Archive for June, 2011

Flexible Focus #59: The 8 Frames of Life: Learning

by William Reed on June 30, 2011

Learning is for Life

In the Mandala Chart, the 7th Frame of Life is Learning. The problem that has plagued both students and educators from the beginning of time is that learning is hard to come by. It doesn’t seem to stick very well. Perhaps this is because learning is often imposed on us more or less by force. The lucky ones discover that learning is not for school; learning is for life.

Learning by doing is the shortest route to retention. Once you learn to ride a bicycle, you will still be able to do it even ten years later without any practice. However, it is likely that you have forgotten most of what you learned for tests in school, often within hours of taking the test! The reason for the difference is contained in proverbial Chinese wisdom,

“Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.”

In his book, Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell gives numerous examples of what he calls the 10,000-Hour Rule, for which he claims that the key to success in any field is largely a matter of extensive deliberate practice. It certainly makes sense in fields like music or the martial arts, but turns out to be true in just about anything we call talent. Even those gifted with a natural genius often turn out to have been at it in one form or another since they were small children.

Clearly though, it is not just a matter of clocking in 10,000 hours, or we would all be geniuses in our field after just 5 years of work experience. It isn’t about hard work, which is another word for hard won experience. It is the quality of experience and engagement that makes the magic happen.

You have already experienced mastery in speaking your mother tongue, for which 10,000 hours is the equivalent of deep engagement for 10 hours a day by the age of 3. Communication is central to most of our needs and wants, so we master it quickly to survive. And yet a lifetime is not enough to really master the art of communication.

The best way to increase your learning is to increase your engagement, and for this it is helpful to have a framework to understand the levels of engagement. As shown in the illustration, engagement occurs on the horizontal axis of depth, as well as on the vertical axis of involvement.

The deepest learning comes in performance as a player, where you fully physically engage. If you only engage mentally, that is as a spectator, you may enjoy and you may learn, but it will be passive and less likely to stick. Learning by doing starts by engaging the body in practice, and ultimately leads to mastery through performance.

The two axes meet with Art, which can also be understood as technique, or the knack of doing something well. This is the sweet spot in learning, where Mind and Body are joined.

Accelerated Learning

Much of what has been written about accelerated learning only brushes the surface of this process. While it is true that people retain more when they use imagery and visual thinking, this is only the beginning of engagement, and only one of the senses. Learning increases exponentially when you engage deeply, which is why it is easier to learn a foreign language if you live and work in a country where that language is spoken.

What if you do not have the luxury or option to engage in full immersion by moving to a foreign country? Can you still accelerate your learning of a foreign language through deeper engagement?

You could start by making a Wish List on what you want to do in speaking a foreign language. This will help you become very clear on why you want to speak that language, so that you can begin to think about how you will achieve it. If your wishes are vague, you are unlikely to take any action steps toward your goal, and the result is that you will learn little or nothing.

You don’t need to jump right into the deepest level of performance. Instead look for ways to increase your level of engagement in each of the quadrants, always mindful of what Art or technique can help you get more actively engaged.

You could start by enjoying the food and cultural events related to the language, and available where you live. If you can’t attend language classes, there are more options online and through Smart Phone Apps, than you could find excuses for not doing.

Deep learning occurs when you engage muscle memory, and the only way to do that is to practice. Of course, you will get better results if you engage in high quality practice, with good models and good coaching. The final hurdle is that the only way to get better at performance is by doing it. So practice as if you are performing, and perform as you practice.

You can also shorten your route to engagement by following one who has already mastered it at a high level. Learn from a master linguist such as Michel Thomas, whose client list is a gallery of celebrities, diplomats, and executives, all of who needed to perform at a high level. The Michel Thomas Method has been captured on CDs for many of the world’s languages, and it takes you right into the highest level of performance and engagement from the first hour, using no text book, no memorizing, no note taking. Just stimulating guided engagement with the language with the master himself.

If you search, you can find masters of their craft in almost any field imaginable. Use the Mandala Chart to organize your strategy, and you will fluent in that craft in no time, and more passionate about learning that you could have imagined.

As the Paradigm Shifts #L: Loneliness

by Rosie Kuhn on June 29, 2011

You probably thought that since we are talking about spirituality in business that love would be the L word for this week. No. Everything we’ve discussed and much of what we will be discussing engages and exercises the muscles of love. No need to go there today.

Though we spend hours with our cohorts, colleagues, team members, rarely do we engage in such a way that we feel heard and seen for who we are and for what we really bring with us to the office.

Loneliness is a spiritual crisis for every individual on this planet. It is isolation from ourselves, our highest truth and our highest good. It’s self-abandonment and self-deprecation that shows itself by the company we keep and the companies we work for.

