Tuesday, February 27, 2007

An Argument for Less Simplicity

Leah Eskin wrote a fun little article in her Home on the Range column for the Chicago Tribune magazine section a few weeks back, titled, Get Over the Easy: Effortless Eggs Aren't Worth the Trouble:

"Simplistic propaganda lurks on the magazine cover, best-seller table and annoying pop-up promotion: Declutter, deacquistion, desist. Mottoes that are supposed to relieve the overworked and overwhelmed. But don't.

"You realize you like complicated. Maybe not bacon-on-a-swing complicated. Not spear-it-and-cute-it-yourself complicated. But at the very least the carefully selected and beautifully composed cheese-plate complicated."

On she writes, quite cleverly, in fact, about what seems to be a justification for a quasi-complicated brunch. And as I read, I was struck by the notion that many people, myself included, actually like the complicated! After all, there is a beauty in complexity that simplicity simply cannot hold a candle to, fragranted paraffin, notwithstanding. Like when a basketball team executes a perfect pick and roll, or when a car's anti-lock brakes do their thing, or, in keeping with Ms. Eskin's epicurean emphasis, when all the parts of a Thanksgiving Day dinner are ready to eat at exactly the same time. This is not simplicity. But it is fantastic!

We often complain how office policies and procedures tend to be more complicated than they need be. And many are. But sometimes, there's nothing like a crisp 7-step process to take something through from start to finish. It begs the question:

What might we be trying to make too simple?
In an effort to clear things off our plates (that one was for you, Leah!) what important details might we have overlooked? In an effort to rush through a meeting , what important questions might we never have let get asked? In a effort to hurry home and live a balanced life, who might we have nearly run off the road as we changed lanes without looking back there?

It's complicated when you have to square the corners, polish the chrome, dot the i's and cross the t's. Rarely is it simple.

But a job well done? Now that's simply outstanding!

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Who's asking Whom?

Two items-of-note from the February issue of Training & Development magazine:

  • Item One - Only 33% of employees surveyed say their bosses seldom or never ask them for advice. Now at first blush, this may seem like fairly good news. I mean if 33% are not asked, then that means 67% are asked. But what remains unanswered is what type of questions are those 67% asked? Are they meaningful and important questions or more trivial in nature? Do they require critical thinking and analysis skills or are they just simply yes/no questions? I have my suspicions, don't you?!
  • Item Two - Only 11% of employees see their boss as a source for workplace advice. This separate survey found that more workers rely on a peer (24%), another senior-level employee (15%), a friend outside the company (14%), and a mentor or coach (13%). Have bosses truly become that useless?

So there you have it - bosses don't ask their direct reports questions and direct reports don't ask their bosses questions. No wonder so many organizations are in such disarray.

For the record, asking questions is not a sign of weakness - it's a sign of curiosity. And curiosity is a good thing.

Oh, you say you are asking questions but just not getting the clarity you're looking for? Well ask again. And keep ask. But don't just ask the same exact question over and over again. Be creative. Approach it from different angles. But, above all, be persistent in your pursuit of meaningful information up and down the chain.

Point Last: Who's not been asking you questions lately?! You might want to see if you can stimulate their asking you for workplace advice - especially if you're their boss.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Happy 4704, Good Fu to You

Fu, meaning luck
Sunday, February 18, 2007, marks the start of the Chinese New Year, DingHai, the Year of the Pig, Year4704 by the Chinese calendar.

Here's hoping it brings much Fu, that is Luck, to you.

And if you had some 2007 New Year's Resolutions you have lost track of, today might be a great day to pick them up again!

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Leadership Coach Interview

Mark Shead over at the Leadership501 blog did an interview Q&A with me and two other leadership coaches this week. You can link here to the full piece. Excerpts from my part are included below:

What is the most common mistake you see made by leaders?

BZ: Just one?! How about three?!

With respect to ‘delegation and maximizing their leadership impact’ – Doing work that they’re capable of doing, rather than working on what only they are capable of doing. Too many leaders do their staff’s work instead of their own and then are left wondering why there are so many unanticipated problems and last-minute deadlines that keep cropping up. Job One of a leader is to keep a constant watch on the horizon, not to keep busy.

With respect to ‘consensus-building and collaboration’ – Thinking that the real work happens during meetings, rather than before, and to a much lesser degree, after, them. To paraphrase Walt Disney, if you can get them to agree before they disagree, they’ll never disagree.

