Go for the Understanding

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Career, Leading, Organizations, Success, We=All Who Matter
Reading time: 1

From the “you have to slow down to speed up” department comes this reminder: seek, first, to understand the other person’s perspective. Want to get more done quicker? Then slow down and take more time to understand what the other person really means, needs, and will do.

Try this: ask someone to explain their perspective. Then listen. Say what you think you heard them say, in your words. Ask the person if she thinks, based on what you said, that you understand what she had said. If not, ask her to reexplain. Keep going until she says you understand her perspective. When you do, then turn the tables and ask her to do the same favor for you. Use this technique anytime. It is especially good when you and the other person are stuck on an issue, not coming to resolution.

Does this take time? Yup. Typically about 20 minutes. Is there anything better you could be doing with that time. Unlikely.

5 Easy Pieces of Career or Corporate Strategy

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Career, Leading, Organizations, Success, What=Compelling Focus
Reading time: 2 min.

Strategy exercises–whether for your career or your organization–often fail because they are incomplete. They scratch the itch we all get to have our daily work align with something important but they often don’t fix the problem.  Some fail because they are incomplete in concept; they don’t cover enough ground nor include important perspectives. Others fail because the process is incomplete. They usually ignore the important implementation, follow up, and–most important–course correction steps. And others fail because they try to do too much or too little.

What you really need to do:

  1. Set the scope. How big is your focus? How far out in time? How will you know you’re done?
  2. Start with constructive perspectives. This includes having the right people involved and trusting your own knowledge about your talents, passions, and needs. And it includes solid information about who you might serve.
  3. Clear process. Know before your start the major steps and how you’ll complete them. If working with others, agree on ground rules like the definition of consensus.
  4. Facilitation to focus thinking, maintain momentum. Have someone with a neutral agenda help you think through and avoid the mental, emotional, and political traps.
  5. Execute, Track, and Course Correct. Follow through. It’s so important to commit to the follow-through work as part of building your strategy. Career and corporate strategies succeed when there are simple plans, processes, and ways follow up and adjust course without losing the dream as time passes and things change.

Invest in these 5 pieces and they will pay off handsomely for you and your organization.

Want some help with your career or business strategy? Happy to help.

What if you decided what success is?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Career, Good: Your Good Work, Leading, Success, Sweetspot, What=Compelling Focus
Reading time: 1

If you look at it–really look at it–success for your life, career, or organization has to be what you say it is. Others do influence that definition because your success always includes the success of others. But you get to choose where you’ll focus, with whom, and for whom.

Find and follow your definition of success, this moment and then the next.

It’s not a communication problem

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Leading, Organizations, Success, We=All Who Matter
Reading time: 2 min.

“We have a communications problem.”

In working with people and their organizations, I often hear statements like that one.

Truth is that it’s almost never a communications problem; it’s a relationship problem.

What’s the difference? The word communication has evolved away from its roots (think, “commune”). It is used mostly today to describe an activity, task, or transaction (think, “communications plan” or “communication system”).

The word “relationship,” on the other hand, points to a connection–mostly emotional–between people.

We are all in relation to everyone else. We are all human beings who have a spark of intelligence, consciousness within. We see this as important, even precious in ourselves and others.

When the transactions of communication aren’t working well, it’s pretty much a guarantee that the real solution will be in a sustained strengthening of relationships. There typically isn’t enough trust or accountability. False civility and politics may also be present.

Strengthening relationship is simple

It is not difficult to strengthen relationships. A good place to start is by simply acknowledging or remembering–and it doesn’t have to be spoken or written–that the other(s) have that spark within them. The ancient Sanskrit word namaste captures this well. Loosely translated, it means, “The spark that I am sees and respects the spark that you are.”

Build on that simple acknowledgment by knowing and growing your emotional intelligence, using practical models and tools (such as DISC), and getting good feedback. This will help you and your organization become better relaters and communicators.

Better relationships then make the communications smoother, easier, and more effective.

In the movie, Cool Hand Luke, the character called The Captain is famous for saying, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”

No, sir. What we have here is failure to relate.

