Posture

When I first told my wife about my idea that getting things done is a question of Passion, Posture, and Profile, she said “Posture ?, that’s what your father told you how to sit at the dinner table.” Well, no that’s not what I had in mind although yes, it has something to do with it.

The importance about posture is not new. In the military you are ordered and trained how to move and the drill sergeant will tell you when you don’t get it right. While the method can be improved that’s not what I want to discuss. The result is what interests me more. You learn the right way to move in certain situation, it becomes second nature. The same applies for learning to dance. Posture, the way you hold your body, makes such a difference.

I was talking to a gentleman on the airport once where we both were waiting for our flights. He is married to a woman from Venezuela. He told me about meeting her parents and living in Caracas for 6 months. “All women walk like they are the most beautiful woman on Earth.”, he said, “their posture, their mimic, it’s incredible. From young girls to grandmas – they all do it.”

Another story is best told by Isabel Allende:

While her stories are primarily about passion, there are her 4 minutes of fame with Sophia Loren. What is the difference between the 2 bearing the flag during the opening ceremony? Posture. Sophia doesn’t complain about the uniform she has to wear. She wears it as if it is the most beautiful dress in the world. Look at the photo, Sophia being at the left front and Isabel behind her.

Now and that’s what I feel is so important in the context of getting things done. You don’t always like what you gotta do. Simple things like doing the dishes, following the ‘damn’ process, or documenting the minutes. What ever it is you don’t like doing, I bet once it is done you feel better and the result further down the track is better, too.

blind conforming

I hear some people saying, you can’t always just obey. Sometimes is plain wrong and if you realise that you should say so. Correct, I have no objection to that. I’m talking about things that you can’t change like the uniform at the opening ceremony at the Olympics. It’s a different skill to know the difference when to shut up and do it and when to stand up and call for a change.

Impact

Imaging you arrive at a conference and you thought smart casual is the right dress code. You open the door and everybody is wearing a suit. You stand out like a soar thumb. There’s a choice: hide, ignore or wear it with pride. Do the latter and I’ll bet after lunch some people change.

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Passion

“Do what you love and love what you do.” is a well known quote by Chris Walker. I don’t want to dwell on Chris’ work and life but what that quote means to me.

I’m an IT manager, I love technology and have a  few gadgets. Although, I’m much more passionate about the people I’m working with and the contribution we make to the business. It is important to me that the service we provide is not only meeting the expectations (“that’s what you guys are employed to do”) but exceeding it because we are proud of what we do.

I met this week a person who showed me and some colleagues what he has researched, planned, build and what he is now running as one of the best services of this kind in the country. He knew every detail and why it had been designed like it. He reminded me of a young boy who created his first LEGO car show-casting it to his parents. The passion for what he had achieved was pouring out every word he said, every gesture he used, and every area he was showing.

That man loves every hour he spends working there and the result speaks for itself.

On the other hand, I met many people who work because it is another dollar in the pocket, it pays the bills. These people go to work because they get paid for what they do. If their boss would say, “today you do X and not Y”, it wouldn’t make a difference. On a Monday morning they may not feel too well, they will stay at home and have a “mental health day”. These people don’t do what they love. They haven’t found their best place to work yet. If that’s true for you, think about what you want. What are you good at? What are you passionate about? Maybe it’s time for a change.

Attitude

However, let’s face it: knowing what you want to do and what you are good at, could be 2 different things. And that’s where you come in. What are you prepared to put in for achieving your goal? When you have the passion for it, you won’t find it hard to put the extra time in to become good at it. When you spend 10 minutes every day to learn a bit more on a specific subject you will know a lot in 6 months about it. You would have spend 30 hours just on that!

Look at the tango picture above (it’s not me). 5 years ago my wife said, let’s learn tango. I said, okay and she enrolled us. It was hard work – for both of us. Learning the steps, the figures, the posture, the way to move. After 3 lessons I was ready to quit. So we spend time between lessons watching video clips and rehearsing steps. After 3 more lessons we got a feel for the music and the moves and after 6 months we enjoyed every day and were looking forward to the next lesson.

This is where attitude meets passion. Having passion means you will do it naturally, having attitude means you will find the time to make it happen.

The difference stems from conflicting interests. Many of us have multiple facets. I love technology, my family, playing football, being an ICT leader and manager, and for the past months I’m learning to write a good and valuable blog.  I’m passionate about collaboration and knowledge sharing. And that’s where the different elements what I love meet up. Although, I admit, it’s a question of attitude at this stage in writing the blog, finding the right content and putting it into words that make sense to others.

