Saturday, July 30, 2011

Chasing Balloons

To the surprise of many, New Jersey has a lot going for it, including the annual Festival of Ballooning, held in the Summer from Solberg Airport in the rolling hills of central NJ.

My wife and I got up early today for the chance to see the balloons take off. Driving from where we live in New Brunswick to Whitehouse Station did not take long. Using our GPS, we found our way to a field near the airport just as the colorful flotilla was taking off.

Then, along with many others, we gave chase! With my eyes on the winding country roads, and Joan's eyes on the balloons, we raced along through the farmlands, stopping here and there to snap pictures.

Soon, most of the balloons had landed in yards, in fields, and in farm pastures.

A few kept going, floating off toward Rt. 206, somewhere beyond the trees.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Saturday July 30, 2011

Friday, July 29, 2011

Does Your Team Have A Visionist?

I met a visionist this week.

Teaching "Building Productive Teams" for one of my clients this week, I gave them several team projects to undertake that would translate back to their work in the organization.

One of the assignments was the classic "team shield" exercise. The task was to create a shield that depicts the team's mission (what we do), vision (what we aspire to), and values (what we stand for). They were free to use words and pictures.

In one of the four teams, an Operations member named James stepped up to the task of drawing the team's ideas on a flipchart. To everyone's surprise, James had a talent, a real visual flair, both in printing letters and in drawing images such as a sword, a bow and arrow, a mountain range, and a sunrise. His drawing reflected the input of his whole team, but the end result stood apart from the other three teams in visual splendor.

You could see that he felt very good about what he had contributed. And his team positively beamed as they displayed their flipchart to the others in the room.

Part of the assignment was to include the names of each team member, and next to each name a word or words to describe the strengths that each brought to the team effort. Next to James' name was the word "Visionist." The team came up with that word for James based on what he had contributed.

(Note: Curious about the word "visionist," I plugged it into google to see what I might find. This blog, called The Visionist, surfaced. The blogger, Dan Strasser, posts this intriguing definition, from the English wikipedia: "A visionist is an artist, a creator or an individual that sees beyond what is visible to the eyes and brains of human beings. Visionists are thinkers, they are the recognisable brains in society, but most times they are seen as absurd, "nerds" and misfits – they just don't fit into the societies. They are people with great dreams and minds." )

In talking about what a team needs to be effective, James revealed that he is a jazz musician. He said that in a jazz band, it's all about communication. Not just in words, but in looks, nods, and even the slightest blink of an eye. "In the best jazz groups," he said, "the team is telepathic. They know each other so well that they don't need to talk when they play together."

Expanding this theme, the group agreed that, like a jazz band, they improvise every day as they face the challenging reality of hunger.

James, and the others in this week's class, work in Operations at a major food bank in New Jersey. Donated food comes in on trucks, gets sorted, and then repacked for outgoing trucks that take the food across the state to various community agencies that directly serve the poor and hungry.

They work hard because they are on a mission to "fight hunger and poverty" in New Jersey and beyond.

They have a vision too. Believing that a better tomorrow is possible, they aspire to stamp out hunger and make the world a better place.

Margaret Mead once said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

That's the power of a team. And with a visionist on board, the team can see the future they are striving to create.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Friday July 29, 2011.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Take Good Care of Your Self

Because of the stress many are experiencing these days from the recession, work overload, and uncertainty of the times, I am frequently asked to teach Stress Management to my client organizations.

If you (or someone you know) are stressed out, let me suggest an outline for your consideration, adapted from Dr. Kathleen Hall's wonderful book A Life In Balance.

Dr. Hall recommends that you take good care of your SELF:

Serenity, Slowness, and Sleep - To protect yourself from rising anxiety, seek out your daily dose of serenity. There are many pathways to consider. Find one or two that work for you. Maybe meditation or yoga. Maybe a walk or listening to music. Perhaps prayer.

