Really: How Many Choices Do You Want?

The rallying cry of sales reps, product managers and politicians is "Choices! We offer choices!"

My observation? 

We really don’t like having too many choices. It makes us a little nervous. Every option leads to a chance to foul something up. Heck, a lot of people are more worried about not being wrong than about being right. So, we allow our experiences and habits to narrow our options to just a couple of familiar ones. It reduces the anxiety and relieves stress.

Choices

So, how do you make genuine changes faced with the siren song of habits?

The first move is to re-capture your sense of conscious choice in place of habitual reactions.  This leads to new options and frees you up from repeating the mistakes that have risen from repetition.

Be aware: it's not a single event, but a way of life.

More Good Options Than You Think!

You can choose how to respond, regardless of the situation and circumstances. Here are some possibilities that can change your world today. None of the options is confusing and you have permission to pick just one to get started:

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. Try something new and different, and don't worry about getting it wrong. People who never made a mistake never made anything else.
  • Caught up in your emotions? Over-enthusiasm, revenge, or frustration will each whisper lousy advice in your ear. Wait until they stop talking, chill out, and re-visit the decision.
  • Listen longer before you respond to someone, at work or at home. The other person will feel more respected and you're just liable to see something from their viewpoint--in which case, you may end up in agreement. At the least, you'll learn something new.
  • Eschew snap judgments. It's easy to take a stand; the workplace smiles upon "strong"people. But when it comes to who is right and who is wrong, a knee-jerk reaction can wreck relationships. Besides, do you like it when someone makes a judgment about you?
  • Stop the self-talk about what you can’t do. Once you start doing that, you'll make it come true. Give your idea a try and see what happens. If it doesn't work, so what? Really. So what? If it does work, think about how you'll feel.

Now there's only one option: Will you choose to try doing something differently?"

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Decisions: Confused or Conflicted?

You and I go to meetings where the decision-making can seem unbelievably confusing.

And how about those decisions where we just can't seem to arrive at a peaceful conclusion?

After giving it some thought and observation, I think I've got a way to look at this that I hope will be helpful.

DecisionConfused or Conflicted?

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines the two this way:


Confused:
 being disordered or mixed up. 

The result is not being able to think at your usual speed.

Conflicted: (a feeling of) mental struggle resulting from incompatible or opposing needs, drives, wishes, or external or internal demands.

The result is inaction, over-reaction, or both.

Yes, both are possible. We can react strongly to the conversation around the decision, but still not be able to make the decision.

Note: Each of these phenomena apply to individual as well as group decisions. Those self-conversations in our heads can get every bit as frustrating as the ones across the table!

What To Do?

1.Stop and diagnose.

(Please remember Steve's rule for everything: "Prognosis Without Diagnosis is Malpractice").

2. If the issue is Confusion, ask:

    a. Are we clear on the goal of the decision?

    b. Do we have the right information, and all of it--or as much as possible?

    c. Do we have the information organized in an understandable way?

    d. Does everyone involved have the same understanding of the goal and the information?

    e. Do we have a structured process for making our decision?

When you are clear that all of the above have been satisfied, then you're probably dealing with Conflicted-ness. (My spell checker is definitely conflicted trying to deal with that one).

3. If the issue is being Conflicted, then you'll probably experience silence or overt argument. You're  seeing the result of deeper issues--perhaps even at the personal values level--that need to be resolved. Whether silence or argument:

    a. Talk straight immediately. Say, "We've got a good understanding and a good process. But there's something else stopping us.What's really getting in the way?

    b. Don't speak again until someone offers a comment. After the first person responds, don't evaluate the remark. Thank them. Allow for everyone to respond without evaluation.

Principle: Until the real issue is named out loud, it will silently undermine the decision process. Once it's named and acknowledged, it is neutralized. When it comes out into the light of day, it can be seen clearly for what it is and discussed accurately. This is the most difficult thing for groups (and individuals) to deal with. Why? There's always the fear that "my issue" will be discounted, misunderstood, or seen as a blockage to "good teamwork."

