Archive for March, 2008

The Power of Focus

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

When I was a kid my dad bought me a couple of magnifying glasses of varied colors. I enjoyed playing with the glasses and feeling like a serious detective as I roamed in and out of the house looking for clues to mysteries that I created in my overactive imagination. Perhaps the greatest power of those glasses, I came to discover, was that when I held them over a piece of newspaper and allowed the sun’s rays to stream through, pretty soon I would have a fire (I was a little older and understood the need for safety). We lived directly under the equator and the sun was always hot and directly above us for most of the day. However, it’s rays never burnt anything until when they were brought to a point of focus.

While bringing those rays to a point of focus might seem like reducing the sun’s power, it actually increased it’s intensity and resulted in the generation of heat. This is the same thing with our potential. When potential is brought to a point of focus it results in greater output and results. Activity is not necessarily productivity. It’s what you focus on that brings about your greatest productivity. Much has been said about the Pareto Principle, which I believe to be true. According to Pareto, 80% of your productivity will come from 20% of your activity (paraphrased). Here’s the key to generating lasting results: find the 20% of what you are most effective at and give it 80% of your time and resources.  

Managing Conflict

Monday, March 24th, 2008

One of the most crucial competencies for management is conflict resolution. There are five approaches that can be utilized in the management of conflict:

1. Accomodating – This is where one group places emphasis on the needs of the other group while minimizing it’s own concerns. In essence, one group allows the other to win – a win-lose situation. While it may seem as if the group is giving in, it might be a beneficial approach when the other group has a huge stake in the matter at hand.

2. Dominating – This is when one group focuses completely on it’s own cares and concerns and closes the door to the other group. The dominating group “forces” it’s power and resolutions on the other group. This again is a win-lose situation.The group with the higher balance of power wins over the other group.

3. Avoiding – It’s unfortunate that this happens but there are times when one group may avoid another. This may not be the best strategy but it sometimes helps to cool the situation so that the time may be used to gather additional information.

4. Compromising – When two groups compromise, none of them emerges as a winner. There must be some giving up of value in order for compromising to be effective. Compromise can lead to more conflict later because teh groups might still harbour a feeling that their needs were never met.

5. Collaboration – When groups collaborate, both of them come out of the conflict situation as winners. Collaboration is solution-centered thinking. By working together to solve the conflict the two groups demonstrate immense respect for each other.

Two Kinds of Conflict

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

Many years ago, a mentor told me that “motion causes friction.” Over the past couple of days, we have all been held spell-bound by the friction taking place between the Obama camp and the Clinton camp in the race for President of the United States. The truth is that friction takes place everwhere – it occurs inside our organizations, it occurs between different organizations, it occurs on sports teams, it occurs in the family, it occurs in Churches, it occurs between countries and many other areas of life. At one point or another, we will all encounter friction in life. Friction between human systems is defined as conflict. Understanding how to manage conflict is therefore essential.

There are two kinds of conflict: functional conflict and dysfunctional conflict.

Functional conflict is a confrontation between groups that benefits all groups that are involved equally. Functional conflict brings about greater awareness and solutions which allow for change. Functional conflict actually leads to a mutual understanding between groups. For example, the research team at Better Life Company that it’s time to release a new product onto the market. The marketing team on the other hand feels like the company has too many products that are yet to be well-positioned in the market. This conflict brings in the strategy team and after lengthy discussions, they reach a consensus. That is functional conflict. 

Dysfunctional conflict is any conflict between groups that creates an environment that is not conducive to progress. This kind of conlict leads to stress and results in terrible losses for any groups that are involved in it. Those of you who are avid football fans may remember the surprise firing of Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer. Schottenheimer was fired because of dysfunctional conflict between him and the team manager, AJ Smith. For almost 3 years, the two of them had been at logger-heads over personnel decisions.  The conflict between the two of them led to the chargers losing many good coordinators.

Tomorrow we will look at key aspects of managing conflict.

