Friday, October 31, 2008

No Relatives and Candy Out the Wazzoo!

You know what I love about Halloween? No relatives and candy out the wazoo! Ya gotta love any holiday like that.

Yesterday was one of those days that started wonderfully, took a nosedive that was a surprise, and ended up great. I had tricks AND treats.

Yesterday morning, as I was waiting to present my seminar, I was reading a couple of paragraphs from John C. Maxwell's, Your Road Map for Success Workbook. He was talking about getting knocked down and quoted a guy as saying, "I'm either up, or getting up."

Later in the day, as I was going through the challenge, I thought about that quote and realized that it was, and is, a wonderful philosophy of life. "I'm either up, or getting up."

Maxwell is one of my favorite modern philosophers. He's the speaker/writer who said, "Your probability of success is based on your willingness to have difficult conversations."

Sometimes being "up" or "getting up" involves having some of those "difficult conversations." I've said that for a long time, but I'm just now starting to truly understand the reality of how difficult those conversations can be. A wise woman recently said to me, "it's amazing how powerful we are and how powerless."

We are responsible for the power, or lack of it, in each instance.

After my nosedive/challenge yesterday I had to have a couple of difficult conversations....and you know what?....they turned out great.

Sometimes the worst part of "getting up" is the worry part.

I think the key to moving through challenges is a lot like the dynamics of Halloween. It's dark, it's scary, and sometimes we don't know who is going to open the door when we knock. But, if we have the courage to walk up the steps and knock, it usually turns out great.

Have a Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Walk It Off!

Rob Sweetgall has walked across America 7 times. He is an absolute apostle to the glories of walking.

What does that have to do with a Perfect Workday? Sweetgall told me that walking is a contra-lateral movement. It means we move our limbs parallel to each other and in opposite directions. Well, what on earth does THAT have to do with having a Perfect Workday?!

It means that the activity pushes more oxygen into your brain. Walking can calm you down, energize you, be the generator of new ideas and serve as a moving meeting.

President Harry Truman used to talk to reporters on daily walks and moved at a pace that would leave men half his age bent over and panting.

Walk before work, at lunch, on breaks or after work. Encourage a walking program at your workplace.

Walking and swimming are the two most popular forms of low-impact exercise…and can you visualize some of your coworkers in bathing suits? Not a pretty sight. Stick with walking.

As President Truman once said, “Everyone should take their dog for a walk every day, even if they don’t have a dog.”

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tight Times Are Great Times for Low-Cost Rewards

Sorry about missing yesterday; was out of town.

Yesterday I was in a restaurant and saw a great example of a low-cost reward. A waitress..mmm...waitperson?...or, should it be wait-individual? or, food attendant?

Sorry, the political correctness virus catches up with me sometimes.

Anyway, a waitress had done a great job with a couple and the manager had evidently observed the service. I heard the manager praise the person, and watched as the waitress' face beamed.

Tight times--anytime, for that matter--is a good time for low-cost rewards.

A great strategy for getting people to do things for you—which leads to a more Perfect Workday—is finding and using the rewards that show appreciation or serve as motivational tools. But if you are going to reward people on a regular basis you’ll be better off to look for low-cost rewards.
There are six categories of low-cost rewards that often work:
1. Say, “Thank You.” Find as many ways as possible to say, “Thank you.” Most surveys of what people want for recognition show that once they understand that you can’t always give big raises they want recognition. You can do it verbally or you can write a thank you note and mail or email it, although face-to-face is always best.
2. Show respect by asking their advice. If the person is an outstanding worker ask how they do what they do. Also, ask if they know how to make things better in your organization and follow up on what they tell you.
3. Spotlighting. In essence, this technique is about bragging on the person in public. Say good things about them in front of their co-workers, to management, to their families. Find ways to put the person in the spotlight in reports. Get them in the newspaper. One real estate near the North Carolina coast puts their lead sales rep’s picture on a billboard.
4. Stuff. A well-known strategy of giving stuff can include hats, t-shirts, sports apparatus, toys, pens, tools, pins or anything the person will see as valuable.
5. Money and Time. Small cash rewards, $5 or $10, can be a surprise reward for a job well done. Or, instead of cash give movie, theatre, concert or sports tickets. Hire a babysitter for the person. If you can’t or don’t give money try giving time. Some people had rather have an afternoon off than a comparable amount of money.
6. Fun. Find more ways to have fun at work. Have a funny tie day, a joke day or a wild shirt day. Bring ice cream and toppings to work in the summer or cook a big pot of soup or chili in the winter.