We can’t blame anyone for this malady from which we all suffer and to which we all contribute. All we can do is to begin to cultivate the awareness that each of us can contribute to the resurrection of the Self through conscious and thoughtful connection with everyone at work.

It isn’t hard to cultivate connection– we’ve been discussing it all along. It’s just a matter of deciding what you are committed to. You heal others and the reward is you heal yourself at the same time.

Time to Google

There was a part of me that was unsure how accurate I was regarding the degree to which loneliness permeates our corporate cultures. Not every company or corporations is afflicted with employees that suffer from loneliness but there are enough.

I googled Loneliness in Business and found one website in particular that shared many views of loneliness and how sometime the loneliness and isolation experienced in the working environment led to depression, illness, stress, lack of motivation and the reality that nobody really cares!

Emily White, author of Lonely: Learning to Live with Solitude has a blog site on Loneliness & Work. It is an open invitation for those who experience loneliness at work to write and share their experience. Here are a few comments that I found valuable to share:

“I feel invisible at work more and more. I’m a manager and my job is to promote the great work my staff does, which they do, but I find myself feeling sad that the people in our organization don’t come to me for questions and the like.”

“I used to work for a small advertising agency and in the beginning, I felt it would lead to more friendships, but it didn’t. … there were also the usual stresses of personality conflict and turf battles in the office. Plus, the … already well-defined cliques …”

“I work from home myself and the isolation and loneliness can be overwhelming. I do have to go to meetings occasionally, and I meet people for lunch every week, but it isn’t enough.

HR regulations that ignore the fact that in many cases we spend more time with the people from work than we do with anyone else in our lives. Regulations in our lawsuit-fearful, spineless management work lives are imposing isolation – not alone-ness – on all of us. We become so fearful of lawsuits or invasions of our private lives by corporate attorneys claiming that associating in our private times with workers is the company’s business that we avoid making meaningful relationships or even attempting.

A Lack of Shared Values

I asked a friend of my, Jen, about her experience of loneliness while she worked in the corporate world in Silicon Valley. She expressed that she had a lot of friends at work but found they didn’t share the same values. This gave her a sense of disconnection and isolation. As she spoke about it today, eight years after leaving her job, she realized that she was unaware of the degree to which she felt disconnected from those with whom she spent the majority of her days. She didn’t have the awareness or the language to even know her own feelings. Her current lifestyle fulfills her requirements for connection and for solitude, which she says is so important to her.

Bringing awareness to the quality of life we live within ourselves and within the environment within which we not only work but create most of our significant relationships and with whom we spend the greater part of our day – this can only begin to break the barrier of silence we’ve created within ourselves and those around us. It means interfacing with vulnerability – as is always the case when growing ones spiritual intelligence.

Residuals of childhood patterning too often are the foundations for the choice-making process we enter into to create the social and professional environments we find ourselves in. Choosing to choose intentionally what it is you are wanting to create for yourself and others regarding your work environment will contribute in phenomenal ways to the actualizing of such a place. The question to ask is — What is it you are wanting?

Last week we discussed Capt. “Sully” Sullenberger and “The Miracle on the Hudson.” In resilience engineering there is a constant search for the character traits one must possess to be successful when dealing with complex socio-technical interfaces, which are increasingly becoming the norm. In line with the speed with which decisions have to be made in foggy situations it seems appropriate to have a checklist. I love checklists. When done correctly they serve two functions simultaneously: setting the right frame of mind and helping establish a focus on successful behaviors.

A checklist can also help during more mundane times such as trying to get back to sleep (or maybe just GET to sleep) at 2 AM when your head is spinning because of a challenging project.  Below are two checklists that may help in terms of those specific behaviors and attitudes.

What Makes For a Good Pilot?

The civil aviation authority in France has published a list of capabilities pilots feel are essential for effective execution in complex situations:

  1. Be able to construct and maintain an adequate distributed mental representation of the situation.
  2. Be able to assess risk and threats as relevant for the flight.
  3. Assess one’s self-proficiency envelope, know the boundaries, and adapt one’s tactics and strategies accordingly.
  4. Be able to switch from a situation under control, to a crisis situation.
  5. Be able to construct and maintain a relevant level of confidence towards self, others, and the technology involved.
  6. Be able to learn, implement and maintain routines and skills associated with basic flight functions (fly, navigate, communicate).
  7. Be able to contribute to decision-making in complex, uncertain environments.
  8. Manage interactions with aircraft automated systems.
  9. Know, understand, and be able to speak aviation jargon.
  10. Manage interactions with, and cooperate with, crewmembers and other staff.
  11. Make intelligent usage of procedures.
  12. Use available technical and human resources, and reconfigure as needed.
  13. Be aware of time and time pressure.
  14. Properly transfer acquired knowledge and know-how from specific context to a different one.
  15. Properly use and maintain information and communication technology equipment.

