Archive for the ‘Clarity’ Category

The truth can set you free, but only if you tell it.

 

Your truth is what you see.  Your truth is what you think.  Your truth is what feel.  Your truth is what you say. Your truth is what you do.

 

If you see something, say something.

If no one wants to hear it, that’s on them.

 

If your truth differs from common believe, I want to hear it.

If your truth differs from common believe and no one wants to hear it, that’s troubling.

 

If you don’t speak your truth, that’s on you.

If you speak it and they dismiss it, that’s on them.

 

Your truth is your truth, and no one can take that away from you.

When someone tries to take your truth from you, shame on them.

 

Your truth is your truth. Full stop.

And even if it turns out to be misaligned with how things are, it’s still your responsibility to tell it.

 

If your company makes it difficult for you to speak your truth, you’re still obliged to speak it.

If your company makes it difficult for you to speak your truth, they don’t value you.

 

When your truth turns out to be misaligned with how things are, thank you for telling it.

You’ve provided a valuable perspective that helped us see things more clearly.

 

If you’re striving for your next promotion, it can be difficult to speak your dissenting truth.

If it’s difficult to speak your dissenting truth, instead of promotion, think relocation.

 

If you feel you must yell your dissenting truth, you’re not confident in it.

If you’re confident in your truth and you still feel you must yell it, you have a bigger problem.

 

When you know your truth is standing on bedrock, there’s no need to argue.

When someone argues with your bedrock truth, that’s a problem for them.

 

If you can put your hand over mouth and point to your truth, you have bedrock truth.

When you write a report grounded in bedrock truth, it’s the same as putting your hand over your mouth and pointing to the truth.

 

If you speak your truth and it doesn’t bring about the change you want, sometimes that happens.

And sometimes it brings about its opposite.

 

Your truth doesn’t have to be right to be useful.

But for your truth to be useful, you must be uncompromising with it.

 

You don’t have to know why you believe your truth; you just have to believe it.

It’s not your responsibility to make others believe your truth; it’s your responsibility to tell it.

 

When your truth contradicts success, expect dismissal and disbelief.

When your truth meets with dismissal and disbelief, you may be onto something.

 

Tomorrow’s truth will likely be different than today’s.

But you don’t have a responsibility to be consistent; you have a responsibility to the truth.

 

image credit — “the eyes of truth r always watching u” by TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Without a problem there can be no progress.

Without a problem, there can be no progress.

And only after there’s too much no progress is a problem is created.

And once the problem is created, there can be progress.

 

When you know there’s a problem just over the horizon, you have a problem.

Your problem is that no one else sees the future problem, so they don’t have a problem.

And because they have no problem, there can be no progress.

Progress starts only after the calendar catches up to the problem.

 

When someone doesn’t think they have a problem, they have two problems.

Their first problem is the one they don’t see, and their second is that they don’t see it.

But before they can solve the first problem, they must solve the second.

And that’s usually a problem.

 

When someone hands you their problem, that’s a problem.

But if you don’t accept it, it’s still their problem.

And that’s a problem, for them.

 

When you try to solve every problem, that’s a problem.

Some problems aren’t worth solving.

And some don’t need to be solved yet.

And some solve themselves.

And some were never really problems at all.

 

When you don’t understand your problem, you have two problems.

Your first is the problem you have and your second is that you don’t know what your problem by name.

And you’ve got to solve the second before the first, which can be a problem.

 

With a big problem comes big attention. And that’s a problem.

With big attention comes a strong desire to demonstrate rapid progress. And that’s a problem.

And because progress comes slowly, fervent activity starts immediately. And that’s a problem.

And because there’s no time to waste, there’s no time to define the right problems to solve.

 

And there’s no bigger problem than solving the wrong problems.

Love Everyone and Tell the Truth

If you see someone doing something that’s not quite right, you have a choice – call them on their behavior or let it go.

In general, I have found it’s more effective to ignore behavior you deem unskillful if you can.  If no one will get hurt, say nothing. If it won’t start a trend, ignore it. And if it’s a one-time event, look the other way.  If it won’t cause standardization on a worst practice, it never happened.

