Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should: Squashing Gigaguilt

I’ve been reading CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap! Strategies for Coping in a World Gone ADD by Edward R. Hallowell.  The author coined the term Gigaguilt.  Initially, I figured that Gigaguilt was feeling regretful that I didn’t buy the 64 GB iPod and defaulted to the 16 GB iPod.  Like gigabite envy; it’s not.

It’s about the guilt associated with having access to so much information that you know that you are missing that 5k race for domestic violence victims, and the compensation conference in Tampa, and that comedian you’d love to see, or your son’s wrestling match that falls on the same night as your WordPress Meetup. girl_staring_at_mountains

Life was so much simpler when we didn’t get Facebook invitations to fundraisers for every charity under the sun.  They are all so deserving but how do you choose once the flood gates of information or connectedness open up?  There is this constant struggle between priorities in your life.  Some of which, up until about 5 years ago, weren’t even on your radar.  If you feel like you are overcommitted and are still beating yourself up that you forgot about the parents meeting at your child’s school, have 6 unanswered meeting requests in your inbox and your mother is exasperated that you haven’t returned her call –  You are suffering from Gigaguilt.

Here are some practical tips on how to squash the gigaguilt:

1. Timer.  Put a timer on when it comes to social media.  Spend 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening.  Check in, and do what you are there for.  Check your daughter’s page, your college group feed and wish everyone happy birthday, and Get OFF.  Out of sight, out of mind.

2. Select.  Be selective with your notifications, lists and resources.  I am on several lists.  I get several daily, weekly and monthly newsletters, articles and posts.  If I decide it’s not serving me after a few weeks or months.  I drop it.  If something new comes on the horizon, I sign up and see if there is a benefit.  If not?  I drop it.  You are going to need to draw the line.  If you are never going to be a painter or lawyer or PhD candidate, get off the list.  If you aspire to learn how to play guitar, be a better public speaker or want some leadership advice, sign up and take a test drive.  Just be willing to pull the plug if it’s not serving you.  Clutter produces drag.

3. Slack. As in cut yourself some slack.  It’s OK to not sign up for every 5k within a 20 mile radius of your home.  Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  Don’t head down the self judgment trail.  You don’t need to be the perfect________(fill in the blank).  My son ran in the state track meet last year and I wasn’t there to see it.  I saw the video.  I’m still a great parent.  No judgment.  I didn’t get to run a 10k in April.  I’ll try it next year.  I’m still a runner…er jogger.  I didn’t get to go to the charity event I’ve attended for the last 9 years.  It’s still a great cause and I am still a generous person.  Remember:  No one is keeping tabs except you.  Judge yourself exemplary.

4. Expectations. Lay the ground work with those who are important in your life.  Tell your boss that you won’t be able to work Thursday afternoons during you son’s wrestling season.  Tell your mother that you don’t take phone calls during dinner.  Let your daughter know that you have a trip scheduled during her upcoming concert.  There is a lot less guilt and finger pointing if you lay out your expectations up front.

5. Present.  Be present.  If your partner is talking to you, stop looking at your iPhone, make eye contact and listen.  If you are on the phone with your friend, don’t look at email.  If your dog wants to be scratched, look her in the eyes and be with her in the moment.   If you are taking a walk, smell, listen and look at the sights around you.  You aren’t going to get this moment back.  Be there, in the moment, in every moment of your life.

I am by nature, an early adopter.  I will on impulse sign up for a Groupon that I’m not sure my husband is on board with.  I will sign up for the class that I’m not sure I’m going to be able to fit into my life.  I have learned to back off.  Take a breath.  Be selective and squash the gigaguilt.  Just be cause you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Think outside the Boomer Box. How to work with Millennials.

The next generation is invading the workforce and we are all going to need to adapt.  The expectation of a recent college graduate is vastly different than those boomers who are checking their 401k balance everyday and trying to figure out their escape plan.  For those of you who haven’t been in a college classroom lately, let me bring you up to date, the twenty-somethings are texting on their smart phones, sitting behind laptops and  have never cracked the spine on an encyclopedia.  So imagine the shock and horror, when they enter the workforce and they are dumped into a joyless cubicle, only have access to company approved websites and can’t use their cell phone because it’s prohibited by company policy.  Hmmm.  I think we have a problem.  We just put the handcuffs on; we’re bridling a generation that doesn’t even know what that means.

The average Millennial, born between 1980 and 2000, is expected to work 1.7 years at any given company.  In Human Resource terms, that is a blink of the eye.  Recruiting, attracting, on-boarding, training and retaining seem hardly worth the effort for 1.7 years of tenure (unless of course you are McDonalds).