Another way to look at this from a purely psychological perspective is to have the following traits:

  1. When under pressure acknowledge your feelings and then focus on the work at hand. Emotionality leads to out of control behavior of simply freezing up.
  2. See through the situation to success. Stay focused on the long haul.
  3. Look. Let go of projections. Simply see what is there and understand the trends.
  4. Decide how much you believe in yourself and whether or not that is sufficient to maintain your leadership position.
  5. Practice humility. This means knowing what you can and can’t do…which leads to the next point.
  6. Learn how to ask for help. The goal is to get the job done rather than being Superman or Wonder Woman.
  7. Let people know you see them and need their help. Practice empathy and address people as they are. If it’s details they like then give them details. If there is a need for the overall picture then paint the picture (time permitting).
  8. Stay positive while admitting difficulties are present. To paraphrase Andy Groves when asked if all could be lost if the next generation chip failed, “Yes. Keep moving. We can make it.”

Again, these are checklists — mirrors. When having a hard time go through and see where you are working well and where things could improve. Use the results to drive the next day’s agenda. This is probably preaching to the choir but bears repeating: by having the right attitude, knowing where to focus, asking the right questions, and risking action leadership emerges.

Over the last three years, I’ve asked hundreds of business owners this question:

What’s Been Harder in Your Business Than You Expected?

More than 95% of the time, the answer was immediate and unequivocal:

The People!

Jason Colleen owns Colleen Concrete and when I interviewed him he employed about 50 people.  Jason’s response to the question captured the essence of what I heard over and over again.  He said,

“I didn’t expect so many headaches to come from the employees.  Every little problem they have somehow becomes my problem.  People are just so high maintenance.”

Dealing with employees seems to be a universal challenge.  The truth is, people have issues and the more employees you have, the more issues you have.  But there’s another truth as well, and that is:

Great Companies Grow One Person at a Time

Or more precisely, great companies grow one great person at a time.  One of the things I’ve discovered in my own business and in the experience of the owners I’ve interviewed is that you can’t stack enough good people up to make a great one.  Good simply isn’t good enough.  Great people are far more likely than good people to do three things on a consistent basis:

  1. Initiate: Fundamentally, initiative is thought or action that is not prompted by others.  It’s the ability to assess independently and the willingness to take charge before others do.  The soul of initiative is an intensely active engagement – engagement with the company, client, problem or opportunity.  Initiative requires thought, which as Henry Ford said, is probably the hardest work we do.
  2. Stretch: Stretch is about setting your sights higher, much higher, than what seems reasonably achievable. Unless there is a critical mass of people in your company that are willing to reach for incredible, you’ll never achieve incredible.  When you stretch, even if you fall a bit short of incredible, you will inevitably wind up doing better than you would have if you didn’t stretch.
  3. Grow: Employees usually have an expectation that you’ll pay them more next year than you paid them this year.  But why would you?  The only logical reason would be that they contribute more next year than they did this year.  Great employees get that.  They’re always looking for ways to make themselves more valuable.  They improve their skills; they learn how to use new tools; they take classes to expand their knowledge.

That’s what great people look like.  Now, I’m not saying these great people won’t also have some issues.  But if I have to deal with people issues, I’d prefer to be dealing with the issues of highly productive contributors as opposed to the issues of the mediocre, uninspired or disengaged.

A highly creative team can make or break a company and they require special care and feeding (literally).  The complaints coming from creative people we have worked with through the years fall into three buckets of “frustrations”:  mundane, daily frustrations; professional frustrations, and management-induced frustrations.  Let’s look at each one and see how we can prevent it.

