My alternative to New Year’s resolutions…

We are now at the start of a New Year and I would guess that many of you will already have made some New Year’s resolutions. I used to do the same and am saddened to admit that rarely, if ever, did I stick to them for the year – some didn’t even make it to the end of January as life took over. Now I don’t make resolutions as such: because I realised that what I was actually doing was setting myself up to fail. Every year that I made a commitment and then didn’t stick to it I was reinforcing a message that ‘failure’ was acceptable – not a belief that I now wish to encourage!

I don't agree with setting yourself up to fail!

I don’t agree with setting yourself up to fail!

So how do I approach the beginning of a new year? The answer: I spend some time thinking about what went really well for me in the current year and what the things are that went not so well and what could I learn from that. How might I have approached those things differently that would have given me a more valuable outcome? I then create a vision for how I would ideally like the coming year to pan out. For those of you reading this and who have completed the PLP you may remember doing the six months exercise – so this is a similar version. Having done this, I then put it somewhere where I can see it every day, making sure that I put it somewhere different on the first of every month so I continue to ‘see’ it and not have it become part of the furniture.

Having created this it now becomes fairly easy as I can ask myself pretty regularly some questions such as ‘how do I need to be for this to become a reality?’, ‘if I knew there is one thing I can choose to do today to enable me to move me closer to my vision what might it be?’ This unquestionably requires some commitment but I have not positioned it in a way that sets me up to fail – it sets me up for success as I don’t feel bad if a couple of weeks go by when ‘life has taken over’ as it surely does – I just realign myself once that busyness has passed.

Oh, and there is one other thing that I continue to do throughout the year as often as I can – I keep filling in my gratitude book! For me, this is the single most important thing that I do that helps keep my thinking on a great track. What you put your attention on expands and what you take your thinking away from withers and dies – so keeping my focus on the things that are going well in my life, no matter how small, definitely creates more good things happening. I even write down some things that I am grateful for that have not yet happened which appears to create even more of the joy and good things happening.

This is what works for me and I share it to give you an opportunity to perhaps enter the New Year with some fresh thinking about how you might approach it. So what might you do now if this makes sense to you and you have already made some resolutions that you are fearful you might not stick to? I suggest that you actively choose to dump them: stating that you realise they are no longer appropriate and you wish to align your thinking with total success!

May you each have a year filled with joy, fun and all that you can dream of for you and all your loved ones. Penny x

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Merry Christmas from Penny

Christmas day is fast approaching and to say it has had a busy end to 2014 would be an understatement!! It’s been a year jam packed full of events and projects, including the marriage of my son James to his beautiful wife Anna, and some amazing trips to Houston and Kitzbuhel to work on some exciting and rewarding projects.Screen Shot 2014-12-23 at 16.03.42

It’s been an exceptional year and I’ve met some wonderful people, made new friends, acquired some new clients and have been delighted to have delivered considerable amounts of work with some clients who remain so faithful to us over the years. Without our amazing trainers giving truly exceptional support this would not have been possible: so a huge thank you to each and every one of them. Also, a big and heartfelt thank you to Sherilyn – Founder of the Marketing Academy and a very special friend – who has had an exciting year herself; launching TMA in Australia, whilst also inviting me to accompany her on many of her trips, thus introducing me to some new clients.

2015 promises to be fantastic: starting with me running a Global top team programme closely followed by an Open Personal Leadership Programme in January (one that we have now had to extend our numbers on!) and then off to Australia with the Marketing Academy in February, as well as some other projects I really can’t wait to announce next year!

So, thank you all for making this year so fantastic and I hope you have a truly wonderful Christmas and much success, joy and love in 2015. Here’s to some more exciting times in the future – I raise a glass to you all, a very large one!

Love Pen xx

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A catch up with Penny

They SAY Autumn is a time to slow things down, ready for a winter of hibernation. Well, I think I must have lost the memo! This quarter has started off full of adventure, appointments, engagements and programmes with absolutely no signs of letting up!

Myself and Cam from The Marketing Academy - anchor away!

