new growth

Stop Distractions By Going Back to Your Purpose

With all the distractions in today’s world, it’s easy for your focus to blur and boundaries around your time to erode. Devices, apps, and social media comprise the main technological distractions, with open offices and co-workers creating distractions as well. All told, it’s estimated that you are distracted from your work approximately 2 hours per day!

Additionally, you can create your own distractions. You might want to be (overly) helpful to others and be seen as a team player, so before you know it, you go out of your way and spend time on activities that are not about what is important to you/your team. It is also easy to distract yourself from the things you don’t want to do or don’t feel confident about doing. Moreover, simply the day-to-day busy-ness of life and work can pull you away from the important things to what’s urgent.

Go Back to Purpose

To re-orient yourself, go back to purpose. It seems odd that something as general as “purpose” can create more targeted focus. However, the reason you become unfocused is you lose sight of where you’re headed and the reason for all of your activity. And that reason your doing the work you’re doing comes from a larger purpose. Your personal purpose, the company’s purpose, or the purpose of an initiative can put things into perspective and allow you to re-dedicate yourself to focusing on what matters.

To that point, purpose is what you believe in. It’s “why” you do what you do. For example, at work, you might be leading a team to implement a piece of the company’s strategic plan. What’s the purpose of that plan – why is it important to the company and how does that “why” translate to the work done by your team?

Use Purpose to Re-Commit and Re-Focus Others

Simply re-stating the purpose is a great way to re-focus yourself and others. Even if your colleagues or direct reports disagree about the current work tasks, they will most likely agree on what the purpose is. Starting from this area of general agreement, you can then facilitate a meaningful discussion about what the most relevant daily and weekly activities should be. And this allows a re-alignment of focus. In general, go to the general ideals, like purpose, to re-align yourself and others when things get stuck or discombobulated.

Use Your Purpose to Focus Your Attention

Whether personal or work-related, check to see whether your time and energy is aligned to purpose. Look at how you spend your time over the course of a week (longer if you can). Can you see the connection between your purpose(s) and the activities you spend your time on and people you spend your time with? (Don’t expect that 100% of your time is tied to directly to purpose – you’re doing well if there’s a connection between a larger relevant purpose and at least 25% of your time.)

If it’s not evident what is important to you after examining how you spend your time and energy, it’s time to go back to your purpose and rededicate yourself to behaviors and activities that reflect it and further it. The next time you feel your focus waning or the boundaries around your time getting fuzzy, prioritize your weekly focus by aligning it with your purpose.

WANT TO USE THIS IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations, by gaining greater composure, focus, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

How to Be Unpopular During Strategic Plan Execution

executionCreating a strategic plan is such an accomplishment. After all, you spend tons of time, energy, and money going through the planning process. However, the work has just begun. Now, as the rubber meets the road, things can easily fall apart. Many employees will resist changing what they have always done. Yet, others will be excited at the prospect of going in a different direction. If, as part of your strategic plan, you don’t have a specific plan to execute your strategy, you will be a very unpopular leader.

Here are 10 surefire ways to become that unpopular leader:

1. Never mention your big-picture vision.

Employees need to be reminded of the big picture your company is working towards. However, some leaders rarely or never refer back to that vision during the execution of the strategic plan because they get so focused on “doing” the plan. Realize that keeping that vision fresh in people’s minds helps guide them through the excitement and the drudgery of change.

2. Attempt to eat the elephant all at once.

One way to decrease the awkwardness and the anxiety of any change is to break the overall plan down into manageable pieces. If you do not look for quick wins that are easy and map out milestones to focus on along the way, you are likely to overwhelm employees who will give up before they even start.

3. Discount stakeholder interests

Can you believe that not everyone is going to be psyched about any new direction mapped out by your strategic plan? You’ll be extremely unpopular if you fail to leverage the enthusiasm and support of those who are on board. And you’ll be “toast” if you fail to influence the “resistors” or neutralize those who are outright antagonistic.

4. Ignore potential risks.

Hopefully all will go well with your new strategy; however, you’ll lose support if you don’t plan for the worst in at least some respects.

