Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Tips for Better Sleep

Like millions of other Americans, I often have trouble with insomnia — either I can't fall asleep, or I awake prematurely and am unable to get back to sleep. The following sleep tips, compiled from various sources, may prove helpful to some of my fellow insomniacs.
Only use your bed for sleeping or having sex, not for reading, doing paperwork, watching TV, snacking, or making phone calls.
If you've been lying in bed but are beginning to fear you're not going to drop off, try some of these techniques: Count sheep or count backwards from 100 (one of my favorites) to stop yourself from thinking about the problems of yesterday or tomorrow; breathe deeply for awhile; or visualize some peaceful place.
If you can't get to sleep after lying in bed for 30 minutes or more, get up for awhile. What to do? Try reading something incredibly boring.

Develop a bedtime routine.
Keep regular bedtime hours. Before bedtime, avoid tobacco and caffeinated beverages (not just coffee, but other drinks like tea, cola, and Dr. Pepper).
Avoid alcohol right before bedtime — a nightcap might get your mind fuzzy enough to put you to sleep, but such sleep may be interrupted by periods of awakening. By contrast, the stress-lowering effect of a drink with dinner may help to promote sleep later.
Avoid naps (or falling asleep in front of boring TV programs, as I do).
Try to get up at the same time every day rather than sleeping in on weekends.
Exercise every day, but not shortly before bedtime since exercise gets the adrenaline going.
If you use an illuminated clock for a wakeup alarm, place it where you can't keep looking at it to check the time.
Buy a firm mattress and keep your bedroom well ventilated (a cool temperature works best for me).
And you might also try some of these: a warm bath, warm milk, light bedtime snack, massage, or quiet music (which turns itself off automatically).

Use earplugs for extreme quiet.
If you have a painful joint or a headache, take a pain pill before bedtime (but be sure it doesn't contain caffeine).
Avoid stimulating reading or television shows late at night.
If the insomnia stubbornly persists, check with your doctor to make sure some underlying health problem (such as depression, anxiety, hyperthyroidism, heart failure, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) isn't keeping you awake. If all is well, you might ask for one of the several types of prescription sleeping pills that can be useful in the short term.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Reading the signs of times: too many bricks not enough mortar

by Andrew Grant
History has shown us that most people only behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives. Be warned.
As a new economic era begins, many people are looking back at what went wrong and trying to identify what led to the latest financial meltdown. But did we not see it coming? Although everyone seems to have had an opinion on the potential foreboding gloom and doom, many were caught out when the tide turned. No one could have picked the day the stock market would start its dramatic decline, but all the signs were there, pointing to some sort of looming disaster. The result is that many people are no longer going to be able to enjoy the wealth they thought they had carefully accumulated.
Everything in life has its natural cycles, and people that know their history should be able to see crisis coming well in advance. The factors that lead to a meltdown are always present. A few years ago Jared Diamond released a book titled ‘Collapse’, in which he studied historical meltdowns and predicted future trends, looking for clear tell-tale signs of potential disaster.
Although many business leaders would have Jim Collins books about building great organizations high on their reading list, how many focus on the other side of the coin – on how organizations and societies fumble and fall and what the predictive signs are? These signs are there every time, but does our blind optimism prevent us from seeing the inevitable and putting measures in place to avoid the pot holes? Do we look at these signs as if they are from another time and place, or can we recognize them easily in our own circumstances, even in our own organizations.
Machiavelli has said that, “Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results.” So what passions are now in play that may have led to similar crises in the past?
Let’s explore two interesting accounts of crumbling civilizations of the past to discover what may have led to the crisis today:

1) The Bricks of Babel: Thousands of years ago….
The July 2008 issue of the Economist magazine had an image of the Tower of Babel on its front cover, the lead in to an article which used a significant story from the past (an old testament story from the Christian bible) to reveal the passions that can lead to a meltdown. It cleverly outlines the individual desires which can hamper collaborative achievement. Was the tower of Babel the first recorded societal meltdown? Where the same signs present then as they are now? If so, what can we learn from this snapshot of the past to ensure prevention for the future, or will we be doomed in a cycle of repeated meltdowns, caused a lack of collaboration due to a strong self-focus.
Professor Charles Birch** has written a very compelling article (with an excerpt below) to help us understand what may have caused this first crisis. He describes how the society, according to the story in the book of Genesis, was well on the way to getting a mighty tower built, before disaster struck:
“There seemed nothing too hard for them to do. The sorry end of the story is well known. They no longer spoke one language and so could no longer understand one another. They stopped building the town which was called Babel and the great tower they had planned at its center. The magnitude and complexity of the offending tower involved specialists of all sorts, each with a special terminology and set of beliefs. So it was quite impossible for the engineers to understand what the priests were talking about, for the brick makers to share the architects’ vision, for the philosophers to agree on the function of the tower and for the conservationists and poets to overcome their revulsion against such a monstrous desecration. The higher the tower grew the more violent the disputes between the builders became. Eventually all communication broke down. Whatever purpose they may have started with vanished into thin air.”
The parable of the tower represents the human intellectual predicament we apparently find ourselves in today. ‘We seem to be compelled to shape facts and data, as we know them, into hard bricks, and stick them together with the slime of our theories and beliefs. And thus we continue to carry bricks to Babel.’ (Koestler). Today’s ‘experts’ appear to be confined to their standard approaches and responses, and it is becoming clear that only broad innovative ‘thinkers’ will be able to extract us from this mess.
“We build a tower of Babel when we suppose that knowledge is like a jigsaw puzzle. The bits and pieces are the bits of knowledge that the disciplines give us. When we try to fit them together they don’t fit. They don’t form a complete picture at all. That’s what happens when we opt for the substantialist (substance) prejudice in the field of knowledge. Knowledge is not a substance. It cannot be treated as such without great distortion. This is precisely the intellectual dilemma so powerfully symbolized in the parable of the tower. There is a difference between an expert and a thinker. An expert confines his thinking within arbitrary boundaries. A thinker sets no boundaries to his thinking. The expert can’t think across boundaries.” (Birch)

