Friday, April 25, 2008

From (totally) Perfect to (merely) Excellent

I work a lot with executives who relish their perfectionism - and why not, it's what, in large part, got them promoted to be executives.

To help them 're-frame' how they think about their work, I have them do a little exercise. First, I have them draw a line from left to right, with arrows on each end; a continuum, if you will:

a continuum

On it, I then have them put a big A on the far left and label it (inescapably) Awful; and a big P on the far right and label it (totally) Perfect. Like this, perhaps:

from (inescapably) Awful to (totally) Perfect

I then ask where on the line they'd put an E,which stands for (merely) Excellent - still excellent, but just barely so.

E

(merely) Excellent?!

If you do this exercise yourself, be sure to notice that wherever you put your E - it's likely somewhat left of P, but still considerably to the right of A. That is, meaningfully less than (totally) Perfect, but still nowhere near (inescapably) Awful.

My challenge to them - and to you - is to spend the next two weeks operating in the E space - wherever it's located - to see what that's like.

If you do, you'll likely find, as they do, that not one person (excepting yourself) will notice any decrease in your performance whatsoever. And, by allowing yourself to be just (merely) Excellent you'll free up literally hours of time in your workweek - and at home - that you can then use to complete several other things in a (merely) Excellent way AND still have time to clean up your overflowing email inbox already, for crying out loud!

It's a fun little experiment, one that I invite you to try.

And what if someone becomes dissatisfied with your (merely) Excellent performance? Don't worry. For now, just apologize and indulge yourself in making things (totally) Perfect.

It'll still be the exception, rather than the rule.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

28 Common Leadership Mistakes

How many of these leadership and management mistakes do you make?

  1. Thinking and acting like you know all the answers
  2. Confusing delegation with 'dumping'
  3. Not being really real or genuine
  4. Not being an exemplary role model
  5. Treating staff like children
  6. Not practicing The Platinum Rule® - treating others as they wish to be treated
  7. Not knowing what you want people's value-added to be
  8. Not communicating the context for certain decisions you make or override
  9. Saying, "...because I'm the boss" as justification for, basically, anything
  10. Not saying, "...sorry, my bad"
  11. Discounting constructive feedback instead of learning from it
  12. Not really listening
  13. Fooling yourself into thinking that you are listening (when you're not)
  14. Not addressing the right issues
  15. Not knowing what the right issues are that need to be addressed
  16. Giving vague or 'coded' answers to requests for specific information
  17. Not stimulating healthy debate among your staff and peers - even if it makes you wrong
  18. Not admitting that you made the exact same mistake once (or twice) yourself
  19. Being too serious
  20. Being too fast to judge others
  21. Not realizing that the goal is not to make the best decision possible, but to make the best decision given the time allotted and the info available
  22. Feeling threatened by your staff's competence and zealousness
  23. Not saying what you mean
  24. Not meaning what you say
  25. Not saying, 'Thank you', 'please', and 'nice job' often enough
  26. Not saying, 'Let's talk about how to do this more efficiently' often enough
  27. Discouraging others from taking vacation or leaving work early from time to time
  28. Forgetting that a true leader never stops learning about how to be an even better leader

For the ones you recognize yourself doing, start tracking how many times you do them each week. You'll be amazed at the power that little tick marks can have in helping you to modify your attitude and behavior.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Hello, Barry? This is the BBC News calling...

I got a call today from the BBC News. And oddly enough, it seemed perfectly fitting, having just completed a morning call with a client in London. But it was not about her. It was about me...or so I thought.

"Hello, Barry?" asked the man with the decidedly British accent. "This is the BBC News calling..."

It seems they wanted to do a piece on Clinton vs. Obama, but with a twist. The BBC wanted to interview an American Life Coach to talk about how one would coach the ultimate loser of the nomination - whoever that would be. Is that a great topic, or what?!

Unfortunately, they wanted the life coach to come to their Washington D.C. office to do the interview ... this afternoon! Sorry, can't get there from here (Chicago) by then. Oh well.

