MGW #16 - “Drive Learning and Growth” with Elaine Lin Hering

GUEST: Elaine Lin Hering

http://triadconsultinggroup.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/elainelinhering/

lin@diffcon.com

 

Across industries, people say that feedback conversations are their most difficult conversations — both giving and receiving.

 

ONe the receiving end, it’s triggering. On the giving end, you may cause a trigger in the receiver, and you don’t know how it’s being received.

 

Three kinds of feedback:

  1. Positive feedback: appreciation
  2. Coaching: guidance for improved effectiveness
  3. Evaluation: Tracking against expectations

 

In order to learn and thrive and do good work, we need all three kinds of feedback.

Feedback is:

  • solicited and unsolicited
  • Verbal and non-verbal

 

When receiving feedback, people often feel judged.

 

When feedback is non-verbal, it’s especially hard to interpret.

 

Principles of Improvisation:

 

  • Everything is an offer.
  • We are meaning making machines.
  • Be specific.
  • Yes, And. “Tell me more about that.”

 

Skills for giving feedback is half the equation. Receiving feedback is an equally important set of skills.

 

We reject feedback for three reasons:

  1. Truth trigger: You’re wrong. You have incomplete data.
  2. Relationship trigger: I don’t like or trust you and your motivations.
  3. Identity trigger: That’s not me. That’s not who I want to be. I don’t want to face the possibility that this describes me or my behavior.

 

Build awareness as a feedback giver and receiver of the above triggers.

 

As a giver of feedback, notice and unpack the labels you’re using in giving feedback — and Be Specific. Specificity can help get around the truth trigger by helping people to be clear that we’re talking about the same thing.

 

As a receiver of feedback? take some time away and assess the feedback away from the stress of the confrontation.

 

Don’t use vague or uncertain terms that require interpretation, and that will inevitably get different interpretations from different people. “Be more man-like.”

 

Describe behavior and describe impact instead.

 

When receiving feedback, observe your first reaction, and then you can choose your response.

 

Human beings think in labels. It’s our job as givers (and even as receivers) to translate those labels into useful information.

 

How can you frame the feedback to be in the self-interest of the feedback receiver. How will it benefit that person to make the change you’re suggesting?

 

As a receiver, if 90% of the feedback someone gives you is off and irrelevant, focus on the 10% that can serve you.

 

Feedback is information exchange and it’s the fuel and driver for getting stuff done. So, ask yourself, how is feedback going on our team? How painful is it? How effective is it?

We need a mindset shift: Feedback isn’t the “F” word. It’s an opportunity for improvement and accelerated growth.

 

Neglecting to give feedback insulates people from the reality of their behavior, of the reality of the impact of that behavior. If you aren’t giving me feedback, you’re cheating me out of the opportunity to learn and grow.

 

There is no learning without feedback.

 

If you’re giving people feedback, and it’s not working. 1) Look at how you’re having the conversation. 2) Give meta-feedback. “We’ve had this conversation before. There’s a problem here with your making adjustments based on feedback.”

 

It’s critical to discuss the impact, the results, the consequences of behavior.

 

As feedback givers, we will never be free of bias. We can work to filter it out. And as feedback receivers, our job is to try to filter through that bias as well.

 

Your host on Mighty Good Work is Aaron Schmookler.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/schmookler/

 

And, we’re The Yes Works — Helping to make work good for people, and make people good for work.

 

www.TheYesWorks.com

 

Resources mentioned in today’s show:

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, by Roger Fisher and William Ury

Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most, by Douglas Stone

Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well?, by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen

Manager Tools

HR West, A Professional Conference for HR folks in Northern California
Check out this episode!


MGW #14 - “Thriving Business/ Product, Process, and People” with Eric Johnson

GUEST: Eric Johnson — CFO of Nintex

 

Nintex is a leader in workflow and content automation. Making more time in workflow for what really matters.

