Dad to Daughter: You Can Do Anything You Put Your Mind To! (Not!)

Flash back.  My daughter was 9 years old.  She’s watching (with envy) her younger brother do back flips from the edge of the pool.  He’s sleek.  Effortless.  Natural.  Dad meanwhile is haranguing his daughter.  YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO!  Over and over.  Relentless as only her Dad can be.  Daughter finally concedes.  She ekes up to the edge of the pool…anxiously looking over her shoulder into the pool…and then back down to her feet while wiggling her toes.  She takes a deep breath.  Bends her knees.  And leaps.  And proceeds to dive 3″ or so SHORT of clearing the edge – – glancing off the non-slip abrasive concrete – – ripping an 18 inch gash down the middle of her back.  There was a calm silence for about 2-3 seconds and then she bellowed: DAD, I TOLD YOU THAT I COULDN’T DO THIS.  And then she ran into the house into the arms of her Mother.

More than 10 years later, this story comes back to me like it was yesterday.  (And has left an indelible scar on my Daughter.)  I laugh.  She snarls.  I tell her it was an excellent life lesson.  I hear mumbling…something which sounds like “idiot.”

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Wednesday For Women: Professional Working Women…an inspiration.

Today’s post was inspired by my 3 contacts I had with professional working women yesterday.

Take One: At a function last night, I met a single parent.  She raised her son on her own since her son was an infant.  She put herself through an undergraduate school, graduate school and has advanced her career nicely.  She’s also engaged in leadership positions outside of her job.  Her strapping teenage son has excellent prospects.  Despite having endured and persevered more than most, this young lady was as optimistic about her future as anyone I have met.

Take Two: I spoke to my daughter last night.  She is interviewing this morning for a summer internship position.  She called on an HR colleague to assist her in prepping for the interview.  My HR colleague is a working Mom.  One of the most diligent, effective and optimistic professionals I have met. And she has time to help my daughter, after juggling job, commute, dinner, children, laundry etc. etc.

Take Three: I traded emails with a new blog follower yesterday, formerly not an acquaintance.  I asked her how she found me.  She shared with me that she’s tied to her computer for 72 hours toward the end of the cycle for product delivery and happened to come across my posts on women in leadership positions, Buddha, Winston et al.  Another professional working woman hard at it.  Welcome…I’m glad to have you on board.

Working women – I don’t know how you do it.

Three recent Women in Business articles that are worth reading:

1) Harvard Business Review: Why Women Leaders Need Self-Confidence

2) Forbes: The Secret to Being a Power Woman: Wake Up Early

3) The Economist: Special Report On Women & Work (See excerpts below)

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GUEST BLOGGER: Leadership USAF Style…

Welcome to my first guest blogger who is writing a supplement to my popular post (“Leadership is a Gift Given By Those Who Follow“). Here is a short bio on Tom Hood:

  • Tom is a cousin via my wife’s family.
  • He was Born in Grand Blanc, Michigan
  • He accepted appointment to the US Air Force Academy and graduated in the top 25% of his class.
  • He entered the Intelligence career field.  He graduated from the USAF Officer’s Intelligence School.  He went on to complete 7 years of distinguished service as an Intelligence Officer specializing in Counter-Terrorism and enemy surface-to-air missile systems.
  • Tom is currently the Lead Designing Engineer for the 2014 Corvette interior trim system at General Motors
  • During his time at GM, Tom engineered components and subsystems of several award winning vehicles, including the Cadillac SRX, Chevy Equinox, and Chevy Cruze.
  • Tom Hood is a member of Generation Y – The Millennial Generation.  If there is any concern about the quality of the budding leaders behind us – read on.  His commentary is unedited.  Solid and inspiring…would you follow this young man?  Absolutely!

Tom Hood: In Response to Comments on General Mark Welsh’s speech to the USAF Academy Cadet Wing

Previously in this blog, David Kanigan posted a remarkable speech Gen Mark Welsh gave to the US Air Force Academy Cadet Wing earlier this year.  The title of the speech was “Leadership is a Gift Given by Those Who Follow.”  In the post comments, a reader wondered if the General was some sort of new age warrior, or if those in the US Military always talked that way.  As a graduate of the USAF Academy’s Class of 1994 and having spent 7 years as an AF officer,  I have a little insight into the General’s speech.  I sat in a countless number of those addresses we were privileged to attend after lunch during my time there.  In summary, rather than being a “new age warrior,” the General is speaking about the basic fundamentals of leadership the military expects of all of its officers.  During my 10 years in the private sector, I’ve seen many leaders who lack those basic fundamentals.  Therefore, over the next few weeks, I’ll take some time to address many of the General’s themes and illustrate why these qualities are enduring, unchanging, and crucial to any leader in any endeavor.

I’m going to begin by referring to an incident where Gen Welsh admitted he failed as a leader.  For those who heard the speech, the General had an airman serving in his unit who had family problems, and because the individual’s chain of command didn’t know their people well enough, it almost cost this airman custody of his daughter.  Rather than describe the details of the incident, I’ll refer to the Gen’s statement “Everyone has a story, and if you don’t know the story, you can’t lead the airman.”  One of the things I’ve noticed in the private sector is that leaders do not take the time to truly get to know their people.  In the group I currently work in, none of my co-workers has every met my spouse, or son, and, if it wasn’t for my tendency to want to get to know people, I wouldn’t know very much about them.   When I was in the military, this was almost unheard of, as leaders and co-workers took the time to get to know and socialize with each other.

I pose the following question to everyone who reads this blog: “How well do you know your people?”  You may think that anything beyond a professional relationship is not only unnecessary, but possibly improper.  However, as the General said, if you do not truly know each individual’s story, how can you lead them effectively?  What are their desires, hopes, goals, and frustrations?  What do they deal with when not at work? All of these things affect the behavior and motivation of each individual, and it is a leader’s fundamental job to know them.  Added to that, when team members know each other well, the resulting camaraderie binds the team together and results in greater productivity.  As a leader, if you take a good look at your group and find your workplace to be transactional and/or competitive rather than collaborative, you need to take a good look at yourself.  It is up to you to set the tone and take the short amount of time necessary to know the stories.  Failure to do so will cost you dearly.

“How well do you know your people?”

Are You Part of the 1%?Ve

Monday Morning: Wake up call!

Source: Via Beverley Shiller

Willpower: IT IS IN YOUR HEAD!

