Monday, December 7, 2009

ManagementSushi Guest Post #2: Time-Management, the TV-Marathon Way

Courtesy of ManagementSushi, UK-based marketeer, brand expert, and SME business strategist, Bernie Ritchie's blog, my latest guest-post is now live.

Titled, "2010 : Year of the TV Marathon Work Week Approach?!" it's a tongue-in-cheek strategy for managing your way-too-busy work-week, based on how television stations schedule those program marathons.

To start things off, Bernie's included some of her favorite (or 'favourite,' as she'd spell it) time-management resources, as well.

Here, then, is an excerpt of the post:

"Monday could be "Email Day" where all we did was respond to what was in our in-boxes. Now many of you get *zillions* of emails, no doubt, but I gotta believe that if you had an entire day to focus just on that, why you might even be able to come in a little bit late on Mondays. And wouldn't that be a nice way to start the week?!
"Having eased into the week like that, Tuesday would then be "Commitment Day." This would be when you'd be responsible for doing all the things you said you'd do in your emails, a week ago Monday. Just imagine: "Sorry, boss, I can't help you out right now, I'm too busy honoring the commitments I've already made to other people."

"Of course that would mean that Wednesday would have to be "Commitment Overflow Day" (COD for short). Why? Well for two reasons ..."
(... continued at http://managementsushi.com/.)

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Image Source: http://www.learnhebrewpod.com

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dissent and Other Keys to Success

Even in the worst of times, Bad Management causes dissension. In "Developing Managers for Team-Driven Success" (Baseline Magazine, November 2009) William Moskal identified several examples of bad management behavior:
  • Micromanagement: "Decisions are imposed, not delegated."
  • Communication gaps: "Goals, strategies, expectations and timelines are not shared. Feedback is withheld."
  • Inconsistency: "Abrupt reversals, deadline changes and frequent new priorities." (Although in fairness to everyone, that's really become fairly typical in many (most?) organizations, hasn't it?!)
  • Intimidation: "A disproportionate focus on discipline, not coaching, including public criticism and rudeness."
  • Self-promotion: "Opportunities are not shared, and credit is hoarded."
  • Lack of mentoring: "Managers are not groomed for advancement. Cross-training is not encouraged and access to upper management is restricted."

"The reassuring news," says Moskal, "is that managers who unwittingly build barriers can also remove them." (Yes, when it comes to professional development, sometimes you actually can teach old dogs new tricks!) His solution: "Senior executives should take a wide-angle look to identify opportunities to empower and motivate front-line managers, while avoiding corrective approaches that stigmatize and single out individuals."

Okay. Anyway, he also had an excellent approach to helping managers improve their engagement, strategic analysis skills, and conflict management capabilities:

Have each executive establish - and rotate - an "official dissent" role among his/her direct reports.

Per Moskal, "Sanctioned opposition can be a powerful tool for collaborative decision-making, analytic skill-building and improved outcomes." I agree. It 'permissions' the quiet ones to speak up. It encourages those who always play 'devil's advocate' to stretch beyond just that.

(Hmm, dissenting with the official dissenter is tantamount to agreeing with the original idea, is it not?! And agreeing with the dissenter is, well, agreeing! Watch out you devil's advocates out there, this official dissent thing could rock your world! )

Having an official dissent role in your organization might unlock some truly superb ideas. And in these worst of times, superb ideas are exactly what's needed, are they not?!

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Illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

RockStarLeader Guest Post #1: Why Dogs Don't Enjoy Music


Creative marketeer, Tom Schulte, recently started http://rockstarleader.wordpress.com/ - "the intersection of music and influence" - and asked if I'd do some guest blogging for the site.

My first post was published today. It's called, Why Dogs Don't Enjoy Music. Bascially, it's a riff on how leaders might not be as strong at communicating with their staff as they may think ... and what can be done about it.
"Subtlety is often considered a more “refined” form of communication. The problem with subtle communications, though, is that they ask the listener — they require the listener — to be much more discerning when listening. And depending on circumstances, that could be asking a LOT from someone.

"Too much, perhaps.

"Indeed, expecting someone to give you their full and Undivided Attention could be far more than they’re ready for — or capable of — in this busy, distracted, juggling priorities, go-go, world of ours."
To read the entire piece, link on over to Why Dogs Don't Enjoy Music.

And while there, see what else is going on at http://rockstarleader.wordpress.com/.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Don't Squat with Yer Spurs On!

Selected words of wisdom from "A Cowboy's Guide to Life," volumes I and II, by Texas Bix Bender:
  1. Never take to sawin' on the branch that's supportn' you, unless you're bein' hung from it.

  2. A lot of good luck is undeserved, but then so is a lot of bad luck.

  3. Go after life as if it's something that's got to be roped in a hurry before it gets away.

  4. Don't let so much reality into your life that there's no room left for dreamin'.

  5. Ain't never seen a wild critter feelin' sorry for itself.

  6. Honesty is not something you should flirt with -- ou should be married to it.

  7. Avoid flasharity, foofaraw, and fumadiddle in dress, speech, and conduct. leave the peacocking for the peacocks.

  8. You can't weigh the facts if yo'uve got the scales loaded down with your opinions.

  9. When you forgive and forget, forget that you forgave while you're at it.

  10. The best way to knock a chip off a shoulder is with a friendly pat on the back.

  11. Work lessat worrying and more at working.

  12. Advice is like a pot of chili: You should try a little of it yourself before you give anybody else a taste.

  13. If you ain't pullin' your weight, you're pushin' your luck.

  14. Nothin' keeps you honest more than witnesses.

  15. The purest metal comes out of the greatest heat.

  16. You're not being diplomatic just because you put "please' in front of "shut the hell up."

  17. Smetimes it takes a lot more thinkin' to deal with changes than to make 'em.

  18. You'll feel better when it quits hurtin'.

  19. The bigger the mouth, the better it looks shut.

  20. You can't tell how far a frog can jump by its croak.

  21. Always walk tall and keep your head up -- unless you're walkin' in a cow pasture.

  22. The best way to break a bad habit is to drop it.

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Thanks to A.W.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Conflict Trigger Mitigation and Avoidance

Here's the scenario:
  1. Person A wants to talk with Person B about something, and does so.
  2. But the way that Person A raises, or discusses, the issue unintentionally triggers* Person B.
  3. Person B, having just been triggered, reacts in a way that unintentionally triggers Person A.
  4. Person A, having just been triggered, reacts in a way that unintentionally re-triggers Person B.
  5. Person B, having just been triggered - and re-triggered - in a matter of moments, reacts in a way that unintentionally re-triggers Person A.
  6. Tensions and exasperations peak, for *both* Persons A and B - individually, and collectively.
  7. Any ability for Person A or Person B to engage in a meaningful or constructive way, at this point, has been lost.

Or maybe, it goes like this:

  1. Person B wants to talk with Person A about something, and does so.
  2. But the way that Person B raises, or discusses, the issue unintentionally triggers* Person A.
  3. Person A, having just been triggered, reacts in a way that unintentionally triggers Person B.
  4. Person B, having just been triggered, reacts in a way that unintentionally re-triggers Person A.
  5. Person A, having just been triggered - and re-triggered - in a matter of moments, reacts in a way that unintentionally re-triggers Person B.
  6. Tensions and exasperations peak, for *both* Persons B and A - individually, and collectively.
  7. Any ability for Person B or Person A to engage in a meaningful or constructive way, at this point, has been lost.

