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11.19.14

The Ten Golden Rules of Leadership

Rules of Leadership
Michael Soupios and Panos Mourdoukoutas have reviewed the writings of the Classical philosophers and selected ten ideas that will positively impact our leadership effectiveness in The Ten Golden Rules of Leadership. Not surprisingly, the philosophies of classic figures remain relevant in today's workplace.

Early on the authors suggest that the raw material of leadership is not latent in just about everyone and rightly discredit the idea that it “just takes a nudge to trigger its unfolding.” Further, they say that the “special qualities of genuine leadership are remarkably complex and rare.” It is true that good leaders are not as common as they need to be and that we do confuse administration with actual leadership as they suggest, but the potential is there in each one of us. The problem is that it remains latent in many of us. We choose not to do the work necessary and instead assume reading “Leadership Lessons I Learned from My Cat” is enough to unlock our potential.

The authors do expose the real culprit at the end of the book: “Achieving the rank of genuine leader is a daunting task that most will find prohibitively challenging.” In short, “leadership requires a special form of courage: the courage to fashion a code of conduct governed by principled conviction.”

Genuine leadership is not complex but it is difficult because it requires that we do the inner-work on a continual basis. And that is a lot to commit to. It’s lifelong. And what we want to do is to check it off and mark it as good enough. Sustainable leadership requires a radical life-long commitment to rule one of leadership: Know Thyself.

Rule 1: “Know Thyself.” –Thales
This is an intimidating task and one that many leaders never really get around to. It never seems as important as the task at hand. The larger issue though is that we all possess a “powerful tendency to obscure, distort, and fictionalize on behalf of a fabricated reality.” The authors note that “Knowing Thyself means bringing a fresh transparency to our hidden motives and identities.” They suggest that a would-be leader commit to “an agenda of spirited self-indictment.”

Rule 2: “Office Shows the Person.” –Pittacus
Giving a person power reveals their inner qualities. “Specifically, power discloses whether or not a person has disposed f the psychological deficiencies that negate the possibility of real leadership.”

Rule 3: “Nurture Community at the Workplace.” –Plato
Plato insisted that “there is no greater evil than discord and faction and no greater good than the bonds of communal sentiment.” The idea that if one part of the body suffers, we all suffer. “Foster a cultre of cooperation and collaboration by defying the myth of the exceptional individual, and by explaining the corporate gains of working together.”

Rule 4: “Do Not Waste Energy on Things You Cannot Change.” –Aristophanes
The Athenian playwright Aristophanes wrote in his play titled Peace, “Never will you make the crab to walk straight.” Some things we cannot change. “Leaders must assume a posture of flexible response.”

Rule 5: “Always Embrace the Truth.” –Antisthenes
Antisthenes wrote, “There are only two people who will tell you the truth about yourself—an enemy who has lost his temper and a friend who loves you dearly.” “Honest assessment is an essential requirement of effective leadership.” The problem is that the higher up the ladder you go, the less likely you will receive complete and accurate information.” Seek the truth. Hire a heretic.

Rule 6: “Let Competition Reveal Talent.” –Hesiod
Hesiod suggested that competition that releases selfishness is destructive, but competition that releases ingenuity and creative is a constructive use of competition. Strife than is not the byproduct, but inner excellence and personal development.

Rule 7: “Live Life by a Higher Code.” –Aristotle
Aristotle wrote of the “magnanimous man” or the “great-souled” person. He is referring to a person that lives by a higher or more rigorous code than the average person. But not in a vain way. “When it comes to the great-souled individual, personal honor, not ego, is the ultimate priority and concern.”

Rule 8: “Always Evaluate Information with a Critical Eye.” –The Skeptics
“Leaders should never assume that the information they receive is unsoiled by hidden agendas or political agendas.” The problem though is even more personal than that. Socrates reminded us that “we must be vigilant against the conceits of wisdom [and] that we are all strongly inclined to assume we understand things that in truth we fail to genuinely comprehend.”

Rule 9: “Never Underestimate the Power of Personal Integrity.” –Sophocles
In the play Philoctetes by Sophocles, one of the two central characters believes that the ends justify the means; “one should not allow moral concerns to impede the necessities of practical achievement.” In the face of this seductive idea, the other main character, Neoptolemus, responds, “I would prefer even to fail with honor than win by cheating.” It’s easy to rationalize wrong behavior.

Rule 10: “Character Is Destiny.” –Heraclitus
Our character or our moral essence determines the course of our lives. While we can’t control the world around us, “Heraclitus was correct to insist that we are, to a very great extent, the authors of both our own blessings and our own burdens.” “A well formed character,” write the authors, “is the priceless reward paid to those who have done the hard work of coming to know themselves.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:24 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development , Personal Development

11.17.14

Do you have Moxie?

Leadership
Leaders with moxie are leaders that have what it takes to lead others in tough circumstances. They are tough on the outside but soft on the inside. When knocked down they know how to get back up and they can bring others with them because they are likeable.

John Baldoni, author of MOXIE, says that “Leadership post-crash is not really any different from leadership pre-crash, except for one thing: resilience.” Leaders with moxie have four key attributes:

Fire. They have a passion for what they do and have a need to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

Drive. They have ambition and want others to share in it.

Resilience. They have known defeat and it doesn’t scare them. They know how to pick themselves up after a fall.

Street Smarts. They know how the world works and what makes people tick.

Baldoni breaks moxie down into five characteristics that you can practice and develop to be a leader that demonstrates moxie. Each characteristic is brought to life through the examples of leaders who have demonstrated it in their own life and leadership.

The first is Mindfulness. “A mindful leader knows the situation as well as his capabilities and those of the people around him.” aware if his situation but at the same time focused on what could be done to improve it. Mindfulness “prepares leaders to focus on the present as well as prepare for the future”— to be aware of your situation but at the same time focused on what could be done to improve it.

opportunitySecond is Opportunity. “An opportunistic leader looks for ways to make things better. She is motivated by a desire to make a positive difference.” That means a willingness to see beyond the immediate problem and see the possibilities over the horizon.

Third is X-Factor. “A leader with the X-Factor has what we call ‘the right stuff of leadership.’ She radiates character and uses her ambition to focus on the right goals. She has the persevering spirit that radiates resolve. Leaders with the X-Factor are humble, and their humility attracts others to them.” The X-Factor is those things that allow you to do what you do well: character, beliefs and talent. These can all be examined and improved. In addition, look for opportunities to improve through more training and consider taking on responsibilities that stretch you.

Fourth is Innovation. “An innovative leader knows that life is not lived in a linear fashion. Sometimes you need to take risks. That means thinking differently, doing differently, and rewarding others who do the same.” Leaders with moxie aren’t content with the status quo. They are tuned to the future. A “forward-themed outlook is not merely one of observation, it is one of application….That gives rise to innovation.”

Fifth is Engagement. “Persons with moxie seek to engage with the wider community around them. They are focused on making a positive difference in their teams and in their organizations.” Leaders must work through others. “Engagement is an essential part of extending the leadership self in order to make a positive difference.”

All of us can demonstrate moxie when the going gets tough. Preparing and developing yourself now sets you up to make better decisions when you do get knocked down.

Moxie is full of great stories and examples making it immediately relatable and practical. It is structured so that you can thoughtfully and tactically look at each of these areas to see where you can better prepare yourself. Baldoni also provides an appendix that works as a handbook to guide you in this. Questions, examples, additional thoughts and action steps help you access where you are at and what you might need to do next.

Moxie is not just about your work life, it also impacts every other aspect of your life and positively influences the lives of those you touch.

Of Related Interest:
  The Leader’s Pocket Guide
  Lead With Purpose
  Lead Your Boss
  Lead By Example

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:50 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

11.07.14

How to Pull Yourself Back from the Brink of Your Caffeine-Driven, Smart Phone-Addicted Life

Leading Forum
This is a post by Scott Eblin. Scott is is the co-founder and president of The Eblin Group. He is the author of The Next Level and Overworked and Overwhelmed.

On a summer Sunday night four years ago, I found myself standing in front of a roomful of about 80 corporate managers who probably didn’t want to be there. They had just finished the first week of a high-profile leadership development program in one of the world’s largest companies and week two was scheduled to start at 7:30 am the next morning. They were polite but understandably restless. I was there as a guest speaker brought in to share some of what I’d learned from working with several hundred other leaders in their company.

Since high-achieving people usually like to compare themselves to their peers, I asked if they’d like to see the summary results of hundreds of leadership behavior self-assessments completed by those other leaders. Of course they said yes. Starting with the highest assessed behaviors, everyone could quickly identify with commitment to behaviors like making timely decisions, being clear about priorities and accepting accountability for results. Then we took a look at the lowest assessed behaviors like pacing myself, taking regular time to step back and giving others my full presence and attention. There were nods and murmurs of recognition. I summed it up for the group with the headline, “Leaders in your company are so busy doing stuff that they probably don’t see what needs to be done.

Then the room erupted. Not in anger but in vociferous agreement. “Yeah, that’s exactly it!” one person exclaimed. “Yeah, another agreed, they expect us to be corporate warriors, answer e-mails at 2:00 in the morning and get by on four hours of sleep a night.” Several people at once said, “We can’t keep this up.”

Overworked and Overwhelmed
The conversation I led that evening was the beginning of work and a thought process that led to my new book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative. One of the things I’ve noticed in my work as an executive coach and speaker over the past four or five years is that most of the executives, managers and professionals I work with are trying to work harder every year. The demands of a “do more with less” culture and a 24/7, smart phone enabled operating environment have left too many people teetering on the brink of a caffeine-addicted, sleep-deprived, stressed-out existence. The impact of all of that on short-term productivity and happiness and long-term health and well being is devastating.

Because of all they’re trying to do and pay attention to many of the leaders and professionals I work with are in a chronic state of fight or flight. Their stress hormones and blood pressure are too high and their immune and digestive systems don’t operate at healthy levels. In the short run, all of that leads to anxiety, insomnia, poor decision making, lack of focus and generally poor health. In the long run, it leads to broken relationships, premature aging and early death.

The point I’m trying to make in Overworked and Overwhelmed is it doesn’t have to be that way. There are simple, relatively easy steps you can take to pull your life from the brink. That’s where the mindfulness alternative comes in. Over the past few years, mindfulness has gotten more and more attention in the mainstream media – it's even made the cover of Time magazine. The picture that a lot of people get in their minds when they hear the word mindfulness is of blissed out people sitting cross legged while they meditate and chant. That’s one way to do it, but it’s not something that most stressed out professionals are going to do.

What I’m presenting in my book is what I’ve learned about how the basics of mindfulness can be used and applied by just about anyone who needs to get out of chronic fight or flight. We all know what fight or flight is – it’s supposed to be the emergency response system controlled by your body’s sympathetic nervous system. It’s a big problem when the fight or flight response gets stuck in the on position and becomes chronic. That’s where another system that all of us have but few of us have heard of comes into play. It’s called your rest and digest response and is controlled by your body’s parasympathetic nervous system. You can think of it as fight or flight being the gas pedal and rest and digest as the brakes. We need to exercise both throughout the day to be healthy, happy and effective. Fortunately, there are simple, easy to do routines that we can learn from the practice of mindfulness that can help even the most overworked and overwhelmed people activate their rest and digest response. I summarize a lot of those routines in my book and offer a simple one-page framework called the Life GPS® that helps make it easy to follow through on the routines that help you show up at your best.

The Life GPS® asks for your answers to three questions:
  • How am I when I’m at my best?
  • What are the routines – physical, mental, relational and spiritual – that will help me show up at my best?
  • What outcomes do I hope to see in the three big arenas of life – home, work and community – if I regularly show up at my best?
Based on my work with hundreds of leaders, I can tell you that getting clear about your Life GPS® and following through on it can help you step back from the brink and make a huge difference in the quality of your life and for the people you care most about. It doesn’t require perfection in either discipline or execution. It just requires the willingness to take some small initial steps and repeating them until they’ve become healthy habits.

It’s never too late to pull yourself back from the brink and reclaim your life. Now is a great time to get started. My goal with Overworked and Overwhelmed is to help you do that.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:37 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

07.14.14

Six Critical Areas Where You Need to Be Grounded

Good leaders are healthy leaders.

Leadership
We can’t separate our leadership from who we are inside. “Your well-being, success, and organization depend, first and foremost on who you are. You need to examine the internal stuff—what goes on in your mind and heart—before doing anything,” writes Bob Rosen in Grounded .

Faced with the speed of change today, staying aligned with who we are is very difficult making us feel stressed and defeated. We can deal with the winds of change in one of three ways: ignore the change, deal with it head on with uninformed short-term fixes, or get ahead of it. Those ignoring the situation often “adapt a rigid attitude toward personal change, avoiding introspection or soul-searching that might threaten long-held values or unexamined results.” Those who get ahead of it are not only flexible but are personally grounded.

Rosen says that great leaders are grounded in six areas:

Physical Health / How You Live: Not just the absence of disease but the presence of health. “Strong personal health begins with body-mind awareness, which gives you the personal insights and knowledge to develop a healthy lifestyle specially tailored for you.”

Emotional Health / How You Feel: Having good self-awareness. “Emotionally healthy leaders have a nimbleness, evident in their reactions, thinking and behavior.”

Intellectual Health / How You Think: Having a good curiosity so that you can break out of your mental comfort zone. “By expanding your mental range, you can broaden your thinking, solve complex problems, and focus on what is truly important.”

Social Health / How You Interact: The ability to build mutually rewarding relationships while being true to yourself – transparent and connected. “Leadership follows an inside-outside progression. Social health starts with authenticity, advances to mutually rewarding relationships, and culminates in nourishing teams and communities.”

Vocational Health / How You Perform: Meaningful work that reflects who you are. “A company led by an ill-equipped leader soon falls behind in the race for talent and productivity. Now more than ever, people are yearning for leaders to create the conditions that enable others to excel and to reach their full potential.”

Spiritual Health / How You View the World: The ability to recognize a higher purpose and something more meaningful than your personal needs. It’s connecting at the macro level. “On a personal level, individuals become alienated, rootless, and self-destructive. A business devoid of spiritual health promotes elfish, parochial, and narrow financial interests above humanity and social responsibility.”

Rosen says that these six areas are part of a system of health and if one of these subsystems is out of line, the entire system can come undone. “Poor leadership is a failure or breakdown of the whole or of part of the system.”

Rosen deals with each of these areas addressing the key issues of each, identifying where you need work, and how to develop and master each of them. The process requires self-awareness, disciple and the conscious choice to take the steps to achieve desired outcomes.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:56 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

05.13.14

Leadership Impact: Where it Comes From

Why do some leaders make an impact, while others flounder after initial success?

Impact
Tim Irwin says “leadership failures rarely reflect a problem with the leader’s competence. Most often the fall occurs because of a breach of something inside the leader.” This is not surprising because we lead from our core. No matter how polished we become on the outside, eventually what is on the inside comes through.

Great leadership is not a technique. It comes from within. In Impact, Irwin says, “Truly engaging others flows from the essence of who we are—from our core. Management is positional; leadership is personal.”

We see this too often: “Unregulated power is one of the chief instigators of a compromised core.” Something happened along the way. Successful leadership depends on growing and protecting our core. Of course, self-awareness is key. And we must acknowledge that all is not well. “Our culture’s obsession with striving to look perfect makes us reluctant to look at our own duality—that some of our impulses are noble, while others are not so benevolent. It is not that we have yielded to our shadow, but we prefer to deny that we even have a shadow.

Power and our tendency to misuse it, is an area we need to be aware of. “Self-awareness and self regulation must grow in direct proportion to the power we exert.

Irwin discusses identifying and dealing with arrogance, the beliefs that drive our behavior, self-deception. He also stresses the need for accountability We can’t regulate our core alone. Unfortunately, too many leaders derail themselves because they think that they are too good to be held accountable by anyone else. We need to have people around us that will speak candidly with us. Accountability must be part of the organization’s culture. If it is not, the first place to look for a lack of accountability is at the very top.

Steve Reinemund, former chairman and CEO of PepsiCo told Irwin:
Accountability is being responsible to some other person or organization for the activities and actions we take. it is critical to an individuals performance and an organization’s integrity and credibility.

A good organization where high-performing people want to work is a place where people have responsibilities and accountabilities for their actions and how they perform in their jobs. High performing organizations do a great job of defining accountability and then measuring it and holding people accountable for results on a real time basis.

Some of the best organizations that I have seen are very clear and very specific about those accountabilities. If people join an organization and don’t recognize its culture of accountability, they join at their own peril.
They stay at their own peril too.

Irwin’s book is a book to keep handy and to refer to throughout the seasons of your leadership. It will help you to stay on track and lead from a solid and uncompromised core.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:11 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

04.23.14

How to Find Leadership Blindspots

Blindspots
Blindspots. Those problems that are right in front of us that we fail to see. We all have them not because we can’t find them, but because we don’t look very hard.

In Leadership Blindspots, author Robert Shaw make this important observation: “Leadership strengths are often found in close proximity to blindspots. An overpowering strength, in particular, usually has an associated blindspot.”

Shaw suggests that not all blindspots are bad. Some may actually protect a leader from doubt. For instance a certain confidence may “push him or her forward in the face of uncertainty and adversity” to “see what is possible beyond what a realistic assessment would suggest is sensible.” Yes, but…. I would talk about it differently but eventually arrive at the same place.

To me a blindspot is a blindspot and needs to be uncovered. Once uncovered it can be managed in some way. An uncommon confidence in your approach to uncertainty may serve you well and if recognized and understood it is no longer a blindspot but an approach to life that is managed. Any blindspot puts distance between you and reality. A small deviation may never become an issue but large deviations will eventually trip you up.
An optimal margin of illusion occurs when individuals have a small, positive distortion about themselves. This results in an advantage over those who are more realistic. A positive bias is useful because it increases an individual’s motivation to move forward in risky situations and persevere in difficult situations.
“Leaders get into trouble when they don’t know what they don’t know in areas that matter.” There are degrees of blindness:

First is a complete lack of awareness. Leaders are said to be blindsided by these weaknesses or threats.

Second is denial. “In this case, a leader may be aware of a weakness or threat but doesn’t analyze it in sufficient depth to understand its causes and potential impact. The vulnerability is seen by the leader as ‘not being a big deal’ or ‘not my problem.’”

And third is the failure to act on a known weakness or threat. “There are cases when a leader knows that trouble lies ahead but fails to take action due to a range of factors including a lack of skill. I refer to this as a type of blindness because the leader fails to fully appreciate the risk he or she is facing and the consequences of not taking action.”

Not all blindspots are created equal. “Leaders need to question the relative importance of a weakness or threat once they become aware of it.”

Not surprisingly, “the more power and status people have, the less likely they are to pay attention to those below them and the less empathic they will be.” So we just don’t bother searching for blindspots.

Leadership Blindspots has a Leadership Blindspot Survey in the appendix of the book. It contains self-assessment questions in each of the four potential blindspot areas: self, team, company and markets.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:34 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

04.11.14

Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success

Leadership
Failure is how we learn. The problem is, argues Megan McArdle, we’re forgetting that truth. We are becoming too risk-averse and that is bad for our children, for our personal lives, for our companies, and for our country.

While we tend to treat success as finite and failure as disaster, the reality is that in order to be successful, we must learn how to harness the power of failure. In The Up Side Down, McArdle explains why.

Unfortunately, teaching our kids how to fail smartly is one of the most important things we (and our schools) could be doing. Instead, we protect our kids from failure.
Educational software can help kids master new skills by pinpointing where they’re going wrong, and letting them practice just that task over and over until they get it. And yet, we don’t seem to be carrying that lesson outside the computer lab. Perhaps this is because even as our electronics have become a better and better environment for learning from failure, our educational system has become much worse.
Of course, learning from failure means asking the right questions after a failure and taking responsibility for the answers. “Learning to fail well means overcoming our natural instincts to blame someone—maybe ourselves—whenever something goes wrong.” Perhaps we deflect responsibility not just to make ourselves look better, but also to create a sense of control and structure in the world.

Our fear of failure also causes us to stay the course long after we should have quit. The biggest key to understand, says McArdle, is that failure is not the problem. It’s our refusal to recognize that we have failed. “If we assume that failure is a catastrophe, we’ll often try to delay recognizing it as long as possible. That, of course, gives your failure lots of room to turn into a disaster.”

In The Up Side of Down you’ll find why making bankruptcy easy relative to the rest of the world means not only are people willing to takes more risks, but they are feed to try again. “We built the biggest, richest country in the world” and we did it mostly because “we were willing to risk more, and forgive more easily, than most other countries. We lend more freely, and let debtors off the hook; we regulate more lightly, and rely on a hit-and-miss liability system instead. These things are often painted as weaknesses, but in fact they are great strengths. They are the sign of a country more invested in the future than the past.”

Sharing her own experiences among the unemployed, she explains the psychology of why some unemployed people stay unemployed—and what can be done about it. In a chapter titled “Adopting the Way of the Shark,” she explains why you need to keep moving. She notes, “It is very difficult to communicate the progressive corrosion of long-term unemployment to someone who has not endured it.” Money is an issue, but the psychological toll is worse—withdrawing from social relationships because it is “increasingly painful to hang out with people who have jobs.”

The Up Side Down is persuasive and engaging. It is a rewarding read that will have you looking at the “failures” in your life as opportunities to learn and reinvent yourself.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:42 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

12.09.13

The 12 Rules of Respect

Respect
Paul Meshanko has highlighted the importance of demonstrating respect in all of our interactions in The Respect Effect. The desired result is that those we interact with will feel valued in some way. He offers 12 Ways of thinking and behaving around others:

1. Be Aware of Your Nonverbal and Extra-verbal Cues.
What we say is important but how we say it can make or break the communication. “Extra-verbal cues include the speed with which we speak, our volume relative to background noise, our inflection, and our willingness to pause to make space for others to speak.”

2. Develop Curiosity About the Perspectives of Others.
“Empathy is demonstrated when it becomes evident to others around us that we are interested in what they think, why they think it, and how they feel about it. When this happens, it becomes easier to communicate respect to others, even if we disagree with them.”

3. Assume that Everyone is Smart About Something.
“Because I like to think I’m smart, it is reasonable to assume that other people like to think they are also smart. The only difference is that we are all smart through different histories and life experiences.”

4. Become a Better Listener by Shaking Your “But.” The word “but” can be used in a way that hinders our ability to show respect. The word “but” negates what came before it. Replacing it with “and” and other words that validate and convey consideration, the entire tone is changed.

5. Look for Opportunities to Connect with and Support Others.
“Even in the heat of conflict, there are ways to connect with people if we want to. When we demonstrate a willingness to move away from our immediate agenda and search for positions of agreement first, it makes working through the actual differences a bit easier.”

6. When You Disagree, Explain Why.
“It is disrespectful when we fail to share our observations and opinions in order to avoid conflict. We have an obligation to others to be truthful with our perspectives and points of view. When done with civility, tact, and room for counterarguments, sharing our perspectives leads to the best decisions and optimal results. It also prevents the accumulation of ‘baggage’ that builds up when we keep things bottled up.” And remember, it works both ways.

7. Look for Opportunities to Grow, Stretch, and Change.
“As we develop the desire and the willingness to hold ourselves up to the proverbial ‘bright light’ for an occasional reality check, two things happen. First, we become infinitely easier to be around because we are less critical of others. Second, we grow in wisdom and perspective. That’s because we start considering that, in situations where we might initially view others critically, the problems may be ours to deal with and not theirs.

8. Learn to Be Wrong on Occasion.
“From a neurological perspective, there is absolutely no correlation between our degree of certainty about a subject and the likelihood that we are actually correct in our beliefs. This means that our feeling of certainty about something is nothing more than a strong emotion. The stronger the emotion, the more likely we are to develop blind spots around it.” An open mind is a demonstration of respect.

9. Never Hesitate to Say You Are Sorry.
“Unfortunately, it is often when we’re at our worst that our actions are most memorable to others. While we don’t expect everybody to be perfect, “we do expect people to make it right when their words, actions, or decisions cause damage.”

10. Intentionally Engage Others in Ways that Build Their Self-Esteem.
“Building esteem in people we work with or for requires a shift in agendas. It takes a shift in focus away from what we need to what others need.” Meshanko colleague Teresa Welborne said, “If you are in a leadership position and you are not a people person, you become a liability to your organization. And if you’re not willing to make the effort to become a people person, you should not be in a position of leadership.”

11. Be Respectful of Time When Making Comments.
“If we don’t become curious or have value for what other people have to say, it is difficult to consistently fake the behaviors that demonstrate interest.”

12. Smile!
“Sometimes the most effective strategies are also the simplest. With rare exception, when we meet people who greet us with a smile, they are sending us important information about heir intentions.”

Meshanko concludes with 3 key ingredients to improving your ability to demonstrate respect for others:
Respect is about you and me, not “them,” and our commitment to it influences everyone around us. Once we understand the value proposition respect offers, that insight can provide us with patience, courage, and creativity.

Patience permits us to maintain our composure and respectful demeanor when others are not acting at their best.

Courage enables us to candidly challenge disrespectful behavior and actions directed toward others.

Creativity allows us to see points of connection, even in the midst of conflict.

When we bring these qualities online and into our work interactions, everyone benefits, including our peers, customers, vendors, and ultimately, our shareholders.


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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:13 PM
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10.24.13

How to Discover Your What

Youtr WHAT
Your WHAT is the “single most crucial element of your life that needs to be identified, defined, and fulfilled,” says Steve Olsher in What is Your What? Here’s why:

Your unfulfilled WHAT will absolutely affect you in a variety of unexpected ways. It could be the source of your high blood pressure, the reason you don’t feel “good enough,” the cause of your general sense of loathing when you wake up, or the impetus behind your efforts at self-sabotage.

It should be noted here that finding your what is not a surefire way to fame and riches—or gainful employment for that matter. And while each person is unique, many others possess similar abilities and may fill a need in the marketplace better than you do. It takes work. At the same time, some people chose to work at jobs that do not fulfill or satisfy their what because it fills a purpose or a value that they consider to be greater than their own personal needs. Perhaps that is their what. That said, What is Your What? will help you get to gain control over your life rather than letting it happen haphazardly.

What is Your What? is a self-awareness book to help you connect with who you really are. What you do from there is your choice. Olsher has developed a three-step process to help you uncover and reconnect with your natural strengths, identify the vehicle you’ll leverage to share your gifts with the world and the specific audiences who’ll benefit most from your gifts.

“As we endure life’s hardships, we tend to lose touch with our inner greatness. We start to make distasteful compromises, settle for less, and become people different from our deepest selves.” Becoming aware of how you were knocked down is the first step in ascending to your most natural state of being.

Olsher bases his program on seven principles:

1. Recognize YaNo Moments. These are those moments when you are faced with a choice. Some are big; some are small. “Any time you undertake an activity without evaluating the impact your choice will have on your life, you run the risk of compromising your state of mind. The key to regaining control of your life is to make deliberate choices with an understanding of the consequences.”

2. Reclaim the Canyon. Establish space between life as it happens and your reaction to those events.

3. The Sufficiency Theory. Attain satisfaction, peace, and contentment by minimizing material desires and the effect of outside influences. Olsher suggests that we stop drawing lines in the sand. “Happiness is not a destination that can be reached by attaining select milestones. Shift your approach from waiting for certain things to happen in order to feel a certain way to feeling and acting that way now. Surprisingly often, this will spur the results you desire to happen.”

4. Retrain Your Brain. “Anything from your past that you choose to relive becomes a part of your identity. Be careful about which memories you commit to.”

5. Incorporate Jack Welch’s successful business practices into your behavior. Specifically, become highly focused on who you are, what you stand for, and what your purpose is; identify the Top 20 Percent, Vital 70 Percent, and Bottom 10 Percent for each area of your life; achieve Six Sigma in all key aspects of your life and strive to accept nothing less than your best.

6. The Not-So-Golden Rule. Eliminate fear or expectation as a motive for your actions. Your motive does matter. Act out of love, without the expectation of anything in return.

7. The Slow Death of Not Being the Star. Shift your focus away from time-consuming distractions and toward the pursuit of your personal goals. Keep track of your activities for a week. “Chances are you’ll find that what you’ve been thinking of as relaxing ‘downtime’ is actually the dominant force in your life, devouring months and years you can never get back.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:56 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Personal Development

10.13.13

The Advantage of Dealing with Giants in Our Life

Leadership
Malcom Gladwell wants us to rethink how we think about the giants in our lives whether they be outsized opponents, disabilities, misfortunes, or oppression. We all face or have faced odds that seemed to be stacked against us. Odds that we are forced to deal with.

In David and Goliath, Gladwell shares two ideas. First, “much of what we consider valuable in our world arises out of these kinds of lopsided conflicts, because the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty.” The battle makes us better. It develops us and reveals strengths that we didn’t know we had.

Second, giants are not always what we think they are. The powerful and strong are not always what they seem. Often their strength can expose their greatest vulnerability. Their size can be their undoing. What we see as their overwhelming advantages can also be the thing that limits their options.

We know but easily forget, that there is a point where more doesn’t make a difference and more still becomes a disadvantage. “We all assume,” writes Gladwell, “that being bigger and stronger and richer is always in our best interest.” A wealthy man told Gladwell about the relationship between wealth and parenting:
My own instinct is that it’s much harder than anybody believes to bring kinds up in a wealthy environment. People are ruined by challenged economic lives. But they’re ruined by wealth as well because they lose their ambition and they lose their pride and they lose their sense of self-worth. It’s difficult at both ends of the spectrum. There’s some place in the middle which probably works best of all.
Gladwell is a master storyteller. The stories are compelling and at times provocative. But they all make you think.

Gladwell makes the point that certainly some people triumph over their disabilities in spite of them. They simply won’t let them stand in their way. But there are those that succeed because of their disability. “They learned something in their struggle that proved to be of enormous advantage.” Challenges can cause us to develop skills we might not otherwise have developed if we choose to respond that way.

Although Gladwell makes the point that there are “desirable disadvantages,” in that it is the difficulty that eventually led to a person’s success and made them a better person, it is not to suggest that we should wish for more disadvantages or wish them on other people. We all have disadvantages, some are huge and some are not, but the lesson is in how we see them. How we react.

Some of what we perceive as advantages—opportunities or resources that we wish we had—have actually ruined people or diminished their full potential in some way.

The thread that runs through all of Gladwell’s examples is how individuals or organizations turned their disadvantages to their advantage—how they defeated giants by reframing their perceived advantage. There is no formula here as to what will work and what won’t. The question is as it has always been, how will you respond to what you have been given?

The key lesson is that for the most part, difficulties are what you make of them.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:16 PM
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09.10.13

What Keeps Leaders Up at Night?

Leadership
Gaps in what we know can trouble us for a time, but gaps in what we know about ourselves and others can truly keep us up at night. We are unpredictable, messy, complicated, illogical, and fallible. That will never change, “but through a commitment to self-awareness we can all become more highly attuned to the subtle and not-so-subtle red flags that sometimes pull us off course.”

What Keeps Leaders Up at Night? by Nicole Lipkin is a treatise on self-awareness and personal responsibility and the damaging effects a lack of those qualities has in our lives.

“You can’t change what’s already happened, but you can change what you do next.…I’ve learned that the solutions always begin with raising my self-awareness and helping others raise theirs.”

Using research personal examples, Lipkin tackles a number of issues:

I’m a Good Boss. So Why Do I Sometimes Act Like a Bad One? (You usually find three overarching reasons: too busy to win, too proud to see, and too afraid to lose. “Although most of us don’t like to admit it, we often get all wrapped up in our own ideas, not because we are idiots but because we are human. It’s natural to think our ideas best, especially when we’re the boss.”)

Why Don’t People Heed My Sage Advice? (If you focus on treating your people with kindness and respect, your influence will grow.)

Why Do I Lose My Cool in Hot Situations? (“Leaders who want to solve the problems that keep them up at night would be wise to begin with a through inventory of their stress personality.” Learn “how to negotiate your own reactions to the stress that inevitably occurs every day.”)

Why Does a Good Fight Sometimes Turn Bad? (The emotions underlying a good fight gone bad in the workplace often occur as a result of a dense of injustice, contention for resources or standing, or [I suspect most likely] feelings of inferiority.”)

Why Can Ambition Sabotage Success? (“The Julius Caesars of the world often end up failing because they pursue myopic success, a ‘nearsighted’ view that defines success in terms of self-interest. The Caesar Augustuses, on the other hand, pursue panoramic success, defining success in terms of the ‘big picture’ best interests of all.”)

Why Do People Resist Change? (“We find it amazingly easy to turn our backs on compelling reasons to change…Beginning in childhood, we tend to shed habits that don’t serve us well but hang on tightly to those habits that provide us comfort or safety. These persistent habits are able to endure even the most vicious assaults long past their expiration date.”)

Why Do Good Teams Go Bad? (“Few other aspects of organizational life pose greater challenges to a leader than the behavior of people in groups.” Groups are inevitable, and once we do join a group, some truly fascinating dynamics kick in as Lipkin explains.)

What Causes a Star to Fade? (The failure to engage people. “Engagement depends more than anything else on the sort of panoramic leadership Augustus practices throughout his tenure as Rome’s leader.”)

If things do start to go south, here are Three Simple Rules for getting back on track:

1. Seek Self-Awareness
2. Help Other Gain Self-Awareness
3. Remember we’re Only Human After All.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:56 PM
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07.03.13

The 5 Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace and What You Can Do About It

Reality
Cy Wakeman does an excellent job of helping us to peel away the layers of rationalizations and excuses we create to avoid facing reality. First she did it with Reality-Based Leadership and now with Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace.

Too often work seems harder than it should be. We can feel helpless in dealing with the realities of "today's" workplace. That said, every time period seems unparalleled in all of history to those going through it. However, people have always struggled with these issues: doing more with less; reduced hours, benefits, or pay; increased work hours; underappreciated. The problem is, as Wakeman puts it, "no one is born accountable self-reliant, self-mastered, and resilient, yet these are the qualities that count, the ones that will fill you with confidence and afford you the chance to chose your destiny, no matter what your field of endeavor." The trick is learning to see your circumstances differently.

Wakeman has put this book together to help you do just that. If you have been playing the victim for a substantial period of time, her ideas will seem impossible, but they are the only thing that will work.
I am here to tell you: You are not a cog in a machine — far from it. You have more control than you think. That’s the good news. The bad news is, you and you alone are causing your own suffering. What most of you have lost touch with is that it isn’t your reality that is causing your pain and frustration. It’s the worn-out methods, techniques, and mind-sets with which you are approaching your reality. I’m here to tell you that your suffering is optional. I can help you get back on track so you can find bliss in your work again, while becoming more valuable to your organization than ever before.
She has created some pretty straightforward, brief assessments to determine your current performance and your future potential. Your value, plain and simple is based on "the value you bring to your organization, the market value of your work, and the return on investment that you deliver, both economically and emotionally, now and into the future." You must be clear about the value you bring to your organization. The three factors that make up your value:

YOUR VALUE = Current Performance + Future Potential - (3 x Emotional Expensiveness)

The chapter on Your Emotional Expensiveness is worth reading twice. It's your drama factor. "It is the single most important factor in the New Value Equation, the one that determines whether our Performance and Potential and anything meaningful to the bottom line, and whether others feel that working with us is worth the effort." Wakeman lists 15 clues to your emotional expensiveness factor. Among them are:

You may be Emotionally Expensive if …
  • You come to work in a bad mood. Ever.
  • You share a lot of personal information with coworkers, and the boundary between your public life and private life is very permeable.
  • You complain a lot or judge others.
  • You tend to focus in what you need rather than what you have.
  • You assume the worst of others' motivations.
  • When you perform well, you want a medal for it.
Wakeman presents the Five Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace:

1. Your level of accountability determines your level of happiness. Personally accountable people bring their own motivation and engagement to everything they do. Be one of those people, and you will ensure your job security—or that your résumé goes to the top of the stack.

2. Suffering is optional … so ditch the drama. (Wakeman estimates that the average person spends two hours each day in drama—complaining, creating stories, and arguing with reality.) Your circumstances are what they are, but your reaction to them is up to you.
Even if you don't share your drama with others, there is no such thing as a throwaway thought. Most thoughts lead in some way to an action—or lack of action….Your thinking manifests itself in a way that affects everyone around you and the way they see you.

If you remain in your lane, tending to your own responsibilities in the present, you will seldom be stressed. You'll be clear, capable, and effective. Stress enters the picture when you leave your lane to meddle in other people's business, judging or trying to control them.

Learn to see stress as a sign—not that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, but that you are not currently living in reality and need to inquire on your thinking.
3. Buy-in is not optional. To succeed, your buy-in is not optional, and action, not opinion, adds value. The most valuable people say "yes" the most often. If a decision has been made, opinions are no longer welcome.

4. Say “yes” to what’s next. Your success will not be dependent on everything staying the same, but on your readiness for what's next.

5. You will always have extenuating circumstances. Succeed anyway. That which is missing from this situation is something I am not giving. When you find something missing (especially—but not limited to—intangibles, like honesty, generosity, humor, sensitivity, or gratitude) don't dwell on what other people "should" be doing or giving.

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More down-to-earth straight talk from Cy Wakeman about personal responsibility and what it takes to succeed. Cuts through the clutter and gets to the core issues. Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace is a road map for everyone on how to be a valuable member of any organization.

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Of Related Interest:
  The Reality-Based Leader’s Manifesto

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:22 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Personal Development

06.06.13

Balance: The Business—Life Connection

Balance
In Balance, James A. Cusumano reflects on his five careers as the lead singer of a rock band, an Exxon research scientist and executive, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, a filmmaker and a luxury hotel owner. Through it all he points to people who helped him along the way and pointed him in the right direction. Their perspective helped keep his life in balance.

We can all make a unique contribution with the specific set of skills we came into this world with says Cusumano and "there is no greater personal satisfaction on this planet than being in the thick of doing so."

To find your passion and purpose, you have to answer four questions:

1. What do I love to do so much so that time passes incredibly quickly?
2. What work do I do or have done in the past that I do not consider work?
3. What could I do that would create the greatest value for the world around me, as well as the greatest personal satisfaction for the amount of time spent?
4. What is my unique ability, the skill or skills which, if truly actualized, could provide significant benefits to the organization for which I work and to me?

He believes that 80 percent of his success was based on his early discovery of his fundamental essence—his life purpose—that was fueled by the energy of passion and guided by the "giants" in his life.

Passion fuels your creativity and the process provides a deep sense of gratitude and "gratitude always leads to long-term fulfillment and happiness. The greater your sense of gratitude, the greater your level of happiness."

Cusumano provides eight principles for building a successful business:
  1. Have a skilled CEO who embraces and is committed to Inspired Leadership*, and has a deep sense of how to create a challenging, far-reaching, yet realistic company vision and mission. The CEO creates the dream; committed employees embrace and embellish it.
  2. Achieve passionate buy-in of this vision and mission from all key stakeholders—customers, employees, investors, suppliers, and the community.
  3. Coach employees on developing corporate values to which they are firmly committed.
  4. Hire the right people for the right positions at the right time—and compassionately and quickly ask those to leave who do not work out.
  5. Address a growing market, better yet, create one. Don't waste your time on dying markets.
  6. Focus strictly and passionately on the best opportunities. You can't do everything.
  7. Plan for an early commercial success—even a modest one. Hit a few singles instead of trying for all home runs.
  8. Have a strategic plan but stay flexible. For maximum effectiveness, the plan should be understood and embraced by all employees.
*Inspired Leadership is based on the CASTLE Principles, an acronym for Courage, Authenticity, Service, Truthfulness, Love, and Effectiveness developed by Lance Secretan. Inspired Leadership is a serving relationship with others that inspires them to grow and reach their innate human potential and in doing so they not only exhibit outstanding performance and thereby contribute much more to their company, but they also make the world a better place. Inspired Leadership is not a model, or a formula, or a system, or a process. Instead of doing something to someone, Inspired Leadership is a way of being and it comes from within.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:30 PM
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05.13.13

The First Step in Self-Awareness Isn’t You - Redux

Human beings—and that includes most leaders—are relational.

Self-leadership is fundamental to good leadership, but it is not the end-game.

Self-awareness for self-awareness sake has a limited value.

Through introspection and reflection we can get to know a great deal about ourselves—as far as we know. The problem is that we don't know what we don't know. Only when we are able to test our assumptions about ourselves, can we know if we are getting it right. It is when we see ourselves in relation to others and in relation to a higher purpose that we really begin to clarify (and many times even identify) our core values, beliefs and intentions. We can all know who we think we are, but it isn't until we get out and interact with others that we can begin to see where we are right and where we have been fooling ourselves.

Who we are takes on meaning when it is in the context of our relationship with others. Superman's stance on "truth, justice and the American Way" is pointless if he remains isolated in his Fortress of Solitude. His values only have meaning in relationship to other people. All the self-knowledge in the world counts for very little if it is not put to work in the service of others.

Self-awareness that points to your unique contribution in the world is leadership. Who you are is leveraged when it is placed in the service of other people. Surely we must lead with integrity—in a manner consistent with who we are. However, the only way to know if we are really doing that is by looking at how we impact the lives of others—how our leadership is experienced by others.

Self-awareness provides the opportunity for us to close the gap between who we think we are or want to be and who we actually are at a particular point in time. But that can only be achieved with feedback of some kind. I want to share a lengthy story provided by Scott Weiss in his great book DARE, to illustrate this point. It's a book about trust in leadership and the trust that is generated by knowing who you are and leading as that person.
At thirty-five, I was already an executive vice president with Turner Broadcasting, overseeing two divisions and reporting directly to the second most senior executive who soon would be named the company's CEO. I believed that I was very much at the top of my game, already delivering a lot of high-level presentations, and getting consistent positive feedback. I was more than a little offended by the suggestion that I needed any help at all with my communication skills. But I went.

In Atlanta, I participated in Speakeasy's exclusive, invitation-only workshop for C-suite executives. Called "The Leader's Edge," this intense three-day workshop focused on communication style and delivery with respect to leadership. In spite of my initial resistance, I did my best to participate without revealing my conviction that I felt superior to this target audience that needed help with communication and presentation skills. I wasn't the least bit nervous when it came time to watch the video recordings of our individual presentations. I was sure I'd done just fine.

With the others in our group, I watched as the executive persona of Scott Weiss delivered his speech from the screen. The guy up there looked pretty good. Very sure of himself. Very corporate. Very buttoned up. I expected to be told, as I always had been before, that I was a very effective presenter. But after a moment, Sandy Linver, the faculty leader who had directed our session turned to ask me a question.

"So," she said, "as you look at yourself, objectively, how do you perceive this person?"

"Fine," I said. "He seems knowledgeable. Experienced. Very confident."

"Hmm," she said. "That's interesting. If you could separate yourself from this person and experience him objectively, would you want to hang out with a person like that on the weekend?"

It was a strange question. But I looked at that person frozen on the TV monitor and thought about it. Reluctantly, I had to tell the truth.

"No," I said. "Probably not."

"Really?" she asked. "And why not?"

"Well," I said, "because I don't hang out with people like that."

I'm not sure whether there was a collective gasp from the audience or just a stunned silence, but what she said next definitely stunned me.

"You know, don't you, that you're talking about yourself?"

Yes. I was. I had just admitted that the person I was projecting was not someone to whom I could relate. He wasn't even someone I really liked!

And apparently, I wasn't the only one to be put off by Scott Weiss's executive persona. In our remaining time together, other members of the audience began to offer more specific impressions of how they had experienced me as a communicator, and as a person.

Arrogant.
Cocky.
Superior.
Disconnected.
Not real.


Those were just some of the terms they used. I had never heard myself described this way before. I felt like the emperor with no clothes.

I had not gone to Speakeasy for a consciousness-raising experience. But I sure had one. In the weeks following that close and uncomfortable encounter with my own executive persona, I did a lot of thinking. I examined what I had learned about how others actually did experience me, and thought about how I wanted people to experience me. There was a gaping abyss between those two extremes, and I realized that I had a lot of work to do to bring them closer together—to become more congruent as an individual and as a leader. I needed to find my authentic self and learn how to bring more of my real personality to my vocation.
I appreciate Scott Weiss sharing this story, for it's not just a process all growth oriented leaders must go through, but a process we must seek out continuously.

Feedback is a process that, if we allow it, will keep us honest with ourselves. We see things as we are; and we see ourselves through our intentions. Feedback gives us a reality check that we are free to accept or reject, but without it we have no way to combat our own self-deception.

We must be able to experience ourselves in relation to other people if we are to have a genuine understanding of who we are and why we do what we do.

So the place to begin if we truly want to know ourselves is to reflect on the impact that we have on others. Only then can we lead authentically knowing that our inner being is congruent with our outer behavior.
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Of Related Interest:
  The First Step in Self-Awareness Isn’t You

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:09 AM
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05.10.13

The First Step in Self-Awareness Isn’t You

Ironically, the more self absorbed we are, the less self-aware we are.

Self-awareness is vital to the development of a leader. But it's not navel-gazing. It is not an inward focus. It is an outward focus. Its ultimate goal is to improve our connection and effectiveness with others.

The self absorbed leader struggles with self-awareness and emotional intelligence because self-awareness is about how we are perceived by others. It's about understanding how our behaviors are affecting other people. And we just can't do that by focusing on ourselves.

It is easy for us to focus on ourselves—to think people just don't understand us. And when we do, we tend to rationalize rather than grow. Explain rather than listen. Disconnect rather than lead.

Self important leaders can't see how they are sabotaging themselves because they focus on their needs and feelings and not those of their followers. Consequently, they don't encourage feedback because it never seems relevant to them. An inward focus dooms us to operate from a place of weakness—never able to see what is holding us back.

It is in the character of great leaders to have a great appetite for feedback. It's a gift and still the best way to gain an awareness of ourselves. You might think of it as a personal scorecard.

To see where we need to grow, we need to see how we affect other people. Only then can we begin the introspection that will lead us to a deeper understanding of ourselves and learn to move past unproductive thinking and develop new behaviors.

More: The First Step in Self-Awareness Isn’t You - Redux

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Of Related Interest:
  12 Keys to Greater Self-Awareness
  Emotional Intelligence: Self-Awareness

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:52 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Personal Development

05.03.13

How to Make Better Decisions

"Why do we have such a hard time making good choices?" ask Chip and Dan Heath in Decisive.

"A remarkable aspect of your mental life," says Daniel Kahneman, "is that you are rarely stumped." We have opinions about nearly everything and are quick to jump to conclusions based only on the information that is right in front of us. We often just go with our gut. And that hasn't always served us well.

Bad Decision
• An estimated 61,535 tattoos were reversed in the United States in 2009.

• Forty-one percent of first marriages end in divorce.

• Forty-four percent of lawyers would not recommend a career in law to young people.

• Eighty-three percent of corporate mergers and acquisitions fail to create any value for shareholders.

The Heath brothers have identified “four villains” when it comes to making decisions:
  1. Narrow Framing. We tend to define our choices too narrowly and see them in binary terms. We miss other options.

  2. Confirmation Bias. We develop a quick belief about a situation and then seek out information that confirms our belief. When we want something to be true, we look for reasons to justify it.

  3. Short-Term Emotion. Our emotions paralyze our decisions. We think we're working it out, when all we have really done is kick up "so much dust that we can't see the way forward."

  4. Overconfidence. We think we know more than we actually do. The problem is that we don't know what we don't know. "The future has an uncanny ability to surprise. We can't shine a spotlight on areas when we don't know they exist."

What can we do? We can counteract our tendencies with these four strategies the authors call the WRAP Process from the first letter of each step:
  1. Widen Our Options. As it turns out, most of the "decisions" we make do not involve any real choice. They are whether-or-not, yes-no decisions. We do not even consider other choices. Like a teenager, we "get stuck thinking about questions like 'Should I go to the party or not?' The party is in their mental spotlight, assessed in isolation, while the other options go unexplored. A more enlightened teen might let the spotlight roam: 'Should I go to the party all night, or go to the movies with a few friends, or attend the basketball game and then drop by the party for a few minutes?'"

    We would benefit by even adding one more option to our "decision." Consider opportunity costs. ("If I do this, then I can't do that?") Or the Vanishing Options Test: If you cannot choose any of the current options you're considering, what else could you do? And consider asking others who have "been there done that."

  2. Reality-Test Our Assumptions. Encourage constructive disagreement. Consider the opposite. Consider the "outside view"—the averages. If possible, run small experiments to test our theories.

  3. Attain Distance Before Deciding. Try the 10/10/10 analysis: How will you feel about your decision 10 minutes from now? How about 10 months? How about 10 years? Also, identify and stick to your core priorities. Perhaps the most powerful question for resolving a personal decisions is, "What would I tell my best friend to do in this situation?"

  4. Prepare to Be Wrong. We have to stretch our sense of what the future will bring—both good and bad. Think about the extremes. The future is not a "point"—a single scenario that we must predict. It's a range. Set a tripwire: "We will act when…" a predetermined set point occurs.
Making better decisions is a choice. This process will help us to make better choices.

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Leadership
As you might expect from the Heath brothers, Decisive is both informative and fun and well worth the investment. It would be a great book to get your teens to read as well. There will always be bad decisions, but with the four-step process we can improve our odds and have greater peace of mind. "You can quit asking, 'What am I missing?' You can stop the cycle of agonizing."

(By the way, if you ever get a chance to see Chip (and Dan) Heath live, do it. The presentation is very well done.)

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:09 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management , Personal Development , Thinking

04.29.13

Are You a Giver or a Taker?

Leadership
Research shows that givers sink to the bottom of the success ladder. Givers may make others better off, but they do so at their own expense.

