A Social Contract – Why you won’t survive without one?

When was the last time you found yourself all alone.. in a dangerous dark alley.. and on the wrong side of town?

You’ve been strolling down a beautiful path of endless optimism, hope and opportunity. Suddenly you realize something has just drastically changed! You’ve made a sudden wrong turn and now find yourself, with the exception of the “thugs”  that intend to provoke physical and emotional harm, all alone in an obviously dangerous place!

What do you do? Who’s got your back? Who’s going to help you get out of the predicament you’ve just found yourself in? Who’s going to stand with you and deal with what’s to come?

Does this sound like a scary scenario? Unfortunately it’s all too frequent!

Let me take you back a few weeks when I had the privilege to be amongst illustrious fellow mentors at the Barcelona mini-seed camp. The night before, as I looked over the agenda, my excitement peaked when I realized that I would be in close quarters with the “legendary” Fred Destin of Atlas Venture. “Legendary” you ask?!?! Well, anytime highly successful entrepreneurs refer to a VC as someone they hold in high regard and respect, first my eyes open wide, then my ears perk up and finally I sit at attention ready to listen!

The very next day this reputation was cemented based on Fred’s shared view of “Social Contracts”. In turn I redefined how I viewed this critical catalyst for success. What I would later read in Fred’s blog couldn’t have prepared me for the wild and wacky, sometimes borderline ethical, tales of business dealings that go on between entrepreneurs and VC’s.

A few days later, Fred agreed to a Skype call, generously shared his perspective on Social Contracts, and here’s what I came away with:

  • A Social Contract is an “understanding” or gentleman’s agreement between two parties
    • To be effective, it supersedes the required legal contracts that govern a relationship
  • A Social Contract is bound by honor, integrity and will become most relevant during critical “moments of truth” yet to come
    • It will get all parties safely through the tough times and hard decisions that are guaranteed in any venture
  • You establish a Social Contract based on a firm hand-shake, a confident stare into the white of the eyes and a mutual respect that you’re both in this journey for the “long-haul”
    • It’s two “human beings” coming together to form an “enterprise”
    • It’s a relationship where either party recognizes the requirement to stand-up against pressure that is sure to come from business and likely life partners, as the journey get’s complicated and the waters become muddied
  • A Social Contract isn’t something entered into lightly and often needs to be the preceded by a multi-hour brainstorming session to guarantee the like-minded intentions of both parties
    • It’s the basis of how you’re about to govern your relationship whilst executing on an agreed 12 to 18 month business plan
    • It has little to do with the financial plan and more to do with the necessary “pivoting of strategy” that is sure to come
  • It’s an investment into the long-term strategy and is based more on the soft assets that are critical in a “moment of truth” vs. the hard assets that traditionally formulate a Business Plan

Our conversation reinforced the practical nature of “working agreements” that I’ve always felt are necessary for any engagement. I take relationships very seriously and just as I would expect my “friends” (vs. acquaintances) to never leave me stranded in an unfortunate circumstance, regardless of who’s at fault for getting us into the mess, I also expect my Social Contract counterpart to stand-up and fight with me regardless of the danger we’re about to face.

Practical Experience

1- The Entrepreneur and their Partner; In similar situations, within the past 12 months I can recount two separate entrepreneurs that “were left hanging” when their supposed partners “parked-it” and quit on them in the midst of the most significant challenges the venture was experiencing. In both cases the entrepreneur was at fault for getting themselves into trouble, more based on inexperience than reckless abandon, yet the partner “checked-out” and left them “hanging in the lurch”. They tried to make it about who’s right or wrong, over-looking that they were both, along with other investors, about to loose their shirts! Fortunately, the entrepreneurs’ resilience, along with a strong network of friends and allies helped pick themselves up by the boot-straps and out of immediate danger.

Both entrepreneurs paid a significant and costly price by either missing time-to-market or suffering a significant devaluation in equity, but most importantly, they learned a crucial lesson in Social Contracts.

