Ratio of Criticisms to Compliments is woefully imbalanced…

I was reviewing my Son’s supplemental essay for College applications and came across a statement that he used to describe my feedback approach…”My Dad’s ratio of criticisms to compliments is woefully imbalanced.”  Let me spare you the rest of the color commentary.  Not flattering to Dad.  Whoa.  Trying to make him better?  Yes.  Trying to making him the best he can be?  Absolutely.  “Woefully imbalanced?”  Really?  Definitely a teachable moment from Son to Father. This post was inspired by my Son, by Patsi Krakoff in her post The Magic Ratio of Positive and Negative Moments and by Psychologists Donald Clifton and Tom Rath in their book “How Full is Your Bucket” which I read a few years back.  A few excerpts:

  • “Nobel Prize-winning scientist Daniel Kahneman stated that we experience approximately 20,000 individual moments in a waking day.  Each moment lasts a few seconds in which our brain records an experience.  The quality of our days is determined by how our brains recognize our moments – either as positive, negative our just neutral.  Rarely do we remember neutral moments.  In some cases, a single encounter can change  your life forever.
  • “Everyone has an invisible bucket.  We are at our best when our buckets are overflowing (with positive experiences) and at our worst when they are empty.  Everyone also has an invisible dipper.  In each interaction, we can use our dipper either to fill the buckets (with positive experiences) or to dip (with negative experiences) from other’s buckets.  Whenever we choose to fill others’ buckets, we in turn fill our own.”
  • “…individuals who receive regular recognition and praise increase their individual productivity, increase engagement with colleagues, are more likely to stay with their organization and receive higher loyalty and satisfaction score
  • #1 reason people leave their jobs: They don’t feel appreciated.”
  • 65% of Americans received no recognition in the workplace.”
  • 9 out of 10 people say they are more productive when they’re around positive people
  • Every moment matters…
  • “A recent study found work groups with positive-to-negative interaction ratios greater than 3:1 are significantly more productive than teams that do not reach the ratio.  …The magic ratio: 5 positive interactions to 1 negative interaction
  • 5 strategies that they use to increase your magic ratio of positive to negative moments in any given day:
    1. Prevent Bucket Dipping.  Develop habit of asking whether you are adding or dipping in to bucket.  Work toward a ratio of 5:1 positive to negative comments.
    2. Shine a light on what is right.  Try focusing on what employees or peers do right rather than where they need improvement, and discover the power of reinforcing good behaviors.
    3. Make Best Friends. People with best friends at work have higher workplace productivity.
    4. Give Unexpectedly. A recent poll showed that the vast majority of people prefer gifts that are unexpected.
    5. Reverse the Golden Rule. Instead of ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,’ you should ‘Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.’ Individualization is key when filling others’ buckets.

Sources: “The Magic Ratio of Positive and Negative Moments” by Patsi Krakoff.  “How Full Is Your Bucket” by Tom Rath and Donald Clifton.  Image: zaazu.com

Leaders: Get Your Tough on…

Think back for a minute about the best bosses or mentors you’ve had in your career.  I’ll bet that they pushed you harder than any other by a factor of 2 or 3.   I’ll bet again you may have had only one of these beasts…maybe 2 of these taskmasters.  Dan Rockwell’s post in Leadership Freak (“Six Strategies to Get Your Tough On”) struck a cord.  Most of us are inclined to be “tender” rather than “tough”.  It does take more (much more) effort and more finesse to be tough – – to have high expectations – – and to be encouraging at the same time.  In order to realize the potential of our “Player” – – to have him/her perform at their highest levels…we as leaders need to PUSH.  We need to set the PACE.  And, the beauty and the maddening complexity of great leadership is that every Player is unique and requires you to push different “buttons” at different levels of intensity.  Hard work, yes.  Worth it?  Absolutely.  The next time your Player crosses the threshold of being average to achieving excellence, give yourself some credit.  Bask in warmth of having just a wee-bit of responsibility in seeing another fellow human-being achieve their maximum potential.  There are in fact very few of you out there really pushing…

Key Excerpts from Dan’s great post on Getting Your Tough On…

Being tough is harder than being tender. Toughness is the line between average performance and high achievement. High performance leaders know how to be tough.”

Jim Collins’ insights into the genius of “and’ apply to challenge and encourage. Many are great at encouraging. Few excel at challenging. Embrace bothEncouragement is the foundation of challenge, not a standalone behavior.

Err on the side of pushing harder not easier. When you wonder if you should challenge or comfort someone, challenge them. Expect more not less.

“Encourage those who are struggling but don’t exclude challenging them. Reject the temptation to coddle. People rise to challenges.”

Leaders that always challenge and never encourage, come off as never satisfied. They frustrate the team. Avoid the “never satisfied” trap by honoring achievements, a lot.

People rise up to challenges when they believe you’re on their team. They push back when they believe you’re pushing for selfish reasons. Express loyalty to their vision and career goals. Be an ally calling for their best not a taskmaster yelling for more.

Explore challenging goals with employees and get buy in.

6 ways to be tough:

  1. Believe they can do more and be better.
  2. Avoid letting anger or frustration fuel toughness.
  3. Focus on mission and vision, not tasks when calling people to reach higher.
  4. Honor past achievements.
  5. Ask how you can help them reach higher.
  6. Remove ambiguity.

