Be Where Your Feet Are

Be Where Your Feet Are

TOO OFTEN we are busy looking for the next thing. The problem is our experiences tend to be shallow. We miss out on the richness of being in the moment. To counteract this, we try to find balance. But balance doesn’t create greatness.

The solution is not balance, says sports executive Scott O’Neil in Be Where Your Feet Are. The answer is to make “the most of each moment and ridding ourselves of the toxic habit of constantly looking forward to the next thing.” Finding balance is “like aspiring to be in the middle.” On the other hand, “being resent, focused, committed, and hardworking at home and at work is the path to finding success and fulfillment.”

To that end, O’Neil offers, through the use of stories both personal and from scores of others, seven principles to keep you present, grounded and thriving. The stories and the grounding principle he draws from them really make each of these seven principles come to life. I offer one of the insights from each.

#1 Be Where Your Feet Are

With so many distractions, it is harder today than ever to be where your feet are. It has also never been more important.
I don’t believe the good life is about finding balance between work and home. It’s about living the moments we have where and when we have them.

To be more present, O’Neil offers a four-part process:

Find Perspective “Perspective is the foundation on which we build a life where we can be where our feet are.”
Seek Authentic Feedback “How you live is truly a choice. What you’re going to do and who you are going to do it with, those are choices only you can make.”
Cultivate Reflective Strength “Our ability to have more meaning is right here in front of us, but so are the distractions, and too often the distractions rule the day.”
Live Your Leadership Constitution “Committing in writing to life and a way of living matters. Whether we have family rules or values, whether we have a morning mantra or a leadership constitution, we need guideposts in our lives. We need reinforcement in terms of what we stand for, what matters, and what we prioritize, and through those things we can be where our feet are when it counts.”

#2 Change The Race

In those times when we feel stuck, unable to get out of the funk we are in, we need to change the race:

Recognize That You Have a Choice to Change Your Situation
Run Toward the Storm Instead of Away from It “I’ve already spent too much time in the gray. I choose to throw all of my emotion and soul into everything I do because it should all matter. It should matter because the alternative is that you have no life or hope or joy or future.”
Find Your Center with The Help of People You Care About and Who Care About You

The most critical things to keep in mind include knowing when you need to change the race you are running and not shutting down—remember that isolation is your kryptonite when things are going badly. Engage people in your life and do not let ego or pride get it the way of good decision-making or getting help.

#3 WMI – What’s Most Important

The world is filled with universe moments, which is when things happen for a reason and people, places, and events seemingly drop into your life with purpose.
Today the world moves faster and there seems to be more chaos than calm, it’s likely worth exploring your own centering force—whether that’s faith, church, prayer, meditation, running, yoga, or anything else that helps enhance your level of peace, increase your level of calm and provide a more centered life.

#4 Fail Forward

Failure is a better teacher than success. Failure is a more effective teacher than success. It’s rarely enjoyable, but it is critically important to be a student of life.
Stop competing, stop pressing so hard, and start opening yourself up to people and learning. Stop trying to prove what you know and begin to express that you’re intellectually curious. Be interested versus interesting.

#5 Be The Purple Water Buffalo

Be an extraordinary teammate. Hold the team above self.
The purple water buffalo attitude can also be summarized in this expression: if there is a piece of paper on the ground, bend over and pick it up.
We have to solve problems when we see them. Don’t wait. If something goes south, fix it.

#6 Assume Positive Intent

What if you assumed positive intent from those with whom you connect, no matter how many alternative and less generous assumptions were possible?
Why? Because we often have preconceived notions about what other people are thinking and what their intentions are, and typically these preconceived notions are negative. More importantly, they are at best clouded and at worst wrong, and they always impact your ability to be effective.

#7 Trust The Process

In a world dominated by instant gratification and obsessed by the spotlight of now, Trust the Process is the commitment that you will keep the long-term view at the forefront of your planning and decision-making. Trust the Process is about understanding the mistake and taking the time to revisit what went wrong and why, and then leverage that information to get smarter and make better decisions in the future.

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Eat Slep Work Repeat

SSTRESS is a given in our lives. Not all of it is bad. For most of us it comes and goes, but for about 25% of us, it is a severe and constant reality according to one NPR/Harvard study. Many are experiencing anxiety leading to burnout at increasingly higher rates.

