My favorite quote: "As individualistic as we want to be, complexity requires group success. We all need to be pit crews now."
My favorite quote: "As individualistic as we want to be, complexity requires group success. We all need to be pit crews now."
I like this post from my pal Steve called, Do you use verbal white space. Check it out.
I agree that one common reason we gunk up our communication with tool many words and qualifiers is to "soften" the message. But being unclear and indirect weakens our message rather than softening it. And softening the message is more for us and not the listener anyway.
One of the most caring things we can do is to have the courage to be clear and direct and to the point.
Yesterday I was reminded of a post I did a couple of years ago called, You are Amazing Even if Today You are Off Course. Check it out if you need some perspective/inspiration/relief/ideas.
I have been thinking about this topic a lot this week. Partially because I want to ensure that I stay on course with my goals but also because I see how hard we are on ourselves and the toll this takes on our spirit and desire to keep moving forward.
I think there is something to be said for believing in ourselves. Really believing. Believing that even though our daily choices are imperfect and our resolve wanes at times....And even though we sometimes say one thing and 30 seconds later do the opposite.... That we are fully capable of massive and transformative progress. That we can do _____ and we can be the one that others think about when searching for a good role model. "Nothing stops her," they will remark.
Few aspects of our lives require perfection to work. This is true! Woo-hoo! Yippeekayee! Momentum, progress, small wins, sweet daily victories, moments of glorious clarity - that's the ticket to success.
Don't let being off course become a source of power pulling you away from your goal, see it for what it is. A spec of time that will be gone in a minute. If in the next minute we become the change we seek, we can skip forward once again and enough that future setbacks will also be insignificant. Keep the progress big and the setbacks minuscule.
Enjoy being in alignment in this moment. And don't look back.
Several years ago, I did a podcast series called "Fireside Chats". I have not recorded an episode for some time, but I still get about 800 downloads a day. Weird.
I talked with folks like Marcus Buckingham, John Kotter, Dan Pink and many others. I talked with fellow blogger/writer pals Wayne Turmel, Ellen Weber, Steve Farber, Alexandra Levit, Michael Stallard, Kevin Eikenberry, Michael Kroth, Todd Sattersten, Raj Setty and many others.
It was fun, but I doubt I will ever pick up the mic and record more. So to simplify life, I will be discontinuing the feed at the end of the month. You can download all the episodes directly by using the links (in this post and by looking at the "podcasts and webcasts" category pages) or you can select the feed in iTunes and download them there (search under my name or the name of the podcast, "Fireside Chats About Management". All free.
And then once you have downloaded them, you can feel free to share them.
I really enjoyed doing the podcasts, but the editing and processing took a lot of time. At one time I had visions of being the Terry Gross for management.....imagine.....but is was not to be.
Oooh, one more cool thing. Here is the link to the recorded movie/webcast for the song "Breakthrough" that my brother Perry Devine wrote to go along with my book Two Weeks to a Breakthrough and my 40 day motorcycle book tour back in 2007. To date, I think this is still the only song that has been created inspired by a business book. And I think I am the only business author who has done a motorcycle book tour. It was 40 days long and a great experience. I would love to do it again. Ironically, although this book is my favorite, it is - by far - my worst seller. Go figure. I think Jossey Bass still has about 10,000 copies of the book sitting in a warehouse somewhere. Here is a link to the podcast I did with Perry talking about the project to create the song. I love this song and think Perry did a great job.
One more bit of frivolity. I took a solo trip to New Mexico a few years ago and recorded a few podcasts. Here is a short piece where you will hear hummingbirds and thunder (don't have your headphones too high, the thunder thunders). Here is a short piece where I try to teach myself how to play the Native American flute along the Gila River. And here is a piece recorded on top the dunes of White Sands. These are just plain goofy.
I hope you enjoy these recordings and download those you would like to refer to later. I will shut down my hosting site near the end of April.
Also, thanks to artist Jon Conkey for creating the painting that has graced the top of all my podcast posts, including this one. I have the original painting on my office wall and still love it.
I really dig this post from the Purpose Fairy called 15 Things You Should Give Up to Be Happy. I agree with them all. Breakthroughs await those who give up even a couple. Extra credit if you are a manager, as your good choices will rub off on others.
I was thinking about a course I attended a few months ago. The facilitator asked me for feedback. It was a good course and offered solid information. The facilitator did a fine job and the participants seems satisfied. Good. Solid. Fine. Satisfied.
I told her that I thought she missed two opportunities. First, the course was not designed to deliver any ah-ha moments - the potential for a mind blowing epiphany was zero. A wise man once asked me, challenged me, what my big idea was for a book project I was proposing. I had no big idea. This course offered no big ideas. Miss.
The second miss was that the course started slow, warmed to medium, and ended medium. There was no narrative arc. Courses can benefit from using the principles of story construction. The flow helps you manage and generate energy. This course was perfectly fine but draining. All whimper, no bang. Miss.