Likely both scenarios turn into one, big, round-and-round, ongoing, mess-of-a conflict.

Now keep in mind, no one actually has to be at fault here - Person A (or B) can be triggered just because Person B (or A) did, said, or even just *wore* something that reminded Person A (or B) of a trigger-worthy something/someone in his/her past. It's all very Pavlovian, for you Classical Conditioning fans out there. The point is, though, that triggers can be triggered for reasons totally unrelated to the "triggeree".

But, if Persons A and B can get more "consciously aware" of this whole triggers-triggering-triggers thing, they will likely WANT to work, in true partnership - yes, in TRUE partnership -, on:

  1. Trigger Mitigation - that is, helping each other to UN-trigger more quickly and effectively, should they inadvertently trigger, or be triggered by, each other;
  2. Trigger Avoidance - that is, helping each other to NOT trigger, or be triggered by, each other, nearly as often in the future.

Not to sound sales-y about it, but coaching (along with a Conflict Dynamics Profile (CDP) Assessment) is an excellent way help someone better understand his/her own triggers, how they may be unknowingly triggering others, and how to better manage these conflict dynamics.

So if you and someone - or someone and someone else you know - are in seemingly constant conflict with each other, there very well might be something we can all do about it to make things better.

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*Triggers --> Whatever causes one's fight/flight instinct to suddenly, and dramatically, engage.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

4qtr2009 Not Just Talk! Newsletter Now Available

The 4qtr2009 Not Just Talk! quarterly newsletter from Barry Zweibel and GottaGettaCoach!, Inc. is now available and ready for viewing at http://www.ggci-quarterly.com/:

Enjoy!

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Getting More Done

"We all face the same constraint: there are only 24 hours in a day. But some people seem to get so much more done each day. How are they able to fit it all in?"

So starts a very helpful article, titled, Time at the Top: Productive Work Habits from CEOs and Top Executives, by Ann Gomez, a productivity expert, and President of Clear Concept Inc., and Mark Ellwood, an internationally known productivity consultant, expert on how people spend their time, President of Pace Productivity Inc., and buddy of mine from up in Canada.

They collaborated (quickly and efficiently, no doubt) to provide, based on their interviews with CEOs and other top executives, several "straight-forward techniques that employees at any level can use to fit more into their days":
  1. Know Your Priorities: I've blogged and tweeted about tracking your own "T-O-P 3", Today's (three) Overriding Priories - my version of doing this.
  2. Focus on One Thing at a Time: Developing one's “focus muscle” is an important, yet often overlooked, prerequisite for this.
  3. Manage Your Interruptions: To effectively switch gears and focus on their issue, Gomez and Ellwood recommend coaching people on how to give you some context and background, when interrupting, so you can better understand the issue they want to talk with you about and more easily segue from what you had been focusing on.
  4. Be Strategic About Your Email: Using the preview pane to scan the subject line
    and first two sentences is helpful to some, as is using "non-prime working time" to respond to the non-urgent ones. Others use the Touch it Once principle, acting on each email "the first time they read it." Regardless of strategy, though, it's important to "train" others as to your preferences and processes regarding email so important communiques don't get lost in the cracks.
  5. Run Efficient Meetings: One of the interviewed executives "consistently reinforces
    the designated start time by always closing the door when he walks in, and starting right away." Another, "recognizing that people need time to transition from one meeting to the next, scheduled most meetings to start exactly five minutes after the hour."
  6. Be Decisive: "Executives talked about the importance of committing to a decision, once made." Per one of the executives interviewed, "I make a decision once and go with it. I don’t allow my executive team to revisit a decision unless there is a case that is so compelling (i.e., brought on by new information or the discovery of a mistake)."
  7. Leverage Your Team (a.k.a. Delegate): Encouraging your staff to engage in Unsolicited Updates, is key.
  8. Take a Break: "All of the executives [interviewed] placed great importance on their lives outside work." And, yes, it does take some practice.

"The issues facing executives at the top of an organization are not fundamentally different from managers at any level. A lot of work needs to be done and there are always opportunities to do more. A major theme that emerges from our interviews of senior executives is that they are pro-active about how they manage their work. Rather than haphazardly allowing themselves to be overtaken by activities, they are clear about what needs to be done to be their most effective. In articulating how they achieve maximum effectiveness, they are simply preaching what they
practice."

Thanks, Ann. Thanks, Mark. Very helpful information and insight.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

New Leadership Moves for You

As a leader, it's hard not to feel like you're feet are stuck in the mud sometimes. Or worse, yet ... in quicksand. In many ways, leadership is about finding good choices when there are seemingly none to choose from. A multi-tined Morton's Fork, if you will. That's one of the reasons why it's so important for executives to be so vigilant about their continued professional development -- each new problem you're assigned is likely increasingly complex and pressure-packed as compared to the last 'impossible' task you were given.

That's why keeping your staff properly motivated, productive, and engaged is so essential to your own ongoing success -- you simply don't have to time to be an ineffective leader. It's an unsustainable position to hold. And once you start losing traction, you might as well stick old Morton's fork in it because you're, d-o-n-e, finished.

But many executives sometimes do struggle with knowing what to say, or how to say it to their staff. And that's why I created an email learning series called Leadership Moves. Here's the logic:


  • Since the more you think about how to be more effective as a leader, the more likely it is that you will actually become a more effective leader, Leadership Moves automatically sends you a new and different email lesson every 2-3 days SO THAT you CAN think about how to be more effective as a leader more consistently.

  • Since there really ARE a lot of subtleties in (capital L) Leadership, Leadership Moves is a compilation of 32 different leadership "moves" SO THAT you can develop a full picture of the real breadth and depth of (capital L) Leadership effectiveness.

  • Since aspiring (capital L) Leaders really ARE busy people, Leadership Moves is delivered to your email inbox in small, digestible pieces, each one taking only a few minutes to read SO THAT you actually CAN, and more importantly, actually WILL read them, and learn from them.
If this sounds like something that may be of interest to you, please visit http://www.leadershipmoves.com/ to learn more.

(And save 15% all this month by using coupon code 50819C when ordering.)

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Odds for 10 Top Job-Finding Strategies

Advice from Richard Nelson Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute?, as reported in the September 1, 2009 issue of Bottom Line Personal newsletter:
  1. Mailing out resumes/submitting or posting resumes online -- odds of success: 7%*.
  2. Responding to ads in professional or trade journals -- odds of success: 7%.
  3. Responding to ads on Internet job sites -- odds of success: 10%.
  4. Responding to ads in the local newspaper -- odds of success: 5%-24% (the lower your salary requirements the better this works).
  5. Working with a private employment agency or search firm -- odds of success: 5%-28% (best with low-wage office positions, such as secretarial or clerical jobs).
  6. Networking for leads -- odds of success: 33%.
  7. Knocking on doors unannounced at employers of interest -- odds of success: 47% (especially effective with small businesses with 50 or fewer employees; mid afternoon is best).
  8. Calling companies of interest that are listed in the local Yellow Pages or White Pages Business section -- odds of success: 69% (ask for the owner, explain your background and relevant skills, then ask if s/he knows anyone in the industry in need of someone like you, or if you could come in and talk about the industry).
  9. Partnering with other job hunters -- odds of success: 70% (works best when partnering with those having different skills/career interests than you).
  10. Taking inventory of yourself, then targeting the employers where you ought to be working -- odds of success: 86% (yes, it takes time, but if you can define your skills and the type of work you want to do in as much detail as possible, you will be able to detail what you have to offer to a potential employer far more compellingly) .

