Saturday, April 28, 2007

What Are You Going To Give Up?

Some people think they can do everything . Well, many executives keep doing things themselves because "it's a lot easier to just do it than take the time to train someone and then have to check the work anyway". These same people start coming in a little bit earlier and leaving a little later to just finish something when it's quiet. Then they start coming in weekends to clear up a few things, straighten their offices so they can think straight and wade through a pile of work or emails. Slowly but surely time and life evaporate.

On top of it all, budget time comes and they have a hard time justifying bringing in support because the work is getting done anyway. Right?

After a while when a lightbulb goes off and they realize it's just not sustainable, they think of bringing in a coach to 'fix things'. Coaches don't fix things. They challenge, inspire, motivate, help them evolve perhaps, but it's up to them to clear away some time and mental clutter to work with a coach to make that happen. It doesn't happen all on its own. Just as support staff have to be trained to work with them and their style. If they're not trained properly there will be more friction than a synergistic, effective working relationship and because of that things will be missed, problems occur and all that will be left is a chaotic mess.

Bringing in anyone to help them through the clutter when they don't free up time only causes them to push harder rather than live better.

So if that applies to you, my question is how can you simplify? The hardest thing to do is begin the the first things up or putting them on hold. But if you could let go of one thing, what would it be? How can you unclutter? You're not perfect. Someone else can do it too, yes, perhaps differently but the end result will still be what you need.

Just this afternoon I asked a high level executive "What is your biggest problem?" I'm getting material ready for my newsletter and thought the best approach would be to respond to clients' greatest needs. His answer was "My biggest problem would be retirement" He didn't have a life to look forward to once he retired. He was so busy, he didn't have time for the people in his life and eventually, they too evaporated into thin air. He said it was like a series of weekends and he couldn't wait to get back to work after the weekend. He didn't know any other way. Work and doing everything gave him a sense of worth, of purpose.

Before it gets to that point for you, what one thing can you pick to give up? Right now. Get rid of it, delegate it, put it on hold while you get the real priorities done. But do it. Don't just talk about it. Once you start giving things away strategically, it'll get easier. Plus you'll come to the realization that it might not be so hard to let someone else help you out along the way. That's called partnering. A great concept. And you just might have time for a life in the process.

I'll leave you with a quote from my website "The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing" . That goes for your dreams, to take care of your health, relationships, whatever it is you're putting on the back burner for 'one day'. So what are you going to give up?

Donna Karlin

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Congratulations You're a Leader! got the promotion into a position of leadership.... Now what?

You’ve gone from being managed to doing the managing without a “how to” book and no...manuals tell you the bare minimum. It's the intangibles, intuitive power of a born leader or one with extensive experience that really make it 'work'. As an executive coach I'm sure you expect me to say that experience beats any book. I know I'll get flack from that one. I'll concede and say the most powerful combination of all are books and experience. Doing beats reading about it any day!

So how do you make that transition? People are often catapulted into positions of leadership they're nowhere near ready for. They end up being overwhelmed and under-qualified when it comes to leading. It’s not that these individuals aren't capable. That's not it at all. It’s just that they’ve been put into positions without the proper training and told to “just do it” or "figure it out".

Large organizations wouldn’t hear of letting someone loose with a dangerous piece of equipment without having the appropriate training, so why is it many companies put people in the positions of power, having a direct impact on staff, the bottom line and future of an organization with sometimes no training at all?

My three cents for starters so you're ahead of the game and not just keeping your head above water is this:

• Call in a coach, one who's a good fit. Like any professional you should choose one who resonates, who you can relate to and respect.

• Don't ever forget where you were before you got here

• Don't be a know-it-all. Because you're not perfect so get over yourself and listen, especially at the beginning. Everyone has something to learn and if you're a new leader, you need to learn more than most; even the bare basics.

• Lead each person according to their strengths and let them be known by their talents. But figure out a commonality at the same time to bring all those talented minds together to work as one. The team might not be unique but each one making up that team, is.