But here's the thing, givers also land at the top of the ladder with takers and matchers in the middle. Adam Grant explores in Give and Take, what separates givers at the bottom and top. And the difference is not competence, but the kinds of strategies givers use and the choices they make.

Grant notes that in "purely zero-sum situations and win-lose interactions, giving rarely pays off…. But most of life isn't zero-sum."

The giver advantage is often hard to see in the short term because the "giver advantage grows over time." Chip Conley, founder of Joie de Vivre Hotels, explains, "Being a giver is not good for a 100-yard dash, but it's valuable in a marathon."

The Strength of Weak Ties

Givers connect with the people they know casually--their acquaintances. Although it is harder to ask them for help, they are the faster route to new leads and ideas. "The dormant ties provided more novel information than the current contacts. Over the past few years, while they were out of touch, they had been exposed to new ideas and perspectives."

The Five-Minute Favor: "You should be willing to do something that will take you five minutes or less for anybody."

Givers create a ripple effect around themselves. "Giving, especially when it's distinctive and consistent, establishes a pattern that shifts other people's reciprocity styles within a group." Givers take on the tasks that are in the best interests of the group.

Developing Others

As leaders, givers don't look for talent first, they focus on motivation. "Because they tend to be trusting and optimistic about other people's intentions, in their roles as leaders, managers, and mentors, givers are inclined to see the potential in everyone."

Takers have a general distrust of others. "Even when takers are impressed by another person's capabilities or motivation, they're more likely to see this person as a threat, which means they're less willing to support and develop him or her." Takers desire to be the smartest person in the room.

"The matcher's mistake lies in waiting for signs of high potential. Since matchers tend to play it safe, they often wait to offer support until they've seen evidence of promise."

Otherish Givers

Givers that end up on top are otherish. "Being otherish means being willing to give more than you receive, but still keeping your own interests in sight, using them as a guide for choosing when, where, how, and to whom you give." Giving energizes and is meaningful when it is done out of choice rather than duty or obligation—and otherish givers give more than totally selfless givers.

To avoid being taken, it is important to distinguish between givers and takers and those that pretend to be givers. Givers become matchers when they are dealing with takers.

Grant provides a lot of fresh examples—people from all walks of life. What he finds most magnetic about successful givers: "they get to the top without cutting others down, finding ways of expanding the pie that benefits themselves and the people around them. Whereas success is zero-sum in a group of takers, in groups of givers, it may be true that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts."

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Every time we interact with another person at work, we have a choice to make: do we try to claim as much value as we can, or contribute value without worrying about what we receive in return? In the workplace, says Adam Grant, givers are a relatively rare breed.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:10 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Management , Personal Development

04.26.13

Learning the Wrong Lesson

wrong lesson
Injustices happen.

Bad things happen to good people.

And when they do, we need to be sure we are taking away the right lesson. When something bad happens we naturally prefer to process the injustice in a way that makes us coming out as the victim; we are right, they are wrong. Sympathy is in our corner.

But, if we are honest with ourselves, rarely do we find ourselves in a situation where we played no part. And if we have the courage to step back, we can see where we contributed to the perceived injustice.

In What You're Really Meant to Do, Robert Kaplan tells the story of a television producer that got passed over for a promotion. Initially, he took the easy way out. He chose to frame it as a "political" issue. "The people who get the jobs are the ones with the connections. All this talk about being a team player and helping others sounds nice, but it's not how people get ahead." This is the wrong lesson. Worse still is the fact that this thinking taints all of your thinking and behavior from this point forward and contributes to further "injustices" down the road. You undermine your "ability to exhibit character and leadership traits" that could help your career, says Kaplan. With this narrative in your head, you fail to do the things you should and when things don't go well for you, you create a self-fulfilling prophecy that further degrades your attitude and performance. At that point, everything you do is operating from a place of weakness and not your strengths.

He adds, the producer "found it easier to stew about the unfairness of it rather than take the more uncomfortable path of figuring out how he needed to improve." We all typically do this but we can't leave it there. Kaplan wisely counsels:
I urge people who have suffered a trauma that they experience as an injustice to take time out to process it. You need to reflect on what just happened, seek advice from others who witnessed it, and figure out whether you played a role in what happened…. Learning the wrong lesson, or failing to learn at all, may doom you to repeat some version of the same experience.
When you have been wronged, slow down long enough to learn the right lesson.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:19 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

04.18.13

Reinventing You – Becoming the Person You Were Meant to Be

Leadership
It’s not uncommon to think of personal reinvention as being somewhat contrived or manipulative. But reinventing you isn’t about becoming what you are not, but more of who you are. In Reinventing You, Dorie Clark says “it’s about taking control of your life and living strategically. Who do you want to be? And what do you need to get there?” It’s about making sure that our personal brands reflect the reality of our lives (Facebook notwithstanding).

KNOW YOURSELF

Clark takes you through the whole process, beginning with, of course, starting where you are. This is a vital step and not to be glossed over because many of us don’t know where we are starting. We need you understand our reputation and why it is what it is. She offers ways to do this, questions to ask and how to conduct your own 360 interview—determining what those around you think about you. Very valuable material.

Next you need to research your next move or future destination and test drive it. (Did you know that there is a company that allows you to test-drive over 125 new careers to see if they are a fit?)

Once you have determined where you need to be, it is important to develop the skills you need. Clark explains how to do this and when to go back to school and when not to, and finding a mentor (someone who embodies what you’d like to develop and the person you’d like to become).

LEVERAGE YOUR POINTS OF DIFFERENCE

Rebranding yourself publicly means understanding first, what is unique about you. It may not be what you think. Often it's the mindsets and thinking that proved valuable in your current situation may differentiate you in a completely unrelated field. The examples of people that Clark provides, who have done just that, are very helpful in getting you to see your unique contribution.

From that you can build your narrative that pulls together the underlying themes that connect your professional experiences in a way that is obvious to others.

THE GAP

There is a time lag–a gap–between fully inhabiting the “old you” and the “new you.” Clark writes that the “hardest part of making a transition can be bridging the gap between how others used to perceive you (and how you perceive yourself) and how you’d like to be seen moving forward.” She say the only solution is to fake it till you make it.

I’m sure that we have all experienced this dynamic when making any personal change. When no one readily accepts the nice person you have finally become, it’s easy to give it up and resort to the old habits of behavior. The answer is to keep projecting the new behavior until you’re comfortable with it and others begin to accept it as the new “normal.” Your commitment to the new you will eventually win people over.

Clark adds, “You need to be hyperaware of what you’re doing and make sure you’re signaling explicitly to the outside world what you’re trying to build.” This is where doing the homework in step one—know yourself—will help you to have the fortitude to press on.

Clark explains how to get the word out and how to prove your worth. She reminds us that rebranding is a process and not a one-time activity. It is important to “keep monitoring your reputation to ensure you’re being perceived by others the way you’d like.” This is a well done and thoughtful book that is valuable not just for rebranding yourself but also for managing your reputation in general.

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Reputation management is not as straight-forward as it once was. The behavior is the same, the tools are different. In addition, says Dorie Clark, it’s almost certain that at some point you’ll need to reinvent yourself professionally—and ensure that others recognize the powerful contribution you can make.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:28 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Personal Development

03.20.13

Tipping Sacred Cows or How We Unwittingly Turn Our Virtues Into Vices

Leadership
Tipping Sacred Cows by Jake Breeden is one of those bring-you-back-to-reality must-read books. It is about how we undermine ourselves and our organizations and get ourselves into comfortable ruts, by blindly following seemingly virtuous traits. It’s often about taking our strengths too far or misapplying them.

Our values give us life and direction on one hand, “and on the other hand can steal our energy, effectiveness, and success. Like rocks in a river channel, these unexamined values can get in our way, impede our efforts, and even capsize us,” writes Breeden.

Julian was given the reins of a company and immediately set about cutting waste and inefficiency—his core value. Profits temporarily rose but growth eventually stalled. He took the firm “from growing inefficiently to shrinking efficiently.” In an effort to be efficient, he ripped the heart out of the organizational culture. Breeden advises:
Julian Fletcher shouldn’t stop being efficient—he needs to start being more sophisticated. He needs to raise his game so he understands how efficiency can harmonize with other complementary leadership traits he needs to nourish.

When leaders embrace beliefs without understanding and managing the potential side effects, the beliefs become sacred cows and get in the way. When leaders shut off their brains and blindly follow the bromides of conventional wisdom they set off a string of unintended consequences.
Breeden tackles seven sacred cows:

Balance: “Balance operates through a constant stream of choices.” Balance is often thought to mean finding the middle ground. That’s not balance, that’s compromise. In order to find the middle ground, our choices “can too easily drift toward the middle in a cowardly compromise of nothingness. Balance backfires when it moves from being about bold, sometimes tough, choices to being about bland compromises.”

Collaboration: Collaboration should be accountable not automatic. “The default state of working should be alone; leaders should collaborate only when they must. Depending on your role, that may mean a significant part of your job requires collaboration. But ask yourself the question: does this work really need more than me?

Creativity: We all like creativity. It’s fun and exciting. But creativity needs to be useful and meet a real need or it’s just narcissistic creativity—creativity to serve our legacy. “Creativity should be pragmatic, not prideful.”

Excellence: Our pursuit of excellence “backfires when our high standards choke progress.” Forcing excellence on the process rather than the outcome.

One point I would add to Breeden’s section on excellence: excellence isn’t about doing everything perfectly. That’s perfectionism. We need to be careful not to confuse the two. Excellence is a way of thinking and includes making excellent mistakes, learning an excellent lesson and perhaps even going on to make a new and different mistake. If excellence is used as an excuse for indecision, avoiding all risk or unreasonable and immovable standards, it’s counterproductive. Excellence is a term that we sometimes throw around too loosely. It’s an excuse to cover perfectionism and/or controlling and self-centered behavior—my way or the highway.

Fairness: “Fairness backfires when some of our noblest instincts force us to ensure equitable outcomes rather than equitable processes.” Keeping score and evening the score to make sure no one gets more than their "fair share" often leads to regrets.

Passion: Bad passion crowds out everything else causing you to ruminate on one thing at the expense of others. Healthy passion is part of a diverse set of traits. Passion backfires when it becomes obsessive.

Preparation: The problem here is with too much backstage preparation. Preparation is critical but sometimes the best work is done in real-time—onstage preparation—learning while you are doing.

To make all of this very practical, Breeden provides in each chapter seven steps to: Make Your Balance Bold, Make Your Collaboration Accountable, Make Your Creativity Useful, Make Your Excellence Meaningful, Train Your Brain to Focus on Process Fairness, Make Your Passion More Harmonious, and seven ideas to Take Your Preparation to Center Stage. Very helpful material.

“Sometimes, without realizing it, we use our most reassured values as an excuse to avoid the discomfort of actually leading.” Organizational cultures and personal assumptions promote certain values. If these values are not examined from time to time in light of the overall purpose, then they can cause derailment or stagnation.

We can train ourselves “to avoid the waste that comes from the unintended consequences of unexamined conventional wisdom.” We can learn to lead with wisdom.

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Tipping Sacred Cows is an important book for anyone interested in applying virtues wisely. It provides understanding as to why things sometimes turn out so badly even though we did everything “right.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:54 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management , Personal Development

03.18.13

Fred 2.0 – Leadership in Action

You are no doubt familiar with Fred, first introduced to us in The Fred Factor by Mark Sanborn. Fred exemplified an attitude of exceptional service delivered consistently with creativity and passion in a way that values other people.

Leadership
Now Fred 2.0 brings us fresh insights, deeper understanding and wider application of the Fred Principles—and an update on the life of the real Fred Shea.

Fred 2.0 is about a specific way of approaching life and business. It’s an attitude that extends far beyond customer service. It comes from within and says I will do extraordinary things because that’s who I am. It’s not a feeling—it’s who you are. It is not dependent on the performance of anyone else.

Why Would You Live this Way?

Sanborn says it’s because being a Fred enriches others, expands you, puts more life into your living, breaks the bonds of self-absorption, makes you more employable, offers you a better way to live, creates a positive influence, and is more fun.

“Creativity is an essential ingredient in delivering extraordinary results,” writes Sanborn. Being creative is doing something different that adds value. More often than not, it’s the little things we notice that can be done better. This applies not only to the “things” we do, but also to our relationships; how we respond and interact to those around us.

Sanborn shows very specifically how to build better relationships, elevate the experience for those we come into contact with, how to build a team of Freds and how to instill the Fred approach in your kids philosophy of life.

The Fred Philosophy is Good Leadership

The Fred philosophy is ultimately what good leadership is all about. It’s a battle against mediocrity says Sanborn.
The first job of leadership is to help people see their significance. Leaders recognize that those who feel insignificant rarely make significant contributions. An effective leader is able to show people that they are significant in ways they may not realize.
The Fred philosophy means:

• Leading by example
• Starting with what’s right instead of what’s wrong
• Encouraging people to try
• Asking for and sharing good ideas
• Removing barriers and obstacles
• Being a champion of those around you
• Giving people the freedom they need
• Teaching the Fred philosophy consistently
• Recognizing and rewarding
• Make the process enjoyable

“It’s our choice whether we’ll use our time, effort, and talents to turn ordinary work into something extraordinary.” writes Sanborn. It begins as always, with integrity. If you value it, those around you will too.

Fred 2.0 will show you the thinking behind extraordinary leadership and apply it in every area of your life. “When you know what is important to you in your life and work, you should apportion your talents and efforts so you can give the best you have to those things.” Love what you do and love the people you do it with.

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Fred 2.0 makes a significant contribution to focusing our minds on what leadership is all about. By living it and sharing it you can build a team of Freds in your organization, community and family.

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SPECIAL OFFER: Visit Mark Sanborn's Fred 2.0 web site now to learn more and gain instant access to a Fred 2.0 “EXTRAordinary Results” Resource Kit, free with purchase of Fred 2.0.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:17 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Leadership Development , Personal Development

03.12.13

Leadership and the Art of Struggle: 5 Things You Can Do

Struggle is a part of any human endeavor and leadership is no different. The problem is we view struggle as a negative. But struggle is how we grow. Without them we can’t reach our full potential as leaders.

Leadership
We like to think of our leaders as flawless. We like to be perceived as flawless—or at least we like people to think we have everything under control. But as Joe Badaracco has pointed out, “leadership is a struggle by flawed human beings to make some important human values real and effective in the world as it is.”

It may sound counterintuitive, but considering the benefits illuminated by Stephen Snyder in Leadership and the Art of Struggle, we should welcome it as an important element of the leadership process and our own personal development. Snyder writes that we should face struggle “head on—not hiding from it or feeling shame—because struggle is the gateway to learning and growth.” It can also help us to discover our purpose and meaning and develop the adaptive energy necessary to sustain our leadership for a lifetime.

Struggles have three defining characteristics:
Change: Every struggle is triggered by some type of change.
Tensions: Change creates a natural set of tensions.
Being out of Balance: Change and its ensuing tensions throw a leader off balance. This may happen without us even being aware of it, but acknowledgement of it is central to regaining control.

In the world we live in today, this is a common occurrence often leading to burnout unless we learn to see struggle through a different lens. Snyder recommends:

Adopt a growth mindset. The first step in accomplishing this is through reflection—being aware of what is going on around you. Snyder’s former colleague at Microsoft, Frank Gaudette, used to say: “I reserve the right to wake up smarter every day.” A good mantra to make our own.

Center your mind, body and spirit. We all need some way to anchor ourselves and gain perspective that we practice daily like exercise and diet, prayer, connecting with nature, meditation, and/or journaling.

Build your support community. “Create a community of people whom you can connect and bond with and from whom you can seek advice and feedback.”

Overcome your blind spots. Blind spots by their very nature are hard to recognize. And they are frustrating because they blind us from seeing why people may be responding to us in counterproductive ways—leading us to finger pointing rather than personal responsibility. “Blind spots,” writes Snyder, “are the product of an overactive automatic mind and an underactive reflective mind.”

A fairly common blind spot Snyder calls the Conflict Blind Spot. This blind spot can cause someone to interpret every interaction through a distorted lens. It reinforces the perception that the other person is wrong and we are right.

Recommit, pivot, or leap. When we struggle we have essentially three options. The first is to recommit and stay the course. The second is to pivot and make a course correction. And third is to leap into uncharted territory far beyond our comfort zone. Choosing the right option requires that we examine ourselves and determine which choice is most consistent with our personal values or mission statement.

Every struggle is a chance to learn and to confront who we are and what we are becoming. Seen in that light, they are a gift. And our ability to deal with our own struggles effectively has an impact on those around us. Not only does it create a more positive environment to function in, but it provides a constructive example for others to follow.

Snyder has written an outstanding and practical book to help us to rethink the challenges and problems we face along the way. One of the best you’ll ever read on the topic.

(The Adaptive Leader Profile is available from Snyder Leadership Group.)

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Struggles are an inevitable part of the leadership journey. With every episode of struggle, there is a learning opportunity. Snyder offers insights as how to accept and reconcile the struggles you find in your own leadership journey.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:27 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership , Leadership Development , Personal Development , Problem Solving

02.13.13

Rebooting Work: How to Make Work— Work for You

Rebooting Work
Rebooting Work by Silicon Valley legend Maynard Webb and Carlye Adler is a sensible look at the changing nature of the workplace and how you can use emerging technologies to take charge of your career. To become a CEO of your own destiny.

Less than half of Americans (47 percent) are satisfied with their work. Companies are changing too. They can no longer provide the safety nets that were expected in the last century. Employees must become more self-reliant. That of course means a workplace that rewards people for their performance rather than their time in. An organization that supports entitlement over results, writes Webb, “can limit growth and opportunity.”

Giving someone a leg-up is one thing, entitlement has a permanence to it that both hinders employees and harms companies and neither performs up to their maximum potential.

Webb believes that technology presents us with an opportunity. It has the power to enable people to do something about their dissatisfaction with work and move on to careers that can provide both fulfillment and financial security. “Understanding and embracing today’s technological trends is the fastest way to travel to the career of your dreams.

Rebooting WorkWebb presents us with four ways of looking at work. We may move from frame to frame but we tend to operate in one. They are Company Man or Woman, CEO of Your Own Destiny, Disenchanted Employee, and Aspiring Entrepreneur. Where we should all be headed, states Webb, is to the mindset of the CEO of Your Own Destiny. We are living in the age of the entrepreneur.
Prior to the Civil War, most Americans worked in agriculture or as small merchants or tradesmen. Success was the result of self-direction, self-motivation, and self determination. In a way, everyone was self-made.

The Industrial Revolution brought opportunities to work outside the home, reversing the entrepreneurial spirit and giving rise to the paternalistic company, but now the Age of Entrepreneurship is bringing it back.
Today personal and professional development is on the employee. It “requires you to be relevant every day and to be voted on to the team you want to play with.” But with this freedom come accountability. In an entrepreneurial age it is more important than ever that you think like a leader—no matter where or at what level you work.

As research indicates, many people find themselves in the Disenchanted Employee frame: you are waiting to be discovered or recognized, you don’t understand why others don’t see how good you really are, your career isn’t going as expected, and you believe your circumstances are someone else’s fault.

This kind of thinking is not just unproductive, it feeds on itself and keeps you just where you don’t want to be. One of the most important things you can do is to get a mentor; someone to help you see the reality of your situation and offer constructive advice to get you moving again. Webb also offers these ideas:
  1. Make sure you do something every day to show others you deserve to be a part of their team.
  2. Have a great attitude. You might be brilliant, but if you are hard to manage, it’s easy to find someone else.
  3. Work for a higher purpose. Your job has more impact than just making money.
  4. Pick your battles. Fight only about things that are really important and that will move the needle.
  5. Don’t be afraid of change.
  6. Be brutally honest with yourself. Know your strengths and weaknesses. It does you no good to kid yourself here.
  7. Don’t confuse action with traction. Focus on outcomes, not face time.
  8. Focus on expanding your sphere of influence; it will give you the opportunity to have an impact over more areas.
  9. Take time to sit back and reflect on where you are and where you want to be. Make time for a “compass check.”
  10. Be brave and be bold. Most things worth doing are hard.
Technology is pushing flexibility in the workplace. Technology doesn’t replace the need for human contact but it can make work more efficient and face time more rewarding. It provides the opportunity to create how you do your work in new ways if you are willing to perform. Outcomes become more important than ever. If you give more you will receive more.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:55 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Marketing , Personal Development

02.12.13

Where Winners Live

Where Winners Live
Where Winners Live by Dave Porter and Linda Galindo is a book oriented towards sales professionals, but the issue it deals with is important (vital) to us all—personal responsibility.

Winners live in a mindset of 100 percent accountability. Accountability, say the authors is taking responsibility for the “success and failure of everything you do—for your choices, behaviors, and actions—before you know how it will turn out” (even if you’re working with someone else).

If you’re not living the personal responsibility mindset where winners live then you might be displaying what the authors call loser characteristics:

The Victim: If you live in a world where circumstances beyond your control dictate your success, you have no power.

The Finger-Pointer “owns” only the good. If it is good, I did it; if it is bad, you did it.

The Robbery Victim always blames someone else for undermining him, for getting something he deserved instead, or for scoring a win at her expense.

The Coulda-Woulda tries to take credit for what she didn’t earn by saying she easily could have, if only … (take your pick of excuses).

The Guess Man knows that there is no accountability without clarity. The more vague he is with his instructions, the easier it will be to blame someone else when the job doesn’t go well.

Where do you live?
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:06 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

02.04.13

Put Your Minutes Where Your Mouth Is

Leading Forum
This is a guest post by Robert Smith, author of 20,000 Days and Counting: The Crash Course For Mastering Your Life Right Now. He asks, "What if you were able to accomplish MORE TODAY than most people accomplish all year?" Decisions you make right now can change your life forever. …We do choose how we will live. May you have a glorious ending by beginning today.

A HUGE difference between the leaders who make things happen and those who do not is how they prioritize their time.

Leaders who make things happen schedule their lives around what needs to get done. Leaders who don’t make things happen do the exact opposite, scheduling what needs to get done around their lives.

The difference is priorities.

If meeting your deadline isn’t more important than going to the football game or getting eight hours of sleep, then you probably don’t have what it takes.

I’m not saying that football is bad. I’m just saying that I simply cannot go. I just can’t get it all done in time and still catch a four-hour game. If you want to lead a team of people who are so invested in your vision that they are willing to sacrifice certain things to help you accomplish it, then the sacrifices must first start with you.

Ask yourself this question: What are most people spending time on that I could probably live without?

You must be intense about finishing on a deadline, and that might mean sacrificing a lot of recreational things.

The key is to know thyself.

You know what you need to get done, and you ought to know how long it will take you to finish it. If you’re serious about making it happen, you must design days around completing what you know needs to be completed in order to make things MOVE.

Here’s another hint: 40 hours a week won’t cut it.

If you’re spending half the “workday” cleaning out your inbox, maybe its time to start waking up at five. Leadership is not exclusive to eight-hour windows. You have to set the tone. If you possess a 9-5 mentality, so will the people you are leading.

Every leader I’ve met who is really killing it puts in an average of around 80 HOURS PER WEEK!

Leaders have to think like entrepreneurs. It’s funny to me that I’ve never seen an entrepreneur just standing around the water cooler with a cup of coffee. The doers don’t have time for that; they’re too busy grinding away.

The bottom line is that success is built by chunks of time. And a successful leader has that time built in.

If you’re truly serious about making it happen, put your minutes where your mouth is.

Of course, if you are that serious, you probably already do. Keep it up!

What techniques do you have for blocking out distractions and getting things done?

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20,000 Days and Counting
Robert D. Smith is the author of 20,000 Days and Counting, a crash course in living each day with maximum purpose and intensity. He also writes about entrepreneurship, personal growth, and more at TheRobertD.com.

Most people measure their lives in years. But how would our thought processes change if we measured our lives in days? The average American lifespan is 28,649 days. Use the life-calculator to see how many days you've been alive.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:46 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

01.28.13

It’s Not About the Bike: A Lesson from Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong once wrote: “I believed I had a responsibility to be a good person, and that meant fair, honest, hardworking and honorable. If I did that, if I was good to my family, true to my friends, if I gave back to my community or to some cause, if I wasn't a liar, a cheat, or a thief, then I believed that should be enough.”

Often we begin the race with solid values. We begin with values that drive our behavior based on intrinsic rewards. But over time, something can happen if we are not careful. Competitive pressures weigh on us. The chance for extrinsic rewards like money and power loom larger. If we have not built the strength of character to resist those temptations, we can easily become the person we don’t recognize.

bike
Success also seduces us. It brings with it its own kind of pressure. When we win we get rewards from unexpected places. Strangers think we're amazing. They think we’re smarter than we are. They want our opinion about things we really know very little about. It feels good. We’re on a roll. We want to keep this going. It now becomes about the win. No longer driven by intrinsic rewards, our focus turns to extrinsic values and rewards like money, power, and fame. Our values become defined by what is going on outside rather than what is going on inside of us. And our choices reflect that shift.

The fact is, success changes nothing. Our legacy is built on the how not the what.

Without a strong hold on intrinsic values like humility, respect, truthfulness, patience and honor, we leave the door open for corruption and fraud. Changing what we value, changes everything. More to the point, it changes the choices we make. Choices build the life we lead and the legacy we leave.

When it’s all about the win, we lose. Good values and solid character build a firm foundation for wins that can’t be taken away.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:09 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Ethics , Motivation , Personal Development

01.14.13

Why We Find it Hard to Change Our Behavior

We know every behavior begins with a thought. So if we want to have lasting change, the beginning point has to be our thinking.

Behavioral change is only surface change if we don’t first change the thinking behind those behaviors. And it won’t stick. It will keep coming out in so many ways we won’t be able to keep up with it because we haven’t changed the thinking behind it.

When we look at our behavior we have to understand that there is a thought going on in our heads that is tripping us up. And we have to change that first. Or we’re working on the wrong thing.

behavioral change
The question becomes, “What thoughts do I need to change to make my behavior change?” New behavior will automatically follow a change in thinking. One right thought can correct a lot of bad behavior.

What am I thinking that isn’t allowing me to see things as I should? As human beings, we latch on to certain ideas and assumptions and they blind us from seeing other options and responses to what life throws at us. We get ideas in our head that can literally block us from seeing other perspectives.

Change doesn’t happen in a moment. We’ve had these patterns of thinking and behavior for a lot of years. We have to unlearn some behaviors and then learn and put into practice the new thinking and resulting behaviors. And it just takes time.

It’s right thinking over time that brings about lasting change. It’s a process. It’s a long history of repeated behaviors in the same direction that builds character.

We have to wake up every day and know that we have a tendency—not just because of our life experiences, but also because of the way that we have chosen to respond to them—to repeat a certain set of behaviors over and over again. We’ve got to remember that and change the thinking that supports these behaviors.

We’ve got a lot of set patterns in our heads that we want to return to, that we have become comfortable with, that we can justify, that we can blame on something someone else did.

That’s why we have to make a point of reflecting on our behaviors and on the impact we have on the people around us. And learn from it. And then go to work on the thinking behind the behaviors we want to change.

It’s not what you do that needs to change, it’s what you think that needs to change.

First change your thinking. The behavior will follow. It all starts with a thought.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:13 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Change , Personal Development , Thinking

11.28.12

How to Avoid the Artificial Maturity Trap

Maturity
Children today are overexposed to information far earlier than they are ready and underexposed to real-life experiences far later than they are ready producing a kind of artificial maturity. Tim Elmore writes in Artificial Maturity, that “it looks so real because kids know so much, but it’s virtual because they have experienced so little.” He continues:
Today, because information is so prevalent, our kids assume they have [experiential knowledge] when they only have [informational knowledge]. With an abundance of knowledge, their confidence can soar, but it’s based on a virtual foundation. Without experience, it’s easier for knowledge to produce judgmental attitudes, bullying, and arrogance.
With all of this information kids think they are mature. And unfortunately, we do too. That’s part of the problem. How often have we seen a “smart” child and thought, “They are sure mature for their age.” Intelligence and maturity are not the same thing. (Of course, we see this same issue in “adults” too.) Elmore writes, “Except in rare cases, their knowledge has only entertained them. It has not produced anything real.”

Leadership
Elmore provides reasons for why artificial maturity has become so widespread, but his real focus is what we can do about it. To transform artificial maturity into authentic maturity, we must concentrate on four areas says Elmore:

Emotional Intelligence. Mature, healthy people manage their emotions. This means developing self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.

Character and a Sense of Ethics. Mature, healthy people live by a set of values and principles. They don’t merely react to what is going on around them. They have self-discipline, emotional security, core values, and a clear sense of identity.

Strength Discovery. Mature, healthy people who become the best versions of themselves are one’s who’ve stopped trying to do everything and focused on what they do very well. This means developing their natural talents and gifts, knowledge base, heartfelt passions, and acquired skills.

Leadership Perspective. Mature, healthy people live lives that don’t just revolve around themselves. They invest their lives in something beyond themselves. A leadership perspective involves a personal vision, responsibility, compassion, and initiative.

Developing maturity is centered on four key areas:
  • Provide autonomy and responsibility simultaneously
  • Provide information and accountability simultaneously
  • Provide experiences to accompany teens' technology-savvy lifestyles
  • Provide community-service opportunities to balance self-service time
In addition, Elmore believes there are four debts we owe our kids: clarity (fosters focused direction), transparency (fosters validation and vulnerability), consistency (fosters trust and assurance), and boundaries (fosters security).

There is far too much information in this book to cover it here, but here are a few more ideas from Elmore:

• Start inserting age-appropriate responsibility into your children’s lives right away. Avoid indulging and overprotecting them and creating hyperinflated egos. We are doing a disservice to young people if we remove their chance to fail.

• Enable them to take control of their lives; to boss their calendars. Hold them accountable and responsible for the choices they’ve made and don’t bail them out. Let them see that failure isn’t final and poor judgment is not necessarily poor character.

• Connect them to people (adults) outside their peer group. This generation doesn’t need you for information (they can get that without you), but they do need you for interpretation. They need mentors to help them make sense of the information and the world around them.

• Communicate that there is meaning even in the small, mundane tasks. Give them a sense of the big picture and how all the little things they do fit into the big picture of history, or of the organization, or of their community.

Authentic maturity is a leadership issue. Elmore concludes, “Our kids have what it takes inside of them, if we’ll just take them seriously and equip them for the future. As they enter adolescence, we must begin to treat them as young adults and train them to be both autonomous and responsible. Then, I dare you to stand back and watch them amaze you.”

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Artificial Maturity is an excellent book to help us understand maturity—what it is and how it is developed. Not only is it helpful for developing it in children but the issues raised are good to reflect on for our own development.

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Of Related Interest:
  5 Leadership Lessons: Tim Elmore’s Generation iY
  Are You Mature?
  Cause and Effect
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:10 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

11.19.12

Does This Doorframe Make My Head Look Big?

Failure
Failure is not an option. And we learn a lot if we take the time to learn from our mistakes. But gain much more when we can learn from the mistakes of others before we find ourselves confronted with the same issues.

The Wisdom of Failure by Laurance Weinzimmer and Jim McConoughey, examines the lessons learned by studying thousands of executives in hundreds of companies. They have discovered three areas where aspiring leaders fail:

Unbalanced Orchestration (leadership failures at the organizational level)
  1. Trying to be all things to all people
  2. Being in business you have no business being in
  3. Entrenched in efficiency: forgetting to put effectiveness first
Drama Management (leadership failures at the team level)
  1. Leaders who rule by bullying
  2. Problems with dysfunctional harmony—when you want consensus too badly, you miss out on valuable debate
  3. Distracted purpose
Personality Issues (leadership failures at the individual level)
  1. Hoarding power and responsibility
  2. The Destructive path of disengagement
  3. Problems of Self-absorbed leaders
The authors report that the final lesson, “Does this doorframe make my head look big?” is the most damning mistake a leader can make. The mistake of self-absorption. It’s not surprising since it is the antithesis of a good leader.

The goal of the self-absorbed leader “isn’t necessarily status, position, or promotion. Rather, their goal is to have things work out the way they think they should work, because, well, they are the greatest.” This is an easy mindset to slip into. And unfortunately, it is almost impossible for a self-absorbed leader to recognize that they are just that. They need outside help, but when confronted, they are sure that the observation is of course, wrong.

Underneath is all, self-absorption is “rooted in low self-esteem and a feeling of insecurity, as well as a profound discomfort with or disregard for what others bring to the table.” It is marked by “talking big, a sense of entitlement, a sense of infallibility, a lack of empathy for others, an intense desire to win at all costs, one-upmanship, a know-it-all attitude, and an inability to listen.”

Michael Bryant, CEO of Centra Health explained it this way: “A good leader is like a coach of a basketball team. It is not important for the leader to score the points. It is important for his team to score the points. It’s not rocket science! So the one key to being an egoless leader is to understand the paradox….Self-absorbed leaders never get the paradox.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:55 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development , Personal Development

11.05.12

Next Time You’re in a Slump, Try Stillpower

Leadership
When our performance is in a slump or we get stuck, we tend to become anxious and reach for any quick fix or technique that promises to get us out of it. We apply more effort, focus, and willpower. And when all of that doesn’t work, we get even more anxious and our performance heads even further south.

Instead, when we get stuck we need to rely on Stillpower, not willpower says Garret Kramer. Stillpower is the ability to return to a clear mindset after we get into a muddled mental state—a low state of mind. It’s knowing that “all sentiments are temporary since they originate from your own thoughts and moods. Stillpower comes from knowing that self-worth has nothing to do with winning, losing, parental approval, money, fame, or anything external to you.”

When we get into a low state of mind we need to do nothing. It’s when we operate from a low state of mind that we usually make mistakes, poor judgments, miss opportunities and dig ourselves deeper into whatever hole we are digging. “Once you understand,” says Kramer, “that as human beings we form our perceptions from the inside out, that the quality of our thinking and level of awareness move up and down independent of our circumstances, you will see that it makes little sense to work yourself through a temporarily low state of mind.” But that’s often exactly what we do.

When we run into trouble that’s a sign to step back—not a call to action. Negativity is a sign to slow down. We can't perform at an elevated level when we are in a low state of mind.
A seemingly unresolved issue of today has nothing to do with erroneous thinking of today. And until an individual comes to this realization, he or she will always fall prey to the conditions of life itself.

Here’s what many of us ought to consider: All human beings exist, from moment to moment, at varying levels of psychological functioning. When this level of functioning is low, most often for no tangible reason, we view life through a dirty lens and are prone to deviant behavior—if we act. Once this principle is grasped, we see that navigating smoothly through life doesn’t have to be so complicated, and unlike the belief of many counselors and coaches in the self-help world, it has nothing to do with personal history.
Awareness is key. When you are aware of your thoughts and feelings in the moment and when necessary, allow your thinking to clear, then you will have the clarity to act; “insights will flow and answers will become obvious.” He adds, “Insight is infinitely more powerful than willpower. Actually, insight, or having a new idea and/or a change of heart, erases the need for strength or force of will of any kind.”

COACHING

Kramer notes that when you are coaching or counseling, you need to be operating from a higher level of thinking than the person you are talking to. “What comes out of your mouth is much less significant than the level of mental functioning from which the words are spoken.” We need to interact with people from a state of mind “brimming with love, compassion, and selflessness….External how-to resources are not all that necessary; love will provide all the direction you seek.”

Leadership is an all-in proposition. Done right, it’s a lot of hard work. To cut ourselves some slack, we too often rely on external gimmicks and techniques rather than the messy work of a real relationship.

IDEAS TO CONSIDER

• “We perform better when we get caught up in the experience, rather than when we make the experience about us….When we focus on a personal prize, our options narrow; when we relish the process, our options expand.”

• “When we act from clarity, it is impossible to get weighed down by judgmental outcomes.”

• “When we succumb to our errant thoughts or closed-off moods, judge another person, and then act from this egotistical perspective of insecurity, it is practically impossible to find long-term success.”

• “Every failure, every mistake, every loss—occurs to clarify our path, not to obscure it.”

• “You will never wrestle with a choice when your level of consciousness is high.”

Leaders will find a lot to consider here. Stillpower is one of those books that makes you reconsider your approach on many things. While Kramer might seem to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater at times, he doesn’t overturn conventional wisdom as much as he calls us on it when we misapply it. It is the perfect prescription for those that have a need to control their world and the people around them

It is important to note too, that looking within for answers is fine if you have consciously put something there to draw-on in the first place. Good flashes of insight are only produced when there is something good to draw upon. Choose your sources wisely.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:57 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Personal Development , Thinking

10.03.12

Feedback Can Be Fun

Leading Forum
This is a guest post by Jack Zenger, co-author of How To Be Exceptional: Drive Leadership Success By Magnifying Your Strengths. Readers will learn not only how to pinpoint their best leadership traits but will learn ways to leverage their strengths into ones that truly distinguish them.

Why do people all over the world enjoy participating in games and sports? Why have games and sports been going on for not just centuries, but millennia?

One of the theories is that they provide immediate feedback.

The batter in a neighborhood game of softball knows immediately if he hits or misses the ball. If it is hit, it is clear whether it is in bounds or a foul ball. It’s clear if it bobbles into the infield or sails over the fence for a home run. The tennis player learns immediately how the angle of the racket and the strength of the swing can cause the ball to be returned too low and hit the net or if it is hit too high and too hard it goes out of bounds. Indeed, a good part of the joy and appeal of every sport is this immediate feedback. It also enables the player to make an infinite number of adjustments necessary to improve performance.

It’s important for organizations to become feedback-rich environments in which information flows freely and is accepted and acted upon. It is obviously not enough to simply have feedback given if it is angrily rejected or dismissed because of the source. There is a Swedish proverb that says, “With the eating comes the appetite.” We have found that the more that feedback is shared in organizations, the more easily it is digested and acted upon.

Attitudes about feedback in companies that have been doing 360-degree feedback for 25 years are extremely different from those doing it for the first time. Within organizations that routinely provide feedback, there is a much higher degree of eagerness to get data. At the same time, there is a calm and ease about being able to dismiss the occasional outlier number or comment.

Good things come from asking for feedback. Seeking the opinions of others has a host of benefits. It conveys respect. It reduces barriers between the levels. Managers learn valuable information that comes in no other way. Empirically it reduces by 10 percent the number of employees who intend to leave.

Clearly the ideal is for managers to both give and get, but if you had to choose one or the other, our data suggests that it is better to receive than to give.

Leadership
Jack Zenger is the CEO of Zenger Folkman and co-author of How To Be Exceptional: Drive Leadership Success By Magnifying Your Strengths.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:01 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

09.26.12

You According to Them

You According to Them
Sara Canaday addresses a vital issue for leaders in You According to Them: self-awareness. While it is fundamental to our growth, we usually don’t make the time to explore it. And too frequently, we dismiss feedback or make excuses for the insights we receive into our own behavior.

How we are perceived matters more to our leadership effectiveness than our intentions. We must not only seek out how we are perceived by others but we must do something with the feedback we get. Canaday calls this applied self-awareness. In other words, using that information to adjust our behavior and close the gaps between our intentions and how others perceive us.

Typically, our blind spots, our perception gaps exist in those areas where we have overemphasized our strengths. “For instance,” writes Canaday, “do your colleagues think of you as assertive? Or overbearing? Collaborative or manipulative? Gregarious or obnoxious? There’s a fine line between these perceptions, but you can see why the subtle differences can have a huge impact on your career and your future.”

Canaday discusses in detail nine common perception gaps and how to begin to deal with them:
  • Don’t Fence Me In: Highly Productive and innovative? Or rebellious and uncooperative?
  • Intellectual Snob: Intelligent and well-qualified? Or condescending and elitist?
  • Frozen Compass: Too Direct: Decisive and candid? Or abrupt and insensitive? Or maybe you’re Not Direct Enough: Supportive and personable? Or soft and Lenient?
  • Dust in my Wind: Extremely energetic and driven? Or relentless and unrealistic?
  • No Crying in Baseball: Composed and steady? Or robotic and indifferent?
  • Safety Patrol: Methodical and compliant? Or inflexible and overly cautious?
  • Faulty Volume Control: Volume Too Low: Understated and humble? Or bland and forgettable? Or perhaps you’re Volume Too High: Assertive and enthusiastic? Or self-serving and inappropriate?
  • Passion Pistol: Spirited and passionate? Or intense and overzealous?
  • Perpetual Doer: Remarkably reliable and high performing? Or one-dimensional and over-functioning?
Self-awareness flourishes in a person that accepts personal responsibility. Without it, we only seek to justify what we do. We never quite get to dealing with those areas where we mean well but are coming across badly.

Whether we like how we are coming across to others or not, it is our reality. It is crucial that we seek out our perception gaps and deal with them if we are to be effective and grow as leaders. “No one is so amazingly self-aware that he or she can clearly see and eliminate every potential perception disconnect before it occurs. Those who are the most successful have just learned how to read the diverse people and situations they encounter and respond appropriately.”

You According to Them is a great place to start. Canaday places an emphasis throughout this book on “actively working to understand our reputations and artfully managing the perceptions that directly impact our careers.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:04 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

09.24.12

Wisdom from The Leader’s Climb

The Strategy Book
The Leader’s Climb by Bob Parsanko and Paul Heagen is a business fable about learning to counteract the growing pressure to go too fast, fight too much, and force too many decisions.

There is an alternative to this pressure we all feel. Throughout the story—an exercise in itself to create space, slow down and become more aware—the author’s stress three qualities to strengthen your leadership: Awareness (slowing down), Acceptance (embracing reality), and Abundance (considering multiple options).

The Leader’s Climb is well written and nearly everyone will recognize patterns of behavior found in the story’s main character Adam, in themselves. The authors provide a lot to think over. Here are some excerpts:

It’s not hard to see the impact on organizations of leadership that focuses primarily on speed, efficiency, results, and financial return. The same issues come up over and over again. The tyranny of the urgent becomes a substitute for planning and prioritization. Snap decisions with hidden costs replace careful consideration with obvious time requirements. Mindless compliance replaces community and commitment. Activity that looks like momentum disguises chaos. Purpose is sacrificed to performance at any cost.

Removing what does not matter is the first step in figuring out what does.

I’m afraid we often find it easier to fight an obstacle or pretend it’s not there, rather than accept it for what it is and use it to accomplish something worthwhile.

Acceptance does not mean quitting.

Activity is not the only sign of progress.

[Personal responsibility and self awareness.] I’d be a little more careful about seeing who is on the way before you throw your words around. Someone might get hurt.

[The challenge.] You’re becoming more consciously aware of what’s going on around you and what’s going on within you. We just need to find where they fit together.

Most of the time, when people think they are at cross-purposes, it is simply that they don’t know each other well enough. So they speculate or assume, which almost always goes to the wrong place.

Nothing’s authentic when you try too hard and others see right through it.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:34 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

09.07.12

Adaptability: The Art of Winning In An Age of Uncertainty

Max McKeown accurately argues in Unshrink that our beliefs have shrunk us. They have limited our responses. And it profoundly affects our ability to adapt.

Adaptability
Adaptability is a book about how people adapt. It is about how to win more often. “In the future,” writes author Max McKeown, “you can try to maintain what you already have, or you can attempt to transcend the constraints of your situation.”

Of course, to begin, you have to recognize the need to adapt. That’s not always as easy as it sounds mainly because we have to admit that something isn’t right. You have to understand what’s going on. Enthusiastic ignorance often rules the day. And so as, McKeown points out, “stupid survives until smart succeeds.” Knowing the rules and when to break them is essential to successful adaptability.
If you find a system failing, then you have also found a system that is failing to adapt. You need to discover, first, what adaptations are needed for the system to succeed. Second, you should understand what has stopped the system from adapting successfully. And third, you should find out how to free the people in the system to make the necessary adaptations.
Once you recognize the need to adapt, you need to understand what adaptation is required. In times of great uncertainty, we need the knowledge creators, the radical and the rebels. “When times are easy, almost anyone can look effective….When choices seem obvious, unimaginative leaders may be rewarded for making the obvious choices even when they know they’re the wrong choices.”

Leaders too, need to release its stranglehold on what is considered acceptable and unacceptable thought. Effective adaptation will not happen when there is a dominance of a couple of people over the way everyone else is allowed to think and act.

It is important to not only identify what needs to be done, but to keep on learning until you get it right. Something to think about:
Most people lock on to a particular course of action, they make their minds up early and fail to adapt to evidence that their choices are wrong. As a result, only a small portion of most people’s experiences lead to new learning.
Finally, you need to actually make the changes necessary to adapt. “The most successfully adaptive companies are those that never grow up.” It is rare to find leaders that are comfortable with “learning what is necessary from the people who do the work and know the answers.” McKeown rightly observes that being all knowing is not a human quality.

When attempting to adapt, “it is very tempting to try to remake a new situation to match an old situation.” We tend to continue to do what we already know.

“In adaptive terms, if you are still in the game, then it’s always the beginning.” This is a critical mindset for successful adaptation. “You can imaginatively rethink your actions so that wherever you are becomes the best place to start.”

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Adaptive intelligence is the ability to perceive how well a behavior fits in with a particular circumstance. It’s about fit. These ideas also have implications for our relationships as well. Failing relationships may be seen as a failure to adapt to the presence of another person. Sometimes that's called self-centeredness.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:29 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Change , General Business , Management , Personal Development

08.16.12

Behaviors and Mindsets that Ruin Careers

Leadership
Bill Lane was Jack Welch’s speechwriter for nearly two decades. In Losing It, he draws on his experiences primarily at GE to highlight the behaviors that are career killers. Naturally, Welch figures into much of this book. Reading the stories you might recognize a few areas where you may need to rethink your approach or behavior.

Most of his insights are the kind of common sense that we easily see overlooked by others but forget to put into practice in our own lives. Here is a selection of ideas to think about:

The best advice I can give anyone in management in business, organizations, politics, the military, or life in general is to fight and strive endlessly to expand your responsibilities and never stop, never coast, never get comfortable, no matter how many people tell you how great you are and how well you are doing.

“Show off” with actions, never words.

“You need to ask yourself every day of your career, ‘Am I up to speed? Am I pushing the envelope, or am I stagnating and falling behind?’” Are you still living off the same achievement you had 20 years ago?

The ultimate sustainable advantage in your career is the ability to learn.

Incuriosity leaves you vulnerable to lies and dissembling.

Good leaders put their heads down and do what has to be done, within the inflexible ropes of absolute integrity.

“Superficiality—[managing at too high a level] – leads you to decisions that I think are ‘glossy’—made at too high a level, without real understanding of the data—and leads to decisions that do not account for key data, such as risk.” Without real diligence, the organization slides into a mindset of slack.

“Uninvolved” emperors or empresses (at any level) usually design elaborate and sometimes clever mechanisms to protect themselves from the vulnerabilities and snickers caused by their feckless or disconnected behavior.

Very few people have ever gotten hurt by keeping their mouths shut.

Of Related Interest:
  5 Leadership Lessons: Inside Welch's Communication Revolution at GE

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:59 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

08.08.12

Leadership by Choice

Leadership
Leadership is always a choice. In Leadership by Choice, author Eric Papp says it means “making a conscious choice to positively influence those around you by managing yourself and leading others in four areas: communication, leading teams, productivity, and personal development.”

Communication — How well do you listen, ask questions, and speak with influence? How many of our problems are caused by lack of listening?

We listen better to people we like, but we can learn to listen with liking to anyone. What prevents us from doing so is preconceived ideas and ideas that we have about someone. “Sometimes while listening to someone, thoughts flood your mind – “can this person do anything for me?” “I probably won’t like this person,” or “Who likes them anyway?” – influencing how you listen.” Listen with liking.

Leading Teams – How well do you establish trust, healthy conflict, and achieve results with others?

A culture of blame teaches people that they can avert their own responsibility by blaming others. “When you breed and teach a culture of no accountability, it’s very hard to reach anything above mediocrity.” Without accountability you can’t lead. Papp suggests five ways to hold yourself accountable: 1. Don’t overextend yourself; 2. Take action before you speak. Actions speak louder than words; 3. Have an accountability partner; 4. Chart your progress. Write down daily or weekly actions that chart your continual growth; 5. Aim for consistency, not perfection.

Productivity – How well do you spend your time and how focused are you?

You are responsible for being productive. Know where your time is going, plan the day before, focus on high-payoff items, and delegate for results and not the process. (Forcing someone to do things your way is not delegating for results. It makes for a very stressful environment and is also counterproductive.)

Personal Development – What are you doing to develop yourself?

Where do leaders find their inspiration? “When we retreat to silence, we tap into the inner calm that allows us to search for answers.” Lead with silence.

We must learn to deal with stress. Papp suggests that we enjoy silence, create a gratitude list, get your sleep and take naps, allow for mistakes, help someone (giving is a great stress reducer), and make a decision to enjoy life.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:25 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Communication , Personal Development , Teamwork

07.30.12

Influencing Up

Leadership
If you’re trying to make a significant contribution you will have to influence people you can’t control. In other words, you will need to influence up.

Often we get in our own way when trying to influence. In Influencing Up, authors Allan Cohen and David Bradford we have to overcome these barriers:
  • The assumptions you hold about how hard to push
  • An unwillingness to raise a tough issue or have a difficult conversation with your boss
  • A combative tone that provokes the exact reactions you dislike
  • Fear of being turned down
  • Inability to let go of your own concerns long enough to remember to give something valuable to get cooperation
  • Any problems you might have dealing with authority
Cohn and Bradford deal with all of these issues. Beside any self-examination you will need to do, you will need courage to deal with two influencing up issues:

First, the impact of large power differentials. Obviously, the greater the power differential between you and the powerful person, the more difficult influence becomes.
Unfortunately, this kind of large power gap tends to produce dysfunctional behavior for people on both sides of the equation. Relatively high-power people tend to overvalue their own contributions and undervalue others’, whereas those with less authority tend to overestimate higher-level individuals’ power and underestimate their own.
Second, becoming a partner with high-powered people. Partner does not necessarily mean equals. It’s a matter of “joining with” not just “reporting to” and taking responsibility for developing the partnership. To do that you need a clear understanding of your boss’s world.

