Wednesday, December 26, 2012

"What big teeth you have!" - part deux

Untitled by Sara Soderholm
Untitled, a photo by Sara Soderholm on Flickr.
Have you heard about the online sales scam that Martin R. was trying to play on a local business owner?  (If not, read the December 21st post.)  Well, there's something that the wolf wasn't counting on - that this Little Red Riding Hood was going to be a tough target.

The wolf was counting on several factors to make his plan work:

  • A trusted source through which he could present his "problem" for the business owner to solve.
  • Time urgency, which causes some people to take shortcuts in their decision making.
  • Christmas, where even harder hearts turn to thoughts of generosity toward others, giving him higher odds of receiving the benefit of the doubt.  Martin R's claim of deafness would amplify the sympathy factor .
The business owner (from here on called Little Red) saw that there was a flaw in the wolf's request - although he used a trusted referral source through which he placed his order request, the geography didn't make sense.  Why, when the referring company has reps all over the place, would they send a referral two states away?  It's much easier to establish lasting customer relationships when you can have actual contact with them, deliver product right to their site, etc.  (Of course this would have worked counter to the wolf's plot.  Anonymity helped him in his subterfuge.)

Despite some skepticism about the request, Little Red decided to do what any business owner would do.  Red told the wolf she'd help and shared her terms.  She needed a check to pay for the product, and once the check was in hand she'd place the order.  The wolf agreed, and Little Red waited, knowing that her gut told her not to take any action that would place her at financial risk.  She'd let the check clear, Christmas or no Christmas, before she'd order anything.  

The wolf (Martin R) added a couple more manipulative twists to his sob story.  First, Martin's mean boss messed up the check amount, making it out for too MUCH money!  Compounding the problem, Martin was having pre-Christmas plumbing issues, and an "engineer" was waiting with baited breath for payment to start the repair project!  Martin wanted the business owner to deposit the check, pay for the product order,  keep $20 for the trouble and send the balance to the "engineer."  Little Red's radar was screaming by this point.  "This guy must think I'm a moron!" Little Red exclaimed.

The check arrived, via an envelope with courier stickers but not in an official courier envelope.  Hmmm....  It was shipped from FIVE states away and not from Martin R's address.  Little Red opened the envelope.  Not surprisingly, the check wasn't drawn on Martin R's account.   It was drawn on a corporate account SIX states away from Red's location and FOUR states away from the supposed shipping origin.

Fortunately, the check was drawn on a bank that had branch offices in Little Red's home town.  So Red took the check to the bank and presented it, saying, "I have received this check that I believe is fraudulent.  Could you check it out please?"  Lo and behold, the account  had a multitude of different names attached to it, and every check issued by the account was fraudulent.  Little Red handed the chain of emails, the check, and the envelope over to the bank and called it a day, leaving it to the authorities to track Martin R.

As Little Red returned to the office, an email from Martin R was waiting.  "I'm so worried about my check,"  the email read.  "Did it arrive?"  Little Red didn't answer.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Grandma - what big teeth you have!

Halloween_Skybark by Ask Chewie
a photo by 
Ask Chewie on Flickr.
How low can a person go?  Or perhaps a better question is - how stupid does a person think another person can be?

Five lashes to "Martin R", who decided to use the Christmas holiday to attempt to scam the operator of a home-based business.  Martin dear, you took it at least two steps too far, and the jig is up.  This person is WAY onto you.  They are going to let the whole thing play out so they can see how you (try to) do what it is that you do to collect money that isn't yours.

Poor Martin is in a dilemma.  She writes that she is a poor deaf woman (named Martin??) who has no debit or credit card.  She wants to order a whole slew of gifts for the women in her life, but she waited until a date close enough to Christmas that she has to have the help of this businessperson living two states away from her to make the holidays happy.  She(??) asks for the payment total - including shipping - and commits to mail a check to the business.

The business owner, smelling a rat (or wolf) behind Grandma's little cap, agrees to fill the order, but doesn't disclose to Martin that there will be no jumping the gun and placing the order without cash in hand - Christmas or no Christmas.