2) What happened to WAT?: Hundreds of years ago…..
Hundreds of years ago, there was a society that believed themselves to be invincible. They had developed a complex and elaborate civilization. Nothing could go wrong… or so they thought. Angkor WAT, the symbol of one of the greatest civilizations of all time – the Khmer civilization – fell into ruin and became derelict almost overnight. There is great debate about the exact cause of its downfall, but one of the main theories is that the rulers of the time got too greedy. They spent more time building the grand temple than caring for their society. They stopped putting money and resources into developing the aqueducts and farming the land and diverted it to the central temples instead. In the end the city destroyed itself from the outside in, but by the time the crisis caught up with those at the top it was too late.
In the last decade, with our race to build wealth, history may have repeated itself. Individuals have again started to try to build their own holy temples as symbols of personal power at the expense of communal well-being, oblivious to the danger signs and ignoring the lessons from the past. Compelled by ‘experts’ to ‘borrow, borrow, borrow’ and disregarding warnings about over-borrowing, in this process many people have focused on amassing bricks without a having strong mortar to build with.
Experts have all had their theories about how to make money fast, but few were willing or able to see the big picture. Not wanting to be left behind, banks have borrowed from each other (not even adequately checking credit ratings) in a bid to ‘lend, lend, lend’ to those wanting to ‘borrow, borrow, borrow’. All were hoping to cash in on the new temple, and the building of a civilization based on elaborate facades rather than solid foundations. Ironically the higher the experts have gone, the less anyone has seemed to care about the foundations.

In October 2008 the capitalist foundations we have based our civilization on crumbled, just as the tower of Babel and Angkor WAT had crumbled many years before. Did we really think we were invincible?
“Experts provide us with a wealth of information. They load the table with countless pieces of the jig-saw puzzle. How to put them together when they don’t fit? That’s our problem. Hence T. S. Eliot’s questioning in Choruses from ‘The Rock’:
Where is the life we have lost in the living, Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge, Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” (Birch)

Jared Diamond says that a society is at its most vulnerable when it least realizes it, when it thinks it is invincible. By focusing on the pinnacle of achievements while ignoring the foundations, our society may have become vulnerable in ways we never expected.
Bill Clinton has been quoted as saying, “The more complex societies get and the more complex the networks of interdependence within and beyond community and national borders get, the more people are forced in their own interests to find non-zero-sum solutions.” It seems our best choice is to learn to consider collaborative solutions. It’s a shame it often takes a crisis to remind us of our need for interdependence. The worldwide ramifications of the sub prime crisis have reminded us again that ‘no one is an island’.
Through the ages philosophers have wondered: Do we only learn from history that we never learn anything from history, and are those who cannot learn from history doomed to repeat it? We can be almost certain of being wrong about the future if we are wrong about the past. As the cycle continues, may the wise have the courage to find solutions with better foundations before the next crisis hits....
©2009 by Andrew Grant

T-Thoughts: Vision's Virtuosity

A relection on the power of a vision for the individual

In order for someone to live at the speed of life, there is a demand for vision to be an integral part that life.
At times this vision often appears as a fragment of the imagination, but as you courageously lasso those thoughts and corral them by capturing those thoughts onto paper, there is a 99% greater chance of you seeing the vision turn into a reality in your life’s experience.
For that is where the momentum kicks in and where all the ducks line up in a row, where the divine appointments and the favorable situations appear, as if magically in your life.
A vision emits a magnetic force. Money is drawn to a dynamic vision. All sorts of resources avail themselves to the man or woman of vision. The red carpet is rolled out for the one who has vision. Oh certainly, that red carpet is not entirely smooth, and many fulfilled visions require the traversing of many mountains and many valleys along the way.
But vision causes the owner of that vision to not dwell on the current valley experience, but rather to have their eyes firmly fixed on the next mountain peak that stands waiting patiently and expectantly on life’s horizon - beckoning the visionary to scale its heights.
Vision is the compass that guides in the light and encourages in the dark. For without a vision lives are swallowed up by the shadow of the valley of death. They fail to pass through to the other side and are the skeletons that lay each side of life’s road.
Vision inspires faith and dispels fear. It comforts the uncomfortable, feeds the hungry, fills the thirsty and sustains the weary until the vision is not only lived in the mind, but in fact lived.
And when vision’s destination is arrived at there is a sense that the visionary has already lived there years before – for it is a common place – a place that has become their friend, their companion along the way – full of virtue and full of vigor.
For therein lies the reward of a visionary – a sense of destiny fulfilled.
"Visionary people and companies do not see there is a choice between living according to their values or being pragmatic; they see it as a challenge to find pragmatic solutions that are consistent with their core values and vision." Jim Colins
T-Thougts article By Peter Sinclair (Associate guest writer .)

