TURNING A DREAM INTO REALITY – WOOP! THERE IT IS!

Have you been dreaming lately? Maybe about a new job, a promotion, losing weight, a new relationship or completing a marathon?  How is it going? If you are like most, the dream sounds great but finding the path and motivation can be a real challenge. Katherine Paterson said it well when she said “a dream without a plan is just a wish.” Scientific studies have shown that we can actually end up feeling worse about ourselves and our performance can decrease when we do not achieve our dreams. When we only dream about our positive outcomes and do not plan, the outcomes include:

1.    Sapped energy to reach our positive future
2.    Low physical and mental health
3.    Diminished well being

Yuck…what can do?

I recently read a great book I highly recommend from a colleague of mine, Alan Schlechter. The book is called UThrive and it is by Daniel Lerner and Alan. The book is based on learnings from a class they teach called The Science of Happiness which happens to be the most popular elective class at NYU. One of the tools Alan and Dan discuss is mental contrasting thinking. The tool they recommend to achieve this thinking is called WOOP.  Below is an overview of the framework.

Wish- What is the challenging goal you are aiming to achieve, whether today, next week, in a     month, or in a year?

Outcome- How would you feel if this goal were accomplished?

Obstacle- What is standing in your way? What assumptions or habits are holding you back?

Plan- What is one thing you can do to overcome your obstacle? Not just generally, specifically, in this very moment? If x (obstacle) happens, then I will do y (healthy alternative).  More information on pages 115-116 of UThrive!!! 

Here is what happens when you use WOOP. By clarifying each of the steps in WOOP, you:

Strengthen Mental Association….which leads to
Increased Energy…which leads to
Better Performance

By succeeding on your wish, this will also create a belief that you are capable of achieving future dreams. This reinforcing cycle gives you confidence to overcome setbacks and future barriers. This self-confidence also allows you to dream bigger dreams and not hold back. This confidence will help you reach your full potential and watch out for the places you will go!

So ask yourself, what is holding you back from fulfilling your wish? Find a place to write, follow the WOOP model and see where you can go!  Good luck and let me know what you achieve!

 

CREATIVITY INC: THE POWER OF SHARED VISION (AND HOW TO USE IT)

I spend a great deal of time in creative climates. Voltage Leadership has a sweet spot for successfully equipping people to scale their businesses quickly.

Day in and day out I get to see what success looks like. What I notice, most brightly, as I work with these dynamic, creative teams, is the openness they have. They are open when their thinking and assumptions are challenged. They are willing to admit mistakes (and then they move on). These teams are resilient, strong, collegial and candid.

Two team members I am working with recently had to renegotiate their working relationship. The way they were interacting was leading one team member to feel his skills and competence were being doubted by the other. He didn’t wait for months for the problem to fester and spread. He sat down and the two of them had a conversation about what they could do differently to work together toward a better result. Course corrections were discussed and changes began immediately. The collegial relationship remains strong.

Where did all this capacity for candor begin? I trace it back to the founding element of this organization: its vision is shared. Yes, the skill building classes along the way gave them some additional tools. It is true that the one-on-one coaching helps them to explore new ideas and provides the environment to test new behaviors. But the root of the candor in this organization is that its vision is shared collectively by the people who work there.

This group of people has a vision about what they want to accomplish, and that vision is the source of the creativity and passion for their work. It keeps them open and willing to try new things. It is a truly shared vision.

Successful organizations have a Shared Vision.

A shared vision is one that is not told to people, it is one that is sold to people.

What does a vision sold-not-told accomplish?

Sold visions are shared, co-owned. Told visions are imposed.

When the vision is shared, people become co-owners of the vision. They are stakeholders in the effort they are undertaking. The vision is theirs. They believe in it, and want to see it come to pass.

The challenge is this: sharing. Yes, it is just as hard for working adults leading business operations to share as it was for us as kids. But, like we learned all those years ago, the payoff is worth it!

Sharing a vision means that the vision is co-created. Yes, this means some of the leader’s control over the vision is lost, because the vision is influenced, shaped and transformed by the people who are working together to pursue it. This does not mean the vision changes on a dime, but it does mean that the vision is not pronounced on high by a mighty Leader. A shared vision is cast, and then engaged and re-formed by the people around the leader, until it becomes something everyone owns.

In climates where a shared vision prevails, people work with another level of performance. Some gear beyond 5th gear is engaged. Overdrive: the passion gear.