And what about your next staff meeting. Ah! Gottcha! You thought I was talking about a training class and since you don't lead training classes that I was not talking to you - right? Well consider this. I see the same two misses in meetings. That they offer no big ideas - there is no or low potential of an ah-ha moment. And they are not designed to generate and retain energy. Miss. Miss.
Don't have another meeting until you think about this. Even if you have a meeting coming up in two hours, you can do something to make it better. Bring in a big idea. Share something that has the potential to make people think anew. You might fail, but no problem, try again next week. No attempt = no potential. It breaks my heart.
The facilitator - who is a friend - felt frustrated and devastated, I could tell. She had done a good job but had let habit shroud her determination as a teacher and catalyst. I am glad she was devastated because she is talented, special, and can do better. She needed the dissonance to reconnect with why she teaches. Whenever we get people together, we need to strive for better.
I will be doing a webinar this Friday on the topic of high impact thinking. I shared the beliefs that I felt helped improve managerial success in my book, High Impact Middle Management. I udpated the list for the webinar, adding a few emerging beliefs. Here they are, tell me what you think - no pun intended.
How to Think Like a High Impact Manager – 2012 Edition
How do you define success? Which mindset will serve you well?
How do successful managers define success? I have noticed that highly successful managers approach their work differently than their less successful peers. What’s more, many of these same ideas are held by successful senior executives. This is important to note because a senior leader’s expectations of his or her managers will tend reflect his or her beliefs about how success is achieved. It also means that this mindset will serve you well throughout their career progression. Would you like to AMP UP your impact? Consider taking on, and acting consistently with, the following beliefs:
Management is a social act—With every meeting you attend and every conversation you take part in, there is an opportunity to either add to or detract from the quality of the relationship. Managers need the support and cooperation of those they work with. Management is a social act. It occurs in conversations. Conversations are your currency for creating progress and getting things done.
Human systems are chaotic and managers manage human systems—Great managers spend more time and energy working on systems, connections, and nonlinear human processes. Nothing is ever cut and dry, right? Expect that the most fruitful path to success might be indirect – oblique – circuitous – meandering. Facilitating progress is incumbent, then, upon making connections that move things forward.
Managers exist to enable people to do their best work in the service of organizational goals—The most “results oriented” thing you can do today is to help someone, or a team, do their best work. What do you do that enables excellence? Do more of that. Think about what your manager does that helps you do your best. Ask your team members what you can do to help them to their best.
Great managers do what others won’t or don’t—The difference between great managers and less effective ones is not the college degrees they hold or their Fortune 100 company experience. Great managers do things that others put off, avoid, or ignore. They still dread doing these things or are uncomfortable doing them, but they do them anyway.
Managers are “make something happen” people—Your job is to think creatively and proactively, and take initiative to improve the business and your team’s performance. This belief reinforces the concept that it is NOT a manager’s job to maintain or oversee what would otherwise happen on its own.
Managers should be outstanding role models because they influence the culture and tone of the business—It is not OK for managers to be unprofessional or model undesirable behaviors. Said another way, you must model the best of what you seek. It is a burden and a privilege. We don’t get to be disengaged. We don’t get to talk trash even if it relieves stress. We don’t get to roll our eyes at leaders who say things that demonstrate how disconnected they are. We don’t get to complain about the culture – we build it. We don’t get to be poor team members or partners. Your team members and peers are watching and will emulate you when they decide how they should respond to situations.
Adaptability is the key competency of our time – be flexible like Gumby! —When you show your teams what agility looks like in action, you are showing them how to work and thrive in today’s times. Agility is a mindset, and it is a set of practices, a way of working that can be both strong and nimble. Managers must have their finger on the pulse and know when changes in approach make sense and would be of benefit. Be open to exploring new options and creative solutions and resist the urge to get comfortable with the status quo.
“Managing” is real work—Managers should want to spend time managing and facilitating the work of others. Managers who do not believe their job is interesting and desirable will not likely serve themselves, or their organizations, well. Helping someone is real work. Coaching someone is real work. Facilitating a conversation is real work.
Great managers are coachable and responsive—Being defensive or combative does not reflect favorably on any manager. Being open and flexible makes one seem more intelligent and talented. If you have the constant need to prove that you are right you will undermine relationships with your superiors and your subordinates. Coachable managers learn more. Management is a hard job. We need to learn. We all need to be coachable.
Dysfunction is the context from which you manage, not what’s getting in your way —Organizational life is messy. People generate drama. Politics often trump courage. Styles clash. People don’t let others into their sandboxes. Stuff breaks. Great managers know that dysfunction IS and that helping their teams work through and in spite of it is part of their work as a barrier buster. Don’t have dysfunction be “wrong” or a “problem.” Minimize or eliminate it when you can, but otherwise, get over it and on with the work. Don’t let it stop you.
