360 Degree Thinking

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How do we effectively communicate with and develop promising leaders? This was on my mind in preparation mode for co-presenting at a major executive event in New Orleans. In all types of economic conditions, the answer to this question has big implications for business.

When times are challenging, development and succession are often the first things to get ignored under the false notion that nobody will dare look elsewhere during trying times. All this type of thinking does is guarantee bad turnover as talented people will be the first to bail out at the first signs of economic rebound. When business is good, competition for obtaining and retaining top talent compels leaders to engage in “360 Degree Thinking.”

360 Degree Thinking means leaders take the time to apply strategic hindsight, foresight and insight to their business and employee needs.

§  Hindsight – Experienced leaders apply lessons learned from their path forward. Very often we hear middle and upper management describe how they would have handled something in the old days, but now apply a very different method. To communicate with and grow promising leaders, share hindsight.
 

§  Foresight – Lessons learned, applied to help shape the future state. A forward-looking statement or safe harbor statement is a statement that cannot sustain itself as merely a historical fact, (hindsight). Forward-looking statements use future events as expectations or possibilities, (as in the case of growing leaders.)
 

§  Insight – The ability to synthesize hindsight and foresight into experiential critical thinking.
Yes, this is subjective, but how many of us have benefited from another leader who shared their insights with us? To grow promising leaders, it is wise to share insight. While they may or may not be able to grasp what is being shared at the time, chances are that it will happen sooner or later.

So, what is landing on the promising leaders in your sphere of influence? Are they aware that they are “well thought of” and possible candidates for advancement? Are they being communicated with in a validating / nurturing way?

Avoid too little – too late syndrome. This happens when the promising leader’s phone rings and they take the call. They turn over in their minds a new opportunity and then go back to their native culture to see if they are being paid attention to. Remember we said take the time to apply strategic hindsight, foresight and insight to your people needs. Wouldn't it be a shame to have top talent leave simply because this wasn't done?

Polarities, Polarities, Polarities-are everywhere?

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I know you are saying…I know this word, but what the heck is Jeff talking about! Let’s start with a definition and then we will dive into our regularly scheduled blog.

Dictionary.com define polarity in the following way—

Polarity--noun

1.Physics

a. the property or characteristic that produces unequal physical effects at different points in a body or system, as a magnet or storage battery. 

b. the positive or negative state in which a body reacts to a magnetic, electric, or other field. 

2. the presence or manifestation of two opposite or contrasting principles or tendencies. 

3.Linguistics

a.(of words, phrases, or sentences) positive or negative character. 

b. polar opposition.

 

We will be discussing Polarities which are interdependent pairs that need each other over time to maintain and gain performance. Since polarities are unavoidable, they are present in every individual, team, and organization.

Here are some examples—

Inhale and Exhale

Rest and Activity

 

Notice, I say and not or. We need to rest or else we would end up stressed out and in the hospital due to exhaustion. However, if we only rested then we would stop learning and grow rather large! We need to be able to do both things. Let’s look at some polarities for you that might show up in the workplace.

 

Task and Relationship

Candor and Diplomacy

Encouragement and Analysis

Analysis and Intuition

Planning and Implementing

Coaching and Directing

 

Notice that each word is either positive or neutral. You do not want to frame one word as a negative because then you would not want to choose this word. Ex. Negative Feedback and Encouragement-who would want to pick negative feedback.

What words resonated with you? Did you find that you are attracted to one more than the other? This is natural. I will give you an example for me. I am more to encouragement than analysis. Thus, I can see the upside of encouragement (better morale, good ideas are developed, etc.) When I look at analysis, I tend to see the negatives (might take too long, might discourage brainstorming, etc.) However, when I am coaching people I ask them to look at the upside of both sides of the pole. Thus, I would ask me, what is the upside of using analysis for you? We might make fewer mistakes, we might choose better ideas, we could mitigate risks, spend our dollars appropriately, etc.

