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Sometimes I feel bad for the newest members of an organization. They keep bumping into the unwritten rules. They often feel flabbergasted because the written procedures do not match how things are actually done.
I saw a sign that read, “if you don’t schedule time for maintenance, downtime will be scheduled for you.” This phrase had such ancient wisdom it made me wonder if Socrates said it first. Following are some of the thoughts the sign brought up for me.
When looking at new projects, we need to look under the surface of our ideas from two angles.
The way we frame our challenges can have a huge impact on our outcomes.
We are almost two weeks into Spring in the northern hemisphere. For many, this is the traditional time for household spring cleaning.
I have observed many all-hands meetings. The mediocre sessions address a distracted audience. The worst ones have an audience who leave with less energy than they entered with. The best ones leave the participants energized and inspired.
Following are five principles I use to guide the creation of my body of work.
Despite how much we complain, there is a joy to working on urgent items. They give us a ready excuse for not working on the hard things.
About 23 years ago, I did a course in software development where I tracked every mistake I made. It was shocking and disheartening. I made too many mistakes. And I found that those mistakes were costing me too much time.
Last night, it snowed about 7 inches. The snow was not a surprise, and we were prepared. I was out at daybreak, clearing pathways for all to enjoy.
Recently I found myself going a bit too fast through my days. My expectations were exceeding the hours I had in a day. Leading with speed doesn’t mean frenzied activity. I know that, but I was headed that way.
December can be a busy time of celebrations, as well as a time of closing out one year and ushering in the new.
One of the most powerful things we can do for ourselves is to make a conscious effort to create, sustain, and grow our personal support systems.
This time of year is so busy for me and everyone I know. So, it’s essential to keep your batteries charged and energized for your own benefit and those you lead.
This Thursday in the United States is our Thanksgiving holiday. This holiday means many things for many people. For me, this is a week of conscious gratitude.
Everyone in the NASA mission control live feed was in varying states of despair. I vividly remember watching this with the same feeling of worry myself. One of the Mars probes had failed to respond after the estimated landing time.
My best clients know, with detailed data, how much every defect caught in testing costs their business. They know how much it delays the product.
When you deliver a solution to your customers, do they trust it will work the first time? If not, how many iterations does it take before it does work at adequate levels?
Did you ever think about Ganymede, one of the most interesting moons around Jupiter, and perhaps the whole of our solar system?
Recognition is a reward in itself. Any form of appreciation, even a small word, is important.
I recently visited the farm where I grew up. My sister and her family run the dairy farm now. My brother does crop farming. The farm has been going since 1837; 184 years of family farming.
How do you know if a team has taken ownership of the challenge they have been given? Here are 5 examples.
In my consulting, I have seen some organizations working long hours but not achieving the organizational mission.
Whether you have to choose between two bad options or two great ones, it can be very stressful.
This change of season is a signal for me to look up and look out at the approaching end of the year horizon for my business and the businesses of my clients.
Even on the small screen of the video conference, the body language was clear. The teammates were about to engage in an argument based on some firmly held beliefs. The sparks were going to fly.
When clients tell me that they have to go faster, I often ask them, “faster to where?”
I saw many inspiring moments while watching the Olympics this year. One moment that stood out above them all came at the end of the men’s marathon race.
“Hmm, I don’t know who uses it”, was the honest answer I received to my question.
Over the years, and especially recently, I have worked with numerous leaders who have encountered various types of metaphorical storms that put multiple barriers in the way of speed.
When I first started playing the beautiful strategy game of go, otherwise known as baduk, I was encouraged to play many games very fast. My mentors wanted me to finish whole games with other students in fifteen minutes.
Support among team members is essential for a successful team.
Could following these noise-canceling strategies help you focus on your goals and lower the distraction factor of all that other noise?
This old photo represents what I am talking about today. That broken axel has disrupted everyone’s workday, taking them away from any creative work they were doing to advance the goals of their organizations.
I encourage you to learn from those who came before you. “Observation opens the windows of knowledge around us.”
This post continues the focus on ensuring your organization is making investments that return great value. In my first post, Why to Invest $ in Training, Coaching, & Making Leaders Better?, I proposed five key steps. This post is an elaboration on step #5, have conviction.
Before investing, you must have a realistic plan to ensure the investment will be useful to you and the organization. Before you write the check, ensure that the investment will be useful and used.
