Miss Impatient or The Amazing Race Contestant?

December 20, 2011 § 2 Comments

While my kids were on Fall Break in October, we went to Turkey Run State Park outside of Indianapolis, Indiana. By the way, what is the purpose of fall break? I suppose that rant is for another post.

Turkey Run State Park is an amazing park to hike. I never thought Indiana had such rugged and picturesque areas anywhere. A few trails could have been used to film the scene from Jurassic Park II where the “research” team first gets to the Site B island, Isla Sorna, and they are looking for another research scientist in the plush, jungle-like ravine when a herd of stegosaurs come walking through. Turkey Run is exactly like that, well except for the stegosaurs.

We were walking along one of these streams when the bank on one side became impassable. We were approaching people coming from the other direction so we stopped and waited for them pass. At this time, a woman and her daughter (probably around 8-10 years old) came up behind us and barged her way through making everyone wait. While this was irritating, I was glad they were in front of us and not behind us.

The stream and the trail ended at a waterfall. In order to continue, ladders had to be climbed up the side of the ravine to get to the top. Miss Impatient was waiting at the base of the ladder because there were 10-15 people coming down the ladder. I could see she was getting anxious and antsy. She kept whispering something to her daughter. As a steady stream of people kept coming down the ladder, her daughter started up the ladder (at the direction of Miss Impatient I am sure). People on the ladder were startled to see someone come up when they were already on their way down. My wife and I mentioned this was unsafe with no response. Others on the ladder also commented on it as unsafe, but the daughter of Miss Impatient continued to climb. Finally, she got what she wanted. The people at the top stopped and let the daughter and Miss Impatient up the ladder. The only thing that made sense was she was on a Speed Bump leg of the Amazing Race and needed to get through quickly to catch up with everyone else. Or maybe she was rude and impatient. I am not sure which scenario is more likely.

Beyond being rude, Miss Impatient also seemed to be missing everything around her. The scenery was amazing. The opportunities to talk to her daughter about the natural world around her – the water erosion, rock formations, the history of time gone by and the hollowed out trees where the chipmunks lived – were unlimited.

There are many times where we are trying to hurry through our professional lives, whether it is a large project or small assignment. Problems and errors are inevitable to arise and when we are “barging through” to get to the end, it is very difficult to see the answers to those problems and to pick out the errors in the first place.

As leaders in business, we always need to slow down a bit. When problems arise, many leaders react by trying to solve the problem right away. Instead, it is more important for leaders to ask questions of the people working on the problem.  As a leader, you will likely not always know the answer, but you should always know the questions to ask that helps to figure out the answers.

This approach may take more time. It may even be frustrating for the people hurrying through their projects, but in the end, instead of only learning the answer, the person may also learn a way to figure out a similar problem the next time.

Giving the answer and getting to the finish line quickly works well for a short-term benefit. But by slowing down the process, helping people figure out the answers to their own problems, while it is certainly more time-consuming, the long-term benefits are tremendous.  Not to mention it is much more enjoyable to witness. Enjoyable like slow leisure hike through Turkey Run State Park.

Keep your eyes open. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

I was encouraged to write this blog by my wife. I was inspired to write this blog by Miss Impatient. I do hope she slows down to enjoy life…or wins the million dollars.

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I’ve Fallen and I CAN Get Up – Part 2

October 26, 2011 § 2 Comments

In our current political environment, I could easily write about the candidates that are falling. But I don’t think I want to go there right now.

About a month ago, I published Part 1 of this series. It was inspired by a Sanchin Ryu karate workout where we learned to fall. Falling is something that will likely happen if someone is attacked and forced to defend themselves. Since it is inevitable, we wanted to learn how to properly fall so we could make getting back up as quickly and easily as possible. But what if you cannot immediately get back up? What if you are surrounded by “bad guys”? You are on your stomach or your back. All of the “dark temple” stuff may not be effective. In our Sanchin Ryu class this week, we worked on going back to the basics in order to defend ourselves while we are on the ground. These simple, but devastating punches, elbows and kicks provide us with a plan to defend ourselves while on the ground.

Many times in our professional lives we fall and Part 1 of this series describes what we can do to lessen the blow. But what happens when we are on the ground from the fall? Many of us have been there. The stress is ultra high and we are at a low point. You don’t know how to deal with it. I can tell you from experience there is only one thing you should NOT do…that is nothing. Doing nothing never makes your situation better, whether you are in an altercation and forced to defend yourself or you are at your maximum stress level. And staying stressed out is not good either. When we fall, we must do SOMETHING to get ourselves back up on our feet.

I spoke with four separate people over the past week that have been stressed due to various reasons. With each, I encouraged them in different ways and always came to the same approach – go back to the basics. In one case, we talked in detail about the frustration. I asked him to identify the root cause of the frustration. After identifying it and talking through it, he now has a plan to deal with the root causes. His stress level almost immediately went down after developing his plan to deal with the issue and he was able to start picking himself up off the ground.