What if you go too far and challenge too much? Explain your intent to bring out the best and apologize.

Sources: Leadership Freak – Six Strategies to Get Your Tough On.

Managers: Do you stack rank everyone and everything? 3 Ways to Avoid “Measurement Whac-a-Mole”

The title of this Forum Corporation article grabbed my attention. THIS IS ME.  Stack ranking everyone and everything.  Despite the “best of intentions”, I’ve become Mr. Measurement Whac-a-Mole.  Short article.  So basic and logical – yet, so difficult to stick to the script.  Worthy reminders…

“The best intentions, quickly forgotten.” These six words describe most measurement systems.

Don’t use measurement data to flog employees. Instead try these three things:

  1. Highlight the good. Use measurement data to highlight the good work of employees. Rather than just looking at the areas that employees performed poorly, managers should analyze the data more thoroughly and reward employees for behaviors customers or patients applauded.”
  2. Stop the “issue of the month” insanity. Look at the measurement feedback over time and determine what really needs improving. Then, pull together a team to address the issue and make recommendations.”
  3. Don’t measure too many things. Instead, do a customer survey that enables you to determine your organization’s most important value drivers. Stay focused on those and your organization will be able to deliver what customers want most.”

Sources: Forum Corporation – Three Ways to Avoid Measurement Whac-A-Mole.  Image: www.crazyjunkyard.com

10 Things You Should Be Able To Say Before You Die…

From the “Best Article Each Day”:

1) I followed my heart and intuition.

2) I said what I needed to say.

3) I did what I needed to do.

4) I made a difference.

5) I know what true love is.

6) I am happy and grateful.

7) I am proud of myself.

8) I became the best version of me.

9) I forgave those that hurt me.

10) I have no regrets.

Complete Article @ “Best Article of Every Day” by Marcandangel
10 Things You Should Be Able To Say Before You Die.  Image: Far From Perfect Mama

What is the “Zeigarnik Effect” and how does it help you avoid distraction, focus and get things done?

I came to learn of the Ziegarnik Effect in PsyBlog.  In 1927, Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik conducted a study in a busy restaurant in Vienna where she found that waiters remembered uncompleted orders or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks.  This is described as the Zeigarnik Effect.  In 1982, almost 60 years later,  Kenneth McGraw conducted another study of the Zeigarnik Effect where the participants where asked to do a tricky puzzle; except they were interrupted before any of them could solve it – – and then they were told the study was over. Despite being asked to stop, nearly 90% kept working on the puzzle anyway.   These incompleted tasks “rattle around in our heads,” distracting and interrupting us from being focused and getting important things done.

PsyBlog’s recommendations below are on point.  I would suggest an alternative approach in one area.  PsyBlog suggests that in order to eliminate unfinished tasks from being a distraction, you need to get specific about action plans on your tasks (what, when, how, where).  I prefer David Allen’s strategy in “Getting Things Done.”   If it’s on your mind, your mind isn’t clear – – you will be distracted.  You need to clear the noise.  Get all of your tasks written down and out of your head.  Have a system you trust to keep track of your tasks.  And then ask yourself: “What’s the next action”.   Then,  take the next action to move the task forward – no matter how small it is.  You’ll find that you’ll have more mental capacity to focus on what’s in front of you.  Getting too specific about action plans can be overwhelming and will lead many of us to do nothing (to procrastinate).  Outcome: we will continue to have “rocks” rattling around in our heads.  Best to get started, gather momentum and then dive deeper into the planning process as you gather a head of steam.

Here are some of the key excerpts from Psyblog on the Ziegarnik Effect:

  • On average each of us has 15 personal projects ongoing at any one time. It might include planning a trip to Europe, spring cleaning the house, getting a new job or any number of other goals.  Plus there’s all the stuff we’re doing right at the moment like working, shopping or reading.
  • Psychologists have known for a century that incomplete goals rattle around in our minds until they’re done. It’s called the Zeigarnik Effect.”
  • The down side is that we can be distracted by incomplete goals while we’re trying to pursue another goal. And according to new research this is precisely what happens unless we have made very specific plans
  • “In a series of studies researchers found that while trying to enjoy reading a novel, participants were frequently interrupted by intrusive thoughts about an unfinished everyday task.  But when researchers told participants to make very specific plans about that unfinished goal, while reading they experienced less intrusive thoughts about the other activity. In fact the intrusive thoughts lessened to the same level as a control group.”
  • Making plans helps free up mental space for whatever we are doing right now, allowing us to be more efficient in the long term.”
  • “Specific goals include the how, what, where and when of whatever we want to achieve. For example if you’re planning a trip you might decide that during a quiet moment in the evening after supper you’ll draw up a list of hotels and flights to discuss with your partner. Then you can book them online on Saturday morning when you’re fresh (make sure, though, that you focus on the process and not the outcome).”
  • “If the plan is specific enough, it is automatically activated when the right circumstances arise. The rest of the time our minds should be freer from the other 14 goals that we’re not currently pursuing.”
  • “What all these examples have in common is that when people manage to start something they’re more inclined to finish it. Procrastination bites worst when we’re faced with a large task that we’re trying to avoid starting. It might be because we don’t know how to start or even where to start.”
  • “What the Zeigarnik effect teaches is that one weapon for beating procrastination is starting somewhere…anywhere.”
  • “Don’t start with the hardest bit, try something easy first. If you can just get under way with any part of a project, then the rest will tend to follow. Once you’ve made a start, however trivial, there’s something drawing you on to the end. It will niggle away in the back of your mind
  • “Although the technique is simple, we often forget it because we get so wrapped up in thinking about the most difficult parts of our projects. The sense of foreboding can be a big contributor to procrastination.”