Yet the person who offers the first bit of truth is the one who leads the group to a more satisfying decision.

    c. After 'b', you will know exactly how to proceed because the substantive issues will be out there in clear view. You'll see both an increase in both energy and collaboration.

Note: Organizations are usually pretty good at organizing. And even those of us with a more casual approach to life still have our own method of organizing it.

If you are really stuck on a decision, go with "Conflicted." In fact, I'll go out on a limb here and say that more often than not, we aren't confused. We usually know the right thing or best thing to do. It's facing up to our conflicting wants and needs that get in the way. "Having it all," whether in a business meeting or personal life, is a decision criterion that can only lead to internal conflict.

Thought for Today: Clear priorities offer the soundest foundation to decision making.

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Life Choices: Bitter or Better?

How do you feel about your life: Bitter or Better?

Your answer will color everything about your existence. At home, at work, with friends.

GalaxyA while back Stephen Shapiro, author of  Goal Free Living, described a common life situation in a post called The One-Third Life Crisis. It's about a successful (by any achievement-oriented social standards) guy who is a 33 year-old Harvard grad, pilot, board member, etc. But at 33 he described his life this way to Stephen:

Do well at Step A and you can proceed to Step B. Do well at B, and proceed to C. As I look back at my life so far, I realize that I was playing by a very narrow set of rules. And if I played by those rules, worked hard, and caught a lucky break or two, I’d be rewarded with plenty of wealth and prestige.

And that worked okay…for a while…until I began to have nagging doubts. “The Path” began to feel just a bit too narrow. I felt that I was always trying to do well in life in order to move to the next step. As a result, I had completely lost the ability to live in the moment or to appreciate success for success’ sake. And failure? Well, that wasn’t even an option. Most insidiously, I began looking at the people in my life only as potential allies (or, gasp, even pawns) in my quest to keep plugging along down The Path.

And here’s the worst part. I had completely lost my sense of risk, creativity, and wonder. So I felt that even if I wanted to get off The Path, I was woefully and utterly ill-equipped to navigate on my own. That’s the essence of the one-third life crisis.

What Are You Experiencing at 30? Or 40 or 50 or 60?

This isn't at all unusual. In fact, I became so fascinated by it that about 10 years ago I started looking into research that might produce a plausible, helpful explanation. This was prompted by what I noticed were increasing requests from successful 30-somethings within my client organizations who were expressing dissatisfaction with their circumstances. The stories were similar:

1. I'm not happy

2. I should be happy because I have a good job, make good money, home life is good; I've done everything I was supposed to do.

3. So why I am I feeling unhappy and stressed out?

Until About 30, You Don't Have to be You

Why?

Because you've got enough energy to do just about anything. And people let you.

Physiologically, you're on a roll. Psychologically, you're starting a career and a life. And guess what? Everyone around you will let you do your thing. Your family understands this. They allow you to "get your career started." Your boss loves this. And you are able to put in 60 or 80 hours a week at being really good at what you do. And you are probably doing pretty well. Heck, why not? Your sheer energy and time is compensating for a lack of genuine passion or talent. So if "it" isn't what you were meant to do--or consistent with who you are--you can't fake it forever (you don't know you're faking it. You are doing what you think people are supposed to do). At +/- 30 your energy begins to drop a bit. And you start asking questions about it. And you should.

Because growing up means being--and accepting--who you are. It's the only way you'll stay in the game and be happy about it. I've found that the most difficult--but most rewarding--thing that I've done personally is to answer this question:

"What are all of the things I think I am--but am not?" These resulted in a looonnngggg list of answers that combined bloated self-perception with lots of expectations from other people. Do it. It's a huge relief to get rid of the baggage.

Then change the question from "What could I do as a career?" to these three:

1. "What do I really value and see as priorities in my life?"

2. "What are my natural talents and how can I use them to support #1?

3. "What specific skills do I have--or need to get--that help support #2?"

If you get honest about 1, acknowledge 2 as not being boastful--but a gift--and use 3 in the service of the first two, you'll be back in the game.

