Posts Tagged ‘Leadership’

humility courage discipline“What do I do when overwhelmed and projects pull me in several directions?” That is a common question. The short answer is, “Practice humility, courage, and discipline.”

Humility is simply appreciating where the boundary is between what I can do and what I can’t do. When on the “can” side get to work focusing on success. When on the “can’t” side see if help is available within the time frame required. If that help isn’t available then it is time to either cut scope or extend the schedule. Another way to state humility is, “I have a place in the universe; it just isn’t at the center.”

Courage is risking action (or being still) when there are no guarantees the desired outcome will be achieved. This doesn’t mean the outcome can’t be achieved. Rather, it is about breaking into new territory and getting away from “same-old, same-old” behavior. Courage can also mean taking action when there are insufficient resources and attempting to get political movement by pushing on power brokers.

For example, risking building a prototype of a product you just KNOW the client will want and doing this BEFORE there is any commitment. “Taking a calculated risk,” might be another way to describe the exercise of courage. Keep in mind; this is different than being foolhardy.  When someone is foolhardy they throw caution to the wind. With foolhardy, think of the firm with no depth that mastered PowerPoint and then was at a loss as to what to do once they win the contract.

Discipline is what brings it all together. There are two ways to define discipline and both are relevant. The first definition is: know your area of expertise and how best to apply it. Practice, practice, practice.

The second definition ties back into humility. You must be able to maintain a sharp focus and broad view simultaneously. Imagine you are a surgeon and want to save the patient. The decision as to whether or not to operate goes beyond your ability with the surgical techniques. It is critical to consider whether or not the patient might die while under anesthetic.

This all adds up to wisdom, the ability to find a balance point among all the principles when the rules are either absent or fail to point in a clear direction. There’s an old saying that sums the challenge of the situation well, “Success comes from experience which comes from failure.” There are no guarantees but without trying you’ll never know. Remember to breathe and take a calculated risk.

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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Thought Readership #14: Toughening Up On Tighter Writing

by Liz Alexander on October 1, 2012

Call me weird, but I often turn to the last few pages of non-fiction books (although never novels!) before making a decision whether or not to read them; what I find is rarely creative.

Dan Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us is one exception. He signs off with a handy chapter-by-chapter summary, and even a discussion guide as they do in the Young Adult novels I’ve begun to devour.

Another is Dr. Jason Selks’s Executive Toughness: The Mental Training Program to Increase Your Leadership Performance. His conclusion is smartly crafted and, for any aspiring nonfiction author struggling with how best to scope and structure their book, could provide some much-needed inspiration.

There are several parts to Dr. Selk’s concluding chapter. The first poses two questions that help illustrate the characteristics of great people:

  1. What is one thing you have done well in the last 24 hours? (Because the greats “give themselves credit where credit is due.”)
  2. What is one thing you want to improve tomorrow? (They also “relentlessly pursue improvement.”)

Devising questions to ask your readers is one way to narrow down the scope of your book. In Selk’s case, his theme is mental toughness and how those of us who desire to be remarkable need to embrace accountability (doing what needs to be done), focus (prioritizing what’s important), and optimism (overcoming all obstacles). The two questions mentioned above speak directly to those key points, and presumably helped Selk keep his book tight and well organized.

The second part of Selk’s conclusion really drew me in. He offers a chart listing each of his ten “mental toughness fundamentals,” along with a brief explanation. It is here that the author intrigued me sufficiently to want to sit down and read his book cover to cover. He poses questions in those charts that are obviously answered and expanded upon throughout the book, as well as mentioning stories previously referred to that I wanted to know more about. Selk’s reference to acronyms and other terms piqued my curiosity sufficiently to want to check out the relevant, earlier sections: IAS (Ideal Arousal State); RSF (Relentless Solution Focus); and Gable discipline.

The third part of Selk’s concluding chapter summarizes three issues that neatly cover all obstacles to success: Apathy (lack of passion); Laziness (lack of motivation); and Fear (lack of confidence). This is a handy mental checklist to go through whenever you find yourself procrastinating.

Finally, Selk does what any good presenter would do: he encourages his audience to engage personally with the material. He gives the link to a free download work sheet – a clever way to include his web address and drive traffic to his site – and further intrigued me by pointing out that readers would have an opportunity to compare their takeaways with his.

How might such an approach help you write a better book? If you are a speaker, trainer or presenter you’ve learned the importance of summarizing your material in order to highlight for your audience the most important material to remember. Why not use that technique to formulate the scope and structure of your book? In that way you can avoid the mistake many new authors make, in publishing poorly organized material that frequently wanders off into the weeds.

Take a leaf out of Jason Selk’s book and know what you want to leave your readers with – the core takeaways – before you start to write or speak.

