Archive for the ‘Performance’ Category

Posiholic versus Negaholic

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

Isn’t it funny how we as humans so easily focus on any problem, and yet even easier forget about all the great things that have happened?

Step back from your day-to-day thinking about the company you work for or run, from the team or department you work in, from the people you work around and with. Is everything perfect in these worlds? I doubt it. But is everything wrong with them? I highly doubt that too.

  • How many good decisions have been made by your boss or organization over the past year or so?
  • How many good things have been accomplished over the past year or so?
  • How many good things have you been allowed to do over the past year or so?
  • How many good people do you work with?

Now, compare those answers to all the negatives. Compare that with the things that have not gone perfectly.

I once asked a manager who was having performance issues with an employee (an employee she wanted to fire for doing such a poor job) what percentage of the time he did the wrong things and made mistakes. After a little thought she replied, “About 5 to 10 percent of the time.” Which meant that this “problem employee” did the right things 90 to 95 percent of the time.

Isn’t it funny how we tend to focus on the negative, and forget the positive?

Or maybe it isn’t so funny.

I follow the philosophy that if we focus on doing the right things and on using our strengths, we won’t have time to do the wrong things or use our weaknesses.

Here’s your challenge for the next week (should you decide to accept): Take every negative thing that happens or you hear about and stop and re-think or reframe how you perceive them. Instead of seeing the negative, flip it around and think about the positives. There are always positives – sometimes you just need to look for them. And yes, sometimes there are no positives in one particular situation, so you then have to look outside that situation.

Are you ready to give it a try for a week? Be a posiholic, rather than a negaholic.

Don’t Grow Up

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

As you read this, are you wishing you’d have grown up quicker, gotten to the age you’re at now sooner? Or do you wish you’d been able to spend more time at a younger age?

So why do we tell kids to “Grow up”? Why are we in such a hurry to get kids to act like adults? You know, the adults that we often don’t want to be ourselves, the ones stressed out, overworked, lacking the creativity of children, fearing failure, and generally lacking the physical energy we once had?

Ask a group of adults to draw something and most will say, “I can’t draw!”; ask a group of 5-year-olds, and they’ll jump into it. No fear of failure, no lack of creativity. Take kids to a park and they almost immediately run, jump and climb; take adults to a park and the first thing they do is look for a bench to sit on. Have you noticed bookstores are bursting at the seams with self-help books for adults, but you never see one aimed at kids.

As adults we often think that we can no longer do or learn something completely new, that the time to do that has long gone. But if you read some of the latest research about neuroplasticity – the ability of our brains to adapt and form new neuro-pathways – it’s easy to see that we can continue to grow, learn, adapt, change and improve until the day we die. Sometimes it’s a matter of having the right approach or strategy for learning, but there’s no doubt that you have all the ability you’ve ever had to take on something new.

Everyone should read the book, The Brain That Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge. It encapsulates much of the research about neuroplasticity and can’t help but make you feel hopeful, no matter what your age and condition.

The next time you have the urge to tell a kid to grow up and be more mature, think again. Instead, tell yourself to grow down. Take chances. Make mistakes – in fact, embrace them as learning-takes. Do what you don’t think you’re good at. Know that your brain is constantly adapting, evolving and improving, so take advantage of that.

Go to a park and run just for the pure joy of it, if only for a few minutes. Just appreciate the fact you can do it. Learn to do something that you think you’re no good at – drawing, playing a musical instrument, playing a sport, cooking – just to prove that your brain can still learn (and it can!) and for the thrill of doing something you’re uncomfortable with. Look for opportunities to look fear of failure in the eye and say, “Screw you – I’m doing this despite what you think!” Make time to just play, doing whatever you want to do, not worrying about what others think.

Be a kid. Grow down.

Find A Way To Say Yes

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Hey, I just learned a big lesson about myself.

Recently, a colleague told me that I seem to say yes to everything I’m asked to do. I nodded in agreement (see, there I go!), and said that I do have a problem saying no to things I’m asked to do. But the more I thought about it, and about the things that I have said no to, I realized that it’s not really true that I always say yes.

The truth is that I try to find a way to say yes to things.

When someone brings up a problem, or says that they need help with something, it’s not that I always just say yes. It’s that I look for ways to solve the problem, and make things happen.

I’ve always been about making things happen. That’s just the way I am. I’ve always had a “whatever it takes” kind of attitude, so finding a way to say yes just seems natural.

