Tag Archives: Motivation

ASAP

As soon as you saw the title of this post, you knew what I meant. An efficient abbreviation borrowed from the U.S. military, ASAP is now generally understood across disciplines and industries. When your boss sends you an email that reads, “I need to hear back from you ASAP,” you drop everything else and attend to the request.

We are a culture that loves to get things done, well, ASAP. Between emails, direct deposits, texts and a myriad of other technologies, we’ve essentially abolished the need to wait for anything. Except at the DMV.

Usually, this works out great for us and for our coworkers and customers. But that’s only when the answer or solution is apparent at first glance. The problem with living in an ASAP culture is that not all of our challenges can be solved with a half-hour meeting and a few three sentence emails.

We work and live in a world where many situations are complex and intricate—whether that’s negotiating contracts and company mergers or trying to come up with a new way to keep the interest of a room full of fifth graders. And, as I’m sure you’ve experienced, sometimes the first solution that strikes you is not always the best solution. ASAP decisions run the risk of completely missing out on a factor or a detail that might further complicate our entire project.

As I thought about this problem I came across an article about Harvard professor of humanities Jennifer L. Roberts. In an art history class Roberts asked each of her students to choose one painting to be the subject of their term paper. Part of completing the assignment was to visit the painting (in person, if possible) and study it for three hours.

As you can imagine, her students were not exactly thrilled at the idea of staring at a single work of art for the better part of an afternoon. And, as someone who is easily distracted by shiny things, I am positive that I would have failed Professor Roberts’ art history class.

However, for the brave souls that did attempt the assignment, something interesting happened. The students reported that as they studied the paintings, they began to notice details that, while they didn’t seem important at first, were actually critical to understanding and appreciating the work. For many of them, this dramatically changed the focus and direction of their term papers. Roberts explained it this way, “…there are details and orders and relationships that take time to perceive.”

Although Roberts is referring to art, I believe the same principle is true in our professional environments. There are details and orders and relationships that take time to perceive. Think about starting a new job. For at least the first two weeks you are overwhelmed with learning how to do your assignments within the context of a new company. You’re learning your way around a new office. You’re figuring out a computer program or network that you’ve never used before. And on top of all that, you’re trying to navigate the interpersonal relationships of your new coworkers. It may take you weeks before you figure out how to use the copy machine!

I believe that when it comes to finding solutions or making big decisions, we don’t need to rush. What if we looked at these situations like one of the art students? You may not have three hours to think about a problem, but I bet you could find ten or fifteen minutes to jot down some ideas. And you may be surprised at the details and relationships that slowly come to light as you put the brakes on for a few minutes.

The Solution to #SochiProblems

I was rolling in laughter as my daughter read me some of the tweets chronicled under #SochiProblems during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Olympics. Armed with Twitter feeds and lightning-fast zingers, reporters have ravaged the city’s preparation for the Olympics more cruelly than the packs of stray dogs still (according to Twitter) wandering the streets.

Here’s another funny hashtag for you: #snowpocalypse2014. If you didn’t hear, Atlanta was recently hit with an unexpected snowstorm that paralyzed interstate traffic and trapped many on the roads for hours. Just like #SochiProblems, frustrated Atlantans took to the Twitterverse and blasted Governor Nathan Deal and Mayor Kasim Reed for lack of preparation. But that is just half of the story.

At the same time, other Atlantans (including my son Logan) were packing supplies, food, and extra gas into their 4-wheel drives to come to the aid of many folks who had been stranded for hours.

After hearing about my son’s actions my pride alone probably could have thawed I-75, especially when I thought about what a prime example he and many other local heroes are of Leadership Redefined. You see…

Leaders don’t waste energy complaining, but focus their efforts on finding solutions.

Did I mention that Logan had just sat in 5 hours of traffic before arriving home himself?

Whether you are leading an organization with complexities like the Winter Olympics, or just looking to make it home in one piece, I hope that we can remember in the face of adversity or inconvenience to take a moment to laugh, hashtag our own one-liners and then help ourselves and others.

And while we’re at it, if you can find me any tweets about #SochiSolutions or #SnowpocalypseHeroes, please send them my way.

Click here to order a copy(ies) of Dave’s new book Leadership Redefined.

Focus On Your Strengths

An exhausted and jet-lagged dad had just walked in from a brutal week of working and traveling across the country. As he was unpacking, his son burst into his bedroom carrying a baseball bat and ball and excitedly announced, “Dad, you have to see what a great baseball player I am now!”

