Changing Your Point-Of-View – Season 2020, Episode 30

I’m like Picasso. No, I’m not great at art, but I’m not great at math, either. Neither was he evidently.

During his early school years when the teacher asked him to write the number 4 on the board, he’d see it as a nose, then proceed to draw the rest of the face. The other kids saw the number four. He saw a nose. Such is the difference between ordinary and extraordinary. Or the difference between an artist and a mathematician.

Perspective impacts just about everything.

Look no further than this current polarizing Presidential election to prove how true it is. Nevermind that social media platforms *may* continue to feed you information that’s congruent with the viewpoint they know you have based on your Internet behavior. Rarely have I seen (in fact, I don’t think I’ve seen it happen once) a person change “sides.” I’m a Capitalist, which means I’m apolitical. But on one side of me is a person with Biden/Harris signs and on the other side is a family flying a Trump flag. Something tells me they each have a viewpoint that’s not likely going to change. They see the world in certain ways and I suppose they’ll vote based on the signs in their yard.

In my coaching practice, which is slowly morphing to incorporate a group component – I call it THE PEER ADVANTAGE, I often have conversations with people about being part of a professional peer group. That’s a group where all the participants share a major common denominator – for instance, I’m building a group of SMB owners. Dip your toes into the “mastermind” arena and you’ll quickly hear things like, “Find somebody who has already achieved what you hope to achieve.” Or, “Join yourself to people who are ahead of where you are.” Or, “Be part of a group where people are achieving higher success than you are.”

Do you notice the problem?

You’re on the bottom of the totem pole in every case. Which begs the question, “Why would somebody more successful than you want to be part of a group that has YOU as a member?” (Thank you, Groucho Marx!)

But there’s something else to think about.

The more familiar we are with something the more complacent we tend to become. Additionally, the more accomplished we are at something, the greater the threat to not appreciate any variations. It’s the whole “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” syndrome.

One of the value propositions of a professional peer group is the ability to help us see different perspectives. What we see as a four may be seen by somebody else as a nose. Both people are helped by the other viewpoints. You only get that with diversity, not sameness.

Curiosity drives understanding. And curiosity is fueled by wonder, not some certainty that we already know.

That’s why professional peer groups with people who share something important – like being an SMB owner – are highly valuable when there are other big differences like industry, revenue volume, age, experience, and personality.

We so rarely change our point-of-view because we don’t often enough seek understanding. We don’t want to understand a viewpoint different from ours because our familiarity with our own viewpoint has convinced us we’re right and all others are wrong. Or less right. What we know to be right may not be ideal. Or even right at all.

Pick any industry. Go find websites or periodicals (trade magazines) of that industry and you’ll quickly see how everybody in that industry is reading the same things, thinking the same things, and largely doing the same things in the same ways. Some are more successful than others and those less successful are envious of the industry leaders. In some instances, the industry leaders aren’t achieving superior success because they’re doing anything terribly unique, but they found some serendipity. Or they’re in a hot market. Or they’ve got fewer competitors. I’ve seen it over and over again – superior success is often achieved not because of what they’re doing, but sometimes it’s happening in spite of themselves.

Last week I talked about anticipating the ideal outcome. It’s a hot button topic for me because success can be the worst kind of complacency. It causes us to stop thinking about what could be. It fosters complacency and self-assuredness that we’re all that and then some. It cements us in a way of looking at things and a  way of thinking about things. If we see a number four we’re unable to see a nose!

What If?

Hypotheticals have value. Logically, I think many of us know that. Why then are we so reluctant to ask the hypothetical questions? Why are we even more reluctant to answer them?

What if you were the very best in your field? I don’t mean, “What if you were better?” I mean, quite literally, what if nobody was better at it than you? What would that look like? What would you have to look like? How would that version of you be different than the current you?

I spend more time watching home construction YouTube videos than I care to admit. Sometimes during my late-night bouts of insomnia, I’ll start watching to learn about the new technology being incorporated by the best home builders in the world. One thing I enjoy about these people is their willingness to chase hypotheticals. What if we could reduce the energy consumption of a house by 50%? What about a 75% reduction?

Merely asking the hypothetical sets in motion thinking that seeks what that might have to look like. Not asking those questions fosters no such thinking. That’s why so many home builders around the world are simply copying what everybody else in their industry is doing. How boring!

This past weekend I went to watch one of my grandsons play football. The team was playing poorly and being soundly beaten by the opponent. The opposing team was bigger and faster. Before we got too far into the game my grandson’s team was down by four touchdowns and it was apparent the scoreboard might not have enough digits to display the final score. Enter misbehaving coaches, the scourge of youth sports. The head coach behaved so poorly the officials finally threw a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct on the sideline. That prompted further tirades from the same coach, who then got flagged again for the same thing. That’s when the officials warned him that one more such call and he’d be dismissed from the game. Enter his assistant coach to pick up the mantle of poor behavior. He barked insults at the officials and at one point when an elderly man there to support his own grandson said, “Come on, coach, you’re hurting the team” he turned and unleashed his wrath on the granddad.