It always feels too soon to leap. But you have to. Because that’s the moment between you and remarkable.
Two critical questions to ask when preparing a proposal for an investment, such as coaching, training, or new tools: How will it help the organization in the short term and the long term? What tangible improvements will the investment bring?
Last week’s newsletter focused on ensuring your organization is making the investments you believe in. I was asked to elaborate on the five key steps I provided. This week I am providing more details on “speaking the language of executives.”
Over the years I have learned that leadership is the number one factor in organizational and team productivity.
While I was in Ireland, one of the stops we made was at the Guinness brewery. One of the delights of the stop was being professionally trained on how to pour the perfect beer from the tap.
I had actually never heard of Peter Alfke until a friend of mine showed me an ode she wrote to his “obvious” idea of “FIFO” (First In, First Out algorithm) for data queues.
At my last house, we decided to put in a fence between our yard and our neighbor’s. We lived in the city where everyone had small back yards with no discernible gap between them. We discussed it with our neighbors, and they thought it was a good ide
In the springtime, I will often take a longer way home when I am out in the car doing errands. I do this so I can drive by cows that are also enjoying the spring. I very much enjoy seeing the newborn calves being taken care of by their mothers.
Do you feel the pressure of needing to do more and faster?
Third rails are used to provide electric traction power in some train systems. Useful as they may be, these rails present an electrocution hazard and can cause death if touched.
What do you do when there is a spark of conflict that looks like it could become the hottest fire?
When encountering a problem, do you take a moment to put a frame around it?
“I don’t have time to work on prevention. I have too many emergencies to deal with.”…Those are words that I often hear from good leaders.
I have recently been engaged in discussion around an important question. “How do I know that my leadership is valuable? What are my measures of success?”
Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.
Most people overestimate what tasks they can do in one week. Those same people often underestimate what value they can achieve in a decade.
If you need speed, you have to design for speed.
Great design is the foundation of speed to value for any organization.
“Always know your escape routes” is a frequent mantra when I teach people to drive.
Strategy can be as simple as deciding where to spend your time.
Every year has unexpected twists and turns; last year more than any that I remember. This new year will also have its own complexities and revelations.
All my clients and I seem to be engaged in the year-end rush. There is so much we want to accomplish before the holidays begin.
The earth was miles below. Its vivid colors contrasted against the deep blacks of outer space.
To say that 2020 was a surprising year is a vast understatement. Many people I know had challenging years, some had unexpected successes, and no one had the year they originally envisioned.
Ten years ago, I was at my annual physical. My family doctor was chatting with me while leaning in to listen to my heart. She placed the stethoscope, stopped talking, looked completely startled, looked up at me, and said, “They can fix it!”
I am delighted that Elizabeth Teliz-McQuarrie invited me to speak at the “X-Factor Leadership Summit” on November 17th.
My client was struggling with a significant decision. The key question was a choice between A and B. Should we keep adding new features and fixing the base system that has significant technical debt or invest in a new design and build a clean system?
It’s important to be intensely curious about the theories you develop to explain success. Try them out. If you succeed, don’t assume that all the reasons for your success are obvious.
It’s voting season in the USA, and on Sunday, our family went together to vote.
Take this self assessment to discover how well you are using your time and find out ways you can improve. Reach out to get a copy of my 1-page “Own Your Time process.”
The secret ingredient of creating great projects is not looking to the the past you saw before. Instead, focus on creating the future you want to see.
John Wooden had many of the best high school players in the country join his program at UCLA. The first thing he did was teach them how to put on their socks and shoes.
If Your Project Cannot Finish Early, It Is Unlikely To Finish On Time…
Steve Jobs once said, “We are here to put a dent in the universe.” When I think about that quite literally, I do laugh out loud. But I do appreciate the idea!
The team I was coaching was behind schedule. The good news was that this was an exceptional team, and as such, they knew exactly why.
This time of year can be a natural time for my clients to take a pause and look ahead. The following are three of the steps my best clients are taking with me…
“When used correctly, data is not the enemy of Intuitive Creative Thinkers; it is a powerful friend.” ― Leena Patel
I have always enjoyed shooting free throws. It is immensely satisfying when the basketball goes swish through the hoop without touching the rim.
