Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Process of Improving

Looking to improve something in your life in 2012? Perhaps you are thinking of improving yourself? If you are looking to improve your team or your business, here are seven steps to process improvement.

P = Pick your target. Picture success. What would it look like if you actually reached your improvement goal? Envision it as specifically as you can.

R = Review your starting point. Where do things stand right now? What are your strengths that can help you reach the goal? What obstacles stand in your way? Make a list of each using the Force Field diagram where Driving Forces are listed on the left and Hindering Forces on the right. (This excellent strategic change management tool, the Force Field Analysis method, was developed by Organization Development founder Kurt Lewin, and was one of the first OD tools I learned.)

O = Open up. Have you ever been on the receiving end of an improvement hatched behind closed doors? Don't repeat that mistake. Who could help you with this improvement project? Why not tell them about your goal and ask for their support?

C = Collaborate. Invite participation. Form teams. Remember that people support what they help create.

E = Execute. After enough study, select the best ideas and put them into action. See what happens. Remember it's OK to start small.

S = Sustain. If things start to get better, reinforce the gains. If you don't, watch out. Things may revert back to the previous state.

S = Start again. Improving your process is never-ending.

What are you waiting for? Pick your target. Start improving.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Thursday January 26, 2012

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Afflicting the Comfortable

As a youngster, I dutifully attended religion classes and learned many things that have stayed with me through life. The Corporal Works of Mercy, for example:
- To feed the hungry.
- To give drink to the thirsty.
- To shelter the homeless.
- To clothe the naked.
- To visit and ransom the captive.
- To visit the sick.
- To bury the dead.

In sum, to comfort the afflicted.

Somewhere later down the line, I learned another one, that turns the summary on its head:

- To afflict the comfortable.

That one was NOT taught in catechism, if my memory serves. However, it's there, for those who have eyes to see. Afflicting the comfortable is the job description of prophets. That's why they are so often thrown in jail, run out of town, and even crucified.

In today's world, who is fulfilling this prophetic role? Journalists have laid claim. The Occupy Wall Street protesters more recently.

Anyone else? To my way of thinking, there are others in life whose job description contains Afflicting the Comfortable:

Parents - What is the ultimate goal of a parent? To see their offspring fly out of the nest, set free to soar to their own destiny. What is the way to this goal? Love and Release. The embrace of love must someday turn into the loving push that may seem like an affliction but is necessary to release the child once they are ready to go.

Coaches - What is the goal of a coach? To raise the level of performance of a player or a team. What is the way to this goal? The best formula I've seen is G*R*O*W (from The Inner Game of Tennis) where the coach helps the other person to set a Goal, examine the starting Reality, identify Obstacles, and develop a Way forward. In the process, the most effective coaches ask questions that challenge and push the player to achieve more.

The legendary football coach Ara Parseghian once said, "A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are."

Change Agents - What is the goal of a change agent? To help the client to change for the better. In organizations, this is definitely easier said than done. Many organizational change efforts fail because of reluctance to change, even when the client invited the change agent in for that very purpose. What then is the way to the goal? Change agents must be ready to afflict the comfortable. To point to the elephant in the room that no one sees, or dares speak of. To "speak truth to power," to tell the emperor he has no clothes.

Like the prophet of old, the change agent may be tossed out for such truth-telling. The truth hurts. But that's the job. Take it or leave it.

How about you? Is there someone in your life (perhaps yourself) who has gotten too comfortable, and needs to be afflicted?

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Sunday January 22, 2012

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Goal Setting Made S*I*M*P*L*E

In the training and consulting that I do, I talk about goals quite a bit. Goals are fundamental to success in life. The latest research on success by Dr. Heidi Halvorson points to the importance of setting very specific goals.

My impression, however, is that most people don't set goals. Perhaps they don't buy it, or they don't get it. Or perhaps they did, at one time, but something got in the way, and their goals faded away.

What's the problem then? The SMART (Specific, Measurable, Aggressive, Realistic, and Time bound) formula has stood the test of time quite well. Is something missing?