Passion is core to what I do. It’s not single thing but is true to all of the activities.

Change: I or what I do?

If you go to work because it is another dollar, you’ve got 2 questions to ask yourself

  1. am I doing the right job?
  2. am I doing the job right?

Assuming you are not doing the right job and better look for the ideal one could be wrong. You may need to change your attitude toward the job. Learn to love it. Respect what you do. Get better on the job. Broaden your knowledge or specialise, choose what fits with you. Either way, it’s you who is driving the car and not anybody else.

P.S. I recommend reading this article, it’s the commencement address to the 2005 graduates at Stanford.

 

Roadblocks

For the past 2 days I was involved in building a new business relationship and attended day 2 of a communications training course. Incidentally – or because the universe does play dice – the 2 mixed well.

Roadblocks

In the training we discussed communication roadblocks. They are particularly a hindrance when one person has a problem and asked the other person for help. Let me list those briefly so we talk about the same thing.

  • Ordering/commanding
“Do what you are told and you will be right.” This is a directive approach and doesn’t explain.
  • Threatening/warning
“You can’t do it this way, stupid!” Pretty directive and pretty offending.
  • Moralizing
“Well educated people don’t behave like that.” Indirectly the person is given a clear message what you think of them.
  • Advising
“Please read the manual.” While it is very polite, it is also clear that you think the person hasn’t done a good job in the first place.
  • Lecturing
“Due Diligence includes x, y, and z.” Falls into the previous category.
  • Blaming
“That is your fault, isn’t it.”
  • Labeling/name-calling
“Somebody had a blond day, I think.”
  • Analyzing
“When we look at the task, the steps were laid out like this.” Again, it makes the person feel stupid.
  • Praising
“Great work. You tried very hard.” This will go down as sarcasm.
  • Reassuring
“I’m sorry that didn’t wort out. I’m sure next time it will be better.”
  • Probing/questioning
“Why didn’t you do that?”
  • Diverting/distracting
“Alright, let’s look at this problem instead.”

Are these helping?

No! In a conflict or problem area these are strong roadblocks. They come across as sarcasm or cynical and leave a strong negative touch.

Note, in a no problem situation the above approaches can be very effective. For example the initial training how to use a dangerous product is very much directive and will use warning and commanding language. Lecturing is very common in Universities, and analysing a problem together works quite fine.

Story

Our plane arrived late yesterday morning and we hurried through the airport to the car rental. Luckily that went smoothly and we were on the road in no time. The traffic wasn’t too bad and we thought we are not making the agreed time by at least 15 minutes. So, we rang to advise we would be late. To our surprise the answer was, “you will be on time, no worries.”. We were perplexed as we had at least 40 minutes driving ahead of us. But we couldn’t get an explanation from them. We were getting pretty close to the destination but their description where to get of the motorway didn’t match the signage. Luckily one of us printed the Google directions which did fit and we arrived to our surprise dead on time.

We didn’t follow that one up and it got forgotten by everybody else I believe during the day. But, I thought today, hey that was a typical situation for a roadblock and the person giving that re-assurance or lecturing “You will be on time.” probably didn’t even realise this. In this case we were quite relaxed because there was no problem. It would have been quite different, if that was the last ferry crossing that day we were trying to catch.

Why do people use communication roadblocks?

So, I wonder what makes people do it? It happens so often. I remember my mother being quite inquisitive at times when I came from school. All what she wanted was knowing how my day was, did I learn something new, had I had any problems, what about the test, and so on. But for me it came across like being interrogated. In her case she didn’t knew until we talked about it.

Is it an attitude issue to be in the state of mind of being helpful or consciously being a roadblock? Do some people use roadblock approaches because of habit? Do people use roadblock approaches out of ignorance? From my experience I believe most people are doing it out of ignorance and later habit. Nobody ever told them. And now they are in a position where they are even less likely being told and ignorance becomes habit. 20% do it on purpose, they have learned these roadblock tools are a great way of keeping others on distance. They use these as power tools and patronise people. I met some managers during my life who played this game well. Very few have been found out.

If you come across somebody using those roadblocks, make the person aware of it. “How do you think what you said is received? Let me explain to you.” People will listen and very likely have a great “aha” experience and thank you for it.

Mis-understandings

Someone told me a little story today and I’m more than happy to share:

I was in the public toilets today and as I sat down, a voice from the next cubicle said “Hi, how are you?”.

Embarrassed, I said, “I’m doing fine”.

The voice said “So what are you up to?”.

I said, “Just doing the same as you – sitting here!”.