Two grown men whose team was being soundly beaten, choosing to see the officials as the culprit of their team’s poor play. If I thought I had sufficient persuasive power to change their mind, I’d have gladly attempted it. But I knew to leave well enough alone.

I share that story to illustrate how embarrassing a single point-of-view can look. As I watched my grandson’s team lose all enthusiasm for a sport most of them love, and as I continued to watch these men display what immaturity and foolishness look and sound like, I wondered, “What if the coaches decided to remove all the pressure from young boys trying to figure out how to handle this steam roller they’d run into?” And, “What if the coaches didn’t teach these boys that the officials are the reason for their poor play?”

Instead, as you might imagine, the players quickly began to lean on the excuse that the officials were doing a poor job. With few exceptions, it was obvious the sideline was filled with complainers who felt they were victimized by the game officials. That wasn’t true, of course. The other team was substantially better. And my grandson’s team was being coached by men who couldn’t see the game any other way than how they were seeing it. As a result, nobody was accepting responsibility for the outcome that they clearly deserved. Nobody had fun. Nobody learned anything, except how to insult officials.

That’s the power of a point-of-view unwilling to see it any differently. Unable to adjust in order to achieve a more suitable outcome.

I’d like you to think of those coaches every time you find yourself unwilling to question how you’re looking at something. Especially whenever you catch yourself unwilling to listen to somebody else who may not see the number 4, but instead they see a nose. You may be robbing yourself of something very special that can help you immeasurably.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

Anticipating The Desired Outcome: Why It’s Fun To Aim For The Ideal – Season 2020, Episode 29

Perfectionism seems to be a thing that people enjoy claiming.

Others enjoy pointing out the futility of it and how it can provoke procrastination.

We’ve talked in the past about how if you’re going to do something, it’s worth putting in the effort to do it well. Today’s show smacks of a similar theme – of aiming high. Why not?

There’s a big difference in authority and leadership. And an equally big difference in leadership that takes high aim at an ideal versus leadership that accepts the status quo.

Conversations about “what could be?” often reveal how limited our thinking can be.

Sitting down with the boss of a 300 person company that manufactures aircraft parts, the discussion turns to his company’s culture, a culture he feels fairly good about. I ask, “How can it be better? What do you think you’d have to do to make it ideal?”

He’s thinking about it.

Seconds pass.

He’s obviously struggling to answer. I’m usually very comfortable with silence in a conversation, but it has a look I’ve seen before. A look that has shown me he may need further prompting to get the wheels moving more easily. I oblige.

“Surely there’s one thing that isn’t working so well. What is it?” I ask.

“I’m often frustrated at our lack of speed in handling certain people-performance issues,” he replies.

I ask him to explain. He goes on to share a few stories of people who weren’t corrected or supported in real-time. He wishes his leadership team wouldn’t sit on such actions. Some sit on them longer than others, but he confesses it’s a nagging problem that he’s not been able to fix to his liking.

“So what would the ideal look like?” I ask.

The wheels are turning. He’s explaining in vivid detail how things would look, sound, and feel.

Keep in mind, he’s in a very heavily regulated industry with lots of inspection and quality control. Anything having to do with airplanes has life and death potential. So getting it right is priority number 1. This CEO is very familiar with hitting the ideal in manufacturing. But like all of us, he’s susceptible to accepting less than the ideal in other areas – like these people problems he’s talking about.

For the next 40 minutes or so we discuss this ideal that he’s not yet been able to realize. He’s engaged and energized. Toward the end of our session he stops and says, “Man, that’s pretty fun to think about.” I have to tell him, “Imagine how much fun it’s going to be to execute.”

Have you ever planned something big? Maybe it was a move. Maybe it was a vacation. Maybe it was something with your career. Maybe it was a wedding. Something that took some time and planning.

Think about it. Remember how it felt while you were working toward it. Think about the things you did to get ready for it – to prepare for it to become reality.

The other day I was talking with an older gentleman who had retired from one career to begin a new one, his post-retirement career. Some call it “the encore.” He’s now 75. About 8 years ago he stepped away from the work he had done for decades. As he told me about the work he had put in to prepare himself for this new career you could see his eyes light up. Three years in the making. He studied. He read. He made notes. He talked with others who were doing this new line of work (new for him). His final 3 years in his old career were greatly enhanced because he was a man on a mission. To get his retirement career as right as he could.

