How does trust in an organization, a company, or a school go awry? While there are many reasons, frequently it is the unintended result of unsuccessfully managing an unforeseen crisis. In such a situation, the unknown looms like a virus descending on an innocent village infecting all in its path and whispering in a sinister voice, “Change is coming.” The thought of change can begat fear, and fear often begets distrust. Whether the change is associated with an economic downturn, a stringent, government mandate, or a change in leadership, the resulting symptoms of distrust can debilitate and stifle progress in any organization.
Some seek remedies in the usual places; however the wise will go back to school to find a cure. Not just any school, but a Leader in Me elementary school. Leader in Me schools employ The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People® and promote internalization of the timeless leadership principles upon which the habits are based. As a result, teachers, parents, and students working together develop and sustain an environment wherein trust is implicit and mastery of 21st century skills enabled. Herein lies a powerful prescription for struggling organizations, companies, or educational institutions plagued by distrust.
Sean Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Happy Kids® suggests a visual of a serum and a syringe to understand the strategy of the initiative. The serum represents the principles and the composite of leadership behaviors, and the syringe is the system through which to introduce and administer the solution. When brought together in The Leader in Me school, distrust is healed by the speed of leadership.
Iconic educator, Dr. Stephen R. Covey, believed with all his heart, “Leadership is communicating people’s worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.” The Leader in Me is an innovative, schoolwide initiative based on this philosophy. Driven from the bottom-up and focused on the organization’s biggest asset—the children—this model encourages a paradigm-shift that promotes a culture of personal and student empowerment naturally unleashing each child’s full potential.
Such schools developing a leadership culture and achieving extraordinary results are evaluated and may be awarded FranklinCovey Leader in Me Lighthouse status. Recently as part of a Lighthouse School Review Team, I visited Stone Oak Elementary, a Leader in Me school in San Antonio, Texas. We were greeted by smiles and eager, out-stretched hands. Not the hands of administrators, but those of student greeters aged 6 through 10. After a firm handshake and an uninhibited introduction that speaks of self-confidence, the students led our group on a schoolwide tour. Along the way, we passed other students holding signs directing parents to a 7 Habits overview workshop. Peeking through the workshop door, I saw about twenty parents and grandparents engaged in a fun, group activity. Apparently to accommodate busy schedules, similar workshops are available on evenings and weekends.
As the tour continued, the student tour guides took turns highlighting school- and grade-level goals posted in the halls and pointed out accompanying scoreboards designed to measure progress. When asked about the use of scoreboards, without hesitation one of the student guides explained, “When you have a goal, or an end in mind, you know where you’re going.” Scoreboards help us know where we are today, so we know what needs to be done tomorrow.” Another student chimed in, “Posting our goals and scoreboards helps us synergize and support each other.” Such transparency, abundance, and collaboration does indeed sponsor trust and promote progress.
While I was marveling at the student’s comprehension of leadership and business tools, one of the student guides shouted a greeting to his approaching father. The proud student turned to me and said, “My dad’s a Watch DOG,” which stands for Dad’s of Great Students. This national initiative engages men, inspires children, reduces bullying and enhances the educational environment. These “hallway heroes” foster a sense of safety, which everyone knows is a catalyst of trust.
One of the highlights of the tour was attending a student-led conference. Unlike the traditional teacher-led review of the child’s progress, two lovely young ladies—one in kindergarten and the other in fourth grade—shared their leadership notebooks with me in delightful detail. Each walked me through their goals and progress and shared victories including celebrations for reaching personal, class, and schoolwide goals. The enthusiasm for their educational experience was refreshing and contagious.
In retrospect, one could conclude the prescription for building or restoring trust in any organization, company, or school is clearly in emulating the practices of a Leader in Me school:
- Learn and practice The 7 Habits
- Internalize the effective, foundational principles of The 7 Habits
- Allow leaders to emerge based on strengths
- Identify and track goals
- Share your goals and account for your progress willingly
- Listen to your elders and those who have your best interest at heart
- Synergize not only in teams and interdepartmentally, but also with your stakeholders
- Celebrate personal, team, and organizational victories
You can learn more about the approximately 1200 Leader in Me schools around the world at leaderinme.org. Be a community leadership hero and sponsor a school. Arrange a visit at a Leader in Me school in your area today. What? There’s not one in your area? Then click here to find out what you can do to introduce The Leader in Me to your child’s school. Get started right now introducing your child to The 7 Habits of Happy Kids. Parents, check out the books, posters, and games available and begin to unleash your child’s potential!
When Jack Dorsey decided everyone should have a credit card merchant account in his or her pocket, he ignored the critics. Now just 4 years old, Square has revolutionized the way small businesses do business. Even the casual artist or hobbyist can hawk wares from the trunk and accept plastic as payment right from her cell phone. This credit card payment aggregator was shunned by big banking. Jack’s thought? “We design what we want to see in the world rather than doing what other people think should be done.”
Companies like Organovo are combining two extremely unrelated fields of science to give organ failure patients new hope. They are refining the emerging science of 3-D printing using a medium – human tissue and cells – that can replicate and grow with an organ transplant recipient. Imagine needing a kidney and a printer laying one down for you within hours, layer upon layer of immuno-compatible cells, that can be ‘installed’ by a surgeon.
These and other entrepreneurs are featured in the May issue of Inc. magazine – examples of revolutionary, collaborative thinking that shuns boundaries and monetizes common sense.
How about your organization? What does your customer want that you are uniquely qualified to deliver, but aren’t? What would make their life easier; how could you tweak, alter, reform your product or service to give them what they need?
As a consumer, let me start with my own two cents.
When will airports have treadmills or weight machines in the terminal for health-conscious travelers enduring long layovers?
Why isn’t the back panel of my cell phone a solar panel that keeps it perpetually charged?
Why do I have to go to the DMV to register new vehicles, when I can take a picture of a check and deposit it remotely into my bank account?
You can take it from here.
When a back seat driver complains about the speed or tactical maneuvers being deployed by the driver, Larry and I share the same mantra: “I’m not wreck less. I’m efficient!” Larry will get you safely from point A to point B; you just may prefer not to look up during the drive.
For more than 30 years, Larry Reynolds, a Client Partner at FranklinCovey in the greater Kansas City area, has devoted his career to bringing people and organizations closer to living the values that they profess. However, not once did I ever hear Larry profess his values. Instead, I quietly watched as he lived them. Larry reminds us all of the lesson taught by St. Francis of Asssi when he said, “Preach the gospel at all times and, when necessary, use words.”
Larry is a model of those principles that have made our company and its founders stand out all these years: Integrity, Kindness, Professionalism, Respect, Hard Work, Excellence.
I had the thrill of working (and driving) with Larry soon after he and others hired me on as a Senior Consultant back in the summer of 2007. We would often drive together to clients in Wichita, Des Moines, Topeka and other equally exciting destinations. It was during those hours of driving, listening to Larry weave his yarns of company history, client challenges, and personal philosophy that I was quietly tutored by a master. I soaked it in. I knew, that with his tenure, experience and manner, I was in the presence of greatness.
Larry shared stories of his own brushes with greatness. He is, after all, a very close friend and associate to our company’s co-founder, Hyrum Smith, the legendary creator of the Franklin Planner. Many years ago they and their close colleagues set out to conquer the world. With Hyrum hawking binders and planner refills out of his trunk and Larry staking out sales territory around the Midwest, they brought their passion and proven principles of effectiveness to a historic level of ubiquity. I mean, who hasn’t at one time is his career owned, cherished, and slept with a Franklin Planner?
Larry is in the process of retiring this year. I say process, because he won’t simply go away. He has moved to a part time arrangement, partly because he loves what he does and partly because he’s very good at what he does. We can’t afford to just let him ride off into the sunset. Then again, the way he drives it will be more of a gallop.
His clients and colleagues will miss him dearly.
“What information consumes is rather obvious. It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” These words seem to confirm our observations of modern day life and the distractions that technology and information have become. They’re even more impressive when you realize they were said by Nobel Prize winner, Herbert Simon, in 1971! If information was creating this poverty then, how poor must we be today?
In her book, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age, Maggie Jackson writes, “The way we live is eroding our capacity for deep, sustained perceptive attention. As we cultivate lives of distraction, we are losing our capacity to create and preserve wisdom… and slipping towards a line of ignorance that is paradoxically born of an abundance of information and connectivity.” In other words, being more connected and informed is creating more ignorance and less wisdom.
Many people call themselves great multitaskers, as though that term were a badge of honor. It comes from the 1960s when computer programmers learned they could code a computer to perform two or more applications simultaneously. However, you and I are not computers. Humans are hardwired to take on tasks sequentially, not at the same time. Our brains cannot pay full attention to two things at the same time, especially as the nature of the tasks become more complex.
Then, we also become much less efficient when we try to bounce back and forth between assignments, without spending dedicated time (20 minutes or longer) on just one. Experts call the increment of time required to go back and forth between tasks “switching time.” When computer programmers get sidetracked or move spontaneously to another task, switching time takes an average 25 minutes before they get back into the flow of coding that they were in before the interruption, if they even get back at all.
Additionally, we’re less and less connected to those who matter most in our lives, when we attempt to multitask or move our attention around too frequently. Admit it. You’ve looked past the person talking to you to glance at your computer screen for any incoming messages. How did you feel the last time you were on the phone with someone and your heard the clickety-clack of their keyboard in the background. When we should be having a “human moment,” as specialist in ADHD Dr. Edward Hallowell calls it, multitasking sends a loud and clear message to the other person: “You’re not worth 100 percent of my attention.”
We need to slow down. We need to pay attention. We need to think more deeply. We need to say no to the superficial. As Maggie Jackson describes it, “We are allowing ourselves to be ever-more entranced by the unsifted trivia of life. To value a split-focus life… is above all to squeeze out potential time and space for reflection. In the name of efficiency, we are diluting some of the essential qualities that make us human.”
Not trying to be cute here. It’s a fact.
Research continues to confirm the benefit of your body’s natural impulse to take a break. The Industrial Revolution has stretched both time and resources as thin as possible. Yet our time is finite, and the western way of doing more with less is likely giving us exactly that – less.
As early as the 50s, researches such as William Dement and Nathaniel Kleitman discovered the “circadian rhythms” of our sleep. These typically 90-minute cycles, it turns out, continue into our waking hours. We can generally give our full focus and energy toward an assignment or project for about an hour and a half before our bodies demand a break. Instead, many of us reach for an artificial stimulant to keep on going. What we don’t understand, is that the additional work that comes from plugging on yields increasingly diminished returns.
In his NY Times article, Relax! You’ll Be More Productive, author Tony Schwartz cites Professor K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues at Florida State University, who have studied elite performers – musicians, athletes, actors, etc. They discovered that “working in 90-minute intervals turns out to be a prescription for maximizing productivity.”
Many of my readers and most of my clients have discovered the powerful mind-set, skill-set, and tool-set of FranklinCovey’s latest time management offering, The 5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity. This is by far our company’s most holistic approach to time, energy, decision, and attention management ever. We spend the last “Choice” discussing the 5 Energy Drivers, including sleep, as a competitive advantage in today’s light-speed, gadget-filled world. Our modern lives – filled with infinite possibilities, and yet relentless distractions – must be focused on leveraging our most creative and unique contributions. These can only be realized when our bodies and minds are performing at their peak. So…
Slow down and do more! (more that matters…)
After 13 years, I quit. At least for now.
In 1999 I began traveling regularly and also began staying with the same hotel chain. Out of convenience and the quickly-growing loyalty points balance, I stuck with the same chain, until last week. After several months of sharply waning service at the primary property I’ve been staying with lately and a single straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back moment, they lost my business.
The decision is one that I had pondered several times. But I felt beholden to them, simply because we had experienced such a lasting union. I’m guessing this break-up is sort of like a woman deciding to ‘break up’ with her hair stylist and change to someone new. (I know of what I speak, since my wife is a licensed cosmetologist.) You may have wanted to switch for months – maybe years – but the thought of having to tell your stylist/therapist that you’re leaving is really uncomfortable, right?
My break-up wasn’t quite that hard.
Last week I had such a negative late night experience upon check-in that I immediately checked out and booked a room at the competing chain across the street. The standard post-checkout survey that arrived in my in-box yesterday gave me the perfect chance to explain why I am leaving. I must give them some credit, though. Not 5 minutes after clicking ‘Save,’ I had a voice message from the property’s general manager, urging me to call her and discuss my experience.
My point here is really this: How much is your loyalty worth? In dollars? How much is your undying loyalty worth to Coke, Southwest Airlines, Apple, Comcast, Target, Costco, USAA, Harley Davidson? I recognize I may have just mentioned a brand that you absolutely would NOT patronize, but you understand my point. Over the past 13 years of frequenting the same hotel chain 90% of the time, I estimate that I have stayed over 1,000 nights with this brand. That equates to a grand total of about $100,000 in gross revenue from a single guest! Will they miss me?
I believe the greater lesson here is this. We all need to know how valuable our customers’ loyalty is to our brand. Are we treating every customer interaction as that ever-important last impression? Every interaction has a cumulative impact on the trust your customers have in you and your reputation. Give them a reason to come back, no matter what. Fact: The more likely your customers are to recommend your product or service to others, the more your organization is likely to grow. Of course, the opposite is also true. The less likely someone is to recommend what you have to offer, the more likely your business is shrinking.
As I type, I’m watching a barrage of news coverage on the confession of Lance Armstrong to Oprah Winfrey surrounding his career-long lying about his use of banned substances to achieve hero status as the seven-time Tour de France champion. Was he sincere? Did he come clean? Can we trust what he said? Will he ever recover his reputation? Can he regain some level of credibility?
In his book, The Speed of Trust, Stephen M. R. Covey posits that when trust is lost it can often be regained much more quickly than people think, especially by making and keeping promises. Is Lance’s situation different?
Stephen also defines trust as confidence, born of the character and competence of an individual. These are further subdivided into “The 4 Cores of Credibility:” Integrity, Intent, Capabilities, and Results.
Where are Lance’s ‘4 Cores’ today?
No one doubts that Lance developed his natural capabilities to compete in endurance racing. He had successfully won a string of triathlons during his late teens, arguably clean. His Results speak for themselves. Yes, he’s admitted that the EPO (blood-enhancing steroids) that he used gave him an edge. But it’s likely he still would have been a force to be reckoned with. Some argue that in a sport as dirty as cycling at the time and especially among the elite racers, it was a level playing field.
What I believe will be the bane of Lance’s future attempts to regain his credibility is attempting to recover his bankrupt Integrity and Intent (motives). I believe in the principle of forgiveness. I believe in the importance of righting wrongs to rebuild trust. People generally deserve second chances. But when one intentionally lies to one’s most ardent supporters and harshest critics for as long and angrily as Lance did, integrity will be very difficult to come by. When one blacklists and disparages one’s closest friends, friends’ families, and allies, it’s hard not to question his apparently deep, selfish motives or Intent.
It almost seems that as much time that has past since the lying began must yet past before we can begin to measure what Integrity and Intent has been regained. Can he rebuild his credibility? Ask me again in 2025.
Everyone loves a hero who overcomes. We especially were mesmerized by the cancer survivor who came back to win the Tour de France 7 times in a row! But over this decade-plus long history of use and aggressive lying, so many of us were eager to come to his defense. Now we all have egg on our faces. More like a full omelet.
No words can adequately describe the horror that ensued last Friday morning at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. I even felt sheepish in attempting to blog about any part of this inexplicable tragedy. Yet being a father of a 7 year old myself, I felt compelled to share a few simple thoughts I’ve had that many of my readers may relate to. It is the simple experience of seeing my 1st grade daughter in a new light and hugging her tightly before she got on and after she got off the school bus today.
Politicians will posit new ways, including gun-control measures, to prevent such future failures to protect our children. Parents will demand answers that only one person could have given completely – answers he unfortunately took with him to his grave. The 24-hour news cycle will introduce experts from every angle, willing to prescribe possible motives and solutions. All of this doesn’t improve anything in my immediate circles.
One thing that I do know, however, is this: I can choose to cherish every moment with loved ones that I am permitted to go on living.
My heart grieves when I consider the pain and anguish that the Newton community is going through. I will not allow their loss to be in vain. If nothing else positive comes of Friday’s events, every parent, grandparent, sibling, child, teacher, coach and friend should be ever more sensitive to the needs of those around him or her. I resolve to be more patient. I will take the time to listen, without prejudgment. I will relax when the house isn’t perfectly clean, and probably take a few minutes to mess it up with my kids. I will never let my loved ones pass out the door without knowing how much I love them and remind them of the same upon their return.
If you love ‘em, hug ‘em!
I saw a news story today that featured an educational program for children that discourages any ‘screen time’ until the age of 3. The argument is that kids (and adults, for that matter) are bombarded by so much virtual screen stimulus that they are deprived of interacting in the real world. The author of the program cited studies that show kids are at risk of becoming obese, lacking in interpersonal skills, and failing to develop physically when they spend too much time in front of the TV, on the computer, or drawn into other forms of virtual media such as tablets, PCs or laptops.
The prescribed program encouraged more reading of board books, interaction with mom and dad, other toddlers, and the real world of more tactile stimulus.
This past week we took the kids to Disneyland. Sure, it’s arguable that Disney is one of the foremost purveyors of ‘screen time’ media, yet the original park/resort offers an abundance of opportunity for kids to communicate more interpersonally, to get some much needed exercise (how many times did we crisscross that resort, anyway?) and to feel the world around them. In fact, the very first activity that my 4 year old son and I experienced was the simple pleasure of touching a goat in the petting zoo.
In what ways is your screen time pulling you away from more important activities? How is it potentially preventing you from experiencing the ‘real world?’ In what was has this virtual addiction become a substitute for the relationships that really matter? Perhaps the end of another year is the perfect time to reconnect with the basics in life: family, friends, a walk in the park, the touch of a furry pet, the warmth of sunshine on your face.
After all, the basics are called that for a reason. They are the basic experiences, essentials, building blocks of a rewarding, fruitful, and effective life. Let’s all go back!
Tomorrow my friend and colleague J.D. Frailey will accomplish an amazing feat of human greatness. He will complete a goal, now 30 years in the making. Sometime during the early afternoon hours on Sunday, November 11th, he will cross the finish line in the Marshall University Marathon in Huntington, West Virginia. No, this isn’t his first. This will be J.D.’s 50th marathon in all 50 states!
Check out this cool story on him in his local newspaper.
We all aspire to do great things. Our collective confidence grows when we see others pull off big goals like this. So, in J.D.’s honor, what big goal has been lurking in the back of your mind that you can begin today? No matter how long it takes, we’ll all be there to cheer you on, too.
Last week I had the privilege of delivering a good-news presentation on behalf of a regional client to their larger corporate, North American counterparts. They were gathered together, in part, to learn about the client’s great success with improving employees’ trust in management over the past 4 years. Prior to engaging FranklinCovey with the solution, this client location’s ‘trust in management’ scores had been in sharp decline.
Together, representatives from the client’s HR and management team, along with a group of dedicated consultants and sales professionals at FranklinCovey, mapped out a potential process to turn the culture and scores around. Senior management devoted countless hours to kick-off speeches for each group of workshop attendees. Hundreds of frontline and mid-level managers completed a 10-week-long program to study and implement trust and leadership skills and tools. They specifically committed to improving one or more challenges in their areas of responsibility. Participants finally delivered formal presentations to senior leadership on their own ‘case study’ and shared improved 360-degree assessment scores.
Bottom line: This client saw a more than 17% increase in trust scores on the latest plant-wide employee engagement survey.
A 10% increase in trust scores has the same effect on employee satisfaction as a 36% increase in pay.
You can imagine the client’s satisfaction with the new scores and their counterparts’ intrigue with the possibility of replicating those results back home.
Another researcher who is referenced in Stephen’s video found that trust was the key driver of employee engagement.
Are you part of an organization whose trust is suffering? Are you responsible for influencing the level of trust within your organization? Would you like to see more trust working for you, generating measurable, bottom line results? I’m waiting by the phone to talk…
Disney’s animated movie, “UP” features a pack of fun, adventuresome, and often comical dogs whose owner has invented a collar that literally gives voice to what they are thinking. As intelligent as they sound – in backward patterns sometimes speaking – they are still subject to their natural instincts. For example, they will appear to be carrying on an intelligent conversation about their strategy to locate and capture their wayward comrade, when “Squirrel!” One of them sees a furry creature scampering by and takes his attention off the more thoughtful conversation. He then ‘points’ to the momentary distraction and causes everyone to lose focus, if even for only a few seconds.
Brain science is fast reinforcing many of the principles of focus, goal-setting, proactivity and work-life balance that are inherent in much of our FranklinCovey practices. We know there are primarily two centers in our gray matter that sometimes appear to work against one another. The brain stem, or reactive center, which draws on instinct, emotions and impulse to cause our bodies to react. Then there is the prefrontal cortex of our frontal lobes where we have the power to choose to conduct higher-order, more executive thinking, such as problem solving, reasoning, evaluating, etc. It is also where we can discern whether it is in our best interest to allow emotion (the brain stem) to influence a situation.
Yesterday I made a profound (if I may say so myself) observation about our neural anatomy.
Whether we choose to be more thoughtful and directed in our thinking and actions by employing our prefrontal cortex or we allow the more primitive part of our brains – the brain stem – to override, ALL of the signals we send to our spinal cord and on to our peripheral nervous system must pass through the brain stem. In other words, emotions and impulse are ALWAYS an influence. Thoughtfulness, however, must be a deliberate CHOICE.
At my son’s soccer game last week there was an obvious distraction from watching the game. The mountain scene displaying stunning fall colors was hard to ignore. Yet when we take our eyes of the game (the Wildly Important Goal, anyone?) for just a few seconds, we miss that game-changing play or an opportunity to cheer on loved ones. Worse yet, what if the players get distracted? They give up a timely shot or block, if they try to take in the view for even a second.
So, the next time someone yells, “Squirrel!” or another bright and shiny goal is presented to the group, be sure to go to the prefrontal cortex of your mind and ask that focus-oriented question: “Is this merely a distraction or central to reaching our most important goals?”
This past Saturday, September 8th, I completed my first ever LOTOJA road cycling race. Now in it’s 30th year, the LOTOJA is the country’s longest single-stage, sanctioned (USCF) bicycle race at 206 miles long. It begins in Logan, Utah, and ends just outside of Jackson, Wyoming (hence the name), spanning three mountain passes and over 7,000 feet of climbing. Those 10 hours and 23 minutes on my bike taught me many valuable lessons, some I’ve always known but that were reinforced profoundly. Here are five of them:
Nothing Substitutes for Preparation
I’ve thought about completing the LOTOJA for many years. Only in the past three years have I gotten into road cycling – primarily triathlon. And only this year have I gotten serious about road racing. And while I may have limped across the finish line before the final cutoff time without much road training, focusing instead on aerobic and strength training activities like running, swimming and plyometrics, nothing quite prepared me for the distance we covered than the almost daily rides with my Pleasant View riders. The routine and rigor of riding with my ‘accountability partners’ at 6:00 am most weekdays prepped me physically and mentally for the challenge that awaited at the end of the summer. Matching myself up against my own group’s ability, thinking and re-thinking through strategy for pace, nutrition and our support crew, and – most importantly – putting in the miles all combined to make my first LOTOJA a time worth striving to beat next year.
206 Miles is a LONG Time in the Saddle
I have deep and abiding respect for anyone who has completed this race more than once. No matter how I tried to break it up in my mind, balancing on a few square inches of padding (using the term very loosely) was grueling. To make it worse, I had ordered a new ‘split’ seat on the Internet, intending on riding it a few times before the race, you know, just to break it in. No sooner did I click on ‘purchase’ than I was informed that everything in the order would ship right away… except the saddle. It was backordered and wouldn’t be available until the week following the race! Guess what I got in the mail today. Not that a new seat would have turned my ischeal tuberosity torture into a joy ride, but really? The very next week? Endurance racing means exactly that. Even after trying to scoot forward, sideways, and even stand up every once in a while, by about mile 135 I simply became numb. It didn’t matter where I sat. At least by then I could simply focus on the ride, hoping the numbness wouldn’t wear off too soon.
Synergy is Real
Ok. I used to mock people who raved about ‘drafting’ behind other riders, benefiting from the ‘pull’ of riders in front. I honestly don’t think I could have completed this race without the pull of other riders – without working together over the long, windy flats and grueling rollers. Just like geese flying in formation, the physics of drafting are real. One rider, while drafting with me, took the words right out of my mouth. Quothe he, “Wow! I can’t believe how long and fast we are able to go!”
Big Goals Motivate
Some of the recent research we’ve featured in our 5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity course around goal setting and brain science was reinforced for me Saturday. Doctor Heidi Halvorson of Columbia Business School cites research that suggests that goals that are both difficult and specific are much more likely to motivate us to action. Completing the LOTOJA was certainly one of the bigger, more challenging goals I have put in front of myself. It was also incredibly specific. The length, 206 miles, echoed loudly and clearly in my mind since the day I registered back in April. And the date marched closer and closer, with a relentless cadence of “here I come!” Plus, when you tell everyone you’re going to do it, it’s much harder to back down. I can’t imagine telling everyone who has asked me this week how it went, “Gee, I decided not to do it.”
Life is Extremely Fragile
The professionals at Epic Events, organizers of the annual LOTOJA, experienced their first casualty in 30 years on Saturday. Forty-two year old and third-time LOTOJA racer Rob VerHaaren of Mesa, AZ, was tragically and very suddenly taken from us when he was catapulted over a guard rail and into the shallow Snake River, less than a dozen miles from the finish line. There were other serious accidents that required victims to be hospitalized – riders who are very cautious and competent, but who succumbed to circumstances of the day and hour on this grueling test of will and endurance. We never know when it will be our time. But because life is also incredibly short, we can’t attempt to over-protect ourselves from every risk, thereby cheating ourselves of the amazing results we are capable of when we test our very limits. This is not to minimize the incredible loss that his wife and three children are suffering, but rather to point out that we’re all 3 minutes closer to death since before you began reading this post. What will you do with the remaining minutes/hours/days/weeks/months/years?
So, these are just five of the many lessons I took away. They beg some incredibly relevant questions of our personal and professional pursuits. I invite you to answer them for yourself:
- In what ways are you cheating yourself and others by not being as prepared as you can be?
- Where can a little more endurance/patience pay off, if you are willing to power through the ‘numbness?’
- How are you missing out by not collaborating with others? What solutions/innovation is passing you by because you choose to ‘ride it alone’ instead of working with your team?
- What big, specific goals are you working on right now? Which ones have been put off too long?
- In what ways does each breathing moment of your life attest to the legacy you really want to leave?
Jack Welch, the former 20-year CEO of General Electric, has a simple mnemonic for remembering his leadership values: 4 E’s and a P. Energy, Energize, Edge, Execute, and Passion. Energy is what the leader needs to bring to the game. Energize is what the leader does for other players. Edge is the ability to say ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ and never ‘Maybe.’ Execute is his or her ability to ‘deliver the goods.’ All four E’s are wrapped up in a P – Passion for what he or she does.
