Archive for February, 2011

Declare Success

All projects are successful; it’s just a matter of choosing what to declare.  Here are some good choices:

  • Success – We know when a project is too big. Going forward, let’s do smaller ones.
  • Success – We know we can run too many projects concurrently. Going forward, let’s do fewer and get more done.
  • Success – We know we can’t make that  in-house. Going forward, let’s find a suppler with world class capability.
  • Success – We know the consequences of going too quickly. Going forward, let’s take our time and get it right.
  • Success – We know what customers won’t buy. Going forward, let’s know if they’ll buy it before we make it.
  • Success – We know the consequences of going too slowly. Going forward, let’s be more efficient and launch sooner.
  • Success – We know when quality levels are too low. Going forward, let’s launch with higher quality.
  • Success – We know we can’t outsource that. Going forward, let’s make it in-house.
  • Success – We know the attributes of a bad project manager. Going forward, let’s hire one that knows how to run projects.

Celebrate the learning, incorporate it in your go-forward plan, and go forward. Success.

The Gravity of Intrinsic Motivation

Work can be exceptionally profitable, work can dovetail perfectly with strategy, and work can make perfect business sense. Though these attributes seem powerful, they’re insufficient for work to carry the day. But there’s a far more powerful force out there, a force that virtually guarantees that work will take on a life of it’s own, that work will go viral. That force? Intrinsic motivation.

Work must be meaningful. The team, or you, must have a personal reason, a vested reason, an intrinsic reason why the work should happen. Otherwise, it’s a crap shoot. Otherwise, it takes massive effort and powerful control mechanisms to roll work up hill. What a waste. The energy spent on pushing should be spent on the work. Imagine if pushing energy was converted to advancing-the-work energy.

With intrinsic motivation, work accelerates down hill. Intrinsic motivation is the gravity that pull on work, builds momentum, and steam-rolls those in the way. (Although intrinsic motivation has been known to clear the way of those who can help.) Intrinsic motivation flows work over and around rocks, tirelessly smooths sharp edges, and uproots sticks-in-the mud. (You know who I’m talking about.)

Do you and your work have intrinsic motivation? I certainly hope so. How do you tell? Here’s how:

Question: Why do you want this work to happen?

Answers – missing intrinsic motivation:

  • Because my boss told me to do it.
  • I don’t really care if the work happens or not.
  • I’m just here for the free doughnuts.

Answers – with intrinsic motivation:

  • Because it’s important to me.
  • Because it will benefit my kids.
  • That’s a stupid question. You don’t know?  I’m glad you’re not on the team. Get out of my way.

Intrinsic motivation makes a big difference, it changes the game. It’s like the difference between pushing against gravity and rolling down hill with a tail wind. You should know if you have it.  If you don’t you should be ready to push like hell for a long time.

Acid test — does your work cause you to pole vault out of bed? If not, find new work.

For more on intrinsic motivation, here’s a video link — Indiana Jones and the boulder of intrinsic motivation.

For daily tweets, find me at Twitter — @MikeShipulski

Great coaches invest.

Great coaches invest. They’re all-in. It’s that simple. They know what you need and give it you. No need to ask. (And that’s best because often you don’t want it.) Great coaching is like medicine – tastes like crap and three years later you feel better.

Great coaches are grounded in the reality of doing. They believe in sweat, struggle, and pain. They’re all about doing.

Great coaches don’t give options when options are not best. Sure, they know there are options, but they know they’re not for you. Great coaches take control of your best interests until you’re ready. One day at high school track practice my coach told me I was the anchor leg for the mile relay. (I didn’t know I was on the ballot.) He looked me in the eye and said – “There’s only one rule to running last – don’t let anyone pass you.” For the remaining three years of my career I never did.

Great coaches coach everyone differently. Sure they work within their framework, but the coaching is designed to fit you, not them.

Great coaches push down hard to get you to stand taller. At baseball practice one hot summer afternoon (I was sixteen) my coach had us run repeatedly on and off the field to make sure we did it right. (He believed in practicing all facets of the game.) For the first five times, or so, I ran. Most jogged, but I ran. (I always hustled.) But, on the next one I jogged. Loudly, forcefully, angrily, in front of everyone, he said, “What the hell is going on? We’ve been playing like crap lately and now our best play is jogging off the field. What the hell is going on? We’re going to do it again because he jogged.” He gave me what I needed – his medicine fit and I stood taller. (Over our six years together that was the only time he yelled about my behavior.)

Great coaches are great because they always tell the truth. Great coaches are great because they invest.

Confusion of facts with feelings

Facts and feelings are different. Both are real, but facts are verifiable and feelings are not. Feelings are all about, well, feelings and facts are all about actions, events, and things that happened. But even with those differences, we still confuse them. And the consequences? We’re misunderstood and judged and, if the feelings are deep enough, we’re detoured to the off ramp of irreconcilable differences.

But there’s a more interesting twist. Facts and feelings interact quite differently when looking back (past) versus looking forward (future).

When looking to the past, feelings modify facts and facts modify feelings. When feelings modify facts, events are colored, amped up, or muted, sequence is distorted. When facts do the bending, we become happy, sad, angry, or scared. The facts don’t really change (they don’t give a damn about feelings), but facts change our feelings, feelings change us, and we change the facts. It’s a natural coupling to acknowledge and work within.

When looking to the future, feelings dominate – feelings control our actions. In that way, feelings control what will happen, what will be. And the most dominant of all is fear. Fear stops us in our tracks, walls off possibilities, pulls us into inaction, and helps us mute ourselves. Fear restricts and limits.

We all want to broaden our possibilities, to free up the design space that is our lives. The self-help crew tells us to overcome our fears. That’s total bullshit. Fear is much too powerful for a full frontal attack. Fear is not overcome; it leaves when it’s good and ready. You don’t decide, it does. We must learn to live with fear.

Fear’s power is its ability to masquerade as reality. (How can it be reality if we’re afraid of a future that has not happened yet?) And what is fear afraid of? Fear is afraid to be seen as it is – as a feeling. And what are we supposed to do with feelings? Feel them. To live with fear we must acknowledge it. We must write it down, look at, and feel it. And then tread water with it while we create our future.

Mike Shipulski Mike Shipulski
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