“Was it fun?” I asked. “The planning and all the work you put in to prepare?”

“Oh, lands yes. I had a blast,” he said.

“I can’t remember when I had that much fun.”

Every time we plan something big we think about it going as well as it can go. The couple planning to get married don’t plan their wedding to be mediocre. They anticipate everything going perfectly. They want it to be extraordinary. They have an expectation that is very high. Rightly so.

Jim is a home builder. Well, more accurately he’ll tell you he’s really in the land business. He has a great knack for buying land at a good price, then developing it. He’s a master at buying low and selling high because he creates subdivisions and builds houses on land that enhances how money he can make. Sadly, he’s not terribly interested in being a great home builder. The homes are just a means to an end – a way to sell the land for more money than he otherwise could.

The houses are perfectly fine, but the workmanship isn’t terrific. Jim doesn’t mind though because it’s a detail that he simply doesn’t care about. In fact, he has very little to do with the construction part of his own enterprise. I look at his business and wonder what it might be like if he took more pride in the home building. I’ve often wondered, “What if he aimed for a higher outcome in craftsmanship in the homes like he does in his land deals?”

I doubt we’ll ever find out because he’s printing money and making more money than he’s likely ever made in his life. I have no working relationship with him, but privately (now publicly) I’m fascinated to wonder about what could be in his business – including profits. And I sometimes wonder if Jim might have some fun in trying to become world-class in building custom homes instead of just trying to hit price points and other measurements that help him add more exotic cars to his fleet.

Through the years I’ve found it interesting how business people who earn extraordinary incomes share stories of striving for something important. Their enthusiasm is apparent as they recite stories of taking a high aim. They can get animated whenever they’re telling me about something they were going to try to achieve that hadn’t been done before – at least, by them. Looking forward to reaching the goal is sometimes its own reward.

Recently, my wife and I went on a pretty rigorous 4-mile hike. We’d done it before and this time we felt we were better prepared. It took us about 90 minutes. The terrain in places was challenging for novice hikers like us. Check that, old novice hikers. At places we were both winded.

Along the route, trees were marked with yellow paint or yellow arrows to show you the path. Every half mile there was a marker.

Before we started we anticipated that it might take us 2 hours. The first time we did it I think it was closer to 3.

We didn’t have a time goal. We just wanted to do it for the sake of doing it.

All along the way we anticipated the next marker.

.5 mile

1 mile

I remember hitting that first mile marker and saying to my wife, “Twenty-five percent down.”

Anticipating getting to the end alive was my ideal outcome!

After an hour and a half we emerged. Finished the course. No twisted ankles. No broken bones. No bruised egos. Just two old bodies looking to sit down and guzzle a Route 44 Sonic soft drink!

My wife said, “It feeels good to have done it.”

Truth is. It felt pretty good planning to do it again. And it felt pretty good all along the way knowing we were going to do it and in a much shorter time than we’d done it the first time.

Carly Simon sang that famous hit song, “Anticipation.”

The first lines of the song say…

We can never know about the days to come
But we think about them anyway

When it comes to our organizations and our leadership, let’s think about the ideal outcomes anyway. Even if you may be tempted to think it’s never going to happen. What if you’re wrong? What if it’s possible? What if much, much higher performance is possible? What if you’re the impediment because you just won’t dream big enough? Or anticipate the desired outcome as being ideal?

What if you’re missing out on loads of fun? The fun to plan – and try to achieve some new outcome? The very best outcome?

What if Jim took aim at maximizing his real estate value by taking his home building skills to a whole new level? What if his company was a premier custom home builder known for a fit and finish that others simply couldn’t rival?

How good can you be?

How good can your organization be?

It’s fun to ask. It’s even more fun to plan the ideal answer.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

P.S. If you are the owner of a small t0 medium-sized business, l invite you to check out The Peer Advantage by Bula Network. It’s a small think tank just for owners who aspire to be the very best.

I’m Not The Sharpest Knife In The Drawer, But I Am A Knife (The Power Of Curiosity) – Season 2020, Episode 28

When it comes to understanding people and situations I’ve not found anything more powerful than curiosity.

Curiosity drives understanding.

When our curiosity is low, our quest to understand is low, too.

How do we know?

We stop asking questions. Mostly because we either lack curiosity, we don’t care or we think we know enough already. Or any combination of those things.