And just in case math is your strong suit: draw a Venn diagram of Values, Talents, and Skills. The place where the three intersect is the actual "you." (You're welcome).

55: Bitter or Better?

A final observation.

Somewhere around the age of 55 people--and I see it mostly in men--decide to be either "Bitter" or "Better" about life. It's a choice. But it appears to be a choice based upon evaluating one's circumstances against one's expectations of how life should be (or should have been).

The distinction usually lies in a choice that was made to:

Live as one's self, and therefore feel better. There is only one standard and it will always be met.

Live according to others' expectations and one's definition of how things "should" be. This leads to a bitteroutcome.

So what about our searching friend in the beginning of the post? It sounds as if he is choosing to ask the right questions at the right time. And he even has a group of trusted advisors to guide him and keep him accountable.

I'm guessing "better."





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How Many Choices Do You Really Want?

The rallying cry of sales reps, product managers and politicians is "Choices! We offer choices!"

My observation? 

We really don’t like having too many choices. It makes us a little nervous. Every option leads to a chance to foul something up. Heck, a lot of people are more worried about not being wrong than about being right. So, we allow our experiences and habits to narrow our options to just a couple of familiar ones. It reduces the anxiety and relieves stress.

Choices

So, how do you make genuine changes faced with the siren song of habits?

The first move is to re-capture your sense of conscious choice in place of habitual reactions.  This leads to new options and frees you up from repeating the mistakes that have risen from repetition.

Be aware: it's not a single event, but a way of life.

More Good Options Than You Think!

You can choose how to respond, regardless of the situation and circumstances. Here are some possibilities that can change your world today. None of the options is confusing and you have permission to pick just one to get started:

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. Try something new and different, and don't worry about getting it wrong. People who never made a mistake never made anything else.
  • Caught up in your emotions? Over-enthusiasm, revenge, or frustration will each whisper lousy advice in your ear. Wait until they stop talking, chill out, and re-visit the decision.
  • Listen longer before you respond to someone, at work or at home. The other person will feel more respected and you're just liable to see something from their viewpoint--in which case, you may end up in agreement. At the least, you'll learn something new.
  • Eschew snap judgments. It's easy to take a stand; the workplace smiles upon "strong"people. But when it comes to who is right and who is wrong, a knee-jerk reaction can wreck relationships. Besides, do you like it when someone makes a judgment about you?
  • Stop the self-talk about what you can’t do. Once you start doing that, you'll make it come true. Give your idea a try and see what happens. If it doesn't work, so what? Really. So what? If it does work, think about how you'll feel.

Now there's only one option: Will you choose to try doing something differently?"

 

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Decide How To Decide: Good Meetings

You're in a meeting. It looks as if all the information is on the table: yet the discussion goes on and on and you table the item for the next meeting. A combination of disgust, frustration, and conflict follow at the water cooler.

Good Meetings Start Before the Meeting

How do you make sure this doesn't happen? 

Simple. Agree on how you'll arrive at decisions before the meeting begins.

I'm going to offer up a "Let's have consensus" procedure for the purpose of giving an example. That's not the only way to make sound decisions. Some decisions may belong to the manager; if so, say so as well as the reasons for it. What's important is to agree on what kinds of decisions will have what kind of process

DecideConsensus Example

Most of us have to generate support--as well as the best possible input--for important decisions. I think Consensus provides a good framework for that as long as you are clear on the definition of what it really means. I use this one:

Consensus:  “I can live with this decision and openly support it.” (I added the word "openly" some years back because some folks would support it in the room and then bad-mouth it later. Once you have agreement to openly support it, any other behavior is reason for a performance counseling session).

It's equally important to define and agree on what consensus does not mean. Consensus does notmean we all necessarily think this is the best or only solution; just one we will “live with and support”.

With this definition as a template, you will be able bring the group to agreement on how they will make decisons as the meeting progresses. And Consensus is much easier to achieve than a unanimous approval. Some groups I've worked with put both of these on the wall in every meeting and use them as a visual reminder along the way.