When you don’t give attention to other’s unskillful behavior, you don’t give it the energy it needs to happen again. Just as a plant dies when it’s not watered, unskillful behavior will wither on the vine if it’s ignored. Ignore it and it will die. But the real reason to ignore unskillful behavior is that it frees up time to amplify skillful behavior.

If you’re going to spend your energy doing anything, reinforce skillful behavior.  When you see someone acting skillfully, call it out.  In front of their peers, tell them what you liked and why you liked it.  Tell them how their behavior will make a difference for the company. Say it in a way that others hear. Say it in a way that everyone knows this behavior is special.  And if you want to guarantee that the behavior will happen again, send an email of praise to the boss of the person that did the behavior and copy them on the email.  The power of sending an email of praise is undervalued by a factor of ten.

When someone sends your boss an email that praises you for your behavior, how do you feel?

When someone sends your boss an email that praises you for your behavior, will you do more of that behavior or less?

When someone sends your boss an email that praises you for your behavior, what do you think of the person that sent it?

When someone sends your boss an email that praises you for your behavior, will you do more of what the sender thinks important or less?

And now the hard part. When you see someone behaving unskillfully and that will damage your company’s brand, you must call them on their behavior. To have the most positive influence, give your feedback as soon as you see it.  In a cause-and-effect way, the person learns that the unskillful behavior results in a private discussion on the negative impact of their behavior.  There’s no question in their mind about why the private discussion happened and, because you suggested a more skillful approach, there’s clarity on how to behave next time.  The first time you see the unskillful behavior, they deserve to be held accountable in private. They also deserve a clear explanation of the impacts of their behavior and a recipe to follow going forward.

And now the harder part. If, after the private explanation of the unskillful behavior that should stop and the skillful behavior should start, they repeat the unskillful behavior, you’ve got to escalate. Level 1 escalation is to hold a private session with the offender’s leader. This gives the direct leader a chance to intervene and reinforce how the behavior should change. This is a skillful escalation on your part.

And now the hardest part. If, after the private discussion with the direct leader, the unskillful behavior happens again, you’ve got to escalate.  Remember, this unskillful behavior is so unskillful it will hurt the brand. It’s now time to transition from private accountability to public accountability.  Yes, you’ve got to call out the unskillful behavior in front of everyone. This may seem harsh, but it’s not.  They and their direct leader have earned every bit of the public truth-telling that will soon follow.

Now, before going public, it’s time to ask yourself two questions. Does this unskillful behavior rise to the level of neglect? And, does this unskillful behavior violate a first principle? Meaning, does the unskillful behavior undermine a fundamental, or foundational element, of how the work is done?  Take your time with these questions, because the situation is about to get real.  Really real. And really uncomfortable.

And if you answer yes to one of those two questions, you’ve earned the right to ask yourself a third. Have you reached bedrock?  Meaning, your position grounded deeply in what you believe. Meaning, you’ve reached a threshold where things are non-negotiable. Meaning, no matter what the negative consequences to your career, you’re willing to stand tall and take the bullets.  Because the bullets will fly.

If you’ve reached bedrock, call out the unskillful behavior publicly and vehemently.  Show no weakness and give no ground.  And when the push-back comes, double down. Stand on your bedrock, and tell the truth. Be effective, and tell the truth. As Ram Dass said, love everyone and tell the truth.

If you want to make a difference, amplify skillful behavior. Send emails of praise. And if that doesn’t work, send more emails of praise.  Praise publicly and praise vehemently. Pour gasoline on the fire. And ignore unskillful behavior, when you can.

And when you can’t ignore the unskillful behavior, before going public make sure the behavior violates a first principle. And make sure you’re standing on bedrock. And once you pass those tests, love everyone and tell the truth.

Image credit — RamDass.org

The Toughest Word to Say

As the world becomes more connected, it becomes smaller.  And as it becomes smaller, competition becomes more severe. And as competition increases, work becomes more stressful.  We live in a world where workloads increase, timelines get pulled in, metrics multiply and “accountability” is always the word of the day. And in these trying times, the most important word to say is also the toughest.

When your plate is full and someone tries to pile on more work, what’s the toughest word to say?

When the project is late and you’re told to pull in the schedule and you don’t get any more resources, what’s the toughest word to say?

When the technology you’re trying to develop is new-to-world and you’re told you must have it ready in three months, what’s the toughest word to say?

