Posts Tagged ‘goals’

Alcoholism and substance abuse are quite damaging. Once, I was brought up short dealing with associated issues.

An employee suffered from alcoholism. The signs were there: irritability, other employees having to cover for his erratic performance, etc. Dealing with the issue ended up creating a personal nightmare that taught a lesson that was very well learned.

My partner and I talked and decided to break protocol and bring him in for a discussion since the employee, I’ll call “John,” was a team lead and we lacked a backup in his position. (We broke protocol by bypassing the manager to whom John reported –a telling first sign.) John was contrite. But that wasn’t the problem. I and my partner were; but here, I am going to keep the focus on myself. The desire to be “the understanding boss” swept over me. At the time, it felt adult, the right thing to do. What wasn’t so obvious was wanting to be seen as “the understanding boss.” In short, the situation ended up being a focus on me rather than on the team lead position needing responsible performance. Consequently, I felt all warm inside having shown magnanimous behavior from my ownership position.

What is needed in such situations is analysis of what is required for the position to succeed and then determining if the right person is occupying.  Sounds simple. It isn’t…unless a different focus is established. That focus is one of humility.

In retrospect, I believe John picked up on how the ownership position was abandoned for the sake of personal gratification. It created a blind spot within which John quickly ran to and stood. He promised to rehabilitate, do better, blah, blah, blah. What ended up happening was quite the opposite. Later we found out he had gone back to work and became worse. People couldn’t stand working with him. He let people know he had talked with the owners and we were okay with him and his performance.

This all came to the surface only when we saw costs go up and performance drop off in John’s area. This is when the reality hit – the hammer was dropped squarely on my head. Having used John and the situation for personal aggrandizement the company was hurt. The lesson was learned. Branded into my prefrontal cortex was:

“Before others can be evaluated, I must evaluate myself.”

Looking squarely at the situation the action plan showed itself quickly:

  • Admit to my mistakes
  • Decide what served the organization and employees best
  • Confront John
  • Accept that he will feel being treated unfairly

John was called in and the above bullet points were covered. It was difficult and felt good all at the same time. By sticking to the principles relevant to the situation things became simple.

John’s alcoholism came to the surface and he engaged in a series of manipulative behaviors that kept the focus on my partner and I and avoided any ownership of responsibility on his part. When pressed for what he owned, free and clear of anyone to blame, he only got frustrated and angry. The decision to terminate him became easy when he responded to us saying the situation had only gotten worse, “Well, you are the one’s who gave me the extra room.” (If only all dealings with substance abuse were this direct.)

At that point the principles pushed my ego aside and spoke, “John, the position requires X performance. You are consistently choosing Y. We need to respect your desire to do something different and need to let you pursue that path.”

My pulse was at 72. Humility. It works.

Over the years, remembering this situation has helped immensely and a lesson has been learned worth passing along. When dealing with someone I deem difficult and either fly into confusion/anger or feel euphoric with my decisions around him or her, the first, best question to ask is, “Where am I bullsh_ting myself?” My path is inside that question.

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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Time For a Change #3: The Trap of Tunnel Vision

by William Reed on February 23, 2012

A common trap in thinking about goals is tunnel vision, or single-minded pursuit of a goal. It is defined as “recklessly determined to do something at any cost,” or hell bent, which should give you an idea of its destination.

While this may be the only way out for a cornered rat, it is no way to live your life. And yet we see it over and over again with consequences such as burn out, chronic fatigue, and high-speed collisions along the career path. Tunnel vision is like being in a rut and on steroids. The destination is fixed, and everything else is sacrificed in its achievement.

Horse-drawn carriages usually featured blinders to keep the horses from being distracted by things to the sides of the road. While it would feel strange for a person to walk around with blinders on, many people walk through life with mental blinders.

This shows when the eyes have a very narrow field of vision. Such a person will pass you by on the street without noticing you, entirely caught up in their own world. In extreme cases you see it in the eyes of the terrorist, fixed in one direction and to one purpose. You can get a sense for a person’s field of vision by looking at a photograph of the face. Hold the picture in front of your face, and move it slowly to the side. You can sense the moment that you leave their field of vision. Do the same thing with a portrait painting or photograph mounted on the wall. In works of genius, such as Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the eyes seem to see you wherever you stand, a testimony to the Master’s all encompassing field of vision.

Loosen the tension around your eyes, particularly when you think about your goal. You may discover an easier way to achieve it, and a gentler way to approach it.

Recover your rhythm

Have you ever worked in a fixed posture for hours without break? If you work like this at a computer, work with your hands in small area, or even driving a car, your nerves and muscles become fixed to the task, and you experience a physical form of tunnel vision. If you do this too often then the tension itself can become chronic. Physical activity can help, but unless you change your mindset the tension will quickly return.

The first thing in recovering your rhythm is to increase your awareness. There are four elements you can check in your mindset, which are summarized in a Mandala Chart that you can download here entitled Recover Your Rhythm.

