Showing Up

showing upYears ago, a conversation grew around getting involved in an industry association. Money had been going out the door for years with no seeming return. After a few calls and discussions, the value provided was quite high. The problem was, people had changed in the company I worked for, connections were lost, and no one was showing up. Once we got involved – and started showing up – the relationship grew and blossomed. There was huge value involved on both sides. But, it took a bit of showing up on both sides to develop the relationship and see the importance on both ends.

Whether it is in business or in life, showing up is critical to forming and maintaining relationships. It involves being present – not just physically, but intellectually. In fact, you don’t always need to be physically present as long as a connection is maintained in a way that satisfies all parties. How are you showing up?

Death by A Thousand Cuts

Change Is A Good Thing ConceptA friend was recounting a story they had read recently. It was a study about a couple of kids who set up a lemonade stand with discount pricing to attract customers. Lemonade for $1. However, everything was priced individually. The cup, the straw, the lemonade, the ice, the umbrella, etc. The customer didn’t know about the pricing until the total was provided, then was shocked at the $20 glass of lemonade. The customer had no idea that for each yes, the bill would skyrocket. By the end, it was like death by a thousand cuts and the potential customer would walk away because it was just too much.

This type of situation occurs regularly in business when change is being made. Changes and requirements keep coming – so much so, that the mountain gets so high and people get overwhelmed and walk away. The trick is to make the bulk of the changes quickly and move into the new normal, avoiding death by a thousand cuts. How do you avoid death by a thousand cuts in your organization?

The Song Remembers When

Remember whenMore than 20 years ago, Trisha Yearwood had a popular song that focused on how songs can take you back to a moment in time. I’ve been thinking about it over the last few weeks as situations or phrases have triggered conversations of the past. A chat with a mentor, a key risk in a company that had a big lesson learned and approaches to business that ebb and flow depending upon the time. And while Trisha’s song was about a relationship, the message can be broadly applied – certain situations can quickly take you back in time.

The thing is, many times memories reside with a person. They become embedded in the fabric of their experiences and help shape them into who they are. The challenge in a business context is taking those learnings and embedding them in the fabric of the organization so the business becomes a learning organization and can take those prior experiences and apply them to similar situations today. Companies that do this well create a culture that allows for quick decision-making, but has these experiences in mind. They stay away from heavy bureaucracy and cumbersome processes. How have you created a learning culture in your organization?

Do you have the right mindset?

do you have the right mindset?I love Zumba. People get together to dance, have a great time and get a fantastic workout. But what always intrigues me is the number of folks I hear saying they don’t go because they aren’t a good dancer, are not in good enough shape, etc. In other words, I can’t do it (or don’t want to do it) for a variety of reasons. The irony is the age range is quite wide with people into their 70’s, all body shapes and all levels of fitness and ability to dance. The difference is the people in the room have decided that they are going to have a great time and get a fantastic workout, no matter their age, physical condition or dance abilities. They decided to go in with the mindset of “I can.”

This mindset pervades every area of life, including how work is approached. There are many sayings such as “attitude determines altitude.” And it’s true. I’ve seen people accomplish great things with the mindset of “I can.” How is your mindset? Are you limiting your potential or opening yourself to the potential of having an “I can” mindset?

How do your experiences shape you?

experience shapes youToday was a fascinating day of conversations with people about significant events in their life that shaped their perspectives. The experiences caused them to develop a deep appreciation for the people and circumstances that are their reality today. In one case, a woman shared her early years living in Vietnam at the time of the conflict. She witnessed multiple helicopter evacuations, including her own. Years later, she returned and found people had so little food they looked skeletal. Out of her experience, she gained a deep appreciation for the freedoms we have and access to the basics. Another woman shared a significant health challenge that lasted years, leaving her significantly incapacitated during much of it. While she has fully recovered, her husband went over and above in helping her through a very traumatic time. Their relationship today is deep and profound.

