Tighten Up

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Overhwelmed? No motivation? As Archie Bell and the Drells sang, “it’s time to tighten up.” When you tighten up a boundary, the playing field gets smaller and there’s a jolt of energy.

Today, try tightening up the time frame you work in. What can be done in 30 minutes? What can be done in 3 minutes? What can be done in 30 seconds?

And what if you play the game in that tight time frame as if your life depended on it? What if this game was the last game you were going to play ever?

And at the end of the game, you put it down, take a break, walk away.

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Tell Stories If You Want to Influence Effectively

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Stories can be as short as a sentence or as long as an epic. Effective stories are the next best thing to an actual experience (a powerful influencer). They place the listener into the action in an empathic connection. If your pulse speeds up while watching an action movie, or you have ever cried over a scene in a movie, you know the power of empathy at work. The best television shows (such as The Wire) build powerful empathy for all of their characters.

Stories build trust. Research shows that a story all by itself is more effective at building trust than a story followed by a statistic.  Kouzes and Posner’s book The Leadership Challenge lists ‘honesty’ as the #1 characteristic that people look for in a leader. This was true over time (more than 20 years of research) and throughout all countries. Trust and empathy are two major drivers for increased resonance.

Why not try telling some simple stories the next time you are attempting to influence in a low-stakes outcome? By starting small, you’ll have something to build on. If you like the results, you may want to collect a few stories that seem particularly effective for your influence moments.

Learn more: MBTI Team Quest - Discover and leverage the various ways your people make decisions, strategize and access information, using this organizational standard. Team members begin to recognize the strengths that other types bring to the team, and the power that comes from multiple types working together.

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A Direct Connection With Purpose: John Sorenson Takes the Next Step (Quest Story)

John Sorenson talked about his experience with micro loans in a past blog post. Click here to read that quest story.

After you’ve retired, what do you do next? John Sorenson chose to connect more deeply with purpose, uniting his vocation and service. His story continues here.

“The exploration is exciting. My wife and I are continuing to do stuff in Southeast Asia. We’re going to monitor how the families we’re helping with our microloans are doing. We’re taking over as presidents of the local “green club.” And the third element is helping a few companies start up by acting as technical advisors. One of them has to do with thermal and solar energy electricity generation. It’s not only a way of generating electricity from sunlight in a way that’s more efficient than what’s out there but it promises to be low cost. This could be is a real boon to third world countries, especially those that are near the equator. They have a lot of sunlight to work with. I’m also helping with the Hero’s Journey Foundation.

Click here to listen to listen to my interview with John Sorenson.

I am trying to apply the skills that I’ve developed in my career and my resources to make the world a better place. So I think of this as my vocation and my service. Where this goes I don’t know. I know that I’m excited about what I’m doing, I know that there’s mystery involved, but that’s okay. I know what I’m doing is enjoyable.

When I ponder, “What is it that I’m to do?”, I also ask myself:

  1. Is it something that I connect with or the people involved?
  2. Do I believe in the cause?
  3. Is this something I feel I can make a contribution to?
  4. Will I enjoy doing this?

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Your Boss: Thinker or Feeler?

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In leadership and management, the MBTI preferences of thinking and judging are over-represented. (That’s statistically over-represented, not a value judgment.)

So even though more people in the general population prefer feeling over thinking when making decisions, your manager is statistically more likely to prefer thinking than feeling.

What’s your boss’s preference? Are you addressing it?

Learn more: MBTI Team Quest - Discover and leverage the various ways your people make decisions, strategize and access information, using this organizational standard. Team members begin to recognize the strengths that other types bring to the team, and the power that comes from multiple types working together.

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Deadline vs Game Over vs Finish Line

What’s your energy right now? Enthusiasm? Excitement?

Or is panic?

Be careful with slinging the word ‘deadlines’ around if it’s panic. Using the word ‘dead’ rarely helps relax and liven things up.

Try the more playful term, “Game over.”

Or if that’s too stressful? Try, “finish line.”

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Are You Leading a Feeling Team?

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In leadership and management, the MBTI preferences of thinking and judging are over-represented. (That’s statistically over-represented, not a value judgment.)

Leaders who take the time to look at the ‘people consequences’ of their decisions and address those concerns when communicating with their team or organization are way more successful than those who don’t.

My observation with change failures? The biggest misses in getting employee buy-in with new organizational initiatives stems from leaders ignoring of the MBTI feeling function.