So how are you going to retain these “kids”?  We’re going to need to take a hard look at our work environments, policies and leadership skills and adapt.  Some boomers may delay retirement for a few more years but there is going to be deficit in the skilled employable talent pool.   The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that within 8 years, Gen Y will be the majority generation in the workforce.

Here are some ideas on how to hold on to Gen Y and Z:

1. Purpose.  GenY can easily work for the Peace Corps in Africa for 2 years as work for a for-profit company. This group is looking for a higher purpose.  Profit for shareholders isn’t likely to cut the mustard.  If you can link your company’s vision and mission to a higher purpose, Gen Y might stick around.  Is your company giving back to the community, developing green initiatives or supporting a cause?  Are you communicating that or are you writing checks and keeping your mouth shut?  Communicate it.  Often.  And in varied ways

2. Feedback. Give it to them straight.  In an article from the Harvard Business Review by Meister and Willyerd called Mentoring Millenials, what Millenials want from their boss is someone “who will give me straight feedback”.  No sugar coating.  No veiled criticism.  Cut to the chase.

3. Recognition.  This is the generation where everyone got a trophy for just participating and in some cases, they didn’t get grades or never kept score during the game.  They have been recognized just for showing up.  This doesn’t need to be a huge budget for purchasing trophies for “just showing up to work,” a specific, sincere thank you for a job well done and why it’s important to the company’s goals will suffice.  This will build loyalty.

4. Freedom. You might think about how much latitude you are giving this next generation.   Antiquated policies about dress code, cubicle decorum and a staunch 8 to 5 work schedule isn’t likely to attract these folks.  If your business permits (I’m not suggesting that a bank teller should be able to work virtually), loosen the reins a little.  If you want some contrast, check out this video about Zappos culture.

5. Social. This generation has been collaborating and socializing since grade school.  Is your company culture open to supporting collaboration below the executive team?  Are your departments throwing a BBQ once in a while?  What are you doing to get to know your younger employees?  Get social.

6. Technology.  They are going to demand that you have technology.  A 2008 LexisNexis® Technology Gap Survey found that only 14% of Boomers access social networking sites from work; 62% of Gen Y do. Does your workplace permit such things as Facebooking at work? Have you figured out how to manage it?  The workplace is changing.

7. Challenge.  Busy work isn’t going to cut it.  This group isn’t about “paying their dues” for 10 years before having an opportunity to test the waters.  My nineteen-year-old daughter had an internship this summer for a documentary company.  Within three weeks of starting, they let her edit a piece of the documentary.  Is your company willing to do that?  How are you challenging this next generation? Challenge them early and often.

8. Open. Whether you are ready or not, within the next eight years more than 50% of the workforce is going to be Millenials.  Are you open to change?  Regardless, it’s going to happen.  Work/life balance, flexible work schedules and virtual offices are here to stay.  Think outside of the boomer box and open yourself up to the next generation.

I realize that not all industries can adopt all of these measures, but we can take some steps on one or two.  This is not one-size-fits all.  The point here is to stay ahead of the talent war looming  within the next decade.

6 Ways to Squelch the Micro-Manager Within. Tyrant Repellent.

A micro-managing puppet master, have you ever worked for one?  It’s a nightmare.  You will never be right.  You will rarely be listened to.  The nit picking will be never ending.  You start to wonder if you should get permission to go to the bathroom.  My very first job out of college was for a catering firm run by a micro-managing control freakish Tyrant.  The angle of the bread was never quite right, the food portion incorrect, the manner in which we sent orders out was inefficient and any decision I made (did I mention I was the manager?) was misguided. All according to the Tyrant.  I left the job after 18 months.  I was new to the workforce but I was stressed out beyond repair of cigarettes and alcohol.

I’ve seen many micro-managers since leaving that job, but I’m happy to say, I’ve never worked for another Tyrant.  I think I must have radar to spot them when interviewing for a new opportunity.  I’ll speak my mind too freely during the interview and somehow I don’t get a call back.  Hmmm…“she’s too independent,” “thinks for herself too much,”  “that will never do.”

What about looking in the mirror?  Are there places and circumstances in your life where you are a bit of a Tyrant?  Been a helicopter parent?  A controlling friend?  A meddling daughter?  I think there are parts to everyone’s life where we just can’t let go.  My husband micromanages Christmas morning, deliberating who gets what present and when. But hey, it’s once a year.  He can be the elf if he wants.

