Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Want to Build a Positive Culture? Apply Four Bickisms

[Excerpts from an interview with Bick Whitener, currently principle with Bickley and Company.]
"I became the Director of Getting-Things-Done." That’s how Bick Whitener describes the way his boss acknowledged his leadership. Bick Whitener has a long, distinguished career in the property/casualty insurance world and has been with companies such as The Hartford, Prudential, Atlanta Casualty, Assurant, and many others.

I was privileged to consult to one of the companies where Bick was a manager and see the vibrant culture of accomplishment he created. He and his team were very different and getting more done than other areas. They were a "real" team and excited to learn new skills and approaches. The very positive culture he developed within his division stood in contrast to the overall company.

Rebecca Staton-Reinstein: Bick, you have a solid track record of changing the culture of any group you work with to make it more of an integrated team that gets solid results where people love being part of that team. How do you do it?

Bick Whitener: Let me start with what I believe is a simple statement. Culture change happens through people. I believe life is about two things. Life is about choices and life is about relationships.

Culture change happens through people. Have you ever noticed that people don’t like change? So if it is going to happen through people and they don’t like to change, leadership has to be both effective and efficient in helping them change, in helping with the culture transition.

Your people are your most valuable asset. Their time and their skills are your most valuable asset. You have to be wise how you spend those. People go crazy when I look at them and say, turn off whatever the notification is that tells you that you have a new e-mail. It is mail. How many times a day do you run to your mailbox? How many times a day do you run to the post office? Take your time and focus on the important things. The important things are "the right things."

Rebecca: Bick, I know you have a wealth of knowledge and wisdom you package in pithy statements you call Bickisms. Can you walk us through your steps for culture change with these Bickisms? (For a few more, check out Bick’s LinkedIn profile.)
Bick: Sure! 

STEP 1 Bickism: Never talk about culture.

Rebecca, let me start by telling you I’m a sneaky little devil. I never start out talking about culture. But what I do start out talking about is the vision that we have; that journey that we want to take, where we want to get to. So you have got to find people that want to buy into that vision. Clearly articulate that vision. Show them what that vision is going to do in terms of value to them in the future. Then find the people that want to buy in.

STEP 2 Bickism: Nothing anywhere ever gets done until somebody somewhere does something.

Don’t misunderstand. I like strategy. I like tactics. I like planning. I like locking myself in a room and talking about innovation. But I don’t like it unless things get implemented because brilliant ideas that are not implemented lose their value.

STEP 3 Bickism: Create a shepherding group.

Once you find people that want to buy in, you need a shepherding group. That is a tricky part of the process because the shepherding group has to have adequate spheres of influence. Otherwise you are going to get into trouble because those with the power will oppose the vision and the change and they will stop it.

In the early 1500s Niccolo Machiavelli said, There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, or more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain of success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. And almost 500 years later that is proving to be very true in our business environments today.

So never talk about culture. Talk about the vision, speak the vision, get people to buy in, find a shepherding group and start the process.

STEP 4 Bickism: Go for small wins.

Once you get the buy in you can actually start going for small wins. Don’t shoot big. Once you get a couple of wins two great things are going to happen. The first one is some fresh people are going to buy into the culture and the buy-in group gets bigger. And the second thing is you start to create momentum and that momentum becomes your friend.

It’s shared vision followed by wins. Celebrate the wins. Make them very, very visible.

Hear more Bickisms and gain more wisdom as Bick Whitener discusses his remarkable achievements and how he got them. Listen to the entire interview on Business in the Morning produced by Todd Schnick. 

An in-depth profile of Bick Whitener will be featured in the forthcoming book, Washington’s Shadow: How Leaders Cast a Long Shadow and Create a Positive Culture.

 This post also appears on LinkedIn

Friday, October 31, 2014

STEM & STEAM Not Hysteria: Why we need to think critically

There is nothing which can better deserve your patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness...To encourage literature and the arts is a duty which every good citizen owes to his country. – George Washington
A nation that expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization…expects what never was and never will be. – Thomas Jefferson
The current public discussion of Ebola quarantines has me throwing bipartisan shoes at the TV. I don’t want to discuss the political posturing, which is bad enough but expected.

I want to hone in on the sad state of our general education and the absence of critical thinking. Founders Washington and Jefferson warned us and gave us sage advice, which we seem to be ignoring at our peril.