I’ve told you before how limited my super-powers are, but I do have a few. The other day I’m having this conversation with a CEO about business. He’s telling me about his background and how he came to be where he is, both in business and life. He asks me about my background and I explain to him how I’m like so many of my generation who stumbled into things, made the most of it and it sorta worked out. I told him I wasn’t like the rare friends I had who grew up always wanting to “be” something specific. Or like those people who have many talents from which to pick. When your talents are somewhat limited life can get easier I suppose. You either soar with your strengths (as Donald O. Clifton evangelized, he of what once was “Clifton’s Strengthfinder” fame), or you don’t. The key is knowing your strength of course. Again, easier to do when there are so few of them. Harder to do when you have to pick among the many you may have.

At which point I made the remark that serves as today’s title. And he laughed. But it’s not merely a funny line. It’s completely true and we went on to discuss how asking questions is the only way to satisfy our curiosity. But also how afraid we often are to ask the questions – especially the ones that are most obvious to us at the moment.

Here’s some context for you, regarding the title.

The subject was the power of questions. And curiosity.

But the real subject was (and is) UNDERSTANDING.

Umpteen years ago I concluded that “the quality of our questions determines the quality of our business.” Whether it was a customer interaction, a vendor decision, a contract negotiation…questions seemed to be a great barometer of whether or not I was on track as a business leader. Any time I took a shortcut thinking I knew enough BEFORE asking more questions, I almost always lost. That’s why I made up my mind that after I had asked the obvious questions (those I felt were obvious), then I’d search for the not-so-obvious ones. I adopted the “Columbo Rule” of asking one more question after I felt I had exhausted all the questions.

Over the years I learned that the thing always getting my way was ME. My arrogance. My ego. My pride. That’s what would prevent me from getting the understanding I most needed to make better decisions and to behave better.

When that epiphany hit me it almost didn’t make sense. Only because of one thing – I had always embraced my naivete. I was the person unafraid of asking the stupid question. I was the person in the conversation circle when somebody would ask if you knew somebody, or if you’d seen some movie — who would say (if it were true), “No, I have no idea.” Rarely would I feign understanding. I’ve always been pretty shameless at avoiding pretense for the sake of understanding. Hence, the statement I made to the CEO which kinda-sorta serves as today’s show title: “I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but at least I know I’m a knife…and not a fork.”

My being a knife is my strong desire and curiosity to understand.

Coaching executives and leaders involves me asking lots of questions. Not interrogating them, but in seeking to better understand what’s going on with them, and to figure out how they’re operating. Sometimes I’m trying to understand what they’re feeling whenever they’re frustrated. Or excited. Or feeling terrific.

When it comes to understanding people and situations I’ve not found anything more powerful than curiosity. Which is why today I’m encouraging you to embrace it more fully in your life. It can help push your life and career forward faster than anything I know because it’ll accelerate your learning, which in turn will fuel your growth.

Learning can be hard. Or it can easier. We get to decide.

We can go it alone thinking we’ll figure it out eventually. And maybe we will. But maybe we won’t. This is the slowest way to learn something.

Think about learning to play the guitar. You can sit at home with your guitar, unaided by anybody or anything, and maybe you’ll figure it out eventually, but your progress will be glacially slow.

You could sit at home alone with your phone or computer watching YouTube videos. That’ll pick up the pace enormously. Why do you think YouTube is the number one searched platform for “how to?” Because there are millions of videos that show how to do most anything you can dream of. Whenever we leverage YouTube or anything other web platforms to learn something we’re leveraging the power of others.

You could step up your game by taking some instruction – private or in a class. With another experienced guitar player sitting in front of you, giving you some structured approach to learning guitar, you’ll likely accelerate your learning even more. More evidence of the power of others.

If you decide to befriend other guitar players, especially experienced ones, you’ll find yourself being helped by people who can show you many tricks and tips to step up your learning even more.

Go it alone, asking no questions except those you ask of yourself, and it’s the slowest possible route.

Go it together with others, being intentional and purposeful in surrounding yourself with generous guitar players willing to show you the ropes and you’re now flying in a super sonic jet compared to all that alone time.

Like me, the thing that’ll get in your way is pride and ego. Embarrassed to let the experienced guitar player know that you have no clue what you’re doing…you’ll rob yourself of the power of others. Your lack of humility will ruin your curiosity to understand how to play the guitar.

Apply that logic to anything you’d like to learn – or anything you’d like to learn how to do better!

It works with people, too.

My naivete often helped clients see things from a vantage point they hadn’t previously considered. It’s common for me to hear a client say, “I haven’t considered that it might be that way” or words that express how they’ve only been viewing something from a single point of view.

Which way is right? Which way is wrong?

Don’t think of it in such binary terms. Think of it more in shades of gray and not so black and white.

Maybe it’s less about right or wrong and more about which is better. Or maybe it’s about which is more accurate. Which is more clear.

What if I entered your life during your worst, darkest days? What if I observed your life during this time period and concluded that what I’m seeing is the totality of who and what you are? Would I be accurate?