2- The Employer and their Employee; Recently I’ve seen the same thing happen in three separate organizations with Senior Executives. This is yet another reason I identified so strongly with the core concept of Fred’s Social Contract. Too often the employee/employer relationship hasn’t been tested under difficult circumstances and when the moment of truth finally comes, especially in a critical situation such as a start-up or hyper-growth environment, the “paid/contracted resource” isn’t up to the task of facing the required adversity! Rather than having the courage to support their leader, or quit outright, they “park-it”, leaving their leader and their company “out-to-dry”. Later, they move onto another company, never taking full responsibility  to the true consequences of their actions, or lack there of.

I always share with employers that often it’s more important to know what NOT to count on than assume what you believe you can count on. Unless the relationship has been tried and tested under adverse conditions, you’re better planning off for, and expecting the worst, whilst hoping for the best.

3- The Friend and the Bar Room Brawl; Several years back, I’d like to think it were only a few ;-), when I was still living in Philadelphia and a few years “younger and innocent”, I was hanging out on South Street in South Philadelphia with 4 “close” friends. We had entered an outside bar that was protected from the street walking traffic by 2 meter high iron gates. In essence, no easy way out! We had all had a few drinks however one particular friend had too much to drink when he decided to cause trouble.  I bet you can imagine what happened next. First I tried to refrain him from being an absolute idiot, but he insisted. Then I tried to mediate the situation before it was 6 against 2! 6 guys staring me and my mate down. Where were my other two friends? They had “checked-out” and left the bar as soon as they saw we were out-numbered and headed for trouble. Later they justified that they hadn’t started the trouble so therefore they shouldn’t have to “face the music”.

The end result were some broken chairs, broken tables and my friend and I were barred from South Street for the next 6 months by the Philadelphia Police Department. We walked away with a little more humility and a few bumps and bruises to show for our stupidity. I slapped my mate over the head and promised to kick him in the pants if he ever did that again! The relevant fact was, I didn’t leave his side, neither would he have left mine. See, we had a bond stronger than words or any legal agreement! We had a Social Contract that we had entered into a few years before, which was to stand-by each other, be the times good or bad, regardless of who stuffed-up. Much like how most marriages are supposed to work! 😉

My closing questions to you are;

  • How secure is your Social Contract with the partners you have in your business or life?
    • Have you faced any moments of truth lately?
      • How did your partners stand-up in the face of adversity, regardless of who was to blame for the mess you found yourselves in?
    • What lessons can you take from that situation?

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Reducing your Employee Churn/Burn Rate & Getting Results

What is the most value asset you have in your company? You shouldn’t have to think too hard! It’s the people that execute on your strategy.

So why do you always seem to be “the last man left standing” in your organization?

I’ll share with you the answer, followed by two key lessons & one practical example/result as to the “why” of so many company’s having challenges in retaining staff these days. An especially complex issue to understand, given the current economical crisis, is the unemployment rates around the world are still incredibly high.

The Answer is that we, as leaders, typically do a very poor job of recruitment, induction, ongoing management & assessment of our most valuable assets. And the general root cause is through poor communication and lack of courage!

Personally, even though sometimes hard to swallow, I firmly believe in the 90/10 rule, which states that if one of your staff isn’t working out, it’s 90% YOUR fault.. & only 10% theirs!

Do you think I’m being harsh, unfair & unrealistic? Well, consider this.. who’s in the drivers seat?

  • Who (ultimately) did, or approved the hiring?
  • How clear were you in defining and communicating the Mission & Vision of the company?
    • Did you receive acknowledgment, or other form of undeniable proof that you were clearly understood?
  • How clear were you in defining the role to be fulfilled & the specific outcomes to be expected of the role?
    • Key words being “role & specific outcome”.. forget job description!
  • How clear were you in communicating the behaviors you expected whilst your team executed on your plan?
    • How did you manage the first signs of lack in performance or alignment with your vision, message and/or expectations?
  • How often did you sit down to agree S.M.A.R.T. objectives/goals?
    • How frequently did you follow-up to make necessary adjustments?
    • How quickly did you put someone on a performance plan when they didn’t deliver on what was agreed?
  • How much planning & thought went into the induction, education/training, mentoring or skills acquisition process the individual needed to succeed?
    • How much coaching or mentoring did you consider to be required from yourself, or senior/more experienced staff?
  • How quickly, and how brave were YOU in having “the difficult & uncomfortable conversations”?
    • Are you paying & rewarding your staff to perform?
      • Are you doing the opposite?
      • How are you motivating/encouraging non-performance/conformance?