Great Resource: 1001 Ways to Reward Employees, Bob Nelson

Monday, October 27, 2008

Be Cranky Today

Today is National Cranky Co-workers Day!

Sooner or later we run into a co-worker who is having one of those days. Unfortunately, some folks seem to be having one of those days every day.

The best thing to do with someone having a bad day is to steer clear of them, if possible. I know, I know, some of you think, "But maybe I can make them happy."

No, people are about as happy as they are going to be when they roll out of bed. President Abraham Lincoln said that.

But, OK. I'm willing to give it a shot. If you run into a co-worker who seems cranky today, ask if there is anything you can do. Maybe they just want someone to listen.

However, if they tend to be one of those people who seem to have a permanent case of crankiness, pass them by. Crankiness is a type of negativity, and they can infect you, just like passing on a virus.

I'm all for having a National Cranky Co-Worker day, but not if it turns into an epidemic.

This should be called National Steer Clear of Cranky Co-Workers Day.

Have a big week!

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Barrel Over the Falls!

Today is the anniversary of the first person to go over Niagra Falls in a barrel and live.

Annie Edson Taylor was a 63 year-old former dance teacher and was looking for fame and fortune. She used a 160-pound barrel in 1901 to accomplish the feat. No one tried it again until 1911.

You have to imagine what was going through Annie's mind just as the barrel sailed off the foam and into the air. It had to be somewhat like what will be going through the minds of at least one of the two young people who will get married this weekend at a wedding I'm attending. It's that, "Is this the right thing to do?"

Any time we try new things there is the potential for that, "Uh, oh," feeling. It's fear, and fear is a natural reaction to change. Fear has kept humans alive throughout our evolution, so it's not bad, it's a good thing.

Not long ago a smart person asked me, "What do you fear?" I keep thinking about that. In the tight financial times we are experiencing the greatest fear for most is the fear of loss of security (as if we are ever truly secure).

When you are contemplating a change ask yourself, "What do I fear?" Then ask, "What's the worst that could happen?" If the potential downside is something you could live with, why not try?

Living the life you imagine for yourself, if it is different at all from what you are living now, involves change, big or small.

If the upside outweighs the downside, why not try? Annie Edson Taylor tried and gained the fame she sought. Over a century later the people in Niagara Falls, New York, celebrate her.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Are You Trying to Do Too Much?

Are you trying to do too much? Do you look in dismay at your To-Do List at the end of each day, looking at all the things that didn’t get done?

If this sounds like you then a couple of things are going on. First, you are probably over-scheduling. In our society there is a seductive quality to believing that you can get it all done. Unfortunately, we schedule so many things that there is no way it can happen.

Second, you are not anticipating what you have to do you are just reacting to each thing that pops up in life or on your list. That is why I’m trying to get you to look over your list first thing a few times during the day. Your mind will subconsciously work on some of the challenges for but you have to give your brain a heads up.

The third issue is that you’re not saying No enough.

Allow me to make a politically incorrect comment. My experience has been that women are worse about this than men because a lot of women believe that if they say No to something, “I’m a bad mother, bad friend, bad daughter, bad grandmother—bad whatever.” My wife says that is the Superwoman Complex, and to give up the cape.

I have a little different theory about the issue. I believe that a lot of women essentially train the people around them to keep asking for time and effort. The people become emotionally dependent on those women because the women don’t say No every now and then. The truth is probably a combination of the two theories.

