Leading Blog



01.22.15

A Beautiful Constraint

Typically we look at a constraint as a negative. A problem to be solved.

But what if a constraint was the gift that opened up previously unimagined possibilities? What if a constraint was the gift that took you to the next level?

Beautiful Constraint
Authors Adam Morgan and Mark Barden remind us in A Beautiful Constraint that Google’s home page is as simple as it is because that was the limit of Larry Page’s coding ability at the time. The overall-wearing hero Mario is as colorful as he is because of the challenges of eight-bit technology. And which of us would be using Twitter at all today if it had a limit of 14,000 characters rather than 140?

We are all faced with the challenge of growing within the constraints of time, resources, method and /or people. Sometimes constraints are imposed on us and sometimes we benefit by placing constraints on ourselves. “We are living in an era of extraordinary people rewriting our sense of what is possible. They make an unarguable case that a constraint should be regarded as a stimulus for positive change—we can choose to use it as an impetus to explore something new and arrive at a breakthrough. Not in spite of the constraint, but because of it.”

Organizations of all types—business, churches and schools—and people from all walks of life would benefit from understanding how to reframe a constraint into a better way of doing something.

We begin the process by creating the right mindset. We need to increase our ambition relative to the constraint not to scale back our ambition to satisfy the constraint. That’s victim mentality. And that’s usually where we begin. Better yet, we can try to find a way to neutralize the constraint so we can deliver on our ambition. But the authors have created a path for us to become transformers—to find a way to use a constraint as an opportunity, possibly even increasing our ambition along the way.

constraint

Often transformers will impose constraints upon themselves to force themselves to unearth different, possibly transformative strategies and solutions. This helps to reduce path dependence or the assumptions and ways of thinking about solutions that define “the way we do things around here.” “Today’s path is really yesterday’s path.” We must examine all of the ingrained habits that may stand in the way of our being able to see and realize the possibilities in a constraint.

To bind our bold ambition to a significant constraint we have to ask a propelling question. The kind of “what if…?” question that forces us to think and behave in a better way. “If we don’t ask propelling questions of ourselves, someone is going to ask them of us, and by that time we will be behind the curve.”

To answer a propelling question we need to answer not with a “we can’t because” statement but with a “we can if” statement. It focuses the nature of the conversation on how something could be possible and not on whether it would be possible.

Then we get resourceful. What stops us from being more resourceful is the way we think about resources. We tend to think of the resources available to us as the ones within our immediate control. But there are all kinds of resources outside of our immediate control. One method is to create shared agendas. “We, who might appear to have little, need to help them see that we have what they want.”

There are organizations that routinely embrace constraints to make themselves better. The beautiful constraint process cannot be managed, it must be led. “When making constraints beautiful, motivation is method. Breakthrough happens when a propelling question meets strong emotions. Without activating the right emotions, it will be too easy to regress to the victim mindset.”

The authors note that “if we are heading into a more constrained future, then how we manage those constraints will determine how we progress.” As a leader, steering your organization towards constraints sooner rather than later, is an important source of competitive advantage. Raising the level of ambition alongside a constraint encourages growth and learning—both individually and organizationally—because it causes us to reexamine our current paths, assumptions, and ways of thinking.

A Beautiful Constraint is a outstanding book with inspiring examples that will spark your imagination to create your own beautiful constraint. It should be standard issue to every student as the thinking described here will serve them well in life.

What constraint will you go and make beautiful?

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:02 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Creativity & Innovation , Education , Learning

01.17.15

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade

Weekend Supplement

Wilder
100 years ago this week—January 10, 1915—Marshall Pinckney Wilder died. He was an American dwarf actor and humorist. Wilder was born with achondroplasia or dwarfism and also kyphosis or curvature of the spine. He became the first celebrity who attained fame in spite of his disability. He wrote a lot and always signed his letters, “Merrily Yours!”

In 1883 he made a trip to London and performed before the then Prince of Wales who later went on to become King Edward VII. He quickly became a favorite of the English royal family.

