Monday, March 10, 2014

We Need More Radical Thinking

It is too bad that when we hear the word radical the first thought of many is some political extremist group. But if you look up the definition of radical at Merriam-Webster you get the following:
  • very different from the usual or traditional
  • favoring extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions
  • associated with political views, practices, and policies of extreme change
  • advocating extreme measures to retain or restore a political state of affairs
We know the last two so well, but it is the first two that we need more of. Too often we fall back into old habits and routines, when what we need is a very different take on the traditional. 

It is a shame that our existing views on our work becomes so standard. We get stuck in the routines of our day-to-day jobs and how things are supposed to happen and rarely take the time to ask why. I'm sure you've heard the response before, "Because we've always done it that way." Yet, we are the ones that are complaining because what we view as simple changes that would make everything better don't get made.

The traditional policies and usual procedures are probably in place for a reason. Rather than complaining about them, let's begin asking questions about what we need to do to improve the process without compromising on the policies in place. Let's figure out a way to change a procedure so it is more efficient but not change any of the outcomes or have any missteps during the transition. To do that we may need to think a bit radically, look for extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions. I'm okay with that though, because we need more radical thinking around here.


Monday, February 17, 2014

When You Look In The Mirror, What Do You See?

A number of years ago I sat in a session given by Marshall Goldsmith where he asked everyone in the room to close their eyes and raise their hands if they considered themselves in the top 50% of all of the people in their field of work. He asked everyone to keep them up, without looking, if they felt they were in the 70th percentile, then 80th, and finally 90th percentile. If I asked you to do the same thing, where would you rank yourself?

During the session Mr. Goldsmith told us to put our hands down and open our eyes and he went on to share that he has done this very informal and unscientific poll countless times and every time he has done it he estimates the vast majority feel they are in the top 90% in their particular field, and never could he remember not having anyone think they were at least in the top half. Think about the incredible odds of never getting someone that was below average in all the years and sessions he has done that.

I've thought of that session recently as I reflect on where I am in my life and in my career. I've always felt that I had a number of strengths that I bring with me in my work, and I'm honest enough with myself to admit to some of the weaknesses that I have. In general I feel like I'm pretty good at my job, not the greatest, but certainly in the 70th or 80th percentile. Recently I've had a few setbacks at work and have begun to doubt my self-assessment. There are things I could have done better, projects that didn't go well and generally not reacting to situations in a better way. When my manager called me out on that, it made me wonder if maybe I haven't been as honest with myself as I should have been all these years. That when I look in the mirror I look at myself through rose colored glasses and can't see the truth. I always strive to be a good employee, a good manager, a good husband and a good father, but my fear is to discover that I'm just average, or worse, in any of those areas.

This isn't about me feeling sorry for myself, it is about having people around you that can honestly give you feedback about how you are doing so you can see the truth. The truth that we often have a hard time viewing in ourselves. For some, they have a lower view of themselves and they need people to bring them up, point out the things that they are great at. For others they have a very high view of themselves and whenever they hear something negative they get defensive or worse, start attacking the person that is honestly trying to help them. No matter who you are and how you see yourself in the mirror, you need to surround yourself with people that will give you some different opinions about what they see.

I would encourage you to find people that you work with and that are in other parts of your life and build that team that will be honest with you, tell you the good things and the bad. When you seek it out, the feedback you get is helpful, you actually will take it in and do something with it. Unfortunately we live in a world where people are all too willing to give feedback, they have no problem telling others what they feel they could do better. But when you create that relationship and become a willing participant what you get can really help you become the person you want to see when you look in the mirror.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Just Be Honest With Me

We all say we want people to be honest with us, both in work and personal relationships. The problem is we often don't like to hear the truth. I was in a situation in a past job where I was released from my employment, my fancy way of saying that I was fired. Nobody told me at the time that I wasn't performing, just got called in one day and said they were ending my employment on a set date in the future. I was shocked to say the least. It turned out to be one of the better things that has happened to me in my career though it didn't feel like it at the time. More importantly I was able to take away a core value for myself. I promised myself that I would be honest with people, that they deserved the truth. I had just wished that someone was honest with me, and told me what I was doing wrong.

I remind myself of this whenever I get feedback that is less than positive. Initially I react like most people, I get defensive and frustrated, I will go home and complain to my wife about the people I work with. But then I think to myself that I'm getting exactly what I had wanted. The next step, how I react to this feedback was completely up to me.

I also remind myself of this when I have to give less than positive feedback. I generally try to establish a relationship with a value of honesty in all of my business interactions; then I lead with the fact that they too wanted me to be honest with them. I work hard to tell them the truth in the best way I possibly can. I'm convinced when I was let go that nobody said anything to me because those types of conversations are hard. I realize that because it is extremely hard for me to give that type of feedback to people and if I could I would find a way to avoid it. It isn't fair though, and I wouldn't be holding true to my core value if I took the cowards way out.