In this morning’s NY Times, Greg Walton (Asst Prof of Psychology @ Stanford) and Carol Dweck (professor of psychology at Stanford and the author of “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”) shared research in an article titled Willpower – It’s in Your Head.  Good article that I would recommend reading in its entirety.  Key excerpts:

  •  “In research we conducted…, we confirmed that willpower can indeed be quite limited — but only if you believe it is. When people believe that willpower is fixed and limited, their willpower is easily depleted. But when people believe that willpower is self-renewing — that when you work hard, you’re energized to work more; that when you’ve resisted one temptation, you can better resist the next one — then people successfully exert more willpower. It turns out that willpoweris in your head.
  • “How does this happen? People who think that willpower is limited are on the lookout for signs of fatigue. When they detect fatigue, they slack off. People who get the message that willpower is not so limited may feel tired, but for them this is no sign to give up — it’s a sign to dig deeper and find more resources.”
  • “To be sure, willpower is not completely unlimited. Food and rest are of course necessary for functioning, and many struggles that people face are quite difficult. The question is how often we need extra sugar boosts. Messages suggesting that willpower is severely limited and that we need constant sugar boosts are bound to further inflate the American waistline and hinder our ability to achieve our goals.”
  • “At stake in this debate is not just a question about the nature of willpower. It’s also a question of what kind of people we want to be. Do we want to be a people who dismiss our weaknesses as unchangeable? When a student struggles in math, should we tell that student, “Don’t worry, you’re just not a math person”? Do we want him to give up in the name of biology? Or do we want him to work harder in the spirit of what he wants to become?”
Image Source: livelifeready.com

Sunday Morning: Riding The Red Arrow

This music was composed by Arvo Pärt, an Estonian classical composer.  The pianists are Marjan Peternel and Primoz Urbanc.  The original piece was composed by Reinhold Gliere, a Russian composer born in Kiev (1875-1956).  The song “The Hymn to the Great City” was adopted as the hymn of Saint Petersburg in 1965 and has been playing when the Red Arrow sleeper train leaves Leningrad Station in Moscow to the Moscow Station in Saint Petersburg.  Shame that I didn’t get a chance to ride this train and hear this music during my visit to Moscow in the 70’s, although I’m confident I would not have appreciated it then.  Beautiful composition and master pianists…just what the doctor ordered on this Sunday morning…

Source: Thank you Madam Scherzo

Are you Stuck? Should You Get Mobile?

The “Geography of Stuck” was published in The Atlantic yesterday by Senior Editor Richard Florida.  He notes the following statistics and commentary:

  • A smaller share of Americans moved last year than at any time on record
  • Nearly six in ten Americans live in the state where they were born
  • Louisiana (79%), Michigan (77%) and Ohio (75%) were born there, as opposed to just 24% of Nevadans, 35% of Floridians, 37% of the residents of Washington, D.C., and 38% of Arizonans.
  • There is a distinctive “stuck belt” across the middle of the country running from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa, down through West Virginia and into the Sunbelt states of Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.  Mobility is largely a bi-coastal—plus Rocky Mountain state—phenomenon.
  • America can be divided into two distinct classes, the stuck and the mobile. The mobile possess the resources and the inclination to seek out and move to locations where they pursue economic opportunity. Too many Americans are stuck in places with limited resources and opportunities. This geography of the stuck and mobile is a key axis of cleavage in the United States.

Whoa.  While I don’t dispute the facts, I would challenge the statement and the framing that “many Americans are stuck in places with limited resources and opportunities.”  Any takers today for a move to the Sunshine states?  (Nevada employment rate 13.9%, California 11.9%, Florida 10.6%, Arizona 9.1%).

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Friday Night: Mesmerized…

Nuit Blanche explores a fleeting moment between two strangers, revealing their brief connection in a hyper real fantasy.  This short clip was winner of several film awards.

Source: Thank you Madam Scherzo – Lovely Beyond All Comprehension

From Cultural Offering: Homecomings and Thanksgiving

From Cultural Offering, who manages to capture the essence of today in his post – – with George Winston playing “Thanksgiving” as background music.  Check out: Homecomings & Thanksgiving.  Thank you Kurt Harden.

To family, colleagues and friends…

To My Brother who has been fighting a battle, every day now for months.  His beautiful wife and two handsome boys by his side.  Wishing we could do more (or something). You are top of mind every day Bro…top of mind.

To Susan.  As they say in The Serenity Prayer…God did grant you the serenity to accept the things (me) that you cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference.

To My Daughter.  You move me.

To My Son.  With your Mother’s heart.  And your Dad’s work ethic.  Your intelligence, only God knows where this came from.  Hollywood couldn’t have scripted you, my Son, any better than how you’ve turned out.

To N who gave birth to her son John last weekend.  It hasn’t been an easy or a straight line path…but you persevere in all things.  What an inspiration you are.   And whether one believes in God (or not)…birth and life – – a miracle.

To my “Words With Friends” playing partners, some day…some day.  I’ll even the score.

To Zeke who turns 4 year on December 26th.  Who would have imagined that a Hungarian bird hunting dog could bring so much joy.  And so little sleep at night now that you have assumed a permanent place under the covers.

To my colleagues.  From the Rhino’s, BC, the Irish, the Germans, the Italians, the Vegans, the Artists, the Armenians, the Gekkos and the Nice Guys – – what an eclectic group of hard charging Professionals.  What an incredible inspiration you all are.  Every day.

To My Assistant.  (I stand corrected…my Executive Assistant).  In your face.  Firecracker.  Never wrong.  Absolutely indispensable.

To my friends.  They are few.  I cherish your candor, your honesty and that you are there when I need you.  And to those friends down on their luck or in the hunt, my thoughts and prayers are with you.  And if there’s anything that I can do to help, let me know.

To my Blog Readers, thank you all for your Readership, your conversation and your thought leadership in this new venture.

Happy Thanksgiving…

Navy Seals: Bravery, Toughness & Sacrifice – – Beyond Most Mortals’ Comprehension

Setting aside your love or hate feelings for Karl Rove for a moment, his article in WSJ.com titled “Hunting With Seals” is something special.  He talked about a recent hunting trip with former Navy Seals – – men who he describes could be mistaken for anyone down the street.  I encourage you to read the entire article to capture the full essence of the story.  Here are some key excerpts:

“They are extraordinary. Among them, they had a Navy Cross, four Silver Stars, 26 Bronze Stars for valor and four Purple Hearts. These were Navy SEALs with a combined 150 years of service and more than 67 overseas deployments in the war against terror.”

