Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Competency Continuum

When taken out of context, some of the best inspiration can come from the Hallmark card aisle and television commercials. Case in point, the latest ad from GMC trucks, which proudly proclaims:

"Amateurs work until they get it right. Professionals work until they can't get it wrong."
Now I don't know if this makes me want to buy a Denali or their new Acadia, but continuing to develop a skill past "get it right" and all the way to "can't get it wrong" is an interesting notion, isn't it?

Case in point: I went bowling last week - first time in a long time - and a Competency Continuum was certainly apparent. Some shots I couldn't make for the life of me - like the 7/10 split. Others - like my strike ball - I could get right sometimes, but not always. And some of the easy-peasy spares I never missed.

So where are you on the Competency Continuum? And what would help increase your pin-count, as it were?

If it has anything to do with a bowling lane, check this out: www.bonuszone.com.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Be Here Now

Finally, there's a difinitive answer to the the band Chicago's 1970's musical question: "Does anybody really know what time it is?" And it comes in the form of a novelty watch that's absolutely pefect for anyone who wants to stop spending so much time worrying about the future - and/or regretting the past ...

Available through the Signals catalog.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Simplify or Amplify

Sometimes it helps to make complex issues less so; other times it helps to make subtle issues more obvious.

The next time someone doesn't understand what you're trying to say, consider whether it's more likely because you're being overly complex, or "underly" obvious.

Adjust your approach accordingly.


Friday, October 20, 2006

People behave as they're incented to behave

That old axiom is true: People really do behave as they're incented to behave. It's just that sometimes we don't realize exactly how we are incenting them to behave. A quick and easy way to understand the real picture is by using a 2x2 Awareness Matrix:

Start with a question, like this one: Why don't managers do their employee year-end reviews on time? Then, answer the "What are the..." questions posed by each quadrant:

For Quadrant I: What are the Rewards for Complying, that is doing the reviews on time?

Probable Answer: There are no rewards, excepting a pat-on-the-head from the boss and some dirty looks from their coworkers who haven't finished (read: even started) their reviews yet.

For Quadrant II: What are the Punishments for Complying?

Probable Answer: Having a set of miserable conversations with employees about their shortcomings.

For Quadrant III: What are the Rewards for Not Complying?

Probable Answer: Not having to have those miserable conversations with employees about their shortcomings. (Sometimes the avoidance of pain is the most powerful motivator of all.)

For Quadrant IV: What are the Punishments for Not Complying?

Probable Answer: A slap-on-the-wrist, maybe, but more likely than not there is no real punishment, just a revised due date and some knowing smiles from their peers.

Given the results of the Awareness Matrix, why would managers do their employee year-end reviews on time? There's no real up-side for doing them - the up-side is for not doing them. And there's no real down-side for not doing them - but there is a down-side for doing them. So you may want to spend some time considering how to realign the Rewards for Complying and the Punishments for Not Complying.

And you may want to notice, as well, that the Probable Answers for Quadrants II and III are very similar - they both have to do with the managers' beliefs that these year-end performance discussions will likely go poorly. That means if you can help your managers learn how to make these conversations even a little bit less miserable, you'll be on the right track.

So how do you make these conversations less miserable? Well one way is to order a copy of Employee Performance Discussions: 10 Important Things a Boss MUST Know How to Say for everyone. By helping them learn how to take better control of their year-end performance discussions, they will likely improve the quality of those discussions, and thus significantly reduce their concerns with Quadrants II and III.

That's not to say that you absolutely must purchase this Special Report. You certainly do not. But if the other things you've tried haven't worked, consider sending your managers to www.employee-discussions.com and suggest they take a look around.

You owe it to yourself, your managers - and your employees - to make this year's year-end reviews as meaningful as possible. But time's running out.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Give it a Rest!