There is something we can do to put joy back into our work. To that end, Bruce Daisley, a former VP at Twitter, offers 30 hacks for bringing joy to your job in Eat Sleep Work Repeat.

Daisley draws on insights from a range of researcher and experts to identify three themes for creating happier work environments:

Recharge

Twelve simple hacks to restore energy, enthusiasm, and creativity. The fundamental problem is that we simply aren’t practicing behaviors that recharge us. And it shows. Several suggestions include:

Try Going for a Walking Meeting. When we get our blood pumping through our bodies, there is evidence to suggest that walking rather than sitting will clear our heads and increase our creativity by up to 60%.

Eliminate Hurry Sickness. Constant business doesn’t equal achieving more. Calibrate urgency. “On the next occasion, you find yourself asking for something urgently, ask yourself whether you really do need it ASAP. If you can make some things less urgent, you’re being more honest with yourself and helping to create a better working environment for everyone else.” Take time to reflect.

Turn Off Your Notifications and Have a Digital Sabbath. Set up microboundaries to make technology work for you. Avoid weekend e-mails and work. Cal Newport says, “The modern work environment is actively hostile to Deep Work. I think the way that we’re approaching knowledge work we’re going to look back at in maybe fifteen years from now and say hat was disastrously unproductive.” We don’t know how to use the technology we have.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep is “better than any other performance-enhancing intervention.” If you think you need to burn the midnight oil to get more done, consider that “you’re more likely to get where you need to be after eight hours sleep.”

Sync

Eight strategies that will bring trust and connection to your team, enhancing your powers of collaboration and building your collective intelligence. Several of the ways to improve team culture:

Move the Coffee Machine. The secret to building Sync is to get people talking together. Help people come together by design.

Create a Social Meeting. People experience Sync best in social situations. “Social time turns out to be deeply critical to team performance, often accounting for more than 50 percent of positive changes in communication patterns.”

Laugh. “The looseness of thought that laughter provokes triggers our creative juices, encouraging free association of ideas.” A lack of laughter may signal that something is wrong on the team.

Know when to Leave People Alone. Getting a team involved in a project too soon can be counterproductive. But we all need feedback and discussion to perform better. So there is a balance. “Sync is about people working together in harmony—but no amount of Sync will change the power of individuals applying gray matter to difficult problems alone. Creativity is about thinking and then discussion—a team in Sync will make sure it’s doing both.”

Buzz

Ten ways to get your team to a “buzz” state—a sense of engagement and positive energy. Positive Affect (our inclination to experience the world in a positive way) + Psychological Safety = Buzz. How can we bring Buzz into our workplace?

Frame Work as a Problem You’re Solving. If we frame the challenge as a problem we all need to solve, we learn faster and together. “Frame the work as a learning problem, not as an execution problem,” and “introduce a clear sense of uncertainty into the room.”

Focus on the Issue, Not the People. If you provide incentives to cooperate, employees will share information and train others, but if you pit people against one another, they will naturally think only of themselves. It comes as no surprise that “workplaces that put too much emphasis on individual performance find themselves achieving worse results.” Again, there is a balance. “Remove the personal element and encourage people to focus on the work at hand than the individuals involved.”

Replace Presenting with Reading. While awkward at first, consider beginning each meeting by reading a document prepared for subsequent discussion. It can level the playing field. “Teams that have a more equal distribution of communication tend to have higher collective intelligence because you’re hearing from everybody, we’re getting information and input, and effort from everybody is they’re all contributing.” Successful teams are good at reading the nonverbal responses of others and adapting their behavior accordingly.

Relax. “One reason why Buzz so often seems to be beyond our grasp is that we’re not good at being ourselves.” A good sense of humor goes a long way to create positive affect and psychological safety. “Researchers found that “those who laughed together were significantly more likely to share intimate details with one another, and to be closer to their real selves, than those in a nonlaughing control group.”

While it’s true that for the vast majority of us, we can’t make these ideas company-wide policy, or control every demand placed upon us, we resort far too easily to blaming our circumstances on our company. We can do a lot for ourselves by approaching what we do differently. With a little personal responsibility and resourcefulness, most of these helpful hacks are within our grasp. Even a few of them would go a long way to improving our disposition.

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All You Have to Do Is Ask

All You Have to Do Is Ask

IF WE ARE HONEST with ourselves, we know there are times we need help. We just don’t want to ask for it. We’re confident we can figure it out. In time.