I would suggest that you look for tactful ways to say to people, “I would love to be able to take that on, but right now here is my plate is pretty full.” Can you say that in your personal life? In your work life you may want to try to find a way to say “Great. That sounds good. Now I’ve got all these other things due. Help me figure out which of these things I can take off my plate so I can bring this other thing on.” Get them to help you prioritize. If you can do that you can help them become a better manager.

There is a wonderful book, 1001 Ways to Say, "No!" You might want to track it down.

Trying to much is very..mmm...trying. Getting a few things done well is better than trying to get a lot of things done in a mediocre way.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why Work?

Have you ever stopped to think about why you work?

Sounds like a silly question to some people..."Of course, I have to work because I have bills to pay." Some folks go a little farther and talk about the satisfaction, working with others, advancing a greater good...some even talk about the fun, although admittedly, they are, unfortunately, in the minority.

For every person there is a reason for working. What's yours?

I certainly understand financial realities, especially in these times of uncertainty. But, knowing why you work gets you through the difficult times.

The Buddhists talk about the concept of "Right Livelihood." The concept has more to do with your work being something that helps the world be a more positive place.

However, I look at the phrase from a more practical angle. Is your work "Right" for you? Is it something that maximizes your talents, skills, interests, and desires. Even if you don't take off tomorrow to run a dogsled team in Alaska just because you think that that's what you should be doing the exercise of asking yourself, "Why?," is a healthy one.

And remember, if you are having a tough week, today is Wednesday, Hump Day. If you can make it to lunchtime it's a downhill slide to the weekend.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Man Who Made BOOOOM!

Today is the 175 birthday of Alfred Bernhard Nobel (1833-1896), who, in his will, left much of his enormous fortune to institute the Nobel Prizes.

In case you didn’t know, Nobel was also the creator of dynamite. He discovered that by combining nitroglycerine and diatomaceous earth (an easily crumbling rock similar to pumice) the resulting product was safer and more convenient to handle.

It is commonly believed that the erroneous publication in 1888 of a premature obituary of Nobel by a French newspaper, condemning him for his invention of dynamite, is said to have brought about his decision to leave a better legacy after his death. The obituary stated Le marchand de la mort est mort ("The merchant of death is dead") and went on to say, "Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday."

Biographers believe the one personal trait of Nobel that helped him to sharpen his creativity was his talent for information access, via his multi-lingual skills. In short, Nobel sought information sources and asked more and better questions.

Do you ask more and better questions every day? Try the exercise below to bring you more information, cut down dramatically on erroneous assumptions and miscommunications, and increase creativity.

From this day forward, if you are in a meeting, write these seven questions down the left-hand side of your notes: What? Why? Who? Where? When? How? How Much?

Make sure you have answers to those questions before you leave the meeting and/or use the questions to spur creativity. I promise you will have fewer of those, “Duh?” moments.

And sometime today wish Dr. Nobel a happy BOOOOOOOOOM!

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Second Kid Had It Right

Five years ago I took on the role of president of the alumni association for my college fraternity. Unfortunately, the chapter had turned into something like Animal House without the laughs. A short time before we shut down the chapter and sold the fraternity house one of the members said to some alums, “You guys could come in and get us motivated to change.” One of the more mature young men replied, “If we can’t motivate ourselves maybe we don’t deserve what we have.”

Thirty years ago in their song, Heroes, The Commodores sang, “Looking back in time we are in debt to the leaders, angels of mercy every one.” Like the young guys in the fraternity we are looking for the angel of mercy, the leader who will lead the way out of the wilderness. It seems that in three decades we would have learned the lesson the second young guy already knew.

We are the ones who have spent ourselves into the worst saving nation in the developed world. We have elected a congress more interested in pork than the folks at Barbecue Lodge or Bill’s. We demand freebies that candidates are more than happy to promise in exchange for votes. We pay more attention to how candidates look and sound on television than to what they do or do not say.

The key to the future is in the second line of The Commodores’ song about Heroes, “…if you look in the soul of everyone they can be found.” As Americans, we know what needs to be done, we just haven’t been very good at it lately. While we need leaders courageous enough to tell us what we don’t want to hear and to lead us where we don’t want to go, we already know. Whomever we elect in two weeks, it really isn’t up to them.

