Don’t Rush the Chick

My high school senior and I were talking recently. She mentioned something like “When I make it I’m going to take care of you guys.” I promptly replied with “I don’t know if you’re quite willing to do what it takes to be in a position to take care of us.

Needless to say, this didn’t go over that well with my soon to be 18 year old. With the help of my wife, I realized that my words were indeed poorly chosen. She reminded me that Fathers have more of an impact on their daughter’s confidence and emotional well-being than their mothers.

My words were taken as an expression of my lack of confidence in her capabilities to make it in life. My words were based on a perceived lack of effort on her part. A lack of seriousness for the moment that was upon her. It looked as if she wasn’t rising to the occasion that adulthood provides every adolescent.

What I thought was me challenging her to push for greatness, was really me punishing her with my own fear and anxiety for her future. I went to my daughter and apologized for offending her with what I said. “You have everyone I told her that I believed that she possessed everything within her to achieve her dreams.

Don't rush the chick!
I learned a valuable parenting lesson: “Don’t Rush the Chick”

I likened her to an egg. Everything is already inside that egg to become a hen, rooster, or even fried chicken. (Let’s pretend chickens fly for the sake of this metaphor.) She already has inside her shell the makings of feathers that will keep her warm from what will seem like, world’s constant rejection. Inside that shell are the feet that will take her to new and distant places. Under that protective casing are the wings that will help her soar to new heights well above mediocrity and even beyond her doubts and fears.

As the Father-figure, I must provide warmth and safety. This is in the form of supportive and encouragement. This can be in the form of asking questions to allow her to engage in the process of becoming an adult.

All I’m supposed to do is believe in her capabilities to do anything she set her mind to. It’s going to be up to her to crack that sell from the inside when she’s ready

7 Ways to ReCreate Your Creativity

recreating creativity

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

Imagine there was a little turtle with a shiny green shell. Let’s call her Toni.  One day the other little turtles, envious of the attention Toni received over her shiny green shell, told her shell was gone.  At first, Toni didn’t believe them, but after hearing turtle after turtle swear that it was indeed gone, she began to believe it.   Soon Toni began retreating under shelter when it rained since she had no shell. She’d explore less of her world for fear of danger since she had no shell.  This behavior continued even as she grew into a big turtle since Toni still believed she had no shell.
Most humans are just like Toni.  Instead of a shell, it’s their creativity that they’ve been made to believe is missing.  An innate trait that we’re all born with and used to explore, learn and make sense of the world.  Sadly, it just takes one or two individuals to convince us that we’re not creative.  Typically this happens in the formative years of elementary education.  When we’re told that there’s only one answer, that it can be found only one way, and that that’s the only problem that matters in the first place.

We’re All Creative

When framed in that way, creativity is something every knowledge worker must have to avoid being replaced by A.I. Yet many are quick to say “I’m not creative“.  Pablo Picasso said “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once they grow up.” 
Creativity is one of the traits we have as little children.  What most adults fail to realize is that unlike a doused campfire their creativity isn’t snuffed out.  Rather it’s been muted like the television volume by years of social conditioning.  The compulsory school systems mandate compliance at the expense of individuality and creative expression.  Soon that child begins doubting their creativity for fear of ridicule, getting a bad grade or worst of all, not being accepted by others.
We're all creative, most just buy into the lie that they're not.

ReCreating Your Creativity

The key then to invigorating our sense of creativity is creating a sense of safety in our workplaces.  A place where people are free to share their ideas and get constructive feedback.  Which preferably comes in the form in the form of “Yes, and…” A commonly used approach in the Improv world.
Tips to be more creative:

  1. Inspire – It’s all in your head.”  If your doctor spoke those words it could be a great let down. When it comes to creativity, truer words have never been spoken.  Your thoughts are the kindling or the logs of your creative flame.  Having different thoughts is keys as the most innovative usually come from separate ideas/realms.
  2.  Move – Move! #$%!&, Get out the way! …of your thought creation.  During simple non-brain intensive movements, the conscious mind is occupied long enough for the subconscious mind to engage.  Ever wonder why many claim to have gotten their insights in the shower?
  3.  Play – Daddy, will you play with me? As a father, I get that a lot.  Kids love to play.  Think about it, the times when our creative juices are bubbling over is the time when we’re constantly playing.  Re-incorporate a bit of play into your day.  Take it one step further and schedule a 15-minute play break into that busy schedule.
  4. Write – Writing is like painting with words.” Nothing is better for helping you gain clarity of thought than writing.   Sometimes stirring the mind for words could feel like your stirring molasses. Stick with it and get something down on the page.  It’ll absolutely suck at first, but with enough time this mental Jui-Jitsu often yields tremendous insights and ideas.
  5. Design – Build it and creativity will come.”  Ok ok, that’s not quite what Jame Earl Jones told Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams.  The very act of designing something will prime the pump. If creativity were a carton of eggs, there’d only be 1 or 2 uncracked ones in that 18 ct carton.   The only way to get the good ones is to go through the bad ones.
  6. Constrain – Ultimate freedom is chaos.” In a counterintuitive way, applying restrictions unlocks more creative ideas.  Like the floating swimming lines in a pool, constraints bring order to our creative faculties.  Instead of asking “How can you feed a family of four for a week?” consider asking “How can you feed a family of four for a week for less than $150 with only non-processed foods?”
  7. Defer – Only God can judge me. I dislike this oft tattooed bumper sticker slogan. However, when it comes to creativity it’s what you have to tell yourself. When you do release your idea or creation into the world, remember that it’s the idea/work being judged by others – not you. Your ideas/work aren’t clones of you. Let them stand (or fall) on their own.
To get started, I recommend the following books:

  • Creative Confidence – creativity is within all of us. how to get it out is the issue.
  • Big Magic – reimagining “genius” and understanding fear’s role in the creative process.
  • Creativity Inc. – understanding art vs tech, how truth is like oxygen for creative cultures.
At the end of the day, businesses exist to solve a series of seemingly never-ending problems.  Workers are therefore employed not for their immense knowledge of a given problem, but rather for their ability to solve those problems.  That’s why honing your creativity can have profound effects on your ability to reimagine and reframe a problem.  Especially if you’re able to do it collaborate with others by showing them how to be more creative. Thus scaling the creative force that can be unleashed.  Your problems won’t stand a chance.

Getting Employees In The Right Seat

On the way into work this morning, the phrase popular in startup communities came on – “Hire slow. Fire fast.” While this may work in the startup world, I believe Jim Collins’ advice to “Get the right people on the bus in the right seats” is far better suited for an established company.  But how do you operationalize it?

Whose job is to make sure employees are in the right seats in your corporation’s bus?

Despite many organizations being like a huge double-decker city bus, employees often find themselves stuck in their department’s section. If things aren’t working out between the employee and manager (who in many cases acts as judge jury and executioner), the manager can eventually choose to kick the employee off the bus.  Now is it really always the employee? Maybe that employee just wasn’t in the right seat?   Who’s responsible for making sure employees are in the right seat on the bus?  I believe it should be HR.

HR + Management Partnership

In many organizations, managers are responsible for production and personnel.   How about we have managers and Human Resources work in partnership similar to that of an NFL Head Coach and General Manager. Human Resources should be responsible for all hiring (signings), lifting/shifting (trades), succession planning (depth chart), and firing (waives).  

Get in the right seat on the bus
Read also: What if HR reported to the Board of Directors?

Use Data to Find the Right Seat

Human Resources are the best equipped to ensure that those same people are in the right seats. Use data analytics and A.I. to compare the performance management data and individual development plan data with job descriptions of open roles, strengths and personality profiles.  This can align talent to identify the right seats for employees.

Mitigate Sucky Management

Let’s admit it, not all managers are top notch at management. Having the hiring and firing done in partnership with HR, it does a lot to mitigate the risk posed by having a manager who themselves aren’t top notch.  

Book Recommendation: “Work Rules!” to see how Google’s committee approach to firings works for them.

Managers are often removing employees and employees are often removing themselves from the bus prematurely.  Managers too often use the nuclear option (firing) to deal with poor performers. On the other side of the coin, employees leave managers instead of leaving companies.  More should be done to ensure employees don’t feel like their only option is to jump off the bus. HR can assist employees in finding seats where they can feel more engage and fulfilled.

Rethinking Passion: What it is and how to get it

rethink passion

There’s only one that strikes more fear in the heart of graduating high school seniors than even “Final Exams”. And that is “Follow Your Passion“. There are those that have no clue as to what they want to be. Many who do know what they plan to be, doubt themselves. “If this is what I’ve chosen to become, then why don’t I feel passionate?

You’re not some inadequate loser for not knowing what your passion is or being passionate about whatever path you’ve chosen to pursue.