 

The Eric Johnson approach: When I make a commitment, I deliver on that commitment. That builds respect and trust. Caring about people, and hold a mark of high integrity. And look for creating benefit for everyone.

 

If you’re great to work with, and you do great work, life goes pretty well.

 

We’ve never taken venture capital to fund operations.

 

How are we achieving excellence, growth and recognition? It’s a combination of a few things.

 

  1. Fundamentally, serve a broad need around something that people care about.
  2. A great distribution model. We’ve done a great job of partnering to distribute and get great results for the customer.
  3. Hire great people. We are disciplined about how we hire, and how we treat people.


If you’re competent, but terrible to work with, we’ll try to help you be better to work with? and ultimately, ask you to move on if you don’t improve.

 

We’re transparent about how we want to work and what our values are. We onboard with a 30-60-90 process and again at 180 and there’s straight-talk about how they’re living up to expectations.

 

Through our management training, we work to prepare our managers for positive feedback for a positive culture. Celebrate success. Recognize good work. This happens on a large scale and a small scale.

Managers are given guidance and training, not simply expected to be effective without guidance and oversight.

 

One-on-ones are expected to be a regular thing: weekly or semi-weekly. The reporting in one-on-ones isn’t just about the performance. “How are YOU doing?”

 

When you employ best people practices, you can experience the difference quickly and powerfully.

 

There is a hierarchy of function and roles — and a personal way of relating to one another.

 

We operate with a high level of transparency, and allow employees to ask probative questions. We don’t always answer with a high-level of specificity. But we are honest, even if we’re delivering an answer they may not want to hear.

 

It’s important to identify the opportunities to say “no” to.

1) What has alignment with our core values and goals, and what doesn’t?

 

2) After clearing that alignment, what’s going to deliver value to customers and investors?

 

When there is disagreement around important questions? people need to be heard. They need to have the opportunity to go through the exploration process.

 

If you’re not going to allow everyone on the team to express their ideas, and to be affected by the input of others — then why have a team?

 

When we face a situation that may in the short term be worse for us, but it’s right in the long term for partnering, then we go with the right in the long term for partnering.

 

We need to do the right thing for partners, and the right thing for customers. That way, we have sustainable outcome — not flash in the pan temporary gains.

 

We don’t let policy prevent us from doing the right thing.

 

Caring for employees, partners and customers pays dividends.

 

 

 

Today’s guest: Eric Johnson, CFO of Nintex

https://www.linkedin.com/in/ebjohnson1/

https://www.nintex.com/

 

 

Your host on Mighty Good Work is Aaron Schmookler.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/schmookler/

 

 

And, we’re The Yes Works — Helping to make work good for people, and make people good for work.

 

www.TheYesWorks.com
Check out this episode!


MGW #13 - “The Employee Experience Advantage” with Jacob Morgan

GUEST: Jacob Morgan — Founder of The Future Organization

 

https://thefutureorganization.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jacobmorgan8/
Engagement efforts have failed. There’s a lot of investment in surveys and measurement, but the numbers — and the practices that drive those numbers — don’t change.

 

Engagement is a result of core workplace practices. It’s not affected long-term by perks. We know when perks are installed to manipulate us.

 

Employment day 1, everyone is engaged. Then, slowly, the organization breaks people down, and trains them to become disengaged.

 

Part of the problem is that when corporations are focused on quarterly profit, things like changing workplace satisfaction that take time don’t get the attention they need to move the dial.

 

We promote the wrong people. Leadership is a specific set of skills, and being a good individual contributors don’t always have the skills that leadership requires.

 

There are people skills in your company already. Seek them out and leverage those skills.


Organizations lie to recruits. We tell them how amazing and wonderful it is to work here — even when it’s not true. Now, the new hires quickly become resentful and unhappy, not only because of the environment, but also because of the bait-and-switch.

 

If you’re an individual contributor, speak up about your experience. Manager’s be committed to the success of others. Executives, take a stand for designing exceptional employee experience.