If you want to control the Tyrant within? Here are some suggestions:

1. Listen.  “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply” – Stephen Covey.  I might add, “They listen with the intent to be right.” This has Tyrant written all over it.  There was a Tyrant colleague of mine who “asked” for guidance and then did the complete opposite.  He wasn’t listening.  He was paying me lip service.  The first step to earning respect is listening to understand.

2. Accountability.   In Liz Wiseman’s book  Multipliers, she suggests that the manager own 49% of the decision and that the direct report own 51%.  This is a beautiful balance.  This doesn’t take the person who delegated out of the picture but the accountability rests, by the slightest margin, on the direct report.  It’s empowering.  This is your project but your manager is going to be there to fully support you.

3. Challenge. This is frequently described as a stretch goal. This is asking someone to go beyond their normal limitations, to stretch or challenge themselves.  I was just talking to a friend yesterday about a race that is coming up.  There is a half marathon, a 10k, and a 5k.  I was vacillating between the 5k and the 10k.  He challenged me.  “You can do the 10k, Cathy! You’ll be ready in four weeks.”  His confidence inspired me to sign up for the longer distance.  Challenge those around you.

4. Present. As in, be present.  Let go of past and future.  If you are thinking about all your failures (i.e. past relationships, weight gain, enemies) and how this isn’t going to work, you are not present.   If you are calculating what your spouse is going to do the minute he gets home (i.e. dump the garbage, mow the lawn), you are not present. Marching to your own agenda and maintaining your image is not going to inspire those around you.  Tyrant’s live in Paranoia-ville.  Stay clear.

5. Finger pointing. Fall on the sword.  It may not be your fault that the dog got sick on the carpet, just clean it up and move on.  Your assistant messed up the report? My instructions must have been incomplete.  I’ll do better the next time, and so will she.  Maybe the process needs to be tweaked.  This is not the time to call anyone on the carpet.  Casting blame only makes you build walls to your kingdom and breeds distrust.

6. Invest.  It takes time, money and resources to build up those around you.  There are countless avenues to empower the people in your life. A summer camp session for your kid.  Web course for your partner.  An excel class for your assistant.  Encourage and invest in those around to pursue their passion.  They will remember you for your support.  They’ll have your back as well.

So here is your Tyrant repellent.  Try out one or two and see if you don’t reap the rewards.  Be a better leader regardless of your job title.

What do you do to lead others more effectively?

6 Steps to Slaying the Clutter Monster

One of the biggest attention suckers is clutter – Physical clutter.  I’m sorry, all you pack rats out there; it’s time to purge.  A post in the unclutterer states that “scientists find physical clutter negatively affects your ability to focus & process information.Basically, visual clutter grabs your attention so that you can’t focus on the process, decision or project at hand.  Might be time to clean up all those nick-knacks or piles of newspapers, huh?

I’m a chronic pillow straightener.  I can’t leave the house unless the pillows are in their place.  In fact, this causes both my dog and husband to deliberately knock pillows off the couch.  Because they know it will get under my skin.  I can hear my husband chuckling in the other room as I walk in and sigh from exasperation when I see the chaos.  Now I know why – they are messing with my visual cortex!  Lay off my visual cortex, will ya?  I want to get something done today.

Not my actual living room.
Not my actual living room.

I bet you know someone in your office that is a clutter monster.   You know, someone whose desk looks similar to Andy Rooney when he was on 60 minutes.  No wonder his pieces were only 5 minutes each week, his visual cortex was holding him hostage.  I’ve walked into a colleague’s office and, often wondered, “How do they get anything done in here?”  They don’t.  They are being held hostage by their clutter monster.

So how do you slay the clutter monster? Here are a few suggestions:

1.  Commit.  I know we’ve all watched at least one episode of “Hoarders”.  These poor people basically bury themselves in objects.  Even with therapy, most of them can’t commit to keeping clutter at bay.  You’re going to need to commit or there is no point in entering the ring to fight the monster.  Your best work, project or masterpiece is under that load of visual clutter and you are going to need to make up your mind that it needs to surface and the clutter has got to go.

2. Plan.  It can be overwhelming to decide to declutter your entire office or home in one day.  Make a plan and break it up into parts that can be accomplished in 15 or 30 minute chunks.  Such as: top two book shelves, bottom two book shelves, right bathroom cabinet, left bathroom cabinet, etc.  Then schedule it on your calendar.  Maybe every Saturday morning you work for 30 minutes or Mondays and Wednesdays at 5 PM for 15 minutes.  Plan it out.  It will help eliminate the overwhelming need to run out of the house screaming as well as procrastination.