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* Based on industry studies/other sources.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

3qtr2009 Not Just Talk! Newsletter Now Available

Not Just Talk! - the quarterly newsletter of GottaGettaCoach!, Inc.The 3qtr2009 Not Just Talk! quarterly newsletter from Barry Zweibel and GottaGettaCoach!, Inc. is now available and ready for viewing at http://www.ggci.com/NotJustTalk/. Included are:

Enjoy!

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Unlock Your Full Potential

Per Rober Kega, PhD, Meehan Professor of Adult Learning and Professional Development at Harvard University Graduate School of Education, from an interview with BottomLinePersonal (Volume 30; Number 14):
  1. List the things you do -- and the things you don't do -- that inhibit your progress toward your stated goal.
  2. For each inhibiting behavior that you listed in step #1, ask yourself, "What fear or fears are raised in my mind when I imagine myself doing exactly the opposite?"
  3. Rewrite the fears you listed in step #2 in a way that expresses your commitment to your hidden conflicting goals.
  4. Go back to the fears you described in step #2, and list the assumptions that are built into them.
  5. Imagine what would happen if you pursued your stated goal and things did not go perfectly.
  6. Discuss your desire to alter your behavior with those who will be affected by your changes.
  7. Adjust your behavior in small ways that challenge the importance of your conflicting goal without forsaking it entirely

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ten (Almost) Really Good Reasons to Procrastinate!

  1. Sometimes it takes time to figure out a better way to do something!
  2. There are probably other more important things worth doing first!
  3. Sometimes it just not time yet!
  4. Sometimes it takes time for important information to make itself available!
  5. If it’s really important, they’ll ask for it again!
  6. It may turn out that it’s something that doesn't really need to be done!
  7. Sometimes you’ll be totally delighted with the job you do once you finally get to doing it!
  8. Purposefully NOT doing something is actually an advanced form of action!
  9. Like to complain? Procrastination provides grist for that mill!
  10. Okay, so it's your turn ... what's another Really Good Reason to procrastinate?!

By the way, if it really mattered to you, would any of these Really Good Reasons to Procrastinate really be all that insurmountable?!

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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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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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Thursday, April 23, 2009

"Expert In" AND a "Student Of"

Just read a very interesting post by Andrew Bryant in which he talks about the importance of Intentional Practice:

"Intentional Practice is perfect practice and perfect practice makes perfect. Intentional practice requires knowing “Why” you are doing what you are doing and complete “Attention” to the task."
It reminded me of the value of striving to be BOTH, "expert in" and a "student of".

Perhaps some examples would help:
  • An Attorney can be both expert in intellectual property law and a student of litigation.
  • An Architect can be both expert in residential housing and a student of eco-responsible design.
  • A Musician can be both expert in music theory and a student of creative expressionism.
  • An Executive can be both expert in getting things done and a student of leadership.
  • A Life Coach can be both expert in asking the right questions and a student of the human condition.

Indeed, embracing the "mind of a student" often helps the Expert get past the ego-imposed limitations of not wanting to look foolish from, or be embarrassed by, not already know everything there is to know about their particular area of expertise.

Students continue to learn and grow as a matter of course. Experts, similarly, continue know and do with incredible skill.

Striving to be BOTH "expert in" AND a "student of" may take a fair amount of Intentional Practice, but it's most definitely a worthy goal.

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Friday, April 3, 2009

If I was Lou Piniella's Executive Coach

I’m a business/personal life coach. I do executive coaching, leadership consulting, life coaching. I don’t work in baseball, or with baseball players.

But I AM a big Cubs fan, so, in honor of Opening Day, I’ve been thinking about what I’d talk with Lou Piniella about, as his executive coach …

C, as in, “Circle the Wagons” – If ever there was an “Us Against Them” season, this is that. So, Lou, the sooner you can get your team to realize that this season – Year 101 – is not so much about winning it all, as it is about PROVING you guys can win it all, the better. And we’re not just talking about doing it during the regular season, either, are we, Lou? We’re talking regular season AND post-season … BOTH.

So, Lou, what, specifically, do your players need from you so that the proverbial “chip” stays firmly planted on their individual, and collective, shoulders?
U, as in, “Use Everyone” – You already know this: What wins regular season ballgames is the exemplary play of a team’s stars, but what wins playoff and World Series games is the exemplary play of a team’s stars AND some surprise performances by some of the team’s other players, too. So it’s up to YOU to make sure that no one is too tired, or banged-up – or rusty – come September, October … and November, Lou. That’s YOUR job. And only YOU can do it, Lou. You know you need to rest your players BEFORE they get tired, so that they DON’T get tired. And you know players hate that whole idea because, to them, “resting = weakness.”
So, Lou, what are YOU gonna say when your players push back about being rested?
B, as in, “Brand the winning strategy” – Again, it’s not just about the Cubbies winning; it’s about HOW the Cubbies win. In other words, what’s their style, or reputation, going to be in 2009? Is it getting an early lead and keeping it? Winning the close ones? Coming from behind? Scoring in multiple innings? The BIG inning? Lights-out pitching? Whatever it is, Lou, you’ve gotta recognize it, and talk about it … early and often … so that your team can start owning it as their own … as the inevitable.
So, Lou, what *brand* of baseball will you be making sure that the Cubs are playing this year?
S, as in “Sound off” – I love the whole Sweet Lou thing, but what makes the nickname work is that it’s seeded in an unpredictability, a danger, and maybe even the promise, that *Mount St. Lou* is a-gonna blow! I think this is one of the Cubs’ secret weapon’s … Sweet Lou going Ka-BOOM! Especially when talking with the media. It may seem counter-intuitive, Lou, but making a bigger noise off the field, will make it easier for your guys to make a bigger noise ON the field … where it counts.
So, Lou, what distractions do you know you need to create the passion, intensity, and gitty-up ease in each and every one of your players on through November?!
So Cubs fans, whadeya think? Say, Skipper, how'd I do?!

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Turning Dreams into Reality

Question: Is it more important to fully articulate a dream *before* applying oneself to it, or does it work better when it's an iterative back-and-forth between the two?

What's *your* view? How do *you* do it?

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Monday, March 9, 2009

Fast, Happy, Thinking

This in from the Feb/Mar 2009 issue of Scientific American Mind magazine: "A new study shows that accelerated thinking can improve your mood."

Yes, researchers at both Harvard and Princeton Universities confirm that rapid-fire thinking can help you feel "more elated, creative, and to a lesser degree, energetic and powerful." Need a Happiness Boost? Try an easy crossword puzzle or brainstorming quickly about an idea.

