This poem was shared by Warren Rustand during the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation Leadership Academy 2016 course held in Washington last year. It was part of his description of why he spends so much time teaching. I loved the sentiment expressed by Warren, and captured in this poem:
The Bridge Builder
Will Allen Dromgoole
An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”
The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me to-day
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”
What are you doing the rest of your life?
Here’s Warren speaking at a recent conference:
Are you living your life on cruise control? Warren suggests this is a poor response to life. Warren suggests that easing through life is not the right path. We want to be “spent by the battle of life”.
Life might be more enriched by doing it a bit differently.
Companies today aren’t managing your career. You must be your own HR guru. That means it’s up to you to identify your place in the world and know when to change course. It’s up to you to keep yourself engaged and productive. This is the premise of Peter Drucker’s 2005 HBR article “Managing Oneself”.
Peter Drucker asks some great questions the article (available as a short book). This is a very brief summary of his article. (The summary image above is a wonderful thing to print and keep in your notebook.)
What are my strengths? Feedback is the only way to find out. Do you have a systematic process for getting feedback on your behaviours?
How do I perform? How do I learn best? Don’t struggle with modes that don’t work for you. (on Mastery)
What are my values? “What kind of person do I want to see in the mirror in the morning?”
Where do I belong? Mathematicians, musicians and cooks are mathematicians, musicians and cooks by the time they are 4 or 5 years old. Successful careers are not planned, they happen when people are prepared and positioned for opportunities that suit them. Knowing where one belongs can transform an ordinary person into an outstanding performer.
What should I contribute? Given my strengths, methods and values: what is the great contribution to what needs to be done? Don’t look too far ahead – 18 months is the range of good planning. Define courses of action: what to do, where and how to start, what goals, objectives and deadlines to set.
Responsibility for Relationships: Adapt to what makes those around you successful. Adapting to what makes your boss most effective is the secret of managing up. Take responsibility for communicating how you are performing; take responsibility for building trust
Final thoughts from Peter: In management…
Success is at best an absence of failure
People outlive organisations
People are mobile and will move
We must manage ourselves, and help others manage themselves
Michael Gerber, in his book The E-Myth asks this question: What are your primary aims?
Imagine walking into a room. You pause at the entrance. In the room, seated, are all your friends and family. You enter the room. You walk up the middle of the room. At the front of the room there is a box. You approach the box. As you come closer you realise it is you in the box, and this is your funeral.
You hear people talking about your life.
What do you want them to be saying?
You have to decide.
“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.” Viktor E. Frankl
If you want to live an incredible life and achieve amazing things, you have to decide. Nobody ever stood on the summit of Everest and said “oh wow, this is a surprise.” It was a vision years before it became a reality.
Living an incredible life is no accident. I have to start knowing what I want to achieve. I need to be clear on who I need to become in order to achieve what I want. And then I need repeatedly to take action, even when I am plagued by doubt.
“A human being is not one thing among others; things determine each other, but man is ultimately self-determining. What he becomes – within the limits of endowment and environment- he has made out of himself. In the concentration camps, for example, in this living laboratory and on this testing ground, we watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions.” Viktor E. Frankl, from his book Man’s Search for Meaning
Anything worthwhile should take a long time. The myth of overnight success is just that… a myth. Acorns take time to become great oaks. Nothing that comes easily will feel worthwhile, but I chase the quick fixes and the rapid results. There is no other path than committing to the hard labour of the path. A mountain climber uses his own strength to reach the summit, he knows that a helicopter and a parachute does not count.
I find myself so often searching for a few more facebook likes, rather than writing and rewriting chapters that put my ideas into an improved form. I need to remind myself that hard work on what matters is both rewarding in and of itself, and the only real path to somewhere worthwhile.
Ed Stafford walked the length of the Amazon, from the source to the sea. It took him 860 days. 860 days hiking in remote jungle, hacking his way through mosquito-ridden rain forest. I would have given up in the first week. After 3 or 4 days sleeping in the mud, I’d have given up. Why did Ed keep on going? There was a deeper purpose for Ed.
If you have a tiny vision, then any obstacle will stop you. If you have a deeply compelling vision of what you intend to achieve, no obstacle will stop you. Your resourcefulness will open new paths over, through, around and past the obstacle. Ed must have a deeply meaningful sense of what walking the Amazon would mean to his life.
Exercise: Imagine standing on top of a very tall building. There is another building about 10 meters away. There is a wooden plank laid between the two buildings. What would have to be on top of the other building for you to risk your life to make the crossing?
Your habits aren’t serving you
Practice doesn’t differentiate good or bad habits. Practice distraction: become a master. I have returned from the summer with a tendency to check facebook several times during the day. This habit stops me from pushing into the hard stuff. As soon as I face a tough decision, my habit of facebook checking rears it’s ugly head. I have practiced this habit over the last 3 months – it will take me at least a month to get back to the discipline of writing 500 words at a sitting, to take 10 minutes each morning to silently reflect on the day that is ahead. I have been practicing poor habits. I now need to practice better habits, and accept the frustration and annoyance of regularly falling back onto the poor habits. I want to practice concentration.
