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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Maybe You Need a Bigger Pan

Ham    A little girl was watching her mother get a ham ready for baking. Before putting the ham in the roasting pan, her mother sliced an inch off each end of the ham. Then she placed the ham in the pan and slipped it into the oven.

“Mom,” the girl asked, “why do you cut a slice off each end of the ham before you put it in the pan?”

“Gee, honey, I’m not sure,” answered Mom. “When I was little your grandmother always trimmed the end off the ham, so I’ve done it that way ever since. I never stopped to think about it!”

Not satisfied, the girl decided to call her grandmother. “Nana,” she asked, “I was watching Mom get a ham ready for the oven, and before she did she cut a thick slice off each end. She said you always did that. Do you remember why?”

“Sweetheart,” Nana answered, “what a funny question! Actually I do remember doing that whenever I cooked a ham. But — isn’t that odd? — now that you mention it, I’m not sure why. When I was little my mother always trimmed a thick slice off each end of a ham before she baked it, and I did it that way when I started cooking. But I don’t know when your great-grandma started doing it that way. Maybe you could call and ask her — I know she’d love to hear from you.”

Great-grandma was getting old but still had a great memory, so the little girl called her on the phone. After exchanging pleasantries, she asked Great-grandma her question. Did she recall cutting a thick slice off each end of the ham before baking it?

“Oh, honey,” said the old lady with a twinkle in her voice. “Back when I was a young mother and your grandmother was about your age, our family hardly had any money. Our next door neighbor was a butcher, and every few weeks he would bring us a nice ham for the oven. But my roasting pan was too small and I couldn’t afford to buy a new one — so I always trimmed the ham so it would fit my pan!”

A silly habit gets passed down through four generations…because Great-grandma’s roasting pan was too small!

Have you ever stopped to consider why you and I do the things we do? Are there habits and attitudes we’ve picked up from others — former bosses, colleagues, mentors — little things that we do without thinking? How many of these things may have long since outlived their usefulness or validity? I’m sure I can think of several things like that, and I’ll bet you can, too. Now don’t get me wrong: many of our tried-and-true ways of doing things have withstood the test of time, and need to be retained — even fine-tuned. But “the way we’ve always done it” can’t be our default response whenever someone asks why we do what we do.

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/alberteins121993.html#D6fdB6J3A1uwejTF.99

We’ve all heard variations on the famous Albert Einstein quote that goes like this: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” We need fresh insights, not merely the same old familiar habits and thought patterns. So here’s a thought for you and me: next time we pick up the knife to trim the ham, maybe we can decide to stop and consider a better way. Get some new ideas! Get some new insight! Get some new opinions!

Or at least get a bigger pan.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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When Do You Decide to Stop Being the Boss?

The Office    You’re the boss, but you’re unhappy. You’re the Sales Manager, the Operations Manager, the Senior Team Leader, but you really don’t like it very much, and you’re beginning to wonder if you made a terrible mistake wanting to be a manager in the first place.

So…when is it okay to decide you want out? When is it okay to decide to stop being the boss?

Let’s consider a few thoughts about this — but first, a disclaimer. I am NOT giving you advice here! A decision to step down from a management position is a highly individual one, not to be taken lightly. Seek plenty of honest input from people whose counsel you trust, and make sure you’ve handled the decision well before you take what many would consider a leap backward. Don’t act impulsively. (And before you read on, sign this release form. Just kidding.)

I bring this question up because I have twice made the decision to step out of a management job and to stay with the same organization in a “front line” role with no supervisory responsibilities. In hindsight both decisions were good ones, and were I faced with the same choice today I would likely do the same thing. The first time I stepped down voluntarily was early in my radio career when I was Sales Manager; the second time came more than two decades later when I was VP of Donor Relations. Here are a few common denominators that affected each decision. Do any of these apply to you in your present managerial situation?

  • In both instances I was working for a boss I found very hard to please, largely due to my inexperience
  • Both those bosses felt they knew more about my job (radio sales and fundraising) than I did, and they may have been right
  • In both instances I felt like I was in over my head and had doubts (groundless, but real) about my future job security
  • In both of these situations my dissatisfaction had gone on for months — and seemed to be getting worse
  • In both cases I had begun to doubt my professional abilities, and that self-doubt was compounding the stress in my life
  • In both situations I had complete support from my trusting and discerning wife who saw how the stress was affecting me
  • In each of these situations, before I made a move, I had met with my boss on multiple occasions and talked openly through my decision process so the choice to step down from management did not seem impulsive or irresponsible
  • In each case I planned as well as I could for my own transition within the organization, and also helped plan how my managerial duties would be covered by reorganizing the team.