Given Jack’s impressive winning record in business and developing leaders, there’s something any of us can learn from his experience and mantra. And in a world where elected officials appear to spend more time debating than doing, Jack’ offers leaders like you the opportunity to demonstrate stark contrast with the do-nothing politics of today.
Several years ago Desert Storm war hero, General Norman Schwarzkopf, gave a 15-second keynote speech to an eager crowd of business leaders gathered in the former Health South Center in Birmingham, Alabama. It went something like this: “I get paid $100,000 for each of these speeches and I only have two things to say. ‘Make a decision and do the right thing!’ Are there any questions?”
And then he left the stage.
The crowd laughed nervously and then sighed with relief when Stormin’ Norman returned, smiling. “Really!” he exclaimed. “That’s all there is to good leadership. I’ve got nothing else to say.” After which he elaborated on those two points for the better part of an hour.
As one executive observed in class today, “Of all the money we can spend incentivizing, developing and attempting to motivate employees, the one thing that is arguably the most effective and free is to show energy and to energize the workforce!” I couldn’t agree more. By putting your own enthusiasm on display and demonstrating a passion for the work, you give those around you renewed reason to take initiative and put their best work forward.
Takeaways: Decide. Act. Smile.
Saturday marked my first-ever cycling road race. Oh, I’ve competed in many triathlons. But I’ve never had the luxury of drafting with a group of other cyclists for hundreds of miles.
In five and a half weeks I’ll be riding the LOTOJA Classic, the country’s longest single-stage USCF-sanctioned race, originating in Logan, Utah and finishing in the pristine mountain mecca of Jackson, Wyoming (hence the name). My new riding friends suggested that this past week’s Tour de Park City, featuring a 157 mile ride and a climb over the 10,700 ft. Bald Mountain pass, would be a ‘great warm-up’ for LOTOJA. Oh, it was a warm-up, to say the least!
It was also quite the unexpected cool-down.
Considering the mechanical failure of my rear shifter and a late flat tire (in the final one mile!), both of which added a cool 25 minutes to my time, I was able to complete the journey in 9 hours and 14 minutes. But what could have made the experience markedly more enjoyable was a pair of black, 3 ounce, polypropylene arm warmers that I chose to leave back in the car. These overly-simplistic pieces of fabric would have prevented my near hypothermic encounter with an improbable rain/sleet storm right at the top of the pass. Cold rain is bad enough on the flats. What put this experience over the top was racing through sleet at 35 to 40 miles per hour on the decent!
Several riders were taking cover – under a feed-zone canopy, under a tree, in the nearest port-a-john. I considered stopping, but realized I was getting colder and colder each time I slowed down. My choices were to try and find a dry spot and hope I wouldn’t freeze, or guarantee a bone-chilling decent by continuing on down the mountain while racing to warmer air as I would lose altitude. This is, after all, summertime in the desert, right?
I chose to speed on ahead.
My bet paid off in about 10 minutes. The air was noticeably warmer as I descended the wet road at white-knuckle, break-neck speed, all the while praying I wouldn’t slide off the gravel-riddled shoulder on a tight corner. I rehearsed my simple yet profound mistake, over and over again in my mind. “Why didn’t you bring those arm warmers?” After all, I knew better.
We know that taking 20 minutes each week to plan our week out and schedule the “big rocks” makes a profound difference in our productivity. We know that following the proven process of Visualize>Plan>Implement>Close ensures world-class project management. We get it; practice makes a presentation perfect. Yet all too often we find ourselves taking shortcuts for a myriad of reasons – the biggest being, “I just don’t have time!”
Yes. On Saturday, September 8th, I will DEFINITELY be taking my arm warmers with me, even if the day starts out at 90-degrees plus! The weight is inconsequential and the benefits of being prepared are priceless. We live and learn. I was certainly grateful to have survived Saturday’s ride and learned valuable lessons that will pay off the next time around.
My first exposure to his landmark work, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, was life-changing. Common sense, organized, is how many have described the principles that Stephen packaged in such understandable terms. I knew, the first time I participated in the classroom experience, that I would need to become a facilitator and share those principles with whomever I could get to listen.
In 1997 I had the privilege of partnering with a number of Covey Leadership Center professionals, among them the dedicated, gracious, and talented Nancy Moore, now a colleague of mine who leads many initiatives within our Education Division. The company I worked for at the time hosted a number of beta-test classes for an early version of Covey Leadership Center’s coursework on trust. I was asked to teach these beta versions of the class. You can imagine my surprise when Nancy asked me to co-present with Dr. Covey at the sales kick-off of Building Trust at their corporate offices in Provo, Utah. Stephen’s spirit and character were bigger in person than I had imagined. He made me feel like I was the most important person in the room. He affirmed to his team of sales professionals the timeless principles of loyalty, transparency, and empathic understanding.
During Saturday’s funeral service, all 9 of his children shared stories and thoughts about their father that reinforced the public principles he preached. His oldest son, Stephen M. R. Covey, said it most plainly. “Dad was congruent, whole, complete.” He went on to emphasize that as great an author, speaker and consultant that he was in public, in private Stephen was even better. Dr. Covey’s best friend and brother, John Covey, gave us a glimpse into Stephen’s primary motivation in life – both personal and professional. Early in their professional lives Stephen once asked John, “What do you want to do with your career?” Understanding how Stephen thought, John turned the question back to his brother. Stephen’s response was three simple yet powerful words: “Release Human Potential.”
And throughout the service, memories of Stephen did just that. Every story, every thought, every snapshot of his great life and example evoked, on one hand, feelings of inadequacy, but more importantly it inspired feelings of resolve, commitment, and desire to be a better husband, father, and friend. I hereby commit to redefine the potential I am capable of releasing in the coming days, weeks, and months.
Yes, Stephen R. Covey will be missed. But the life, learning, love, and legacy he leaves behind will endure in the work we carry on at FranklinCovey and in the lives of those touched by his great work.
Thank you, Stephen!
True leadership isn’t manifest during the leader’s tenure. It shines well beyond.
Becoming a manager requires the stroke of a pen, an entry into an HRM database, the inclusion of a new title. Becoming a leader happens in the minds and hearts of those who may decide to follow the leader. The two are often sought simultaneously (formal authority and informal persuation), but almost always achieved separately.
Quoting perennial business leadership guru, Jack Welch, “The moment you become the leader, it stops being about you, and it starts being about them – your people.” He’s right. The sooner a new manager figures out that his responsibility is no longer doing the work, but rather coordinating the work of others, the faster he is able to tap the collective genius, strength and ability of the group. Too many new managers attempt to make themselves indispensable to the company. They retain information – after all, knowledge is power. And they remain trapped in the if-I-want-it-done-right-I’ll-do-it-myself mindset. Breaking free means sitting on your hands when you are tempted to do it yourself, biting your tongue when you feel the urge to spew out your ready-answers, and generally allowing people to take risk, and sometimes fail, in order to reinforce their own learning and growth, not to validate your own expertise and lordship.
So then, how is true leadership made manifest only after his tenure?
The leader who loses herself in her colleagues’ development inspires confidence – confidence in the leader, and more importantly confidence in themselves. The leader who aligns business processes and systems with the organization’s values generates trust. Then, those next-generation leaders find increased productivity, innovation, and zeal in the empowered culture that takes hold.
Finally, the leader leaves, and no one notices.
This is the moment her genius shines. It is at this instant where the organization continues to thrive and spontaneously generate new leaders and sustained results that people realize the fruits of the former boss’ labors. And that is how the newly departed leader – the ‘leadership generator’ – makes herself indispensable.
After working with a client in Times Square last week, I took a day off to enjoy some of the historical sights of NYC. I took this photograph of lower Manhattan from Liberty Island, home of Liberty Enlightening the World (aka Statue of Liberty). This view caught me off guard. Even though I had never stood on this spot, before or after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, it seemed different, out of place. I could feel something was missing.
In almost all FranklinCovey coursework, we discuss the power of paradigm shifts – a significant change to our world-view or life’s perspective. Some happen naturally over time, some suddenly. Some are brought about by gaining new information, some by engaging in new relationships. They powerfully shape our behavior and our results. We often refer to this dynamic as the See-Do-Get cycle. What we See motivates what we Do. And what we Do dictates the consequences, or what we Get.
I believe all of us, to some degree, experienced a shift in our world-view that fateful day in the summer of 2001. Just as there is a significant hole in the skyline where the twin World Trade Center towers once stood, there is something new. The most obvious development to the lower Manhattan skyline is the rising of Freedom Tower, officially One World Trade Center, still a year away from its completion. Perhaps now the onlooker’s eyes are drawn to the Empire State Building to the left or the Brooklyn Bridge on the right.
The onus of this change to our See was imposed on us by others. To be accurate, our response as a nation and a people was our chosen response. Nevertheless, our new world view instantly had a profound reactionary and taxing impact on our Do or behavior in the form of increased security, suspicion, and formality. The results we experience, or the Get, is longer lines when we travel, more fees to fund the likes of the TSA, and more tenuous rules to engage in interstate and international commerce.
But the more powerful See, I believe, is within our control. One voluntary worldview that is ours for the taking (or perhaps shaping) is the perspective of heightened awareness surrounding the value of our relationships. This likely leads us to a choice around Do to now view our most intimate professional and personal ties as a place to build lasting trust by (among other ways) making and keeping specific commitments, extending trust to others, deliberately providing opportunities to those who deserve a break, and focusing the way we spend our time on those people (less things) that are most relevant to our long-term satisfaction. The Get or results of these kinds of behaviors are self-evident.
Your life is changing by the hour. Those changes are certainly more subtle. But as you survey the skyline of your current state, be sure that those micro-changes happening as you read this (the ten new email propositions you’ve received in your inbox since reading this, for example) are met with sincere scrutiny, laser-like decision making, and flawless execution.
Ensure that what you choose to See compels you to Do exactly what you wish to Get.
February is Dating Violence Awareness Month.
According to a special report by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics females ages 16-24 experience intimate partner violence at a rate almost triple to any other age group or the national average. Parents, your daughters have a 1 in 3 chance of being victims of dating violence. While some teens are fretting over what to wear to prom, others are wondering what they can wear tomorrow to hide the bruises. Many are being “textually abused.” For some the wounds from the verbal abuse fester into an angry emotional abscess that prompts bad choices with often irreparable consequences. If this doesn’t seem serious enough for you to read on, conduct an internet search with the keywords, “killed by her boyfriend.” A recent search revealed not just a few links to news stories, but 25+ pages of links to heart-wrenching stories of families dealing with the loss of their loved ones to dating violence.
So, how do you know who to date? How do you avoid dangerous relationships? It’s often said that in business, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” When it comes to dating, give that old adage a new twist. Think “it’s what you know about who you know.” As you might have suspected, everything boils down to habits. What do you know about a person’s habits? Whether a potential business partner or a prospective life partner, you need to know as much as possible about who you know.
There are red flag habits and green flag habits to consider. Green flag habits are healthy behaviors that signal “Go—it’s safe to move forward with this relationship”. Red flag habits are unhealthy often dangerous behaviors that signal “STOP!—put the brakes on this relationship now.” Look for the red flag habit in this story about 17 year old Michelle found in Sean Covey’s book The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make.
Michelle…was zapped—love-struck by Justin, a hot, star athlete at their high school. Justin could be very sweet. He told her how beautiful she was and how much he loved her. Early in their relationship they went to a party and the guy at the front door told her she had pretty eyes. Before she could say thank you, Justin punched the guy flat to the floor. She had a terrible feeling in her stomach, but her friends all said, ‘Wow, you are so lucky. He loves you so much!’
As is common amongst teens, Justin’s violent red flag behavior was misinterpreted by Michelle’s friends and then justified by Michelle. However, her gut instinct that left the terrible feeling in her stomach was trying to help Michelle see the punch—an unreasonable response to a compliment—for what it was—a red flag habit—violence. Preceding the punch, Michelle viewed Justin’s absorption of all her free time as signs of love and commitment. She felt happy he wanted to spend so much time with her. She didn’t see it was another red flag habit that allowed him to gain control over her and distance her from her friends and family. As you read the continued excerpt below you’ll see the dire consequences Michelle experienced when denial kept her from recognizing the red flag habits.
A few years later they’d decided to get married. A week before the wedding, they had a minor disagreement. Suddenly, Justin dove across the room and grabbed Michelle by the throat. It was the longest 20 seconds Michelle had ever experienced. Just as quickly as it began, it ended. He dropped to his knees, threw his arms around her waist and pleaded with her to forgive him. As the tears streamed down his face, he blamed it on being nervous about the wedding and swore he’d never do anything like that again. Michelle didn’t know what to do. She’d been taught to forgive, right? She was humiliated and confused. She didn’t tell her sister. She sure didn’t tell her mother, and she didn’t even tell her best friend. She prayed it would never happen again. A week later they were married.
When red flag habits exist before the wedding, the behaviors often only increase and intensify in the marriage as is apparent in the continuation of the story.
Now she was trapped. Over the next several years, the physical and emotional abuse went from bad to worse before Michelle finally gathered the courage to leave Justin. He continued to stalk her for years.
Sadly, as the story confirms, even divorce often doesn’t put an end to violence. According to a study by Stark and Flitcraft (1988), 75 percent of violent incidents that lead to emergency room visits occur after separation. Another important fact is that relationship violence is not a gender-exclusive crime. Although statistics show the vast majority of reported abuse is perpetrated by males, many male victims fear the humiliation of reporting.
Michelle’s story is not unique but it is preventable. So what can a community leader, parent, teacher, concerned family member, or friend do to encourage better choices and drive more favorable consequences? Everyone benefits from supporting local violence prevention and intervention programs. Gather resources from those agencies such as the Power and Control Wheel displayed here. Parents of teens: give your kids copies of The 7 Habits for Teens and The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make (audio or books) and send an email to your local school board president containing the link for FranklinCovey youth workshops. If you are an elementary school teacher, introduce your peers and administrators to the FranklinCovey Leader in Me initiative that discourages bullying behaviors (often leading to dating violence) and encourages students as young as five years of age to become leaders in their own lives. Family members and can model green flag habits as well as sponsor and attend a 7 Habits Signature, 7 Habits Families workshop, or an 8 Habits of a Successful Marriage workshop at your business or in your neighborhood.
If you are a victim and feel trapped like Michelle in an abusive relationship. You have done nothing to deserve the abuse. There is a better life for you waiting on the other side. I know because Michelle’s real name is Durelle. Call the national dating violence hotline 800-799-SAFE for resources in your area. Get help and get out−Now!
I got to see the Super Bowl live on Sunday! Wow, what a show!!!
Okay, allow me to clarify. I’m certain I witnessed a couple plays during the third quarter with my own eyes, but the players, field and fans were quite fuzzy. VERY fuzzy. In fact, I was watching these brief moments of the game from 30,000 feet in seat 3A on Southwest flight 617 on my way to Raleigh, North Carolina. Sure, I had the ‘big picture,’ however it was impossible to focus on the details of each play, actually see the score, and get excited about either team’s progress.
In our latest time management offering, The 5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity, we emphasize the need for the right perspective when planning, in order to strike a balance between the strategic, long-term view and the day-to-day, crisis management mode. Planning an entire year by itself doesn’t translate well into action. And of course, only reacting to the daily interruptions, requests, and surprises may seem productive, but runs the risk of mistaking activity for real results.
Nothing has helped me to personally get it all done in my quest for time management Nirvana over the past 16 years of teaching FranklinCovey material (and I teach a rather broad curriculum of over 25 titles) than the practice and discipline of weekly planning. This perfect perspective connects the long-term (mission/vision/goals) with the daily focus and adjustments that are necessary to keeps my priorities on track. Weekly Planning is my super perspective.
I don’t deny that a comfy seat in my family room watching the big game from the perspective of 10 or 12 high-definition cameras would have been the perfect angle to watch the Giants win. But if you’re going to see the game in person, you have to admit I got away rather inexpensively, sticking to the cheap seats in Row 3.
This is the third installment of a three-part series on trust by Dr. Todd Wangsgard, featured in the Texas/Oklahoma FranklinCovey blog.
I intend for employees to work well together. But sometimes they don’t.
I intend for people to understand the department’s goals. But sometimes they aren’t clear.
I intend for the production line to remain “up” all shift long. But sometimes it isn’t.
I intend for my kids to just know that I love them. But sometimes they wonder.
The difference between what we intend and what is could be called a credibility gap. As we examined in my first blog posting in this series (see Leadership and Trust: Keyword – “Confidence”) every person, organization, team, process, or piece of equipment portrays some level of credibility. According to Stephen MR covey, credibility is the sum total of one’s integrity, intent, capabilities, and results. The gap I’ve described in the examples above is typical of that rift between good intentions and actual capabilities and/or results that occurs when something is out of alignment.
High trust teams require alignment.
This is where the leader can leverage his or her efforts to build personal credibility at the Self Trust level and the increased trust that comes from key behaviors (see my second posting Leadership & Relationship Trust – Keyword: “Behavior”) at the Relationship Trust level. These combine for the leader who must create trustworthy systems and symbols that are aligned.
A mid-level manager at a large auto manufacturer with whom I work quite closely expressed frustration when he had done everything he could to be a more trustworthy leader, develop relationships of trust, and still find that people were failing to “deliver the goods” on the job. It wasn’t until he took a closer look at his department’s systems and processes that he found one of them was broken. He tried hard to be fair. He was tireless in his communication. He treated his associates with dignity and respect and expected the same of them. However, the computerized system that made work assignments each day – determining which stations each associate would work at – kept putting some people on the same processes, shift after shift. This created issues of boredom, repetitive motion injuries, low morale, and resentment. “After all,” associates would think, “I’m sure the boss keeps me here because he doesn’t like me.”
When things get out of alignment and we fail to address them, people will quickly assume the worst.
It wasn’t until he discovered that there was a break-down in the training reporting system that ensured associates were qualified in the computer system to work in other areas that he was able to apply a quick and effective remedy. He aligned the system with his good intentions.
Ask your team to examine the systems in your department – communication, budgeting, training, meetings, performance, etc. – and get their input on where these could be better aligned. Your interest and concern alone will generate trust, not to mention the many ways you rebuild and refine systems and processes that ensure your team remains credible and successful, long after you are promoted.
This even works outside of the office. If your loved ones begin to wonder how much you care, give yourself an alignment: Tell ‘em and show ‘em!
This is the second installment t of a three-part series on trust by Dr. Todd Wangsgard, featured in the Texas/Oklahoma FranklinCovey blog.
Actions speak louder than words.
Years ago Dr. Stephen R. Covey, author of The7 Habits of Highly Effective People, (and father to Speed of Trust author Stephen M.R. Covey) found himself teaching a workshop in Oregon where a participant related to him during a break some of the challenges he was facing due to his past indiscretions. Dr. Covey was careful to bring out the principle that:
You can’t talk your way out of a problem you’ve behaved your way into.
Years later in his research, SMRC noted that while it is true you can’t talk your way out of a problem you’ve behaved your way into, it is true that:
You can behave your way out of a problem you’ve behaved your way into.
Once the leader establishes and continues to build personal credibility through the Four Cores (see my Part 1 blog posting, Leadership and Trust – Keyword: “Confidence”), it is critical to examine and practice the behaviors that will allow him or her to build trust in relationships with individuals – personally and professionally.
Let’s look at the headlines.
Without divulging specifics on these stories, let’s uncover what business headlines from the past few days suggest to us about the importance of trusting behaviors:
- Fast food CEO has big plans to flip its ranking
- Auto manufacturer changes body style to appeal to customers
- Board of private company opens the books to dispel rumors
- Company makes good on broken promises
Each of these speaks to the behaviors that are being demonstrated in order to build or rebuild trust. Those include at least five from SMRC’s 13 High Trust Behaviors list, such as Listen First, Get Better, Create Transparency, Confront Reality, and Right Wrongs.
Simply put, trustworthy leaders lead out when it comes to behaving in ways that builds confidence and they inspire others within their ranks to do likewise. And just because you may have slipped and lost the trust of someone significant, it is often easier than you thought to rebuild that trust by quickly identifying the key behaviors that were/are missing and behaving your way back into the other person’s good graces.
This is the first part of a three-part series on trust by Dr. Todd Wangsgard, to be featured in the Texas/Oklahoma FranklinCovey blog.
Author of The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey, defines trust as “confidence born of the character and competence of an individual or organization.” This simple yet complete definition of an otherwise squishy subject takes into account both the feel-good side of trust in character as well as the practical side of one’s reliability in competence. Both character and competence lend confidence to those who would consider following any leader. And more than ever before, trust (or confidence) is sought after by an increasingly globally savvy audience of human beings who see the impact that geo-political activities are having on their individual well-being.
SMRC (as we affectionately call the author at FranklinCovey) also boldly asserts that, “trust is the key competency of the new global economy.” Again, as you replace “trust” in that sentence with “confidence,” one can see how the currency of trust is not just a “nice-to-have,” but rather an absolute imperative for leadership effectiveness under any circumstances. It is key, because without it, business plans, corporate promises, financial metrics and reports all come under the scrutiny of one question: “Yes, but what should we believe?”
The Speed of Trust book and classroom experience offer several models of thinking to better understand and define trust that break the subject down into understandable water cooler discussions. The Four Cores of Self Trust that subdivide Character into one’s integrity and intent and Competence into capabilities and results. The Five Waves of Trust that any leader must assess and develop within, including Self Trust, Relationship Trust, Organizational (or team) Trust, Market Trust, and Societal Trust. The 13 Behaviors of High Trust, including Talk Straight, Create Transparency, Right Wrongs, Get Better and nine others.
I recently worked with a successful CEO in the manufacturing and fulfillment business who has truly lived out the kind of trustworthy behavior described by SMRC. He has worked side-by-side (while the CEO) with frontline employees on the manufacturing line to learn what they do and to help keep costs down during a recent recession (Show Loyalty, Deliver Results, Confront Reality, Practice Accountability). He has made an effort to get to know every single employee in the company and remembers to send them a hand-written birthday greeting each year (Demonstrate Respect, Show Loyalty). While announcing a 15% pay cut for himself, he asked all exempt associates to accept a 7½% pay cut to help off-set their losses or agree to termination with a 3-months’ salary severance package (at their higher rate of pay). No one left and all were subsequently rewarded with “back-pay” on their lost wages after a couple successful intervening years and given a sizeable bonus (Talk Straight, Create Transparency, Show Loyalty, Get Better, Keep Commitments).
The confidence that Stephen writes about and that I’ve witnessed in industry over the past 25+ years starts with a leader who has genuine confidence in himself or herself and in the associates who choose to follow. Give them a leader they can trust (the Self Trust wave) and you have a foundation upon which you will build lasting relationships, enormously successful organizations, and a brand that generates intense loyalty and growth.
‘Tis the season to begin thinking about traditions, stories and gift-giving again. In our church congregation we’ll be re-enacting the visit of the Three Magi who came bearing the era-appropriate valuables of Frankincense, Gold and Myrrh (as represented by some ice melt from my garage, a used chocolate bar wrapper and some translucent rocks out of my flower bed). These were and are still quite unique gifts. Yet they were treasured none the less.
What are your unique gifts? What are your fellow associates’ unique gifts? Especially if you serve in a leadership role at your organization, this is a good time of year to connect with people and have more “human moments” (as coined by Dr. Hallowell, featured in our new 5 Choices program videos) to find out what really drives people. In our FranklinCovey leadership curriculum we discuss the importance of unleashing talent in the people around us – getting people to choose higher levels of initiative on their own accord. This can only be done, Dr. Steven R. Covey argues, when we treat people as a whole person.
Based on landmark research conducted with Watson Wyatt and Harris Polling, we at FranklinCovey have learned that only 1 in 3 people feel that the manager is genuinely involved in helping to develop employees’ potential; less than half of us feel our job taps into the best of our talents and passions.
What lackluster gifts is this reality likely to generate?
One way to respect the whole person, is to get to know the person whose unique gifts you are attempting to tap. Consider discussing these eight “Saw Sharpener” or “Voice Finder” questions:
- What have you always loved doing?
- What job-related opportunities are you passionate about?
- What are you really good at?
- What opportunities do you see for growth and development?
- Do you feel you are fairly compensated?
- How can we improve your work environment?
- What would make your work more meaningful to you?
- What contribution would you love to make in your current role?
With answers to these questions fresh in mind, you and your colleagues can focus on work objectives that will allow everyone to bring their unique gifts to bear.
Don’t we all wish we had gotten in on an early IPO of Apple, Google, or X stock? No, I can’t predict the future, but I’ve got a really good feeling about this one!
My first few sessions of 5 Choices have certainly lived up to all the early excitement. Participants (including myself) have derived new energy from the refreshingly holistic approach to time management that we take in the latest FranklinCovey offering. It helps that one of the 5 Choices, Fuel Your Fire, Don’t Burn Out, is all about regaining and maintaining mental and physical energy. My favorite part of this fifth choice is the best practices that we learn from each other.
Actual Participant Comments
“In 30 minutes you’ve addressed my discombobulation.”
“This has gone where I never knew to go; and I really needed to go there!”
“I cannot wait to get back and hold a Q2 Conversation with my boss, actually with my family, too.”
“Wow!” “Ahhhh!” “You’ve gotta be kiddin’ me!” (usually in response to the technical tricks we learn in the fourth choice, Rule Your Technology, Don’t Let It Rule You.)
Already I’m hearing success stories from participants who couldn’t wait until the end of the 5-Week Quickstart process, where they put all the magic into action.
Plus, as you may have expected, the take-away collateral (i.e. workbooks, videos, e-tools, bonus modules) are First Class.
Remember: Ordinary happens. Extraordinary is a choice!
Years in the making, the launch of FranklinCovey’s latest time management solution is finally here. And it’s not even time management! More on that later…
The 5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity is wrapping up its 180+ city world preview tour and is generating extraordinary interest and results for early adopters. Based on the research of several scientists – brain research, goal theory, attention disorder, organizational expertise, and other fields – The 5 Choices gives participants the following alternatives:
- Act on the important, don’t act on the urgent.
- Go for extraordinary, don’t settle for ordinary.
- Schedule the big rocks, don’t sort gravel.
- Rule your technology, don’t let it rule you.
- Fuel the fire, don’t burn out.
I’ve had the privilege of delivering the workshop twice as of yet, with two more programs scheduled during the next three weeks. It is remarkable to see people discover and admit to what they have long suspected: they are over extended, intensely distracted, addicted to activity, and just burned out.
So, if it’s not time management, what is it? Much, much more! The 5 Choices is about decision management, attention management, and energy management. How are you doing in these areas? I don’t mean for this to come across as sales-y, but… well… here’s a sales pitch: Attend the one-hour webinar overview to see for yourself, how you and your organization can tackle the root cause of much organizational and personal productivity frustrations. You can register at this link: http://the5choices.com/registration/webcast.php
Then, if you decide it’s important, come back to this blog to tell me about your take-aways. Gotta go. My fire’s beginning to dim.
