Posted at 8:58 AM on Friday, June 27, 2008
I wrote this piece several years ago. It is one of the essays in my book Vantagepoints on Learning and Life, and I share it today for three reasons:
- I am on vacation, so I am trying to not work while on vacation.
- I am in Michigan where I grew up (and where the story takes place).
- I believe the message of the story and the metaphor shared is extremely valuable.
Taste the sweetness of the ideas as you pick some blueberries . . .
My mother emailed me about an experience she had last week that reminded me of some of my experiences growing up, and I hope you can relate as well. I'll let her tell you the first part of the story...
"It was a beautiful, early September day in Michigan. The temperature was balmy with a nice breeze. It is days like these that remind me why I love living here so much. My husband, John, and I drove to a "u-pick" blueberry patch a short distance from our home. We were told to pick from any bush and we quickly noticed that the berries were plentiful. It didn't take long however to notice something very interesting. While there were plenty of berries on the outsides of the bushes, if you looked inside, the berries were bigger, even more bountiful and virtually untouched."
After recounting this story to me, Mom went on to say, "It occurred to me that it is the same with our relationships with others. How many times do we just look on the outside, or on the surface, and not really work at our relationships to know the 'inner self' of others?"
Mom is right (of course, Mom's are always right, aren't they?). It's a powerful lesson.
We fall in love with the berries on the bush's exterior, but when we look inside we find "the inner beauty" of even better berries. So it is in our lives. When we focus only on the exterior or superficial, we miss the depth of others. It is only in that depth that we will truly know them, and ultimately, appreciate them.
If Mom had followed the lead of the other pickers in the row, and hadn't looked to the interior, she would have been disappointed by her harvest, and wouldn't have had as many berries to enjoy. Regardless of how many berries could be found outside, Mom and John picked the whole bush.
My mother, in reference to a running joke about her height, mentioned that she had to pick inside the bush, because she couldn't reach all of them on the outsides of the bushes. I know better. I know she picked inside for two reasons: she knew from experience there would be good berries there, and, two, she did it because as a good gardener, she knows that all the fruit needs to be harvested to help the plant thrive.
Reminds me that it is always important to follow and use our experience. When we have experience at something, it is important to use it! There is lesson for all of us in Mom's second reason for picking the whole bush, inside and out. She values the plant itself and wants it to thrive. We know that when we get to know people at deeper levels they thrive (and so do we!). We all need attention and care and love, and without the proper care and environment, just like the berry bush, we won't thrive.
Just like Mom in the blueberry patch, our lives are "U-Pick". You decide what kind of relationships you want to build. You decide how deep you want to look when trying to understand and relate to others. When we pick the right patches, we will find lots of great fruit, but the sweetest fruit will always be found when we look a little deeper. It takes a bit more effort and time, but you will be well-rewarded.
Think about the lessons of the blueberry patch the next time you are building a relationship, whether with your long-lost cousin, new neighbor or the new colleague down the hall. "U-Pick" your approach, just remember that your choice determines the relationship you harvest.
Potential Pointer: If you want better relationships at work or at home, get past the externals. Be even more interested in the other person, and take the risk to ask about more than their work and the weather. When we get past the surface we will reap a harvest of wonderful relationships.
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The Best of The Top Sales Experts - Summer Edition
Posted at 8:52 AM on
Often people tell me this newsletter is the most expensive they receive. When I ask why, since it doesn't cost anything . . . the reply is "because I want to buy all the books you recommend!"
I'm changing the cost today. I am still recommending a book (of the e-book variety), but it won't cost you anything except the time to download it.
This book is an absolute, must have for anyone connected in any way to sales. And for those who think you aren't, remember we all need to influence, persuade and sell ideas!
While some of the articles are sales-process focused many will apply to "non-sales" people.
Anytime I can get 50 experts offer some of their best ideas to help me improve, I'm interested, and I hope you are too. That is what this e-book is. Download your copy today.
Disclaimer - Yes, I am one of the 50 experts included, but I would recommend it anyway; it's an excellent resource!
Download it now.
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Won't You Be My Neighbor?
Posted at 8:57 AM on Monday, June 23, 2008
In this world of cell phones, skype, email, instant messages, Twitter, Facebook, Linked In (must I continue?) It seems hard to believe that we build communities around the world better than we do right . . . next . . . door.