• Pick and choose what you spend your energy on, especially at the beginning. Do something you've already been successful at to achieve what I call a quick and dirty or early success. It's much easier to get the staff on board if they feel you're successful. They’ll want it too!

• Let others know what you're passionate about so they see you from a position of energy and enthusiasm. That'll capture their imagination and attention.

That's about it....for now. If you have any others to add, I'm all ears. Let us all know!

Donna Karlin

* Note: One of the first books we blogged about on execuBooks Blog was "If Harry Potter Ran General Electric" by Tom Morris. It's philosophical, uses a wealth of analogy and metaphor but brings the concepts of true leadership to light. I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Who Writes Anymore?

The other day I came across a quote that went something like "If I knew where you lived, I'd send you a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils". I loved that mental image! Then what came to mind was, who writes anymore? If they do physically write, who writes with a pencil? And to go one step further, who writes with a pencil that has to be sharpened? I wonder how many people actually own a pencil sharpener these days.

It's the electronic world. People type on their computers. They might still journal, or write in a special notebook. Most use pens. Some might use pencils but even those are generally mechanical with rubberized exterior, or some kind of customized, innovative design. I can't remember the last time I saw an HB regular orange wood pencil on anyone's desk.

I still give my clients (yes, even the IT clients) journals. They're blank, no lines, which encourages creative writing, design or diagram drawing. The reason I give these small notebooks to them is to have a parking place for their thoughts and ideas, something small they can put in a briefcase or purse or keep on their bedside table, so when a thought occurs that they want to save or expand on, the notebook is right there. They don't have to wait until going back into their offices or to turn their desktop or laptop back on. Most of the time they wouldn't bother and the thought goes poof into thin air.

Writing by hand does something else. Because we have to slow down to the speed our hand can write, we also slow down to the speed of conscious thought, can take a moment or two and reflect and don't just pound out a letter or article and hit the send button before we gave it some real thought.

Oh I love to type like the best of them (and am right now), but you'll always see me with at least 3 small notebooks; one for writing ideas....well I do write 3 blogs and numerous articles a week and need to remember ideas, one for business ideas so when those light bulbs go off, I have a parking spot for them until I'm ready to explore possibilities and the last topic related. Each has a unique cover with a header so I know which one is which. They weigh nothing, always fit on my carry on for the plane (no matter how small the plane) and is ready to receive anything and everything I can think of.

Try writing again. You know the kind of writing with pen or pencil. Do a brain dump as I call it at the end of the day which is a great way to remember all those gems before they disappear, a way to get rid of any stressors or emotional baggage you don't want to take to sleep with you. If either weigh you down, you won't get a lot of sleep or even rest. Those thoughts or ideas will still be there in the morning if you want to be reminded of them. Most of the time, if it's stressors, they don't look so bad after a good night's sleep. Regardless, it's a special parking spot for all sorts of wonderful things and purposes. Don't worry about grammar. Write like yourself. Sound like yourself. Be yourself. It's freeing.

Sometimes doing things the old way is a better way. Sometimes, not always. You decide which works best for you. A time and place for everything...

Just a thought
Donna Karlin

*Note: D'you want to try out something really neat? A way to hone your writing skills (OK well these are on the computer but it'll give you a taste). Go to One Word, So Little Time You just might get hooked!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Are You Being Scheduled To Death?

My clients used to work 10...12 hour days. They left work at the end of a very long day exhausted, with the feeling they hadn’t accomplished a fraction of what they’d set out to do. And that was before the era of handheld devices. Now, many of them are working a minimum of 12 – 14 hour days, when you take into consideration the hours they put in at home weekdays and weekends. Now incorporate handhelds, i.e. BlackBerries, and even when they are off, they’re ‘on’. They are scheduled to death and when they aren't scheduled for a meeting, they are interrupted more times than one can count. I had written about this in a Fast Company Experts article and when one of my clients picked it up, he looked at me and said "Were you on drugs when you wrote this?" (he was kidding of course). Then he went to tease me about "What do you mean when you're off your on?" I turned to him and asked him to refute that statement....that he wasn't in fact living just that. He couldn't. Another client who was walking down the hall started to laugh and said "Donna's naturally like that". Well at least I can get them laughing in the middle of utter chaos.