Surprisingly, (not!) Martin's boss has left her in the lurch.  What's even more surprising is that in the same sentence Martin's boss is referred to as both HE and SHE.  Hmmmm.....  Martin sends another email, asking the business owner to deposit the coming check, which will be for far more than the price of the order.  She asks that the difference be returned to her, and that the business owner keep $20 to compensate for the trouble.  She even sends a tracking number to make the claim look official.

As if that weren't shady enough, poor Martin is having plumbing trouble.  SHE wants the extra money to be wired to her engineer, who will be doing plumbing work for her as soon as the funds arrive to his account.  The business owner is surprised that the plumber is the only character in this saga who has not yet been male AND female!

Martin - whatever your name is - how stupid do you think people are???  Or perhaps you're thinking that the  warm emotions of the holiday season will place their logic on the back burner long enough for you to play them?  The only element that you missed in your incredible tall tale is that you're an exiled Nigerian princess with an inheritance coming to you in West Virginia.  Good grief.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Setting up for a fast start

041011ez00319 by erwin1964
041011ez00319, a photo by erwin1964 on Flickr.
In track and field starting blocks have become standard equipment for the beginning of the race.  Prior to the use of starting blocks, runners had a tendency to slip at the beginning of the race, and it would take them a longer time to reach their maximum speed.

Now, using starting blocks, each runner can explode out of the start.  The overall race time is faster because of the quicker start.

Are you expecting to launch next year from a standing start, or are you getting your starting block together?  A plan provides traction for decision making and resource allocation from day one - it creates a starting block for your business so you don't have to slip around or invest unnecessary additional ramp-up time to hit your stride.

Even if you know in your head what you'd like to accomplish next year, what would be your answers to these questions:

  • What is the overall theme for your year next year?  (growth?  efficiency? quality improvement?  customer loyalty? )
  • What are the 3-5 major accomplishments you would like to see?
  • What assumptions are you making about external conditions, competition, and internal resources as you embark on your plan for next year?
  • What are the 3-8 things that your company MUST do right in order to achieve what you want to achieve?
  • What tasks or projects need to be done to get the 3-8 things consistently right?
  • Who are your key partners in the accomplishment of your desired results?
  • What resources do you need to accomplish these results that are not yet in place?
  • How do you intend to communicate your plans, and to whom?
  • How will you measure success?
Being busy is not the same as being productive.  You and your staff can mill about without making progress. Give your company the advantage of some starting blocks.  Make a game plan.   Involve your key partners in its development. Write it down. Communicate it to your staff.  Then hit the ground running on DAY ONE.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The best investment you can make

investment-services-baltimore-md by propertymanagementbaltimore
a photo by 
propertymanagementbaltimore on Flickr.
If you're waiting to hear that gold is the sure winner right now, you're not in the right blog post.  Same goes if you're thinking that you will see that you should max out your IRA contributions before year end. That is not to say that either is a bad idea, but neither is the best investment you can make.  The best return on your dollar is likely to be your investment in yourself.

What would it take for you to become the next higher level of yourself, the less diluted, more authentic version of you?  Would you choose to invest in:

  • A class to stay on the leading edge of your industry or your job role
  • Some books for inspiration, motivation, or content knowledge
  • A coach to help you gain clarity, accountability to yourself, and individualized personal and professional development
  • A gym membership (that you'll actually use) to increase your wellness and stamina
  • A vacation to recharge your batteries
  • A networking group to increase your sphere of influence
You are a renewable and improvable resource.  You are the only resource over which you have complete control, that is if you choose to take it.  You have the potential to increase your contribution to the profitability of your company, and to the good in the world.  

But potential is not the same as performance.  It needs to be unleashed, to be converted from thought to action, in order to release its power.

Some of the investments you can choose to make in yourself don't need to cost a penny.  You can borrow books from the library, attend free workshops, and run or play tennis at the community park.  So dollars are not an obstacle.

