Matt Rutherford

Is this the year?

For levelling up?  It’s your choice.

You can upgrade skills, shift role, move company or change career – but if you don’t take the first step, you won’t make the next step.

In the competitive business world, standing still is not really an option. We all need to grow our skills, get educated and learn new competencies before the next person does and drinks your milkshake.

There are plenty of opportunities out there, but no-one will lead you to them. YOU will need to take the next step.  This isn’t about New Year resolutions or buying a self-help book to leave on the reading pile to gather dust, this is about choosing and executing an investment in yourself.

So, is this your year?

Time to make it happen. 

Ready, Set…

Advent, Christmas, Twixmas, New Year, Hangover, Resolutions. 

It’s all done now, finished for another year. Depending on where you are, today is a last free day before heading back to work after a break, or at least some quiet time. 

So today is a time to be ready, pencil sharpened, tools ready, inbox organised and notebook fresh for another year of success. 

Let’s BLAST into 2017. 

Welcome to 2017

Happy New Year! Wishing everyone a successful, peaceful and prosperous year.

Top 10 of 2016 – Music

Whilst 2016 wasn’t a great year for many things, there was some amazing music about.

Here are my top ten albums of the year, in no specific order:

 

  • Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
  • Lisa Hannigan – At Swim
  • Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
  • Kate Tempest – Let them eat chaos
  • Joep Beving – Solipsism
  • Keaton Henson – Kindly Now
  • Olafur Arnalds – Island Songs
  • James Blake – The Colour in Anything
  • Rokkurro – I Annan Heim
  • Tricky – Skilled Mechanics

SFTW#18

Regular readers will know of my obsession with German film director Werner Herzog – this short film: The Journey of a Plastic Bag is narrated by him, and is a brilliant watch.

Alternatively – here’s a video of astronauts singing on the moon.

This brilliant photo essay is a great insight into the world I grew up in, I was 11 in 1980 (yep – that old), and these were the people I was surrounded by in West London.

Love might be complicated, but Ikea is simple.  Have you heard the Boston Typewriter Orchestra?  Give them a chance.  If that isn’t absurd enough – this almost certainly is.

This cat in a hat could well be the best thing on the internet:

Finally – I’ll leave you with the greatest Christmas Song ever written – if you have got this far, please reward yourself with this beauty:

Bing Crosby  –  Mele Kalikimaka (Hawaiian Christmas Song)

 

SFTW#17

This week I have been thinking about feedback – the important exercise of ‘closing the loop’ when you want to understand how your performance shows up, or when you want to tell someone how you think they are doing.

Over many years, I’ve needed to deliver feedback in writing and face to face, and I’ve received my fair share in both methods. I thought I’d share some tips from both sides of the equation

Giving Feedback
  • Be direct – whenever I deliver written feedback, I make sure the subject is on cc of the email.  If you couldn’t say your feedback face to face, then you should tune your commentary accordingly.  It helps you be more honest and helps the feedback land better.
  • Be honest – dressing feedback up doesn’t help anyone. It reduces your credibility and takes away the value of the exercise.
  • Be kind – feedback is a gift, this is your opportunity to help someone grow, either through recognition or support.  Look for specific examples that support your subject and opinion.
Receiving Feedback
  • Be open – you are getting a gift, so be ready to hear things that will help you moving forward. Recognise something that you can improve or enhance to help you grow.
  • Be receptive – this is one time when you’ll want to suppress your brains normal defence mechanisms.  Holding back your ‘fight or flight’ instinct will help you listen and understand feedback without it feeling like an attack.
  • Be patient – unless you are directly in the moment, feedback is often about something you did recently. In wich case, it’s worth being patient about how you use the feedback, you may not be able to test a new approach or deliver an improvement immediately. However, taking the feedback on board will stand you in good stead.

Something from the Web

The Quran painted on silk. Stunning.  Ten ways to appear smarter in meetings.  Here are some cats in hats, of course.

Welcome to The Emergent Era – some really deep thinking about the state we’re in. Might explain some of the world turmoil and our state of mine.

SFTW#16

When do you unplug?  Do you suffer from FOMO?  What the hell is FOMO?  Is there a danger in being TOO connected?

