, things are translated literally or via a dictionary or online translation tool, to an extent that they do not make much sense. Here you have to manage very carefully to find common ground as so much could get lost in translation.

A recent podcast suggested to train companies in using common languages, including training non native English speakers in English. I have seen that being done yet not necessarily accepted by some employees as being a time waster or being unproductive. Whilst this might be, it pays off in the long run if you wish to pursue a career within a larger organisation. The language of choice for most business meetings is English.

I was astonished once working for a company where the English spoken training was delivered by people whose first language was not English and unlike myself have never lived in the English spoken world. Whilst it was not a bad training, there were limitations on how the training was flowing plus when it came to exercises they swapped back to their native language.

This is not having a go at former employers but I believe that in Europe, where you have English as the common language for business, you should think of having trainings facilitated out of UK or international companies to eliminate the danger of falling back into their native language. It needs great leadership and acceptance to do that from both staff and managers alike. This is particularly true for companies whose HQ is outside an English speaking country and I worked for a couple of those too. On that note, working for a Dutch company, they grow up bilingual and make their company language, e.g. meetings, presentations etc., all in English. Fascinating.

Enough about language differences and communication challenges across Europe.

Next week we move on to the non verbal communication. Stay tuned!

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