How To Dial Down Emotional Reactivity (Part One)

Four Minutes That Birthed An Emotional Trigger  

 

I will never forget one of the first times I conducted a choir. The music director, at the church of my youth, gave me permission to join the choir for a rehearsal and conduct a piece they were learning. I can still see myself that day—my hands shaking, my mouth dry, and my nerves frazzled. I stood before the choir, a 19-year-old music major, trying to make my way through the composition. I missed several cues and, I’m sure, had a somewhat “sick to my stomach” look on my face.

 

baton-and-music-score

At the end of the piece, the 100 adults in the choir showed kind support by clapping for me. I was pretty sure at that point I wouldn’t throw up. But then, just as the kind gesture ended, the music director walked over to me and, in front of 100 adults, said, “That was pretty good, Dave, but now let me show you how it’s really done.” I froze in humiliation as I walked to the side of the room and watched him conduct the choir in what proved to be four of the longest minutes of my life.

 

Back in my dorm later that night, I was mortified. I was shaken. It seems silly now, but it wasn’t then. I questioned whether or not I should even be a music major. His simple words shot to the core of my insecurities and my hopes.

 

I was able to overcome this experience and continue my studies as well as my life. At 52, the incident seems trivial. But it has remained with me and contributed to one of my negative emotional triggers. To this day, when I witness a person– in positional power– diminish another person with less power, it infuriates me. If I’m not careful, this trigger can bring out in me the very behavior I loathe.

 

What’s one of your emotional triggers?

 

Anatomy of An Emotional Trigger?

 

We develop triggers through experience or preference. Perhaps we are introverted and people who over-talk are a trigger. On the other hand, maybe we are extroverted and our trigger is people who remain silent. Maybe we were frequently yelled at during a formative time of life, and now yelling is a trigger. Maybe one of our family members has a personality that clashes with our own. When we find a similar personality out in the world, it triggers a big reaction.

 

Whatever the reasons that shape our triggers, it’s important to understand how and why they affect us. We do this first by noticing how our triggers are connected to an experience or preference. For example, the diminishing words of the music director, not to mention the diminishing words of other authority figures, have had a great impact on me over the years. It has caused me to be sensitive to people diminished by “the powerful.” But it’s also caused me, at times, to diminish a diminsher –giving him or her a taste of the same medicine. This overreaction has rarely done any good and only exposed my dysfunction.

 

The first step in reducing the power of my trigger was to notice it, as well as my reactionary behavior to it. Why does it happen? When does it happen? How do I behave when the trigger surfaces?

 

After we notice triggers, then we can name them. Naming triggers makes them real and helps us to own them. For example, I simply named my trigger, “diminishers.” That word represents a person, in any given circumstance, that uses power to belittle or diminish another. That person becomes a trigger for me in a way that is far bigger than the moment at hand. My reaction is as much due to my history as it is to the present situation. Naming my trigger has helped me take responsibility for this rather than blame the trigger-person for my overreactions.

 

[Tweet “”Notice and Name Your Emotional Triggers” @davefleming360″]

 

Noticing and and naming triggers is a process that happens over time.  Here are some first steps you can take to become more aware of and name your triggers:

 

  • Identify behaviors or people that activate you. Think about actions or situations (triggers) that consistently frustrate you and throw you off center.
  • Describe both the trigger (the action or person that activates you) and your reaction to it (your common behaviors to the trigger).
  • Name the trigger. Come up with a short phrase or one word that encapsulates the trigger.
  • Once you’ve named the trigger, notice when it surfaces. What or who is the trigger? What is occurring in the moment? Or, what is a person doing to trigger you? Be as specific as you can. The more you can detail out the situation or behavior, with concrete language, the easier it is to see it and own it.

 

But Wait..There’s More

 

Noticing and naming triggers decreases the power they have over you. But it’s not enough. Once you’ve noticed and named triggers, then it’s time to develop strategies to minimize and/or avoid your reactions. We might not be able to remove the trigger, but we can learn to reduce our reactivity to it. We’ll look at how to do that in part two.

 

Adapted from, Tribal Alchemy: Mining Your Team’s Collective Ingenuity. Dave Fleming. 2016.

How To Dial Down Emotional Reactivity (Part One)2016-10-31T06:06:16-04:00

Challenge: Initiator of Ingenuity

Excerpt from, Tribal Alchemy: Mining Your Team’s Collective Ingenuity, Dave Fleming, 2016.