“A SEAL no longer on active duty spoke to the group about his last mission, which took place in 2007. Seven days before his deployment in Iraq’s Anbar province was to end, his unit received intelligence about the presence of 16 to 20 al Qaeda combatants in a remote compound. In the dark of night, helicopters dropped his SEAL team and Iraqi scouts 3.5 kilometers from their target. After surrounding the building, they assaulted it by blowing the main door.”

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Seth Godin: What makes him so productive? Why does he Blog?

Seth Godin has written 13 books – all bestsellers (Purple Cow; Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us; Poke the Box; LinchPin: Are You Indispensable). He earned his MBA from Stanford.  He is an entrepreneur.  Many describe him as a marketing guru.   And he is a voracious blogger – with more followers than any other.  He writes about marketing, leadership, ideas, change and execution.  He is interviewed in the November 2011 issue of the Productive! Magazine. I have included a few of the key excerpts below on what makes Seth so productive:

Q: You are super-productive guy with one book a year, lots of daily blog posts…how do you get this done?

SG: I don’t go to meetings, I don’t watch television and I focus very much on things that have leverage and try very hard to avoid things that are stalling.

Q: You don’t engage with users on Twitter or other social networks…are they a waste of your time?

SG: I’m not sure they are a waste, all I’m saying is that I can’t do it very well and also do the other things that I want to do.  So I go focus on things that I can do well and do them with leverage and passion and don’t let the resistance slow me down.

Q: You start many things.  What kind of tricks do you use that help you follow through with these things?

SG: I’m not sure it is a trick.  I think that the approach that I have is that the resistance to lizard brain is a compass.  If it tells me that something is uncomfortable, if it tells me that something is scary, then that is exactly what I’m going to do.  I look for it as a clue that I’m on the right track.

Q: On blogging.  Many people blog…but then they stop…how do you manage to post so regularly?

SG: Well, I think the most important thing to understand about blogging is that if you are blogging for other people you are going to be disappointed.  Even if no one would read it, I would still blog.  And the people I know who blog passionately, all of them say exactly the same thing.  So that is the way you have to look at it, you can’t say: “I’m not getting enough comments – I’m not going to blog.  I’m not getting enough money,  I’m not going to blog”.  You have to say: “this is a great chance for me to clear my thoughts and put them into the world, what an opportunity.”

Q: If you are so busy and have so many things to do, how do you balance your family life and find time for the ones you love?

SG: You know that it is funny.  People never say “how do you find time to have lunch or dinner?” or “how do you find time to sleep?”.  We are not talking about life-lunch balance.  So I’m not sure I’m interested in conversation about life-work balance.  I think you have to have the discipline to have the life you want to have.  And if you are stealing from one part of your life in order to make the other part work, you are going to pay for it.

4 Paradoxes of Great Performance. A Myth: More, Bigger, Faster is Better. There is always an optimal value beyond which anything is toxic…

The 99% blog posted “The Four Paradoxes of Great Performance” this week.  This may be one of the most insightful posts that I have read on what drives great performances in today’s high speed, global, information age – – and in a time and place where we are all asked to do more – – and more faster – – and more with less. I was so impressed by his thinking, that I have excerpted most of the post below. While the rationale for the “what” and the “why” is quite compelling, I’ve yet to solve the “HOW” in a disciplined and habitual manner and still remain effective. (Post for another day.)  And understanding that our teams need to operate in an environment where the 4 dimensions can be present, is a critical success factor in ensuring that great performances flourish under our watch as leaders.  (Yet another reason why there are truly so few great leaders and managers that exist among us.)

Tony Schwartz, the author, is the President and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of “Be Excellent at Anything.”  Schwartz feels that the key quality that distinguishes the best performers from everyone else is “to embrace opposites.”  “Honesty in the absence of compassion becomes cruelty.  Tenacity unmediated by flexibility congeals into rigidity.  Courage without prudence is recklessness.  As Gregory Bateson put it:  ‘There is always an optimal value beyond which anything is toxic, no matter what: oxygen, sleep, psychotherapy, philosophy.'”  Schwartz explains that we operate best when we embrace our opposites in each of these four key dimensions:

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Monday Morning Get-Me-Up…

 

Source: Secondstoryman

Sunday Morning: Autumn Lights…from Buddha to Biking to BC and back again

Ohm…

Magical Place…

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Sunday Morning: Gratitude Turns What We Have Into Enough

Source: The Sensual Starfish

If You’re Busy, You’re Doing Something Wrong: The Surprisingly Relaxed Lives of Elite Achievers

“Study Hacks” answers the question “Why elite players are better than the average players?” in his post titled “If You’re Busy, You’re Doing Something Wrong: The Surprisingly Relaxed Lives of Elite Achievers.”  Interesting conclusions…

  1. The obvious guess is that the elite players are more dedicated to their craft. That is, they’re willing to put in the long,Tiger Mom-style hours required to get good, while the average players are off goofing around and enjoying life.  The data, as it turns out, had a different story to tell…The time diaries revealed that both groups spent, on average, the same number of hours on music per week (around 50).
  2. The difference was in how they spent this time. The elite players were spending almost three times more hours than the average players on deliberate practice — the uncomfortable, methodical work of stretching your ability.
  3. But the researchers weren’t done.  They also studied how the students scheduled their work. The average players, they discovered, spread their work throughout the day.  The elite players, by contrast, consolidated their work into two well-defined periods…one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
  4. The researchers asked the players to estimate how much time they dedicated each week to leisure activities — an important indicator of their subjective feeling of relaxation. By this metric, the elite players were significantly more relaxed than the average players, and the best of the best were the most relaxed of all…furthemore, the elite players slept an hour more per night than the average players.
  5. The average players are working just as many hours as the elite players but they are not dedicated these hours to the right type of work.  And furthermore, they spread this work haphazardly through the day.  So even though they’re not doing more work than the elite players, they end up sleeping less and feeling more stressed. Not to mention that they remain worse at the violin.
  6. This analysis leads to an important conclusion… if your goal is to build a remarkable life, then busyness and exhaustion should be your enemy. If you’re chronically stressed and up late working, you’re doing something wrong. You’re the average player…not the elite. You’ve built a life around hard to do work, not hard work.
  7. The solution suggested by this research, as well as my own, is as simple as it is startling: Do less. But do what you do with complete and hard focus. Then when you’re done be done, and go enjoy the rest of the day.

