Archives for January 2016

Why We As Americans Need A More Global Perspective

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Last week I attended a lecture about Syria and the Middle East. The lecture was delivered by Rev. David Nazar, SJ who was recently appointed by Pope Francis to be the Rector of The Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. The Oriental is a Catholic funded University that teaches Eastern Christianity to people of all faiths from around the world. The Rector is similar to a university president.

Fr. Nazar is an expert in Middle East Studies and made the discussion about Syrian and Middle Eastern refugees come alive. For example, one of the key points in his presentation is the fact that Syria had a population of 10,000,000 people before the Arab Spring and now there are 5,000,000 people living there. The sheer volume of humanity leaving the country; likely never to return, is staggering as are the demands on the European countries assimilating the refugees.

I walked away from this lecture with three shifts in my thinking:

1. I want to learn more about the Middle East, its history and the cultural, religious and political aspects of the region. If I don’t understand the Middle East I cannot comment on the dynamics intelligently. One book that was recommended to me is A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East by David Fromkin.

2. I have copious amounts to be grateful for. I live a life that is comfortable beyond measure and live without the threat of death from tyrannical dictators. My family has not traveled thousands of miles by any means possible in the hopes of gaining refugee status and I’m not struggling to learn a foreign language while also trying to support my family. That is an amazing and even herculean feat.

3. As a Catholic, the Catholic Church; and especially the Jesuit’s, have an intellectual rigor and are far more welcoming about divergent faiths and perspectives than I knew. Father Nazar spoke both lovingly and eloquently about all faiths and role modeled religious tolerance and acceptance.

No matter how stressful and tumultuous our week is going, we must create the white space to master how we think and perceive the world around us while becoming more informed about the world around us. When our mindset is closed to new ideas and perspectives we live a closed and limited life. When our employees and coworkers have a closed mindset the opportunities to provide meaningful value to customers, patients and our most important constituents is stunted.

Thank you Fr. Nazar. You changed my perspective of an important issue and I’m grateful for your ability to expand my thinking with insight, compassion and eloquence.

Monday Morning Mindset Challenge:

What part of your personal and or professional life would you benefit from changing your perspective? What is the one action you can take to do that this week?

Say Hello To The Monday Morning Mindset

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Wait, did you just say the Monday Morning Mindset? Yes, I did.

I’m changing the name of the Monday Morning Minute to the Monday Morning Mindset and I’m doing so for two reasons. One, I haven’t done a Monday Morning Minute in a minute in quite some time. I just find the construct of doing a minute long Monday Morning Minute too limiting, and besides, people have said to me that they would like for me to expand on ideas. So, this artificial construct of the Monday Morning Minute is going to be jettisoned. I’m still going to keep the videos short, so don’t expect anything too prolonged. I’m changing it also because I believe that mindset is the critical determining factor in someone’s success.

For example, you’ll have no doubt seen two two people with the same pedigree, talent, skills and experience, but the one with the mindset of, “I will do whatever I need to in order to be successful” or “I will play to win, as opposed to playing not to lose.” The person who has the “yes, I can” mindset is going to flourish in the world of work, in their personal lives and in their community life. I want to be a catalyst for you to create the mindset that allows you to be supremely successful in whatever endeavor you want.

Let me start this Monday Morning Mindset with this idea: every thought you have, every word that you utter, every action you take…has within it the potential to transform yourself, others, your team, your performance, your community and your family.
Yes, changing the way you think about something changes your experience and changes your performance.

In the Monday Morning Mindset I want to talk with you about changing your thinking and your mindset. I want to come alongside of you and give you one thing each week that will lead you to believe you can change your thinking…because when you change your thinking you can and will become more successful.

So ladies and gentlemen, if that sounds interesting to you, then continue to watch the Monday Morning Mindset. If it doesn’t, there is an unsubscribe button on the bottom of every email. I don’t want you to unsubscribe, but I do respect your time and only want to provide you with content that is valuable.

I hope that you will continue to watch because if you master your mindset then you’re going to master the world of work, you’re going to master your personal life, and you’re going to master your community life. You have to get your head in the game to become supremely successful and I can help you do that.

So, that ladies and gentlemen is the Monday Morning Mindset. I hope you have a fabulous week, and I’ll see you here again next week. Take care.


The Five Strategies For Making Faster and More Effective Decisions

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Almost everyday, I work with leaders who make complex and important decisions in increasingly nuanced and demanding environments. What interferes with them making the most effective decisions is two fold. It is the leaders schedule which is oftentimes filled with back to back meetings, and more importantly it is a lack of a clear framework for making more effective decisions faster. If you want to make better decisions faster I have six strategies to help you do so. that.