No. Of course not.

Our worst isn’t a fair sample of who or what we are. It’s the far extreme of what likely does NOT represent who and what we truly are.

Just because you’ve read one chapter of my life doesn’t mean you know my whole story. You need more context. In order to figure out the context, you need what?

Curiosity. Enough curiosity that you want to learn more so you can figure out the whole story. Or at least more of the story so you feel you’ve got a more full context.

If it’s unfair for others to judge you based only on your worst, then why do you think it’s fair for you to do that with them?

Because judgment is easy. Just like making assumptions.

The hard, but fun part is learning more. Asking questions so you can make sure you understand is thrilling if you make it the habit of your life.

Have you ever gotten something wrong? Thought you knew what was happening…only to discover that what you thought was happening wasn’t happening at all? Thought you knew somebody only to find out you had them pegged all wrong?

Not a good feeling. It’s an awful feeling.

Contrast that with the feeling you get when you took the time to figure out what we really going on. Feels good, doesn’t it? Of course, it always feels good to get it right.

Commit yourself to being a knife. A sharper knife. Embrace deeper curiosity in your quest to figure it out. Embrace it as you work to figure anything and everything out. You don’t have to be the sharpest knife in the drawer. You just have to make sure you’re a knife.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

If It’s Worth Doing, It’s Worth Doing It Well – Season 2020, Episode 27

Business folks know the old maxim, “If you don’t have time to do it right, then when will you have time to do it over?”

Experience has proven how true it is. Still, it’s often harder to figure out how to do it right the first time. Sometimes we don’t know how to do it right. Maybe because we lack information. Maybe because we don’t see things clearly. Maybe because we lack what we need. There are many reasons why our efforts to get it right fail.

Recently, I’ve encountered a number of situations where organizations are challenged by their own agendas. For example, there’s a gated community operated by a property owners’ association which is a private, tax-exempt property owners association headed by a general manager, hired by a board of directors who are tasked with serving the needs of the citizens. Well, some years ago the board voted to outsource the management of the gates resulting in security concerns for many citizens. It seems the outsourcing company used nominally trained and compensated employees to man the gates, resulting in a haphazard strictness the citizens of the community wanted. Without a vested interest in the situation, I engaged in a conversation some time back about it with a person who is very vested in it. During that conversation, I made a statement that serves as today’s show title. “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing it well.”

I don’t care if the community is gated or not, but if it’s going to gated, I asked my conversation buddy, “then isn’t it worth doing well?” Else, why do it at all? Ditch the whole notion of gates if you don’t want to do it well.

Given enough time it can become blindingly obvious where the canary in the coal mine may be. That is…the thing that seems to indicate where problems reside. If the canary in the coal mine is dying, then the oxygen supply is dangerously low, or non-existent. Keep your eye on the canary and you can improve your odds of staying safe – at least so far as having enough air to breathe is concerned. We can do the same thing with our organizations, teams, and groups. It can be a gated community, a city government, a corporation, a civic group, or a marketing team.

Thousands of podcast episodes are released daily. Who knows how many books are published daily? Or how many articles are posted? And then there’s video content. More hours than any human could possibly watch in a single lifetime. We’re busy reading, watching, and listening to something new. Lifelong learning is an attribute of high achievers…but it’s also an attribute of bored, curious or slothful folks, too. Sometimes we all can find our way into any of those categories. It’s why there’s great truth in the statement, “After all is said and done, more is said than done.”

Doing stuff is hard. Doing it well seems even harder.

Perhaps the most famous quote of Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher is…

“We have a strategic plan — it’s called doing things.”

Herb omitted one other important point. Southwest Airlines has historically been committed to doing things well. Not everybody is.

Let’s start with whatever decision has already been made. We can second-guess it 8 ways to Sunday, but we’ll save that discussion for another time. Right now, I’d like you to think about a decision that’s been made – like the decision to have a gated community. Right, wrong or indifferent…who cares? The decision is made, “We’re going to have a gated community.”

Now, armed with that decision our next question is, “How will we manage that?”

Nobody is going to pipe up and say, “Poorly. Let’s do it poorly.” But it happens. We want to consider why and figure out how we might find a remedy.

I’m a fan of the NHL. The Stanley Cup Playoffs are exciting. We never experience it this time of year, but during this pandemic, all of us are experiencing messed up calendars. Unless a game goes into overtime, NHL games consist of three 20-minute periods. That’s 60 minutes of actual playing time for regulation play. Right now teams are playing to enter the conference championship. Teams are competing to stay alive in best of 7 series. Well, every game decides a winner and a loser. Every series will result in a winner or loser. The winners jump for joy and celebrate feeling as good as they’ve ever felt. The losers sulk off the ice in disgrace, regretful of their lost opportunities and squandered chances. Seems to me that doing it well has an exponentially higher pay off than doing it poorly. But both teams invested the same time to play the game. It’s likely both teams invested similar time preparing, too. For one, it’s the best feeling in the world. For the other, it’s the worst.

