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May 9, 2017 standard

It started out simply. A way for me to “call out” less than stellar behavior that was counter-productive to change while keeping the focus on the behavior and NOT the people. Guardians of no progress©. You know – those rascals that sit in their offices and think through all the reasons why change will not work.

Whether it’s in my keynote speeches, or my leadership role, “guardians of no progress” resonates with everyone leading change.  We all know one. And when I share the term, it is always met with a smile and an almost instant list of names that fit the description.

But the focus on the people isn’t the issue.  We need to stop. We need to focus on the behavior.  When you take time to separate what the behavior looks like “unattached” to names, it lets others see it for what it is. Quite simply, it removes the emotions associated with the people doing the behavior and allows everyone to focus on understanding the behavior for what it is.  Fear. And how as a leader, you can and should avoid the pitfalls.

For many organizations, these team members look the same. Guardians of no progress overtly support the change.  It’s their version of camouflage.  And then later because they want everyone to be safe.  They bring questions, spot issues (and non-issues), identify risks that cause others to alter the course or slow the change.

It can also bring a sense of fun to the conversations around change. Yes, fun…

Use the term when you want to call out behavior without attacking the person.  Just try it…it keeps everyone focused on supporting the change vs. being called out as the “guardian of no progress.” No one wants to be that guardian.

By taking the time to describe the behavior as a team, it allows everyone to see the signs and stay committed to their role which is to support the change and ensure a successful transition.  In other words, change is going to happen, how do we work together to do it well.

Do you know any guardians of no progress?

What does your list look like?

Is it well understood by your you and your team? I’m excited to hear your thoughts and your ideas for shining the spotlights on this important change obstacle.

 

March 14, 2017 standard

My love for photography started years ago with my Aunt Anita.

Each time she visited, we explored another chapter from her travel log.  Her images and stories were mesmerizing to me as a child.  And much to my family’s chagrin, the cause for her late arrival to family functions.  You see, there was always something along the way that caused her to pause. A need to capture the moment.

And photography stuck in my life.  Much later, I had the good fortune of working with another photography master.  You’ve most likely heard me speak of him before. I was fortunate to both work and travel with him.  In fact, our time together always felt like a gift because it led to new discoveries.  And those discoveries stirred a curiosity that has shaped my view of the world.

Here’s my fascination with the art of photography. Many photographers capture similar images, but none of them look the same.  The images are always shaped by the person behind the lens not the people in in front of it. And critical to defining the view is learning to ask the question, “what do you see?”  Let’s be clear here, sometimes this difficult question doesn’t have an obvious answer.  It is in knitting together the many viewpoints that provide true texture.  This is where the depth of life can be explained.  It also requires that we don’t assume others can see what we do.

You see, no one sees it like you do.

Taking time to ask, value and share your perspective is important.  Don’t assume what is clear to you is also clear to others.  You will miss the value of discovering the view from another vantage point.  And it may be just what you need to make the next leg of your journey.

What do you see?   I look forward to hearing your perspective?

 

January 18, 2017 standard

I could hear the passion and growing disgust in the conversation behind me. It was a long day of travel and I was mildly amused that someone else shared the challenges of the day.

Until, I could see the conversation was going no-where. At least no-where productive. You can call me an optimist but even at the end of a challenging day, I like to celebrate some forward movement, no matter how slight even if it is for someone else.

Unfortunately, as the conversation unfolded, it was clear neither side was listening and the endless flow of adult beverage wasn’t adding new insight into the situation. In fact, it was clear to me that the purpose of their trip was about to be grounded before it even began. And sadly, it was an inside job because the people talking were on the same team.

 Wow what a waste of energy, time, talent and resource. Have you ever thought of that?

How often do we embark on a trip, not fully grounded in a broad perspective so we can build a unified front to solve any issue? It is really easy to do in this dynamic fast paced world, isn’t it? We need own the foundational discipline of being grounded on the same facts, the same reality and the same consequences if we wish to work together towards a better future. And learn to embrace the power in different perspectives to truly uncover the best solution. Rarely does anyone hold the key to the perfect answer. The power comes from embracing our differences, uncovering the truth and getting insights for the best future path.

It doesn’t cost anything but our time and undivided attention. And of course the willingness to truly listen, add value and work together towards a common goal. Sounds simple. And it is, but that doesn’t make it easy.