You will, however, need to invest time.  Professional and personal development don't happen because the right books are on the shelf - they happen because you actively engage.

Regardless of whether this year was a total dog for you or the scene of your best performance to date, you don't have to settle for more of the same going forward.  You haven't begun to test the limits of your capabilities.  This isn't intended as a slap on the face of a slacker - it's a statement of confidence in the possibilities that the future can hold for you - if you are willing to reach for them.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The joy of imperfection

charlie brown tree by Sherrie {birchbarksoap}
charlie brown tree,
a photo by 
Sherrie {birchbarksoap} on Flickr.
Sit down for a minute.  Take a deep breath - inhale through your exhale through your mouth...sshhhhhhh......  Roll your shoulders forward a few times - and then roll them back.  Tip your head forward and roll it from side to side.  It's the holiday season.  Is that the first thing that you've done for yourself?  Are you stressing out about having everything just right?

Who cares that the kids hung all of the red ornaments in an 18-inch blob on the tree?  What does it matter that you have to hang the best ones at least 3-1/2 feet off the ground so the cat won't get to them?  So your deputy wrappers consumed an entire roll of tape on their three packages - does it really matter?

Sometimes the pursuit of perfection interferes with the joy of the good.  Yes, there are times when quality standards are important.  But there are times when the involvement of other people is pre-eminent over all else.  It's not just your holiday, to prepare for everyone else's consumption.  You endure the pressure because you enjoy making things nice for other people.  Doesn't it follow that they might also enjoy having the opportunity to make things nice too?

Delegation is not only a workplace topic.  Perhaps your daughter will produce cookies that are a bit too "thoroughly baked".  Perhaps your husband will choose a sweater that is not the correct size (let's hope that he knows enough to underestimate!).  But it's their holiday too, and their preparations, however imperfect, will help them anticipate the happy expressions on loved ones' faces.  And the side benefit to you is that they will understand just how much goes into getting ready.  They will finally see what you've been doing behind the scenes.

Why stress about whether you've chosen the right gift for the people on your list?  Why worry about whether you spent as much on them as they have spent on you?  That's not the point.  The point is that you are taking time to remember them, and to invest your mental energy in trying to please them.

It's sometimes the imperfections that you'll look back on later with the biggest smile, like the year the whole family received matching VIVID circus pajamas from Santa, or the year the tree fell over several times before you discovered the trick in balancing its crooked trunk in the holder.  You will love and keep for years the hand-crafted ornament made by your child with her gap-toothed smiling face on it right beside unintended globs of glitter glue.

Sometimes having it exactly right isn't important.  Sometimes it's about having everyone together, each contributing in his or her own unique way, and sharing moments.  The holidays are touchstones that they will revisit, and even in its imperfection, perhaps especially because of its imperfection, this one will have the potential to create joy for years to come.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The inevitable starting point

Here... by Bhamgal
Here..., a photo by Bhamgal on Flickr.
You cannot achieve a goal without considering this.  You cannot successfully complete a car trip without including this information in your directions.  Every move forward has to include an assessment of where you are right now.

It's possible that you have a lot of emotion attached to the place where you are right now, and you may be mentally slapping yourself upside the head for allowing yourself to get here.  It's OK to take a few minutes and analyze the path that got you to the place you didn't want to be, and to learn from your mistakes, but more than a few minutes in that activity is a waste of good energy.  Too much focus on the unsatisfactory current state of things can lead you to identify yourself with it, to start to think that it's who you are.  And when you go to that mental place, when you start to believe that you're somehow incompetent, ugly, a loser, or not enough in some way, you can start to set a path of self-fulfilling actions into play.  In the words of the late and great Earl Nightingale, you'll become what you think about most of the time.

Instead, the analysis of your current state serves you better when you look at it only as the starting point.  The more productive use of your energy is to determine where you go from here, and the gap between those two points is the one that you have to cover with action steps.  You need both the beginning and the end of the journey to determine the amount of internal and external resources you'll need to bring together to get you where you want to go.  You need the whole picture to figure out what might be a realistic time frame for your efforts.