Nevertheless, I thought it'd be interesting to consider - and blog about - how I might coach Hillary or Barack if the situation actually did present itself. And, while the specific questions I'd ask would likely emerge as our conversation unfolded, I'm pretty sure I'd approach the dialogue in this way:

Coaching Steps

1a. Public "Do" questions - That is, questions to get at what was needed to deal most effectively with the situation publicly today, and moving forward. Yes, they'd be pretty obvious, but when dealing with high-powered coaching clients, it's important to create a safe path before traveling into deeper, more personal, areas of discussion.

  • What will be the primary message of your public statement about this?
  • What relationships do you need to circle back to - to thank and/or repair?
  • What else needs to be mopped up a bit?

1b. Private "Do" questions - These would be similar to 1a-type questions, but would focus more on what the individual needed to do, privately, to turn the page as it were.

  • Now that this is over, what do you need to do for yourself?
  • What makes that so important for you?
  • How can you get more of that for yourself more quickly?

2a. Public "Be" questions - Public figures are identified, in many ways, by what they stand for. Given that, a whole series of questions can be asked about how they want to show up and "be" publicly.

  • How important is it to you that your constituents' issues continue to have a meaningful platform?
  • From a historical perspective, how do you want your role in this campaign to be remembered?
  • What is your message to the American people about the importance of trying, even if you don't succeed?

2b. Private "Be" questions - This is really the heart of coaching, questions designed to help an individual better understand how to stand in the world.

  • So, how are you with not having won - as in really?!
  • What do you need to feel 'complete' about this and be ready for whatever comes next?
  • What are you most proud of for having made happen during the campaign?
  • What are your Lessons Learned that made your campaign particularly worthwhile?
  • How has this empowered you, as a person, moving forward?

It's hard to say how much any of this would resonate for the non-nominee. It's hard to know how receptive s/he would be to even having this conversation. But I suspect that whoever it would be with, it'd likely be an important conversation for the person to have ... for the good of the the individual ... the Democratic Party ... and the people of the United States of America.

To think it was all spurred by the BBC News calling. Jolly good.

Jolly good, indeed!

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Poem In Your Pocket Day

Poem in Your Pocket Day!Yup, that's right. Not only is April National Poetry Month, but April 17th is Poem in Your Pocket Day!

"The idea is simple:" says the Academy of American Poets. "[S]elect a poem you love during National Poetry Month then carry it with you to share with co-workers, family, and friends on April 17. Poems from pockets will be unfolded throughout the day with events in parks, libraries, schools, workplaces, and bookstores."

Or, if you prefer, you can download your favorite poems to your cell or smart phone: Poems to go!

Now I'm not a big fan of poetry, per se, but in honor of the day, let me pull out an old fave, Knots, by "Independent British Psychoanalyst, Social Phenomenologist, Radical Psychiatrist, Existential Philosopher," and poet if you ask me, R. D. Laing.

Here's an excerpt from Knots:
There must be something the matter with him
because he would not be acting as he does
unless there was
therefore he is acting as he is
because there is something the matter with him

He does not think there is anything the matter with him
because
one of the things that is
the matter with him
is that he does not think that there is anything
the matter with him

therefore
we have to help him realize that,
the fact that he does not think there is anything
the matter with him
is one of the things that is
the matter with him
(Can you see why the piece is called Knots?!)

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Monday, April 14, 2008

What Makes the Google Search Engine - and Leadership - So Good

Friday's post looked at what search engine optimization can can teach us about leadership. Today, let's look at what we can learn about leadership from Google and how it manages its search engine infrastructure.

First some perspective from John Dvorak's Inside Track (PC Magazine, April 2006):

"Anyone who runs a blog can clearly see the search engine bots as they roam through a Web site. The Google bots will show up and scan the site perhaps ten times as frequently as either the MSN or the Yahoo! bots. Combining the MSN and Yahoo! bots still does not even come close to the Google bots' level of activity.

"This is the real key to Google's success in search. Google is better because it works harder - or at least the computers work harder. Everybody wants to believe that there is some magical algorithm that makes Google the winner. That's not it. It's the relentless crawling of the Net that does the job.

"[And] Google continues to make this network of Web crawlers bigger by the day."

