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

Image Source:

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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?!

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 - "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

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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.

Thanks to A.W.

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Monday, November 2, 2009

ManagementSushi Guest Post #1: Management Sushi, Johnny Appleseed Style

Management SushiLong-time marketeer, brand expert, and SME business strategist, Bernie Ritchie, over at, asked if I'd write an article for her blog. So I did!

The post, titled, Management Excellence, Johnny Appleseed Style, talks about a boss' responsibility to plant and cultivate motivational Growth Seeds.

"Growth Seeds are those special insights we share with others when we have their undivided attention. They are what inspire continued learning and growth. They are what enable greater creativity, motivation, and decisiveness. They are what help make good things happen for people that might not happen otherwise.
"So how does a manager effectively plant and nurture motivational Growth Seeds, if so inclined? The acronym "S-E-E-D-S" suggests a number of ways of doing exactly that."
To read more about motivational growth S-E-E-D-S, link on over to Management Excellence, Johnny Appleseed Style.
And while there, see what else Bernie's got going on at

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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


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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Where They Sign What They Sign

Dan Ariely, a Duke University professor and author of Predictably Irrational, has been studying how to prevent cheating.

In a recent study, he found that when people are asked to sign their name at the TOP of an insurance application (instead of the usual signature spot, at the bottom) they were more honest about their driving habits, even though higher annual mileage meant higher premiums.

Extending this notion to more of a B-to-B setting:
  • The next time you query vendors on their Request for Proposal (RFP) submissions, or the like, have each vendor contact person sign the RFP response ... at the top of page 1 ... before reviewing it with them.

  • The next time a customer wants to review with you their Service Level Agreement (SLA) status report, or the like, have him/her sign that SLA status report ... at the top of page 1 ... at the very start of the meeting.

And just to keep yourself on the up-and-up:

  • The next time YOU need to submit some written information on something to someone, or the like, put YOUR signature ... at the top of page 1 ... before completing it!

source: "When People Recon it's O.K. to Cheat", BusinessWeek magazine, October 5, 2009, p25.

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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

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

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Risk Tolerance and Reality

Financial Advisers talk about Risk Tolerance -- the amount of uncertainty you're willing to cope with should your investments trend in the wrong direction. But Risk Tolerance applies to more than just Wall Street dynamics.

Consider where you stand with respect to:
  • Career/Job Risk Tolerance -- The amount of uncertainty you're willing to cope with should your employer choose to restructure or eliminate your current position.
  • Leadership Risk Tolerance -- The amount of uncertainty you're willing to cope with as the boss of those facing current, impending, or recently-experienced Job Risk.
  • Interpersonal Risk Tolerance -- The amount of uncertainty you're willing to cope with should an important relationship of yours hit a rough patch.
  • Self-Confidence Risk Tolerance -- The amount of uncertainty you're willing to cope with should these or other things at work or in life not go as planned.
  • Self-Esteem Risk Tolerance -- The amount of uncertainty you're willing to cope with should your self-confidence dissipate and work/life continue to trend in the wrong direction.

The underlying question here differentiates between PLANNING for potential realities...and dealing with ACTUALITIES.

So what do we do when we find ourselves needing to cope with more risk than we would typically tolerate?

When financial advisers talk about money-matters, many (most?) suggest that we not 'change horses in the middle of the stream' but rather establish, and then stick with, an allocation strategy or plan that's properly aligned with our overall Risk Tolerance level. That, they say, will serve us BEST in the long-run.

Yet isn't it true that airplanes never actually fly in a straight line from here to there but, instead, must make a series of continuous, albeit minor, adjustments along the way to properly correct for the realities of what's going on in the skies around them?

Planning for Reality is important. But effectively handling Reality is more so. Is it not? (This reminds me of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs -- self-actualization may be the ultimate goal, but if you aren't getting your basic needs met, it's sort of irrelevant.)

So how ARE you handling the REALITY of your work and personal lives these days --not just your financial reality,but your entire reality?

  • If you're struggling some, what might you do to bolster yourself and your situation?
  • If you're not, how might you help someone who is?

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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 Included are:


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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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Monday, March 16, 2009

Commitment versus Compliance

Over at LinkedIn, a fellow named Jesse posed an interesting question: "How do you get commitment from followers?"

My response:

I think an important distinction needs to be added to this thread -- "Commitment" versus "Compliance".

You already know that in a crisis management situation (your blog indicates you're a crisis management "tiger") success has very *little* to do with a follower "agreeing to do something" (commitment) -- but EVERYTHING to do him/her actually "fulfilling official requirements" (compliance).

I, therefore, submit that if a leader successfully resolves enough crises (through others' complying with their specific, meaningful, and appropriate, "official", requests), followers will almost *automatically* become increasingly loyal and committed to that leader. (Which really just means that these followers will more-readily comply with what the leader requests from them, next time.)