Image: Frenetic Wallpaper at Layoutsparks.com

Easing into Friday Night…with Diana Krall

Tune into a Canadian’s blog and you’ll eventually be subjected to a post on famous Canadian artists. Diana Krall was born in Nanaimo, British Columbia.  Krall sold more the 15,000,000 albums worldwide, more albums than any other female jazz artist during the 90’s and 2000’s.  She’s won three Grammy Awards and eight Juno’s.  And per Wiki, she is the only jazz singer to have eight albums debuting at the top of the Billboard Jazz Albums. 

After a long week, it’s time to slow the pulse rate, close your eyes and have Diana serenade you with a beautiful Joni Mitchell composition: “A Case of You.”


Gadget Man Takes Inventory. Men and their Toys.

I was in South Florida this week on a business trip. I’m dragging my wheeled carry-on through the airport. And lugging my briefcase in the other hand – puzzled why it seemed to be so heavy. After unraveling a snarl of cords and cables in my bag on the flight (with accompanying 4 letter encouraging words), I committed to take inventory. Enough is ENOUGH. Once I arrived at home non-essentials were to go. So, tonight is take-briefcase-inventory night. (Insomnia raging). Excluding my business files and paperwork, here are the “electronics” in my briefcase:

  1. HP Calculator.
  2. Blackberry.
  3. Blackberry Power cord.
  4. SecurID password generator
  5. Laptop.
  6. Laptop Power Cord.
  7. Laptop Wireless Card.
  8. Laptop Back-up Battery
  9. iPhone
  10. iPad/Iphone Ear Buds.
  11. iPad.
  12. iPad Portable Keyboard
  13. iPhone/Ipad Power Cord.
  14. Flash Drive.

I even shocked myself. One has to ask, WHERE IS THE (MY) SANITY.

Oh yeah, as an aside, I forgot to mention 1 other gadget I missed on the list above. For this Florida trip, I bought a new Bose Bluetooth Headset Series 2. What an amazing piece of electronic equipment! The controls are simple. (I didn’t even open the manual). It pairs quickly to my Blackberry and my iPhone. The volume adjusts automatically as external noise levels change allowing you to hear callers better and for callers to hear you better. The bluetooth pairs to my iPhone music automatically. It is feather-light – 0.5 ounces – that’s right 1/2 of an ounce. And the earpiece magically stays in your ear and without irritation. And the damn thing works as advertised – on train, on plane, in car and in the wind. Expensive, yes, very. But, it has become my new indispensable electronic toy.

So, back to the bag cleaning. I put the Bose headset in my ear – it snapped to attention pairing to Bob Seger & Night Moves on the iPhone.

I then stared down at all the electronics inventory that I pulled out of may bag.

Conclusion. I need ALL of my gear. We’ll rationalize the inventory another day. No need to rush into these things. Just sayin’

Bedtime…

25 Blogs Guaranteed to Make You Smarter…

Kurt Harden’s CulturalOffering.com has been on my Blog Honor Roll list from inception. One day an inspiration. Another day a learning opportunity. A third day a bright light. And he’s done it again for me with his list of Top 25 Blogs Guaranteed to Make You Smarter. Thank you…

Source: Cultural Offering – 25 Blogs Guaranteed to Make You Smarter

“Habit keeps resistance from raising its ugly head and starting to talk me into sluffing off…”

Steven Pressfield republished his March 31, 2010 post this week.  It’s titled “Habit” and it’s worth reading from end to end.  He kicks it off with a memorable story on a pet goose and two generations of offspring and their particular compulsive habit.  (I won’t give it up here.)  Some memorable passages that followed the story include:

  • “Habit can be a mighty ally in the day-to-day struggle against Resistance.”
  • “We usually think of habits as bad. A drug habit, an alcohol habit. But habits can be tremendously positive too. The habit of going to the gym, of meditating, of daily visiting someone who could use a little kindly attention.”
  • “What I’m trying to do, myself, day-by-day in my professional regimen, is to reinforce the habit of a regular work schedule. I don’t succeed all the time. Days definitely get away from me. But the goal never changes and I never let up. I want to build a groove, I want to establish a positive, momentum-generating pattern.”
  • “Why? Because habit eliminates thought. Negative, Resistance-spawned thought. If I’m a ballet dancer and I make it my business to take class every morning, habit will compel me to get ready mentally the night before. When morning comes and it’s time for class, habit makes me grab my gym bag without thinking about it, throw in my sweats, my shoes, my Evian water.”
  • “Habit keeps Resistance from raising its ugly head and starting to talk me into sluffing off. Before I know it, I’m out the door and on my way to class.”
  • “Habit builds up energy over time. The repetition of any action–good or evil–generates power. Energy concentrates and accumulates. Bad habits become harder to break. But good habits do too.”
  • “The goal is habit-inculcation to overcome Resistance.”

Source: Steven Pressfield: Habit.  Image: Haniyateen

Wednesday for Women…

Two worthy articles for women leaders this week…

HBR Blog Network: Collaboration’s Hidden Tax on Women’s Careers:

“In our coaching sessions, we’ve worked with countless women who are exceptionally collaborative leaders. They have a talent for establishing buy-in. Still, the art of consensus can sometimes slow women down and diminish their leadership credibility. Over the past decade, we’ve interviewed over 1,700 people to find out how women can be more successful at the highest levels in leadership. One thing we’ve heard again and again is that collaboration can be a double-edged sword in terms of being perceived as powerful.”

Collaboration can go wrong for women when they: (1) Ask for permission, (2) appear indecisive, (3) fail to assert a strong point of view.

Forbes: Five Essential Leadership Lessons For Younger Women

How can women own their careers? These five tactics create success in any field: (1) Put yourself in a position to win, (2) Ask for what you need to be successful, (3) Be persistent, (4) Have courage, (5) Aim for consistency.

Career Coaching: Courageous Conversations or What?

Randy Conley had an excellent post last week titled:  Courageous Career Coaching – Ten Questions Trusted Leaders Aren’t Afraid to Ask.   You’ve likely seen the research on the current state of employee engagement – ugly.  (See my earlier L.L.L. post for more.)  Randy’s firm has identified that “job/career growth is one of the critical factors that create engaged and passionate employees, and it’s important for leaders to know that employees believe it’s the primary responsibility of their direct manager…”  Randy suggests the quickest way to figure out what employees want and need to be engaged and achieve career growth – is to ASK THEM.  And do so regularly – – not only during Annual Review season or when your employee has one foot out the door. 

