Persistence

With no subtle filter in place, so far this month has been the “May from Hell.” One of my pups had surgery in late April to address a year old spider bite which had never fully healed. Thank goodness for that because during the surgery the vet discovered a completely encapsulated mass. Had the bite healed properly, we would have discovered this mass probably too late to effectively address it. Now comes the hellish part.
An infection unrelated to the surgery accomplished the removal process of the sutures by literally blowing out the incision just two days before the sutures were to be removed.
Both she and I are blessed that her vet team was/is determined to get her through this. Tests, cultures, exams, etc. have all been done and no satisfactory answer for the source or cause of the infection has been found. Thankfully, her vets won’t give up until my pup is healed and restored to good health. Gotta love persistence.
Wouldn’t it be great if our leaders and managers were just as persistent in finding practical and realistic solutions to the problems facing them? Instead of going for the easy fix, wasting time, money, and human resources, leaders and managers need to buckle down and do the hard work. What is the correct source of the problem? Exactly what is the problem? How can we find the best solutions to resolving this problem? (HINT: It’s not about imposing a solution to address the symptoms – it’s about getting the best people together to correctly identify the problem and work out possible resolutions.) How do we communicate the issue to our organization factually and accurately? Persistence, that’s how. Long hard work that’s firm in its dedication to solving the problem.

Our First Step

A heartfelt thank you to all who have read and shared the recent posts.   Now let’s take our first concrete step toward achieving our goal.

The grass roots movement starts with everyone who has read and shared the posts, talked about them with friends, or have family and friends who are passionate about making this movement a reality joining a meeting near them.  This meeting can be in person, over the phone, via Skype, or whatever means you have to get folks to come together in small groups. This movement already has people who can lead such meetings so please step up!  The focus of the meeting will be to brainstorm and develop 3 – 5 priorities you would like us to focus on.   Notes should be taken of all the ideas on the priorities and the listing forwarded to me.  If at all possible, let’s get our contributions together by the the end of July.

If someone thinks of something they want to see on the list but forgot to mention it in a meeting, send it directly to me.  If you have questions about how to get a meeting organized and creating an agenda, please contact me.  I am a resource for you   The email address is vcswish@gmail.com and direct inquiries are always welcome.

If you reside in the Phoenix, Arizona area, I will be happy to host however many meetings we can to give folks a chance to contribute to the grand list of priorities.  With the help of some very good friends we will compile a master list of all suggestions.  That list will be published in an upcoming post. Your comments on that list will help develop the final list of priorities.

We have to do this.  Our children are depending on us.

A Paradigm Shift

In a recent chat, Jay Block (author of the bestselling, “5 Steps to Rapid Employment”) made the observation that a near record number of job openings had been reported in March.  The problem is finding qualified individuals to fill those positions.  He noted that companies and colleges need to take a more collaborative approach to insure that a skilled workforce is available to fill positions as they open.  Job coaches have to know exactly what skills are needed so they can do a better job of coaching and advising their clients in identifying and mastering the skill sets needed.  That’s where the new paradigm shift needs to come in.  In my assessment, communities, companies, and colleges need to enter into effective partnerships. Companies can use the colleges to help insure that individuals are taught the necessary skills to be productive employees.  Colleges can use the companies as sources of information on what skills are needed, and to help their students land well paying jobs.  Communities need to support such collaborations because as companies relocate, communities need to be able to provide quality neighborhoods, public schools, and community services.

This partnership cannot be in name only, just because it looks good in a press release.  The partnership has to be an active, collaborative one. Communities that fail to support such partnerships will lose out on having companies relocate to their area, thereby losing out on the revenue income as a result of new people moving into the community.  Colleges will lose out on the chance to increase enrollments, and companies will lose out on having qualified workers readily available.

Now the challenge is to find community leaders, business leaders, and leaders within higher education willing to let go of the past and implement effective new approaches.

My Goodness!

Recently, I watched a news conference and witnessed something I never thought I would see in a chief executive – an exquisite non-verbal temper tantrum worthy of a two year old.  Now you know that seeing such behavior got me to thinking.  Are we aware of the non-verbal messages we send?

