sand pail ocean

Can This Be a Plan?

They say that the happiest people on the planet are always saying, “Thank you.” Sometimes they say it out loud to others. Most of the time, it’s a quiet thing. They seem to appreciate everything.

I don’t think that they think that everything is rosy. Not do they ignore or tolerate the bad stuff. Perhaps they have found a way to look past the sand pails of bad stuff–the stuff that we tend fixate on–to the oceans of good beyond. Or maybe they have learned that even the bad stuff fits into the picture just so.

Whatever their trick, they can’t seem to stop appreciating. It’s like they are in quiet, sincere love with everything.

Can we take a page from their playbook? If we do, will it help us to be better leaders, influencers, and sales people?


In your corner,


PS: Yup, yup.


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I'm all ears.

To Change Someone’s Mind

In order to change someone’s mind, start where their mind is now. Should we start with our position–by convincing, educating, lobbying, telling, fighting, begging, tricking, arguing, ordering, or whining–they will raise shields. We must, instead, ask good questions and listen. They must first agree that we have heard their thinking before they will let us change it.

And, no, we don’t get free pass here if we are parents, bosses, employees, partners, citizens, or nations.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via photopin cc


How to Clear Any Pile, Empty Any Inbox

Inboxes overflowing, papers stacked, multiple to do lists with unknown numbers of to dos, anything physical or non-physical that is stagnant or piled. We think that each of these is a symptom of a creative mind or a messy, busy, lazy, or undisciplined person. In fact, they are merely the evidence of incomplete thinking.

To empty any inbox, move any stagnation, or clear any pile, we need only think all the way through each item. Start with the first item and…

  • Answer for yourself, “What is this?”
  • Answer, “What does it mean to me? Or, what are the implications of this to me?”
  • If there are no implications or meaning, toss this thing; let it go.
  • If there are implications, answer, “What am I committed to regarding this? Or, what outcome do I desire regarding it?” And answer, “What’s the very next step regarding this thing?” Then do that next step or write down that next step in your organization system.

Repeat until the pile is gone. Works with any pile of things, thoughts, or emotions.


In your corner,




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When Meetings Are Painful

Most meetings serve two distinct functions: to track and to choose. These functions don’t mix well.

In a tracking meeting, we check progress, coordinate with each other, and hold ourselves accountable for selected chunks of work. Tracking meetings are shorter and more frequent. They range from a daily, 5-minute, stand up scrum to a biweekly project update. A tracking meeting agenda comes from the list of current chunks of work.

In a choosing meeting, we explore, select, plan, and commit to those chunks. We set strategy. Choosing meetings are longer and further apart. They range from a monthly operations review to an annual, multi-day, strategy off-site. The agenda for a choosing meeting comes from the difference between what is true now in our business and what we want to be true in the next little while.

Mixing these two types makes meetings painful.

When people in a tracking meeting want to explore or set strategy, tensions rise, eyes roll. When we are in a choosing meeting and someone wants to talk about minutiae, tensions flare, blood boils. And, without a regularly scheduled set of both types of meetings, people will bring up whatever topic at any meeting whenever.

With such a regular schedule, people will wait for the appropriate time. And meetings will resume their role as useful work tools.


In your corner,



PS: There are other forms of meetings–such as training and interviews–that lie outside this model.

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The Sort of Leader Who Gets People Unstuck

People who don’t change can gum up our organizations and their careers. We try requesting, coaching, pleading, pushing, “carrotting and/or sticking,” or even jumping up and down. Yet people often remain stubbornly stuck.

We may explain their stuckedness as some character flaw. But they really stay stuck out of fear (or fudwar). And they are unable to navigate that fear. When this is true, all those things we have done to move them only trigger more and more defensive resistance.

Take heart, though; we can shift things. We start by quickly acknowledging (to ourselves only) that they have some fear and by recognizing how we have (had) similar fears, too.

Next we allow ourselves to be compassionate, setting aside any concerns that compassion leads to passivity or permissiveness (it doesn’t). We are quietly saying, “I get it and I know–perhaps better than you right now–that you have everything you need within you to move forward.” Then we redouble our work to foster a successful environment for everyone with compelling goals, effective systems, and clear thinking that feels good–all in service of win-win.

Being this sort of leader builds the required trust, unlocks fear, and helps people step out of stuck.