I could go on & on.. but I think you get the point! It’s YOUR company, YOUR department or YOUR team, and therefore YOU are the ultimate responsible person for the outcome/output of everyone’s role. If things aren’t working out then look inward before you look outward, and once you’ve completed this assignment take responsibility to make the immediate & necessary adjustments.

Lesson #1

  • Be crystal clear on Your Vision & communicate it… communicate it… communicate it…
    • Who needs to do What, How & by When?
      • This requires acknowledgment & buy-in, however remember you’re the boss (90% responsibility), so make sure that “your team” buys into “your plan”, even if you need their help in constructing it, and not the opposite!
    • Where do you want your company, area or department to be?
    • When do you expect specific results?
      • When do you expect escalations when things are in danger, or aren’t going according to plan?
    • How do you want (expect) your employees to behave, handle themselves and handle adversity (which is sure to come)?
      • What are the rules of engagement?
    • What are the boundaries & non-boundaries that you expect people to respect & understand?
      • What are the focus areas they’re supposed to be focused on in order to achieve success?
  • Be crystal clear on Your Mission… & communicate it… communicate it… communicate it…
    • Why do you want your people to behave in a certain manner?
    • Why do you need your people to achieve certain results?
    • Why do you require specific results within specific time frames?
    • Why is the company in business to begin with?

I’ve embedded the Core Values, which are the “behaviors” or “rules for the road” within the context of the Who, What, Where, When, Why & How above. That, in short, is your Core Ideology!

Lesson #2

The next biggest lesson you might have to learn, is regarding COURAGE. Courage to stand-up to the “know-it all’s” who’ve never run an enterprise but have every theory in the book as to how your organization should run! I find these days far too many companies have “grayed the line” between “boss & employee” and between responsible for direction & responsible for execution. If you’re going to take 90% responsibility for the failure of an organization, you need to get straight, and clearly understand, who’s “experienced” and better still “paid to run the show”.

In order to deliver on the above, you need the right skill-set that’s for sure, and you also need to have the backbone to “listen first” and “act accordingly second”. Acknowledging someone’s perspective and giving them voice doesn’t mean that you have to take their advice or recommendations over your own experienced opinion or gut instinct/intuition. It only makes you more responsible and accountable to the eventual decisions you make.

Once you’ve guaranteed success, then you can stand back, be humble and allow your team to bask in the glory of having executed excellently on a plan. Take 90% of the responsibility, give 90% of the credit and you’ll have an effective & motivated team!

I’ve spent hours-upon-hours giving practical workshops to MBA students who have paid a pretty penny to gain a highly valuable education, just like I’ve spent hours-upon-hours with both managers and employees who’ve read the latest books containing magical and earth moving experiences. What I always share with them is that “now you have the logic, it’s time to go out into the real world to implement and execute”.

The execution of an idea is always more important than the brilliance of a thought, or even a strategy. A brilliant thought without effective execution is merely an illusion. A brilliant strategy, without effective execution, is merely a waste of everyone’s energy & time.

Practical Example/Result

I recently walked into an assignment that demanded many changes in a short period of time. Multiple colleagues had just been fired for non performance and conformance. I was walking into an understandably hostile environment!

I stood in front of a room and shared my “what” followed by my “why”. Then came my “how”, where I told them that I only expected  1/2 (!?!?) of the output, dedication and commitment that I was willing to put in myself! However, I also advised them that I typically give 300% to every assignment!!

I explained that I would give them 48 hours to go through the grieving process of having lost their colleagues, followed by 15 days to be at 80% or better, and showing signs they would be at 150% by day 30.

I committed myself to complete transparency & communication, just as I would to holding them as accountable (where & when) as I would hold myself. I shared with them that there would be 2 day, 15 day & 30 day milestones, at which time I would have conversations with non-performers & either implement a performance plan or retire them. I would also make it a regular habit to commend the good performances along the way.