Wilder's career eventually branched into vaudeville and in 1904 embarked on a round the world tour. In a memorial to his life, The King of Jesters, Elbert Hubbard praised him for his optimism and achievements in the face of his disabilities. He wrote:
He was a walking refutation of that dogmatic statement, Mens sana in corpore sano. His was a sound mind in an unsound body. He proved the eternal paradox of things. He cashed in on his disabilities. He picked up the lemons that Fate had sent him and started a lemonade-stand.
Hubbard coined the concept "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade." It was later popularized by the likes of Dale Carnegie who used it in his book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. Carnegie's wrote:
If You Have a Lemon, Make a Lemonade.

leadership blog

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:28 AM
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01.16.15

Is What You Know Holding You Back?

Investor and entrepreneur Paul Kedrosky wrote in What Should We Be Worried About? by John Brockman: "Writer William Gibson once famously said that 'The future is already here—it's just not very evenly distributed.' I worry more that the past is here—it's just so evenly distributed that we can't get to the future."

brick wall
What we know has a bearing on what we learn. What we know can not only limit if we learn but it limits what we learn. What we know acts as a filter to what we learn. We naturally filter out things that don’t fit with things we already know. We are quite adept at putting a spin on what we learn so that it is consistent with what we already know.

In other words, we may be taking in more information, we may be studying more but we are not learning or doing anything new. We are merely reinforcing what we already believe to be true and ignoring or explaining away that which doesn’t fit with what we know.

In what way is old thinking holding you back?

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:47 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Learning

01.13.15

There is No Magic in Failing

Despite all the talk about making you feel better about inevitable failures, failure is only an opportunity if you learn from it and then act on it.

What if you actually orchestrated better failures? Designed useful failures instead of hit or miss failures?

Fail Better
That’s what Anjali Sastry and Kara Penn suggest in their book Fail Better. “The right kind of failure instructs, refines, and improves ideas, work products, skills, capacities, and teamwork.” The idea is to “generate small, smart mistakes that enable your team its work requirements (a first-order performance goal) while building capacity, habits, and insight (the second-order, deeper change).”

To this end they offer the three-step Fail Better Method:

Launch your project. The goal of the launch phase is not to over plan and set things in stone, but to consider your project in context, anticipate outcomes as tied to a series of logical assumptions, pull together your resources, and get the right people involved. Plan your projects in such a way as to make any failures useful.

Build and refine. It can be helpful to think of your project as a cauldron for experimentation and learning—in which you will plan, act, and assess to decide the next step. Approach your project in cycles or chunks in which you plan, act, and assess, then take the next step, and even big projects become more tractable while enabling your team to learn and refine its plans.

Identify and apply what you've learned. The final step is embedding what you’ve learned not just within your team but organizationally.

No one can know exactly why things turn out the way they do. Even while learning from your mistakes, the corrective action is based on incomplete knowledge. You will need to “identify lessons learned while bearing in mind that your understanding is limited.”

Learning is a skill that is never taught, but it is a critical one as we go forward. A systems approach is essential. “Systems thinking teaches us that it’s more fruitful to take an endogenous view that seeks to explain how the results are a product of factors in which you play a part as well. You have much more power to shape outcomes if you can better understand how the problems and opportunities you face today are connected to your own past actions and are influenced by the structure of the industry, society, and ecosystem in which you play a role.”

Our biggest issues will not be solved with a single solution. Rather they will be solved bit-by-bit—even across groups—one effort at a time. Learning as we go.

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Of Related Interest:
  Learn or Die
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:23 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Learning

01.05.15

Rookie Talent: Avoiding a Kodak Moment

Leading Forum
During most of the 20th century Kodak held a dominant position in photographic film, and in 1976, had an 89% market share of photographic film sales in the United States.

Kodak began to struggle financially in the late 1990s as a result of the decline in sales of photographic film and its slowness in transitioning to digital photography. In 2012, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The Kodak name became synonymous with a resistance to change, but it’s not just innovation the company lacked. In 2011, Kodak made the list of Top 10 Fortune 500 Employers With Older Workers, called out for employing a disproportionately high percentage of mature workers.

I can’t help but wonder: If Kodak had paid attention to its aging workforce trend, would the company have maintained market share and avoided bankruptcy?

I believe the answer is yes. I also believe companies didn’t learn much from Kodak’s example.