 

In the movie Pleasantville, two teenagers from the 1990s are transported through their television back to the 1950s. What David and his sister Jennifer discover (in this made-up TV land) is a Leave It to Beaver–like world where everyone and everything is perfect. Troubles don’t exist. Life is easy and simple and always goes to plan. Basketballs always find the basket. Geography lessons are simple because the size of the town and the size of the world are one and the same. The roads lead residents back to where they started. It’s all very pleasant. But something is wrong.

 

As David and Jennifer get to know the townspeople, a painful fact emerges. Though everyone in Pleasantville is pleasant indeed, this quality makes them, and the town itself, boring and bland. There is no advancement of anything. The pleasant life is void of texture, meaning, and purpose. In fact, everyone and everything—the entire world of Pleasantville—shows up in black and white. There is no color. Why? Color, as the residents of Pleasantville come to understand, is the result of creativity, ingenuity, passion, and risk. As David and his sister introduce these and other qualities to townspeople, they take on color; they take on life. Because of this, a division evolves for the first time in the town’s pleasant history. The townspeople split; some choose to embrace challenge, and some hold on to predictability.

 

Pleasantville reminds us that life gets better as it gets harder. We need life to be hard. Challenges make alchemy possible. These barriers to ad- vancement inspire us to overcome through ingenuity. We know that even our brains need challenge in order to thrive. The late Lawrence Katz, a neurobiologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, conducted research on the brain. He determined that the brain needs exercise in a similar way as the rest of our body. He was instrumental in the creation of neurobics—everyday ways you can exercise your brain.

 

Since Katz wrote his book in 1999, a mountain of research confirms the need to challenge the brain through a variety of training and exercise methodologies. It seems that our brains thrive on challenges because challenges require the brain to work hard for specific rewards. Tribal (collective) brains are the same. Challenges must be overcome, and that requires alchemy. Tribes that push deep into these challenges, even when those challenges are hard, are the ones that work and live in color.

 

  • No challenges, no new ideas
  • No challenges, no change in action or condition
  • No challenges, no meaning

 

As much as we thrive on challenges, we often complain about the very dynamic (challenge) that enables advancement. I find this an interesting characteristic of our biology and social interactions. We seem to dislike the challenges necessary for advancement. Even though we know that advancement comes through challenge, we still fight it. We resist that which moves us forward.

Challenge: Initiator of Ingenuity2016-10-26T16:22:37-04:00

Ingenuity Begins With A New Way of Seeing The Familiar

A Slice of the Knife

 

Several weeks ago I was chopping veggies for a salad. Now right here, it’s important to know that I’m a much better “chopper” in my imagination than in my kitchen. And so, as I sliced, my action got ahead of my skill. You might say, a kind of culinary cockiness took over and I sliced more than the veggies. A fairly deep cut opened on my thumb and blood soon followed. I grabbed a paper towel and headed to the bathroom to find a Band-Aid.

 

The Band-Aids were nowhere to be found. My wife had done a really silly thing. She put the Band-Aids where we always keep them. How unhelpful is that?  Because I don’t always pay attention to these finer details, I was out of luck. As the blood made its way through the paper towel, I headed back into the kitchen with a new mission in mind: make a band-aid out of anything available. Within 2 minutes, the make-shift band-aid—a small strip from an envelope and clear packing tape, was on my finger. A minute later, I was back to chopping veggies in a humbled and more realistic manner.

 

My make-shift band-aid reminded me that creative-solution making begins with how we see what we have. When we see ways to ingeniously arrange (or rearrange) available resources, we initiate important change. The opposite can also be true. If we are unable to see how available resources can be used in new ways, we will significantly reduce the number of inventive solutions. When this happens we determine our solution requires a resource we lack and progress wanes. Research psychologists identified this limited view of resources as a cognitive bias. They named this cognitive bias, functional fixedness. This simply means a person is not able to conceptualize a resource outside its “primary” use.  She is fixed on its function and therefore limited in how she can use it.

 

Take my run-in with a sharp knife. The night I sliced more than veggies, and in order to stop the bleeding, I had to overcome functional fixedness. If I had insisted on a fixed view of envelopes and tape, I would have bled quite a bit longer, as I hunted for a REAL Band-Aid. Because I let go of the “correct” usage of envelopes and tape, I was able to SEE those resources in new ways. The envelope and tape became more basic resources I could make into whatever I needed, including a band-aid.

