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.
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
This is a reprise of a LinkedIn post on my unorthodox perspective when it comes to priorities. With time to reflect and discuss, my perspective has shifted…somewhat. This post contains affiliate links.
If I asked you to point to show me your priorities, where would you go? To your to-do list? To a list of life categories (love, health, career, wealth, etc)
The best place to see your actual priorities is your DONE bucket. Your production will always reflect yourtrue priorities. This does not suggest that those things were the right things to have been done. They are simply the things that mattered to you the most at the moment.
Whether the production includes the TPS Report, the Sales Presentation, that Netflix movie, chatting with the co-worker for 0:45 or reorganizing your desk drawers.
This isn’t to say your list of to-do items aren’t indeed priorities. They most definitely are. They just aren’t the ones that tell the story of what you value most. To-do lists are just talk. And we all know about talk – it’s cheap. The real story is told in your behavior – your actual production.
Several years ago my 4-year-old daughter walked in on me practicing a new self-taught skill – juggling. She tried her best to imitate by taking two balls and moving one ball from one hand to another. Though she switched the balls over and over, no one would’ve called it juggling.
When the big boss slams something urgent on your desk, your reassessment (what I’ll call Type I later) of the relative priority isn’t juggling. If a change needs to be made, you’re doing what my daughter did and shifting the doing ball to the to-do list and moving the new hot ball to the doing list. That’s switching, not juggling. After all, you’re only ever doing one thing at a time.
Now I totally get that the meaning of juggling for many is not literal and that it is indeed this Type I reassessment. My anti-juggling rant began with a literal interpretation.
Budgeting vs Spending
In the post, I asserted there to be only one type of prioritization occurring at the moment of action. Everything else are mere intentions. However, as this is a far leap for others to join me in making, I’m going to moonwalk it back. There are indeed two types of prioritization at play.
Type I: this happens prior to taking action is akin to budgeting.
Type II: this occurs when you’re actually taking action is akin to spending.
If you excel at Type II, but do a crappy job on Type I then you’re still screwed. Both prioritization types must maintain the goal alignment that should already be in place between your goals those of your department, function and ultimately the company itself.
While both types are key, Type II is the gateway to your production which is the revelation of your true priorities. No matter how good of a job you do in Type I, Type II can always let you down. This is where the principles on which you based your initial prioritization will be tested.
Type II will always deliver what you truly care about the most. What you’ve produced as that will show you what you’ve truly prioritized. That isn’t saying that producing junk is the way to go. That all you have to do is just get any and everything done to say that I’ve prioritized. Quite the contrary. Your prioritization must be aligned to your end goals. Many only focus on the alignment of their Type I prioritization and let their Type II prioritization (taking action) go off the rails.
Maintaining Priority Alignment
Upfront Prioritization – Ensure that your intentions are prioritized based not only on what’s urgent but also by factoring in their long-term importance.
One At A Time – The best way to get stuff done is to focus on one thing until no further progress can be made. Then pick up the next item. In the world of Agile, let there only ever be one item in your DOING column.
Purposeful Switching – When new things come up, perform a Type 1 prioritization based on your goals and principles.
Distraction-Free – Reward yourself with free time for every work sprint using the Pomodoro technique.
Polite Rudeness – When interrupted, ask if this (interruption) will take longer than 2 minutes. If so, ask if they can send an email or if you can find them during your next break.
Eat that frog – Don’t allow your low-priority tasks to go ahead of your high priority ones. Tackle the hardest one first and enjoy skiing downhill from there. Check out Brian Tracy’s bestseller Eat That Frog for more.
Prioritization is not only about how you plan/budget your time, but it’s also about how you spend it. Focus on setting your priorities in alignment with your goals as well as executing in alignment. Consistent completion of high priority objectives will help you become a high potential employee.
Recently the question of what distinguishes Process Improvement from Business Transformation came up at work. Having worked in the Process Improvement and Business Transformation space as a Six Sigma Black Belt and Master Black Belt I felt it was largely a matter of scale and complexity. The counter argument quickly came: Why isn’t a larger more complex project just a larger more complex Process Improvement?
To make the distinction, my colleague posed that Business Transformations should require the consultation of external experts. To this I was aghast. I argued that whether a consultant is involved shouldn’t be done as a matter of course for all large and complex projects. And definitely not simply to delineate between Process improvement and Business Transformation.