Are both teams equally committed? Maybe. Maybe not. But it begins there. That’s where it begins with you and your situation. The commitment to do it – whatever it is – well. To execute it just as well as you possibly can. To devote yourself and whatever resources are necessary to do it well.

So let’s go back to the gate management being outsourced. The decision was made by the board for two reasons. One, to save money. There’s your first clue that doing it well wasn’t the priority. Two, to offload the burden to somebody else. The bottom line is the board was more willing to write a check hoping it’d be a smaller check while simultaneously avoiding the hassles of managing the gates themselves.

Let me give you some context. You’ve got a board of directors comprised of five property owners. They’ve got a general manager (CEO) in place earning a strong 6-figure salary with a long list of perks. There’s a budget for staff to help the CEO perform the work. As you might imagine, the bulk of the budget is spent on staff compensation. The place was established many years ago as a gated community. So that decision was made at the very beginning.

How well do you suppose leadership is doing when they can’t seem to do the gate management well?

Turns out the place has been plagued for years with incompetence, budget overruns, and general chaos and discontentment. They’ve devoted years of work in a losing effort that might have been avoided if they’d make up their minds that they were going to do things well. Gates or no gates? Who cares? They can and did decide. But they neglected to decide they’d do it well. Well enough to be world-class at it.

I can’t tell you why. They may not even be able to tell you. But the results have been devastating. Lost money. Unhappy residents. Lower security. Lawsuits. It’s been a major fiasco that might have been avoided.

Let’s get back to you and a decision that’s already been made. What “gate” decision has been made by your organization, team, or group? How well are you doing with that decision?

Go back and revisit what’s been done so far. Face the reality of how committed you are to do it well. And let’s define well with terms like remarkable, dazzling, and spectacular. What do you suppose gate management for the community would look like if the board was fully committed to making management of the gates remarkable, dazzling, and spectacular? I’m supposing that a CEO earning around $300K with a fully compensated staff and five board members could figure out a way to get that done! Of course, I could be wrong. 😉

I’m betting whatever decision you’re thinking of right now in your organization has the same potential for remarkable, dazzling, and spectacular.

It all begins with a commitment to do it well. Yes, there must be the necessary talent and skill. There must be necessary resources. But those don’t matter if we fail to commit ourselves fully to doing it well. And if we commit to doing it well, then we’ll figure out the missing ingredients.

As we begin this new month of September, let’s take a look at decisions we’ve already made – decisions that aren’t going as well as we’d like, or as well as we know they could. Let’s look in the mirror as we wonder WHY. Then, let’s take the time to answer the question, “Why isn’t this being done well?” Better yet, “How can we fix this? How can we turn this around and make the results remarkable, dazzling, and spectacular?”

We all have a canary or multiple canaries that indicate how well we’re executing decisions. The gated community’s canary are the gates themselves. What are yours? If they’re not being done well, then your life as an organization, team, or group is at risk.

Let’s get busy fixing what ails us. Today.

And if we don’t want to do it well, then may I suggest that we forego doing it at all. That’s why I made this comment regarding the gates. “If you guys don’t want to commit to managing the gates well – in a remarkably well way – that’s fine. Then ditch the idea of having gated community. Tear the gates down and open this place up. Why waste time and energy doing a poor job?”

Why indeed?

Be well. Do good. Grow great.

The Questions That Make All The Difference In Your Leadership (and your life) – Season 2020, Episode 26

Today’s show is about two areas where we exercise our point of view and four questions that can make all the difference in our lives and our leadership.

First off, you should know I don’t fancy myself as a thought leader. I abhor that title, especially when people ascribe it to themselves. Even on my About page I say I often struggle to lead my own thoughts so I don’t really want the burden of trying to lead yours. However, I do very much want to help you figure out how you can learn, grow and improve your life and leadership. That’s always the objective. So let’s see if we can accomplish that today. Let’s see if we can do that every day!

How we see the world and our place in it – these are important for every person because they determine our choices and actions. Convictions. Character. Beliefs. Thoughts. Feelings. Those are all wrapped up in how we see the world and our place in it. But those don’t specifically speak to the two areas where we exercise our point of view.

The main ingredient for today’s podcast is our self-awareness. All of us prefer to think our self-awareness is spot on. We may tend to overestimate how accurately we see ourselves. We think we’re always right, even though we may be wrong. Why would any of us intentionally hold a wrong thought or belief or feeling? Well, it’s not because we know it’s wrong. It’s because we incorrectly believe we’re correct.