Non-crisis situations, if such things still exist (!!), work in much the same way -- success flows *less* from people being "committed" to achieving certain ends than from them intentionally "complying" with what, needs to be achieved. Again, if a leader successfully enables enough of those needed outcomes to occur, followers will routinely start exhibiting more loyalty and commitment to that leader (by complying that much more readily to their requests, moving forward).

Just for laughs, let's put it even more provocatively -- I assert that compliance (and all the good, value-added, stuff that employees can, and do, bring to an assignment) does not result *from* commitment; rather, commitment is a byproduct *of* compliance … after that compliance results in the successful completion of intended outcomes, of course.

Following this view, leaders do not need to seek the "commitment" of others -- they just need to get crystal clear on the business imperative of their assignments, what probably needs to be accomplished, and who probably needs to accomplish it, in order to increase the probability of actually achieving those ends … because if they
*can* increase the probability of achieving those ends, followers will naturally, readily, and increasingly -- and self-servingly, I might add -- commit to those leaders in the future, without additional inducement.

Helpful?!What are your thoughts on this?

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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, February 10, 2009

What Makes Good Employees "Quit" Helps Better Employees "Stay"

According to a February 10, 2009, USA TODAY Snapshot survey*, here are the top 5 reasons why good employees quit:

  • 35% -- Unhappiness with management
  • 33% -- Limited opportunities for advancement
  • 13% -- Lack of recognition
  • 13% -- Inadequate salary and benefits
  • 1% -- Being bored

Okay, fine. But how many of those "good employees" found the same or similar issues recurring in their next job? My guess: Most of them. Why?

Because life likes to repeat its tests until its lessons are learned!

Now contrary to what you may be thinking, the Lessons-to-be-Learned here are NOT about what CAUSES a boss to fall out of favor with a direct report (35% of the "problem") or HOW COME opportunities for job advancement are so limited (33%), or WHY there's a lack of recognition (13%), or inadequate salary and benefits (13%), etc.

Nay, the Lessons-to-be-Learned are actually quite different. They are:

  1. How can you PREVENT such things from happening in the first place? and
  2. What steps can you take to better RECOGNIZE, ADDRESS, AND RESOLVE these issues once they start up again?

(To get you thinking in the right direction, let me suggest that it has a LOT to do with knowing what's important -- as in really and truly important -- to you and engaging your boss to work with you in making them more of a reality in your current job.)

That said, what's something you totally know about what's really and truly important to you that your boss seemingly doesn't realize? How might you establish an ongoing dialogue between the two of you on exactly that?


* based on a Robert Half International survey of 150 senior executives

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tabula Rasa and Words of Wisdom

tabula rasaMain Entry:ta·bu·la ra·sa
Pronunciation: \ˌta-byə-lə-ˈrä-zə, -sə\
[BZ Pronunciation: \ˌ ta-BOO-lə-ˈrä-zə\]
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin, smoothed or erased tablet
Date: 1535
1 : the mind in its hypothetical primary blank or empty state before receiving outside impressions 2 : something existing in its original pristine state

I always liked the notion of tabula rasa -- especially as it applies to the Student Mind, ready for learning; a blank sheet of paper ready for Words of Wisdom to be written upon them.

The beautiful thing is that we ALL have the capacity to engage our Student Mind whenever we so choose.

So what is your Student Mind ready to learn today? What Words of Wisdom might you be writing on your blank sheet of paper today?

For that matter, what Words of Wisdom did you write there yesterday?


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.


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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Developing Your Leadership Development Plan

Welcome to 2009. Here's wishing it's the best one yet for you - at work and in life! From a work standpoint, what's developing with respect to your leadership development efforts? What are your plans with respect to what I like to call the five Key Domains of Leadership?
GottaGettaCoach! Key Leadership Domains
Key Leadership Domain #1 - Managing UP the Chain. Establishing and maintaining - and growing - your relationship with your boss and others above you in the organization, is an essential component of being properly recognized (and rewarded) for your results. Too, it helps determine how much of your boss' value-added flows back down to you. That said, take a moment to list out 3-5 new things you can try to meaningfully improve how you manage UP the chain and commit to putting at least one of them in play this week.

Key Leadership Domain #2 - Managing DOWN the Chain. Effectively leading A-caliber players is one thing, but more likely than not, your leadership success will ultimately be determined by how you lead your B- and C-caliber staff. Getting people to consistently over-achieve is a definite leadership competency. That said, take a moment to list out 3-5 new things you can try to meaningfully improve how you manage DOWN the chain and commit to putting at least one of them in play this week.

Key Leadership Domain #3 - Managing ACROSS the Chain. Leading without formal authority is another essential competency in business. Without an ability to influence your peers and get them to willingly follow your lead, you significantly limit your organizational impact. That said, take a moment to list out 3-5 new things you can try to meaningfully improve how you manage ACROSS the chain and commit to putting at least one of them in play this week.

