Trash Bags, Eclipses and the Few Ways to Win

Trash Bags, Eclipses and the Few Ways to Win

There are a few ways to win at business and many ways to lose. One of my colleagues uses the metaphor of a target.  There are a few ways to hit a target and nearly infinite ways to miss. Lucky parts of the world will have incredible views of the upcoming full solar eclipse. I will be in one of those locations. There are only a few ways to protect one’s vision when viewing the eclipse, namely approved glasses.  One web site I was reading gave many ways NOT to view safely including caution NOT to use black trash bags, layers of undeveloped film or several sunglasses at once.  In short, there are lots of ways to go blind and a few ways to view the sun safely. Too often leaders and their organizations lose track of the simple ways to win.  One leader I know boils down his business to “get work and deliver work.”  Companies can lose enormous sums by allowing distraction from core ways to win.  If only VW had delivered vehicles that met emissions standards.  If only Wells Fargo had opened banking accounts based on client need. A simple and profound way to not lose value in an organization is to NOT alienate customers.  When contacting our air conditioning company for a service check, the scheduler informed me a technician would be there between 7pm and midnight.  I informed her that ours was not an emergency and that I did not want an appointment that late.  She said that I was to call back and reschedule if the technician was still not there when we...
Realized Gains or Paper Gains

Realized Gains or Paper Gains

In finance a paper gain is a gain that has not been realized yet.  If a stock we own rises we only realize the gain if we sell and lock in the profit.  The same premise is at work in our personal development.  We must “lock in” our gains. Selling a stock is a decisive act. We need to act in the same decisive manner and make sure ours gains were not just of the short-term variety. Grit and resilience are part of the story, but not everything.  Being able to snap back from adversity is an essential characteristic. But often what people are snapping back from are potentially new levels of performance or achievement. This would be more accurately described as resistance.  People are like rubber bands.  When we start a new change, potential is applied and we start to stretch.  The choice is to snap forward or snap back. The Navy SEALs have a belief that under stress a person does not rise to the occasion, but that they sink to their level of training.  I would add that we sink (or snap back) to our comfort level. Keys to realizing your gains: Be scrupulous about old patterns, paradigms and assumptions.  If a key issue for you was trusting others, be careful of slipping back into a pattern of suspicion.  A train will never reach a new destination staying on an old track. Don’t coddle yourself.  Of course be nice to yourself, but just like with kids, tough love really is love.  If “that’s not you anymore” then don’t do back.  There’s a reason the prom dress...
Discerning Organizational Disconnects

Discerning Organizational Disconnects

We are surrounded by disconnects – gaps that keep things from being as good as they could be. In news coverage today there is a disconnect between journalism based on investigation and journalism based on ideology.  In public discourse there is a disconnect between attacking positions versus attacking people.  In elevation of people as role models there is a disconnect between notoriety and admirable qualities.   Cognitive dissonance is the result of a disconnect between beliefs and actions/new information. Leaders must be adept at recognizing disconnects in order to profitably grow their organizations. At a recent executive breakfast that I hosted with prominent local CEOs and leaders, many disconnects were uncovered just in the area of talent management.  These included: Disconnect between the company story and its application. Too many job postings are mundane, minimalistic and do not give an applicant an emotional reason to join an organization. Disconnect between efficiency and inclusion. Too many organizations are having too many interviews with too many team members and losing out on their top picks. Disconnect between selection and success. Too many organizations are leaving success in a role up to fate after the hire by not having concrete, open and practical measures of success decided at the onset. Disconnect between screening and learning. Too many organizations use assessments to screen applicants, but then do not use the data collected in the assessment to enhance future job success. Disconnect between fun and engagement. Too many leaders cannot make the distinction between activities that promote fun and those that actually promote engagement. For your consideration, Gary’s Six Strategic Disconnects: Disconnect between strategy formulation...
Removing Indecision

Removing Indecision

Indecisive or prudent?  The distinction can have profound impact on the quality and quantity of decisions in an organization. Indecisiveness is the learned behavior of not making timely decisions.  It is a habit of putting off what can be decided or acted upon now. Indecisiveness is one of the most irritating behaviors team members complain about in their leaders. The consequences of indecisiveness include lost opportunities, lost time, lost followership, less engagement, and (paradoxically) fewer choices.  There are also the emotional costs involved with worry and rumination. Indecisiveness can result in prolonging the tenure of the wrong people on the team, lack of clarity with peers/partners, and cloudy thinking about next steps. The major cause of indecision is ego sensitivity.  Indecisiveness is a strategy to protect the ego through avoidance. If no action is taken, no blame can be given.  If a decision is delayed that may affect others, then the ego can feel good that it was still the “good guy.” Indecisiveness is different from prudence because in considering risk and reward, risk to the ego is blown out of proportion and acts as a big, heavy thumb on the scale. As the figure illustrates, when we are indecisive, ego risk is being inappropriately added to objective risks.  When considering the decision to terminate an employee, the objective risks considered might include potential legal risks, impact of lowered capacity, or replacements costs.  Examples of ego risks may include fear of still being liked, fear of disappointing others, or fear that people will think it is an admission of a poor hiring decision.  If these ego risks sound a...
Go Fourth – and do Great Things

Go Fourth – and do Great Things

The Fourth of July is a special day.  The story of the birth of our nation is nothing short of miraculous.  The story is also a template for those that are up for great things. Step 1.  Use your brain to stake out a position.  The Founding Fathers did not just wake up one day and say “resist.”  Their position for declaring independence was carefully considered. The legal and moral questions of power on which they based their analysis were not a new ones.  They picked up arguments about the limits of an administrative state that went back to the abuses of the Star Chamber in the 1600s.  Big things are based on solid understanding of facts and principles. Step 2.   Put your name on the line.  All of the signers of the Declaration of Independence knew by signing that they were facing prison and likely death, yet they signed.  The big things we are up to are not likely to be life or death.  Why not show the same boldness of saying what you stand for? Step 3. Put values into action.  The Declaration of Independence documented in detail the grievances of the colonies against the King of Great Britain and showed that those actions contravened the values of self-direction and other rights that cannot be put aside by dictators.  From there the wheels started turning –and the rest is history. Let’s celebrate the day and also be up for great things too.  We have the freedom to do so.   Photo by Alejandro Scaff on...
Leader What Flag are you Flying?

Leader What Flag are you Flying?

Today, June 14th is Flag Day in the US.  It is a day to pause and pay respect to the flag, a symbol for our country.  To many the US flag at it’s most basic level is a symbol for the inalienable rights of individuals and for a system of government that is for the people and by the people. Flags can provoke powerful responses.  I have experienced deep feelings of humility and gratitude when seeing the flag as part of a remembrance at a military funeral and deep pride when the flag is displayed as a celebration on the Fourth of July.  Conversely I had a deeply negative and visceral reaction just seeing the Nazi flag when the setting was as innocuous as seeing the play, The Sound of Music. In the context of work, leaders can fly all sorts of flags.  By flag flying I mean, by words or actions what people interpret to be the priorities of their leaders.  Examples of flags leaders might be (consciously or unconsciously) flying: “For the business” “For a fun environment” “For Q1 results” “For the mission” “For the stock price” “For innovation” “For sales” “For collaboration” “For this division” “For safety” “For productivity” “For me” “For impact on the community” “For the environment” “For rigorous analysis” “For consensus” Flags, as symbols, have the potential to focus attention, attract/push away, and stir emotions.  The questions then are: If you were to ask your team to describe what flag are you flying, what would they say? Is that the flag you intended? Is that the best flag for this circumstance? Is your...