Myself and Cam from The Marketing Academy – anchor away!

Just over a fortnight ago, I was thrilled to be invited onto the Aurora cruise ship as a keynote speaker along with the fabulous Sherilyn Shackell from The Marketing Academy. It was a networking opportunity to meet some lovely people and listen to some excellent talks by inspirational speakers.  Two speakers stood out for me – one being Sherilyn. I was always enjoy hearing Sherilyn speak – she is fun, to the point and leaves a very clear message. On this occasion she was talking about taking responsibility for your own career and, as always, got great feedback.

The other speaker that I really enjoyed listening to was John Amaechi – retired basketball player, psychologist, owner of an OBE, awarded a medical degree as a doctor of science and overall very impressive person! My one regret is not getting a photograph with him: because standing at 6 feet 10 inches, well, it would have made quite the picture!!

The 3 day cruise was spent meeting many new people which I always enjoy, some of whom I have already met up with again, culminating in my speaking slot on the Friday evening, and our final day. The weather was interesting to say the very least as on the second day the people who were due to get off couldn’t and the speakers who were due to come on board couldn’t get there either – this included the band as well! Guernsey must have had an influx of speakers and musicians!

Jon Amaechi - a fantastic and very tall speaker

Jon Amaechi – a fantastic and very tall speaker..!

Richmond Events did a darn good job of coping with somewhat challenging experiences and it really seemed as though everyone enjoyed it and got a lot out of the experience. Being something that I had never done before there is always a degree of trepidation as to whether what you are to deliver – my subject obviously being personal leadership – will sink in especially when you are on at the very end. However, I got really great feedback with 3 people in the group coming up to me afterwards and saying ‘best talk of the cruise’! Made my trip very worthwhile – thank you Sherilyn and Richmond Events for inviting me – overall a truly brilliant experience.

Last week I ran the first two days of our very first PA/EA’s programme, for PA’s to managing directors and CEO’s. It’s brand new and was fully booked within hours of releasing the details: an exciting project that I really feel is one of the best programmes I have delivered – what a very special bunch of people they are. I am so looking forward to the third and final day in December. This week, from Sunday I am off to run a top team programme in Houston, closely followed by a speaking engagement in Kitzbuhel, a trip for meetings in Edinburgh (really good as I can make a trip of it and sneak in a day with my gorgeous eldest daughter), followed by a return to Houston! Whenever am I going to fit in the Christmas shopping?

Who was it said that they were going to retire!!

NEW RELEASE: The incredible tale of a Living Leader

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This Thursday we see the release on the second video in “The Tale of a Living Leader” series, the fascinating life story of Personal Leadership expert Penny Ferguson. For the first time, Penny let the cameras in to her home and opened up in a compelling interview with reporter Tony Silman.  This incredible four part story (released over the next month) takes us on her journey from the very beginning and follows the trials, tragedies and accomplishments she has endured on her journey to become one of the world’s most influential leadership experts, changing thousands of lives in the process. – Tune in here this Thursday for the second instalment of her amazing life story as she takes us back to where it all beganand tells us some stories about some of the events which have had the biggest impact on her life to date.

Don’t miss it!

Below are a few words from Penny herself, as she talks about her leadership journey.

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Looking back it is interesting to see how my leadership journey started. I guess it was through being the mother of 6, combined with observing my ex-husband delivering his management training that never seemed to last. It was a journey that, to this day, continues to be one of learning and fascination.

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My children were all very close together in age – they were born between my ages of 21 – 29 so not a big gap between any of them. As they were growing up I can honestly say that they were a complete joy – mischievous, loving and all very close to each other. As they became older one thing became alarmingly clear to me – when they were in trouble or wanted to know what to do, they invariably came to me for advice. This struck me as really not very helpful and gave me a pretty big wake-up call as I appeared to have done a great job of educating them not to think for themselves. Once I got into consultancy and into management training I began to realise that this pattern was true there. Outstanding managers were brilliant at inspiring people to follow them and ‘do it their way’ but less good at getting individuals to think for themselves.