So what's this got to do with Leadership? I submit that if you increase your scanning of the world around you (as the Googlebots do) and incorporate what you find into:

  • the questions you ask
  • the answers you give
  • the views you hold
  • the directives you give
  • the conversations you have
  • the conclusions you reach
  • the 'pinging' you do
  • the activities you engage in

...you'll become a a better leader - a much better leader.

Try it this week and see for yourself.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

An SEO - that is, Leadership - Audit and Upgrade

How does SEO (search engine optimization) connect with you becoming a better leader?

Whether you know anything about getting better website rankings on Google, or not, let's take a closer look courtesy of Website Magazine, and author Dante A. Monteverde, as to commonalities between improving organic search engine placements and leadership excellence:

  • SEO Resolution: "Resolve to complete an SEO audit of your website." The idea here is that there are all sorts of things behind the scenes on a website (like meta tags, alt tags, keyword phrases, and h1, h2, and h3 tags, as example) that can affect search engine rankings. so too with your leadership style.

GGCI Leadership Corollary: "Resolve to complete an audit of your leadership infrastructure." That is, look behind the scenes at what helps you lead how you lead. How effectively do you keep track of (and hold others accountable for) the things you delegate?

How effectively do you keep track of (and honor) the commitments you make? How sufficiently do you prepare for difficult conversations? What tone and mood do you bring to work each day? Objectively audit such leadership infrastructure elements and upgrade, as necessary.

  • SEO Resolution: "Resolve to update your content." In website parlance, this refers to adding new materials to your website so that it's interesting enough for people come back to it to see what's new and what else they can learn from it. GottaGettaBlog! is an example of one way to do that.

GGCI Leadership Corollary: "Resolve to further your leadership discussions." What new aspects of leadership are you learning and sharing with your staff, colleagues, upper management, and vendor contacts, about leadership? What subtleties of human performance and motivation are you studying?

What questions do you have about effectively leading people that you can incorporate into your conversations with others? Objectively audit your leadership conversations and upgrade, as necessary.

  • SEO Resolution: "Resolve to obtain new incoming links." One of the ways that Google and the other search engines determine where a site should be placed on its rankings is by how many other sites have hyperlinks to that site. The basic idea is that as more and more sites refer to another site in its own content, the value of that other site is continually enhanced. (No wonder they call it link love!!)

GGCI Leadership Corollary: "Resolve to help others say good things about you." It's long been know that the more that people say good things about you - especially if they're people from other departments - the better raises and bonuses you'll likely get. (See More Needed Than Good Work, a blog posting I did on this topic almost four years ago!)

People who do this effectively are called network entrepreneurs as they recognize the value derived from building their personal and professional contacts and connections with an entrepreneurial zeal.

The thing to remember is that people can't say good things about you - even if they want to - if they don't know what good things you've been up to. Objectively audit how good of a network entrepreneur you are and upgrade, as necessary.

The article goes on to identify other key SEO Resolutions, as well, but I think you get the point:

It's probably a good time to audit - and upgrade - your Leadership Style, as necessary, yes?!

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Who's in Your Doghouse?

We get mad. We get cranky. We judge. We blame. We put people on ice. Send them to Siberia. Put them in the doghouse. And there they stay, sometimes for a very looooooong time.

But it can be exhausting to be annoyed at too many individual people at any one time. And you miss out on all their otherwise goodness, if you do.

So, if you're thinking that your doghouse needs a room addition this spring, maybe it's a good time to take stock of who's in there and when they might be up for parole.

Here's how to tell if it might be time to turn the page:
  1. If you can't remember exactly why you're mad at someone, it might be time to forgive and forget;
  2. If your 'why' is more than 7 days old, it might be time to just let go of it, already;
  3. If you've been waiting for the other person to apologize, it might be time for you to be the one who extends the olive branch first;
  4. If you're not sure what to say, it might be time to just jump in and start swimming;
  5. If your righteous indignation has taken control of your spirit, it might be time to focus back on all that's good in the world.

Or you can just stay mad.

But, it might be easier to just give some people the benefit of the doubt and let them out of your doghouse; let them get back in your good graces, as it were.

Not only will that save you the trouble of having to build a bigger place for all these troublemakers, it will also create some much-needed space for the next batch of ne'er-do-wells who will likely be getting on your bad side, moving forward.