Sometime Never Comes

April 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

Who makes the statement, “let’s get together sometime” and really means it?  If the invitation was sincere, it would not be for “sometime”, but for a specific date or specific date options. Being too general and non-specific will only lead to frustration for everyone involved.

Just the other day I asked someone in the office if they would start on a project “sometime soon”.  As it turns out, the other person thought I meant to start when they got around to it.  You guessed it.  They hadn’t gotten around to it yet.  I didn’t realize my communication error until I followed up with that person a few days later for a progress report.

I have thought of 4 simple ways to make sure that “sometime” DOES come.

  1. Be clear with your communication of due dates.  Use specific date/time references.
  2. If communication is verbal, make sure you follow it up with an email or a confirmation phone call.
  3. If a colleague uses the “sometime” due date, make sure you ask for a specific date.
  4. If a colleague simply says they will do something with no due date, make sure you get a specific date for this too.

Too often people assume clarity has been conveyed when in reality it has not.  Assumptions take over, deadlines are doomed and disappointment is inevitable.I am certain I am not alone in this experience.  I would love to hear your experiences in this area of sometime. How did you deal with it?

Keep your eyes open. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

This post was inspired by my recent personal offense of wanting something done “sometime”. 

Self-Refection Leads To Self-Improvement

March 17, 2013 § 2 Comments

All great leaders look for continuous improvements.  Improvements in their business, their staff and most of all in themselves.

Have you ever experienced your child doing something that is irritating?  Did you ever notice that irritating act and then realize they copied it from you?  I have realized this too many times.

One thing that separates good leaders from great leaders is the ability of self-relfection.

self reflection leads to self improvement pic 03 17 13Too many people go around clueless to how  they are treating people or communicating with people.  If you dont realize what you are doing or saying, how can you make improvements?

Some people surround themselves with others that will be brutally honest and tell them.  But most leaders must learn to be self-relfective.  There are 5 steps to go through in order to self-reflect.

  1. Listen to what you are saying.  It is simple to turn into the Incredible Hulk, lose control and say things you dont mean to say.  Choose your words carefully.
  2. Listen to how you are saying things.  You can use the same words and they can be heard in many different ways. It’s All About The Delivery!
  3. Pay attention to the reactions of others.  Was it what you intended or were you surprised?  Obviously, being surprised should be a flag to you and moving to Step 4 with it is critical for making improvements.
  4. Relfect on your interactions with people and decide if you could or should have handled it differently.  This is the 2nd most important step of self reflection.
  5. Decide to handle similar situations differently the next time

How do you self-reflect?

Keep your eyes open. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

This post was inspired by my own continuous desire for improvement.  I often coach others  about self-awareness and it starts with self-reflection

Get Out Your Pen, Pencil or Crayon!

January 6, 2013 § 1 Comment

Many years ago my high school health class teacher would announce “get out your pen, pencil or crayon” when he was giving us a surprise quiz.  If he is still teaching today, he would likely tell everyone “get out your laptop, tablet or mobile device”.

I read an article recently in the Wall Street Journal titled The Lost Art of the Handwritten Note.  It mentions a British survey which states 1 in 3 people did not write a single thing by hand in the past 6 months.  I am shocked and not surprised at the same time. Is that possible?  This clearly illustrates how our society has gone nearly entirely electronic.  And I am no different.  I scan any document I need to save.  I use my iPhone & iPad to access files, take notes, and send messages.

Hand written notes have gone by the wayside.  As the WSJ indicates, it is truly a lost art and is nearly extinct.  For those that have received them, it is something very meaningful.  The sender took extra effort to write & send you a note.

This past holiday season, I decided to expand my professional holiday card list.  I also decided to write a note in each one of them.  It was not an easy task, but it felt better than simply signing my name or worse, just stuffing them in the envelope unsigned.

In our fast-paced world, if you want to be noticed in 2013, write a personal, hand-written note.  It will set you apart from everyone who only send emails & text messages.

Keep your eyes open. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

This post was inspired by years of guidance from Mick Parrott regarding the value of writing a note to people.  Thank you, Mick.  Once again you are right on the money.

Polls: Reflection or Creation?

November 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

With the Presidential election in a few days, we have been inundated with polls: taking them and hearing the results of them.  But I ask, what is the purpose?  I want to think it is to reflect the opinion of the public.  But the more I read, hear, and see for myself, it appears their purpose is to create public opinion.  No one wants to say they voted for the loser.  So the poll results saying one person is leading over the other is bound to be a factor in the votes cast.  The topic I will not approach is poll manipulation. If you want an interesting read, check out the Wall Street Journal article, “Can We Believe the Presidential Polls?”, from a couple of weeks ago.