What does it take to “leave a legacy”? This is a question that could have a myriad of answers—all individual, all personal. If you ask Graham Chamberlain of Gloucester, England, he may respond “It takes village.” Chamberlain, aged 70, a retired security officer, means this literally. Over 30 years ago in the early 1970’s, Chamberlain was working as a lorry (truck) driver traversing the border regions of South Warwickshire and Worcestershire and traveling through West Oxfordshire, Herefordshire, and Gloucestershire. Like poets, artists, and filmmakers awed by the Northern England’s Cotswolds landscape, Graham also was inspired by the beauty of the scenic countryside—charming villages cropping up out of the lush green rolling hills speckled with roaming livestock.
One sunny afternoon on a leisurely drive with his son, he commented that he’d love to build one of those pleasant cottages made of a yellow oolitic limestone rich in fossils. Chamberlain’s son, Steve, about age 7 at the time and a proactive boy by nature was quite confident in his father’s abilities. He urged, “then build one, Dad.”
Chamberlain shrugged off the suggestion. As the boy insisted, it was as if he’d tugged a chain clicking on the invisible light bulb above his father’s head. “Why not!” exclaimed Chamberlain. The hardworking father needed a way to relax and sharpen the saw. The kids wanted a fish pond in the back garden, but Graham now had other ideas. He’d always been handy with a tool belt and possessed a resourceful creative imagination. That weekend Chamberlain set out to sharpen both his saws—the proverbial and the one in the woodshed.
Finding the property upon which to erect his village was the issue. Financial resources didn’t allow for a large land acquisition. But that wasn’t what Chamberlain had in mind anyway. Dr. Stephen R. Covey advises “all things are created twice—mental creation precedes physical creation.” Gazing out the second story window of his Gloucester row house into his narrow back yard and neatly sculptured garden, the innovative designer had a vision. It was a grand vision on a small scale—in fact a miniature scale.
Beginning with the end in mind, Graham designed not only his own Cotswold cottage, but also an entire village.
Dr. Covey says, “There are certain things that are fundamental to human fulfillment. The essence of these needs is captured in the phrase ‘to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy’… the need to leave a legacy is our spiritual need to have a sense of meaning, purpose, personal congruence, and contribution.”
Chamberlain’s contribution—acting on his vision while sharpening his saw—is far-reaching. He has opened his village to the community for tours inviting elementary children and other groups to visit. The visionary hopes seeing the village ignites the children’s imagination and encourages them to follow and act on their dreams—however megalithic or minuscule they may seem.
In 2011, the Chamberlain family grew with the addition of Graham and Pet’s first grandson, Rueben John, (son of Steve and Lucy). Soon Rueben John will stroll the small streets of his grandfather’s famous village; the streets his father swept as a boy.
The kin, both those at home in England and those “across the pond” in America cherish this miniature monument lovingly built as it represents a legacy of imagination, initiative, and execution. So, at least in this case it does take a “village” to leave Graham’s legacy.
The September issue of Outside Magazine features a collection of professionals-turned-transcendentalists who have abandoned their office job for a life of freedom and frolic in the career of their dreams. Most have traded a sizable salary for a piece of adventure and peace of mind, however their stories do provide life lessons that anyone can apply to his or her current situation without giving up that ‘day job.’ These lessons are perhaps most valuable to management as a remedy to keep A-players who may be considering a departure. The article is organized into reasons you may wish to seek employment in one of ‘65 Dream Jobs.’ Let’s take a closer look at those handful of reasons that good leaders can influence.
“You Have a Problem With Authority”
If you can’t create a more flat, accessible organization, do what you can to reduce barriers to communication with management. Relax the work environment without relaxing your standards for service, quality, or safety. Ensure labels encourage equality and inclusion, such as “associates” and “team members” instead of employees. People aren’t really your most valuable “asset.” They’re people, not things. Let’s just treat them as priceless!
“You Just Want to Save the World”
Consumers and job candidates vote with dollars and energy. Today their priorities include doing good. In a recent poll, 85% of consumers said they would not patronize an organization that isn’t socially responsible. More and more hirees are choosing to work and stay with an employer whose social agenda is aligned with their own – even if that means accepting a lesser salary. Meaning means more. Create ways for your people to give back, conserve resources, and contribute to the charities where they already volunteer their time.
“You Need Frequent Pats On the Back”
While the article highlights the varied and generous bonuses that are provided by the featured employers, it’s more important that you and I remember the increased motivation that comes from someone whose work is genuinely appreciated. The key is “genuine.” Make recognition personal. Learn specifics about the efforts your colleagues are putting forward. Then thank them, reward them, recognize them along with those details. Nothing is more defeating than hard work unnoticed.
Turn your workplace into a collection of dream jobs and you’ll soon realize dreamy results!
Last week I had the opportunity to take my oldest son to scout camp. Not just any scout camp. Camp Loll.
In my youth, I spent four of my ten years of scout camp staff working at Camp Loll. It is a part of me. Selfishly, I wanted it to be a part of my son. And fortunately, because Conner had been to Camp Loll for a quick weekend trip three years prior, he wanted it to be a part of him, too.
There were many opportunities, tucked away in the remote wilderness of Targee National Forest, the Jedidiah Smith National Wilderness Area, and Yellowstone proper to test one’s self. We overcame the exhilarating swim check in Lake of the Woods. Braved Polar Bear Springs. Hiked to Beuhla Lake and Terraced Falls. And here he is backing over a cliff to rappel for the first time.
The first image I captured of Conner leaning into his harness and rope for the first time is a 2 or 3 minute long video of him NOT going over. He was nervous, scared, and feeling considerable pressure since his younger cousin had just gone down seconds before. I determined to leave the scene, recognizing that my coaxing and goading and helping was perhaps having the opposite effect. Sure enough, once I descended and focused on something else, Conner mustered the courage and will power necessary to take a leap of faith.
Naturally, as soon as he arrived at the bottom, the first thing he wanted to do was go over the 65 foot cliff again. And again. And again.
Fear can keep us safe. But safe is not always good. Safe could mean staying lodged in our comfort zone, unwilling to try something new. Safe could mean missed opportunity to learn a new skill, discover a new passion, or overcome a lifelong weakness. But contrary to conventional wisdom, what we typically fear is the potential for loss.
In the case of rappelling for one’s first time, the loss one fears is life and limb. However once we experience the security of the system and the thrill of the event, we want more.
What do you fear? Is it helping or hindering? What leap of faith should you be taking? What faux mountains are standing between you and success? Don’t let fear sabotage what you want most.
We were privileged to enjoy Dr. Amen’s company Monday night at “The 5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity” certification dinner at the McCune Mansion in downtown Salt Lake City, as he fielded Q&A with about 75 of us who will be initially selling and delivering this revolutionary new FranklinCovey offering. Never before has a FC program been so science- and research-based. Dr. Amen’s work will transform my and others’ outlook on what a healthy brain is and requires. Don’t wait for “The 5 Choices” program in order to add several years to your life. Read his latest book, “Change Your Brain, Change Your Body” right away!
Recently while traveling to British Columbia I found myself at a Korean barbecue restaurant. I ordered a quick lunch in a bento box to save time and still capture the international flavor of Vancouver. How convenient! How compact! How interesting! Naturally I drew an analogy from the bento as a comparison for life.
So much of modern living is about having more and having it faster. The bento was certainly quick. I only had about 30 minutes for lunch, so knowing the bento choice was an ‘express’ favorite was reassuring. Don’t we typically look for the quick fix, the fast answer or the easy out? But then again there was also less time to savor…
So many flavors packed into a small space made it easy for the proprietor to make his margins and for me to enjoy ‘true Korean.’ I also knew I was much less likely to walk out feeling guilty and bloated for not repeatedly stepping up to the all-you-can-eat buffet. Forcing portions into tidy little compartments is much like attempting to separate life into distinct, unrelated pieces that never touch. Or do they, actually?
I wanted something different, and did I get it! While there was the familiar Asian ginger dressing over my mostly iceberg lettuce salad, the kimchee and mystery mussels kept me guessing. I didn’t eat it all. My theory: If you can’t identify all of it, best not to force all of it down. I did still need to teach another half day of a management class, after all. In the moment many of us are reaching for the different we experience a subconscious pang for the familiar. While the Cracker Barrel is not my favorite eatery, visions of their predictable meatloaf and green beans flashed across my mind during this experimental lunch. Much of success in life comes from stretching for something new while maintaining momentum with the tried and true.
I find that most of life’s joys and successes are precariously poised amongst the trade-offs between our comfort zone and periods of discomfort, experimentation, and uncertainty.
Another gem from Schwartz’s, “The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working:”
“In a famous series of experiments, researcher Alex Rechtschaffen and his colleagues at the University of Chicago put a series of rats through the equivalent of hell by systematically depriving them of sleep. Within days, the rats began to eat significantly more than usual, perhaps as a way to get more energy to compensate for their lack of sleep. In less than a week, the rats lost control of their body temperature, began losing their hair, and developed lesions on their bodies that wouldn’t heal. Within seventeen to twenty days, they we dead.”
You and I can’t change the effect of our natural circadian rhythms, only work with or against them. This requires maintaining a pattern of sleep consistent with elevated levels of melatonin in our blood stream that surges between 11 pm and 3 am and choosing to work in intense intervals throughout the day that include periods of renewal, such as meditation. The “rat race” alternative is not productive nor sustainable!
Lovin’ this book…
As I watch the evening news of late I am once again dismayed at the apparent arrogance and foolishness of some in positions of leadership. Lately of course, it’s been Congressman Anthony Weiner’s debacle that is making headlines. He’s only the latest in a string of potentially great leaders who lose their way however, and eventually lose everything that matters. Congressman Weiner may recover from this political suicide attempt, but if he does, he will forever be known as that leader who made a real difference, BUT…
Too many powerful people have that “BUT” associated with their legacy and it leads many to ask, “how could these guys be so stupid? How can these men be Rhodes Scholars, or Harvard Law alumni, or professors at Columbia University and yet be so dumb?”
While I believe that these men’s actions are colossally stupid, I don’t think that they are necessarily stupid people. I think they are careless however.
Imagine, in your mind’s eye, an oak tree. The trunk looks strong and hearty, the branches look robust and flourishing. Sadly however, and unseen to the naked eye, the roots are beginning to wither, either through malnourishment or disease. The tree can sustain the image of health for quite some time, but once the winds begin to blow and the rain pounds, that oak is going down, and going down hard.
Many public figures, if they are not extremely vigilant, pay so much attention to the trunk and branches of the tree that they neglect the roots. They are so concerned about their charisma, their communication skills and their image, that they ignore matters of character. They do this because the surface stuff is the stuff people see. No one sees them in private, so they believe they can lead double lives and get away with it. And they do…
for a while.
Eventually however, it all falls apart. Always.
So, let these incidents on the evening news serve as a wake-up call for those of us playing the duplicity game. At the very least then Weiner, and those who have tread the same path can at least know that they served as an excellent bad example for the rest of us.
This fall the geniuses in our Product Development team will be consumed by FranklinCovey’s biggest product launch in history. We are set to, once again, redefine the field of time management. Not since the ubiquitous Franklin Planner covered the globe in seven-ring binders has such a movement had more impact on personal and professional productivity.
The 5 Choices
Yes, that’s the name of the course. Of course, the number 7 still shines in the halls of FC, but 5 now gets a whole new following, positioned to reshape how people think about information, technology, balance, priorities and renewal.
One of the books that was researched to create The 5 Choices is Schwartz, Gomes and McCarthy’s “The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working: The four forgotten needs that energize performance.” The authors not only reinforce Dr. Covey’s four dimensions of sharpening one’s saw – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual – but they offer new research on the increased productivity that results from regular breaks in a sustained effort in order to maximize focus, concentration and yield. Read it!
I’m looking forward to the certification event I’ll be attending for full-time FC consultants in Salt Lake on July 18-20. I’m sure I’ll want to share more details with you then. But for now, plan on attending a complimentary worldwide launch event in your hometown. Here’s the insider link to the pre-registration site. We are conducting 170 of them across the globe. Theres ’s sure to be one close to you.
Let your first choice be to not miss out!
Last Wednesday between client events, I took a quick stroll down memory lane while visiting my collegiate alma mater in the small eastern Idaho town of Rexburg. I slipped presumptuously through an unlocked backstage door of the performing arts building to find this single work lamp illuminating the space where I once played the lead in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” just 23 short years ago. I took advantage of the solitude and sat in the middle of the house seats to ponder the production that was a central part of my freshman year of college.
So many decisions are made during this formative stage. The first time living away from home. Contemplating the career one might pursue. Making friends who are in a similar stage. Reinforcing life-views that shape one’s future.
This recent pondering got me thinking about subsequent stages that make us who we are. For some, the stage of courtship and marriage. Extended volunteer service, sometimes internationally. Children. Career changes, lay-offs and even self-employment.
The wild swings in the economy over the past 15 years have certainly reinforced the need to remain focused on things that matter most. Today the economy remains uncertain. One thing is certain, however: our ability to purposefully engage in a new stage, learn, contribute, and grow.
For any of us feeling stagnant on the current stage, perhaps now is the perfect time to deliberately embark on a new one. What are the most important things to you? What are you particularly good at? At what points throughout your life have you performed at your best? Who should your consider a valued partner in this proposition?
There’s nothing quite like opening night on a new stage to generate the creative tension required to keep us performing at our best.
Hearing Mike Reilly’s voice over the loud speakers shouting, “Todd Wangsgard, You are an Ironman!” was quite a rush. But it paled in comparison to the waves of emotion that would wash over me spontaneously along the 12 hour and 55 minute journey I took last Saturday through the vivid desert of southwestern Utah.
The primary goal for my first Ironman (and yes, there will be a second) was to “enjoy every minute of it.” I borrowed this from a first-timer Ironman participant and USAT executive who posted a video online last October about his preparations. “What a great concept,” I thought. “Just prepare yourself to enjoy the entire experience.”
I enjoyed every minute of it! Now, I simply need to redefine “enjoy.”
There were moments, like the first ten minutes of the swim when I thought my lungs would collapse or burst or both. The run was a brutal climb – two times – up the double lap course following Red Hills Parkway in 95-degree heat. But during the hard minutes of last Saturday’s epic adventure, I was reminded of the journey that had brought me to that point, and instantly I could feel the encouragement, kind words, and prayers (yes, there’s no doubt this feat required some Divine intervention) that had been and were being offered on my behalf.
Serendipity – defined by dictionary.com as “an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident” – is a rule I strive to live by. It requires some luck. But luck certainly favors the prepared. There were countless desirable discoveries that occurred during my first IM experience that will take a while to commit to print. Suffice it to say, the most important discovery was that anyone can accomplish anything he or she puts his or her heart and soul into.
What is that one thing – big or little – that you’ve been wanting to accomplish for a long time, or just decided to do last week, or you know will make you a better parent, leader, employee, human being? How long have you put it off? How long before the time required to get it done runs out? How many more “can’ts” before you decide it’s “can?”
If you’re feeling brave (and I know you are), add a brief comment to this posting describing that one thing you’ve been meaning to do. I’m sure there are plenty I need to commit doing right alongside you. Let’s get it done together!
In exactly 10 days I will embark on a personal challenge unlike anything I’ve attempted to undertake in my life. Hundreds of thousands have done it. For me, it’s new. Its original creators thought to conceive an event that would test the human limits of physical endurance. And while recent years have witnessed the advent of longer courses and more strenuous tests, the Ironman distance triathlon remains the standard of individual sport maxims. 2.4 mile swim. 112 mile cycling. 26.2 mile run.
I was inspired 2 years ago on May 2nd by a participant in my 7 Habits of Highly Effective People workshop in Livonia, Michigan, who claimed to have completed three Ironman events. He was not in “Ironman” condition at the time – admittedly so. But he was roughly my age and build and – more importantly – he hadn’t just thought to do it, he had done it! Three times!!! It was in that moment that a new goal was cast in my own mind. “If he can complete three Ironman events,” I thought, “I can certainly complete just one.”
I went home and registered for my first Olympic distance tri (roughly one fourth the Ironman distances), to take place a mere 6 weeks later. No, my training was not ideal in duration or intensity, but then again my goal was to simply finish with a smile. A second Olympic tri and two marathons later (the running is certainly the hardest on my body), here I am contemplating the ultimate challenge that Saturday, May 7th, is about to bear.
To be clear, my goal is not to win or even place in my age group, but rather to enjoy every minute. Now, I’m sure there will be several minutes where I question my level of enjoyment. But I feel ready.
The whole training experience has been an opportunity to personally apply many of the precepts we offer in our FranklinCovey curriculum:
- Be Proactive – I couldn’t get off the couch and onto my trainer, onto the trail or out to the pool without some initiative.
- Begin With the End in Mind – My visualization of participating in and finishing the IM has consumed my psyche since the time my wife pressed ‘Enter’ on the keyboard to register me. (Yes, in a moment of ambivalence, I recruited Jana to initiate the first formal step of commitment. It was sort of like having someone else pull your loose tooth or rip off a big Band-Aid.)
- Put 1st Things 1st – Prioritizing time to train has been a rewarding challenge in itself, one whose multi-dimensional benefits have been surprising.
- Think Win—Win – Yes, it’s an individual sport, but wouldn’t have been possible without the encouragement and sacrifice of my wife and kids.
- Seek First to Understand… – Listening to my body has become a critical exercise in knowing when to push and when to take it easy.
- Synergize – The combination of training activities and public accountability of my progress have combined to keep me on track and deliver results.
- Sharpen the Saw – Say no more.
- The Four Cores of Credibility: Integrity, Intent, Capabilities, Results – I said I would do it; I must keep my word to myself and others. I clearly declared my intentions. My capabilities have increased with each passing week’s training focus. Next weekend will certainly reveal the results.
- The Productivity Pyramid: Mission-Vision-Values, Long-term Goals, Short-term goals, Weekly and Daily Planning – All of these must have been more or less aligned over the past 24 months to pull this off.
And the list goes on…
I share this not to boast, but to convey the enormous effort this has required and, more importantly, how more acutely than at any other time in my life, I’ve come to appreciate that principles govern. This is the Goose and the Golden Egg (P/PC Balance). This is maintaining those ever-important Emotional Bank Accounts, with self and others. This is the Law of the Harvest.
So for 12+ hours on Saturday, May 7th, beginning at 7:00 a.m. Mountain, if my self-imposed sojourn happens to cross your mind, know that you’ll probably already be on mine. After all, it was a participant just like you who planted the seed.
While on a recent business trip to Alabama, I found myself free for a day in the middle of a week’s consulting. Remembering that my aunt had told me we have ancestors in Alabama, I decided to ‘look them up.’ The ones I’m aware of are all dead. But why not connect with my past – see who I might dig up. (poor word choice)
With a family tree in one hand and the steering wheel in the other, I proceeded south to Montgomery, Alabama and then west to Fort Deposit and Mt. Willing, where many members of my dad’s mom’s family once lived. While underway, I thought I’d call my aunt, just to get any more tidbits about the family that may help me find something, someone. She explained how she’s always imagined that our forbearers were wealthy plantation owners, lounging about their estates sipping julep. She then conceded that it is more likely we hail from a family of back-woods red necks. Upon winding my way to the first of two cemeteries, I surmise her second theory is probably more accurate.
I quickly found the resting place of my great-great-great-grandma, Charlotte Pace! While standing over her grave marker and that of other extended family, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of respect, gratitude, even reverence, for what they did to survive, thrive, and ultimately get me here.
This ponderous moment caused me to reflect on the many people who have personally influenced me for the better – my favorite 4th grade teacher, a little league football coach, my mentor and scout camp director, countless friends and family, many great bosses and work associates, and of course my amazing parents. In their own way, each of them made a contribution to me – some of them on purpose, others by accident or fate. Either way, I’m grateful to everyone who’s helped make me who I am.
Each person was/is a leader – a person of great influence.
Leadership is about “finding your voice and helping others to find theirs.” Dr. Covey calls this The 8th Habit “Leadership really is the enabling art. Great leaders enable their people to produce far more than they could dictate themselves. Leadership is the highest of the arts, simply because it enables all the other arts and professions to work.”
Who brought you to where you are? What kind of leadership did they display? What kind of leader are you to others? So you know who got you here; now, who are you getting there?
This was my neighbor’s three-story house. It exploded and burned to the ground last Saturday. It was gone in less than an hour.
The man living here (…uh, who lived here) had a hobby of manufacturing homemade fireworks – the really big ones. He was home alone the morning of this tragedy and in the process of drilling a mortar in his basement shop when sparks began to fly. A small explosion erupted in his hands; he quickly escaped the house with minor injuries. It only took seconds for the small fire to spread to the stock pile of chemicals that he kept nearby. One explosion led to another and soon the house was quite literally gone.
By all accounts this was an accident, but certainly one that could have been prevented. It is not the first time something has gone awry while engaged in this hobby. Family members claimed on the evening news that this risky activity has been going on for decades. They claim smaller explosions in the past did not serve as the deterrent that they should have.
This wake up call for family, the local authorities, and the neighborhood got me thinking about some of the less obvious risks that we may be taking that jeopardize our livelihood in different ways.
Are there relationships I’m neglecting or mistreating that could someday “blow up” in my face. Are there habits in my professional practice that are leading me down a volatile path – less obvious patterns, such as not following up with my clients as thoroughly as I could, not keeping abreast of my industry’s latest thinking and research, or not proactively contributing to my division in ways that demonstrate initiative and make a meaningful contribution? Sure, these are acts of omission, rather than committing an overt act of mixing lethal chemicals in my basement. But the result can be just as serious and lasting.
In an economy that still appears to be limping along toward recovery, each of us should conduct a career “safety inspection” – ensure that the batteries in our smoke detectors are fresh, review all of the “exits,” and train those we care about on how to recognize behavior that might compromise one’s security. Professionally this can come in the form of soliciting valuable feedback from co-workers and clients, keeping your resume polished and poised, and seeking out creative ways to make a new and lasting contribution in the workplace. Consider adopting the timely advice shared by Dr. Stephen R. Covey and Jennifer Colosimo in their recent publication, Great Work, Great Career.
There’s no need to let your career go up in smoke!
In FrankilinCovey’s Leadership: Great Leaders, Great Teams, Great Results curriculum, Dr. Stephen R. Covey describes the new Mind-Set, Skill-Set and Tool-Set that are required to lead into the 21st Century. In an opening video he uses as an example of the 4-minute mile mental barrier that Roger Bannister broke in 1954, leading to a quick succession of others who ran even faster. He describes the added height that high-jumpers attained by adopting the “Fosbury Flop” method, over the more traditional scissor kick. He reminds us of the quantum leap in height achieved by pole vaulters when fiberglass material was introduced, replacing bamboo or aluminum poles.
This morning, I experienced a personal Tool-Set shift that has me convinced.
I should back up a little and remind readers of the Mind-Set and Skill-Set shift I experienced about a year and a half ago when I decided that drafting behind other cyclists definitely makes a difference in the speeds and distances an individual can achieve. (See post “Diary of a Draft Dodger.”) Lately I’ve been training quite intensely for my first Ironman triathlon. It seems anymore my life is defined by what happens on May 7th – a day that could be my last. (Surely, I jest, but some days it feels that daunting.)
I’ve never competed with a wet suit during the swim event of triathlon. I haven’t worn one for two main reasons: I didn’t have one and didn’t want to plunk down the cash, and the water in my first two triathlons wasn’t unbearably cold. However, in mid-Spring at Sand Hollow Reservoir in St. George, Utah, the water is expected to be a chilly 56 degrees. I bought a wet suit.
This morning was my first test swim in my new Quintana Roo full body swim skin. Normally, I swim a straight mile two times a week. I had planned to swim a mile today, but wasn’t sure what impact trying on the new suit would have. It is tight, so I figured there may be some fatigue associated with the tension – sorta like having a big rubber band stretched around your body that potentially limits motion.
My typical mile time is not fast – usually right around 31 minutes. Yeah, not terribly fast. This morning, as soon as I entered my second lap, I could tell something was different. Either I was telling myself I was going faster, and it was all in my head, or I was literally gliding through the water at a pace quicker than normal. I couldn’t help but notice how buoyant the suit made me. Oh sure, others had told me of the benefits (just like I had been told how great drafting was), but I was skeptical.
Bottom line: by the time I finished my 35 ¼ laps, I finished FIVE MINUTES FASTER THAN MY AVERAGE!!! I couldn’t believe it. That’s a 16% improvement in speed! Sure, I thought I may have miscounted the laps, but I hadn’t. It’s easy to miscount if you’re daydreaming, but this morning I was being particularly carefully to mentally register each lap to 35.
Needless to say, my confidence in May 7th got a pleasant boost. I’m actually excited to make the plunge into the frigid open water of Sand Hollow. And, yes, I openly acknowledge the very real benefits that come from the Tool-Set shift of using a wet suit.
What tools are you denying yourself, because what you’ve done has always “worked?” Where are you possibly settling for mediocrity in your performance, but don’t even know it? Where could you desperately use a 16%+ increase in efficiency, productivity, or performance?
Is technology your servant or your master? Here are some tech solutions that make my life easier. These are some of my favorite iPhone apps (there is usually a Blackberry or Android counterpart) out of the 97 currently on my phone. Some relate to what I teach. Others help me stay on top of things while on the go. I’d love your thoughts and feedback, after you load and learn one or more of these!
- Mint – Complete financial budgeting. Syncs with all your bank accounts and credit cards. Free.
- Flight Control – Okay, so it’s technically a game. But it’s an amazing lesson in our ability (or rather inability) to truly multi-task. Execution facilitators: Think “land one at a time.” Addicting! Free.
- Melody Bell – Electronic, and very real-sounding, hand bells. Creative way to bring small group discussions/exercises back to focus on you. $.99.
- PresenterPro – A fantastic follow-up for Presentation Advantage participants. Includes video demonstrations and self assessments. Free.
- Google – This is not just another web search tool. The voice search is indispensible. Don’t type what you want, say it! Free.
- Tango – You can literally videoconference over the phone network or Wi-Fi (unlike Wi-Fi-only FaceTime). I regularly videoconference with my family from 30,000 feet! (Be careful not to annoy the guy next to you in 13D.) Free.
- Whistle – Even though your smart phone is, well… a phone, Whistle allows you to make calls when you have Wi-Fi but no phone signal. Again, lets you make calls from the air. This is not using your phone (radio) while in flight. This is simply using the plane’s Wi-Fi signal to send and receive data that happens to be your voice. Free.
- Bump – Easily share contacts, pictures, apps, etc. from your phone to someone else’s. Think back to the days of ‘beaming’ your contacts with the Palm Pilot. Free.
- AutoPilot – By USA Today. Let’s you enter your flight itineraries and it gives you up-to-the-second updates on gate changes, delays, cancelations. I have found myself at the gate asking about a delay that the agent doesn’t even know about yet. You can even see a map of the flight’s progress – very handy when you’re waiting for family or a client to arrive. Free.
- LIVESTRONG – Sharpen the Saw – physically. Lots of apps out there that do this, but I use LIVESTRONG to track weight, food, fitness. Let’s you set a weight goal and pace – then tells you how many calories you can consume each day and where you are as you enter your food/activities. Free or $2.99 for calorie goal calculator and online support.
- TriEssential – Daily motivational photographs (high-res), practical tips, and inspiring quotes for triathletes or anyone needing some encouragement to get faster and stronger. $.99.