Sources: PsyBlog – “The Zeigarnik Effect” and “How to Avoid Being Distracted From Your Goals”.  Image: 8tracks.com/dmark210

Leaders: Are you one of the 95% who does not understand the most important source of employee motivation?

The authors surveyed 100’s of managers around the world and asked what motivated employees.  They were startled to find that 95% of these leaders fundamentally misunderstood the most important source of employee motivation.  It’s not about getting the right people on the bus.  Or about higher incentives.  Or about athletic facilities and free child care.  Their research has found that the best way to motivate people is by facilitating progress, even small wins.  Yet managers surveyed, had ranked “supporting progress” as dead last as a work motivator.

The authors conducted a rigorous analysis of nearly 12,000 daily diary entries provided by 200+ employees in 7 companies.  They found that the best managers create a high quality of “inner work life” for their employees.  Inner work life is about favorable and unfavorable perceptions employees have about their managers, the organization, the team, the work and even oneself.   A positive inner work life determines whether the employee has the motivation to their best work – it determines their attention to tasks, the level of their engagement and their intention to deliver their best work.

The authors found that there are 3 types of events that are particularly important in creating a positive inner work life:

  1. Progress in meaningful work (e.g. small wins, breakthroughs, forward movement, goal completion),
  2. Catalysts that directly help work (setting clear goals, allowing autonomy, providing resources, providing sufficient time, helping with the work, learning from problems and successes, allows ideas to flow),
  3. Nourishers/interpersonal events (e.g. respect, encouragement, emotional support, affiliation/bonds of mutual trust & appreciation) that uplift people doing the work.

Research found that #1, progress in meaningful work, was the most important event in creating a positive inner work life.

People’s inner work lives seemed to lift or drag depending on whether or not their projects moved forward, even by small increments.  Small wins often had a surprisingly strong positive effect, and small losses a surprisingly negative one.  So, small actions to try to reduce daily hassles can make a big difference for inner work life and for overall performance.

It’s also important to note that small losses or setbacks were found to overwhelm small wins.  Small everyday hassles hold more sway than small everyday supporting activities.

Be sure that you are not the source of the obstacles.  Negative team leader behaviors affect inner work life more broadly than positive team leader behaviors.  And employees recall more negative team leader actions than positive events and do so more intensely and in more detail.

Chapter 8 includes a Daily Progress Checklist which is worth the price of the book.  A self assessment asking questions on Catalysts/Inhibitors, Nourishers/Toxins, the state of the Inner Work lives of your team and Action steps.  (e.g., Did the team have clear short term and long term goals for meaningful work or was there confusion?  Did I give help when they needed it or did I fail to provide help?  Did I show respect to team recognizing their contributions to progress or did I disrespect any team members? Did I encourage team members who have difficult challenges or discourage a member of the team in any way?)

Bottom line, to harness the powerful force of the quality of your employees’ inner work lives, you must ensure that consistent forward movement in meaningful work is a regular occurrence in your employees ‘ work lives, despite the inevitable setbacks.

Source: “The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins To Ignite Joy, Engagement and Creativity of Work“.  Authors: Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer.

Be LATE. Be DISORGANIZED. Have a quick TEMPER. All damage your TRUSTWORTHINESS. Really?

A colleague shared this article from ForbesWoman. (Thanks V.B.) My initial reaction was: ‘REALLY?’ which moved to an ‘AHA!’ moment. (And then drifted to, “Is she sending me a message?”)   It’s not a revelation that being trustworthy is one trait that everyone needs to succeed.  What is eye-opening though are new studies that show that people won’t trust you if you have a “willpower” problem.  If you demonstrate a loss of self control – – being late, disorganized, having a temper outburst, overeating, overspending, smoking – –  you are building the perception that you are less trustworthy. And that, it is not only important to be trustworthy, but equally important that you are perceived to be trustworthy.   How do you build willpower and self-control?   Read on…

“You can be as honest, fair, and reliable as the day is long, but if nobody else sees you that way, it won’t help you.”

“When your boss doesn’t trust you, you don’t get key assignments, promotions, or the latitude to do things your own way and take risks…”

“…You may be seriously undermining that you are trustworthy if you appear to lack self-control.   New research shows that people just won’t trust you when you seem like you might have a willpower problem…We trust people because we know that when things get hard, or when it might be tempting for them to put their own interests first, they’ll resist temptation and do what’s right.”

“Studies show that when you engage in behaviors that are indicative of low self-control, your trustworthiness is diminished.  In other words, all those things you know you shouldn’t do – smoking, overeating, impulsive spending, being lazy, late, disorganized, excessively emotional, or having a quick temper – may be even worse for you than you ever realized, because of the collateral damage they are doing to your reputation.”

“Start by making peace with the fact that your willpower is limited.  If you’ve spent all your self-control handling stresses at work, you will not have much left at the end of the day for sticking to your resolutions.  Think about when you are most likely to feel drained and vulnerable, and make a plan to keep yourself out of harm’s way.  Decide, in advance, what you will do instead when the impulse strikes.”

