Sunday, September 15, 2013

Response Ability?

Being held answerable or accountable is the official definition of responsibility.  No one LIKES to be held accountable...unless, of course, it is to be recognized for success!  Generally, when we hear the word "accountable", our human nature tends to encourage us to quietly step back.  Why is this and what can we do about it to be more successful?

People often avoid responsibility because of the possibility for pain if things don't go well.  It usually means working harder to oversee the activity.  It means showcasing/testing your skills and putting a part of you on the line: Your relationships and reputation.  Bottom line, it requires extra effort and personal vulnerability - not exactly a recipe for drawing throngs of eager participants.

Healthy people generally want to avoid harmful pain.  Risk, change, responsibility/accountability all involve what may be seen as unnecessary pain, unless approached in a healthy way.

So, what is the best way to be accountable?  Justify then support the risk/effort.

Making the circumstances conducive to embracing the opportunity is the first step.  Determine the discomfort/pain threshold and then create consequences that make the risk worthwhile.  For example, to encourage someone to take on a project (or hold them accountable for an action they are already responsible for), make the reward clearly worth the effort - or make the "punishment" worth avoiding.  Quite frankly, it's all about priorities - when not doing it becomes more painful than doing it, people will usually do it.

The second step is to support the process of taking on the responsibility. Having the "ability" to be responsible is proven only by ACTION.  Plain & simple: If a person truly cares enough to do something and is able to do it, they do it.  Period.

As it's been said: We judge ourselves by our intentions.  Others judge us by our actions/results. "response able" are you...really?

Think about it.  But more importantly, do something about!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Thinking Big...And Long!

"Go big or go home".  I love that saying.  It stirs a desire to be brave, take action and attempt dramatic goals to achieve amazing results.

But risk-taking alone does not often end up with results that are sustainable.  For that you need to include a more long-term, strategic approach as well.

Thinking big and long requires a solid understanding of the fundamentals of success - proven considerations such as:

  • exceeding the customer's expectations
  • consistency in delivery of service by employees
  • effective teamwork
  • an internal culture of excellence, integrity, and passion
  • leaders who model appropriate behavior
  • establishing non-negotiable core values, vision, and standards
  • balancing decisions based on employees, customers, and financial/operational outcomes

Everyone wants success - but they also want that success to be long-term.  When deciding actions to grow your organization, only the best leaders/businesses demand both the long-term sustainable elements as well as the continuous efforts to aggressively strive for "game-changing" ideas that will WOW customers, engage employees, and produce growth and results everyone can be proud of.

Imagine the difference if everyone legitimately pursued world-class excellence.

Think about it.  But more importantly, do something about!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Does Everything REALLY Happen For A Reason?

Okay, time to vent about a commmon (moronic) saying (there are hundreds floating around out there, eh?)  I recently heard a phrase that is tossed around cavalierly that most people misunderstand because they have a (unaware?) victim mentality.

On the surface, this saying seems fairly innocuous - "Well, everything happens for a reason".  99.9% of people intend this to mean that some cosmic force making things happen and that we don't have control/influence.

What a load of...uh...garbage.  (For this post, I'm making up for curse words with gratuitous parentheses!)

Yes, it is true that everything DOES happen for a reason - but not in the "it's out of our hands" kinda way.  Think about it: Things do happen because there is a cause!  And other than freak circumstances, that cause is our (or someone else's) behaviors.  Change those behaviors and you change what happens as a result.

Why don't people say "everything happens for a reason" with this accurate meaning?  Notice when this phrase is spoken - typically when something happened that was unfortunate.  I think it is a (intellectually dishonest) way for people to feel better about those bad circumstances.  It's certainly easier than to embrace the natural consequences of controllable behaviors.  Instead, we would all benefit from acknowledging that we have influence over the behaviors that cause the outcomes - the first step to actually doing something constructive towards improving our circumstances.

Yes, yes, yes - often times those behaviors are those of other people.  How do you control their behaviors?

You don't.  You may be able to influence them (if it's worth the effort), but you can't control them.  What you CAN control are YOUR behaviors.  You can choose to distance yourself (a behavior you control) from the negative behaviors of other people.  Doing so will result in much better natural consequences.

After all, as the saying goes: "Everything Better consequences happen for a reason" (...your choices/actions!)

Think about it.  But more importantly, do something about!

Monday, July 15, 2013

What's Next For You?

Feeling "stuck" - or like you aren't realizing your potential?

Maybe you need something "pulling" you to your future?  Maybe you need to clarify what you don't want as much as what you do want?

The most successful people have both: 1. Some kind of "north star" that provides a purposeful reason to move in a particular direction in their life and 2. Boundaries that keep them on track. 

For the first part, consider developing a "next goal" that guide your decision about what steps to take each day/week/month to move you in a direction that is best for you.  Otherwise, you end up taking random choices/actions that lead...wherever you end up.  Hint: Wandering is NOT a productive long-term life strategy.

Another thing that helps prevent wandering is the second issue: boundaries. It's been said that "a worthless, dead swamp is just a river with no banks".  Having something to guide your "water" so it is productive and alive is critical.