Consider this:According to social scientists, from 1974 to 1998, the frequency with which Americans spent a social evening with neighbors fell by about one-third. Robert Putnam, the author of “Bowling Alone,” a groundbreaking study of the disintegration of the American social fabric, suggests that the decline actually began 20 years earlier, so that neighborhood ties today are less than half as strong as they were in the 1950s.
This comes from a New York Times
piece this morning, written by Peter Lovenheim who is writing a book about neighborhoods. (Read the full essay here
.)So Let Me Ask You?
When was the last time you focused on building the community with those who live near you rather than logging into Facebook? When was the last time you worked on your relationships at in the office rather than doing more email?
Networking, social media, and being in touch and available is great, but what are we trading for those wonderful new things?
Get some balance today - for yourself, your co-workers, those you lead, and for your neighbors.
Everyone will win.
Also posted in Leadership
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Thoughts on Effective Meetings with Susan Otto
Posted at 7:03 PM on Sunday, June 22, 2008
I sat down with Susan Otto, owner of Training-Modules.com
, instructional designer extraordinaire, colleague and friend of mine recently (okay, we did it through email because we are both busy and live two hours apart) and asked her some questions about her experiences and advice around creating more effective meetings. Here are her thoughts on my questions . . .What is the biggest issue with meetings today?
No one is considering the true cost. When was the last time - if ever - that you estimated the cost of a meeting. I don't mean the room, lights, food, etc. I don't even mean time spent just chatting because you were waiting to start the meeting -though that is important, too. I mean the meeting member’s salary for that time spent. If everyone in an hour-long meeting made $30.00 per hour and there were seven people present, then the cost for that hour-long meeting would be $210.00 just for the members. That doesn't include the cost of what they could have been doing with there time if they weren't "stuck" in the meeting. And, that cost gets much higher when you have executives attending the meetings.(a note from Kevin - when you add in the cost of infrastructure and benefits, the number goes up by another 30-50%!)
What do you believe is the most important thing you can do to make a meeting more effective?
Create and provide an agenda - based on the purpose for the meeting. Any meeting items that are not pertinent to the meeting's purpose should be eliminated. And, if possible, the agenda should be distributed prior to the meeting.What is one of the biggest mistakes people make when attending meetings?
Not being prepared. This follows what I just mentioned . . . if an agenda is distributed prior to the meeting, each member attending should know what they need to do and/or bring to make the meeting more effective. And, if you are invited to attend a meeting and you don’t have a clear idea of why you need to attend, call and find out. Then consider whether your participation at that meeting is really necessary.What is one of the biggest mistakes people make when planning meetings?
Expecting the "usual" members to attend the meeting, which again follows what I was just alluding to. Only invite those members to attend who really need to be at a meeting. Oftentimes, people are invited to meetings whose attendance is not necessary, especially for the purpose of the meeting. Some meeting could, and should, be sub-meeting where only a few members meet to discuss and decide on issues. Written communication, following the meeting, can provide the rest of the group with what was discussed or decided.What can I do to evaluate my meetings' effectiveness?
Ask someone to attend one of your meetings, paying attention to the interactions between team members only. Watch for who participates in the meeting, who talks to whom, etc. Oftentimes an outside resource can provide you with valuable insights into the groups’ or teams’ meeting effectiveness, especially if the team is well-established team and has been working together for a long time.Thanks Susan!
Susan has created a training module
that can be used in your organization to improve your meetings - and has created an eWorkbook
(a tremendous value) on the same topic. I urge you to take a look at those links (as well as all of the other Modules and eWorkbooks she has available) if you would like to create more effective meetings for yourself or across your organization.
These are just two examples of Susan's excellent work - take a look to learn more, download some samples and make a purchase.
Also posted in Learning
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Five Reasons We Aren't More Innovative
Posted at 11:30 AM on Friday, June 20, 2008
Tom had a problem. The problem had been nagging him and his entire department for quite some time.
The team had come up with some pretty creative ideas they felt would solve the problem. But when the time came to implement solutions, they always went with a more conventional, safer solution. And looking back now, their results were as predictable as the solution.
They had made a little progress, but the problem still existed - and was becoming more than a nuisance. Now Tom's boss Sylvia was asking about it.
On the way home from work the day Sylvia suggested the problem needed to be truly solved, Tom thought about why he hadn't led the team to one of the more innovative solutions they had developed. The more he thought about it, the more he realized this was a pattern for him and his team.