Ask these two questions when you reach a decision point:

  • How many of you can live with with and openly support this decision?
  • Who cannot--and why not? (If you don't force the "why not?" question, you're not going to get the discussion that could be all that you need to turn it around). Another way to word the "why?" questions is: "What would it take for you to live with and openly support this decision?"

What has worked well for you and your organization?

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Good Meetings, Good Decisions

You're in a meeting. It looks as if all the information is on the table: yet the discussion goes on and on and you table the item for the next meeting. A combination of disgust, frustration, and conflict follow at the water cooler.

Good Meetings Start Before the Meeting

How do you make sure this doesn't happen? 

Simple. Agree on how you'll arrive at decisions before the meeting begins.

Decisionmaking

I'm going to offer up a "Let's have consensus" procedure for the purpose of giving an example. That's not the only way to make sound decisions. Some decisions may belong to the manager; if so, say so as well as the reasons for it. What's important is to agree on what kinds of decisions will have what kind of process

Consensus Example

Most of us have to generate support--as well as the best possible input--for important decisions. I think Consensus provides a good framework for that as long as you are clear on the definition of what it really means. I use this one:

Consensus:  “I can live with this decision and openly support it.” (I added the word "openly" some years back because some folks would support it in the room and then bad-mouth it later. Once you have agreement to openly support it, any other behavior is reason for a performance counseling session).

It's equally important to define and agree on what consensus does not mean. Consensus does not mean we all necessarily think this is the best or only solution; just one we will “live with and support”.

With this definition as a template, you will be able bring the group to agreement on how they will make decisons as the meeting progresses. And Consensus is much easier to achieve than a unanimous approval. Some groups I've worked with put both of these on the wall in every meeting and use them as a visual reminder along the way.

Ask these two questions when you reach a decision point:

  • How many of you can live with with and openly support this decision?
  • Who cannot--and why not? (If you don't force the "why not?" question, you're not going to get the discussion that could be all that you need to turn it around). Another way to word the "why?" questions is: "What would it take for you to live with and openly support this decision?"

What's working well for you and your organization?

 

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How To Avoid the Business Proposal Question Trap

Whether you're in front of a group or across the desk, you want the best possible chance for your proposal to succeed. 

Cornered-20kitten1   Don't let other people design your  multiple-choice exam. More often than not,  you'll get a question designed to force you into two options--and either/or doesn't  offer good odds for success.


What to do

Take control and expand your options. Here's an example:

Question: "Do you think we can get the contract if we come in under $100,000?"

Answer: "I don't believe the decision will be based solely on price. I believe the client's impression of our credentials, experience, and client list will be equally important."

Other responses to get out of a binary question:

"The situation is complex and requires more than a yes or no answer."

"Since you are asking me, I think we have more options than either Greenville or Compton. We might even consider putting the next office in the midwest. Let's review the criteria."

On-the-job application: Stay in control. Don't allow others to force you into a limited response if it won't do justice to the situation. Either/or locks you into two choices. When was the last time a major issue only had two possible solutions? 

 

 

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Honestly, How Many Choices Do You Want?

The rallying cry of sales reps, product managers and politicians is "Choices! We offer choices!"

My observation? 

We really don’t like having too many choices. It makes us a little nervous. Every option leads to a chance to foul something up. Heck, a lot of people are more worried about not being wrong than about being right. So, we allow our experiences and habits to narrow our options to just a couple of familiar ones. It reduces the anxiety and relieves stress.

Choices

So, how do you make genuine changes faced with the siren song of habits?

The first move is to re-capture your sense of conscious choice in place of habitual reactions.  This leads to new options and frees you up from repeating the mistakes that have risen from repetition.

Be aware: it's not a single event, but a way of life.

More Good Options Than You Think!