The second kid had it right.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Bean Art At Its Finest

Today is the first full day of the North Carolina State Fair! Yeah! Cotton candy, Emu burgers, ice cream, midway games and rides, agricultural exhibits and contests....ahhhhh, the smell of fresh manure.

I believe that every citizen of a state should attend their state fair at least once ever 3-5 years. The trip is one of those events that kids remember all their lives. My strongest memory of a state fair trip is the one where my younger brother, Joe, got lost (I don't remember the particulars, I think we were somewhere around 14 and 12). Our mother panicked but when we returned to the fair to find him he was calmly sitting on the grass at a rest area drinking a Coke. He had run out of money and found a dime and bought a drink. When Mama asked why he didn't call our friends' house to tell us where he was he said, "I was thirsty and knew you'd show up sooner or later."

My favorite part of the fair is the craft exhibits. No kidding. No matter what year, some kid from Ayden or Bear Grass or Climax or Fletcher will have created a map of North Carolina using every variety of bean grown in the state. I love that!

Think about it; for months a piece of plywood has been lying on newspapers spread out on the the dining room table. It's surrounded by bowls of dry beans, glue, a map of the state, pencils, and the spray stuff that will secure the beans and make them shine. The kid's mother has been bragging to everyone at work, church and in the neighborhood about the project. Dad thinks it's all a little silly but he's not saying that if he's got any sense. A little brother or sister has knocked the bean bowls off about every other day and has now been told to stay away from the dining room. The kid has been hurrying to finish school work every night so he/she can work on the bean art. Weekends have been consumed with the project. When the family transported the bean art to Raleigh they did it with as much care as the Secret Service uses to transport the Constitution.

And the piece wins a ribbon! It doesn't have to be a blue ribbon, any ribbon will do. So now the family can return home triumphant!

In the movie, "The Replacements," Gene Hackman is the coach of a team of replacement football players during a strike. He tells his players, "Glory once won never leaves a man." However silly you might think the bean art might be the kid will never forget he won. And winning once sets the stage for winning again. And that can mean a successful life.

Whatever you've won at, glory in it. Use the fact that you have won as a step to a little bit bigger win. Or, to a really big win. Everyone, at some time in their life has been a winner. Take that and run with it.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pull Up! Lay Down!

Yesterday in the Raleigh News and Observer a columnist lambasted the people who steal political signs from supporters yards. Seems that most of the signs stolen were Obama signs so the finger pointed at McCain supporters, but she did point out that some McCain signs were being stolen, too.

While I would never endorse thievery...well...unless you're in a fraternity and that beer cooler was unlocked and..well...ok, that's a story for another day.

But, here's my point; these little stick-in-the-ground signs are a blight on the land. I think the world of my friends in real estate but the little roadside signs are trash.

A couple of years ago when the real estate sign trend took off I wrote a letter to the editor of the News and Observer suggesting a strategy for beautification. It's called the PULD Strategy. They never had the courage to print it (it wouldn't make the real estate people happy), so here it is.

Here's how it works; you don't steal the sign. I mean, that would be...stealing. You simply Pull the sign Up, and Lay it Down. Pull Up, Lay Down...PULD.

Yes, signs laying on the ground are trashy looking. But that's the point. Once we get enough PULD signs on the ground the people who use them will recognize that that type of media doesn't work anymore and they'll move on to something else. Like maybe tattooing peoples' foreheads. But we'll worry about that when it happens.

So, try the PULD Strategy. If you see some signs on a corner, pull over in a nearby parking lot, walk to the signs and PULD a few. I've done it and it makes you feel wonderful.

It's almost like having some control over life and the folks who believe they run the world.

PULDers of the World! Unite!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Today's the Day!

I had a great message in mind about stealing political and real estate signs but there is too much good stuff going on today for that. As one of my heroes, Scarlett O'Hara would say, "I'll think about that tomorrow."

Here's the lineup for celebrations today:

National Grouch Day. Go into work today and ask someone, "What the hell are you smiling about?" When they bust out crying tell them it's National Grouch Day. Don't offer a tissue.