They could come up with great ideas, but they never seemed to be implemented.
Over dinner, he shared his dilemma and his insights with his wife, Angela. During the conversation, Angela also helped him see that even talking with her - where he should feel the most safe - that his comfort zone was being challenged, and he still had fears - fears that were keeping him from moving forward on the more creative ideas.
During their evening walk they discussed what those fears might be, and before Tom went to bed he wrote them down.Fears that Keep You From Innovation
- The fear of no. Someone(s) will say you can't do it, so you don't even try or ask.
- The fear of failure or mistake. The idea is innovative, so you see it as more risky, and you wouldn't want to fail - or you might be ridiculed or looked down upon if it fails.
- The fear of resistance. Not everyone may agree with your innovative approach, and you aren't sure if you can handle or even deal with the resistance.
- The fear of extra work. The more innovative solution may take more time to sell or influence (see the other fears above), and you aren't sure you have or want to invest the time to make it work.
Tom realized that not all of these fears plagued him right now (he wasn't afraid of the extra work or effort that would be required, for example), but the other two affected him now and at other times in the past.
He thought about these fears on the way to work the next day, and he realized these fears could affect individuals, teams of people or even entire organizations! And as he thought about it even further, he realized there was another fact that could stall innovation, even if the other fears were conquered or were non-existent.
He thought about the times when people came up with new ideas but did nothing. Mainly because in the end they really weren't displeased enough with the way things currently were.
The first thing Tom did when he got to the office was fire up his laptop and make a list of his four fears and one fact:
The Five Reasons I Don't Innovate
The Fact of Complacency
The Fear of No
The Fear of Failure or Mistakes
The Fear of Resistance
The Fear of Extra Work
He printed the list, placed it on his office bulletin board and resolved to share this with his team - and Sylvia.
As he put it on the board he decided his biggest fear in this particular situation had been The Fear of No. And when he really thought about it, he recognized that Sylvia really wanted change, so his fear wasn't very justified.
When you think about the creative ideas you or your team have had lately, ask yourself why you haven't taken action. Consider these five reasons and see if you can't get past your fears and move forward towards innovation!
Potential Pointer: Even the most change resistant people recognize the value of new ideas. But before you can be more innovative, you must address complacency and the fears of no, failure, resistance and extra effort.
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The Hamster Revolution: How to Manage Your Email Before It Manages You by Mike Song, Vicki Halsey and Tim Burress
Posted at 11:22 AM on
How much time do you spend on email?
Does managing your information flow (including email) seem to take more and more of your time?
Do you wish you had some tools to specifically help you manage email and other information in general?
Enter The Hamster Revolution.
Written as a business parable, this book can help anyone struggling with these or related questions. Through its story you will walk away with a complete practical plan for:
- Reducing the number of emails you receive
- Writing more effective and helpful emails
- Managing your inbox
- Managing all of your electronic information (with a tool I'm already implementing)
Beyond all of this ultra-valuable stuff, it also gives you practical ideas for coaching others to apply some of the same tools.
The entire book is valuable, but the coaching ideas set this book apart and make it even more valuable for leaders and anyone else who feels they spend too much of their time reading, writing and replying to email.
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Best Leadership Blogs?
Posted at 4:30 PM on Thursday, June 19, 2008
We are in search of the Best Leadersip Blogs! Last year we hosted the first annual search, and we will be doing the same in the month of July. Why do I tell you now?
Because we want to know what you're reading in the Leadership Blogosphere. Send an email to Abby
by 6/23 and your nomination will be considered by our Blue Ribbon panel.
Also posted in Leadership
Labels: Best Leadership Blogs
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Posted at 9:10 AM on Wednesday, June 18, 2008
If you would like to participate in this call, learn from Marci and even ask her a question, go here
to sign up for the call - it is tomorrow June 19th at 2 pm ET. If you can't join us at that time, you can still register and receive the recording and transcript of the call.
I hope you will join us!
Labels: attitude, happiness
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Creating Wows for Others
Posted at 10:01 AM on Thursday, June 12, 2008
It's a word filled with emotion, excitement, intrigue and more.
It's a word that some companies try to infuse into their products, brands and even their Customer Service. They recognize that when people are wowed by their products and services, those same people will continue to be attracted to those products and services. In their minds, creating Wow means creating loyal Customers.