You can choose how to respond, regardless of the situation and circumstances. Here are some possibilities that can change your world today. None of the options is confusing and you have permission to pick just one to get started:

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. Try something new and different, and don't worry about getting it wrong. People who never made a mistake never made anything else.
  • Caught up in your emotions? Over-enthusiasm, revenge, or frustration will each whisper lousy advice in your ear. Wait until they stop talking, chill out, and re-visit the decision.
  • Listen longer before you respond to someone, at work or at home. The other person will feel more respected and you're just liable to see something from their viewpoint--in which case, you may end up in agreement. At the least, you'll learn something new.
  • Eschew snap judgments. It's easy to take a stand; the workplace smiles upon "strong"people. But when it comes to who is right and who is wrong, a knee-jerk reaction can wreck relationships. Besides, do you like it when someone makes a judgment about you?
  • Stop the self-talk about what you can’t do. Once you start doing that, you'll make it come true. Give your idea a try and see what happens. If it doesn't work, so what? Really. So what? If it does work, think about how you'll feel.

Now there's only one option: Will you choose to try doing something differently?"

_________________________________________

If this is something important to you, you'll also want to read:

Fear of Success and Lasting Change: Part 1

Fear of Success and Lasting Change: Part 2

 

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The Other Person Determines What's "Fair"

You and I have seen this; and, we've done it as well:

You graduate from college and suddenly start ranting about how "all the good jobs" go to people with experience--people who are older and who've been around longer. 

Fast forward to your 'forties': "All the good jobs are being given to young people fresh out of school. Our management figured out they can hire them for less and save money." 

Pick any scenario in life: When your income is lower than you'd like, it's, "Tax the wealthier even more."

Voila! After a  bump in your employment situation, you discover you are in a new tax bracket. "Hmm, what are all these social programs my taxes are paying for? Can't people figure out how to 'get a life' like we did? And man, the salaries of the government workers are way high for what they do, there's no accountability, and everything looks mismanaged."

The-pot-of-gold
 

What's Fair?

"Fair" is, and always will be, determined by one's own situation, sense of (or lack of) personal responsibility, worldview, and values. I just came from a meeting where a middle manager who was transferred lamented her time at the current location. Why? The office was "small" and had only one window. In comes the new manager and shouts about how thrilled he is that his office has a window. "The last building was originally a warehouse and there just wasn't much window space to be had. This is great!"

The issue of perspective knows no organizational limits. The CEO of a client organization shared a similar incident when, due to the economic conditions, he downsized the physical space in order to use the money to save some jobs. The response of those involved: "I'm an executive; since when do executives share office space?" He reminded them that they could opt for another alternative to help him reduce costs.

Perspective defines the meaning of "fair" in any situation. Before making a change of any sort, discuss the reasons with everyone involved and intentionally address the notion of "fair." Let people know what you're trying to accomplish and why it's important. Listen for ways to accomplish the goal that may have escaped you and include them if they meet the criteria. Then, remember this:

It still won't "seem" fair to 100% of those involved because of their beliefs about "how things should be." In fact, some people will  be impacted negatively. However, most will ultimately respect you for "being just" in how you dealt with the situation.

Life Lesson #1: There is some percentage of people who believe that they are always victims. You won't ever change that. You move on; they won't.

Life Lesson #2: Life isn't fair. You don't have the power to make it that way even if you want to. 

Life Lesson #3: "Fair" is a somewhat juvenile notion. As an adult and a leader, you want to begin thinking about what is "Just." How can you ensure that all people are shown respect and dealt with even-handedly in the most difficult situations?

photo attribution: the very amusing folks with fun product at www.verydemotivational.com/

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Put Goals Before Solutions

How many times have you sat down to solve a problem and knew you had a great solution--only to find that it led to a heated debate?

Options  Here's the sticking point: When you start with solutions and one or both of you can't accept them, you could remain at odds indefinitely. 

If, on the other hand, you state only your goals and motives for the situation, you can then accept or reject the solutions as "options" and still work toward one that allows both of you to achieve (as much as possible) what you mutually set out to do.

Effective opening line for the discussion: "Let's talk about why we want to do this and what we hope to accomplishment. Then we can figure out which solutions work best."

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What Are Your Cognitive Biases?

I put a link to this yesterday and started receiving emails with thoughts and comments. So, here's the real deal. Kudos to The Royal Society of Account Planning.

Cognitive Biases - A Visual Study Guide by the Royal Society of Account Planning

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Prognosis Without Diagnosis Is Malpractice

You and I would run from any physician who prescribed a cure without first doing a thorough examination.