Liz-AlexanderLiz Alexander is a prime example of how childhood passions are the best indicators of future careers. She’s been writing since she could pick up a pencil, was reading newspapers at age two, and Homer’s epic poems by the age of 8. As “Dr Liz” (granted after five years in the educational psychology doctoral program at UT Austin), she draws on 25 years of commercial publishing experience to transform subject matter experts into best-selling thought leaders. Instead of the usual bio blah, blah, you can find an infographic depicting her communications career here, as well as social media links. Liz loves mutually respectful, intelligent arguments; feel free to challenge anything she writes here, or on her website
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Time for a Change #25: Improvement through Optimization

by William Reed on September 20, 2012

When you think of the word Optimization, does it call up images of pushing yourself to make efforts to achieve, or of imagining a better situation and pulling yourself toward it? How you think about it determines how you go about it. You can plant your feet in the past and push uphill, or you can picture yourself in the future and pull yourself where you want to be.

The Principle of Optimization is really the Principle of Optimism, the belief in positive outcomes. One reason why successful people make it look easy is because they feel easy. They stay focussed on the goal, and do not get mired down trying to push the rock uphill.

Say farewell to Mr. Murphy

The Principle of Optimization could shed light on the Principle of Pessimism, Murphy’s Law, the peculiar assumption that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Perhaps this should be amended to read, anything that can go wrong will go wrong, if you expect it to.

People joke about having a Plan B, because Plan A never seems to work. Ironically, it often turns out that Plan B is no better than Plan A, and as a battle veteran once said, the only thing left to do is run like hell.

All too many people, frustrated by unfulfilled dreams and difficult circumstances, become exhausted in trying to push the rock uphill, only to find it roll back down again, a story as old as ancient Greece in the Myth of Sisyphus. Pessimists are very good at proving their point, which in the end is pointless.

You may find you have two inner voices, one encouraging your to move on to higher heights, and one telling you to get on with the grunt work. The quality of your life depends on which voice you listen to, and which way you turn.

The real meaning of the Principle of Optimization is that once you have understood where you are, and know where you want to be, you can place a mental hook at your goal and pull yourself toward it with an Optimistic attitude. In this sense, you are on a constant quest to make things better.

Positive Psychology starts with a calm mind

And so does negative psychology. Each one is an application of the same principle, that actions tend to follow intentions, the body follows the mind. Spending hours playing violent video games is not likely to lead to random acts of kindness.

Positive Psychology works because it points you in the right direction. The problem is that the negative inner voice also wants to be heard, and is not easily silenced. The key is to calm your mind through meditation first, and then realize that you have a choice. Even 15 minutes of meditation can change your day for the better. Click here for an excellent introduction to Zazen Meditation, with video and an iPhone App called Undo 雲堂 (literally cloud hall, a place where monks meditate).

Engaging in this simple practice will help clarify for you the meaning in messages and events, and make you more aware that your own attitude and thoughts are either part of the problem, or part of the solution. It will also make you less subject to distraction, and more master of your thoughts.

Optimism gets results

Dr. Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism, and one of the leading lights in the field of Positive Psychology, conducted a study for Metropolitan Life to follow the performance of new hires after measuring their levels of optimism. Among the new hires were those who actually failed the insurance company’s screening test, but scored as super-optimists on Dr. Seligman’s test. They were hired anyway, and the super-optimists outsold the pessimists in the regular group by 21% in the first year and 57% in the second year. According to HR Magazine, after Met Life began screening job applicants for optimism, in less than two years the company expanded its sales force by 12,000 agents, and increased its share of the personal insurance market by 50%. You can download here a PDF of the MetLife Case Study.

The Optimists achieved Optimal results, because they remained focused on a positive outcome, and did not look for excuses to explain why things weren’t going well. Moreover, optimists appear young even when they are old in years, and pessimists appear old even when they are young in years.

Samuel Ullman (1840~1924) was an American businessman, poet, and humanitarian, best known for his poem on Youth, which was a favorite of General Douglas MacArthur as well as Konosuke Matsushita, the founder of Panasonic, and still considered to be one of Japan’s greatest philosophers of management. Years before the MetLife Case study, Konosuke Matsushita was hiring people on the basis of one fundamental question, “Do you consider yourself to be an optimist?”

How can you get started?

There are four fundamental things you can do to turn yourself into an optimist, or to become a super-optimist if you already are one.