Any leadership or management class will teach us about the importance of attending to the non-verbal cues in any communication.  The various communication theories tell us that the majority of our interpersonal communication is non-verbal.  Are we cognizant of the non-verbal messages we send?  When a colleague is speaking do we glance at our watch, perhaps more than once?  What message did we just send?  When we are involved in conflict management, do we listen to opposing opinions with arms crossed?  If we make eye contact are we doing so in an aggressive manner, daring the individual to continue to publicly disagree with us?  Do we get aggressive in our stances, invade the other individual’s personal space?  Do we engage in non-verbal tantrums to let people know we are displeased?  Are we aware of what we are doing?

Here is a key point.  I do not know about you but I want my colleagues to disagree with me.  Their viewpoints and perspectives are critical to keeping me focused on our goal – resolve the problem in the best possible manner.  I am not diminished because someone has the temerity to disagree with me or point out where my approach might need some improvement.  I think we all improve our decision making when our staffs and colleagues provide honest assessments of those decisions.  I work hard to create a work environment where people provide constructive criticism.  The end result makes us all look good – an effective, realistic resolution to a difficult problem.

Change

For the past week I’ve made it a point to spend a few minutes watching the night sky,  marveling at the vision of the crescent moon in line with Venus and Jupiter.  We’ve just experienced the summer solstice and the axis tilt has occurred without incident.  We’ll experience another change with the winter solstice.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could plan all our changes within our organizations and have them go as smoothly as the changing constellations in the night sky and the axis tilt with each solstice?

Change in any setting can be stressful.  As leaders, we have a responsibility for insuring that changes are implemented as needed and done so in such a way that our staffs continue to know that they are vital members of the organization.  Any time a change is implemented without first informing the staff, we ask for problems.  The biggest problem will be addressing the perception that our people’s contributions to the organization are no longer valued and they, as individuals, have no further value.

Effective leaders will empower their staff members to encourage them to take a vested interest in the successful implementation of change.  They can be trusted sources of information on potential problems and possible resolutions.  Leaders can be effective role models by showing their staffs that they know some changes are necessary and some changes are implemented to try out new ideas and stimulate creativity.  For whatever reason change is implemented, quality leaders will need to take the time to reassure their staff and properly convey that each individual is valued.  That approach will go a long way toward insuring a successful change.

Change or Chaos?

Implementing change, even in the best of times, can be problematic and frustrating. If you want a real life example, did you see Tiger Woods’ less than stellar performance at this year’s Phoenix Open?  It raised a question in my mind – why would one of the best golfers in history seek out advice from recent swing coaches who, in my assessment, apparently rely heavily upon reading books and observing others?  Isn’t that like going to an elephant trainer to learn how to ride a horse?  Obviously Tiger has chaos, not change.

As the leader of your organization, do you want to do something better than Tiger?  Successful implementation of change means involving key players in the development of your implementation plan.  Would it surprise you to learn that your key players may not be the people you think of first?  Your key players are those folks who know their jobs better than anyone else in your organization and can talk easily to you about those jobs.  They constantly seek out opportunities to improve their skills, expand their knowledge, and share that with the team.   They have an inherent desire to excel and to give the organization their best every day. Identify those folks, engage them in a dialog (you ask questions and then actively listen to their responses) and task them with developing a realistic plan to implement the changes needed.  I think you’ll be pleased with how smoothly that whole process goes.

Oh, and a note to Tiger – drop the swing coaches and go talk to  the legends in golf like Arnie, Jack, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Gary Player and others who have proven their greatness. You’ll gain more from a session or two with these stellar players than from all the folks you’ve hired recently.

New Year’s Resolutions – New or Recycled?

It’s that time of year when we all tend to make resolutions for ourselves, personally and professionally.  With respect to your organization – are you recycling previous resolutions?  You are if you’re still dealing with problems which have been addressed before but never successfully resolved.  How do you get out of the recycling habit and actually develop and implement new resolutions?

It’s not easy and I’ll be the first one to tell you this.  Been there, done that.  The key to making new resolutions is to be as honest and objective as possible.  If something didn’t go as planned, own up.  Being able to complete a fair and honest assessment of your organization’s performance is a good place to start.  How well did your solutions for difficult or under-achieving employees improve the organization’s performance? If your solutions haven’t made a significant positive impact, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.  Why?  Do you really want to deal with that difficult employee for yet another year?  Do you really want to try to explain the anemic performance level to your stockholders, much less explain it to Aunt Nell?