This article isn't about marketing, Customer Service or business management however.
It's about you.
Consider how your life and results would change if you were able to Wow those around you on a regular basis. . .
. . . people would want to work with you more closely
. . . people would be interested in helping you reach your goals
. . . people would naturally be attracted to your projects and ideas
. . . you would enjoy greater relationships
. . . your life would be more meaningful
. . . your life would be more fun
Many other benefits will come your way when you focus on creating Wow experiences for others, but even if there weren't, isnt any one of the ideas above reason enough to give it a try?
Please consider the ideas that follow from a variety of perspectives. Think about how they would impact your role as a leader, a team member, a service provider, a parent and a friend. Consider how you could apply these ideas in every part of your life.
The more often you apply them, the more skilled you will become which means even better results will come your way.
- Be other focused. You must truly 'want' to Wow other people. Your purpose is completely service focused – you are doing things for them. You see how you can make a difference in their day or life and you want to do so. Of course you know that you will reap a multitude of benefits, but Wows are created when you choose to focus on serving, surprising and delighting those around you.
- Share. Share your knowledge, insights, perspectives, experiences, ideas and knowledge. Don’t do it from a "let me coach you, because I am all-knowing" perspective, just offer to share and help.
- Engage emotionally. When you are willing to connect on an emotional level, you will more easily create Wow moments and experiences. How emotionally engaged are you with those you interact and work with each day?
- Under promise and over deliver. Do more than meet your commitments. Make sure that you only make commitments that you can meet - and then when you exceed them (with speed, ease, extra things) you will Wow!
- Raise your personal expectations. Expect a bit more of yourself. This doesn’t mean you have to become overly critical or a perfectionist, but when you hold yourself to a higher standard your Wow moments will increase. In any area, generally speaking, you will achieve only what you truly expect that you can achieve. Why not expect to Wow people regularly?
- Have fun! People love to have fun and they are drawn to others who are genuinely enjoying themselves. Inject more fun into your work and watch how that will naturally lead to Wow opportunities.
- Smile. One of the simplest and most overlooked Wows. Smile more, to more people, more of the time.
These absolutely aren't the only ways to create Wows, but they're a great place to start! Pick one or more of these ideas and begin Wowing today. Do it with humility and grace and you will not only improve the attitudes, outlooks and lives of others, but you will reap the same benefits for yourself.
Potential Pointer: You can create Wows for the people around you by adjusting some of your habits and perspectives. When you consciously work to create Wows for others, you will improve your life, happiness and results as well.
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Competitors Wish They Were You! by Robyn Spitzman and Rick Frishman
Posted at 9:56 AM on
Where's Your WowI love the title and goal of this book. As a business owner and "lover of marketing," I was attracted to the promise of the subtitle. I also know Rick Frishman and have collaborated with him in the past.
These are reasons enough to pick up a book, but it takes more than that for me to keep reading (and even more to recommend it!). I started it one morning and finished it the following day.
The book focuses on creating Wows - finding ways to differentiate yourself, your products and services. It divides the six ideas into three major sections of the book:
- What Makes You Special?
- Outstanding, Outrageous and Out of the Box
- Wire Yourself for Success
I enjoyed the conversational, easy, writing style, but I mostly enjoyed the stories. The authors are well connected and use their personal contacts and stories from a variety of industries to make their points in each chapter.
There are a few spots where specific suggestions and checklists are available, but the book is notably short in that area. That doesn't make it any less valuable, especially if you can draw your conclusions and ideas from the wonderful stories.
I found myself informed and inspired. I love the stories (in fact I have already recounted several to other people). And I know that these examples will help me and my business grow.
The content is solid, and the delivery is fun. If you like this less directive approach, you will especially enjoy this book.
Learn more and purchase at Amazon.com.
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Six Steps to Innovative Action
Posted at 11:41 AM on Saturday, June 07, 2008
If you've ever taken a shower or gone on a walk, then you've had an idea. If you've ever been to a meeting, then you've either shared or heard an idea. And even though you've had plenty of new ideas, do you consider yourself creative? Many people don't - no matter how many new ideas they have each day.
If you think idea generation is directly related to innovation, and you don't think you are very creative, your ability to be innovative will be hampered.
In reality, generating ideas is just one part of the innovation process; recognizing that you need more than ideas is an important step towards being more innovative.