Characteristics of this partnership are:
  • both partners are committed to the organizational goals and the success of the other,
  • you must be motivated by the desire to help and not just personal advancement,
  • you need to be proactive (a leader in your own right),
  • both partners must be honest and transparent, and free to offer honest feedback giving each other the benefit of the doubt,
  • and you must accept the differences between you and your partner.
Just as leaders should ask themselves, “Why am I doing that?” so should junior partners ask themselves, “Why aren’t I doing that?” Not all bosses of course, are interested in the idea of influencing up and this is one area where the partnering mind-set really helps.
You need to carefully examine the interests, power, knowledge, and agendas of every relevant individual, group, or organizational stakeholder—and determine who influences others. Although you might not be able to sway a powerful person, he or she might respond to someone else’s argument. Who has those connections? This complete analysis is critical for selling ideas or proposals, gaining backing for projects, neutralizing resistance, or otherwise making a difference.
Building on the model they first presented in their book Influence Without Authority, Cohen and Bradford deal with challenges of power differentials and partnering and how to overcome them in a step-by-step, straightforward way.

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As long as you don’t inadvertently give away your power, are willing to do your homework, and act with reasonable courage, you can increase your influence with a variety of high-power people.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:42 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Followership , Leadership , Personal Development

07.27.12

The Titleless Leader

Leading without a title is about taking personal responsibility. We—the world—is in desperate need of people who will choose to lead whenever and wherever they can. In The Titleless Leader, Nan Russell describes where we are:
Everything isn’t alright in our workplaces. People are frustrated, angry, disillusioned, tired, and afraid. Not to mention skeptical, cynical, and distrustful. And those plaques touting people as the most important asset should be taken down. They’re a hypocritical reminder of last century’s failed promise. Not everywhere, of course, but in far too many organizations.
But we have a choice.
We can continue the de-motivating spiral of self-indulgent, unaligned leaders, or we can decide to create tomorrow’s workplaces through a new kind of leadership. It’s the kind that doesn’t come with a title. It’s not determined by rank, responsibilities, or position. No one needs to appoint you, promote you, or nominate you. You decide.
What Russell is talking about here is a different kind of leadership that starts with what all good leadership begins with: self-discipline. It is taking responsibility for the outcomes in your area. It’s setting an example of behaviors that are aligned with values.

Leadership
For Russell, titleless leadership is based on four cornerstones:

Self-Alignment: Behavioral integrity. People remember what you are.

Possibility Seeds: Encourages and nurtures others. Titleless leaders plant possibility seeds “not because there’s a mentoring- or succession-planning program, but because they’re operating with a better together approach.”

Soul Courage: Step-up and offer your best self. Push outside your comfort zone to do the right thing.

and Winning Philosophies: It’s only when we’re all winning that we truly all win. Focus on group wins and not the politics of individual wins.

The Titleless Leader is a handbook of behaviors and thinking to help you lead from where you are. Certainly, they’re not easy and require some change in perspective, but they will create more meaning and value in your workplace and more importantly, in your life.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:58 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Leadership Development , Personal Development

07.06.12

Negativity Loops Destroy Intention

When the stakes are high, negative thinking is a no-brainer; it comes naturally to any of us. Living intentionally is the path to success, but what happens when our intentions are derailed? When things aren’t going as planned?

Kristi Hedges is an expert in executive presence. In The Power of Presence she describes presence as “how people move through the world.” It is how people perceive you over time. Negativity dramatically affects your ability to lead.

Negativity pulls us down and inward. Positivity pulls us up and outward.

Negative thoughts have two characteristics: they are permanent and universal. As in, “They are…” “It is…” and “I’m not.” Hedges says, “People who maintain optimistic thoughts gain resilience. When they have setbacks, they see the issue as temporary and specific, not permanent and pervasive.”

You have to learn to dispute your own negativity and turn it into optimism. Most of our pessimistic thoughts are just catastrophizing with little or no root in reality. Negative thoughts “Support inaction, excuse complacency, and take away our options for solutions. They destroy our game.”

When you find yourself in a stressful situation and caught in a downward negative spiral, Hedges recommends that you:
  • Stay vigilant and recognize when it’s purely pessimism and not constructive.
  • Learn to challenge your thoughts before, during, and after a stressful situation.
  • Find a pregame ritual—a repeatable process to get yourself in the zone of your intention—to get yourself into a positive frame of mind from the outset.
  • When you have a physical reaction in a stressful situation, accept that it is a normal response and use helpful strategies to work around it, including taking deep breaths, pausing, and simply acknowledging them. Instead of fighting and resisting a physical reaction, “learn to observe it and acknowledge it as purely a physical effect with no link to your ability to perform effectively.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:25 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

05.23.12

InsideOut Enneagram

InsideOut Enneagram
The Enneagram is a method for identifying your personality type and is valuable system for learning about yourself and others. The Enneagram system defines nine basic personality types of human nature and their complex interrelationships.

Wendy Appel has tackled the Enneagram’s subtleties and complexities in InsideOut Enneagram. Her book makes practical the Enneagram system by use of clear explanations of each Type, case studies and a structured journaling process. There is a section on Type and team interactions that examines predictable points of tension, reactive patterns, and synergies between all of the possible Enneagram Type pairs. Her goal is to help you to see and think differently about your strengths, your weaknesses, and mostly the subterranean habits of mind and motivations that drive you and others. It’s a journey of self-mastery.

Appel observes that “most of us focus our attention outward and neglect our inner life. We think that change is out there. Instead of tuning in to the language of our head, heart, and gut, we are busy looking outside, ahead, and down.”

Understanding who we are, uncovering our blind spots, and creating a game plan to master our thinking and behavior, is vital to developing our leadership potential and to better understand those we lead.
The subconscious mind, where our habits, patterns, and beliefs reside, directs the course of our lives, and most of us are unaware that this is happening. To transform as leaders and to transform our organizations require that we examine our core beliefs—both individual and collective. If not, we simply make iterative changes, and that won’t be enough to succeed in today’s globalized economy.

The Enneagram gives you the possibility to transform the way you show up as a leader. Inner change leads to outer change—when your inner world transforms, an opening is created for extraordinary shifts to occur in your outer world. When you lead from the InsideOut, you have the ability to be responsive and flexible enough to act in the moment. Your words and actions are aligned. You take responsibility for creating your life and for leading with integrity and passion.
Appel says she often gets asked “about the difference between the MBTI and the Enneagram, or whether MBTI Type preferences neatly fit into the Ennegram Types. The most simplistic way to understand how the systems complement each other is that the MBTI describes preferences for how we do things (get our energy, make decisions, gather information, and so on); the Enneagram describes why and how we behave as we do (beliefs, fears, desires, focus of attention), and how we go about getting our perceived needs met.”

InsideOut Enneagram is an opportunity to discover what is working for you, what is not working for you, why, and what you can do about it.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:08 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Personal Development

05.03.12

Stuck? Flip the Script

Flip the Script
Flip the Script is about approaching everything in your life with a new mindset: you can’t control circumstances but you can manage them. Author Bill Wackermann says that the first step is to “embrace the notion that turning a situation around and creating new opportunities takes the desire to face yourself as you really are and a willingness to see the potential that could be hiding right in front of you.”

Wackermann believes that anything can be flipped—any expectation can be turned upside down. It is a skill that can be learned and developed through practice. The book is divided into three sections: understanding yourself, navigating how to build your flip, and winning, overcoming obstacles and putting it all together. All three steps are important, but the first section is the meat of the book and the one that requires the most attention because this is where we get in our own way most of the time.

Understanding yourself and your situation requires honesty. It doesn’t do any good to make excuses here; that only clouds the issues. “Designing your way around obstacles starts with a proper mind-set.” Begin by asking, “So what if …?” So what if there isn’t enough money? We are short on people? So what if they don’t come through? “So what if?” is a “mental tactic that allows you to force yourself to consider alternative viewpoints and plan for the worst.”

Taking responsibility for where you are in this moment, is crucial and once done can actually provide us with a great deal of freedom. Blaming others imprisons us. Wackermann suggests asking yourself:
  1. What can I do right now to fix the situation I want to change? It can be a big or small action, but it has to be something.
  2. What did I do that contributed to getting me to where I am?
  3. What could I have done differently?
In conjunction with those questions, you might also ask yourself:
  1. Do I blame others? Colleagues, clients, or family members? (E.g., “He never told me it was due today?”)
  2. Do I make excuses to avoid responsibility? (E.g., “I couldn’t get to that email because I was traveling.”)
  3. Do I ever apologize?
  4. Do I complain rather than try to make a situation better? (E.g., “They really need to fix that.”)
Wackerman says blame is like candy; too much is unhealthful and will make you sick. “What’s standing between you and success right now is you. Not your folks, not your history, just you. I’m not suggesting that you deny your past, but I am advising that you refuse to live there because it just might kill your future.”

He covers common areas of self-sabotage like Know-It-All-Ism, My Boss Hates Me, Taking Things Personally, Perception is Reality, and Excusing Yourself. Wackermann leaves you with much to think about. Here are a few more ideas to keep in mind:
Flipping means managing all aspects of a situation, including the internal and external…A successful flip requires that we not confuse our motives with what the world sees. To move our goals forward, we have to be mature enough to recognize that perception, unfortunately, is reality. That is business, and our actions and behavior shape how others see us and see our potential for growth. The good news is that we can control in way both big and small how the world sees us.

You can borrow the best of what you like in others rather than fixating on their worst traits.

The behaviors you do robotically are the ones that are keeping you stuck in your current situation.

Actions must follow words. If you feel like other people are catching all the breaks, come in early, stay late, and volunteer for assignments that take you out of your job function. It’s called taking the initiative: you need to show your boss that side of you.

Flipping the script isn’t based on intelligence, rather it’s based on our ability to manage ourselves and control our urges.

Doing the right thing is so hard because it usually takes much more work, determination, willpower, and self-control than you’d expect.

To win at politics, don’t complain, and take five minutes a day to build alliances and stay focused on your end goals. Use the ROPE method: Have a good Role Model, Open yourself to change, Project confidence, and Express humility.

In the end, you can’t make people behave differently; all you can do is manage yourself.


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Your success in flipping the script will be determined by how hard you are willing to look at yourself and your ability to deconstruct patterns of behavior that you’ve established over a lifetime.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:41 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

03.30.12

The Power of Habit

Habits will always be with us. Some good. Some bad. But how do you replace bad habits with good habits? More importantly, how often do we ask ourselves if what we are doing is really just a habit? We are less intentional than we think we are.

The Power of Habit
Charles Duhigg has written a book for all of us: The Power of Habit. After reading it you will understand how habits are formed and what you can do about it. You will also look at habits in a new way. Habits infiltrate our organizations and become invisible forces to contend with that we never realized were there. Learning to spot them is key to our success. Consider the following story:

As a newspaper reporter in Baghdad, Duhigg heard about an officer conducting an impromptu habit modification program in Kufa, a small city ninety miles south of the capital.
He was an army major who had analyzed videotapes of recent riots and had identified a pattern: Violence was usually preceded by a crowd of Iraqis gathering in a plaza or other open space and, over the course of several hours, growing in size. Food vendors would show up, as well as spectators. Then, someone would throw a rock or bottle and all hell would break loose.

When the major met with Kufa’s mayor, he made an odd request: Could they keep the food vendors out of the plazas? Sure, the mayor said. A few weeks later, a small crowd gathered near the Masjid al-Kufa, or Great Mosque of Kufa. Throughout the afternoon, it grew in size. Some people started chanting angry slogans….At dusk, the crowd started getting restless and hungry. People looked for the kebab sellers normally filling the plaza, but there were none to be found. The spectators left. The chanters became dispirited. By 8PM, everyone was gone.
In a sense, a community—your organization—is a giant collection of habits. Later, when Duhigg talked to the major, he said, “Understanding habits is the most important thing I’ve learned in the army.” “Once you see everything as a bunch of habits,” says Duhigg, “it’s like someone gave you a flashlight and a crowbar and you can get to work.

Habit LoopA habit is the brain’s way of saving effort. Duhigg has broken the formation of habits into a three-step loop: the cue (“a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use), the routine (“which can be physical, or mental or emotional”), and finally there is the reward (which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future).

The key to remember here says Duhigg is that “When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks. So unless you deliberately fight a habit—unless you find new routines—the pattern will unfold automatically.”

Breaking habits down in this way makes them easier to deal with. If we can learn to identify the cues and rewards, we can change the routines. We can live life a bit more intentionally.

Duhigg shows how habits played a part in the success of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and civil-rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr. He goes behind the scenes at Procter & Gamble, Target superstores, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, and NFL locker rooms. He explains how improving a single habit rippled out to improve an entire organization—Alcoa. Fascinating material to think about on many levels.

How much of what you do is on autopilot?

How much of what your organization does is on autopilot?

Of Related Interest:
  Breaking Old Habits

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Habits are not destiny. They can be changed if we understand how they work. Habits cannot be eliminated, but they can be replaced.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:08 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Management , Personal Development

03.14.12

Develop a Relentless Solution Focus

Collaboration
Whatever you are trying to accomplish, Jason Selk, author of Executive Toughness, says a relentless solution focus (RSF) will dramatically increase your chances of achieving it.

The tactic is this: Within 60-seconds, replace all problem focused thought with solution-focused thinking to dramatically improve your health, happiness, and success.

We naturally like to focus on and talk about our problems. “We all have the tendency to take the positive for granted. We allow it to become the faint background for the problems we draw in intricate, larger-than-life detail.” A focus on problems only produces more problems. Your mind can only focus on one thing at a time—better to have it focusing on solutions than problems.

“Anytime you catch yourself focusing on a problem, negativity, or self doubt, as yourself this question: What is the one thing I can do differently that could make this situation better?

Any solution, even a partial one will begin to stop the negative emotions. “To ensure you have the necessary perseverance to continue searching for the viable solution, you must first realize that each and every problem has a solution. There’s always a +1 solution that brings you one step closer to a full solution. Most people want a solution that produces complete resolution to the problem….Any improvement, small or large, is a solution: a +1 solution to be precise.”

Selk, mental toughness is the ability to focus on and execute solutions, especially in the face of adversity. It is built on three skills: developing accountability (consistently doing what needs to be done), increasing focus, and becoming optimistic (confident in one’s abilities).

Selk was inspired by coach John Wooden and his belief in trusting the process; “give me those things that I know you can give me and I will take whatever comes.” Executive Toughness explains how to develop mental toughness through the daily practice of ten fundamentals.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:01 PM
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03.07.12

8 Essential Principles of Effective Leadership

Leadership
Gayle Beebe has written a book on how effective and moral leaders develop and more importantly, how they must continue to develop. Too often leaders think they have made it and stop working on themselves. Eventually they become leaders in title only. He writes in The Shaping of an Effective Leader:
Our understanding of leadership does not come to us all at once. It takes time. In our instant-oriented culture we often want to short-circuit the thinking, reflecting and acting that mark our progressive development as leaders. Understanding how leaders develop and why they matter requires discernment, wisdom and insight.
Leadership development is a process. Seeking instant results and ladder-climbing can leave us little to show for our efforts. Some leaders “penchant for moving on has allowed them to avoid facing the consequences of their decisions” thereby restricting their development. “They have changed responsibility so often that they have failed to undergo the development that comes from facing mistakes.” Then too, some leaders are so busy “fixing problems” with personnel changes that they never really face the core issue—themselves.

Beebe draws heavily on Peter Drucker’s teachings and writings. The implementation of these eight principles will have a profound impact on your leadership:

The Necessity of Character. “The formation of our character creates predictability to our leadership. Predictability, dependability and consistency: these three qualities ensure that our leadership is reliable and motivates people to place their confidence in us.”

The Importance of Competence. “Drucker emphasized the importance of a liberal arts education, which he believed was the best training for learning how to synthesize discrete pieces of information into a meaningful whole….All knowledge must be brought to bear on our challenges.”

The Advantage of Team Chemistry. Generosity builds teams. Greed destroys them. “Eventually it leads to a lack of respect for the needs and ambitions of others because our own needs and ambitions overrun all normal boundaries and expectations….It is made manifest by an excessive need for acclaim, attention or compensation. It also is evident in an inability to share the limelight. Malice and thoughtlessness are twin manifestations of this same inner drive.”

The Interplay of Culture and Context. Cultures shape people. “An appropriate structure (culture) is the one best suited to maximize the performance of our people.” In addition, “culture is also shaped and influenced by the environmental context in which it exists….One of the biggest mistakes a company can make...is when it operates on the basis of what it prefers and how it believes a society should function, rather than how the society actually operates.”

The Strength of Compatibility and Coherence. “We have to know ourselves well enough and understand ourselves deeply enough to enter into the kind of human communities that will sustain us.”

The Guidance of Convictions. “An individual must balance a strong self-understanding and self-esteem with the necessity of confronting all issues both objectively and subjectively….A self-differentiated leader is one who has a head (intellectual capacity) from which he speaks with conviction while having a heart (empathetic capacity) with which he stays connected to people.”

The Significance of Maintaining Our Connections. “Remaining connected to our work associates even when we make hard decisions is only possible if we maintain personal integrity, display competence, create team chemistry, develop a great culture, retain a level of compatibility that motivates, and display a level of conviction and predictability that people trust.”

The Opportunity to Make an Ultimate Contribution. The ultimate contribution is in our quest for meaning. “Work, meaningful as it may be, can lose its appeal….Drucker advocated developing a second interest long before we exhaust our first interest. This parallel career becomes not only our lifeblood for meaningful work and service opportunities in the future, but also a source of great support if we were to experience major setbacks in the present.”

Beebe writes, “These principles do not operate separately from one another. Indeed, they build on each other, and their effect is cumulative.” These eight principles will improve our contribution as leaders if we are mindful of them on a daily basis throughout the rest of our lives. At each level our character is tested and developed. Effective leadership is built on moral authority grounded in character. Leadership is a privilege that we earn every day.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:36 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development , Personal Development

02.20.12

5 Leadership Lessons: Where Negative Emotions Come From

5 Leadership Lessons

Brian Tracy and Christina Stein have written a book—Kiss That Frog—to help you root out the causes of the negative thoughts that are influencing your attitudes and behaviors more than you realize. It’s a critical issue for leaders.

“All emotions, especially negative emotions, distort evaluations. A person in the grip of a negative emotion is incapable of thinking clearly or rationally.”
Kiss That Frog
Here’s the danger: “The more intense the negative emotion, the more the sufferer becomes detached from reality and is incapable of reasoning clearly. The person then talks and acts in a way that is often unexplainable and destructive.”

Tracy and Stein have identified five major factors that cause people to create negative emotions and hold on to them:

1  Justification: You defend your negativity and your right to be angry. Negative emotions cannot exist unless you can justify your right to experience them to yourself and others. The more you justify yourself and convince yourself that the other person involved is bad in some way, that you are pure and innocent and are therefore entitled to feel the way you do, the angrier and more upset you become.

2  Identification: This means that you take things personally. You interpret what has happened as a personal attack on you. Having healthy emotional boundaries is essential, especially in a work environment. You can be compassionate without identifying with someone else’s emotions.

3  Hypersensitivity: To be extremely sensitive to the thoughts, opinions, or attitudes of others toward you. Peter Ouspensky called it “inward considering.” In extreme cases, hypersensitive people become paralyzed in that they cannot make a decision without getting the approval of other people.

4  Judgmentalism: The tendency of people to make negative assessments about others. When you judge another, you become emotional. And emotions distort evaluations. People often judge others because they want to control their behavior.

5  Rationalization: What happens when you put a socially acceptable explanation on an otherwise socially unacceptable act. Because of low self-esteem and weak egos, most people cannot admit that they have done or said something that was not thoroughly reasonable and justified.

Rehashing negative situations allows the negative emotions to grow. Keeping an eye on these factors leading to negative emotions can help you to stop the negative emotion the moment it is triggered.
You have a wonderful mind. But it is a two-edged sword. You can use it to make yourself happy, or you can use it to make yourself angry. Your goal should be to use your intelligence to keep yourself calm, in control, and at peace, no matter what is happening around you or to you.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:14 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Five Lessons , Personal Development

01.23.12

The Compound Effect

Leadership
The Compound Effect is a reminder of the law of cause and effect. Darren Hardy shares the impact it has had on his life and how you can make yourself accountable for your choices.

The Compound Effect is the ripple effect you get from the choices you make. In life, you not only reap what you sow, you reap more than you sow. The seemingly insignificant choices we make daily, will create major changes in your life for good or bad. These are the things we don’t think about because they have no immediate effect. They don’t seem to matter. But over time, they can take you places you never intended. Hardy encourages us to make conscious choices—daily.

Given the fact that we have a limited lifespan, the earlier we start consciously making small changes in our behavior, the more powerfully the Compound Effect works in our favor.

Since your outcomes are all a result of your moment-to-moment choices, you have incredible power to change your life by changing your choices. Step-by-step, day by day, your choices will shape you actions until they become habits, where practice makes them permanent.

Creating habits isn’t easy. Hardy says you have to begin by thinking your way out of the instant gratification trap. “The problem is that the payoff or instant gratification derived from bad habits often far outweighs what’s going on in your rational mind concerning long-term consequences. Indulging in our bad habits doesn’t seem to have any negative effects at all in the moment. But it doesn’t mean you haven’t activated the Compound Effect.

Hardy also recommends that when we try to change a habit we should focus on what we are adding-in rather than what we are taking-out. Instead of thinking about all of the TV you will miss in the evening, think about the experience and fulfillment you will gain by adding-in a hobby instead. Instead of focusing on what you have to sacrifice, focus on what you get to add-in.

It harder to get started than it is to keep going, so you must be consistent to keep your momentum going. “When you start thinking about slacking off on your routines and rhythms, consider the massive cost of inconsistency. It is not the loss of the single action and tiny results it creates; it is the utter collapse and loss of momentum your entire progress will suffer.”

In this regard, it is important to look at what is influencing you. What you feed your mind, the people you spend time with, and your environment will all conspire to bring you closer or further from your goals. Stand guard.

Finally, Hardy says to multiply your results by going beyond the expectations; doing the unexpected. Uncommon things deliver uncommon results.

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Hardy says what stands between you and your goal is your behavior. Your life comes down to this formula:

Compound Effect

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:47 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

01.11.12

What You Need to Know About Why People Fail

Failure
“There are thousands of books on success. But very few on failure,” begins Siimon Reynolds in Why People Fail. “Yet mastering failure is surely a vital step in achieving your aims, hopes, and dreams.”

He is passionately driven to take the "taboo" out of failure. As Reynolds suggests it is a "forbidden subject. We're not supposed to fail and if we do, we're supposed to hide it from everybody. It gives people the wrong impression about what it takes to be successful."

Failure leads to success—if you see it as a process. “If someone has achieved more than you, it’s not usually because they are better than you or smarter than you. It’s because they have discovered a better strategy for success.”

Reynolds has identified 16 reasons for failure. They are:

1. Unclear purpose
Reynolds claims that the reason average people are average is because they have no clear purpose. “It is not unusual to see people working 12 hours a day and still not getting anything substantial done. Why? At the heart of it, their lack of clarity about the best use of their time leads them to work on what’s urgent, not what’s important.” Foggy purpose leads to mediocre results, says Reynolds. Zig Ziglar remarked, “Most people are a wandering generality rather than a meaningful specific.”

2. Destructive thinking
Not surprisingly, destructive thinking has a dramatic impact on both our health and our behavior. Reynolds recommends the SCORE technique created by Jim Fannin. Before you begin a new task, ask yourself: Are you working toward your goals? (Self-Discipline), Are you focused? (Concentration), Are you positive? (Optimism), Are you calm? (Relaxation), and Are you choosing to have fun? (Enjoyment).

3. Low productivity
Getting productive begins with planning before you start. Make a list. Break your work down into blocks of time. Reynolds says that when he’s feeling down or lazy, he likes to separate his day into 10-minute blocks. Working in short bursts boosts his momentum and increased his concentration. This technique he learned from Igvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA. Kamprad says, “Divide your life into 10-minute units and sacrifice as few of them as possible in meaningless activity.”

4. Fixed mindset
People with a fixed mindset believe that their capabilities are set in stone. They tend to not try hard, give up early, and don’t try new things. In contrast, people with a growth mindset believe that with dedication and effort you can get better. They tend to forgive more, see problems as temporary, learn from their mistakes, and have faith in the future. What would happen if you worked a little harder at something you feel you’re not good at?

5. Weak energy
Success takes energy. Success requires good sleep, a proper diet, exercise, and a balanced lifestyle.

6. Not asking the right questions
The questions you are create the things you think about and the direction of your life. You should be asking yourself the following questions frequently: What are my values? What would I do if I knew I couldn’t fail? What could go wrong? How could I make 10 times more money? What would X do? Should I even be involved with this? How would my competition defeat me? What’s the best use of my time right now? When I die, what kind of life would I like to have lived? How could I improve that performance?

7. Poor presentation skills
“Presenting well will increase your confidence and your salary faster than almost any other skill. Your boss will want you to lead more and your clients will trust you more. You’ll feel in command and in control, and others will sense that they’re dealing with someone highly capable and dynamic.”

8. Mistaking IQ for EQ
A priceless ability for leaders, those with a strong EQ (emotional intelligence) are able to perceive emotions, use emotions, understand emotions, and manage emotions. “When it comes to everyday practical living, EQ beats IQ every time.”

9. Poor self-image
Self-image is important because it determines what actions you will take and how you will feel each and every day. It’s like your “mental operating software…a mental blueprint of what’s possible for you.” Mostly, you are not your conscious thought. According to Deepak Chopra, about 70% of your thoughts are not new. They are the same thoughts you had yesterday. “The truth is, because of their low self-image most people are selling themselves short.” Think about your self-image and focus on building it up. Act-as-if. Consider the people you socialize with. Are they building you up? Visualize who you could be.

10. Not enough thinking
We are obsessed with doing and don’t spend enough time thinking. Brainstorm regularly.

11. No daily rituals
Daily rituals enable even average people to become champions of life and ultimately outperform others who seemingly have more talent. “If you can add a structure to your goals, a ritual you do daily, you will increase the chances of achieving them by 1000%.” If you’re not getting the results you want in any area of your life, Reynolds attributes it to a lack of ritual.

12. Stress
Stress can kill. Relieve stress with deep breathing and the practice of releasing. You might try list making, dividing your stress into things you can do something about and things you can’t, cleaning and simplifying your environment, getting outside, eating properly and creating order in your life.

13. Few relationships
You can’t get there alone. You must enlist the help of many others along the way. Develop your ability to develop strong personal relationships.

14. Lack of persistence
Giving up too soon is at the heart of many failures for two reasons. The first is a poor self-image. “Deep down they don’t have the faith that they are capable of pulling off a great victory, so when they try, they do so in a tentative, half-hearted manner and are ready to give up at the first sign of difficulty.” And second, they think there is something wrong with failure. Champions know they are going to fail numerous times, so they get on with it.

15. Money obsession
Professor Tim Kasser remarked, “The more materialistic values are at the center of our lives, the more our quality of life is diminished.” Research shows that people who focus on the material things are less satisfied with their lives. There is nothing wrong with money, but we shouldn’t build our life around it. Better to focus on relationships, community, serving others, and appreciation.

16. Not focusing on strengths
Know your strengths to maximize you natural strengths. Not everything you need to do can be centered around your strengths, but the more you do, the more successful and enjoyable your life will be.

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If you are struggling, you can probably identify with at least one of the above reasons. Actually, all of us can identify with some of them and could benefit from designing a ritual to overcome them one by one. It’s not always easy but it is doable. Pick one and make a commitment to conquer it.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:31 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

11.24.11

Finding Gratitude in the Common Things


We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.
—Thornton Wilder

Sometimes we have big and uncommon things to be thankful for, but mostly what we have to be thankful for is daily, common and mundane. It’s these daily blessings that we take for granted. It’s these that we need to be most thankful for and learn to find ways to express our gratitude for—daily.

Gratefulness is a state of mind. Gratitude puts us more in the moment rather than being shackled to the past. Without an attitude of gratitude we tend to focus on the wrong things. It makes us do things we shouldn’t do.

Gratitude assigns meaning to that which we find common, but is, in fact, a gift. At the same time it gives us meaning.

Often it is not until we are deprived of something that we begin to appreciate that which we take for granted. It is easy to be oblivious to that which we have until we lose it or face the prospect of losing it.

Do we have to suffer a loss to appreciate that which we have?

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Of Related Interest:
  Gratitude: The Habit of Noticing

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:01 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

11.14.11

Do You Have Moral Overconfidence?

In a recent Bloomberg Businessweek article, Harvard Business School Dean, Nitin Nohria stated that because we all suffer from “moral overconfidence,” the most important thing business schools could be teaching is humility. He writes:
Many people view “character” as an immutable trait formed during childhood and adolescence. I believe character development is similar to the development of knowledge or wisdom—it’s a lifelong process. The world isn’t neatly divided into good people and bad people. Most will behave well or poorly, depending on the context….Business leaders need to remember that most of us have too much confidence in our strength of character.
Nohria is exactly correct. Good leadership is humble leadership. Humility is living in truth. The truth about our limitations and an understanding of our proper relationship with others. And do we share with each other a moral overconfidence—a certain naiveté about ourselves that carries with it the seeds of our own destruction.

Humility gives us a better understanding of how we are to treat each other. Without it we operate from only one perspective—our own. This kills influence. As leaders, we are to work with people, not over them. It is far too tempting to think hierarchically and not relationally.

In Leading Without Power, Max De Pree says that “Leaders belong to their followers.” Too many leaders try to create a buffer between themselves and their followers, when instead, they need to be leading from among their followers. A humble leader will close the gap between themselves and others.

Humility manifests itself in understanding the need to learn. Authority disciplined by humility is teachable. It is arrogant to think that once we have the position or a title, we’ve arrived. We never arrive. It is merely an opportunity to learn from another perspective. If you stop learning, you stop leading. It’s something we need to stay on top of because if we don’t, life has a way of bringing us up short in an effort to get us to wake-up and start learning. Leadership has a way of revealing our weaknesses.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:07 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Leadership Development , Personal Development

11.09.11

Uncertainty Will Freeze You in Place if You Let It

Leadership
Ambiguity is not only certain; it is a necessary state for advancing. Jonathan Fields writes, in Uncertainty: “The more you’re able to tolerate ambiguity and lean into the unknown, the more likely you’ll be to dance with it long enough to come up with better solutions, ideas and creations.”

The problem is that most of us, to one degree or another react so strongly to ambiguity or uncertainty, that it becomes a limiting factor in our lives and stops us from acting in the face of it. The issue is not so much failure as it is not wanting to “be judged for taking the less-mainstream path and coming up empty.”

But taking the risk in the face of uncertainty is “not about tempting fate, it’s about going to that place where magic happens.” Living in the question. So how do we push forward when everything seems to be spinning out of control?

Fields suggests we first find our certainty anchors. Certainty anchors are rituals and routines that we build into our life that help to counter the resistance. On those occasions when you find that it is “Twitter-Time,” rituals and routines will help move the process along. “Ritual helps train you to sit down when you most want to stand, when you’re forced to work on the part of the process that leaves you anywhere from bored to riddled with anxiety.”

Get feedback along the way. Build a hive of heroes, mentors and champions. Consider ways to bring into the process the very people you are creating for.

Train your brain in the art of focused awareness through meditation, mindfulness, visualization, and exercise to stay focused and grounded. Randy Komisar, author of The Monk and the Riddle, told Fields:
It’s a process of stripping myself bare of all the pressures, all of the barnacles that accumulate around you every day as you interact in the world—the pressures, the expectations, the ego, the things that ultimately make your vision unclear.
Exercise in the list above wasn’t an afterthought. Most of us feel we don’t have time to work out. But we really can't afford not to. Fields, writes:
Studies now prove that aerobic exercise both increases the size of the prefrontal cortex and facilitates interaction between it and the amygdala. This is vitally important to creators because the prefrontal cortex, as we discussed earlier, is the part of the brain that helps tamp down the amygdala’s fear and anxiety signals.

For artists, entrepreneurs, and any other driven creators, exercise is a powerful tool in the quest to help transform the persistent uncertainty, fear, and anxiety that accompany the quest to create from a source of suffering into something less toxic, then potentially even into fuel.
I emphasize this a lot on the Leading Blog, but I think it’s something we really have to work at. Randy Nelson, Pixar’s former head of education said, “The core skill of innovators is not failure avoidance, it’s error recovery.” Fields adds, “When that’s baked into your creative culture on all levels, people become more empowered to lean into the creative abyss—and magic tends to happen.”

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Creating value involves varying degrees of uncertainty. But that uncertainty can lead to fear and paralysis unless we learn how to use it to our advantage. And it’s important that we do because that’s where the greatest creations and experiences happen. The poet John Keats put it well. He called it “Negative Capability.” He referred to it as the quality that people of achievement possess: the capability of being in uncertainties. Fields shows how to be okay working in that space.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:39 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Creativity & Innovation , Personal Development , Problem Solving

11.07.11

3 Self-Limiting Mindsets that Will Hold You Back at Work

Leading Forum
This is a guest post by Joel Garfinkle, author of Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level. Garfinkle asks, “What makes one person more successful than another?” Getting Ahead is a straightforward guide to help you eliminate your blind spots to improve how you are perceived, increase your visibility and exert your influence. Great material.

The workplace has enough challenges and obstacles without us getting in our own way. But too often, we sabotage ourselves. Whether it’s internal forces that cause us to sell ourselves short or it’s a matter of having been conditioned not to “toot our own horn,” people have a marked tendency to avoid the limelight when in truth they belong in it. What’s more, if you’ve always been the ‘unsung hero,’ management wants to know who you are.

In my executive coaching business, I’ve worked with scores of clients over the years to help them overcome self-limiting mindsets that were holding them back in the workplace. Here are some of the most common issues:
  1. Not making an effort to be visible to management. Some of my clients were frustrated because they felt chronically underappreciated, undervalued and anonymous. “I can’t get ahead because nobody knows who I am or what I do for this company,” is a common refrain. This is a particularly severe problem where managers are “results-oriented” while paying scant attention to developing the processes and people that bring them those results.

    It’s up to you to ensure that you get credit for your accomplishments. Make a conscious effort to keep your boss apprised of the progress you are making and the projects you complete successfully. If you want to be valued and appreciated, you need to make sure management knows what you are doing and how your efforts contribute to the company’s bottom line.

  2. Believing it’s the boss’s job to manage your career. Career management is your job, not his. Don’t leave your career management up to your boss.

    You may need to take charge of your employee evaluation process yourself. To do this, first get an understanding of how the employee evaluation system works. Find out exactly what criteria or metrics your boss is using to evaluate your performance. This will probably require a sit-down session.

    Once you know how you will be evaluated, you need to prepare in advance for the evaluation. Keep careful notes on all your accomplishments for the company. Put dollar figures on them whenever possible. The more numbers, the better. Then take initiative to schedule sit-downs to discuss your progress throughout the year. Don’t rely on your manager to do it.

    Then, at least a month before your annual evaluation is due, schedule another appointment. Hand your boss an itemized list of your accomplishments for the year. Say, “Here’s a list of the things we’ve discussed over the year. I thought this would come in handy for when you write my eval.” Then let it go at that. If your manager is on the ball, though, and writes your eval way ahead of the deadline, you may need to schedule your meeting even earlier. The important thing is to take initiative and stay ahead of the curve.

    Management wants to make their star employees look good. Some of them don’t have the administrative or managerial skill set to allow them to do that, though. They get distracted and don’t know what a good, solid evaluation even looks like. Managers will appreciate that you took the time.

  3. Failure to notice the opportunities around you. Some workers limit themselves by getting so focused on their immediate jobs and departments that they lose sight of the big picture. One solution: Think two levels up. Make sure you know about the key issues and projects not just in your immediate department, but at least two levels up from you. You should also network within the company and find out who the key players are in other departments. Keep your ear to the ground to learn about new initiatives, particularly in revenue-generating endeavors or where you will have an opportunity to create substantial savings for the company.

    If your immediate boss can’t or won’t promote you, you need to have options. By exposing your talents, skills and value to leaders in other departments, you enhance your chances of gaining a promotion. It’s not just who you know; it’s who knows you! Work hard to maximize your exposure for lateral movements and promotions.

Remember, if you don’t take credit for your own success, someone else will. That doesn’t serve your own interests. And if you think about it, it doesn’t serve the long-term interests of the company. You have a professional duty to yourself as well as your company to make sure your accomplishments are recognized and credited to you.

Leadership
Joel A. Garfinkle is recognized as one of the top 50 coaches in the U.S., having worked with many of the world's leading companies. He is the author of seven books, including Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level. View his books and FREE articles at his Executive Coaching Services website. You can also subscribe to his Executive Leadership newsletter and receive the FREE e-book, 40 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:11 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Leadership Development , Leading Forum , Personal Development

10.26.11

It’s Not About You

Leadership
It’s Not About You by Bob Burg and John David Mann, is the story of a leader’s journey. A journey any good leader has to take.

Ben begins with an agenda. His job is to convince or if necessary, to steamroll a manufacturer of high-quality chairs to accepting a merger. Ben’s company believes it to be a good thing, but the target company is not so sure. Ben’s mindset as he starts out is: “how do I get them to do what I want them to do.”

Somewhere between getting people to understand him and slowing-down long enough to understand them, he found his answer.

Through a series of encounters with a mentor—Aunt Elle—and a lot of reflection Ben comes to understand that it is not about him. His journey causes him to reflect on five lessons:

Lesson #1: Hold the Vision. The hard part isn’t coming up with the vision, it’s holding on to the vision. “As a leader, your job is to hold fast to the big picture, to keep seeing it in your mind’s eye, with crystal clarity, where it is you are going—that place that right at this moment exists only in your mind's eye. And to keep seeing that, even when nobody else does.”

Lesson #2: Build Your People. “People have all sorts of amazing qualities and natural abilities trapped inside them. With the wood, it’s knowing how to apply the heat. With people, it’s applying your belief.” If you give people something great to live up to, they usually will. “How influential you are, comes down to your intention. What are you focused on? Your benefit, or theirs?” The more you yield, the more power you have.

Lesson #3: Do the Work. Be humble and stay grounded. Aunt Elle said, “People who achieve great things that the world will never forget, start out by accomplishing small things the world will never see.”

Lesson #4: Stand for Something. Lead from who you are. People will figure it out anyway. People need to trust your competence, but they need to trust your character more. “Competence is simply the baseline, the thing that puts you in the game. It matters, but honestly, it’s a dime a dozen.” The authors remind us that you can only lead as far as you grow. Aunt Elle says, “What you have to give, you offer least of all through what you say; in greater part through what you do; but in greatest part through who you are.”

Lesson #5: Share the Mantle. It’s not about you. “You are not their dreams, you are only the steward of those dreams. And leaders often get it backwards and start thinking they not only hold the best of others but they are the best….The moment you start thinking it’s all about you, that you’re the deal, is the moment you begin losing your capacity to positively influence others’ lives.”
Whatever great parenting looks like, it is not about the parent.
It’s Not About You is a great presentation of solid life lessons. A book to be read and passed around. Unfortunately, “it’s not about you,” is not the kind of lesson that once learned, is always remembered. If it was, fewer great leaders would finish poorly after so many years of outstanding service. This is an issue that we face over and over again, but hopefully in ever diminishing frequency and intensity as our leadership matures. This book is a great reminder of the power of the right kind of leadership; leadership that comes from an inner strength of understanding, service and outgoing concern for others.

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Sometimes the hardest thing to grasp about leadership is that it is not about you. It’s easy to make it about us. We want to do something, so naturally we push; when actually we should be pulling by considering the needs of others first. In leadership, as with so much in life, the more we give, the more we have.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:29 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Followership , Human Resources , Leadership Development , Personal Development

10.21.11

Practical Genius is a Choice


Everyone is born a genius, but the process of living de-geniuses you.
—Buckminster Fuller
Gina Rudan’s Practical Genius is designed to re-genius you. Gina says we all have the capacity for what she terms, practical genius. It is the “kind of practical, street-level, everyday genius that can change the game for you, your business, and every aspect of your life.” Practical genius is a choice.
So many of us are unconsciously compromising some of our greatest natural assets because of external factors, past hurts, or current fears. Or, even worse, we have sacrificed our skills, strengths, and passion to the expectations and influence of others. Or we’re consciously hitting the snooze button, rolling over and going back to slept every time we’re reminded how far from feeling happy and fulfilled we are in our work and personal lives.
In order to identify and leverage both the hard and soft unique personal assets we all possess, Gina has created a 5-step plan:

Leadership
Step 1: Identify Your Genius. Through a series of reflective exercises you identify your hard assets—skills, strengths and expertise—and your soft assets—passions, creative abilities and values. Where these strengths intersect is your own unique practical genius lies. “Reach to the farthest edges, the fringes of your curiosities, and spend some serious time there.”

Step 2: Express Your Genius. You must actively and purposefully tell your story. Without visibility, you’re compromising your impact. “A person without a story is invisible.”

Step 3: Surround Yourself with Genius. You are who you walk with. Relationships are choices not accidents. Identify others of your “tribe” that can help you amplify your genius. To build a tribe that feeds, supports, and roots for you, you have to feed, support, and root for them.

Step 4: Sustain Your Genius. Find what fuels you. Consider your routines and practice those that keep you healthy, productive, and prosperous. In addition to food, exercise and sleep, “do one thing every day that represents a conscious effort to expose yourself to the extraordinary instead of the ordinary, the profound instead of the pedestrian, the breathtaking instead of the mind-numbing.”

Step 5: Market Your Genius. Live and work at the intersection of all your assets. Project your paradox. “Market the scholar alongside the fool. The entrepreneur alongside the philosopher. The conservationist alongside the game designer.” Know your audience and build relationships with them.

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Everyone has practical genius, but it’s up to you to find it, put it to work, and watch it change your life. So much of what we do in life numbs us. Rudan’s approach to life will help you turn that process around.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:48 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

10.07.11

Work-Life Balance?

Leadership
The term work-life balance is fatally flawed says Matthew Kelly in Off Balance. Meant to deal with the pressures surrounding both personal and professional life, the term has unwittingly created a false dichotomy. You can’t separate the two. In fact, says Kelly, “the term itself diminishes our ability to make the case that work can be a richly rewarding part of a person’s life and should in many ways be personal.”

What people really want (and need) is not work-life balance, but to “live deeply satisfying lives both personally and professionally.” The trick is to get in touch with your dissatisfaction and then strategically create the life you want. But it will take some work. It’s not going to happen accidentally. Kelly writes, “The life you desire is there for the taking, but it comes at a cost. Life, like business, hinges on the successful allocation of scarce resources.”

Kelly provides some key thinking to support this discussion:
We seem more interested in how we want to live than we are in discovering the best way to live. Likewise, we are much more interested in developing self-expression than we are in developing selves that are worth expressing. Personal preference has triumphed over the pursuit of excellence. We want what we want, and we feel entitled to get what we want.

The problem with all this is that getting what we want is certainly not work-life balance, and getting what we want almost never leads to personal and professional satisfaction. The reason is that very few people have the requisite self-knowledge to want the right things. As we grow and gain this self-knowledge we begin to want what we need because we discover that the fulfillment of our legitimate needs is more likely to lead to lasting happiness in a changing world than the reckless pursuit of whimsical happiness.
So we need to begin with self-knowledge. “Satisfaction does not arise from simply having experiences and things, but rather from having the experiences and things that you deem important.” Kelly has developed a system to increase the level of personal and professional satisfaction in your life that involves five steps, beginning of course with assessment:

Assessment. What brings you satisfaction? (There is an Off-Balance Assessment in the book and online at FloydConsulting.com) This process says Kelly, allows us to pinpoint an element of our dissatisfaction and create a prescription to overcome it.

Priorities. What matters most to you? (Priority Exercise Worksheet PDF) While these may change over time, it is essential that we clearly define them or we become victims of the tyranny of the urgent.

Core Habits. What are the daily habits that keep you healthy, focused and energized? For example, workout, meditation, proper diet, maintaining relationships. “What one thing, if done every day, would change your life markedly?”

Weekly Strategy Session. What is the key project that should have your attention and be your starting point for each day of the week? Our lives are destined for underachievement and dissatisfaction if we don’t learn to plan and strategize personally.

Quarterly Review. Every three months review what is working well in your life, review what you said you would do in the last ninety days; outline the key objectives in your life at this time; share your plan to accomplish these objectives.

Kelly says that knowing how to balance various activities in our life to produce the maximum flow of energy is perhaps the most important skill any of us can learn and develop. “Each day has a focus, and holding to this focus plays a significant role in creating and sustaining high levels of satisfaction.” He concludes, “To lay your head on your pillow at night, knowing that who you are and what you do makes sense … now, that is satisfaction.”

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Work-life balance is a myth. We can’t have it all, but we can find both personal and professional satisfaction. You can stumble into a moderately satisfying life, but to sustain and increase that satisfaction requires a strategic approach and some real work. You can be the architect of a life that is both personally and professionally satisfying.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:00 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Personal Development

10.05.11

Are You Up, Down, or Sideways?

There are no guarantees in life. We can be proactive, but there are some things that are completely outside of our control. So if we can’t be proactive on everything, we can, Mark Sanborn suggests, be interactive. We must learn how to interact with the forces in our life that are bigger than we are to create the outcomes we desire. No matter where we are—up, down, or sideways—there are things we can do to mitigate the downs, take advantage of the ups and maximize the sideways times in our life.

Leadership
Up, Down, or Sideways by Mark Sanborn is a thoughtful book born of experience and based on sound principles. It would be a mistake to think of this as another business book. It is, in fact, a life book that will deeply impact your business.

To be interactive, you first need to define your scorecard for success. Most people don’t live the life they imagined because “they are stuck using a scoring system that doesn’t fit the game they want to play.” Sanborn guides you in developing a scoring system that is meaningful, long-term, and personal.

Besides a clear scoring system, your success also depends on your attitude. You must develop an optimistic attitude. “The way you look at yourself and the world around you affects your success regardless of the circumstances.” We can choose what we focus on.

Another important mindset is that of the lifelong learner. “The more you learn, the more prepared you are for whatever comes your way. And the more you learn, the more you develop behavioral flexibility that provides a distinct advantage over your competition.”

Sanborn offer six methods to succeed when times are Up, Down, or Sideways.
  1. Produce Value. Value keeps you in the game. But value is a moving target, so “if you want to mitigate the downsides and increase the upsides, you need to recognize that value is the currency that gets you a seat at the table....keep your pipeline full of the things people value and the people who value them.” Continue to create value in an ever-changing environment.
  2. Create and Keep Connections. “When we create value and deliver it with service and love, we develop connections that increase our value to others and we multiply their impact on our value.” While creating connections is easier than maintaining them, take special care of the relationships that matter.
  3. Continuously Innovate. Best practices are not enough. Better to work on “better practices and next practices.” Sanborn asserts that the “purpose of innovation is distinction.” But, and this is important, “it’s not enough to be different. Being different without being valued is being weird. Distinction is being different and valued.”
  4. Build Reserves. “You protect what you value by building reserves.” We need to build financial, physical, psychological, and spiritual reserves.
  5. Practice Gratitude. Gratitude is the antidote to negative thinking. In Sanborn’s insightful way, he writes that gratitude is a gift. It is the gift of perspective, energy, guidance, and resilience. Make gratitude something you do and not just feel.
  6. Embrace Discipline. “Success isn’t based on what we know, believe, or intend; it’s a result of what we consistently do.” Consistently act on your intentions until they become habits. Make time for the most important things.
Sanborn gives some final reminders: When you’re Up, you need humility and perspective. So surround yourself with people who keep you grounded. When you’re Sideways, you need a boost. So surround yourself with people who challenge you to keep moving in the right direction. And finally, when you’re Down, you need hope. So surround yourself with people who life your spirits.

Certainly this is an important book for these times, but this book is meant to help your thrive no matter what life throws your way. You need this book—young people need this book—to prepare for the rest of your life, whether you are Up, Down, or Sideways. Read, reread, and refer.

Up down sideways

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Rather than trying to predict the future, prepare for it. There are a few things you should do all the time, regardless of circumstances. These are things that set you on a course toward sustainable success—whether times are Up, Down, or Sideways.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:08 AM
| TrackBacks (1) | General Business , Personal Development

08.25.11

How Character Erodes

Erosion
Character is built choice by choice, decision by decision. And it is eroded the same way. We often don’t stop to think about how each choice builds on the last until it’s too late. It is a worthwhile practice to think about your choices and where they are leading you on a daily basis. Ralph Waldo Emerson put it well: “The force of character is cumulative.”

In a October 2002 Fast Company article—The Secret Life of the CEO: Is the Economy Just Built to Flip?—Jim Collins, explains how character erodes:
These were the people who, in the presence of an opportunity to behave differently, got drawn into it, one step after another. If you told them 10 years ahead of time, "Hey, let's cook the books and all get rich," they would never go along with it. But that's rarely how most people get drawn into activities that they later regret. When you are at step A, it feels inconceivable to jump all the way to step Z, if step Z involves something that is a total breach of your values.”


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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:14 PM
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08.19.11

What to Ask the Person in the Mirror

While we might like to think otherwise, here is a fact about successful leaders:
Successful leaders go through significant periods of time in which they feel confused, discouraged, and unsure of themselves and their decisions. They feel as if they should be somewhere else, doing something else.
And unsuccessful leaders go through the same thing. The difference, says Harvard professor Robert Kaplan, is “how they deal with these periods of confusion and uncertainty. The trick lies not in avoiding these difficult periods; it lies in knowing how to step back, diagnose, regroup, and move forward.”