For those who have been staying clear of goals, for whatever reason, here is a six-point model that I call Goal Setting made S*I*M*P*L*E:

S = Stop to think about what you want out of life. To make more money? Get a better job? Move to a different state? What do you aspire to? What would make you happier?

I = Important vs Urgent: We get so caught up in the crises of the moment that we hardly spend any time asking ourselves, What is most important to me? Make time each week to find a quiet place where you can reflect upon what is truly important.

M = Make a list of the ideas that could help you move toward your goal. Make another list of the obstacles you are likely to encounter. This will keep your goal setting realistic, and help you identify the resources you'll tap into to make the journey.

P = Put a plan together that identifies the first steps you can start to take now that will get you moving in the desired direction.

L = Let others know what you are striving for and ask for their input and support. They will be happy to help.

E = Execute the plan a step at a time, one day at a time. There will be bad days, even setbacks. You may be tempted to throw in the towel at times. But stay focused on the goal you have selected.

A wise book on this process is "Oh the Places You'll Go" by Dr. Seuss. I highly recommend it.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Saturday January 21, 2012

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Your New Year Epiphany

It's January 8th in the new year of 2012. Have you had an epiphany yet?

The ancient word "epiphany" comes from the Greek meaning "to show forth." Like a light appearing in a dark room. In more recent usage, some have likened epiphany to the "aha moment" when an idea suddenly occurs to us, like a light bulb appearing in our minds.

An epiphany comes when we least expect it. It's a surprise. A gift.

Writing about the feast of the Epiphany in his daily e-newsletter, Fr. Richard Rohr says that it is about seeing with wonder. The Magi who followed a star to find the newborn king were "questing in wonder." What they found was a mother and father and their baby, huddled in a humble manager.

As a new year opens, what star are you following?

An epiphany can be a very small, ordinary thing. On twitter this morning, South African artist Laureen Raftopulos wrote: "Live in the moment by becoming fully aware of the beauty in the smallest of things around you."

That's a good mantra for living epiphany.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Sunday January 8, 2012

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

To Your Specific Success

Driving my son Kevin to the train the other morning, I asked him if he had given any thought to his New Year's Resolutions. To my surprise, he said "Yes."

Kevin is a recent college graduate (Rutgers, Class of 2009) who has embarked upon a career in television, working as an editor for a well-known food show, based in New York City.

His goal, he told me, is to make a very specific move within his line of business, a move that would be a good next step in his career path in television.

I was happy to hear that. I offered some words of support to encourage him. And I told him that he is doing one of the things that Dr. Heidi Halvorson says that highly successful people do, namely: set very specific goals.

In her research (published last year in the Harvard Business Review), Halvorson found that successful people do a number of things differently that contribute to their success. And when it comes to goals, she has some very clear pointers to offer:

1. Get very specific - By getting very specific, you will know when you have reached the goal. When goals are too general or vague, their fuzziness contributes to gradual loss of interest. How many times have your New Year's Resolutions just drifted away on you?

2. Use mental contrasting - The technique Halvorson calls "mental contrasting" involves going back and forth in your thoughts between the goal and what stands in your way. By doing this, she says you generate the energizing experience of "the necessity to act — a psychological state that is crucial for achieving any goal."

Halvorson's idea about the right psychological state reminded me of a book I had given to myself back in December as an early Christmas present: Immunity to Change by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey. In their book, they provide a remarkable insight into the reasons why changes fail so often, changes such as the ones we try to capture in our New Year's Resolutions. In a nutshell, we fail to attain our goals because we harbor a "hidden commitment" to not change and we back away from the anxiety that change arouses deep within our psyches.

So, to all of you reading this who are contemplating your New Year's Resolutions -- especially job hunters, recent graduates, and anyone seeking the golden ring of success in life--consider the importance of setting very specific goals.

By following this advice, you increase the likelihood of actually reaching your goals.

Posted by Terrence Seamon on Wednesday January 4, 2012