“So if you want to build more willpower, start by picking an activity (or avoiding one) that fits with your life and your goals – anything that requires you to override an impulse or desire again and again, and add this activity to your daily routine.  It will be hard in the beginning, but it will get easier over time if you hang in there, because your capacity for self-control will grow.    Other people will notice the change, and trust you more.  Armed with more willpower and the trust of those around you, you’ll be more successful than ever before.”

(ForbesWoman: The Key Trait Successful People Have And How to Get It and “Self-Control” image:  Vincent@EG1471)

Are your sales reps pushy enough?

This is the third HBR Blog article on the Challenger series.  The first two articles (Post 1 & Post 2)  defined the most successful salespeople as being Challengers – assertive, offering relevant insights and guiding the client through the purchasing process.  During their research, the authors found that sales managers were concerned that if they coached their team to be Challengers they would be too aggressive. (Similar to the photo representation above). Yet, their research found some interesting findings:

“Most reps are far more likely to be passive than aggressive…guided by years of training and a deeply seated but mistaken belief that they should always do what the customer wants, reps seek to resolve tension quickly, rather than prolong it. But maintaining a certain amount of constructive tension is exactly what Challengers do.”

“Why do most reps fear tension? First, they feel they have no choice — it’s either acquiesce or lose the deal. Yet, in a recent survey of sales reps and procurement officers…75 percent of reps believe that procurement has the upper hand in the rep-customer relationship, 75 percent of procurement officers believe that reps have more power. What does that tell us? At the very least, if reps give in simply because of a perceived power imbalance, they’re conceding way too easily.”

“Most reps adopt a passive posture because senior management has told them…to “put the customer first,” or “place the customer at the center of everything we do.” Without clear guidance, most reps simply slip into “order taker” mode, closing small, disaggregated, price-driven deals at a discount all in the name of “giving customers what they want.”

Sources: HBR Blog: Why Your Salespeople Are Pushovers.  Photo: RealLifeDeals.com

Pull the Pin? No. No. No. Don’t quit. Bleed from your eyeballs if you have to, but don’t stop.

There are days…we all have them…when the hill feels too steep.  You wonder if all of the time and effort of the pursuit will pay off.  Steven Pressfield nails this entry and exit in his inspirational post “My Years in Wilderness.”  Worthy…

 …When I was struggling to teach myself how to write, I was so far gone that the idea of choice never entered the equation. The question wasn’t, Does this make sense? Am I getting anywhere? The question was, “Am I out of my mind? How much farther down is this road gonna take me?”  ….

…The tramps in the bunkhouses had an expression: “Pull the pin.”  The term came from the old railroad days when the switching crews would literally pull a steel pin to uncouple one car from another. “Pull the pin” meant to bolt, to pack up in the middle of the night. You might wake up and the bunk next to yours would be empty. “What happened to Jack?” “He pulled the pin…

…Don’t quit. Bleed from your eyeballs if you have to, but don’t stop. What kept me going was the same thing that kept those dancers working at the barre. I just loved it. Even when the work was garbage, which was 99.9% of the time, I had to keep trying—and if you’re trying now, God bless you. Keep hammering. If you have a choice, you’ll know it and you’ll stop. But you who are like me … you don’t have a choice. Don’t quit. Keep slugging. It takes time. There’s a price. Keep hammering.”

Source: Steve Pressfield: My Years in the Wilderness

McKinsey: What Women In Business Want…

“Although women generate about a quarter of US GDP, they contribute less than they could—far too few of them move up the corporate ladder, for example, but not because they lack ambition. A McKinsey survey of about 2,500 college-educated men and women found that women who make the leap from entry-level jobs to middle management and on to senior management are not only increasingly interested in becoming leaders but also increasingly confident that they can. Read “How women can contribute more to the US economy” (April 2011).”  (Source: McKinsey Quarterly)

Is your team disengaged or drifting? If yes, what are you doing about it?

In a biannual survey conducted in September 2011, Modern Survey, a human capital measurement company,  found the following:

  •  70% of employees are now either disengaged or under engaged at their job – a record high number since Modern Survey began tracking these numbers in 2007 before the recession started.
  •  The number of fully engaged employees has dropped to a record low of just 8%…compared to one year ago when 15% of the workforce was fully engaged, the most recent data demonstrates a profound deterioration in the number of workers who are fully committed to their work and to their organization.
  • The engagement components which have seen the furthest erosion in the past year include “discretionary effort,” down ten percentage points from 58% favorable in August 2010 to 48% favorable in September 2011, and “belief in the future of the organization,” which has tumbled most severely from 48% favorable in 2010 to just 34% in the most recent study.
  • Shockingly, while 70% of workers are disengaged or under engaged, approximately one fifth of workers reported that they are currently looking for a new job. (Because of view that there are few jobs to be had and/or they would have to take a pay cut).

So, you have disengaged employees or they are drifting.  And, they aren’t going to leave so it’s your problem to fix.  A recent article in HBR outlines 4 steps to get back on track:

  1. Sit with your team and discuss what you have observed in a non-judgmental way setting the tone for and open non-defensive conversation.
  2. Ask others what they are experiencing.  Let everyone be heard.
  3. Revisit your vision.  Why do we exist.  What purpose do we serve.  Where are we going.  What are shared values.  Taking a “time out” to pull your team together, to regroup and refocus on your vision, will allow you to easily set a new trajectory that will get you where you want to go
  4. Last, move to problem-solving. What’s the best way to get back on track? What goals will move your team toward your shared vision? Do you need to change about the way you work together?