Teamwork and Interdependence – Pt. 2

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

This post is a continuation of ysterday’s post on interdependence. We have been looking at this by way of an acronym I developed on a trip to Jamaica in 2002. Here is the acronym once again: 
 
Identify every aspect of the operation that requires a team effort
Notify every member of the team of his or her role.
Team up on the basis of the group’s vision and not individual interests
Examine your dream together and let everyone capture a passion for it
Resolve to all be focused on the team aspects of the organization
Divide responsibilities fairly to every member of the team
Engage the soul of every member of the team.
Paint pictures and mental images of possibilities.
Employ a variety of people to help cast the vision.
Navigate through situations and circumstances as one unit.
Display an in-depth care and concern for one another.
Empower each other by relying on each other’s skills and abilities
Nourish each other by equipping and elevating each other’s contribution
Communicate at all times, making everything clear and plain to the team
End every effort by sharing the benefits and rewards of teamwork.

In today’s post I will briefly look at the last eight things we did with our team:

8. Paint pictures and mental images of possibilities.

Every day in the morning, we had the opportunity to cast vision to the team and we made the best use of such avenues to ensure that everyone grasped the big picture of our entire purpose of being in Jamaica.

9. Employ a variety of people to help cast the vision.

We had MAs (Mission Advisors) whom we selected to work with us in binding the team together and communicating our vision to the rest of the group.

10. Navigate through situations and circumstances as one unit.

We made it a primary priority to stick together as a team and travel together. The leaders would always look out for our team members to ensure that we were all on one track.

11. Display an in-depth care and concern for one another

We emphasized on the need for great relationships with each other. John Maxwell once pointed out that people go the first mile because of duty, they go the second mile because of relationship. Good relationships were a vital concern for us.

12. Empower each other by relying on each other’s skills and abilities

Interdependence is impossible unless a team learns to rely on each other. By realizing that everyone is gifted to serve, we were in fact able to empower each other.

13. Nourish each other by equipping and elevating each other’s contribution

We advocated for placing individual rights below the team’s best interest. The other person’s contribution was considered as very important and this enabled us to achieve so much progress.

14. Communicate at all times, making everything clear and plain to the team

We made it a priority to always communicate with each other and went to great lengths to keep the entire team updated on our courses of action.

15. End every effort by sharing the benefits and rewards of teamwork.

Instead of taking all the praise for our achievements, we would always credit the team with having made all things happen.

Teamwork and Interdependence – Pt. 1

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Over the next two days I want to look at the concept of interdependence, specifically, how teamwork elevates productivity. This post is simply a reproduction of ideas that I developed a few years ago when I went to Jamaica as a team leader for a group of about 35 teenagers. This was a huge project and it required that every member of the team contribute their very best. My thoughts were crystalized in the form of an acronym that I will be sharing over the next two days. Here is the acronym: 
 
Identify every aspect of the operation that requires a team effort
Notify every member of the team of his or her role.
Team up on the basis of the group’s vision and not individual interests
Examine your dream together and let everyone capture a passion for it
Resolve to all be focused on the team aspects of the organization
Divide responsibilities fairly to every member of the team
Engage the soul of every member of the team.
Paint pictures and mental images of possibilities.
Employ a variety of people to help cast the vision.
Navigate through situations and circumstances as one unit.
Display an in-depth care and concern for one another.
Empower each other by relying on each other’s skills and abilities
Nourish each other by equipping and elevating each other’s contribution
Communicate at all times, making everything clear and plain to the team
End every effort by sharing the benefits and rewards of teamwork.

In today’s post I will briefly look at the first seven things we did with our team:

1. Identify every aspect of the operation that requires a team effort

As a team, we started off by pointing out every area in which we had to work together. We build into the team an understanding of the team concept by helping them see that one would be too small a number to achieve what we had set out to do.

2. Notify every member of the team of his or her role.

As team leader, I notified every member of the team of what would be expected of them. We developed consensus on the things we wanted to see achieved. Every “got on the same page” regarding what they had to accomplish individually (there is no “I” in team but there is a “me”)

3. Team up on the basis of the group’s vision and not individual interests

Our team developed a vision that had meaning to each of us. This was clearly written and displayed so that everyone had access to it. We had to ensure that everyone understood the cause. We rallied the entire team together on this one cause and it worked so well.

4. Examine your dream together and let everyone capture a passion for it

Every morning we had meetings together which greatly helped us to continually harness the vision and hold onto it. Understanding the vision and buying into it as a corporate team was essential to our success. This made all of us to run in the same direction with the same goal in mind.

5. Resolve to all be focused on the team aspects of the organization

Each day there were many obstacles and distractions that threatened our progress as a team. We had to resolve to stay focused. There were team-members who lost motivation every once in a while. We had to encourage each member of the team to stay focused.

