Archive for the ‘Authentic’ Category

Work is 95% Noise

There’s a lot of noise at work.  I’m not talking about the audible noise you hear in your office or the chatter of your coworkers. I’m talking about the noise purposefully created to slather a layer of importance to things that aren’t all that important.

Corporate priorities are created at the company level to move the company in a new direction. There are regular presentations made by the leadership team to educate everyone on the new direction and help everyone think the initiative is important.  This takes a lot of time and energy.  Then, there are regular meetings held across the company to hear the sermon of the corporate priorities. How much does it cost for everyone in the company to sit through a one-hour sermon on corporate priorities? How much does it cost to do this quarterly or monthly? Because the cost is high and the value is low, corporate priorities have a high noise content.

Monthly reports on the status of the corporate priorities take a lot of work to pull together. These reports tell us how things are going at a high level but are not actionable.  Some initiatives are green, some are yellow, and some are red.  So what? After reading a monthly report of a corporate initiative, have you ever changed your work in any way? I didn’t think so, because the report is noise.

If your work brings about no changes, the work is noise.

If you complete a talent assessment for your team and no one’s work changes or no one changes teams, the talent assessment is noise. If you are asked to create a summary of your work experience to support a talent assessment and nothing changes after the assessment, the talent assessment program is noise. If you are asked to put together a succession plan and nothing changes, the succession planning process is noise. If you are asked to put together an improvement plan for your team’s culture and no one reads the plan or holds you accountable, the culture improvement program is noise.

If you write a monthly report and no asks questions about it, the monthly reporting process is noise. If you write a charter for a project and no one asks questions about it, the project definition process is noise. If someone sets up a meeting without a defined agenda, that meeting is noise. If no one writes meeting minutes, the meeting is noise. If there will be no decision made at the meeting, don’t go because that meeting is noise.

Work is 95% noise.

If someone asks for help, help them because that is not noise. When you see a problem, do something about it because that’s not noise.  When you see something that’s missing, fill the hole because that’s not noise.  When something interests you, investigate it because that’s not noise.  When your curiosity gets the best of you, that’s not noise.  When something is important to you, that’s not noise.  When something should be important to someone else, tell them because that’s not noise.

When the work is noise, don’t do it. But if you must do it, do it with minimal effort and do it poorly. Don’t start the work until two weeks after the deadline. With luck, next time they’ll ask someone else to do it. If you think the work is noise, it probably is. Don’t do the work until you’re asked three times. Then, do it poorly.

If the customer won’t benefit, the work is noise. If the work is new and the customer might benefit, the work is not noise. If you are unsure if the work is noise, ask how might customer benefit.  If you are pursuing something that will grow the top line, it’s not noise. If you’re unsure if the work is noise, ask how the work might grow the top line.

If it’s noise, say no.  That will free up your time to say yes to things that are real.

“Olive with her NYE hearing protection… Muffs on upside down work great!” by Bekathwia is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Trust-Based Disagreement

When there’s disagreement between words and behavior, believe the behavior.  This is especially true when the words deny the behavior.

When there’s disagreement between the data and the decision, the data is innocent.

When there’s agreement that there’s insufficient data but a decision must be made, there should be no disagreement that the decision is judgment-based.

When there’s disagreement on the fact that there’s no data to support the decision, that’s a problem.

When there’s disagreement on the path forward, it’s helpful to have agreement on the process to decide.

When there’s disagreement among professionals, there is no place for argument.

When there’s disagreement, there is respect for the individual and a healthy disrespect for the ideas.

When there’s disagreement, the decisions are better.

When there’s disagreement, there’s independent thinking.

When there’s disagreement, there is learning.

When there’s disagreement, there is vulnerability.

When there’s disagreement, there is courage.

When there’s disagreement, there is trust.

“Teamwork” by davis.steve32 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

What Good Coaches Do

Good coaches listen to you.  They don’t judge, they just listen.

Good coaches continually study the game.  They do it in private, but they study.