Leaders: Recognize that everyone on your team is waging a great battle inside…

I’m a big fan of Art Petty and his Management Excellence blog.   He had another great post last week on the importance of a leader’s Attitude that certainly resonated with me in the grueling times we live in.  Art nails it:

  • Of the many things we can’t control in life and business, attitude is the one we have 100 percent power over, every single day. The best leaders know this, and they work to prepare theirs before walking through the door or engaging in the workplace.
  • Manage your framing! Frame problems and setbacks, as opportunities, just like the leader described above.  Problems are raw material for organizational heroes.
  • Reset every morning on your primary purpose. Walk in the door looking for opportunities to help your team members. Today.
  • Stifle your inner critic and teach your team members to be doers, not critics. The world has more than enough critics, and they are generally value destroyers.
  • Recognize that everyone is waging a great battle inside. The anger in their voices or the frustration on display is likely the result of an untold number of issues. Instead of responding in kind, respond with empathy. Ask questions, seek clarity on true needs and then propose solutions.
  • Recognize that treating others with kindness, respect and empathy is not a sign of weakness. To the contrary, those qualities display inner strength and the ever-important emotional intelligence.  When your approach is met with abusive behavior, fight back from the position of right and strength.

Source: Art Petty, Management Excellence – It’s All In Your Attitude

Sunday Morning. Listen deeply as you walk. There’s light everywhere, especially in Greece.

A lot of dark talk about Greece for months.  Yet, I can’t go there.  In 2006, I had the good fortune of working on assignment in Athens. What an incredible opportunity it was.  The picture below is of the Acropolis, which was visible to us from a restaurant where we were having dinner…along with a warm summer breeze…fresh fish, Greek Salad with garden ripened tomatoes, spinach pie and Greek vino to ease it all down.

I had the opportunity to walk the paths around a number of the world’s greatest historical landmarks and ruins.  When I came across the post below, the memory of my time in Greece came gushing back.  I was walking where thousands walked before me.  A moving and humbling experience.   Despite the country’s economic woes, be sure that you add Athens as a place to visit on your bucket list.  My visit was one of life’s defining experiences for me and I’m certain you won’t be disappointed.

The Exasperation of the Democratic Billionaire…The US has fundamentally great qualities

Real-estate and newspaper mogul Mortimer Zuckerman voted for Obama but began seeing trouble as soon as the stimulus went into the pockets of municipal unions.

It certainly isn’t the America that Mr. Zuckerman discovered when he moved south from Canada (in the early 60’s)…he reports feeling immediately at home and says he never considered returning ‘because of the sheer openness and energy of life in America.’  The U.S. has fundamentally great qualities.  It’s a society that welcomes talent, nourishes talent, admires talent…and rewards talent.  But he sees potentially catastrophic political and fiscal problems.  Zuckerman reports that when he was a young man, 50% of the top quartile of graduates from Canadian universities moved to the U.S.  Now, he says, I don’t want my daughter telling me, ‘Dad, I want to move back to Canada because that’s the land of opportunity.’

~ Mortimer Zuckerman, CEO of Boston Properties

WSJ: The Weekend Interview with Mortimer Zuckerman – “The Exasperation of the Democratic Billionaire

The Meaning of Hockey – For Canadians, in priority line with Bread, Salt & Water…


In Canada, Hockey is Religion.  And o’ how the memory is tugged back to the days.  5:30am practices.  Trudging to the arena.  Wiggling your toes in ice skates desperately trying to stay warm – – in a bitterly cold aluminum sided ice arena where gusts of Arctic air whistle in.  And, whether it was sitting in front of the black and white watching Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday night.  Or the country standing still during the gut wrenching 1972 Canada Cup Series against the Russians.  Or in the locker room during high school or collegiate play where as Penguins coach Kevin Constantine quoted: “We only speak two languages here: English and profanity.”  Hockey is part of Canadians’ DNA.  Hockey is part of who I am.  Part of me.  This article is written by Stephen Marche who had written Lucy Hardin’s Missing Period and three other books, including How Shakespeare Changed Everything.  It’s LONG but worthy for those Canadians among us who will appreciate his unique perspective…and offers non-Canadians some insights into the game and into us.  Several of my favorite excerpts.

“In Canada, even death waits on hockey.”

“Two features distinguish hockey from all other sports: its peculiar relationship to violence, and its pace, which is just beyond the organic capacities of human biology.”

“Despite its current dominance of our national space, hockey has always been a stolen game, a suppressed game, on the edge of society’s norms, dirty, lower class. There will always be an uncivilized edge to hockey, a wildness at its heart that disturbs proper society.”

“Hockey is the most popular expression of the Canadian dream. In the American dream, a man enters the wilderness to fashion a home for his family out of the abundant raw materials of the continent. The Canadian dream is much more lonely and rough. A man goes into the backcountry and becomes wild. The Canadian dream, a métis dream, is a distinct species of pastoral, unknown elsewhere in the world. To understand hockey, you need to understand the unique relationship to wilderness contained in its northernness.”