From the Sep/Oct 2006 issue of Positive Thinking magazine:
Every hours, give yourself a short break. Take one to five minutes to press your "pause" button with one of these ideas:
  1. Stand up and stretch.
  2. Take a walk around the block.
  3. Splash some cold water on your face.
  4. Look away from the computer and gaze out a window.
  5. Eath a healthy snack.
  6. Sip ice water. (With each sip, your energy and alertness increases.)
  7. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing.
  8. Visit with a colleague or neighbor, and share a joke or a story.
  9. Call your significant other for a quick chat.
  10. Repeat this mantra throughout your day: "I have all the time I need to do everything I desire to do." (Before long, you may find it's true.)

Now let's not kid ourselves - this list is no panacea. But, trying working a few of these ideas and see what you see. Numbers 6 and 2 work well; what works well for you?


Friday, October 13, 2006

No One to Confide In

From the October/November issue of Scientific American Mind comes this:

Confiding in No One - by Brie Finegold - "Newly published analyses of a 2004 survey indicate that Americans' social safety net is shrinking. On average, the 1,467 respondents listed only two-people with whom they discuss important matters. In 1985 a similar mix of volunteers answering a comparable large survey reported an average of three confidants.

"Also surprising: The most frequently reported number of confidants was zero, rather than three in 1985. Principal investigator Lynn Smith-Lovin, professor of sociology at Duke University, speculates that recent increases in time spent at work and frequent changes of residency could explain this striking change."

Need a confidant? Then maybe YOU GottaGettaCoach!

(Sorry, couldn't resist!)


Wednesday, October 11, 2006


I have a Basement Watchdog battery-operated backup sump pump that's been giving me a low-level alarm lately. I did my best to ignore it, but it ended up being more persistent than I could be inattentive so I finally called in to the manufacturer (Glentronics, Inc.). They told me that I probably needed a new control unit, which sometimes happens when a unit is as old as mine.

Since their facility is pretty close to where I live, I decided to drive out there this afternoon to purchase whatever I needed, and then bring it home and (try to) install it myself. Well I'm happy to report that everything sump-pump-wise is again working as it should!

What really simplified things was that I didn't have to buy (or replace) all the non-broken components - like the sump pump itself, or the battery for that matter - their newer model is backwards compatible. I like that. So as I drove home, it felt particularly refreshing that notwithstanding the fast-paced, commoditized, everything-and-everyone-is-replaceable world we live in, here's a company that sold me only what I truly needed. And it was, in fact, what I truly needed. Isn't that refreshing?!

We hear a lot about 'customer satisfaction' and 'customer delight' and 'exceeding customer expectations' and the like. But consider "refreshing-ness." How 'refreshing' are you when working with customers, or colleagues, or vendors, or direct reports? And how 'refreshing' are you when interacting with friends, or family, or your spouse, or significant other, or with someone you just happen to strike up a conversation with while riding the elevator?

I wonder, what goes into making an interaction 'refreshing' ... or not?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Notable Quotable: Procrastination

"Putting off an easy thing makes it hard, and putting off a hard one makes it impossible." - George H. Lonmer


Monday, October 02, 2006

The Dangerous Allure of Trust

Effective Executive magazine just published my latest article - The Dangerous Allure of Trust. It's about why managers should NOT want their direct reports to trust them.

Provocative enough of a title for ya?!

Here how it starts:

"Much has been written and talked about in leadership circles regarding the importance of trust, specifically what managers can do to improve their trustworthiness with their direct reports. Notwithstanding best efforts to achieve that end, many managers are finding themselves no better off than before they engaged in said undertaking. While faulty implementation may adequately describe the majority of cases, it by no means explains them all. They can’t all be doing it wrong, can they?

"More likely than not, there’s a problem with the underlying assumption of the issue; maybe a manager’s trustworthiness is not as important as customarily thought.

"Maybe a manager even wanting to be trusted by his/her staff is a fundamental flaw in modern leadership thinking. That’s not to say that the goal of modern management should be to be distrusted. But the conclusion I have reached from years of executive coaching and leadership consultant experience – and more than two decades as a leader in various organizations – is that when managers strive for trustworthiness, it is professionally immaterial at best and organizationally toxic, at worse ..."

Let me know what you think about the rest of the piece after you read it.