Sunday, June 26, 2011

Finding Your Focus


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 din is not so loud? In that oasis, ask yourself, What is the most important thing for me to focus on?

~ A for Attention: Chaos can scatter your attention, shattering it across too many “to do’s” and priorities. Multi-tasking does not work. How do you pay attention to the things that matters most? Things like your own goals? Your family? Your health?

~ S for Slow: A few years ago, journalist Carl Honore published a book about the Slow Movement. In his TED Talk on the positives of slowness, he recommends “getting in touch with your inner tortoise.” How do you get out of the fast lane for awhile?

~ T for Think: In the storm of organizational chaos, the winds are strong. How can you think? You need to raise the unanswered questions, weigh the knowns, and consider your choices.

Although the organizational chaos may feel like you are driving the Indy speedway, a period of focused, attentive, slow-paced thought, centering on the One Thing of most value to You and to the organization, may be just the thing for discerning the pathway forward.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Sunday June 26, 2011. For more ideas on managing chaos, focusing your effort, setting goals and managing time, contact Terry and invite him to speak to your group. Terry Seamon is a Learning & Organization Development consultant with Facilitation Solutions, a training and organization effectiveness practice based in New Jersey. He has designed and delivered training for his clients on leadership, coaching, engagement, managing, communication, customer service, conflict, stress, teamwork, and change, and has written extensively on these and many other topics. Invite Terry to your organization to speak with your teams. Call today and discover how Terry can help you achieve your goals: 732-246-3014.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Collaboration: Getting to Us!


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 both wanted. My wife patiently said that he needed to learn to share. Through his tears, he cried, "Sharing is not my favorite thing to do."

"Out of the mouths of babes" sometimes comes a useful insight. Sharing. So simple, so basic. Something we all learned about when we were little. But did we take it to heart? And do we do it when we are on a team?

What does it take to start collaborating? Here are a few ideas:

S = Stop Competing: The people on the team with you are your friends, not your enemies. You're on the same side. You are all in the same boat. It's time to pull together, rather than pull apart.

H = Help Each Other: In today's organizations, everyone is overloaded and stressed out. Keep an eye on your teammates. Could one of them use an assist? Your attentiveness will be appreciated.

A = Ask for Input: Ask your teammates for ideas on the tasks and projects you are undertaking. They will feel good that you asked.

R = Reinforce the Team: Yes, every team is comprised of individuals, each with a role to play. But the team can be more than the sum of the parts. Teams can synergize and do great things. How do you think we first got to the Moon?

E = Energize Yourself: Shift your attitude from Me to We. Collaboration is about Us. Start thinking about the possibilities in what We can do together!

The legendary baseball player Babe Ruth nailed it when he said, "The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime."

What could your collaboration be worth?


Posted by Terrence Seamon on Friday June 24, 2011. For more ideas on collaboration, team work, and building successful teams, contact Terry and invite him to speak to your group. Terry Seamon is a Learning & Organization Development consultant with Facilitation Solutions, a training and organization effectiveness practice based in New Jersey. He has designed and delivered training for his clients on leadership, coaching, engagement, managing, communication, customer service, conflict, stress, teamwork, and change, and has written extensively on these and many other topics. Invite Terry to your organization to speak with your teams. Call today and discover how Terry can help you achieve your goals: 732-246-3014.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Six Most Important Things


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 forgettory is working much better than my memory.)

Under each heading, write the six most important things:

The Six Most Important Things in Your Life: These are aspects of your life that are very dear to you, such as your marriage, your family, your career, your health, your business, your education. They are important to you, though not necessarily urgent right now.

The Six Most Important Things for This Year: These are annual goals, some work-related, perhaps some related to your family (e.g. take a vacation) or your home (e.g. paint the house). They are important to you and are probably scheduled somewhere on your calendar.

The Six Most Important Things to Accomplish This Week: These are the "A" priority tasks that you have triaged, identifying the "must do" items that others are counting on. If one of these slips, there will be a serious domino effect.

Participants like this exercise. Some say they never take the time to write down this sort of thing, especially the My Life ones.

Some find it a satisfying experience, one that reassures them that all is in order. It's good to be busy. "If you want something done, "the saying goes, "Give it to a busy person."

Others find the results troubling. Often one will say something like this: "I'm so busy with all my To Do's, I'm not allocating time to My Life concerns like my family, my health, and my personal development."

I think, if we are honest, many of us would say the same thing. We are very busy with all of the urgent tasks that must be done. We are laser-focused on the short-term.

