Category Archives: Collaboration

Wishing Well

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What’s the first thing you think of when you see a stranger?

How about your competition?

Or, the jerk that just cut you off in his Porsche?

What’s your default setting when it comes to others?

How critical are you?

How many stories have you made up about that stranger—stories that only you hear—based on nothing more than appearance?

It’s easy to be critical.  It’s easy to look for the worst, and even easier to find it.  Defaulting to fear and distrust is the safest play.

What if you defaulted to wishing others well?  Even strangers?

What if the stories you tell in your head give that stranger the benefit of the doubt?

What if you looked for the best, instead of the worst?

What if you had no opinion about that guy who just cut you off?

What would happen if you helped your competitor improve?

Starting with a mindset of wishing well, looking to give instead of take, understanding rather than responding, reveals our best self.

Our best self hides behind walls of criticism, doubt, distrust, fear, and ill will.

Take away its hiding places and get to know your best self…default to wishing well.

 

Photo Credit:  Unsplash–Brandi Redd

Cage Fights, Roulette and the Law of Large Numbers

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When you enter the octagon (speaking metaphorically, but maybe literally), it’s just you and your opponent. Only your strength, skill, speed, luck, stamina, cunning, toughness and courage will help you find victory.

If you play roulette, the chance that the ball will land on red or black is the same…a little over 47%. Remember the green 0 is in there to mess things up.

But, what if you only have the time and money to play roulette for ten spins?  Will the distribution of red and black numbers come out to just over 47% each?  Maybe, but probably not.

What if you could spin the wheel 1,000 times?  Would the distribution of red and black approach 47% each?  That’s much more likely.  In fact, the Law of Large Numbers says as much.

What about that cage fight?  Theoretically, you have a 50% chance of winning, all things being equal.

Of course, all things are never equal in a cage fight (or real life).

The other guy is meaner, stronger, faster, and more skilled.  You didn’t sleep well last night, you have that nagging knee injury that always shows itself at the wrong time.  You don’t punch very hard, and you’ve heard that he has a great ground game.  You have no idea what having a great ground game means, but it sounds dangerous, and that was the sound of the bell.

How’s that 50% chance looking?  More like 5%, or maybe 1%.

What if you could fight the guy 1,000 times?  Would your chances improve?  Would you ever approach the 50% mark?  Would you survive to find out?  Probably not.

The good news is we don’t have to count on the Law of Large Numbers.  And, while it’s nice to say that we can count on ourselves, it’s even better to know that we can count on our family, friends, associates, co-workers, teammates, competitors (yes, indeed), and countless others to help us achieve our victories.

You don’t have family, friends, associates, co-workers, teammates, competitors or countless others who can help you?

Then, your cage match is going to be all about how you become one or more of these things for someone else.  Look around for who you can help.  Who can you befriend?  Who can you support?  Who can you encourage?

In life, the largest number in the Law of Large Numbers is you and your tireless and relentless effort to make a difference for someone else.

Each of us has our own cage match to fight, often with ourselves.  Wouldn’t it be great to see what you can do to help someone else win theirs?

Trust me.  You’ll find your own path to victory along the way.

P.S.  There’s not much anyone can do to help you win at roulette, but I always recommend 32 red.

 

Photo Credit:  Unsplash, Joshua Clay

 

Discuss or Defend?

Discussing involves active listening.  Curiosity.  Openness.  It requires genuine interest in ideas, even if they contradict your own.

Defending involves taking and holding a position.  Looking for openings to argue against another idea.  Preparing your response, while you should be listening.

Discussing takes time.  Discussing requires courtesy, respect, and patience.  Defending, not so much.

Most discussions we see on TV, or hear on the radio, aren’t discussions at all.  They’re exercises in defending.  Questions and answers are metered out in an attempt to defend one position or another.

It’s often the same in a business setting.

The search for alignment, a conclusion, a decision, or an all-out victory often trumps everything else, including a meaningful exchange of ideas.

