Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How to make ideas stick . . .

Make ideas
1) visual
2) interactive
3) persistent
-- Tom Wujec

What motivates you?

Photo: Suat Eman http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=151

I recently read a blog (http://runningahospital.blogspot.com/2009/12/on-accountability.html) that stated that organizations should not try to hold people accountable. Instead they should encourage people to hold themselves accountable.

I agree and this is why I promote coaching employees to instill commitment -- committed employees are self-motivated.

The problem is, will 100% of people become self-motivated? Are there some individuals who must be held accountable because regardless of effort spent coaching they will not hold themselves accountable?

If yes, must we hold everyone accountable so that we capture those (few?) who cannot/ will not self-motivate?

If yes, will we reduce the self-motivation of those who either by their nature or through our coaching would have been committed, but because of the external oversight become in fact less committed? I believe the answer to this is yes. Just as studies show that people lose intrinsic desire to do something they used to enjoy when they get paid to do that thing, so will people lose their joy or self-efficacy from a job well done when that job is evaluated and graded.

Your thoughts? Solutions?

It's an age-old question on University campuses -- if we grade, students focus on grades rather than on learning. If we don't grade something, many students don't do it or don't do it thoroughly. Just too busy to be self-motivated in so many spheres of life?

What's the accountability for parenting? What gets people to take the enormous time and energy to teach their children rather than punish all expressions of will? Are we going to get a grade? If so, when will be evaluated? When the child is 20? 30? 50? I hope I get until 50!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Don't define other's character when appreciating (or criticising) part 3

We often leap from experience to label: he doesn't look me in the eye -- he must be shy. She took the time to help me; she's so nice. While it seems nice to say, "you're so nice", the listener can't help but try to match our characterization with her own view of herself.

Share your experience of the other person instead. Give the person a chance to understand how you experienced his actions. Demonstrate what you value about the other person rather than what kind of person you want him to be.

Example: "I appreciate your taking the time to help me, Priya. I know I was a tough student, but your walking me through the steps gave me the confidence to use the software on my own."

Share with the other person what they do that matters to you, rather than define them.

Adapted from The Seven Languages for Transformation: how the way we talk can change the way we work, by Lisa Lahey and Robert Kegan. (c) 2001 Jossey-Bass.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Be specific when showing appreciation (and criticism) Part 2

Be specific: Before expressing appreciation to someone, think about what specifically you appreciate about what they said and did. Doing so will illuminate what you value.

When we are not specific ("you are terrific, Jorge. You really are a team player") the other person defines the appreciation through the lens of his own values. There are many definitions of a team player: someone who helps others when he has down-time or subordinates his goals for those of the team. Perhaps it is someone who supports the team's ideas to the higher ups even when he disagrees with them.

When the boss uses vague praise, Jorge will continue doing whichever behavior he deems demonstrates team playing. Others on the team will chase after their own ideas, always wondering why they are not praised, secretly suspecting that the boss just likes Jorge best.

Use specific language to define the behaviors or outcomes you appreciate so that the other person knows exactly what he did that matters to you.

Example: "Jorge, thanks for supporting the team by traveling to the client site to fix the problems. I know you didn't create those problems and had to put up with a lot of the client's mis-directed anger. You made the team look good and saved our relationship with one of our key clients."

Adapted from: The Seven Languages for Transformation: how the way we talk can change the way we work, by Lisa Lahey and Robert Kegan. (c) 2001 Jossey-Bass.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Be direct when praising (and criticising) -- Part 1

Direct: for a powerful communication, speak directly to the person you appreciate. Yes, it might feel awkward having other people around while you look directly at the person and call him by name. But the recipient of this appreciation will experience himself being valued in a way that is energizing and sincere.

And we all need to know that what we do matters to others.

Example: "Honey, thanks for putting in the extra time to make this special meal."

Think back to last time you showed appreciation; how did you phrase it? Were you direct?