You have to engage this gear thoughtfully, because it is hard on the engine, but, with regular pit stops, repairs and careful maintenance, these teams experience a lot of victories together, and weather breakdowns successfully. Teams with Shared Vision are intense, resilient and, most of all, fun. They laugh and cut up together, and they also get down to work and focus very quickly. They want to perform well, and so they stick their neck out to talk about problems and they ask for help. They do all this because they trust each other and because they share a common motivation: the vision.

The Shared Vision. 

Recently I worked with a CEO who is casting a new vision for his business. He knows what he wants to accomplish next, and can see the re-imagined company sitting there, brightly, in the future. We sat down to talk through the vision he wanted to cast, and to discuss the approach he plans to take to engage his team.

What lies between him and the realization of this emerging vision is a series of conversations and experiences he will craft for his people that will teach him the other side of the equation: what they want, what they imagine is possible, what they hope for. These ideas and aspirations of his team, engaged thoughtfully and intentionally will do something critical: his vision will be refined and revisited in ways that will deliver the team to a Shared Vision. One that all of them love and pursue together, not one he has to kill himself trying to fulfill and implement alone.

This is the brilliance of Shared Vision. Shared Vision moves an organization from running on one cylinder, to running on all 4, or 6 or 8 cylinders. Sharing the vision gathers the collective horsepower of an organization under the hood and puts it to great use.

What approach did we come up with to begin to cast (and then release) his vision into a Shared Vision process? We designed a series of questions to guide a collective conversation about the future promise of the business.

These questions are intended to unleash the creativity of the team, to untether people from their assumptions about the future, and to guide them to gather together the force of their collective imagination to bring about a vision they can share, own and pursue, together.

I can’t wait to see what happens next for them. I know great things are on the horizon. A vision is about to move from Me to We.

If you have a vision that you are having trouble getting off the ground ask yourself:

·       Have I been curious about what others imagine?

·       Have I asked thoughtful questions?

·       Have I asked about the experiences and insights of others?

·       Would the people on my team say I am curious about and engaged in their own aspirations?

·       Would the people on my team say I am committed to their long-term success?

·       Would the people on my team indicate that I regularly solicit their thinking and ideas?

Casting Shared Vision is a two way street. To have people come along with you, it helps to show you are willing to go along with them. Enjoy the ride!

CREATIVITY INC: REPAIRING TRUST ON TEAMS

The most valuable asset you have is the imagination of your workforce. There are two key ingredients that develop and deploy the full power of a team’s collective imagination: 1. time to think and 2. trust on the team.

What kills that creativity? What stops people from openly communicating, collaborating and creating together? What will keep the best ideas locked inside the imaginations of the people on your team, or worse, deploy their imaginations to undercut, undermine and obstruct the creative process?

Broken trust.

Broken trust erases the posture of openness in which creativity arises. Betrayal is a very powerful human experience. Many describe the experience of betrayal as worse than loss, because it involves the reordering of our sense of ourselves. When someone breaks our trust they also break inside of us the confidence we have in our relationships and our instincts about how and who to trust.

The implications for trust on teams therefore, is great.

When we create climates of trust we open another level of capacity, competence and creativity. And we also open the door for disappointment, resentment, hurt feelings, and broken trust, all of which, in the right combination, can leave a person or a team feeling betrayed.

Here is what you need to know.

It does not matter if betrayal or broken trust, deceit or deception were your intent. What matters is how you engage with your team once they have interpreted something negatively, and they are trying to make sense of it. It matters a great deal how you behave when people are trying to make sense of their experiences. This meaning-making time is where their beliefs are formed.

Here are some tips that can help you navigate the waters of broken trust on teams, so that you can repair relationships quickly and restore the team to its high-performing strength.

Once trust is broken, stay open!

Trust takes time to build and only a moment to eradicate. Here are some steps to take when miscommunication breaks down:

·       Quickly address and begin to repair broken trust when misunderstandings occur. It may be that both of you need a day to cool off and gain perspective, but don’t wait too long.

·       Communicate that you care. Apologize for the misunderstanding. “I am sorry,” goes a long way.  “I missed the communication on this and I am sorry.”

·       Make time to listen. Soon. Notice I did not say make time to talk. We must listen first to understand.