So the next time you get some less than positive feedback from someone, keep in mind that it is not a pleasant experience for the person giving the feedback, and they are probably honestly trying to help you. If you look at it in that light, maybe what they are trying to tell you has value, and the best thing that you can do for yourself and your career is to truly listen to the feedback. Determine a course of action to make a change for yourself. The only real downside to this is you may just have to thank the person for giving you that hard feedback in the first place.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

To Love What You Do Or To Be Valued For What You Do?

It is easy to say that people want to find a job where they do what they love and get paid for it. I think that is true but can be hard because the realities of life creep in, the bills that need to be paid show up and the overwhelming fact of the matter is you don't always know what you want to be when you grow up. No matter what you do, the more important thing is for people to think that what they do at work makes a difference. The people that you work with day to day are the ones that need to hear and feel that you believe they are a valuable member of the team. If you leave it up to their manager, it may not carry the same weight, who knows how involved they can be with their schedules.

At the end of the day we all want to feel like we are valued, that we would be missed if we weren't there. We need to make sure we are making each other feel that way. I want to love what I do, but I find it more rewarding to have people value me for what I contribute. I could love my job but if everyone thinks I suck at it, that feeling isn't going to last long. But if my team counts on me, even if I don't love my job it is a great place to go to work every day.

Monday, January 6, 2014

My Needs or Team Needs?

We come into this world as helpless babies that are focused solely on our own needs. It is about what we want and when we want it. Any parent that has been woken up in the middle of the night by a screaming baby understands what I'm talking about. But as we grow up, parents and others teach us that we need to be nice to one another, help one another. Maybe we play a sport, sing in a choir, belong to a club, some sort of activity where you are a part of a team, you need to work together to achieve something.

I believe that we try, and we teach each other and kids to think about others, but there is something inside each of us, the all too human side we all have, that is only worried about yourself. Everyone has things that they want for themselves, and that is okay. It is a natural part of being human. We were made in this way so we should accept it, without becoming selfish. You can want a promotion, a different job, a new car, a better boss, more vacations, better hours. I think this is where we all start, "What is it that I want and need?" The key is not to stop there. Once you've defined what you want the question needs to be, "What does the team need?" The things that align between yourself and the team is a sweet spot for you, go after them. It is okay to be selfish and want things, just make sure you put the team before self.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Build Your Army To Go Into Battle

While I'm not one to believe that life is about winning and losing, there is something to be said about competition and battling. Perhaps that is why I enjoyed playing sports growing up, there was a desire to be a part of playing on a team and winning. It was a great feeling to win, but often it was as rewarding to play well together as a team, win or lose.

I have a job now and a family, doesn't leave a lot of time for sports, but I can still see that competitive spirit in me. I think there is a reason that some of my favorite movies are Gladiator, Braveheart and Lord of the Rings. The epic battles with strategy, heart, and the hero, rallying their army to fight for what is right. Even one of my favorite passages in the Bible, Ephesians 6:10-17, speaks to putting on the armor of God, to be His warrior.

That carries over for me into my work. Too often people just go through the motions of life, going to work to simply collect a pay check. I want there to be something more. I want to be a part of a team, that does battle together. Not to destroy other people, but to pull us together as a team.

"Whatever comes out of these gates, we have better chance of survival if we work together." Maximus from Gladiator 
There are goals for everyone, every job has a requirement. Do we do enough to get by? Or do we work together to be great? It isn't about winning, it is about being a part of something that is great. Creating, building or winning at something, together. I want to be a part of a team that others look to and say, "I want to join that group because they are doing great things, and I need to be a part of it."

Monday, December 2, 2013

Who Do You Want To Follow?

Kenny Bell, a wide receiver for the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team had one of the greatest quotes I can remember hearing in some time in a recent post game press conference.
"I would play for Bo Pelini against Satan himself and a team of demons at the gates of the underworld."
You can read the full transcript at The Omaha World Harold. A little background is that there is a lot of heat on the head coach and some fans want him fired, like any portion of a crazed fan base seems to want these days, regardless of record or any other sensible measure. So of course after a tough loss the question these kids of course are asked is what they think of their coach, and the quote above was part of Kenny Bell's reaction.

What intrigues me so much is wondering how many people feel that way about their coach/manager/leader. We all have someone that we are accountable to, do they stir that commitment and passion inside of you to the point that you would follow them anywhere? 

If you don't have that connection, do you have a desire to some day find that? 

If you don't have the connection or the desire for the connection, are you worried? 

If you are not, I think you should be. We all should find such a passion inside. I believe that there is a fire within all of us but society so often tells us to just go with the flow, conform, be boring. In other words, we don't need your fire. But Kenny has found that, something he so passionately believes in that he will commit himself fully to make what he is a part of successful. I want that in my life, and you should too.