FranklinCovey Consultant Blogs | Todd Wangsgard | March, 2011
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.