Sunday, 28 June 2015

Don't keep doing the same things

Don't keep doing the same things and expecting a different answer.

I was laughing as I told my personal trainer about this video blog (best turn the sound down a little if you want to listen to it.) and quick as a flash he asked, rather knowingly I have to say "so what does that mean for you?" 

After doing a Mutley impersonation the answer was:
  • Drinking too little water and wondering why my head is mush and energy is lacking
  • Eating the wrong things and wondering why my head is mush and energy is lacking
  • Going to bed late and wondering why my head is mush and energy is lacking
  • Sitting at the PC for too long and wondering why I can't string a sentence together 
Just as I say in the video blog if I know what the outcome will be then doing the same thing over and over won't get me a different outcome. If the outcome is an unwanted one then I'd better start making different choices. 

Where in your life do you need to start doing something different in order to facilitate a new outcome?

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Impatience does not serve us

I've spent a lot of time in traffic over the last couple of days and have encountered a number of unhelpful outcomes of impatience:
  • Frustration - I was getting very impatient with the guy in front of us this morning driving at 10 mph slower than I wanted to. My extra speed would have come to nothing once I got into this queue - and in that 5 mile stretch would normally only have saved me 2 minutes! 
  • Being delayed further - When faced with this queue this morning another guy in front of us turned round to take what we felt was a short cut (In the hope of coming out of a junction at a point 10 cars in front of us) - I smiled when we came out 5 cars behind us. 
  • Causing undue stress in others - Overtaking when there's insufficient space and time to do so safely.
  • Injury or worse - There's too many tributes along the side of the road - many I'm sure caused by actions arising from impatience.
Every week on the A9 here in Scotland there's reports of accidents, and at least monthly fatalities. It's a normal A road interspersed with dual carriage way. The hills are long, however, and as it's the main route north it has many lorries slowing down progress. There are multiple signs telling you how far till the next dual carriage way and there's lay-bys for lorries to pull over into too. Yet drivers still allow impatience to motivate unhelpful behaviours that might lead to any one, or all, of the list above.

I wonder what nature has to teach us about impatience?

During a coaching session in June, as we walked down this path, the client shared that they were frustrated with the speed with which things were progressing on a project they were working on.
I asked them to look around and consider how much of what they could see would have been here less than 8 weeks previously. The answer of course was very little of it. The bare trees and perhaps the grass. I'm sure the path ahead would have been illuminated with light from above and not covered in growth. If we'd come here every day for every one of those 8 weeks I'm not we'd have seen much difference each day. Yet within that time so much would have changed.

Next time you get impatient try remembering the outcome you're wishing to achieve and realise you're still headed towards it - many of the behaviours I've seen demonstrated on my travels recently may just stop you achieving your outcome at all!

Alison Smith

Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

The Wave

They say that we've moved into having portfolio careers where we have more than one string to our bow. Most blogs posted here tackle change management, personal development, communication and influencing with a smattering of purchasing and well being thrown in. In other words what the large majority of my coaching and facilitation involves. 

In today's blog I share, by request, a short story I wrote that others have found to be insightful, and which strays beyond my normal offering - the essence of which aligns with everything I do.

Love was a wave and she was a very lonely wave. She had travelled the globe in search of something more than the life she had. Surely there must be more to life than rising and falling and being dictated to by the bright glowing circle in the sky. 

She’d tried to ask other waves if they felt the same as her but they never stayed around long enough to give her an answer. From watching them she thought they looked satisfied enough. The sounds they made when the wind whipped them against the cliffs in far flung places certainly sounded like enjoyment to her. Although she did wonder about that as she’d never had the courage to actually have a go herself. Instead she chose to hang back and watch as other waves moved forward and took the momentum. She had tried to change her shape like some waves so that she may take the surfers into her very centre and yet she hung back scared of hurting them. She’d also tried to do that thing with the air to make her very edges all white and foamy. But she withdrew fearing she’d not be able to go back to how she was. She also envied those waves who had the confidence to carry large ships towards their destination in their wake.

It was on one such day when she’d really had enough. She really was useless she felt and couldn’t do anything all the other waves could. Either she didn’t have the courage, the experience or the expertise. She also didn’t have anywave to ask questions and share it all with. It was in this heavy and depressing mood that she felt her self dragged down. Dragged deeper than she’d ever been before. 

Deeper, darker, colder. 

If she had felt fear in the past it was nothing to how she felt now. Down and down she went,.

Deeper, darker, colder. 