Leadership
This means not having all the right answers, but learning to ask the right questions. The challenge will be asking the right questions and making to the time to reflect on them. Reflecting is the key ingredient here and what many of us are short on. In his timeless book, What to Ask the Person in the Mirror, Kaplan offers seven basic types of inquiry or areas of focus—actually a system of inquiry that ties the leadership function together—that you should be looking at on a regular basis:

Vision and Priorities. In this foundational area we need to be very clear and communicate it in a way that helps others to be able to determine where to focus their own efforts. Have you developed a clear vision and have you identified three to five clear priorities to achieve that vision?

Managing Your Time. Your vision and priorities are reflected in the way you use your time. Track your time for two weeks. How does this compare to your key priorities?

Giving and Getting Feedback. Most leaders do not effectively coach their subordinates, and also fail to get the critical coaching that they themselves need in order to excel. Do you cultivate advisors who are able to confront you with criticisms that you may not want to hear?

Succession Planning and Delegation. When leaders fail to actively plan for succession, they do not delegate sufficiently and may become decision-making bottlenecks. Have you identified potential successors for your job? Why not?

Evaluation and Alignment. It is often extremely difficult as an insider to see where you and the organization have drifted out of alignment. If you had to start again, how would you do it? Would you be doing the same things? Does the design of your organization, your incentive systems, your culture, and even your approach to leading still fit the needs of the organization?

The Leader as Role Model. Many leaders fail to appreciate that their actions speak louder than their words. Self-awareness is critically important. Write down two or three key messages you believe you send with your behavior. Seek advice from key subordinates and advisors who directly observe your behavior, in order to answer this question: is there a “disconnect” between the messages you wish to send and those you are in fact sending?

Reaching Your Potential. Know and learn to manage your strengths, weaknesses, and passions, not only to bring out your best, but also to create this same environment and aspiration among your staff.

It’s not uncommon to find leaders that just stick to what they know best and not address those areas where they feel uncomfortable or insecure. All of these areas need to be reflected on as they each have an impact on the other. Taking the time to reflect is not easy and “doesn’t sound like fun, and may not sound as important as the fifty other things you have to fit into your day—but it works.” And be sure to take the time to reflect on these issues with your team as well.

With many down-to-earth examples, Kaplan will expand the range of questions you should be asking yourself. What to Ask the Person in the Mirror will help you to rethink unsustainable behaviors that are damaging to both you and your organization and help you to mature and grow in your leadership role.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:57 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Leadership Development , Personal Development

07.26.11

Have a Nice Conflict!

Reading Have a Nice Conflict was like listening to my Dad again. He first met “Doc” Porter in the early seventies and they clicked almost immediately. Elias Porter’s Relationship Awareness Theory, on which the book is based, resonated with my Dad.
Behaviors are the tools we choose and use to support our self-worth.

You can look at personal strengths like behaviors. They represent the different ways a person can interact with others to achieve self-worth. When a person tries one of these strengths and has success with it, they use it more often. Other strengths might have rendered poor results, and so they might tend to use those less and less. Over time, we develop a set of “go-to” strengths. They become our modus operandi.

But it’s important to remember that you have a whole tool chest of other options that may get you better results from time to time.

It is possible that some of your conflict at work happens because other people don’t see your strengths the way you intend them to be seen. … So when you find another person’s behavior annoying, look for the strength behind it. What are they overdoing? What are they really trying to accomplish? Most likely, their intent is not to annoy you. If you can find the strength lurking behind the perceived weakness, you’ve discovered insight into that person that may help you understand them better.

Conflict can happen when other people misinterpret your strengths.
Leadership
Have a Nice Conflict is the story of sales manager John Doyle who has been passed over for what he believes is a well-deserved promotion. He has lost some of his top performers because he rubbed them the wrong way. When he turns up at an old friend and client’s office to explain yet another change in sales reps, he puts him on to Dr. Mac to help him improve his people skills at both work and home.

Dr. Mac explains to John that there are many ways of interacting with others. We have default ways of behaving and when in conflict we often shift into other behaviors to maintain our self-worth. While we are trying to do the “right thing” to maintain our self-worth, conflict can happen when our “right thing” appears to be the “wrong thing” to another person. Conflict can be prevented by seeing contentious behavior as merely a different style instead of a direct challenge or threat aimed at annoying you or derailing you.

He introduces him to the Strengths Deployment Inventory (SDI) which is a tool to help you understand the motivations behind your own behaviors and to better discern the motivations of others. By giving you a framework it helps you to understand what you and others are feeling and then helps you be better able to respond.

Having a nice conflict is about taking personal responsibility for the interaction. To create movement toward resolution, we need to show the other person the path back to self-worth—where they feel good about themselves. That path may be different than yours. SDI The SDI helps you understand those paths. “When we’re stuck in a place of protecting our self-worth, it’s much harder to help others protect or restore what’s important to them. And that’s the primary mission of managing conflict. Managing conflict is about creating the conditions that empower others to manage themselves out of their emotional state of conflict. To effectively manage conflict, we have to begin with ourselves. If we’re pulled into conflict ourselves, we’re usually not in a great position to help others.”

The concept should be taught in schools, however the thought process is essential for leaders. The book alone offers valuable insights into the process and methodology, but coupled with the SDI you’ll have greater success. The authors offer a discount on the SDI to readers of the book.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:08 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Communication , Human Resources , Management , Personal Development , Problem Solving , Teamwork

07.12.11

Learn From Your Heroes, but Believe in Yourself

It is natural to want to be like the people we look up to. We want to recreate the success they have enjoyed in our own lives. So we try to imitate them. It seems like the shortest distance between two points. Of course, we are trying to copy a result. What we often fail to see is the work it took to get them to the place where they could do what they do. And sometimes it’s all flash and no substance.

And while you can try to copy a style, mannerisms, or life path, what makes it work for them isn’t what is written down. It’s what they can’t teach you that makes it work for them. It’s the things you can’t easily articulate that come from the core of your being—that which makes you you—that makes the difference.

Harvard Business School Professor and former Medtronic CEO Bill George, wrote, “Any prospective leader who buys into the necessity of attempting to emulate all the characteristics of a leader is doomed to failure.” It’s one thing to learn from others, it’s quite another to try to imitate them.

A big part of the problem is the lack of confidence we have in ourselves. Sometimes in watching the success of others, we lose faith in ourselves. “There is but one cause of failure and that is a man’s lack of faith in his true self,” observed William James.

Jazz saxophonist Stan Getz took a teaching position at Stanford in 1986. In an interview with a reporter about his role there, he put it this way:
I’m a strong opponent of imitation. I always tell them that they have to be themselves. That’s hard, because they don’t believe in themselves, they believe in their heroes. And I will tell them: that’s perfectly alright, but your hero is the only one who can play that way. If you want to try and do the same thing, it will only be an imitation, however perfectly you will do it. I keep on trying to convince them that they have to play what they feel themselves. But that’s not easy.
Your hero is the only one that can play it that way. Be yourself.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:43 PM
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07.05.11

Footwashing for Leaders

An easy trap for any leader to fall into is the “Look what I did!” trap. Success easily erodes humility. Humility isn’t about the lack of ambition, but acknowledging the luck, the good fortune, and the contributions of others to your success. It is the humility that comes with a habit of respect for others. Stephen Hall calls it the “gift of perspective.” It is indeed. Humility is all about perspective.

Fast Company cofounder Bill Taylor argues in Are You “Humbitious” Enough to Lead? in the Summer 2011 Leader to Leader journal, that “the best way to deliver on an ambitious agenda for your organization is to embrace a sense of “humbition” in your personal style and as part of your leadership repertoire.”

Taylor reports that “in a manifesto of sorts that urged up-and-coming IBMers to embrace a new leadership mind-set, Jane Harper, a 30-year veteran of IBM and a group of her colleagues offered a compelling description of what it takes to succeed in a complex, fast-moving, hard-to-figure-out world. Their strongly worded advice to aspiring leaders inside IBM should be read as words of wisdom for leaders at every level of all kinds of organizations:”
“Humbition is one part humility and one part ambition. We notice that by far the lion’s share of world-changing luminaries are humble people. They focus on the work, not themselves. They seek success—they are ambitious—but they are humbled when it arrives. They know that much of that success was luck, timing, and a thousand factors out of their personal control. They feel lucky, not all-powerful. Oddly, the ones operating under a delusion that they are all-powerful are the ones who have yet to reach their potential. . . . [So] be ambitious. Be a leader. But do not belittle others in your pursuit of your ambitions. Raise them up instead. The biggest leader is the one washing the feet of the others.
Success most often doesn’t come from our efforts alone but in our ability to include and organize the contributions of others; to coax the fragments of a good idea from the hearts and minds of others; from a practiced watchfulness that comes from knowing that a good idea can come from anyone or anywhere. The result, when it comes together—the execution of a great idea—should be humbling to any leader.

It is humility coupled with ambition that correlates with results.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:04 PM
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06.24.11

Does Your Wellbeing Need a Boost?

Gallup scientists have determined that there are five universal and interdependent elements of wellbeing that differentiate a thriving life from one spent suffering:
  • Career: liking what you do every day (Tip: Every day, use your strengths.)
  • Social: having strong relationships (Tip: Spend six hours a day socializing—face-to-face, phone, e-mail.)
  • Financial: a well managed economic life (Tip: Spend on others instead of solely on material possessions.)
  • Physical: having good health and the energy to get things done on a daily basis (Tip: Get at least 20 minutes of activity each day and 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.)
  • Community: a sense of engagement with the area where you live (Tip: Identify how you can contribute in your community based on your own values.)
Statistically, while 66% are doing well in at least one area, only 7% are thriving in all five. If we are struggling in any one of these areas, as most of us are, it damages our wellbeing and wears on our daily life.

Ways to measure and improve in each of these areas is provided in Wellbeing by Tom Rath and Jim Harter. (The Wellbeing Finder can be taken online by using the code provided in the book.)

Our wellbeing will not improve if we don’t make a conscious decision to do so. Small changes can have a huge impact. To get started they recommend setting positive defaults.
One of the best ways to create more good days is by setting positive defaults. Any time you help your-short-term self work with your long-term self, you have an opportunity.

You can intentionally choose to spend more time with the people you enjoy most and engage your strengths as much as possible.

You can structure your finances to minimize the worry caused by debt.

You can make exercise a standard part of your routine. You can make healthier decisions in the supermarket so you don’t have to trust yourself when you have a craving a few days later.

And you can make commitments to community, religious, or volunteer groups, knowing that you will follow through once you’ve signed up in advance.

Through these daily choices, you create stronger friendships, families, workplaces, and communities.
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:12 PM
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05.24.11

Got Drama?

You can’t stop The Drama. There will always be drama.

Leadership
But that’s not the problem says Marlene Chism, author of Stop Workplace Drama. “The amount of time you stay in the drama—and the effort you put toward it—is the problem. Complaints, excuses, and regrets only serve to keep the drama alive.” Your drama—what you add to The Drama—is the problem.

Chism defines drama as “any obstacle to your peace and prosperity.” Drama is the result of not recognizing or taking care of the little signs of bigger problems when they first presented themselves. At the core of drama you will find one of three common elements (if not all three): a lack of clarity, a relationship issue, and/or resistance. So, says Chism, when you experience drama you need to ask yourself three questions:

1. Where am I unclear?
2. What is my relationship issue?
3. What am I resisting?

Chism presents eight principles for dealing with drama, but “lack of clarity” struck me as the most common and excuse-laden trap there is. Too often this is where we get stuck.

When we first set a goal we’re clear. In her terms, “we see the island.” But between here and there the process become difficult and someone on your team becomes unhappy, and, “instead of focusing on the island we are trying to reach, we’re now concentrating on pleasing the one person who is upset. Our focus has shifted because we became confused about our number one priority.” And the fog rolls in.

Any type of discord, abuse, confusion, or game-playing always boils down to a lack of clarity.” A loss of focus.

Sometimes we create drama because we want something on our terms. We imagine that we can’t do something because we can’t do it the way we think it should be done—our way. Chism relates a clarifying example of this with the recently divorced Joe who is having visitation issues with his ex-wife Patty. She’s not letting him do what he wants in the way that he wants.
Many people get stuck in the drama of what should or shouldn’t be. Yes, you can fight that battle, if winning a battle is what you want. But again, in order to clear the fog and help Joe get clarity, I asked, “If there are two islands you can go to, and one means winning a battle with your wife and the other island is getting to see your kids and be a father to them—then which island would you choose?”

He said, “Seeing my kids, but…”

I said, “No buts. Are you willing to drive to Illinois several times a year and spend quality time with your kids, even if Patty does nothing more than cooperate?”

Joe said, “Yes.”

It’s never as difficult as we make it when we get clear on what we can control and what we are committed to.. The point here is that clarity may or not change Joe’s ex-wife. Joe will struggle if that is his motive or intention. However, Joe’s clarity will give him the essence of what he really wants. If he is able to let go of distractions and not get stuck on the rocks that lie between him and his final goal.

Do you see that while this kind of clarity may not change all the drama, it will give you peace and free up your energy for more productive endeavors?
This kind of dynamic plays out every day in our business and personal lives. When we are not clear about what we want, what our values are, what we are committed to, it is easy to lose our focus, to drift off course.

Solution: Clear the fog.

Chism has written a good-natured and practical book that will change your thinking and in the process help you to control the drama in both your personal and professional life. As leaders, we have the responsibility to be very clear with ourselves and our team so that we don’t get pulled into negativity, gossip, power plays, resistance and … drama. Chism suggests asking the following questions:

What are my top 10 principle-based values?
What areas of my life or business are in the fog?
What are some of the distractions that take me off course?
Where do I get stuck?
Where can I improve as a leader?
What drama do I see on a daily basis in the workplace?
What drama do I see in my personal life?
Where am I avoiding or procrastinating?

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:00 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Change , Communication , General Business , Human Resources , Management , Personal Development , Teamwork , Vision

05.06.11

3 Attributes that Will Help You be Better Under Pressure

Stress
Justin Menkes says that there are no longer periods of calm seas for leaders in any industry. So it’s not a matter of gritting your teeth and riding out the crisis. Leaders must get comfortable in an environment of ongoing stress. They must be Better Under Pressure.

To do this a leader must possess a “highly unusual set of attributes that often run counter to natural human behavior.” This means leaders must “foster specific attributes to achieve maximum success in themselves and their people. No longer can leaders think of leadership as unidirectional. Instead, leadership “becomes a fluid, virtuous cycle of exchange and growth between leaders and the people they lead.”

Menkes writes, “Almost every human being alive today has an underutilized thirst for bettering himself or herself. It is up to leaders to discover how to trigger this thirst—in fact, it is a leader’s most critical responsibility.” Recognizing and developing that thirst is something that must be and can be learned.

He identifies three catalysts that will help a leader to realize his or her own potential and the potential of others:

Realistic Optimism. Striking a balance between the known and unknown. Kevin Sharer, CEO of Amgen, said, “With all the things that are going on in today’s workplace, if you’re not a little bit self-reflective and self-aware, you’re not going to make it.” And you won’t get the best from your team.

Awareness requires humility. Humility allows you to see yourself as you are. It also allows you to see your role in any problem.

Realistic optimism creates a sense of agency—the degree to which you believe your circumstances are within your control. “People must recognize how—and that—their own approach to the problem can either exacerbate these obstacles or bridge the space between two parties.”

You must learn says Menkes, “to minimize the ways your mind distorts reality.”

Subservience to Purpose. While realistic optimism allows leaders to see and address deficiencies in themselves and the world around them, subservience to purpose gives them the drive to do so. In this framework, “people’s level of dedication toward the mission of the enterprise is paramount, rather than their dedication to each other….Hierarchical distinctions are secondary to the overarching value system that considers the company’s noble missions its most important function.”

Subservience to purpose means developing affect tolerance or “the ability to channel intense reactions to recurring setbacks in a way that not only avoids hampering you, but also constructively keeps you and your organization moving forward toward maximum potential.”

It is vital that a leader understand the outsized effect that their emotional behaviors have on their people. Not managing your emotions and reactions—especially in a stressful environment—will hinder other people’s progress. You must temper the intensity of your responses “with the awareness of the unequal power dynamics you share with your team.” This also means keeping in check your sense of self-importance. Menkes writes:
Grandiosity is particularly costly to you as a leader, because its expression unintelligently telegraphs to your subordinates that you believe the group’s accomplishments are largely due to your involvement. This why expressing humility is so important, because when you are humble, you clearly communicate to others that you recognize the critical role each team member plays in contributing to the organization’s progress.
Fred Smith, founder, chairman, and CEO of FedEx told Menkes:
As a founder, you must be able to resist any temptation to let the organization become a cult of personality built around you. FedEx isn’t about me. When I walk out the door here, this organization won’t miss a beat.”
How many can (want to) say that?

Finding Order in Chaos. This attribute is about maintaining clarity of thought and a drive to solve the puzzle. Maintaining clarity of thought is developed by learning how to manage your stress in such a way that it fuels your focus and increases your clarity. To do this, one must seek out experiences that support your sense of competence under duress—“managing adrenaline without panic and gaining confidence that the sensations that stress induces will not lead to collapse.”

The drive to solve the puzzle “manifests itself as an intense intellectual curiosity…and a pleasure in finding solutions to them.” Menkes adds, “The positive feedback we get from maintaining clarity under pressure gives us a thirst for more situations that involve pressure, and we are thus driven to solve the puzzle.”

better under pressureAll of these attributes work to develop the other. Understanding things as they are gives you the confidence to face the issues with the mission in mind. Success in this area drives you to remain calm and find solutions to the problems with those around you. “Once you experience the gratification of triumph in the pursuit of meaningful goals, the virtuous cycle of realizing potential becomes a regenerating flywheel that is transmitted to others.”

Importantly, Menkes reminds us, “people do not act as isolated entities, but are reflections of an essential interaction between themselves and the context in which they are placed….A person’s potential can only emerge as an active process, consciously cultivated through a fluid, ongoing exchange between leaders and their people.” It serves to remind us of the privilege and huge responsibility leadership truly is. To see leadership primarily as a function of authority, is to totally miss the mark.

I’ve only offered an overview of the ideas Menkes presents here. There are so many more insights in this book than can be provided here. But reading the examples of those who exemplify theses attributes and those who haven’t, coupled with the interviews of 25 leaders, you will come away with a sense of where you stand and a confidence that you can improve in any area you identify.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:13 PM
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04.12.11

From Values to Action

From Values to Action
Former chairman and chief executive officer of Baxter International, Harry Kraemer, has written a genuine, back-to-basics book on value-based leadership: From Values to Action. He presents four interconnected principles that build on and contribute to each other:

Self-Reflection is the most important and is central to your leadership. “If you are not self-reflective, how can you truly know yourself?” writes Kraemer. “If you do not know yourself, how can you lead yourself? If you cannot lead yourself, how can you possibly lead others?”

Self-reflection allows you to transform activity into productivity for all the right reasons. It means “you are surprised less frequently.” It is essential in setting priorities. You can’t do everything. So reflection makes it possible to answer key questions like What is most important? and What should we be doing? in a way that is in line with your strengths and values and organizational goals.
Engaging in self-reflection on a regular, ongoing basis (preferably daily) keeps you from becoming so caught up in the momentum of the situation that you get carried away and consider actions and decisions that are not aligned with who you are and what you want to do with your life.
Balance and Perspective is the ability to understand all sides of an issue. Pursuing balance means you will have to grasp the fact that leaders don’t have all the answers. Kraemer says, “My task was to recognize when a particular perspective offered by one of my team members was the best answer….Leadership is not a democracy. My job as the leader is to seek input, not consensus.”

Because he believes we are more effective if we balance all areas of our life, he prefers the term “life balance” over “work-life balance.” It’s not an either or proposition. “When you identify too closely with your work, you can easily lose perspective and become unable to look at all angles in a situation.” He recommends implementing a “life-grid” to keep track of where you are spending your time and to hold yourself accountable.

True Self-Confidence is know what you know and you don’t know; to be comfortable with who you are while acknowledging that you still need to develop in certain areas. (Comfortable not complacent.) Why TRUE self-confidence?
There are people who adopt a persona that might make others think that they have self-confidence, but they are not the real deal. Instead, they possess false self-confidence, which is really just an act without any substance. These individuals are full of bravado and are dominating. They believe they have all the answers and are quick to cut off any discussion that veers in a direction that runs contrary to their opinions. They dismiss debate as being a complete waste of time. They always need to be right—which means proving everyone else wrong.
Genuine Humility is born of self-knowledge. Never forget where you started. “Genuine humility helps you recognize that you are neither better nor worse than anyone else, that you ought to respect everyone equally and not treat anyone differently just because of a job title.”

From Values to ActionAfter describing each of these principles, Kraemer explains how these four elements play in everyday situations such as talent management and leadership development (“The values based leader is looking for people who exhibit the values that are most important to her.”), setting a clear direction (You’ve been tasked with creating a quick strategy, the first step is to listen. “This is precisely the time that you need to draw upon the capabilities of the excellent team you’ve put together.”), communication (“Never assume you have communicated enough.”), motivation (“What you must do is relate to others by letting them know who you are and the values you stand for.”), and execution (“As you become a leader, you will shift from knowing the right answers to asking the right questions.”).

Kraemer describes a values-based leader well: “Self-reflection increases his self-awareness. Balance encourages him to seek out different perspectives from all team members and to change his mind when appropriate in order to make the best possible decisions. With true self-confidence, he does not have to be right, and he easily shares credit with his team. Genuine humility allows him to connect with everyone because no one is more important than anyone else.”

From Values to Action is an outstanding book and filled with important concepts that any would-be leader would benefit from.

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Of Related Interest:
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 4
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 3
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 2
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 1
  Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:13 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Communication , Human Resources , Leaders , Leadership Development , Management , Personal Development , Positive Leadership

04.05.11

Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions

Leadership
Guy Kawasaki has made a career out of enchanting people. He has summarized what he has learned so far in Enchantment. (Think How to Win Friends and Influence People 2011.) Reading his book you will clearly see that enchantment doesn’t happen by accident. It is a state of mind that can be developed and perfected.

In a perfect world, if you had a better mousetrap, the world would beat a path to your door. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way anymore. In our social media driven world you need to enchant them.

You need enchantment when you are trying to change the world because you need to convince people to dream the same dream you do, you need to overcome inertia and the fear of big changes, the process of getting people to diverge from a crowd is similar to getting them to join one, and you need people to engage for the long term.

The process of delighting (enchanting) people with a product, service, organization, or idea begins with three steps:

Likeability. Guy knows likeability. (330,000+ Twitter followers can’t be wrong.) You need people to like you. The way to do that says Kawasaki is to accept others and find something to like in them.

Trust. Like likeability, you go first. You trust others first and they will trust you. Kawasaki says there are two types of people in the world: bakers and eaters. Eaters think zero-sum. They want the biggest slice of any pie. The bakers don’t see the world as zero-sum game. They want to make more and bigger pies. Bakers are more enchanting than eaters.

Get Ready. Make your offering great. It should be DICEE—Deep (many features), Intelligent (clever/innovative), Complete (all aspects of the offering is a great experience), Empowering (makes possible what you couldn’t do before), and Elegant (works with you not against you).

As a part of getting ready he suggests you do a pre-mortem. Before the launch, assume you failed and ask, “What might have gone wrong?” Come up with reasons why the failure occurred in order to prevent problems and increase the likelihood of success.

In two very practical chapters, Kawasaki talks about push and pull technology. “Push technology brings your story to people. Pull technology brings people to your story.” Push technologies are presentations, e-mail and Twitter. Pull technologies are web sites, blogs, YouTube and Facebook.

Enchantment is about becoming the kind of person people want to follow and it begins with approaching people thinking how you help them rather than wondering what they can do for you.

Enchanting
How enchanting are you? Take Guy’s Realistic Enchantment Aptitude Test online.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:32 AM
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03.07.11

This Might Not Work! Start anyway. Poke the Box.

Leadership
Building on the ideas he first presented in Linchpin, Seth Godin is back encouraging us to start things—start a project, make a ruckus, take what feels like a risk. Poke the Box is about seeing what happens.

“The box,” writes Godin, “might be a computer or it might be a market or it might be a customer or it might be your boss. It’s a puzzle, one that can be solved in only one way—by poking. When you do this, what happens? When you do that, what happens? The box reveals itself through your poking.”

Godin says the opportunity is in creating unique learning experiences that are worth sharing. He advises that we start and keep staring until the project is finished. Failure is a part of starting anything worthwhile. “If you can’t fail, it doesn’t count.”

Here are a few more bits of Godin wisdom:
Look for the fear. That’s almost always the source of your doubt.

Reject the tyranny of picked. Pick yourself.

Sooner or later, many idealists transform themselves into disheartened realists who mistakenly believe that giving up is the same thing as being realistic.

Poking doesn’t mean right. It means action. Once we learn how to take initiative we see opportunities all around us.
Godin notes, “I’ve had a lot of practice in poking the box, figuring out which ideas resonate, and then shipping them. The more you do it, the more it gets done and the less crazy you feel.” He also cautions, “Poke. But be smart about it.” Poke the Box is an effective and convincing book, but more importantly, if applied, is transformational.

Poke the Box WB
As you might expect from Godin, Poke the Box: The Workbook is available as a free download on the Domino Project web site.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:30 AM
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Don’t Wait for the Clouds to Part. Get Going.

Creating and producing is mostly a matter of getting out of the rut, allowing the process to guide you, letting go of perfection, and showing up. Consistently. Daily.

Chuck Close, renown American photorealist painter and photographer, says that in his work, so much is embedded in the process of following the path wherever it leads. The important thing is to get going. He said:

"If you wait for clouds to part and be struck in the head with a bolt of lightning, you're likely to be waiting the rest of your life. But if you simply get going something will occur to you."

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:24 AM
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02.11.11

Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 4

Reflection
In the final part of this series, Marshall Goldsmith explains the relevancy of reflection in today’s world. It has always been a vital ingredient to success, but it becomes critical in the age of the knowledge worker. Jeremy Hunter teaches courses on The Practice of Self-Management at The Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management. He emphasizes a focus on reflecting in real-time—in the present—in order to align both our intentions and behaviors so that we might bring about the results we seek.

  Marshall Goldsmith, executive educator and coach:

I believe that the process of reflection is more important today than ever before. I also believe that it is more challenging.

We live in the age of the knowledge worker. Peter Drucker defined knowledge workers as 'people who know more about what they are doing than their boss'. Knowledge workers need to think and reflect. They have to listen and learn. They cannot just 'do what they are told', since their managers know less than they do about what they are doing.

On the other hand, we live in a world of constant stimulus. Our minds are barraged by media of all forms. Cell phones, emails, text messages and personal computers have reduced our already-limited attention spans.

One of the great challenges for the knowledge worker of the future is finding the time to think - in a world that is screaming at you to act.

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  Jeremy Hunter, Adjunct Professor, The Peter F. Drucker and Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management:

When we think of “reflection” it tends to be retrospective. Where I think my work is a bit different is that I focus on what a leader is doing right now as it is happening––reflection and awareness in the moment. Most people's immediate action will very likely be an automatic non-conscious process that they're not aware of. Throw in a little stress and emotional reactivity and people find themselves doing and saying things that are destructive to themselves, others, and their goals without understanding why nor knowing what to do about it.

The big issue is that the retrospective analysis alone can’t necessarily change a person's immediate habits. Science tells us that 90% or more of the brain’s activity is automatic and non-conscious. However, we have a worldview that focuses largely on conscious processing, we think that having the answer makes change automatically happen. A friend might say, “You know, Ruth, when you’re confronted with a challenge from a superior, you react too strongly.” OK, now Ruth knows that. We assume that just because Ruth knows what she does, she will change it. But there’s a whole other process that has to happen to change the wired-in, non-conscious, automatic pattern. Ruth may be 100% aware of what she does but then the trigger happens and it plays out in the same way. And then it’s, “Oh no, I did it again.”

Change happens in the choices we make right now. So my interest is in, how you actually retrain the brain by interrupting that automatic habit and doing something differently. You may have to do it over and over again but at some point the rewiring function will happen. And that’s a function of interrupting that immediate non-conscious habit and doing something different.

I give people a model of this process from the triggering moment of contact to the final result. All along there are intervention points. Of course, the earlier you can intervene, the better. Not everyone can interrupt the process early on, but what I emphasize is that you just need to interrupt it somewhere. And the more practiced one gets at it, the earlier you can see what is happening. It’s really about becoming more conscious about what you are doing, why you are doing it, what result do you want and do these behaviors get you there, and if they don’t, what do you need to be doing instead?

You always start with the repeated unwanted result. What’s the thing that keeps happening that you don’t want? For example, Ruth might say, “I notice that whenever I’m confronted, I fight back too aggressively or I get too hostile.” So now she knows that about herself and that’s the reflective piece. Now, let’s tie that reflection to action.

The next step is to build awareness of when and how that habit plays out. For example, “I have this meeting with my boss and I know he’s upset about something. What is it I do that might push back too hard, that gets me in trouble?" And so in that moment she's bringing attention to all the things that happen automatically--what is she doing? What is she feeling in the body? Tension? Pressure? What emotions are arising? What are the stories in her head? Directing her attention to her internal experience creates the awareness of the non-conscious habit. She now has the opportunity to step outside all those automatic reactions and make a different, more conscious choice. We’re tying the process of reflection to immediate behavior. Again, change happens in the choices we make right now.

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As people are increasingly “burned out” from the stress and uncertainty of the economic reset, it’s too simplistic to just return to basic vacation policies, doing little to introduce meaningful distinctions between home and work. When the workday rarely ends, given technology’s ability to engage employees any time and anywhere, sabbaticals offer a refreshing moment to simply pause. Sabbaticals lead to people stepping back to see their work and creativity through a different lens. Daniel Patrick Forrester, Consider
—Daniel Patrick Forrester, Consider

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More in this Series:
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 3
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 2
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 1
  Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:14 AM
| TrackBacks (2) | Elements of Leadership , Human Resources , Personal Development

02.10.11

Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 3

Reflection
In part three of this series, James Strock talks about the importance of taking time “off” from one’s customary activities. He also gives insight into gaining perspective through reflection. Mark Sanborn talks about the essential nature of making time to think so that we might learn and gain insight from our experiences. He lists some areas we should be thinking about so that we might get the most out of our time reflecting.

  James Strock, speaker, consultant and entrepreneur:

There is nothing more important—or more easily overlooked—than making time for disciplined reflection. Indeed, it should be scheduled—and protected and enforced—with the utmost seriousness.

Religious traditions include notions of a Sabbath, a day of rest and reflection. It’s a recognition that taking time “off” from one’s customary activities is necessary to fulfill one’s obligations, to perform effectively over time. It’s also an act of humility, pulling people away from a prideful presumption of the significance of their personal contribution and control when it tends toward isolating, habitual overwork.

It’s surely not a coincidence that so many of the greatest leaders have been noted for multiple interests. Winston Churchill was active as a painter, speaker, historian, and commentator on current events. Theodore Roosevelt was, in the memorable description of Brander Matthews, “polygonal.” George Washington and Abraham Lincoln maintained perspective through theatre. Though it would be an error to say that effective leaders have “balanced” lives at any given moment, they tend to bring a number of interests to bear—thereby increasing their capacity to see things from various perspectives, and to discern and appreciate the contributions of others.

In business, one thinks of Bill Gates’ semi-annual, week-long sabbaticals for study and reflection. Many enterprises—from Google and GE to sports teams—encourage regular meditation or related mental exercises. To the extent each day can be seen as a sort of lifetime in itself, meditation or prayer can also be viewed as a sabbatical of sorts.

In my personal experience, travel can be invaluable. Simply being pulled out of one’s daily routines and habits, and being inspired by new surroundings, can be mentally and spiritually invigorating. You may see familiar notions with new eyes.

Though disciplined reflection has always been important for leadership, it’s arguably more important now than ever before. In the 21st century, information and data are often ubiquitous. The value added by leaders—either in high positions or not—increasingly arises from those invaluable intangibles: judgment and insight. Both of those are more likely to be found with disciplined reflection. And there’s no better place to start than from history and the observations and experiences of others, such as is offered so notably by LeadershipNow.

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  Mark Sanborn, author and speaker:

Someone once said if we don't slow down occasionally nothing good can ever catch us. I think that sentiment applies to the good that can come out of reflection.

One of the reasons we don't learn—truly internalize lessons—and keep making similar mistakes is that we don't pause long enough to gain any insights.

Most of the busy and successful professionals I work with—and myself included—can go for long periods of time without actively thinking. We reactively think—response to questions, problems, opportunities, etc.—but don't make time to proactively think.

I frequently say that nobody has time for anything; we make time for what is important. So often we live life be default and let circumstance and the demands of others determine how we spend out time. I believe we need to make time for reflection. We make time when we priorities, eliminate and adjust our schedules.

Specifically, I think leaders should reflect on:
  1. What they are accomplishing versus how busy they are.
  2. What they have learned. Leaders need to extract lessons from both the positive and negative things that happen.
  3. How they are feeling. Leaders can't divorce their intellect from their emotions and succeed over the long run.
  4. Relationships that need attention.
  5. Their vision of the future, for their organizations, those they lead and themselves.
  6. And for leaders who believe in the spiritual realm, as I do, that is a critical area for reflection (prayer and meditation in the Christian tradition I follow).
Reflection usually requires "getting away" whether that requires a physical relocation to a peaceful thinking spot or simply blocking time to avoid interruptions.

And finally, I think those leaders who value reflection and benefit most from it make it a regular part of their schedules.

* * *

There is a hierarchy of communication we all practice, in which electronic and immediate data responses reign far above in-person and more time-intensive, dialogue-driven interaction. The trade-off is easy to make: we gain speed, immediate connection, and reactions while giving up richer contexts that emerge only when we take time to think. There are times when the arrival of each new electronic message or data-driven distraction has become a digital proxy for the sound of a bell once used by a doctor named Pavlov.
—Daniel Patrick Forrester, Consider

* * *

More in this Series:
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 4
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 2
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 1
  Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:58 AM
| TrackBacks (3) | Elements of Leadership , Human Resources , Personal Development

02.09.11

Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 2

Reflection
In part two of this series, Tom Asacker philosophizes about the nature of reflection. His insights help us to understand that until we start to see our connection to reality, core changes rarely happen. Have we given the proper consideration to the impact of what we do? Then, Brian Orchard emphasizes the need to slow down enough to absorb what we are experiencing. He talks about the need to take a second look to gain understanding and the importance of getting counsel in decision making.

  Tom Asacker, author, speaker and professional catalyst:

I’ve noticed something interesting of late. I’ve been spending more time reflecting on my work than passionately involved in the doing of it. To an outsider, it may look like idleness. In fact, history informs me that it’s a necessary prelude to meaningful change, to boldness and growth.

Our work should be designed to move us forward, toward a worthy ideal, meaning, and a better life. But in order to get there, we must occasionally pause from its narcotic effect and critically evaluate its impact on our happiness and well-being, and its resulting influence on our community and environment. We must sit quietly and reflect.

Reflection is not daydreaming. Reflection is imaginative inquiry; it’s an internal dialogue that asks, Am I making a difference? Is this the best that I can do? Will people be advanced by my efforts? Will my children be proud of my actions? Yes, there is boldness in action. But we must follow action with quiet reflection for that boldness to remain relevant and vibrant.

Elbert Hubbard wrote, “The reason men oppose progress is not that they hate progress, but that they love inertia.” Reflection is the path to progress. Imaginative reflection breaks the powerful grasp of inertia—the desire to stay the course regardless of the impact on our lives—and moves us courageously towards our higher potential.

* * *

  Brian Orchard, pastor:

This quote from the Guardian summarizes for me, where we are at: “Although, because of the Internet, we have become very good at collecting a wide range of factual tidbits, we are also gradually forgetting how to sit back, contemplate, and relate all these facts to each other. And so, as Carr writes, "we're losing our ability to strike a balance between those two very different states of mind. Mentally, we're in perpetual locomotion".

From my experience as a minister, I have found that an issue is rarely understood well by the first exposure to it. Our first response is usually weighted by whoever presented the issue. It takes time and thought to slowly come to a more complete understanding. The value of reflection in this case allows for a deeper understanding to be obtained by thinking about the issue and allowing it to be seen from a number of angles.

There are two biblical principles that to me, support reflection. First, Proverbs 18:17 states, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” We all have the tendency to accept the first version of what we hear, but the concept of “searching” carries the idea of talking and asking questions, but also thinking about the situation and the reconsidering of fundamental assumptions.

The second is simply the whole idea of seeking counsel. This must mean a certain amount of reflection and counsel has a strong bearing on decision making.

* * *

Devaluing reflection while expecting constant growth and innovation is nonsensical. It’s only when we step away from the onslaught of the day that a new direction arises (good or bad). By never stepping away and, instead, insisting on constant connectivity, you can’t be sure if what you are working on will prove you to be relevant in the future.
—Daniel Patrick Forrester, Consider

* * *

More in this Series:
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 4
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 3
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 1
  Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:43 AM
| TrackBacks (3) | Elements of Leadership , Human Resources , Interviews , Personal Development

02.08.11

Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 1

Reflection
John Kotter begins this series on reflection by talking about the need to develop a reflective habit and why we don’t. Are we spending our time on the right issues? Are we delegating issues we should not be working on that could be better dealt with more locally in the organization? Kotter also stresses its importance as a continual learning tool. John Baldoni urges us to make the time to reflect to gain perspective. He reframes reflection as an action step, not a passive process.

  John Kotter, Harvard professor, author and consultant:

In a world that is moving faster and faster, and changing more and in larger leaps, learning becomes a gigantic issue. Doing what you know is not enough. And learning cannot come in a classroom once every 2 years. That’s too little too late. Learning has to be an ongoing process, literally all the time.

People learn in many ways. Reading really good books can help. Talking to really good people can help. Nothing wrong with going to a Harvard executive education program, but there is no better teacher than reflection on the world, and especially one’s own actions. I did X. It produced Z. But is Z what we really need? And why did X create Z? And what were the other alternatives? And can I find others (in books, discussions, HBS) that tried those other alternatives?

Obviously, self awareness makes this easier. If I pay no attention to what I am really doing, what it is really producing, it’s hard to reflect on that.

One can be both action oriented and reflective. Action oriented means when you know what to do and you do it. Now. Not next quarter. Let’s go. Reflection means using the time on airplanes, when you’re not on the slopes or with family at the ski lodge, Zenning-out on the beach—whatever—to think.

People don’t reflect because they have no time, but usually because they don’t delegate enough, let others delegate up to them, or don’t have the staff they can delegate to—all correctable problems. People don’t reflect because they haven’t—so they have no reflective habit, so to speak. Correctable too.

Since the end game is life, not one’s job, all this is not only applicable to life in general but is arguably more important for life in general.

And since leaders have the capacity to help or hurt us all a great deal, everything I have said here is very important in their case.

* * *

  John Baldoni, leadership consultant, coach, author and speaker:

Reflection is a powerful tool for leaders, and one that is much underused. The chief reason is perceived lack of time. I remember asking the late Skip LeFauvre, the man who ran Saturn, how he found time for it. He said, "Put it on your schedule."

Reflection is a means of gaining perspective. It challenges you to think where you are now and where you might want to go. How to get there is a good thing to consider during reflection.

Reflection may be perceived as a passive process, i.e. sit and ponder. In reality, reflection is an action step. You are thinking. That can be rigorous in its methodology. Reflection can also come through the writing process, i.e. organizing and expressing thoughts on a problem and its solution. Thinking of reflection as an active process makes it more palatable to leaders who by nature are doers; they like to be engaged in activities. Reflection can be one of them.

* * *

Constant change doesn’t lend itself to instantaneous insights through simple phrases like “too big to fail,” and “liquidity crisis.” The question we must ask ourselves is this: In the midst of dramatic and extreme change, has decision making devolved into merely informed chaos, or can we imbed reflection and think time into our habits and routines to arrive at better outcomes and understanding?
—Daniel Patrick Forrester, Consider

* * *

More in this Series:
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 4
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 3
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 2
  Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:47 PM
| TrackBacks (3) | Elements of Leadership , Human Resources , Interviews , Personal Development

02.07.11

Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization

Peter Senge, founder of the Society of Organizational Learning and senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, once observed, “Most managers do not reflect carefully on their actions.” Most managers are too busy “running” to reflect.

While reflection seems to have no place in a competitive business environment, it is where meaning is created, behaviors are regulated, values are refined, assumptions are challenged, intuition is accessed, and where we learn about who we are.

Some of the greatest barriers to getting the results we want lie within us. Growth happens when we stop repeating our habitual patterns and behaviors and begin to see things in a new way and in the process, discover the power to create the results we want. That makes Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization, one of the most important books you’ll read this year.

Leadership
Author Daniel Patrick Forrester states, “Stepping away from the problem—and structuring time to think and reflect—just may prove the most powerful differentiator that allows your organization to remain relevant and survive…. The best decisions, insights, ideas, and outcomes result when we take sufficient time to think and reflect….Only by carving out think time and reflection can we actually understand, in an entirely different context, the actions we take.”

He defines think time as “the purposeful elevation of chunks of our work time, forged within densely packed schedules. It forces the consideration of core significant and pending decisions, outside of cursory overviews and immediate response…. Reflection is the deliberate act of stepping back from daily habits and routines (without looming and immediate deadline pressures), either alone or within small and sequestered groups. It’s where meaning is derived through reconsideration of fundamental assumptions, the efficacy of past decisions and the consequences including the downside of future actions. It’s where space is given for the ‘totally unexpected’ to emerge.”

Even if we can agree on the value of think time, we still regard it as a luxury. There’s just no time. But what emerges from Forrester’s research is the fact that we can’t afford not to. It is at the core of what allows a business to thrive. It’s what we don’t know that has a disproportionate impact on us personally and organizationally. We don’t really see the reality we face. Reflection in effect, expands our perspectives and thus reveals to us more options and that gets to the heart of what leadership is all about. The point is to make the unseen seen so we can act on it.

Forrester interviewed Sarah Sewall who worked with General Petraeus and others to rewrite the military’s counterinsurgency doctrine. Sewall noted, “We are now in a world of increasing specialization, where people get narrower and narrower in their viewpoints in order to become more expert and ‘useful.’ My view is that people become more myopic in how they can think about problems and solutions. We wind up shuttered in our ability to think about possibilities.” This tendency is best counteracted by think time and reflection; being able to back away and incorporate more and varied thinking.

Forrester asks, “What is the last document or strategy you can point to as a ‘product of reflection’ built with all parts of the organization and senior-level involvement? If you can’t cite one, it may indicate a culture that values immediacy and the short term over reflection and scalable problem solving.”

Recognizing the need for reflection and actually doing it are two different things. Reflection is a discipline. General Petraeus told Forrester that “he forces bursts of reflection into his day, where he pauses to read, think, and then moves to the next iteration—recognizing that thoughtful insights are not born through real-time analysis.”

Forrester suggests that we set time aside for a meeting with oneself. “It isn’t hard to book a meeting with yourself, when you are off-limits to everything but your thoughts.” He notes too, “The power of reflection lies not in how much time we allocate to it. The power of reflection lies in how we choose to use that time and what structure we bring to the fleeting disjointed moments we are afforded.”

While some situations required his immediate action, Forrester describes how Lincoln “developed ways to force time to think (if even only for a few minutes) before acting. Even Lincoln had to resist the “instantaneous nature of the telegraph.”

Some organizations he has studied have adopted a no internal e-mail Friday policy and other ways to temporarily disconnect from technology. Although these ideas may not work for you, the point is made so that you might consider the impact these technologies are having on the productivity and well-being of your staff. There is always one more e-mail and it will control you if you let it.

“When overworked people declare that they ‘just don’t have time to think,’ leaders have a choice: They settle for the status quo and declare that it’s the best way the world works today, or they can insist that reflection is a strategic business enabler,” says Forrester. As an organization you can either educate for it, make it an expectation—a cultural norm—or treat it as a “do it on your own time” activity and pay the price. Leaders need to understand and demonstrate by example that reflection—taking time to consider—is not wasted time.

Reflection is the first step in coming to understand how we are connected to our outcomes. Until we see the relationship between the two, we cannot make deep, lasting change and bring thoughtful behaviors to bear on the situations we find ourselves in. Our thinking creates our reality. If we do not reflect on our thinking we stand to miss our connection to the whole.

Consider offers a way to break the pattern of continuous partial attention that seems to be our default position in this technological age. It helps to disrupt the habitual thinking that drowns out the reflective, critical thinking we need to become fully present and effective. Consider isn’t a fad. It is the bedrock of successful leadership and living.

* * *

Upcoming: I asked some leading minds about the discipline of reflection. So, for the rest of the week, I’ll share their thoughts on this important topic. Look for valuable insights from John Kotter, Mark Sanborn, Brian Orchard, Marshall Goldsmith, John Baldoni, Tom Asacker, James Strock, and Jeremy Hunter.

* * *


* * *

More in this Series:
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 4
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 3
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 2
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 1

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:57 PM
| TrackBacks (6) | Human Resources , Leadership , Learning , Personal Development , Thinking

02.03.11

4 Building Blocks of Courage

As the globe begins to shake faster and faster, the answer is not to hunker down and erect barriers, but to take action. “Our world needs leaders capable of collaborating with other cultures sand taking prudent risks to create a new range of opportunities,” says Blythe McGarvie author of Shaking the Globe. That kind of leadership requires courage.

McGarvie describes courage as a firmness of mind and will in the face of danger or extreme difficulty.” A courageous leader understands “that it takes personal risk or sacrifice to make a difference.” McGarvie offers four building blocks of courage to encourage you to boost your courageousness:
  1. Competence. Do you set the bar for your accomplishments high and find ways to tackle them realistically? The key to building a reputation for competence is to do what you say you’re going to do—while building new capabilities for your organization in the process.
  2. Curiosity. Amar Bose once said, “I never went into business to make money. I went into business so that I could do interesting things that hadn’t been done before.” What drives the kinds of projects or responsibilities for which you strive? Are you receptive to new ideas, both your own and those originating from your colleagues? As you develop your listening and analytical skills and pursue your curiosity, you will be amazed at the new opportunities to be tapped.
  3. Caring. Starbucks founder Howard Schultz said he “wanted to build the kind of company that my father never got the chance to work for, in which people were respected.” Schultz wants to have his employees care as much about the business as he does. He willingly takes the blame for bad ideas to create a safe environment for his employees to be creative.
  4. Perseverance. Sometimes courage means having the drive to take on even the most daunting of tasks: admitting that we are wrong once in a while. But, courage also means not giving up in the face of high hurdles. Next time you’re faced with an obstacle—whether that might be a sand trap or an unhappy board—square up and be prepared to give it your best shot.

* * *

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:24 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

01.17.11

6 Keys to Becoming SuperCompetent

Leadership
Considering the pressure on us today, Laura Stack says it’s not enough to be only competent, we need to be super-competent. By that she means that SuperCompetent people “possess a consistent, all-encompassing ability to be good at everything they do, no matter how general or specific.” While that definition may sound super-human (wouldn’t it be nice to be perfect), the thinking behind it is solid and attainable.

You have to decide to be good at what you do. Once you have made the decision to do so, SuperCompetent by productivity expert Laura Stack, provides the method. She has isolated six interconnected traits or mindsets that make up the SuperCompetent person:

Key 1: Activity. They are driven by intense focus on priorities and have a clear sense of direction.
Action: You need to determine what you should be working on.

Key 2: Availability. They control their schedules.
Action: You need to make time for it.

Key 3: Attention. They develop the ability to pay attention to the task at hand.
Action: You need to focus on those tasks.

Key 4: Accessibility. They are organized and can locate the information they need to support their activities.
Action: You need to organize the information you need to complete your tasks.

Key 5: Accountability. They are self-disciplined and don’t blame others.
Action: You need to be responsible for your results.

Key 6: Attitude. They do what needs to be done to make things happen. They are proactive decisive and fast.
Action: You never give up.

“Each key requires close attention to and a profound understanding of your own strengths, weaknesses, and capabilities in all areas to truly excel.” Stack begins with a short SuperCompetent Assessment to give you an idea of the areas you need to focus on. From there, she provides so much content that even the most competent among us would find something to think about. She provides simple approaches to help you improve in each of the six areas. Some are so simple that you may ask yourself, “Why am I not doing that?” (See the section on accountability.)

A friend told her, “Oh, it didn’t bother me. I had a mission, not an agenda.” “So often when launching a new endeavor,” writes Stack, “we get caught up in the agenda of the day—or worse—someone else’s agenda for us. We lose sight of our purpose.” Don’t get distracted by the details.

Then there is the problem of the ever-growing To-Do List. She list ten issues at the heart of the problem like: You haven’t made the necessary decisions. Your list should be full of clear, actionable ideas. “If you set a vague goal—like ‘Have a sale’—then you’ve still got a lot of thinking to do before you can hit the ground running and make progress.” If it isn’t actionable, it shouldn’t be on the list.

SuperCompetent provides the motivation to rethink your habits and your approach to anything you do; to live and work more responsibly. An sometimes all we need is a little push. Stack writes, “To be consistently successful, you need to be consistently productive.” I find that productivity ultimately comes down to self-discipline. And when you are successful at it, it serves to reinforce the behavior. Better performance promotes our feelings of competence and the enjoyment of our tasks. Productivity equals morale.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:18 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Government , Personal Development

12.23.10

Managing Yourself First Checklist

Leadership Nuggets

Make sure that the first person you are managing every day is yourself. Take good care of yourself outside of work so that you can bring your best self to work every day. Arrive a little early to work and stay a little late. Focus on playing the role assigned to you before trying to reach beyond that role. Focus on doing your tasks, responsibilities, and projects very well, very fast, all day long. If you want to carry weight with your boss, that should be your primary focus. Be a problem-solver, not a complainer. Commit to continuous improvement through rigorous self-evaluation.