How did it turn out? The first time, I moved from Sales Manager into a sales position and things went fairly well. The second time I moved from the VP position into a fundraising job and things went okay but I ended up taking a job outside the organization six months later. The downside both times was that I did take a hit in salary and benefits — ouch — and my ego took a hit as well, to be candid, even though leaving management was my decision. So it goes. But each time I was happier and will probably live longer as a result. And I did end up managing again (after the first self-demotion anyway) and was much better at it the second time around.

If you’re a leader and happy in that role, stick to it with enthusiasm. If you’re new to leadership and you’re not sure how happy you are, hang in there — you need time to learn and to grow. But if you’ve been managing for a while and you’re increasingly unhappy and unsure of yourself, it just might not be the worst thing in the world, after you’ve taken all the variables into account, to decide to do the counterintuitive thing and step down voluntarily, moving into a non-managerial role. Just a thought, for what it’s worth.

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Confrontation or Clarification?

Clarification mug       Hey, business leaders and supervisors, here’s a suggestion borne out by personal experience. If you habitually shy away from confrontation, try clarification!

Ever notice how some workplace leaders and managers seem to afraid of confrontation? I know there were many times when I was. Back in my supervisory past I’m afraid I sometimes tended to shy away from confronting personnel problems, especially conflict between co-workers. I would make excuses, look the other way, or tell myself it wasn’t all that bad. For me, creative avoidance sometimes became a sort of hobby when it came to confrontation!

Maybe this is the way you tend to handle conflict and confrontation.But avoiding workplace confrontation is dangerous! The longer some of these issues persist, the more corrosive and even destructive they can become, especially when your whole team is waiting for you, the boss, to do something about the situation. Best selling business author Patrick Lencioni in his wonderful book Five Dysfunctions of a Team identifies the failure to deal properly with conflict as one of the 5 Big Reasons why some organizations are habitually ineffective.

Why do bosses avoid confrontation? Same reason most people do: we’re conditioned to steer clear of circumstances that are likely to generate unpleasantness. When you as the person in charge wade into a confrontational situation you are almost certain to cause sparks to fly. And here’s the big problem for us pleaser types: we want everybody to be happy and play nice, but confrontation virtually guarantees that somebody is going to get his or her nose out of joint. So when the choice comes down to fighting or flying, we too often choose flight.

So next time you’re faced with the need to confront a situation in the workplace, try this: change your language. Instead of dwelling on the need for confrontation, focus your energies and your intellect on the more important and much more positive need for clarification. It will change the way you think and probably change the language you use. In fact, if my experience is any guide, it will change the entire process.

This is important because the distinction between these two concepts is much more than merely semantic. The definition of “confrontation” includes the clashing of forces or ideas. No matter how you nuance it, “confrontation” implies a battle. But confrontation for its own sake was never the goal, right? The real goal is “clarification” a word whose definition includes eliminating confusion and making things understandable. Isn’t that a big part of the leader’s job description — to clarify the causes of problems as a step toward solving them? Confrontation almost  always sounds negative. Clarification almost always sounds positive. I’d love to be known as the boss who brings clarity and understanding to workplace relationships!

One caution: even when you focus on clarification instead of confrontation, at the end of the day somebody will probably still end up irritated, angry or disappointed. That’s inevitable. But wouldn’t it be nice if that somebody weren’t always you?

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Three Clues I Was in the Wrong Job

wrong-career        As I have mentioned before, I had a very brief and VERY unspectacular sales stint years ago working for an unnamed office products company. To this day I wonder why I took that job in the first place, and when I realize how little enthusiasm and energy I brought to my employer I feel a twinge of guilt.  (Sorry, Greg. Sorry, Phil.) On the positive side, I did learn a lot, but I knew almost from the very start that the job was a bad fit for me, and I for it.