“Canadian socialists — from early realists like Tommy Douglas to contemporary nihilists like Naomi Klein — take strength from their insistence on struggle rather than in any dream of a beautiful future. It is the struggle that matters, always the struggle that is worthy of respect. And this emphasis can be crippling: You must struggle. Comfort with oneself and one’s surroundings are signs of corruption.”

“Skilled violence against speed, the little brother of war against the mechanics of modernity. The history of hockey is the working out of the fundamental contradictions inherent in amétis game. The greatest series of all time — Canada against Russia in 1972 — was so charged with meaning because of the stark separation of hockey’s two fundamental dimensions. The Russians had mastered speed and skating.  The Canadians had mastered violence. ”

“This is one of the few sports in the world where you can punch an opponent in the face and continue playing.

Source: Walrus: The Meaning of Hockey – Steven Marche

Want to be in top 10% of all leaders? Develop 3 exceptional strengths…

Finally, got around to the October issue of HBR.  An article that caught and held my attention was titled Making Yourself Indispensable by John Zenger, Joseph Folkman & Scott Edinger.  Research involving thousands of executives over decades has led to several conclusions:

“Developing strengths yields only incremental improvement.  To get appreciably better at it, you have to work on complementary skills”  (For example, combining diet with exercise is more effective than either exercise or diet alone).

“What makes leaders indispensable…is not being good at many things but being uniquely outstanding in a few things.  Such strengths allow a leader’s inevitable weaknesses to be overlooked.”

“The difference between being in the bottom third of all leaders and being almost in the top third is a single extraordinary strength.    Two profound strengths put leaders close to the top quartile, three in put them in the top quintile, and four put them in the top decile.”

In previous research, the authors found “16 differentiated leadership competencies that correlate strongly with positive business outcomes” and then found pairs of competencies that boosted the core competency level.  The core competencies and a few of the listed “companion pairings are listed below in parentheses.  So, the trick is to develop 3-4 competencies (leveraging the companion pairing) and you soar to the top of the leader pool…


1) Honesty & Integrity (Decisive, Assertive, Optimistic)

Personal Capability:

2) Technical & Professional Expertise (Communicates Powerfully, Takes Initiative, Develops Others)

3) Solves Problems & Analyzes Issues (Technical expertise, Communicates powerfully/broadly)

4) Innovates (Champions change, Supports others in Risk Taking)

5) Practises Self Development (Listens, Respects Others, Inspires & Motivates Others)

Getting Results:

6)  Focuses on Results (Is quick to act, creates high performance team, displays honesty/integrity)

7) Establish Stretch Goals (inspires and motivations others; focus on results; is decisive)

8)  Takes Initiatives (emphasizes speed, follows through, is organized at planning)

9) Communicates Powerfully & Broadly (Inspires & motivates; Trustworthy; Develops others)

Interpersonal Skills:

10) Inspires & Motivates others (connects emotionally with others; develops others, strong role model)

11) Builds Relationships (develops others; demonstrates optimism; collaborates/fosters teamwork)

12) Develops Others (practise self development; provides rewards and recognition; honesty/integrity)

13) Collaborates & Fosters Teamwork (Builds relationships; trustworthy; develops others)

Leading Change:

14) Develops Strategic Perspective (Focuses on customers, inspires and motivates others)

15) Champions Change (Builds relationships; focuses on results; develops strategic perspective)

16) Connects the Group to the Outside World (Has strong interpersonal skills, take initiative)

Source with Subscription: Harvard Business Review – Making Yourself Indispensable

Northern Lights…

Red Maple Tree

(Courtesy Mme Scherzo.  Source: prym3)

We’re are a society of NOW, NOW, NOW. Yet, The easy money is gone. Overnight success is impossible. Grab the shovel and start digging…

Alexandra Levit has released a new book called Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can’t Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success. Levit is a former syndicated columnist for the Wall Street Journal and she is a frequent national media spokesperson on careers, getting a job and corporate life. She offers some timely and practical advise in her new book where she “debunks” 10 business myths that no longer enable you to quickly climb the corporate ladder (and keep your current job). These 10 myths include:

Myth #1: Overnight success is possible.

Myth #2: Controversy will propel your career.

Myth #3: Employers want you to be yourself.

Myth #4: Being good at your job trumps everything.

Myth #5: It’s best to climb the ladder as fast as possible.

Myth #6: You’ll get more money because you’ve earned it.

Myth #7: The problem isn’t you, it’s the organization.

Myth #8: You won’t get laid off, you’re too essential.

Myth #9: If only you could break out of Corporate America, everything would be perfect.

Myth #10: Do what you love and the money will follow.

She has a solid post on Tom Peters blog called Forget Overnight Success and Learn to Be Persistent. You’ll find some key excerpts below.

[Read more…]

“Go Do.” Let me put it more bluntly: stop your whining, get off your a** and go get it done.

Lou Imbriano is the author of this manifesto titled “Go Do.” He is the President and CEO of TrinityOne sports marketing agency. He grew up in East Boston – a self described average student who was ok in sports and possessed average talent – – but had a very supporting and encouraging family. This laid the foundation for Imbriano’s adopted mantra of “How hard can it be?” – – which he levered with a can-do, “go do” philosophy anytime he was challenged or questioned. “Once he got hold of an opportunity he wouldn’t let go.” This “average” talent became the Chief Marketing Officer for an NFL franchise with no marketing degree or PhD credentials. He became the CEO of his sport marketing agency. And he is in his 4th year of teaching at Boston College with a waiting list each year. Reading this manifesto has the same effect as chugging several cans of Red Bull and firing up the engines.