  • Check Yourself. Part of the tunnel vision trap is being so focused on your goal that you become blinded to your own tension and behavior. Becoming aware of tension in and around your eyes is the first step to releasing it. Single minded goal pursuit also reveals itself in conversation, being fixated on a single topic. Keep an eye on how you spend your time, so that your days are not dominated by a single activity.
  • Check Others. We can learn about ourselves by observing others, and the influence that they may be having on us. Seek out the company of broad minded people. Encourage other people to talk about their goals and it will help you find perspective on your own. Maintain a flexible perspective to avoid picking up the tension of single minded people around you.
  • Check Your Goal. The goals which are not written down are the ones which tend to trap us, because lack of clarity increases anxiety. The better your understanding of your goal, the more ways you find of achieving it, and the more you will enjoy the journey without the pressure of tunnel vision. Divide your goal into manageable sub-goals that you can work towards in a tangible time frame.
  • Check Your Results. Regardless of how relaxed you might feel, you still want to achieve your goal, and that requires focusing on results. Review and rewrite your goal statement to keep it fresh. Talking about your goal with others can help you monitor your progress and celebrate your success. If you want to achieve accelerated action, then give GOALSCAPE™software a try. It can help you define, track, and reach your goals with less stress.

The Recover Your Rhythm Mandala Chart also contains strategies to help you overcome or avoid the trap of tunnel vision such as, make a wish list to free your imagination, get help from others to lighten your load, take five to get your nose off the grindstone, and forgive and forget to take a more light-hearted approach.

Ask a group of people if they know somebody with tunnel vision, and most of the hands will go up. Ask for a show of hands if you yourself have tunnel vision, and most of the hands will go down. The truth is that we all have it to some degree. Fortunately, we also have the capacity to recognize the trap before we fall into it. Ultimately the cause and the cure are in your mindset.

Soften your focus

The Japanese word for Mind is 心 (kokoro), suggesting an entity that is constantly changing (korokoro kawaru) and one that tends to tighten up (koru). Like clay, the mind needs softening with water to prevent it from hardening into a fixed shape. The mind tends to tighten up when you succumb to tunnel vision. It often afflicts people who work too hard, like a bow which kept strung until it breaks. The best thing for such a person is to recover the rhythm of pressure and release.

It is fine to be firm with yourself in pursuit of an important goal, because without self-discipline it is unlikely to be accomplished. But balance firmness with forgiveness. It is when you loosen up and unstring the bow that you are able to recover your perspective, and free yourself from tunnel vision.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Note by Will Reed

A few weeks ago, Roger sent me an email telling me he was adapting my One-Year Planning MandalaChart, described in Flexible Focus #64: The One-Year Plan, into a writing and marketing tool for authors. I immediately asked Roger to share his ideas as an ActiveGarage guest post, and he agreed. His post appears below. I think you’ll agree it’s a great example of “tinkering” with an idea and putting it to work in new ways.

Why author’s need an Author MandalaChart


I’ve been following, and learning from, William Reed for most of the last decade. I tend to listen when he speaks. He’s introduced me to numerous creativity ideas and resources, including mind mapping.

I’ve been reading, and saving, his Flexible Focus series since it began. But, I knew that Will had really outdone himself when I saw his One-Year Plan MandalaChart.

The One-Year Plan MandalaChart resonated with me because it addressed several of the most important challenges authors face when planning, writing, promoting, and profiting from a brand-building book: book, including:

  • There’s more to book publishing success than simply “writing.” It’s not enough to provide a clearly and concisely written advice; the advice has to be relevant, and the book has to be visible to its intended readers.
  • Publishing success involves simultaneously addressing multiple tasks. Publishing is not a linear process. Success requires addressing multiple issues at the same time. For example, how authors intend to profit from their book should influence their choice of publishing options.
  • Success requires goals, priorities, and deadlines. In a time-strapped world, it’s more important than ever that goals and tasks be accompanied with deadlines. Without deadlines, days, weeks, months, and years can go by without progress, resulting in a terrible waste of opportunities..

Modeled on, and inspired by, Will’s One-Year Plan MandalaChart, my Author’s MandalaChart provides a visual way to create goals, prioritize tasks, and measure your progress as you move forward.

Author’s MandalaChart matrix

The starting point was to adapt the 8 topics Will addressed in his original One-Year Plan MandalaChart to the specific needs of authors.

Will’s original matrix was addressed the following spheres, or activities, of an individual’s life:

  1. Personal
  2. Financial
  3. Study
  4. Business
  5. Home
  6. Society
  7. Health
  8. Leisure

When adapting the One-Year Plan to my Author’s MandalaChart, I included the following activity areas that authors must address:


  1. Goals. Goals involves answering questions like, Why are you writing a book? and How do you intend to profit from your book? As publishing has changed during the past few years, it’s become more and more important for authors to view their books as new business ventures. Books have to generate income beyond that which comes from book sales. 
  2. Readers. Reader topics include answering questions like Who are your ideal readers?, Why should they read your book?, What do they need to know?, and How will they benefit from your book? Nonfiction publishing success isn’t about how much you know; success is determined by offering the information that your ideal readers need to know.
  3. Competition. Books are not self-contained islands; new books must offer something better than what’s already available. Success requires identifying existing books and analyzing their pros and cons, so you can answer the question, What’s the “missing book” my ideal readers are waiting for?
  4. Message. From analyzing your goals, readers, and competition, you should be able to position your book and organize your ideas into chapters and subtopics within chapters. Your book proposal and press releases must be able to quickly answer questions like, What’s your book’s big idea? and What will readers take away from your book?  
  5. Format. Information can be communicated in lots of different ways, for example, step-by-step procedurals, case studies, personal experiences, question and answer, etc. You can also publish a big book or a small book. Format questions include, How much of a book do you need to write? and How can you simplify your book so you can get it into your reader’s hands as soon as possible?
  6. Awareness. Books are not magnetic, they don’t attract readers like a magnet attracts steel filings. You have to help your reader find you, answering questions like, How can I get my book reviewed? and How can I share my ideas while writing my book?
  7. Demand. Awareness has to be converted into demand, demand must stimulate purchases. Questions to address include, How can I stimulate pre-orders for my book? How can I sell as many books as possible when it’s available? and Where can I sell my book outside ofnormal bookstore channels?
  8. Profit. Finally, authors must leverage books into back-end information products or coaching, consulting, or paid speaking and presenting events. Questions include, How can I help readers implement my ideas? and What kind of marketing materials are speaker bureaus and event planners looking for?

Setting and attracting goals

The most important part of Will’s original One-Year Plan MandalaChart was the way it encouraged users to address each topic in matrix from four perspectives:

  • Current status. Where are we now? What are the strengths and weaknesses of our current position? What are the forces we have to deal with?
  • By December. What are our goals for the remainder of the calendar year? What do we want to accomplish by the end of the year?
  • Image for the end of a year. How can we visually communicate our accomplishments after 12 months?
  • Steps to reach this. What do we have to do to achieve our December and our One-Year goals?

In my version, I made a few simple changes, as follows:

  • Situation. (the same)
  • 90-days. This addresses the fact that “By December” implied an August starting date.
  • 1-year. Rather than a visual image, I felt a description of accomplishments during the past 12 months would be most helpful.
  • Steps to success. (Simple wording change.)

Author’s MandalaChart benefits

Writing and self-publishing involve a curious blend of creativity and self-discipline. Success requires a flexible perspective that combines long-term vision and consistent action in 8 different activity areas.

Although all projects are a work in progress, I feel the Author’s MandalaChart achieves its primary goal of helping authors avoid the common myopia of focusing entirely on writing and makes it easy to maintain a “big picture” view that encourages action in all 8 areas. The Author’s MandalaChart makes it easy to describe short term and long-goals in each area.

In addition, it creates an engaging visual to display on your wall as well as share with co-authors, agents, editors, and—when appropriate—your blog and social market community.

Conclusion

In addition to building on Will Reed’s already strong framework and adapting it for a specific vertical market, the Author’s MandalaChart shows the importance of constantly being on the lookout for ideas and tools that you can put to use in new ways.

The power of idea-sharing venues like the ActiveGarage is that it creates a community of achievers, constantly looking for ways to do a better job to address the challenges we all face, including the need to get more done in less time.

Editor’s NoteRoger C. Parker 37-part ActiveGarage Author’s Journey series offers practical advice for writing a book. He invites you to visit Published & Profitable and download a free proof of his do-it-yourself guide to developmental editing, 99 Questions to Ask Before You Write or Self-Publlish a Brand-building Book

rcp-heming-picRoger C. Parker helps others write books that build brands. He’s written over 30 books, offers do-it-yourself resources at Published & Profitable, and shares writing tips each weekday. His latest book is Title Tweet! 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Article, Book, and Event Titles
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Flexible Focus #46: Lens on Consciousness

by William Reed on March 24, 2011

In the last eight articles we have looked deeper into the realm of the mind, looking through the lens of consciousness to see our life from higher, bigger, and deeper perspectives. And yet even from vastly different perspectives, it is all in the context of our daily familiar existence. Revisiting these articles will help you re-explore the territories where we have been, and see also how they fit together. These selections also correspond to the primary eight categories covered in the series, so this review provides an overview of one trip around the wheel, and also reflects the amazing range of topics possible to address with the Mandala Chart.

The images are assembled in the Mandala shown here, referenced from the articles and downloads below. In the conventional Mandala fashion, they are marked A (bottom center), B (left center), C (top center), D (right center), E (bottom left), F (top left), G (top right), F (bottom right).

Here are a few notes to set your thoughts in motion. For easy reference, and to trigger new insights, download the Mandala Charts and review the original articles from each of the links below.

MIND MANDALA BODY (From Flexible Focus #38: Flexibility without Forcing)

Out of your comfort zone…into freedom

Many people like the idea of flexibility more than the practice of it. This is understandable, for if the experience takes you out of your comfort zone, you may prefer the familiar to the flexible. When your body is stiff, then physical stretching can feel more like pain than gain. A similar thing happens mentally when your values or beliefs are forcibly stretched beyond their limits. The key to expanding your comfort zone is to have more degrees of freedom. A brittle stick has no degrees of freedom, so anything which bends it, will break it. The fear of breaking causes many people to retreat into their comfort zone when stretched, but rigidity is ultimately a zone of discomfort. When you have more degrees of freedom in your mind and movements, then you experience flexible focus in action!