Two Simple Habits for the Ultra-Busy

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Do=Natural flow of action, Leading, Will=Our inner game
Reading time: 5 min.

How is your week going?

No, really. How is it going? On a scale from “Calm waters, smooth sailing” to “Rough Chop” to “Gale” to “Tempest”, how effectively are you sailing through your week?

Chances are that most of you—most of the time—will say, “Gale,” “Tempest,” or “What word do you have for something worse than a tempest ‘cuz that’s where I am?”

We live every day with wave upon wave of tasks, competing priorities, and interruptions.

And that sucks. It feels bad, it saps our energy, and lowers our productivity. It’s also a downward spiral; the more storms we experience, the more behind we feel, the more we push, the less energy we have, the more we don’t get done, the more storms we have.

For those of you who manage a team, you’ll recognize that this is not just a personal issue; it affects teams and entire companies the same way.

GOOD NEWS: Two simple habits; you choose when to take them on.

(Of course there’s good news!)

What doesn’t work is trying to fight the storms by working harder, going numb, blaming, or hiding. There will always be new waves of tasks and interruptions and they’ll wear you down.

What DOES work is learning to surf these waves. And you are just two simple habits away from hangin’ ten.

If your frustration with the way things are is high enough, grab these two habits and run with them; they’ll change everything.

If you’re not ready, bookmark this post for a time when you are ready, when the way things are is no longer acceptable.

HABIT ONE: Plan-Do.

If you start your workday by diving in to your work, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Instead, invest a relatively minute amount of time to plan you day and your week. When you do, you’ll put yourself above the waves.

This type of planning gives you the proper perspective to know what your will work on given of all the things your could work on.  It also gives you the information you need to decide in the moment whether to allow this next interruption or that request.

Set aside time–maybe 40 minutes–before each work week (e.g. Friday night, Sunday night, or Monday morning) to review all your projects and commitments to know what you’ll select to work on and what goes to the back burner. Set aside 10 minutes or so before each work day (either that morning or the night before) to select what you’ll work on that day and adjust your weekly plan based on what’s happened.

Have with you the lists of your projects/commitments/appointments as you do this planning.

For more information about this habit, see this article in Fast Company: http://www.fastcompany.com/article/work-smart-how-to-avoid-the-busy-trap?partner=homepage_newsletter

For more help, email me with your questions or post a comment below.

HABIT TWO: Be here now

This habit is about changing your state of mind–your attitude–instantly and often as you can.

If you see this habit as less practical and even a waste of time, give me a moment to explain. It’s actually a surprisingly powerful and productive tool.

This is deep topic that we can spend our lifetimes learning about. For now, let the loosely constructed logic below point you in the right direction. If you’d like to learn more, email me. You can also skip this logic and go right to the practice that follows.

  • Performance in our jobs and life comes only from action.
  • Our state of mind affects our ability to perform, to act well.
  • Without focus or training, our state of mind comes from our habitual thoughts and emotions.
  • We build our habitual thinking and emotions from very early on life. They are there for what was a good reason.
  • Some of these habitual thoughts and emotions are no longer useful; they really detract from our performance today.
  • The thinking and emotions more in conflict with our performance today can be categorized as “regret about the past” or “worry about the future.”
  • We may not think we are regretting or worrying. Typically we react to the word “regret” and “worry;” looking deeper, we see we indeed are expending too much time and energy on the past or the future.
  • The best barometer for measuring whether we’re too focused on the past or future is how we physically feel. Tense, nervous, ill, numb, in pain, and excited are some of the usual signs.
  • Regretting the past or worrying about the future pulls our focus from the ONLY PLACE EVER WE CAN PERFORM: here and now.
  • We can tell we are in the here and now when the physical sensations disappear or diminish.
  • We can’t force ourselves to be here and now. Forcing creates an ugly reaction of not-here-and-now.
  • We can release ourselves by simply observing. Naming what we are thinking, feeling, doing drives a wonderful wedge between us and our habitual thinking.
  • Regular observation gives us the ability to catch ourselves caught up in habitual thinking and emotions and release ourselves without much effort at all.
  • Regular observation is like building a muscle. As we strengthen our observation muscle, we naturally have more energy and focus to act well, right here and now.
Practicing Habit Two
  1. For the next 24 hours, notice your thinking and emotions. Just name them and go no further; resist the temptation to describe, evaluate, judge what you notice. One easy way: quietly say to yourself as often as you can today, “This is me thinking_______.” Or, “This is me feeling_______.” Or, “This is me______.” Examples: “This is me thinking this meeting is a waste of time.” “This is me reacting to my colleague’s comment.”
  2. Extend this practice by making a commitment to it and using the habit builder to make it stick.