People take passion to mean different things seemingly all at the same time. Hence the confusion. Is it a profession? Is it a purpose? Is it a calling? Is it a cause? Is it a feeling? Is it a description? What is it? Truth is, most that use the term aren’t sure. Here are three ways to rethink passion:

It Is Not Found

The biggest fallacy is that passion is something that you should be able to simply find. Society suggests that finding a passion coincides with deciding on a profession. No more than simply deciding on what to eat nourish you. Deciding on a profession is not going to make you feel passionate about it. The chosen profession can become your passion…

It Can Be Developed

On Adam Grant’s Worklife podcast, Angela Duckworth, passion is a consequence of effort. She went on to say that finding (or following) a passion reflects a fixed mindset. Whereas developing a passion demonstrates a growth mindset. Just as a flywheel develops momentum the more effort is put into spinning it. Passion can be developed for the chosen profession given enough effort that leads you toward mastery. Don’t bother following some phantom passion that isn’t usually going to be there fully baked and ready for the taking. Instead, follow your curiosity to develop your passion.

It Can Find You

Another way to obtain passion is through suffering. This reflects more of the original meaning of the word. You see this often with people who find themselves taking up a cause greater than themselves. It’s either due to a tragedy that brings personal suffering. It can also be to alleviate suffering in others.

Ask Scott Harrison, the guy behind Charity: Water, whether or not he followed anything before finding the cause for which he gladly suffers. How about Candace Lightner? The day before a drunk driver killed her daughter, did she have any plans of devoting her life to this cause? No, it found her.

Don’t believe the fairy tail hype that society wants us to buy around passion. It’s not something that we can select off a shelf. Like ore, we must work mine it and refine it through focused and disciplined effort. Passion can also materialize through the combination of your anger and love due to witnessing suffering. So what are willing to suffer for? Don’t know? That’s okay. Just live a curious life and either you’ll develop one (or two or three before it’s all said and done) or one will find you.

6 Benefits Employees Gain By Teaching Others

employees should be teaching

Professional Development can be seen as a stool. You would be hard pressed to find anyone against the notion of Learning and Development (L&D) as legs one and two. Both are critical for employee engagement and career progression. However, L&D shouldn’t be the end of the process.   The third leg is Teaching. Employees should strive to cap off their L&D by teaching what they know to others.

Teaching ideas and topics abound. Each of the following are not only opportunities to learn and develop. They are also excellent sources for insights/skills that can be taught to others.

  • Attended an industry conference?
  • Taken a training course?
  • Read an interesting non-fiction book?
  • Listened to profound podcast?
  • Come across a relevant article?
  • Gained insights from a mentor?
  • Generated a new idea/concept?

Here are 6 benefits of a Learning, Development & Teaching approach:

Solidifying Learning

According to psychologists and learning experts, teaching solidifies learning. Also known as the protégé effect. Teaching something helps you learn something much better than just learning it for yourself.

Stimulating Engagement

Employees who teach are able to feel a deeper sense of engagement. This is due in large part to the Mastery aspect of Daniel Pink’s theory of workplace motivation. Engagement also grows due to the feeling of contribution made to colleagues.

Read also: Engaging Employees With Mastery

Spotlighting Expertise

Still don’t think you have a skill/insight to share, huh? How about taking a look at your resume for a list of suggestions. Teaching is a great way to highlight your professional expertise. You soon become known as the “go-to” person for your chosen topic.

Securing Recognition

One of the most difficult things to do in an organization is being recognized. A great side effect of teaching is that it makes you easier to recognize. Simply by standing up, others will recognize you especially as an internal thought leader and creative problem solver. The only two skills A.I. won’t replace any time soon.

Spreading Knowledge

When employees teach other employees, knowledge is able to spread throughout an organization. This can do wonders to connect informational and departmental siloes. Knowledge transfer connects people via shared ideas and insights.

Sparking Innovation

Ideas are rather promiscuous. They want nothing more than to have sex with other ideas. When employees teach others what they know, their ideas are able to have relations with other ideas. This mating process is often how innovation is conceived.

Employees that seek to gain the most out of learning and development must become teachers. There are as many ways to source teaching topics as there are benefits for teaching. Start by sharing your ideas and insights with lunch buddies. Share concepts in team meetings. Write internal blog posts. Organize a panel discussion where you participate as an expert. Progress to leading a lunch-n-learn. However you decide to do, consider making teaching the third leg of your professional development stool.

7 Ways to Develop Patience

Patience is a super-virtue

Patience is defined as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.  For me, patience is on the Mount Rushmore of Virtues.

Patience is the Ultimate Enabler

  • Active listening. Instead of waiting to speak, you’re listening to understand. This enhances communication and strengthens relationships. It also impacts persuasion, creativity, and learning.
  • Empathy. You can endure the discomfort that comes from sitting with someone in their emotional pit of pain which leads to deeper connection and influence. It also impacts vulnerability, resilience, and trust.
  • Self-control. The ability to delay gratification is a key to success. This allows you to reap greater results due to the proper investment of your time and resources. It also impacts integrity, mercy, and discipline.
  • Mindfulness. The ability to respond rather than react to emotional triggers.  This leads to the ability to effectively manage stress by fostering non-judgment. It also impacts curiosity, empathy, and communication.
  • Wisdom. Rather than rushing to judgment, you thoughtfully consider what you know and seek further insight.  This allows you to be a better decision maker. This also impacts influence, humility, and learning.
  • Love. According to 1 Cor. 13:4, patience is one half of the love equation.  Because patience must be exercised, love is a decision and an action. This allows you to overcome the grip of fear. It also impacts courage and vulnerability.  

Patience is a Super-Virtue

Patience is a critical virtue that enables the development and attainment of countless other virtues.  To develop patience, I recommend the following:

  1. Prayer and meditation.  The hardest part of being patient is remembering to use it in the moment. Both will help develop in you the mindfulness needed to access patience when triggered by life.  
  2. See it and Believe it. Utilize affirmations and visualizations to reinforce the new identity that you intend to be. Make sure the affirmations are positive, present tense and include feeling.
  3. Deprive yourself. Make yourself wait for things.  Delay your gratification for a moment or a week. Sleep on a pending decision. Fast from food, television, alcohol, shopping, social media or sex.
  4. Get Un-Busy. Re-prioritize your life by focusing on the important over the urgent. What can be deleted? Which can be delegated? What can be delayed? What’s left is what you’ve got to get done.
  5. Calm down. Count to 10 or Box Breathing both work to quell the emotions that surge as we’re triggered so we’re not reacting in the moment.  This allows your calmer head to prevail.
  6. Schedule time. Things can tend to pop into your day unannounced. Like an office visitor or family member. If the present moment is inconvenient, make arrangements to get back together.
  7. Funeral focus. Foreshadow what you’d want people to say about you at your funeral.  Allow this to change your perspective toward how you treat people. Be patient with people.

Patience is how we’re able to endure the discomfort associated with the fear associated with whatever we’re impatient to get back to.  Developing patience is how we can take control of our lives. By taking control of how we react to life’s inevitable inconveniences and setbacks.

Development: Making the Most of Learning

Coaching and Development

Learning and development (coaching) are one of the fundamental aspects in the world of athletics. Players are expected to learn their plays, new skills, and team culture.  They must use those learnings along with the feedback to develop and show growth from when they joined the team.

The responsibility for learning and development doesn’t rest solely on the athlete. Coaches and athletes work in partnership.  Consistent feedback is provided by the coaches. Opportunities for the deliberate practice required for athletes to grow are also provided. Learning and development is a constant cycle with the ultimate aim of growth.

Aim for Growth

There are managers who believe “develop my employees will just make them want to leave sooner”.  However, in sports, one of the best measures of an athletic coach is their ability to “coach up” talent.  Primarily because the time with the team is often short. If the name of the game is high performance, then whatever can be done to maximize performance (including growing the talent) is what must be done.   

Say you’re able to get 125% out of an employee after 3 years before they move on with hands-on development. That’s a whole lot better than getting 100% for 1 year followed by 90-95% the next 2 with hands-off development as the employee’s engagement goes south.

Example data for illustrative purposes only.

In Partnership

Management partnership with employees is needed for proper development.

Managers and employees have a vested interest in employee development.  With development comes an increase in the scope of job duties. The manager’s team can increase their productivity. The manager can offload more tactical work to the employee so she can focus on more strategic work.  The employee has challenging work that spurs engagement. Promotion possibilities abound by excelling with an expanded job description.

Consistent Feedback

Consistent feedback is needed for proper development.

When it comes to feedback, take a cue from athletics – more is better.  Managers should consistently observe performance and provide both positive and constructive feedback.  Managers must be able to point out specific areas of improvement and ask the right questions. This will allow the employee to remain mentally engaged in their development.

Deliberate Practice

Deliberate practice is needed for proper development.

Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 rule to achieve mastery is often misunderstood. First, it won’t always take 10K hours. More importantly, the practice must be deliberate. (Check out this video from peak performance expert Andres Ericcson)

Managers can help develop their employees develop by providing the following:

  1. Specific area(s) of improvement
  2. Opportunities for deliberate practice
  3. Further feedback (praise and/or guidance)

Corporate America could learn a lot from the world of athletics and high-performance. Make the investments in learning count by also investing in developing.  This is done through partnership, consistent feedback, deliberate practice, aiming for growth.  It’s time we think of Corporate America as a high-performance sport and coach up our the workforce.  

The Kite Runner

Kite Runner
Click to enjoy "The Kite Runner" for yourself!

Author: Khaled Hosseini (2003)
Listening Length: 12 hours and 1 minute
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
(this article contains affiliate links)

This book. Typically you will find me swimming comfortably inside the personal development and business book lanes. That is until I heeded Tim Ferris recommendation to change things up with fiction novels every once in a while.

Tim highly recommended this book and it didn’t disappoint. I listened to Khaled read the audiobook. The book was wonderfully written. It was quite poetic with great imagery and descriptions.

It felt like I was listening to a moving church choir. Every beautiful quote was a moving stanza. The transitions were so purposeful and poignant. They felt like radio/television teases that left you paralyzed wanting to hear more. The moment Amir finds his nephew in the bathroom. I felt the transition was amazing in that only a few moments into the next chapter did you fully grasp what had transpired. It’s like the author uses his transitions to cast a fishing line into the near future only to slowly draw you back to where he left off in the next chapter.

There were quite a few times when I literally gasped and a couple where I almost cried. That’s how emotionally engaging the story was at times. I also loved learning so much about Afghanistan culture. It was great to also gain valuable historical perspective untaught in Western schools. I learned that the “g” is not pronounced when saying the proper name of the country or its people

There are many memorable quotes throughout the book. Two that stood out for me were the following:

“When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal a wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness. There is no act more wretched than stealing.”

“…lifting him from the certainty of turmoil and dropping him in a turmoil of uncertainty.”

I was in awe at how much detail the author was able to remember about his childhood until it became clear that it was indeed a fictional novel. The use of the first person gives the book that autobiographical feel. The term is actually Creative Non-Fiction. The book goes right up there with Ready Player One as one of the best modern fiction books I’ve consumed.

Between a Managerial Rock and a Hard Place

Managers, Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Work can be tough for middle managers. They are literally between a rock and a hard place. Your everyday middle manager has a team reporting to them and she also has her own boss.  Neither of which make the best conversation partners when it comes to a workplace confidant.

While many offices have an open door policy, that doesn’t mean all types of conversations should be occurring between the ranks of employees.  Managers must maintain a level of loyalty to leadership in their words and behaviors. Managers must display to their employees a united front between them and senior leadership and the company as a whole. Elizabeth Shassere says this boils down to maintaining loyalty, integrity and honesty:

Managers are often between a rock and  a hard place

“...If anyone has a problem with me, a teammate, a decision, or action is taken, it is fair to bring it up constructively (preferably with an alternative or a solution to follow) but privately.”

Elizabeth Shassere

Read Also: Enhancing Culture

This is all the more difficult for first time managers. Especially for those now leading former co-workers.  That new manager is no longer able to have the same level of chit chat with any individual contributors about work.  The pool of compatriots narrows significantly.  

This means less people to complain to, question strategy with, share frustrations about.  They’re there, but for less accessible than your former co-workers were and still are.

Let’s try and keep this in mind. Managers are caught in a tough spot.  A spot that might literally be between a rock and a hard place. Rock (their boss) and a hard place (their employees). Be kind.

What if Human Resources reported to the Board of Directors?

How about Human Resources reporting to the Board?

People are our most valuable resource.” Most companies would agree wholeheartedly with this common adage. Yet most companies are structured in a manner where there are two perspectives (leadership/management and employees).  Employees are left on one side of the divide – by themselves. Human Resources then naturally appears to be aligned to the interests of leadership.

The impact is that employees perceive that they are often feeling alone against management. Especially when it comes to performance, career transition, or discipline.  This leads to employee disengagement, decreased productivity and retention issues.

Read Also: Engaging Employees with Autonomy, Mastery, & Purpose.

The common practice in many Fortune 500 companies is that the Internal Audit team reports directly to the Board’s Audit Committee. This helps ensure that the IA department is able to maintain a certain level of objectivity when examining the financial books that it might not have if reporting to the CFO or CEO.  

What if, in like manner, the company untethered Human Resources? What if the Chief People Person (CHRO) reported to a Board committee like Internal Audit?  Imagine if this were the case. It could:

  • send a clear message that the most valuable resource adage isn’t more than lip service.
  • do a lot to curb the scourge of most organizations – middle management.
  • do more than an Ethics Line ever could to make employees not feel the threat of retaliation.

There are lot of folks talking about innovating the workplace.  Consider making the corporate HRs similar to NFL Referees who report, not to the owners, but to the League Office. Talk about a giant step for inclusion and engagement.