When another team can’t fill an open position and they ask you to fill in temporarily while you do your regular job, what’s the toughest word to say?

When you’re asked to do something that will increase sales numbers this quarter at the expense of someone else’s sales next quarter, what’s the toughest word to say?

When you’re told to use a best practice that isn’t best for the situation at hand, what’s the toughest word to say?

When you’re told to do something and how to do it, what’s the toughest word to say?

When your boss asks you something that you know is clearly their responsibility, what’s the toughest word to say?

Sometimes the toughest word is the right word.

Image credit –Noirathse’s Eye

When The Wheels Fall Off

When your most important product development project is a year behind schedule (and the schedule has been revved three times), who would you call to get the project back on track?

When the project’s unrealistic cost constraints wall of the design space where the solution resides, who would you call to open up the higher-cost design space?

When the project team has tried and failed to figure out the root cause of the problem, who would you call to get to the bottom of it?

And when you bring in the regular experts and they, too, try and fail to fix the problem, who would you call to get to the bottom of getting to the bottom of it?

When marketing won’t relax the specification and engineering doesn’t know how to meet it, who would you call to end the sword fight?

When engineering requires geometry that can only be made by a process that manufacturing doesn’t like and neither side will give ground, who would you call to converge on a solution?

When all your best practices haven’t worked, who would you call to invent a novel practice to right the ship?

When the wheels fall off, you need to know who to call.

If you have someone to call, don’t wait until the wheels fall off to call them. And if you have no one to call, call me.

Image credit — Jason Lawrence

Two Questions to Grow Your Business

Two important questions to help you grow your business:

  1. Is the problem worth solving?
  2. When do you want to learn it’s not worth solving?

No one in your company can tell you if the problem is worth solving, not even the CEO. Only the customer can tell you if the problem is worth solving. If potential customers don’t think they have the problem you want to solve, they won’t pay you if you solve it. And if potential customers do have the problem but it’s not that important, they won’t pay you enough to make your solution profitable.

A problem is worth solving only when customers are willing to pay more than the cost of your solution.

Solving a problem requires a good team and the time and money to run the project. Project teams can be large and projects can run for months or years. And projects require budgets to buy the necessary supplies, tools, and infrastructure. In short, solving problems is expensive business.

It’s pretty clear that it’s far more profitable to learn a problem is not worth solving BEFORE incurring the expense to solve it.  But, that’s not what we do.  In a ready-fire-aim way, we solve the problem of our choosing and try to sell the solution.

If there’s one thing to learn, it’s how to verify the customer is willing to pay for your solution before incurring the cost to create it.

Image credit — Milos Milosevic

The Most Powerful Question

Artificial intelligence, 3D printing, robotics, autonomous cars – what do they have in common? In a word – learning.

Creativity, innovation and continuous improvement – what do they have in common? In a word – learning.

And what about lifelong personal development? Yup – learning.

Learning results when a system behaves differently than your mental model. And there four ways make a system behave differently. First, give new inputs to an existing system. Second, exercise an existing system in a new way (for example, slow it down or speed it up.) Third, modify elements of the existing system. And fourth, create a new system. Simply put, if you want a system to behave differently, you’ve got to change something.  But if you want to learn, the system must respond differently than you predict.

If a new system performs exactly like you expect, it isn’t a new system. You’re not trying hard enough.

When your prediction is different than how the system actually behaves, that is called error. Your mental model was wrong and now, based on the new test results, it’s less wrong. From a learning perspective, that’s progress.  But when companies want predictable results delivered on a predictable timeline, error is the last thing they want. Think about how crazy that is. A company wants predictable progress but rejects the very thing that generates the learning. Without error there can be no learning.

If you don’t predict the results before you run the test, there can be no learning.

It’s exciting to create a new system and put it through its paces. But it’s not real progress – it’s just activity. The valuable part, the progress part, comes only when you have the discipline to write down what you think will happen before you run the test. It’s not glamorous, but without prediction there can be no error.

If there is no trial, there can be no error. And without error, there can be no learning.

Let’s face it, companies don’t make it easy for people to try new things. People don’t try new things because they are afraid to be judged negatively if it “doesn’t work.”  But what does it mean when something doesn’t work? It means the response of the new system is different than predicted. And you know what that’s called, right? It’s called learning.