Her thoughts slowed right down, as if time itself was starting to move into slow motion. 

Deeper, darker, colder.

Until she finally came to a stop. She couldn’t see anything, she couldn’t feel anything and she was struggling to think anything.

She realised she was very tense and tried very hard to relax and allow some space between every fibre of her being. As she did this she realised that she felt a little better. So for the next few  - she didn’t know what they were -  they could have been seconds, minutes, hours, days or even weeks. So all we can say is that as time passed she felt lighter. 

She practiced very hard allowing space in-between every fibre of her being. She couldn’t do it all at once. She had to pick some part of her and concentrate very hard on that part and just breathe and allow space inside. It was as if part by part she was getting lighter and brighter, and was it her imagination or was she feeling a little warmer too?

What she found however was as soon as she started to wonder about what was happening, how it was happening and try to make it go quicker she started to feel the cold, she started to emanate less light.  Each time she then had to take a breath and start all over again. Slowly working her away around each part of herself. 

Over time she was able to hold on to this lighter and brighter state for longer. She found she didn’t have to concentrate quite so hard and could still manage to maintain this lighter and brighter state.

Finally she managed to be the lighter and brighter state. It was as if she had changed. It was as if she was no longer the wave trying to be brighter, trying to be lighter she was simply a bright and light wave. She puzzled over this for some time. She felt like she was still herself but she somehow knew she was different. The added brightness and added lightness had in some way changed her.

Of course what she had failed to notice was that once she was this different state she had also started to rise. Until finally she neared the surface and noticed her own lightness reflected in the water around her. She came to the surface and took a deep breath and allowed the rays of the sun to warm her. 

She looked around her and could see many waves all with the same lightness and same brightness as her. She felt an acceptance from them that she had never felt before. An acceptance for who she was and not what she could or couldn’t do.

She stayed with the other waves for many moons. She did many things she’d never tried before. She especially enjoyed the rushing into caves and being dragged back out with the momentum of those around her. She even had time to perfect the tender holding of surfers as they danced within her very core.

After one particularly exciting day she started to feel different. She started to feel even brighter and even lighter. As if even the very binds that were holding every part of her together were being pulled gently apart. Having been in the deep, dark and cold place before she didn’t consider this scary and even felt some excitement about what was happening. And so she simply allowed the transformation to take place. Until it was as if she was everything and everywhere all at the same time. There was certainly more ease, even more light, and bright just wasn’t the word for it. She just was, and realised that she had always been all that there is - LOVE.

Monday, 22 June 2015

The day the earth cried

Writing inspired by this collage picture. 

The day the Earth cried 

The Earth cried the day the mist set in.

The grey fine mist had ever so slowly and incrementally, seeped unseen and unacknowledged into every nook and cranny of existence.

The beautiful sunrises and sunsets, 

The pale blue skies, 
The turquoise seas, and 
Green lush forests slowly being replaced by grey. 

Sunrises seen through view finders, and unappreciated in the rush to take a picture to share on facebook.
Sunsets ignored behind closed curtains in the desire to watch the latest box set on TV.
Blue skies taken for granted, despite humanity spending more time flying through its very heart.
Turquoise seas filled with 'stuff'' now required for existence.
Green lush forests bulldozered to sustain the ever faster and increasing pace of life.

Earth herself relegated to being a means to an end, and not the end itself. However much she wished for us to notice and engage in her beauty. However much humanities soul cried out for such connection, and however much individuals' bodies reacted to that separation. 

The earth cried as all she could do was watch the decent of all those she loved. Unable to take any proaction to stop that decent. Unwilling to turn away, and yet heartbroken with what she saw. Optimistic with every new sunrise that this would be the day the mist would start to recede, and crest fallen with every sunset that the opportunity had been missed. 
The earth still cries - can you hear her?

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Using nature to inspire change inside and out

Whilst not my normal means of communication other stories/poems written include The wave and The tortoise and the hare

Sunday, 21 June 2015

The solution is right in front of you

I had fun today walking out to the black rock in Burntisland as low tide approached. The fun came from the video blogs that presented themselves from the landscape as I walked. My favourite is this one - perhaps because of the laughter. I've only uploaded 2 others onto my YouTube channel for now. They join others there that take learning from the landscape to provide insight to our day to day challenges, whether in business or personally.

