I will be hosting the following Executive Showcase events featuring LMI Canada’s Effective Personal Productivity process. This process is helping thousands around the world get better results in their business and personal lives. Click the links to learn more about the specific program. Send me an email to email@example.com to set up a meeting to discuss the details.
2014 August 28 – Belleville Ontario
2014 October 8 – Ottawa Ontario
2014 November 20 – Belleville Ontario
If I have to inform you of a problem and I know you will ask me a series of questions about why it happened, I will prepare by coming up with a series of explanations and rationalizations to justify the problem.
If I have to inform you of a problem and I know you will ask me a series of questions about how to fix the problem and prevent it from happening again, I will prepare by coming up with a list of possible solutions.
Are you asking the right questions?
Think about a time when you needed to solve a critical problem and time was of the essence. Did you care whose fault the problem was? Nope. All you cared about was what information you needed to get a solution, and who and what you needed to implement it. In a crisis we filter out irrelevant concerns and focus on the task at hand.
Finger pointers don’t want to focus on solving the problem. Finger pointers rationalize that there is no need to change anything because they NEVER would have made the mistake that caused the problem.
Everyone makes mistakes.
Do people in your business, or personal life expend mental energy finding who to blame for problems, instead of solving the problems and finding ways to prevent them? If so, why would anyone in that environment try a creative new idea that might take a few tries before working properly? If people are afraid to make mistakes, forget about them coming up with a creative solution to a problem. (oh, and financial incentives don’t help either, watch Dan Pink’s TED talk for more on that)
If we want to build a problem solving culture, in which deep thinking on elegant solutions is highly valued, our focus won’t be on who caused the problem. Our focus will be on what needs to change. And critically, what help is needed to change it.
The next time someone tells you about a problem that has occurred and your first instinct is to ask, “who’s responsible?”, catch yourself. Instead, ask, “What do we need to do to fix it?”
Don’t point the finger. Solve the problem.
A wise man once said, “A rut is just a grave with the ends kicked out.”
How to tell your organization is stuck in a rut?
- You’re excited about an idea and everyone you talk to tells you all the reasons it won’t work.
- In a Management meeting, results are presented which are tracking well below target and no one in the room questions it, shows any surprise or any particular desire to change it.
- When asked about sub-par results, people defend and rationalize those results instead of discussing what options they have to improve them.
- Staff check with their manager for every little decision because they have no idea what the company objectives or values are.
- An emergency arises and instead of asking how they can help, people’s first concern seems to be to establish that it wasn’t their fault.
When in a rut, mediocrity inevitably follows. Nothing great occurs in organizations where an acceptance of mediocrity is the norm. The way out of the rut is never quick, and sometimes very difficult, but here are some guidelines to help you on your way.
- Come up with some simple, clear, attainable goals. Document the heck out of them and let everyone in your company know what you’re trying to accomplish and why. Post results for ALL to see.
- Update your progress regularly and give those who will be affected by your success or failure the opportunity to inspect your results – include managers, direct reports and front-line workers. Welcome their questions, and when they ask about your results be prepared to tell them what you’re doing next. This shows you know your results and have a plan to improve them.
- When someone says there’s a problem, come up with countermeasures that can be executed right away. If the ultimate solution can’t be implemented immediately, ensure the first countermeasure is. This urgency to act on even the simplest of issues, creates a culture of action, which is critical.
- Be transparent. If something didn’t work, tell people and come up with another plan. This is all about credibility. If people know you’re trying, for the right reasons, they’ll stay on board. If they think you’re going through the motions, and making excuses for poor results, they’ll quickly lose interest in helping you. Without the team’s help, the rut will just get deeper.
It’s very easy to slide into a rut and very hard to get back out. Assess where you’re at. Decide where you want to be. Make a plan to get there. Act. Repeat.
So, I’ve done a few blogs now, and had some great fun watching my stats – I’m up to 92 views now! Feedback has been pretty positive, but I’ve had some comments on the name – “Work Doesn’t Have to Suck”. Some felt it was pejorative and doesn’t speak to the right audience. Some background; the name came to me about a year ago in a moment of inspiration at the company I worked for. As a senior manager, I was trying to figure out how to improve our culture, thinking about our challenges, and the general mood around the office and the line just hit me. I immediately wrote it on my whiteboard and it’s stuck with me ever since. When I think about why I’m doing what I do now, I pretty much always come back to it. Instead of being pejorative, I think it’s optimistic. As individuals we can decide to have an attitude of engagement and enjoy what we do. As Executives and Managers, we have the ability and responsibility to create an environment that fosters engagement and makes people believe in the importance of the work they do. And so, I like the title. Maybe a bit edgy, but I think that’s okay too.
Besides, I think that there is a very large group of people out there, many of whom are quite successful, who can relate to to the sentiment on some level. Case in point, I sent an email to a friend from high school who owns an architecture firm in California. I hadn’t spoken to him in years but we connected on LinkedIn so I thought I’d let him know about the blog. His reply, “I will check out the blog. Though I think I disagree with the thesis. I look forward to being enlightened.” Perfect.
Through this blogging journey I’m on, I hope to provide some unique insights based on my experiences and the frame through which I view them. In addition, hopefully I can provide some practical tips, advice, and get the odd laugh. Above all, if I provoke some thought about how to improve performance on an individual and organizational level; mission accomplished.
Through the comments section, let me know what you think – about the title or anything else. I’ll post more links to other interesting, fun, or informative blogs or sites I come across. Get on board, and let’s go for a ride!