Some things to keep in mind:

·       Human beings make meaning out of the events in our lives. This is both a blessing and a curse. In her book, Rising Strong Berne Brown has a great phrase that can help us to begin sharing some of the hard things we are thinking about someone else. She invites us to begin the conversation with the phrase: “The story I am making up about this is…..” Somehow this phrase lets us share hard feelings more candidly, yet with a bit of kindness and humor. We allow the other person to have a better picture of what the situation really feels like. Sugar coating the truth doesn’t get us as far as candor does. I’ve tried it, and can assure you this phrase somehow allows and unlocks more candor, and releases us from a posture of judgment and defensiveness. Try it!

·       We judge ourselves by our intent and others by our experience. You may not have intended to lie, mislead, break trust, or betray your colleague, but those are words I often hear behind closed doors. They express how the other person interprets what has happened to them. Remember, it is their interpretation that is driving how they feel about and respond to you, not your intentions.

In short, once trust is broken, go carefully and swiftly to address it, otherwise the breach of trust grows swiftly. It takes much longer to break through hardened feelings that grow with time. Once a story has been written about why we did what we did, it becomes harder for us to challenge those stories by simply listening, caring and asking questions.

Yes, it can be very hard to listen to and acknowledge another person’s story about us, but when we do we are able to do something important with that other person. We can co-create a future together.

We do that by acknowledging and asking questions:

“Wow. I didn’t understand how this came across to you. [acknowledge]

That must have been very hard. I am sorry for that. [apologize]

I don’t want to come across that way again. What can I do differently in the future?” [ask]

What do you do when misunderstandings arise? When trust gets broken?

·       Stay open.

·       Listen.

·       Acknowledge that person’s real experience.

·       Apologize for the misunderstanding.

·       Ask, “What can we do differently together now?”

What comes to us on the other side of these hard experiences can actually be quite rewarding. Like the bones of the body that knit back together more strongly in the broken places, relationships that successfully navigate through misunderstandings and broken trust develop something beyond imagination and creativity, trust and collegiality.  They develop resilience, assurance, and strength.

Trust given is one thing. Trust tested and retained or even trust shattered and restored is another level of relationship entirely. And this is where the real promise and potential begins: on the other side of, “What happens when it breaks?” lies the question, “What is possible now?”  Often the answer is,“A great deal more than before.”

CREATIVITY INC: MINDING THE COMMUNICATION GAP

Lately I have been curious about exploring the essential ingredients of creative, innovative environments: trust and time.

Today we turn to how to prevent the trust-killer miscommunication from arising. I’ll offer some steps to take when miscommunication, unfortunately and inevitably, occurs.

Here is a typical scenario. Can you see yourself in it?

1.       A conversation between two people takes place.

2.       One person leaves feeling they’ve made commitments or defined expectations in a certain way.

3.       The second person does not leave the conversation with the same understanding.

4.       In time, the difference in expectations between the two people bubbles up or boils over.

5.       In an instant, trust that may have taken years to cultivate is damaged.

6.       At times this hard-won trust is destroyed.

Miscommunication has a painful and perilous cost, and it’s a daily occurrence in most organizations.

Given the frequency of such missteps, it would stand to reason that we would have developed a good process for navigating this difficult terrain. But we haven’t. Instead people deal with the consequences of these miscommunications, typically in silence (or by telling many people except the person involved).

Often the story I hear begins something like this:

“He betrayed me. “

“After what she did yesterday, I don’t trust her anymore.”

“I used to think he meant what he said, now I know he doesn’t.”

“She doesn’t care about anything but herself and this business. I don’t matter.”

“He says one thing to one person and another to someone else. He can’t be trusted.”

“I don’t know what to think anymore. I used to trust her. Now, I just don’t know.”

Miscommunication and distrust wreak havoc on creativity. What can we do to prevent this? Take some time on the front end to avoid problems on the back end! Ensure the expectations are clear. Here’s how.

We need to do 2 things: Push and Pull.

              Push expectations by clearly communicating face-to-face and in writing, and then

              Pull for understanding of those expectations by asking questions.

It is both Push and Pull that create a communication loop between leaders and their team members.

·       If you are assigning work to others, set clear expectations. Preferably both in writing and orally. 

·       When you are assigned work, or assume a task or project leadership, ask questions to clarify expectations. 

·       Before leaving the conversation, ask what the other person understands those expectations to be. Make sure they match before you end the conversation.

·       Follow up in writing when practicable.

When we have both actions, Push and Pull, embedded in our communication habits, we hold ourselves to a more disciplined approach to communication, and we set our people up to be successful. 

Helpful Habits: 

Leaders: When you ask someone else to take on an assignment, take the time to ask what they understood you to have assigned. This provides 2 things:

1.       The other person has an opportunity to articulate in their own words what their assignment is.

2.       You have the chance to check that you have communicated well and been understood. This is the first step of shared ownership over a project or task. 