The Circleville Pumpkin Show starts today in Circleville, Ohio. More than 100,000 pounds of pumpkin, squash and gourds; attended by over 300,000 people. Those Ohioans love their gourds.

The East Texas Yamboree starts in Gilmore, Texas. Attendance, over 100,000. Yeeee, haaaaa!

Wishbones for Pets (Oct 15-Nov30)...pet sitters do food and fund drives for their favorite pet charities. What is tan and red and goes 90 miles an hour? A Chihuahua in a blender.

The anniversary of the first manned flight. Jean Francois Pilatre de Rozier and Francois Laurent, Marquis d'Arlandes, became the first people to fly when they ascended in a Montgolfier hot-air balloon in Paris. Think about it, the French in hot-air balloons...and no one with a slingshot.

Premiere of "I Love Lucy" in 1951. Did you ever wonder if Ricky had a thing for Ethel?

Support Your Local Chamber of Commerce Day. Those folks do good work. Call your local chamber and thank them for making your town sound better than it probably is.

White Cane Safety Day. Oooops!

Mata Hari Execution Day. In 1917, history's most famous spy was executed by a firing squad. She refused a blindfold and blew a kiss to her executioners. Ya gotta admit, that takes......mmm...ok, well, some women have'em, too.

Cool Birthdays:
John Kenneth Galbraith would have been 100 today. Author, professor and economic advisor to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Galbraith had a great take on the economics of American society. He busted the military/industrial complex and smacked American consumers for being too simple-minded and lacking in community values.

Friedrich Neitzsche was the German philosopher who said, "Whatever does not kill us makes us stronger." Which led to a great next line in the movie, Blazing Saddles. Basic philosophic premise was contempt for the weak and the ultimate triumph of a superman. (He was probably a Duke alum and basketball fan) Died in 1900 a decade after suffering a mental breakdown. See there, lookin' down on the weak gotcha, didn't it Fred?

P.G. Wodehouse was an English writer and humorist. Born in 1881, Wodehouse's main character was Jeeves the English butler. Jeeves' take on the prewar upper class was dry, spot-on (as the English say) and the basis of a lot of the English humor we experience. However, I'll take lots of Monty Python and a dollop of Benny Hill any day.

NOW, GET BACK TO WORK!! That's my best grouch for the day. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Happy Birthday, President Eisenhower!

On October 14, 1890, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas.

In addition to being an American hero Eisenhower was a master of preparation. As the commander of American forces in Europe during WWII he asked that reporters submit questions in writing before any news conference. The practice allowed Eisenhower to prepare answers that were short, fact-filled, and succinct. Reporters loved him and he was characterized as efficient, effective, and in total command.

Later, as president, Eisenhower’s news conferences were much like what we see today; lots of spur-of-the-moment questions shouted in a style that rewards quick thinking but allows little preparation. Almost immediately after his election Eisenhower was characterized by the same media that had covered him during the war as slow-witted, uncommunicative, and ill-suited to the Oval Office.

Eisenhower was the same person he simply did not have the same opportunity to prepare that he had as a general.

Winging it is fine in some situations, but if you want a Perfect Workday you’ve got to do your homework.

And by the way, this is also the anniversary of the breaking of the sound barrier for the first time (1947) by Chuck Yeager in the Bell X-1. Yeager named the plane, “Glamorous Glennis,” after his wife.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Grab the Day...and Life, You Want!

If you follow sports, especially in the Southeast, you know that my Tar Heels beat Notre Dame on Saturday. As the evening and game wore on I was SURE the refs were going to steal it from us. But, no, at the end it was all good and all Carolina Blue. Thanks for indulging me.

For almost a year I 've been looking forward to the program I'm presenting today. The NC Department of Labor is again hosting a conference in the Research Triangle Park and lasts year's conference was a blast! They've been kind enough to ask me back and I'm going to talk about "10 Secrets to Grabbing a Great Life."

Let's talk about grabbing.

“To seize suddenly, eagerly or to roughly snatch,” is how Webster’s New World Dictionary defines grab or grabbing.