  1. Mundane, daily frustrations – These include heavy traffic lengthening the daily commute, difficulty finding a parking spot, and not having change for the soft drink machine.  So managers, allow people to work from home one day each week.  Also encourage carpooling to ease the parking challenge and reward carpoolers with gas money.  Lastly, put healthy drinks in the machines and let the company pay for them (select the “coinless” setting in the machines or buy your own machines).  One firm we know did this and also keeps a large kitchen fully stocked with instant soups and other fast foods, all free to employees.
  2. Professional frustrations – Engineers never seem to have requirements that they can use.  They always want better requirements.  And your engineers do deserve the most solid requirements you can generate, blessed by the end users of the system.  So make that happen.  Visit multiple users and get the system specification, contract and the requirements aligned.  Also, scientists always seem to need better tools and equipment.  This gets expensive fast but you should meet their needs whenever it makes good business sense.  But do two things here:
    • tie new tools to higher output, faster analyses/studies, etc. and
    • require the scientists to triage their needs so you work on filling the most crucial needs first.
  3. Management-induced frustrations – and here there are several:
    • Mismatched expectations, when management thinks they have asked for one thing and the staff provides something different.  Usually this is caused by management thinking they have hired mind readers.  Managers, be overly thorough in your assignments and get confirmation by asking “Now, what are you going to go do, and why?”  You’ll sometimes be amazed at the answer you get!
    • Great inventions and technologies get embedded in technologies and systems, but the project gets cancelled.  Technical/creative types understandably want to see their ideas take wing and launch!  So have an ‘idea greenhouse” where orphaned ideas can await a new home.  And reward people for planting wild ideas there (a year’s membership in the World Futures Society at www.wfs.org or a trip to a super science symposium or a great museum).  Let people know you value great ideas, even (especially?) those ideas that are ahead of their time!  And to prevent premature death of a project, design your projects as carefully as you design your systems (learn to do this in the Project Dominance course offered at Solid Thinking)
    • Hidden assumptions or unvoiced expectations cause the end user to reject the system.  Usually this is because management failed to get user buy-in during the design and development of the system.  Remember that just meeting the specifications is not enough – – – management must seek out representative users and get their vocal support for the system as it is being conceived, developed, built and fielded.  Anything less is risky.

Lastly, here are some Do’s and Don’ts for leaders managing creative teams:

  • Don’t accept problems brought to you by staffers, unless each problem comes with options and a recommendation.  This is how you build creative thinkers (and a replacement for yourself).
  • Don’t belittle noble failures.  Instead, celebrate them with luncheons and rewards (a half-day off, a dinner at a nice restaurant, etc.)  Make it a fun thing.  Build an accepting environment for new ideas, whether they find a home or not.
  • Don’t overlook talent you have within your organization(s).  You may have mission expertise in your organization that you know nothing about.  One of our clients has a “Mission Experience Library” of people with military experience.  If they need someone familiar with aircraft maintenance, for instance, they can query the database and find that ex-sergeant wrench-turner who can provide input on the new automated technical order system being contemplated.

“Take care of the people and the people will take care of the jobs.” (source unknown)

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Flexible Focus #58: The Principle of Objectivity

by William Reed on June 23, 2011

A Lens on Life

The Mandala Chart is a multi-faceted lens through which we can observe ourselves and all phenomena. We explored this theme earlier in Flexible Focus #27: In Search of Solutions, in which we saw that flexible focus is fast moving, physical, and multi-dimensional, like a mental Rubik’s Cube. The Principle of Objectivity, the 7th of 8 principles for the Mandala Chart, takes this process into a deeper, more reflective mode, in which you gain crystal clarity of perception and insight by examining things from multiple perspectives.

Like the crystal cube shown in the illustration, which could also be called a Mandala cube, when the laser beam passes through, it refracts and reveals new surfaces both inside and outside the box. When the light of insight passes through our mind, the Mandala Chart acts in like a lens to reveal new facets and perspectives. This becomes a driving force for creativity and innovation.

Objective thinking is usually associated with science, observation, and experimentation. The effort to measure and get repeatable results works well under controlled laboratory circumstances, but is far less predictable in real life. Complex systems are impossible to describe in terms of linear cause and effect. Hence the quote attributed to MIT Meteorologist Edward Lorenz, “When a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world, it can cause a hurricane in another part of the world.”

Instead of the phrase, cause a hurricane, it might be easier to understand if we say it is connected to a hurricane in another part of the world.Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus recognized this in saying that, “A hidden connection is stronger than an obvious one.”

In Search of Wisdom

The Mandala Chart also takes an objective approach, but starts with a different set of assumptions, and leads to a different kind of objectivity (冷静 reisei, calm cool; or 霊静 reisei, calm spirit).

Starting with the recognition that nothing is fixed, we realize that our perceptions and observations depend very much on our perspective. Another perspective is not wrong, just different. Seeing a second point of view is only the first step in flexible focus. Having a third perspective is the beginning of wisdom, because 3-dimensions are more flexible than 2-dimensions. In Japanese this is expressed in the proverb, Three heads give you the wisdom of Monju, the Buddhist Deity of Wisdom (San nin yoreba Monju no Chie).