 

How To Overcome Functional Fixedness: An Example From The Cuban People

 

Because of political divides and unrest, you may, or may not, know much about Cuban history. I confess, I don’t. It’s been easy for me to depersonalize Cubans, seeing them as trapped in a corrupt system, rather than as inventive people who, like me, are trying to live a meaningful life. Recently, my eyes were opened to the ingenuity of the Cuban people through a short video about their ingenuity.

 

The video highlights the work of Ernesto Oroza. Oroza is a Cuban designer and artist that became intrigued by the resourcefulness of the Cuban people, particularly during times of heavy sanctions.   In the short video (here’s the link to the video), Oroza reveals how the Cuban people overcame functional fixedness. The video shows how Cubans created critical machines and services with very limited and familiar resources.

 

 

[Tweet “Can you see something new in the familiar? @davefleming360”]

 

 

Oroza names this Cuban resourcefulness, technological disobedience. The simple definition of technological disobedience is the ability to UNsee an object and then REsee (in new ways) the parts that made up the original object. For example, instead of seeing an oscillating fan, Cubans learned to UNsee the fan and instead SEE the raw materials (plastic, steel, switches, motors, and so forth) that could create any number of items for daily living. The fan was no longer a fan, but a collection of parts that could be manipulated in new ways. In doing this, they were able to create new things out of familiar things. What a brilliant skill to possess.

 

If we want to be ingenious with our resources, we too need to develop a kind of resource disobedience. We need to UNsee what is and REsee what could be.

 

UNsee— To UNsee we must drop our fixed view of something or someone. Don’t see the object or person as a fixed “part of” something that is already defined determined. Let the object stand alone as something usable for other ends. Let the person out of the narrow confines of your current view.

 

REsee— Once you’ve let go of your fixed view of something or someone, then look with fresh eyes at possibilities. How could an object be used in new ways, different than the familiar one? How could a person play a different or enhanced role, rather than the one you’ve assigned them?

 

Let’s give this two-step process a try:

 

  • Think about a current challenge or opportunity you face.

 

  • Now consider some of the familiar resources and people that are part of that challenge or opportunity.

 

  • Focus now on one of those resources or people. UNsee the object, service or person. Break down your assumptions and fixed ideas about that resource or person. Don’t see the label you’ve assigned to that object or person. Try and remove the object or person from the familiar context and see them anew.

 

  • Ask yourself, how might an object or service be used in a new way. Forget how you’ve used it in the past.

 

  • Ask yourself, how might a person be unleashed in a new way to help solve a difficult challenge? Get out of the fixed view you have of that person.

 

  • Now experiment with the object or the person. Of course, experimenting with a person requires he or she is not viewed as an object but rather a willing participant in the ingenuity. Invite them. Inspire them to UNsee and REsee their own potential and purpose.

 

  • Experiment Experiment Experiment.

 

  • Fail. Fail Fail.

 

  • Learn Adapt Learn Adapt.

 

  • Succeed. Rinse and Repeat.

 

The collective ingenuity we seek is often hiding in the people and resources already nearby.  Seeing familiar things and people in new ways is an essential step in turning what we have into what we need. If you’re interested in exploring this idea more, I discuss these concepts further in my book, Tribal Alchemy: Mining Your Team’s Collective Ingenuity.

Ingenuity Begins With A New Way of Seeing The Familiar2016-10-24T06:04:04-04:00

Want More Ingenuity? Make More Moments Unique

Most leaders and teams want more ingenuity. I’ve yet to meet a mission-focused group of people who desire an increase in mediocrity. I have, however, met many mission-focused groups that did not consistently develop the mindsets and behaviors that increase ingenuity. “Wanting” more ingenuity is one thing. Developing the skills that lead to more ingenuity is quite another.

My book, Tribal Alchemy: Mining Your Team’s Collective Ingenuity, explores a process and practices that increase collective ingenuity. Here’s a brief snippet from the book where I explore the critical action of “learning to SEE more moments unique.