3. Prepare.  You might want to agree to some rules  such as, if I haven’t worn it in the last year, two years, decade (scratch that…if you haven’t worn it in a decade, it’s out of style) then out it goes.  If your last paramour gave it to you, probably bad mojo;  let it go.  That’s a whole other kind of mind clutter.  Is it worth donating?  Is it trash? Is it worth saving?  I went through cookbooks not that long ago and those that were of sentimental value are in a box in the attic, otherwise, I’m either using them or they were donated.

4. Dig in.  Grab two garbage bags and get started.  How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.  It’s either a donation or trash.  If that blouse has a stain on it that you couldn’t get out – neither can Goodwill.  It’s trash.  If you wore those pants thirty pounds ago – someone at Goodwill can wear it now.  It’s a donation.  If you aren’t sure if you want to keep it, put it somewhere that would take some effort to get to.  A box under the bed, the basement, the attic, or your Mom’s house and give it three months.  If you haven’t thought about it, time to purge.

5. Containers.  You’re going to feel tempted to run out and go crazy at the Container Store before Step #1.  Don’t.  You’ve got to start untangling first before you can start organizing.  You won’t know what you need until you’ve started digging in.  Purchasing 50 – 20 gallon fluorescent pink tubs might seem like the right fix but once you’ve unpacked all your kitchenware, you figure out that the cupboard will work just fine.  Do you really need a coffee mug from your old bank in California?  Sometimes an old basket will find a new purpose.  And sometimes, one 20 gallon fluorescent pink tub will work just fine.

6. Rinse and Repeat.  Clutter monsters seem to grow back like kudzu along southern freeways.  Set up a reminder to go back through your office in six months.  On the second pass, you might finally get rid of that conference binder from 6 years ago on employment law. Might be time to refresh the pictures on the credenza (your son gave up soccer 5 years ago).  You still haven’t found a pair of shoes to wear with that dress – time for it to go.  As Christine Kane says “If it’s not an Absolute Yes, it’s a No.  You’ll need to say No as you move forward to continue to keep the monster under control.

If you buy a new dress, pair of shoes, coffee mug or stapler, swap it in kind with an old dress, pair of shoes, coffee mug or stapler.  Starve your monster, your visual cortex will appreciate it.

What would you do?

Just say No.

I’m not sure why, but I have been the trigger person for most of my career.  The gunslinger brought in to say, No.  Human Resource professionals are frequently referred to as The Fashion Police (that skirt is too short), The Personal Hygiene Moderator (deodorant is a necessity), Policy Patrol (insubordination IS grounds for termination) and, worst of all, the b-word.  So why can’t everyone else draw a line in the sand? I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve asked myself that.  They are in avoidance.

It’s so much easier to bring someone else in to say No.  You can stay at arm’s length, point the finger and, in essence, say, “This wasn’t my decision”.  Let someone else be the trigger person and stay clear of the wake.

Try taking a giant step forward and say No. Here are the reasons why you should:

1. Respect.  People pay attention to those who pull the trigger once in a while.  You earn the reputation for being someone who has a backbone and stands up for their principles.  People want you on their team when they know you can be counted on to make the tough decisions even if they are unpopular.

2. Honest.  We’ve all known people who are brown-noses.  How many corporate projects have you been party to that went in the wrong direction because no one in the crowd wanted to say No.  Earning the reputation for being candid takes a few No sayings. I’m not advocating just blurting out No but a well-polished, properly crafted No will increase your authenticity.

3. Less Bunkum.  I had to look up that one up in the thesaurus to keep this polite.  When you get the promotional phone calls for a vacation getaway; don’t hang up.  Say No and take my number off your list.  Disingenuous people stay away from No sayers.  They move on to fawn over someone else who doesn’t mind swimming in bunkum.

4. Relief.  Unresolved conflict can fester.  Be the one to step forward and make the decision.  Do you really want to be up at 3 AM worrying about how you tell the PTA that you want off the committee?  When you have given that well-crafted No; you’ll be sleeping like a baby.

5. Empowerment.  Saying No is gratifying.  You can look yourself in the mirror and know that you stood up for something; you stood up for your beliefs.  It might have been difficult (it almost always is uncomfortable…messy even) but once you get past the No, your self confidence will be rebooted.

6. Culture.  No one likes co-workers who get away with clocking in late, not pulling their weight, constantly stepping over the line that no one else would dare to cross.  That crowd; the group at large.  They are rooting for you.  They want you to pull the trigger.  Be the gunslinger for the 95% who are pulling their weight.  Raise the tide for the culture of your company.