6. Divide responsibilities fairly to every member of the team

Each member on the team had different abilities and we divided responsibilities based on their skills and willingness to serve in particular capacities. In the division of labor, we had to ensure that there was specialization in terms of the skill sets of the team member.

7. Engage the soul of every member of the team

We endeavored to “click” with our team by coaching, mentoring and communicating the vision to them every single moment we had the opportunity to do so. Those who soared as leaders within the group contributed immensely in mentoring the others.

To be continued tomorrow…

Little things do matter

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

Richard Carlson contributed immensely to de-stressing the human race in his masterpiece, Don’t sweat the small stuff. I personally have benefited immensely from his work. There have been many situations when I would get close to allowing small stuff to ruin my attitude. In those moments I’ve thought of his work and the potential of stress always ended up dissipating.

But then I would also like us to consider getting serious about the little things that, if not properly handled, can derail our purposes, marriages and organizations. As I advocate for getting serious about small stuff, I’m not saying that you should sweat the small stuff. Sweat is a waste of energy (mere rearrangement of the letters) while getting serious is conservation of energy.

Think about your home, your job or your schooling. Supposing you decided not to be serious about the little things, what would happen? Would your home be successful? Would you continue working at your job for long? Would you do well in school and graduate? Little things do matter. Small stuff may not matter but little things can become big things.

Think of the nanotechnology industry. Something extremely small is rapidly becoming a big thing. Nanotechnology is simply the manipulation of atoms and molecules. The particles that are produced are a thousand times smaller than the width of hair, a hundred times smaller than a red blood cell – small stuff, huh!? Yet in the next few years nanotechnology will be driving almost everything – from computer chips to fuel cells. When the entire process of manipulating this small particles is fully undertood we might have robots creating things out of nothing. Picture a car or a hamburger appear out of thin air as the molecules are arranged by nano-scale robots!

Let’s get serious about the little things. Little things become big things. Don’t sweat the small stuff but get serious about the little things.

Take Action Today, Not Tomorrow

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

A few years ago I heard someone talk about the need for Action TNT, meaning action Today, Not Tomorrow. I think the tape was on procrastination and how to avoid it. Today I would like to talk about three strategies for taking action TNT:

Take initiative

Initiative is the first step towards achievement. Many people lag in life because of procrastination. In order to realize our true potential, we must learn to take initiative when it comes to pursuing personal goals and objectives. Initiative separates the committed from the pretenders, it is the link that connects dreams with results.

Navigate decisions

Many people freeze when it comes to decision-making. Making a clear-cut decision is one of the toughest things any one could do. Decision-making stems from embracing change. Knowing how to navigate change is therefore a core competence that should be grasped completely. Learn to make good decisions and you will accomplish great things in life.

Take risks

Risk-taking is one of the most feared competencies but it must be mastered because there can never be reward unless risks are taken. When it comes to risk-taking, our only fear should be the fear of not taking risks. Having an intuitive ability for stepping out and taking risks is the key to attaining results.

Let’s take action Today … Not Tomorrow!

Make Your Transitions Successful

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

Life is full of transitions. We all experience moments in life when we have to make transitional changes. Right from birth to our final resting, it’s all about transition. It’s the transition from the womb to the world, from the bassinet to the crib, from home to school, from high school to college, college to career and so on. The successful navigation of transitions is a tough thing. Transitions can either lead to an abyss or bliss. It all depends on how you handle it.

We all watched as NFL quarterback Brett Favre announced his decision to leave the NFL. He struggled with the decision and even shed tears as he spoke to the press. It’s tough making that decision to move on. Transitions are difficult. Understanding the three elements of transition is the key to moving on. These are closure, limbo and advancement.

Closure signifies the end of one stage. It is the point at which we have to let go of the former. Many people have a hard time handling closures but it is important to understand that everything changes. That knowledge itself guarantees you two-thirds of the victory during transitions. The other third is found in understanding the other two elements.

The second element is limbo. This is a trying time because you haven’t quite moved out of closure and are yet to experience the new thing. The most important skill here is that of letting go of the former. New attitudes have to be shaped. New concepts need to be grasped. If this is done well, then your progress to the third element of transition – advancement – is secure.

Advancement is when you have completely put behind the old and have successfully navigated your way to a better life. At this stage, you can look back and say, “Wow! I’m glad I made that change!” 

May your transitions be fruitful!