 

This also applies to teams and organizations. We often see teams that might desire to be:

Agile and Quality

Innovative and Stable

Encouraging and Challenging

 

Organizations might desire to be:

Centralized and Decentralized

Innovative and High Quality

Structured and Flexible

Okay, there is a lot to learn and understand about polarities. If you want to learn more, please listen to "Mastering Polarities to Achieve Greater Performance". Cara Wilson and I discussed polarities and how they impact the people and organizations we work with. I encourage you to start seeing the polarities in you life. Take time to notice which pole you are more attracted to. Who can help you see the upside of the other pole? What would happen if you challenged yourself to look at the downside of your preferred pole (too much encouragement might keep us from critically assessing ideas; might avoid conflict, etc.) Good luck and remember to look out for the polarities in the world.

Team Time Alignment

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The synergy that occurs when a whole team focuses collectively on (1) efficient use of time and (2) attention management empowers the whole group. When everyone is moving in the same direction, trying to be effective and efficient with time, real progress is made in 30 days. And in 90 days teams are transformed!

Work is being executed, and meetings are meaningful. Everyone’s time is well spent. Meetings get shorter and more focused. People come prepared to meetings, because they have more time to plan, prepare and execute work. The Team Time Transformation is underway!

When I begin working with a Team to enhance and expand productivity, we begin with shared purpose and clear, shared Desired Outcomes. Then, the whole team works on calendar alignment.

Calendar Alignment focuses on:
               • efficient use of time and
               • attention management tactics that empower the whole group.

There are 2 Principles of Team Calendar Alignment
               1. Use other’s time wisely
               2. Ensure you have adequate time to act on tasks assigned.


Simple principles, but hard to achieve. We begin with the Team Calendar Gut Check.


Gut Check: Use Other’s Time Wisely

If you convene a meeting you must ask yourself: is this a good use of these people’s time?


Longer meetings (30 – 90 minutes) are meetings that ask people to think.
Thinking Meetings engage people. These meetings leverage the brain power around the table.
Decisions get made. Processes get developed. Feedback is taken. Adjustments are offered.
The organization and leaders move forward after meetings like these. It is time well spent, as long as the right people are around the table. People feel valued and engaged when they are in these meetings.

How do you figure out if you are leading a Thinking Meeting? Ask yourself. Ask your attendees.

• Am I leveraging their collective thinking?
               This means they do most of the thinking and talking. You ask a couple of questions.                   You listen and sift and sort through their insights.
                          If this is what the meeting is, then you have a Thinking Meeting.
                          Plan for 30 -90 minutes, depending on the content you need to cover.


Stand Up Meetings (5-12 minutes) are for Information Transfer.
You have information. You have updates. You need to communicate new expectations.
You need information and updates shared. Then you need 10 minutes tops. It’s a Stand Up.
Stand Ups share:
               • critical information,
               • update status, and
               • get teams aligned.
These are Alignment and Update Stand Ups.


Before you schedule a meeting, and bring everyone together, ask yourself:
What do you need from your meeting? If you want to leverage their thinking, then you need more time. If you need to share your thinking and get updates, then you need less time.
Respect people’s time. It is the most valuable asset you and they have. Use it with care.
I have a colleague who walked out of a meeting with his co-worker.
The co-worker turned to him as they walked to the parking lot: “Well, we can’t get that hour back.”
“Yeah. I know. What was the worst part for you?”
“I think it was the Soul Sucking part.”
“Which Soul Sucking part?”

Yikes! This is a true story, and that must have been a terrible meeting.
The simple act of thinking about how you are spending the collective time of your team will help you learn to respect their time and talent. This, in turn, will ensure that the conversation between those two co-workers is not one that takes place after a meeting you convene.

You Can’t Buy Time, But You Can Borrow It!

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I have followed a 2 part Calendar Review process for many years now. In a recent blog I shared the first part of this process: my Calendar Gut-Checklist. The Calendar Gut-Checklist is a great way to review and reflect on how I spend my time.

Part 2 of the process is Calendar Re-Visioning. Here is the process I follow when I re-vision my calendar:

Calendar Revisioning

1.      I take the insights gained when I Gut-Checked my calendar, and brainstorm changes I could make to better align my calendar with my Desired Outcomes.

2.      The changes I can implement easily I make immediately.

3.      I look ahead for 6 weeks and determine the other changes I could implement with some planning. I outline the steps I need to take to implement these changes and begin the process of making these larger changes.