 

——
Consider this brilliant 2006 bit from Weick and Sutcliffe in their article “Mindfulness and the Quality of Organizational Attention”:

Mindfulness, therefore, is as much about the reversal of normalizing as it is about encoding and matching situations with routines. Mindfulness is important because it weakens the tendency to simplify events into familiar events and strengthens the tendency to differentiate events into unfamiliar events. Therefore, less-mindful practice normalizes, more- mindful practice anomalizes. By anomalize we mean that mindfulness captures unique particulars, i.e., differences, nuances, discrepancies, and outliers that slow the speed with which details are normalized. (p. 518)


 

That statement is genius in what it uncovers about mindfulness and seeing together. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite sentence in that paragraph. But here are two of them:

 

Mindfulness is important because it weakens the tendency to simplify events into familiar events and strengthens the tendency to differentiate events into unfamiliar events. . . . By anomalize we mean that mindfulness captures unique particulars, i.e., differences, nuances, discrepancies, and outliers that slow the speed with which details are normalized.

 

Weick and Sutcliffe brilliantly reveal why so many tribes don’t see well together and what can help to correct poor vision. Tribes that don’t see well together let the routine of familiar events—and I would add, their familiarity with each other—remove the possibility of seeing anything new or novel. When a tribe tells itself there is nothing new to see, then guess what? There is nothing new to see. When it comes to mindfulness (and seeing together), the belief that there is nothing new to see is a sure way to miss ingenious solutions that move a mission froward.

 

If you want to see new potentialities in challenges, opportunities, and your raw materials, your tribe will have to anomalize its everyday events, situations, and views of each other. You do this by breaking a spell that likely has some sway on your tribe. This spell makes tribes lethargic and sometimes even apathetic. Let’s call it the all-is-normal spell. The all-is-normal spell convinces a tribe that today is just like yesterday.

 

And tomorrow will be just like today. Since everyday events are “normal,” the tribe’s need for collective seeing is unnecessary. There is no need to notice together, because there’s nothing happening that requires it. Everything is just, yep, normal. Beyond normalizing events, the all is normal spell also takes away a tribe’s ability to see each other as individuals with growth potential. Everyone has already been labeled and slotted into what they can and cannot do. Until tribes can see unique elements in their raw materials, as well as in each other, tribal seeing will be limited, to say the least.

 

If you want to break the all-is-normal spell, here are two anomalizing activities your tribe can practice:

 

  • Value Your Tribe (See people as unique with growth potential, rather than as familiar and static)

 

  • Upgrade The Moment (See every moment, especially the normal ones, as novel and mission-critical)
Want More Ingenuity? Make More Moments Unique2016-10-21T09:42:07-04:00

As a Consumer, Are You “Metabolizing” What You Take In?

The trouble with a being a consumer is not consuming, but mindless consuming. Take your body as an example. When we eat, our bodies take what we eat and “metabolize” it. This means that the nutrients found in the consumed food are put to good use. Our bodies convert what we consume into fuel, as well as the building blocks of things like proteins and fats.

 

The food we take in, we then convert into helpful elements that sustain our physical bodies. This is the process of metabolism.

 

Now think of what you consume with your mind. Think of what you watch, read and listen to on a daily basis. Using the process of metabolism as a metaphor, the question is this:

 

Am I converting what I consume with my mind into useful nutrients (ideas, concepts, aspirations and practices) that enhance my life and the lives of others?

I I read something, I should consume the words, and even enjoy them. But at some point, I should also convert (metabolize) those words so they help me live a better life. This would include sharing the words and ideas with others. The same could be said of watching TV, going to a play, listening to music and so forth. When we consume in a mindless way, we pay little to no attention to this conversion process. I suppose a little mindless consuming now and then is no big deal. But too much mindless consuming, over time, produces a life of little substance.

The question then is, how can I consume in more mindful ways? Exploring that question should occupy more than the space of this blog. Suffice to say for this post however, consuming in a mindful way begins when I reflect on that which I consume. I question it, consider it, draw conclusions and lessons from it, and share that with others. Doing these things would at least begin the process of metabolizing ideas and concepts. It would help us consume in a more mindful manner.

So…next time you consume, don’t forget to metabolize.

As a Consumer, Are You “Metabolizing” What You Take In?2016-10-19T05:53:08-04:00

The Case Of The Changing Book Cover: Six Strategies That Increase Ingenuity

Humans like to create. We find happiness in making things that matters to us. Once we’ve made something, we also enjoy making that “something” better. The desire to make something better can be as strong as the desire to make it in the first place. Many of us feel a prod to enhance everything, from health, to art, to dinner, to technology, to relationships, to you name it. We crave transformation and delight in turning what is into what could be.