How many times have you jumped to conclusions in the spirit of being efficient only to miss the point? What have you learned about your approach and more importantly how to be more effective next time? Because there will be a next time. And your effort to think about how you would optimize your approach next time will help others see what is possible.

And isn’t that what leadership is all about?

January 12, 2016 standard

I arrived early to see if I could get a table in the quieter part of the restaurant.  I knew the conversation with my friend would need space to work. He arrived a little late and looked a bit rattled.  Our small talk seemed to move him into a different frame of mind.  His new role was challenging his ability to drive change successfully.  He needed a new perspective.

As we began the conversation, I asked him to break down the issues, expected outcomes and give me a status. The list was long and the complexity real.

Then I asked about his team.  Were they adding value to the process?

He didn’t know how to respond.  After a moment he admitted he hadn’t stopped to think about it.  We went back through the notes with this new question and added more context.

As we stepped back, it became clear.  The enemy was in the room.

His leadership team was in fact, part of the issue.  Rather than looking at the possibilities, they were pointing out what wouldn’t work.

It’s too risky. 

It will take too long.

Our systems won’t support it.

It’s too expensive. 

We’ve tried that before.

The enemy was already  in the room – asking all the same questions.  But these are the questions leaders face every day. Learning to change the question, that’s how we can refocus the team and ultimately the efforts.

I challenged him to go back to his team, acknowledge their feedback, but focus their attention on moving forward.  As a leadership team, if you don’t like the outcome, you should ask what you can do to change it.  After all you are in charge, the results are yours to own.

That is leadership.

Learning to set the tone that you expect from your organization is critical.  In the past, the people may have been recognized and promoted into leadership because they were good at minimizing risk, finding the “missing link” or reporting the dirt on an issue or person.  You need to establish that although, this information may be useful for course correction, it is insufficient to drive growth.  Leaders add value in the “go-forward” action of an organization.

Back to my friend, he left lunch that day with a new perspective and most importantly a new approach to the issues.  We touched base several weeks later.  I could hear it in his voice, he broke the log jam.  What had been invisible to him was now crystal clear.  The enemy was in the room all along.  The team was learning new habits and it was showing in the results.

What is your leadership tone?  Do you reward your team for reporting the news or providing the value added leadership in making it happen?

 

February 26, 2015 standard

The abundance of choices we have in today’s world is overwhelming.   Seems everyone wants to give us options…so we can chose.

 nice…but is it necessary?

When you consider that the human capacity to process options tops out at 5 plus or minus 2, it makes you wonder then, why do we continue to add more and more options.  Having spent most of my career working to understanding the consumer, I get the objective.

However, I think we also need to consider that just because we can…doesn’t mean we should.  In fact, studies have shown that when less choice is offered, it actually sells more.  The choices need to be better not just more.

I think the same is true for us as individuals.  If we do all the research to understand the full range of choices we have, we don’t optimize our choices or don’t move the ball forward.  It is up to us to learn how to process the world of choice.  To focus on a limited set of better options from which to make a final decision.

Here’s a fun way to help you get focused.  Once you get your list of choices narrowed down and you are beginning to hem and haw about what to do, try this.

Imagine one of them vanishes and ask yourself if you care.  Remember – you will still have the others to choose from.  Bottom line, does it matter that this choice is gone?

If the answer is no, it didn’t matter.  Move on.  If you do care, make a different one vanish and ask the same question.

The process makes you feel the “lose” of choice and the “lose” of what that one offered.  In some cases, the things that make them different are not the key things that matter.

Keeping them in the consideration set just blurs the real choice.  Practicing the “vanishing choice” exercise will focus the conversation and consideration to the “fundamentals” and allow you to look at what really matters.

July 8, 2014 standard

Set Goals to inspire

Do you set your goals to push your people to extreme targets to ensure you get performance or do you set realistic goals to inspire solid execution and inspire extra effort to hit the stretch?

I have heard both views represented with great passion over the years and experienced both methods from my bosses too.  Both have driven results for teams and organizations including myself.  However, it is the second one that I believe is more sustainable for organizations because of the effect on the people that do the work.

