Archive for category Prosperity and Well Being

The importance of passion

There’s an interesting poll on LinkedIn this week that asks what people think is the most important trait a person needs to succeed in their first job.  Looking at well over 5000 responses to the poll, passion is the most popular selection by an overwhelming margin.

There are other attributes that contribute to success, but most agree that without an interest in, and a passion for, the type of work you do the rest of the attributes are likely to be underutilised.

Interestingly, the poll results are consistent across demographics with respondents from all ages, genders, company size and titles agreeing on the paramount importance of passion.

One thing that sticks out is that respondents in the consulting and sales functions place an even higher importance on passion as a key criteria for success.  Both of those functions rely heavily on influence and, it seems to me, would benefit from the authenticity that passion brings to the table.

Have you ever experienced the futile efforts of a sales person that didn’t believe in his or her own product?

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A good offense is the best defense

I had a great session with a wonderful executive coach the other day.  He asked some thought-provoking questions that helped us put things in perspective.  One of the interesting exercises was to think about how we spend our time.

Are you setting goals and working to fulfill them, or are you too busy reacting to the challenges you face?

If you fall into the trap of being reactive, you spend all of your energy avoiding unpleasantness.  Over time you will notice that you are always busy, but rarely happy.

When you have a strong grasp of your life’s purpose you can set clear goals for yourself.  Once those goals are set, most of your energy can be focused on moving forward.  Ultimately, people are the most fulfilled when they are in pursuit of their personal passions.

The rub is that it can be hard to define your true calling.  Until you do, however, no matter how hard you swim you’re still just treading water.

How about you?  Do you know what you really want to achieve in life?

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Another crappy day in paradise

Another massive round of TGIF messages hit the ‘Net today on Facebook and Twitter and, once again, they raised the hair on the back of my neck.  I know it’s natural to celebrate the end of the traditional work week and that we’ve been singing the same hymn for generations, but if the new transparency of social media magnifies the impact of the simplest offhand remarks, think about what it does to the more complex ones.

Here are a couple of example status updates and tweets from the past several days:

Ugh. Have to head back to the office. When will I ever get a vacation?”

In conference calls since 6am with no end in sight.  Argh!  How much more of this torture can I take?”

Look familiar?  I’m sure they do.  People are quick to share their current frustrations, and the accessibility of social media is apparently too great a temptation for some cube farmers.  But can you imagine the same basic updates with a slight change of context?

Ugh. Woke up next to my wife again. Will this torture never end?”

Kids’ soccer tournament started at 6am.  Argh!  How much of these brats am I supposed to endure?”

You’d likely never spout this type of family frustration in public even if you had a written guarantee that your wife and kids aren’t on line.  At least one hopes not.

It’s human nature to get frustrated; it happens to all of us.  But when a situation gets the best of you, instead of jumping online to vent take a break and get a soft drink, count to ten or, better yet,  spend a few minutes counting your blessings of which I’m sure there are many.

As we saw from the recent Cisco Fatty argy bargy, companies — at least the clueful ones — are listening to the social media chatter.  So, even if you don’t have the most idyllic of jobs, it might pay to exercise a bit of discretion when hitting the old keyboard.  Just food for thought.

In this vein, what was the most clueless status update you remember seeing?

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What in the world are you talking about?

We’ve been given an incredible gift.  Possibly the greatest gift any group of people have ever been given.  Millions have died and millions more have suffered to preserve and defend this gift.  And the struggle continues.

It’s the ability to speak out and be heard.  Not just in your home, or your town, but around the world.

Your message, your thoughts, are important.  Someone, somewhere is waiting to hear them.  Someone, somewhere yearns to hear your words.

But they won’t until you speak out.

Start now and take one small step.  Make a simple comment in the box below.  Someone, somewhere will hear you and draw strength in the knowledge that she is not alone.

Please tell us, what makes you smile?

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Are you over-stimulated?

I just heard another ad from a car dealership offering a “stimulus package” for their 09 model cars and all the hair on the back of my neck went up.  Am I the only one that thinks this term is being over used?

Tossing a saddle on the current economic crisis as a way to increase your sagging sales seems a just a bit ghoulish and predatory to me.  How about you come up with a creative campaign that takes the high road?

While we’re on the subject of a stimulus program, here are a few suggestions for a personal stimulus program.

  • Turn off the television, put down the remote, and get out there in the real world for an evening or two.  There are a lot of people that could use your help right now, even if it’s just a few minutes of your time spent listening.
  • Start every conversation with a positive story or suggestion for improvement.  Almost everyone I run into or overhear is too quick to complain about the state of the economy or the cutbacks at work.  It’s very easy to forget just how blessed most of us really are.
  • Start thinking about what you can do to help the people who are important to you succeed, and stop looking at the list of public entitlements like it’s the menu at an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant.

Somehow we’ve been duped into thinking that the way to solve our cultural and economic issues is to spend money and look to others for help.  A real stimulus program starts with an individual effort to make the world a better place.  Like it says up at the top right of this blog: share, collaborate, benefit!

Each time I hear another huckster offering up price reductions to clear their bloated inventory, or touting tired, already questionable productivity promises as a return on investment for the purchase of their hugely profitable products, and then draping all of this in the trappings of a stimulus package, I fear that our economic crisis is largely based not on financial difficulties but the possibility that a large segment of society has become morally bankrupt.

What is your personal stimulus program?

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Successful leadership during uncertain times

Current economic conditions are exascerbating the difficulty of already daunting leadership challenges.  We are already struggling with change as the structure of organisations shifts to a more open and collaborative management model; keeping a team engaged and productive during periods of uncertainty takes additional flexibility and skill.

It seems counter-intuitive; you would think that when the economy is bad and the supply of jobs is contracting people would be working harder in order to ensure their continued employment.   Well, perhaps some are, but uncertainty creates instability, and the manager who ignores that added ingredient does so at her own peril.  Why?  Because the uncertainty creates a disconnect in the normal process of employee motivation that can make it harder to keep teams focused on organisational goals.

Maslow’s theories illustrate that people focus on their personal needs in a distinct order.  Physiological needs such as food, water and shelter are the most critical, followed closely by security and safety.  Farther down the list are social, ego and self-actualisation.  So far so good; people will work harder to preserve their jobs because the job provides for their sustenance and security, right?

Well, yes, but that’s where the fun starts.  Most employee motivation is about more than just retaining the workers, it’s about keeping them engaged in the pursuit of organisational goals.  Great leaders attract and inspire talented contributors who successfully aspire as a group to achieve the purpose of the organisation through strategic process.

Uncertainty and unrest in the economy creates a dangerous feedback loop at the most basic levels of human needs.  While it is true that the health of the organisation as a whole is critical to the viability of individual jobs, employees who are being constantly bombarded by external messages that question the security of their job find it hard to look beyond their personal needs to those of the organisation.  In some organisations this can quickly morph into a toxic environment where selfishness interferes with reason.

Here are a few examples.  Corporate product teams can disregard external input when prioritising programs, sales leaders can implement flawed incentive plans that sacrifice strategic goals in favor of the tactical in order to drive quarterly numbers, partner programs can be modified to shift the focus to internal not collaborative success metrics.

It takes a strong and insightful leader to recognise and overcome the potential impacts of economic uncertainty.

Don’t lie to your employees; rather than attemting to avoid or downplay the challenges, remind them that periods of uncertainty provide the greatest opportunities for innovation and impact.

Validate the vision of the organisation and trumpet its potential.  Increase the transparency of the strategic planning processes so that the importance of the vision is clear and selfish activities are quickly identified and corrected.

Redouble the recognition afforded to employees and teams who are at the vanguard of innovation and show how their contributions are helping to move the vision forward.

Instead of avoiding the challenges such as layoffs and cutbacks, face them head on and remind the team that even though the overall economic challenges might be out of their control they are temporary, and that their continued efforts will pay larger dividends down the road.

Are concerns about the economy impacting your organisation?  How are you dealing with it?

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Advice for new parents

It’s been almost 8 years since I first wrote this information down for a friend who was expecting a baby.  I thought it would be interesting to air it again here.

Ten pieces of advice for first time parents:

  1. Earplugs.
  2. Practice saying “Because I said so.”  It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?
  3. If you don’t have an available set of grandparents handy, adopt a pair.
  4. No, you can’t have anything nice.
  5. Don’t buy a $2000 play structure, plant a tree instead.
  6. Two words: Scotch Guard.
  7. Bedtimes aren’t just for kids.
  8. Put a cover on the sandbox.  Trust me on this.
  9. It’s not the money you spend *on* the child that matters, it’s the time you spend *with* the child that matters.
  10. If your wife ever wants to take you and the kid to be on the Maury Povich show, just run.

What did I miss?

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Doctor, I’m losing my voice

More of us are losing our voices when we go to the doctor, it seems.  No, it’s not laryngitis, but it does seem to be contagious.  Apparently the practice of getting patients to sign waiver forms to prevent them from posting criticism on the Internet about their doctors is catching on.  At least that is what is being reported in several newspapers in recent days.

It’s another example of the perils of open communication.  More patients are sharing their experiences, both positive and negative, in online review forums and social networks, and that is causing some aches and pains.   Some doctors are complaining that the proliferation of medical consumer forums is putting them in a difficult position.  Since trust is such an integral part of the medical profession, the potential damage of a negative review is significant.  An ounce of prophylactic privacy, these medicos say, is better than a pound of cure; so, instead of the prescription pad they reach for the legal pad.

Still, getting a patient to give up his or her right to a public opinion seems a high price to extract in return for treatment.

Doctors are saying that they have to protect their online reputations and that the forms are a useful tool to get web sites to remove negative comments, but the backlash could be a bitter pill to swallow.

How would you react if your doctor demanded that you sign such an agreement?

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Picking up the slack

Erik Brynjolfsson, a knowledge economist at The Center for Digital Business at MIT, studies the ways that information technology changes knowledge worker productivity. Erik and his team used new processes to measure the impact of technology on task work in an information-centric  workplace, and they tore the productivity engine down to its nuts and bolts.

One of the things they found was that new technologies tend to create what they call “IT-enabled slack” as processes are improved.

As IT improvements were introduced in the study environments, they were able to measure small performance gains in the minutae of workers’ tasks. Cumulatively, these small gains created “slack” which allowed workers more time to communicate with each other.  This not only resulted in productivity and performance improvements, but also gave them more personal time for relaxing or working on personal projects.

Sounds like a win-win to me.

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What’s your social score?

Late last year, Business Week talked about an experiment at Google to rank users of social networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter based on connectedness, frequency of communication and influence.  In the article, the value of influence-ranking using Google’s patent-pending technology is examined in the context of advertising, but such a system has other potential applications in business.

As I previously mentioned, maintaining a large number of healthy, diverse relationships is one way to improve the collaborative quotient of an organisation.  Companies are looking  to innovative ways to measure the effectiveness of collaboration and its impact on success.  Some companies are finding value in charting the relationships between individuals and creating maps that help to visualise the density and relative value of social ties within the sphere of business.  In a conversation at Knowledge Infusion, Jason Corsello recently talked about the potential for adding a “social index” to employees’ performance appraisals as a way to track and presumably stimulate collaborative behavior.

In Forbes this week, Joshua-Michele Ross muses on the rise of the social nervous system and gives a number of examples of how a massively connected society could improve such things as EMS, political effectiveness and virus (disease) forecasting.  All of these examples show the potential for technology to increase visibility into communication and presumably improve effectiveness, but towards the end of Ross’ article, the privacy alarm begins to sound.

As Ross puts it, “In a social nervous system there will be increasing pressure to be connected 24/7 to the hive mind that is Facebook, Twitter and so on. Those who do not connect, share and collaborate will have a hard time in business and in social life.”

We’re already seeing some employers using credit reports to evaluate potential employees.  Do you suppose that in the not too distant future companies will be calling a network reporting bureau to obtain your social score as well?

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