 

I’m always on the hunt for stories of people who made something better. What I love about these stories is that in them I find the power of ingenuity.  I also find in these stories principles and strategies we can all use to increase our personal and collective ingenuity.

 

Here’s an example of transformation from my work that  can hopefully help you be more ingenious in your work.  As I share it, I’ll point out six critical “ingenuity insights” you can use to increase the quality of your ingenuity.

 

The Case Of The Changing Book Cover

 

A Rush To Finish

 

Earlier this year, I published the book, Tribal Alchemy: Mining Your Team’s Collective Ingenuity. However, when I published it, that was not the title. The original title was, Tribal Alchemy: Turning What You Have Into What You Need. Here’s the original front cover and title:

 

Trbal-Alchemy-Book-home

The imagery on the cover is meant to convey a metaphor–a tribe turning what they have (sticks) into what they need (a house).

 

The group that helped to create the cover listened to my thoughts about the book and then created various options. None of the early book cover options captured the essence of the book and also seemed to confuse people. One final attempt yielded the cover you see above.

 

Now I believe everyone involved in the design felt there was a better cover waiting to be born. But I had placed an unnecessary deadline on the cover, which made it impossible to explore more options. The truth was, I just wanted to be done. I had worked on the book for 2 1/2 years and was ready to move on. I forced completion.

 

Ingenuity Insight # 1: Ingenuity is stifled when we unnecessarily rush based on emotional reactivity or personal burnout.

 

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for appropriate acceleration of work. Dilly-dallying around, because of laziness or indecision, derails important progress. There is a time to ship a product. And waiting to make it perfect is a big no-no. But to prematurely launch due to emotional funkiness or reactivity, leads to regret and (often) frustrating rework.

 

The book launched.

 

The cover made me uncomfortable from launch day forward. The first time I held the book, I knew the cover wasn’t right. My discomfort had nothing to do with the concept or creation of the cover. It had to do with the fact that the cover could have been better if I had been appropriately patient and allowed others to challenge me (and the process). When we don’t make room for different voices, we miss out on perspectives that enable and enhance transformation. When I thought back to design conversations, it became clear that people tried to strategically slow me down. They had offered other solutions, but I was in a hurry; that hurry diminished our ability to experiment.

 

Ingenuity Insight # 2: Ingenuity is about collective experimentation

 

Throughout the book, I preach the gospel of collective ingenuity. We are more ingenious together–particularly when we weave together diverse perspectives, insights and creative action. But during the development of the cover, I made it hard for the team to add multiple insights and creative action. I made it hard to experiment together.

 

During early feedback sessions, it was obvious that people felt the cover could be better with more experimentation. At some point though, I turned off the spigot of experimentation and stopped the flow of ideas. When I sent the message that experimentation was over, I also sent the message that we didn’t need any more ingenuity. If you want more ingenuity, you also have to welcome experimentation.

 

Fast Forward Seven Months: An Opening To Create Alchemy

A couple of months ago, I began work with a creative marketing/PR firm, Priority Marketing. Their goal was to help me reshape my brand and create greater exposure. Early in our work together, we met about my current brand and important goals I wanted to achieve. During that conversation, the cover of my book came up. The facilitator of the meeting saw an opening and asked, “So Dave, are open to changing the cover on your book?”

 

Now mind you, at this point, the book had sold around 1000 copies. I had given a significant amount of personal time, energy and resource invested in the original version. I had already spoken around the country to numerous groups with the original book in tow. Now comes the question, “Are you open to changing it?”

 

Ingenuity Insight # 3: If you’re not willing to strategically adapt fast and often, it will be hard to access ingenuity.

 

Here’s one place in the story I did something right. I seized the opportunity to increase ingenuity even though it would mean a significant rebrand. “YES, absolutely I’m interested in changing the book cover,” I declared with passion that was palpable.

 

Ingenuity Insight #4: If you’ve blown it and you have the chance to make it better, DO IT!

 

When confronted with the need to change due to a mistake or misstep, it’s easy to get defensive or procrastinate. But ingenuity increases when we quickly recognize our failures, embrace them, and strategically use them to make our work better. Humble yourself, embrace your failure, accept help, and get on with it.

