Friday, April 29, 2011

Create an Atmosphere of Partnership.

Did you ever work on a team where it seemed that everyone was working against each other? It’s no surprise when such a project or initiative fails. Sometimes you just wish that there were a way to get everyone on the same page.

This was the case on one highway-widening project. The team had to calculate how much asphalt it would take to fill the holes left when they dug out the failed areas of the road. The owner and his contractor’s superintendent went out and measured the area (a square area at that) to be filled. But time after time they just couldn’t agree on the measurement. And that wasn’t the only thing they couldn’t agree on - how long the project would take, how far the work should proceed in a day, what work had been completed, if the work had been completed correctly, or even on what time of the day to meet – they couldn’t agree on anything. Finally, in frustration, the superintendent blew up and was kicked off the job.

How many times have you been involved with a project that is going south and you just don’t know what to do? Here are some concepts that help create a foundation that allows for partnership and teamwork to grow.

Concept #1: Take Ownership of Problems: What happens when a problem occurs? Is your first reaction, “I thought Bob was supposed to do this” or, “I paid a lot of money to get this right” or, “These numbers are just wrong”? If so, the next logical step is to figure out who is to blame for your having this problem. Most of us are very skilled at analyzing who is to blame. Meanwhile, what is happening to the problem that you’ve uncovered…who is trying to resolve it? No one! When blame seeking starts, all communication between team members stops. And if it takes the team two days, two weeks, or two months to begin to talk about the “real” problem, that time can never be recaptured. It is lost forever. This is a huge risk to the success of your project.

It doesn’t matter who created the problem. What does matter is that you understand and resolve the problem quickly so the project (or team) is not damaged. So ownership of problems means that everyone owns the problems. You seek solution not blame.

Concept #2: Commit to Full Disclosure: This means that you tell everyone everything that you know. How can the team possibly create plans or know where the inherent problems are if it doesn’t have the best information. Many times team members hold their cards close to their vests, not revealing everything that they know. They think that this somehow gives then an advantage.

But in fact, when you are working on a project (or on a team) you are interdependent - you need each other in order to succeed. By holding your cards close, causing the other team members to not make the best decisions or plans, you are really hurting yourself as well as the potential success of your project or initiative.

Honestly discussing all problems up front can help you assure success. We know from research that problems occurring after you are underway have a greater impact than problems identified and worked out during the planning phase. So at the very start of your project or initiative take time for the team members to share what each sees as potential problems. Then you will have time to mitigate the impacts. Full Disclosure means you tell everyone everything that you know – the good, the bad and the ugly.

Concept #3: Empower Others: Team members often get frustrated when they aren’t allowed to make the decisions that they feel are critical for a successful project. Even worse is when a decision they’ve made is overturned by someone higher up in the organization. Pushing the power and decision making down to the project/team level is critical for the success of the project or initiative. When issues leave the project level they tend to grow exponentially in both cost and time. You will generally get better quality decisions from those closest to the issues. Empowering your team members is your best bet for success.

In many organizations power resides away from the project and the team members don’t feel that they can make decisions. Before you start a project/initiative, it is important to figure out ways to empower the team to do whatever they feel is required in order to succeed. Many teams are doomed before they start. Empower Others means you push the decision making down to the project level before you start.

Concept #4: Partnering Requires Commitment: Partnership doesn’t just happen by itself, it takes commitment to build and grow. There will be many things along the way working to spilt up you and your partners. You have to keep together despite them. There will be times when it would be easier to just walk away instead of sitting down face-to-face to work things out – don’t! Sometimes the best commitment you can make is to telling each other the truth and then dealing with it constructively.

If there are legal agreements between you as partners, don’t let them solely define your working relationship. The judicial process is adversarial by design. This can undermine the ability to build the partnering relationships required to succeed. You can’t be both “partners” and “adversaries”, they are mutually exclusive. Commitment means doing whatever is necessary to keep your partnership alive and well.

Concept #5: Build Trust: Trust is the keystone of partnership. Your partnership will be as good as your ability to create and grow trust between your team members. It allows for open, honest communication. You have more power to create trust than you might think. Your first interaction sets the tone for the relationship. If you go into the relationship trusting and seeking to cooperate and work together, then you are highly likely to get that attitude in return. If you go into the relationship trying to protect your interests and unwilling to be open, that is probably what you will get in return. Game theory shows that cooperative relationships produce larger wins than those where participants are protective and self-serving.

What I’ve learned about trust is that, for a team, “fairness” is the underpinning of creating trust. It is when someone feels that something is “unfair” that trust begins to erode. So when you have a problem or issue, always put “fairness” on the table and discuss it first. What is a fair way to resolve the issue? Most teams can figure it out. Measure the level of trust on your project and you will have a good idea of how successful your project will be.

By using these five concepts you can build the attitude and atmosphere that allows partnership to grow. For most projects/initiatives, working together, not against each other, is the only way they can hope to succeed.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Be Disciplined in Small Things.

Your future life is governed by a series of choices which you make. Little choices. Hourly, daily, weekly choices.

Most people always choose the “candy now” option. This route leads to failure, I promise you that. Every little choice they make is an “instant gratification” choice - to watch another hour of TV, to sleep late again, to go down the pub again, to have some entertainment, to lie in at the weekend, to buy some more goodies, to book a holiday they can't afford, and so on.