Self-awareness can also influence how we see others. We don’t often view others without thinking about how we’re impacted by our feelings or thoughts about them. That’s why all those gaps in our knowledge about others get filled in with assumptions. Our assumptions likely have more to do with us than we’d like to admit. Our assumptions can lean toward being more wrong than right as we craft stories that fit with what we most want to think is true.

The first viewpoint isn’t measured in rightness or wrongness. It’s like somebody asking you, “What’s your favorite flavor of milkshake?” You say, “Chocolate.” They say, “Well, that’s not right!” You like what you like. We prefer what we prefer. It’s our viewpoint and it has no accuracy component. It only hinges on whether or not we’re telling the truth. I suppose somebody could gift you a vanilla shake and ask, “Is vanilla your favorite?” – to which you might politely answer, “Yes. Thank you.” But really, chocolate is your favorite.

We like what we like. We prefer what we prefer. It’s neither right nor wrong. It’s our view of the world. It’s our view of ourselves.

There is at least one area where this can be problematic. In my coaching sessions, it’s common for people to have self-limiting beliefs or viewpoints. A person may aspire to a higher position of leadership in an organization, but they struggle to see themselves as worthy of such an opportunity. Having never been in such a spot they wrongly think their inexperience at having held such a position before disqualifies them, never stopping to realize that everybody in that top spot had a first! These viewpoints aren’t preferences though. And rather than judging it as right or wrong, I prefer to judge it differently.

I’m fond of questions to help us gain clarity. Experience has taught me there’s a big challenge to questions though. That is, taking the time and effort to answer them. It’s particularly noticeable whenever we’re considering worst-case-scenarios. “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” We all ask it. Fewer take the time to answer it truthfully.

But today I’ve got four questions which are really just different aspects of the same question.

Is it constructive?

Is it destructive?

Is it helpful?

Is it unhelpful?

Ask those questions with regard to your favorite milkshake flavor and you can’t answer them. It simply doesn’t matter or make a difference. Our favorite flavor preference is neither constructive or destructive. It’s neither helpful or unhelpful. It just is.

I prefer to work one-on-one with clients or in very small groups. I have friends who have no desire for such work. They’d rather stand in front of a roomful of people and make a presentation. Or they’d prefer to be asked to deliver a speech.

I prefer to podcast, even though I enjoy writing. But I’ve never written a book. I have buddies who have written multiple books. They love writing the book and being published. It clearly doesn’t matter that much to me, else I’d have done it. Or I’d be doing it.

These viewpoints are important because they fuel our choices, but they’re above judgment because they’re uniquely our own. Anybody who wants to judge them does so at their own peril of foolishness. 😉

These viewpoints or preferences are important to our lives so we can lean into what fuels us, without subjecting ourselves to the urge to be somebody or something we’re not. Perhaps too many of us live wishing we were something we’re not.

The second viewpoint involves our view of others. Let’s keep those four questions in mind because they can serve us to make all the difference. Positive differences.

I can lack knowledge or insights, but still, make some assumptions about you. I may choose to think you’re a jerk.

Let’s apply our questions to that assumption. It’s reasonable to conclude that if I make that assumption without sufficient evidence, then it’s destructive and unhelpful.

We’re not made better by thinking somebody is a jerk. But it could be that I’m fearful you may be a jerk even though you’ve done nothing to prove it. Maybe I hope to protect myself from some falsely perceived threat you pose. Maybe I misread your body language or facial expression or tone. So I think the worst, but it doesn’t serve either one of us. Especially if I’m wrong.

This viewpoint is one where the power of others can help us immensely.

Others can provide insights that can help us better understand and come face-to-face with our inaccurate assessments and viewpoints. I may foolishly think that my conclusion “you’re a jerk” is equal to my preferences, but it’s not. I could argue, “Yes it is. I prefer vanilla shakes and I prefer people who don’t act like he acts. He’s a jerk.” But I may have determined you’re a jerk based on something very slight and potentially very inaccurate. We do it all the time. We ask somebody a question and they provide us a one-word answer. We instantly think, “I don’t like him. He’s a jerk.”

Consider road rage. Somebody cuts you off in traffic. You’re steamed. You may flip them off. You may speed up to tailgate them. But you’re instantly thinking the worst of them. You assume they think they’re more important than you. That their time is more valuable than yours. Apply those four questions.

Such a thought isn’t constructive or helpful. It riles you up. Elevates your blood-pressure. It might even ruin your morning or your entire day. Meanwhile, the person who cut you off is on their merry way oblivious of any of that. You’re in essence doing yourself far more harm than that driver ever could.

But it’s your viewpoint. It’s how you’re choosing to see this event. And the other person.