 

The common assumption is — You need to give your employees challenging and exciting work. But the employer doesn’t control what the work is that needs to be done. It controls the environment in which the work is done. How does the company require you to do your work? How does the company support you in your efforts? What is the culture of work in which the work gets done? What metrics are used to measure performance?

 

Results are a trailing metric. Behaviors lead results. Measuring and rewarding behaviors improves employee satisfaction and results both.

 

Environment can be controlled by the employer/organization. There are three environments. Culture. Physical environment. Technology. These three environments all play together. It’s important to deliberately design all three.

 

With every change an organization makes, it’s important to consider the impact of change on the above three environments.

 

There’s no such thing as an organization where 100% of the people are going to be happy all the time. The most important thing is how the organization responds to those people who at a given time are not happy.

 

The companies that are doing people well are treating the problem as a laboratory would — with quick, measured, deliberate experimentation, not with a lot of drawn out thinking. Make attempts and respond to the results with new attempts.

 

This is a messy process. Decide for yourself whether this is a battle worth fighting — at whatever level you are working. Expect that it’s not going to be easy. And the results are

 

Subscribe to Jacob’s newsletter: text “future” to 44222

Find Jacob’s books, The Employee Experience Advantage, The Future of Work, and The Collaborative Organization here: https://thefutureorganization.com/books/

 

Your host on Mighty Good Work is Aaron Schmookler.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/schmookler/

 

And, we’re The Yes Works — Helping to make work good for people, and make people good for work.
www.TheYesWorks.com
Check out this episode!


MGW #12: “Cultivating a Business Improviser’s Mindset” with Greg Towne and Aaron Schmookler

Today, a departure from our usual format. Instead of host, today I’m the guest on another podcast. The host of the “Go Time” podcast, Greg Towne of Greg Towne Training invited me to be his guest. I enjoyed the conversation so much that we’ve decided to share it with you.

 

Today, instead of the interviewer, I’m the interviewed. And I’ll be talking about what makes for effective training, why accountability is not a  burden, but a great grace, and the way having a kid has shaped my career.

 

Thanks to Greg and Go Time for having me on their show, and allowing us to share our conversation with you.

 

Dreading failure leads to mediocrity.

 

Celebrating failure can make you less self-conscious, more flexible in thinking, and more willing to take risks.

 

“I can’t” and “That’s not my personality.” are crutches to protect us from facing fear. They help us feel safe. And they prevent us from being effective. It’s not necessary to rip those crutches out of people’s hands. Whatever people (yourself included) throw your way to excuse a lack of accountability, simply deny the applicability of the crutch. And insist gently but firmly on performance.

 

Taking unreasonable accountability for reaching your goals and performing exceptionally gives you access to success. Gives your people access to success.

 

Any success without unreasonable accountability is luck.

 

Asking for help is called employing resources. If you’re not using resources at your disposal because of pride, you’re cheating yourself (and your organization) out of success potential. And there’s no lost pride. It’s just smart. It’s resource management.

 

I speak about a client’s success in turning things around on his team. Here’s a link to a case study.

 

Training that’s information transfer is ineffective because people go into auto-pilot, especially under stress. When training is habit-forming, it creates change, even in people who may be reluctant or resistant trainees.

 

Work is more and more about experience, community, affinity. Work is more and more the place where we get those things, instead of other gathering places of communities in the past.

Work is built on relationship. The stronger the relationships, the stronger the work.

 

Accountability can be a pleasure — when you’re striving to perpetually become better.

 

Perfection is impossible to reach Striving is worthwhile. It’s enlivening. It gets people up in the morning to go to work. It’s uncomfortable, but rewarding.

 

“That’s just the way things are,” “That’s not me,” “We’ve always done it this way?” Those phrases are a death knell.

 

Comfort and complacency are tempting, but boring.

