Tuesday 20 August 2019

Paul McNeive: 'Holidays are a great chance for thinking and dreaming'

The right moves

Paul McNeive
Paul McNeive

Paul McNeive

PROFESSIONALS in the property market have been working at full capacity for several years now, making the most of the strong demand for buildings and associated services. I suspect that most firms will be ahead of target at this stage, and with Q4 looking strong, the prospects are for a very good year. Happy days.

Everyone is looking forward to a holiday and a well-deserved rest. However, one of the consequences of working "flat out" is that there is no time for "thinking" - but the holidays can be the ideal time to let your mind wander to good effect.

I always come up with my best ideas on holidays. Travel stimulates the mind, and a curiosity about how things work in other countries leads to, "How would that work at home?" Mostly though, I think it's simply the absence of constant interruptions and the reduced stress.

But how can we let our minds wander to good effect? First off, it's good to remind ourselves that our thinking and behaviour is heavily influenced by our environment. For example, if you are leading a large professional firm, or development company, it's highly likely that you are the first born child in your family. Your parents gave you more attention than your younger siblings, and you grew up deciding what games to play, and setting the rules. You grew to like authority and leadership. This phenomenon proves scarily true, every time I test it when speaking to Irish business audiences. Furthermore, did you notice that six of the contenders to be the UK's prime minister had attended Oxford University and had been active in the debating society?

If you're leading a large professional firm, you're almost certainly male, in your fifties, and have the exact same education and training as all the other leaders in your profession. The downside of this "environmental grooming" is that we get very similar thinking. The most important thing is that we are aware of it, and of the value in breaking free from "groupthink" and potentially disrupting markets, offering new services and running our businesses differently.

It's interesting that most property developers come from predictable property backgrounds. Many came through the ranks working in construction companies, several were estate agents, engineers or quantity surveyors. But what draws them into development is their ability to "think big", their ability to envision something that others can't see, and their willingness to take a big risk to make that dream a reality. They think differently.

Another factor is that all our education and professional training is based on "logical thinking", which is fine, but does not encourage creativity. I recommend adding Edward de Bono's 'Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step' to your summer reading, as an introduction to the topic.

A good next step is to think about how you see yourself. This is your life, and you have the power to design it. Most people perform to the average standards, but where do you see yourself? Are you average, or near the top? What do you need to do to be outstanding?

I advise that you pay huge attention to diverting your efforts into work that is more "strategic" than "operational". That's easier said than done, but the most successful people focus on the high pay-off activities. Maximise your time with your best clients. Get closer to them, and add value. What are they worried about? Solve their problems and build trust.

Create a vision for your own life and your business. Re-imagine yourself as a businessman/woman and don't confine yourself to the role of an estate agent/architect/engineer. That will see you beginning to think differently and adding value for your clients.

Come back to your job with new energy and ideas, and use your enthusiasm to inspire others with your vision. And schedule 30 minutes thinking time into your weekly schedule from here on. It pays to think. Enjoy your holidays.

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