What if they were racing to a family emergency? Would that alter your viewpoint? Yes. Instantly. But that’s not our default viewpoint. We don’t instantly think, “Poor guy. He’s got some sort of emergency.” And you know why we don’t tend to think like that? Because we don’t want to give that person some consideration they may not be worthy of. That’s called “grace,” and we’d rather not give grace to others.

Here’s the interesting thing to me. I will commonly ask folks, “Do you want or need grace from anybody?” Nobody ever says, “No.” Instantly we can think of all sorts of people from whom we want or need grace. Undeserved consideration. Perhaps undeserved forgiveness. Some people confess to craving it. Then why don’t we have a greater willingness to extend it? Good question. I have no solid answers other than to face the reality that it’s difficult. Doable, but difficult.

This is where we can help each other.

The power of others doesn’t serve us when it comes to whether or not you agree with me in loving Cajun food. You might think, “How can you eat that?” I may respond, “I love it.” Put me in a room of people whose aim is to convert me into a hater of Cajun food and it won’t matter. It’s neither helpful nor hurtful, constructive or destructive. And unless I surrender to peer pressure, it won’t work. Hint: it won’t work. I love Cajun food too much. 😀

When it comes to my assumptions about you or anybody else…or my assumptions about a problem or opportunity…or my assumptions about a situation or circumstance, I may not be seeing it accurately at all. Now the stakes are much higher. I can be hurting myself, others, and my organization. I may be hurting my life and the lives of others. All because I’m not seeing it correctly. Or seeing it in a way that is helpful.

I’ve asked that question for years, especially to people prone to see life from the bleakest viewpoint. The only answer anybody has offered is, “You’ll be disappointed.” To which I say, “You’re going to be disappointed anyway. Besides, you can often find higher success through increased optimism.

But let’s get back to leveraging these questions to help our leadership and our lives.

How are either of us harmed if I choose to think you’re a nice guy – not a jerk?

You might surprise me at some future point and prove yourself to be a jerk. Okay, then what? Then I make a new decision whether or not I want to be around you.

Or you don’t surprise me and turn out to be a really nice guy. Then what? Then I make a decision to stick with my original decision and we develop a nice relationship.

Let’s apply this second viewpoint to something other than our assumptions about people. You may choose to believe that people who are achieving greater financial success have some special gift or skill. You, on the other hand, are just unlucky. It’s a viewpoint lots of people have. Is it accurate? They’re convinced it is. So it has become their reality.

The downside is obvious. They’re stuck in victim-thinking. They’re destined to remain in the unlucky life cycle. But what if other people – people they trusted and people who have only their best interest at heart – could help them see it differently?

What if others could show them their thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and actions are vastly different from successful people? What if others could help them see how they may be sabotaging their own success because they’re choosing to see their situations so negatively?

Mark Cuban once lived in a house that he shared with a bunch of other guys. Sleeping on the floor. Eating pizza and living the way a bunch of guys who can’t afford much lived.

Today he’s worth multiple billions of dollars.

Somewhere along the way – likely many different points along the way – Mark had to adjust how he saw things. Today, he has no trouble seeing himself as a billionaire because HE IS A BILLIONAIRE. But it wasn’t always so.

Mark Knopfler is one of my favorite guitarists, but you do realize there was a time when he couldn’t even chord a guitar, right? Today we see and hear the performances of a lifelong musician. We don’t see the countless days when he wondered if he’d ever be good enough to play in front of people. Somewhere along the way, he changed his viewpoint. His thinking changed as he learned, grew, and improved.

Meanwhile, somewhere there’s a person driven to become a billionaire, but they have no earthly idea how. They may lack the talent, knowledge or skill to even get started. Are they deluded? Maybe. Not just anybody can become a billionaire.

Somewhere there’s a person playing the guitar hoping to make it big, but they’re not that good. Convinced if they could just get to Nashville, they’d become a major success. Are they deluded? Maybe. Nashville is filled with wannabe stars who lack the talent, skills, or hustle to make it big.

Somewhere there’s a leader facing a new challenge. They’re not sure what to do, but they have some ideas based on assumptions they’re making. Are they deluded? Maybe.

The power of others helps us avoid being deluded. Others can help us see things more clearly so we can figure it out. Others can help us make sure we can move forward and stop being stuck with thinking things that simply aren’t true. Or things that may not be true. Others can help us get unstuck from thinking things that may be holding us back.

Is it constructive?

Is it destructive?

Is it helpful?

Is it unhelpful?

Asking and answering these questions can assist us in thinking more clearly, seeing things more accurately, and mostly, in making wise choices that will serve us and others. And that’s what leadership is all about…making a positive difference!

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

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