Lately I’ve been working with quite a few clients who are refining their presentation skills. Mostly, we’re working on their ability to give presentations face-to-face. Although everyone is expected, with increasing frequency, to deliver high quality messages over the phone, web and in print media, there is something that makes face-to-face presentations particularly challenging and rewarding – both at the same time. That something is you!
In no other medium do you put your own voice, face and body movement on display than when you are in the same room as your audience. There is a connection you are capable of making with people that comes from no other medium. Trust me – I conduct a fair number of webinars each month, some with live web-cam feed. It is not the same. When in-person eye contact is made and repeated throughout a presentation a presenter makes that ‘emotional handshake’ with the audience in a way that communicates instantly (no half-second delay) that I hear you, I understand you, we’re on the same page. It can also communicate that you don’t get it, it isn’t clear, or we’re not on the same page. Course correction can follow much more smoothly, and we move on.
The next time you speak or train in front of a crowd, plug in a small digital camcorder (Flip-cam style) so you can record a few minutes of your presentation. Review three times – first with the volume up, secondly with the volume off, and thirdly looking away from the screen, but with the volume up. Take some notes on what you see or don’t see, what you hear or don’t hear. Video feedback is some of the rawest, yet honest feedback you can get.
Finally, do everything you can to get out of your notes, out of your own thoughts of “how do I look,” and out of your stress over ‘is my delivery smooth,’ and concentrate more and more on your audience. Your genuine, connected face-to-face interaction will facilitate increased retention as well as better rapport.
Tis the season for gifts. Hard not to contemplate the many gifts I’ve been given in 2010, including my association with you! In this time of economic uncertainty and hardship, we are able to regain a sense of perspective and peace by taking inventory of everything that is right. Please, indulge me:
- Principles of effectiveness. No matter how bad things get, there’s always a way out. And the principles we ‘preach’ to ourselves and colleagues are the very ticket out of this funk that society and its economy finds themselves in. Among them are hard work, respect, honesty, teamwork, planning, prioritizing, and many others.
- Health. Few people claim their health is exactly where they want it. I’m certainly not a model of musculature, but I can’t complain. I’ve been motivated by many of you to realize goals of fitness this year that I never would have considered without your encouragement and example. In spite of a congenital aortic valve disorder, my heart is healthier than it’s ever been – in my entire lifetime. I plan to keep it that way as long as possible.
- Experience. The stories we weave into the fabric of our lives comes from the interplay of people, places, and lessons-learned. I’m grateful for the lessons this past year have taught me and the things I’m going to do with my ever-increasing perspective and life’s experience.
- Friends and Family. We are indeed rich, when we count the relationships that are most meaningful. I wouldn’t and couldn’t do what I do without the support of a patient and intensely hard-working wife, four fantastic children and all the extended family and friends who continue to make the journey purpose-filled.
In the coming year, the least I can do is combine these gifts of mine to ensure I leave you a gift every time we meet. A kind word. A helping hand. An ear to bend. A perspective or thought to share. A thank you to impart.
I wish you and yours a joyous Christmas and a blessed and prosperous New Year!
Upon leaving my client earlier this afternoon, I found myself in the middle of a long 2-hour drive back to the Baltimore airport, growing hungrier by the minute since I had not yet eaten lunch. I randomly pulled off an exit in the middle of Maryland that displayed a Chik-fil-A sign – one of my favorite fast food outlets. The road to the restaurant wound around for a couple of miles before I came upon my destination. I decided to go in and stretch my legs, visit the restroom, and order at the counter. The cashier no sooner gave me my order when it occurred to me; I had no idea where I was.
I sheepishly told the woman helping me that I had a rather unusual question. Then I asked her, “Where exactly am I?”
“Hagerstown, Maryland!” she promptly replied.
There I was, making good time on my trek to the terminal. The rainy, foggy weather wasn’t creating any insurmountable travel issues. In checking my iPhone along the way, my flight appeared to be on time. And now I had lunch. Everything was good, right? Everything, except the fact that I didn’t know where I was.
Dr. Stephen R. Covey once commented on what a shame it is in life for one to be climbing the ladder of success, quickly arriving at the top, only to discover the proverbial ladder is leaning against the wrong wall. My situation was a little different, however. I knew where I was headed. I knew that my overall path would get me there. However, I took a brief detour to satisfy a need, and in the process got “lost.”
Here’s what I learned from this experience:
- It’s okay to make a wrong turn every once in a while, as long as you aren’t too proud to ask for directions. Feedback is your lifeline; do everything you can to create feedback systems at all levels in your organization.
- Everyone’s path to success will be slightly – if not dramatically – different. All roads lead to BWI. Be deliberate about drafting and living by YOUR mission.
- Constantly evaluating your progress will ensure you learn from your mistakes and allow you to more quickly realign your efforts with your mission. Be relentless about your weekly and daily planning routine.
Arguably the best take-away from this experience is knowing, I’ve got a friend in Hagerstown! Perhaps deliberately getting lost should be part of every journey…
A couple weeks ago I finished my second marathon. My effort was nothing terribly notable, except that I was hoping to beat my first time by a significant margin. I did. I ran 15 minutes faster than my first.
However, my time is discouraging when I compare it to my potential. I’ve only been a runner for about 3 years; I know I have plenty of room for improvement. Plus, I know how fast other guys my same age and build are running. Scores of them are significantly faster than I am. For example, I came in 174th place in my age group (out of 416). The guy who took second place in the marathon OVERALL was one year older than me! Now that’s something to strive for.
So what’s the best way to improve? Compare myself to me or compare myself to others? I think the answer is both.
Often in business we compare ourselves to the rest of the field. How are the top players in our industry faring. Where is our market share? How fast are we growing? Are we number one? There is healthy competition that can motivate an entire organization to rally behind significant revenue and growth goals, in pursuit of that top prize.
Then again, it’s also important that we don’t just settle for being on top of the heap. Oh sure, it feels good to be in first place. But we should also compare ourselves against our own potential. When we don’t, we could be settling for good enough instead of becoming our very best.
Living The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a tried and true method of balancing both approaches to success. The Private Victory is represented by the first three Habits of Be Proactive, Begin with the End in Mind, and Put First Things First. These lead me to mastery over self. Coupled with the Public Victory of Habits 4, 5 and 6, Think Win-Win, Seek First to Understand…, and Synergize, they permit me to collaborate with others in a way that differentiates our collective performance, allowing us to stand apart from the crowd and achieve our very best.
So, I suppose the next marathon I’m running in May 2011 will give me a chance to test this theory. My focus during training: Keep one eye on pushing for ever-faster splits and pace while training my other eye on the pace of those who ran the same race last year.
Ask yourself: In what ways can I and my organization learn from the successes of our competition? Where are we not testing our potential, because we’ve become complacent with “good enough?”
Recent events have not ceased to teach us profound lessons in trust. I may also be hyper-sensitive to the hard-edged, bottom-line impact of trust because of recent engagements and wins with trust-focused clients.
Regardless of where blame is to be found, the epic and ever-growing tragedy of the gulf oil spill, the abrupt replacement of decorated military leaders, confessions of infidelity by sports icons (and on and on and on) all remind us of the foundational need for “confidence in the character and competence of individuals and organizations.” The aforementioned quote may look familiar to many of you. It’s FranklinCovey’s textbook definition of trust. Confidence.
When confidence is high, managers readily delegate important work to employees who know their stuff and do it with the utmost integrity. Organizations merge in record time, while due diligence takes a back seat to solid brand reputation and good old fashioned transparency. Businesses launch new products, install complicated I.T. solutions, and rebrand themselves with renewed speed by trusting both loyal employees and loyal consumers. That trust breeds even more loyalty, and thus greater productivity and profits.
How do I know this? I’ve seen it happen over and over again – first hand.
Take a look for yourself at the transformative business relationships and processes that resulted from a cultural examination of and renewed commitment to trust at Frito Lay. Their stunning results have inspired suppliers and customers alike to more closely investigate for themselves exactly what increased individual and organization credibility can do for their bottom line.
WARNING: Don’t watch this video case study, unless you’re prepared to launch a transformation of your own!
Many of us are spending more and more time in meetings – and not just any meetings. We are both active participants in and meeting organizers of the ubiquitous webinar – an online gathering of geographically dispersed people. Meetings we attend in person have their own challenges – sidebar conversations, tardy attendees, lack of direction – just to name a few. Yet the virtual version of meetings brings new and familiar issues. I’d like to address two: unprepared attendees and multi-tasking. Here are a few quick tips to help you overcome these challenges:
Be more judicious about sending and expecting prework. Many meeting organizers assign prework to get people more connected to the subject they’ll be discussing. Don’t let the prework feel like – well – work. Keep questions to a minimum. Then, communicate in your invitation that you will be discussing their answers in the webinar – this to help people take their prework more seriously. Consider asking them to send their answers to the prework to you in advance. You might also have the assignment come from attendees’ immediate manager, giving the prework a bit more gravitas.
This temptation is no different than the temptation to multitask during an in-person meeting, except it’s easier to get away with. Meeting organizers must be even more thoughtful about three things: 1) Invite the right people. If someone begins to feel the meeting doesn’t apply to him/her that is a virtual invitation to start doing something else. Be more careful and deliberate about who you invite; then communicate to invitees why they were invited. 2) Have a clear agenda. Participants are much more likely to stay engaged during the meeting, if they can see where you’re going and approximately how much time remains. This will also help them to prepare thoughts on specific topics you’ll be covering. 3) Engage attendees in creative ways. Write down the names of those who are on the call. Consider drawing a square or circle representing a conference room table; write participants’ names around the “table.” Then, keep track of who is participating in the conversation. Call on those who are less vocal. Make use of polls during longer calls, giving people a prompt to ‘vote’ and share their opinions with others, without having to identify themselves. Well-timed polls can reveal interesting and useful data about the group and give everyone a friendly nudge to remain attentive.
Aside from the risk of attendees being less engaged than they could be, webinar organizers must also be confident in the basic navigation of this technological mine field. Get comfortable with the various screens and features. Become fluent with explaining to attendees how best to interact. Increase your confidence with managing shared files. It goes without saying that the best way to prepare for your first webinar is practice, practice, practice.
You might also consider attending FranklinCovey’s newest 2-hour LiveClicks webinar, Presenting Great Webinars, to ramp up your online facilitation skills!
It’s always good to check in from time to time and see how well you’re living The 7 Habits. Plus, I just discovered this nifty little self assessment that anyone can take! It’s a PDF document. Feel free to share it with friends, family, and colleagues. Then, dig back into Dr. Covey’s book (now in its 21st year!) to find out what tips might help you boost your scores. Or, better yet, find an opportunity to participate in The 7 Habits Signature two- or three-day course.
Be Proactive and Sharpen the Saw were my high scores. Seek First to Understand and Synergize were weak points.
Next, I’m going to ask others to rate me on a separate copy of the assessment. It will be interesting to see how their perspective matches or differs from mine.
Take the assessment and then come back and tell me what you learned!
I recently read an article in the 2010 Spring issue of USA Triathlon Life by the same title. One of the new rules not only caught my attention because it truly was new to me, but also because of its relevance in the workplace. Here’s an actual excerpt:
“Train in all directions and all planes. Yes, specificity of training still rules (in other words, if you want to run well, you have to practice running). But the paradoxical truth is that training in all planes (rotational, frontal, and transverse) helps you be more efficient in the sagittal plane (the front-and-back plane in which we bike and run). Basically, ‘3-dimensional’ training creates connections that rehearse the little inefficiencies out of your run.”
What does that even mean?
Many of us are “running” in our jobs, each and every day. And most of us have learned to run faster and stronger in that same “sagittal plane,” from front to back. We increase our efficiency with time management techniques. We study best practices of others in order to do more with less. Yet we may be overlooking less obvious opportunities to strengthen in other dimensions (rotational, frontal, transverse) by learning related yet non-traditional skills or by challenging our acumen with a test of the untested.
For example, whereas a runner can potentially strengthen his balance and stride by adding yoga to his workout regimen, a manager who traditionally focuses on clarifying purpose, inspiring trust, aligning systems, and unleashing talent (see FranklinCovey’s Great Leaders curriculum) could benefit from honing more tangential skills such as listening, negotiating, decision-making, and the like. These can help you “rehearse the little inefficiencies out of your run.”
Don’t get stuck in a rut. View the contribution you are making in your job as 3-dimensional. Over time, you’re much less likely to “trip-up,” when you’ve strengthened your understanding and abilities in a variety of areas, not just in those directly related to your primary job. Not to mention, you’ll become more valuable to the organization, as they consider who possesses the ability to see them through tough times.
Ahh…the sweet fragrance and comforting sounds of spring at last arrive! The smell of cut grass and the whirring of lawn mowers on Saturday morning fill the newly arrived warm air. Birds chirping in the morning replace the sound of the ice scraper on my windshield.
For the past several months I have been nothing but “cold and calculating”—skin chapped and paled from chilly winter winds; eyes red and blurred from all late night study sessions; right hand permanently locked around the empty mechanical pencil; head down in the pile of eraser fodder generated from hours of calculating and miscalculating algebraic equations and tricky word problems. Such was the life of one who was manically focused on her goal of effectively juggling a math-intensive course load; various community roles; and that of Price family winter “cruise director” responsible for keeping the holiday family fun afloat—maintaining order and balance on the Good-Ship-When’s-It-Gonna-Stop. (Please, please, my head’s about to pop!) By mid March, I was ready to assume an alias, abandon ship and park myself on a beach somewhere south of here.
Taking a hiatus from just about everything including this blog, I was on a mission to unleash my own greatest potential by achieving the private victory found only in the execution of habits 1,2, and 3 of the 7 Habits. Habit 1: Be Proactive required me to engage others in holding me accountable for proactively managing myself (e.g. doing my homework and staying on schedule).
It was easy to practice Habit 2: Begin with the End Mind—simply put, the end was: make grades that aren’t an embarrassment. I was engulfed by math anxiety (a euphemism for a debilitating condition that causes skipped favorite television programs, incessant head-scratching, ugly brow-furrowing and massive consumption of number two lead and legal pads). Therefore, I had to practice Habit 3: Put First Things First. So, I enlisted the services of retired geo-physicist-turned-tutor, Dr. Howard Taylor to help me manage and overcome the “condition” as well as make the grades.
Three months later without much damage to my GPA, I am no longer “cold and calculating.” I have emerged into the warmth of the spring sun triumphant! With statistics still on the horizon this summer, I am armed with the habits necessary to manage stress and my time effectively and conquer the negligent behaviors that would undo my success. Thanks to this Private Victory, I’m confident that math is no longer my foe (still not my friend, but no longer a formidable foe).
I never cease to be amazed at the value of this curriculum and its relevance in my life. Are you facing a formidable foe? Ever wonder where you fall on the effectiveness scale? Check out this Self-Scoring 7 Habits Profile that will allow you to evaluate your current level of effectiveness. Hey, the only thing you have to lose are bad habits.
Mahatma Gandhi suggested that people should focus first on improving themselves and then allow others to be inspired by their example, their determination, their integrity to values. These days we could use as many uplifting and positive role models as possible to lean on, learn from, and emulate. By following Gandhi’s mantra, “Become the change you seek in this world,” perhaps you and I can become that uplifting story for others, as well as ourselves.
In the early 1930s my maternal grandfather, Kurt, was living the relatively simple, easy-going life of an adolescent Austrian amid the cobblestone streets of Vienna. His family had quite limited means, but he chose not to focus on what he didn’t have. Instead he saw the rich history and art by which he was surrounded. He sensed the global significance of the financial and cultural center that Vienna had become. He pondered the possibility of choosing and learning a trade that would allow him to become a contributing member of a struggling economy.
At twelve years of age, Kurt (the oldest of three children) was told by his parents that they could no longer afford him. They informed him, he would be leaving the bustling city to spend the upcoming summer working on his grandparents’ dairy farm, nestled in the pastoral setting of Upper Austria.
Kurt loved the city. He had dreamed of attending a nearby vocational school and working with his hands in heavy industry. He eagerly awaited his anticipated return to the city following a busy summer on the farm. He would soon learn, he wasn’t welcome back. His parents’ believed leaving him on the farm was a better choice for financial and practical reasons.
Kurt had other plans.
Unannounced, he returned three years later to the porch of his parents’ apartment in Vienna, eager to share his plans to return to school. As his mother answered the door, and before he could get in a word, she said (in German, of course), “You imbecile! You idiot! What are you doing here?!”
Kurt overlooked this less-than-warm reception and explained how he desperately wanted to attend school in Vienna. His parents made it clear that they would be unable to support him. Fortunately his excellent grades not only garnered him an invitation to study at a prominent Viennese technical college, but also earned an apprenticeship to cover his room and board. He created the circumstance snecessary to fulfill a dream.
Opa (German for ‘Grandpa’) went on to perform admirably in his studies. He became an accomplished and award-winning machinist in his industry. He was even recognized for a handful of his own inventions. Then suddenly, as with most all young men his age, he was drafted into Hitler’s war.
Late in World War II, my grandfather was captured by the Allies along the Russian front and sent to a British prisoner of war encampment near the Polish border. This likely saved his life. He would later recount that his time spent in captivity was more pleasant than the time he spent with his comrades. His own countrymen ridiculed him, hazed him, and excluded him. At least while imprisoned he was fed decent meals and treated with a measure of dignity and respect.
Kurt survived the war and returned to his lovely young wife, Johanna, to start a family. They had two daughters while living in Vienna and eventually immigrated to the United States in 1956 to start a new life.
My grandfather became the change he sought in his world. To me, he embodies the 7 Habits concept of a Transition Person.
Each of us has within himself the capacity to set aside our past, to refuse to allow our circumstances to dictate our future, and to chart a course for our friends and loved ones that resembles our worth and potential, instead of our history.
In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus is told of a magnificent song sung by the sirens of the sea, but one that would lure unsuspecting sailors dangerously close to the rocky shore. Lacking the discipline to stay safely away from the rocks but close enough to hear the sirens’ tantalizing tune, previous sailors had sailed closer and closer to the sweet sound until their ships were dashed into the depths.
Circe offered Odysseus a solution.
Around this time of year, many of us may be slipping further away from the course we charted in our New Year’s resolutions. It is easy to get caught up in the urgency addiction of the workplace or homefront, allowing those important – and often less compelling – objectives to crash into the rocks. Perhaps it is time to get “lashed to the mast.”
Commitment to goals can come from many sources. Here’s one of the more effective sources of commitment I know of: Enlist the energy of others who will help you stay true. Recruit friends and family, ears having been “filled with beeswax,” who will refuse to give in to your convenient excuses and ultimately keep you on course. Consider these specific suggestions to help keep each other accountable:
- Announce your intentions. You might even broadcast your goal (I’m going to lose 10 pounds by April) in social Internet forums, such as Facebook. People are bound to keep asking you how it’s going. The last thing you want to do is let everyone know two months down the road that you failed.
- Put the written goal in clear view. Tape it to the refrigerator, bathroom mirror, or dashboard of the car. This constant reminder keeps your intentions front and center.
- Create a scoreboard that others can access. If your friends are far away, use common file servers such as Google docs to share a spreadsheet that allows everyone to track your progress. Give access to a handful of friends who aren’t afraid to ask you why you’re behind
- Insert incremental pieces of your goal into your weekly and daily planning routine. Tiny steps every day add up to big progress over the long term.
Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying the sweet song of the sirens, even as you approach your intended destination!
In the world of manufacturing, the “Toyota Way” has always been held up as the epitome of lean and six-sigma manufacturing. One of the more prominent concepts in lean is called the Andon Cord.
The andon cord is literally a cord that workers can pull – a cord they should pull – any time something in the manufacturing process goes wrong that would compromise the quality of the product or safety of the people. The line stops immediately. Everyone’s attention is turned to the problem. Everyone helps to solve the problem. And the line doesn’t restart until the problem’s been fixed, thus ensuring that zero scrap or defects are allowed to perpetuate.
Some have called auto manufacturers’ recent recall woes, pulling “the big andon cord.” Although I’m sure these events will weigh on their reputation and short-term sales, righting wrongs is never bad for long-term business.
It’s remarkable to me how many of the 13 Behaviors from our Speed of Trust practice are manifest in the actions being taken by industry lately to fix these gaps in reliability and consumer confidence.
- Confront Reality
- Talk Straight
- Right Wrongs
- Get Better
- Practice Accountability
- Show Loyalty
- Deliver Results
And the list goes on.
Each of us can take a lesson from this industry “time-out.” I’ve gained a greater appreciation for stepping back from the line and fixing things the right way when they go wrong. Individuals and teams can “pull the andon cord” and avoid a path of perpetual mediocrity.
A few years ago, my team and I were working feverishly on creating hundreds of training documents for the dozens of different positions across a complex and dispersed workforce. It wasn’t until after scores of freshly published training procedures had been implemented that we realized the format of the documents didn’t meet the expectations of the organization’s own quality control standards. As painful as it was to admit the mistake and redo much of the effort that had been expended, we vowed to immediately notify management, correct the faulty documents, and promise to meet a revised (albeit still challenging) deadline. Pulling the andon cord was the right thing to do.
The trust that comes from owning up to a mistake early on and taking swift corrective action is a much better alternative than the suspicion that comes from trying to get away with a mistake that is later discovered by someone else. In fact, it is ideal to create a culture where people are actively looking for mistakes in order to pull the cord.
The sooner we fail, the sooner we succeed. Don’t be afraid to pull the andon cord.
Dr. Covey has done it again.
In their most recent FranklinCovey publication Great Work Great Career, Dr. Stephen R. Covey and Chief Learning Officer Jennifer Colosimo combine to offer relevant and timely thinking on “creating one’s ultimate job and making an extraordinary contribution,” as suggested by the book’s subtitle.
The authors encourage the reader to define what a “great career” means to him or her – to reflect on the level of loyalty, trust, and contribution one currently experiences in the workplace. They cite some profound examples of individuals who have achieved an obvious level of greatness (borrowing from Leading at the Speed of Trust workshop content) such as Dr. Fiona Wood, “Australia’s most trusted person.” Their brand of storytelling draws the reader in and makes the message more relatable and interesting.
They introduce a Venn diagram or model to suggest that one’s unique contribution is only discovered in the intersection of one’s talents, passion, conscience, and the need or opportunity that exists externally. They offer practical tools to help the reader “Know Your Strengths,” “Discover Your Cause,” plan a “Need-Opportunity Presentation,” and draft a “Contribution Statement.”
The closing section, “Build Your Own Village,” offers timely advice on connecting with others who mutually support one another – good ol’ fashioned networking. But here the authors bring networking into the 21st century by addressing the need for individuals to create professional blogs, participate in online social networking, and to “carve out” one’s space on the Internet.
In their closing thoughts, the authors suggest that by applying the tools and methods outlined, the reader doesn’t “look for a job; you look for a significant problem to solve or an exciting opportunity to leverage. You look for a profession you love and that people will pay you to do. You are not a ‘job description with legs,’ but a thinking, creative human being with unique and irreplaceable talents.”
I put this book down more energized and excited to “define my contribution” than ever before. I had written a contribution statement and walked hundreds of clients through the process. But now my contribution statement literally stares me in the face, taped up on my desk lamp, off to one side of my computer monitor – a constant reminder of my motivating professional causes.
If this book and its message don’t light a fire under you, there wasn’t a spark to begin with!
How many times have you heard someone say, “Everyone fears change?” Employees have experienced profound changes in the workplace for decades and yet the headlines would suggest no one is ever prepared for change. Certainly we at least get a little better at navigating change, each time it is thrust upon us. But what is it that really paralyzes people each time a significant change is in the wind?
People don’t fear change.
I’ve never met a baby that didn’t want its soggy diaper changed. Most employees can think of at least a handful of things they’d like to see their boss do differently. The present economy is nothing to get excited about; the majority would certainly like to see some changes for the better. If I came to you and said, “Well, there are going to be some changes around here. We’re going to start with your compensation,” you might initially get nervous. Our first thoughts tend to be negative. “What are you taking away from me? How much more will we be asked to give around here?” What if I then told you, “We’d like to triple your salary?” Would you be okay with that kind of change?
People fear the possibility or the reality of loss.
Granted, a lot of the changes we are asked to swallow have a downside to them. But by assuming that all change is bad, we predispose ourselves to the paralysis of inaction, negative thinking, and helplessness. Most of us know someone who was victim of a corporate downsizing, only to share with you months down the road that his or her departure was possibly the best thing that ever happened. Of course, that can only happen when someone chooses to find the silver lining in a change that, at first, is quite devastating.
Think of the current or pending changes that are brewing in your workplace. Take inventory of the potentially positive upside to those changes. Channel your time and energy toward those activities that will bring about the good that often accompanies change. You will increase your value to the organization and find your positive outlook to be infectious. Seeing change as a force for constant improvement and innovation is a much more viable perspective, no matter where the landscape is moving.
The recent tragedy in Haiti has certainly commanded the world’s attention. No one would ever suggest that their change in fortune was good. Yet each day that we peer into the news of Haiti’s recovery, we learn of countless stories of rescuers and those being rescued who are making the most out of their circumstances, in the shadow of unimaginable devastation. These are the Haitians who are likely to thrive into the future and serve as a force for good in rebuilding an even stronger community and nation.
From change can emerge enormous good. Yet in change some might dwell on only the bad. Which will command your attention?
I don’t have time to [FILL IN THE BLANK].
This economy won’t allow our organizational to [FILL IN THE BLANK].
My boss won’t let me [FILL IN THE BLANK].
It’s too cold outside to [FILL IN THE BLANK].
There’s always an excuse, isn’t there? Excuses abound for why we don’t strive to restore a suffering relationship, expand into new markets, present new solutions to old problems, or go outside and get fit. Complacency is the course of least resistance. Getting out of my comfortable routine may require change, and after all, isn’t change painful?
The late business philosopher, Jim Rohn, said, “We must all suffer from one of two pains: The pain of discipline or the pain of regret.” Change might often be painful, but there is usually a much more profound pain of regret associated with inaction. Besides, we know that the second law of thermodynamics – or entropy – is hard at work in the mental and social realms, as well as the physical. When I don’t exercise my brain or spend time building important relationships, they will become weaker and eventually break down, just as muscle tissue, geology, or any man-made structure will eventually crumble without care.
Recently the weather here in the Midwest was unseasonably cold. For almost the first two weeks of January we experienced high temperatures in the single digits. The roads remained snow- and ice-packed for several days. I had every good excuse in the world NOT to go running outside. Oh sure, I could always force myself onto a treadmill or spin on my cycle trainer. But lately I’ve taken to finding every possible way to stay moving outdoors, if I can help it.
Just when I thought I might succumb to the passive, peaceful recesses of my La-Z-Boy, my wife introduced me to Yaktrax. Yaktrax are a commercially available strap-on cleat that goes over the sole of your boot or running shoe allowing the wearer to literally run on ice and packed snow. Jana discovered these gems while reading an entry on her cousin’s running blog (Thanks, Kristin). She immediately ordered me a pair, and before I knew it I had run out of excuses for why I couldn’t get outside to stay active.
So there I was, running in 6 degree Fahrenheit weather down the middle of a snow packed side street – every inch of skin covered with polypropylene, ski goggles strapped on securely. I’m convinced that each driver that passed by was thinking, “That guy is CRAZY!” I know that when I witness the occasional walker-biker-runner out braving the elements, I always think to myself, “Good for him!”