OK, what right do I have to be spouting off about Ebola, science, education, and critical thinking? Here are a few bio tidbits:
Rebecca the Science Teacher
  • Trained as biochemical geneticist
  • Medical researcher
  • Taught biological and physical sciences for ten years in high school and college
  • Consult to a county STEM board (supports programs in Science Technology, Engineering and Math)
  • Board member, GeekiGirls (supports girls' interest in STEM and the Arts, STEAM)
  • Foreign Member, St. Petersburg Engineering Academy.
So I'm an educated layman, trained in critical thinking, OK?

Let's take a quick look at Ebola and the missing critical thinking here in the U.S. Ebola is a devastating disease we mostly ignored here until it entered big cities and spread quickly in three West African countries. Volunteers from around the world have gone to these countries to contribute their skills to fragile and collapsing health systems there. They are working in very primitive conditions in places where electricity and potable and running water are not the norm and local practices exacerbate the spread of the disease.
     Fact 1: People only spread the virus by direct contact with bodily fluids, most commonly diarrhea, blood, and vomit.
     Fact 2: When people have no symptoms they cannot spread the virus.
     Fact 3: The incubation period is 21 days in humans.
     Fact 4: The Centers for Disease Control have issued new guidelines based on the degrees of exposure to people with the virus and supported by international health groups.

The hysterical moves by the governors of New York and New Jersey, other states, and the U.S. military to quarantine everyone returning from work in the region ignores the facts, ignores the science, ignores the advice of medical experts, and ignores critical thinking.

Listening to TV reporters, news readers, and "hosts" stir the pot of fear and misinformation is more than inane, it is dangerous. The rampant speculation, ignorant questions and comments, and refusal to listen to science are scary. The fact that people fall for it points to what many studies show; the dire state of science and critical thinking education in this country is a threat to democracy. Even the college-educated reporters and commentators demonstrate a lack of scientific understanding and thinking a 7th grader should have mastered.

This is nothing new. When the Russians launched Sputnik and caught the U.S. flatfooted, there were no other girls in my physics and advanced math classes and many college-bound boys avoided these hard classes. Government created the National Defense Education Act and the National Science Foundation created four new science curricula. I went through graduate school with an NDEA loan, which I repaid by teaching, including the new science curricula.

I have a couple of suggestions:
  1. Create modern programs, similar to the post-Sputnik ones, to assure every student, in every school, gets grounding in real science and critical thinking. Emphasize teaching elementary and middle school teachers to teach the understanding, application, and love of science. Science must be learned hands on with experiments and investigation. We must teach everyone to think critically.
  2. Governors and other officials, it's time to admit you reacted and did not base your moves on science nor think critically about the situation. George Washington said it best,"To err is nature, to rectify error is glory."
  3. Reinstate literature, the arts, science, and social science as the centerpieces of K-12 education. A recent study confirmed music study increases other intellectual capacities. In an era when schools routinely cut all the arts education in favor of drilling for standardized tests, real education is sacrificed.
Everyone needs STEM and STEAM. We all need a well-rounded education to function as citizens and leaders in our complex world. We must be critical thinkers, learning that discipline from the sciences and the arts. The alternative is a nation that can be whipped into hysteria by the ignorant and the evil.

Food for thought...yes, thought.   

Learn the basic skills of critical thinking. Join me for a technique-packed webinar and white paper access.

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(c) Rebecca Staton-Reinstein and Advantage Leadership, Inc. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Tale of Two Bosses: Working with Multiple Bosses - Successfully

At first it seemed very exciting. My fellow manager, Sara, and I would be reporting to two vice presidents in the newly reorganized division. WooHoo! VP Marco was new to the company and came with a stellar reputation for innovation. VP James had been with the company many years and was a solid performer. Our first meetings went fine and Sara and I were asked to look over our existing plans and be ready to present our results.

That’s when the fun began.
Marco came to our joint team meeting, engaged in some get-to-know-you conversation, said he understood where we were going, and participated in some fun activities with us.

James met Sara and me in his office – (based on his schedule blocked out in 15-minute chunks.) He grilled us for about 10 minutes and asked us for documentation, detailed project plans, and a weekly update.
OK. Two different bosses, two different styles.