Key Leadership Domain #4 - Managing OUTSIDE the Chain. Vendor personnel, contract employees, consultants, industry contacts and connections ... valuable resources, all. That said, take a moment to list out 3-5 new things you can try to meaningfully improve how you manage OUTSIDE the chain and commit to putting at least one of them in play this week.

Key Leadership Domain #5 - Managing YOURSELF. Although isolated here for simplicity sake, your ability to make meaningful improvements in any of the aforementioned domains is contingent upon your ability to manage yourself ... and the gap between your self-perceptions and how others - up, down, across, and outside the chain - perceive you. That said, take a moment to list out 3-5 new things you can meaningfully try to improve how you manage YOURSELF and commit to putting at least one of them in play this week.

Effective leadership development best happens when it's more than just an ad hoc effort. Taking a few moments you take here, in January, to develop your leadership development plan will likely yield considerably better results than by just winging it.

So what are some things you're likely to list out - and focus on - this year? Who can you encourage to work on this exercise, as well?

(For more on the five Key Leadership Domains, see:

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Out-Loud Leadership

Effective leadership is about pointing others toward success. It's also about pointing out - out loud - when others are already moving in that direction.

Case in Point: While reviewing a rather content-rich spreadsheet with the employee who created it, his boss stopped mid-sentence to turn to the employee and say,

"This is really very good work, you know. Thank you."

What a great leadership moment! In less than 10 seconds, the executive had recognized the value of the work that had been completed to date, spoke out loud to that value, and took the time to recognize the employee for having been the one to contribute that value.

Was it necessary? No. But was it beneficial? Absolutely!

I know this because of what happened next: The employee smiled, sat up a little straighter and engaged even more thoroughly in the conversation the two of them were having. He was clearly delighted in having impressed the boss.

Kudos to the executive for pointing out - and saying out loud - what she had been thinking. Clearly, it had a positive impact ... and will likely continue to inspire that employee far longer than it took to say what was said.

Nicely done. Very nicely done.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Regular Staff Meetings Make Sense

What is the purpose of a boss holding regularly-scheduled staff meetings? Many-fold:
  1. To insure that employees know what their coworkers are working on ...
  2. To leverage any synergies that may/can exist with respect to that work ...
  3. To build camaraderie between/among team members ...
  4. To enourage greater teamwork ...
  5. To provide the boss with value-added insight and suggestions ...
  6. To disseminate key company information and strategy amongst team members ...
  7. To clarify priorities and alert everyone to "hot" topics ...
  8. To share "new information" on a pending or newly identified issue ...
  9. To recognize superior effort and results ...
  10. To keep the lines of communication open ...
  11. To enjoy a good laugh or two (or three) ...

Why else?

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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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Monday, November 24, 2008

Three Leadership Styles

Three Leadership Styles

Let me suggest that while there are three main leadership styles: Control, Optimization, and Possibility, only the latter, Possibility, enables the true upside of effective leadership.

Leadership by Control Leadership by Control is the classic top-down model. The idea -- as represented by a boss' Circle of Impact with arrows pointing inward -- is that only a small part of what a boss is responsible for can really be controlled. But, results in that smaller area tends to be excellent. Rarely game-changing in nature, though.

Leadership by OptimizationLeadership by Optimization is the process of working to the edges -- to insure that as much is "done right" as possible -- but no farther. Eliminating waste, streamlining processes, etc. most certainly have their value, but Leadership by Optimization is more of a managerial style than a leadership approach.

Leadership by Possibility Leadership by Possibility is about expanding one's Circle of Impact beyond its current limits. It's about empowering your staff, engaging your peers, and challenging stakeholders to think bigger, act more decisively, and achieve more. While sometimes messy, it's the leadership style with the greatest upside.

So, as a percentage of time, how much of the time would you say you spend in Control mode? Optimization mode? Possibility mode? What would help you spend even more time as a leader of Possibility?

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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
Source: Success Magazine's 1on1: Getting the Most of Your Time (August/September 2008)

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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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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."


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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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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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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Low-Cost Employee Motivation

Some things stand the test of time. One example is a December 2006 article called, 20 Low-Cost Employee Perks, from Here's some of what it says [and some comments from me]:
  • Family days. For those times when the kids have a half day of school or a snow day, family days allow employees to take a day off without having to use up vacation or sick days. [Don't forget that life outside of the job - theirs, or yours!]
  • Computer discounts. Buying in bulk typically allows a business to get good prices on computers and peripherals. [And how about extending the savings to employee' friends and families so they can benefit, too?]
  • Movie days. A group movie outing or free movie passes can be a pleasant perk. For the sake of variety, you might also consider an outing to see a community theater group. [I've given packs of movie passes to employees' spouses as a thanks for, and in recognition of, them letting their significant others work all those extra hours.]
  • Free car washes. The latest in "express exterior" car washes costs around $5 per wash, meaning for $100, you could give 20 employees a shiny car every few months.
  • Continental breakfasts. They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, so serve a free breakfast once or twice a week. Bagels, muffins, coffee and similar fare make for a nice way to start the day. [Discount coupons at the local coffee shop is a nice touch, too.]

