Friday, May 29, 2009

What do you mean when you say you've got "Leadership Focus"?

When you as a senior-ranked person tell your troops that "My focus is on leadership," what do you mean? Leadership is one of those words that have been bandied about so often and in some cases so casually that if you ask 5 different people what "focus on leadership" means they will likely give you 5 different answers. To illustrate, "focus on leadership" could mean:

  • Be the kind of person that people want to follow.
  • Innovate, innovate, innovate!
  • Take responsibility and take action from wherever you sit.
  • Everyone's attention should be on the organization's leadership and they need to wait to see what the hondos think should be done. Hondo-centered, to be concise.
  • Make sure you're not only doing things right, but that you're doing the right things right.
  • Use the highest ethical standards as your guideline for whatever you do.
  • Get there first.
  • We're using informal, rather than formal, structure to get things done. (power vs. authority)

If you want your staff to get what you mean you'll need to provide some explanation of exactly what you mean. If your definition of leadership is left unclarified, one of the perspectives above - lurking in the attitudes of the people you lead - could directly conflict with the direction in which you're trying to take your company's operating climate.

Your definition of leadership requires some explanation, yes - but it needs demonstration even more. Sometimes people won't understand that you mean that they will now have a say in their futures, or that they can unilaterally make a broader set of decisions until they experience the opportunities to do so. They will need to see what will happen if you tell them you want them to take the reins more and they drive the wagon in a different direction or a different manner from yours. And they also will need to see what you'll do when they outright mess up before they'll step up and buy in to leadership in a real way.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Understanding and Applying Murphy's Law

bad day
Originally uploaded by srkL / shahrukhpriyanka

Everybody has a bad day now and then. If you think that your most recent bad day came from having experienced Murphy's Law, I have a question for you: do you know the origin of Murphy's Law? Although there is some question as to whether the law that "Everything that can go wrong, will" has older roots than Murphy, we can thank him for giving it his name. Here's the Murphy's Law story from its website:

The following article was excerpted from The Desert Wings, March 3, 1978

Murphy's Law ("If anything can go wrong, it will") was born at Edwards Air
Force Base in 1949 at North Base.It was named after Capt. Edward A. Murphy, an
engineer working on Air Force Project MX981, (a project) designed to see how
much sudden deceleration a person can stand in a crash.One day, after finding
that a transducer was wired wrong, he cursed the technician responsible and
said, "If there is any way to do it wrong, he'll find it."

The contractor's project manager kept a list of "laws" and added this one,
which he called Murphy's Law. Actually, what he did was take an old law
that had been around for years in a more basic form and give it a name.

Shortly afterwards, the Air Force doctor (Dr. John Paul Stapp) who rode a
sled on the deceleration track to a stop, pulling 40 Gs, gave a press
conference. He said that their good safety record on the project was due to a
firm belief in Murphy's Law and in the necessity to try and circumvent it.

Aerospace manufacturers picked it up and used it widely in their ads during
the next few months, and soon it was being quoted in many news and magazine
articles. Murphy's Law was born.

The idea of Murphy's law is not only to help us roll our eyes and wallow in misfortune, even to invite it. The best application of it is to use its pessimistic perspective to help ourselves do some crisis prevention before Murphy catches up with our project. The more important a positive outcome, the more critical it is to anticipate and ensure against contingencies. See? Murphy's Law is your friend!

Murphy's Law has corollaries, and additional laws that make sure that you are able to anticipate, prevent, or at least recover from a variety of the worst possible scenarios. Check out the site, and I'm sure that the resulting chuckle will make even the grayest day a little bit brighter.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Book Review - The Anatomy of Peace

If you find yourself feeling angry at other people, or in what seems like a perpetual state of conflict, you owe it to yourself to read The Anatomy Of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict by The Arbinger Institute. The good news (and the bad news) in the book is that it starts with you, and in your heart that is often at war.

The Anatomy of Peace uses a story about an executive in the midst of crises at work and in his family to communicate the concepts. I like this method because the points are easily understood - in the head and in the gut. I found that I had to read a bit, then step back and think about how it related to me. I'll be the first to admit that I found a bit of myself in struggles of the main character, Lou - and I think you will too.