There are six specific things you can do to generate innovations individually or as the leader of a group. These steps will predictably lead you to more than just better ideas but to innovations that - when implemented - will make a difference in your results.
The next time you are facing a challenge, opportunity or problem personally, as part of a team or within an organization you lead, walk through these six steps.
- Agree on the situation. The best place to begin in any problem solving or innovation project is to have a clear understanding and mutual agreement on what the problem, situation or opportunity is. Take the time to get past what might seem obvious. Experience shows that many opportunities are never fully capitalized on because this initial step is never completed.
- Step back for a look. Once you have a clear understanding of the focus of your innovation, step back and gain some perspective. This may be done by asking questions to prompt a new perspective and/or by providing time and space before continuing the innovation process. If possible, pose some perspective changing questions and table the task until later. While you certainly want to discuss your situation from new perspectives, it is also helpful to give people time to soak on these perspectives.
- Take stock of what you've got. Give yourself or the group time to take inventory of what resources, ideas and strengths you already possess that will help you in this innovation exercise. Too often these things aren't considered until much later. By considering and inventorying them now, it will begin to spur ideas and allow your innovations to complement your strengths and resources.
- Affirm that you can. In order to create more ideas, you must believe that you can. Doing the first three steps primes the ideas in your mind, creating a process for spurring ideas and providing proof that you can do it. Make no mistake, your belief that we can be creative is important. Taking the first three steps here will automatically bolster your belief through action.
- Rev up your thinking. This is the traditional step of brainstorming (in other words this is where most people start this process!). When you rev the motor of your car, you put the "pedal to the metal." When you rev up your thinking, we put your mental pedal to the medal. Remove all limitations to your thinking. Use all of the work you have done up until now to get started, but dive into your situation and think of any and all ideas that could possibly help solve your problem or help you capitalize on the situation.
- Think Yes! Once you have a large (even tremendous) list of ideas, review them looking for yeses. Yeses are things that could be implemented or could be part of a solution. Don't simply look for the single, right answer. Think instead in terms of how many of these ideas to which you can say yes. How many of them can become a part of your solution? Once you have your list of yeses, you are ready for the next step.
The next step?
You may be thinking, "but, Kevin, you told me there were six steps." You're right, that is exactly what I said; but really there are seven. The seventh step comes from the first letters of the other six: A START.
The next step is to recognize that all of the other steps are just a start. What comes next is to actually start.
The final key to innovation action is to act
Too often more time is spent on the process of creating ideas and plans with hardly any time spent capitalizing on those ideas quickly enough or at all.
As an individual or a leader don't fall into that trap - always remember the end goal of any innovation is new and improved results. When you follow all of these steps, you improve your chances of creating innovations of all kinds - from small improvements to major breakthroughs.Potential Pointer:
Innovation is about more than ideas. Ideas in and of themselves have no value. Innovation comes from putting the ideas into a plan, and putting that plan into motion. To improve your results and solve problems more effectively, take innovative action.
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The Offsite: A Leadership Challenge Fable by Robert H. Thompson
Posted at 11:36 AM on
This book is a fable based on the core content of The Leadership Challenge, the multi-year bestseller now in its fourth edition. (I read the first edition many years ago. It is a profoundly wonderful and expertly researched book). I met the author Robert Thompson last Wednesday, and he gave me a copy of this new book.
Because I liked him and love the content of The Leadership Challenge, this book moved to the top of my reading stack. In fact, I am writing this review about 20 hours after he gave me that copy.
This book is a fable and like so many others in this genre that really work, it has a succinct message to share - in this case The Five Practices from The Leadership Challenge. Those points are made, and explained clearly even if you aren't already familiar with the original, but you aren't hit over the head with them either with over-done reviews and repetition. Each discussion of them provides new information and greater understanding.
The best fable/business novels are more than just good nuggets wrapped around a story; they are well-written, interesting and engaging stories. This book fits solidly in that second category. Thompson, because of his long association with The Five Practices, wrote a story and included the Practices, rather than building a story around the five key points.
The writing is excellent, the story is real and includes characters I am sure you will identify with, and the leadership content is outstanding. Beyond that, like the best novels, I was left wondering what was going to happen next and considering the possibility of a sequel. What more could you want in a book?
Learn more and purchase at Amazon.com.
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