I shared with them that in a 24 hour weekday, I’m hoping you have 8 hours of sleep, and I’ll guarantee you that more than 50% of the remaining 16h will be based on, or thinking about, “work”. Therefore, if you’re going to dedicate more than 50% of your “awake” time to “work” during a 5 day work week rather than to your loved ones & special interests, it’s absolute lunacy to work in a place where you’re not motivated and inspired. As a consequence, if I ask you or if you decide to leave, then we’re only doing each other a favor based on a general concern & well-being for all.

Result

One person left within 48 hours, a few more within the first 15 days, then a few more within the next 15 days. Along the way change happened, a pride which previously didn’t exist filled the department! Results, followed by customer satisfaction, started to sparkle where it didn’t exist before. THEY, the last ones standing, did all of the work. I merely gave them direction and the opportunity to be everything I already knew they could be.

Top 3 things to focus on when fixing what’s broken

Having just finished up another successful assignment at a hyper growth enterprise, and noting that the core principles of success were again very similar to many other situations faced over the past +25 years, I thought I’d share my 3 areas of focus.

I should add to this that two days before I departed, an interested 2nd line manager/team leader asked if I could share with him some insights. He had witnessed remarkable changes in a very short period of time, and whilst I had been very busy with first line management, he recognized the possibility to learn some very practical & valuable lessons directly himself.

It inspired me that again we had been able to affect collateral interest, as well as a desire for change deeper within the organization, so I rallied the entire 2nd line leadership team and spent the next 2 hours giving them some day-to-day examples of the following:

  • Customer Centricity – Focus on the Customer
    • We have Internal Customers
      1. Every person in every department, in one way or another, facilitates the servicing of External Customers
      2. By serving the needs of our Internal Customers, we are either directly or indirectly addressing the needs of our External Customers
      3. Open up the lines of communication & ownership by first committing to, and then respecting, bi-lateral Service Level Agreements
    • We have External Customers
      1. Shift from a systems interoperability focus to a successful customer purchasing focus
      2. Now start to look for opportunities to enrich & enhance the customer purchasing experience
      3. Open up the lines of communication & ownership by first committing to, and then respecting, Service Level Agreements
  • Ownership – Never let go until you’re satisfied
    • Ownership is a like a hungry dog with a bone.. you never let go until you’re satisfied the hunger is quenched
      1. You can never assume the client, internal or external, is satisfied with a solution until you have direct confirmation/validation from/of the same
      2. Every obstacle is merely an opportunity for you to find another alternative path to a solution
      3. Don’t accept that a problem can’t be fixed until you’ve exhausted every means, including escalated your concern to the highest level within your organization
    • Ownership is like a football team moving forward to score a goal, just because you’ve passed the ball forward, your contribution to the goal isn’t over until the ball is in the net & you’re embracing your colleagues in celebration
      1. Just because you’ve forwarded a need or requirement, your job isn’t done until you’ve confirmed/validated that the next person is carrying out the necessary task(s) until the “client” is satisfied
      2. Trust is good..  but verification is proof.. & much.. much better!
      3. Confirm the goal! Confirm with the “client” that they’ve gotten the result they expected, and then celebrate the WIN/GOAL/SCORE & never just the great pass
  • Communication – “Engage with..” instead of “talking to..”
    • Communication is a bi-directional inter-activity & never a uni-lateral conversation
      1. Effective communication requires active empathetic listening
      2. Effective communication is never assuming that you know what the other person has just said, but repeating it for acknowledgment & confirmation of detail
      3. In effective communication, there is no such thing as “common sense”.. common sense is merely an accumulation of related experiences, and we all have different filters (interpretations & perceptions) based on our past influences
    • More than talking to someone, effective communication is when you confirm that an intention is understood, and the expected outcome has been agreed to by the “actioning party”
      1. To borrow from Engineering terms, effective communications requires an active & affective acknowledgment process (ACK/NAK or checksum), which is an infallible confirmation that what has been requested, has been acknowledge and understood
      2. Effective communications requires a S.M.A.R.T. conversation, with specific confirmation by all parties as to what has been requested vs. what will be delivered by when by whom to where & how

These might sound simple enough that you would actually overlook or underestimate the impact that they are already having on your organization, but the fact is, and I’m willing to be openly challenged on this, you show me a problem in your organization, and I’ll show you where one, if not all of the above are responsible for the lack of results that you know your enterprise is capable of.