Innovating Down Rhe Right Path

by Andrew Grant
Innovation for the sake of innovation
There has been an ongoing battle between Microsoft, Apple, and Google – for quite some time now. Each is trying to win consumers over to their particular systems, and reports on the battle will often appear in the media as a hot topic.
A year has now passed since the release of the first new PCs with Microsoft’s latest product offering installed, the revolutionary new Windows system, Vista. But despite the fanfare and the promises of the latest greatest system to beat all the rest, sadly Windows Vista received only lukewarm reviews at best. There were in fact so many problems with the product that, soon after its release, a service centre for one of the world’s largest computer companies was advising its customers to go back to Vista’s predecessor, Windows XP.
The head of Taiwan-based personal computer maker Acer, Gianfranco Lanci, hit out at Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system, saying that the ‘entire industry’ was disappointed by it. Dell was also reported to have started reselling the more dated XP product with many of their computers. Complaints ranged from: the lack of user friendly options and incompatible programs (including older versions of Microsoft’s Office applications) to limited networking abilities. The initial UAC (User Account Control) settings, that were supposed to help with security, blocked nearly everything, including installing programs and websites; customer service centers were simply telling people to ‘turn it off’, rendering it ineffective. One year later, secret emails leaked to the media revealed that even some senior people at Microsoft were very unhappy with Vista. It makes you wonder if perhaps Microsoft was, in a competitive bid, too hasty in bringing out its (potentially) new innovation.
Breathing innovation into the organization
Behind all products lie philosophies, beliefs and values that permeate the organizations which create them, and which eventually manifest themselves in the final product. The question needing to be asked is: what relationship is there between the beliefs of a company and their products and services?
Recently Microsoft got caught up in a war of words with Google on the subject of innovation. Ballmer from Microsoft was quoted saying that ‘The burden of creative genius needs to be shared across the group's senior management through 'systematizing innovation,’ while Noble from Google countered this assumption, stating that Google’s success could be attributed to ‘Innovation being just there… it's like the air we breathe - we innovate to survive, there's nothing to systematize, it's just what we do.’
So what happens when organizations try to systemize innovation? Or, to take the other perspective, is it necessary to breathe innovation into organizations? Should creativity be seen as a belief or a burden? The answers to these fundamental questions will determine, to a great degree, the direction an organization will take and final outcomes. To not address these questions means the team will not know in which direction they are to be heading while innovating, and they will be creating their own paths and coming to their own conclusions. It will be difficult to bring real alignment into any organization if innovation is simply a free flowing and freewheeling process. Determining how teams can innovate will be critical to the success of the end product.
Some of the pitfalls to consider when developing innovation in the organizations:

1. Thinking too far outside the box
Many people use the now clichéd phrase ‘thinking outside the box’, but taking this concept too far can in fact be dangerous. Some companies have not only thought outside the box, but also outside the realm of what their customers are looking for, and this has serious consequences. When innovating, it’s most important to identify where and how a new product or service will change the life of the end user. How a product is developed should become less a function of its technical possibilities and more of a function of its utility for the customer.

2. Thriving on complexity
Complexity for the sake of complexity can have serious consequences. Ten years ago Motorola rolled out a new product that was supposed to redefine the world of mobile phones. The Iridium was slated to be the first phone to give uninterrupted wireless communication anywhere in the world. In its rush to embrace new technology, however, Motorola overlooked what the customer really wanted in a phone. The customers complained of the following:
It was heavy
It came with too many attachments
It could not be used in buildings (enclosed spaces)
Its $3000 price tag did not justify the extra spending when compared to the $100 phones
The user’s manual for these phones was 228 pages long
Motorola’s mistake was to focus on the bells and whistles while ignoring the product’s utility and practicality.

3. Blinded by the opaque
Tech writer, Jeremy Wagstaff, identifies an element of the problem in his comment that, ‘Most people in business are busy doing their jobs (distribution, promotion, pricing, etc.), not busy making products that people actually want to buy -- and talk about. Too often design engineers thrive on complexity, not usability. For them creating and mastering the opaque is an achievement, not a symptom of failure.’ Many companies are compartmentalized into responsibilities and, as a result, it is a complex task to cross between departments and learn from each other. Therefore many organizations will produce new products designed by technical people who do not have a great connection with the customer.
Are smart products too smart for the average user?
The key to successful innovation is to follow Apple’s initiative. In stark contrast to what people have reported about Microsoft Vista, Apple illustrates the importance of designing new products around the needs of the user, not the demands of the technology. Just because a company has the technology doesn’t mean it is necessary to innovate around it. The real key to success is to let the customer guide the direction of innovation.
For example, the iPod was not the first digital-music player, but it was the first to make transferring and organizing music and buying it online easy enough for almost anyone to have a go. Similarly, the iPhone was not the first mobile phone to incorporate a music-player, web browser or e-mail software, but it was one of the easiest to use. Most existing ‘smartphones’ require you to be pretty smart to use them, which begs the question, “Are they simply too smart in the sense of feature density, but too stupid in the interface that lets us use those features?”.
Successful innovation is focussed innovation
An innovation revival has lifted Xerox's profits to $1.2 billion. Inventor-in-chief Vandebroek says that ultimately innovation is about delighting the customer, but if you innovate and it doesn't end up as something that the customer benefits from, then it's not real innovation.
So how do successful companies make creative connections with their customers? eBay’s pioneering CEO Meg Whitman believes their success came from working closely with their customers, allowing their customers to give eBay the direction on where they needed to innovate. As Whitman explains, “We watch what our customers do and then try to make them successful at doing it.”
Amazon’s CEO initially came under great criticism for being one of the first companies to allow people to post negative reviews on the internet, but his initiative clearly shows the desire to innovate down the path of what the customers want, with an approach that connects with the heart of what they believe in. “We don’t make money when we sell things, we make money when we help customers make purchase decisions.” Although many people would have seen Amazon’s unique edge as being due to the fact that they were the first to sell online books, there was a much deeper belief that brought this company success – focused innovation.
Become your own brand experience
Seybold, the author of Outside Innovation, believes that when you take the customer innovation approach to business you start by developing a deep understanding of customers: the particular audience you are serving. While it is certainly true that most companies have deep subject-matter expertise in a certain domain, it’s also true that their customers are subject-matter experts in their own right. Traditional Innovation often works on the assumption that, ‘Our experts are smarter than our customers.’ Traditional approaches to innovation assume that subject-matter experts (individuals) invent and design innovative new products to meet needs that customers may not realize they have. At the core of customer-centric innovation there is an understanding and appreciation of what customers want and need to accomplish –– their ideal scenarios. The ideal experience that customers want to have during their scenarios becomes the brand experience.
Rather than innovating for the sake of innovating in a mad rush to stay ahead of the pack, we should stop and think of what we really want to achieve through innovation. Once we let the engine of customer-driven innovation power our businesses, we will generate an organic growth that will transform the organization in positive ways.

