Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hard Lessons in a Microwave World

Today's post is a bit extended. But, I hope you will hang in there with me and enjoy the ride.

I had an interesting exchange with one of my sons the other day. He was complaining about a class we are making him participate in. He doesn't see how anything he is learning will help him with what he wants to do with his life. I tried to help him understand how the skills he was learning would be a major benefit in the field he wants to pursue, but to no avail. This is a challenge faced by many parents. I knew I wasn't alone.

Thankfully, the lesson from the movie "The Karate Kid" came to mind. So, my wife and I sat him down at the computer, did a quick search on YouTube and presto, there were the successive scenes we were looking for.

You remember the story. The young kid (Daniel) whose getting bullied by some thugs turns to a local karate expert (Mr. Miyagi) to teach him how to turn the tables on these guys. So, Mr. Miyagi tells him to show up at his place at 6am to begin his lessons. The next day Daniel shows up bright and early, looking forward to starting his lessons. But, Mr. Miyagi's idea of lessons is a little different than Daniel's. Watch this short clip to see (or be reminded of) how the lessons begin.

Daniel is perplexed. He's envisioning wiping the bullies out with his karate skills, but instead he finds himself wiping a bunch of old cars. What's this got to do with karate? And the cycle continues. Day after day Daniel shows up to learn karate only to find himself remodeling Mr. Miyagi's home. If you are unfamiliar with the film I encourage you to watch the successive video clips (lessons 2-4).

This is how my son felt. There was a complete disconnect between what he envisions doing some day, and what he is being asked (dare I say forced) to do today. Well, Daniel finally comes to the end of his rope after days of wearying toil. He is fed up and tired of washing and waxing Mr. Miyagi's cars, sanding his deck, painting his house and painting his fence. All for what?!?! He is about to walk out on their pact.

Watch this next clip to see how Mr. Miyagi handles the situation and how he demonstrates for Daniel the "for what."

Daniel learned an incredibly important lesson. Someone else knew better than he did what he needed in order to get what he really wanted.

Well, my son definitely got the lesson. He now understands where we are coming from. I don't know if his attitude has completely changed yet, but there's a ray of hope.

Are you and I willing to humble ourselves and be taught? Are we willing to do the hard things? In a world where we think we can get what we want from the microwave or from the vending machine in a matter of seconds, are we willing to endure the hardships and trials of gaining valuable wisdom, insight and skills from those who have walked this road before us? What are we modeling for the next generation?

Seize the day!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Can Coaching Help?

Here is a link to an article that I came across recently that speaks about the powerful impact of coaching for an organization's leadership.

Read the article. And, have a GREAT weekend. I am loving this warmer weather.

Seize the day!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Does Anyone Understand?

In two of my last three posts I have been writing about how important it is to measure if you are trying to manage something - e.g. a team, a department, a process. I have been sharing an old management adage that drives home the point I am trying to make. This week I will be revealing the third and last aspect of that adage. Here is the entire statement:
  • You cannot manage what you do not measure
  • You cannot measure what you do not define
  • You cannot define what you do not understand
There it is. Plain and simple. But, that's the interesting thing. I find that many times the things that are very simply stated, even intuitive, are often much more difficult to implement or realize than they originally appear.

What makes this last phrase so hard is that it is deceptively simple. We often think we understand something, but we really don't. What usually happens is that we understand just enough to be dangerous. Good managers go beyond the surface. They dig and work hard to understand the intricacies and nuances of the team's dynamics or the process. They make as few untested assumptions as possible.

This is important, because once you have a truly understand all the variables, at least to the degree possible, you can much more accurately define what you want to measure and develop a good method of measurement. Once all three are in place you have the ability to begin managing - i.e. reasonably controlling the outcome. More next time...

What questions do you need to ask about what you are trying to manage that you haven't asked? What assumptions have you made that need to be validated? When your results vary, do you understand why?

Seize the day!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Layers of Culture

Below is an excerpt from my most recent newsletter. I hope you find it valuable.

What's Behind Door #2?

If you knew that the culture of your organization has a profound effect on your team, your clients, and your bottom line, wouldn't you want to find out what kind of culture you have? Wouldn't you want it to be a positive culture?
What is organizational culture?
Organizational Culture is the set of beliefs, traditions and behavioral norms that determine how people interact with co-workers and with other important stakeholders such as customers and vendors.
Why is it important?
It is important because, according to emerging leader and author Jon Gordon, "Culture drives behavior, and behavior drives habits in an organization." This in turn, affects results.
Let's dig deeper.

Sign up to receive the newsletter each month and receive a free management resource.

Seize the day!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Measuring - Digging Deeper

Last week I mentioned that you "cannot manage what you do not measure." While this is a fairly simple and even intuitive statement, once you think about it, it is often "out of mind" for leaders. Every time I share this in a seminar or other training situation everyone's pens begin moving. This is one of those nuggets people take home from seminars.

But, there's more to the adage that I almost never see. I was privileged to get it at a seminar I attended many years ago. Here is the next part.

  1. You cannot manage what you do not measure.
  2. You cannot measure what you do not define.
  3. [Come back next week]
Once again, a pretty simple statement. The catch, again, is that this is typically deeper than most leaders are willing to dig.

To really get a hold of the performance of your people, a particular group or the organization as a whole you need to spend some time thinking through exactly what you want to measure and state it in very clear terms. Then, and only then, can you develop the appropriate process and/or tools for getting consistent, meaningful data collection.

There is one pitfall that I have experienced with this (too many times). If you do not clearly define, clearly document and clearly communicate (is that clear?) what you want to measure, you will get people measuring all kinds of different things because they are measuring what they think you meant by what you said. Do not leave it to people's imaginations, or your data will be meaningless - GIGO.

What do you want to measure? How clearly have you defined it? How have you validated people's understanding of it? More later...

Seize the day!