Post a comment below with your questions, observations, or improvements to these habits.

Real change is fast, not slow.

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Career, Leading, Will=Our inner game
Reading time: 4 min.
How Long Does it Take?

How long does it take…

  • …to turn around the culture of an organization?
  • …to find your ideal career?
  • …to reform a criminal, change the dynamics in your family, turnaround a business, change a habit? achieve peace in the land,or have balance and satisfaction in your life?

Months? Years? Lifetimes? Strings of attempts ending in failure or at least less-than-hoped for results?

Perhaps. Or perhaps there’s a way to speed things up. Let’s first look at what blocks real, lasting change.

Why change fails or lags

Most change fails because we act at the wrong level. We work the symptoms, not the causes.  We get trapped, for instance, in the drama about things or by the discomfort of looking too deep.  This is true for us as individuals or in organizations.

Getting trapped like that not only delays change and presents hard work, it reinforces the belief that long and difficult is the way of things and that the next change will be long and difficult, too.  More insidiously, we can believe that there’s something deeply, fundamentally wrong with us or our organization.  Look closely, and you’ll see this belief hiding and driving people and organizations everywhere.

Real change is just one thought away.

Here’s how to make real, sustained change quickly.  It starts with just one thought.  Find the right thought at the right level, investigate its truth, and choose a thought that supports your goals.

We tend to start looking at the symptoms; these are our “first thoughts” about the situation.  To go deeper ask two sets of questions:

  1. Where do you or your organization say, “That’s impossible.”?  These indicate you are bumping up against a too-limited view of the world and yourself/your organization in the world.
  2. What question is too painful or sensitive to ask or answer?  These indicate the thought that you or your organization can’t handle reality.  This type of thinking block has power when you don’t investigate them.  They lead to avoidance and stagnation for fear of the consequences.  Far better to jump into the jaws of these questions to realize they are toothless and timid.

Once you’ve found the thought, ask yourself, “Is it true, 100% true?”  Typically it’s not.  Acknowledge your tendency/habit to think like this.  Then decide, “What thought would better support me or us?”

Career Example

Situation: A friend wants to change careers, doesn’t know what he wants, it tired of not knowing (and not having any income) and isn’t taking any action. He’s been struggling for more than a year.

First thoughts: “I am a procrastinator.”  “This is hard.”  “Maybe it’s not meant to be.”

Underlying thought: “I don’t act so others won’t criticize.  I’m afraid of criticism; others will say I can’t have what I want or that I’ve screwed it up.”

Is this true? Pausing here for a moment, he sees it’s not true.  Those he fears would criticize merely express their own lack of direction and certainty.

Better thought: “I see my tendency to avoid possible criticism.  I act anyway to discover my SweetSpot and bring it life in my work.”

Organizational Example

Situation: A company that has enjoyed a large, protected market is now facing stiff competition from new and powerful entrants.

First thoughts: “We can’t change our stripes fast enough to react to these guys.  Our way of doing business is so ingrained and the politics amongst the players inside [think along the lines of management-union divisions] are so bitter that we can only make cosmetic changes; we fiddle while Rome burns.”

Underlying thought: “We cannot change anything because the other party is so unreasonable and so greedy that they rather let the whole thing go to hell rather than change.”

Is it true? Reflecting on the fact that both groups have the same thought about each other, they agree that it might not be true.