Then I’m asked “Can I come over?”.

Annoyed, I say “I’m rather busy right now”.

Then the voice said, “Listen, I’ll have to call you back, there’s an idiot in the cubicle next to me answering all my questions”.

While I can’t say the above happened to me, I dare say a similar thing quite likely has happened to everyone of us. I’m just thinking of an all hands meeting last week where I got briefly distracted by an email when I thought I heard my name and started commenting. The surprised faces told me it hadn’t been directed at me, so I gracefully shut up and apologised for my mistake.

And I think that’s the part in the story above that’s missing for me. What’s your reaction when you are found out; when you realise, OMG they didn’t talk to me at all!

  • Pretend it didn’t happen?
  • Be aggressive, you didn’t talk to me but you should have!
  • Say sorry and mean it.

I’m a “saying sorry” person because I feel if it’s my mistake I have to stand up for it. I can’t pretend it didn’t happen and never clarify a misunderstanding. That only leads to a loss of trust between the 2 people involved. In some instances where you really have something to say, contribute, or should have been involved going into ‘attacking’ mode is not only the right but the better option. So don’t get me wrong. I’m not the one who is sorry in principal, you need to stand up and face the music.

Like Colin Firth in “The King’s speech”: because I have a voice! (at 1:42min)

So, let’s assume it’s you in that cubicle, what is your reaction when the voice said, “Listen, I’ll have to call you back, there’s an idiot in the cubicle next to me answering all my questions.”?

 

Spoiled by Choice

Martin Cooper, inventor of the mobile phone

In today’s world we have so many options for everything we desire. We are spoiled by choice. How many mobile phone models are on the market? Too many. How many different systems run on these phones? At least 5 (Android, IOS, Windows Mobile, Symbian, RIM) I can think of and there is no guarantee I got that right. What are the differences? What are commonalities? Details! Over all, products and services in different industries are so similar. There is no need for customer loyalty to any particular organisation.

A Good Company

So, lets step back and have a look from bird’s view. What distinguishes a good from a not so good company.

Technology: Who has got the better toy? Nokia was for a long time my favourite cell phone maker. These days I prefer the iPhone while some friends think nothing beats an Android phone. That tells me, you gotta have the technology but it ain’t make you a good company.

Processes: In every review processes have to come up and rightly so. Processes define if you got it. There are many wasteful processes or those who miss the current trend, from ISO certified to RoSH and energy efficient. Those companies who do it the smart way have got it.

Customer interaction: Right, we are getting closer. At the end it is about us the consumer. How are we being served? How easy to buy? How good is the service? How well made is the product? Just remember, we already established the product or service has to work to specifications. Now it’s all about the interaction between the company and its customers. The service attitude makes or breaks the deal.

Experience and Emotion: This is not new in itself although in the light of choice the personal touch becomes the decision making element. Just imagine for a moment you can get a Ferrari as a 4-seater for a reasonable pricetag. Wouldn’t you switch your family wagon in a heart beat? There is something special with some products. Nivea is one of these as is Channel No.5. Which bank gave you lately the feeling they are genuinely concerned about providing you the best advise for your hard earned dollars? That steers the emotions, doesn’t it!

Customer Service

The basic services is to do what the customer expects. That’s called standard.

Excellent service is to exceed the expectations and do the little extra. This will earn you brownie points but hardly loyalty.

To be different and make loyal customers, you got two choices

  1. surprise your customers
  2. surprise your competitors

For example, promise your customers what nobody else does and keep it! Create an experience that the customer is remembering you by. Think of the ‘old’ movie “Something gotta give” with Jack Nicholson where he gives Diana a black pebble for her collection of white pebbles saying “so you have something to remember me by”. By doing that he creates an anchor and everytime Diana looks at the black pebbles amid the white ones, she will remember that day at the beach. Apple is doing the same thing with their layout and service in the Apple stores. That leads to the next important advise, you are only as good as your next action. Heroism gets you attention once and is fantastic to get you out of a one-of problem, continuous heroism makes people wonder if you can’t get it right.

It is the ingrained extra bit of service that makes a permanent good company. It is the extra thought that went into the product or process design that makes one product loved and adored compared to one that is simply practical.

In my opinion, Passion (for the service you are delivering, for the product you are designing or making, for the people in your company) is what makes the difference between a good and not so good company.

Story telling

Stories are an interesting way to convey concepts. They can be gripping, amusing, dramatic, or humorous. Telling a story puts much more context around a subject or topic. The story evolves around an example, a real situation, a legend or even a fairy tale.  People are always the core ingredient, no people – no story.