Actually even through the laughter, the truth of the situation hit home. We are right now looking at ways to take control of schedule and yes, there are ways to do that you know.

If my clients feel they have absolutely no control of their days, are scheduled beyond what’s humanly possible to sustain, and the powers that be expect them to maintain that lifestyle (or lack of) indefinitely, why in the world would they want to stay in an organization with that kind of norm? And if you're part of the leadership, how can you lead an organization if you’re killing your people one jam-packed day at a time?

Forget work/life balance. It's a game of catching up. There can be no time for a private life. And rather than throw out the excuses such as “We have a responsibility to the shareholders” to “Competition in our market is fierce and we have stay 10 steps ahead of them”. etc, start figuring out another way of being so all the needs of the organization are met without killing its most valuable asset...its people.

One has to set personal boundaries. If you’re in an organization that won’t let you, time to rethink the kind of life you’re buying into. The point of building a career used to be to create a life you love, a day that challenged yet energized and let you build a lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of. This scenario describes a life with no lifestyle, no personal time….no life. Money without time (or subsequently health) to spend it isn’t a life.

If you’re a leader that promotes this, stop for a moment and take stock of just how many rising stars are staying and how many are running out the door, screaming “Enough!” and if everyone in your organization is working more than 10 hours a day, that’s a red flag that should be waved in your face. Time to consider resources, whether or not the right people are in the right places. Are your priorities clearly articulated or is the staff doing 10 things at once, not getting much of anything completed on deadline?

There are many factors. Bottom line is, many studies show you will retain your people…your best people if you value them as human beings, care for them, their health, intellect, ways of being. If you become known as the “Chew them up and spit them out” kind of organization, that will always come back to haunt you and you’ll be getting the bottom of the barrel when it comes to talent…not the cream of the crop.

Don’t fool yourself by thinking you can cram more into a day and be the most effective person there. You’re not benefiting your organization when you show others their health and well being is secondary to everything else.

De-schedule. De-commit. Focus on the top 3 priorities you have right now. That’s the first step towards creating a successful, enthused environment. When mentoring your new rising stars, show them how to do that first, and it will be the most valuable lesson they will ever learn, how to create a sustainable work/lifestyle within which to grow.

Looking forward...
Donna Karlin

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Dare To Believe

I came across this fabulous piece which coincided with a conversation I had with a client just the other day about uniqueness. I maintain, if you keep trying to be someone else, then who would be you? And what would the world look like if we were a mass of similarities rather than uniqueness because everyone tried to emulate someone else? The thought boggles my mind actually.

So by chance, I came across this piece and tried to find the author, but in vain. If anyone can come up with the name of the person who wrote this gem I'd love to hear. In the meantime I'll share with you: Dare to Believe - Author Unknown

You can't be all things to all people.
You can't do all things at once.
You can't do all things equally well.
You can't do all things better than everyone else.
Your humanity is showing just like everyone else's.

SO …
You have to find out who you are, and be that.
You have to decide what comes first, and do that.
You have to discover your strengths, and use them.
You have to learn not to compete with others,
Because no one else is in the contest of "being you."

You will have learned to accept your own uniqueness.
You will have learned to set priorities and make decisions.
You will have learned to live with your limitations.
You will have learned to give yourself the respect that is due,
And you'll be a most vital mortal.

That you are a wonderful, unique person.
That you are a once-in-all-history event.
That it's more than a right, it's your duty, to be who you are.
That life is not a problem to solve, but a gift to cherish.
And you'll be able to stay one up on what used to get you down.

Pretty amazing when you stop to really think about this, hmm? And if you have some words of wisdom that this inspires, please share them. It's quite fantastic when we discover a whole new facet of our being. It creates a constant source and sense of possibility!