Think about context and figure out where you fit in every situation. Continually ask yourself, “Where do I fit in this picture? Why am I here? What is at stake for me? What is my appropriate role in relation to the other people in the group? What is my appropriate role in relation to the mission?” Concentrate on playing these roles 110 percent. Contribute your very best thoughts, words, and actions. No matter how lowly or mundane or repetitive or minor your tasks and responsibilities might seem in relation to the overall mission, play your role to the max. Attitude matters—a lot. Effort matters—a lot.

Start mastering the art of human relations. Approach every relationship by focusing on what you have to offer the other person rather than on what you might want or need. Be a model of trust. Remove your ego. Listen carefully. Empathize. Exhibit respect and kindness. Speak up and make yourself understood. Be a motivator. Celebrate the success of others.

Make yourself a great workplace citizen. Under-promise and over-deliver. Don’t bad mouth others, and try not to speak about others unless they are present. Keep your word. Keep your confidences. Be an accurate source of information. Don’t keep other people waiting. Instead of under-dressing, overdress. Practice old-fashioned good manners..

Adapted from It’s Okay to Manage Your Boss by Bruce Tulgan.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:13 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development , Personal Development

12.09.10

7 Important Personal Qualities that Build Power

Power
In Power, Jeffrey Pfeffer states that you can “compete and even triumph in organizations of all types, large and small, public or private sector, if you understand the principles of power and are willing to use them.”

For some, power is a bad word. But, without a doubt, power does open doors and provides opportunity. Powerlessness creates its own problems—pettiness, blame, irresponsibility, hopelessness and depression.

Pfeffer takes a candid look at power. He has found that those that have obtained power possess not only the will—the drive to take on big challenges—but also the skill—the capabilities required to turn ambition into accomplishment. As part of these two fundamental personal attributes, they also possess seven essential personal qualities that help them amass organizational power and influence:

Will: The drive to take on big challenges
1. Ambition   “Organizational life can be irritating and frustrating and can divert people’s effort and attention. Ambition—a focus on achieving influence—can help people overcome the temptation to give up or to give in to the organization.”

2. Energy   Energy does three things: inspires more effort on the part of others, the long hours it permits provide an advantage in getting things accomplished, and people with energy often get promoted because hard work equates with organizational commitment and loyalty.

3. Focus   “Focus turns out to be surprisingly rare. People are often unwilling or unable to commit themselves to a specific company, industry, or job function. Particularly talented people often have many interests and many opportunities and can’t choose among them.”

Skill: The capabilities required to turn ambition into accomplishment
4. Self-Knowledge   When he asked one executive what leadership habits made him effective, he answered, “Making notes about decisions, meetings, and other interactions and reflecting on what he had done well or poorly so that he could improve his skills.”

5. Confidence   “Observers will associate confident behavior with actually having power. Coming across as confident and knowledgeable helps you build confidence.”

6. Empathy with Others   “Putting yourself in the other’s place is one of the best ways to advance your own agenda.”

7. Capacity to Tolerate Conflict   “Because most people are conflict-adverse, they avoid difficult situations and difficult people, frequently acceding to requests or changing their positions rather than paying the emotional price of standing up for themselves and their views. If you handle difficult conflict- and stress-filled situations effectively, you have an advantage over most people.”
Power has a right use and a wrong use. The time to think about power is before you get it. Seneca’s caution that those with great power should use it lightly goes in one ear and out the other if you haven’t first established your personal view of and relationship with power.

Nearly everything Pfeffer writes in Power can be taken the wrong way and applied in ways that will eventually cost you power or even derail you. Then, too, it can be applied in constructive and other-focused ways as well. If you execute these power strategies at the expense of others, you’re sowing the seeds of your own destruction. If wisdom isn’t part of your agenda, you will end up where you never intended. Unfortunately, there is very little in modern life that will serve to guide you in meaningful ways.

History is littered with lessons from those who have used power to advance selfish agendas. However, if you use it with humility, if you use it to free others to lead, you can build a lasting legacy. Humility resolves the problems posed by power. How you build it is as important as why you are building it.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:25 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

11.25.10

Our Contribution to the Human Spirit: Thanks-Giving

I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.
—John F. Kennedy

Thanks-giving contributes to the human spirit and it can be shown in many unique ways. Ideas for thanks-giving in the workplace, the classroom and at home:

Demonstrate your thankfulness by how you treat everyone you meet.
Don’t let others feel small or stupid around you. Let them be smarter.
Be generous with your praise and stingy with your criticism.
Don’t give the answer. Show them how to find it.
Help others find the strength in their weakness.
Be civil. It shows others you appreciate them.
Encourage others and applaud their efforts.
Give others the room to grow.
Complement the competition.
Give your best self to others.
Help others triumph.
Share the good stuff.
Walk your talk.
Laugh.
Listen.

Say Thanks.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:07 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

11.24.10

The Laws of Charisma

Even though charisma is thought of as something intrinsic to the individual, a person cannot reveal this quality in isolation. It is only evident in interaction with those who are affected by it. Charisma is, above all, a relationship, a mutual mingling of the inner selves of leader and follower.
—Charles Lindholm, Charisma

Charisma
Charisma is often thought to be something in your DNA. You either have it or you don’t. But as Kurt Mortensen makes clear in The Laws of Charisma, it “is a trait that can be taught and mastered.”

Charisma is about connecting with others. Mortensen defines it as “the ability to easily build rapport, effectively influence others to your way of thinking, inspire them to achieve more, and in the process make an ally for life.” Like leadership, it can be used positively or negatively. It depends on where the emphasis is: self or others. For example he lists some of the differences between ethical and unethical uses of charisma:

Ethical
Unethical
Serves othersUses others
Creates win-winUses for selfish interests
Has high moralsHas low morals
Empowers peopleForces people
Open up communicationsCloses down communication
Follows the heartFollows the money, power, or greed
Defines a vision and purposeMakes it up along the way
Helps people growBank account or ego grows
Works for the good of othersWorks for own good
Helps societyHelps themselves


Ultimately, charisma will only take you so far. Without character and competence, it is fleeting.

Our greatest roadblock to developing charisma, Mortensen points out, is that we lie to ourselves. We think we are better than we are. We think our weaknesses aren’t that noticeable and it gives us a false sense of security and no starting place from which to begin to make the improvements we need to make.

Mortensen has created a self-assessment for 30 attributes that define a charismatic individual. Chapter by chapter, he takes you through each of these describing them, showing how they are applied with real world examples and what the counterfeit version of each looks like. For instance, passion is not hype or bouncing off the walls. It’s more like conviction that radiates from within. You may think you’re coming across as confident, but you could be perceived as either arrogant, cocky, or condescending. Arrogance is about self and confidence is about others. Control is not power. It creates short-term compliance even as it drains the life out of people and creates long-term resentment.

The attributes are organized into four areas:

The elements of presence—how to radiate charisma through passion, confidence, congruence, optimism, positive power, energy and balance, and humor and happiness.

Tapping into and developing the core inner qualities of charisma: self-discipline, competence, intuition, purpose, integrity, courage, creativity, and focus.

Delivery and communication—how to use presentation skills, people skills, influence, storytelling, eye contact, listening, and rapport to speak with conviction and get heard.

Empowering others through inspiration, esteem, credibility, motivation, goodwill, vision, empathy, and respect—the components of contagious cooperation.

Other things to consider are how you communicate (both verbally and non-verbally), how you look, and your feelings and moods.

Each chapter is well thought out as he looks at each attribute from different angles. Each attribute is just a piece of the total charisma picture. The more you develop, the better you will be able to connect with others. While some of these attributes will come naturally to you, some will take a concerted effort. Taken as a whole, these thirty attributes are overwhelming. Take them one at a time. It’s a lifelong process.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:31 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Communication , Personal Development

Seven Charisma Killers

In The Laws of Charisma, Kurt Mortensen lists a number of things we do that repel people. He writes, “These mistakes are silent charisma killers. Most people will never say anything to you that will alert you to the fact that they are being repelled. They are more comfortable lying to you so that they don’t hurt your feelings. They walk away and simply never deal with you again.” Here are seven of the most common charisma killers adapted from Mortensen’s list that you may not even know you are doing:
  1. Talking Too Much. How can you influence others if you are always talking?
  2. Showing How Much You Know. You can come across as forceful, aggressive, and obnoxious.
  3. Getting To Friendly Too Fast. Research tells us that the majority of people do not appreciate unsolicited small talk, and many find it offensive.
  4. Getting Too Comfortable (Too Fast). Respect their things and they will respect you.
  5. Proxemics. You must respect personal space, or you will make others feel uncomfortable.
  6. Being One-Sided With Your Facts. There are facts and there is the truth. Are you genuine and transparent?
  7. Arguing or Trying to Prove You Are Right. Having to be right demonstrates an arrogance that is masking insecurity.
Are you guilty of any of these?

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:24 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Communication , Personal Development

11.18.10

Do You Have Leadership Lock-in?

As individuals, familiarity breeds cognitive lock-in. We experience cognitive lock-in whenever we choose to do something out of habit even when objectively better alternatives exist. We behave automatically rather than intentionally.

This impacts us as leaders too. It develops a kind of leadership lock-in. We get so locked-in to the values, beliefs, behavioral norms, habits and routines that it is hard to lead intentionally—the way we know we should—the way we want to. We just go through the motions of leadership without really thinking about what we are doing or the long-term consequences of our actions. Instead of adapting and learning, we plow ahead with behaviors that we are comfortable with.

The more we behave or think in a certain way, the less likely it is that we will do anything to change it, even when we can see that it is not serving us well. Instead of “learning” from experience, we really only “see” from experience the effects of our behavior. Learning is an action step. But leadership lock-in contributes to our desire to avoid the effort needed to change our behavior in a way that would get us the results we truly seek. To escape the old, locked-in behaviors, we must consciously practice what we have learned until it reaches a critical mass—until feedback reinforces/rewards that new behavior—and it becomes self-sustaining.

The comforting feel of immediate gratification plays into much of the problem presented by leadership lock-in. For example, self-serving behaviors, emotional outbursts, expediency, unrealistic pacing, and control issues, all give us immediate—momentary—gratification, but in the end, masks the long-term consequences of such behavior and thinking. And we get locked-in to what we think is working or more likely, is only working for us.

Leadership lock-in is at odds with sustainable leadership. That’s why it has been estimated that well over half of leaders don’t finish well. They get tripped up by their own thinking. The cumulative impact of their behavior derails them and eventually neutralizes their influence.

Escaping leadership lock-in begins with asking yourself, “Do I believe in this approach? Is this how I would want to be treated? Is what I am saying or doing expressing the values I believe in?”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:14 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

11.11.10

Train Yourself to Succeed

Amundsen
Polar explorer Roald Amundsen wrote, in his 1927 work, My Life as a Explorer, “The explorer … is looking, not for thrills, but for facts about the unknown… . To him, an adventure is merely a bit of bad planning, brought to light by the test of a trial… . Serious work in exploration calls for as definite and rigorous professional preparation as does success in any other serious work in life.”

Adventure or drama, as it is used here, indicates a lack of “definite and rigorous professional preparation.” You manage uncertain times with preparation. Survival in uncertain times is made more likely by developing oneself. Grow both the breadth and depth of your thinking. Build your portfolio of experience. Build your knowledge for adaptability. Build your connections for exposure and to reveal possibilities.

Tom Hopkins states the idea well in Selling in Tough Times, “During challenging times, it’s more important than ever to dedicate yourself to training, practicing, and improving everything you do. Being well trained will help you be one of those people who thrives not just now but when things turn back around, as they always do. Don’t rely on your company to train you, either.”

Tom Peters wrote today on Twitter, “I think there is an incredible and widespread failure to take responsibility for oneself.” How well you learn, how well you prepare to respond to what comes your way, will determine your “luck.” In the end, it’s all up to you.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:36 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

11.08.10

Congratulations, You’ve Reached the Next Level

The Next Level
You’ve moved up to the next level. You’ve been promoted to the executive ranks. “You should be uncomfortable,” says Scott Eblin in The Next Level. “If you’re not, you are probably underestimating what’s ahead of you.” Statistically, many do. As high as 40% of new executives fail within the first eighteen months of being named to their positions.

New positions carry with them greater expectations even if those expectations are not clearly stated. You are left to navigate uncharted territory. The single most important thing to remember is that what got you there may not serve you well in your new position. Going to the next level says Eblin, is “about developing consciousness around what is and isn’t serving you as you take those steps. It’s about retaining what is working, staying open to picking up new skills and mind-sets, and having the courage to let go of the behaviors and beliefs that brought you this far when they no longer serve you on your journey.”

Eblin has developed an Executive Presence model that focuses on nine behaviors in three areas that a successful executive should develop on the one hand and drop on the other:

Pick Up
Let Go Of
Personal PresenceConfidence in your presenceDoubt in how you contribute
Regular renewal of your energy and perspectiveRunning flat out until you crash
Custom-fit communicationsOne-size-fits-all communications
Team PresenceTeam RelianceSelf-reliance
Defining what to doTelling how to do it
Accountability for many resultsResponsibility for a few results
Organizational PresenceLooking left, right, and diagonally as you leadPrimarily looking up and down as you lead
An outside-in view of the entire organizationAn inside-out view of your function
A big-footprint view of your roleA small-footprint view of you role


Eblin covers each of these behaviors in detail with insights, interviews, coaching tips and research. But in an important foundational chapter, he talks about grounded confidence. That is, add value but know what you are talking about. “It is critical for your success that you not dwell on thoughts and self-assessments that cause you to doubt your capacity to contribute.

There is a certain amount of insecurity that comes with any new position, but “insecure people make lousy leaders.” Insecurity causes us to behave in a lot of counterproductive ways: indecisiveness, micromanaging and control, taking undeserved credit and passing blame, lack of teachability.

Eblin says that developing strong relationships with your peers is essential to your success. “Your success in managing relationships will stem from the confidence you have in yourself and your ability to work well with others to make things happen.” This is an area where you need to move quickly.

Your new role brings with it an expectation of your involvement in a wider range of issues. This means projecting confidence in your judgment that “extends beyond functional or technical knowledge.” This means also, more listening and less talking. Being teachable. Getting feedback.

Of course, there is a lot of confidence to be gained by being prepared—being intentional. Eblin’s approach is to begin with the end in mind. You need to consistently ask yourself two questions: “What do I want to accomplish?” “How do I need to show up to accomplish that?”

Practicing new and unfamiliar behaviors can be uncomfortable and seem artificial, but executed repeatedly these behaviors will become ingrained into your character and make them your own. As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

Feedback Tip: Ask your colleagues this question—What’s your best advice for anyone who is working on team reliance versus self-reliance (or whatever your working on)? Experience shows that it’s useful to ask the question in this format instead of asking, for example—What should I do to be better at team reliance? Asking the question in a less personal way makes it easier for your colleagues to be candid in their feedback.

The Next Level is an excellent coaching reference book that makes it an indispensable companion guide to any change in responsibility. Keep it handy and bookmark the Situations Solutions Guide that contains practical solutions to scores of situations that predictably occur in most executive careers.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:40 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Leadership Development , Personal Development

10.21.10

Harvey Mackay on Managing Your Career

Leadership Nuggets

Sharkproof
You can't control the change swirling around you but you can control how you experience it. Harvey Mackay offers this advice on getting the job you want:

• Be prepared

Regardless of the economy, there is nowhere you can hide that's guaranteed earthquake-proof against your own personal recession. The day can come when you step into your boss's or banker's office some Friday afternoon and hear, "I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but..." It's not going to be easy, no matter how well prepared you are. But it's going to be a lot harder if you're like the 90 percent of us who aren't prepared when the bomb falls. And it can happen to anyone, anytime.

• If you reach for the stars, at least you'll get off the ground

Most important of all, you will survive. Trends have occurred that make some aspects of the economic situation better, not worse for employees and job seekers. Here are a few:
  1. There used to be a little piece of folk wisdom: "The good people are all working." It's not true anymore. There have been just too many layoffs of too many good people in recent years. There's no longer any stigma attached to being laid off. It's a fact of business life today.
  2. Age is not the disadvantage it once was to employment. The era of the linear career... school, work, retire at sixty-five, die at sixty-eight...is over. As corporations rush to shed their high-salaried employees, you're probably going to be out of work much sooner than sixty-five. Yet paradoxically, past sixty-five, you're also much more likely to find work in some form for as long as you want it.
  3. Changing values and expectations can erase the pain. In other societies, professions like the clergy, teaching, and social work are valued far more highly than in America. Yet, for a lot of us living in the most materialistic society on earth, success in material terms hasn't produced personal satisfaction. Who says you have to live by any values other than your own? If the personal freedom America affords has taught us anything, it's that you have only yourself to answer to for doing what you believe in and picking the life you choose.

(Adapted from Sharkproof: Get the Job You Want, Keep the Job You Love...in Today's Frenzied Job Market by Harvey Mackay)

Other Books of Interest:
  Your Job Survival Guide: A Manual for Thriving in Change
  Where the Jobs Are Now: The Fastest-Growing Industries and How to Break Into Them
  New Job, New You: A Guide to Reinventing Yourself in a Bright New Career
  Rebound: A Proven Plan for Starting Over After Job Loss
In an environment filled with noise, actions speak louder than words, Instead of staking out a fixed position on the organizational chart, you need skills in designing and participating on ad hoc teams. And you need a certain kind of leadership and followership, to succeed. You live and work in a different world. You need new thinking and skills to succeed.
—Gregory Shea and Robert Gunther, Your Job Survival Guide

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:41 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Personal Development

10.13.10

Every Leader’s Six Mental Mistakes

Leadership
Managing ourselves is our biggest task as a leader. How well we manage ourselves determines the kind of leader we will be and the impact we will have.

Adapting Jonathan Haidt’s metaphor of the rider and the elephant, Richard Daft presents the executive (the voice of reason) and the elephant (impulsive and emotional) metaphor to help us to learn how to help our inner executive manage our inner elephant as needed to behave according to our best intentions—to better manage oneself.

One of the biggest problems we face as a result of our inner elephant’s tendency to distort reality. It’s one of the reasons we are so surprised when someone disagrees with us. Our internal elephant judges (our self and others), creates illusions (self-justification) and acts as our attorney (defends us and making us immune to reality).

In The Executive and the Elephant, Daft points out that our inner judge “sees things from a selfish point of view and has little empathy and consideration toward others. It is hard to be optimistic and motivate people when your mind is critical of them.” The judge will also become our own worst critic—“the automatic voice of blame and criticism inside your head that points out how inadequate you are.” Daft poignantly asks: “Can you be an effective leader when your mind is constantly finding fault with you?

Daft illuminates some perceptual habits of the inner elephant that can get in the way of seeing the world accurately. Without a conscious effort to do otherwise, it is easy to fall prey to any or all of these six mental mistakes:

Reacting Too Quickly. As quickly as things are thrown at us, it’s a lot easier being reactive than being proactive. It’s easy to instantly judge, conclude and react based on small scraps of data rather than slowing down and remaining calm says Daft. Serious intention is required to slow things down. How we see things always appears so clear to us and it seems we can’t act on it soon enough. It’s what the elephant does. We have to engage our inner executive to avoid acting on wrong-headed conclusions.

Inflexible Thinking. The inner elephant doesn’t like to change its mind. After all, we believe what we think for obvious (to us) reasons. We don’t intentionally think the wrong thing. And we interpret the world around us according to our beliefs. “It is very hard to let go of your own gut feelings and mental preferences” says Daft. “It’s all you know. The mind-set, habits, and skills that made you successful tell you to stick to your guns. However, things change, and if the mind does not accept the current reality, it can create problems for everyone.”

Wanting Control. Your inner elephant is more comfortable when you’re in control. Of course, we only take control because if we didn’t things wouldn’t get done the way we think they should be done. But our satisfaction is at their expense. The desire for control can lead us to illusions—attempts to gain control (and think we have it) over the uncontrollable. A leader’s inner executive needs to learn to give control to others. Our job is to “engage a bigger picture of mission and purpose (inner executive) and let people be in control of their own work.”

Emotional Avoidance and Attraction. Even when we know we need to do something, our inner elephant can find reasons to avoid it. We procrastinate. We delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay. Our inner elephant feels anxiety and creates an invisible barrier in our mind that prevents us from moving forward. Attraction can cause us problems by enslaving us to our desires. Desire for acceptance can cause to make decisions we wouldn’t otherwise make under the influence of our inner executive. About the desire for perfection, Daft writes:
A few of my MBA students are perfectionists who can’t restrain their desire to redo a group project to make it look the way they want, even after I explain that this behavior is fatal for leaders who have to accomplish work through others. Managers may also feel the need to act on their unthinking desire to be right rather than let other people shine, to perpetually find fault with other people’s ideas, to win every disagreement, to blame others when something goes wrong despite being culpable, or to speak harshly when upset.
Exaggerating the Future. Related to the emotional avoidance and attraction issues is our tendency to exaggerate outcomes. When our inner elephant wants to do something we tend to be overly optimistic about the future and underestimate the potential difficulties. When we don’t, we tend to overstate the potential problems. The problems are obvious. Objectivity is needed if we are to anticipate the future realistically. “The inner elephant tends toward positive or negative exaggerations about the future depending on its emotional orientation toward an object or event."

Chasing the Wrong Gratification. The inner elephant is child-like and selfish. “Finding happiness is a challenge because the inner elephant often seeks things that do not provide lasting satisfaction.” We can be easily seduced into chasing after the wrongs things—things that don’t bring us lasting satisfaction.

Daft offers sensible techniques to get some mastery over your inner elephant. He writes, “Let’s face it: Your inner elephant has been running your life. For better or worse, everyone is on automatic pilot more than they realize.” Your best defense is to get to know your inner elephant. Slow down and reflect. While there are negatives, there are strengths that can be harnessed.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:33 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Personal Development , Thinking

09.24.10

It’s All About You???

Good Boss
In another fine offering from Bob Sutton—Good Boss, Bad Boss—he makes this attention grabbing statement: “To be a great boss you’ve got to think and act as if it is all about you. Your success depends on being fixated on yourself.” What?

Ironically, great leaders know that it’s all about them because it isn’t. Great leaders focus on developing themselves so they can develop others. They know themselves first so they can understand others better. They check their own ego so they can build others. They take responsibility for their own actions before they consider looking at others. They have taken an inventory of their strengths and weaknesses so that they know where they need to check themselves and where they need to partner with others. They understand their own failings so that they are more understanding of others. They are appreciative of the room they have been given to grow and make certain they create this space for others.

It’s about self-awareness. A self-aware leader is in a better position to lead others with authenticity and benevolent concern. Self-aware leaders know how they are coming across to those they lead. Sutton writes, “If you are a boss, your success depends on staying in tune with how others think, feel, and react to you.”

Sutton offers two acid tests for bosses:
  1. Do people want to work for you and would they do so again?
  2. Do people feel like you are in tune with what it feels like to work for you?
It’s all about you because it is all about them.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:25 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development , Personal Development

09.20.10

Do You Argue With Reality?

Leadership
Chris Thurman wrote in The Lies We Believe, “The number one cause of our unhappiness are the lies we believe in life.” Too often, we operate apart from reality. Given a choice between reality and our version of it, we are inclined to choose the latter. It is a central tendency of human beings. The result is drama not peace.

Instead of getting the results we want,” says Cy Wakeman, “we end up with reasons, stories, and excuses for why things didn’t work out—leading to more drama, disengagement, judgment, and ineffective leadership.

In Reality-Based Leadership, Wakeman presents a much-needed wake-up call. We can ditch the drama by getting in touch with what is. Quit making up stories. Quit arguing with reality. Ditching the stories that are causing us stress. “We all tell ourselves stories and live with the resulting drama.” It sounds like:

“I shouldn’t have to do this—it’s not part of my job description.
“Our department is always having to clean up after others’ mistakes.”
“The boss just doesn’t get it.”
“Management only care about the bottom line.”

“You are arguing with reality whenever you judge your situation in terms of right and wrong instead of fearlessly confronting what is.” You need to respond to the facts, not the story you create about the facts. This is easier said than done. Interwoven in our stories are our egos, insecurities and identities. (At one point Wakeman suggests we ask, “Who am I as a manager or as an employee when I believe this story?”) We like our stories. They make us look better. They place the blame somewhere south of us. If other people are always coming up short in our stories, then it’s all about us. But letting go of our stories is not always easy as we have a lot invested in them.

Too often our criticism is about setting us apart from others and not about helping them. It says a lot more about us than it does those it is directed towards.

Wakeman says, “When you are judging you are not leading.” In her analysis of case study about Steve and a team he dreaded working with, she concludes, “his biggest obstacle is his belief that they are a negative group. What if he just dropped that whole story and simply responded to reality directly? The phone rings? Answer it. The team asks a question? Answer it, or teach them where to find the answer. The team shares what worked in the past? Listen and lead them into the future. The team requests some time with the leader? Engage with them—lead! When Steve began to lead the team rather than judge and criticize, the team began to change for the better.” She adds, “When you focus your energy on what you are able to give And create rather than what you receive, you are truly serving.”

Do you see any applications in what you and involved in? Wakeman insightfully writes: “What is missing from a situation is that which you are not giving.

Operating out of a judging mindset of “I know” or “I am right” effectively shuts down the potential to learn or accomplish anything. Moving on based in reality requires setting the story aside and asking, “If I set the story aside, what would I do to help?”

The minute you start judging is the very minute you quit leading, serving and adding value. When you’re in judgment, you are dealing with your story—not with reality. Wakeman suggest that when you get off-track:
  1. Do a reality check. Get back to the facts of the situation b y editing out anything that you can’t absolutely know to be true. “What is the next right action I can take that would add the most value to the situation?” Direct your energy on that action.
  2. Get clear about motives. Seek to be successful rather than right. Is it about you?
  3. Be the change. Practice those virtues that you have determined to be lacking in others.
  4. See others through a lens of love and respect—not anger and fear. When faced with those whose personalities are different from ours, or whose behaviors have reached a stress-induced inappropriateness, work to see through those behaviors and identify their needs or goals. Ask yourself, “What are they striving for?” Then ask, “How can I help them achieve it?”
  5. Invoke a clearer, higher perspective. When you sense that conflict is getting personal, be prepared to return to a professional perspective by asking your team to clarify the overreaching goal of their work together. “Given our goal, what do you think is the best way to move forward?”
What stories are you telling yourself that causing you to operate in your own world? While it may be cognitively economical, it is costing you far more in every other area.

Related Post:
  The Reality-Based Leader’s Manifesto

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:54 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Leadership , Learning , Management , Personal Development

09.15.10

Timeless Advice from a Father to a Daughter

Advertising
The Man Who Sold America by Jeffrey Cruikshank and Arthur Schiltz was for me, hard to put down. It is the retelling of the inspiring and remarkable life of Albert Lasker (1880-1952). Lasker has been called the “father of modern advertising.” He had an eye for talent and worked with them to transform the advertising agency from mere brokers to a creative force to build businesses. He developed “reason why” advertising—salesmanship in print.

He made Palmolive and Pepsodent household names and invented the "Sun-Maid" and "Sunkist" brands. He made millions for Quaker Oats, Goodyear, Frigidaire, Lucky Strike and Kimberly-Clark and in the process made millions for himself. He advanced millions to friends during the Depression (most of the loans were never repaid) and when prudent, loaned money to clients to finance their advertising campaigns.

Lasker was a major investor in the Chicago Cubs. He persuaded William Wrigley to join him in investing in the team. To help the chewing-gum magnate sell more product he pushed to change the name of Cubs Park to Wrigley Field.

Masterminding the “idea side” of political campaigning, he brought together politics and advertising to help Warren G. Harding win the presidency in 1920. The Hardings and Laskers became good friends dining together at the White House three or four times a week.

Aided by his personal relationship with many leading businesspeople he “applied the insights he gained in one context to give advice in others.” The legendary David Sarnoff of RCA said of him, “Give him an equal knowledge of the facts and I’d rather have his judgment than anybody else I know.”

On October 29, 1935, his daughter Mary came to work for him at Lord & Thomas. He left a note on her desk on her first day of work:
My darling Mary,

Welcome to Lord & Thomas. I hope we have a long business association together—if we do, we will both get much joy from it.

Both as father and employer I give you this advice—try to learn from everyone (high and low), try to be of service to everyone (high and low). He finally leads who first learns to serve. And remember—we spend our lives learning. Above all, be yourself—your best self. Always think of the other fellow’s viewpoint and try to get him to think of yours. Learn to walk before you run. Believe in yourself—and believing, strive to learn every day and grow creatively every minute so that you will justify your belief.

All my love,
Father
Just One More: In 1938, Lord & Thomas hired the obscure comedian Bob Hope to pitch Pepsodent on the radio.
Although Lasker enjoyed making and consorting with the stars—and in one case, marrying them—he remained largely unimpressed with them. One day, the head of Lord & Thomas’ broadcast department reported to Lasker that Hope was grumbling about his contract with the agency. “Mr. Lasker,” the subordinate said, “Bob is very unhappy. He says he just can’t put the show together for $4000 a week. He must have $6,000.” “Just between us,” Lasker replied dryly, “I’d rather have Mr. Hope unhappy at $4000 than unhappy at $6,000.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:16 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Learning , Personal Development

09.13.10

It’s Not Just Who You Know—It’s Who You Are

Leadership
Building relationships is about others. It’s more than networking says Tommy Spaulding. “When a heart centered on others drives your actions, networking is replaced by something far, far more powerful—Netgiving. Networking is all about you. Netgiving is all about others.” It's from this sound perspective that Tommy Spaulding writes It’s Not Just Who You Know.

It’s Not Just Who You Know is both an inspiring biography and a lesson in initiative and building genuine relationships. Quite often we meet people and build relationships by chance; Spaulding doesn’t believe we should leave them to chance. He has seen over and over again that “an investment in a short-lived and seemingly random encounter can produce unforeseeable yet significant benefits.” So we need to “develop an attitude of openness” and approach “every person we encounter with an awareness of the hidden potential to develop a relationship.”

Spaulding thinks of relationships in terms of a five story building. Level 1 is purely transactional—meet and greet. Level 2 you share basic personal information. Level 3 relationships, while superficial, relationships have developed an emotional comfort level that goes beyond sharing facts, news weather and sports and involves sharing opinions and feelings with others.

Level 4 relationships are marked openness and candidness. We respond in ways that show that we value the relationship for its own sake. The relationship reflects an ability to work through and a willingness to at times, put others interests above your own.

Level 5 relationships are our closest and most intimate relationships. They are based more on giving than on getting. “They are relationships based on a shared empathy—an intuitive understanding of each other's needs, even those that aren't necessarily expressed…. In Fifth Floor relationships, we become confidants, advisers, and partners in helping the other person achieve their greatest potential.”

Spaulding says the goal is to be able to develop the ability to build relationships at all five levels and he offers practical advice for expanding our relationships. It’s not done though through manipulation. Motives matter. Relationships built on getting what you can from others have no lasting value and will more than likely collapse when you need them the most. You can judge your motives by filtering them through the following traits: authenticity, humility, empathy, confidentiality, vulnerability, generosity, humor and gratitude. In building genuine relationships, says Spaulding, who you are is far more important than what you do.

Some of his advice:
  • When you think of the people you are getting to know, take out a piece of paper and write down the back-of-the-business-card information.
  • Take your time to get to know the other person. Don’t push for things you might want; figure out what they need. Don’t be a chirping bird—out for your own self interest.
  • Don’t ask for autographs of influential people and don’t ask to have your picture taken with them. They’ll look at you differently. You want them to look at you as a professional, not as a tourist.
  • If you’re building a relationship with someone, you’re also building a relationship with the people who are important to that person.
  • Find out what the other person thinks rather than telling them what you want.
  • Act on your awareness. Acting out of generosity heightens our awareness about the needs of others (empathy) and builds trust with those around us. If we want our co-workers and customers and vendors to trust us, we have to show them we care about them. But we also have to show them that we care about other people—people who offer us nothing but a heartfelt thank-you (and sometimes not even that).
  • Develop a Fifth Floor all-star team not so much for what that team can do for you, but for what you and that team can do together.
As important, Spaulding offers five relationship warnings such as choose wisely and the relationship cancer you must avoid at all costs. He says that Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People taught him how to get people to fall in love with him. But there is more. We can fall in love with others if we remember it’s not about us. It’s not just who you know—it’s who you are.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:08 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Human Resources , Personal Development

08.25.10

Dispute Catastrophic Thoughts

Warren Bennis wrote in Leader to Leader that “every exemplary leader that I have met has what seems to be an unwarranted degree of optimism—and that helps generate the energy and commitment necessary to achieve results.”

Optimism says Bennis, “the sense that things generally work out well, creates tremendous confidence in oneself and in those around one.” Optimism helps leaders to be more resilient as they tend to believe in their capacity for self control and the ability to overcome obstacles that come their way. In short, I would say, optimism is finding perspective.

optimism
In The Optimism Advantage, Terry Paulson offers fifty truths for cultivating optimism beginning with “Life is Difficult.” (Perhaps not what you would expect from a book on optimism.) He writes, “If you want to be a true optimist, start by being a realist. Accept that life is difficult, and then get busy learning as much as you can about the challenges you face. Why? Because you’ve overcome problems in the past, you have every reason to believe that you’ve got what it takes to overcome whatever problems life deals you.”

One important place to begin is with our negative thoughts and feelings. Optimists dispute catastrophic thoughts, those “feelings that everything is wrong and that nothing is going to change.” Paulson says that “means you have to be ready to argue with some of your negative beliefs.” Optimism is “about facing and taking advantage of reality—even unsettling reality. Expecting unrealistic results may actually increase your dissatisfaction….To an optimist, it’s all about resilience and maximizing your results.”

Start with understanding what it is you’re saying to yourself that is causing a bigger problem in your thinking. Clarify it and then take a critical look at your beliefs and dispute them. Are they valid? Is there another way to look at this? Seek alternate explanations. Optimists ask, “Is there any less destructive way to look at this or explain what happened?” Look for causes that you can overcome and focus on what can be changed and then take action.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:36 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development , Positive Leadership , Thinking

07.23.10

The Five Accountabilities You Need to Implement Now

Leadership
No More Excuses by Sam Silverstein is about expanding your accountability zone. To do that it means “reaching the point in your life where you can say, ‘No More Excuses! I’m not going to make excuses, and I’m not going to buy excuses.’” Excuses only legitimize the past, ignore the present, and eliminate the future.

Silverstein’s book is built around The Five Accountabilities he has developed to help you—in a practical way—to move beyond the excuse; to make accountability a way of life for you personally and part of your organization’s culture. The five accountabilities are:

Doing the Right Things. Begin by identifying your strategic intent. What are you trying to accomplish and by when? We are accountable for understanding and identifying our strategic intent—and the activities that support it.
Mt. Everest climber Ronnie Muhl, told Sam: “You get into the habit of asking yourself, ‘If my life depended on the next action I took, how differently would I perform that action?’ —because doing the wrong thing can have massive consequences.”
Managing Your Space. We are accountable to create the new space we need to grow and innovate in our own lives, which sometimes means taking space from something else that we’re doing. “Force of habit prevents us from giving ourselves the physical, mental, financial, or emotional space necessary to shake things up a little bit and put something new in our lives—something that could provide growth and improvement.”
David Silverstein, CEO of the Breakthrough Management Group International, told Sam, “You have to be willing to cannibalize your own business in order to grow.”
Managing the Process. We are accountable for creatively making progress toward whatever it is we are trying to make happen even when we hit an obstacle. It means not throwing up our hands and saying, “If it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be.”
Kenneth Evans, Dean of Price College of Business at the University of Oklahoma told Sam, “The real problem with the way that some people look at accountability is that oftentimes it’s layered into a notion of a rigid set of expectations and performance parameters, and frankly, you can get into very deep trouble if that’s your mantra. How you react to changing events is important as well.”
Establishing the Right Expectations. We are accountable for establishing the right expectations, that reflect our values, that are properly benchmarked, and are a bit of a stretch.
Clothier Elim Chew, spoke to Sam about the leading from where you are at his company 77th Street, “The people who accept responsibility for, say, 10 things that are part of their job description and then accept personal accountability for five more things all on their own are the ones who are more likely to get the bigger bonuses and bigger raises in this company. They’re the ones who may end up running a business of their own someday.”
Contributing to Your Relationships. The success or failure of our relationships depends entirely on the contributions we make. We are accountable for giving to our relationships—without keeping track. “In fact, the quickest way to kill a relationship is to start keeping track of all the reasons it’s not your turn to give to it and support it.” Sam adds, “We should constantly be looking for ways to invest in the relationship and enhance the value of the relationship over time.” Sam says, “Building relationships is about choices, and the choices should always be based on your values. To get a fix on your values, ask yourself: How can I best serve this relationship in the short term and the long term?”
Brian Martin, CEO and founder of Brand Connections, talked to Sam about managing emotions. He said, “I have asked every single person I’ve hired two questions: ‘First, what is most important for you to feel professionally, every day? And second, what’s most important for you to avoid feeling? What would you really rather not go through, not have to replay with your spouse at the end of the day, when that person asks how your day went?’ I keep the answers on file, and I look at those answers every week when I do my own planning.”
Free tools and exercises are available at SamSilverstein.com to help you implement the Five Accountabilities. “If you want to build an organization that achieves its goals and beats the competition, it’s time for No More Excuses.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:56 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Change , Ethics , Personal Development

07.22.10

No Excuses!

“I don't know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations.”
—Michael Gold (played by Jeff Goldblum) in The Big Chill (1983)
We like (need) to rationalize. We often feel compelled to create acceptable reasons for otherwise unacceptable behavior. You know … excuses. We all have made excuses and can easily get into the habit of making excuses.

self-discipline
Excuses are insidious things that get in the way of moving forward. Eliminate them.

Brian Tracy, a man who needs no introduction, says the way out of the morass created by excuses is self-discipline. Elbert Hubbard defines self-discipline as the ability to do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not.

No Excuses! is a primer on self-discipline and full of those kinds of things that will make you reconsider the habits you have gotten into. Tracy cites Kop Kopmeyer: “There are 999 other success principles that I have found in my reading and experience, but without self-discipline, none of them work. With self-discipline they all work.”

Tracy examines how the practice of self-discipline impacts twenty-one areas of your personal, business, sales and financial life such as character development, goal setting, leadership, health and family. The pull to take the path of least resistance and to do what is expedient, says Tracy is our worst enemy. Looking only to the short-term “most people do what is expedient, what is fun and easy rather than what is necessary for success.”

In a personal example, Tracy recalls at age 21 that it dawned on him that “this is my life. This was not a rehearsal for something else. The game was on, and I was the main character, as in a play.” That realization changed his life and he resolved to take more responsibility for his life and take a “no excuses” approach to every aspect of his life.

“In its simplest form,” says Tracy, “the role of the leader is to take responsibility for results.” This involves developing a vision for yourself and for your areas of responsibility.

[As an aside to the vision thing, on Twitter today, Tom Peters said that maybe it’s just semantics but, “Don’t especially like vision. Prefer portrait. E.g.: ‘Leaders paint portraits of Excellence.’” Phil Gerbyshak filled in some of the details of Tom’s thought by stating that he thinks “leaders provide the outline for excellence and allow others to fill in the colors and add details/meaning.” Good food for thought. Does portrait put a face on it—responsibility?]

Continuing on, Tracy says that leaders must take the responsibility to be role models and set the example. “There is a direct relationship between your ability to discipline yourself and your behaviors and your readiness to lead.”

The bottom-line of self-discipline is peace of mind. Peace of mind because you consistently do what needs to be done and have developed the self-discipline needed to let go of the negative events that happen to you—forgive and forget—and focus your energy instead on taking responsibility and moving forward. “Discipline yourself to stop justifying your negative emotions by continually rehashing what happened and what the other person did or didn’t do.” Tracy adds, “Your ability to achieve your own peace of mind is the true measure of your success and the key determinant of your happiness.”
There are a thousand excuses for failure but never a good reason.
—Mark Twain

Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anyone else expects of you. Never excuse yourself. Never pity yourself. Be a hard master to yourself and be lenient to everyone else.
—Henry Ward Beecher

Of Related Interest:
  Never Complain. Never Explain.
  Crunch Point: Test Your Excuses

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:46 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

05.24.10

Otheresteem: Building Relationships by Valuing Others

Leadership
Monica Diaz has written a short but key book on developing productive and sustainable relationships. Otheresteem is about how valuing others can enhance your work, your family, your business and yourself.

Otheresteem is a word to describe the value you have of another person and the feeling that that view brings out in you. It’s begins by taking responsibility for the quality of the relationships you have with others. Diaz says that otheresteem is a practice that involves four behaviors:

Acceptance: Valuing others for who they are now. Not trying to change them, but to understand them.

Appreciation: Valuing others means that you can—and make an effort to—see things that you value in them. “If we can learn to appreciate something in the other person, we can build a relationship different from competitiveness, from hatred, from alienation.”

Expectation: Valuing others not just for what they are, but for what you know they can be.

Gratitude: Feeling and demonstrating gratitude for the relationship you have with another is a natural result of acceptance, appreciation and expectation. “As with appreciation, being grateful for my relationship with you does not mean I approve of your every move…. It means I have become wise enough to find some small jewel in this exchange.”

In building your otheresteem remember, “You are working on yourself, not them. The primary intention is to change the way you perceive and treat them, to build on the value you place on them as collaborators.”
Understand that you are only to change yourself, and that is exactly what you are setting off to do: change the way you value this person, regardless of your past experiences together and without a set agenda of how you expect them to contribute to the cause. The more you let go of preconceived notions of what the other must do, the more effective your quest for collaboration and mutual learning.
Through examples and the lessons learned from them, Diaz demonstrates how otheresteem is possible in not only the workplace, but anywhere you find people in your life. It is not unusual for people to wonder, “Yeah, but if it am busy valuing others—especially in the workplace—then what about me? Don’t I get left behind?” As odd as it seems, otheresteem—esteeming others—is the antidote to the question, “What about me?” By esteeming others you are building your self-esteem—and we greatly improve the world we live in.

Why Otheresteem? Because of the kind of person it makes you.

Of Related Interest:
  Take the Greater Than Yourself Challenge

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:31 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

05.17.10

Serve to Lead: Make Your Life a Masterpiece of Service

Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve…. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.
–Martin Luther King. Jr.
Serve to Lead
“Everyone can lead because everyone can serve,” says James Strock. “When service is the basis of leadership, everyone can be a leader.” What’s more, “We’re in a new era, with new rules, new ways to serve—and much greater accountability.”

Serve to Lead puts the focus of leadership where it should be. Too often, people think of leadership as being about the leader. A leader who serves has greater influence. Service—not control—leads to trust and increased influence.

In an excellent chapter on management, Strock helps to place management and leadership in perspective and explains some of the nuances of tough love and accountability. “Management is encompassed within leadership.” As leaders we must develop management skills.
“Ultimately, management is a key to extraordinary service. Individual performance has the limitations of an individual. You may be a virtuoso. Yet, if you are determined to express your individuality in a more expansive way, you must develop management skills and engage others in a larger enterprise.

To achieve ever deeper relationships with greater numbers of customers and other stakeholders, you must master management. Day in and day out, that means you must serve those with whom you work, enabling them to serve ever more effectively.
Filled with examples and quotes, Serve to Lead is well thought out and one of the best books you’ll read on how to think about service and how to get your leadership to be one of service.

Strock urges us to make our life a masterpiece of service. It begins by asking the question—who am I serving—throughout our life, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. Importantly, it is not a question that we should apply to only one area of our life. It should be an approach we take in all areas of our life—our time, our money, our relationships and thoughts.

As an ongoing practice, he suggests we continually ask ourselves four questions:

Who am I serving?
How can I best serve?
Am I making my unique contribution?
Am I getting better every day?

Service isn’t easy. It doesn’t always get noticed, but it is what leading is all about. If that is hard to swallow, you need to ask yourself, why do I want to lead?
How many people are trapped in their everyday habits: part numb, part frightened, part indifferent? To have a better life we must keep choosing how we’re living.
–Albert Einstein

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:42 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Leadership , Leadership Development , Management , Personal Development

04.21.10

Mark Twain on Leadership

Mark Twain
Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) died of a heart attack one-hundred years ago today, at his home in Redding, Connecticut. He left behind a wide range of comments regarding leadership ideas and principles.

It could be said that he believed in Management By Wandering Around. In his autobiography he wrote, "In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing." Firsthand knowledge is a competitive advantage.
  • A statesman gains little by the arbitrary exercise of ironclad authority upon all occasions that offer, for this wounds the just pride of his subordinates, and thus tends to undermine his strength. A little concession, now and then, where it can do no harm is the wiser policy. (From A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court)
  • The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.
  • The miracle, or the power, that elevates the few is to be found in their perseverance under the promptings of a brave, determined spirit.
On Encouragement:
  • I can live for two months on a good compliment.
On Success:
  • Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.
  • Success is a journey, not a destination. It requires constant effort, vigilance and re-evaluation.
  • The secret of success is making your vocation your vacation.
  • Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions.
On Courage:
  • Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear. Except a creature be part coward it is not a compliment to say it is brave. (From The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson)
  • It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.
On Vision:
  • You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.
  • Don't part with your illusions. When they are gone, you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.
On Execution:
  • The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.
  • Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
On Ethics:
  • Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.
  • I am different from [George] Washington; I have a higher, grander standard of principle. Washington could not lie. I can lie, but I won't.
On Communication:
  • The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.
  • It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.
  • If you have nothing to say, say nothing.
Twain was not a successful businessman. After emerging from bankruptcy in 1901, Twain advised, "To succeed in business, avoid my example." He was however, a witty and shrewd moralist and critic of human nature. A century after he wrote his last words, Twain still remains relevant.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:07 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leaders , Leadership , Personal Development

Twain on Self-Improvement: The Progress of a Moral Purpose

Twain created a series of photographs that humorously point out what often goes through the minds of man when considering any kind of self-improvement. How often have we toyed with the idea only to conclude as Twain did, “Why bother? I’m good enough as I am.” See the series here.

Twain Photo Study

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:03 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

04.14.10

The Little BIG Things

the little big things
In many ways leadership is about taking an oath of excellence. To a leader, excellence matters. Excellence requires “re-imagining” (to borrow a Peters’ term) your world done excellent. Leaders see things differently and this difference can be taught. Teaching excellence—one behavior at a time—is what The Little Big Things by Tom Peters, is all about.

Some of what you will read in TLBT has been presented on the Tom Peters blog over the years. But for this book, the posts have been edited, revised, organized and conveniently packaged. It’s a compilation of 163 behaviors you can put into practice to achieve excellence in any endeavor. As such, it is not meant to be read straight through. Jump in anywhere it looks interesting. The process here is: read—consider—implement—repeat.

Tom, as we’ve said here before, is good at boiling things down to basics. You’ll find opportunities to pursue excellence in basic insights that produce big results.
Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciating heart.
—Henry Clay, American statesman (1777-1852)
Sometimes the little-big-things can seem too “soft” or beneath the demands of business. Tom explains: “Ideas like conscientiously showing appreciation are matchless signs of humanity—and the practice thereof, in my opinion, doubtless makes you a better person, a person behaving decently in a hurried and harried world….Acts of appreciation, to stick with my theme of the moment, are masterful, even peerless, ways of enthusing staff and partner and client alike, and, hence, greasing the way to rapid implementation of damn near anything. That is, ‘Soft is hard’ is wholly pragmatic—and more often than not, effectively implemented, makes the bottom line blossom!”

Excellence has to be challenged into existence. The Little Big Things does just that.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:00 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Leadership Development , Management , Personal Development

04.12.10

What’s Killing Your Mojo?

mojoMojo is that positive spirit toward what we are doing now that starts from the inside and radiates to the outside, writes Marshall Goldsmith. It’s that sense others get about us that comes from the harmony between what we feel about what we are doing and what we show on the outside. It’s about two simple goals: loving what you do and showing it.

The kind of positive impression you make profoundly affects your ability to influence. Mojo can make or break your leadership effectiveness. The greater your Mojo, the more times you’ll ring the bell.

Goldsmith says that four ingredients need to be combined in order for you to have great Mojo:

Identity: Who you think you are? Or how do you perceive yourself? Our identity is created in a number of ways: remembered (life experience), reflected (what others think of us), programmed (what others think we should be) and created (what we consciously choose to be). “To change your Mojo, you may need to either create a new identity for yourself or rediscover an identity that you have lost.”

Achievement: What have you done lately? There is a difference between what we think we achieve and what others think we achieve. When these get out of sync we can have a Mojo crisis. Understand what "achievement" means to you. “Try not to go through life deluding yourself by pretending that when the world cares, you do—or pretending that when the world does not care, you do not care.”

Reputation: What do other people think you are? Your reputation is a scoreboard kept by others. You can’t control it, but if it’s killing your Mojo, there's a lot you can do to improve it. You can choose the reputation you want if you are disciplined enough to live out your objectives in daily, consistent behaviors.