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My journey began and I read, watched, listened and began this journey that still excites me. I see how, when we care for people, how easy it is to help in a way that all too often inadvertently disempowers the individual rather than giving them the opportunity to become stronger and more able. I am fully aware that, no matter how much I now speak of this, write books about it, run a leadership programme to teach this, I still have not removed the wish that is always there to help others by giving them advice! In reality telling them that they are incapable of doing it without me!

 

My journey has not been a particularly comfortable one and the repeating patterns that I kept creating, sheer lunacy – how easy it is to look back and judge oneself critically!   I became staggered at how little I truly understood responsibility which I now know to be one of the key foundation blocks for great leadership. I thought I, but the more I have learned over the last twenty years the more I know that my understanding was superficial, to put it politely.   I realised that my thinking was in a totally unhelpful place and my belief that I was a good communicator was flawed. Once I really got my head around the fact that Leadership was about these three key concepts – choosing how I think in each and every moment, understanding responsibility at a fundamentally different level, and recognising my own communication and the impact on others, I knew that I might just be able to develop myself into actually being a leader.

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Now, without any qualifications whatsoever, I have not only done that, I have designed a programme that over 35,000 people have attended, I have written a couple of books and co-authored several others, I have been asked to speak internationally – and – I never stop learning!

It is because of this that I, with the help of the fantastic team at ECP Video – am releasing my life story in four parts across four weeks, in the hope of inspiring others to embrace life and leadership. Please tune in this Thursday here to follow the second part of ‘The tale of a Living Leader: Penny Ferguson.’ And let me know what you think!’

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Click here to tune in each week for the next instalment, and don’t forget to check back to the blog for weekly recaps on each episode. Follow Penny on Twitter too – @pennyferguson1 and Facebook.

 

 

 

How to get the most out of your meetings: Involve them all!

When you host discussion groups and meetings at work, do you find that a few of the more reserved members of the team are less inclined to share their ideas? How many meetings have you attended where the loudest voices always get their points across whereas other members of the team are left frustrated because they’ve not been heard?

Are the quiet voices getting heard?

Are the quiet voices getting heard?

Letting things carry on this way can be a risky business. By not involving everybody in key meetings and important decisions you risk great ideas going un-voiced, staff feeling undervalued, and on top of this, the whole exercise can be a serious waste of time and money – some of the best ideas may not come out or some ideas that need to be challenged are not! This is why ensuring that everyone feels that they are able to share their opinions should be a key goal for any team.

Of course, what too often happens at these meetings, unless positive communication behaviours have been well and truly learnt, is that those with the most seniority and volume will get their ideas heard and driven through. The quieter members of the team may turn up assuming they are there simply to ‘bear witness’ to the decision, and thus never end up engaging, or even feeling that they are able to.

Unfortunately, when this happens those who feel they haven’t been heard can begin to disagree with the idea. They may begin to feel uncomfortable about the decision that they had little say in, and whilst not intentionally trying to undermine the idea, they are likely to begin discussing their concerns with others. People may agree and offer their own opinion, gradually dissuading segments of the team from doing the agreed actions in the first place!  A counterproductive move – and something that illustrates how important it is to let everyone express their opinion in the initial meetings. This scenario often ends with a frustrated boss exclaiming – ‘but this is what we all agreed on in the first place isn’t it!?!’

Great ideas can come from the quietest corners

Great ideas can come from the quietest corners

We need to learn how to involve everyone in our team, and we need to understand how to encourage everyone’s contributions. If someone is suffering from nerves, putting them on the spot in a meeting may leave them feeling flustered, exposed or threatened – consequently none of these feelings will allow them to think well and their ideas aren’t as likely to be as good either. This, over time will lead them to thinking they have no value as a recurring theme, and the downward spiral continues.