It’s not easy.  But you need to do it.  Be the go-to gunslinger.  Everyone is waiting for you to be a No sayer.  Draw a line in the sand.

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Interesting but Not Useful

I’m not sure this is a tenet of the NeuroLeadership Group or if master facilitator Paul McGinniss coined this phrase.  Heck, it may have been Albert Einstein who said it first.  Regardless, it’s a great concept.  I was working with my coach, Steven Starkey, this week and he corrected himself by saying “interesting but not useful”. It caught me off-guard.  Wow do I spend a lot of time on interesting but not useful.  It really cuts out the fluff and drama in daily life if you focus on the useful. interesting but not useful

Imagine focusing on what is useful in your daily conversations.  You know – if you stayed on track and didn’t go meandering into all the juicy details so you could raise your coworker’s eyebrows and if you stayed on message instead of whispering all the sensationalized (perhaps exaggerated) tidbits.  We wouldn’t need a water cooler anymore.  Going to work could be less Soap Opera and more DIY. What is the use in gossip if we are staying focused on solutions? Seems daunting, doesn’t it?

Here are some tips on focusing on the useful and steering clear of the interesting:

1. Solutions. Keep focused on solutions.  As espoused by the NeuroLeadership Group, staying solution-focused keeps the conversation out of the drama and details and moving forward. It’s good for your limbic system.  If you can keep it from lighting up, you are going to move mountains.  Fear shuts people down.  Reward or positive energy keeps people motivated.  Keep it solution based.

2. Listen. William Shakespeare said “Listen to many, speak to a few”.   Being present and listening will bring you a wealth of information.  Granted, there will be a lot of drama and details in that information.  But it will help you cull through to find the useful.  When you do the lion’s share of the speaking, it’s easy to go off track into the interesting and not useful.  Practice listening.

3. Silence. Be comfortable with silence.  I had a coaching client yesterday who really needed to digest and think.  I sat there in silence.  Listening to the clock tick.  Counting to 20 in my head.  Biting my tongue.  He had a breakthrough.  If I had interrupted to “fill the silence”, he wouldn’t have had the breakthrough to find the useful.  Accept and embrace silence.

4. Generous.  Be generous with your attention.  It’s always about them.  Them as in, your boss, your assistant, your coworker, your spouse, your child, your client.  Focus on what is useful for them.  The greatest gift you can give is your attention.  Give your attention generously.

5. No judgment.  Unless you are in court, and behind the bench, don’t judge.  Take some time today to listen to how often you hear judgmental statements.  “Can you believe?”, “I don’t understand why?”, “Did you hear…”.  Or worse yet when people put themselves down or limit themselves.  “I’m horrible at this”, “I’ll never be able to…”, “I can’t…”  Judgment is negativity in disguise.  Optimism is the road to the useful.

6. Bless his heart.  When you hear this in the Southern United States, run.  Whatever is coming next is not going to be positive.  This is the southern, gentile way of saying, “I’m about to run the bus over someone.” This makes whoever is saying it feel superior to whoever they are blessing.  It’s apologizing before you put someone down.  Stand clear.

I’m not suggesting that it’s not fun to do interesting but not useful things.  I was an avid Sudoku player for a while and I am an Anthony Bourdain addict, although I doubt I’ll be eating at a roadside stand in Myanmar anytime soon.  The point is that if you want to get something done and have more productive conversations, focus on the useful instead of the interesting.

Do You Need to be Right?

In the workplace, in sports and in relationships there is a high priority placed on who is right. I had the great pleasure of seeing Edward G. Hochuli speak last year at a conference.  He is a NFL referee and has been for some 20 plus years.  He studies the rules of the game every day…all year.   Yes; every day. This is a guy who has to get it right or he’ll receive thousands of emails, bad press and public ridicule.  How about you? Edward Houchali

I think this illustrates the importance that is placed on rules and, in turn, who is right.  The problem is this can be counterproductive in the workplace.  Having the last word and being right has the potential to be really damaging to the relationships around you.  Even Dr. Phil, whether you like him or not, refers to Right-fighters.  It’s the perfect term for those who are mono-focused on winning their point at all costs.

Think about it for a moment.  Who was the last know it all that you enjoyed being around, or collaborating with, or, worst of all, reporting to.  I’d like to suggest that maybe we should try to just let that ego attachment go.  This can be quite a challenge especially for any of us baby boomers out there who had to line up for recess, cross the street at the cross walk and never raised their hand in class unless they were positive they had the right answer. 