And if you find yourself rushing around and running short of breath, recognize the value in slowing down. Just as there are times for urgency, there are also times to take it slow. Slow down with eating, for example. You'll enjoy it more. (For more great ideas on taking life slower, see this TEDtalk by Carl Honore, the author of In Praise of Slowness.)

Be sure also to slow down enough each day to relax. There are many ways to relax and unwind. Get in a comfy hammock under a tree, if possible. (That's my wife's favorite.) Or try this 3-part mix:
1. a comfortable chair
2. pleasant thoughts
3. slow deep breaths
You will be triggering the relaxation response in your body.

And don't shortcut on your sleep. Research strongly supports its importance to your health and performance. And consider the value in a daily power nap!

Exercise, Energy and Engine of Success- Your success depends upon your energy. All of the above "S" ideas (as well as the "L" and "F" ideas below) will support the energy you need each day to be at your best.

Find a type of exercise that works for you. Walking is great. Park away from your building so you have a longer walk. Take the stairs. (Note: This is especially vital for all of you who have sedentary jobs. Beware the danger of sitting too much!)

Just as you need to maintain the engine in your car, the "engine of your success" is your own internal combustion system, namely You. Since energy is the key component, make sure you have plenty of energizers in your life. Energizers are those things (e.g. exercise) and people (e.g. a support group) that fuel, recharge and replenish you, physically, emotionally, spiritually. And be careful about the things and people (especially the negative ones) that drain your energy and deplete you.

For more great stuff on energy, see The Energy Project with Tony Schwartz.

Love and Learning- Love means relationships. You shouldn't go it alone. And in truth, you can't hope to succeed by going it alone. You need the support of others, especially family, friends, and anyone else that cares about you. So be sure to reach out to others, make connections, and give freely from the heart. It will come back to you many times over.

And set a learning goal for yourself. Maybe learn more about social media such as twitter and LinkedIn. Maybe learn another language. Whatever it is, keep stimulating those brain cells.

Focus, Food, and Flexibility - Finally, here are three "F"s for taking good care of your SELF. First is Focus. What are you after? Set a clear objective for yourself and pursue it. Share your objective with your others so they know what you are seeking and can lend their support.

Food, while obviously important to our health and energy, has another advantage that might not appear at first glance: It's a great way to bring people together. Consultant Kenny Moore has pointed out that the word company derives from "sharing bread together." You can create your own company of supporters by designing opportunities to break bread together.

And last, it's important to be flexible, because you don't know what is going to come your way. There may be more chaos ahead! Stay loose, and strengthen your resilience so you can bend and bounce as needed along the way.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Wednesday July 27, 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

Make Something Happen

Today, at the Professional Service Group (PSG) in Somerville, NJ, I had the great opportunity to be their guest speaker. My topic, "Jump Start Your Job Search," was a hit.

But not because of me. It was the spirit of the group!

I was so impressed by the energy and enthusiasm of the people there, most of whom were north of 50 years old, and who had every right to be glum about their situation. But they were anything but gloomy. Quite the contrary, they were ready to make something happen!

I shared a quote with the group from a NJ job hunter who said, "Today is going to be the day that something is going to happen." That's optimism, for you! And a positive attitude.

What I recommended is that they take it one step further and approach each day with the attitude "Today I am going to make something happen." Even if it's just a tiny little step forward. Great oak trees come from tiny acorns.

Here are several ideas that surfaced for making something happen each and every day of a job search:

- research a company
- send a "thank you"
- attend a networking meeting
- call someone up on the phone
- write a blog post
- volunteer some time
- cheer someone up
- teach someone

You know the old saying "Some people make things happen. Some watch what happens. And some ask, 'What just happened?'" It's amusing. But you don't want to end up in the third spot.

Instead, say to yourself each today: "Today I am going to make something happen."

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Monday July 25, 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Changing the Culture On A Big Scale

Lately, there is a lot of chatter in the blogosphere about changing corporate culture. Much of it is good, such as this piece by Peter Bregman.

But every so often, someone comes along and says he is going to lead a change in organizational culture on a very big scale. The person I'm thinking of is Lowell McAdam, the newly named CEO of Verizon Communications.