I’m not trying to give career advice here (I suspect I’m the wrong guy for that…) but during the time I worked for this company there were at least three persistent clues that kept telling me I was in the wrong job. I may not have heeded the warnings at the time but in hindsight I know that these three alarm bells were sounding loud and clear! The Three Clues were…

Clue #1: I didn’t like telling people what I did for a living. It wasn’t that I was ashamed of it — the company was fine and all that. But I knew that people would start probing about how I liked the job or how well I was doing, and I really didn’t want the conversation to go there. It made me uncomfortable to reveal how unhappy I was and how ill-suited I felt for the position. (By contrast, when I’m enthused about my work — like I am now — it’s hard to get me to shut up about it!)

Clue #2: I found myself wasting inordinate amounts of time. Part of my territory included Pioneer Square in downtown Seattle (cold calling in the Smith Tower with those old fashioned elevators was an experience never to be forgotten). There was a deli in one of the old buildings where I sat many a morning at a table next to the old brick wall, sipping English breakfast tea with honey and half and half, letting valuable time slip by, daydreaming about other things I could be doing for a living. No excuses — I see now that I was simply practicing an unhealthy level of creative avoidance.

Clue #3: I didn’t really care about the profession. In the training they taught us to do product demonstrations and to ask lots of questions, which was a valuable skill, one that I mastered during the role play sessions (don’t you just love those?). But in the real world I quickly realized that, even though I could go through the motions and all, I really didn’t care two cents about what the client was telling me! That’s a bad sign: you’re supposed to be listening for valuable information upon which to build your sales presentation, but instead I would ask the question and then mentally tune out the reply. Not professional, and not very respectful of the client’s time, either.

No doubt there were other warning signs, too, but you get the picture. The more I avoided talking about my work, neglected basic habits of productive time management, and zoned during sales calls, the more obvious the conclusion: this job was not right for me. Fortunately through a referral I was able to change career fields shortly thereafter, embarking on the thrilling adventure of selling radio advertising which kept me occupied for most of the ensuing 28 years.

So how about you? If you feel you’re in the wrong job, some honest self-assessment may be in order. It may be time for a change! But if you can’t make a change, what else can you do to make things better? Several ideas come to mind…but I suppose that’s a question better left for another time.

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative

Negative People Need Drama     Ran across this quote and couldn’t resist sharing it!

We all know what it’s like being around people who are habitually negative. There’s a corrosive quality to their attitudes, a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy that seems to say, “No matter how bad things get, they will probably get worse!” Sadly, that kind of toxic thinking is contagious, affecting the negative person’s friends, family, even an entire office full of people.

What’s more, as this little quote says, negative people tend to love drama. They wallow in conspiracy theories. They savor the direst of predictions. No positive motive goes unexamined. No good deed goes unpunished. Suspicion is the order of the day, along with a habitually thin skin. It’s exhausting!

So in light of all this, what are we positive thinkers to do?

Here’s the obvious answer: the best way (maybe the only way!) to overcome another person’s negativity is to find all the ways you can to stay positive. Practice the old “attitude of gratitude.” Strengthen your faith muscles through prayer and praise. Rehearse all the reasons you can find to be glad. Start hanging around people who will lift you up, not bring you down. If your circle of friends is the problem, pick new friends. Negative thinking can indeed become habitual — but then again, so can positive thinking.

Easier said than done? Perhaps…but I know what the power of negative thinking can do when left unchecked and unchallenged. So choke off the drama machine! Fight back with love and a smile! It may drive your negative friends nuts — but it will be worth it.

 

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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“One Thing” — the Power of Focus

Jack Palance One Thing      Everybody knows the famous line from City Slickers. During the cattle drive, cowboy Jack Palance (the unforgettable Curly) offers to tell uptight radio advertising salesman Billy Crystal about the secret of life. It’s simple, Curly states, holding up his index finger.  “One thing,” Curly says. “Just one thing.” Crystal’s character Mitch asks Curly to explain what the “one thing” is. “That’s what you gotta figure out,” replies Curly cryptically.

Speculation has abounded ever since as to exactly what old Curly really meant. (Spoiler alert: in the movie he dies not long after sharing this deep insight. “The man ate bacon every day,” said fellow tenderfoot Phil. “You can’t do that!”) But Curly’s quote came to mind the other day when I was thinking about how good leaders are able to maintain their focus in spite of a relentless rash of distractions. I’m sure you’ve experienced what I’m talking about. You and your team embark on a major project. Things get going with energy and enthusiasm. But soon other projects, other priorities, other agendas begin to pop up like moles in the old Whack-a-Mole game. The team gets distracted. Or worse, the leader gets distracted! He or she begins to take the old eye off the ball. And when the leader begins to lose focus, inevitably momentum grinds to a halt, progress evaporates, and frustration becomes the mood of the day.