The Arbinger Institute says through Lou's story that our hearts are at war when we view other people as objects, as vehicles, as obstacles, etc. to our own agendas. To make things worse, we find ways to justify why we're treating them in that way, and our interaction with them creates a chain reaction that is exactly what we don't want. The book calls it "collusion: a conflict where the parties are inviting the very things they're fighting against."

The Anatomy of Peace also discusses the "boxes" we go into that obscure the truth about other people, boxes like
  • Better-than (I'm better than they are)
  • Worse-than
  • I-deserve
  • I-need-to-be-seen-as

It's only when we can get out of the boxes and truly see the other person that we can resolve conflict and repair relationships.

This was quite a worthwhile read. If you engage your own heart when you read it the book might not be comfortable. But the discomfort will be exactly what helps you get the message.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Managing time by using compartments

Do you have a giant pile on your desk that you have to root through repeatedly? Do you find your mind wandering to business topics on a long holiday weekend? Are you making grocery lists at inappropriate times? (You know what I mean - don't make me spell it out!)

If you are in any of the above situations you're wasting time. Perhaps you feel busy and stressed, but you aren't focused on the immediate activity in which you are engaged right now. That means that, while you are physically there, you're not getting full value from the time you are investing. You are not completely there mentally.

Have you ever noticed that when you cook in the microwave two baked potatoes take twice as long as it takes to cook one? The same thing happens in your brain when you're multi-tasking in an effort to "save" time. You aren't really doing two things at once - you're toggling back and forth between the two. The result is that both tasks take twice as long - and often you're getting frustrated in the process, because you want to be able to check something off of your list.

Compartments can be a great solution to the multi-tasking time management problem. Here are some examples:

  • Divide the pile of papers into transparent compartments for must do, should do, awaiting information, ideas, etc. You'll save yourself having to sort the in-box over and over, and if the compartments allow you to see the contents you won't have to take the time to open them to see what's inside.
  • Schedule time compartments for the things that are important to you, so you can focus on them. Make a regular Saturday date night with your spouse, or schedule biweekly one-on-ones with your staff. The designated time you're devoting to the relationship will help to make sure it happens, and will also help to stave off misunderstandings, preventable emergencies and interruptions.
  • Write "must remember" items down in a notebook or on a tablet. Your brain does a short loop of things like, "Remember the sandwich bags for the kindergarten class," adding to your stress and distracting from you being able to get full value from the time you're investing in your current activity.
  • Take notes in meetings, including action items, and file them appropriately for action or follow-up. Every meeting costs a lot in time and salaries, so why retread the same information in another meeting when it could be handled right away?

Yes, organization takes some time. But it's well worth the investment for greater productivity, better focus, and more peace of mind.

Friday, May 22, 2009

How to tank a teleconference

Originally uploaded by yuzu

I've been there, you've been there - in deadly teleconferences where the siren call of the nap (or of the email, or the laundry) was too compelling to resist. In those calls information retention plummeted, eyes rolled and in- and out-groups were formed. Given that both the cost of travel and the ease of teleconferencing are increasing, you're going to find yourself involved in more and more of them. As I'm always looking out for your best interests, I don't want teleconferences to get you down. So for your entertainment, here are just a few ways to keep things interesting by ruining the call.

As the facilitator

  • Whatever you do, DON'T TELL ANYONE how to dial in. If they didn't keep the access number, that's their own problem.
  • Once the call has started, wait around until every scheduled participant is there. Wouldn't want them to miss anything. And those prompt callers who are twiddling their thumbs in the meantime? They can just deal with it.
  • Save cost and energy by not using any visual aids. It would be a crime to have anything interfere with the glorious monotone in your voice.
  • Skip the questions. Your time is limited, so you've got to say what you have to say and get out of there. They can catch up with you later if they want to know something. After all, nobody else will have the same question - they're just bizarre if they don't get it.
  • Place everybody except one or two in the same room. This method will maximize the effect of nonverbal communication during the call - the thumbs down, circling the ear with the "crazy" signal, etc. After all, the mute button isn't even necessary for people to communicate off-line during the call.