Yet Randy explains, and he’s right…that many of us are “often afraid to engage in career development discussions because we feel unprepared to respond to the employees’ desires, or even worse, powerless to do anything about it due to organizational constraints. Yet in order to establish a high level of trust with those you lead, it’s critical your employees know you’re genuinely interested in, and committed to, their career growth.”

Randy Conley’s 10 Courageous Career Coaching Questions

  1. Why do you stay?
  2. What might lure you away?
  3. What did you like about your prior job (where you stayed several years)? What kept you there?
  4. Are you being ____ (challenged, recognized, trained, given feedback) enough for now?
  5. What would make your life here easier?
  6. Are things as you expected they would be?
  7. What do you want to be doing 5 years from now?
  8. What would we need to do to keep you here?
  9. What is most energizing about your work?
  10. What about your job makes you want to take a day off?

I can’t imagine rattling off these questions before you’ve built a relationship of trust or you’ll be climbing The Wall of Wary.  Yet what’s Plan B?  Do we roll the dice and hope it all somehow works out for the best –  or do we dive into the deep end and have a courageous conversation. (Yes, rhetorical question).   Imagine for a moment that you are on the receiving end of these questions from your current boss.  Your reaction?  He/she cares. 

Next steps?  Let’s go…

Source: Image: Photobucket

Sunday Morning: “Learning to Slow Down”

This excellent post titled “Learning to Slow Down” by Secondstoryman resonated with me this Sunday morning.

When we rush through our days and lives, we fail to notice the simple beauty of living.

Throughout our lives, we are taught to value speed and getting things done quickly. We learn that doing is more valuable than merely being, and that making the most of life is a matter of forging ahead at a hurried pace. Yet as we lurch forward in search of some elusive sense of fulfillment, we find ourselves feeling increasingly harried and disconnected. More importantly, we fail to notice the simple beauty of living. When we learn to slow down, we rediscover the significance of seemingly inconsequential aspects of life. Mealtimes become meditative celebrations of nourishment. A job well-done becomes a source of profound pleasure, no matter what the nature of our labors. In essence, we give ourselves the gift of time—time to indulge our curiosity, to enjoy the moment, to appreciate worldly wonders, to sit and think, to connect with others, and to explore our inner landscapes more fully.

A life savored slowly need not be passive, inefficient, or slothful. Conducting ourselves at a slower pace enables us to be selective in how we spend our time and to fully appreciate each passing moment. Slowness can even be a boon in situations that seem to demand haste. When we pace ourselves for even a few moments as we address urgent matters, we can center ourselves before moving ahead with our plans. Embracing simplicity allows us to gradually purge from our lives those commitments and activities that do not benefit us in some way. The extra time we consequently gain can seem like vast, empty stretches of wasted potential. But as we learn to slow down, we soon realize that eliminating unnecessary rapidity from our experiences allows us to fill that time in a constructive, fulfilling, and agreeable way. We can relish our morning rituals, linger over quality time with loved ones, immerse ourselves wholeheartedly in our work, and take advantage of opportunities to nurture ourselves every single day.

You may find it challenging to avoid giving in to the temptation to rush, particularly if you have acclimated to a world of split-second communication, cell phones, email and overflowing agendas. Yet the sense of continuous accomplishment you lose when you slow down will quickly be replaced by feelings of magnificent contentment. Your relaxed tempo will open your mind and heart to deeper levels of awareness that help you discover the true gloriousness of being alive.

Sources: Secondstoryman – “Learning to Slow Down” and image via CreatingAQuietMind

Leadership Is a Gift Given by Those Who Follow

Grant McCracken (MIT Research Affiliate) wrote this post in this week’s HBR Blog Network on General Mark Welsh who addresses the US Air Force Academy.  It’s a 45 minute speech but HANG IN THERE UNTIL THE END.  Must-watch-TV for leaders.  Funny.  Inspiring.  Incredibly moving.  Best leadership video that I’ve had the good fortune to watch.

Here is General Mark Welsh, Commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, speaking after lunch at the Air Force Academy a few days ago.  The video is 50 minutes long, but I encourage you to watch the whole thing. It may be the finest piece of public speaking you will hear this year. The general is everything we want a speaker to be —companionable, funny, illuminating, truth-telling, and spellbinding.  He’s also emotionally forthcoming. A new age warrior? Or have soldiers always talked like this? If General Welsh doesn’t move you to tears several times, it may be time to check with your cardiologist.  But this is more than public speaking. It is an act of leadership. The general goes beyond Hollywood heroism. He is brutally candid about war and completely unforgiving in what he demands of his audience. Does the senior manager still level with his or her audience in this way?

Welsh’s biggest theme? Leadership as an act of service. As the General says, “Leadership is a gift. It’s given by those who follow. You have to be worthy of it.”  Words for every leader to live by.

Source: HBR Blog Network – Leadership is a Gift By Those Who Follow

If you were pushed into a cold swimming pool, would you remember the shock?

A colleague shared a terrific post called “Brutal Honesty”by Michael Arrington who is the founder of TechCrunch, Silicon Valley’s leading blog on tech start-ups.  He opens by sharing a quote from Vinod Khosla (a successful Venture capitalist): “We prefer brutal honesty to hypocritical politeness.”  And he closes his post with his keen preference for:

“Direct, brutal, no frills, awesome, wonderful, honesty. Versus being smile f***ked by someone who’s hypocritically polite. I’ll take the honesty any day for the win.”
“The Similarity Bias” is in full effect here – I’m naturally drawn to this communication style and admire the courage of those that live by it.  Yet, I’ve learned the hard way, honesty has it’s place…brutal honesty leaves a trail of scorched earth behind you.  Kate Nasser, a people skills coach, in her excellent post “Bluntness Bombs Out for 5 Reasons” explains why blunt, brutal honesty fails:
  1. No Warm-Up. Picture your bluntness as very cold water. If we push someone into a cold swimming pool, they remember the shock. If we let them wade in, they adjust to the temperature and can function. Thus if we want people to function and use our message, we shouldn’t shock them with bluntness.
  2. Punching Dulls the Brain. Punching bags are not known for their performance. They hang and swing. If we are being blunt to effect a change, those we verbally punch may swing away from us yet they are not likely to understand or change behavior.
  3. Bluntness builds barriers. Communication is for connection. Bluntness can create a busy signal — a barrier — between communicator and listener. If someone isn’t listening, your message bombs out.
  4. Bluntness undermines respect and credibility. The strength of the message is weakened by the rudeness of the approach. Who is going to respect and believe the message delivered by a blunt creton?
  5. Bluntness breaks bonds. Unless we each live as hermits, we interact with people to survive and thrive. Many times the same people more than once. Bluntness may get our words out but bombs out by breaking the bonds with those around us. It may even create vengeful feelings and instigate a war (verbal or hidden).