The Mandala Chart gives us 8 perspectives in the A-Chart (3×3 Matrix), and 64 perspectives in the B-Chart (8×8), beyond which it becomes difficult to consciously comprehend. Only God can comprehend the universe from all perspectives. However for us it is enough to recognize that we need to overcome the single-minded stubbornness of thinking that our point of view is the only point of view. If two heads are better than one, and three heads give you wisdom, then why not practice cultivating a more flexible mind?

In Zen Buddhism and in the Martial Arts, this is known as the Beginner’s Mind (初心 shoshin). Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki’s famous statement, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”

What are some of the qualities that can help you develop a Beginner’s Mind?

  • Curiosity. A beginner is brimming with questions. Make a practice to write down your questions on a daily basis, and to ask them! You can seek answers from other people, or research for yourself, but the driving force is the quest to know.
  • Enthusiasm. A beginner embarks on a path filled with surprise and discovery, which generates a childlike eagerness to know more. A lack of enthusiasm is a sure sign that a person has lost the Beginner’s Mind.
  • Calmness. A beginner whose curiosity and enthusiasm does not decline enters a new state of mind, that of tranquil awareness, a state of meditation. A rapidly spinning top is calm and poised, while a top that has lost it’s energy wobbles and comes to a dead rest.

As we learn more about the brain, the science of neurology is beginning to catch up with ancient Asian wisdom. If you can change your brain, you can change your life. A book which explores this is in depth is, Buddha’s Brain: the Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, & Wisdom, by Rick Hanson, PH.D, with Richard Mendius, MD.

As you practice thinking with the Mandala Chart, using it as lens to explore your universe, The Principle of Objectivity will help you realize a state of mind which is calm and cool, a state of awareness like that realized in Zen Meditation.

Can a business create profitability based on kindness? Sure, why not?

The Dali Lama says if nothing else practice kindness. This must be a very powerful practice, so just what does it entail?

I googled the word kindness and here are a few words that showed up as synonyms: Accommodation, benevolence, compassion, courtesy, forgivingness, friendliness, generosity, gentleness, goodness, goodwill, grace, graciousness, helpfulness, humanity, perceptiveness, sensibility, sensitivity, service, tolerance, understanding and warmth. Who wouldn’t want to be part of an organization that practiced kindness? As I read each one of these words I could feel a heartfulness present: a quality of being mindful of the wholeness of the organization and all of its members. Each organization has a heart, just as each individual has heart. We forget this fact. We forget our own heart too. An act of kindness reminds us to be mindful of the essential nature of life that beats within us all.

In my google search, the words that came up as antonyms for kindness were: complaisance, compliance, deference, obligingness. These words reflected a different quality – not one that generates heartfulness. To me they reflect a stand for doing the minimum of what’s required by the organization. They reflect an attitude of resistance to participate or engage. “I’m not committed enough to shift my stand or position. I don’t want to and you can’t make me.” What is underlying this stand for complaisance and compliance?

Every one of us in a business environment are there for personal gain first and foremost. Only as a secondary intention are we there to fulfill the vision and mission of the organization itself.  If it were any other way we would set aside our judgments and interpretations, our fears and needs, our resistance and other survival strategies for the best interest of everyone associated with this organization. We would act in alignment with the highest good and the highest truth of ourselves, which is always in the alignment with the highest good of everyone and, believe it or not, every organization. The fact is that we just aren’t that committed.

Though we say we are committed to serving our organization, generally we aren’t committed enough to shift our personal perspective in order to move beyond compliance and complaisance. What are we committed to?

I suspect many of us have a hit list – those people at work who we wish would disappear, with whom we avoid eye contact and conversation. It may be those about whom we gossip or complain. We may even perform passive-aggressive or passive-resistant maneuvers in order to sabotage their success or fulfillment. I’m always curious about what we gain from other people’s demise.

Taking on a practice of kindness, just as a practice, will reveal underlying motives. Bubbles of emotions begin to surface that often feel uncomfortable. It’s not uncommon for anger, frustration and sadness to arise. Attached to each of these emotions is a thought that is harbored in the recesses of your mind; a belief, a judgment or interpretation that is confronted by just the smallest act of kindness. I’m always fascinated by this process, and though it is often uncomfortable I encourage the exploration, discovering what’s interfering with kindness, compassion, generosity, graciousness. What do you have to lose? Funny, isn’t it, that we think we have something to lose by being kind.

Kindness makes good economic sense. Research shows that good business and profitability comes down to creating good relationships. Good relationships require so many of the words that relate to and include kindness. How are you doing kindness or how are you being kindness. Too often doing kindness is a transparent, inauthentic manipulation, and personal gain is its motive.

Authentic kindness – what’s the motive?