For Participants

  • Get there when you can - the leader will wait for you. Your colleagues are enjoying their pre-content vacation while they are hanging out on the line, so they will thank you later.
  • Whatever you do, DON'T mute your line. Your barking dog and flushing toilet are the only entertainment that the other call participants can count on.
  • Call in from your cell phone. It's more interesting when the words "That report came out yesterday" sound like "--at --port ca-- ou- -e-ter-ay."
  • Refine your hand signals with your colleages, so when you're trapped in the conference room with the speakerphone you can have your own meeting while the call is going on.
  • Bring your smartphone or turn on your computer so you can multi-task by checking your e-mail or doing some "research" on the web.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Developing the ability to bounce back

back tuck
Originally uploaded by wmliu

Are you going to make your worst moment the defining moment of your life, or are you going to bounce back? Successful people aren't defined by their avoidance of negative circumstances - rather they are revealed in their responses to whatever circumstances they face. Successful people make mistakes - and some of their boo-boos are big ones. But ultimately, regardless of circumstances, mistakes, and limitations, successful people are resilient - they bounce back.

Merriam-Webster online defines resilience in this way:

"1: the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress 2 : an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change."

Resilience is a capacity that can be developed - you can help yourself and others become more able to withstand hardship and change. The American Psychological Association lists ten steps toward greater resilience on its help center page:

  1. Make connections.
  2. Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems.
  3. Accept that change is a part of living.
  4. Move toward your goals.
  5. Take decisive actions.
  6. Look for opportunities for self-discovery.
  7. Nurture a positive view of yourself.
  8. Keep things in perspective.
  9. Maintain a hopeful outlook.
  10. Take care of yourself.

If you'd like to check your current "resilience quotient," the Mayo Clinic site has a quick diagnostic for you to do. Edward Creagan, M.D., an oncologist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. says, "People who are more resilient have the ability to say to themselves, "OK, this bad thing happened, and I can either dwell on it or I can learn from it." Resilient individuals have cultivated a sense of forgiveness, and regardless of the setback or slight, they're able to box it up, put it in a package and let go of it. Think of resiliency as emotional buoyancy."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Developmental assets and high risk teen behavior

This series comes from my Peak Performance - From the Coach's Desk blog and is based upon information in the book All Kids Are Our Kids, Peter L. Benson, Jossey-Bass, 1997.

Remember the statistic that 81% of our children are at risk due to lack of developmental assets? Benson cited four combinations of Internal and External assets and the percent of children possessing them:

  • Low Internal/Low External - 81%
  • Low Internal/High External -11%
  • High Internal/Low External - 4%
  • High Internal/High External -4%
  • Only 4% of young people have both High Internal AND High External assets.

One of the related trends Benson cites that causes me concern is that the overall level of assets trends DOWN between grade six and grade twelve. He theorizes that our culture tends to release teens too early, and gives them too little guidance and support after age 14 or 15. He goes on to say that although they communicate differently they need just “as much daily support, structure, boundary-clarification, and value socialization as do five-year-olds.”

Benson discusses some themes in how the assets relate to specific behavioral choices:

  • The asset of self-esteem is strongly related to prevention of depression and suicide. However, it is much less related to all the other patterns of high-risk behavior.
  • The asset of behavioral restraint (“it is against my values to have sex while I am a teenager”) has surprising power. It is strongly related to sexual behavior, but it is also one of the strongest predictors of tobacco use, violence, and alcohol patterns of risk behavior.
  • The asset of parental standards (a boundary asset) tends to be more
    important than family support (a support asset) for preventing alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use. However, for preventing depression and suicide, the roles are reversed, with family support being more powerful than parental standards.
  • Grades in school are most strongly correlated with a number of internal
    assets, including achievement motivation and many of the social competencies
    (planning skills, decision-making skills, self-esteem and a positive view of one’s future), as well as with each of the structured time-use and positive-peer-influence assets.
  • Spending time helping other people is most strongly correlated with the value assets and the structured-time-use assets.

The Search Institute (Benson’s company) noticed that healthier communities (relatively low risky-behavior rates by its ninth-to-twelfth graders) were marked by a number of assets, including higher rates for family support, positive school climate, achievement motivation, and youth engagement in structured activities. Benson says the power of a communitywide approach to raising healthy children can be seen in the ten assets that most inoculate youth against antisocial behavior. These ten, in the language of the original thirty assets, are:

External Assets

  1. Parental standards
  2. Youth programs
  3. Religious community
  4. Family support
  5. Positive peer influence
  6. Positive school climate
  7. Time at home

Internal Assets

  1. Behavioral restraint
  2. Achievement motivation
  3. Educational aspirations

Benson writes, “If our commitment is to broad, positive outcomes for all our youth, the best policy is to organize community life in a way that maximizes the full range of developmental strengths for all children and adolescents.”