A NEW MODEL FOR COACHING (From Flexible Focus #39: The Principle of Gratitude)

You are not the only one in trouble…Make the world a better place

One of the hardest lessons of flexibility is letting go of the ego’s attachments. Pride prevents you from achieving flexibility, because it insists on being right, being first, or being better than others. It’s companions are alike, inflexible, stubborn, righteous, and condescending. These attitudes have ruled and ruined empires as well as personal relationships throughout history, and of course are equally evident today. The ancient Greeks called it hubris (hybris), excessive ambition or pride leading to a fall, or to total ruin. In Asian tradition, pride is like the brittle stick which does not bend, but only breaks. The inflexibility of mind, also known as the hardening of the attitudes, is ultimately the cause of the problem. It is better to be flexible, like bamboo.

A NEW KIND OF NATION (From Flexible Focus #40: The 8 Frames of Life: Society)

Social Media is a classless…and virtually free territory

What is your place in society? At one time, and still in many countries, this was a not a question which you were permitted to answer or control. Rather, it was a matter of birth, circumstance, good or bad fortune, and your place in society was largely determined by people and circumstances beyond your control. Throughout history in various times and places, individuals and groups of people have raised this question, and asserted their right of self-determination, the right to determine their own role and mission in society. Now due to the momentum of such movements in the past, and the amazing impact of technology to connect people and facilitate communication, these questions are being raised widely around the world, not just in the traditional style of political movements, but in a brand new style of personal movements.

YOUR ENTIRE LIFE IN A MANDALA PERSPECTIVE (From Flexible Focus #41: Your 100 Year Lifespan)

The past can be changed…and the future is fixed

You periodically encounter popular sayings that life ends or begins at 30, or at 50, depending on the attitude and experience of the person saying it. It is a poor and arbitrary perspective really, and let’s face it, sour grapes living produces sour grapes sayings. Yet there are many people who lose the plot of their life somewhere along the way. If you look closely there is a plot, and although life’s drama unfolds differently for each person, there are underlying themes that are remarkably consistent in a meaningful life. The originator of the MandalaChart system Matsumura Yasuo created a framework using the 8×8 B-style Mandala Chart, called the 100 Year Life Span. He said that, “The past can be changed, and the future is fixed.” How can this be? Commonsense tells us that you cannot change what has already happened, and that no one can say for sure what is coming. However, using the Mandala Chart you can reframe what has happened, and you can pre-frame what is coming.

PUTTING TIME IN A NEW PERSPECTIVE (From Flexible Focus #42: Time Lapse as a Mandala Movie)

The Mandala Chart takes you out of conventional time…gives you a new perspective

The 3×3 framework of the Mandala Chart lends itself well to showing the relationship of the frames as a visual Gestalt, a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts. The bird’s eye view gives you a 3-dimensional perspective. But what about the 4th dimension, that of time? Most discussions about the 4th dimension focus on its abstract geometry, trying to visualize what it would be like to be 90-degrees perpendicular to the 3rd dimension, in effect looking at the transformation of a 3-dimensional object over time. This is not so difficult to imagine if you look at the effect you get in time-lapse photography, where you can watch a flower grow, or see a full day of cloud transformations in the span of a few minutes. Time-lapse in real time – it is even closer at hand than that, because we all experience transformation moment to moment.

WHAT YOU SEE IS NOT WHAT YOU GET (From Flexible Focus #43: 8 Levels of Consciousness)

The central premise…is that our thoughts create our world

As central as the number 8 is to the Mandala Chart and the original Buddhist framework of Wisdom which it is based on, it is not surprising then to find that in this framework there are 8 levels of consciousness. The first five are quite familiar. We call them the five senses: Visual, Auditory, Olfactory, Taste, and Touch, which are how we perceive the world, through our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and touch. The sixth is Ideation, our conscious thought, referred to in Buddhist thought as the Monkey Mind, because it is typically unsettled and constantly chattering. The first six levels of consciousness then make up the conscious mind, the part that we are mostly aware of. What gets interesting is when you delve into the subconscious mind, which has two layers; the Mana (Obscuration/Shadow) consciousness, which we refer to as the Ego, and the Seed (Storehouse) consciousness at the core.

A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF BALANCE (From Flexible Focus #44: Lessons in Life Balance)

How many things are juggled already in perfect balance…without any effort or interference on our part

The common word for it is Work-Life Balance, the challenge and stress of giving proper attention and time to both work and family. Part of the challenge is that every individual’s situation is unique. No one pattern fits all. Sometimes the stress is generated not so much by the situation, as by the person’s thoughts and attitudes in responding to it. Particularly stressful is the effort to give equal attention or equal time to everything. This cannot be done, though you can work yourself into a frenzy trying. At the end of the day, what really makes for Life Balance is not how you juggle the parts, but whether or not you maintain a calm center.