And I can say so no. In fact, I find myself often saying no to something in a business setting if it doesn’t make good business sense. I love being presented with an opportunity, analyzing it strictly from a “Is this good for the business?” perspective, and then making a decision. If it makes sense, I say yes, even if it’s going to take some work to make it work, to get around some challenges. If it doesn’t make good business sense, then I’m okay saying no.

I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but a part of my business philosophy is “Find a way to say yes, and then do whatever it takes to make it happen.”

Sorry about making this blog about me, but I thought it might trigger some thought about yourself. What do you think? Make sense? How about you?

What Do You Do With A High-Performer Who Doesn’t Fit?

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Your Number 2, your go-to guy, your second in command… Whatever you call him/her, he’s the guy/gal you know is going to deliver when the going gets tough. But what if he is pissing everyone else off around him? What if he’s the cause of many other people not performing as well as they could?

Would you rather have a team with one superstar and a number of other average performers, or a team full of above-average performers?

I can’t answer that question for you, but that’s what went through my mind as I was talking with a senior executive when he told me about his second-in-command. It seems his Number 2 was a real animal when it came to working with other people, and his management style was very different from what the boss wanted.

What do you do? I see three options:

  1. Replace him with someone that fits your company’s culture and your style – someone who can work well with others.
  2. Live with him, knowing that he’s getting things done and his collateral damage is the price you and your employees pay for that.
  3. Try to change him, molding him, asking him to work with people the way you’d like.

What would you do?

What We Can Learn From Crooks

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

The other day I was meeting with a couple of business colleagues and the conversation led to talk about the politics behind a couple of different groups. As one colleague told us about what was going on behind the scenes I couldn’t help but wonder what could be achieved if people put as much time and energy into productive work as they did into non-productive work.

Here were two very good, well-intentioned groups who, if they worked together, would make things so much better for so many people. But instead, there were people in both groups that were fighting over their turf, protecting egos, and looking after themselves. And because of that, neither was as productive as they could be, and the team as a whole was definitely suffering.

If only people would put as much time and energy into productive work as they do into non-productive, we’d all be further ahead.

This reminded me of the crook who spends months planning to steal something. What if he’d put that much energy into something worthwhile?

Or, the sports leagues splintering and then coming back together, but the sport never being as strong as it once was.

Or, the political parties… But I’m not going there!

Rather than nodding your head in agreement and thinking that others shouldn’t be so silly, stop and ask yourself if you’ve ever contributed to this kind of non-productive behavior. Are you doing that now?

And while I’m on this topic, check out the RSA Animation of Dan Ariely’s talk, The Truth About Dishonesty.

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A Look In The Mirror

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

When was the last time you took a step back and looked at your own performance? After all, it is your performance that determines where your career will go.

If you’re really honest with yourself, on a scale of 1 to 10, how well are you performing at work? How would your co-workers rate you? And your boss – how would he or she rate you?

Assuming you have some room for improvement – and that might be a silly assumption on my part – that leads to the question of how you could do that. And that’s usually not an easy question to answer. Let’s look at a few big picture areas that might make a difference.

  • Communication: Could you improve your communication with co-workers and your boss? That may be as “simple” as communicating more, or as challenging as changing your communication style. What would happen if you made a commitment to communicate more over the next month, letting co-workers and management know about what you’re working on, what’s working and not working, sharing your ideas, and giving them feedback on what you appreciate about them? What would happen if you practiced listening more? Communication is a two-way street, and yet we often don’t listen as well as we should.
  • Pace: How’s your pace at work? Could you be more productive if you sped up your pace? Or, what if you slowed your pace just a little bit so it allowed you to deliver a better outcome, so you came across as more caring, calmer, and more focused? When I ask about pace I’m not suggesting that faster is always better.
  • Attitude: It’s been shown in study after study that a person’s attitude has a bigger impact on whether they succeed in their role at work than skills do. Making a deliberate decision and commitment to walk into work with a positive and supportive attitude, and showing enthusiasm for what you do may lead to bigger and better things for you in your career.
  • Training: While attitude may be more important than skills in terms of career advancement, that doesn’t mean they’re not important. Could you do some self-study to upgrade your skills in specific areas that will help you do your job better? What if you enrolled in some courses? Would that mean you could do a better job? And the skills I’m talking about may not be specific to what you do, but they could be things like time management or writing that apply to just about any role.