In many news articles yesterday (such as this one), the announcement was made by current CEO Ivan Seidenberg that McAdam would come over to Verizon after a highly successful run as the head of Verizon Wireless. McAdam said: "We will definitely try to bring that entrepreneurial culture from the wireless side into the wireline side." Why? He said that Verizon must adopt a more "entrepreneurial culture" in its shrinking land-line business.

There it is, the Big Scale Culture Change Project: How to bring the entrepreneurial culture from the wireless business into the wireline side, Verizon Communications, to counter its shrinking business prospects.

Talk about a tall order!

How does he plan to pull this off? Reading further in the news articles, some of McAdam's ideas for changing the culture include:

Spreading the Credo: Like many other companies, Verizon Wireless has a set of values. They call it their Credo (as does Johnson & Johnson). You can read it here. The word Customer is mentioned over and over. And most interesting is the final section about Bigness: "Bureaucracy is an enemy. We fight every day to stay small and keep bureaucracy out. We are more agile than companies a fraction of our size, because we act fast and take risks every day. We see crisis and change as opportunities, not threats. We run to a crisis, not away. Change energizes us. We work hard, take action and get things done. Our actions produce measurable results." Impressive words. But the proof is on the front-line.

Working with the Unions: A phone company like Verizon deploys thousands of front-line workers each and every day, most of whom belong to the CWA, the Communication Workers of America union. The culture change must touch the hearts of these people or it won't take hold. This may be the toughest challenge of all facing McAdam.

Developing New Products and Services: With new competitors nibbling away at the old phone business, Verizon must think differently and innovate. The way to think differently is get different people thinking together.

If McAdam were to ask me what else he should consider, I'd offer the following.

Lead the Change: This is now a top priority for all the leaders of the organization. Who are the leaders? Potentially, anyone. Leaders can come from anywhere in an organization. Expand your thinking about leadership and develop leaders at all levels.

Clarify the Challenge: Make it abundantly clear that the stakes are high and that the status quo is no longer acceptable. Jack Welch once said it very well: Change before you have to.

Change the Conversations: Get different people involved. Change the conversation by changing who is around the table. Capitalize on diversity.

Engage the Entire Organization: Make it very clear that everyone has a part to play in moving the culture and transforming the way Verizon does business. Invite everyone to contribute. Make it "safe to say" whatever is on their mind. Listen and learn. Implement as much as possible.

Engage the Customer: Invite the customer to the table. Seek their input. Listen and learn. Implement as much as possible.

This is a massive undertaking. But with commitment, communication, customer-focus, and confidence, it can start tomorrow.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Sunday July 24, 2011.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Spirited Disobedience

What a synchronistic morning! The daily newsletter from Richard Rohr contained this line:

~ " order to hold the new wine, we need new wineskins..."

What is the new wine, you ask?

Opening the NY Times, my wife said, "Listen to this." And she proceeded to read to me the front-page story, titled "In 3 Countries, Challenging the Vatican on Female Priests," about spirited disobedience in the Catholic Church. Here are the three fronts in this spirited movement:

- In the USA, over 150 Roman Catholic priests have signed a statement supporting a fellow priest who ordained a woman as a priest.

- In Austria, more than 300 priests and deacons issued a "Call to Disobedience" with a seven point pledge that includes support for ordination of women and married men.

- In Australia, the National Council of Priests defended their Bishop who said he would ordain women and married men as an answer to the shortage of priests.

How is the Vatican taking this? Not well. Using all the power and might available to them, they are cracking down hard on all such grassroots actions.

As an active practicing Catholic, I've got a point-of-view on this, shared by many others in the pews. In a nutshell, the Spirit is saying "It's time for change."

The Vatican doesn't see it that way at all. Instead their focus is elsewhere. For example, for several years now, it has been dragging the American church, kicking and resisting, into line on liturgical changes. For example, at Sunday Mass, rather than saying "We believe," we will now say "I believe." I kid you not. Talk about moving the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Wake up! The Spirit is at work in our time!