Let’s try a different approach.  Call in a professional problem solver to help you with the assessment.  This person can be very helpful in identifying the root of the problems and then helping you develop realistic and achievable solutions.  Maybe that should be your one New Year’s resolution and it will certainly be a new one.

So what will it be – new resolution with a realistic chance of working or old recycled resolution known for its failure?  Happy New Year.

Seriously?

I’ve watched the recent events in Ferguson and all the talking heads both in Ferguson, Washington DC and elsewhere.  I’ve listened carefully to the major points of both sides of the issue.   Seriously, folks?  With all the name calling and political correctness are we any closer to getting to the heart of the problem?  Are we any closer to a realistic and acceptable resolution?   Unbelievable.  Names and bad intent have been attributed to individuals on opposing sides and no one – and I mean no one – is taking a moment to consider how best to engage in collaborative problem solving. I don’t see any progress toward civil dialog and cooperative efforts.   But all is not lost – we have yet another teachable moment.

When a persistent problem continues to simmer, periodically rearing its ugly head, that’s a good indication that the solutions tried to date haven’t addressed the issue.  Such problems persist because the folks involved are unable or unwilling to recognize and address the underlying issues.  Unless those issues are effectively dealt with the problem will persist.  How many of you can really afford to continue to spend resources and time re-inventing the wheel?  Don’t you have better things to do? Do you really want your legacy to be the unsatisfactory record of addressing symptoms of problems but never the true cause?

Effective leaders will take all the needed steps, including bringing in problem solving consultants, to insure that the true cause of the issue at hand is identified and realistic solutions developed and implemented.  Failing to recognize the importance of engaging in collaborative problem solving with the help of a consultant can result in less than satisfactory solutions, reduced productivity and lowered job satisfaction.  Re-inventing the wheel does nothing to improve your bottom line.

Too Many Cooks

Have you ever participated in a decision making process where virtually everyone had an opinion and far too many had a personal agenda?  Oftentimes such situations reveal the following:  There are just too many “cooks” involved.
(For this blog, let’s envision the collaborative problem solving process as a recipe meant to be implemented by various “cooks” or individuals within your organization.)
First, we have those cooks who go along with the leader or majority, even knowing there’s something wrong with the soup recipe.  They care nothing about the final product but simply go along to avoid having to make a decision.
Second, we have cooks who are bound and determined to disagree with anything proposed by either the leader or the majority.  This group works hard to make sure there’s no consensus on the recipe.  They have an agenda and don’t care one bit about the outcome so long as they can remain on center stage.
Finally, there is the group of cooks who approach the decision making process with a collaborative problem solving perspective.  These are the folks who engage in active listening and willingly participate in the entire process, keeping their focus on the concept that any goal can be achieved so long as it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.  This group finds common ground and builds on that, producing a final product that is a realistic solution to the problem or they produce a sound, effective decision.
As the leader of your organization how do you insure which group of “cooks” you have helping you resolve problems and implement decisions?  How good are you at identifying those “cooks” who won’t spoil the soup?

Taking Stock

The last few weeks caused a brief hiatus from my blogs and observations.  After ten years of procrastination I underwent a total knee replacement.  The time of strictly enforced limited activity gave me a chance to assess a number of things – to take stock.

The hardest life lesson I’ve learned is that I don’t always have to rely solely upon me.  Yes, I’m independent and self sufficient.  I’ve learned that relying upon others doesn’t diminish either my independence or self sufficiency.  I think having others help has given me a deeper appreciation for the joy of giving and helping others.

The best lesson – I am surrounded by family and friends who believe in and follow a positive philosophy in their lives.  Having such a positive environment envelope me after surgery has been invigorating and enriching.  Even in the most difficult moments following my release from the hospital to come home that positive spirit allowed me to acknowledge the low moments and deal with them.  There were tears and doubts, admittedly.  But the positive spirit won and progress, though painful, continues.  There will be some life changes but those will be easy to accept in light of the positive support and encouragement I receive daily.

My responsibility now is to continue to carry this assessment forward in my work and life.  I am eager to return to helping decision makers learn innovative ways to make and implement decisions which benefit their staffs and their organizations.  Such a positive approach is not looking at the world through rose colored glasses.  Rather, it is an acknowledgement that challenges exist but a positive philosophy will insure a realistic and viable approach to finding lasting solutions to problems.