Yet we get caught up in the "do, action, execution" themes that permeate our businesses. I'm all for getting things done. It would be a good idea if they were the right things.

Toddler-future-doctor In business, "prognosis" is the mandatory forecasting that is required to project future needs, revenues, and stock analyst phone conversations. My experience has been that many companies do the best they can. At the same time, people in those organizations want to please their bosses and, as a result, deliver a "healthy" prognosis. What the company needs is an accurate diagnosis in order to behave in the right way. Schmoozing the numbers leads to inaccurate expectations, wrong use of capital and people, and diminished trust in the marketplace and on Wall Street (if you are publicly traded).

Real-Life Example

Prognosis: We can beat our competitors in the European market if we build a state-of-the-art processing facility.

Result: Facility shut down after five years of financial losses and little wear and tear on the machinery.

What was the diagnosis to begin with? There wasn't. Instead, there was a passionate presentation stating that, "If we build it, our competitors' customers will come." They never did. The competitors had the market locked up and anyone at the local coffee shop could have told that to diagnosticians from the incoming company as well as the reasons why.

Managers are the arbiters of organizational health. Their decisions lead to the success or failure of the organization itself. So, the next time a decision or projection of any consequence needs to be made, stop. Take out the managerial stethoscope and ask:

1. What do you want to do?

2. Why do you want to do it?

3. What facts can you show to support it? OK, now show me the data.

4. What are the other options?

5. Would you bet your career on the likelihood of success? (Stated seriously, that can prompt some unbelievably telling non-verbals).

What to think about today: If you are a manager or leader of any group, take time to sharpen and use your diagnostic skills. The prognosis for your organization's health will depend on them.

_____________________________________________________________

Looking forward to speaking to the Delaware Valley HDI association today on How To Be The Manager Your People Want To Work For. Hopefully my high school English teacher won't notice the preposition at the end of the title.

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5 Ways To Pay Attention: White Space for Your Life

Distraction is the new enemy of success. Everyone is consistently interrupted by emails, text messages, phone calls, and meetings--some called to discuss future meetings. That's not breaking news.

But the result of this may be something you hadn't realized: mental exhaustion followed by frustration. Why frustration? Because you never properly finish what you started.

How you focus your attention determines what you think about and ultimately do. Jumping from task to task isn't a sign of workplace excellence and productivity; it's an indicator that you may not being doing much of anything very well. 

Each of us has 100 percent of a time allotment. OK, so we'll divide our time between two projects, 50-50. But hey, we like Project X a little more than Project Y, so now it's a 65%-35% arrangement. Then, the boss comes in to discuss a new idea, someone from the family sends a text message, and the printer needs a new cartridge. Do the numbers.

Whitespaceheader White Space is a design concept most of us are familiar with. Good page layout allows for breathing room, or "white space", so the reader can attend to what's important. Doesn't it make sense to do the same for ourselves?

 Since All Things Workplace is about practical solutions, here are:

Five Ways To Create Personal White Space

1. Know your own priorities. Then, hold fast to them.

Yeah, you were expecting that one because you already know it's true. Why it's important is the key. When you have clear priorities and are in the habit of acting on them, other people notice. Then, when you take time to explain why you can't do something else at the moment, they're more likely to understand. 

2. Schedule Thinking Time. Put it on your calendar the same way you would anything else of importance. Why would you spend a day, week, or lifetime working at anything that's not a result of some purposeful reflection?

3. Start creating the habit of "Singletasking" vs "Multitasking. Tackle things in sequence and  complete each one--or reach some sensible break point-- before moving on to the next.

4. Manage distractions. Be clear with people: "I'm not always available." Turn off the mobile, Skype, Twitter, and email for set periods of time. Figure out how often you really have to check them in order to remain informed. 

5. Make "paying attention" a conscious part of your life and worklife. Observe how much of your time is being orchestrated by you and how much is being pilfered by others. The very act of doing this will anger you just enough to do something about it. 