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Saturday July 23, 2011

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Using Your Power for Good

In the Star Wars films, young hero Luke Skywalker learns about The Force from his mentors Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda. The Force is an invisible but real super-natural energy source that can be harnessed and focused by those adept enough to use it. Luke learns that the Force can be used for good (like Obi Wan) or for evil (like Darth Vader).

In the real world, there is a potent force too. One that we wield all the time, though most of that time we are unaware of it and of its impact on others. I'm referring to the power of influence.

In Success magazine, writer Jennifer Reed does a nice job of addressing the question, Are you using your power of influence for good or for evil? She writes:

"Scientific studies prove the power of influence. A 2007 Harvard University report found a person’s chance of being obese increases 57 percent if a friend becomes obese, 40 percent if a sibling becomes obese, and 37 percent if a spouse becomes obese. A 2009 Stanford University study found that people who have worked with entrepreneurs are far more likely to give up the security of a steady paycheck and strike out on their own, too. That’s some pretty intense behavioral influence.

Our leadership styles, our moods, our means of dealing with situations, the examples we set (for good or for ill) can have a profound impact on those around us. Often, we have no idea of the power we wield

Indeed. We are influencing (and being influenced by others) all the time. It's part of the dynamic of human relationship.

In the workplace, we are influencing one another all the time. Look at the classic Hawthorne Works studies from long ago. Workers at a Western Electric plant near Chicago were studied by a team of social psychologists from the Harvard Business School. The aim of the study was to find out what factors would improve worker productivity. Would new lighting cause a positive change in output? Would cleaner work areas do it?

No, the historic finding of the Hawthorne Studies was something else. It was the power of influence. No matter what the researchers did, worker productivity went up. The conclusion? The workers were pleased to be the object of so much attention and interest.

This is more than a footnote in the study of organizational dynamics. Anyone in a leadership role should take heed. If you are a supervisor or manager, your influence counts. Do you know how to use it?

Here are five ideas for wielding this powerful force:

F = Focus: What are you paying attention to? Where are your priorities? Do you focus on your team and what they need to be successful?

O = Openness: Are you available to your team? Do your team members feel comfortable approaching you with questions and concerns? With ideas and suggestions? Are you listening to them?

R = Recognition: Are you noticing your team members and the effort they are giving? Are your acknowledging them and their contributions toward goals?

C = Connection: Are you connecting with your team members in a genuine way? Do you know them? Do they know you?

E = Expectations: What do you expect of your team? Do they know what your expectations are of them? What do they expect from You?

The bottom line is, Are you using your power of influence for good? The starting point is to become more aware of the fact that you are influencing others right now. Greater self-awareness is key.

The next step is more effective Use of Self (see the five points above).

In Star Wars, mentor Obi Wan Kenobi said to his protégé, "May the Force be with you." In real life, the power of influence is already with you. May you use your influence mindfully to have a positive effect on others.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Thursday July 21, 2011

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ich Bin Ein Neandertaler

My lifelong fascination with prehistoric stuff just got a major jolt with the headline that early Humans did indeed inter-breed with Neanderthals. So much so, the experts say, that many of us, myself included, carry Neanderthal DNA in our makeup.

Here's an excerpt from Discovery News:

"If your heritage is non-African, you are part Neanderthal, according to a new study in the July issue of Molecular Biology and Evolution. Damian Labuda of the University of Montreal's Department of Pediatrics and the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center conducted the study with his colleagues. They determined some of the human X chromosome originates from Neanderthals, but only in people of non-African heritage.

'This confirms recent findings suggesting that the two populations interbred,' Labuda was quoted as saying in a press release. His team believes most, if not all, of the interbreeding took place in the Middle East, while modern humans were migrating out of Africa and spreading to other regions.

The ancestors of Neanderthals left Africa about 400,000 to 800,000 years ago. They evolved over the millennia mostly in what are now France, Spain, Germany and Russia

So, this new finding has me wondering. What part of human nature can be attributed to our Neanderthal past?