(Cue wails from naysayers whining "But we don't want to live some boring, pre-determined, robotic life!")

Consider this: It's important to realize that having some kind of plan does NOT mean being restricted to everything being planned.  Life is too unpredictable to expect everything to go according to plan.  The most successful people create a "plan as of now based on what I know about the current circumstances - while being open to any opportunities that pop up that align with my definite dreams/desires" approach.  Having and working the initial plan, but always being aware of Life's surprises/options as they become available on the journey.

This allows you to realize your optimal potential - taking advantage of life's "surprises" when they happen, but in-between those moments, forging ahead towards goals you know you want (resisting those things you know you don't want!)

But it requires you to consider, decide, and take action!

Think about it.  But more importantly, do something about!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Denying The Denying Denial

We all mean well, but sometimes we don't do well.  Take for instance, leading (raising) children.  Too often parents say that they love their children so much they refuse to deny them anything. 

As some trendy folks say: Epic FAIL!

The problem is, that very action denies them something critically important - vital, actually.  When giving children everything they want, you actually deny them the character-building benefit of struggle - of effort and work and sacrifice.  Without those experiences, they are denied what creates an appreciation for achievement. 

By making it easy to have their desires, there is no reason to have  discipline or a good work ethic.  This is why many young people these days are viewed as spoiled, lazy, unappreciative slackers - the natural consequences of being raised in an unchallenging environment.  They become weak-minded by having most true work "denied" them.

If only those enablers cared enough about them to deny them.

Likewise, in the workplace, bosses inappropriately deny their employees challenges that would strengthen them and make them more able, healthy, productive, and ultimately satisfied.  Growing loyalty and passion will never come from giving employees everything they desire.  It comes from challenging them to achieve something worthwhile that is j-u-s-t beyond their ability - and involving them in the struggle to grow towards the solution.

As difficult as it may be to allow them to "stumble" and feel the pain of (temporary) defeat, in the long run, you are truly helping them.

And isn't that what you do for anyone you genuinely care about?

Think about it.  But more importantly, do something about! 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Priorities Get Done

Most of us wish we got more done during a typical day.  Specifically, more of the right things (and less of the wrong things...but that's another blog entry!)  Anyway, the truth of the matter is this: We do what we most want to do.

[Enter howls of pained disagreement here]

Don't believe me?  If you can find one person (just one!) who is getting as much as you want to do, then it is possible.  The problem is that you are not doing what it takes to get it all done.

Studying the most successful people shows a very interesting pattern:
  1. They are crystal clear about what they want to accomplish and why
  2. They say "no" to (almost) everything that doesn't include #1
  3. They prioritize the things that they want to accomplish
What makes this interesting to me is that all three depend on each other to work.  Here's a litmus test: Create a common hypothetical action - something like "see a doctor".  If that action is important enough, you will make it happen.  Period.

Okay, now most people start creating hypothetical excuses: What if I get a flat tire?  What if my boss calls me on the phone?  What if...?

If it is truly a priority, then you would make it happen.  While we're dealing in hypotheticals, why not consider THESE situations: What if it was a life or death doctor's visit for a loved one?  What if I lost my life savings if I didn't go?  What if I was getting a million dollar check by making that appointment?  Yep, "magically", you'd be able to make that doctor appointment.  You'd do whatever it took to arrange everything else to make SURE that you were there.

Because it was that important to you.

If you want things done, make them enough of a priority to push less important things out of the picture.  If they truly are not a priority, then work them out of your life.  (Yes, you CAN do that.)  With a little extra effort (of the right kind), you may find that YOU are the role model for getting things done!

Think about it.  But more importantly, do something about!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Best Practices AND Next Practices

On occasion, people complain about how best practices are a waste of time.  That the far better thing is to focus on "next practices".  Whenever I hear that, I get all tingle-y.  Which is a sarcastic way of saying I think they are soooo wrong.

Not that best practices are the sole solution.  My experience (and the practice of world-class businesses everywhere) is that BOTH are critically important to earn and maintain your competitive edge.

Here's the real deal: Picking up best practices (current actions that industry leaders are performing on a regular basis to exceed expectations and get the best results) is an incredibly valuable thing to do...for the short term.  Professionals and their companies get in trouble when they latch on to a cool, new gem of an idea and then implement it so obsessively that they can't consider any NEW new idea.  This thinking only locks them into a temporary result - that will certainly slip away as the rest of the competition improves their performance over time.  In this (misused) approach, best practices are the first great steps towards a slow spiral down Darwin's business evolution.

Bummer.  Cue the sad trombone sound.

The better (and yes, proven) approach is to take advantage of any quick wins by adapting best practices - with the commitment to push for daily discoveries that will also develop next practices - that will guarantee your competitive edge.  Constantly striving for ways to create a better customer experience - think all five senses at every step of their experience - for both your external customer AND your internal customer (employee/team).  Then and only then will you take advantage of both aspects of the practices that create your results...and reputation...and legacy.

Think about it.  But more importantly, do something about!