Category Archives: Dr Mike’s Blog

When coaching, practice is perfect

No Comments 14 Views0

My youngest son is a wonderful musician, already better than I will ever be. He was born with musical talent (he owes me for that), but he learned to be a musician, and he owes a great teacher and a determined mother for that.

Mrs T said he had to practice for 30 minutes a day and every night his mother made him practice for at least that (sometimes with a timer and often with a lot of resistance).

I had a different approach when I was drafted into supervision. I didn’t want to argue, so I would tell him that it was up to him: if he wanted to be good, he needed to learn how to practice.  So, when he asked if he had to play a piece again, I would ask if he thought he’d got it right yet. If not, he needed to do it again.  He came up with a compromise: if I can play the piece without a mistake three times in a row, I don’t have to play it again.

Each of these – 30 minutes minimum, self-assessment, 3 times without error – are practice routines.  The All Blacks don’t just practice, they have practice routines.  Their philosophy is to have the core skills drilled so that the players can then “express themselves” on the field.

Apply this to your business. Consider the “practices” involved in management and leadership.  Take coaching for example: would we get better if we set aside time every week to do a review after a session, or asked for feedback each time we undertook a coaching session?

Practice is how we develop, but it’s not the same as repetition.  Coaching the same way you’ve always coached, even if it’s very good, is not going to make you a better coach.  Likewise, for any management activity – planning, delegating, chairing, reviewing, deciding, communicating, problem-solving…

Lots of people have one year’s experience repeated many times.

It’s never too late to start practicing properly.

The missing piece of the puzzle

The missing piece of the puzzle

No Comments 816 Views0

After 15 years I’ve worked out what we do here and why it works so well.

I’ve always practiced “outside in” – bringing the world to my inbox via subscriptions to bloggers, periodicals, newspapers and book reviews.  This has its downside as a couple of them are American magazines (The Atlantic and New Yorker) and I can lose up to 20 minutes a day Trumping.  This is a phrase I have invented to describe reading stuff solely for the amazement/amusement of learning ol’ Crazy’s latest outrage.

One of the more relevant pieces I found last year was a reference to the model for how adults learn: 10% classroom, 20% socialized, 70% experience.

That’s what we have always tried to do at The Breakthrough: content in workshops, socialized at the workshops and in peer groups, and then put into practice. But we did it intuitively, and not always perfectly, usually because we didn’t take the learning through to something that could be adapted and practiced reasonably easily.

Now, as we design the customer experience in our new programmes and evolve our current programmes, we are very deliberately looking to satisfy all three dimensions of adult learning. It’s exciting because we know just how powerful this is going to be. I personally believe these are not going to be training programmes, they are transforming programmes.

We often say to people that a tad more structure brings a ton more focus.  Being deliberate about what you’ve done intuitively will accelerate your results.

Often our greatest value to members is how we help them define and refine what they’re doing instinctively.

Applying how adults learn (10/20/70) is the difference between a programme that would have been pretty good and one that is going to be bloody amazing.

To go back to the beginning: my research practice is a form I call “standing in the river of knowledge” – positioning myself so that I can receive information from all sorts of places and then select which bits I will convert into knowledge.

My question to you is “What are you standing in?”

When it happens (as it does)

No Comments 618 Views0

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but sh*t happens. Often. All the time, to varying degrees.  We’re rolling along happily, and then avvompha! We get knocked off our stride.

Last year we were working on a big initiative. Great opportunity, wonderful relationship yadda yadda yadda. The great opportunity got smaller and smaller until it was whatever the opposite of opportunity is.

We spent a few days doing the “ain’t it awful” thing and generally crying into our beers. Then we went on holiday and all had a lovely time at our various holiday spots.

Now the emphasis is on taking what we learned and refining our thinking about these initiatives. We now know what sorts of prospects to avoid. We’ve had a closer look at some of the opportunities that we developed inside that initiative and have come to the view that while it might not be as easy, it’s likely to be more rewarding. We’ve reset our goals accordingly, and we’re underway again.

And things will go wrong. Because they do. What separates the successful from the unsuccessful in life is how they treat failure. We hear a lot about mindset, but the person who wrote the book on the subject, Carol Dweck, is pretty narrow in her definition: there is growth mindset and fixed mindset. Both can be successful, but the research shows that people with a growth mindset prevail and succeed in their chosen endeavours precisely because of how they deal with setback.

In our company we use growth mindset skills all the time to deal with setbacks. We use it when we’re recruiting people, we encourage it in our team and in each other. We use the growth mindset in our home lives as well.

The way to trigger a growth mindset is to say, in the face of failure, these are skills that can be learned.