Those are just a few ideas to get you thinking about what you might be able to do to step up your performance. Think about what the results might be of improved performance…

Gold Medal Learnings: What The Olympics Taught Us

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

In the days and weeks following the Olympics the media is full of highlights, lowlights and “moments” from the games. And the London Olympics certainly had it’s share:

  • Usain Bolt’s dominating performances.
  • Michael Phelps… what can one say?
  • Andy Murray’s gold-medal performance over perhaps the best tennis player ever.
  • Gabby Douglas’ gymnastics performance.
  • Mo Farah’s double gold-medal runs.
  • Missy Franklin’s performance in the pool.
  • Eric Idle singing Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life in the closing ceremonies!

Definitely one of my favorite highlights was 15-year-old Katie Ledecky’s 800-meter gold-medal performance. And I absolutely loved what she had to say in this interview afterward: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/olympics/london/swimming/story/2012-08-03/London-Olympics-Becky-Ledecky-swimming/56752270/1. She talks about being in the moment, about there being no expectations or pressure, about enjoying herself, and just having fun.

In fact, my big take-away from this year’s Olympics is what so many of the U.S. athletes said before and after their events. It was obvious to me that someone has been “working” with these athletes, because I’ve never heard so many talk about “being here to have fun,” and “I just want to enjoy this experience” before. When athletes are having fun, they perform better.

There’s also a pretty good video that captures some of the highlights at http://www.nbcolympics.com/video/2012/lasting-images-of-the-2012-london-olympics.html. Enjoy!

In fact, just have fun!

Talk Your Way to Clarity

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

I love talking to people who are successful in business. I particularly enjoy hearing their perspectives on what it takes to be successful. It doesn’t matter how successful – or even unsuccessful – they are, there’s something to be learned from all of them.

What often happens in these discussions is after asking a number of questions the direction of the conversation changes and it’s my turn to share some thoughts. And while I don’t claim to have all the answers – far from it – it’s fun to talk about what I believe works. It’s fun to talk about what I’ve seen work, both from the perspective of a businessperson and from a coach’s viewpoint.

What’s most fun about these discussions is what I learn from them. By the time I’ve talked through some of my approaches and philosophies, I’ve gotten much more clarity. Of course, this is why I write. The act of writing, or talking through a theory or strategy enables me to see it much more clearly.

Try it. Sit down with a friend or co-worker and explain the theory and practice of how you do what it is you do. Pretend you’re being interviewed by someone who is writing a book, and you’re the expert on the topic. Just start talking. Explain your philosophy, your approach to how you do what you do. If you’re a manager, talk about what you think are the keys to successfully managing people and systems. If you’re a leader, tell your friend/interviewer what it means to lead. If you’re a software code writer, explain the process you go through to work through a project. If you’re a teacher, talk about what you think makes a great teacher.

Go for it. Take your knowledge to the next level by talking through what it is you do. I’ll bet your performance improves without you even being aware of it by doing this. Have fun!

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Improving Performance – Why I Do What I Do

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

More than three-quarters of the workforce in America feel they are not performing at their best*. Fifty-three percent of the workforce are not engaged in their work**. Eight-five percent of people surveyed admit to performing at a 7 or less, out of 10***.

That drives me nuts! That’s what drives me to want to help individuals, teams and organizations perform better. That’s why I do what I do.

Imagine a workplace where three-quarters of the employees improved their performance by at least 10 percent. What would that do for your team, your organization, this country, you?

(* According to research by Yankelovich & Immerwahr; **Gallup Research; ***my own surveys while conducting workshops)

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Outsource Inspiration: Use End-Users to Motivate Employees

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

As a manager or leader you’re expected to inspire and motivate your staff. But here’s an idea: delegate or outsource inspiration.

What?

In study after study, it’s been demonstrated that employees are not ultimately inspired or motivated by bonuses or rewards. In fact, one of the most motivational factors is employees knowing what impact their work is having on the end user.

Note: Read Daniel Pink’s book, Drive, for more information on what motivates employees. It’s awesome.

So, have end-users connect with your employees. Have them tell your employees how their work impacts them.

I’m not a great believer in focus groups. I think you get “safe” information from them. You often get group think. You don’t get real honest, out of the box thinking.

But if you were to use a focus group, have your employees sit down with your end-users, asking them what your product or service means to them. Don’t bother asking for feedback on what the end-users would do to improve the product or service – that’s not what you’re looking for. Just get the end-users to motivate your employees by talking about what your product or service means to them. Get to the emotions behind what your business represents to the end-user.

That will motivate your employees more than anything.