Let’s just call this what it really is: Be Proactive.
When you look at the current state of your team, your organization, your health, or any other aspect of life that is important to you, examine the obvious and hidden excuses that may be holding you back from achieving the greatness you are capable of. Get creative. Think outside the proverbial box. Study what other successful teams and individuals have done. Never accept “can’t” into your vocabulary.
Now, if I could just find some of those cleats for my road bike…
Recently I was pondering the differences and similarities between the FranklinCovey four-part definition of greatness – Sustained Superior Performance, Intensely Loyal Customers, Winning Culture, and Distinct Contribution – and the four categories that define Norton and Kaplan’s “Balanced Scorecard” approach to strategic planning and performance management. It occured to me that the greatness map at FranklinCovey includes all four of the “Scorecard” categories, plus one.
Under Sustained Superior Performance, FranklinCovey’s model includes both the Financial and Internal Business Processes areas of emphasis – two of the four Scorecard perspectives. The Intensely Loyal Customers category and Kaplan and Norton’s Customer perspective are virtually the same. Both emphasize concern for talent by calling out Winning Culture and Learning and Growth, respectively. However, the Scorecard methodology of planning and measuring falls short of requiring organizations to be clear about the Distinct Contribution that they are making to their communities, societies, and the world at large. This fourth category of emphasis in our definition of greatness is what sustains the motivation and energy required to stay focused on the wildly important.
If you have not yet defined the distinct contribution you are making to society, consider pondering your answers to the following questions:
- Would my community or industry really miss us, if our organization were gone tomorrow? In what specific ways would they miss us?
- In what ways are we giving back without the expectation of a direct benefit in return?
- What motivates us to continue improving and offering better, more innovative solutions in the future? Is our motivation purely profit or something more?
Each of these questions can also be applied to the individual. In other words: What legacy am I creating in my current position? How will people remember the value I’m adding on my projects and assignments? Am I the person my co-workers will think about when they are prompted in the future to think of a great example of leadership? How am I giving back in the workplace?
Greatness isn’t that far away, when we stop only thinking about what’s in it for me.
During a lunch break with a client in Lincoln, Alabama, I came across this historic bank building from the 1930’s. It hasn’t been a bank for several decades, but stands out as a stoic architectural landmark from the past. Upon closer examination I could see a tree branch sticking out of the gable. The client who was with me indicated that the branch is actually alive, that it has made its roots in the nooks and crannies of the building’s façade and attic boards, and that in the springtime the branch blossoms and grows, as if it were firmly planted in the ground below. In spite of enormous odds, it thrives! The client also told me the story of how a bank depositor approached this once thriving community landmark in the 1930s to withdraw the bulk of his deposits, since the rumor was it would fail someday soon. He explained his concern for the future welfare of the bank, only to be told (probably by a bank employee), “Have you ever heard of a bank failing? Leave your money there, where it’s safe.” He did. The bank failed the next day. All of his deposits vanished.
As you are well aware, being overly exposed to metaphors is an occupational hazard of mine. (Fortunately no metaphor is yet known to have caused cancer.) I couldn’t help but see in this scene a metaphor of the new springing from the old. Perhaps it is the sign of a new, green, and changing economy springing out of the dead relic of past financial institutions. It could be like you and I, building on the foundation of our past and allowing the parts that are still alive and thriving to take root and flourish. Or perhaps it could be likened to the old year, giving way to the new, whereas each of us strives to extend further and higher toward our life’s goals.
Like this tender branch of an optimistic seedling, you and I are given a chance every day to exercise our proactive muscles and grow into something new and better. Take time this holiday season to reflect on the good that you have established throughout your life, the new highs and lows you may have experienced throughout this past year, and consider the new directions and opportunity that lie before you and within you. Don’t allow past failures to dictate the potential trajectory of your future. Decide today to rise from the frustration and disappointment of past shortcomings and chart a course for your personal life’s landmark. Thrive!
May you and yours be blessed by the hard work and perseverance that have defined your life’s journey thus far. It has been my rare privilege to call you friends, and I trust you will continue to inspire me and others toward new levels of personal and organizational innovation and greatness into the coming year.
All My Best,
For the past several weeks I’ve had the privilege of working with a large client in the Southeast on improving the overall trust in a large manufacturing plant, one leader at a time. I’m humbled to witness each frontline manager present his or her own case study in front of the senior leadership team to tell the story of how each one of them has been building trust with his or her associates in new and meaningful ways.
They are confronting the realities of sub-optimal performance. They are righting past wrongs. They are talking straight, clarifying expectations, practicing accountability, and, above all, making time to really listen to what employees are saying and feeling.
Today, folowing one group’s presentations to management, the VP of Operations explained how several frontline associates had approached him spontaneously in recent weeks to thank him for the training their managers are getting! Even employees who haven’t attended the training are recognizing the little things their managers are doing to lead at “the speed of trust.”
Most newly promoted managers in all organizations appreciate the least bit of guidance they get on how to be a good boss. G.E.’s 20-year-long CEO, Jack Welch, put it this way, “The moment you become a manager, it stops being about you and it starts being about them.” I couldn’t agree more.
Managers who get it will spend the balance of their careers recognizing and unleashing the hidden talent that exists in everyone.
What kind of leader are you? What kind of leader will you become?
Over the last several months, I have been teaching a lot of content based on Stephen M.R. Covey’s book The Speed of Trust. As I have immersed myself in this curriculum, I have begun to more clearly view the world through the “trust glasses”. When one does this, they begin to become acutely aware of the high trust taxes that we as a society are paying due to low trust. I have also noticed, in a few situations, the wonderful dividends that accrue in high trust relationships, but unfortunately they seem more and more scarce.
There are many reasons why trust is eroding in the world, and Stephen illustrates them well in the book. One of the causes that I, and certainly many others have become sensitive to is the steady decline of respect and common courtesy. In fact the term “common courtesy” is somewhat of an oxymoron today.
Media opinion shows are clear examples of how common discourtesy has become. One popular broadcaster has a regular segment where he berates people who have a different opinion than his. Are these demonic souls advocating the torture of the innocent, or the destruction of civilization as we know it? No, most of them are good people who simply see the world differently. Yet, this broadcaster ends each of these sarcastic segments with the words “Shut the hell up”. Nice. This guy must be a hoot at parties.
Another broadcaster, on the other end of the political dial, often refers to individuals that he disagrees with as morons and imbeciles, refering to them using demeaning derivitives of their names. Remember when you were in third grade and you would call your arch nemesis “Bobby” “Bobby-snobby”? Same thing, only this broadcaster isn’t in third grade anymore.
To me the political, religious or social point of view of a person isn’t nearly as revealing of their character as how they treat those who see things differently than they do.
While none of these individuals have the power to directly affect society on their own, their example stirs the anger and hatred of millions of weak-willed viewers. These viewers then begin to speak to those who disagree with them in the same manner. Soon we are living in a cacophony of contempt and contention.
If we as a society were more concerned with civility, rather than whether or not we agree with the offending person, and we expected our media, political and social representatives to set a good example for the rest of us, discourse in the world would have a very different tone indeed.
Until we are willing to set such a standard, and hold ourselves accountable to it, I think we can expect trust to continue to wane to the point where we stop talking to each other altogether.
And that would be the end of civilization as we know it.
Did you know that October was Relationship Violence Awareness Month? Probably not. Many other worthy causes have overshadowed this pandemic that thrives in the shadows.
Relationship violence destroys the lives of adults, teens and children. Recently, a teen told me she hadn’t realized she was in an abusive relationship until she read the story on page 185 of Sean Covey’s book, The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make.
In what seems like someone else’s story now, at 22, I was so beaten down physically and emotionally—I believed the lies of my batterer: that I was stupid, worthless, and pathetic. I sought to end my life, but failing in the attempt, I awakened in intensive care, angry and cursed the heavens and the hospital for sending me back to that house of horrors. I had given up on my only asset—me; on any chance that I might find some inkling of happiness or success. Then later at 24, looking down at my newborn daughter, I saw my purpose reflected in her big blue eyes. I had a mission— to be the best mother I could possibly be.
It would take five years to let go of the dangerous hope for change and the lies I’d told myself that kept me chained to a relationship filled with broken egg shells, broken spirits, and broken dreams. I had to grieve the loss as one would a death. I used to think it was the death of that cowardly, witless little girl, but now I know it was the death of the dream I grieved—the dream of having the perfect family—mommy, daddy, baby; living in harmony.
The scenario can be had. It was the actors’ inability to fulfill the roles that brought the show to a close. I had to relinquish my role—grieve the loss of the notion that the only way I could succeed was to stay and tough it out; be the perfect mommy, the good wife and help him change; lie motionless in the uncomfortable, seemingly flame-retardant bed I had, indeed, made. But at 30 years of age, I metaphorically burned that bed and over the years have tried to outrun the smoldering memories that linger in my subconscious. Some nights I still scream out and leap for the door. I still look in the rearview mirror fearful that I will see his angry face behind the wheel of the car behind me. I still set the security alarm each time I enter my home and check all the doors and windows before going to sleep.
Yet, I face the mirror each morning thrilled to see the fresh face of a neo 19 year old free of bruises and remind myself of who I am today—of the hurdles over which I have bounded and helped others to clear; of the accomplishments I can call my own: of the amazing husband who has stood by my side now for 17 years supporting any and all of my personal and professional efforts; and of the blossoming young woman whom I am blessed to call my daughter. For I know now that the courage and triumph was never in the staying, it was in the leaving.
If you are suffering in an abusive relationship—there is hope. Get help and get out. Call your nearest shelter and break the chains. Leave the habits behind that kept you trapped. Learn and live The 7 Habits of Successful Families. Living them has helped me, and I know it can help you too.
I did it. Saturday, October 17th, marked my first full marathon experience!
While I enjoy the sport of triathlon, especially cycling, and do not hesitate to jump on my bike and ride 100+ miles, it is something entirely different to pound the pavement in a long distance run. Prior to Saturday, the longest I had run was 13 miles. I know. You experienced runners out there are thinking, “You’ve got to be crazy!” (You’re probably right.)
When I got serious about the idea of running a marathon, I immediately printed off the suggested training schedule at the race’s official web site. I knew I needed to work up to distances in excess of 20 miles, about 3 weeks prior to the big day. However, I let other things get in the way.
Race day was chilly. A friend and I arrived downtown at 6:00 a.m. in the rainy and windy darkness. Fortunately the rain stopped just before the race began, and the mid-40s temperature was rather comfortable once we got started. The scenery, frequent water stations, and abundant and enthusiastic bystanders were so distracting, I hardly knew I had completed the first 13 miles. It appeared I would finish the entire 26.2 miles in about 3 hours and 45 minutes. I was feeling great!
It wasn’t until after mile 20 that I decided to walk for a little bit. Big mistake.
Soon after I began a deliberate walking pace, my right knee sent a very immediate and painful message to the rest of my body. “I’m done!” I honestly thought I had torn a ligament and had just now felt it, for the first time. I knew this was the end of my wishful 4 hour goal. I would either hobble along the remaining 5 ½ miles, finishing in around 6 hours, or I would need to stop on the spot and wait for a team of compassionate volunteers to haul me off.
After about four or five extremely painful attempts to start running again, I was able to sustain a jogging pace that didn’t bring me to tears. This leads me to my second lesson. I could NOT stop again and expect to come remotely close to finishing under 4 hours. I knew I had to keep running the distance or my goal would be postponed, until next time.
I soon watched the 3:35 pacers pass me by. Then the 3:40 group. The 3:45’s strode by. The 3:50’s. Finally, here came the 3:55’s. I had to hang close, or at least try to keep them in sight, if I wanted to finish under 4 hours. What a reward it was to see my wife and four kids cheering me on as I hobbled across the finish line at 3:56:59!
I was extremely lucky that my body parts were forgiving enough to allow me to go the distance. My muscles and tendons had not been adequately hardened by the necessary distances required by reasonable training. I also found new reserves of will-power and perseverance during those 15 minutes of deliberation and pain.
I can point to several times throughout my life where both luck and perseverance have played out, as I’m sure you can too. Each exists in a very different realm from the other. Luck is clearly in my Circle of Concern. I don’t control it, but sometimes I test it, even when I know it’s not the wisest call. Will-power is completely in my Circle of Influence. No matter how hard things get, I can always dig a little deeper.
Whether we’re plagued by economic down-turn, controversy and corruption, or overall pessimism and malaise, there is always something you and I can do to pull through. Don’t count on luck. Search deep for those reserves of will-power and drive that you know are there. You’re not running the race alone. And there are masses of your biggest fans on the curb rooting you on. But you’ve got to get you to the finish line. See you there!
Heirarchy is not leadership. Position is not leadership. Title is not leadership.
Leadership is compelling behavior.
In my 20+ years of leadership development experience, I have not witnessed a method of leader improvement more effective than to equip existing management with the tools to teach and then to personally model the concepts that are expected of their learners. This “leader-as-teacher” way of life has transformed the cultures of many organizations, including such giants as Becton Dickinson (BD).
While leading the professional development function at mid-cap aerospace and defense darling Alliant Techsystems (ATK) during the first half of this decade, I certified over 100 facilitators in one of our key leadership development programs – over half of these newly trained trainers were in management. I have great respect for my fellow Human Resource and Talent Management professionals who are often called upon to be classroom instructors. However I can attest to the fact that leaders who prepare, teach, and then model leadership in the workplace have a profoundly more positive impact on shaping culture.
Most associates see their leaders every day. People then witness their behavior and can hold leader-teachers accountable for “walking the talk.” Leader-teachers become vested in the material and much more aware of how they can become effective models of the content. They tend to discuss, clarify, and sometimes debate the alignment of course content with the organization’s strategy and execution. And on and on and on…
For most organizations, there is a profound source of competitive advantage right under their noses – their management. Yet most companies can’t afford to send their leaders off to a train-the-trainer on the many topics they may want addressed in the workplace. FranklinCovey has an answer. I’m excited to announce to my readers the newest platform of content delivery, specifically designed for leaders to take 10 to 15 minutes to teach and discuss targeted subjects, all the while relying on the research and award-winning videos that have made FranklinCovey your trusted partner over the years.
FranklinCovey InSights contains online materials that can be presented to a group in the same conference room or to a dispersed team across the country. It prompts the leader to ask specific, thought-provoking questions, provides brief video segments featuring speakers such as Dr. Stephen R. Covey, and allows teams and individuals to document real-time the goals they set in order to improve in that area. The InSights program also gives users the option of receiving a daily, weekly or monthly reminder to help them complete their goals.
Take a minute to watch the preview at the following address: http://www.franklincovey.com/tc/events/insights
Two weeks ago I flew half way across the country with my bicycle (an entirely painful experience I may share later) to join my brother, brother-in-law, and close friend on a 105-mile ride across three mountain passes. I thoroughly enjoy cycling. For years my favorite version of cycling was mountain biking on single-track trails over stumps, rocks, and roots. I enjoy the climb every bit as much as the descent. It’s only after having purchased a decent road bike two years ago and making a recent foray into the world of triathlon that my interest has expanded to include road cycling. This particular ride would bring my summer total to well over 700 miles.
While I’ve always been somewhat intrigued by world-stage cycling events and personalities, such as the Tour de France and cycling phenom Lance Armstrong, I’ve never followed the sport very closely. In my naiveté, I would often question the need for all that expensive gear and technology or secretly mock the brash colors and tight-fitting clothing. I certainly had my doubts that riding in a pack or “peloton” really had any benefit. Does “drafting,” or riding closely behind another cyclist, really make that big of a difference? After all, until September 12, 2009, I had always ridden alone.
I’m ashamed to admit, after teaching the principles behind The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People for the past 13 years that I would have been so skeptical about the power of synergy in such a simple and powerful application.
As a group, our collective experience with drafting was mixed. My brother-in-law is a seasoned “roadie” (the affectionate name for road cyclists). He drafts almost once a week with other cyclists in his neighborhood. My good friend had tried it a few times and was eager to draft on a longer ride. My brother and I were first-timers to the art of riding somebody’s back tire. As we began our first and flattest 10-mile segment of the roughly 6-hour tour, we each took turns leading the group, with the point person falling back about every 3 to 4 minutes. The rider in front, or “pole” rider, puts out the same effort required to ride alone. As for everyone else…
What a rush!
I can honestly say, I have been missing out on a lot of cycling synergy. The experience was so real and yet so simple! By my rough, unscientific estimate, each individual expends around 20% less effort to ride as a group than he would while riding alone. The “pull” that each trailing rider experiences in the draft is real and measurable. Sadly, I had even taught the example of geese in flight to illustrate synergy – the same application of aerodynamics – without having tried it myself (riding, rather than flying, of course).
I firmly resolved, at the end of our ride, to not only look for other riders I might join back in the Midwest, but to also look for more creative ways of “drafting” with co-workers, friends, neighbors, and family. What mental barriers or incorrect/incomplete paradigms may be preventing me from synergizing in ways that are natural and simple?
Have you noticed that during crises, many short-term-minded leaders give in to fear rather than focus? Even the CEOs who divulged their thoughts and feelings in response to both 2008 surveys from The Conference Board allowed the financial turmoil of the times to take their eye off of some very important, long-term success factors, such as leadership development and succession.
In “Predictable Results in Unpredictable Times,” communications maven Dr. Breck England, in partnership with Dr. Stephen R. Covey and FranklinCovey CEO Bob Whitman, outlines in the simplest of terms how organizations must respond today in order to stay at the top of their game. Likening business behavior to the annual Tour de France cycling contest, Mr. England recognizes that we are currently “in the mountain stages” of the race. He points out that, “the Tour is actually a team effort, and losing teams lack the disciplined execution of the winners.”
The book centers on four pressing hazards in the current marketplace and their solutions:
- Failure to execute
- Crisis of trust
- Loss of focus
- Pervasive fear
If you or your organization suffers from any one or more of these conditions, chances are the answer lies in the research and solutions offered in this timely work.
Each chapter is followed by some extremely provocative questions about the reader’s current state. They include:
- What generally makes the difference between the first and second place teams in any competitive situation?
- Why is complete transparency so important to building trust? What is the opposite of transparency?
- In uncertain times, everyone is challenged to do more with less. You say you’re doing more with less – but more of what?
- What are the costs to people and organizations of a “psychological recession?”
As a perennial reader of the Harvard Business Review, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the glowing endorsement offered by Clayton M. Christensen, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard, who said, “This book gave me more insight about how to get the right things done in an organization than any other management book I have ever read.”
My only critique is that the book is quite lean (making for an easy, refreshing read, of course) and leaves the reader wanting – no, needing more details in order to truly follow through on the authors’ advice. However, I understand several more books like this one from FranklinCovey Publishing are on the docket. Plus, there are e-tools and videos for each chapter of this book available online at no charge!
I’ll be embarking on yet another 100-mile bicycle ride next Saturday with a team of friends and family. With this book fresh in mind, you can be sure we’ll be clear about the goal, our need for trust and focus, and the debilitating effects of fear. I predict we’ll finish strong!
Last Wednesday I drove to the Kansas City International airport to catch a flight bound for Chicago and then onto Louisville, Kentucky. I even checked the flight status before leaving home – On Time. No sooner had all 137 passengers boarded the plane when the captain entered the main cabin and announced over the intercom that a ground freeze had been issued for all flights coming into or out of Chicago due to severe thunderstorm activity. We would wait another 45 minutes – in the plane, at the gate – to hear him offer another apology for why we need to wait yet another 30 to 45 minutes. After the third appearance and regrettable announcement, we were now 2 hours behind schedule – while waiting the entire time on the plane. The temperature in the main cabin seemed to fluctuate 20 degrees in either direction during our wait – sometimes too cold, sometimes too hot. To add insult to an already difficult situation, once the freeze was lifted and we finally pushed back to the runway, the captain turned off the starboard engine, came back onto the intercom and announced that the dozens of planes now bound for Chicago had been given an order in which they could take off and that we were scheduled to leave in another 45 minutes. We took off 3 hours late, due to a late summer thunderstorm that was 500 miles away.
Granted, this would have been a challenging scenario for anybody, but I was still surprised by the various ways that different passengers dealt with the delay. I was particularly taken back by the language spewing from the woman seated directly behind me. I’m guessing she could have issued a tongue lashing that would embarrass a hardened criminal.
The storm was completely out of any human control, and yet some people behave in ways that serve only to make the situation worse – for everybody.
I’ve flown enough to know that getting upset doesn’t help me or the situation. I figure, if I can’t model some of our principles – such as Be Proactive – I don’t deserve to teach them. That doesn’t mean I’m always perfect, but this scenario was the perfect lesson to reinforce why I don’t typically book travel on the last flight of the day, why I study my driving options, why I always take manila folders full of projects and books to read while caught waiting in unexpected places.
In fact, I got caught up on quite a bit of work during my 6-hour journey to Kentucky and tried to get to bed as quickly as possible once I arrived, in order to be fresh for my client assignment the next morning. Two days of successful project management instruction followed. I made my 90 min. drive back to Louisville on Friday afternoon, checked through Security, only to learn that my flight (among several others) was delayed yet again. And what made the situation almost laughable was that this delay was caused by the same storm that had kept me waiting on Wednesday! Yes, the exact same system that plagued our mid-week departure from Kansas City had slowly made its way across the country eastward during the intervening 48 hours, only to tie up air traffic in Baltimore, Maryland, where many of the planes were coming from on Friday night.
This taught me a valuable lesson about life. Perhaps you’ve been there, too. Often, once we appear to have overcome a particular challenge or obstacle – be it physical, mental, personal, or professional – there’s a good chance that the same barrier will rear its ugly head again, sometime in the future. When we count on bumps in the road, when we plan to be detoured from time to time or delayed along our intended route, we are much more prepared to deal with each diversion much more constructively. Good planning turns to great when you and I have a rock solid Plan A and a thorough Plan B to back it up.
Undoubtedly the principles that are taught in our curriculum – such as responsibility, planning, follow-through, abundance, listening, collaboration, trust, etc. – become even more relevant during times of economic retraction. Most organizations have felt the pinch of our economy, in some way or another. It has translated into palpable nervousness for many associates who are increasingly more unsure about their future. I can’t help but revisit an early theme I shared in my first blog posting – that living these principles is the answer to recession-proofing one’s career.
However, as I reflect further on the deliberate arrangement of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, as organized in the Maturity Continuum model, I can’t help but recognize the correlation that exists between the Private and Public Victories and what businesses expect from their employees during these tumultuous times.
Consider this. The Private Victory is about me. Not me, as in Todd, but me as in everyone. Be Proactive, Begin With the End in Mind, Put First Things First. I am completely and 100% in charge of whether or not I live these first three habits. I can turn them on and I can turn them off. I alone am in control of the level of effectiveness I wish to experience by taking responsibility, formulating a plan for my life, my year, my week, my day, and executing that plan in the face of constant distractions. There is tremendous gratification that comes from working a well-thought out plan and reaping its rewards. One benefits personally and is in a position to do more for himself, as well as others.
On the other hand, living out the Public Victory – Think Win-Win, Seek First to Understand…, and Synergize – require at least some cooperation from others. The Public Victory requires, well, the public! I can do everything right to get my own “shop” in order, but if my co-worker doesn’t want to work well with me, a Public Victory can be easily compromised. It takes an inordinate amount of effort to convince others (especially if they themselves haven’t achieved a Private Victory of their own) to think abundantly, to truly empathize with all parties, and to painstakingly work toward collaborative solutions that represent the 3rd Alternative.
Therefore, I must recognize more and more that living the Private Victory is simply the lowest possible threshold my employer is willing to accept among potential job candidates who are seeking employment. What differentiates me from the pack is going to be my ability to bring people together and actively work toward interdependence and the Public Victory every day of the week! My ability to synergize is what will differentiate my performance from the next “B-level” player who is only concerned about excellence in his or her own work.
In other words, living ALL seven of the habits completely is much more likely to ensure future opportunity and security than just doing my own thing and staying out of the way. More and more, potential employers are only willing to take a candidate seriously, if he or she can demonstrate what it takes to bring out the best in themselves and everyone else.
Where can you better leverage the Public Victory in your own work? How will you differentiate your contribution from the rest of the pack? What do you put at risk by only worrying about your own deliverables? Let’s be careful how often we utter those infamous words, “That’s not my job.” They could turn into a very undesirable reality.
Innovation, creativity, and risk-taking have long been propped up as essential ingredients to an organizations’ ability to gain competitive advantage in the modern business milieu. And yet most employees will tell you that their workplace isn’t exactly as tolerant of risk as popular rhetoric might suggest. It appears that most individuals and organizations experience a love-hate relationship with the hard reality that accompanies true innovation – the need to experience failure, often repeatedly, before we experience the breakthrough of success.
If creativity is so important, why isn’t it more pervasive in formal group interactions and individual projects and initiatives? Conduct your own experiment, and I believe you’ll discover a key contributor to the standard climate of caution. When you ask a classroom full of eager Kindergarteners, “Which of you is an artist?” every hand goes up! And yet, when that same question is posed three years later to the same class of now seasoned pupils, a slightly more reticent group of 3rd graders isn’t as eager to identify with that same label. Why?? What happened in those intervening years? Perhaps some children are told their art is “good,” that it “conforms” to conventional expectations. “Look! Johnny’s tree looks just like a tree! Aren’t you a good artist!?” Yet Jenny is told, “You went a little outside the lines. Besides, trees aren’t supposed to be purple.” This oft unintended reinforcement, repeated over time, cements into the minds of impressionable children what they “can” or “can’t” do – what they should or shouldn’t do – who they are and are not.
Perhaps as adults we need only forget what we’ve been told about our abilities to uncover that hidden artist who’s been hiding all these years. You say, “I’m left-brained – much more logical in my approach to life.” Says who? Maybe you just haven’t allowed your more innovative nature to express itself. “I could never come up with new and different ideas like my co-worker!” Is it possible, you’ve never taken the time or put forth the effort to be deliberately different?
I propose that one key barrier to more innovation, expressed creativity, and calculated risk-taking in the workplace stems from the absence of such expressed values in the organization and/or the misalignment of stated values with day-to-day practice.
For example, if an individual employee personally recognizes the value of being more creative in her work, but reads the company’s plaque of narrowly defined values on the wall – Integrity, Service, Quality - she may hesitate to take much-needed risk, because it doesn’t appear to “fit.” Then again, even if Innovation appears in the list, when an employee’s boss tends to micromanage and behave in ways that forbids any actions “outside the lines,” it doesn’t really matter what’s hanging on the wall. That employee (and thousands of others like her) will eventually find their way to discouragement, disengagement, and literal resignation.
Does your organization explicitly include creativity and risk-taking among its values? If so, can you see it in day-to-day interactions among associates? Highly effective people who are truly interdependent regularly engage in ways that seek out the diversity and strengths in everyone involved in every assignment. It’s their M.O. They encourage robust dialogue that stimulates the hearts and minds of all parties. And even though they may uncover conflicting ideas and encounter failure in those divergent discussions, they also tend to synthesize breakthrough solutions more often than the masses. In what ways will you keep these values on the wall and alive in your actions?