What are some of the things you do to treat your employees right?

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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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Monday, May 19, 2008

Motivation 301: Get Them to Desire the Right Things

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to go to the forest to gather wood, saw it, and nail the planks together. Instead, teach them the desire for the sea." - Antoine de Saint Exupéry


Friday, April 11, 2008

An SEO - that is, Leadership - Audit and Upgrade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Fear 303: A Revised Model of Fear

Last month I forwarded a model - Fear 101 - to explain how many people conceptualize fear. As you may recall, there was an inner core of Fearlessness, surrounded by a ring of Courageousness, encapsulated in a vast Infinity and Beyond called, The Land of Fear.

Since then, I've received numerous emails and phone calls from people telling me that that's exactly how they envision fear, too. Very gratifying, indeed.

The Next Step in the process, then, was for me was to figure out how to re-frame fear so that it would not be so large-and-in-charge as it is in the Fear 101 model. The “aha moment” came once I was ready to accept the possibility that Infinity and Beyond was just too big and unlimited a space for fear to claim so unilaterally. It was only then that I realized that Infinity and Beyond was not, ipso facto, the Land of Fear – it was simply a Benign Unknown.

What a wonderful shift!

The resultant upgrade, dubbed Fear 303, looks and works as such:

Fear 303 Model

Starting at the back of the pack is this huge Benign Unknown stretching out in most directions. Within it (and bubbling out of it in places) is this thing called Opportunity.

So that we're clear, Opportunity is a good thing.

Next, as the blue bubble indicates, our natural response to Opportunity is often Fearlessness. This, too, is a good thing, as Fearlessness often empowers us to positively leverage Opportunity.

For sticklers to detail, it should be noted that the Fear 303 model recognizes that, sometimes, Fearlessness splashes out past Opportunity and into other areas of the Benign Unknown that may neither be opportunities, nor so benign. But that's just the way things are, sometimes, right? (I failed to recognize that in Fear 202, which is why I didn't post it between 101 and 303.)

So here’s where I think it gets nice and juicy: Instead of allowing Fear to "own" all of Infinity and Beyond, Fear is now relegated to a small little cloud in the lower right-hand corner of the diagram. Like Fearlessness, Fear also overlays Opportunity - some opportunities do, indeed, frighten us - and parts of Fear splash out, as well, into the Benign Unknown, and into parts of the Unknown that may not be benign. That really is the way things are, sometimes, right?!

But in the Fear 303 model, Fear is clearly a whole lot less featured – especially when you consider how Fear is mostly covered by Courageousness in service to Opportunity.

Sure, sometimes Fear still prevents us from moving forward, but it does so to a considerably lesser extent than in Fear 101. Indeed, once we recognize that Fear does not have to be our default reaction to the Unknown, it is majorly dis-empowered and has significantly less automatic say-so over how we react to what's going on around us. We are at choice.

That feels very motivating (and plausible) to me. How does it feel to you?

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Office conditions leave room for improvement

This in from the L.A. Times: Filthy bathroom facilities and extreme office temperatures are most common gripes of unhappy workers:
"Forget salaries, expense accounts or keys to the executive washroom. Employee loyalty is won or lost over the cleanliness of the bathrooms and the amount of sticky goo on the carpet."
Citing a recently-conducted survey of 500 workers by Blumberg Capital Partners, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer Molly Selvin reports that "More than three quarters of those polled said the overall condition of their offices affected how they viewed their employer and whether they were likely to stay in their jobs."

In a January 23, 2006 blog posting titled, How DO You Motivate Employees? I talked about Frederick Herzberg's notion of hygiene factors* - things related to the job context, or environment, that don't necessarily motivate people by their presence, but almost always demotivate by their absence. Some of the hygiene factors cited included:
  • company policy and administration
  • quality of supervision
  • relationship with supervisor
  • work conditions
  • salary
  • relationship with peers
  • relationship with subordinates
  • status
  • security

Like chlorine in a swimming pool, the presence of hygiene factors don't necessarily make anyone feel more healthy (or even more motivated), but their absence will likely make people feel less healthy, and, as this article concludes, surely less motivated.

And now we can add the bathroom cleanliness to the list of literal - and figurative - workplace hygiene factors.


*In contrast to hygiene factors, Herzberg identified what he called, true motivators - things that really do motivate employees - that are typically related to one's job content, like achievement, recognition, the work itself, responsibility, opportunity for advancement, and growth.)

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