Good coaches tell you that you can do better, and that, too, they do in private.

Good coaches pick you up off the floor. They know that getting knocked over is part of the game.

Good coaches never scream at you, but they will cry with you.

Good coaches never stop being your coach. Never.

Good coaches learn from you, and the best ones tell you when that happens.

Good coaches don’t compromise. Ever.

Good coaches have played the game and have made mistakes. That’s why they’re good coaches.

Good coaches do what’s in your best interest, not theirs.

Good coaches are sometimes wrong, and the best ones tell you when that happens.

Good coaches don’t care what other people think of them, but they care deeply about you.

Good coaches are prepared to be misunderstood, though it’s not their preference.

Good coaches let you bump your head or smash your knee, but, otherwise, they keep you safe.

Good coaches earn your trust.

Good coaches always believe you and perfectly comfortable disagreeing with you at the same time.

Good coaches know it’s always your choice, and they know that’s how deep learning happens.

Good coaches stick with you, unless you don’t do your part.

Good coaches don’t want credit. They want you to grow.

Good coaches don’t have a script. They create a custom training plan based on your needs.

Good coaches simplify things when it’s time, unless it’s time to make things complicated.

Good coaches aren’t always positive, but they are always truthful.

Good coaches are generous with their time.

Good coaches make a difference.

Regardless of the problem, the solution lives inside you.

If you want things to be different than they are, you have a problem. And if you want things to stay the same, you also have a problem. Either way, you have a problem. You can complain, you can do something about it, or you can accept things as they are.

Complaining can be fun for a while, then it turns sour. Doing something about it can take a lot of time and energy, and it’s difficult to know what to do. Accepting things as they are can be a challenge because that means it’s time to change your perspective. But it’s your choice.  So, what do you choose?

What does it look like to accept things as they are AND do something about it?

If you want someone to be different than they are, you have a problem.  And if you want them to stay the same, you have a different problem. Either way, you have a problem. You can complain about them, you can do something about it, or you can accept them as they are.

Complaining about people can be fun, but only in small doses. Doing something about it, well, that’s difficult because people will do what they want to do, not what you want them to do. Accepting people as they are is difficult because it means you have to look inside and change yourself. But it’s your choice.  So, what do you choose?

What does it look like to accept people as they are AND to do something that makes things better for all?

If you have a problem with things changing, the solution lives inside you. Things change. That’s what they do. And if you have a problem with things staying the same, the solution lives inside you. Things stay the same. That’s what they do.  Either way, the solution lives inside you, and it’s time to look inside.

How would it feel to own your problem and look inside for the solution?

If you have a problem because you want people to be different, the solution lives inside you. People behave the way they want to behave, not the way you want them to behave.  And if you have a problem because you want people to stay the same, the solution lives inside you.  People change. That’s what they do. Either way, the problem is you, and it’s time to look inside for the solution.

How would it feel to accept people as they are and look inside to solve your problem?

Bi Focal by Vox Efx is licensed under CC BY 2.0

How To Grow Leaders

If you want to grow leaders, meet with them daily.

If you want to grow leaders, demand that they disagree with you.

If you want to grow leaders, help them with all facets of their lives.

If you want to grow leaders, there is no failure, there is only learning.

If you want to grow leaders, give them the best work.

If you want to grow leaders, protect them.

If you want to grow leaders, spend at least two years with them.

If you want to grow leaders, push them.

If you want to grow leaders, praise them.

If you want to grow leaders, get them comfortable with discomfort.

If you want to grow leaders, show them who you are.

If you want to grow leaders, demand that they use their judgment.

If you want to grow leaders, give them just a bit more than they can handle and help them handle it.

If you want to grow leaders, show emotion.

If you want to grow leaders, tell them the truth, even when it creates anxiety.

If you want to grow leaders, always be there for them.

If you want to grow leaders, pull a hamstring and make them present in your place.

