Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 13.50.41Here’s a video I shared recently on my YouTube channel.

What is the underlying structure of your life?  What habits are made easy because of the layout of your home, your office, the friends you hang out with?  How might you change the structure of your life in order to make certain positive habits more likely to happen?

Our surroundings affect us more than our intention and our discipline.

Making Changes that Stick, Building Good Habits

Right or wrong? 😉

Managing Oneself Drucker

Managing Oneself

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
  • Each worker must think and behave like a CEO

Further Reading

The Original Article is available at Harvard Business Review: Managing Oneself – Harvard Business Review or as a short book Managing Oneself (amazon).

Which question do you find hardest to answer in your own life?  I will share some resources with those that comment or email.

They lie, they manipulate and they pick fights: Some colleagues are ruthless, especially when it comes to their own professional advancement.

pablo (11)

Avoiding a toxic employee can save a company more than twice as much as bringing on a star performer.  The trouble with Toxics is that they are difficult to detect. Often, Toxics are popular with colleagues, seen as friendly and interested. It’s only after a while that co-workers begin to notice that the Toxic is sucking the joy and engagement of an entire workplace.  Poor leadership creates the perfect breeding ground for Toxics.

Who is likely to be toxic?

Overconfidence and narcissism are toxic.  I know these traits…  because myself, Conor Neill, at age 35 was massively overconfident and pretty narcissistic.

Overconfidence:

What it takes to get the job is not just different from, but often the reverse of what it takes to do the job well.

The main reason for the uneven management sex ratio is our inability to discern between confidence and competence.  Men are more apt to show confidence, women tend to hold themselves back from overconfidence.

Unstructured interviews are a terrible method to evaluate a person for a job – they reward self confident individuals and fail to analyse real competence.

Narcissism:  

High-flying leaders dream of their faces appearing on the front of Time, Business Week and the Economist.  Not their brand, not their team, not their investors…  their own face.  (That was my dream when I was 35 – fame for me).  This is narcism.

Freud told us that there is a dark side to narcissism. Narcissists are emotionally isolated and highly distrustful. Perceived threats trigger rage. Achievements feed feelings of personal grandiosity. Freud thought narcissists were the hardest personality types to analyze.

Narcissistic CEO Larry Ellison was described thus by a subordinate: “The difference between God and Larry is that God does not believe he is Larry.”

The 4 Apocalyptic Qualities of Poisoned People

Harvard Research showed that employees who showed the following characteristics were more likely to be toxic workers:

  1. Overconfident – as described
  2. Self centred – narcism
  3. Productive – individually highly productive in visible areas; note: this is individual rather than team focus on productivity
  4. Rule-following – a stickler for the formal rules

A self-centred, overconfident productive and rule following person will poison their team – taking all the credit, ruining the spirit, enjoying and promoting the failures of those around them.

How to be Un-Toxic?

What can you personally do to be less toxic?  What can you look for in others to ensure that they are competent and serve others?

Jim Collins identifies the 4 characteristics common to Level 5 leaders:

  • Humility
  • Will
  • Ferocious resolve
  • Responsibility: Give credit to others while taking blame upon themselves

How do you achieve humility combined with ferocious resolve?  How do you stay responsible even as you do start to achieve more and more?  I believe there is only one way to keep our feet on the ground:

Feedback from Trusted Peers

You must be surrounded by a group of people who can keep your feet on the ground, but believe deeply in your capacity to be a powerful, positive, valued leader.  There is no way to keep this journey going alone.  We need others to regularly see something in ourselves that we become blind to when left alone.  As the story goes, we are 2 wolves…  alone we feed the bad wolf, supported by peers, mentors, coaches and inspiring people…  we feed the good wolf.

Watch people – do they seek feedback from trusted peers?  If not, they are likely Toxic.

Robert Fritz says that we each have two limiting beliefs: powerlessness and unworthiness.  We don’t have to pretend to be better than we are.  We don’t have to pretend that we don’t do shameful things that all humans do.  The only cure?  Allowing trusted peers to really know us, and let us see what they see in us.

Benjamin Franklin brought together a peer group of 12 friends who would be fully open about their lives, challenges and opportunities.  A group who aspired to live bigger lives, and who worried about the dangers of self-delusion.

I have been part of a peer group forum for 8 years.  Each meeting we push each other to share the real person, not the one we have created to impress others.  I have found over these years that each time I share something that I am ashamed of, it loses its power over me.  Each time I share my real me, the others respond in a more positive way than when I share the carefully crafted impressive version of myself.

For 2016, Get Trustworthy Feedback

In 2016, be sure to surround yourself with people who believe in you, and in turn, make every effort to give them the same gift.

Do you have a trusted group of peers?  If yes, let me know how you found this group.  If no, I’d love to hear from you – I can share some tools to help you get started.  


 

More on Toxic Employees:

More On Peer Feedback Groups

Creative Indifference

DSCN3223
My daughter checking the roses in my parent’s garden

A good gardener creates the conditions for growth of a garden, but cannot force the flowers to grow in an exact way.  The good gardener creates the conditions and accepts what arises.

The bad gardener fights what arises.  The bad gardener hacks and chops and fights against the natural growth of nature.

The good gardener changes the conditions and different plant shapes and varieties arise.

In each case the attitude of the gardener is “Interesting!  I wouldn’t have expected that.”  Creative indifference as a gardener is a deep curiosity, and an openness to delight in the million and one ways that nature can arise.

Good Teaching as Good Gardening

I want to teach more as a gardener than as a sculptor.

Up to now I often find that I am trying to remake a participant into my image of what she could be – I am metaphorically hacking off bits of stone and adding bits of paint.

A good gardener allows the plant to grow in its own unique way.  Nature is difference.  Nature is no straight lines, no leaf exactly like any other leaf, no flower exactly like any other flower.

I want to focus more on creating the conditions for growth in the classroom, during the breaks, during the lunches… that would allow the participants to grow in their own individual way – and have less fixed ideas about how each individual will use those conditions.  I want to be willing to allow the person to become who he is to become, rather than my ideal of what he could be.

Life is not hard, it is easy.  That is the problem.

Why do we stop chasing our dreams? Because it is so easy to wake up, do the minimum, eat, sleep and repeat. Meet someone, bring up kids, drift and die…

It is easy to live.

That is the curse.

It is easy to look at a dream as something far off in the future, a thing.

It is also a verb, it has to be chased.  A dream is all the steps.

This is a wake up call.  We are all dying, but if you are not chasing your dream, you are already dead.

I’m dying to…..

Most people didn’t know what to write.  We let people off the hook with small, short term dreams “I’m dying to have a drink”  “I’m dying to have more friends”

If you don’t know the answer, don’t wait until someday to answer this question.  When you do figure it out, you will sleep like a kid again.  You will sleep with a dream and wake up with a dream as well.

Inspired by Steve Mazen’s TEDx talk:

You can follow Steve’s adventures on twitter:

 

Will Smith (photo from Esquire)
Will Smith (photo from Esquire)
Reading an interview with Will Smith (he is deep and a keen observer of the human condition), I came across this statement from him:

“Put somebody on a treadmill and I’ll tell you how good they are at any other thing they do in life.” Will Smith

Harsh.

Brutal.

but… is it True?

I think he’s right.  Verne Harnish thinks he’s right – he says “How you do anything is how you do everything

And Will on Resilience…

“Don’t let success go to your head and failure go to your heart”? Daphne Maxwell Reid, Aunt Viv on Fresh Prince.

Will shares his experience of failure:

“After Earth comes out, I get the box-office numbers on Monday and I was devastated for about twenty-four minutes, and then my phone rang and I found out my father had cancer. That put it in perspective—viciously. And I went right downstairs and got on the treadmill. And I was on the treadmill for about ninety minutes. And that Monday started the new phase of my life, a new concept: Only love is going to fill that hole. You can’t win enough, you can’t have enough money, you can’t succeed enough. There is not enough. The only thing that will ever satiate that existential thirst is love. And I just remember that day I made the shift from wanting to be a winner to wanting to have the most powerful, deep, and beautiful relationships I could possibly have.”

Will says that in his house they have this quote up on the wall:

“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.” Pema Chödrön

Will summarises the meaning of these words for his family:

“We call it leaning into the sharp parts. Something hurts, lean in. You just lean into that point until it loses its power over you. There’s a certain amount of suffering that you have to be willing to sustain if you want to have a good life.”

Two leaders in the same circumstances doing the same thing can bring about completely different outcomes. I’ve often wondered why.

It is more than just luck. It is an inner quality of certain leaders. There is a quality to certain people’s intent, capacity to observe without judging, capacity to see a new way to put the jigsaw pieces together that makes a big difference in the outcomes.

What can you do to be up with the best Leaders?

There are 2 areas where the best leaders excel:

  • Observation without comparing to the past; and
  • Flexibility in Execution.

Observe Non-Judgementally: Quality of Attention

Successful leadership depends on the quality of attention that the leader brings to any situation.

We have 3 major internal enemies to clarity of observation:

  1. VOJ – The Voice of Judgement “why do they always screw up like this!”
  2. VOC – The Voice of Cynicism “what does it matter anyway.”
  3. VOF – The Voice of Fear “who am I to push this? I am not even sure why I believe it is correct.”

Each of these voices stops a leader seeing something new in the situation.  They are mapping the data to a past experience, and they will probably reuse a past template for responding to the situation.  Old school, reactive communication.

The 4 Levels of Listening

https://twitter.com/frisoco/status/556346714412838912/photo/1

Execute Mindfully: Quality of Action

Otto Scharmer believes there are also 3 enemies to quality execution:

  1. Reactive Action – executing without improvisation and mindfulness
  2. Analysis Paralysis – endless reflection without a will to act
  3. Blah blah communication – and talking without a connection to source and action

Take the course

Otto is currently teaching an EdX course on the U Model and how to put into practice these ideas of deep listening, sourcing new ideas and executing with mindfulness.  The course is U.Lab: Transforming Business, Society, and Self: Learn how to create profound innovation in a time of disruptive change by leading from the emerging future.  The hashtag is #ulab.

Looking forward to your reflections and comments if you join the course 😉

The Most Important Decision

‘We choose our spouses. We choose our bosses. We choose our friends. We choose the people who work with us. We choose our nannies. We choose our lawyers. We choose our doctors. It is definitely worthwhile investing in learning, because this is not rocket science, but it requires discipline.’  Claudio Fernández-Aráoz

Claudio Fernández-Aráoz has spend his entire adult life in the business of identifying talent.  He has interviewed over 20,000 executives.  What has he learnt about seeing talent in people?

Jim Rohn says we will become the average of the 5 people that we spend most time with.  A successful life depends greatly on attracting and identifying those people.  How much time have you dedicated to crafting your ability to identify talent?

His First Lesson: People Lie

We lie.  It is not malicious, it is natural.  Some people lie more, some people lie less; but we all have a tendency to see an optimistic perspective on our actions.  In an interview, you have to understand that two people are selling to each other – one selling themselves, one selling the job.

BusinessWeek asked 2000 senior executives: within your own organisation in your own level, are you in the top ten percent, yes or no?  90% believed they were in the top ten 10%.  That’s why you need to check references!

Finding Your Top Executives: The Four Key Attributes

So when it comes to key leadership assets, what should you be looking for? Claudio has signposted four values common to all high-potential executives:

  1. Curiosity – asking questions, taking genuine interest, and seeking new knowledge and experience
  2. Insight – making innovative connections between existing concepts, offering fresh perspectives
  3. Engagement – the ability to use emotion and logic to communicate a persuasive vision and connect people
  4. Determination – the commitment to persevering in spite of adversity

Read more at Enviable Workplace blog.

We collect habits, items, people that served us in a given moment, but are not serving us now.  Human beings come pretty well designed for Systematic Accumulation, adding more and more plans, projects, dreams to my bucket list.

As we move through life we accumulate dreams, fantasies, projects, stuff.  I often think about what else I would like to add to my life, but rarely think about what to let go.

I joined a private conference with Professor Ernesto Beibe last night.  He spoke about “middle age” and the challenges that a person faces as they enter the period of life called “middle aged”.

His metaphor was that life is like climbing a mountain – but the summit is not death, the summit is middle age.  The idea is that all the way growing up our whole world view was what we had already seen, but as we stand on the summit for the first time in our lives we have a glimpse of what is way down the other side of the mountain – we now know and believe that life is finite, time is finite, resources are finite.

Systematic Abandonment

The challenge we have is to let go of all the dreams, fantasies and projects that we have collected in our walk up the mountain of life and decide which projects will get the focus.

Accepting that I will not achieve some of my dreams is painful.

What do you do to let go of dreams, projects, plans that are no longer realistic to achieve?

I once believed I would play football for Manchester United.  I remember the day that Ryan Giggs took to the field at age 17 and I knew that my dream was never, ever going to happen.  It wasn’t so hard to let it go because football had become less and less important to me as I went from 7 to 17.

First, you may ask, what is “Strategic Unavailability” anyway?

What is Strategic Unavailability?

If you say “yes” to every request for your time, money or attention you will have none for the areas that are your own personal priority.  If you want to achieve success, you must retain most of your resources and dedicate them to one to three areas of your choosing.  Thus, you must learn to say “No”.

Saying “No” is hard.  It also has several negative consequences in polite society.

Far better than the use of the word “No” is the use of a series of tactics that come under the general concept “Strategic Unavailability”.

At the very simplest, the idea is to avoid being there when someone might make a request that will take away your time, money or attention.  The key is to retain “plausible deniability” during your use of the tactic.  Some tactics require greater acting capacity than others.  Beginners would be best avoiding these high acting requirement tactics.

The aim is to keep time for the important 1, 2 or 3 priorities that you have decided for yourself in your profession.  It is a total waste if you use the freed-up time to watch CSI Las Vegas or re-runs of Downton Abbey.

Some simple ideas for achieving “strategic unavailability”

  1. Go to the toilet when you know someone is approaching your desk
  2. Work from coffee shops, other people’s offices or meeting rooms during dangerous periods
  3. Return phone calls when you can see that the person is away from their desk (go to voicemail)
  4. Return phone calls after work hours
  5. Delay email responses until tomorrow morning (you can write them today, but don’t let them leave your outbox until tomorrow morning)
  6. Receive an important phone call just as a meeting is reaching the moment where actions will be assigned to people (either phone a friend style, or develop your acting abilities)
  7. Use an old iPhone that regularly runs out of battery (this is a highly plausible tactic, mine is down to about 2 hours of battery)
  8. Always ensure that you are involved in at least 3 projects, and demonstrate massive productivity in the first week of exposure to any new manager or colleague.
  9. “Forget” to switch off the direct to voicemail setting on your phone
  10. Tell your colleagues/team that you have an open-door for them – but that you request that they batch their problems into groups of 10…  they can’t interrupt you unless they have accumulated 10 specific issues that they cannot address without your input (usually #1 gets resolved before they get to #5…)
  11. Regularly ask “what could you do to move this forward that does not require anybody’s approval?”
  12. Work with headphones in (whether you are listening to music or not, this also works on airplanes when your neighbour aims to talk for 14 hours)
  13. Keep a charity box on your desk and ask for donations whenever anybody approaches (if you have kids, then ask visitors to your desk to sponsor your kid in a race or something).  Bonus edition is to have stickers so that when one person donates, you give them a sticker and then they let others know to avoid your desk unless you wish to donate.
  14. Cultivate a freakish interest in Star Wars, or World Wrestling Foundation, or ancient Greek philosophy, or NLP, or furniture upholstery and engage all visitors in a deep discussion about the merits of your hobby.  Freaky hobbies with a plausible connection to your work are ideal.
  15. When asked if you are available to meet, say “yes, I am free this Friday at 6:00am” – puts off all but the most keen time thieves.  You will very rarely have to do it.
  16. Bring a regional speciality food to work – I recommend any Icelanders to use “rotting shark meat in vinegar” – and request that anyone who comes to your desk try it.
  17. Have a large audio recorder device and make a big show of switching it on when anyone comes to interrupt you – tell them that you are on a personal efficiency drive and are making a detailed study of all your interactions and all requests
  18. Cultivate a mysterious illness with unclear symptoms
  19. Remove all other chairs from your office (this made a massive improvement on my meeting time when I was running an airline); another variant is really uncomfortable chairs (especially very low seats)
  20. Eat a rich curry or garlic dish for lunch in your office
  21. Keep saying “that would make a great tweet!” and write down some banal saying from the other person

Advanced Strategic Unavailability

I need your help.  What else works for you?

PS You better be very good at establishing a great reputation before you engage seriously in these tactics.  If you are not viewed as a strong performer, if you are not delivering measurable results and if you are not gaining good exposure to senior influencers – fix that first (check out The PIE Model).  These tactics only work if you are perceived as an “A” player