So - you are where you are.  You are here.  And what's most important is your ability - your responsibility - to make conscious choices about where you want to go next, and to take action in alignment with them.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Dream Big!

Dream Big! by Morphicx
Dream Big!, a photo by Morphicx on Flickr.
What if the biggest impediment to your business and your future is that you're thinking too small?  

You might have precedent for believing that you are only capable of ruling your corner of the street. You might have had bumps and failures along the way that have shaken your resolve, and have tested your confidence in yourself.  But these experiences won't determine your future unless you allow them to be your defining moments.  

How would you behave differently today if your vision for tomorrow were grand?

  • Would you think twice about wasting an afternoon on nonessential tasks?
  • Would you be more careful about the choices you make about the people who are going to be on your team?
  • Would you be tooling yourself up for a higher level of performance?
  • Would you speak differently and dress differently?
  • Would you choose to hang out with different people?
  • Would you change your logo, or your website, or the nature of your posts in social media?
  • Would you be more excited to get out of bed and get to work?
Today's decisions impact tomorrow's results.  If you have no vision you have no context within which to make those decisions.  In other words, if you have no identified destination any road will do.

Your big dream may test your confidence. It may test your assumptions about your capabilities.  But what if you knew that you could achieve 75%, or even 50% of what you set out to do?  Wouldn't it still be worthwhile, or even more worthwhile, to set your sights high?  Fifty percent of the climb up a tall tree is much higher off the ground than is one hundred percent of the height of a shrub.

If you want to enroll other people to your vision you are more likely to do so successfully when you commit to really go for it.  They are more likely to come on board when you help them envision it, to see it too, in detail.  They are more bought in when you express confidence in their ability to rise to the occasion.

Dream big.  You have not begun to test the limits of your contribution to the world.  And you can help other people in the process by taking them along with you.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Managing the productivity torpedo

Interruption by Sebastiano Pitruzzello (aka gorillaradio)
a photo by 
Sebastiano Pitruzzello (aka gorillaradio) on Flickr.
In the World War II movies a sailor shouts, "Torpedo off the starboard bow!"  And the crew scrambles to avert the impact or deploy countermeasures.  

Now here you are in your office, brain in the thick of an important task, when off your starboard bow - knock knock knock!  Your productivity has just been torpedoed by an interruption.  Worse, this is the umpteenth interruption of the morning.

Summoning the most patient voice available to you at the moment, you reply, "Come in," you handle the item, and then you spend 20 minutes getting your brain back to the place it was right before the knocking started.   If this continues it will take you three more days than you anticipated to complete the project, and you'll have to make a decision whether to work overtime to make up for the lost productive hour(s) or communicate to the CEO that your delivery date will be delayed.  Neither is a satisfactory option.

You want to be there for your employees, to help them stay productive.  But it doesn't have to mean that your own projects have to be sacrificed in order for you to do so.  Here are some ideas on avoiding - or handling - the interruption torpedoes.