I went out with some old colleagues yesterday, dinner & beers to celebrate someone leaving the company and loads of time for me to compare my new job, to my old company.  As we ate, I noticed that everyone had their phones on the table, watching emails from the US, checking in with family, social networking, photos for Instagram.  A couple of people stepped away to Facetime with the kids as they went to bed, one person even jumped on a work call for 15 minutes.

I’m sure that you’ve noticed it on the commute. Every head is bowed, cradling the phone like a broken bird.  No-one wants to miss out. Everyone wants to stay connected

Anna Wintour always told girls new to Vogue, “never sleep in the car.”   What she meant was that when living a busy life, the best way to absorb your surroundings is to look out of the window.

The connection that comes from technology is often unfulfilling, and our reliance on the technology is unsustainable.

So – what to do?

My recommendation is to start small, maybe one day a week. How about ‘Switch off Sunday’? Once a week a single day to switch off the electronics and connect with your friends, family or the outside work.  I’m not a mindfulness coach, I don’t think people should start colouring books or even meditation – but one true day off will help de-stress. 

If you take a day out to disconnect, you’ll be surprised. The world will carry on turning and you won’t have missed out on anything too significant.  You might even conquer your Fear of Missing Out!

Something from the Web 

Picking your battles at work – good advice here.  Great ideas on how to get a promotion.  Five ways to tame your email.   Next time I go Paris for leisure, I really fancy this… a bike powered boat trip along the Seine. 

Finally – Would you like to see a hypnotic pizza cat? Of course you would.

SFTW#15

This week I have been thinking about procrastination, and how you can conquer that demon that stops you doing something you know you must get done.  It’s common, there are so many opportunities and distractions around us. So much information. So many calls for our time. Hesiod, a Greek poet from the 8th century said:

“Do not put off your work until tomorrow and the day after. For the sluggish worker who does not fill his barn, nor the one who puts off his work; industry aids work, but the man who puts off work always wrestles with disaster”

So, here are five steps that I think help me to avoid procrastination:

  • Step 1 – Mindset: I constantly try and train my brain to realise the connection between the work I have ahead of me, and my goals in life.   I keep a journal or activity log to record what the things I do, and how they align with my goals. This helps me correct my mindset when I feel that something is not important, if it aligns with my goals, then it is important and needs focus.
  • Step 2 – Body: This is the tough one for me, but if I focus on the simple things, I find I get more productive and focus.  Getting enough sleep. Eating as healthily as possible. Exercising regularly.   I need to do better here.
  • Step 3 – Preventing: One you are in good shape mentally and physically, it’s time to reduce distractions.  I try and create an environment where I reduce the flows of information inwards.  Reducing the time I spend checking email, or turning off the Wi-Fi when I really need to focus on something.  Using my commute to read in otherwise dead time.  Every time you switch something off, you reduce your chances of distraction.
  • Step 4 – Productivity: Answering 100 emails every hour is not productivity, it is efficiency. Learning the difference is a big challenge.  I try to focus my time on doing the right things in the least amount of time. Prioritisation and consciously deciding what needs my focus helps me to reduce the chances of distraction by non-essential things.
  • Step 5 – Persuasion: I try to share what requires my focus and why I need to focus on it with the people around me. This can be a powerful tool to reducing the inputs and distractions.  I also try and use persuasion and planning to empower people around me to handle the distractions that otherwise steal my focus. This is not a simple delegation exercise, but more about finding the tasks that align to the characters and roles of people around me.

That’s it – all sounds simple, but it’s a step-by-step process that helps me drive improved focus and reduce the distractions that cause procrastination.   If I am successful with these, then I can achieve more.

Something from the Web

Somewhat related to my top of mind. This is a good way to reduce audible distractions around you, create a soundscape that helps you focus.  This is creepy, a website that knows everything that you do.

Many years ago, I used to work in an office in Hayes where the evening would bring a giant, mesmerising flock of starlings. Later, I learned they were called murmurations – this video shows some epic examples – The Art of Flying.

Finally – continuing my cartographical obsession – a world map of every country’s tourist slogan.

SFTW#14

I’ve been learning tonnes of stuff in my job, but I always think I have the capacity for more.