Last week was one of those weeks. One of those weeks where there were lots of work things demanding my attention, and well, COVID-19 world-wide stress.
My brother Paul stared at the broken grain conveyor belt. I was almost a teenager, and I watched him with awe. He always seemed to come up with crazy ideas on how to fix things.
Some people I have been working with lately have found themselves in planning traps. The symptom these traps have in common is often “plan paralysis”. In spite of the fact that they are unable to make plans, they are often still starting to work on things.
I recently learned many things about my ancestors stretching back over 200 years. Like all of us, they were faced with many choices and challenges.
Improvement starts with purpose and is followed by persistence.
Saturday was Watts Humphrey’s birthday. Watts was one of my mentors. He had a very positive impact on my work and my life.
One of the delights of our walks around our woods and grasslands is being surprised by dragonflies.
On a tennis racquet, there is a miraculous zone known as the sweet spot. If you connect with a ball on the sweet spot of the racquet, you are almost unaware of the impact and effort involved.
The question she asked was “How can I know I have done my best to achieve the result if the result was not fully achieved?”
“Doing things at the last minute reminds us of the importance of doing things at the first minute.” Matshona Dhliwayo
I learned a lot from farming and I still do. In fact, business, in general, learns a lot from farming as the words permeate much of the business language.
In my coaching of all levels of leadership and of individual contributors, I find a common trait. Everyone seems to have some fear about speaking out in public.
How well versed is your organization in using experts to improve your engines of performance?
I was on another adventure hike with my son, and I noticed that on one side of the gorge, the trees were almost exclusively evergreens while the other side there were predominantly broad-leafed deciduous trees.
Many leaders are noting to me that they are missing the hallway conversations, the encounters at the snack counter, the discussions over an informal cup of coffee.
There is an extraordinary difference between how good leaders and exceptional leaders respond to pressure for speed.
There are a number of headlines recently essentially screaming, “UNEMPLOYMENT SYSTEMS ARE BROKEN BECAUSE OF COBOL!”
My son Jacob celebrated his twenty-fifth birthday this year before the onset of the pandemic.
Talking to many of my clients, I find that they share similar stories. They feel blessed that we have careers that have enabled us to keep our jobs even in the midst of a pandemic.
"A time of crisis is not just a time of anxiety and worry. It gives a chance, an opportunity, to choose well or to choose badly."— Desmond Tutu While going through some of my storage shelves, I re-discovered a bin of newspaper clippings I had received from my mother...
I have written before about drummers and how crucial they are in setting the pace for band performances.Meetings are the drumline of an organization. They set the beat.
In the midst of social distancing, sitting tight with my family, and with all my near-term travel converted to virtual venues, the release date of Lead With Speed is still drawing near.
There are phrases I have heard from leaders quite often in recent years. Leaders ask teams to “be more agile” or “to take more risks”.
The desert sky was filled with brilliant red-tinged clouds as the sun drifted slowly below the horizon. It reminded me of Mars…
Planning should never be analysis paralysis. Make the best decisions you can with the information you have. Then go!
My new book Lead With Speed is coming and I’m working on a T-Shirt. Which do you prefer?
“How”, she started, paused and then quickly said, “How did you do that?”
This February 2nd was Groundhog Day. The day always reminds me of the movie of the same name which is one of my favorites.
Have you ever seen a sign that says “Buffalo Crossing” and then actually seen buffalo crossing the road?
For fun, my wife and I had signed up for a month-long exercise challenge series. In general, it was well set up. The exercises came with accommodations for different ages and levels of fitness. However, this challenge of the day showed a complete lack of perspective.
Batman: What have I told you about trusting dangerous and obsessive criminal geniuses? Wonder Woman: To be fair, you tend to warn everyone about everything.
Now is the time to get started in the world of work again, and you want to get started fast!
My wish for you is that the pause between years refreshes and energizes you for the challenges of a new decade.
The year 2020 is rapidly approaching. Instead of a New Year’s resolution consider embarking on a Grand Tour of the Decade.
Sometimes the necessity of change can seem onerous. But you don’t need to see improvement as a chore!
I grew up on a farm that has been in the family for nearly 200 years. Having been in the family for so long, the farmhouse is a treasure trove of pictures and documents.
Creative leaders have lots of ideas. They are often responsible for many different things that all need to be moved forward.