There's probably no way of knowing. Though some scientists speculate, saying that Neanderthals made stone tools and may have had language, music, and art abilities. They may have even buried their dead, suggesting the use of ritual, and perhaps a belief in an afterlife?

In their heyday, the Neanderthals ranged across most of Europe and Asia, including some very cold spots. I wonder how they would handle this heat wave we are now having? I'll bet they would head North in search of cooler climes.

In any event, let's raise a toast to our new ancestors, the Neanderthals. Welcome to the Human Family!

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Wednesday July 20, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Today's Time Challenge for Training

Recently, Gena Taylor from maestro e-learning, interviewed me for her Training blog, Training Spotting (which is a nice take-off on the title of a UK film called Trainspotting).

In the structured interview that she conducted, Gena sought my perspective on the greatest challenges facing providers, and customers, of Training nowadays. In my view, that greatest challenge is Time. Here is an excerpt from the interview:

Gena: What have you found to be the greatest challenges in the training profession today?

Terry: Time is so precious, and in such short supply, that people do not have time for training. Even those who admit they really need the training, can’t break free to attend a class. Because of the time issue, as well as the issue of having workers deployed in many different locations, some companies are turning to e-learning as a solution. E-learning is an important new channel for delivering some types of training...

In this fast-paced world, people need to learn things on-the-fly when they need it. Training departments are seldom agile enough to turn on a dime like that. The answer? Informal learning. Self-directed learning that goes on at the work site, driven by the learner.

Training is going to be a mix of formal and informal. We need to re-think how we do training and develop new paradigms. For example, we need to move to workplace coaches who are there whenever you need them for on-the-spot learning.

To read the entire article, go here.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Tuesday July 19, 2011.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Spiritual Manager

Can a manager manage spiritually?

This is the question that is forming in me on a beautiful Sunday morning in July as I sit on my porch with a cup of coffee, watching the red and yellow finches land on the bird feeder in my yard, and the baseball players gather for their game in the park across the street.

I suppose the answer to the question lies in the question itself. What does it mean to do anything spiritually?

Here are a few aspects that occur to me this day...

Serenity - Having peace of mind stems from a peaceful heart. Sounds good, but it's difficult to attain and keep. There is so much pain in life, so much inner conflict at times.

Mindfulness - Cultivating a non-judgemental awareness of the Self, including the thoughts, the feelings, and emotions that arise within, is the first step toward serenity. With mindfulness, you can learn to calmly let go of anxiety and stress.

Identity - Do you know Who You Are? Knowing your true self will help you discover what you are called to do.

Connectedness - Realizing that we are all connected is so important. Until we do, our thinking is filled with boundaries and walls that separate us needlessly. Our effort goes into keeping things apart. Choosing connectedness will help foster synergies that can produce breakthroughs.

Breath - Learning to breath is the original creative act of the universe, the breath that got everything going. We can continue that each day, at home and at work. Breathing more deeply will center you, energize you, and strengthen your resilience.

Presence - How do you show up? What do you bring into the room? Does your presence bring energy, light, and peace?

Peace - Bringing peace to a group of people helps to heal, strengthen, and ultimately free them to get up and walk their own path. Bringing peace helps dispel fear.

Gratitude - What is your outlook on what you have in life? Being thankful for the opportunities before you generates the positive energy needed to move ahead and succeed.

Courage - What do you stand for? Knowing your values helps you see clearly, especially when injustice occurs. With courage, you can speak the truth, even to power.

Stewardship - As a manager, your job, at its essence, is to take what has been given to you and increase it. This includes the talents of the people on your team. Developing your people is the defining act of the faithful steward.

Liberating - So much of managing has been about controlling and staying on top of people, about distrust and fear. The spiritual manager chooses liberation instead of control. Why put so much effort into holding people in check?

Bringing New Life - The Spiritual Manager loves change, acting like a mid-wife, helping to bring new things to birth. New ideas, new processes, new products. Like a gardener, the Spiritual Manager tends the entire garden, making sure that every part has what it needs to blossom beautifully.