If you want to grow leaders, be willing to compromise your career so their careers can blossom.

If you want to grow leaders, when you are on vacation tell everyone they are in charge.

If you want to grow leaders, let them chose between to two good options.

If you want to grow leaders, pay attention to them.

If you want to grow leaders, be consistent.

If you want to grow leaders, help them with their anxiety.

If you want to grow leaders, trust them.

If you want to grow leaders, demonstrate leadership.

“Mother duck and ducklings” by Tambako the Jaguar is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

The Illusion of Control

Unhappy: When you want things to be different than they are.

Happy: When you accept things as they are.

 

Sad: When you fixate on times when things turned out differently than you wanted.

Neutral: When you know you have little control over how things will turn out.

Anxious: When you fixate on times when things might turn out differently than you want.

 

Stressed: When you think you have control over how things will turn out.

Relaxed: When you know you don’t have control over how things will turn out.

 

Agitated: When you live in the future.

Calm: When you live in the present.

Sad: When you live in the past.

 

Angry: When you expect a just world, but it isn’t.

Neutral: When you expect that it could be a just world, but likely isn’t.

Happy: When you know it doesn’t matter if the world is just.

 

Angry: When others don’t meet your expectations.

Neutral: When you know your expectations are about you.

Happy: When you have no expectations.

 

Timid: When you think people will judge you negatively.

Neutral: When you think people may judge you negatively or positively.

Happy: When you know what people think about you is none of your business.

 

Distracted: When you live in the past or future.

Focused: When you live in the now.

 

Afraid of change: When you think all things are static.

Accepting change: When you know all things are dynamic.

 

Intimidated: When you think you don’t meet someone’s expectations.

Confident: When you know you did your best.

 

Uncomfortable: When you want things to be different than they are.

Comfortable: When you know the Universe doesn’t care what you think.

 

“Space – Antennae Galaxies” by Trodel is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

When You Have Disagreement

When you have nothing to say, don’t say it.

But, when you have something to say, you must say it.

When you think your response might be taken the wrong way, it will.

When you take care to respond effectively, your response might be taken the wrong way.

When you have disagreement, there’s objective evidence that at least two people are thinking for themselves.

When you have disagreement, confrontation is optional.

When you have disagreement, everyone can be right, even if just a little.

When you have disagreement, that says nothing about the people doing the disagreeing.

When you have disagreement at high decibels, that’s an argument.

When you have disagreement, disagreeing on all points is a choice.

When you have disagreement, if you listen to sharpen your response, it’s a death spiral.

When you have disagreement, it’s best to disagree wholeheartedly and respectfully.

When you have disagreement, if you listen to understand, there’s hope.

When you have disagreement, it’s a disagreement about ideas and not moral character.

When you have disagreement, intentions matter.

When you have disagreement, decision quality skyrockets.

When you have disagreement, thank your partner in crime for sharing their truth.

When you have disagreement, there is sufficient trust to support the disagreement.

When you have disagreement, sometimes you don’t, but you don’t know it.

When you have disagreement, converging on a single point of view is not the objective.

When you have disagreement about ethics, you may be working at the wrong company.

When you have disagreement, there are no sides, only people doing their best.

When you have disagreement, the objective is understanding.

When you have disagreement, it’s the right thing to have.

When you have disagreement, there may be disagreement on the topic of the disagreement.

When you have disagreement, you are a contributing member, even if you stay quiet.

When you have disagreement, why not be agreeable?

When you have disagreement, it’s okay to change your mind.

When you have disagreement, you may learn something about yourself.

“Day 7: I disagree” by Stupid Dingo is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Musings on Skillfulness

Best practices are good, but dragging projects over the finish line is better.

Alignment is good, but not when it’s time for misalignment.

Short-term thinking is good, as long as it’s not the only type of thinking.

Reuse of what worked last time is good, as long as it’s bolstered by the sizzle of novelty.

If you find yourself blaming the customer, don’t.

