Claris Blog

The 7 steps of learning a new skill

April 11th, 2014
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Swimming Lessons

The process of learning a new skill is as much mental as it is physical. Take swimming for example. Knowing how to hold your hands and kick your feet is the physical side of learning to swim. Keeping your head underwater while not feeling as though you are going to drown is the mental side of learning to swim.

In my coaching and consulting work what I’ve found is that people have a greater difficultly with the mental aspects of learning a new skill as opposed to the physical aspect. Whether learning to lead, become a high-performing team member or giving feedback, having a process allows us to not only learn the new skill, but to master it.

If you have something you want to learn, here are my 7 steps for doing so:

1. Find an exemplar: An exemplar is someone you respect, admire and who is really good at what you want to learn to do. This can be a coach, a consultant or mentor within your organization. The key is to not reinvent the wheel. Find someone who is exceptionally good at what you want to learn and who has the disposition to help others learn the skill they have.

2. Observe the person in action: Be curious about what your exemplar does as well as what they don’t do. Observe them and take mental pictures of what you see. Since a picture is worth a 1000 words, observing your exemplar creates an impression of what the skill looks like when performed well.

3. Interview the person: Whenever possible, ask your exemplar what makes them successful. What are they thinking, what is their frame of reference and what do they believe makes them successful? Since learning a new skill has a mental component, learn as much as you can about their mental frame of mind.

4. Focus on progress not perfection: Learning a new skill requires that you accept not being good at the skill at first. What’s required is isolating two or three things to practice, and practice time must be viewed as a time when you will get dirty and may even look foolish. Being willing to practice without a preoccupation on looking good or getting things right is what makes your practice time valuable.

5. Ask for feedback: Ask for specific feedback, and if and whenever possible, videotape yourself performing the skill. Seeing yourself on video accelerates your learning exponentially.

6. Follow the rule of 72: When you learn something new, the potential for you to master the skill and use it effectively happens when you take action within 72 hours of learning something new. When you don’t take action within 72 hours the potential for you to be effective drops precipitously. Having a bias for taking action immediately is essential for learning new skills.

7. Rinse and repeat: The process of observing, interviewing, practicing, learning and acting, when done repeatedly leads to learning a new skill.

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How solitude will improve your leadership

April 6th, 2014
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How solitude will improve your leadership from Hugh Blane on Vimeo.

Video Notes:

Good morning, my name is Hugh Blane and this is the Monday Morning Minute.

Today I want talk to you about solitude. The majority of people watching work in a culture where you are being asked to do more; and do it better, faster and cheaper. And the word that’s over my right shoulder, the word solitude, is foreign to a lot of leaders I work with.

Solitude is very important to your individual effectiveness and you organizational performance. I believe it is time to put away your smartphone, your iPad and push away from your computer and what is the busyness of your world of work. It is time to have a different and deeper conversation about the world of work. Let me suggest one question for you to contemplate. If you were guaranteed the next two years of your professional life would be exactly the same as your last two years, would you sign up for that? If you would, why? If not, why not? What would need to change?

Ladies and gentleman, you cannot answer that question while in the middle of your everyday busy work-life. You need solitude and or quiet time in order to answer that question.

If you do take time you will have a much more rewarding and enriching professional life. That is the Monday morning I hope you have a fabulous week. I’ll see you here next week.

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Hugh Blane’s Leadership Accelerator: 30 Days of Personalized Leadership and Influence Coaching

April 1st, 2014
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Speedomotor
Photo Courtesy of iStock Photo and MaxProImages

I’ve heard repeatedly from clients that having a shorter-term / accelerated program of leadership and influence coaching would be valuable. To that end, I’m pleased to announce that my Leadership Accelerator Coaching Program is now available. Here’s an overview of what’s involved.

Do you want to experience unparalleled influence in your organization? Do you want your leadership to accelerate business results within your team and organization? If you do, my 30-day Leadership Accelerator coaching program is right for you.

This is the most compact and accelerated leadership development process I offer. It is high-intensity one-on-one coaching with me and is structured for executives who want to dramatically accelerate their leadership effectiveness. It is, essentially, a 30-day version of my highly effective Pulling Out The Stops coaching program.

Here’s what you can expect:
1. A white-hot focus on your organizational presence so intense that within 30 days you’re the person people follow because they want to, not because they have to.
2. A rigorous investigation as to the value of your leadership and the best ways to communicate your leadership value.
3. Breakthrough thinking so powerful, you’ll take ordinary obstacles and convert them into extraordinary opportunities.
4. An unparalleled influencing process that moves adversaries into allies.
5. A relentless pursuit for converting your human potential into accelerated business results.

At the end of 30 days:
1. You’ll experience greater levels of buy-in to superlative performance.
2. You’ll be known as a strategic business partner whose opinion is indispensible.
3. You’ll have inspired confidence, built trust and earned respect.
4. You’ll eliminate disempowering and unproductive performance roadblocks independent of the available resources.
5. You’ll increase the level of innovation and growth within your team.