To consider:
Are you consciously aware of the path you and your team are taking when innovating?
Have you considered the costs of innovation for the sake of innovation?
How empowered does your team feel when it comes to innovation?
What direction have you given them?
Do you try to systematize innovation, or breathe it into your organization? Is creativity seen as a burden or a passion?
How do you allow customers to drive innovation?
How do you enable employees to capture the innovative ideas of customers? Are your employees aware of possible ways to innovate around the customer’s needs

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Follow the rat and trim the fat

A lesson in hope, luck and creativity for a great year ahead
by Andrew Grant

By now most cultures have celebrated their official start to the New Year - often with ‘hope’ for good ‘luck’, which is a great start, but these may not be sufficient for the year ahead...
Just how tough will this year be? Will large doses of hope and luck get us all through? With a ‘recession’ or ‘slow down’ being predicted, many organizations may already be battening down the hatches and preparing the lifeboats.
No matter how serious the economic fallout of the US sub-prime crisis, 'trimming the fat' is bound to be somewhere on the agenda for most companies around the world this year. It is a pattern that repeats itself with monotonous regularity in line with the ongoing international economic cycles and fluctuations. Many companies will do this by making simple cuts in human resource development, as this is usually perceived to be a 'soft' area which doesn't directly impact the core business. Irrelevant training and seminars, extravagant conferences, junket weekends, feel good team bonding exercises - these will be the first to go, perhaps justifiably so - but it will be important this time around to not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Good quality and focused developmant will, in fact, need to be seen as essential to survival through the tough times. When the going gets tough, positive workplace motivation, superior leadership and team skills (leading to more effective and efficiant workplace performance) and the ability to solve problems creatively and innovate become more critical than ever.
In tight financial times companies can't afford to waste time or money with dysfunctional teams and ineffective and dated practices and processes. A dose of good luck to get through the year without practical development support won't equip the average worker to be able to cope and won't motivate individuals and teams to work faster and smarter.

The real cost of ignorance

This year, of all years, is when companies are going to need 100% commitment from their teams - along with a clear vision, good leadership, plus and efficient work processes. Strength in these areas will ensure goals can be achieved more effectively: quickly, economically, and to a higher quality standard. Ironically, cutting back can only be effective if leaders and teams are truly equipped and empowered to be creative in the way they work. Those companies that think education is too expensive will need to see what happens if they try the path of ignorance.
‘Trimming the fat’ will require the use of precision surgery with a sharpened knife, not hacking away with a chain saw.

Running just to stand still

What we have discovered is that maintaining the status quo at times like these is no longer enough. Survival now means staying ahead of the pack, no matter what the external pressures. No excuses. What was acceptable last year may not even get you to the start line this year. Proactive team innovation now needs to be seen as a core competency and an essential part of the business.
Before you know it, the lead your organization may have had may be as useful as a typing pool in an age of computers. Take Western Union, for example. Western Union started off transferring money on horseback from city to city in the 1800s, but they have managed to continually adapt to keep up with rapidly changing conditions. For over 100 years they have built a strong business and maintained a strong presence through drastically adapting the products and services they originally offered, while still holding onto their core values. They changed their marketing concept from being a 'telegram company' to 'sending so much more than money'. It has only been creative thinking that has enabled them to thrive through the challenges.

Reactive trimming - too little too late

It will be necessary to continue to 'trim the fat' as an ongoing proactive process to keep the organization lean and ready for high performance at all times. A sudden reactive trim, triggered by the fear of a recession or a one-off crisis, only scares employees - adding to the media fear frenzy related to all things negative, and leading to even lower motivation levels and paralysis. How can employees come to work each day ready to give their best when they are wondering what will become of their jobs or whether their conditions will change?
A 6 star hotel we have worked with has shared with us how for years they had enjoyed great success. Guests simply continued coming through their door without much extra sales and marketing effort. But although they enjoyed high occupancy rates and fees, no one stopped to ask what had made them so successful. It took a crisis and a sudden drastic reduction in business for them to start asking these important questions. A clear case of too little too late.

Creative collaboration

Creative Collaboration (the theme of the Davos 2008 conference) should be the theme for the new year for all organizations. Creative ideas that lead to progressive innovation through a focused team process will be vital. Innovation should be both a long term process and goal.
Alan Nobel (Google Australia) believes that Google's success can be attributed to innovation. He advocates that, “Innovation should just be there, it's like the air you breathe - you innovate to survive, there's nothing to systematize, it's just what you do.”
It will take a great vision, a clear and focused company culture, and empowering leadership to reach Google's level of success, but you have to start somewhere. It will not be worth betting on ‘hope’ and ‘luck’ to get stay ahead.