[Read more…]

Only one firm has called the start & end of each recession in the past 15 years. The call now is…


Economists generally have a very poor track record for calling recessions.   Economic Cycle Research Institute (ECRI), on the other hand, has correctly predicted the beginning and end of all recessions correctly for the past 15 years.  While the general consensus opinion is calling for the U.S. not to head into another recession, ECRI’s current forecast is that economy is going to get worse.  ECRI’s call:

  • If the U.S. isn’t already in a recession now, it’s about to enter one.
  • More pain is coming…the unemployment rate will certainly go higher.
  • GDP is likely to go negative by the first quarter of 2012, if not sooner.
  • We’ve entered into a vicious cycle, and it’s too late: A recession can’t be averted.

14 million Americans (9.1%) are currently unemployed with more than 6.2 million having been out of work for more than 6 months.  It is estimated that the actual tally of the underemployed is 16.5%.  Yet, back at the ranch, our U.S. government leaders are paralyzed and lack any type of urgency.  It’s getting seriously dark folks (and has been dark for too many Americans for too long).  It’s crunch time.

Sources: NY Times: The Ugly Forecast That’s Been Right Before.  Photo: Sturt Krygsman – The Australian, 2008

Man. Nature. And a profound half-second moment…

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) looking for fish

Alan Lightman, novelist, physicist, MIT teacher:

“For many years, a family of ospreys lived in a large nest near my summer home in Maine. Each season, I carefully observed their rituals and habits. In mid-April, the parents would arrive, having spent the winter in South America, and lay eggs. In early June, the eggs hatched. The babies slowly grew, as the father brought fish back to the nest, and in early to mid-August were large enough to make their first flight. My wife and I recorded all of these comings and goings with cameras and a notebook. We wrote down the number of chicks each year, usually one or two but sometimes three. We noted when the chicks first began flapping their wings, usually a couple of weeks before flying from the nest. We memorized the different chirps the parents made for danger, for hunger, for the arrival of food. After several years of cataloging such data, we felt that we knew these ospreys. We could predict the sounds the birds would make in different situations, their flight patterns, their behavior when a storm was brewing. Reading our “osprey journals” on a winter’s night, we felt a sense of pride and satisfaction. We had carefully studied and documented a small part of the universe.

Then, one August afternoon, the two baby ospreys of that season took flight for the first time as I stood on the circular deck of my house watching the nest. All summer long, they had watched me on that deck as I watched them. To them, it must have looked like I was in my nest just as they were in theirs. On this particular afternoon, their maiden flight, they did a loop of my house and then headed straight at me with tremendous speed. My immediate impulse was to run for cover, since they could have ripped me apart with their powerful talons. But something held me to my ground. When they were within 20 feet of me, they suddenly veered upward and away. But before that dazzling and frightening vertical climb, for about half a second we made eye contact. Words cannot convey what was exchanged between us in that instant. It was a look of connectedness, of mutual respect, of recognition that we shared the same land. After they were gone, I found that I was shaking, and in tears. To this day, I cannot explain what happened in that half-second. But it was one of the most profound moments of my life.”

(Salon: Does God Exist?  & Photo from Pheαnix’s Photostream)

Sunday Morning. Peace and Calm in a Forest Glow…

Forest glow

Courtesy of Mme Scherzo (petitpoulailler:raspberrytart: Forest Glow by 96dpi)

HBR: Biggest driver of customer loyalty: Brand? Product? Service? Price? No. The sales experience…

This is the 2nd of a 4 part HBR series where the authors share the findings in a global study of 6000 top performing sales reps.   (Post #1: HBR Challenger #1)

Do you remember being dragged to your SPIN sales selling training classes (Situation questions, Problem Questions, Implications Questions, Need-Payoff Questions)?  These training classes have indoctrinated us to gain a deep understanding of the client need using a series of open ended questions, have the client gain acceptance that solving the need is critically important and then we pile in with the solution.  “What’s keeping you up at night?” – – was one of the well worn ice breakers used to get there.  The authors argue that “this approach is based on a deeply flawed assumption: customers actually know what they need in the first place.”

They conclude that the largest driver of customer loyalty is the sales experience (53%) and not Product or Service (19%), Brand (19%) or Price (9%).

Several of the key drivers of the sales experience include: Rep offers unique and valuable perspectives, Rep helps me navigate alternatives, Rep helps me avoid landmines and Rep educates me on new issues and outcomes.

“Customer loyalty, it turns out, is more a function of how you sell than what you sell.”

Great article on the value of consultative selling.  You’ll find some key excerpts below.

[Read more…]

In memory of Steve Jobs…

(Thank you:  The Savvy Girl and Andrea Tyrell Grant)

Want to grow – you need feedback. Here are three sure-fire questions that work.

