July 26, 2012
It's too easy to let that feedback become part of our self-image, personally or even as an organization. That's a huge mistake, because often, feedback/criticism/stereotyping is just one glimpse into the fabric of who/what you are. It's just an opinion.
One of my friends works at Zynga, the social gaming company that makes Farmville and a host of other games. They are under attack by stock market analysts and shareholders (down a third today!). He's succumbing to the noise and beginning to question Zynga's brand definitions: Fun, easy, engaging, social, high quality. He's beginning to see the company as the leader of the 'bubble-bust'. That will knock his lights out as a leader. The stock market reacts to, and does not predict a company's destiny.
Another friend of mine, from my days at Yahoo, is going through something similar. In her annual review, her manager told her she was too nice and too compassionate to run a group or manage a P&L. She's accpepted "weak" as a dimension to her professional brand. From now on, she'll feel like she's failing a little bit each time she is kind, empathetic or forgiving at work. Her inner dialogue will say, "you are successful despite your compassion." That's a terrible way for her to work, and over time, she'll likely redefine herself as "tough but fair." We have way too many of those grizzled types at work!
Are you letting other's feedback define you? In my latest book, Today We Are Rich, I offered up a solution for this, passed down by my grandmother (watch: The Nut and Shell Technique). I've always valued feedback, even when it's negative. It tells me something I need to know about the messenger, or in some cases, me. But I never empower others to steal my director's chair, and it's this steadfast claim to my own image that gives me a sense of integrity.
July 20, 2012
Rather than offering up an explanation (LA traffic), I simply said, "I'm sorry for being late." Then, watching the time, I finished up the meeting on time. While many might think that the explanation excuse is helpful, it's actually a waste of creative energy and breath.
While traffic problems might provide a reason for being tardy, they don't erase the lost time or make those I've inconvenienced feel better. That's the fallacy of the excuse-makers: We think we are providing a service, when in fact, we are asking to be let off the hook. In other words, we screw up, then ask for a favor.
In my business life, I abhor chronic excuse-makers. They often point fingers when something is broken, late or underwhelming. They refuse to be accountable. They delay digging into the post-mortem or the solution. When I worked at Yahoo!, I would frequently say, "Stop making excuses and start making up lost ground." You should too.
Great leaders are first and foremost accountable for everything they do. They take it on the chin when their team fails and get lots of glory when they succeed. Why don't they provide an excuse for success? Because there isn't one.
I've been counting the number of excuses I hear both at work and in casual conversation. It's astounding how much we enable people to make mistakes in our culture. With mobile phones, being late is OK, so long as you call in advance and tell people you are running late. In the old days, you stressed about it to the point that you resolved to never let it happen again. So let's go back to the old days where we don't let others off the hook, and don't expect that for ourselves.
The result? A culture of execution. A team that focuses on the solutions and not the distribution of blame. Try it for a week, and soon you'll agree with me: Excuses are a waste of everyone's time.
July 17, 2012
Yesterday, just before I took the stage at the CEMA annual conference, I got the news. Dr. Stephen Covey Sr. had passed away at the age of 79. It devastated me. Over the last 15 years, he's done so much for me, it's hard to put my gratitude for him into words.
We shared the same agent, and when Love Is the Killer App came out, he was one of the first people to endorse the book. Of course he would - I was one of his progeny of thought (more on that later). Later, he recommended me for a convention (one of my first big ones) and to a training company. He was that kind of person.
Of all contributions he made to me, my life and my work...identifying the Scarcity Mindset and introducing me to The Abundance Mentality moved the needle the most. Way back in 1996, just before I went to work for Mark Cuban and joined the Internet Revolution, I was reading The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People in bed one night. A passage from the book jumped off the pages and clobbered my way of seeing the world:
"Most people are deeply scripted in what I call the Scarcity Mentality. They see life as having only so much, as though there were only one pie out there. And if someone were to get a big piece of the pie, it would mean less for everybody else.
The Scarcity Mentality is the zero-sum paradigm of life. People with a Scarcity Mentality have a very difficult time sharing recognition and credit, power or profit – even with those who help in the production. The also have a a very hard time being genuinely happy for the success of other people.
The Abundance Mentality, on the other hand, flow out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody. It results in sharing of prestige, of recognition, of profits, of decision making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity."
Wow. I had a choice, and the more self-confident and faithful I became, the easier it would be to choose Abundance - making it my first response to adversity or plenty. It harkened me back to my days on the farm, raised by Billye to choose giving over hoarding.
Over the course of the next 15 years, I've told hundreds of thousands of people that they've had a choice, a final freedom and it would define us forever. Through two major meltdowns (dotcom bust, Great '08 Recession), I've counseled leaders to be aware of the impacts of Scaricty thinking and to 'give their way out of lack.'
What I've learned since then is that scarcity thinking is a natural response to life's downs. It invades our psyche, creeps into our langugage and eventually determines our actions. We start to hoard when we should be sharing. We respond to change with 'what about me' instead of seeing the bigger picture. We compete at work when we should be cooperating. It is the great equalizer, ensured by the business cycle and life's uncertainties.
I've given pretty simple advice on how to beat it: Feed your mind good stuff, Give to be rich and Excercise your gratitude muscle. I've received thousands of emails from people who have resonated with the message, and made great strides in their life. All of this due to a single passage in a wonderful book by a significant man I adore.
Dr. Covey frequently used the funeral metaphor to help us "start with the end in mind." He challenged us to visualize our funeral and our tombstone, and what people would say about us. Would they say we were effective, generous and significant? I suspect that later this week, at his wake, the talk will echo this post. While he often acknowledged that "he didn't come up with anything new", he did change the way we saw the world with his clarity and prescriptions for life.
The last time I saw him, it was in Salt Lake City at a Skillsoft taping a few years ago. He tossled my hair, encouraged me to expand my work beyond speaking at conferences and left me with a final thought: "People are great as a result of the small, but cummulative habits they develop. There's no one thing that makes a man. Its the combination of your ambition and attention that makes all the difference to others in your life." Amen.
From 2009, here's a video of me talking about the Scaricty Mentality.
July 09, 2012
If we can focus our attention on the others we are meeting with, much more can be accomplished. That's why I like to turn my smart phone to non-vibrate silent when I'm having meetings. I don't want to know about the outside world, because it can wait.
Unfortunately, for many of us, the smart phone is tethered to our psyche -- going with us everywhere and invading our limited attention span with mindless streams of information. I see smart phone users in their own world, relentlessly checking to see if something has happened, while ignoring all the life around them.
At conferences, the smart phone is the equivalent of a Barney Video for adults...giving them a way to escape the intellectual stimulation and instead, suck down some drivel to pass the time. When people are either mobile-surfing or talking, we can't approach them to network or collaborate. When they break away from a conversation to answer their phone or respond to an email alert, your talk with them is over or hopelessly derailed.
Sure, we can Instagram, tweet and post on our smartphone. But what % of the time are we sharing VS just grazing? The device is a tyrannical one, and most of us can't escape its lure. There's not much of a solution for this malady other than to go phoneless whenever possible. Don't take it to the meeting. Don't take it with you when you go out, and if you do, leave it in your glovebox.
It doesn't want you to hang out with others, because it's programmed to give you everything you need. And that's not very social at all!