Better thought: “Though we’ve fought each other for years, we see there’s probably common grounds for cooperation AND even a possibility that our current organization gives us unique power in the marketplace.”

What’s your thinking?  How long will it take you or your company to change?

Don’t Join This Revolution!!

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Good: Your Good Work, Leading
Reading time: 1

There’s a revolution afoot.  It is big.  It is global.  And it’s going  to change everything, for the better.

You can not join this revolution.  There is nothing to join.  No leaders, no organization, no followers, no enemies.

But you can be this revolution.  The power of this revolution lies within you and everyone else.  And it’s quietly waiting for you to nurture it and bring it to life.

Can you feel it? see it?

Guess what? Leading change is really hard!

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Leading
Reading time: 4 min.

Read the cover story of the May 2005 issue of Fast Company: Change or Die. When you read that changing people’s behavior is difficult–really, really difficult–are you more shocked or are you more relieved? As a leader, do you see this as sad news or is it justification of what you’ve always known? Either way, there’s cause for excitement. Sure, the odds are against you; they are against everyone. But you can beat the odds. Here’s how.

  1. Get the context right – this stuff is hard but worth it. Your success as a leader depends on it. Havard Business School professor John Kotter, as quoted in Fast Company, says, “The central issue is never strategy, structure, culture, or systems. The core of the matter is always about changing the behavior of people.”
  2. Accept reality – if you know how difficult it is to change people’s behavior, you’ll put in the required effort to make change happen. You won’t over-optimistically assume that policy or charisma or any other point solution will handle things. And you won’t brush under the carpet the focus needed to affect change in people.
  3. Understand behavior – study it, query it, confrm it. Make a study of people’s behaviors. There are patterns of behavior out there that you can see and decode. Use tools and methods like the DISC. You’ll be surprised how much you already know. Test your understanding by asking questions. “Has this person given up or am I seeing her quiet-and-committed style?” “How can I diffuse the beligerence of these aggressive types?” Get the input of others to validate you conclusions.
  4. Actively influence and support behavior changeCommunicate. OVERcommunicate! Communicating facts is okay; you’ll win when you address emotions. John Kotter says, “Behavior change happens mostly by speaking to people’s feelings.” And, from the article,
    • Re-define the context of change. People get stuck when they can’t see and break out of their old frames of reference. Give them a new one that’s simple, positive, and resonant.
    • Make bold changes. They’re scarier but they create success faster which supports further change.
    • Provide support. Use as your role definition the CEO in Patrick Lencioni’s book, “The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive.” His advice is to get your team solid, set the vision (“organizational clarity”). constantly re-inforce that vision, and build human systems (e.g. training, compensation, hiring) that support that vision.
  5. Model change youself. The adage, “The fish rots from the head,” says it plainly. If you want to see change in your organization, open to changing yourself. I can’t emphasize this enough. As leader, people look to you for cues. Your organization is ever a reflection of your views and beliefs, stong or weak, positive or negative. It mirrors you. Here are some tips: Give up having to know it all. Give up having to look good. Question practices. Build strong personal habits. Hire a coach! 🙂 Seek feedback. Surround yourself with people of high integrity. Develop your character. Redefine your role as enabler of others. Delegate well. Eliminate stress and build health. Adopt a practical task/action management system. And take everything a step at a time.

You see, you can affect change. You need to find and push on the right levers of vision, emotion, and integrity. I recommend you do this because the alternative isn’t so hot.

Guess what? Leading change is really hard!

Success with Driving types

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Leading, We=All Who Matter
Reading time: 5 min.

You know the type. Driven, demanding, forceful. Perhaps these types of people are easy for your to work with…maybe you are one yourself. Or maybe you find these types of people to be among the most difficult to work with. No matter; here’s a method for successfully dealing with driven bosses, peers, and staff in your work world. It’s called the “D Package” and takes its name from the behavioral style know as “D” or “Dominance” in the DISC style language. The “D Package” is a way of delivering your message so that this driven, demanding, forceful type person will hear and respond to you productively.

