Monday, November 27, 2006

Upon Further Review

They not only wished they did it better the first time; they actually admitted they got it wrong in the first place! So said 13different newspaper critics in Upon Further Review: Critics change their minds, a feature article in this weekend's Sunday Chicago Tribune Arts section. And how wonderfully refreshing is that?!

Take a look at who had the nerve (and moxie) to admit the err of their ways:
  • Music Critic, Scott L. Powers
  • Rock Critic, Greg Kot
  • Movie Critic, Michael Phillips
  • Movie Critic, Michael Wilmington
  • Music Critic, Howard Reich
  • Classical Music Critic, John von Rhein
  • Theatre Critic, Chris Jones
  • Television Critic, Maureen Ryan
  • Arts Critic, Sid Smith
  • Art Critic, Alan Artner
  • Architecture Critic, Blair Kamin
  • Restaurant Critic, Phil Vettel

These are big names in Chicago critic circles. Yet each person was man or woman enough to do what they called a 'critical reversal.'

Admitting you goofed when you really have is not a sign of weakness, as many would have you believe. It's a sign of objectivity, of maturity, of excellence. Yes, that's right, copping to your mistakes is a sign of excellence, because it's often not the mistake - it's what you do immediately after, or as a result of, the mistake - that matters more.

If you learn from it - and demonstrate that learning - then chances are good the error won't be held against you. In fact, you might even be commended for your honesty and integrity.

But if you try and pretend it never happened - or continue to make the same mistake over and over again - then chances are good that this particular example is just one more brick in an ever-growing wall separating you from lasting success.

Here's an exercise to clean the slate: List out a number of mistakes you know you've made this year and what you learned from each of them. Then go apply your learning in as meaningful a way as possible.

You'll feel better and the world will be a better place.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Mmmm, Comfort Food

Survey time: What are your favorite Comfort Foods? C'mon, spill-the-beans, as it were. You don't have to be embarrassed - not all Comfort Foods are bad for you. Well, sure, 'junk' foods top the list, but there are some 'healthier' ones in the Top 10. Here they are, according to Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating, along with the percentages of them being cited as a very favorite:

  • 23% - Potato Chips
  • 14% - Ice Cream
  • 12% - Cookies
  • 11% - Candy/ Chocolate
  • 11% - Pasta
  • 11% - Pizza
  • 9% - Steak or Burgers
  • 9% - Casseroles or Side Dishes
  • 7% - Vegetables or Salads
  • 4% - Soup
According to Wansink, Comfort Foods tend to be gender-specific. The three comfort foods most highly rated by females are: ice cream, chocolate, and cookies. And the three comfort foods most highly rated by males are: ice cream, soup, and pizza or pasta. But as they say, "individual results may vary."

So what is your favorite comfort food? Mine, is pasta - wagon wheels or shells to be precise - with butter and Parmesan cheese. Mmmmmm Good! It sooo helps me recover a fever or flu! (Really, it does!)

And how about you? What foods feed your body and soul?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Thanksgiving Day Rituals


As Thanksgiving approaches, I'm reminded of my Fun Family Rituals e-book - a compilation of more than 110 fun family routines, behaviors, and activities that families really practice - and really enjoy practicing - as described by the families who really are practicing them.

Here, then, are a few excerpted Thanksgiving favorites:

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On Thanksgiving, my kids make a Thankful Box and have everyone in the house "deposit" an index card telling what they're thankful for. Then, before dessert, we read them one at a time and laugh and cry and thank our lucky stars for our family and friends.

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Each year on the weekend after Thanksgiving, we cut down our Christmas tree and keep it in a bucket of water in the garage until mid-December when we bring it in and decorate it. We have to park the car on the driveway, but we don't mind!

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After Thanksgiving dinner, all the moms of our extended family get together with handfuls of cash. We take whatever we were planning on spending on each of our 13 nieces and nephews for Christmas and neatly separate it all into envelopes - each marked with a child's name. When everyone is done putting their money in, the moms get their own kids' envelopes so that they can spend the money on gifts 'on behalf of' the aunts and uncles. It really streamlines the shopping process. And besides, when it comes to buying presents, moms really do know best!

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For more Fun Family Rituals: www.funfamilyrituals.com.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Interviewing the Coach

I received an interesting email from an Industrial Psychologist in Copenhagen this morning, wanting to get some perspective on coaching. Here are some excerpts from the thread:

Industrial Psychologist (IP): I have produced some difficult questions - which come to my mind all the time. Perhaps you can help me clarify them.

Barry Zweibel (beezee): These are, as you put it, some difficult questions, indeed! The real answer can only be "it depends." (And, in that my responses will be based more on an American culture than a Scandinavian one, "it REALLY depends," might be an even more accurate answer!) But let's look at some of the extremes and see how they inform you:

IP: What is the impact of the coaching strategy on organization, team and individual levels?

beezee: Best Case - full alignment between organizational goals/ priorities and the successful implementation of individual/ team objectives. Worst Case - a sub-optimization of individual/ team objectives irrespective of organizational goals/ priorities.