I think that Dale Carnegie got it right when, in his principles for “Win People to Your Way of Thinking”, he said “Show respect for the other person’s opinions.  Never say, “You’re wrong.” 

So you’re probably wondering how to you bite your tongue when our culture and workplace have placed such a high priority on being right

Here are 5 ways to find peace and do that:

1. Listen.  Figure out if there is something you can find agreement on.  You might disagree with the direction of the project at hand but you might be able to agree that you’ve got the right team assembled and that you will not all agree but you all need to listen and respect others opinions.  There must be that acknowledgement that you’re all trying to get to completion and benefit from the process.  Listen for agreement.

2. Reflect.  Reflect on the impact.  How important is it to put someone in their place?  What will you gain from it in the end?  What will this do to the value of your “stock”?  In, other words, who else is going to want to work with you or value your opinion if you are constantly pointing out that you are right….and therefore, everyone else, is wrong.  Reflect before you start pointing your finger.

3. Patience.  Is this the time and place to “put this person in their place”? If this is your direct report, a peer or, worse yet, your boss…think long and hard about how this might damage your relationship.  At least find a more opportune time (i.e. less embarrassing) to sit down and listen to their reasoning and talk it out so that you come to a common understanding.  Swallow your pride and be patient.

4. Check in.  What is your own ego saying to you?  Are you really that dependent on being right to feel good…to have self-respect?  Is this the measure of your self-worth?  Do you really want to be known as that Right Person at the expense of all else? Check in to keep your ego at bay.

5. Silence.  It’s golden.  In this world of bombarding news, marketing and media; sometimes silence is the most powerful message you can have and share with others.  Just keep your mouth shut and embrace silence.

Several of my coaching clients keep track of when they try to make a personal change.  They will record every time they change their perspective on a situation and the way they changed their reaction.  See if you can give up on the almighty rightness and find peace.

It’s good to ask yourself on a fairly regular basis – When was the last time you “fell on the sword” and let someone else be right? Leave a comment below so we can all learn.

If a Tree Falls in the Forest…Who’s Listening?

Besides being a better listener, as I discussed in a prior post, you need to be heard.  Why am I being ignored?  How come no one uses my ideas?  It might be time to look in the mirror…or watch a video tape of you.  How are you being you?  Think about who you listen to intently and who you ignore.  What about the guy who is completely self-absorbed and can only talk about himself?  His new car.  His vacation to Hawaii.  His awesome project that was implemented without a hitch.  I’m already making my grocery list and thinking about if I should DVR Downton Abbey remotely.  Or better yet.  I’m planning my escape from the conversation.  Didn’t I have an appointment at 10:18 a.m….precisely? Tree falls in the forest

There is the Rambler.  This is your neighbor who (as we say here in Eastern Carolina) “goes all the way to Savannah and back” before getting to the point.  There is the Chronologizer, someone who tells every detail regardless of its importance, in step by step chronological order.  This is one small step away from the Rambler but (for me) is far more excruciating as all the details wear out my patience.   Or the Linguist.  We might both be speaking English but they are using all sorts of acronyms and industry lingo that I end up being lost after “hello”. My point is (before I get to Savannah), if you need to be heard, make your message hearable.  Make your information or idea or instruction or feedback, easily digestible, accessible and memorable.

Here are some hints for how to be heard:

1.  Paint.  Paint a picture.  Using visual words helps our brain remember the information.  It stands out.  As David Rock recommends in “Quiet Leadership“, when we use visual words or metaphors “we are connecting with our own mental maps, then helping other people make their own mental maps for our ideas”.  Get out your watercolors and start painting.

2. Precise. Use precise words.  This can be hard on the fly (or maybe it’s just my middle aged brain) but be as specific as possible with your words.  For example, if you compliment your friend, you could say “you look great today”.  Or “that blouse is stunning on you, the blue really brings out your eyes”.  Which is more effective?  The more precise one is.

3. Surgical.  Be surgical with your words.  Slice it down to one sentence; maybe two.  It has more value and impact when you get directly to the point.  Be surgical.

4. Audience.  Know your audience.  As a Human Resource Executive if I start spewing all the alphabet soup of labor law acronyms (i.e. FMLA, FLSA, EEOC, ADAAA, OSHA…get the picture?), I will lose the audience unless I am at a SHRM conference.  Don’t feel like you need to raise yourself above the level of those around you by bringing out the industry lingo.  Leave it in your office and speak English.  Or at least check in with your audience to make sure they understand your message.  Adjust for your audience.