I’m going to be partnering with one of the leading nonprofit organizations in project management in a new initiative to develop online course offerings. The opportunity is exciting. But the question is, what should I build first? To answer this, I am seeking your input.
I had the extraordinary experience last week of finding myself on “higher ground.” I had a better view of the value-based consulting I have been doing. More importantly, from this higher vantage point, I was able to visualize better how I can make more positive impacts in the years to come.
I recently lead a three-day workshop where the key purpose was to define a new direction for a large organization. The energy level was high, yet there was something missing.
I was once coaching a leader whose team absolutely adored him…
There is a lesson about anti-help I learned early in my career.
A friend and I looked over what needed to be done and estimated it would take us at least two to three full days. Next I called in our local fence repair experts.
The equinox was yesterday. The sunrise came as expected, splitting the night from the day in a perfect balance.
One of my clients was struggling with delegation to her team while another client was struggling with delegation to management above him.
Recently, I had the delightful opportunity to be interviewed by Nora Gonzalez creator of “Ignite The Leader In You”…
Leaders that focus on the quality of the journey quickly discover there are significant advantages over just focusing on the end result.
I really enjoyed Alex Goldfayn’s book about growing “confidence, happiness, and sales”. The focus is on sales, but the lessons are great for any leader.
We sat on a Cape Cod beach for hours last Friday night. I found myself completely relaxed enjoying a marvelous sunset.
When working on high-importance projects, I often have people tell me about various risks.
There are times of the year when our walks inevitably encounter deep, unavoidable mud. That mud used to ruin the mood of my walk.
I astounded some young teens while playing basketball with them. I made 27 free throws in a row.
We found this bee sound asleep on a flower. When she awoke, she continued her wonderful work.
The task before us seemed impossible. The trumpet vine had grown vigorously on our trellis for twenty years.
This week in the United States of America, there is the traditional “4th of July” holiday, celebrating the writing of the Declaration of Independence.
"When a seed is sown into the ground, you cannot immediately see the plant."— Mamata BanerjeeI was startled on our walk this evening. I was taken aback by how tall the trees on our playground have grown. They are well over 60 feet tall. When they were planted there...
Development teams responsible for creating new products and services are often under great pressure. This is understandable. The businesses they work for are also under great pressure.
It is always fascinating to find wisdom in places that are unexpected. I opened this unexpected find right to the quote that begins this weeks letter.
It turned out to be a trainwreck of a meeting.
The project leader had prepared well for the meeting. He had worked hard with his team to create a full plan for the project. They had never prepared a plan in which they were so confident…
Many of my clients become frustrated with how hard it is to make change happen. It’s true that it’s not an easy task.
In the past few weeks, I have spoken with several different leaders who are feeling overwhelmed. It’s easy to get to a place where you start work on one item only to feel a bit (or a lot) stressed about the other dozen things you are not doing.
Last week I wrote about denial as a potential cause of engineering failures. I have seen too often that otherwise rational people under great pressure come to irrational conclusions.
The waterfall was spectacular. The sound of the water was powerful as it rushed its way over multiple barriers to its destination in the lake.
I have a folder on my computer labeled “engineering disasters”.
I add to it anytime I see articles about problems that resulted from engineering failures.
There is a certain level of anxiety that bubbles up for people when they set deadlines for a project. For a number of clients, I see their anxiety turn into fear…
I was running in a city I had not been in before. There was a complex maze of neighborhood streets. However, I found that no matter how many turns I took, I wasn’t disoriented. I could quickly get my bearings, thanks to a singular tree.
I have seen senior leaders wishing that teams had more commitment to the senior leaders’ objectives. I have seen senior leaders wishing that teams had more commitment to the senior leaders’ objectives and…
It seems obvious when someone wins an elite level road race that substantial preparation happened before the athlete stepped to the start line. There was preparation by the athlete and also by the race directors.
I am working with three different clients on three different initiatives. They are all unique and yet they have one big thing in common. They are all challenging the status quo of how things are done in a fundamental way. They are reaching for a higher bar of excellence.
Many of the companies I have worked with are pushing constantly for fast turn-around. Sometimes the engineers make comprises to the design and subsequent quality of the product to get it turned around quickly.
Respect the stop sign when you see it on my office door. I taught that to my kids at a young age. Why do I find it so important?