My work is grounded in authentic, engaged connection. When I am grounded in this I enjoy being myself and quite often find more to enjoy in the other. I suspend judgment about who they are, their status, what I can gain from the relationship and remain in the moment authentically engaged and connected.

Kindness, like compassion, is sometimes really challenging to practice, however when doing so we can make a huge difference in our own capacity to be relaxed, open, free of stress and pressures. It contributes to our level of happiness and enjoyment. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain by just being kind. It’s funny how it works that way.

Resilience Engineering #3: Miracle on The Hudson

by Gary Monti on June 21, 2011

Capt. “Sully” Sullenberger behaved memorably January 15, 2009 commanding US Airways flight 1549. Most of us know it as “The Miracle on the Hudson” where an Airbus A320 with 170 passengers was safely crash-landed on the Hudson. A six-minute flight encapsulated many of the traits associated with behavior driven by a resilient engineering frame of mind.

The Incident

At 3:27 PM, two minutes after take-off, the plane flew into a flock of geese at 3200 feet. Birds were ingested and both engines were immediately lost. Capt. Sullenberger took the controls while first officer Skiles began going through the three-page emergency procedures to restart the engines.

The Assessment

Passengers and the cabin crew reported hearing a very loud bang from both engines followed by flaming exhausts, then silence with the smell of unburned fuel filling the cabin. Radioing back to LaGuardia air traffic control Sullenberger was told that runway 13 was available for an emergency landing.

The Decision

Sullenberger made a quick assessment of the energy the airplane had at that time and felt that he would be unable to make it. (Later extensive analysis showed that the airplane probably did have sufficient energy to make it back to LaGuardia.) Similarly, an emergency landing at New Jersey’s Teterboro airport was considered but, again, Sullenberger felt the airplane lacked sufficient energy to make it that far. He decided to ditch in the Hudson.

The Consequences

The plane ended its 6 min. flight at 3:31 PM with unpowered ditching in the Hudson heading south at 130 kn. Fortunately throughout the flight auxiliary power was available to maintain control of the aircraft’s flight surfaces. Performing such a feat requires a good amount of luck as well as tremendous skill. An unpowered water landing can be extremely dangerous since any deviation from being perfectly level can lead to an asymmetrical landing, tearing the plane apart. Then there were the difficulties associated with gliding an airliner 2 knots above stall speed (stall speed is when the plane would just drop like a rock.)

The Emotions

When interviewed by CBS News Sullenberger said, “It was the most sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach, like falling through the floor. I knew immediately it was very bad. My initial reaction was one of disbelief, ‘I can’t believe this is happening. This doesn’t happen to me!’ ”

Patrick Hartson, LaGuardia air traffic controller stated, “I asked him to repeat himself even though I heard him just fine. I simply could not wrap my mind around those words. And when the plane disappeared from my radar screen it was the lowest low I had ever felt; truth was, I felt like I’d been hit by a bus.”

When interviewed by Larry King, Capt. Sullenberger stated, “I expect that this was not going to be like any other flight I’d flown in my entire career. And it probably would not end on a runway with the airplane undamaged.”

Trade Offs: Thinking Outside the Box…What Box!?

For Sullenberger and his copilot all they had trained for and anticipated lost any value. This was a unique situation where everything was initially a blur. Pilots are trained on how to deal with the loss of a single engine as well as how to make controlled landings from altitude. This, however, was not in the simulations.

In such crisis situations the ability to make a completely “right” decision disappears. The situation is highly constrained due to a lack of time, information, and resources. So, instead of making a “satisficing” decision, i.e., the “right” decision, one must make a sacrificing decision trading off threats against opportunities in an attempt to achieve the optimal results under the circumstances.

In line with this Sullenberger went on to say, “I quickly determined that we were at too low an altitude, at too low air speed, and therefore we didn’t have enough energy to return to LaGuardia. After briefly considering the only other nearby airport which was Teterboro in New Jersey, I realized it also was too far away. And the penalty for choosing wrongly, in attempting to make the runway, I could make a mighty catastrophe for all of us on the airplane plus people on the ground.”

So, the trade-off Sullenberger was faced with was either land in the Hudson and have a potentially damaging but non-catastrophic landing or try for the happy ending at LaGuardia with the downside being a totally catastrophic crash.

Another trade-off that needed to be considered was the fact that in attempting to relight the engines there was failure with engine #2 while engine #1 had a partial relight providing sufficient thrust to maintain hydraulics and electrical supply. So, the decision had to be made whether or not to continue limping along with some power which was useful for a controlled crash landing or risk attempting shutting off engine 1 and attempting to relight to get full thrust but risking loss of all thrust.