Marco might show up any time, kibitz for a while, ask what we needed from him, and look for ways to smooth the way. He wanted a one-page report; a few bullet points, and lots of white space. When we met with him, he wanted us to come to the point quickly. He often organized social events for our two teams.
James was only available at the appointed weekly meeting, although if you could find a blank 15 minutes you could have a quick “emergency” session. Reports needed to be very detailed, with references, graphs, charts, and hard data. He often said something like, “In the footnote on page 34 you said X. How does that jive with what you show on the graph on page A-7?

After every meeting, Sara and I would compare notes and share our frustrations. We realized we had to adapt to Marco and James quickly in different ways. We evolved 4 strategies to first cope with and then succeed with their different expectations.
Identify all bosses’ work and communication styles and flex your own. Each week we prepared two reports; one high level, one detailed. In the review meetings with Marco we hit the high points and got out. We patiently explained every point in detail and double checked any work for inaccuracies and inconsistencies for James.

Proactively develop plans, schedules, and expectations in advance and get their approval. Once we had concrete plans, James was comfortable going through the detailed results and confirming next steps. Marco saw the plans and schedules as a way for us to be fast and focused as we reported highlights.
Invite discussion not challenges with aligned assertive communication. Sara and I learned to think through ways of presenting information that did not set off confrontation inadvertently. We used inclusive language, aligned with their situations, and phrased questions that stimulated dialogue. The tension dissipated from the discussions.

Use problem solving to resolve conflict when it arises. When Marco or James had strong different opinions on our results or recommendations, we invited them (tactfully) to engage in some problem solving with us. At the very least, we got them to restate the problem clearly and concisely so we could work on solutions off line.
None of this was easy and it won’t be for you either. No matter where you sit in the hierarchy, when you have more than one boss, you must be both flexible and firm. Flex to match your bosses’ individual communication and work styles. Be firm in working out a plan to accommodate all their needs and get agreement. Be firm in showing places where overlapping demands make success unlikely and helping them recognize consequences. Be flexible in working out solutions.

Always scan the environment to assess what you are learning from working with multiple bosses. Both James and Marco taught me many positive lessons I’ve applied successfully in other assignments. Once I let the frustration recede and recognized each person’s strengths and focused on them, I was open to learning and results got better too.
Whether you’re an admin or manager, individual contributor or team leader, managing multiple bosses is a learnable skill your need in today’s workplace. Join me for a webinar August 12 Working with Multiple Bosses – Successfully and I’ll share my battle-tested techniques for managing not just your bosses, but your own time as well.

P.S. Special bonuses for participants including a white paper, Allied Assertive Communication – the Super Success Secret.

(c) Rebecca Staton-Reinstein and Advantage Leadership, Inc.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Sad Day for the Friends of James Madison

James Madison has no monuments or fancy remembrances as do many of the other founding fathers (and mothers.) Yet without him, we might not have our republic, our constitution, and be an independent country today.

When Madison was a student, at what is now Princeton, he stayed another year to work on a study of the world's constitutions while soaking up the ideas of the Scottish Enlightenment from the university's president. This began his life-long passion for republican ideals and constitutions. After flailing about for a while after college, he was elected to the Virginia (Colonial) House of Burgesses and began his life as a politician. He followed this calling to public service until the end of his presidency. Those who call for term limits and hold their noses at the idea of a "politician" could learn a lot from his decades of devotion.

After the Revolution, he watched with mounting horror as self interest brought out the worst in the Virginia legislature and the Congress under the Articles of Confederation was worse than "do nothing." By 1878, the country was in turmoil, Congress was impotent, groups of States talked of leaving the fragile union spurred on by European powers, the economy was a shambles, and Shays' Rebellion in Massachusetts frightened every property owner. The prognosis for continued existence of the country was dire.

So Madison joined Alexander Hamilton and Ben Franklin to conspire to overthrow the government; they committed treason for the second time. Working with others, Madison persuaded General George Washington to join in the call for a Constitutional Convention to provide the political cover they needed. Madison got the resolution through the Confederation Congress and became a delegate along with Washington and others to the gathering. His long-time rival, Patrick Henry, refused to have anything to do with it; "I smell a rat!" He was right, of course. Madison's intent was not to amend the Articles but to abolish them.