To avoid putting team members in these situations, think about new ways you could possibly approach them, using the strengths you know they have to both of your advantages. I suggest you ask the question in this way: ‘Sarah – do you remember that idea you were sharing with me the other day when we met for coffee? I really think there were some interesting ideas there and perhaps you might like to share them with the team.’ By doing this, you’ve already made it clear to Sarah that her ideas are good ones and that she has your support. When she shares she’ll be able to do so in the knowledge that you are behind her!

Simply by doing this you’ve shown her that talking in front of the group needn’t be a nerve-wracking ordeal. You may need to carry on creating some different ways to include her in the next few meetings, but once you have developed her confidence in coming forward, you will soon find that she will develop the courage to more frequently share her thoughts in team meetings, without prompting.  As she develops this self-assurance the likelihood is she will realise that she is contributing to the team success which, in turn, will help her feel more valuable and guess what, you are now creating an upward spiral of confidence and great ideas!  A more valued and valuable member of the team emerges.

Brilliant and innovative ideas aren’t always the easiest things to come across – and sometimes we need to dig a little deeper to help fresh thinking to emerge. Creative thinking needs a leadership environment to blossom and being sure that each person gets their chance to be listened to and truly heard is critical.  Time spent doing this is never time wasted, and is truly worth the work you put in. So do all that is possible to use all of the people available to you, and ensure you know how they think and how they function – I can promise you that it will be worth it in the future!

If you’re looking to book an inspirational public speaker for an event or show, please contact Penny here. Penny, as the founder of The Living Leader, a provider of leadership courses that have been rolled out to tens of thousands of delegates all over the world, is an expert in leadership training and has worked with the likes of Sage, Centrica and Caterpillar. Click here for more info on how to change your business.

How to liberate your thoughts

How many times has your success been hindered by a very un-useful belief, or limiting assumption, about yourself? Limiting assumptions are something that we are all inclined to be guilty of.  They can limit our thinking around what we believe we are capable of and therefore our performance is less than it might perhaps be. How many times have you assumed you were incapable of doing something you wanted to do, without ever considering what might happen if you knew yourself to be capable of anything you set your mind to?

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Make the possibilities endless!

This topic is a subject I know a bit too well. As a result of my mother leaving when I was just a few months old and being packed off to boarding school by 7, I carried around the belief that I simply wasn’t good enough – an easy belief to develop when dealing with life’s hurdles, and a belief that stifled many thoughts and dreams for a long time. What would have really helped at this point would be somebody able to take the mental barrier away, to ask an incisive question and say: ‘If you knew that you are good enough, what would you do right now?’ So many possibilities would have sprung to mind, that I would have never thought of beforehand!

Of course, this is extremely unlikely to have changed my belief, but it would have allowed me to start thinking in an entirely different way. Allowing me to think that maybe I could pursue a career in public speaking, and how exactly I’d go about doing it if I did. Allowing me to think I could found my own company. Perhaps even allow me to think that I could buy the house I wanted for myself and my children!  The important thing to recognise here is that I am not attempting to change a belief, in this case a very long held one, but purely to allow my mind to think afresh and to come up with more possibilities.  If you are told, intentionally or unintentionally, and for long enough that you are ‘not good enough’, ‘not intelligent’, ‘bad with figures’, then sooner or later that will become a deeply held recognition as a truth, albeit quite probably a false one.  It would be no more than a perception of reality and it would be the thought that held you back – not the truth.  So – freeing the mind to come up with new ideas and new ways of thinking can be incredibly powerful and, in some instances, life changing.

The use of incisive questions allows you to liberate your thinking, or, to put it another way, open new pathways in the brain, in a way that is often hard to achieve. Think how effective this might be, in the world of business.

Here’s an example of when something as simple as an incisive question opened up a floodgate of possibilities to a chief executive, who was also my client. Owner of a large, successful organisation, the only problem he faced was hiring and consistently keeping ‘the best people’, a key factor in ensuring ongoing success in the business. I asked him – ‘If you knew you could turn this organisation into a preferred employer, where people are desperate to come and work for you, what might you do differently from what you’re doing now?’ The answer was a pause and ‘Penny, I really don’t know!’

‘But, if you did know, what is the first step you might take?’