Although the recession ended in 2009, here we are five years later and unemployment for Generation Y (1982-1995) remains near its cyclical peak across the world. The largest, best-educated generation in history has become an under-utilized resource, vastly unprepared to move into positions of responsibility and leadership.

The lack of skill development and leadership development among Generation Y affects every generation. It’s the Trickle-Up Effect; what influences the youngest generation eventually influences the masses.

That’s why employers should be more concerned about who’s moving in (the rookies), rather than who’s moving out (the retirees).

So how do we lead this generation of rookie talent? This generation is the first to be raised in a post-industrial era driven by technology. As a result, they will value and seek out different work experiences and will certainly usher in widespread and significant change.

To keep the rookies engaged and actively contributing to the team, here are a few changes managers need to anticipate and embrace:
  • Collaboration
    Generation Y wants to feel like they belong to a team. Hierarchy is nearing an end and collaboration is emerging in its place because younger generations have been raised to do it, cycle times will demand it, and technology will continue to enable it.
  • Technology
    The rookies are Digital Natives, accustomed to customization, instant gratification, and globalization as a result of using technology in their everyday lives. They will expect telecommuting, virtual teams, access to the latest technology, and work flexibility.
  • Skills
    With technology, knowledge is quickly outdated and accessible to all in real-time. That means with little effort, the rookies could be as knowledgeable as the executives. They will expect to work for managers that have acquired and appreciate these skills: vision and the foresight to anticipate or respond to change very quickly, make wise decisions, and take action to create a better future.
  • Customization
    The rookies have only known a world where customization exists. Savvy business owners and executives will recognize their desires for career pathing and customized benefits packages, will find ways to utilize their unique skillsets, and create ways to help this generation visualize a future with their companies.
  • Mobilization
    This generation is highly entrepreneurial, juggling multiple jobs and launching start-ups. They will seek out companies providing opportunities to learn new skills, develop new products, and even try new jobs. It’s not likely they will stay working for the same company in the same role for longer than three years.
Rookies or not, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts this generation will become the majority of the workforce in 2015, and comprise 75% of the global workplace in 2025. For the companies that have struggled to make changes and adapt, this means inevitable failure.

Avoid making this your Kodak moment. Remember: Change is the only certainty, and the rookies are your only succession plan.

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Leadership
Sarah Sladek started researching demographic shifts, talent turnover, and generation gaps in 2002. She has authored four books on the topic and numerous research papers. Sladek is the CEO of XYZ University, the only company in the nation focused on helping organizations engage younger generations. Her latest book is Knowing Y: Engage the Next Generation Now

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:00 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources

01.02.15

Are You Trapped in Survival Mode?

Survival Mode

Thomas Plummer is a coach to the fitness industry. In a Facebook post he advised fitness professionals:
The mindset of survival that keeps you alive in tough times is also what will kill your business during good times. Keeping a struggling business alive during tough markets is a skill that drains the life out of you. Everyday you fight for pennies, do the work of many and learn the techniques necessary to keep going when others are failing. This same mindset is also what leads to failure for these owners during good times because they forget how to attack the market and grow the business.

The skill set needed for survival mode, based upon lean spending, tight staff and little marketing, is totally different from the one needed to grow a business where bold and daring is often needed. It is easy to get trapped in survival mode and fail there because you never realize the market has changed and you haven't.

The New Year is upon us. Are you trapped in merely keeping what you have or are you willing to let go and let your business grow next year?

Question your mindset and style. You may be the problem and not the solution you think you are.
Most often the thing that got us to where we are is not the thing that will get us to the next place we need to go. Sometimes we get so focused on what we have become good at, that we miss the changes around us.

It’s easy to get stuck repeating what we’ve always done. When we do we come from a place of weakness rather than strength.

Inertia can keep us from considering the possibilities. Reintroduce possibilities into your thinking. Survival isn’t enough to give your life to. It’s a self-defeating approach to life. Choose to be remarkable.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:53 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Thinking

01.01.15

First Look: Leadership Books for January 2015

Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in January.