Jemmy and Me

He arrived in Philadelphia early, having made a thorough study of republics and constitutions "ancient and modern." He persuaded the governor to present his draft as the "Virginia Plan." Although little of it remained in the final draft signed by the delegates, it did serve as the agenda and shaped the nature and substance of the debates. Madison and the most committed delegates toiled for four months in the Philadelphia summer heat with early morning committee meetings, all-day debates, and informal politicking in the evening. Madison took voluminous notes we still marvel at today and early Supreme Court justices used to unravel "original intent."

But when the delegates scattered back to their states, the work wasn't over. They had to get the special ratifying bodies to agree to the document. In Madison's Virginia, Patrick Henry led the anti-federalist forces. Despite Henry's legendary oratorical skills and political clout, Madison bested him and eked out a tiny margin of victory.

Then he was off to the new Congress as a Representative in the House and to serve as Washington's whip in that body to achieve his legislative agenda. He served as Jefferson's Secretary of State and then as President, presiding over the War of 1812. In fact, he was the only Commander in Chief to actually go into battle, despite having no military credentials.

He was the last of the "fathers" to depart this world and did so on this day, June 28, 1836. His parting words were, "Nothing more than a change of mind, my dear." James Monroe, who succeeded him as President, referred to Madison in his dying words, "I regret that I should leave this world without again beholding him."

In my Google Alert for Madison, about 95% of the mentions are from people, right or left, trying to claim his "authority" for their views. Like anyone quoted out of context, Madison's words are distorted. More importantly, because Madison was a patriot, a passionate politician, and as partisan as anyone, you can always find some snippet to support you. These folks do a disservice to the man, his memory, and his message.

Madison, like all of us, evolved and changed with age. At the end of the Convention, he thought the Constitution was a failure because it created a Senate representing the states and not the population. Yet he went to the ratifying convention and worked with Hamilton to write the Federalist Papers defending the new Constitution with every ounce of his considerable persuasive talent. By Washington's second term, he had joined Jefferson to destroy Hamilton and the Federalists and create the Republican Party (precursor of today's Democrats.) As president, he opposed legislation for building roads and canals or providing "charity." As an elder statesman, he made it clear he had evolved to support these government efforts.

What made Madison so great was he was NOT an ideologue. He constantly thought about things, changed his mind, and made it clear where he stood at any moment. He was prepared to compromise for the good of the nation. He seldom held real animosity for his opponents. (Today he'd be derided as a flip-flopper, drummed out of whatever party he was in, and excoriated by the chattering class and talk radio.)

What I've always found so appealing about Madison was his humanness. My favorite quote from him is (out of context, of course,) "If men were angels, no government would be necessary." Madison is great because he is no saint on a pedestal. He was dead wrong on many things. He made no claims to perfection. We can admire him, not because we agree with him or can find some phrase to prove our political point, but because he thought continuously and was willing to change and grow and leave old notions behind.

If today's leaders, whether in politics or business, would spend a little time with "Jemmy, the great little Madison," they might be less inclined to require unthinking adherence to a static idea. Madison's interpretation of the republic's mission statement, the Preamble to the Constitution, matured and morphed over time. If we could take a page from his book, we might all succeed in evolving, being more strategic, making better decisions...and leaving old ideas behind.

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(c) Rebecca Staton-Reinstein and Advantage Leadership, Inc. 
Want to know more about Madison and his role in the Constitution and early republic? Want to know how modern leaders exploit the Madison Factor? Check out Conventional Wisdom: How Today's Leaders Plan, Perform, and Progress Like the Founding Fathers. 
Your research into the planning sessions of the Constitutional Convention and the struggles that our framers of the Constitution faced has been cleverly weaved into the strategies of modern business. I am pleased to have your book.  
-- Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (RET) 

Monday, June 23, 2014

What veterans can teach you about mission

“It's a smart business decision to hire veterans. Give vets a mission and the result you want and they will achieve it. That’s what they've been trained to do,” an entrepreneur pointed out on a recent business show.

What about your organization? Have your folks been trained to be laser-focused on the mission? Will they give it their all to get results? Is this what you've trained them to do?

In too many companies, employees may not even know the mission or it may have been relegated to meaningless words on a plaque. I recently had a poor experience with an airline and took a look at its mission. I couldn't find it on the website but an analyst’s report pulled a statement off the annual report that covered the territory...Not a word about the customer among its five focus areas. The airline believed if it was clean, safe, on time, had courteous employees, and delivered great revenue at competitive costs it would have “exceptional customer satisfaction.”

How does that happen exactly? If I'm an employee, focused on the five areas, as long as I stay courteous and don’t do anything to escalate costs, I'm fulfilling the mission.

This is not a rant about poor airline service. This is a rant about the power of mission to focus everyone’s energy to achieve company goals. Examiners for a major quality award routinely ask every employee they encounter, “What’s your role in achieving the corporate mission?” When people can tell you this in their own words, you get stellar results. The whole point of the mission is to guide daily action and decision making.

When a mid-sized commodity manufacturer was faced with an urgent need to transform or be acquired, it started by revamping its mission and vision.

Mission: The people of XYZ are leaders in the design and manufacture of abc solutions to meet your def needs.
Vision: To be a premier supplier of abc using innovative technology throughout our company while sustaining this in a positive and creative environment. 

This was a major change for the company; emphasizing people and a positive, creative environment. It was the first step on their successful, sustained renewal journey.

You can read about creating a mission and the bottom-line impact data in an earlier blog.  To repeat one fact: in companies where almost every employee believes the mission is important, profits are 5 – 15% higher than in companies where few people believe mission is important.

My husband and I were honored to be part of a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary
Sculpture “Les Braves” by Anilore Banon,
Omaha Beach St. Laurent Sur Mer, France

of D-Day at Omaha beach. The band was conducted by Colonel Arnald Gabriel, Conductor Emeritus, The United States Air Force Band, who had come ashore on this beach that “longest day” as a young recruit. His mission was to get rid of the machine gun nests raining death on the troops wading ashore. The mission was clear so the results were clear.

If you want to put your people first in meeting goals, that must be clear in the mission. If you want to build a positive, creative environment, that must be in your mission. If you want to achieve "exceptional customer satisfaction," as the airline claimed, you must have that in your mission, train and empower employees, and reward them for doing everything to achieve the mission. 

“Get people on a mission and the metrics will follow,” John Zumwalt, former CEO of engineering firm PBS&J, told his company leaders when he took over. If you have a strong mission AND train your people to accomplish it, you will succeed. Learn from our veterans.
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Join a live webinar, Get People on a Mission: Strategic Decision Making Drives Daily Action, Thursday, June 25, 1 PM Eastern or catch it on demand or on DVD.   Learn from contemporary CEOs and the U.S. Founding Fathers about how to create a mission to drive results.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

I Can’t Decide! 5 practices to break through on tough problems

We've all been there...the decision that just won’t come...the problem that won't get solved. We've pondered, poked around, purloined others’ solutions, practiced team brainstorming, purchased problem-solving/decision-making tools, procrastinated, paced, and packed up and gone to the pub. 

Still nothing happened...

We know from neuroscience findings over the past decade, we are using the wrong part of the brain to get the answer. Discovering the best solutions is not about Mr. Spock logic, deep thinking or wrinkling our brow.

Making successful decisions and solving intractable problems require total relaxation, going to our "happy place," and upping our energy level. This is not some new-age amateur reading of quantum physics. Scientists can scan the brain as we solve problems to demonstrate exactly what is happening where. 

Luda Kopeikina wrote a break-through book based on neuroscience research, in-depth interviews and problem-solving sessions with leading executives, and years of observing her boss, Jack Welch, as he made decisions and solved problems. In The Right Decision Every Time: How to Reach Perfect Clarity on Tough Decisions, she details her findings, which have been augmented by ongoing independent research. 

We must harness the assets of our physical, mental, and emotional functions and enter what Kopeikina calls the Clarity state. 
The key to reaching mastery in decision-making is the ability to focus your physical, mental, and emotional resources on an issue like a laser beam. Such focus enables you to reach decision clarity faster and easier...Clarity is a feeling of certainty and of internal alignment with the solution. The objective of a decision-making process is to reach clarity. A right decision is one when the decision maker is emotionally and mentally congruent with it. Reaching clarity quickly is a differentiating mark of leaders.
5 practices to break through on tough problems

Kopeikina describes the full decision-making process in her book. I use it myself and with a wide variety of clients. The results are solid decisions that leave you energized, confident, and ready to implement. Here are the essential steps to get you into Clarity state before you tackle the decision.

1. Prepare
Find a quiet place to sit comfortably. Turn off your phone! Have paper and pen on an otherwise empty table in front of you. Close your eyes. Your goals: Eliminate distractions and be ready to jot down ideas as they come to you.

2. Relax your body
Progressively relax your muscles starting with your feet and working up to your head. Describe each one relaxing. When we are tense, our fight-or-flight mechanisms interfere with thought as adrenaline builds up and blood flows to our extremities and away from our brains. 

Breathe deeply from your diaphragm and focus on your breath. Count 4 beats on the inhale and 8 on the exhale. More oxygen enters the body to replenish the brain cells. Continue focusing on breathing until you feel relaxed.
3. Calm your mind
When we are tense, anxious, angry, resigned, frustrated, or in a state of negative emotions, our bodies pump out cortisol. Many folks are unaware of the large part emotions play in decision making. To make good decisions, we must move from negative to positive emotions, pumping out DHEA and feeling energized. 

Continue to sit in a relaxed state with eyes closed, breathing slowly and deeply, and focus on a word; nonsense or positive. As stray thoughts appear, acknowledge them and return to breathing and repeating the word. At first, it takes a while to calm emotions. With practice, you can do it quickly.

4. Clear your mind
When you are fully relaxed and calm, begin repeating a phrase such as one Kopeikina suggests, "I feel totally fine and joyful about how life is going." As thoughts appear to counter this, visualize putting each one in a box on the floor and amend your phrase to, "Other than that, I feel totally fine and joyful about how life is going." Continue to stack up the negative boxes and do not engage with these thoughts. Move the boxes out of sight. 

When these thoughts have dissipated, see yourself surrounded by light. 

5. Charge up
You are ready for the last step to reach Clarity. Visualize events from your life when you felt powerful, positive, and full of energy, happy or exhilarated, and. most invested in an exciting and satisfying event. Choose 3 of these events that required effort on your part and re-experience them. Thinking about these events will be your trigger for charging up your energy to enter the Clarity state. 

When we reach the Clarity state, the brain shifts where it will make the decision or solve the problem and blocks are removed. We have minimized the fight-or-flight response and maximized the positive chemicals flowing through our bodies. We are ready to use the robust problem-solving/decision-making techniques Kopeikina developed.

None of these practices is new and most have been practiced for millennia. Top athletes have been using them for decades to prepare for peak performance. Kopeikina found successful leaders could enter Clarity almost immediately and were ready to make decisions quickly and effectively with absolute confidence. Avail yourself of this powerful approach and start making better decisions today.

Learn more about decision making and problem solving in my upcoming webinar: 
If you missed the live webinar catch it  on DVD or on demand

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© Rebecca Staton-Reinstein, President, Advantage Leadership, Inc.

Learn the entire Clarity problem-solving/decision-making process: The Right Decision Every Time: How to Reach Perfect Clarity on Tough Decisions, Luda Kopeikina, Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Who killed the conference? The zombie Project Manager

(This is a re-post of an earlier blog.)
If you’ve taken on a big assignment -- moving the office, planning a big event, or developing a new system to track employees’ mobile devices – you’ve been asked to manage a project, with or without the title. If you have amazing organizational and people skills, and luck, you may have pulled it off without a hitch...

If you are like most mortals, you had a few stumbles and bumbles. Take a friend of mine who was asked to put on a 1-day conference recently. He was energetic, dedicated, hardworking, and enthusiastic. His positive attitude was contagious so he lined up top speakers and recruited volunteers to help out.
I heard mumblings over the months as preparations continued and problems mounted. The night before the conference, he held a reception for everyone who worked on the event. That’s when I saw it was a mess...

The next day I arrived early; parking was confusing, registration was chaos, and the exhibitors who were setting up didn’t know what was going on. OK, nothing disastrous...yet. Once the main program began, things seemed mostly OK to the audience until one speaker had to repeat his presentation because the AV was so screwed up.
Behind the scenes, insanity reigned. AV failed right and left, special sessions were disorganized, and nothing – nothing – seemed to be going right. The day finally ended but the real disasters weren’t over. There was not enough sponsorship money to cover expenses and pay vendors for food, AV, publicity, transportation, or anything else. Fallout just kept coming and things are still not resolved many months later.

Could the results have been different? Absolutely! If he had used a few basic skills of project management, he might have avoided most of the problems under his control.
3 tips to manage any project:

·         Define a clear Business Purpose. What outcome are you expecting? For this project it was not, “We will have a great conference.” It should have been, “As a result of this conference X will happen.” Vet every idea with, “Will this help fulfill the Business Purpose.”

·         Assume the worst. Risk management is the first priority. A project creates a unique product or service so, of course, you’ll have a project plan; detailed tasks, done by whom, in what time frame, with what result. Predicting the risks and scanning for early warning signs is THE project activity to perform flawlessly.

·         Have Plans B and C ready to go. If risk is first, contingency planning is next on the list to deal with the most likely and devastating risks. Plan B won’t be enough. You’ll need a backup for the backup. Organizing backups creates a new mindset; Murphy’s Law is optimistic.
What would have been the difference for my friend with just these 3 items of good project management?
(1) He would have kept everyone focused on the outcomes, not just doing tasks.
(2) He would have examined the risk management plan every day as results came in and looked for those early warning signs; especially the lack of sponsorship money.
(3) He would have had backup AV, adult volunteers, and other contingencies ready to go.

You do not have to flail, fumble or fail at your next big assignment or project. Learn the most important elements of good project management in a webinar designed to keep out of the Night of the Living Dead.
If you’re not a “project manager” but do tackle large assignments, sign up for our webinar, Project Management for the non-Project Manager. Master the basics to succeed.
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(c) Rebecca Staton-Reinstein, President, Advantage Leadership, Inc.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

If it’s Kind to be Tough, it’s Tougher to be Kind

I’ve always been an advocate of Tough Love. Lots of leadership books advocate this approach. We admire folks who can carry it off with grace and get the job done, especially when making almost impossibly difficult decisions and forcing people to develop. In retrospect the kindest things leaders did for me was to be tough and insistent upon my change and growth.

I could recount several stories from my own life, both personal and professional and I’m sure you could also. Sometimes it took me years to see the correctness of the other person’s action and appreciate that tough love.

So I’m NOT going to rant against this kind of toughness.

What I want you to consider is an addition; Kindness.

I’m not talking about being wishy-washy, overlooking issues, or avoiding tough conversations. I’m not saying everyone gets a trophy, gold star or free pass.

I’m talking about genuine kindness. You remember what that is...think back to when you were a kid...helping a friend with her math homework when she was struggling...putting a hot water bottle in the new puppy’s bed to comfort his first night away from his mother...writing Princess Elizabeth a sympathy note when her father died...

Kindness often gets lost in our hard-charging world. I was reminded of this recently when I heard a remarkable leader talk about her "leadership secret sauce." One of her 10 rules was Be Kind. The audience of business executives was a little surprised when Marylouise Fitzgibbon announced this one. She has built a reputation in the hospitality industry as a rising star with a track record of drastically improving properties. Now as General Manager of the W Hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach, her hotel is steadily becoming a leading representative of the brand. 

Kindness is very different from tough love. Fitzgibbon is talking about getting out of our own way. Think about a time when you’ve had an employee, peer or friend do something truly awful. We humans tend to react with anger in these situations and whether we take the flight or fight route we are almost never kind when dealing with the person. If we decided to confront the person, most of us find it extremely difficult to control body language, words, and tone when the metaphorical smoke is leaking out our ears. If we decide not to confront, the overwhelming urge to gossip and put down the other person usually takes over with just a dollop of sarcasm to keep it spicy.

The alternative kindness path is much harder than either of these reactions. Being kind in these situations is NOT reacting. Being kind means putting ourselves into a very different space; a place of genuine caring for the person who has acted so badly. It’s more than deep breathing or counting to 10. Kindness requires us to get in touch with that part of us that is capable of genuine caring about the other person. Only in this state can we talk with the other person and, more importantly, listen to what he or she has to say with openness, compassion, and engagement.

This is a tough order. It goes against some of our firmly held beliefs and the notion of what a strong leader is and does. When you are open and kind in this way, you can now deliver the tough love message so it can be heard by the other person. You are not holding back on the consequences or necessarily taking any different action than you would have in the situation. Instead you are treating the other person as a person and being rigorously honest with yourself.
You are acting. You are returning the love to tough love.

At the end of the conversation and action you won’t feel the elation of self justification or winning. You will feel a sense of peace because you acted with integrity and allowed the person to keep his or her dignity intact, often accepting the consequences, which is where the real growth we want from tough love comes from.

To learn from Marylouise Fitzgibbon’s full 10 leadership tips watch this: 

What’s an example of when you were kind when you could have been hardhearted in a tough work conversation? Share it as part of our quest for leaders who cast a long shadow.

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I'm beginning work on my new book Washington's Shadow: How Leaders Cast a Long Shadow and Create a Positive Culture. Please share your stories or nominees for leaders you know who have transformed the organizational culture positively. This will be a "how-to" book to help others do the same.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Slow Down to Speed Up

            Are you running like that rat in the wheel; up early, working late, vacationing with your tablet, and taking calls whizzing down the road? The labor movement fought hard for the 40-hour week. Do you scoff at working only 40 hours? When was the last time you slept 7 - 8 hours for weeks at a time?

            Everywhere I looked last week someone addressed the need to slow down. Bruce Turkel wrote a great blog; NPR's TED Radio Hour featured several presentations too. Wha's up?

            People are questioning the efficacy of our insane pace. Hundreds of studies over 50 years show these results; humans are designed to sleep 7 - 8 hours every night or we become sleep deprived. When we run on 5-6 hours for months, our health suffers, and more importantly for our productivity-obsessed business world, our efficiency plummets. We are not as mentally astute as we think; we make mistakes, have accidents, and destroy our mental capacity. The bad news? We cannot make up lost sleep. We sleep in, but that's net gain.

            Here's some more bad scientific news; humans are designed to work 35 - 40 hours over a 7-day period. 50 years of data show a sad trajectory; once we work 9 or 10 hours a day, several days, our efficiency drops like a stone. Keep it up for weeks and we have to work 50 hours to do what we did in 40. The results on productivity, mistakes, mental keenness, and capacity mirror sleep deprivation. Depending on your health, age, physical and mental fitness, when you experience the toll varies. Even the heartiest lose productivity within weeks.

            Combine not-enough sleep with too-many work hours and you burnout. Period.

            Another scary reality: Large companies have Employee Assistance programs. If you're addicted to alcohol or drugs, they intervene and you can get treatment for your disease. Companies understand the destructive power of addiction. What about addiction to work? A joke, right? When they discover you're a workaholic, they rejoice and say silently, "We've got a live one!" and publically, "If you want something done, give it to a busy person!"

            I write about this because, "My name is Rebecca and I'm a workaholic." I've taken the first step and admitted it. I first realized this 20 years ago while dining with friends in Toronto. "Rebecca, you never talk about anything except work anymore." I was gob smacked. They were right.

My Simple Formula to Treat Work Addiction (most days):

·         Admit you have a problem.
·         Get 7-8 hours sleep.
·         Eat nutritiously.
·         Exercise.
·         Practice mindfulness.
·         FOCUS on important work only for an effective 35-hour week.
            When I do these things, I have more energy, get more done in less time, am rarely sick, feel better, and enjoy life more.

What a concept; sleep more, work less, and be more creative, efficient, and effective.

           I didn't change overnight and learned to decompress anywhere. For example, I arrived at an Asian airport 3 hours early, discovered a butterfly garden, and spent 2 hours in a peaceful, beautiful universe; no email, false urgency, distractions, or modern-life intrusions. I walked out calm, energized, and thoughtful to make the 30-hour flight a creative experience, not a dreaded ordeal.

           At the end of your path, no one writes on your tombstone, "He was a good corporate citizen," "She was a multitasking maven" or "The kids bragged about how many hours mommy and daddy worked."

           I always bring these discussions back to lessons from great leaders, especially the framers of the Constitution. The delegates included leisure naturally; they fished, trekked to factories, attended concerts, lectures, and religious services, read books, enjoyed tea with "the ladies" and dining with friends, kept up lively correspondence with family and friends, and ran businesses from afar. They mastered the art of a balanced life. Look what they accomplished; they created a Constitution for a successful republic, which is still in place. These guys had their wits about them. Can you say the same?

            Are you ready for workaholic rehab? Are you ready to change yourself and lead your team to be more creative and productive and transform the destructive workaholic culture of your organization?

            Dr. Deming, the great business guru said, "Why are we here [work]? We are here to come alive; to have joy in our work."

            You cannot be joyous, productive or creative when you?re running on empty. In other words, slow down to speed up.

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©Rebecca Staton-Reinstein and Advantage Leadership, Inc

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