When people are afraid to try new things, they are afraid to learn.

We have a language problem that we must all work to change. When you hear, “That didn’t work.”, say “Wow, that’s great learning.” When teams are told projects must be “on time, on spec and on budget”, ask the question, “Doesn’t that mean we don’t want them to learn?”

But, the whole dynamic can change with this one simple question – “What did you learn?” At every meeting, ask “What did you learn?”  At every design review, ask “What did you learn?” At every lunch, ask “What did you learn?” Any time you interact with someone you care about, find a way to ask, “What did you learn?”

And by asking this simple question, the learning will take care of itself.

Image credit m.shattock

What’s in the way?

If you want things to change, you have two options. You can incentivize change or you can move things out of the way that block change. The first way doesn’t work and the second one does.  For more details, click this link at it will take you to a post that describes Danny Kahneman’s thoughts on the subject.

And, also from Kahneman, to move things out of the way and unblock change, change the environment.

Change-blocker 1. Metrics. When you measure someone on efficiency, you get efficiency. And if people think a potential change could reduce efficiency, that change is blocked.  And the same goes for all metrics associated with cost, quality and speed. When a change threatens the metric, the change will be blocked. To change the environment to eliminate the blocking, help people understand who the change will actually IMPROVE the metric. Do the analysis and educate those who would be negatively impacted if the change reduced the metric. Change their environment to one that believes the change will improve the metric.

Change-blocker 2. Incentives. When someone’s bonus could be negatively impacted by a potential change, that change will be blocked. Figure out whose incentive compensation are jeopardized by the potential change and help them understand how the potential change will actually increase their incentives.  You may have to explain that their incentives will increase in the long term, but that’s an argument that holds water. Until they believe their incentives will not suffer, they’ll block the change.

Change-blocker 3. Fear. This is the big one – fear of negative consequences. Here’s a short list: fear of being judged, fear of being blamed, fear of losing status, fear of losing control, fear of losing a job, fear of losing a promotion, fear of looking stupid and fear of failing. One of the best ways to help people get over their fear is to run a small experiment that demonstrates that they have nothing to fear. Show them that the change will actually work. Show them how they’ll benefit.

Eliminating the things that block change is fundamentally different than pushing people in the direction of change. It’s different in effectiveness and approach. Start with the questions: “What’s in the way of change?” or “Who is in the way of change?” and then “Why are they in the way of change?” From there, you’ll have an idea what must be moved out of the way. And then ask: “How can their environment be changed so the change-blocker can be moved out of the way?”

What’s in the way of giving it a try?

Image credit B4bees

As a leader, your response is your responsibility.

When you’re asked to do more work that you and your team can handle, don’t pass it onto your team.  Instead, take the heat from above but limit the team’s work to a reasonable level.

When the number of projects is larger than the budget needed to get them done, limit the projects based on the budget.

When the team knows you’re wrong, tell them they’re right. And apologize.

When everyone knows there’s a big problem and you’re the only one that can fix it, fix the big problem.

When the team’s opinion is different than yours, respect the team’s opinion.

When you make a mistake, own it.

When you’re told to do turn-the-crank work and only turn-the-crank work, sneak in a little sizzle to keep your team excited and engaged.

When it’s suggested that your team must do another project while they are fully engaged in an active project, create a big problem with the active project to delay the other project.

When the project is going poorly, be forthcoming with the team.

When you fail to do what you say, apologize.  Then, do what you said you’d do.

When you make a mistake in judgement which creates a big problem, explain your mistake to the team and ask them for help.

If you’ve got to clean up a mess, tell your team you need their help to clean up the mess.

When there’s a difficult message to deliver, deliver it face-to-face and in private.

When your team challenges your thinking, thank them.

When your team tells you the project will take longer than you want, believe them.

When the team asks for guidance, give them what you can and when you don’t know, tell them.

As leaders, we don’t always get things right.  And that’s okay because mistakes are a normal part of our work.  And projects don’t always go as planned, but that’s okay because that’s what projects do. And we don’t always have the answers, but that’s okay because we’re not supposed to. But we are responsible for our response to these situations.

When mistakes happen, good leaders own them. When there’s too much work and too little time, good leaders tell it like it is and put together a realistic plan. And when the answers aren’t known, a good leader admits they don’t know and leads the effort to figure it out.