In the workplace, some leaders take the approach of making decisions based on their own knowledge and experiences and in their own vacuum.  Other leaders “poll” the opinions of others to help make their decisions.  Good leaders use both of these approaches.  Great leaders understand the importance of when to use both approaches for maximum efficiency, effectiveness and buy-in.

Keep your eyes open. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

This post was inspired by Chris Lake, COO of Highmark Techsystems, during one of our Beer Summits while we always attempt to solve the world’s problems.

Start with the Big Stuff

October 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

Teacher fills a container with large rocks and asks the class if they think the container is full.  The class says “yes, its full”.  Teacher starts adding smaller rocks by shaking the container until no more small rocks fit. He then asks the students again if the container is full.  Again the class answers in the affirmative.  One more time, the teacher proves them wrong by adding sand to the container.

When I think about this story I think about the container being my time. Too often I fill my time with small stuff (sand) like TV.  Then I wonder why I don’t have time to read or write a blog post.  I made this sculpture (I guess I can call it a sculpture, right?) and put it on my desk at work to remind me that I need to add the big things first before I add the sand.

How about you?  Do you start with sand or with rocks?

Keep your eyes open. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

This post was inspired by Sensei Krebs who was the first person to tell me this story. He also continuously encourages all of us to start with the big stuff.

What Have YOU Learned from the Incredible Hulk?

July 14, 2012 § 2 Comments

I watched The Avengers with my son. After the movie we talked about different scenes on the drive home. (ATTENTION: Spoiler Alert!) The scene that caused the most curiousity was toward the end where the Avengers were fighting the alien army of flying Goblin-link machines and their flying giant eel-like machine companions. A giant eel was flying down the streets of New York directly at the Avenger team when Dr Bruce Banner started running directly toward it. Captain American called out, “Dr Banner, now might be a really good time for you to get angry.” Dr Banner turned around and said, “that is my secrect. I am always angry!” and he immediately turned into the Hulk and kicked the giant eel machine’s mechanical ass! Great movie!

My son and I wondered how Dr Banner was unable to control turning into the Hulk when he got mad and then when was not mad, he could Hulk-up on command. After we talked about this phenominon, we realized the same thing happens too often to people every day.

How often have you known people in business to lose control when something upsets them? Or send a scathing email without thinking of the fall-out? Too often I must say. It is OK to be forceful, firm, or even yell. The key with communicating this way is doing it because you intend to, not because you lost control and you had no choice.

The Incredible Hulk is my new favorite hero.  So, which one describes you? Are you another Incredible Hulk or are you unable to control your emotional reactions?

Keep your eyes open. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

This post was inspired by a The Avengers movie. 

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.

I’ve Fallen and I CAN Get Up – Part 1

September 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

We have all fallen before. We fell off our skateboards as kids and we have even fallen over the stray household item that was never put away. It is going to happen, right? It’s inevitable. In a Sanchin-Ryu karate workout, the Sensei had us work on falling. Strange huh? Many of us wondered why we would work on something like falling. As I said before and as Sensei reminded us: falling is inevitable.

If we get into an altercation, the chances are pretty good we are going to fall. If that is the case, we are better off if we shorten our fall. That is what we worked on. We shortened our fall by bending our knees. This simple reaction brings you closer to the ground so the fall is not as great and the impact is softened. This was the key to making the fall a little easier on all of us.

Thinking about my professional career, there have been many times where I have “fallen”. In fact, many of us have “fallen” at some point in our professional lives. In other words, we have made a mistake, screwed up or failed at a task.  You know what?  All of this, including failing, is OK.

Too often failing is considered taboo and as a consequence avoided at all costs. When we fail or make a mistake we learn something from it. That new nugget of knowledge, no matter how tiny or monumental, is what makes failing valuable and worth allowing to happen.

The most important part of failing is to “bend our knees” to shorten the fall. In other words, you need to realize that a mistake has been made and realize it quickly. It could be a new IT project that did not deliver the intended results or an idea on a new product that ended up being a bust. Realizing the failure allows you to learn what you need to learn and correct the mistake. Realizing it quickly, minimizes the impact of the mistake and allows for a fast correction.

Always remember, when you begin to stumble, bend your knees to shorten your fall.

Keep your eyes open. Inspiration can come from anywhere.

Inspiration for this writing came from Sensei Scott.

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.

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with professional improvement at Observe Inspire Lead.