The programs structure:
1. Access to me by phone and email throughout the 30 days for anything you may be dealing with.
2. A course of pragmatic and tactical action steps for the next 30 days.
3. A scheduled phone or video-call every week to discuss your progress as well as your developmental plan.
4. You will create four weekly breakthrough leadership plans that I will review and provide recommendations for improvement.
5. We’ll work together to overcome any obstacles you’ll encounter

What kind of issues do people choose to address in this program?
1. Powerfully articulating their leadership purpose.
2. Making promises that matter most to their key stakeholders.
3. Prioritizing their calendars for maximum effectiveness.
4. Personifying their leadership purpose.
5. Eliminating the negative drag on their performance while accelerating the positive aspects of their leadership.
6. Creating and cultivating a breakthrough leadership mindset.
7. Remaining positive in times of adversity.
8. Convincingly articulating their value.
9. Preparing for and overcoming obstacles.
10. Living a more rewarding and enriching professional and personal life.

Investment: Your cost for this intensive month-long Breakthrough Leadership Accelerator program is just $1,695

Accelerated Savings:
At the conclusion of the 30 days, we’ll assess your progress and design your next steps. To accelerate your momentum and guarantee your continued success, I will apply 100% of your investment in this program toward my six-month Pulling Out The Stops Program.

The one stipulation? You must notify me within two weeks of the conclusion of this program of your decision to accelerate your momentum. If you do, you will save 16% on my Guided Mentoring coaching program.

If you’re looking for a no nonsense, hard-hitting and a no-holds-barred leadership development program, look no further.

To find out if this program is right for you, call me at 206.829.9413 or email me at hugh@clarisconsulting.net

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The Fresh Air Principle

March 30th, 2014
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MMM 03-31-2014 from Hugh Blane on Vimeo.

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The 5 critical questions that transform organizations

March 21st, 2014
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The 5 critical questions that transform organizations from Hugh Blane on Vimeo.

Video Notes:

Good morning everyone, my name is Hugh Blane, and this is the Monday Morning Minute.

Today, I want to share with you five critical questions I believe can transform your organization. They are:

1. How happy is your customer?

2. What is the demand for your product, services or offerings? Is the demand growing or retarding?

3. How compelling and distinctive is your brand and reputation?

4. Can your employees live out your value proposition in meaningful and compelling ways every day?

5. How good of a job are you doing communicating with your customers? Are you using communication channels and strategies designed specifically with them in mind?

Ladies and gentlemen, if you start asking yourself these five critical questions, and answering them, you will have a much more effective workweek. That is the Monday Morning Minute. I hope you have a fabulous week and I will see you here again next week.

Take care.

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The 5 critical questions for accelerated performance

March 18th, 2014
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There are five questions leaders need to have crystal clear answers to in order to accelerate their performance. They are:

1. On a scale of one through ten with ten being high, how happy are you employees?

2. On a scale of one through ten with ten being high, how distinctive and desirable are you as a leader to work with?

3. On a scale of one through ten with ten being high, how experienced are you at converting individual and team potential into accelerated results?

4. On a scale of one through ten with ten being high, how clear are employees as to their strategic direction and priorities, the value they provide and why customers should choose your department or company over another?

5. On a scale of one through ten with ten being high, how effectively are you and your employees at creating raving fans who evangelize your message?

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The seven steps of converting fear into courage

March 16th, 2014
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Concept of fearless

By nature I’m not a timid person. As far back as I can remember I was willing to ride my bike faster, jump out of taller trees, and venture beyond what seemed safe and comfortable. That boldness, as my mother called it, was a badge I wore with pride. A pride fostered by a quote from T.S. Elliot who said, “only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go”. I was nine years old when the risk of going too far found a new limit in me.

At nine years old, during an eight-hour flight from Glasgow, Scotland to St. Catherine’s, Canada, I experienced an unprecedented type of turbulence that resulted in our plane dropping 500 feet in a matter of seconds. This turbulence was so violent that it felt as though my seat had been suspended fifty feet in the air and dropped onto a concrete floor.

As seatbelts weren’t mandatory in 1968, passengers and flight personnel were found with broken bones and facial lacerations. At nine years old and halfway across the Atlantic Ocean I found myself in a makeshift emergency room at 37,000 feet. That was the day I learned to fear flying.

Thirty years later I jettisoned my fear of flying, as it had become a career limiting issue for me. As a consultant committed to helping executives and teams achieve higher levels of performance, I needed to fly to help them.

There are fears lurking in every leader and it impacts their performance. While their fears are different from mine, the most common fears I’ve found in leaders are:

1. A fear of holding people accountable
2. A fear of making mistakes
3. A fear of leaving a job that sucks the energy out of them the moment they walk in the office
4. A fear of not being seen as smart and successful
5. A fear of upsetting their boss or senior leaders
6. A fear of turning away from current successes in order to have even greater success
7. A fear of investing in themselves
8. A fear of making decisions

Fears like these inhibit us from thinking bigger, creates procrastination and mediocrity. In my consulting work I’ve worked with leaders who prefer sitting on the sidelines with their pristine corporate uniform on rather risking failure. Ultimately, there are long lists of lost opportunities created by a lack of courage, and the downward spiral of poor performance becomes all too real.