What about the long-term? Where are we going? What do we want out of life?

There is a Spanish proverb that says: "A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools."

If a health scare occurs, then our health suddenly shifts from the My Life column to This Week. If we lose our job, then career and finances suddenly becomes a priority.

Stephen Covey has said, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing."

What are your main things? What are you doing to keep those things the main things in your life?


Posted by Terrence Seamon on Tuesday June 21, 2011. For more ideas on setting goals and managing time, contact Terry and invite him to speak to your group. Terry Seamon is a Learning & Organization Development consultant with Facilitation Solutions, a training and organization effectiveness practice based in New Jersey. He has designed and delivered training for his clients on leadership, coaching, engagement, managing, communication, customer service, conflict, stress, teamwork, and change, and has written extensively on these and many other topics. Invite Terry to your organization to speak with your teams. Call today and discover how Terry can help you achieve your goals: 732-246-3014.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

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 boxer in wartime, he was very strong, both physically fit and mentally tough. At the same time, he was very loving and affectionate.

If I were to distill a few of the key things my dad taught me, I would say:

- Be your own man - Figure out who you are in this life and develop yourself, your gifts, your skills. Stay in training. Never stop. Keep growing and learning.

- Don't let the SOBs get you down - During his career on the police force, he often encountered people and politicians who tested his patience and his sense of ethics. Despite the risk to his career, he took the higher road and told them where to go.

- Have moxie - Don't be timid about life. Take a chance. Be daring. Put yourself out there. Get into the game and try.

I hope that I have channeled some of my dad's influence in raising my two sons. In the end, it'll be their task to decide what sort of influence I have had on them. I can say for sure, though, that, like my dad, I have not taught them anything about skiing or changing oil in a car.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Father's Day Sunday June 19, 2011.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

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 gift he refers to we now call feedback. Honest, clear feedback from a trusted source can help free us "from blunders and foolish notions" of our own creation.

Ponder JOHARI - Persico uses the classic JOHARI Window in his article to help explain the different domains of information that exist about ourselves. One of the great things about the JOHARI concept is how it opens our minds to the awareness that others know things about us that we do not know (the "blind spot") and that there is information about us that neither we nor others know (the "unknown" area). The process of increasing self-awareness includes pondering what lies in these panes.

Take a trip to another country - Have you ever experienced the thrilling discomfort that comes from taking a trip to another country? Especially one where you don't speak the language. Somehow or other, you have to confront the challenge to get by and survive. In the process of overcoming this adversity, you realize a great deal about Who You Are, and what you are capable of when pushed way out of your comfort zone. Travel is a great teacher of humility.

Increasing mindfulness - The Zen practice of mindfulness cultivates a tranquil attentiveness to the constant traffic flow of thoughts going on within us. The more we practice this mindfulness, the more we can step back a bit and establish a degree of objectivity toward ourselves. We can start to notice, for example, the triggers that set us off in some of our relationships. Or the value judgments we make about others. Or about ourselves.

These tips, along with Persico's, are intended to help You and the members of your organization to avoid disasters by becoming more self-aware. In so doing, you may be better equipped to spot the icebergs in the waters ahead.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Wednesday June 15, 2011. For more ideas on increasing self-awareness and organizational effectiveness, contact Terry and invite him to speak to your group. Terry Seamon is a Learning & Organization Development consultant with Facilitation Solutions, a training and organization effectiveness practice based in New Jersey. He has designed and delivered training for his clients on leadership, coaching, engagement, managing, communication, customer service, conflict, stress, teamwork, and change, and has written extensively on these and many other topics. Invite Terry to your organization to speak with your teams. Call today and discover how Terry can help you achieve your goals: 732-246-3014.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

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 should heed.

Here are some thoughts for making that leap...

L = Listen. Look into your heart. What is calling you in life? Listen to your inner coach.

E = Explore. Take a look around, in your field, and outside of it. What's happening? Explore possibilities. Go shopping. Venture out of your comfort zone.

A = Analyze and Act. Gather data. Use the power of LinkedIn to determine hot skills and hot spots. Go on a networking safari and ask lots of questions.

P = Place your bet. As the saying goes "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." Try some new things. Take little risks.

Questions for Further Reflection:

- Are you following the pack somewhere in your life and not making the progress you'd like to make?

- Where in your life could you leap ahead? What's holding you back? What do you need to make that leap?