The best way to super-charge your mood is with fast and varied thinking. The varied part is very important because if the task is just fast and repetitive, it's likely to trigger anxiety. In contrast, slow and varied thinking can lead to a calm- and peaceful-type happiness, but slow and repetitive thinking can quickly become boring, reducing energy and often spur negative or depressive thinking.

So what makes all of this so?

The researchers concluded that thinking quickly "may unleash the brain's novelty-loving dopamine system, which is involved in sensations of pleasure and reward." Admittedly, the power-boost people can get from fast thinking may be transient, but "these little bursts of positive emotion add up."

For me, listening closely to some complex music, playing my guitar, a good game of Scrabble, watching something visually interesting -- and stuff like that -- works well for me.

What fast and varied thinking do you do that tends to improve your mood?

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Growing More Go-To People

When something particularly urgent, important, or high-profile comes up, many (most?) bosses rely only on a few of their direct reports as true go-to people - the one's they know they can count on to get the job done right.

Imagine, though, what it'd be like if you could count on your entire staff as go-to people? Imagine what all you could get done if that was the case!

Here are the rules of the game:
  1. Identify the overlap between what each direct report likes to do and what s/he is good at doing -- the veritable "sweet spot".
  2. Talk with each of them about the importance of nurturing and growing their "sweet spot" as a routine, ongoing, and necessary part of their job.
  3. For any task-at-hand, guesstimate its "success probability", if delegated to each of your direct reports, using a simple High/Medium/Low rating. (Note: If you've completed step #1, this should take all of 90-seconds!)
  4. Delegate to an H only if you have more than one to choose from. Otherwise, choose an M or L, making sure they understand that the assignment is twofold: (1) to successfully complete the task-at-hand; and (2) to permanently expand their "sweet spot".
  5. Monitor progress to minimize any "gotchas".

You see, the real problem is not your staff's abilities -- it's your willingness to insure that they grow their abilities.

This go-to game makes that apparent because the game does not allow you to delegate an assignment to an H if you only have one to choose from. It's, therefore, incumbent upon YOU to nurture and grow your go-to people more purposefully than you might otherwise.

What this game also makes apparent is that it's not all that difficult to "frame" an assignment in terms of an individual's sweet spot, regardless of who that individual is. That's a very powerful competency to have.

If you stick with it, you'll soon have far more options, when delegating, than just a chosen few. And that's the whole point.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

The Heart of Effective Personal Management

Inspired by meeting with a team of managers yesterday, I reopened my old, worn, highlighted, dog-eared, Post-It Note-filled copy of Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to the section about the Time Management Matrix:

Some definitions:

  • Urgent activities requires immediate attention. "Urgent matters are usually visible. They press on us; they insist on action." We REACT to urgent. They seek our attention. Addressing a crisis is urgent, even if it isn't always always important.
  • Important activities, on the other hand, have more to do with opportunities. "If something is important, it contributes to your mission, your values, your high priority goals. Important matters that are not urgent require our initiative to get going."

Identifying and addressing the Root Cause of a crisis is important, as example, but urgency often "trumps" important. Too, if we don't know, or aren't quite sure about, what IS important, we'll almost certainly automatically default to working on only what's urgent, whether it's important or not.

The Four Categories or Quadrants of Activities:

  1. Activities that are both urgent and important (Quadrant I)
  2. Activities that are not as urgent as other things, but nevertheless important (Quadrant II)
  3. Activities that may be urgent, but are not particularly important (Quadrant III)
  4. Activities that are neither urgent, nor important (Quadrant IV)

What happens when you over-focus on the Urgent/Important (Quadrant I) -- intentionally or not?

"As long as you focus on Quadrant I," says Covey, "it keeps getting bigger and bigger until it dominates you. It's like the pounding surf. A huge problem comes in and knocks you down and you're wiped out. You struggle back up only to face another one that knocks you down and slams you to the ground.

"Some people are literally beaten up by problems all day every day. The only relief they have is in escaping to the Not Important/Not Urgent activities of Quadrant IV. So when you look at their total matrix, 90 percent of their time is in Quadrant I and most of the remaining 10% is in Quadrant IV, with only negligible attention paid to Quadrants II and III. That's how people who manage their lives by crisis live."

What happens when you over-focus on the Urgent/Not Important (Quadrant III) -- intentionally or not?

This quadrant is particularly important to understand as, per Covey, there are many people who spend a great deal of time in Quadrant III, thinking they're actually in Quadrant I.

But the reality of the situation is that the urgency they feel for these matters is often based on the certainly pressing, but possibly unimportant, requests and wishes of others.

What happens when you over-focus on the Not Urgent/Not Important (Quadrants III and IV) -- intentionally or not?

Simply said, "People who spend time almost exclusively in Quadrants III and IV basically lead irresponsible lives."

Quadrant II -- The Heart of Effective Personal Management
Quadrant II deals with things that are not urgent, but ARE important. "All the things we know we need to do, but somehow seldom get around to doing, because they aren't urgent," live in Quadrant II.

The most effective people have figured out how to spend most of their time in Quadrant II. In this regard, "Effective people are not problem-minded; they opportunity minded."

That's because Quadrant II activities can have a tremendously positive impact -- on how things go ... on what happens next ... on how you and others think ... on what you and others think about ... on what becomes doable ... on what is improved ... on what can be accomplished.

So given that,

  • What can you start doing (or start doing more of) to get more into Quadrant II-type stuff?
  • What can you stop doing (or start doing less of ) to get more into Quadrant II-type stuff?

Hey, I know that these questions may not be all that easy for you to answer. But consider:

If you find yourself saying that you're too busy to even try and answer them, trust me -- while they may not be the most urgent questions for you to answer, they just might be two of the more important ones that have come your way in quite some time!

That's what's at the heart of effective personal management.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Impact Competencies - Who Gets Listened to and Why?

Ever been in a meeting where you raised what you thought was a really powerful objection to something and everyone else in the room roundly dismissed it as off-point?

Ever been in a meeting where someone else raised what you thought was a totally irrelevant objection to something and everyone else in the room roundly hailed it as amazingly spot-on and insightful?

What's that all about, actually?!

Here's your assignment: Look for this dynamic - when comments are validated or not - and see what you can glean from what you see. Find the patterns.

  • Compare and contrast who gets listened to ... and who really doesn't
  • Compare and contrast how they say things ... their tone, their rate of speech, their affect, etc.
  • Compare and contrast any key words they use that seem to engender, or dilute, the support of others
  • Compare and contrast what's said immediately before they comment
  • Compare and contrast what preparatory work they have/have not done on the topic

From this exercise, develop a list of Impact Competencies - that which helps people get listened to.

Discuss.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Maintaining Morale in Tough Times

A member of a LinkedIn group I subscribe to wanted to know how to help his staff maintain morale in tough times. And, while many offered some pretty good suggestions about reminding people of their accomplishments and reiterating Big Picture goals and objectives, I took a slightly different tack:

"I’m actually not all that sure that “Maintaining Morale in Tough Times!” is the right goal in these times. I think that maintaining “realness” might actually be more appropriate. Three potential problems with the “morale” play:
  1. It can too easily come off as being manipulative
  2. It belies reality
  3. Many (most?) managers probably can’t pull it off as intended

“Realness”, however, is … well, REAL. In other words, it passes the sniff test. So I’d suggest any five or six of the following:

  • REAL authenticity
  • REAL respect
  • REAL regard
  • REAL focus
  • REAL attention
  • REAL caring
  • REAL interest
  • REAL authenticity
  • REAL courageousness
  • That is, REAL ... leadership!

