Archives for January 2012
I’m not very sociable first thing in the morning. If you ask my wife she says I’m not in the land of the living until I’m half way through my second cup of tea.
So when I arrived in the gym on Monday morning without my tea I was still half asleep. I was exercising all of my resolve simply to keep my eyes open and my body moving. At six o’clock in the morning, and without caffeine, I lack tolerance, especially for people who think exercising on the elliptical machine should include talking on their cell phone. I want to ask, are you here to exercise or to talk on the phone? I don’t ask because I wouldn’t be able to curtail the disdain in my voice.
I’ve come to the conclusion that some people, whether fully awake or not, are walking around asleep as to the impact their behavior has on others. They’re either clueless or indifferent, and on many days I’m convinced they’re simply indifferent.
While standing in line to board my flight home to Seattle Monday night, a man entered the boarding line while reading his boarding pass. What he didn’t see was the fact that he stood so close to a woman that she took a step back with a bewildered look on her face. He gave a tiny look as if to say “yea, so what.” Her face asked the question “is he clueless?” Since he was about six foot six and weighed about two hundred and fifty pounds I kept my thoughts to myself.
This post isn’t about my state of wakefulness in the morning, nor is it about the boarding process for those who are not flying in first class. It is about how all of us need to wake up as to how we interact and impact those around us. The woman on the treadmill and the man in the boarding line seemed completely unaware of how they were being perceived by others, and left me thinking that they lack the skills to pick up on the subtle clues of those around them. They can only see in bold broad brush strokes.
If you work with others (that means everyone) waking up as to how people respond to your ideas and your presence is essential, for in reality, almost every activity you engage in (especially exercising and boarding a plane) involves, impacts, and influences other people.
Do you know whether you are positively or negatively influencing others? Do you care if it’s negatively? If you don’t care, reading this post will end up being a waste of your time. If you just don’t know what your impact is and are curious and concerned, then consider this post your wake up call.
If you’d like to learn how to determine your impact and whether you are negatively or positively impacting those around you, drop me a line and I’ll share with you my 3-D Leadership Branding activity.
Now, where is my tea?
We live in a hurried and impatient world. Why? This morning as I was parked on the side of the road waiting for my wife, a large dump truck drove by with a windshield partially obstructed by frost and ice. The driver, in the hopes of improving his visibility, was leaning forward to get as close as possible to a clear and unobstructed view. I don’t believe he was anywhere close to seeing clearly, but that didn’t stop him from turning onto a busy thoroughfare.
From my vantage point the driver’s need to reach his destination prompted him to do something reckless. He viewed driving with limited visibility not as risky, but rather as something required in order to arrive at this destination on time.
Before I throw stones at this glass house I need to admit that I’ve done something similar. Not in a car with an icy windshield potentially endangering other drivers, but in ways that are equally as reckless. Here’s what I do:
1. I oftentimes start my day with the completion of my to-do list as my exalted destination and neglect my to-be list. I focus so tactically and operationally that I neglect the important destination of who do I want to be as I go through my day. I’ve forgotten that every action I take will involve, impact and influence others, and I’ve neglected to get clear about how I want to show up.
2. Because of number one I sometimes think of what is in my own best interests as opposed to my colleagues. I’ve placed my own interests at the head of the line and neglected to prioritize my most important relationships and what is in their best interests. I sometimes lose sight that this is a relationship limiting maneuver.
3. I didn’t spend time yesterday grooming my calendar for today. I had some very high level ideas about how to live the most rewarding and enriching life possible, but I hadn’t taken the time to be behaviorally explicit. I entered my day driving not unlike the dump truck driver…with partially obscured vision. I was in essence driving blind.
Leaders cannot be effective long term driving with limited visibility. We have to have a clear line of sight of how we create valuable experiences for our customers, our employees and ourselves.
How is your visibility?
I’ve spoken with a number of clients over the last two weeks and asked them this question. I’m looking for an example of how your organization, or the industry as a whole, tried something new and it didn’t work out. Actually, I’m looking for examples of how you or the industry may have gotten burned. Does anything come to mind?
The responses have been interesting and have ranged from “I can’t think of anything” to “I don’t think you should be focusing on failure. That’s not important. What’s important is to focus on where we’ve been successful.”
One of my key insights from these conversations is that this particular industry, financial services, has a deep need to avoid risk and to preserve what has worked well and to do more of the same.
Is preserving the past and doing more of the same a wise course of action? Yes, in some situations. Does it have an unintended downside? Yes.
The downside to preserving the past and doing more of the same is that at its core the primary objective is to pursue safety. Safety is not a bad idea in areas like brain surgery, driving the Autobahn, mining, and personal relationships. Safety in some contexts can anesthetize teams and organizations to the benefits of experimentation and exploration. It leads some teams and their leaders to only take “safe risks.”
But here’s the rub. There isn’t an organization, industry, or product known to man that has the benefit of living in an unchanging environment. None, zilch, nada. Organizations and teams need to adapt, evolve and reconfigure themselves for the changing environment. If they don’t they will plateau and are destined to become obsolete. Obsolete? Yes.
There is an old saying that goes, fruit doesn’t grow on the trunk of the tree it grows out on the limb. If you want the fruit you have to go out on the limb to enjoy the fruit.
So, my question for you is … did you go out on a limb in 2011? Were you successful or did the limb break? I’m convinced that if you can’t think of three failures you had in 2011 then you played 2011 safe. In turn, you didn’t grow as much as you could have and lost the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life while also building your reputation in career enhancing ways.
The two most important questions you can ask yourself in 2012 are:
1. Are your hopes and aspirations for 2012 uplifting, inspirational and motivating?
2. What risks do you plan to take in 2012 to achieve your hopes and aspirations?