'Better, faster, cheaper' requires creative problem solving

A leading machine lubricant company we have worked with recently was stuck with a problem. Although they had a great product, customers weren’t using the product properly, with detrimental results. It was a user rather than a product problem, but customers would inevitably blame the product. A 'creative collaboration' team workshop process Tirian has devised encouraged the team to find creative new ways to ensure this wouldn't continue to happen. The team came up with a new design for the product that effectively eliminated the user problem. They had produced an outstanding practical solution to what had been a very costly problem in both fininacial and reputation terms.
In another simple example, an airline saved hundreds of thousands of dollars when flight staff team realized how much caviar was being wasted in first class and designed a new process to reduce this unnecessary wastage but still keep the passengers happy.

Who should be more creative?

Unfortunately, the people that are most likely to have the creative ideas are those who are on the coalface with direct customer contact, as they are able to recognize what is needed most.
For those few companies who recognize the need for creative development, most will start at the top levels. However, without specific practical focus, creative development can end up as a bit of a ‘groupthink’ exercise where established ideas are reinforced, which rarely reflects what is really going on in the organization or reaches the whole organization.
Trying to move ‘better, ‘faster’, and ‘cheaper’ without making clear links to the creative process can be counter-productive or even destructive. NASA found this out the hard way when they tried to adhere to this philosophy with the ill-fated space shuttle launch. In this case the pressure to keep a fast pace of progress on track without taking the time to really analyse the problem from all angles led to disaster.

The creative rat

The Chinese believe that the rat won his position on the Chinese zodiac by being creative, rather than through any other great physical skill. The image of a rat going into a race or a strength test against larger animals is humorous. But the concept can parallel how many organizations may feel when facing a recession.
In the story the Chinese tell, the rat was able to find a way to not only compete successfully, but also to actually win. He succeeded in outwitting his friend the cat to enter the race, and during the race he rode on the back of the Ox. Just when the finishing line was approaching, he leapt from the Ox's back to reah first position.
By working smarter, not harder, the rat was able to stay ahead of the pack. Creativite thinking helped the rat to focus on and reach the main goal.
The Academy Awards nominated movie Ratatouille also tells the story of an optimistic rat that finds a creative way to reach a goal. The clever culinary-inclined rat, Remy, partners with a human to produce exceptional food. Limited by his inability to actually cook the food, Remy and his human partner (who is physcially capable of cooking but an incompetent chef) realize each of their limitations and found a solution through 'creative collaboration'.

Make your own luck

As 2008 is the year of the Rat (according to Chinese Astrologists), and that the Earth Rat brings ‘hope’ and ‘luck’ for all other zodiac signs, there is great inspiration to follow the lessons of the rat.
A positive mindset (hope and luck) are important ingredients, but we shoud believe in our ability to make our own luck through creative collaboration. Let's make this a year of not just survival, but of breaking through - no matter what the challenges.

by Andrew Grant (C) 2008.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Situational Leadership

Situational Leadership

Part 2: Personal integrity in leadership

by Andrew Grant

The first article in the three-part ’Situational Leadership’ series highlighted the need for direct connections to be made between what is taught and what is experienced in order to bridge the ‘synaptic gap’ between intention and implementation. This second article examines the need for recognizing personal styles for contemporary varied environments – and shows how leaders can lead in a way that is meaningful and relevant for them in their particular context.
The new rules for playing the leadership game

My tennis coach once told me a secret about how to best approach the game when playing against other males. “Just get the ball over the net 3 times in a row and then your opponent's testosterone should kick in, making him go for a big winning but high risk shot.” I have continued to use this strategy and have discovered it works every time.

There is a lesson I have taken away from this experience should someone now try this tactic on me. For 20 years, like most males, I would try to make every shot a winner - meaning I would hit the ball as hard as I could. It would not matter if it was my forehand or backhand, if I could, I would thrash the ball and hope it hit the mark. What I have learnt now is: If a ball comes to my forehand (my strongest and most consistent side) I should go for a winner, but if it goes to my backhand (my weakest side) I should just keep the ball in play.

Knowing my strengths on the court has changed my mental game, helping me achieve much more with much less frustration. This new strategy is especially useful when I play tennis doubles, as my partner and I are continuously monitoring the situation by utilizing our strengths and covering for each other's weaknesses as a team.
But how easy is it to translate this into the work situation? How many leaders fail to recognize their personal strengths and weaknesses, and are unable to 'play the game' well as a result? Self awareness and a knowledge of how to maximize signature strengths develops a secure foundation for personal integrity in leadership, and is fundamental for authentic situational leadership.

Starting with signature strengths

Having established the need to find meaningful connections in order to trigger relevant actions in the first article in this series, the next area that needs to be addressed is learning how to make those connections. Understanding themselves and their signature qualities is essential for leaders to build an awareness of how they typically approach situations. This self awareness then enables leaders to make links with the circumstances they face.

Behavior profiling is a useful tool in self analysis and, ultimately, situational connection. By considering the different behavior profiles of leaders and the diverse styles that they utilize, it is possible to examine the application of these styles for specific situations individual leaders may face. There are a number of different profiling tools that can be used to help make sense of leadership styles. With over 1.2 million Google articles on ‘leadership profiles’, it’s not difficult to learn about what profiling methods can be useful and how profiling can be applied.
Behavior profiling works by identifying specific qualities and patterns of behavior that are unique to individuals. Once aware of their typical behavior patterns or styles, leaders can adopt a proactive approach to leadership.