  •  Allocate a designated "do not disturb" time of day.  Tell your staff about it and keep it consistent so the people who might want to talk with you can plan around it.  
  • Close your door (If you're lucky enough to have one.)  You can even put some sort of sign on it to indicate that you need to be undisturbed.  A litigator told us that when he's prepping for a case he blocks his office door with crime scene tape.  If you are not his assistant and you pass the tape line, prepare for your body to be a crime scene!
  • Go offsite.  Unless your project is of such a confidential nature that it's risky to do so, take your work to a coffee shop for an hour to crank out a few things.  Or if you have a block of time to invest, stay home to do it.  Of course this assumes that you have all of the resources you need at hand to do the task offsite.
  • Incorporate regular staff gatherings (frequent and short).  One of the best defenses against interruptions is prevention.  When your production crew huddles for 10 minutes first thing in the morning and you get straight on the priorities for the day, you can answer questions on the spot.  Then everyone can get on with their day.
  • Schedule routine one-on-ones.  Some of your interruptions are questions that can't wait, but a lot of them don't have to be answered right now.  When Sam or Sue knows that they are going to have 30 minutes with you every Thursday morning, they can keep a list of questions and reporting items for that time.  And you can do the same.  This one-on-one time also gives you the opportunity to build rapport with them, discuss career progression goals and professional development, etc.
  • Allocate time for planning and improvement activities.  There's a difference between urgent and important.  If you make time for important tasks like process improvement and goal planning you can prevent many of the crises (urgent items) that create interruptions in your day.  There is no "good" time to do planning and improvement.  You have to choose to make time for them - and you'll see the payoff later.
  • Incorporate a time allocation for interruptions into your goal planning.  If you have a project that requires 40 hours of your work time, but you are handling interruptions for 50% of the day, plan your goal-directed actions UP FRONT to allow for that.  So instead of a plan that shows a delivery date at the end of this week, the more realistic plan is for the delivery date to be at the end of NEXT week.  In many, if not most, cases, managing delivery expectations is more important than having it done immediately.  Under-promise and over-deliver.
  • Tell the interrupter "Not now."  Just because they are knocking on the door doesn't mean that you stop what you're doing.  Keep it simple, by saying, "I'm on deadline right now.  I'll be back to you in 30 minutes."  Then do that.  Keep your commitment so the employee learns that he or she doesn't have to nag in order to get attention from you.
  • Establish a code for the true emergencies.  It would be naive to think that all interruptions can be avoided or diverted once they arrive at your door.  But you can help your staff identify what the items are that warrant interrupting you, much like a parent says to his or her kids, "If nobody's bleeding and no bones are broken, don't bother me when I'm in the bathroom!"

Monday, December 10, 2012

Five ways to summon your magic

Brookfield Zoo Holiday Magic by pinkprankie
Brookfield Zoo Holiday Magic,
a photo by 
pinkprankie on Flickr.
This is supposed to be a magical time of year, no matter whether your tradition is Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or secular.  In colder climates people start to anticipate the beautiful blanket of snow that will cover trees and lawns.  In warmer places residents revel in their temperate beach days in spite of the fact that the calendar photos feature frostier sights.

It's assumed that you're going to be in the holiday mood.  Others expect it of you and you might even expect it of yourself.  There's cultural pressure all around you to be festive, to spend too much money and to overindulge in holiday food and drink.  It's in your face, on TV, on the radio, in the stores and even at the office.  But what if things haven't been exactly bright and shiny in your life?  What if you don't feel like there's much to be celebrating?

  1. Make magic for somebody else.  Take yourself outside of your own head and do something special.  It can be completely free - a visit, a kindness, a favor, a foot massage or a quarter in a stranger's parking meter.  Volunteer to help to raise funds for a charity, or send holiday wishes to troops overseas.
  2. Use your hands.  Or involve yourself in other activities that fully engage your attention.  Activities are just like the word says - active, not passive (like when you zone out in front of the TV).  Part of the process of cleaning, decorating, baking, and shopping for the holidays is the imaging of pleasant possibilities and happy traditions.  Or do something unrelated to the holidays, like chopping wood.  Completing a physical task, even if it's more maintenance than festive, gives you a sense of accomplishment.  And that will lift your spirits.
  3. Be where other people are.  Even if you don't have other family members living in your house you can be out and about.  Go to church, or have breakfast out, or go to a concert.  Even better, place yourself in environments where there are children.  They are the magic generators, and their sense of wonder is contagious.  
  4. Make a point to notice the things that are going right.  You're conditioned to notice the flaws, the blots, the mistakes.  Most people are similar to you in this regard.  But despite your early conditioning, you can choose to bring the good things into the foreground of your attention.  If you have ten things left on your to do list, make sure to give yourself credit for the five you have managed to complete.  Take a picture of beautiful things that you see so you can notice them all over again later.
  5. Care for your body.  When the holiday season brings a heavy load of work, however festive it's intended to be, you need more stores of energy.  Make a point to eat healthy foods and invest in the sleep you need to be fully functional.  Even if the task list is long, take breaks.  Listen to music that helps you recharge.
The real magic in the holiday season is not "out there."  It's inside of you.  Regardless of your age, your gender, your recent history or your checkbook balance, you have magic.  All you need to do is to tap into it.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Playing "outside"