ABUNDANCE IN 8 AREAS OF LIFE (From Flexible Focus #45: My Cup Runneth Over)

Gratitude grows into giving…and is a principle seen everywhere in nature

In our pursuit of prosperity, we tend to take for granted the blessings that we already have in abundance. A Greek myth which made a big impression on me as a child was the story of King Midas and the Golden Touch. The King was granted a gift to his greed that whatever he touched would turn to gold, but the gift was a curse because he petrified everything and everyone he touched, turning it into a golden object devoid of life. Gold is as perennial in our culture as greed itself. While we talk about a heart of gold, good as gold, and the Golden Age, we often find that gold can bring out the worst in human nature, from gold diggers to Goldfinger. It is often taken as a symbol of wealth, the gold standard. But it is seldom seen as a symbol of abundance. Let your helping hand be one of Kindness, not a golden touch.

NOTE: The articles in the Flexible Focus series are updated with graphics, links, and attachments on the FLEXIBLE FOCUS Webbrain, a dynamic and navigable map of the entire series. It has a searchable visual index, and is updated each week as the series develops.

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Flexible Focus #44: Lessons in Life Balance

by William Reed on March 10, 2011

The common word for it is Work-Life Balance, the challenge and stress of giving proper attention and time to both work and family. Part of the challenge is that every individual’s situation is unique. No one pattern fits all.

Sometimes the stress is generated not so much by the situation, as by the person’s thoughts and attitudes in responding to it. Particularly stressful is the effort to do give equal attention or equal time to everything. This cannot be done, though you can work yourself into a frenzy trying.

The juggling pattern

In a previous article in this series we looked at the question, Are Goals Traps or Opportunities? That article looked at four approaches to goals: distracted pursuit, single-minded focus, stepladder thinking, and flexible focus. When you attempt to juggle the elements with anything other than flexible focus, you tend to drop all of the balls.

Juggling is an excellent metaphor for Life Balance, as taught by Michael J. Gelb in his book, More Balls than Hands: Juggling Your Way to Success by Learning to Love Your Mistakes. A good juggler can easily juggle 3 balls with two hands, and a professional can juggle 4 or even 5 balls. However, in life we must juggle far more factors than this, in eight fields of life: health, business, finances, home, society, personal, study, and leisure. This is our challenge.

And yet think about how many things are juggled already in perfect balance without any effort or interference on our part! Your breathing, blood circulation, digestion, sleeping cycles, a vast number of habits and actions we perform without conscious thought or effort. And in the greater scheme of things, the coming and going of the seasons and cycles of nature, the movement of the sun, the moon, and the stars, all of these things are juggled by forces beyond our imagination or control. There is peace of mind in appreciating the process.

A better understanding of balance

A simplistic view of balance is that of equal weights on a scale, like the scales of Lady Justice, dating from ancient Greek and Roman times. While this may be the goal of common law, it is precisely the effort to make everything equal which confounds us in the process of Life Balance. The process is far too dynamic to be able to measure in this way.

Nor is it a matter of trying to please everybody, or do everything. In Japanese, the word happō bijin (八方美人) refers to a person who smiles equally insincerely to everybody. Politicians sometimes fall into this trap, promising all things to all people, and delivering on none.

What metaphors then can help us gain a better understanding of balance, one which is both beautiful and practical? The core metaphor for the Mandala Chart is the zoom lens of flexible focus, through which you can see the big picture, the small detail, and the connections all at once. Through the articles in this series, hopefully by now you have had plenty of practice in flexible focus.

Another metaphor which illustrates the process in an appealing manner is that in the art of Alexander Calder (1989~1976), inventor of the mobile and a pioneer in the art of moving sculpture. It is best if you can see a Calder mobile up close, but there are plenty of Calder art images online to give you the idea. In addition to being asymmetrical and 3-dimensional, they are in constant motion.

Each element able to move, to stir, to oscillate, to come and go in its relationships with the other elements in its universe. It must not be just a fleeting moment but a physical bond between the varying events in life.

~Alexander Calder

It would be hard to find a better poetic description of flexible focus.

Soft focus and a calm center

At the end of the day, what really makes for Life Balance is not how you juggle the parts, but whether or not you maintain a calm center. It is in the central frame of the Mandala Chart, the seat of meditation, where you free yourself from the distraction of forces pulling from the outside, yet maintain your awareness and control. You can see it in the eyes of a Buddha statue, soft focus which is all seeing.

In addition to meditation, you can cultivate flexible focus by calm and deep breathing, such as done in the slow movements of Tai Chi Chuan. A compelling image used in this art is that the number of breaths you draw in your lifetime is fixed. Hence calm and deep breathing leads to long life, while quick and shallow breaths can shorten your life. So what is your hurry?

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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Fantasy vs. reality during project execution can be a major concern for the project manager and the team. “No good deed goes unpunished” might be the project motto. This seems rather dark but it is a common project reality. Assuming everyone has the best of intentions how could this happen? It can be summed in a word, “disconnect.” What is maddening is how this disconnect can be subtle and imperceptible, being spread out across the entire organization rather than focused at one location.

The Truth(s)

One would assume with intelligent, disciplined, competent people from top to bottom that harmony would be the order of the day. So, what happens? It has to do with the “truth.”

Truth is anything but an isolated, stand-alone reality. Truth is always embedded in a belief system. Belief systems are shaped by experience. As one travels through the various levels of hierarchy and across disciplines, experiences shift and the truth is in tow.