Being a manager is the best job ever! —If you want to have an impact, if you want to help make people’s lives better, if you want to make things happen, if you want to leave a mark, you must manage. There is no greater way to make a difference. The opportunity to affect your team members’ lives and careers is a humbling experience and an honor. Enjoy this opportunity and tap into the compelling nature of management every day.
This list of beliefs forms a powerful definition of success, don’t you think?! Tweak this to fit your situation and goals. For example, if agility is a key area of growth for your group over the next few years, put that one near the top of your list.
Imagine what a workplace would look and feel like if all managers took on this mindset. The atmosphere would be electric, exciting, and highly productive. What a great place to work!
Here’s the amazing part: You can adopt these beliefs right now and they will begin to work immediately. How might your world change if you more fully adopted, and acted from, these beliefs? What might be possible?
Which ONE BELIEF has the potential to make the greatest difference for you? Take this belief on – big time – all next week. I promise you that your world will change. Promise!
I enjoyed this TEDx talk from Larry Smith called Why you will fail to have a great career. It is very inspirational in a counter-intuitive way. Check it out and then check your assumptions and beliefs that will help or hinder your success and satisfaction.The times where we "go for it" will be those we remember the most because they are the times when we fully use our potential.
Courage and gumption and passion launch things. Resoluteness fuels continued progress.
I have come to believe that success is more like a marathon and less like playing the lottery - and yet more of us are buying and scratching then we are training in the rain (present company included at times - happy to say I feel more on track, pun intended, these days).
And by the way, I don't think there is only one shot that we get. Most of us have already passed up several pivotal opportunities. But another will present itself - or you will seek it - tomorrow. Will you be ready? Willing? You are able.
Enjoy the TEDx talk from a fellow Canadian - I like his sarcastic humor!
As many of you know, I have had a very interesting year health-wise (medullary thyroid cancer, surgery, many life changes including reinventing the way I eat/exercise, food as "health", etc..). I am a reflective person, but have found that I am much more so now. I enjoy letting ideas and concepts bang around in my head a bit longer because I want to discover their meaning and potential.
Over the last couple of weeks I have been pondering tipping points (hat tip to Malcolm Gladwell's awesome book by the same name). My reflection on this topic is mostly self-absorbed and related to my health. That said, I have also considered how human tipping points affect how we manage, lead, and create momentum in our workplaces.
I have read and heard many times that my type of cancer grows very slowly until it doesn't (most people, myself included, are diagnosed after it has spread to lymph nodes and is considered incurable). And because of this most people live for decades after diagnosis and often die from other causes. This is great news and gives me encouraging odds.
And yet, the idea that it "grows very slowly until is doesn't" has been tough to get out of my mind. What the doctors mean by this is that at some point - a tipping point - the volume and spread of the cancer becomes such at the trajectory of the disease changes and is hard to reverse. And apparently the difference in disease progression and likely outcomes are stark. Very slow to very fast - very good to very bad.
Before I worry you dear readers (because this is not my intent), I want you to know that I have no reason to believe that I am anywhere near the tipping point. I am enjoying life, living more healthfully, reinventing my work, and plan to experience a fun retirement in 15 years if only I can save a bit more money in my 401K.
It's the road TOWARD the tipping point that interests me right now. I wonder how much each individual action or decision might/could/does impact my trajectory and how much power I have to slow my body's march toward the tipping point. As a firm believer in the butterfly effect and someone who has seen that this applies to health, I believe (and the science concurs) that each tiny action reverberates.
I will be the first to admit that I was flapping my butterfly wings in the wrong direction - speeding up my journey to the tipping point - for many years. I let excessive travel, poor diet, and life as a road warrior consultant get in the way of exercising regularly and good sleep habits. If you imagine my disease progression as a trip from Seattle to Key West, by car from Seattle to Dallas, and then on supersonic jet from Dallas to Key West (Dallas being the tipping point), I wonder if my years of living less healthfully caused me to speed at 80MPH toward Dallas and wonder how far I have gone. Where am I now? Am I two states away? In northern Texas? Did I catch myself early enough to slow things down in Portland? Can I slam on the breaks and go 5MPH instead of 80?
Here is a specific example. I am taking several supplements (fish oil, curcumin, mushroom, resveratrol, black raspberry, skullcap, etc) that seem to help directly or indirectly reduce cancer growth (not of my cancer, mind you, my cancer is too rare to have been studied). Am I taking enough of each to be therapeutic? What if I am taking two pills less than the right dose? Most studies don't provide cut and dry answers about how much is enough and it would be a shame if two more pills a day would have done something different.