How often do you defend, instead of discuss?  Be honest.  We’re just discussing here…no need to get all defensive.

What if you went through an entire day without defending?  Think you could do it?

 

The Power of Elevated Thinking

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“The last IT guy had a diagram of the network, but since he left, I haven’t updated it to reflect the changes we’ve made.”

“The system was setup before I got here.  It’s not a good fit, but I’ve just been making do since I took it over.”

“This process ran pretty smoothly last year.  I don’t think the new guy has a clue about how it should work this year. This has failure written all over it.”

“I’ve seen it all in my time.  They’ve tried a bunch of new ideas to make things more efficient, but they never work.  I try to tell them they’re wasting their time, but nobody listens to me.”

“I wonder when the VP is going to notice how screwed-up this project is.  Everyone knows it’s a disaster, but him.”

“The more things change, the more they stay the same around here.”

How many times have you heard (or said) versions of these quotes?

It’s easy to point to problems with “the system.” It’s easy to blame the other guy, the other department, your boss, your employee, the customer(!).

Avoiding ownership is the easy way out.  It’s also the quickest way to ensure mediocrity and failure for yourself and your organization.

Imagine the possibilities if just one person in these hypothetical situations chose to elevate their thinking.  Imagine if they decided to own the search for the right solution.  What if they actively participated in making someone else’s solution a success?  Imagine the value of the person who looks for ways to help, instead of looking for ways to criticize.

There’s nothing stopping you from being that person…except maybe yourself.

 

By the way, have you read my book?  100’s have already (thank you!).  If you’re one of them, please do me a favor and tell your friends about it.  If not, it’s time to take ownership, and get yourself a copy!

All of my proceeds are going to two awesome groups who embraced the opportunity to take ownership of a problem:  Mothers Fighting for Others, and the Scleroderma Research Foundation.

 

Photo Credit

Who’s With Me?

Bluto--whos with me

 

Leadership lessons from Bluto (John Belushi), circa 1978…

 

Bluto: Hey! What’s all this laying around s***? 

Stork: What the hell are we supposed to do, ya moron? We’re all expelled. There’s nothing to fight for anymore.

D-Day: [to Bluto] Let it go. War’s over, man. Wormer dropped the big one.

Bluto: What? Over? Did you say “over”? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!

Otter: [to Boon] Germans?

Boon: Forget it, he’s rolling.

Bluto: And it ain’t over now. ‘Cause when the goin’ gets tough…

[thinks hard of something to say]

Bluto: The tough get goin’! Who’s with me? Let’s go!

[Bluto runs out, alone…]

Other than not being in the script, why didn’t anyone follow Bluto at this point?

Simple. He didn’t outline the mission, or why it was important. He didn’t engage the early adopters, the risk takers.

He didn’t capture the imagination of any thought leaders in the group. Sure, he conveyed some intense emotion.  He may have even motivated a few of his team members to think a bit, and ignore Stork and D-Day’s surrender. But, take action? Not a chance.

[Bluto returns, looking frustrated…]

Bluto: What the f*** happened to the Delta I used to know? Where’s the spirit? Where’s the guts, huh? This could be the greatest night of our lives, but you’re gonna let it be the worst. “Ooh, we’re afraid to go with you Bluto, we might get in trouble.” Well just kiss my ass from now on! Not me! I’m not gonna take this. Wormer, he’s a dead man! Marmalard, dead! Niedermeyer…

Otter: Dead! Bluto’s right. Psychotic… but absolutely right. We gotta take these bastards. Now we could do it with conventional weapons, but that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part!

Bluto: We’re just the guys to do it.

[Boon and D-Day stand up] 

Boon: Let’s do it.

Bluto: [shouting] “Let’s do it”!

[all of the Deltas stand up and run out with Bluto]

How did Bluto turn the tide? He challenged the team to face their fears. He outlined the (crazy) mission, and why it mattered.