I'm busy planning my next trip out into the landscape so I can bring back more learning for business leadership. Happy to arrange for you or your team to join me to work on real situations that require transformation - email 
or do call me +44(0)7770 538159.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out 

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Are you prepared

It's interesting how often in life when we're climbing a metaphorical mountain we forget to be prepared and set off without even the essentials. You wouldn't if you were climbing a real mountain.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out 

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Joining up the dots

I was working at home today with my office looking out onto the street. I saw the courier with what I assumed to be my Amazon order drive past the house 3 or 4 times.

I've seen it before - they see No 1 (on the left of this picture) and No 11 (on the right) and then wonder where numbers 3 to 9 have gone! Then continue to drive around the block a few times thinking they'll find it - or the satnav will.

Some visitors click on quicker than others where my house (No 3) is located. It's certainly easy when you know.

As ever always looking to draw analogies between life and the work I do - I realised I'm great at joining up the dots to find out what you're missing and what's stopping you from achieving your goals.


Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Business Strategy Development

I've attended a number of less than successful business strategy development sessions in the past and have observed a number of the following happening:
  • the same people contributing
  • nothing new emerging
  • energy at the end of the day being very low
  • limited inspiration to take action
  • lack of cohesion between the leadership team
  • no clear plan emerging
  • clique's maintained
  • nothing changes as a result
I'm sure you could add to this list.

When facilitating such sessions I often use nature as the inspiration and find, as a result, the above list to be missing. I'm sure there are many reason for this - the one I'd like to concentrate on today is the power of metaphor.

With one client, after the leadership team had spent time in small groups in nature, the above picture emerged to summarise the conversation about where the organisation was and some of the options that existed for where they wanted to be.

The beauty of using metaphor to explore the current situation, especially if you can stick with the metaphor for as long as possible, is it avoids:

  • ego
  • resistance
  • barriers
  • "if"s, "but"s and "not"s
  • defensiveness
  • anger
  • blame
The beauty of using metaphor to explore opportunities is it avoids all of the above and in addition:
  • attachment to preconceived opportunities
  • the same old opportunities re-emerging time and time again
  • lack of new ideas emerging
Imagine the facilitator, or CEO for that matter, saying "we need to do something different" at the start of the session. Before we've even had chance to take a breath the reasons why it's not possible start. With a metaphor the suggestion to try something different comes from: 
  • walking up a lane and seeing a hole in the hedge
  • sunrise or sunset
  • caterpillars or butterflies
  • seeds - whether floating past, growing or still in their pods/shells
  • the tide changing
  • the sound of the wind
  • harvest time 
  • spring time
I can assure you the "can't"s evaporate when faced with the wisdom from nature. Once the wisdom has been harvested then, and only then, is it time to release the metaphor. Time to understand what it means in practice and identify an inspirational and innovative strategy for the organisation going forward.

How could the wisdom of nature help your leadership team today? #happytohelp

Alison Smith

Landscaping Your LifeInspiring change inside and out

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Don't cut corners unless its safe to do so

On the road if you cut corners you might get away with it. Sooner or later, however, there will be another vehicle on the same part of the road as you. In other words an accident is assured at some point.

I'm not saying I don't cut corners. There's a lovely bit of road between Grantown on spay and Forres near Inverness in Scotland that twists and turns. It's a gorgeous piece of flat moorland and there's complete visibility of the road ahead. Which means I can cut corners to smooth my journey, maintain my speed whilst being safe, and yet know with confidence that I won't meet other vehicles. Yet when driving the same road at night the ability to do that disappears. 

When training or coaching on category management I can hear myself 15 years ago when delegates say "it's too much" "I don't need a process" "that doesn't apply to my category" "I know that already". They're sitting there, as I did then, believing that cutting corners is the way to go every time.

What I've learnt in the intervening 15 years is that when I rigorously apply best practice tools and techniques to a category, in other words when I've not cut corners, I've delivered the most innovative value unlocking category strategy. 

I'm a control freak and hate being told what to do. I want the flexibility to go with the flow, be spontaneous and be able to react to what's happening. In the past I'd assumed that rigorous application of best practice tools and techniques would mean I'd have to give all this up. I now realise I don't. I can have my cake and eat it. 

What I realise is that the process, those tools and templates are guides only. A checklist if you will of what I need to be thinking about. A checklist I need to apply intelligently to the category, organisation, country, supply market and suppliers in hand. 

Of course I won't spend months gathering the data if spend, market complexity and risk is low. Of course I won't do something because it's in the process if it doesn't apply. Of course I won't complete that template in PowerPoint if the information is already conveyed elsewhere in Excel. 