If a manager managed in this way, what sort of workplace would result?

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Sunday July 17, 2011.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Live Your Goals

The women on the World Cup Soccer teams wear a patch on their shoulders that says "Live Your Goals." It's part of a campaign by FIFA to encourage the spread of women's football around the world. The aims of the campaign include:

"to spark excitement about women’s football;
to inspire more young women and girls to play football;
to increase the popularity of the professional game

Judging by my recent experience in Germany, where I attended three World Cup games, this campaign is succeeding.

Yesterday, via ESPN, I watched the game in Dresden between the US and Brazil, described by the press as "dramatic" and "epic." That it was.

But for me, watching these teams play with such ferocity and intensity, I thought of the recent publication by Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson on the characteristics of successful people. Dr. Halvorson is establishing a "science of success" by studying what successful people actually do.

She says that "successful people reach their goals not simply because of who they are, but more often because of what they do." Which includes such practices as getting specific about your goals and "knowing exactly what you want to achieve." This, Halvorson says, "keeps you motivated until you get there."

I'll bet that this is one of things that makes these World Cup women so great.

Looking further into Halvorson's fascinating research findings, a few other nuggets gleam, including:

Successful people focus on getting better - Successful people never rest on their laurels. Rather they are constantly pushing themselves to find ways to improve their game.

Successful people have grit - Successful people are committed to their goals and do not quit. Instead, they persevere, no matter what the challenge or the obstacle they face.

Successful people are great finishers - And they stay with it to the end.

I'd say that the US Women's Team fits these criteria very well. They exemplify what it means to "Live Your Goals."

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Monday July 11, 2011

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Dr. Paul Marciano and Employee Engagement

What does it take to increase employee engagement? That's what organizational leaders want to know.

The good news is, It's not rocket science. In fact, the levers for moving the needle on employee engagement were summed up by author and consultant Dr. Paul Marciano. You can read about his model here.

If you want to learn more, the Rutgers Center for Management Development is hosting a special program featuring Dr. Marciano on July 26 and 27. During this 2-day workshop, participants will learn how to maximize the ROI of an organization’s most powerful resource – its people – through Dr. Marciano’s powerful RESPECT™ model for increasing employee engagement.

The event will be held at 94 Rockafeller Road in Piscataway, NJ. Registration is $975 and includes continental breakfast and lunch. All attendees of the program will also receive a copy of Dr. Marciano's book, Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work.

For more information:
Call: 1-848-445-5543

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Saturday July 9, 2011.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Travel Is Good for the Soul

After my first trip to Europe years ago, I realized that travel changes you. It stretches you. It is good for the soul.

In our latest voyage to Europe, we managed to visit both Paris and Berlin in the same trip! Imagine that? Thanks to our friends who live in Germany, we did. And more besides, visiting Heilbronn, Stuttgart, Bad Rappenau, Bad Wimpfen, Mainz, Heidelburg, and even attending two Womens World Cup Soccer games at the new Neckar-Rhein stadium in Sinsheim.

Our humorous tour guide in rainy Berlin took us for an informative 1 hour ride. When we came to Check Point Charlie, he told us about the rabbits that were trapped when Berlin was divided and the wall was built. Did they mutate into a larger and stranger breed? Unknown. A Berliner style urban legend?

As I said up top, travel is good for the soul. Especially this sort of travel, where you leave your comfort zone far behind. You learn things about human nature, such as the amazing ability we have to communicate even with those who speak different languages. For example, in Paris, when searching for the metro station, we asked a man for help. He only spoke French, and we did our best to get our question across. We pointed to our metro map and he pointed down the street, making a curving motion with his arm and body. We went down the street as he pointed and found the station around the corner. Ah the wonder of body language!

And you learn things about yourself, such as how adaptable you are. How little you know. And how much there is to see and learn in this interesting world of ours.

At a Mass in Paris, the priest's message was "Get up and walk." Amen to that! What a great motto for world travellers.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Thursday July 7, 2011.