Dolph Castellano, Duffy Jackson , Rick Doll,
John Michalak, and Dave Gibble playing outside - literally
David Gibble, Associate Professor of Music at Palm Beach State College, is a jazzer.  In addition to being the college's jazz guru, he's a frequent trumpet and flugelhorn player in venues around South Florida.  The inspiration for today's post comes from a comment he made last Summer.

Real jazz is created when a team of players "talks" among themselves within the structured progression of chords in a particular song.  After they set the framework by playing the tune as a group, they take turns giving one another the main voice in the conversation.  When it's a player's turn to solo, the sequence of notes he chooses might only slightly resemble the original tune of the song.  The soloist invents on the spot, relying on the chord structure to provide a frame of reference such that the song is simultaneously organized and improvised.  He embellishes, simplifies, even incorporates complimentary riffs from other charts to add flavor to his contribution in the moment.

Our conversation with Dave Gibble last Summer led to a discussion of a certain player who likes to "play outside".  This means that when he solos he likes to go beyond the set of notes in the chord.  When you play outside you create the potential for dissonance in the song, and when you come back into the structure of the chord the sound is a resolution of sorts.  The outside notes provide spice in the music - they cause the listener to sit up and pay attention because they are unexpected.  But when a player spends too much time outside, except for the hard-core jazz aficionado the solo can sound like so much traffic noise.

Improvisation itself is innovation.  It is a process of playing with known elements and putting them together in new ways.  A player might have a few favorite riffs, a preference for playing high or low or fast.  But the performance has the most potential for change when somebody plays outside.

There's a great TED talk featuring jazz musician Stefon Harris that talks about the fact that "There are no wrong notes on the bandstand."  His premise is that the outside notes are only dissonant when the rest of the team doesn't say "yes" to the notes and follow them wherever they are going.  When instead the combo embraces the note and builds upon it the music becomes completely new.  It's important to note that Stefon Harris's group performs pieces that are entirely invented in the moment, and so to that extent they depart from the restrictions of a particular chart with chord progressions that are specified ahead of time and therefore are reproducible by different artists at different times.

There are some times when only a touch of outside playing is enough.  Sometimes you want the tune to resemble itself enough that it's recognizable, just like you might want a new model of car to look enough like a car that consumers will know they could use it for car purposes.  In a jazz tune, the outside playing in the solos is usually followed by the group coming back to reinforce the original melody by replaying it once the improvisation is complete.

How do you apply this concept at work?  You've got some thinkers in your company that like to "play outside".  They like to consider ideas that are outside the framework of the product you are currently producing, the methods you are using to produce them, or the services you are providing.  Their contributions might seem dissonant at first, especially when you think you know the song that the team is supposed to be playing.

The question becomes "what do you do about playing outside?"  How do you handle the ideas, and the thinkers that offer them, when they present themselves?  When you over-edit, when you discourage outside thinking, you limit the innovation on your team.  Why have all of those individuals on the team if they aren't there to provide their brainpower?

What if you were to say "yes" to the outside ideas, go with them, and build upon them?  Perhaps a little bit if "playing outside" is just what your team needs to rule the future.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Procrastination hurts - really

Procrastination by imotov
Procrastination, a photo by imotov on Flickr.
C'mon, you know you do it.  It would probably be accurate to say that everybody does it.  It might be mostly at work, it might be house chores, or it might be as simple as setting an appointment for the dentist.  But procrastination is an almost universal condition.

There are many cited consequences associated with putting things off until tomorrow (or the next day) that you should be doing today.  But there is one that doesn't get a lot of attention:  procrastination hurts.