Leading from a position of strength

It is possible to lead from your individual personal strengths rather than feeling you have to fit into a specific behavior profile.
The average leader will only lead by using their natural default leadership abilities without really maximizing these. Because they are not aware of their strengths and weaknesses, average leaders will have limited ability and can only perform in a fixed environment.
The greatest asset you can have as a leader is the ability to recognize your default leadership style and to recognize your specific strengths and weaknesses so that you can lead from your strengths while minimizing your limitations.

The situational slide

Another useful outcome of leadership style analysis is that once you know your specific position in terms of leadership and have identified the specific values that underpin that position, you can learn to slide to work from a different perspective depending on the situation without losing authenticity.

Gandhi, for example, was capable of being strong when it was required and supportive and caring when that was the greater priority. He knew his own personal strengths and the demands of the particular situations he found himself in well enough to be able to remain true to his core values yet still adapt as needed. This flexibility built on the foundation of a strong awareness and clear self-knowledge meant that Gandhi was able to deal with the changing situations he faced with a real integrity that commanded great respect.

The complementary coordinator

The other way to effectively lead is to recognize individual strengths in different people and utilize human resources to their fullest by ensuring there are other people with different behavior profiles surrounding them to complement their skills. This means the leader does not need to be all things to all people, but rather effectively coordinates a complementary leadership team. This takes the pressure off the individual, and empowers the team to achieve far more than any single individual could.
The leaders of Everest expeditions have a style of leadership that is contrary to that which has been advocated for many years in corporate culture. The leaders utilize team members’ strengths to ensure the group gets to the top. This includes allocating a huge responsibility entirely to the Sherpas. Sherpas will walk with the group or even guide from behind, and they often don’t go to the top themselves.

Although a leader may have the wisdom and experience they do not necessarily have all the skills, so their role is to find complementary people who are able to achieve the goal as a team. The effective leader recognizes the team’s individual expertise and their own weaknesses. They do not need to lead from in front as the all-knowing expert.
Authentic leadership

Integrity as a leader is about remaining true to your core strengths and values. We all have something valuable to offer as a leader, and by recognizing individual leadership strengths and maximizing these we can bring an authentic style of leadership that will inspire real loyalty and commitment.

Jim Collins in ‘Good to Great’ and Martin Seligman in ‘Authentic Happiness’ both talk about finding signature strengths and building on these. And Collins says that when a team of people are all doing what they do best, then there is no need to motivate them.

This positive energy created by leaders who know themselves and their roles and are true to their strengths flows through an organization and ultimately creates an authentic culture of passion and commitment.
And for the leader themselves and for the organization, that can only be a good thing!

Thanks to Andrew Grant of TIRIAN for the permition to post this article in Weblog IHKA Bali

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Situational Leadership

Part 3: The Marshmallow Leadership Principle Situational leadership for the long term

by Andrew Grant

The first article in the three-part ’Situational Leadership’ series revealed how direct connections need to be made between what is taught and what is experienced in order to bridge the ‘synaptic gap’ between intention and implementation. The second article then examined the need for recognizing personal styles for contemporary varied environments – and showed how leaders can lead in a way that is meaningful and relevant for them in their particular context. This final article in the series focuses on situational leadership for the long term – how to ensure this sort of flexible leadership style can last.

The marshmallow temptation

Imagine you are 4 years old and participating in an experiment. A nice adult gives you a marshmallow and then says they have to leave the room to get something. Just as they leave, they say that if you can wait until they come back before eating the marshmallow, they will give you two marshmallows. When the nice friendly adult leaves the room it’s just you and the marshmallow…

Now imagine you are watching the results of this experiment (which is an actual experiment) – you are watching the faces the children pull and the way they squirm as they fight the temptation and to try to hold back from eating the marshmallow until the researcher returns. Some will eat the marshmallow straight away, caring nothing for the instructions or outcomes – others will stare at it as an internal battle rages between long term rewards and instant gratification. In actual fact, some even lick the table around the marshmallow trying to get as close as they can to eating it without breaking the rules, or cover their eyes to try to banish it from their minds.

Which type of child would you have been?

The performance connection

Now imagine 14 years later. The nice friendly adult (who turns out to be an undercover researcher) locates you and everyone else that sat in that room 14 years ago. The researcher interviews you to find out about your life, your successes and failures, and tries to see if there is any connection between those that ate the one marshmallow and those that waited and received two as a reward.

As it turned out in this experiment, the one-marshmallow kids (now young adults) – the "grabbers" (34%) – suffered more from low self-esteem and were viewed by others as stubborn, prone to envy and easily frustrated. The two-marshmallow kids – the "waiters" (66%) – were better copers, more socially competent and self-assertive, trustworthy, dependable and more academically successful. This group even scored about 210 points higher on their SATs.

Marshmallow leadership

The character traits highlighted by the ‘Marshmallow Test’ persist in adult life. They affect our performance in every area. In the area of leadership, leaders can also end up working from the one- or two- marshmallow principle. They can be guilty of looking for short term gains at the expense of potential long term outcomes.

In their role, leaders are required to both set and reach goals, and manage people to help a group reach those goals as a coordinated team.
A simple way of understanding the basic defining leadership roles comes from Jay Conger, who follows John Kotter's lead by defining leadership with three dimensions. We have summarized these into describing leaders as individuals who:

Establish direction and a goal in a working group of individuals
Gain commitment (Kotter: "aligning") from these group members to this direction and motivate these members to achieve the organization's outcomes.

Before this (in the late 1960s), Hersey and Blanchard came up with what they saw were the 2 key areas of successful leadership: Task Focus & People Focus. Establishing direction is related to the task focus, while gaining commitment and ensuring motivation is related to people focus. This model revealed that most of us have a bias to one of these areas, and this shapes our leadership style.