The development of assets in teens is one of those issues that bridges between your personal and business lives. Of course if you're a parent you'll be concerned that your offspring develop the characteristics that help them be successful. But even if you don't have children, or if your children are already launched, you have a stake in helping the children of your community develop the assets that will help your community to thrive and your business to grow.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

81% of teens at risk

Youth leader, v2.0
Originally uploaded by A-Wix

This series of posts is drawn from my Peak Performance - From The Coach's Desk blog archives:

It might be easier to believe now than it was 5 years ago due to changes in our economy, but as many as 81% of teens are at risk in one or more of the internal and external developmental assets that help them be successful.* Said in a different way, 4 out of 5 of tomorrow's leaders are currently at risk of in the development of the tools they will need to function effectively and to run our country as adults. This means they are subject to risks such as

  • Depression
  • Use of Alcohol and/or Tobacco
  • Peer Pressure to Engage in Risky Behavior
  • Violence
  • TruancyThe 81% applies regardless of gender, race or socioeconomic status.

*Source - All Kids Are Our Kids, Peter L. Benson, Jossey Bass, 1997

If you have children and are concerned about their success in school and in their future as adults this statistic can be downright scary. If you’re reading this you’re on your computer and so you might be thinking, “We’re an up-and-coming family, well educated with a reasonably good income. We provide for our kids. This doesn’t apply to us.” Don’t be so sure.

Benson of the Search Institute has developed a framework of forty developmental assets, some of them internal and some of them external, that fall into eight categories:

External Assets (the ones parents and other adults provide):

  • Support
  • Empowerment
  • Boundaries and expectations
  • Constructive use of time

Internal Assets (the ones residing inside your teen):

  • Commitment to learning
  • Positive values
  • Social Competencies
  • Positive identity

The next few posts will talk about how you can help your child build the resources that help him or her perform well, see themselves with a healthy self-concept, say no to peer pressure and display resiliency (the ability to bounce back) after the inevitable setbacks that they’ll face along the way.

If you want to do something now to make sure your child has the assets he or she needs to succeed, click this link at to find out more about our Summer 2009 "Strength, Fitness and Focus" Rising Stars youth leadership camps, or about individual coaching for your teen.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Looking to tomorrow's leaders - what you need to know

Business leaders in my community - and I'm sure in yours too - are concerned about the future workforce. Although adults are working later in life, especially right now with the erosion they've experienced in the value of their retirement savings, we all still will rely on the capability and productivity of the next generation of leaders. Unfortunately, the findings aren't necessarily good.

I found this in the website of Resource Associates Corporation:

The American Medical Association issued a report that said, "For the
first time in the history of this country, young people are less healthy and
less prepared to take their places in society than their parents. Moreover, this
is happening at a time when our society is more complex, more challenging, and
more competitive than ever before."

In addition, a recent research report, Workforce 2020: Work &
Workers of the 21st Century
, Dr. Carol D'Amico discovered that employers grouped
leadership as one of the essential skills entry-level workers lacked. These
skills included strong work ethics, problem solving, and creativity, along with
organizational and interpersonal skills. These skills were ranked ahead of
writing, math, reading, and job specific skills.

From where will your future workforce be coming? Whose employment earnings and business profits will be funding Social Security? Schools are receiving pressure from all around - requirements of the No Child Left Behind legislation, societal changes creating behavioral changes in students, taxpayers who want to minimize their tax burdens, stretched budgets - so we can't only count on schools to do what needs to be done.

Over the next few days we'll be taking a look at the assets youth need in order to be effective employees, leaders, and well-grounded individuals. Some of these assets will need your involvement in order to be developed, whether you are a parent, a nonparent, a church member, or community or business leader. We all have a role to play in the solutions.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The benefits of habits and rituals

Morning Rituals
Originally uploaded by bill.lepere

OK, now it's time to sound like I'm talking out of the other side of my mouth - habits can be good for you. I often write about how habits can be the enemy of improvement, but they also can play a role in facilitating positive change.

Rituals are forms of habit - specific repeated patterns of behavior - that have meaning ascribed to them, and often fulfill needs for comfort, spiritual connection, social unity, etc. We don't always choose our own rituals - they are sometimes defined by the circles in which we travel, and our participation in the rituals validates our membership in the group.