I have cut sugar out of my diet because sugar feeds cancer tumors. I wonder, however, how strict I need to be. Will one chocolate cake bender/celebration fuel growth? Will a week at a conference eating processed turkey deli sandwiches affect my overall trajectory? What if I eat broccoli with my cake - will this make a difference? I know some folks with my disease who eat cruciferous veggies at EVERY meal. Should I be doing this?
I will never likely know the answers to any of these questions (quarterly blood tests will tell me some information about overall speed of progression). And perhaps this is the point of this post and my inquiry into tipping points. It is hard to understand them except when looking back. But we know that these forces occur and are in play in all aspects of life. So what can we do?
I am slowly but resolvedly coming to the conclusion that we will be well served to err on the side of doing too much to achieve our goals. My goal is to slow my disease progression down to the point that this disease does not affect my potential for a full and healthy life. I do not know, and cannot know, the affect of the changes I am making but I can be pretty sure that each change has the potential to have an affect and that some changes will offer additive affects. Going "BIG" and making more beneficial changes does not appear to have a downside (except that eating junk food and being lazy can feel fun at the time - but this short term reward has lost its lustre with me).
When I think about stories about how everyday people generate breakthrough results against great odds, I recall that there is often an element of going big and persevering - of seeming obsessed with the journey toward their goal. We remark, "wow, they really worked hard!"
I will return to the topic of our workplaces, now. There are beneficial tipping points and detrimental ones. If your workplace culture is heading in a direction that you are not happy with, you might need to go big and throw a lot of positive butterfly flaps at it. If you want to start progression toward a new and positive tipping point, you will need to employ dozens of catalyzers to create momentum and get to the place where you will describe "it started slowly and then it hit."
Small actions can generate big results. And many, many, many small actions can impact the outcome even more.
As leaders, our most important skill and practice may well be dogged and focused determinism. A compulsion to unlearn bad habits and take on new practices - so much so that watching you tires casual observers.
As is the case with most major life changes, my health challenges have taught me how important it is to influence the progression toward tipping points with passion, energy, and accountability. And it has taught me that we may need to do this in the absence of good data. We may not know which actions will work best or what combination will have additive effects. And we will need to decide and get going.
There is a kind of peace that comes from being fully in alignment with a goal. When I have good days - eat the best foods, exercise a lot, manage stress, sleep, remember my pills, enjoy people - I feel at peace knowing that if I can slow down the journey to Dallas (and ultimately Key West), I have done it that today.
We can feel that same sense of peace at work. When we do all we can to be positive and powerful forces for change and for people, we can fuel our organization's march toward the tipping points we seek and away from those we do not. I wish you more peace and less fear.
Life - work - life - work. What works, works everywhere.
I taught a 2-day class on high impact management earlier in the week. When I spend time talking with managers about management, I notice the ideas that most resonate with them. Over the last few years, I have noticed that people's ears and mouths (participation) perk up when I talk about:
1. How managers, and everyone, are highly talented and highly flawed. Even the best performers are highly flawed. What does this mean? It means that we need to be tolerant and flexible to bring out everyone's talents. And it means that great teaming, collaboration, and collective work can only happen if we don't let idiosyncrasies get in the way. Relationships - friendship even - do not require full agreement. In fact, they are richer when we challenge each other. The idea that we are highly talented and highly flawed does not excuse us for being annoying or inadequate managers, BTW. We should seek to be a pleasure with which to work while resisting the urge to prescribe too much meaning to style differences.
Here is an example: On my flight back from DC, I sat in front of one of the republican presidential candidates and his wife. I overheard parts of their conversation and I needed to keep reminding myself not to ascribe meaning to the words and tones I heard because they make up only a tiny sliver of the truth of the situation. Was the conversation curt and critical because that is who they are or is it because the campaign trail is so draining and this flight was landing at near midnight? Could it have been a bad day or is this the way they always talk? Even if it is their style of communication, it would not be wise to ascribe too much meaning to what I overheard. It is human to make meaning out of our observations based on our filters and preferences but it is not always in our best interest to do so. Everyone expresses happiness/satisfaction/concern/care/interest in their own ways. My offer might mean the same thing as your critique.
2. Management is, by its nature, messy and chaotic and will always be. Get over it and then love it. Managing people is neither a linear nor logical practice. We know this! So why do we expect people who report to us - or our bosses and peers - to act logically and predictably? Human systems are more like the weather than they are like a manufacturing line - they are chaotic, unpredictable, and sensitive. This messiness and chaos are not conditions that get in the way of management - they are the reasons that management is needed. If there were no fires, we would not need fire fighters. Managers manage people. The essence of our role is to help individuals and teams do their best work in the service of organizational goals. If the human condition were tamable or simple or linear or predictable, we would not need managers. We exist to jump into the mess, be at peace with some mess, and make a difference helping people do great work amongst the mess.
Both of these ideas share a common root - great managers are nimble like gumby - especially as it relates to how they deal with and help others.