People want to be part of a mission bigger than themselves and part of
a winning team.  Anyone can do the sprint to make things happen for the short term and they do.  However, if the goals are always lofty, they lose their significance and actually backfire on you as a leader and your credibility.   Initially you appear to be a driver that wants results and in the end you will appear to be a leader that is out of touch with reality.  People will actually do less.  I have seen it happen.  In the end, it doesn’t bring the winning spirit.  It is individual ownership or trust that propels growth.

The more difficult and prudent approach is to set realistic targets with stretch goals that you believe “someone” can achieve.  This establishes the markers for success and also establishes markers for excellence.  Your hard chargers will find a way to make the stretch goals and that will inspire others to follow them.  That will raise the performance for everyone.  The celebration that follows creates more mojo to continue the momentum.

What approaches have you experienced or adapted as your leadership marker?  I look forward to hearing from you

 

June 4, 2014 standard

We have all experienced that crossroads in our careers when someone pushed us to the limit.  It’s then that we must decide.

What is for sale?

It all happens so innocently. First you accept the job or project and get so excited about what you’re doing.  Things progress and you move more deeply into the issue, the solution and the range of options.

Then you face a question that rubs against your values and what you consider the “right thing to do.” What do you do?  Do you compromise your principals and beliefs to further your project and maybe your career or do you stand up for what YOU believe in.  It is tough…and of course there may be consequences up to and including losing your job.

What do you do?

The first time feels like this must be how things go.  Then as you move along in your career you realize you always have a choice.  Let me repeat that – we always have a choice.

As I reflect on my career, I am amazed at the people that have no sense of boundaries.  For these people, and we all know some…EVERYTHING is for sale.   They will do whatever they are asked to do by their boss or job with no sense of personal boundaries or conscience to themselves. They rationalize as part of the job or an obligation I have because of my compensation which supports my lifestyle and family.

What I’ve decided, is that some leaders use this test as a test of loyalty to ensure they have a solid support system.  For some there is no sense of personal value so anything goes.  Both of these situations highlight a fundamental leadership flaw – and they are not options for me.  I believe they are unhealthy regardless of what the books say.

I believe it is important to be in touch with what matters most to you.  And to be clear about your decision guidelines so you can use them to optimize the right decision under pressure.

This takes time to truly understand how you’re wired. You need to determine how you will operate your life and ultimately where you  draw the line.  It is an important distinction and one that defines who you really are as where the “buck stops” and the definition of who you are starts.  If you haven’t spent time exploring your boundaries, it is important to do so, especially since this crossroads WILL happen in your career path.

If you spend time before the issue exits, it will make the decision more clear.  And make it easier for you to see the boundary so you can optimize you final choice.

This quality of leadership will be more important in the future, not less.  I would encourage you to spend time to explore your values and be clear about your boundaries BEFORE you need to use them and ALWAYS debrief after each test of them to ensure you confirm your commitment and resolve to “how much of you” is for sale when you accept your next assignment.

I look forward to your feedback about this issue.  Have you experienced it?  How did you handle it?  What do you wish you had prepared for the situation knowing what you know now?  What advise would you have for others as they think about this issue?

 

 

April 2, 2014 standard

As I walked down the hallway I heard, “hey I need some help.  Would you just do this for me?”  The tone in the voice made it impossible to say no because of course it was so simple.  Can you hear it?

Have you ever really stopped and looked at what you do and why?  It may seem like a worthless exercise and a hard one to get on your “to do” list.  I get it, but I want you to STOP and do it NOW.  I did and the results were amazing.

My list started with the usual things.  I was at the cabin.  It was quiet.  No neighbors, no communications, no media, no people, just me and my thoughts.  No reason to be interrupted. As I continued to write things down I was amazed.  Then I looked at my calendar for the past month and just took an inventory that identified what I did, why I did it, who I did it for and how often.  It wasn’t until I got the list together that I saw the trend.  It was so obvious.  Why hadn’t I seen it before?  I think the answer is “because I was too busy.”  Funny how our crazy schedules hid things from us.  It took the quietness of the cabin to see it clearly.