Many people resort to bluntness, out of frustration, when diplomatic honesty hasn’t worked. Others simply lose patience with those of less intelligence.  Yet when we reach the end of the rope, why cut it with bluntness? Unless we need to use bluntness to save a life or prevent death, hold on to the rope!  Take a moment and tap intellect, logic, and smarts to find a way to communicate with honesty and respect.

Sources: Uncrunched – “Brutal Honesty”.  Portions reprinted with permission of Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach(TM): “Bluntness Bombs Out for 5 Reasons.  Image – Best Attraction Marketing Tips

A Declaration of Extreme Leadership…commit to making a difference TODAY

Steve Farber is the president of Extreme Leadership, an consultancy devoted to development of “Extreme Leaders.”  He is a leadership coach, speaker and author of several best sellers including The Radical Leap: A Personal Lesson in Extreme Leadership which some consider to be one of the top business books of all time.  He’s posted the declaration below and asked his readers to add their digital signature to his growing list of Extreme Leaders.  I have added my digitized signature. (Sign Petition at this Link).  (And note, you are not obligated to make a contribution after the first pop-up)

We, the undersigned, have devoted ourselves–personally and professionally–to changing the world, in some way, for the better.

We strive to use what we have –- passion, talent, desire, resources, imagination, time -– to make a difference, to expand the rightness of things.

We don’t consider ourselves to be naive or idealistic–although others certainly may.  We are pragmatists of the highest order: we believe there is nothing more eminently practical than looking at the world, asking, “how can this be better?” and then holding ourselves personally accountable for getting it done.

We recognize that big, broad, systemic changes need to happen in our society: policies need to shift, attitudes need to evolve, and priorities need to change—and we’ll do whatever we can to contribute to those transformations over time.

In the meantime,

Regardless of what is or is not happening “out there”, and regardless of what other people are or are not doing to change things for the better, we commit to making a difference in the way we lead TODAY.

We are business people, educators, volunteers, friends and neighbors who share a common desire: to help each other to help each other–and we’ll take a Radical Leap to do so.

We are today’s Extreme Leaders, and we invite you to join us.

Source: Image – KidLead

How could the world be getting worse with me in it?

Source: Thank you Mme Scherzo and  Heyoscarwilde.com

Leaders & Followers: Grit your teeth…it’s that time of the year again (Let’s Make it Tanveer Naseer Style)

I’ve been following Tanveer Naseer’s blog.  It’s very good.  Tanveer, a fellow Canadian, is a business coach who “works with managers to develop leadership skills and team strategies, while ensuring they remain focused on what makes them passionate about their business.”  He’s widely read and published and he’s recognized for having one of the best management and leadership blogs.  This week’s post is timely and focused on giving employee feedback.  It is the season for 360 evaluations, annual reviews and performance evaluation.  And he’s right – it is “often met with disdain and apprehension.”  Many of us have been trained to deliver feedback like a “sh*t sandwich” – a criticism wrapped in 2 compliments.  The time for that strategy has passed (if there was ever a time for it at all).  I believe Tanveer’s recommendations are squarely on point.  Key excerpts from his post:

…many organizations are now shifting their focus to an exercise that is often met with disdain and apprehension – the annual performance review. Regardless of whether you’re on the receiving or giving end, most of us tend to view these feedback exercises as unconstructive or a waste of time, in large part because we approach the conversation from the wrong vantage point.

…Three common themes…can serve as valuable rules for leaders to follow to ensure the feedback they offer to their employees helps to improve their productivity…

1. Feedback should give employees a sense of direction and understanding of what matters
“I remember one time for my annual performance review, my boss…wrote in my review that I hadn’t met the expectations for that year. I walked out of his office feeling a mixture of disappointment in myself and frustration with his leadership…In this performance review, all I came out of the meeting with was the understanding that I hadn’t met his objectives, without any clear input on how I get back on course through the work I was currently doing…the focus (should have been)…not treating (the review) as an isolated event, but instead providing…the context of how it would help build a foundation for opportunities I wished to pursue in the future.”

2. Feedback should inform you of your strengths and the value you create

“…feedback is not sought after more because we often associate it with negative comments; that the act of receiving feedback is more about someone telling us what we’re doing wrong than providing us with insights about which of our contributions mattered most to our organization.  Of course, the most effective feedback is not to offer employees a shopping list of weaknesses or areas that they need to improve on. Rather, the goal should be to help them understand what unique strengths they bring to the team and consequently, the value they have created for the organization. After all, numerous studies have shown that people are motivated to improve not by being told about what they’re doing wrong, but through an understanding of the value they’re able to provide through their contributions.  From that vantage point, it’s not hard to see why they’ll be driven and motivated to achieve this goal again, if not also how leaders can create that internal drive to succeed in their employees as well.

3. Feedback should make you hungry to achieve more

“…(after feedback)…they should wake up the next morning with a renewed sense of hunger to once again push themselves to excel and move forward; to meet the new challenges they’ll face with the same drive and persistence that got them here, ending with my hopes to see each of them again at next year’s awards banquet.”

“(you should leave) feeling valued not just for what you’ve accomplished over the previous year, but because someone was willing to encourage you to look ahead with the knowledge that they could do it again, if not achieve even better results.”

“And perhaps that’s the single greatest message leaders can impart to their employees through their feedback – a sense of belief and trust in their employees’ abilities to not just meet the expectations being put upon them, but to exceed them because they know what they’re capable of when given the support and encouragement they need to succeed.”

“In the end, leaders have to remember that the word feedback starts with the word “feed” which essentially refers to nourishing a need to help ourselves not only thrive but grow and evolve. And when it comes to understanding what needs our workforce has, there’s no better expert than our employees themselves.”