In your corner,



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Cursed Human Resources

We are still cursed with the Industrial Age concept of Human Resources. Despite wonderful shifts over the past half century–created by great people in HR and leadership world wide–we still trip over the mindset that sees people just as other assets of the company.

Here’s a case in point. When a machine stops running as expected, we know it is  broken. We either try to fix it or replace it. When a person does not behave as expected, we try to fix them (though we may call it development). And if we can’t fix them, we replace them.

I am not saying that we should let people behave in ways harmful to their and our success. Nor am I saying that we are unenlightened or unfair in how we treat people. I am saying that we tend to remedy poor people performance and poor machine performance in the same way: we fix or fire them.

Deming taught that “fix or fire” is wrong headed. Most poor performance comes not from broken people but from from broken systems, improper structures, and ineffective management.

Let’s build and fix the systems, structures, and the way we run them. Let’s maintain clear goals that everyone finds compelling. And let’s inspire the people to jump in, be their potential, and generate wins for all.


In your corner,



PS: And if we can come up with a better name than Human Resources, that’d be great.


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Problem Finders

There are three ways to be of value to another person or organization.

If they know the problem and know the solution to that problem, we can do what they say for a small fee.

If they know the problem and not the solution, we can solve the problem for them for a greater fee.

If they know neither the problem nor the solution, we can find the problem then solve the problem for an even greater fee.

We are used to explaining what good problem solvers we are. Yet the real win is in being good problem finders.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: shareski via photopin cc

SweetSpot 2014

Four Ways To Know You’re In the Right (or Wrong) Career

Work that doesn’t use your talents is work you should have others do.

Work that doesn’t engage your passions is a dead end.

Work that doesn’t meet your needs, wants, and/or desires is martyrdom.

Work that doesn’t solve compelling problems for other people or organizations is a hobby.

Work that engages all four of these factors–talents, passions, needs/wants/desires, and compelling problems–is work in your SweetSpot. It is meaningful, fun, profitable, and rewarding.

Which is nice.


In your corner,


easy as pie

Make It Easy for Them to Help You

How do you get more people to make a donation to a charity? Be pleasant. Believe in the cause yourself, tell people what specifically you want them to donate, give them an easy-to-notice link to press, and make the transaction as friction-free as possible.

How do you get a decision out of a busy executive? Be pleasant. Prepare. Tell them the issue–in one sentence. Tell them the impact of this issue–as they would see it–in one sentence. List the options they might take in a bullet list. Give them your recommendation and reasoning. Then ask them for their decision.

How do you get people to go for a networking coffee with you? Be pleasant, commit to keeping the meeting to 20 minutes long (but book an hour on your calendar should they wish to extend the conversation), and find a time (even if it’s weeks away) and place that is convenient for them.

If we make it easy for people to help us then most of them will.


In your corner,



Today’s photo credit: Christaface via photopin cc


The One Success Error We All Make

To be successful, we must first define success. Looking inside ourselves for definitions of success leads to satisfaction, creativity, energy, happiness, and/or meaning. Looking outside leads to empty achievement, perpetual dissatisfaction, learned helplessness, burnout, superficiality, frustration, and regret. Ouch.

We know this. We see how externally-defined success leads us and others to chase money, fame, stuff, titles, and accolades in the dire hope of being happy.

Yet we make an old error that has us abandon our internal definitions and default to external ones. This error has two parts. We first conclude that, because an externally-driven life is bad, we must become saintly abstainers. Second, because that sounds rather dull, we conclude that an internally-driven life is yucky or impossible (for us) so we might as well chase what everyone else is chasing.

See the flaw? An externally-driven life is bad. But a life lived in the world is delicious.

We need neither withdraw from the outside world nor allow it to be our master. We will embrace the outside world to show and let us play with things we like and things we don’t, with splendor and squalor, with light and dark. We will constantly draw from the outside world to inform our internally-generated goals and definitions of success.

That balance, mes amis, corrects the error.


In your corner,



PS: We use this internal + external balance to find your personal SweetSpot-based career.

PPS: We also use it for your business. Where you see things like perpetual dissatisfaction or burnout in your organization, you are seeing the symptoms of the whole place chasing externally defined success. (I know, right! Mind=blown.)

PPPS: The really good news is that succeeding based on internally-defined measures generates all the externally-noticed-and-appreciated success you or your organization could ever want.


Today’s photo credit: AndyRobertsPhotos via photopin cc