One key to whether habits are "good" or "bad" is their alignment with your goals. If you are trying to reduce stress, your coffee habit might not be helping you. But if you are studying for finals and want to stay mentally sharp the coffee habit might be your ally - if it helps you keep your nose to the grindstone.

Sometimes it's difficult to commit to a specific goal or outcome, because you can't predict the precise result your actions will generate. If you, however, commit to a habit that you know contributes to the outcome you want, you can focus on ingraining the habit and let the ultimate result take care of itself.

Here's an example: I want to get more productive, so I decide that one of my strategies will be to reduce the amount of time I invest in e-mail. I've decided that I'll only check it three times a day - at 10:00, 1:00 and 4:30. I mght not know exactly how much more I can get done until I work the new email habit for a while, but if I focus on the habit - and don't replace email with something else that will interfere with productivity - my results will come through.

Rituals can be vehicles for self-care, and for connection with others. My grandfather spent every Friday morning at the local diner meeting friends for coffee and donuts. He and his friends did this for years, and when the diner closed the group found another place to meet. The ritual was the glue for their friendship.

Rituals can also help you get through when you don't want to have to think - or can't think clearly. Weddings, funerals, cristenings, and other social rituals create predictable sequences of behavior that help people move through large transitions in their lives.

Don't paint all habits as bad for you - some of your habits and rituals are sustaining you. Think about what your habits and rituals are, and whether they are serving the purpose you need them to serve. Consider whether they are aligned with the person you want to become. You might find that you want to embrace most of them, not throw them away.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

In the context - chili peppers or severed fingers?

I was enjoying reading my husband's Handyman magazine yesterday when I came upon this page and was stopped in my tracks. I thought the concept of the article was rather clever - using crash dummies to demonstrate the consequences of unsafe workshop practices. It's not the article on its own, though, that made me pause. It was the ad that somehow got placed directly opposite the photo for the opening of the article:

EEEWW! While I think the concept of painting solid white peppers red is cool, the juxtaposition with the severed thumb picture was somewhat gruesome! (Well it was to me, but you can draw your own conclusions!)
It reminded me about how the context for information, or the proximity of two items can imply a relationship, even where none exists. If I talk about a dysfunctional organization in my blog, then I see someone from a client company, they'll often say, "That post was about us, wasn't it?" Well, no it wasn't about them specifically, but because the issues were top of their mind they assumed that context when they read the post.
In a quick change of subject from "fat people" to "How did your shopping trip go?" a friend might assume that I think she is fat, because of the proximity of the question to the observation. While in this case the (imaginary) friend was wrong - I don't think she's fat - sometimes those assumptions are correct, because one piece of information does sometimes cue another topic.
When you are being intentional about packaging your message, take the context into consideration, because it will affect both your receiver's interpretation of the message and their feelings about you. Don't announce pay cuts or layoffs on the same day that you drive a new Jaguar into the parking lot. You probably don't want to discuss your uncle's failed gall bladder surgery with your neighbor just as he is getting ready to go into the hospital for the same procedure.
Context is established in a person's mind already in their assumptions and attitudes, but you also contribute to the context by the timing, placement, and sequence of the items you're communicating.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

How do you know it won't work?

Imagine yourself in a meeting, when one of your colleagues poses an idea for the growth of the business. No sooner are the words out of his mouth when your brain says, "That won't work!" How do you know that it won't work?

The guys in the picture above aren't going to make the see-saw work sitting in their current positions because they're subject the laws of gravity. They'll give it a good push, but the lack of counterweight will plop them right down on the ground again. Is your situation (or the other person's idea) defying physics? Or is it just challenging your assumptions?

When the idea for a new baseball team was posed more than a decade ago, we heard that "It won't work." After much controversy and study, our town started a new Atlantic League baseball team three years ago, and built a new downtown stadium to house them. "There won't be enough parking!" "People won't go there - it's dangerous downtown!" And "Traffic will be unbearable!" were some of the projections by armchair strategists.

Our experience has refuted the predictions of "That won't work!" In their first two seasons the Revs have beaten the average attendance number they needed to break even. At the home opener this season they broke their prior attendance record. And last night, the parents of three of our seventh-grader's friends were willing to drop them off to watch the game (knowing we were there, of course.) Dangerous? I don't think so. And in our two seasons of multi-game tickets, neither parking nor traffic has been an issue. Going to a Revs game has become a fun family night out for a broad cross-section of our community.

