Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Stretching Yourself

“Women who stretched themselves said that they enjoyed more success compared to those who didn't keep stretching.”

So said Nellie Borrero, director of global inclusion and diversity at Accenture, in Roaring All the Way to the Top, an article in the May 2009 issue of T&D magazine.

Based on her online survey of 3,600 global business executives, it was also reported that:
  • 78% of women who are are very successful agreed that "I am learning new skills to move to the next level." 67% of women, overall, agreed.
  • 81% of women who are very successful agreed that "I take on additional responsibilities and complexities to advance." 67% of women, overall, agreed.
  • 75% of women who are very successful agreed that "I regularly stretch myself beyond my comfort zone." 61% of women, overall, agreed.
  • 65% of women who are very successful agreed that "I regularly ask my supervisors for new challenges." 50% of women, overall, agreed.
  • 76% of women who are very successful agreed that "I am willing to consider a new position or role to advance." 67% of women, overall, agreed.

Draw your own conclusions.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

(Big C) Collaboration

(little c) collaboration is about Obligation, talking to others because you MUST.

(Big C) Collaboration is about Idea Synergy, 1+1>2.

Play BIG.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Implied, Inferred, and Actual Commitment-Making

Over in the Q&A section of LinkedIn, Brian asked,

"What are the subjects of the more difficult or challenging conversations that you have at work?"

Here's how I replied:

I think many (most?) difficult or challenging conversations result from IMPLIED or INFERRED commitment-making in lieu of *ACTUAL* commitment-making.

(1) ACTUAL Commitment-making – this is when Person A specifically requests that Person B do something … and Person B specifically agrees to do it.

Example:
Person A: You’ll turn in your report by noon, right?
Person B: Yes, I will.

Now if Person B doesn't deliver, Person A has every right to hold Person B accountable … and Person B knows it. No fuss. No muss. Just guilty, as charged.

(2) IMPLIED Commitment-making – this is when Person A does *not* make a specific request, but *assumes* that Person B knows what s/he wants, anyway.

Example:
Person A: You’ll turn in your report *soon*, right?
Person B: Yes, I will.

Now because Person A never said it out loud, Person B has no idea that *soon* means “by noon”. So when Person B doesn't turn in the report until several hours later, Person A feels wronged, and fully justified in blaming Person B. Person B, feeling totally blindsided (again), justifiably blames Person A back and the conversation immediately becomes exceedingly more difficult and challenging.

(3) INFERRED Commitment-making – this is when Person A *does* make a specific request, but Person B answers in such a way that it seems s/he’s made a commitment, but actually has not.

Example:
Person A: You’ll turn in your report by noon, right?
Person B: I understand you want it by then.

Note that Person B never actually committed to turning the report in by noon, s/he really just acknowledged the request. And as with IMPLIED Commitment-making, when Person B doesn't turn in the report until several hours later, Person A feels wronged, and fully justified in blaming Person B. Person B, feeling totally blindsided (again), justifiably blames Person A back and the conversation becomes exceedingly more difficult and challenging.

The key, then, is to insure (and confirm) that all commitments are ACTUAL commitments … not IMPLIED commitments ... not INFERRED commitments ... but ACTUAL commitments.

Just to be sure, I also recommend asking for the following CONFIRMING commitment:

“If for some reason you cannot honor this commitment you just made, will you be sure to let me know ahead of time so that I can make other arrangements?”

Doing so makes the follow-up conversation, if the deliverable is missed, far *less* difficult or challenging. No fuss. No muss. Just guilty, as charged.

Hope this helps.

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Related: www.employee-discussions.com

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Personality Conflict Détente

Diane Crampton posed an interesting question on the LinkedIn "Leadership Think Tank" discussion board last week:
"From your experience, what have you found that resolves conflict the fastest for long term sustainable results?"
Here's how I responded:

Hi All ~ I assume we're talking about *personality* conflicts here as they typically have a much longer *shelf life* than any particular issue-based conflict, yes?

That said, it seems to me that most personality conflicts *sustain* because there are no real, lasting, consequences to Person A for NOT resolving their conflict with Person B, and vice versa. If they’re *allowed* to disengage from each other, of *course* they’ll become more insular.