White Space is a design concept most of us are familiar with. Good page layout allows for breathing room, or "white space", so the reader can attend to what's important.

Thought for Today: Create some White Space for your work life.

If you're thinking along the same lines, you might also enjoy:

Leadership: When "No" Is More Important Than "Yes"

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Five Good Tips For Busy People

"Unless you are an hourly worker in America, boundaries between work and leisure are dead. Work bleeds into life, and life bleeds into work. People have the smart phone, aka the “digital leash”. Work will never be the same. It’s already gone."

          Kris Dunn, VP of People, DAXKO, The Blurring Line Between Work and Life

___________________________________________

Kris and the group speak the truth. We all know it although we may not like it.

So, what do you do to "mesh" the elements of your life without it becoming blurry. I'm not a fan of blurry; clarity yields a more peaceful lifestyle.

So, as I head off to sunny (hopefully) Florida to moderate a Learning panel at IQPC Corporate University week, I'm thinking about personal blurriness and how to clear it up.

Here are 5 Tips that work for me and I believe will do the same for you:

1. Scrutinize Meetings: Look at every invitation skeptically. If there's no clear agenda, stated ending time, or no purpose that involves your own purpose, "no" would be the right response. BTW: A lot of people would rather avoid the "no" and believe they can sit in the back and work unassumingly on something else. Nah, doesn't fly--and, it's not very courteous.

2. Learn when to stop: There's a fascinating dynamic at work here: the more pressure we feel the more we tend to hunker down and work even harder and longer. Harder and longer usually lead to working past the point where we're 100% attentive. The result: Reduced, or little, effectiveness.  And, it often requires going back and doing the work all over again.

Busy-people 3. Do take time:  to accurately convey your thoughts to others. How easy it is to rattle off instructions by phone or email when we're hassled. The result? Discovering (too late) that someone responsible for a key part of your project misunderstood what you said you wanted.

Accurate communication is always a time-saver over the long run.

4. How many ways can you learn to say "No!"? Develop at least a half dozen polite variations until you can say them on cue.. Then use them. A lot.

The best way to prevent personal overload is to stop saying "Yes" to requests.

Oh, the person requesting your time is your boss? Here's what to do: seriously and politely ask for clear priorities and explain that you need to know what to drop to make room for the new assignment. I think you'll be surprised at how often this will prompt your boss to reconsider the work assignment; and, (s)he will realize that your request has been helpful in clearing up departmental priorities.

5. Consider Consequences. Think ahead, and not just about what you want to see happen. 

Business folks are, by nature, results driven. "Driven" can lure us into focusing only on the goal and forgetting about the fact that bad things can happen. Tight deadlines can really be an enemy to ignoring risks. Rushing into action without counting the cost can prove to be the most costly way of operating.

What could go wrong and what will you do if it does? An ounce of prevention. . .

Off to Orlando in the (too) early a.m. Will try not to do the next post from the back of the room!

Related reading for busy people:

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The Paradox of Choices

The rallying cry of product managers and politicians is "Choices! We offer choices!"

My observation? 

We really don’t like having too many choices. It makes us a little nervous. Every option leads to a chance to foul something up. Heck, a lot of people are more worried about not being wrong than about being right. So, we allow our experiences and habits to narrow our options to just a couple of familiar ones. It reduces the anxiety and relieves stress.

So, how do you make genuine changes faced with the siren song of habits?

The first move is to re-capture your sense of conscious choice in place of habitual reactions.  This leads to new options and frees you up from repeating the mistakes that have risen from repetition.

Be aware: it's not a single event, but a way of life.

Choices More Good Options Than You Think!