If you are going to have a Perfect Workday you are going to have to grab it. Since the Industrial Age society has successfully conditioned most workers to walk into work every day like zombies, trade hours of their lives for money and then waddle home to a life filled with stuff television convinced them to spend their money on. And as long as they keep buying business keeps humming and everyone continues to have a place to go to work every day.

I know that sounds cynical, but look around. Many of the strategies for having a Perfect Workday go against the grain of the previous paragraph. Decide what you want your Perfect Workday to be like and then make a choice to make it happen. The simple fact that you are making a choice sets you apart from the vast majority of your co-workers.

If you want to read a wild spin on the world of work find The 4-Hour Workweek, by Timothy Ferris.

Grab!

Friday, October 10, 2008

It's a Big Friday!

I know this is supposed to be about work but this weekend is too big to keep quiet any longer. If you don’t like sports then sign off right now and I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Here’s the deal: My Tar Heels are playing the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday in Chapel Hill. The last time we saw the Emerald and Gold in Chapel Hill was 33 years ago. I was at the game and watched us lead until late in the game when the Irish sent in an unheralded freshman who led them to victory. His name was, and is, Joe Montana.

Notre Dame is not having a great year but anytime the winningest college football program comes to town it’s a big deal. According to some reputable sources this is the most sought-after Carolina football ticket in the last 30 years.

Here’s what all this has to do with The Perfect Workday. All work and no play…well, you know the rest. You have to have some interests outside of work that get your heart pumping.

My biggest outside interest is Carolina Football. The basketball program will always win at least 20 games and go to the NCAAs. We have a great chance to win a national championship this year…but to tell the honest truth I’d be more excited if we win 9 football games and go to a bowl.

If you want to catch me this Saturday afternoon watch NBC at 3:30. I’ll be the one wearing blue and cheering.

So, here’s my prediction…hold onto your hat…Carolina 41 Notre Dame 10. If you’re gonna wish, you might as well wish big.

Go Heels!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Early Bird Gets Shot!

Woke up this morning at 4 am, wide awake. You have to understand, I am NOT a morning person. But as I have gotten older it seems that I need less sleep, seem to sleep more deeply, and awaken earlier.

I'm trying to put the extra time to use (like writing the blog) by working on a book, doing paperwork, and reading. So, the extra time is a boon, but I still don't like the idea of being up this early.

Are you a morning person, or an afternoon and evening person? Psychologists call morning people "Larks," and afternoon and evening people "Owls."

The scientific name for this phenomenon is "circadian rhythms." They are the energy rhythms of our days. The slang term is "Prime Time." When is your Prime Time?

One of the keys to having a Perfect Workday is to work within your rhythms. If you are planning a meeting that might be stressful try to plan it for your Prime Time. You think and plan more effectively during your Prime Time. Save some of that onerous organization (putting away files, straightening your office or home) for energy down times when you don't really need to think.

Understanding what your energy flow is like and matching tasks to energy is a great way to have a more Perfect Workday.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Are These Really Fleas?!

During a break in my seminar yesterday I snuck away and made a new friend. Long blond hair, soulful eyes, no-questions-asked affection.

Unfortunately, it is doubtful that I will ever see her again.

Probably a good thing, too....she gave me fleas.

I was at the beautiful conference center at Bryan Park in Greensboro presenting a day-long program for the NC Association of CPAs. At a break I walked outside and met a beautiful dog. No tag so I don't have a clue what her name was. She was wonderfully affectionate and I had a great time petting her.

On the way home I started itching. Fortunately, by this morning the itching was gone.

The encounter made me realize that our meetings with a lot of people are similar. We get a lot out of the situation but there may be one or two things that don't click with us...that make us itch. If we concentrate on the good things and understand that there will often be a few things that we wish were different, but aren't, we can maximize our relationship with them.

I have a few aquaintances, friends and associates who have fleas. I'm going to try and start looking beyond the fleas and focusing on the good stuff.

Have a great day.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Top Tip for Tuesday

It's 5:30 am and I hate getting up early!