4.      I commit to reviewing my progress in 30 days.

 

Why do I look ahead? Because when my calendar is overloaded it takes a while to bring it back into alignment. When I work with executives who are bringing alignment back into their calendars I set the expectation that, with 6 months of intentional effort, they can be delivered to a life and workflow they love. It takes time and consistent effort, but it can be done. Progress is even faster when I work with the entire team to bring the team into Time Alignment. (Check out my upcoming article for more on the Team Time Alignment Process.)

 

To help you get started with your Calendar Revisioning process, here are some key questions you can ask as you brainstorm how to revise your own calendar. With these questions you will have better alignment between your Desired Outcomes and your calendar.

 

 Get Analytical: Calendar Brainstorming Questions

·        Calendar:

o   Do you have adequate time to effectively execute your scope of work?

o   What changes can you make to spend your time more effectively?

o   Do you have time protected in your calendar for focused work each week?

 

·        Priorities:

o   What are your top 3 priorities right now? Does your calendar reflect this?

o   Based on your priorities, what do you need to start doing and stop doing?

 

·        Commitments:

o   Do you have more commitments than your calendar will allow?

o   Which commitments do you need to end in order to effectively execute your top priorities?

**Note: If you are double scheduled you have more commitments than you can handle.

You can never be in two places at once.**

The goal is to do more of the “right” things.

With this goal in mind, here are some Calendar Hacks to get you going.

Get Going: Calendar Hacks

·        When are you most focused? Look ahead in your calendar for a 2-3 hour block of focused time each week. This will be the time slot you assign your complex tasks and projects to in the future.

·        Make a recurring appointment twice daily for processing email and checking phone messages.

·        Make a decision about when you will check and return your text messages.

·        At the end of the week look ahead to the coming week and assign your upcoming tasks a time. 

Everything gets done at a particular moment in time. I hope these tips and tricks help you develop the habit of regularly refining and redesigning your calendar so that your time is well spent, and your life and work are satisfying.

What step will you take today to ensure your time is well spent?

Got Time?

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“If I only had an 8th day or a 25th hour I could get it all done.”

Has that thought ever crossed your mind? It has crossed mine. When it does, I know it is time to revisit my calendar, my commitments and my priorities.

We all get the same number of hours in a day. It is the one equitable resource we share.

24 hours each day. 7 days in a week.

We have 168 hours of life to live every week and if we are getting enough sleep, we have 112 hours to actually accomplish things. No one can manufacture time, so how we spend it really matters.

That is why when the thought, “If I only had an 8th day this week” crosses my mind, I know it’s time to gut-check my calendar. Gut checking my calendar means looking through how I spent all the hours in a day or week and asking myself, was this time well spent?

The exercise doesn’t take long, but it has been invaluable to me over the years. Whether I am looking over the day I just had, or the previous week, I discover ways in which I was wise with my time, and ways in which I was wasteful, and I make adjustments.

When I work with people who are trying to re-calibrate their pace and productivity, I start by asking people to print out their calendar for the previous week, and we go back over it with a fine tooth comb. I call it the Calendar Gut-Checklist. Here it is:

The Calendar Gut-Checklist

Step 1: Gut-Check Accuracy

·        Does the calendar capture what you actually did?

·        If not, try to fill in the blanks and make adjustments to the calendar so that it                          represents what actually happened, not what was planned.

 

Step 2: Gut-Check Decisions to Not Honor the Calendar

·        Notice the differences between what was planned and what actually happened.

·        Why did those adjustments happen? Were they smart, necessary decisions?

 

Step 3: Gut Check the Time Spent

·        What did you actually do in each hour?

·        Was it worth it?

·        What impact did your presence have in that meeting? Were you an important                           contributor?   

·        Did you give yourself adequate transition time and travel time?

·        Which hours were most effective, and which were least effective? Why?

 

Now that you know where the time went, and how effective you were with your time, it’s time to get analytical. What do you need to do differently so that you can be more effective with your time?

Make a list of 5-10 changes you can make to your calendar that will make you more effective. Pick your top 3 and makes those changes to your future calendar. You can save the list so that the next time you find yourself wishing for another hour in the day or another day in the week, you can take it out and make another couple of changes to your calendar.

I wish you many hours of time well-spent!