 

Managers, supervisors, leaders who invite and inspire us into the roller-coaster of striving are the people whom we most appreciate.

 

Thanks again to Greg Towne for hosting me, and for allowing me to share our conversation with you.

 

http://www.gregttraining.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/gregtowne/
Check out this episode!


MGW #11: Lee Cockerell - Build Self Awareness

GUEST: Lee Cockerell – Executive Vice President, Disney World

 

Lee’s website – www.leecockerell.com

Time Management Magic Course – www.timemagiccourse.com

 

Lee Cockerell has had a long and storied career in Hospitality, starting as a banquet waiter for Hilton, later helping put Marriott on the map, and eventually retiring after 10 years as Executive Vice President of Disney World.

 

Now, Lee’s professional life is dedicated to sharing the wisdom he’s gathered over the years. Lee, you’re conducting workshops, delivering keynotes, doing a podcast of your own with our mutual friend, Jody Maberry, and consulting with leaders who care enough to become great.

 

So I’m really glad to have Lee Cockerell on our show, dedicated to helping you create Mighty Good Work.

 

Here are a few notes from our conversation.

 

When you’re the boss, your behavior can have a profound effect on the people who work for you.

 

Intimidation behaviors stem from low self-confidence. If you’re finding people intimidated by you? check your own confidence level.

 

Consider your authority and status when interacting with people.

 

Ask yourself, “Who am I?” Do people trust you?

 

Success boosts your confidence level.

 

“The world needs less big, bad bosses, and we need more teachers? Role-modeling is a gigantic responsibility.” Don’t underestimate the power of it.

 

Management is defined as the act of controlling. Keeping important aspects of business on track requires a great deal of organization.

 

With better organization, most people could get 50% more done.

 

Train, test the effectiveness of your training, and respect the responsibility of being a role-model.

 

Management is what to do. Leadership is how to be. How to be there for people. How to be a person of honesty and integrity. To be a person who can have the hard conversations. We can be more respectful, and more respectable.

 

What can I do, and how can I improve my behavior?

 

Have people in your life who will tell you the truth about how you’re doing and who you’re being.

 

We do not see ourselves the way other people see us.

Take a good look at the things you believe. Don’t believe everything your parents told you. Don’t believe everything you hear. Don’t believe everything your culture has led you to believe.

 

Treat people as individuals. Not as a group.

 

People only change in two ways: Education or crisis. Make it easy for your boss to tell you the hard truths — so you can learn by education rather than through crisis.

 

The people who are close to you can give you great feedback about even your professional life. Listen. Give them credence.

 

Life is all connected. Physical health, family health, emotional health? These all affect your performance throughout your life including at work. You can’t have one personality at home, and a different one at work.

 

Take stock on a regular basis. Strive consistently.

 

Change is tough. It takes time. There are setbacks.

 

People will tell you the truth if you’re consistent about setting the environment where people are not afraid of you one bit.

 

Plan your day for effectiveness, not by default.

 

Look to the future. Start putting things on your calendar, and have it before you need it. Do it now so the things that come up later have space, and your life doesn’t get out of control.

 

Your personality must not conflict with your responsibilities. Effectiveness has requirements.

 

Be careful what you say and do. People are making meaning from everything they observe of you.

 

Culture starts at the top, and it affects attitudes.

 

Don’t stay in a job that’s changing you for the worse. Move on.

 

Three things that make the difference: 1) Hire the right people. 2) Train people. Test the training. Enforce the training. Train them so well their confidence skyrockets. 3) Create a culture where people know they’re valued, and they want to come to work.

 

You can’t find the time. You must make time.

 

Books by Lee:

http://www.leecockerell.com/books.cfm

The Customer Rules

Creating Magic

Career Magic

Time Management Magic

 

Lee’s website – www.leecockerell.com

Time Management Magic Course – www.timemagiccourse.com
Check out this episode!