In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey recounts a story about turning over the yard-care responsibilities at his house to his young son. “Green and clean,” he explains, are the criteria for success in this new job. When after 2 weeks his son still hasn’t fully accepted the responsibility of this new assignment, Stephen shares a moment of exasperation when he reminds himself of the deeper purpose of his calling as a father – “Raise boys, not grass.” This story came to mind recently, during a moment of frustration of my own.
Monday morning, I found myself in the middle of a steep learning curve, pretending to be a stone mason. I was with my 9-year-old son, Conner, at the house my father is single-handedly remodeling (re-building, is perhaps more accurate) to help Dad finish up the stone façade that would decorate the front of his house. He and Conner were about 75% finished affixing the beautifully cut faux stones to the wall and had asked me to squeeze freshly mixed mortar out of what amounts to an over-sized cake decorating cone into the spaces between the stones. This also requires smoothing out the mortar with a skinny trowel, attempting to even out any lumps and fill in all the gaps. Believe me – this was harder than it sounds.
About 20 minutes into my effort, the thought crossed my mind, “Gee! Why don’t we just hire a couple day-laborers with masonry experience to come and do this; then the three of us can go do something fun?!” We could have been doing anything more fun than working on the house, such as hiking, fishing, or carousing at the local amusement park. This thought no sooner crossed my mind, when it occurred to me what we were really engaged in. This wasn’t just about the work that needed to be done on the house. My dad would certainly not be set back in his construction progress, if Conner and I hadn’t spent those measly 2 ½ hours helping out. Instead, this was much more about building something together. This was about creating a lasting, tangible monument of sorts. This was, more importantly, about learning lessons of hard work and building relationships between three generations of Wangsgards.
Besides, doing something constructive with his hands is my dad’s idea of fun. And to be accompanied by his son and grandson in the process is something he’d much rather do than spend the day engaged in more shallow forms of amusement.
What are you building today? What is the state of your most important relationships? In what ways can you more efficiently “sharpen the saw” and satisfy the need for renewal in all four human dimensions: physical, mental, social/emotional and spiritual?
On second thought, I enjoy “masonry!” There’s nothing I’d rather be doing than molding the mortar of time into the spaces between my most precious possessions – my family, friends, colleagues, and clients.
The title of this entry probably sounds like something the great Jedi Master Yoda might say, but it’s actually a quote from Stephen R. Covey. A couple of times over the last week, I’ve heard people say that they tried the FranklinCovey methodologies for time management in the past, but they didn’t work for them. When I asked why, they said something like, “well, I would write stuff down, but then forget to look at it, so…what’s the point?” I explained to one of them, in a lighthearted way, that this breakdown wasn’t so much a problem with the system, but with the user!
So often, we take great pains to accumulate vast amounts of practical knowledge, but never really apply it. We take pride in the fact that we “read the book” or “attended the seminar”, and that’s the end of it. The question I posed to one individual, when he told me that he had “gone through The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People some years ago” was, “yes, but did the 7 Habits go through you?”
I sometimes wonder if we need to stop frantically searching for fulfillment in the latest fads and trends in the marketplace, and start rolling up our sleeves and getting down to the hard work of applying some of the simple truths we’ve already learned. I firmly believe that people should always have a thirst for learning, but also recognize that to learn and not to apply, is wasted effort.
It’s official. I’m a triathlete! Of course, that doesn’t mean that I broke any records or medaled in any category during last Saturday’s Topeka Tinman Triathlon. It does, however, mean that MS Word didn’t even recognize the word “triathlete,” and that I had to Add to Dictionary. It also means I accomplished my primary goal by finishing my first multisport event (swimming, cycling, running) with a smile on my face.
In this entry I offer six personal lessons (from countless possibilities) from this amazing experience that have broad applicability to life at large, both personally and professionally.
- Actively striving toward a goal is life itself. There is palpable energy in working daily toward the accomplishment of a significant goal. Sensing the progress I was making toward getting better and faster was both physically and psychologically gratifying. Knowing that I was doing something each day to improve was in itself extraordinarily motivating. In a much more extreme example, Victor Frankl, the late Austrian psychologist and WWII Nazi death camp survivor, realized the power of striving in his own survival. Even when all humanity and dignity had been stripped from him, he recognized that his ability to control his own thoughts, even during his unspeakable torture, is what quite possible spared him his life.
- You cannot “win” if you don’t know the score. Simply keeping track of my activity during training unleashed unknown sources of motivation to stay on course – to really take my preparations seriously. The detailed results that came from the officials about all 500+ entrants, including individual splits for each event, pace, transition times, and complete rankings for each phase, was a wealth of information. Most importantly, I learned how to use this type of information to keep score and improve for my next race. No doubt, this was an intense personal exercise in applying The 4 Disciplines of Execution.
- The greatest hurdle we have to overcome is our self. Half way into the run, I was exhausted. An internal debate ensued in my head. Loser Todd: “Go ahead and just walk for a while. No one will care.” Winner Todd: “No way! I’ve got to at least keep jogging, no matter how slow I’m going.” Loser Todd: “Come on! Your goal was just to finish with a smile. You’ll still achieve that.” Winner Todd: “Yes, but I’ll know I left something on the course – untapped effort, my integrity, a whole lot of pride.” I’m happy to report that Winner Todd won out. I kept running and achieved personal records in all three events.
- You always have more to give. The more you give, the more you get. Swimming is my weakest event. It is for most people. Especially on the open waters of a lake or ocean, most people succumb to self-imposed doubts about their abilities and unknown “forces” that may drag them down or hold them back. These are primarily mental barriers. Once out on the open water, I decided to focus on my reach and pull. I wasn’t the fastest, but I consistently passed others from beginning to end. The bike ride was by far my favorite. Sherriff’s deputies at each intersection allowed us to really dig in and focus on the race, not so much on traffic. Wish I always had that luxury during training! Again, as I focused on my cadence, what I was giving or not giving on the hills, and how I was able to get down and out of the wind on the downhill and straight-aways, I was predictably passing other racers. This became a game for me – to eye the next guy (or gal) in front of me, and make it my purpose to give whatever it took to reach and overtake him (or her). With few exceptions, I was able to dig into untapped sources of energy and drive ever closer toward the leaders.
- You’re never done, unless you say you’re done. During the final mile of the run, I began to consider whether I would ever want to enter another triathlon. The answer from my aching muscles was a resounding, “No way!” However, only a minute and a half after crossing the finish line, I was astonished by the surging rush of adrenaline and energy I was experiencing. It was a very real physical urge to want to keep running or get back on my bike and take in another 10 miles. To my own surprise, I began telling family and friends, “I can’t wait to do this again!” So, I just registered for my next Olympic distance triathlon. It takes place in 3 weeks on July 11th.
- It’s all about the relationships. This entire experience would simply be an exercise in personal fitness, if I hadn’t been connected to the dozens of people along the way (like yourself) who have inspired me, kept me on track, and allowed me to take the necessary time (thanks, Sweetheart and kids) to train for this short-term goal. It wouldn’t have been as fun! And I certainly wouldn’t be running in a July 4th 5k with my wife, immediately training for another triathlon (that I also talked my brother and a close family friend into doing), or contemplating a future marathon or even Ironman. These life-changing connections with other people are what enable us to live The 8th Habit.
Out of 155 entrants in the long-course, I finished 50th, with 2 hrs 22 min 8 sec.
I struggled to decide which of the following two ways to sum up this whole experience. So, in my ambivalence I offer both.
“Swim: 1100 yards. Ride: 20 miles. Run: 7 miles. Bragging rights: Priceless! ”
…or, perhaps a more humble quip,
“Great accomplishments aren’t so much about the limits you and your critics believe you are bound by, but rather much more about the person you and your allies are about to define and discover. ”
***Credits (My Allies)***
- Mom and Dad, for making my life’s experiment possible
- Jana, my wife, for your tireless support and patience
- Conner, my son 1, for our morning “Bike-Jogs”
- Dawson, my son 2, for our morning “Bike-Jogs”
- Jayci, my daughter, for understanding why you can’t go on our morning “Bike-Jogs”
- Bridger, my son 3, for your constant smiles and inspiration
- John, my training partner, for keeping me accountable
- Bob, my Tri mentor, for getting me hooked
- Chris, for keeping me running for the past 18 months
- Tyler, my brother, for agreeing to be tortured alongside me for Tri #2
- Courtney, my blog administrator, for forgiving me for being so verbose on this entry
I race in my first triathlon tomorrow morning. Surprisingly, I’m not terribly nervous, just concerned that I’m going to forget some important piece of equipment or preparation. You’d be surprised just how much “stuff” there is to pull this thing off.
Items to bring:
- Swim cap
- Swim goggles
- Bike shoes
- Bike gloves
- Running shoes
- Energy gels
- Water bottles
- Helium balloon
Yes – One inflated helium balloon, preferably of a bright and obnoxious color.
I made a special acquaintance in Detroit last month who got me into this adrenaline-induced fervor. Bob, my triathlon Jedi master, has shared his own race stories and offered some rather practical racing tips to help me prepare. The oddest tip he offered was to attach a helium balloon to the rack where my bike, helmet, glasses, shoes and socks will be waiting after the swim. When hundreds of dripping wet racers arrive on shore, they’re all attempting the same goal – to make a complete and speedy transition from the swim to the bike. Unfortunately, some triathletes spend several seconds – even minutes – just trying to find their own bicycle. A helium balloon attached near my bike will serve as an instant visual bearing, thus allowing me to sprint directly to my equipment.
Life is much more than a triathlon.
Think of the various “events” or “stages” in one’s life. Formal education. First job. Marriage. Children. Unemployment. Continuing education. Career changes. Disability. Unlike a triathlon, these events are not always distinct and separate from one another. They often overlap. They don’t all happen in the sequence we planned. Some are harder to train for than others. And we don’t always know whether we’re “winning.”
However, all of life’s stages can benefit from a clear and visual bearing that has the potential to keep us moving forward and ultimately on track. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we choose our values and goals. Each time we look up to take a breath, each time we gaze across the horizon of our life, we should recognize those values and know that we’re headed in the right direction. They are our instant visual bearing.
Stephen R. Covey has often said, “No one wants to climb the ladder of success, arriving at the top only to find out the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.”
If you haven’t already done so, carve out a few minutes in the next couple days to define and refine your own values. Anchor those visual bearings into your routine by sharing them with a loved one, making them visual and accessible. Use them in your weekly and daily planning routine to evaluate how things are going. There will be little doubt, as you look up now and again from the chaos of life, that you are fervently moving in the direction of your life’s mission. You’ll have the peace of mind and satisfaction of knowing that you are indeed winning the race!
I’m not exactly sure where I first heard that phrase. It is often attributed to well-known leadership guru, Ken Blanchard. One of my previous managers in the field of organizational development used it often to describe exaclty how valuable feedback is to successful leaders. Dr. Stephen R. Covey has said, “Leaders, beware! The higher you go in an organization, the less likely people are to give you straight feedback. Feedback is your life-support system. Without it, you will eventually fail. Do everything you can to create a culture where it is safe to give you feedback.”
In my own research of the most salient topics for leadership development within a variety of organizations, the ability and propensity to give constructive feedback always ranks in the top five most important leadership skills. When you think of your own best boss experience, chances are he or she was deft at delivering difficult news about your own performance in a way that didn’t hurt, but rather enlightened you. You knew the person giving the feedback had your best interest at heart.
Some feedback is certainly more difficult to deliver than other feedback. For example, it would be less painstaking to tell someone their presentation slides are too crowded than to tell that person he or she has bad breath.
About five years ago I was serving in a corporate position with responsibility for management development across an enterprise with a presence in roughly 23 different states. Mine was the privilege of working with leadership from around the company to develop management and leadership bench strength through a variety of activities, including one-on-one coaching, classroom training, trainer certification, and performance management, among others. One day, a senior vice president of a business group brought to my attention that a general manager in a remote manufacturing center needed some feedback. He suggested I might be the right person to deliver it. To make matters even more challenging, the nature of the feedback would be to help this mid-level leader see how his sub-standard dress and grooming habits were having a negative impact on his personal credibility and the credibility of the business unit. No one in the local facility among his own leadership team had been brave enough to tell him what was obvious to everyone else.
This champion had been skipping breakfast.
Recognizing the delicate nature of this task, I started with the simple, yet profound question – “What is the right way to do this?” I had memorized a simple yet effective formula for giving constructive feedback that I had taught dozens of times in the classroom. I had used it in practice a few times, too. So, this was a natural starting place. How can I ensure that the recipient knew I had his best interest at heart? How could I be specific, yet objective about what was being observed in his dress and grooming? If he had no solution to offer, how would I frame the expected change?
Then it occurred to me. Without the new expectations being delivered by someone whose opinion has teeth, he is not likely to act on the feedback. Part of my strategy then became to tell the senior vice president who had charged me with this challenging assignment that he should be the person to offer this critical insight to the general manager. I was now poised to give the executive feedback on his request for feedback! The whole proposition was feeling more and more career-limiting by the minute.
In the end, this senior leader was very receptive to my idea that he be the one to deliver the feedback. Together we strategized the best way to frame the message, ensuring that the general manager would recognize we cared about him and that his success was our ultimate objective.
The senior leader gave the feedback. The GM’s behavior improved immediately. He also went on to lead even bigger business units with this enhanced self-awareness. Part of his new leadership strategy was to create more open channels of feedback around him and his leadership team, to ensure something like this never happens again.
Call me crazy. Almost two weeks ago I signed up for my very first triathlon. With the exception of a mountain biking event three years ago, I’ve never participated in an organized race. I’ve certainly never run or swum in a race. And yet, something within me thought this would be a good idea.
Over the course of the first three Fridays in May, I had the privilege of teaching The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in Livonia, Michigan. One of the participants was a four-time Ironman triathlete. Just to be clear, that is a triathlon that includes a 2.5 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and a full 26.2 mile marathon! I found this incredibly inspiring and, the more we talked about his experience, incredibly do-able.
I will not be participating in an Ironman, however.
My triathlon is the Topeka Tinman, to be held on June 20th – a mere four weeks away. It includes an 1100 yard swim across the open waters of Lake Shawnee, a 19.2 mile bike ride, and a 7 mile run – often referred to as a sprint or Olympic triathlon in length.
Although I have tried over the years to stay active by running 3 to 4 miles, 3 or 4 times a week, nothing quite matches the intensity of focus and discipline that result from actually registering for a real race. Plus, there is some inherent motivation in not letting that hefty $95 entrance fee go to waste!
I have become quite serious about my workouts. I have enlisted a buddy down the street, who is also planning to race in the triathlon. I have tuned up my bike, purchased new gear (aerobars, a tri-suit, swim cap and goggles, and the like). I created a scoreboard spreadsheet for both of us to track our daily and weekly training progress. We individually update it and send it to one another, at least twice a week. In essence, I have applied the principles of The 4 Disciplines of Execution to my daily routine to ensure I reach my ultimate goal – finish the race with a smile on my face.
Although I’ve only been ultra-serious about training since signing up on May 15th, already I’m beginning to see results. My dear family and friends are holding me accountable. I’m dedicated to my workout routine. My buddy and I encourage and motivate one another to stay the course. I’m actually shedding unwanted pounds and find the adrenaline rush of intense exercise to be increasingly addicting! I’m witnessing all the principles behind The 7 Habits come to life in this short-term, microcosmic experience.
Undoubtedly, I may have been able to merely finish the race without any level of training beforehand. But I’ve come to realize, more and more with each passing workout, that not only will I be mildly competitive in my age group, but I’m discovering a level of stamina, strength, and affinity toward triathlons that will positively influence my quality of life – for the rest of my life.
Without question: We reap what we sow. Now, I only wish I had been more serious about sowing sooner!
Exemplary teachers are the personification of The 8th Habit—they find their voices while helping their students find theirs. Henry Adams said “A teacher affects eternity. He (she) can never tell where his (her) influence stops.” These educators merit recognition for transcending the norm. As I write, Education is morphing; placing increased barriers between teaching and learning. The word “education” comes from the Latin word “educare” which translates: “…to draw forth from within.” That is truly the challenge for today’s educators who are faced each day with, among other challenges, state regulated testing, which often forces them into a vicious cycle of repetition and regurgitation: a situation wherein neither the teacher or the student is sincerely engaged.
Yet, award-winning teachers awake each day excited about their opportunity to change lives. Anthony J. Mullen, National Teacher of the Year 2009, advises “passion… ignites a flame too bright to be ignored by students. …Students can feel the energy, enthusiasm, and creativity radiating from a teacher and realize that what is being taught is important and worthwhile.” Passion—the fire within as Stephen Covey puts it—cannot coexist with apathy. Extraordinary tea
chers care about their students and the futures of those they serve. They are unselfish advocates who, like Mullen according to his peers, approach their work with extraordinary effort, a commitment to serving youth, professionalism, high expectations, humor, a flexible cooperative attitude, and a smile on their faces.
When I was a teen, I had two teachers, Mrs. McDowell and Mrs. Evers, whom I remember very fondly. I loved to make them laugh. Mrs. Dowell’s laugh was contagious. She was kind, attentive, and generous with encouragement. She had a never-ending well of patience and tolerance for those of us who were less than mainstream students. Mrs. Evers was a fun and engaging young teacher, not much older than our big-hair-wearing, disco dancing, motley crew. She took her job very seriously, but with a measure of humor and forgiveness. When the coffee in the teachers’ lounge was spiked with liqueur and the principal’s announcements more slurred than usual, Mrs. Evers looked no further than me for the culprit. After the proper reprimand in front of her peers, she leaned down to my ear and whispered, “That was quite a hoot, young lady! Dangerous, definitely inappropriate, but dang funny!”
I have the profound privilege of certifying such dedicated teachers in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens curriculum. Increasingly impressed with the quality of the educators I certify, I find them to be student-centered professionals who view teaching more as a calling than a career. Those who are called to teach recognize the breadth of influence their role grants and are continually seeking to improve their knowledge base and to model behaviors which are worthy of emulation. For this reason, over 4500 schools nationwide and beyond (click here to watch a video) have turned to The 7 Habits training as their choice for principle-centered, productivity and leadership enhancement.
Having a small role in developing educators of Mrs. Dowell and Mrs. Evers’ caliber is quite an honor and a personal accomplishment for me of which I know they would both be proud. Despite my mischievous pranks, between their influence and The 7 Habits training, I guess I turned out okay (smile…snicker).
I recently read “Talent Is Overrated,” by Geoff Colvin, and thought I’d share a brief report on the things I found most valuable, especially since it’s all related to becoming more effective.
Mr. Colvin’s primary message is that people are not born with all the natural talent and abilities that will make them great it life. He asserts that, aside from some physical atributes that may give an athlete an advantage in a particular sport, everyone can achieve world-class performance through “deliberate practice” in his or her chosen field - business, music, sports, etc.
In his opening chapter, Mr. Colvin proceeds to debunk the commonly held beliefs that Tiger Woods and Mozart were simply born with the innate ability to excel at golf or music composition. Mr. Colvin argues that any of us may have been as great in either of these two fields, had we been born to Earl Woods or Leopold Mozart, their mentor fathers. He writes, “neither Tiger nor his father suggested that Tiger came into this world with a gift for golf.” He goes on to quote Tiger Woods himself, “‘Golf for me was an apparent attempt to emulate the person I looked up to more than anyone: my father.’ Asked to explain Tiger’s phenomenal success, father and son always gave the same reason: hard work.”
The author explains, drawing several research-based conclusions, that the secret – deliberate practice – is designed, can be repeated a lot, requires constant feedback, is highly demanding mentally, and isn’t much fun.
He goes on to say, “If it seems a bit depressing that the most important thing you can do to improve performance is no fun, take consolation in this fact: It must be so. If the activities that lead to greatness were easy and fun, then everyone would do them and they would not distinguish the best from the rest. The reality that deliberate practice is hard can even be seen as good news. It means that most people won’t do it. So your willingness to do it will distinguish you all the more.”
At this point in my reading I couldn’t get a famous quote by George Washington Carver out of my mind (apologies for repeating this in an earlier posting):
“People who do the common things in this life uncommonly well will command the attention of the world!”
Mr. Colvin’s book quite simply supports the premise our organization, FranklinCovey, is founded upon. That is, that everyone and every organization has the potential to achieve greatness. It is our mission “to enable greatness in individuals and organizations everywhere.”
Each of us might feel compelled, therefore, to ask this question daily, “What have I done today that will bring me closer to greatness?” It proves to be within our reach.
Will you grasp it?
So, how do you build a 7 Habits of Highly Effective People culture?
First, ensure that individuals are trained and have carried out their commitments made during the workshop including completion of the 7 Week Contract.
At the leadership/systems level, consider this adage: “what gets measured gets done.” When a leader’s/team’s performance plans and reviews include how effectively they incorporate 7 Habits tools and concepts into their business, you will have true alignment. (I know it’s a systems issue and could be a challenge to implement).
Consider this as well: organizations can go as fast as they are serious….Meanwhile, remind individuals of the responsibility and power that they have to make choices of behavior and to have constructive, candid conversations with their managers.
We expect so much of our managers, and sometimes get into “if only they would practice it, then I would” state, that we lose sight of what we have influence over.
In addition, check-out case studies that FranklinCovey has gathered on companies who have “enculturated” FranklinCovey content and achieve sustained, superior performance. http://www.franklincovey.com/tc/resources/view/cs
In his recently published biography, “The Snowball,” investment guru Warren Buffet is credited with offering the following advice:
”Be fearful when others are greedy. Be greedy when others are fearful.”
You can change the word “greedy” to anything you like better. Eager. Aggressive. Risky. It means just about the same.
Anyway you look at the current economic milieu, it clearly represents a profoundly poignant opportunity for people and organizations to capitalize on principle-centered thinking and action. Here are just a handful of pairings between popular 7 Habits principles and crisis-driven actions that you and I can use to strengthen our organizations.
- Production/Production Capability: Invest in the best people who might be nervous and go hire the best people who have lost work elsewhere. Your talent edge will continue to sharpen while the competition loses its.
- Emotional Bank Account: Assure your best customers and suppliers of your loyalty. Reinforce abundance. See this as a chance to bolster relationships of trust that may have been stagnant or malnourished.
- Begin With the End in Mind: Redefine what you and your organization need to look like on the tail end of the recession. This allows you to begin aligning your reality with your newly formed vision – now.
- Put First Things First: Hone your ability to focus and execute on your highest priorities. Use this time to build highly motivated teams toward making significant weekly contributions that are documented during regular accountability session.
Sure, there are less noble actions that fear can breed, such as the chance for the clever and strong to take advantage of the ignorant and the weak. However, that’s exactly why I emphasize “principle-centered.” Only by operating on true principles of effective human behavior will our actions from these difficult times sustain the kind of rewarding relationships we are seeking over the long haul. More and more, people can read our intentions like a book and will judge us by the outcome. We can’t afford not to make principles the centerpeice of every action.
This is Grain Valley Muffler in Grain Valley, Missouri. I will always have my cars inspected and repaired here. I tell everyone about their service, speed, and amazing value. No. I boast about them!
My first visit to this shop 4 years ago was right after another service station told me they couldn’t pass my car’s inspection until I had an exhaust leak repaired. Fully expecting to hear the Grain Valley repairman tell me that I would need to replace my muffler, pipe, and perhaps a number of other items, I braced for the worst.
About 15 minutes had passed, when an attendant reappeared in the waiting room. “You’re good to go!” he said.
”What do you mean?” I replied, insinuating I hadn’t authorized any services to be performed.
”Oh, there was just a small leak in the line, so I simply spot welded it shut. You’re good to go!”
That’s all fine and dandy, I thought. But how much was this unauthorized service going to set me back? “How much do I owe you?” I implored.
”Don’t worry about it,” he said, “It was too small to bother with any charges. You’re good to go!”
I had to double-check the date in my FranklinCovey planner to confirm it didn’t say the year 1953. Does this kind of thing happen anymore?
That was just the beginning of a string of similar gratis services. Oh sure, I’ve had more extensive repairs along the way that have cost me the price of parts and labor. But I NEVER question whether what they are doing or charging is fair. Can you say the same thing about your repair shop? Your accountant? Your cell phone carrier? Your airline? Your local government?
I estimate that occasional repairs on my high-miles vehicles have totaled around $1000 per year. That’s where loyalty IS the bottom line. They don’t advertise, they’re even out of my way, and their shop isn’t going to win any Popular Mechanics awards for aesthetics. But I know I can always trust them.
For your organization, what is your customers’ loyalty worth each year. Is the level of trust customers have in your brand building loyalty or eroding the relationship? For you personally, what is your employer’s loyalty worth to you each year? Add up your salary, benefits, time off, and bonuses. Are you continuously building more trust in your personal “brand” or are you gradually losing relevance in your field?
Fortunately there are very specific things each of us can do to build trust in our brands – 13 Behaviors, to be exact. If you want to study this challenge further, grab a copy of Stephen M. R. Covey’s best-selling book, “The Speed of Trust.” It’s all in there!
As the recession crawls along I see tension in leaders rising, which ADDS to the tension team members already feel. Some leaders are defaulting to their “normal” behavior; task driven, get the job done mentality. And…some leaders are thinking that all the chit chat about having to “engage employees” is out the window because “where are they going to go in this economy”?
As we see some glimmers of optimism and financial stability……
I would suggest a “pause” to consider the long term effects of this thinking or behavior…I understand the tension and task driven…I’m one of those…I also know that if I do NOT:
make them feel like part of the team
be very clear with them about what is happening and where we are going
continue to foster great idea generation to optimize systems and processes
THESE GREAT FOLKS WILL BE GONE WHEN THE ECONOMY BREAKS!!!!
The Knowledge Age is only just begun…the Industrial Age is even more gone today as folks re-train on 21st century skills in order to survive with 21st century jobs….We need to plan our way out of the recession…as our Leadership program illustrates….the carrot and the stick is long gone….even though some of us feel like this is a good time to use it.
Resist the urge to totally bear down, invest the time to have your team want to stay with you now….and later.
Last week I coined a new phrase. At least, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard it before. It goes like this:
“Perfect inaction is a miserable substitute for imperfect action.”
Too often, for example, we see 4 Disciplines of Execution clients spend way too much time getting ready to get ready. They want their WIGs (wildly important goals), lead measures, scoreboards, and WIG meetings to be perfect, before taking any action at all. However, during those 4 to 8 weeks of preparation, they miss out on the fruit of action – even if that action isn’t perfected yet. Err on the side of action. My good friend and fellow FranklinCovey consultant, Patrick Leddin, puts it this way, “Everything worth doing is worth doing poorly- at least at first.”
In Gilbert & Sullivan’s famous operetta, “The Pirates of Penzance,” art imitates life. The constable and his deputies, tasked with confronting the dubious and dastardly pirates, sing ernestly about their intentions to engage in certain conflict. Over and over again they sing, “We go! Yes, forward on we go. Yes, forward on we go.” All the while, they are marching in circles – NOT going. Finally, the hopeful – and increasingly more concerned – citizen onlookers chime in on the chorus and follow each “Forward on we go,” with their own, “Yes, but you DON”T go!”