Companies are no different than people. The experiences in their past shape how they operate today. Experiences over time form the culture and how situations are addressed. I’m always amazed at how innovative people are and the persistence that has gone into getting the business to where it is today. How have experiences shaped your company?

Are you showing your best people out the door?

showing people the doorOver the last few weeks, I’ve had conversations with a number of people who are the highest producing, highest performing people in their organizations. In each case, the individuals are at or nearing the point of leaving their organization. Why? They are not supported in what they do day to day and do not feel appreciated for their contributions, and do not feel heard.

Unfortunately, these situations are common in business and result in the loss of good people. Many times the leaders in these organizations don’t realize the extent of the issue and mistake the reason the person left for something other than what it is.

How are you engaging your people and making sure you aren’t showing them out the door?

Learning to Learn

learning to learnAfter Zumba (a dance exercise class) today, I got into a conversation with a woman who had a great workout, but struggled a bit to learn the songs. While she had great fun, she remarked that it was hard to pick up the routines. She comes regularly, but not to that particular instructor.

There are a number of “regulars” in Zumba. Each time a new routine is introduced, they have it down by the second or third time the song is played. They have learned how to learn quickly. They know that certain moves repeat each chorus and have figured out the pattern of repetitive steps. While the teachers may vary, there are always basics that hold from teacher to teacher and once you figure them out, you can pick up most songs pretty quickly.

Zumba is no different than business. In business, there are sets of norms and practices in each function, area, industry, etc. Once you figure out how to learn, the pace of business can quickly increase and staying on top of trends and changes can become much more easy and digestible. How are you learning to learn?

Information is Asymmetric

information is asymmetricOver the few weeks I’ve been in a series of meetings and conversations where a decision was being pursued or communication was seen as lacking. In all cases, it was clear that a significant level of discussion was ongoing. The challenge was that key information was not being distributed evenly. In other words, some people had a lot of information on the topic and others had very little. Or, there was an even level of information, but the information was different. As a result, getting to a desired conclusion was difficult. People walked out of the meetings and into side discussions feeling frustrated and unclear as to what was trying to be accomplished. The reason – information is asymmetric.

These situations occur regularly in business. Being clear with the desired outcomes and decisions needed in the meeting, communicating key information ahead and making sure the right people are in the room can help get to the desired outcome. Most importantly, don’t assume people know the background information. Recap it quickly or in detail depending upon the circumstances. Information is asymmetric. How are you keeping that front of mind when trying to move forward?

What is the real problem?

what is the real problemIt is a common challenge in the business world and in life. Providing a solution without knowing the real problem. That was the topic of conversation yesterday with a colleague. We were discussing some recent challenges and the striking and consistent thing about the conversation was – in each point of discussion, the problem being “solved” was not the real problem.

Let me be more specific by using an example that I often run across. The solution – we need a new ERP system because we don’t understand our financials. Many times the issue isn’t that the system is a problem, the issue is that no one ever spent the time to design reporting that helps people understand what is going on in the company and provides information (not data) for decision making.

When I run across this type of situation, I typically ask a number of questions designed to get at the real problem. In the case above, it may be that the only real solution needed is a reporting tool (generally, a much less expensive and many times a faster and more flexible solution). The key is to understand what the real problem is. How are you getting to the real problems in your world?

Are You Signaling?

signaling directionDriving around town lately has been an adventure. There are lots of people visiting to see the stunning sights. There are also lots of people driving around on cell phones or absorbed in other ways and not paying attention. Stopping in the middle of the street, turning left from the right lane across traffic, and slamming on brakes to make a sudden turns have become commonplace. All of these occur without warning or signaling. Aside from being the law, it lets people know what is about to come and safely prepare for to the change that is about to be made.

Signaling isn’t just important in driving, it is critically important in leading an organization. Abrupt changes in direction can create confusion and problems. The purpose of a signal in driving is to catch the attention of those around to say “hey – pay attention, I’m about to change direction.” So, why not apply that same philosophy in leading your organization?