If you are a leader who wants to convert fear and trepidation into accelerated performance I developed a seven-step plan to help you do that. The seven steps are:

1. Calculate the costs and benefits:
Converting fear into courage starts with defining the costs associated with a fear and the benefits of removing the fear. The cost for my fear of flying was a $100,000 project in Denver. If I wasn’t willing to fly to Denver I would not be able to fulfill my obligations to my client. In turn, I would lose the project. That was a cost I was unwilling to bear.

The benefits of overcoming my fear were twofold; a significantly reduced anxiety level while flying along with an increased enthusiasm for traveling to cities and countries I wanted to visit. The benefits for me were greater than the costs of remaining fearful. When remaining the same becomes too expensive fear will be left behind.

2. Own the experience:
Having a clear and objective understanding of why you have your fear is essential. In my case I didn’t judge myself; I didn’t think I was weak or spineless. I simply owned the fact that I had an experience thirty years ago that left me fearful. The experience happened and I recognized that I simply needed to move beyond it.

Owning the experience for a CEO client started with her embracing the 100/0 rule. This rule says she is 100% responsible for creating a culture where accelerated performance is embraced and that she’ll offer zero excuses to her board for not doing so. The same holds true with converting fear into courage. Each of us is 100% responsible for owning our current situation and there are zero excuses for not improving it.

3. Be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.
We all have a comfort zone, a place where things are known, safe and predictable. Remaining in our comfort zone however does not allow for growth or innovation to take place. If you want to experience something different, more rewarding and enriching, you have to move out of your comfort zone and be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.

I recently spoke with a client who said the last three months of our working together were the most uncomfortable three months of his professional life. He said this based on conversations we had about his leadership team. He has come to realize that he has the wrong people in the wrong roles, and in turn, his hopes for higher performance will be stalled if he doesn’t make significant changes; changes that mean asking several employees to leave. This CEO accepts that his dreams of elevated performance are married to his willingness to be uncomfortable when making uncomfortable decisions.

4. Rehearse the outcome you want:
Rehearsing the type of flight I wanted to experience involved visualizing myself feeling comfortable while flying. I envisioned flying from takeoff to landing and saw myself experiencing turbulence and sitting calmly. I mentally rehearsed flights so many times that by the time I arrived at the airport my positive flying experience was not only ingrained in my thinking, it was on automatic pilot.

5. Adjust your attitude:
Attitude is everything when it comes to converting fear into courageousness. Moving from an attitude of flying is a fear-filled treacherous endeavor to a welcome adventure is a natural follow on to rehearsing your outcome. When Herb Kelleher, co-founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines was told by analysts he was spending too much money on employee benefits, he responded, “sell your stock.” His attitude was not fearful, but courageous because he had an attitude of supreme confidence.

As leaders, instilling in employees a supreme confidence in their abilities is a competitive business advantage. Doing so starts when leaders recognize that an employees fear and uncertainty are normal and that their primary job is to help convert their fears into courageous next steps.

6. Engage an expert:
Converting fear into courageousness is not a solo activity. It’s far from it. Seeking out the expertise and support needed is essential to success. In my situation, I solicited the help of friends and family members and asked them for their support. Equally as important was interviewing a veteran pilot with 7,500 flight hours about turbulence. I used every tool available to me to overcome my fear including the guidance of a counselor who specializes in overcoming phobias.

7. Exert yourself:
It’s easy for me to convince myself that thinking is taking action. It’s not. Intellectualizing and or philosophizing will do little to overcome fear. Putting myself in an airplane seat and practicing everything I learned was what made the difference.

A CFO client is an exemplar of exerting himself. Bill schedules one hour for every call he has with me. When he calls he asks his most pressing question. At the moment he has the answer he needs he will say, “I got it.” With Bill this is usually fifteen to twenty minutes. He then hangs up and takes the remainder of his allotted time to execute what I’ve suggested. Bill believes that it is only by exerting himself beyond what is comfortable that he becomes a more effective leader.

Leaders are by nature not timid people. The simple act of accepting a leadership position communicates that a leader wants to improve their department of organizations performance. And therein lies the rub. Improved performance is a byproduct of changing processes, systems, and in some cases people. And change for many is a fear inducing process.

Leaders who overcome fear create courageous cultures; cultures inhabited by employees who are willing to be uncomfortable sometimes for extended periods of time. These leaders acknowledge that if and when employees become fearful, it is the leader who is required to be an exemplar as to how to navigate change and transformation. To do so they start by asking themselves the following three questions:

1. In what area of my professional life do I feel timid or uncertain?
2. What is my plan for seeing how far I’m capable of going as a leader?
3. Which of the above seven steps would provide me the most benefit if I embraced it now?

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There is no such thing as failure

March 16th, 2014
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MMM 03-17-2014 from Hugh Blane on Vimeo.

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Sweetheart Saturday & Sacred Sunday

March 15th, 2014
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Sweetheart Saturday & Sacred Sunday from Hugh Blane on Vimeo.

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Flourishing Friday

March 14th, 2014
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Flourishing Friday from Hugh Blane on Vimeo.

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