Again, all of this occurred during the last 4 minutes of a 6 min. flight.

In addition to being an experienced pilot with over 30 years experience between the Air Force and commercial aviation,

Sullenberger was also an experienced glider pilot, a skill that proved immeasurably valuable in saving the situation. He treated the airliner as if it was the world’s heaviest glider.

There is more to this story. While the pilot and copilot were working in the cockpit the cabin crew did their job maintaining composure among the passengers and conducting an orderly exit of the plane. This included evacuating one wheelchair-bound person and having passengers climb over the tops of the seats to reach the exit while water was rising in the cabin. Another issue was stopping a panicked passenger from opening a door that was partially underwater. Surprisingly, all were saved.

These actions set the stage for looking at resilience in depth as well as determining character traits possessed by resilient people working individually and as a team.

The state of the global economy notwithstanding, companies everywhere seem to be experiencing the some of the best growth seen in recent years. As the saying goes, however, mo’ money, mo’ problems. This couldn’t be truer when it comes to finding the best possible people to join your organization during the hockey-stick rise to prosperity.  In the past, this meant running an ad on an online job board, chatting to a few interesting candidates by phone, conducting a handful of interviews, and you were generally in good shape. Today, it means online job postings on multiple sites (often in multiple geographies) and potentially hundreds of resumes. Oh, and thanks to the recent belt-tightening, you’re now likely wearing more of those proverbial ‘hats’ in your organization – which means a lot less available time for sifting through resumes/CVs. Here are a few tools that can help you navigate that shiny hiring canoe of yours through glassier waters:

Write Great Job Postings

Like everyone else, I check out job postings now and again to see who’s hiring – jobs tend to be a pretty good barometer of what’s happening in the marketplace, and the ever-fluid tech sector in particular. I’m sure you likewise receive emails or calls from headhunters with the latest and greatest gig they think you’d be perfect for. I’ve got to say that in general, these guys are pretty good at what they do, and on the whole their descriptions of whatever job they’re plugging are fairly detailed and written well enough to capture my attention – at least for a moment or two anyway.

Now, contrasting this against the average job posting online (those you might find on sites like Indeed, CrunchBoard, or LinkedIn), I’m continually amazed at the lack of detail – and, quite frankly, good writing – in the average job posting. Little about the company and whether it’d be a fun, inspiring place to work, or a draconian bore-fest. Sparse details of the actual job duties. Run-of-the mill skills and experience lists. I mean, what caliber of candidates do companies expect to attract with such a mess of a posting? My point is this: when preparing your job posting, take your time. Put yourself in the shoes of that ideal person whom you want for the open positions. What schools should they have attended? Where should they have worked prior? If an engineer, should they actively contribute to coding forums or blog on their accomplishments? Should s/he have patents? If a business development or management position, whom should s/he know well/be close to? Are you looking for a thought leader or just a fantastic cold-caller? What competencies should they have that might indicate a top performer?

Also important is to be personal: Try to write the posting in a conversational style and be sure to include how great it is to be part of your company. People like working for fun companies. Spend an extra few minutes thinking about your posting and you’d be surprised at the high quality of responses you’ll receive as a result.

Use An Applicant Tracking System

Another surprising thing I find is the number of companies out there who apparently have only email as a means of receiving responses to job postings. Really? I get that loads of startups fit into this category, but what happens if you’re the next Zynga: your hot new product is taking off like a rocket and you’ve secured enough funding to scale. Now you need to hire – very quickly – perhaps 20 or so positions. Your postings are scattered about online and before you know it, you’ve got more than 500 resumes and cover letters to weed through, amidst your other 488 emails. Exactly: headache city.

The good news here is that there are several alternatives to email alone, whatever your organization size or budget. Applicant Tracking System/Talent Management Systems are readily available from The Resumator, Newton, Force.com apps (if using Salesforce), Taleo, Peopleclick Authoria, Kenexa…and as you can imagine, the list goes on. Most of these services are available – yes I’ll mention the dreaded word again this once – in the cloud, so no software or server to install. So spend a bit of time and investigate your options, but for goodness sake, move away from email-only. I repeat: Step away from the email. The great thing about just about any of these solutions is you can keep a database of job posting templates, publish/distribute to multiple job boards, screen incoming candidates, retain resumes for future consideration, and move candidates down the funnel to interview, offer letter, background check, and onboarding – all from a single environment. Look into it. You’ll thank me later.