Imagine people at different altitudes looking at the project through a tube with a lens at the end, a lens that changes with their stakeholder position. Everyone gets the same light radiating from the same project but the truth varies from person-to-person. The relief effort in Haiti is a good example.

Suffering continues in Haiti. The project goal is frustrated. A year after the hurricane billions of dollars contributed to help the Haitians languish. While project managers are frustrated and impotent, those higher up feel they are being quite responsible by insisting criteria be met before funds are released.

The Solutions(s)

Is someone wrong? A better question is, “Why the disconnect?” Staying with international aid, project managers who have resources available may be in a situation where achieving their immediate goal of providing relief may require negotiating locally in a manner that goes against the grain of stated strategic political policies and procedures.

Aircraft maintenance is another example. A mechanic in the field can be faced with a problem not defined in the policies and procedures yet they need to get the airplane functioning and back in service. All this needing to be done with the tools and resources available.

What can develop are two sets of books, one set is informal and spread throughout the maintenance community and the other is the official set used to show compliance with stated methodologies. There is the danger of punishment if caught. Why? It goes against the “truth” as seen by those with power working at a distance (in all its meanings). There’s nothing unusual about this. Readers working in other professions probably have similar stories.

The Challenge

One of the project manager’s jobs is working the interfaces between all those truth systems and doing so in a way their integrity remains intact. It is a classic case of situational leadership. In the next blog we will look at other examples of what can happen when there is insistence from senior management that stated methods and policies and procedures be followed.

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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Flexible Focus #34: Projecting your Future

by William Reed on December 30, 2010

While the Mandala Chart is a multi-level rectangular matrix framework, it is also possible to create Mandala in a circular format.

If you search google images with the keyword Mandala, you will find many circular Mandala with intricate abstract geometric patterns, or embedded with Buddhist or Hindu symbolism. While these are engaging to look at, and some produce a calming effect like a visual mantra, for the most part they are more mystical than practical.

Now there is a way to diagram your goals and projects in a circular Mandala format using an innovative software called Goalscape. Instead of surrounding frames, Goalscape gives you concentric circles that form a flexible lens, allowing you to view your selected theme at a distance or up close, at whatever level of detail you choose. The Goalscape intro video gives a good overview to the look and feel of the software, which is so intuitive and simple that you do not need any training manual to get started.

Goalscape: A new way of looking at your projects

The essential premise of Goalscape is that resources in life are limited, so to get best results you need to focus on the big picture. There is a place for detail in the notes panel, but the most effective way to structure our goals is to combine the ability to see the whole picture and be able to zoom down to the details. An integral and unique feature of Goalscape is that each concentric circle is divided into pie slices that can be individually adjusted in size by dragging the corner of the slice. The pie slices can also be dragged and dropped into a new position as you sort and arrange the pieces.

There are controls in the notes panel which allow you to adjust both the size of the slice, and your degree of progress toward completion, as well as add notes and attachments. As you progress on the pieces of your project, the slices fill in with a light grey shading, and converge toward the center with a compelling visual picture of your progress. The software enables you to easily readjust the size and importance, or combination of the parts in relation to the whole.

It is also possible to share your Goalscapes in presentation mode, or export them as a PDF report, PNG image, and in other formats that can be opened by people who do not have the Goalscape software installed.

Integrate with eight

In the Mandala Chart, the basic framework is eight frames around a central theme, which can be expanded to a 64-frame Mandala, and in principle you can drill down as deep as you like. However, once you go deeper than the 64-frame level, your conscious awareness returns to the eight frame view almost by default. There is something in the way our brain processes information that operates optimally when working within limits. The number 8 turned on its side becomes the symbol for infinity ∞, as we see in the Möbius Strip. It is a finite way of grasping the infinite. Without a framework, we face a world that borders on chaos or randomness. In this series we have compared the Mandala Chart to a life compass with 8 points. One way or another, we integrate with eight.

In the Goalscape software it is possible to add more than eight slices, and you can make the pie as complex as you like with subgoals and neighboring goals. However, the more you add to your plate, the more you diffuse your focus, and you soon lose the plot. The software forces you to make choices and focus on what is really important to you. You can start by dividing the first ring of goals into the eight areas of life: Health, Business, Finance, Home, Society, Personal, Learning, and Leisure. Depending on your goals and stage in life, you may want to give more focus to one area or another, and the resulting picture will give you a visual picture of your life in flexible focus.

Dropping out of the Rat Race

We have been conditioned to think of projects as things that we can manage. The typical way to manage a project is on a calendar or on a Gantt Chart. The presumption is that we are running a race in which the players race against the clock (calendar), and pass the baton at predetermined points along the way. It isn’t that the Gantt Chart doesn’t work, but that it works too well at marshaling us into a pattern of racing against the clock, without having a clear bird’s of view of exactly why we are running the race. And as Lily Tomlin said, “the winner of the rat race is still a rat.”

The problem is not with setting goals, deadlines, or landmarks, but rather with tunnel vision that makes us lose sight of the whole and the why. If you feel pressured by your goals and projects, it makes sense to revisit them through a framework of flexible focus. Frameworks such as the Mandala Chart and Goalscape provide an alternative view that is both innovative and ancient, timely and timeless.