Agree? Disagree? What'd I miss?

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Common Sense Office Politics

"Political skills in the workplace can determine one’s ability to perform at a high level, foster camaraderie and ultimately, be the difference-maker between a successful company and failing one." So writes Dr. William Moskal, in the December 2008 issue of Baseline magazine.

What follows are his his top 10 "common-sense management principles that can harness political energy to foster successful teams" [along with my comments in green]:

  1. If you've seen one relationship, you've seen one relationship. To achieve success, you must know what motivates people and apply that intelligence to guide them toward achieving a common objective. [And remember, just because something works particularly well for one person or group of persons does NOT mean it will automatically work well with others. Each person, regardless of the role s/he happens to be playing at any particular point in time, is a unique individual.]
  2. Without structure, there is no freedom. Without structure, anarchy reigns. People need rules about how to interact within a team in order to create responsibility and accountability. [Think jazz improvisation - total freedom "within a pre-determined, formalized structure." See my "Management as Jazz" post for more on this.]
  3. People panic in herds and recover one by one. Recall the last meeting at which employees were notified of organizational change. Likely, there were nervous glances, discreet whispers. After the meeting, employees gathered for conversations where rumors spread. [Don't assume that just one speech, meeting, presentation, or conversation will be enough. Socialize your issues - early and often. Hang out by the copy machine or where your floor's mail is delivered; chat-it-up while waiting for the elevator; purposefully take a few extra trips to Starbucks to talk with informal opinion-leaders; plug into the grapevine; etc. A well-timed conversation - even one of the shortest duration - can have amazing restorative powers.]
  4. There are no obstacles; there are only possibilities. Lead by example and maintain a positive, encouraging attitude. [Sure, it may sound a bit trite and hackneyed, but it's still smart.]
  5. The Platinum Rule: Treat others the way they would like to be treated. [A tip-of-the-hat to Tony Alessandra who coined the term.]
  6. When you jerk the socks on the clothesline, the underwear jumps. Consider consequences, assume accountability and be very clear when communicating an action’s potential impact. [Okay, so I might have used another analogy, but not anticipating Unintended Consequences has ruined many an initiative - and short-stopped many an executive's career.]
  7. Reward and recognize good behavior. Reward and distinguish the teams first and the stars second. [And reward stars for their ability to raise everyone else's level of performance, even more than any individual contribution they happened to make themselves.]
  8. If you own it, you take care of it. [I'm not such a fan of saying that a leader 'owns' his/her team, but the 'take care of it' part is rock-solid advice.]
  9. Trust requires predictability and provision of benefit. Employees need to know how they will benefit if goals are achieved and to understand the consequences if results fall short. [But don't get trapped by "The Dangerous Allure of Trust".]
  10. It’s about people, not politics. [Office politics are neither good, nor bad - they just are. If you have trouble with this concept, consider the word 'politics' to simply mean the process by which communications flow within organization. Thus, playing politics is just another way of saying that you're trying to communicate with your coworkers as effectively as possible. That some are more 'unsavory' about this than most is by and large irrelevant.]

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Time MANagement

"Somewhere along the line, though, we got sold a bill of goods that said that the scales of life could balance two things and only two things - work and family."

So writes Brad Thor in a recent issue of Michigan Avenue magazine, who's launched a "full-scale assault" to put his life back in balance by dedicating more time to doing things that he likes to do.

"I love my family and I love my work," he continues. "But if I don't take time for myself, I can't be at the top of my game in anything."

Here's some of what he's now doing:

  • Become a Regular - "Have a standing, once-a-month rendezvous with pals at the same restaurant. Enforce it mercilessly. No excuses. And the last one to arrive buys the first round."
  • Get out of Town - "As temperatures drop, so do prices on vacation rentals in neighboring states. Leave your work behind, and head to your own private beach house with loved ones for the weekend. And, while you're there, carve out some alone time - and don't feel guilty about it. Take a walk, rent a boat, sit on the deck with your iPod. All that matters is that you do something for you."
  • Take an Afternoon Off - "Even if you can't get out of town, you can still knock of early one day and treat yourself to the new James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. Consider it an investment in your manliness. There's also something incredibly empowering about sitting in a dark theatre while the rest of your colleagues are back at their desks."

"Just remember," concludes Thor, "every man has the same number of hours in his day. It's what he does with those hours that determines what kind of man he is and what kind of balance he will have in his life."

Give or take a 007 flick, so, too, could be said for women, I suspect.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Networking: Another Good Reason For It

I've got an idea!
We've talked about the importance - and value - of networking ... for your own benefit (and those you network with), but here's another reason:

When the boss asks for your thoughts on something, it helps to have something new and useful to say!

This is but one of the implications gleaned from a summary of "Emergent Processes in Group Behavior," an article in Current Directions in Psychological Science, by Robert L. Goldstone, Michael E. Robers, and Todd M. Gureckis.

Think it through: If people on your team, or in your immediate work group, tend to interact primarily with each other, everyone is going to start to know the same things about the same things. And while this is helpful to a certain extent, it doesn't do much to expand the conversation beyond the obvious.

When issues are relatively isolated and/or straight-forward, this is typically not a problem. But, as task-complexity and solution-ambiguity increase - and more nuanced responses are required -, the similarity of everyone's viewpoint will likely severely limit what creativity and ingenuity is put into play.

"There is a hazard in connectivity. If everyone ends up knowing exactly the same thing, you have a world of like-minded people, and this homogeneous group ends up acting like a single explorer rather than a federation of ideas."
Better to "federate" your contributions with new and varied ideas from outside the fold. Better to purposefully stoke your imagination and inventiveness. How?!

Through the new and different conversations you're likely to have through networking, of course!
So what's something interesting and applicable that you've learned through your networking conversations?

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Productivity, Leadership, and Motivation

fork in the road
Question: Do you have any tips on being more productive during the day?


  • "Learn to say no. A computer runs at its slowest when it has too many operations open at once. The same applies to our own production." - Greg Reid

  • "Divorce yourself of the idea that long hours and accomplishments are connected." - Vic Johnson

Question: Any advice on how I can be a better leader?

  • "Be a person who can be counted on." - Cynthia Kersey

Question: How can I keep myself constantly motivated and on track?

  • "The biggest problems people have in achieving goals is that they often try to make too many drastic changes all at once. Research indicates that when people are asked to make big, sweeping changes in their lives all at once, they get overwhelmed, become discouraged and commonly give up. The most effective way to create lasting change is to focus on one area at a time. Even the busiest person can find the time to take a single step." - CK
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Source: Success Magazine's 1on1: Getting the Most of Your Time (August/September 2008)

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Platitudes & Attitudes

T. Boone Pickens
Some observations from Texas billionaire, T. Boone Pickens ...


MAKE THE CALL.