Life, you know, is incredibly short. Those of you over forty will know this already; those between 30 and 40 will be glimpsing the truth of this, and those under 30 probably still think they are immortal. I certainly did!

But, you know, the rewards of life come to the doers, not the talkers. This is so true. You receive riches from life in direct proportion to the amount of effort you put in. True again.

There is no “miracle” short cut to wealth - basically, it's about getting off one's backside and actually fighting, daring and winning against the system.

That's really it.

It's a fight now, just as it was a hundred years ago, or a thousand years ago, for that matter. The rules have changed, but the game remains the same.

You need a better life and more money? Here's an important key to wealth:

Life doesn't respond to needs, wishes or desires. It laughs straight back in your face. Only your disciplined effort right now will plant the seeds of future crop which will meet your needs.

To complain that your needs should be filled right now is effectively to say: “I have needs. Someone else should work and slave so that my needs might be provided for.”

What would the soil say to your statement “I need some corn”? Why, the answer would be “Bring me your seed and your sweat!” The soil would not care a finger snap for your needs. Who cares about your needs? Nobody. Furthermore the seed alone is not enough, is it? You must also plant, tend, water and hoe it.

These activities can be summed-up by the phrase “disciplined effort.” Effort means the sweat of your brow; discipline means meticulously and regularly applied. A little each day. Gradually. This is how the rewards build up over the years. Not in a rush. You don't hoe, weed and water all in one day and expect a bumper crop the next. No, it doesn't work like this. You hoe a little one day, weed the next, water when it's dry, then go right back to hoeing.

Sound like hard work?

Welcome to the real world.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I Give UP!

Easter week has come and gone, Spring is here and every day is filled with opportunities to practice conscious choice, rather than reacting habitually out of old patterns of belief. I hope you have chosen to be awake and on the watch out for those times when unconscious thoughts and words land us in victim-hood.

I often remind clients that landing in victim-hood is normal, even inevitable. There is no judgment about how many times we get caught up in victim-hood. What matters is how long we stay there. It is our return to reality that is important.

When you are upset about something, ask yourself these questions:
What negative thought is causing me distress right now?
Am I willing to observe what happens when I believe that thought?
Am I willing to get honest with myself about what I see?
Or am I looking for something out there to blame?

One way that a victim mind-set manifests itself in our lives is through an attitude of defeat.

Here is a sample of how an "I give up" story might be played out in life:

As a child: If a parent repeatedly says, "You can't get it right. Give it here, I'll do it!" We decide, "I give up".

"I give up" becomes the life theme. It becomes the central core around which we create a victim story that we then verify over and over. The life theme/victim story becomes our identity. We take on a 'victim ego.'

As life progresses the "I give up" story might play out like this:

In Youth:
School is too hard. I can't do it. I give up.
I'm not any good at sports. I give up.
I'm not good enough. I give up.

As Young Adult:
This marriage is too hard, it will never work. I give up.
These kids are impossible. They won't listen to me. I give up.

In Mid-life:
I'll never succeed in my career. I give up.
Dieting is too hard and I can't control my eating. I give up.
I never complete anything, why even start. I give up.
I am getting old and I can't make myself exercise. I give up.

During Senior Years:
I can't remember well anymore and it's too hard to follow the conversation. I give up.
I am too old to get better. My body doesn't work right anymore. I give up.
I can't beat this disease. I give up.

On Deathbed:
I cannot get well. I give up.
It takes too much effort to live. I give up.
It's too late for me. I give up.

"I give up" is an insidious mind set that robs us of life on every front. Instead of claiming victory for our lives, this mind set establishes us as losers who settle for scarcity, poor health and unhappy circumstances. I've worked with clients who started giving up on life as children, inch by inch, so that by the time they were young adults they barely functioned at all!

Of course, there is an appropriate time for 'giving up.' There are lots of things that, after much deliberation and clearing, we need to give up, i.e. let go of such things as, attitudes, beliefs, jobs, addictions, relationships, things that are not furthering us need to be surrendered. This is not the kind of 'giving up' being addressed here. I speak of the kind of giving up that is never appropriate to do;

It is never appropriate to give up on ourselves, our lives, or Source.

Giving up on any of these lands us in a state of victim-hood.

What is the antidote for "I give up?" A will to live - founded on gratitude!

When we find ourselves wanting to give up on ourselves or life, we turn our full attention to Source and proclaim victory over victim by saying things like:

No matter how many mistakes I make I keep going forward. I learn from them and get better and better all the time. I never give up on me.

I know that no matter how hard what I'm trying to learn seems, I will improve with practice. I will practice until I am able to do it with ease and proficiency. I do not give up.

I rise above my circumstances and grow from them. I understand that my life trials prepare me for leadership and future success. I am confident in my ability to realize my goals. I continue, one foot in front of the other, always moving forward. I never give up on my life.

I know that the difficulties I experience in my marriage or with my children are intended to grow me into a better, more conscious and forgiving person. Therefore I seek to understand my own reactions first, rather than fixate on how they need to be different.

I never give up on love.

I take full responsibility for my decisions in my relationship. I know, whether we stay together or not, that this relationship was meant to be and that I have grown from our time together.

I never give up on reality.

No matter what dis-ease I am dealing with, I know that healing is possible.

I never give up on life.

No matter how old I am, I live fully alive every single moment. I will never be too old to feel my oneness with a Source that loves me. I never give up on Source.

Wishing you a lifetime of never giving up!

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