None of us get it right 100% of the time. But what we must get right is our response to difficult situations.  As leaders, our responses should be based on honesty, integrity, respect for the reality of the situation and respect for people doing the work.

Image credit – Ludovic Tristan

The Courage To Speak Up

If you see things differently than others, congratulations.  You’re thinking for yourself.

If you find yourself pressured into thinking like everyone else, that’s a sign your opinion threatens. It’s too powerful to be dismissed out-of-hand, and that’s why they want to shut you up.

If the status quo is angered by your theory, you’re likely onto something.  Stick to your guns.

If your boss doesn’t want to hear your contrarian opinion, that’s because it cannot be easily dismissed. That’s reason enough to say it.

If you disagree in a meeting and your sentiment is actively dismissed, dismiss the dismisser. And say it again.

If you’re an active member of the project and you are not invited to the meeting, take it as a compliment. Your opinion is too powerful to defend against. The only way for the group-think to survive is to keep you away from it. Well done.

If your opinion is actively and repeatedly ignored, it’s too powerful to be acknowledged.  Send a note to someone higher up in the organization.  And if that doesn’t work, send it up a level higher still. Don’t back down.

If you look into the future and see a train wreck, set up a meeting with the conductor and tell them what you see.

When you see things differently, others will try to silence you and tell you you’re wrong. Don’t believe them.  The world needs people like you who see things as they are and have the courage to speak the truth as they see it.

Thank you for your courage.

Image credit – Cristian V.

To figure out what’s next, define the system as it is.

Every day starts and ends in the present. Sure, you can put yourself in the future and image what it could be or put yourself in the past and remember what was. But, neither domain is actionable. You can’t change the past, nor can you control the future.  The only thing that’s actionable is the present.

Every morning your day starts with the body you have.  You may have had a more pleasing body in the past, but that’s gone.  You may have visions of changing your body into something else, but you don’t have that yet. What you do today is governed and enabled by your body as it is. If you try to lift three hundred pounds, your system as it is will either pick it up or it won’t.

Every morning your day starts with the mind you have. It may have been busy and distracted in the past and it may be calm and settled in the future, but that doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is your mind as it is. If you respond kindly, today’s mind is responsible, and if your response is unkind, today’s mind system is the culprit.  Like it or not, your thoughts, feelings and actions are the result of your mind as it is.

Change always starts with where you are, and the first step is unclear until you assess and define your systems as they are. If you haven’t worked out in five years, your first step is to see your doctor to get clearance (professional assessment) for your upcoming physical improvement plan. If you’ve run ten marathons over the last ten months, your first step may be to take a month off to recover. The right next step starts with where you are.

And it’s the same with your mind. If your mind is all over the place your likely first step is to learn how to help it settle down.  And once it’s a little more settled, your next step may be to use more advanced methods to settle it further. And if you assess your mind and you see it needs more help than you can give it, your next step is to seek professional help. Again, your next step is defined by where you are.

And it’s the same with business.  Every morning starts with the products and services you have. You can’t sell the obsolete products you had, nor can you sell the future services you may develop. You can only sell what you have.  But, in parallel, you can create the next product or system.  And to do that, the first step is to take a deep, dispassionate look at the system as it is. What does it do well? What does it do poorly? What can be built on and what can be discarded?  There are a number of tools for this, but more important than the tools is to recognize that the next one starts with an assessment of the one you have.

If the existing system is young and immature, the first step is likely to nurture it and support it so it can grow out of its adolescence.  But the first step is NOT to lift three hundred pounds because the system-as it is-can only lift fifty. If you lift too much too early, you’ll break its back.

If the existing system is in it’s prime and has been going to the gym regularly for the last five years, its ready for three hundred pounds.  Go for it! But, in parallel, it’s time to start a new activity, one that will replace the weightlifting when the system can no longer lift like it used to.  Maybe tennis? But start now because to get good at tennis requires new muscles and time.

And if the existing system is ready for retirement, retire it. Difficult to do, but once there’s public acknowledgement, the retirement will take care of itself.

If you want to know what’s next, define the system as it is. The next step will be clear.

And the best time to do it is now.

Image credit – NASA

Mike Shipulski Mike Shipulski
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