Thought Pieces

“Here are some recent thought pieces I hope you will find helpful. They arise out of my coaching practice. They are all about improving your performance, your team’s performance, your organization’s performance and financial sustainability in the face of great challenges. Let me know which one(s) speak(s) to you the most, and let me know if there are any insights or questions you’d like to add:

  • “Am I a Soda Can or a Juice Bottle?” In one of my client meetings on how to reduce stress while managing multiple priorities I asked the team I was working with this question: “How do you respond when someone says something disturbing, upsetting, or annoying to you?” One team member answered, “I keep a soda can and a juice bottle in my office. And when someone walks in and shakes me up, I ask myself, ‘Am I going to be a soda can or a juice bottle about this?’” I asked what she meant by that question and she explained: “When you shake up a soda can, it explodes all over you and possibly other people. But when you shake up a juice bottle, it just makes the juice healthier and tastier to drink.” (Sometimes clients are much smarter than their coaches. Listening makes us better coaches for the next client.)
  • Under-promise and Over-deliver:  Recently, I heard from one of my former coachees.  She wrote, “I just wanted you to know that the best piece of advice you gave to me was to under-promise and over-deliver.  I still find myself at times over-promising, but it’s gotten much better.”
  • If you don’t know what to do about a problem or aspiration, do you know what NOT to do? Often, when a coaching client is stuck about how to solve a problem, I ask her/him to give me 5 bad solutions — actions that he/she knows are not going to help or can actually make things worse.  Then, when she/he gives me the answers, I ask: So now what would happen if you turned these ideas over upside down and backward? (Thanks, Dick Fosbury, inventor of the Fosbury Flop that permitted new heights to be achieved in the high jump.)  Often reversing bad ideas turns out to yeilds potentially valuable good ideas that can help solve the problem for which my coaching clients are momentarily blocked.
  • You are never NOT a member of a team.  Everything you do — good and bad — affects your team, strengthens it or weakens it. It’s clear in basketball, emergencies, war, and tug-of-war.  But do you think your other actions or omissions only affect you? What about your family, your company’s investors or shareholders, your neighbors, your co-workers, your supervisors, your customers or clients, your friends, your fellow citizens, your bankers, your partners, your grandchildren (yet unborn or not)?  Ask yourself:  “When do I think ‘My actions (or omissions) only affect me?’  When do I think, ‘I would be ashamed if the others know, but they don’t or won’t so what they don’t know w0n’t hurt them (or me)?’  When do I think, ‘This one [whatever - cigarette, lie, lapse...] only affects me?’”  Then ask: “Will this proposed action (or omission) strengthen or honor or benefit me, my program or point of view at the expense of my teammates or will it strengthen, honor, or benefit us all?”  Try this with an upcoming action or omission. Keep a journal. Write the question, the proposed action or omission, and your answer at the time.  Then report the results to your journal [your self] two weeks or a month later. What did you learn?
  • Before you get out of bed in the morning, ask yourself these three questions: What are the three things that I am most determined to accomplish today? What is it that I am most determined to learn today? What is it that I will do today to  “make this day a masterpiece?” as legendary UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden, urged.  Write down the questions and the answers. Before you go to bed at night, ask yourself:  Did I accomplish my most important goals today? Did I learn what I most set out to learn today? Did I make this day “a masterpiece” in any way? If so, pat yourself on the back and get a good night’s sleep. If not, tell yourself, “It’s ok, nobody succeeds every day, but the great ones keep trying. Tomorrow I know what I want to accomplish and learn.” (As my mother used to say repeatedly, “Tomorrow is another day.” It used to drive me crazy. Now I know she was trying to drive me wise.)
  • Our greatest strengths have embedded in them our greatest vulnerabilities, and vice versa. If you want to know what your greatest strengths are, ask yourself, “What are my greatest weaknesses and vulnerabilities? Again, consider turning them inside out or upside down.  Same with figuring out your greatest weaknesses. Start with your greatest strengths, and then turn them inside out or upside down.  Examples: You may be great at multi-tasking. Odds are you have difficulty staying focused and diving deeply into a subject.  You may be great at visioning the future and seeing the big picture.  Odds are you are bored or otherwise challenged when it comes to execution with excellence (e.g., making sure all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed).  Or if you find you are impatient with people you work with and not a great listener, this may also reflect a strength you can build on it in a different way: an urgency to achieve.  Ask yourself: What are my three most important opportunities to deepen my self-awareness and enhance my performance?  How can I build on my best strengths?  How can I address my most serious challenges?  Ask those you work with and work for the same questions.  Then set a goal, make a plan,  monitor your progress, and make any necessary adjustments.
  •  Remember the “Garden Song” and take small steps each day for ultimate, huge results:  The song’s chorus goes –

“Inch by inch, row by row

Gonna make this garden grow,

Gonna mulch it deep and low,

Gonna make it fertile ground,

Inch by inch, row by row,

Please bless these seeds I sew,

Please keep them safe below,

‘Til the rain comes tumbling down.”

  •  Recipe for success: Producing great results takes planning, diligent execution, persistence, patience, monitoring, adaptive capacity development and flexibility, intentionality (some say prayer), some luck, and alignment (sometimes realignment) with the Universe’s plans.  Listening and co-intelligence are critical. Small steps can produce great results under these right circumstances. — Another great resource in this regard, Bob Maurer’s book,  One Small Step Can Change Your Life: the Kaizen Way.

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