5. Overlook current company processes, structures, and systems that get in the way.

Ever been subject to a process or system within a company that seemed to be at odds with what the company said was important? If you change your strategy, your employees will loathe you if you don’t also update and align the way things work.

6. Remain silent and aloof.

The most common way to be unpopular while executing your strategic plan is to rarely if ever speak of it. Employees get disgruntled without almost constant references to why, what, who, and how things are proceeding.

7. Fumble new insights and ideas along the way.

If you don’t have a way to capture new insights as you go along, your employees will lose respect for you and what you’re trying to accomplish. Without a way to vet and champion unanticipated new ideas, you will miss out on new innovations that could make you a hero.

8. Allow employees to dodge adopting new conduct and attitudes.

You will surely become unpopular if you don’t require everyone (including yourself) to adjust your thinking and conduct to support your strategic plan. When conduct and attitudes don’t align with new goals, old patterns will sabotage what you’re trying to achieve.

9. Fail to resolve setbacks and remove obstacles.

Your popularity will take a nose dive if you fail to follow up on setbacks and obstacles. Tracking and tending to these issues is critical.

10. Forego recognizing and celebrating achievements.

Employees feel dejected if you forget to acknowledge the attainment of milestones or even the final goal before jumping immediately into the next phase or initiative. Don’t be the leader who forgets to acknowledge and celebrate success and achievement throughout the journey.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can. Simply include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with business leaders who want to increase productivity and retention by shifting their focus from daily tactical work to the strategic work required to move their companies forward. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Create Better Focus by Reframing Your Approach to Achieving Goals

experiement goalsBased on a 2011 McKinsey study, only 10% of executives were “very satisfied” with how they spend their time. Also, 50% of executives were not allocating their work time on activities tied to company goals. Why weren’t these executives focused on the very goals they were setting for their companies? Are goals intimidating, bringing up fears of failure or success.

Not sure but maybe the way most of us approach goals needs reframing.

What if you saw those same goals more like hypotheses that allow you to set up experiments? When you approach company goals as experimenting, it seems to create a sense of taking action, giving permission to fail, and learning from mistakes. Additionally, framing your approach as experiments gives permission to take time to identify and control variables, so that you more intentionally focus your efforts. It is that focus that is key to moving your company goals forward.

So, here are some thoughts on how to do that:

1. What control do the employees in your area of responsibility have toward achieving the hypothesis / goal?

Think about (a) what’s within your employees’ control as far as achieving the goal and (2) to what degree doing those things will have an impact. Once you ferret out these variables, you and your employees can decide with which variables to experiment. Then, it’s a matter of designing work experiments and measuring the results. Implicit in this is also the ability to change the variables and the approach if desired results don’t happen.

2. Which work activities for YOUR role are “high-value” because they directly affect the chosen variables and experiments?

Based on the experiments you and your employees have selected, determine ways you can ensure the experiments occur, the variables are tracked, and results are interpreted for successful outcomes and possible adjustments. Maybe there are things you already do. Maybe they are things you should start doing. Either way, these activities have “high-value” for your leadership role. And you don’t have to go overboard re-tooling your weekly calendar: using the 80/20 Pareto Principle, you should consider spending only about 20% of your working time on them.

Include meetings, reviewing data, celebrating success, following up with direct reports, mentoring your employees, your own professional development, and activities that build and nurture relationships that are important for achieving the goal.

3. Commit to making goal activities happen.

One of the best ways to make sure you do your “high-value” work activities is to commit to them by scheduling them on your calendar with the right frequency and duration. Once they are on your calendar, you have carved out space to dedicate to them. What do you do if something else comes along for a particular time slot? You have to decide what’s more important or can be done at a different time. If you displace a scheduled high-value activity, make sure to re-schedule it or have it covered by someone else.

If goals are important enough to set, they are important enough to work towards. Make it more palatable to work towards goals by changing your mindset about them, then focus on what you can do to make them happen, and keep the commitments you make.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE?