Want to improve?  You need to get “unvarnished” feedback.  Yet, we often don’t ask for feedback because we are afraid of what we might hear.  Or, asking the question: “How am I doing?” puts the shoe on the other foot – – it shifts the discomfort of giving feedback to your colleague who is either uncomfortable in sharing it or is unprepared to do so.  I’ve used these three questions several times over the past few weeks in large group meetings and in one-on-one sessions – – and it works…

Three Questions to Get the Feedback You Need

No leader improves without feedback. But getting people to be honest about your performance isn’t always easy. Give your team a way to supply you with the candid information you need to change by asking them these three questions:

  • What should I stop doing? Ask which behaviors stand in your way of success.
  • What should I keep doing? Inquire about what you do right, and should continue to do.
  • What should I start doing? Once you’ve stopped unproductive behaviors, you’ll have more time and energy for new behaviors.

Harvard Business Review: Management Tip of the Day

HBR: Top Salespeople are Challengers. Not hard workers, problem solvers or relationship builders.

Selling has become much harder in the past decade with global competition, economic headwinds and rapid innovation. Yet, every company has a few top performers. The authors launched a global study of 6000 sales reps across 100 companies in multiple industries. The authors categorize sales people into 5 categories: 1) Relationship Builders, 2) Hard workers (stay late, go extra mile, make more calls), 3) Lone Wolves (self-confident, do things their own way), 4) Reactive Problem Solvers and 5) Challengers (deep understanding of customers’ business; take control of sales conversation; share controversial views with clients and bosses; are assertive).

The study concludes that Challengers dramatically outperform other profiles, particular Relationship Builders. They teach their customers. They take control of the sale. They dominate the world of complex selling.

The article also includes two excellent tools: A Challenger Self-Assessment (and scoring guide) along with Pre-Call Planning Questions that can prepare a Sales person for interactions using the Challenger approach.

While I believe the author’s conclusions are sound, I doubt that a salesperson can succeed in today’s environment without Relationship Building and Problem Solving competencies. That being said, I think this article is required reading for all of us involved in sales and sales management.

HBR Article: Selling is not about relationships

There’s real power to simply being honest when so many people dance around the truth…

Reuters: “In an age where seemingly everyone…now blogs, tweets and leaks news stretching the truth has become de rigueur. But I’d argue that it’s creating distrust; it’s also distorting the way that we see the world…There are so many costs to a culture of spin. It’s kind of a situation of mutually assured destruction. There’s a real power to simply being honest in a context where many people are so often dancing around the truth. There’s an integrity that comes with that, even if the reward for having integrity isn’t always immediate. We’ve developed a strong ability to deceive others and a poor ability to detect deception in others, and the cost of both is huge. Meanwhile, the commitment to telling the truth is purifying in many ways. You’re often humbled to discover what the truth is, and that you can be a better person.”

Making a case for more candor at start ups: Reuters

Life remains the same until…

Thanks to Mme Scherzo and Cultural Offering.

Difficult days demand staying power…

Thousands of people have talent. I might as well congratulate you for having eyes in your head. The one and only thing that counts is: Do you have staying power?

~ Noel Coward


Frank Bruni (NY Times):

He was born 21 years ago in a rural village in Zimbabwe. Crippled, he never walked, so his mother would carry him four hours to the nearest medical clinic. It was a trip they made often, because his bones kept breaking…I asked him if anything about his new life disappointed him. He stared blankly at me. To him, the question made no sense whatsoever.

For A Disabled African, Doors Swinging Open

Coach Lombardi on filling the personal skills gap…

‎”Making the effort to improve as a human being is what Coach Lombardi was all about. He was able to see the gap between where we were and what we could become – both as football players and as people. And he felt it was his God-given responsibility to close that gap.”

~ Jerry Kramer, Guard on Lombardi’s Packers

Office Life: Have learned this the hard way. “Stop looking for fairness & justice. Focus on making a positive difference.”

Marshall Goldsmith:

You expect office life to be fair? Wait, we’re still laughing…The world is not a particularly rational place. We humans are profoundly illogical. Otherwise, wars would never begin. Still, we devote many of our waking hours to trying to find logic in situations where none exists. Our minds need order and fairness and justice. But much of life is neither fair nor just…Many of us lose mojo at home because of our persistent need to be right and prove that our partners are wrong in pointless arguments. Once we make peace with the fact that all decision are made by real people—not logical people—life gets easier. We make more of a positive difference and feel happier.  If you’re looking for your own view of logic to win the day, you may be looking in the wrong place. If you focus on making a positive difference, instead of just being satisfied with feeling “right,” you will benefit both your company and your career. You may ultimately increase, rather than damage, your mojo.  At home, a common message from ministers to newly married couples is, “Would you rather be right—or have a happy marriage?”  The next time you pride yourself on your superior “logic” and damage relationships with the people that you need at work—or the people that you love at home—ask yourself, “How logical was that?”

BusinessWeek: Stop Looking for Logic

Empathy is insufficient, a shortcut. Do something!

‎David Brooks (NY Times):

“Nobody is against empathy. Nonetheless, it’s insufficient. These days empathy has become a shortcut. It has become a way to experience delicious moral emotions without confronting the weaknesses in our nature that prevent us from actually acting upon them. It has become a way to experience the illusion of moral progress…”

NY Times: Limits of Empathy

Fall has arrived…

Courtesy of Mme Scherzo:

 Early Autumn, Utrecht, The Netherlands photo via visualizeus

Yes, Churchill on point (again)…

Winston Churchill:

“You have enemies?  Good.  That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

Hello Blog World…

Day 1 and counting…