But here’s the thing. There’s nothing we are going through or trying to figure out that others haven’t blazed a trail for us already. We just need to ask.

Wayne Baker says, “you never know what people know—or who they know—until you ask. Asking for help can mean the difference between success and failure.” In All You Have to Do Is Ask he identifies eight reasons why we don’t or won’t ask. As a result, we leave a lot of answers, solutions and resources on the table for no good reason. And here are eight no good reasons:

We underestimate other people’s willingness and ability to help
We over-rely on self-reliance
We perceive there to be social costs of seeking help
Our work culture lacks psychological safety
The systems, procedures, or structure of our organization get in our way
We don’t know what to request or how to request it
We worry we haven’t earned the privilege of asking for help
We fear seeming selfish

That last reason—the fear of seeming selfish—relates to the proverb that it’s better to give than receive. That’s true. We want to be givers, but that doesn’t make receiving a bad thing. “There’s no giving without receiving, and there is no receiving without giving. And it’s the request that starts the wheel turning.”

Baker offers a quick scientific assessment in the book (or online) to determine what style of asking/giving you tend to choose. And it is a choice. Are you an overgenerous giver, a selfish taker, a lone wolf, or a giver-requester? These types al represent “choices you can make about how you want to operate in the world.”

Asking Giving Scale

The place to begin is to understand and articulate your needs. Know what you are trying to accomplish and when. With that in mind, formulate a SMART request. That is a Specific (“a specific request yields more help than a vague one”), Meaningful (“Why is the request important to you?”), Action-oriented (What action do you want to be taken?), Realistic (it may be a serious long-shot, but within the realm of possibility), and Time-bound (“ every request should have a due date”) request.

After you have formulated your request, you need to figure out who to ask. Who knows what you need to know or who you need to talk to? Go outside your usual circle of contacts. Then ASK. And a good piece of advice: “Rejection is just an opinion. And opinions change. In other words, you can find ways to turn a no into a yes.”

Baker offers much more specific advice and examples throughout but let me mention two tools that have proven effective that Wayne Baker and Adam Grant have developed. The first is Reciprocity Rings.

Reciprocity Rings

A Reciprocity Ring is a group activity consisting of 20 or so people that gather together and share a request with the group one by one. “Other members of the group pause to consider how they could help: Do I have the resource the person needs? Of not, do I know someone in my network who might be able to help? Because it’s much easier for people to make a request when they know that everyone must make one, every participant is required to make a request; asking is the ‘ticket of admission’ to the Reciprocity Ring.”

Reciprocity Rings have been implemented successfully at Google, General Motors, IBM, Citigroup, UPS, and others.

Givitas

Givitas is a collaborative technology platform that provides a sf platform for requesting, giving, and receiving help across boundaries across a vast scale. It helps you share widely beyond the usual suspects.

Platforms like Givitas allow people to get what they need without having to repeatedly tap all the same experts or all the usual go-to people because requests are decentralized and broadcast across the vast network.

Thanks For Asking

We’ve all asked for help only to be rebuffed or made to look stupid. Of course, we recognize and reward people for giving help, but we don’t typically reward people for asking for help. “How our request is received, how we are treated, and how the help is granted determines whether we get discouraged, or encouraged to make asking a personal practice.”

With both organizational and individual success at stake, we need to rethink our responses to asking. “Recognizing, appreciating, and rewarding those who ask is as critical as doing the same for those who answer.”

Baker shares informal and formal ways we can as individuals and organizations recognize, reward, and encourage asking. Asking improves individual performance and effectiveness.

All You Have to Do Is Ask will change your appreciation of asking. It certainly changed my view.

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Teaching By Heart

DESPITE what the title Teaching By Heart might imply, it is really a book about servant leadership. It is a journey into self-awareness so that you can serve those you lead or seek to influence in spite of your self-doubt, anxieties, and insecurities. It is a remarkable book and a perfect means to refocus your leadership development this year.

Professor of management and organizational behavior at Harvard University, Thomas DeLong, writes, “I’ve found that the best teachers are also leaders, and the best leaders are also teachers.” I completely agree, and it is easy to see the parallels.

Using himself as a case study, DeLong generously shares what goes on in his head and heart as a teacher. He shares what he has observed how in a teacher’s “best moments, they can life people up, and in their worst, let them down.”

