July 28, 2011
There are good compromises (for the greater good) and there are bad compromises (giving in to get along). In this case, I'll dwell on the art of compromising, when compromising is the order of the day. Take the current budget/debt talk in Congress: They are politicized, personalized and short sided. If the NFL can cut a deal, why can't they?
One answer is simple: Ego. No one wants to be on the losing team. No one wants to think they've been bested by someone else. Later, if our bull headedness leads to a disaster, we can blame the other side, claiming they wouldn't budget (meaning, they wouldn't do it our way). In your life, you'll face situations when compromising is the only way to get it right. Here are a few rules of the road:
1 - Remove yourself from the picture. De-personalize the negotiations, letting all counter arguments be about the thing (the deal) and not the author (you). Just because someone has a different POV doesn't mean there's anything wrong with yours.
2 - Focus on the impact of the decision, and the parties that will be helped/hurt. Put this issue at the center of all discussions, like a good hospital admin does with a patient. When negotiations are getting in the weeds (read, partisan/selfish), bring it back to the impact with a story about a specific individual who's livelihood depends on a deal being cut.
3 - Reach out for opinions. Go beyond your inner circle, and use your Social Tools to get a bigger POV about the issue. The more you invest in expanding your information flow, the more you can think bigger in a situation.
4 - Ask yourself, "If I make this compromise, what's the worst that can happen?" This will liberate you,as you'll quickly realize that life will go on - likely much better because of your Abundance Mentality. Too often, we never consider this, and the vagueness of the defeat conjurs up images of your dashed reputation and utter lack of self-respect.
Please share this with your Congress person, he/she needs some help here.
July 25, 2011
When people ask me, "what do you do?" I usually reply: Give advice.
Does that mean I'm a consultant, speaker, author or blogger? Fundamentally, I would say that I'm an idea author that does a great deal of research. Even though I've been writing this blog for almost five years, giving a piece of advice every post, I would NOT describe myself as a blogger. That's why I post about two times or so a week, and never on a schedule per se. It's not my job.
Blogs are just a tool for me to share, promote and develop ideas for my customers. That's why I blog when I can, and not on a rigourous schedule that impedes my ability to do my work. What makes a person a blogger, then? GaryV is a blogger because his wine blog is the engine of his business growth (directly for Wine Library and indirectly as a driver of his profile - which fuels his 'social media expertise' and street cred.) Seth Godin is a blogger, because his postings create a profile that sells his books and enables him to drive The Domino Project via his audience. Chris Brogan is a blogger because his blog drives his Human Works business as well as the sale of his books. PereZ Hilton directly makes money on his blog via ads and paid-links. Take the blogs away and all four of them will see a noticeable drop in their earning power.
For many of my friends, such as Marcus Buckingham or Mark Sanborn, blogging is just a way of promoting or sharing. Like me. Sure, I've picked up a speaking gig or two via someone reading a blog post, but it's not how I make my money.
Blogs then, should be included along with Facebooking, Tweeting, Newsletter writing and other online promotional tools - and not an albatross that hangs over our head every working day (have you blogged yet???). For bloggers, daily publication makes sense. For myself, and maybe for you, it's a matter of your schedule. Let this liberate you immediately, along with my pronouncement that you must OWN your social media tools and not let them falsely own you.
In a previous post (You Don't Need A Social Media Strategy) I argue that we must have a central business or brand strategy and leverage all social tools (including blogging) to work within that framework. Tech is the tail, not the dog. For most of you, your blog is a tool, not the tool kit. If you put too much time into it, and not enough into your core - you'll shrink your business as each new publishing innovation demands your adoption.
Ten years ago, before there were blogs, we wrote newsletters to promote, share and build out business. But for most, it wasn't our engine of economic value. Ten years from now, who knows what publishing tech will offer us the same opportunity or requirement.
July 18, 2011
Common question I get: "What speakers do you recommend?"
My answer is, "It depends on the objectives of your event." As wishy-washy as it sounds, the reality is that a 'great speaker' may still be a miss for your event. It's not just about skills, hi-content or even fame - the speaker must deliver game changing ROI for your organization. More than ever, meetings must justify their existence - just like advertising, salaries, etc.