Perhaps Nike’s ad slogan says it best. “Just Do It!”
A marathon is 26.2 miles—52,400 steps. In 2008, 20,000 people participated in the Boston Marathon. Most trained for months, some for years. Many are accomplished athletes—faithful runners who awake even in sub-zero temperatures for their morning run when the remainder of the populace turn over and crank their electric blanket control up a notch. Being that I am comfortably caudled in the latter, it may come as a shock that I did, indeed, join the less than 1% of the entire world who have participated in a marathon.
In 2000, as the Arthritis Foundation Executive Director for Middle Tennessee, I led the Joints in Motion team to the Dublin Marathon—never expecting to participate. Suffering from FMS, if I managed to walk the length of the mall during holiday season I was elated. But thanks to a fantastic doctor, six weeks later my energy level increased dramatically as my pain level decreased. I found myself walking farther and farther. Two weeks before our departure date, I decided to enter the marathon. The day before our flight to Ireland, I trekked 14 miles. I was significantly behind the others in training, but thought “why not?” Ironically, Sonia O’Sullivan, Olympic Silver Medalist, had the same thought the night before the race and made headlines around the world when she surprised only herself and won.
I knew the only headline I might make was back home in Tennessee: “Local woman drops dead in Dublin.” You see, I am what my friends dubbed: “athletically retarded.” But, I had a wildly important goal, a coach and a strategy. I tracked my lag measures closely and had specific lead measures: how many miles/days to walk; how much water to consume; attend meetings; etc. I listened intently to our experienced coach. He taught us to: sip water; pace ourselves; and use mental mantras to distract from aches and pains. The first week I chanted ”don’t pass out, don’t pass out.”
Although my official time reads more like a cross country road trip, it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life: the carb-cramming buffet the night before (now there’s a sport I could win a gold medal in); heart-pounding excitement as 8900 participants lined the streets; rainy, bone-chilling temperatures; laughs; tears; and finally crossing an invisible finish line. The crowd was long gone along with the finish line tape and flags— removed hours before without concern for the unprofessionals, the athletically challenged stragglers who followed a trail of empty water bottles to find the finish line.
Along the way, I chummed up with a cheery Englishman who in honor of Halloween was sporting an exceedingly large, green Leprechaun’s hat. When asked which organization he was supporting, in a melodious baritone British accent, he exclaimed, “It’s for the puppies!” He’d entered on behalf of the RSPCA.
One advantage of having little concern for your race time is that you can stop to go to the restroom at will. So, we popped into a pub where pint wagging patrons cheered us through to the water closet. When I came out, my jolly friend was chugging his own pint and reading the newspaper. To my puzzled face, he said, “So much for the puppies!” After saying farewell and Godspeed, we parted ways.
Growing up in the West, I spent many of my summers exploring the Rocky Mountains. Shortly after being introduced to technical rock climbing, I took a course and an expedition led by professionals of the world-renowned Exum Climbing School. During the years that followed, I especially enjoyed inviting friends or family, most of whom had never been rock climbing before, to venture up various peaks in Grand Teton National Park.
All eyes turned to me. As the freezing pellets of sleet turned into a steady stream of pelting hail, we took cover under a small overhang to gather our thoughts and take inventory of the situation. We had reached a point of no return along our route, committed now to attain the summit before we would reach our path of descent. All options to turn around and go back the way we came were gone.
During one of my 20+ trips up The Grand Teton, elevation 13,770 feet, our group was suddenly surrounded by a storm system that formed out of thin air, quite literally. We had reached about 13,000 feet, inching ever closer to the summit. Even in mid-August, this is an elevation where experienced climbers must dress in layers of winter clothing, knit caps and synthetic gloves, in order to adequately endure the unexpected elements. At this moment my dad’s last words to me, before I made the trek to Jackson Hole the day before, began ringing in my ears: “Will you be ready?”
It’s these kind of threatening moments in life – physically and mentally threatening – that tend to test our mettle. Seeds of doubt raced through my mind. Would we freeze to death? Would the extremely slippery granite surface cause someone to fall? Would we lose our way in the blinding snow?
Fortunately, we were prepared. We were dressed appropriately (even though some in our party had questioned the need to pack winter clothing just a couple days prior). I knew the route. I had been in this kind of storm in this very location before. We had taken timely refuge. “Yes, Dad,” I could hear myself saying, “we are ready!”
It also helps that August cloudbursts in the Tetons are brief.
After only about 10 to 15 tense minutes, the storm subsided. We were again able to regain our intended route and summit within the hour. Each person in the group experienced the intense personal satisfaction of having overcome something new and challenging. We were soon safely on our way back down to base camp.
While today’s tumultuous times may last a bit longer than a 10-minute summer snow storm, the lesson learned is the same. Be Prepared. In an era where entitlement and excess have shaped many of our expectations, it seems everyone would be well served to revisit and exercise the time-honored principles of personal responsibility and self-reliance. They are, after all, the essence of the Private Victory and being proactive.
Let’s not plan on how someone else will find and rescue us off the mountain. Instead, let us ask, “What will I do to rescue myself?” The thrill of taking friends and family to the summit and gazing over the challenging journey that lies behind us and the thrilling paths that lie before us is one of life’s great expeditions.
Will you be ready?
In the fall of 1843, Charles Dickens was in a slump. His last published work was not faring well, and debts were mounting. Overwhelmed with the knowledge that his own father had suffered in debtor’s prison, and fearing for his own family, writer’s block set in and things gradually went from bad to worse. Sleepless, he took to walking the London streets, night after night, hoping to find something to spark his imagination. Several times, he came face to face with a side of the city that was hidden from the eyes of most. Everywhere he went during those dark nights, he saw the homeless living in the alleyways, and the children working long hours through the night to help their families make ends meet. While Dickens was aware of the plight of the poor, and had, in fact, written about them in some of his earlier works, these nights had a profound impact on him.
He began to realize that he was not the victim here. He, with his relative wealth and power to reach thousands, was in a position to serve those less fortunate than himself. Thus began the feverish writing of one of Dicken’s most famous works, A Christmas Carol. This famous story of a selfish man obsessed with his own wealth and accumulation, and his subsequent transformation was the story of Dicken’s own life. The more he focused on the plight of the impoverished, the more creative he became. His own problems were put into perspective, and after a period of time, completely diminished in comparison to his mission, which was to bring to light the terrible conditions that existed in England, and rally those who had the resources to end it. Each holiday season, following the publication of this little book, Dickens would do a public reading in theaters all over the city. When he finished the story, and the applause died down, he would implore the theater-goers to learn from the character of Scrooge, and find joy and fulfillment by giving to those less fortunate.
As we wade through the economic crisis we are facing, it is so easy to withdraw and start hoarding in the spirit of personal survival. Times such as these demand that we remember Dicken’s masterpiece. We are an interdependent species and, contrary to our instinct, will thrive only when we reach out and help others.
In my field of work, it’s okay to take your work home with you, right?
About 12 years ago, after teaching my first 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I remember making an effort to really turn on Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. I had only been married a few months and wanted to show my new bride, Jana, that I was the world’s best husband. I came home from work one day, greeted my wife, and just sat there listening to her. Unlike any other day, I didn’t pick up the paper. I didn’t turn on the TV. I just stared at her and listened.
I didn’t’ get 30 seconds into my intense listening mode, when Jana said to me, “You’d better not be trying any of that work stuff on me.”
Sure, I could have been a little less obvious. And yes, I have improved my technique after a dozen or so years. (How do you stack up?) My point is, however, that when we want to make significant improvements in an interpersonal skill, we may need to step out and do something different and sometimes uncomfortable. We must appreciate the incremental progress we make along the way and be sure to break down our overall objective into bite-size pieces. Additionally, it’s always helpful to forewarn those who will be most affected by our new behavior that we’re trying something new. At least Jana didn’t turn and say to me, “Who are you and what have you done with my husband?”
At least I tried. (And, for the record, I’m still working on listening.) That’s the single most gratifying result I witness each week. I am thrilled to hear at least one person from each workshop or consulting session report back on the tremendous success they experience when they earnestly try even one piece of what we studied.
To illustrate my point, here is yet another compelling testimonial, this time from Cathy, a Veterans Health Administration associate, who attended one of my Project Management workshops a couple weeks ago (shared with permission, of course):
“I have realized several positive changes in my project management ability as a result of applying what I learned. Prior to attending your training session, I had no planned way of organizing a project. I now feel that I am able to manage and guide projects from point A to point B in a way that demonstrates efficiency and clarity. I now have a plan to resolve problems before it is too late, or before the problem gets out of control. Finally, I believe that I now do a much better job of prioritizing my goals and making better use of my time.” (click here to learn more about FranklinCovey’s Government Solutions.)
Our progress is a never-ending path of wins that come from the effort we put forth every day. Let’s not forget Dr. Leo Marvin’s advice from the 1991 comedy movie, “What About Bob?” – Baby Steps!
Practicing Habit 4: Think Win-Win of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People promotes mutual benefit. But, have you ever found yourself thinking ‘when-win’ instead? The ‘when-win thinker’ constantly asks: “When is it going to be my turn? When will I get to ‘win’ in this relationship? When do I score the ‘big one’ at work, or in the stock market? When will my ship come in?” Finding himself in a perpetual state of lack and ingratitude, this person is actually thinking ‘lose-win’—positioning himself or herself as the victim—reveling in a funk of entitlement.
‘When-win thinking’ steals your joy, locks it away and gives the key to fear. Fear then steps in and convinces you you’re not worthy of joy anyway. So, why do so many people find themselves thinking ‘when-win’? Conceivably, it is a learned behavior—one that has sometimes been passed down generation to generation. The inbreeding of kissing cousins ‘when-win’ and fear—an unholy union—has produced noxious offspring-bullying, ‘win-lose’ thinkers. Prisons are brimming with these takers who pillage and plunder, robbing society of the domestic tranquility framed in the constitution by our courageous forefathers.
However, in this fear-driven economy, ‘when-win thinking’ can latch on to the best and stressed of us. So, how do you shake it? First, recognize you have cascaded down the slippery slope into scarcity mentality-fearful that your piece of the pie has already been eaten by someone else. The task ahead is to shift back to the paradigm of abundance.
I’m partial to the definition of “abundance” found in the Encarta World English Dictionary online:
- Large amount: a more than plentiful quantity of something
- Affluence: a lifestyle with more than adequate material provisions
- Fullness: a fullness of spirit that overflows
Building on the last characterization, to regain the paradigm of abundance you must reclaim your joy! Rather than focusing on what you don’t have, let your spirit overflow! Remind yourself daily of all the things you DO have such as: love of family, health, skills, and opportunities. What? Do you think I can’t see through this monitor the rolling of your eyes and the smirk that appeared on your face when you read the word “opportunities?” Dale Carnegie and his contemporaries frequently told stories such as that of a wealthy man who’d lost all his riches in the crash of ‘29. Yet, rather than hurl himself out a window, or retreat into self-pity, he charged the day; put on his one and only suit; donned a fresh carnation in the lapel; and picked up a copy of The Wall Street Journal. A cheerful greeting was his gift to all passers by, and when stopped by an associate who queried his state, he exclaimed, “Why it’s your lucky day because I am looking for a new opportunity!” Because he refused to succumb to the loser’s mental rhetoric of ‘when-win thinking’, it wasn’t long before this leader found the opportunity that rebuilt his monetary riches ten-fold.
So, if you’ve found yourself craning over the fence to survey the quality of your neighbor’s grass, rubber-necking a new Maserati, or wishing you got that island caretaking job in Australia (Okay, I admit it! I reeeeeeally wanted that one!), you need to know that the lonely guy driving the Maserati would give anything to have a loving spouse and two sweet kids just like yours.
Early Monday morning a dear friend of the family passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. He was only in his mid-50s. All who knew him loved him. He spent his life tirelessly serving others. For example, the final few hours of his life on Sunday were spent visiting a friend who had been diagnosed with 4th stage cancer to provide her comfort and support. That same evening he spent time diligently preparing to teach early the next morning (as he had every morning this school year) as a volunteer instructor for his church’s youth religion class. He loved his children and extended family deeply. He provided living quarters free of charge in his own home to missionaries from his church. If one of his expressed goals in life was to serve others, he certainly proved it through his tireless actions. Although he will be sorely missed, he left behind a lifelong legacy of caring and love in his path.
We will miss you, Kevin.
I’m confident that Kevin thought about the legacy he might leave behind, at least a few times during the course of his life, even if he expected to stay much longer. This unfortunate event caused me to pose the same question to myself: What legacy will I leave behind? Is my life’s mission crystal clear? Do I keep it foremost in mind during my weekly and daily planning? Does it drive my every decision? Do I ever find myself trading what I want most of all in life, for what I might l like in the moment? Is the quality of my relationships moving in a direction that would cause others to express similar sentiments at my life’s end?
All of us stand to benefit by occasionally re-evaluating our progress toward fulfilling our own life’s mission. If we don’t already have one, no time could be better than the present to commit our personal life’s credo to paper.
I certainly don’t mean to convey a morbid or overly somber messge, but I do hope to generate deep introspection among those who wish to become a more deliberate author of their ultimate life’s story. That is the power of Habit 2: Begin With the End in Mind.
To this end, I invite everyone to share a brief comment under this posting that includes at least one life’s goal that is deeply important to you – one that is yet incomplete. These are likely to inspire the reader and hold us all a little bit more accountable, knowing we’ve shared them publicly.
I’ll go first. I wish to be a better husband and father – one who is known for his patience, love, understanding, and deep commitment to promoting family values in his home and throughout the community.
Care to share?
These days it is so easy to fall right into the Circle of Concern….fear about the economy, jobs, houses, etc. And just when there is a glimmer of hope there comes another dose of a news station with the big “BUT”…..and the emphasis on how bad it is continues it’s pounding cadence. It makes it easy not to sleep so well at night.
I hunt almost obsessively for the little stories of light…and they are there!!!!! A car company not needing any more bailout money….why was that not front page news? Home building permits up beyond expectations…why was that buried???
Anyway…it take great energy to stay focused on the things one can influence….and stay highly effective….and I have a tool for you!!! It’s this site: http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/. They do the job! They find the good news and leave the other stuff for the other media groups.
I know we need to get through some tough times…but it is so much easier for me to see the forest through the sometimes very thick trees when I have a little support…a little good news. And I can start to see each small thing adding up…which fuels my optimism and then sends me right back into my Circle of Influence for another shot at whatever challenge I’m up against!
I was listening to NPR recently and caught Garrison Keillor’s installment of “The Writer’s Almanac”. He read a poem by Nancy Fitzgerald entitled, “The Meaning of Life” which I found very impactful. I offer forewarning and ask for preforgiveness from the queasy…
There is a moment just before a dog vomits when its stomach heaves dry, pumping what’s deep
inside the belly to the mouth. If you are fast you can grab her by the collar and shove her
out the door, avoid the slimy bile, hunks of half chewed food from landing on the floor.
You must be quick, decisive, controlled, and if you miss the cue and the dog erupts en route, you must forgive her quickly and give yourself to scrubbing up the mess.
Most of what I have learned in life leads back to this.
The Meaning of Life” by Nancy Fitzgerald from Poems I Never Wrote. © Poetry Harbor, 2001.
As I ponder the poem’s “aftermath”, I make connections to Habit 1, Be Proactive. Highly effective people choose to accept reality and not derail as a result of unfair, unjust, unwelcome, unpleasant life events and circumstances. Fitzgerald advises to “forgive her quickly”. The ability to forgive — and to mean it — is the mark of an emotionally healthy, highly effective person. As Stephen R. Covey writes, forgiveness is a verb – real and sincere forgiveness inoculates us from debilitating bitterness. In Joyce Meyers’ book, “Beauty for Ashes”, (1994 Time Warner), she puts it this way: “Harboring unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping your enemy will die! Unforgiveness poisons anyone who holds it, causing him to become bitter. And it is impossible to be bitter and get better at the same time!”
I also link this poem to Stephen M.R. Covey’s best-selling book and training program, “Leading at the Speed of Trust”. “…give yourself to scrubbing up the mess”. When we “give” ourselves to Right Wrongs, we are taking concrete action by demonstrating one of the 13 Behaviors that build, extend, and restore trust when it has been violated.
Our dog, Sparky. She is preforgiven.
Every day the perfect leader spends the last few minutes of the day planning the next. Each hour broken down into perfectly detailed steps toward a series of well-defined goals. In a perfect world, you wake up with the energy and resources to ascend those steps and embrace your goal. However, much to your disappointment the world is not perfect and neither are you.
If you wear various hats as I (and most of us) do, you often find yourself defined by the roles associated with those hats and validated by the execution of your goals. I have strived to be the perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect daughter, the perfect sister, the perfect friend, the perfect consultant, the perfect student, the perfect… Until I have found myself in the “perfect” whirlwind. At times, I couldn’t see for all the projects and commitments whirling around me. It appeared I’d forgotten how to say “no.” For some reason in my life, I equated saying “no” with failure, or at a minimum inadequacy.
Perhaps the same is true for you in business. You strive for perfection, say “yes” to every goal, and find yourself caught in a roaring whirlwind-unable to progress-feeling as if you are failing. To fight the whirlwind, you must be proactive rather than perfect, and you need discipline. In fact, what you need is four disciplines-The 4 Disciplines of Execution.
In my role as a community mobilizer, the goals are substantial and impact many people and organizations. Facilitating the 4 Disciplines process, the first thing we do is identify 2 or 3 Wildly Important Goals (WIG’s). These WIG’s drive everything we do. To reach those sometimes lofty goals such as lowering gun violence, or minimizing family violence, the laser focus and dedicated cooperation of many people and organizations is vital.
Identifying commonalities in agency missions and aligning representatives from those agencies on one collective goal is quite a task. However, when the 4 Disciplines are applied, it is accomplished and the results can be astounding. Take the city of Aurora, IL for example. They partnered with FranklinCovey and identified their number one WIG as lowering gun violence by 20%. Every member of each city department focused all their energies on that WIG and voila! Eight months later, not only did they lower gun violence by 21%, but gun-related homicides were reduced by 75%! They indeed conquered the whirlwind.
Another community partnered with FranklinCovey to strengthen families and improve the welfare and future of their children. We customized curriculum for The Jacksonville Network for Strengthening Families which became The 7 Habits of Successful Families in Jacksonville, and the network deployed it throughout Jacksonville, FL. Having successfully served their goal of over 3000 families now, their methodology and results has become the model for similar initiatives across the country.
Avoiding the whirlwinds takes effort, but is easier when you employ this system of disciplines. I was privileged to be there at the beginning of both of these city initiatives and can attest to the courage and determination that Aurora’s Mayor Tom Weisner, and Jacksonville’s Pete Jackson and Robyn Cenizal demonstrate daily as they lead these legacy-building projects.
I had a very, very young man in my 7 Habits class last week. He came to the class just hoping he could get through 3 days of this, since he was asked to attend….but he was amazing. He felt no titles in the room and he had a voice. And he shared that he had a girlfriend. And he thought about how he could be a better partner. And he came in the next day and with shining eyes told us he had a story to share with the 12 of us. We expected to hear how many emotional deposits he made and what great results he got. What he told us was that he was acting with kindness (deposits) in a way he may not have before….but the evening did not work out. He and his girlfriend ended up blowing up at each other….and he slept on the couch. But you know what? His eyes were still shining as he was telling us this story….he felt GOOD that he had made the deposits….he felt GOOD about himself…and he was thinking about the end in mind he wants with this relationship…and he has this new skill of knowing how to make deposits…and be conscious of the withdrawals. He will think about the 5 to 1 rule…..5 deposits to 1 withdrawal. He was trying to set up the win/win. And he will continue to work at it. And he will know if and when this is the relationship he wants made up of courage and consideration from both parties.
Gosh…this is so worth it…but so hard to do……
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People , Stephen R. Covey introduces us to a model we call The Maturity Continuum. This model shows us how the 7 Habits work together as a synergistic team, rather than as seven separate and disconnected ideas. Anyone who has attempted to live a few of the habits for an extended period of time has probably learned that you can’t live one habit, without understanding it’s relationship with the other six.
One of the most important concepts taught in this model is the idea that in order to achieve the highest degree of maturity, which is interdependence, or the ability to work effectively with others, one must first achieve independence. In other words, if I’m dependent on a single employer for my livelihood, I’ll never truly feel free to talk straight or give honest constructive feedback when asked for my opinion. I’ll tend to “suck-up” and say what I think everyone wants to hear, rather than be intellectually honest.
As I watch the challenges of this new century unfold, I am becoming acutely aware of many whose dependence on their employers is becoming glaringly evident. Consider this story from The October 1950 Reader’s Digest:
“In our friendly neighbor city of St. Augustine great flocks of sea gulls are starving amid plenty. Fishing is still good, but the gulls don’t know how to fish. For generations they have depended on the shrimp fleet to toss them scraps from the nets. Now the fleet has moved. …
“The shrimpers had created a Welfare State for the … sea gulls. The big birds never bothered to learn how to fish for themselves and they never taught their children to fish. Instead they led their little ones to the shrimp nets.
“Now the sea gulls, the fine free birds that almost symbolize liberty itself, are starving to death because they gave in to the ‘something for nothing’ lure! They sacrificed their independence for a handout.
“A lot of people are like that, too. They see nothing wrong in picking delectable scraps from the tax nets of the U.S. Government’s ‘shrimp fleet.’ But what will happen when the Government runs out of goods? What about our children of generations to come?
“Let’s not be gullible gulls. We … must preserve our talents of self-sufficiency, our genius for creating things for ourselves, our sense of thrift and our true love of independence.”
It’s hard to believe that article was written almost 60 years ago. And yet, it’s message is as viable today as ever. In order to truly be able to give our very best to any organization, we must first be independent of that organization. When we have our own needs taken care of first, it’s much easier to reach out and take care of the needs of others.
Last week, I had the privilege of facilitating a 7 Habits for Managers program to a mix of leaders from diverse organizations including a state hospital, community hospital, and public schools. All participants were, of course, employees of a not-for-profit organization. But that’s is exactly what made the experience so profound. Not one person in the room was responsible for making his or her organization profitable, yet the principles taught in the 7 Habits for Managers program transcended that fact. Their need to be fiscally responsible and increasingly more effective was met by principles that never discriminate.
We began by discussing the need for leaders to lead themselves and then to lead others – as opposed to being managers who don’t lead by example and then attempt to control or manipulate their employees. Leadership is certainly not for the weak of heart. But it is certainly for those with heart.
This week I would invite all leaders (whether by title or by function) to revisit the 7 Habits and decide which habit could most enhance your leadership practices at the moment. Is it being more proactive? Do you always begin each endeavor with a written plan? Are you spending sufficient time on your priorities, instead of relentlessly being drawn in by the urgent? Does your team believe win win-win solutions? Do they actively seek them out? How well do you and others truly listen to understand, instead of listening to formulate your response?
When Ullyses wanted to hear the sweet, sultry song of the Muses, he knew that others had been met by tragedy when their ships turned too close to the rocks and were dashed into pieces. Ullyses had a plan. He told his seamen to fill their ears with wax and continue rowing, no matter what he might say or do during the journey. Then, they lashed him to the mast of the ship. Ullyses was able to listen to the beauty of the Muses’ ballad as the ship sailed safely on its course. No matter how much he screamed at the sailors to take him closer, they kept him safe at bay.
Who will lash you to the mast? Personally, I’ve decided that I need to focus on better working the priorities I’ve already set for myself, and not let distractions get the best of me. I’ve shared my intentions with others who can “lash me to the mast.” I’ve physically removed some distractions that might otherwise hold me back.
My fourth child has Down Syndrome (DS). His name is Bridger. One in 2 babies with DS are diagnosed with some type of congenital heart defect. After Bridger’s birth and while he was still in the hospital, several doctors and technicians carefully listened to his heart with a stethescope to determine whether there was a classic murmur or abnormality in his heart’s rhythm. “Sounds perfect!” they would all say.
One week after his birth, we took little Bridger in for his first check up with our pediatrician. She listened to his heart. “Sounds great!” she exclaimed. Next day: Off to the cardiologist.
With DS, it is almost automatic that kids see a cardiologist as soon as possible to get an echocardiogram (ultrasound). The picture created by an echo machine is a much better way to diagnose whether there are problems with the heart chambers, vessels, and valves. The cardiologist first warmed up his stethescope and placed it on my son’s chest. He listened. He listened more. He kept listening…
As you might imagine, we were especially interested in his opinion. After all, he’s the specialist and would hopefully confirm what previous professionals had found – nothing. After what felt like an eternity, the doctor declared, “Well, I agree. It sounds fine. Let’s take a look.”
No sooner had the probe been placed on Bridger’s chest, than we began to see what we had hoped NOT to see. Holes. There were two obvious gaps between the chambers of his heart that would need to be repaired, if we expected Bridger to enjoy any long-term quality of life.
Sometimes we think we know what others are experiencing. Their circumstances appear generic enough to us that we have likely experienced something similar. We listen. Or rather we think we listen. Solutions easily come to mind and we share them gratuitously. But maybe, we’re wrong…
Sometimes we have to take a deeper “look.” Sometimes attentive listening just doesn’t cut it. Any time emotions run high or the stakes are high, we need to apply more empathic methods – empathic listening. For you 7 Habits aficionados, you know that empathic listening is central to Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood. At its core, empathic listening is reflecting another person’s feelings and rephrasing his or her content – to the other person’s satisfaction.
When you listen more deeply, you may finally reveal the holes in somebody’s heart.
Think about those close to you – at work or at home. Who may be withdrawing from their best work, just because they don’t feel understood? You’ll be surprised what listening more deeply can do to transform the relationship and lead to greater levels of effectiveness. There are very real and specific things you can do when nobody’s listening.
p.s. Bridger had open heart surgery in December, at 5 months old. It went perfectly and he is now firing on all four cylinders (or rather chambers). It’s considered a permanent fix!
Daily, one of the top internet searched items is “free stuff”. People look for free products, free music downloads, free coupons, and free information. Focusing on the latter, consider the following.
The top 5 searches on one search engine today were: 1. American Idol; 2. Jillian Harris; 3. Mariska Hargitay; 4. Chris Brown/Rhianna; and 5. IRS.
American Idol last week had 21.2 million viewers (Nielsen estimates). Jillian Harris, former “dump-ee”, is now getting a chance at being “dump-er.” Mariska Hargitay is having series health issues. Chris Brown and Rhianna are bringing relationship violence to the media forefront. And for those of you who aren’t using your planners, April 15th is just around the corner.
So what in the world do all those topics have in common? One might answer the common thread, with the exception tax prep needs, is the desire to avoid one’s own issues while becoming engulfed in others’ problems. However, that is only one perspective. What if…just what if…the underpinnings of these searches suggest personal concerns and your desire to live life as intended? Ponder this…
Search Number 1: Dreams and Aspirations (Spiritual Dimension)–Perhaps this search represents your deep desire to, against all odds, go after your dreams-to develop and showcase your talents and skills and find purpose in life. Are you interested in fulfilling a mission—leaving a legacy?