5. Sign posts.  Leave some sign posts along the way.  If you are working with a group or trying to move a discussion forward, try and restate what you have already accomplished.  In the NeuroLeadership Group training for Results Based Coaching course, they referred to this as placement.  It’s kind of like leaving breadcrumbs so you know where you have been and where you are going.  “So Suzy had some ideas on computer software we could you use and is willing to research options and Joe really likes the idea of sending out a survey to the customer service team.  Can we move on to other ideas?”  Suzy and Joe feel recognized and acknowledged.  The team can move on.  Leave some sign posts.

6. Them. It’s always about them.  If it’s about them and you aren’t being selfish (i.e. making sure you have the last word, making a joke at the other’s expense), people will listen to you.  There is an old ad line “When EF Hutton speaks, people listen”.  Odds are that EF Hutton was focused on their clients and doing a lot of listening.  If you focus on them, when you finally speak, they will listen.

7. Real. If there is an opportunity – Be real. Be vulnerable.  Be authentic.  This attracts attention and trust.  But you can’t fake it.  Isn’t this part of the reason that Oprah has a legion of followers?  If she was battling weight or sharing personal demons, she was being authentic and building trust.  If you are real; they will listen.

Being ignored can be painful and turning the ship around can take more than just one tug boat.  It’s a slow process and one that takes patience.  But it is possible to be heard.

52 Weeks of Showing Up

This is it.  I have been blogging weekly for one solid year.  Woo hoo! I have to say that when I started this, I wasn’t sure it I could do it.  As my husband can tell you, I am not a quitter.  In fact, I’ve been described as tenacious (on more than one occasion) but I was very uncertain when I started this blog, 52 weeks ago.  The biggest lesson I have learned is, that I just need to show up. Showing up does not mean being “perfect”.  It means putting one foot in front of the other; even when you are tired.  It means writing when only 5 people have subscribed.  It’s when you would much rather sleep in or surf Facebook.  Trust – Just show up.

As Seth Godin says ,”Don’t just start. Continue. Ship. Repeat.”  I thought the hardest step was starting.  I have found out that repeat is the hardest step.  It’s so easy to say, “Well, maybe this should be a bi-weekly blog, maybe monthly…maybe quarterly”.  We’ve all been there.  The goal, finish line starts to slide or fade.  Excuses flood your brain.  The Inner Dictator takes over and tells you that your stuff is just no good anyway.  Trust me; you can win the battle if you just show up.

Here are some tips to help keep you on track:

1.  Preparation.  If you want to run a marathon, put your running shoes by your bed the night before.  If you want to cook at home more, make a shopping list for the week.  If you want to write a weekly blog, have a list of ideas to pick and choose from and make sure you are reading or listening or scanning the environment for ideas for that list.  If you only wait for inspiration, you’ll be waiting a long time.  Preparation is critical to showing up.

2. Routine.  I block off 30 minutes every Tuesday and Thursday morning to write.  I can set my watch by devoted runners in my neighborhood.  “Oh, there’s Mike and his friends on a Sunday morning; must be 9 AM. Or  –  It’s six o’clock, I better see what I’m making for dinner from the pile of recipes I selected on Saturday.”  If you have a routine, your body and mind are on auto pilot.  You don’t even think about it (and there is no time for the Inner Dictator to protest).  Once you have established the routine; it’s so much easier to show up for yourself.

3. Messy.  Embrace some messiness.  It won’t be perfect.  So just get over it.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  I’m not enthralled with every post I wrote, but overall, I am proud of the blog.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  I am amazed that often, that the least “inspired” post gets tons of feedback.  And the one I thought was a masterpiece, barely gets noticed.  Sometimes, I think the post that is most from the heart has the best “legs” and the post that has been “primped, preened and edited to death” is ho-hum.  Let it be messy; don’t be your own judge.  Others will.

4. Neighbors.  As in, quit worrying about your neighbors, and what they might say.  As Eleanor Roosevelt said “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”  Worrying about acceptance will grip you with fear.  Maybe only one person reads the post, and no one else does.  That’s fine.  I remember being shocked when I realized about two months ago that my site had been clicked on from 46 different countries.  46!  Global.  I had no idea.  Who knew I had so many “neighbors”.

5. End in mind.  My best writing is when I am talking to someone.  An ex boss, a client, a friend or my child; when I’m trying to inspire them to action.  When I was training for a 10k, last year, I had the race in mind every day.  When I’m planning for a dinner party; it’s the same thing.  Imagine success.  Breath it.  Embody it.  Be it. Keep the end in mind and you cannot fail.