You can choose how to respond, regardless of the situation and circumstances. Here are some possibilities that can change your world today. None of the options is confusing and you have permission to pick just one to get started:

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously. Try something new and different, and don't worry about getting it wrong. People who never made a mistake never made anything else.
  • Caught up in your emotions? Over-enthusiasm, revenge, or frustration will each whisper lousy advice in your ear. Wait until they stop talking, chill out, and re-visit the decision.
  • Listen longer before you respond to someone, at work or at home. The other person will feel more respected and you're just liable to see something from their viewpoint--in which case, you may end up in agreement. At the least, you'll learn something new.
  • Eschew snap judgments. It's easy to take a stand; the workplace smiles upon "strong"people. But when it comes to who is right and who is wrong, a knee-jerk reaction can wreck relationships. Besides, do you like it when someone makes a judgment about you?
  • Stop the self-talk about what you can’t do. Once you start doing that, you'll make it come true. Give your idea a try and see what happens. If it doesn't work, so what? Really. So what? If it does work, think about how you'll feel.

Now there's only one option: Will you choose to try doing something differently?"

_________________________________________

If this is something important to you, you'll also want to read:

Fear of Success and Lasting Change: Part 1

Fear of Success and Lasting Change: Part 2

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Too Busy Doing Business to Do Business?

 Yesterday I met with a corporate Executive VP in New York City. I'll call him Phil. Phil said his division was struggling. But instead of leading the charge to turn things around, he was being called into meetings regularly to make lengthy, detailed, Powerpoint presentations explaining what was wrong. He was too busy doing business to be doing the business. Interestingly, one of his recommendations was for the company to get out of some of its operations because they were draining money and other resources. He explained that his people were spending too much time on things that no longer yielded the kind of margins the company desired.

Does any of this sound remotely familiar to you? I realized while he was talking to me that I had gotten up at 5 a.m. to deal with emails from a European client; spent time on the cell phone in transit with a non-profit, pro bono client who needed to talk; and allowed myself to be sidetracked by Busyhallway conversations with managers from the client group who I hadn't seen in a while. A similar schedule unraveled today.

What is there to learn?

1. If you do business globally in the electronic age, the expectation is that you are available on "their" time...or you should be. So choose carefully--you can't afford to be awake 24 hours a day.

2. Time management isn't really just about time. It's about clear priorities. Which means...

3. It's important to say "no." In fact, I think "no" is the solution to a lot of this craziness.

4. If you are in Phil's position, at some point you need to tell those above you that the very act of "over-reporting" is exacerbating the problem. Do it respectfully. Share the impact and consequences on your business and let them take responsibility for whether or not it makes sense to continue the external demands on your time.

How are you managing this?
________________________________________________

You might also enjoy:

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Better Meetings: Decide How To Decide

You're in a meeting. It looks as if all the information is on the table: yet the discussion goes on and on and you table the item for the next meeting. A combination of disgust, frustration, and conflict follow at the water cooler.

Good Meetings Start Before the Meeting

How do you make sure this doesn't happen? 

Simple. Agree on how you'll arrive at decisions before the meeting begins.

Decisionmaking I'm going to offer up a "Let's have consensus" procedure for the purpose of giving an example. That's not the only way to make sound decisions. Some decisions may belong to the manager; if so, say so as well as the reasons for it. What's important is to agree on what kinds of decisions will have what kind of process

Consensus Example

Most of us have to generate support--as well as the best possible input--for important decisions. I think Consensus provides a good framework for that as long as you are clear on the definition of what it really means. I use this one:

Consensus:  “I can live with this decision and openly support it.” (I added the word "openly" some years back because some folks would support it in the room and then bad-mouth it later. Once you have agreement to openly support it, any other behavior is reason for a performance counseling session).

It's equally important to define and agree on what consensus does not mean. Consensus does not mean we all necessarily think this is the best or only solution; just one we will “live with and support”.

With this definition as a template, you will be able bring the group to agreement on how they will make decisons as the meeting progresses. And Consensus is much easier to achieve than a unanimous approval. Some groups I've worked with put both of these on the wall in every meeting and use them as a visual reminder along the way.

Ask these two questions when you reach a decision point:

  • How many of you can live with with and openly support this decision?
  • Who cannot--and why not? (If you don't force the "why not?" question, you're not going to get the discussion that could be all that you need to turn it around). Another way to word the "why?" questions is: "What would it take for you to live with and openly support this decision?"

What has worked well for you and your organization?

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Steve Roesler, Principal & Founder
The Steve Roesler Group
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