"Sometimes the window of opportunity is open only briefly... be willing to make decisions. That's the most important quality in a good leader. Don't fall victim to what I call the ready-aim-aim-aim-aim-aim syndrome. You must be willing to fire."

ANALYZE WELL.

"Information is everything. You can never have enough, and as you get older you find that keeping current keeps you in the game."

LEARN FROM MISTAKES.

"It's all right to get your fingers crushed in the door, but don't let the same door crush them twice."

KEEP PRIORITIES STRAIGHT.

"Far too many executives have become more concerned with the four P's -- Pay, Perks, Power, and Prestige -- rather than making profits for shareholders."

HIRE GOOD PEOPLE.

"What I am always looking for is people who can do a job better than I can."

BALANCE IT OUT.

"Work eight hours and sleep eight hours, and make sure they are not the same eight hours."

FORGET ABOUT AGE.

"Give young people a chance."

HAVE A PLAN.

"A fool with a plan can outsmart a genius with no plan."
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Source: Success Magazine (November 2008)

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

When to NOT use Email

From BNET's At The Whiteboard: "Only 7 percent of what we say is conveyed through words -- tone and visual cues make up the other 93 percent. This is why emails are so often misunderstood. Ed Muzio of Group Harmonics suggests using email only when you should: to convey facts and data, and when no emotion or sensitive issues are involved."


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Source: http://www.bnet.com/2422-13731_23-241106.html

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dogs, Music, and Improving Communications

singing dog "Anyone with normal hearing can distinguish between the musical tones of a scale: do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do. We take this ability for granted, but among most mammals the feat is unparallelled."

So reports Sandy Fritz in the October 2008 issue of Scientific American Mind, to the dismay of barking Labradors, woofing bassets, and yelping Yorkies, everywhere.

Yet a recently-concluded study by researchers at UCLA, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the Weizmann Institute of Science, concluded that "humans can easily detect frequencies as fine as one twelfth of an octave -- a half step in musical terminology. Dogs can only discriminate resolutions of one third of an octave."

What's the inference from a leadership development standpoint? Well, the flippant answer might be that the people who say they don't understand you ... are dogs! But a more respectful analysis might conclude that your message is, at times, a bit too subtle (or convoluted?) for them to make sense of.

Granted, this conclusion has less to do with hearing than understanding, but if you stay with me a longer, I think it will be worth your while.

Subtlety is often considered a more "refined" form of communication. The problem with subtle communications, though, is that they ask the listener -- they require the listener -- to be much more discerning when listening. And depending on circumstances, that could be asking a LOT from someone. Too much, perhaps.

Indeed, expecting someone to give you their full and Undivided Attention could be far more than they're ready for, or capable of, in this busy, distracted, juggling priorities, go-go, world of ours.

So what if we purposefully avoided such splitting of dog hairs when we're sharing our content with others? What if we focused, instead, on talking more clearly and crisply (and in larger octave steps, perhaps?) so that everyone -- even those with lesser abilities to listen so carefully -- could completely understand what we're talking about anyway?

What would that sound like, I wonder?

Hopefully, this isn't too subtle a point to be making. Hopefully, it will encourage (and help) you to communicate more effectively than you might otherwise.

And, hopefully, that will be music to your listeners' ears.

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Friday, October 31, 2008

Conflict Dynamic Profile for Individuals

GottaGettaCoach! has just started working with a new assessment called the CDP-I, or Conflict Dynamics Profile® for Individuals.

The CDP-I is now available through GottaGettaCoach!, Inc.

"The Conflict Dynamics Profile (CDP) was developed by the Leadership Development Institute at Eckerd College to prevent harmful conflict in the workplace. It provides managers and employees with a greater awareness of how they respond when faced with conflict so that they can improve on those behaviors causing the most problems.

"The CDP's focus on conflict behaviors, rather than styles, emphasizes an action-oriented approach which lessens the problems associated with harmful or unproductive forms of conflict and results in more effective conflict management skills.

"As a psychometrically sound instrument, the CDP shows solid evidence of reliability and validity and has been normed against a variety of organizations. Easily completed in 20-25 minutes, the CDP comes with a thorough Development Guide offering practical tips and strategies for strengthening conflict management skills."

More specifically, the CDP-I assessment:

  1. Identifies your Constructive Responses, that is, how well you demonstrate the following desirable behaviors during a conflict
  2. Identifies your Destructive Responses, that is, how well you control the following undesirable behaviors during a conflict
  3. Identifies your Hot Buttons, that is, what tends to frustrate or irritate you about how others behave.

So why is this even important? Because once you are more fully aware of your automatic "reactions" to a conflict, the better you will be able to more effectively self-manage your "responses" to that conflict and properly de-escalate it.

If you're interested in the CDP-I, please drop me a line and we'll assess your conflict behavior together.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Allowing H-I-STORY to Unfold

Back in March of 2007, I suggested a method for putting your best foot forward in an interview by sharing your Success Stories using the P-A-R framework:

  • P - Start by stating a PROBLEM you've dealt with that is relevant to one that your prospective employer might have and/or want you to be able to address.
  • A - Next, explain the APPROACH you took to meaningfully, if not eloquently, resolve the problem.
  • R - Then share how the RESULTS you achieved not only solved the immediate problem, but enabled additional downstream benefits as well.
As an alternative to P-A-R, you might also use the H-I-STORY approach:

  • H - Crisply state the HEADLINE for the story you're about to tell.
  • I - Assert just how IMPOSSIBLE the achievement would typically be given the circumstances your about to share.
  • STORY - After asking if they'd like to hear more, share your STORY.

Customer Crisis Example:

"Share a particularly challenging situation you faced when managing an client account."

Sure, I'd be happy to. I guess you could say that the HEADLINE for this example would be: "Client Account Saved through Amazing Teamwork!"

The situation was pretty IMPOSSIBLE, actually. Client satisfaction was at an all-time low, they already told us contract renewal would be delayed pending RFP results, and some of our team members had pretty much checked out because of all the complaining about them.

Would you like to hear the rest of the STORY?

Well, we realized that the only way to salvage the account was resolve about 85% of the client's outstanding concerns. (We didn't think we could solve all of their problems, but figured that if we resolved enough of them, we could show that we had 'rehabilitated' ourselves and were now back on the path.) To do so, we developed what we called an Expedited Three-Step:

  1. Step One - We conducted a series of 1-on-1 and group brainstorming sessions, both internally, and with our client contacts, to determine what we needed - and could count on - from everyone on both sides of the table - to complete our turnaround.
  2. Step Two - Armed with that insight, we sat down with our Big Boss and got authorization to establish an emergency SWAT team to assist us in our expedited efforts.
  3. Step Three - Implementation. The trick was getting people to step out of their comfort zones, take some risks, and really play full-out, like never before. It took a lot of give-and-take, late-night 'get-er-done' sessions, and way-too-much cold pizza, but, soon, we able to show the client some truly meaningful progress, enough to earn a no-bid extension of the contract in question.

Clearly, it never would've happened without some amazing teamwork to bring it all home and I'm so pleased to be able to say that I helped it all come together like that!