What I will do is rigorously consider each part of the process. If I choose to cut a corner I'll have decided, as I do on the road near Forres, that it's safe to do so. I'll have decided that at this time, with these road conditions, in this weather, today, in this vehicle, with me driving, with the other road users, it's ok to cut the corner. Its okay to miss something out. The decision, however, may change the next time I need to make it. 

For me having a checklist ensures I don't cut corners without knowing it. It also means I deliver more value to the organisation - which can only be good? Even if once in a while I can hear the old Alison muttering about it.

Before you next cut any corners please make sure it's safe to do so.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life
Inspiring change inside and out

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Do you want to be a tadpole for ever

I was watching a programme on the TV at the weekend and they shared that frogspawn will not develop if there are insufficient resources in the pond to allow the tadpoles to thrive. They hang back until the conditions are right. They continued to speculate whether frogspawn could survive over winter or if they hadn't taken their chance to emerge before Autumn they would die.

Would you be prepared to take the risk - hang back and hope you survive the frozen winter's ice? Sometimes the conditions might not be perfect, they might not be what we'd wished for but as the presenter said "who wants to be a tadpole for ever?"

Where do you need to just "go for it"?

Monday, 1 June 2015

What purchasing has in common with gardening

How much do you know about purchasing - and I don't just mean the banging your hand on the table shouting "Lower Lower". I mean the 90% of the work that was undertaken before that discussion with a supplier took place.

Unless you've had some purchasing training or read purchasing books I assume you may know more about gardening than you do about purchasing. Why - because whilst you may not be a professional gardener most of us at some point or other have had a garden, visited gardens, watched the multitude of gardening programmes, read gardening books, visited garden centres (if only for a cuppa) or simply sat in someone elses garden. That's a whole lot more exposure to effective gardening than purchasing. 

Here's why I think we can learn alot about purchasing from gardening:

Why do you want a garden?
Just as a garden might be low or high maintenance, for children or adults, for BBQ's, games or for lounging then purchasing has the same considerations. No use putting in place a garden that’s high maintenance if you’ve not got enough gardeners.

It’s nothing without design
Once you know why you want a garden you still need to consider the design and management of the garden. Will you have one gardener or a number and who’s in charge. Will you be needing a greenhouse and who will have keys for the tool shed? What type of plant will you be putting in that shaded area at the end of the garden under the trees unseen from the house - it had better be a plant that doesn't need much care and attention.

What’s in your tool shed?
It’s not only about the number and types of tools in the tool shed but maintenance and replacement of them too. In some smaller gardens it might be ok to use the spade for many different uses but once the garden gets bigger and certainly once the garden is open to the public then the maintenance of the garden will become more important and more specialised tools are needed. You don't have to look far to see all the multitude of new tools available and realise that whilst many might be more for show many can and do save time and your plants. 

Plant selection
Even for each type of plant there are different varieties each with their own unique characteristics – some needing direct sun, other partial shade, some needing nutritious soil and other being happy with their roots in clay! Matching the variety of plant to the characteristics of your garden is essential in ensuring the plants flourish and the time needed to care for them minimised. Of course once you know what variety you want and have decided whether you’ll grow them from seed or not you then need to decide where to source them from.

You’ve got to have a Greenhouse
If you live in the UK then there will be seeds and even plants that need some TLC first. Time in the greenhouse to get more hardy before they’re planted out into the garden. Sometimes when we unexpectedly end up with snow or frost in May, or the west winds threaten a gale force, we may need to bring plants in. When did you last review the performance of your suppliers and consider how your actions are contributing to how well they are flourishing?

You might be lucky and a plant might survive if you just dump it in a corner and forget about it. And whilst that might seem unthinkable in a garden it’s certainly what many businesses do to suppliers – no perfect position, no careful planting out, no watering, no feeding, no staking. Plants will certainly survive and flourish and even multiply if given the right care and attention - suppliers too. 

Garden Maintenance
We’ve all heard about jack’s bean stalk or the perils of Japanese knotweed - maintenance is certainly needed to ensure the plants stay within the area originally designed for them. Turn a blind eye and weeds can take hold and smoother or even kill other plants. It’s also useful to have someone with knowledge about plants doing this otherwise it’s easy to uproot a perfectly healthy plant and leave the real weeds behind.

In conclusion
Healthy supplier relationships are no different to healthy plants – next time you start thinking about introducing a new supplier just think about whether you have the skills and environment that will enable them to flourish in your organisation.

Alison Smith
Landscaping Your Life and The Purchasing Coach too