When you think it's out of your mind it really isn't.  You carry the task's weight around, and it circles in your short-term memory loop, popping up periodically saying, "Don't forget!"  And once you're well into a behavioral pattern of procrastination you're probably carrying more than one around in there.  The mental and emotional weight of those things that are still undone creates stress, which creates cortisol, which adds to your physical weight and the potential for other negative physical symptoms.  Stress depresses your libido, and for some of you that should be reason enough not to procrastinate!  Stress from procrastination not only compromises your results - it steals your health and interferes with your relationships.

It's relevant here to create a distinction between tasks that are deadline-driven and those that are not, because the procrastination is different and its impact is different.  Let's take the example of filing a federal tax return, a deadline-driven task.  A lot of people don't like to start the process because their information is not organized, or because they know that they will be writing a check when they submit their tax return.  So they wait.  Ultimately, though, they have to suck it up and do their returns if they want to be legal.  And as of April 16th, even if they procrastinated until the second-to-last minute the task is ultimately done, and they can heave a sigh of relief.  Until next January, when the process likely will repeat itself.

A task not driven by a deadline might be something like exercise.  There's no drop-dead date.  Well, there is, but by then it's too late, isn't it?  Nobody besides you, your loved ones, and perhaps your physician is requiring you to walk for 30 minutes per day starting today.  It's easy to put it off because it's not convenient, or because you're not dressed for it, or because you ate a lunch that was too big.  Ultimately you will see the consequences of your procrastination, perhaps in a paunch around the middle or shortness of breath.  Buying new, bigger clothing hurts your wallet, and shortness of breath can be physically painful or scary.  But unless the negative consequences are big enough you might just relegate the non-deadline actions like your exercise program to "Someday Isle".  And it will stay there, lurking in the back of your mind and eroding your image of yourself as a competent, confident person.

Procrastination is the battle between

  • I should
  • I have to, and by ___
  • I don't want to
  • I want to
  • I'm afraid to
  • I don't know how to
  • What if it doesn't work
  • I'm not ready to
and the rewards of taking action now, some of which are evident and some of which are not.  You might have a hard time believing that the benefits of taking this immediate action will be big enough to make it worthwhile.  You might even be having a hard time believing that you deserve a good outcome.

Doing something right now might hurt a little bit.  It might not be convenient, or comfortable, or glamorous.  But if you wait you run the risk that it will hurt a lot.  On the tasks that you're procrastinating right now, some of the consequences might not be dire, but some will have long term implications for you.  If it's going to hurt a little bit, get it over with and check it off your list.  Then go get a Band-aid (or a cup of coffee) if you need one and get on with your day.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Know when you can trust your gut

Go With Your Gut by lertsis
Go With Your Gut, a photo by lertsis on Flickr.
One of the behavioral habits that you demonstrate inside and outside of work is the speed at which you make decisions.  And a factor in the speed of your decision making (and ultimately the speed at which you take action toward a particular end result) is the extent to which you trust your gut, or intuition.

Going with your gut is not necessarily a repudiation of data.   You weren't born yesterday, and ever since you entered the workplace your brain has been storing experiences.  You already own a lot of data, and your processing speed is so fast that all of that data, all of that learning, can be at your beck and call when a situation calls for it.  

You do, however, have different mental capacities, different levels of awareness and discernment, in interpreting distinct types of data (new or stored):

  • Intrinsic - This is the people-related data, the heart, the sensing of other people's feelings and the taking of other people's interests and concerns into account.  Someone high in intrinsic talent is often known as a "people person" and is attracted to situations and roles where this talent can be expressed.
  • Extrinsic - This relates to action-taking, practical solutions that can be implemented.  The TV series MacGyver featured a main character who was able to extricate himself from intense threat situations by improvising solutions and tools from nearby resources and objects.  He ruled the day by making do, and by defaulting to action, even in the face of less-than-optimal solutions.
  • Systemic - This mental talent has to do with perceiving the concepts and the organizing principles surrounding a situation.  Highly systemic thinkers are aware of rules, seek to establish rules and criteria, and tend to prefer conformance to them.  
You possess all three of these types of mental talents, and the relative amount of each of them that you have determines the way that you interpret data.  If you are a master in Intrinsic perception, you will automatically notice the people impact in situations - if you are Systemic you will be likely to see the big picture of it without consciously taking your brain there.