You will learn what it takes to teach and lead better. You will gain a better understanding of yourself. Through his introspection, you will come away with a better grasp of your own patterns of behavior. You will understand the need to ask yourself: “What is it that I do consistently that assists me living and teaching, that leverages my talents in unique ways? Just as important, you need to understand those emotional or behavioral patterns that sabotage your efforts to make a difference.”

As teachers [and leaders], we focus more on our inadequacies and failures than on our strengths and accomplishments. I’ll deconstruct why this is so. I will walk you through the heaven and hell of teaching by dissecting and analyzing what I’ve experienced in the Harvard Business School classroom.

After thirty-five years of teaching, DeLong still has anxiety about teaching. To counteract the doubt and anxiety on the days he teaches he must get into the classroom early. “Rather than listen to irrational thoughts and feelings, I need to engage with the ‘enemy.’ I need to look students in the eyes and engage. I need to get out of my head and be interested in something other than my thoughts and feelings and insecurities. The pattern that surfaces is he either/or syndrome. Will I leave the classroom with a feeling of either success or failure? So even if you aren’t a teacher who is wrapped up in your own doubt and insecurities, you should know what your patterns are—the tendencies and habits that either serve or disrupt your effectiveness.”

“As the instructor, you need to increase the probability that your students will see and experience and feel what you want them to experience.” This doesn’t just happen. This is a challenge for teachers and leaders.

Self-Awareness and Growth

This self-awareness is a negative and a positive—a negative because it caused me to beat myself up continuously over my real and imagined shortcomings, a positive because it helped me become cognizant of my patterns.
By remonstrating with myself over my actions, I hope I decrease the chances that I’ll repeat this bad behavior. I still might. But I trust that I will do it less.

On Knowing Students

I am freer as a teacher if I feel I know the students on some level, better able to adjust and adapt o their requirements. My hope is to turn their mindset from one of certainty to curiosity where their assumptions can be tested, confirmed, or revealed to be false.”

The Power of Covenant versus Contractual Relationships

As leaders, we create a covenant with those we lead. A covenant is a good way to think about a leader’s relationship with others. Three elements make up the covenant leaders make with their people. “I promise to set direction with you, to secure your commitment, and help you execute. If I do these things, you’ll succeed and so will the company. This is the covenant leaders establish with their employees, and it drives performance far better than salary and perks.”

Teachers create this covenant with students in much the same way leaders do with employees.

First, students must know that they are in safe, competent, understanding hands. The first dimension is built on faith.
Second, students need to know that teachers care about them and their work. They learn this through feedback, interactions in the classroom, and observing them interact with their peers.
Third, students must feel like they are learning and growing and developing. They need to know that they are being stretched and pushed and challenged with new knowledge, that their assumptions are being tested, and they must gain new knowledge about themselves.

Contractual relationships are transactional. It’s all cognitive. “Contractual leaders and teachers worry about their image, how they are perceived by their boss—a manager or department head. They possess little empathy for others because their goal is to survive where they perceive themselves to be unwelcome.”

Reflections

The ideas expressed here are valuable to leaders in many roles—parents, teachers, pastors.

One of my goals for the students is to have them stand back and face their own life path. An underlying assumption is that the students will do less harm if they are aware of why they do what they do. They will hurt themselves and others less if they understand the purpose and path they are on. I don’t pretend that they should have an answer, but I would like them to be asking questions about their journey before, during, and after the experience at HBS.
As I gaze out the window and reflect, I question whether I’m helping students become more adaptive. Will they make it through their next crucible with greater resilience? Can they maintain a clear head in times of crisis? Do they become paralyzed with fear? Do they wait for someone else to save the day? Are they unable to be the people they were before they experienced the hardship? I want them to be able to keep tough feedback in perspective. I want them to be able to be direct when a tough conversation is necessary?
We need to have “road miles” so that we, through the process of elimination, understand the intersection between our values, motivations, and needs.
I try to highlight that we need not only to focus on the integration of work and play, of home and work but to be more aware of the quality of life we create with those who are near and dear to us.