Most important…he ignited a thought leader in the group.  Otter took emotional ownership of the crazy mission and vision that Bluto (sort of) outlined.  Otter gave it clarity, and made it safe for everyone to support.

Once Otter (and D-Day and Boon) stand in support of Bluto’s crazy idea, the rest of the team unites. The exact plan isn’t clear, but the thought leaders create the wave of support it needs to launch.   The rest is detail.

All Bluto has to do is add:  “We’re just the guys to do it.”

He doesn’t ask, “Who’s with me?” when he leads the team out the second time.  He already knows, and so does his team.

Who are the thought leaders in your organization?

How do you influence them? How do they influence you?

What are you doing to harness their power?

Who’s with you?  That’s up to you and your thought leaders.

http://youtu.be/q7vtWB4owdE

Blindness and Elephants

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The story of the blind men and the elephant originated in India.  It then spread across the world and through history in various versions.  Here’s the main story line:

Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, “Hey, there is an elephant in the village today.”  They had no idea what an elephant was. They decided, “Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway.”

“Hey, the elephant is a pillar,” said the first man, who touched his leg.

“Oh, no! It’s like a rope,” said the second man, who touched the tail.

“Oh, no! It’s like a thick branch of a tree,” said the third man, who touched the trunk of the elephant.

“It’s like a big hand fan” said the fourth man, who touched the ear of the elephant.

“It’s like a huge wall,” said the fifth man, who touched the belly of the elephant.

“It’s like a solid pipe,” said the sixth man, who touched the tusk of the elephant.

They began to argue about the elephant and each of them insisted that he was right. It looked like they were getting agitated.  A wise man was passing by and saw this.  He stopped and asked them, “What is the matter?”

They said, “We cannot agree what the elephant is like.” Each one of them told what he thought the elephant was like.

The wise man calmly explained to them, “All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently is that each of you touched a different part of the elephant.”

What part of the elephant are you holding onto?

Are you willing to listen to the way others describe the elephant?

Are you aware of your blindness?

Your Talent Won’t Be Enough

There are very few truly one-man (or one-woman) shops.  Show me a successful sole proprietor, and I’ll show you someone who leads, and relies upon, a team of talented individuals…whether they realize it or not.

How can this be?  Doesn’t the definition of sole proprietor mean that one person is the sole talent?  Well, sort of, but not quite.

Imagine that you’re an awesome flower arranger.  Your bouquets are exquisite.  Their beauty is unmatched.  You decide to take a risk and open your own flower shop.  Your confidence is high.  After all, your flower arrangements are incredible.  Customers will come from miles around to buy your arrangements.

A few weeks into the process of opening your new shop, you discover that flower shops don’t run on flower arrangements alone.  There are building leases to negotiate, furniture and fixtures to procure, point-of-sale systems to deploy, website interfaces to create (if you’d like to receive orders from some of the national flower delivery services), suppliers to line up, insurance coverage to purchase, merchant account services (if you plan to take credit cards), and payroll systems (for the one or two part-time employees you’ll be hiring, just for starters).

You’ll need to connect your talent with the talents of a wide array of other people, just to open your shop.

It’s the same thing in a larger company.  Your ability to build trusting relationships across your company, and across your industry, will have more to do with your long-term success than individual talent.  Creating a reservoir of trust with talented people, and relying on them, just as you’d rely on yourself, is critical to your success…and theirs.

Your talent, alone, won’t be enough.  Enough for what?  Enough to accomplish whatever your definition of success is.

We Are All Mountain Climbers

AlanAroras--Mt Everest 2013

There it is…Mount Everest from the air.  Each year, about 150-200  climbers attempt to reach its summit, 29,029 feet above sea level.  There are thousands of other mountain peaks in the world, but Everest is the highest, and most challenging.  Of course, from this angle it looks pretty tame.