You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with business leaders who want to increase productivity and retention by shifting their focus from daily tactical work to the strategic work required to move their companies forward. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Leading Change Through Appreciative Inquiry

new growth

Enjoy this excerpt from a 2005 article entitled, “Unleashing a Positive Revolution in Medicine: The Power of Appreciative Inquiry”, written by podcast guest, Colette Herrick:

Appreciative Inquiry (“AI”), a highly participatory approach to developing human and organizational systems, can accelerate positive change and provide the influence necessary to revolutionize medicine and create the positive future we desire.

At its core, AI is based on discovering strengths and amplifying them, rather than focusing on problems and fixing them. It is simple, yet at the same time requires a profound shift of attention from habituated deficit-based thinking and interactions that are so prevalent in our culture.

“Appreciative Inquiry is the cooperative search for the best in people, their organizations, and the world around them. It involves systematic discovery of what gives a system “life” when it is most effective and capable in economic, ecological, and human terms.” –David Cooperrider

Using a four-stage group inquiry process — discovery, dream, design and delivery — AI is being used with compelling results in a range of settings in health care including:

  • Transforming organizational cultures and practice management;
  • Creating powerful physician/nurse/patient relationships;
  • Developing effective leadership; strategic planning; strengthening teams, partnerships, and alliances; and
  • Enhancing patient safety.

. . . .

Historically, the dominant organizing principle for approaching change in organizations has been closely aligned with “best practices” of the medical profession. This focus has been largely shaped by a problem orientation that carries through from assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and measurement of the effects of the intervention.

In both organizational practice and healthcare delivery, what has typically been at the epicenter of attention is fixing what’s broken rather than identifying and building on what is working. What is required in healthcare today is a new kind of leadership and physicians are poised to lead the way.

. . . .

Indeed, when leaders begin to view the world and act through a more appreciative lens, organizational energy shifts, people are encouraged to act from their strengths and potential is unleashed in powerful and effective ways. Being an appreciative leader becomes not just a way of “doing” leadership, but of making a positive contribution to the world.

Read the full article


Colette-Herrick-Executive-CoachColette Herrick, is an executive coach, strategic facilitator and CEO of Insight Shift, a Utah-based firm since 2002. The overarching aim of her work is to support leaders, teams and organizations to innovate collaborative solutions, accelerate results, and experience greater fulfillment.

As a strategic facilitator, she taps the collective intelligence of groups with a strengths-based, solutions focused and participatory approach. Clients benefit from greater alignment, engagement and the energy to move a shared vision to sustained action. She has facilitated programs ranging from small team retreats to large-scale summits with over three hundred physicians with the American Medical Association. A few of the client groups she’s served are: University of Utah, Utah Medical Association, Microsoft Latin America, Department of Defense, University of Utah Health Sciences Center, Westminster College, Misericordia University, Intermountain Healthcare, Huntsman Cancer Institute, Utah Department of Health, Davis Applied Technology College, American Red Cross, Colorado Department of Health and Environment and the Utah State  Bar.

You can learn more about her company at www.insightshift.com.

5 Ways to Hone Your Executive Thinking Skills

decision-makingWe are educated. We are modern human beings. We make decisions every day. How inaccurate and incomplete can our thinking be?

I always thought I was a good at logical thinking. Then I went to law school. Law school taught me how to think through an issue more effectively by applying a disciplined structure to analyze facts, to make arguments, and to create consistency in the decisions made.

Your personality type influences how you think. You might shoot from the hip for a fast resolution and clean up any mess later (“ready-fire-aim”); or maybe you delay making decisions or solving problems due to “analysis paralysis” or because you don’t want to upset others; or maybe you make decisions to please others without really addressing or resolving the core issue.

Research now shows that emotions are integral in the decision-making process, but it is still important to be able to analyze and reflect on data, information, and experience to choose the best solution or decision possible and to think about your own thinking. To that end, use these basic decision-making and problem-solving tools to collect, analyze, and play with data to make better decisions.

1. Pro/Con List

Ben Franklin famously wrote about his use of a Pro/Con List. His method involved making 2 lists: pros of an issue on the left and the cons on the right. Next, give weight to each item on the list, maybe using a scale of 1 to 3. Next, Franklin described cancelling out single or multiple items on either side of equal weight (e.g., 2 pros each with a weight of 1 (totaling 2) can be cancelled by 1 con with a weight of 2). Then, see if either side ends up with more items remaining. An interesting comment by Franklin shows that once he went through his analysis, he gave himself another day or so to see if anything else can to mind that he should consider before moving forward.