If you find yourself automatically responding, "It won't work," check yourself. Is this idea defying the laws of physics, or is it simply challenging your assumptions? Is there enough benefit to be gained that perhaps you should put your assumptions aside, or at least put them to the test? Your naysaying is a function of your prior negative conditioning - and it might be standing in the way of the next great idea.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

How to keep up with TheSummitBlog and your other favorites

We just wanted to let you know that a link to The Summit Blog is now being published on, the blog site of the York Daily Record. When you visit the site, we're listed in the community blogroll at the bottom of the page. Thanks, Jim McClure!

If you'd like to receive our blog posts in your email, simply enter your email address in the box on the right and you'll receive all of our new posts. Notice that you can also sign up for our monthly newsletter, too!

If you're following several blogs, or if you don't want to receive posts in your email, you can set up a free account at You can record all of the blog addresses you're following on Bloglines, then visit the site and sign in at your convenience to catch up with the newest posts. Bloglines can also help you find blogs on the subjects in which you are interested. Check it out.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Putting a name on behavioral style

I'm a star
Originally uploaded by karen_d

In trying to coach people to better performance there's a push and pull that occurs regarding labels. One one hand it's limiting and sometimes downright inaccurate to say that "she's a star," or "he's a curmudgeon." People are more complex than can be summed up in one name. On the other hand, it's helpful to have a common vocabulary, especially when in a work group, to identify patterns of behavior.

I'm using DISC as the vocabulary for behavioral style. In case you're not familiar with it, here's a brief description of its four dimensions:

  • Decisive - Highly Decisive people are high-velocity and oriented to “just the facts, ma’am.” When the going gets tough they tend to push through whatever obstacle is in front of them. They are very results-oriented, might be competitive, and might be perceived by others as abrupt or abrasive.
  • Interactive - Interactive types are also high-energy, but are focused more on interpersonal interactions. They enjoy social settings, and many interactives like to be right in the thick of the action. They tend to be trusting, and look for ways to relate to people, but others might perceive them as being glib or superficial.
  • Stabilizing - Stabilizing people are also people-oriented, but from more of a subdued, supportive perspective. Many with this behavioral style are more methodical, preferring to generate a solution that satisfies everyone. Others might perceive them as slow to respond or overly accommodating.
  • Cautious - Those who are highly Cautious are very concerned with having a thorough understanding of issues. They are fact-oriented and geared toward making sure things are correct. Others might perceive them as being nitpicky or suffering from “analysis paralysis.”

I've used the four descriptions here as though an individual is one or the other of the four behavioral styles. In reality, people are a combination of all four - in some people one might appear to be dominant, but all four are influences to the overall.

What this means is that DISC won't restrict you or the people you lead to four labels, or sixteen, or even sixty-four. We are using the tool from InnerMetrix, because although DISC terminology is very similar from provider to provider the user interface and the scoring methodology deliver what we see as a more accurate result. In addition, the InnerMetrix version of DISC uses positive vocabulary for all of the behavioral styles, meaning that participants won't be as likely to feel criticized if they have a certain profile, or if their style is not predominant in the group.

In understanding behavior, sometimes it is helpful to use a diagnostic to help you to put a name on the things you are observing. Just remember that it is only a map - the real territory of a human is far more complex, with dimensions that no map can completely represent.

Friday, May 8, 2009

If you want more, make room for it

Originally uploaded by slange70

What would you like to have more of right now? More customers? New clothes? A new special relationship? No matter what you want, you have to make room for it first.

How are you going to attract the love of your life if you currently have no free time in your schedule to meet them, much less to go out with them? And if you want new customers, where are you going to put their orders with filing cabinets that are already overflowing with stale information? If you want new clothing, is there room in your closet for them?

The laws of physics say that nature abhors a vacuum. When there is open space, nature seeks to fill it. So your job is to create the space for whatever it is that you want to add to your life.

You might not even have to make a direct correlation between the things that you get rid of and the things that you want to attract. Mucking out the junk in your basement might create the space for new revenue. Clearing off your desk might clear the decks for a new interest.

The weather is beautiful and the energy is flowing, so what are you going to clean out today?