Sources:  Thank you Tanveer Naseer: Are You Following These 3 Rules for Effective Feedback?  Image – Rob Sanders

Book Review: “I, Steve: Steve Jobs in His Own Words”

This is a good collection of Steve Job’s quotes.  Book is written by George Beahm, a former US Army Field Artillery Officer and author.  This book will take most of us less than 60 minutes to read.  Approximately 200 quotes.  160 total pages but this includes a number of pages for citations, sources and a Job’s chrono history.  This book is the equivalent to reading the Reader’s Digest. Quick, light, easy, breezy. Quotes are organized by broad range of subjects in alpha order (e.g. Branding, Competition, Death (his own) Inspiration, Integration).  The quotes are gathered from a wide range of sources from speeches to articles to interviews to media events. Because quotes are organized by subject in alpha order, it does come across a bit disjointed as it goes back and forth over time and subject. You do get a quick pulse of Job’s the man and the genius behind his product development and marketing strategy.  If you are Apple/Mac product aficionado or not, you will enjoy this.  If you are interested, suggest you buy it on Kindle or IPAD.  It’s worth $3.99.  A few of my favorite quotes:

APPLE’S CORE-EMPLOYEES: All we are is our ideas, or people.  That’s what keeps us going to work in the morning, to hang around these great bright people.  I’ve always thought recruiting is the heart and soul of what we do.”  (2007)

BEYOND RECRUITING:  It’s not just recruiting, it’s building an environment that makes people feel they are surrounded by equally talented people and their work is bigger than they are.”  (1997)

CREDO: “The organization is clean and simple to understand, and very accountable. That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity.” (1998/BusinessWeek)

DENT IN THE UNIVERSE: “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me…going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful – that’s what matters to me.” 1993/Fortune)

EMPLOYEE POTENTIAL: “My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to make them better.”  2008/CNNMoney)

EXCELLENCE: “People judge you by your performance, so focus on the outcome. Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” 1987)

GRACE UNDER PRESSURE: “I want to see what people are like under pressure.  I want to see if they just fold or if they have firm conviction, belief and pride in what they did. (1997)

MAKING BOLD ANNOUNCEMENTS: “I understand the appeal of a slow burn, but personally, I’m a big-bang guy.

NO RESTING ON LAURELS:  I think if you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long.  Just figure out what’s next.  (2006)

PASSION: People say you have to have a lot of passion for what you’re doing and it’s totally true.  And the reason is because it’s so hard that if you don’t, any rational person would give up.  It’s really hard.  And you have to do it over a sustained period of time.  So if you don’t love it, if you’re not having fun doing it, you don’t really love it, you’re going to give up.  And that’s what happens to most people, actually.  (2007)

TEAMWORK: My model for business is the Beatles.  They were four guys who kept each other’s kind of negative tendencies in check.  They balanced each other and the total was greater than the sum of the parts.  That’s how I see business: great things in business are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.  (60 minutes, 2003)

TO BE OR NOT TO BE: Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.  Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.  Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.  And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.  They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everyone else is secondary.  (Stanford Commencement Address 2005)

WISDOM:  I would trade all my technology for an afternoon with Socrates. (2001/Newsweek)

Source:  Amazon: I, Steve: Steve Jobs In His Own Words.

You have 5 seconds starting now…

Vinod Khosla is a leading Silicon Valley venture capitalist.  He has seen more high pressure pitches than most professional presentation coaches.  His 5-second rule of thumb:

For each of them (pitches), he applies his five-second rule: he puts a slide on a screen, removes it after five seconds, and then asks the viewer to describe the slide. A dense slide fails the test—and fails to provide the basic function of any visual: to aid the presentation.

By applying his simple rule, Mr. Khosla is addressing two of the most important elements in presentation graphics: Less is More, a plea all too often sounded by helpless audiences to hapless presenters; and more important, the human perception factor. Whenever an image appears on any screen, the eyes of every member of every audience reflexively move to the screen to process the new image. The denser the image, the more processing the audiences need. At that very moment, they stop listening to the presenter. Nevertheless, most presenters continue speaking, further compounding the processing task. As a result, the audience shuts down. Game over.

The simple solution to this pervasive problem is one that readers of my books will recognize: use television news programs as a role model. With vast high-tech graphics resources at their disposal, all the broadcasters show is a simple image composed of a picture and one or two words to serve as a headline for the story that the anchor person tells. In presentations, consider yourself as the anchor person, and design slides that pass Mr. Khosla’s five-second test to serve as the headline for your story.

Source:  Forbes – Vinod Khosla’s Five-Second Rule.  Image: Search Engine Journal

There’s no point in pushing this self-improvement thing too far…

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Great article in the NY Times this weekend by Alina Tugend titled “Pursuing Self-Improvement, at the Risk of Self Acceptance.”   Punch line of the story reminds of the quote “Moderation in all things” which I learned was first said by some Roman comic dramatist back in 185 BC.   And Henri Matisse: “What I dream is the art of balance.”   A few excerpts:

SOMETIMES I get tired of always striving to be better — of knowing there are ways, endless ways, I can improve myself. When I feel really down, I think of how far we have to go…It’s not going to happen.

Self-improvement is a deeply embedded American trait. The notion that we can constantly make ourselves better is, in theory, a great idea.  But when does it become too much?

“There’s a tendency to seek and seek and seek and never find” (from a website with The motto? “Stop Waiting. Start Living.”) “It becomes one more addiction.”

It’s not that trying to find ways to improve ourselves is a bad thing — not at all. “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp,” the poet Robert Browning wrote. But when we’re constantly reaching rather than occasionally being satisfied with what we have in front of us, that’s a recipe for perpetual dissatisfaction.

“We grew up with the idea that we can do anything,” …”But we took that to mean that we have to do everything. And many women took it as you have to do everything perfectly.”  1,000 mothers in their 30s and 40s were surveyed nationwide. They found that the women broadly fell into two categories: “never enoughs” and “good enoughs.”  Never-enough women felt they had to be the best at everything and often agreed with the sentiment that “I need to be a superstar even if it kills me…”

None of this may seem particularly new. You can’t have it all. Perfection is the enemy of the good. But the struggle to find the balance between stagnation and stress — sinking into a rut or racing on the hamster wheel — resonates even more now in these economically down times, when even your best efforts don’t seem to be reaping the rewards you expected.

“In our culture, there are so many different messages about being successful, and we try to implement all of them…We need the courage to choose which definition of success we want.”

But we can’t go around with the idea that “one day I’ll arrive; one day I’ll be whole,” she said. “It’s an illusion that one day I’ll be fixed.”

Such constant searching, she said, leads to a sense that you’re waiting to live your life rather than living it. Or you’ll feel that you’re always falling short, because rarely is the road to self-improvement easy or straightforward, and it’s certainly not the same for everyone.