In another case I was talking to someone about the large personal debt load they had. It was lurking over their head and causing a lot of stress because it was a large number and they did not know what to do first. We talked about going back to the basics. I asked, what is the worst thing that could happen in this situation. The answer was they would have to sell some of their possessions to pay off the loan. Now they had a plan for the worst possible scenario. Anything else that happens will be easier to deal with. Immediately they felt better and were able start getting off the ground.

A plan leading to a solution is such an important step, it cannot be overemphasized. Once the plan is in place, you will immediately begin your assent to a better place.

Keep your eyes open. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

This post was inspired by Sensei Scott.

Teach or Learn? Why Not Both?

October 3, 2011 § 3 Comments

Recently I had a conversation with Josette Rider, Executive Director & CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana. We talked about the inefficiecy in the constant exchange of emails back and forth between others in the office – sometimes people who work just a few feet away from each other. People rely on email too much for communication and dont simply talk to others. Why do people constantly email instead of getting up out of their chair and talking to the person or picking up the phone and calling the person?

Talking to people who communicate mostly with email and describing the inefficiencies is a good start. Inevitably, they have a laundry list of reasons why they should send emails out instead of talking. Since people do not develop habits overnight, they will also not get rid of those habits overnight. One conversation will probably not change behavior. It will likely take two or more conversations to change behavior, unless…they TEACH.

Josette had a brilliant idea that I have seen work in other scenarios, but never connected it to this one. It was to ask one of her managers (one that is a heavy email user) to present and instruct ways to reduce email and improve verbal communications to the other managers at the agency. To help this instruction, I sent Josette a blog post from Seth Godin that was posted on June 9, 2011. It is titled “Email checklist (maybe this time it will work)” and addresses this same email problem in a humorous, yet insightfull way.

The brillance in this coaching action lies in the fact that teaching reinforces the topic that is being shared, probably more so for the instructor than for those being taught. In fact, it reinforces what is already familiar and forces the instructor to work through the topics of uncertainty. 

There are many areas I have experienced where it is understood that learning will happen when we teach or instruct. In Sanchin Ryu karate, the leader of a small workout group often reinforces in his own mind the strikes he or she shows the group. Managers in business often have to think through a concept or topic before leading a meeting about the topic. As a CPA, I have also discovered that instructors of Continuing Professional Education courses receive credits for the time instructing as does those CPAs that are listening to the instruction.

When you are asked to lead a discussion or to train a group, it will be difficult to say yes due to nerves or uncertainty, but always remember…it will likely beneift you more than anyone else.

Keep your eyes open. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

This post was inspired by Josette Rider, Executive Director at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana.

Listening to the Quiet

July 20, 2011 § 1 Comment

Sometimes we all need to stop, regroup and recharge our professional batteries.  I was at a Cubs game on July 15, 2011.  Carlos Marmol came into the game with a two-run lead in the 9th inning.  He was only able to get one out before he was pulled and replaced by another reliever to finish out the game.  Marmol was very inconsistent and unable to pitch strikes.  The team manager, Mike Quade, asked Carlos Marmol to take the weekend off to regroup and regain his exceptional ability to get outs at the end of the game.

There are times when we all need to regroup and regain our passion for our work. I experienced this first hand.  The first part of my “down time” I went to see the Cubs victory I briefly described above.  The rest of my time was been spent by the water swimming, fishing, having a few adult beverages and Listening to the Quiet.

The Quiet.  It is something many of us have never experienced or have not realized the experience.  If you know this expience, you know what I will attempt to describe. 

Sitting outside, many times you hear birds chirping, kids playing and lawn mowers roaring.  Imagine if all of those sounds went away – or at least two of the three.  All that remains is the Quiet, true quiet. 

If you have experienced Quiet, you know what is meant by the saying “silence is deafening”.  Phones are not ringing and business associates are not asking questions.  Quiet.  What happens next is up to you and is the most important.  Your mind begins to wander and/or wonder. This is always important regardless of the profession you are in.  You begin thinking about life’s challenges and how to resolve those challenges.  It is also a great time to generate ideas for the next blog you write. 

In addition to providing high-quality think-time, the Quiet allows you to do the opposite – think about nothing.  Thinking about nothing provides a relief of stress and improves your overall emotional well being.  It other words’ it recharges your emotional batteries.

I have found it very difficult, but vitally important to take a break from the always on, always connected life.  Make the time to do nothing and listen to the quiet.  How long has it been since you have Listened to the Quiet?

Keep your eyes open.  Inspiration can come from anywhere.

Inspiration for this writing came from my dad.  He always reminds me to  take some time off from the fast-paced world of business and enjoy doing nothing.

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