Here are the four arguments that underpin my thinking:
Trust the Process
Nick Saban Head Football Coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide has a mantra “Trust the Process”. As a perennial powerhouse, that is the key to their success. Success in business transformation requires a strong process (methodology). This is what will help ensure consistent results. A strong methodology practiced effectively can unlock the latent creativity of the people most essential to your business’ success – your people.
Culture is Key
Ask any professional sports club’s General Manager and they’ll tell you that dynasties are built with drafted players, not free agents. This means home grown talent is key. Home grown ideas are as essential for business success.
The people closest to the issue often have the best ideas for how to transform a business system. They only need to be empowered to do so. The solutions born from within have the greatest chance of adoption and ultimate success as they’re often don’t require the employee culture to make gigantic leaps.
Leaders vs Followers
Fortune favors the bold is a phrase oft spoken at commencements across the country. If companies are in business to bedazzle their customers with value-laden products and services so they can reap commensurate amount of value – dare I say fortune – how can they do it by copying what others have done? Innovation doesn’t require consultants, it requires a strong process, top-down leadership support and an engaged and empowered employees.
Out of Control
When consultancy is used to delineate between improvement and transformation, the internal Business Transformation team will find themselves between a rock and a hard place.
Rock: business owners who decide to do their own Process Improvement. Hard Place: pitbull-like consultants who establish their footing as the go-to for all business’ Business Transformation needs. Where does that leave the internal consultants?
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-consultancy. Everybody has to eat.
However, Internal Business Transformation teams must be very careful when insisting that their business clients source consultants. Sure, there are definitely times when it’s necessary. But it should never be done as a matter of course to distinguish between Process Improvement and Business Transformation.
Our family uses New Year as a time to look back at the year that was and look ahead to the year yet to be. A family is a collective of people who although they’re a unit, are doing their own individual life journey. For the family to operate at its maximum potential, each individual must strive to be the best version of themselves.
This year we went through a New Year, New You/Us Growth exercise to get them more comfortable with change. We reframed the dreaded change to a more accepted growth. We also helped them see change as inevitable, scary, vital, multi-faceted and constant.
Each of our three kids was paired with one of three adults for support and guidance: Dad & M2; Mom & M4; M1 & M3. The exercise follows a 5-step process aimed at aligning beliefs to actions in support of the goal/intention.
Identity – Where are you currently?
Intentions – Where do you want to go and why?
Goals – How will you know you’ve arrived?
Milestones – How will know you’re on the right track?
Practices – What do you have to do consistently to get there?
Let’s use Navigation as a metaphor…
Building the framework
Facilitate the exercise by using the following framework:
Fold an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper in half landscape-wise
On the left half, draw two intersecting lines to form quadrants
At the top of each quadrant write START, STOP, INCREASE, DECREASE
Fold the right edge of the sheet over into the middle (forms 2 quarters)
At the top of the middle quarter, write INTENTIONS
In the middle of the middle quarter, write GOALS
At the top of the outer quarter, write MILESTONES
In the middle of the outer quarter, write PRACTICES
New Year New You/Us
Your identity is your current location. These are your habits and their underlying beliefs. These are also your strengths, weaknesses, accomplishments, mistakes. Feedback from teachers, bosses, colleagues, and loved ones.
Change ismulti-faceted. In that change can be accomplished by Starting, Stopping, Increasing, Decreasing a behavior. It’s important to realize and emphasize that change can also come from starting something new that’s good for you or by increasing something that’s already serving you well.
Each person writes a few items on separate mini post-it notes for each quadrant. (e.g. stop biting fingernails; increase daily water intake; decrease the amount of screen time) In groups, review the content of your Change Quadrants.
Your intention is your destination city. Based on what you identified above, look for at least 3 things that you can either start/stop/increase/decrease. I recommend having at least 1 increase.
For some intentions are enough. But the power only comes when you align your identity, environment, and systems with your new intentions. If your intention is to lose weight – IDENTITY: start thinking like a thinner person. Would they eat this? Would they sit for this long? ENVIRONMENT: swap out the sweets in the pantry for fresh fruit on the counter. Place your running shoes and outfit on the foot of the bed so it reminds your first thing in the morning. SYSTEMS: Block out time in your calendar for meal prep and exercise. Each person selects 3-4 of the most important mini post-it notes and moves them to the INTENTIONS column.
Your goal is the specific address you’re trying to reach. This is why goals must be specific and measurable and time-bound (not a huge fan of the “a” and “r” of SMART Goals) Losing weight, huh? How many lbs or what size and by when? Want to run a marathon, huh? What do you want your finish time to be and by when?
Goals are often confused with tasks. The purpose of a goal is to stretch you, hence the resulting growth. Goals should capture completion and quality. How well do you want to do the thing? It isn’t enough to lose weight. If it were 2 lbs would suffice.
If something merely needs to be completely, like apply to college, then it isn’t really a goal. It’s a task. However, gain acceptance into college for the Fall is a goal. An even stronger goal is to gain acceptance to one of my top 5 schools for the Fall. The stronger the metric the more quality work will be required.
Each person puts a dot or a “G” on at least two intentions. Then using the above model, writes goals for each of the highlighted intentions.
Your milestones are the key landmarks that you expect to see along your journey. These are also known as sub-goals. Sub-goals are an important way to maintain momentum and motivation. Once milestones are identified, the larger goal can take a back seat in place of constant focus on the short term goal. These sub-goals can be attacked in 90-day sprints. After which your course is assessed to ensure you’re still on track, then it’s back to the next sub-goal 90-day sprint.
Milestones are like the ladder rungs where the top is the goal. As in navigation, the size of the journey impacts the number of milestones you’ll see along the way. If you have trouble breaking your goal into 1-2 sub-goals, consider that your goal is likely a sub-goal. In that case, think bigger by stacking goals.
For each goal, write the milestones on a regular size post-it note.
Finally, your practices are the things you’re going to do in order to get to your destination. Not tasks per se. Practices never end. Rather practices should eventually become habits. If your intention is to get your anger under control, then a practice could be meditation to develop mindfulness.
Perform practices as part of a regular routine. Daily, 3-4x week or weekly depending on the goal. For instance, weight loss might require gym visits 3x a week, but it may also require drinking 32 oz of water first thing in the morning to get the system going.
Yes, practices bear a close resemblance to what’s commonly referred to as resolutions. However, practices imply a subtle shift in mindset away from the seemingly inherent perfectionism implied with resolutions. It’s okay if you miss a day at the gym. It’s a practice. After all, practice is not meant to be perfect. The cool part is that consistent achievement comes through consistent practice. This also removes the tendency to be perfect.
Each person identifies 1-2 thing(s) that if done consistently would get them to their goal. This is to be placed on 1 post-it note per goal.
Ok, ok, I know this wasn’t included above, but I think it’s too valuable to leave out. Your strategies are what you plan to do to interrupt the trigger-routine-reward. For some, just saying that they will not drink sugary drinks is enough to change the way they believe, to change their identity such that the trigger is no longer a temptation. I call these folks Cold Turkeys. For the others, that change in belief comes through repeated action. I call these folks Jive Turkeys. (just playing). How about Room Temp Turkeys?
In this case, repeatedly standing up to that temptation. Eventually, if you stand up enough times, your subconscious gets the picture and that belief gets downloaded into your operating system. These strategies are your proactive defense strategy for dealing with the inevitable temptation. It’s your gameplan. Many resort to what amounts to playing a pickup game with their bad habits. Your habit is a seasoned pro and you can’t just roll the ball out there and hope to compete successfully.
Strategies are what you can do to make the bad habit harder to do or to make the alternative good habit easier to do. This might include placing your remote in a drawer so you have to actually get it to watch tv. This might mean leaving your guitar in the living room to remind you to practice. Or it could be going to bed in your running outfit with your sneakers at the foot of the bed.
Leaving a Legacy
Many say change is difficult. I disagree with that. Change is easy. It’s the process of deciding to and/or adapting to change that’s difficult. If more parents and schools equipped children with tools and techniques such as those described above it could change the world. People might not fear it or squirm at the mention of it. It’s my hope that my kids will realize that with these skills and faith in God there’s almost nothing they can’t do.
At a recent team meeting, a colleague (let’s call her Patty) lead an icebreaker inspired by Daylight Savings. Patty asked the team “If you had an extra hour magically appear in your work calendar, what you spend that time doing?” The team was to place these on a lime-green post-it.
Then Patty posed the converse “What could you eliminate from your workday to give you an extra hour?” The team was to place these on an orange post-it. Here’s the kicker: “Identify the orange post-its over which you feel you have control.“
Out of control!
Not surprisingly, certain themes emerged on the orange post-its. These included chit-chatting, unproductive meetings and repetitive work. The thing that surprised me was that not many of the oranges were seen to be within their control. (Read more: Engaging Employees with Autonomy)
Having a sense of control over your work is one of the top contributors to employee engagement and satisfaction. Surprise! It’s not money. Yet, the vast majority of workers do not realize how much is truly within their control. It’s almost as if when the honeymoon period wears off employees develop learned helplessness. Workers then simply resign themselves to their routines.
What if there was a better way?
Get out of the way!
This is where leaders and managers play a pivotal role. In order to help employees regain that needed sense of control, managers can try the following:
Engagebeyond milestones – get to know more about the employee beyond what their progress on milestones. What are the employee’s interests, what do they value and what are their strengths?
Empower toward action – give them permission to make certain decisions on their own. Lighten your full plate by delegating important tasks.
Enable new habits – adjust the systems, structures, and rewards to make it easier for the employee to exert control. Where it be recognition or policy revision. Help make it possible.
Encourage consistent effort – provide positive and constructive feedback. This won’t be accomplished with a one-time memo. Try not to remove their control when mistakes are made. Instead coach and support to help develop their resilience.
You got this!
While it’s great when bosses take an active role, at the end of the day, employees are responsible for their productivity. Employees must be able to take ownership of their output by doing the following:
Determine priorities – What is it that must get done? Not the latest email. What is that thing that if completed advances you the most spaces on the board game of your job? Here’s a clue: it’s usually something difficult you don’t want to do.
Bring your whole self to work – Determine your cover values (what characteristics matter most). Find ways to factor these into how you do your job. (Read more: Love What You Do: Core Values at Work)
Make better decisions – Use your priorities (usually 2-3 things) when making decisions on how to spend your time. Will this support my priorities? **WORK HACK: Spend the first 90 minutes on your #1 priority each morning.
Set clear boundaries – Establish limits for yourself. How long will you engage in small talk before getting back to work? How often are you going to check email? What is required for you to attend a meeting?
Embrace your inner jerk – Step past the barrier caused by your fear of appearing rude. Enforcing boundaries (in a caring and respectful) manner it will help others reset their behavior around you. It could also rebrand you as an authentic leader.
Escape comfort zone – Break free of the norms that have been your default. Realize that (1) an email doesn’t require an immediate reply. (2) it’s okay to take risks. (3) mistakes are fine as long as you’re learning from them.
There are many things that managers can do to help employees feel a greater sense of control. Ultimately, the employee must realize that the seeds of control are already there. Often times, it takes a willingness to push past the invisible fence of fear. Here’s a little secret between just you and me: you won’t get zapped for any of it. Fall back into control.
Trust is the air needed to develop and sustain connection, communication, collaboration, and companionship. Trust is vital to our survival. The more trust others have in us, the more responsibility is given to us. The more trust we have, the more influence we can have on others.
Yet if trust is so important, why do managers do so little to develop and sustain it? It almost seems that many managers expect their employees to trust them. As if authority somehow guarantees trust. Managers would do well to develop trust with their employees.
Here are some simple strategies for developing and maintaining trust:
People like other humans. Share something from your personal journey is a great way to show your humanity. This, in turn, creates a vulnerability loop as others let their guard down by sharing their humanity.
Take 100% responsibility for failures and mistakes. Displaying courage will make it easier for others to trust you. As courage is in such short supply it tends to have a magnetic impact on others.
While you don’t have to know everything, you have to know enough. You must also devote yourself to continuously improving your knowledge base so you can help your employees with work challenges.
A quick way to erode trust is to B.S. someone. Don’t come across as a know-it-all. It’s okay to say “You know what, I don’t know the answer to that, but I’m going to find out.”
Show genuine care and attention to the needs of your employees. Inquire about their interests, passions, family. Sharpen your Emotional Intelligence skills so you don’t miss opportunities to connect and build trust.
At the end of the day, if everything is all about work, you will only get their compliance. When in actually, the holy grail is commitment.
Doing what you love for a living may not always be possible, but everyone can love what you do for a living.
In the workplace, it is commonly accepted that work is just work. It’s not about happiness or personal fulfillment. This ends up leading to work that lacks the joy that would give it meaning. Employees that buy into this fallacy are more likely to find themselves disengaged.
“The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.”
Henry David Thoreau
The problem of employee disengagement is both extensive and expensive:
Sixty-Seven Percent (67%) of Employees Are Either Not Engaged or Actively Disengaged (Gallup)
Sadly, few employees know their company’s core values let alone their own.
Without an intentional focus on core values, employees can find themselves miserable at work. This discontent increases stress levels which negatively impacts physical and mental health.
It’s simply no longer enough for employees to do what they’re good at. This strengths-based approach merely takes into account what’s needed to fulfill the role. However, it neglects what’s needed to fulfill the person performing the role.
So as an employee, where would you even begin in improving your engagement?
Here are 5 tips for how to use core values to improve your employee engagement:
 Determine your core values
Let’s go through a simple process for determining your core values
Find a list: Google a list of 300-400 core values. Look for ones that are alphabetized and contain lots of nouns (avoid adjectives).
Review the list carefully: The nouns that represent the things you value the most will tend to jump out at you. Look for things that energize, excite you and that you cherish the most.
Avoid Boilerplate: Stay clear of common values such as integrity, trust, happiness – who doesn’t value these? Look for things that distinguish you at a deeper level.
Consider pet peeves: Look for the common themes in the things that tick you off and get under your skin. The opposite of these themes usually ties to a core value. Core values violations tend to be pet peeves.
Choose 20 > 10 > 6 > 3: Select 20 values. Review the 20 selected values you’ve selected and choose 10. Then review the 10 selected and choose 6. Then review the 6 selected and choose 3. For extra credit, narrow the list to your top 2.
 Check for cultural alignment
What if you and your company have grown apart?
Many companies are proactive in determining values alignment. These companies offer employees periodic core values quizzes that help employees determine if the company’s values and their values are misaligned – suggesting a poor fit.
While I applaud the effort, a company’s espoused values usually differ from those reflected in the culture you experience as an employee. Culture is values in action. This is because while values are preached, it is behavior and norms that are actually what is practiced.
Instead of comparing your core values to the company’s values, compare them against the values demonstrated by the culture. Life is short. Far too short for working at a company where there’s a low cultural alignment.
 Sprinkle in your core values
Imagine a world where people realized they didn’t have to choose between doing their job and be happy.
Take Shannon Doah, a 29-year-old Project Manager in Spring, TX. Like most, Shannon sees work as just work. By 4 pm she’s glancing at the clock, waiting for the chance to go home and do what she loves. After work, you’ll find Shannon in front of her 27″ iMac creating cartoons on Adobe Illustrator.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if Shannon realized she could merge those two worlds together? It could be as simple as illustrating clip art for a presentation. Doing what you love for a living may not always be possible, but everyone can love what you do for a living.
Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a follow your passion plea. It isn’t about replacing your work with only things you love and enjoy. If you’re like most, work is not always a joy. However, applying core values to your job can be that spoonful of sugar to make the medicine of work go down easier.
 Find a more aligned role
There are certain roles in your company where your core values come together. For Shannon, this would be applying for a role in the Graphics Department.
Many looking to make such career transitions, soon find themselves facing the inevitable experience question. This is why these transitions are best done inside your current company.
Here are three strategies for overcoming lack of experience that Shannon should consider in getting that Graphic Designer position:
Focus on transferrable skills: Creativity, Attention to detail, Adobe Illustrator
Emphasize extra-curriculars: Published in the local paper, a Marketing campaign for non-profit, Web-site portfolio, Illustrated blog
Moonlight internally: Put in extra time and assist with a project or work a small project for the prospective new team
The interactive tool allows you to view your job as a flexible set of building blocks. Using this unique perspective, you create a visual plan for redesigning your job to better suit your values, strengths, and passions.
Job Crafting goes well beyond the common strengths-based methods used to help you develop in your career. By connecting values and passions with strengths, you’re able to find what’s missing for many disengaged employees – meaning and purpose.
My Core Values Testimony
In early 2018, I volunteered to lead my department’s newly formed weekly team meeting called Coffee & Collaboration. In addition to developing my leadership and facilitation skills, this is meeting would soon serve as an awesome doggy park for my core values. Like a doggy park, Coffee & Collab provided my creativity and connection a wonderful contained space to roam and play.
Each week I come up with new and interesting ways to engage our medium-sized team in icebreakers aimed at fostering the vulnerability needed to build trust. This trust enables our team to bring our best ideas forward, provide meaningful critiques, and forge connections that extend well beyond the meeting.
Looking back at the things that I loved doing (photography, marketing, story-telling, innovation) they all had two things in common – creativity and connection. This is one way that I have found to sprinkle my values into my work. It has given me a sense of meaning as I’m helping to contribute to team building, cohesion, and learning.
This is what can be done when you understand and incorporate your core values.
While everyone may not be able to do what they love for a living, everyone can love what they do. Applying your core values is a key component in loving what you do. Whether it’s through cultural alignment, sprinkling core values on your job, a more aligned role or crafting your current role, you too can love what you do. These steps can go a long way toward helping bring back what’s typically missing in your job – fun.
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.
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:
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?”
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.
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.
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?
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).
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.