Remember when your father or grandfather told you a good night story? I do! I loved those and that’s why I told our kids good night stories, too. I can still remember some scenes and characters! And that’s one very powerful treat – when you tell a good story, your audience will remember what you said a lot easier and longer.

Learning

Think about how we learn: Listen – See – Touch/Experience. Listening to a story is much closer to experiencing than just listening to a someone telling you some facts. Have ever heard “Reading is like movies in your head”? That’s pretty much what a great story teller can achieve.

Stories can help answer questions.

Before we had pen and paper our history got told by the keepers. I can still remember the story about Archimedes sitting in the bath and yelling “Eureka” when he solved the  problem “is this crown made of gold?” or Newton, sitting under neath an apple tree, seeing an apple falling down and realised the principal of gravity. Even if those stories are not true in the literal sense, they always help you remember the solution or stir you to finding an answer.

Designed to capture hearts and minds

Stories are designed to captivate the audience. Like a good presentation a story conveys one concept and everything else is made to capture your heart and mind so the story makes sense for you. It interests you and you want to know how it ends, because it is gripping, a page turner like the fate of Ali Baba when he gets caught in the cave by the 40 thieves.

Cliffhangers

Never let your children with such a cliffhanger go to bed – they wont sleep at all! But in a business context and open ended story can spark ideas, sets the tone or the scene for the marketing people to re-thing the brand image of the organisation. The software developers can understand much better what you are trying to achieve when you tell that in story form.

Storytelling is good for sharing knowledge

  • Team-building activities
  • Breaking down barriers between multidisciplinary or multi-cultural teams
  • Workshop warm-ups
  • Trip reports
  • Project  reviews
  • Problem solving

Brainstorming

Last month I wrote about Generating Ideas, which is an individual process and I talked about what works for me. In groups the most common technique in generating ideas is brainstorming. It’s a quite old idea, developed by Alex Faickney Osborn in 1939. Based on two principles “Defer judgment” and “Reach for Quantity”, he put 4 rules together to make brainstorming work (partly taken from Wikipedia):

  1. Focus on quantity: The assumption is that the greater the number of ideas generated, the greater the chance of producing an innovative idea.
  2. Withhold criticism: criticism of any idea should be put ‘on hold’. Instead, participants should focus on extending or adding to ideas, reserving criticism for a later phase of the process. His thinking behind this rule was, by suspending judgment, participants will feel free to generate unusual ideas.
  3. Welcome unusual ideas: Unusual ideas can be generated by looking from new perspectives and suspending assumptions. These new ways of thinking may provide better solutions by encouraging thinking outside the box.
  4. Combine and improve ideas: Good ideas may be combined to form a single better good idea, as suggested by the slogan “1+1=3”. This stimulation of idea building is closely aligned to the process of association. More importantly this rule empowers the group to work together and build on each other.

In my experience the 4 rules are essential to make brainstorming work. However, I found that being more precise what is allowed and encouraged helps a new team to understand brainstorming better.

  1. No judging while brainstorming. There are neither stupid nor brilliant ideas at this stage.
  2. Every idea is a good idea. Every idea contributes to finding a solution or discarding a cul-de-sac.
  3. The more ideas the better.
  4. The crazier the better.
  5. No ownership of ideas. Piggy-back if you can!
  6. Record every idea. Use post-it notes, they make sorting and judging easier in the next phase.
  7. Capture each idea as a complete phrase. When you review the brainstorming later, you want to understand the idea and not second guess!
  8. Think outside the box. What are your assumptions? Remove those shackles in a brainstorming session.

Now, once you have a wall full of post-it notes, you need to go through them methodically. The objective is still to come up with a solution to a problem or challenge.

  1. Grouping: The first step is to put those ideas together that have something in common. Mind Mapping is a tool that can help with that.
  2. De-doubling: there ought to be ideas that are the same or have been improved later on. The group must decide if those a valid alternative ideas or double ups. Mark the double-ups with a red sticker and move them to a new group “double ups”
  3. The impossible and improbable: The third step of judging is to identify those ideas that very unlikely be a solution. Mark those with an orange sticker and move them to the improbable group.
  4. Outsiders: If there is a voice that argues hard and believable that any particular idea even an improbable one is actually a very good one, create a new group “outsiders” and mark it blue.
  5. The brilliant ideas: Now let’s search for the ideas we think are best. There ought to be at least one where everybody thinks, yes, that’ll work. Mark those green.

This exercise will provide you with a prioritised list of ideas. Set your team on these to evaluate and investigate the validity in detail.