Welcome All!

If you do not adapt, if you do not learn, you will wither, you will die.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dangers for High Performers

Personal leadership for self-directed high performance is what every organization wishes to see in its employees. If you google ‘high performance articles’ you get 375,000,000 results.

High performers. They aren’t born as high performers, they don’t always know how they do it, it’s not just willpower, and there is not one formula with golden ingredients. To achieve a peak performance you don’t have to be a perfectionist nor a control freak, high performers do show weakness, and they can’t make it happen on command. This should take care of some of the myths surrounding high performance, so that we can now focus on some of the dangers lurking for high performers.
I’ll mention five dangers that anyone faces who’s working to achieve high performance, whether we’re talking a business leader, a basketball coach, a gardener, a tennis player, or any person in any role working to secure top performance:

 1. Fear of failure – This fear is fed by the belief that failure is detrimental to your image and your career, that it’s a sign of weakness, and that it will likely lead to a negative performance review and a bad reputation. Of course, depending on your organizational climate and culture and depending on your personal situation, your mistakes can be viewed as depicted above. But more often than not, risk-taking and charting new territories while learning from mistakes is considered valuable and worth the risk of wrong decisions and actions.

2. Selfishness – The “I might do something for you, if you’ll do something for me” attitude. With this attitude you limit yourself to tasks, connections, and deals in which their immediate benefit is at least as great as the benefits for others. This generally doesn’t work well, not in networking nor in teamwork or any other setting. Instead, if you keep your eyes and ears open to advance other people’s interests, if you genuinely want to benefit others and help make them successful, your relationships will likely be authentic, strong, and reciprocal and you will achieve much more.

3.Tool seduction – You can get so hung up on your tool such as a rigorous work schedule, that weekly meeting, a risk-analysis instrument, or your power point presentations that you easily lose sight of the fact that a tool is just that, a tool.  The bigger purpose that the tool is meant to be supportive off gets lost and the idea of different tools possibly contributing to that one purpose can be foreign to tool-addicts. Keep your eyes on the objective, and on the different possible routes to get to that destination without becoming a blindfolded boxed-in tool addict.

4. Lone heroism – If you believe that you have to achieve everything by and through yourself in order to be perceived as strong and successful you not only face a long, lonesome road but you’ll possibly stall half-way to your destination. If you want to grab that one and only gold medal, if you neglect other people’s contributions and accomplishments, if you neglect to give them credit, and if you act upon that need to constantly prove yourself and be in the spotlight, you will likely find yourself alone, mistrusted, and misunderstood even if you are at times successful in reaching a near peak performance.

5. Cowardice and comfort – Being happy being comfortable and safe, with little interest in stepping out of your comfort zone has to this day taken no one to peak performance. Lacking the courage to stand out from the crowd, to be the lone voice of disagreement, to actively seek dissenting views and minds that think radically differently than you do or lacking the courage to use constructive conflict in meetings and decision making processes is counterproductive to achieving high performance. This sixth danger ties into some of the previous ones, such as the importance of teamwork and of a healthy mindset including risk-taking and allowing mistakes to be made. Your comfort zone, that place where you know you won’t fail, is confining you and holding you back, it’s serving you as a jail.
So why would I talk about the dangers rather than about the necessary ingredients for high performance? The answer is straight forward: Awareness. Awareness of yourself and the dangers you face when working hard and hopefully smart towards high performance is key. We’re talking awareness of the effects that your mindset, style, and approach have on yourself and on others. We’re talking awareness of what’s going on with others. And we’re talking awareness of what’s going on between you and your environment while striving for high performance. I trust it you can translate these dangers to their productive counterparts.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Why Not If So Then Yes the Other Way Around

Relentless reflection and curiosity is what I wish upon everyone. It mitigates ignorance, arrogance, boxed-in-thinking, single-mindedness, and ego-inflation just to name a few. And it’s plain fun and enriching.

Just a few questions to get you started – call it appetizers:

1.   If I weren’t here right now, in this room, in this meeting, within this department, how would things be different? Would they be that much different at all? Leadership trap: If it’s too much about you, you won’t be successful, nor will your team.

2.   Are you afraid to argue? Then forget about collaboration, engagement, progress, and many other desirable objectives.

3.   When and how did you last question the status quo? Do you dare to be the lone voice of disagreement? Do you really?

4.   Are you creating something positive or avoiding something negative? Both? Neither? Something completely different?

5.   Do you ask questions that simply affirm what you already know or do you ask questions to expose issues and perspectives you may not be not aware of?

I think of Roger Martin’s concept of integrative thinking in The Opposable Mind” where he asserts that “Highly successful people are capable of holding two opposable ideas in fruitful tension … without panicking or simply settling for one alternative or the other. They are able to produce a synthesis that is superior to either opposing idea.” Now most people I know aren’t even able to accomplish this in a team context, where person A holds one idea, person B holds an opposing idea and instead of making it into something much better than C both are frantically hanging on to their own perspective as if their idea were the only life vest in an ocean of dangers.
I still have some work to do. How about you? Are you willing, ready, and daring enough to learn, unlearn, and relearn? A good place to start is by observing obsessively and asking yourself and others a lot of questions – the right questions.