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Many otherwise fully-qualified applicants take too long to get to the punch-line of their story. The value of the H-I-STORY approach, then, is that it puts the headline first. Then, and only then, is the story told - but even still, not until the interviewer agrees that it's a story worth hearing.

Do you see how good things are just more likely to naturally unfold when you've captured your interviewer's Undivided Attention, like that?! Try it and see for yourself.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Brainstorming Basics

An article in the Wall Street Journal caught my eye. In Productive Brainstorms Take the Right Mix of Elements, Kelly K. Spors interviewed Matt Bowen, president and CEO of Aloft Group, Inc. about brainstorming basics.
The key to effective brainstorming: Not squelching other people's ideas.
"There's a whole procedure involved," says Bowen. "Step One is to identify, very clearly in one sentence only, what the [specific goal] is going to be. Send it out a day or two in advance so employees start subconsciously thinking about it.

"The second stage is gather people together. Brainstorming sessions should never last more than an hour. They shouldn't be too large, usually no more than five or seven people, especially when you're first learning how to do it."

Bowen's House Rules include: Saying "Our goal is to produce X number of ideas"; no critiquing; no editing; and, most importantly, building on other people's ideas.

Diversity helps, so bringing in people from other departments is encouraged. Bowen calls them "agitators - somebody you know who is going to come in with a different [spin on things]."

Before you start, though, it's important to establish criteria to subsequently rate and the ideas that are generated. Examples of such litmuses:
  • Our ultimate solution has to be complete-able within three weeks
  • Our ultimate solution has to cost no more than the budget allocated for it
  • Our ultimate solution has to also address these tangential issues
  • Our ultimate solution has to involve the following stakeholders
While brainstorming can be a creative and fun process, don't take it too casually. Per Bowan, "A surefire way to kill an innovative process is to go through the processes and then never implement one of the ideas. You need to show that you're trying to implement something."

Agreed.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Self Doubt? Get Out!

An article in the March 2008 issue of Dance Magazine (my daughter subscribes!) caught my eye. Written by Anne L. Wennerstrand and titled, "Hang in There," the piece "counsels dancers not to let self-doubt stand in the way of building a career."

Indeed. And there's broader applicability, as well. Per the author:
"No matter where you are in your career [bz: or what career you're in], you can stay encouraged by learning how to respond differently to your circumstances. With a little benign curiosity, you can feel more empowered and energized in the face of inevitable disappointments."
Benign curiosity. I like that notion.

Emily was an accomplished ballerina who held an unquestioned belief that if she wasn't "special enough" she wouldn't be worthy of future success and approval. As a result, she placed way too much importance on what others thought of her work. Through benign reflection she realized that this was due, in large part, to her early ballet teachers who "devalued her abilities in class, forcing her to prove herself worthy of their attention." Wow!

Michael, a musical theater dancer, would become extremely anxious and fearful when preparing to audition, notwithstanding his success in a number of prior shows. Through benign curiosity he learned that the voices in his head were really those of his family, who never really supported his love of dance in the first place. Hmmm.

So what is YOUR self-talk telling you and where did those ideas initially come from?
Likely, from a very long time ago. "The voices of self-doubt that a dancer [bz: or anyone else] may hear," writes Ms. Wennerstrand, "are often the result of the “outside getting inside.” These voices can be those of parents, teachers, and authority figures who were once relied upon for safety and approval. By developing awareness, dancers [bz: and others] can learn to question some of those internalized voices."

So don't just listen to your negative self-talk and accept it as truth, wonder about its truth. Question its truth. Consider that it may NO LONGER be true. ASSERT that it doesn't have to be true.

And tell your self-doubt to get out!

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Monday, October 6, 2008

How Happy Are You?

So how happy ARE you?! Here's a fun little quiz courtesy of the Chicago Tribune and the Psychological Flourishing Scale:

Step One - Answer each of the 12 statements below:
  1. I lead a purposeful and meaningful life.
    A. Strongly agree
    B. Agree
    C. Slightly agree
    D. Mixed, or neither agree or nor disagree
    E. Slightly disagree
    F. Disagree
    G. Strongly disagree
  2. My social relationships are supportive and rewarding.
    A. Strongly agree
    B. Agree
    C. Slightly agree
    D. Mixed, or neither agree or nor disagree
    E. Slightly disagree
    F. Disagree
    G. Strongly disagree
  3. I am engaged and interested in my daily activities.
    A. Strongly agree
    B. Agree
    C. Slightly agree
    D. Mixed, or neither agree or nor disagree
    E. Slightly disagree
    F. Disagree
    G. Strongly disagree
  4. I actively contribute to the happiness and well-being of others.
    A. Strongly agree
    B. Agree
    C. Slightly agree
    D. Mixed, or neither agree or nor disagree
    E. Slightly disagree
    F. Disagree
    G. Strongly disagree
  5. I am competent and capable in the activities that are important to me.
    A. Strongly agree
    B. Agree
    C. Slightly agree
    D. Mixed, or neither agree or nor disagree
    E. Slightly disagree
    F. Disagree
    G. Strongly disagree
  6. I am a good person and live a good life.
    A. Strongly agree
    B. Agree
    C. Slightly agree
    D. Mixed, or neither agree or nor disagree
    E. Slightly disagree
    F. Disagree
    G. Strongly disagree
  7. My material life (income, housing, etc.) is sufficient for my needs.
    A. Strongly agree
    B. Agree
    C. Slightly agree
    D. Mixed, or neither agree or nor disagree
    E. Slightly disagree
    F. Disagree
    G. Strongly disagree
  8. I generally trust others and feel part of my community.
    A. Strongly agree
    B. Agree
    C. Slightly agree
    D. Mixed, or neither agree or nor disagree
    E. Slightly disagree
    F. Disagree
    G. Strongly disagree
  9. I am satisfied with my religious or spiritual life.
    A. Strongly agree
    B. Agree
    C. Slightly agree
    D. Mixed, or neither agree or nor disagree
    E. Slightly disagree
    F. Disagree
    G. Strongly disagree
  10. I am optimistic about the future.
    A. Strongly agree
    B. Agree
    C. Slightly agree
    D. Mixed, or neither agree or nor disagree
    E. Slightly disagree
    F. Disagree
    G. Strongly disagree
  11. I have no addictions, such as to alcohol, illicit drugs, or gambling.
    A. Strongly agree
    B. Agree
    C. Slightly agree
    D. Mixed, or neither agree or nor disagree
    E. Slightly disagree
    F. Disagree
    G. Strongly disagree
  12. People respect me.
    A. Strongly agree
    B. Agree
    C. Slightly agree
    D. Mixed, or neither agree or nor disagree
    E. Slightly disagree
    F. Disagree
    G. Strongly disagree

Step Two - Calculate your happiness/flourishing score as follows:

  • Give yourself 7 points for each Strongly agree response
  • Give yourself 6 points for each Agree response
  • Give yourself 5 points for each Slightly agree response
  • Give yourself 4 points for each Mixed, or neither agree or nor disagree response
  • Give yourself 3 points for each Slightly disagree response
  • Give yourself 2 points for each Disagree response
  • Give yourself 1 point for each Strongly disagree response

Step Three - Consider your results:

  • 80-84 = Extremely high flourishing
  • 74-79 = Very high flourishing
  • 68-73 = High flourishing
  • 60-67 = Flourishing
  • 48-59 = Slight lack of flourishing
  • 32-47 = Lack of flourishing
  • 12-31 = Extremely low flourishing

Step Four - Next Steps:

Happy with what you found?! If so, GREAT! If not, review the 12 questions and decide which ones you want to happily flourish more with.