To paraphrase Nick Morgan, "The only reason to have a meeting is to change the world." In other words, meetings are a great platform to shift thinking, moving the attendees from Point A to Point B. In the case of Interface Inc., a single sales meeting in 1997 produced a paradigm shift: "Stop stealing from our grandchildren by creating sustainable business practices." How did they do it? The speaker's were chosen for their POV, social fit and willingness to roll up their sleeves and apply their expertise and brand to the situation.
In her remarkable book, Resonate: Present Visual Stories That Transform Audiences, Nancy Duarte explains that the greatest speeches move the audience from Point A (status quo, a broken place) to Point B (vision, a better/best place). This is why I believe that my job as a professional speaker is to be the outsider hired to validate and activate the insider's agenda or point of view. If you hire a speaker to generate buzz or get butts-in-seats, you are wasting your money - and risking that your budgets will get slashed during any downturn.
1. Create a post-meeting Vision For Success. What is the current thinking/doing pattern that your leadership team wants to tweak or flip? That's Point A, and there is NO organization that couldn't use a little thought-tweak. For example, at a recent event I was hired for, we determined that the leaders of the company thought that technology was the center of their business. The new CEO wanted to change this, installing a new perspective: People are the center of the business. His new vision was the secret to the company's turnaround, and he wanted to leverage the offsite leadership meeting to get the ball rolling. My job, then, was to leverage my credibility (author, former Yahoo exec) and content to move my audience to a more people-centric way of leading ... Point B.
2. Screen speakers for Point B Capability. Why are they qualified to tell your audience to change? How do their talking points line up with and validate your leader's own? Schedule a phone call to interview the speaker candidates, trust me, they are willing to do it to win some business. Divulge the leader's agenda for the meeting, measure his/her reaction - push them to give facts, figures and examples to validate the vision.
3. Review the finalists for meeting-fit. Does he/she have the appropriate style, level of energy and personality? Will his/her credentials be sufficient to get the audience to grant him/her 'provincial authority'? Who's willing to work the hardest for your event to succeed?
By taking this approach, you'll get more out of your meeting, and WOW all the stakeholders at your company in attendance. You'll demonstrate tremendous business acumen in your speaker selection process, and really hedge against having a speaker that doesn't connect with your group - and causes your leaders to ask you, "why did you pick him???!!!!"
If you are pushing Positive Thinking, People Centric Business and a Relationship Oriented Approach - then I'm probably the best fit for your next event. More Information.
July 11, 2011
To life a line from an R.E.M. song: Take a break Driver 8.
My wife and I just decided to block out 7 days, hit a resort and go offline. It's a hard decision to make, given the economy and the constant call of work (and all the gadgets to bring it to us anytime/anywhere.) First of all, it's important for us (rest/recharge/reconnect) and related to my career, it is critical to my performance during the crunch time months of October through EOY.
The 4th Quarter is usually a sprint of sorts, where we make up lost ground, plan for next year and finish our year with a bang. To be successful, though, you've got to have some gas in the tank to have the 'legs' for it. That's why taking time off is critical, especially now when the network chatter is lower and you can actually do it.
A recent research paper in the Consulting Psychology Journal indicates that our summer vacation increases our productivity through renewed creativity. The researchers point out, though, that this is not a time to develop new skills or explore new career paths - that's not a vacation (that's a break from your routine) and you don't get the reduced stress/increased productivity results.
As part of the findings of the Vacation Matters Summit, I learned that companies can save money giving people longer summer vacations (seriously). When Cincinnati based Jancoa increased the annual vacation time from 2 to 3 weeks, the productivity increase was so sharp, the need for overtime work evaporated. Now that's some strong business results.
One note: If you go on vacation, don't check email or be a slave to social media. It's too easy to wag your smart phone down to the beach or pool and stay "at work" while in shorts with suntan lotion on. If you don't CUT IT OFF, you won't get the results. One study pointed out that if you do check email and graze on work during vacation, the positive results wear off within a week.