When was the last time you actively decided to learn something new, a new language, how to ride a unicycle or even how to code and make an app?

Here are seven things that you could learn in your spare time, for free. Some of them might help you at work, but all of them are skills you might find useful.

  1. An Introduction to HTML & CSS – the building blocks of a website, if you’ve never built your own site, this free course could get you started.  (Free)
  2. Outlook 2016 training – we spend a lot of time in our mailboxes, learning how to use them properly can be an essential skill. (Free with a trial)
  3. Google Advance Search – this is really good, mastery of how to use the world favourite search engine is a great skill. (Free – one hour)
  4. Beginners Guide to Photoshop – Step by Step videos that help you understand Photoshop – now you can edit cat pictures till your heart is content (Free – 1.5 hours)
  5. Introduction to Negotiation – Buying a house, getting a pay rise, debating which restaurant to go to with your partner – this is a great course for anyone who has to deal with someone that has a different perspective on the world. (Free – 11 hours)
  6. Start Writing Fiction – Great writing skills are an asset to anyone for work or pleasure – this course will get you started (Free – 24 hours)
  7. LinkedIn Training Course – How to boost your professional network and promote your personal brand. (Free – 2 hours)

All free – most are short – why not challenge yourself to learn a new skill before the end of the year. I’d love to hear if you decide to do something, and what skill you chose!

Something from the Web

On a similar vein, these 62 websites will make you smarter – there are some great ones in here.  All the 2016 Christmas ads are on one page, my favourite is Kevin the Carrot.  The parodies are out there already.

This is the greatest exercise class ever – count me in.

Finally – does anyone want to see a video of a Sloth in a speedboat?  Yep, I’ve got you covered.

SFTW#13

We’ve all done it.

We’ve fallen into the trap of thinking that one-on-one meetings with our boss are a bit stale and feel less than useful.  This is especially the case when everything is going well and the meetings start to feel a bit redundant.   After all, if it’s all going well and your projects are on track, then why do you even need to meet?

Well – for me, it’s exactly those times when one on one meetings can be valuable – because they aren’t just about checking in on actions, they are about discussing the higher-level things; feedback, career goals, professional development and building strong relationships.

My advice for having a meaningful meeting with your boss boils down to three key things:

  • Get Control – your manager can probably guide you through a 1:1, but if that happens it’ll be their agenda that ‘owns’ the time.  My most effective manager meetings have been when I have defined what I need to get, and ideally sent to my boss in advance.    A few bullet points, 24 hours (or at the beginning) before a 1:1 will let your manager know where you want to focus, give them time to prepare and show that you are owning the process.  It’s a great technique to maximise the impact of your time. I tend to think of three or four things – one update I want to give (the good news), one problem I want to solve and one or two bits of feedback I want to give or get.
  • Get Awkward – ticking off a list of things you’ve done is not really wringing the life out of your time together. I like the concept of bringing some ‘awkward’ into your 1:1, “because if it’s not a bit awkward, you’re not talking about the real stuff“.  Giving and getting feedback is a great use of time. Do you have the ‘best relationship’ possible, if not – why not?  Ask for feedback on how to be better.  Hard questions that require thought and discussion to get honest answers about feel like a great use of time. I like asking hard questions, until I get easy answers, bringing that approach into your 1:1 can yield amazing value.

In summary, it’s your 1:1. Owning it is important, and figuring out how you can maximise the efficacy of that time together is an important step. Try changing your approach a little bit, your manager will welcome it and you’ll find it makes the sessions much more effective.

Something from the Web

Fortune magazine have published their Businessperson of the Year list – and look at number 6!  Talking of Brad, here is a great video (30 mins – grab a coffee) where he discusses Bill Campbell, the coach that once led Intuit.  Eric Schmidt is writing a book about him.

I think we all need a bit of inspiration and motivation this week – so here’s the incredible Maya Angelou reading her most famous poem. (Youtube/2 mins) or if you need relaxation, here are two videos for relieving stress. One for cats. One for Dogs. And here’s the video on how they were made, by David Tennant.

Last week I talked about building Critical Thinking skills – here’s a great article about doing just that.