You can trust your gut and speed up your decision making and action taking when you are dealing with data that engages your mental strengths.  If, for instance, you are highly Extrinsic you are likely to naturally be good at situations that call for quick action or an overall high activity level.

When you are in a situation that is not engaging your mental strength area it's best to slow down a bit, assess the situation consciously rather than going with your first reaction.  You might even want to consult someone for whom the situation IS in an area of cognitive strength.  If you are tone-deaf where people are concerned and you have a tough decision to communicate, consult your local people person to help you package the information.

There are a lot of ways in which many roles can be executed with a successful outcome.  A financial planner, for instance, might be successful because of his or her analytical (Systemic) talents.  An equally successful financial planner next door might leverage his or her ability to build deep client relationships (Intrinsic) to grow the book of business.  And a third financial planner might go gangbusters in new business development because of his or her willingness to pick up the phone and make cold calls like crazy (Extrinsic).

Summit uses a diagnostic called Attribute Index to identify mental talents.  The results are used to 
  1. Better match a job with a person's strengths
  2. Tailor a developmental plan to leverage those strengths
  3. Help an individual know better when they can trust their gut and speed up their decision making
  4. Assist employers in identifying whether a particular candidate is a good talent match for a job
For more information on how to access the Attribute Index, email

Monday, December 3, 2012

Are there superheroes hiding in your business?

Superhero Day by Notley
Superhero Day,
a photo by 
Notley on Flickr.
Superman didn't walk around the streets of Gotham City with cape fluttering in the breeze.  He didn't stop the average car driving down the street.  And while we don't know for certain, we certainly hope he didn't use his x-ray vision to see the same views that the airport scanners have seen.

Nope, Superman walked around as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for The Daily Planet.  His trademark handsomeness was obscured (only barely) by a pair of horn-rimmed glasses.  And he was self-effacing, almost shy, in his interaction with his boss.  Until the moment arrived when someone was in trouble.  And Clark slipped into the nearest phone booth (when they still had four walls and a door that closed!) and transformed into the caped crusader.

Do you have Superman working in your company?  Perhaps Wonder Woman, Batman, Supergirl or Spidey park their cars in the company lot.  How would you know about their superpowers if they were spending all day under cover, waiting for the need for their special skills to arise?  Could this be happening right now?  Could there be incredible resources in your workplace right now that you have not yet tapped?

If you are allowing your staff to go along doing the same tasks day after day incognito as Clark Kent does, here are some of the things that might be happening that you haven't discovered yet:

  • Wonder Woman might be using her extensive organizational skills in a local charitable organization in which she is the President.
  • Batman might be using his skills at training and encouragement coaching a youth soccer or lacrosse team.
  • Spiderman might be developing his athletic prowess by competing in Iron Man triathlons on the weekends, and doing high-intensity training in between.
  • Superman might be building tall buildings, exercising his mechanical abilities in the only venue in which he has full control - his own home-improvement projects.
Your employees are more than their job descriptions, and you may already be making a point to ask them about their families from time to time.  After all, their jobs are funding their family lives, and family problems can be some of their biggest distractions from full productivity.

But are you missing the conversations about their skills and interests beyond the ones that sync with their job descriptions?  Sam might be in a job in which he performs adequately, but could absolutely rock the house if you were to take advantage of the talents for which he currently has no workplace outlet.  Jane may be meeting standards in her role, but bored and contemplating moving to a job in another company where she can experience growth and progression.

You might be thinking, "The economy has been so bad - they're lucky to have jobs, and we're a good employer."  But consider this:  who are the employees who have the best opportunities to move on from your company to someplace else?  That's right.  The smart, productive ones who have eyes on the future and who are developing their skills.  And if you don't make use of their talents - including their superpowers - you stand to be left with a company full of sidekicks.