Searches 2 and 4: Relationships (Emotional/Social Dimension)–Maybe this search represents your recognition that it is all about relationships-that building healthy interpersonal relationships does make a difference in your long-term health and happiness. (Comment on this blog entry and request a copy of the government report “Why Marriage Matters.”) If you don’t have healthy personal relationships, how are you supposed to build strong, fruitful professional relationships?
Search 3: Health (Physical Dimension)–Stress is the number one killer. Conceivably, you may be concerned about your health and the health of your loved ones. Are you looking for a way to find balance between your personal and professional lives?
Search 5: Education and Accountability (Intellectual Dimension)–With economic and job market volatility, you may be looking for ways to meet your responsibilities. Are you concerned about your future and that of your family-asking yourself what you need to do, or how you need to grow, to assure professional sustainability and financial freedom?
Learning to practice Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw will help you search yourself and identify pressing needs in each of these human dimensions. Plan one activity each week that allows you to use your brain to learn. Plan another that will engage your heart with another’s to find your purpose. Sign up for a training to learn something new-stimulate your brain with possibilities and opportunities. Download a free sample planner (free stuff!!) and practice scheduling time for physical activity—if only a walk around your building at lunch—to develop the habit of regular exercise.
In fact, that’s all from me right now, I’m heading for the park with Little Man Tate, the world’s laziest Yorkie. We can both use a trot and some fresh air. Meet me back here next week and share how you’ve sharpened your saw.
No moving stories this week. Instead, I’d like to share the simple yet amazing results that come from applying the tools we teach. One of my favorite clients invited me to teach Project Management a couple weeks ago as part of his organization’s open enrollment education program. He and another colleague attended from the same division. I received an email from him two days later that included this excerpt:
[My co-worker] mind-mapped his Behavioral Based Safety Training, and used that to fill out his Project Plan on Microsoft Project. He filled out several of the other tools as well, and when he was finished he showed the whole thing to our boss (VP of Human Resources). Our boss was very impressed, and [my co-worker] made sure to tell him that all of it came from your workshop.
Of course, our goal isn’t just to impress the boss. Our mission is to “enable greatness in people and organizations everywhere” But that’s exactly what happened. In the very first few hours after attending this workshop, someone went back and ernestly applied the tools to his world. And it’s making all the difference! Greatness is being unleashed.
One of my favorite quotes that I often use to close my programs comes from George Washington Carver. He said, “When common people do common things uncommonly well, they command the attention of the world.” Doing the common things, uncommonly well.
Principles are common. Their practice is not.
When you and I practice basic principles of effectiveness, we indeed command the attention of the world around us and inspire others to enable their own greatness. People take note. It inspires trust in you and in the principles you employ.
Here’s a challenge for you. Dust off the most recent participant manual you received in a personal development workshop. It doesn’t matter to me whether it was a FranklinCovey workshop, who sponsored it, or what subject you covered. As long as it’s still relevant to your work, pick one thing from that workshop that you know will make your life easier (just ONE) and apply it today. Apply it all week long. Apply it for the next month. Chances are people will notice. Chances are you will “command the attention of the world.”
Then, come back here and tell us about it!
A common question that we FranklinCovey consultants ask participants in our Focus and 7 Habits classes is whether or not their values and mission align with the values and mission of the organization they work for. In a day and age where we have almost unlimited choices as to what to do for a living, why would we spend 8-10 hours a day doing something we absolutely hate?
Frequently I’m concerned that we’re leaving people with the impression that unless their job is perfect, where every single day seems like play, they need to keep looking for another job.
Here is something I like to remind my participants. All jobs have downsides to them. While someone else’s career might seem perfect to you, I guarantee that to the other person, there are tough, tough days and weeks sometimes where their jobs are anything but fun. For example, I love working for FranklinCovey. I’ve wanted to work for Stephen Covey since I was a freshman in college and heard him lecture on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It took me a very long time to acquire the skills and credibility for the work I do, but I was relentless and eventually achieved my goal. I have not been disappointed. For the past 15 years, I have had my dream job, but do you know what I hate?
Oh sure, at first it was awesome. During the first couple of years I was living the James Bond fantasy, travelling to 10 different cities each month, checking into hotels, and when asked for my name replying with “Cathcart…James Cathcart. I had the perfect job.
Then I got married and had children. That beats the James Bond fantasy big-time, and the travelling lost a little of the luster. Now, in 2009, I absolutely loathe airports, airplanes, airline food (which you now have to pay extra for), hotels and taxi cabs. I find no pleasure in any of that. If Star Trek transporters existed and I could beam to Boston from Seattle in the blink of an eye, I would then have the perfect job.
But such technology doesn’t exist, and so I travel…a lot. But here’s the thing: the upside of my job (teaching this incredible content, meeting such interesting people and tapping into my unique talents and voice) is so fantastic that it swamps the downside of my work. No, I don’t love everything I do, but man do I love the teaching part.
You don’t have to have the perfect job. You just need to find work that taps into something that you are passionate about. Something that fulfills a need that others are willing to pay for, and lends itself to your talents and gifts. When you do, treasure it. Don’t take it for granted. Put your heart and soul into it and watch what happens.
Someday, someone will look at you and say to a friend or colleague, “See that person over there? Now they have the perfect job.”
To find out what some of your talents and values are, consider the FranklinCovey Mission Statement Builder found at the following site:
I was teaching a Leading At The Speed of Trust class last week…and lunchtime I did battle with a new credit card company. I am an online banking/paying person; I pay my card off each and every month. But something was wrong…I had a balance!!! So I was on their site and was disgusted as I thought they were scamming me….not showing me my whole balance…..just what they wanted me to see to earn more interest. My New York distrust and paranoia came to bear….
I shared my situation with the class as to why the world could no longer be trusted!!!! It’s companies like this one that make it bad for everyone….etc….
The next day as class began, I hung my head and with a little bit of shame, let them know that I had a delightful conversation with a nice guy from the credit card company who sorted through the account with me, and helped me realize I just did not know how to read the statement. The tables had now turned. The company was to be trusted, but maybe not me! I quickly paid the bill in a small attempt to restore trust with him and this company.
The moral of the story: The Smart Trust Matrix is a great tool to use to STAY OUT OF No Trust, Distrust and Blind Trust. Had I really thought through how to extend trust, do the right analysis first and be open that perhaps not everyone is out to get me…..I could really be a more trusting individual and team member. But I got stuck somewhere between No Trust and Distrust….which can really create enormous Trust Taxes with everyone. I must remember to BEHAVE CONSISTENTLY to the highest level of my Integrity, and I need to make sure I have the right motive and Intent before acting….and watch those slips and slides….particularly in today’s world of mostly distrust!
My family, from cold New York, descended on our home in sunny Tucson, AZ for a few days in February. It is a once-a-year tradition…there’s about 7-8 members involved, finding a place to sleep anywhere in the house. My parents come, they are in their 80’s and terrific dancers. My father still runs his small business. They just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.
My mom now suffers from dementia. Every time I see her, a little more of her disappears. She is physically in great shape…but struggles to tell her three daughters apart.
Here’s what I know: I am able to sleep at night knowing I am putting the big rocks…the MOST important things first. My parents and I speak a couple times per week; the last few years I have made sure we see other a few times a year and everyday I keep learning that it is unacceptable to not identify and put the most important things first.
Whether it is your team, your peers, your family….don’t let the small rocks fool you. Don’t let your ego overwhelm you…take the time to consider your values and the “most important”. Don’t let the urgency of the day to day cause you to regret later on…If you need help with figuring this out….take a Focus: Achieving Your Highest Priorities class….that may be just the “big rock” you need to come to terms with what’s important in your life.
Keep your eye on the biggest rocks. Don’t live to regret it later.
Six years ago this month I was sitting in a friend’s living room in our neighborhood talking about nothing. These are friends in their mid-30’s who had two beautiful children, good income, and apparent happiness. Out of the blue the wife said, “I’m planning to start medical school this Fall.”
I just about fell out of my chair. Not because someone would go to medical school – that happens all the time. I was surprised primarily by this seemingly dramatic turn in her life and career as a stay-at-home mom who seemed to have already established the life that she wanted. Besides, most people begin this kind of endeavor a little earlier in life. She went on to explain that she had the grades for it and had always been interested in the health occupations. Good for her!
Then she said something that rang in my ears for the next several weeks. My neighbor’s reasoning was, ” I’m going to look back 8 years from now, and I will have either become a doctor or I won’t. Regardless of what I do in that time, 8 years are going to pass.”
Time will pass…
It marches on. It is relentless in its persistence to see us all to the inevitable. It’s the greatest asset we possess, and yet we can’t save it, borrow it, store it, or reclaim it. But we sure can waste it.
I had been considering returning to school myself for a second graduate degree at the time. I had my eye on earning a Ph.D. in Leadership & Organizational Change. Besides, my current employer was offering employees a very rich reimbursement program. I began repeating to myself, “Three or four years are going to pass, Todd. You will look back at that span and will have either structured the priorities in your life to accomplish this goal or you won’t. (Insert echo: “You won’t…you won’t…you won’t.”)
And so, I never looked back.
Oh, sure there were moments when I wondered whether I had lost my mind. The sheer volume of research and writing that was required, compounded by the need to be a half-way present husband and father of three, was a balancing act I hadn’t fully anticipated. And in the middle of it all we relocated half-way across the country to begin a new chapter in my career. Weekly planning saved my life. Scheduling my “Big Rocks” before the whirlwind of each week began was my life line. It was hard, hard work.
What about about you? What life goals are fading at the bottom of your “bucket list,” obscured by the urgency of the day-to-day? When you look back three, five, or ten years from now, what will you have accomplished that you haven’t yet begun? Today, draw a line in the sand. Write that single, most important goal down. Share it with someone who will hold your feet to the fire. Prioritize. Then execute it with abandon!
Don’t let time pass you by.
Recently, I heard a speaker named Tom Perry give the following counsel:
“Those of us who have been around a while…have recognized certain patterns in life’s test. There are cycles of good and bad times, ups and downs, periods of joy and sadness, and times of plenty as well as scarcity. When our lives turn in an unanticipated and undesirable direction, sometimes we experience stress and anxiety. One of the challenges of (life) is to not allow these stresses and strains to get the better of us, (but instead) to endure the varied seasons of life while remaining positive, even optimistic. Perhaps when difficulties and challenges strike, we should have these hopeful words of Robert Browning etched in our minds: “The best is yet to be.”
As I travel around the United States and take note of how various individuals and organizations are coping with the challenges brought about through these troubling times, I have noticed that those who are most unaffected by the economic downturn, and are maintaining the sort of optimism Perry talked about, are those who have pared their lives and institutions down to their core values and needs. They have lived within their means, with a clear focus on what matters most. They have spent a lot of time in Quadrant II (back when times were booming), and prepared for the eventual downslide (which is always inevitable, if not precisely predictable). To these people, it is easier to reach out and help others, because their own fundamental needs are already met.
I’m reminded of Henry David Thoreau’s book Walden, in which he describes his 2-year experience at Walden Pond, near Concord, MA. He lived alone with no calendar and no clock, trying to simplify his life down to it’s basic needs. Contrary to popular belief, he did not live in isolation. He made daily visits to Concord, and frequently had guests over to his small cabin for lively conversation. Explaining his sabbatical, Thoreau said the following:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately. To confront only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what they had to teach…and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
Near the end of his life, Thoreau was asked if he had made peace with God. His response was “I wasn’t aware that we had ever quarreled.”
As I ponder Thoreau’s lessons from Walden, and plan ahead for the future, whatever that future may bring, I believe that I too will “confront only the essential facts of life”, and do without some of the Quadrant III things that seem so compelling at the time, but really have nothing to do with what matters most.
Albert Einstein, icon of intellect and insight, said “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Universities are focused on higher learning when perhaps they should promote a course entitled Unlearning 101. Course objectives would include: remove cultural filters; abandon destructive behaviors; and stimulate individual creativity and ingenuity. Unlearning 101 would be a prerequisite for any degree plan. Pursuing a course of higher learning without having properly unlearned is akin to rolling naked in a mud puddle before dressing in a tuxedo. No matter how great the suit looks, you still need a bath.
Coming up on a half a century of life, I realize I’ve spent as much of my life unlearning as I have learning. I was 21 before I finally unlearned the ridiculous view that as long as I still had checks-I had money in the bank. I have unlearned, and am constantly unlearning, trans-generational prejudices. I have unlearned the inherited notion that I have little worth. I have unlearned the deceptive idea that I must always be “right.”
Stephen R. Covey noted, “Accountability breeds response-ability.” You are better equipped to respond when you have effectively evaluated the paradigms that shape your decisions. Even the most obstinate of us will unlearn destructive behaviors when the pain of being stagnant and rejected outweighs the comfort of the old paradigm. Here you become open to accountability, the concept of mutual benefit, synergy, and fulfilling a higher purpose. Dr. Covey proposed, “The way we see the problem is the problem.” To unlearn, your mind must be open to change and employ critical thinking-questioning paradigms, examining facts, and exploring possible outcomes.
People who effectively unlearn are transition people. They represent hope and have great influence on others by sending the message that “you too can change.” Dr. John Covey (often introduced as Steve Covey’s younger, good-looking brother with the great hair) summed it well, “A transition person is one who stops unhealthy behaviors and starts on a new path that radiates positive influence.”
Transition people are quick to advise they did not make the journey of unlearning alone. Many cite mentors, coaches, or advisors who played the important role of confidant and guide to personal greatness along the conversion path. Executive coaching is an effective solution to acquiring the support, and achieving the clarity and balance, necessary to forge your road to success. As a coach, I guide my clients through a process of exploring issues, barriers, opportunities, and options. We work together to identify goals, leverage strengths, create a plan and track progress. This clarity, focus and support builds confidence and helps you find the courage to change and fulfill your potential as a community and business leader. Enlisting a coach is like registering for Unlearning 101. It is investing in your future-a declaration of interdependence-the ROI for which is priceless.
After my first year of college, I decided to take a break in my formal education to provide volunteer service abroad. Eighteen months into my two-year commitment in southern Germany, politics in Europe and Asia took a dramatic turn and the Iron Curtain that long divided two Germanys suddenly came crashing down. What a thrill to witness history in the making, first-hand, as droves of East Germany residents streamed across the border in anything that moved.
Most travelers from the German Democratic Republic (GDR) who were privileged enough to afford their own motorized means of transportation chugged along in a tiny two-cylinder, two-stroke, sub-compact Trabant sedan, nick-named the “Trabi.” These Communist-manufactured and dangerously thin-walled cars were partially produced out of wool and cotton – literally! If something broke down, owners were routinely forced to scavenge spare parts from other cars or attempt to create their own make-shift parts or repairs with whatever worked – rope, packing tape, and scrap lumber notwithstanding.
You can imagine the surprise from everyone in the West when entire enclaves of 8, 10, and even 12 people came pouring out of these smoky, fragile, and oft-times unsafe vehicles.
Then again, why should we have been surprised?
From the time the eastern portion of Berlin had been cut off from the West in 1961 until November 11, 1989 – an over 28 year span – this occupied people had become accustomed to living on government rations, working in low-paying jobs that were largely chosen for them, and were led to believe through decades of propaganda that their state-directed lives were better, more meaningful, and somehow richer than lives lived beyond their borders.
They knew better.
Over the course of those three dark decades, upwards of 200 freedom-seeking citizens had given up their lives during futile attempts to flee East Germany. Now, an entire nation was suddenly free to come and go as it pleased. And go, they did! The very moment the borders were opened, these humble, oppressed, and resourceful people did whatever it took to catch a glimpse of freedom, to breathe deeply the air of autonomy, to escape the drab, grey life of their past and begin to soak in the vibrant colors of their future. They were the epitome of proactivity.
They came with family, neighbors, and complete strangers. They drove, biked, and walked across. Nothing stood in their way. Fences were opened. Guards stood down. No longer were they forced to live behind literal and figurative walls.
What walls do you live behind?
I don’t mean literal walls of grey brick and messy mortar, but those figurative walls that mentally separate us from our own potential. Your window of opportunity is not likely to appear as obviously to you as did the widespread announcement of emancipation to East Germans that was broadcast across Europe and the globe. Nonetheless, all of us possess the power to proactively break down our own self-imposed walls, not waiting another 28 years, but rising to action as soon as we acknowledge and release the potential lurking latent in each of us – as soon as we admit that the walls of bad habits, co-dependent relationships, abusive behavior, or self-limiting thinking are separating us from healthier lifestyles, more meaningful interpersonal bonds, and richer, more rewarding careers and contributions. Be Proactive! (www.franklincovey.com)
The people of the GDR didn’t choose the timing of their exodus to freedom. But chances are, you can!
A mental health professional, referring to the physiological impact of stress, said the adrenal gland in the average person is likely 25 years older than he/she is because of over-use. Adrenaline is the flight or fight chemical which increases our physical strength and heightens our senses when we are in dangerous situations. Competing for a parking spot near the mall entrance is likely not a life or death situation calling for a shot of adrenaline.
As a person who has accessed adrenaline more than recreationally and can “catastrophize” (new word — just hasn’t made it to the dictionary), with the best of ‘em, I am learning to slow the flow of negative external messages and stick with reality as a way to calm myself in anxious moments.
Relate this to the “Circle of Influence/Circle of Concern“, a core concept from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The only things we personally can control are our words and actions. Our behavior, then, comprises the inner Circle of Influence which will either have a positive or negative impact on other people or situations. The outer Circle of Concern is composed of people, events, and situations that we choose to care or even worry about. When I teach this concept in my workshops, I am struck by two sentences people often say when they come to understand it: “Now I know what to focus on.” Or, “Now I know what to let go of.”
Anxious about_____? (Fill in the blank). My advice is to choose to remain calm by focusing on the Circle of Influence:
- What can you practice and become proficient or even great at? Perfect practice makes perfect.
- Who/what is most important to you? Focus and spend time with these people and on these activities.
- What do you choose to access? What needs to be turned-off?
FranklinCovey is the go-to solution provider for individuals, teams, and organizations choosing to go for greatness.
As congressmen contemplate how to stimulate a stubbornly sluggish economy, you already know the answers to recession-proofing your career and life. I can’t tell you how many times our FranklinCovey principles have crossed my mind this past week as we watch lawmakers work towards compromise.
- Create Transparency
- Clarify Expectations
- Right Wrongs
- Get Results
- Talk Straight
- Listen First
- Keep Commitments
Just to name a few.
When the Conference Board released its 2008 CEO Challenge report (Financial Crisis Edition), I was struck by the sudden rise in rank, from 34th place to 9th, of the respondents’ perceived need for more Business Confidence.
Wait. Where else have I heard that word recently? In Stephen M. R. Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust, he defines trust as “confidence born of the character or competence of a person or an organization.” To break it down further, he subdivides character into integrity and intent and breaks competence into capabilities and results. Here are the questions he suggests to assess one’s credibility:
Are you congruent? What’s your agenda? Are you relevant? What’s your track record?
By examining the current economic upheaval through these filters, it becomes somewhat easier to pinpoint the causes of eroding credibility in the marketplace. When leaders don’t behave congruent to their values, they lack integrity. When people act on hidden agendas or leave a wrong impression on purpose, their intent is in question. Oftentimes individuals simply don’t stay relevant in their field and are bereft of the skills and talent that would afford them the right capabilities. Finally, others may be honest at the core, very capable on the surface but have no track record – they fail to consistently deliver results.
Fortunately, we’ve learned that trust and confidence can be built up faster than most people realize. When all of us – people, businesses, and governments – return to principle-based decision making and behave in ways that are trustworthy, trust itself can quickly give way to increased market confidence, more productive partnerships, and even stronger systems and institutions.
That’s The Speed of Trust!
Over the last year, I have immersed myself into some of the time-management literature that is wildly popular right now. I began with David Allen’s Getting Things Done.
First of all, let me state for the record that I like and respect David. I think that he has a lot to offer. His distinction between projects and tasks (or, The Next Action Items as he would call them) is an excellent observation. I believe that ignoring such a distinction is one of the primary reasons people get overwhelmed by their goals.
But, as I read some of the blog and forum comments of those who are impacted by this new batch of organizational literature, I cannot help but think that we are taking a few steps backwards.
People are becoming overwhelmed with the sheer weight of information that constantly presses upon them. In a desperate attempt to alleviate the pressure, they turn to efficiency programs for aid. “I just need to learn how to organize my inbox” one might say, or “If I could just get my desk uncluttered, then I’d have a handle on things”.
Many of the new authors in the field of organization and time-management share some excellent tips to help us get more things done, but there is a component missing from these approaches if we’re not careful. That component is “should I be doing a lot of these things in the first place?”
The clock is the tool that we use to measure the amount of time that we have, and drives us towards efficiency. “What time is it?” or “When will this meeting be over?” are both clock-related questions.
The compass indicates our direction, and helps us know whether we are on or off course. This is the symbol of effectiveness.
As Stephen R. Covey has often said, “It doesn’t really matter how fast you are going if you’re headed in the wrong direction.”
So, as we move forward into the 21st-century, and as time-management evolves into its next incarnation, I believe that one thing must never change. That one thing is the price that we all have to pay to understand what our primary purpose in life is, and whether or not we are adhering to the principles that help us to achieve that purpose.
When we focus first on the compass, then the clock, we truly begin to unlock our potential and set ourselves on a course for fulfillment and greatness.
As a training consultant for FranklinCovey, I use myself as a “lab rat” for implementing the lessons, whether from the The Speed of Trust, The 7 Habits, Focus or Great Leaders. This is the best way for me to be a model of effectiveness as an individual, a team member and a leader to achieve great results personally and professionally. But it also allows me to practice the pain of getting there. Being human is such a great part of learning and I so respect my unconscious self doing what it wants to do unless I consciously decide I am going to do something differently. I can be a great victim, I can be quite disorganized if I am not careful….and with my New York background…I can be highly reactive. Takes a lot of work for me to stop those behaviors and do something different and what I know to be right.
Here’s one I’m grappling with now….
In this unbelievable economic time, my toughest and greatest challenge is to remember Stephen Covey’s teachings around Habit 1, Be Proactive. I can (and do sometimes) remain awake at night, worrying about the economy, my job, and every other demon that we all know creeps in at 3 a.m…..and then I think about what I help people do everyday….STAY OUT OF THE CIRCLE OF CONCERN….and then I consciously work to focus on my CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE…..what can I do everyday to make my way through the chaos…that which I have control over…. The more energy I put into what I can impact…the better I feel and sleep and the better rewards the very next day.
So…it ain’t easy….but if you want to truly be effective…even just a little, in good times or bad…..force your “conscious discipline” of moving the demons out, and focus on what you can do something about. So get some sleep.
Speaking of Paradigm Shifts: while teaching in Calgary recently, a guy in my workshop, (who I would guess to be in his late 20’s), shared this. Fresh out of college he took what was to be a two week vacation riding the rails in Europe. The two weeks passed quickly and he decided to extend his stay — by eight months! He went from place to place and worked odd jobs, sometimes for only a day at a time, just to earn enough money for food and maybe a place to stay at night. Really, he was on an all inclusive “Paradigm Shift tour” gaining the kind of learning that only experience can provide. He got really clear on needs vs. wants. He went on to say that although he is now an established professional with a good salary, nice car, and HDTV, he knows full well that these material items he’s acquired are wants not needs.
In 1997, when the Red River burst its restraints and swept through Grand Forks, North Dakota, almost every home had flood damage. Residents considered themselves “fortunate” if only their basement was flooded. Many residents lost their house, car, and everything else they owned. A TV camera crew followed a woman as she returned to what was left of the home she and her family had made for the past 25 years. As the house was unstable, she quickly went to try to salvage what she could of family pictures and heirlooms. Although she gently handled these items, many disintegrated in her hands. At one point, holding a soggy photo, she brushed tears aside and said to the interviewer, “during the past several weeks I’ve gotten very clear on the things that are important to me — and I realize they aren’t things.”
In these wacky economic times that renowned management consultant Ram Charan describes as a “100 year flood” what’s your mental map when it comes to essentials vs. nice-to-haves? The Habits of Private Victory help us to choose, visualize, clarify our values and then exercise integrity to execute on what is most important. Why not do a major review of your mission statement? www.franklincovey.com/missionbuilder is a great place to start. Ensure you are perfectly clear on needs vs. wants and that you are spending time with the people and activities that are most important to you.
Headlines read: “Economists Fear the Worst” and “American Families in Crisis.” Ted Price, restaurateur and FranklinCovey client facilitator summarizes, “The state of crisis is the state of fear.” Fear causes you to mistake opportunity for oppression, wisdom for whimsy, and recess for recession.
The U.S. Labor Department announced, 598,000 people lost their jobs in January, and the unemployment rate rose from 7.2 to 7.6 percent-an all time high in 16 years. It’s easy in times like this to feel oppressed and fearful. Wild-woman activist, Flo Kennedy, whose flamboyant and unorthodox approach gained notoriety, once said, “There can be no really pervasive system of oppression…without the consent of the oppressed.” Known for her outrageous stunts and out-of-the-cage thinking, Kennedy recognized oppression as opportunity, and most likely agreed with fellow activist and Pulitzer Prize winner Ariel Durant who penned, “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.” No whimsy there, only wisdom. Both of these women knew how to Be Proactive-centered in their Circle of Control.
Awarded the 1977 Presidential Medal of Freedom, Ariel found her freedom from fear in her relationship with husband, Will Durant, to whom she referred as her “teacher, lover, mentor, and friend.” Opportunity or oppression can be found in marriage. The Durants were able to find the former, and overcome the latter, because they were grounded in the same principles found in The 8 Habits of a Successful Marriage workshop. Their award-winning Declaration of Interdependence is as applicable to harmonious marriage as it is to world peace.
In 2002, I joined the team founded by Dr. John Covey, and embarked on a mission to strengthen families around the globe. Our team motto is “When I was born, so was my mission.” I was honored to lead the project teams in developing The 8 Habits of a Successful Marriage workshop, based on Dr. Covey’s bestsellers The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and The 8th Habit. It is a surprisingly fun workshop designed to help couples build a high-trust foundation, develop effective communication, and enjoy unselfish companionship. I found myself digging deep within to practice what we were promoting. It made all the difference in the world. By helping others strengthen their families, mine was strengthened. Like Durant and Kennedy, as a wife, mother, writer and community leader, I found my purpose-my voice.
So, fast-forward. What about this “recession?” Could it really just be a grown-up recess, an opportunity for both an exploration in wisdom and whimsy? Not long ago the word recess made you squirm in your school desk anxious for the bell to ring. Among the definitions for “recess”, Merriam-Webster provides: a suspension of business…often for rest or relaxation. How many of you have been chanting “I hate my job?” Well, maybe there is something to this “law of attraction” thing. If so, then perhaps you are not being oppressed by a lay-off, but instead released to find your voice—your purpose. Perhaps this is the opportunity to return to school, attend a FranklinCovey public workshop and sharpen your saw. Many of the people who have been certified to facilitate FranklinCovey’s marriage, family, or teens programs work with nonprofits, or work full-time donating their time presenting workshops. They found their mission, and you can too. Next time someone is whining about the recession—respond-don’t react to the fear. Announce you decline to participate in a recession, and imagine the recess bell just rang. Bolt into the playground of your life—and live life as intended.