The problem can be that leaders can end up spending time managing short term needs and crises related to dealing with people at the expense of reaching the long term goal. For the situational leader – who is true to his or her own unique leadership strengths – there can be a natural bias that is difficult to overcome.

By knowing their specific bias and being aware of how this can affect their performance, and by knowing the goal ahead and understanding how to stay on target and self-correct, the situational leader is able to face the different needs and demands of each new situation they will face.
Getting to that goal

For those who tend to focus on keeping people happy rather than trying to reach a goal, the desire to please everyone can be an instant "marshmallow" gratification. To get those immediate smiles or words of praise, one-marshmallow leaders spend the better part of each day responding to random requests to do this or that, help this person or that one -- and never get around to pursuing his or her own projects or helping the group focus on reaching their projects.

Obviously aiming for a long term goal and being disciplined about reaching it without gaining group support and commitment will be a disaster. A leader can’t afford not to make the people in the team a priority. But there needs to be a balance. In the end the goal will both define and be defined by the relationships, but without being disciplined enough to aim for a goal in the first place a leader’s actions are worthless.
The situational leader who has a clear goal in mind to reach for the long run, even if that goal needs to be adjusted along the way due the specific circumstances they face, will be able to both meet the needs of the people working with him or her, and finish the task.
And that is a truly satisfying and enriching experience.

Thanks to Andrew Grant of TIRIAN for the permition to post this article to weblog IHKA Bali

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mundur Untuk Melangkah Maju

Mundur Untuk Melangkah Maju
Jaman dahulu di Tiongkok kuno ada sebuah cerita mengenai Mendapatkan dan Memberikan yang patut dijadikan renungan. Konon ada dua orang, sebut saja si A dan si B, yang usianya di dunia fana telah berakhir, lalu kedua orang ini datang menghadap kepada Raja Neraka. Raja Neraka setelah membaca catatan mereka di Buku Neraka, memutuskan untuk membiarkan kedua orang ini untuk kembali reinkarnasi ke dunia fana menjadi manusia, dan memberi mereka dua pilihan: pilihan pertama adalah terlahir kembali di suatu kehidupan yang memberikan, sedangkan pilihan kedua adalah terlahir kembali di suatu kehidupan yang mendapatkan. Timbullah sifat serakah dalam diri si A, dalam hati ia berpikir bahwa dalam suatu kehidupan yang mendapatkan tidak akan mungkin ada penderitaan, tinggal duduk santai saja menikmati segala sesuatu yang telah tersedia, jadi de-ngan cepat si A segera merebut kesempatan untuk memilih pilihan pertama.
Sedangkan si B bukan saja tidak mengumpat karena si A sudah berhasil terlebih dahulu merebut pilihan pertama, justru sebaliknya ia berpikir, bahwa kehidupan yang memberikan harus senantiasa membantu orang lain, sungguh suatu kehidupan yang sangat bermakna! Raja Neraka setelah mende-ngar pilihan kedua orang tersebut lalu menetapkan jalan hidup dan masa depan bagi kedua orang ini dengan Pena Nasibnya, dan berkata kepada si B, “Karena engkau memilih kehidupan yang memberikan, maka dalam kehidupan tersebut engkau akan menjadi seorang hartawan, yang akan engkau abdikan untuk menderma dan membantu kaum fakir miskin, sedekah-kanlah seluruh hartamu bagi orang – orang miskin.”
Bagaimana dengan si A? Karena ia memilih kehidupan yang mendapatkan, maka jalan hidupnya telah digariskan untuk seumur hidupnya menjadi pengemis, yang akan selalu menerima pemberian bantuan dan pemberian dari orang lain selamanya.
Cerita ini mengingatkan kita bahwa mendapatkan atau memberikan dalam kehidupan seseorang tidak dapat diputuskan hanya dari sisi permukaannya saja. Ada kalanya kita sepertinya adalah pihak yang mendapatkan sesuatu, namun di lain pihak, di suatu dimensi yang tak terlihat, kita justru telah kehilangan sesuatu yang amat berharga hanya karena berusaha memperoleh sesuatu yang amat sepele dan tidak berarti.
Zheng Ban Qiao (baca : cheng pan jiao) pada saat menjadi pejabat, adik-nya terlibat perselisihan dengan tetangga ketika sang adik membangun rumah, kedua belah pihak sama sekali tidak mau mengalah, sampai akhirnya keduanya masing – masing membangun tembok pembatas di bagian depan rumah mereka sehingga membuat jalan di depan rumah mereka tersebut buntu, tidak dapat dilalui lagi. Sang adik mengirim sepucuk surat kepada Zheng Ban Qiao, berharap agar sang kakak dapat membantunya untuk memenangkan persidangan kasus perselisihan ini. Namun Zheng Ban Qiao membalas surat tersebut dengan sebait puisi, yang berbunyi demikian :
Mengirim surat dari ribuan kilometer hanya demi sebidang tembok rumah,Apa sulitnya mengalah 3 kaki bagi tetangga itu,Tembok raksasa China yang hingga kini masih berdiri kokoh,Tetap tidak mampu membuat Raja Qin yang mendirikannya hidup abadi.
Para tetangga yang mengetahui hal itu sangat terharu, kedua belah pihak akhirnya saling mengalah selebar 3 kaki, yang kemudian justru menciptakan suatu kebaikan yang lebih agung bagi masyarakat sekitar, yakni di wilayah itu telah bertambah lagi satu jalan kecil/gang yang baru selebar 6 kaki.Yang patut untuk dibahas adalah sikap Zheng Ban Qiao dalam menyelesaikan masalah ini, yang mengingatkan kita untuk : Mengalah selangkah de-ngan didasari kesabaran dan kebesaran hati, sekaligus juga tetap menjaga ketenangan dan ketentraman hati, niscaya pikiran kita akan menjadi jernih dan kebijakan tidak akan pernah luntur dari diri kita, perselisihan dan pertentangan baru dapat diselesaikan dengan baik, yang selanjutnya dapat memutar balikkan bahaya menjadi kedamaian.
Petani yang melangkah mundur dengan tubuh membungkuk sembari menancapkan bibit padi di petak sawah memberikan kita suatu pencerahan, suatu kesuksesan baru dapat diraih dengan menunduk dan melangkah mundur (menancapkan bibit padi dapat segera diselesaikan jika dilakukan de-ngan cara membungkuk sambil kita melangkah mundur). Selain itu, kiasan ini juga mengingatkan kita akan filosofi tingkat tinggi, bahwa mundur sesungguhnya adalah untuk maju.
Di dalam kehidupan manusia ada banyak kejadian yang kita alami yang sepertinya kita telah mengalah, sebenarnya kita justru telah melangkah maju. Kejadian Zheng Ban Qiao di atas merupakan suatu contoh yang terbaik untuk mengilustrasikan pernyataan ini.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Cleaning by heart

