Making It Work

Making it workThe snow and ice kept the bulk of the people away for the day. The unusual quiet presented an opportunity to talk, not something that was typically possible given the busy nature of her work. And what a gift it was. She talked about her retirement that is close at hand and reflected upon her life. Forty-three years with her husband. She smiled when she spoke of their adventures together, the trips they had taken, the struggles they had shared. The pride was evident in her smile when she spoke of raising their son. It wasn’t easy – they didn’t have much money at the time. She worked during the day and her husband worked at night so they could make it work. And she was clearly proud of how her son turned out, the grandchild they now have and the road ahead that she and her husband will share in retirement. They took stock of what they had and they made it work.

Its funny how life sometimes unfolds in a way that requires dedication and commitment to making it work. These situations play out time and again in work and in life. People assess the approaches available and figure out how to make it work. Are you using all of the tools in your arsenal to make it work?

The Bull in the China Shop

bull in china shopShe has been crashing around for about a week now. The huge plastic cone was a necessity after surgery. And while she is used to wearing it now, my yellow lab hasn’t become accustomed to the additional space needed to navigate the house. The scrape of the plastic against the wall as she runs around a corner, or the brute force of pushing the cone through the door before it is all the way open has become common place. Luckily, there has been only one casualty – a vase fell over from one particular exuberant collision with a table.

It has been hard not to imagine a bull in a china shop as she crashes around from one place to another. It is not intentional, it is her nature. She doesn’t realize the damage she is doing, she is just trying to navigate the space using the same approach as the past, not recognizing the need to change her approach given her new reality.

By now, you may be thinking about a person you have encountered at some point in the past. The bull in the china shop. The intentions may be good, but the damage is real. Highlighting the issues in a way that allows the person to save face, while understanding the impact of their actions is important. How do you handle the bull in the china shop in your organization?

You Said What?

you said what?We were in a meeting discussing a critical issue. It was clearly a turning point. Or was it? After a lengthy discussion, the meeting wrapped up. It was clear to me that we were headed a new direction. Curious what my counterpart thought, I asked his perspective. His perspective was no change, things would continue on the same path. So, how could we walk away with such different take aways from the same meeting? The challenge is people filter based on their experiences and expectations, assumptions and hopes. Without a clear wrap up to a conversation, it is easy to walk away with different perspectives on what is next. As a result, actions may not align with what was expected, creating confusion down the line. How do you wrap up meetings to create clarity for the path forward?

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?