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Monday, September 29, 2008

Crain's Chicago Business quotes Barry Zweibel

Barry Zweibel was quoted in Crain's Chicago BusinessSeptember 29, 2008 - Barry Zweibel was quoted in "Laid-back Layoffs", an article by Crystal Yednak, in today's issue of Chicago Business.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Successful Change ... or Not!

Change is easy. Successful? Less so. Why? Here are two models that discuss this very thing:

(1) Successful Transformation Model. (Source: Daniel Ferdinand, Principle, Momentum HR Services.)Successful Transformation Model(2) Understanding What Derails Change in the Workplace. (Source: unknown, but a big fave here at GGCI.)Understanding What Derails Change in the WorkplacePay particular attention the the far-right column on each chart - if you recognize the sentiment, move left to identify what's likely missing from (and undermining) your change initiative.

Correct as necessary.

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Friday, September 5, 2008

Laughing Reduces Stress

According to a bit in the June/July 2008 issue of Scientific American Mind magazine, "Anticipating a good laugh whisks away stress."

Research scientists at a California University conducted the following experiment: They asked one group of men to watch a funny video and another to page through a bunch of periodicals. Lo and behold, the group that saw the comedy had "much lower levels of stress hormones such as cortisol" as compared to the magazine group.
Of particular note was this: The movie watchers' stress levels went down before the film even began!
In other words, the mere anticipation of laughing provided some of the exact same stress-reducing benefits as actually laughing.

Now that's funny, don't you think?! (To reduce stress, I recommend that you laugh whether you think so or not!)

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Locus of Control: Self-Management across the Continuum

Based on Julian Rotter's work in the late 1950's, Locus of Control is about peoples' perceptions about why they do the things they do and, by extension, why things are the way they are - at work, and in life:

  • The more we believe that our behavior is guided by fate, luck, or other external circumstances, the more of an external Locus of Control it can be said we have.
  • Conversely, the more we believe that our behavior is guided by our personal decisions and efforts, the more of an internal Locus of Control we can say we have.

(Did you notice how I used "it" when defining external, and "we" when defining internal?! Sometimes, the basis of one's Locus of Control can be that subtle.)

Now typically, coaches don't spend a lot of time on the "Why?" question - let alone findings that come from observing therapy patients, as did Rotter's. But Locus of Control is an important concept to understand if we want to truly maximize our potential.

What's important to realize, and as the chart indicates below, is that one's Locus of Control is not fixed or unmovable; actually, it's more of a point on a line - a point that routinely shifts, quite radically at times, depending on issue and circumstance.

Locus of Control continuumSo rarely does someone always embrace an external Locus or Control. Rarely does someone always embrace an internal Locus of Control, either.

And therein lies the power of the notion, because: If your Locus of Control can shift without you realizing it, it can also be made to shift because you realize it.

  • Feeling that everyone (and everything) is working against you? Shifting to more of an internal Locus of Control will help you be a bit more assertive and/or realize it's time to take a more decisive action to move things meaningfully forward.
  • Blaming yourself when things go wrong - even when they're not your fault? Shifting to more of an external Locus of Control will help you accept that certain circumstances (and failings) really are out of your control and it's really okay to give yourself a break every now-and-again.
  • Struggling in a personal relationship that's not working no matter what you do? Shifting to more of an external Locus of Control will help you request that the other person step-it-up a notch or two, as well, and not just leave it all for you to do.
  • Sensing you're not in a good mood much of the time? Shifting to more of an internal Locus of Control will help you accept responsibility for the state of your mood and do something enjoyable to chipper yourself up a bit.

Locus of Control is no panacea - it's more just a way to explain the "why?" behind the "what?". But it's also a great way to help become more conscious and purposeful of what you do, say, and believe - all keys to effective self-management ... and success.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

What do you know about your Energy Levels?

Had an interesting conversation with a former client yesterday – we got to talking about energy levels vis-à-vis time-o-day.

“I’m a morning guy," he said, "so I like to work out in the evening.”

Counter-intuitive thinking like that fascinates me. Turns out that although he likes to "hit it hard" at the gym, working out is relaxing for him - something he'll do anyway. So, he prefers to focus his high energy periods on work, rather than working out.

Now I consider myself pretty self-aware on a lot of levels, but I have to admit that I have only a very basic sense of how my energy level relates to time-o-day. For me, it seems to be more a function of what I’m doing, or planning to do, rather than when I'm doing it: If it’s "important" work, or fun, my energy tends to run high; if there’s not much on my plate, not much energy.

How about you? What do you know about how your energy operates?

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Deciphering Priorities

It goes by a variety of last names, but its first name is always the same:
  • "Another" Number One Priority
  • "Another" hot-hot one
  • "Another" just get 'er done
  • "Another" by-end-of-day deliverable
  • "Another" rush request
  • "Another" gotta do to-do
  • "Another" can't-wait task
  • "Another" small thing
  • "Another" request from on-high
  • "Another" oh, just one more thing before you go

Whatever name you know it by, your boss just gave you "Another" one - and you're fit to be tied. Oh well, that's life!

Oh, sure, you can just refuse it, but that's not a great strategy this time of year - especially it you haven't had your mid-year performance review yet.

So what to do? I like to ask two key questions:

Key Question #1: Do you want this done before, or after, that?

Most people know to ask the "What's the Priority?" question, but the problem with that is that it's really hard to say those words without sounding particularly defensive - or dismissive. Plus, when asked, its typical response is an equally dismissive and defensive, "They're both important."

But, by asking your boss if s/he wants this done "before, or after that", you're not challenging his/her right to move work through the system. You're not questioning his/her ability to push back on his/her boss. And you're not allowing it to be inferred hat you're so bad at time management that virtually anything out of the blue would likely send you into a tizzy, and undermine your credibility as a value-added contributor to the cause even more.

No, by asking your boss if s/he wants this done "before, or after that", you're showing you understand that some Number One Priorities, some hot-hot ones ... some get 'er dones ... etc., need to get done before others even if they weren't assigned to you in that same order. Too, it allows the boss the opportunity to consider which s/he would like completed first, which is a very helpful - for the both of you - to know.

Key Question #2: What's the minimum you need to make this work for you?

Here's how it works: There's what the boss wants ideally; there's what the boss can realistically work with; what would be minimally acceptable; and what falls short. Your goal in such situations, is to provide what's minimally acceptable ... and maybe a bit more, but only if it's easier to just include more, not because you have to include more.

Think it through: You're busy, overloaded, slammed ... whatever. Now is not the time to luxuriate in your perfectionistic tendencies - it's time to just get 'er done.

So how will you know when done is done? By knowing what's the minimum that your boss needs to make it work for him or her and working to achieve that, ASAP.
Need a metaphor for these particular busy spells? Okay, assignments are like toll booths. Your job is to provide exactly what's required ... no more ... and certainly not a penny less.

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