How to fix your company in 30 days

Whether you’re a “hired” senior executive or an entrepreneur leading your enterprise to greatness, you’ve probably raised your head from the table more than once and questioned yourself as to “how am I going to fix what’s broken(?)”. And regardless of whether you already have a plan to action on this thought, or not, checking over the following points can only help you fix it faster, better, cheaper.. and maybe even keep you out of bigger trouble than you are already in!

  1. Gut Check Time – How committed are you to affect change in your organization?
    • Are you willing to embrace this opportunity for self reflection & personal awareness/growth?
    • Are you committed to taking the necessary action steps required to fix the situation first, and the root cause second?
  2. Core Ideology Clarity – Do you have, and have you communicated, your organizations Mission, Vision & Core Values?
    • Mission = The Purpose for being (The WHY for your organizations existence)
    • Vision = The Dream you want to manifest (The WHAT of the outcome you want to achieve)
    • Core Values = The Rules for the Road (The HOW you & your team will behave whilst executing your strategy)
  3. Gut Check Time – Do you have proof that your staff/Team have bought into and fully understand your Core Ideology?
    • Do they understand the “why” things need to change?
    • Have you looked them “in the white of their eyes” & confirmed they’re on-board?
      • How are they “living” your Core Ideology day-in / day-out?
  4. Seek “outside & unbiased” contribution from nothing less than a non-consultant consultant
    • As the “owner of your own experience”, don’t shoot yourself in the foot by getting someone who is too close to the business to be objective as to what the true cause for the issues are
    • In fact, the root of the problem might be yourself.. are you ready to admit that?
  5. Validate you have an “Engagement Model” that works
    • Are you communicating “at/to”, or “with” your team?
      • “Communication is a bi-directional activity, and it requires active & empathetic listening
    • Do you have a One-Page Plan, or similar framework to ensure that you and your team are literally on the same page in what concerns your goals & objectives
    • Do you have regular review/Pulse Check cycles? – “People don’t do what you expect, they do what you inspect
      • 15m Daily Huddles?
      • 1h Weekly Strategic Meetings?
      • 2h Monthly Sanity Check & Planning Meetings?
      • Half Day Quarterly Strategic Review & Adjustment Sessions?
      • Semi-Annual Full-Day Strategic Alignment & Planning Workshops Off-Site?
      • Annual Full-Day/Two-Day Strategic Alignment, Planning & Executing Your Strategy?
    • Do you have Periodic Performance Review Cycles with your Team?
    • What’s your feedback loop to track & measure progress along the way?
      • How do you ensure you’re hitting your milestones in a timely manner?
      • What’s your escalation process to avoid surprises & keep you in the drivers seat?
  6. Gut Check TimeAre you Strategy or Execution focused?
    • The execution of an idea is ALWAYS more important than the brilliance of the thought!
      • Don’t get hung-up on a beautiful strategy if you’re not going to be able to execute on it
        • Do you have the proper (and proven) skill-set on-board to execute?
  7. Communicate, Communicate & Communicate again
    • Don’t take anything for granted!
    • Keep up the communication with your team, and those you need support from to keep everyone motivated
    • Circulate results & celebrate wins!
    • Look / seek out “quick wins” to boost confidence & motivation
      • Get some air beneath your wings
    • Praise the great work!
    • Address set-backs as opportunities for learning & growth!
    • Give your plan “teeth”!!
      • Make sure there are consequences for non conformance!
  8. Celebrate as a TEAM, so that you can repeat success as, and when needed, to overcome any challenge

It really is that simple! The complexity comes when you have to judge how bad things have gotten and for how long. How corrupt or rotten has your company culture become? This is the difference between a 30 day, 3 month, or a 3 year fix. This will be the significant reason why your employee churn will be single or double digits. The deeper the already ingrained bad habits, the longer it will take to build new & healthy habits! Remember, you don’t stop doing things wrong, you learn how to start doing things right! You don’t stop practicing bad habits, you learn & practice new healthy & productive habits! It takes up to 21 consecutive days of practicing a new healthy habit before it becomes ingrained in your DNA, so you have to be persistent & diligent.