MGW #10: “Get S#!t done. Have fun.” with BitTitan’s Culture Team

GUESTS: Darci Lee – Director of Talent and Culture and Kate Butcher – Manager of Culture from BitTitan

 

https://www.bittitan.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/darcilee/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/kate-butcher-47262a3/

 

Stay active to keep your energy up.

 

Find great people. Onboard them well.

A common thread in our conversations on Mighty Good Work. “It starts at the top. Culture is established and reinforced by leadership.

 

Find your core values at the beginning.

 

“Get shit done. Have fun.” Cut to the chase.

 

If you don’t have integrity, you’re not going to be here.

 

“We used to tout flat management and limited process? With 200 people, now, we have to have some management, and we have to have some procedures? The right procedures.”

 

Procedures must be streamlined.

 

Guidelines are more effective than limiting procedures.


No-one wants to go see HR. That’s why we have talent and culture. “People come to us to get our guidance about how to have fun.”

 

We’re in a new business model and a new environment. We move so quickly, you have to be who you are. It’s so liberating.

 

Celebrate failure. “Yay! I failed.” Failure is not an end, it’s an inflection point. A time of learning and change.

 

We’re not tied to a ship date. We’re not tied to a product launch.


We “dog food” our products here before we got to market.

 

We tell our engineers that you can just try stuff. Not all your work has to go to market. That’s part of creating an innovative culture.

 

We’re willing to put something out into the market — and if it’s not right, pull it back. That’s something that’s true throughout the company. It’s external — and internal as well. Policies are tried, and adjusted, and changed whole-cloth.

 

People need time-off. Mental health is served by a change of venue, a relief from pressure. Your people work better when they’ve had a break to reset.

“A big part of our job is, how can we help people destress and get out of the office?”

 

Policies have long been in place in corporate culture to try to create the trailing result of performance and results. When you enlist and inspire people to accomplish goals — when you give them your trust, faith, and feedback — you’ll be amazed at their motivation and drive.

 

We invest in coaching for our people because they want to do good work — and they will if they have the tools.

 

Work-life balance is a fool’s errand. That’s a false dichotomy. Work is a part of life. Live a balanced life.

 

People at BitTitan know they need to bring their full-self to work.

 

Notice whether your people seek guidance from one another. Do people seek coaching, advice, help from HR, from their peers, from their managers? If not, how can you create a company culture in which people make the most of the resources available to them?

 

Make sure in recruiting that what candidates see is what they’ll get when they come on board. Bait and switch is a recipe for losing people to resentment and mistrust.

 

Your people need someone to talk to who isn’t their direct colleague, and who isn’t their line-manager.

 

People we hire are willing to do the work.

 

We provide a kind of “concierge service” to make things easy for people. The work is hard. Being able to do the work should be easy. We orient people as well as we can, and give them the tools they need to do the job.

 

We have reverse engineered some of what we do from the folks out there who were already winning best place to work awards. That’s how we learn what people truly want in our sector.

 

Look for the subtle cues that people aren’t being entirely themselves, and instead of ignoring those signs, probe into that — their changes — with kindness and care. We want people in the right place at the right time.

 

How do you plan for succession? The most important thing is to hire the right people. People who have passion, integrity, and a sense of impeccability.

 

Fun is a more effective motivator than fear or compensation. Not forced fun? Levity. Everybody has a different definition of fun.

 

The names of things — job titles, initiative names, etc — carry information. Stuffy names lead to stuffy attitudes about and receptions of those things.

 

ID high potential employees. Empower them to select their picks as well. Form a team of those folks to develop their leadership — by giving them real leadership work to do, and autonomy.

 

We’re people first, and workers second. If you don’t care for the person — yourself included — then the worker isn’t going to be at their best.

 

Introversion is not the same thing as social anxiety.

 

At the end of the day, we need to treat people as individuals.