Acceptance: What can you change, and what is beyond your control? Acceptance means you dispense with what Goldsmith calls the Great Western Disease—the “I’ll be happy when…” statement. You know how it goes: “I will be happy when I have a million dollars in the bank, when my house is bigger, or when I look the way I want.” There’s nothing wrong with wanting those things but we often fixate on the future at the expense of enjoying the life we’re living now. Worse still we whine, complain and lay blame for things that happen to us instead of taking it all in stride. “By carrying around anger and negative baggage, we weigh ourselves down. We limit our opportunities to find meaning and happiness. We kill our Mojo.”
Leadership


We kill our Mojo by committing mistakes like these:

Over-committing. When you're bursting with Mojo, everybody wants you be a part of what your doing. This can lead to over-commitment. It is “one of the sweet but risky blowbacks from having Mojo." Understandably we don’t want to look weak, naturally we loved to be included, or perhaps we think we’re superhuman, but whatever the case it can kill our Mojo.

Waiting For the Facts to Change. This is wishful thinking. It is a common response to a setback. It’s the opposite of over-committing because while you’re waiting for a more comfortable set of facts to appear, you do nothing. Goldsmith helpfully advises: “When the facts are not to your liking, ask yourself, ‘What path would I take if I knew that the situation would not get better?’ Then get ready to do that.”

Looking For Logic in All the Wrong Places. Humans are not always logical, yet we persist in trying to find logic where no logic exists or try to prove others wrong with our superior logic. Again Goldsmith nails it: “The next time you pride yourself on your superior ‘logic’ and damage relationships with people you need at work—or the people you love at home—ask yourself, ‘How logical was that?’”

Bashing the Boss. This should speak for itself. See acceptance.

Refusing to Change Because of “Sunk Costs.” “We persist in error,” says Goldsmith, “because we cannot admit error.” If your decisions are based on what you have to lose instead of what you have to gain, your “sunk costs” may be costing you more than you know.

Confusing the Mode You’re In. There is our professional mode and our relaxed mode. And we shift between the two without even thinking about it. “The executives you most admire tend to be those who, with constant discipline, never drift out of professional mode….They have chosen a role for themselves, and they rarely go off script. They are professionals. That’s why they have Mojo.”

In the final chapters of the book, you will find 14 tools to help you build, rebuild or redefine your Mojo. Goldsmith pours his understanding of people and situations, gained from years of experience, into this book. Acting on his wisdom will save you the unnecessary detours so common to the human condition.

Of Related Interest:
  Goldsmith's Gold: You Are Under the Microscope
  Goldsmith's Gold: Stop Trying to Help People Who Don’t Want to Change
  Goldsmith's Gold: Feedforward
  Goldsmith's Gold: "You asked for my opinion and now you're arguing with me?"

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:59 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

03.05.10

Becoming A Linchpin

Leadership
Linchpin is about personal leadership and is the most leadership oriented book Godin has written to date. He makes a good case for developing yourself to reach your potential against the backdrop of the changing workplace. Changing workplace or not, it is the thing to do.

In the industrial workplace it was easier, even expected that you could hide behind your job in exchange for job security. “You weren’t born to be cog in the giant industrial machine. You were trained to become cog.” (His assessment of our educational system is spot on.) Today successful companies are looking for people who make a difference—linchpins.

“Linchpins are the essential building blocks of tomorrow’s high-value organizations. They don’t bring capital or expensive machinery, nor do they blindly follow instructions and merely contribute labor.” Linchpins don’t worry about what’s in it for them, but instead focus on giving gifts that change people. They can see the reality of today and describe a better tomorrow. That is, if they can ignore that voice inside that tells them to keep their head down, don’t make waves, don’t stand out. Godin identifies that voice as your lizard brain.

Overcoming the lizard brain takes training. “In the face of greed or fear from the amygdala [a-MIG-da-la or lizard brain], an untrained person surrenders.” “The goal,” says Godin, “is to quit the tasks you’re doing because you’re hiding on behalf of the lizard brain and to push through the very tasks the lizard fears.” He notes, “Ironically, it’s those who seek out discomfort that are able to make a difference and find their footing.”

The good news is that this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to change your job, your boss or your co-workers. That wouldn’t solve your problem anyway. The problem rests with you—your attitude. The difference between a cog and a linchpin really comes down to attitude. It requires a change of attitude. It means choosing to do your old job in a new way.

A choice to not hide your best work. A choice to find your opportunities to make something happen. A choice to overcome the resistance you face in doing your work because what you have to offer is important enough to make the effort.

The subtitle of the book asks, “Are you indispensable?” When talking about being indispensable, we need to distinguish between your value and your attitude. By developing your unique gifts—becoming more of who you are—you are increasing your value, exposing your gifts, and making yourself indispensable in a “there is no one like you” sense. That’s different than thinking you are indispensable. That’s an attitude that will lead you to self-destruction. (Mike Myatt expresses well the pitfalls of that kind of thinking.) I don’t think Godin is advocating arrogance or parading a “you can’t do without me" attitude. Instead, he is advocating that we make the choice to develop our unique combination of gifts and give them to the world in a way that makes a difference—to change people’s lives with what is the indispensable contribution that every human being can make if they will but choose to overcome the resistance to play it safe and aim for average.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:30 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

01.27.10

Four Steps to Building Loyalty

Loyalty is a critical subject for leaders. As builders of community, we can’t function without it. Successful organizations are built on relationships. Leadership is all about relationships. But how important is modeling loyalty in everything you do?

Leadership
It is hard to talk about sustainability, community, personal responsibility and relationships without talking about loyalty. Yet we do.

Loyalty has become a commodity that we hold or withhold—a tool to vote with—a means to express our discontent on a whim. Abiding commitments are seen as old-fashioned. Impatience, irritability and selfishness all drive the need to look for greener pastures. “In a strange way,” said Jack Valenti, “loyalty is now seen as some kind of character flaw.” In Why Loyalty Matters, authors Timothy Keiningham and Lerzan Aksoy write:
The possibility of leaving applies to some degree to our relationships with everyone. Weak friendships, dysfunctional families, bad marriages, intolerant religious institutions, and inept governments all face the prospect of abandonment. And there are indeed times when leaving is the best option.

But society cannot function and relationships cannot last if leaving is the readily selected, probable outcome to every perceived grievance. And while few would admit to cutting and running when times get tough, many, if not most of us, have a general sense that leaving has become too easy for many.
Loyalty is about making commitments to causes, people and ideas through thick and thin, for better or for worse. It is about service to something greater than ourselves.

Keiningham and Aksoy define loyalty as “accepting the bonds that our relationships with others entail, and acting in a way that defends and reinforces the attachment inherent in those relationships.” Loyalty is implicit in all relationships and the lack of it is eroding our sense of well-being and happiness. Our priorities are often misplaced. They write, “The problem isn’t that we are exchanging our time for commodities, but instead we are exchanging our family’s time, our friends’ time, our ideals’ time to get something.”

Of course, we like to see ourselves as more loyal than we are and everyone else as less loyal than they really are. But, “it is our unwillingness to see our own role in the general decline of loyalty that is a major cause of relationship disintegration. And this disintegration ultimately leads to our unhappiness.”

Long-term thinking helps to develop loyalty. Professor Richard Sennett observed, “’No long term’ is a principle which corrodes trust, loyalty, and mutual commitment … social bonds take time to develop, slowly rooting into the cracks and crevices of institutions.” Leaders are hard pressed to function without it.

We develop and model loyalty in the seemingly small choices we make every day. “If loyalty is to be an important part of our lives, then we must become aware of the ramifications of our decisions. Living a loyal life requires that we recognize the formal and implicit commitments we have made to others. We must then make deliberate choices to strengthen our bonds by honoring our commitments.” The authors suggest a process they call P2R2. It stands for:

Pinpoint Where You Are: Where do you stand? We believe we are far more loyal than the recipients of our loyalty believe us to be. They offer the online LoyaltyAdvisior assessment to aid you in determining where you are.

Prioritize Those Things That Matter: If we want to make loyalty a meaningful part of our everyday existence, then we need to understand where we are actually spending our time and then prioritize.

Reinforce Your Connections: Actively schedule time to connect with those to whom we owe loyalty. “It will mean that there will be times we must sacrifice doing things that would be more fun to help a friend in need.”

Reach Out To Others: Engage beyond your friends and family. “It says, this relationship, this institution, this cause is mine, and I will not abandon it.”

Why Loyalty Matters delves deeply into the issue of loyalty. They discuss the economics of loyalty, the problem of misplaced loyalty, faith and loyalty, and an important chapter on teaching loyalty. President Theodore Roosevelt warned, “To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.”

Oprah Winfrey sums up the need well: “Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:12 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

01.22.10

Can You Pass the Fitzgerald Test?

In his classic self-analysis, The Crack-Up, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” For example, he added, one should “be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.”

More and more we are called upon to function in a world full of paradoxes; not only function but possess an ability to take action in the face of conflicting ideas and norms. Bruce Piasecki writes in The Surprising Solution, that paradox “almost seems too mild a word to describe the challenges facing the social leaders of today.” He adds, the best leaders “thrive on differences and ambiguity, and find solutions amid this large tolerance for social complexity.”

In his innovation playbook for uncertain times, The Silver Lining, Scott Anthony writes, “Existing systems, structures, and development programs that were sufficient for leaders to thrive in an era of ordered capitalism are proving to be inadequate in today’s increasingly turbulent times. Most leaders just aren't ready to grapple with the paradoxes that will increasingly characterize their day-to-day lives.” He lists, for example, these seemingly paradoxical requirements facing leaders:
  • I have to focus on running operations with laserlike precision without stifling creativity.
  • I exist because of my big business, but “small saplings” are critical for long-term success.
  • Data drives my decisions, but I have to trust intuition and judgment when data doesn’t exist or is vague.
  • Attention to detail and focus on numbers has allowed me to progress in my career, but too much focus on details or numbers can crowd out innovation.
  • The people I trust the most are people who deliver short-term results and never surprise me, but innovation almost always involves some kind of surprise.
  • I have to leverage my capabilities to win today’s battles while walking away from many of these capabilities to win tomorrow’s battles.
To this we might add the ability to look at solutions to problems that have more than one solution or seemingly opposing goals—serving shareholders and our communities, to grow and be good stewards. If you have a low tolerance for opposing thoughts you are less likely to look for other alternatives. This greatly limits your ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

Anthony reports that it has been estimated that no more than 5 percent of the manager population can truly grapple with paradox. Why? He says that “Michael Putz from Cisco has studied this problem for the past decade. His perspective is that the problem isn’t a lack of basic intelligence, desire, or capacity. Rather, managers haven’t developed the ability to grapple with paradox because they haven’t needed to.”

But the capacity to deal with paradox, to work with opposable ideas, is learnable. Again, self-awareness is key. Understand how you view the world. Then, creating a specific developmental program to help you take a broader view, to integrate multiple perspectives, to view solutions as both/and instead of either/or, will help you pass the Fitzgerald Test.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:12 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development , Thinking

12.28.09

Avoiding the Unforced Error

The Unforced Error
We all make them. Ethics breaches, sex scandals and performance-related turnover are increasingly found in today’s headlines. As in tennis, the unforced error is made by someone with the ability to keep the ball in play but who makes a mistake, resulting in the loss of a point. To improve your game you need to develop the habits that will help you keep the ball in play. It is your performance over time—a steady game—that will get you where you want to go. That’s what The Unforced Error by Jeffrey Krames aims to help you do.

The most dangerous errors—and the one discussed in this book—are “the ones we don’t recognize, so we can’t fix them before the damage is done.” Krames divides unforced errors into two groups: the unforced operating error (the ones we all make in the course of doing our job; a bad call) and the unforced nonoperating error (errors not directly related to the conducting of business, but can shatter a career nonetheless; sexual affairs and errors of character). Krames writes, “There are seldom excuses for unforced nonoperating errors. You have to have the awareness, self-control, and maturity to avoid them.” The focus of this book is the former kind, the unforced operating error.

There is a key to avoiding unforced errors. Not surprisingly, the key is humility. “That’s because humility—one of the most underrated of all leadership qualities—is essential to developing the strength and consistency to avoid unforced errors.” It’s the kind of humility that comes from having the self-confidence to admit mistakes, blind spots and then move on to correct the mistake. Rarely would you be told that you were fired due to a lack of humility, but it is the trigger for so many unforced errors. Krames successfully helps you to recognize an unforced error when you see it. In each chapter that covers a specific unforced error, he offers sensible and pragmatic advice on how to avoid these “career killers.” His advice includes:
  • Never say the ball was out by a mile. Face reality at all times.
  • Nothing is as important as people decisions. Get the right people.
  • When you do make a people mistake, fix it as quickly as possible.
  • Don’t overlook the wild card. Develop the next generation of leaders.
  • Keep your game inbounds. Living and leading by the rules.
  • Step up to the net. Take ownership of your part of the court.
  • Watch the whole court. Find out who the real line judge is in your game and make sure they know how you’re doing.
Krames is very readable as always. The tennis metaphor works well to demonstrate the importance of these ideas. If you take the time to study the advice Kramer has gathered together, you could save yourself from committing these errors. In the words of Billie Jean King, “Self-awareness is probably the most important thing towards being a champion.”

Of related Interest:
Derailed: Five Lessons Learned from Catastrophic Failures of Leadership

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:13 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Ethics , Personal Development

12.14.09

Lift: How to Be a Positive Force in Any Situation

To overcome the force of gravity—that which pulls us down—we have to generate an opposing force greater than gravity. That force is lift. Any opposition to lift is called drag.

In the same way that we use the laws of physical science to lift a plane off the ground, we can use social science to lift “ourselves and others up to greater heights of achievement, integrity, learning, and love,” thereby becoming a positive force in any situation. It’s the pressures of daily living that drag us down. Instead of experiencing lift we fall back into our comfort zones, become reactive, self-centered and fatalistic.

To intentionally experience lift and to be a positive influence for others, we have to make a conscious choice.

Lift
In Lift: Becoming a Positive Force in Any Situation, authors Ryan and Robert Quinn present this fitting metaphor, to explain how we can intentionally experience lift, to rise above the constraints of everyday life and lift the people around us. “All of us have a choice: we can choose to be the kind of people who drag others down or to be the kind of people who lift…. We are relational beings. Who we are at any time depends on who the people around us are, and who they are depends on who we are.” That last sentence can’t be overemphasized. It carries with it a great deal of responsibility, especially for us as leaders.

The authors describe lift as “a psychological state in which a person is purpose-centered, internally directed, other-focused, and externally open.” What exactly are these four characteristics of lift? In a very relatable and revealing example—the parenting of a young son, Mason—the authors show how this plays out in real life. I can’t reproduce the example here, but I think from the inferences you will get the idea the authors are trying to convey. The following is paraphrased from their work:

Purpose-centered is the opposite of being comfort-centered. The desire to stay comfortable is a characteristic of a normal psychological state. My son Mason’s behaviors were comfortable for me. In my desire for comfort, what had not occurred to me was the possibility that perhaps Mason was behaving differently because of the changes that had happened recently in his life. We need to ask, “Are the results I am trying to create about me and what I am comfortable with or are they about what is best for the other person?”

Internally directed is when people experience the dignity and integrity that comes with exercising the self-control necessary to live up to the values that they expect of others. External direction, on the other hand, is a characteristic of a normal psychological state.
If Mason was building with his Legos or playing a game when I asked him to do something, I expected him to put those things aside and do it. Yet, if I was involved in an activity and Mason interrupted me, I would expect him to wait until I was done with my activity before I did what he asked. I expected him to show respect to me, but I was not doing the same for him....When people are externally directed, they let circumstances (such as the need to get Mason to clean up or go to bed) drive their behavior instead of their values (such as respect for others’ time and activities).
Other-focused is to be open to other people’s feelings and needs. We then empathize with them and feel impulses to be compassionate. When we are self-focused, we are concerned only with our own needs, feelings, and wants. We see other people as objects that either help us or impede us in our goals. In my case, Mason was an object that was preventing me from my goal of showing that I was a good father.

Externally open is openness to external cues. When we are open we learn, grow and adapt ourselves to the situation unfolding before us. When we are internally closed, we ignore and deny feedback. We ignore or deny feedback out of fear that the feedback says something about our worth as human beings. So as a result, we tend to get angry. Again with Mason, I was not showing him the respect that I wanted him to show me. As I opened myself to the possibility that I might be wrong, I also opened myself up to what Mason was feeling, and to what his needs might be and became other-focused.

Using scientific research to provide “insight into why lift is important, what the characteristics of lift are, and how our psychological states influence others,” they formulated four questions that capture the nuances required to intentionally move ourselves from a normal state into lift.
  1. What results do I want to create? (When people answer this question they become less comfort-centered and more purpose-centered.)
  2. What would my story be if I were living the values I expect of others? (When people answer this question they become less externally directed and more internally directed.)
  3. How do others feel about this situation? (When people answer this question they become less self-focused and more other-focused.)
  4. What are three (or four or five) strategies I could use to accomplish my purpose for this situation? (When people answer this question they become less internally closed and more externally open.)
This post is getting long, but I would like to share several more thoughts for you to contemplate:
When a new situation disrupts our previous expectations, though, it is more productive to change our expectations than to try to make the world conform to our old expectations.

A purpose-centered state involves more than having a goal. When people are purpose-centered, they envision and pursue extraordinary results that are not constrained by previous expectations or by the expectations they receive from others.

Self-regulation is the process of using one’s conscious mind to inhibit one’s automatic response to the situation and to replace it with a controlled response.

Since he was not focused on himself, he was not worried about people taking advantage of him.
The book is full of great examples and scientific evidence to back their perspective. The scientific evidence is really just icing on the cake. The relational principles at work here are sound, but they require much thought and self-examination. This is a book that needs to be read and re-read. Inertia is our biggest enemy. Inertia will keep us from benefiting from this book and becoming a positive force; the kind of leaders that provide lift in our own lives and those we influence.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:10 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Communication , Leadership Development , Personal Development , Positive Leadership

12.07.09

Got Wingmen? Never Fly Solo

Got Wingmen
Air Force fighter pilot Rob “Waldo” Waldman learned how to overcome fear, anxiety, and self-doubt to fly combat missions that pushed him to his limits by disciplined training and the help of his wingmen. Wingmen are people with different backgrounds, skills, and experiences unified under one agreement—to never think or act alone.

A wingman watches your back. In Never Fly Solo, Waldo threads real world experiences to encourage the development of a check-six culture. Check-six refers to the six o’clock position where the jet is most vulnerable—the pilot’s blind spot.

Waldo says, “There is a limit to how much you can learn on your own. A good wingman will give you mission-critical feedback, catch your errors, ask questions, and propose challenging scenarios to push you to grow in your skills and mental discipline.” Encouraging others to look out for our blind spots requires a great deal of mutual trust. “These trusted partners, male or female, are your wingmen.”

Of course, this means first, not being afraid to acknowledge that you need help and then being able to ask for it. This is all the more difficult if you haven’t built trust in yourself and invested the time to build trusting relationships with others. You’ve got to “walk the flight line.” Get out and build relationships with those people you work with—treating each other as people first and coworkers second. “It’s the relationships we build and the people whom we trust that give us the courage to take risks and make ourselves better.”

Never Fly Solo
By being willing to say, “I don’t know,” or “I messed up,” we create a transparency that will attract others to us and “create the type of environment where people won’t be afraid to make mistakes. They will also be more likely to check your six as well.”

Additionally, we have to keep our “radar sweeping for a wingman, coworker, or peer who may be experiencing a challenging time in her life. Don’t let her get isolated.” Be supportive and find her some help if necessary.” It is the worker that keeps to themselves—trying to fly solo—that check out, become unmotivated, complacent and careless. “Never feeling invested in the company’s mission, they do the minimum, and everyone suffers.”

In today’s environment, communication, feedback, and mutual support are critical Waldo says because:
  • Human beings make mistakes.
  • We each have a limited perspective.
  • We operate in stressful environments that lead to tunnel vision and task saturation.
  • Most professionals undervalue communication and teamwork.
  • Faulty communication can kill a mission as well as a relationship.
  • Errors increase when there is no definable set of teamwork standards and skills.
“An effective check-six environment frees up communication and removes barriers to growth, so that all members of the team feel empowered to speak up and ask questions.” It also builds team confidence.

We all need wingmen and the best way to find a wingman is to be one!

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:29 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development , Teamwork

11.26.09

Gratitude: The Habit of Noticing

wheat field
Gratitude is a way of investing ourselves in others. A particularly overlooked aspect of the art of gratitude is the habit of noticing. When we notice others and show our appreciation, it pays huge dividends. Additionally, by noticing others we become more attuned to life’s vitality, intensity and diversity.

I related the following story from the book Growing the Distance, a few years ago, but it bears repeating:
Arden Barker had planted a 50-acre field of wheat that was now golden-brown, very full, and ready for harvest. It was a sight to touch the heart of any farmer. When his Uncle Harry came to visit, Arden proudly took him out to look at the field of wheat. Harry looked around, put his hand over his eyes to peer into the distance, and fixed his gaze on a boulder that had been too large to move in the middle of the field. “Is that a stone on the hill?” he asked. He said nothing about the field of wheat. Arden was crushed by his lack of enthusiasm.

The Uncle Harry incident became the subject of discussion at many Barker family dinners thereafter. A few years later, their daughter, Brenda, had just finished cutting and trimming the family’s huge lawn. Arden came home and surveyed her work from the kitchen window. “You missed a patch under the trees,” he pointed out. Brenda came over to him, put one arm around his waist, and her other hand over her eyes to peer off into the distance and asked, “Is that a stone on the hill?”
Too often leaders, managers and parents think that it is crucial to their role to point out where people could improve—to be critical. Certainly, there is a time for that, but it happens all too often. Effective leaders will look for the positive and show gratitude and appreciation for it. People often look to others for direction and support and if it is not forthcoming it can kill the spirit and impede growth.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:19 AM
| TrackBacks (1) | Communication , Personal Development

11.17.09

Derailed: Five Lessons Learned from Catastrophic Failures of Leadership

Leadership
Derailed is about the traps you and I can fall into. Sometimes they are the result of the sense of entitlement that leaders can fall prey to. Sometimes they are the result of thinking and behavior that has worked (we think) in the past, so why change it now. Sometimes they are the overuse of a strength that we have yet to discipline. Sometimes we don’t even have a clue and so we get derailed and go around blaming others and asking “Why me?”

It can happen to anyone. And it is something we have to constantly be sensitive to because these traps are character issues that can disqualify us from leadership. Author Tim Irwin writes, “No matter how brilliant, charming, strategic, or commanding in presence a leader is, the consequences of a failed character are extraordinarily disabling and will bring down even the strongest among us. Similarly, if our character is inadequate, eventually we will miss the warning signals and slam into a parked freight train.”

To illuminate the impact and nature of derailment, Irwin profiles six leaders that either through arrogance, lack of self-awareness, a sense of entitlement, greed, self-discipline, or a combination of any or all, derailed. Derailment is a process. Irwin suggests that there are five stages: a failure of self-/other-awareness, hubris, missed early warning signals, rationalizing and finally derailment. A lack of self-awareness is the foundation of all derailments.

These are all issues of character. And stressful times only make us more of who we already are. Authenticity, self-management, humility and courage are dimensions of character that when properly developed, help us to avoid derailment. We can only be as good a leader as the character we possess.

Derailment is not inevitable, but without attention to development, it is probable. He writes, “Derailment is especially rooted in the failure to prepare, to grow personally and professionally, and to develop the qualities needed to stay on track…. Attention to our development means we must be constantly alert and self-aware and have a lifelong commitment to learn, to grow, and to prepare.”

To combat derailment you need to adapt five habits says Irwin. First, you need to develop a habit of openness. “Openness to feedback reflects our interest in being a learning, growing person.”

Second is the habit of self-/other-awareness. “It is critical that we regularly tune into how others see us.” When we find a big difference, we have a blind spot that needs to be addressed.

"We are all put to the test, but it never comes in the form or the point we would prefer, does it?"
~Anthony Hopkins, The Edge
The third habit is to cultivate personal early warning systems that can tell us when we are at risk of derailment. “The key is to monitor ourselves and to pay attention to our own signals or feedback from others. Exerting control over stress means that we do whatever is necessary to lower the stress level to one at which our performance is not compromised.”

We also need to develop a habit of accountability. “The leaders most susceptible to derailment refuse to have their opinions, decision, and actions questioned…. Accountability means that, even when we are not required to answer to others because of our position or corporate policy or law, we intentionally place ourselves in a relationship with someone who tests our motives and our actions.”

Finally, is to develop the habit of resiliency. “Resiliency is the ability not only to bounce back from adversity but also to grow from it.” A clear sense of purpose widens our perspective and helps us to become more resilient.

Sometimes we need a wake-up call to finally deal with our own issues. But we can learn vicariously. And that’s the best way to learn if we have the discipline. Tim Irwin’s book is a great place to begin. A guide for asking the hard questions.

Of Related Interest:

  Free Online Assessment: Tim Irwin has developed an online assessment This exercise will help you to identify your risk for derailment in four key areas. There are 48 questions within this assessment. It should take you 5-10 minutes to complete.

  12 Keys to Greater Self-Awareness

Note: This title is part of the publisher’s Nelsonfree program. By purchasing this book, you can also download both the e-book and the audio versions for free. Three for the price of one!

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:30 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leaders , Personal Development

08.21.09

12 Keys to Greater Self-Awareness

self-awareness
There is no evidence to suggest that any species of animals other than humans come pre-packaged with a set of mechanisms for any kind of meaningful self-awareness—to ask what and why. The degree to which we develop and use that capacity, in a constructive way, will largely determine our success in life.

Self-awareness is where leadership development begins. Self-management and authenticity flow from self-awareness. Self-awareness can be divided into four parts: what is known to us and others, what is known to others but not by us, what we know and others don’t and what we don’t know and others don’t either. Plumbing the depths of self-awareness takes time and more intensive tactics. However, our biggest gain in self-improvement can be had by finding out what others know that we don’t. And they know more than we think.

Here are twelve keys to greater self-awareness:
  1. Stop blaming others for your choices. It’s you.
  2. Take a personality assessment to help you gain some perspective.
  3. Get feedback from as many significant people in your life as you can. This can be uncomfortable for both you and them, but it is the fastest method for gaining a better picture of yourself. (Make them feel safe. It's a big, unknown risk for them!)
  4. Get a coach or mentor. They don't have to know more than you. They just have to see you in action and help you to be a better you. You're not as hard to figure out (complicated) as you would like to think.
  5. Understand that your biggest irritations look a lot like you.
  6. Look beneath your behavior to reveal your assumptions and filters. They dictate how you see yourself and others and impact how you relate to them.
  7. Look at your roadblocks. Learn to separate facts from your interpretations of them.
  8. Analyze your interactions. A lot of negative interactions signal a selfish approach to life.
  9. Reflect daily on your behavior. Ask questions like: How do I handle difficulties? What do I think or do when I don’t get my own way? How adaptive am I? Can I control my emotions? Do I tend to say what I’m thinking when I’m thinking it? Do I judge other people and create conflict? How do others relate to me?
  10. Organize your thoughts in a journal. It is one of the best ways to capture what is going on around you and inside you. Make a note of the causal remarks people make about you.
  11. Read books and go to seminars that help you rethink your assumptions and address your problem areas and blind spots.
  12. Be careful what you say. Words mean a lot. Your language reflects your thinking and attitudes.
Your thinking and the behavior that flows from that has brought you to where you are now. You are in control of developing the thinking and behavior that will take you where you want to go. Self–awareness is difficult. We don’t always like to admit things about ourselves because we don’t like the guilt associated with not doing what we know we should. But admit we must if we are to grow. Ask yourself, “In light of where I come from, what do I need to know about myself?”

Warren Bennis wrote, “It is one of the paradoxes of life that good leaders rise to the top in spite of their weaknesses, while bad leaders rise because of their weakness….We are our own raw material. Only when we know what we are made of and what we want to make of it can we begin our lives—and we must do it despite an unwitting conspiracy of people and events against us.” It is a lifelong and rewarding journey.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:09 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

08.13.09

Where Do You Go to Revitalize Your Standards?

Parthenon
The Parthenon, completed in 432 BC, is one of the world's greatest cultural monuments. The Doric temple was famously designed to counteract the optical illusions created by looking at something so large. To the observer, the columns look perfectly straight and perpendicular, and the steps appear to be horizontally level. This illusion is only possible by exacting architectural corrections.

To account for what the eye sees, every column, instead of being a straight line from base to neck, are actually curved on a slight arc having a gentle swell in the middle or entasis. In addition, the corner columns are slightly larger in diameter than the others and are placed closer to the adjacent column than the distance between each of the other columns. This is due to the fact that the more well-lighted an object is, the smaller it will appear and thus a little further apart than the columns set against the darker background of the building wall.
Parthenon

As the columns rise they are angled towards the center of the temple. Remarkably, the base upon which they rest is curved upwards towards the center so as to make it look horizontally level from a distance. To offset the curvature of the base, the lower drums of the columns are made higher on one side than on the other. Without this correction the columns would lean in opposite directions.

All of the deviations from the vertical and the horizontal made to enhance building's appearance required exacting mathematical calculations. The lines and angles of this geometric structure have been softened into curves so perfectly that they are imperceptible to the observer's eye and harmoniously create the builders vision. Excellence.

Dan Meyer relates the story of an elderly man who returned every few years to the city of Athens for most of his adult life. Each time he would climb to the top of the Acropolis, take a seat on one of its ancient stones and spend an hour or two letting his eyes wander over the massive plateau, reflecting on the soaring columns, and the perfect proportions of the Parthenon. When asked to explain the reason for his habitual behavior, the elderly gentleman’s eyes crinkled as he smiled: “I do this because it keeps my standards high.”

Where do you go for inspiration? Where do your values come from? Where do you go to revitalize your standards?

Acropolis

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:40 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

07.30.09

Emotional Intelligence: Self-Awareness

Without self-awareness leadership becomes just another exercise in ego gratification. Self-awareness allows for self-discipline and control of the ego. Without it the ego runs amok looking after itself and only incidentally in the service of others if the needs of both happen to align.

Self-awareness is the ability to see when an emotion or a perception is influencing your thinking and behavior and, if necessary, do something about it. Gaining control over the state of your mind will pay big dividends in terms of your leadership effectiveness. It is the blind spot of leadership. Being able to step back and see both the positive and negative aspects about yourself, to see how you affect others, and to see how you are behaving in real-time, is critical to your success as a leader.

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 offers some good strategies to develop your self-awareness as part of an overall EQ skill development program. Self-awareness is a bigger problem than one might think. The book reports that “only 36 percent of the people tested were able to accurately identify their emotions as they happen. This means that two thirds of us are typically controlled by our emotions and are not yet skilled at spotting them and using them to our benefit.”

A proper and healthy self-awareness facilitates an essential other-awareness that is vital to good leadership. You can not manage the behaviors of others without first getting a handle on your own.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:33 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership Development , Personal Development

07.20.09

That's One Small Step for Man, One Giant Leap for Mankind: An Apollo 11 Lesson

Apollo 11 moon walk
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and then “Buzz” Aldrin first stepped on to the surface of the moon. Most of the population in the U.S. alive today have no recollection of that event. Yet it is an event that continues to shape the world we live in today. Like many of the great achievements of the past, we don’t and probably can’t fully grasp the effort – problems, ingenuity, perseverance and sense of humor – that went into making the landing on the moon a reality.

The Apollo 11 mission was a success in large part because it was supported by everyone. Not just NASA, but congress and the American people. It was truly a national project. It taught us to work through our unknowns and have faith in our ability to learn and grow.

President John F. Kennedy told an audience at Rice University on September 12, 1962:
We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
True accomplishments come from doing the hard thing and not resting on the easy things. Raise your expectations. Don’t rob yourself of your potential future. Strive to do the hard things.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:59 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

Maxims for Life: You Don’t Have to Learn the Hard Way

Mentor
Entrepreneur J. R. Parrish has distilled some real world lessons from his own life experience and from the teachings he gained from his mentor at an early age. You Don't Have to Learn the Hard Way is designed as a guide book for young people. In a world haunted by the relative, finding anchors for your life is not as readily available as it should be. Beginning life with a relative mindset is a recipe for disaster. When good advice comes along it is important to take notice of it and see how it fits in with your values and the outcomes you want for yourself.

If you are fortunate enough to find a good mentor to aid you, it’s important to take them seriously if you want to get the full benefit.
Once you find a mentor, it’s essential that you show respect and never become a “Yeah, but.” If your mentor tells you your hair is too long and needs to be cut, do it. Don’t ever say, “Yeah, but I had it short and that didn’t help.” Whatever your mentor suggests, do it and do it immediately if you want him or her to continue to help you. It’s one thing to do what your mentor suggests and report back how it went and quite another to question the advice without trying it. You won’t last long if you resist suggestions.
A mentor or a book like this can help you to gain vicariously what many people end up learning the hard way. Here are several maxims found in Parrish's book that are good to think on:

  Generally speaking, if you’re contradicting, you’re losing.

  Your success or failure will be determined first and foremost by how effectively you deal with others.

  When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.

  Don’t ask a no question if you want a yes answer.

  Most anger distills to blame. When you eliminate blame, you eliminate anger.

  Men and women differ in numerous ways and sometimes make the mistake of treating the other the way they want to be treated.

  If you always do what you say you are going to do, I can build an empire around you; if you sometimes do what you say you’re going to do, you’re just another headache for me.

  What we aren’t taught early in life is the pain and agony that follow selfishness.

  Never say anything about yourself that you don’t want to be true.

  Every facet of life is determined by our thinking, yet we’re not taught how to think.

The book also contains some self-discovery quizzes that are also found on the accompanying web site. Get this book for any young adult you know … and read over their shoulder.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:32 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

07.16.09

Will You Survive After Getting to the Next Level?

In The Next Level, Scott Eblin cites research that finds that 40 percent of new executives fail within eighteen months of their promotion. In addition, researchers at Development Dimensions International, conducted a poll of 785 business leaders and found that 40% of managers get little or no support as they enter their new jobs. What begins as one of the best moments in your career can turn out to be one of the most stressful events of your life.

“If success at the next level comes down to just one thing, it may be the art of strategic choice,” writes Eblin. “Making the choice to pick up a new behavior or belief or to let go of one that is no longer serving you requires the capacity to step back and ask yourself, ‘Given what I am trying to do or accomplish, is this serving me?’”

A great question but easier said than done. With a new role comes a new set of expectations requiring a new set of competencies. In other words, what got you here won’t get you there.

Part of the problem faced by newly promoted executives is that while the expectations are high, they are not clearly stated. Considering the inevitable uncertainty and doubt that comes with the territory, it’s not surprising that newly promoted executives easily fall back on practices that no longer serve their interests. Eblin has defined nine set of key behaviors and beliefs that new executives need to pick up and let go of to succeed. “This process of picking up and letting go, I’ve learned, is central to succeeding at the executive level.”

Asking “Given what I am trying to do, is this serving me?” is good advice at any level.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:01 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

07.13.09

The Rest of What You Need to Know About Strengths-Based Development

GetOutOfJailFreeCardWhile I don’t believe the core of the strengths-based movement ever intended as its agenda the idea that you only need to "focus on your strengths and ignore your weaknesses," it doesn’t change the fact that that is all most people seem to hear and those that have jumped on the bandwagon, promote. All too often the mantra, “focus on your strengths and ignore your weaknesses” sounds like a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card. An extreme focus on your strengths (do what you like doing) and delegate your weaknesses (stop doing what you don’t like) plays well, but in reality it can get to be a bit self indulgent. While there is some truth to it, it’s more nuanced than that.

There is no arguing the fact that we all have various combinations of strengths in varying degrees. Maximizing the use of those strengths as we can, in the context we find ourselves in is advantageous to all involved. If you can carve out a place in the world that leverages your strengths that’s great, but the reality is that the world keeps changing and what is required of you to stay relevant – valuable – keeps changing too. You may need to develop a new strength and turn some of your weaknesses around. Then there is the question of whether or not your particular brand of strength is marketable. I may derive pleasure, feel actualized, and be in my zone by utilizing one of my strengths, but if it isn’t competitive with what others are doing with that same strength, well then, I’ll be out of work. Great hobby, but not a career (at least not at my current level of competence).

Robert Kaiser has assembled fifteen authors in The Perils of Accentuating the Positive to help you get some perspective on the strengths movement. Kaiser writes that the point of the book “is not to dismiss strengths-based development.” It’s really a guide to make you a “savvier user of the strengths-based approach” and based on an understanding that “recognizes that both strengths and weaknesses have an appropriate place in learning and development.”

In an interesting analysis by Korn/Ferry of 360 assessments of almost 2000 individuals, they found that most managers don’t have the leadership strengths that their companies need for them to have in order to be effective. The reality is, most people need to develop strengths that don’t come naturally to them. That means if you want to stay competitive – stand out from the crowd – you need to begin now to develop the strengths you don’t have now that are required for your long-term success.

They bring out four ways to look at strengths:

Your Personal Best: What comes naturally to you
Competitive Strengths: Skills that are stronger than most of your competitors
Distinctively Competitive Strengths: Strengths that distinguish you from others
Competitive and Aligned Strengths: Strengths you need for long-term career success
If you plan to succeed by focusing on your strengths, make sure you do more than just discover and build on your strengths (your personal best). You will also need your strengths to stand out compared to your peers (competitive strengths). If you want to stand out among your peers and have a better chance for promotions, make sure your strengths set you apart from other also competitive peers (distinctively competitive strengths). Finally, you better hope that your five distinctive and competitive strengths include the ones that make a difference when it comes to long-term career success (competitive and aligned strengths).

We regularly tell the up-and-coming youngies to first discover their strengths, then gauge how those strengths compare to those of the people they are and will be, competing with, and finally, find out which strengths they need to fulfill their career dreams and to start working on the ones that are not up to par.
As we have stated here before, the overuse of a strength can be a weakness. In addition USC professor Morgan McCall writes, “Strengths that have led to success, the very ones that advocates claim should be played to, can become weaknesses over time or in a new situation.” As our reality changes, we must also change. When we rely too much on our strengths we usually end up emphasizing them to the point where they become weaknesses and derail our career and relationships.

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I will say that Marcus Buckingham’s excellent film Trombone Player Wanted does speak eloquently to the tendency to obsess on the negative and systems designed to stifle the development of our strengths and create people that fit a predetermined mold. At the same time, as leaders we do need to be working at placing people in positions where they can play to their strengths as much as possible. All too often people end up in positions that they never wanted or imagined for themselves and really have no business being in. Their effort can only be mediocre at best. We need to utilize our strengths and be proactive in our career and life decisions in an intelligent way. The tempering given to an obsessive strengths-only approach offered in The Perils of Accentuating the Positive helps you do just that.

The bottom line is self awareness and adaptability. There are no shortcuts. Play to your strengths as you can but don’t be over reliant on them. Develop new strengths as required. Fix your liabilities.

Of Related Interest:
  Our Strengths Are Not to Be Indulged, But Managed
  You Can Change
  Changing Your Nature
  I Don’t Like My Strengths. Now What?
  Strengths Based Leadership

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:35 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

06.08.09

Lead, Sell, or Get Out of the Way

Ron Karr
Lead, Sell, or Get Out of the Way by Ron Karr provides more evidence that leadership isn’t just about a few titled people at the top. It is a choice to think differently. Leadership is a choice to think differently about anything you do. Selling is no exception and is closely linked to the functions of a leader. Leadership is not always about people we “lead” in the conventional sense, but is frequently about people we must influence. Karr writes, “Whether you sell a product, a service, or an idea, you must be able to influence other people as leaders do.”

It begins with being able to and understanding the need to engage others in continuous strategic conversations as part of the normal way of doing things—a process Karr has termed Integrated Dialogue. Integrated dialogue is a conversation of shared purpose that draws people out “to create a powerful relationship, one that identifies whole new zones of mutual opportunity, addresses far-ranging issues, and positions you as an invaluable resource: a leader.”

As with all leaders, sales people too will succeed when they fully appreciate the many relationships inherent in their success. Sales leaders lead a whole cast of people in their own organizations from the customer service, tech people to accounting and senior management. In addition they lead not only their customer or end user but also many points of contact in their customer’s organization that are likely to have some input on the buying decision like operations, accounting, purchasing and senior management. Gone are the days where everything filters through the salesperson. “Your success as a salesperson depends on your ability to build and sustain coalitions both inside and outside your organization. You must create and lead the coalition, no matter what you are selling.” This will resonate with any leader:
Your job is to manage multiple constituencies and alliances, and to use those alliances to identify new and better ways of generating the desired results. Your job is to do what most salespeople don’t do: lead the conversation with your prospects and customers about the results they need, the problems they have, and the obstacles they face.

To make this happen you must possess and develop the belief that you have everything you need and can build on that, the belief that you can improve any area of your life, everything is possible, preparation maximizes your potential, and your customers—the people you need to influence—come first.

After laying the groundwork, Karr defines and explains the seven traits that great sales leaders share:
  • Visualize: Begin with the end in mind
  • Position: First impressions lay the foundation for the entire relationship
  • Build Alliances: They reach out; sales leaders leverage their influence
  • Ask Good Questions: Sales leaders ask powerful questions that uncover opportunities to enhance customer outcomes and results
  • Create Powerful Value Propositions: They create and deliver a powerful value proposition based on a simple formula that is based on both tangible and intangible incentives that motivate buyers to take action
  • Communicate Persuasively: They inspire action in others by delivering messages that are congruent with the larger purpose
  • Hold Themselves Accountable: Personal accountability matters. People are accountable to other people—not organizations
Karr demonstrates how to move from task-oriented selling (which is what most salespeople do) to purpose-oriented selling. These principles are worth bearing in mind on a personal development level as well. Karr encourages, “The bottom line is that you have the ability to increase your sphere of influence and sales just by the way you act toward those you are trying to influence.” Change your conversations, change your outcomes. Leaders in any field will find much here to assimilate into their daily activities. Read it and grow.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:15 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Communication , General Business , Marketing , Personal Development , Teamwork

06.04.09

Are You Dealing With Insecurity?

Building Your Leadership Resume
We all harbor some insecurity; even if it’s just trying to hide the fact that we do. But it is not something we can ignore. Too much insecurity can cripple our leadership and anyone we lead.

In Building Your Leadership Resume, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor Johnny Hunt outlines nine characteristics of an insecure leader:

•  An insecure leader has a hard time giving credit to others. “Why should praise seem like an unrecoverable cost? It is a gift that gives back to everyone.”

•  An insecure leader keeps information from his staff. “When you release information, you convey trust and confidence to others. When you conceal it, you convey just the opposite: no trust, no confidence.”

•  An insecure leader doesn’t want his staff exposed to other leaders—people who may possess qualities you don’t, people who may have skills your staff wishes you had. “When one person grows the whole team grows….Give your people the best—even better than you are.”

•  An insecure leader is often a micromanager. “He’s a control freak.” Nothing can happen that they are not fully aware of. They fear things will fall apart without them. This kind of oppressive control can wring the life out of your team.

•  Insecure leaders are too needy of praise. “For this reason, more than perhaps any other, they can’t really be leaders. When someone needs his followers to always be telling him how wonderful he is, he works in direct opposition to the heartbeat of leadership, which is: building into other’s lives.”

•  Insecure leaders don’t provide security for those they lead. “If the mood and environment in the office is one of fear, second-guessing, and self-doubt, you can be sure an insecure leader is in charge.”

•  Insecure leaders take more than they give. Instead of validating and encouraging others, they are focused on receiving it.

•  Insecure leaders limit their best leaders. “Insecure leaders cannot genuinely celebrate the victories won by others.”

•  Insecure leaders limit their organization. “Not only does insecurity throttle down the horsepower of individual team members; it results in putting restraints on the whole church or organization.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:37 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development , Teamwork

05.15.09

Confusing Principles and Approaches

In How the Mighty Fall, Jim Collins makes a case for why the fall of previously great companies does not negate prior research:
The principles in Good to Great were derived primarily from studying specific periods in history when the good-to-great companies showed a substantial transformation into an era of superior performance that lasted fifteen years. The research did not attempt to predict which companies would remain great after their fifteen-year run. Indeed, as this work shows, even the mightiest of companies can self-destruct.
Of course, the same is true of the classic by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman, In Search of Excellence. The failure or declining performance of some people and organizations does not negate the basic message. It is part of being human to get ourselves off-course—even when we know better. The failure of the exemplary companies to maintain their hold on greatness or excellence does however hold an important lesson for us. It’s all too easy to move away from our core values. They are always under fire and it takes courage to hold the course. Everything we do has to be continually reviewed and realigned to our core values.

As you know, knowing the right thing to do and doing it are two different issues. More to the point, doing the right thing once and doing it consistently over time in the face of circumstances that would derail us, is a matter of character.

We depart from our core values over time for all kinds of reasons. Doing the right thing doesn’t always give us an immediate payoff in the way we typically gauge success. Doing the right thing is often its own reward. In time, life happens to us and changes our thinking and encourages compromise. Comparing ourselves to others creates doubt. Cynicism is always at the door demanding a hearing and makes sense in a world that rarely works according to plan; a world that is seemingly more irrational than rational. Life changes our friends and they influence us too. All of these circumstances conspire to make us grow or self-destruct. It’s a choice we make every day.

This leads us to a cautionary note. In the search for timeless and universal principles that can be applied in any organization, you will frequently find confusion between principles and approaches. Principles are timeless and universal, but approaches are not. Humility is a timeless and universal principle. The Hedgehog Concept is an approach and therefore is not timeless or universal. The approach has been around since recorded time, but is contextual. It will work in some situations and not in others. Approaches change. Principles do not. Principles speak to matters of thinking and behavior that go beyond the moment and to a higher purpose. Approaches are tools. Principles give us meaning. It’s best not to confuse the two.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:02 AM
| TrackBacks (3) | Personal Development , Thinking

05.05.09

The Four Roles of Mentors

In The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, Ken Robinson writes that mentors serve us in one or all of the following ways:

Recognition. “I don’t know of any test or software program that can make the kinds of subtle, personal distinctions that differentiate an interest from a burning passion. A mentor who has already found the Element in a particular discipline can do precisely that. Mentors recognize the spark of interest or delight and can help an individual drill down to the specific components of the discipline that match that individual’s capacity and passion.”

Encouragement. “Mentors lead us to believe that we can achieve something that seemed improbable or impossible to us before we meant them.”

Facilitating. “Mentors can help lead us toward our Element by offering us advice and techniques, paving the way for us, and even allowing us to falter a bit while standing by to help us recover and learn from our mistakes.”

Stretching. “Effective mentors push us past what we see as our limits. Much as they don’t allow us to succumb to self-doubt, the also prevent us from doing less with our lives than we can.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:49 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

05.04.09

Find Your Tribe. Find Your Passion.

The Element
Ken Robinson calls the place where the things we love to do and the things we are good at come together, the Element. Illustrated by stories, many based on exclusive interviews, of celebrities, entrepreneurs, scientists, and other highly accomplished people who have found the Element, Robinson’s book The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything is an engaging and motivating resource.

Connecting with people who share our same passions and commitment helps in developing our Element. This is our tribe. “Often we need other people to help us recognize our real talents. Often we can help other people to discover theirs.”

Robinson says that for many people, finding your tribe is essential in helping you to find your Element. “Finding your tribe can have transformative effects on your sense of identity and purpose. This is because of three powerful tribal dynamics: validation, inspiration, and what we’ll call here the ‘alchemy of synergy.’”

Validation: It’s not just me. Although you may be most in your element when you are working alone, “there’s a tacit awareness of a field – the other writers, other painters, other mathematicians, other players, who enrich the domain and challenge their sense of possibility.” Physicist John wheeler said, “If you don’t kick things around with people, you are out of it. Nobody, I always say, can be anybody without somebody being around.”

Inspiration: How do they do that? “Members of a passionate community tend to drive each other to explore the real extent of their talents…. Tribes are circles of influence, and they can take many forms…. When tribes gather in the same place, the opportunities for mutual inspiration can become intense.”

Alchemy of synergy: The power of tribes is exemplified in the synergy created when groups of people with similar interests come together and create something much greater than any one of them could create individually. Robinson attributes this to the fact that creative teams are diverse, dynamic and distinct or purposeful.

Robinson says that tribe membership “helps people become more themselves, leading them toward a greater sense of personal identity.”

Finding your Element is not always easy. Fear is the most common obstacle standing between you and your passion. “These fears include the fear of failure, the fear of not being good enough, the fear of being found wanting, the fear of disapproval, the fear of poverty, and the fear of the unknown. You may also find that your background has never given you the opportunity to discover or explore your Element in the first place. You also have to face the impact of the image and expectations that other have of you have of you that put pressure on you to pursue a different path.

If you are looking to find or develop your passion – your Element – Robinson’s book is a carefully reasoned and practical guide to help you find the best in you. At the very least, it will make you think differently about yourself.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:26 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

04.28.09

Three Good Habits For Life and Investing From Jim Rogers

A Gift to My Children
Investor Jim Rogers has collected his advice for success in life in A Gift to My Children: A Fathers’ Lesson for Life and Investing. Using examples from his life, this inspiring book makes a good quick read for anyone. Here is a good example from a chapter that offers three good habits for life and investing:

Be a Self-Starter. When Rogers was young he got a job with Mr. Booker, a local home builder. “At first, I couldn’t even hammer a nail straight, and the men on the job weren’t shy about pointing this out. But when we were awaiting deliveries of building materials or had nothing to do, I’d gather up the scrap lumber or sweep up the sawdust or whatever else I could find. ‘Say what you want,’ the contractor told them, ‘but this kid never stops. He has the right attitude, he has the proper approach, and I want him working for me.’ Eventually I did learn to drive nails as quickly as anyone, dig foundations, install roofs, and all the other skills necessary to do the job. If it weren’t for my work ethic, I might never have gotten the chance.”

