Saturday, February 19, 2011

Are you Listening?

Sometimes it feels like this is what you need to do to be heard, doesn't it?!?

It is interesting to me that I put this as one of the things I had to do much better...and it is an area I am struggling with the most. You know how it do what you think is right and then the powers that be...bosses, in this case....parachute in and point out how screwed up everything you thought you were doing right is. No mention is made of what went right, just what went wrong. You get defensive and then you get argumentative and then you feel like the small dog that appears to be where their heads are!

Unfortunately, the onus is on you to really try and understand the message they are trying to convey. Let's face it, we can't count on those in charge to always take the time to notice the things we do right....they expect those things to be done right...that's what they pay you for.

As far as the criticism, you have to listen closely to what they are trying to say...not necessarily what they are verbalizing, but the intent. Often we get defensive because we think our answers are the best. Um...hate to break it to you (and to myself), but...not always, my friend. Often a different perspective is what is needed to make your good idea a great make your good solution a great solution.

It's hard to do and we often find ourselves looking back with regret on how we handled someone who was being critical of our efforts. Listen closer for the real message. If you decide, after careful reflection, that their message is off base, then take it with a grain of salt and move on. Sometimes you will be able to get through to them that they are wrong, but, when it becomes clear that they are emotionally invested in their point of view, you probably won't be able to get them to budge. Just go do what you know is right and ignore their criticism.

And, if you decide, after careful reflection, that there is something to be gained by following their advice, thank them and give their idea a try. As simple as this sounds, it is the most difficult to do because we are too often emotionally invested in our solutions as well and don't like to be told we're wrong either. The reality is the only person you can change is you. Your actions are key to accomplishing what you set out to do. Only you can decided how to respond and only you can make the changes to make things better.

I am definitely struggling to follow my own advice, but the fact that I realize I have room to grow in this area is a positive thing. I hope that by sharing this with you, you can grow a bit too.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Keeping an Open Mind

Ever find yourself challenged to look at things a different way? Ever encounter folks who refuse to see the world through anything but their own frame of reference? Are you one of those folks?

I can honestly tell you that since leaving the role of Plant Manager and Chief Cook and Bottle Washer for many organizations throughout the last twenty years, I have come to realize that there is a lot I do not know. Don't get me wrong...I have learned many things over the years and am a pretty astute fellow, but there is still much I do not know.

When cast in the light of consulting, I have learned an incredibly valuable lesson: Keeping an open mind and asking questions will allow me to learn and become more. More knowledgeable...more involved....more valuable as a consultant and Project Manager....just a lot MORE.

In his book, Four-Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss talks of figuring out what you want to "become." It is a very thought provoking approach to thinking about the future and what you want to do. Life should be about more than "having." Real meaning in life should relate to "becoming" more than you are right now...becoming all that you can envision yourself being.

I believe that in order to "become" more, I must keep an open mind. This is not easy to do, especially when you know the answer...have the solution...have seen this before and know how to solve it. If you listen a little closer, you will often understand that no two situations are exactly the same and what might have worked well in one place will not work as well...or at this place, with these people, at this time in their development.

I am learning everyday from those I am teaching to become more. In this way, I can see we create synergy...the whole being greater than just the sum of the parts. I doesn't happen overnight...or even over 32 weeks of nights (grins!)...but it does happen. And when it does, it can change lives...yours and the lives of those important to you.

So try to keep an open mind and see what starts to fill it up! I believe you will like what enters in.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Critic

A great quote from a great man. Fitting in this time of trying to understand what is important and believing in yourself.

Excerpt from the speech "Citizenship In A Republic", delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

I know that my place will never be with those "cold and timid souls."

How about you?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Missing the Rest of the Picture

"Focus on the results!" "Success is all in the numbers!" "All the hard work in the world means nothing if the results aren't there!"
I guess we've all heard these and similar things more than once. If we can't measure the improvement than there is no improvement, right? I believe that depends on your measuring tool.
Don't get me wrong. I know that measurable results are critical to the success of organizations. I just do not believe they are exclusive of the time and effort necessary to create human change, and, let's face it, without the human element....without the blood, sweat, and tears of people, without their buy-in and commitment, nothing will truly change.
Unfortunately, since the human change is often not easily measured, and, since it often comes long before the gears of the organization change perceptibly enough to measure improvements in key metrics, organizations sometimes give up long before the culture has changed enough to sustain any improvements.
I firmly believe that you manage things, but you must lead people. Leadership take much more than pretty charts, checklists, and action logs. Leadership requires strength with compassion...persistence with understanding....pushing without being pushy...engaging the hearts and minds and not just the hands...respect for what has come before this point while helping develop excitement for a new way of doing things.
I am learning that I must understand both perspectives in order to develop a better solution for those who must do and for those who are only interested in results. The former are most important, but will not survive without pleasing the latter.
When either group becomes too focused on what is only important to them, they will miss the bigger picture. Therein lies the struggle.
So what to do? I go forward with a few things in mind:
  1. Keep an open mind
  2. Listen
  3. Believe in right principles
  4. Speak up
  5. Keep faith with God and Family
  6. Trust in yourself and your abilities

I will be exploring each of these in future posts as I work through the details in real life. I view the upcoming weeks as an experiment in my ability to exhibit true leadership by trying to understand each of these in context and build something synergistically within my chosen work and my life. Hopefully, there will be things to share with you that may provide help and insight into your struggles as well.