Here are thirteen words that are music to a person with the feeling preference:

  1. Heart
  2. Subjective
  3. Relative worth
  4. Connections
  5. Warmth
  6. Affirming
  7. Appreciate
  8. Empathize
  9. Harmony
  10. Tactful
  11. Compassionate
  12. Values
  13. Caring

Learn more: MBTI Team Quest - Discover and leverage the various ways your people make decisions, strategize and access information, using this organizational standard. Team members begin to recognize the strengths that other types bring to the team, and the power that comes from multiple types working together.

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A New Way to Assemble Mr. Potato Head

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“The arm goes on the second hole up on the left side! No, one hole lower. Turn the arm around!” And so it goes in the ‘Assemble Mr. Potato Head’ team building activity. One person is blindfolded, the other team members look at a picture and tell the blindfolded person what piece to pick up and where to put it to replicate what’s on the picture.

It’s a fun activity, and great for honing team communication. The attempts and results in many team building activities are often fairly predictable for me. But part of what I love about this work is the innovation that shows up unexpectedly.

I worked with Kaiser Permanente recently and they did it differently. In all the years I’ve seen groups assemble the venerable plastic spud, they always verbally tell the blindfolded person where a certain piece is and then where it goes.

This time, they let the blindfolded person pick any piece at random, then told them where it went. Every piece was ‘the right one to pick up’. The person without sight is given a 100 on the test. The most vulnerable person is in charge, is ‘right’. This is a simple tweak of genius.

If we want to influence someone to do what you want them to do, if we want to change the world, we start where the other person is, not where they should be. We visit them in their “home”, their most comfortable way of doing things. We tolerate discomfort in the service of change.

Brain science tells us this is true for the brain as well. If we want to help an emotionally hijacked person out of it, the first step is to meet them, without fear, in the hell they have entered. Then we can show them the way out.

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Lost? Walk next to the river

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I got lost in the woods last week. Four tornados had gone through the Hudson Valley a few weeks earlier and downed hemlocks and pines repeatedly obscured the trail I was hiking on. I wandered for a while, trying to get my bearing. The sky was overcast, the leaves where in place obscuring any distant views, the trail had been winding in a way that had made me lose my sense of direction. And I forgot to bring my compass.

So I wandered, bushwhacking in the general direction I thought was where I began. I passed through a beautiful bank of skunk cabbage until I came to a river. I followed the river downstream, keeping to it where I could. I knew ‘down’ was the general direction I wanted to go and the stream helped me chart a fairly straight course. In the distance I saw a farm’s rail fencing. Civilization! I crossed through an old pasture and found a road. Right or left? I chose left and walked the mile back to the car.

Daily life is not easy. We’re all a bundle of emotions, many of them unpleasant. We can panic, get scared, get angry, feel lonely, hopeless. And when the emotions get tough…we try to get away. It’s part of the human predicament. We seem wired to try to squirm away from the ‘bad’ and cling to the ‘good’. And when we can’t do either we get hijacked and lost in a swirl of intense emotion. We jump into the river of rage and get swept away by the amygdalain the brain. That’s what the Buddhists call ‘suffering’.

The middle way will see us through. It’ll help us find our way. We walk next to the river, observing what we’re feeling that’s so scary. We walk next to the raging river that others are in. We don’t ignore the river. And we don’t jump in. Or we try jumping in, then walking along side, again and again, in and out of the water.

Like the Mr. Potato Head story, if we want to be the change in the world, we begin – with kindness – where we and other people are at right here and right now, in moments of vulnerability, what Yeats called, “The rag and bone shop of the heart.”

[Thanks to Tim Olmsted for the river analogy]

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Where to grow

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There’s only one place for you to grow.

It’s at the intersection of the avenue of ‘the strengths you were born with’ and the street called ‘where you are, right now today’.

“Grow where you are planted.”

?St. Francis de Sales

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How to overcome overwhelm with play

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Overwhelm is ready to take over any time we try to accomplish something big we (or someone who signs the checks) care about.

The solution? Make it as small and meaningless as you can.

Small: Tight boundaries make the best playgrounds. Limit yourself to one thing, one minute, one task, one day, anything. The words ‘limitless’ and ‘overwhelm’ are practically married.

Meaningless: We play best when it doesn’t matter. If you break something big down into small enough chunks, each separate little chunk feels like ‘no big deal’. For example if that giant chocolate chip cookie is overwhelming, try breaking it down into 2,000 chunks of 1 calorie each. See? No big deal.

Play your way through overwhelm – keep it small, keep it meaningless.

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