But, assigning both Persons A and B to a joint, *public*, assignment – one where they both *must* work together in a meaningful, and respectful, way – sets the stage for the Cold War to thaw and reconciliation to begin.
  • Example 1: Doug was charge of the IT repair desk and Ethan ran the Moves, Adds, and Changes department. They didn't get along. But, when they were *both* given the joint responsibility for hosting a Customer Forum, they each quickly realized that it was in their own best interests to put their differences behind them and work collaboratively.
  • Example 2: Robert ran operations and considered Heather, who handled the budget, an annoyance. Heather didn't care much for Robert either. But, when they *both* learned they’d be representing the department at an upcoming Finance Committee meeting, they each realized that it was in their own best interests to put their differences behind them and work collaboratively, as well.

Afterwards, each reported that they were surprised and impressed with what their nemesis had to offer.

Being made mutually accountable to an *external* audience, who couldn't care less about any internal squabbles going on, allowed (read: necessitated) Robert and Heather, and Doug and Ethan, to each re-engage, without losing face, and achieve a sustainable détente.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Stress and Performance

You've seen the classic Human Performance Curve before, right?

Where would you say that you are on the curve right now?

As noted in an article titled, Anxiety for Fun and Profit, "anxiety, for all its negatives, is not the problem; the problem is how we often choose to deal with it."

Indeed. Robert Rosen, author of Just Enough Anxiety: The Hidden Driver of Business Success, said it best:
"We're all like strings of a guitar: We need the right amount of tension to function properly."
Too much tension, and we easily become too wired, or sharp, to continue the musical analogy. Not enough tension, and we go flat.

Hmmm. Finding what's "just right" reminds me of Goldilocks and the Three Bears!

Maybe we should sit down, have a bowl of porridge, and figure out where YOU need to be on the Human Performance Curve, huh?!

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Chart: http://www.blissdivineyoga.co.uk/images/humanperformancecurve.jpg
Thanks, Art.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

All Things Can Be All Things

http://www.flickr.com/photos/7718206@N06/2326763051/I was driving east on a really nice 2-lane road the other day when I found myself behind a slow-moving 18-wheeler. Because the road was both narrow and winding, my field of vision was pretty much limited to the semi's 'back end'. It got me to thinking how sometimes our best move is to simply follow. And so I did.

I cruised along like -- without being able to see much of anything -- this for about a mile or so. It was very relaxing, actually. Until, the truck I was following suddenly veered off the road and onto the gravel shoulder! Oh my.

Everything ended up okay: There was no other traffic on the road; the truck driver quickly regained control and eased back onto the pavement. And I was at a safe enough distance behind, all the while, to "steer clear," so to speak.

I couldn't help wonder, though, what the moral of this story was supposed to be:

  1. Was it simply the obvious: Don't tale gate?
  2. Was it that sometimes it really IS okay to just be a follower?
  3. Was it that it's good to be vigilant?
  4. Was it that, sometimes, just being a follower is a really bad idea?

How we interpret the things that happen to us, at work and in life, is what defines what happens to us at work and in life. I got a blog post, a surge of adrenaline, a number of interesting perspectives, and an urge to take a more scenic route back home that afternoon out of all this. And on that more scenic route back home, I felt the gratitude for both what did happen that afternoon, and for what didn't! Very nice.

So maybe that's the moral: All things can be all things -- it's how we interpret them that matters most.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Breaking Bad Habits