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble.
It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” – Mark Twain

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Customer Service - Efficiency & Effectiveness Ideas

As a way of providing ‘valuable to receive and easy to give’ extra service to one of my present customers, I send these business owners a personal and organizational efficiency idea every day for thirty consecutive working days.  It’s a self-explanatory one-liner that I put in the subject line of the e-mail. I would, of course, not want them to have to open yet another message. I do not want to add to the already constant stream of information (and non-information). If they wish, however, they can open the message and read a few more sentences with additional information regarding that specific idea.

Some of my business partners and other readers of this blog have told me they especially enjoy the practical posts with lists of ‘how-to’ and ‘remember this-and-that’ lists. I do not write many such posts, so it’s time for one. And what better topic than personal and organizational efficiency and effectiveness, since you likely suffer, like most of us, from the fact that there are always more things to do than time to do them. As we’ve all heard and read so often before, objectives, priorities, planning, and discipline are a few keys to increase your effectiveness. I will not repeat those here.
I have chosen only nine ideas of the many available and I invite you to pick your top four and diligently adhere to these four ideas for the next five working days. I expect you to experience increased focus, efficiency, effectiveness, and satisfaction.

1.   Know yourself - which are your distractions? Stay focused and say 'no' to distractions.  Everyone has their own list of distractions that easily keeps them from doing what they should be doing or planned to do. Keep track of your distractions today, and learn to say 'no' to those personal messages, that fun blog, a phone call with a friend etc. Learn to keep your distractions out of your schedule and focus on the tasks at hand. During a break, you can indulge in every distraction you want to if that is a way for you to relax.

2.   Know your energy drainers such as unfinished projects, toxic relationships, or fatigue and take decisive action.  Make a list with your top 3 energy drainers and act to minimize and end them. You are not a victim of your drainers. Deal with them the best way you can. Confront the situation openly and respectfully if it involves others. Get tensions out in the open. Discuss them.

3.   Make decisions and take action. Procrastination never pays off, so make the tough decisions first. Learn to say "no" and not just "yes", and don’t even think about saying “maybe.” Be clear in what you want to/can take on. Think of the option to say “I’ll let you know by …” to provide you with more time to consider what the request entails, whether it fits your goals and priorities, who else could take on the task, and the consequences of saying “no”.

4.   Start the day by completing two things on your list that must get done today. Do the hard or unpleasant stuff first. The feeling of already having accomplished something early into the day will energize you.

5.   Deal with every e-mail once. Read it and take action on it now, don't save it for later or leave it in your inbox. This implies you only go to your in-box if you have time to read and take action now. After dealing with the message, file it in the appropriate subfolder if it is needed for later reference.

6.   Understand how long things really take. In reality, many tasks take longer than you expect. The items at the bottom of your list are likely to be put off for another day – how discouraging if this is recurring. To break this cycle, get a grip on just how long things take. Schedule extra time. We’ve all heard it and just won’t do it.

7.   Close programs you don’t use. Many open applications makes searching for those you need at a certain moment more difficult and they eat a lot of RAM slowing down your computer.

8.   Boost your productivity at work by taking a 10-15 minute break. Breaks give you much needed time to rest your eyes, change perspective, move around and stretch your stiff muscles, get more blood and oxygen flowing to our brain, to unwind, and to obtain a fresh outlook on things and people. Can’t afford it? Think about how much more focused and productive you can be after a refreshing break.

9.   Do something artistic or physical in between long, boring, or hard tasks. Write or doodle something. Take a no-cell phone walk. If you can’t go outside do a simple stretching exercise. Google and you’ll find enough suggestions even for behind your desk or in the restroom.  

Which are your three most important ideas to start with? Any others that really work for you and you’d like to share?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Case Against Plain Words

Charalambos Vlachoutsicos, former businessman and consultant and presently Adjunct Professor at Athens University of Economics and Business in Greece, in a recent Harvard Business Review post:

“Managers spend most of their time talking. Like wrenches for the plumber, words are our most frequently used tools of communication. But words don't always do the job. In fact, they can do the opposite of what we intended: without our intending it, they can antagonize, inhibit, insult or threaten. Words carry risks we cannot assess accurately because we do not know what meaning they happen to have for the person we address. Many a deal has been derailed because of something that was said.”

Vlachoutsicos goes on to make a case for what to do when facing stalled negotiations or other impasses in communication. He advices you to break with the present situation or mood (and thus break with the most used form of communication: plain talking), either by moving from sitting opposite of each other to next to each other, from changing rooms, to tearing up a document and starting anew with a blank piece of paper. As a business coach, I have taken coaching clients, especially males, on nature walks, where they do not have to constantly look me in the eyes and fidget their nervousness away, where physical activity releases tensions, where the smells and sounds of nature increase their creative thinking and problem solving. It works well for some customers.