 

QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

By Susan Cain

BitTitan is HIRING! Getting up to 400 employees this year — doubling in size. If you’re looking for a great place to work, get in touch with Darci and Kate.

Check out this episode!


Sales - A Noble Profession with Bill Caskey - MGW #9

SHOW NOTES:

Sales – A Noble Profession with Bill Caskey – MGW #9

GUEST: Bill Caskey

Sales Trainer, Coach, and Podcast Host

https://advancedsellingpodcast.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/billcaskey/

 

Professionals in sales are looked down upon in some quarters, and some sales pros even look down on their own professions. So we’ve brought Bill Caskey onto the show to help those of us who are in sales to practice the trade in such a way that we can all feel great about sales and selling.

Here are a few notes from the conversation:

 

Anyone can become a great salesperson as long as you’re willing to think differently about yourself.

 

A lot of salespeople think they need to wear a persona. We’re not powerful when we’re wearing armor. We’re powerful when we don’t wear a mask.

 

Sales can be a very noble profession if we think about in the right way.

 

I’m not in sales. That’s not an accurate depiction of what we do in 2017. A salesperson creates an environment where a prospect can share about their problems or goals, and discover together whether the salesperson can help solve those problems or reach goals.

 

Sales is not about convincing. Taking that off the table helps eliminate the fear of failure, fear of rejection.

 

Avoid hyperbole. Don’t get ahead of the prospect. Don’t be more eager and enthusiastic than the client.

 

Find detachment. If you’re attached to the outcome, you’re less likely to make the sale.

 

Don’t work to “mirror” your prospect. When you imitate someone else, you lose yourself. When you practice sales gimmicks, you become a manipulator, and you feel the lack of integrity.

 

People will tell you what they want if you’ve established trust, and you’re not pitching, and conniving, and contorting.

 

If you’re faking it, pushing, pitching, and convincing, you’ll make sales in the short-run. But the sales will collapse as you build a reputation for poor service and poor sales qualification.

 

Create. Create something useful for your prospects and clients. Articles, videos? Provide resources. Publish, write, produce, curate.

 

That connects you to your work more, and separates you in the marketplace.

Position yourself as an expert.

 

If you bring value to my business, even outside of the products you sell, I’m going to be glad every time you ring my phone.

 

Your product or service may be a commodity. A connector — connecting people, resources, etc. — will never be a commodity.

 

There is a loneliness in sales. Sales leaders have to find ways to require working together. Sales reps somehow team up. Share what’s working. Listen in on calls, and give feedback.

 

Compete together with the past, with the industry trends? Less competition within the team.

 

Top performers are curious about what works. They’re hungry to learn new best practices. And they reach out to get the information. Ego interferes with lower performers’ willingness to ask for help, advice, and training.

 

Don’t buy into the idea, “How I am, others are.”
You need a coach to help you recognize what you’re doing, to reflect your actions, to help you shape what you’re going to do.
Check out this episode!


Principles Lead with Luke Hartsock - MGW #8

GUEST: Luke Hartsock — Founder and CEO of Decisive Data

 

http://www.decisivedata.net/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/lukehartsock/

 

The Guiding Principles of Decisive Data:

  1. Create Customer Value: I do work that clearly satisfies my customer. The primary beneficiary of my effort is my customer.

  2. Be Original: I have a unique combination of skills, character, and history that no one else does.

  3. Serve Others: I put the needs of others first. Service is an attitude and way of being.

  4. Have Grit: I see challenges as opportunities for growth and learning. I am not defeated by setbacks and choose to endure and overcome.

  5. Pursue Excellence: I continuously improve my knowledge, tools, and expertise. The quality of my work is a representation of who I am.

  6. Have Fun: I foster an environment of laughter, joy, and friendship.

 

Points of Wisdom from our Conversation:

 

Culture starts with who we let into our company.

 

Everything important gets codified. Even the oral tradition that is organically created, gets codified and written down, in order to ensure that as the company grows, it stays true to its core.