IP: What is the impact of coaching on results and employee satisfaction?

beezee: Best Case - employees feel respected, understood, valued, and motivated to do their best work. Worst Case - employees get totally discouraged after seeing the potential of coaching but realizing that managers aren't really interested in improving.

IP: How do you experience (and enable) the maintenance of the coach-process?

beezee: The ongoing nature of the coaching conversation - occurring over time at intervals close enough together so that motivation and traction are sustained, but not so close together that they become burdensome and/ or don't allow enough time to accomplish identified Next Steps.

IP: Have you been able to create a coaching culture? And if yes, where do you experience this in the daily practice?

beezee: This question applies more to my clients' organizations more than my own, but I believe they would say that the more 'conscious and purposeful' they become about their work on a minute-by-minute basis - and the more they take responsibility for the impact they have on others - the more the culture changes.

IP: What are your experiences when it comes to the systematic way of coaching in daily practice (e.g. booked coach-sessions between manager and subordinate)?

beezee: Ad hoc coaching has value, but pre-scheduling a set of coaching conversations is far more effective from an accountability standpoint. It also enables better preparation, and recognition of (and appreciation of) the importance of these meetings.

IP: How can coaching be a part of the dialogue from the owner perspective, executive down to business area level?

beezee: I think it's a function of the underlying beliefs that the executives hold with respect to the operative employees - are they capable of great things, or not? What are the organizational constraints affecting employee performance and what can be done about them? Whose responsibility is it to try and bring out the best in each and every employee - the employee only, the boss only, or both? Questions like that.

IP: How do you create a powerful relationship (agreement, clarity about roles, leadership style, values, organizational culture) that supports the coaching between the manager and employee.

beezee: This, frankly, is why an external coach can be so much more effective than a boss-as-coach - especially if a boss doesn't know how (or doesn't want) to deal with the mistakes that a coachee will make along the way. (And make no mistake, coachees WILL make mistakes - that's part of how learning happens.) But you've already answered your own question, in that the way to create a powerful coaching relationship is for coach and coachee to reach agreement on what the relationship will look like, how the roles will work, what conversational style will be used, what values will be mutually honored, how will bumps-in-the-road be handled, etc.) In coaching terms, we call this "designing the alliance" and it's an essential component of setting the stage for an effective coaching engagement.

IP: What happens with the authority when a leader starts coaching his/her employees?

beezee: Best Case: the leader is respected all-the-more for being willing to invest the time and effort. Worst Case: The boss doesn't really coach - he or she just pretends to coach, or coaches poorly. Then respect for the boss drops, as does employee morale engagement.

Questions/Comments?

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Monday, November 13, 2006

As in the NFL, as in Life

Which is better: to get off to a good start, or to finish strong? Let's see what Week 10 of the NFL had to say about this:
  • In games where one team outscored the other in the 1st quarter, the team that scored more won 67% of the time.
  • In games where one team outscored the other in the 2nd quarter, the team that scored more won 62% of the time.
  • In games where one team outscored the other in the 3rd quarter, the team that scored more won 75% of the time.
  • In games where one team outscored the other in the 4th quarter, the team that scored more won 60% of the time.

This admittedly limited sampling would suggest that although a fast start is somewhat helpful - more so than a strong finish, anyway - the real key is what you do in the 3rd quarter. That is, what you do in the first half of the second half has the greatest impact on the final outcome.

Now surely there are counter-balancing examples out there - the way the Denver Broncos beat my favorite Oakland Raiders is a particularly painful one. But the Chicago Bears' stunning victory of the New York Football Giants was sealed with a 14-0 run in quarter three.

The application here is this: Think about your current roster of projects and outstanding commitments. Identify the ones where you're about halfway through - just starting the first half of the second half, as it were - and see what a good surge does to the overall success of the assignment.

You may be pleasantly surprised.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Debating the Nonfiction-ness of Fables

I went to Borders Books last night to pick up a book for a client. While there, I decided to look around and found myself wandering over to their Bestsellers rack. There were two sets of shelves - one for the current bestsellers in fiction and one for current bestsellers in nonfiction.

Made sense ... until I saw one of my all-time favorite books - The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo, a story about an Andalusian shepherd boy who learns about life, and himself, by learning how to listen to his heart. It was weird. Weird for multiple reasons, actually:

Weird Reason Number 1 - That a book first published (in English) back in 1993 was on any current bestsellers list - although it had been re-released as a trade paperback back in April of 2006.

Weird Reason Number 2 - That it was currently ranked Number 2 in the NON-fiction category - especially given the book's subtitle, "A Fable about Following Your Dream."

Now I wanted to be sure, so I walked over to the bookstore's Reference section and pulled out a copy of the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Lo and behold, the word fable is defined as "a fictitious narrative."

Salesperson: May I help you?

Me: Why yes, you can. Did you know that your Number 2 best-selling nonfiction book is actually fiction?

Salesperson: No it's not.

Me: But it's a fable and fables are, by definition, works of fiction.

Salesperson: Well the book is normally shelved in the Metaphyiscal section, which makes it NON-fiction. So calling it a work of fiction is debatable.

Me: Apparently so.

Apparently so.

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