If you’re not into walking or not in a position to take your audience to the woods, I can add another tool for conveying your message, engaging your audience, convincing your listeners, and enthusing your people: Using words and data in a different, more creative, and much more engaging way – through story telling.

People may hear and understand details, instructions, facts, and statistics but they listen to and remember stories. Think of that book that you couldn’t put down or that movie that struck you and wouldn’t let you go. There's no doubt that stories can change the way you think, act, and feel because stories capture the imagination, hold interest, and instill images in people’s minds which increases focus and retention. Stories create emotions, which increase attractiveness and retention, and they help people connect the topic to their own lives and stories.

You can use stories to communicate your business model, to discuss your leadership thoughts, to dive deeper into customer service concerns or to inspire perseverance, like Shackleton’s 1914 expedition to the Antarctic. Storytelling is a powerful way to engage team members and customers alike.

I recently had the pleasure of attending a workshop by Diane Windingland on storytelling in a business setting. A highly interactive, practical, and inspiring workshop thanks to the engaging and knowledgeable facilitation of Diane.

The first time I was introduced to the power of storytelling in business settings was in the mid nineties and I left it underused for almost two decades. Not anymore. I recently enjoyed introducing my business to a networking group by starting out with two brief stories just like I did when receiving an award from a non-profit that I donate my time and expertise to. In both situations, using different stories, my listeners indulged me with enthusiastic feedback about how my stories stuck with them, and how they could now visualize what it is that I do, and especially how I work in coaching and workshops – how I bring about change and growth.

I’m happy I told my deceased aunt how much I always loved her stories after returning from her many travels to distant places. She’d pull up a chair, have my siblings and me sit close to her, and start talking about the people, the colors, and the customs. I vividly remember my anxiousness, my excitement, my awe, every time again. I regret she never knew that I started making up stories about a Big Yellow Kangaroo for our children whenever they were in dire need of some distraction on long road trips. These stories turned into books that were never written but that were devoured. These stories made it from the car, to the house, to the dinner table, to anywhere where mom was willing to use her imagination some more. In honor of my aunt, I’ll continue my storytelling, in private life and in business settings.

If you want to dive deeper into the power of storytelling, below are just three of many resources you can benefit from:

1.   Story Proof – The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story by Kendall F Haven, 2007

2.   Resonate – Present Visual Stories that Translate Audiences by Nancy Duarte, 2010

3.   Duarte’s TEDx presentationThe Secret Structure of Great Talks http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/nancy_duarte_the_secret_structure_of_great_talks.html

John Kotter, Harvard Business School Professor and author says it best:

“Over the years I have become convinced that we learn best – and change – from hearing stories that strike a chord within us … Those in leadership positions who fail to grasp or use the power of stories risk failure for their companies and for themselves.”

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Take Two – Personal Branding

In January I wrote about Personal Branding: http://caromoors.blogspot.com/2012/01/personal-branding.html . It’s time for Take Two.

Today I had the pleasure of attending an energizing and highly informative seminar by Chuck Bolton, president of The Bolton Group – an executive assessment and development firm in Minneapolis. Chuck was so kind to donate his expertise and enthusiasm to entrepreneurs and business people on how to create or improve our personal brand. As I too am a strong advocate of spreading, facilitating, and sharing I will share some of Chucks thoughts, questions, and tools regarding personal branding. I will do so in brief statements and questions, some put in my own words but with credit to Chuck:
-          Your brand statement and promise:
o   What’s the purpose of my role or business and why am I ‘in it’?
o   What do I stand for?
o   How do I make my work matter?
o   What do my stakeholders say about me, how would they describe my brand?
o   What are the desired experiences I want my clients to take away from my product/service
-          Explore and use social media such as twitter, LinkedIn, blogging and the many other means to communicate and share.

-          One of the basics: You have to be willing, daring, and ready to learn, unlearn, and relearn.

-          Which engaging stories can support your brand and your promise? Remember that intelligence touches the brain, passion and stories touch the heart.

-          How strong are your personal and interpersonal awareness? For more information on the basics and the use of awareness see two of my earlier posts on this topic:
o    http://caromoors.blogspot.com/search?q=awareness)
o   http://caromoors.blogspot.com/2011/03/gestalt-approach-to-organizational.html

-          Do you hold the right beliefs to be creating, delivering, and living your personal brand?

-          An old one that always seems to add value: What will you
o   Continue to do?
o   Start to do?
o   Stop doing?

-          Personal Mastery Essentials:
o   Your Head: strategy
o   Your Heart: emotions and experiences
o   Your Hands: competence to deliver

-          Find an accountability buddy whom you’ll collaborate with, who will inspire you, and who will help you question your assumptions, attitudes, and actions like you do for her/him.

-          To top it all of: Personal branding is about:
o   Authenticity
o   You and your story
o   Emotions, experiences, and promises
o   Influence, trust, and reputation

Excuses or bold behavior? It’s Your Choice. Again, with a tremendous Thank You to Chuck Bolton!