Strategy 1. Be crystal clear about the desired outcome. If a leader and their team are not crystal clear about the desired outcome that stems from a decision there isn’t a snowballs chance in Hawaii that an effective decision can be made. Today I had a conversation with a leader who after hearing of a senior leaders admonition that an initiative “could not fail” asked the best and most pressing question. What does failure mean to them? How would they know we’d failed in this area? Without answers to the question about what failure means to the senior leader the propensity of employees is to try and discern what failure means. Guessing in this situation is a recipe for under performance.

Strategy 2. Communicate the decision criteria. What are the must have’s and nice to have’s of your decisions? When purchasing new uniforms one leader pointed to unit costs, quality of uniforms, delivery options and payment terms as his decision making criteria. Marrying these decision criteria with a clear process for comparing one option to another is essential. Are the terms more favorable or less favorable? How will quality be measured? How will we evaluate our current total cost with the new total cost? Keep in mind most everyone will know the what and why of decisions. What they lack is the knowledge of how decisions will be made and measured.

Strategy 3. Clarify the risks associated with a decision. In corporate America, if the risk associated with a poor decision is a loss of $500.00 the need for a clear decision framework is negligible. If the risk of a poor decision is $5,000,000, then knowing the variables that are risky and the probabilities of those risks materializing is a crucial aspect of effective decision making. This strategy requires using an if/then framework. If A happens then we will do B. The ability to think in advance about the risks of important decision allows you to mitigate the negative consequences if they occur.

Strategy 4. Involve trusted and respected people in the decision. When you surround yourself with people who are trustworthy and respected your decision effectiveness and speed increases dramatically. With a high regard for a persons talent and skill and the ability to rely on them to follow the above strategies effectively, your ability to make decisions faster goes up dramatically. One leader recounted that while his team was new in their roles and were rapidly learning the in’s and out’s of their responsibilities and departments, he trusted and respected their instincts and valued their perspectives in ways that made decision making easier.

Strategy 5. Eliminate all distractions. Making faster and more effective decisions requires jettisoning multi-tasking. While on a conference call yesterday I noticed the amount of time between me asking a question and my client giving me an answer was increasing and that the quality of his answers was decreasing. When I asked about this I learned of an important text he received and how he was having to respond while trying to maintain the quality of the conversation with me. This interaction reminded me that having uninterrupted time is a luxury for many leaders and that eliminating distractions is crucial to making the best decisions possible.

Which of these five strategies will help you make faster and more effective decisions?

Why Consensus is Killing Your Performance

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This week we are going to talk about why consensus is killing your performance.

Let’s define consensus: in the world of work consensus means we make sure everybody is in agreement about the solution to a problem before moving forward.

The only problem with consensus is that it kills your performance. Why? Because consensus is trying to minimize the issues associated with some people thinking smaller about issues while others are thinking bigger. When you think smaller you are concerned with certainty and probabilities. When you think bigger you are concerned with opportunities and possibilities. When we strive for consensus what we’re doing is we are lowering the big thinkers perspectives while trying to raise the small thinkers perspectives. We do this in the hopes of finding a middle ground everyone can agree is how to move forward. While this sounds respectful and pragmatic don’t let the idea deceive you! This type of thinking simply gets you to par. It’s not innovative, it’s not creative, it’s not something that’s going to differentiate you with your target market.

So, what do you do? You cultivate something called “Creative Abrasion.” You remind people that what’s required to create an incredibly valuable pearl is a grain of sand inside an oyster. The abrasion that the sand creates releases mother of pearl that is built up over time and creates the much sought after pearl. Creative abrasion can also be the grain of sand that will create a much sought after pearl inside your organization also.

Ladies and gentlemen I love to periodically rattle your cage. I do so in the hopes that I will creatively unsettle your current thinking and in turn create something valuable for you. I’m fired up about creative abrasion because far too often the thinking inside organizations is thinking safe and is rooted in thinking about playing not to lose as opposed to win. I think this is tragic. It’s tragic for the human psyche, it’s tragic for your customer and it’s tragic for your performance.

To accelerate performance your organization needs more creative abrasion. Done respectfully not in a way where you hit people over the head with a 2 x 4. I’m not suggesting that, but I am suggesting that there is a significant error made when you try and lower the bigger thinking inside your organization. Doing so is a magnet for creating something vanilla and undifferentiated.

Monday Morning Minute Challenge:

When you infuse creative abrasion inside your organization you create pearls. Pearls for your customer, pearls for your performance, pearls for your employees. This week find a way to infuse creative abrasion into your organization. When you do that, you’re going to have a fabulous week, and you’re going to increase performance substantially. Say goodbye to milquetoast performance!

The Antidote To Thinking Small

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This week I want to talk to you about the antidote to thinking small. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s not mince any words…when you think small, you perform small. When you think bigger, you perform bigger. When you think bigger, you have bigger results.