Finally, if you can find a way to make it fun & rewarding, then you’re going to increase the probability & speed of your success.

The delicate art of consulting

March 28, 2010 1 comment

Wikipedia’s definition of a consultant states; “from the Latin consultare means “to discuss”, from which we also derive words such as consul and counsel, and is a professional who provides advice in a particular area of expertise“.

A Swedish friend of mine’s father likes to refer to consultants as “animals that have been neutered, because they have the “tools” but don’t know what to do with them”.

I’m sure that a long time before I started to exert my profession, the profession itself was much more than just “giving advice”. That it was actually about someone coming into your organization, rolling up their sleeves, and standing toe-to-toe with you as you faced your, at times, seemingly insurmountable challenges. That latter image is NOT what I’ve seen for the past two decades and therefore why I often become uneasy when I’m referred to as a “consultant”.

Much like “coaching”, the term “consultant” has been used and abused in so many circumstances, typically taking advantage of clients in desperate situations, or larger organizations looking for someone else to make the decisions they’re too afraid to make themselves.

Now allow me to introduce you to “Winston Wolf“, the “Non-Consultant Consultant”, the guy who solves problems! Now that’s what I’m talking about, that’s what I’m passionate about, and that’s what I believe clients should be paying for; “solving problems“.

The non-consultant consultant takes on an assignment, bringing to the table years of proven experience as a senior executive in some of the most challenging circumstances. He’s not fresh out of an MBA loaded with someone else’s case studies , nor is he theory heavy & practical results light. He rolls up his sleeves & stands shoulder to shoulder with his client fixing problems & creating new opportunities along the way. He’s the first one into the office & one of the last to leave!

At times, clients may find themselves in challenging situations, economically challenged to pay our fees, and that’s when the non-consultant consultant agrees with them “what success looks like as a consequence of their engagement“. Following which they schedule partially guaranteed fees, with the remaining payout ONLY taking place in-lieu of the agreed successful outcome.

Now that really makes the client feel you’re taking just as many risks as they are, taking ownership for your proposed solutions, that you personally implement, or over see, and when they experience the joy of achievement, it becomes a mutual celebration!

Another characteristic of the non-consultant consultants’ engagements are that they ingrain themselves so much into the fabric of their clients’ workforce, empowering as many of them as possible, passing along knowledge & practical experience as is relevant to their specific situations. In doing so, they’re quickly adopted as “one of the team” & no longer seen as an “outside consultant”. The ensuing trust that is deposited allows for greater results in a shorter period of time.

Finally, irregardless of the specifics of the assignment, the non-consultant consultant works for their clients as if it were their own company, vigilant & attentive to provide additional value in areas outside of their direct intervention, thus creating significant collateral benefit without ever asking for an additional cent!

Key outcomes of the delicate art of consulting:

  1. Problems Solved
  2. Opportunities Created
  3. Shared Risk / Shared Reward
  4. Practical Hands-on Experience
  5. Empowering
  6. Effective Results
  7. Ownership

How does that sound to you?

Overcoming Adversity – Why it’s mission critical !!

February 11, 2010 3 comments

Adversity (Adversity = Obstacles) in our day-to-day lives is 10 times greater today than it was 21 years ago! In today’s competitive environment, this alarmingly record pace will only continue to grow! 21 years of research by Dr. Paul G. Stoltz‘s Adversity Quotient (AQ) program shows that we’ve gone from experiencing (on average) 3 instances of adversity, to 29 instances each day!

Having had my my fair share of adversity over the course of my yet young 😉 lifetime, I especially appreciated & identified with the recent HBR Article “How to Bounce Back from Adversity“.

Yesterday, as part of my own research process in search of ever improving tools for resolving my client’s “challenges”, I had the privilege to have a 1h exchange with this leading edge expert in dealing with adversity. What did I learn? Allot of what I already suspected, but putting it into a whole new perspective, and best yet, accompanied with some powerfully magnificent tools.