 

Along with defensiveness, fear of looking silly or incompetent can also delay ingenious change. “What will people think if I change the cover? Will I look silly or foolish for changing it or not getting it right the first time?” The inner fearful “you” can slow or thwart necessary changes that can make your work, and your life, better. When the opportunity emerges, humble yourself, be courageous, and do it. Risk ignites ingenuity.

 

 

Back To My Tribe

The next thing I did was go back to people for help. I realized I had rushed conversations (in round one) and it was time to conduct a few strategic conversations about the cover. I did. And eureka, insights started to flow. In fact, it became clear that the image on the cover was not the only item in need of change; the sub title needed to change as well.

 

Tribal Alchemy is not a phrase we use in everyday language (that is, not yet). I’ve used the phrase for the better part of a decade, but I know its novelty can also be its undoing. The phrase needs other words to support and explain it. What I like about the the phrase is that it’s novel. But with that novelty can come confusion. What the heck is Tribal Alchemy?

 

For some time, I have used “collective ingenuity” as a kind of parallel phrase to define, Tribal Alchemy. It was therefore suggested that this phrase (collective ingenuity) should show up in the subtitle to add clarity.

 

And then there’s the word, “tribe.”

 

As I wrote in the book, the word “tribe” has made it’s way into mainstream thought, but the word is still not as common as the word “team.” I’ve always had a hard time using “team” and “tribe” interchangeably. I felt it was confusing. Why use the word tribe if you can just use the word team, I would think. My wife had a great way of easing me through this hesitancy with gentle words that suggested, “Dave, get over it and use both words.”

 

Through that conversation, as well as others, the sub title took shape: Tribal Alchemy: Mining Your Team’s Collective Ingenuity The phrase collective ingenuity supports “Tribal Alchemy” and the word “team” helps a potential reader connect tribe to team. Finally, the word “mining” is a nice play on the idea of exploring the treasure of ingenuity, which is what alchemy is all about.

 

Ingenuity Insight # 5: To be ingenious we must let go of our preconceived ideas of how things should be or go. To be ingenious requires we see the limits of our own ideas and push into unfamiliar or uncomfortable territory.

 

With the new title, numerous strategic conversations, and the basic idea of Tribal Alchemy in hand, the designer took to her studio. There, she found an image and metaphor that brilliantly conveys the message of the book. Here’s the new cover:

tribal-alchemy-book

The circle and light bulb (made up of people) not only ingeniously conveys the idea of Tribal Alchemy, but reminds us that collective ingenuity is the way to the change we desire. Perfect.

 

From first glance, there was no question this was the right cover and the right metaphor. All the feedback about the cover has been overwhelmingly positive. I am now delighted to share it with you and continue to explore the power of Tribal Alchemy.

 

Ingenuity Insight # 6: When the transformation is “right,” the tribe knows it and energy for the solution surges.

 

 

How Can The Six Insights Help You? 

 

The work of making things better is not easy. There are challenges and obstacles along the path. But if we are willing to risk into new territory, as a tribe, transformation awaits. How can these ingenuity insights help you through your challenges and opportunity? Here they are again in list form:

 

Ingenuity Insight # 1: Ingenuity is stifled when we unnecessarily rush based on emotional reactivity or personal burnout.

 

Ingenuity Insight # 2: Ingenuity is about collective experimentation.

 

Ingenuity Insight # 3: If you’re not willing to strategically adapt fast and often, it will be hard to access ingenuity.

 

Ingenuity Insight #4: If you’ve blown it and you have the chance to make it better, DO IT!

 

Ingenuity Insight # 5: To be ingenious we must let go of our preconceived ideas of how things should be or go. To be ingenious requires we see the limits of our own ideas and push into unfamiliar or uncomfortable territory.

 

Ingenuity Insight # 6: When the transformation is “right,” the tribe knows it and energy for the solution surges.

The Case Of The Changing Book Cover: Six Strategies That Increase Ingenuity2016-10-17T05:58:51-04:00

Snapshots: How do you want the moments of your life to look?

Currently on the Huffpost, there’s an article announcing the winners of the Action Photography Contest. The winning photographs not only capture amazing moments in time, but are themselves stunning artistic expressions.