Colleagues and team members: You don’t have to wait for someone else to ask you what you heard them assign. Simply say: “I want to make sure I understood your clearly. Can I repeat it back to you for clarification? What I heard you say was…..”  This conversation is especially helpful if you have a highly creative leader. Creative leader’s often share a dozen ideas at a time, forgetting that their ideas feel like assignments to the people around them. Asking clarifying questions will help you learn to distinguish between the ideas for later and the assignments for today.

Yes, it takes time to have these clarifying conversations. It’s an investment in relationship building and trust making. What do you gain by taking the time?

·       An accurate picture of the requests that are being made.

·       Some insight into how our colleagues think, listen and learn.

·       We learn what motivates people and what causes them to stop listening.

Learning to communicate effectively with the people on our teams provides something invaluable for the future: it creates the dividend of trust that pays off with speed, agility, engagement, and best of all, creativity in the future. It is time well spent.

Note of Caution: When it comes to performance or compensation, it is even more critical to ensure accurate communication. In these important conversations emotions tend to run hotter, even when they are easy “Great work!” conversations. When we talk performance or compensation people have their confidence, their lifestyle, and sometimes their identity wrapped up in the conversation. Asking what was heard is a great reality check for everyone involved.

CREATIVITY INC: 2 KEY INGREDIENTS FOR CREATING INNOVATION ENVIRONMENTS THAT WORK

What does it take to get people to bring their best new ideas to the table? How can leaders foster creativity and innovation in ways that deliver results? We hear all the catch phrases and buzz words, but the question I hear from leaders most often is simply, “How can I get started?”

There is a simple two word answer to that question, and it doesn’t require big capital investments and lots of infrastructure. It does take intentional effort.

Those two words are:  Time and Trust.

Time and trust: these two ingredients create climates within organizations, teams and individuals that allow them to engage in several practices critical to the creative process.

When time and trust are present, people can:

1.       think strategically, as opposed to reacting with fear or out of habit

2.       freely ask questions, give feedback and offer insights and ideas with a sense of open curiosity

3.       work on their ideas independently, without cumbersome restrictions or lengthy evaluative processes.

These creative environments tend to work with significant speed, and productivity is high because people love what they are doing. They work hard because they want to, and can think clearly more quickly because they are not feeling threatened by their colleagues or their leadership. Everyone is focused on the real external threats, not the unnecessary internal threats.

When time and trust are not present, people act out of fear, make reactive decisions, and self-protect instead of collaborate. Scared people might get up the motivation to work on a new idea, but the idea has been motivated externally by a threat-reward system. It’s an idea drenched in fear. Ultimately the organization loses.

In the fear-based organizations I encounter, I find creative people working at a fraction of their potential. Significant energy is spent developing political strategies to navigate the organization’s culture of intimidation, distrust, and infighting. These people work more and more in silos because it is safe, robbing themselves and their colleagues of the collective creativity, learning, knowledge and resources of the whole group. I come away thinking, “The brilliance of this team is being wasted.”

The dollar value of that lost intellectual power is staggering: all that time and energy misspent.

It isn’t only fear-based organizations that create underperformance. Underperformance is created simply be the absence of trust. High-trust teams tend to produce great quality work. But a climate of trust takes intentional effort to create. It does not happen by accident. Steps must be taken to actively build trust, collaboration and a strong sense of inter-dependence. When these steps are taken, people’s capacity to bring their best ideas forward and function at their full power and potential is released. Great things begin to happen in the presence of trust that were not possible in its absence.  

How do you build trust on teams?

It takes time and intentional effort. I’ll offer some further steps in my next blog posts, but here are a couple of things you can do today to begin to cultivate trust on your team:

1.       Begin with curiosity. When someone brings an idea, pause, reflect, then ask questions. Thank them for the idea. Wait a moment before you evaluate their idea. Your questions will give your team members time to think, question and learn for themselves, and your appreciation will ensure they keep thinking creatively.

2.       Give people permission to fail. Mistakes are proof that people are doing something: they are trying. When we experience errors as opportunities to learn, grow and change, people become more resilient, smarter about their choices and plans, and performance increases more quickly.

The most valuable asset you have is the imagination of your workforce. They won’t offer it to you unless they trust you, so be curious, ask questions, and give your people permission to try new things.

With these tools in your tool belt, you can begin building your very own Creativity INC.