  Driven to Distraction at Work: How to Focus and Be More Productive by Ned Hallowell
  Fairness Is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace by Tim Stevens
  The Power of Thanks: How Social Recognition Empowers Employees and Creates a Best Place to Work by Eric Mosley and Derek Irvine
  Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty by Scott Steinberg
  A Beautiful Constraint: How To Transform Your Limitations Into Advantages, and Why It's Everyone's Business by Adam Morgan and Mark Barden

Driven to Distraction Fairness Is Overrated Power of Thanks Make Change Work for You Beautiful Constraint

For bulk orders call 1-800-423-8273


discounted books


Build your leadership library with these specials on over 100 titles. All titles are at least 40% off the list price and are available only in limited quantities.


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“Beware of the person of one book.”
— Thomas Aquinas


Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:20 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books

12.31.14

LeadershipNow 140: December 2014 Compilation

twitter

twitter Here are a selection of tweets from December 2014 that you might have missed:
See more on twitter Twitter.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:46 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | LeadershipNow 140

12.29.14

The 5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity


5 Choices
The 5 Choices is a nuts and bolts solution to greater productivity.

Ironically, while we live in a time of unprecedented opportunity, we spend almost half—40%—of our time attention and energy on unimportant or irrelevant activities almost insuring that we miss the possibilities all around us. Not only does that leave us feeling empty, but we end the day uncertain that we’ve accomplished what we needed to, worry about things left undone, and end up dreading the day ahead.

The authors, Kory Kogon, Adam Merrill, and Leena Rinne, say that the biggest hidden cost in our organizations is people spending their time, attention, and energy on things that don’t drive your most important results.

To improve the situation we have five choices to make in three areas: Decision Management, Attention Management, and Energy Management.

5 Choices
The 5 Choices are:

Choice 1: Act on the Important, Don’t React to the Urgent
What is my return on this moment? This is really the foundational choice to make. “In today’s world, we can’t just go on the ‘I have a busy life’ autopilot and expect to end up where we want to be.” The authors have offered a Time Matrix model to help us make good decisions about where we spend our time, attention, and energy. Too often we get caught up in Quadrant 4 spending time (or too much time) on the trivial things that contribute nothing to our life.

Time MatrixQ1: The Quadrant of Necessity. “These are things that need to be done now and, if not done, could have serious consequences.

Q3: The Quadrant of Distraction. These are activities marked as urgent that feel like they need to be done now, but there are no serious consequences if you don’t do them. “Many people spend a lot of time in Q3 thinking they’re in Q1. However, they’re just reacting to everything coming their way. They are confusing motion with progress, action with accomplishment.”

Q4: The Quadrant of Waste. These are activities that are neither urgent nor important. When we get burned out we often go here for escape. “When we spend a lot of time in Q4, we feel lethargic and aimless. If we stay too long, we can experience depression and even despair.”

Q2: The Quadrant of Extraordinary Productivity. These are that activities that will make a real difference in terms of accomplishment and results like proactive work, achieving high-impact goals, creative thinking, planning, prevention, relationship building, learning, and renewal. But you have to make a conscious choice to operate in this quadrant.

Choice 2: Go for Extraordinary, Don’t Settle for Ordinary
Most people don’t clarify what is important to them so they never spend the time working on those things. Identify your roles. “Roles are where life happens. It’s where we build relationships, where all the activities that make us human go on.” Craft a role statement for each role.

Choice 3: Schedule the Big Rocks, Don’t Sort Gravel
“In today’s environment, the key to true productivity is not to get more things done, but to get the right things done—the important things—with the highest quality you can achieve. It’s not about doing more with less, but doing more about less.” Plan and decide when.

Choice 4: Rule Your Technology, Don’t let it Rule You
There are basically four types of information you need to mange: Appointments (Things you need to do at specific times), Tasks (Things you need to do that are not yet scheduled), Contacts (Information about people you interact with), and Notes or Documents (Other information you want to keep track of that does not fall into one of the other three categories). Organize accordingly.

Choice 5: Fuel Your Fire, Don’t Burn Out
Constant stress, poor diet, lack of exercise and sleep lead to burnout. The five energy drivers are adequate movement, proper diet, sleep, relaxation, and positive social connections. Your brain is your number-one asset in a knowledge-work world. Fuel it properly.

You can also find events and resources on the 5 Choices and the FranklinCovey web sites.


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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:37 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development



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