“All right, son,” the dad replied. “Just let me change my clothes first.”

“Ok, but hurry! You are not going to believe your eyes! I am the greatest baseball player in the world!”

Baseball-kidA few minutes later, the father followed his son into the backyard, where the little boy proceeded to rest the bat on his shoulder, throw the ball up in the air with his left hand, and then quickly grab the bat with both hands and swing as the ball came back down.

On his first attempt, the little boy completely missed the ball. Undaunted, he retrieved the ball, tossed it back up in the air, and swung again, missing. His dad was starting to get a little embarrassed for him and moved in to help.

“No, Dad!” his son said with a huge grin spread across his face. “One more time.”

With a firm resolution he gripped the bat harder, tossed the ball up, and for the third time, swung the bat – and completely missed the ball.

His father’s heart was breaking for his son when the little boy turned and excitedly pronounced, “Do you see what I mean?! I am a great pitcher! Unhittable!”

Sadly, rather than focusing on what we are good at and enjoying life, we tend to focus on our own weaknesses and shortcomings and that tends to drag us down. Choose to focus on your strengths and figure out how to do “those things” more often.

“No” Does Not Mean Game Over

As I travel in airplanes across this great nation of ours, I have the opportunity to meet many different people. Since I am energized by others, me and my seatmate (or, as my wife would tease me, my new best friend) usually end up having a great conversation. I love to hear about people’s dreams and goals and learn what inspires them. Recently though I have begun to see a pattern… folks who have given up on their dream because they have run into opposition.

From the bank not loaning them the money, to a partner backing out, to the deal falling through, to the economy in general—many are throwing up their hands and saying, “Oh well…I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”

Phooey! Life is full of opposition. And just because you may have run into a stop sign or brick wall, that does not mean the journey is over!  Here is what I mean:

When the Decca Recording Company rejected the Beatles in 1962, the company said it didn’t like the young British group’s sound, claiming that guitar music was on the way out of mainstream popularity.

When Debbi Fields went to a potential investor for her idea of a cookie store, she was told that it was “a bad idea” and that market research indicated that “America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make.” Fields went on to found Mrs. Fields’ Cookies (and probably added to America’s obesity epidemic in the process. But I digress.)

A Yale University professor similarly labeled Fred Smith’s paper proposing the idea of reliable overnight delivery service “unfeasible.” Smith went on to found Federal Express Corporation, known these days as FedEx.

It’s no secret that every one of the people behind those “bad” or unfeasible ideas created something that has become a household name. Right from the start, they experienced opposition, but they didn’t let it stop them from persevering and taking their idea from dream to reality.

Opposition is a normal part of life. Don’t let it throw you off course or cause you to give up on the dream. Pause, rethink, reevaluate, adjust, and keep moving forward!

Do You Like What You Do?

Such a simple question, but the ramifications of your answer have a lot to do with your enjoyment of life. Whether you are the CEO of a company or the CEO of a home, you spend most of your time “doing” it. So, do you enjoy it?

Well according to the Gallup organization only 20% of people can answer that simple question with a resounding “Yes!”

Here is what is so interesting…built into the DNA of each and every one of us is the need to do something—and in a perfect world, to enjoy doing it. It is great to have something to look forward to every day. Not only that, but what we do often contributes directly to our identity.

When people are first getting to know each other, what is one of the first questions asked: “So, what do you do?” If your answer to that question is something you find fulfilling and meaningful, you feel so much better about yourself than if your answer leaves you flat and uninspired.

Believe it or not, enjoying what you do has a major impact on many of the other areas of your life: relationships, physical health, and financial security for example.

Think about it this way, if you have wonderful relationships, stable financial security, and good physical health—but you don’t like what you do every day…chances are pretty good that much of your social time is spent complaining about your lousy job (not very fun as it pulls everyone else around you down).  You also spend a great deal of your time away from work worrying about having to go back to it (which ruins your time away from it). And all that worry, dread, and anxiety about work can have a negative impact on your health.

Many have fallen into the trap that work is just a necessary evil and it is certainly not something to be enjoyed. But that’s not true. One of the essentials to having fun at work and enjoying what you do is getting the opportunity to use your strengths every day.  According to the Gallup organization people who have the opportunity to use their strengths every day are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and more than three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life.

What do you enjoy about your job? What are you good at? Figure out how to do more of it. Get creative. Swap tasks with some of your colleagues. Talk to your boss about it. Enjoying what you do is a “win” for everyone.