Let’s start with an example situation to illustrate the “D Package”. Your company needs to hire a new VP of Sales and the driven, demanding, forceful (a.k.a. “high D”) CEO has found a stellar candidate. As VP of Operations, you see trouble. This candidate is an experienced heavy-hitter who would be perfect…if only the company itself was ready. The company is poised for new growth and needs to make some difficult decisions about target markets, product design, and the supply chain. Without making these decisions, hiring this candidate would likely be a disaster. The company would have to make some big promises to attract this person and tough changes to keep her. You also have the impression that the CEO is frustrated with the company’s progress and position and looks to the new Sales VP to spark the changes needed.

As VP of Operations, you find certain encounters with the high-D CEO to be uncomfortable, to say the least. They can seem like conflicts, not discussions. You and others walk away from some of these encounters feeling personally attacked though “attacked” might be too strong a word. So how do you proceed? If you do nothing, your company will likely experience real damage. If you’re tempted to raise and discuss your concerns with the CEO, you’ll likely not succeed because a high-D CEO may subconsciously misread your intent and interpret your overture as a waste of time, complaint, or even insubordination.

Here’s how to proceed: use the “D Package”. The “D Package” is a way to prepare and format all oral and written communication to high-D people like your fictional CEO. Below are are the components of the “D Package”. Pay attention the tone of the example statements (your intent is to help the CEO and company with a very real problem and you’re saying “I’m here to fix it”) and note what’s NOT said (not a lot of justification, explanation, process, or method). Your job here is to be brief, be bold, and then be gone (off implementing the decisions made).

COMPONENTS OF THE “D PACKAGE”

  • Issue: Create a one sentence description of the situation/problem. e.g. “We’re not ready to hire June.”
  • Impact: Create a one or two sentence description of the impact to the high-D person, in their language, of the issue. e.g. “If we bring her in before we’re ready, it’ll cost dearly in lost revenues and declining client- and associate satisfaction from the resulting turmoil.”
  • Options: Present a set of options from which the high-D person can choose to start resolving the issue. e.g. “Here are the options: 1) We can hire June right away, using her energy and experience as a catalyst to get ourselves where we need to be. 2) We can prepare ourselves before we hire June so that when she arrives, the company is poised to take advantage of her strenghts and she can hit the ground running. 3) We can do nothing.”
  • Recommendation: State which of the options you recommend and a brief description why. For example, “I recommend the second option because we, the executive team, can have an agreed upon plan in short order. The risk is we might lose June to another company so we can continue the hiring process while we develop the plan. Worse case: if we do lode June, we’ll have a solid plan and a clear idea of the kind of VP of Sales we need to attract. I don’t recommend the first option could deliver an unnecessary body-blow to the staff and clients who may jump ship. The third option is, I think you’ll agree, obviously inadequate.”
  • Decision?: Make a request that the high-D person chooses from the options.

Prepare yourself, before you deliver this “D Package”, for a detailed discussion/argument. I call this “pulling on the Teflon(r) suit and picking up the virtual 2-by-4 (for figuratively whacking the high-D between the eyes).” If you’re not a high-D person yourself, you’ll probably find this way of engaging very uncomfortable, at first. The high-D person will likely come back at you with counter arguments (because you’ve engaged him/her how s/he likes to be engaged: in a battle of ideas–not personalities–over a challenge or obstacle he/she faces), detailed questioning (because s/he want to make sure you’ve thought it through and aren’t dumping the problem in his or her lap), and even a show of angry emotion (sterness, abruptness, louder voice, etc).

In your preparation, anticipate questions (“What kind of resulting turmoil would we see if we hire June right away?”) and prepare responses . This is where you make the arguments and feed the data that you might have done in an email or memo or presentation prior to learning about the “D Pacakage.”

The first key point to remember: this assertive approach is how high-Ds like to interact with the world. Do this and they’ll respond productively.

The second key point to remember: this approach will backfire unless your intent is clearly to help the person who is high D to win.  Anything else is just arguing.  So get your intent straight before engaging.

Want to learn more or see how to present your material in a “D Package”?  Contact me.

What have been your experiences using the “D Package”? Leave your comments here!