Friday, September 30, 2016

SelfShackled

I'm guilty, but I finally learned better (a bit slower than I want to admit).  I've seen many other leaders commit the same error.

Here's the all too familiar downward progression:

  1. The leader insists that things get done "my way," which means they want to define the outcomes AND to control the processes of getting to those outcomes. 
  2. The leader gets frustrated when others can't or won't abide by the processes prescribed, either because they don't have the skills, or haven't been given the authority, or actually know a better way to achieve the outcomes. 
  3. The leader gradually takes on more and more of the responsibility for all that doing.
  4. Followers get disenchanted and/or disgruntled, with many talented ones "walking" and the remainder hanging around, but slipping into neutral.
  5. Toxic relationships between leader and follower ensue.
  6. The leader crashes and burns, worn to a frazzle.
  7. The organization and all its members suffer under the weight of bitter dysfunction and lack of performance.
Accomplishing big and worthy things requires many hands, many minds, and many hearts.  The outcomes are what is important.  

A better way.  Be clear about the outcomes.  Be diligent in supporting folks as they make their way to those outcomes.  Avoid undermining, under-resourcing, under-developing, and under-appreciating those who have joined in the endeavor.

To do otherwise is to find ourselves shackled to certain and painful demise.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

SoDifferent?

We (i.e., us humans) are about 90% genetically identical to our cats.

Humans are about 98% genetically similar to other primates.

We humans are 99.5% exactly alike, genetically speaking.  

Yet we seem so different.  What makes us so different, if it's not the genetic code?

Our world views, our behaviors, our habits are not the function of our genes.  They are the function of the social environments in which we were raised (or have chosen for ourselves) and the cultures which reared us (or those we have aligned ourselves with).  These effect producers are known as our phenome (as opposed to our genome).  

Seligman (2002) asserts that virtually every society on the planet holds dear these fundamental tenets:  Wisdom/Knowledge, Courage, Love/Humanity, Justice, Temperance, and Spirituality/Transcendence.  All are effects of phenotype, rather than genotype.  Stated differently, Seligman's list of commonly held "virtues" are all the result of conscious decision making on our part, collectively and individually.  

The bottom line is that we (humans, that is) are FAR more alike than we are different, both in genotype AND in phenotype.  

So why all the discord?

Monday, September 26, 2016

WordMatters

Or rather, words matter.  Sometimes, but not always.  

Words CAN matter.  They can matter quite a lot.  

We are constantly bombarded by words - in text, in person, in audio, and through video.  Words, words, words.  How do we know which ones to heed and which ones to disregard?

Typically, one of two conditions predicate a degree of mattering to words:

  1.  When we are able to assign some degree of credibility, honesty, and integrity to the producer of the words.  In effect, we have some respect for the wordsmith.  
  2.  We have a meaningful relationship with the producer of the words.
With that in mind a few questions follow:

What words are we saying/writing?
Who might be listening?
Do our words matter?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Potholes

Potholes in the road are common.  The thing about potholes is that they grow in insidious fashion - ever wider, longer, and deeper.  Potholes begin as superficial blemishes on the surface of the roadway, yet they quickly "metastasize," spreading into the very foundation of the roadbed.  

Organizations can develop potholes, too.  Little things that seem like inconsequential annoyances - glitches in supply chains, paperwork bottlenecks, customer service fails, unhealthy symptoms in the culture - turn into full-blown barriers to organizational progress and improvement.  In effect, a superficial blemish turns into an open wound.

What to do about potholes?  On the roadway, maintenance crews must be diligent in quickly identifying the early signs of potholes and addressing issues before they begin to do deeper damage to the roadway, and to the vehicles that travel thereon.

In organizations, the same kind of constant attention is required.  In the healthiest organizations, every team member is both charged and empowered to address emerging "potholes."  Noticing the earliest signs of "potholes" and addressing them quickly is the surest way to prevent significant dysfunction and frustration for those within the organization, and for those the organization serves. 

One way or the other, potholes are going to get our attention, our time, and our resources.  The sooner the better.   

Monday, September 19, 2016

NextToLearn

Learning is fundamental to our personal and professional growth.  Most folks understand this.  But, what is it that we need to learn next in order to grow ourselves personally or professionally?  That question is far too often unanswered, AND unasked.  

So, what drives the purposeful pursuit of what we need to learn next?  Two things, I think:  1) a perceived deficiency that we believe might be impairing our performance, or 2) a perceived gap in our learning, the closing of which can potentially push us to new heights of performance.  