What became obvious was the number of things that I did because someone asked me to help “just this one time”.   It starts as an innocent request from your kids, spouse, friend, co-worker or boss.  And it is always asked in a way that makes it seem simple and hard to say no.  The problem is, it goes on your list for that reason and never leaves because you made it part of your routine.   It seems easier that way or you know they like the help and always express their gratitude which makes you feel good.  However, the result ultimately impacts you and your ability to do your best work.  This is a big deal.  We all only get 24 hours a day, no matter our position, or the amount of money we make.  It is up to us to optimize our time to accomplish our goals and do our best work.  That’s why taking an inventory is so important.  It will allow you to be more intentional in how you spend your day.  It will affect your overall impact, level of satisfaction and overall quality of relationships.

Now, I am not saying don’t help people when they “just” need it this one time.  What I am saying is help but do it with the expectation that this “one time” means you give it back.  Establish boundaries and the discipline to manage the “just this one time” help projects.   The first time I did this inventory I was amazed at the list and how it was impacting me.  I was also very intentional in going back to the person and “giving it back” so they knew what to expect.  It was easier than I thought and oh so energizing for me.  Now that I understand how it happens, it is also easier to make it a habit.

Take a break in your day to make the list.  Then let me know your insights and what you learned.  Most of all let me know the impact it had on your ability to do your best work.  I look forward to hearing from you….

March 5, 2014 standard

 

Imagine a scene where you are standing on the street corner, and you notice the car turning the corner doesn’t have a driver.

Or another, where you notice that every time you meet someone, they are riding with someone else.  Both are odd if not alarming but I am always amazed to learn how many people have just given up taking the driver’s seat of their own bus.

Sometimes it is because they are too busy, they are confused and just want someone else to figure it out or worst yet they just want to give up on life.   Whatever the reason, it is a tragedy.  Every day they are giving up on optimizing their own potential.

Each of us has the opportunity to DECIDE how we want to spend our life.  It requires our attention, our focus and hard work to stay engaged.

To make this happen – you must be intentional. 

Leaving the driving to someone else is not a recipe to optimize individual potential but rather a formula to be less than fully accountable…

After all, if you did not decide to go there, you just tagged along for the ride,  so the consequences are not yours but someone else’s.  It is a sure way to live the life someone else envisioned for you vs. the one you were born to live.

Life is too precious to leave to chance.  We each get the same 24 hours a day, every day, over the course of our years on earth to optimize our opportunities.  Riding a tour bus driven by someone else is not a recipe to maximize your experience or impact on the world.  So why then do we let it happen?

Have you seen the same thing?  How do you manage to stay driving your own bus?

 

February 5, 2014 standard

I live most of my life with pictures and so do you.  Pictures help us tell our stories and they have since the cave man days.  Now with the advent of digital photography and Facebook, our ability to make this connection has accelerated into hyper space.

A picture may seem superficial but it’s not.

It is the single most powerful universal language.  It evokes emotion, connection and adds dimension to our story.  Most people would tell you it’s their most valuable possession. I agree.

So if it so powerful, why don’t we each have a compelling image of ourselves.  Why aren’t we intentional about it?  Consider your Facebook or LinkedIn image.  Do you love it?  Is it your best? Why not be intentional about getting it done right so we can be proud of it and promote our personal brand in a compelling way?

I found myself in this place a few years ago.  I needed to provide a photograph for a keynote address I was giving at a national conference.  I had several to choose from but didn’t like any of them.  I didn’t think they conveyed the real me.  So I made a date to change all that…little did I know the impact.

The picture taking event was as I remembered it from years gone by.  Funny how at any age, you are anxious to see if it will turn out.

It was important to me to have an image that communicated my executive leadership and influence together with an approachability and personal style.  In addition, I wanted to have both formal and causal images to share.  The finished product was right on target and I was proud of the work.  Finally I could check this off my list.

before…

 

after…

However, it was the impact of the new images and refreshed personal brand that was the surprise. For me, I think I changed the way I saw myself and treated myself.  For others, it drove an immediate connection.  It didn’t matter whether it was on Facebook, LinkedIn, company communications or publications for my keynotes or articles.  The responses were compelling.  They provoked new connections, feedback and comments as well as a new “refreshed” look of my personal brand.  Take a look

I challenge you to do the same.  It will impact the way you see yourself.  That in turn will make it possible for you to make connections at a far deeper level than you ever thought possible.  What are you waiting for?  Be intentional about building your personal image.  It is a reflection of your personal brand and should not be left to chance.   I look forward to seeing the results and hearing your stories.