 

Authority is effective when it can influence without having to control. And it’s effective when it can serve without demanding service in return.

 

Transitions are hard. Change is hard. The transitions that people go through before and after a project are often overlooked to the detriment of the individual and the organization.

 

Be aware of and beware the switching costs of moving from one area of focus to another, even briefly. Make sure to protect (and that your people are protecting) expanses of productivity time.

 

We’ve got to move past the distractibility to really lead well.

 

Behind distraction and lack of flow, avoidance in a real issue that hampers effective leadership. Note what you need to do — and face it.

 

Results are accomplished through behaviors. Request, measure, drive behaviors.

 

Take what you want to build, and magnify that vision by 10X — then you’ve got a vision that will really drive results. Method without vision has no capacity to guide or inspire.

 

At Decisive Data, there’s a motto: Every decision informed by data.

 

You can’t gather data if you’re not paying attention.

 

Referenced Resources:

 

Manager vs. Maker — http://www.paulgraham.com/makersschedule.html

Cal Newport’s “Deep Work” — http://calnewport.com/books/deep-work/

 

At Decisive Data our mission is: Help people use data to realize better outcomes.

Our vision is: Every decision informed by data

 

http://www.decisivedata.net/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/lukehartsock/

 

And, we’re They Yes Works — Helping to make work good for people, and make people good for work.

 

www.TheYesWorks.com
Check out this episode!


Collaboration Made Simple in 1 Step

Ok. Here it is. The single step you need to take for world-class collaboration:

Always move the action forward. (Repeat.)

If it’s immediately clear to you how this sentence applies to collaboration, then thanks for reading. If you’ve got an eyebrow raised, allow me to elaborate.

An Adeptability Collaboration Guide

Though we all collaborate every day, in many small ways, some of us are better collaborators than others. What’s better mean? It means making contributions that get us closer to a shared objective together. And some people are more effective  than others at working together to close the distance between us and our objectives.

Take meeting setting for instance. It’s easier to set a meeting with some people than it is with others. And it’s not just because of full calendars. Sometimes it’s about collaboration skills.

Setting a meeting with someone can take a whole lot more time and effort than it should. Just trying to set a coffee meeting between two people can seem like planning a mission to Mars for all the effort and the number of emails it may take. And scheduling coffee is about as simple as a collaboration can get.

Improvisers — people who create theatrical performances together by finding inspiration from each moment (with no advance planning or scripting) — have something to offer on this score. It’s a principle of Adeptability that can truly enhance all business communication.

According to legend, Rabbi Hillel was asked to sum up the whole of God’s teaching while standing on one leg. Pardon me while I stand up from my chair to sum up the whole of collaboration.

“ALWAYS MOVE THE ACTION FORWARD.”

Let me give you couple of examples of failing to employ this principle that may clarify. Warning: This may hit a little too close to home.

EXAMPLE ONE – NOT GOOD:

At a networking event, you meet someone new, or encounter an existing contact where there’s promise of mutual benefit in the relationship. You say, “We should get coffee sometime.” They respond, “Yeah! We totally should.” You both mean it. And then you go your separate ways.

Months go by, and you never go to coffee. No one took any action. Without action, there’s no forward movement.

EXAMPLE TWO – MARGINAL IMPROVEMENT:

You send an email to a colleague in another firm you’re preparing to do business with. You’d like to get together to discuss the details of the engagement. It’s coming up fast and time is of the essence. You write:

Hey Janet,

Let’s get together next week over coffee to discuss the joint venture we’re launching next month.

Janet responds:

Great idea. Let’s do it.

You:

Great. When are you available?

Janet:

Name a time.

You:

How about Tuesday at 3PM?

Janet:

Sorry. That’s the only day I can’t do. I’m out of the office all day, Tuesday.

You:

Ok. Monday then? How about Monday at noon?

Janet:

Yeah. That’s great. See you then.