Exercise: Identify one poor habit and create an "if-then" rule for dealing with it. If I feel the urge to check facebook I will immediately write 100 words of content. If I feel the urge to go to the kitchen for a snack, I will get a large glass of water.
You haven’t invested in improving yourself
My first corporate job was with Accenture. They spend at least 2% of revenues on training and development every year. This meant that I did an average of 12 full days of training every year. In my first few years as an entrepreneur, do you know how much time and money I spent on professional training? None. I did not invest in myself. In the last 6 years I have committed to at least 10 days of professional training each year.
How much training and development have you done in the last year? How much have you paid to get great teachers? Have you reached out to mentors?
Exercise: Pick an area for development for 2015. Identify 3 books you will read, 3 wise mentors you can reach out to and 1 professional training course that you can commit to attend during 2015.
Improve your Communication: If you’ve adopted some good habits BUT feel like you need more accountability and guidance check out my online communications coaching program here: http://cono.rs/practicespeak
If you want to be thin, eat your meals with skinny people. If you want to be fit, spend your time with fit people.
If I want inspiration I have some great friends that get the best out of me: Florian, Eka, Mathieu, Brian, Stefan, David, Raul, Al, Adrian. A phone call, and I have the desire and discipline to be the best version of Conor.
Exercise: Write down the names of 5 people who inspire you to be the best version of yourself.
You don’t invest in yourself. The world is changing fast. You are either learning 1 hour per day, or you are depreciating your main asset – your own capacity to serve the world, your skills, your connections. Coursera, EdX, Udemy, NovoEd, Apple University – it is accessible and online; and a quick search will find you valuable institutions in your local area.
Exercise: Pick an area you would like to improve and do an online course. Languages - duolingo is a great app. Programming - code.org. History, philosophy, culture - Coursera.
You’re worried about your weaknesses
You will make mistakes. It is the human condition. Language learners cannot learn without many, many mistakes. I know people who have spent years learning a language, but will never open their mouth at fear of making a small mistake. They know that mistakes make them feel guilty. They hate the feeling of guilt. I hate the feeling of guilt. Making mistakes is the human condition. We were not born to be perfect. We are here to learn, to grow, to become better versions of ourselves.
Japanese artists used to start by making a mistake with their very first brush stroke. It had something to do with establishing that they were men, not gods, and that only gods could strive for perfection. I think it is a great way of starting. Once you have made an error, you no longer are staring at a blank sheet… and the next step is guaranteed to be better.
Exercise: Start each activity by deliberately making an error. I write a bad draft of a blog post first before going back and improving it. Go for draft quality first and get it complete, then go back and look to improve the quality.
You’re filling your time
I love being busy – it allows me to ignore the anxiety I have for areas of my life that are not going well. Tony Robbins talks about “safe problems”. Each of us has a safe problem – something that we almost enjoy explaining showing how difficult the problem is. You can tell when someone has a safe problem – they enjoy sharing it with you; and they hate when you try to help them solve it. They love this problem. They love this problem because this problem keeps them from having to deal with the bigger, deeper problem that is the real challenge in their life. If you take away their safe problem, it is like taking away a child’s teddy bear.
Exercise: Write a list of energy drain activities that you do. What are the activities that drain your energy, but do not provide a clear benefit? I ask myself "is this making me happy now or is this making my life better in the long run?" If the answer is not an easy yes, stop doing it. Do nothing instead.
You’re managing the wrong things
As a blogger I love seeing page views, facebook shares, retweets. I love watching the numbers. I love reviewing detailed statistics. However, none of this is helping me write good content. Good measures of that might be number of words written, or hours spent on re-writing content.
Exercise: Measure only what matters and helps and is under your own control. Number of words produced per day is something that I control and that matters. Number of page views or facebook friends is not something that I control.
You’re asking “do I feel like doing this?”
My emotions are ancient tools that helped with survival, but not with living a fulfilling human life. If I am scared, my whole body and attention is directed towards urgent action that can avoid being eaten. If I am angry, my whole body and attention is directed towards demonstrating that I am not to be messed with.
This morning I thought “I will go to the gym”… but almost immediately another thought came into my mind “I don’t feel like it.” I know that I will enjoy it once I am 20 minutes in, but very rarely do I “feel like” doing the important things for my health, wealth, wisdom and empathy for others. Great ultra athletes always have some form of “I will decide whether to keep running after 1 mile” for their training. They get out and get started each day, and after an
Exercise: when you find yourself asking "do I feel like doing this?" change it to "I will ask myself if I still feel like doing it after 20 minutes of action, then I will decide".
Living The Intentional Life
This final point is important. I spend a lot of my life working on how to live more intentionally, and how to teach others the benefits and practice of living more intentionally. This is the creation of rituals of practice in your life, and these 9 elements of being stuck tend to come from a loss of intentionality in the way you live your days.
Nobody ever climbed Everest by accident, only through intent and years of practice and influence.
I recently posted about the 4 paths of our working lives – and one path is Quit and Stayed. These category of people are those who have emotionally given up on their jobs, but they still keep sending their body in to sit at the desk and collect a salary.
Ridgely shared statistics on the impact of disengaged employees on a company.
An indifferent employee costs you $2,246 per year according to Gallup. An actively disengaged employee costs you more than $25,000.
33% of American employees change jobs every year. 90% leave jobs for reasons to do with “attitude“, not skills.
Recruiting expert Brad Smart (author of Topgrading) shares evidence that 1 bad hire costs a company 5 times their salary (and 10-15 times for senior hires)
Apart from the financial cost, there is a painful emotional cost for all those who must work in close proximity to this disengaged individual – they suck your passion. I know that the best way to increase team performance is to remove the disengaged team members.
According to the AONHewitt definition, engaged employees want to:
Stay (intent to stay with the organisation)
Say (speak highly of the organisation to others) and
Strive (make an discretionary effort to deliver results)
Ridgely shared that engaged employees deliver:
37% less absenteeism and turnover
48% fewer safety accidents
41% fewer safety defects
21% higher productivity
22% higher profitability
How do we Achieve a Culture of Engagement?
Ridgely explained that people are different and seek to express themselves in different ways. If we try to be everything for everybody, we end up frustrated and wasting our time.
Do you understand the different personalities of the people that you work with? I have done so many psychological tests that I assume that everyone knows these tools (I studied psychology at university…). When I was 14, my father brought home a Myers-Briggs test and did it on all of the family.
What about you? What are you? What types do you get frustrated by?
The Why types
Ridgely worked through a short coaching process where each participant was able to identify their primary “why” from a list of 9 “Whys”. The 9 whys are:
By the way, I came out as a 7 – Master. My “why” is to seek mastery and understanding above all else.
Infographic: Employee Engagement
One of the challenges of important life lessons is that we need to be reminded every day. Now that I have just written a blog post about how people are different, I am primed to not over-react when I meet someone who is a “5 – Right Way” and has a constant focus on what the precedent is, what is proven, what is low risk… all perspectives that I find tiring. However, tomorrow I will forget and will overreact again.
What can company leaders do to create a culture where we actively seek to empathise with each person’s primary purpose?
I found an infographic that describes the problem of employee disengagement and 6 things that CEOs can do to create engaged employees. Click on the infographic to get a large version. (Personally, I think that the yellow colour scheme is a bit aggressive):
Inspire employees through purpose
Align employees behind your strategy
Develop line managers
Be Fair (in process, in resource distribution, in relationships)
I uploaded my first educational tips video to youtube in January 2011. I wanted to reach out to a wider audience than can come and attend IESE Business School in Barcelona or in Madrid, or those who read my blog.
Today, there are 77 short educational videos on the channel, and with 1.3 Million views, the channel has been a success far beyond what I ever would have expected.
The Future Evolution of my YouTube Educational Channel
When I worked at Accenture, we were often in the business of identifying the existing business processes and then analysing how we would enable these processes with technology. Sometimes it was putting a mobile phone purchase process onto Siebel CRM, sometimes it was putting insurance sales onto SAP ERP.
A senior partner used to say to me “we are not here to just pave the cow path”.
Don’t Pave the Cow Path
The cow path was the old way of doing things. Sometimes the old way was not a good way. Sometimes the old way was a terrible way.
The Green Book and the Blue Book
My father tells a story of when he was first working as a consultant back in the early 1970’s in a hospital in south west Ireland.
On his first day, he was required to sign in to enter the building. Strangely, he was asked to do this in a blue book, and also in a green book. He asked the girl behind the desk “why the two books?”.
She responded “there have always been two books.”
After a week of this double sign in, my father began to have a curiosity as to why these 2 books were both needed. He would ask managers, he would ask doctors, he would ask others who had worked there for years. Always, the same answer “there have always been two books”.
After months of work my father was coming to the end of his project at the hospital. As part of the final phase of the project, he was to meet with a retired doctor who had been around since the very beginning of the hospital.
At the end of the meeting with this eminent doctor, my father again asked his question “why the two books?”
The doctor laughed and said “Back in the war years, there was rationing of petrol. A lot of our staff were unable to easily get to and from work. The hospital bought bicycles for staff to use to get home quickly. The blue book is for signing bicycles in and out, the green book was the original attendance book. Somewhere along the way, the bicycles were no longer necessary and were sold… but we never were able to get rid of the blue book”.
I have seen so many blue book processes in companies. It is much, much harder to stop something that we are already doing than it is to start a new thing.
In each of our lives there are also many blue book processes. They may have served us well several years ago, but are just busy activity now. They are processes that do not serve.
In productivity, removing the blue book processes is more important than adding efficiency to the green book processes. Removing busy-ness. Stopping using the old cow path when we now have a six lane motorway.