  • Practice daily Meditation. A calm mind is a clear mind. Self-awareness gives you more freedom to make a choice, and a better vision of where you want to go.
  • Sketch your ideas and experiences. Many of our best ideas fade with the morning dew because we fail to write them down or illustrate them. Make a habit of capturing your thoughts in a notebook, and continue to shape them in a positive direction.
  • Use positive encouraging language. This applies to what you say to others, as well as what you say to yourself. Words have power, so choose positive words to create a positive outcome.
  • Repeat how Lucky you are. A simple mantra recommended by my Aikido teacher Koretoshi Maruyama, is to repeat aloud and often, “I’m Lucky, I’m Lucky, I’m Lucky.” Try it and you will see it works in small and important ways. And you will help others to become Lucky too.

For a summary of the ideas in this article click here to download the OPTIMISM MANDALA

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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We left off on a confusing and possibly negative note with the last blog, i.e., what to do when our weaker mental functions are exactly what is needed to remedy situations. Let’s talk about a solution.

First, there is the challenge present. The project/company needs to keep running while changes are being put in place to remedy the situation. The first, most important thing to do is be humble.

Humility sends out a positive message to the organization. It is an admission of being human. It is a very powerful touchstone that can be used to develop connections with team members and stakeholders.

Humility is simply admitting to what one can and cannot do. There is a vulnerability associated with this. Paradoxically, there is a power present inside that vulnerability.

Being honest about your own strengths and weaknesses gives you the power to confront others on theirs. This starts the process of re-formulating the team and generating new rules for operating. The bonds established working this way are what hold the company together while the old rules fall apart and new ones are being defined.

Take the CEO who is strong in Thinking-extroverted but Feeling-extroverted is needed. By admitting to this and asking the staff “What to do?” the door opens for the management team to look at itself and see how paying attention to employees, team members, outside stakeholders, etc., can benefit everyone. This goes way beyond having the Excel spreadsheets in order.

An example of this is Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s. He knew how to make a great hamburger and serve people. He didn’t know how to build and run a large corporation. So, he had the courage to step aside from those functions and let others take charge. He didn’t disappear; he shared power. He ended up coming back in to run the organization when there was a need to get Wendy’s focus back on to the product and serving people.

The short version of all this is:

No one has a corner on all the talents needed to solve complex problems. It takes a team.

There is an added benefit to this approach. We get to work with our weaker functions and strengthen them. So, that Thinking-extroverted executive can learn to become more people-oriented while trusting the team to take care of that function until she gets up to speed with regards to Feeling-extroverted. Will she be as strong in that area as someone who has it as a first function? No. However, she can learn to recognize the signs as to when it is needed, take it as far as she can, and defer to others stronger in this area and take their direction.

This all may sound very touchy-feely and lack any reference to BUSINESS. It is as serious as a heart attack. It is best ways to deal with the Peter Principle when it surfaces and keep the project/company on track for success.

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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The Soul of a Project #24: The Peter Principle and YOU!

by Gary Monti on September 4, 2012

The Peter Principle states, “Employees tend to rise to their level of incompetency.” From a psychological perspective there is a great deal of truth in that statement. Ever wonder why it occurs? Let’s explore based on depth psychology (Carl Jung) and the concept of temperament. Some background will help.

In depth psychology we have 8 function attitudes. These are ways in which we gather and process information. We all have them. Where we vary is in the preferred order in which we use them.

There are two major ways we can gather information: Sensing and Intuiting. These break down further into “extroverted” and “introverted.” Likewise, there are two major ways we can process information: Feeling and Thinking. These, too, break down further into “extroverted” and “introverted.” Combining this information we end up with the following table:

GATHERING INFORMATION

PROCESSING INFORMATION

Sensing – extroverted Feeling – extroverted
Sensing – introverted Feeling – introverted
Intuiting – extroverted Thinking – extroverted
Intuiting – introverted Thinking – introverted

 

We all have all eight. Where we vary as individuals is in the rank order. Also, for each of us, our number 1 gets the highest amount of brainpower while our number 8 is the most difficult to work use. This leads to an interesting dictum.

“For as strong as you are in one part of life there is a corresponding Achilles heel…and there’s no getting around this.”

For example, someone who has Thinking – extroverted as number one has Feeling – extroverted as number eight. What does this mean?

The Thinking – extroverted part means this is a take-charge type of person. She can give orders and take command. Think of an entrepreneur starting a business. There can be a gruffness present that is somewhat abrasive, but things get done! The business grows. It runs like a clock. In fact, it grows to the point that how it is organized (or should I say “disorganized”) is becoming increasingly important. The number of squabbles between employees is increasing and it is showing in terms of how customers are serviced and outsiders view the business.

This is where Peter Principle comes into play. The very strength that grew the business, Thinking – extroverted, has led to a problem that is the most difficult for the founder to solve. Barking more orders only makes things worse.

Feeling – extroverted has been studiously avoided. People are told to suck it up and get the job done. This may sound macho but the reality is the leader is avoiding it because she is at a loss as to how to deal with the issue. In fact, she’s probably afraid of it. There is an important reason as to why this occurs:

Addressing the weaker functions requires putting the strong one aside.

You can probably hear the entrepreneur saying, “Are you crazy! I built this business based on my commanding attitude and now you want me to listen to their feelings! We don’t have time for that! This is a BUSINESS!” At this moment the Peter Principle surfaces in all its flaming glory and if not addressed trouble occurs. That trouble starts with the leader looking foolish and needing to be “understood” and progresses to a tragedy in which clients aren’t getting served, costs go up due to inefficiencies, and the competition starts eating your lunch.

Don’t despair. In the next blog we’ll go a little deeper and see if anything positive can come of this.

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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Consider how many things we’re familiar with that come in “threes”:

Tenors. Magi. Bears.

Fates. Virtues. Graces.

Snap. Crackle. Pop.

There is something magical about the number three, which permeates writing just as much as anything else. This is perhaps why we have three-act plays; a beginning, middle, and end for stories; and sayings that come in three parts – from Julius Caesar’s “Veni, vidi, vici (I came, I saw, I conquered)” to Thomas Jefferson’s “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

Next time you review your favorite nonfiction books, look to see how many of them are written with three sections. Examples from my own library include: Daniel Pink’s Drive; Blue Ocean Strategy by INSEAD professors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne; neuroscientist Andrew Newberg’s How God Changes Your Brain; Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port; and Alan Weiss’ mega-bestseller Million Dollar Consulting.

For serial entrepreneur, Trevor Blake, the decision to structure his book this way is immediately apparent from the title: Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life (BenBella Books, Inc., 2012). Part One: Escaping the Quicksand offers three chapters (there it is again!) on how to “reclaim your mentality” by focusing your thoughts more on what you want than what you are against. Part Two: Staying Out of the Quicksand – again, three chapters – offers one simple yet timeless and universally applied (at least by extremely successful folks like Henry Ford and George Washington Carver) technique for creating more winning ideas. And Part Three: Beyond the Quicksand articulates how to transform those ideas into achievements.

Written in the style of many of the truly great “self-help” authors of the early 20th century, Blake’s book is as much a memoir as anything – one you would advised to put on your reading list above books written by people whose only claim to fame and source of wealth has come from writing – well, self-help books. Contrast that with Blake who, like so many successful entrepreneurs, came from nothing to create businesses that were eventually sold for hundreds of millions of dollars. As the back cover blurb by Drew A. Graham, managing partner of Ballast Point Ventures states: “Finally, a book about how to succeed by an author who has actually achieved something before writing about it!” Not only that, I found Three Simple Steps to be a compelling read.

But back to the theme of this post: how to structure your nonfiction book. Oftentimes the biggest issue I see with manuscripts has to do with the way the author has organized their material – or, rather, not. Typically these books read like streams of consciousness with no discernible structure.

If you know what you want to write about but have no earthly idea how to set it out in a book, consider what I describe to my clients as The Power of Three. Of course, it’s easy if – like Trevor Blake – you have a three-part process to describe. But what if you don’t? Let’s go back to some of the other examples I gave earlier.

Take Blue Ocean Strategy. Part one outlines the philosophy and explains what it means to create a “blue ocean”; part two clarifies the strategy behind the concept; and part three explains how to execute it. Alan Weiss’s Million Dollar Consulting, on the other hand, begins by identifying what you need to do to prepare to be a million dollar consultant, then goes on to the tactics you would need to employ, and dedicates the final part of the book to ways to grow into the role.

One final example: Daniel Pink’s Drive first considers why we need to look at motivation in a different light; secondly he looks at what are the three elements of “Type 1” motivation; and thirdly shows you how to implement what you learn in his book.

So, even if you don’t find yourself with a neat “three-act play” as Trevor Blake did with Three Simple Steps, you can still find a way to make this structure work for your book. Part one might offer the philosophy behind your concept, why it’s important, or some foundational issues for the reader to consider. Part two could lay out the strategies for success and what planning needs to be put in place to use the book’s material successfully. Part three would then offer “how tos” or tactics to employ to help the reader successfully implement that learning for themselves.

What favorite book of yours is structured this way? Please let me know in the comments below. And for more about this topic, I invite you to go to Episode 6 of my audio series.

Liz-AlexanderLiz Alexander is a prime example of how childhood passions are the best indicators of future careers. She’s been writing since she could pick up a pencil, was reading newspapers at age two, and Homer’s epic poems by the age of 8. As “Dr Liz” (granted after five years in the educational psychology doctoral program at UT Austin), she draws on 25 years of commercial publishing experience to transform subject matter experts into best-selling thought leaders. Instead of the usual bio blah, blah, you can find an infographic depicting her communications career here, as well as social media links. Liz loves mutually respectful, intelligent arguments; feel free to challenge anything she writes here, or on her website
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Time for a Change #23: Getting Your Team into Flow

by William Reed on August 16, 2012

Individual and Team Flow

No one truly works alone. We all depend on other people to earn and provide a livelihood. But the quality of our work experience, the quantity of our productive output, and the sustainability of our engagement all depend on the degree to which we are able to maintain individual and team flow over time.

Individual flow is often described as an experience of relaxed concentration, the enjoyment of high performance, challenge, and mastery. Athletes call it being in the zone, musicians in the groove, business people call it full engagement.

Alas it is easy to be pulled out of individual flow by a mismatch of talent and task, leading to boredom or anxiety; and by a mismatch of team energy, whereby other people pull you out of flow. You are in flow if you have a real reason to go to work. You have a passion for what you do. You would do it anyway, and not just because you are getting paid. Considering how much time and life energy we spend on work and careers, finding your flow is urgent and important business.

To gain deeper insights into your individual and team flow take the Talent Dynamics Profile Test online and get immediate results in the form of a profile graph and detailed report. Visiting the website will also help you learn more about the 8 Talent Dynamics Profiles shown in the illustration, and how this approach is used in business.

Team members also depend on one another to get into and keep working in flow. This requires an appreciation of differences in styles and strengths, and the ability to communicate and collaborate with people who share your workspace. This cannot easily be achieved with just a pleasant smile and a cooperative attitude. Once you understand the profiles, strengths and weaknesses, and flow requirements of each individual in your team, it is easy to understand who and what is missing in your composite profile. This will also help define your identity and style as a team, as well as help you determine and attract the outer edge supporters and providers who can help balance and fortify your team.

A high performance team is a priceless asset. Think of what happens to a band when a key member leaves, or how highly interdependent are the members of a sports team. The team’s performance is highly dependent on the team and team members remaining in flow.

Shared Mission and Motivation

Sun Tzu’s classic strategy on winning without fighting applies equally well to what happens inside the team, as it does to the opposition. To be successful it is critical that the team have a shared mission, which is more than a mission statement. What holds it together is an emotional commitment, the genuine feeling that we are in this together.

Working together should be a pleasure, your team an extended family. The team that plays together stays together. Having fun at work makes it easier and more natural to socialize with your team outside of work, within the bounds of friendship, and not as a forced obligation. All for one and one for all is not a bad thing to aspire to if it is felt from the inside.

Shared motivation is the other half of the coin that keeps the team together. Motivation depends on a good match of talent and task, role and responsibility. Players in position, passing the ball to the right person at the right time, and celebrating your success. Talent Dynamics gives you a framework for determining both roles and strategy.

Life/Work Balance

One challenge of full engagement in your work is that it can absorb time, money, and resources that might otherwise be devoted to health, financial planning, family and friends, study, personal development, leisure, or even volunteer activities. Almost by default your work will occupy the lion’s share of your time. Hopefully it will also make the other areas of your life better, but the balance is likely to be asymmetrical.

Management guru Peter Drucker found that people who were only successful in business were often quite unsuccessful and unhappy in other areas of their life. Revisit Drucker’s thinking on this through a book by Bruce Rosenstein, who interviewed Drucker at the end of his life, which I reviewed in a separate article, Living in More than One World.

Value and Leverage

Looking at the Talent Dynamics square in the illustration, you can see it as composed of a vertical Value axis, and a horizontal Leverage axis. To a business, Value represents the things that its customers are willing to pay for, its products and services. Leverage represents the way in which value is made known and available, through its people and systems.

The questions to ask on the vertical axis are what is it worth and when? DYNAMO energy in the green triangle is where you find innovation and ideas in the form of products; whereas TEMPO energy in the yellow triangle is where you find timing and sensory experience in the form of services.

The questions to ask on the horizontal axis are who will deliver it and how? BLAZE energy in the red triangle is where you find people who can make the company’s value known and available; whereas  STEEL energy in the grey triangle is where you find the systems and distribution mechanisms which make the company’s products and services readily available.

Making Magic

The Great Multiplication is where you multiply Value X Leverage, which results in sales and profits for the company, as well as increased value delivered to the customers. Companies which do this well over time are able to grow and continue to deliver additional value to customers at higher levels. Amazon.com started out as an online bookstore, but now sells all kinds of products in many consumer categories. It also offers customers a chance to resell used books, and even has a credit card service. They deliver more things, faster and more cheaply, so they continue to grow. But behind the scenes, this is all made possible because many of the individuals and teams working at Amazon.com are themselves in flow. Companies which drive sales and performance by forcing their people out of flow are not able to sustain growth.

Who are gonna call to make magic? Call EMC Quest and we can show you how to make the most of your energy, mind, and creativity when it is time for a change in your business.

For a summary of this article and reminders of next steps to take, download a PDF file COLLABORATION MANDALA.

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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Innovation. Barely a day goes by without some piece of content related to that topic dropping into my e-mailbox. Are you finding that?

And what about the 385 billion links that Google provides for the search term “innovation”? Or the fact that Amazon lists over 52,000 books on the topic (without getting into sub-categories and associated terms such as “creativity”)?

Sounds like innovation has been well and truly covered, doesn’t it? So why would anyone in their right mind write another book about it – aside from the fact that “the ability to innovate” remains a top concern and priority for CEOs?

Well, let’s employ one of the tactics commonly used by innovative individuals. Let’s ask a different question. Imagine that like Scott D. Anthony, author of The Little Black Book of Innovation: How it works; How to do it (Harvard Business Review Press, 2012), you’ve “been focusing exclusively on innovation for more than a decade.” How might you resolve the dilemma of writing on a topic that’s already swollen with content? You would ask yourself: How much of what’s currently available truly serves readers’ needs?

When Anthony reviewed what was already out there he came to the conclusion that, “Academics and leading practitioners have generated a huge amount of insight – but it’s not readily accessible. In addition, there isn’t a lot of practical information about innovation.”

Hence his Little Black Book  — an odd title choice given an association with the likes of Hugh Hefner and Tatler’s annually produced “shallow compilation of the 100 ‘most eligible’ below-thirty-somethings in London.” But I digress!

One of the most valuable services that have emerged in the era of information overload is “content curation.” Consider, for example, that every 60 seconds there are over 1,500 new blog posts available, more than 168 billion emails sent, and goodness knows how many presentations made. And if you’re an executive, entrepreneur, project manager, or consultant and want to know how to boost the innovative capacity of yourself or your team – well, you have over 52,000 books to choose from.

Who on earth has the time (or energy) to wade through all of that material to find which nuggets can actually help you be innovative?

Enter Anthony who (as many delighted Amazon reviewers attest) has distilled all of that otherwise confusing, conflicting, or unintelligible “wisdom” into a single book that is accessible, practical, and immediately implementable. And it’s an approach that can be “stolen” by any of you looking to write a book, whose core expertise lies in a similarly over-written area.

Instead of trying to figure out what you can say that’s new, think instead of how you can curate information that readers can use. Why not produce a “primer” that makes your topic understandable and shows people what they can do with that material to achieve their goals? Anthony does this by including, in Part Two of his book, “The 28-Day Innovation Program” offering four weekly sets of daily questions to ask, one-sentence answers to those questions, as well as how-to action points. There’s plenty of meat in the book too, including my favorite way of sharing information: stories.

How do you craft the kind of book that is truly useful in an over-populated arena where, in Anthony’s case, you’re competing with luminaries including Jim Collins and Clayton Christensen? Start with the end in mind, as the late Dr. Steven Covey outlined. What would you need to do for future reviewers to say, “If you read only one book on X, it has to be this one”?

Here are three suggestions:

  1. Make it simple: Distill what readers need to know – and no more.
  2. Make it practical: Give them a roadmap to follow.
  3. Make it readable: Write in a conversational style (as opposed to how some Amazon reviewers described Clayton Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business (HarperBusiness, 2011): “The book reads like a Ph.D. thesis written by a lobotomized 3rd grader” and “This book was as compelling to read as a college quantitative analysis text.”)

What business book have you read recently that offers all three of these must-haves? Share them by commenting below.

Liz-AlexanderLiz Alexander is a prime example of how childhood passions are the best indicators of future careers. She’s been writing since she could pick up a pencil, was reading newspapers at age two, and Homer’s epic poems by the age of 8. As “Dr Liz” (granted after five years in the educational psychology doctoral program at UT Austin), she draws on 25 years of commercial publishing experience to transform subject matter experts into best-selling thought leaders. Instead of the usual bio blah, blah, you can find an infographic depicting her communications career here, as well as social media links. Liz loves mutually respectful, intelligent arguments; feel free to challenge anything she writes here, or on her website
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Time For a Change #22: Putting Time on Your Side!

by William Reed on August 9, 2012

The Game of Go originated 2500 years ago in Ancient China as a strategy game in which players alternately place white and black stones on the cross points of lines on the board, in an effort to encircle and capture both stones and territory. Strategy is a matter of both calculation and intuition. The rules are simple, the strategy not so. The game favors the player who takes the long view, and players places stones strategically far enough apart to build bridges, that later in the game connect groups and surround the opponent’s stones like a net. Less experienced players overbuild to secure small corners and sections, only to choke on their own over-saturation. The term used by Go players is securing breathing space. Time is on the side of the strategic player.

The game can be a metaphor for how you play the stones in your life, how you secure breathing space in your domain. The first thing in playing your resources is to realize how lucky you are to have opportunities to be in the game in the first place. It is staggering to consider the circumstances of all of your ancestors meeting, reproducing, and surviving, each one of them laying the foundations of your birth and existence. And yet here you are! That is worth remembering once in a while when you think about how to best use and leverage your time.

Time for a Change

Reading through inspirational quotes on change, its remarkable how often the emphasis is on taking a chance. Wayne Gretzy said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.” Another word that comes up often is courage. Walt Disney said, “All our dreams can come true – if we have the courage to pursue them.” Another recurring theme is the importance of getting started! A proverb has it that “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”

So what are you waiting for? Opportunity knocks once, not twice. If you want to create change the best time, often the only time to act is now.

Some people say that time flies, but this is partly a reflection on missed opportunity. The chance shoots past before you can catch it. Another perspective is that time flows like a river. It can carry you along or sweep you away, depending on how you navigate it.

It is remarkable how people are able to find time for that which is important to them. This is called making time, as opposed to killing or wasting time. The point is that no matter how busy you are, you do have time on your hands. Twenty-four hours of it, every day of your life.

Perspectives on Timing and Timelines

It is helpful to gain a flexible perspective on time, rather than just attempting to schedule it in the conventional way. The Japanese characters for 呼吸 (kokyū) have the meaning of both breathing and timing. This probably originates in the way in which people coordinate their efforts to lift a heavy object, or use their breathing to coordinate body movements in sport or dance.

Timing is a matter of rhythm too. It is easier to move with the beat in music than against it. Rhythm creates its own energy. Soldiers are taught to break step crossing a wooden bridge, so that the rhythm of marching doesn’t set up a dangerous sway that can cause the bridge to collapse.

Synchronicity is the simultaneous occurrence of seemingly related events that have no apparent causal relation, a coincidence in time. Things are more deeply connected than we may realize. The Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that, “Hidden connections are stronger than obvious ones.”

Whereas timing, rhythm, and synchronicity relate more to occurrences in the present, it can also be useful to look at past events on a timeline. Beedocs is brilliant software for the Mac OS X which enables you to plot events in your life, or in history on a 3D timeline. Even if you don’t have a Mac, it is worth watching the tutorials and videos on the site showing how events look plotted in 3D on a diagonal wall.

It is interesting to look at historical timelines, although they only provide a thin slice of linear events of a particular type, like a musical score for one instrument. Timelines showing parallel or simultaneous events in different areas are more interesting, like an orchestral musical score for many instruments.

Time Out

Our lives are so ruled by calendars and clocks that we may feel lost without them! They are useful and necessary for conducting life in a society that depends on coordinating schedules. However, be sure to take time out in your personal life to take breaks, cat naps to refresh and reset, and time away from your desk or computer to mingle with people or enjoy nature. The cost of not doing this is finding yourself out of time and off track, wondering where it all went.

The Power of Ritual

If you want to get results over time, there is power in perseverance, and in the repetition of ritual. Albert Einstein said that,“The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest.” This is an analogy for the way in which results magnify through repetition. Our days are marked by the repeating cycles of the sun and moon, and what a difference when this is reinforced with the repetition of rituals.

I explored The Power of Ritual in a series of blog posts at www.entrepreneurscreativeedge.com/power-of-ritual/. Here you can read about the power of Wax On Wax Off, Master Miyagi’s ritual for Daniel in The Karate Kid, as well as the power of perseverance in achieving mastery in music and the martial arts.

Download a PDF summary of this article in a TIMES MANDALA, and use it to review and refresh your view of time as force which is on your side, a multiplier of your resources, and a fascinating phenomenon in life.

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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Have you ever kept 200 executives waiting? It isn’t a nice experience, and if you are a presenter it can be something of a nightmare. Some years ago I was the second of two speakers to a group of about 200 executives in a large city in southern Japan. The first speaker used PowerPoint from his PC, and I was planning to use Keynote from my Mac. I was told that all we needed to do was switch cables when my turn came to speak, so there was no need for a break between speakers. My slides were ready, but I was not ready for what happened.

Who knows if it was the projector, the cable, or the computer, but immediately after I was introduced as the next speaker, the air froze when I realized that they couldn’t get my slides to display. I had 200 executives waiting for me to start, the assistant in a cold sweat trying to connect the cables, and a presentation that I might be forced to deliver without slides. Unfortunately, my presentation depended entirely too much on my slides.

We did manage to get the slides on the screen after about 5 minutes, but it was one of the longest 5 minutes I can remember as a speaker. Even today I don’t remember what I presented, but I vividly remember the folded arms, the impatient expressions, the frequent glances at watches, and the feeling of near panic deciding whether to wait for the slides, or deliver entirely without them. In retrospect, had I prepared to deliver with or without slides it would not have been difficult, and might have been more fun without slides. As it was, I would have been happy to have an ice pick to break the ice that formed in those unfortunate five minutes.

Though it doesn’t happen often, you are much better off if you are prepared for if and when…

  • You don’t have time to prepare slides
  • The slides you have aren’t any good
  • You have to make your presentation shorter/longer
  • The equipment isn’t working
  • You have an idea to share, but no computer or projector
  • You want to try it without…

Start with Why?

If you have to present without slides, the most important question to start with in your preparation is to know why you are there. Hopefully you have something you want to say, because you want to change the world in some way. Realistically, the reason may be that you have to present as part of your job. In either case you will want to do your best and present something of value to the people in your audience. This is the same talking to a large audience or sitting around a table. Knowing Why will help you pinpoint your passion. Fnd the part that you care about and it will be easier to convey why you, and why now. Otherwise you might as well just send your message as an attachment to an e-mail.

Show and Tell

Long before the days of slides and presentations, I remember well from elementary school the time for Show and Tell. Kids would bring things from home and tell the rest of the class something about it. No one ever taught us how. That wasn’t necessary because it is easy to talk about something that you want to show to others. Many adult presenters spoil the show by showing off, or telling too much. Technology sometimes takes away from a presentation by breaking off the emotional connection, or even masking the lack of real content.

You can often connect better with your audience by sketching your ideas in your own hand. A lack of artistic skill often prevents people from doing this, but a rough sketch conveys more personality and humor than any stock photography from the Internet. Diagram your ideas, and be sure that your diagrams lend clarity not confusion. You can also effectively demonstrate ideas with your face, hands, and body. People much prefer an animated speaker to a talking head. And as Hamlet said, “Suit the action to the word, the word to the action.”

Dialog takes you directly into the scene, which is why movies are mostly made of dialog. Use it liberally by sharing what people said. Drama engages the mind, so the more you can dramatize what you talk about, the more engagement you will get from your audience. Dramatizing is a skill, and not to be confused with using histrionics for effect. Exaggerated emotional behavior calculated for effect will turn people off faster than you can count to three. Use stories in your presentations, but make sure that they have a heartbeat. Stories should stand on their own, that is they shouldn’t need slides to be understood. They are your best chance to bring your presentation to life, to keep people on the edge of their seats, and to gain a permanent seat in memory.

Experiment with different writing tools and surfaces. Write large and write small. Above all practice in all kinds of environments, especially when you can be relaxed and conversational. It can be lots of fun to pull out your favorite writing tools and surfaces, and then strut your stuff!

Improvising and Improving

The best way to move beyond slides is to also move beyond the script! Learn how to improvise. It is a skill which seems inborn in the personality, but in fact is learned over time. Improvisation is practice taken to such a high degree that it looks effortless. It comes to the person who is thoroughly comfortable with the material. An excellent guide to help you learn how to improvise as a presenter is Improvise This! How to Think on Your Feet so You Don’t Fall on Your Face, Mark Bergren, Molly Cox, Jim Detmar.

Improving is just as important. It is will keep you on an upward curve. Watch speakers on TED.com Ideas Worth Spreading—Riveting Talks by Remarkable People, and you will see that many of the best speakers use slides only sparingly, if at all. Watch speakers who present well without depending on slides and you will learn volumes on how to improve your own presentations. Learn how to doodle and draw from the unsinkable Sunni Brown! http://sunnibrown.com/. A useful skill to have in business presentations, whether before a large group or in a small meeting, is solving complex problems with simple pictures, which you can learn from Dan Roam, author of the bestselling book The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures, http://www.danroam.com/.

Back to Slides

Once you have gained confidence that you can do pretty well presenting without slides, possibly even better without slides, then it is time to revisit slides and see how they can possibly enhance your presentation without interfering with it. Be a Slide Minimalist. Lean how to do without, and then you can be more effective with. The key is to learn how to be great with or without slides.

Learn to use the “B” key on your keyboard, which will blank out your screen until you hit it again. That brings full focus on you as the presenter, and prevents the distraction of flickering shadows on the screen when you hand or body stands in the way of the projector. If you must use slides then learn to use them well. Two excellent guides to begin with are Garr Reynold’s Presentation Zen and Cliff Atkinson’s Beyond Bullet Points. But before you dig into that and fall back into slide dependency, go back to If and when…? Prepare yourself to present at your best any place and any time.

Download a summary of this article and tips on reaching the other side without slides at  NO SLIDES MANDALA 

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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