You:

Terrific. See you then. But I just realized, we didn’t set a location. Where would you like to meet?

Janet:

Name a spot.

Uncle! Ok, that’s enough. I’m ready to shoot myself in the head. We’re ten emails in, and we still don’t have enough information to actually get together.

Obviously, this is an extreme case, maybe even cartoonish. But dollars to donuts, you’ve almost certainly got threads in your email or chat history that bear some resemblance.

Let’s see what happens if you take ALWAYS MOVE THE ACTION FORWARD as far as you can… Even if Janet doesn’t do likewise.

EXAMPLE 3 – BETTER:

You:

Hey Janet,

Let’s get together next week over coffee to discuss the joint venture we’re launching next month.

I propose Tuesday, 3PM, Mulligan’s Do-Over Coffee House on Main St.

Janet:

Sorry. Can’t do Tuesday. All booked up.

You:

Ok. Monday at noon or Wednesday at 10:30? Either way, at Mulligan’s?

Janet:

Either one.

You:

I’ll see you at Mulligan’s on Monday at noon. Please confirm.

Janet:

Yes.

 

That’s a lot better. Six emails, and it’s set and confirmed. Even without Janet’s help.

But what if both correspondents employ ALWAYS MOVE THE ACTION FORWARD?

EXAMPLE 4 – EFFECTIVE:

You:

Hey Janet,

Let’s get together next week over coffee to discuss the joint venture we’re launching next month.

I propose Tuesday at 3PM, Mulligan’s Do-Over Coffee House on Main St.

Janet:

Mulligan’s is great, but I can’t do Tuesday.

How about Monday at noon or Wednesday at 10:30?

You:

Mulligan’s on Monday at noon! Done. See you there.

If I don’t hear from you, I’ll assume that still works for you. No need to confirm.

Three emails, and done!

This principle, this tool, ALWAYS MOVE THE ACTION FORWARD, applies to any collaborative project. Scheduling is just one arena.

ANOTHER ILLUSTRATION:

You:

Let’s turn this project over to Cathy. She’s a wiz at simplifying this kind of complexity.

OPTION 1: Janet could respond:

No, not Cathy. She’s good with complexity. You’re right about that. But she lacks the diplomacy to handle the client’s personality, and it’ll be a disaster.

OPTION 2: Or Janet could respond:

Cathy is good with complexity, and she’s likely to clash with the client. Barry’s almost as good with complexity, and he’ll keep his cool with a difficult client.

Which message would you rather receive from Janet? Which one moves you closer to your objective of staffing the project?

Collaboration Wrap:

This principle –ALWAYS MOVE THE ACTION FORWARD — implies that the following do not suffice for effective collaboration. Alone, they don’t move the action forward.

  • Yes
  • No
  • Maybe
  • I like it.
  • Great.
  • Terrible.

This sort of response isn’t enough information for effective collaboration. If you’re committed to moving things forward, if you want to contribute to progress, take the next step. Add to the momentum.

And don’t worry. You don’t need to build the whole thing by yourself. Because…

Collaboration Bonus:

Here’s a freebee. A bonus Adeptability principle borrowed from improvisers:

DON’T BRING A CATHEDRAL. BRING A BRICK.

It can be daunting to try to solve any single problem on your own, in one fell swoop. But one idea, even a piece of an idea is enough to MOVE THE ACTION FORWARD, or as the case may be… BUILD THE CATHEDRAL. In other words, you don’t have to solve the problem. Even the smallest idea might be the lynch-pin to the final answer. Even if your idea ends up on the cutting room floor, it might be just the trigger a fellow collaborator needs in order to discover the big idea that solves it all.

As Lao Tzu — world famous improviser — said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” And in collaboration, you’re not the only one stepping.

 

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As G.I. Joe used to tell me at the end of each episode… “Knowing is half the battle.” If you’d like to build Adeptability culture in your company, click to book a call.