July 07, 2011
Empathy is a powerful relationship glue. When you attempt to see things from another person's perspective, you validate his feelings, helping him feel like he's not alone in his suffering or joy.
But, especially at work, we #fail to show Empathy when others are afraid or upset. As managers, when the organizational change or new plan is revealed, we roll up our sleeves, prepared to tell all the fraidy cats or naysayers that "they should be afraid or upset."
We tick off all the reasons they should accept and be happy (opposite emotions) about this change or new circumstance. We attempt to extinguish other people's bad feelings like a fire in the wastepaper basket. And then they slink off, feeling even worse for the wear. After all, they didn't need to be convinced, they needed someone to listen.
In his remarkable book, The 8th Habit, Dr. Stephen Covey Sr. explains that in many cases, people who are emotional distraught just want to be heard. When they feel like they've been heard, the negative emotions usually evaporate. But, again, that's not the conventional wisdom when faced with negative emotions in others. Fix it, cancel it, talk the other person out of it - change the subject, anything but absorb it. Men are the worst.
To truly be empathetic, you need to be a powerless listener, making an earnest attempt to understand the pain from the other's point of view.
What's the right response? When faced with negative emotions in others, learn how to say, "I'm sorry" or "I'm sorry you feel that way" or "I can only imagine how you must feel." Those are good empathy vehicles. Don't confuse empathy with sympathy (eg. "I know how you feel, I had that happen to me in the past too.") While that might create a little community in misery via a reference point, you don't really know how he feels just because you've been in similar circumstances before.
In this video clip (Powerless Listening/The Day Anthony Went Off To College), I talk about the power of empathy, and why we love our kids or our pets so much. They treat feelings as facts - not opinions offered up by others for our repair or judgement.
July 05, 2011
You can't change the world if you don't make a few mistakes.
Steve Jobs put it best: "Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower." His challenge is simple: Get out there and try stuff, even if it might backfire. Sounds simple, but of course, Nice Smart People Succeed.
Here's a twist, the point of this post, and it comes from Billye (from Today We Are Rich): "It's OK to make mistakes, just make NEW ones." That was her mantra to me, other people around town, anyone who had ambition and new ideas. She's right too. If you read the article Hanging Tough, you'll see that mistake-willing innovators historically rise to the top just beyond recessionary periods.
When the economy goes south, paranoia reigns, and people stop taking chances. You never get fired for batting 1000 is the new leadership battlecry and we settle into StatusQuo-Improvement/Preservation. Only during boom times do we feel the (situational) confidence to throw caution to the wind and try something. That's why so many companies get hammered when the bubble pops, they were last in on the innovation train and missed the run up completely. They are the ones that look the worst during a correction.
Because we fear making mistakes, we settle into an unhealthy habit of seeking perfection, perfect timing and group support (consensus) prior to any action. This is a recipe for sitting on the sidelines and getting passed. As one Facebook exec posted on his wall, "Done is better than perfect."
As a leader, entrepreneur or innovator, you've got to develop a process for making new mistakes (Innovating).
1 - Do your homework! If you have an idea, gather quality research and talk to people. Create a prototype and offer it up for critique. Create a plan with clear timelines, milestones and delegations.
2 - Work your plan and gather steam. Many ideas become mistakes because either the stitching is never finished (the details) or the Lone Ranger couldn't do it alone. Always Be Recruiting others to join your project, based on mutual goals or needs.
3 - When it's time to quit, end it quickly. Don't hide behind email. Face your boss, banker or team and be clear about your intentions, the reality of the execution and next steps, which are:
4 - Do a thoughtful post-mortem, to document the Mistake's Lesson. Think of it as a short book you'll write to benefit yourself, your team and the greater community. You'll restate the perceived problem you were solving, the perspective you had about it, the plan's details and most importantly - what went wrong. Include market, customers, team mates, technical issues and your role in the #fail. Step back and ask yourself, "what will I never do again?" THEN "What will I always do again?"
5 - Delete the details, store the Lesson, get back to work. Your part of the Innovator's Club now, and likely, one of your future Ideas will not be a mistake, it will be your greatest contribution.