When it comes to creative work, there is a high need for interrupt-free time. The ability to shut out the outside world allows one to get into the flow.
The way in which this improvement was accomplished was also the best for the people and cars. Instead of an install over months that would have been a tremendous inconvenience for everyone traveling that way, there was just one afternoon of detours.
One of the delightful things in being interviewed is that I always learn something new. Angie and Kelsey’s show is so dynamic I learned many things.
Three different clients of mine achieved their most powerful goals this past week. For two of them, the big achievement was followed by a big emotional letdown. It was not at all how they had expected to feel.
It is not the amount of sweat as much as it is “sweating the right way” – in the way to pick up speed.
When creating something new, whether it be a book, a new marketing campaign, or a new software system, many people have a tendency to want to do it “all by themselves”.
Have you noticed that in running races, sometimes people look quite exhausted and then when they see the finish line they go faster?
Once a quarter, I publish a special quarterly edition which as you’ll see is a little longer and has different content than the weekly newsletters. This quarter’s edition announces The Year of Speed!
I am always amazed about how busy this time of year is!
There is a rush to finish the business year well. At the same time, there is an emphasis on family togetherness and taking stock of personal achievements.
It can be difficult to find time to focus on joy.
It is a bit embarrassing for me to admit, but I really did think it would be easy. It turns out running races actually does take training.
My family and I are looking forward to a very busy month of December. There is much work to be done and much fun to be had. It seems that the calendar year always ends with a dash towards a virtual finish line.
I was using a phone app to measure an awkward shape. The app chided me to add a point. It needed new data to be able to better understand the task it was being asked to do.
This time of year can be an intensely busy time. We feel our attention pulled in many directions. Taking time to refresh our perspectives can be a useful tool in accomplishing what is important.
When I vote today, I know that I am voting for people. I am seeking to vote for people that will work to build each level of our government towards a common goal and a common good.
On your trip down new roads, embrace the sensation of feeling a bit lost. You will return home with new perspectives and new ideas.
Attending a recent painfully meandering meeting brought to mind the need to revisit the beauty of brevity.
Persistence, Dedication, Individuality.
Lead with these things in mind and you will do well.
“Ahhhhh,” I happily sighed. New running shoes are such a delight for me and these fit just right. They are light and felt fast in my test run in the store.
It was startling, unexpected, and… great. I was rushing from one place to another thinking of the far too many things I had to accomplish.
I heard a “wooossshh.”
Soon after watching the sunrise in a city very near Death Valley in California, I was talking with one of the residents.
Paradigm leaps take need, courage, and sweat. You will notice a different look and feel to the newsletter this week. Earlier this year, I became unsatisfied with a few key things and decided to make some changes.
"Ritual is important to us as human beings. It ties us to our traditions and our histories." — Miller Williams, Poet My wife and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary. Even though real work of building a life together happens in the minutes and hours between...
"Welcome to Sherwood!" — Robin Hood Father's Day was a delight for me. My family treated me a number of fun things. I was served breakfast in a hammock. I was treated to a delicious cold milkshake at a local ice-cream shop. My daughter and I have a plan to go buy some...
"Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery. " — Mark Amidon The Washington DC zoo has this very interesting roulette-style wheel located just past the cheetah exhibit. You spin the wheel to find out if you caught your prey, your...
"Even though it is not always easy… being a planetary scientist is one of the coolest jobs on the planet!" — Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle Imagine exploring Titan! And to be clear, I am not referring to the planet Titan of Thanos (Avengers), I am referring to a...
"I have never had to face anything that could overwhelm the native optimism and stubborn perseverance I was blessed with. " — Sonia Sotomayor One of my best clients and I were enjoying the start of our day at a local coffee cafe. We covered a range of topics and one...
The exceptional leaders are voracious consumers of information. They listen to audio books, they read books, they seek out others to hear their stories. The things they read spans multiple genres, time periods, and cultures.
"A strategic inflection point is a time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change. that change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end." — Andrew Grover There are a wave of...
A client wrote to me recently with a note that said simply “I need a win.” Have you been there, where it feels like you have faced a sudden losing streak and quite simply there is a need for a win? I have. I expect Elon Musk is looking for one with Tesla.
I have seen leaders show great endurance in leading marathon projects. They are putting in marathon hours. The sweat sheen on them and their teams is obvious, even heroic.