Am on the way to Greensboro for an all day seminar.

So, here's your quick tip for Tuesday: Ask yourself, "Where will I be 3-5 years from now?" When you get an answer...you did get an answer other than, "the same place I am now," didn't you?...ask yourself this, "What steps can I take today that will get me closer to my 3-5 year goal?"

Taking small steps each day helps you make sure that you are where you want to be in the long term. One....small...step....each...day.

My one small step is out the door right now!

Monday, October 6, 2008

I Just Know!

Welcome to Monday!

What type of week will you have? Have you already gotten yourself kinda cranked up because you expect a good/bad week? Has that feeling led you to...well...feel good or bad?

When making decisions we can easily take ourselves down the wrong road with "confirmation bias." We confirm in our minds that a situation is going to turn out a specific way because we "just know."

Jim Porto, the executive director of the Executive Masters Program at UNC-Chapel Hill's School of Public Health, has been helping me understand what keeps us from making good decisions. He has come up with an acronym, CAT MAGIC, that signifies the eight areas in which we make mistakes. I'll be exploring them during the next few days.

Plato described Confirmation Bias as "the acquisition and maintainance a belief (or, at least, the avowal of that belief) in the face of strong evidence to the contrary." In essence, it is self-deception.

How many times do we act on a long-held belief about other people or situations only to find that we were wrong. How often does self-deception keep us from living magnificent lives.

Look ahead into your week and ask yourself, "What am I making an assumption about (you've decided to think a certain way) based on a belief that I might have little or no evidence to prove the belief?"

Your week could turn out to be so much more wonderful if you didn't make the decision based on a faulty assumption.

More about CAT MAGIC later.

Have a great week!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Go Animal House!

If you’ve seen the movie Animal House (and if you haven’t put this book down right now and go rent it!) you know that the Deltas’ answer to any challenge to their fraternity was….action! The dean puts them on double-secret probation so what do they do? Road trip! Get their charter revoked what do they do? Terrorize the homecoming parade!

While I don’t condone their methods I love their bias for action.

The ability to take action, to get started…on anything… is power at work.

Let’s go to science class for just a moment. According to any resource about Sir Isaac Newton his first law of motion is, “An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by an external and unbalanced force. An object in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by an external and unbalanced force.”

In your Perfect Day evidence of Newton’s First Law can be found in you and your co-workers, clients and family. Unless you apply some external force (i.e. motivation, rewards, punishments) it can be hard to get yourself and others moving to get anything done.

However, the great thing about the First Law is the second sentence. Once you get moving it is much easier to keep moving.

Whatever it takes to get yourself moving, do it! Get Started!

Take small bites of a big project, do one thing a day, go for a short walk instead of running a mile, make one phone call. Just as in health and fitness the ELMO Rule (Every Little Movement) works.

And remember, nothing gets done on the back row. I present seminars and when some of the early arrivers go straight to the back row I pull them forward. Sitting on the back row encourages disengagement. Some of them use the silly excuse, “We’re Baptists, we always sit on the back pew.” As a minister once told me, “Nothing good happens on the back pew.”

Take a tip from the Deltas, get moving.

If you don't have plans for the weekend go out and rent Animal House. It's hard to watch that movie and not want to do something a little wild. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Do You Hear What I Hear?

I love the Christmas carol that starts, "Do you hear what I hear?" And I realize it's a little early to celebrate Christmas so let's talk about what you hear.

Think about this: Listening is the cheapest concession you can make in a relationship or a negotiation. When we listen to others it tells them we respect them and care about what they have to say.

Don't just hear people, actively listen to them.

There is a wonderful active listening model, The CARESS Method.

Concentrate on what the other person says.
Acknowledge that they are talking to you. Give them a nod and a smile as they talk.
Research means asking questions to clarify.
Exercise emotional control. Listen to what people say not how they say it.
Sense the non-verbal.
Structure means listening for the most important point. Do they tell you the most important thing up front or do they wander around before getting to the point.

Active listening can be hard work but it is worth it. Don't just hear people. Listen to them.