“Too many problem solving sessions become a battlegrounds where decisions are made based on power rather than intelligence.”–Meg Wheatley


2. SWOT or SOAR

Either a SWOT or SOAR grid is designed to collect and evaluate information about a current situation. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Or you can use SOAR from Appreciative Inquiry which stands for Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results. Collecting the data in either of these formats will aid analysis and tee you up to form an action plan.SWOT

3. Pareto Analysis

Also known as the 80/20 rule, Pareto principle holds that 20% of “inputs” is producing 80% of the desired or undesired outputs. For example: Which products or services are producing 80% of company revenue? Once you collect basic data, this video shows you how to set up a Pareto chart in a spreadsheet.

4. Impact vs. Probability Risk Assessment

This tool is used to assess the possible risks you face. First list all possible threats. Next, using a numeric scale (say, 1 to 10), assess the probability that the threat will occur. Then, assign a value for how great the impact will be if the threat occurs. (Cost is a frequently used measure for impact.) Finally, multiply the probability and the impact numbers to get the “risk” number.

5. Fishbone Diagram

Allows you to determine the root cause of a particular effect. You can use other areas to explore in addition to the ones listed below. For each “cause”, ask what might be contributing to the effect. Then, use the “5 Whys” process get to secondary, tertiary, etc. causes.

Fishbone Diagram

Honing your ability to collect and analyze data helps you choose the best framework for your thought process when making big decisions and solving problems for your company. Don’t forget to use these tried and true models to explore situations in your business.

Other tools to explore:

Six Thinking Hats
Pugh Matrix
Process Maps
Polarity Diagram
Scientific Method

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations, by gaining greater focus, self-awareness, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Feeling Overwhelmed is Your Own Fault: 8 Tips to Stop It

calendarThe world moves so quickly these days, it feels hard to keep up. With the proliferation of available information, you can trick yourself into believing that you need to keep up with all information and happenings. However, it isn’t simply paying attention to everything that’s going on that makes you productive and valuable; it’s staying intentionally attuned to the things you’ve identified as important and relevant to your business that keeps you productive and on target.

In short, you’ll stop feeling overwhelmed when you learn to say “no” to everything that is not fundamentally important to achieving your current goals.

Here are eight tips for reducing feelings of overwhelm and keeping yourself on track with the things you’ve identified as important:

  1. Get comfortable with the fact that most information is just noise. Just because information is accessible doesn’t mean it’s relevant to you.
  2. Determine what’s fundamentally important to maximize your business and yourself. The really important things for business tend to be the basics: mission, vision, values, current goals, key performance indicators (KPIs), key relationships, and professional development for you and your staff.
  3. Base your everyday tasks and activities what’s fundamentally important. Look at your calendar. Do your day-to-day appointments and scheduled blocks for projects etc. reflect the fundamentals as they relate to your position? Whether you’re the CEO or the VP of Human Resources, there are things you ought to be doing to further the company’s current goals. Are you? If you find items that have low value related to the company’s goals, figure out what to do about them, including delegating them to others who have the capability and could grow from the opportunity.
  4. Reduce your connection to irrelevant information. Doing simple things to decrease distraction can reduce feelings of overwhelm, like turning off pop-up email notifications, creating email rules that dispense with low priority email messages, and unsubscribing from email lists that you rarely find helpful.
  5. Train your staff about your response priorities. Which topics are front-burner for you? What counts as an “emergency” when they should definitely interrupt you? What’s your response time for texts versus email versus phone calls and when should they use each method of communication?
  6. Build time into your schedule when you are intentionally available for drop-in conversations. This presumes that you set aside “do not disturb” time when you are focused on strategic and project work. Having “office hours” when you’re readily available encourages others to access you on your terms, not theirs.
  7. Find root causes to other disruptions or time wasters. “Fires” usually occur when they wasn’t a good process in place for handling a situation. Look at ways to create or refine processes for handling most things that are likely to challenge your staff, so they learn to do things without you.
  8. Question whether you really need to have or attend the meetings on your calendar. Maybe you do, but it’s good to review whether a particular meeting is really a good use of your time.