The antidote is really quite simple. Read the biographies of people who have accomplished something noteworthy. Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, Madeline Albright, James Madison and John Adams for example. Reading about people who have noteworthy accomplishments to their name shapes your thinking and your behavior…both of which shape and form your results.

If you want to perform at a higher level you have to infuse into your thinking the stories of people who have done noteworthy things. If you learn from then you will not have to reinvent the wheel. The one book that I am really excited about right now is a book called, “A Slave No More.” It is written in the first person by two former slaves who escaped to freedom during the civil war. That, ladies and gentlemen, will be an interesting read because people who have escaped from slavery to freedom is have something compelling to teach us.

If you want to think bigger, read bigger. If you do, you will perform at a higher level.

Hugh’s Monday Morning Challenge:

Identify one person from history that has inspired you. Read a biography about them and identify one trait or characteristic that they had that you want to emulate.

The Vacuum of People Skills and How To Fill It

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Two businessmen in business suites facing off with boxing gloves

Have you ever met, talked with or interacted with someone who after really, really frustrating you you wanted to punch them out? We all have. When you consider all of the factors that frustrate you about working with others you will undoubtedly find that it is their behavior and the corresponding way they make you feel that is the issue.

When someone’s behavior is different from ours; they like to do things quickly when we like to do things methodically, we don’t describe the other person as different we label them as difficult. And therein lies the problem for teams and leaders. When one person has a core belief that their way of doing their work should rule the day they will see the other persons way of doing their work as an impediment to them doing their best work.

There is one central message here. If you want to become a person of positive influence you will have to learn to focus on the impact your behavior has on people and not your intent with people. Impact is what determines the level of trust and respect in all professional and personal relationships. Technology has advanced at an unprecedented rate, for leaders and teams however the advances on the people side of the work has faltered like an unreliable wireless network.

Hugh’s Challenge for Today:

1. Quickly and without too much advance thinking identify the top ten things people do that really frustrate you when working with them.

2. Review your list and choose your top three most frustrating items.

3. Review your list a second time and identify the top three things other people would say frustrates them when they work with you.

4. Admit you can be as frustrating to others as other people are to you.

5. Identify one item from your lists and brainstorm one or two behaviors you will adopt that will reduce your frustration with others as well as the frustrations others may have toward you.

Step #4 above is a big step. If you can’t do step #4 the likelihood you’ll take this challenge is small.

Are you up for the challenge?

Three Strategies For Creating Your Best Year Ever

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Let me start by wishing you a belated by “Happy New Year!” I hope your holidays have been both enjoyable and rewarding.

This week I want to talk to you about your best year ever. Can you imagine your best year ever? What would that look like for you? If having 2016 become your best year ever is of interest to you this is the perfect conversation to have on January 4th.

The noted psychologist Harvell Hendricks once said regarding relationships, “we all come into relationships with high hopes and a history.” Harvell was referencing that we all want the very best for the relationship we have, but we bring in our history with others and that’s what makes our relationship troublesome.

We all are entering 2016 with high hopes and a history. Your history may preclude you from believing that the idea of having a best year ever is even possible. But, If you are attracted to finding yourself on December 31st of 2016 saying “this was a fabulous year!” there are three things we have to do.

#1. Reframe your past. You have to be able to look at the negative events in 2015 and before and say, “it may not have been ideal, but here’s how I’m going to view these events and what I’ve learned.” In choosing to focus on what is positive you become highly resilient and shapes your character in positive ways. This can be hard at times, but reframing negative experiences into positive ones is incredibly powerful and within our control.

#2. Reclaim our future. In order to have high hopes for 2016 there must be hopes, dreams, aspirations or big ideas that have grabbed hold of you and that you have said yes to. Big dreams or aspirations leave us acting like a gambler who goes all in. In that moment the conversation is “under no circumstances will I take no for an answer on this type of personal and professional life in 2016. This is the life I am claiming.” When you do this there’s no way out and there is no backdoor. When you say, “I will accomplish this.” you have reclaimed the idealized 2016 you have in mind.

3. Recalibrate your present. Recalibrating your present requires discerning what things you should not do again in 2016 and what things you absolutely should do again. This strategy requires recalibrating what worked and what didn’t work over the course of the last year. What was something that accelerated your performance? What created hope for you, and what created anxiety? Identify the areas of your present that will get in your way and do whatever you can to reduce them or eliminate them. Find those things that are going to help you create greater growth and really double down on them.

If you reframe your past, reclaim your future and recalibrate your present you can have the best year ever.

Hugh’s Monday Morning Challenge:

The most revolutionary act you can ever take is to claim the life you want and to move toward it with faith, confidence and a deep sense of resolve. Today, articulate the life you want to claim and share it with the one person you trust and respect the most. By bringing this ideal life fully into the light of day you are resolving to live your best year ever.