To take a deep dive into the growth mindset, and to be challenged and inspired, join our Challenger workshop on Friday 23rd February in Auckland. Guest speaker Sir Ray Avery will be sharing his personal story and thoughts on Innovation and what it takes to have a can-do mindset.

Get your ticket now

Your best intentions will fail unless you do this

No Comments 391 Views0

Dr Mike is practicing what he preaches taking a well-earned break at the beach, with the team at The Breakthrough Company keeping things humming at HQ. So, it is with great pleasure that I’m guest blogging this missive.

Good intentions, we all have them. We begin the new year full of vim and vigour and a whole lot of resolutions to do things better, differently and with more conviction. But it is normally a matter of weeks (if not days) and we are right back to our habits of 2017.

We’re working too many hours, feeling stressed, eating the wrong things, skipping workouts, missing time with the kids, cancelling date nights, and so the cycle continues.

Why is it that we don’t stick to the resolutions that we make with such conviction on the eve of 2018?

Essentially it is because we have not clearly defined what our goal actually is and how we are going to achieve it. We have not formulated a plan and worked out a way to hold ourselves accountable to achieving the desired results.

Maybe you said you’re going to lose weight. You’re not alone – a report by the Ministry of Health in NZ said that in 2012 New Zealand adults ranked third highest out of 15 OECD countries for measures of obesity! Have you clearly defined how many kilograms, by when and how you’re going to do it? For example, you’ll go from 90kg to 80kg by 30th June. You’ll join a gym, sign up for 4 classes per week, schedule the classes to your calendar and pack your gym bag to put in the car before to leaving for work those days. You’ll find a healthy eating plan, share it with your family, explain what you’re trying to achieve and get their buy in and support, then stock the pantry with the right ingredients so that you can prepare the meals. You’ll find a support buddy who you can check in with on a weekly or monthly basis to keep you accountable. If people actually did this, we’d have a much healthier nation!

And what about your business? Each year after a good break, you come back energised thinking that this year is going to be better, this year is going to be different!

But is it really? Or are you going to fall into the same routines that you always do – chasing the urgent with no time to grow the business. The business drives you, you don’t drive the business.

Start 2018 by revisiting your strategy – get clarity and alignment on your vision, barriers, strategies and most important goals with your team. Commit to practicing the principles for success. Schedule your development day into your calendar. If you’re part of an action group or Co-lab group, commit and be present at each meeting.  Set a personal goal. Time and time again, we’ve seen our members who do this are happier and more successful in all areas of their lives, and their businesses!

We look forward to inspiring, educating and motivating you to make 2018 your best year yet – not only for yourself but for your family.


Nicky Luis

General Manager

Make it work

No Comments 451 Views0

It’s all very well to set Most Important Goals.  They establish what we rationally consider to be our priorities. They represent our beliefs about what’s important – they’re our convictions.

But priorities are only meaningful if they involve choice and sacrifice.

In those moments when honouring the priority involves inconvenience, disruption, additional effort on the part of yourself or others, then your commitment to priority is tested. The temptation will be to slide, fudge, defer, downplay, and thereby avoid the cost of commitment. That’s a reasonable thing to do, keep everyone happy (or at least not annoyed).

You have a choice: you can stay in the comfort zone of avoiding your own and others’ perceptions of your unreasonableness.

Or you can have the courage of your convictions, and find a way to make your commitment work.

Up to you.

Give yourself a break

No Comments 502 Views1

We played our last gig of the year last night – it was really great. The crowd loved it, we played pretty well and the energy was high. I got some very nice crowd response to some of my solos on the guitar, which always feels good.

Interestingly, I still feel that my guitar work is not where I want it to be. Even in the middle of a fast riff, it’s not as clear and precise and perfectly timed as what I can hear in my head.  I’ve got to do more practice to reach what I think is my potential.

You may feel this way about your work this year, as you hurtle towards summer. So much left undone, performance not quite where you’d imagined or hoped, opportunities that didn’t play out as you’d anticipated.

That’s all true, and you should hang on to your dissatisfaction with your performance because that’s what keeps driving you to your full potential.

But take a moment to listen to your version of the crowd.  Did you delight your customers? Did you enable your staff to grow? Did you make the organization work a little better? Did you do something new?

Most important, are you performing better than you were 12 months ago?

If you can answer any of those with even a partial yes, give yourself a break.

Acknowledge the crowd with a smile and a wave, and head into summer with both a sense of achievement and a determination to do better.

Innovation blah blah

No Comments 593 Views0

When a word like innovation gets bandied around by media and politicians as the solution it suffers from the same fate as most things left out in the open for too long – the meaning fades, and like all jargon it just becomes a substitute for thought.