In planning for the coming year, you may also want to put the previous year in perspective, with appreciation for what you have achieved, the lessons you have learned, and the values that you cherish, and the goals that you are willing to work for. All of this comes together nicely in a video by Robin Sharma, How to Make this New Year Your Best Year Yet.

As a reminder for taking notes, you can download a circular Goalscape Mandala I created based on this video entitled Best Year Yet.

In summary, explore the geometry of the Mandala with Goalscape, integrate with eight, drop out of the rat race with flexible focus, ring out the old and ring in the new!

Best Wishes for the Best Year Yet!


William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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In most businesses, while high level goals may be set for the organization, employees rarely embrace these or feel any connection to them. Yet this is exactly what your organization needs to be able to execute on its strategy and achieve its goals – an engaged and committed workforce, all pulling in the same direction. So how do you harness the power of your workforce and get everyone contributing to the organization’s success?

Goal alignment.

Now I’m not talking about your traditional model of goal alignment, where goals are cascaded from the top level of the organization down to each successive level of management and finally “dumped” on employees at the bottom of the hierarchy. This is sometimes called the “people-centric” model of goal alignment. This model tends to result in employees who are disengaged, because they are typically not involved in their goal setting process.

Cascading goals takes a long time to setup. Every successive level of management must wait for the previous level to have their goals set, before they receive their own. That can often result in large groups of employees working for weeks or months without clear objectives. And if a manager changes roles in the organization or leaves it altogether, the chain of cascaded goals is broken and must be reestablished.

Another challenge with cascaded goals is they can set up divided loyalties or even apathy. Employees are invested in making their managers successful, rather than the larger organization. This can result in them taking actions or making decisions that help their direct manager, but hurt other parts of the organization. Plus, since there’s no direct link between an employee’s goals and the organization’s high level goals, employees lack a context for their work. This can result in employees who are less accountable and have less ownership for their goals.

What I’m talking about is a model where every employee sets their individual goals in collaboration with their manager, and directly links each of their goals to one of the organization’s high-level goals. This model is called “organizational goal alignment”. This talent management best practice ensures every employee is contributing to the achievement of organizational goals, and feels ownership and accountability for both their goals and the organization’s.

With organizational goal alignment, goal setting can be completed much more quickly, since it is done at the same time, across the organization, as soon as the high level organizational goals are established and communicated. Because high level organizational goals aren’t affected by changes in staffing or organizational structure, the goals links are more stable and enduring.

Organizational goal alignment results in goals that are linked across the organization. This allows for broader, cross-functional contribution and a more detailed understanding of everything involved in achieving the goal. So for example, an organizational goal to improve customer satisfaction can be embraced as the responsibility of everyone in the organization, not just the managers and employees in the customer service department.

This model also gives employees at all levels of the organization clear visibility into how their work impacts organizational success. This typically enhances both their accountability and engagement by giving them an important larger context for their work.

And perhaps most importantly, organizational goal alignment shifts everyone’s focus to organizational success rather than simply individual success – a key ingredient in the recipe of  harnessing the power of your workforce!

Sean ConradSean Conrad is a senior product analyst at Halogen Software, working closely with customers on a day-to-day basis. He has spoken at numerous industry events sharing his unique blend of technology expertise and understanding of HR-specific challenges. In his downtime, Sean enjoys running and recently completed his first marathon. He’s an avid Formula 1 fan and loves traveling and scuba diving.
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Have you ever invested years of your life pursuing a goal that turned out to be a trap? You work very hard to get a degree, only to find on graduation that you are overqualified, or unemployable. You sacrifice in order to achieve career success, only to find that what you really sacrificed was your health. You invest money to start a new business, only to go deeper in debt.

Chances are that you know people for whom the pursuit of a goal was not all that it promised.

There are so many quotes by wise and accomplished people that speak in favor of having goals, that it seems sacrilegious to say anything against the idea. Yet through experience we find that goals are not always golden at the end of the rainbow.

Goal-Free Living is a highly acclaimed bestseller by Stephen Shapiro, an international business consultant with an impressive list of clients and testimonials. Shapiro says that excessive focus on achievement leaves us ever hopeful for a future that never comes, and  he demonstrates through the lives of real people that you can have an extraordinary life without traditional goals, schedules, and plans. Featured in Newsweek, The New York Times, Entrepreneur Magazine, and on the cover of O-The Oprah Magazine, he has clearly tapped into a mother lode of sentiment regarding the limitations of a goal-oriented life.

Goal-oriented living may be a by-product of Western culture’s thinking about progress. It has brought us much good, and much damage at the same time. Single minded-pursuit of goals has upset the balance of life, interrelationships, and our environment.

There are three common patterns in goal-oriented thinking which are self-defeating in the end-result.

Distracted Pursuit

Chasing after whatever appears on your screen, whatever looks best at the time. Like a kid in a candy store, you grab whatever is in reach, and try to fill your pockets. But in the end you have nothing to show, and no real sense of satisfaction. Succumbing to suggestions that lead you anywhere and nowhere, you don’t stay with anything long enough to create lasting value. You end up empty-handed as a result of losing the big picture.

The mark for distracted pursuit is the memo pad.