Donna Karlin

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Interviews Go Both Ways

This morning I came across an interesting blog from the Chief Happiness Officer (yep it's true. Would I make something like that up?) The post was fantastic as it doesn't talk about all the things you have to prepare for when going on a job interview. It has to do with what questions you should ask of the potential employer and present staff before even considering going to work for the organization.

In it he says "What you really need to know now is, “Is this a nice place to work?” Are people happy at work here? Are the managers good? Are the co-workers nice? Or is this company a branch office of one of the nastier levels of hell?" Good questions, don't you think? For the rest of this excellent pre-moving-to-a-new-job thought provoker go to his post "Some Killer Questions to Ask In Your Next Job Interview"

Question: Going back to the old days of Fast Company Magazine where they used to have all kinds of fascinating information printed around the perimeter of the pages, job titles of the future and all those wonderful additional things that made me look forward to the unexpected in every issue, if you could rename your title, what would it be?

If you want a head start and some ideas, here's the link from the magazine which lists some of their job titles of the future

Donna Karlin

Friday, April 06, 2007

Learning Environments

Monday afternoon my son and I were having this fascinating conversation. He had borrowed my book Wikinomics and I knew he would be fascinated not only by the content itself but by all the insights and ideas that would fly through his mind because of it. Global collaboration might be a fairly new concept for those of us boomers, but for the younger up and coming generation who have been raised on technology, it's not so new (or so he told me about 10 times in the conversation).

Knowing his brain would be percolating, I asked him to throw some of those ideas at me so I could talk to him about them and perhaps write about some of them.

I have 3 pages of ideas to write about. (Thank you Mike for a wealth of blog content).

He spoke both of education and the work place and made a comment that stuck in my mind which was "The traditional education system is failing not because of bad teachers, bad kids or low standards but because the content is not interesting and the environment isn't stimulating, but the rest of the world is. The educational model as we know it has lost its relevance. People learn more in online communities. The physical environment is too structured and doesn't allow for individuality". We then spoke about open courseware and all the knowledge available online as well as increasing field trips etc.

I agree whole-heartedly. We then spoke of the work place and the anonymity of some of the places people 'live in' for half their day. I look at government departments where offices are a sea of cubicles with no individuality other than perhaps a plant or a picture as there is no room for much else. There are no walls per se so you're limited to what you can hang on a fabric covered metal frame. How in the world is a person supposed to be stimulated when surrounded by claustrophobic walls of blank fabric, poor lighting and air quality and when separated from others by sight but not sound. Many have to wear headphones to keep the noise out so they can think straight. We also spoke of lateral moves to other parts of the organization so you can learn and know what the rest of the organizational world is doing.

A while back I read an execuBook summary on "Seeing is Believing: How the New Art of Visual Management Can Boost Performance Throught Your Organization". It captured my imagination enough for me to run out and order the book.

"Imagine a workplace that's so visually coherent that it can instantly shape the impression or point of view of the outside world the minute a visitor enters. Visually, this would be a place that's special, a place that's filled with innovation and creativity"

Just reading that excerpt, what does it bring to mind for you? If you are working in an organization that's a sea of generic cubicles, could you imagine the difference in your energy and productivity if you were surrounded by an environment that nourished you instead?

I'd love to hear your three cents on this as well as would love to hear from anyone who decided to change their organization from visually and creatively stifling to one that packed a punch of energy and stimulating thought.

Donna Karlin

*Note: Some sites I really recommend for a wealth of knowledge and information are Open Courseware Consortium: Universities working together to advance education and empower people worldwide through opencourseware. And one of my favourites is The Wayback Machine: Archiving the Internet for future generations. You can browse through 85 billion web pages archived from 1996 to a few months ago.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

It's All About Words

While reading a favourite blog this morning, Problogger, I came across one of the posts "Blogging is About Writing" that talks about basics. In it he states "The web is about words. No matter how visual and audible it becomes, it continues to be about the words."