Attention To Details Is What Separates Success From Failure. “In investing, as in life, the small details often spell the difference between success and failure. So you must be attentive! However trivial it may seem, you must research and check each and every piece of information you need to make a decision. Leave no questions or nagging feelings of uncertainty uninvestigated. The most common reason why people do not succeed is that their research is faulty or limited to the confines of what is immediately available. Only through meticulous research will you obtain the knowledge necessary for success. It requires abundant work and diligence, but the effort will give you a distinct advantage over your competitors.”

Live Your Life With a Dream. “When you begin something, you may not always have a concrete picture or vision of he future. But if you continue to be passionate and work hard at what you truly love to do, then you will eventually find that dream. Which may morph into yet another dream. And another.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:03 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

04.07.09

Are You a Perfectionist or an Optimalist?

The Pursuit of Perfect
Being happy or being perfect. You can have one, but you can’t have the other. The happy life is attainable, but the perfect life isn’t. In fact, trying to be perfect gets in the way of being happy (and productive). Imperfection is a by-product if being human.

Perfectionism – the maladaptive and neurotic belief that you and/or your environment must be perfect and that work or output that is anything less than perfect is unacceptable – is not something that you are born with. It is developed. Contrary to the goal they seek, perfectionists are focused on failure.

There’s a difference between setting high standards that spur us on and seeking perfection that demoralizes us. In The Pursuit of Perfect, author Tal Ben-Shahar refers to the two approaches as perfectionism and optimalism. Most of us are a little of both. “We may be Optimalists in some areas of our lives and Perfectionists in others. For example, we may be quite forgiving of mistakes we or others make on the job but be thrown into despair when our expectations are not fully met in our relationships.” Consider these statements:
The key difference between the Perfectionist and the Optimalist is that the former essentially rejects reality while the latter accepts it.

While the Perfectionist rejects failure, the Optimalist accepts it as a natural part of life and as an experience that is inextricably linked to success.

The Perfectionist believes that a happy life comprises an uninterrupted stream of positive emotions. And because he, of course, aspires to be happy, he rejects painful emotions…. The Optimalist, on the other hand, accepts that painful emotions are an inevitable part of being alive.

The perfectionist is never satisfied. She consistently sets goals and standards that are for all intents and purposes impossible to meet, thereby from the outset rejecting the possibility of success…. The Optimalist also sets extremely high standards, but her standards are attainable because they are grounded in reality. When she meets her goals, she appreciates her successes and takes time to experience gratitude for her accomplishments.

Perfectionist reject reality and replace it with a fantasy world – a world in which there is no failure and no painful emotions and in which their standards for success, no matter how unrealistic, can actually be met. Optimalists accept reality – they accept that in the real world some failure and sorrow is inevitable and that success has to be measured against standards that are actually attainable.
Optimalists
Ben-Shahar discusses these ideas in detail and then shows how they apply to and play out in education, the workplace and in relationships. He offers exercise and meditation to help you reorient your thinking and move from perfectionist thinking to optimalist thinking.

It’s easy to see from his approach and the advice given in this book, why his Harvard course in “Positive Psychology,” is the most popular class in the university’s history. Read it. I’m certain you’ll benefit.

*  *  *

  How do you know if you're a perfectionist? Psychology Today offers a self-test on their web site.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:33 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development , Positive Leadership

04.02.09

10 Survival Tips from Donald Trump

What's happened to the economy has been likened to a tsunami as well as an implosion. When the undersea earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit in Indonesia in 2004, the world was stunned by the devastation that took place. It triggered earthquakes around the globe as far away as Alaska. It happened in a very short amount of time. This kind of event takes shape over a period of time and then erupts with incredible force. What happened this past year is similar in that respect -- it'd been brewing for some time. When it hit, it was like a tsunami which caused other economies to start crumbling as well. We are all familiar with that scenario. What we need to do now is deal with it.

The aftermath of a tsunami requires surveying the damage, picking up the pieces and moving on. Some people have bigger losses than others, but everyone has to keep going.

When it comes to implosion, it's more of a cave-in than a wipe-out, but equally potent. We saw the effects of an implosion watching the towers fall on 9/11. It's a domino effect. We won't sink because we can swim, but let's not go the way of dominos. Let's be smart and learn to think for ourselves in positioning ourselves for what comes next. Here are a few survival tips:
  • Pay attention to national and international news and finance coverage at least several times a day, preferably hourly. In volatile times, vigilance is necessary.
  • Absorb, assess, and then act. Knowledge without action is impotence.
  • When a tsunami hits, there's no time for procrastination. Keep your momentum in tune with the times.
  • Avoid your comfort zone -- it's probably outdated anyway.
  • If you're honest, you should know the questions that should be asked, as well as the answers. That's probably why there's so much confusion out there today.
  • Remember The Blitz. That can put things into perspective. Things may be tough and getting tougher, but we're not being bombed day in and day out either. If you don't know what The Blitz is, use your time wisely to study WWII to find out.
  • Is your life half empty or half full? Half is better than zip. Count your blessings.
  • Realize that fear is the exact opposite of faith.
  • Resolve to be bigger than your problems. Who's the boss?
  • Don't negate your own power. Whatever you've been dealt, know you can deal with it.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:12 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Personal Development , Problem Solving

Think Like a Champion: Lessons From Donald Trump

Think Like a Champion
Donald Trump enjoys teaching. He sees it as another side of his nature and is devoting more time to it as evidenced by his many books and Trump University.

Think Like a Champion: An Informal Education In Business and Life is a collection of short essays that illuminate Trump’s thinking and approach to business and life. He is reflective and as usual, candid.

What keeps Trump relevant is his passion for learning. He writes, “It’s important to remain open to new ideas and new information. Being a know-it-all is like shutting the door to great discoveries and opportunities. Keep your door open every day to something new and energizing.” It’s a theme he weaves throughout this book. Here are several lessons from Trump’s Think Like a Champion:
We don’t really create, but we assemble what has been created for us. Be a great assembler—no matter what your interests may be—and you’ll be on your way to inventiveness.

Considering the availability of news, blind spots can’t really be rationalized anymore, no matter where you might be living. Information is available to everyone, and if you aren’t plugging into it, it will eventually work against you—maybe on your first interview. Don’t learn this the hard way.

Do not allow fear to settle into place in any part of your life. It is a defeating attitude and a negative emotion. Recognize and zap it immediately. Replace it with a problem-solving attitude, faith in yourself, and hard work.

Momentum is something you have to work at to maintain. Find your own current and then go with it! Don’t allow for distractions. Do everything you can to maintain your energy flow. Watch out for streaks of momentum that you can’t sustain—keep your equilibrium in all things, even in your energy output.

I always ask myself, “Is this a blip, or a catastrophe?”—it gives me a point of reason in the midst of bad news. Your problems can be temporary if you keep your momentum moving forward. We all experience difficulties, but they can be blips if you remain positive and move on.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:03 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Personal Development

03.30.09

Emotional Intelligence – How To Get It

Emotional Capitalists
Corporate psychologist Martyn Newman says that “being intelligent about your emotions is critical to your success as a leader. If leadership is ultimately the art of accomplishing extraordinary things through ordinary people, then building emotional capital is how you achieve it.”

Competence will only get you so far. You need emotional intelligence to implement your ideas. In his book Emotional Capitalists, he writes that today’s leaders must focus on emotional capital. That is, “the energy, the enthusiasm and commitment in the hearts of everyone connected with the business.”

The idea of emotional intelligence was popularized by Daniel Goleman and it is given form in this EI toolkit. Newman offers practical guidance to how it is developed and applied.

He categorizes the emotional intelligence of effective leaders into five broad components: Self-awareness, Self-management, Social awareness, Social skills and Adaptability. These are skills that can be developed by anyone motivated to do so. There are ten competencies associated with these components, but there are seven that he has isolated that he has found to absolutely essential for leaders to focus on. They are:

Self-Reliance: “Being self-reliant does not mean that you just go out and do your own thing. It means being secure enough in yourself to turn to others and take into account different points of view while regarding yourself as finally responsible for working out what has to be said or done.”

Assertiveness: It’s not about being aggressive or passive but it’s about “being able to communicate your message honestly and directly, while respecting the fact that others may hold a different opinion or expectation.” It requires clear communications and self-control.

Optimism: “Individuals and organizations who view their setbacks in the context of progress are much more likely to continue in their efforts towards success.”

Self-Actualization: This is the power behind sustained high performance. Passion. “Passion is an emotional competency you can develop by focusing your attention on your discontent – what you are unhappy with or what you’d like to do better – and then cultivating a vision of how things could be different.”

Self-Confidence: “Solid self-confidence is important because it is the platform that supports your ability to respond actively and positively to value-creating opportunities.” Building self-confidence is the starting point for unlocking the potential of yourself and others.

Relationship Skills: “Why would you want to perform at your best when you don’t feel leadership is genuinely interested in you as a person?”

Empathy: It is about “demonstrating that you can see the world from another person’s point of view.”

Newman shows how you can develop each of these competencies and how you can deal with some of the toxic behaviors and thinking that you may have acquired over the years. It is a very helpful book that also offers readers an opportunity to take the Emotional Capital Inventory to measure your personal level of emotional capital. Check it out!

* * *

Practical Intelligence
While we are on the topic, Jossey-Bass released in paperback two essential volumes on social skills and common sense: Social Intelligence: The New Science of Success and Practical Intelligence: The Art and Science of Common Sense. Management consultant Karl Albrecht deftly illuminates these topics with such great stories, examples and humor that you will find them not just a great read but you will quickly identify with the ideas he is presenting with your own experiences. The insights contained in these books are immediately applicable in your relationships on and off the playing field.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:30 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

03.09.09

Strategic Presence: The Power that Fuels Leadership

Tony Jeary, author of Strategic Acceleration: Succeed at the Speed of Life, is a coach to some of the world's top CEOs. In his book he brings together practical ideas to help you get out of your own way. A critical aspect of getting things done through others is presence – your presence. To influence others you need to know how they perceive you and adjust your communication with them accordingly. Here, Tony discusses what he calls strategic presence:
Strategic Acceleration


The goal of leadership is to produce superior results on purpose and that makes leadership a results contest. The challenge of leadership is to persuade and motivate those they lead to produce the results they want. When people voluntarily and enthusiastically do what their leaders ask them to do and the desired results are achieved, leaders are considered to be effective and successful! The question is how do leaders really get others to voluntarily and enthusiastically produce the desired results? There are many parts to this puzzle, but there is none greater than a condition I describe as Strategic Presence.

Here is a great story that illustrates Strategic Presence and also illuminates its effect. A student from a foreign country was enrolled in the middle of a school year. During the first day of class, the other kids in the class were doing what kids do. There was a lot of giggling and staring and posturing for the new arrival. The new student was dressed in a way that did not meet the expectations of a few of the other children and eventually one of them (the class clown) began to make jokes about the new student's appearance.

As the scene was progressing toward chaos, the teacher was about to intervene when a girl stood up and told everyone to stop picking on their new classmate. The girl reminded them that it was scary to be new in a school and they needed to be kind to the student and make them feel welcome She reminded them they should treat this new person as they would want to be treated if they were in a new country and a new school. After class, the teacher called the girl aside and said, "That was a very brave thing you did. Why did you do that?" The girl replied, "Because that is what my Mom and Dad would expect me to do!"

This story powerfully illustrates the essence and the effect of what I call Strategic Presence. The girl had merely done what she knew her parents would want her to do. Her parents had succeeded in creating a positive presence in her mind, which gave her the willingness and courage to do what she did. Most importantly, the presence of her parents was so authentic that they did not have to be physically present to inspire their daughter's good behavior.

Leaders create impressions that exist in the mind of every person they lead. It is a presence that defines the perceptions people have of their leaders and what they believe about them. It is this overall persona that I am referring to when I use the term Strategic Presence and there are two types: Positive and Negative. Leaders are constantly creating and presenting images of influence that produce both.

The most important fact about Strategic Presence is that it produces two possible reactions in others. It either produces voluntary cooperation or it produces various forms of resistance. If leaders generate positive Strategic Presence, people will be more likely to support what they want, most of the time. However, if perceptions of leadership are negative people will substitute resistance for cooperation. The possibilities of how people will respond to Strategic Presence are limited to cooperation or resistance. There is not much middle ground between them. As someone once said, "you are either for us against us!" It is easy to see why creating an authentic, positive strategic presence is critical for the execution of a vision.

Creating positive Strategic Presence is not a strategy of manipulation. The positive strategic presence leaders project must be authentic. Failing the test of authenticity means the very image leadership hopes to establish will be perceived as deceptive and disingenuous, or worse. People are very perceptive and they will see through efforts to project a phony persona for the purposes of manipulating their behavior. So, why shouldn't a leader's strategic presence just be allowed to be what it is?" That is a great question and the answer is simple. Many leaders are misunderstood and create perceptions that really don't match their intent. So, understanding how Strategic Presence is created will minimize the possibility of being misunderstood.

So, how is strategic presence is created? What are the things about leadership that speaks the loudest about it? What creates the perceptions that combine to produce Strategic Presence? There are two components that contribute to strategic presence: values and behavior.

Our values are established by what we believe to be right, wrong, true, false, acceptable, unacceptable, appropriate and inappropriate. Let's face it, we have all developed deep, strong opinions about many things as we live our lives. Our opinions spring forth from your values and your values influence what we actually do.

Our values and beliefs impact 5 categories of that drive our behavior, and it is our behavior that creates Strategic Presence. The five categories that drive behavior are:
  1. Work ethic
  2. Integrity
  3. Judgment
  4. Courage
  5. Willingness to help others
So, if you want to be a great leader, you need to have great values and your values must be demonstrated in the action you take. This is the essence of Strategic Presence and it is truly the power that fuels leadership.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:54 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Communication , Leadership , Motivation , Personal Development

03.04.09

Take the Greater Than Yourself Challenge

Greater Than Yourself
You’ve heard “invest yourself in others” and “pay it forward.” Steve Farber has his own unique twist on these ideas and he calls it Greater Than Yourself.

The Greater Than Yourself (GTY) concept is based on the premise that great leaders become great because they cause others to be greater than they are. GTY is a one-on-one development process where you choose to help someone become more capable, competent, and accomplished than you are. It has three parts to it: Expand Yourself, Give Yourself and Replicate Yourself.

The life-long process begins with you. “You have to expand yourself before you can help make others greater.” That means that you have to make sure that everything that is you is constantly expanding. No matter how much you think you know or are, “you can always learn more, you can always experience more, you can always connect more and love more.” The point of which is to give it all away.

Giving it all away always brings out the cynics. But Farber deals with that too. Giving it all away seems to imply subtraction – like a zero-sum-game – to many people. But it’s not. Giving it all away really adds to who you are. Parents get it, but when we get outside that relationship, an improper self-interest kicks in and we miss the bigger picture.

In this business fable set along the California coast, Faber skillfully explains the true nature of giving it all away to become a creator of masters. GTY has life changing possibilities if you commit to it. Expanding yourself “is a practice that should become part of your life. Integrate it into your thought process and into the way you make decisions. Will X add to your inventory? Will it expand an item that is already there? If so, do it; if not, don’t.”

When you think of giving of yourself, money may not be part of it. You have other resources like “your talent, your knowledge, your connections, your confidence, your trust” and last but not least, “your time.”

In the end you want to replicate yourself. That is, you want to make sure that the people you elevate are doing the same for others.

In an organizational context, it might look like this: “Everyone on my team and in our company should become significantly greater as a result of working with one another.” But, “I’m not trying to hire people who are more talented than me, I’m trying to hire people with heart, desire, drive and mad potential, and then encourage all of them to bring out the best in one another by giving fully to one another. See the difference?”

Farber admits that this isn’t easy to do initially. In response, he challenges us to pick just one person to make a GTY project. “Raise that person; boost him or her above yourself. Start there and see what happens.”

He has created a web site with examples and resources to get you going. In particular, there is a four minute video of a GTY project conducted by the Up With People organization, that is a good overview of what this is all about and the impact it can have. The participants in this GTY project don’t rule out that great things can come in small packages. The tendency is to pick someone who is already doing well and then working to make them greater; jump on their bandwagon so to speak. There’s certainly nothing wrong in that, but perhaps the most impact can come from taking someone who really needs a leg up and connecting them to what they need.

Take the Greater Than Yourself Challenge. Pick one person and give of yourself to make their life better—than yours!

u > i

del mar

Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:23 PM
| TrackBacks (1) | Human Resources , Personal Development , Positive Leadership

02.23.09

Procrastination: THE Results Killer!

Tony Jeary is a coach to the world's top CEOs and high achievers and is the author of a very practical book, Strategic Acceleration: Succeed at the Speed of Life. When we look at the work before us, it’s easy to procrastinate. Jeary suggest we are focusing on the wrong thing. “To avoid procrastination and get faster results,” he writes, “focus on starting instead of finishing, then adjust as you go.” He offers this helpful outlook on procrastination:
Strategic Acceleration


Anyone interested in getting better results, becoming more productive and ultimately more successful should probably take an honest look at the problem of procrastination. Most people think procrastination is just an issue that involves putting things off that can be done later without much of a penalty. That idea just scratches the surface of the procrastination issue and is indicative of the denial people have about it. Truthfully, procrastination is like an addiction because it is the symptom of a thinking problem and like any other addiction, its difficult to break! The reality is this: Nothing marginalizes results more than procrastination because being productive and getting superior results is about completing tasks and projects in reduced time frames.

Obviously, if you can get more work done in less time, you will see results much faster. We are all guilty of procrastination to some extent, and there are two kinds:
  1. Positive Procrastination. This is when you legitimately need some "mental percolation" time to gather your thoughts and get clear on what you need to do.
  2. Negative Procrastination. This is based on some pretty flimsy excuses to avoid doing something, which will ultimately affect your results in negative ways.
Whereas Positive Procrastination can be beneficial, Negative Procrastination is something you need to overcome in order to be more effective and finish things faster. You can't produce results until you start doing something. If you do nothing, that is exactly what you will get -- nothing!

If you want to accelerate results, there is no room in your life or your business for Negative Procrastination. Show me a person who consistently gets less than stellar results, and I'll show you a person who procrastinates. However, they probably won't think of themselves as procrastinators because they have lots of seemingly good reasons for not doing things TODAY.

You may find some of the following statements familiar. You have probably either heard them from other people, or you may have even believed one or more of them yourself. If you feel a personal kinship with these statements, I suggest that you give serious thought to the possibility that there might be a touch of procrastination in your own life. Consider the following statements:
  1. "I can do it tomorrow." This may be the most popular and frequently used justification for procrastination. The reason it's so popular is because tomorrow sounds so close to today. Waiting until tomorrow just doesn't seem like that big a deal. Just waiting one more day won't upset too many people, and there are surely many good reasons that can be created to justify the delay.
  2. "I don't have everything I need, so I'll wait." This is a very popular statement used to justify inaction and waiting. It is most often an excuse that salespeople use to avoid making telephone calls to prospects. The truth is that you can always take some kind of action, regardless of the list of the things you think you need before you can start. All you have to do is be honest about it and look for what is possible to do today. Do not wait until you have everything you think you need before you start doing things.
  3. "I can't do it perfectly, so I'll wait." This excuse doesn't make much sense if you ask yourself the question: Can we ever do anything perfectly? I think not. How do you feel about this statement? Do you feel as though you have to be able to perform perfectly before you can be willing to act? If you do have this attitude, you are in serious trouble, because you will NEVER be able to do anything perfectly.
  4. "I don't have time right now." Why and how do we get the idea that we have to be able to finish something before we can work on it? Let me use a book-writing example to show you what I mean by this. A non-fiction book is a collection of chapters. Each chapter is a collection of ideas about a specific topic. Each idea may have many sub-points. When I begin a book project, how many books would I complete if I believed I had to finish the entire book in one, continuous work session? The answer is that I would never complete any book project if I believed this was necessary. The correct approach is to do what you can, when you can!
  5. "Someone else can do it better." This excuse is a silent one that people make to themselves privately. Some authors and psychologists say that procrastination is rooted in the fear of success. I'm not a psychologist, but I think it's more likely people fear failure more than they fear success. Let's face it -- people don't want to look bad, and they are hesitant to put themselves in position where they might fail. Procrastination is a tool that many people use because they falsely believe it will save them from failure. The truth is that procrastination usually guarantees failure.
Procrastination may be many things, but mostly it's a bad habit. Someone once said, "Repetition strengthens and confirms." Simply put, this means that the more you do something, the easier it gets! I believe people learn how to procrastinate over a long period of time, and the more they do it, the easier it becomes. So, if you want better results and greater success, take a look at the issue of procrastination in your life. Sit down today and make a list of all the things you need to do that you have not completed. How many are the result of procrastination? You might be surprised.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:34 AM
| TrackBacks (1) | Personal Development

01.08.09

One More Time: Resilience is Key

In The Knack, a book for entrepreneurs, Norm Broadsky and Bo Burlingham respond to the question, “What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur?” The most important quality is resilience. “I’m talking about the ability to bounce back from failure, to turn around a bad situation, to profit from your mistakes. They continue:
That’s because everybody makes mistakes, plenty of them. What’s more, we keep making them as long as we’re in business. Sure, we like to think we’ll eventually get so smart we won’t make mistakes anymore. Forget about it. You’ll never stop making mistakes. Hopefully, the new ones won’t be the same as the old ones, but they’ll be equally painful. They’ll bug you just as much. They’ll make you just as mad. As upset as you get, however, it’s important to bear in mind that failure is still the best teacher around. You’ll do fine as long as you’re open to the lessons it’s trying to teach you.
And a concluding thought from an article in the New York Times, Innovation Should Mean More Jobs, Not Less. Geoffrey A. Moore, author of Dealing with Darwin, comments:
America is probably the best culture in the world at failing,” he said. “We’re willing to navigate in a fog and keep moving forward. Our competitive advantage tends to be at the fuzzy front end of things when you’re still finding your way. Once the way has been found, we’re back at a disadvantage.
Related Interest:
  When Rooted In Hard Work and Experience, Resilience Is Better Than Any Crystal Ball

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:29 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

01.06.09

Strengths Based Leadership

The fact is, many leaders do not really know their strengths. Not only does this lack of self-awareness bring about unintended consequences to one’s behavior, but also it can lead to disengaged employees and undue stress in the workplace and beyond. Donald Clifton remarked:
What great leaders have in common is that each truly knows his or her strengths – and can call on the right strength at the right time. This explains why there is no definitive list of characteristics that describes all leaders.
Strengths-Based Leadership
In Strengths Based Leadership, authors Tom Rath and Barry Conchie present a new leadership version of Gallup’s StrengthsFinder assessment. (An access code is included with the book so you can take the new assessment online.) The assessment is design to help you see how your top five strengths fit into their newly identified four domains of leadership strengths: Executing strengths, Influencing Strengths, Relationship Building strengths and Strategic Thinking strengths. You will find that this knowledge is useful in creating well-rounded teams. As they note, "Although individuals need not be well-rounded, teams should be."

Unique to this book, is a study of 10,000 followers. When they asked them why they followed, four basic wants and needs emerged: trust, compassion, stability and hope. Once you have identified your strengths, they will give you specific suggestions for meeting those needs.

The idea of strengths based leadership is not to ignore your weaknesses as some have mistakenly misunderstood. But the emphasis for any leader should be a deep understanding of what they bring to the table and not trying to be something they are not. Rath and Conchie write:
The most effective leaders know better than to try to be someone they are not. Whenever they spot an opportunity, they reinvest in their strengths…. Leaders stay true to who they are – and then make sure they have the right people around them. Those who surround themselves with similar personalities will always be at a disadvantage in the long run to those who are secure enough in themselves to enlist partners with complementary strengths.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:46 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development , Teamwork

12.29.08

When Rooted In Hard Work and Experience, Resilience Is Better Than Any Crystal Ball

Ralph Shrader
In separating Booz Allen Hamilton into two companies this year, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer Ralph W. Shrader gained a valuable lesson and has presented us with an interesting perspective in a speech he delivered earlier this year. He states, “I’m absolutely convinced that separating our firm was inevitable—and that it was the right thing for our institution, our clients, and our people. But, I certainly never envisioned this path when I became Chairman & CEO in 1999 or when I joined Booz Allen 35 years ago.” The following remarks are edited from this speech.
There’s a well-worn saying that “I wish I knew then, what I know now.” But, I beg to differ. I’m glad I didn’t know then that we would end up taking this path. That’s a key lesson that this experience crystallized for me.

The lesson is this: Don’t tell me the future. I’ve learned, unquestionably, that resilience—not prophecy—is the greatest gift. Now, that idea runs counter to human nature and desire. Seeking to know the future has been man’s eternal quest—from ancient mythology to the 21st century (and into the 24th century if judged by Star Trek episodes).

Astrology aside, modern forecasting techniques are widely employed in science and business. Clearly, it can save lives and fortunes to be able to predict weather patterns, epidemics, and financial markets. (No question, we have a long way to go in telling the future of financial markets!) But, it’s important to recognize the limits of even the most sophisticated models and forecasting methods—and to rely on them as tools, not oracles.

I’m convinced that prophecy would be a curse, not a gift, in our most important human endeavors, from corporate strategy to national destiny to personal relationships.

I firmly believe knowing the future could severely limit our vision, passion, and potential. It could cause us to take things for granted… or to give up hope. Much more than prophecy, resilience—the ability to rise to the occasion and opportunity, whatever the future may bring—is the far greater gift. And, it’s also a gift we can reasonably attain.

Resilience is optimistic opportunism. Its power can be seen in the prescient observation that “Things turn out the best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.” Think about that: “Things turn out the best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.

When rooted in hard work and experience, resilience is better than any crystal ball. I think—I hope—we’re coming to understand that we don’t need to know the future. We can be confident that our performance and resilience will enable us to succeed and control our destiny.

And, that’s the thought I’d like to leave you with: While we can’t know our destiny (and I’ve come to believe we shouldn’t want to), we do have a large measure of control over our destiny, as individuals and as institutions. What gives us this control? Hard work, experience, and resilience.

There’s no question that hard work, focused on a goal, is never wasted—even if the destination changes. The experience, expertise, and discipline we gain is invaluable and will lead to success, as long as we have the resilience—the optimistic opportunism—to sense the winds of change and go with them.

There’s a Japanese proverb that says, “Even the fortune-tellers do not know their own destiny.” I’m convinced we have more control over our destiny by not knowing it—as long as we strive for excellence and have the resilience to make the best of the way things turn out.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:57 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

12.08.08

John Bogle on What is Enough

Enough
We are about to begin a new year that is bursting with faith in hope. Whether that faith is justified remains to be seen. Yet you would be handicapping yourself if you did not read and reflect on John Bogle’s tour de force, Enough: True Measures of Money, Business and Life.

The book is a result of a fair amount of reflection by Bogle himself. He offers a critique of American society today and asks what is or should be "enough" in money, in business, and in life. It is a book about character. He writes that “not knowing what enough is subverts our professional values” and leads us astray in life in general. “We too often bow down at the altar of the transitory and finally meaningless and fail to cherish what is beyond calculation, indeed eternal.” Not having grasped the concept of enough, we have seen the “subversion of our character and values.”

We live in a time that values achievement over character. When the two collide, character often takes a back seat and relationships of all kinds are shattered. Bogle observes that while the financial represents the worst of it, what we see today is not just a financial sector problem, but a societal problem. There is really just too much greed everywhere.

He laments that we rely on numbers to give us facts that are really not facts:
As I have earlier noted, the most important things in life and in business can’t be measured. The trite bromide “If you can measure it, you can manage it” has been a hindrance in the building a great real-world organization, just as it has been a hindrance in evaluating the real-world economy. It is character, not numbers, that make the world go ‘round. How can we possibly measure the qualities of human existence that give our lives and careers meaning? How about grace, kindness, and integrity? What value do we put on passion, devotion, and trust? How much do cheerfulness, the lilt of a human voice, and a touch of pride add to our lives? Tell me, please, if you can, how to value friendship, cooperation, dedication, and spirit. Categorically, the firm that ignores the intangible qualities that the human beings who are our colleagues bring to their careers will never build a great workforce or a great organization.
Enough is really about discovering what is really important in our lives. While Bogel is optimistic, he says that he has “developed a profound concern that our society is moving in the wrong direction.” The only way to work our way through today's deep-seated problems is to return to values that “stem from principle, virtue and character.” It’s a call to redefine success in our own lives.
We have more than enough of the fool’s gold of marketing and salesmanship and not enough of the real gold of trusteeship and stewardship….We focus too much on things and not enough on the intangibles that make things worthwhile; too much on success (a word I’ve never liked) and not enough on character, without which success is meaningless….Our society cannot and should not tolerate the substitution of moral relativism for a certain form of moral absolutism, and its debasement in the ethical standards of commerce.
Related Interest:
  Fixing the Financial Crisis Once and For All

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:57 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Ethics , Personal Development

12.04.08

What is the Secret of Great Performers?

Malcolm Gladwell tells us in Outliers that when it comes to success, context is everything. Only by asking where a person comes from can we understand who succeeds and who doesn’t. Geoff Colvin would agree but there’s more. In Talent is Overrated, Colvin rightly asserts that “great performance is in our hands far more than most of us ever suspected.”
Talent is Overrated


When many people never become outstandingly good at what they do, no matter how many years they spend doing it, why do some people become excellent at what they do? Colvin convincingly argues that in general, it’s not innate gifts or intelligence, but what researchers call deliberate practice that creates world-class performers. A study by Anders Ericsson and his associates concluded that “the differences between expert performers and normal adults reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain.”

Deliberate practice is not your normal practice. It contains several important elements: it’s designed specifically to improve performance (usually with a teacher or coach), it can be repeated ad nauseam, feedback on results are continuously available, it’s highly demanding mentally (focus and concentration), and it isn’t much fun. Add passion and the good news is that great performance is not reserved for a preordained few. It is available to everyone.

Colvin’s homework makes a great case for the idea that leaders are developed. What is alarming is Colvin observation that “At most companies—as well as most educational institutions and many nonprofit organizations—the fundamentals of great performance are mainly unrecognized or ignored.” He writes that organizations that apply the principles of great performance follow several major rules:
  1. Understand that each person in the organization is not just doing a job, but is also being stretched and grown. The best organizations assign people to jobs to push them just beyond their current capabilities and build the skills that are most important. Organizations tend to assign people based on what they’re already good at, not what they need to work on.
  2. Find ways to develop leaders within their jobs. One technique: short-term work assignments. Managers don’t leave their jobs, but they take on an additional assignment outside their field of expertise.
  3. Encourage their leaders to be active in their communities. Community leadership roles are opportunities for employees to practice skills that will be valuable at work.
  4. Understand the critical roles of teachers and of feedback. At most organizations, nobody is in the role of teacher or coach. Employees aren’t told which skills will be most helpful to them and certainly aren’t told how to best develop them.
  5. Identify promising performers early. A telling indicator is how interns get others to work with them when they have absolutely no authority.
  6. Understand that people development works best through inspiration not authority.
  7. Invest significant time, money, and energy in developing people. You don’t develop people on the cheap, and you don’t just bolt a development program onto existing HR procedures.
  8. Make leadership development part of the culture. Developing leaders isn’t a program, it’s a way of living.
Talent is Overrated is the most readable and pragmatic book on the topic. The examples and relevant research cited are compelling and his application of great performance principles to self-development, business development and innovation are thought provoking.

Related Interest:
  Outliers: Understanding the Context of Success

Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:29 AM
| TrackBacks (1) | Education , Leadership Development , Learning , Personal Development

11.07.08

Outliers: Understanding the Context of Success

A lot has been written of late about superior performance that often sets conventional thinking on its head. We often assume genius and success is the result of natural gifts and if you don’t have it, then you don’t have it. But research is demonstrating that great performance is more about what we do after we are born than we ever thought. People don’t rise from nothing.
Outliers


In his new book Outliers (men and women who do things out of the ordinary), Malcolm Gladwell writes:
We pretend that success is exclusively a matter of individual merit. But there’s nothing in any of the histories we’ve looked at so far to suggest things are that simple. These are stories, instead, about people who were given a special opportunity to work really hard and seized it, and who happened to come of age at a time when that extraordinary effort was rewarded by the rest of society. Their success was not just of their own making. It was a product of the world in which they grew up.
Gladwell provides countless stories and examples of successful people—Bill Joy, Bill Gates, the Beatles, Chris Langan and others—and draws interesting connections about their success. Successful people must be considered within the context of their culture and the people that surrounded them. “The values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on who we are.”
The people who stand before kings may look like they did it all by themselves. But in fact they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot.
If you look hard enough, there is a pattern of achievement. It’s a fascinating read.

You can see a video of Gladwell’s presentation at the 2007 New Yorker Conference 2012: Stories from the Near Future.

Related Interest:
  What is the Secret of Great Performers?

Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:14 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Education , Learning , Personal Development

11.04.08

Lead By Example

Leading by example is one of those things we know and remember to do on our way to do something else. The problem is that it requires a lot more inner work than we are willing to put in, but it leverages our leadership more than any other thing we can do.
Lead By Example


Unfortunately, it is the norm that leaders don’t know themselves well enough to set an example. Tolstoy once remarked, “Everyone dreams of changing humanity but no one dreams of changing himself.” Yet that’s what it takes to lead by example.

John Baldoni has written an excellent and practical book that addresses areas that leaders need to look at in order to be the kind of person that people will want to follow. Lead by Example contains 50 short chapters (See the Table of Contents here.) that pinpoint an area of concern and how to tackle it. It “demonstrates how leaders leverage their best attributes to overcome their shortcomings in order to build trust and drive results.”

Baldoni breaks up the 50 chapters into four sections that he describes this way:

Set the Right Example
Before you can lead others, you must lead yourself. You need to know what you are made of. Character and conviction matter….Your example is your character in action. Ask yourself:
  • How often do I take the time to reflect on my own performance and how it affects my team?
  • What am I doing to make myself a better leader?
Act the Part
You need to know who you are leading and the culture in which you intend to lead. Most often, there will be no roadmaps, but there will be plenty of roadblocks. It’s the leader’s job to identify them and put the team in place to remove them….[L]eaders need to set direction, but then step back and let people discover for themselves how to get things done. Ask yourself:
  • What am I doing to be sure that people understand their mission?
  • How well am I winning over the “fence sitters,” those waiting for things to happen?
  • How well am I overcoming obstacles that stand in the way?
  • What should I be doing to spread the confidence?
Handle the Tough Stuff
Life comes at you in different directions. Sometimes it will come so hard it will knock you down. There is no shame in falling; what matters is getting up to fight again. When your people see you doing that, they will be encouraged to follow your example. Sometimes you have to collaborate with people who have no interest in you or your ideas. You have to learn to lead when you have no authority to do so. You must prove that you know your stuff. You must use your wits and your influence to succeed. By doing so, you create opportunities for people to listen to what you have to say and give yourself a chance to prove your case. Ask yourself:
  • How well am I encouraging alternative points of view?
  • What do I do when a member of our team suffers a setback?
  • How well do I seek solutions rather than seeking to pin blame?
Put the Team First
No leader lives in a vacuum. It is incumbent that you show people what you think of them, honestly and positively. This means you coach your people for success. Ask yourself:
  • How well are we dealing with tension in our team? Is it positive or negative?
  • What can I do to make certain we have the right people in the right jobs to do the job right?
  • What can I do to demonstrate my appreciation for my team?

The way this book is organized makes it a great reference tool that you can refer to when you are faced with leadership—people—issues. It’s also a good book to put in the hands of those who are seeking to lead in your organization. The thinking and behaviors addressed in this book will pay dividends.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:23 AM
| TrackBacks (1) | Leadership Development , Personal Development

10.29.08

Richard Branson on Success

When we place too high a value on achievement and fulfillment, we often overlook the important parts of life like character, relationships and service. Richard Branson made a profound statement on success in his book, Business Stripped Bare. The last sentence may take a few reads for its implications to soak in.
Successful people aren’t in possession of secrets known only to themselves. Don’t obsess over people who appear to you to be “winners”, but listen instead to the wisdom of people who’ve led enriching lives—people, for instance, who’ve found time for friends and family. Be generous in your interpretation of what success looks like. The best and most meaningful lives don’t always end happily.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:11 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

10.10.08

Push Yourself Within Your Comfort Zone

Leadership Nuggets

Push yourself beyond your comfort zone. This sounds right because, of course, you should keep learning and growing and experimenting through your career. But it’s not true. It leads people such as Michael Jordan to try their hand at professional baseball.The Truth About You

Instead, you should push yourself within your comfort zone.

Your strengths are your comfort zone. Your strengths are not only activities that strengthen you, but they are also activities where you have the greatest capacity to learn and grow. So if you are going to push yourself—and you should—then push yourself to get better and better at expressing your strengths.

Adapted from The Truth About You by Marcus Buckingham

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:04 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

10.06.08

Marcus Buckingham and The Truth About You

Marcus Buckingham has done much to advance the understanding of strengths management. He has now turned his attention to crafting a program more specifically oriented to Generation Y, college students and young professionals.

If you ask young people in America ages 18 to 25, which do you think will help you win in life most, they overwhelmingly (70%) respond by saying, “fixing my weaknesses.” There’s a whole generation of kids coming into the workplace who may understand they are distinct and different, but don’t really know how to think about it or make use of that knowledge not only in the workplace, but in life in general.

Buckingham keeps driving the point (and rightly so), that we need to focus on our strengths, not our weaknesses. Build on your strengths and neutralize your weaknesses. In conjunction with his new book, The Truth About You, he has launched a U.S. tour of universities around the nation to talk to young professionals about to embark on their career paths.

The Truth About You The Truth About You focuses on how you set your career up right—how do you start in such a way that you can push the world toward the best of you; learning to express the best of who you are. It incorporates a candid 20-minute enhanced DVD (a reworking of the effective Trombone Player Wanted film); an interactive book, which takes up where the film leaves off; and a reMemo Pad, a way of using the raw material of your week to clearly identify your strengths and weaknesses. The DVD alone is worth the price of the book.

Counter-intuitively, he writes, “Your strengths aren’t what you’re good at and your weaknesses aren’t what you’re bad at.” There are things that you are good at, but they drain you, even bore you. Strengths are not activities you’re necessarily good at, they’re activities that strengthen you. A strength is an activity that before you’re doing it you look forward to doing it; while you’re doing it, time goes by quickly and you can concentrate; after you’ve done it; it feels good to do it. A weakness is an activity that drains you or weakens you, even if you’re good at it.

Buckingham writes that you’ll never find the perfect job. You’ll need to build it—little by little—gradually.

Buckingham’s pragmatic application of these concepts is important. And the earlier in life you understand them and build on them the better. Hopefully Buckingham will now turn his attention to an educational system that overwhelmingly focuses on weaknesses and is not designed to encourage the development of student’s real strengths. All children have amazing talents and we squander them. We need to convert parents and teachers if we are to begin to abandon some of our counterproductive beliefs.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:01 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

09.28.08

Fixing the Financial Crisis Once and For All

Hoping to sound like leaders, Washington lawmakers want to get to the bottom of this financial crisis and create regulations to keep it from ever happening again. I don’t think is comes as any surprise to anyone that greed—on the part of both borrowers and lenders—is at the bottom of it. You can’t regulate greed out of existence. Regulation just improves creativity. Greed is regulated by character. Character is built at home, in our schools, in our churches, and yes, in our businesses.

Copyright LeadershipNow - WallStreetGreed
No one likes to talk about character because it isn’t a quick fix, it often goes against our inclinations, it’s not immediately measurable, you can’t take credit for it, and it’s a time consuming, never ending process. George Eliot wrote in Middlemarch: “Character is not cut in marble; it is not something solid and unalterable. It is something living and changing.” It’s built in individuals day by day in little, almost imperceptible ways over the course of a lifetime. The problem is that we have only given a patronizing nod to character and politely moved on with the business at hand. How will I get mine if I don’t play it like everyone else? We learn too late, without character, no one gets anything.

Character needs to be part of the very fiber of the organization. It must be a part of its philosophy and vision. I don’t mean a statement of values we hang on the wall, but a statement of behavior beginning with the CEO on down. Tom Peters wrote in Thriving on Chaos that “effective visions are beacons and controls when all else are up for grabs….To turn the vision into a beacon, leaders at all levels must model behavior consistent with the vision at all times.”

In July, Hugo Dixon opined in the Wall Street Journal, “Greed for higher returns entices investors to take risks; fear causes them to avoid excess. When markets are healthy, the two are finely balanced. Problems emerge when that balance is lost.” You will find character behind this balancing act. Character stabilizes both people and markets. Character is inseparable from the culture in which it is formed.

Nothing will fix the financial crisis once and for all, but character will regulate it. Greed is a human issue and it will always be with us. It will always be something we need to train ourselves, our children, and our employees to regulate from within. The consequences can be devastating.

Apparently, Mr. Gekko, greed is not good. Lou Mannheim was right, “The main thing about money, Bud, is that it makes you do things you don't want to do.” Or shouldn’t do.

Related Interest:
  Ethics: Reinforcing Fixed Points

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:04 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | General Business , Government , Leaders , Personal Development

09.24.08

Managing Brand You: It’s No Accident

Managing Brand You
“Whatever your brand stands for, you have to deliver on the promise,” writes Richard Branson in Business Stripped Bare. “Don’t’ promise what you can’t deliver, and deliver everything you promise. That’s the only way you’ll ever control your brand. And beware: brands always mean something. If you don’t define what the brand means, a competitor will.” It’s no different on a personal level.

We all have the opportunity to determine how others see us. We are in charge of our own brand. The space between how you are viewed by other people and how you want to be viewed by other people is the place where you begin to build your brand. “Brand YOU,” writes Jerry Wilson and Ira Blumenthal in Managing Brand You, “is about making choices regarding how you want to live your life and how to build the positive and favorable impressions you desire with your target audience.”

Begin by asking your closest friends for a candid list of twenty-five words that best describe you and what you represent. Make your own list as well. How does it look? How does it compare to your brand identity? How you want to be perceived? Wilson and Blumenthal ask:
Are you hoping one of your brand promises is reliability? Then why are you always late? Are you working to make sure those around you believe you are a team player? Then why do you never volunteer for a committee or activity? Is you perception of your personal brand that of a person who is logical, thoughtful, and contemplative? Then why do you make seat-of-the-pants, spur-of-the-moment decisions?
Managing Brand You takes you through a valuable seven step process for defining, creating and implementing your personal brand. It is as much about reinvention and integrating your values, principles and beliefs with your actions—you brand essence. It’s about not letting your past control your future. Your brand should be built on your strengths with a grasp of areas where you need to improve in order to support your strengths.
Simply put, to place yourself in the satisfying and successful life that you imagine, you need to find your inner drive and to discover the skills you have that can help you find your best space. Having a brand identity that is right for you is no accident. It begins by looking deep inside yourself to find out what motivates you and to discover the principles that guide your life. And it is equally important to recognize where you do not want to be, as it is to visualize where you want to be.
Emphasis is placed on the importance of a consistent message over the long haul. They liken it to running a marathon race. It’s easy to get distracted from your goals by the inertia and pressures of your current brand. A brand is not a quickie makeover, but a long-term commitment to personal improvement.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:14 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

09.19.08

Do You Suffer From Any of These Energy Drains?

Success 101
In our fast-paced, twenty-four hour society we are constantly distracted and diverted from working on what we should be working on. It creates lives of almost habitual scatteredness. Focus is the sine qua non of reaching our potential. This scatteredness is largely responsible for draining us of the energy we need to accomplish our goals. Additionally, in Success 101, John Maxwell outlines three difficult situations that we need to be aware of and learn to manage around:

Activity Without Direction – doing things that don’t seem to matter
Burden Without Action – not being able to do things that really matter
Conflict Without Resolution – not being able to deal with what’s the matter

These sap our energy because they chip away at our dignity and needlessly undermine our ability to focus. If we find ourselves faced with any of these difficult circumstances, we need to work extra hard to manage around them. The first step to accomplishing this is seeing the big picture and knowing our part in it. Knowing our purpose can insulate us from many of the external distractions we face on a daily basis.

Maxwell writes, “The better you are at making sure you’re doing what you should be doing, the better chance you have for making an impact on others and being successful.” At the same time, not all stress is bad. We need to look for opportunities within our circumstances to expand our capacity. Loehr and Schwartz write in The Power of Full Engagement, that "Any form of stress that prompts discomfort has the potential to expand our capacity—physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually—so long as it is followed by adequate recovery." It’s part of learning to manage yourself exceptionally well.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:46 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

09.17.08

Nice Guys Can Get the Corner Office

Nice Guys Can Get the Corner Office
Apparently, Nice Guys Can Get the Corner Office. The problem isn’t being a nice guy (or gal), the problem is in finding the right balance. It’s having the emotional intelligence to know how to interact with others without “giving away the store.” This book is about finding that balance.

According to the authors – Russ Edeloman, Timothy Hiltabiddle and Charles Manz - Nice Guy Syndrome is a big problem in today's workplace. 61% of people they surveyed said that they struggle with being too nice at work, and that they feel it has a negative impact on their success.

Most of us like to be considered “nice.” We want to be liked. We equate it with traits like cooperativeness and agreeableness, but it often ends up being manifested in unproductive behaviors that come across as weak, passive and docile. This can create a whole new set of (passive-aggressive) issues as we try to cope with being marginalized. What is “niceness?” How should it look? The authors define it as:
  • Attempting to optimize outcomes for both others and ourselves
  • Striving to balance assertiveness with cooperation to achieve a spirit of collaboration
  • Honoring the value and strength pf others and ourselves
  • Seeking optimal outcomes for everyone involved by emphasizing truthfulness and authenticity
  • Openly confronting challenges and disagreements and embracing the innovation-promoting benefits of constructive idea conflict.
They offer a Nice Guys Bill of Rights and their corresponding strategies to help you find the balance between being a pushover and being a jerk. If you are overly nice, understanding and recognizing these rights will help you to change your behaviors and how you are perceived. In the book they present strategies for practicing these rights in you life without jumping into the other ditch by overcompensating. If you happen to find yourself already in the other ditch, these strategies will help you to rein yourself in before you’re forced to.
  1. You have the right to SELF-AWARENESS – Know your strengths & weaknesses. Before you can set a course for where you want to go, first you must be completely honest about where you are. A thorough knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses is extremely valuable.
  2. You have the right to SPEAK UP – Let your opinions be heard. The ability and willingness to speak up is essential if you want your ideas to be heard. Learn to have an opinion, but understand that you don’t always need to express it.
  3. You have the right to SET BOUNDARIES – Set and respect them. "No" seems to be the hardest word for nice guys. Nice guys must set good boundaries and consistently reinforce them as needed.
  4. You have the right to CONFRONT – Address issues directly and without fear. Since nice guys instinctively want to get along with everyone , conflict is especially difficult to face. It is very important to learn to address issues directly and overcome the fear associated with confrontation.
  5. You have the right to CHOICE – Make choices without guilt. Nice guys often feel powerless, as if they have no choice in a given situation. The truth is that they frequently give away their power to choose. The key? To own your choices and, without guilt, to make the right decision for you and your organization - even if it means people will be angry or disappointed with you.
  6. You have the right to EXPECT RESULTS – Be accountable to others and yourself. Maintaining accountability sometimes makes you unpopular. Regardless, to be effective nice guys must be willing to hold others (and themselves) accountable for results and to follow through on their commitments.
  7. You have the right to BE BOLD – Push the envelope. Taking risks is extremely challenging for nice guys. If they want to succeed at a high level, however, they must be willing to go beyond their comfort zone and place a high value their goals and priorities.
  8. You have the right to WIN – Finish first. The business world is highly competitive. Nice guys, however, sometimes shy away from competition because they aren't comfortable with "winning" (and other people "losing".) While a win/win scenario is ideal, it is not always possible. Everyone is ultimately best served when the best ideas and solutions win, not when nice guys "play small." Nice guys owe it to themselves and their organizations to do their absolute best at all times and embrace winning.
  9. Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:59 AM
    | TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

09.08.08

Our Performances Matter: The Encore Effect

What is the encore effect? It is delivering what you do so well that you are asked to do it again and again. It’s people wanting more of what you do best. No matter what we do, we are showcasing who we are and what we care about. As we go through our day we can either deliver an average performance or a remarkable one. A remarkable performance keeps them coming back for more.

Mark Sanborn, author of The Encore Effect, believes “Our performances matter. They can have a powerful impact on those around us. As parents, our performance shapes and influences our children. As employees and managers, our performance can make our company better, move a project forward, spark ideas among colleagues, and influence customers.”

The Encore Effect
Of course, a remarkable performance can only come from someone who knows what they do best, and is passionate enough about it to have invested the time to develop expertise in it and to live it authentically. It’s who they are and it’s infectious.

How can each of us make our own performance bigger, better, and bolder? How can we make what we do consistently remarkable and thereby make a difference in our sphere of influence?

Mark Sanborn offers five steps for making your performance remarkable; for bring your best self to whatever you are doing:

Passion: Passion is the fuel that drives our life’s purpose. Our passion for what we do pulls others along. “Nobody likes to be driven by someone else; it feels like being pushed. But when someone can show us how to be bigger on the inside—in our attitude and mind-set—that can help attract or pull us toward what we can become.

Prepare: How remarkable performance begins. “Each of us is creating our future right now. Whether the future is five minutes from now or five years, it is determined by our preparation—or lack of it.” Be a remarkable performance waiting to happen.

Practice: “There are no perfect violinists—or salespeople, executives, teachers, or parents for that matter. But deliberate practice is what distinguishes those who excel from those who get by.”

Perform: Be the performance. “One hallmark of a remarkable performance is authenticity.” Be yourself. Engage your audience by giving them your attention. “To create the Encore Effect, you shouldn’t be focused on your own happiness or success, but on the happiness and success of others.”