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Sunday June 12, 2011. For more ideas on taking career change, contact Terry and invite him to speak to your group. Terry Seamon is a Learning & Organization Development consultant with Facilitation Solutions, a training and organization effectiveness practice based in New Jersey. He has designed and delivered training for his clients on leadership, coaching, engagement, managing, communication, customer service, conflict, stress, teamwork, and change, and has written extensively on these and many other topics. Invite Terry to your organization to speak with your teams. Call today and discover how Terry can help you achieve your goals: 732-246-3014.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The Secret Sauce of Business Success


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 of a business is to create and keep a customer."

I = Innovative: Your culture is change-ready and always on the lookout for bright ideas that can keep you ahead of your competition. "Good enough" is not.

P = Purposeful: You are driven by your Mission, your Vision of the future, and your Values that you hold dear.

E = Engaged Employees: You are obsessed with talent. Talented people and teams are the key to growing the business. Where do you get engaged employees? You hire them.

Did you notice that Employee Engagement showed up twice in the secret sauce? That's because it is THE KEY ingredient. Your people are your most important asset.

Shake that ingredient in twice.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Thursday June 9, 2011. Looking for more ideas on how employee engagement can help your business succeed? Terry Seamon is a Learning & Organization Development consultant with Facilitation Solutions, a training and organization effectiveness practice based in New Jersey. He has designed and delivered training for his clients on leadership, coaching, engagement, managing, communication, customer service, conflict, stress, teamwork, and change, and has written extensively on these and many other topics. Invite Terry to your organization to speak with your teams. Call today and discover how Terry can help you achieve your goals: 732-246-3014.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

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 situation. Analyze what the Other Person is saying. Ask questions to find out: What is the problem? What does he/she need from me? Apologize as necessary.

R = Respond to the Other Person so they know the action you are going to take. Let them know what to expect next.

T = Take the action you said you would do. Then, follow up later with the Other Person to see where things stand.

Listening well is hard work. You'll know that you listened well if you are tired afterward.

The leadership expert John Maxwell says, "To listen well is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to talk well."

When you listen with heart, you will be listening powerfully.


Posted by Terrence Seamon on Saturday June 4, 2011. Looking for more ideas on improving communication in your company? Terry Seamon is a Learning & Organization Development consultant with Facilitation Solutions, a training and organization effectiveness practice based in New Jersey. He has designed and delivered training for his clients on leadership, coaching, engagement, managing, communication, customer service, conflict, stress, teamwork, and change, and has written extensively on these and many other topics. Invite Terry to your organization to speak with your teams. Call today and discover how Terry can help you achieve your goals: 732-246-3014.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Let Go of the Banana


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 to do with leading change? Everything. In my working with leaders and their teams I often witness how successful change, transformation and innovation are hindered by the inability of letting go of what we have or who we are. Not seeing what is possible, what is in front of us, because we are too busy with holding on to what is behind us."

What's your banana? That is, the thing you are holding onto that is keeping your arm imprisoned in a jar?

For quite a few of the people I meet in my work, their banana is the past. The way things were. The "good old days" when we used to get a Christmas bonus and a turkey.

For others, it relates to their sense of identity or status. And in some cases, it has to do with material things, like a chair, or a table, or a ring.

Unless we let go of these chains, they will keep us fettered. To liberate yourself and others, here are a few thoughts:

F = Find out what is holding you back. Get feedback from people you trust, people who will give you unvarnished input. Look in the mirror of self-awareness and figure out what your banana is exactly.

R = Research, Read, and Roam. The three R's used to be "Reading, 'Riting and 'Rithmetic," but for anyone looking to reinvent in today's economy, they must establish their own "R & D" - Research new ideas and Develop the most promising ones; Read outside their specialty to open their minds; and Roam into unusual and uncharted realms.

E = Engage with people outside your comfort zone. Connect with people you never thought you would have anything to do with.

E = Exercise. Get moving. Stop standing still. Time to get going. Go places you have never been to before. Do things you have never done before.

So many people are stuck. And they have no clue that there is a banana in their grip that is keeping them from scampering into the trees...and a better life.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Wednesday June 1, 2011. Looking for ideas on breakthrough thinking? Terry Seamon is a Learning & Organization Development consultant with Facilitation Solutions, a training and organization effectiveness practice based in New Jersey. He has designed and delivered training for his clients on leadership, coaching, engagement, managing, communication, customer service, conflict, stress, teamwork, and change, and has written extensively on these and many other topics. Invite Terry to your organization to speak with your teams. Call today and discover how Terry can help you achieve your goals: 732-246-3014.