 

As I looked at the winning photographs, including the winner in the overall “masterpiece category,” I was reminded that every moment of life is a snapshot. Of course, most moments of my life, and I’m guessing yours, are not transformed into photography.  But the winning pictures got me thinking: If more of my moments were photographed, would that change my approach to those moments? Would I be more mindful? Would I be more thoughtful? Would I be more gentle? Would I be more substantive? Would I be more fun? Would I be more of the things I want to be, but sometimes forget to be?

 

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not condoning a “poser mentality.” There’s nothing worse then faking it for the camera. But perhaps the opposite is also possible. Perhaps the presence of a camera reminds me of my better qualities and my desire to deposit those qualities into my moments.

 

So for today, as I make my way through the moments this day, I’m going to ask this question: If this moment were captured by a photo, what would I want that photo to reveal about me? I encourage you to ask the same question and see how the answer might help you shape the moments of your life.

Snapshots: How do you want the moments of your life to look?2016-10-12T05:36:24-04:00

Coach Performance Through Data

As a leader you want people, including yourself, to increase or enhance performance. After almost 30 years of coaching people, and watching people coach people, here’s one of the most important pieces of advice I can give you about coaching:

 

Coach the performance of people through data.

First, ask these two questions:

  1. What measurements matter to performance?
  2. What is the current variance (above or below norm) of those measurements.

Once you know the answer to those two questions, you coach performance based on the variances in those measurements. If the variance is above the norm, you ask why and how to continue the trend. If the variance is below the norm, then you talk about why and what adaptations to enhance performance.

Without data, you’re just speculating in your coaching. Use data!

Coach Performance Through Data2016-10-05T10:41:12-04:00

Positive Deviance: Don’t Just Obsess On What’s Not Working, Reproduce What Is

We all want ingenious performance to lead us to better results. In order for teams to get those better results, they must help each other evaluate and alter performance. In the pursuit of better results, it’s easy to spend an awful lot of time talking about, and obsessing over, what’s going wrong. The rationale goes like this: if we find and correct what’s wrong, that correction will lead to the better results we desire. There is of course some truth to this. Correcting a negative deviance can indeed help a team do better. There is another kind of deviance, however, that deserves a lot of our attention: a positive deviance.

 

A deviance is a departure from the norm. A negative deviance is below the norm. A positive deviance then is a result that is ABOVE the norm. A positive deviance for a team would be the result of a person (or group) that is delivering better results than the norm. This person or group then would be deemed “high performing.”

 

A person or group is a positive deviance when he or she is delivering results above  the norm.

 

Can you identify the positive deviants–individuals or groups–on your team or in your organization? For example, if the “norm” for a sales associate (in a retail company) is $300 of product per shift, than an associate that consistently sells $500 per shift would be a positive deviant. To find positive deviants in your organization you have to know a few things:

 

  1. What measurements matter with regard to your results?
  2. What is the norm of those measurements (the average)?
  3. Who exceeds the norm on a regular basis?

 

Once you find positive deviants, you have a powerful tool for identifying potential performance enhancements that can be used by others. Here’s a step by step process to use positive deviants to help others enhance performance that leads to better results.

 

Action Step One: Find the individuals or groups that are producing positive deviance (high performers)

Action Step Two: Learn what they do different than others who produce the status quo (Don’t just celebrate positive deviance, LEARN FROM IT. What is the high performer doing that others are not doing?

Action Step Three: Have high performers share with others what they do with other individuals or groups.

Action Step Four: Expect others to incorporate similar behaviors that demonstrated by positive deviants.

Action Step Five:  Expect everyone to come up with new strategies to beat the norm. That is, everyone should be looking for ways to increase results through better performance. Everyone should ask: What can I do to alter my performance so it increases results?

Action Step Six: Be religious about driving results through performance enhancement. Find where performance is high and turn the volume up on it. Find where performance is low, appropriately expose it, and expect people to change it.

 

ONE NOTE OF CAUTION–READ THIS: Sometimes a positive deviance is uniquely tied to an individual or group. Simply imitating the behavior in another group may not lead to the positive boost you’re looking for. In fact, it can crash and burn. Some actions that lead one person to positive deviance may need to be altered or adapted in order for others to find them successful. You have to “mine for behaviors” that are transferable and adapt those that are not.

 

Find your positive deviants and let them lead the way.

 

Positive Deviance: Don’t Just Obsess On What’s Not Working, Reproduce What Is2016-10-03T05:15:40-04:00