With respect to ‘doing a good job’ – Trying to avoid risk-taking, rather than learning to how anticipate and mitigate the risks inherent in forwarding any new idea. As a leader, it’s not about playing it safe, it’s about making a difference.

What is the most important tip you can give for developing leadership skills?

BZ: Time is the ultimate scare resource for an executive, so the ability to eliminate procrastination is an essential competency. Yet, many executives are still uncomfortable with talking to direct reports about performance issues. So they procrastinate (under the guise of being too busy to deal with that right now, of course) and as a direct result, time passes, problems fester, and things slide downhill.

The most important tip I can give for developing leadership skills, then, is to learn how to be ready, willing, and able, to have those difficult conversations, when needed. That’s one of the reasons why I created an e-book called, "Employee Performance Discussions" which provides respectful, but powerful and compelling, language and phrasings to help make those difficult conversations imminently less so.

Which leader has had the biggest personal influence on your life?

BZ: For me, I think it was John Madden back when he was head coach of the Oakland Raiders, from 1968 to 1978. I really respect how he took all the misfits from the league – galoots who had just couldn't play nice with anyone – gave them a home, insisted they be themselves, and with owner Al Davis, challenged them to Just Win, Baby!

Together, they won 17 straight games (across two seasons), won themselves a Super Bowl, never had a losing season, got Madden voted AFL Coach of the Year, gave him the best winning percentage of any coach in NFL history with over 100 wins, and a permanent seat in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

My Lessons Learned from it all?

  1. Be curious about people rather than being in judgment of them
  2. Don’t be afraid of creativity and counter-intuitive thinking
  3. People love, but also need, to do Important Work – so let them
  4. Respecting someone for who they already are, builds regard, rapport, and the ability to create some incredible magic.
Who can benefit from leadership coaching?

BZ: The type of people who can benefit the most from leadership coaching are the ones who, notwithstanding the fruits of their labors, know they can still do better, want to do better still, and are willing to do the necessary legwork to make it so. They tend to be smart, capable, informed, creative, and caring. But whether they’re an up-and-coming star, a proverbial executive’s executive, or someone in between, they know that what brought them success in the past will likely be insufficient in sustaining their success in the future. So they've made it a personal and professional priority to continue to learn and grow and develop and stretch and question and consider and understand as much as they can. Regardless of circumstances or contexts, they want to be at their Absolute Best as often, and as consistently, as possible. Why? Because it’s at that level that the magic happens most regularly.



Wednesday, February 14, 2007

"Pitchers and Catchers Report Today"

And with those five words, all feels right in the world again.

Go Cubs Go!


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

International Coach Federation Honors Local Life Coach with Master Certified Coach Credential

Northbrook, IL February 7, 2007 - Barry Zweibel, president and founder of GottaGettaCoach!, Inc., has been awarded the Master Certified Coach (MCC) credential by the International Coach Federation (ICF).

The MCC is the highest, and most prestigious, designation available through the ICF, a globally-recognized, independent, certification body for professional coaches.

The ICF has more than 11,000 members in 80 countries, and less than 5% of its membership -- and less than 2% of all coaches worldwide -- have achieved this MCC distinction.

press release

MCC certificate


Friday, February 02, 2007

I've Been Tagged

I've been "tagged" by Jonathan Kantor over at the White Paper Pundit blog. The way this works is that it's now my turn to list five things that most people probably don't know about me ... and then tag five other people to continue the chain.
  1. As a kid, I had a vibrant shoeshine business where I charged by the shoe - and some people actually had me do only one at a time!
  2. I'm a fairly accomplished egg roll maker - Uncle Irwin taught me how to use a wok as we 'sailed' the Long Island Sound on his Chinese Junk.
  3. Because so many things in life happen alphabetically, I used to think my full name was actually "and, Barry Zweibel."
  4. My guitar (yes, I still play ... a bit) is one of the first Ovation Balladeers ever produced (model 1111) - I bought it new, way back when I was in high school.
  5. I'm allergic to bees and wasps, mosquitoes - and autumn.

So that's about me. And now, here are the five bloggers I tag to go next:

  1. Megan Potter at http://www.flamingrenaissance.com/
  2. Jim Carlini at http://www.carliniscomments.com/
  3. Kerch McConlogue at www.mapthefuture.com/blog
  4. Sylva Leduc at http://www.syl.typepad.com/
  5. Penelope Trunk at blog.penelopetrunk.com


Ten Top Tips for Getting Over Bad Habits

From an interview I did with Echo Magazine: