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- I Simple Thing: Explore the differences that really make a difference, then focus on resolving them.
It may just be the irrationality of the US political season; however I do think Difference is a question we continually ask ourselves, whether to reinforce or do away with “Us vs. Them” thinking. I also believe it has been particularly deadly of late – as if there were something else going on. (Pay no attention to the current endless stream of melodramatic, barely-factual political ads currently running ad nauseam!)
If we take two steps back, we will notice changing patterns of thought, action and decision-making. We often hear about the pendulum swinging back and forth. Another way of putting it is this: as systems shift and react to myriad internal and external influences, it takes time for the system to self-organize once more. I believe each of us has the ability to influence the world, and that may be our call to action. Do something different and change the patterns for ourselves.
In my mind, the notion of Difference has the underlying disquiet of ‘So What?’
Because you are _______ (fill in the blank) and different, what are the implications for me and the world as I know/understand/like it? One response for me, personally and professionally, then is the following. Between and among us, there are zillions of differences, e.g. home town, education, values, lifestyle, favorite ice cream flavor, sports team, etc. Of course there are differences and always will be.
The real question then becomes, What are the DIFFERENCES THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE? Because you and I sound different, look different, and celebrate different events, does that mean we cannot work together, live in the same neighborhood, sit next to each other on the commuter train and have a lively conversation and exchange of ideas?
How about exploring those differences that really make a difference and focusing on resolving them. If we can get back to the basics of who we are, what is important to us, and how we want to connect with others, we may be able to clear some common ground for progress.
- 1 Simple Thing: Believe in Yourself
The Final Exam
A professor stood before her class of 20 senior organic biology students, about to hand out the final exam.
“I want to say that it’s been a pleasure teaching you this semester,” she said. “I know you’ve all worked extremely hard and many of you are off to medical school after summer. So that no one gets their GP messed up because they might have been celebrating a bit too much this week, anyone who would like to opt out of the final exam today will receive a “B” for the course.”
There was much rejoicing amongst the class as students got up, passed by the professor to thank her and sign out on her offer. As the last taker left the room, the professor looked out over the handful of remaining students and asked, “Any one else? This is your last chance.”
One final student rose up and took the offer. The professor closed the door and took attendance of those students remaining.
“I’m glad to see you believe in yourself.” she said to the remaining few. “You all have A’s.”
*This is a story I have heard/read in a variety of forms and places; the original source is unknown to me. I chose it because it is a wonderful example of this 1 Simple Thing: Believe in Yourself.
- Four Questions, Four Simple Rules
When it comes to the business basics, Neil Kane has nailed it in his piece on The Four Questions (http://bit.ly/1oOYFHV). Any business student, owner/entrepreneur, funder, marketer and customer service provider worth their salt are familiar with these ideas.
So I’d like to see his questions and raise him Four Simple Rules. Rather than provide easy answers to his questions, Simple Rules provide a path to inform behavior and decision making, based upon values, beliefs and how we want to interact with others. There is much to be said for the basics. What do you think?
Simple Rules for Business Basics
- Act with intention.
- Know what your are about.
- Search for opportunity.
- Connect and support the whole, the part and the greater whole.
- Relatively Simple Speaking
Life is indeed complex, but no more complicated than we make it. Albert Einstein believed in simplicity and I recently found myself poring over a collection of Einstein Quotes. Afterwards, I found the following short list of Simple Rules buzzing around in my head.
Of course there is an infinite number of possibilities; these simply worked for me. You will no doubt come up with your own.
Simple Rules from Albert Einstein
- Embrace ongoing learning. Opportunities for learning abound in every situation, interaction and conversation. Pay attention and seize what is right in front of you. It will enhance and contribute to your own breadth of experience and expertise.
- Persistently exercise your creativity and imagination. Imagination is fundamental to integrating experience, learning and doing. When coupled with creativity, new, valuable and wonderful things will emerge from your efforts. Inspire others to imagine along with you.
- Value people. Recognize, respect, believe in and care about others. Not only will you get the same in return. Be someone who appreciates and is appreciated by others.
- Do what is right. ‘What is right’ means what is right for you. Be true to yourself and stand firm in your convictions. Then they will always be there to guide you.
- Be unconventional. Everyone talks about thinking/acting “outside the box.” If you do what’s always been done, you’ll get what’s always been gotten. Think, act and BE different. That is the path to discovering your own answers – and more importantly – your own questions.
- Quiet Confidence
Confidence does not have to equate with bravado and brass. Often the best leaders engender loyalty, trust and fellowship through quiet poise and conviction.
Recently I met one such individual. She did not have the loudest voice nor did she choose to be the center of the group. In fact, you might easily pass her by in the hall. Still, you knew she was someone when she entered the room; and everyone wanted to hear what she had to say.
I came away from the meeting with this short list of simple rules in my head. Pardon my assumptions but I wonder what she would think of these. I will ask her next time.
- Take a stand. It’s not about being right; it’s about being secure in your beliefs and open to other points of view.
- Listen more than you speak. Opportunities to learn and grow are all around; be open to them.
- Ask questions. Strength lies in honesty, curiosity, and recognizing one’s limitations.
- Acknowledge, appreciate and reward others. None of us are alone, nor can we do everything by ourselves. Relationships are a gift to be valued.
- Own your actions. We are accountable to ourselves, our communities, and the world.
What do you think? Do you know this person? Are YOU this person?
- Simple Rules for More Effective Leadership
I recently came upon an article by Nicole Fallon, staff writer at BusinessNewsDaily. In this piece, entitled 5 Simple Ways to Become a Better Leader, I recognized and appreciated what a fundamental and straightforward list of Simple Rules this was. Written for leaders and managers, this short list can help anyone enhance their own effectiveness in myriad situations.
Great examples of simple rules are clear, adaptable, scalable and user-friendly. So what do you think of these?
- Connect and communicate with others. How do you want to relate to others and be in the world? Relationships based upon trust, honesty and understanding create a foundation for critical connections and success.
- Focus on the positive. There is always room for improvement, however, you can make the move from “critic to cheerleader” to create energy, enthusiasm and engagement in others.
- Show, don’t tell. Be the example of what is possible by doing it.
- Understand and articulate your motivation. Motives are often tied to values and making a difference in the world. Once you are clear on what is important, share that with those around you.
You can find the full article here. Thanks, Nicole.
- Agreeing to Disagree
“Let’s agree to disagree.”
How often have we heard these words in the context of work and play? When you and someone else have reached a point where further discussion cannot possibly move the situation forward – and might harm your relationship or desired outcomes – that seems to be the time to agree-to-disagree.
So when I recently came across a blog that talked about not having to win every argument, I realized I was looking at their short list of simple rules for handing conflict (and agreeing to disagree.) Special thanks to Ian Lawton at Soulseeds.
Simple Rules for Handling Conflict
- Don’t attend every argument you’re invited to.
- Do no harm, but take no shit.
- Own your own shit.
- Respect others perspectives without giving up your own.
- Separate the person from the perspective.
After all, some battles are worth fighting, some are not, and some are better left alone. What do you think?
- Wonder Woman Knickers
I’m not sure what percentage of women today are STILL struggling to be Superwoman (or is it Wonder Woman?) but the image of keeping all our plates spinning in the air at the same time continues to resonate with me.
Linda Coles, an international speaker, author and trainer from New Zealand, recently blogged about her own experiences at this. She smartly talks about putting on her “Wonder Woman Knickers” and from her insightful piece I gleaned the following Simple Rules. Thanks, Linda!
Here’s how I get it done:
- Prioritize and focus on what needs to get done.
- Allocate the time you need to complete your task.
- Stick with the plan.
- Ask for help and support when you need it.
- Enjoy what you are doing.
What do you think?
- Freshness, Vigor and Humanity
I recently came across a fun post by Derek Humphries about how organizations and their leaders have lost the art of communicating to their target audiences with “freshness, vigor, and humanity.” Can you be yourself AND great – without key messages, ignoring the brand police and shunning impenetrable organizational jargon?
Yes! And all it takes is a short list of simple rules.
- Share with enthusiasm, wonder and sense of discovery
- Engage with individuals and groups alike
- Use your own voice and your ears
- Take risks
- Work hard to pursue what is truly important
So, based upon these simple rules, who in your organization is possessed with a passion for what you do, and has an ability to communicate it in a simple, accessible, human and inspiring way?
Now, let them inspire.
- Culture Code: Creating a Company you Love
A colleague recently forwarded to me the HubSpot Culture Code. It is a voluminous slide deck about a company that is continually and tirelessly working on creating an organization they love. Because HubSpot values transparency as well as inbound marketing, (e.g. appealing to and attracting dream customers), they have shared this with the community at large. Who wouldn’t read this document and say, That’s where I want to work!
Like the company, the culture code is a work in progress. There are 10 guiding precepts, which can easily be shaped into a set of Simple Rules. With all due respect, I have distilled the following from their list, which are applicable for many organizations, communities and teams.
I’d venture to say that HubSpot is conducting its own ongoing Radical Inquiry and knows exactly who they are, what is important, and how they want to connect with others.
HubSpot Simple Rules:
- Value metrics AND mission.
- Radically pursue transparency.
- Invest in mastery for the individual and the whole; value for the greater whole.
- Speak the truth and face the facts.
- Never stop learning, growing, and seeking the possibilities.
- If I Had a Hammer – Only
How many times have you heard the old saw, If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail?
Well, sometimes all you have IS a hammer, as writer/contributor TJ McCue noted in a recent piece in Forbes. If that is the case, you’d better make the most of it. And what he suggested seemed to me like a smart and sensible short list of simple rules, applicable in myriad situations.
- Become a sculptor. A sculptor is someone who shapes, molds, or fashions, especially with artistry or precision. Shift your current perspective to create something special, new and innovative, conceiving a different pattern around you. Be sure to let your passion in.
- Break things. Every now and then it is a good idea to be disruptive, intrusive, take part in creative conflict and smash the status quo. Ideas and perspectives will collide; new patterns will emerge. What a great way to get unstuck.
- Make noise. Speak up – yell if necessary – if you have something important to say. In order to ‘bang some sense’ into someone’s head and get them to listen, you may need to make a racket in order to capture their attention and imagination.
- Carry it on your belt. Let your intentions and beliefs be not only visible but transparent as well. In addition, be prepared to be asked, answer, share, tout, explore, discuss and discover with others what it is you see, understand, and are ready to act upon. Isn’t that the point?
Like any tool or rule, you must use it wisely. And it must fit with who you are, what’s important to you, and how you want to connect with others in the world.
If I had a hammer … well, what do YOU think?
- Simple Rules for Solopreneurs
I recently read an online post on the joys and challenges of being a solopreneur, e.g. an individual who works alone running their own business. As someone who has managed their own company for over 10 years, I recognize there are pros and cons to every work situation. No matter your work environment, there are days you love it and days you loathe it. The good news is that whether your workplace is a small business (your own or someone else’s), a large corporation, a public agency, or more specifically, just you in your home office at your computer or on your iPhone, there is an endless supply of resources available with the best tips, advice, dos and don’ts, etc. on how to handle everything from abundant success to zero success.
Based on my own experiences and those of solopreneurs I have coached and mentored, I offer this short list of simple rules for achieving satisfaction in working alone. Maybe they will work for you.
- Know where you are heading. Call it a business plan, mission statement, or manifesto; understand what, why and how you are doing what you are doing.
- Manage yourself, your time and your tasks. First, if you don’t do it, no one else will. Understand and appreciate what that means. Second, there are myriad opportunities for distraction, procrastination, and dysfunction. Pay attention to how and where you are spending your time. Finally, recognize the end of the work day. Stop and take time to rest, relax and renew.
- See, reflect and act to support the whole, the individual, and the greater whole. Are the patterns around you the ones that you want for yourself, your business, your family and community? If so, what are you doing to strengthen them. If not, what are you doing to shift them?
- Connect meaningfully with others. Find opportunities to engage with and take pleasure in relationships with colleagues, peers, customers, family, friends and others, both personally and professionally. Create a balance between working alone and being part of your community.
- Keep Going
Recently, NY Times columnist Bill Keller wrote a piece on John Borling. Keller talked about the secret poems Borling wrote during his six and a half years as a prisoner of war in Viet Nam; his distinguished military service following his release in 1973; his brief political career; and his later efforts to create change through contributing for the good of all Americans.
This piece has stayed with me for a variety of reasons and includes a range of thoughts and ideas that give me pause. I can make a number of assumptions about a number of things: strength, tenacity, focus, hope, public service, connection, resilience, community. Beyond that I can – at best – inadequately imagine glimpses of Borling’s experiences. One thing does come out loud and clear and may be a lesson worth learning for each of us. Keep Going. It’s so simple it sounds like a cliché. Still, to keep on keeping on is not an altogether bad idea. It is actually a lot easier to give up.
I know what Keep Going means for me; it sounds like a great Simple Rule. What does it mean for you?
- Managing Holiday Stress
It may be just me, but I find wherever I go and whatever I do, I am bumping into short lists of simple rules. For example, I was recently having a conversation with a close colleague about the joys and trials of holiday time. (Are you still getting over Thanksgiving, too?) As with any choices we make, personally or professionally, there are tradeoffs. And so within the space of enjoying a good cup of tea we came up with a set of simple rules for managing holiday stress. The subtext here is, of course, the choices we make: who we are, what is important, and how we want to connect with others.
So these may not work for you, but as with anything, they present a place to start. What do you think?
– Control your calendar. The choices you make and the priorities you identify help you manage your time and options in large and small ways.
– Plan ahead. Whenever you can, be proactive. This is a luxury we often overlook.
– Mind your body. Enjoy and pay attention to both your wants and needs. If you do not take care of yourself, you will not be able to take care of much else.
– Relax amidst the chaos. Consciously push pause, take a breath, refresh and renew. Then dive back in.
– Count your blessings. Everyday recognize and appreciate and give thanks what matters most.
- On Being Prepared
My great aunt kept a large hat by the front door, for company.
Whenever the doorbell rang, she quickly donned the hat before opening to see who it was. If her visitor was someone she did not want to visit with she would tell them she was just putting on her hat and coat to go out, and so they couldn’t stay. “Perhaps another time?” she’d say wistfully, with the right tone of regret and doubt.
If her visitor was someone she would enjoy visiting with she would tell them that she had arrived home moments before, and was just taking off her hat. “Won’t you come in?” she’d say with a broad smile.
What a simple solution to a bothersome problem!
Simple Rules for answering the door:
- Look through the peephole with an open mind and open heart.
- Be prepared for what is waiting for you on the other side.
- Create a welcoming space.
- Appreciate the view from other perspectives.
- Don’t walk around in your pajamas past 10 a.m.
Contributed by Connie, Watertown, MA.
- In Pursuit of Purpose
We have all known the feeling of just floating along, moved by nothing more than what needs to get done today or what decisions we made yesterday. Each of us at times has felt a certain loss of commitment and connection, that combination of enthusiasm and seriousness that is associated with purpose. There have also been times when we feel we don’t know what we’re doing and the rapidness of change in our world has left a void.
So how does one find purpose amidst non-stop competing demands and challenges? And what is so important about purpose anyway?
Purpose lies at the turning point between being alone and being with others, reflection and action, being and becoming. Purpose, whether for us as individuals or as part of an organization or community, is a repository for the meaning we bring to what we do. To have purpose, one must declare one’s intentions. To live with purpose, we must have a destination that is outside ourselves. Purpose, in fact, runs like a thread through all aspects of our lives; it is not even a conscious process though we all know that searching for meaning can be daunting, discouraging, and just plain hard.
I’ve come to the conclusion that purpose is elusive because it needs to be. We might wish that once we have “achieved a purpose” we could forget about it and get on with our day-to-day obligations and tasks. But purpose is also a container for our yearnings, a sail trying to hold the shifting winds of expectations, needs, dreams, and hopes. The intangible nature of purpose encourages us to remain in conversation with neighbors, to be more tolerant of ambiguity, and less judgmental of others and ourselves.
Purpose is dependent upon a collective state of mind; strong relationships among members; unity and trust; a sense of urgency; interdependence; competence and creativity; steadfastness; leadership throughout the ranks, and most importantly, understanding that WE are the organization and community at large.
It is the pattern we each build and sustain to support and explain who we are, how we connect with others, and what is important in our lives.
- The First Monday in September
For more than 100 years, here in the U.S. we have celebrated Labor Day, the first Monday in September. This annual tribute is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers and recognizes the many contributions workers have made to our country.
The first Labor Day holiday was observed in New York City in 1882, in accordance with the guidelines of the Central Labor Union. While so much has changed in the world of work, as well local and global economies, traditional time-honored holiday activities continue: parades, speeches, festivals for the “recreation and amusement of the workers and their families,” and picnics.
One of my favorite images of Labor Day is set in Independence, Kansas, where Flo Owens, a middle-aged widow lives with her two daughters and a spinster boarder. When drifter Hal Carter arrives in time for the town’s Labor Day celebration, the women’s lives are disrupted and transformed. I am, of course, talking about William Inge’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, Picnic.
While a touching snapshot of small-town life, Picnic is the story of a stranger who breezes into town and unwittingly and unexpectedly becomes a catalyst for change. Familiar, long-held patterns suffer a seismic shift. Everyday lives are stirred up and long-suppressed feelings of bitterness and resentment emerge. But it is also about awakening passion, fighting for your dreams, glimpsing the possibilities, and feeling a tug in your throat.
It seems to me that we’re pretty stirred up right about now, too. Putting aside election hullabaloos, we scramble to get in that last outdoor summer adventure; we dash from one back-to-school sale to another; and we begin to plan for Homecoming and Halloween. (Pay no attention to that sign that says “Only 114 shopping days left til Christmas.”)
In addition, commuter traffic is back to normal, lunch rooms and coffee shop lines are once again crowded, and school buses are back to their neighborhood pick-ups. At work, performance reviews are approaching, trainings schedules are filling up, final grant reports are due, and fiscal years are both ending and beginning. And our fall/winter To-Do lists are growing at an alarming rate!
Of course Labor Day is not the end of the summer; that happens several weeks later with the Autumnal Equinox. It just feels like it. As we once again settle into routines and behind our desks recalling fond vacation memories, we may want to also think about our daily labor in terms of connections, coherence, and change.
Let’s take advantage of the shifting light, the changing colors and the varying winds. Let’s look forward to disruption in our routines, welcome new challenges and seek out opportunities for excellence and growth. Let’s recognize and appreciate the contributions of others, as well as our own. Let’s remain clear about who we are, what is really important, and how we want to connect with others.
Let’s remember our Simple Rules.
- Navigating a Political Season
Here in the United States we are in the middle of election season: two major parties vying for the votes of constituents across town as well as across the country. Whether nationally, locally or around the dinner table, voters are debating the policies, positions, and integrity of candidates to do what they promise to do, and govern in the best interests of all the people they represent.
Unfortunately, these politically charged times tend to bring out the worst – as well as the best – in people, including those running for office! Airwaves are filled with political ads containing at least as much fiction as fact; every time a candidate states, “I never said that,” we can search the internet to find exactly when he DID say that; polls change from minute to minute and still manage to reflect someone’s bias; and special interests seem to get all the attention their money will buy.
Confused? You betcha! So let me offer a simple and elegant tool called Adaptive Action, developed by Dr. Glenda Eoyang through her exciting work in Human Systems Dynamics. This tool consists of three simple questions: What? So What? and Now What? These questions can help you see, understand, and influence what is going on around you – and are valuable in creating your own simple rules. Using this process, you can gather information; make meaning of it; and then act. For example:
What (do you know)?
- What is the candidate saying now?
- What has the candidate said in the past?
- Are the candidate’s messages inclusive or exclusive; positive or negative?
- Do you know who the candidate is; what is important to the candidate; and how the candidate connects with people?
- What is the candidate’s approach to addressing tough issues?
- Who is able to influence the candidate?
- Advertisements are the best that money can buy and their focus is effect not accuracy.
So What (does that mean)?
- Are the candidate’s priorities and values aligned with your own?
- Does the candidate speak and act with integrity?
- Can you trust this candidate to do what s/he says?
- Are the candidate’s personal and professional histories transparent and reflective of his/her beliefs?
- Do you believe this candidate?
- Does this candidate really care about you?
Now What (are you going to do)?
- Support the best individual.
- Help individuals register to vote.
- Vote for your candidate.
And, in the spirit of the season, let me offer some simple rules for that individual running for office. If these resonate with you, hold them up against your favorite contender and see how they measure up.
Simple Rules for individuals running for office.
- Support health, well-being, safety and security.
- Engage the community.
- Create a sense of belonging.
- Practice and promote social justice.
- Stand up for diversity and inclusion.
- Do no harm.