  • Your closet?
  • Your filing cabinet?
  • Your hard drive?
  • Your car?
  • Your garden?
  • Your calendar?
  • Your kitchen cupboard?

Make room for the things you want.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Capturing the full power of goals

Originally uploaded by aremac

How are you using goals right now? As your overall frame of reference for activity? As accountability tools? As dreams upon which you're not necessarily taking action right now? As work plans that guide your daily behavior?

Both inside work and outside of it, life happens. Crises emerge, interruptions turn a schedule upside-down. Sometimes it feels like it's impossible to move forward because of the net of obstacles wrapped around the knees. Here are some ideas on how you can release yourself from the net by using goals, goal planning, and goal execution more effectively:

  • Make sure your goals are listed and implemented in priority order. You can't save money and buy a new car all at the same time - ultimately your actions will be completely different depending upon whether the saving or the car is more important to you. If you don't create clarity around your goals' relative priority you're likely to feel pulled and stressed out. And if your boss is involved, your performance evaluation could rely upon whether you and he are prioritizing the same things at the top of the list.
  • Plan with a partner. The person working with you will see different pieces of your plan than you see. They might help you identify implications that are significant enough to move your goal on your priority list. You might be so close to the goal that it's harder to see all of the obstacles - the hurdles have become part of the background for you. And you might be in such a groove that you have edited out some potential solutions to those obstacles before you've really given them consideration. Your partner might not need experience in the content of what you're doing to be helpful. Good ideas can pollinate across function - even across industries.
  • Incorporate allowances for contingencies. If you know that fifty percent of your day is consumed by interruptions, plan your evaluation dates with that assumption in mind. In other words, if only half of your day is your own, take the estimated time and double it to account for the interruptions.
  • Integrate your action steps into your daily work plan. Allocate slots of time to work on your goal as though they were appointments or scheduled meetings. This process works best if your action steps are very concrete mini-goals - the way in which you need to move your hands and feet. You will be able to check them off when you've completed them, and see the progress you're making toward the ultimate result.
  • Use progress evaluation dates. You stay on track better when you have immediate deadlines to which you are accountable. Especially when your goal is big or long-term you want to know how you're doing along the way, so you break it down into smaller pieces and assign due dates to the pieces. You don't want to arrive at the day before your overall target date and say, "Oops! I guess I'm not going to make it after all!"
  • Use a third party as an accountability partner. Believe it or not, many people are more likely to let themselves down than they are to let somebody else down. Use that information to your advantage by giving yourself someone to whom you report your progress. Not all of your goals will be under the direct purview of your boss. A colleague can serve this accountability purpose for you, or your coach can be the person in your corner.

Way more goals are set than are achieved. I'm convinced that the difference is in HOW they are determined, and then HOW they are implemented. Take a look at the goals that are important to you and make sure you have the infrastructure in place to help ensure that you'll be doing a victory dance.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Managing your boss

Originally uploaded by daydreamdph

Are you and your boss working well together right now, or is your relationship one of the hurdles you have to overcome on a regular basis? The stereotype of the frowning, crossed-armed interrogator-boss is one you need to get out of your head. He or she is more than a business contact - your boss is a person like you with worries, needs, and aspirations. Your boss is your first customer, so it follows that it's in your best interest to help the boss have his needs met, worries allayed, and aspirations fulfilled.

  • Ask your boss about her goals. That's job number one, because you can then focus your energies on helping the boss achieve them.
  • Manage the information flow. Some bosses want a lot of involvement and information, but some want you to just get on with it on your own. If your boss wants what seems to be an inordinant amount of information it might be a management style issue, or it might be a sign that a)you have some trust building to do, or b)your boss is feeling at risk for some reason. Be intentional about the amount of information and the format in which it is presented - remember, they are your customer, so match your information with THEIR preferences.
  • Share your thought process. Your boss is looking for alignment between your actions and the overall company goals. The connections between the two might be obvious to you, but your boss lives in a different world than you - talk about how the project you're working on helps to fulfill the overall objectives. Someone else is likely asking your boss questions about your work, and you can help them recognize the value of your contribution.
  • Be self-sufficient. Set goals and work toward achieving them so you can create a track record of accomplishment and fulfill your own needs for recognition. Share your goals and achievements with your boss, but don't rely on the boss for constant validation. He has way more than you to think about on a daily basis. When you go to him to share a problem, go with at least one possible solution in mind. Your boss might not even want to hear about problems unless they are of a certain size, or if your first solution didn't work.
  • Tend to the relationship. Your boss is more than her job description - she is a person. People tend to work best with people who are likable, and you can become more likable by managing your own emotions and seeking to find common ground with her. Talk about shared interests, and if you don't think you have any, find out what the boss's are and learn something about them. Build the boss's trust in you by doing what you say you're going to do, and by being straightforward with her.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Be a millionaire for a moment