My key-take-away:

  • AQ is to Human Resilience what IQ is to Human Intelligence
  • As humans, in work, at home & at play, over our lifetime we all fall into 3 categories
    • Quitters
    • Campers
      • Typically settle for “what is”, even though they may “aspire” for more
      • Studies show 60 to 90% representative of a typical workforce
    • Climbers
      • Consistently action their “aspire” mode & aim to over-achieve
  • Our (instinctive or amygdala) Reptilian Response can be overridden by our (rational) Frontal Cortex
    • Reptilian Response is 10% genetic & 90% programed by external stimuli
      • initial “hard wiring” starts in our childhood/formative years
    • We’re not doomed to live as we have been “hardwired” and we can “choose” to act based on more rational judgment & thought
      • depending on many varying factors, professional help, including personal development such as a Landmark Forum program might be required to learn new habits & re-program/override your natural/instinctive responses

More detailed information from the source themselves can be found in 3 wonderful videos well worth investing 30 minutes (in total).

Let’s get practical! Obstacles can be anything from the expected phone call that isn’t returned, to the promotion we didn’t get, to the love that isn’t reciprocated as “we would have expected. And whilst the “quitter” will allow adversity to freeze them in their very tracks and give-in, the “camper” will settle for “that’s life” and there isn’t much I can do to change it (walking dead/drones), and the climber will momentarily “lick his/her wounds” and get on with the business of turning an obstacle into an opportunity.

Another practical example is the child or adult that based on the circumstantial surroundings of his upbringing, sees challenges as insurmountable obstacles that are “the end of the world” (basically “quits”), or the finance director that instead of taking the initiative of a 5 minute Google search to overcome an obstacle, delays a significant process by “camping” and adopting an ingrained habit of writing one more e-mail, resulting in a “found solution” being delayed to, at the very least, the next business day.

How is that last decision affecting your business these days?

The fact that “who you (currently) are” (different from “what you are”) has already been pre-determined when you were a child, doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to succumb to that fact.  You can change “who you can become” at any time you want. Only 10% of our behavior is genetic, and therefore if the remaining 90% are externally influenced (yes, we’ve been programed by family, friends & surroundings), with the roots being established very early on in childhood when we naturally imitate the people that surround us, then we can make the choice to “re-program” our internal circuitry. I liken it to a phrase I commonly use which is “your current reality is only the consequence of your thoughts & ensuing actions to-date, whereas your future (or dream) is completely within your control, your choices only being limited by either the lack of a plan (strategy) or “limiting beliefs“. Pretty straightforward, no..?

Just because we are “programed” at an early age, this doesn’t take away our “choice” to act as we would like, it only means that we will have to work harder at it to reprogram ourselves by developing & ingraining new habits into our decision process. A decision is merely an action based on a previous thought, so by understanding & following this process, we can establish an “override” from our reptilian/instinctive part of our brain that has us “react”, moving our decisions & consequent actions/outcomes to our more rational frontal cortex of  our brain. Another way to state that is that the “re-programing” or “override” can be effectively done in many ways, and most effectively by creating control disciplines for ourselves to consciously make decisions that override our ingrained habits (reptilian brain) and re-wire new habits based on choices that are actually much better for us & well thought out. At least that’s my take on what happens, seeing as I’m merely an enthusiastic amateur in the field of psychology.

For myself, it’s taken allot of life mistakes, along with some professional counseling, including breakthrough Landmark Forum session a few years back, to get my head around how I can effectively gain greater control over what many would call our “monkey brain/mind“. AQ is an exceptionally robust and globally proven predictor of human resilience, energy, capacity, effectiveness, and performance. Your AQ also influences your optimism, innovation, problem-solving and decision-making abilities, income, health, and perseverance.

Like anything in life, in order for you to affect change, there are three basic steps that have to first take place before you experience “success”, and that is to:

  1. Gage it
  2. Understand it
  3. Improve it (reinforcement challenge)

I’ve worked with allot of different methods, but having taken the AQ Profile Exercise last night, I can say from first hand experience that it is a revolutionary simple 10-15 minute survey that will have you immediately understand your “starting point”, or “base-camp”, seeing as AQ’s tools like to comparison mountain climbing. And remember, that’s only the beginning, a full program will definitely get you (and your team) powerfully headed back on that journey to the top of your summit!