Polish: The difference is in the details. “There are lots of details that matter when it comes to creating a remarkable performance.” Keep polishing what you do.

Sanborn is no stranger to remarkable performances and he continues to polish his life’s work. He also highlights some pitfalls that we need to avoid along the way like arrogance, fear and impatience.

Most importantly, Sanborn points to the real goal of remarkable performances—helping others to achieve their own remarkable performances. “Remarkable performers see in others what they have discovered in themselves—the ability to reach unexplored and unanticipated levels of performance. They inspire others through their own performances, instruct others through their teaching, and help others improve through their encouragement."

Pass this title along to others—young and old. It contains a simple idea that taken to heart, can make a big difference.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:33 PM
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08.12.08

Are You Having a No-Good, Very-Bad Day?

No Complaining RuleIf you are like most of us, anything going on but what you want, warrants a complaint. Not an action-oriented, let’s get this solved kind of complaint, but your everyday run-of-the-mill mindless kind of complaining that leads nowhere (except to more negative thinking).

Jon Gordon, author of The No Complaining Rule, says there are two main reasons why we complain: (1) because we are fearful and feel helpless and two, because it has become a habit. He urges us to outgrow the complaining habit. He cites a Gallup poll that finds that negativity costs companies nearly $300 billion each year.

“In life,” Gordon writes, “you have a choice between two roads. The positive road and the negative road. The positive road will lead to enhanced health, happiness, and success and the negative road will lead to misery, anger, and failure. Since your bus can’t be on two roads at the same time, you must decide which road you want to be on. And wen you complain you travel down the negative road.”

“In life,” Gordon writes, “you have a choice between two roads. The positive road and the negative road. The positive road will lead to enhanced health, happiness, and success and the negative road will lead to misery, anger, and failure. Since your bus can’t be on two roads at the same time, you must decide which road you want to be on. And when you complain you travel down the negative road.”

As former chronic complainer, Gordon effectively delivers his message through a story. The No Complaining Rule doesn’t rule out complaining – it requires that it be constructive.
Employees are not allowed to mindlessly complain to their coworkers. If they have a problem or complaint about their job, their company, their customer, or anything else, they are encouraged to bring the issue to their manager or someone who is in a position to address the complaint. However, the employees must share one or two possible solutions to their complaint as well.
The No Complaining Rule
Gordon explains how do develop a positive culture by creating a culture where negativity can’t breed, grow, and survive. A crucial key is to all this is to focus on gratitude. “Research shows that when we count three blessings a day, we get a measurable boost in happiness that uplifts and energizes us. It’s also physiologically impossible to be stressed and thankful at the same time. Two thoughts cannot occupy our mind at the same time. If you are focusing on gratitude, you can’t be negative. You can also energize and engage your coworkers by letting them know you are grateful for them and their work.”

Start a revolution in your own life, at work and at home. Download free No Complaining Rule posters and other tools from Jon Gordon’s web site. Have no complaining day!

Related Interest:
  10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:22 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management , Personal Development , Problem Solving

08.04.08

Are You a PITA?

The PITA Principle
I first heard the term PITA (Pain In The Ass) when referring to clients or coworkers from friend and international consultant to accountancy firms, Chris Frederiksen (The 2020 Group), in his seminar, How To Build A Million Dollar Practice in the early 80s. It resonated with everyone there as Robert Orndorff’s and Dulin Clark’s new book, The PITA Principle: How to Work With (and Avoid Becoming) a Pain in the Ass, will resonate today with anyone that has had experience working with groups of people anywhere. Mention PITA and no doubt someone’s name or face will pop into your head.

They define PITAs as those “folks who arouse our emotions, challenge our patience, and make us labor for our money on a daily basis.” Their goal in mentioning this is two-fold. First they want to give you some coping strategies to help you deal more effectively with those people. Secondly, they want you to avoid being on someone else’s PITA list. We can all be PITAs from time to time, but by promoting a little self-awareness they hope to help you to either avoid or emerge from being a PITA. This second goal is not an easy task.
Heightened self-awareness, or lack of, appears to mystify some of society’s most prominent figures, from the corporate executive who unknowingly yet chronically berates his employees through abuses of power, to the physician who patronizes her patients thought her intellectual arrogance, to the politician who cannot and will not admit mistakes in judgment out of ego-preserving stubbornness.
The authors note that those people who refuse to take the time to gain a little self-awareness and learn to soften or manage their PITA tendencies, “don’t get the importance of developing the other side of themselves because they are either too self-absorbed, too unaware, or too defensive to let other information enter into their consciousness.” This is a prescription for self-destruction.

They describe eight types of PITAs in detail and offer some coping strategies for each and advice to help you get some perspective on their behavior. You’ll also find a selection of ten more PITA types that get honorable mention.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:58 AM
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What Are Your PITA Tendencies?

To get you started in your own PITA self-discovery we offer this assesment from Robert Orndorff's and Dulin Clark's book The PITA Principle They write, "Just as some PITA types are tougher to work with than others, you'll have greater potential or tendencies to behave like certain PITA types more so than others.

To take this quiz you will need to print this page from this post's permalink page or simply write your answers on a separate piece of paper. Use the following scale to enter the number that most closely reflects your feelings. After answering all of the questions, score the total sum for each PITA type according to the instructions given below.

1
Strongly Disagree
2
Disagree
3
Slightly Agree
4
Agree
5
Strongly Agree

Quiz Questions

1._____Being organized is not one of my greatest strengths.
2._____I primarily respect people of power and status.
3._____I like to plan everything out in advance and I’m frustrated by changes to the plans.
4._____People would describe me more as a cynic than a Pollyanna.
5._____I expect to get what I want when I go after it.
6._____I’d rather work with people who are accommodating and friendly versus tough and competitive.
7._____I get defensive when a co-worker disagrees with me.
8._____It’s important to me that my co-workers acknowledge my accomplishments.
9._____I tend to see the glass as half empty.
10._____It’s a challenge for me to be on time.
11._____I believe that the needs of the worker are as important as the needs of the company.
12._____It’s difficult to work on a committee and try to accommodate everybody’s ideas.
13._____It’s important for me to have a boss who compliments me when I’m doing my job well.
14._____I have difficulty owning up to my mistakes.
15._____I have difficulty saying what I mean in a concise manner.
16._____I enjoy being the talker rather than the listener.
17._____I don’t like to tap-dance around people’s feelings; I tell it like it is.
18._____I believe in the saying, “If you want it done right, do it yourself.”
19._____I prefer to put myself first.
20._____I am very guarded against negative feedback.
21._____I am most comfortable working in a supportive and nurturing environment.
22._____I get annoyed when other people achieve more than me or acquire more than me.
23._____I have to force myself to attend to details.
24._____I get annoyed with co-workers who can’t see my point of view.
25._____I am impatient when it comes to my career; I want more challenges, creativity, and responsibility.
26._____I believe that social gatherings and “feel-good” activities are a waste of time.
27._____I have trouble identifying my weaknesses when completing performance evaluations.
28._____It’s important for me to get regular feedback from my co-workers.
29._____I prefer projects in which I get to make the final decision.
30._____I deserve a job that is challenging, but also allows me plenty of personal time.
31._____I prefer a highly flexible work environment over a highly structured one.
32._____I believe that I have more skills and abilities than the great majority of my co-workers.
33._____It’s much more important to be respected than liked.
34._____I have a tendency to take minor criticisms and blow them out of proportion.
35._____I value co-workers who address issues and concernts with me in a sensitive and caring way.


PITA Quiz Score Sheet

Scoring Your Responses

For each PITA type below, add the scores from the survey for the question numbers listed next to each PITA type. Place the total on the line in front of each type. High scores indicate that you might have potential for behaving like that type of PITA in various work situations.

Total Your ScoresLearn More About
Your PITA Type
Add #'s 7, 14, 20, 27, and 34

____ TOTAL

The Sealed PITA
A Sealed PITA is someone who is closed off and defensive about receiving feedback. He or she is generally on guard when it comes to receiving constructive criticism.
Add #'s 4, 9, 17, 26, aand 33

____ TOTAL

The Crusty PITA
A Crusty PITA is someone who is negative, cynical mean-spirited, grouchy, and pessimistic. These types of people see the glass as half-empty.
Add #'s 2, 8, 16, 22, and 32

____TOTAL

The Overstuffed PITA
An Overstuffed
PITA
is someone who is self-absorbed, attention hungry, and aggressively self-promoting.
Add #'s 6, 13, 21, 28, and 35

____TOTAL

The Soggy PITA
A Soggy PITA is someone who tends to be whiny, high-maintenance, needy, and afraid of addressing issues head on.
Add #'s 1, 10, 15, 23, and 31

____TOTAL

The Sloppy PITA
A Sloppy PITA is someone who tends to be disorganized, inattentive to detail, imprecise in tasks, and generally "all over the place."
Add #'s 3, 12, 18, 24, and 29

____TOTAL

The Rigid PITA
A Rigid PITA is someone who tends to be picky, particular, stubborn, inflexible, and incompromising.
Add #'s 5, 11, 19, 25, and 30

____TOTAL

The Royal PITA
A Royal PITA is someone who tends to be self-centered and spoiled and who has a sense of entitlement, expecting to get everything that he or she wants and being somewhat oblivious to how others receive him or her.


After determining your PITA tendencies, you will want to refer to the corresponding chapter in the book that describes your PITA type in more detail. The authors maintain a PITA blog.

Categories: Leadership Development


Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:56 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

07.28.08

What Is Your Plan For Personal Growth?

You won’t grow to your potential without a plan. You’ll get older, but not better. Experience guarantees nothing. Growth is intentional. If you are not growing you’re just putting in time. Waiting.

Crucibles of Leadership by Robert Thomas, is an important book that asks, “What is your personal learning strategy?” A PLS is “a highly individual plan for leveraging hard-won insights about learning from adversity and using practice to improve performance.”
Crucibles of Leadership


We all have crucibles, but it’s what we do with them that is important. Thomas writes that crucibles “are like trials or tests that corner individuals and force them to answer questions about who they are and what is really important to them.” Crucibles become valuable when we intentionally mine them for lessons that make us more effective, aware and integrated. Warren Bennis points out in the foreword that the self-awareness we should gain is “the kind of deeper understanding of self that then turns outward rather than inward and results in better understanding of others and the organizations that matter to us.”

Thomas says that we have to change our approach to learning. We shouldn’t wait for just the right moment to arrive, but learn in the moment—in real time—to, as he writes, “learn while doing.”

Preparation is essential to learning. In order to take advantage of our crucibles, we must develop a Personal Learning Strategy (PLS). Thomas introduces a framework for crafting a PLS complete with exercises to help you properly move through each step. It begins with a little introspection—understanding why you want to lead, what motivates you to do so and understanding how you learn. Then you need to access your capability in three core areas: adaptive capacity, engaging others through shared meaning, and integrity. From here you can see areas where you need to improve and strengthen in order to reach your leadership goals. Now you can assign behaviors to each of these areas that you can consciously practice at work and at home. He suggests that you “scan your landscape at work and at home, and identify those instances and roles out of your comfort zone that will allow you to stretch into new behaviors, perspectives, and leadership capabilities.”

Organizations too, can tap into the power of a PLS by adopting an experience-based approach to their leadership development program. Organizations need to recognize the importance of crucible experiences and provide the resources people need to extract insight from them in addition to the regular technical and skills training people should be receiving. Most often those resources involve creating a process that links the two learning opportunities together.

One important note on a trap that people and organizations sometimes fall into in their zeal to develop character and leadership, Thomas writes, “We create enough pressures to perform that we don’t need to invent new ones just so that we can accelerate leader development. The trick is to harness the crucibles that life sets in motion so the opportunity for learning is not squandered.” Life gives us enough opportunities to learn, but often, we just need help getting the lesson we should be getting from it.
Accomplished leaders say that experience is their best teacher. They learned their most meaningful and important leadership lessons—lessons that they’ve integrated into their own leadership style—through crucibles. These were critical events and experiences, times of testing and trial, failure more often than grand success, that grabbed them by the lapels and demanded to know “What do you stand for?” and “What are you going to do?” A situation arose that did not respect age, gender, generation, nationality, talent, or charisma; all it asked was that the person step up and be someone or do something they’d never been or done before.
Having a Personal Learning Strategy is a way of thinking about and looking at life that allows you to proactively grow from what life throws at you, rather than being knocked out by it. You need a Personal Learning Strategy.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:06 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books , Leadership Development , Personal Development

07.09.08

Focus Like a Laser Beam

We all know that when we focus on something we leverage our efforts. Success Magazine founder Orison Swett Marden, wrote, “Every great man has become great, every successful man has succeeded, in proportion as he has confined his powers to one particular channel.” But focusing, determining exactly what to focus on, and focusing on our strengths to make a tangible contribution, isn’t as easy as it sounds. Simplifying your life by eliminating as many of those things that take an inordinate amount of time and don’t contribute substantially to your goals is sometimes a very difficult thing to do. Yet it is important to keep in mind that habits drive most of what we do, the ways we react and respond and so we need to constantly review what we are spending our time doing.
Focus Like a Laser Beam


In her very practical book, Focus Like a Laser Beam, Lisa Haneberg writes, “Leaders need to know what laser focus looks and feels like. The first and most obvious sign of focus is that everyone knows what’s important.” To do this, people need to know what’s relevant. “When you define success, you define relevance.” She offers four questions to apply when trying to define relevance:
  1. Relative to all the things I could be doing, is this something that will have the greatest impact on the most important goals?
  2. Will this task improve results or effectiveness beyond what we are doing today?
  3. Will anyone notice if this doesn’t get done?
  4. If I ran into a contingency today and could only do two other tasks, what would I do? Would this task still be important?
Too often we “agree to do too much and then we are unable to execute well. To improve focus, leaders must change how they define what’s relevant and say no much more often….It’s better to do a few things well than many things poorly.” She encourages us to complete one great thing each day. “Great things facilitate and enable forward progress.”

Lisa maintains a blog about the craft of management and leadership called Management Craft.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:32 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management , Personal Development

06.18.08

Bringing Your Emotions Under Control

Our emotions can derail us. Keeping them under control is a huge part of our success as a leader. Of course, self-awareness is the key to making this happen.

Before your emotions are get the best of you, Dondi Scumaci, author of Designed For Success, recommends that we learn to ask a new set of questions:

How am I feeling?
Why am I feeling that way?
What do I need?
What am I afraid will happen?
How do I want this to turn out?
What can I do to achieve the result I need?

She writes, “The moment you begin this self-inquiry, a switch flips in your brain. You are moving from a purely emotional response to an objective-based response.”

Update:
Stephen Baum, author of What Made jack welch JACK WELCH, has a good post on his blog about “grabs.” These are instinctive responses to events by which we are emotionally hijacked by deep-seated fears embedded in us years ago. Check it out.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:14 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

06.09.08

5 Leadership Lessons: How the Best Get Better and Stay That Way

5 Leadership Lessons
Sports psychologist and executive coach Graham Jones believes that the real key to excellence in both sports and business is mental toughness. In the current Harvard Business Review he writes that the most successful people do five things to get better and stay that way.

1  Learn to Love the Pressure. To do that you must dedicate yourself to constant self-improvement. That is made a lot easier if you learn to compete with yourself and block out the drama of those around you. It’s a choice. “Greg Searle, who won an Olympic gold medal in rowing, is often asked whether success was worth the price. He always gives the same reply: ‘I never made any sacrifices; I made choices.’”

2  Fixate on the Long Term. Map out short-term goals in every area that affects your performance to make sure you meet your long-term goal. Long term success is paved with small achievements.

3  Iron Sharpens Iron. “Train” with the people who will push you the hardest. “Smart companies consciously create situations in which their elite performers push one another to levels they would never reach if they were working with less-accomplished colleagues.”

4  Reinvent Yourself. Once you become the benchmark, you need to keep reinventing yourself. To do this you need to develop an insatiable appetite for feedback; you need to be “hungry for advice on how to develop and progress. One word of caution, however: While it’s good to feel challenged, you need to make sure that any feedback you get is constructive. If criticism doesn’t seem helpful at first, probe to see if you can get useful insights about what’s behind the negative feedback. Get more specifics. You should be able to see concrete improvements in your performance after getting detailed coaching advice.”

5  Celebrate the Victories. Think of it as constructive celebration. Otherwise it can lead to complacency. “Celebration is more than an emotional release. Done effectively, it involves a deep level of analysis and enhanced awareness. The very best performers do not move on before they have scrutinized and understood thoroughly the factors underpinning their success.”

In the end, the keyword is resilience. Jones concludes, “Most of those participating in the Olympics this summer will walk away from the games without grabbing a single medal. Those with real mettle will get back into training again. That’s what truly separates elite performers from ordinary high achievers. It takes supreme, almost unimaginable grit and courage to get back into the ring and fight to the bitter end. That’s what the Olympic athlete does. If you want to be an elite performer in business, that’s what you need to do, too.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:11 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Five Lessons , Personal Development

05.29.08

Change the Way You See Yourself

Change the Way You See Yourself
The authors that brought you Change the Way You See Everything have taken the principles of asset-based thinking and applied them more specifically to you – the individual – in Change the Way You See Yourself. Like its predecessor, this book too is a feast for the eyes. I enjoy the graphics, but the message they convey is vital to your personal development.

Asset-based thinking is a way of looking at yourself that emphasizes what is working in your life and the strengths you possess. It is a way of freeing yourself from negative and unproductive thinking. It allows you to focus on what you can do and not what you can’t do (as often seems to be our default mode of thinking). They write that with asset-based thinking, “you use surprise, serendipity, and even setbacks to make the journey more interesting and more worthwhile. You are more confident in who you are, where you are going, and how to get there.”

In the section on power they invite us to look at it in a new way. Authors Kathryn Cramer and Hank Wasiak write:
When it comes to power, most people think of accumulating material wealth, status, authority, knowledge, and expertise. These are potent external sources of power. AS such, they provide you with control over a vast array of resources – from money, to land, to market share, to intellectual property. While building large reservoirs of external power may be useful, it is not enough for getting results. There is another source of power equally important and often more vital to your leadership and success.

Instead of relying primarily on external power sources to fuel your progress, look deeply inside for what can move you forward. You have a huge reservoir of internally generated power just waiting to be tapped. Internal sources of power derive from who you are – not what you have. Your internal power is defined by your Signature Presence – your unique combination of passions, capabilities, qualities, values, and beliefs. Signature Presence power gives you what it takes to get results when externally derived power is not enough.
CWYSYpower
Leadership sage Warren Bennis once said, “A point of view is worth 50 IQ points.” He knew That when you live by the power of your convictions you stand taller, sit straighter, and speak more confidently. You raise the level of your game. Others know you as a “force of nature” – someone who will not be deterred and who doesn’t give up.

People crave clarity … your voice rings clear when you stand for something.
People want wisdom … your mind creates meaning when you stand for something.
People gravitate toward hope … your ideas and promises hold sway when you stand for something.

Related Reading:
  Asset-Based Thinking

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:40 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books , Leadership , Personal Development

05.16.08

A Navigation System for Women in the Workplace

5 Leadership Lessons
Dondi Scumaci has written a book – Designed For Success – to help women navigate their careers. She says, “I am passionate about helping people release their potential so they can have real impact, leverage their God-given talents and maximize opportunities in life and in business.”

Many of the principles presented here, of course, apply to both men and women. But she has tailored it to address the unique obstacles women face in the workplace including how to overcome the natural aversion to negotiation, how to send the right message with your wardrobe, overcoming female stereotypes
Designed For Success
and the importance of fostering a network of mentorship relationships with other female professionals.

Women bring a unique set of traits to the workplace that are not as valued as they should be. Their strength lies in developing and applying them to whatever they are involved in and not trying to emulate male traits. In the book she offers Ten Commandments for Women in the Workplace. Here are some takeaways on developing your leadership capabilities:

1  You have to be something before you can get something. Maybe we don’t actually say it, but there are times when we hold back the best of who we are because “that’s not our job”? Admit it. Haven’t you ever thought, “That’s not my problem,” or “I don’t get paid enough to put up with this!”? OK, I’ll go first. I have. When it comes to personal leadership, we can’t wait for the position to demonstrate it. We can’t wait for the promotion to make the difference, because the difference is what makes the promotion.

2  Knowing how you fit – how your work fits – into the bigger picture, is really important. When you understand the flow of work and the broader objectives of the organization, you work in context.

3  Check for alignment between what you are doing and what matters most to your organization. The more aligned you are with the goals and priorities of the organization, the more valuable and relevant you become.

4  Instead of trying to increase compliance with your processes, view them from your customer’s perspective and find ways to make them more user friendly. You become more valuable to the organization when you search for and deliver solutions. At this level you are not waiting for an assignment. You are actively engaged in the process of continuous improvement.

5  The most valuable, vital employees are rivers, not reservoirs of information. They do not collect and store knowledge. They allow knowledge to flow through them by coaching and mentoring others, They give information away.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:05 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Five Lessons , Personal Development

05.09.08

Is Your Problem Self-Correcting?

Making It Count
From the Pick Your Battles Department comes some well-phrased, good advice from Bryan Hurlbut from his book Making It Count. I’ve adapted a few excerpts to give you the main idea:
With so many battles raging around us, it’s important to realize our limitations. We deal with other’s emotions and our emotions; we deal with coworkers’ inadequacies and our own inadequacies; we deal with abused authority and our own frustrations with abused authority. There are so many opportunities to become frustrated, disheartened, exasperated, angry and dejected that we really don’t need to go looking for things to add to our emotional and professional plates.

Because these stressors are so prevalent, we can’t carry all of them or we’ll break. So, how do you keep the stressors down to a minimum, increase your productivity and keep yourself out of trouble with your boss all at the same time? Evaluate the situation and ask yourself this question, “Is this self-correcting?” If the answer is “yes,” ten you have discovered one more key to unlocking yourself from a heavy burden.

How many times have you run across experiences that were so extremely frustrating that you wanted to retaliate but felt the prison term wasn’t worth the effort? You can see the problem, you can see the proposed solution won’t work, and yet, no one will listen to you. Then, to add insult to injury, the problem that will arise by following this so-called solution directly affects your area of concern. That means you will be the one having to clean up the mess in the end. As frustrating as this my be, you must realize that no matter how hard you try to fight the process, you are destined to lose because the political waters you are skiing in are shark-infested, and the only people who have the shark repellant are too busy steering the boat into the most beautiful sunset they have ever imagined. So now you are faced with a dilemma. You ask yourself, “Do I continue to fight and possibly sacrifice my position and future with my employer? Or, do I calmly vocalize my concerns, go along for the ride (knowing that it’s going to be inconvenient) and just do as I’m told, hoping that sooner or later management will se that this solution is as futile as I had suggested?” To answer this question, first ask yourself, “Is this self-correcting?” It is it self-correcting, you’re done. Consider it job security.
Keep in mind too, that from time to time you will be the one with the “brilliant” solution that proves to be defective or your assessment of someone else’s solution is wrong and it may just be the thing that works. So don’t sabotage the situation. He cautions, “Don’t walk through the situation constantly trying to prove that you are right and others are wrong. When the decision is made, try with all your might to make it work, and if it fails, you will have no regrets. Equally as important, you have proven yourself to be a team player who is not a spoiled child and who can continue to bring great value to an organization even when you don’t get your way.” Well put.

Most problems do correct themselves. If the damaged caused by the solution isn’t irreparable, give it time and move on.

He has written up a lot of good advice in this little book that will help you leave a situation better than you found it and here is one more to keep in mind: You are not responsible for what you say; you’re responsible for what people hear. Good material.

Related Posts:
  Focus on the War, Not the Battle
  A Pyrrhic Victory

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:52 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

05.06.08

Fortune: The Best Advice I Ever Got

fortune Fortune magazine asked 19 people for the best advice that most influenced their lives. Here are several excepts from that feature:

General David Petraeus: Commanding general, multinational force – Iraq
The bottom line is that seriously bright folks thought very differently about important issues, and the debates on various topics were wonderful. All in all, in fact, the experience was invaluable. It may sound trite, but experiencing that not everyone saw the world at all remotely the same was good preparation for many of the experiences I've had since then.

Indra Nooyi: Chairman and CEO, Pepsico
Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent. You will be amazed at how your whole approach to a person or problem becomes very different. When you assume negative intent, you're angry. If you take away that anger and assume positive intent, you will be amazed. Your emotional quotient goes up because you are no longer almost random in your response. You don't get defensive. You don't scream. You are trying to understand and listen because at your basic core you are saying, "Maybe they are saying something to me that I'm not hearing." So "assume positive intent" has been a huge piece of advice for me.

Sam Palmisano: Chairman and CEO, IBM
I've noticed that some of the most effective leaders don't make themselves the center of attention. They are respectful. They listen. This is an appealing personal quality, but it's also an effective leadership attribute. Their selflessness makes the people around them comfortable. People open up, speak up, contribute. They give those leaders their very best.

Tony Robbins: Performance coach
Jim Rohn, a personal-development speaker, said, 'Tony, think about it this way. If your worst enemy drops sugar in your coffee, what's going to happen to you? Nothing. But what if your best friend drops strychnine in your coffee? You're dead. You have to stand guard at the door of your mind."

What’s the best advice you ever got?

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:23 AM
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04.23.08

How To Have Just Enough Anxiety

Just Enough Anxiety
Robert Rosen has written an excellent book on an issue we all deal with—anxiety. It’s not a bad thing, but “if you let it overwhelm you, it will turn to panic. If you deny or run from it, you will become complacent.” Rosen believes that our problem in dealing with anxiety stems from faulty thinking. In Just Enough Anxiety, he writes, “It goes something like this: Change and uncertainty make me anxious. Anxiety is bad, a sign of weakness. Therefore, I have to avoid change and uncertainty. I have to do whatever I can to avoid anxiety.”

Balance comes from a right attitude and a proper perspective. Dealing with anxiety is no different.
The success of great leaders is all about creating the right level of anxiety for growth and performance. It is their uncommon ability to create just enough tension—within themselves and their organizations—that unleashes the human energy that drives powerful leadership, accelerated growth, and winning companies.
What’s wrong with having too much or too little anxiety?

RR: Too much anxiety comes from negative thinking. When we feel too much anxiety, we attack change. We become combative or controlling as we try to ease the pain we feel. Too little anxiety is grounded in contentment. When we feel too little anxiety, we avoid change. We value the status quo and believe everything will be okay as long as everything stays the same. If your company is going through tough times like a bad economy or a merger, you definitely don’t want too little anxiety.

What exactly is “just enough anxiety”?

RR: The right level of anxiety gives individuals and organizations an emotional charge that helps us thrive in an uncertain world. As we allow ourselves to experience anxiety as our natural response to change, and learn to modulate it, we’re able to live in the world as it is instead of struggling to make it what we want it to be. And as we get better at living with just enough anxiety, it becomes the energy that drives us forward, stretches us, and challenges us to be better tomorrow than we are today.

How can leaders manage anxiety instead of letting it manage them?

RR: It starts with self awareness. Leaders who understand what makes them anxious are better able to increase or decrease their anxiety, as needed to create just enough. But, more than that, it has to do with how they relate to change and uncertainty. By admitting what they can and can’t control, they’re able to take charge of their lives while remaining open to the unexpected. They’re at home in uncharted territory. Instead of seeing anxiety as the enemy, they recognize it as their natural companion on the path of change.
Just Enough Anxiety

Rosen has placed on his web site a questionnaire to help you determine if you are a Just Enough Anxiety Leader.
Download a PDF of chapter 1: It's Time To Evolve

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:30 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books , Change , Personal Development , Thinking

03.26.08

Making the Impossible Possible

Make the Impossible Possible
Samuel Johnson once wrote, “The natural flights of the human mind are not from pleasure to pleasure, but from hope to hope.” This statement seems to define Bill Strickland’s life. Make the Impossible Possible is an engaging, inspirational book written with humility and passion.

Bill Strickland’s life changed, when as a boy in a Pittsburgh ghetto, a teacher took the time to show him that he mattered and allowed him to see himself in a new way. (An integral part of any leader’s job.) As a result, he became open to opportunities and created at 19 what became the Manchester-Bidwell Center, the now famous arts-education and job-training center for disadvantaged kids and adults. This extraordinary school was built on Strickland’s belief that “all of us have the potential to make our dreams come true, and that one of the greatest obstacles blocking us from realizing that potential is that we believe, or are told, that things we want most passionately are impractical, unrealistic, or somehow beyond our reach.” He convincingly demonstrates his belief that:
Each one of us, no matter who our parents are, where we live, how much education we have, or what kinds of connections, abilities, and opportunities life may have offered us, has the potential to shape our lives in ways that will bring us the meaning, purpose, and success we long for….I want everyone who comes to this book, no matter what their age or accomplishments or the circumstances of their lives, to rethink their assumptions about what is and isn’t possible in their lives, and to convince themselves that they have not only the right but also the responsibility, and the capacity, to dream big and to make those dreams come true.
Strickland narrates his successes and failures, obstacles and opportunities, his thinking and rethinking, as he went about to create the success he has achieved. It’s a fascinating story. While he has dedicated his life to helping other people, he denies the do-gooder label. He writes, “I didn’t do any of it out of selflessness. I did it to be myself. I did it to enrich my own life, to deepen the quality and meaning of my own experience. I did it because it was a part of what I had to do if I genuinely wanted to be me.”

How often have we been burdened by self-defeating assumptions? Strickland writes that “once we accept the idea that poverty is, essentially, the acceptance of meager possibility, we can’t deny that all of us are in some fashion poor. We all suffer some form of poverty—poverty of imagination, or courage, or vision, or will. We allow ourselves to be limited by our fears—fear of failure, fear of change, fear of being criticized or of looking like a fool.”

This isn’t another see-what-I-did self-help book. It’s a book that invites introspection. Read it and learn from his experience and thinking.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:41 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Books , Personal Development

03.21.08

Changing Your Nature

happy face personalityPersonality and temperament are a group of traits that are only partly genetic. They are affected by social factors but remain stable throughout one’s life. But, while our basic personalities don't change significantly after childhood, our behavior can. Psychology Today reports that most traits – like optimism, passion and joy – can be changed. In Second Nature, author Kathleen McGowan, writes:
Tweaking the way you interpret and react to the world can be a transformative experience, freeing you up to act in new ways. At first, it feels awkward, even bizarre. But with new behaviors come new experiences, creating a feedback loop that, over time, reinforces the transition.

Some sought-after qualities are easier to develop than others. Courage, joy, passion, and optimism are among the more amenable to cultivation, but each requires mastering a different—and sometimes surprising—set of skills. To bring more joy and passion into your life, you must paradoxically be more open to experiencing sadness, anxiety, and fear. Learning to think like an optimist, it turns out, is less important than acting like one. And being courageous has nothing to do with how afraid you are: It's a matter of how strongly you feel about your goals. Cultivating these characteristics puts you on the road to that blend of happiness, satisfaction, and purpose that is the height of human functioning, what positive psychologists call "the good life."
British psychologist Daniel Nettle, author of Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are, writing for the BBC, states that when we watch how people respond differently to different circumstances, “something about the way the person is ‘wired up’ seems to be at work, determining how people react to situations, and, more than that, the kind of situations they get themselves into in the first place. This is why personality seems to become stronger as we get older; when we are young, our situation reflects external factors such as the social and family environment we were born into. As we grow older, we are more and more reaping the consequences of our own choices (living in places we ourselves have chosen, doing jobs that we were drawn to, surrounded by people like us whom we have sought out). Thus, personality differences that might have been very slight at birth become dramatic in later adulthood.”

While there is no one best personality to have, each has their advantages and disadvantages, we could do better by getting out of our programmed reactions and try to cover some new ground. Nettle recommends, “If you are an extreme introvert, you might want to challenge yourself to experience the rewards of greater spontaneity and exchange; if you are an extreme extravert, you might want to teach yourself to undertake a long and lonely project that will ultimately be very rewarding. As human beings, we have the unique ability to look in at our personality from the outside and decide what we want to do with it.”

Of Related Interest:
  Our Strengths Are Not to Be Indulged, But Managed
  You Can Change

Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:20 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

02.18.08

Quarrel Not At All: The Stuff of Command

President Lincoln
In President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman, the follow-up to Lincoln’s Virtues, William Lee Miller, writes that if you knew Lincoln before he became president, you knew that it was part of Lincoln’s character to be capable of overlooking slights to himself, but you might question whether he could, at the same time, “command armies and make the demanding decisions of a nation at war.”
The stuff of command, especially in a giant deadly conflict, would not seem ordinarily to combine well with the stuff of forbearance and generosity. Executive skill and vigor, like a surgeon’s skill, would appear to require a certain withdrawal of empathy. The resolution necessary to great statesmanship would appear to invite, if not even to require, a certain ruthlessness with those whose wills and complex humanity complicate, impede, and even defy one’s vigorously pursued purpose.
In a letter to Captain James M. Cutts who had been found guilty in a court-martial of conduct unbecoming of an officer of a gentleman, Lincoln offered this advice:
Quarrel not at all. No man resolved to make the most of himself, can spare time for personal contention. Still less can he afford to take all the consequences, including the vitiating of his temper and the loss of self-control.

Yield larger things to which you can show no more than equal right; and yield lesser ones, though clearly your own.
Miller writes:
Interpreting Lincoln, we might say: We overestimate our own interest, and we underestimate our adversary’s, so that the advice to yield on all small matters, and on all matters than even to our distorting eyes seem equally balanced, is a moral corrective. Here is a lawyer, and a politician, and a war leader in the midst of tremendous battles giving this surprising advice: quarrel not at all.
Lincoln was a man possessed magnanimity and discriminating judgment, who was able to rise above vindictiveness to win the battles that mattered most. Miller’s book on Lincoln holds many lessons for leaders of today. He shows how Lincoln learned to balance his strengths and weaknesses in a way that made him one of the greatest and most respected leaders in modern times.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:37 AM
| TrackBacks (1) | Leaders , Personal Development

02.08.08

What to Do When Things Go Wrong

When things go wrong, we often begin by asking ourselves the wrong questions like “Why is this happening to me?” In QBQ, John Miller writes that “our first reactions are often negative, bringing to mind incorrect questions. But if in each moment of decision we can instead discipline our thoughts to look behind those initial questions and ask better ones (QBQ’s – the Questions Behind the Questions), the questions themselves will lead us to better results….The answers are in the questions.”

When a problem (or a challenge is you prefer) arises, we start looking for some control of the situation. The problem is, we quite naturally begin by looking at those around us and ask the wrong types of questions like “why?” and “who?” The wrong questions take away any control of the situation we might otherwise gain.

In LeaderShock, Greg Hicks suggests that we look for meaning in the situation first. Ask self-revealing questions like:
  • What does it say about me that I have this problem—about my practices, my departmental policies, my relationship with customers and staff?
  • What can I learn from this?
  • How can I make this situation useful to me and my employees?
He adds, “You’re on shaky ground if you attempt to fix a problem without first understanding what it means to you and your organization. By looking for inherent meaning, you open a rich treasure chest of valuable gems that lead to new information, insight, and opportunities.”

John Miller stresses that the right questions contain an “I” and not “you,” “they,” and “them.” “I” questions lead to action. “Questions that contain an “I” turn our focus away from other people and circumstances and put it back on ourselves, where it can do the most good. We can’t change other people. We can’t control circumstances and events. The only things we have any real control over are our own thoughts and actions. Asking questions that focus our efforts and energy on what we can do makes us significantly more effective, not to mention happier and less frustrated.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:28 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development , Problem Solving

01.11.08

Are You Mature?

Tim Elmore
Tim Elmore of GrowingLeaders.com wrote an interesting article for his monthly Leadership Link newsletter, about maturity. He noted that for the most part, “this generation of kids is advanced intellectually, but behind emotionally.” Intellectually they are exposed to much more sooner than we ever were growing up. But their emotional development is stunted by well-intention parents that hover over their kids—sometimes referred to as helicopter parents—and deny them the necessary pain of maturation.

He also cited another reason. Scientists have found that from ages 11-14, kids lose some of the connections between cells in the part of their brain that enables them to think clearly and make good decisions. The brain is pruning itself. It’s ridding itself of ineffective and weak brain connections. This creates a situation where the brain is between the child brain and the not fully developed adult brain which forms around age 20.

Elmore asks, “What does this mean?” “Students today are consuming information they aren't completely ready to handle. The adult part of their brain is still forming and isn't ready to apply all that our society throws at it. Their mind takes it in and files it, but their will and emotions are not prepared to act on it in a healthy way. They can become paralyzed by all the content they consume. They want so much to be able to experience the world they've seen on websites or heard on podcasts, but don't realize they are unprepared for that experience emotionally. They are truly in between a child and an adult.”

Elmore lists the qualities that we should begin developing in our own kids (and we might look for in ourselves).
  1. They are able to keep long-term commitments.
    One key signal of maturity is the ability to delay gratification. They can commit to continue doing what is right even when they don't feel like it.
  2. They are unshaken by flattery or criticism.
    As people mature, they sooner or later understand that nothing is as good as it seems and nothing is as bad as it seems. Mature people can receive compliments or criticism without letting it ruin them or sway them into a distorted view of themselves. They are secure in their identity.
  3. They possess a spirit of humility.
    Humility parallels maturity. Humility isn't thinking less of yourself. It is thinking of yourself less. Mature people aren't consumed with drawing attention to themselves.
  4. Their decisions are based on character not feelings.
    Mature people--students or adults--live by values. They have principles that guide their decisions. Their character is master over their emotions.
  5. They express gratitude consistently.
    I have found the more I mature, the more grateful I am, for both big and little things.
  6. They prioritize others before themselves.
    A pathway out of childishness is getting past your own desires and beginning to live to meet the needs of others less fortunate.
  7. They seek wisdom before acting.
    Finally, a mature person is teachable. They don't presume they have all the answers. The wiser they get the more they realize they need more wisdom.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:30 AM
| TrackBacks (1) | Personal Development

01.09.08

Correct Choices Are the Key to Success

Cottrell
As with Tracy’s Flight Plan, we are once again told that there are no shortcuts on the road to success. In Monday Morning Choices, David Cottrell reasonably claims that success is realized by making more good choices than bad ones and recovering quickly from bad choices when you do make them. Making good choices is the trick.

He divides success enhancing choices into 3 areas: Personal Choices (choices people make that will mold their character), Action Choices (choices that move you beyond just talking about what you want to do) and Investment Choices (those choices about investing in people who will make your life better). To help you to develop your skills for making good choices, he has designed a weekly Ben-Franklin-type program that addresses four key choices in each of the three categories. As Monday sets the tone for the rest of the week, he suggests starting each Monday morning with one of the areas and make a commitment to do something different as a result. In brief, the 12 key choices we all need to address are:
  • The No-Victim Choice: Don’t let your past eat your future.
  • The Commitment Choice: Be Passionate Enough to Succeed. Be willing to pay the price.
  • The Values Choice: Success often brings enemies. Choose your enemies and your friends carefully.
  • The Integrity Choice: Do the right thing.
  • The Do-Something Choice: Choose to do something that will make a difference.
  • The Persistence Choice: Learn from your mistakes.
  • The Attitude Choice: Take the Enthusiastic approach.
  • The Adversity Choice: Conquer difficult times. Explore workable alternatives.
  • The Relationship Choice: Connect with success and be a mentor for others.
  • The Criticism Choice: Embrace tough learning.
  • The Reality Choice: Face the truth.
  • The Legacy Choice: Be willing to share what you know.
Cottrell has a well thought out chapter devoted to each of the above choices. Each chapter has discussion questions that you can use with your own team each Monday morning.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:44 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

01.07.08

The Real Secret of Success

Flight Plan
Brian Tracy has produced another level-headed book with Flight Plan. He correctly asserts that “Every year or two, someone comes along with a book like The Secret, suggesting that there is a quick and easy way to be happy and make a lot of money. According to The Secret, all you have to do is to think and visualize positive thoughts and you will attract into your life all the good things you want. This idea appeals to people who are unwilling to do the hard work that is necessary to achieve anything worthwhile.”

Success happens for a reason and it’s not wishful thinking. We are all subject to the Law of Cause and Effect: For every effect, there is a cause or causes. You get what you put in. It’s as simple as that. It’s not luck or mysterious forces. Actually, that should provide some comfort. It means that it is up to you. You’re in the driver’s seat. Tracy applies the principle well: “If you do what other successful people do, over and over again, nothing can stop you from eventually getting the same results that they do. Conversely, if you don’t do what other successful people do, nothing can help you.” That’s pretty straightforward.

Tracy lays out twelve steps to follow to help you determining and responding correctly to the many hundreds of choices in your journey through life that will help to create the results you’re looking for.
  1. Choose Your Destination: What contribution will you make?
  2. Review Your Flight Plan Options: You are only as free as your well-developed options. Continually develop options. Hope is not a strategy.
  3. Write Your Flight Plan: Write down your goals and then resolve to do something every day, without exception, until your goal is achieved.
  4. Prepare for Your Journey: Leave nothing to chance; plan for every eventuality.
  5. Take Off at Full Throttle: This is the turning point. Your get out what you put in.
  6. Plan for Turbulence: Don’t be surprised if you run into problems—everyone does.
  7. Make Continual Course Corrections: You will have to make changes to deal with problems and opportunities that come up. It’s okay to change your mind.
  8. Accelerate Your Learning and Progress: Never stop learning and upgrading your knowledge. Learning new skills that can increase your contribution is like stepping on the accelerator of your own potential.
  9. Activate Your Superconscious Mind: When you relax completely and let your mind go blank, very often a superconscious idea emerges.
  10. Avoid Shortcuts and Other Mirages: Be prepared to pay the full price for success.
  11. Master Your Fears: The mastery of fear and the development of courage are essential prerequisites for a happy successful life.
  12. Persist Until You Succeed: Persistence is the hallmark of success.
Tracy’s ideas are well worth putting into practice as you begin the new year. He writes, “Character is the ability to follow through on a resolution after the enthusiasm with which the resolution was made has passed.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:56 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Personal Development

01.03.08

Konrad Lorenz on Reflection

konrad lorenz
In his book, Civilized Man’s Eight Deadly Sins, Austrian zoologist and Nobel Prize winner Konrad Lorenz, wrote of what is lost in man’s race against himself.
Anxious haste and hasty fear help rob man of his most essential properties. One of these is reflection. . . . A being unaware of the existence of its own self cannot possibly develop conceptual thought, word language, conscience, and responsible morality. A being that ceases to reflect is in danger of losing all these specifically human attributes.

One of the worst effects of haste, or the fear engendered by it, is the apparent inability of modern man to spend even the shortest time alone. He anxiously avoids every possibility of self-communion or meditation, as though he feared that reflection might present him with a ghastly self-portrait, such as that of Dorian Gray. The only explanation for the widespread addition to noise—paradoxical considering how neurasthenic people are today—is that something has to be suppressed. . . . I think he [is] only afraid of meeting himself.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:50 AM
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12.31.07

New Year's Resolution: Get Better

While it is true that some people just can’t be lead, more often than not, the situation calls for us to get better. Here’s a Taoist story retold in the leadership classic, Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge by Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus:
When Yen Ho was about to take up his duties as tutor to the heir of Ling, Duke of Wei, he went to Ch’u Po Yu for advice. “I have to deal,” he said, “with a man of depraved and murderous disposition. . . . How is one to deal with a man of this sort?”

“I am glad,” said Ch’u Po Yu, “that you asked this question. . . . The first thing you must do is not to improve him, but to improve yourself.”
celebrationLet's all resolve to get better.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:36 PM
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12.17.07

Applied Awareness

Apples Are Sqaure
In one of this year’s outstanding leadership books, Apples Are Square, authors Susan and Thomas Kuczmarski interviewed Lambert & Associates vice-president of Client Affairs Brian Sorge about seeing what isn’t there.

“Understanding others involves not only paying attention to what they say, but also when they don’t say anything at all,” Sorge believes. “I have always been very emotionally intuitive and that is not easy. I think what happens is that you tend to take on people’s fear and struggles. It allows for tremendous empathy, but also tremendous stress. I remember during speech class in seventh grade, some of the kids would go up there and be so nervous, and I would get tears in my eyes because I could feel their nervousness. I loved getting up and talking to people and giving a speech and I had no problem with it, but I would feel their pain profoundly.”

The authors write, “Good leaders take on the problems of the team. They sense difficulties and out themselves not only in the minds, but also the hearts of those around them. This empathy allows them to develop meaningful solutions that impact people on a personal level.”

Sorge adds the most important component to all of this:

“So many people lack what I call applied awareness. You can give me all the awareness in the world, but you also have to be able to translate that into behavior. In corporate America, it is okay to talk about behavior, but difficult to get beyond talking. That level is not deep enough to make an impact. It allows people to feel like they are changing when they really are not. It is very superficial.”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:16 AM
| TrackBacks (0) | Management , Personal Development

10.22.07

Never Complain. Never Explain.

Christine Comaford-Lynch relates the following story in her book Rules for Renegades:

There was once a monk who lived in a tiny hut on a hill overlooking a village. He kept to himself, only coming down to the village for food. In that village a young woman had become visibly pregnant, and when her screaming father insisted on knowing who her lover was, she named the monk. An angry mob marched up the hill and stormed the monk’s hut.

“You are a disgrace to Buddhism!” they shouted. “All these years we’ve given you alms and now you impregnate one of our women! You should be ashamed! How dare you call yourself a holy man!”

“Is that so?” the monk said, and returned to his meditation.

Time passed, and the child was born. The young woman’s father again marched up the hill and handed the baby to the monk. “Here. You take care of your bastard child. You caused this problem, you live with the consequences.”

“Is that so?” The monk said. He accepted the child and returned to his meditation.

After a few weeks the young woman was overcome with remorse for falsely fingering the monk. She told her father that the monk was not her lover after all, that her true lover had left, and she wanted to raise the child on her own. Again her father marched up the hill, this time with townspeople in tow.

“Please forgive our mistake. We are so sorry. What a truly holy man you are for tolerating our cruel words and caring for this child. We will relieve you now of this burden. The Buddha himself is singing your praises in the higher worlds, all the higher beings are smiling down upon you, no greater monk has ever lived.”

“Is that so?” The monk said, and return to his meditation.

Whether people are praising you or trashing you, neither changes your intrinsic value. Don’t be easily swayed. It reminds me of a statement Henry Ford II once famously said, "Never complain. Never explain." It's good advice. (Although, he probably meant it more as a corollary to the Fifth Amendment than good advice for leaders.)

Complaining is the outward expression of inner frustration. A complaint acknowledges that something is not as we think it should be. (And that may or may not be true. Quite often we lack all of the pertinent information.) The problem is that we often begin to complain as if that will lead to a solution. It rarely does. Complaining is outward focused and is a form of blaming. The issue is internal. If you can fix the problem, then you should quietly fix it. If you can’t, you should change your perspective on it and move on.

Complainers generally have a lot to complain about because they are in fact, complainers. Complaining, explaining and excuse-making extend the time you are embroiled in the issue. It amplifies frustration—your own and others—spreads discontent and discord and generally makes you unpleasant. Jane Austin observed that "those who do not complain are never pitied." Pity however, is not the goal of a well-adjusted person let alone a leader. Of more value is novelist Cesare Pavese comment that "one stops being a child when one realizes that telling one's troubles does not make things better." Recognize your part, take responsibility and move on.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:47 AM
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09.26.07

Lord Sharman on Helping People Grow

Leading By Example
Leading By Example is a concise little book of interviews with top leaders from various fields. Each interview in this new Harvard Business School series is followed by a list of takeaways. Here is an excerpt by Lord Sharman, chairman of the Aegis Group, on investing in people by understanding their strengths and nurturing them like a gardener with prized plants.
I’m very fond of gardening myself, and I’m fond of gardening examples. To some degree, developing people in an organization is impossible. You can’t develop them; they develop themselves, and so your job is like that of a head gardener. You figure out what the various microclimates are around the place, and then you figure out the qualities of the plants that you need to go into those microclimates. Similarly, you select the people based on their strengths and place them in those jobs. I’ve seen notes of appraisal interviews, which say that two-thirds of the interview is spent talking about what the guy’s not good at. Now, that’s great—I can’t imagine anybody coming out of an interview like that feeling anything other than very depressed.

What you want to do is spend time talking about what the person is good at and how he’s going to develop that. Sure, see whether you can do something about the weaknesses, but to my way of thinking, appraisal interviews should be two-thirds about what the person is good at and how those great assets can be used within the organization. If you look at good coaches in the sports field—and I’ve always been fascinated about how good coaches work—they don’t actually coach technique very often. The really good coaches are the ones that coach the mind and the attitude.

You’ll always have people that find it much easier to be critical than to be encouraging. The tome at the top has to be right. If you start criticizing your colleagues about what they’re bad at all the time rather than encouraging them, that’s sure as hell going to get down through the organization very quickly.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:15 PM
| TrackBacks (0) | Leadership , Personal Development

09.19.07

Make it Great!

9781598728101
Phil Gerbyshak truly is a relationship geek. That is to say, he is someone who is passionate about creating and building relationships. And he does. From my own experience with him, he does practice what he preaches. He has produced a short little book titled, 10 Ways to Make it Great!. He has included 10+ lessons he has learned in his choice to make a life that is great. It is a choice we all have. Phil writes:
Make It Great! means it's my choice, which means it's your choice too. Whether you actually have a good day is not the important thing; what's important is how you choose to deal with the things that each day brings. Each encounter presents you with an opportunity to either let it pass by, or tackle it head on and truly Make It Great!
Phil makes an important point. It's relatively easy to have a great day when things are going your way. The discipline comes in when things aren’t going our way. It’s easy to use circumstances as