People that look like they can do the work don’t like to hang around with those that can do it.

Too much disagreement is bad, but not enough is worse.

The Status Quo is good at repeating old recipes and better at squelching new ones.

Using your judgment can be dangerous, but not using it can be disastrous.

It’s okay to have some fun, but it’s better to have more.

If it has been done before, let someone else do it.

When stuck on a tricky problem, make it worse and do the opposite.

The only thing worse than using bad judgment is using none at all.

It can be problematic to say you don’t know, but it can be catastrophic to behave as if you do.

The best way to develop good judgment is to use bad judgment.

When you don’t know what to do, don’t do it.

“Old Monk” by anahitox is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Will you be remembered?

100% agreement means there’s less than 100% truth.  If, as a senior leader, you know there are differing opinions left unsaid, what would you do? Would you chastise the untruthful who are afraid to speak their minds? Would you simply ignore what you know to be true and play Angry Birds on your phone? Would you make it safe for the fearful to share their truth? Or would you take it on the chin and speak their truth? As a senior leader, I’d do the last one.

Best practice is sometimes a worst practice. If, as a senior leader, you know a more senior leader is putting immense pressure put on the team to follow a best practice, yet the context requires a new practice, what would you do? Would you go along with the ruse and support the worst practice? Would you keep your mouth shut and play tick-tack-toe until the meeting is over? Would you suggest a new practice, help the team implement it, and take the heat from the Status Quo Police? As a senior leader, I’d do the last one.

Truth builds trust. If, as a senior leader, you know the justification for a new project has been doctored, what would you do? Would you go along with the charade because it’s easy? Would call out the duplicity and preserve the trust you’ve earned from the team over the last decade? As a senior leader, I’d do the last one.

The loudest voice isn’t the rightest voice. If, as a senior leader, you know a more senior leader is using their positional power to strong-arm the team into a decision that is not supported by the data, what would you do? Would you go along with it, even though you know it’s wrong? Would you ask a probing question that makes it clear there is some serious steamrolling going on? And if that doesn’t work, would you be more direct and call out the steamrolling for what it is?  As a senior leader, I’d do the last two.

What’s best for the company is not always best for your career. When you speak truth to power in the name of doing what’s best for the company, your career may suffer. When you see duplicity and call it by name, the company will be better for it, but your career may not. When you protect people from the steam roller, the team will thank you, but it may cost you a promotion. When you tell the truth, the right work happens and you earn the trust and respect of most everyone.  As a senior leader, if your career suffers, so be it.

When you do the right thing, people remember. When, in a trying time, you have someone’s back, they remember. When a team is unduly pressured and you put yourself between them and the pressure, they remember. When you step in front of the steamroller, people remember. And when you silence the loudest voice so the right decision is made, people remember. As a senior leader, I want to be remembered.

Do you want to be remembered as someone who played Angry Birds or advocated for those too afraid to speak their truth?

Do you want to be remembered as someone who doodled on their notepad or spoke truth to power?

Do you want to be remembered as someone who kept their mouth shut or called out the inconvenient truth?

Do you want to be remembered as someone who did all they could to advance their career or someone who earned the trust and respect of those they worked with?

In the four cases above, I choose the latter.

“cryptic.” by dfactory is licensed under CC BY 2.0

When is it innovation theater?

When you go to the cinema or the playhouse you go you see a show. The show may be funny, it may be sad, it may be thought-provoking, it may be beautiful, and it may take your mind off your problems for a couple of hours; but it’s not real.  Sure, the storyline is good, but it came from someone’s imagination.  And because it’s a story, it doesn’t have to bound by reality. Sure, the choreography is catchy, but it’s designed for effect. Yes, the cinematography paints a good picture, but it’s contrived. And, yes, the actors are good, but they’re actors. What you see isn’t real. What you see is theater.

If you are asked to focus on the innovation process, that’s theater.  Innovation doesn’t care about process; it cares about delivering novel customer value. The process isn’t most important, the output is. When there’s an extreme focus on the process that usually means an extreme focus on the output of the process would be embarrassing.