This striving for self-improvement and the belief that we can all achieve success if we just work hard enough and figure out the right path, has political, not just personal, ramifications.

David Brooks, a NY Times columnist, wrote that Americans “always had a sense that the great opportunities lie just over the horizon, in the next valley, with the next job or the next big thing,” adding, “None of us is really poor; we’re just pre-rich.”  The reality, she said, is “a lot of people are finding that ‘I don’t want to aspire to what I always thought I wanted to aspire to.’ ”

After all, as we’ve learned, there’s no point in pushing this self-improvement thing too far.

Source: NY Times – Pursuing Self-Improvement at the Risk of Self Acceptance.  Image: Lexiconicles

Sunday Morning: Murmuration. “A word that perfectly describes the rustle of thousands of pairs of wings…and a signal winter is here.”

A chance encounter and shared moment with one of natures greatest and most fleeting phenomena…

Link:  2 Minute Video Clip at Althouse

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Sources: Video: Althouse; Quote: ~ The Independent;  Image: Huffington Post

“Your stress levels climbing? Taking too much on? Unfinished work piling up? The Heat is on. The Way Out Is Through…”

Our management team just concluded a productive 1 1/2 day offsite.  After catching our breath, the magnitude of the work load had come much clear in focus.  And low and behold, sitting in my email box this morning was David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” essay.  Coincidence? Deepak Sharma would say not.  Allen is a best selling author, a leading executive coach and time management and productivity consultant.  In his essay this month, he talks about the increasing stress levels that he is seeing in organizations and what to do about the “drag of unfinished work and commitments on your psyche.”   Here’s a number of excerpts from his essay…he’s on point (again).

Defining what you are not doing is as important as knowing what you are doing for stress-free productivity.  Having things you’ve told yourself to do (implicit agreements with yourself), still undone, can be deadly to your confidence and energy if they are not appropriately managed by constant renegotiation with yourself

The heat is on. I’ve been noticing that the stress factor at senior levels in organizations is increasing. My coaching has uncovered an increasing number of agreements that are real, but largely not consciously acknowledged or kept. We’re giving ourselves so much to do, and we’re taking on so much of what we expect others are expecting of us, that it would be virtually impossible to do even a portion of what’s on our plates

Most of you reading this don’t even have time to finish to perfection your current set of projects, even if you stopped the world from giving you anything new…

It’s strange, but I work with people to define the work they are not doing. Unfortunately the resulting ambiguity of just halfway assuming responsibilities and commitments with ourselves and others, or just halfway clarifying and understanding what they mean and what needs to be done about them, won’t cut the pressure in half—it doubles it! So much of what people are feeling these days is the pressure to get things done, but there is universal resistance to defining precisely what that commitment and that work is. We have to really focus and think (which requires energy often in short supply) to clarify and define the outcomes and actions needed, on each and every thing that we might need or want to do

You can only do one thing at a time, so at any point in time there is going to be a huge backlog of “work.” Much of what we must do, to gain comfort and control in our knowledge-worker worlds these days, is clarifying what all that work is, objectively, in a format that provides an easy overview. We must continually renegotiate those commitments with ourselves and with others; and that’s impossible to do, unless they’re captured, clarified, and organized in some systematic way outside our psyche.

There’s an old Gestalt theorem—the way out is through. Defining what we could do, and what we are doing right now instead—managing the triage strategically with ourselves and others, is a key component of managing ourselves and our workflow these days. You can only feel good about what you’re not doing when you know what you’re not doing. We have to loosen the grip of unclear agreements with ourselves to be free to follow our intuitive hunches and creative focus.

There is no catching up. There is only catching on.

Q: How can I avoid feeling stressed and frustrated?

A: Clarify what your desired outcome is, what the next action required to move it forward is (and who’s going to do it); and evaluate those commitments consistently within your total context of commitments about work and life. 

Source: David Allen, Getting Things Done, Getting More Out of Life, November 2, 2011.  Image: Powerstates.com

10,000 hours of concerted practice to become an expert. How much time are you investing in your own development?

This Forbes article reminded me of a story I heard of the late George Carlin.  Many outside the industry applauded his ability to get up on stage and “wing it.” Reality was something altogether different.  He was well known among fellow comics for repetition, practice and continually working to better his act.  To prep for each one of his TV shows, he would give 150 live stand-up performances over 2 years to help him refine his material.  150 performance performances to prep for 1 TV show!   Chris Rock is said to follow a similar work-man-like ritual of practice.  Sobering reality as to what it takes to be an expert in your craft.

Ericsson & Lehmann (1996) have done dozens of studies on what distinguishes novices from experts, and consistently find that it takes about 10 years or 10,000 hours of concerted practice before one becomes an expert.  They’ve found this to be true in every field they’ve ever studied, from musicians, to writers, scientists and my friend David Day suggests this applies to leaders as well (Day, Harrison & Halpin, 2009).

And practicing easy things you’ve already mastered isn’t going to grow you either. There is plenty of evidence that experts become proficient by consistently practicing at ever-more-difficult levels of achievement.

Doesn’t this make good intuitive sense?  If everyone were investing considerable, deliberate and sustained effort to grow their proficiency levels at their own personal “sweet spot”, then leaders like Steve Jobs wouldn’t be so incredible rare.

When I coach leaders, I remind them that if they can’t do something well, or at all, they better invest time and effort to grow it, or not be surprised with their subsequent disappointment. 

How much time are you investing in your own development?

Source: Forbes – 10,000 Hours.   Image: Creative Differences

Don’t Send that Email. Pick Up the Phone.

Another solid reminder from the HBR blog.  (After just firing off 100 emails in the past hour. :) ) It certainly is “easier, quicker, less stressful and less confrontational” to bang out an email and move on to other things.  Is it more effective?  Depends if topic is straightforward.  Not so if the topic is complicated, sensitive, nuanced or requires some brainstorming.  Author suggests that it is hard to get the EQ right in email and emails are easy to misread.  Email also promotes reactive responses which you may regret once you’ve thought through the most appropriate reply. I certainly agree with all of this.  The punch line:

Email is one of the greatest productivity contributors of the past two decades

However, digital channels cannot substitute for a live conversation.

The next time you experience an issue over email, ask yourself if it is something that would be better served by a real conversation. Then have the courage to stop emailing and pick up the phone. Or even better: have a meeting.

Sources: HBR: Don’t Send that Email.  Pick up the Phone.  Image – socialbutterflyguy.com