When it comes to effective leadership I like to consider the example of one of my favorite Old Testament characters, Nehemiah. His book, especially the first 7 chapters, represents a terrific, highly practical manual on effective leadership. Nehemiah had been sent from Susa, 800 miles away, to the ruined city of Jerusalem, intent on rebuilding the wall that had been torn down decades before when the city was sacked. Without the wall the city could barely function, but with the wall intact Jerusalem could once again become a viable commercial and spiritual hub — so getting the wall completed was a huge priority. And as we read when we come to Nehemiah chapter 6, the big project was almost finished! The wall was practically done!

Doesn’t it seem like things can unravel the fastest as you get closer to the finish line? That’s when a handful of powerful opponents, made up of people who preferred the status quo (sound like anyone you know in your office?), really began to ramp up their opposition, trying to stop the work on the wall. They first tried to distract Nehemiah with pleasant invitations masking sinister motives. When that didn’t work they resorted to rumor, innuendo and false accusation. Finally they even threatened bodily harm as a way to deter this highly focused leader and those working for him. But Nehemiah refused to take the bait and become distracted. He said, in essence, “Sorry, guys, no chance — I have a job to do and a wall to finish, and my team and I are not going to be deterred.” And they got it done, an accomplishment that finally silenced the critics.

For Nehemiah the “one thing” was finishing the wall around Jerusalem. For me, I’ve come to realize that it’s reaching the financial goal for the alternative high school I raise money for. What’s your “one thing”? It could be personal or professional, a team effort or something you’ll accomplish solo. Whatever it is, I’m learning a valuable lesson from Nehemiah — and from Curly! Don’t get distracted. Figure out the one thing. Remember the power of focus!

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Clueless…and Proud to Admit It!

Confused  I don’t know whatever happened to Leslie, but if she’s still out there I have a message for her: “Thank you.” Leslie was the first real media buyer I ever called on, back in the early days of radio (I think it was during the Carter Administration). I remember sitting in her office on Capitol Hill asking about an upcoming buy and hoping I would get the chance to present my radio station for her consideration.

Finally she said, “Fine. Here’s what I want in the proposal.” I think what she asked for was your basic reach and frequency and gross rating point and cost per point and exclusive cume proposal. But to me, having been a radio rep for about twenty minutes, it sounded like she was asking me for the formula for nuclear fission. As she rattled off all the data points she wanted, I dutifully nodded like I knew what I was doing and wrote everything down, or tried to.

After a few moments, Leslie stopped and stared at me.  “You don’t have a clue what I’m talking about, do you?”

I swallowed hard. “Um…nope,” I answered. Fortunately she was a patient sort — she probably appreciated my honesty — and she proceeded to give me a basic primer on a few of the tidbits of information she needed, and why they were important. She also made sure I got the terms written down properly so I could look them up on my own. Instead of leaving with my tail between my legs, I left feeling much more confident.

Did I get on the buy? I don’t remember, to be honest, but I do remember that Leslie did me a huge favor: she didn’t make me feel stupid. She could have fussed and fumed and complained that the station had sent her a useless rookie, and thrown me out of her office just to show how irritated (and important) she was. But she took the time instead to educate a new sales rep, give me valuable information, and help me learn the business. I have always appreciated that!

A lot of proposals have flowed over the dam since then, to mix a metaphor, and I’m an older and somewhat wiser man today. And I have learned a valuable lesson: nothing is more disarming than the truth. If I am faced with a situation in which I don’t understand what someone is telling me, I have learned that it’s infinitely better to admit it upfront, with confidence and even with humor. Invariably when I speak up I find that I’m not the only one for whom some of the important details are less than clear. Do I understand what the client wants? Am I clear on what the boss needs in the report? Is it obvious what the donor expects? Do I fully comprehend the next steps and relevant deadlines? If I don’t know, I would rather ask now than wait and be wrong. I can much more easily take the hit to my ego by admitting confusion early on — because I’ve learned the hard way that it’s way better than the pain that comes later from refusing to admit I was clueless at the outset.

So thanks, Leslie! You probably don’t remember but you did me a big favor. As a result, my occasional motto has been “Clueless — and proud to admit it!”

