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Showing posts from June, 2011

Finding Your Focus

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Are you living the fast lane life these days? Some of my clients are feeling like their jobs (and their lives) are on speed, zooming out of control. The era of “doing more with less” is now the new normal, and everyone is going at 150 miles per hour.

They are feeling overbooked and overwhelmed, some even feeling like they are drowning. Some say they have just about given up on planning because every day is filled with interruptions, incidents and unplanned surprises. For others, stress is high, nerves are on edge, and tempers are rising. Some even say that their personal and family life is starting to suffer.

What’s the answer? There’s no quick fix. But in this chaotic environment, I tell my clients to take care. This kind of lifestyle can be hazardous to your health.

Here are a few thoughts that might help.

~ F for Focus: In the midst of chaos, it’s like you are in a storm. Distractions are flying all around you. How do you find a calm center in the storm, a place you can go where the d…

Collaboration: Getting to Us!

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My friend Dave Summers, over at his blog Busted Missive, mused about collaboration and innovation: "My own personal experience has taught me that collaboration can sometimes work. But frequently, forced, or stressed collaboration can work against innovation. People get defensive about their ideas, they're less willing to share."

Why is collaboration so hard to do some of the time?

I believe Dave is on to something when he mentioned about forcing it. You can't force people to join up, share, and work together (my definition of collaboration, BTW). They will do it if they want to do it.

But many times, people on a team don't want to. "I don't wanna. You can't make me" is their mantra. Yes, they are nominally part of the team, but they don't buy it, don't act it, and aren't planning on changing any time soon.

I'm reminded of a time when my 24 year old son Kevin was a wee tot and he got into a fight with a playmate over a toy that bo…

The Six Most Important Things

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Do you set goals? Some people do, some don't. Who's right? There seem to be different schools of thought when it comes to setting goals. One school says that setting goals is the key to achieving what you want out of life. In a nutshell, goals lead to success. There's another school of thought that eschews goals as a useless exercise in trying to control the future. Take each day as it comes, instead. Live for today.

As one who teaches Time Management a lot these days to very frazzled people, I say: Do both. Set goals AND make the most of each day.

To bring this to life, I do an exercise called The Six Things. It goes like this. Instruct the participants to make three columns on a piece of paper. Head the three columns as follows: column one is headed "My Life;" column two is "This Year;" and column three is "This Week." (I got the idea for this exercise from a time management website. I would give credit if I could remember which one. My forg…

Some Thoughts on Father's Day

Every father is different, and has a different influence on his children. Some fathers teach their kids to ski or to change the oil in a car. My father didn't teach me these things. In my case, I learned about sports, coaching, and inner strength.

My dad was a big sports guy. Football, basketball, but especially baseball. He played, coached, and reffed. In his prime, he even had a try-out with a major league team. Then he went off to war, to fight Hitler and the Nazis. After coming home, he joined the police department and, after a long career, eventually became Chief of Detectives.

A natural leader and teacher, my dad was an effective coach, and a beloved one too. To this day, men who were coached by my dad decades ago, in football or basketball or baseball, will say how much they were influenced by him. Some feared him because of his toughness; some loved him because he cared so much about his players. In a nutshell, that's how I felt about him too, a mix of fear and love. A…

4 Tips for Increasing Self-Awareness

Minneapolis area consultant John Persico recently published a lengthy but interesting essay on what it takes for an organization to really be effective. In essence, Persico says, organizations must become more self-aware. Especially about their own built-in blind spots. He says:

"...most organizations are blind to the intrinsic problems that underlie their failures."

He uses the example of the Titanic, the greatest ship ever made, unsinkable. Little did anyone think that a deadly iceberg lay ahead.

What is an organization to do? Persico offers seven good ideas, including listen to your dissenters. I'd call that one "embrace your difficult people."

Here are four more tips that I would add:

Get feedback from others - The Scottish poet Robert Burns once pointed to the value of finding out how others perceive us when he wrote "O, wad some Power the giftie gie us/To see oursels as others see us!/It wad frae monie a blunder free us,/An' foolish notion." The…

Stop Following the Pack. Leap Ahead Instead!

With a twinkle in her eye, one of the attendees at yesterday morning's St. Matthias Employment Ministry gathering said to me, "Terry, I've got a tip for you."

"Oh yes?" I replied, anxious to hear what she had to say. I always love it when someone comes to an Employment Ministry meeting with an aha to share.

She said, "I've decided to 'Stop following the pack. And to leap ahead instead.'" She smiled while that sank in. Then she went on to explain that, as an IT job hunter, she had been pursuing jobs where the competition has been heaviest. One day, it occurred to her to start looking at new technology areas where there were fewer competitors. So she found a new niche and is pursuing it with excitement, taking courses and acquiring new skills that she hopes will pay off in new opportunities.

What a great story! As I reflect on her tip --Stop Following the Pack. Leap Ahead Instead!-- it seems to me that it's good advice that many of us s…

The Secret Sauce of Business Success

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Pssst. Wanna know what's in the secret sauce of business success? Read on.

In an executive education program recently, I was teaching managers about employee engagement. One of the participants put up his hand and said, "The secret to business success is making money."

Making money is certainly an important thing, I responded. It's a sign that you are doing something right. If the company is making money, chances are you are probably following this recipe:

R = Results Focus: Everyone in the Company, from the CEO to the front-line, is focused on delivering results each and every day. That's why they come to work.

E = Engaged Employees: Engaged employees are "fans of the brand." They believe in the Company and they are willing to do whatever it takes to deliver high quality results to your customers.

C = Customer Focus: Your Customer is at the center of everything you do. They are The Reason you are in business. As Peter Drucker once said "The purpose…

Listening With HEART

Listening is the Swiss Army knife of communication skills. It comes in handy in every conceivable human interaction, from dealing with a difficult situation, to handling an irate customer, to resolving an interpersonal confrontation.

Many have endeavored to capture the key ingredients in listening, so I have decided to throw my hat into the ring as well.

I call my approach to active listening Listening With HEART:

H = Hear the Other Person fully before responding. This may be the toughest part of listening. We have to make the choice to listen, especially when we are busy, preoccupied, and distracted. When you focus on the Other, pay attention to What is being said, as well as What is not being said. This includes the non-verbal signs the person is displaying, plus their feelings and tone of voice.

E = Empathize with the Other Person’s feelings and point of view. Empathy doesn't mean agreement. It means trying to see (and feel) what the Other Person is going through.

A = Assess the s…

Let Go of the Banana

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Snopes says it's an urban legend.

But just a few days ago, there it was again, the story of how to catch a monkey. In the most recent version (in a great blog entry by international business consultant Aad Boot), the monkey hunters put an apple in a jar that has a narrow neck. The monkey reaches in to get the apple, and can't pull its arm out...unless it releases the apple it has seized.

When I first heard this back in the 1990's, it was a banana. Thus the saying "Let go of the banana." A colleague of mine said to me once, "You gotta let go of the banana, man." I had no idea what he was talking about. So he filled me in. He told me that, when people get mired in an old way of thinking, they are holding onto a banana. Unless they let go, they won't be able to grow or change.

Unless you let go of the banana in your life, you'll be stuck and unable to move on.

Aad Boot makes it very clear that a great deal is at stake: "What does this have t…