Avoid Focusing on the Negative

If we use external criteria to define success or happiness, we will come up short, given the powerful influence of our negative-remembering reflex. Everything gets distilled and reduced to one reflection or observation. The technical term for this cognitive process is asymmetric effect with a negative bias. It holds us captive in everyday life.
I find myself returning to the internal dialogue that reminds me of my negative or self-doubting narrative than my self-affirming story. I find that my negative voices are louder than my positive ones, and so I lose confidence and my classroom persona is diminished—I am unwilling to push myself as a teacher, failing to try something new or push boundaries, since these classroom behaviors all carry risks.
The goal, then, is to remind ourselves that we possess a positive story, not just a negative one.

Three Guiding Questions

DeLong offers three guiding questions that will help guide our efforts to be authentic and genuine:

1. How do I experience others? What do we believe about others? The answer will inform how we interact with others.

2. How do others experience me? How do I portray myself to others?

3. How do others experience themselves when they are in your presence?

Teaching By Heart is a very relatable book that all leaders should read. Leadership comes in many forms, but we all deal with the same issues. DeLong’s journey will help.

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Straight Talk for Startups

Straight Talk for Startups
ENTREPRENEURSHIP is not for everyone. It’s not an escape from the cubicle, hard work or bosses. But it is creative. It can be enriching in many ways. And if you are successful, you can believe that you did it all on your terms. And while it’s easier than ever to get started, it harder than ever to succeed.
Randy Komisar and Jantoon Reigersman bring decades of startup experience to help you beat the odds. In Straight Talk for Startups they offer 100 insider rules to bring clarity and a dose of reality to the entrepreneurial process. So whether you’re thinking of starting a business or are in the middle of managing one, this book will help to avoid (are correct) rookie mistakes.
Komisar and Reigersman begin by telling you what matters and what doesn’t. Before you quit your job, here are a few things you need to think about:
It’s hard. Because money is abundant, “it’s no surprise that the competitive landscape becomes crowded and non-economic.” It’s not uncommon for your competition to sell below cost in order to buy customers with their capital. And employees tend to act more like mercenaries than comrades in arms.
Try to act normal. “There is nothing normal about being an entrepreneur.” I loved this line: “Venture capitalists have one of the greatest jobs in the world. They get to sit across the table from passionate strangers who hallucinate the future for them.” They advise that when selling your idea: “Don’t let them know you are one of those precious lunatics hell-bent on changing the world until you’ve gotten to know them better. You don’t want to scare them off right at the start.”
Aim for an order-of-magnitude improvement. You’ve got to give people a really good reason to move from where they are quite comfortable to where you want them to be—a loyal customer. An order-of-magnitude of ten times is the minimum. Beyond that you improve your odds of success. “If you try to thread the needle with an innovation that is just good enough, you may miss [the target] entirely. But if you shoot for an order-of-magnitude change, you may still be in the game even if you miss by half.”
Most failure result from poor execution, not unsuccessful innovation. “Plenty of people confuse luck for skill. We flatter ourselves and find cause where there is none. The difference between skill and chance boils down to repeatability.” Timing matters. The elements need to line up. The authors identify six significant stages of development:
Stage 1: Idea—develop your idea and assess its attractiveness
Stage 2: Technology—build the technology
Stage 3: Product—deliver the product
Stage 4: Market—demonstrate market demand
Stage 5: Economics—prove unit economics in real life
Stage 6: Scale—now, finally, grow your business
There is a method to the madness. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Great clarification: “The creative process is essentially an execution process, not a eureka moment.”
Other rules include:
A part-time game changer is preferable to a full-time seat filler.
Manage your team like a jazz band.
Net income is an opinion, but cash flow is a fact.
Avoid venture capital unless you absolutely need it.
Too many unanimous board decisions is a sign of trouble.
Success is not linear.
Learn the rules by heart so you know when to break them.
Komisar and Reigersman close by saying, Always ask why. Why this? Why you? Why now? Asking why will keep you grounded.
Know why this venture is important to you. Why it should be important to others. And given the low probability of success for any venture, why it is nevertheless worth failing at. Of course you don’t want to fail; success is always preferable to failure. But if you fail, will you feel you wasted your time, or that you fought the good fight?
Keep yourself grounded and your wits about you by frequently asking yourself, Why? Entrepreneurship is important because it has the power to make the world better. That is why it is worth all the blood, sweat, and tears.
If you are considering starting a business, you will do well to also read Randy Komisar’s The Monk and the Riddle: The Art of Creating a Life While Making a Living.
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