“Cleaning by Heart”….. Ini bukanlah kelanjutan dari film remaja yang sangat terkenal yang dibintangi oleh si cowok ganteng Irwansyah “ Heart”

Tetapi ini adalah tema dari Seminar yang dibawakan oleh ketua kita, Nyoman Sugiarta, dalam seminar sehari di RSU Surya Usadha. Seminar ini dihadiri oleh semua perwakilan rumah sakit di Bali terutama yang bertanggung jawab dalam bidang Housekeeping.

Dapat dimengerti mengapa pak Nyoman memilih tema ini dalam seminar tersebut. Karena tidak terbantahkan bahwa hati kitalah sebenarnya yang paling menentukan terhadap hasil kerja kita. Kalau suasana dalam hati kita penih cinta maka dunia akan terasa indah. Kalau kita melakukan pekerjaan kita dengan suasana hati yang penuh cinta pada pekerjaan itu maka hasil kerja itupun akan indah.

Kalau kita bekerja di bidang Housekeeping maka bekerjalah dengan hati. Membersihkan apapun…. bersihkan dengan hati. Menata apapun…tatalah dengan hati. Karena hati menumbuhkan cinta, cinta menumbuhkan ketulusan dan keikhlasan, ketulusan dan keikhlasan menumbuhkan totalitas, dan totalitas akan menghasilkan sesuatu yang prima………put your heart …..on whatever you do…..and then …..see the end result….

Monday, October 30, 2006

Never Under Estimate Your Clients' Complaint

Never under estimate your Clients' Complaint, no matter how funny it mightbe!This is a real story happened between the customer of General Motors and its Customer-Care Executive.A complaint was received by the Pontiac Division of General Motors. Below is the complaint letter:
"This is the second time I have written to you, and I don't blame you for not answering me, because I sounded crazy, but it is a fact that we have atradition in our family of Ice Cream for dessert after dinner each night.But the kind of ice cream varies so, every night, after we've eaten the whole family votes on which kind of ice cream we should have and I drive down to the store to get it. It's also a fact that I recently purchased a new Pontiac and since then my trips to the store have created a problem.You see, every time I buy a vanilla ice-cream, when I start back from the store my car won't start. If I get any other kind of ice cream, the car starts just fine. I want you to know I'm serious about this question, no matter how silly it sounds:"What is there about a Pontiac that makes it not start when I get vanillaice cream, and easy to start whenever I get any other kind?"The Pontiac President was understandably sceptical about the letter, but sent an Engineer to check it out anyway. The latter was surprised to begreeted by a successful, obviously well educated man in a fine neighbourhood.He had arranged to meet the man just after dinner time, so the two hopped into the car and drove to the ice cream store. It was vanilla ice cream that night and, sure enough, after they came back to the car, it wouldn't start.The Engineer returned for three more nights. The first night, they got chocolate. The car started. The second night, he got strawberry.The car started. The third night he ordered vanilla. The car failed to start.Now the Engineer, being a logical man, refused to believe that this man'scar was allergic to vanilla ice cream. He arranged, therefore, to continue his visits for as long as it took to solve the problem. And toward this end he began to take notes: he jotted down all sorts of data: time of day, type of gas uses, time to drive back and forth etc.In a short time, he had a clue: the man took less time to buy vanilla than any other flavour.Why? The answer was in the layout of the store. Vanilla, being the most popular flavour, was in a separate case at the front of the store for quick pick up. All the other flavours were kept in the back of the store at a different counter where it took considerably longer to check out the flavour.Now, the question for the Engineer was why the car wouldn't start when it took less time.TIME became the problem - not the vanilla ice cream. Eureka!!!! The engineer quickly came up with the answer: "vapour lock".It was happening every night; but the extra time taken to get the other flavours allowed the engine to cool down sufficiently to start.When the man got vanilla, the engine was still too hot for the vapour lock to dissipate.
Remember:Even crazy looking problems are some times real and all problems seem to be simple only when we find the solution with cool thinking.Don't just say its "IMPOSSIBLE" without putting a sincere effort...Observe the word "IMPOSSIBLE" carefully... Looking closer you will see,"I'M POSSIBLE"...
What really matters is your attitude and your perception.