February 29, 2012

Leaping Forward

The saying is that time is our more precious commodity. We’re always chasing for more yet we never seem to have enough. The bigger question is, do we value it properly?

Much will be said and written about today, February 29th. It happens once every four years. We have an entire extra day this year to catch up on all those things we keep meaning to do. Make those calls, give more thought and get it done.

It takes 365 days and 6 hours for a complete revolution around the sun so to catch up, we get a leap year every four years. If you’re born today, you may have a celebration every four years or do it on February 28th or March 1st.

Some notable February 29th events 

In 1504, Christopher Columbus uses his knowledge of a lunar eclipse that night to convince Native Americans to provide him with supplies. The city of  St. Petersburg, Florida is incorporated in 1892.

On February 29, 1956 then U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower announced that he is running for a second term. Family Circle comic strip made its debut in 1960. February 29 is followed by February 30 in Sweden, in a move to abolish the Swedish calendar for a return to the Julian calendar in 1712.

And among those born today are; Tony Robbins, Jimmy Dorsey, Dinah Shore, James Mitchell, Henri Richard, Dave Williams (Drowning Pool), Simon Gagné and Cam Ward.

We have an extra day this year. Let's use it wisely! 

Kneale Mann

image credit: knealemann

February 28, 2012

Embracing Change and Managing Conflict

It wins elections, looks great on a coffee cup, and can inspire nations. The promise of improvement can move people to do immense things. In some cases, the unsaid element is that we don’t have to move an inch while the rest of our world will make the adjustments for us.

Change can also mean alter, transform, amend or revolutionize which sound powerful. The way it is isn’t as good as the way it could be and for that we need change. But with change comes resistance and conflict. Once it’s enacted, change can create upheaval and cause some to be reminded that they can’t simply stay where they are while the rest make the necessary moves find progress.

Don’t Forget to Vote

We see it in politics all the time. The incumbent is ousted by the inspired competitor who promises green pastures and a better life through change and once the election balloons deflate and real life returns, it’s not so easy.

The conflict can happen on two fronts; the electorate realize the world requires their help and adaption while the other politicians and parties fight to resist that change because they either disagree with it or it simply goes against their party’s mandate. So in other words, we get stuck because it’s the way we’ve always done it.

Premise Meets Actuality

Let’s look at a more personal angle – your work place or team dynamic. Someone has an idea to increase revenue or improve the quality of your product or service. They make a compelling case that their solution will make things better. But leadership is necessary from all involved.

The idea seems sound and the team gets on board. But when it comes to implementing the initiative, the excitement begins to wane and interest is lost. It sounded good at the time but in practice it appears to be too difficult and requires too much work. We see it in start-ups all the time. Change is hard and comfort zone has its name for a reason.

If we want change, maybe we have to make the first move?

Kneale Mann

Image credit: ipersevere

February 26, 2012

Is It Good To Be Busy?

Did you ever wonder where the 80/20 rule came from? The originator was Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto who lived from 1848-1923. It seems simple now but Pareto worked from the premise we spend 80% of our time on 20% of our progress. You can test it in every part of your life.

Marcus Buckingham subscribes to the theory that we should improve our strengths not work on our weaknesses. We’re told that we need to work on those things we don’t do well. Imagine if all we needed to do was to work on those things we did do well.

Busy Being Busy

It’s funny to watch people complain about being busy and a full email inbox and too many meetings. Those are choices. Yes, we all have bills to pay but I wonder if we get some strange pleasure out of reminding others that we’re really busy.

Have you every worked with someone who always seems out of control? They are overwhelmed by tasks no matter how much time is given to complete them. It happens to all of us every now and then but these are people who are always in panic mode.

Pareto Reversed

Leadership is busy work but often the time can be consumed with tasks when it should be spent helping people. Yet we fill our calendars and emails with tasks that can often slow down the very progress we want to accelerate.

It's not easy to do but some of that time spent in meetings and doing other busy work could be spent with your team deciphering strengths and the best way for every stakeholder to both enjoy their job more and spend their time more efficiently. You should also find one hour every week just for you away from everything to work on you.

Perhaps we need to focus on people and less on busy.

Kneale Mann

image credit: gizmodo | original: march 2011

February 23, 2012

How Do You Present Yourself?

Whether you do professional speaking, facilitate workshops, coach professionals or attend conference calls – which makes up a lot of my work time - or you simply navigate regular business relationships, there is one common element we all share. It is what makes us similar and vastly different. It is something that we can implement or destroy.

From our constant human interaction – through technology, the social web, email or in-person – this is one element that we carry with us all the time. But the question remains whether we activate it or not. We all have the potential to use it but it’s not as simple as taking it out and showing it to the world. Action and perseverance are required.