For those who are very purposeful in their pursuit of learning (thus, growth), the recipe looks like this:

  1. Identify the deficiency or gap for which the next learning needs to occur.  This is done by self-reflection, self-assessment, and/or by gaining critical and honest feedback from others whose opinions and insights really count.
  2. Craft a plan (yes, a written plan) by which we intend to make that next learning happen. 
  3. Follow the plan.  Diligently pursue the knowledge or hone the skills we have chosen to acquire.
  4. Monitor the plan.  Flag our calendar regularly to "check up" on our own progress.  As one of my valued colleagues is fond of saying, "That which is not monitored, is optional."
Ready.  Set.  LEARN! 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Observant

Benjamin Franklin is famously quoted, "Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see."  I suspect old Ben, in this age of edited text/audio/video, might even modify that "half" admonition toward zero.  

The essence of Franklin's point, however still stands:  We err greatly in relying solely on the anecdotal reporting of others when making consequential decisions.  While it has always been the case that pervasively collecting data (in written form, in spoken form, in observed form) helps inform good decision making, it has never been truer that we should approach "reported" data with a highly skeptical ear/eye/brain.

Reporting is ALWAYS biased, sometimes unknowingly, sometimes with malice of forethought.  That is true historically, and perhaps, never truer than today. 

So, how do we make substantive decisions, for ourselves, for our families, for our organizations?  Of course we should research.  Of course we should listen.  Of course we should analyze data.  Yet, nothing can substitute for real, in-the-now, fully present observation.  Not just passing observation, but intense, critical, and skeptical observation of the evidence/conditions/circumstances.  It matters not whether we're talking about our personal health, the stock market, our planet, customer satisfaction, or political machinations.  

Rarely does such intentional observation paint for us a clear and irrefutable picture, quite often the contrary.  Yet, to rely solely on the reporting of the others (in its myriad forms) is to abdicate a fundamental (and perhaps moral) responsibility to "see for ourselves."

Thursday, September 15, 2016

SickHumansSickOrganizations

I was sick, but didn't know it.  I was extremely well-fed, but grossly malnourished.  I was replete with exercise, but couldn't seem to achieve optimum fitness.  Truly, I was sicker than I knew.

Why?  For about 40 years of my adult life I believed I could eat what I wanted, and as much of it as I wanted, as long as I out-exercised the negative impact of said diet. 

What I didn't realize was how sick I had let myself become.  Part of that delusion was driven by the fact that, compared to the average bear, I always felt and seemed relatively healthy.   

Once I learned (via Dr. Ben Edwards, Dr. Roby Mitchell, Dr. Robert Lustig, Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Joseph Mercola, and Dr. David Perlmutter - all can easily be found on the internet) that my holistic health is driven by the ratio of 80% diet:20% exercise, I finally came to the realization that I was doing it all wrong.  It was the FOOD (i.e., the inputs) that was the key to my health, or lack thereof.  (A corollary epiphany was that I had been duped for decades by marketers, corporations, and governmental entities that never held my health as a primary objective.)

The negative and often long-term impact of poor nutrition is insidious in nature.  It chips away at our physical, cognitive, and emotional/spiritual health little by little, over time.

We can, however, choose health.  As Dr. Edwards says, we can start by "eating what our body needs, and quit eating what it doesn't."  

Now for the leap:  Since organizations, like human bodies, are living, breathing, thinking, ORGANISMS, the same health prescription holds true.  Leaders of said organizations (e.g., a family, a church, a school, a business, or a nation) are morally obligated to attend to the health and wellbeing of that organization.  We (the leaders) must make thoughtful decisions about appropriate organizational "nutrition," organizational "rest," and organizational "exercise."

Sick humans make for sick organizations.  Sick organizations make for sick humans.  

We can reverse the trends.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Spark

Each of us has at least one thing that really lights us up, trips our trigger, sets our heart to singing.  That thing is our "spark."  

Peter Benson (2011) speaks to the power of spark in educating children in this TED Talk

But, big people have spark(s), too.  Sometimes we forget what our spark is.  Or, we let all the other stuff of life snuff out that spark.  Yet, when we decide (yes, we get to choose) to pursue our spark, it makes all the difference in the world in our happiness and self-actualization.  And those two things have powerful impact on our holistic health. 

Know what your spark is?  Are you pursuing it with gusto?  If not, whatcha waitin' on?