Well, he said he’d start by sharing his vision and passion with each division, individually and in groups – and then ………………..  the ideas started to pour out of him! After twenty minutes he stopped and said to me ‘where the hell did that come from?’ What had happened was that he had been thinking about what needed to be done for so long, and now assumed that he did not have the knowledge to move forwards. The pathways were so deeply entrenched in his brain that it needed a different type of question to unlock the creativity.  Having never considered he could provide the answer himself, it simply never happened. All I’d done was to remove the barrier with an incisive question!

Incisive questions are a brilliant way of removing barriers and freeing your thoughts so you can start endeavoring to do the impossible. Apply them to different situations in the workplace and at home, and think of the possibilities! As a cheeky aside listen for the amount of time your children say ‘I can’t’!  It rarely means I can’t but something quite different!  So how about trying ‘If you knew you could …. what is the first thing you would do to – complete tidying your room/do your homework before watching TV/help your Mum wash up before bedtime/ have your bath and still have time to read’ etc. etc.!!

If you’re looking to book an inspirational public speaker for an event or show, please contact Penny here. Penny, as the founder of The Living Leader, a provider of leadership courses that have been rolled out to tens of thousands of delegates all over the world, is an expert in leadership training and has worked with the likes of Sage, Centrica and Caterpillar. Click here for more info on how to change your business.

How to make ‘no’ an acceptable word in your vocabulary

So often we think of ‘no’ as that impossible word. It’s a word that we rarely allow ourselves the relief of saying, for fear of disappointing or offending our peers. Although one of the worst places for this is in the work place, it happens all the time – with our boss, friends, colleague, partners and even our children. We even fear saying no to complete strangers! Sometimes you don’t realise how big the problem is until it begins to take a real effect on your life.

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Saying no to a face like this? Impossible.

 

Here’s an example from my own personal experience. I’m a typical yes person – or at least I was. For instance, my third husband had an enthusiastic idea for a brand new product: he loved designing and creating new things. However, the cost would be substantial and the risks were high. We were short of money, but it sounded like a great idea and he was sincerely passionate about it. So of course, although I didn’t want to, and in the full knowledge that the decision was mad – doubly mad – we increased the mortgage on the house (The house I had bought). Of course, the product didn’t do as well as we hoped, and I was left some years later with nothing.

It’s an extreme example, but a good reminder of just how powerful a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ really can be. It takes courage to be true to yourself and ask ‘is this really right for me at this time? How do I feel about this?’ The fact remains that the first thing we need to do to take control of our lives is to master the tricky art of saying no.

So – how to say ‘no’? I meet so many people in the work place who are stressed and feeling totally out of control of their own lives because they simply don’t know how to say no. They have lost track of the amount of times X has left the office and said, ‘Oh Pen, I’ve got to dash out to a meeting, you couldn’t finish this report could you?’ Ultimately, the knack is to be able to say no to requests like this without offending anyone. For instance, If you have colleagues that continually dump stuff on you, then show them your list of priorities that have to be completed and ask them to choose which piece of work they’d like it to replace. Explain that if it’s for another person or department that they’ll need to go find that person and tell them that the work you’re currently doing will have to wait. At that point, they will probably move their work elsewhere!

What we must combat in the art of saying no is how to deal with the feelings of guilt we experience when we do. Sometimes it can be crippling! Occasionally my children will ask me for financial help, which I would happily give them. But is it always the right thing to do? So I say ‘no’, and am instantly wracked with feelings of guilt, wondering how they are going to cope. However, I know deep down that I’m doing the best thing and encouraging them to take responsibility for themselves. Try to understand that you are almost certainly doing the best thing for someone when you say a considered ‘no’.

Saying yes won’t always benefit the person you’re going along with, and it will most certainly not always benefit you. Ask yourself what you really want – and never be afraid of saying no.

My organisation, The Living Leader has changed the lives of over 35,000 people around the world and has had a significant impact on the business performances of those I’ve worked with including companies like Argos, Metrobank, Sage and more. To see how I can help you, please get in touch.