Nancy Duarte has been studying this topic as well as what makes a great presentation for many years and she explains both in her 2011 TEDx Talk.

If you do presentations, speak in front of an audience or simply navigate everyday life, this video is 18 minutes well spent.

Kneale Mann

visual credit: Nancy Duarte | TED

February 21, 2012

Your Customer Review

There's an annual event that everyone seems to think is crucial yet few look forward to enduring and that is the annual performance review.

This delightful 30-60 minute meeting consists of a discussion of how one of the people in the room has performed their duties for the past twelve months.

Some companies engage in a form that is to be filled out by the employee prior to the meeting and then reviewed with their manager which is a far cry from daily leadership.

Summarize and Generalize

The time spent on strengths is often paled by those items that require more attention or the weaknesses. And if you ask most people, they would agree they should work on getting better at what they don't do well.

For most, the performance form is filled out shortly before the meeting. Then the results are neatly placed into the employee’s file to be viewed in another year.

If you own your company, you don't have the luxury of an annual performance review because that happens every day in the form of client feedback - or worse, no feedback - followed by lost revenue.

Customer Measurement

Do they wait a year, send you an appraisal form to fill out to mark yourself on various aspects of your product and customer service then sit with you to discuss? No, they often don’t even complain if they are unhappy with your offering. They just leave. Or worse, tell everyone about the experience through the social channels.

So have a look at your team, your business, your offering, your organization and decide whether you are waiting for the feedback or being proactive to ensure superior internal customer service within a social business model – which includes regular discussions about performance and strengths versus the annual review – and greater external customer service.

Our performance review is a daily event

Kneale Mann

image credit: amerispec | original: oct 2011

February 17, 2012

Lollipops and Leadership

I was speaking with a colleague this week and she was sharing her concern that she wasn’t being a good leader for her team and wasn't improving her leadership skills. Neither is true, of course, but points to how we view leadership and accomplishments.

Leadership isn’t about being the CEO of a Fortune 100 company. It isn’t about the title on your business card. It’s not about bossing people around because you out rank them on the org chart. And it's not about only doing big things. It's about how you improve and help those around you every day.

Drew Dudley shares his insights on leadership in his 2011 TEDxToronto talk.

It's all about weddings, lollipops and making a difference. 

Kneale Mann

vistual credit: TEDxToronto | Drew Dudley

February 14, 2012

Leadership and Decisions

Making good decisions is a crucial skill at every level.
Peter Drucker 

You have to have a compelling reason why. A why so strong that you are willing to do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes. Once you do, you will be truly unstoppable. Jay Platt

Every single moment of our brief time in this world is filled with decisions. Should I go to bed or watch the rest of the movie? Is that business venture something I should move forward on? Are there any more cookies in the cupboard? Is this the time I’ll finally tell the boss what we think of her?

Many people set rules to keep from making decisions.
Mike Krzyzewski

In team environments such as your work space or with clientele, you are making constant decisions while the busy brains of others are doing the same. Collaboration is one of my favorite words but it can often cause stress in relationships if it is not executed with openness and clarity.

A lot of people don't want to make their own decisions
They're too scared. It's much easier to be told what to do.
Marilyn Manson

Life is a team sport but we have to make those decisions that will improve our situation. My career has been interesting in the last few years. Perhaps you can relate. I have not always made the best decisions. In fact, there have been times I didn’t make a quick enough decision and others when I didn’t give it enough consideration.

The basis of computer work is predicated on the idea that the brain makes decisions and the index finger does the work.
Brian Eno

A friend was recounting a Richard Branson biography recently. His work day is not unlike those shared by most people. He works, has meetings, does tasks but for five minutes every day he has a choice to make a decision that separates the average company from one good ones.

The more decisions that you are forced to make alone, the more you are aware of your freedom to choose.
Thornton Wilder

The digital landscape is filled with commentary about Facebook and Google+, Twitter and Apple computers while a company like IBM chugs along without making a huge splash and makes profit while providing careers for over 400,000 stakeholders.

Bad behavior and irrational decisions are almost always caused by fear. If you want to change the behavior, address the fear. Seth Godin

Godin says, we must be remarkable. That doesn't mean we have to climb a mountain or build a bridge. Simply do things that others feel it necessary to remark about. Don't just be an employee, don't be a cog in the machine, be bold and make decisions that will change things for the better.

Decisions are inevitable. Our inclusion remains the question.

Kneale Mann

image credit: kinslerpress | original: july 2011

February 11, 2012

Work Won’t Make You Happy

We are stressed and overwhelmed. Information and deadlines are coming at us faster than our minds can comprehend them. Multitasking has become the new badge of honour. And being busy is apparently a good thing.