Money Tree
Originally uploaded by tammysstudio

"After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true." --- Spock, "Star Trek"

Did you ever look at the billboard for the Powerball jackpot and consider what you'd do if you were to become an instant millionaire? Whether you have or you haven't, let's take a moment to consider:

  1. What would you like to own?
  2. Where would you like to go?
  3. What would you like to do?

Grab a sheet of paper and write your answers down. Make your list as long as you can - see whether you can include fifty items, or even one hundred. Remember, just for this moment you're a millionaire. Don't limit yourself. Not yet.

Once your list is complete, go back through your list and consider which are the things that you REALLY want. For instance, I might like to think that I'm attached to the idea of a huge, beautiful house - until I think about what it would be like to clean it. I consider whether I'd be able to go on vacation without being worried whether some harm is coming to my big, beautiful house, or whether some person is swiping all of the great stuff I've used to fill it.

You know what? I'm taking that off my list, or at least knocking it down a few pegs on my priorities. I'd like it, but now that I think about everything that's involved with it I'm not wanting it quite so much.

Review your list and think about whether the things that you're keeping on there are things you'd like to have or things you'd like to do? When it comes down to it, can you face the idea of ending your life without owning a Ferrari? Would it be sadder for you to know you never visited Paris?

Now that you have your edited list you can focus your energy on doing or having the ones that are really important to you. Hang onto the list, because you'll want to re-evaluate your list from time to time. You may find that your priorities change with your circumstances, life stage, etc. Your real wants might become simpler, or you might suddenly discover new territory that you're determined to explore.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Thoughts on the importance of symmetry

Boracay Symmetry
Originally uploaded by roger_alcantara

Look at the balance in the photo. The centered umbrella and the identical views of boats and chairs on either side create a visual symmetry - a balance that many find aesthetically pleasing and calming. The appeal of balance and harmony is so deeply seated within us that we aren't always aware that symmetry is the reason why we are attracted to an object.

Wikipedia says that "Symmetry generally conveys two primary meanings. The first is an imprecise sense of harmonious or aesthetically-pleasing proportionality and balance; [1] such that it reflects beauty or perfection. The second meaning is a precise and well-defined concept of balance or "patterned self-similarity" that can be demonstrated or proved according to the rules of a formal system: by geometry, through physics or otherwise."

My younger daughter had a project for kindergarten that called for her to decorate a butterfly symmetrically - she needed to make one side look exactly like the other side. It was interesting to watch the level of satisfaction she derived from working on making the wings contain exactly the same assortment of beads, sequins, cereal, crackers, etc. arranged in exactly the same patterns.

Symmetry has been studied by scientists as a determining factor in our interpretation of physical attractiveness. Well-balanced arrangement of facial features and the optimal proportioning of the body help us make subconscious judgements about health and fertility in a prospective partner.

Symmetry also becomes a factor in interpersonal relationships. Reciprocity is symmetry in giving - I do something for you and then you do something of equal value for me. A friend of mine who is known for his generosity believes that whenever he gives he will receive - not necessarily from the person to whom he has given right now - his philosphy is that the universe will complete the symmetry of giving and receiving in equal measure.

Some people find too much symmetry boring, and they consciously or subconsciously take actions to shake it up - to place things out of balance. In a room of black and white they'll choose to place one red chair for spice, or they'll add a dissonant note in a composition where it will create surprise. Asymmetry can help people sit up and take notice.

I found one other idea of personal interest in my exploration of symmetry. While decorating a room in a balanced fashion - where one side mirrors the other side in selection and placement of objects - is calming, any item out of place will be particularly noticeable. With two kids, two dogs, a cat and no desire to be domestically spotless hiding in my psyche - I don't think I'll be choosing symmetry for my living room design any time soon!