Single-Minded Focus

Going for the goal no matter what or who gets in your way. Like a bull bent on destruction, by sheer force of determination you actually reach your goal, only to realize that other people have abandoned you, as you have abandoned them. You end up alone, as a result of single-minded pursuit, without considering the consequences.

The mark for single-minded focus is the checklist.

Stepladder Thinking

Pursuing the traditional path of education, leading to a career, followed by retirement. Like a cabin dweller chopping wood for the long winter, you patiently pursue the tasks set out before you, putting off immediate gratification for the sake of a secure future, only to find that your best laid plans don’t turn out as expected. You walk through life with blinders, as a result missing out on the broader view.

The mark for stepladder thinking is the calendar.

There is another approach which enables you to follow your instincts, get things done, and get results over time, without falling into the traps of common goal-oriented thinking.

Flexible Focus

Being able to see the big picture, focus on the details, and catch all of the connections, with a free and flexible mind that can achieve goals without being goal-oriented. In Asian philosophy this is known as working without being attached to results. It is a fundamental mindset that has spiritual roots, but delivers material results. It is wise, because it recognizes that things are not as fixed as they appear, and that flexible focus frees your mind to discover, to create, and to innovate. The tool of choice for flexible focus is the mandala chart.

Caught in the traps of the first three goal-oriented patterns of thinking, you may be aware of the limitations, but unsure of how to avoid them. You can make efforts to achieve life-work balance, to spend more time with your family, to go to the gym a few times a week, or to eat a more balanced diet. But unless you fundamentally change your thinking about goals, you will simply repeat the same patterns and fall into the same traps, even as you pursue the goal of life-work balance.

The mandala chart can help you achieve flexible focus. It works like a 3 x 3 viewfinder, with 9 frames. Putting yourself in the center, automatically gives you 8 surrounding windows, a field for flexible focus.

On the mandala chart as in life, you are surrounded by issues and goals related to health, business, finances, home, and other important concerns, but none of them dominate because you are at the center. Moreover, the center is not fixed but flexible. The center is wherever you are, and the field is whatever surrounds you. You are not so much goal-free, as free of your goals.

Download a visual reminder of the four approaches to goals. Where are you in relation to your goals? To keep your goals in balance, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I taking consistent focused action to move closer what is important to me?
  • Do I regularly consider the impact of my actions on others?
  • Are my plans flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances?
  • Can I see the big picture, the small detail, and the connections all at once?
  • Which of my current goals are potential traps, and which are opportunities?

William ReedWilliam Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.
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What’s your ante?

by Himanshu Jhamb on March 1, 2010

If you have ever played poker (and I know there are many experts out there who can beat me hands-down belly-up!), you know what ante is. Simply put, it’s the wager you have to bet without an inkling of the hand that has been dealt to you or in other words It is the wager that you have to bet that simply qualifies you to ‘play’ in the game. Then there are many tables, each table with different stakes. You can choose which table you want to sit at and play on depending on how much money you have.

Business is very similar to poker. It requires us to wager something – an ante before we even have an inkling of the hand that is dealt to us. Think about the investment you have to make in order to bring a product to market or start your next entrepreneurial venture or even the new job that you get. In each of these situations there is this pesky ante that you cringe to put down but have to put down in order to play on the table! Here’s how the ante appears in each of these situations:

  1. Bringing a product to the market: You put your time, money (maybe not yours!) and energy as ante in building the product, doing your market research & getting help from others.
  2. Starting your entrepreneurial venture: Your ‘skin-in-the-game’ is pretty much your ante here.
  3. Getting a new job: You apply for your dream job, excel in that interview, land the job and within 2 months realize that what you’re doing is nothing like what you had imagined you’d be doing (Err.. I mean this in a negative way). In this case, all the effort that you put in to the point where you started the new job is your Ante.

My point so far: There is an ante in every game you play (Business being a game, too… )

Here’s the golden question: Is the table you are sitting at (which basically determines what ante you put) is the right table for what you want to achieve?

Consider this example: You are 45 years old & have plans of retiring with $4M in your bank account at the age of 65. You currently have $1M saved up. You make $100K a year. That’s a gap of $3M you have to cover in 20 years. You don’t need to be a math whiz to notice that it is impossible to get to this number with what you are making currently – You are basically sitting at the wrong table! because regardless of how well you play at this table, you’re never going to make your goal of $4M!

So you figured out that you’re sitting and playing at a table where no matter how well you play (heck! you might be the best player) you’re still not going to make it to your goal.

Now what?

Before you decide to take the leap of faith and move to the high-ante table, be aware that as you move up to the high-ante, the competition gets thick too. The players at the high-ante table are no pushovers. In fact, one mistake there and they’ll wipe you out before you know what hit you! So, yes – by all means, quit playing at the table where you are not going to make it BUT continue playing at the low-ante table until you are Skilled enough to move higher up and be the best player at the high-ante table!

… and of course, the last piece of advice and perhaps the most important to remember – Know when you have made it to your goal, get up from the table and go play a new game!

Good luck!

Himanshu JhambThis article was contributed by Himanshu Jhamb, co-founder of ActiveGarage and co-author of #PROJECT MANAGEMENT tweet. You can follow Himanshu on Twitter at himjhamb.
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