Monday, September 24, 2012

Are You Living In The REAL World?

As we develop and grow our career, most people fall into a trap:

1. We tend to create a comfort zone that makes our workday easier.
2. Your Comfort Zone is typically full of people who think and act like you.  When others are comfortable with your Comfort Zone, they tend to not rock the boat either - meaning little confrontation or accountability.

So, what are the natural consequences? 

1. Being comfortable means coasting.  Coasting means going (slowly?) downhill.
2. Lack of brutally honest feedback means you are operating in a vacuum - disconnected with what's really happening.  All decisions are a result of informed choices.  Those choices are only as good as the information.

So, what's the solution?  We need to seek out sources of brutal honesty - by getting R.E.A.L.:

Review - What aspects of your current workday are you depending solely on information others give you about a situation?  Make it a point to experience that (customer experience, employee experience) personally as often as possible.

Engage - Create ways to connect with various types of people throughout your organization - in a way that cannot be predicted!  This will prevent you from being "handled" so that people are telling you what they think you want to hear.

Align - Consider your organizations Values and Vision.  Align your actions with those elements (in relation to your industry environment and the ultimate customer experience you desire) instead of only the immediate political circumstances you deal with close in.

Leverage - Use the support you have from the many different perspectives of your boss/peers/team to spark making the best FULLY INFORMED decisions.  Create an accountability of open communication (like posting your commitments/results status so everyone can see them as things progress) with the opportunity for everyone to comment freely.

Focusing on creating a REAL world  dynamic will keep you from staying in a make-believe world - and making dis-connected decisions that make you (and your operation) vulnerable.

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

Monday, September 17, 2012

Agile or Fragile?

The rate of change has increased dramatically over the past years.  Every day, it seems that another professional becomes the victim of being too-inflexible - and, therefore, becomes obsolete. 

People who don't actively stretch their ability to adapt and deal with ambiguity become fragile and break under the constant pressure of change.  The only way to thrive (not just survive) is to be agile enough to successfully negotiate the twists and turns that Life throws at you.
So, how can you accomplish this?

The most successful people have an interesting habit: They keep their "change muscles" flexible by purposefully attempting different things on a daily basis.

It can be as simple as driving a different way to work every so often.  Or going to a bookstore (or online) and reading a magazine/article on a topic you normally wouldn't ever choose to read.  This keeps your mind practiced in the way of absorbing and "filing" new/different information on a regular basis.

Or, take it to the next level by engaging a colleague/friend in a action-based "adventure" of something neither one of you have done before.  Take turns planning the "surprise" and benefit from adjusting on the fly.  Interact with people from a different culture.  Primarily use your non-dominant hand for a day.  Tackle an experience on your bucket list.  Whatever it is, challenge each other by testing your comfort zones and expanding your perspective on a myriad of topics/experiences you deem important.

The important thing when you "do new" is to keep it fun.  Make the challenge of CHANGE your new comfort zone!

And you'll never be fragile - or as vulnerable - again.

Think about it.  But more importantly do something about!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What's On Your Short List?

Do you ever feel like you are busy every minute of the day, and still don't have time to do things that are truly important?

One thing consistently successful leaders do differently and better than anyone else is taking action on the right (most important) things.  How do they tame the distractions that plague the rest of us?

They create their "short list".

It's a simple two-part process.  The first step is creating your personal short list of the most important non-negotiables in your life.
  • Values (The key driving forces of your life?)
  • Standards (The clear line that defines what is truly UNacceptable)
  • Goals (The absolutely MUST do things on your bucket list?)
  • Relationships (Who are the most important "long-term" people in your life?)
  • Belongings (what would you grab if your house caught on fire?)
  • Activities (What pastimes are the most important to you for optimal physical/emotional/spiritual/mental health?)
Once you identify your short list(s), it becomes very clear what to say "yes" to - and just as importantly, what to say "no" to.  Both of which keep you from wasting time and energy - allowing you to be the most productive on the things you care most about. 

The next step is to use your list as a guide in creating your schedule.  Start with plugging in the non-negotiable priorities on your list first.  Then, if you have extra time/energy, fill in the rest with the next most important things.  When you are done with your time (you can't manufacture more of it), you say "no".

Yes, there are consequences for saying no, but the most successful people share that the temporary discomfort created by that transition always gives way to a high-performance, more aligned life of integrity.

How do you prefer to invest your life - in the things that you are passionate about, or settle for less?  Nothing will change unless YOU change your actions.

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

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Medicine Can Become The Poison

Life isn't perfect.  Sometimes mistakes are made.  If we aren't adequately committed to doing the right things to be healthy, we can become ill - feeling weak, miserable, and generally creating sub-par performance in everything we do.  In times such as these, the right medicine can help us get better.  When appropriate, this is a good thing to improve our well-being.  This also holds true (metaphorically) for organizations. 

The problem comes when the person (or organization) stops trying to take care of themselves because it's easier to depend (too much) on the medicine to make them feel healthy...instead of doing what it takes to genuinely be healthy.

In times such as these, the medicine can actually become like a poison - slowly undermining the person's ability to function effectively.  The body develops a resistance to the medicine, which causes the effectiveness of the medicine to diminish and the symptoms to get worse...unless the "dosage" is increased. 

Just like an addict of any kind, when the body expects a "medicine" to help it be happy/healthy, the natural consequences is a downward cycle.  It always continues to get worse until the person a) dies or b) decides to take on the hard work required to get "naturally" happy/ eating right, exercising, and practicing other good habits.  Enabling people can actually kill them!

The same holds true for organizations.  When a "medicine" (bailouts, subsidies, lack of competition, etc.) manipulates the company's circumstances and the business begins to depend on that support to simply survive every day, the medicine becomes a poison that will continue to undermine the health of that organization until it goes out of business or changes direction.  Building disciplined leadership, accountability to non-negotiables, engagement, integrity, and excellence throughout an organization is hard work - but it always results in success.

Here's the key: Ignoring a problem will not make you safer from it.  In business and in our personal lives, sometimes - if we really care enough - we have to show TOUGH love.

In what ways is your organization dependant?  Are you "coasting" through your workdays or actively pursuing improvement?  What would it take to conduct an "intervention"?

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