Those who are visual like diagrams but even then it's about words or languaging as it's called now. We can evolve or demolish with words, as I mentioned in my last post. One of the most powerful tools I use with clients is 'evolutionary progressions' or a stream of words that literally evolves them beyond their current way of thinking and being.

In my post this week on Fast Company Experts I talk about upgrading your personal operating system. One of the first things to update is language. Ways of communicating, instructing, dialoguing. Making demands of others will no longer work. Capturing their imagination and helping others feel they're a part of the success of any organization is the best way to bring everyone forward. Blogging might be about writing, and I learn that with every post. It all comes down to words whether in blogs, conversations, strategic direction...relationships of any kind.

Donna Karlin

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Three Letter 'Four Letter' Word

Before I get into my post, I wanted to give you a brief update of where Perspectives Blog is going. New face (or blogskin for those who know the Blogger lingo) and new content layout as well. Each post I will share with you some of my thoughts and insights as before but will also share a blog I’ve discovered that is particularly noteworthy, share a book I’ve discovered, ask a question or two and ask for you to dialogue with me so we can perhaps both evolve in some way in the process. As always I invite you to comment, question and add your three cents. If you’d like to me to write on a specific topic suggest that too.

Check out the sidebar as I’ll be adding to it as well as a link for you to subscribe to my newsletter which will launch within the next couple of weeks or so (a 2 minute on the go read) and as always, make yourself welcome!

The Three Letter 'Four Letter' Word

‘but’. Don’t you just love hearing that word in a sentence? I watch people be built up with praise only until they hear that word of death that kills all the good feelings they felt moments before. It’s watching as if a balloon was being blown up into its beautiful, colourful shape only to have someone let go of the end and all the air just fly out in seconds.

But. That tiny word has a huge impact. It’s saying to someone “You were GREAT at doing this but (just not good enough)”, I think you’re really a good fit for this job, but (not right now…or someone else is better)”, I’d go to this event with you if…..but (I have something better I want to do.) What I put in brackets are reactions of the recipients of those ‘buts’.

Oh those three letters can kill a relationship in one fell swoop because if the recipients hear it a couple of times, they’ll anticipate it all the time and turn into a those who won’t give their all because what’s the point? They’ll be demolished anyway. And so it begins…breakdown of morale, self esteem and overall joy in the day, job, or relationship, whatever it is.

Words can build and evolve or demolish….words we take for granted…simple every day words and sentence structures. Languaging is an important aspect of leadership. Languaging is a vital part of life.

I remember Shadowing a client into an executive committee meeting with the President and all the VPs and one of the up and comings did a presentation for a project he was working on. To put it mildly it wasn’t the best of presentations (in other words he crashed and burned) and the questions that followed from the committee made it evident that this person didn’t in any way shape or form impress them in the least. You could see the presenter was demolished by what unfolded. His boss on the other hand, one of the VPs, could have nailed the coffin shut so to speak as he would have been reflecting what his colleagues felt but instead he picked out the one shining moment in the presentation, shared with his staffer how brilliant that was and told him to build on it.

What could have been the most demoralizing experience in this person’s work life to date turned into a moment of resolve, revelation and absolute loyalty and motivation to shine. No buts no ifs, no howevers. Just an acknowledgement that he had the potential, his boss saw it, appreciated it and would be there to help him fly. Now that’s a leader!

Donna Karlin

Blog that caught my eye:
In Phil Dourado's Leadership blog post from March 29th, 2007 he makes two statements that really resonated with me.

Real leaders get ordinary people to realise they can do extraordinary things then allow them to work in a trust-based, open environment to achieve those things.

Real leaders identify and REALIZE talent. They don't go to war over it. They cultivate it. They don't have to hunt it out. They know they've already got it; it just needs releasing. For the rest, click here

A great book we reviewed in our execuBooks Blog was See, Feel, Think, Do: The Power of Instinct in Business, by Andy Milligan and Shaun Smith. This book challenges executives to get back to the basics, using the oldest conceptual model in business, using their gut, their instinct and to really listen to what people want....and give it to them. Every library should have a copy!