That’s the thing about mountains.  Perspective is everything.  Until you face a climb yourself, you can never fully understand what it takes.  Watching others make the climb, or hearing their stories about what it was like, are no substitute for taking on the climb for yourself.

Look around you.  If you look closely, you’ll see that each of us are climbing a mountain.  Some mountains are short and easy, while others are as high or higher than our friend, Mr. Everest.

This is the point where I could wax on poetically about striving for the highest peaks in life, chasing ever higher summits, new vistas, and new challenges.  Yes, do all of that.  Don’t let anyone stop you…especially yourself.

No, I’m not going to talk about the standard, inspirational mountain stuff.  Instead, I’m going to talk about weight.

When embarking on a climb, is it better to carry twenty pounds, fifty pounds, or one-hundred pounds of gear on your back?  Obviously, all things being equal, less weight is better.  Gravity is not your friend.

How much weight are you carrying on your climb?  Only the essentials?  Anything extra?  Are you carrying baggage that won’t be used?  Why?  Carrying all that extra baggage isn’t helping you reach your summit.

What about your fellow climbers, especially those closest to you?  How much extra baggage are they carrying?  How much of it is yours?

The best strategy for extra baggage (and its unnecessary weight) is to avoid packing it in the first place.

 

 

Photo Credit:  Alan Arora, who owes me some details on how he was able to be in the cockpit jump seat of an Airbus A319 at the perfect time to capture such a beautiful shot of Mount Everest.

Moving Boulders

The boulder was huge.  By all estimates, it weighed at least a ton.  It had rolled down the mountain and was blocking the main road into town.  Various city departments sent their top managers out to assess the situation.  All came back with the same assessment:  the boulder was huge, and there was no way their department could move it off the road.   

The road department recommended that they build a new road to go around the boulder.  Given the urgency of the situation, that was seen as the best option.  They worked around the clock to build the new road.  Within four weeks, they had successfully rerouted the road around the boulder.  The road department was hailed for their work and sacrifice in helping the city avert the crisis brought about by the boulder.     

Success?  Not really.

Sure, the city attacked the problem with its best minds.  They came up with a novel approach to solving the problem.  The road department employees put in a heroic effort to re-open the vital artery into the city.

But, something was missing (other than jackhammers and tractors).  In this case, the most vital ingredients to problem solving were missing from the story.  Those ingredients are trust and teamwork.

Each manager sought a solution from within the artificial boundaries of their own department, their own experience.  Their assessments were correct, from their limited perspectives.  None had the resources to move the boulder.  Each fell victim to, and tacitly supported, a culture that ignores (or avoids) cross-departmental teamwork.

Imagine what would have happened if even two of the departments had trusted each other.  Imagine if they found a way to pool their resources and ideas.  The power of teamwork lies not in having more hands to do the work, but in broadening the array of available solutions.

How does your organization deal with boulders blocking the road?  What are you doing to change it?

Happily Ever After

In fairy tales (and many books and movies), we spend most of the story learning how our happy couple meets and falls in love.  We learn about the challenges they must overcome in their quest to be together.  Suspense builds to a fever pitch as the forces of evil do everything in their power to keep this couple from fulfilling their destiny…togetherness forever.  If the story has a happy ending (and most do), they live happily ever after.  The End.

Real life is all about the happily ever after part.  It’s about what happens after the couple rides off into the sunset in their horse-drawn chariot, or charcoal grey Honda Civic.  Happily ever after requires curiosity and a spirit of adventure.  It’s nurtured by a willingness to work and grow together.  It requires the triumphs of success and the lessons of failure.  It requires faith, hope, and most of all, happiness.

Happiness doesn’t come from anywhere but within.  Couples (hopefully) learn quickly that their happiness (both individually, and as a couple) is driven by their thoughts, attitudes, and actions.

Our pathways alone bring neither happiness, nor sadness.  We bring these ourselves, wherever we go.

As my wife and I celebrate 25 years of Happily Ever After today, I am eternally grateful for the happiness she brings to our journey every day.