We ran a workshop on innovation, and early on we decided to use a different word, because innovation has been co-opted by the start-up and high growth sectors and those who work with them. It’s sometimes hard for owners of non-disruptive businesses to identify with “innovation”.

So we re-framed it: instead of innovation let’s talk about opportunities. We may not be sure what we mean when we say we want our staff to be innovative, but we sure as hell want them to be good at spotting opportunities – whether the opportunities are in the market or internal process improvements.

It’s a good word for another reason: instead of trying to create a culture of innovation, how about developing an opportunity culture? A culture where people are looking for opportunities is also a place where people are being given opportunities for growth.

Innovation doesn’t happen by accident.

We have to invest in our people as well as our ideas. And the best way to think about that is not the lofty concept of innovation, but the sharp fast reality of opportunity.

Peace in our time

No Comments 555 Views0

As a natural introvert/learned extravert, I was excited to find an article in the HBR entitled “In a distracted world, solitude is a competitive advantage”. At last, my preference for quiet contemplation was being recognised.

The “Disconnect” movement is growing as we struggle to cope with the sheer volume of information coming at us every day.

The author’s argument is that information overload distracts us, causing a lack of focus and productivity. One of the solutions they recommend is that having the discipline to step back from the “noise of the world” is essential to staying focused.

Here are the steps they recommend for staying focused at work:

  • Build periods of solitude into your schedule. 15 minutes a day is all you need (see the earlier blog on personal development time)
  • Analyse where your time is best spent – and stay there
  • Starve your distractions – especially the one you use for a quick time-killer
  • Don’t be too busy to learn how to be less busy
  • Create a “to not do” list

In reality, here’s how a devoted solitude practitioner (me) manages his time:

  • Development day on Monday always starts with planning the outcomes I want to achieve in the coming week
  • Walk the dog/meditate every day – it’s not as good as sitting in a garden, but I can listen mindfully to guided meditations on my headphones while keeping an eye on the dog
  • Don’t stay at the office unless I have meetings – go home and work there
  • Content development, which requires a lot of concentration, is in my schedule and is always done at home

Guard your solitude. Put the world on mute so you can hear yourself think.

Apologies to our chairman

No Comments 552 Views0

We had a board meeting recently. Our esteemed chairman failed certain key insight tests:

  • He considered my shirt to be too loud (overruled by the girls in the office)
  • He didn’t understand some of the subtleties of our business

There is no hope for him on the first failure, and we intend to do nothing to increase his understanding of our business.

We don’t want him to understand it as well as we do because then he would see it like us. We would then miss out on the valuable insights he brings us because he doesn’t have any idea why we can’t or why that particular idea is too difficult to apply to us. He just says he thinks we need to [insert challenging step here].

He also thinks we’re pathetic when we try to explain to him why we can’t. We tried getting away with just agreeing and trying to move on, but he’s too smart for that one – he can spot a fob-off from a mile away (we suspect he practiced most of them when he worked in corporates).

We’ve learned it’s easier to engage, try to understand what he sees for us, and think about how we might implement something we hadn’t really considered.

He asks us to get out of our sandpit, stop playing with our toys, and have a look at the wider playground.

It’s a bugger really. We always leave the meeting feeling slightly confused as to what just happened there and how come we’ve ended up being challenged to step up our thinking again when we thought it was going to be a nice quiet non-eventful board meeting.

Thanks Dan

Who’s the boss?

No Comments 595 Views0

A wolf pack always has an alpha. When the alpha is strong and in control, the pack is quiet. When the alpha weakens, the next strongest is obliged to challenge him or her.

These are the rules the alpha and the pack operate on:

  • The alpha always goes first
  • The alpha eats first
  • The alpha decides who is admitted to the den
  • The alpha comes and goes without reference to the pack

Dog owners know that they have to be the boss dog, because the puppy will only obey if the boss dog is in control (this applies even to half-sized miniature schnauzers who would more often get mistaken for a rabbit than a wolf).

It’s simple: if you are not in control of your dog, then your dog is in control of you.

Control is a binary thing: you’ve either got it or what you’re trying to control has got it.

This applies to all sorts of things, such as drinking: if you don’t control your drinking, your drinking is controlling you. If you don’t control your eating, your eating is controlling you. If you don’t control your anger, your anger controls you.

You might think this is about being the boss dog with your people, and making sure they know who’s boss.

It’s not.

It’s about you and your business. Either you’re in control of it, or it’s in control of you.

If you are working more hours than you want to, if you are putting up with underperforming clients and staff, if you think you can’t go home before your staff, if you worry about what your staff would think if you took a week off, if you are missing out on seeing your family because you are late home and working at night, then you’re not the boss dog.

The business is controlling you, which makes you what exactly?