Posts Tagged ‘responsibility’

The Soul of a Project #18: Beware The Full Moon!

by Gary Monti on June 6, 2012

A strange beast shows up when the full moon rises on a project. It’s the full moon that appears when fundamental changes brought about by the project are free to take shape. The beast seems vaguely familiar while frightening and surprising at the same time. Actually, more than one appears. They are very common. I am talking about the organizational werewolves.

The full moon rises when the impediment to success or progress is removed. It’s right when the project is ready to go into full stride and grow. One of the most common impediments is the Manager From Hell (MFH). The team and supportive stakeholders grumble about the MFH, wondering how (s)he got power since they only seem to hurt situations. While moaning and groaning about the MFH the gossip mill generates enough power to light a small city. Productivity drops. Everyone dreams of a day when this person is GONE!

When that day finally arrives there is a collective sigh of relief. But something odd happens that night. The next day strange creatures show up aggressive behavior, both passive and active, arising at the tactical level.

Where did these creatures come from? Simple…THE TEAM…and stakeholder population!

So what is this all about? Let me explain. When working on projects that bring about substantial change a warning is given at the kick-off meeting and goes something like this:

As we progress impediments to progress will be found. Some will be technical and some may be individuals. A word of caution, “Avoid demonizing the person!” To the extent you’ve been working with and adapting to their behavior you have enmeshed and have issues of your own to address. When impediments are removed do not relax. That is the starting point NOT the finish line! Everyone will be challenged to take responsibility for themselves and see what behaviors of their own need to be changed.

Trust me, no one remembers this. Such a focus is placed on the MFHs people lose sight of their own shortcomings. When this occurs with senior managers the project is in danger. The infrastructure issues that need repaired or built for the first time, in order for the project to succeed, are considered superfluous. It is assumed everyone will do just fine with the project automatically proceeding towards success. It is a simplistic, dangerous view. Think of Yugoslavia after Tito’s death. Freedom! Or at least that is what everyone thought. A new age dawned but it definitely wasn’t what everyone expected. Instead, the slow descent into hell that made international news occurred.

What this all boils down to is taking leadership of one’s own responsibilities and examine where your own performance has slacked off because of the MFH. Where have you given yourself a get-out-of-jail-free card because the environment is harsh? It is time to turn those cards back in, return to the principles that matter, and work in a disciplined way. Build. Get the job done!

As the Paradigm Shifts #O: Obligation

by Rosie Kuhn on July 27, 2011

One evening as I was laying in bed, preparing for a restful night of slumber, a voice from inside my head said: “I want to live my own life?” I was shocked with this outburst as I am one of the most independent individuals I know; I live a thousand miles away from my husband, on a secluded island off the coast of Washington; I work independently and live happily in my very solitary existence. What more is required for me to live my own life?

I realized later, that though I live and work alone I carry many people to whom I feel obligated and responsible. They are in my memory as unresolved disappointments that have me burdened, exhausted and keep me from fully taking flight in the way that I imagine. They are the ones that continually remind me of all of those things I should have done but didn’t because, well, I took the road less traveled. What becomes clear is that until I resolve my relationship to my belief about obligations I’ll never truly be living my own life.

All of us carry a tremendous burden with all sorts of obligations and we don’t even know it. Or, we carry them thinking we are obligated to carry these obligations. I mean, where would we be if each of us let go of everything and every one who we no longer wanted to carry? Think of all of those opportunities to say or do what is in your highest truth but because of your sense of obligation you deny your truth for the sake of … what?

The foundation of the work that I do as a transformational coach is to ask these very questions to my clients, giving them an opportunity to figure out to whom and to what they are truly interested in being obligated.

I grew up within the Catholic Religion. I learned early on how to live in a state of obligation. There was a great deal of guilt and shame. Up until I was seventeen, when I left the Church, I was terrified I was doing it wrong – it didn’t matter what it was, I was obligated to do it right, even though I might not know what right was – and right according to whom?

All religious institution require obligations. It’s not just religious institutions but family, community, government, economic – all organizations require some form and level of obligation. How we respond to these obligations generates the quality of life we live, as well as the stress and dis-ease that is so prevalent in our culture.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine decided to visit Orcas for an undetermined about of time. She felt compelled to travel 26 hours from Omaha in order to be on the Island for – well, she didn’t know why – but she had to find out. She called to ask if she could land at my place for a few days and figure out what was next from here. I said sure, and looked forward to seeing her after many months apart.

A week later, I found myself struggling with the fact that part of me was ready for her move on to what was next on her adventure. However, what I was hearing was how she wanted to make the cabin a little more convenient for herself so she wouldn’t be such a bother. We were sliding into conversations that sounded like she’d be staying for the whole summer – maybe longer.

I love my friend but I love my solitude more. And, yet I questioned my desire for my sanctuary to be free of guests. Was that really what I wanted? A part of me felt obligated and responsible to take care of my dear friend, after all she’d come all this way, had no money left for rent, gas or food; she needed a place to stay. Shouldn’t I be willing to help her out – isn’t that was friends are for?

What was my obligation, really? I agreed to let her stay long enough to get her feet under her – that should have taken just a couple of days. And this is her adventure – her journey, and for me to feel obligated created resentment and a slow deterioration of our friendship. I could feel myself begin to withhold and withdraw. It was time to check in with myself and then with her.

My fears have kept me blind to my own truth, yet I was afraid what she might think or decide about me if I asked her to leave with empty pockets, gas tank and tummy. What kind of a friend would do that? I’ll tell you, it wasn’t easy but I told her that she needed to continue on with her quest, seeing what else was in store for her. Fortunately, she’s the kind of friend that understood completely and very quickly found a source of income and a new place to stay in a matter of days.

As a professional business person my work life needs to reflect this clarity of integrity too. Where do my obligations interfere with being the most effective at my jobs? Where do I take on obligations that really aren’t mine to begin with? When do I take responsibility for the consequence of other people’s choice-making? When does my own choice-making, based on other people’s problems, cause further challenges to my clients, work environment, and associates?

It takes a great deal of courage to ask yourself these questions, and even more courage to speak or act in alignment with your highest truth. In order to bring spirituality into business we have to ask these hard questions and to follow through. For when we act in our own highest good we are acting in everyone’s highest good.

Stepping onto the path of self-realization is a fascinating journey. It means being open to answers that may initially feel uncomfortable, yet in the long run allows for a greater level of wisdom to emerge, which allows for self-actualization to occur easily and effortlessly.

Obligations are obstacles to being in alignment with our highest truth. This is a very different way of thinking but one that will lead to the paradigm shift.

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

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

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

The People!

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

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

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

Great Companies Grow One Person at a Time

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

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

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

With the horror of the Japanese tsunami catastrophe still unfolding, ask yourself this.  If there was a 9.0 scale earthquake in the city where you live and you managed to survive it, what would you do then?  Let’s suppose you cannot “shelter in place” (a FEMA term) because your apartment building is unlivable or gone.  A week goes by and no help arrives.  You are running out of the food and water you managed to gather up.  The power grid is down and you have seen no soldiers, police, fire fighters or power company repairmen.  There is no water coming from the faucets and criminals are looting the stores and roaming the streets.

Admittedly this is a very bad and unlikely scenario but the smartest thing you could do might be to get out into the farmland that surrounds many big cities and offer to work for food, shelter (even if just a place in the barn) and protection.  In the rural areas of most countries people still grow their own food and many even build their own homes.  Their one- or two-story buildings are more likely to survive a major quake than high rises and they will certainly know how to grow and preserve food to last a few years.  And at least in the US, they are likely to have guns to protect themselves and their neighbors (and hopefully any temporary lodgers like you).

Individual Responsibility & Accountability

The pioneering spirit that drove people westward in the 1800s, and founded towns across the plains all the way to the west coast, is still alive and well in this country.  And I come from that heritage – – – my dad said his family was so self-contained on the farm in West Virginia that except for the scarcity of flour, sugar and salt at the local store, they barely noticed the depression in the early 1930s.  They grew and stored everything they needed.  Even today there are two groups of mainly-rural Americans who are still this self-sufficient; those that need to be (due to poverty) and those that just want to be.  Let’s talk about the latter.

There is an amazing satisfaction that comes from being individually accountable and responsible for building/repairing things and growing food with your own two hands.  Some people grow their own food in the suburbs or on farms, usually starting out with vegetable gardens but sometimes extending to orchards and even farm animals such as chickens, sheep, hogs or cattle.  Still others repair their own cars, trucks and farm tractors.  Some people move “off the grid” entirely and build power generation (solar, wind, etc.) and power storage systems to run their basic lights and home appliances without a monthly electrical bill.

In many parts of the USA – – –  the West, the Midwest, far North-East and the South for example – – – self-reliance is a matter of cultural pride.  Farm kids are taught how to grow corn, beans and potatoes; to preserve food to last at least a year including canning vegetables, salt/sugar curing of meats, etc.; to kill and pluck a chicken; to get a diesel tractor restarted after it has run out of fuel; to sharpen a dull mower blade with a bench grinder; even to weld metal parts back together.  I was taught all these things as a kid and they have served me well through the years. I’ve added basic building skills such as forming and pouring concrete, building stud walls, wiring a room, laying shingles and hanging drywall.  As an airplane owner I’ve even learned to maintain an aircraft, changing oil and spark plugs and doing any number of other maintenance tasks permitted by the Feds and common sense.

Basic Skills

Going back to our hypothetical survival situation, there are LOTS of scenarios that could require you to improvise to survive. Some basic skills could mean the difference between surviving and not.  Even if you have only limited hands-on skills, here are some basic jobs you really need to master:

  • Safely jacking up your car/truck, removing a wheel, breaking-down a tire, installing a gooey rubber “plug” in a hole, remounting the tire and remounting the wheel on the car.  Yes I know AAA usually just tows the car for us and a garage mechanic plugs the hole, but what if neither the AAA nor the mechanic are around anymore, and escaping from danger (approaching weather, bad people, etc.) requires you to drive away?  You need to be able to do this yourself.
  • Know how to “dress” a fryer and I don’t mean put a small shirt and pants on it.  That means at least being able to cut it into leg, thigh and breast. Ideally once a year you should go to a farm, buy a freshly killed (beheaded) fryer, take it home and then pluck and then gut it, setting aside the heart and liver (aka giblets) for stewing.  If all hell breaks loose someday, you are thrust into a survival situation, and a chicken wonders across your path, you will be able to eat.  Let your kids 10 or older see how this is done.
  • Develop (or hone) basic camping skills: how to erect a tent and tie a few basic knots, how to use a whetstone to sharpen a kitchen/other knife and how to light propane/camp gas lanterns and stoves.  These stove skills could enable you to boil water so it becomes safe to drink, especially important since a person can go 14 days or so without food but only 3-5 days without water.
  • Know how to safely siphon fuel using only a 3 foot piece of rubber hose and your thumb or mouth.  (Do not email me about this being too dangerous to even try, because teenagers have been stealing gasoline this way for almost a hundred years.  Just don’t swallow!)
  • For a bunch of reasons, know how to shoot a rifle, shotgun and pistol. Go to a range, rent a gun if you don’t own one, and get an instructor to teach you basic weapons safety, handling and shooting.  This could save your life someday.
  • Throw a survival skills booklet – – – there are dozens of titles and styles – – – into the trunk of your car or into your closet at home.  Many pilots already get this training as part of their survival education or when in the military and other people get it in school through the Boy/Girl Scouts or 4H Clubs.  But a good refresher course and reference book would be a great gift idea for everyone.

You don’t need to move into a cabin in the wild and become a fully self-contained homesteader.  But adding a few basic skills will improve your self-confidence and your sense of self-reliance.

Donate Carefully

The Japanese people who are suffering terribly now desperately need our help.  But scams are appearing and even established charities are asking people to be careful how they give money.  For example please do not give to the Red Cross or other charity and earmark your contribution only for disaster relief in Japan.  This really ties their hands.  And to avoid being the victim of relief-scams, before you donate anything see these comments from the Maryland Attorney General

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

“I need to get your thoughts on what I’m thinking of doing!”

It was my long time colleague Gary on the phone. We’d worked together at Qwest for four years in the shoot ’em out years of early 2000. Gary ran the sales and operations team that supported the direct sales teams for the Global Account organization for the West. We sold it… and he installed it.

“Sure, whats up?? “I’m thinking of taking a job as a Director of Sales over in the Agent channel.”

Now back in the day..announcing a career move like this would be like Sara Palin suddenly choosing to become a democrat.

“Um…”

“Before you think I’ve gone completely nuts, hear me out. I’ve been in this position for five years so far, done really well and don’t get me wrong, but I am so tired of babysitting entitled sales reps! I already have 3 kids under the age of 12 at home and these guys are so undisciplined about just the basics that its completely infuriating day in and day out. I’m over it – and I really like the company because we’ve got a great product. Slogging it out this way every day trying to get sales people to really work hard for the numbers truly sucks though.”

I started to laugh in commiseration … “Don’t laugh…can you tell me why you did it so long ago?

Well..the truth is that I had been sitting on General Manager calls every week for months listening to the sales numbers that were being posted .. and the alternate sales channel teams outsold the direct sales teams four to one, week in and week out. The CEO of the company loved it because the alternate sales channel was much more profitable – no base salaries to pay or headcount turnover.   My own direct sales organizations numbers were anemic and I could empathize with Gary’s frustration. Years ago, I had also grown weary of chasing my sales team with EKG paddles.

“Gary, I think it’s a smart move and I’ll tell you why…”

  1. Independent sales agents are highly motivated to make things happen because there’s no salary check auto-magically coming in the mailbox for them from corporate every two weeks. Agents have to own their own destiny without the safety net of a base salary.
  2. They have to hunt clients, treat their clients like they are family, absolutely find the best solution for them, sell it, install it and then take care of it long term by themselves.  That bakes in responsibility if that agent wants to survive long term. What I’ve found is that they are aggressive, they hunt for their own relationships and they are very entrepreneurial in actually helping their clients.
  3. They also take responsibility for producing their own results. Its refreshing…and quite a big behavior change. These guys truly own their own business and take a lot of pride in producing autonomy for themselves and a livelihood for their families. Its like walking out into the sunshine after you’ve been chained to a wall as far as I’m concerned. You’re also going to be the Director who brings in pure profit, and not a headcount and resource drain for the CEO.

More and more companies are moving in the direction of cultivating and growing an alternate sales channel. They get the benefit of a highly motivated sales team that they don’t have to pay a salary to and access to business that they would have been competing for…  Its good business for everyone and helps to keep the business climate healthy.

“Gary, I think it’s a great move and that you’ll truly enjoy it”.

Are you well Grounded?

by Naveen Lakkur on July 13, 2009

Do the following statements sound familiar to you?

“I have not been lucky enough”

“My efforts being put and the results that I have got are no match”

“I am really trying very hard, not sure why I am not achieving what I am set for”

“Not been able to have a breakthrough”

“I am not sure where to start from”

One of the reasons for this conversation/situation is that, the person is not grounded well, from the context where he/she is operating from at that point in time. Their expectations and actions taken are not aligned at that point in time and hence the results are not great.

Success is a function of Context, Time, Plan and Action.

Let me introduce you to a personal assessment technique to get well grounded. Thus providing a platform to have access to great results.

The Personal Grounding Chart shown below has 4 quadrants: (i) Student, (ii) Specialist, (iii) Employee and (iv) Entrepreneur;

… spread over 2 dimensions: (a) Involvement and (b) Responsibility

Grounding-Chart

Guidelines to plot yourself on to the chart:

1. Set your context and the time and see how involved you are/want to be AND what responsibility are you taking/ready to take in that area of work/initiative that is important to you and your life.

a. Plot with the context and time being set.

b. DO NOT pre-determine your interest of quadrant before plotting.

c. It’s important to know that whichever quadrant you are in, you are fine, whole and complete.

2. Once you have plotted, three aspects gets accomplished:

a. Realization: it gets you grounded and fetches you to the platform of Reality

b. Equips you for right skilling

c. Provides the right space to set new goals, have an action plan, take action, set right expectations and enjoy the results

3. It’s important to know that you can migrate from any quadrant to any other quadrant at any point in time by altering your involvement and responsibilities in that context of work/initiative.

4. The Intrepreneurship area in the center deserves a special mention. It is a virtual space which is available in all the four quadrants. It’s the space where the individuals have a very special responsibility and involvement, operating within a structure.

Let me illustrate the usage of this chart with an example:

In my life, I have been a serial entrepreneur in the Information Technology space. However, if I am interested in the space of healthcare or want to perform surgeries I assess myself as incompetent in performing surgeries at this point in time. In this context, I cannot get deeply involved in it nor take lots of responsibility. I move to the ‘STUDENT’ quadrant. Now, being well grounded, I can have a plan and take action accordingly and set a goal to migrate to the ‘SPECIALIST’ quadrant at a set timeframe.

Get Grounded; Set Right Expectation; Go Take Action…