The reason why unhappiness in the workplace has become an epidemic may not be about the work. The cause could be something other than the economy. It may not be those around us. It may be the attitudes we bring to our work.

Shawn Achor is a psychologist who shares his experience with happiness, work, people and the magic of unicorns.

Find time in your busy day to watch this.

Kneale Mann

visual credit: TED | Shawn Achor

February 8, 2012

Leadership: I Don't Know

If you’ve spent enough time in the enterprise, you've met the type of boss who seems compelled to always be right. When mistakes are made, they never seem to be her fault. Things go sideways and he is quick to blame others. But how much does that solve the issues at hand? How much damage is created when that continues to occur?

Think about your participation in group activities. You offer ideas as much as you can. You suggest solutions to the challenges in front of the team. But how much do you continue to do so if the “boss” shoots down your ideas or doesn’t acknowledge your ideas in the first place? It can be demoralizing when the good news is taken by someone else while the bad news is thrown back in your face.

As leaders, the most powerful three words we can utter are: "I don’t know". Some may feel it shows weakness but I’m of the belief it shows tremendous strength. A job title doesn’t make you perfect. Do you think Richard Branson pretends he knows everything? Is it possible that Oprah Winfrey had some help along the way?

You Don’t Have All the Answers

"I don’t know" can be tough to say when you are told to lead others. After all, the company believes in you enough to put you in the position to make these decisions but that doesn't mean  you can't get things done, motivate your team and create a more social business with openness.

"I don’t know" to some, may appear indecisive. Some fear it may show investors the company is on shaky ground. But leaders who show they rely on their entire team for ideas and solutions can build a stronger foundation than those who get out the pom poms during good times and hide during challenges.

The Human Org Chart

I remember a direct report who was quick to take victories but vacant when we began to take on water. It was astounding how he never wore any of the bad news while he was the first to hoist the trophy at the ceremony. Perhaps you know this guy.

It’s clear that some feel they must appear infallible once gaining a leadership position but since the rest of the room knows it’s not the case, a pay stub every two weeks is hardly a strong enough strategy to keep your best people. Asking for feedback, opinions and ideas strengthens your team.

You don't always know and that's okay.    

Kneale Mann

image credit: Japanese symbol for benevolence

February 6, 2012

Brand Bowl: The Morning After

The morning after the night before and millions are chiming in about their favorite commercials on last night’s Super Bowl. NBC charged $3.5 to $4 Million for 30 seconds of real estate on the U.S. broadcast while the estimate of online value is still being calculated.

The pontificating continues but the real question will be in a few months when those paying close attention to those pesky bottom lines have their breakdown.

If you haven’t seen them all, Ad Age has compiled them for our online enjoyment. If the boss catches you watching at the office, tell her you’re doing market research. ;-)

The game was good too! 

Kneale Mann

image credit: andrew mills | us presswire

February 3, 2012

Passion Is No Ordinary Word

The title is borrowed from a musician named Graham Parker who released a song of the same name on an album entitled Squeezing Out Sparks in 1979.

Passion is not easily measured and often misread. Since I was a kid, I was always called hyper and only when I met someone who became a key mentor in my career did I find a better explanation and it was passion for the work and the people around me.

Defining Your Passion

Synonyms include enthusiasm or obsession, zeal or excitement, fervor or infatuation but it can be crushed like a bug on a windshield in seconds. I see it in the enterprise, with clients, colleagues, friends and family. The work day is simply a “means to an end” which is a horrific way to spend a third of our life. Ideas are pushed down toward the lowest common dominator while good enough becomes the gold standard.

Leadership is crucial when passion is present because it must be mined and carefully protected. Passion is the reason a woman born of poverty in a shack in Kosciusko, Mississippi became one of the most successful television personalities of all time.

Airplanes and Light Bulbs

Obsession is what fuelled a man to try thousands of ideas until he found a way to harness light. Infatuation was the genesis of an idea by a man with dyslexia to create a global brand which features an airline, a media company and a private island.

It took zeal for the returning founder of a computer company to use innovation rather than budget cuts to help his creation realize the largest profits in its history.

Ladders and Climbing Gear

Passion isn’t about owning things or having money. It isn’t about beating someone or market share. It's about running toward your purpose. Look at your team, the people around you, those you connect in business and through the social web along with your family and your friends. Embrace and cherish their passion.

Corporate governance, strategic policy and revenue generation are all part of work life. But without passion, we would never had heard of Winfrey, Franklin, Branson or Jobs.

There's nothing ordinary about passion!

Kneale Mann

image credit: caerberu
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