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Primum Non Necere = “Don’t Lose What You’ve Got!”

hippocrates       I’m sure we all recognize the name Hippocrates. He was the father of modern medicine. He was also the father of modern sales and fundraising.

You say you never heard that last part before? Well, it may not be entirely true, but there’s one thing old Hippocrates said that we in fundraising and sales would do well to remember. In Latin the saying is rendered, Primum non necere — in English we say, “First do no harm.” I would prefer to translate it, “Don’t lose what you’ve got!”

If you’re in sales or fundraising you know all too well the relentless need to bring in new business and new donors. In order for our organizations to grow, or even to avoid shrinking, the pressure is more or less constant to generate revenue from new sources. I’m not arguing with that — but I am suggesting that, as we focus our efforts on new clients and new donors, we must not overlook the ones we already have. Just because a donor has supported your organization for years or a client has given you their business season after season doesn’t mean we can ever take them for granted, not for an instant. If you’ve ever had a steady client decide not to renew because someone else came along and took away the business while you weren’t paying attention, you know what I’m talking about.

For me the truth behind the axiom “First do no harm” is simple: it means, first, pay attention to the relationships you have. Shore them up. Keep them vital. Keep reminding these clients and donors why they want to do business with you. Avoid relationship complacency at all costs! Seems to me that there are at least four reasons why it’s imperative that we work hard to avoid losing what we’ve got.

Current clients can decide to go away. This seems obvious but it bears emphasis. Let’s say you have an In Kind client who gives your organization $25,000 worth of goods and services every year. Because it’s not cash, it’s easy to take it for granted and assume that In Kind gift will always be there. But one year that client is going to be preparing their budget, and if you haven’t done a good job of keeping the relationship active and reminding them of the benefits they enjoy by doing business with you, they may decide to terminate that deal. Your boss may suddenly have to start writing a $25,000 check every year, and she is going to wonder why you blew the relationship! So I need to continually re-sell the clients I have.

Current clients can be encouraged to grow.  Again, this is obvious to those of us who have been around the sales/fundraising block a time or two. Generally speaking, which is easier to find — a brand new dollar from a brand new source, or a dollar increase from a source who already has a relationship with you? As you cultivate current relationships, you clearly need to avoid pushing too hard, but you also need to avoid being fearful. Asking for a larger gift or a larger sale, when done properly and appropriately, can be your quickest route to increased revenue.

Current clients can be encouraged to refer. Few things are more gratifying to a sales rep or fundraiser than a referral. It means someone we already call on felt good enough about our relationship to tell a friend! But let’s not assume that referrals will happen in a vacuum — instead, I have to be reminded of the need to stay in touch with current donors, give them success stories, and reinforce the importance of their gifts. Then I’ve earned the right to ask for those golden referrals! But if I’m not cultivating those current relationships, I’ll bet those referrals will be few and far between.

Current clients provide a vital base of support. Even if present clients or donors never change their spending or giving from one year to the next, those dollars are vital to your success. Treat them with honor and care and attention! Again, reminding donors why they give, or clients why they do business with you, helps keep those current dollars flowing. If that flow stops, your work just got a lot harder!

So let’s all get out there and find those new sources of revenue! But in the process, remember, friends, Primum non necere — “Don’t lose what you’ve got!”

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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In the Weeds

cat_in_the_grass     The Big Team Project starts out with the loftiest of intentions. The boss brings everyone together and launches the new initiative. We are going to re-organize the way we do business! We are going to come up with a Vision Statement and a Set of Values that will define us for the next three decades! We are going to establish new paradigms in Customer Service and Total Quality Control! There will be brainstorming assignments, work teams, and No Bad Ideas. We will re-invent ourselves! So roll up your sleeves, because today we begin!

Everyone comes to those first few meetings salivating with anticipation, eager to reinvent, re-think, re-launch and re-imagine. But after a few months all the team wants to do is retreat. What happened? The energy has dissipated, the fresh thinking grown stale, the milestones fewer and farther between. Where’s all that the excitement? When did the air go out of the balloon? Who rained on our brainstorm?

Here’s how these efforts sometimes progress.  During those first few meetings, fueled by great intentions, the team makes great progress and everyone seems to be on board. But then the questions become more complex. The issues grow more opaque. The take-aways become increasingly obscure. The impatience grows more obvious. The lofty goals evaporate into the fog of petty argument and passive aggressive “whatever” attitudes. That dreaded nemesis “Process Fatigue” begins to set in — a toxic condition where a few impatient nay-sayers are finally joined by a growing chorus of equally impatient colleagues asking with one irritated voice, “Can we please just get on with it??!”