At our core, we are in our personal life as we are in our professional. The roots of your behavioral characteristics can’t be segmented in a sustainable & scalable fashion. You can either allow the energy of adversity to hold you back, or harness that same energy to fuel you powerfully forward!

It’s your choice.. so what’s your next move?

The best effectiveness tool I’ve used to-date

February 8, 2010 2 comments

I was looking for a cheap & easy “time tracking” tool, and so Google search began ;-), & then I ran across a tool last week that claimed to be “the world’s best time tracking application”, but what I found instead was so much more!

Before I share with you how Harvest has revolutionized my day-today effectiveness, let me preface this post by saying “it’s not always about the tool in itself, but what you do with that tool that can absolutely rock your world!”

I’ll proceed to explain..

  • I was looking for free, but effectiveness was the overriding factor
    • at $12 USD per month for the base subscription, given the added value, it’s better than anything you could wish for
      • reality check (!!), you can blow 12 bucks at Starbucks by just having a second cup of coffee
  • I was looking for a one dimensional tool, but wishing for more..
    • and I got more than I could ever have dreamt.. it’s quick, easy, pain free, educational  & very forgiving
      • a “triple threat” (on my apple environment) that equals “killer productivity, ease of use & pleasant experience”
        • dashboard synced w/ online app allows quick & easy start, stop & pause
        • iPhone app synced w/ online app allows my mobile/on-the-spot tracking w/ same functionality/ease of use
        • on-line app that is highly intuitive & easy to configure
      • the “forgiving tool” send you an e-mail alert if you’ve left a timer on too long, and allows you to easily & quickly go back & correct it
  • I was looking to track my time & client engagements and discovered how I was sabotaging my productivity
    • by stopping to review my day’s activities I discovered how much non-revenue generating activities I was doing, and therefore able to make an immediate adjustment
      • justified “investment” in client growth & building potential and therefore able to better quantify my cost-of-sale per client
        • helps me decide which clients to weed out in future
      • allowed me to charge for activities that I “giving away”
      • allows me to better value my time by understanding how much “real” time (much to my surprise) certain activities take
        • in turn allows me to identify hidden costs & better justify/have my client acknowledge true costs related to activities (thus additional revenue)
      • cheap, quick & effective way to accurately track my time on a project for immediate upload to invoices
  • I was able to increase my work-life balance
    • by setting up my family as “projects” I was able to allocate specific tasks/time that were important toward the education of my children, and I became conscious of how I was “unconsciously premeditatedly” boxing myself into a corner by not allocating enough time for my wife, and the necessary sleep to recharge my batteries
      • from a personal perspective, there is NO price that I could place on this benefit
        • it may sound “anal”, but it’s a simple process to make sure you think about the 24 hours you have in each day, and how to allocate that time toward your “true” priorities”!

As my wife would say in her “Aussie way” OMG (short for Oh My God) what a find! For what the tool claims to be, it’s “hands down” the best tool I’ve ever seen to seamlessly be able to track your time & ensure that you’re billing every available billable hour. The iPhone, dashboard & internet app inter-connectivity & inter-interoperability just blew my socks off & actually makes a traditionally painstaking & highly boring process, fun (something I enjoy) & emotionally rewarding!

The icing on the cake, is that it has a 30 free trial period with no intrusive credit card information required upfront, and what really blew my socks was when “Danny” (a Harvest Customer Service rep) pro-actively followed up via e-mail within 48 hours of my trialing the tool to see if I needed any help! WOW!!!!

I’ve only been using it for the past week, and this weekend I discovered how it easily, and again seamlessly inter-acts with my Basecamp app, and therefore upping my productivity by keeping me from having to perform multiple update to multiple application!

Whether you’re looking to get better control of your billable time, or looking for a great tool to help you quickly analyze where you’re allocating your time on an ongoing basis, I would have to say that I have found “a of gold at the end of the rainbow”!! 🙂