Adapted from the Seven Languages for Transformation: how we talk can change the way we work, by Lisa Lahey and Robert Kegan. (c) 2001 Jossey-Bass

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Do we express appreciation the same way we express criticism?

How do we usually show appreciation -- both at work and to our spouses and children? The same way we show criticism (only less often)? Appreciation is often:
  1. indirect
  2. non-specific
  3. characterizing
Indirect: "Thanks to Mom for all her work on this lovely dinner"
Non-specific: "You are terrific, Jorge. You really are a team player."
Characterizing: "You are so patient and kind, Priya."

While it may feel good to be praised, none of these praising statements will result in increased long-term motivation nor commitment to the praised-for behavior. Mom is an observer, not an active participant in the conversation. Jorge has no idea what his boss appreciates -- perhaps it's his coming into the office on Saturday?. And Priya may believe herself to be neither patient nor kind!

Think back to the last time you showed appreciation to someone else? Can you remember your phrasing?

Adapted from The Seven Languages for Transformation: how the way we talk can change the way we work by Lisa Lahey and Robert Kegan. (c) 2001 Jossey-Bass

image: Simon Howden/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


"The moment of greatest integrity is when we realize we've made a mistake." -- R. Buckminster Fuller

I make a lot of mistakes when visiting family: I assume I know everyone's agendas, I assume I know why they do what they do, I assume it's going to be difficult.

I am learning to -- and this week commit to -- hear people as they wish to be heard, see them as they wish to be seen, and experience them as they wish to be experienced. I intend to let others define themselves.

I'll let you know how it goes. How about you? Do you make assumptions about your relatives based on years of experience that may be outdated?

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


What do you do when a student copies word for word from another source for a paper on integrity!?

Have we gotten to the point where earning high marks is more important than learning? Are we so afraid of not succeeding that we're willing to believe ourselves to be incapable rather than trying and possibly failing?

A friend said to me that she wants her children to go to medical school because, "You can't be a mediocre artist and put food on the table but
you can be a mediocre doctor and still have a job." I guess that was proven true this week.

This student is premed. Will she learn from the experience or will she try it again with a different teacher? I have no idea what her science skills are, and so have no idea if she'll be a mediocre or good doctor. Yet, at what point does someone say, "perhaps if this is so hard that you have to cheat, you're in the wrong place?"

Friday, November 6, 2009

How you ask a question can determine what answer you get back . . .

How do you respond when others approach you in conflict?

"If you approach me with anger and frustration, then I make the choice to either reflect your anger and engage in argument . . . ., or be empathic and approach you with a compassionate heart . . . What most of us don't realize is that we are unconsciously making choices about how we respond all the time.

It is so easy to get caught up in the wiring of our pre-programmed reactivity . .. that we live our lives cruising along on automatic pilot.

--Jill Bolte Taylor, in My Stroke of Insight

Clearly state expected outcomes but . . .

"Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity."
-George S. Patton

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mistakes will be made

"It's really easy to be kind to others when I remember that none of us came into this world with a manual about how to get it all right."

--Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD
My Stroke of Insight

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Is honesty the best policy?

Yesterday several people in a workshop introduced themselves as honest or candid. As the workshop progressed, however, I realized a flaw in their use of honesty. They seemed to say whatever was on the top of their minds at any given moment, regardless of whether their comment was applicable and with no thought as to how their tone affects their meaning.

Something should be said now if it passes all three of these tests:

1) it is true (honest) to the best of your knowledge
2) it is useful
3) the person(s) who needs to hear it can hear it from you.

Yes, always speak the truth. Frankly, it is a lot easier than trying to remember to whom you made up what. But decide before you speak: is what I'm saying necessary and useful? Yes? Then you must say it; otherwise, you will have committed the sin of omission. This is a form of lying.

Now that you know you must say it, you must decide who needs the information. Then, will that person hear the information from you, or must it come from some other source?

Finally, assuming you are the right person to say it, think about how it will be received. Be sure your truth is told with mercy.

It will not be heard otherwise.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Is there something you are afraid to try?

"Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt."

(William Shakespeare)

Are your fears betraying you? What do you have to gain by trying something you'd like to do now, but doubt you can or should?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Which do you fear more: failure or criticism?

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do. --Eleanor Roosevelt

What is it, right now, that you think you cannot do?

Monday, October 5, 2009

What is failure?

. . . the first step toward success. Watch here.

What do people learn from criticsm?

They learn that we're critics!

Who is the most recent person you criticized this week? What was your purpose?

Who do you want to criticize now? Think through your purpose before you say a word!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Feeling distracted?

Workers distracted by phone calls, emails, and text messages suffer a greater loss of IQ than a person smoking marijuana, according to a study involving over 80 clinical trials.

Is your time and attention controlled by technology or do you use technology to help you better manage your time and attention?

Study presented in http://edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/europe/04/22/text.iq/

photo source: digitphotos.com

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Positive questioning leads to change initiatives

Click here to see an article about the Navy/Marines' use of "Appreciative Inquiry" to plan for the future.

Then let us know what you think:
  1. are these the types of discussions you thought our military held (and note the discussion included all levels from seaman to Admiral)?
  2. can you imagine your company using appreciative inquiry to plan for the future?
Appreciative inquiry: "the art and practice of asking questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten positive potential. It centrally involves the mobilization of inquiry through the crafting of the “unconditional positive question” often-involving hundreds or sometimes thousands of people." From: appreciativeinquiry.case.edu

Inspiring with constant communication and larger goal

Click on arrow to start video. Time: 0:03:31

What is confidence?

Has anyone ever told you to be more confident? Has anyone said you are overly confident? What did they mean? How do you define confidence?

Confidence is:
  • Promoting oneself without putting others down
  • Saying "no" without falling over oneself to explain and apologize yet still demonstrating empathy
  • Maintaining composure when others criticize
  • Taking credit or blame when due.
Do you agree with this description? If not, how do you define confidence? What might you add or change in this description?

Would you say you are confident?

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Marva Collins Way

How can we cultivate the seed of greatness in our children, our spouses, ourselves; in our direct reports, our colleagues, and those to whom we report?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Teams and families that ask questions together stay together!

Comparing high-performing to low-performing teams -- and families -- the higher performing teams used:

far more positive than negative interpersonal exchanges
(6 positive for every 1 negative)

more open-questions than closed position statements
(2 open questions for every 1 closed position statement).

Based on research by Marcial Losada and Barbara Fredrickson quoted in Eleanor Chin's blog in the Fall '09 UPenn course Positive Psychology

Conflict screensaver 1 of 4

Download and use as a screensaver to remind yourself how to resolve conflict productively.

Conflict screensaver 2 of 4

Download and use as a screensaver to remind yourself how to resolve conflict productively.

Conflict screensaver 3 of 4

Download and use as a screensaver to remind yourself how to resolve conflict productively.

Conflict screensaver 4 of 4

Download and use as a screensaver to remind yourself how to resolve conflict productively.

Download and use as a screensaver to remind yourself how to resolve conflict productively.

Home management for the environment (and the wallet)

Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Who are you coaching?

Are you the manager of a new learner . . .
source: calmasucoco@iname.com

Or an expert . . . Source: Nathan Rogers, Freedigitalphotos.net

We must adjust our management style to meet our direct reports where they are right now, and adjust our parenting style to meet our children where they are right now.

It can be difficult to switch gears, but it is imperative if we are to maintain a quality relationship. The first step: recognize where the direct report (or child) is in the continuum from new learner to expert. Don't know? Ask where they perceive they stand now.

Do you encourage your direct reports to speak up?

"I don't want any yes-men around me. I want them to tell me the truth . . . even if it costs them their jobs."

-- Samuel Goldwyn Jr.

Managing and Leading at Work and at Home

For my students, past and present, and for all others who wish to learn with us:

I'll post quotes, relevant anecdotes, links, and my own recent learnings here about once a week.