Face it, Project Leader — you and your team are deep into the weeds.

Most of us have been there. I was once part of a Strategic Planning team that met weekly for a period of, as I recall, at least two years. We found ourselves in the weeds a lot, debating about the meaning of terms and the pointless details of timelines that would never be met. Ultimately there was an organizational change at the top and the whole project was shelved. Hopefully your project isn’t headed for that same dismal fate!

If you’re a Project Leader and your team seems stuck, the team needs you to help get things moving. So here are three things you might want to focus on. First, replace confusion with context. When a complex project goes awry it’s easy for members of the team to lose sight of the goal and start asking, “Can someone remind me why in heck we’re doing this? What’s the point?” That is the leader’s Central Question! You may understand the point fully, but your team might not, so you need to remind everyone frequently why this project is important. Make sure everyone comprehends where we’ve been and where we’re going. Put the project into a larger context and your team should become reinvigorated.

Second, overcome complexity with clarity. Some projects are just inherently complex, and you’ll never succeed by trying to “make it simple.” But you can make it clear. Use straightforward, non-technical language. Break big concepts into bite-sized chunks and, again, help people see how these smaller pieces fit into the larger task. If you’re a highly analytic leader, learn to use emotional terms to motivate your non-analytic colleagues. When you speak with enthusiasm, confidence and conviction, your clarity can overcome a lot of fear. Take charge and be clear.

Third, turn paralysis into progress. Leaders need to understand just how frustrating it is to be on a team that’s going nowhere! The fastest way out of the weeds may be to back up a bit — something strong-willed leaders hate to do. Figure out where things began to go off the rails. Maybe you need to re-frame the discussion, rearrange the teams or reconsider the timeline. Maybe you need to focus on one or two areas where progress is possible and leave the others for later. Momentum brings a kind of energy that can often sustain itself — just as the feeling of being stuck in the mud brings the fear that it will always be this way!

Context, clarity, progress — help restore these to your project and leave the weeds behind.

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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The Things You Plan For (and the Things You Don’t)

House Bridge Collapse     You can pretty much plan for every contingency, right? Dream on! Murphy, the gent who wrote his famous law, is alive and well, thriving in the overlooked details of our best intentions.

I’ll bet the guy who planned to move this building down a rural highway made all the right plans — almost. He made sure the building was secure on its trailer. He checked the tire pressure. He made sure the tow vehicle was operating properly. He probably had the pilot cars in front and behind to warn motorists he was coming. He took care of practically everything! But one important detail he assumed would not be a problem turned out to be a REALLY huge one.

Unanticipated problems often surface despite our best efforts. I have a good friend who spent years in the direct mail business. She told me once that they had a client in Hawaii for whom they were doing a direct mail piece — tens of thousands of brochures bearing the company’s address. Only thing was, the company was on the Kalanianaole Highway. Not wanting to mess up such a complex name, the team proofread the address a dozen times to make certain they spelled “Kalanianaole” properly. Finally satisfied, they sent the piece to press. Only after the final brochure came back did someone notice that, while they had indeed spelled “Kalanianaole” correctly, they had misspelled “Highway.” The whole order had to be reprinted.

One of the keys to good planning is not to do it all by yourself. I can think back on several examples in my career where I thought I was taking care of all the elements of a project solo, only to overlook one or two really obvious, really important details — like ordering 2,000 sales folders for my radio station and finding out I had specified the wrong colors. (Teal green and magenta came out as baby blue and bubble gum pink — yuck.) Or the time as a junior officer in the Navy when I took custody of 20 copies of an important document that I was supposed to relay immediately to another ship, only to forget and leave them behind my desk — where we found them three days later after we had sailed away. (The admiral was not amused.) Or the time…well, you get the idea.

The wonderful Old Testament book of Proverbs says a lot about this — for example, “The way of fools seems right to them, but the righteous listen to advice.” Ouch! So Rule #1 is to surround yourself with good people and don’t make plans in a vacuum. Rule #2 is to control what we can control. Do your best to plan for every reasonable contingency. But try your best not to obsess unnecessarily — because remember Rule #3: Murphy was right.

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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