Screening: Go Beyond The Resume

According to a 2010 survey of businesses across the US, UK, and EU by Cross-Tab, a market research provider, 85% of hiring managers feel that a positive online reputation influences their hiring decisions, and more than 70% of companies have a policy to screen all job candidates using – yep, you guessed it, social media. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other sites offer a treasure trove of data about whom the candidate is beyond his/her credentials and pedigree. If you aren’t screening candidates this way, you should be. That said, there is a bit of risk involved in screening this way, namely in the form of what the EEOC deems ‘protected class’ data (age, race, sexual orientation, political affiliation, etc.), which if you didn’t know is illegal to use when making a hiring decision in the US. (The UK and EU have similar privacy laws, by the by.) Three or four years ago, this wouldn’t have been too much of an issue with regard to screening, as the average resume/CV typically hasn’t changed much and typically doesn’t contain this kind of information. Visit a candidate’s LinkedIn or Facebook page, however, and you’ll invariably come across more than you should likely be seeing. Serious stuff, people. I’m not an attorney by any means, but I do know that lawsuits have been filed (and won) by didn’t-hire candidates over this sort of thing. Bottom line here is to move wisely; and most of all don’t be creepy – ‘friending’ candidates on Facebook so you can have a deeper view into his/her persona, etcetera.

Here too, though, comes our good friend technology to the rescue. A growing number of social media-driven resources are available to help get beyond the resume: LinkedIn offers some pretty good search tools. Klout, who analyze data to determine an individual’s level of influence (and whose scores apparently come up during candidate interviews here and again), and Reppify, who provide a web-based analysis of candidates’ online presence through their social networks according to your hiring criteria. (Disclosure: I currently hold a senior management position at Reppify.) Services such as these can help you to narrow that candidate funnel, identify the best candidate selections for your team, and mitigate discrimination liability risks.

Whatever your business, and however fast you may be growing, employing these three key strategies today should significantly help you to identify the candidates who best fit your organization, as well as save you loads of time and money (and probably a few grey hairs as well). Happy hiring!

Photo Credit: Woodleywonderworks

Whenever listening to a public speaker, ask yourself two things: 1) Does the message make sense without the skilled speaker’s delivery and 2) Were the key points crystal clear? Make sure that (you)

  1. Remove the oratory (the effect of the speaker’s delivery style and voice).  You can either do this mentally or you can find a transcript of the speech.  Do the words still make sense when just written, not spoken?
  2. If the key messages were not clear, was that intentional?  Could simpler, more commonly used words have made the message unmistakable?  If so, then why wasn’t it said that way?  Perhaps it was worded so each member of the audience could interpret the speech individually by “hearing what they wanted to hear?”

The danger is being lulled into complacency.  Quite a large number of reasonably intelligent people adopt “selective hearing” when a speaker or writer uses ambiguous words: They often see/hear what they want to see/hear, either pro or con.  And less-educated people, who mistakenly question their own ability to understand “complex” subjects and assume the unfamiliar words surely must make sense to somebody, fall into the same trap.  This is partly because everyone is busy managing their daily affairs, working and . . . . just . . . living.  It is soooo easy to defer to the “ruling class” in the State capitol and/or Washington DC – – – the professional economists, strategists, politicians and lobbyists.  But many things that happen in the State and US capitols impact the business environment and, therefore, the company where you work.

The Danger for Our Country:

This “letting the experts handle complex things” is an age-old problem in every country and is especially risky in any democracy or republic, regardless of your political persuasion.  Howard Troxler said this temptation to be lazy is very dangerous in last week’s editorial “I’m Too Busy is not an optionin a Virginian Pilot editorial on June 13th (an outstanding newspaper, BTW).  He says, in part,

We should pay more attention to what Washington is doing. We should pay more attention to what the state legislature is doing. We should pay more attention to what City Hall and the School Board are doing. If we don’t, then the same bunch in Washington will keep right on driving the country off the cliff. . . . Paying attention is not something optional that you can get around-to one day. Tell everybody you know.”

The Danger for Your Company

There are clear parallels in the business world:  It is easy to get tunnel-vision, to adopt a narrow focus on only your little part of the organization.  Don’t do this.  Know the big picture.  Listen closely to management’s speeches but be sure you know what matters most in your organization (cash flow, orders backlog, etc.).  In any company be sure you understand at least four things:

  1. How the financial community rates your firm (if publicly traded) and what they are saying about your management (good, bad, strong vision, confused, etc.)
  2. The company’s long term strategic plan and how your team (and job) fits into that plan
  3. How your company generates cash
  4. What your team’s financial objectives are for the month, quarter and year (in other words, what your boss signed you up to accomplish)

If you are intimidated by financial terms and statements, here is a great $20 booklet “Guide to Finance Basics for Managers” from Harvard Business Review at. Remember – – – what you don’t know can hurt you!

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation