Posts Tagged ‘team’

The Soul of a Project #30: Dealing With Shame!

by Gary Monti on December 4, 2012

Ever have someone melt down right in front of you for no apparent reason? Or, has someone dug in unrealistically? What about another person feeding the gossip mill in a rather vicious manner working to get people to side with him? On the flip side, there’s the person who shrugs her shoulders blind to the destruction caused by her last decision. These individuals may all have something in common – shame. Shame as used here refers to situations where a lack of self-esteem has been brought to the surface and the person tries behavior that is meant to provide some form of self-protection.

To learn a bit more about it the etymology of shame may help. At the core it means, “to cover.” So, when someone takes on an apparently irrational behavior it may be an unconscious attempt to protect, to cover the sense of being defective. The irrational part puts it in the realm of a coping mechanism, which is an unhealthy response learned or created to try and deal with a problem, real or perceived. The word “irrational” is a tip that the current events have triggered something from the past about which the person experiences an irrationally low sense of self, a sense of shame.

For example, you might be working with an extremely good engineer who gets angry and belligerent when asked to speak in a formal setting with clients. He might say he has plenty of work to do and insists sales should be pulling their weight and earn their commissions instead of relying on the people who do the work and have to reach billable hour goals to also have to sell the project. No matter how much you talk with the engineer, saying how good his work is, this is a chance to shine, etc., it all seems to go nowhere.

In some consulting situations like this I’ve had to dig deeper (working with a therapist) to find out a grade school teacher in front of the class ridiculed the individual. No other adult was sensitive to or helped this future engineer work through the situation in a healthy way. He was left thinking it was his fault and that he was (and still is) defective. Consequently, he covered the problem by avoiding formal speaking situations and, when needed, through belligerence.  For what it is worth, I run into shame-based problems with some regularity. They typically are a main contributor to the difficulties the organization is experiencing. You know what I am talking about, the person who limits their career or gets fired over something they just can’t get beyond.

So what can you do in such a situation? First, offer compassion, acceptance, and empathy. Be honest and state the problem as you see it and the challenge the individual faces. It is being a friend and, in the words of Carl Jung, “If everyone had good friends there’d be no need for therapists.” Keep in mind you aren’t their mother so limits are required. When that limit is reached it is time to escalate, which can be very uncomfortable when a friend is involved. It is the best thing to do. Without honesty in the situation a cost is incurred which has price tags associated with it, ranging from money to stress. It might be good for an outsider to come in and look at the situation and be the “bad guy” who pushes for needed changes.

In any case, simply riding over it and trying to pretend the irrational behavior can be absorbed or ignored will just drive everyone else crazy and provide no help for the person feeling the shame. On the positive side, as difficult as the situation is, when genuine friendship is extended and a healthy confrontation occurs, if the person with the difficulties really wants to do better, he is eventually appreciative. The situation can get better and profitability has a better shot at going up.

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 #23: Watch out for Overtime

by Gary Monti on August 28, 2012

Do you want to succeed? Do you feel a personal responsibility for the project? If you just push hard enough can the project get done? These questions are probably part of your everyday life. Answering them affirmatively is often the hallmark of a successful project manager and can open doors to career success. Taken too far, though, damage can occur. One way this damage shows up is with overtime.

In my travels, most PMs start with a 50-hour week and go from there. Periodically, that is insufficient and overtime is required. It’s part of the normal ups-and-downs of a project. There are limits, and that is what needs to be watched for. What does this mean?

In my own experience where it causes trouble is when it shows up as the dark side of “spontaneous overtime.” Let me explain. Spontaneous overtime is when “the hands fall off the clock.” There is a falling into the task and being totally absorbed by it. A sense of time disappears. The light side of spontaneous overtime is when things are clicking into place and the ability to build or fix just grows and grows. It is very rewarding. Think of how rocket scientists feel when a rover has successfully landed on Mars. Even this form of overtime does have to have some limit if one has a life. However, this occurs so infrequently that pushing all else aside for a period probably won’t cause too much trouble in other areas of life.

The focus here is on the dark side of spontaneous overtime. This is when awareness of the reality of the situation has disappeared, e.g., refusing to see a powerful sponsor has pulled their support merely by neglect and the belief the project can be successful continues. This is a formula for disaster. The subconscious denial that the project has no support leads to pushing harder and harder. Without thinking, more and more overtime is put in. More meetings, more picking up others work, more “If I just push hard enough.”

There is a loss of humility and a sense of limits disappears. The PM is consumed by stubbornness yet feels realistic at the same time.

So what to do? The simplest solution is have someone to talk to who will tell you whether or not you’re nuts. If you don’t have that, think back to when this has occurred before and ask yourself, “How did my behavior shift when I was deaf, dumb, and blind?” It will show in little things. For example, do you lose your car keys? Are you grumpy, angry, or anxious in a general way with nothing you can put your finger on? Are others more annoying for no apparent reason? Experience loss of sleep or want to sleep excessively? Over- or under eating? Don’t want the weekend to end? Maybe you can brainstorm you own list with someone close to you who knows your behaviors.

The payoff is big. You are giving yourself a chance to get back within your personal boundaries and start looking honestly at the situation and confront what you see. You can restart the process of gaining control of your life.

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 #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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The Soul of a Project #22: When a Lie is The Truth!

by Gary Monti on August 7, 2012

What to do when someone is lying? Answering this question is critical in any environment but is especially so in a changing environment. The organization is at risk to destabilize, the team is disoriented teetering towards falling apart and now a key player is mucking around with the truth and being dishonest. Addressing this is critical if power is to be shuttled in the right direction so stakeholders can adapt behavior accordingly and the associated costs are kept to a minimum.

What has helped is dividing the possible response into two broad categories – moral and emotional. Why? My experience is the dishonesty is about protecting something – position, reputation, etc. In other words, there is a feeling of vulnerability about which the individual is at a loss in terms of knowing what to do so they invent something to protect themselves. It becomes their “truth.” I’ve found it best to refer to it simply as emotional dishonesty. What’s behind this approach?

Keeping in mind the goal is the team pulling together to keep the project on track there is a distinct advantage to finding what the vulnerability is and see if the individual will consider doing the work it takes to get through the difficulty and take themselves up a notch in performance and add to the team.

Why do this? After all, the person did lie. Wouldn’t it be simpler to make a moral judgment and write the person off? The short answer is, “We are all human.” It means we have a shadow side that takes a lifetime of work to integrate into the rest of our personality. It means that given a chance to do that work the individual just might get to a better spot and be even better. Assuming the damage the lie causes is reparable and the value the individual provides can go beyond that damage then it is worth the investment.

The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius sums it in his Meditations well when asking what to do with difficult people who create challenges. His answer, paraphrased, is, “Work with them, only humans are available to get the job done.” If the person is challenged on moral grounds it only heightens their desire to protect themselves. That becomes their “truth.”

Aurelius saw that in complex situations vulnerability goes up so getting frustrated with dishonesty and making moral judgments can be self-defeating. He also saw in doing this work and showing a disciplined compassion you take your place as a leader worth following. The odds of success go up.

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 #19: Faith in a Vacuum

by Gary Monti on June 26, 2012

“If I only knew it would work!” How often do you say that? After all, a great deal of stress would be relieved if you could say for sure the plan would be successful. Unfortunately, you can’t. That is why your leadership position has vulnerability associated with it. It can be crazy making. At the same time commitments are being made everything that could happen, both right and wrong, is swimming in your head. To make matters worse, there can be the sense of isolation where “project manager” is a politically correct way of saying “official scapegoat.”

What to do? The answer is straightforward, stay with the belief everything is simple once you find the right vantage point. Sounds nice but how can you avoid having it be another pious platitude that sounds Pollyannaish?

The answer lies in remembering the same vacuum that promotes a sense of isolation is also a place where you can get power.

What the heck does that mean? What throws a project off balance is greed, fear, or indifference. For example, the boss that wants unlimited overtime is showing greed. The employee who is concerned they will be ground into dust with the overtime can become afraid. The constant deprioritizing of a project shows indifference. In those situations a vacuum is present, a vacuum that lacks a connected set of principles. The project and maybe the organization fragment. People start spinning aimlessly.

What you can do is be the one person who works the principles that apply believing the most that can be accomplished will occur by sticking to those principles. You become a dampening agent, a shock absorber who helps the situation settle down and become productive. People are attracted to those who help heal such situation.

Notice I said, “the most that can be accomplished.” This means as you progress in practicing what you believe you will attract stakeholders. The question is at that point, “How much power do these stakeholders have?” That power base sets the limits of what can be accomplished.

The attraction of others is cemented in showing empathy. See if you can find something specific with which you can work with each stakeholder. For example, with the boss insisting on excessive overtime talk about the possibility of a major catastrophe occurring and she’ll look bad. For the employee who is afraid ask them to stick with laying out their work and realistically state what they can accomplish in the time available. For the manager who de-prioritizes the project state what they won’t get by failing to staff/fund the project.

To the extent you can get realistic stakeholders and team members on board the odds of success go up.

While we think of success in terms of achieving project goals it can also include the cancellation of the project. The fact it doesn’t align with corporate goals or distracts resources from more critical activities can come to the surface and a healthy decision can be made. This can be a difficult decision especially if people are highly invested in the project.

Remember, you may feel isolated but being empathetic and sticking to what works brings about the connections needed.

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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Resilience Engineering #16: Hammering out a Schedule

by Gary Monti on October 4, 2011

Nailing down a schedule is one of the biggest project challenges there is. Even when you get it right things can happen in the environment that destabilize scheduling efforts. In a previous blog, Resilience Engineering #12: Party Time, the FRAM (Functional Resonance Accident Model) model was introduced as a way to provide rich contextual information for task definition and establishing a link between tasks. The phrase, “hammering out a schedule,” aptly implies the effort it takes to get one’s project house in order and determine who will do what and when.

Presently I am working with a client who wants a scheduling system. Before that can be done there is a lot of political house cleaning needed, which is the current focus of work. The hook being used to get them to stop gossiping and put that time and energy into work is shown in the diagram below.

What we have here is a FRAM diagram. The goal is to show the dynamics at play and how they can be mapped out for a given situation. Each hexagon is a function. The attributes for each function are:

  • I (Input). Raw material or the output of a previous task needed to execute the activity.
  • O (Output). The measurable deliverable from the activity.
  • P (Preconditions). Environmental and contextual considerations which are needed for success to occur, e.g., “clear requirements,” is a precondition for “task generation” to be effective.
  • R (Resources). Classic project management resources, e.g., people, tools, etc.
  • T (Time). This can be either classic duration, e.g., two effort hours, or calendar time, e.g., one evening.
  • C (Control). The parameters for setting acceptance criteria as well as process requirements that insure an adequate job is done.

The focus with the client is on the variable “preconditions.” It is an eye-opening exercise when looked at from the perspective of where the organization needs to be in order to support execution of a task.

The short version of this is 4-5 months of organizational work is needed before credible scheduling of the first task can begin. This is a group of engineers, technicians, accountants, sales people, and management having to do the touchy-feely work needed to communicate clearly and simply with committed support and follow-up.

Instead of “Hammering Out A Schedule,” it might have been better to title this “Hammering Out A Company.” Just to get to where a single task can be scheduled with high reliability it will be performed adequately within time and budget constraints almost the entire company is being profiled psychologically. Why? They can’t talk. They are technical experts. They can yell, they can be passive aggressive, they can be fearful, they can be greedy but they are very unskilled at understanding each other and are afraid of being honest and trusting.

We are making progress. It is stressful. They are uncomfortable. They are looking at those dark places from which strange noises emanate (better know as bitching and gossiping) and deciding what to do. All this before a single task can be scheduled with confidence.

Hammering out a schedule is hard work but well worth the effort. They are starting to see the benefits of putting energies into getting things done as a team rather than pointing fingers.

The court is out as to whether or not success will occur. This work reaches all the way into the Board Room. If they make it, though, they’ll be able to schedule a task and rely on the forecast. They’ll be able to go home and say, “I DID something constructive today and it feels good.”

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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Leader driven Harmony #37: Eating, Drinking & Business

by Mack McKinney on August 12, 2011

What should you eat at a business meal or social gathering?  Do cultural sensitivities really matter these days?  Here are some basic, common-sense rules for business dining etiquette:

  • Don’t eat sushi around squeamish people whose faces turn fainting-white when you mention that raw fish is on the menu.  Those people are as rare as the fish, thank goodness (I love sushi and sashimi).  Just be sensitive and watch their facial expressions when the menu is discussed.
  • Don’t eat pork when dining with Jews or Moslems (or with both – – – yes, it has happened to me).  Just the idea of pigs can make some people nauseous.

Should you drink alcohol at business functions?  Some business gurus say drinking is OK and then others advise total alcohol abstinence!  My answer is . . .  yes, you can drink, but with a few caveats.  First let’s discuss the cultural issue.  In many cultures, business meals are occasions to get to know people.  Alcohol is viewed as the universal social lubricant.  And only after the other party gets to know you and likes you, will they have meaningful business discussions with you.

If you are dining with people from Western Europe, the Slavic countries of Eastern Europe, the Scandinavian countries, Japan, Korea or China, bring a spare liver!  Drinking alcohol is likely to be an accepted part of the business experience and you’ll seem odd if you don’t partake at least a little.  Sorry but I don’t make the rules of international business.

With other groups of people, in the US for example, you have more options.  Here are some basic guidelines:

  • If everyone else is drinking and if you would like a drink, then have one.  But limit it to one or two drinks throughout the activity.
  • If you don’t drink, say so and don’t drink!  You don’t owe anyone a detailed explanation but if you feel obligated to explain, say you are slightly allergic to alcohol and it upsets your stomach.  That should settle it.
  • But if you are hosting a guest at a business dinner (prospective employee, client, possible teammate, etc.), you should order a glass of wine.  Period.  Do this either when initially seated or with the meal but do it.  Do this whether you drink alcohol or not.  You do this to clearly indicate to your guest(s) that their having a drink is fine with you.  Words won’t communicate that point nearly as well as your $7 glass of red wine.  And if there is a toast, you have something to toast with (you can put it up to your lips and then set it down).  If you don’t drink, let it sit and get tossed after the meal.  If asked why you didn’t drink it, say that you didn’t like the taste (they won’t know if you tried it or not).

One more rule here:  If you are a US defense contractor, you’ll need to deduct the cost of the alcohol from the total receipt, showing it separately.  It is not an allowable expense in most cases.  Your company may or may not reimburse you for your drink.  And they can only deduct half the value of the business meal anyway in most cases (thank you IRS).

Who should pay for the meal?

  • If the meal is with teammates (other firms) and they will have the chance to reciprocate rotationally at their facilities, then the host organization should pay.  This should be by prior arrangement among the principles.
  • You, personally, should pay if . . .
    • You invited the others to dinner and no Dutch Treat (each person/team pays) arrangement was discussed.
    • You are trying to win the business of the guests and they are not government employees.  Most US Federal and State government employees are prohibited from accepting meals or gifts of any kind.
    • You are trying to win the business of the guests, they are from other firms, and those firms do not prohibit their employees from accepting gifts (including meals) from potential suppliers (like you).  Some firms’ ethics policies prohibit their employees from accepting meals or “anything of value”.  Other firms prohibit anything above a dollar limit, $25.00 for example.  And some firms have no policy at all on this subject.
    • Split the check if your firms are of comparable size, you will benefit equally from any subsequent business, you are not on an expense account and are expected to be frugal with the company’s travel budget, the other side sincerely offers to help pay, and there is no expectation of future meals out like that one (no expectation of reciprocation “the next time”).

In short, use your common sense regarding eating and drinking at business functions.  And if you drink, limit yourself to one or two drinks.  When in doubt as to the appropriate behavior, ask the financial or legal people in your organization.  And I’d ask them either before or after a trip: Calling their cell phone, from the restaurant, late at night, might get you an answer you DON’T want!

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Mack McKinneyMack McKinney is on a personal crusade to eliminate conflict and stress in our lives. Mack’s mantra is “People treat you like you TRAIN them to treat you!” His company Solid Thinking Corporation teaches creativity, concept development, relationship management and high-performance project leadership to major US corporations and the US government
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When I was in the seventh grade, during our school’s annual track and field day, I was assigned to the shot put event.  That was a bit of a problem.  Back then, I wasn’t what you would call skinny – I was downright scrawny.  I could barely pick up the shot put, let alone heave it across the field.  Let me tell you, I was definitely scrawny but I was scrappy too.  I practiced hard.  The gym teacher worked with me and, day-by-day, I got better.  It hurt and I hated it, but I got better.

After what seemed like an eternity of training, track and field day arrived and I threw the shot put farther than I had ever thrown it.  It was a personal best.  And I came in … dead last.  Thirty-seventh out of thirty-seven boys.  I had worked hard, I had gotten better, and I had gone from poor to just a little less poor.  My immense effort went largely unrewarded.  That’s what happens when the talent doesn’t match the task.

The truth is, many of us have been sold a bill of goods.  It started with Napoleon Hill when he said, “Anything the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”  Which is just plain nonsense.  Think about this:  I can conceive of playing in the NBA, and with enough self-delusion I might even be able to believe it.  But I won’t achieve it because you can’t coach tall … or fast.  In other words, I don’t have the talent.

Talent is the capacity for near perfect performance.  It’s something you’re born with or that develops very early in life.  Talent can be cultivated, but it probably can’t be created.  The good news is, everyone has talent of some kind.  But each of us also has some non-talents – some things we just don’t do very well and probably won’t ever do very well.  (My list of non-talents includes anything requiring a power tool, math past the 8th grade level and throwing the shot put.)

If you want exceptional performance in your company (and who doesn’t?) there are two crucial activities that you and all your managers must engage in.

#1 – Identify the talent of each of your people

#2 – Match that talent with a task that needs to be accomplished

Identifying the talent of subordinates and matching that talent with a task that needs to be accomplished just might be the most important contribution to organizational success a manager can make. A wonderful, if somewhat awkward, question is:

Who Does What Well Around Here?

That question focuses on the right thing – it focuses on talent, on what a person can do.  Far too often, managers are in “cop mode”.  They’re on the lookout for what’s wrong.  Certainly there are times when a manager needs to take corrective action.  But great managers spend a lot of time looking for what’s right with people.  To find out more about what great managers do, spend a few minutes with our free online management development course, The Foundation of Management.

Jack-Hayhow Jack Hayhow is Chief Executive Servant of Opus Communications in Kansas City. Opus provides tools and techniques to help business owners build their business. Jack is also the author of two highly acclaimed business books, The Wisdom of the Flying Pig: Guidance and Inspiration for Managers and Leaders and, Breaking Through the Barrier: What Companies That Grow Do Differently
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In our last post we talked about what the organization can do for the new Gen Y hire, to help ensure a successful entry into the group.  In this last of a series of four posts we will see what Gen Ys themselves should be doing to quickly become a valued contributor and team member?  We suggest focusing on six key behavior clusters:

  1. Listen and learn. You almost never learn when you are talking. And in any new job you have a lot to learn.  But most people don’t listen well – – –  they merely pretend to listen while they compose a response to what they are hearing.  To break this habit, take notes while others are speaking.
  2. Know how your boss likes to communicate. HBR still has available online the classic paper “Managing Oneself” by Peter F. Drucker.  Every boss, employee and new-college-hire should read those 11 pages. New GenYs should ask how their bosses and peers want to communicate.  Is your new boss a listener, talker or reader?  This is crucial information.
  3. Join the team for the long haul. One mindset likely to frustrate you and your management is to overly focus on having a sudden intuitive brainstorm that changes the company or launches a new product and catapults you into the President’s office!  Understand that the financial success of rappers and Hollywood stars and others who, with seemingly limited talent have secured nearly unlimited wealth is very, very rare.  Seth Godin calls this phenomenon “The Purple Cow” and his book, same title, is a great read check it out at).  Focus on helping others, learning all you can about your job and becoming a valued member of the team.
  4. Be tactful. *This is the exception to the previous advice to always “Say what you mean”.  Words are powerful things especially when spoken to or about people.  The key here is to separate a person’s behavior from the person.  Only correct a person’s behavior, never labeling the person as problematic.  Another rule that helps me is to never say something about another that I haven’t already said to them.
  5. Be open-minded. Look for things you can learn, not just from other Gen Ys but from Gen X, Boomers and Traditionalists.  These other generations have seen and done things you won’t get to do for decades, if ever.  Some jobs in an organization require experience and that takes time:  you cannot assign three women to the job and grow a baby in three months instead of nine!  Learn from the unique perspectives, experiences and stories of the other generations.  Keep a journal of ideas, possible projects, ways to improve things, etc. and use it in your employee performance reviews with your boss.
  6. Be reliable. Do what you say you’ll do, every time.  And if an unforeseen (and hopefully unforeseeable) problem looks like it will derail your plan, advise anyone who needs to know.  Give them an early heads-up of the possible change in plans.  Under promise and over-deliver.  Control the expectations of others and then surprise them.

Now here is a last-ditch technique for any deeply entrenched Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and Traditionalists out there, stuck in their old ways of thinking and unable to accept Gen Ys into an organization. If nothing else works for you, not the sensitivity training, not the classes arranged by HR, the great videos by Jason Dorsey nor even your boss’s warning that you need to “get with it and learn to play nice with the new-hires”.  Then try this: Train yourself to think of Gen Ys as belonging to a foreign culture.  That’s right, think of them as being from another country entirely.  You don’t expect foreign nationals to behave like you do.  With their different cultures, values and standards for behavior, we expect them to behave differently.  Do the same for Gen Ys.

We have seen this little mental trick prevent the eye-rolls and other knee-jerk reactions some older people have to some of the occasional stereotypical behaviors of Gen Ys (showing up late for work, telling established managers how to do their jobs, texting while you are conversing with them, jumping across multiple layers in a large organization, etc.).  And if we can break the older person’s stimulus-response chain by adding an interim “thinking” step that says “hold on a minute, this Gen Y person’s brain is not wired exactly like mine”, we can perhaps help older workers accommodate the newcomers.  We are going to need Gen Ys’ outlandish ideas and bold thinking to tackle challenges in the years to come because none of us is as smart as all of us.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Mack McKinneyMack McKinney is on a personal crusade to eliminate conflict and stress in our lives. Mack’s mantra is “People treat you like you TRAIN them to treat you!” His company Solid Thinking Corporation teaches creativity, concept development, relationship management and high-performance project leadership to major US corporations and the US government
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Do you know a truly civil person?  This is a person others might describe as socially skilled, courteous, collected, centered, cool, or “has her stuff together”.  Being a civil person has huge benefits:

  • People Will Listen to You – People listen more attentively to civil persons than to rude or boisterous people.  A rational, unemotional argument offered by a cool, collected person is MUCH more attractive to thinking persons than is a loud, expletive-laden, emotional rant. Think back to an example of listening to each extreme of person.  You may be able to remember the arguments of the loud person but you probably did not act on them.  But the “cool head” very probably moved you to action if that was his/her goal.
  • You’ll Make More Friends – Humans seem to be drawn to calm, collected people.  They have a calming effect on persons around them.  I remember a pilot named “Smash” (not sure how he got that nickname but it probably had to do with a tendency to fly faster than needed).  When this unassuming guy of normal 5’9” stature entered a room, I felt the most amazing sense of calm. I never asked anyone else if they felt the same thing (tough, manly Air Force Lieutenants don’t admit to such paranormal impressions) and I have since wondered if he had the same effect on others.  He was unremarkable in every other way but, due to ESP or pheromones or something, he lowered my blood pressure whenever I was around him in the Squadron every month or so when I flew in the F-15 Eagle fighters there.
  • You’ll Have Lowered Blood Pressure and You’ll Live Longer – Cultivate the ability to always be civil even (maybe especially) to people with whom you totally disagree.  This is a powerful skill.  When you have made up your mind to remain civil, no matter what another person says, you are very unlikely to become upset or lose your cool.  This is because when we stay calm, our unpredictable amygdala (our “lizard brain” that tries to get us emotional and is always ready for a fight) remains under control by the prefrontal cortex (the rational, thinking part of our brain).   Remaining calm will breed a strong character.  Make a game of it – – – see how dramatically different your behavior can be from your opponent’s.  As he/she gets louder, you get even calmer; as he gets more exasperated, you get more focused.  With luck, the other person will soon stop emoting and will begin thinking.  Only then will the discussion become productive.  And if the opponent does not calm down, it is probably because he cannot control his emotion (anger, fear, whatever) and you are wasting your time: Just say something non-threatening like “we’ll talk more some other time” and walk away.  And glance over your shoulder as you leave – – – really stressed-out people can get violent when a calmer person refuses to get upset along with them!

In our next post we will talk about the remarkable benefits of following the Desiderata.  It takes 60 seconds to read and is a powerful document.  I’ll also show you how adding just four simple rules at the dinner table will get you labeled diplomatic and get you invited to dinner parties a lot more often!  And I’ll explain the surprising connection to beer!

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation


Mack McKinneyMack McKinney is on a personal crusade to eliminate conflict and stress in our lives. Mack’s mantra is “People treat you like you TRAIN them to treat you!” His company Solid Thinking Corporation teaches creativity, concept development, relationship management and high-performance project leadership to major US corporations and the US government
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