6. Yes.  Try to say yes to things that support your goals.  Someone asks you to be on the panel of a Success Panel; say Yes.  Invites you to a Peer-to Peer group an hour’s drive away; say Yes.  Asks you to teach a Leadership class; say Yes. As Hunter S. Thompson said “Half of life is just showing up”.  It might be a hassle.  It might even be scary.  It might stretch your comfort zone.  You can’t get there unless you say Yes .

I couldn’t have shown up this last year without an audience.  I thank all of you; from those who have read one or two posts to my ardent weekly readers.  I appreciate all the feedback whether from my local Rotary club or from the middle of the Pacific via cyberspace.

What do you need to be showing up for?

The Engagement Wizard

I think so many businesses, in today’s economy, figure employees “should be happy they have a job.” The truth is that, according to Inc. magazine, 70% of your employees are job hunting. They might smile and nod and laugh at your jokes, and at night they are on CareerBuilder and asking for recommendations on LinkedIn.  Their resumes are up to date and they are ready to jump ship at the first sign of a decent paying job. They aren’t just looking for more money; they want a place that encourages engagement.  As Dan Pink espouses in his book Drive, “autonomy, mastery and purpose” are the ingredients for the Engagement Wizard. Engagement Wizard

The Engagement Wizard is the secret to holding onto those employees who are phoning it in while they search for greener, autonomous pastures. It is far better to employ some engagement tactics to hold onto your veteran employees than to search out a perceived better fit. I realize that some folks are too far gone to turn around and they are the poison in the kool-aid.  Employing a few tactics to create engagement for those who are salvageable, is well worth the effort when you figure that turnover can cost you anywhere from 50 to 200 % of the positions salary (and the replacements likely to cost you 10 to 20% more that the incumbent anyway).

So what are the techniques of the Engagement Wizard? Here are a few:

1. Thumb.  Quit keeping your employees tightly under your thumb.  It’s time to loosen the reigns.  As Dan Pink said at a recent conference, no one ever said “my favorite boss was the guy who breathed down my neck”.  People leave bosses.  If you are dictating an employee’s every movement and deed and watching the clock to make sure they are constantly at the grind stone, your employee will not be engaged. Loosen up your thumbs.

2. Don’t prescribe.  You should not view yourself as the doctor who is prescribing all the answers.  As Liz Wiseman said in her book “Multipliers”, you want to shift from being the Tyrant who has all the answers to the Liberator who is listening.  Listen; don’t talk.  This encourages the autonomy that Dan Pink prescribes.  If your employee is thinking for themselves, they are happier.  If you don’t believe me, tell your partner how to make the bed.  See how that goes over; and if they ever make the bed again.  Don’t prescribe.

3. Learning.  One of the downfalls in the recent economy is the slashing of training budgets.  We keep the Sales and Marketing budget status quo, and cut the non-essential training and development budget.  This, especially for Millennials, is a bad idea.  Employees, who have a “Growth Mindset” as espoused by Carol Dweck, are constantly looking to learn new skills.  “The Investor” as written by Liz Wiseman is the leader who is investing in resources for their team.  Encourage learning so that your employees are gaining “Mastery”.

4. Monkeys.  Delegate the monkey (as in task, project or duty) and check up on their care and feeding.  Leaders need to delegate and give ownership to their team.  This is another trait of Wiseman’s “The Investor”.  You can’t develop Pink’s “Mastery” without letting go of the monkeys.  This doesn’t mean you aren’t responsible for checking in on the monkeys, however you shouldn’t be the one filling the water dish.  Delegate the monkeys.

5. Big Picture.  Does your team know the big picture?  Jon Gordon at a recent conference suggested handing out 3 X 5 cards to all your employees and asking what the purpose of the company was.  What would your team answer?  We all need to know the purpose of the organization for which we work.  It is much easier to align with an organization and be engaged when we know what the purpose it.  If you answer, “To make money”, your team is not engaged.  Make sure they know the Big Picture.

6. Non-Commissioned Work.  One of the best examples of how effective autonomy is to creating better outcomes was a study that Pink refers to in his book “Drive”.  They found that in a blind evaluation (they didn’t know which art work was commissioned versus non-commissioned) paintings that were commissioned (i.e. I want it to match my couch, I want flamingos and it needs to be 6 feet wide) were of less quality and creativeness as opposed to non-commissioned work.  So make sure your team has some time to just create instead of keeping them “in the box.”  It’s not practical to have all non-commissioned work all the time, however some time left to one’s own devices is critical to engagement.

Once you’ve found your magic wand, get out of the way.  You will be amazed at what folks can do if they are given the freedom to find their own path.   Find your Engagement Wizard and start waving the magic wand.