If you are tasked to calculate the net present value of the project hopper, that’s theater. With innovation, there’s no partial credit for projects you’re not working on. None. The value of the projects in the hopper is zero. The song about the value of the project hopper is nothing more than a catchy melody performed to make sure the audience doesn’t ask about the feeble collection of projects you are working on. And, assigning a value to the stagnant project hopper is a creative storyline crafted to hide the fact you have too many projects you’re not working on.

If you are asked to create high-level metrics and fancy pie charts, that’s innovation theater.  Process metrics and pie charts don’t pay the bills. Here’s innovation’s script for paying the bills: complete amazing projects, launch amazing products, and sell a boatload.  Full stop.  If your innovation script is different than that, ball it up and throw it away along with its producer.

If the lame projects aren’t stopped so better ones can start, if people aren’t moved off stale projects onto amazing ones, if the same old teams are charged with the innovation mandate, if new leaders aren’t added, if the teams are measured just like last year, that’s innovation theater. How many mundane projects have you stopped? How many amazing projects have you started? How many new leaders have you added? How many new teams have you formed? How will you measure your teams differently? How do you feel about all that?

If a return on investment (ROI) calculation is the gating criterion before starting an amazing project, that’s innovation theater.  Projects that could create a new product family with a fundamentally different value proposition for a whole new customer segment cannot be assigned an ROI because no one has experience in this new domain. Any ROI will be a guess and that’s why innovation is governed by judgment and not ROI.  Innovation is unpredictable which makes an ROI is impossible to predict. And if your innovation process squeezes judgment out of the storyline, that’s a tell-tale sign of innovation theater.

If the specifications are fixed, the resources are fixed, and the completion date is fixed, that’s innovation theater.  Since it can be innovation only when there’s novelty, and since novelty comes with uncertainty, without flexibility in specs, resources, or time, it’s innovation theater.

If the work doesn’t require trust, it’s innovation theater. If trust is not required it’s because the work has been done before, and if that’s the case, it’s not innovation.

If you know it will work, it’s innovation theater.  Innovation and certainty cannot coexist.

If a steering team is involved, it’s innovation theater.  Consensus cannot spawn innovation.

If more than one person in charge, it’s innovation theater.  With innovation, there’s no place for compromise.

And what to do when you realize you’re playing a part in your company’s innovation theater? Well, I’ll save that for another time.

“Large clay theatrical mask, Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne” by Following Hadrian is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Regardless of the question, trust is the answer.

If you want to make a difference, build trust.

 

If you want to build trust, do a project together.

If you want to build more trust, help the team do work they think is impossible.

If you want to build more trust, contribute to the project in the background.

If you want to build more trust, actively give credit to others.

If you want to build more trust, deny your involvement.

 

If you want to create change, build trust.

 

If you want to build trust, be patient.

If you want to build more trust, be more patient.

If you want to build more trust, check your ego at the door so you can be even more patient.

 

If you want to have influence, build trust.

 

If you want to build trust, do something for others.

If you want to build more trust, do something for others that keeps them out of trouble.

If you want to build more trust, do something for others that comes at your expense.

If you want to build more trust, do it all behind the scenes.

If you want to build more trust, plead ignorance.

 

If you want the next project to be successful, build trust.

 

If you want to build trust, deliver what you promise.

If you want to build more trust, deliver more than you promise.

If you want to build more trust, deliver more than you promise and give the credit to others.

 

If you want deep friendships, build trust.

 

If you want to build trust, give reinforcing feedback.

If you want to build more trust, give reinforcing and correcting feedback in equal amounts.

If you want to build trust, give reinforcing feedback in public and correcting feedback in private.

 

If you want your work to have meaning, build trust.

 

“[1823] Netted Pug (Eupithecia venosata)” by Bennyboymothman is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Mike Shipulski Mike Shipulski
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