Practice seeing through the “charms” and “alarms” of life to keep your center. Knowing what’s important and saying “no” to the rest is the key to reducing feelings of overwhelm.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations by gaining greater focus, self-awareness, and influence with their teams.  Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

3 Reasons Your Strategic Plan Could Be a Waste of Time and Money

strategyMost people agree that having a plan for the future is a good thing. That’s why most leadership teams create a strategic plan. Yet most leadership teams do little or nothing with the plans they create other than referring to them from time to time as they gather dust on the shelf.

Why?

Simply stated, the plan they created was incomplete.

There are huge costs associated with an incomplete planning process:

  • Losing market leader status and falling behind;
  • Getting poor or lackluster financial and operational results;
  • Wasting time, money, and resources on a strategic plan that went nowhere; and
  • Losing credibility as a leadership team.
Useful strategic plans include three components.

If your leadership team omits or fails to execute any of these 3 key components, you won’t get the results you planned on. In the end, your strategic plan will be one big, costly “fail”.

One: The plan answers the “big” strategic planning questions in plain language without using jargon from an overly expensive consultant. These “big” questions include:
  • What legacy do we want to leave when all is said and done?
  • Who are our customers and how can we better serve them?
  • Who are our competitors and how can we beat them or do what they’re not doing?
  • What do we do best and how can we build on that edge?
  • What opportunities can we seize?
  • How will we recognize and respond to potential setbacks?
  • What are potential scenarios that we need to consider for the future, and how will we prepare for them?

Unfortunately, many leadership teams get mired down in philosophical discussions about these issues. Others come up with brilliant answers to these questions, but can’t quite bring their ideas into reality with clear, concrete, actionable initiatives that get done.

These big strategic planning questions are worthless if they don’t result in a few clear, compelling strategic initiatives to move the company forward.

Two: The plan must set a few clear priorities and an overall strategic theme.

A critical outcome of the beginning stages of the strategic planning process is to determine the most important priorities for the organization. After generating what might be a very long list of potential priorities, your leadership team must determine the relative value of each and hone in on only a few key priorities. The discussion that pares down the list of possible priorities can lead to greater clarity about the big strategic planning questions, especially about what the organization actually does best.

Once a list of no more than two or three priorities is agreed upon, the leadership team can come up with a unifying strategic theme. This is a one-line statement that conveys the overall strategic push for the organization, such as: “Beat ABC Corp.!” “Expand to India.” “0% medical errors.” “Become a magnet for talent.”

Here is one big mistake to avoid during this phase of planning: Trying to please everyone by settling on a long list of priorities. While a long list of “priorities” makes everyone feel included and valued, it makes it highly unlikely that you will get anything done completely if at all. Be a leader and make strategic choices.

Three: Have the guts to implement it.

The biggest complaint I hear about strategic plans is that no one really knows what the plan is because they never seem to get executed. There are a few reasons why:

The leadership team . . .

  • Neglected to commit essential resources to the plan, including capital, training, technology, and people.
  • Failed to take things off the plates of busy employees, and instead just stacked more work on them.
  • Lacked the will to call a halt to old initiatives that compete with the new.
  • Failed to set clear roles, responsibilities, accountability, and rewards systems in line with the plan.
  • Wimped out after a few setbacks or initial resistance.
  • A sound strategic planning process spends as much time on implementation planning as it does on the more lofty work of answering the key strategic questions and setting priorities. Otherwise, the plan stays in your head and never becomes real work with measurable results.

Some leadership teams are great at asking the big picture questions, but fail to follow up. Some set too many priorities, and can’t say “no” to good ideas, despite limited resources. Others are strong at executing, but lack the vision to develop compelling strategic initiatives.

Which of the above areas is weakest for you and your leadership team?

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders who want to confidently become the leader they are meant to be as they maximize the “people side” of business. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.