It’s that time of year when many of us head off overseas. Different country, different culture and different currency. I’ve recently returned from my native Britain. Fancying myself as something of a global traveler, I like to keep a bit of local currency in my wallet. (Not quite Jason Bourne, but it feels a bit ‘international’). When I arrived in London, I pulled out a five pound note to pay for a coffee - only to be declined. There’s a new fiver in town. I was out of date and out of luck.

What currency are you carrying?

This set me to thinking about the nature of our personal currency. Like my ‘fiver’, many of us assume that what we offer was, is and always will be valuable. That’s a mistake. We must constantly evolve if we are to remain, well ‘current’!

I was reminded of this in a conversation with a mate of mine who manages a software sales team. He told me about a problematic new ‘old’ sales guy he has ‘inherited’ (always a danger sign). Whilst possessing oodles of expertise and historical sales success, his old-school approach no longer works. Despite lots of coaching, the sales veteran remains confused and frustrated, insisting that his is still the right way. We all know how that story is likely to end…

We must adapt constantly to increase the value of what we bring to the table. In a competitive world (and Lord knows, we’re in one now), this is the difference between winning and losing.

Here are 7 ways to make sure you are on the right side of the equation.

Rekindle your Curiosity

The wonderful thing about travel is how it stimulates the brain with new perspectives and ideas. It’s easy to get stuck in busy and pulled down by the gravity of detail. Time to get you head up! Look in new places. Ask great questions like, “what if?”, “why?” and “why not?

Become Teachable

As an experienced manager or leader, it’s easy to become stuck in old ideas and group-think! We have to open our minds to new things. First we need to make some brain space. Time to discard old approaches and stale thinking. Stuffy cultures and autocratic structures often amplify the problem. Adopt an appetite for life-long learning and a thirst for new stuff.

Self-disrupt

Don’t wait for someone or something to render you obsolete. If you were starting today with a clean slate, how would you approach what you do? Legacy systems, legacy revenues and sunk costs all hold us in the past. Be that maverick who asks and acts differently.

Get comfortable with messy

Stop trying to tie everything up in a bow. Clean desk policy – pah! Success in modern business is about getting ahead through anticipating future trends and customer needs. The process is unavoidably incomplete and rapid. Nothing is ever finished. Don’t waste time on seeking perfection. By the time you get it the game has moved on.

Be Optimistic

I believe that we are living in the most transformational period in human history. That’s both massively threatening to the comfortable status quo of many, but also offers extraordinary possibilities. Choose life!

Master collaboration

Most of us have been taught only to compete. Genuine collaboration is rare, but it holds the key to growth. The answers are out there. It pays to get some help in the hunt for them. I think this is the major shift needed by especially older players, who have been bought up with a scarcity mindset. “Don’t give them the numbers”, “Are you mad showing them our IP?” Sharing both the problems and opportunities grows our knowledge and resources and pays handsomely.

Be Human

With robots, A.I., big data and commoditized everything, the main way we can stand out and add value is through our humanity. By harnessing our creativity, empathy, compassion, enthusiasm and intelligence we can be and do remarkable things. Most businesses still undervalue the human factor. Smart ones don’t! Get in touch with your humanity and put it out there! Be vulnerable, convicted and authentic. You’ll enjoy the process and be amazed by the way people’s reactions change for the better.

There’s still time

If you feel you have a bit of work to do on the above, the good news is that it’s never too late to start. Whilst my five pound note was no good on the street, I could still change it at a bank. There is a window of opportunity for all of us – but, like all windows, it will eventually shut. 

Mark

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