I'm not sure I like the implications of this, but Ann Graybiel, professor of neuroscience at MIT, says that scientists now KNOW that you can never really "unlearn" a bad habit.
"Once it's there, it's there," she says.
So, okay, if we can't "simply delete" bad habits from our brains, what can we do to "stop indulging" in them? Chicago Tribune writer, Karen Raven, had several ideas. Here are some of them -- with my two cents, added, in [brackets]:
  1. Eliminate whatever payoff the habit gives. [If you have a habit of eating ice cream every night before bed, get rid of all the ice cream in your freezer. You might still head to the kitchen for a few nights, only to find the freezer bare. But after a while, you'll stop making the trip. I like the idea, but I'm not sure how the example fits with eliminating the payoff. People tend to gorge ice cream to make them feel better -- that's the payoff. So I'd say that in addition to getting rid of the ice cream (especially if you can't control yourself) it'd be better to find something non-food-related to help you you feel good inside, like a glass of water, some physical exercise, a conversation with someone you really enjoy -- things like that.]
  2. Don't leave a hole where a bad habit used to be. [Substitute new, improved behaviors for old, bad ones. Try bringing your lunch instead of buying it, or eat a piece of fruit before bed instead of a bowl of ice cream. A great way to "fill up" that hole is to engage in something you truly enjoy. We tend to dis-empower our bad habits when we're suitably occupied with things we find compelling.]
  3. Choose wisely. [If you try to replace a bad, old habit with a good, new one, make sure the new one isn't too unpleasant. If you try to replace ice cream before bed with cod liver oil, you're probably doomed to fail. And if you can't choose wisely, just choose. The more you can remember that you DO have choices, the easier it will make it. Can't envision yourself doing 60-minutes on a treadmill? How about choosing to do 40? How about choosing to do 25? How about choosing to just standing on the thing for 5 minutes and calling that a good first step? Choosing consciously, and purposefully, goes a looooooooong way in the right direction.]
  4. Get down to specifics. [Sometimes you can identify triggers that are most likely to bring out your bad habit. These can involve people, locations or preceding actions. Maybe it's safe for you to go into shoe stores to look around -- just don't do it with the friend who's dying to buy a pair, but only if you do too. Understanding -- or at least recognizing -- what triggers you is very important. (Think emotional eating, as example.) Whenever triggered, try and identify "what just happened" BEFORE doing anything else. In other words, is it that you really NEED that Frappuccino or is it more a reaction from your boss stressing you out?]
  5. Practice. Practice. Practice. [Suppose you want to stop gossiping. You practice not gossiping at work with friend X, and you get very good at it. Then one day you go shopping with X. Watch out! You're at risk for a relapse. Plus -- if you break your gossip habit at work with X, you may still keep gossiping with W, Y and Z. A habit can be associated with different places, people and activities. If you're trying to break one, practice in as many situations as you can. The opposite of this is true, too: Just because you can't break your bad habit in ALL situations, it doesn't mean that you're not making progress. Keep in mind that relapses are actually a sign of moving forward -- we backslide FROM a better state.]
  6. Use cues and rewards. [Maybe you want to save money for a trip to Hawaii, but you have an unfortunate habit of maxing out your credit cards. Try taping a picture of Waikiki Beach to your billfold to remind yourself not to splurge on non-necessities. Again, the opposite can work, here, too: Try taping a picture of something that you want to get away from for a while -- your office building, a local restaurant that you hate, a neighbors too-fancy car, etc.]
  7. Show how highly evolved you are. [Suppose you procrastinate whenever you ought to be doing something you don't want to do. Procrastination provides instant gratification, and even though you will pay, that doesn't come till later. Remind yourself of the future cost when you're tempted to work on your tan instead of doing the housework. I laugh at how long it takes me, sometimes, to get on with something. One, day, as example, it took me a full 12-hours to get myself to do it. But that provided considerable motivation for me the next time as I chose to just do it right away rather than torment myself with "not doing it yet" from sun up to sundown. I felt particularly evolved that second day! In other words, the less drama, the better.]

Point Last: Habit changing won't work if you conceive of it like holding your breath -- you really DO have to breathe through it. So relax, get conscious and purposeful about it, and know that they'll likely be some twists and turns in the the road ahead that will challenge your commitment to the changes you're attempting.

And if all else fails: Begin anew.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Lessons for Leaders in Chinese!

"Lessons for Leaders", an article I was interviewed for in Insight Magazine, was recently compiled by a Chinese news service:

领导力的三堂课
中金在线 - China
公司总裁泽维贝尔(Barry Zweibel)说,“这也完全是他的份内之事。但是他不能激励这里的员工,不能让公司的投资者支持他的变革计划,这就导致了他在家得宝领导地位的终结 ...
I get a kick out of the way that looks!

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