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Embellishments

Embellishments come in lots of varieties.  They can be in the form added gadgets, more chrome, slicker packaging, bells and whistles, lots of make-up, bling, and even dandy clothes.  Embellishments are regularly added to products, services, and yes, even to people. 

Embellishments are mostly about looks and have little to do with substance or primary functionality.

More often than not, embellishments are pricey enhancements that serve one of two purposes:

     1) They provide the illusion of "better."
          OR
     2) They are there to hide some deficiency or flaw.


We can buy embellishments (literally and figuratively) if we wish.  It's just important to remember what we're getting (or not getting) with the purchase.  

Let the buyer beware.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Resourceful

"Resourceful" is one of my favorite words.  It implies creative solution-crafting, usually with unconventional or repurposed materials.  Almost always, being resourceful also suggests that we are managing to accomplish our objective with minimal additional outlay.  It's sort of like being a problem-solving conservationist.

One of my friends who is a former U.S. Marine tells me they have a mantra in the Corps that goes something like this:  "I've done so much for so long with so little, I can now do anything forever with nothing."  Sort of speaks to the essence of resourcefulness, huh? 

Some antonyms of resourceful are incompetent, unimaginative, stupid, inept, and unadventurous.  But, another word comes to my mind when I think about the opposite of resourceful:  consumptive.

I've watched and worked for leaders who were/are resourceful.  They managed to leverage every available resource without being wasteful, they garnered every ounce of quality thinking among the team, they sought feedback and counsel from every corner of the organization, and they begged/borrowed/stole tangible assets in the interest of frugality.  In that spirit of resourcefulness, they were always moving the team and the projects toward the goals.

I've also watched the non-resourceful types.  They were more apt to burn through money, people, energy, and time with the same sort of consuming effect as a nuclear detonation.  Similar scorched-earth results usually followed. 

Resourcefulness for me, please.  

Monday, September 5, 2016

Inevitable

We are headed toward the inevitable, the end.  Our days on this Earth are numbered, with each day bringing us one day closer to that last one.  It's inevitable.

What will we be like when that last day arrives?  Who will we be when that last day arrives?  What will we have consequentially accomplished when that last day arrives?  

To be sure, those things won't matter to us once that last day has slipped past.  But, those things will matter immensely to those who survive us.

With each breath, each step, each decision, each word, each act of service (or selfishness), we are creating the person we will ultimately be.  And, we are building the legacy, the impact, that that person will have on those left behind, particularly those who love and are loved by us.

The end is inevitable.  Who/What we are when that day comes is most certainly not.  

On purpose?

Friday, September 2, 2016

2Books

I'm a bit behind on book reports so I'll share two recent fictional reads with you in this post.

First, Vince Flynn's The Survivor (2015), another Mitch Rapp novel. 


CIA covert operative Mitch Rapp is enlisted to interdict the damage done by a rogue CIA spy named Rickman.  Rapp eliminates the traitor, but then must race against the clock to avert Rickman’s posthumous electronic dumping of highly classified information to foreign governments and other bad guys.  

Flynn actually died while writing this novel, so it was finished by Kyle Mills.  Have loved VR's books for years.  RIP, Vince.    

The other recent read was Days of Infamy by Newt Gingrich and W. R. Forstchen (2008). 



This novel details the window of time December 7 – 9, 1941.   Beginning with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the story gives us a peek at that attack and the subsequent responses and counterattacks by both the United States and Japan, through the eyes of multiple players in the drama.  Key perspectives are provided from the personas of admirals, pilots, communications officers, spouses, and even President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  

Another great job of providing a history lesson intertwined with a mesmerizing story, by NG and WR.  A good read. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Outdone

Competition can be healthy.  
Competition compels us to stay sharp.  
Competition keeps us polishing up our A game.  
Competition pushes us to learn - more, faster, efficiently. 
Competition forces us to keep abreast of the current trends and technologies (or it should).  

The problem with competition arises when it is used as the gold standard WITHIN an organization.  When the success of members of an organization is measured against an internal colleague, rather than against progress toward organizational goals, much chicanery ensues.  Backstabbing, rumor-mongering, subversiveness, and downright treachery often become the tools of advancement.  Worse still is when organizations build incentives around internal competition against colleagues.

Our success must always be measured against achieving the goals of our organization (presumably they are worthy and noble ones).   

When the goal is to outdo our colleagues in the same organization we step onto the slippery slope of undone.